Sidestory 2: The Aspear Tree Girl
"Okay, everyone ready?" Brock asked as he watched Ash and various other boys and girls in elegant robes tune a variety of exotic instruments.
"Almost--we're going to practice a few numbers from the show just to warm up." Ash reported, fingering a slender wooden flute. Brock smiles as his friend begins a peaceful melody, then goes to change into his costume.
When he returns, Ash leads the charge into a spirited song reminiscent of a parade. Lotta, now in an Aspear print red and gold robe, watches in awe as Ash blazes through the rapidfire trills and runs up and down the scale with laser-like precision. "WOW!!!" she gasps when the song finally ends.
"Amazing!" the other bansi player comments. "How did you get so good?" she asks Ash, heaving with exhaustion all the while.
"Just practiced every day." Ash humbly replies. "Doesn't have to be a long and drawn out affair, either--a few scales here, a few minutes on technique there, practice a tune while waiting for food to be ready, and so on."
"I don't know what you do to practice, but keep doing it." a boy agrees before adjusting his tikin's tuning. Enthusiastic murmurs of agreement fill the air.
The flash of the five minute warning gets Brock's attention. "This is it, Lotta...tua pubblica attende. he assures Lotta. Lotta nods and hurries into position on the darkened stage.
After the chatter calms down, Brock walks onstage, playing his harp all the while. "Good morning, and well met, travelers. I am Kashu, a minstrel that wanders this land. The tale I wish to tell you today concerns a young girl, and the amazing luck an Aspear tree brought to her." He plays a soft chord for effect. "But before I begin, the four spirits of creation will first set the stage for me. Kasai, the spirit of fire..." He plays a majestic chord as a red humanoid form appears, twirling a little. "Mizu, the spirit of water..." He plays a soft chord as a blue humanoid form appears, posing cutely. "Raku, the spirit of thunder..." Rylan, inside the yellow bodysuit, makes a flying jump onto the stage as Brock plays a sharp chord. "and Hana, the spirit of earth." He plays a peaceful chord as a green humanoid form spins onto the stage, holding her hands as if mimicing a growing tree. The four spirits then set to work moving a few screens and stools into place. As they are working, Brock explains "Although you will very plainly see the four spirits and others like them creating the world of my story, they are still spirits, and invisible to human eyes." He then plays another chord as the four spirits finish. Kasai and Raku head off to stage right, while Mizu and Hana walk off to stage left.
"Now then...my tale begins." Brock intones before his spotlight blinks off. Ash leads the orchestra into a peaceful melody as an overture.
When the song ends, Brock is now off by stage right. "In a certain village in a far away land, there lived a young girl named Nashi." At this, the lights come up on Lotta kneeling at center stage. Hana brings out a small washtub, which Mizu fills with water. Lotta then pantomimes washing clothes, wringing them out, and hanging them to dry on an invisible clothesline. "Nashi lived with her stepmother and a stepsister named Hokori. Both of them preferred to dream of being rich than do any form of work."
The tikins play a forboding riff as Yuki and Akane, in elaborate robes, walk in the scene and address Lotta. "Where's my handkerchief?" Akane demands.
"And my robe?" Yuki adds. "I would very much like to admire myself in the mirror..."
"I am washing it now..." Lotta calmly replies as she wrings another imagined outfit.
"Work is all you're good for, Buta." Akane grumbles.
Lotta bristles at the name. "Please, my name is Nashi."
"Never mind your name, Buta. You still have much to do." Akane retorts over the fukiashis. "After you finish wasshing the laundry, you should clean the kitchen..."
"Dust the furniture..." Yuki adds as the daras play a forboding riff. The scene continues like this, with more of the orchestra joining in with every chore Yuki and Akane list:
"Bake the bread for tonight..."
"Mending what clothes are torn..."
"Polishing the statues...."
"Cleaning what hasn't already been cleaned..."
"Cooking tonight's dinner..."
"Sweep the floors..."
"and when you finish all of that, be sure the doors to the house are locked." Akane concludes as the entire orchestra stops playing.
"I understand." Lotta replies.
Akane puts an arm around Yuki. "Tomorrow is the first day of the Spring Festival--you must rest so you won't miss it."
"I will rise early, Buta, so you can help me get dressed for the festival." Yuki calls to Lotta.
"Yes, my sister." Lotta replies.
"With your new robe, Hokori--you should be the most beautiful girl at the festival." Akane gloats.
"Thank you--you are too kind, Mother." Yuki giggles.
"May I have a new robe too?" Lotta asks.
Akane bristles at the request over a tense harp chord. "Who would want to look at you?"
"Let us come to bed now...the hour grows late." Yuki notes.
"You may not sleep until everything I have asked of you is complete." Akane warns.
"I will, but please, just call me Nashi for once." Lotta pleads. "That is my name, and it is beautiful." Yuki and Akane laugh as they exit. leaving Lotta alone onstage. She pushes the bucket away and feigns crying as the harp and tikins play a sad song.
"As she wept, something dawned on Nashi." Brock narrates from his spotlight as he plays the song. "If she finished all the work her stepmother had asked her to do, then maybe, just maybe, she would get to go to the festival too. It took her almost all the night, but she did everything asked of her."
Ash doubles the other bansi an octave above as they begin a festive melody. "Nashi washed what needed washing..." Brock narrates as he joins in the song. Lotta patomimes washing something. "Dusted what needed dusting...." The tikins join in as Lotta pantomimes dusting. "Baked cakes for the festival day..." The daras join in doubling the harp an octave below as Lotta pantomimes baking a cake. "Mended what needed mending..." Lotta pantomimes mending something. "Polished the statues..." Lotta pantomimes polishing a Moltres statue. "Cleaned whatever else needed cleaning..." Lotta dashes about organizing the stage. "Cooked breakfast for in the morning..." Lotta pantomimes cooking again. "Swept the floor..." Lotta pantomimes sweeping the floor. "and when she was all done, she locked the door to the house." He plays a sharp chord as Lotta turns an imagined key, ending the song. Hana then spreads out a mat on the floor, which Lotta lies on and pretends to sleep.
"But it was not long before Combusken heralded the dawn." Brock narrates. prompting a fukiashi to mimic a Combusken's cry. "The sun streamed in her room, gently coaxing her to rise." Kasai dances in the scene, making some in the audience laugh as he waves a red ribbon in Lotta's face.
"Morning already?" Lotta yawns as she gets up. "I must prepare Stepmother and Hokori for the festival."
Akane and Yuki, now in elaborate robes. walk in the scene. "Help me get this sash straight, Buta!" Yuki demands.
"Tie mine too!" Akane agrees.
"May I--?" Lotta starts as she ties both sashes.
"Quiet--preparing for the festival is delicate work." Akane cuts Lotta off mid-sentence.
"I merely want to go to the festival, too." Lotta asks.
Akane and Yuki feign laughter. "Silly girl!"Akane giggles.
"Ridiculous!" Yuki agrees.
"But I worked all night just so I could see the festival!" Lotta pleads.
Akane smirks. "Very well, Buta....you can go..."
"Thank you!" Lotta cries as the orchestra plays a triumphant flourish.
"I'm not finished..." Akane intones as the the tikins play a tense riff.
"What do you mean?" Lotta swallows hard.
The four spirits bring in four large jars. "You may go only when you've gathered all the rice in the field and weeded the garden."
"But I can't possibly do all that in a day!" Lotta protests. Ash blasts a high note in agreement.
"I know, Buta." Akane smiles. "A mirror, please." Raku offers Yuki a mirror, then steps out of the scene. "How beautiful we are...." After setting the mirror aside, she announces "Come, we must be off to the festival!" They laugh as they depart, leaving Lotta alone again.
Brock appears in his spotlight, playing a sad interlude. "Nashi thought about how to finish all the work and still go to the festival. Yet the more she thought, the less answers she found. It was simply too much work. Try as she might to hold back her tears, they came flowing anyway, like rivers of diamonds." Lotta pantomimes crying.
Just then, Ash begins a mystical melody as some puppeteers all in black appear in the scene, making some Taillow puppets "fly". "Just then, some Taillows landed on the windowsill, piqued by Nashi's sobbing." Brock narrates as he joins in the song. "They didn't know why this human cried, but they knew they had to help."
The puppets "fly" about the stage, "picking" prop rice grains and putting them in the jars. Lotta notices this. "Please, don't eat our rice...Stepmother will be angry." she pleads, but then notices what the puppets are doing. "You're putting them in the jars? Oh, praise Arceus! I will be able to go to the festival after all!" With that, she dances in joy and the puppets work faster as the orchestra plays a triumphant melody.
When the song ends, the Taillow puppets "fly" offstage. "Nashi was so caught up in her happiness, she remembered her other chore, and all too quickly, joy became tears." Brock narrates as Lotta's dancing slows down, then stops.
"There so many weeds in here, I don't know if I can even pull them all." Lotta sighs over a sad chord from the harp as she pantomimes pulling weeds.
"A Ponyta in the field nearby saw Nashi crying, and took pity on her." Brock narrates as a Ponyta puppet "walks" in the scene, its puppeteers hidden from the audience's view.
Lotta then spots the Ponyta "eating" some of the prop weeds. "Oh, hello there, Mr. Ponyta...did you come to help me too?" The Ponyta puppet "nods" and continues to "eat". "Thank you! I can go to the festival after all!" Lotta hugs the puppet, then dashes offstage as the lights go down.
"Nashi hurried as quickly as she could to the town square." Brock narrates over a "running" melody. "She got there just as the parade of welcome was beginning."
With that Ash leads the orchestra into a festive melody. Lotta and a crowd of other townsfolk watch as dancers, other musicians, acrobats, jugglers, giant Pokemon puppets, and other entertainers parade across the stage. The audience oohs and ahs over the Pokemon puppets and the elaborate costumes pass by.
Brock appears in his spotlight as the "parade" continues. "It just so happened that the prince of the land happened to be at the festival, hoping that his future queen would be present in the crowds." He plays a soft chord as Kano walks into the scene, clad in a blue, white, and gold Asian-esque prince outfit.
"That girl...who is she?" Kano wonders before walking over to Lotta. "You look very beautiful, miss." he smiles.
"How?" Lotta asks. "My stepmother and stepsister overwork me and call me Buta--a Tepig! They don't call me by my real name."
"What is your real name?" Kano asks.
"Nashi." Lotta replies.
"That is a beautiful name, befitting a beautiful girl like you." Kano smiles. "Long have I searched for a girl with a heart as beautiful as her looks..."
With that, Kano and Lotta pantomime talking over a peaceful melody. "Nashi and the prince enjoyed the festival together, playing the games of chance and talking for hours about many things." Brock narrates. "Suddenly Nashi heard the ringing of the temple bells that signaled midnight--if she was not home by the time the twelveth bell rang, her stepmother would give her twice the workload." He then plays a series of hard chords to mimic bells. Lotta panics and dashes offstage leaving a slipper behind. This buys the spirits time to reset the stage to the house set.
When the last chord fades, Akane and Yuki are waiting for Lotta. "Where in the world were you, Buta?" Akane demands.
"Did you finish everything asked of you?" Yuki agrees.
"Yes--every rice grain was gathered." Lotta replies."The Taillows helped me pick them."
"And the garden?" Akane asks.
"A friendly Ponyta helped me pull the weeds." Lotta explains.
"Try as Nashi might, her stepsister and her stepmother didn't believe her when she said the Pokemon helped her." Brock narrates. 'Meanwhile, the prince traveled all across the land, trying to find the maid that had lost her slipper at the festival."
The orchestra plays a triumphant flourish as Kano enters the scene. "Forgive me for troubling you, but does this slipper belong to you?"
"Ooh, let me try, Your Majesty!" Yuki begs. Try as Kano might the slipper doesn't fit, to the chuckles of the audience.
He next tries Akane, but the slipper goes flying across the room as it pops off her foot. But when he tries Lotta, he smiles. "Nashi...you are the one!" he cries as Nashi hugs him.
"And so, the prince took Nashi to the palace, where she never had to worry about her stepmother and her stepsister again." Brock concludes as the lights go down. "So ends the tale of the Aspear Girl." One last chord ends the play.
The crowd roars as the lights come up again for the curtain call. Rylan and the other prop people unmask themselves and bow first. Brock is next, then the orchestra, followed by the puppeteers and the crowd extras. Akane and Yuki bow next, but the biggest ovation is saved for Lotta and Kano, who bow together....