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Note: This is a tale set in the world of Pokémon. While many of the characters in this story are of my own creation, I do not own the canon characters and do not intend to profit from this story in any way

 

<-- The Tale of Popolo: Foreword, preface, and introduction ll The tale of Popolo: Part 1 -->

Well-met, little one. You have worked hard to find me, I gather. (1)

Not at all. The pretty ladies (2) practically dragged me here. What was difficult was earning your presence. I had to find…such strange objects, before they said you would appear.

And what did you have to do to find those things?

 Battle my way through the land.

And who did the battling?

 The Pokémon that saw fit to follow me, on my journey.

And you have been in the midst of vast dangers, I gather. But your Pokémon brought you through.

 Yes.

They must be strong.

Yes.

I do not meet many strong Pokémon.  How did they become so?

I trained them.

You must have trained them quite a long time.

I pushed them to their limits.

And beyond, it seems. Evolution is a rare thing among wild Pokémon(3). I am sure they are grateful.

Is that sarcasm?

Oh, no. I know Pokémon well, little one. They love to fight.(4)

So they have told me.

Do you know what they desire most?

To survive.

Ah, no. That is the dream of humans.  What Pokémon desire is a glorious death. Preferably something involving battle.

More than a few of my Pokémon achieved that.

So I noticed.

How?

Pokémon die all the time. I feel each death. I see them on their way to whatever afterlife they find. But when yours died, I felt your grief. It was…unusual, in its strength, and its presence. I hadn’t expected it from any place besides the little colorful village by the sea. Most trainers either know of the fighting tendencies of Pokémon, and accept deaths with composure— or they care not a whit.(5) You, on the other hand, are young.

I’d like to think I’m fairly mature.

Ah, yes, you are wont to say that at your age, but the fact remains that you are fairly new to all this fighting. Or you were. You are still a beginner. You have the power of a beginner – you do things the old masters are too wise to do. See things they cannot see. Make mistakes they cannot. You learn what they never did. You stand on their shoulders and see a little farther than they did. Do more. Lose more. Gain more.

Stop talking about me like I’m something special.

Are you not? Did you not earn my presence?

I’ve lost too many friends along the way to feel I deserve your company.

Not too many. Such losses are the normal course of a trainer’s life.

No! Not the way it happened to me! Every time someone died, it was my fault! I didn’t heal them in time, or I put them in a position they couldn’t handle, or…surely you know how my first Pokémon died. Surely you felt his grief.

Grief? There was no grief from him. Okay, maybe a little, but he was glad to have been able to protect you as he did. He was glad to be able to help save you and the town, even if it meant dying.

That wasn’t why he died! It was because of an earlier battle and he had an internal injury and we didn’t notice until it was too late, and the battle was completely avoidable anyway.

I’m sorry to hear that.

It was a failure of my own judgment. He’d wanted to fight for me beforehand and I didn’t let him because I got scared of losing him. And everyone else that died did so because of similar mistakes and I just…don’t feel like I learned anything. If I’d learned from my mistakes the rest of them wouldn’t have died.

But your Pokémon are so strong now. You told me you trained them hard. Why did you train them?

In memory of my first loss.

So you did learn something.

Then why did my Pokémon keep dying? Even at the end, when they were mighty beasts, they fell!

Consider human beings. Even the mightiest circus strongman can be slain by the littlest of objects. A shard of glass that causes a foot infection, ignored until it’s too late, or a little pebble that upsets his footing and sends him hurtling over a cliff, or a spark that ignites his house. A blow in just the right place on the back of his neck. You can’t ward against all deadly possibilities, nor can you keep anyone from dying forever.

But I can keep them out of trouble.

They don’t WANT to be kept out of trouble.(6) Of all the things you learned on your journey, that should have been obvious! Your Pokémon want to do what they do best.

            So I’m destined to lose all my friends?

That is your fate.

Have you been talking to Kismet, then?

No. I’m just saying that everyone’s time is limited. Including yours. You are a short-lived human. If you do not lose your Pokémon, they will lose you.  What matters is the time you spent together, before the end. Did you have good times?

Definitely.

Well then.

But, all that to meet you? To find a stupid bell and silver wing? Was it all worth it?

Oh, those silly things. You think it was them that brought me to you?

I thought they were essential for the ritual.

Hmmmmm. Why don’t you tell me what you went through?

Do you want a summary?

No. Don’t spare any details. Tell me, when did it begin?

It began in the days before my first loss.

How did it begin?

It began with Elm’s desire to see his son again.

Where did you roam?

The narrow Violet and Mahogany Valleys,(7) and the narrow green coastal plain of Johto, the dark forests(8) and caves(9)between Azalea and the city of Goldenrod. I did not, in the beginning, know of these places, only that there was a world beyond the tall grass and dark trees that surrounded my town, but enough casual perusal of the books(10)I helped organize for Mr. Elm(11) had led me to this.

You wouldn't think think I, a girl of middling teenage years, would have any thought of adventure -- would you? Only of helping around the house, combing her long, raven-black hair, and flirting with the local boys. Indeed, I had fairly little, but when Ethan was gone, I began to envy him, and I desired to beat feet far beyond my little town.

In any case, the boys of the village found me and my household too skinny, and I’ve never been much of a help around the house, and I had to cut my hair for my journey, so there wasn’t much holding me back besides…besides my own faults, I guess. Elm saw me as a promising trainer. I can’t say I’ve disappointed him, but something was holding me back for quite a few years before Elm finally shoved me out of the village.

I haven't told you my name either, have I? I'm Popolo. Not that I always was. I’ve done a few things along my journey that I’m not proud of, and I thought it prudent to change my name. Just call me Popolo.

Or call me the greatest Pokémon trainer in the world, like some people were doing by time I’d started telling you all this, but I don’t agree with those people. Like I said, I’ve done more than a few things I’m not proud of.

This is the story of who I lost, and how I lost them.

 

________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________


(1) Lugia is a figure whose presence is contained entirely within this tale. He was probably devised as a plot device. But Lugia is not without precedent; Popolo’s rival and enemy meets a similar figure north of Ecruteak, and there is a host of spirits which are said to guide and protect the souls of the dead. Many of them are considered Pokémon themselves. See Suede Sauvé’s Mystical Pokémon (3254) (Saffron City: Bulbasaur Press, 3354).

(2) Beautiful women in clothing centuries out of date, usually referred to as The Ladies, are common plot devices in the heroic tales, always leading the hero to the right place, sometimes with much cajoling. Note this section of song 51 of the Song of Popolo (ed. Bopper Holly, 3374, Saffron City, Bulbasaur Press):

A shimmer on the road.

Here are The Ladies.

 Is my burden lightened?

 No, it increases.

 A hard life for a chosen one.

 I cannot refuse the call.

(3)From Page 53 of Professor Ivy’s Biochemistry of Pokémon,fourth edition: “The concept of “evolution” in Pokémon mythology is entirely fanciful. Real Pokémon, despite what your uncle from overseas told you, do not glow with light and turn into magnificent and mighty beasts; they evolve into those forms like any other species in order to adapt to an environment. That being said, the species that fall under the banner of “Pokémon” seem to adapt at a rate at least three times the speed of non-Pokémon species. This is itself an evolutionary advantage, which may explain their strong presence in this world. If they didn’t fight so much in the wild, they might have overtaken the planet already” (Celadon: University at Celadon Press, 3394).

(4) A common refrain of those who pit their Pokémon against each other. On the one hand, this is true. On the other, many Pokémon are forced to fight who clearly do not want to. See Ruroni Kenshin’s The Call of the Arena (Striaton: Lampwick Publishing, 3404).

(5) The supposed callousness of earlier ages is remarked upon in Kenshin’s Hard Lives, Hard Hearts (Striaton: Lampwick Publishing, 3954).As he puts it, “What about a hard life makes one so cruel? Is it the grinding work? The mean spirits of all those around who are likewise ground into the dust? Is it the rough hands of mothers and fathers, who have to make it clear to their children that life isn’t fair? Is it true that a life of poverty makes one less kind? What kind of poverty? Is it simply a lack of resources, that is, the hard scrabble for survival in a barren land, be it countryside or city – or is it the constant lack of respect? In any case, the people of yesteryear commonly treated those they considered inferior in a like manner, just to feel more powerful. Or, this is how the story always goes. This is a tale often used by the proud and powerful to justify keeping people poor.”

(6) Again this tale emphasizes the fighting nature of Pokémon, and Pokémon arena fighters use passages like this as justification. But the fighting of the modern world is for sport, not survival.

(7) These areas are usually considered part of Johto, but in the most ancient times they were held separate from that green coast. It was not until the later Rojo dynasty that these areas were assimilated into the kingdom that grew out of Goldenrod (Classic of the First Emperors, Ed. Mako Mori. Sootopolis: Deep Sea publishing, 3310.)

(8) Ilex Forest now covers the majority of the coast.

(9) No caves exist between the former site of Goldenrod and the area estimated to contain the remains of Azalea. There is one cave further east, at the end of the Violet Valley.

(10]) Though these books are mentioned in the earlier translations, it is possible that they were an anachronistic addition even then; paper was not invented until the third century, long after the pre-dynastic period. Even then, it was expensive and precious. The amount of paper Elm owns, bound in books, no less, is meant to indicate his wealth. That doesn’t explain why he would choose to live in a backwater town full of paper-eating insects.

(11) “The mythological figure known as Ulm, who is a wise figure, is said to be either a god or a spirit, depending on which text you consult, and is associated with travel. Whenever he meets the hero of a story, he is the one to send them on a great journey. There is also a semi-historical character known as Rowan, who supposedly lived in a wood and dispensed wisdom and the occasional magical Pokémon. Somewhere along the way these two personages were conflated and became Mr. Elm” (Maria Murakama. The Non-Canon of Mythology.Saffron City: Bulbasaur press, 3404. Pp 53.)

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