Current Chapter: 01.2 (3 parts; 8/22)
Disclaimer: I want the Johto Leaders! But due to the Serious Copyright Infringement Act of 254 BC dash 9.neener~!, I cannot have them unless I pay mega-moolah. Instead, I can only say, 'I don't own them' and cry as I write fics on them.
But I do own the parents, the trainers, and everyone else who obviously aren't mine. Like various TR members, the Jennies and Joys', and younger versions of canon folk.
Summary: The story of three future Johto Gym Leaders (with their two future Leader/Elite babysitters in tow) from the beginning of their journey at the age of ten. Takes place six years before RBY, nine before GSC.
~*~ 8 ~*~ 8 ~*~ 8 ~*~ 8 ~*~
Status: Before Elitism
"Mama? Do I have to?"
The woman being addressed was combing down his hair with her fingers. "You're going to be doing a lot of things on your own for a while. This'll get you used to the experience. Now be a good boy, and take your papers to Nurse Joy."
The boy pouted, but his mother would have none of it, and gently pushed her son toward the Pokécenter's doors. He looked up at her, scared, silently pleading her to come with him, but she smiled and didn't move. She was right, after all. In a couple of days, he'd be on his own to travel the roads of his homeland. To prove himself to Father.
He reluctantly took the steps needed to start that journey.
Today was May 29th. For a week, fresh trainers who met the age requirement were allowed to register for the PokéLeague. But only from the rest of the continent. Those living in NewBark Town had to wait until June 1st, before they could get their pokémon and start their trip around Johto. The first of June was also the day children were allowed to begin, so law enforcers could rap up whatever post-Conference business they'd been handling to fully put their attention on the safety of beginners.
Inside the building, the atmosphere was presumably friendly; the bright colors warded away anything negative all by itself, and everything else was for kicks. Despite this atmosphere, the boy swallowed nervously and hesitantly approached the counter. No Nurse Joy. She's probably out, he thought. I'll just tell Mama she's not here, and we can go find her together.
"Can I help you?"
He froze. He had turned around to leave, when the voice spoke out behind him. The boy turned back to the counter, to see Nurse Joy smiling much like his mother did, emerging from the back room. Oh god... The boy fidgeted.
But she must've seen the same situation so many times before, because she didn't ask if anything was wrong. Instead, "Oh, are you here to register for the League?"
Petrified, the boy managed a shaky nod.
Like all was well, and he wasn't frightened as a deer in the headlights, Joy beckoned him closer. "Do you have your papers?"
He surrendered them wordlessly, and she looked them over, and began making idle conversation. "So, are you excited?"
He frowned. "...Not...really."
"Oh?" She looked back to him, encouraging. "Why not?"
The boy looked down at the floor. "I like pokémon," he murmured, "but I'm not very happy about leaving home."
"Because Mama says I have to. That it's important to her and Father."
Joy flipped faster over the pages. Too fast to actually read them. "Ah, I see." She pointed to the folder. "You're Wren and Oriole's son. I take it you already have your first pokémon then."
The boy brought out the tiny ball, but didn't enlarge it. "It's a Pidgey."
She nodded and took with her the file over to the computer. "Wait one moment, and your temporary license will be ready shortly."
Nurse Joy didn't lie about the wait. It was a relatively short one, and he wound up with a couple things he wasn't quite expecting. The license, yes, the customary starter kit for all new trainers (ten pokéballs and two potions), yes, but the-- "Ma'am, is this really for me?"
And like a child holding something they might be deathly afraid of, the boy produced the Pokégear. Joy beamed like sunshine, and nodded in affirmation. "It's in the order form. Didn't your parents tell you?"
"Ah, no, they didn't." The boy was mentally reasoning it must've been his father that slipped that one in. Mother's methods of traditionalism didn't include more technology than one needed; Father just liked the gadgets. He talked endlessly about all the 'cool things' trainers could get these days. Pokédex, Pokégear, free samples, free gifts, free help. His list went on and on.
"It must've been a surprise then. Would you like a tutorial on how it works?"
The boy wasn't quite sure what a 'tutorial' was, but it sounded helpful, so he readily agreed.
His mother was waiting patiently for his return, across the road under the lone tree, her Togetic in her lap. The boy made sure that his paternal expense was tucked deep into his knapsack, because most likely Mother would make him return it if she knew his father spent money on a 'undisciplined device'. And after learning all that it could do, he very much wanted to hang onto it.
"They aren't sold in Kanto," Joy had explained. "One-of-a-kind, exclusive tools for this region only. I know it sounds rather divergent from the more traditional roots I'm sure you're accustomed to, but the Silver League seems to think it's important to have both our heritage values and an eye for the future."
As he drew closer to the woman, the boy couldn't help but glance around expectantly. She shouldn't have been alone by now. In fact, the first words out of his mouth to her was, "Mama, where's Clair?"
"She /was/ here," she explained, absently petting the space behind the Togetic's head, "but a flock of Butterfree came drifting by several minutes ago, and she went after them."
"I assume so."
The boy's face scrunched up, confused. Clair was nothing short of obsessed with Dragon pokémon, to the point where she was constantly showing off her Dratini and Gyarados. Being a year older than him, Clair had already journeyed around Johto once before; she'd been barred from entering the League Cup, however, due to the theft of several of her badges. She returned to Violet to earn her Zephyr Badge once more, and wound up with both a badge and a proposition. She had to earn another three to compete this year, and so was asked to journey with him, as a 'babysitter', his father had called it.
All the teasing aside, he readily agreed after she had given the okay on her part. She was a friend, after all, and she wouldn't really think of the trip as babysitting. Right?
"She likes dragons though. Why is she going after a bug?"
"Not all trainers are loyal to one type," she said, and stared straight at him with a burning gaze. "You may feel inclined to capture a pokémon that technically would not belong in your team. It is always a choice to capture them, but I advise against it."
She advised against him capturing a type-class that did not match with the ancient lineage of their clan. And she made her word law. The boy nodded sadly. "Thank you, Mama."
Whatever dark look she had on was replace with a caring, motherly smile, and cupped his cheek with her hand. "That's my boy.
"You're going to make us all proud, Falkner."
"Dratini! One more time, Headbutt!"
The wyrm went charging forward as per its master's command, and collided into the Butterfree head-on. With a strangled cry, the insect dropped to the ground, too exhausted to continue, but still trying valiantly to save face and get back up. Clair wasn't going to have any of the sort, as she chucked a pokéball at the fallen creature, and rightfully captured it as her reward.
This'll help, she mused, before getting giggly and holding the pokéball to her chest. "Oh yes, yes, you're going to do me a lot of good this time around. Yes you are, oh yes yes yes you are."
"Nice catch," drawled a feminine, sardonic voice. "You're not usually so gushy."
Clair froze, grimacing, and whipped around to confront her observer, though all traces of confusion left upon seeing just who had approached her. Then she grinned. "And you're not usually so pointed. Hey Karen."
"Yo." The girl smiled in appreciation, and took a moment to push back a lock of pale, pale hair behind her ear. "So what brings you out this way? You already started, there's no need to come back to New Bark Town."
"I'm going to journey with a family friend," she explained. "Now, I can ask the same of you. You're done with yours too, so why-- oh."
See, some distance back, on the path across the small field, was a child and his father. And the child was running around, back and forth, and expending as much energy as he could in long, continuous bursts.
"Yep." Karen sounded rather bitter. "He turned ten back in March. Granna asked me to go with him, which translates into, 'Karen, you're a lousy trainer like your father. Escort Morty around Johto and on the way, fix your lousiness.'"
Clair smiled uneasily. "You're not a bad trainer. You made it to the preliminary-finals, didn't you?"
Karen shrugged nonchalant, though Clair was sure she was put off more by this 'sentiment' of her grandmother than she showed. "Granna likes to remind people that she, and the rest of the bloody tree, made it to the finals their first time. It's something she likes to hold over our heads.
"Anyway, you'll be starting from here, yes?"
Clair nodded, but held her peace. Karen didn't need to know any more than that much. Because there were some forces one didn't mess with. And suddenly, Clair realized she might have stepped into a particularly hazardous crossfire. Oh yeah, this journey was looking as bright as ever.
She was practically peeing in excitement, and her father was laughing to himself about it. Regulus couldn't help but keep a sharp eye on his daughter as she ran around the small, placent town, followed ever so closely by her brand new Cleffa, popping out her Pokégear to play with its multi-functions, and he could see clearly how much she wanted to cry out one of Cleffa's attacks, but was stopped by the warning he'd given her the moment she'd gotten her hands on Cleffa.
"It's not allowed for children to use attacks until they're officially recognized as trainers. You'll be getting your license in a couple months, so hold off until June, okay honey? Just play with it for now, but no attacks. Daddy doesn't want you getting in trouble with the police."
They'd been here since yesterday, and she'd been even more stir-crazy the moment she stepped outside of the Pokécenter with everything in hand. The stars hadn't quite left her eyes, even now.
What a trainer she'll make one day, with all that enthusiasm. He only hoped she wouldn't be distraught by all the times she will inevitably lose on her journey.
Though, while his daughter's antics were enough to distract him, something else was getting in the way. A pair, walking through the heart of the town, a child and mother. Regulus knew the mother, met her on few occasions, read about her in the paper in most cases. He wondered...
With an insane idea in mind, Regulus left his seat at the picnic table and trotted over, calling her name out politely. "Miss Oriole?"
The woman gazed at him for several quick moments, then asked softly, "Regulus Kusahara, correct?"
He smiled genuinely and rubbed the back of his head. "Yeah, that's right. I'm honored you remember me."
"I do remember meeting you once." She bowed in polite apology. "Forgive me, but I only recalled your name due to an article on you in the newspaper."
That would make more sense, he thought with a mental grimace. His eviction from the Leader status by some tree-hugger seemed to be the story of the week. "Ah, no worries." Regulus looked down to the boy, who'd take to hiding behind of skirt of his mother's robe. He smiled roguishly. "Your son, I take it."
She made a noise of confirmation, then gently guiding him to face Regulus directly. "Say hello, dear."
The boy was a second hesitant, but just like his mother must have refined in him, he bowed. "Hello Mr. Kusahara," he whispered shyly. "M'Falkner."
"Call me Julus, kid, it's less formal." Regulus held back his bigger grin as he watched this 'less formal' idea turn Falkner's face pink. Nothing like his father. Wren was loud and ugly and devil-happy, and knew when to kick up the good times something fierce. Falkner looked like him-- a splitting image, no doubt about his parentage-- but may never be like him without a reality check. Perhaps a good thing; the world only needed one Wren Hayabusan. He turned back to Oriole. "Heading out on Monday?"
"Mmm, just him and a friend."
That was an interesting tidbit; it showed in the way Regulus' eyes lit up, and crouched down to address Wren's mini-clone. "Is that a fact now? My, you are a very lucky kid. Lots of brand new trainers start off alone. My daughter is, actually." And he indicated to the pink-haired child not so clear from that fair distance away. "She's going to leave all on her own, and no one's going to watch her. With your friend around, you can watch each other's backs, yeah? You're definitely lucky. Count your stars, kid, they're on your side."
Falkner nodded mutely, yet Regulus could see his line of sight straying from him to the general direction of his daughter. Ten years old...boys weren't afraid of girl-cooties by then, were they? Bah, let the kid think. It was no use pulling over his little 'monster' to make an introduction if much of the point to roam free was to make connections with people based on one's own desire to do so.
"Anyway," he stated, tone coated with courteous remorse as he straightened himself out. "I should probably leave you two to your own devices. It was a pleasure talking."
"The pleasure was ours." Oriole spoke for the both of them, yet Regulus couldn't help but get the feeling she couldn't wait to get out of his company. And a stray thought crossed his mind as she took Falkner by the hand and began heading off: What sort of family did Wren marry into?
Much to his delight, however, Falkner was still staring in his daughter's direction, and Regulus hoped the boy had more backbone dealing with people his own age than adults. We'll just have to se in the morning.
Without another thought to the pair, Regulus whistled, sharp and loud, and waved to get the girl's attention. "Yo, Whitney! Too far, sweetheart! Daddy told you he didn't want you in the woods!"
Clair excused herself pretty close to the border of the town and Karen let her go, not at all misplaced by her leaving. It wasn't as if they were best friends or anything, but they no less had so much in common. It was...pleasant having someone like that near you.
Morty was noisy, and her uncle Casper had to remind her how much of the outside world he'd seen before now, and could you blame a kid to being excited when said kid's favorite activity was playing in the burnt Tower (especially when he wasn't allowed in there)? Karen only hoped he'd be less wild once the beginning of June hit. Johto was a big area, after all; things could happen if one was too careless.
New Bark Town was as quaint as she remembered it. A homey, earthen place walled in by forest trees, with spacious areas between each side of the town, like camping grounds almost. Except small cabins were permanent residences, and everyone knew each other versus total strangers sharing the same land.
And the Pokécenter was easily spotted among the generic houses of green and brown and black, standing tall and inviting to all trainers. On the inside of it, Morty insisted his father be by his side when he talked to Nurse Joy, but didn't 'want him to talk or anything; just stand there'.
Moral support, Karen assumed.
Morty had the same starter she did two years ago, a Gastly, a tradition that spanned back in the Matsuri family for as long as family history could recall. Karen thought it was a ridiculous practice; not every family member had a liking to the Ghost-types. She certainly didn't, not when an Eevee and Houndoom were clipped in her belt. Not when the Silver League Champion was a Dark trainer...
But Granna admonished her dreams of becoming part of the Elite. Granna felt that whatever line Karen was destined to bear would produce the same family 'failures' like herself and her father. Though, lucky enough it started with her father, and he bore the brunt of his mother's Disappointment.
And when Agatha Matsuri was Disappointed, the whole clan shuddered in sympathy. She was not a woman you wanted mad at you. She made sure you were made an example of to the rest of the sect. She took every opening possible to remind -everyone- you did not live up to her expectations, especially if you were blood related. And as her position as head of the Elite Four, she was a legend whose shadow you must follow.
The holy matriarch from Hell, she was. The most revered matron Ecruteak ever saw, they said. An iron-fisted leader, others claimed.
Morty's face was bright, and holding the temporary license up proudly before her. At the same time, he was pushing back the over-sized headband to his forehead. He was sparkling with an accomplished afterglow and Karen had to stifle the action to rub her temple. "I'mma trainer now! Just like you!"
Hard to imagine Granna placed so much faith in this boy's future? Karen quirked a smile and nodded approvingly. No...no, it wasn't too hard.
A mother's duty was to keep her children up in appearances. Her son long stopped complaining when Oriole took to wiping away whatever smudge on his face she spotted, but he still wore a grimace every time she did. Like it was painful to stay clean.
"Now," she murmured, polishing off his nose, "I'm going to leave you here. You'll be staying in the Pokécenter for a couple of days, then you and Clair can start on your journey. Understand?"
"But Mama," he protested, almost whined, "why can't we go back to Violet City and come back here on the first?"
"Hush now, I've told you why." Gentle soothing masked impatience. "You need to get used to the idea that you're on your own, figuratively speaking. Your father will come by on the thirty-first to check up on you, but I want you getting used to not having him or I around to care for you. You're a big boy now; so many children can't wait for this day. Try to remember that, okay sweetie?"
Falkner pouted, but Oriole had a resolve made of a Skarmory's hide. She would have none of his doe eyes. This was how it was to be, if he was to succeed at the life chosen for him.
She kissed him the forehead, intending to leave him with only that, but she hadn't taken three steps before he latched onto her waist, arms locked and-- hugging. He was hugging her.
Oriole was so perplexed by it; hugging was so inappropriate at this age, she'd tried to hard to break him of the habit, and she thought she had but--
Falkner looked up at her, with a mixed expression, and extracted himself from the one-sided embrace. "I'm sorry Mama," he said, "but since I'm not about to see you for a while, I thought it was appropriate. Just this once, I mean."
It took a moment to digest, but she finally allowed herself a smile and nodded. Maybe this time, it was okay to let him have a little comfort. Right? "Just this once," she repeated. "Like I said, your father will be here in a couple of days. And I know you'll be in good hands here until you leave."
"Be good then." She had never needed to leave him so finally before. For all that she tried, she couldn't remember how her parents had parted when she'd turn ten those few decades ago, and now didn't know how to leave her son for this milestone adventure. But, she supposed it started with the first step out.
Once the doors swooshed closed behind her, and the safety of the Pokécenter's light wasn't upon her anymore, she cast a glance over her shoulder, to see Falkner's blurry form walking toward the main desk. And she knew he'd be alright.
She rode Noctowl home that night.
A/N: The image described of New Bark Town is taken predominately from the game, but with an anime element in relation to Elm's lab. In fact, my ideal Johto is taken mostly from the games, but with definite pinches of the show. Keep that in mind?