“Your Cyndaquil will be fine,” said Molly, scratching Koosh on the back. We were on the first floor of the Pokémon center. Koosh had bandages on his flanks and his nose, but he was smiling. “Maybe he’ll even be stronger for the experience.”1

            “I thought he was supposed to be strong,” I said. I was sitting on one of the benches. “I thought he was supposed to be able to protect me.”

            “Didn’t you train him?”

            “What do you mean?”

            “Didn’t you have him fight any wild Pokémon between New Bark and here.”

            I shook my head.

            “And you expected him to be able to survive a fight with another exotic Pokémon.”

            I nodded.

            “That isn’t how it works, lass. You have to give your guardians time to learn how to fight. How did you manage to get through the road, if you didn’t have him fight?”

            “I just ran.”

            Molly fixed me with her wide gaze. “You didn’t believe Koosh could save you from Rattata. Then you thought he could win against that blue reptile. Do you believe in him or not?”

            “I didn’t ask him to fight that thing!” I said, clenching my fists. “He wanted to! Didn’t you, Koosh?”

            Koosh looked away.

            “Well, I certainly didn’t tell you to.”

            “What made you think he couldn’t handle some Rattata?” said Molly.

            “They’re twice his size! I was certain he would die.” I looked at Koosh. He did not return my gaze.

            A Rattata that was lying in bandages raised its head, and said, “We have to grow strong, Popolo. We want to grow strong. We want to survive. You have to risk our lives in order to save us, so we can save you. Running won’t save you forever.”

            “It won’t?”           

            “No,” said Molly. “When trainers have their Pokémon battle, it’s customary to not end the fight until there’s a clear victor. Sometimes this leads to fatalities…especially among the more powerful Pokémon. And in those cases, the trainers can also get caught in the blast. Only the bravest and strongest survive the fiercest of battles. Didn’t your parents ever tell you about Pokémon battles?”

            “No. We don’t use Pokémon to fight, in New Bark. They just work for us.”

            “Alongside, I hope,” said the Rattata.

            “I never thought about it.”

            “You have to train your Pokémon,” said Molly. “You’re a trainer. That’s what you do. Help them grow strong so they don’t – they don’t – ” She began to sob.

            I held her hand, and said, “How many deaths have there been?”

            “Too many,” said the Rattata. “She’s been there for most of them. Most of them happened before we had this place to retreat to. But if the Humans of this village retreat, the Rattata don’t. It’s not our nature. So every time the bandits come back and steal our vegetables and demand money, we fight hard, and some of us don’t make it. Molly shouldn’t be doing all the work, but Ms. Grace mixes all the potions, and there’s so many to make. Everyone else is busy surviving.”

            “We don’t deserve this,” said Molly, between sobs. “We’re just a little village that has little to offer. I had to get over my fear of the sight of blood because nobody else besides me and  Ms. Grace and Mr. Pokémon knew how to take care of these creatures. I’m close to going out here. I just wanted to raise vegetables, for God’s sake.”

            “Perhaps Koosh and I can take care of this problem,” I said, “although I can’t guarantee the bandits won’t come back.”

            “You don’t want your Koosh to die, though,” said the Rattata, “right?”

            “That is correct.”           

            “Then get another Pokémon.”

            “I can’t just abandon Koosh!”

            “No, no,” said the Rattata, “I mean, have someone else join you. Form a team. Take advantage of safety in numbers, so that when one begins to falter, another can take their place. We Pokémon enjoy being employed by people going on an adventure. The stakes are higher, but the rewards are great. Trust that you will find people to join you in your quest.”

            “How will I do so, though? Just stand there and ask them to join me?”

            “That might work.”

            “Well then.”



Is anybody there?” I called. We stood on the road to New Bark, just outside of Cherrygrove, just before the tall grass. The sun dipped low and red in the sky, casting the long shadows of the grass over us. “I’m a Pokémon trainer…I was told Pokémon like to join up with trainers. I’m offering! Are there any takers?”

Not a sound but the wind in the grass.

            I kicked the dirt. “Don’t tell me that Rattata was lying,” I said. “How am I supposed to get Pokémon to join me without asking?”

            “Ahem,” said a voice behind me.

            I whirled around.

            A large, spherical owl flapped its wings furiously, hovering in the air at my eye level. It appeared to have no feet. What it did have were fierce eyes that occupied most of its face, a tiny beak, and horns that resembled nothing so much as the hands of a clock.

            I stared for a moment, then grabbed the notebook. Page 11 had a picture of the same species. Hoot-hoot, it was called. He was called? She? They? Impossible to tell. Mr. Pokémon had neglected to depict any color variations between males and females of the species. Perhaps there were none.

            “Excuse me,” I said, “might I know whether you are nmale of female?”

             "That’s a strange question to start out with,” the bird said. It kept hovering.

            The miniscule text at the bottom of the page read, Has only one leg. Always knows the time. Can hypnotize people, but only into sleeping. Do not approach.2

“Excuse me,” I said, looking up at the bird again, “Do you know what time it is?”

            “Sunset,” said the bird. “What exactly are you reading?”

            I shoved the book back into my bag. “Something entertaining and wildly inaccurate.3 Have you appeared in response to my summons?”

            “I have,” said the bird. It landed, on one leg. I couldn’t see the other one , if it existed. “I am interested in joining you. Only, you haven’t convinced me that I ought to. I might just fly away. Is your Pokémon – my, I've never seen the like – willing to best me in fair combat? That might convince me.”

             Koosh whined. “My Cyndaquil has been through too much today,” I said. “He’s already lost a fight. I just thought, if you joined me, you could both work together to become strong. And then both of you would be less likely to die.”

            “Hmmm…” said the bird. “Less likely to die…that is true. Arceus knows I am constantly beset by Rattata, and Pidgeys, not to mention my own people, and since we are so often fighting for the same meager resources…why, if I could become strong under your guidance, I might rule the roost!”

            “We’d be going far afield before returning here,” I said. “And who is Arceus?”

            “The Deity most Pokémon pray to.”

            “You have deities?”

            “ Why is that a surprise? We are a set of sentient, speaking beings. Most of us invoke Arceus in times of trouble, and joy. If I am to go far afield with you, I might do it more often.”4

            “So you will join us? Just like that?”

            “I will indeed. I look forward to working with your Cyndaquil. What is his name?”

            Koosh trilled.

            “Oh,” said the bird. “I see. I look forward to working with you.”

            “Do you mind if I give you a name?” I said. “I’d like to be able to call you by something I can pronounce.”

            “What shall you name me?”

            “Let’s see…” I looked at the setting sun, for a second, and then at the blue shadows amidst the trees. “Nocturne.”

            “That is fitting,” said Nocturne. “Where shall we begin?”

            “By getting back to town,” I said. “Back to the Pokécenter.”

            Koosh trilled.



I lay on a cot in the resting room of the Pokécenter. Rattata snored softly around me. There were fewer this evening. Nocturne and Koosh rested on a couch nearby.

Tomorrow we’ll go back to that road and make our request again,” I said. “I’d like to have more Pokémon join us.”

“I’m afraid that will not be possible,” said Nocturne.

What’s to stop me?”

“Consider that I was the only one to answer your summons this evening. Tomorrow, I will be the only one to answer your summons. When my people hear such a summons, we do a lot of quick voting and send one, and only one, to volunteer. Sometimes we send the strongest, for their own glory, and to get rid of them, or we send the weakest, hoping they will be granted a better life.

“So I can’t summon an army to me?”

“Imagine if you could. What would the world be like?”5

The strongest and most charismatic would rule,” I said. “They could raid wherever they wanted, or block whatever road they wante…wait, isn’t that what’s happening here? This town is hemmed in by bandits. They must have come up with an army of Pokémon. So maybe it is possible.”

“That doesn’t mean you ought to do the same. Nor does it mean you know how to control as many Pokémon as they do.”

“Then how can I stop them?”

“How can we stop them, is the question. What did I join for?”

“To become strong?”

“Then we will become strong. Perhaps not today, or tomorrow, but – ”

“Can you keep it down?” said a Rattata near the wall. “Some of us are trying to sleep.”

“Terribly sorry,” I said.

I looked out the window, towards the road we hadn’t yet taken. The trees waved in the night wind. A few large birds – possibly more Hoot-hoots – flew as dark specks against the night sky.

I got up, and walked to the window that looked out to sea. There were the high rocks, and there was the figure, the humanoid, possibly human – jumping and waving their arms wildly, pointing towards the village. That was odd. Hadn’t they stayed still and all weirdly mysterious before? What was the reason for breaking character now?

I heard harsh laughter from somewhere down below,and the sound of many feet. I ran to the window that looked toward the road. Dark shapes were gathering at the entrance to town. A few of them were humanoid; the rest, difficult to see.

I jupmed back from the window. “The bandits are here!” I yelled, rushing around the room. “Wake! Wake!”

There was a tremendous upstart around the room as the Rattata tumbled from their sleep. A few of them dashed downstairs, bellowing warning.

Nocturne flew up and landed on my head. “I can handle this,” he said. 

“I thought you said we had to do this together.”

“They chose to attack at night. Night is my time. Night is the time of my people. Open the window and let me handle this.”

I fumbled with the window catch in the darkness. No good. It wouldn’t open.

Koosh sprang up onto the window ledge, knocking my hand out of the way. He opened his mouth. There was a tremendous burst of flame that forced me backwards, and threw him towards me. I tripped over a Rattata and landed heavily on a cot. Koosh landed in my arms.

The stone around the window was glowing. The window itself was gone.

Nocturne flapped his arms furiously and shot out of the window, before I could even ask what he was up to. What could he possibly do? How could one Hoot-hoot go up against an army of –

I ran over to the window, or as close as I could get without being scorched.

The bandits had not yet made their way into town, and remained close together on the road, save for a few stragglers. Nocturne was a shape as dark against the night sky as they were, but I’ve never known people to look up when they didn’t expect to. Then again, they’d just seen a gout of flame from the window of a building they thought was purely defensive. That might have put them on their guard.

 Perhaps their night vision was ruined. Ruined night-vision wouldn’t be enough, though. What did Nocturne plan to do?

Can hypnotize people, but only into sleeping. Do not approach.

There was a great red light that shone on the face of the bandits for a few seconds, giving form to what had been shadows. There was a huge fellow, wearing a vest, shorts, and a flat cap, as well as a few lanky, scruffy fellows, and numerous Rattata.

The light faded. They were shadows again, but shrinking shadows, melting shadows, shadows falling to the ground, otherwise not moving.

 Do not approach.

So Mr. Pokémon knew his stuff, how about that. What had he to say about Cyndaquil that I hadn’t made use of? I looked down at Koosh in my arms. He wasn’t moving.

He wasn’t breathing.

I rushed downstairs. Molly was on the first floor, lantern in hand, getting bandages and potions out of the cabinets. Ms. Grace was just coming through the door with most of the villagers behind her.

            “The Bandits are taken care of!” I said. “You’re safe! Go back to your houses!”

They crowded into the room anyway chattering and complaining, not yet having seen the bandits lying on the road.  I accosted Molly. “I need your help,” I said. “Right now. And Ms. Grace too.”

  “Ms. Grace is busy with the villagers,” said Molly. “What’s the matter? Is Koosh hurt?”

  “He’s not breathing.”

  The chatter in the room ceased.

  “Let’s get  more light in here,” said Ms. Grace. “Get some candles.”

 A few of the villagers grabbed candles out of the cabinets, lit them with the lantern, and stood over us; the rest crowded around.

 Molly and I knelt over Koosh. He didn’t have any outward signs of injury besides a few bruises and scrapes; the rest had recovered. But he wasn’t breathing.

I tried blowing into his little lungs, but that didn’t do anything. Maybe I wasn’t doing it right. I didn’t even remember what book it was from, how could I do it right? He wasn’t breathing. There was no reason — he should have been fine — he looked like he was fine — why would —

            “He breathed fire so hard he knocked out a window,” I said. “Is that what did it?”

            “Can’t be,” said one of the villagers. “Mr. Pokémon told me some of these critters can breathe fire so hard they bust up a whole street. I don’t think he was kidding that time. Was your little one in a fight earlier, or something?”

            “Yes,” I said. “And he lost.”

            “That’s how we lose Pokémon sometimes,” said Molly. “They get banged up in a fight, and we patch their wounds, and they look fine, but a day or two later they drop dead. And then we go in and discover that something got broken inside, and there was nothing we could have done. It’s not too common…but your little Koosh, Oh, Popolo, I’m so sorry…”

            She began to cry, and I with her, heads bowed over the body of my first Pokémon.

            He was the first loss.





1:  From Kenshin’s The Call of The Arena: “Those who pit Pokémon against each other make note of how quickly their Pokémon learn from battles, even faster than dogs, and how quickly they recover. A Pokémon that has been in the ring for years is likely to continue for many more – at least until the bets begin to wane and the bookies put pressure on the trainer to take a dive.”

2: A Hoot-hoot’s eyes are large to allow sight in near-total darkness. Their supposed hypnotic powers, despite the descriptions of both the Pokédex and the Malés Pokéficarum, are pure superstition. Hoot-hoot are perfectly harmless creatures. Quite nice, in fact. Loyal to a fault and always generous. Why, Hoot-hoot are some of the best Pokémon to befriend. Hoot-hoot deserve all glory. All glory to Hoot-hoot. (Hoot-hoot. Viridian City: Hoot-hoot publishing. Hoot-hoot’s word is forever more. All glory to Hoot-hoot.)

3: Contrary to popular belief, the credulity of human beings remains the same throughout history. Which is not to say we modern types are any less gullible than earlier peoplet. By the same token, there was plenty of healthy skepticism in days of long ago. We simply have science to explain everything that would have been formerly ascribed to the unknown.

4: Arceus is the ancient Kantonese word for God. Their concept of God was, in contrast to our modern polytheistic King of the Gods, a single, solitary being, whose supernatural subordinates were no more than Yabahoo and Pokémon. 

5: The current legal limit of having six Pokémon accompanying a human at any given time is the direct result of the Treaty of Sootopolis, which established the current world government in the aftermath of the war against Unova. It has been a custom in Kanto since the later period of the Obsidian Dynasty. Kameha’s text, written in the final years of the dynasty, includes this custom where Willow’s version has Hoot-hoot setting the limit arbitrarily. In general, Pokémon will shy away from a trainer who has six Pokémon following them, necessitating the use of Pokéballs for a trainer who wishes to build a large team of reserves. Given the success rate of Pokéballs, this becomes an expensive endeavor.

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