"It's Persian!" I squeaked.
"No kidding," said Terri, grinning. "Looks like you've got a new Pokepal, darling."
"Catch it, already!"
Terri put the Persian on the ground, and it just looked at me. I fumbled in my backpack and found an empty Pokeball.
"Do you want me to catch you?" I asked it. It shook its head.
"Well, there you go," I said, and put the ball back in my backpack. Terri stared in disbelief, and then launched into one of her little rant sessions.
"Auroraaaa, if you're gonna be a serious trainer, you can't, like, ASK Pokemon if they want to be caught, you'll NEVER get any that way, and you gotta be the master, hence the phrase "Pokemon Master", don't let them, you've got a perfectly good, easy opportunity to catch a Persian which is a reasonable sort of Pokemon, and you don't even try because it DOESN'T WANT TO BE CAUGHT?!"
"Yeah," I said, "what's wrong with that?"
"Aargh," she groaned, burying her head in her hands. I grinned and patted Persian on the head.
"Persian," I said seriously, "Team Rocket was looking for you. Are you the "boss' Persian" they were talking about?"
Persian's whiskers twitched slightly and it hissed.
Terri's eyes narrowed. "That cat is from Team Rocket?" To my surprise, she spat.
"That's a disgusting habit," I told her.
"Aurora, do you have any idea what Team Rocket IS?"
"They seemed kinda nice to me..."
She hit her hand to her forehead. "They're Pokemon thieves. Worse than that. They just use Pokemon to acheive power, without caring about them."
"Isn't that what you were just telling me to do?"
"Totally different. After you've caught them, Pokemon HAVE to obey you, so you can be friends with them."
"That makes no sense."
"Anyway, Aurora, don't get any stupid ideas about Team Rocket. They are not NICE. I hate them all."
I knew she'd tell it. I waited for two seconds, and sure enough, she did.
"Weeeeell, it was a coupla years back, you know how I've always wanted to be a dragon master? Well, for so long, I've wanted to get a Dratini. That becomes the ultimate in dragon Pokemon, in case you didn't know! Its second evolved form is the KING of dragons, I tell ya. Now, I competed in this heavy competition so I could win one. Trained for it for months, got Vulpy here and a Seadra I used to have really strong so I could compete. Anyyyyway, I ended up winning, took heapsa effort, but I caught my Dratini.
Then, on my way home from the competition, after my Pokemon were exhausted from the day and couldn't defend themselves, some creeps from Team Rocket followed me and stole Seadra AND Dratini. I ask you! Stealing someone else's Pokemon just because they were rare or strong! They didn't want poor Vulpy 'cos of its looks, but anything that looks like they could use, they'll just take from you and you can't do anything about it. I tell you, Aurora, if I ever see those Rockets again, I will KILL them. Getting my Pokemon strong so I won't be put in that situation again."
Her eyes were dark, and she punched a tree in absolute anger. I cringed as she then clutched her hand in pain.
"Damn tree," she cursed.
During this little speech, I was alternating between looking at the expression on Terri's face, and the look on Persian's. I was a bit nervous of them both. Terri obviously felt anything strongly... not that I blamed her about this.
"Nyaa," said Persian, and put one paw on her leg. She just stared at it.
"It ran away from Team Rocket," I said.
"You agree with me?"
Persian nodded, an equally dark look in its eyes.
"You two are creeping me out," I said, "what's with those dark expressions..."
Terri grinned, snapping out of it. "Ye jus' donnow theee daaka side of eeevil."
"Yeah. Sure. Are you sane?"
"Are you?" she countered. "Is anyone? AHAHAHA!"
"I'm getting a headache," I said, "and you're way too hyperactive. Look, it's morning, and since I was woken up prematurely -"
"What are you talking about? It's only 9am. That's a sleep-in."
"Oh no," I groaned, "you're not an early riser, are you?"
"6am, that's the best technique to make the most of the day!"
"I don't know what that means, but thank you."
"We should decide what to do with Persian."
I patted Persian on the head, but it didn't start purring. Instead, it pricked up its ears and then dashed away.
We stared after it.
"It... didn't seem to like that, did it," said Terri, unnecessarily.
I squinted my eyes in concentration and listened. "I think it heard something."
About five seconds later, we found out what. The bushes rustled violently and from them burst a strange creature I'd not seen before.
"Come back here, your mother's worried!" came a voice, and then a boy came crashing after it. He dove at the creature and tackled it.
"Paras, paras," said the creature, clicking its claws together. It resembled a small crab with mushrooms growing on its back. I think it was just a baby.
"You shouldn't tackle such a helpless creature," I began, before I recognised him.
"Oh, hi Aurora," he said, grinning at me. I sighed.
"KERRA! Of all the people that coulda been here, it had to be YOU again."
"Don't sound so glad to see me."
"Why did you attack that Paras?"
"It's part of a litter of small Paras. I'm studying all of them, and this one is too adventurous. But it's dangerous for it to leave its family."
Just then, from the same bushes, scuttled half a dozen other Paras and a larger one I didn't recognise.
"This is a Parasect," he told me, "on average, 3'3" tall, although the female is a little smaller. It's a bug but somehow it can have a plant growing on its back, and it's the evolved form of Paras. This one just had children, but the father was caught by a trainer so she needs help raising them."
I wanted to tell him to stop showing off, but he seemed to care about his clan of mushroom Pokemon so I kept my mouth shut.
"Aurora," he continued, "can't you pay me for that Pokemon battle I won now?"
I blinked. "You still remember that?"
"Duh. I don't have any cash either."
I looked at him. Terri had been very quiet (for once), but now she launched into the conversation.
"Hey hey, of course 'Rora" - I glared at her - "will pay you, she just beat the Cerulean Gym leader!"
"Bah," he said, "water types are worthless."
"Hey! You're talking to people who both have water Pokemon!"
"Oh, you finally caught something Aurora?"
"Of course she caught something! But, you're a grass trainer, I can tell. What do you need money for?"
"Pokeballs and -"
"Anyone who likes Pokemon is good enough in my book! Okay, you can travel with us too! The more the merrier!"
He just stared.
"Then it's agreed! On to - er, whatever town is up ahead!"
"That's Lime City, if you're heading north of Cerulean. And I don't like Pokemon. And I don't want to travel with you."
Terri looked at Kerra through half-closed eyes.
"I don't believe you. Besides, with two extra people, you'll be able to take care of your Paras better, and have someone to fight with."
"Terri," I interjected finally, "why on earth would you want him with us anyway?"
"Because he's cute," she said bluntly. Kerra and I both facefaulted.
"Seriously," she said, but not in a serious voice at all, "a potential Pokemon Master needs as many allies as they can get. Until your Pokemon get strong, you'll encounter some ruthless opponents, like Team Rocket. And someone with knowledge of other types is helpful."
"I am NOT going to be any sort of bodyguard," snapped Kerra, "and I'm NOT going to go anywhere where I have to see lots of Pokemon all the time. Especially that Clefairy. And I'm NOT going to travel with any dumb girls! All I need is to stay in this forest and be left in peace!"
Twenty minutes later, the three of us were on our way to Lime City, wherever that was. Terri and Kerra were a little ahead of me, arguing loudly. Kerra was saying that he was just going to a jungle near Lime, and happened to be going the same way as us, while Terri was laughing and taunting him. I thought there would surely be bloodshed before this journey was half over.
The Parasect walked beside Kerra, Vulpix beside Terri. Kerra obviously didn't think much of Vulpix, I guess since he raised grass types... On Parasect's back rode 4 baby Paras, while another rode on Kerra's hat, another - the adventurous one - ran along the ground in front... and one sat in my arms.
It clicked and blinked, as if it were about to go to sleep. It seemed to like me, and since Kerra had no Pokeball for it, I guessed I had a new Pokemon...
The world of home seemed very far away. I was glad of it.