Last time, on A Pokémon Trainer Is You:
What do you do on route 22?
– Train with Nancy, the Negator.
– Perform an ecological survey.
Once Nancy is recovered from her battle, you decide to do an hour or so of basic training – exercises, attack drills, dodging Scallion’s Vine Whip attacks, that sort of thing. Everything you’ve seen from Nancy so far suggests that she’s a very gentle and mild-mannered Pokémon, but she takes battle and training very seriously, and celebrates her successes with gusto. You suppose that shouldn’t be surprising, for a Pokémon who approached and challenged a human trainer. It’ll take time for her to reach her full potential, obviously, but you can see some improvement even in the short time you have to spend. Once Nancy starts to tire of training, you take another look at the relatively meagre information your Pokédex has on Minun. The key words and phrases all seem to be about teamwork. In their native Hoenn, Minun often live closely with a sister species, Plusle, each amplifying the other’s electrical powers, but they can apparently team up with just about any Pokémon, given time to establish a bond. The Pokédex is considerably less clear about how a trainer might go about doing this, or exactly what advantages might accrue from it. One thing is clear, though – Minun love to cheer for their friends in battles. You try this out, getting Scallion to perform a couple of quick, very basic training exercises, and find that he is inexplicably faster and more accurate with Nancy’s active encouragement. Hmm.
Nancy, the Negator
Special Skill: Cheer
If Nancy is on the sidelines while another Pokémon is battling, she will cheer for it, giving it a modest bonus.
Satisfied that you and Nancy have made progress, you turn to your higher calling: studying the wild Pokémon of Kanto. “Route 22” is generously named – there’s only a dirt road that leads to the Pokémon League, and you left that hours ago. It follows a snaking path through the lowest and most gently sloping parts of the foothills of the Tohjo Mountains, alongside a modest river. The river is fed by tributary streams that follow their own winding paths through the hills and valleys, ultimately leading back to mountain springs. The uneven terrain creates a few “bowls” in the hills where the river water collects in ponds, where Water Pokémon live and thirsty Pokémon of all kinds gather to drink. Most of the trees are short, hardy conifers like juniper and dwarf cypress that can survive without much water.
It doesn’t take you long to spot Spearow flying high overhead, occasionally diving for prey. You expect they mainly target Bug or fish Pokémon that can’t easily defend against their aerial attacks, but then again, you’ve heard they can be vicious and are capable of hunting larger prey in packs. Rattata can live pretty much anywhere, so it’s no surprise when you see them darting between dens in the rocks and under bushes. You assume they eat berries – you’ve seen a few Chesto trees – but wouldn’t be above scavenging anything left by the Spearow. Nidoran move through the foothills in herds of a dozen or so, sticking to the valleys where there’s plenty of water and foraging in the shrubs. They aren’t as quick or stealthy as Rattata, but they look out for each other. They form circles and present their poisonous spines whenever you get close, so you give them a wide berth. You don’t actually see any Mankey, but you can definitely hear them, and at one point you get pelted by small stones coming from a nearby spinney, forcing you to turn back and choose another path. They’re territorial Pokémon, and you suspect they must be guarding productive berry trees. You can also see small herds of what you think are Doduo and Ponyta on the flat grassland in the distance, back in the direction of Viridian City. They’re runners and grazers, so you expect they don’t come up into the foothills very much; the terrain wouldn’t suit them, nor do you think Ponyta would do well on the tough vegetation up here. You wonder what the Doduo eat – they share territory with the Ponyta, so they must favour different plants. Perhaps they dig for non-Pokémon insects.
Bug Pokémon stick to the safety of the trees, chewing on pine needles and sucking sap. The really emblematic Kantonian species that everyone knows, Caterpie and Weedle, prefer dense deciduous forests, and you don’t see any of them here. Instead, the most visible are Ledyba, which like the Nidoran rely on their numbers to keep them safe from predators. They’re nominally a Johtoan species, but you know they’re common throughout western Kanto, and you’ve occasionally seen them around Pallet Town. The same is true of Spinarak, which string their webs from tree branches to trap other Bug Pokémon. You are particularly interested to take note of one that has managed to snare a Spearow. Type advantage isn’t always everything, you guess, and when life gives you a lucky break, you might as well take it. Practically every tree has at least one Wurmple, a Hoennese Pokémon similar to Caterpie, slowly eating its way to evolution. You notice that, unlike Caterpie, their spines allow them to dig into tree bark and get at the sap inside; that must be what allows them to survive in drier climates with less appetising foliage.
As for the water… Magikarp get everywhere – in principle they’re saltwater Pokémon, but despite being notoriously pathetic in battle, they’re extremely resilient to a range of environmental challenges. They’re famous for being able to flop and bounce their way upriver, even against a steep slope or over cliffs and waterfalls, so it’s not surprising to find a few. You’re honestly not sure what Magikarp eat – pond scum, you assume. Goldeen seem to be confined to the largest ponds and streams, where there are large enough water plants to support them, but you spot Poliwag in almost every body of water. They can probably move overland at night, even on their stubby legs. Towards the end of the day, you spot a single Slowpoke, basking on a convenient flat rock jutting out into one of the larger streams, with its sweet-tasting tail dangling into the water like a fisherman’s lure. Frankly, you don’t understand Slowpoke, and no research you’ve ever read has given you a decent explanation of how they actually survive in the wild. “More observation is needed,” you write testily in your notebook.
As the day goes on and you become more familiar with the common species of the area, you start to spot signs of others that are less typical, and as far as you know not endemic to Kanto at all. Wherever there is flowing water, you notice trees that have been felled by something gnawing through their trunks. The tooth marks are too large to be from Rattata, and anyway you’ve never seen Rattata attack trees like that. You frown at this and underline some of your notes. Dry land like this is vulnerable to erosion, and well-established trees are crucial to staving it off. You also come across the bones of fish Pokémon that have been picked clean and snapped to extract their marrow. You assume at first that Spearow are responsible for the kills, with Rattata coming in afterward as scavengers and using their powerful teeth to snap the bones, but the marks on the bones don’t seem right somehow – sharper, finer teeth did this, maybe from some kind of aquatic predator. Throughout the day, you occasionally hear high-pitched wails from further up towards the mountains. Whatever Pokémon is making the sound, you don’t think it’s large or dangerous, but the noise is jarring and seems to upset a Nidoran herd you’ve been shadowing. If this is an ongoing phenomenon, it could cause serious stress in many of the Pokémon in the area.
You scribble down everything you’ve seen and heard in your notebook, already mentally composing a full report to send back to Professor Oak. You have some concerns about introduced species disrupting the local ecosystem. In particular, you think that the local Goldeen population might be vulnerable; they can clearly only move through some of the larger water channels, which could be blocked by those falling trees, and an exotic predator could be the nail in the coffin. You explain all of this to Scallion as you walk. Your Bulbasaur nods thoughtfully, and you remember how his face lit up back in Professor Oak’s lab when you talked about studying ecology. You’re painting a greyer, but more realistic, picture now, but that doesn’t seem to have dulled his interest.
As the sun gets low in the sky, you suddenly realise that your backpack has gotten heavier in the last few hours. Frowning, you halt and decide to inspect it. You undo the zipper, move aside some of your clothes, and are startled when your hand touches squishy, pinkish-red flesh covered in pimply nodules. You pull out a winter scarf and reveal, curled up beneath it, a sleeping Wurmple. The Wurmple, disturbed at being exposed, wakes up and uncurls slightly, blinks twice at you, makes a soft murmuring noise, then curls up and goes back to sleep.
You briefly consider returning the Wurmple to a nearby tree, but it looks so peaceful sleeping in your backpack, and as previously discussed, you’re frankly a bit of a softie, especially with Pokémon. Most caterpillar Pokémon in the wild don’t make it to adulthood; they’re at the bottom of almost every food chain, and the species survive because their adults each produce huge numbers of offspring. It’s sound strategy from an evolutionary perspective, but it does also mean this Wurmple in all likelihood doesn’t have much to look forward to if you throw it back. The scientist in you says you should be as non-interventionist as possible, but the Pokémon trainer decides to chalk this one up to fate.
Wurmple has joined the party!
Height: 29 cm
Weight: 3.4 kg
Moves: Tackle, String Shot, Poison Sting
Ability: Run Away
Special Skills: None/Unknown?