I spent that night at the same Pokemon Center as before. We didn’t get as early a start as when I had to be at Mr. Pokemon’s house, but we left early all the same.
I trained Snaps a bit, tackling Pidgeys and Caterpies into oblivion. At one point, Snaps started to foam a bit at the mouth, like he was just raring to blast something with water.
“Use water gun!” I said, but he looked at me like I was stupid.
“Bubblebeam?” Same look.
“Plain ol’ bubble?”
That got him going. Snaps blew these huge bubbles with thick mucusy walls and expelled them with enough pressure to slam into a Caterpie we were fighting.
I congratulated Snaps, who gave me a stalwart salute.
That afternoon, diverting from the path that lead to Mr. Pokemon’s house, we took a slight west turn and then continued up a steep hill. I was headed for Violet City, which I could see on my PokeGear.
Suddenly, as I was walking, a kid wearing shorts and a blue baseball cap leaps out of the grass and towards me.
“I keep losing at Pokemon battles, so I’m looking for new Pokemon.”
Well, naturally. If they keep dying you’re gonna have to replace them, which is equal parts barbaric and indicative of your trainer skill. I didn’t say that, but I thought it. In fact, I was so surprised by his approach that I didn’t say much at all.
“Let’s battle!” he said, and threw out a Pokeball.
“Whoa, dude, calm down,” I said. “We don’t need to battle.”
“Sure we do! I need to get better!”
“What’s your name, kid? Do you want me to destroy your… Rattata?”
A sickly Rattata fell out of the Pokeball. It was young, thin, and tired.
“I’m Joey! Rattata, use tail whip!”
“Ugh, Snaps? Use bubble.”
Snaps cried out, “Rah!” and blew a giant bubble. It slammed into the Rattata and some of the sticky mucus from the bubble clung to its fur. It still tried to whip its tail, however, and it seemed to disorient Snaps. He let his guard down ever so slightly.
“Tackle, Snaps. Let’s get this over with.”
But before Snaps could build up any speed with which to tackle the Rattata, Joey said, “Quick attack!” and the Rattata disappeared.
Snaps looked around for a moment, then got smacked in the shell by the speeding creature. It bounced off, looking worse for it, and Snaps shrugged it off. He pummeled Joey’s Pokemon to death, breaking its neck to end the battle.
“Aw man!” Joey said, looking disappointed. “I guess the secret is in having more than one Pokemon. I should catch more.”
“Or, you know, train them. Take care of them. Don’t let them die.”
“So can I have your phone number?” Joey asked.
“Your phone number! That way, I can call you for battles.”
“Sure, I guess. Whatever.” I gave him my number. I’d probably just ignore him, but maybe he’d be a worthy opponent someday.
Joey went back to the grass and I started back up the steep hill, taking Tiko out so that Snaps could have a well-earned rest. Just as I rounded a corner, however, another trainer came running toward me.
“Hi! I’m Mikey and let’s battle with my many Pokemon!”
“What the…? What’s wrong with you people?”
“Pidgey! Use gust!”
“Tiko, use ember.”
The Pidgey became ash. So did Mikey’s Rattata.
“Huh,” Mikey said, “I usually win battles.”
“Yeah, okay. I’m going to be on my way.”
And yet again, I went up the hill. I saw a blond girl sitting by a field of grass, taking a rest. I tried to avoid her gaze, lest she do one of these weird battle challenge things that those kids did to me.
But I walked right past her and she said nothing. I stole a quick glance and she just smiled.
She’s probably not rabid, I thought, so I waved and sat down next to her.
“Hi,” I said.
“Hi,” she returned.
“You didn’t chase me down for a battle,” I said, taking a sip of water from my canteen. “The last two people I met wouldn’t leave me alone.”
“Oh, I’m not a trainer,” she laughed. “I’m just out traveling. But you’re right. Trainer culture is really weird. If someone spots you, you aren’t going to get out of a battle.”
“Huh… that’s not one of the things they talk about on TV when they advertise the Pokemon League or the Badge Challenges.”
“I know what you mean,” she agreed. “On TV it’s all formal, in an arena with people watching, the trainers are wearing crazy costumes and holding these ridiculous poses. Out here? It’s like…”
“People are crazy desperate to be wonderful…”
“Yeah, that sounds about right.”
I drank some more water, then decided to head out.
“Well thanks for the info,” I said. “It’ll probably help a lot when I don’t want to battle.”
“You’re welcome. Just try not to let them see you if you want to avoid a battle.”
I fought one more trainer that day; Don was his name. He was young, missing teeth, had a wife-beater on and was covered in bug bites. His two Caterpie shriveled and popped under Tiko’s flames.
When I made camp for the night, a few hours later, I realized that my journey was going to be filled with interesting, or perhaps insane, people.