The next morning, Rachel and Ken woke up to find a bunch of Pokeballs in front of their doorstep. A note was attached to them, saying: "I picked these up for you. Hikaru had always said that he would leave everything he had to Ken if he died. Love, Akari."* * *
"So we just get all his Pokémon?" asked Ken.
"Apparently," said Rachel, also confused.
They walked outside, and let them all out – at least, the ones that were in that pile. Ken knew that Hikaru left a lot of them in his storage account, to which he had full access.
"Strange how Empoleon is the only one who says his name..." said Rachel with a lopsided look and a sweat drop.
"I can't take any of these..." said Ken. "They're Hikaru's. I'd feel bad using them in a battle."
Hikaru's Bayleef then walked up to Ken and nuzzled his side. "Aww, thanks. But I still can't use you guys."
"Krooooo?" The Fearow tilted his head.
"He says, 'what's wrong with that?'" translated Rachel.
"I wouldn't feel right," said Ken. "I didn't train you guys."
"Krooooooo." The Fearow lowered his head in acceptance of that fact.
"'Yeah, I guess so,'" translated Rachel.
"It's not that I don't like you guys, but I'm just not going to use you guys in battle until I get better."
"Krrroooooooo!" The Fearow was happy again.
"'And you'll get much better soon. I know it,'" translated Rachel.
"You might want to keep Gabriel, though," said Ken to Rachel. "He reminds me too much of Hikaru. I don't want to keep him around that much."
"Why does he remind you of—oh." Rachel remembered what Hikaru was at the costume convention.
"Gaarrr?" Gabriel asked Ken.
"You're coming with me now," said Rachel, holding up Gabriel's special Pokeball.
"Gaaarrr!" said Gabriel happily. "As long as I'm with Aniki's friends, I'm fine with whoever I'm with!"
"Wait, who's your Aniki?" asked Rachel, turning around.
"Hikaru-sama, that's who!" said Gabriel, with sparkly eyes.
"Alright," said Rachel, rolling her eyes and turning around again to leave Cerulean City for Route 56.
"Well, that was a flop," said Omanyte four-two-seven. "We didn't get that Gem or any of the other artifacts."
"It's not absolutely necessary..." replied Diabla, placing her fingers together on the phone. "...it's just to speed it up. All those kids are doing is slowing down the process. But I can wait. I have all the time in the w—whoa, look at the time, I've got a dinner party to be at in only two hours! Anyway! Keep preparing the weapon! Bye!"
The phone hung up, leaving a bewildered Omanyte four-two-seven hanging.
* * *
The days rolled by as Rachel and Ken walked the arduously long Route 56 – which was surprising, considering that it was only about forty or fifty kilometres long. Maybe it had something to do with the fact that they met so many merchants along the way.
Along the way, Rachel kept practising "becoming one with her Pokémon" in battle. Alongside defeating mounds of trainers and earning pyen by the myriad, they also lost their battles to every single merchant that they happened to meet – the price of which, apparently, was buying one of their wares.
The first merchant they had come across was an especially plump one, in a flowery, red shirt and pants. He wore a pair of sunglasses, and was selling rubber duckies. "That one looks like the rubber Psyduck I used to have," said Rachel, pointing to one that was standing up.
"Oh? Onee-sama, let me look at that one for you," said the merchant at his stand. "Ooh, this one," he said, handling it as delicately as a newborn Manaphy. "You have excellent taste, onee-sama. This one is one of the higher-quality models that I have around in my shop. Normally it would cost 25 thousand pyen, but here's how I'll do it," he said, suddenly going up to Rachel's ear and whispering. "I'll give you 60% off. It can be yours for only 10 thousand pyen."
"Well?" he said, backing off. "How about it?"
Rachel frowned in contemplation. Do I really need this...?
"Nah, I don't think we'll really need it," said Ken, pushing a still-thinking Rachel off. "I mean, really, it's just a rubber ducky, nothing spec—"
Ken was suddenly pulled back by the merchant. "Wait! If you're not going to buy something, how about you battle us?" The merchant let out a Pokémon – a Sneasel. "If you win, we'll give you the duck for free."
"I'm fine with that," said Rachel, bringing out Suigun. "Let's go, Suigun!"
"Let's battle!" said Suigun.
"I'm on it!" said the Sneasel.
"Suigun, let's open this up with a Water Gun!"
Before Suigun could fire, the merchant called, "Sneasel! Get behind the Buoysel and use Thief!"
The Sneasel dodged the gun when it came, and almost instantly, appeared behind Suigun, slashing him in the back. "Bui...!"
"Suigun!" said Rachel. "Let's try using a Surf!"
"No use," said the merchant, lowering his glasses. "Sneasel, jump up!"
"Shee!" The Sneasel jumped high above the wave and once again used Thief, hitting Suigun in the back. Then, the Sneasel disappeared a third time, and started rapidly striking Suigun in the body before he had a chance to react. These repeated hits started making Suigun dizzy, and when the Sneasel was done, he was on the ground, knocked out.
"Suigun!" said Rachel with concern as she ran up to Suigun.
"Looks like I win," said the merchant, taking back his Sneasel.
"Alright," said Rachel, bringing out her wallet. She took out a 10000-pyen bill, and handed it to the merchant, returning Suigun while she was at it. "Let's go, Ken," she said, walking away.
"Hey! Where are you going?" asked the merchant. Rachel turned around.
"You forgot this," said the merchant, holding up the rubber ducky.
"But I never bought that," said Rachel.
"Then what was this for?" asked the merchant, smiling and holding up the 10000-pyen bill.
* * *
"This is like a neverending bazaar," complained Rachel. They were almost at the junction between Routes 55 and 56, and despite having bought hundreds of thousands of pyen worth of stuff due to losing to merchants with Sneasels, were still overstuffed in terms of wallet contents.
"It's almost as if these trainers are trying to drown us in money," said Ken. "We must have had at least a hundred battles on Route 55, but we've only lost five or six."
"But we haven't won a single battle against a merchant," said Rachel. "We've had to buy many different things now." Among the things they had bought were three stuffed Pokémon, a rubber chicken, a collection of coloured pens, and a Talispod, to say some of the least audacious.
Rachel checked her watch – not for the time, but for the date. June the second. "Hey, Ken," said Rachel. "You know, we've been training for almost two months now."
"Really?" said Ken. "And neither of us has any badges yet."
"And you rejected that badge from Frank..."
"So did you!"
"But I didn't even battle him!"
They kept arguing, and didn't notice that they had reached the end of Route 56. They walked down the stairs leading to the beach until their feet was in the water. "Whoa, it suddenly got cold..." said Rachel, who then noticed where she was.
"Hmm, guess we got past all that, huh..." sighed Ken. "We've been on that route for what, about a week now? Who knows how much money we've gained and lost..."
"You wanna count?"
"Sure." They sat on the sand. There was no breeze today, which was good for counting stuff. Rachel opened her laptop.
* * *
When they were done counting, Ken's eyes were huge. "One, ten, hundred, thousand, ten thousand..." he counted the digits in their total. "Whoa, we have over two hundred thousand pyen!"
"That's enough to buy another laptop," noted Rachel. "But I did notice that we're short on medicine... I think I used up all twenty of the Potions I got two months ago."
"And I haven't had a proper meal in weeks..." moaned Ken, holding his stomach. "It's been I don't know how long and all I've eaten are hot dogs and those strange drinks given out by those merchants."
"Alright, let's get to a Pokémon Centre, right away!" said Rachel.
* * *
While they were about to get to the Pokémon Centre, Rachel felt two of her Pokeballs shaking. "What is it...?" she said out loud, catching Ken's attention.
"What did you say?" asked Ken.
Rachel took out the two shaking balls. Both Clyde and her Taillow were shaking around energetically. "What's up, you two—whoa!"
The two birds suddenly started glowing and changing form. "Hey, look," said Ken. "Clyde's evolving into a Pidgeotto, and your Taillow's becoming a Swellow!"
"You know..." said Rachel, in thought. "I still haven't named my Swellow yet. I should really do that some time."
Gamer popped out of her Pokeball at that thought. "You need some help naming a Pokémon?" she asked.
"Yeah, my Swellow," replied Rachel.
"Hey, you know what I just realized?" said Ken. "I can hear Gamer now! She just asked you if you needed help naming a Pokémon!"
Gamer promptly slapped Ken on the cheek. "Thanks for repeating it twice!"
"I-tatatatatata..." said Ken. "Owwwwwww...."
"Well, you already named your Pidgeotto Clyde..." said Gamer, in thought. "How about Bonnie? Your Swellow is a girl, after all. You know... your two birds, Bonnie and Clyde..."
"I hate that name!" screeched the Swellow whose name was currently in question. "Why not name me something cool like Hanesuka or Flugelmon, but not Bonnie! Kyaaahhhh!"
"How about Blinky?" asked Gamer happily. "Or—hold on a sec, did you just say 'Flugelmon'?" Her cheeks started puffing up again.
"Yeah, what about it?" quipped the Swellow sarcastically.
Gamer promptly jumped up and slapped the Swellow in the cheeks fifteen or sixteen times as she screamed, "Do you think this Digimon? What kind of a Pokémon are you to say that kind of stuff?"
"Ask that Ditto over there," said the Swellow, rubbing her cheeks with her wings and looking at a nearby Ditto who was basking in the sand. "His name is Metamon."
"Back to trying to give you a name," said Gamer, now back on the ground. She thought long and hard, and Rachel and Ken joined in.
"How about Birdo?" asked Ken.
"Don't even think about it!" said Rachel, punching Ken in the forehead.
"Kazegun?" said Gamer.
"No!" squawked Rachel's Swellow. "You think I want a name like Suigun's?"
"Hey, what's so bad about my name?" said Suigun, annoyed. "And how about Toridori?"
"Iya-ya!" replied Rachel, holding her hands on her head.
They kept going back and forth, with Ken, Gamer, and Suigun suggesting names, and Rachel and her Swellow rejecting them. After about half an hour of this, Gamer sat down, tired. "We've been suggesting names for half an hour now, and haven't come up with anything. What about you, Swellow-to-be-named? What do you think your name should be?"
"Well, I did say Hanesuka and Fluge—" The Swellow stopped abruptly as Gamer pointed her tail toward her menacingly, growling. "I mean, uhh... how about Oiseau?"
"You know what?" said Rachel, clapping her hands. "That's perfect! Alright, Oiseau, welcome to the named portion of this team!"
* * *
After healing up all their Pokémon at the Pokémon Centre, they kept walking, and came across a cave again. "Well, there's no Hikaru here this time," said Ken. "So this time, we can go through the cave."
Rachel took out a flashlight. "I bought this in the market. We'll use it to get through."
They entered the cave. Immediately they were treated to the dripping sound of water dropping on stalactites and the occasional bat or two flying past them. "You know, I think Hikaru had a point when he said that these caves were scary," said Rachel, nervous.
"Aw, don't be a scaredy-cat," said Ken, holding Rachel's flashlight. "We'll get through this cave in no time."
"Halt!" They heard a voice. "Who goes there?"
"My name's Rachel Palton," said Rachel. "Who is the guard?"
"You may not pass without battling me!" said the voice. A burly figure walked into the light.
"Who are you?" asked Rachel.
"My name's Plesio," said the mysterious boy. Upon closer inspection, he was wearing a black jacket with a yellow shirt inside, as well as some black pants. "And I'm here to battle you with my Hariyama!" He took out a Pokeball, and brought out his Hariyama in the dark. "Ha!" it yelled as it did a few midair chops.
"Alright," said Rachel. "Bring it! Oiseau!"
"I'm ready!" cawed Oiseau as she came out.
"Hariyama, use Whirlwind!" yelled Plesio.
"Whirlwind!" said the Hariyama as it flung its arms forward and made massive tornadoes appear in the middle of the cave. The wind was so strong that Rachel had to shield her eyes to prevent dust from blowing into them. Rachel called out, "Oiseau! Use Focus Energy!"
Oiseau remembered what that did. As she focussed her own energy, so did Rachel, until a few moments later, Rachel found herself in Oiseau's body again. They had practised this link for a long time, and it came to them naturally now. Only Suigun had better unity with Rachel than Oiseau.
The wind blew Oiseau away for a second, but she quickly cut through it, striking the Hariyama with her beak. As the Hariyama fell down, Oiseau swooped up once, and flew in a circle. Rachel could feel the wind passing by Oiseau's feathers, and the speed at which she flew was breathtaking.
Without even a signal, Oiseau swooped down and started beating at the Hariyama with her wings, breaking its concentration and sending it crashing to the ground. It struggled up again and fired another Whirlwind. This Whirlwind was weaker than the previous one, though, and Oiseau flew down again quite easily at the Hariyama, knocking it down and out. Rachel relaxed herself, breaking the link, and ran up to her Swellow to congratulate her.
"Hoo, yeah! We win!" said Rachel, high-fiving her Swellow.
"We don't even need to talk to each other now!" said Oiseau happily. "Now, just like Suigun, we can battle as one!"
"I'm surprised at the mechanics of that five," mused Ken, looking at Rachel and Oiseau. Tokagex was also looking at the scene with amusement.
"Well, you beat me," said Plesio, "so you can pass. By the way..." He reached into his pocket and pulled out two bills. "Here's 1200 pyen. You know, because you won."
"Yeah, yeah, I know," said Rachel, turning back to Ken. "Let's keep going."
* * *
Two hours and thirty trainers later, they had made it out of the cave. "I think we could start a charity with all the money we're making," said Ken jokingly. "All those Fighting-type trainers in there... I feel sorry for the fact that they couldn't stand up to Telia and Oiseau."
"I'm more worried about our other Pokémon now. They didn't train as much in there because we were all fighting-types. What about your Pidgeotto?"
"You mean Clyde?" asked Rachel. "Oh, I'll get to him later. The way we're going is where a lot of grass Pokémon live."
"I thought you thought Grass-types were good against Flying-types. Remember the tournament?"
Rachel reminisced about that tournament. "Oh, yeah. Well, from all those other battles we had, I think I've learned otherwise."
"Good thing, too," said Ken. "Otherwise you'd be overwhelmed without a Fire-type like Tokagex along with you."
* * *
A few days later, they were on the southern edge of Route 55. "Hey, look!" said Rachel, excited at the sight of a city at long last. "That's Lavender Town!"
"It's a city now, I think..." said Ken. "Ever since they started advertising for people to go there, it's gained tourism business from Meuropans who are interested in the spiritual background of Japan. I went there a few months ago, and I saw one guy who looked like he was from Iceland, drinking tea. Tea!"
They kept walking. As they entered the city, Rachel noticed the various foreigners that Ken had talked about who were here partaking in the spiritual activities of Japan, including an authentic shrine that people were visiting. But what really caught her eye here was... "A Gym?!?"