• The letter was small, inconspicuous, and seemingly benign. On flipping it over, I saw a small coat of arms emblazoned on the reverse. Trying to keep my happiness as concealed as possible, I grabbed the letter-opener and tore through the envelope with a vigour that had been hidden under my depression for more than three months. Taking the pearl-coloured paper from inside the envelope with amazing care, I opened the folds gently and closed my eyes, taking a deep breath and counting gently to three.

    "Three," I whispered, eyes still closed.

    "Two," I said, louder this time, eyes cracking open slightly with the anticipation.

    "One." My eyes opened and scanned the paper.

    My dog, Sandy, took that moment to come skidding into the kitchen. "There's a good girl. Who's looking for a hug? Who's a good girl?" I said confusedly, patting the huge Labrador’s golden coat, reading the spidery, handwritten words on the paper with an amazed look in my eyes.

    You have been chosen to attend the Pokémon Academy on Seven Island. This once in a lifetime experience is extended only to those who have shown great aptitude in the pursuit of knowledge about the great and noble race of Pokémon Trainers.

    You have been picked from the millions of applicants in the region of Kanto to attend this school for one year to extend and pursue your dreams of becoming one of those in that great league of Trainers. One hundred students of Pokémon have been chosen. Five will make it into Pokémon Trainership. Goodbye, and good luck.

    Lance, of the Elite Four

    I almost fell over in excitement. Running into the living room, I ran to my father, a long-time trainer. Now old, grey-haired and out of steam, he often told me his one dream had once been to have control of the most powerful Pokémon in all of Kanto. Now, he simply looked at me with those grey eyes, full of wisdom, and took in the coat of arms with a sigh. Never one to bandy with words, he spoke with careful, short sentences.

    "The Pokémon Academy? You've done me proud. When I said I wanted you to follow in my footsteps, I never meant exactly! I know you'll do well. Just remember - don't always go for power. Sometimes, the strongest Pokémon is not the biggest, not the smartest. Sometimes, the strongest is the one with the largest heart. Remember that."

    I nod, speechless with adoration for my father. He had learnt in all of his years what I could never hope to learn with my one-year internship. All that I could hope for was to become a just shadow of the glory that he was; all that I could dream of was to become just a glimmer of the shining light that he still is.


    My first day at the Academy proved the most confusing, weird, amazing day of my life. Arriving at the nondescript, modern high-rise in Seven Island's Ruin Valley, I could not help but gasp in astonishment. In the centre of the huge valley a large cave stood.

    Long ago, a single, lone trainer had discovered its meaning - huge, carved dots sat silently on two large columns, dictating the travels of one trainer, and one trainer alone. These dots had since been carbon-dated, examined and photographed; their secrets were no longer secret, their special qualities no longer special.

    The doors to the cave - long since opened - had been painted, refurbished and cleaned. And a dark-haired man in a vibrant blue suit and a brilliant red cape stood at the entrance.


    Lance the Dragon Trainer, leader of the Elite Four in their great stronghold in Pokémon League, just along Victory Road, beckoned to who I guessed were the one hundred applicants who had been accepted into the great Pokémon Academy.

    “For those who know not who I am -”

    “How could anyone not know who you were?” a voice from the crowd piped up. Titters ran through the assembled students and Lance smiled.

    “I see the formalities will only cause impatience in you, our young trainers,” he said quietly, with a hint of humour in his voice. “I am Lance, and I extend to you the greatest of thanks for accepting our invitations. You will be part of what will become a brilliant experiment in Pokémon Trainers.”

    I started. Experiment? I thought. What could they possibly mean? It was a confusing dilemma, and one that sent a shiver down my spine.

    Others were not so perceptive. A cheer rose from the surrounding young adults.

    I was fifteen, and from a quick look around I guessed that the others were around that age too. One more annoying fact that showed from my fast sweep of the surroundings was that there were far more guys there than girls. I ground my teeth in frustration; all my life I had been branded the ‘girl trainer’, the freak who didn’t play with dolls and clothes but rather crawled around in grassy fields and muddy caves searching for strong and rare Pokémon. The ratio was about one to ten; therefore, it seemed I would attempt make nine friends here, and possibly any of the less annoying guys.

    Lance was talking again. “Now that you have all taken a look at your peers, I would like to call you into this cave. The Dotted Hole, an ancient cave decked out with technology far beyond our time, will be your guide to choosing your lifelong partner Pokémon.”

    I gasped. A partner Pokémon? One that would stay with me for life? It was only my greatest dream! Becoming a trainer gave someone the authorisation to keep the Pokémon that they caught, and even just days before when I had gone out with my father on his training missions with his partner Pokémon, Blaziken, I had been envious of his ability to store the new and unfound Pokémon on his PC. Those six Pokéballs at his waist, and the other few hundred in his bag, meant he commanded respect and admiration from everyone whom he passed, and they meant he could capture and tame any Pokémon he felt like. There was a feeling within me, and it was burning ambition. To become a trainer was all I wished for in life; I discovered this now.

    Lance spoke once more, waving his arms elegantly for silence. “As you can see, I am becoming old and my powers are seeping from me. But I can still take on any Pokémon and live to tell the tale! I will be your guide, your leader, and your teacher for your journey. Now when I call your name, step forward. You may say a few words if you wish. And, beware, students,” he said carefully and quietly so to attract our undying attention, “These results are in order of our choosing you. The first person called will be the first candidate picked, the second the second person picked, and so on. This is a fiercely competitive contest. I want you all to strive for your best – but do not forget the others who are in this race also. If you are the kindest of all, with the largest heart, your Pokémon will love you, become intensely loyal to you, and even grow and learn faster and become stronger and bigger. So it works for those who wish to be breeders –“

    A few small cheers rose from the crowds of parents gathered at the back, and I saw the telltale bandannas and aprons of the breeders. A small Pichu clung to the legs of one of the men, and a Clefairy nested in another lady’s seemingly untameable wild hair.

    “For those who wish to battle –“

    Another cheer, this time from a group of largely-built, stocky men standing with the parents; these men roared as one and waved flags and banners in the air, with pictures and stylised cartoons of strong-looking, valiant Fire, Grass or Water Pokémon fighting against Dark or Ghost types. These banners were different colours, and I recognised some of the different PokéClans, but others seemed unusual and bizarre. It was then I realised that these adults had come from all over Kanto - and their children too. So many different cultures, so many different ways of capturing, training and loving Pokémon that I had never experienced! It was going to be hard to get used to it all.

    “And also for those who wish simply to journey into the world with their partner and see all there is to see, solve all of life’s mysteries, and capture every Pokémon; in those, we see special potential. And now, in order of our specific preference, I give you ... your trainers.”

    A cheer rose from the crowd, my father among the loudest. A flock of Pidgeys flew, startled, from a large oak tree behind us, and a governing Pidgeotto looked disapprovingly down at the noisy congregation. I also saw a few timid Rattata scamper into the holes beneath the same trees; they were just average Pokémon, ones my father said were among the first he ever caught on his Pokémon Trainer journey, and they didn’t pique my interest – much.

    “First,” Lance said, his delicate voice straining over the raucous roars of his audience, “I give you – Mayella Lee Curtis.”

    I was shocked beyond words. That was my name. I was the first person to be called up; I was the first person chosen for the great Pokémon Academy. Even my father was shocked into silence – but not for long.

    “I always knew you had it in you, girl! Go, May! Go for it! Do it for your brother!”

    I stumbled on my way to the steps and tears sprang to my eyes, but not from the pain of my grazed knee. Quickly, I wiped them away and ascended to the podium at the top of the stairs, looking up into the sparkling eyes of Lance the Dragon Trainer, once the illustrious Leader of the Elite Four. The likes of my father and better had stood up to him and won, or lost, depending on their skills. He was the best there was, and a born performer. He swept his cape aside and beckoned me to the podium.

    I was shy. “I wouldn’t know what to say,” I mumbled, and he shook his head.

    “Nonsense. Your father would have none of it, girl. Whenever he took me on in the Pokémon League, he would always concoct the most ridiculous sentences to challenge me with. They became weirder and weirder each time until I finally decided I could beat the man at his own game.

    "You know,” he said conversationally, “He made me into the great speaker I am, your father did. Had he never come along, young bloke that he was, I would never have become a leader, never been as strong as I am – or I was. He’s my rival; did you know that?”

    I couldn’t speak. Lance the Dragon Trainer was talking to me on a friendly basis! Lance the Dragon Trainer was friends with my father! It was mind-blowing.

    “I don’t know if I want to say anything,” I said, more confidently this time. “You know, people might think I’m cocky and all that.”

    Lance nodded. “Too right. Indeed, you should stay simple; maybe you could dedicate your journey to someone special?”

    I knew that he meant my father, but I had other plans. Lance had given me a brilliant idea.

    I stepped up to the podium. “Hello all,” I started, my voice echoing over the PA system, and then realised how stupid I sounded. Some people in the crowd voiced that same opinion; my belief was that it was the students who had thought they would be first chosen, or those whose fathers had paid their way in. I had heard from my own father – with a large amount of distaste - that that could happen.

    I shuffled my feet and looked at the podium, too afraid to make eye contact. An unusually small Weedle inched his way along the wooden stand, and sat, oozing small amounts of poison, on Lance’s ruffled pile of notes. The caterpillar-type Pokémon looked up at me with eyes wide and wise, and seemed to wink at me, as if to say, Get on with it, you know what you want to say, just do it for us, for Pokémon. I smiled, and nodded a barely perceptible nod, and trembled a little. The Weedle stuck its sting into the wood, reinforcing his point, and drew it out, leaving a tiny purple trail of poison. I took my courage from him, and took a deep breath.

    I began again. “Today marks a new beginning.” Behind me, I saw Lance give me a small thumbs up, hidden beneath his cloak from everyone except me. “I am here because I was chosen, as we all were. Therefore, we are all on equal footing, no matter who our parents are.”

    With the speech I was improvising on the spot I had hoped to befriend all of those who had worked hard to reach their spots; the rich, cocky trainers I could not care less about. “I wish to dedicate my journey to –“

    My father seemed to swell with pride, and I swear he almost let out a sentence beginning with ‘that’s me,’ when I said “My dearest brother Dean. May he rest, in peace.”

    Everybody sighed, as was expected from the crowd of jostling people. My father had tears in his eyes.

    “My brother Dean, when I was five, pulled me from the way of a hurtling train. In return, he himself was hit, and he never recovered. He died when I was seven from multiple spinal injuries. He was sixteen at the time and eighteen when he died. He should have been the one standing here. He was brave and loyal and amazingly good at communicating with Pokémon. What he taught me while he was lying in hospital, unable to move, was that Pokémon are not pets, or objects. They are like people, with feelings and thoughts, likes and dislikes, loyalty and hatred and jealousy and we should treat them as such. I wish to dedicate my journey to him, so that I may try to learn what he knew totally and utterly. To my dearest Dean; my brother forever.”

    Lance smiled. I had done well, it seemed. I stepped from the podium and onto the path into the cave, stopping only on the threshhold to take one last look at my father's waving arm and smiling, round face. I would do him proud, no matter what.