Chapter 1: Ultimatum

The gentle breeze swayed the branches outside. The sunny, green streets of Sailance couldn’t possibly have looked more tempting. Well, maybe if there had been a stray Taillow singing there somewhere. Or a Rattata darting behind that dustbin.

“Mark Greenlet, will you please answer my question?”

The dark-haired boy quickly turned his head away from the window with a blank look on his pale face.

“Er… I’m sorry?”

The woman sighed, scribbling something into her notebook. Probably something negative about his lack of attention in class if he knew her correctly.

She observed him over her half-circle glasses, her mouth forming into a frown. “I asked you to explain what defines recoil attacks.”

Mark rolled his eyes, looking up at her. “I have no clue, okay?”

The teacher sighed again. “You seem to fail to answer even the simplest of questions, Mr. Greenlet.”


“Don’t speak to me like that or I’ll give you detention.”

Mark rolled his eyes again. Yeah right. That’s just the 500th time you say that.

“Now stop drawing your Fearow and start paying some attention.”

“It’s a Lugia,” Mark corrected coldly, covering the smudged drawing on his desk protectively with his hand. A warning alarm sounded in his head. Don’t lose yourself again… school is almost over… Mrs. Grodski is just a grumpy old witch with nothing better to do than hating you…

Luckily, the bell rang at just the right moment. He hurriedly started returning his unopened books to the battered schoolbag that hung on the back of his chair.

“Mr. Greenlet,” the teacher said, “I would like you to remain here.”

Mark sank back into his chair. He silently placed his drawing inside his thick binder and sighed deeply as he packed it down and forced back the zipper on his stuffed bag. Through the glass in the window, he could see that the wind was growing nastier.

“So,” said Mrs. Grodski, closing the door after the last student left, “what do you have to say for yourself, Mr. Greenlet?”

Mark opened his mouth unsurely, not sure if he’d be better off just keeping quiet, but decided to fire away.

“Why do I even need Battling class?” he blurted out. “I’m not being let out on a Pokémon journey. There aren’t even any Pokémon around this stupid city.”

“Have you ever considered,” said the woman, narrowing her eyes, “that perhaps failing the class last year played a part in your parents’ decision?”

“They decided it months before the tests!” Mark protested, his face reddening slightly. Mrs. Grodski just loved to bring up his three from the finals last year; it was one of the many reasons he hated her.

“Oh, don’t try to fool yourself,” she said calmly, sitting down at the teacher’s desk. “The tests aren’t the only part. All you’ve done in my class since you first started it is doodling on the back of your papers and being an idiot. Your parents have known that since the first time I talked to them about you.”

“They… they said it was because it was too dangerous,” he said uncertainly, fearing that he might be losing the argument. Outside, the shadow of a cloud drifted past the sun. He was missing the nice weather, all because of one stupid teacher.

“As clearly ignorant as you are, I wouldn’t trust you to go on a Pokémon journey without getting yourself killed either,” she said in a silky voice, a thin smile on her lips.

Mark’s face turned beet red as he clenched his fist. “I get good grades in Pokémon speech,” he countered. “And Art.”

“I never approved of Pokémon speech as a school subject,” Mrs. Grodski said. “They weren’t teaching that back when I was at school, and I did fine as a trainer without trying to assign a meaning to all those Pika Pikas.”

Mark folded his arms and leaned back in his chair. He liked Pokémon speech; Mr. Flintlake’s Vulpix was usually a great deal more interesting than any human person he had met. Apart from his best friend Alex, of course, but he had left on his journey last year.

“As for Art,” the teacher continued when Mark didn’t say anything, “drawing will hardly help you on a Pokémon journey, will it?” She gave him another thin smile; Mark just sighed.

“Now, what did your parents tell you last time?” Mrs. Grodski said, leaning forward and looking at him with her stinging blue eyes.

“That I’d have to be in class with even younger kids if I didn’t pass this time,” Mark mumbled.

“Exactly,” she said, examining the blood red nail polish on her long fingernails. “I suggest you start putting some effort into your studying now, and I might actually change my mind about your IQ. You can leave now if you promise me that.”

“I promise,” Mark muttered.

“Good,” Mrs. Grodski said with a poisonous smile. “You may go.”

Mark stood up, slung the schoolbag over his shoulder and left the room without saying a word. Outside, the sky was slowly becoming gray and gloomy, matching his mood.

By the time he reached his house, it was starting to rain.