As Rachel and Phoenix kept walking down Route 50 away from Viridian City, they suddenly veered onto the topic of Ken and Hikaru. "They're a pair of brothers that I'd just met a few days ago," said Rachel. "And they're probably at the Gym in Viridian City right now, battling whoever the Gym Leader is."* * *
"Hey," said Phoenix, pointing to an area in the woods that was glowing. "What do you think's going on in there?"
"No idea," said Rachel, turning to look, when suddenly, she felt two fingers poking her in the back, causing her to fall forward into the ground.
"Are you okay?" asked Phoenix, who had only meant to tease her a little. "No problem," said Rachel, standing up. "I've been through worse."
Worse than what I've been through? thought Phoenix, who then dismissed the thought. He wanted to focus on this girl's conversation with him. They both started laughing, as they ventured into the forest towards whatever was glowing.
Ken and Hikaru were starting to lose hope. It was nearing midnight. They'd searched everywhere around the city, but still no sign of Rachel. Suigun had already fallen asleep around Hikaru's neck, but Hikaru never bothered to take him off, because that would just wake him up and make him curl up on Hikaru's neck again. Besides, thought Hikaru, he's snuggling.
Then, as they started walking around the entrance to Route 50, they heard voices. As they followed these voices, they noticed that one of them belonged to Rachel. But Rachel didn't seem to be in distress – rather, she sounded like she was having fun.
As they ran towards the source of the sound, they noticed what Rachel and Phoenix had noticed an hour earlier – a place in the forest that was glowing. As they ran towards it, they bumped into a few trees, but eventually they made it. "Hey, look, there they are now!" said Rachel, holding a stranger's hand.
They were in a clearing, where the fireflies were making a pond glow yellow. Hikaru recognized it as the same pond that the shopkeeper had shown them earlier that day.
"Hey, Ken! Hikaru! There you guys are," said Rachel, running up to them. "Meet Phoenix."
"Hey," said Hikaru.
"Hey," said Phoenix, right back. They were both sizing each other up while Rachel sat down with Ken. They all quietly let out their Pokémon, who also watched.
As Rachel and Ken were looking at the pond, the fireflies suddenly scampered away from the middle of the pond, as if to make way for something larger. And something larger did come out. It was a Lapras, who, after coming out of the water, started singing.
Suddenly, a whole bunch of Pokémon came to watch. Some of them were injured, presumably by aspiring trainers who had fought them. There were also some that weren't native to the Kanto region, like Nuzleaf and Kirlia.
Eventually, Hikaru and Phoenix also sat down to watch, as their Pokémon also danced around the singing Lapras. Many of the Pokémon there were starting to change as well. They were evolving!
As Rachel saw Caterpies turn into Metapods and Metapods into Butterfree, she had to admire the beauty of it all. And all because of that singing Lapras...
Rachel kept watching and watching and watching. If there was just one night from her training that she did not want to forget, it would be this night.
* * *
As Rachel kept watching, she slowly lost focus of the whole scene. Am I falling asleep? she thought. Then, the Lapras turned on her, eyes pupilless and glowing red, and swallowed her whole into the darkness, just like that Pikachu did when she was in the hospital...
Rachel sat up, bolt upright, but was still in the darkness. She suddenly found that she wasn't really "sitting" in any sense of the word, and that there was a white "silhouette" of a Buoysel floating next to her. She tried to "swim" towards it, but as we all know, the laws of physics don't work that way. So she threw off one of her clothes, hoping to gain some momentum. She floated towards the Buoysel, but as she got closer, it seemed to get bigger, and more distant. As she kept on floating, the whiteness got larger and larger until it enveloped her whole like the darkness did.
Rachel tried to pinch herself, but to no avail. It didn't hurt, so she knew it was a dream. But what she also knew was that it was a dream she couldn't seem to wake up from, no matter how hard she tried.
The dream seemed to read her thoughts, and she woke up with a start after everything got brighter.
Rachel sat up, bolt upright, but was still in the darkness. Luckily, this time, she was sitting on hard ground. She had fallen asleep while watching the Lapras sing. Ken and Hikaru were there on the ground too, sleeping. She checked her watch. 4:38 in the morning. She looked up at the sky, and saw that it was not pitch black, but a very deep shade of indigo that said dawn was coming. Well, time to get back to sleep, she thought. And this time, when she went back to sleep, the dream did not disturb her again.
* * *
When they all woke up, Ken had a crick in his neck from sleeping in an awkward position that Hikaru managed to massage away. After Hikaru was done, Ken said, "I swore I could hear some cracking in my bones when he did that." They noticed that the Lapras was nowhere to be found.
They went back to Viridian City one more time, just to buy some items before moving on, because Ken decided that he needed some experience with real trainer battles before challenging a Gym Leader. "Like a Gym Leader battle isn't a real trainer battle..." said Rachel.
The store they went into felt more like a convenience store than somewhere you'd go to buy major items. Nevertheless, they got everything they needed for a while, mostly funded by Hikaru. "After all," he said after leaving the store, "I am the one who was recommended to be a Gym Leader. I have to act the part and be a leader."
They browsed around especially for food. Rachel found a bunch of sushi rolls that were on sale – 50 pyen a roll, plus 60 pyen for each item you put into the roll. And these weren't short rolls, either. They were at least nine inches long. "I'll take three of those rolls," said Rachel. "Put crab meat, cucumbers, and avocado into it."
"Ah, so you want California rolls?" said the man behind the counter. "Those get you an extra discount, I'll sell you each roll for 150 pyen."
"Oh, and two more rolls with salmon and artichokes in them," said Rachel. The man blinked in surprise when Rachel said "artichokes".
When the order was done, the total came to 690 pyen. Rachel handed the counterman the money, and he proceeded to package the sushi into a box, along with a cup that held soy sauce and wasabi, and some ginger. "Be careful about that wasabi, girl," said the counterman. "The radishes around here are grown with intensive care."
They came across a place that sold Pokeblock makers. Rachel also bought one of those for 1500 pyen, as well as about 20 berries that they had in stock to try the maker out. When the order was done, the total came to 2450 pyen. "That much for a bunch of berries?" asked Rachel, bewildered. She could pick them herself from the trees around here without paying anything!
They were just about to leave Viridian City onto Route 50 when Ken suddenly realized something. "Rachel," said Ken. "You're all better! Didn't you have, like, half a week before you could move about again?"
"Oh, that's a real mystery," said Rachel, remembering Phoenix. "I suddenly started feeling all better when Phoenix arrived in my hospital room window to take me away. And look," she said, pulling up half her shirt. "There's no hint of the wound!"
* * *
As they set away onto Route 50 at daytime, they heard a voice. "Hey!" it said. "C'mon over here! I want to battle one of you!"
It was a trainer, who was holding a butterfly net. "Our eyes met, so we have to battle!"
"No we don't," said Rachel, "unless you want to take on both of us." She pointed to Ken.
"It's alright," said Ken. "I need the training, anyway."
Hikaru stepped up, and offered to referee the match. "Nah," said the bug catcher, recognizing Hikaru as an official referee. "This is a friendly battle. No money at stake."
"In that case," said Ken, "How about we make it a full team battle? However many I have against however many you have."
"Well, I have six Caterpies," he said. "Alright, let's do it!"
"Go, Charmander!" shouted Ken, throwing a Pokeball. But his Pikachu popped out instead. "Wait, I never even put you in a Pokeball..." said Ken, who was about to take out his next one. "Go, Charmander!"
"What kind of trainer names his Pikachu Charmander..." said the bug catcher, under his breath. "Go, Caterpie!"
"Charmander, use Ember!" called out Ken. As the embers burned Caterpie to a crisp, it fainted almost immediately. The bug catcher sent out his next Pokémon. "Go, Caterpie!"
"Charmander, use—" Ken was about to call out his attack, but the bug catcher was faster. "Caterpie, shoot strings at the Charmander!"
"String Shot!" called out the Caterpie (but, of course, only Rachel heard it), as silky strings came out of its mouth, wrapping themselves around the Charmander. As Charmander struggled, the bug catcher said, "Now, tackle it!"
"Gyahh!" said the Caterpie, as it tackled the still-bound Charmander, sending him flying — a pitifully short distance. At that point, the Charmander broke free of the strings.
"Charmander, scratch away at that Caterpie!" The Charmander obeyed, and the second Caterpie also fainted.
"Come on out, my third Caterpie!" said the bug catcher. At this point, Ken was starting to get bored. "Why don't you just send them out all at once? I'll send out another Pokémon too."
"Alright then," said the bug catcher. "The rest of ya, come out as well!" But when they came out, one of them was a Metapod. "Hmm, it must have evolved when I wasn't looking..."
"Charmander!" called Ken. "Use Ember on all of them at once!" Once again, the embers burnt the three Caterpies to a crisp, making them faint almost immediately, but the Metapod stayed resilient. "Metapod!" the bug catcher called out. "Harden yourself up!"
The Metapod glowed white for a second as Ken watched, and then returned to normal. "What did that do?" asked Ken.
"It made him more resistent to attacks," said the bug catcher. "Try making your Charmander scratch him."
Ken did just that, but the scratches did almost nothing. "Alright then," said Ken. "In that case, try tackling the Metapod!"
The Charmander did just that, but the Metapod, even after bouncing off a tree, wasn't harmed very badly. "Didn't you say you had another Pokémon...?" asked the bug catcher.
"Oh yeah," said Ken. "Yeah, I do. Go, Denchu!" he said, calling his Pikachu to the scene. It ran up, and did a Thundershock. "No, Denchu! I didn't say—"
But it was too late. The Metapod lay on its side, fainted.
"Wow," said the bug catcher, returning all four of the Pokémon that he had out. "You took out all six of my Pokémon and your two don't even look tired! I'm impressed. Here, I'll give you all the change in my pocket," he said, taking out some coins from his pocket.
"I thought it was a friendly battle," said Ken. "I don't need your change."
But the bug catcher insisted so strongly that Ken did take the change, which totalled 144 pyen. Ken pocketed it, and they continued.
* * *
As they kept walking down the road, Ken was musing over the change he had just received. "My first won battle..." he said, fingering the seven coins that he had received, one of them being another 100-pyen coin. This one had a picture of a Zapdos with wings spread on one side, and another picture of Lugia on the other side with the "100" printed on it. Ken put this coin in his wallet along with the other 100-pyen coin that he had received the previous day.
They walked a little further, and noticed that the road came to an abrupt end. "I'm guessing, then, that we have to go into the woods again?" asked Rachel.
"I guess," said Ken. "Hey," he said, spotting a notice. "It says, 'Viridian Forest up ahead. Enter with extreme caution.'"
"There used to be a building here, in my time," said Hikaru. "And whatever happened to our bikes? Did we leave them in Viridian City?"
"Guess so," said Ken. "We can't use them in this forest, anyway."
And so, they walked into the forest, not knowing what lay ahead.
* * *
As they kept trudging on, Rachel's watch told them it was about time to eat lunch. So they let out their Pokémon, and Rachel took out her sushi rolls, along with Ken and Hikaru taking out what they had bought. As she chopped them up, she remembered – she still had that blender! And it was time to use it. She climbed the nearby trees and picked off a few of the berries that were growing on them.
She put them into the blender, and read the instruction manual. To start the blender, one had to press the button that corresponded to the quadrant that the arrow was currently in. After that, the blender would start spinning slowly. Each time a person pressed the button in their quadrant, the blender would spin faster and faster. After 60 seconds, the blender would stop spinning, and the finished Pokeblock would come out.
"Hey guys," said Rachel to the two boys who were eating their sandwiches and handing a few to their Pokémon as well. "Come and try this."
They organized themselves around the blender, and Rachel, Ken and Hikaru each took a button. Rachel let Suigun press the fourth button. The arrow was in Rachel's quadrant first, so she pressed it first. After that, Ken and Hikaru pressed them in their respective turns, and Suigun pressed it a fourth time. Now it was spinning respectably faster, and they still had a good 52 seconds left.
After another 30 seconds had passed, they were now pressing the buttons like mad. The arrow was spinning around extremely quickly now, at maybe 3 or 4 revolutions per second. By the time that time was up, they could not keep up with pressing the buttons because the arrow was spinning so fast. The resulting block that came out was a grey one. "Hmm," said Suigun. "Looks tasty." He popped it into his mouth. "Mmm! You guys are good at this!"
"I think he likes it," said Hikaru. "Let's make another one!"
They spent about an hour making the Pokeblocks and feeding them to their Pokémon, who liked them a whole lot. Rachel tasted a promising-looking purple one herself, but it tasted like old oatmeal, making her make a face. She wondered how the Pokémon could like such a flavour. Maybe their taste buds were connected to the wrong parts of their brains?
After they were finished, Rachel was clean out of berries. "Man, 950 pyen used up in one hour!" They walked onwards.
* * *
After walking for a few more hours, they realized that they were lost. "Are we even still on Route 50?" asked Ken. It was nearing night time, and they hadn't met a single trainer.
Suddenly, they came to a clearing where a whole bunch of trainers were hanging out next to some tents. "Hi," said one of the trainers who was in the pack, greeting three new people into their assembly. She was wearing a green beret, a green-and-brown school dress, and light brown camping boots.
"Welcome, trainers!" the trainer said, as if they weren't trainers themselves. "My name's Annaly, and we're holding a tournament here in the middle of the forest for starting starters. Would you like to join? The entry fee's only 1000 pyen a person," she continued. "You have plenty of time to make your decision, it starts in about 20 minutes. In the meantime, feel free to enjoy whatever we have here." She waved her hand to a wooden table with lots of refreshments on it, including a grill where one of the trainers who was good at barbecuing was cooking with her Chimchar, as well as many benches where trainers were socializing. "We're actually waiting for four more people. We have 20 already, counting you guys."
"I could help," said Hikaru, showing this trainer his referee's badge. "I'm Pallet Town's official trainer referee, so I could help judge matches."
"No. Fucking. Way," said Annaly, evidently in disbelief. "You're Hikaru Hoshimoto, that legendary judge who helped decide that really heavily disputed Championship match at age thirteen? You know, the one where Bill was accused of giving his Pokémon steroids."
"Well, it was only one judgment, and that Skarmory of Bill's reacted really badly when I tried to stroke its wings..."
Annaly squealed and called four of her friends over, who decided to crowd around Hikaru like fangirls. "Well," said Annaly, who was evidently the organizer of this event. "You and your two friends can join for free, then. But now you can't back out!" She grinned maliciously at Hikaru, and handed them three slips of paper, on which were written: "7", "13", and "19".
* * *
About twenty minutes later, four more people came, and Annaly greeted them in the same way. "OK, we have 24 people! Let's get this thing going!"
Annaly called all 24 trainers to a makeshift podium she had set up in front of the fireplace. "Alright, here we are! Let me hear you say whooo!"
All the trainers except for Ken and Rachel went "whooooo!".
"Come on, one more time, I didn't hear you!"
"Whoooooooo!" This time even Ken and Rachel did it.
"This is a World Pokémon Association-sanctioned tournament, which means that I'll explain the rules of the match right now," said Annaly. "You will be placed into groups of 6, based on your order of appearance. During that time, you will have two hours to battle every other trainer in your group once. Each trainer will use two Pokémon, one each in two battles without substitutions. If both winning Pokémon in one match are from one trainer, that trainer will receive 3 points, and if one Pokémon from each trainer wins, each trainer will receive 1 point. In the event of a double knockout, each trainer will receive 1 bonus point, and whoever wins the other match receives 2 points for it. At the end, the two trainers with the most points from each group will move on to the next round."
"After that, each of the two trainers in their groups will face off in one more Pokémon battle, to determine who will go to the semifinals, where they will compete in a simple elimination round. The winner will receive 10000 pyen as prize money, and second and third places will receive 5000 and 2000 pyen respectively." Annaly took a deep breath, presumably having said all the previous things in one gulp of air. "Well, I'm glad that's over," she said. "And now, to your groups! On the cards you received, 1 to 6, 7 to 12, 13 to 18, and 19 to 24 are the groups. Have fun!"
* * *
Rachel's first match was against a trainer named Shintei. Or, at least that's what he said his name was. "I specialize in Water-type Pokémon," he said, "So you'd better have a good show on."
Rachel considered her choices. She had two birds at her disposal, plus Suigun and a Sentret. She decided to use the birds. "Come on out, Clyde!" she said, as she took her Pidgey out of its Pokeball.
"What kind of name is that?" asked Shintei. "You're up, Mizugorou!" He let out a Mudkip. "What kind of a name is that?" asked Rachel right back.
Hikaru stepped up, and sounded the horn. "Clyde, fly upwards!"
As the Pidgey did so, Mizugorou tried to jump up and catch it, but to no avail – it was more than twenty feet up. "Now, dive in and peck it with your beak!"
"Jump on it when it tries to do that, Mizugorou!" called Shintei. "Goro!" the Mudkip called out in confirmation, jumping onto the diving Pidgey and pouncing on it. The Pidgey squawked as it flapped its wings to get off the Mudkip's body. "Try flying up and diving again!" said Rachel.
"Mizugorou, jump on it again!" called Shintei.
Wait for it... thought Rachel. As soon as the Mudkip started jumping, Rachel said, "use Agility to dodge!"
The Mudkip fell to the ground, feeling dizzy as Clyde swooped below its jump. Clyde easily pecked the Mudkip with its beak after diving a third time, knocking the Mudkip out. "Argh," said Shintei. "Return, Mizugorou!" he said, then throwing out another ball. "Go, Squirtle!" They waited for half a minute in silence. Rachel was confused. "Wait, why aren't we battling?"
"You have to return Clyde, Rachel," said Hikaru. "The rules said one Pokémon each round, for a total of two."
"Oh," said Rachel, until then oblivious to this fact. "Okay then, Clyde, you needed a rest anyway. Go, Taillow!"
The Taillow flew up in the air happily as it was let out, and dived straight into Rachel's face, knocking her onto the floor. "Ow!"
"Sorry, Rachel," said the Taillow. "I didn't see you there," it cooed.
"Squirtle, tackle the crap out of that Taillow!"
"Well, I never," said the Taillow, putting its wings on its "hips" and glaring at Shintei. "Taillow," said Rachel, beckoning. "Fly up or something, but don't just let that Squirtle tackle the crap out of you!"
"You too?" said the Taillow, who promptly flew to face Rachel to glare at her as the Squirtle tackled Rachel's feet, making her trip and fall face first onto the ground. "Owww," moaned Rachel, who now had spirals for eyes herself.
"Rachel is unable to battle," said Hikaru jokingly. "The winner is Squirtle!"
"Really?" said Shintei, suddenly lightening up.
"No," said Hikaru, "you need to knock out that Taillow."
"Taillow, use Focus Energy!" The Taillow closed its eyes and started to glow yellow, then opening them again. The Squirtle, meanwhile, was about to slam back into it from behind. It did so, catching Taillow by surprise and releasing its Focus Energy effect, sending it flying into the air. "Squirtle, use Water Gun!" The Squirtle took aim, but missed the Taillow, who, in midair, refocused. At the same time, Rachel refocused herself, and suddenly found herself disembodied again.
What is this? asked Rachel to her Taillow, whose body she was now in.
I don't know either, said the Taillow, as they flew around in the air. But let's use it to our advantage! Now the nasty man with the Squirtle won't know what we're doing!
Meanwhile, Shintei was watching the scene in surprise. "Hey, Hikaru-san? Is it normal for a trainer to glow the same way a Pokémon does while they're battling?"
"I don't know what you mea—ahhh!" said Hikaru, dropping the horn when he saw Rachel.
"Kyaaaaa!" they heard the Taillow screech, as if it wanted the battle to continue. Rachel maintained her stance, but otherwise nothing else happened to her.
"Alright, I'll accept your challenge," said Shintei to the Taillow. "Squirtle, use Water Gun again!"
The Squirtle did so. "Blublublub!" As Rachel studied the scene, she noticed that the Squirtle's tail was undefended.
"Ready?" she asked her Taillow.
"Ready," the Taillow replied back, seemingly reading her thoughts.
The Taillow did a dive away from the stream of water and toward the Squirtle's tail, which it then handily picked up, flinging it into the air and back down again, straight onto a rock. The Squirtle's shell cracked a bit, knocking it out instantly. Rachel broke the synchro, and felt herself in her own body again. "Uh oh," said Hikaru, looking at the injured Squirtle. "We're going to have to get that checked out...but I think it's pretty clear that Rachel won both rounds. The winner is Rachel, who receives three points!" Hikaru honked the horn, stopping the timer at 4 minutes, 31.68 seconds.
As the next pair went up, Hikaru pulled Rachel over behind a tree. "Please don't do that again," said Hikaru. "You saw what it did to that Squirtle."
"It's not like I can control it," said Rachel, defensively. "It just happens whenever I'm really engaged in a battle with my Pokémon."
"Well, try not to make your Taillow throw a Squirtle onto a rock," he said back. "Anyway, let's go register your results."
* * *
They walked back to Annaly, who was waiting for trainer records. "Alright, Annaly, my girl Rachel here won her first match with both Pokémon."
"Great!" said Annaly, recording down the results. "In your group, you're currently in first place, Rachel. Everyone else has battled once, and they've all tied."
"Before we go back up, let's watch Ken battle," said Rachel, who heard people shouting battle commands all around her. "That other group there looks like they're going to take more than 15 minutes for their battle."
* * *
Ken's Charmander was, in his own words, "owning" its opponent, who was a bug. "Arrrrgh!" the other trainer was saying, as Rachel came in onto the battle. "Scyther, use Fury Cutter again!" The Charmander managed to dodge each one of the attacks, but was waiting for Ken to give the order. "Now, use Ember!"
The glowing embers that Charmander threw charred Scyther's skin, making it easy to attack. "Now, slam into it!" called Ken. The Charmander was more than happy to oblige, and the weakened Scyther was knocked out as soon as it hit the ground.
"I think that's a 1-1," said the referee, sounding the horn announcing that the match was over. "Both trainers get one point!"
"Hey, Rachel!" said Ken, spotting her and Hikaru. "I got a tie!"
"In a match of two one-on-one battles, that's pretty common," said Hikaru. "Who'd Denchu lose to?"
"A Geodude," said Ken. "And I chose first, so it wasn't my fault."
"I getcha," said Hikaru. "Don't worry, you'll just have to try and win the next one." He took a look at the schedule, which Annaly had given him a copy of. "You're on in another two battles, so just sit tight."
"Hey, don't you have a battle to be going to, too?" asked Ken, suspicious.
Hikaru looked at the schedule again, and felt inside his pocket for the small piece of paper that he had received from Annaly. His eyes widened as he looked at the schedule a third time. "Oh, crap."