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<— The Tale of Popolo: Part 5 ll The tale of Popolo: Part 7 —>

I stood near the road to the next town, around mid-day, amidst a grove of trees, Koosh on my shoulder.

I was looking at the black device on my wrist. Mom hadn’t told me how to use the silly thing. It wasn’t even made of anything I’d seen or felt before. Smooth and hard like rock, but not cold, nor heavy. There was a gray-green center panel covered in what appeared to be glass, only when I tapped it, it sounded different.

It didn’t seem expensive.

I touched a button on the side. Suddenly words appeared in the central panel. “Mr. Elm,” and “Home.” There was a little triangle thing next to Home. I wasn’t sure what that meant.

I touched another button. The words in the center were replaced by a single word, “calling.”

A noise came out of the device that sounded like the only telephone I’d ever known.

Suddenly the noise became a voice. “Hello?” it said. “Who is this?”

            “I, um…you sound very familiar.”

            “Popolo?”

            “Yes, that’s who I am. You sound like Ezra from the market.”

            “I am Ezra from the market.”

            “No you’re not.” I frowned. “You’re a strange black device on my wrist.”

            “I’m what? Listen here, young lady, if this is supposed to be a prank – oh, here’s your mother. She’s been waiting all this time to talk to you.”

            The voice changed. “Hello, dear. How are things going so far?”

            “This is actually Mom?” I said. “Not the device?”

            “What did you think the Pokégear was for, Popolo? Haven’t you ever used the telephone at the market? The one I’m using to speak to you now?”

            “No.”

            “Oh…well, rest assured that you’re speaking to a real human being on the other end of this connection. How are things going?”

            “Bad,” I said. “Adventurous. I need to speak to Mr. Elm right now.” I rose, and began to pace around.

            “I’m afraid he’s asleep, dear.”

            “Wake him up. He needs to hear this.”

            “I’ll go and fetch him, then. You can talk to Ezra in the meantime.”

            The voice changed back to Ezra’s. “So, lass,” said the voice, “what have you found out so far?”

            “You’ll find out when Mr. Elm gets back,” I said, sitting down at the base of a cherry tree. “But did you ever meet the boy with red hair? I don’t remember him as being a resident of the village.”

        “He came out of the east a few weeks ago, and then kept to his residence,” said the voice of Ezra. “Nobody saw much of him before he ran off with that Pokémon.”

"Isn't that the direction you told me was forbidden?"

"Yes."

"The one with many-tentaclled horrors?"

"Yes."

"The one where the only survivors were the stronges and most cruel?"1

"Well, I might have been exaggerating to entertain you..."

"Why did you let a fellow from the east into the village? Why didn't you send him on? How did he get through without Pokémon? Didn't you recognize the danger he posed?"

"Popolo," he said in a grave tone, "I think there's a lot you're assuming. It's not as though we can turn away people who are bleeding from multiple wounds, anyway. Here's professor Elm."

        "Now it was Mr. Elm speaking to me from the strange box. “Hello, young one. How are you getting along?”

         “Mr. Pokémon is dead.”

         “What!”

         “Dragged out of his house in the night. Or something like that. He’s gone. I’ve got his notebook and it’s full of sketches and – ” I looked at it again. There was a bit of faint writing underneath each sketch. “And some information about Pokémon.”           

         “The sketches will help,” said Mr. Elm, “But the information won’t. Mr. Pokémon is – ahem, was – a better artist than researcher. You’ll have to do your own observation, like I asked you to. I’m sorry to hear about his demise.”

         “Well, if you’d kept in better correspondence, you might have known sooner.”

         “With the roads the way they are?”

         “That is true,” I said. “There was a fellow named Zebulon living on the road not five miles from New Bark, and he said you hadn’t spoken in twenty years.”2

         “That’s because that old loon thought I was boring when I said I wanted to settle down! So he’s still there, eh? Still alive?”

         “Still kicking, he says, although I have the feeling he’s going to wander off into the woods and try to escape the road.”

         “Oh,” said Elm. “Well, I…wow. What a way for an old friend to go. That's two old friends lost in short order. You get your hopes up and then they vanish for good. Maybe I’ll try to catch him before he goes. How about that thief, eh? Have you seen him yet?”

         “Only anecdotes,” I said, scratching in the dirt. “He’s nowhere to be – ”

There was the sound of footsteps. I looked up.

There before me stood the boy. His bright red hair fell down around his pale face, about to shoulder length. He was clad in a dark jacket and dark pants. A blue, red-crested reptile sat upon his shoulder.

         “Hello?” said Elm. “Popolo? Did you find him?”

         “I’ll call you back,” I said, and pushed random buttons on my Pokégear until it read “call ended.” I rose. He remained standing there, watching me. What was he waiting for? Didn’t he have some other place to run?

          “That looks like a nice device you have there,” he said.

         “I expect you would think so, thief.”

        He pouted. “What makes you think I’m a thief?”

        “You ran off with that Pokémon. Elm’s Pokémon.”

        “How do you know it didn’t decide to come with me?”

        “I suppose I could ask. Can it speak?”

 The Reptile growled.

        “Totodile can’t speak,” said the boy. “Although he might learn eventually. I’m not a thief.”

        “Then why did you run off?”

        “Wrong question. Ask yourself why everyone else stays so close to the east.”

"What do you mean, why —"

Come to think of it, Mom used to tell me that the potatoes people grew in  the Mahogany valley weren't even a quarter of the size of the ones we grew. And there was that black mist that drifted from across the river, on cold mornings. And Mom never told me why the village gathered together to sing across the river, only that it had something to do with calming the storm, but there was never any storm. No storm ever passed over our little village. Hell, maybe I should have been investigating the east, instead of wandering west. But it sounded as though that was out of the cards for the time being.            

        “I'm aware our village is weird," i said. "Nevertheless, I was given the task of finding you, and here you are. You need to go back to Mr. Elm and give him the – ” I looked through the notebook. The second entry had the blue reptile, labeled Totodile. “You need to give the Totodile back,” I said. “He belongs to Mr. Elm.”

        Koosh hissed.

        “Belongs?” said the boy. “He’s a sentient creature. He can’t belong. Totodile is with me. And I’m not going to go back and abandon him for some weak little Rattata. Totodile is strong, and he suits me fine. I like strong Pokémon. Strong Pokémon will protect me. What about you? Is yours powerful? He looks the type. Let’s find out.”

        “Wait, what do you – ”

Koosh leapt off my back as the Totodile sprang forward. The moment they landed, they went after each other, biting and kicking.

         “What’s going on here?” I said. “Why are they doing this?”

         “Because they like to,” said the boy.

         “And we just stand back and let it happen?”

         “Do you want to reach in there and try to pull them apart?”

I looked down at the struggle. The Totodile had bigger teeth and a snappier jaw, and longer claws, come to think of it, and a lashing tail. It looked as though Koosh had everything stacked against him. But the little Cyndaquil wasn’t giving up. For every blow the Totodile landed, Koosh gave him three, and in their wrestling he was frequently on top. Occasionally he even spat little bursts of flame, as the Totodile did the same with water, although neither of them managed to hit each other with these.

Koosh began to falter, and slow, as the Totodile pressed his attack. The reptile was hitting harder and faster.

        “Call your reptile off,” I said.

The Totodile continued to pummel Koosh.

        “Call him off!” I said. “End this battle. It’s clear who the victor is.”

The boy said nothing. Koosh was barely moving.

      “Koosh!” I said. “Stop fighting! Come back to me!”

Koosh tried to roll towards me, but the Totodile wouldn’t let him. I bent down and picked my Cyndaquil up. The Totodile slashed at me with his claws, leaving a deep gash. I screamed, but did not let Koosh fall.

     “This is why we have the Pokémon fight each other,” said the boy. “If they fought us, we’d be mincemeat. That was an impressive battle, by the way.” The Totodile returned to him. “Now, I don’t believe we’ve introduced ourselves.” He extended a hand. “My name is – ”

    “Jerk!” I said. “I don’t care what your name is, you’re a jerk! I have nothing else to say to you.” I stuffed the notebook back in my bag, and dashed toward the town.



1: This text is verbatim from the Grisly scrolls (Ed. Adam Gristley. Cinnabar Island: Ember Press, 3344). Ancient Johto, even in the pre-dynastic years, was the heart of the Johto-Kanto civilization; No writings, stories, or songs are preserved from the Kantonese of the same time period. All we have of them are descriptions made by people from Johto, and even these are merely short paragraphs and phrases referenced in middle Rojo Dynasty documents. The descriptions are not flattering; they are invariably convinced that Kantonese people command gigantic monsters and murder strangers on a whim. They also assert that Kantonese people have their faces in their torsos and have no heads, and can control the wind and the rain. One wonders how many of these writers actually ventured east of New Bark Town.

2: This may sound like an exaggeration, but it's actually a less extreme example of how easy it is for settlements to lose contact with each other. There exist places in our own time where travel is so difficult that contact between settlements is almost nonexistent. The most famous of these is the Orange Islands, whose inland villages exist within dense rainforest and steep-sided vallies. Many people form these villages go their entire lives without seeing anyone from neighboring villages, let alone the ocean. (Milou, Tintin. Expedition in the Orange Islands. Cinnabar Island: Ember Press, 3321). 

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