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…”