She licked her arm and thought about it for all of five seconds. “As long as you’re not gonna make me race you or something, sure, let’s roll.”
Cycling Road turned out to be very productive in terms of training. Everybody on my team leveled up at least once from fighting the trainers, Tobias growing a total of three. Jennifer learned Swift, Charlie replaced Ember with Flame Wheel, and a blonde girl at the end of the route gave me the Flag accessory. More gorgeous weather also helped boost my mood.
At the juncture between Routes 206 and 207, we found a berry patch consisting of two Razz Berry plants and a sprout I couldn’t identify. One of them had borne fruit—two ripe red berries just asking to be picked. I reached out my hand for them…
“Hey! What are you doing?” someone shouted. Oops. I should’ve guessed this was somebody’s garden. I quickly turned around to apologize, and who should I find staring at me but Lucas! He laughed a little on seeing my confused and embarrassed face. “Oh, hi, Allison. Sorry I shouted at you. I came to give you this…” Lucas rummaged around for something inside his bag and held both fists out. “Pick one.”
“Did I say I’d give it to you right off? No.”
I shrugged and pointed at the right fist. He smiled and opened it to reveal a little blue thing that looked like a mouse with the scroll wheel in the wrong place. “That’s a VS Seeker. It lets you know when trainers are ready to fight you again,” he explained. “I’d use it myself if I were more of a battler. How’s your Pokédex coming? Better than mine?”
“Decently,” I said. “Can I pick those berries?”
“Sure, they kinda fell off my other Razz plant one time. Oh! I almost forgot; can I see your Pokétch for a second?” I slipped it off my wrist and gave it to him. He pulled a chip about the size of a Game Card from his pants pocket and clicked it into my Pokétch. Two minutes later, it beeped and he removed the chip. “The professor wanted me to install the Pokétch Dowsing Machine app for you,” he explained. “Tap the screen to use it; it’ll tell you where hidden items are in relation to you.”
If I had been a few years younger, I would’ve happily accepted the two freebies without a second thought. As it was, something made me wonder why Lucas/Professor Rowan was being so nice to me, of all trainers. “Thanks, Lucas,” I said as I picked and put away the Razz Berries. “I wish I had two awesomely useful things to give you, too. The way it is now, I feel like a freeloader.”
Lucas laughed. “We’re Pokémon trainers, Allison. We freeload for a living. Nice talking with you!” And he went off to Route 207. I watered the plants a little bit before continuing to Oreburgh, just in case.
Not much had changed, obviously. I wandered around the city, visiting the buildings I hadn’t the first time; a kid on the second floor of one near the Gym gave me a Great Ball for helping him beat that one level with the icebergs and the falling ice-stalactites in New Super Mario Bros. Wii. (That level sucks, by the way, although it might just be the combination of ice physics and my lack of skill at platformers.)
I paid another visit to the Underground as well after hearing somebody mention fossils you could find down there. That trip was highly productive at least in part due to my persistence, yielding another Smooth Rock, a Red and Blue Shard, an Armor Fossil (yay), and…
“Huh?” I carefully picked at the rock surrounding the blue material. My goal was to expose at least the largest part of the item—probably another Blue Shard, I thought—so I could lift it out. The rock crumbled away to reveal more of that blue stone. It wasn’t even damaged from all the hitting. I started tapping faster, moving down to see exactly how big this thing was.
What I’d thought was a Blue Shard turned out to be a smooth rectangular stone tablet, just big enough to fit around a Pokémon’s neck. I held it up to a scanner from the Explorer Kit. “Item identified: Splash Plate,” the scanner beeped. “A stone tablet that boosts the power of a Pokémon’s Water moves.”
Thanks to my new bike, I could go explore Route 206 without having to detour around. So once I got back to the Pokémon Center, I withdrew Katie because I’d seen some cuttable bushes at the Cycling Road exit, followed by Dwayne because I could use him now with no danger of him being obliterated. “All right!” Katie cheered. “You have no idea how stuffy it is in there!” She jumped up, landed on my shoulder, and curled her tail around my neck. “Sorry in advance if I poke you.”
“…You do know I’m wearing a scarf, right?”
She uncurled her tail and pouted. “Dang it. So, where to now, boss lady?”
“Well, we haven’t been to the Oreburgh Mining Museum yet. I think they’d be interested in the Armor Fossil I found on my dig.” Fortunately for me, the fossil was small enough to fit in my bag without breaking anything. I did, however, need Ayumu’s help to carry my bag without dislocating my shoulder.
“Mining Museum?” Katie stuck out her tongue. “No thanks. Let’s do something cool.”
“Hey, I happen to think science is cool. We can go train when I’m done. Besides, it’s not like they’ll put it on display or anything.”
Half an hour later, inside the Museum…
“Congratulations! The fossil-reviving machine worked perfectly!” Dr. Murphy beamed. He looked remarkably like a ten-year-old boy when he did that. “I’d like you to meet your new dinosaur Pokémon.” He tossed a Poké Ball over the desk. “Come on out, Shieldon!”
A small yellow reptile with a gray oval head that looked too big for it materialized at my feet. Shieldon blinked sleepily. “What…? Who are you? Where is my nest?” he asked. His voice was slow and a little muffled, as if he were just learning a language. I couldn’t place his accent, either.
I sat down and held out my hand for Shieldon to inspect. “I am Allison,” I said clearly. “I don’t know where your nest is or what happened to it. You’re in Oreburgh City.”
Shieldon backed away. “I do not understand. What kind of Pokémon are you that you stand on only your hind legs and carry a tree-dweller on your shoulder? Did you do something to my nest?”
“Allison’s not a Pokémon, she’s a human,” Katie remarked. “She’ll be your new…uh…herd leader. And to answer your other question, no. She’d never hurt a nest.”
Shieldon blinked twice and approached us cautiously. “Hello, Herd Leader,” he said. Then he butted his hard little head against my leg.
“Aww, he likes you!” Dr. Murphy cooed. “Reminds me of my sister’s Glameow, except, you know, not a cat. Do you think your Pokédex will recognize the little guy?”
The only appropriate response was to scan him. “New Pokémon data acquired: Shieldon, the Shield Pokémon,” it beeped. “It polishes its face mask by rubbing it against tree trunks. It is weak to attacks from behind. Do you want to enter a nickname?”
“Michael.” That was one of the few times I said something aloud as I was typing it.
“What?” Michael asked.
“Every Pokémon I take care of has a special name,” I explained. “Yours is Michael.”
“…I think I can get used to that,” Michael said. He sniffed my outstretched hand. “Who is the Pokémon on your shoulder?”
Katie jumped down and landed just in front of my leg. “My name’s Katie. By the way, I’m not a ‘tree-dweller’, I’m a Pachirisu. Nice to meet you, Mike. Can I call you Mike?”
“No, you can’t,” Michael and I deadpanned. Dr. Murphy laughed good-naturedly.
The three of us left the museum, and I checked Michael’s stats under the “Party” menu. They were pretty good—level 20, Rock and Steel typing (complete with high defense), Sturdy ability, and a relaxed nature. (Not that I really cared how nature impacted a Pokémon’s growth.) His moveset was less impressive, with the only damaging move being Take Down.
“Hey, Michael? I’m not going to need you right away,” I said. “The city I’m going to next has a lot of Fighting types, and it wouldn’t be fair of me to make you fight with such a large disadvantage.”
Michael looked sad for a moment, but nodded. “What will I do, Herd Leader?”
“Um…the rest of my herd is in a…magic box. They’ll teach you about the modern world,” I said cautiously. Usually I didn’t need to explain technology to people/Pokémon, but most people I met hadn’t been fossilized for a million years or so and then revived.
Michael took being switched for Dwayne with surprising ease. I felt a little guilty about stuffing him in the PC not even an hour after I’d brought him back to life, but there was an adventure to be had. And he did need to learn more about the modern world.
Route 206 looked nice enough for a route dominated by a bike path. The sun was shining, Starly were singing, a Ponyta was kicking a pine tree—
Wait, what? Katie sliced down one of the thick bushes with her tail, and we headed down the stairs in that direction. “Hyaaah!” cried the Ponyta, lifting her back legs to kick out at the tree behind her. The tree shook and several needles fell, but nothing more. She lowered her legs, rested for a moment, and repeated the process several more times.
“Excuse me!” I called cheerfully to her. “Why are you kicking that pine tree?”
Slam! went her back hooves into the bark. “Someone told me that Pokémon who live in trees come out when the tree’s hit,” she nickered. Slam! “I’ve met all the Pokémon on the route already—” Slam! “—and I wanna make some new friends!” Slam! “But no one’s come out yet.”
Katie laughed uproariously. “That’s the silliest thing I’ve ever heard! Pokémon don’t come out when you hit their tree unless they’re Silcoon! They come out when they’re good and ready, if you have food, or in my case, if a human does something awesome.”
Ponyta turned to face us. “You callin’ me a liar, shorty?” she snorted. She pawed the ground with a front hoof.
“SHORTY?!” Katie screamed. She leapt off my shoulder and covered herself in electricity. “SHORTY THIS, CRAZY!” And she landed on Ponyta’s back. Ponyta screamed in fright and took off running. “AAAAAAAA! BAD IDEA! BAD IDEA! BAD IDEA!”
“NO DIP, SHERLOCK!” I shouted back. I grabbed a Poké Ball and tossed it at Ponyta’s shoulder when she came closer to me. One shake. Two.
Ka-pop! “It’ll take more than that to catch me, human!” Ponyta whickered. Surprisingly, she liked the Poké Ball I threw at her head (after a Quick Attack from Katie) just fine.
“New Pokémon data acquired: Ponyta, the Fire Horse Pokémon,” the machine beeped (Katie helpfully held the Ball up to its camera). “Its legs grow strong while it chases after its parents. It runs in fields and mountains all day. Do you want to enter a nickname?” I suddenly remembered a particularly amusing fanfic whose main character freely gave out both nicknames and declarations of love, and hers was the name I entered: Megan. “Nickname confirmed. Please wait…” Megan’s Ball vanished with a soft swoosh and flash of white light. “Transfer complete. Megan was sent to Box 1 of the PC storage network.”
The other interesting bit of Route 206 was at the northern end—Wayward Cave. It was darker than any place we’d ever visited, even the Oreburgh Gate at whatever ungodly hour we’d been there. (Luckily, Mom had insisted I pack a flashlight the day I left.) Every single hallway looked exactly the same. Jennifer, whom I had sent out after a little training on the route proper, whimpered in fear and clung to my leg. “It’s too dark…scary…”
<Hello there, human. Are you lost?> a mysterious, somewhat emotionless voice said. I blinked a couple times and stared into the darkness. Two tiny yellow eyes were floating about a foot in the air. I could see a round blue nose, too, if I squinted. Since I’d heard the voice inside my head, it could only be a Psychic Pokémon.
“ASDFKJLJK—!” Jennifer panicked and sprayed the mysterious Pokémon with Water Gun.
<Really now, even if I did scare you, that was not very nice,> the Pokémon chided. I brought my flashlight up to see it better. The Pokémon’s levitation did nothing to make it appear taller. It was a perfect circle shape except for the six spheres at significant points on its “circumference”; four smaller dots surrounded its eyes/nose. A thin silver sheen covered its entire body.
I pointed my Pokédex at it. “Bronzor, Steel/Psychic type,” it beeped. “A genderless species. Possible abilities are Heatproof and Levitate. Held item detected: Metal Coat, which enhances Steel-type moves.”
“Sounds like a pretty sweet deal. Jennifer, use Water Gun again!” I called. “…Jennifer?”
She was curled up by my leg, fast asleep. <I wytiwyg="1" decided that a quick Hypnosis would be the best way to calm her,> Bronzor explained. <Allow me to repeat my earlier question: Are you lost?>
“Uh…sort of,” I said. “I’m not looking for the path, therefore I can’t technically be lost, but this place is very confusing.”
Bronzor spun around once. <I wytiwyg="1" see. Do you wish to battle me?>
“Sure, why not. Dwayne, I choose you!”
Dwayne looked somewhat confused once he’d fully materialized. “Uh…why is there a floating blue plate thingie in front of us?” he asked.
Bronzor’s eyes flashed and Dwayne went flying into a nearby wall. <I wytiwyg="1" must ask that you address me by my proper name of Bronzor,> it remarked.
“Hi, I’m Dwayne, it’s nice to meet you,” he snarked. “I’d throw a rock at you if I saw any…” He tossed debris from the cave wall at it, then pushed himself off the ground and somehow aimed himself to land right on its face. “But in a pinch, I make a good substitute.”
Bronzor floated back up and its eyes began to glow blue. <Please, this is not needed,> it said. If I hadn’t heard my Pokédex declare it genderless, I’d have sworn it sounded almost female. Thin, shining rings emanated from them. Offhandedly, I wondered why I noticed this Hypnosis and not the one that had put Jennifer to sleep.
“Dwayne, Magnitude! Don’t overdo it, though, I plan on catching this one!” I called.
Dwayne closed his eyes to avoid the Hypnosis and slapped the ground with both hands. The shockwave, while nowhere near earthquake level, was enough to disrupt whatever force was keeping Bronzor in the air. It fell to the ground and promptly received a fair amount of damage from (according to my Pokédex) level 5 shockwaves. So this Bronzor has Heatproof, I thought. Good to know her weaknesses. …wait, did I just call Bronzor “her”?
<You did, and I find it fitting,> said Bronzor. <I wytiwyg="1" would consider myself a female if my species had any concept of gender. I do not know why, exactly, I just know that I would.>
The only appropriate response was “…OK, then. Dwayne, Rock Smash.” He pushed himself off the ground and aimed a fist at the center of her body. Bronzor effortlessly floated aside. “Dang it.”
White light collected at the spheres on the edge of her body. <Let us test your focus, “Dwayne,”> she commented. The lights left her body and formed a single ball, which then danced teasingly out of Dwayne’s reach.
I figured her health was just low enough that I could risk capturing her. “Poké Ball, go!” It shook once, and then Bronzor emerged. “Dang it! Dwayne, try another Rock Throw!” He aimed for the Confuse Ray, and so missed completely. “Dang it!”
<Did you think capturing a Psychic-type would be that easy?> Bronzor asked rhetorically. Her eyes flashed again, but nothing happened. <Strange. Imprison usually works…>
“Rock Polish,” I called. I didn’t want to risk Dwayne hurting himself while Bronzor’s Confuse Ray was active.
Dwayne rubbed his arms all over each other, and his body against some nearby stalagmites. “Whew,” he sighed when the debris was gone. “That itch on my back was gonna drive me crazy!”
Bronzor spun in place and blinked curiously. <Interesting. Does Rock Polish perhaps help Geodude “shed their skin,” like Ekans or Seviper?>
“Oh, come on. You’re telling me you’ve never seen the Geodude in here polish up and get rid of gravel before?” Dwayne remarked. “Geodude are literally all over the place in caves!”
<So are Zubat, but I do not know how they grow, either,> Bronzor replied. Her eyes started glowing faintly again. <We are distracting ourselves. Hypnosis!>
“Rock Smash!” I countered. Please work, please work, please work…
Dwayne successfully punched Bronzor to the cave wall. “Got her,” he alerted me. “I’d chuck a Poké Ball now if I were you.”
Bronzor didn’t break that second one. The Pokédex’s information was fairly vague, so I skimmed it and entered the nickname “Sam.”
Without a light source stronger than my flashlight, navigating the rest of Wayward Cave was pretty near impossible. I used an Escape Rope in order to keep myself from getting even more lost on the way back to the entrance. They’re pretty neat inventions; you hold one end, flick the other at the nearest wall like Indiana Jones, and the rope literally busts its way to the outside of the cave. (Somehow.)
“We should go back there sometime,” Dwayne commented once we’d left Wayward Cave. “You know, once we get a better light source. I bet it’d be great for training!”
“Good thinking. Since none of you can learn Flash, though, let’s just head back to Oreburgh.”