[Catch up on the story so far here!]
Last time, on A Pokémon Trainer Is You:
What do you do?
– Follow Blue’s lead
Screw it, may as well ask what he has in mind. You quietly gesture for Blue to continue. He waits for the Magikarp seller to reach a crescendo of enthusiasm in describing the virtues of his “product” (his words, not mine, just to be clear). Then, he presses something into your hand. You glance down at it. It’s… a plastic drinking straw? From… the restaurant you had lunch at in Pewter City yesterday, you guess? Has this just been in his pocket the whole time? Why did he even keep this?
“Use that Pokémon you have,” Blue whispers to you under his breath. “The one you used in the gym battle.” Jane? How-? You look down at the straw again. Oh. You interrupt the Magikarp seller to cheerily ask him whether it would be all right for you to take a closer look at the merchandise.
“By all means!” He waves a hand towards the tank. “See for yourself how smooth and soft its scales are!”
Blue clears his throat. “So, uh, how exactly did you get into the Magikarp business, anyway?”
“Oh, my young friend, you shouldn’t be asking about my story, but about how you can get into the Magikarp business! Let me explain…”
You approach the Magikarp tank, looking down at Scallion, who has been visibly bored out of his mind during your conversation. You attempt to communicate your intent to him through a combination of head movements and eyebrow-jerks. He looks back up at you quizzically and does one of those weird four-legged shrugs that he sometimes does. As nonchalantly as you can, you let Jane Doe out of her Pokéball, under the pretence of showing her what a Magikarp looks like. The fish Pokémon is lazily swimming in tight circles in the tank; it’s not really spacious enough to do anything else. What is even the deal with this wheeled tank setup; if you can’t find a pond or something, wouldn’t a Pokéball be more comfortable? You frown. If this Magikarp doesn’t have a Pokéball, does that mean it’s not really his Pokémon? No, you can’t assume that; there are several legitimate reasons a trainer might not use Pokéballs. Only one thing to do.
You awkwardly reach in with both hands, gently take hold of the Magikarp and lift its face just out of the water. It makes eye contact with you and makes a curious glubbing noise. You jerk your head in the salesman’s direction and quietly attempt to communicate, in the simplest words you can – is he… okay? Is this whole situation okay? Most importantly, does the Magikarp want to get out of here?
Blue, who can see you over the salesman’s shoulder, gives you an incredulous look and loudly asks him another question about Magikarp.
You don’t have a lot of experience with fish Pokémon and they’re pretty hard to read. Magikarp also aren’t particularly intelligent. But you do have a knack for this, and the Magikarp is glubbing back in answer to your questions. You’re getting… sort of a general lack of comprehension on the salesman or the whole tank “situation” – again, no strong negative feelings or hints of abuse, but no attachment either – but get out of here? With you? That one sparks… something. You’re not sure Magikarp are capable of enthusiasm, but something close to it?
Eh, good enough.
Magikarp has joined the party!
Length: 77 cm
Weight: 9.2 kg
Ability: Swift Swim
Special Skills: None/Unknown?
You silently hand Jane Doe the plastic straw and jerk your thumb at the Magikarp in the tank. Jane figures out your angle instantly, gives you a manic grin and hops up onto your shoulder. With some help from Scallion’s vine whips, you lift the Magikarp slowly out of the tank.
“And, uh, what are the other benefits of a career in, uh… this- this field?” you hear Blue saying loudly. “You know, work-life balance, job satisfaction, community, um…?”
“All those things and MORE, my young friend!”
With the Magikarp hoisted almost completely out of the water and hanging over the tank, you grab two of your Pokéballs. One, you tap on the Magikarp’s forehead; with the other, you recall Scallion, using the sound of that ball’s activation to cover the first. There is a splash, and the Magikarp salesman turns around to see… a Magikarp floating peacefully and vacantly in his tank. You pat the Magikarp on the head, make a banal comment about the beautiful red colour of its scales, then give an exaggerated yawn and suggest to Blue that you head to the dorms for some sleep.
This is, for the record, a spectacular level of skulduggery over a Pokémon being offered to you for as little as 500 Yen.
The Magikarp salesman, disheartened, shadows you for several paces and makes a few more feeble efforts to reel you back in, but quickly realises that the wind has changed and that it would be incredibly creepy to actually follow you and Blue as you’re going to bed. He wanders down towards the other end of the lounge to pester one of the hikers who has been studiously ignoring your entire conversation, while you unpack your sleeping bag and get ready for bed.
About two hours after lights-out, Jane nonchalantly trots into your dorm, dripping wet and still holding a plastic straw in her mouth, hops onto your bunk, pointedly shakes herself dry right next to you, then curls up at your side, clearly feeling extremely pleased with herself.
The next morning, there is no sign of the Magikarp salesman or his fish tank. When you ask the friendly pink-haired nurse at the Pokémon Centre reception desk about him, she just seems puzzled and a little concerned.
“I was at the front desk all evening; I didn’t spend any time in the lounge, but I don’t remember anyone checking in with a Magikarp…” You describe the huge fish tank, slightly incredulous that it might have escaped anyone’s notice; that just makes her look more worried, although she doesn’t say anything else.
Just what was that guy’s deal, anyway? I mean, I’m not the crazy one here, right? That whole thing was weird?
Good, I’m glad we cleared that up.
Blue shrugs. “Sounds like it all worked out, then. You worry too much.” You’re not so sure about that, but you shrug and nod along anyway. “So, do you wanna get going up this mountain? I’m looking forward to seeing if there are any Pokémon worth catching.”
Mount Moon awaits – the colossal mass of white limestone that has always acted as a firm dividing line between Pewter City in the west and Cerulean City in the east. Scientists and mystics alike have always been drawn here by the mountain’s pristine fossils, mysterious karstic caves and rumoured connections to celestial phenomena like meteor showers. You should probably head for the palaeontologists’ dig site pretty directly – or at least, as directly as it’s even possible to go, considering the terrain you’ll be working with. The fossil-rich limestone of Mount Moon is riddled with complicated cave systems with multiple entrances, only some of which have been properly charted, but these are also the quickest way around the mountain. The maps Brock gave you indicate that you’ll need to take an old hiking trail a short distance up the south slope from the Pokémon Centre, cross to the east slope through one of the caves, climb a little further up the exterior of the mountain, then take another cave across to the north slope, before finally hiking up to the cave where the scientists are working. It’ll be tough to get to your final destination before nightfall, and with your mission for Brock on your mind you’re anxious not to dawdle. You’re kind of itching to study the local Pokémon, but you reason that there should be time for that later; you might be here for a while. Still, you might as well try and sneak in some training on the way – you’re sure that’s what Blue will be doing.