Chapter 13: Going South

“Let’s review what we know.”

Bambi nodded dutifully.+

“Don’t release your Pokémon from their Pokeballs unless you absolutely have to.”

Two baby Eevee crawled around their early morning camp, near their mother, this new darkened Pokémon called Umbreon.

“What about them?” Zakana asked.

“They’re newborns. It’s not good to keep them in Pokeballs. Kappa will have to watch after them.” Farore stalked between the trees, hands clasped behind her back, seeming more serious than Zakana first thought of her. Then, a smile spread across her face.

“Plus, they’re frickin’ adorable. We don’t need to put them in Pokeballs anytime soon.” She became stern once again. “Just keep an eye for out for men in masks throwing balls. Clasp balls . . . what a bunch of sickos! Those balls are extremely dangerous.”

“And they hurt, too,” Zakana recalled. He looked at the deep bruise on his thigh, noticed the black and blue rings forming.1

“Don’t tell anyone who you are or where you’re going until we can figure out more.”

Across the camp, Isaque’ yellow eyes found Zakana’s. He was a young man—the same age as Zakana—and tall, with a frame that he had not quite filled out yet. Is he from Pallet, too? Zakana wondered. No, he can’t be.

“Let’s just find Yumin and Makua,” Bambi said, clearly exhausted from a night of crying babies and a very beaten down mother who had pushed out 6 babies. How 6 fully formed babies fit inside something as small as the Umbreon, Zakana would never know. He cringed as he thought about them coming out one at a time.

After munching on some berries Farore had collected, she urged them to move.

“Who’s got a good tracker?”

Lyres did. His Ursaring was a massive beast, with ferocious tracking powers, it seemed. But Lyres was not with them.

Farore asked, “Isaque, do you have one, or a flyer?”

He shook his head. “Not with me. You know what happened with the P.C. systems, don’t you?”

Farore shook her head this time.

Isaque paused, looked at Zakana and Bambi to see if they knew. Zakana heard mention of the P.C. system but he couldn’t recall exactly. It was where Yumin kept all his reserve Pokémon. Then he remembered.

“No one can retrieve any of their Pokémon from the reserve system,” Isaque confirmed. “The Viterals have hacked the computers and are working on targeting all of the Pokémon Centers.”

“I’m sorry, what?”

Farore shook her head as though it wasn’t true, as though Isaque was nothing but a liar. And Zakana realized that both of them had their different information and help to provide.

“It happened a few days ago. You haven’t been to a Center lately? Haven’t been affected? They made sure the strike was quick and decisive.”

Who were these Viterals that could implement such devastating strikes on the Pokémon world? They had turned everything upside-down. They had dragged Zakana from his home, stolen nearly all of Yumin’s Pokémon. Likely, they had done so many other things.

“I use my own private system,” Farore said. “If they’ve hacked into that then I’m out of luck too.” She spun around, scanned the area of forest to their south. “Which reminds me, I’ll need to send a message to Glaukus in Fuchsia City, see what the next move is.”

“Is he your gym leader friend?” Bambi asked.

“Yes. We have a system for keeping everyone informed and safe. But if the computers in the Pokémon Centers have been hacked, that will make it difficult.”

“Sorry, I don’t keep up with all the Gym Leader stuff these days,” Isaque said. “I didn’t realize you were one.”

“You’re looking at the real deal,” Bambi said, standing next to Farore.

She was her hero, her savior, Zakana could tell as she looked up at her and explained who she was, how she came to power.

“Youngest Gym Leader in the history of Kanto.” Bambi beamed.

“It’s no biggie.”

Zakana watched Farore carefully, saw the heave of her chest, knew that her position was a stressful one, but that it didn’t affect her in that way. That’s the way this sunburnt girl wanted to carry herself.

She sighed. “Anyway. Back to the present mission. I can use my Heracross and Vespiquen to go out and look, see if they can locate the others. It will be dangerous, so maybe I should track with them. There’s no chance I’m losing my Pokémon out here to some creeps in masks.” Nodding, she made up her mind completely. “Yeah. That’s what I’ll do. I’ll go look for the others and connect our groups.”

“What about us?” Bambi cried. “We can go with!”

“It will only make us slower. I need to operate alone.” Farore laced up her boots, tied her hair into a balled brown bun onto the top of her head. She turned to them and smiled. “Stay here, under cover. If I’m not back by dusk, move to the next encampment.” She scrawled something on a map and handed it to Zakana. “Here. You better not stay in the same place for two nights. Move to here and I’ll meet up with you there tonight or tomorrow.”

If Yumin’s suspicions were correct about Lyres and possibly Isaque, then this move by Farore made Zakana and Bambi vulnerable. If Isaque was not on their side, he could overpower them with his Pokémon. Zakana watched his reactions carefully.

Farore pointed to the map, her eyebrows raised. “Okay?”

“Okay,” Isaque said, a little too eagerly.

Zakana nodded. “Be safe.”

And as Farore sped into the thicket of green, her boots flying in a maelstrom of deft movements, Zakana thought about his own Pokémon, how he would need to increase his own abilities and repertoires if he wanted to contribute. His Slowpoke. His Happiny. That was all he had—two overly pink Pokémon that were smaller than most and didn’t seem to move particularly fast.1

Even his ten-year-old cousin was better than him. But Zakana didn’t care about that. Now, he just needed to protect Bambi.

She moved to her Umbreon, stroked it as it nursed the two babies. Their coats had darkened to a beige color though their fur was still fluffy and unkempt. Opening their eyes to see was a constant struggle.

“Its not good for the others to not be with their mother during this time,” Bambi said.

Isaque joined her in the camp, sat cross-legged next to her. “Who else has one?”

A look of worry came across her. Her Umbreon matched it as one of the babies stopped suckling.

“I guess there are three more,” she said. “So hopefully, Makua, Yumin, and . . .”


“Yeah—Lyres—all held onto one.”

Zakana saw his baby cousin’s sadness and moved to her. Her put his good arm around her and said, “we’re gonna get them back, don’t worry.”

“Oh, Zakana! What happened to you anyway? Why are you here? And you have Pokémon now?”

All at once, his original encounter rushed back to him, flooded his memory with images of ice and blizzards and snowstorms and blackouts. And he wondered how much she knew, how much his aunt and uncle had told her about what could happen. How much was he allowed to say? Would Yumin be upset with him for telling her? No. He would be upset with him for not telling her.

“Well, I was attacked by some Pokémon, Bambi. At home. In Pallet.”

“What?” Bambi’s face went stone cold, a mix of worry for one moment and then fierceness prevailed. “If I was there, I would have kicked their butts!”

Zakana laughed. Truly and untethered for the first time in . . . he didn’t know. But his cheeks and jaw weren’t used to the movement.

“Makua taught me about some berries that will help with the pain. Then maybe we can get that sling off you. Or! Duh!” Bambi stood up suddenly. “Go Bayleef!”

A four-legged pear-colored creature emerged from the ball, swiveled its head. A single leaf blade stood on its head, a necklace of leaves at the base of its elongated neck. Zakana pointed Oodi at it.

“I’m still getting used to this thing.”

“You even have a Pokedex!” Bambi cried.

Oodi stated: “Bayleef. The Leaf Pokémon. A spicy aroma emanates from the ring of curled-up leaves around its neck. The aroma acts as a stimulant to restore health.”

“Zakana. Take a whiff!”

Bayleef gave Zakana a look, yawned.

“So . . . the smells coming from this thing can make me feel better?”

“You bet!”

Zakana inhaled the air around him through the nose. A sweet, flowery aroma entered his nostrils.

“Where’d you get this one? Bayleef, is it?”

“My Bayleef evolved from my Chikorita, my very first Pokémon. My starter!”

“You just started at the Academy?” Isaque asked. “Not bad to have a second form already.”

“Zakana, did you get a starter too? I don’t understand. Why are you using Pokémon now?”

Choosing to answer the question would only open more doors for questions Zakana didn’t want to answer. He was using Pokémon because he had to and as soon as things went back to normal, he would go back to the life that was his. The life where he would train to be an astronaut and spend time in space, away from the world of Pokémon.

Isaque watched, listened.

Was he just spying on their family? According to Kirish, the Hayline family was important now . . . important to the Viterals.

Zakana continued to sniff the scent coming from the Bayleef’s leaves. Something inside him changed. As he rustled in his pack for his Pokeballs, he felt happier. He didn’t know if it was the sweet aroma, or that he was reunited with Bambi, but he felt better, from the crown of his head to his shoulder.1

His fingers found what they were looking for.

“Go, Slowpoke!”

“Oh . . .” Bambi flushed, her cheeks matched her auburn hair.

Slowpoke adjusted the position of its feet several times, stared blankly at Zakana. “Slowpoke!”

“Your starter is a Slowpoke?”

Zakana turned his gaze to Isaque. Pokémon wasn’t his domain but he felt undercut by the tone of the voice—the voice that asked about Slowpoke. They always asked about Slowpoke. Was it really that famously pathetic? A fire ignited in Zakana’s belly.

“I guess. If that’s what you want to call it. He’s the first Pokémon I caught.”

He felt the slimy, rubbery skin of his Slowpoke and pulled his hand away. “Who was yours?”

“I chose a Totodile. That was a long time ago.”

Totodile was just another name Zakana didn’t know, but he didn’t question it. Right now, he felt bothered that both Bambi and Isaque silently mocked him.

“I don’t understand, though.” Isaque stood up and stretched his lengthy frame. “If Slowpoke was your starter, why isn’t it a Slowking by now?”

There was a king of them? Zakana had never considered that his Slowpoke might actually change. Would it become dopier, bigger, lumpier? According to Isaque, it would change, much like Bambi’s Kappa had last night. How many Pokémon can change like that? Evolve? He wondered.

Carefully, Zakana answered Isaque. He gave the easy answer. The answer that would cut off a string of questions.

“I’m sorry, Zakana. I didn’t know. I guess . . . I just never knew anyone that didn’t start on their quest.”

Silence ensued.

Zakana cleared his throat. He didn’t need to explain himself to the likes of this kid. This is exactly why he didn’t like meeting new people.

“You know, I’ve met others who decided not to go on the Pokémon journey.” Bambi half-smiled at Zakana. “It’s becoming more common these days.”

It wasn’t enough for Isaque. He wanted to know more.

“What have you been doing this whole time?”

Studying to be an astronaut, he answered.

“Why do you want to do that?”

Space is interesting, he answered.

“Didn’t you ever want to catch a Pokémon, or go adventure?”

“Enough questions! I don’t want to talk about my past, okay? All that matters is finding the others and getting out of here. Now, are we gonna sit here or are we gonna battle?”1

The words came out easily, untethered and when they echoed in Zakana’s head he couldn’t figure why he’d said it. But he didn’t regret it. He truly wanted to battle this boy, whatever that entailed, and show him and Bambi that Slowpoke wasn’t such a weakling.

“A battle? You want to battle me . . . with Slowpoke?”

“Yeah, lets go! No more . . . questions!”

“Zakana,” Bambi said. “I don’t think that’s a good idea.”

“Why not?”

“Because it will draw a lot of attention to us,” Isaque replied.

“And Pokémon Centers are down,” Bambi added. “There’s no point in injuring our Pokémon. Not here. Not now.”1

For some reason, Zakana’s blood was boiling. He hated that Isaque and Lyres had joined them and were now affecting things. The girl was okay. She had saved Bambi apparently, and she didn’t ask so many questions. Even now, Zakana doubted Isaque’s motives.

“Maybe we can have another sort of challenge.” Isaque walked to Zakana, squared up with him. “My water starter versus your water starter.”

“What kind of challenge?”

“Its called hot paws.”

“Hot paws?”

“Yep. The object is for one Pokémon to try and smack the other Pokémon’s paws, claws, talons or whatever and the other Pokémon has to try to avoid it. Its all about quickness and accuracy. Good for stimulating other parts of the brain.”1

“Whatever. Let’s do it.”

A smirk inched across Isaque’s face. “Go, Feraligatr!”1

Something very large and hunched emerged from the amorphous white light. This one did not have paws, but claws and a serious under bite, gleaming white razor teeth curling over its mouth. Red spikes lined the back of its blue body.

Zakana snapped Oodi open, pointed the sensor at it.

“Feraligatr. The Big Jaw Pokémon. When it bites with its massive and powerful jaws, it shakes its head and savagely tears its victim up.”

“Geez, this is your starter?”

It was at least four feet taller than Isaque, this great big thing. He studied it, saw the way it looked at his Slowpoke, felt a moment of true fear. They’re unpredictable. What’s going to stop this gator from devouring my Slowpoke?

“Well it evolved from Crocanaw, who evolved from Totodile, but yeah. I chose Totodile.” Isaque grinned, seemed to be taking in the memories of his first Pokémon. Sadly, Zakana didn’t hold the same fond recollections.

“Come on, Zakana. You can do it,” Bambi cheered.

Feraligatr fell to all fours, approached Slowpoke. “Feraligatr!” It said.


“Let’s get on with it!”

Isaque spoke to his Feraligatr, explained what was about to happen, using hand motions. Apparently, they weren’t strangers to this game.

“Be quick, Slowpoke,” Zakana said. “Just keep moving your front paws when Feraligatr comes down.”

They played. Feraligatr sat on his buttocks and after some struggle, Slowpoke did too. Feraligatr smacked Slowpoke’s front paw on his first try.

“Slowpoke,” it said. “Slowpoke! Slowpoke!”

“Your turn,” Isaque said.

“Try to hit his hands, Slowpoke.” Bambi called from an invisible sideline.

It was difficult to watch. Something like watching an overgrown baby sit in a highchair that it was much too big for and beg for the food on the table because it had already eaten all of its own.

Every time Slowpoke went for the paw, Feraligatr moved it away effortlessly. It was a mismatch. Still, Slowpoke was trying very hard. Beads of sweat trickled down its slimy sides. It missed a swipe and fell to all fours.1

“This is stupid. This doesn’t mean anything,” Zakana said.

“Would you rather have a battle?”

The white-tipped paws went for Feraligatr’s feet now. Easily the beast moved them away, and now it seemed to be laughing. Could Pokémon laugh at other Pokémon?

“Slowpoke, don’t let him laugh at you!”

“Wow,” Isaque said.

At that moment, the next move came quicker and instead of trying to hit the left foot, Slowpoke faked, came across and hit the right. Except he didn’t just smack it. He had withdrawn his claws.

The beast huffed.

“You scratched Feraligatr.”

“He can take it.”

Still, the two went back and forth. Each time, Feraligatr nailed Slowpoke on its first try while Slowpoke took ages to hit Feraligatr. Just when Zakana thought it was over, he watched to see Slowpoke fake again. This time after missing the now uplifted foot, Slowpoke spun, rather quickly, lodged its tail underneath the hanging foot, and lifted.

Unprepared, and too heavy to be agile at this angle, Feraligatr crashed to its side.

“Again, not part of the game.”1

This time Zakana laughed. “Go, Slowpoke!” And he saw for the first time, the cheekiness his starter possessed.

Feraligatr moaned and crawled back to its hind legs, stood at its full 10-foot height.

“Feraligatr, stand down!”

Oodi’s words came back to Zakana:

When it bites with its massive and powerful jaws, it shakes its head and savagely tears its victim up.

“Hey, don’t do that!” Zakana fumbled for his Pokeball, knew that he could return Slowpoke without it being eviscerated into a thousand pieces.

Fearful for her own Pokémon, Bambi scooped up Kappa in her arms, the two babies as well. “Guys, stop!”

Another voice floated into camp. Farore’s voice.

“Get moving! Not a second to waste!”

Still, Feraligatr glared down, brought its prodigious paw down, this time claws out.

Then, they froze. In midair. Feraligatr’s paw had stopped midair, a nearly invisible aura of purple-pink surrounding it.

Isaque cursed.


Farore high-tailed it from a distance. She had no Pokémon out. Her hair was disheveled and dirty.

“Why do you have Pokémon out?”

Zakana, feeling like he had actually won both the game and the mini-battle, felt satisfied. He returned his Slowpoke to his ball.

Isaque returned the now-infuriated Feraligatr back to his. Bambi returned her Bayleef.

“Gather everything.” Farore approached them, her hips moving back and forth on a swivel. She moved the dirt blonde hair out of her face.

Zakana scrambled to collect his things.

Bambi asked: “What’s happened?”

We need to get out of this place.” Farore stopped, caught her breath. “We’ll have to find them later. They’re going to move to the next city anyway. That’s what we should do.”

“They have flyers. They should have found us by now,” Isaque added. He had returned to his natural calm state, seemingly unbothered by what transpired.

Farore drew a deep breath, exhaled a sigh of frustration. She had been running hard, Zakana knew. And she really took the no-Pokémon-out-of-their-balls rule seriously. “We’ll go down Cycling Road, south to Fuchsia City,” she said.

“That’s where Makua will go,” Bambi said. “To meet his older brother as part of their emergency plan.”

“Okay,” Farore said, finally catching her breath. “We need to reach Cycling Road by nightfall. Or things could end badly.” She pointed her finger to the sky, a number one symbol. “And . . . don’t ask me now. I’ll explain when we can rest.” She scooped one of the babies from Bambi’s hammock of elbows and took off running again.

Zakana scooped up the other baby so Bambi could hold onto Kappa more securely. The three of them ran.

Pain set in above his knee again, but the pain from his shoulder seemed to be gone. Had the aromas helped that much? He felt happy when he thought about that sweet lemongrass scent. He felt happy he had toppled Isaque’s Pokémon. Happy to be back with Bambi again. But he still hadn’t asked her questions. And she rushed ahead to catch Farore before he could.

“Fun game, huh?” Isaque ran alongside Zakana. He still smiled.

More questions. What would it take to get rid of this guy?

“Anyway, I know you liked it. I’ve got a ton of em. I can teach you more later.”

“We aren’t friends, Isaque,” Zakana warned.

“I know.”

When Zakana looked over, the smile had gone.

“We were though,” he said. “I understand now that you don’t want to remember, but I won’t forget. Maybe that’s enough for me.”

They ran side by side in silence, up hills, past more lines of trees. The orange-red sun slipped away, away from them, beyond the ocean that Zakana could now see in the distance.

“There’s Cycling Road!” Farore announced. “Almost there boys!”

Zakana convinced himself not to trust Isaque. Its what Yumin would do and what he was likely doing with Lyres if they were still together. Suddenly, Zakana remembered the letter his father had concealed in a briefcase in their attic. He remembered the large red R imprinted at the bottom, the symbol for Team Rocket.

And he wondered: is dad affiliated with them? Is Yumin?

There were so many things he didn’t know now. He didn’t know who to trust or what to think. For now, it didn’t matter. His ran harder to catch up to Bambi.