2nd December 2013, 02:20 PM #1
The Science of Battle: Kanto
The wind stirred the long grass as I trudged along the dirt path. The bite of the breeze spoke of an early winter, and I drew my arms in tight. There was more to the gesture than trying to hold on to the warmth of the station -- a transitory warm spot in my trek, now some miles back. Perhaps it was the odd shadows of dusk, or the exposed nature of the hill-top, but I felt as though I was being watched. Given some of the stories that had drawn me here, that was entirely possible.
My destination was in sight, now. By no means palatial, the old farmhouse building, but the light seeping through the windows looked warm, and that was enough encouragement for me. I picked up my pace. A certain thrill was running through me at the thought of what might await me, but I was used to dealing with those jitters.
As I neared the gate, I was startled by a haunting cry. It was gentle-sounding, but it was also unexpectedly close. A warning call from some midnight guardian? I glanced around, but couldn't identify the source. Perhaps a minute passed with me frozen like this, looking around cautiously mere paces from the farmhouse gate. In retrospect, that was a fairly suspicious-looking reaction for any observer.
What prompted me to move was the realisation -- or imagination -- that the rustling in the grass was not entirely the result of the chill wind. It is an odd instinct that makes men think of houses as being always safer than fields.
A short dash up the garden path later, I was smoothing my coat with one hand while the other rapped gently on the solid-looking oak door. From inside the house there came a squawk, a much brasher sound than the gentle hoot that had unnerved me by the gate, but nonetheless carrying a certain ominous weight. I glanced back down the garden path and wondered how many of the shadows I saw moving were caused by the oak tree moving in the wind.
The door opened, and some of my tension faded. A grey-bearded man with an unreadable expression on his face stood in the doorway, dressed in an untucked shirt and loose denim trousers.
"Can I help you?" he asked, as my brain stumbled over various half-formed introductions.
"I'm here to write the book." I replied.
Not my smoothest sales pitch.
Thankfully, it seemed he appreciated the straight sell. That line, followed by a bit of babbling, got me an amused raised eyebrow and an invitation in out of the cold. Coatlessly seated on a comfy seat, I rubbed my hands and adjusted to the heat, making somewhat starstruck smalltalk with my hostess while my host made me a drink.
In my days as a journalist, I had spent quite a lot of time on the Pocket Monster desk, doing my dues on local interest while I looked for a shot at the big political scene. In Petalburg, this meant co-ordinating with the local Gym over promotion of training events, and interviewing the nutters -- the enthusiasts who filled their houses with official League memorabilia and dressed up their pets.
I had once thought that the professional trainers' houses -- if any of that particularly nomadic profession had such a thing as a permanent home -- would be something like those gaudy shrines to commercialised sport, just with more dumbbells and water bowls. I was corrected in that belief when I ran a human interest story on Norman, the head of the local Gym. His home's only concession to the League he worked with was a cabinet full of trophies which he almost seemed to avoid, and the occasional bit of paperwork lying around with the Petalburg Gym insignia on it.
This house was if anything more reserved than that. The furnishings were obviously selected with deference to comfort and durability: hardwood bookshelves, wool blankets. My trim synthetic fabric coat was sharing a rack with a weathered-looking pair of leather jackets, and there were dirty gloves on the rack by the door. The only clue I had that there were creatures living in his house other than the old couple I was here to meet was the smell -- a musky overlay of scents, some tantalisingly familiar, some entirely foreign.
My warm drink arrived, and I accepted it gratefully.
"So," he began, sitting down next to her. "A book?"
Stumbling over myself a little, I started to explain how the timing was right in the market, that any figures likely to be implicated were either retired or dead. I was midway through reaching for a copy of my last publication when she stopped me with a raised hand.
"But why?" she asked. "The parts that would matter to the public were in the news. The majority of the rest is in the papers -- the Oak Heritage people have them if you need copies. What more is there?"
"I've read the papers." I responded, acutely aware of how important my reply would be to the project. "What's missing from them isn't so much events or analysis. What I need from you are the details, the pieces which make it all part of a narrative."
"I'm not sure there is a narrative," he said. "What we set out to do, and what we ended up doing -- they're not even linked. I don't know what end-point you'd want to put on your narrative, but you could be talking about years of our lives. How do you filter that into chapters?"
The answer to that question was a long time coming.