ROOTS // Professorfic
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May 12th, 2012, 11:59 PM
Haruka of Hoenn
Join Date: Nov 2007
That afternoon, Michael and Henry were in their hotel room. Henry was kneeling beside the window, holding the Stunky’s cage aloft with one hand while he peered through the bars. The other hand held a silver pokéball, which the Stunky’s eyes found at the last minute, after it had turned around to face its visitor. Eyes drifting towards the reflective orb, the Stunky purred in confusion.
“That’s right,” said Henry, smiling. “You’re going to live in one of these now.” He proffered the capsule to the cage’s bars. The Stunky continued to stare at him, periodically glancing over to Michael, who stood with his hands in his pockets a few feet away.
“Well? Are you gonna do it or not?” Michael asked. “Come on, so we can go get lunch. I’m starving.”
Henry tapped his chin, keeping silent for a few seconds. He placed the cage down, then carefully unscrewed the knob of the pokéball, pointing it at the Stunky and closing his eyes. “All right, here it goes…”
Michael watched as a beam of light pierced through the bars and engulfed the Stunky’s body in white. The pokémon’s silhouette remained for a split second, then slowly dissolved out of thin air, rushing back into the capsule. Henry clicked the pokéball closed and dropped it into his tote bag. And that was that.
Strangely, Michael did not mind giving the Stunky away. (Technically, it was still his, but at this point, it didn’t matter to him which one of them took the responsibility of carrying it around.) And Henry seemed happy, so everyone was a winner. Michael grabbed the cage on his way to the door, and once they got out to the hallway, he sought out a huge trash bin and dropped it inside. He looked down at the cage for a moment, thinking back to all he had been through with it, as well as the pokémon who had been its occupant. It was almost like throwing away a part of his life, locking it in distant memory. But Michael had no doubt that this was for the best, and with all the traveling he had ahead of him, he would have to lighten his load.
For lunch, he and Henry went to a café down the street. It was teeming with families and groups, people who had arrived in the nick of time for lunch. Like most buildings in Solaceon, the café was bright and tidy—and pokémon friendly. The critters scurried beneath tables and around people’s feet, often stopping to nibble from bowls of food set aside by the walls. They even approached tables, where eager hands reached down to pet them, as if they were just as much guests here as the people were.
Michael and Henry got a small table to themselves, where they ate in silence for a while, watching the proceedings. Rather than talking, Henry seemed more interested in the pokémon that wandered by, and after a moment, turned around to face Michael. “We should let out Stunky,” he said.
Michael stopped chewing. “Uh… what?”
“You know, so he can roam around town. We’re not gonna be around that often to keep him company, so now that he has a pokéball instead of a cage, he can walk around and explore on his own, like the other pokémon. Then at the end of the day he’ll come back.”
Without warning, Michael began to laugh, hiccupping as he struggled to swallow. “And if he doesn’t?”
“I don’t think he’ll run away,” Henry said.
Michael leaned back, lifting both hands in surrender. “Your ball, your call, man. Do what you want. But I’m telling you now—if he runs away, it’s your problem.”
Henry made a
sound, crossing his arms. “You’ll see! Just wait, Michael.” He took out the Stunky’s pokéball bag and turned it over so that the purple sticker was visible. Then he pointed it towards the open aisle. “All right, come on out little buddy!” He twisted the knob, and the Stunky emerged in a halo of white light, landing squarely on all fours. It pawed around beneath the table for a bit, then backed away so that it could look up at the boys.
“Go on,” said Henry. “See those plates of food over there? They’re all yours. Go get ‘em, and don’t let any of those other guys shove you away! Go!” He pointed to the food bowls standing in the corner, where a small crowd of pokémon was gathered. The Stunky hesitated for a moment, then seemed to make up its mind. With its tail upheld, it crossed the aisle, skipping around the feet of passerby on its way to the bowls. Watching all this, Michael shook his head slowly, and went back to eating.
They left the café a few minutes later, leaving Stunky behind. Still sitting by the food bowls, the pokémon looked up at the boys as they lingered by the exit. His eyes held the same steady, wary look that appeared whenever there was a situation involving him, as if he was trying to figure out what his captors were planning. Or maybe Michael was imagining things again.
The next morning, he arrived at the Gym in a slightly better-kempt state. His clothes were neat, his hair was (somewhat) brushed, and his wristband was on this time. When his name was called on the roll, Michael approached the front desk and held up the band to the clerk, who marked down his name.
“All right, Mr’Rowan, welcome. Your room today is 35, in the left hall.” She pointed to the door. But before Michael could leave, the lady tapped his shoulder and held him back. “Wait. Hold y’r horses a minute.”
Michael turned back to her. “What?” Immediately, his mind began to race.
Oh God. I did something wrong. It’s only my second day and I’ve already screwed something up.
He fixed his gaze on the counter and braced himself.
The lady bent down beneath the desk and came up with a small envelope. “This came to the Gym’s P.O. box last evening. It’s addressed to you.”
As he took the envelope, Michael was washed with relief. He turned to Henry, who was in line behind him.
Wait for me!
the boy mouthed. Michael sat down by the benches, and once Henry had presented his wristband, he came over to join him.
“What is it?” Henry asked, taking a seat. Michael broke the envelope’s seal with his finger and pulled out a typed letter. It was a telegram from Nancy Bryan.
Congrats on your first publication! Your article made it to page 28, in the ‘Arts and Recreation’ section of
The Hearthome Times.
I would have mailed you a copy of the paper, but I was afraid that the package wouldn’t get to you in time. So the next time you happen to be somewhere that sells newspapers, be sure to check it out! They must have liked your story a lot to accept it. I think you have talent as a writer.
As for us, unfortunately, the story didn’t get accepted by SNN. They didn’t think it was interesting, so that means we have to keep searching. I’m sorry. It’s not your fault—they’re just really picky. So we’ll be on the move a lot for the next few months, looking out for the next big thing. (Whatever that is!) Just keep checking the TV, and maybe one day you’ll see us on there. And we’ll keep checking the newspaper racks for the next time your name appears in the by-line. I do hope you’ll keep writing, and I wish you luck in whatever you may want to try in the future!
So, with all that said, I hope everything’s going great for you. Bobby says hey.
His heart racing, Michael scanned over the lines a second time, unable to believe what had happened. Henry, who was reading over his shoulder, widened his eyes. “Wow! Michael, you’re in a newspaper! That’s practically like being famous!”
Michael shook his head dismissively, though his smile grew ever wider. “Nah, this is page twenty-eight. That’s not famous. Wait till I make the front cover.
we’ll start talking.”
“Then you’ll have to find a new friend,” said Henry with feigned gloom. “I’ll be swept away by tides of fans!”
Michael laughed. “Well, you never know. If I’m up to it, I might let you stay as my manager. You’ll get to plan my tour of the world one day. That’s after we win the Championship, of course. We’ll be the youngest prodigies the world has ever known.” He folded up the letter and slipped it into the envelope, giving it an extra pat of good luck. In scarcely two minutes, he had been elevated from glum exhaustion to the happiest he had felt in days. Nothing could ruin his day now. Not even if Lona herself walked into his battle room, tapping the floor with a pitchfork.
With that, the boys set off towards their battle rooms. Michael’s referee was a guy, his partner a young girl. Both of them were practical and laid-back, and for the next two hours, he enjoyed a conventional, tension-free battle session.
Michael’s pokémon-of-choice that day was Ringo. As expected, the bird proved to be just as loud and nimble in battle as he had been in his tree. He tore into his opponent with his claws as well as his beak, plucking and pecking from high above. His first opponent was a Meditite, which he had no problem taking care of, staging an intense rally of Pecks and Scratches and Head-Clobberings.
When the pokémon fainted, Ringo flapped over to Michael and began to circle around his head, his beak clicking.
Me-di-tite we showed ‘im right!
Michael lasted through the entire first round with Ringo alone, though when the bird began to tire, he sent him back at once. He rotated the remaining members of his team, and pulled through with a double victory, earning two points for the day. He considered it to be the perfect comeback from last time—and there wasn’t a single pink jacket in sight.
After finishing his battle, Michael met Henry in the lobby. The boys shared their results as they left the Gym, and when they were well out of earshot, began to discuss Lona’s team. They had met with Leroy briefly the previous afternoon, and had come to an agreement that it was better to wait for the Move Tutor’s feedback before catching any new pokémon. So after leaving the Gym, Michael and Henry immediately set off to find him.
Their search led them to a more developed part of Solaceon, where the pastures were cut off in part to make room for a modern-looking neighborhood. Lester Road was a straight, paved path that ran through a community of houses, whose cozy, compact design contrasted sharply with the lavish barn-mansions on the other side of town. The layout of the street slightly reminded Michael of home—the curbs were marked by ledges, the houses had porches and garages, and the mailboxes stood right beside the driveways.
The mailbox numbered 4112 appeared at the edge of a quiet intersection, surrounded by decorative stones. The home itself bore no indicator that a distinguished individual dwelled inside it. The porch was completely clear, with no decorations or furnishings besides a worn-out welcome mat. A tangled broom leaned against the wall.
Michael stepped up to the front door and rang the doorbell. A faint
resonated from within, but no one answered. He tried again, and this time, heard a scuffle.
“Coming!” came a voice.
The doorknob wrenched as it was turned, and a second later, the door flew open, nearly smacking Michael in the face. He stumbled back in surprise, catching Henry by the shoulder, making them both trip down the steps. Michael regained his balance just in time to see a man poke his head through the doorway. Upon seeing the two boys that had nearly been thrown into the street, the fellow winced.
“Ack. Sorry. Mine’s the only door on the block that does this… I’ve been trying to get it fixed, but the repair guys can’t come to take a look at it until next week… Sorry, again.” The man scratched his head, stepping out in full to meet them. His hair was a dark, frizzy brown, the curls springing out here and there at the ends. The cuffs of his shirt were rolled up, and a pair of glasses hung askew from the collar.
Michael stepped back to the porch, clearing his throat. “Uh… hey. We’re trainers, and we heard that a guy called the Move Tutor lives here. Do you know him?”
The man smiled. “Ah, right. That would be me, actually.” He proffered his hand. “My name’s Ted. May I have the honor of knowing yours?”
Michael took the man’s hand and shook. “Michael.”
The boy came up from behind. “And I’m Henry!”
“Great,” said Ted. “It’s nice to meet you both. Now, you might as well come in. I’ve been doing some belated spring cleaning, but it shouldn’t be too bad.” He stepped back, opening the door wider to allow them in.
Inside, the house had a cluttered, albeit cozy feel. Upon entering, Michael felt like he had been immersed in the world of a scholar. Bookshelves almost as high as the ceiling lined the walls of the room, some of them full to bursting, others like mouths with missing teeth, their contents piled in boxes on the floor. The presence of books was overwhelming; Michael noticed them in other places too, like on the windowsill, or beneath a potted plant on the table. Little room was made for the other necessities of life, and it seemed that some furniture had been almost grudgingly accommodated. A TV set was sandwiched in between two shelves, awkwardly blocking the bottom half of a window, and a lone armchair stood in the corner, accompanied by a small table that also bore its share of the burden. It was a subtle, yet striking image—clearly the house had only one occupant.
Michael and Henry stood at the center of the main room, observing the mess around them with wonder. It was an artistic sort of mess, the kind that betrayed inspiration rather than carelessness. At the presence of his new guests, however, Ted seemed in even more of a rush to clean things up. He scampered around the room, pushing aside boxes and moving stacks of books from one surface to another. It didn’t help in the slightest, but from the simple show of effort, Ted seemed satisfied. He wiped his brow and sighed. “Sorry about this, again,” he said. “I’ve been reorganizing my library. I have a lot of old books I don’t need anymore, and they were taking up the shelf space I need for my new ones. Normally, I hate throwing out books, but there’s only so much a house can hold…” He began to laugh, shifting his gaze from Michael to Henry. But when he saw that neither of them reciprocated, he grew serious once more and cleared his throat. “Anyways. You’re here because you want me to teach your pokémon a move, right?”
Michael nodded. “Yeah. And we also want to know how the whole move thing works. Like, can we learn to teach our pokémon moves by ourselves?”
“And is it allowed?” Henry piped up. “Because, you know. If it’s not…” He fell silent before he could finish. Ted, however, seemed to catch on to his train of thought.
“Oh, don’t worry,” he said. “I know what you’re thinking about, but trust me, this is perfectly legal. The League can’t prohibit pokémon moves. It would be a self-contradiction, really, since the whole point of training pokémon is to help them get more powerful. If the League really wanted to, I guess it could enact a rule saying that you can’t teach any outrageous, one-hit-knockout attacks to substitute for the effort of training a weak pokémon, but it would be completely pointless. Few pokémon can learn those types of moves, and to do that, they’d already have to be powerful far beyond an average kid’s training capabilities.” Ted crossed his arms, eyeing the boys matter-of-factly. “So if you were looking for me to teach Horn Drill to your Goldeen, then I’m afraid I’ll have to disappoint you.”
“It’s all right,” Michael said. “We just want to know if any of our pokémon can learn Psychic or Flying moves.”
Ted nodded, rubbing his chin. “That’s fair enough. Psychic and Flying are pretty versatile move types, since you don’t always have to be a Psychic or Flying pokémon to use them. So we shouldn’t have a problem.” He pulled a stool over to one of the full bookshelves, and stepped up to the topmost row of volumes. He ran his finger down the spines, murmuring. “Give me a second to find the manual I need,” he said back to the boys. “For now, can you release the pokémon you want to teach? I’d like to take a look at them too.”
While Ted searched through the shelves, Michael and Henry took out their pokéballs and released their teams. The pokémon popped into the room one after another, slowly filling it with noise and chatter. They climbed over books, greeting each other with grunts and squeals. Ringo emerged from his pokéball with a screech, perching himself atop the TV set and beating his wings. In response, Starly fluttered over to the table and began to hop around, as if trying to find a higher surface to perch upon.
By chance, Michael’s eyes landed on Burmy, who was lying still on the floor. The cloak of leaves that covered his tiny body began to shrivel, each one melting away its shape and pooling into a smooth outer coating. The green color faded away, bringing forth a startling hue—a bright pink.
Ted, who had turned away from the shelf at that moment with two books in his hands, saw the pokémon and smiled. “Ah. You have a Burmy. Wonderful little creatures. I happen to have one too, though she’s already grown into a Wormadam. Their cloaks change in response to their environment. We don’t see much of the pink ones here, as much as we see the leaves and soil. Pink is what they put on when adapting to urban locations.”
“But why pink?” Michael asked, at the same time looking at Henry. The boy was smiling, clearly having seen this transformation before.
“There have been a few guesses,” said Ted. “For one, pink’s not a common color in nature, so I suppose to adapt to non-nature he’d have to select a non-natural color. There’s a lot more I can get into, but I don’t think you’d want to hear it all. You came here to learn moves, not listen to pokémon lectures.” Smiling, Ted sat down on the floor and placed his books beside him. “All righty, let’s take a look at what we have.” He pushed up the sleeves of his shirt and held out his hands to Turtwig, who happened to be nearby. Turtwig willingly approached, and Ted gently cupped his hands around the pokémon’s head. “Hmm. There isn’t much I can do for this one. I can place my bet on defensive Psychic moves like Light Screen, but I assume you want actual attack moves, correct?”
Ted gave a one-shoulder shrug. “Well, like I said, this guy’s options are limited. Psychic attacks require a bit more mental power than defenses, and Turtwig evolutions don’t have the kind that’s needed. Same for Flying, but it’s pretty obvious why. Sorry, little fella.” Ted stroked Turtwig’s cheek, and gently turned him away. Michael called Turtwig back into his pokéball.
“What about Machop, then?” Michael said. The pokémon was currently standing on his toes by the window, bouncing on the balls of his feet at the sight of sunlight. Michael took him by the arm and led him over to Ted.
Ted looked at Machop for a moment, then slowly shook his head. “I think it’s going to be the same story for this one. I can give him Meditate, which is what a lot of Fighting Types have the capacity to learn, but all it will do is improve his coordination. You can have him meditate right before a battle, to make sure he keeps his focus.”
Michael snickered at the thought of his Machop meditating. Nevertheless, the idea sounded good to him. He let go of Machop’s wrist and nudged him forward. “Done deal,” he said.
“All right. Just have him stand over there.” Ted pointed to the armchair. “Next?”
As Machop ambled over to the other side of the room, Michael picked up Goldeen and placed her before Ted. Instantly, the Move Tutor’s face lit up. “Ah, that’s much better. I can teach Goldeen Psybeam, which is an excellent offensive move, and Peck as well, since the species has hardened skin around the lips.”
Michael smiled in relief. “Great.”
Ted brought Goldeen over to where Machop was and lowered her into the armchair. Then his gaze swept across the room, and landed on Starly and Ringo, who were squabbling noisily atop the TV set, rattling the antennae with their wings. Ted ran over to break them apart. “Settle down, you two, settle down.” He slid both hands under the birds’ feet and caught them from beneath, transferring their weight to his arms. “Now these two can obviously learn more Flying moves,” said Ted, “But you’ll have to tell me which ones they already know so I’ll have something to work off of.”
“That’s easy,” said Henry. “Starly knows Peck, Wing Attack, and Brave Bird.”
Michael thought for a moment. “Ringo knows Peck and Scratch… and he can chatter.” He looked at the bird, who clucked his beak in reply.
“Ringo chatter! Bingo platter!”
Ted chuckled. He sat down again, keeping both arms upheld to support their passengers. “I think I know just the move for these two: Aerial Ace. It’s a simple technique, but it’s highly useful.” Using his feet, Ted slid himself over to the books he had set aside. Looking closer, Michael saw that they were manuals of some sort, one titled for Psychic moves and the other for Flying.
“Could you give me a hand with these?” said Ted. “Open up the Flying book to the section for Aerial Ace. It should be somewhere in the beginning.”
Michael lifted the Flying book and skimmed through the pages. Each move was discussed in its own chapter, which contained a section of tedious theoretical explanations, and a section with pictures. The diagrams were something that Michael would expect to see in a martial arts book—they depicted bird pokémon performing several stages of the maneuver, a fully broken-down version of the technique that often stretched for more than a page. When he reached the chapter titled ‘Aerial Ace’, he lowered the book in front of Ted.
“Thanks.” Ted lowered his left arm to turn the pages, and in response, Starly retreated higher up his shoulder. “All right. Aerial Ace. I’ve taught this move hundreds of times before, so it won’t take me long to do it for your pokémon. But I’ll need one valuable thing from you first—cooperation. I’m going to give you a system of exercises for your pokémon to practice, and I’ll need you to stick to it for as long as I say, okay?”
“Wait a minute,” Michael said. “So
going to do the tutoring?”
“No, no, not at all,” Ted replied. “I’m going to show you and your pokémon the technique right here, we’ll practice it a couple times, but for the next day or so you’ll have to keep practicing with them on your own. Then, once your pokémon can perform the move sequence described by the diagrams on their own, come back and I’ll give them the final boost they need to start using the move. The whole concept behind move tutoring is that every pokémon has a set of physical capabilities, paired with a set of mental scenarios that tell it how to use them. And to teach a new attack, all we have to do is show the pokémon a different scenario, meaning a different way to use their powers.”
It took a moment for Ted’s explanation to sink in, but Michael nevertheless understood. He gave Ted an affirmative nod, and Henry mimicked the motion. Ted smiled. “Great. Then we’re all set to go. As for you two…” Looking up at the bird pokemon on his shoulders, Ted stood up and brushed them away, letting them off into the air. Henry lifted his Burmy and brought him over to Ted.
“What about him?” Henry held out the pink cotton ball, and the pokémon inside wiggled its feet, trying to find the ground. Ted pursed his lips in an expression of pity.
“Sorry, but you’re a bit too early for this guy… he won’t start learning Psychic moves until he evolves. For now, he’s limited to Bug moves, and some Normal ones.” Ted lifted his finger to touch the Burmy’s pink cloak, pressing softly to test its firmness. The Burmy continued to fidget, trying to pull itself back into its shell. “Has he learned Protect yet?”
Henry lowered the pokémon to look at Ted. “Huh?”
“Has your Burmy ever tried to pull itself into its shell when in a battle?”
Henry thought for a bit, then nodded. “I think so… I mean, he likes to stay inside of his cloak a lot, and when he’s in battle he sometimes tries to hide again. But when he gets knocked around by his opponent a lot, he ends up coming out.”
“Hmm. That could mean that your Burmy is trying to learn the move, but hasn’t developed its focus enough yet. I’ll tell you what—I’ll teach it to him. Protect’s a really useful move. You’ll thank me later.”
Henry nodded, and went to put Burmy back into the pokéball. Ted examined the rest of the boys’ pokémon, and told them what moves each of them could know. To no one’s surprise, Pachirisu and Caterpie weren’t good for much, but Clefable (which surprised Michael even less) had a wide range of opportunities. Henry finally settled on the combination of Psychic and Calm Mind, which Ted promised would maximize the power of all non-contact moves, including Gravity. Michael decided on Aerial Ace for Ringo, and Psybeam and Peck for Goldeen.
Ted wrote down their requests on a loose sheet of paper and retreated further into the house, where Michael could hear him rummaging, opening and closing doors. He came back about a minute later, clapping his hands together. “All right. Follow me, and I’ll show you to the workroom.” He beckoned, and the boys followed, pulling their remaining pokémon after them. Michael grabbed Goldeen with one arm and extended the other to make a perch for Ringo. Henry was similarly accessorized, with Starly on his shoulder and Burmy wrapped in his arms. Only Clefable was able to walk soberly between the boys, while Starly and Ringo kept shooting threatening glares at each other.
Ted’s workroom was an almost identical backdrop of pale walls, bookshelves, and a wooden floor. The clutter lessened here, however, and more space was made for two long tables at the very center of the room.
Ted came around to the tables and set down his books. “If I may ask why do you want such a narrow move pool? Most trainers who come in here just want whatever powerful moves their pokémon can grasp.”
“We…” Henry began, but in the middle, he trailed off. He looked to Michael for help.
“We just wanted to improve our versatility,” Michael said. “For future Gyms, you know.”
Ted lifted his chin in acknowledgment. “Ah. Are you still in this town’s Gym, or did you finish it already?”
“No, we’re still doing it.”
“And how is it?”
Michael spent a few seconds searching for the right words. “The Gym leader is… difficult.”
“Oh. I’m sorry to hear that,” Ted replied. “A lot of the trainers I see have said the same thing, actually. But I’m sure whatever they’re doing is for your own good. A little challenge now and then is a natural part of life. It makes you a better person, in the end...” Still holding Starly’s tiny feet with his fingers, Ted placed his other hand on the bird’s neck and squeezed gently, rubbing the feathers. The bird quit its fidgeting, and relaxed against his grip. “There. Now, we’ll guide this fellow through the move sequence to familiarize him with it. You pay attention too, because you’ll have to memorize it.”
Looking away from the book, Ted grasped the bird’s limbs and began to move them, as if he were fixing a toy. He held the Starly’s wings over its head, then bent them down, and simultaneously pushed its neck forward, so the bird looked like it was about to dive beak-first from the sky. Ted kept a slow, methodic pace in his work, but even so, Michael could barely follow the motions of his hands and fingers. It was as if Starly was moving by himself.
When Ted finished the sequence, he brought Starly back to the starting position and did it again. “Be sure you do this three times a day, morning, afternoon, and evening,” he said. “You really have to make sure your pokémon remembers everything properly. If you ever need help, just drop by. I’m free for most of the day.”
Henry nodded. “Okay.”
When he finished with Starly, Ted let the bird go, and stroked its neck. He handed him over to Henry, then extended his arm out towards Ringo. “All righty. Time for Chatot.”
Ringo ruffled his feathers and backed away, shaking his head. But Michael brought him forward, sliding him off his shoulder and onto the table. “Stay, Ringo,” he ordered.
Ted placed both hands over Ringo’s wings to steady him. The bird began to shake itself, trying to wrench free of his grip.
“Stop it don’t kill me! Ringo doesn’t want to learn! No-no!”
Keeping his grip steady, Ted performed the first round slowly, just as he had done for Starly. But while the small bird had been like a limp puppet in Ted’s hands, Ringo was more like a frightened child being forced to swim. He gave high-pitched screams in response to the most basic actions, such as lifting a wing, and often verbalized his suffering as he tried to evade Ted’s fingers.
Instead of becoming annoyed, Ted began to improvise, often giving the bird a light shake to calm him down. By the time he began the second round, a smile was growing on Ted’s face, and on Ringo’s a grudging submission. When Ted finished with him, he let Ringo stumble from the table on his own and flap back to Michael’s shoulder, angrily clicking his beak. If there was anything that bird wanted right then, Michael guessed, it would have been a large pebble.
Now finished with Flying, Ted closed the book and opened the Psychic one. Interestingly, the exercises for Psybeam and Psychic had a physical basis just like Aerial Ace, and for each of their pokémon, Ted knew exactly what to do. By the end of their session, move tutoring seemed like a craft to Michael, just as much as painting or writing. Ted seemed so absorbed and attentive in his task that he stopped talking to the boys altogether, instead murmuring a bit to the pokémon and himself. ‘That’s it… right there.” Michael became convinced that nothing he or Henry could do on their own would ever match this man’s skill. But he memorized each sequence as best as he could, knowing that trying was better than doing nothing.
By the time Ted was done, almost two hours had gone by. After finishing with Clefable, he breathed a sigh and stacked up the books, placing them back on the shelf. He did not immediately kick them out after finishing, however. In a surprising gesture of hospitality, Ted made tea for the boys, and after they had sent back all their pokémon, the three of them sat together at the kitchen table, plucking crackers from a center bowl.
“So how are you liking the town so far?” said Ted, taking a sip of his tea. “Trainers seem to either love it or hate it, from what I’ve seen.”
“We like it,” Henry said. “It’s just that the Gym sometimes distracts us and gets us overworked.”
Ted chuckled. “You’re too young to be overworked. I know the League’s tough, but that doesn’t mean you can’t take it easy every so often.”
“That’s not what the Gym leader thinks…” Henry mused, glumly looking down at his plate. “She has this strict schedule that everyone has to follow.”
“Well, then follow her schedule. But don’t think too hard on it. This Gym is just one of many, and you can certainly expect to meet far bigger challenges down the road. Think of it as a test. In fact, that’s all it is.”
Michael sat silent for most of the time, teetering from half-relaxed to alert. He wanted to leave before Ted asked them too much, or before Henry accidentally let something slip, but at the same time he did not want to appear rude. But time eventually proved him wrong—Ted seemed only interested in basic questions pertaining to their League journey, and their opinions on previous battles.
After a while, Michael grew comfortable enough to ask a question that had been tugging at the back of his mind. “So, what do you do besides move tutoring?” he said, looking over to Ted. “Do you run a business or something?”
“No, this is all I do,” Ted replied. “It’s all I want to do, really. Why bother with big money and corporations when you can get by on your own?” He chuckled. “I guess if you’re the ambitious type you’ll want to always go the extra mile, climb the highest mountain. That’s good too. But as I got older I realized that I didn’t fit that sort of lifestyle. It’s something that would have shocked the younger me.”
Michael frowned. Ted, on the whole, didn’t look a day over twenty-five. “What made you want to do move tutoring, then?” he asked.
Ted smiled. “I guess my interest just took hold of me. And when I began to follow it, I saw that it was leading me in the right direction. You’ll understand. Especially when you move on in your education.” At this, Ted looked them both in the eye. “Always keep your education in mind. That’s the most important thing. No matter what path you choose, never stop learning.”
Michael had heard this phrase countless times before, though now, it seemed to take on a higher meaning. More so, it seemed like an invitation to continue talking. He thought for a moment, and the question seemed to spring forth of its own accord.
“… have you ever seen a pokémon differently-colored than normal?” he said.
Ted’s expression clouded. “I might have. What of it?” A second later, he seemed to understand. “Ah. Your Turtwig.”
Michael nodded. “He came like that. When I first got him, I mean. No one could tell me anything about it, but from what I’ve heard, I assume it’s rare or something.”
“It is,” Ted said. “Pokémon are usually very uniform in their coloring, unless the species type varies naturally, like Chatots. I haven’t seen every pokémon in the world—and I’m certain it’s impossible to do in one lifetime—but I have seen ones that defied their species’ natural coloring. I saw a light brown Starly when I lived in Floaroma, and by luck, when I moved here I saw a paler-colored Cherrim. The Starly flew away before I could observe its behavior, but I did get a good look at the Cherrim. On the whole it seemed like a normal Cherrim. It didn’t have any special powers that its normally-colored kin didn’t. I think that the coloring is just a recessive trait, something that might have been present at an earlier time but eventually evolved out of the species.”
At this, a tick went off in Michael’s mind. “So... they could be different?”
Ted shrugged. “Maybe. I guess it’s up to science to find out. Pokémon are very interesting creatures, perhaps even more interesting than us humans. What makes them have such unique, powerful abilities that we don’t? How did they develop? Why is it that by simply repeating a sequence of moves we can get them to command the elements with techniques like Blizzard and Solarbeam? We don’t know… and that’s the beauty of it all.” Ted leaned back in his chair with a smile. “All in all, it’s a field that’s full of surprises. That’s the best way I can put it. Why, just recently, they found that space pokémon… Deoxys, was it?”
“Yep,” Michael said.
“Now that simply astounds me. A pokémon completely alien from Earth, with a body structure completely different from that of any pokémon here. Or maybe it’s similar… whatever it is, I hope that those scientists don’t stop what they’re doing. They could have the answer to everything… right there...” Ted looked up, and his gaze trailed over to the wall behind the boys, lingering somewhere in the empty space. Weak afternoon light filled the kitchen around them, casting a glow on the cupboards and counter, and on the tiny framed pictures that hung on the walls. Seashells. Meadows.
Sitting there in the space that enclosed him, his fingers idly looped through the handle of his teacup, Ted seemed suddenly harmless, almost lonely. He hung in silence for a while, then, as if by accident, he looked down at his watch and gave a jolt. “Whoa. Five o’clock already?” He looked over to the boys. “I guess you two should get going. I can’t keep you here forever.”
Leaving the table as it was, Ted led the boys to the front door, holding it open for them while they gathered their things. As Michael and Henry stepped outside, Ted closed the door a little, poking his head out again. “Remember—practice, and when your pokémon can do the sequence on their own, come back.”
“All right,” Michael replied. He gave Ted a sort of wave, to which he responded with a sheepish thumbs-up, and closed the door.
When the boys got back to the hotel, the sun was beginning to set over the horizon, scattering bands of red and orange light across the sky. Upon nearing the elevators, Michael saw Bertha emerge from a door somewhere in the lobby and enter the hallway. She did not appear to notice either of them. She breezed by at an agitated pace, heels clacking on the carpet. “I’ll
you, you little…”
Before Michael could get her attention, Bertha rounded the corner and disappeared. At the same time, the elevator doors slid open, and he decided that whatever had happened, she would get around to telling them when she was ready. Or perhaps it was better not knowing at all.
When he stepped into their room, Michael was stricken by a sudden lethargy. Their beds were freshly made, and a new sack of pokémon food awaited their attention in the corner. He thought of pouring some out to feed his team now instead of later, but he decided that there were other matters to attend to first. After dropping his backpack by his bed, Michael trudged over to the TV set and flipped it on. The screen came to life in a burst of color and sound.
“—and now coming live from the scene we give you Carlo Tassen, the coach of the winning team—”
Michael turned the dial to change the channel. A football stadium that had just come into view immediately vanished, replaced by a TV show host.
“—next on Prime Time we have an all new episode of The Cool Kids, the last episode till the season finale next week—”
He changed the channel again. A swirl of faces appeared on the screen, a sea of dazzling smiles.
“—wonderful, just wonderful! I never imagined that we would win, but now the Beauty Ribbon seems closer to us than ever!”
Click. Another frame appeared over the preceding one. He had reached Channel 5.
“—and after all the aid and kindness that has been shown to them, I am certain that the people of Eterna will see many brighter days in the future. This has been Mackie Rudolph, live with the evening news.”
The newscaster’s image faded. Michael held his breath. Now, surely, would come the program he had waited weeks to see.
“—and now we bring you the show you’ve all been waiting for… Folks, you can only get it from one place, and that is right here, on Jubilife News 5… get ready…
Michael’s head snapped back, and he gawked at screen in surprise. “What the hell?”
Henry came over to his side. “What?”
“They skipped it! The Space Race is supposed to follow the evening news, and Jukebox always comes after!” Michael slapped his hands against his knees. “They completely cut it from the lineup.”
“So, what does that mean?” the boy asked.
Michael turned to him with a scowl. “It means that the Space Race is gone. They’ll probably never update again.” Not bothering to leave the TV on for one more second, Michael pressed the power button and let the screen go blank. “Dammit, I’m such a ditz…” Michael went over to his backpack and began to take out his stuff, plopping it down onto the bed. “Come on,” he said to Henry. “We might as well go over what we’re going to practice after the battles tomorrow.”
Still seated by the TV, Henry nodded. “Yeah. Right.” His eyes lingered on the blank screen for a moment, then slowly, he got up to join Michael.
The streets were wet in Hearthome City. For that entire day, its inhabitants had been visited by chilly winds and spells of misty rain that showered periodically from the skies above. The streets were jammed as always, but what would normally have been a river of striking, moving color was reduced to a dreary mass of tires and horns, the frames of all the cars dulled to the same depressing hue by the weather. Likewise, the pedestrians were bundled up in coats and rain boots, some carrying umbrellas in anticipation.
In a far-flung part of the downtown area, Nancy Bryan sat in a cramped hotel room, her elbows pressed against the surface of a wooden table. She was holding her latest rejection letter from SNN in both hands, and was entirely immersed in reading it. It had arrived by telegram the previous day, but she hadn’t looked at it in detail since she had sent word to Michael.
The curtains were pulled away from the window, letting in what little light the sky had to offer, illuminating the neat, typed lines. Nancy sat with a slight slouch in her shoulders as she read, mouthing the words as she often did when nothing in her mind was making sense.
“News offices… formal declarations… same goddamn thing every time…” After getting through it, she crumpled up the paper and tossed it into a waste bin in the corner. Nancy had so much experience doing this that she no longer missed; the paper ball bounced off the edge and landed inside. She leaned back in her chair, letting out a sigh that she had been holding in for the entire day. “What the hell do these people
Her question had been addressed to the ceiling, but nevertheless, Ned took the liberty of answering for her. “Just keep trying,” he said. “The kid wrote a good article, yeah, but I honestly wasn’t surprised that SNN didn’t take it. They’re not the type of people who do academic stories, even if they connect to something else in the world.” He and Bobby were sitting on the couch, watching her read, and going about their own tasks. Bobby was leafing through the TV guide, and Ned was doing a crossword puzzle. Tom, who was reading a book in the separate armchair, also glanced up at his companions.
In response to Ned’s statement, Nancy smiled. “They’re not the type of people who do crime stories, they’re not the type of people who do stories about films, they’re not the people who do stories about pokémon… then what are they?”
“Not people,” Bobby replied curtly.
Nancy began to laugh. But at the same time, her mood remained bleak and overcast, much like the rainy city outside. Taking a breath, Nancy stood up, smoothening her blouse. “Well, we might as well think about what we’ll be having for dinner,” she said. “I’m sick of going out to those streetside cafés and eating God-knows-what every evening. I’m going to buy us some real food.”
“Works for me,” Tom said.
“Go for it,” said Ned. “But hurry back. It looks like it’ll start pouring soon.”
Nodding, Nancy went to grab her purse, pulling her jacket from the coat hanger on her way to the door. She took the elevator downstairs, and upon stepping out of the building, Nancy felt a brief shudder escape her. Tiny, sparse drops were falling on the sidewalk, the promising beginnings of a downpour. The cars were moving slowly, clogging the streets.
Nancy hurried over to the bus stop, shielding her eyes with her hand as she ran. A low, resonating rumble issued from the clouds. Faint, summery music could be heard over the swoosh of shop doors, as people hurried to get home before the rain came.
The benches at the bus stop all had roofs, so naturally, each one was occupied by at least one person. Being in no mood to stand, Nancy took a seat in the first open spot she saw, beside a pair of legs and a head hidden behind a newspaper. She placed her purse in her lap and waited.
Again, thunder rolled across the sky.
The man beside her—so it was a man, after all—turned a page in acknowledgment. Using her peripherals, Nancy did a quick once-over of her temporary companion. He was a fellow like any other, it seemed. Well-dressed, though still somewhat relaxed. Probably a businessman. Satisfied, she went back to looking at the road.
The man cleared his throat, and a gust of wind rattled the pages of the newspaper, making him lower it a little. Nancy looked again. Glasses. Crew-cut. (Why were crew cuts so popular? she wondered. They were so unflattering.) The man began to tap his foot, and Nancy scooted to the side a little, guessing that maybe he wanted more room. For a brief moment, their eyes locked, then he quickly, almost pointedly, looked away. Nancy drew back internally in affront. At least people
back in Jubilife. What happened to that friendliness when it crossed the Coronet border?
Nancy put her arm on the cold bar of the bench and fixed her gaze on the buildings across the street. Several nondescript moments later, she heard another crinkle of paper beside her, and this time the man acknowledged her presence with a nod.
“Terrible weather,” he remarked.
Nancy twirled a string on her purse. “Yep.”
The rain intensified for a moment, then quieted down again. Up above, the sky was thick with storm clouds. Suddenly, it struck Nancy that the man was very oddly dressed for such a day. Nearly all the passerby she saw were bundled up for the rain—she herself had worn rubber boots for all the walking she had to do—and yet this guy was sitting there, no umbrella or raincoat, in a
for crying out loud, like it was nobody’s problem.
The man looked at her again, probably noticing her stare. He folded a corner and closed the newspaper. “It’s a shame what they print these days,” he said.
Nancy bristled. “Oh.”
“Just a bunch of hullabaloo. Or rather, what they
print, I should say.”
“… What do you mean?” she ventured.
The man was silent for a moment, his eyes absently scanning the headlines. “I rarely see a paper that prints something worthwhile nowadays, and on the rare chance that I do, it’s ignored in the editorials and is never built upon by anyone else. For example, did you know that moonstones were first discovered on Earth in 1756? That’s ages before Hoenn’s lunar probe was even built.”
“And?” Nancy said, still not following.
“There is an article here that introduces the topic of moonstones rather nicely, but I’m ashamed that it’s the only one of its kind. In the first place, I’m astounded that pokémon evolution would even interest the contemporary news press, since all I see from day to day is the same prattle on politics and conspiracies. But instead of taking a step in the right direction by publishing it in a respectable manner, the newspaper blatantly plays it down as an unimportant issue, both in placing and in format.” The man paused, and flipped through the pages some more. “Of course, I should not be the one to complain. Pokémon evolution is a field that few people care for. The author does a fair job of summarizing the issue, but even so, the introduction is far too late in the coming. The public today shows an ignorance on the matter, and even worse, a matter that concerns them. It’s a sure sign that the media isn’t doing its proper job. Would you agree?” At this point, the man glanced over to Nancy, and his gaze fell on the pocket of her coat. With a tiny jolt, she realized that the press badge was still clipped there, from when she had visited the Hearthome newspaper office earlier that day. She had completely forgotten about it, but now its glaring presence made her feel strangely exposed. Nancy started to reach for it to pull it off, but it was too late. The man already recognized her.
Slouching her shoulders, Nancy leaned back against the bench, folding her arms over her purse. “There’s not much else to print, now, is there?” she said. “The press prints what the people want to read about. And basically, everything’s covered already. We’ve got the Contest season, the Pokémon League, the Space Race…”
At this, the man smiled. “Yes, those are the three biggest things... It’s a shame.”
“People don’t know the truth about them either. And not just about the Space Race—about the League too. I’m not saying that any one person is at fault, but there is no denying that these days, there’s more speculation than certainty.”
Nancy nodded. “Yeah. I can understand.” But what was there to do about it?
“At any rate,” the man continued, “I don’t think there’s any point for the media to be searching for the truth. The truth loves to hide from us, and oftentimes the theories that show up in the news make things seem worse, or better, than they actually are. Take the League for example. It isn’t all fun and games, contrary to what most people believe. No one’s reformed it in ages, and its rules often cause more problems than they solve. In the eyes of the media, however, it can do no wrong. And Team Galactic…”
Nancy’s heart skipped a beat. She was about to turn around and ask the man what he was about to say, but at that moment, he seemed to realize that the conversation had taken a wrong turn. He settled back into silence, letting the former heat of his argument wash away, like the rain.
Finally, Nancy found her voice. “If you don’t think that the media should be searching for the truth… then what should we be doing?”
It was a long time before the man replied. He rolled up the newspaper into a tube and rose from his seat, straightening the edges of his jacket. “Know it when you see it,” he said. “Sometimes it’s right there, out in the open, where you’re least likely to look.” He stuffed his hands into his pockets and looked out at the street. For a moment, his silhouette stood sharply against the bleak backdrop of the city. Then, he stepped away from her and set off down the sidewalk. Nancy watched him go, picking up his pace as he vanished into the flock of moving people, as if he had never been there at all.
Haruka of Hoenn
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