I wandered through the central square, kicking despondently at any piles of leaves that had grown too high. It was a child’s game that still thrilled me. Looking back now, I wish I’d spent less time standing with groups of people I didn’t like and more time running around kicking up leaves.
If it wasn’t for the hustle and bustle of people, I’d have never expected that it was a town. The houses were made from tree bark and leaves, which were woven together to make chequered huts. All of the roads and buildings were decorated with vines. They blended almost seamlessly with the forest.
I dipped my canteen into a little stone fountain that had been crafted to look like a tree stump. The water bit at my fingers. I gave a half-smile to a man to my left who was bent over a smoking pile of bricks. His wife was wafting the smoke away from the entrance of her hut with a giant leaf. The only giveaway to this curious escapade was the earthy smell of bread baking.
I remember it making me feel off kilter at the time, but not understanding why. Just this creeping feeling of difference. They verses me. Pallet is no city, but we had embraced the thirst for technology. Of course, computers were a new thing back then, but we still came installed with a sense of excitement to embrace what was to come. Watching the man stooped and sooty over the bricks put up a barrier between us that I was just not equipped to see.
“Excuse me”, I said, “Could you point the way to the major’s office?”
The woman turned, shielding her eyes from the mid-day sun. She looked around for a second, as if she were the one asking for directions and not me, before flicking her wafting leaf in the direction of a market. “He’ll be somewhere that way, I reckon”.
Between us and the market, a sort of playschool had been set up where kids ran around barefoot under the watchful eye of someone’s Skuntank. I must have looked a tad concerned, as the lady with the fan leaf chuckled and said, “Don’t worry, lass, he won’t stink you unless you’re out here for trouble.” I gave her a sheepish grin.
I wandered through the houses, enjoying the dappling sunlight and watching people working together with their Pokémon on various tasks. At the farmers market, people haggled over Mudbray and Mareep. Nearby, a man had set up blanket on a rock to sell scratched jewellery, while a woman was having a hearty discussion with her customer about the best ways to use Flaaffy wool. Next to her sat a very bare-looking Flaaffy.
I looked out for anyone mayor-like. I imagined a tall, elderly gentleman with a large gold chain settled on his shoulders. He would laugh in a jolly way, a little like Santa Claus. There was no one like that here. I tried to think back to if Professor Oak had given me a description. If he did, I couldn’t remember.
Near the market, a man was scrutinising some sacks of corn with his Bulbasaur, taking down notes on a piece of bark. The Bulbasaur was especially chatty, using his vines to point and prod at the goods. Professor Oak was always going on and on about how smart Bulbasaur are. I was practically sick to death of it. I’d chosen a Charmander as my starter. I’d been training it for a few years now and it was about as strong as a Charmander could get. No way I could lose to a puny Bulbasaur.
“Uh-uh young lady!”, I heard the professor say in my head. I could almost see him stood, arms crossed. “You will not fight that Bulbasaur”, he said, “you have important work to do”. I looked at the letter in my hand and shrugged. It could wait. This battle would take no time at all.
I strode towards the man and made my best battle pose, “Hey, you”.
The man looked at me, startled, “I, uh.. me?”
“I’d like to challenge you to a-” before I could finish, I heard a shrill craacck and felt a searing pain on my hand that made me drop my Pokéball sadly to the ground. It opened and out popped Charmander looking a bit perplexed. The skin instantly began to welt and throb an angry red. “What the-“
“I’m sorry but we don’t battle in this town”, the man said. Still in shock, I could only stand blankly and watch as the Bulbasaur
used his vines to pluck a roll of bandages out of the man’s pocket, efficiently wrapped my hand in the cooling bandage, gave me a curt nod and turned back to his companion. Bubba, he said.
I snapped out of my daze with intense fury. “Your Pokémon just attacked me! How dare you? He can’t do that, I ought to-“
“My Bulbasaur?”, the man grinned. A small crowd had gathered now and they all grinned at each other, all in on some sort of joke. That made me insanely angry. I felt like challenging them all to battle. In my head, professor Oak put his head in his hand. Their laughter magnified ten-fold and cut me deep. A cold surge burned within me that built and built until I could take it no longer. I gave a deep guttural scream. “CHARMANDER, EMBER, NOW!”
My loyal Charmander took my word as law and launched his attack. The flame came thick and fast, the muscles in Charmander’s belly tensed as he gave it all he had. That Bulbasaur should have been toast. Except, the flames were getting beaten back. Without any word from its trainer, Bulbasaur began flinging sharp-edged leaves at the flames in just the right angle to deflect the heat. The speed was incredible. Charmander tried to push harder, but he just wasn’t quick enough.
As the flames began to dial down, this gave Bulbasaur his chance. He jumped high over the fire, pushed hard with his back legs from a fence post and smacked down into my Charmander’s forehead. At the same time, he slapped his mouth shut with a vine, snatched the Pokéball from my hand and pressed the button to force him to return. Charmander faded into the ball, leaving one Bulbasaur and a circle of horrified townsfolk.
I couldn’t believe the skill with which Bulbasaur had battled. And without a word from his trainer. I turned to him, all anger put on hold. “Woah, your Bulbasaur is amazing”.
The man crossed his arms, reminding me again of Professor Oak. “Like I tried to tell you, kid. That’s not my Bulbasaur.”
He walked forward and put a hand respectfully on Bulbasaur’s shoulder, “You ok, sir?”
He looked back up at me, “What are you doing here in Mizuna town? I think you should do what you need to do and leave.”
His tone set of a confusing array of sparks. Part of me felt shame, part of me fear, and a piece of me still burned with anger. The crowd had started to dissipate. Some tutted teenagers as they walked away. I gave them a side glare. I remembered the letter and grabbed it from my bag.
“Professor Oak sent me with this letter.” The man took it and contemplated it. “Its for the mayor”, I added.
“Well, it has found the right place”, he said. With a second’s pause, the man moved the letter down and passed it to Bulbasaur, who took it gently in a vine, opened it with the sharp edge and began to read.
At first, I thought it was a joke. But there was something about this Bulbasaur’s seriousness and the way everyone looked at him that made me think that this insanity might actually be true. A Bulbasaur running a town?
I looked back at the town, its leaves blowing gently in the breeze. Next to the treeline sat allotments where smiling families planted vegetables, nearby an old woman smiled happily at her grandchildren who were helping thread vines around their house. Everyone seemed so happy and the town ran like clockwork. And this was all ran by a Bulbasaur? I looked down at my Charmander and thought about all of the training we had been through. Despite his low level, he’d been able to beat all of the trainers I’d met just by strength alone. But seeing all this made me wonder if perhaps there was more to Pokémon than just strength.
Bulbasaur gave a short Bubba and handed the note back to his aide. “Bulbasaur says he thinks this letter might actually be for you.”
I took it from him and read.
This may be a hard lesson for you, but I hope you heed it well. See all of the wonders that Pokémon can achieve and learn to use that in your own journey.
I looked at Bulbasaur and his aide, “I’m sorry. I have a lot to think about”. I turned around and began the walk back to Pallet Town.