[Catch up on the story so far here!]
Last time, on A Pokémon Trainer Is You:
Surrounded by six huge spider Pokémon, what do you do?
Well, I’ve heard worse ideas. True, most of them were Larry’s, but under the circumstances I guess talking is relatively unlikely to get you all killed.
Abner, Stacey and Dane are standing back-to-back and glaring defiantly at the spider Pokémon surrounding them, with all their own Pokémon at the ready. Dane’s Weedle and Stacey’s Caterpie are clinging to their trainers’ arms, but are poised to fire String Shots; Abner’s Metapod and Kakuna are both on the ground, already using Harden; and Stacey’s Ledyba is zipping around their heads, glaring at each of the fierce-looking Bug Pokémon in turn. Ellis and his Beedrill move to join them, but you catch him by the elbow and hiss a warning. Between the five of you, with all your Pokémon, you have your attackers well and truly outnumbered, but frankly they’re bigger.
You clear your throat to draw attention, then hold up both of your hands, palms open, and calmly take a few steps towards the big spider Pokémon. You haven’t seen one before, but you’re pretty sure that these are Ariados, the evolved form of Spinarak. You don’t know much about them, except that they’re predators who mostly prey on other Bug Pokémon and are fairly territorial – you assume you’ve wandered into their hunting grounds, and probably offended them somehow. You briefly consider having Aura talk to them on your behalf as a fellow Bug-type, but the thought occurs to you that a) under normal circumstances an Ariados would probably eat Aura, and b) you aren’t altogether sure whether Aura can talk. Instead, you clear your throat again and call out in a loud, clear voice. You offer a deferent greeting, praising the strength and wisdom of the mighty many-legged Bug Pokémon, hoping to mollify or at least confuse them. They don’t immediately attack you. Dane stares at you like you’ve just tried to sell the Ariados a timeshare in Mallorca, and Ellis cocks his head sceptically, but Abner and Stacey both seem encouraged by even the faint possibility of talking your way out of this. After a few more florid compliments to the Ariados, you beg their forgiveness for intruding on their territory. You emphasise that you are only humble students of nature (true), who have wandered from the path in your overeagerness to learn (also true) and mean no harm to the domain of your spidery hosts (I mean, you can cause harm without meaning to, but technically you’re three for three here).
The Ariados stare at you like you’ve just tried to sell them a timeshare in Ibiza.
They aren’t actually trying to kill you, though, which you take as encouragement. You try offering them some of your food in exchange for safe passage. Remembering that wild Pokémon usually understand body language, intent and emotion, but not literal words, you clarify by reaching into your backpack and pulling out some protein bars, one of which you unwrap and toss to the nearest Ariados. It ignores the bar, but begins chittering to its comrades and gesturing with its forelegs.
“We can totally take ‘em,” Abner mutters out of the corner of his mouth.
“We clearly can not,” Ellis says through clenched teeth.
“What if I kick the big one in the head and then we make a break for it?” Dane suggests.
“They’re all big,” Ellis hisses back at him.
“Um, boys…” Stacey says out loud. The Ariados have apparently made a decision. Two of them abandon their positions and circle around behind your group, moving slowly and openly. A third, standing directly in front of you, turns around and begins to walk away into the woods. After a few steps, it swivels around again and looks at you. You glance down at Scallion, who gives you what would be a shrug if he had clearly defined shoulders. Both of you start to follow the Ariados.
“This is a bad plan…” you hear Abner saying.
“Do you have a better one?” Stacey asks, and they all fall into step behind you.
The Ariados slowly lead you deeper into the forest, past trees twisted with age, under denser and darker canopy. As you move, you start seeing more and more webs strung from the trees, as well as a few bundled silken cocoons – maybe the size of Caterpie or Ledbya – dangling from the branches. Ellis glances nervously around at the webs and recalls his Beedrill to its Pokéball to keep it from accidentally flying into one; the other bug catchers follow suit. You exchange another look with Scallion, who seems happy to stay out for now. Finally, you come to an ancient spreading oak tree, wrapped in ghostly sheets of spider silk, with a big knotty hole in the tree trunk. As you approach the tree, another Ariados climbs out of the hole – a huge one, almost one and a half metres, you think, and deep purple instead of red. It secures itself to an overhanging branch with a strand of silk, and dangles itself in front of you upside-down, regarding you with suspicious eyes.
“We come in peace?” Stacey offers.
The Ariados that was leading you hisses and chitters at the big purple one, waving its forelegs and clacking its mandibles. The purple Ariados is silent for a time, then drops to the ground. It doesn’t make any sound, but starts scratching at the dirt with its forelegs. You glance around uncertainly at the other Ariados, the bug catchers and Scallion. Abner catches your eye and points back at the big purple Ariados.
“Look!” he says excitedly. “It’s drawing!” You turn back and see that the Pokémon has scratched a pattern of lines into the ground. All of you lean forward to get a better look. There are several wavy lines, some cross-hatching, what looks like a crude drawing of a web, something that could be a stick figure of a human… you realise with a start that you’re looking at a map of Viridian Forest, showing areas of lighter and denser vegetation, some hills, the region the Ariados consider to be their territory and possibly even the rest houses at the forest’s north and south edges. You immediately grab for your Pokédex and take a photo, imagining how excited Professor Oak will be to hear about this. The purple Ariados interrupts your scientific fascination with a sharp hiss. It jabs a claw at you, then at the centre of the web symbol, draws a straight line from the web across the map to the stick figure human, and then jabs its claw hard into the dirt, scratching out the human symbol.
You stutter a request for clarification. Someone else is here in the forest, and the Ariados want them gone? That’s their price for safe passage in their territory? The purple Ariados just stabs at the stick figure again, and then, apparently satisfied that it has made its point, turns its back on you and retreats to its tree, scuttling into its hole and vanishing from sight. You look around and realise that all the other Ariados have disappeared from view as well. It seems like you’re free to go.
After releasing a breath you didn’t realise you’d been holding and mopping some sweat off your forehead, you talk to the bug catchers about what’s just happened. Clearly you need to hurry back to the campsite you just left before you lose the last of the day’s light, but what can you do in the morning? Dane is all for leaving the Ariados’ territory immediately and just trying to get out of Viridian Forest as fast as possible. Abner and Ellis, on the other hand, have had their curiosity piqued and don’t want to leave without investigating the “mission” you’ve just been given. Stacey seems like she could go either way. They all agree that, no matter what, you should stay together – and frankly, after what you just saw, you’d have to be a stark staring lunatic to argue.
[Under the new regime, updates will be every second week, on Friday morning, NZ time (GMT +12), so roughly Thursday afternoon in the US, and polls will be open until the following Wednesday evening, again in NZ time.]