The Quest for the Legends (IALCOTN)
Chapter 3: The Test
“Not now,” Mark mumbled, half-asleep. A second passed before he bolted upwards and looked down into the pot below his bed. His face broke into a smile as he saw the Charmander poking the bed curiously.
Mark quickly got out of bed. One of the first lessons of Pokémon Speech popped up in his head: When greeting a smaller Pokémon, it is polite not to force the Pokémon to look up at you.
He knelt down so that his eyes were nearly on level with Charmander’s; the Pokémon’s deep brown eyes looked back into his green ones.
Pokémon do not have names. When only one member of their species is present, a stranger Pokémon will prefer to be addressed by the species’ name.
“Er… good morning, Charmander,” he said hesitatingly. The Pokémon smiled; Mark had the feeling it was a bit obvious he was following instructions from a textbook.
Pokémon speech was so weird. Mark was thankful he was rather good at detecting the crucial tone changes; that had been something like “Good morning to you too.”
“Mander Char?” Charmander asked.
Where am I. Mark’s heart was beating; he could picture himself understanding every word easily with some practice.
“You’re in my room. You fainted on the road in front of my house when it was raining yesterday.”
The lizard Pokémon put up a puzzled look. “I did?”
Mark nodded. Charmander seemed to be trying to remember something.
“Oh, right,” the lizard finally muttered. “The rain…”
“What were you doing out there, anyway?”
Charmander sighed. “Well, my trainer… the boy I was given to… he tricked some girl into trading her Quilava for me, and she got so angry when she found out what level I was that she tossed my Pokéball to the ground and ran after my trainer. So I just walked off in a random direction.”
“Oh.” There were a few seconds of silence. “So were you looking for your trainer when you came here?” Mark then asked.
Charmander shrugged. “Not really. My old trainer wasn’t very good. He never let me out of the Pokéball.”
Mark raised an eyebrow. “He must’ve been a jerk.”
“Well, you don’t really sense time in the ball,” Charmander replied, shrugging again. “When you’re sent out, you have no idea how long you’ve been there. It’s all dreamy and stuff.” He paused. “Pokéballs aren’t that bad, really – but the first thing he felt like doing with me was tricking a random girl into trading over a stronger Pokémon. Kinda depressing.”
Mark nodded. “I can imagine.”
“But anyway,” Charmander said, changing the subject, “you don’t happen to have anything to eat, do you?”
“That girl isn’t looking for you, is she?” Mark asked, munching on his cornflakes. Charmander, while eating some minced meat that Mark had dug out of the fridge, shook his head.
“Doubt it,” he said after swallowing. “After all, she just threw me away.”
“Besides,” Charmander added, “I kinda hope she’s not looking for me. She didn’t really seem very nice either.”
“Well, if she is looking for you, you have a right to leave her if you don’t like her.”
Charmander nodded absent-mindedly; this was indeed a right which Pokémon officially had, but they very rarely used it. Some species of wild Pokémon simply knew nothing of their rights concerning trainers because they lived in isolated areas and generally just despised the idea of mixing with other species, including humans. When they were caught, they actually often attacked or killed their trainers to escape as soon as they were sent out of the Pokéball. Many trainers simply didn’t think much about Pokémon rights and didn’t give their Pokémon any opportunity to leave. And most dissatisfied Pokémon who knew they could leave their trainers just endured it, either because they gave being trained to high levels a higher priority than what their trainer was like, or because they just didn’t think their problems with their trainers were worth leaving them for. Some also just preferred to follow the tradition and considered themselves obliged to serve any trainer strong enough to capture them.
Meanwhile, Mark was having a very frustrating inner debate. A part of him was yelling out, hey, just grab that Charmander, run away from home and become a trainer, while another part said, wait, wait, wait, you can’t just kidnap a Pokémon and make yourself a trainer when you feel like it. Then those two parts agreed on the solution of asking Charmander about his opinion, but then his manners started crying out that it was extremely rude to be planning out Charmander’s future behind his back. Finally, Mark’s mouth decided to save him from insanity by acting a bit on its own accord.
“What are you planning to do now?”
Charmander turned around. “Find some other Charmander, I guess.” He paused. “Well, if there are any wild Charmander around here, that is.”
Mark thought for a bit, trying to remember some of his Geography lessons. “No,” he said finally. “The only place in Ouen where they live wild is Champion Island, and I don’t expect you to be able to swim over there.”
Charmander sighed. “Well, then I’ll have to do something else. At least find somewhere to go while it’s raining.” He shivered.
“Erm… do you plan on getting caught again?” Mark asked without really thinking about what the heck he was saying.
“Maybe,” Charmander answered, shrugging. “I don’t want another trainer who would just stuff me in a ball and trade me for a stronger Pokémon, though.”
“If I…” Mark began, “would you… like… oh, forget it…” He sensed himself blushing, feeling very stupid.
“Erm… what?” Charmander asked confusedly.
Mark looked down. “I just really want to be a Pokémon trainer,” he muttered. “My parents won’t let me.”
“Oh,” Charmander said blankly. “Well, who knows. They might let you sometime in the future.”
Mark sighed. “Well, I was hoping I could become a trainer if I did well on the finals this year, but they’re in just a few days and I still don’t know a first thing in Battling.”
“You can learn,” Charmander said reassuringly. “Maybe you’ll pass if you read well now.”
Mark took a deep breath. “Right.”
There was a light knock on the door. Mark looked out of Officially Defined Pokémon Attacks, a huge book that could make a Metapod die of boredom, to see his mother open the door slightly to look inside.
“I’m reading, Mom,” Mark mumbled, turning back to the textbook.
“Oh,” his mom replied, seeming slightly taken aback. “Well, there are no lost Charmander reported, but your father and I have decided that it’s best to check again tomorrow – if the Charmander is okay with staying another night here, that is.”
“Mander,” Charmander said. He was sitting beside Mark on his bed.
“He says it’s fine,” Mark translated quickly without looking out of the book.
“Well… I’ll let you read, then,” she replied, giving him an odd look while closing the door. As soon as she was gone, Mark cracked up in laughter.
“Did you see her face when she saw that I was studying? She must think Hell has frozen over.”
Mark worked hard over the next few days, studying desperately to pass his Battling test while getting decently through the rest. Meanwhile, he became friends with Charmander, who had still not been reported as lost and was still staying at Mark’s home. The Pokémon’s company helped him survive the dreadfully boring schoolbooks. He had still not told Charmander what he was secretly hoping for – that Charmander would come with him on a journey – and his conscience kept nagging him about it, but he always fended the thought away, convincing himself that he’d do it later.
What worried him more was that Charmander was anything but immune to the mysterious effect that North-West Ouen had on Pokémon. The lizard seemed to be too polite to complain, but it was hard not to notice the fact that he was growing weaker with every day. Mark’s parents saw it too; they exchanged looks every time they eyed the slightly dazed Pokémon. It was clear that they would send Charmander away soon if he was not reported as lost. Mark had to do something soon if his dream was ever to come true.
The alarm in Mark’s digital watch went off with a loud beeping. His hand blindly reached for it on his bedside table; as he found the button, he silenced it. He took a deep breath. It was exam day.
Rolling onto his side and rubbing his eyes, he looked into Charmander’s pot, where the lizard was curled up, fast asleep.
He shook the Pokémon gently with his hand, but Charmander was still fast asleep. A cold shiver ran down Mark’s spine as another attempt failed to wake the lizard up.
Calm down… the Effect is not fatal…
He shot a few more glances at Charmander to see if he moved; he didn’t. Mark had no choice but to go to the exam and hope Charmander would be better when he came back.
In his mind he was already thinking up a plan.
Mark was jumped; Mrs. Grodski had tapped his shoulder when handing him the exam paper.
“Yes, Mrs. Grodski?”
“I’ve got to say I never expected you to take what I said last time seriously. And even if you did, I wasn’t sure you were capable of paying attention.”
“Well, I am,” Mark said shortly. “Surprised?”
“Yes, if that’s how you’d like to put it,” Mrs. Grodski replied, eyeing him with slight suspicion while walking away from his desk. He grimaced at her as she turned around and then shifted his attention to the test.
1. Identify Beedrill’s signature move and briefly describe its effects. (2)
Mark stared at the question, feeling exactly as clueless as that fateful day when he found Charmander. Beedrill, Beedrill… Pin Missile? Darn, why did they ask about Pokémon that ordinary people would rather keep as far away from them as possible?
He sighed and started writing down the first answer he could think of.
An hour later, Mark returned the test. He was sure he had been rubbish; nonetheless he couldn’t help feeling he had probably done a bit better than last year – then he had been so blank he hadn’t even been able to fill in half of the exam.
He hurried back home. The results would arrive tomorrow after the school’s Porygon had gone over the tests; only questionable things were ever brought before Mrs. Grodski (which was lucky, Mark thought; otherwise she would have marked everything wrong on his test for some nitpicky reasons).
When he entered the house, his mom and dad were in the doorway to his room, apparently watching Charmander. Mark rushed past them; the orange lizard was still fast asleep in the pot, just like this morning.
Mark’s dad sighed. “I wonder if Pokémon can get used to this?”
“Of course not!” Mark said loudly.
“Eh, how did the test go?” asked his mother quickly to change the subject.
“Better than last year…”
Mark started shaking Charmander again to wake him up. With great effort, the Pokémon opened an eye.
“I’m fine, really…”
Then the lizard fell back to sleep.
“We have to do something,” Mark said, putting the last pieces of his plan in place in his head.
His mom sighed. “We know,” she said. “If still nobody is looking for him tomorrow, we’ll take him to Cleanwater where there are wild Pokémon.”
“There are no wild Charmander there,” Mark pointed out. “Unless we’re going to head to Champion Island…”
“We’ll figure something out,” his father just said. That was exactly the answer Mark had been hoping for.
Mark woke up early next morning. His plan was the first thing to pop up in his mind; nervously, he sat up and dressed, watching the sleeping Charmander.
“Hopefully,” he said quietly, knowing that Charmander couldn’t hear him, “we will be walking out of this dratted city later today.”
And with that, he went out of the room in his pajamas, tiptoed to the front door and looked through the mail lying on the doormat – it didn’t take long for him to find the brown envelope addressed to him with the school’s logo stamped on the top right corner. His hands shaking, he opened it; he took a deep breath as he pulled out his test results.
He skimmed past the other subjects; he had passed them all. Then…
His face broke into a smile. I did it! I passed the stupid Battling!
Grinning from ear to ear, he ran towards his parents’ bedroom with the piece of paper. “Mom! Dad! I passed Battling!”
The door opened just as he reached it; his parents had apparently woken up around the same time as he had.
“See? I passed!”
Mark waved the paper in his father’s face; he took it and skimmed over it. His expression brightened slightly; he handed the results to his wife and ruffled Mark’s hair.
“I knew you could do it.”
His mom came and hugged him. “See? You can do anything when you really try, dear…”
“Now,” Mark interrupted, his heart beating, “we need to do something about Charmander.”
“Right,” said his dad, taking a deep breath. “I looked online earlier. There is still no trainer looking for a Charmander. However…”
“I have an idea,” Mark broke in. “If I were a trainer, I’d be able to take him…”
His father sighed. “Not this discussion again, Mark.”
“I passed my Battling class!” Mark argued. “You say it’s dangerous, but tons of kids go on a Pokémon journey every year and nothing happens to them! Why would I get myself killed?”
His parents exchanged looks. His mom whispered something in his dad’s ear; he nodded and whispered something back. Then finally –
“All right, you can go.”
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