Part 3: Getting to Know You
As part of growing up, both humans and Pokémon tend to find that the world grows bigger around one’s self. The Doe family was no exception to that trend, and they found their lives intersecting with others who would go on to become good friends of theirs.
How did that happen, you ask?
Well, sometimes humans leave their homes in search of new lives much like how Pokémon sometimes do. They call it "moving". And like Pokémon, sometimes it happens for happy reasons, and sometimes it doesn't.
The instance of 'moving' that I was thinking of didn't involve the Does. It happened back in the summer when Jane was in the thick of her Gym Challenge. Even if she ultimately flamed out at the third Gym, it would've been pretty difficult for the family to move anywhere else at the time. Instead, during one of her visits back home, a new family chanced move into the tract house right next door to the Does'.
Now, there are some differences between how humans and Pokémon leave their homes behind. The biggest one I’ve seen is that every time I've seen humans do so by ‘moving’, they bring along a small hoard of stuff with them that needs to be moved by a truck. And the new family that moved in that summer was no exception.
The day the new neighbors came, all three of the Doe children trained their eyes on a red moving van with a Pokéball pattern on its panels right in front of the house right next door. The kids stepped out onto the sidewalk, crouching along the low fence on the property line to watch the movers as they and a team of Gurdurr and Timburr helped ferry furniture out the back of the van and into the neighboring house.
John, Jane, and James did not come alone for the occasion, but were accompanied by their Pokémon, and even their parents' Mienshao and Druddigon. The lot of them, gaped curiously at the procession of movers and furniture going between the van to the other house. While it was not the first move that John and Jane had witnessed, it was James’, who turned to ask his siblings...
"What's going on? Why are they unloading all that stuff into the house?"
John turned his head back as his Pokémon, a Whirlipede at the time, took turns with Jane's Pokémon peeking around the fence at the strangers shuffling the moving van’s contents along. The elder brother frowned at the question and replied with an impatient scoff to his younger brother.
"Tch. Come on, James. Haven't you seen this on TV or something by now?" the older brother asked. "We're getting new neighbors-!"
"Oh hey! You must be those neighbor kids mom and dad told me about!"
John froze and bit his tongue at the sound of a perky voice from behind him, the boy whirling around and turning his attention along with his siblings to see a girl just a little younger than him on the sidewalk. The girl had short, brunette hair, and sported a set of round glasses, the elder child of two from the Verne family, the one that had just moved in next door.
"I'm Carol! How about you three?"
'Carol Y. Verne' to be exact, even if one almost never heard other humans call her that when she wasn't somehow in trouble. John, Jane, and James blinked and found themselves at a loss for words over the stranger's appearance, none of them knowing what to say back to her. After a few awkward fumbles with their words and wary stares from their Pokémon, the family Druddigon broke the silence, and approached the new neighbor girl with a puzzled tilt of her head.
Much to John's surprise, the girl seemed wholly unfazed by their craggy and spiny companion, and gave a playful wave in greeting at the Dragon-type. After a moment to collect himself, John quickly dusted himself off and introduced himself with an awkward wave of his own back.
"Er… hey, I'm John," he replied. "And these are my brother and sister James and Jane."
Jane gave a pouting frown and rolled her eyes in reply, not thinking much of John's impulse to step in and speak for her.
"We can introduce ourselves fine on our own, John… Though 'neighbors'?" Jane asked. "You mean that's your stuff on the truck over there?"
of it is, but most of it's my parents' and my little brother's," the girl answered. "We all just moved in from Opelucid City!"
The Doe children raised their brows at Carol's mention of a brother, and after noticing their parents’ Mienshao turn his head, glanced over. Sure enough, on the other side of the fence, they spotted a little dark-haired toddler popping into view along with a mother and father who were a bit younger than Mr. and Mrs. Doe at the time. Their son had already settled into life in his new neighborhood, and he was happily playing with a ball on their new lawn. John, Jane, and James gaped off at the Verne family's other members, before seeing Carol reach out her hand for their Druddigon's crest, only to briefly falter and turn sheepishly as the Druddigon gave a confused gape back at her.
"Er… does he like to be petted?" Carol asked. "I had just assumed he would, but…"
wouldn't mind, I'd think," James replied. "Though are you sure you want
to pet her? Her scales feel really rough."
There was a flicker of sheepish embarrassment that crossed over Carol's face at James' reply, making the neighbor girl briefly hem and haw in response before pawing at the back of her head.
"Hehe... Right. I guess I
should've known better that your Druddigon was female, since I train a Dragon-type myself, but it can be confusing to tell between them sometimes..." she said. "Though your Druddigon isn't the first one I've dealt with before. How else would I know that they like this?
Carol cupped her hand underneath the Druddigon's chin and curled her fingers in, giving a firm scratch with her nails. The Dragon-type blinked for a moment and batted her wings reflexively, before closing her eyes and letting out a contented growl, wagging her tail slightly as the neighbor girl pawed at her chin. John looked on with a puzzled tilt of his head, wondering how this girl knew to stroke their companion like that, when he recalled an earlier comment in the conversation.
"You mentioned that you also trained a Dragon-type, right?" the boy asked. "So do you also have a Druddigon?"
"Oh no, mom and dad wouldn't let me start training with a big
dragon like yours," Carol explained. "Besides, it's a bit hard to find Druddigon around Opelucid. Though haven't you already seen my Pokémon? He should be here right next to-"
Carol trailed off briefly and looked around expecting a presence beside her. A flash of worry briefly came over the neighbor girl's face, when she heard a quiet knock against the wood of the fenceline, which made her peek behind it and the worries in her expression ebb away.
"Oh! There you are!" she exclaimed. "Come on out and say hi, Chopper!"
The Doe children and their Pokémon waited, expecting to see a Pokémon come forward, only for no Pokémon to emerge and some quiet whines to answer her. The Does’ Mienshao made his way over to the fence, followed by the Doe children, and looked over to see a short Pokémon with green scales. Before any of them could get a firm look, the Pokémon noticed them and let out a yelp before bolting away from the fence and retreating behind the neighbor girl's legs.
It wasn't any easier to make out the Pokémon from behind his trainer, and all they could see of Carol's supposed Dragon-type beyond glimpses of a green hide. Along with what appeared to be some sort of bony protrusion and a pair of small red eyes that timidly peeked out from behind her.
The Druddigon noticed the hidden figure, giving a quizzical growl before she attempted to peek back at the red-eyed creature. The larger Dragon-type's approach made Carol’s Pokémon nervously shift back and screw his eyes shut out of fright. James, curious as to what sort of Pokémon the shy creature was, stooped down and held a hand out to pat at the family Druddigon, trying to reassure the hiding creature that she posed no threat.
"Aww... Come on! Don't be shy!" the boy insisted. "She's a lot nicer than she looks!"
The Druddigon shot an unamused glance at the young boy comment of her being 'nicer than she looks', though James' words ultimately had their intended effect. The hiding Pokémon shuffled out reluctantly, revealing himself to be a tusked, green runt of an Axew, who timorously squeaked out an introduction in his tongue.
The Does’ Pokémon spoke back replies of their own one after another, and when it came time for their Druddigon to do the same, she gave a puzzled tilt of her head, not knowing what to make of the little drake before her. She walked up and sniffed at the Pokémon, and after seeing him flinch with an audible whine, pulled back a moment with a moment of brief hesitation. The larger of the two Dragon-types glanced at her claws, then down at the squirming Axew, before stooping down and cupping a claw to give a gentle scratch under the Tusk Pokémon's chin. The Axew cracked his eyes open and blinked, giving a puzzled murmur back before the Druddigon moved her claw over the Axew’s head and pat at it, which Jane was quick to highlight.
"See? She doesn't bite!" Jane insisted. "Not when she's trying to be friendly
The Doe children and their Pokémon watched the Axew stand there for a puzzled moment as the Druddigon pulled her claw back, a timid smile crossing his tusked face. The smaller Dragon-type bashfully pawed at the back of his head, before he cautiously sidled up beside the Druddigon with a cheerful cry. One after the other, the family Mienshao and their other Pokémon gathered around to introduce themselves more fully. From the side, John let out a quiet sigh of relief, glad that the Axew's fears were easier to dispel than they'd feared. Though even so, the elder brother still couldn't help but wonder to himself...
"Wait, why'd parents let you train a Dragon-type as your starter?" he asked. "And why Axew in particular? I kinda would've expected that you’d choose a Pokémon that was a bit… cuter."
Carol let a small frown flicker over her face briefly, before shaking her head back with a bemused scoff.
"Oh trust me, Axew can be plenty
cute," she said. "As for why
... well, we are
from Opelucid City, remember? There's a long tradition of training dragons there, and Axew and their evolutions can be found living in the regions just north of it."
John and his siblings blinked for a moment at the neighbor girl's reply. While it was to be expected that locals would favor training the Pokémon that lived around them, he was pretty sure that Axew were most commonly found around Opelucid City on and around Victory Road. The perky neighbor girl before them didn't mean to say she'd gotten her Axew from there, had she?
I wanted to get a Deino. But mom and dad said I couldn't because my brother was too young to be around one," Carol said.
… Maybe she had gotten her Axew from Victory Road. I don't know the full story about how Carol and her Axew crossed paths, but there's only so many places you can find one of them around Opelucid, and considering how even back then she had a small mound of Drayden posters in her bedroom. I doubt anyone would've been too surprised were that were the case, even if she probably would’ve needed a bit of help catching him.
"But that's alright. I think things wound up working out better for it! I like this little guy better anyways!"
Part of meeting new people is that you sometimes learn things from them in the process. Which for the Does, one would think that learning to train Pokémon with a Druddigon wouldn't have left many opportunities for others to teach them things about her, but…
, come on, give it back!"
Youthful inexperience has a way of complicating such things, for both humans and for Pokémon. Now, the summer of Jane's Gym challenge was a particularly active one, as the girl found herself setting off about Unova in search of challenge with her team… even if most of those journeys were just between her home in Icirrus City and Opelucid.
It was after one of those trips back from Opelucid City in midsummer to rest at home that she found herself in the unenviable position of having her Druddigon companion take a shine to one of her belongings… one that happened to glint under the light and catch the Pokémon's eye. And in short order, the Druddigon eagerly took for it herself and carried it off before ducking out to sunbathe on the house's front porch.
Now, had Jane and her companion shared a tongue, perhaps the matter could've been something the pair could've talked through. But… humans are a lot like Druddigon in the sense that they form attachments to shiny things. And when the girl discovered the family's Druddigon fiddling around with that little bauble of hers…
"This isn't funny! I just set it down for just a minute and need it back before it gets lost!"
She got a bit possessive of it.
It was a little gray-and-black bauble with a golden fringe, and a red bead set into its center that looked much like a dragon's eye. A 'Legend Badge', as humans call it. The first such bauble that Jane picked up in her journey, and one that carried deep sentimental value for her.
And perhaps even more so for the Druddigon since it was through her efforts that Jane had gotten the little bauble in the first place. The Dragon-type was not particularly keen on being parted from the token of her hard work, and tightened her claws around it with a sharp scowl when Jane confronted her. The girl frowned in reply and put her hands on her hips, doing her best to try and give the stubborn Dragon-type a piece of her mind.
"Look, nobody else on my team does this! Don't make me recall you into your Pokéball!"
The Druddigon responded by tucking the bauble under her stomach and laying on it, giving a sharp harrumph as she fanned her wings out to try and ignore the girl's badgering. While humans and Pokémon are bound to come to disagreements with one another, humans have a way of forcing their end of an argument if they really want to through those Pokéball things they keep Pokémon in. Smarter trainers will avoid doing that, since a Pokémon that goes into one upset has a tendency to also come out upset afterward. But Jane wasn't thinking about that at the time, and with her patience worn thin, she reached for the Druddigon's red-and-white…
"Oh? Playing a game there?"
Just as Carol happened to be walking by with her Axew along the sidewalk, with a backpack slung over her shoulder. Jane and the Druddigon turned their attention over to the pair and blinked for a moment, as Jane looked down at the Pokéball in her hand and gave an annoyed scoff.
"I wish," Jane harrumphed. "I was just about to recall Neela for a while since she's acting up a bit."
Now, the neighbor girl wasn't exactly an expert trainer herself, but she had trained an Axew as her first Pokémon. And after noticing her Axew's puzzled expression over the Druddigon and her trainer's interaction, she traded a glance between her new neighbors and cocked a brow back.
"Acting up how?" she asked. "It looks like she's just sunbathing."
she snatched my Gym Badge and now she won't give it back."
The neighbor girl blinked a moment at Jane’s reply, before cracking a bemused smile and stepping forward towards the porch.
"... Wait, that's it? You don't need to recall her over that
. Here, I'll show you a way to get your gym badge back that won't leave her upset with you."
Jane gave what had to have been the most puzzled face a thirteen-old human girl could muster as Carol neared, with her Axew following along behind her. The Axew was the first to approach the Druddigon, giving a cheerful wave as Carol stooped down and held a hand out.
"Hey, so you beat your first Gym, huh? Can I see?"
The Druddigon snorted and shifted in place, turning her eyes away. It didn't take much for her to gather that the neighbor girl had come to part her from her beloved 'Gym Badge'. And she had no intention of just rolling over and letting her take it. Carol's Axew shrank back briefly as his trainer faltered for a moment, before reaching out and giving a soft pat at the Druddigon's crested head.
"Don't worry, I'm not going to take it," the girl insisted. "I just want to see it, and show it to Chopper as well. We're going to go on a Gym Challenge in the future and it would be something for us to look forward to."
The Druddigon hesitated briefly as the neighbor girl pulled her hand back, and glanced over to see her Axew companion eyeing her curiously. After a moment's hesitation, the Druddigon slipped a claw under her body and pulled the black-and-gray bauble out, sitting up and holding it out with her claw cupped to close tight around it at a moment's notice as Carol's eyes lit up.
"Oh, that's my old hometown's Gym Badge!" she remarked. "Drayden wasn't too
hard on you out there, was he?"
"Er… his apprentice was running the Gym when I was there, actually," Jane said, giving a paw at her shoulder. "A girl named 'Iris'?"
There was a moment of awkward silence, as Carol's Axew gave a puzzled tilt of his head. After some brief hesitation, Carol shot back a sheepish grin, before turning her attention to the Druddigon.
"... Right, I forgot she took over right before we moved," she said. "You must've been really proud to beat her team, huh?"
To this day, there's some things about their trainer's words that the Does' Pokémon don't fully understand. But then, their Druddigon understood enough to put together that the neighbor girl was praising her for having bested her foes in battle. And she couldn't help but indulge her pride a bit, puffing her chest out and fanning out her wings with a satisfied grunt.
"Yeah, I figured," Carol said. "That's why I wanted to give you something in return for it."
The neighbor girl slipped her backpack off and fished around in it until she came across a small bag that rattled quietly as she moved it. She turned it over and poured it out, revealing that it contained a small collection of glass marbles of different sizes and colors.
"They're not quite
a Gym Badge, but they're pretty-looking and some of them catch the light well, don’t you think?"
I don't know how humans do it with those little glass balls, but those 'marbles' of theirs come in all sorts of colors and swirls and patterns. And it put a spark in the Axew's eyes as he reflexively reached for one and snatched it up. The Druddigon stared at her smaller counterpart as he fawned over the little glass bead, making her glance at him, and then at Carol as the girl gave a warm smile back.
"You can even play with them if you want," she said. "Chopper will show you how."
Carol gestured over at her Axew, who after a moment's pause, smiled and set the marble carefully onto the patio. The Druddigon raised a brow for a moment, before the Axew batted the marble forward with a claw and sent it rolling. The larger Dragon-type followed it with her eyes for but an instant, then she jolted down and snatched the marble up much to the Axew's surprise. She took a moment to carefully inspect it, dusted it off against her scales and gave it back to her shorter counterpart with a chiding growl in their tongue to be more careful with such a precious-looking treasure.
Now Carol didn't pick up on the specifics of that conversation between the two, but she gathered that she'd drawn the Druddigon's attention. She turned her gaze back to the marbles in her hand with a small smile, and gave them a soft jostle.
"That's more interesting than a badge you can't do anything with other than sit on, huh? So what do you say? Wanna trade?"
Carol held her hand with the marbles out in front of the Druddigon, and extended her other out alongside it, empty. After a moment's hesitation and bat of her wings, the Druddigon glanced down at the Gym Badge in her claws, and then down at the marbles. In a flash, she dropped the badge into Carol's open hand and snatched up the marbles in her other claw, before pulling them tight against her chest with a wary stare. The neighbor girl smiled over the trade gone well, and returned the badge back to the Does' daughter, who stared at her with her mouth hanging open.
"... How on earth did you know how to do
"Well… Chopper sometimes holds onto things that he picks up, and trading him something for them is an easy way to convince him to give it back, especially if it's something colorful or shiny," Carol remarked. "I'd heard stories of the less experienced Dragon-types at Opelucid's Gym sometimes getting distracted by such objects in Gym Challenges, and Druddigon are supposed to be among them, so…"
It was an educated guess on her part, really. Though given that the trailheads around Dragonspiral Tower apparently warn visitors to not disturb any artifacts. I suppose tendencies like those do make for dedicated guards to an ancient shrine.
But even so, something about Carol's explanation struck Jane as strange. Not so much with how it worked, but…
"... How many of those marbles have
you given Chopper, anyways?" she asked.
The neighbor girl paused for a moment, before giving a sheepish paw at the back of her head.
"He… has a bit of a collection by now."
And he still does to this day, even if he's grown quite a bit since that lazy summer day. I remember that he used to curl up around some of those marbles to help fall asleep. Still does, actually.
But I suppose that's getting off-topic. Even if there's a fun story behind that neighbor family, this is a story about the Does…
Now to be fair on Jane, she made some further progress with her Gym Challenge that summer. A few weeks after her triumphant return from Opelucid City, she came back again with her team and the family Druddigon after a hard-earned victory over the Mistralton City Gym.
She was preoccupied with worries about what leg to take next for her journey. She hardly felt confident about her chances facing down Brycen with a team that would probably keel over in a light frost, especially after seeing John's struggles the year before. But Driftveil City as an alternative was far enough that if she hit a wall there, she wouldn’t be able to turn tail and come home for the night.
"No, no. Neela, you're supposed to shoot them into
each other. Like this."
But such worries were far from the mind of the family's Druddigon that day as she stooped in the driveway along with the Does’ sons under the light of a setting sun. John was there about a chalk circle with the Druddigon's beloved marbles cradling a red one with a swirl, crouching down and shooting it forward with an audible clack as it bounced off others in the circle and knocked a few past the line.
The Druddigon hurried over and hastily gathered up the displaced marbles, closely inspecting each one with a worried whine before carefully setting them back down one by one after discovering they were undamaged. John and James blinked a moment at the Druddigon's ritual, before his Dragon-type companion scowled at him with an annoyed grunt. The elder brother stood there flabbergasted for a moment, before James looked at him with a puzzled frown.
"Maybe Druddigon just play marbles differently from us?"
I suppose it wouldn't be fair to judge them too harshly given that the boys weren't there to see the Druddigon's initial reaction to receiving those marbles. Fortunately for John, the moment of awkward tension was cut short after he spotted Carol walking by on the sidewalk alongside her Axew companion and a younger boy with similar hair color. The Axew tugged at her pant leg and motioned over at their neighbors, prompting Carol to wave the younger boy off for her family's house just past the fenceline, and make her way up the Does' driveway.
"Oh, there you are! I wasn't expecting to run into you on my way back home!"
The Axew gave a cheery wave over to the Druddigon, who nodded back with in reply. It was another one of those human gestures she'd picked up from her trainers, and it's a story in its own right for those interested in how humans and Pokémon influence each other… but that topic wasn't on John or James' mind that day.
No, their attention turned towards a plastic bag in Carol's hand that bore a design from some little hole-in-the-wall from Opelucid City. With his younger sister having spent much of her first month of summer break just going back and forth from there, it made John wonder…
"You're starting a Gym Challenge this
late into summer?" he asked. "Aren't you worried about not having time to make progress?"
"Oh no, nothing like that," Carol insisted. "I'm waiting until Chopper's a bit older and stronger before I take my Trainer's Leave. I don't think I'll need to wait too
much longer, though."
The Axew shot an aside glance as Carol's hand dipped into the bag and she fished through it, pulling out a pair of cloth bundles from them that she passed over to her neighbors.
"Mom and dad just took us back to Opelucid City for a day trip and thought you might want some souvenirs," she explained. "I also got one for Jane, so just pass it along to her when you run into her."
The boys unfurled their bundles and quickly discovered they were a pair of shirts meant for the summer weather that had been bought from some tourist stand. John's had a stylized design of a great white dragon on it, the very one he'd heard stories of slumbering somewhere deep within the chambers of Dragonspiral Tower to the north. While James' had a design that had been styled after one of the Dragon-types from Opelucid City’s Gym.
"Oh cool!" James said. "There's a Druddigon on this shirt!"
James' shirt at once piqued his Dragon-type companion's interest as she went over to inspect her likeness in the cloth. It was a bit distorted from reality, but the ruddy head, the piercing yellow eyes, and the azure scales… it was definitely a design of a Druddigon, alright. The family’s Druddigon gave a few tentative paws at the shirt, as John looked off at the dragon for a moment, before turning an askew glance back to Carol.
"Not that I'm complaining, but isn't this a bit much for a place that's just a day's journey by walking from here?" John asked.
"Well, I've gotta give you some motivation to see
it again," the neighbor girl chuckled. "We even got something for Neela. She seemed like she wanted a memento to remember her big gym battle with, so it'd probably be best to give it to her before she heads back off with Jane, huh?"
Carol called her Axew companion over to her side and stooped down to open the bag. At once, the Tusk Pokémon's eyes lit up, as he dug around in it and pulled out a little lump that could barely fit in his claws. Beaming with pride, the young Dragon-type sauntered over to his Druddigon counterpart, and happily presented his and his trainer's gift to his larger neighbor.
It was a resin model of Opelucid City's gym, stone dragon heads and all. The sort of cheap models that humans pick up in their wanderings to tuck away on a shelf to gather dust or else use as glorified paperweights. Now for the Druddigon, the sight of the miniature stirred up unwelcome memories of the ordeals she'd gone through just to finally bring that little Legend Badge back home. And she couldn't help but shoot an unimpressed frown in reply, before shuffling her wings and turning off for the horizon.
The Druddigon pointed off towards Dragonspiral Tower at the foothills of the mountains in the north. After all, she was no stranger to great structures that dragons called home. And in her own tongue, she explained how much a mere toy model paled before the looming tower in the distance.
The Doe children and Carol didn't understand most of that explanation. But between the Druddigon's unimpressed demeanor, and the Axew's flustered embarrassment afterwards… they were at least able to put two and two together that the gift had fallen a little short.
"... Not sure if that's how she interpreted it," John sighed. "But it's the thought that counts, right?"
John stooped down to collect the model from the Axew, who slunk off for his trainer with a low whine. The neighbor girl paused for a moment, before giving a disappointed sigh and passed off the bag in her hands to the elder Doe brother.
"... Maybe she'll feel a bit differently if she sees more of Opelucid in person? Admittedly I can't gift that
so easily… but it's a thought to keep in mind."
The girl stooped down and tugged at her Axew's claws, motioning off at their house just past the fenceline.
"Come on Chopper, we should be heading in now."
The two dragons and their trainers parted ways after that. Though all the while, had one paid attention to the Axew as he left, one might've noticed him looking off towards the horizon, peering off at the stone tower off in the north. I guess the place must've left quite the impression on him.
After all, the very next morning, right as Jane headed back out to challenge her third Gym, the John, Jane, and James found Carol's Axew stranded on the branches of one of the trees alongside the street. The Doe children were the first to notice the scene, as they came over along with their Pokémon and stared incredulously at Carol looking up at her quivering Tusk Pokémon in the branches above, clinging for dear life with his eyes screwed shut.
"Oh no… Chopper, how did you even manage to do
James' eyes darted towards the tree trunk, where faint claw impressions could be seen making their way up. He glanced up at the Axew in the branches, before turning over to Carol with a puzzled blink.
"I take it that you never learned about this from that Gym you liked to hang around?"
While Carol's mood probably would've been worse had John made one of his wisecracks there, James' question didn't do wonders for it either. The family Druddigon was present as well, having chanced to come over after hearing the Axew's cries disrupt her morning sunbathing, and gave a frowning nudge at the younger brother over the matter herself.
As for Carol’s Axew, the children's commentary was about the last thing on his mind then, as he chanced to crack his eyes open. He quickly noticed how far down the ground was relative to his little body, yelped and let out a low, frightened whine.
From the ground, John glanced up at the branch, and then off at the trunk. After seeing the claw impressions left behind, he reasoned that if an Axew could find footholds on the tree, then surely for a much taller human like him, it'd be a trivial matter.
"Well good thing he didn't get that
far up. Why, I could climb that with my eyes closed!"
John made his way up and tried to grapple onto the trunk. He tried planting his feet in between bumps and divots in its bark to pull himself up, only to find himself not getting much further than about his waist height off the ground before he lost his footing and pratfell.
Nobody watching was particularly impressed, as even the family Druddigon shot an askew glance back at him. Jane in particular was particularly biting, as she rolled her eyes with a dismissive snort.
"'I could climb that with my eyes closed,' huh?" she scoffed.
"Shut up, it's harder than it looks."
James looked at the tree trunk, and back at the Axew still shivering in the branches overhead. He tried to jump up and grab onto them himself, only for it to be about an arm's length too far for his young body to reach. The young boy let out a sigh, ready to admit defeat as he shook his head and turned back to the other children.
"Let's just ask dad to get the ladder and- huh?"
James trailed off as he saw his family's Druddigon make her way over to the tree trunk. After a moment to inspect it, she dug her claws into the wood and slowly made her way up. With her kind having adapted to clamber up rock faces and about tight caves, and with such skills allowing her peers to do much the same on ruined walls in and around Dragonspiral Tower, the tree was little match for her. After feeling out footholds and testing her grip, she slowly made her way up to the base of the branch and extended a claw out towards the cowering Axew.
The Axew cracked his eyes open and turned back, where much to his astonishment, he spotted the neighbor dragon there waiting for him. The Axew faltered briefly before warily crawling over and letting her pull him in tight into her grasp.
Slowly, the Druddigon retraced her steps down and they got back on solid ground. The Druddigon stooped down and set her Axew neighbor down, who immediately took off running for his trainer and buried his face into her legs shedding frightened tears. Carol stooped down and patted her Pokémon's head, trying to reassure her young Dragon-type as the Does and their Pokémon crowded around… including their Druddigon, who she rewarded with a sighing pat of her crest.
"Thank you so much for your help there, Neela," Carol said. "I didn't know
Chopper could climb like that, and I don't know what got into him."
The Druddigon gave a sighing growl in her tongue before motioning off towards Dragonspiral Tower in the distance. After glimpsing up at the tree branch and seeing that it had a clear line of sight to the ruins in the north, it occurred to the human children just what had gotten into the young Axew.
"Oh, so you wanted to get a better look around, huh?" Jane asked. "Well you didn't have to do something like that
The Axew sniffled a little, wiping a few stray tears from the corners of his eyes as he looked up at the Doe children and saw James beaming down at him.
"Yeah, we'd be happy to show you around!" the younger boy cheered. "We know all
the places worth seeing around Icirrus City!"
The Axew blinked a moment before his Druddigon neighbor approached and stooped down beside him, beckoning him to come in her tongue. After some brief hesitation, the Tusk Pokémon made his way over and clambered onto her crest. The Druddigon then reared up, looking off at the tower in the distance and pointing it out to her passenger as Carol looked on briefly, before turning back to her neighbors.
"... I think that we'll take you up on that sometime, actually," she said. "How about the next time you're back home, Jane?"
That day came a bit sooner than expected, since as mentioned earlier, Jane's Gym Challenge hit a wall on her third Gym. And before everyone knew it, she was back in town with her team and the family Druddigon. More than capable of delivering on that offer.
Now Icirrus City may not have quite as much history in it as that 'Opelucid' that Carol and her Axew hailed from, but it's still a lively place where you can easily mingle with others. And resting square in the shadow of one of Unova's ancient high places, you can almost feel as if you're being watched over by gods sometimes.
The tour had gone smoothly that day, with the Doe children showing their neighbors the sights about town alongside their Pokémon. Or at least it did up until close to the end of the day when the kids decided to visit one of the local windmills before heading home.
There, before long, the Doe children and Carol found themselves skulking around a set of narrow stairs in the inside one of those windmills. Icirrus City's windmills are certainly a sight to behold both inside and out, which is why there's always someone here or there in the area that tries to make some quick money taking tourists around them.
But as locals, the Doe children had gone through such windmills on their own more times than they could remember. It was hardly something that they would normally have gone into at sunset in late summer for a second look, not when it was time to return home for dinner and it’d risked getting into trouble with their parents...
"Hey! Come down from there!"
Except there were two obstacles for them to head home that day, which were sitting just out of sight on a raised loft atop a ladder. One that sported fresh claw impressions which Carol noticed, and prompted her to peer up after with her hands still cupped from her cry.
No response came, as she was left wondering how on earth her Axew managed to make the climb up after wandering off. A closer examination of the claw marks revealed that a larger Pokémon had made them, with stray blue scales quickly suggesting that the little Tusk Pokémon hadn't made the climb on his own. So then the Druddigon was also there, which while it solved the problem of finding their missing Pokémon...
"You two are going to get us into trouble!" James snapped. "We're already late for dinner!"
It didn't solve the problem of how to get them back down. The Axew and Druddigon, dutifully hiding from children's line of sight in the loft, finally called out in reply. The Axew, having grown uneasy from the scolding tone of their trainers' voices, answered back in a voice that seemed to be pleading or stalling for time. The Druddigon on the other hand, was the more forthright of the pair, and answered with a gruff and stubborn growl.
The four children blinked in confusion for a moment, only to realize that the two Dragon-types weren't making any sign of coming down the ladder. John grumbled and fished out a red-and-white Pokéball, shaking his head as he wondered what on earth had gotten into his family companion when she'd never been this stubborn about staying someplace that didn't involve clinging to warmth in the wintertime.
"What's so great about that stupid crawl space up there?" he demanded. " Some boxes?
Hurry up and get down here!"
But the Druddigon still did not yield, and responded with a still louder and gruffer growl from the top of the loft. By that time, Jane had had quite enough, and snatched the Pokéball out of John's hand before she began climbing the ladder with a disgruntled grumble.
"Come on, John," she sighed. "If she's going to make things this
difficult, we do
have a way of making sure she'll come home."
Jane clambered up the ladder, followed one by one by her siblings and their new neighbor. After Jane reached the top, she let her eyes adjust to light filtering in through an open window, where she quickly found the missing Druddigon and Axew calmly staring out of it...
"I hope you two are happy
with yourselves-? Huh?"
Jane abruptly trailed off and looked ahead, the other children catching up with her on the loft before they followed her gaze and those of the two Dragon-types... off towards a panorama of Icirrus City's north at sunset.
The children paused before walking up to the window where they gathered against a wooden railing and peered out at the distance. At once, the four immediately understood why their Pokémon had been so reluctant to leave.
The last few rays of daylight painted the sky a burnt orange, tinting the land below in warm colors. Rolling mountains and ridges in the distance poked over the horizon, with the other buildings of the city nestled among the lakes in the area that were fed by snowmelt. Other windmills like the one they were in punctuated the skyline from small bluffs, with Dragonspiral Tower looming above it all in the distance...
Why, after seeing the vista for all of a few moments, the Doe children couldn't help but feel an urge to stay a while themselves. Carol was hardly exempt from the draw of the overlook, as she stared out in quiet awe, before casting a glance back over at the two Dragon-types.
"... Oh... So that's
what you two saw up here..."
The Druddigon folded her arms and gave a gruff snort back. The Axew for his part, had a visible pang of worry cross his face, the Tusk Pokémon giving a meek look and lowering his head apologetically.
Carol hesitated briefly at her Axew's reaction, and for a moment had an urge to just let the matter be… only to harden her expression when she remembered that the two had surely gotten them into trouble with their parents. It hardly made sense just to let the two off the hook entirely in light of that. The Doe children seemed similarly inclined, as Jane narrowed her eyes and gave a sharp frown at the two Pokémon.
"Alright, so which of you two put the other up to running off like this?"
The Druddigon's brave face wavered a moment at the girl's prodding. And after sensing that she'd gotten into trouble that her trainers wouldn't let slide with an affectionate nuzzle, hastily gestured with a claw at the Axew. The Axew squeaked and stammered, pointing back with a claw of his own as the pair quickly attempted to deflect responsibility over the idea to visit the loft onto each other.
Jane blinked and stared wordlessly at the two Dragon-types, before pinching her brow. From the side, James cocked his head, as he couldn't help but smile at the Druddigon and Axew's behavior.
"... Well, you can't say that they're not like us," he said.
Which of the two was the bad influence there? Heh, well I'll let you draw your own conclusions. Though it'd hardly be the last time those two and their trainers would cross paths with each other. It’s not that difficult when they lived separated by a fenceline.
Actually… next time, I think I'll talk about another of those times they crossed paths. There's a particularly memorable episode I can think of involving them just before the Doe children went back to school that year.