We found a restaurant that allowed humans and Pokemon. Terri and I brought out all our Pokemon.
"Thish is the loife," said Kerra happily, as he bolted down a huge plate of spaghetti.
"Don't talk with your mouth full," said Terri automatically.
"Your Pokemon aren't going to eat anything, Kerra?" I asked. All the Paras, along with Parasect, were crunching away at some specialised Pokemon dish, the others were in their Pokeballs.
"Grass Pokemon get food from the sunlight, remember?"
We ate in silence for a while. It did beat eating Exeggutor's psychic eggs all the time. Farfetch'd was drinking soup and stirring it with its leek. Omanyte seemed to have a definite taste for hamburgers - a fact which was just really WEIRD to me. I could barely make out its face, let alone its mouth.
Terri's Vulpix proved to be competition for Clefairy, and the two were engaged in an informal eating contest. I cringed to think of the dent it would place on my wallet.
Suddenly, Clefairy's head shot up and it sniffed the air. Before I could react, it leapt off the table and ran across the restaurant floor.
"Darn thing," I scowled, and moved to follow it. Farfetch'd flapped onto my shoulder to come along for the ride. I found Clefairy at the other side of the room, sitting on someone's table and eating their food.
"I'm so sorry," I apologised to the person at the table. He was surrounded by Pokemon, he had a Meowth on his head for some reason. "That Clefairy is the most obnoxious thing, I will pay for your food."
"Ahah," he said, "I thought that was my old Clefairy, Aurora!"
He pushed the Meowth's tail from his face and I recognised him.
"Gary! What are you doing here?"
"Well, right now I'm relaxing and enjoying a meal. How are you going so far, Aurora?"
"I have two badges and six Pokemon."
"That's not too bad," he said. "I see you got a Farfetch'd. They're pretty rare."
I nodded, and we looked at each other for a moment. He broke the silence.
"Hey, did you reconsider joining my fanclub?"
I facefaulted. "I still think that's a weird idea! I mean, what sort of crazy girl would -"
"Oh my GOSH! GARY OAK! Is that really GARY OAK? I'm totally your biggest fan! See, I joined your fanclub, I've got a gold card too. Just member #5! I was sooo lucky to get in that soon, I've got your pictures all over my room. Aurora, what are you doing here? Don't tell me your Clefairy disturbed THIS guy!"
I stared in disbelief, and some horror. Terri had made her way over here and had gone starstruck.
Gary smiled somewhat nervously. "Hello."
"Clefairy must like Gary," said Terri, "it's a great judge of character, and it knows a good trainer when it sees one."
"Thanks a lot," I muttered. "As a matter of fact, this Clefairy was Gary's to begin with."
Cue: Disbelieving explosion.
After the storm had passed, Terri was still asking every five minutes, "you REALLY got your first Pokemon from the almighty Gary Oak?"
And I was still replying with "you didn't strike me as the boy crazy type, Terri."
And Kerra was still annoyed because Terri's hyperactive screaming fit had gotten us all thrown out of the restaurant.
And Gary seemed to be trying very hard not to laugh. Well, perhaps he wasn't trying all that hard, he didn't seem to be doing a very good job.
We had recalled most of our Pokemon. Clefairy was riding on Gary's head, which unnerved me a little for some reason.
But after we calmed Terri down somewhat (she still had a manic glint in her eyes), we could treat each other like normal people. Gary had obviously been to Saffron several times, and played the tour guide.
"Saffron's Pokemon Center is just along this street, you can see the symbol down there in plain view. Saffron's Pokemon Center is one of the busiest, especially at this time of year, when the big Pokemon fashion shows are held."
"When are they held?"
"All through this month. In fact, that's why I happen to be in town. My very own Arcanine made it into the semi-final for fire Pokemon!"
"Oh, that's soo cool," said Terri.
"There's more to Pokemon than fashion," said Kerra, obviously looking to start a fight. He hadn't battled for a couple of days, so he was restless.
"Yeah," agreed Gary, not to be baited, "but there's nothing wrong with letting a Pokemon look its best, especially if it likes the attention. Anyway, there are a lot of Pokemon marts and markets down this road to your left. Since we're in the heart of the city, and Saffron is such a hot spot for trainers, this place is always busy and full of Pokemon stuff."
"Why is it such a hot spot?"
"Well, not only are a lot of good trainers from here, and there are occasional events like this fashion month, this is the home of two gyms."
"For a long time, a fighting Pokemon gym was the main one here in Saffron. But Sabrina, this weird psychic girl, said she really disrespected fighting types, and single handedly - or single Pokemonedly - knocked out every Pokemon in that gym. After such an incredible loss - or, as I see it, because the fighting trainers were so terrified of Sabrina - the fighting gym just closed down. Sabrina set up her own gym, dedicated to mind over muscle. It was really just an excuse for her to practise her own psychic powers."
"Uh huh. Why did she disrespect fighting types?"
"I have no idea. Maybe you should ask her. Anyway, for some unknown reason, Sabrina suddenly opened up and started acting like a normal human being again. She's living with her parents now and she doesn't spend all her time honing her psychic powers like she used to. So she doesn't fight as often, but she still likes to keep herself and her Pokemon in shape. Sabrina let the fighting gym open again, and her own gym is open once a week."
"What's the point of having two gyms?"
"Well, the rules say you need 8 Pokemon League badges to get into the League competitions. It doesn't specify what cities. In fact, this is really convenient because if you can get both badges, it saves extra travel. However, even if Sabrina has calmed down from before, she is still really tough. Most trainers can only get a badge from the Dojo Gym - that's what they call it - and get obliterated by Sabrina. Very few trainers can ever beat Sabrina, so facing her is mostly just a challenge to prove themselves, not a trainer attempting to earn a badge because they need it."
"Have you ever gone to the gyms?"
He held up two badges. Both were gold, but one was a simple circle, and the other was carved like a fist.
"Wow," said Terri, eyes growing large, "you are SUCH a good trainer!"
He smiled, not-so-humbly, "I do my best."
Kerra stopped walking and folded his arms across his chest. He stood in front of a building.
"Listen, big shot," he snapped, "stop acting like such a know-it-all. You're not the only one who knows basic facts about Saffron. I, for example, know that this is a training hall where Pokemon trainers compete against each other in gym-like atmospheres."
"Very good," said Gary, with sarcasm.
"It's not how many badges you've got," went on Kerra, "it's how good a trainer you are. There are people out there who are perfectly good trainers, who haven't got a single badge to their name."
"Good for them."
"The training hall is right there. You and me, big shot."
"Well," he said uncertainly, "my cheerleaders aren't here. They wouldn't be happy if I fought a battle without them knowing."
Kerra snorted. "Sounds like Mr Champion here can't do anything without his COACHES."
"Coaches?" sputtered Gary. "You don't know what you're talking about! Fine, you're on."
"Kerra," said Terri, "you're battling a Pokemon Master."
"Titles don't mean anything. You're gonna have to earn my respect, big shot."
We filed into the trainer's hall, and Gary waved casually to the lady behind the front desk. She looked shocked and waved him on. I was impressed; we had gotten past paying a fee for use of the hall.
Kerra took us into a large stadium-like room at the end.
"Why are these rooms so big?" I asked.
"Allowing for the largest Pokemon to be able to move about, Onix," said Gary and Kerra, in perfect unison. The two glared at each other. I laughed, and watched the two battling. Both seemed to think they had to teach me, so they narrated their choices for each attack and each Pokemon.
"See, I'm choosing Exeggutor against Arcanine because Exeggutor has a higher special. Exeggutor, use Psychic!"
"Arcanine, hyper beam! See, I used hyper beam because Arcanine has great attack and Exeggutor's defense isn't that great."
"It's good enough!"
I found Pokemon technique like that rather confusing. How could you learn strengths and weaknesses of over 150 different creatures? I had never heard anyone talk about things like attack and defense besides Kerra, and now Gary. Most just judged by Pokemon type, or by who their strongest Pokemon was.
"Now I'm sending out Oddish against his Kingler. You know why? Oddish is a little more inexperienced"- he took care never to call his Pokemon weak, especially not in front of them -"than my others, but it's on my team so I'll use it. It's a good opportunity because grass is powerful against water."
"Kingler, stomp! Your defense isn't that great."
"Hang in there, Oddish."
"I can't believe it survived that attack!"
"My special is better. Oddish, poisonpowder, and follow with absorb."
I wasn't sure who to root for. I had never seen Kerra lose. On one hand, he was my friend. On the other hand, I wouldn't have been a Pokemon trainer without Gary. Terri was blatantly cheering for Gary.
"Now, Doduo, use your drill peck! Drill peck, Doduo's strongest type move."
"Ooh, I'm so scared. Ivysaur, sleep powder."
Gary's team was much better balanced than Kerra's, which put him at both an advantage and disavantage; some of his Pokemon were weak to grass, others powerful against it.
"Doduo's faster than to let those spores settle!"
"I'm not worried. Ivysaur, tackle!"
"What a weak attack. Doduo, drill peck again!"
"Come on, Ivysaur, Doduo are weak, you can beat it!"
"Mine is NOT weak."
"Nor is my Ivysaur."
I wasn't sure about that. Kerra did not use it so often, although he had once said that his Bulbasaur was the first Pokemon he caught. At that moment, Ivysaur did not look up to battling, but away from Kerra's orders, began to glow.
"What's that attack?" I asked innocently.
"That's not... an attack," said Gary. Kerra's eyes were glittering.
"It's evolving! It's evolving!"
I had never seen a Pokemon evolve. The petals of Ivysaur's flowers unfolded slowly, as its whole body glowed. Its limbs grew right before our eyes, its eyes narrowed and its leaves spread out. It stopped glowing.
"Venusaur," it growled. Doduo looked at it curiously. Kerra ran to his new Pokemon.
"Oh! A Venusaur," he gushed, "it's so powerful looking, and tough, and great! Just look at this flower! It's perfectly formed! See this shimmering surface here, that's really useful protection for it, and it keeps its own spores from entering its body. And this small funnel-type growth at the tip of the flower is just an outlet for its powder attacks, and also just under here are its carpel, see, it's a female Venusaur and, it releases pollen to enable the Venusaur to reproduce at the appropriate time. Wow, it looks great! My first Pokemon! Each of its leaves are the perfect size for absorbing sunlight. It'll be able to do the Solarbeam attack really well, I bet. And just check out these petals! They're a lot of a darker shade of pink, more than any Venusaur I've ever seen! Must be all that extra sunlight it got as an Ivysaur, or just my expert care, heheh. It smells just right too, it's a perfect fragrance."
"Dododo," said Doduo, as if to say "hey, I'm still here."
Kerra ran his fingers over the Venusaur's leaves, almost reverently. I glanced at Gary, who had been listening with interest.
"You know a lot about grass Pokemon," said Gary, obviously impressed.
"They're the only Pokemon worth bothering with," said Kerra, still concentrating on Venusaur.
"Dodo," protested Doduo.
"Vul," agreed Terri's Vulpix.
"Why d'you think that?"
"I hate Pokemon. I like plants. So, I like grass Pokemon only."
"I don't agree," said Gary.
"Why do you hate Pokemon?"
"I just do."
He seemed reluctant to say any more, so Gary didn't say more, bar, "are we gonna finish this match or not?"
Kerra grinned, and said simply "Solarbeam".
Doduo fainted in one hit, and the battle continued. I'm writing all this in my notebook after the events took place, and I'm getting writer's cramp. I don't think I'll narrate the battle, but it was fairly even. I guess that's what I expected. Gary didn't have to worry about the absence of his cheerleaders (I still can't believe he has cheerleaders), Terri was doing a pretty good job by herself.
They were both down to one Pokemon apiece, in typical cliffhanger tone, Gary's Nidoking (which Terri informed me in dizzy tones was his prize fighter) to Kerra's Weepinbell. I don't think the Weepinbell stood much of a chance, although Kerra was good in ordering it. It fainted first, and Kerra recalled Weepinbell, before stamping angrily.
Terri bounced up and down and started babbling incoherently, things like "oh I knew you could do it Gary you're so cool I just know you're unbeatable there was no way you coulda lost that battle and I think..."
"My first loss," muttered Kerra. I was surprised; I'd not seen him lose but I had assumed that he must have at some stage.
"It's not the end of the world," said Terri, helpfully.
"I guess," said Kerra simply, and pulled out his wallet. Kerra had a lot of bad points, as I had well noticed, but with his bluntness came honesty, so he counted out exactly half of his money as required and handed it over. He had been saving up for a long time.
Gary accepted it wordlessly, I think he knew better than to gloat. Even Terri shut up for a moment, and the four of us looked at each other in silence. I'm not sure what the big deal was for everyone else, but for me, my perceptions of the two guys changed a lot because of that battle.
"We should head on to the Dojo Gym," said Kerra finally, "if you wanna get a badge."
I liked him a lot then, and as we left the gym, I asked quietly, "what were you saving your money for anyway?"
"Weepinbell wants to evolve," he said, "why else would I challenge that guy in the first place? I knew he'd have a lotta cash. I thought it would be enough after that, leafstones are expensive."
Kerra and Gary seemed to get along okay after that, surprisingly enough. Mutual respect, I guess you could call it. Gary seemed to take no notice of Terri at all. I wasn't sure what to think about that. Was he so used to girls gushing over him that he thought nothing of it, or was he annoyed by her?
We did find the Dojo Gym...
"Hey everyone," said Gary to some people standing around in the gym's waiting room
"Gary!" exclaimed the receptionist, jumping up from her desk and bowing respectfully. "I haven't seen you in a while!"
I looked blank. "Gary, do you know everybody in the world or something?"
He sweatdropped. "I have some fighting Pokemon. I took a few classes here once. And of course, who could forget a face like mine! Hahaha!"
The ego was back.
"What did you come here for, sir?"
A lady his senior was calling him sir...
"My friend here," - he gestured to me - "needs to challenge the gym leader."
"You have top priority here, sir," she said, "please skip the queue and head right on in."
There were a few people in the waiting room who had been there longer than us, but they didn't seem to be particularly worried. We went through a door and found ourselves in a stadium with a dirt floor and a lot of gym mats stacked up on the side.
Two people stood facing each other. One, a lady, had a fainted Machoke beside her. The other, a man, had a Fearow perched on his shoulder.
"Here is your Knucklebadge, sir," she said politely, handing him a gold fist-shaped badge like Gary's.
"KNUCKLEbadge?" I repeated in disbelief. "Who names these things?"
"Kind of appropriate though," said Gary.
The man with the Fearow pushed past us impatiently, pinning the badge on his jacket. I entered the room fully and approached the gym leader.
"Um, hi," I said, and got my first good look at her.
She was exactly the opposite to how I would have expected a fighting Pokemon trainer to look. She was petite, wearing a stylish blue dress and her dark hair was carefully curled. She looked pulled together and fashionable, not... not like a fighter, I guess.
"Hello," she said politely, "I am Hannah, the gym leader. I assume you have come to challenge me. The rules are as you would expect, and we will battle two on two, as the last opponent just beat some of my Pokemon."
"Alright," I said awkwardly.
"Good luck, Aurora!" called Terri. Gary gave me a thumbs-up. Kerra just looked at me, but when I caught his eye, he winked.
She caught sight of my friends and blinked.
"Gary! It's good to see you again!"
"Ditto you," he said, and sat on the edge of the bleachers. "I can't wait to see this match."
I took a few steps back, and Hannah did likewise. She took out a Pokeball.
Fighting Pokemon, eh... I had an idea who I would choose... I pulled a Pokeball out of my backpack and opened it...