Actions

Work Header

A New Dream

Chapter Text

The first thing Sayuri saw when she opened the door to the moving truck was a looming, muscular silhouette against the sunlight.

“GYAH!”

Stumbling back against the boxes, heart racing, she squinted, trying to get her eyes to adjust faster. The silhouette grunted. It sounded... confused?

“Sayuri, don't scare the mover's Pokemon. Come on out!” Her mother's voice, cheerful and unfazed, floated in from outside. Face heating with embarrassment at her overreaction, Sayuri straightened and stepped up to the doorway. Jumping out, she muttered an apology to the Machoke, who nodded in acknowledgment, then went back to work.

I guess I'll have to get used to bigger Pokemon being around, Sayuri realized as she headed toward her mother. Unlike Tamamushi City, Mishiro Town didn't have laws about what kinds of Pokemon could be out of their pokeballs within city limits.

Mitsuko was supervising the unloading, beaming brighter than the sun as she looked up at their new house. It had creamy yellow siding with a rustic red roof, and flowers spilled from a window planter and ran wild in an overgrown yard. Sayuri didn't think she could have come up with something more different than their apartment in Tamamushi City if she'd tried. But Mitsuko looked more at home than Sayuri had ever seen her.

Well, obviously, she thought. For Mom, this is coming home. Even her clothes—the simple blouse and conservative skirt combination Mitsuko had always favored—looked right against the backdrop of the fields and woods and country houses. Sayuri suddenly felt distinctly out of place in her miniskirt and tank top. With a glance down at her feet, she realized that she might want to invest in running shoes like her mother's as well; her heels were sinking into the soft earth.

Hastily, she stepped onto the gravel path leading up to the house. Mitsuko turned to look at her, still smiling.

“What do you think, honey?” Mitsuko inhaled deeply, closing her eyes. “The air is so much fresher here!” Somewhat skeptically, Sayuri followed her example, breathing in slowly. It was different from Tamamushi City. In fact, it reminded her of the few times she'd been inside the Tamamushi City Gym, with its greenhouse environment. No essence of Gloom, though.

“Mitsuko! Weren't you going to come say hello?”

Sayuri started to look towards the unfamiliar voice, but froze when her mother's eyes snapped open. With a gasp, Mitsuko turned and ran down the driveway, gravel flying. She threw her arms around the oddly familiar woman standing at the end of it. Where have I seen her before?

“Aiko!” Mitsuko's enthusiastic embrace was returned with just as much happiness but somewhat more restraint, and it was that that triggered Sayuri's memory. Odamaki Aiko was older than in the school photo Mitsuko had once shown her, but she had the same wavy blue hair and calm air about her. Her expression was warm as she welcomed her old friend back home.

Mitsuko grinned back, then turned and gestured at Sayuri.

“Aiko, this is my daughter Sayuri. Sayuri, come say hello to your new neighbor!” A little awkwardly—she'd never been much for introductions—Sayuri stepped forward, bowed, and murmured the correct niceties. When she looked up, Aiko smiled.

“I think you're right, Mitsuko, they'll get along fine,” she said. To Sayuri, she added, “I have a daughter about your age. She's around somewhere—usually off in the woods with her father—but I'm sure you'll run into her sooner or later. Please forgive her lack of manners when you do.” Sayuri nodded, a little uncertain, but Aiko seemed more amused than anything, as if in on some private joke. Glancing at her mother, who was still radiating pure joy, Sayuri couldn't decide if Mitsuko was in on it or hadn't noticed.

When Mitsuko started to ask Aiko about one of the families they'd grown up with, only to pause and start to try and explain to her daughter who they were, Sayuri decided to give the pair of them space to catch up.

“We're not unpacking until all of the boxes are unloaded, right Mom? So I can go exploring?” It was apparently the right thing to say; Mitsuko's face lit up, and she started to list old trees and river bends she had played around as a kid. Thankfully, Aiko seemed to notice Sayuri's eyes starting to glaze over.

Laying a gentle hand on Mitsuko's arm, Aiko interjected, “I'm sure she'll find all the old places for herself, Mitsuko. And my Nami will show her all the new ones when they meet. You wanted to know about the Honda family, didn't you?” Mitsuko nodded, then smiled at Sayuri.

“Just don't go too far, and be careful of your shoes! I promise I'll get you new ones soon, honey.” Sayuri felt her face heat a little at the fact that her footwear problem had been noticed. And it was so hard to get Mom to even agree to kitten heels... I guess once I get running shoes I'll save these for school.

The thought made Sayuri turn away to hide a sudden frown. School. She'd been trying not to think about it. The move had been good for that, at least; too much going on to think about it. Academics had never come easily to her, but the last year of middle school, not to mention the nightmare of the high school exam itself, had been a new low. She'd barely passed.

Maybe people here won't care so much, she thought, trying to be optimistic as she wandered down the main—and only—road in Mishiro Town. Half the kids here probably don't even go to high school, especially since it's a half hour walk to Touka City. It had been so weird when her mother had told her that her hometown wasn't even large enough to have its own high school, but maybe there was a silver lining. No mall, no arcade, but no one cares about your grades. I could live with that.

Chapter Text

Sayuri took a step, and her heel sank into the ground again. She flailed a bit before righting herself, then looked down. The gravel road had abruptly ended past the last building. Taking better stock of her surroundings, Sayuri was surprised to see that she was standing next to a boxy building that—aside from still being on a smaller scale—would have looked more at home in Tamamushi City than here. Then she read the sign: Mishiro Pokemon Laboratory.

Mom mentioned this, she remembered. She was so proud that Professor Odamaki built it here instead of moving to a big city when he got the grant. Privately Sayuri felt that she would have moved. Maybe the professor really liked studying the local Pokemon. Or maybe his wife had had a hand in the decision; Sayuri had had the impression that Aiko would be a difficult woman to say no to.

Eyeing the grass that picked up where the gravel left off, Sayuri glanced at her shoes, then back towards the house. It was barely a ten minute walk from end to end of Mishiro; her mother and Aiko were probably still catching up. Resolving to be careful of her footing, Sayuri stepped off the path and into the grass. It tickled her bare legs.

Guess I've got to get used to it. Maybe when Dad takes me into Touka City in the mornings I can ask him to take me shopping for pants. I wonder if the Gym Leader's kid gets discounts...

The air was different here than by the house, or in Erika's greenhouse. Less floral; earthier. The day was warm, though, and Sayuri was wishing that she had a pair of shades to mitigate the bright sunshine. A little ways off, though, the treeline beckoned with cool shade.

Better keep within sight of the town, Mom'll never trust me on my own again if I get lost in the woods on my first day here. But it'll definitely be cooler in there, and maybe I can find one of the trees Mom said she and Dad and the rest used to hang out by.

The dappled light coming through the leaves was easier on her eyes after the bright afternoon sun, and it was much cooler in the shade. Her legs were still itching a bit, but she thought she heard water. One of the brooks her mother had mentioned?

Okay, I'm probably going to be bored once the novelty wears off, but it's actually not—

“AAAAHHH!”

—that bad—what the?!

For a second, Sayuri stood frozen, her eyes darting around for someone to confirm if that really had been a scream. But this wasn't a crowded city park. There was no one here, and her cellphone hadn't gotten reception since they'd left Kanto. Someone needed to—

“HELP!”

No one else was around. With one last thought—Sorry, Mom—Sayuri ran toward the cry, remembering at the last second to ditch her shoes before she wound up on her face. The earth was damp and squished between her toes. Her long hair caught in a branch, and she yanked it free with a wince before continuing on.

The woods gave way to a sudden clearing, and she jerked to a halt in sheer astonishment at the scene that met her eyes.

A couple meters off the ground, a short, stocky man was clinging to a tree trunk, his heels barely out of reach of a snapping Poochyena. An overturned bag, its contents strewn over the clearing, lay near the base of the tree. Eyes fixed on the wild Pokemon, Sayuri started to take a step back, wondering if she had time to go for help, when the man slipped. He managed to save his grip in time to avoid the Poochyena, but Sayuri's cry of alarm made both man and Pokemon notice her.

Snarling, the Poochyena took a menacing step toward her. Sayuri's eyes darted between the Pokemon and the trees. Maybe she could get up one in time—

“—pokeball! Use a pokeball!”

The man's shout made her refocus on the items scattered about the clearing. One of them, bright red in the green grass, caught her gaze. She bolted for it, even as the Poochyena howled. An incredulous voice in the back of her head asked, And what do you think you're going to do with that? Who do you think you are, Dad?

But the instant her fingers closed over the ball, she saw in her mind's eye every time she had watched a trainer on television. Without stopping for breath, acutely aware of the wild Pokemon a hair away from tackling her, she turned and copied them. Please let this work!

“Go, Pokemon!” For a split second, she was five years old, a pretend trainer with a fake pokeball, and nothing happened. Her heart stopped.

There was a sudden flash of heat across her fingertips, and a flare of red light. The Poochyena stumbled back, startled, as a form materialized between it and Sayuri. An angry squawk and a flurry of feathers later, Sayuri found herself looking at the back of a Torchic.

Torchic. Torchic. Tastes good fried—ack, no, not helpful! Bird Pokemon—talons?

“Torchic, scratch!”

The Torchic launched itself at the Poochyena, and Sayuri had a moment to worry—it looks so much smaller—before the attack landed. The Poochyena yelped, jerking away with a sharp cut across its nose. It eyed the Torchic—who had retreated back to Sayuri as fast as it had leapt forward—warily. With one last snarl, it turned tail and bolted.

Sayuri felt all of her energy leave her at once, and sat down heavily on the ground, not even caring about getting grass stains on her skirt. That... that was...

A soft chirp drew her attention. The Torchic had settled next to her, and was looking up at her inquiringly. Unsure what one was supposed to say, Sayuri settled for, “Hi.” The Torchic chirped, and rubbed her arm with its beak. Still uncertain, but wanting to return the gesture, Sayuri gently patted its head.

“Thanks a lot! You really saved me!” Sayuri jumped, startled to hear another voice, and looked up. Seeing the man—no longer up a tree—reminded her why she had grabbed the pokeball in the first place. Looking up at him, she also realized that she was still sitting on the ground, barefoot. My shoes... Mom'll never let me buy heels again...

A bit unsteadily, she got to her feet. The Torchic tried to help, getting its beak under her elbow; it was surprisingly strong for such a little thing. Awkwardly, Sayuri sketched a bow to the man.

“Er, no problem. It was your Torchic,” she replied. The man laughed.

“And you handled her beautifully! I haven't seen you around before—are you—oh!” He cut himself off as Sayuri straightened, staring at her. She looked away at the sudden attention, glancing down instead at the Torchic. It—she, apparently—was contentedly rubbing her beak on Sayuri's leg.

“You must be Senri and Mitsuko's daughter! I'd know those eyes anywhere. No wonder you're so good with pokemon! I'm Professor Odamaki Fumihiko, an old friend of your parents'!” He exclaimed, and Sayuri winced. Everyone said she had her father's eyes, but they usually meant that she had her father's eyebrows, which were really a bit thicker and sterner than a fashion-conscious city girl wanted her eyebrows to be. Rather than mention this to a man whose fashion sense seemed to involve lab coats, however, she just nodded.

“We just moved in.” Glancing back the way she'd came, she added, “I should be getting back to Mom, actually-” Sayuri cut herself off at the way the man had suddenly gone pale. “Are you really alright?” she asked, concerned. If he's injured, I'll have to go for help, there's no way I could support him back through the woods...

The professor coughed, still looking a bit pale, and shook his head. “No, no, perfectly fine... ah, my wife was going to go catch up with your mother, do you know if she did?” Mystified, Sayuri nodded. “Ah. Well, before going home, young lady, I should take you by the lab. Give you a chance to freshen up. Perhaps borrow some shoes? Aiko has quite resigned herself to the states that our daughter comes home in, but I think she might be a bit put out with me if I sent you home like this...”

Note to self: Odamaki Aiko. Do not cross.

Chapter Text

The walk back to the lab was initially complicated by the fact that the Torchic, having been released, was not terribly keen on going back into the pokeball. She ducked the professor's attempts to coax her back, hiding behind Sayuri's legs. Professor Odamaki scratched his beard, then grinned.

“Someone's tired of the pokeball! Alright, Torchic, but you have to stay with us!” Sayuri thought the Torchic's answering chirp was a touch smug, but privately doubted that it was much of a victory. Professor Odamaki didn't seem the type to make a Pokemon go back in the ball when it didn't want to. With that settled, the trio started to head back towards Mishiro Town.

“So—Sayuri, isn't it? What kind of Pokemon did you bring from Kanto?” Still looking down at the Torchic bouncing along at her heels, Sayuri started at Professor Odamaki's question. Meanwhile, the Torchic's eyes suddenly seemed to be watching her very closely. For some reason, Sayuri was reminded of a jealous girlfriend listening to her boyfriend being asked about another girl... How smart are trained Pokemon, again?

But it wasn't the first time Sayuri had been asked something like that, either. Probably won't be the last, since Dad's a gym leader now. Awkwardly, Sayuri answered, “I don't have any Pokemon. Only small ones are allowed out in the city, and the apartment wasn't really big enough anyway. Even Umeboshi—Dad's Spinda—was usually in a pokeball or at Erika's gym. So... I really haven't spent much time around pokemon.” As she'd expected, Professor Odamaki looked stunned by her reply. He let out a slow whistle.

Yeah, I know. Trainer's kid knows nothing about Pokemon. Heard it all before...

“But you're such a natural!” Sayuri stared at the unexpected reply. This was usually the part where people wandered off, realizing that they weren't going to get tips or info on cool Pokemon from her. Though I guess a Pokemon Professor doesn't need those.

“Er—I was really just copying what I've seen other trainers do. Y'know, on TV...” She trailed off, glancing back down at the Torchic. The Torchic cocked its head, and then, with a sudden flap of its wings, jumped up against Sayuri's chest. Out of reflex, Sayuri caught her. Her feathers were soft, and warm to the touch, but that wasn't Sayuri's first observation.

“Oof! You're heavier than I thought you'd be,” Sayuri muttered to the Torchic. The bird preened as if given a compliment, then settled more comfortably in Sayuri's arms.

“Muscle!” The professor replied cheerfully. “Pokemon are much stronger than their size or density would indicate, but they still tend to be heavier than they look. Of course, that's really an oversimplification, especially when discussing bug, flying, ghost, or fairy types.” Sayuri felt her eyes glaze over a bit.

He really loves Pokemon, even after getting cornered by that Poochyena... No wonder he and Dad are old friends.

Professor Odamaki chatted a bit more about Pokemon size and weight ratios, but finally reigned himself in. Sayuri wasn't sure she should be relieved when he gave her an assessing look.

“Sayuri... you'd be my daughter Nami's age, wouldn't you? Just graduated middle school?” Sayuri nodded, trying to hide her sudden tension at the mention of school. The Torchic in her arms cooed, and Sayuri hugged the comforting bundle a little tighter.

“Yeah, I guess. She's going to Touka High too then?” Sayuri asked. But Professor Odamaki shook his head.

“Nami is registered as a Pokemon trainer. She's leaving soon, to start challenging others and collecting the league badges.”

“Oh.” Sayuri didn't quite know how to feel about that. On the one hand, it seemed she was right—high school was less important in this town. On the other hand, though, she'd been hoping that if she got to know Nami in the next few weeks she'd already have a friend when school started. But under both of those reactions... Sayuri glanced down at her legs. They were smudged with dirt and grass from where she'd fallen to her knees after the Poochyena had fled. From what Professor Odamaki had said, that kind of thing happened to Nami a lot. Who'd want that? Sayuri wondered, but something about the thought rang hollow.

Professor Odamaki was saying something else, something about Nami's training, but Sayuri wasn't listening. She was looking at the Torchic, who was looking back. Her beady black eyes seemed strangely knowing.

The battle... it had been... exciting, obviously. Fun, not exactly, but it felt like there might be potential for that when she wasn't panicking so much. The important thing—the thing Sayuri realized as she stared down at the Pokemon in her arms—was that she'd felt engaged. Fully present. In Tamamushi, she'd endured school, drifted through malls, killed time at the arcade, done everything to ignore the vague sense of not knowing what she was supposed to be doing or where she was going to be in ten years. She'd listened to her friends' goals and dreams and felt like an outsider.

Her legs were itchy, there was mud between her toes, her heart rate hadn't settled yet, there were probably twigs in her hair, and there was a warm bundle of feathers in her arms that had faced down a Poochyena twice her size to defend her. Sayuri took a breath, filling her lungs with the fresh, loamy scent of the woods.

“Professor Odamaki... how do you register to be a Pokemon trainer?”

Chapter Text

Professor Odamaki was quite happy to talk her through the process as they walked back to the lab. It seemed that having a Pokemon Professor to vouch for her was going to shave off quite a bit of the paperwork, too. She'd need her parents to sign off on it, but she wasn't really worried about that part. Looking down at the Torchic in her arms, Sayuri realized that there was really only one thing she was nervous about.

“Professor Odamaki... I know she's your Pokemon, but... I...” She trailed off. Are you really going to ask someone to just give you their Pokemon? The Torchic chirped inquiringly at her frown.

Sayuri looked up in surprise, however, when the professor laughed.

“Don't worry about it! Call it thanks for rescuing me. Besides,” he added, still smiling, “she seems rather attached to your already. I caught her under the bike pass on Route 110, and to be honest she's never really liked the sedentary life.” He looked at the pair of them, considering. “Come to think of it, she's turned up her nose at every name I've tried to give her, too. Maybe you'll have better luck!”

Sayuri blinked, then nodded slowly in understanding. The Torchic looked up at her expectantly.

“I'll have to think about it,” she told the bird Pokemon. “Trust me, if I just make up something on the fly you're gonna get stuck with Chic or something.” It wasn't really possible to wrinkle one's nose with a beak, but Sayuri thought that the Torchic was giving it a good go.

“You really are good with Pokemon,” Professor Odamaki commented. Sayuri stayed quiet, not saying what she was thinking. There hadn't been many Pokemon in the city, but the few times she'd been around them had been... easy. Pokemon didn't judge you for awkwardness or your grades or your mother's country pigtails. She'd been startled by the Machoke earlier, but it'd just been there to do its job.

People were just... exhaustively complicated, in comparison.

At the edge of the woods, Sayuri saw two white, if muddied, shapes, and groaned. She'd almost forgotten about her shoes. Sighing, she shifted her hold on the Torchic to pick them up by the straps. Maybe Mom's got a miracle country remedy to clean them, it's the only hope.

At the lab, Professor Odamaki walked in with a cheerful greeting. The lab looked empty, and for a second Sayuri was confused, but then a head popped up from behind one of the computers. It belonged to a green-haired man with large glasses. He blinked when he saw Sayuri. Then his eyes got progressively wider as he took in her mussed hair, armful of Torchic, grass-stained clothing, and bare feet.

Professor Odamaki had gone to fetch the paperwork without noticing his assistant's surprise. Sayuri, face flaming in embarrassment at being seen in such a state, muttered, “Suzuki Sayuri. Nice to meet you. Is there somewhere I could clean up?” That seemed to snap him out of his confusion.

“Of course, there's a restroom through that door. Do you need the first aid kit?” Sayuri started to shake her head, and then stopped. Balancing carefully so as not to drop the Torchic, she checked the bottoms of her feet. They were dirtier than they'd possibly ever been, but it didn't look like she'd cut herself on anything. Breathing a sigh of relief, she headed through the door the assistant had indicated and shut it behind her.

Cleaning up didn't take very long. The Torchic seemed curious about the pipes and tile but kept well clear of the sink as Sayuri washed off. Oh... Torchic are fire type pokemon, aren't they? She must not like water. After a moment of thought, Sayuri decided to put her shoes back on. They were dirty, but still probably better than going barefoot if she didn't have to.

Several minutes later, feeling at least a little cleaner, Sayuri felt ready to face the world. Opening the door, she paused when she saw that someone else had come into the lab while she was getting the dirt off. Torchic bumped into the back of her legs when she stopped abruptly, making a small squawk of protest. Sayuri moved to the side automatically to let her through even as her eyes didn't leave the newcomer.

She looked about Sayuri's age, if somewhat shorter and stockier. But what had caught Sayuri's attention was the dark blue color and wavy texture of her hair. Aside from the short-cropped length, it was identical to Odamaki Aiko's. Between that and the pokeballs at her belt and Mudkip at her heels, Sayuri figured that this must be Odamaki Nami.

The way she was fuming, though, it looked like she hadn't inherited Aiko's reserve.

“Dad, you said you'd help me catch my second pokemon today? What are you doing with more labwork?” Nami's arms were crossed, one foot tapping impatiently, and her gaze was laser focused on her father. Feeling a little intimidated, Sayuri was briefly thankful that she hadn't been noticed.

It was not to last. Smiling cheerfully, seemingly oblivious to his daughter's mood, Professor Odamaki replied, “Oh, this is registration paperwork for Sayuri! Suzuki Sayuri, I'm sure Aiko told you her family was moving in today. I was on my way to meet you when I ran into a Poochyena. It got my bag away from me before I could get out a pokeball, so I was very lucky she happened along!” Looking over at Sayuri, who was frozen to the spot, he asked brightly, “All cleaned up? I've got the paperwork here for you!”

Sayuri nodded slowly. Nami's gaze had switched to her the instant Professor Odamaki had looked her way. Her expression was... uncomfortably intent, more than anything. It wasn't hostile, but it made Sayuri want to look away. Most people were a little more discrete when they were trying to assess someone. Maybe it's a country thing.

Just as Sayuri started to turn away, figuring that doing the paperwork was as good an excuse as any to look away from that gaze, Nami spoke. “So you're going to be a trainer too?” As she looked at Sayuri, her brows furrowed slightly, as if she wasn't sure what to make of her. Then her expression cleared into a grin. It didn't make her look any less intense. “Let's see what you've got! I challenge you to a match.” To a gobsmacked Sayuri, she added, “It's really poor form to refuse.”

Professor Odamaki chuckled. “Nami, she's not actually an official trainer yet.”

Without looking away from Sayuri, Nami asked, “You gonna use that excuse, trainer?”

Sayuri's first instinct was to refuse. There was nothing saying she had to accept. She hadn't had any practice except an impromptu encounter and a few minutes of the professor's rambling, so it would probably just be pointless and embarrassing. Why take a leap if you know you're going to fall flat on your face?

The Torchic chirped and bounced in front of Sayuri, in the same position it had faced the Poochyena from. She might not have understood the words (or maybe she had; Pokemon could be extremely smart with the right training, Sayuri knew that much), but she'd understood Nami's challenge. Nami's Mudkip was eyeing her right back. To Sayuri's surprise, she realized her own heart rate was increasing. Not with fear or awkwardness, but with... anticipation?

Slowly, Sayuri nodded. “I accept.”

I'm not afraid of losing, she realized. I'm not even afraid of making a fool of myself. Why not?

And it wasn't because she thought she was going to win. No, Sayuri was fairly confident that experience was going to beat out any natural aptitude she might posses. But she wasn't worried about it.

Nami's grin widened. “I promise I won't go easy on you!” She replied, and she laughed. Sayuri was startled at how genuinely happy she sounded; she'd expected something more mocking. Then her brain caught up with what the other girl had said.

Wait, aren't you supposed to promise you will go easy on me?!

“Mudhammer! Use tackle!”

Chapter Text

Nami's Mudkip—Mudhammer—darted forward in a blue blur. Sayuri took a step back on instinct before remembering that she wasn't the target.

“Torchic, dodge!” Her instruction had come a hair too late. The Torchic only managed to jump to the side as Mudhammer made contact. With a squawk, the Torchic spun away, flapping to regain her balance. It didn't seem to have affected her spirit, however; she chirped a challenge at the Mudkip as she squared off with it again. The green-haired assistant winced.

“Maybe not in the lab...” But Professor Odamaki, while he'd retreated to a safe distance, chuckled.

“You worry too much, Joshuu! Neither of them know more than a couple basic moves, it'll be fine. And Sayuri accepted, so the battle must go on!”

The interaction played out on the periphery of Sayuri's attention. Of more concern was the way Nami's eyes had narrowed in concentration, her gaze fixed on the Torchic. She's planning something... should I attack, or wait and-

“Mudhammer, growl!” The Mudkip's ears went back, and a gurgling noise issued from its throat.

Despite herself, Sayuri stifled a giggle. Maybe that'll be scary when it's a little bigger... Right now it's just kind of cute.

The Torchic, however, faltered as she faced her foe. Clearly Mudhammer's growl was more intimidating to a creature closer to its size. Uncertain, she looked to Sayuri for instruction. Darn it, I'm overthinking this!

Not wanting to wait for another tackle, or let her Torchic down, Sayuri called out, “Scratch!” Torchic fluffed herself up, shaking off Mudhammer's intimidation, then launched at the Mudkip, talons extended.

Almost before she'd finished speaking, however, Nami called out, “Over and out!” Her grin had become shark-like. Before Sayuri could do more than frown in confusion, Mudhammer had leaped over the charging Torchic, its tail smacking her crest on the way over. The Torchic squawked in outrage, and tried to redirect her momentum, but Mudhammer had pivoted as soon as its paws had touched the ground. It slammed into the still-turning Torchic.

Nami must have practiced this move, Sayuri realized belatedly. Pinned, the Torchic huffed a protest from its position under Mudhammer's paws, her wings flapping, but she couldn't get free.

“That's match!” Professor Odamaki announced jovially. Sayuri thought she heard his assistant breathe a sigh of relief that it was over without anything being damaged. Mudhammer stepped off the Torchic. Rather than get up, though, she curled into a ball, hiding her eyes with her wings. Sayuri gasped. Is she hurt?

Sayuri rushed forward, falling to her knees next to her Pokemon. “Torchic! Are you hurt?” The Torchic let out a pitiful squawk, but moved her wings. She didn't look injured, but her eyes looked up at Sayuri beseechingly before letting out a sniff and diving into Sayuri's arms.

“Oof!” Still heavier than she looks, especially when she canon-balls into my ribs...

Sayuri carefully felt the Torchic's feathers, but still couldn't find anything wrong. Confused, she looked up when a shadow fell over her lap.

Nami was standing over her, Mudhammer at her heels. But her smile was gentle now, nothing like the challenging grin or the shark-like smirk she'd had before taking her victory with her pre-planned maneuver. She's really pretty when she smiles like that. Nami reached down to rub Mudhammer behind its ears, but didn't take her eyes off of Sayuri and the Torchic.

“She thinks she disappointed you.” Sayuri blinked, then looked down at the Torchic. The bird Pokemon peeked up at her, expression worried. Startled, Sayuri pulled her tighter in her arms

“But-but this was our first battle! You were great, Torchic. I just hesitated too much!” The Torchic let out a questioning chirp. Sayuri petted her head.

“Really! You took out the Poochyena, remember?” That made the Torchic let out a happy huff, a smug expression resettling on her face. Sayuri breathed a sigh of relief. I was really worried... I guess she's just a lot like me. I'll have to tell her it's okay to lose. She kept petting her, but a giggle from Nami made her look up again. Sayuri felt a mortified blush spread across her cheeks when she realized that Nami had heard her. So uncool. But I couldn't let Torchic think I was upset...

Nami's laughter still wasn't mocking, however, and while she was grinning again, it still felt softer than before. Sayuri still jumped a bit when Nami suddenly pointed at her.

“Sayuri,” Nami declared, “I've decided I like you. Since we're becoming trainers at the same time, we're going to be rivals.” Her grin widened as Sayuri gaped. “You're going to have to train really hard to beat me, but I'll hold you to it!” Sayuri nodded mutely, not sure how one reacted to a statement like that. But Nami flashed her a thumbs up as if she'd made some kind of declaration back, then looked at her father.

“Dad! I'm going out training. I'll get my next Pokemon all on my own!” So saying, she strode out of the lab, Mudhammer bounding along beside her. As the door closed, Sayuri unconsciously reached up to touch her hair. It felt like a whirlwind had just left the building.

Professor Odamaki chuckled. “That's Nami,” he said, smiling at Sayuri's befuddled expression. “She has that effect on people. Her mother despairs of her. Now,” he added, “I've got the paperwork here. We should head over to your house to do it, some of it needs parental signatures.” Sayuri nodded and slowly got to her feet, still holding her Torchic.

The walk through Mishiro Town was still extremely short, but it gave Sayuri some time to put her thoughts in order. Nami was... confusing, but she seemed like a good person, and she clearly knew a lot about Pokemon. It probably would take her a long time to beat her, but Sayuri thought that it seemed like a good goal. But something still nagged at her.

Every time I try something new, I get discouraged if I do poorly. I hate failing, I hate embarrassing myself. Why is this different? Glancing down at the warm ball of feathers in her arms, Sayuri wondered, Is it because I'm not alone?

Dad's always said that Pokemon made him feel at home. Maybe we're more alike than I thought...

“Mitsuko! It's been too long!” Sayuri was broken from her pondering by Professor Odamaki's shout. Looking up, she realized that they had arrived at the foot of her new driveway. Aiko and Mitsuko were standing near the open door, but Sayuri's gaze was drawn to the garden. A familiar Spinda was playing among the flowers, cheerfully spinning until dizzy. If Umeboshi is here, then...

“Fumihiko! Aren't you going to say hello to me too?” Senri stepped outside, smiling at his old friend. A white and red shape passed behind him in the doorway, and Sayuri realized that Udon, her father's Vigoroth, must be out too, probably helping the mover's Machoke. As Professor Odamaki went forward to greet him, Sayuri wondered if Soba and Gyoza were around too. For a moment everything felt a little surreal.

Dad home at a reasonable hour. His Pokemon out and about without restrictions. Mom looking completely at ease.

And a Torchic sitting snugly in her arms.

The moment was broken when Mitsuko glanced Sayuri's way. “Sayuri! Did you like the town? Oh, what a cute Pokemon!” Senri followed his wife's gaze, looking at his daughter questioningly. Sayuri took a deep breath.

“Mom, Dad... I'm going to be a Pokemon trainer!”

Chapter Text

It's really warm... did Mom turn the heater on? It's late March... Sayuri stirred, then blinked confusedly at the feathery fluff ball on top of her covers. Sunlight drifted in through the blinds, but it looked wrong, and it took Sayuri a moment to realize that the window in her new room was facing a different direction than in the old apartment.

New room... old apartment...

Torchic!

Sayuri came fully awake with a gasp as her memories from the previous day finally fell into place. The move, the woods, the battle—the two battles—flashed through her mind. Making a decision that would change her life. Slowly, Sayuri sat up. Her feet twinged a little, and she remembered running barefoot through the forest. I definitely need running shoes...

The Torchic on her bed let out a sleepy chirp, then opened black eyes. She chirped again when she saw Sayuri, then jumped into her arms. This time, Sayuri managed to catch her without getting all of the wind knocked out of her. Just most of it...

“You keep that up, I'm gonna name you Cannonball,” she muttered, but absently petted the Torchic's crest anyway. She's too cute to be mad at. The Torchic clucked contentedly, clearly aware of this. Sayuri sighed, but kept petting her as she got up and headed out to find breakfast.

Once in the hall, Sayuri yawned as she caught the smell of food. Mom was probably up at dawn. I wonder what Dad's doing? He was usually gone before I got up back in Tamamushi. Still unfamiliar with the house, Sayuri followed the scent of miso and natto to find the kitchen. When she turned the corner, she saw Mitsuko fiddling with the blender, a collection of vegetables and a box of soy milk on the counter next to her. Sayuri blinked.

“No coffee, Mom?”

Mitsuko looked up from assembling the blender, and beamed. “Morning, honey! Nope, no coffee today.” Her smile widened. “I can make you some if you want, but I'm happy to say I won't need it.”

Confused, Sayuri glanced outside. “The air makes that much of a difference for you?

Mitsuko laughed. “That, and not having to work at that office anymore! Your father is making more now, and the mortgage here is less than the rent in Tamamushi. I only used the coffee to get through the day, back there. I never really liked the taste.”

Sayuri nodded, taking a seat at the table as she processed that. I never knew that. Mom always had coffee in the morning; I guess I never questioned it. Watching her mother make the soy vegetable smoothie, Sayuri wondered what else about her parents' life was going to change here. Seeing Mitsuko's smile, however, and glancing down at her Torchic, Sayuri felt her own lips curl up. Maybe change is good sometimes.

As Mitsuko served breakfast, she grabbed a box from the pantry. “Sayuri, can you set down your Torchic? I have some of your dad's pokeblocks here, I want to see which ones she likes.” At the mention of food, the Torchic let out a happy chirp and started flapping her wings before Sayuri could even let her go. Releasing her grip, Sayuri laughed.

“Hey! No hitting your trainer for food, Torchic!” Clearly familiar with the blocks from Professor Odamaki, Torchic had gone straight for the dry ones. Chirping happily, she started pecking at them. Mitsuko giggled.

“She has a healthy appetite! Just like all of your dad's Pokemon.” Still smiling fondly, Mitsuko joined Sayuri at the table. Noting only two plates, Sayuri frowned.

“Did Dad head out already?” I thought he was going to take me to Touka City with him to finish registering...

But Mitsuko shook her head. “He's out running with Udon. He used to do laps with him at Erika's gym; Udon was so excited this morning. It's really better for a Vigoroth to be in open spaces.” She took a sip of her smoothie before adding, “They'll be back in a bit, starving.” Looking at her daughter, she added, “Since you'll be traveling soon, you should remember, Sayuri: keep yourself fed, but try not to exercise right after eating. You'll get horrible cramps.”

Sayuri groaned around a bite of her natto. Swallowing it, she replied, “Mom, I know that. I took phys ed and everything, remember?” Mitsuko smiled, but her expression was a bit wistful.

“I know, dear. I would have objected if I thought you couldn't handle yourself. But it's a mother's right to worry. Though, speaking of your upcoming journey...” Mitsuko got up, leaving a mystified Sayuri still sipping at her miso. In a moment, however, she was back with a shoe box. Beaming, she handed it to Sayuri.

Inside the box was a pair of bright red running shoes.

Confusedly, Sayuri took them out of the box. They were her size. “I only ruined my shoes yesterday though... when did you get these, Mom?”

Sitting back down, Mitsuko replied, “Before we left Tamamushi. I just thought you'd need them for the woods and fields here in Mishiro Town, but I think you'll be getting even more use out of them than I thought.”

Sayuri carefully put them back in the box, then smiled at her mother. “Thanks. I was just thinking I was going to need some.” Glancing down where her Torchic was still happily consuming pokeblocks, Sayuri grinned. “Now I'll be able to keep up with you without wrecking my feet.”

*

Sayuri had just finished the last bite of her breakfast when the kitchen door opened and Senri came in, Udon at his heels. Mitsuko immediately handed a bowl of pokeblocks to the Vigoroth, who began munching happily. The Torchic looked up from her own meal when the larger Pokemon came in, but resumed eating when she saw that his only interest was food. Sayuri was starting to wonder how much the little bird Pokemon could fit in her belly, and how she was going to pack enough to travel between cities.

“I hope you're planning on feeding me too,” Senri complained good-naturedly as he sat himself across from Sayuri at the table. Mitsuko laughed, reaching up to scratch the top of Udon's head before fixing Senri's plate.

“I've just missed them! It's so nice to be out of the city, I feel like I haven't seen Udon or Soba in years.” Mitsuko put the plate in front of her husband, then reached down to pet the Torchic's crest. “And now we have this new cutie, too!”

The Torchic chirped, finally looking up from her food, and nuzzled at Mitsuko's hand before turning toward Sayuri. This time, forewarned by the gleam in her pokemon's eye that was rapidly becoming familiar, Sayuri caught her properly when she launched at her. The smug clucking that followed made Sayuri raise an eyebrow. Is she... training my reflexes?

“C'mon, I'm supposed to be the trainer here,” Sayuri said with a sigh. From across the table Senri laughed, startling her. It's still kind of weird that Dad's here... Out loud, Sayuri said, “I packed most of my stuff last night, but I'm gonna go check it over before we head out. Okay, Dad?” Even to her own ears, it sounded stilted. Sayuri stood, the Torchic still in her arms, and left before Senri could do more than nod.

As Sayuri made her way back to her room, the Torchic chirped up at her questioningly. Sayuri sighed.

“I guess it just hit me that I'm about to spend most of the day with him. I love my Dad, but... I don't think we've ever spent time together when Mom wasn't there or in the next room. He was always busy with the pokemon gym in Tamamushi, so...” Entering her room and shutting the door, Sayuri looked down at the Torchic. The beady black eyes were sympathetic, and followed up by a beak rubbing soothingly against her arm. Sayuri smiled.

“I guess now we have pokemon to talk about. I hope it's a start.”

Chapter Text

Despite her hopeful words to Torchic, Sayuri knew that she was stalling a bit as she dressed and double-checked her supplies. Packing her backpack had been complicated by the fact that her things were still in boxes from the move, but there was probably nothing she needed in the Decorations/Collectibles box.

Probably. No harm in checking, just to make sure something useful hadn't been misplaced during the move. Or so she told herself.

Some of the items, though, had actually been packed away for longer than she'd realized: old toys and knickknacks that had been stored away when she'd outgrown them. The Torchic had huffed when she'd unearthed an old Pidgey plushie; apparently she felt that Sayuri should only have one bird pokemon. Setting it aside with a giggle, Sayuri glanced back in the box only to discover another face looking back at her.

At the bottom of the box, probably to keep them flat, were a stack of her old posters. Flipping through them was like going back in time. Most recently she'd had images of idols, but further back were movie posters, and further than that... Huh. I hadn't thought about that show in years...

Holding up one of them to the Torchic, Sayuri told her, “Looks like my becoming a Pokemon trainer wasn't entirely left field. This used to be my favorite show.”

The poster showed a brown-haired young woman in a dance pose surrounded by three fairy Pokemon. Her bright blue eyes matched the curling text above her: 'The Dancing Trainer! Mazaki Anzu's Fairy Adventure!' Below, Anzu's catchphrase from the show was in white: 'I believe in my friends!'

Smoothing out a wrinkle in the corner, Sayuri sighed. “I thought this show was so cheesy when I was older. Probably because I never had friends like hers.” Before she could get too far in self-pity, however, a warning chirp brought up her hands automatically. When the feather ball had settled in her arms, Sayuri looked down to find Torchic looking up at her determinedly, tapping herself with the tip of a wing.

Sayuri couldn't help but laugh, a warmth that had nothing to do with the fire pokemon in her arms spreading through her chest.

“Yeah, I've got you now. We should probably get going, huh? We've got an adventure to have together.”

The Torchic chirped happily as Sayuri stood, maneuvering to hold the Torchic with one hand and grabbing her bag with the other. Anzu's poster still smiled up at her from the box, and for the first time in years, Sayuri smiled back.

Maybe I can be more like her than I thought.

*

Sayuri and Senri's first stop was Professor Odamaki's lab. He had Sayuri's paperwork in order (though Sayuri suspected his more organized assistant had had a hand in that) as well as an additional gift: a trainer's Pokedex.

“This isn't the same as one you'd buy in a store,” the professor said, beaming. He showed Sayuri how the scanner worked by scanning Udon. Instead of the basic info that Sayuri had been expecting, the screen had several tabs, all with much more detail on Vigoroth's abilities, habitat, and behaviors. “It's a Trainer's Pokedex,” he explained. Glancing at Senri, Professor Odamaki chuckled. “No more hauling around a book bag of field guides through swamps and deserts!”

Senri laughed as well. “It could get a bit dicey.” His smile was nostalgic. “I remember getting into jams and paging frantically through the guidebooks to try and figure out what Pokemon was after me and how to deal with it. Usually while running or up a tree.” Sayuri blinked, not quite able to picture her father in such dire straits. She'd always considered him unflappable.

As they walked away from the lab, Sayuri fiddled with the settings on the Pokedex, not sure what to do with the silence. Udon was still out and about; the Vigoroth kept running ahead, then running back to where they were walking. It made Sayuri feel tired just watching him.

Okay, I know Dad loves them, but I'm thinking Slakoth and its evolutions aren't for me. Sayuri's Torchic was quite happily skipping along at Sayuri's side, and she much preferred that. Though, isn't Torchic's final evolution bigger? I'll have to look it up. Statistically, most wild Pokemon never evolved, but if she became a successful trainer, her Torchic would eventually be strong enough to do so.

Sayuri looked at the Pokedex, then bit her lip. She could look up Torchic's evolutions, or... Briefly, she remembered some of the cheesier episodes of Fairy Adventure. It'd been the kind of show that was all about being yourself and following your dreams and taking chances. Mazaki Anzu wouldn't have let a little awkwardness stop her, right?

Before Sayuri lost her nerve, she turned to her father and asked, “So, what does Torchic evolve into?” Senri looked startled that Sayuri had spoken to him, but then he smiled. As he launched into an explanation of Combusken, Sayuri let his enthusiasm infect her.

They had Pokemon in common now. She could work with that. Even if she was about to start traveling around the region, she still had her cell phone. And it wasn't like she wouldn't swing home frequently.

It was a half an hour walk to Touka City. It was a start.

Chapter Text

“Dad, I'm not naming her 'fried chicken'!” Senri just laughed at Sayuri's outburst.

“If you use different kanji, 'Torikatsu' means bird victory! So it's good luck!” Sayuri shook her head. Partway through his explanation of the differences between some of the different fighting moves Combusken could learn Senri had realized that Sayuri hadn't named her Torchic yet. Unsurprisingly for someone whose Pokemon were all named after food, his first suggestion was torikatsu.

It was actually something Sayuri had been wondering for a while, but had never managed to ask; personal questions of any kind had felt awkward. Reaching down, Sayuri petted her Torchic briefly for reassurance, and then asked, “Dad? Why do all of your Pokemon have food names?”

Senri's answering smile was a bit sad. “Your mom is a fantastic cook, you know.” Sayuri nodded, a little confused. Senri sighed. “When I went to start my trainer's journey, we were high school sweethearts. I tried to break up with her.”

Sayuri stumbled a bit, startled. I didn't know that! Mom always said that she and Dad were just made for each other. Her Torchic chirped questioningly. Senri continued, “I thought it would be the best for her. Trainers travel so much, they work odd jobs in between battles... unless you hit the big time, it's not a stable life, and I knew she wanted to make a life in Mishiro Town. Settle down and have a kid or two.” He chuckled.

“She was heartbroken up until I told her why, and then she was the maddest I'd ever seen her. Scarier than Aiko, and that's saying something! Told me I had no business deciding what was best for her, and that she loved me more than some hypothetical future. That I was for sure going to be the best trainer in Hoenn, gym position and everything, so she'd just be patient and wait for me.” He shook his head.

“So I set out, and we made the long-distance thing work. Every time I was back in Mishiro, though, she'd cook for me, and I'd try to make the leftovers last as long as I could when I went out again, because it made it feel like she was still with me.” Senri grinned. “I don't deserve that woman. But that's why all of my Pokemon have the names they do; I spent most of my Pokemon journey thinking about your mom's cooking. Kept me going when the road was rough.” Senri paused, and then looked over at Sayuri, who was still wide-eyed at the unexpected story.

“Being a Pokemon trainer was my dream, but sometimes, even when you want something with everything you have, it's hard and discouraging and scary. It's good to have things and people to hold on to when that happens. I'm proud of you for starting this, Sayuri, but you can always come home when you need to.”

Sayuri nodded, not trusting herself to speak just yet. Instead, she leaned down and scooped her Torchic up into her arms. Swallowing a few times, she finally managed to say, “Thanks, Dad.”

I don't think I can open up like that just yet, she thought to herself, holding Torchic close. But... I want to. With Dad, and... maybe with other people too. It was an old cliché, the province of children's shows, but Sayuri remembered all the friends Anzu had made on Fairy Adventure.

Maybe that could be her, too.

For the moment, though, Sayuri decided to switch to something a little less charged. And it was something she'd been wondering anyway. “Dad,” she asked, “how did you buy food? There's no way you were making enough from trainer battles in the beginning, right? You wouldn't have been able to bet much, so the other trainer wouldn't have bet much either...”

Senri nodded. “That's true. Trainers you encounter aren't likely to shell out much. You get higher payouts from defeating gym trainers, and you don't have to pay them if you lose, but there's only so many of them and they're harder to beat in the first place. And of course there's the prize money that goes with defeating the gym leader themselves, but that's the toughest nut to crack.” Sayuri's Torchic fluffed her feathers, and Senri laughed.

“You're a spitfire, Torchic, but neither of you are quite gym-ready. In the meantime, there's job boards.”

Sayuri, petting her Torchic's crest to soothe the bird's wounded pride, asked, “Job boards?”

Senri nodded. “They're usually at gyms, Pokecenters, and sometimes at shopping marts. They list local jobs that need doing. Minor things, but things that would be easier with Pokemon or two- ideal for young trainers, basically.” Looking at the Torchic thoughtfully, Senri said, “Your Torchic can't really fly, and she doesn't know any fire moves yet, but she's got sharp eyes and a strong beak. Finding a lost ring, weeding a garden, she could definitely do that kind of thing. And pretty much all trainers do delivery. For small packages or letters, hiring a trainer to take it directly can be cheaper and faster than post.”

I can see that, Sayuri thought. The post office has to process it, and there'll be additional fees for getting it through an area with strong Pokemon, but to a trainer, that's just a bonus. It was sort of nice to picture herself as an intrepid explorer delivering important news and packages. She stifled a giggle as she realized that she was picturing herself and Torchic cast in a scene from Balto, an old cartoon about a sled team of Poochyena delivering life-saving medicine across an impassable tundra.

“I don't think I could get you in a harness, though,” she murmured to her Torchic. The Torchic huffed, and put her beak in the air. Yeah, she's the type to shred a leash. To her father, Sayuri said, “Once I'm registered, what's my next step?” She knew vaguely that a trainer had to travel around and win all of a region's gym badges, but that wasn't very informative about what to do next. Nobody expected her to get registered and then turn around and challenge her father straight away, right?

Senri gestured at the thick grass around them. “They're avoiding us for now because of Udon, but these grasslands are full of wild Pokemon.” Sayuri nodded, remembering the Poochyena that had treed the Professor. “It's not a very strong area, so it's a good place for a new trainer to learn the ropes. It's also convenient because nothing here is a natural predator for your Torchic, so they'll be attacking to challenge rather than hunting. If worst comes to worst and you lose, so long as you pick her up and back off immediately, you should be fine.” His expression more serious, Senri added, “If you enter an area your Pokemon have a natural predator in, make sure you're strong and ready. It's another reason that trainers always have teams.”

Sayuri hugged her Torchic more tightly and shuddered slightly. At Torchic's curious chirp, Sayuri said firmly, “I don't care if you're jealous, I'm catching other Pokemon so nobody eats you.” Her Torchic's beady eyes narrowed, and her beak came up defiantly. She definitely didn't think she needed teammates. Sayuri sighed. “And what were you gonna do if Nami's Mudkip had wanted a snack, huh? Because he smashed you flat.”

The Torchic deflated a little. She was clearly still a little upset about losing to Mudhammer. So was Sayuri, even if she'd expected it. Suddenly an idea on how to make her Torchic accept teammates a little more gracefully crossed her mind.

“You know Torchic,” Sayuri said, “Mudhammer is Nami's ace, right? So when she gets more Pokemon- and she said that she's going to- then she'll throw them first in a battle and save Mudhammer for last. If I just have you, you'll be tired by the time you face him again. If you have teammates, they can take out the weaklings and save you for Mudhammer. Don't you want to beat him?”

This was clearly the right track to take. Her Torchic fluffed up with pride, and Sayuri didn't doubt that if Nami and Mudhammer had suddenly appeared in the grass before them, she would have launched herself from Sayuri's arms to challenge them again. Sayuri laughed.

She was startled when Senri joined in. Sayuri felt her face heat. I forgot he was there; I was talking to Torchic like it was just us... Embarrassed, Sayuri looked at her father.

Senri's smile, however, was proud. “You might be new at this,” he told Sayuri, “but it looks like you already know what's important. The bond between you and your Pokemon is going to determine how far you go.” As Udon circled back for another pass, Senri put his hand out and ruffled the Vigoroth's fur. Udon paused for a moment, dancing in place, to enjoy the attention; then he loped off again.

While still determined not to subject herself to keeping up with a Vigoroth, Sayuri smiled. “That's gonna be you and me someday,” she whispered to Torchic.

To her father, Sayuri said, “If this is a good place to start... I won't have to leave you and mom immediately, will I?” Senri nodded.

“Not immediately. But soon you'll start wanting to go further afield, especially after the Pokemon in a given area learn not to mess with you. Fumihiko told me that Nami's been having to camp quite a ways from home in the last few months; she's almost ready to head to Touka Woods.”

“Touka Woods?”

“Between Touka City and Kanazumi City. There are stronger Pokemon there, and more varieties. It's a good place to start building a team to take on Kanazumi City's gym.”

Frowning, Sayuri asked, “Wouldn't Nami be challenging you first? Touka City is closer to Mishiro.”

Senri shook his head. Looking over at Sayuri and her Torchic, Senri replied, “Trainers have to take on the gyms in a certain order; it helps the gym leaders regulate how tough they should be, since otherwise new trainers would never get anywhere. The first stage gym here in Hoenn is Kanazmui's Stone Gym.”

Sayuri tried not to show it, but she was relieved not to be facing her father in a Pokemon battle just yet.

Out loud, trying to sound casual, she asked, “So... what stage is your gym?”

Something in her father's eyes made her think that she was probably being completely transparent, but he was kind enough not to say anything about her fears. Instead, with a wide grin, he answered, “Fifth. All gym leaders have to be good, but I can't say that I'm not proud to be given a later stage.” His smile gentled, and he added, “By the time you face me, you'll be a very strong trainer, Sayuri. I look forward to it.”

Chapter Text

Touka City was something of a surprise. Sayuri had been expecting a large, modern metropolis like Tamamushi. Instead, Touka City seemed only a few times larger than Mishiro Town. It was nestled between two lakes, and its skyline was dominated by the Pokemon Gym, the only building over two stories. On the horizon, Sayuri could just make out the white line of the shore to the west, farther to the west and north, a darker edge that she suspected was the Touka Woods.

Senri had paused with her, smiling at the view. Udon came by again for another pass, and Sayuri glanced at her father.

“Don’t you need to put Udon in his Pokeball now?” But Senri shook his head, and started walking again.

“No. Unlike Mishiro Town, Touka City does have a Poke-limit, but the limit is higher than Tamamushi—or Kanazumi, for that matter.” Looking over at Sayuri, Senri added, “The limit is usually posted—ah, there’s the sign.” He pointed out a signpost on the road that led into Touka City.

WELCOME TO TOUKA CITY
HOME OF THE BALANCE GYM
Poke-limit 200 cm

“So,” he concluded, “Udon is fine, but as a Slaking, Soba is right on the borderline. Something like an Aggron or Dragonite would be right out, nevermind something really large like an Onix.” Sayuri nodded, then looked down at her Torchic. Following her gaze, Senri added, “Unless she evolves to be an unusually large Blaziken, she’ll be fine in most places in Hoenn.”

Torchic fluffed her feathers importantly, the proud gleam in her eyes unmistakeable. Sayuri sighed. Petting her crest, Sayuri told her flatly, “You get too big, you go straight in the pokeball. Struggling trainers can’t afford fines.” Her Torchic shot her an offended look. More quietly, Sayuri told her, “Don’t worry. You’re gonna breathe fire, you don’t have to be big to win.”

That got a happy chirp, and the Torchic settled down to preen her feathers.

Senri pointed out the Poke Center and the Pokemart as they walked toward the gym. Sayuri privately felt that she was about as likely to get lost in Touka City as in Mishiro town, but paid attention nonetheless. She was about to ask if Kanazumi City was more like Touka or Tamamushi when they turned the corner to the gym. There was a green-haired boy, probably Sayuri’s age or a little younger, waiting on the steps, and Sayuri went quiet.

He can’t be a challenger, right? He looks too young. But as Sayuri unconsciously tightened her hold on her Torchic, she mostly just felt hyper aware of the fact that she was sweating from the walk in the sun, her legs were scratched from the grass, and normal people didn’t get this tongue-tied when surprised by strangers.

Thankfully, Senri had immediately stepped forward when he saw the boy. “Mitsuru-kun, this is a surprise. Is everything all right?” The boy’s reply was too soft to hear.

It was different in Tamamushi. She knew what she was supposed to wear, how she was supposed to act; she knew enough people at school that there was always someone to sit with to avoid being the odd one out. But so far Hoenn was nothing like Tamamushi City. She hadn’t even put on makeup that morning. Hadn’t even thought about it. She was only missing the feel of it on her face now that she suddenly wanted some armor. Which was stupid, because makeup wasn’t armor, and-

A hard beak suddenly poked Sayuri’s arm, breaking her out of her spiraling thoughts. Sayuri looked down into beady black eyes. A long breath left her lungs.

I’m not alone. I’m a Pokemon trainer. Abruptly, Sayuri remembered meeting Nami. She hadn’t been scared. Not even when those laser eyes had been looking at her like she was taking her apart and figuring out if she was worth challenging. Even knowing she was going to lose—and she had, completely, but the memory didn’t even make her cringe—she’d been fine.

Is it because of Torchic? Sayuri didn’t feel like that was the whole answer, but Senri and the boy—MItsuru—had turned toward her. Feeling calmer, Sayuri felt herself smile when she realized that Mitsuru looked about as awkward as she felt. The impression was reinforced by his clothes: button-down shirt with a high neck and cuffs. Gentrified country fashion compared to Nami’s I-wrestled-a-Mightyena-and-won look. Definitely not as intimidating as Nami. I can do this.

“Mitsuru-kun, this is my daughter Sayuri. Sayuri, this is Anno Mitsuru-kun.” Sayuri bowed a bit in greeting, and Mitsuru did the same. “He’d like my help catching a Pokemon, and I think it would be a good learning experience for you too. I’ll leave your paperwork with the staff and then we can head out.”

Senri turned to unlock the gym, Udon dancing by his heels. Mitsuru glanced after him in a way that Sayuri recognized: she’d felt the same whenever a friend had left her alone with a stranger at a party. Taking comfort from the steady warmth of the Pokemon in her arms, Sayuri swallowed her nerves, and asked, “Are you going to be a trainer too?”

Mitsuru’s eyes met hers briefly, then he looked at his shoes. One hand was fiddling with the zipper on his bookbag. “Um, maybe… I’m staying with my aunt in Shidake Town for a while. I thought if I had a Pokemon I wouldn’t be lonely.”

“They’re good for that,” Sayuri replied, surprising herself with her own confidence. Well, I guess it’s true, so… Mitsuru looked up through his bangs, but this time Sayuri suspected he was looking more at Torchic. She certainly seemed to think so; she started preening under the attention. Sayuri scratched under her beak and she let out a happy chirp.

The door opened again, but when Senri stepped back out, Udon was nowhere to be seen. Instead, a Zigzagoon Sayuri hadn’t seen before was winding around his ankles like an overgrown cat. Sayuri double-checked her pockets on reflex; Zigzagoons had a habit of picking things up that didn’t belong to them.

“Udon is a little over-powered for this area,” Senri told them, “But Gyoza will do fine; I caught him out here a few months ago, so this’ll be good training for him too.” Senri grinned.

“Let’s go!”

Chapter Text

Senri had grabbed them both small backpacks, and had shouldered a larger one himself.

“We might be out there for a few hours,” he explained, “so it’s best to have water and lunch. Mitsuru-kun, have you given any thought to what kind of Pokemon you’d like? There are quite a few native to the area.” As they all set off back towards the edge of Touka City, Mitsuru looked down at his shoes.

“Well… it’s easiest to catch a more aggressive Pokemon, isn’t it? They’re more likely to find you…” Sayuri frowned. Mitsuru looked like he wasn’t sure if he could handle an aggressive Pokemon.

Likely having similar thoughts, Senri replied gently, “That’s true, but such Pokemon are better suited for battle, not companions.” Gesturing to the Torchic in Sayuri’s arms, he added, “Fumihiko- ah, you’d know him as Professor Odamaki, Mitsuru-kun- had quite a time catching that hothead.” Torchic preened like this was a compliment. Sayuri felt an odd mix of fond and exasperated. Well, it’s not surprising that she’s suited for battle. Professor Odamaki said as much to me when he gave her to me.

“Less aggressive Pokemon can be caught with bait or traps. They can also be challenged to some form of game, but it’s unusual to find a wild Pokemon with enough experience with humans to understand what you’re trying to do.” Mitsuru nodded slowly, expression thoughtful.

“But the most important thing,” Senri said, “is that you need to be the one doing the challenging, Mitsuru-kun.”

Mitsuru jumped, then looked at Senri in surprise. “M-me? But I don’t know how!” Sayuri couldn’t help it; she was looking at her father with just as much incredulity as Mitsuru.

Out loud, she said hesitantly, “Dad? Does he have to? I mean, I’m not the one who caught my Torchic…”

Senri smiled at her. “No, but she was used to humans by the time you two met, and she respected the way you worked with her in battle; that’s why she chose you. She might have accepted Professor Odamaki’s judgment if he had just given her to you, but earning her respect would have been an uphill battle.”

Looking back at Mitsuru, Senri continued, “Wild Pokemon challenge unfamiliar travellers in their territory to get a read on them. When two wild Pokemon come into conflict, they typically settle dominance and part ways. A capture, however, is an invitation. It says, I have defeated you, but find you strong enough to join up with. That’s why the real test after a successful capture is the first release; if they accept, they’ll stay and follow your orders. If they don’t, they’ll run off.”

Expression turning serious, Senri looked between the two teenagers. “It’s very important to not try to recapture them at that point. They’ve rejected your alliance, and will be very hostile if this is not respected. Do you both understand?” Sayuri nodded, and saw Mitsuru do the same out of the corner of her eye.

For a few moments after that, everything was quiet. They reached the city limits—Sayuri still couldn’t get over that something called a city was so small—and started out into the grass. Eyes on his shoes again, Mitsuru asked, “So… what do I do? If I don’t want an aggressive Pokemon?”

Senri patted his pack. “I have bait in here for most of the local species, as well as some traps. That said, there might still be some brief battling.” Reaching down, he ruffled Gyoza’s fur. The Zigzagoon made a happy noise that sounded like a cross between a chirp and a purr.

“Gyoza’s attack command is Tackle. It’s the only move he knows yet, so that should be fairly simple. If you see an attack coming at him, call out to dodge and, if possible, the direction you want him to go. While most Pokemon will dodge instinctively anyway, it’s a trainer’s job to have a more complete view of the field and use that to direct them.” Looking at Sayuri, Senri added, “Sometimes, in competitive battling, there will also be a reason to tell your Pokemon to take a hit instead of dodging. If it means winning the match, a battling Pokemon would rather take the extra injury. But you’d better have a good reason for doing it, because they won’t trust you if it doesn’t pay off.”

Sayuri blinked, then looked down at her Torchic with a bit of disbelief. “Really? You’d rather get hurt than lose?” The Torchic puffed up her chest, a steely look in her beady black eyes. Sayuri sighed. I should name her Pride… I hope I never get into a battle where I need to do that to win.

Chapter Text

While Sayuri sighed at her Torchic’s ego, Mitsuru frowned.

“Suzuki-san—” Senri interrupted him with a chuckle.

“Mitsuru-kun, I went to school with your parents. ‘Senri’ is fine.” Mitsuru looked a bit flustered, but not as badly as Sayuri would have been if an adult had asked her to address the so informally. Probably a country thing. If everyone knows everyone…

“Ah, Senri-san… there was actually a particular Pokemon I wanted to catch, but… it’s shy, and not very common around here, so…” He trailed off, pushing his fingers together in a nervous gesture. Senri looked thoughtful.

“Shy and uncommon… You wouldn’t happen to be after a Ralts, would you?” Looking like he was bracing himself for being told it was a stupid idea, Mitsuru nodded. Sayuri, meanwhile, was surprised. From what she’d read, only Zigzagoon, Wurmple, and Poochyena were native to the area. Glancing at the Trainer’s Pokedex sticking out of her pocket (and checking that her phone was still there as well; Gyoza might be her dad’s Pokemon, but she’d been pranked too many times by Umeboshi to assume that that meant she’d be immune from a Zigzagoon’s thieving habits), Sayuri wondered if that kind of information—the really rare Pokemon in an area—was the kind of thing in a Trainer’s Pokedex but not a regular one.

She was broken from her thoughts when Senri looked over at her, a slight smile on his face. “Well, Mitsuru-kun,” he said, “You’re in luck. We have the perfect team to get you a Ralts.”

Mitsuru looked up in surprise. “R-really?” he asked, his face slowly lighting up. Senri nodded.

Gesturing at his pack, Senri said, “I have bait packed that’s suited for Ralts. But it also attracts Wurple, and there are a lot more of them; a Ralts would avoid the crowd, so we’d never find one. But,” he nodded to Torchic with a grin, “we’ve got this one. Wurple are wary of bird Pokemon, so if we set up the bait and keep Torchic visible, most of them will stay away. That means there’s a decent chance that a Ralts might show up.”

Torchic clicked her beak in a way that reminded Sayuri of a human smacking their lips. Raising an eyebrow, she said, “I think all Torchic heard was ‘Wurple buffet.’” Senri laughed.

“She’s a fire type; they’re known for robust appetites. You’re going to have a job keeping her fed, Sayuri.” Sayuri nodded, resigned. She’d already figured that much from the amount of pokeblocks Torchic had consumed that morning. Mitsuru looked a little green, even accounting for his hair; probably trying not to picture the image ‘Wurple buffet’ conjured.

Shaking his head as if to clear it, Mitsuru asked, “So, while Torchic and…” He trailed off, looking briefly at a loss, and Sayuri realized how weird it would be for him to address her more formally than her father. She stifled a giggle. I should tell him that I just met a girl who points at people and calls them their given name without asking on a first meeting. Out loud, she said, “Sayuri is fine. Pokemon trainers aren’t usually formal, right?”

Relaxing, Mitsuru continued. “Then… while Torchic and Sayuri-kun keep the Wurmple away, I’ll wait with Gyoza to ambush the Ralts?” Senri nodded.

“That’s about the shape of it. Mitsuru, you did your research, so I’m sure you know this, but since Ralts is a psychic/fairy type it’s not very robust. Like I said, Gyoza only knows Tackle, so it’s probably better to chase the Ralts around and tire it out instead of outright attacking. Once the Ralts is winded, you can move in with a Pokeball.”

Mitsuru looked relieved, then glanced over at Sayuri apologetically. “I’m sure there’s nothing wrong with battling aggressive Pokemon, but…” He shuffled his feet. Sayuri got it, though.

“You didn’t want to attack a Pokemon that wasn’t going to attack you, right?” she asked, voice gentle. Mitsuru nodded.

Senri smiled at the pair of them. “It’s a good lesson for any trainer to match their approach to the Pokemon they’re working with.” Glancing specifically in Sayuri’s direction, he added, “You’ll definitely encounter less aggressive Pokemon than that Torchic, so always keep it in mind.”

Sayuri nodded. She briefly tried to imagine a Pokemon more aggressive than the bundle of pride and feathers currently in her arms, and failed. Maybe Moltres… ack, if Torchic ever finds out I mentally compared her to a Legendary, she’ll be impossible to live with. Of course, they’re not real anyway...

*

Senri took them further north than the path he’d taken with Sayuri to arrive in Touka City. The grassland gave way to scattered clusters of trees, and he explained that Ralts preferred shade and cover over the open plains, but disliked thick vegetation or darkness.

“That’s why you won’t find them in Touka Woods,” he added. Then he showed them how to set up the bait, pulling it out of its sealed pouch carefully. Torchic perked up in Sayuris arms, looking at it curiously; Gyoza waddled over to give it a poke. Sayuri inhaled deeply, but couldn’t smell anything. Senri chuckled.

“You kids are lucky. Back in my day, they hadn’t quite perfected the formula, and some of the baits really stank. But now most of them can’t be smelled by humans at all.” Despite her initial interest, Sayuri noted that Torchic had quickly gone back to ignoring the smell, and Gyoza only seemed a little more interested.

Noticing her looking between the two Pokemon, Senri added, “This is green plant bait; I wouldn’t expect Torchic to be interested, and Zigzagoons might be omnivores but they prefer berries to this kind of thing. Wurmple and Ralts, however, should be much more enticed.”

Sayuri gave Torchic a scritch behind the ears, then loosened her hold.

“That means you’re on. We’ve got to keep the Wurmple away so that Mitsuru-kun can catch his Ralts.” Torchic chirped, then hopped from Sayuri’s arms, looking around alertly. Sayuri couldn’t hold back a smile.

She might be rash, but it means she never holds back. Hopefully I can learn something from that.

Looking over at Mitsuru, who was pulling back behind a tree with Senri and Gyoza to wait for their chance to ambush, her smile widened. Mitsuru looked a bit overwhelmed, but he was listening to her dad’s instructions with a determined set to his shoulders, and he managed a weak smile for Gyoza.

Mitsuru-kun really wants a Pokemon… Sayuri took a breath, and looked away to join Torchic in watching for signs of anything approaching.

So me and Torchic… we’ll help get him one.

Chapter Text

At first, Sayuri had to admit that her first Pokemon capture attempt (or at least the first one she was assisting with) was pretty dull. The sun shone, the wind blew, and nothing happened. But Torchic didn't seem bored at all. She kept turning and tilting her head, beak in the air, and Sayuri wondered what she was hearing and smelling that Sayuri couldn't.

Then the Wurmple started showing up.

The instant a pink bug head poked around a bush, Torchic puffed up like she'd received an electric shock, and her heady black eyes fixed on her target. Remembering what they were supposed to do, Sayuri called out sharply, “Hold your ground! We have to stay by the bait. Only attack if they get too close.”

Torchic huffed but stayed still, her feathers vibrating with tension. More quietly, Sayuri added, “Good job, Torchic.” The bird Pokemon's eyes stayed fixed even after the Wurmple darted out of sight, but she made an affirmative chirp.

Another Wurmple appeared off to the right, and Torchic immediately swung her head around to focus on it. But even as Sayuri followed her movement, she caught another flash of pink off to the left. Trusting Torchic to continue to obey her orders, Sayuri looked to the left in time to see the third Wurmple trying to inch towards the bait.

“Torchic, to the left! Scratch!”

Torchic spun and jumped, using her small wings to give her a bit more lift to attack the Wurmple from above. But it was quicker than it looked. Torchic's talons hit dirt as the Wurmple scampered back to the safety of the bushes. Before Torchic could be tempted to pursue, Sayuri looked back behind her and called out, “The second one is trying to sneak in!”

Immediately Torchic wheeled again, and this time the Wurmple wasn't fast enough to escape without a long white cut down the back of its armor. Torchic started to gear up for another go, but glanced questioningly at Sayuri.

Relieved at Torchic's restraint, Sayuri said, “It's leaving. Watch for the next one.” Torchic gave Sayuri her best impression of Pichu eyes, but obeyed. Sayuri reached down and scratched her crest. More quietly, she added, “I know how many pokeblocks you had this morning, no way you're starving.” Torchic wriggled and snapped her beak, making a happy noise. Sayuri looked at her incredulously.

“No way it tastes better if it's moving. C'mon, we gotta stay alert.”

*

Sayuri didn't want to be distracted by checking the time, but the sun was several degrees higher in the sky by the time Ralts appeared.

She was distracted, directing Torchic to fend off a trio of Wurmple who had decided to make a team effort of it (whatever they put in that bait, she had to admit the Wurmple really wanted it), when she heard Mitsuru call out, “Gyoza, go after Ralts!”

It took every bit of focus she had, but she kept her eyes on her own Pokemon even as Gyoza went streaking past her. Only when the last Wurmple had scattered did she turn to see what was going on. Torchic returned to her side, chirping inquisitively.

Sayuri blinked as she watched the Zigzagoon chase the Ralts around the clearing. With Gyoza's stripes and eye markings, contrasting with the Ralts' pale, rippling train, it looked a bit like...

“...a tanuki chasing a ghost. You see it too, right Torchic?” Torchic made an affirmative chirp, though Sayuri wondered if she actually knew much about human folklore or was just reacting to the questioning tone. Sayuri started to relax, the effort of staying on alert for so long finally catching up to her. Now they just had to watch Mitsuru wear out the Ralts—

—which had suddenly darted right for them. Gyoza couldn't turn as sharply on four legs, and Sayuri realized what the Ralts was planning. It knows it can get out of the way...Ralts is trying to get us to crash into each other! Torchic started to puff up again, ready to stand her ground. Sayuri's brain ticked into overdrive. If we interfere, it'll mess with Mitsuru's capture, and Ralts won't accept him as its trainer...

Throwing herself to the side, Sayuri called out, “Torchic, dodge!” There was an offended squawk, but Torchic darted out of the Ralts' path as well. The Ralts made a noise of confusion, a quiet, ringing chirp that sounded like it had come from the bottom of a well. But Gyoza didn't let it rest, barrelling after it, and the chase resumed. Torchic, looking sulky, waddled up to where Sayuri was sitting.

Sayuri sighed. “I know you could've taken her, Torchic, but this is Mitsuru's capture, remember? Besides, you've already beaten a dozen Wurmple; you're much fiercer than Gyoza.” The flattery worked like a charm, and Torchic hopped onto Sayuri's lap to watch the rest of the chase.

Ralts kept trying to flee for cover, but Gyoza hemmed it in. The Ralts was more agile, but Gyoza was faster, and Mitsuru's eyes darted over the clearing, trying to anticipate Ralts' next move as he issued commands. It looked like he was too focused on the Pokemon to remember how to be shy. Sayuri smiled, and cuddled the Torchic in her lap. She knew what that was like.

Finally, Gyoza's greater stamina won out. The Ralts staggered to a halt, breathing heavily, and bowed its head. Mitsuru approached cautiously, but it reminded still. When he threw the Pokeball, the red light enveloped the Ralts without any resistance, and the hinge snapped shut. Senri came forward and picked up the bait, sealing it back in its bag. He grinned at both of them.

“Capture successful! Time to head to the PokeCenter.”

Chapter Text

Mitsuru spend the walk to the PokeCenter clutching the Ralts' pokeball tightly, staring at it like he still couldn't believe he'd actually caught it. Gyoza was preening, rubbing against Senri's ankles in exchange for ear rubs. Torchic, for once, seemed a little tired from her battles. But there was a proud glint in her eye that spoke of victory. Sayuri ducked her head to hide a smile.

She's gonna get such a stuffed head when we start winning gym badges. Even if it wasn't her own, helping a successful capture had left Sayuri feeling a little more grounded, as if her half-impulsive, newborn dream of becoming a Pokemon Trainer had already borne fruit. It made her feel more confident for the next step: training to beat Kanazumi's stone gym.

I wonder if I'll run into Nami... probably not, she's gotta be headed to Touka Woods by now. Sayuri looked up at the dark line of the horizon past Touka City. She'd trust her father's assesment that she wasn't ready for it yet. Not to mention, even the Wurmple had given Torchic a workout; Torchic might have the temperament for battle, but Professor Odamaki hadn't exactly been actively training with her.

We'll learn together. The thought made her feel warm.

When they reached the PokeCenter, Gyoza was through the doors first. Sayuri blinked, but Senri chuckled, seeming unsurprised. The doors whooshing open to let them in finally made Mitsuru finally look up.

Gyoza had hopped up on the counter, practically purring as the nurse on duty scratched under his chin. She giggled, cooing at him. Torchic made a quiet gagging sound, and Sayuri bit back a laugh. I guess she wouldn't be one for cooing and baby talk. Rousing pre-battle prep talk is probably more her style... guess if I want to win any Cuteness Contests, I'll need a different pokemon.

The nurse looked up from Gyoza when Senri approached. “Suzuki-san! I don't mind a visit, but Gyoza seems fine today!” Rubbing his ears, she added in a sugary tone, “Don't you, cutie! If you're good, I have a berry for you!” Gyoza let out a happy bark. The nurse beamed.

Senri sighed, but he was smiling as he said, “You're going to spoil him rotten, Nurse Shiraishi. But I'm not actually here for him today.” Senri gestured at Mitsuru, who swallowed nervously as he held up his pokeball.

“I- um. Caught a pokemon. It's a Ralts. Can you-?”

Nurse Shiraishi's smile gentled, and she was careful when she took the pokeball. “I'll have them good as new in just a moment, Trainer-san.” Mitsuru started to stammer that he wasn't a trainer, but she had already turned away, placing the pokeball into a machine behind the counter. Sayuri watched curiously: she had only seen a pokeball restoration machine on television. Nurse Shiraishi pressed a few buttons, then watched as the machine started to light up. Three pulses later, the pokeball was released. Still handling it delicately, she handed it back to Mitsuru.

“Good luck with her, Trainer-san!” This time, rather than correct her, Mitsuru only nodded, eyes fixed on the pokeball again. Sayuri remembered what her father had told them: the true test was the first release. If Ralts ran off, Mitsuru would have to try and catch another Pokemon...

Senri put a hand on Mitsuru's shoulder. “Let's get back to the grass, Mitsuru-kun. That'll give Ralts space to make her decision.” Mitsuru blew out a breath, then squared his shoulders. Holding the pokeball tight to his chest, he turned and walked out the PokeCenter doors. Senri paused long enough to grab Gyoza (happily munching on his promised berry) and nod to Nurse Shiraishi; then he and Sayuri followed.

*

At the edge of the city, Mitsuru stopped next to the Touka City sign. Taking a deep breath, he held out the pokeball. Sayuri held Torchic a little tighter. Even Gyoza had calmed, settling by Senri's feet to watch Mitsuru.

“Go, Ralts!” At the command, the pokeball lit up, then released a red light a few feet in front of Mitsuru. It solidified into the pale figure of Ralts, then faded. For a moment, Ralts seemed to be getting her bearings, glancing around and fluttering, as if checking herself for injury. Then she looked up at Mitsuru. A few seconds passed in total silence. Mitsuru swallowed.

Ralts titled her head, then glided forward a few steps. She bowed, her train flaring out in a shape that resembled a curtsy. Senri exhaled, and Sayuri realized that she wasn't the only one holding her breath. Mitsuru smiled, genuine if a little shaky. Slowly, he knelt and extended his hand to the Ralts. She leaned forward, then copied the gesture, touching her arm to Mitsuru's hand.

Mitsuru's shoulders relaxed, and he asked, “Do you like the name Suzume?”

Sayuri blinked. Eh? A glance over at her father showed that he was similarly startled, though he looked pleased as well. Sayuri fought down a blush. Maybe he was already planning that name? It'd be a bit of coincidence, though... since our surname is Suzuki...

After a moment of consideration, the Ralts chirped happily. Mitsuru glanced over, and promptly looked back down at his shoes when he caught sight of Sayuri's expression. “I hope you don't mind,” he mumbled, “but you two helped me catch her, so it felt right...”

Senri beamed. “It's an honor, Mitsuru-kun. We were glad to help.” Sayuri nodded, smiling despite her embarrassment. Suzume was already poking Mitsuru's chin to get him to look up again: it looked like the beginnings of a beautiful partnership.

*

Later, after Mitsuru had gone home, Sayuri sat outside the gym, waiting for her father to upload the last of her paperwork. After this, they'd probably grab lunch; then Senri had promised Sayuri that he'd show her some of the training spots he'd used for Gyoza, since her Torchic was about that level. But Sayuri had something important to do first.

Mitsuru-kun used one of the kanji in 'Suzuki' because we helped him... and because he looks up to Dad a lot.

Naming a Pokemon after someone you admire... that's not a bad way to do it.

Looking over at the Torchic poking around the field next to the gym, and remembering a childhood hero, Sayuri asked, “Torchic? How do you feel about the name Anzu?”

Despite halfway expecting it, Sayuri still fell back, wind knocked out of her, when the answer was a cannonball to the ribs followed by a cacophony of happy chirping. Rolling her eyes and getting her breath back, Sayuri managed to choke out, “Okay, okay, got it. Anzu it is.” Sighing, she sat up again. Conversationally, she told the Torchic, “Dad's gonna have a field day, you know. 'Anzu' means apricot.”

A smug huff was her only answer. Apparently Anzu considered her name above reproach.

Sayuri smiled. It was a good day to be a Pokemon Trainer.