“Okay, Gold,” I said. “You can do this.”
I was standing outside Lyra’s home. Trying to get the courage up to face her, and also processing what had just happened at my own home.
Mom had “offered” to take care of some of my funds for the trip. You know how Assmunch lost some of his money when I beat him in battle? Every time I won, Mom would get some of the money for safekeeping. That way, if I lost a battle, I wouldn’t lose too much money.
The downside was that Mom was probably going to spend my hard-earned credits on booze and drugs. Hopefully, and this is why I did it, she’d be able to eat as well.
I breathed in and out, psyching myself up. I could do this–I knew I could. I just had to shut off that one part of my brain that actively made me out to be the stupidest guy in town whenever I was near Lyra.
I knocked on her door. I was ready. I would give her the news, that I was leaving for a long time. It would be terribly tragic for her, for us, and how we only just became reconnected. She’d hug me and we’d cry, and she’d give me a kiss to remember her by. Something to come back for someday.
“Oh, hi Gold!” said her father.
“Uh, um, is–is Lyra here?”
“She just went out to play with Milly. You can probably find her somewhere around town.”
“Oh… okay,” I said. All of that adrenaline had nowhere to go, so I ended up jittery and nervous for no reason. “Thanks,” I said, and I left.
I looked all over town, but didn’t find her anywhere. Maybe it would be better if I just left, saying goodbye to no one, like a lone Houndour.
Yeah, my stupid teenage brain said, it’s best to be a loner. Better get a move on.
And as I stepped outside of town, once again encountering the wall of grass that represented mystery and danger, I ran into Lyra.
“Gold! Hey! I was waiting for you.”
“Hi, Lyra,” I said. “I, uh, was looking for you, actually.”
“Oh! Haha! Sorry, maybe I should have stayed put.”
“It’s okay,” I said, wishing I could just stare at Lyra and her beauty, but unable to meet her eye. “Um, I was going to tell you that I’m like… leaving.”
“Yeah, Professor Elm told me you were thinking about doing the Badge Challenge! That’s so cool.”
“I–yeah, I didn’t tell him I was doing it for sure though. I just said I might.”
“Oh,” she said, knowingly, “He’s smarter than he seems. He knew you’d go for it. And so did I. You’re real trainer material, you know?”
“Huh? I don’t know about that…”
“Well,” she said, stepping closer, “Some of us pay closer attention to you than you realize. In a good way. And we can tell that you have some talent.”
“I really don’t know the first thing, a-about… Pokemon.” I shrank as she approached, terror burning in my stomach.
“We all need a teacher sometimes,” she whispered. Then she took my hand. “Come on! Let’s catch a Pokemon!”
And she pulled me into the grass.
She gave me a rundown that I basically knew, but had never done, for obvious reasons. She had Milly tackle a Sentret a couple times, then she threw a Pokeball at the quivering little thing and after a few moments, it beeped and registered the Sentret under Lyra’s name.
“See?” she said. “Easy. Weaken the Pokemon you want to catch, then throw a Pokeball at it. Though, I hear if you poison or put a Pokemon to sleep, it makes it easier to catch them.”
She reached into her bag and produced five Pokeballs, then handed them to me.
“A going-away present,” she said, when I tried to say no.
“Fine. Thanks,” I said, embarrassed and uncomfortable, but still enjoying my time with her.
“Now you try,” she said. “I’ll watch.”
The pressure was on, but somehow, I did well. We walked for a few minutes until another Sentret popped out.
“Tiko,” I said. “Tackle it once.”
Tiko puffed an acknowledgment and hit the Sentret hard. I threw the Pokeball and that’s all it took. I caught a Sentret.
The PokeDex chimed shortly after my Trainer Card interfaced with the Pokeball. I read the entry, which was mildly interesting, and put the PokeDex in my backpack. When I went to put the Pokeball in with it, Lyra stopped me.
“One more going away present,” she said. There was a mischievous glint in her eye that was the most attractive thing I had ever seen in the world. I think my mouth hung open while I got lost.
She turned away, rummaging through her bag, and she pulled out a Pokeball.
“Your first trade,” she said. “If you want. Would you like to trade your newly acquired Sentret for my Squirtle?”
“A–a Squirtle!?” I gasped. Squirtle were rare. The last known was somewhere in Kanto, the country east of Johto, where I lived.
“I take it you’re impressed,” she said, still grinning.
“I–I… why would you trade that for a Sentret? That’s not an even trade at all.”
I never thought I would see what I did just then. Lyra blushed. She turned away from me. I was sure of it. I would spend the next several nights wondering what it meant and if maybe there was a mutual affection in that gesture.
“I’m… well, I thought if you encountered Assmunch again… You know, he might be dangerous, and Squirtle has great defenses. He might protect you if Assmunch gets the jump on you.”
I was so stunned that I didn’t know what to say.
“Bu–but, that’s so nice of you,” I managed.
“Just take care of him,” she said.
“You know I will, of course, yes,” I stammered. “I can’t even think of how to repay you…”
“Don’t even think about it,” she ordered.
She giggled. I handed my Pokeball to her and she held out hers. We each held the Pokeballs together, waited until our Trainer Cards beeped, then I took hers and she took mine.
“Go on,” she urged, “Say hi.”
I pushed the button and the ball opened. A moment later, the Squirtle was standing at my feet, looking up at me.
“What’s his name?” I asked.
“Snaps,” she said, a note of longing in her voice.
“Hi, Snaps. I’m Gold. This is Tiko.”
They sniffed at each other, then Snaps patted Tiko on the head.
“Snaps,” Lyra said, “Gold is your new trainer. Be good to him.”
Snaps looked up at me with his big eyes. His blue skin was scaly and slick with dew. His brown and yellow shell covered most of his body. His look was skeptical, as if he wasn’t sure I was worth his time, but after a moment, he stood to attention and saluted.
“Ha!” I said, surprised.
Lyra was laughing.
“I taught him that! I’m so glad he remembers.”
We stood around, interacting with the Pokemon and growing more comfortable in one another’s presence, but we hit a lull in the conversation. I knew it was time to go.
“I should probably be on my way,” I said.
“Yeah,” she replied. “My dad always says the best time to start something is right now.”
“That’s a good saying.”
We were quiet for a moment. I didn’t really want to leave at that moment.
But Milly made the call. She started tugging on Lyra’s leg.
“Well, I’m actually headed this way. I have something to do. Maybe you can catch up to me.”
Lyra gave me a quick hug–too quick–and took off toward Cherrygrove.
I stood and watched her as she went ahead. I’ll hold on to her, I thought to myself, after I’ve proven myself. I’ll become someone more deserving of her affection.
“So,” I said. “Who wants to walk with me?”
Tiko yawned. Snaps raised his hand.