“Those of you who have been to Vermillion or Cinnabar Gyms may think you understand battle safety. This intro class is to assure you that you do not.”
The instructor is dressed in a version of the Fuchsia gym uniform that indicates his status, and stands with his hands behind his back facing the two dozen students kneeling and sitting around him on one of the Gym’s larger rock gardens. Blue sits beside his friends and tries to focus on the lesson as people keep glancing at him.
“Vermilion likes to talk about the unpredictable nature of electricity. They teach good lessons on how various objects will attract or resist it, and on judging the amount of raw power a pokemon who can call down lightning can harness. Cinnabar Gym will hammer on similar points; that trainers of Fire pokemon must understand heat in all its forms, the way it rises and spreads, the temperatures at which various materials will combust. They do this because both electricity and fire are dangerous forces even when used by your own pokemon.”
Blue shifts his weight, still getting used to sitting seiza on the small wooden benches the gym has scattered around. They’re cushioned, which is nice, and keep his weight off his ankles, but they also throw off his sense of balance unless he sits properly. He sees Glen and Lizzy having the same problem, though Elaine and Maria seem fine. Conscious of eyes on him again, he does his best to keep his shoulders square and his back straight.
“What you’ll learn here is different. Whether your pokemon deals in poison, venom, or acid, the most important thing is not the ways your environment might affect their attacks; it is your opponent’s biology itself. There will be a few classes on ensuring wind patterns for poisonous gas, on which acids will be neutralized by what sorts of terrain and which will still be dangerous, but the majority will focus on how to tell when your opponent is close to death.” The instructor looks around, maybe checking to see if anyone isn’t paying attention, which seems unlikely after dropping that word. “This is important for wild pokemon you hope to catch, but also, of course, for trainers you face who may not be as well versed in determining just how close to irreparable damage they are… particularly if they’re too focused on winning, or are used to taking risks that paid off for them before.”
This time Blue isn’t sure if people are looking at him or if he just feels like they are.
“However, this responsibility comes with a perk.” Now the instructor is looking at Blue, who snaps out of a chain of memories his words brought up. “Oak here, at least, knows one way to use that to his advantage.”
He just smiles, mind racing until he focuses on which of his battles would be common knowledge first and works through those, after which it quickly becomes obvious. “Psychological warfare.”
“Precisely. Using poison pokemon or attacks in and of itself will often make an opposing pokemon or trainer wary. More than any other type, Poison types excel at zone control.” He turns to the easel beside him and starts drawing on the poster board. “Most pokemon will avoid smog or acid or spores, but that means even a miss can help you limit their mobility by careful planning. A master of Poison pokemon knows that time is their ally; setting up traps to catch even the most wary opponent takes patience, as does using defensive positioning to stay safe while they wear themselves out.”
He finishes drawing a few arena shapes, then starts indicating by cloudy shapes how smog could be used in each. Blue dutifully takes notes along with everyone else, and then they break into groups to try what they’ve learned. None of his pokemon can create poisonous smog, which leaves him to practice using Shimmer’s poison powder for aerial dispersal and toxic spikes from his newly evolved forretress for the ground. He’s practiced zone control with the others before, but not alone, since he figured if he was fighting alone other tactics would be better than dragging the fight out.
He can see the value of it now, however, and continues working out his strategies while deliberating on which of his pokemon can most complement and benefit from an opponent with restricted movement. Slower ones are an easy enough answer, but he’s sure there are better possibilities…
Eventually the class ends, and Blue chats with his friends for a few minutes before saying goodbye. He misses spending time with them between classes, but he’s been going to meet Koga every day since he arrived, which is part of why everyone at the gym has been paying more attention to him than they normally might. They seem to keep waiting for him to speak up in classes or activities and poke at why things are done a certain way, or suggest something else entirely be done.
So far, he’s managed to keep himself from any of that. The path he’s taking in Fuchsia so far starts with humility and reception; Koga advised him that it would make the most favorable impression, and Blue is sure the Leader meant both for his Gym members and for himself.
Not that he hasn’t had ideas already, of course…
“Well? Found some way to save the gym yet?”
Blue turns to find Janine leaning against a pillar, arms crossed. She’s wearing the gym uniform, but has a purple scarf around her neck, and he smothers a smile as he takes a breath and fully faces her, hooking his hands in his pockets. He wondered how long it would take before his first meeting with her, and knew it had to come from her initiative.
“Save it from what?”
“Whatever Father thinks is so wrong that he’ll break from a decade of careful preservation and refinement.”
“That sounds like something you’ll have to bring up with him.”
“Don’t play dumb. You two worked on that speech of his together.”
He wondered if she’d bring that up; the other reason people keep looking at him, he suspects. “What makes you say that?”
She rolls her eyes. “‘Our gym needs to both preserve the traditions that have served us so well, while still adapting to the challenges of our new age?’ He might not have said your name, but saying it after you show up and having all these meetings makes it a clear endorsement of what you’ve been doing at the other gyms.”
Blue crosses his own arms, now, brow raised. “Is that a problem?” He’s genuinely curious; despite what he agreed to, he doesn’t particularly want to become the Fuchsia Gym Leader, which means that if Koga’s worry that Janine will likely succeed him if he leaves the gym is accurate…
…she’ll be one of the Leaders under Blue’s purview as Champion, while Koga is one of his Elites. Ideally he leaves the city with a good working relationship with both of them.
“We’ve done just fine without them,” is her only response, and Blue can’t help but raise his brow.
“Huh. I didn’t expect you to be more traditional than your dad.”
“Is that a problem?”
She gets his inflection down perfectly, and he can’t help but grin before shrugging. “Only if it keeps Fuchsia from being better. You can’t think everything’s perfect as it is, right? How do you know I wouldn’t point to the same things you would?”
Janine snorts. “If that were so, Father wouldn’t be paving the way for you. He’d have just listened to me already.”
Blue watches her for a moment, then nods. “Alright, I get it now.”
“Why he doesn’t want you to be Leader.”
She hides the flinch well, but he still sees it. Maybe he shouldn’t have confirmed it so blatantly, but he’s not interested in beating around the bush for weeks either.
“And why’s that?”
“If he wanted you to know, he’d tell you. Figure it out yourself; you don’t need me, after all, remember?”
He walks away, half expecting her to follow but not needing her to; he made his point, and knows a perfect exit line when he says it.
Ideally, he leaves the city with a good relationship with both of them. Meanwhile he’s probably going to piss off one or the other sooner or later.
Still, it’s gratifying when she steps up beside him (surprisingly quietly, he didn’t hear her move) and matches his strides. “It won’t matter what my father wants if I beat him and undo any changes you make anyway.”
He shrugs. “By then I’m hoping you’ll see the benefits, and keep the ones that work.” Now. “If not, I’ll just have to beat you and take Leadership myself.”
Janine’s gait doesn’t falter, but Blue catches her shocked look in his periphery before she laughs. “What kind of con are you running here, Oak? Everyone knows you’re aiming for Champion.”
No use trying to hide that. “You’re right, I’m going to become Champion first. Then I’m taking a page out of Giovanni and Brock’s book, and settling in somewhere I can make a bigger local impact.”
She doesn’t have an immediate response to that, and her expression is schooled as they pass over a bridge that crosses the moat surrounding the small island where the main arena is located. Blue’s shoes scuff the sand on the other side, but Janine’s steps are as silent as before, and he looks down to watch how she shifts her weight onto each foot, trying to imitate her.
If she notices she doesn’t comment, instead looking around as he stops. “Did you bring me here for a match?”
“Just thought it would help avoid eavesdroppers.”
She frowns. “Why Fuchsia?”
“Why not Fuchsia? It’s as far out of the way as you can get without going to Cinnabar, so I wouldn’t be bumping elbows with others. It’s got the Safari Zone, which is a pretty damn important resource to protect and is likely going to only get more important as my friend Leaf’s project develops. And it’s just a beautiful city. I miss the Pallet Beaches.”
She didn’t seem to expect him to have an answer to that, or maybe she’s just having trouble believing they’re having this conversation. He watches her jaw flex, then relax. “This is my home.”
The words come across as a threat, not a plea. “Kanto is mine, and Fuchsia is in it. Why would I leave it in the hands of someone stuck in the past?”
“Oh fuck off, you don’t even know me.”
“And you know me?”
They stare each other down across the middle line of the arena, and after a few seconds he sees the older girl get it. Maybe not all of it, but enough that her eyes suddenly narrow, and dart to the arena, then around them.
There are people watching them. Not blatantly, but curiously, as they make their way from one place to another. No doubt wondering if they’re going to battle, or just what they’re talking about.
Either way, the word will spread.
“If I were to challenge you to a match right now,” Janine asks, voice low. “It would puncture whatever story you think you’re building here.”
“Funny thing, a few weeks ago I would have agreed with you. Now?” He unclips a ball and carelessly spins it on a finger while his other hand rises to cup around his lips, like he’s imparting some secret. “Even when I lose, I win.”
He’s exaggerating a little. The thought of losing to Janine, particularly in such a public way, makes his stomach clench. But it’s incredibly unlikely that he’ll beat her his first time, not without more intimately understanding her strategy and tactics. So long as he can get her to agree to more than one match, and frame the narrative properly, what is he really losing that’s worse than his loss to Brock was? And that “failure” turned out to be quite an opportunity.
She watches him balance the spinning pokeball, then walk it across his knuckles once it slows, and knows that she understands that turning away now would make it look like she’s the one that declined a battle challenge.
“This sort of pageantry has no place in a proper Gym,” she says after a moment, sounding like she’s talking through half-grit teeth. “It might have worked for you in the others, but it won’t matter here. And all I need to do to stop you from making it matter here is being the better trainer, which I am.”
“No, you’re just the stronger one. Maybe you’re even better than the Third or Second, maybe even better than your dad. But better than me?” He bounces the ball to his other hand and starts tossing it back and forth. “That’s going to take more than just one battle to determine.” He smiles. “Or else you can enjoy being Leader for a couple years before I come back for the title.”
For a moment as her expression hardens he thinks he might have overstepped, and then she grins, and something in the shape of it makes him know he did. “Three on three, to the faint.”
Shit. “Of course.” Practice matches don’t tend to skirt the line for major injury that close, but negotiating now would make him seem less serious about all this. Besides, it’s not like she’s going to maim his pokemon just to discourage him.
“We’re not doing it here, though. ”
…Is she? “Afraid of an audience?”
Janine just snorts as she walks away, and after a moment Blue follows, sending a quick message to Koga to cancel their meeting. Once he puts his phone away he watches Janine as they walk, reevaluating her with everything he’s learned.
Not as interested in public perception as he hoped, and also quicker to anger. Not that he’s one to talk. Still, it makes sense that she’s taking it as a personal attack rather than a friendly rivalry. She’s got the skill to feel justifiably patronized by him throwing a gauntlet down without even getting to know her or the gym.
Now he just has to make sure she doesn’t break his nose when she throws it back.
One of the first things he did after speaking with Koga was look up Janine’s most used teams. From what he could tell, and what she might know of his pokemon, she’s likely not going to use her anti-Psychic and Ghost pokemon, since he doesn’t have any that are fighting fit for a battle like this. On the other hand he hasn’t been shy about using his Ground types, so even if he doesn’t have to worry about her skuntank or drapion, she’s still got plenty of choices; he particularly noticed how well she tends to use toxicroak and roserade to take down anti-poison walls and weezing as a status inflicting wall of her own, with scolipede and crobat to act as sweepers.
Not the easiest list to narrow down, but he came as prepared as he could be.
They enter the main training hall and head to the elevators. Even their doors match the simple, warm wooden aesthetic, but once they’re inside it’s cool blue metal, and a few moments later they step out into a corridor as hi-tech as any other in Kanto. Janine steps over to the PC beside the door, and he looks away while she logs in and swaps the pokemon at her belt.
Once she’s done Janine leads him past the training rooms, some of which Blue has already spent time in, and toward the arenas. “Will you need any water for your team?”
“No,” he says, surprised by the offer and wondering if she picked a team for either arena type, or if she’s just that confident. Maybe he should have said yes to increase the odds of her bringing a tentacruel out for his magneton… but Rive would be at a huge disadvantage, and he doesn’t have enough of a water roster to really make up for it.
So they enter an earthbox arena, similar to the one where he fought his challenge matches in Pewter. Janine turns the fans by the door on to keep any smog from escaping before they put their masks on and take their positions on the platforms.
“Ready. Countdown if you are.”
“Sure.” He had some lines prepared for a public battle, but they’d be a bit silly to say here, particularly given how upset she might be. He feels the battle calm descend as he takes deep breath, mind focusing on nothing but the fight ahead. “Three, two, one, GO AEGIS!”
His forretress materializes together with Janine’s Galarian slowbro. Huh. Unexpected, but I’ll take it. As a Poison/Psychic pokemon it won’t have much to use against Bug/Steel.
“Sa!” he shouts to Aegis into a spin, bits of her metal carapace breaking off and flung onto the enemy side of the field, where the slowbro responds by—
—belching out a stream of fire.
Blue’s hand is already out to withdraw Aegis as she twitches and spasms, cursing under his breath. Galarian slowbro are the only pokemon in the whole family to not disproportionately favor special attacks, so of course she used a TM to teach it one anyway for exactly situations like this, where her opponent would assume it’s a physical attacker.
Thankfully he has a decent response as Rive comes out next, immediately shaking off the sludge that gets shot over the rhyhorn’s rocky hide. Blue knows better than to respond with a Ground attack when she’s still probably got a weezing or roserade to swap into, so he goes for Rock Throw, which scores a satisfying hit against the weezing she replaces her slowbro with.
“Tar!” The attack misses, but Blue is prepared for a drawn out slugmatch. Sooner or later one of these attacks will poison Rive and start the clock ticking, and she’ll probably use Will-o-Wisp to add a burn soon as well, but if he can last long enough that she sends out a—
Blue’s thoughts pivot, entire battle strategy reforming as the “wall” reveals itself to be another special attacker. He has no one better to switch into the oncoming ghost attack, and so he just lets his pokemon resume its offensive as it’s hit by the dark sphere. The rock throw lands with a satisfying thud, but Rive lets out a grinding roar of anguish as it endures the mental assault, visibly trembling and twitching. Combined with the potential for poison he’ll have to be withdrawn soon, but that weezing needs to go down—
Rive ejects another chunk of its rocky hide at the newly summoned enemy, who mostly shrugs the blow off. Blue’s battle strategy attempts to flip again, but there’s nothing for it to flip to.
Part of him suspected she might use a non-Poison pokemon to throw him for a loop, this isn’t exactly a standard gym battle and they never set a rule that she’d have to use only Poison types, but… a blaziken? Why pick that? Sure it gives her more options against any Steel walls he might have, but it’s just as susceptible as Poison pokemon would be to Ground or Psychic attacks…
…which makes it one of the last type combinations he’d expect her to use.
The blaziken is already rushing forward to attack, leaving bloody footprints over the spike-laden ground, and Blue has a split second left to decide between trying a Ground attack or swapping, and after the last two fakeouts he’s half convinced this is one too so he goes with his gut and yells “Ba!” as he grabs the handrails for stability.
The shockwave knocks the blaziken to its knees and coats it with earth, but it rolls forward and kicks Rive hard enough to send cracks through his hide and Blue has to swap to Nin, even knowing that as soon as he does—
“Return! Go, Slowbro!”
The cone of supersonic noise only hits for a moment before his golbat is pummeled out of the air. Slowbro tend to be resistant to confusion, but he’s got no better play than to hope for the best, and it’s at that thought that reality hits him and he withdraws Nin.
“I concede.” The words hurt coming out more than he expected; he didn’t even take down a single pokemon. Hell, he barely damaged them. Despite what he said aboveground, part of him is still very glad he didn’t get handed such a total loss in front of others. “Nice moves.”
Janine just withdraws her pokemon and vaults the wall of her platform, heading for the door without a word as she takes her mask off.
“Thanks for the lesson,” he says, making sure his sincerity is at the forefront of his tone as he removes his too and hurries to join her.
She pauses, seems to debate a moment, then turns her head toward him as he catches up. “What lesson?”
“Expect the unexpected.”
Janine snorts and keeps walking, but doesn’t make any particular effort to leave him behind. “That should be basic to any competent trainer.”
“Poison is usually a defensive type, and you went with an offensive team even when it looked like it could be otherwise. More specifically, you chose pokemon that aren’t your usual best so I don’t get experience fighting your real team next time.”
“You still think there’ll be a next time, after that?”
“Sooner or later.” He shrugs. “Up to you which it is.”
He can’t see her expression, but he does his best to take her silence as a victory.
“Just focus on what you want for them,” Leaf says to the room full of psychics, eyes closed as she follows her own instructions. “Your pokemon are your partners. They rely on you, and care for you more than their own lives. They’ll always be there for you, and never let you down. Think of how much you’d care for a person that was so devoted, what you’d want for them. To be safe, and avoid suffering. To be happy, and flourish, and reach their full potential.”
Her hand strokes Raff’s head as she speaks, and she feels her affection for him grow as he nuzzles her palm. She hopes the feeling is helpful to Sabrina’s students, who are trying to learn to memorize and generate the same level of deep emotional care that allowed her to help with the marowak ghost. By their fifth session she was worried the lessons would get repetitive—or at least, her part in them, she’s not sure what they do when she’s not around—which is why she started alternating the focus of each. She started with her feelings about pokemon in general, then switched to what she felt for the abra that seemed to work to keep them from fleeing, then her memory of what Red projected from her to the marowak ghost, painful as that was to remember.
Since she’s not psychic herself she has no way to even check if they’re making progress, which is why she started asking them to fill out daily forms of how they feel about pokemon before they go to bed each night. Just a number is enough, though she invited them to expand on it with any thoughts they notice that seem new or unusual.
Today she’s hoping to broaden everyone’s connection to their own pokemon, through the deep love she feels for hers, under the hypothesis that there might be some spillover effects to pokemon that aren’t theirs. Not that it would be bad for them to care about their own pokemon more too, but she’s curious about the barrier between how much affection people feel for their pokemon compared to others. She still remembers the conversation with Red and Blue at the start of their journey, and while some of the quick and strong bonds people form does seem like an obvious consequence of ownership and familiarity and affection, the same way people care about their friends and family more than strangers, it still seems like the dropoff for other pokemon is sharper than it should be (could be?).
She knows it’s possible, at the very least, thanks to her own feelings, and those of people like Natural and others who have reached out to her over the past year, some even admitting that reading her writings on the topic changed the way they feel about pokemon, even those that aren’t theirs… though she hasn’t noticed anyone who doesn’t have pokemon mention such a change, so far at least. All of which makes it hard to resist using this opportunity to try getting some deeper understanding of the bond between people and pokemon.
Still, she tries not to lose sight of the real reason she’s here… even if she finds it strange that psychics, of all people, might need these lessons.
“I don’t need to tell you that the creature in front of you is as real as you are; unlike most people, you can intimately feel its suffering, its joy. Let yourself lean into whatever natural desires you have to protect your own pokemon from harm, and imagine the pokemon you want to project onto is a future pokemon of yours.” She spends some time moving through those mental motions herself, first picturing each of the pokemon she caught before she caught them, then imagining how she feels about them now, followed by thinking of what new friends she might make in the coming years. “If you can imagine that, and how you will probably feel about them, it might help you embody a similar feeling sooner, before you’ve even caught them.”
Doing these lessons has had an interesting effect on her own experiences. A similar thing happened when she wrote about her feelings and philosophy about pokemon; making them so explicit forced her to delve into the content of every shade and nuance of emotions that felt natural to her, every notion and thought that might tangentially be related to or build the worldview. It was surprising how each article kept revealing more depth and detail to what she already seemed to feel or “know” to herself, or at least refined it.
After all that, she didn’t think her feelings about pokemon had a new way to grow. But doing the same thing even more directly, communicating the ideas to people right in front of her, out loud, while focusing on the sensations in her body as she does it… all seems to layer a richness over the expanded awareness she got from making the ideas explicit for the articles.
The experience has made the lessons worthwhile all on their own, and she draws in a slow breath as she imagines all the friends Raff has yet to make once she introduces him to them, how much joy he seems to get when playing with other pokemon, and feels her love for him swelling to fill her chest.
“Your pokemon have a lot to teach you about enjoying life, and seeing it from new angles. You just have to be willing to spend the time with them. Share yourself with them, figuratively or literally, and listen, and feel.”
She lets the last of the breath out, and opens her eyes, to check the time. Two minutes to go, which is close enough. She gives everyone another minute in the silence, then says, “That’s it for today. I hope it was helpful.”
“Very,” Satori says, and gives Leaf a rare smile, hand stroking her torracat. “Thank you, Leaf.”
Leaf grins. “You’re welcome.” She likes Satori; she’s distant, a bit like MG—Maria—used to be, but she seems to be more invested in the classes than anyone else, and not just because it might help her with her own personal project of creating such a strong bond with her pokemon that it would persist beyond its Dark evolution.
She stays behind while everyone else leaves, intending to catch up with Jason, but is surprised to see Rowan waiting too. He’s usually first out the door beside Tatsumaki and Daniel. Her surprise turns to shock when she gets a closer look and sees he’s quietly weeping.
“Are you well, Rowan?” Jason asks, and while there’s concern in the medium’s voice, there’s also a note of something like caution. Leaf noticed that the others treat Rowan a bit oddly, but she’s not sure she really gets why.
“Yes,” Rowan says, and takes some tissues from inside his robe to mop at his eyes. “I’m just… it’s beautiful, what you can do, Leaf. I think… I might have understood it, for once.”
“Oh, are these happy tears?” She grins, relieved. “That’s wonderful, Rowan!”
“Yes…” He hugs his espeon, who waves her tail, split ends twitching. “Yes, it is… I’m so lucky to have my pokemon, and I know I can do better for them…”
Leaf beams at him, but notices that Jason doesn’t seem as thrilled. She only has a moment to wonder why before Rowan suddenly takes a deep breath, then lets it out and bounces to his feet with a grin.
“That was great,” he says, wiping impatiently at his eyes. “I’m going to see how easily I can remember that series of partitions and do it again.” His espeon rubs at his leg, and his grin fades a little as he quickly withdraws it. “Thanks, Juniper.”
“Uh, you’re welcome,” she says, but he’s already leaving, and closes the door behind him without another word. She turns to Jason, who’s staring after Rowan with a resigned expression, and Satori, who is stroking her torracat with a slight frown. “Was that…?”
“As he said, his partitions,” Satori says. “Personality editing. It’s been… disconcerting, at times, but Sensei says he has not done anything obviously harmful yet, and it is his mind to experiment with as he sees fit.”
Jason nods. “I believe he’s trying to catch up to Red, in terms of creating new forms of partition manipulation, but in his own way.”
“Ah.” She’s not sure she totally got all that, but she can ask Red later. He hasn’t come to her lessons yet, which has been understandable, though also a little disappointing. His unique abilities mean he needs them the least, but at the same time she thinks that philosophically he’s the most likely to actually change his perspective if he spends more time focusing on these things. “What about you, did you two find it helpful?”
“Yes, I believe so,” Satori says with a smile. “I believe I will be ready to evolve Pela sometime in the next month or two.”
“Oh, that’s great!”
“I have too,” Jason adds. “I’ve found this compassion you generate similar to what I’ve found helpful to embody when dealing with Ghost pokemon, and it is interesting to add another layer onto that, from another angle.”
“That sounds great. I’ve been meaning to ask you about that, but I have to head out now. Let’s catch up later?”
“I’d like that.”
“Take care, Leaf.”
She withdraws Raff and heads out, but instead of going to the roof to teleport she makes her way down to the street while taking her phone out to order a cab to Lavender Town. She registered her second one to Fuchsia once she started going there regularly, and Sabrina gave her an abra registered to Saffron as part of her thanks for the lessons to her students, but cheap as abra have gotten Leaf didn’t expect to see Laura often enough to justify getting another to keep her Lavender teleport.
It’s not the price that bothers her so much as the implications of owning so many abra. She likes to get to know her pokemon, and the ones she takes care of at the ranch, understand their personality, but there are only so many hours in a day, and abra are… not the most interactive pokemon. She feels bad enough for Psyguy, whose whole life seems to be feeding and sleeping and teleporting her when she needs him (along with her occasional attempts to engage him in play, which he just seems confused by), and even worse for how little she’s engaged Aiko and Sabrina’s abras, defaulting them to a “life” spent mostly as oblivious energy. Acquiring yet another one before she even gets to know the others would feel neglectful.
So she gets in the cab when it arrives and sits back for the ride, catching up on her messages and checking the news along the way. Today it’s full of reports and articles about the latest pokemon discovered in Sinnoh; yanma don’t normally have an evolution, but a couple days ago one trainer’s suddenly evolved into an undiscovered species. At first people thought it was like the temporary evolution of Steven’s pokemon, but it didn’t revert back, and today another trainer’s evolved into the same one.
All told, “yanmega” is the ninth new pokemon that’s been discovered since the Hoenn incident, more than half of which have been somewhere on the island chain. It seems to confirm the idea that the increased activity of unown is what’s causing new pokemon to appear, which generates interest even for non-researchers… though less excited interest, and more fearful. Most articles she’s seen (not aimed at battle trainers at least) concern the chances of another major incident like what happened on Cinnabar, or even Lavender.
To the relief of many, the marowak ghost appears to have been one of a kind so far. The ditto, meanwhile, were uniquely capable of hiding and disrupting the ecosystem until there were enough of them to cause a stampede. Most new pokemon aren’t powerful or generated in high enough numbers to cause such an immediate and major shakeup of their environment; there have even been theories that the majority of new pokemon that come into existence aren’t noticed by humans at all because they’re killed off somewhere in the wilderness before anyone encounters them. It would also explain why the majority of the past few decades’ discoveries have been pokemon generated from manmade objects or ecosystems.
Still, at this rate of genesis the odds of new pokemon causing Tier 2 or higher incidents may rise until they’re a seasonal incident, at least somewhere in the world. Various regions haven’t finished recovering from the ecological shifts Groudon and Kyogre caused, and if the ditto had shown up in Hoenn, where the worst of it is still running the local rangers and league ragged, there’s no way they would have contained it properly. Not without outside help, which would open those regions up to similar risks from even their own “normal’ incidents.
All of it puts more weight on her project going well. So much so that sometimes she has trouble sleeping at night, or even playing with her pokemon, worrying over how she should be spending that time making sure she’s doing all she can. For a project that’s already far bigger than her, and beyond her capabilities in many ways, that leaves her mostly double and triple checking her own work and trying extra hard to catch up in the areas she’s still learning.
It’s also made her work in the investigation feel less important, even while it’s more interesting (and exciting). For now she has a good excuse; she did manage to actually learn things, after all, even if some of it was less from competence and more perseverance. But after she shares what she’s learned with Laura, she knows she’ll go back to worrying about whether the investigation into the conspiracy, big and important as it feels, actually matters compared to all the human and pokemon lives that would be improved by completing the program.
She wonders if this is how Blue feels all the time. If so, it could explain why he’s so focused on his goal, even more than she and Red, with their various side projects. Is it pleasant for him, living like that? Does he ever have other things he wishes he could do, or do they not even register to him in the first place? Somehow she never thought to ask him.
Well, nothing’s stopping her now, and she’s almost there anyway. Leaf writes him a message, then reads it over while imagining his perspective as best she can before doing some edits to make sure it doesn’t come across as patronizing, then hits send as the cab stops.
“Thanks,” she says as she gets out, then starts walking the last couple minutes beyond the road to where Laura’s new house is; she apparently decided to change her rental to one that’s a little ways beyond the town proper. The walk gives Leaf time to appreciate the changes around her since the last time she was here.
Lavender Town in the springtime is much prettier, but more than that its entire vibe has changed from a quiet place for mourning to a lively community. She imagines that has as much to do with the circumstances as the weather, but either way it’s nice not to be hit by any particularly strong memories from that visit.
It helps that she also keeps her gaze from lingering on the tower. She considered visiting the rangers at the tower while she’s here, but isn’t sure if she wants to face the memories there just yet… not while she still wakes from nightmares, now and then, of burnt and bloody cubone and marowak bodies piled like garbage…
She resolves to decide how she feels after she speaks with Laura.
When she reaches the right house and knocks, Red’s mother opens the door almost immediately and gives her a hug before inviting her in and serving lunch while Leaf summons her three abra.
Laura starts with small talk as they eat delicious meatless burritos, which gives Leaf the opportunity to surreptitiously study Laura up close. Red’s mother seemed distracted the last few times they spoke; Leaf imagined it was due to other parts of the investigation going well, but trusted her to share it when she’s ready.
Now Leaf wonders which of them is having more trouble sleeping; Laura looks more tired than Leaf’s ever seen her.
Tired, but focused. The fact that Leaf asked for an in-person meeting at all made it clear something important happened. By the time she refills both of their tea cups, she gets a message on her phone, then nods to Leaf and says, “Okay, we’re good to talk.”
Leaf blinks. “Did you just…?”
“Anti-spying measures,” she says with a small smile as a door opens somewhere in the house. A moment later a handsome dark skinned man with a goatee and a shaven head walks into the dining room, hands latching his pokebelt on. “Thanks, Asim.”
“Of course. Nice to meet you, Miss Juniper.”
“Um. Hello,” Leaf says trying to keep from staring. She doesn’t recognize the name or his accent. “Um. Who…?”
“Just a friend of Sam and mine.” Laura turns to him. “This shouldn’t take too long.”
“No rush, I’m going to the trainer house to see if anyone’s worth a match or two.” He nods to Leaf, then walks past them and out the door.
Leaf stares after him, then looks at Laura, who just gives her a small smile.
“Like I said, just a friend. He helps make sure we don’t have any unwanted listeners.”
“And good with tech. So what brought you here? News on the ninja clan?”
“Not… exactly.” She takes a breath. “I, uh, met your informant.”
Laura’s eyes widen, and Leaf quickly summarizes what happened (still embarrassed by the fact that the informant got the drop on her, though she knows that’s absurd if they really are a ninja and probably even if they’re not). She expects Laura to chastise her for the risk she took, but instead she just seems too preoccupied by the revelations her old informant passed along.
“Silph’s battling an organization that’s separate from the informant,” Laura murmurs. “And also has worked with… which means… Leaf, what do you think would have happened if Yuuta wasn’t killed? Assuming he didn’t spill any information either way.”
“Well… nothing, I guess. If we assume that he didn’t have anything else to reveal, the case would have just… faded, right? If someone hired him to steal the fossils, we’d probably never find out.”
“Right. And if that was the point?”
“Then… Silph killed Yuuta so people would investigate who hired him? But why not just tell people?” Leaf blinks. “Oh. Because if it’s an organization they’re also allied with… that would be an act of war. Instead of… whatever weird alliance they have.”
“Or the right hand doesn’t know what the left is doing. No organization is truly monolithic; I actually believe Silph when he says he doesn’t know about some of the stuff that was revealed. Why would he? He’s got a business to run, and a massive one.”
“That’s another thing, though; who’s big enough to be a real rival to Silph? Is Devon operating in Kanto?”
“Only minimally. It’s a good question, and there are a few companies I’ve looked into, but none fit the sorts of things that were found to be stolen under the Casino.”
“Have we learned anything else about them, by the way? Who worked there, what they were doing?”
Laura smiles. “You think they’d tell me?”
“Have you asked?”
“Leaf, I’m a reporter! Even self-employed, the police don’t talk to us, not unless someone’s got a chip on their shoulder, or some agency is screwing things up so badly that one of their officers or detectives wants to leak something that’ll put pressure on them to shape up.”
“What if you offer to trade info or something? There’s got to be something in all the data we got that could be useful to them.”
Laura opens her mouth, then closes it, frowning slightly. Leaf waits, expecting to hear some answer as to why that isn’t workable, and finally Laura sighs and drinks some tea as she rubs her forehead. “I… may have a bit of a fear of talking to the police over any of this.”
“Wh—oh.” Leaf feels like an idiot. “Sorry, I totally forgot.”
“No, it’s nothing to be sorry about. You’re raising good points, and I haven’t… actually considered the idea. Just avoided the possibility out of fear.” She shakes her head. “There’s no reason to think that Silph has people in every police department, but my gut insists it’s not worth the risk.”
“Your gut is probably right. I was just saying stuff, I didn’t just forget what you went through, I didn’t consider the risk. And it’s not like I’ve been totally open with the police.”
Laura chuckles, but upon remembering the events that led to her saying that, Leaf’s thoughts are already considering a new possibility.
“Hey, what about Looker?”
“The Interpol detective? He’s probably safe enough, but they’re not going to have much to say or do with something like this, not unless we had evidence of interregional crime.”
“What if we do, and just don’t know it?”
Laura blinks. “That’s… possible. But for the best chance of them connecting any dots they might have the other half of, I’d have to hand over everything.” She thinks for another moment, then nods. “I’ll think about it. Thank you, Leaf.”
She beams, feeling happy to have helped. They talk some more about what possible points of investigation Leaf could use to find out more, and after a while Leaf smiles.
“You know, I was half expecting you to say this is all too dangerous and to walk away from it.”
Laura smiles. “Would you have listened? Sorry, that’s unfair. You’ve been, overall, very sensible.”
“Even if you did get caught and are lucky my informant just wanted to chat.” Leaf squirms, and Laura laughs. “But overall, I trust you to know what you can handle. You’ve been through a lot since we last talked about this, and I’m the one that asked you to look into my informant in the first place. I’m not going to pull you out just as you get results.”
“But they don’t want me to keep looking into them. What if they get mad?”
Laura shrugs. “You might learn something just by working together. Just be careful; they were right to say your earlier investigation probably tipped Silph and any other interested parties off. In fact, be sure to keep looking like you’re looking for them, otherwise—”
“People might think I succeeded, instead of thinking I gave up.” Leaf smiles, happy for the explicit encouragement to keep working in the investigation. “I’ll be careful. More careful, I mean.”
“I know you will. That’s why I’ve agreed to introduce you to my newest informant, assuming you agree.”
Leaf blinks. “Your… what, the one that lives here? When? Today?”
“Sure, if you have time and he’s up for it.”
“Oh, yeah! Totally!”
Laura smiles and stands, taking her phone out. “I’ll step into the other room and call him, if you don’t mind cleaning the dishes?”
Leaf hops up and gets to work, excitement making everything go twice as fast. She finishes before Laura returns, then goes to check in on her pokemon. Psyguy nibbles the food she offers, but the other two don’t seem hungry.
When Laura returns, she goes to latch her pokemon belt on, and Leaf automatically moves to do the same. “He said yes?”
“Who is he?” Leaf asks, excitement building as she withdraws her abras. The rooftop meeting with the informant has a surreal feel in her memory, and she’s getting it again as she thinks of how much deeper into the investigation she’s about to be admitted. She’s not sure how many people she’d admit this to, but while Leaf has always known she enjoyed learning new things, she’s also found she likes knowing secret things. Not just any gossip, but important things. It feels wrong, somehow, but she can’t deny the sense of importance she feels as they step outside and Laura locks the door behind her before leading them toward the town.
“His name is Dr. Fuji. He’s a little… odd.” Laura’s voice is cautious, but also sympathetic. “He’s been through a lot, and has lived a secret, isolated lifestyle for years. In a way he reminds me of Mr. Sakai, though not in any obvious way.”
Leaf’s excitement starts to cool as the reality of the situation reasserts itself. “What’s he been hiding from? Silph?”
“No, that’s… more complex. He’s apparently been working for Silph, but only because he doesn’t trust anyone else to work on the project and get it right.”
Laura doesn’t turn her head, but Leaf sees the way her eyes glance around them again, clearly a reflexive check as her voice lowers further. “He calls it a masterball. A pokeball that combines and surpasses all the specialized tech of the others.”
Leaf blinks. “You mean… higher mass limit than even heavyballs, and longer lock on range than quickballs?”
“Effective underwater, elemental protection, the works.”
“It is. They’re meant to be a weapon against legendaries, not just the Stormbringers but in case of another Hoenn incident.”
Despite her words, Laura’s voice is grim, and Leaf frowns at her. “So what’s the problem?”
“It’s also meant to completely overwrite the pokemon’s identity. It would turn them into biological machines; no trace of anything but basic survival instincts and reflexes.”
Leaf feels a chill race up her spine. Masterball… It would be a lobotomy, as good as death. Why…?
But she knows why. If it’s meant for legendaries, the goal would be to minimize any chance whatsoever of them not being conditioned. Particularly after Groudon apparently shook off whatever conditioning came from his own capture.
Or maybe that’s just how he acted even with it.
It takes Leaf another moment to remember that most people don’t care about pokemon the way she does, and only then does she really get it.
“Would that… work on people too? Would that be legal?”
“That’s Dr. Fuji’s worry. It’s not meant to, of course, which is how it might skirt the laws; changing its coding enough to capture a human in the first place is already against the law. But there’s very little incentive to do that with a normal ball, given what it does to people…”
Perhaps next someone will make a ball big enough and catch the earth, or throw it far enough and catch the sun. It is folly.
“There’s more, other tech involved that Dr. Fuji doesn’t have full knowledge of. He thinks it’s going to also incorporate new material being developed to be resistant to psychic abilities.”
Leaf’s shock chases away the previous thoughts. “That exists?” Would a helmet of it protect someone from a psychic? Maybe only from the sides or back?
“He seems to think so, but… I’m honestly a little unsure.” She lets out a breath. “Investigations like this are always difficult.”
“With an unreliable informant. Oh, I believe him about most things, or I wouldn’t be in so deep. But most isn’t all, and getting any details wrong could be disastrous, not just at the point where a story gets published but even before that.”
“Is he just unreliable because he’s… depressed? Or is it something else?”
“You’re thinking of Mr. Sakai. Like I said, it’s not that bad. If Dr. Fuji is ever obviously out of touch with reality, I haven’t seen it. But he does have mood swings, possibly from years of isolation. Sometimes depression, other times a manic energy, but not a happy one. Intense, even angry at times.”
“Don’t worry, I never felt any sense of danger from him. I can’t really imagine him hurting anyone. And maybe he’s completely justified in what he’s feeling. But from the perspective of a neutral observer, he’s too unusual to be a credible single source.”
They reach the house, and after a quick knock and a brief wait, Leaf gets her first look at Dr. Fuji.
The old man who opens the door is pale and skinny, with tufts of white hair around a bald crown. He blinks at them a moment, then peers beyond them, then steps back to invite them in without a word.
Leaf enters and stands awkwardly to the side, unsure of whether she should introduce herself until he closes the door and turns to her. “Leaf Juniper.”
“Hi, yes. Dr. Fuji. Nice to meet you.”
He takes her proffered hand, but carefully, and releases it quickly. “You’ve got Cedric’s eyes.”
“You’ve met my grandpa?”
“Just once, long ago.” He turns to Laura. “Thank you for coming, Laura.”
“Of course,” Laura says, and takes his hand as well. “I’ll put some tea on, shall I?”
The older man frowns. “Nonsense, you’re my guests. I’ll make the tea.”
“No offense, Doctor, but your tea is a little… overly suited to your tastes.”
“Hmph. You’re saying I steep it too much.”
“You’re just a little out of practice playing host.” She smiles. “You can practice on me the next time I come by, but let’s spare Leaf that while you two get acquainted.”
Dr. Fuji sighs, but nods. “That would be lovely, thank you.”
She sweeps past toward the kitchen, and after a moment Fuji follows, leading Leaf past the entrance parlor, where laundry is drying over the couch and chair… or at least she assumes that’s why they’re there. The house in general looks like someone’s been living in it for years without company, though she sees signs of recent half-hearted cleaning; there’s a broom and dustbin leaning against the corner, and the dining room table is half covered in a mess of books and plates and pokeballs and half covered in those same things, but stacked into piles.
It’s only once she reaches the table that she sees the pokemon; a cubone, a lickitung, and a pikachu are in the living room, which seems to have been converted into a playpen for them.
“Aww,” she says, grinning as she approaches the pikachu, then pauses. “May I?”
“Please. They’re friendly, and don’t often get new company.”
Leaf crouches and reaches out to pet the ‘chu, who nuzzles her hand, sniffing curiously. This area, she notices, is relatively clean, considering the fact that pokemon live in it. “What’s his name?”
She grins. “Because he’s yellow and sweet, or because he likes to eat it?”
He chuckles. “Both.”
“How long have you had them?”
“Oh, a few years. I… needed company, you know.”
“I do.” Now the lickitung approaches, and she hesitates as its tongue waves around in front of her. She’s always been a little grossed out by them, and feels herself wanting to step away from its reaching tongue.
But she knows it uses the tongue because its other senses are so bad, and watching its dull black eyes look to her right and left as it wags its tongue closer and closer makes her feel a well of sympathy for it. She reaches a hand out to stroke its tongue, and while it’s no less gross than she expected (though drier, thankfully), the way it seems to relax upon exploring her hand makes her feel good about the decision.
“Most don’t find them a very pettable pokemon,” Dr. Fuji says, handing her a wetwipe from somewhere on the table, which she gratefully takes despite knowing their tongues emit antibacterial enzymes (when they’re not emitting a paralyzing one for battle, at least). “Do you have one?”
“No, this is actually the first I’ve met. I just… felt sorry for it.” She tosses out the wipe, then goes to greet the cubone, which is sitting in the corner, eyeing her warily. “Is this…”
“One of those from the tower incident, yes. I only acquire pokemon who aren’t fit for combat, despite the best efforts of pokeball training… this one seems to have been particularly traumatized by the loss of its parents.”
Leaf closes her eyes a moment, reliving those soul-rending moments in the tower, seeing the heaps of bodies, hearing the mournful cries… and then she takes a breath, and crouches down to gently stroke its bonelike “mask.” It goes still for a moment, then uses its club to push her hand away.
It makes her heart ache, and she wants to pet it again somewhere else, find the right thing that’ll help it relax… but instead she just carefully stands and steps away to show she’s not a threat, then goes to play with Custard again. As she does she sees the older man smiling at her.
“You certainly live up to your reputation.”
“Do I? Which one?”
“Laura told me you were with her son in Vermilion, when Zapdos hit it. And your experience in Celadon, when Groudon woke… I can only imagine how frightening that must have been.” He watches her as she rubs the pikachu’s fur. “I’d understand why you might not want to write about such experiences. But I am curious to know how you feel about legendary pokemon, whether your compassion has limits, given their destructive power.”
Leaf takes a moment to collect her thoughts. She’d been a little prepared by what Laura told her about Fuji’s concerns for the master ball project, but that just means she has to find a new way to put her thoughts into the relevant words. “Honestly, I have struggled with that. It’s not like they chose to be the way they are, and they’re not… I mean, there are some pokemon that are, for lack of a better word, cruel. It’s their nature, they didn’t choose that either, but getting them to stop hurting others would require changing what they are. So far as we know, legendary pokemon don’t seem to be ‘trying’ to cause pain, they just… do.”
Laura joins them with a tea tray and biscuits, and Dr. Fuji insists on pouring for them. Leaf takes one of the rich chocolate cookies and dips it in her tea as it cools. It’s so tasty she eats nearly the whole thing in two bites, then looks down at Custard, who sniffs at it. A quick glance at Dr. Fuji confirms it’s okay, and the pikachu eats it from her hand, cheeks showing just a brief flicker that sends a pang of ghost pain down the side of her body that Red’s pikachu shocked when she caught it nearly a year ago.
“I understand,” Dr. Fuji finally says. “Or, I think I do. Let me know if I have it wrong. Your ideal solution, given all the power in the world, would be to render them harmless. Not just them, but all pokemon, if you could. No more need to capture them, let alone fight them.”
Leaf nods. “Yes. And not just harmless to us, to each other. Make it so everyone can subsist on other diets.”
“Interesting… and very possible, given the extent of TM technology. But it would be a massive undertaking, to change their genetic code as well such that their children would retain it. And these pokemon would need to be more ecologically fit, to outcompete and outbreed their unaltered competition… unless you hope to capture every pokemon in the world.”
She smiles. “I’m idealistic, but still sane, I think.”
“Idealistic is too often a pejorative. What you are is ambitious, and I salute you for it.”
“Hear hear,” Laura murmurs, and lifts her cup as he lifts his.
Leaf feels warmed by more than the tea as she takes another biscuit. “Well, I have less ambitious plans for the meanwhile.”
“So I’ve heard. But are they similarly concerned for the welfare of the legendary pokemon?”
“Not directly. For those with Pressure, I hope my plan will remove the effects on wild pokemon, though, so… without the stampedes, it’ll be easier to just hunker down and let them pass.”
“Would you want them captured or killed, eventually?”
Leaf meets Dr. Fuji’s gaze, biscuit soaking in her tea. “If they’re captured by the masterball, it sounds like they’d be as good as dead. Worse, that sort of reprogramming would be used for more than just legendaries.”
Dr. Fuji gives her a slow nod, but doesn’t say anything more, still waiting for her answer.
Leaf has felt tested since the beginning, but nervous as she is about disappointing, she’d rather fail in a way that makes it clear she doesn’t think the question has an easy answer than “guess the password” with a belief she doesn’t have. So she sighs and strokes Custard’s fur.
“I don’t know. I guess I was being a bit naive with what I said about the Pressure… even without stampedes, the storms would do a lot of damage, so people will probably always want to capture or kill them. And the storms would still kill a lot of wild pokemon, especially if they’re not stampeding to stay ahead of them.” She eats her tea-soaked biscuit, which helps a bit. “I don’t know if there’s a good answer. I want to believe every problem has a solution, but… if I care about people, and wild pokemon, including the legendaries… I can’t come up with an answer that doesn’t rely on technology we don’t yet have.”
“I agree,” Fuji says, and gives a sigh of his own as he stares into his cup. “The masterball will be used if it’s completed. It may even work, and I can’t say that it would be a worse thing than killing them, or that that itself concerns me at all. In fact, I might breathe easier in a world where the legendaries were dead than captured… particularly if the masterball is used. But you understand the true problem. It is hard to root for my own project’s success, knowing what the next use will be once the Stormbringers are caught. Or perhaps even before.”
Leaf frowns, unsure what else they might be used for—the Beasts, maybe, or Titans if their mass storage limit is really that much higher?—but instead she focuses on her real curiosity. “So what can we do to help? If you’re being forced to work on it…”
Dr. Fuji shakes his head. “At this point, my contributions are minimal. It will be finished with or without me, and even if its creation is completely stopped, someone else will create it sooner or later.”
“Is that a sure thing? The recent unown research ban—”
“It’s not the same. Silph has poured too much time and money into this to let it go without a fight… and what’s more, they believe in the project. This isn’t just a better pokeball, to them. It’s the road to peace and safety, for the whole region.” He shrugs. “They’ll charge millions for each, because that’s what they’re worth. But the first ones made will be made for the legends, and the public has no reason to care for those. The what ifs and maybes for after won’t matter to them if it brings an end to our worst nightmares.”
The table is silent after that, and Leaf stares at the biscuits, suddenly not hungry for another one. She sips her tea, finds it at the right temperature, and drinks the rest. When she’s done, she still doesn’t have any thought of what to say, and Laura is just as quiet.
“So that’s it?” she asks at last. “I’m not saying you’re wrong, but…” She’s not used to hearing about a problem just to give up on it, either, and if there’s really nothing they could do about this one, why did he ask to meet her?
“I’m curious to know,” Dr. Fuji says, “How you would feel about a person with the power of a legendary.”
Leaf blinks. “Well… my friends and I talked about this a while back. Who could be trusted with that much power, how other regions would react to even a Champion having one…”
“Not a human with a legendary pokemon. That could be taken from them. A human with legendary powers.”
Leaf blinks again, frowns. “Like in Power Force?”
“Oh, it’s a show, um, a cartoon, where certain people get the powers of pokemon. Not a legendary, but…”
“Yes, like that. Would this person deserve the rights of any other person?”
“Even if they could use those powers for great harm, without being caught?”
Leaf hesitates again. “That’s… how would we even know if they did or not? Or how wouldn’t we know, if they were that powerful?”
“I don’t mean caught as in knowing it’s them. Apprehended. Stopped.”
She looks at Laura, who seems as curious about the line of questioning as she is. “I don’t know. I think at that point they’d be treated like a Renegade anyway, so their rights would be basically gone?”
“Yes. I think so too.” Dr. Fuji refills her tea cup, then Laura’s, then his. “What about a pokemon as intelligent as a person?”
Leaf takes another biscuit. “I thought about this too. With all the new pokemon appearing, some of them breaking rules that we thought existed… and Latias and Latios seem really smart… I would hope at that point it would be obvious to even the most stubborn speciesist that they should be treated like people, but I know there would probably still be some insisting on a divide.”
“So if such a pokemon were to arise, you would insist it be given all the rights of a human, despite its power?”
“Well, yeah! If it’s intelligent enough to communicate with us, and has even somewhat human values, it should be possible to treat it just like anyone else.”
“What if it hurts people anyway? Would you be in favor of capturing it?”
She frowns. “If it hurts people it should be treated like a person that hurts people. We know what pokeballs do to humans, and should assume it would do the same thing to it. So no, absolutely not, and it shouldn’t take empathy toward pokemon for others to realize why that would be wrong.”
Dr. Fuji suddenly smiles. “I imagined you would feel that way, but it’s still good to hear it. Now I must ask…. would that be something you’d be willing to try and prevent?”
Leaf blinks. “If I can. Do you think there’s something else I can do, besides what I am already?”
“Perhaps. You see, I think fiction has an incredible power to open our eyes to new perspectives, empathize with people beyond those we normally might. To that end, I’ve spent some time writing a book. A novel, written from the perspective of an incredibly powerful pokemon with human level intelligence, struggling with its place in a world of unintelligent pokemon and powerless humans.” He shrugs. “I have a few drafts, here and there, but I think it’s missing something. I’m not much of a writer, I’m afraid.”
Leaf has read stories written from a pokemon’s perspective before; it’s a particularly popular type of children’s story. But this sounds like something different, more mature. “That sounds great, Doctor, but… why me? I’m flattered, but… I’ve written about mythology, articles and blog posts, news stories, but never fiction.”
“Don’t sell yourself short,” Laura says, speaking for the first time since the tea was served. “Your writing is excellent, and you’re a fast learner. You also know how to set scenes and write dialogue in engaging ways. Your first draft wouldn’t be a masterpiece, but few are, and you can certainly write well enough for that.”
“You also don’t have to commit to anything now,” Dr. Fuji says. “But if you have time to read over some of what I’ve written, maybe give some feedback, I’d appreciate it. I think you have what it would take.”
Leaf looks back and forth between them, then drops her gaze as she considers it. She thought she was past adding new pursuits and learning new skillsets, now that she found what she believes is her real, true life project. And she’s already been worrying about how she can justify spending time on things other than it…
But this seems like something really valuable, and maybe even something she’s uniquely qualified to do, or at least particularly qualified. People have wondered for millennia if they’re alone in the universe, imagined of finding others capable of higher thought… sometimes with hope, sometimes with fear. If she can help people empathize with such a pokemon, maybe by the time one is discovered, she could avert a truly terrible disaster.
She smiles, giving Custard one last scratch between his ears, then looks back up at Dr. Fuji. “I’m in. I also have an idea; the pokemon should be a Psychic type. I have some friends who I think could help get the authenticity down, and it could also help with the reader practicing empathy through the pokemon learning it.”
Dr. Fuji is grinning wide, and toasts her with his tea cup. “Miss Juniper, you’ve read my mind.”