Last time, on A Pokémon Trainer Is You:
Do you want to give Minun a nickname?
– Let the Narrator name it.
Me? Uh… I mean, yeah, I guess. Honestly I’m a little surprised you can ask me to do that; are you even consciously aware of me as a voice in your head? Whatever; by the power vested in me by… narratorial omniscience, I guess? I hereby name this Minun:
Nancy, the Negator
Or, y’know, just Nancy to her friends. Whatever. Nancy seems a little bemused, like she thinks “The Negator” might be slightly grandiose for little old her, but she does also think it’s kind of badass, so she’ll give it ago. Well… by that, I mean she cocked her head and made an inquisitive squeaking noise; I dunno how you got the rest of it, but maybe you really are some sort of “Pokémon whisperer” or some bull$#!t like that.
What will you do in Viridian City?
– Seek out coffee.
There’s a kissaten, an old-style coffee house, just down the road from the Pokémon Centre. It’s one of those hole-in-the-wall places from the 1950s, run by a man from the 1920s and a Wartortle from the 1750s, where they roast their own beans on a Vulpix’s flame, make hand-dripped coffee so strong it turns your face inside-out, and stock pretty little flower-shaped sweets from local confectioners. Real craftsmanship, y’know? You go to places like this to sit for an hour at a time, savour your beverage of choice with a plate of bacon and eggs, and exchange gossip with your friends and neighbours. Viridian’s a bit more old-fashioned than the big cities in central Kanto, so stuff like this is all over the place if you know where to look.
Turns out these are also pretty good places to hear rumours.
You mention to one of the other patrons that you’re in town to challenge the Viridian Gym, and… well, that gets you a lot of attention, most of it pretty pessimistic. Apparently, the whole place has been closed down for weeks. The door guards either don’t know what’s going on or won’t say, and there’s been no official word of when the leader will be back. Well. Bummer. Training for a little while in and around Viridian City and then challenging the leader of the Viridian Gym for your first badge was a pretty integral part of your plan for the beginning of your career as a competitive Pokémon trainer. The next-closest official gym, as far as you know, is the one in Pewter City, on the other side of Viridian Forest, and getting through there is going to be a whole thing. Apart from anything else, there are no coffee shops in Viridian Forest. You take a sip of your void-coloured coffee and start asking more questions… and it just gets weirder.
No one knows who the gym leader actually is. This is not even the first time he (they’re pretty definite that it’s a man) has vanished without explanation. When taking challenges, he commands his Pokémon while seated on a balcony above the arena, and keeps his face in shadow. Naturally, there are all kinds of rumours about who he is and why he hides his face, ranging from the plausible to the outright fantastical. He is a dispossessed prince from a foreign land who escaped an arranged marriage; he was horribly disfigured by a botched medical procedure; he is on the run from a powerful crime syndicate; he leads a powerful crime syndicate; he is actually a Ditto in human form; he is some kind of masked vigilante superhero; he is half-human and half-Pokémon and was born in a secret genetics lab on Cinnabar Island. Some claim that the rumours are somehow all true at once; others that all of them are lies, spread by the mysterious gym leader himself, to obscure a crime no more outlandish or esoteric than tax fraud.
How the hell did no one back home ever mention this to you while you were planning your journey?
You find yourself wishing, not for the first time, that you’d hung out more with the bad kids in school – the ones who knew how to scheme and skulk. They’d be halfway through planning a heist on the Viridian Gym by now, to crack this whole mystery open. Then again, they’d also be halfway through planning an elaborate bluff to get into the next Pokémon League conference by passing off a bunch of painted bottlecaps as gym badges from other regions. Hmm. Maybe it’s for the best after all.
You wonder, idly, whether your Pokémon like coffee. They’ve probably never tried it before. Well, Scallion might have; Professor Oak’s lab is usually overflowing with the stuff, but it feels a bit crass to even compare that to the miraculous liquid in the cup in front of you. You realise that some of the other patrons have their Pokémon out with them – you see a Sandshrew, a Metapod, a couple of Rattata – and decide to bring your partners out for a taste. Nancy rapidly takes a liking to strong black coffee, and finishes a cup with a speed that seems frankly alarming, but Scallion is less impressed. In consultation with the owner’s Wartortle, you try several beverages and eventually settle on a bowl of delicately spiced chai latte, which Scallion lifts to his mouth with his vines. You had planned to do a bunch of training today, but the more you think about it, the more this news about the closure of Viridian Gym seems like a sign, and spending time with your Pokémon like this is a nice way to start your careers together. There’s still plenty of hours left in the day; you can take your time.
You order another cup of coffee.