Chapter 6: Rolling, Rolling, Rolling

To Zakana, Celadon City never seemed like a real place. When he saw pictures of the department store there, over 100 stories tall, the casino, with its magnificent neon lights and extravagant set-ups, he always thought it was made up-fabricated to increase tourism. A place like Celadon couldn’t exist in Kanto, especially when stick-in-the-Mudkip places like Pallet existed nearby.

There are many cities just like Celadon, his mom would say. But it is the epicenter. It’s very important to our economy.

When Zakana used to be interested in things, he would ask questions. But he knew those days were long gone.

Winter was passing and although the ride to Celadon on Yumin’s giant bird was freezing, Celadon was cool-cool enough to need a sweatshirt, but not quite cold enough for a jacket.

Upon landing, Zakana felt the discomfort of his shoulder again. “Can you help me take this off, Yumin?”

Yumin glanced at Zakana and shrugged. “Hang on a sec.” Yumin reached into his pack, pulled out a blue bottle and a beige pouch. “Braviary needs to eat and drink. She’s exhausted from that flight. We’ll have to walk to Celadon from here.”

Braviary ducked into the handful of berries in Yumin’s hand, plucked at them with precision. Yumin held the bottle up and Braviary held its beak next to it, waited for the gush of water.

“It’s been a long time since she’s made a journey this far,” Yumin said.

Zakana struggled with his jacket, tried to take it off in spite of his sling. “How long have you had that thing?”

“Braviary is not a thing. I’ve had her since she was just a little Rufflet.” Yumin patted Braviary on the top of the head, grinned. “I’ve had her about six years. She’s one of my best.”

“How many Pokémon do you have?”

“Close to 100,” Yumin held out his hands, began to count in a way Zakana didn’t’ understand. “Let’s see, with that last one, I’m at 97.”

“97 . . . Pokémon?” Zakana stopped shimmying out of his jacket, stared at his cousin. “How is that possible?”

Yumin laughed. “There are people with plenty more than that, Zakana. 97 isn’t really that great of a feat.” Yumin finished blasting water down his Braviary’s throat. He returned the bottle to his pack, withdrew Braviary’s Pokeball from his belt, said, “return!”

The eagle Pokémon disappeared in a red-white light, returned to the ball in Yumin’s hand.

From where Zakana stood, Celadon was just as brilliant as the magazines and adverts portrayed. Mountains blasted into the orange-pink sky, purple and green formations behind a city of skyscrapers and shiny new buildings. It looked serene. Zakana had finally removed his jacket. He hung it over his good shoulder. Calmness overcame him as he and Yumin crossed a field where the snow and frost had nearly all melted.

“How many Pokémon are there?”

Yumin advanced across the field, called back, “The number is something close to 700. The count changes every so often . . . when they discover new ones or decide that two previously discovered Pokémon are actually the same species.”

Zakana imagined a laboratory with Pokémon Professors in white lab coats, taking sample of Pokémon, examining the cells under microscopes and saying things like, ‘we found another one!’

“700 Pokémon?” he asked.

Again, he didn’t know how that was possible. He had seen less than 50 and knew less than 10 by name.

“Yes!” Yumin stopped in his tracks, looked down into the valley that was Celadon. “We can get a good start on the day like this.”

The sun was rising over the mountains, allowed a sweeping light flood into the city. “First, Pokémon Center to touch base with Kirish . . . and I also need to change my lineup.” Yumin took a Pokeball from his belt, tossed it onto the ground. “Go, Tygo!”

The same Pokémon from the cliffs appeared before Zakana. Up close, it looked less like a monk Pokémon and more like a mix between a yoga instructor and a taekwondo master. Its body, an off-pink all over, was bandaged at the wrists and around the waist and it wore brown shorts and shoes. Three rounded horns lined the top of its head.

“I caught Tygo most recently. It can evolve into some really powerful fighting Pokémon so I’m happy about that. But I don’t think he’s strong enough to battle right now.”

Zakana pointed Oodi at the Pokémon half his height.

“Tyrogue. The baby fighting Pokémon. Tyrogue can evolve into three different Pokémon. Each evolution depends on its offensive and defensive stats. Tyrogue is a tough fighter that hates to give up.”

“My Pokedex is calling it Tyrogue but you called it Tygo. Is it a mistake?”

“It’s the nickname I gave it, Zakana. Kind of like your mom’s Missy is known as the Pokémon Misdreavus. I think Aunt Audria nicknames all her Pokémon.”

Zakana had been around his mom’s Pokémon for so long he had forgotten they were known by something other than their nicknames to the Pokémon world. “Oh, right,” he said.

Suddenly, he wondered where his mom was . . . if she had found dad or Yumin’s parents.

“After we go to the Pokémon Center we’ll go to Bambi’s Academy and check on her.”

And now, he found himself wondering about Bambi. He had seen her half a year ago when Uncle Samson and Aunt Lydia visited Pallet. It was just the three of them. No dad, no Yumin, no Kirish. He and Bambi went shopping at the mall, and when he thought about it, he wondered what they talked about. She didn’t even mention that she was going to the Academy in Celadon. It was the most exciting part of her life, and they didn’t talk about it. Even Bambi, at ten years old, knew not to talk about Pokémon in front of Zakana. He felt sick to his stomach, because he couldn’t for the life of him remember what they had talked about. Had it been anything at all?

“Zakana?” Yumin’s voice pulled him back to the present moment. “Did you hear anything I said?”

“When can we sleep?” Zakana blurted out.

“As soon we do those two things. I need to see my sister.”

Zakana nodded, followed Yumin into the valley below. He could see a Pokémon Center in the distance, its giant Pokeball, half red, half white, a giant P sign broadcasting its presence.

“Does it stand for power?”

“Pokémon Center,” Yumin’s tone was dry.

Zakana took off his sling, then his backpack, laid it on the grass. “This injury is annoying.”

Yumin made a playful punch at his Tygo, who bobbed in place. “You’re lucky, Zakana. An ice beam from one of those Abomasnow could have frozen you solid. It’s a good thing it only clipped your shoulder.”

Clipped. It was such a nasty word when Zakana thought about it. He clipped his toenails, and watched the pieces fall away, deadened and separate from the rest of his body. Bird’s feathers were clipped to prevent them from flying. He shuddered when he thought about what those snow Pokémon could have done to him.

“What really happened back at the island? That boy said a Pokémon attacked him unprovoked. Why are Pokémon attacking people?”

Yumin breathed in suddenly, as though Zakana’s words had caught him off guard. “Pokémon sometimes attack people by accident. We inhabit the same space as them. It’s likely that the Pokémon was hungry or curious.”

“He was bleeding pretty bad. I thought Pokémon had better sense than that.”

Yumin held his hand up, blocked a punch from his Tygo. His back relaxed, Tygo let up. Both of them looked in Zakana’s direction.

“I don’t know anything right now. If the Pokémon did attack that boy, then the Viterals are behind it. But there are too many unknowns to be certain. If what I think is true, then our entire way of life could be in grave danger. I’m talking complete 360, Zakana.”

“And what is it you’re thinking?”

Yumin gave Zakana a dark look. His earring glowed in the morning sun, his mess of hair curled out at the sides and back.

“They’re trying to turn Pokemon and people against each other. They want to use the Pokémon for themselves, for sick, dark purposes.”

Something inside Zakana shook. His insides boiled and cooled, a smorgasbord of mixed emotions.

“If they continue in this direction, all of the Pokemon of the world will be eliminated,” Yumin said.

Zakana felt pushed and pulled in many different directions. A world without Pokémon . . . it was the world he had always wanted. A world where only humans lived and worked together. But now, something had changed. Zakana couldn’t put his finger on it so he brushed it away. He knelt down, unzipped his backpack to stick his jacket inside.

“Ummm . . . Yumin? What is this thing doing in here?”

The pink, white ball-the thing that had hatched from the egg was situated neatly in his pack.

Yumin laughed. “It’s a Happiny. How did it get in there?”

“I don’t know,” Zakana seethed. He was angrier than he knew he should be, but he felt tricked. “I guess it climbed in when I went to the Pokémon Center with Cecilia, which by the way, they weren’t going to let me have my Slowpoke without an I.D. card . . . should I be getting one of those?”

“That Happiny just hatched?” Yumin looked half mortified, half amused. A grin swept across his face, then disappeared as he said, “Baby Pokémon are extremely fragile.” He opened his own pack, took out a gray can with a pop-top lid.

When the can clicked open, the baby Pokémon woke up.

It yawned, rested its eyes on Tygo. “Haaaaaaaaaaaap!” With a soft nudge to the side, the pack sloped to the ground and Happiny rolled out. “Hap! Hap! Hap!” With short, stubby legs barely visible underneath its chunky body, Happiny gravitated to the can of food. Tygo moved in, sniffed the small brown globs with increasing intensity.

“As long as it eats that’s half the battle.”

Zakana stuffed his jacket into his backpack, withdrew an empty Pokeball, zipped it back up. He readjusted his sling.

“Now, you’re thinking like a trainer,” Yumin said. “Will this be your second Pokémon?”

“If I can catch-holy snikes, Yumin! Look!”

Happiny had somehow assumed its default shape-ball-and was now rolling down the hill at considerable speed. Yumin jumped into action.

“Tygo, stop that ball!”

Zakana threw his backpack over his good shoulder, and bounded down the hill. “First, it tries to pee on my face . . . then it sneaks into my backpack!” Zakana heaved, tried to keep his balance as he sped down after the bouncing ball of pink. “That Happiny is nothing but trouble!”

Yumin laughed heartily. “I kind of like its spunk!”

“Definitely making the most of its life!”

Tygo sprung down the hill goat-like, its heels and toes sending it forward in lightning quick spurts. Bending at the knees, Tygo burst forward, flipped in the air several times before flying skyward. It propelled itself like a cannonball, gaining speed and power as it flew.

“Tygo’s onto it! Thatta boy, Tygo!”

Zakana kept his arm close to him, careful not to irritate his shoulder anymore.

Again, Tygo flipped in the air, this time twisting sideways. He spun around like an Olympic diver, each time landing on the ground more graceful and careful than the last. Zakana was somewhat in awe.

“That’s it! Catch up and put a stop to it!”

Zakana slowed, realized they were in town now. Several people watched as Happiny rolled by a row of homes.

“Say, is that a Clefairy?”

Zakana took off in a sprint now that he was on somewhat even ground.

“Runaway Pokémon!” someone else shouted.

Zakana passed Yumin, took his Pokeball in his good hand and let it fly. “Pokeball, go!”

The Pokeball spiraled past Tygo, landed short of the rolling Happiny.

“It’s still going! Tygo, stop it!”

Zakana scooped up his failed ball. He picked up speed again, came at it from an angle this time. Ahead, he saw that Happiny was slowing down, losing the momentum it was using well to its advantage.

Zakana held the ball in his fingers, threw it with all his energy. “Pokeball, go!”

This time, the ball connected, hit Happiny at a 75-degree angle. Inward, the amorphous red-white light sucked up the Happiny. The Pokeball sunk to the ground, rolled to the side once, twice, three times, then lay still.

Yumin stopped, put his hands on his knees. Zakana put his good hand behind his head, breathed in and out.

“What . . . is . . . that thing’s . . . problem?”

Tygo moved to Yumin’s side. “Tyrogue!”

Yumin stood tall, craned his neck upward. The giant P loomed before them. “Well, that’s one way to get to the Pokémon Center. Thanks Happiny.”

It was more magnificent than the Center on the Islands. It looked gigantic up close. Its glass dome sparkled underneath a sun-split morning. Zakana felt a sense of relief as he picked up his Pokeball off the ground.

“Looks like you caught that one fair and square.” Yumin laughed again.

“I think it was going to follow me everywhere or run away any chance it got.” Zakana grinned. “It’s best to keep this one in a place I can control.”

“Well done, cous.”

Zakana looked at Yumin, smiled, laughed despite himself. He still wasn’t a Pokémon trainer. He was only doing this to protect himself for now. When his duties were done, he would return his Pokémon to the wild or give them away. Something warm moved up his spine, made the end of his fingertips tickle with excitement. “Okay,” he said. “That was fun, I’ll admit it. But the next Pokémon I catch better not be pink.