Spring AH 147
Ilex Forest, former Johto Region
Ilex Forest, former Johto Region
“It’s a Pokémon.”
Dalton Gregg still couldn’t believe his eyes. Staring at them from a corner of this forest clearing was a creature clearly not of human origin.
It was not the first time Dalton had ever seen a Pokémon. He was aware of that. He’d glimpsed a few in an old storybook several years ago – an action he later came to regret terribly. Also, he’d always had a feeling that the birds that occasionally flapped in and out around Azalea City were Pokémon, too. It was just that no one called them that. The small, brown-and-cream creatures that sometimes appeared were called ‘day-birds’, as they appeared in the daytime. Every now and again, Dalton caught a peek of a ‘night-bird’ – a round, brown thing with huge eyes that was usually long gone by sunrise.
This creature was not either of those – nor was it any creature that Dalton recognized from that old storybook…or any creature that Dalton recognized, period. If it looked like anything at all, Dalton would have said that it looked a bit like a rodent. But this was unlike any other rat that Dalton had seen. First off, it was a very dainty color somewhere in the neighborhood of lilac, save for a few darker splotches scattered around its body. A pair of quite large buck teeth protruded from its open mouth. Its ears were also quite large and a bit jagged. Whiskers protruded from its cheeks, and blunt but obvious spines ran down its back. Lastly, on its forehead between the two red eyes, there was a short horn.
It was tiny, maybe standing a couple of feet off the ground, if that. Also, it seemed to be walking a bit unevenly. One of its four legs was ginger against the grass, almost like it pained the creature to put any weight on it.
Dalton frowned. “Professor, I think it’s hurt.”
McCourt looked at Dalton, almost astonished. “How do you know?”
Dalton pointed at it. “Look at the way it’s walking…and the expression on its face.”
McCourt silently stared at the bluish, rodent-like creature for a couple of moments, then stroked the stubble on his chin. “Yes, you’re right…it appears to be some sort of problem with its leg or foot. That’s a shame.”
Dalton looked at McCourt. “A shame?”
McCourt nodded. “I’d have to say its days are numbered. It’s got no shot of escaping any potential predators with an injury like that. Not to mention it’s obviously tired.”
Dalton bit his lip. “We can’t just leave it here…”
Professor McCourt’s blond locks undulated back and forth as he shook his head. “What can we do for it, Dalton? Mother Nature is beautiful, but she is also harsh at times. She chooses which individuals under her domain will survive.”
Dalton stood there and thought for a second. The creature limped toward them, seemingly torn between apprehension and curiosity.
“N-n-nih…” it squeaked. As it came down on its feet again, its eyes closed and its face contorted in a way that, even on a Pokémon, Dalton couldn’t take to mean anything but pain and distress. He took a deep breath as a plan forged itself in his brain.
“With Lucy gone…” Dalton muttered. Part of his mind still wasn’t willing to accept it. “I’m living by myself now. If I could get it back into the city somehow, maybe I could nurse it back to health.”
“It’s not worth it,” McCourt said seriously. “Don’t you realize that we’re breaking the law just by being out here? If you came back into the city with a Pokémon…not getting into the Royal Historian Society would be the least of your worries. Being caught in possession of a Pokémon is a capital crime.”
“Not worth it, huh?” repeated Dalton, and for the first time, he was a bit angry at McCourt. “If I don’t help it, who will?”
“Something will,” McCourt sighed with resignation. “Eventually, whatever’s higher up on the food chain – or maybe just protecting its territory – will come along, put the poor thing out of its misery. And you know what? It’s probably easier that way.”
“Law of the jungle, huh?” Dalton snapped bitterly, looking down and clenching his fists. “Yeah, I know all about it. Everybody gave up on me, too – probably thought I should just go ahead and die… ‘cause it’d be ‘easier that way.’ Then Ms. Lucy came along. She saw me and decided that I deserved a chance…”
An invisible hand choked him around the throat and he could speak no more.
“That’s a different situation, Dalton,” McCourt answered firmly. “…And you know it.”
“Isn’t this Pokémon a living creature?” Dalton retorted, shaking his head and trying to blink back the tears that were forming at the corners of his eyes. “If so, it deserves a chance to live!”
McCourt exhaled sharply. He seemed to be trying to hide a small smile. “You’re a hero and a fool, Dalton Gregg. I hope you’re aware of that.”
Dalton knelt down in front of the rodent-like monster, who backed away one painful step out of surprise. Its trembling, red eyes stared at Dalton, who put his hands down toward it.
“Come on,” he whispered in the most gentle voice he could muster. “I’m not gonna hurt you.”
But the rodent creature, bad leg and all, backed up again, punctuating its motion with a refusing cry of “Wrrraaaahhhhnnnnnggg!”
“You see? It won’t even accept your help,” McCourt sighed. “I’d be surprised if it’s even seen a human being before. You must be the scariest creature in existence to it right now.”
“Maybe it has seen a human being before…” Dalton muttered darkly. “Maybe that’s how it got hurt.”
“That’d be just perfect,” McCourt scoffed. Dalton gave him a weird look for a second, before realizing that the professor was being sarcastic. “It would just give the Party more credence to its argument. They believe that the human world and the Pokémon world should be kept as separate as possible, because they are too different. As different as black and white, you could say…”
“That’s a naïve way of looking at things,” Dalton grunted.
“I agree,” replied McCourt, sadly observing the injured creature. “But shades of gray are messy…complicated. No one’s around any longer that’s got the guts to deal with a world like that.”
“…What should I do?” asked Dalton, seemingly lost.
“Why ask me? You’ve already decided,” McCourt answered simply. “I think the real question is…are you prepared to deal with the consequences of your decisions?”
“Consequences?” Dalton repeated.
The answer to his question could not have been more prompt – or more violent.
A loud crack split the air. Several screeches and cries came from the trees, and winged creatures flapped wildly in their attempts to escape the sudden disturbance. Dalton stared at McCourt. The professor had a blank, vacant, almost shocked look in his eyes. The twinkle that had been there was now completely gone. One of his hands found its way to his stomach, where, to Dalton’s great horror, rivulets of red began to run over the professor’s fingers. The red was beginning to spread from near the middle of his white shirt.
It was only then that Dalton understood what had happened. “Professor? PROFESSOR!”
Everett McCourt, already sinking to the ground, could only utter one more word in a strained whisper:
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