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[PG] for minor swearing and violence.
So without further ado...
Chapter One: Grimace in the Looking Glass
May was studying her reflection in the looking glass, practicing smiling. It was more like a grimace than a smile, which was dismaying. What would her new neighbors say when they found her grimacing at them?
May peered out the car window, giving up trying to smile perfectly. They had been driving for seven long, tedious hours, but May had to admit that the scenery in western Hoenn was actually quite beautiful. There were forest upon forest of overgrown beech and maple and pine, hills rolling away through the countryside to kiss the edge of the sea. It had much more life than the characterless valleys of central Hoenn, where she was moving from.
“May, we’re here!” cried her mother. She was the driver; her window rolled all the way down so wind buffeted her and sent her brown hair streaming back. The radio was turned on at full blast and country music blared. The streaked past a sign that declared “Welcome to Littleroot Town: The Town That Can’t Be Shaded Any Hue!” In the distance May saw buildings nestled comfortably between forested hills and the glimmer of sunlight on the bright blue sea. May marveled. She had never seen the ocean before except on television, and seeing it in person made her fall in love with it instantly.
“Mom, are we going to live next to the sea?” asked May.
May’s mother answered, “Nope, I don’t think so. The new house is at Broad Street. Let’s see…” She looked over at her GPS. “Oh, sorry May. We’ll be living in the Forest Hill district, so nay to living next to the sea. But we’re still near it. You can bike over there yourself. There’s supposed to be a wonderful little street of shops and cafes next to the beach and it’s totally gorgeous at night, your father said. Sounds romantic, doesn’t it?”
“Very,” said May, slightly disappointed. They passed neighborhood after neighborhood, and finally stopped at a large Queen Anne style house. There were no other neighboring houses, but there were woods out in the back and a small hill in the woods. The green moving truck was parked in the driveway, and already some Vigoroths and Machokes were busy unloading and moving furniture.
“Natalia! May!” cried a familiar voice.
May jumped out of the car and sprinted to the stout figure of her father. May shrieked with delight and hugged him. May’s father, Professor Neville Birch, laughed and ruffled her hair. “I’m glad to see you too, sweetheart! Come on inside.”
“Dad, do we own the entire house?”
“I’m afraid not. It’s too big for that. We own the first and second story though.”
“Oh.” May studied the house. It was old-fashioned and bigger than any house she had ever seen in her hometown of Fallarbor, with faded pink paint on the walls and large glass windows. Gazing into the window of the living room, May saw a Vigoroth and a Machoke haul a sofa into the room. There were boxes stacked nearly to the ceiling.
Professor Birch was speaking with Natalia excitedly. “Oh, Natalia, can you believe it? Director of the Littleroot Pokémon Research Lab! I start work tomorrow, but still! I’m Director!”
“That’s brilliant!” shouted Natalia, kissing her husband swiftly on the lips. She swept into the house and said, “I’ll be supervising the Pokémon movers. They look like they need it.” She glanced warily at the Machoke carrying the flat-screen television, swinging it around and looked confused.
“Can I go explore the house?” asked May.
“It’d be best not to right now. Your mother would go ballistic if anything got broken or was put out of place. You know how she is.” Professor Birch chuckled. “Why don’t you explore the grounds? The backyard’s a whole lot bigger than the one we had back in Fallarbor.”
And he was right. Back in Fallarbor Town, May’s backyard was cement and only had enough room for several potted plants and a chintzy barbecue grill, but here at Littleroot, the backyard held a whole new world. There was a rusted metal gate with several stunted rosebushes in front, and a rockery beyond the gate. May pushed open the gate, and wandered out into the rockery. It was all rocks, which was not much to see, but there were the woods and the hill, which May began to explore. The woods were filled with pine trees, and May followed a little dirt path through the pines and up the hill. As she ascended, she looked back and gazed wonderingly at the new house. After living all her life in a small, beige, mundane-looking house identical to every other house on the block, the Queen Anne style home was the most beautiful house ever. It didn’t matter if they didn’t own all of it. May was still content.
Suddenly, there was a rustle in the grass, and a clatter. May looked up quickly and saw a couple of stones fall to a stop at her feet. Feeling a bit nervous, but trying not to sound it, May cried, “Who’s there? Hello?”
No response. May shrugged and walked on, discovering that woods in the backyard held much more life than she thought. She found a large Dustox flapping past the treetops, a wood mouse scurrying through the roots of an old pine, a Seviper skin (but no Seviper, to her relief), and even a haughty Treecko that watched her from the leaves, but slipped away whenever she approached it.
Snap! May whirled around; looking all around her to see what had stepped on a twig. Someone’s following me, she thought. Though she was of age and had a license to train and battle Pokémon, she didn’t have one of her own. Thinking quickly, May reached up and grabbed a lichen-covered pine branch and broke it off. It wouldn’t be of much use against a wild Pokémon, but at least she wasn’t helpless.
“Who’s there?” she shouted, flourishing her branch. Again there was no response, just the whistling of the wind through the trees. Steeling her courage, May shouted again, “If you don’t come out I’ll—“
May stopped. What could she do? Attack with a brittle tree limb? That threat was so pathetic, it was hilarious. While she was pondering, a dark figure streaked between the trees and vanished. May gasped, only astonishment prevented her from fleeing immediately.
Then it stepped out of the trees, with white fur and a sharp sickle-growth on the side of its head. Being a Pokémon professor’s daughter, she recognized it as an Absol. But didn’t they live in the mountains and appear only when there was going to be a natural disaster? What was it doing here?
The Absol looked at May’s frightened expression and pine branch with sardonic amusement. Seeing that, May glared at it, and said, “Well, you nearly frightened me to death. Congratulations on that. What are you doing here?”
Listen to me, talking to a Pokémon without the Trust. And this is a wild Pokémon too. I must be crazy. The Absol simply stood there, gazing intently at May.
“Well? What do you want?” demanded May loudly. The Absol closed its eyes and made a low growling noise before shrugging in one smooth ripple from the sickle to the tail (Absols don’t have shoulders) and dashing away again. May frowned, baffled, and set off back home.
May headed into the dining room, where their small Formica table looked awkward in the largeness of the room. Professor Birch looked uneasy as Natalia tossed something into the wastebasket, fuming.
“My best bone china,” she snarled. “My best bone china! That idiotic Machoke smashed it to bits! Weren’t they trained to be careful?”
“Natalia, it was just—“began Professor Birch, but realized his mistake and stopped as his wife came towering over him, frowning like thunder.
“No, Neville. It was not just any other of my china! It was the one with the picture of Sootopolis City carved in it! It was the most valuable one!”
The doorbell jangled loudly through their flat and Professor Birch hurried away with relief and shouted, “I’ve ordered take-out tonight!”
At dinner, Natalia continued to rant about the movers being unreliable (“I specifically asked for the bed to be facing away from the door, and they did the exact opposite. Now the feng shui in the master’s bedroom is totally ruined!). May shoveled jambalaya into her mouth and waited until her mother calmed down a bit before saying to her father, “Dad, I saw an Absol in the woods today.”
Professor Birch let his fork clatter to the tabletop as he stared at her in amazement. “An Absol? In the woods out back?”
“Are you sure it wasn’t a Mightyena or anything?”
“Nope,” said May. She held up her fingers as she recited what an Absol’s characteristics were. “Let’s see…sickle growth on the side of its head, shaggy white fur, long claws, black tail and face, and red eyes. Definitely an Absol.”
“What is it doing here?” wondered Natalia. “Don’t they show up when a natural disaster’s about to happen?” Her eyes widened with alarm at the thought.
“That’s what I thought,” said May.
“I’m currently starting a Pokémon ecological count of the temperate forest biome around here, so I’ll be able to find anything unique like that Absol of yours,” said Professor Birch. He thought for a moment, and then his eyes lit up and said, “Say! May, how would you like to help me find that Absol? If you can catch it, or at least somehow make friends with it, you can bring it over to me and my research team,” His eyes glittered at the fact of having his own research team, “My research team can find out what natural disaster’s coming our way. Lots of people want to use that method to predict things like earthquakes and such but Absols are elusive creatures.”
Before May could respond, Natalia cut in. “Hold on, Neville. You want May to track down a wild and possibly very dangerous Absol? Don’t you think there’s something dangerously irresponsible about this?”
Leave it to Mom to ruin something good. “Mom, I have a trainer card and I’m sixteen. I’m licensed.”
“I know that, May, but you don’t have any Pokémon of your own!” snapped Natalia. May’s spirits dropped when hit with this blunt truth. She sighed and went up to her room.
May’s new bedroom was covered with burgundy wallpaper, and most of the boxes were still unpacked. Her bed was in place though, and so was her desk. She took things out of their boxes and began to organize her room. Two hours later, all of May’s watercolor paintings of faeries and Pokémon were hung up on the walls, the clock, the bookshelf filled, the wall clock set up, and her wardrobe neatly in place. She plugged in her reading lamp and set her looking glass beside it. She smiled into it again, and again it came out grimace-like. Oh, well.
Then a thought flashed through May’s mind, a thought that lifted her low spirits all the way up into the rosy sunset sky. If Dad can convince Mom to let me go find the Absol, and I capture it, then I can start my trial journey! The Hoenn League can’t see whether I’m a good trainer or not if I don’t do my trial journey, and I can’t go traveling without Pokémon, but here’s my chance! May closed her eyes and envisioned herself with today’s Absol traveling beside her, loyal and confident as they journeyed across the coast of western Hoenn. And people would be so amazed if they saw her with a rare Pokémon like Absol! For once in her life, she’d be admired. People would think: This is Youthful Talent right over there! Isn’t She amazing? Admire Her!
Professor Birch spent the rest of the evening calling his new colleagues and introducing himself as Director, Natalia watched television and tried to fix the hot water tap, and May took a shower in icy cold water and kept watch for the Absol. The woods turned scary at night, with secret life everywhere.
“May, you should get to bed early and put the Absol off your mind until tomorrow,” said Natalia.
“So are you going to let me go and look for it?”
Brendan Corvid was a boy the same age as May living in the same town, but in a house next to the sea like May coveted. He was snoring loudly as the first rays of morning sunshine fell through the blinds and tickled his face, and snored right through the incessant beeping of his alarm clock. His Poochyena sleeping on the rug on the bedroom floor, however, could not stand the clock.
With an annoyed bark, he leaped onto his trainer and yanked the blankets off him. Brendan snored on still. The Poochyena glared, and finally barked, “Hey, you! Wake up, damn it!”
The black dog pushed Brendan out of bed and onto the floor. To his extreme irritation, the boy only muttered and continued to snore. The Poochyena growled, “Oh, I have had it!” and bit his trainer’s hand.
“OW!” shouted Brendan, jolting awake. He nursed his throbbing hand for a while, then yelled, “Noir, what the hell was that for?!”
“Turn. Off. The. Damn. Clock!” snarled Noir. Brendan sighed and slammed his fist on the alarm clock. The beeping stopped at once.
“Much better,” commented Noir, and padded away across towers of books and clothes strewn all over the floor.
“Can I go back to sleep without having to worry about you severing my hand now?” demanded Brendan.
“Why the hell not?”
“Didn’t you forget what Caroline told you last night?”
“That Dad’s friend and his family were moving here? And since when do you listen to Mom?”
“Since always, actually,” replied Noir. Brendan got dressed and brushed his teeth. Ever since his father, Norman, announced that Professor Birch was moving to Littleroot Town, he had been all of a dither with excitement and expected Brendan to be as well. In all truth, Brendan couldn’t be less excited. There were other things to be excited about. Things like his trial journey, for instance.
Downstairs, the lean muscular figure of his father paced around and around the kitchen, talking into the telephone.
“Yes, yes, I know. Look, I’m very sorry about the match Gwen, but I have an important obligation to attend to today. How about we postpone the match till Monday? Sound good to you? Well, then! Monday it is!”
Norman hung up, and immediately called Professor Birch, “Hello, Neville? Hey man, it’s me Norman! Yeah, we’ll be there at ten. Natalia and little May with you as well? Gosh, that’s awesome! Wait…you start work today?! And just when I asked for a day off from my gym leader duties, isn’t that divine? Fine, fine, we’ll come at three in the afternoon. Sound alright? Okay, good day to you.”
He hung up again and sighed. “Now I’ve got to call Gwen again.”
“Morning,” said Brendan, still a bit bleary.
“Oh hullo,” greeted Norman cheerfully. “So, are you excited about meeting Professor Birch?”
“Um,” said Brendan. He never liked it when his father was this joyful. It was very awkward. Norman usually returned from work tired and cranky, and Brendan was used to ignoring him and letting him watch television by himself.
“I’m sure you do! Now, let’s see. He has a kid your age, you know that?”
“No,” said Brendan. If Birch had a kid his age, then he’d be able to go on a trial journey like Brendan, wouldn’t he? Plus, if Birch’s son could be friends with Brendan and travel with him, he’d probably know every Pokémon out there and help him out a whole lot. Brendan decided that perhaps meeting the professor wouldn’t be too bad.
“Yup,” said Norman. “He has the most adorable little girl!”
Brendan’s spirits dropped like a stone through the air. “Oh.”
Norman chortled. “I remember when you two were kindergarteners and you had such a blast playing with each other. Feeling differently now, huh Brendan?”
Brendan spent the rest of the day packing for his journey. His mother Caroline came in several times to check and throw things away.
“Why Brendan,” she asked. “Do you need your Marvel comics on your trial journey? And what’s this?Surely you don’t need your DS on your trip, do you?”
“Mom, will you leave my stuff alone?” moaned Brendan as Caroline tossed away the comics and the gaming device.
“Do you have enough underwear?” demanded Caroline as she rummaged through the backpack. Noir sniggered. Brendan glared at him.
“Yes Mom,” sighed Brendan. He reached inside his backpack and fished out a large stack. “See? Enough boxers for the whole region!”
“Very funny, Brendan. Do you have your toothbrush?”
“For the love of Groudon, yes.”
“I just don’t want you to call home for something stupid like forgetting your toothbrush,” snapped Caroline. She placed everything back and zipped the backpack shut. “Well, you packed quite well. It’s important to travel light.”
Then Caroline smiled and hugged her son. “It’s so good to see you follow in your father’s footsteps. The teachers back at Trainer’s School all said you have natural talent.”
“Err, thanks,” said Brendan. “What’ll you be doing Mom? Are you going to still work with those blind kids?”
“Of course I will! You know, I made a good deal of progress on my own trial journey, but that’s not my life’s passion. Anyways, what time is it? Oh snap, it’s nearly three. Time to get going!”
May went with her father to work that day, and in the warm morning summer sun the two of them headed towards the wharf. Clouds of Wingulls rose into the air, wheeling and crying, and sailboats and yachts bobbed on the peaceable ocean. May felt an urge to go sprinting down to the sea, but there was something more important on hand.
Professor Birch was talking on his PokéNav as he walked. “…Uh huh. Yes, well, I’ve got to start work today Norman. My schedule’s pretty hectic. But I get off at three in the afternoon. You can come over then! Bring Caroline and Brendan too!”
He hung up and turned to May, “Do you know who Norman is? You used to play with his son when you were little.”
May nodded. “Of course I know who he is! Norman’s the Petalburg City gym leader. Everyone’s heard of him. I don’t really remember playing with his son though.”
“In that case, you can get re-acquainted with Brendan! How nice!”
May sighed. She had no wish of getting re-acquainted with anyone. All she wanted was to go on her trial journey, but that was about as possible as a Golem defying gravity right now. Unless of course, May thought gleefully. I catch that Absol.
The laboratory building was three stories high and painted white, with solar panels on the roof and sticking up in the front porch. A brass plaque next to the automatic glass doors read “Littleroot Pokémon Research Facility Building.”
May followed her father inside and approached the porter behind the front counter. The porter greeted them before Professor Birch could say anything. “Hello, you must be the new Director. So good to have you! The team’s in the common planning room, 14A.”
Professor Birch nodded and strutted down the gleaming hallway under the limelight of fluorescent lighting, puffing his chest out with pride. May looked all around her, feeling happy for her father. Before in Fallarbor Town, he shared a small, dingy office with a little known geologist called Professor Cosmo, and it was a million miles from impressive.
As Professor Birch opened the door into 14A, talk streamed out and May listened in:
“…All for money, it’s all corporate greed in the end. He just left in the middle of the Pokédex project!”
“We all know it, Mary, it makes no difference now. Anyways, we’ve got a new Director, and from his portfolio, he sounds like a pretty responsible guy.”
“Yeah, but where is he?”
“Right here!” Professor Birch entered the room, and May followed. The room was full of computers; most of them shut down or put to sleep, and five other researchers. A woman with frizzy black hair and thick glasses looked up and smiled gratefully.
“Hello, Professor Birch. I’m Dr. Mary Chang. It’s so good to meet you at last!”
May decided to have a look around. The metal drawers had manila folders and files crammed haphazardly in, and weren’t properly shut and locked so papers were spilling to the floor. The shelves were stuffed with books and binders, and certificates of achievements and photos of fellow colleagues hung on the walls. There was one picture of a smiling man with a sharply pointed chin, but the glass frame was cracked, as if someone had hurled an encyclopedia at it.
On one of the desks were two thin, bright red electronic devices with a strip of black coloring on the front with the words “Pokédex Ver. 3.0” engraved onto it in green. There was a stylus in a little holder on the side, and a dial with a blue knob to press. Curious, May picked up a Pokédex and pressed a catch on the side of the dial, snapping open the lid. Underneath the lid was a small camera, and inside the Pokédex were a blank screen and a speaker beside the screen.
“I see your admiring the new Pokédexes,” said Dr. Chang. May quickly closed the Pokédex again and set it on the table.
“Err, I’m sorry. I didn’t see you there.”
Dr. Chang didn’t look at all upset. She read May’s brown T-shirt, which declared “I’m busy. You’re stupid. Have a nice day!” She commented, “Nice shirt.”
“Oh, uh, thanks!” May’s face grew warm.
Dr. Chang laughed, thank Kyogre. She said, “I guess you must be Birch’s kid. Well, in that case, I had better teach you to use the Pokédex anyway. We’re starting a population count of all the Pokémon in the area alongside with Project Pokédex, but our former Director left in the middle of both projects.”
“What’s Project Pokédex?” asked May.
“Pokémon research facilities across Hoenn are trying to create a Pokédex for Hoenn trainers to use on their travels. A Pokédex is basically a portable encyclopedia with biological data on every native Hoenn Pokémon. Look,” Dr. Chang took the Pokédex May set down, and flipped it open. She pressed the “on” switch on the bottom of the device, and the words “Pokédex Ver. 3.0” flashed across the screen in blue.
The screen was a touch screen. Dr. Chang took the stylus and tapped the option that read “Register new user.” The camera beneath the lid began to glow and Dr. Chang handed it to May and said, “Say cheese.”
May smiled, hoping it wasn’t grimace-like as usual, and the camera flashed. Her face appeared on the screen, and then the screen read “Type in your name.” May tapped in her full name, but then she realized that she might not be keeping it, but Dr. Chang said, “Oh, don’t worry May. It’s yours now.”
The Pokédex was pretty easy to figure out. May turned the dial, flicking through species by species, pressing the blue knob to find out more about a specific Pokémon. The Pokédex informed her of every Pokémon’s binomial nomenclature, height and weight, habitat and diet, gender differences, move pool, and even their cries. May spent some time listening to mating calls and alarm calls coming from the built-in speaker, fascinated by how different they all sounded.
“For quick checking in the field, you can choose the scanning option and point the camera at the Pokémon you want to know about,” explained Dr. Chang. “If this thing works, I swear, it would benefit not only trainers, but everyone else as well. Are you starting your trial journey this July?”
May nodded. Dr. Chang said, “That’s very good. I’d like you to do a favor for us. While you’re tackling the gym challenge or whatever it is you want to chase after, could you take this Pokédex and see if it works for every species? Other research facilities in Hoenn are doing the same thing, getting beta testers and sending them, but they all have different models, and we want the Littleroot model to be the one that works best.”
May’s heart leaped with excitement. “Do you mean—“
“Now wait just a moment! I never agreed on you being the beta tester May!”
“But Dad,” protested May. “I have to start on my trial journey sooner or later or I’ll be too late to take on the Hoenn League! Why can’t I do this project while I’m at it? Or do you think I can’t fend for myself out there?”
“Look, I never thought—“
“Oh yes, you did! You kept me for a whole month ever since my graduation from my last year at Trainer’s School with your excuses about moving and stuff, but it’s really because you think I can’t travel Hoenn alone! ” May glared at her father. Professor Birch looked at her daughter, and then at her T-shirt which read “I’m busy. You’re stupid. Have a nice day!” He also realized that his new colleagues were all watching him with amusement. He sighed, giving up.
“Alright, you win,” he said. May whooped with victory and hugged her father. “But remember what you promised yesterday?”
“Yeah, yeah, I know. I’ll go now!”
“Right, well, take this,” Professor Birch handed May a red and white capsule.
May pocketed the pokéball and murmured a word of thanks before sprinting out of the room and snapping the door shut behind her. She went home, to the woods out in the back.
May was testing out the Pokédex eagerly. Already with the scanning option she found two sleeping Geodudes in the rockery, the Treecko that watched her from afar but never made any move to introduce itself, and a Nincada burrowing through the dirt. No Absol, though. That was disappointing, but May knew she shouldn’t expect anything to show up this soon.
May went back inside to the kitchen. Natalia wasn’t home, but she did leave a note stuck to the refrigerator:
The Corvids are coming over at three in the afternoon. If I’m not back from my job interview by one, May, could you take care of refreshments? A jug of iced tea and granola bars would do. It’s not much, but I don’t have enough time for food shopping today.
May wondered who the Corvids were. She opened the refrigerator and found a bottle of iced red tea and a quart of milk. She took the iced tea out and fetched a fancier glass jug to pour the tea in. She stuck the jug back into the refrigerator.
Let’s see, pokéblocks attract wild Pokémon, right? May searched the cupboards. They were mostly bare except for kitchen utensils and they certainly did not hold any pokéblocks. There were berries however, lots of them, smelling slightly fermented.
She spent until noon assembling the pokéblock blender from one of the many boxes still unpacked and blending berries. The candy came out lumpy and bright purple and smelling like strong cologne. May pondered over whether or not she should blend a new batch, but decided that the pokéblocks smelled strong enough to attract—or repel—any Pokémon with a an olfactory system.
May went outside again, back into the woods, and played the Absol cry on her Pokédex. The cry was like wind howling on a blustery day, wild and lonely. The Pokédex, even at full volume, wasn’t loud enough to broadcast to the whole woods. She decided to mimic it, and decided that she was doing a rather good job, until she heard someone sniggering behind her.
“Who’s there?” cried May, whirling around. Could it be the Absol? Do harbingers of doom snigger? It was possible.
May frowned, and set down the pungent pokéblocks. She continued to place the lumpy candy when she heard a haughty voice comment, “Nobody in their right state of mind would eat those.”
May turned around, clutching the empty pokéball. Instead of finding an Absol, she found the Treecko she spotted yesterday. She gaped at it in surprise.
“You—but you spoke!”
Treecko snorted. “Of course I can speak! What do you think I am a mute? But I’m not talking in whatever you humans talk in.”
“Then how can I understand you? We just met. We don’t Trust each other.”
“You just can,” said Treecko.
“That’s not very helpful.”
“I never said I had to be.” There was something about this Treecko’s haughty attitude that irritated May. Part of her wanted to be very rude to him, but another half wanted her to be polite. The polite half won.
“I’m sorry,” said May. “I guess you’re right. We just can understand each other, just like that? So, um…we could be friends, you know.”
“We could be half-Latias with clairvoyant powers, but alas, we’re not,” responded Treecko. “Or at least, I’m not.”
May glared at the wood gecko, and stifled an urge to swear at him. Instead, she smiled and said with forced sweetness, “So have you been a wild Pokémon all your life? Or have you been with a trainer before?”
“Oh, I might have been with a trainer before,” said Treecko absentmindedly. “Your smile looks like a grimace, by the way.”
“Thank you. I get that a lot.” To her pleasant surprise, Treecko laughed. The Pokédex had the cries of ever Hoenn Pokémon, but no laughs. A Treecko’s laugh was shrill and wild, whistling through the treetops.
Treecko looked up at her and asked, “Why do you want to catch that Absol?”
May blinked. “How did you know that?”
“Well, in case you haven’t noticed, I live here. And I saw you with the Absol yesterday.”
“You’ve been stalking me?”
“No. Like I’d waste my time doing that.”
“So have you seen it?” asked May excitedly. “The Absol?”
“Oh, I’ve seen him,” answered Treecko. “But I don’t know what he is doing here. I’ve tried to ask him, but he always ignores me and runs away. Like my old—“
Treecko looked alarmed, as if he had said too much. May sat down next to him and asked quietly, “Did you run away from your old trainer?”
“How perspective of you,” Treecko tried to respond sarcastically, but his voice trembled.
May smiled. “Tell you what. I’m starting my trial journey soon. I thought that maybe if I caught that Absol as my first Pokémon, then I’d finally be able to go. But now, you can come with me. You’re right; nobody in their right state of mind would eat these.” She picked up a lurid purple candy and chucked it away.
Treecko looked at her, both with happiness and suspicion. “How will I know if I can trust you?”
“You obviously do, since we can talk to each other,” May replied. She fished out the empty pokéball. She passed it to Treecko. “Here you go. I don’t know whether you’d like being inside one of these things all the time. I sure won’t. But if you want to come along with me, feel free.”
The Treecko stared at May; his expression unreadable at first, but then his big yellow eyes glimmered with happiness and popped open the lid of the pokéball. He stuck his head in, and with a flash of red he went inside. The lid clicked shut, and May felt as if an invisible chain suddenly linked onto her heart.
“Glad to have you coming,” said May, picking up Treecko and letting him out again.
“Where are they?” huffed Natalia, pouring iced tea to Norman, Caroline, and Brendan Corvid. “I told them to be back by three, and what do you know! They’re not here.”
“Don’t worry Natalia,” said Norman. “Neville’s not the guy to sit still, but he is the guy to forget sometimes. I bet he’s still crawling through some damp grass or something out on Route 101.”
“Well then,” said Natalia. She covered up the opening of the jug with Saran wrap and suggested, “How about we go fetch him together? I want everybody to be present. My May should be back soon. By the way Brendan, do you remember May?”
Brendan mumbled with a mouthful of granola bar, “Barely.”
The quartet brought the refreshments back inside the kitchen and set off for Route 101. The route was a one mile stretch to the neighboring Oldale Town, filled with sparse deciduous and coniferous copses. There was a main road, but also several paths that led into the woodland. They decided to split up and look, and Brendan was about to go down one of those paths when a woman came sprinting at him, black hair flying and thick glasses askew.
“You!” she screeched. “I need your help! It’s Professor Birch—he’s in trouble!”
“What kind of trouble? Who’re you?” asked Brendan. Noir beside him growled, eyeing the woman warily.
“I’m Dr. Chang,” she gasped. “He went off on his own—no Pokémon except a Mudkip—said something about an Absol—got attacked by Mightyena! My Beautifly isn’t strong enough! Go, please help him!”
Dr. Chang’s Beautifly raised her resplendent wings twice, gazing at Noir with a pleading look in her glassy blue eyes. Brendan nodded and ran with Noir keenly scenting the way ahead.
The afternoon sun speckled the forest floor around Brendan as he leaped over knobby roots and fallen branches. He slid down a ledge, skirted around a small bramble patch, and then he heard a scream pierce the air.
“There!” cried Noir, and dashed away. Brendan followed suit, and came upon a stout man wearing green cargo shorts and a dark blue polo shirt, backing up against a tree away from two vicious, snarling Mightyena. His Mudkip leaped forth and valiantly hit one away with a well-aimed Water Gun, but wasn’t quick enough for the other, which sank its teeth into Professor Birch’s leg.
Professor Birch howled with pain and tried to twist away, and Mudkip, distracted by the scene, was grabbed by the Mightyena he attacked and hurled against the tree.
“Noir, you know what to do!” shouted Brendan. “Howl and Bite!”
Noir Howled, making every head snap over to look his way, and charged at the Mightyena attacking the professor. He clamped his jaws around the bigger bite Pokémon’s tail. The Mightyena yelped, enabling Professor Birch to squirm away, and twisted around to get at Noir.
Now both Mightyena concentrated on Brendan. The first one lunged at him, jaws open wide, but Brendan dodged just in time. To Brendan’s surprise, the Mudkip Professor Birch had brought along wasn’t knocked-out at all and staggered to his little blue feet.
With its health so low like that, the Torrent ability should be able to kick in, thought Brendan. Quickly he turned to Mudkip and shouted, not caring whether the mud fish could understand him, and cried, “Mudkip, use Water Gun! Give it your best shot!”
Mudkip took a deep breath, and shot a Water Gun with the force of a Hydro Pump at the advancing Mightyena, sending it crashing away through the undergrowth.
“It worked!” shouted Brendan joyously. The other Mightyena, seeing its companion beaten, stopped tussling with Noir and fled. Noir padded back to his trainer, his tail missing a small clump of dark gray fur but otherwise alright. Brendan gave both Noir and Mudkip a big hug, and turned around to help Professor Birch.
But someone else was already there.