And Then There Were Five
The next couple days were mostly spent taking care of and having fun with Houndour. At least as far as Lyn was concerned. Jack, on the other hand, went out to train some of the time, while the rest was spent hanging out at the Pokecenter. While out training, he had his own mini adventures, but nothing too exciting. Lyn thought about going out too but she didn't want to risk Houndour running off or becoming scared of the surroundings. She wanted to wait a while until Houndour was used to being around her and listening to her commands.
Houndour is a great teaching tool for Lyn. With her knowledge of taking care of Pokemon, she has become the teacher, and Jack the student. He never paid too much attention to actually take care of his Pokemon, he mostly thought about battling.
"You know more about taking care of newborns because women have a natural care. It's all instinct." Jack states.
"I guess that’s right." Lyn smiled. "Guys don't have the ability to take care of babies as well as we do."
“Maybe, uh, you could help me with my Pokemon.”
“Sure Jack.” She smiled, rubbing Houndour’s tummy. “I’ll teach you about raising Pokemon, if you teach me to be a stronger battler.”
That’s one important area Jack has yet to practice. Lyn has such a strong bond with her Pokemon. Already, Houndour shows signs of loyalty and trust. Poliwag has been with her for many years, and Geodude enjoys her company on lonely nights in the Pokemon Center. She can understand the behavior of Pokemon very quickly. For example, she understood that Chinchou was just playing with the egg, while Jack thought he was trying to hurt it.
And then there is Jack. He also loves his Pokemon very much, but he hasn't bonded very well with them. Battles and training are good but play time is required every now and then, that’s what Stodd told him. He has relaxed a little with Pinsir, joking around trying to earn his trust. But Jack doesn’t think about play time. He wants to battle and grow strong, to show those that didn’t think he could do, that he can.
Out of all the time spent in Streaminton, Jack forgot there was a Gym. He felt silly, almost embarrassed he forgot, but part of him doesn’t feel ready for the challenge. Nonetheless, he stops by the Gym to check it out.
The Gym was located in the northern part of the city, built sideways between two rising hills, surrounded by tall trees. It was three stories tall with a large cage-like dome covering the top. Over the door was a sign: Streamington Gym. On the right side was a poster with rules for a Bird Sanctuary. On the left side, rules for Trainers.
Welcome Trainers! Before you challenge the Gym Leader, you must have all the following requirements:
- 3 Pokemon that can fly or remain off the ground of their own will.
- Trainer ID Card
- Not afraid to lose.
He crosses his arms, staring at the poster. “Three Pokemon that can fly? Pidgeotto is one. Butterfree is two. But... I need a third.” Challenging the Gym was out of the question, at least until he catches another Pokemon.
He heads back to the Pokemon Center, collecting his pack from their room. He explains to Lyn his dilemma, but she can’t go with him today. After all the play, Houndour fell asleep on a lounge chair and she doesn’t want to wake him.
So, Jack heads out alone, again. It shouldn’t be too hard to find a flying Pokemon. As he searches the outskirts of the city, the afternoon becomes later and later. Not one flying Pokemon has appeared. He remembers seeing Pidgey and Spearow in the city, but out in the wild... nothing.
“Huh, what was that?” A startling noise comes closer. A few Rattata leaps out from under a bush, chasing each other. It’s been like this the whole time; he’s seen other Pokemon, but none that can fly. However, these wild rats may be helpful. He calls his own Rattata out. "Hey Rattata. Can you ask your friends over there where I can find some flying Pokemon.”
Rattata jumps out and sees the others just like him. His eyes widen and he cheerfully greets them. “Rat ttaa ta ratta rattata." The others speak back, starting a conversation. Jack watches from behind a tree, so as not to scare them away. A bell faintly chimes in the distance, which only the Pokemon can hear. The wild Rattata’s ears perk up and they run away. Jack’s Rattata follows them.
Maybe they were leading him to some flying Pokemon. Jack hopes so. He follows them a short distance but realizes that they’ve disappeared. A fence stands in front, with tall bushes blocking anyone from peeking inside. In the dirt in front of the bushes is a small hole with tiny foot prints leading in and out. The hole looked barely big enough for a rat to fit through.
"I didn’t think Rattata could dig holes. Why would mine follow them down there?”
A short lady comes from the left of the fence, "Because, those Rattata must have told yours where to find some food and fun. Come on, I’ll show you.”
He follows the lady around the corner to the small cottage in front. They quickly walk through the house and exit to the backyard. It was there, that Jack couldn’t believe his eyes. Within the fence was a playground like no other.
“Welcome to The Rattata Inspirational Pokemon Playground, or TRIPP as advertised.” She hands a business card to Jack.
There are six Rattata, inlcuding his own. The place is fenced in all around with a light net over the top to prevent any Pokemon from entering. There are different obstacles and play things around the backyard. A maze, a slide, a water slide, some jumping thing. The Rattata that were playing around sure looked like they were having fun.
“Your name wouldn’t happen to be Jack, is it?”
“Huh? How would you know that?” Jack looks at her.
She was short with long blond hair with silver strands. Had to be at least 35. She held out her left hand, as if trying to show something. She had a mark, not just any mark, but a unique burn mark. As a child, his mom and another girl burned each other to signify life friendship. He sees the connection.
“Melina?” She nods. “You used to have curly brown hair and wear different clothes. You look... different."
She smiles, "Thanks. You still look the same, just as I remember you ten years ago."
Ten years ago, Melina lived in Pine Valley. His Mom and Melina were childhood best friends and could always depend on each other. But, the rest of the community thought she was crazy because she made and wore clothes from a hundred years ago. She grew tired of the name calling and suddenly moved away. She never called nor wrote, no one knew where she went.
“I created a new image for myself up here. Bought this land with the last of my money, and started a daycare service. After a while, I grew to love the Rattata from the forest. They were so much easier to take care of than a temperamental Charizard. I’m the only daycare in the league that specializes in Rattata care.”
Jack watches but begins to wonder. “Uh, now which one is my Rattata?" All six Pokemon, having eaten the gourmet Pokefood, were playing a game of tag.
Melina looks at him hard, "Don't you know? Trainers should know which Pokemon is theirs without difficulty. Have you had it long?"
"He was the first one I caught, nearly a month ago." He squats. “My Rattata come here."
Only one of the Rattata turns his head, that must be him. Another Rattata’s tail hits him, making him ‘it’ in their game. Rattata runs off to tag someone else.
“He seems to like it here. I’ve never seen him so happy.”
“Rattata are fun Pokemon to raise. They are great scavengers and particularly love to have fun teasing Trainers out of food. When you get a whole group together, like this, they have more energy than most Pokemon I’ve seen." Melina finds a chair and rests, taking a sip of tea. She pays close attention to Jack’s Rattata. “What brings you out here?”
“I’m looking for a Pokemon that can fly so I can challenge the Streamington Gym. But... I haven’t had a lot of luck today.”
Melina laughs, “Oh, you won’t find too many birds over here. You have to go north, to Windy Plateau. It’s at least a days hike from the city. There you will find a variety of flying Pokemon that can fly.”
“Windy Plateau, eh? I guess after a good nights rest, I’ll have a new Pokemon by tomorrow night.”
“Oh, but Jack, you have to leave tonight. This way you arrive at the plateau by daytime. Night time at Windy Plateau can be very dangerous and there are some powerful Pokemon and Trainers there that scare anyone away. And you can’t go alone. You will need a guide, trust me.”
He didn’t know if she was telling the truth, or trying to scare him like she did when he was little. But he has to believe her, for his benefit. Windy Plateau sounds like an interesting place.
An hour passes. Rattata was having fun in the big hedge maze, trying to find the end. Eventually, he made it to the finish and was greeted by a group of cheering Rattata.
This was a good time for Jack to take part, and enjoy some fun with Rattata. But, he remains back, watching, thinking. He realized he never took any spare time to spend with his Pokemon, to play, and to really become close and be a friend. And every time he let them out to play, he hardly played with them, only watching from the side. As he thought deeper, he wondered if his Pokemon really enjoy him as a Trainer. He knew Pidgey and Vulpix liked his company. Pinsir was questionable but deep down he must like Jack by now. He’s not sure about Chinchou since he was recently caught. Do they really like him as a Trainer? Better yet, as a friend?
By now, most of the Rattata have gone back to the wild, leaving only one behind. It was getting late in the day.
“You look deep in thought.” Melina questions as she sits next to him.
Jack nods, barely acknowledging her.
Rattata slides across the grass. Then something grabs his attention. Their were two big apples tied to a rope hanging from a tree branch. Drooling at the thought of more food, he jumps and misses. He tries again, closer, but still inches away. Frustrated, he climbs the tree and jumps to the branch, gnawing on the rope. The rope breaks and down come the pair of apples. He quickly jumps down to claim his prize.
Melina is shocked, "You have a smart Rattata. But the whole point of that activity is to get the Rattata to practice jumping.
Jack folds his sunglasses and pockets them as the sky darkens orange. “Thanks for the time Melina. Rattata had a lot of fun out there.”
“Oh, and what about you? Did you have fun?” She waits for an answer but receives none. “It appears Rattata has been giving you a temper lately. Is there something you want to share?”
This was something that he didn’t want to do: show weakness as a Trainer. And here, she asks him to talk about it. The nerve. Jack looks up, cheerful. “What do you mean?”
She hits him over the head with a teacup. “You know very well.”
The remaining wild Rattata jumps into her arms. She pats it on the head, stroking it’s body. “How about you leave Rattata with me. Think of it as a temporary vacation. Maybe it’s what Rattata needs.”
“Nah, that’s okay. I’ll find a way.” He calls out, “Rattata, come here.” Rattata finishes picking his teeth with the apple stem, and runs over. Jack tries to pet him, only to be rejected. “So, uh, you had a lot of fun today. But we have to be leaving now.”
Rattata looks at his Trainer, then looks at the play area. His eyes brighten with ideas for tomorrow. Looking back to Jack, he sighs. “Rattata raaatta ttta.” He jumps back, making a firm stand in the middle of the yard.
This was heartbreaking. His first Pokemon he met and caught, doesn’t want to go with him anymore. He’d never thought he would lose a member of his team so early on his journey.
He remembered when Rattata was a scared Pokemon, looking for protection against an Ekans. He helped him, taught him to be stronger, to stand up for himself. Rattata fought Pokemon after Pokemon with determination and heart. But everything changed when he tried to stop him from battling at the Stamina Contest. The bond was broken. And now, here they are, about to say goodbye.
“Rattata,” Jack says, holding back tears and sniffling, “You are the hardest working Pokemon on my team. You gave every battle 100% and never gave up. But... “ he pauses, “but sometimes we have to lose too. Only then, can we learn to grow stronger.”
Rattata sits calmly, trying to stay tough, but his eyes water. He shakes it off.
Jack turns to Melina, holding out a Rattata’s Pokeball.. “Please, watch over him.” She nods and he takes off. She yells trying to tell him to wait, but it’s too late. Jack runs through the cabin, out the door, and back to Streamington. No formal goodbye, no hugs, no smiles. He ran to keep his emotions at bay.
End Episode 24