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UPDATE: There have been various issues preventing me from working on this recently, but I finally posted Chapter Five and seem to be on a good writing schedule. It'll be at least a few days before the next chapter, but it's coming! Lemme know what you think, especially if you like it!
“Oh, HELL no.” These were the words of realization and loving support that exploded from my mother’s lips when I informed her of my decision. “Over my cold, dead body!” quickly followed.
“Sorry, Ma, but sweet-talking me isn’t gonna work,” I calmly replied, continuing to pack my bag and go through my mental checklist. “You know that when I’ve made up my mind, nothing in the world can stop me. I get that from you.”
“You get that from your mule-headed father,” she snapped, spitting out a few choice expletives under her breath. My father’s face registered some mild shock, but he wisely chose not to comment.
“Mother, I’ve waited far too long for this.” I set my bag down and turned to face my dear matriarch, intending to make myself very clear. “To be precise, I’ve been waiting eleven years. Eleven, Ma.”
Her eyes softened slightly, but her body language indicated that the argument was far from won. She stood firmly between me and the front door, her hips leaning sharply in one direction with her fists perched atop them. My mom could be quite adorable when she wasn’t fuming, her plumpness usually complimented by a beautifully cheerful smile and one of her colorful aprons. Today, her mouth was pursed into a hard, stern line, and her Sunday apron was clenched in one of her fists. “Simon Anthony Oswald, I simply forbid you to leave.”
My body almost instantly composed itself into the same configuration as hers at the mention of my full name, my hands finding my hips and my jaw clenching in defiance. “You will not hold me prisoner here. I did not argue or complain when it was decided I could not start my journey at the normal age. I did not badger or beg or plead you to let me go; I have been the best, most obedient son I know how to be.” I drew in a deep breath, trying to keep my tone even. “However, twenty-one is definitely my cut-off line. I am going.”
Again, I had her. My mother, as obstinate as she was, refused to deny truth when she faced it. This was different, though. Her stance drooped and her eyes welled up. She backed herself against the door, spreading her arms, and gripped the door frames. “You can’t go!” she sobbed. “I won’t let you go! I can’t!”
With deeply knowing and slightly misty eyes, my father rose from his seat and crossed to his wife, gently pulling her arms to her sides and enfolding her in his own arms. He whispered into her ear and lovingly hushed her as she wept upon his shoulder. Turning his face slightly to me, he smiled through his own silent tears and nodded slowly, finally granting the parental consent that I vocally denied needing yet secretly yearned to have.
I abruptly turned my back to the scene to not betray my own emotions. “Actually, I think I’ll wait until tomorrow. I still have a few things I need to get together, but I’m definitely leaving tomorrow.” At that, I crumbled and ran across the room to my parents, the three of us grasping each other in a massive emotional hug. This would be difficult for all of us, but we each knew it was time.
As we held each other, I felt a soft tug on the leg of my pants. I peered down to find my little friend watching me in wide-eyed wonder, his head curiously tilted to the side. “I’m gonna miss you, too, Caesar,” I cried as I hefted our Growlithe into my arms. He licked my face and yipped enthusiastically, then scrambling out of my clutches to bounce into the next room. I smiled ruefully, further saddened at the prospect of leaving the pup behind.
“You could take Caesar with you, you know?” my dad suggested knowingly as he laid a hand on my shoulder.
“I couldn’t. I know how much he means to the two of you.” My mother smiled gratefully at me, cheeks flushed from tears and emotion. Suddenly, a light appeared in her eyes, and she rushed off into the kitchen.
“Since you’re staying tonight, I might as well make this a dinner to remember!” The rest of that evening will forever be a treasured memory of mine. I was amazed at how close my family became in the moments just before we were truly separated for the first time since my birth. Occasionally, Caesar would scamper up into my lap with his personalized striped Pokéball clenched between his teeth and ready to go. Each time, I gently took it from him, shook my head, and scooted him off my lap.
That night was the last night I slept in the bedroom I was raised in. I laid in my bed awake for a long time, taking in everything around me. My cluttered desk, my old rug, my window that let moonlight trickle in; it was all suddenly very dynamic, as if I was seeing them for the first time when I was actually seeing them for the last. I knew, somehow, that there would be no coming back to this place.
The foot of my bed dipped slightly as I suddenly was accompanied by a fuzzy companion. Caesar slowly climbed up to me where I laid on my side, curling into me and whimpering lowly. Wrapping myself around him protectively, I stroked his fur and hummed a song to hush him. My hand was warmed by the contact, the Puppy Pokémon’s internal fire exuding heat through his orange and black striped coat.
I sighed and settled further in, finally sleepy now with Caesar’s help. I had to rest up as much as possible. First thing in the morning, I was leaving my home and everything I knew behind to finally become a Pokémon Trainer.
I figure I might as well return the favour. ;D
Wow, this is certainly . . . different. While teenagers starting out on their Pokemon journeys late are by no means uncommon, I think this is the first time I've seen someone starting as old as twenty-one. For that matter, it was a marvellous piece of misdirection there with the whole 'I've been waiting eleven years' thing. My brain instantly went 'what? He's twenty-one? Nah, must be eleven', but then when his real age was mentioned it made for a nice turnaround. So well done on subverting it like that.
Umm . . . not too much else happening here, so I can't comment too much for the moment. It was quite a short chapter, and there wasn't a whole lot going on. It was basically just the single event where Simon tells his parents he's going on a Pokemon journey, and then you skim over the rest of the day. Not that it's a bad thing in and of itself, I would like there to have been a bit more substance to the chapter. Of course, I see that it is a prologue, which do tend to be shorter, but on the whole it just read like a chapter one. Unless, of course, Chapter One ends up skipping forward to a point further along on Simon's journey, which would be good. That would be interesting, as we sometimes don't necessarily need to see the beginning of a journey. (I guess I could look on Bulbagarden to cheat, but I won't. :3)
So, on the whole, it's a promising start. You clearly know your way around a keyboard, which is more than can be said for some, but there's not much presented here that's out of the ordinary other than the Trainer's age. More so, there's not much presented here, full stop. It doesn't really grab the interest of the reader and make them want to come back for more, though I certainly will do my best to have a look. Good luck!
Fairly solid writing, I felt, and a good opening. The characters felt pretty realistic and relatable to, as well as their reactions. I do wonder why he had not drawn the line earlier than twenty-one personally - would this be something you'll touch on later curiously? I also wonder on why the parents did not let him go, although my guess is being overprotective being part of it. And a trainer starting out as an adult is certainly a curious concept. I particularly liked the part about him observing his room as well - some nice description there. =)
I think it did somewhat grab my attention but I will agree with Misheard Whisper that it did feel a bit lacking in a way in that regard, and I am also curious to see how it follows given you named it a prologue as well. Perhaps it would have been a good time to have presented some more on what I mused about - why exactly had he been delayed by a whole 11 years, and why he wanted to go so badly (I am also on that note curious on what he was doing before then - always at home, or working in some other manner?) But that does as said depend on how you follow it up, but if you do continue with the next morning and all then making this a chapter would likely fit better instead, imo.
At any rate, good luck with the rest of your story!
Thank you so much for your comments! I've already written up to Chapter 4 and posted them elsewhere, so I'm reluctant to make any changes based upon your suggestions (though I certainly appreciate and somewhat agree with you guys). However, I will say that I initially intended for the Prologue to be a teaser more than anything, establishing Simon and little else. Hopefully, this chapter will be more explanatory (though certain questions you raised will purposefully not be answered quite yet ;D), though not a huge leap forward. The next chapter will cut to some interesting action, so stick around! Again, thanks so much!
Chapter One: The Journey Begins
The sun began to peek over the hills as dawn approached, coating the rolling land in golden light and filling the clouds with wondrous color. Spring had bloomed in the region of Orusa only a few days prior, and scattered patches of snow continued to melt slowly, remnants of the long winter typical of the mountainous area. Down in a valley nestled between two hills, a tree shook slightly, and a flock of surprised bird Pokémon darted across the sky in patterned formation. Sunrise at Gleaming Rock was truly a sight to behold, but this was the last time I would witness the view for a long time to come.
I stood atop a jutting outcrop of rock overlooking the beautiful region I called home. Located south of the famous Unova region, Orusa sprawled and dipped across a gem-filled mountain range, one edge stretching out to the sea. In history past, the jewel-studded hills were renowned for their abundant minerals, and the area was besieged by hard-working miners of various backgrounds. Now, the fervor for gemstones had waned, and the diverse peoples of Orusa changed with the times and built rustic towns and flourishing cities around the natural wonders of the land. Gleaming Rock was the most rural and secluded niche of the region, placed high in the hills and far from the ocean. It was so named for the rocky precipices that literally gleamed under light, the mineral filled stones flickering and shimmering in a mystical beauty.
I had spent my entire life in Gleaming Rock, never once stepping outside its limits in my twenty-one years of living. The product of a sheltered home, I shivered in anticipation of finally leaving on a journey. Moving away from the cliff and the grand view, I made my way back through the town toward the sole exit. My house was one of only four that made up our fair settlement, and my family consisted of the only permanent residents. The other three buildings were regularly inhabited by urbanites who needed to get away from the bustling city life, seeking to enjoy nature in a quaint cabin in the mountains. My parents, Jacob and Ruth Oswald, functioned as welcomers and groundskeepers for Gleaming Rock, and we had gained much respect from several influential and affluent families in our cliff-side village. It was from these kindly (and usually wealthy) visitors that I gained much of my knowledge of Orusa’s culture and history. A few families were seasonal, coming back the same time every year and bringing books and electronics for their favorite mountain boy in gratitude for all of the help I provided during their stays.
None of the townsfolk had yet risen from their beds, all the houses still peacefully dormant as morning crawled up the hills. As I moved to the edge of the town, I approached my own silent abode. I had awoken early and changed into my travelling clothes quietly, not wanting to create another emotion-charged scene with my parents. Sneaking out after planting an explanatory note was difficult with an insistent Growlithe wrapping himself around my ankles, all pleading eyes and pitiful whimpers; it was everything I could do not to scoop Caesar and his Pokéball up and run away with him in tow.
I put on a brave face and continued past my house, reliving the memories of Caesar’s arrival. The only way to enter or exit Gleaming Rock on foot was by means of an intact mining shaft, and the summer before my journey’s start, an eerie howling echoed out of the mine. My father went bravely to investigate the sound, insisting that my mother and I stay behind. However, I was twenty years old, hard-headed, and somewhat worried for my fifty-something father. Grabbing my bag and a couple supplies, I crept around the side of the house and quickly made my way to the shaft opening before my father.
The howling sustained mournfully, occasionally dying down into a low tone before crescendoing upwards once again. I remembered reaching the mouth of the cave-like shaft, a faint light emanating from its depths. My legs shook and my mouth went dry at the prospect of stepping outside of the town and perhaps meeting a Pokémon in the shaft, and I lifted my foot slowly to place it over town’s boundary.
At that moment, a crashing sound came from the mine, a great rush of air and a cloud of dirt knocking me off balance and landing me on my back. I grunted and leaned forward, peering through the clearing dust to see the shadow of a short figure stumbling toward me. As the air finally settled, I saw an orange and black striped pup Pokémon limping out of the shaft. From the books I had been given by visitors to our town, I almost immediately recognized the creature as a very young Growlithe. An idea began to form in my mind, and I reached into my bag to grip another visitor’s gift to me: a single, regular Pokéball.
“Simon!” my father called with concern in his voice. He was approaching quickly, so I desperately threw the Pokéball at a suddenly very surprised Growlithe. As my father arrived and helped me to my feet, the ball rocked back and forth. Those few seconds of uncertainty were the tensest of my life thus far, but the excitement and joy I felt when it clicked closed were indescribable. I remembered my dad picking up the ball before I could snatch it up myself in victory, wordlessly making his way back to the house. My mother had a Pokémon healing machine in the basement, originally installed in case of the event of visitors bringing their Pokémon with them on their stays in Gleaming Rock. My parents said nothing as they placed the Pokéball in the machine, giving it a few moments to work its magic.
Remaining quiet, they turned and smiled at me, my mother handing me the ball with an affirming nod. My hands were warmed by it, and my thumb quickly found the button in the center. As I pressed it, a light shined brightly and out came the Growlithe. He seemed at first perplexed, inspecting the three of us slowly. However, it took him only moments to realize he was now part of a home, instinctively knowing he was tethered to our family. This notion excited him greatly, and he commenced to rush around the house for a solid week. His fluffy fur and instant loyalty reminded me of the guardian shisa statues of China, and so I soon officially named him “Caesar”, a name I found to be close enough in sound and quite fitting in meaning.
The assumption was made that poor Caesar somehow wandered into the mine, getting lost and panicked. The rush of dirt and air came from an off-shooting branch of the mines that a beam fell in, but the way to the next town was fortunately secure. After that day, the two of us became the best of friends, and I was deeply bothered that my first Pokémon would not be joining me on my travels. I didn’t feel right taking him from my parents, though, so I trudged up to the mine, ready once again to make that first step. I adjusted by bag and took a final assessment of myself. I was completely decked out, wearing black and white running shoes, dark jeans, a green t-shirt covered by a hooded blue jacket, and my fully stocked bag slung from one shoulder across to the opposite hip. Lifting my foot once more, I readied myself for that first real step of my journey.
Suddenly, the silence of my morning was broken as I heard an all too familiar barking behind me, and there was Caesar, his Pokéball clenched in his teeth, bounding from the house straight toward me. My parents stood a ways behind me on their porch to see me off, having walked out while I was lost in my thoughts and memories. They waved in a final gesture of encouragement, smiling warmly while wiping their eyes. I clenched my jaw to fight back the tears, but they rolled down my cheeks anyway. My brave-natured Growlithe skidded to a halt before me, spitting out his customized black and orange ball at my feet and nudging it forward. I picked it up, sniffling from crying, and found a note sticking out of it. The note read:
We are so proud of you, and we love you more than you will ever know. Please be careful and send us word often! Also, take good care of Caesar. You know as well as we do where he truly belongs: with his Trainer.
Mom & Dad”
I was moved beyond words, so I simply tucked the ball and the note into my bag, leaning down to ruffle the fur on Caesar’s head. He affectionately pushed up into my hand, then running a single lap around me before taking off down the mine shaft.
“Caesar, wait!” I cried after him. I looked back once more at my parents, shouting, “I love you, too!” before chasing my Pokémon partner into the first section of our brand new adventure. I didn’t realize at first that I took my much anticipated “first step” in a huge stride while attempting to catch up to Caesar, but it somehow seemed quite fitting. I was supposed to have started this journey when I was ten years old, so I had a lot of catching up to do. But you know what they say: “Better late than never!”
Chapter Two: The Gleaming Rock
My journey’s advent had filled me with a burst of adrenaline, sure to spur me swiftly on my way. Blood pumping and heart pounding, I flung myself into the mines after Caesar, determined, anxious, exhilarated… and suddenly horrifically lost.
An hour after rushing full force into the maze-like mines, I was stumbling along in the deep darkness feeling dirty, tired, and sore. Caesar was nowhere to be found, his enthusiastic yipps having declined into occasional echoing barks of confusion. Neither of us was at all ready for such a challenging task as navigating this earthy labyrinth, and my mind was full of doubts and concerns. I berated myself for darting off on a child’s adventure, swearing that I would go back home and be a good boy if I could merely find my Growlithe and my way out.
As I rounded what felt like my thousandth sharp corner, I glimpsed a strange light at the end of the passage stretching before me. My eyes seemed to deceive me as I could not discern the color of the illumination, but I rushed toward it all the same. A bark echoed down the corridor, and my feet gained speed. The mystery color revealed itself to actually be many hues shifting and rippling across the walls as I came to a sharp left turn. I emerged suddenly into a huge chamber that stripped my breath from me with its splendor. The domed walls and ceiling were completely smooth with the exception of one humongous gemstone hanging low in the center of the room.
“The Gleaming Rock,” I whispered to myself, discovering what must have been the real namesake of my hometown. True to its name, it cast incredible shimmering light of every shade across the walls, the glow somehow turning slowly within the crystal like a carousel of color. Just below the jewel’s tip, Caesar sat in bewilderment. His tail wagged slowly as the light played over his muzzled face, barking occasionally at the flicking colors that flashed before him. As he caught sight of me, he yipped once in excitement and bounded toward me and into my arms, licking and nuzzling my face.
“Caesar!” I exclaimed in admonishment and relief. “Don’t run off like that again, okay?” He whined his acquiescence, still cuddling into me. I held him close as I stepped further into the chamber, taking careful note of the walls. They consisted of a crystal-like substance, explaining why they caught and played the light so mysteriously. I discovered that there were arched openings in each cardinal direction, withdrawing my compass from my bag to confirm this. The one I had just stumbled out of lead west, back to Gleaming Rock proper; from the maps I studied back home, I figured the next town was directly across from me to the east.
“Do you think we should take a quick break, Caesar?” I asked my Growlithe, hoping he would agree to a little rest. He hopped from my arms and swiftly plopped his rump down, showing a firm approval of my suggestion. I sat myself next to him on the soft earth and took a homemade granola bar from my bag, tearing off a piece and offering it to my equally hungry partner. We sat there for some time, admiring the magnificent crystal and its many colors, wondering where its luminescence came from. I was also pondering my earlier promise to return home as soon as I found Caesar, now uncertain of whether or not I could make this journey or if I even wanted to anymore.
Before my mind could go much further along that track, I heard a strange sound coming from the very top of the cave. It was an odd squeaking sound accompanied by a rasp, two distinct noises that I knew came from separate sources. I stood slowly, straining to identify what the sound was coming from. Movement along the ceiling caught my eyes, and in a split second, Caesar and I were suddenly bombarded by dozens of flying creatures darting around the crystal. I swatted them away with my hands, the touches of cold skin and warm fur in succession confusing my senses. Caesar barked madly, adding to what was now a cacophony of high-pitched squeaks and raspy shrieks. A razor-like wing slashed at my right cheek just as a furred body collided my left. I quickly backed myself against the Gleaming Rock, surprised at first by the warmth it emitted at my touch. Focusing my eyes, I realized we were surrounded by two types of bat Pokémon; quite a number of the flying attackers were blue-bodied with large ears, no eyes, and sharp-scaled skin. Amongst them, there were several Pokémon that looked like white hair-balls with wings and large heart-shaped noses. “Zubat and Woobat,” I said to myself, identifying them from pictures I remembered from my readings.
Caesar dodged and lunged nimbly at the airborne foes, but he was quickly tiring under their relentless assault. “Ember, Caesar! Use Ember!” I called out to him. Honestly, I had no idea if he even knew that move, but in my excitement, I called out a Trainer’s command intuitively. He looked at me blankly for a moment, then wagging his tail and sucking in a deep breath. Aiming upward, he coughed out a sphere of fire the size of a softball, striking a clump of his enemies and sending them reeling. Barking again, but now in glee, he coughed out more fireballs, downing bats left and right. The victims of his blazes quickly escaped into one of the four exits until all that remained was one particularly swift Woobat.
I ran to take my place behind Caesar, the two of us squaring off against the Woobat. The bat’s nose twitched in excitement, and it flapped its wings in short, fluttering bursts to keep itself aloft. I couldn’t help but find its more unique method of flight endearing, but I was ready for my first wild battle all the same. “Caesar, Bite!” I commanded my partner. Immediately, he took a running leap at the floating fur ball but narrowly missed as the Woobat spun quickly away on its fluttering wings. In retaliation, the bat emitted a psychic blast, oddly enough, from its heart-shaped nostrils. “Dodge it, Caesar!” I cried, and the black and orange pup responded by running quickly behind the crystal. The Woobat’s Confusion struck the gem, which was unharmed and suddenly filled with bright pink light. A beat passed, and the jewel fired the Confusion right back at the Woobat, slamming it against the far wall. The flyer tried to recover but could not shake off its confusion, fluttering haphazardly around the chamber until it crashed into the crystal itself and slid slowly down the gem’s facing.
As Caesar went to check on the bat’s rumpled form on the ground, I went up to the crystal that still gleamed pink with psychic energy. “Caesar,” I called to him as he nudged Woobat’s limpness, “use Ember on the jewel. Be ready to dodge.” He obediently came beside me and spat another Ember out, which was absorbed into the gem on contact and turned it a fiery red. However, it didn’t shoot the fire back at us, instead creating a small fire within itself that proceeded to play about its crystalline body. “Well, hello there,” I said rhetorically to the small flame.
“Greetings!” responded a voice. Caesar and I were quite startled, flinching away from the ruby-red jewel. The fire flared into a small figure that danced and jigged enthusiastically, waving at us and bowing when it had finished.
Bewildered, I asked, “Who are you?”
“I am the Gleaming Rock, as you aptly identified me earlier.” The voice seemed to come not just from the gem, but from every surface in the room. It wasn’t terribly loud, but instead the words sounded like they were being spoken directly into my ears. “I haven’t met someone worth speaking to in quite some time, but I’ve decided I like you.”
“That’s… an odd thing for a rock to say,” I replied, not knowing at all how to reply.
A warm chuckle chased around the chamber, and the stone’s light blushed some. “I suppose this would seem strange to you, Child.” Its tone was not condescending, but rather endeared. “I am what is called a Spirit Stone. My kin and I are the original denizens of Orusa, placed here eons ago for a grand purpose I should not yet reveal. However, I am overjoyed to finally meet you, Simon!”
“A rock is happy to meet me,” I stated slowly, unsure of what was happening.
“No need to be perturbed,” it assured me with another warm laugh. “All will make sense in time. Now, you have someone waiting for you in Luster Ridge and you shouldn’t keep him waiting!”
I looked at the speaking stone skeptically. “Is it another talking rock?”
“No, no; someone you know quite well. Now, you must be on your way!” Its deep red color faded, as did the fire figure within it, and the slowly spinning rainbow of color returned with a calming aura. “First, take this.” A snapping sound came from the jewel’s base and a crystal floated down to me, placing itself into my hand. It fit perfectly in my grasp, cool to the touch. “This fragment of a Spirit Stone will be quite useful during your adventures. Lastly, I need you to honor me with a favor.”
“What kind of favor could I possibly do for a rock?” I asked, still utterly bemused.
“Oh, you would be very surprised,” it replied mysteriously. “The task is simple. That Woobat I helped you defeat is a very dear creature. I have watched her grow and have become quite fond of her, but the other Pokémon tend to pick on the poor girl. Would you catch her and watch after her, please?”
I looked back at the lump that was the defeated Woobat, my hand instinctively dipping into my bag to grab one of the Pokéballs I had received as a gift. I tossed it lightly, not wanting to further harm the creature, and the ball drew the Woobat into itself. My heart suddenly thumped violently against my chest as the red and white sphere rocked back and forth. A moment later, the latch clicked successfully and I smiled broadly in triumph.
“What shall you name her?” the jewel asked with an intense curiosity.
“Well,” I considered, concentrating on her performance during our short battle, “how about Flutter?”
“Flutter the Woobat,” the stone mulled. “It’s perfect! Now, scoot along. You need to heal your new partner up and meet with your friend before he gives up waiting for you. Go on! Shoo!” The stone was almost parental in its words, gently ushering me out into the world.
“Um, well, it’s nice to have met you…” I bid the Gleaming Rock, unsure if manners were necessary in this situation.
The jewel seemed to blush again, replying, “And it’s certainly nice to have met you, Simon! You will do wonderfully!” In farewell, the many colors flashed brightly and dimmed, leaving me only enough light to see myself out through the east exit.
Completely baffled, I made my way out of the chamber with Caesar quietly following, my newly acquired Woobat’s ball clutched in one hand and the small crystal in my other. This odd turn of events greatly confused me, but I did benefit from them in at least one way: I never considered again the possibility of quitting my journey and returning home. Whatever was going on, I decided to see it through.
Chapter Three: A Starter for Simon
The eastern mine shaft consisted of one winding path with no branching tunnels, and daylight peeked around the corners at me within ten minutes of my encounter with the Gleaming Rock. Caesar and I rushed toward the exit, both of us in need of escaping the confusing events of our journey’s first stint.
Emerging from the mines, I brought my hand up to shield my eyes from the sun’s piercing light. I could see nothing but blaring whiteness at first, unable to identify my surroundings. However, my sight adjusted quickly and I was soon looking at Luster Ridge, a small town that sat between a cliff and a sheer rock wall. The cliff, which dropped off to my right, was lined with a handcrafted wooden fence not suited for any actual protection, instead functioning as a visual barrier between the town and a perilous fall. The rock wall climbed high on my left and granted the town a width of perhaps 100 yards, and its mineral studded face glistened and winked in the noontime sun.
I stepped toward the drop off, resting my hands lightly upon the fencing and gazing out across the land. If anything, the view at Luster Ridge was even better than that of my hometown, framing the rolling hills and lush woods like a beautiful country painting. Caesar sniffed carefully at the edge, paying much more attention to the frightening view downward that to the gorgeous view outward. I smiled at him and tilted my head toward the town, effectively signaling the pup to follow me.
The first building, situated safely on the left side of the road with its back to the rock wall, sported a red roof I was sure to recognize from my numerous books on Pokémon medicine. Exhilaration rushed through my veins as I prepared myself to enter a PokéCenter for the first time. The electronic sliding doors whooshed open, and a refreshing burst of cool air struck my partner and me full in the face. We breathed deeply of the filtered breeze before stepping into the facility with its immaculately polished counters and tile floors. A station was situated directly across from me in the center of the building, a door behind it to the back and stairs on either side leading up to the second floor. Behind the central desk, a large machine resembling the one in my parents’ basement blinked and flashed with lights and readings, ready to provide deserved rest for a Trainer’s weary Pokémon. No one was manning the station, though. In fact, the building was so quiet and still that a pin drop would’ve sounded calamitous.
“Hello?” I tentatively called out. “Anybody here?” I was answered with a deafening silence, and I couldn’t help the small knot of worry forming in my stomach. My teeth dug into my bottom lip as I wrestled with indecision, but my independence and self-sufficiency won out as I withdrew my two active Pokéballs. “In you go, but just for a bit,” I said to Caesar, who sat and waited obediently for me to contain him. I truly hated putting him in his ball, but it was the only way to use the machine. I hopped over the counter and placed Caesar and Flutter’s capsules into two of the six available slots in the curative device, running it as I had been taught back home.
I paced back and forth for what felt like ages but was really only a matter of minutes before I couldn’t handle the tension any longer. I looked in on my Pokémon, but I knew from experience that the process could take more than an hour. Though I’d only been a trainer for the duration of the morning, I already felt naked without my Pokémon with me. Still, I refused to sit and wait for long, deciding to investigate the town by myself. Leaving my Pokémon and my bag in the PokéCenter, I went back out into Luster Ridge.
The only street in the town was straight and narrow, lined on both sides by homes and businesses. Naturally, the houses cliff-side were smaller and lacked space behind them, but the town seemed extremely pleasant if not for the eerie absence of life. About halfway through town, though, I began to hear the low babble of voices. The road climbed up a slight hill and obscured my vision of what laid ahead, but the rumbling of an excited crowd quickened my pace. As I topped the hill, I beheld a thrilling vision that awakened the Pokémon Trainer in me.
“Welcome, ladies and gents of Luster Ridge!” announced a familiar-looking young man in the center of a chalked out field. The crowd, apparently comprised of every town member young and old, sat on steel bleachers to either side and immediately replied with enthusiastic whoops and hollers. “That’s what I like to hear! Let’s get started!” The announcer was right about my age, thin framed with glasses on his face and a lab coat slung over his shoulder. He beckoned a boy from one side of the field and a girl from the other side, both looking about 10 years old. They both clenched a Pokéball in their fists, running from the sidelines to join the young man front and center.
The announcer shook hands with both of them before booming at the audience again. “This young lady by my side is Cindy Prattmore! She’s visiting us from Citrine City to receive her first Pokémon and begin her adventure!” The girl had long blonde hair well cared for and brand new travel clothes of the latest fashions, and her nose stuck high in the air as she basked in the glow of the applauding bystanders.
“Now, this young fella,” the MC indicated the boy next to him, “is Lewis Lemmon who comes all the way from Agate Town! He’s ready to start his journey and take it right up to the Pokémon League!” The crowd erupted into another bought of cheers as the kid waved shyly. Short and a little on the pudgy side, Lewis was decked in what looked to be trainer hand-me-downs, his black bowl-cut hair slightly disheveled. He and the girl named Cindy couldn’t be more different, yet there they stood united by the phenomenon of Pokémon. I felt a small pang of jealously, trying to not dwell on my late start.
“Today, we are going to give them the best darn sendoff by cheering them on as they participate in their first battle before setting out on their ways!” He looked over his shoulder slightly and caught sight of me standing on the hill, stopping suddenly and turning toward me with his arms flung wide. “Simon Oswald?! Com’on down here!” he yelled with a laugh in his voice.
I trotted down the hill toward the Pokémon battlefield, slightly embarrassed as now the entire town was focused on me. When I reached the trio on the field, the announcer clasped me in a big hug as he chuckled and patted me. “Professor Hunter Greenwood, I presume?” I asked with a smirk.
“Don’t start that with me, Ozzy,” said Hunter, using the nickname that he always used with me since we were children in Gleaming Rock. “I see you finally decided to show up!” He punched me lightly and draped his arm over my shoulders, turning me to the crowd. “Everyone, I’d like you to meet my best friend, Simon ‘Ozzy’ Oswald! He’s here today to start his Pokémon journey as well!” The observers were significantly less rowdy in their response to me, and I’m fairly certain I heard scattered commentary on my apparent age.
“You’re just starting, too?” the boy named Lewis asked in a cracking voice, his cheeks pink and his eyes wide.
I cleared my throat slightly before answering, “Yes, I’m as new to this as you two are.” I smiled broadly at the youngsters, earning a genuine smile back from Lewis and a disdainful look from the prissy Cindy.
“Alright, let’s get this show on the road!” Hunter boomed, warming the crowd back up. He leaned into my ear and whispered, “Be ready; you’re the grand finale!” His grin was absolutely evil as he knew how much I hated these little surprises. “We’ll catch up afterwards.” At that, he directed Lewis and Cindy to opposite ends of the field and led me to the sideline to watch with him.
As the two kids proceeded to ready themselves, I took stock of my old friend. Hunter Greenwood had lived in Gleaming Rock for a number of years with his family, his parents being researchers who came to investigate the shimmering stones and the mines. His parents were always off working, so he spent most of his days with my family, the two of us growing up together like brothers. However, when he turned 10, he embarked on his Pokémon adventure and eventually became the youngest Pokémon Professor ever, earning his prestigious title by the age of 19. The two of us remained close after he left, and Hunter often came back to Gleaming Rock to visit my parents and me. Now, he was overjoyed to be the Professor that guided me along my path. I, on the other hand, still regretted that we were not able to go on our journey together, challenging and aiding each other as children becoming men.
“Don’t zone out on me,” Hunter joked, snapping me back into reality. “Things are about to get good!” His clapped his hands sharply and shouted, “Trainers, present your Pokémon!”
Cindy’s smile was award winningly sweet, yet her bearing was haughty and conceited as she pressed the button on her Pokéball and released its captive with a flourish. Out came a pig-like creature, quadrupedal and colored burnt orange and black. Its coiled tail had a sphere on the end that bounced back and forth, and the Pokémon’s blunted snout twitched in anticipation. The novice trainer’s grin stretched into a sneer as she raised her impossibly high-pitched voice, “Go, Gaston, go!!!” At the shriek of his name, Gaston the Tepig lifted his head and drank in the audience’s applause, pawing a black hoof at the ground in cheesy showmanship. Cindy proudly bounced up and down while giggling maniacally, clapping her hands and tossing her hair. I came to a quick conclusion: Cindy was an idiot.
Lewis was politely clapping for Cindy and Tepig, and he continued to do so for an awkward moment too long. Blushing, he considered his Pokéball before pushing the button and unleashing his new companion. A stocky blue Pokémon landed just in front of the similarly stout boy, bedecked with fins atop its head and tail and yellow gills on its cheeks. It looked around slowly, taking everything in calmly before turning and smiling at its trainer. “Um…” Lewis started lamely, glancing around nervously, “this is Neptune the Mudkip.” I smirked at his name choice, immediately recognizing the well-thought reference to the Greco-Roman deity of oceans and earthquakes. Lewis was definitely on the nerdy side, but that was something I could appreciate. The audience was very supportive as well, but Cindy only sneered in contempt.
“That’s a pretty dumb name,” she taunted, “but I guess it does fit your pretty dumb-looking Pokémon.” The sudden silence was painful. Lewis looked as though he’d been slapped, the townspeople were equally shocked.
“There will be no more of that,” Hunter said sternly, shaking his head. “This is a friendly match, so keep it amiable.” I had to bite my lip to keep from sarcastically translating for the nitwit, and Hunter nudged me in the ribs as he read my mind. “Now, BATTLE!”
“Gaston, use Tackle!” Cindy commanded in an affected voice that grated on my ears. Her Tepig responded immediately and charged across the field toward Lewis and his partner. The boy couldn’t seem to form words, though, and his Mudkip sat still waiting for guidance until Gaston collided with him hard. As Neptune was sent reeling, Cindy’s Tepig strutted back and forth in a fashion most similar to its trainer.
“Neptune, use… uh, Water Gun?” Lewis said, his uncertainty torturously obvious. However, the little blue Pokémon shook off Gaston’s attack and fired a stream of water from his mouth. The high-pressure blast struck the Tepig mid pose and knocked him off his feet, eliciting a cheer from the crowd. Cindy scowled and merely pointed at Gaston imperiously, then expectantly at Neptune. Her Tepig quickly obeyed and slammed himself into his enemy, knocking the Mudkip up into the air. Neptune’s pudgy legs kicked frantically as he fell back toward the ground, and a dust cloud puffed around him upon his impact. Lewis yelled for his partner in concern, but the mudfish was already down and out.
Hunter rolled his eyes as he brought the short match to an end. “Neptune is unable to battle. Gaston and Cindy win.” The resulting congratulation from the crowd was perfunctory as Cindy and Lewis made their way to the center of the field, Lewis carrying his Mudkip gingerly in his arms.
“G-good match,” Lewis sniffled, obviously trying not to cry as he reached to retrieve money from his pocket.
“It was, wasn’t it?” quipped Cindy, her Tepig by her side puffing proudly. She made a show of looking Lewis up and down, and then shook her head. “Don’t bother with the loser money. I’m sure you need it much more than I do.” Her voice was thick with false sympathy. I really did not like this child. Lewis, however, nodded at her gratefully and tucked his money back into his pocket.
I then noticed a woman in her early thirties approaching, clothed in a pink and white dress and accompanied by an equally pink and quite rotund Pokémon which carried an egg in the pouch on her front. “Chansey, would you please use Heal Pulse on these two?” the woman asked of her helper. The creature happily chirped before beginning to concentrate, rubbing the egg she carried. A rainbow colored aura radiated from her and engulfed Gaston and Neptune, restoring their strength immediately. “Good job, Chansey,” praised the woman, stroking her Pokémon fondly on the back.
“Thank you, Nurse Amelia,” Hunter said as the PokéCenter attendant left the field. “Now, get ready for the second and final match of the day! My friend here is going to challenge our winner with a Pokémon he’s never met before!” The crowd was intrigued; for that matter, so was I. Hunter winked at me, pulling a Pokéball from his pocket and tossing it to me. “I saved the best for you, Ozzy. That Pokémon is a sweet little gal, so take good care of her.”
I made my way to the end zone of the field, giving Lewis another smile as I passed him. He stopped and pushed his glasses up his face. “Good luck, mister. Hopefully you’ll do better than we did.” He looked down at the now healthy Mudkip still in his arms, giving him a loving pat on the head.
“I’ll do my best,” I replied, determined to wipe the snotty grin off Cindy’s face. Lewis joined Hunter on the sideline, and Hunter nodded at me, signaling me to release my new Pokémon. I pressed the button and held my breath in anticipation, excited to see what my friend picked out for me. Light flashed from the Pokéball, and a small green figure appeared before me. She stood on all four of her sturdy legs, her back covered by a shell the color of healthy soil. Her head was tilted to the side as she looked at me, and the twin leaves atop her head wiggled curiously. I bent down and offered my hand to the turtle-like Pokémon, and she came forward and rested her broad face against my open palm, shuddering happily. Hunter had picked well.
A glance at Lewis and a moment’s consideration was all it took before I spoke confidently. “Let’s go, Gaia the Turtwig!”
Chapter Four: The Pokémon Professor
Gaia stamped anxiously in place, facing off against Cindy’s refreshed Tepig. Gaston and his trainer were filled with confidence after their easy win, but I wasn’t intimidated by the Valley Girl and her pig. “Alright, Gaia! Have fun out there!” I hollered encouragingly. She looked back at me happily, turning back to her battle and taking a firm stance.
“Fire up those losers, Gaston!” Cindy screeched, not to be outdone. I detected a silent groan from the townspeople, simple folks with no tolerance for a presumably spoiled brat with a mouth. Her Tepig marched up to the midfield line, snorting haughtily.
Lewis, looking much less nervous now that he was out of the spotlight, stood by Hunter on the sideline with his healed-up Mudkip. “Go, Mister Simon!” he whooped, unashamedly showing his support for me. He was very careful to not even turn an eye toward Cindy.
As soon as Hunter shouted “BATTLE!”, Gaston let out a grunt and kicked off, readying a Tackle without needing Cindy to prompt him. Before I could give a command, Gaia dropped as low to the ground as she could and gathered herself into a protective position. Just as the Tepig was about to connect, a watery blue aura surrounded my Turtwig and thrust a squealing Gaston away from her.
“Whoa!” Hunter exclaimed. “That was a very nice Withdraw move!” Gaia dropped her defense and straightened up, having taken very little damage from Gaston’s attack. She turned and looked at me, and I grinned at her in approval.
Cindy was standing with her mouth agape, her fists clenched in rage. “Get up, Gaston!” she commanded. Her Tepig scrambled to get up, shocked more than injured. “Alright, let’s try something new. Use Ember!” Gaston snorted deviously, flints erupting from his nostrils.
Immediately, I was sure I had underestimated Cindy. “Withdraw!” I shouted desperately, aware of the devastating effect fire would have on Gaia. With surprising speed, she erected her blue shield again, just in time for Gaston to rush up to the little turtle and unleash a blast of flames from his snout. Panic gripped me as my Turtwig was engulfed, but as soon as the fire cleared away, I was relieved to see that she endured the attack, only slightly singed. “Quick, counter with a Tackle!” Gaia burst from her barrier and slammed into her attacker, knocking the fire pig away from her.
“Get up, get up, GET UP!!!” Cindy shrieked at her tiring Tepig. He slowly stood, readying himself once more.
“Ready, Gaia?” I asked my new companion. She stepped forward without hesitance, but stumbled slightly. She apparently took more damage from Gaston’s attacks than I had thought. This was still anybody’s game.
Our audience was completely still. Hunter’s eyes were wild with excitement, while Lewis looked ready to pass out from the tension, clutching his Mudkip to himself like a life preserver. Cindy twitched in fury, glaring at me from across the field. I stared right back, my eyebrow slowly arching as a challenge. Gaston sweated like the little pig he was; Gaia trembled as she grew weak.
“Gaia, use Tackle!”
We barked our orders near simultaneously, and our combatants were spurred to action immediately, charging full-steam at each other. Time slowed, the two seemed to crawl toward the center of the field, yet the force behind them was building and building. They were set for a head on collide.
“Gaia, tuck your head!” I commanded at the last possible second. Without missing a beat, she lowered herself just in time to come up under the Tepig’s jaw. She used her momentum to crash into the underside of her foe, sending Gaston flying back toward his trainer. He struggled for a moment to rise, but to no avail.
“Gaston is unable to battle! Simon and Gaia win!” Hunter announced as he grinned like a fool. The crowd went insane, and Lewis and Neptune danced crazily.
Cindy, however, was seething. At first, she simply stood there, trembling and grinding her teeth. Then, she launched into a shrill, unintelligible rant that eventually deteriorated into a full-fledged tantrum. Her antics went largely ignored.
I rushed to Gaia, who stood panting in the middle of the field, and knelt by her side. “You were amazing!” I praised her, gently placing a hand on her cool, soil-like carapace. “That was our first battle, and you won it for us!” She made a contented chirping sound and pressed her forehead into my hand like before. Within just this one event, I had a new companion that I already felt extremely close to, and I had my best friend to thank for that. I looked up and saw Hunter watching me with a crooked grin, and I couldn’t stop the emotional lump from forming in my throat as I smiled back gratefully.
The rest of the afternoon went by quickly. Cindy stormed off with her Tepig once she gained control of her temper and had Gaston healed up, and Lewis seemed anxious to get his own journey underway as well. He congratulated Gaia and me profusely, then thanking Hunter one last time before heading out to the route beyond Luster Ridge.
“Cute kids,” Hunter said after they had left, the town’s citizens taking their time dispersing from the battlefield. “Cindy’s got an attitude and a half, and Lewis is a little on the wimpy side, but they’ve got some promise.”
“If you say so, Professor,” I joked, earning a playful smack from my friend. We walked back to the PokéCenter with the nurse named Amelia and her Chansey, and I received compliments on the battle from the townsfolk the entire way.
Once we reached the facility, Amelia and Chansey went behind the desk. “Well, what have we here?” Amelia wondered aloud, finding my Pokéballs in the healing machine.
“Those are mine,” I explained. “I came in and couldn’t find anyone, so I just ran the system myself.” I withdrew Gaia’s Pokéball from my pocket and congratulated the Turtwig once more before containing her and handing her over to Amelia. “Would you mind putting Gaia in with the others?”
“Certainly,” she replied. She placed the Pokéball in a slot next to my two other Pokémon and diligently went about calibrating the device.
Hunter motioned for me to follow him upstairs, and so we climbed the steps up to the PokéCenter’s second floor. Beyond the door at the top of the stairs opened a jarring transition into a large, intimately lit study. The walls were lined with stuffed bookshelves, and two dark cherry wood tables with antique lamps glowed in the back corners, framing a beautiful stain glass window that trickled in multicolored light. In the center of the room sat a large oak desk littered with papers, documents, and tomes of research, obviously the primary workplace of the room’s inhabitant. “This,” Hunter said with pride as he leaned against the desk, “is my Pokémon Lab.”
“It’s not exactly what I would expect for a ‘lab’,” I admitted, though I was completely enamored with the rooms classic charms.
Hunter chuckled, throwing his lab coat over the back of his leather desk chair. “You know me. I can’t stand those stark facilities; they just feel so cold. So, when I was given this position, I decided to research my way.” He sat at his desk and leaned back, sighing contentedly.
“That makes sense,” I conceded, slightly jealous at my friend’s success. I was starting out as a Trainer like a child, and my best friend was a Pokémon professor with a tricked out office. “May I take a seat?” I asked a little too politely.
“Ozzy,” he chided me, giving me a penetrating look over the rim of his glasses. “You know that you’re to make yourself at home. Anything that’s mine is yours.” He then grinned knowingly and added, “And stop feeling weird about this!”
“You know me too well,” I laughed at him, sinking into one of the padded chairs in front of his desk. “It’s just a little odd for me. You’re so successful and… I dunno.” I looked away embarrassed at my feelings.
“Com’on,” Hunter encouraged me, “just tell me. What’s bothering you?”
I hesitated before blurting out, “I just feel like such a little kid! Here I am, 21 years old, and I’ve just now left home for the first time. I was on the same level as those kids on the battlefield today, just as ignorant! I just feel foolish.” I bowed my head, but a moment later I snapped up to look at Hunter. He was laughing at me.
Sensing my rising anger, he waved me off and apologized. “I’m sorry,” he said between giggles. “Let me tell you from experience: there’s no such thing as being too old to start your adventure. I’m just glad this was the only reason you were upset!”
“Well, that’s very easy for you to say! You started when you were 10, the normal age!”
“Simon,” he said seriously now, “stop worrying over it. I have given starter Pokémon to 40 year old mothers who got bored of staying home. I have introduced old folks to the ways of training numerous times. I have taught middle-aged men who range from business owners to construction workers how to take care of Pokémon! You are in the prime time to train!”
I looked at him skeptically, “You’ve done all that in just the past three years?” I asked, now attempting to avoid the issue.
“YES!” he said in exasperation. “I love you, buddy, but you have a head like a rock sometimes. Kids who start their journeys right at the legal age of 10 often struggle with the responsibility. I can’t tell you how unequipped I was for my adventure, nor how many young trainers I’ve seen give up. Please, don’t let your dumb pride get in the way of your destiny.” He looked deeply into my eyes, conveying so much concern and meaning.
I looked back at him and softened, smiling slowly in acceptance. Then, I began to chortle and laugh. “Did you just tell me not to interfere with my ‘destiny’?”
“Shut up,” he said ruefully. “You knew what I meant!” We both sat and laughed a little, enjoying the moment. It had been a while since he had visited my parents and me, and I was truly happy to have this time together. “I have to ask, though: Are you okay?” Though the question seemed open ended, I knew exactly what he intended.
“I’m perfectly fine,” I assured him. “You know I wouldn’t risk my health.”
“I know that waiting for 11 years for something you want more than anything can push people to do things they wouldn’t normally do,” Hunter said, giving me a level gaze. “If anyone was as heartbroken over your injury as you were, it was me. I dreamed of the day we would go adventuring together, and as happy as I am to be a part of your journey now, I can’t help but worry about my best bud.”
“Hunter,” I began, unsure of what to say that wouldn’t sound too sappy, “I was depressed for so long after the accident, and even more so after you left, but I eventually came to the decision that I would know when it was time to trust in myself and leave. That day didn’t come until last week, but I’ve never been more certain that it was time.”
“But if you push yourself too hard…” he started.
“I know my limits,” I insisted.
Hunter simply stared at me, examining my face for some small sign that I was being less than truthful. After a tense moment, I began to squirm under his scrutiny, and a slow smile stretched across his face as he was amused by my discomfort. “I guess I’ll just have to take your word for it, Ozzy. Now let’s get down to real business!”
By that, of course, he meant cards. Hunter loved to play games of all sorts, be it videogames, computer games, board games, word games, anything. Most of all, though, he loved cards. We stayed up that night until almost dawn playing card game after card game, reliving memories and creating new ones.
After catching some sleep in one of his office chairs, I rose to clean myself up some and left Hunter snoring on his desk for the time being. It was early enough that the center wasn’t officially open, so Nurse Amelia wasn’t behind the desk quite yet. I leapt the counter and made my way to the machine, checking once more on my contained companions. The three Pokéballs glowed warmly, and I leaned against the large computer and watched over them for a few moments.
“They’re amazing creatures, aren’t they?” Hunter asked softly, his elbows on the counter and his chin in his hands. He always had quite the talent for sneaking up on me.
“Truly,” I agreed. “Did I wake you rustling around down here?”
“No,” he said, yawning and stretching. “I could always tell when you got up early when I slept over at your house. Call it a sixth sense.” He smiled at me and attempted to pat down his mussed hair as he moved back upstairs, waving me to follow. Back in his office, he went to his desk and withdrew something from a locked drawer. “This is for you.” In his hand was a thick book-like device with small cameras on its front and back covers.
“Is this a Pokédex?” I asked in awe as I gently took it from him.
“My own design,” he stated proudly. “Most other models look like game devices or palm pilots, but I’ve always thought a Pokédex should look like a real book.”
My fingers traced over the soft binding, and I opened it to find hundreds of blank pages with the texture of old paper. “How does it work?”
“The pages simulate real paper, but they’re actually more like small computer screens. You can record all kinds of information in it, not just limited to Pokémon data.” Hunter’s face was lit up like a Christmas tree as he explained.
“And this is standard issue from you?” I asked suspiciously.
“Well, not exactly…” he admitted, looking away for a moment. “I generally give out stock Pokédexes that are more like cell phones, and I kinda saved my masterpiece for you.”
I smiled at him warmly and clasped him in a tight hug. “It really is incredible. Thank you so much!”
He hugged me back, and then playfully pushed me away. “Don’t thank me yet; you’re going to have to work hard with that ‘dex! As you know, every professor has a specialty. The famous Professor Oak focuses on the relationships between people and Pokémon, while his protégé Professor Elm is renowned for his advances in the field of Pokémon breeding. My research is all about the large gemstones and crystals across Orusa and how they affect the Pokémon of this region. It’s now your job to go and collect information for me!”
Immediately, my mind flashed back to the speaking jewel of Gleaming Rock, its mysterious behavior, and the chunk of crystal it gave me that was stowed in my bag downstairs. Afraid of that he might think me crazy, I kept the story to myself for the time being. “I’m ready to do this, Professor Greenwood!” I said enthusiastically, pushing the event from my mind and concentrating on my new mission.
He smiled widely at me, but there was a slight sadness in his eyes. “Simon Anthony Oswald, I, Professor Hunter Greenwood, have supplied you the tools you need to begin your journey. My job is finished here,” he paused momentarily as his eyes grew misty. “You are now recognized as an official Pokémon Trainer, and I wish you the best of luck and the greatest of adventures!”
Chapter Five: Friends for the Road
After giving me some tips on how to use my new device, Hunter offered to escort me out of Luster Ridge and part of the way to my next destination. I readied myself with my bag slung across my chest and my Pokéballs back in my possession, excited to get on the road yet aware that my time with Hunter was dwindling.
As we strolled down the main road, the town took on a new life as its denizens bustled about in their morning routines. Though I knew that Luster Ridge was a small town, I still felt out of place watching what seemed like so many people going about their days. Many stopped to wave and congratulate me again, and I blushed and nodded gratefully to each of them. By the time we reached the town limit, my face ached from smiling so much, but it was definitely a good ache.
“Why don’t you let out one of your Pokémon to walk with us?” Hunter suggested. “It’ll be nice to have some Pokémon company.”
I removed my three Pokéballs from my bag and considered the three, unsure of who to release from their confines. “Alright, everyone out!” I tossed all three up in the air, and each orb popped open and shined, expelling its inhabitant. Caesar barked in glee, chasing circles around Hunter and me, while Gaia stood directly in front of me with her head tilted and eyes wide with adoration. Flutter flapped about my head, gaining her bearings and sniffing me with her large nose.
Hunter smiled at me knowingly. “I should’ve figured you couldn’t let any of them stay cooped up.”
I shrugged at him and focused my attention on the bat now firmly poking my head with her snout. “Come down here,” I commanded, opening my arms for her to settle into. After a moment of sniffing my limbs while her wings flitted in those peculiar bursts of speed, the Woobat placed herself into my embrace. Her fur felt warm against me, and I could feel her little heart beating even faster than her wings had been. “We didn’t exactly get properly introduced when we first met,” I said to her in a light voice. “My name is Simon, and I’ve chosen you to be one of my partners. I also decided to call you Flutter. Is that okay?” Hunter stood watching with a hand over his mouth, trying to conceal his amusement. “What’s your problem?” I asked him defensively.
“I have never, EVER heard anyone talk to a Pokémon like that,” he stated between chuckles. “And I’ve certainly never heard anyone ask a Pokémon permission to be its Trainer!”
I ignored him as best I could, watching the Pokémon intently as her hair-covered eyes searched my face. A moment later, she flapped her wings and grinned with one big, pointed tooth, squeaking happily. “I’m glad you feel that way, Flutter!” I said excitedly.
Shaking his head, Hunter led the way down the path that cut away from the cliff side. I followed after, patting the side of my thigh firmly to encourage my three companions to keep up with me. Gaia’s stout legs struggled at first to find a pace that put her right beside me, her eyes never leaving my face despite the distraction of the ever rambunctious Caesar running about and the nearly equally energetic Flutter darting back and forth overhead. I smiled at the little turtle warmly, causing her to chirp and turn her eyes shyly away to the path winding before her.
The wide avenue of Luster Ridge now petered out into a much narrower dirt road lined on both sides by vibrant green grass and modest sized trees. Rocky walls framed the trail from just beyond the trees, creating a twisting gully with a broad strip of bright blue sky above. I walked slowly, taking in these natural features, while Hunter continued to move farther down the path. After a few more moments admiring my surroundings, I jogged to catch up with him, evoking playful barks and nips at my ankles from Caesar. Flutter flapped furiously to keep pace, and Gaia trudged along dutifully, slowly making her way to our progress. I fell in beside my friend and nudged shoulders with him, glad to share this time and these wonderful moments with him. However, his face was clouded with thought, and I was instantly sure I knew the source. It was a subject we had avoided all night, but I knew it was time something be said.
“How’s your mom doing?” I asked, trying to remain light and conversational despite knowing I was bringing up a tough subject.
Hunter sighed lengthily and stated shortly, “She’s fine.” He kicked at a rock in the road before adding, “Last I heard, that is.” Unfortunately, Hunter had been like this for a long time now. One day, he could be on top of the world, the strongest and most assured person I knew. Then he’d think about his family.
“Is she still working on her research?” I ventured, trying to get him to open up to me.
“I guess so,” he said noncommittally before sighing again. “She actually called me about a week ago. Wanted me to take a look at some of her work, see what I thought. I told her to shove it.”
“Hunter,” I reproved. “I know things haven’t been great, but do you really think you should’ve talked to your mom like that?”
He laughed a hollowly and looked upward. “You know, you’ve called her my ‘mother’ twice now, but ‘Aunt Ruth’ sounds so much more maternal to me. When people ask me about my parents, I think of yours first.”
“I’ve always thought of you as my brother,” I admitted with a smile and another shoulder nudge, eliciting a more genuine chuckle. He then shook his head wildly, as if shaking the dour thoughts from his mind, and threw an arm around my shoulder with a hearty laugh. True to form, he was past the blues that quickly and back on top for now.
My mind, however, was now heavy with memories of his situation. Hector and Astrid Greenwood were high-caliber researchers, the best of the best. They travelled the world in search of evidence of other regions with crystal growth similar to Orusa, their discoveries making them quite famous and quite rich. Like several well-off families in the region, they became regular summer visitors at Glimmer Rock a few years before Hunter and I were born. Thus, we spent our summers together from the very start. The Greenwoods didn’t come to Glimmer Rock solely for vacation, though; they spent most of their time enwrapped in investigating the gems surrounding my home. This arrangement left Hunter in my house more often than not, but that didn’t bother us one bit. It was later that things changed for the worse.
The year Hunter and I turned eight years old, Hector Greenwood was involved in an experiment gone wrong, an accident costing him his life. His wife seemed devastated at first, her grief rendering her nearly catatonic. That summer, she sent Hunter to us by himself, and the enforced distance hardened Hunter’s heart toward his mother. The next year saw a repeat, though now Astrid Greenwood seemed consumed by research, many theorizing that it was the only thing that kept her sane. Those two summers changed a portion of the boy I knew, creating a fierce self-sufficiency and determination. I had hoped that the years and his choice to follow in his parents’ footsteps had softened his feelings about his mother, but I saw then that such hopes were in vain.
“We’re here,” he stated cheerfully, thankfully pulling me away from my thoughts. I looked out to what he was indicating, once again in awe of the land before me. The walled path we’d been following opened onto a vast, rolling plain covered with that same verdant green grass and dotted with large trees. The beaten path dipped and bended across the gentle hills, blue shadows of much larger hills and mountains looming in the distant background. The openness was like nothing I could have ever imagined, the feeling like it I could run across those hills forever and never be bound or boxed in. In that moment, the absolute best thing on God’s green earth was this place. “Cool, huh?”
I stammered at first to find the right words. All I could manage was an overwhelmed, “Yeah!” My Pokémon were equally excited. The three ran out into the fields without hesitation, Caesar throwing himself into the grass and rolling around for all he was worth, Flutter flitting over to a tree and sinking her fang joyously into a large red berry, and Gaia stomping up onto the top a nearby sunlit hill and stretching her leafy head up into the warmth as far as she could. I smirked at Hunter, watching the three of them enjoying themselves, before shoving him and taking off at a dead run, initiating an age old game of Tag. Never to be outdone, Hunter let out a battle cry before chasing after me, the two of us playing like neither of us had played since we were children.
An hour later, we lay exhausted on a grassy knoll, a large oak perched atop its crest. We were outstretched, side by side, with our hands clasped behind our heads and our eyes wandering the vast sky. My Growlithe and Turtwig both rested in the grass, as well, while a certain Woobat was nestled in the tree above us. As a flock of bird Pokémon called Taillow flew over, Hunter and I sighed simultaneously, contentedly.
“If you follow the path, you’ll come to a crossroads,” Hunter’s voice floated to me. I kept my eyes heavenward, letting the meaning behind his words sink in. “You’ll want to bear right and take the southern route. It doesn’t take long to reach Peridot City.” Hunter was saying goodbye.
“Then I’ll challenge my first gym,” I stated, turning my face further away from him as a single tear fell from my eye into the grass beneath me. I cursed myself for being so emotional, such a crybaby. Then the image of myself and Hunter flashed in my mind, 21 year old men laying in the grass and one of them crying over a farewell. For whatever reason, it struck me as humorous, and then hilarious. I tried to contain myself, but I couldn’t dam the laughs that suddenly burst from me.
“What?” Hunter asked in amusement, though a voice still thick with emotion betrayed him.
I shook my head through the dying of my laughter and told him, “Nothing.” However, when I looked at him, I could tell by his smile that he got the gist of it. I slowly sat up, looking down the hill at the road I’d soon be travelling without Hunter. He, too, sat up and then slowly stood, offering a hand to help me to my feet. I took it firmly and looked at him squarely, and as he lifted me up, I found myself in a tight embrace. I knew why I’d be missing him, my one true friend, but the weight of his need for me didn’t hit at first. Then I realized: his father was gone, and his mother estranged. Hunter had chosen his family, and even more than my parents, he chose me. I was his family.
“I am so proud of you,” he said, barely above a whisper. “I’ve got this feeling, deep in my gut, that you’re going to do amazing things.” He put his hands on my shoulders pushed himself back slightly to look me directly in the eyes. “I mean that,” he stated in the most sincere voice I had ever heard him use.
I smiled, a little embarrassed but also greatly emboldened. “Thank you. For everything.” We hugged one last time, chuckling lightly as we pulled away and stuffed our hands awkwardly into our pockets.
“When you get to Peridot, make sure to ‘ooh’ and ‘ah’ over the local attraction before you take on Glenne, the gym leader. He only recently became a leader and runs what is considered the novice gym of Orusa, but he’s no pushover. With Caesar, Flutter, and Gaia, though, you’ll do fine.” I pulled my bag’s strap over my head as he spoke, positioning the messenger-type carrier at my right hip. I patted down my front, removing bits of grass and leaves from my clothes, while Hunter moved behind me and brushed off my back as he continued. “Just be careful of his prized Pokémon; he likes to throw off beginner trainers with a sudden change in tactics.”
After helping brush him off, I extended my hand in a final farewell. “Until next time, Professor.”
“I expect we’ll see each other much sooner than later,” Hunter grinned, shaking my hand firmly. “Now, move out, Trainer!”
I saluted him sharply, earning another laugh from him as we trotted down the hill toward the road, me veering off to the east as he headed back west. A sharp whistle from me brought my Pokémon running, flying, and in Gaia’s case tumbling down after me, joining me on the dirt path. Hunter quickly made his way to the entrance of the gully leading back to Luster Ridge, turning and waving one last time before taking off around a bend, leaving me standing there waving at a ghost of his image.
I drew in a deep breath, held it for a moment, and then let it out explosively before announcing, “Com’on, guys. Let’s get moving.”
The trek from that point became still and silent, oppressively so. It was an atmosphere that I would have greatly enjoyed before, the silence meaning peace and serenity. Now, with the sudden absence of my friend, it was just empty. Though my Pokémon were definitely great company, I was already longing for someone to talk to.
Being a horrible judge of time and having forgotten to carry with me a time-telling device, I had no idea how long it had taken me to reach the crossroads. At the center of the intersection of two roads, one north to south and one east to west, a large signpost stood imperiously, arrows pointing in each of the four directions with titles scrawled across them. To the west from which I had just travelled was Luster Ridge and Gleaming Rock, while the sign pointing east bore the name “Citrine City”. North was designated “Crystal Pointe”, and my destination of “Peridot City” was to the south, just as Hunter had told me.
By now, evening was approaching, the sun just barely sitting above the hills in the western sky and casting a range of orange, pink, and purple light across the clouds. I stood for a moment, considering whether to stop and set up camp or to continue, when my eye suddenly glimpsed a figure sitting in the grass of the northeast corner. I was slightly startled, almost sure that he hadn’t been sitting there when I first approached the crossroads.
There sat a young man hunched over a sketch pad, his head primarily topped with short, black hair with a long snow white lock falling down into his face. His skin was a very light shade that didn’t look pale or unhealthy, but instead bright and clear. Thin framed and not overly tall, he was dressed in a white, tunic-like shirt with colored patterns embroidered on the v-neck collar and short sleeves, his crossed legs covered by tan loose fitted pants. Oddly enough, he wore no shoes.
As I examined him, he looked up at me to reveal a pair of deep blue eyes, his mouth stretching into a winsome smile. Though his facial structure undeniably confirmed that he was right about my age, most of his other features and his bearing reminded me of a child. “Hello,” he said, his voice a soft and friendly baritone.
“Hi,” I greeted, striding over with my Pokémon in tow. “I’m Simon!” I extended my hand to shake with him in a polite introduction.
At first, he sat there considering my outstretched limb, his arms folded across his pad pulled to his chest and his head cocked to one side in curiosity. Then his eyes widened and brightened, his smile returning immediately as he took my hand with both of his and shook it vigorously. “Call me Chrys!” He giggled, a strangely musical sound, as he released his grip, staring at me expectantly.
“Well…” I faltered, unsure of how to proceed. The people I had met up to this point where mainly well-to-do visitors to Gleaming Rock who were genteel and initiated the typical pleasantries. This young man named Chrys made no such overtures, instead watching me with an intrigued light in his eyes, waiting for my next move. “I’m a new Pokémon Trainer,” I explained by way of extending my introduction, but I then cringed inwardly, sure that would elicit some comment on my progressed age for a beginner.
“Really? That’s amazing!” he exclaimed with an unprecedented enthusiasm, springing to his bare feet and once again taking my hand and shaking it. A conspiratorial half smile crept to one side of his face as he glanced around and leaned in, whispering, “So am I!”
I laughed a little, retrieving my hand from this odd character. “These are my Pokémon,” I said, indicating my three companions positioned a small distance behind me. “Caesar the Growlithe, Flutter the Woobat, and Gaia the Turtwig.” Though the situation was certainly bizarre, I felt an instant pride as I introduced my pals. Chrys immediately rushed over to the trio, crouching to greet Caesar and Gaia while Flutter swooped low to be on the same level as his face. I feared that one or more of them would shy away from this eccentric man, but I was surprised to see all three take an instant liking to him, like a magnetism that drew them in.
“They are so cool!” he gushed, scratching my Growlithe behind one ear while brushing Gaia’s leaves atop her head with the back of his other hand. So as not to leave her out, he brought both hands up to briefly tickle Flutter’s fur, summoning a pleased squeak from her.
As I stood watching Chrys interact with my Pokémon, I felt a tugging sensation on the leg of my jeans, followed another tug on my back. Suddenly, a flash of brown fur darted into my partially unzipped jacked, crawling across my ribs and causing me to double over from the ticklish sensation.
“Silk!” Chrys exclaimed, standing back up and grinning. At his word, two long ears and a small furred head popped out from my collar. “You come out of there, you little rascal!” The creature chittered in my ear and stared at me with beady eyes before leaping from my shoulder into his master’s arms. “Sorry, but he must really like you!”
“Oh, it’s fine,” I assured him. “Mine seem to like you, too!” I now got a good look at Chrys’ Pokémon, who was held against his Trainers chest much like the sketch pad had been. His brown body was stout with a tan-colored circle in the center of his stomach, and his long, rounded tail was banded alternating dark and light brown.
“This is Silk, my Sentret,” Chrys said with loving pride. “He’s a mischievous little guy, but very sweet.”
“I can tell,” I replied, coming to an idea. “Do you mind if I use my Pokédex on him?” When Chrys nodded heartily, I pulled out the book-like device, earning a small gasp from him. I held up the dex so the back camera got a picture of Silk and then opened it, flipping to a glowing page toward the middle of the so far empty tome.
The page was lit up like a computer screen, a 3-D rendering of a Sentret appearing in the top right corner. Like magic, stats and descriptions began to write themselves, taking on a handwritten look. Chrys had maneuvered beside me with his pal still in his arms, the two looking on excitedly. Once the page finished pulling together information, a sheen of light rippled from one corner across the techno-paper, sealing it and restoring it’s coloring to that of an old book page.
“That’s so COOL!” Chrys said, bouncing around and squeezing Silk, who didn’t seem to mind in the least.
“Says here that your Sentret is a Scout Pokémon that stands on its tail to scan the area,” I informed him, reading a small portion of the text.
“Well, I already knew that,” he said happily, letting Silk down from his grasp. “Silk, show our friend here how you look out!” Immediately, the Sentret reared up on his tail and looked around, putting one paw above his eyes in the classic “lookout” pose for show. His antics attracted the attention of my Pokémon then, the three of them moving over to him and sniffing and poking and prodding. Silk took it all in stride, his tail adding enough to his height so that he appeared quite a bit taller than Caesar and Gaia. After they’d finished with the cursory examinations of one another, the four began to play in earnest, Silk springing on his tail to chase the airborne Flutter with Caesar and Gaia in full pursuit.
“They get along, too!” Chrys beamed. While they ran around, I took the time to scan in my own Pokémon into my Pokédex, creating three more entries full of info on my pals. “Say, where are you headed next? Wherever it is, can I come?” The question was so sudden, and Chrys’ face was so full of hope. Given the circumstances, I felt I would’ve been justified in declining, but somehow during that short span of time, I determined I liked this guy. He was already giving the impression of being quite strange, but I needed a travelling companion right then and his strangeness was sort of endearing. His request couldn’t have been more perfectly timed.
“Sure, Chrys,” I said. “I could really use a friend for the road!”
Well, I've seen this around and had in fact read up to Chapter Four when I decided to leave a review; however, I seem to have been delayed, and now I'm reviewing it not only on a different site to that which I actually read it on but also much later than I intended.
Anyway. On to the bit where I talk about what I thought was good and what I thought... wasn't. First off, I like the fact that your protagonist is twenty-one, and especially the way in which you reveal it; I won't wax too lyrical, since Misheard Whisper and bobandbill have already done so above, but I do think I ought to make it clear that I like it.
But there are three problems with this story as I see it - only three, and they're not insurmountable. (Which is something I'm always glad to be able to say.) The first of these is that it occasionally falters and fails to hold the reader's attention.
Don't get me wrong. This isn't something that happens continually. But occasionally, you get long bits where nothing seems to happen; this is in part due to the writing style (which I'll come to next) and in part due to Simon himself (which I'll come to after that).
In terms of writing style, the story ends up being overwritten at times. Here's an example:
Simon is... absurdly nice. He's happy at everything. He takes joy in pretty much every act and every sight the world has to offer. He knows a lot, nothing seems to go particularly wrong for him (and if it does he overcomes it almost instantly), he gets excited at all the little things in life, and overall he's just... nice.
And this is the other thing that contributes to the occasional dullness of the story. I'm afraid that people like Simon are pretty boring. There's no conflict, (save for a little bit in the Pokémon battle), and conflict is what all good stories have at their core. Whether it's Beowulf chopping up Grendel or Harry Potter duelling with Voldemort, Romeo and Juliet trying to stay together or Gulliver trying to reconcile his views of his country with what he learns about human nature, stories need some sort of conflict in them - and there doesn't seem to be much in the way of that here. Without any opposing force to counter Simon, it's much harder to keep the reader interested.
That's not to say Simon is a bad character. It's just that he doesn't face any difficulties. Something contrary to his interests has to happen at some point, or there's very little interest - and I'm sure it will, because I'm certain that there will be further battles ahead, more challenging and more exciting (fights that only use Tackle do tend to get somewhat repetitive). Perhaps Simon will even lose a few of them, which always adds interest.
Aside from those few issues, however, the story is actually pretty good. You've got magical talking crystals, an original region that really does seem to be quite original, and an unusual protagonist; these are all good signs. I actually do like it. There's just enough set up to keep the interest going - it's just those three problems that's holding it back. The story's good as it is; if you give them a little attention, it could be great. You can rest assured that I'll be looking forward to future chapters.
The Thinking Man's Guide to Destroying the World * The Rocket Case * The Rocket Revival
Neither Here Nor There * The Beastman * Coriolanus Rowland's Guide to Pokémon Husbandry
Robin Goodfellow's Christmas Carol * Snow * Stranger Than Fiction
My Trip to the End of Time, by Pearl Gideon * A Smell of Petroleum Pervades Throughout
For information about A Grand Day Out, a bizarre short story in video game form, click here.
Cutlerine, thank you so much for your input. Part of my issue with writing this fic is that I've not had too much constructive criticism along the way. Sometimes (often) I get too wrapped up in the words and vocabulary and I just like to revel in it... too much. I will definitely try to pull back on the over description. However, sometimes I feel justified in some over description because, though I know the reader knows some things, I'm trying to emulate Simon's fresh eye to nearly everything. Still, too much is too much.
As far as plot issues and Simon is concerned, I meant for Simon to be uber nice/happy up to this point because 1) he's just a peppy optimistic kinda guy and 2) because he's encountering most of these things for the first time and that excites him. Sure, he's read a lot about them, but that can't come anywhere close to experiencing them firsthand. However, I didn't mean for the story to drag on this long without significant plot development; I got kinda lost in the description.
Here's the thing: I've got great plans for this fic, but I know me and I'll drop it like it's hot if I go back and change anything. So, bear with me and the fic, if you will, as it's about to change pace. Thanks again, Cutlerine!
And I'm not trying to eradicate it completely - that'd be robbing the story of most of Simon's voice, and that'd be a crime. It's just that it's often too much, and we just end up thinking, Come on, Simon, get on with it.
Uh... yeah. I'll abandon that now; I'm sawing off the branch I'm sitting on here. In fact, I'll stop talking altogether before I start making obscure references involving fishing and the elixir of life.
The Thinking Man's Guide to Destroying the World * The Rocket Case * The Rocket Revival
Neither Here Nor There * The Beastman * Coriolanus Rowland's Guide to Pokémon Husbandry
Robin Goodfellow's Christmas Carol * Snow * Stranger Than Fiction
My Trip to the End of Time, by Pearl Gideon * A Smell of Petroleum Pervades Throughout
For information about A Grand Day Out, a bizarre short story in video game form, click here.