The lush, green grass swayed in the gentle breeze, perfectly replicated like its real world counterpart. One had to appreciate the attention to detail the developers put into getting the most infinitesimal thing right. Sights, sounds, even the smells of a world that previously existed only on a screen. Yet, here it was, real as life. Route 29, the real beginning for all trainers in the Johto region. Granted, New Bark town was were everybody received their starter Pokemon from the ever increasingly eccentric professor Elm. But Route 29, this was where the first foot steps to adventure happened. Where people encountered their first wild Pokemon and NPC trainers alike.
Solomon’s eyes fluttered open, his right hand playing idly with the grass under his palm. He had taken a free moment to catch a little nap on the soft grass adjacent to the frequently traveled path. Staring up at the sun, its presence dominated the heavens, brighter than anything else in the day sky. It wasn’t that the other celestial bodies weren’t there, they were simply outshone by the sun’s proximity and radiance. Shielding his eyes, he wondered if the developers took the time to render each of the night stars individually, or did they take the easy way out and just go with a flat matte? Probably the matte, if he had to guess. Humans typically took the easiest way out, the path of least resistance. If you promised to give somebody one hundred dollars today, or one hundred and ten dollars in a year, most would probably opt for the immediate reward rather than the long distance one. That was what was wrong with people, no foresight. No appreciation for getting the small things ‘just’ right.
Leaning up with a groan, he ran his hand through his now slightly tussled hair. Fiddling with it for what seemed like forever, he struggled to get it just right, smooth but flipped up just at the tips. Umbra, his loyal Sneasel, was nearby frolicking through the route, diving in and out of bushes with reckless abandon. She was a naive little thing, seemingly imbued with a childlike curiosity. The two of them together had an almost yin and yang appearance. Noticing that her trainer had awaken, she stopped in her tracks and perked her ears as she had a tendency to do. She hesitated before leaping into the next bush, just in case he had orders for her. With a dismissive wave of his hand, he gave her permission to continue on her way. Not wasting a moment, she dove in head first and startled a flock of Pidgey that had taken refuge there. With a frightened squawk, they flew from their former hideaway and took to the sky. One of the more bold ones turned to face their intruder. A perfect opportunity for Umbra to get some easy experience, considering the type advantage she enjoyed.
“Umbra,” Solomon cupped his hands and called out to his Pokemon, his accent and tone left unaltered by his character selection choices. “Come to me!” Umbra responded instantaneously, skipping back to his position with a cheery disposition. The enemy Pidgey circled above, its small body leaving an almost unrecognizable shadow on the ground below. It swooped down with rapidly increasing speed, its wings tucked neatly to its body. Just as it was about to reach its point of no return, it extended its wings and began to beat them with great ferocity, the plumage kicking up a veil of dust in the process. Solomon’s glasses kept out a majority of the granules from his eyes, but he still had to use the sleeve of his coat for further protection. Umbra, meanwhile, her keen eye ability saved her from the accuracy lowering attack and seemed to be doing just fine.
“Useless bird. Umbra, quick attack.” The little Sneasel began to glow with faint traces of light, her body tensed and hesitated for but a second before taking off like a shot. It was hard to follow her as she sped across the landscape and closed the gap between the Pidgey and herself. Just as she came underneath her target, she lunged into the air, her momentum carrying her the rest of the way and smashing into it. The Pidgey went reeling, its body tumbling through the air before reorienting itself. Before giving his target a chance to recover, Solomon barked out another oder, “Umbra, Icy Wind now.” A frigid gale kicked up in the area, its origination coming from non other than little Umbra herself. Solomon had judged the Pidgey and found it lacking. His team had no spots for the weak and useless. The icy wind gusted into the opposing Pokemon, it had no time to react and took the full brunt of its blow. By itself, Icy Wind was not an overwhelmingly powerful attack. However, since Sneasel itself was part ice type, it received a handy little boost to all ice type moves, otherwise known as STAB or Same-Type Attack Bonus. That and the flying type’s obvious weakness to anything ice related, carried with it almost certain death on a Pidgey this low a level.
The Pidgey came crashing down, a little coo escaping its beak before turning a bright red and shattering into thousands of little data shards. Umbra jumped up and down excitedly, a radiant little smile splashing across her face. She came jogging back to Solomon, a great deal of pride in her complexion as she looked up to him. “Nice job,” he mumbled under his breath, reaching down to pat her on the head. “A little sloppy on that quick attack though, we need to make sure to tidy that up a bit.” Umbra didn’t mind the constructive criticism, she simply nodded her head, jumped on his shoulders and held on as he finally rose to his feet. He hadn’t left his seated position the whole time during the battle, he saw no reason to do so. “Alright, time to go. I think we’ve probably wasted enough time catching up on rest.”
“That was fricking sweet, dude!” A nearby voice called out suddenly. Solomon found the tone to be highly abrasive, pitched and prepubescent. Some kid came jogging up to him, his face flushed as if he had been running for miles. The avatar looked to be like it belonged to a twelve year old, which based on the his speech sample, was most likely the case. It was always hard to tell however. An avatar that looked like a beautiful young woman, could very well belong to a pedophile living in some shack an entire world away. When creating Solomon, Gavin had been very careful to retain a great deal of his appearance. Probably one of the few to do so in this game. When he beat somebody, when he was finally the one to be recognized in a position of power, he wanted everyone to know his face, not some avatar’s. He looked down at the “boy” with disdain, his eyes peering out under the rim of his glasses. “Dude, where did you learn to do that? I swear, my friend and me never seem to have battles go that well.” The boy gestured to the Corsola by his side. Why on Earth would he choose such a pathetic Pokemon as his starter?
“First of all, don’t refer to me as ‘dude’.” He spoke to the boy mildly, but with unrestrained loathing evident in his voice. “Second, ‘fricking’ is just an alteration of another word entirely. I suggest that if you are going to allude to the word, just use the bloody thing.” Solomon crossed his arms and shifted slightly as he pushed his glasses back up his nose. “It should also be ‘My friend and I’, never ‘my friend and -me-’. I mean really, where did you learn the English language? Lastly, I don’t need you to inform me of how exemplary my battle went. I am well aware.”
“Uh...ok...” The boy stammered uncomfortably before taking a few steps back and carelessly tripping over a nearby stone. “I, I think I’ll just be going then.” He jumped to his feet and ran from the awkward man he had so quickly praised.
Solomon simply shrugged and watched the boy run back in the direction from which he came. Probably hiding out in New Bark town with the rest of the cowards and inept trainers. “Okay, Umbra, off to Cherrygrove then.” He reached up and scratched his Pokemon behind her perky little ear. She gave a slight grumble of acknowledgement and playfully pulled off his glasses before putting them on her own head. “You know, that used to really piss me off when people stole them in the real world. But here, I can see just fine without them.” He reached up and retrieved his stolen spectacles. “Anyway, they don’t quite fit you.” Umbra snickered and let him retrieve his item, before jumping back down to the ground and tugging his pants in the direction they needed to go.
Solomon gave her a little playful swat, as playful as he ever was of course. From what little time he had spent with Umbra, she had already become the best friend he had ever had. A grand total of a week had past since he received her and they started their journey together. Of course, this journey took an unexpected turn once the lock in was announced. It didn’t much bother him as it did the others. Obviously their real bodies would be moved to a hospital, and if you died in real life you didn’t get any second chances either. So what difference did it make? That first week went by like a blur, he had trained Umbra extensively on this route for a long time. He hadn’t longed for the outside world, or wept like many others did. This place was real enough, and in his opinion, better than the alternative. Once he had become confident enough in Umbra’s and his ability, he had visited route 30 very briefly, but had heard about the quests being offered that he needed to do in Cherrygrove. That was really why he was here, a bit of a rest before the long push ahead.
It didn’t take them long to reach Cherrygrove, Solomon hadn’t been resting too far outside the city in case he needed to make a stop at the Pokemon center. It seems his cautiousness was not needed however. Umbra was far stronger than any Pokemon on the route and he hadn’t been pestered by an NPC the whole time he was there. Sure, he could have gotten a room in the center. But, why waste money and be surrounded by annoying people just for a nap? It was only for an hour or two anyway. The city was just too damn crowded, it was like a herd of cows behind the cattle gate. His past few times he had been in Cherrygrove, he made a quick retreat just to escape the crowds. However, there was a quest waiting for him this time and for that, he had to go see the mayor.
Very little time was needed to spy the mayor out from the crowd. It was kind of hard to miss the gathering masses surrounding the NPC. Manners would normally dictate that you wait your turn in line and watch your life melt away with every agonizing second that passes. Solomon wasn’t very big on manners. After the person who was busily occupying the mayor’s time was done, he rudely made his way to the front and triggered a conversation with her, much to the chagrin of everybody else who had been waiting.
“Hello there, young man!” The mayor called out to him in a cheery tone. Her respectably aged visage had a smile plastered across it, as she looked him up and down. “Say, would you be able to do me a favor?”
“Oh, lord. Where is the dialogue skip function?” He muttered under his breath, rubbing his forehead. “Sure, just please continue.”
“Thank you! I really do appreciate it.” The NPC continued, completely oblivious to his snarky demeanor. I have a friend, Mr. Pokemon out on Route 30 as a matter of fact. He informed me of an item that is in need of an escort to reach me. Would you be a dear and fetch it for me? I’m sure I would be able to give you something for your troubles.”
“Thank you, dear. I’ll just wait here for your return.” The mayor bowed and flashed another smile before initiating a similar, perhaps even identical conversation with the next person. It was hard to tell how much variety the NPCs had built into their dialogue.
Solomon quickly glided his way through the crowd, his Sneasel following closely behind and having much better success at avoiding contact with the other player characters. It was a small town and didn’t take them long to reach Route 30. “Alright, looks like we need to take the eastern path here.” Solomon looked to his Pokemon once again. “Ready, Umbra?”
“Snease, sneasel!” She jumped up and down and gave him a mock salute.
“Ok then, let’s go.”