As a longtime detractor of how much potential was wasted in the Jouto saga, I couldn't hold back any longer - I had to rewrite it. My goal is to cut down on filler, pump up the characterization, give every main character something worthwhile to do, and weave a strong story around the legends of the Jouto region. Let's see if I can pull it off...
“Maybe it’d look better over the fireplace…”
Satoshi had been moving his Orange League trophy all over the living room for the past several days, trying to decide where it would attract the most attention. As he picked it up off the coffee table and placed it atop the mantle, his mother Hanako entered the room, Barrierd sweeping the floor diligently behind her.
“Honestly, Satoshi!” she said with a laugh. “It looks fine no matter where you put it! I’m just so proud of you for winning it in the first place!”
Satoshi grinned. “Thanks, Mom.”
Hanako clapped her hands together in realization. “Say, you know who else would really be impressed? Shigeru! You haven’t seen him since you got back, have you?”
“Hey, I bet you’re right!” Satoshi exclaimed. “Shigeru always used to tease me for the way I train, but now that I’ve actually won a Pokémon League tournament, he’s bound to eat his words!”
And in one swift movement, he grabbed the trophy off the mantle and swept towards the door, Pikachu bounding along behind him.
Satoshi had located Shigeru just around the corner from his grandfather’s lab. He looked as though he had been in deep thought upon being interrupted. But as Satoshi waved his glittering trophy and recounted the harrowing tale of what it had taken for Pikachu to defeat Yuuji’s Kairyuu, Shigeru’s expression was unchangingly blank.
“And I suppose you were hoping for praise, is that it?” he finally asked once Satoshi had finished recounting his exploits on Kankitsu Island. “What, did you think I was gonna take back everything I’ve said to you over the last eleven years just ‘cause you won that shiny little pencil holder there?”
Satoshi’s face fell. He couldn’t believe his ears. Didn’t Shigeru understand what a huge deal this was?
“Pencil holder?” he snapped indignantly. “Come on, I won a Pokémon League tournament here!”
Shigeru sniffed, still unimpressed. “You beat the Orange League. Some accomplishment. The Orange League is a bunch of pushovers. The gym leaders there don’t even make you battle.”
“Sure they do!” Satoshi retorted, though he knew it wasn’t entirely true. Atsumi and Dan hadn’t required him to fight for his badges.
“You know what the Orange League is?” Shigeru continued, growing more impatient. “It’s an independent union of trainers. It’s not associated with the Indigo League. In fact, all its gym leaders are trainers who tried to join the Kanto Gym Leaders’ Association but got turned down. They set up shop in the Orange Archipelago, but Wataru and Shiba and all them refuse to acknowledge their gyms as official Pokémon League buildings. You think just because you beat a bunch of rejects and took down a poorly-trained Kairyuu, you’re on the same level with the Elite Four now or something? Don’t make me laugh, Satoshi. You’re in exactly the same position you were at the end of Round 5. You haven’t grown at all.”
Satoshi dropped his trophy with a loud clunk, his vision obscured by his rage.
“What do you mean, I haven’t grown? I just spent my whole summer training my Pokémon! I got Lizardon to finally start listening to me! I tamed a Laplace! I caught a Kabigon, for crying out loud! You know how hard those are to catch?”
Shigeru brushed his long brown hair out of his eyes and unhooked a Monster Ball from his belt. “All right, Satoshi,” he said calmly, “if you’re so darn determined to prove to me what an unbelievably talented trainer you are, let’s see what you got. One-on-one battle, right here, right now. Choose your Pokémon.”
“You’re on! Pikachu, show him a thing or two about what we learned this summer!”
Pikachu leapt between the two trainers, hunched on all fours, sparks flying from his cheeks.
Shigeru sighed. “Typical,” he hissed, before throwing his Monster Ball into the air. “Eevee, go!”
A dazzling burst of white light, and a familiar fluffy brown Pokémon materialized on the sidewalk. Its battle-ready expression betrayed its cute appearance.
Satoshi shouted with laughter at the sight of it. “An Eevee? Seriously? Pikachu just took down a Kairyuu, remember? This’ll be a snap!”
But as Satoshi opened his mouth again to give Pikachu his first command, Shigeru shouted “Eevee, Lightning Speed!” Eevee plowed into Pikachu’s stomach so rapidly, Satoshi barely even saw it coming.
Pikachu tumbled backwards across the sidewalk, clearly shaken by the unexpected attack. He clambered to his feet and shook his head, trying to regain his composure.
“Don’t let him knock you down, Pikachu!” Satoshi called. “100,000 Volts!”
“Eevee, Sand Attack!” Shigeru shouted.
Again, Eevee struck first, kicking up a cloud of dust with its hind legs. Pikachu covered his eyes and flailed, temporarily blinded, then unleashed the 100,000 Volts attack. Bolts of electricity shot everywhere, drawing the concerned attention of several passing motorists, but not one bolt connected with Eevee.
Satoshi began to sweat. “All right, Pikachu,” he said, though the panic in his voice was evident, “let’s us go on the defensive too! Shadow Clone!”
Wiping the sand out of his eyes, Pikachu began to circle Eevee rapidly, moving so fast that there appeared to be multiple images of him. Before he could form a complete ring of illusionary doubles, however, Shigeru shouted “Eevee, Charge!”
With lightning fast precision, Eevee pummeled one of the Pikachu images with all its might – only it wasn’t an image. Pikachu was hurled into a nearby tree from the force of the impact, colliding so hard with the trunk that several leaves and branches rained down from above.
“Pikachu!” Satoshi cried.
Satoshi rushed to his Pokémon’s side and gingerly tried to help him to his feet. The tiny yellow mouse struggled to stand back up, but the blow he had just received had been too great. He flopped onto the pavement, his ears still twitching slightly, but otherwise quite still.
His heart pounding, Satoshi hoisted Pikachu up, cradling him like a baby, and turned to face his rival. Shigeru was not smug about his victory, but seemed to be glaring at Satoshi with contempt. Eevee disappeared in a flash of red light as Shigeru recalled it.
“You see, Satoshi? You can’t face one big challenge like the Indigo League and then just get complacent after it’s over. You surrounded yourself with easy victories for three whole months. You inhibited your own growth as a trainer. But if you want to achieve your goals, you can’t just keep doing the same thing all your life. You can’t stay in one place. “
He hesitated briefly, then added, “That’s why I’m leaving for the Jouto region this afternoon. I’m going to take their gym challenge and try to catch some new Pokémon.”
Satoshi blinked. “What – you’re starting your Pokémon journey over again?”
Shigeru snorted derisively. “You still don’t get it. Jouto’s gym challenge is tougher than Kanto’s is. It’s a harsh terrain and it breeds harsh trainers. There’s at least a hundred species of Pokémon there that don’t live around here. I’m not starting over, I’m stepping up to the next level. And judging by that sorry performance you just gave, you might want to consider it too.”
And with those words, Shigeru turned on his heels and walked away.
“Goodbye, Satoshi,” he said without looking back. “Whether or not we meet again is entirely up to you.”
Satoshi looked down at Pikachu in his arms, now conscious again but still visibly shaken, and then at his Orange League trophy, tipped on the ground, its set jewels and gold finish glinting in the cool autumn sunlight. An hour ago, it had been a source of pride. Now a heavy pit formed in Satoshi’s stomach at the sight of it. And for one fleeting instant, he was gripped with a wild urge to just grab the cup and throw it away.
* * * *
Kasumi glared at her reflection in the bathroom mirror. Something just wasn’t working anymore.
Sure, this goofy little ponytail on the side of her head had been fine when she was younger. But she was 13 now, almost 14, and her hairstyle hadn’t changed in a year and a half. Every time she looked at herself, she felt like a little kid.
Well, she thought, time to grow up, don’t you think?
With two fingers, she yanked the tiny rubber scrunchie out and threw it in the small trash barrel next to the sink. Her ponytail disappeared as her fiery red hair fell almost to her shoulders. She glanced at the mirror again. That’s a start, she said to herself.
Rummaging through her backpack, she procured her hairbrush. Several strokes later, she threw open the medicine cabinet and found what she was looking for – hairspray. Shutting her eyes tightly, she unleashed a small cloud of vapor onto her head.
When she opened her eyes again, a new reflection looked back at her. Nearly shoulder-length, but neatly teased. Less spiky than it had been before. Sporty, yet confident. Playful, but mature. There was no mistaking her for a child now.
There we go, she thought, a smile gracing her face as she admired her new style. Much better!
* * * *
Satoshi and Takeshi were both in awe of Kasumi’s new hairstyle that evening. “Let me put it this way,” Takeshi said, chuckling. “If you weren’t my friend, I’d be hitting on you in a heartbeat.”
Kasumi laughed as she bounced Togepi lightly on her knee. But she couldn’t help noticing that Satoshi seemed oddly distant.
“What’s wrong, Satoshi? You’ve been pretty quiet all day.”
Satoshi had been quiet. He’d barely spoken since he’d returned from his battle with Shigeru. In his mind, he’d been weighing the pros and cons of going to the Jouto region. He’d been doing his best to work it out on his own, but he knew if anyone could help him decide, it’d be his friends and family.
“It’s something Shigeru said to me today,” he said finally. “He left for the Jouto region this afternoon, and he said I should go too.”
Kasumi and Takeshi both reacted with enthusiasm. “You know, that’s not a bad idea!” Takeshi mused. “I mean, it’d be a great way for you to – ”
“Challenge myself, yeah,” Satoshi finished. “But I don’t know…Shigeru also said I let myself get complacent, that I’m out of shape. I’m not even sure if I’d have what it takes to face the Jouto gyms…”
Hanako swept into the room at these words.
“Don’t have what it takes?” she said incredulously. “Why, that’s ridiculous! You just beat the Orange League, didn’t you?”
Satoshi winced slightly. His mother still thought this was a worthy accomplishment, but he knew better now.
“Maybe that’s not enough,” he said. “Maybe I’ve still got more to learn…”
“Well, the best way to teach yourself would be to experience it all first-hand, right?” Kasumi said wisely. “Going to the Jouto region seems like it’d do just that.”
Satoshi’s mind buzzed. His desire to educate himself clashed with his recently lowered self-confidence. After a moment, he said, “Maybe I ought to sleep on it…”
But sleep didn’t come easy that night. As Pikachu lay curled up at the foot of his bed, Satoshi remained wide awake until somewhere near two in the morning. Could he face the Jouto challenge? Or had he let himself atrophy too much? Would he wind up right back where he was a year and a half ago, a bumbling newbie in way over his head?
On the plus side, he would have his friends for companionship. And he also had a team of very potent Pokémon. But how potent were they, really? Pikachu had lost that battle with Eevee because Satoshi hadn’t known what to expect. And that was with his longtime childhood rival. Who knew what he’d be up against in the Jouto region, a place he’d never been to before?
…Well, one person knew. There was one person in Masara Town who would certainly know all there was to know about Jouto – the gyms, the Pokémon, the land, anything he might ask. And as Satoshi rolled over and closed his eyes, he vowed to ask him first thing tomorrow morning. It was the only way he could move forward.
* * * *
Orchid-hakase reviewed his notes in confusion. He glared intently at the gold and silver Monster Ball on the pedestal before him. Not one of his theories had proven to be correct. He had tried every method he could think of to open the ball, but it remained resolutely closed. What was the secret?
He glanced out the window, trying to collect his thoughts. Kenji was in the sprawling ranch area behind the lab, refilling the feeding machine. A Hitokage was nipping playfully at his heels. Orchid was extremely grateful to have an assistant now that he had so much research to do on the GS Ball. It certainly didn’t hurt that Kenji was so eager to take on literally any job that Orchid gave him.
There was a knock at the door. Orchid looked up and recognized Satoshi’s face through the glass window.
“Ah, Satoshi!” he beamed. “Come in, come in! What’s on your mind?”
Satoshi entered the room in trepidation. “Well, Professor, I’ve been doing a lot of thinking lately, and I was hoping I could get your advice.”
Orchid took a seat by his computer. “Of course, my boy, that’s what I’m here for. What’s the matter?”
“Well, you know how Shigeru went to the Jouto region yesterday?”
Orchid smiled. “Ah yes, he called me just this morning to say he’d arrived in Wakaba Town. He’s meeting up with Utsugi-hakase, a colleague of mine.”
Satoshi’s stomach jolted again. “Yeah, well, before he left, he said I ought to go there too. And, well, we had a battle yesterday, and he beat me pretty bad, and I don’t know, I guess I’m just a little nervous about – ”
“About whether or not you’d be able to deal with the Jouto gym challenge?” Orchid finished.
Satoshi looked up. It was as if the professor had read his mind.
“Well, I will say this, Satoshi,” he continued. “Jouto can be a rough territory, but I honestly believe it’s nothing you can’t handle. Your performance at the Indigo Plateau last spring proved that you’ve made leaps and bounds in the time since you began your training. And from what you told me about your excursion to the Orange Islands, you’ve made even greater progress over the summer. You’ve finally earned your Lizardon’s trust, haven’t you? And that young Laplace you helped to reunite with her family, she followed you as if she were your own. You understand that bond between trainer and Pokémon better than most trainers your age. And with that bond firmly established, there’s nothing you can’t accomplish if you put your mind to it.”
The weight in Satoshi’s stomach seemed to vanish at these words. He smiled up at his mentor, confidence flooding his heart and soul.
“So you think I should check it out, then?” he asked.
“Well, that decision is up to you,” Orchid replied. “But if you do decide to visit the Jouto region, I know you’ll do well there. And don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.”
As Satoshi left the lab, Pikachu scampering along at his side, he felt better than he had all morning. The Jouto region seemed to be calling to him now, inviting him to take the challenge it laid out before him. And Satoshi was eager to get going. He would have to prepare, though. First thing to do was to head back home and pack his things again.
His spirit soaring, Satoshi found himself snapped out of his reverie by Pikachu tugging on his pants leg. He was pointing animatedly up at the sky. Satoshi looked up – and his jaw dropped open in amazement.
Its body glistened in the sunlight, just as it had done the first time he saw it on his very first day as a trainer. Its very feathers seemed to have been crafted from gold. The light that refracted off of it formed a truly magnificent rainbow, arcing through the heavens as if forming a path for a worthy trainer to follow.
Satoshi’s mind drifted back to what Orchid had told him over the phone, a year and a half ago. “According to legend, it reveals itself only to trainers that it feels are destined for greatness.”
He remained rooted on the spot, watching the bird as it flew. It was heading west – the direction of the Jouto region.
“Wow,” Satoshi said joyously when he was able to find his speech again. “If that’s not a sign, Pikachu, I don’t know what is!”
* * * *
Everything was packed. Pikachu, Lizardon, Zenigame, and Fushigidane were at full health. He was all dressed up in the brand new clothes his mother had bought for him – a red-and-white hooded jacket, new jeans, and a black-and-yellow hat emblazoned with a Monster Ball logo. He felt like a new man.
Though Kenji had decided to stay on as Orchid-hakase’s aide (“Just between you and me, I think he really needs somebody like me around!”), Kasumi and Takeshi had both agreed to accompany Satoshi to the Jouto region. “Don’t think I’ve forgotten about that bicycle you owe me,” Kasumi had said playfully. Takeshi, meanwhile, was eager to move on from the mysterious experience he’d had at Uchikido-hakase’s laboratory, though he still was reluctant to tell his friends what it was, and they’d decided it was best not to wheedle him about it.
Hanako had also gone out of her way to buy new clothes for Kasumi and Takeshi as well. Kasumi quite enjoyed her new blue jacket, and Takeshi’s thick orange-and-green vest was just his style. She’d also bought Satoshi an extremely helpful little gadget called a PokéGear, which acted as everything from a cell phone to a radio to a GPS. “You’re almost 13 now,” she had told him, “I think you’re old enough to have your own phone! Just don’t forget to call your mother every now and again!”
Satoshi consulted the GPS function of the PokéGear before departing his mother’s house and saw that the route just west of the Indigo Plateau would take him straight into Wakaba Town. Thus, they would need to travel north through Viridian City one more time to get there. Bidding his mother a loving goodbye, Satoshi set off up the main road, with Pikachu, Takeshi, and Kasumi (clutching Togepi) by his side.
As they passed the laboratory on the way to Route 1, a familiar voice reached their ears.
“Satoshi! SATOSHI! Wait up!”
They stopped at the main gate. Orchid-hakase was hurrying down the front walk, still quite spry for a man in his 60s. He was carrying something in his hand – something round and metallic.
“Before you go,” he said, “I want you to have this.”
Satoshi looked confused as he accepted the GS Ball. “But I thought you said you wanted to study it?”
“I have been studying it,” Orchid explained, “and I swear I can’t get the darn fool thing open. But I think I know just the person who can. His name is Gantetsu. He’s a Monster Ball maker, an old friend of mine, and he lives in Hiwada Town. Take the GS Ball to him, and I’ll bet he’ll be able to figure it out.”
Satoshi pocketed the GS Ball in one of the side compartments of his backpack. “You can count on us, Professor!”
“We’ll keep in touch!” added Kasumi. “And don’t worry, we’ll stay safe – now that Takeshi’s back, I think we can look forward to a little extra security.”
“Not to mention better cooking!” Satoshi interjected jovially.
Takeshi laughed. “Man, I missed you guys!”
Orchid-hakase waved them all goodbye as they continued back up the road towards Viridian City. Even from a distance, he could see the GS Ball gleaming as it protruded from the pocket on Satoshi’s backpack.
“They’ll be all right,” he murmured under his breath. His brow furrowed. “I just hope I can say the same about Shigeru…”
Re: Jouto Redux
Chapter 1 was pretty faithful to what happened in the show. But in Chapter 2, I start deviating significantly, drawing more influence from the video games.
Utsugi-hakase weaved nimbly through the maze of papers and files that was his office. He had a fair amount of work to do this morning – two new trainers were on their way to select their starting Pokémon, and he was also expecting a visit from some friends of his colleague Orchid-hakase. And there was still that mountain of research on Pokémon breeding patterns he had to look at. He suspected one of his aides might have made a breakthrough in the field of inherited moves.
As the young professor squinted through his horn-rimmed glasses at his laptop screen, a thirteen-page printout in one hand and a half-eaten dango in the other, he prepped himself mentally for the large workload ahead of him. He was relatively young as far as Pokémon researchers go, only in his early 30s, but he was still no stranger to the academic demands of the profession. On the contrary, he had become quite accustomed to the long hours and endless study. He supposed all the cramming he’d done at the university had become part of his lifestyle for good.
Utsugi was so focused on his research that he almost didn’t pay any attention to the faint crash that came from down the hall.
Upon registering the sound, he stopped reading and looked up. The door to his office was open. The sound seemed to have come from several rooms away. Perhaps one of his aides had knocked over an Erlenmeyer flask or something…
But then, with a jolt, Utsugi leapt out of his chair as the alarm system went off. Dodging and ducking through the mountains of paperwork again, he knew this could only mean one thing. Someone had broken into the Monster Ball containment center. Someone was trying to steal Pokémon.
Amid the screams of the alarm, Utsugi dashed down the hallway and slammed his hand onto the scanning system next to the thick metal door leading to the containment center. After reading his palm for a few seconds, the laser confirmed his identity and the door swooshed open. His eyes darted around the room, looking for the intruder. The only unusual thing he saw amid the endless rows of shelves lined with trainers’ stored Pokémon was the smashed window in the corner. Shards of glass littered the floor. The intruder had already fled.
Utsugi’s heartbeat began to return to normal. It appeared that the hoodlum hadn’t stolen anything. But as he took one more look around the room, he felt the color drain from his face. Something had been taken after all. On the circular pedestal in the center of the room, where moments before there had sat three Monster Balls containing the starter Pokémon for the new trainers he was expecting, there were now two balls and one conspicuously empty space.
Two of Utsugi’s aides burst into the room. “What happened?” one of them asked, panting with exhaustion. “Is anything missing?”
Utsugi approached the pedestal and swallowed. He had arranged the Pokémon in a triangle. Chikorita’s ball was the one pointing to the door; Hinoarashi’s was on the right. The left part of the pedestal was vacant.
“Waninoko,” he groaned. “They got Waninoko.”
* * * *
“According to the PokéGear,” Satoshi said, “we’ve just reached the point where Route 27 crosses over from Kanto to Jouto!”
Pikachu waddled along beside Satoshi, Kasumi, and Takeshi as they surveyed the forest path they were on. The late September chill had already begun to turn the leaves on the trees, and the bright blue sky above was virtually cloudless. The three trainers couldn’t have hoped for a better start to their journey into the Jouto region.
“This is it, then,” Kasumi said, swaddling Togepi in her little fleece blanket. “This is where our next big adventure starts! What kinds of Pokémon do you think we’ll see first?”
Takeshi looked around. “Who knows? I think it’s mostly just Kanto-native Pokémon that live on this route, but keep your eyes peeled – we might see a Upaa or a Lediba.”
Satoshi pulled out his Pokémon Zukan, smiling. “Upaa, huh? I gotta look that up…”
But he found no entry under “Upaa”. His Zukan was still in Kanto region mode. “Dang,” he muttered, “I forgot to upgrade this thing before I left…”
“Don’t worry,” Takeshi said, “I bet Utsugi-hakase can give you a whole new Pokémon Zukan once we get to Wakaba Town. It’d probably be better than just upgrading your old one anyway – the newest model is sure to have more apps than – ”
But he stopped abruptly. They all did. They’d each noticed the mysterious blue glow coming from just beyond the trees. It seemed to be emanating from a natural source, yet it still felt otherworldly.
“What is it?” Kasumi asked in a hushed tone. “A Pokémon?”
Satoshi slowly stepped forward. “If it is, I’ve never seen one glow like that…”
Moving carefully towards a clearing, the three trainers gasped as the strange creature came into view. It was like a gigantic blue dog, but with a billowing mane of violet fur and a long crystal-shaped horn sweeping back over its head. The glow was being generated from this horn, illuminating the surrounding area. The beast had not yet noticed that it was being watched.
“Quick, Satoshi, look it up,” Kasumi whispered.
“I can’t!” Satoshi hissed back. “I just said my Zukan doesn’t recognize Jouto Pokémon…”
“We don’t know what kind of Pokémon it is,” retorted Kasumi. “It’s worth a try!”
Slowly, gently, so as not to make a sound, Satoshi withdrew his Pokémon Zukan again, quietly clicked it open, and pointed it at the glowing beast.
“No data available. Pokémon species unknown. An upgrade may be required -- ”
Satoshi hastily snapped the computer shut again, but it was too late. The loud mechanical voice had caught the great creature’s attention. Its horn stopped glowing immediately. In one swift movement, before any of the trainers could even register what was going on, it turned to face them and lunged, its massive blue body sweeping through the air as if it was gliding on the wind. Its mane unfurled magnificently behind it as it soared clear over their heads. It landed on the forest path with barely a sound and began running full-tilt into the trees.
Satoshi, Kasumi, and Takeshi looked around hurriedly, but the Pokémon was long gone.
“Whoa,” Takeshi breathed. “I’ve never seen a Pokémon move that fast…”
Kasumi leaned against a tree trunk, her legs wobbling slightly from the shock of seeing the beast charging toward her. “You guys, do you think that was a legendary Pokémon?”
“Could have been,” Satoshi said, still staring off in the direction it had run. “But what was it doing out here?”
“Maybe it’s the protector of these woods,” Takeshi mused. “You know, a guardian or something. Keeps an eye out for intruders, that sort of thing.”
“But we’re not intruders, are we?” Kasumi asked, sounding worried as she held Togepi close.
Satoshi kneeled down and allowed Pikachu to scamper up his arm and onto his shoulder. “I don’t think so. It would have attacked us if it didn’t want us here…”
His mind drifted back to the golden bird he had now seen twice in his life, both times when he had been about to undertake an adventurous new excursion.
“I think it was an omen,” Satoshi continued. “A good omen. It means we’ve got good things ahead of us in this region. I think it was welcoming us!”
Kasumi looked confused. “But Satoshi, if it was welcoming us, why did it run as soon as it saw us?”
“Look, let’s not get into a huge argument about this,” Takeshi interjected. “If anybody would know about the Pokémon around here, it would be Utsugi-hakase. Let’s just wait ‘til we get to the lab and then we’ll ask him about it. Satoshi, how much farther do we need to go before we get to Wakaba Town?”
Satoshi checked his PokéGear again. “Only about another kilometer,” he said. “Come on, let’s go!”
And he set off again, at a brisker pace this time, Pikachu perched excitedly on his backpack.
“Same old Satoshi,” Takeshi chuckled. “So eager for adventure…”
“Yeah,” Kasumi said, tightening Togepi’s blanket. She gave one last sweeping look around the forest for a trace of the creature. “I just hope he’s right about us having good things ahead of us.”
It was almost three in the afternoon by the time the three of them arrived in Wakaba Town. Windswept leaves of orange and yellow sailed through the air as they surveyed the small town, taking in its homey charm. It was very much like Masara Town, Satoshi thought – the kind of place that’d be nice to grow up in, nestled among the trees and beneath the watchful presence of the legendary Shirogane Mountain in the distance.
Shortly thereafter, they located Utsugi-hakase’s laboratory. With the help of the PokéGear, it didn’t take long to get there at all. But right away, the three trainers knew something was amiss. A police motorcycle was parked outside, and a uniformed woman who was unmistakably an Officer Junsa was speaking to a man whom Satoshi could only assume was Utsugi-hakase. He had a high hairline, large glasses, a white lab coat, and looked very distraught.
To his left stood two young trainers, who looked to be about Satoshi’s age – a boy wearing a red jacket, yellow shorts, and a hat very similar to Satoshi’s, and a very trendy-looking blue-haired girl decked out in a white jacket, a pink tank top, and (Satoshi couldn’t help but notice) spandex bike shorts. They looked concerned, and each one held a Pokémon that Satoshi had never seen before.
“Utsugi-hakase?” Satoshi asked as he and his friends approached the scene.
Utsugi wrung his hands nervously. “Oh,” he stammered, “you must be the trainers from Kanto who Orchid-hakase told me about. I’m afraid you caught me at kind of an awkward time, you see, there’s been a terrible accident. Someone broke into my lab this morning!”
Officer Junsa pocketed her notepad. “You kids haven’t seen a teenager around with long hair and a dark shirt, have you?”
“No, I don’t think so,” said Kasumi, shaking her head. Takeshi motioned as if he was about to say something, but he seemed to be transfixed by Officer Junsa’s good looks.
“Although really,” the blue-haired girl piped up, “that could describe about half the teenage boys in all of Jouto.”
“I know it’s not much to go on, Officer,” Utsugi-hakase squeaked, “but that was all I could make out from the video surveillance footage. I’m afraid I couldn’t see his face.” He rubbed the back of his head anxiously. “Oh, poor Waninoko…off with some lowdown thief! He must be so frightened…”
The boy with the red jacket looked mutinous. “What the heck are we just standing around here for, then? There’s a Pokémon in trouble! We should start searching, shouldn’t we?”
“Calm down there, sonny,” Officer Junsa said, “if that thief’s still out there, we’ll find him. Thank you all for your help, and have a good day.”
And with that, she swung her legs astride her motorcycle and revved away down the street.
“Wow,” Takeshi whispered, having found his voice again, “I like the Jouto region already.”
“Snap out of it, Takeshi,” Kasumi hissed, slugging him on the arm. “This is serious!”
Satoshi approached Utsugi-hakase and the two trainers as Pikachu hopped down onto the ground. “My name’s Satoshi, and this is Pikachu, Kasumi, Togepi, and Takeshi. Is there anything at all we can do to help?”
Before Utsugi could speak, the boy interrupted again, hoisting his Pokémon to get a better grip on its body. “Darn right there is! You can come with Marina and me to track down that stinkin’ thief! We’ve got a Waninoko to save!”
Utsugi shifted uneasily from foot to foot. “Kenta, are you sure that’s wise? I mean, you and Marina only have one Pokémon each. If you find that thief, who knows what he could do?”
“Well, that’s not a problem,” Satoshi said confidently. “Kasumi and Takeshi and myself, we’ve each got four Pokémon on us! We can go with you!”
“Are you sure about that?” Utsugi asked, his eyes widening.
Kasumi bounced Togepi slightly in her arms. “Well, we have had a lot of experience dealing with Pokémon thieves. And our Pokémon are pretty strong; I think we can handle ourselves.”
Takeshi crossed his arms importantly. “It’s true. You can count on us, Professor.”
Kenta grabbed Marina by the arm and began to lead her up the sidewalk. “See? C’mon, what are we waiting for? The videotape showed the thief heading this way! Let’s go!”
And so the five of them set off on the hunt.
“We never properly introduced ourselves, did we?” Marina said as they combed the woods surrounding Utsugi-hakase’s lab. “I’m Marina, and this is my best friend Kenta. We just started our Pokémon journeys today. Boy, was it a shock to get there and see the cops outside!”
Her Pokémon was curling affectionately around her ankles. It was a small green creature with deep brown eyes and a long leaf protruding from its head. Satoshi thought it must be a Grass type from the looks of it.
Marina seemed to notice Satoshi looking at the creature. “Oh, and this is Chikorita,” she said, kneeling down to pat its head. “Kenta started with Hinoarashi,” she added, gesturing to the dark green anteater-like creature that was sniffing the ground at Kenta’s feet. Small flames kept puffing out of the spots on its back every few seconds. Kenta was down on his hands and knees, looking for clues.
“Hmm,” he muttered. “Depressions in the leaves, plus the amount of broken twigs, all seem to suggest that the thief cut through the woods this way. Follow me, everyone!”
“Is your friend always this energetic?” Kasumi asked as they followed Kenta through the thicket.
Marina smiled. “Wherever there’s Pokémon, he is. He loves them. That’s why this robbery hit so close to home for him – he can’t stand people who mistreat their Pokémon.”
“It’s not right!” Kenta shouted over his crunching footsteps. “People and Pokémon deserve to live in harmony, you know? It’s disgusting the way some people take advantage of such innocent creatures. Like have you ever heard of the Rocket-dan?”
Satoshi squinted as a year and a half of unpleasant memories resurfaced. “Yeah, you could say we’ve crossed paths.”
Kenta’s deductive reasoning led the five trainers out of the woods and into downtown, where there were numerous alleyways between buildings that’d be perfect for a thief on the run to hide. Satoshi, Pikachu, Kasumi, and Takeshi glanced everywhere for a sign of a boy fitting the description Officer Junsa gave.
“Long hair,” Takeshi muttered. “What color was it?”
“Utsugi-hakase said he couldn’t tell,” Marina said. “The surveillance tape was in black-and-white. But he said it looked dark.”
“We ought to split up,” Kenta said authoritatively. “We can cover more ground that way. Satoshi, Kasumi, Takeshi, Pikachu, and Togepi can take that side of the street. Marina, Hinoarashi, Chikorita and myself will stay on this side.”
The group of them explored the main street, asking passersby if they’d seen a boy fitting the vague description they had to go on. Finally, a middle-aged yatai proprietor gave them a much-needed lead.
“Well, I did see a long-haired kid go running down the alley next to the fish shop a little while ago,” said the apron-clad owner as he doled out cups of noodles to his diners. “Don’t know if he came back out again. But he was wearing a black shirt and boots, and I think he had a Monster Ball in his hand, too, come to think of it…”
“Kenta!” Satoshi bellowed across the street. “Marina! I think we’ve got our boy!”
The two trainers and their Pokémon dashed across the crosswalk to rejoin the trio. Together, they approached the alley behind the fish shop, which was crowded with empty wooden crates and cardboard boxes. A rusted trash receptacle sat against a chain-link fence.
“Stay here,” Kenta said. “I wanna draw this guy out.”
Marina gasped. “Kenta, no! I know you want to rescue that Waninoko, but – ”
“I’ll be okay,” he said. “You guys hang back and keep an eye on me. If it looks like something’s about to go down, follow me in, and we’ll all do this together.”
Satoshi, Kasumi, and Takeshi all looked at each other, unsure as to whether this was the best idea.
Kenta stepped forward into the alley. “Anybody back here?” he called bravely.
There was no reply.
Kenta’s footsteps echoed in the dank alley. His shoe splashed through a puddle as he drew closer. Hinoarashi plodded beside his trainer, equally fearless.
And then, without warning, there was a flurry of movement from above. Kenta threw himself in front of his Hinoarashi as a teenage boy dropped down from the roof of the shop, landing on his feet with a loud THUD atop the trash receptacle, then leaping nimbly onto the pavement. His dark red hair hung over his face, obscuring one eye, and his long black shirt looked dirty. His boots were scuffed up.
“I think that’s him!” Marina said, peering around the corner.
“Are you sure?” Kasumi asked in a whisper. Togepi had fallen asleep in her arms.
“Well, no,” Marina added weakly, “but he’s got long dark hair and everything…”
The boy tossed his hair defiantly, futilely trying to remove it from his line of vision. “What do you want?” he snapped. His voice was much deeper than Kenta’s; he looked to be in his mid teens.
“Funny sort of place to be hanging out, isn’t it?” Kenta asked. “The roof of a fish shop…”
“I hang out down here a lot,” the boy scoffed. “What business is it of yours?”
Kenta’s eyes narrowed. “Live around here?”
“Maybe,” the boy said, his voice low and dangerous.
“Utsugi-hakase’s lab got broken into a few hours ago. Know anything about it?”
The boy hesitated for a split second before answering. “Not a thing. Sorry to hear about it, though.”
“I’ll bet you are,” Kenta snarled. Hinoarashi’s back arched, and flames shot up from its fur. It was clearly ready for a fight.
“You know, the worthless bit of scum who broke into Utsugi’s lab stole a Pokémon. It was a Waninoko, I believe.” Kenta’s eyes darted to the red-haired boy’s waist. One Monster Ball was clipped to his belt. “You’ve got a Pokémon. Wanna battle?”
The boy scowled. “I don’t waste my time fighting battles against opponents I know aren’t going to win against me.”
“Oh, wanna sit down for a second?” Kenta jeered. “That’s a long sentence and you’re probably tired.”
The boy’s eyes flashed. In the blink of an eye, he threw his Monster Ball down in front of him. A Pokémon appeared before him in a burst of white light – it resembled a tiny blue alligator.
Kenta’s face flushed with anger. “So it was you, wasn’t it? You broke into the lab, you stole that Waninoko, you kidnapped an innocent Pokémon!”
“I told you, I don’t know what you’re talking about!” the boy growled. “This Waninoko’s been mine for years. He’s my most loyal companion!”
“Oh yeah?” Kenta shot back. “So you’re a liar and a thief, eh?”
At these words, Satoshi and the others came running around the corner.
“Stop!” Satoshi shouted. “We don’t know if that’s really him!”
“Of course it’s him!” Kenta said. “He matches the description, he’s got a Waninoko!”
“True,” Takeshi said, “but it’s all just circumstantial evidence at this point. If we go back to Utsugi-hakase, he’d be able to tell us for sure if this Waninoko is his…”
“Who are you idiots?” the red-haired boy snapped.
Kasumi frowned irritably at the boy. “We’re a group of very concerned trainers who want to find out who took that Waninoko! So if you’re willing to cooperate – ”
The rest of her words were drowned out as the boy suddenly bellowed “Waninoko, Bite!” Waninoko leapt forward and tried to snap its jaws on Kenta’s ankle. Lightning quick, Kenta somersaulted out of harm’s way and screamed “Hinoarashi, Spark!”
Hinoarashi sprung into the air and belched tiny balls of flame as the fire on its back roared higher. The boy dodged them swiftly as they evaporated into steam on the puddle-soaked pavement.
“Water Gun!” the boy shouted. A high-pressure stream of water burst from Waninoko’s mouth, knocking Hinoarashi into Marina’s outstretched hands. Chikorita hurtled forth at Marina’s cry of “Leaf Cutter!” and swung the leaf on its head rapidly, sending a barrage of tiny leaves flying at Waninoko and the boy. They scratched the boy’s shirt, leaving deep cuts in the fabric.
“Don’t hurt Waninoko!” Kenta yelled above the sounds of the battle. “But stop that thief if you can!”
Pikachu leapt into the fray, his cheeks sparking wildly, as Satoshi unhooked two Monster Balls from his own belt. “Fushigidane, Zenigame, I choose you!” In a flash, the two Pokémon appeared, ready to fight. Pikachu jumped onto the boy’s head and prepared to unleash a 100,000 Volts attack, but the boy grabbed him with one hand and threw him off savagely. Landing in a cardboard box, Pikachu’s 100,000 Volts shot everywhere as the trainers ducked for cover.
Kasumi clutched the slumbering Togepi closely to her chest as she reached into her bag with her free hand and heaved out a Monster Ball. “Starmie, Suspicious Light!”
“Oh, come on!” Kasumi groaned, as Koduck cocked its head to one side, unsure of what to do.
Fushigidane shot a stinging Vine Whip attack at the boy; it missed and shattered a wooden crate into splinters. Zenigame leapt into the air, tucked his head and limbs into his shell, and began spinning rapidly in a Hydro Pump attack, spraying the walls of the alley with water. Both Waninoko and its trainer were pelted with jets and knocked backwards into the front of the trash receptacle.
“Go, Ishitsubute!” Takeshi yelled. Another burst of white light, and the Rock Pokémon appeared and lunged at Waninoko, attempting to grab it. Waninoko jumped, leaped off of Ishitsubute’s head, and kicked Kenta in the face. Furiously, Hinoarashi tackled Waninoko in the gut, eager to defend his trainer. Pikachu jumped from crate to crate, trying to get a good shot at the red-haired boy. Fushigidane and Zenigame both dived to grab Waninoko but collided into a tower of boxes instead. Chikorita spun its leaf, blindly sending more Leaf Cutter attacks everywhere as the trainers dodged and weaved to avoid them. Koduck stood obliviously in the middle of the brawl, its hands on its head.
Waninoko bounded into the boy’s arms, and before anyone could notice what he was doing, the boy pulled a small black ball from his pocket and hurled it onto the ground. Thick black smoke flooded the alleyway, and the trainers erupted in a chorus of coughing. When the smoke finally cleared, the boy and the Waninoko were gone.
“Where are they?” Kenta demanded, spinning wildly on the spot. “Where are they?”
Marina put a hand on her friend’s shoulder. “They’re gone, Kenta. But we did the best we could…”
Kenta looked heartbroken. But while Satoshi was concerned for the Waninoko’s well-being too, he couldn’t help thinking of something else. There were only two other people he’d ever known to use smoke traps like that before – and they weren’t exactly model citizens.
Soaking, sore, and beaten, the five trainers returned to Utsugi-hakase’s lab with the bad news. Utsugi looked downtrodden when they broke it to him. “Such a shame,” he sighed. “That poor Waninoko, lost to a thief…and from what you say, he’s not much of a clean fighter either.”
“If I ever run into him again,” Kenta snarled, “he’ll pay for what he’s done…”
Marina put an arm around Kenta. “Don’t get so worked up over it, Kenta. I care just as much about Waninoko as you do, but don’t forget, the police are looking for that thief too. And they’ll find him, and bring him in, and that Waninoko will be rescued.”
Kenta looked at his friend with a mix of regret and hope.
Utsugi suddenly clapped his hands together. “Well, we can’t dwell on tragedy forever. I think there’s a few trainers here who need their Pokémon Zukans!”
Satoshi remembered suddenly.
“Uh, Utsugi-hakase,” he said, “I need to update my Zukan too. I’ve still got the Kanto model…”
“Ah, not a problem,” Utsugi replied, and from a drawer on his desk he produced three small handheld computers. Handing one each to Kenta, Marina, and Satoshi, he added “These contain information on all the Pokémon you’ll find in both the Kanto and Jouto regions. Everything you’d ever want to know is in here!”
Curious to try out his new gadget, Satoshi pointed the Jouto Zukan at Togepi as it slumbered in Kasumi’s arms. For the first time, he got a complete entry on her.
“Togepi, the Spike Ball Pokémon. The shell seems to be filled with joy. It is said that it will share good luck when treated kindly. A proverb claims that happiness will come to anyone who can make a sleeping Togepi stand up.”
“I didn’t know that,” Kasumi mused, looking curiously at her peacefully sleeping Pokémon.
After receiving their Monster Balls, Kenta and Marina were ready to set off on their journey properly. Satoshi, Kasumi, and Takeshi accompanied them to the outskirts of Wakaba Town, where they went their separate ways upon reaching Route 29.
“Thanks again for helping us out,” Kenta said. “Maybe we’ll bump into each other again, eh?”
“With any luck, we will,” Satoshi said, smiling at Togepi. She was still fast asleep, and Pikachu was trying diligently to make her stand upright on the ground.
And thus, the two groups said their goodbyes, ready to explore the vast region that stretched out before them.
* * * *
Night had fallen. The red-haired boy huddled in the darkness on the western border of town. He had to act quickly, lest somebody uncover his position. He pulled back the sleeve of his left arm to reveal a metallic watch, set with a tiny audio speaker in the face. Pressing a button on the side, he spoke softly.
“Silver to base. Come in.”
Static crackled briefly over the speaker. Then came a man’s voice, significantly distorted.
“Base here. Status report, Silver.”
He patted the Monster Ball on his belt. A cold, mirthless smile crossed his face. “Current location, Wakaba Town. Have completed the first stage of my mission. The cops were after me for a while, but I managed to give them the slip. Awaiting further orders. Over.”
The voice spoke again. “Excellent, Silver, excellent. Stand by for your next instructions.”
The boy named Silver squinted menacingly at the forest beyond the houses, at the route outside the edge of town, at the whole Jouto region that lay before him at his feet. If he played his hand correctly, it would all soon be his for the taking.
Re: Jouto Redux
I really enjoy writing for Musashi and Kojirou, so I had a lot of fun with this chapter.
Musashi and Kojirou’s New Assignment
Hanako sat comfortably in her favorite chair, reading the day’s news. Barrierd was in the kitchen, unloading the dishwasher. It was a very pleasant morning, though Hanako did find it was a lot quieter now that her little boy was off on another adventure. Of course, Satoshi wasn’t truly a little boy anymore – hard to believe he’d be an honest-to-goodness teenager next April! Hanako missed him, of course, but she knew that the life of a Pokémon trainer was a busy one. And she was so proud of her son, all the things he’d accomplished, all the Pokémon he’d befriended…
The chiming of the doorbell interrupted Hanako’s thoughts. “Now, who could that be?” she said aloud as she crossed to the front door. She wasn’t expecting anyone.
On the opposite side of the threshold stood two figures. The young woman had a dark suit, glasses, and long pink hair that swooped straight out behind her head like a comet; judging by her microphone, she was obviously a news reporter. Her cameraman stood behind her, his shoulder-length blue hair tucked beneath a backwards baseball cap, struggling slightly with a heavy camera on his shoulder.
“Good morning, ma’am!” the reporter said brightly. “We’re from the Kanto News Network! We’ve heard all about the exploits of your son Satoshi and how he won the Orange League trophy, and we’d like to conduct an exclusive interview with him!”
Hanako’s face lit up. “Oh, that’s so nice of you! But I’m afraid Satoshi isn’t staying here anymore.”
“WHAT— ” the reporter shrieked briefly, before composing herself. “Um, really?”
Hanako nodded. “Yes, he left for the Jouto region just yesterday morning. But if you’re looking for an interview, I can tell you all about my little Satoshi – I am his mother, after all!”
The reporter seemed significantly less eager now. Her cameraman continued to wrestle with his camera, fighting to keep it balanced on his shoulder. “Uh, no, that’s okay,” the reporter stammered, “we, uh, we wouldn’t want to trouble you…”
“Oh, it’s no trouble at all!” Hanako chirped, putting her arm around the reporter’s shoulder and gesturing her inside. “Come on in and take your shoes off! Barrierd will fix us all some tea!”
And within seconds they were all seated around the chabudai in the living room, as Barrierd brought in a tray of tea and Hanako wove the reporter and her cameraman the tale of her 12-year-old son’s life story. The reporter rested her head in her hand and occasionally punctuated Hanako’s anecdotes with things like “Gosh, how fascinating,” and “Wow, you don’t say.”
* * * *
Close to an hour later, they finally managed to pry their way out of Hanako’s house, laden down with a basket full of onigiri that Hanako had insisted they bring back “to all their friends and coworkers at the TV station.” Once they were into the woods and back at the clearing where they’d parked their hot air balloon, they began ripping off their disguises.
“Jouto!” Musashi exclaimed, tossing her glasses over her shoulder; they shattered against a tree trunk. “We should have known that little jari-boy wouldn’t want to stay put once he finished with the Orange League!”
Kojirou clicked the latch on the hollowed-out camera, and Nyasu tumbled out in a heap, gasping like mad. “Would it kill you to put some air holes in there next time-nya?” the cat Pokémon gagged.
“Sorry,” Kojirou muttered as he wrenched his t-shirt over his head. “I didn’t expect you to be in there so long…”
Musashi reached into the balloon’s basket and pulled out the mass of white and gray clothing that was her and Kojirou’s Rocket-dan uniforms. She tossed Kojirou’s uniform to him as she threw her dark blazer off. “Well, you know what this means, don’t you?” she said, unbuttoning her blouse and turning away from her male coworkers. “We’ve got to head west if we’re going to get that Pikachu! Have either of you ever been to the Jouto region before?”
Kojirou ducked behind a tree as he changed his pants. “Just once, with my parents when I was about five,” he said in a small voice. He was always a little self-conscious about discussing his wealthy upbringing with Musashi, who had grown up virtually penniless and without any proper parents. “We went on vacation to Alto Mare, just outside Asagi City. We went on a gondola and I fell off the boat.”
“You would-nya,” Nyasu chuckled, helping himself to one of the onigiri in the basket.
Musashi concealed herself behind a bush as she pried her high heels off and prepared to change her skirt. “Then we’re going to have to pick up a field guide if we want to know our way around. If I know jari-boy, he’ll want to do the gym challenge, so if we stick to towns with gyms, we should find him before long.” Pulling her gray spandex undershirt over her head, she thought of something. “Hey, does the boss control Rocket-dan operations in Jouto too, or just in Kanto?”
“He runs the whole thing, I think,” said Kojirou from behind his tree as he pulled his own undershirt on. “But I hear there’s senior officers over there who act like his second-in-command. They’re the bosses of all the Rockets there, but they get their orders from him.”
“All right,” Musashi said, slipping on her thigh-high boots, “let’s load up on supplies and then head out. We’ll update the boss on the way there.”
“Exciting, isn’t it-nya?” Nyasu said, devouring another rice ball. “Every time the jari-boy goes on another adventure, we do too!”
Kojirou stepped out from behind the tree, straightening his white shirt emblazoned with its red R. “Only he seems to come out of it a lot better than we do, I’d say.”
“None of that sorry self-pity, Kojirou!” Musashi barked as she emerged from the bushes, pulling on her gloves. “That’s not the Rocket-dan way! We have to think positive, remember?”
Kojirou grinned impishly at these words of encouragement. “You’re right, Musashi!” he crowed, and he snatched an onigiri out of Nyasu’s paw, hoisting it aloft as if in a toast. “To the lovely-charmy criminals!”
Nyasu, unaware that his onigiri was gone, bit down on his own paw. A split second later, he had shot nearly ten feet in the air, yowling in pain.
“What did he do that for?” Musashi asked quizzically.
“I’unno,” Kojirou mumbled, mouth full of rice.
Within hours, the three Rocket agents were on their way to Jouto. Low on money again, they had been forced to abscond with a case of instant ramen noodles from the back of a convenience store when nobody was looking, and Musashi had designated it as their rations for the next week. Once they were all in the air again, Kojirou booted up their antiquated laptop and switched on the camera at the top of the screen.
Sakaki’s office flickered into view. As usual, Sakaki sat importantly in his large wingback chair, partially obscured in shadow and stroking his softly purring Persian. It was always hard to tell with Sakaki, but from what Kojirou could discern, he seemed to be in a good mood today.
“Kojirou, Musashi, and Nyasu contacting Rocket-dan boss Sakaki!” Kojirou said clearly into the computer’s microphone. “Come in, boss!”
Sakaki leaned forward, and his eyes narrowed. “Sakaki here. What do you want?”
Musashi knelt down next to Kojirou, a broad smile on her face. It was rare that they ever had good news to deliver to their boss, but when they did, she liked to be there to provide it.
“Just wanted to present you with our latest status report, oh beloved leader!” she said merrily. “We’ve received our latest tip to the whereabouts of Satoshi and his Pikachu, and we’re hot on his trail, heading straight for the Jouto region!”
She put her arm around Kojirou and beamed, awaiting the praise that would doubtlessly follow this positive update. Sakaki blinked.
“And who is Satoshi?”
Musashi faltered slightly at her boss’ words. “You know,” she continued, “Satoshi! I don’t know his last name, but he’s that kid with the Pikachu! The trainer we’ve been following for…for the, uh…last…um, year and a half…”
As she said this, a horrible sick swoop of realization blazed through her entire body. She, Kojirou, and Nyasu had never actually received authorization from Sakaki to pursue Satoshi and Pikachu all across the Kanto region; they had done it out of personal spite. They’d become so fanatically wrapped up in their vendetta against the tiny Electric Pokémon that they’d completely forgotten what they’d been originally assigned to do. And this was the first time they’d ever mentioned it to Sakaki.
Sweat began to form on Musashi and Kojirou’s backs as they saw their boss’ reaction on the tiny 12-inch screen. Sakaki’s face had turned an ugly blotchy pink, and there was a vein pulsing in his forehead.
“Do you mean to tell me,” he hissed dangerously, “that I’ve been sending you three numbskulls an endless supply of Rocket-dan funding for the past eighteen months, and you’ve squandered it all running around the Kanto region chasing after some kid and his Pikachu?”
Nyasu, who had been about to speak, shrunk backwards into the corner of the hot air balloon basket. Even through his fur, he looked very pale.
“Uh, well,” Kojirou stammered, trying desperately to think of a positive spin to put on this, “you see, it’s a very strong Pikachu…”
“I DON’T WANT ANY EXCUSES!” Sakaki exploded, and all three agents flinched as his voice hit them like a punch to the gut. His rage pushed the limit of their laptop’s speakers. “You’re capturers, not free agents! You’re supposed to be scouring the Kanto region for rare and exotic Pokémon to steal, as I assigned you to do! You do NOT target individual trainers unless I command you to! That was explicitly stated in your training! The idea is to keep civilians from identifying you! How many times has this Satoshi come face to face with you three?”
Musashi gulped. She couldn’t be certain, but she knew it was a lot. “Um,” she began, “a c-couple of times, I guess…”
Sakaki pounded his desk with both fists, with such force that his image on the screen flickered briefly and his Persian darted out of frame in fear. “YOU IMBECILES!” he screamed. “DO YOU REALIZE WHAT THIS COULD DO TO THE ROCKET ORGANIZATION? IF THE POLICE GET YOUR DESCRIPTIONS, THEY CAN TRACK YOU! THEY CAN LINK YOU TO THE ROCKET-DAN AND TAKE DOWN ALL OF US! YOU’VE JEOPARDIZED THIS ENTIRE OPERATION! GIVE ME ONE GOOD REASON WHY I SHOULDN’T FIRE YOU RIGHT HERE AND NOW!”
Simultaneously, Musashi and Kojirou burst into tears.
“Please, boss, please forgive us!” Musashi sobbed. “It won’t happen again, we swear it! Just give us one more chance, that’s all we want! Just one more chance, please?”
She sniffled and tried to wipe the tears from her reddened eyes. She knew this pathetic plea-bargaining was worthless – they’d screwed up royal, they’d deliberately disobeyed orders for more than a full year. This was too much for Sakaki to forgive. They’d be terminated for sure. Musashi’s mind began racing – Kojirou could always return to his family, but where would she go? She’d have to eke out her own living again, back on the street, like Nyasu had been. Perhaps she could rejoin the biker gang…
Sakaki breathed hard through his nose, still fuming. After a few seconds, though, he seemed to be regaining his composure. He sat back in his chair, his eyes closed, apparently thinking hard about something. Musashi and Kojirou watched his digitized image with bated breath, awaiting his decision. Nyasu was shivering in the corner, his paws over his face in fear.
“Very well,” he finally said, though he seemed to be saying it with great difficulty. “I’m not going to terminate you.”
Musashi’s face lit up like a Christmas tree. Kojirou just sat there, his face a mixture of astonishment and relieved jubilation. Nyasu actually leapt into the air and cheered.
“Oh, thank you! Thank you, sir!” Musashi said, now weeping tears of joy. “You won’t regret this, I promise – ”
Sakaki raised a hand to silence his agents. “Don’t,” he said in a testy voice, “think that I’m pleased with what you’ve done. You must understand, all three of you, that you’re on extremely thin ice right now. One more blunder from you, just one more, and you will be dismissed. Do I make myself plain?”
Musashi and Kojirou nodded furiously, and Nyasu finally managed the courage to say something. “Don’t worry about a thing, boss! I’ll keep an eye on these two and make sure they follow orders-nya!”
Sakaki massaged his temples as if he were trying to rid himself of a bad headache. “Now, listen closely,” he growled. “I want you to continue to the Jouto region. I’m relocating you to Yoshino City. There’s a Rocket-dan hideout there; I’ll send you the coordinates shortly. Go there and receive your new assignment. And do not, under any circumstances, deviate from it. Understood?”
Musashi, Kojirou, and Nyasu all gave the Rocket-dan salute in unison. “Understood, sir!” they chorused.
“All right then,” he snapped. “Stand by for your coordinates. Sakaki out.”
And with that, the video screen flickered to black.
Kojirou flopped back against the edge of the basket and let out a long, low sigh. “I can’t believe we got out of that!” he said. “I thought for sure we were as good as dead!”
“If you think about it, we really should have been fired,” Musashi added, still wiping tears from her eyes. “We did a huge disservice to the name of the Rocket-dan. I wonder what made him change his mind?”
“Maybe he likes us-nya,” Nyasu mused. “Maybe he realizes we’re sorry and he values that in his agents! For all we know, we could be in line for a promotion-nya!”
“If we stick to our orders this time, I’m sure we will be!” Kojirou said, regaining his confidence again. “Let’s prove to the boss that we don’t make the same mistake twice! We’re gonna take the Jouto region by storm!”
Musashi leapt to her feet and ran to the side of the basket that faced west. “You hear that, Jouto region?” she shouted to the sky. “You better get ready, ‘cause we’re coming for you! The white tomorrow awaits for Musashi, Kojirou, and Nyasu!”
* * * *
Sakaki leaned back in his chair, his eyes closed tightly, his fingers tented in front of his mouth. The video communicator retreated into his desk. His Persian slunk back to his side, rubbing affectionately against his leg.
One of his aides stood in the corner of the room. He had witnessed the entire conversation between his boss and the three disobedient agents.
“With all due respect, sir,” the aide said softly, “why did you delegate them to the Jouto operatives? Why didn’t you fire them?”
Sakaki’s eyes darted briefly to the top right drawer of his desk.
“My reasons are my own,” he said simply.
Re: Jouto Redux
The episode where Satoshi catches Heracross obviously is not a filler, but it sure feels like one - about 50% of it is just the characters standing around looking. I tried to fix that by making it a little more exciting...
Kasumi sat between the trees, her brow furrowed. Togepi played cheerfully in the brightly colored leaves that littered the ground, tossing them to and fro as she rolled around, blissfully unaware of the scrutiny her mother was subjecting her to.
“Come on, Togepi,” Kasumi finally muttered aloud. “You have to be able to do something…”
But unfortunately, that seemed not to be the case. Ever since provoking a Metronome attack out of Togepi two months ago, Kasumi had been unable to replicate the result, let alone draw out any other attacks from her little baby Pokémon. She had begun to suspect that the Metronome she’d witnessed had been a fluke.
Of course, she loved Togepi all the same, but still, it was a little disheartening to think that she’d had her for almost a full year now and couldn’t get her to use any attacks. What did that say about her abilities as a trainer? She was already having enough trouble keeping Koduck under control. She’d never inherit the Hanada City Gym at this rate. If her sisters had been there to see her crouched in the woods of Route 29, desperately trying to think of something useful her baby Pokémon could do, she was sure they’d never let her hear the end of it.
As Kasumi let her mind wander into the recesses of fear and anxiety that she kept trying to shake off, a sound caught her attention. Something was rustling through the bushes to her right.
Immediately, Kasumi’s muscles tensed, and cold sweat began to form on her back. There was only one thing she feared worse than the thought of being a poor trainer, and she had the terrifying suspicion that there was one lurking in the bush next to her.
She slowly began to back away, trying not to make any sudden movements. Her mind was racing, envisioning a slimy Beedle or a scratchy Konpan crawling up her leg – or worse, an irate swarm of Spear bursting out of the trees, their stingers glistening.
But the thing that emerged was something she’d never seen before. It was worse – much worse – than she could have imagined. Larger than a Spear, or indeed any Bug Pokémon she’d ever witnessed, it stood crouched on its hind legs, a massive blue horn protruding from between its eyes like a brandished weapon. Its shiny arms ended in two clawed fingers. A pair of translucent wings buzzed noisily on its back.
Kasumi looked into its eyes. Then she started screaming.
* * * *
Satoshi and Takeshi tore through the trees at full speed, Pikachu bounding along behind them. They had heard Kasumi’s scream from their campsite. Satoshi couldn’t help fearing the worst about his friend – what if the Rocket-dan had attacked her?
The two trainers burst into a clearing. Kasumi was huddled against a tree trunk, clutching Togepi in her arms and looking panic-stricken. She was shaking all over.
“What?” Satoshi cried. “What happened? Did someone attack you?”
Kasumi raised a trembling arm and pointed in the direction of the bushes. “Th-there!” she stammered. “Over there! It was all shiny, and buzzing, and… and…”
Takeshi actually laughed. “Oh come on, Kasumi! Another bug? I keep telling you, they’re harmless!”
Kasumi’s eyes flashed. “Don’t laugh!” she snapped. “You didn’t see this one! It was huge!”
Satoshi strode confidently into the bushes, Pikachu at his side. “Huge, eh?” he chuckled. “I’ll be the judge of that. Come out, little bug! Stop scaring Kasumi!”
But Satoshi stopped dead in his tracks when he saw it. Kasumi hadn’t been exaggerating after all – it really was huge, at least as tall as he was, if not taller. It was clawing its way up a large splintery-looking tree that was leaking sap from several places on its trunk.
“Whoa,” Satoshi breathed. “What the heck is that?”
Instinctively, he pulled out his new Pokémon Zukan and flipped it open.
“Heracross, the Single Horn Pokémon. This powerful insect thrusts its prized horn under its enemies’ bellies, then lifts and throws them. It is usually docile, but if it is disturbed while sipping honey, it chases off the intruder with its horn.”
Takeshi strode up behind Satoshi, his arm around the reluctant and still shuddering Kasumi. “Wow, you weren’t kidding,” he muttered. “That is a big one…”
“Yep, I told you,” Kasumi said quickly, in a higher tone of voice than usual. “Big, shiny, scary-looking, let’s go back to the campsite now, shall we?”
She turned to leave, but Takeshi clutched her arm. “Kasumi, it’s not gonna hurt you!” he said reassuringly. “Besides, I’d like to study this thing. I’ve never seen one before.” He watched intently as the Heracross moved up the tree, using its claws to cling snugly to the trunk.
Satoshi had no interest in studying it, however. He unhooked an empty Monster Ball from his belt and expanded it. “You know,” he said, “I have been looking to catch my first Jouto Pokémon…”
The color drained from Kasumi’s face. “Are you nuts?” she shrieked. “You want to catch that thing?”
Heracross turned to face the three trainers. The piercing squeak of Kasumi’s outcry had caught its attention. Its wings buzzed again, and it leapt off the tree and onto the ground with a shockingly loud thud that made the tree branches quiver.
“Uh-oh,” Takeshi gulped.
The Heracross began to charge. Satoshi threw out his arms to protect his friends and shouted “Pikachu, 100,000 Volts!”
Pikachu bounded forward as sparks flew from his cheeks, growing larger by the second. But before he could unleash the attack, Heracross lunged and threw its long horn underneath Pikachu’s body. Satoshi barely had time to shout “No!” before Heracross had heaved Pikachu nearly twenty feet skyward, sailing high above the treetops. The 100,000 Volts attack exploded in midair, carving lightning bolts across the sky.
Satoshi darted through the trees, his arms outstretched, and dived just in time to catch Pikachu as he plummeted back to earth. They rolled and landed in a pricker bush. Satoshi gingerly got to his feet, his face covered in scratches, Pikachu still clutched tightly in his arms.
“Right,” he said, a little shaken. “Obviously I need somebody heavier.”
Takeshi and Kasumi burst back into the clearing as Heracross buzzed behind them. Kasumi was shrieking at the top of her lungs again. Swiftly, Satoshi unhooked another Monster Ball from his belt and bellowed “Lizardon, I choose you!”
In a flash of white light, Satoshi’s powerhouse Lizardon appeared. Thudding to the ground, it flexed its leathery wings and swung its flaming tail, clearly ready for a fight. Heracross skidded to a stop as it laid eyes on the huge orange beast that had just materialized before it.
“Lizardon!” Satoshi shouted. “Flamethrower!”
With an almighty bellow, Lizardon reared back and breathed a massive stream of flames. But Heracross was too quick, and leapt into the air a split-second before the fire scorched the earth. Flying around to the back of Lizardon, Heracross wrenched its horn between the giant lizard’s legs, then hoisted it off the ground. Straining slightly, it hurled the bewildered Fire Pokémon into a nearby tree, which nearly uprooted from the impact.
Satoshi witnessed this spectacle in abject disbelief. “Whoa,” he gasped as he recalled his dazed Lizardon back to its Monster Ball. His strongest Pokémon still wasn’t a match for this thing. Scrambling around for a new strategy, he decided he’d need to attack the speedy Heracross before it could attack him.
“Zenigame, go!” he shouted, throwing out another Monster Ball. “Rocket Headbutt!”
Another flash, and Zenigame burst out of his ball, shooting headfirst straight for Heracross’ chest like a heat-seeking missile. The impact came with a loud clunk that sounded like a coconut.
The tiny turtle Pokémon landed backwards on his shell, clutching his head in pain. For all the damage the attack had done to Heracross, Satoshi might as well have thrown a stick at it.
Takeshi ran a hand through his hair in amazement. “Its exoskeleton is too strong!” he marveled. “There’s gotta be something you can do to this thing!”
“I liked running,” Kasumi squeaked, “why don’t we keep doing that?”
Recalling Zenigame, Satoshi looked down at the Monster Ball containing his only other available Pokémon. It was his last chance to catch this Heracross, but it was definitely worth a try.
“Go, Fushigidane!” Satoshi called as he heaved the ball forward. The loyal plant-frog landed on the grass, looking sternly up at his massive opponent. Heracross eyed the tiny Pokémon curiously.
This time, Satoshi thought, let’s go on the defensive first.
“Fushigidane,” he yelled, “let’s slow this guy down a bit! Sweet Scent!”
A burst of pink pheromones exploded from the bulb on Fushigidane’s back, wafting directly into Heracross’ face. The beetle-like Pokémon’s tongue flickered out as it tasted the air. Then, without warning, it lunged at Fushigidane and pinned him to the ground with both hands. Fushigidane squirmed and flailed, obviously in great discomfort, as Heracross stuck its tongue into the bulb and began merrily drinking the nectar straight from it.
Satoshi, Takeshi, and Kasumi all recoiled in revulsion. “Ew!” Kasumi squealed. “It’s eating him!”
But as Satoshi made a motion to recall Fushigidane, he realized something. Heracross’ expression was one of blissful indulgence as it attempted to extricate more nectar. It had forgotten all about the battle.
“He’s distracted now!” Satoshi exclaimed. “Pikachu, Charge!”
In the blink of an eye, Pikachu bolted at Heracross, who looked up from Fushigidane’s bulb just in time for the mouse Pokémon to nail him right between the eyes. The massive beetle stumbled backwards in shock.
“Now, for real this time!” Satoshi called, smiling. “100,000 Volts!”
Pikachu shot out a powerful thunderbolt that connected with Heracross’ horn. The Pokémon shook violently as the current surged through its body, then fell to the ground, still smoldering and clearly unconscious.
Satoshi knelt down next to Fushigidane, patting the Pokémon’s head. “You okay, buddy?”
Fushigidane got to his feet, clearly incensed at the indignity of the assault he’d just received. He snorted at the cataleptic Heracross and kicked a scuff of dust at it.
“All right,” Satoshi grinned as he produced an empty Monster Ball again, “time to add my first Jouto Pokémon to my team!”
“Oh no you don’t, Satoshi!” Kasumi screamed. “If you think I’m gonna tolerate being around that king-size bug on a daily basis –“
But it was too late. Satoshi had already thrown the Monster Ball, and it scooped up Heracross in a flash of red light. Kasumi watched with bated breath as the ball wriggled on the ground…and her heart sank when she saw it fall still.
Satoshi leaped into the air, whooping in celebration. “Yes!” he cheered, as Pikachu flashed a tiny V-for-victory sign. “I caught it! I caught a Heracross!”
Kasumi slumped backwards against a tree as Takeshi put a hand on her shoulder in a consoling sort of way. “Sorry, Kasumi,” he said, “but you really can’t control which Pokémon Satoshi captures and doesn’t capture. Besides, I’m sure Heracross isn’t going to attack you.”
“No, I guess not,” Kasumi groaned, her voice cracking. “He’s got Fushigidane for that, hasn’t he?”
Re: Jouto Redux
Okay, so here's the deal for me. I'm having legitimate trouble reading this, because, though I do know most of these Pokémon, I don't know the Japanese attack names for the most part. It ruins the immersion for me, since I have to stop reading and look up the attack on Bulbapedia.
This really doesn't have anything to do with the quality here, so don't take my statement that way. In fact, what I've read so far has been rather good. I'd just suggest that, for the readers' sake, you make a secondary version of the story, replacing the Japanese names with the English ones. You can still post both (say, have the original version in one spoiler tag, and the altered version in another spoiler tag), and it also makes the story more accessible. It should be quite simple to do, really. If you do that, you've definitely got me reading.
Re: Jouto Redux
Looks great so far--I will also second the "English" version alongside the original (while I do know some of the Japanese Pokemon and character names, but not enough to know who or what it is you mean every time)
I also like how you gave the gang new outfits--based on the picture in the banner, Ash looks great in the GSC hero's clothes.
I'm mainly intrigued in what you're planning to give Brock to do (unless I rushed over it in a hurry) and how you will handle the famed "Takeshi no Paradaisu" scene when you get that far.
Re: Jouto Redux
Looks interesting so far. It's nice to see someone use the Japanese names that isn't doing it just to inflate their own ego: you've pretty clearly watched the Japanese version. It's also nice to see some work that doesn't contain any shipping. I was worried from the few times that you've mentioned shipping on DA that you'd be struggling to make sure that there was no way we could read anything into anything. In fact, this fic has a very natural flow to all the characters. The battle could have been better but I don't that that's down to the use of Japanese names as much as you feeling the need to say all the names rather than describing what's happening. I can't really help you there. (My battles suck.)
This is more personal but I think that you could do with sticking less to the show. I've liked the differences you've made so far, especially the inclusion of Silver: not that I'm a huge Silver fan girl (in fact I mildly dislike him) but more how you put him into the story. I think I'll be able to judge better later though.
Re: Jouto Redux
As I suspected, time to work on this story has grown slim lately. But I've got Chapters 5 and 6 written already, so I've got a bit of a buffer zone to work with. Here's where I start giving Takeshi something to do, turning his love of women from a cheap running gag into a genuine story arc.
Shortly after returning to the campsite, Satoshi and his friends decided to pack up and move on. They hadn’t been there long, but Satoshi was eager to get to the nearest Pokémon Center and heal his newly captured Heracross.
“I want to get him going on training right away,” he said as he rolled up his sleeping bag. “The Zukan says he’s part Bug and part Fighting, and he can learn some really cool attacks.”
So the three trainers hit the road, continuing west towards Yoshino City. But they hadn’t been on the move for more than fifteen minutes when they came to a fork in the road. A sign before them pointed in two directions.
WEST – YOSHINO CITY – 2 KM
NORTH – ROUTE 46 – 0.5 KM
“Route 46?” Takeshi muttered, putting a hand to his chin. “You know, I hear there’s a small Pokémon farm up that way. Wanna check it out? Satoshi, I’m sure you’ll be able to heal Heracross there,” he added quickly, noticing the look on his friend’s face.
“Yeah, I guess,” Satoshi replied, though he clearly wasn’t all that fascinated. A Pokémon farm was much more the type of thing that Takeshi was interested in.
“Well, I don’t mind visiting a place like that,” Kasumi said, hoisting Togepi up higher in her arms. “Route 46 is all mountains, and I know we’re not gonna find any more freaky huge bugs up there.”
“Excellent!” Takeshi exclaimed, and before his compatriots could even react, he was striding swiftly up the road towards Route 46. “Come on!” he called over his shoulder. “I bet we can make it there within the hour!”
Satoshi and Kasumi exchanged confused glances before setting off after their friend. Sure, Takeshi was much more gung-ho about Pokémon breeding than they were, but his level of enthusiasm for this particular farm seemed a little more extreme than usual.
It wasn’t long before the three of them were traversing the valley of Route 46. As the trees thinned, Takeshi spotted the source of his curiosity – a small hut-like building surrounded by at least an acre’s worth of steel fence, in the shade of a large rocky hill. A faded hand-painted sign by the road read “Agate Fields Pokémon Farm – Gomazou and Donfan Raised Here”.
A young woman stood near the fence, clutching a long staff and using it to herd a small group of tiny blue elephant-like Pokémon together. Upon hearing her approaching visitors, she looked up.
“Good afternoon!” she called. “Welcome to Agate Fields! Come to pick out a Gomazou, have you?”
“Nope, just visiting,” Satoshi panted; he and Kasumi had been forced to walk quickly to keep up with Takeshi’s excited stride. Pikachu slumped against his trainer’s leg, out of breath.
Kasumi nudged Satoshi in the ribs. “Now we know why Takeshi was so eager to get here,” she whispered. “I don’t think the farm is what he wanted to check out.”
Sure enough, Takeshi was already in full swing, leaning casually on the fence as if he hadn’t just walked half a kilometer in twenty minutes. He ran a hand coolly through his hair as he flashed a wry smile at the young woman with the staff.
“Hi,” he purred. “Name’s Takeshi. You must be Hiiragi?”
The woman leaned on her staff, her necklace swinging freely across her chest. An amber-colored stone at the end of it glinted in the sunlight. “Yes, I am! Are you folks from around here?”
“No, I hail from Nibi City in the Kanto region,” Takeshi said smoothly. “But I saw that article about you in Better Breeding this past summer. I won’t lie, this place looks even lovelier in person.”
Satoshi and Kasumi rolled their eyes simultaneously. After spending three whole months with Kenji, they had almost forgotten how foolish Takeshi could look trying to impress a girl.
Hiiragi smiled as one of the tiny elephant Pokémon nuzzled her ankle. “Thanks,” she said brightly. “It’s not much, but I get a lot done around here. Would you folks like to come in and have a drink?”
“It’d be my pleasure,” Takeshi crooned, and he hopped the fence in one swift motion, landing on his feet directly in front of Hiiragi. “Lead the way!”
“Sure thing,” Hiiragi replied, “just as soon as I get these Gomazou back in their pasture.” Brandishing her staff again, she gently gestured the herd back into formation. “Up! Gee-up, now!”
Takeshi grinned, his hands in his pockets, as he bounced on the balls of his feet in a self-satisfied sort of way. Satoshi and Kasumi headed towards the front gate, looking resigned.
All four of them were gathered around the square kitchen table in Hiiragi’s tiny little cabin, Pikachu and Togepi seated on their trainers’ laps. A ceramic teapot sat in the center of the table, a few stray wisps of steam drifting from its spout. Hiiragi and Takeshi were deep in conversation as they drained the last of their tea.
“…My Gomazou are growing so fast. I’m mixing those yellow Apricorns into their food,” Hiiragi said, setting her teacup back on the table. “It gives them a natural boost to their stamina, which is great, because when they become Donfan, they can take the really big hits and still stay strong.”
Takeshi nodded as he sipped. “I’ve never used Apricorns before,” he replied. “They don’t grow much in the Kanto region, but I hear they’re good. I personally end up going to a lot of apothecaries, picking up roots and herbs, stuff like that. The trick is to find ones that taste good…”
Satoshi and Kasumi had remained mostly silent throughout this discussion, as neither of them knew nearly as much about Pokémon breeding. Indeed, Satoshi found himself glancing at his PokéGear to check the time with surprising frequency.
“You sound like you’ve put a lot of effort into your work,” Kasumi finally said, more to end her long stretch of not having said anything than out of a genuine urge to add to the conversation.
“Oh yes,” Hiiragi smiled, “Between feeding my Pokémon, keeping their pastures tidy, and working on my art…”
Takeshi’s face seemed to light up. “Art? You’re an artist too?”
“I am,” Hiiragi said, lifting the necklace off her neck. “I make jewelry, mostly, and I sell it out of my home. This was the first one I made. Donfan have a natural talent for sniffing out rare stones, and this piece of agate was found by the very first Donfan I ever raised.”
“Wow,” Takeshi smirked, “you’re just all kinds of talented, aren’t you?”
Kasumi turned to Satoshi and pretended to gag. Satoshi snorted into his teacup.
Hiiragi glanced out the window as she carried the teapot back to the stove. “Oh,” she breathed, “I need to get outside and feed my Pokémon one last time before the sun goes down.”
“I’ll give you a hand with that,” Takeshi said, leaping to his feet.
Hiiragi smiled again. “Thanks! You really are a devoted Pokémon breeder, Takeshi!”
“That’s not all he’s devoted to,” Satoshi mumbled under his breath, as Takeshi and Hiiragi left the kitchen.
* * * *
Takeshi was in the zone; he could feel it. Hiiragi was exactly his kind of woman: smart, beautiful, funny, beautiful, and as knowledgeable in the field of Pokémon breeding as he was, not to mention beautiful. He knelt down to assist her as she doled out large scoops of dry Pokémon food into a wide trough surrounded by hungry Gomazou.
“You’ve raised these guys really well,” he said sincerely. He couldn’t help but be impressed by any woman who could devote this much time and effort to raising almost a dozen Pokémon by herself.
“Yep,” Hiiragi sighed as she stood up, tossing the scoop into the large bucket by the back door, “they’re my babies. It always kinda pains me when someone comes along and adopts one. I grow so attached to them.”
Takeshi smiled. “Oh, I know how you feel. I’ve got the same kind of bond with my Pokémon. I’ve had my Iwark since I was a kid, and I don’t think I could ever bear to part ways with him…” He looked Hiiragi in the eyes. “I’m just compassionate, I guess.”
Hiiragi smiled back, in what Takeshi believed to be growing affection. I still got it, he thought to himself.
And then something nailed him hard in the back of the legs. Takeshi stumbled and fell face-first into the trough, spilling food all over the grass.
“Hey!” Hiiragi cried. “Gomazou, no! You know better than that!”
As Takeshi hoisted himself back up, he realized he’d just been headbutted in the legs by a particularly irate-looking Gomazou. It was surprisingly strong for such a small creature. It glared at Takeshi as if it didn’t trust him.
“Sorry about that,” Hiiragi said as she grabbed Takeshi under the arm and helped him to his feet. “I don’t know what made him attack you, he’s usually very docile.”
“It’s all right,” Takeshi muttered, “probably didn’t like me standing in the way of his food.” He dusted himself off, feeling the heat rising in his face. His forehead throbbed where it had struck the metal edge of the trough. His mind began racing as he tried to think of something to say or do that would distract Hiiragi from what just happened.
He glanced over his shoulder at the sun sinking slowly behind the mountain. “Nice view you got around here.”
“Sure is, isn’t it?” Hiiragi said admiringly, strolling across the pasture to the fence. “I don’t get to admire it much, I’m usually so busy.”
She came to rest on the fence, propping her head up on one hand. Takeshi slowly approached beside her. He snuck another glance at her. She was still admiring the mountain. Her free hand relaxed motionlessly on the fence.
Hold her hand, he thought. Go for it, man. She’s totally into you.
He began to raise his arm.
All the wind was knocked out of him as something humongous plowed into the small of his back. It felt like he’d just been hit by a truck. He slammed into the fence gut-first and crumpled to the ground, groaning in pain. Hiiragi gasped.
“Donfan! What on earth is the matter with you?”
Trembling, Takeshi looked up through the stars that were popping in his eyes. A massive gray Pokémon with a hide that resembled the treads of a tractor tire was staring him down, looking as if it wanted nothing more than to gore him on the end of one of its gleaming ivory tusks. It pawed the ground with its flat feet and snorted warningly through its trunk.
Instinctively, Takeshi reached for the Monster Balls on his belt, but Hiiragi put her hand on the Pokémon’s head. “No!” she said firmly. “You don’t do that! Not to people!” Then she turned to Takeshi, looking embarrassed. “I’m so sorry, I trained my Pokémon not to attack humans, but I really don’t know what’s gotten into them today… Are you all right?”
Takeshi gripped the fence and slowly got to his feet, one hand on his aching back. “I’ll be fine,” he coughed. “I just need to lay down for a while…”
“Well, I tell you what,” Hiiragi said, putting her arm around Takeshi and helping him back towards the cabin. “It’s getting late, so why don’t you and your friends just spend the night here? It’s the least I can do. I’ve got a guest room and everything.”
Takeshi glanced back at the Donfan, still snarling as if looking for another excuse to pound him.
“Yeah, thanks,” he rasped. “I think inside is a good place for me to be right now.”
The three trainers bedded down for the night in Hiiragi’s spare bedroom. She supplied them with all the amenities they needed – pillows, comforters, and even a bottle of Hyper Potion for Satoshi to finally heal his Heracross.
“So you’re pretty sweet on her, aren’t you?” Satoshi teased, pulling his blanket up to his chin as Pikachu curled up by his feet.
Takeshi put his hands behind his head and gazed up at the ceiling from his futon, smiling serenely despite the persistent dull ache in his back. “I don’t like to brag, but it’s obvious that she’s pretty much head over heels for me.”
Kasumi wrapped her sleeping Togepi in her little blanket and turned to face Takeshi. “Obvious? You mean you haven’t even asked her if she likes you? You’re just assuming?”
“Oh come on,” Takeshi said, “you saw the way she was chatting it up with me! She was all smiles, all perky and positive…you can’t tell me she wasn’t flirting with me.”
“That’s how she was to us, too,” Satoshi reminded him. “I think she’s just a naturally friendly person.”
Takeshi’s brow furrowed. “Well, what about when we were having tea? We talked about Pokémon breeding for almost an hour!”
“Yeah,” Kasumi reasoned, “because she lives alone on a Gomazou farm in the middle of the mountains. What else is she gonna talk about? I get the sense she doesn’t get out much. Heck, she doesn’t even own a television.”
A small pit began to form in Takeshi’s stomach, but he wrote it off immediately.
“Well, you’ll see,” Takeshi muttered as he rolled over to face the wall. “I’ll talk to her again in the morning, get her e-mail address…”
“She doesn’t have a computer either,” Satoshi mumbled from his pillow.
When the sun had barely risen, Takeshi found himself awake before either of his traveling companions. His slumber had been fitful, thanks to a combination of the pain in his back and the thoughts on his mind. He squinted through the cool morning light to the clock on the wall. It was just after 6:15.
He had to get up. Kasumi’s words had planted a small seed of doubt in his brain, and he wasn’t about to let it grow. He’d wait for Hiiragi to wake up and then strike up another conversation with her. He was almost certain that she liked him…
…Although, he reminded himself, he had assumed the same thing about Uchikido-hakase, hadn’t he?
Don’t think about that, he reminded himself as he threw off his blanket. That’s in the past now. You can move on from that. You’ve got to.
Takeshi slunk silently past Satoshi and Kasumi and crept out into the hall. He figured he’d wait in the living room until Hiiragi was awake. Or maybe he’d go to the kitchen and make breakfast. Surely she’d be impressed by such a random act of kindness…
But as Takeshi came down the stairs, he was surprised to see Hiiragi already in the living room. She was seated at a large table in the corner, her head bent low, apparently hard at work on something. She looked around as she heard Takeshi descend the steps.
“Morning, Takeshi!” she beamed. “I didn’t expect to see you up so early. Did you sleep all right? How’s your back feel?”
Takeshi was surprised to see her so chipper this early in the morning. “Um, yeah, it’s fine,” he said, drawing closer to the table. “What are you working on there?”
Hiiragi grinned. “Oh, just more of my jewelry. I’m almost done with this necklace, I’m really proud of how it’s turning out.”
Peering over her shoulder, Takeshi saw an extravagant string of agate stones, meticulously assembled in a beautiful necklace. A long rack at one end of the table held several more necklaces, as well as several bracelets and sets of earrings. A bunch of rings set with agate stones sat on the sill of the nearest window, and more agate of various sizes and shapes littered the table, alongside Hiiragi’s jewelry-making tools and a large roll of string.
“Wow,” Takeshi mused, “you’re really good at this…”
Hiiragi chuckled. “I should hope so, I’ve spent enough time on it. Every morning I’m up at the crack of dawn, working on my jewelry. I pour my heart and soul into this stuff.”
Takeshi could see it was true. Every item on the desk looked professional enough to be sold in a store.
“And it takes a lot of time, too,” she added. “All the precision that goes into just one piece…this necklace alone has taken me the better part of a week. And it’s not easy to find that time between raising a dozen Gomazou and a Donfan.”
She glanced out the window, looking contemplative. “But you know, it’s all worth it. My Pokémon keep me company, and I get to spend what little leisure time I have doing what I love most. I really couldn’t ask for more.”
And in an instant, Takeshi felt the bottom drop out of his stomach. A painful realization had hit him like that Donfan had yesterday. Hiiragi didn’t have any romantic interest in him. She already had everything she wanted. Between raising her Pokémon and crafting her jewelry, she had no time for a relationship.
Hiiragi stood up and stretched. “Well, as long as we’re both up, would you like some breakfast?”
Takeshi tried his best to sound casual. “Sure,” he replied. “That’d be great.”
By the time Satoshi and Kasumi had awoken and eaten, everyone was ready to get back on the road to Yoshino City. Hiiragi thanked them again for visiting as they packed up to leave.
“And sorry again for how my Pokémon acted yesterday,” she said to Takeshi as he hoisted his backpack onto his shoulder. “They’re very protective of me, I know, but I tried to tell them that they shouldn’t have headbutted you like that.”
Takeshi smiled weakly. “It’s okay, my back feels a lot better now.”
“Tell you what,” Hiiragi said, lifting something out of her pocket. “Why don’t you keep this, as my gift to you? Breeder to breeder?”
She placed the object in Takeshi’s hand. It was a small agate bracelet. Takeshi looked at it, unsure of what to think.
“Thanks,” he finally said. “It’s really pretty.”
“And Satoshi, Kasumi, I wouldn’t want you two to go away empty handed. Here!”
Hiiragi handed Satoshi a small ring and Kasumi a necklace.
“Ooh,” Kasumi cooed as she admired her gift. “It really is beautiful!”
“Very cool,” Satoshi said, turning his new ring over in his hands. “You’ve got a real talent here, Hiiragi. Keep it up!”
And so they bid their final goodbyes and headed south back to Route 29. Pikachu sat on Satoshi’s shoulder, watching the agate ring glint in the sunlight, while Togepi sat nestled in Kasumi’s arms and gleefully swung the necklace back and forth.
Takeshi put his bracelet in his pocket. He didn’t feel like looking at it right now.
“You feeling all right, Takeshi?” Satoshi asked carefully.
Takeshi sighed. “Yeah, I’ll be okay. Just made a classic bonehead mistake, that’s all.”
Kasumi frowned. “Oh, don’t call yourself a bonehead, Takeshi. So it didn’t work out, it’s not so bad. You just got your hopes up a little too high, that’s all. Don’t beat yourself up for it.”
“Yeah, man,” Satoshi added reassuringly. “Besides, there’s gotta be thousands of girls in the Jouto region who you haven’t met yet. I know you. You’ll get over her.”
Takeshi smiled at his friends, then looked up at the sky. Yes, he was sure he would get over her in time. He’d gotten over plenty of girls already in his life. But with the unwelcome memories of Uchikido-hakase still swirling around in his mind, invading his formerly unflappable sense of self-confidence, he felt more compelled than ever to find the one girl out there whom he wouldn’t need to get over.
Re: Jouto Redux
Aw, well done on fleshing out a filler character, and giving Brock's gaga moments a reason (finding a soulmate?)
Re: Jouto Redux
Chapter 6 ended up being shorter than I'd expected, but I figure it's better to have a short chapter than to pad it out with stuff I don't need.
The journey along the two and a half kilometers between Hiiragi’s farm and the border of Yoshino City dragged by slowly, as Satoshi insisted on stopping every few minutes and allowing his Heracross to battle wild Pokémon. Route 29 was populated largely by Poppo and Koratta, though Satoshi did have several run-ins with yet another species of Pokémon he’d never met before.
“Otachi,” the Zukan squawked, “the Scout Pokémon. A very cautious creature, it raises itself up using its tail to get a better view of its surroundings. If it spots an enemy, it cries loudly to warn its kind.”
At least three or four of them were poking their fluffy brown heads above the top of the tall grass, clearly balancing on their tails as the Zukan stated. Satoshi didn’t hesitate to engage in battle.
“Go, Heracross!” he shouted as his beetle-like companion appeared. “Horn Attack!”
The nearest Otachi flew through the air as Heracross charged the colony, flinging it aside like a balled-up tissue. The rest of them scampered, chattering loudly. None remained for Satoshi to attempt a capture.
“Oh well,” he shrugged, as Heracross buzzed back to him, “at least we’re getting in some good training, right?”
Heracross’ gossamer wings brushed Kasumi’s arm as it landed back on the dirt road. She whimpered, shuddering involuntarily and jostling Togepi awake in her arms.
“This thing creeps me out!” she blurted. “Can’t you at least train some of your other Pokémon for a while?”
Satoshi patted Heracross on the back. “Come on, Kasumi, Heracross loves the exercise. He’s a fighter! He doesn’t let anything slow him d-- ”
Heracross suddenly shot back into the air with such force that it knocked Satoshi to the ground. Propping himself up into a sitting position, he looked up to see that Heracross had landed on a nearby tree and was gleefully sucking sap out of the bark.
Takeshi crossed his arms and stared at the huge Bug Pokémon as it skittered further up the tree. “Looks like he’s got at least one vice to control.”
“He’s probably just hungry,” Satoshi reasoned, as Pikachu scampered up onto his shoulder. “All this training, I don’t doubt he worked up an appetite.”
“You mean like yesterday when he tried to eat Fushigidane?” Kasumi shot back.
Satoshi frowned. He didn’t want to admit it, but it did seem that Heracross was rather easily distracted. Surely, though, it wasn’t anything that couldn’t be cured through further training.
Dusk had begun to settle in by the time Satoshi and his friends had arrived in Yoshino City. It was a friendly, inviting place, abundant with trees – and as the sun continued to sink, Satoshi noticed many pairs of round red eyes peering at him from between the red and yellow leaves.
“What are these guys?” Satoshi asked, as a small brown bird-like Pokémon fluttered out into the darkening sky. He pointed his Zukan at it.
“Hoho, the Owl Pokémon. It always stands on one foot. It changes feet so fast, the movement can rarely be seen. It has a perfect sense of time; whatever happens, it keeps rhythm by precisely tilting its head.”
Kasumi bounced Togepi in her arms as two more Hoho flapped by overhead. “Sure are a lot of them around here.”
“They’re probably nocturnal,” Takeshi said reasonably. “I bet they’re just waking up to go out hunting for breakfast.”
Pikachu sat atop Satoshi’s head and eyed the Hoho cautiously. One swooped out of a nearby tree and came dangerously close to the three trainers. Pikachu glared menacingly at it, small sparks flying from his cheeks.
“Owls eat mice, don’t they?” Satoshi asked. “They better not get any ideas.”
The streetlights flickered to life as the sky turned from hazy orange to a deep indigo. Finally, the three trainers found what they were looking for – the Pokémon Center, its front façade lit up against the inky night. A large grove of trees lined the lot behind the building.
At least two dozen trainers populated the atrium, some deep in conversation about past battles or recent Pokémon trades, some seated in the dining area enjoying their dinner. The local Nurse Joi sat behind the front desk, assisted by a large pink Pokémon that somewhat resembled a Lucky, though Satoshi noted its fur was much frillier.
Joi beamed as the three trainers approached the desk. “Welcome to the Yoshino City Pokémon Center! How may we help you this evening?”
“Hi,” Satoshi responded, “one room for three, one night’s stay, and a basic rejuvenation for my Pokémon, please.” He placed four Monster Balls on the desk, as Pikachu scampered down his arm.
“Certainly!” Joi replied with a smile, turning to the pink Pokémon beside her. “Hapinas, please bring this young man’s Pokémon to the healing room.”
Hapinas cheerfully began placing the Monster Balls in a tray as Pikachu watched carefully.
“Hey, Satoshi,” Kasumi whispered, nudging her friend in the back. “Look who it is…”
Satoshi turned. A young trainer was sitting alone in the last booth of the dining area, poking absent-mindedly at a cold bowl of yakisoba in front of him as he glared out the window into the darkness. He wore a black traveling cloak with a hood pulled up over his head, but there was still no mistaking the spiky brown hair that poked out from under it.
Satoshi confidently strolled over to the dining area and rapped his knuckles smartly on Shigeru’s table, snapping his rival out of his reverie. Shigeru looked up and snorted as he lowered his hood.
“So, Satoshi. You took my suggestion to heart, I see.”
“Darn right I did!” Satoshi replied, crossing his arms in a defiant sort of way. “You didn’t think I could handle the Jouto region, did you?”
Shigeru poked his chopsticks at his slowly congealing dinner. “I never said you couldn’t. You’ve got a real bad habit of only hearing what you want to hear, Satoshi.” He paused, then added, “Surely you haven’t taken on any gym leaders yet, have you?”
Satoshi glared. “No, but I’m going to. And I’ve already caught my first Jouto-native Pokémon, and judging by his performance so far, he’s well on his way to being the next champion of my team!”
“What did you catch?” Shigeru asked, not sounding particularly interested in the answer.
“A Heracross!” Satoshi crowed. “And it’s a regular powerhouse, too. It took my entire team to bring him down!”
Much to Satoshi’s surprise, Shigeru snorted derisively again.
“Didn’t you do any research before you left Masara Town? The first gym in the Jouto region specializes in Flying Pokémon. Heracross is part Bug and part Fighting. Your ‘powerhouse’ has a double type disadvantage against Flying types.” He picked up a noodle and shoved it indifferently into his mouth. “Consider that fair warning.”
Satoshi shifted uncomfortably. He hated it when Shigeru did this, tried to cut him down and make him feel as if his accomplishments didn’t matter.
“How about you, huh?” Satoshi snapped. “You’ve been in the Jouto region four days. How many Pokémon have you caught?”
Satoshi thought he knew the answer to this already. Shigeru’s usual strategy consisted of capturing every Pokémon he laid eyes on. It had been one of his bragging points when he and Satoshi were training for the Indigo Plateau over the spring.
Shigeru turned to stare out the window. He seemed to be contemplating something.
“None,” he finally answered.
Satoshi couldn’t believe his ears. “None?” he repeated incredulously. “You haven’t caught any new Pokémon yet? You?” He gave a superior sort of chuckle; it was rare that he ever pulled ahead of Shigeru in anything. “I thought for sure you’d have at least five or six captures under your belt by now! But none? Really? Wow, I can’t believe you of all people would – ”
Shigeru suddenly leapt to his feet, grabbing his half-eaten yakisoba with one hand and balling the other into a fist. He looked angrier than Satoshi had ever seen him before.
“Did it ever occur to you,” he hissed, his face inches away from Satoshi’s, “that I might have other priorities beyond just capturing Pokémon?”
Shigeru turned on his heels, his traveling cloak swooshing behind him, as he hurled the remains of his dinner into the trash with a loud clatter and stormed up the stairs towards the trainers’ quarters, leaving Satoshi rooted speechlessly to the spot.
* * * *
“So what was Shigeru’s problem?” Kasumi asked between mouthfuls of tendama.
Satoshi slurped up another bite of udon. “Eh, I think I hit a nerve. Would you believe he hasn’t caught any new Pokémon yet? Him! Mr. Catch-First-Ask-Questions-Later!”
Takeshi stirred his oden-nabe, looking for an ingredient he hadn’t yet sampled. “And let me guess. You couldn’t resist taunting him about how you’ve caught a new Pokémon already and he hasn’t.”
“I didn’t taunt him!” Satoshi insisted, wiping a spot of broth off his lip. “I just, y’know, ribbed him a little…”
Kasumi frowned. “And you think that makes you the better man?”
“All right, look,” Satoshi said firmly, setting down his chopsticks. “Shigeru’s always gotten on my case about everything, you know that. It’s been that way ever since we were really little. He’s constantly gotten the better of me and then rubbed my nose in it. It’s not often that I get to gloat about anything to him.”
“You know, Satoshi,” Takeshi replied between bites, “just because you can gloat about something, it doesn’t necessarily mean you should.”
Kasumi nodded as she fed Togepi a small piece of carrot. “Put yourself in Shigeru’s shoes. He just lost at the Indigo Plateau a couple of months ago. He’s had the whole summer to dwell on that. Obviously, he’s going to be a little discouraged. It’s probably why he wanted to come to the Jouto region in the first place. Now, you don’t even know why he hasn’t been able to capture any Pokémon. Maybe he’s tried, and maybe he’s so self-conscious that he can’t concentrate enough to secure a catch anymore.”
Satoshi blinked in surprise. “You think so?”
“I have no idea,” Kasumi retorted, “I’m just guessing. But it’s still pretty unfair for you to ‘rib’ him, as you put it, when it’s clear that he’s having a hard time. That’s the same thing he used to do to you, isn’t it?”
Looking down into his bowl of noodles, Satoshi had to admit that Kasumi was right.
“Guess I ought to apologize, huh?” he muttered.
“It couldn’t hurt,” Takeshi said through a mouthful of potato.
After getting his Pokémon back from Nurse Joi, Satoshi and his friends retired to their room for the night. Satoshi had vowed to speak to Shigeru first thing in the morning and apologize to him. But as he lay there on his futon, Pikachu curled up at his feet, he found it nearly impossible to fall asleep. Not due to the impending apology, but because of the racket coming from the trees behind the Pokémon Center. It sounded like a chorus of low-pitched flutes, and Satoshi was pretty certain of what was causing the din.
Finally, around 1:30 in the morning, he couldn’t take it anymore. How Kasumi and Takeshi could sleep through this noise, he had no idea. He crawled out of his futon and opened the window. Sure enough, at least a dozen pairs of glowing red eyes blinked back at him from the tree outside. An entire flock of Hoho dwelled among the branches, hooting noisily to each other.
Satoshi was just about to try and shoo them away when he noticed something.
Down below in a clearing, a figure stood. Squinting through the darkness, Satoshi realized it was Shigeru. And what was more, his Eevee was beside him, and both were facing another familiar Pokémon hovering in the trees. Three steel bearings, lined with magnets for appendages – a Rarecoil. Satoshi figured it had to be Shigeru’s own; they most likely weren’t indigenous to this area.
Shigeru pointed at Rarecoil, and Eevee ran at it. Rarecoil shot a weak burst of electricity out of its magnets. It didn’t even touch Eevee, a surprisingly wimpy display for such a seemingly strong Pokémon.
Clearly, Shigeru was staging a mock battle between his own Pokémon, probably for training purposes. But why now, in the middle of the night? Why didn’t he wait for morning, when he could just battle another trainer? Surely, that’d be much easier.
Eevee ran headfirst into Rarecoil, knocking it into the trunk of the tree. The vibration was enough to send the flock of twittering Hoho flying. They took off in a flurry of leaves.
Shigeru looked up. Instinctively, Satoshi ducked out of sight before his rival could spot him. Somehow, he got the sense that Shigeru didn’t want to be seen right now.
When morning came, Satoshi and his friends dressed, washed, and packed up quickly. Satoshi still wanted to offer his apologies to Shigeru before they left. But he didn’t know which room Shigeru was staying in, and he hoped Nurse Joi could tell him.
He descended the stairs to the mostly deserted atrium, Pikachu by his side, and rang the bell at the desk for service. Nurse Joi emerged from the back room. “Good morning! How can I help you?”
“Yes, there’s a trainer named Shigeru who spent the night here last night. I was wondering, do you know which room he’s in?”
Joi’s brow furrowed in concentration as she consulted the computer in front of her. “Shigeru? Spiky brown hair, with a black traveling cloak?”
“Yes, that’s him!”
“I’m sorry,” she said, “he checked out about an hour ago.”
Satoshi looked around. There were only two trainers in the atrium, but Shigeru wasn’t among them. He was long gone.
“Oh,” he sighed. “Well, thanks anyway.”
Guilt welled up in his stomach. It was odd that he should feel sympathetic towards his rival, the one who’d teased him and belittled him all his life, but Shigeru clearly had something on his mind. He hadn’t been his usual smug self lately. And why had he been training his Pokémon in the middle of the night?
Kasumi and Takeshi came down the stairs, looking concerned. “Where’s Shigeru?” Kasumi asked as she swaddled Togepi in her little blanket.
“He left,” Satoshi muttered. “I don’t know where he went.”
“Well,” Takeshi said, “I’m sure you’ll see him again soon. He’s got to be going to all the same gyms you are, after all.”
The three trainers left the Pokémon Center and headed north to Route 30. The air was getting chillier as autumn continued to roll in, and as Satoshi pulled the collar of his new jacket up around his neck, he couldn’t help wondering where his rival was headed next…and whether or not he’d succeeded in catching any new Pokémon by now.
Re: Jouto Redux
Same here. I love the idea and I'm enjoying the story so far (I really like how you incorporated Jimmy, Marina and Silver!), but I do wish you'd post some kind of footnotes or something saying the character's and Pokemon's English names, since I do know some of the character's Japanese names (Satoshi is Ash, Shigeru is Gary, Kasumi is Misty, Takeshi is Brock...) but at the same time there were a number of parts where I had to pause and think "Wait...who or what is that?" and look it up or try to figure it out from the context.
Originally Posted by Prof. Lugion