"Come on, Kali! Up 'n at 'em, time for training!" I tapped my foot and waited patiently at the door to my room as Kali lethargically rolled into view. Stretching from head to toe, the quilava did her best to enjoy every last bit of the sunbeam that glistened across her beige fur coat.
"Do we have to? Weekend mornings should be for relaxing, not training," she grumbled.
I didn’t hear it word-for-word, of course. She spoke in her own tongue just like every other pokémon, but after spending years together, her intent consistently came across loud and clear. Today, however, I wasn’t going to be allured by her usual sweet-talking. "Get your lazy butt up now, or we can wait until the afternoon heat sets in." That certainly got her going, and after a quick breakfast we were on the road.
I guess I should introduce myself. My name's Matt, of Ecruteak City in the Johto region. It's a nice place, born and lived here for 16 years. My parents didn't let me start my pokémon journey when I was 10, like many of my childhood friends. For good reason too, as most of them slowly trickled back home, broke and hungry. But my parents always supported my dreams to be a trainer, hence Kali.
Kali's our family's pet quilava, although I've always thought of her as a partner and close friend. We raised her from a little cyndaquil to what was now a healthy and strong quilava. Together, we were training to defeat the local Gym leader, Morty. Once I obtained a badge, my parents reasoned, we could be trusted to leave town and embark on our very own journey.
And so here we were, training on Route 37. Soon, we’d be strong enough to avoid getting trounced by Morty’s Gastly like last time. The roadside trees provided some nice shade as we searched for wild opponents through the undergrowth, while the wide path gave us plenty of room for battles.
"Over there, Kali! A ledyba!" The red bug fluttered down from the canopy and landed softly on top of a nearby bush.
"On it," she called and prepared her Flame Wheel attack we were practicing. A thin whoosh of crimson and orange flames engulfed her as she charged forward.
"Hotter fire!" I directed, "You want those flames to burn, not singe!"
She curled up and spun along the ground towards her quarry, who thankfully hadn't noticed the impending attack. If it had been a keen-eyed Pidgey, she likely wouldn’t have gotten within 50 feet without being spotted. I was about to cheer for her direct hit when suddenly the flames surrounding her sputtered and died with a soft hiss. Off balance, Kali tumbled face first into the dirt, kicking up a small cloud of dust and startling the ledyba away.
"But don't focus so much on the heat that you lose your footing, though," I added. I jogged over to help her up, but upon noticing she wasn’t moving, broke into a run. Had she been hit by an invisible attack? As I reached her side, I breathed a sigh of relief when I felt breathing and a pulse. She seemed unhurt, but I began to worry when she refused to wake up like she normally would shortly after fainting. I quickly scooped her up into my arms and rushed back to Ecruteak's pokémon center.
"Your Quilava is awake and doing fine now. She's quite exhausted, so she needs to relax for the rest of the day. No battling." Nurse Joy handed me a copy of Kali's medical records and continued, "We're not sure why she collapsed like you described. There were a few anomalies on her neural scan when she first arrived, but all her vitals appear normal now."
Chansey emerged from the back room and wheeled Kali out on a stretcher. As soon as she saw me, Kali jumped up and practically tackled me to the floor. In between cries of joy, she vigorously licked at my face as if she hadn't seen me in days. "Woah girl, take it easy now!" I exclaimed as I carefully extracted myself from her death grip and directed her paws in a gentler hug. "Glad to see you're feeling better." With that, we set off for home. Kali begged to be carried around my shoulders as we walked, something I hadn't done for her since she was a cyndaquil. But what the hell I figured, if she wanted it today she got it.
As we walked, Kali remained unusually silent. Normally she was quite talkative, one of the reasons I was able to pick up on what she was saying with relative ease. "Hey, how're you holding up? You're kinda quiet," I questioned, giving her a scratch in her favorite spot between the ears.
She gave a sigh of content before replying, "I’m fine. I'm just happy to be with you." She gave a soft purr and nuzzled warmly against my ear and in that moment, my heart just melted. Still, in the corner of my mind it felt like there was something off, something I just couldn’t place about her words.
We spent the rest of the day lounging around the house. There wasn’t much to do after I’d finished trainer school, aside from Kali’s daily training. Speaking of which, she lay curled up next to me as I gave the old video game system a spin, watching intently the whole time instead of seeking out what was left of the afternoon sunbeams. She even surprised me by giving a couple of pointers when I got to one of the harder bosses. Where’d she even learn about that, anyways? I thought.
Kali said she was still feeling tired the next couple of days, so we just hung out together around the house and around town. I wasn’t going to force her back into training so soon, especially whenever she cuddled up to me and ever so sweetly suggested something else the two of us could do that day, even though I knew she was probably making up excuses.
A couple days later, I woke to the sound of hushed voices echoing through the quiet house. It was still dim outside, so it couldn’t be much past 5 AM or so. My parents never got up this early, even for work on weekdays.
Carefully creeping out of my bedroom, I spied a thin beam of blueish-white light emanating from the study down the hallway. As I crept closer to the slightly ajar door, I identified one of the whispering voices as Kali, speaking in her normal pokémon language.
“I know ... should tell ... hurts ... just can’t ...,” Her words were harder to interpret when she wasn’t talking directly to me, so I could only make out small fragments of speech. Peering into the room, I saw her sitting on the chair behind my dad’s large oak desk. Her face and the rest of the wall behind her was illuminated with the harsh white light of the computer’s monitor.
From the speakers came another, higher-pitched voice. “Vee, eevee!”
Kali sighed at the screen and muttered, “Fine ... few days ... get there.”
She still hadn’t noticed me, and I didn’t want to spook her into accidently torching something expensive again, so I plodded noisily down the hallway and back. By the time I returned, the white glow had vanished, so I knocked gently on the wooden door. “Kali? Was that you I heard in there?”
I heard Kali’s voice stammer, “Y-yeah, just me in here, watching the sunrise.” I entered to the sound of swishing cloth on metal, and saw Kali sitting by the window next to the still gently swaying drapes. The morning sun bathed the whole room in a soft orange glow, as if Kali had set everything on fire anyways. I sat on the floor next to her and gave a gentle hug. Together, we watched the sun emerge above the neighboring rooftops and forests surrounding the city.
After a while, I spoke up. “You’ve been rather quiet lately, is something up?”
Kali turned away from me and muttered, “Nothing. It’s nothing.”
“You know I can tell when you’re lying,” I gently teased, circling a finger around one of her sensitive ears. “Come on, what’s on your mind?”
A few more moments passed as I scratched around her warm vents before she continued, “All right, there... there is one thing.” She paused and took a deep breath and said, “I want to visit Goldenrod City.”
I was rather taken aback at her strange request. Goldenrod was a couple hours drive away, since the roads snaked past Violet City and under the high speed Magnet rail to avoid passing through Johto’s protected National park. I’d only been there half a dozen times with my parents, mostly to visit the big city and shop at the many large department stores that Ecruteak city lacked. It was certainly a day trip at least, but I could probably convince my parents to take us. “Okay, I’ll come up with some reason to run by Mom and Dad. I’m sure they can carve out enough time in a few weeks to take us.”
“No, I want to go now,” she pleaded.
“Well, we can’t just go by ourselves,” I replied, “Mom won’t let us travel that far alone until we beat Morty.”
Kali jumped to her feet and exclaimed, “Well then, what are we waiting for? We can totally beat him. Third time’s the charm, right?”
I shook my head as she pranced out of the room. “... This is only the second time. But if you think you’re up for it, I am too! Let’s go!”
We raced over to Morty’s gym and scheduled our battle for later in the day, to give us enough time to eat breakfast and warm up properly. Something was still bothering me about Kali’s behavior though. Our last training scare, her recent over-laziness and silent affection, and now her travel request and newfound enthusiasm. I decided I’d coax some answers out of her later, but for now I didn’t want to distract her. We had a badge to win, after all. Plus, she was stubborn as a tauros and didn’t give up secrets easily.
“The battle between the challenger Matt and the Ecruteak City Gym Leader Morty will now begin!” The referee’s voice blared over the megaphone as she announced the battle terms. “As the challenger has no badges, Morty will be using two pokémon with no substitutions. The challenger may use as many pokémon as he chooses, and substitute at will. The battle will be over when one side has no pokémon that can battle.”
Kali ran out onto the indoor field and took her battle stance. It was going to be a hard match facing Morty two on one, but Kali seemed even more confident than the last time we tried when she had just evolved. Across from us, Morty emerged from the shadows of the gym wearing his iconic purple headband and scarf. “As the Ecruteak City Gym Leader, it is my duty to test the bond between trainers and their pokémon,” he monologued, putting on his usual show for the small group of spectators. “Be strong and give it your all, for my ghost pokémon won’t hold back!” And with that he tossed out our first opponent.
The Gastly that we’d lost to last time materialized and floated a foot above the ground opposite of Kali. Obviously Kali’s normal-type attacks wouldn’t work, and she still hadn’t perfected her flame wheel yet. Which left only one obvious choice.
“Kali, use em...”
By the time the words formed in my mouth, Kali had already rushed forward towards her opponent, leaving a trail of white light in her wake. What is she thinking? Quick Attack won’t do a thing to a ghost, I thought. Gradually, she zig-zagged in ever-smaller circles around Gastly, who was struggling to keep its eyes on its agile target. Whatever Kali’s intent, it clearly wasn’t to directly attack Gastly. I stood there wordlessly and watched as Kali executed whatever plan of her own she had. At this point, if I issued more orders it would just split her focus.
Without warning, she suddenly changed her trajectory and dashed directly at Gastly, whose gaze continued to shift around the circle. Tongues of flame licked around her form as Kali seamlessly transformed into a perfectly-formed Flame Wheel!
Morty shouted for Gastly to dematerialize and dodge as only ghosts could do, the command came too late. Kali collided with the wispy ball of smoke before it could react, blowing it to smithereens. The referee called the round as Kali cockily trotted over to give me a triumphant nuzzle. “G-great job, Kali! That was, um, pretty good,” I congratulated, stumbling over my loss for words. “But please, we should try to work together. You’re not alone in this battle.” She rolled her eyes slightly, but reluctantly nodded her agreement.
Morty recalled his slowly reforming gastly and shouted out across the battlefield, “I’ll admit you’re better than I expected for a new trainer. I might have to pull out all the stops here!” He threw out his second pokémon and Kali and I watched carefully to see what it would be. A blindingly bright light flared across the relatively dark gym, and resolved into another purple floating ghost. It beckoned to us with one of its menacing claws as the second round began.
“All right Kali, use Flame Wheel!” I ordered.
With a calm breath, Kali began her fiery barrel towards the opposing Haunter. Smartly, the evolved ghost dodged up into the air, far above where Kali could easily reach. Before I could issue another command, the lights in the gymnasium faded to an inky blackness. In the middle of the field, a thin spindle of silvery light bolted down from the ceiling. It passed directly through Haunter and stabbed Kali right between the eyes as both pokémon gave ear-piercing shrieks.
“Kali, no!” I yelled, as the lights surrounding the battlefield flickered back on and revealed her shaking form. Haunter slowly drifted back down to the ground, a fatigued smirk across its face-for-a-body. That had to be Curse, a move I remembered way back from studying ghost pokémon while in trainer school. We had to knock Haunter out quickly, before its effects weakened Kali too much.
Haunter cupped a shadowy ball of energy between its disembodied hands. “Quick, use ember to deflect it,” I directed, just as Haunter launched its attack at Kali, now writhing on the floor in agony.
Suddenly, Kali’s eyes snapped open and focused on the approaching sphere. With a fluid motion she whipped her head around and rolled back up to her feet, just as we’d practiced dozens of times against cocky wild pokémon. Jets of superheated flames burst from the many vents on her body and, digging her feet into the ground, she cried out a fierce battle cry, “Laaaa!”
A huge stream of fire erupted from her maw, completely overpowering the incoming projectile. With a deafening whoosh, both attacks sailed back at the surprised haunter. A loud crash and a huge sooty cloud of smoke kicked up. I held my breath as it slowly revealed a translucent and knocked-out Haunter and a weary Kali limping back to my side. “Piece of cake,” she wheezed.
I could barely wipe my jaw off the floor as Morty congratulated us on the battle and awarded the Fog badge. “Most quilava can’t produce flames of that intensity, you two must have trained a lot to pull that off,” he even complimented.
My parents had a similar reaction when they got back home that afternoon, although I didn’t feel like I deserved all the, “We knew you had it in you,” or, “Your hard work really paid off.” But to Kali’s relief, they did agree we could finally be trusted to embark on our journey through Johto.
Once on the road, Kali seemed back to her normal old self, chatting incessantly about all manner of things. The places she wanted to travel, the pokémon she wanted to battle, all the things she wanted to see. It was almost as if she had read through that set of encyclopedic atlases we had on the study bookshelf, even though I’d never seen her open one. We made good time, hiking about 10 miles down Route 37 before we stopped for the night. At this rate, we’d make it to Goldenrod in about four days. I’d only packed a small tent, thin sleeping bag and some food supplies, since we could restock once we arrived in Goldenrod. The nights were a bit damp and chilly once the sun went down, but with Kali snuggling with me under the covers we were both plenty warm.
We stopped a couple of times to battle some wild pokémon and trainers. Like at the gym, Kali barely broke a sweat and always ended up victorious. I was itching to catch us some new friends, but none of the many common pidgeys and rattatas we encountered really interested me. That, and Kali kept knocking them out in one hit with her new Flamethrower attack. I had no idea when and how she had learned it. When I asked, she merely replied with, “Just some training I did on my own.”
On the third evening, we arrived at the gates of the Johto National Park. With all the trainers and park visitors traveling through, the nearby pokémon center had invested in some extensive accommodations. An entire log cabin lodge joined directly with the already sizable medical facility, so the shared lobby was bustling with evening activity. While I was waiting for Kali to finish her checkup with Nurse Joy, I spied a poster that piqued my interest. It advertised a contest that was going to be held in the park tomorrow. Catch the best Bug pokémon you can find! it read in a bright, bold font under pictures of all the bug-type pokémon that lived within the park’s sprawling forest.
Kali strolled out of the back room, all her minor scrapes from the past few days mended. “Hey Kali, what do you think about entering this contest they’re holding tomorrow?” I asked, pointing to the poster. “We can try and catch one of the bug-types that live in the park, and maybe even win a prize.”
She took one look at the poster and immediately gave a curt, “No.”
I ruffled her head, saying, “Aww, why not? It’ll be fun to catch us a new friend. Besides, we have to go through the park anyway.” Kali ignored me and began walking back to the room we’d booked for the night. “I’ll sign us up, you’ll thank me later!” I called after her departing figure.
The next morning we set off bright and early, like most of the other trainers in the center. With more hours of daylight, we’d have a better chance of finding something notable in the dense woods. Kali still seemed to want nothing to do with the contest, although she did agree to battle any wild pokémon we found. Still, she refused to leave the paved paths, citing that we’d be “wasting time floundering about in the woods”. Unfortunately, I had to acquiesce since I couldn’t safely wander too far into the brush without her.
By lunchtime we managed to make our way through most of the park, yet only encountered a few common species like caterpie and spinarak. Kali was quick to dispatch her foes, and was especially careful to avoid the poisonous spines on some of the little buggers. Although it would have been nice if she had at least given me the option of catching one of them instead of knocking each of them out with a single super-effective attack. I was also getting a little impatient with her; if we didn’t venture into the undergrowth and off the beaten path, we’d never find anything worth catching!
Just as I was about to give up hope, I heard a small rustle in the bushes off the side of the path. The sounds grew louder as whatever it was quickly approached us. “Be ready to battle Kali,” I warned, fishing out one of the park-provided sport balls from my pack. Quick as a flash, a huge green bug flew out of the shrub and buzzed around in a zig-zag pattern towards Kali and me. Long, sweeping blades adorned its menacing arms, and it gave out a screeching territorial cry.
“Great, Kali, a scyther! If we catch that, we’ll win for sure!” I exclaimed, practically leaping with glee at our luck. But before I could issue a single command, Kali engulfed the bug in a blazing-hot inferno.
“Wait, stop!” I shouted, but it was too late. As the flamethrower dissipated, the smoking body of the fainted scyther dropped to the ground with a thud. I was practically pulling my own hair out in frustration. As per the rules, fainted pokémon couldn’t be captured with the modified contest balls, although that didn’t stop me from fruitlessly tapping it against the motionless bug. I rubbed my temples and groaned, “You weren’t supposed to knock it out, just weaken it.”
“Oops,” Kali stated matter-of-factly, obviously not regretting it one bit.
“Well, we’d better continue on.” I sighed and glumly followed her lead down the path.
What an embarrassment it was, being the only trainer to make it to the park exit without catching a single specimen to be judged. We skipped the judging and awards ceremony, but seeing nothing better than one trainer’s new venonat, I was certain we would have won if we’d nabbed that scyther.
We ended up making camp that evening a few miles from the outskirts of Goldenrod, near a large pond. The two of us sat by the crackling campfire and enjoyed our dinner, while the last remnants of dusk faded behind the distant trees and revealed a brilliant night sky reflecting off the still water. As we enjoyed the calm view, I finally decided to get some answers out of Kali.
“So what’s with you this whole week? First you scare me during our normal training, then you suddenly want to travel to Goldenrod City. You single-handedly beat Morty’s whole team without listening to me, and now you won’t even help me catch us a new team member,” I ranted. “This isn’t the normal you.”
Kali’s ears drooped at my stinging tirade and she averted my gaze, instead focusing intently at the glowing embers of the smoldering fire. Under her breath, she finally muttered, “I had no choice. None of them could be on our team.” Her words seemed held back, as if she was trying to sift through her feelings and choose what to say carefully.
I scooted over next to her and began rubbing across her belly, just where I knew she liked most. “Does any of this have to do with that eevee you were talking to the other day?” I asked gently.
Kali bolted upright with a shocked look on her face. But seeing in my eyes that I knew the jig was up, she sighed and laid back down. “What did you overhear?”
“Just enough to know it’s related to our trip to Goldenrod,” I answered truthfully and continued when she remained silent. “Kali, we’re family and you know you can trust me with anything. Would you mind telling me what’s going on?”
“I know, I know, you’re right.” Kali took a deep breath and went on, “That eevee is... a friend of mine. I promised I’d meet up with him in Goldenrod City.”
“Aww, does someone have a little crush?” I grinned and tickled her belly gently.
Her rosy cheeks notwithstanding, she tried to stammer out, “N-no, no no no, it’s not like that at all.”
“Hah, I’m just messing with you,” I said as I ruffled her head and began to extinguish what was left of our campfire. “Come on, let’s get some sleep. We’ll get there bright and early tomorrow morning.”