Everyone arrived in their order of rank, with the last and one-hundredth person, a girl by the name of Sophy, landing flushed and embarrassed. I saw the blonde boy immediately single her out to assert his dominance and second place. I moved towards her, just getting there first and standing in front of her to protect and shield her from any type of bullying, physical or otherwise. Blondie scowled.
“You think that you can protect your friends by standing there with that tiny little water-snake?”
I looked at the girl, as if to say, We’re friends now? and she seemed to agree. I gazed back at the blonde-haired boy.
“You think just because you were chosen second you have the right to make fun of others. Well, let me tell you what, kid,” I said with special emphasis, “My tiny, little water-snake is going to blow your mind when she grows up into a big, huge dragon.” I suddenly realised that I had called my Dratini her, but it seemed to fit.
The boy laughed. “That is not a dragon! You’re delusional. Dragons are mighty, and powerful! Much better-looking than that tiny thing.”
I stiffened, and my Dratini puffed up, angered by the insult to its form. I retorted angrily, “So let’s see who you chose, then, before you make judgements of other Pokémon.”
He made a whistling noise and twitched his fingers a little, and a huge, lumbering Pokémon came to his side. It took me a moment to recognise it, but when I did it hit me like a speeding train; Electabuzz. Three feet tall and with arcing electricity all over its body, the Electric-type Pokémon looked at me menacingly, huge paws fisted and black stripes seemingly tingling with power. My Dratini shrunk away, aching to be away from the electricity, and I groaned.
If he caught my Dratini while she was swimming, she would be blasted by the conducted electricity, and that could seriously harm her. I shivered.
“Alright, tough guy. You may have won this battle, but I ... we’re going to win this war.” The boy stalked away, Electabuzz trailing behind. I placed my arms around Sophy’s shoulders, and she shrugged into me a little.
“You were brilliant,” she whispered, and I smiled.
“Sometimes, the little people need a little hand.” I looked behind her. “Now where’s your partner Pokémon?”
Sophy smiled. “You know what? I could totally own that Electabuzz with my Bonemerang move.” I gasped. Could it be?
A short, stumpy little Cubone waddled towards me, nodded politely, nearly losing her bone helmet, and I felt a little spark of hope burst into life within me. The Ground-type Pokémon was perfect! I had made friends with the right person. Now, we were more than enough to match the blonde-haired boy.
I realised then that I didn’t know his name. “Hey, Sophy?”
“Yeah?” she said, while petting the Cubone idly.
“What is that kid’s name?”
“Albert,” she said, though she pronounced it ‘Alberrr.’
“Albert?” I laughed. “Albert?”
She nodded, smiling a huge, toothy grin. I burst out laughing, and it was so infectious soon she was laughing too. Albert turned viciously, but with a careful eye on the Cubone, now alert and ready to fight, he turned back to whatever he was telling his Electabuzz.
When the tears stopped rolling down my face and I could breathe once more, I asked Sophy to accompany me into out dormitories.
I had been right in my earlier assumption that there were nine other girls; in fact, I had been exactly right. Our dormitory held five, myself, Sophy and – as luck would have it – her amazingly protective Cubone, Aggie, a young, frizzy-haired redhead with a Charmander, Freema, a young girl with a cute, small Eevee and big dreams of evolving it to become a Jolteon, and Grace, a young Breeder’s daughter who was nursing a shy Oddish. In the other room, five other girls resided in the remaining girls’ four-poster beds, and I resolved to meet them sometime.
But now, I had to figure out exactly where I was.
“People, people, pay attention,” sounded Lance, delicately clapping for silence. “Now, I will explain to you where you are to go for this first week. My first question is this; did you all have a nice flight?”
The answers were varied; some enjoyed it, visibly – and audibly – applauding his Salamence’s flying skills; some were neutral; and some hated the experience, and were still a little green around the gills. I was glad to see that Albert fitted into the latter party.
“The agenda is filled, students, so listen closely and then I’ll release you to your common rooms.”
A small whisper ran around the room. Common room? I thought. Now what is this?
Lance flapped his arms, palms down, and called for silence again. “These common rooms are organised by type or your Pokémon. Please wait while I call out the names.”
First was Grass-type Pokémon; leafy, tall and most often green, these were the preferred Pokémon of the Breeders and the people who wanted an easily-trained, fast-growing Pokémon.
He went through Fire, Water, Ground and Rock-type Pokémon, naming each person, and then went through Normal, Dark, Ghost and Steel-types. He went through Poison, he went through Electric; finally, as if it has been ages, I was one of two people left. He stood with a Bagon by his side, and I stood with my Dratini; we smiled across the room and went over to greet each other.
“Looks like we’re buddies,” he said conversationally, then shook my hand. “Jack,” he said politely. “Nice to meet you.”
I returned the handshake, and said, “Mayella. Please, call me May. I’m glad to see you aren’t totally into this whole competition thing.”
He grinned, and took from his pocket a white bandanna. I recognised the clothing of the Breeders, and realised who he was as he said, “My parents taught me that all Pokémon should be treated with care and love, that they shouldn’t be made to battle over and over. I want my Bagon to grow up healthy and strong, and moreover nice.”
This day was going better and better.
Our common room was built into the rock of the foundation stones at the very bottom of the Academy; like a dungeon, it was creepy and sinister, but when we passed through our special door and into the room, we were in for a pleasant surprise.
The room was well-lit and cosy, with chairs lining the walls dressed in purple draperies and covers. On the wall was a big picture of Lance with his Pokémon team, an old photograph back in his Elite Four days. He looked much younger and seemed handsomer, but he had lost none of the vitality he possessed in the picture. My new friend Jack walked over with his Bagon and relaxed in a chair, grabbing a pillow and stuffing it behind his head. His Bagon settled comfortably, butting the steady rock of the chair leg with its hard forehead.
“You see, the deal is we spend all of our free time here, training and studying and things, because they’ve organised it so that we have our little study-buddy groups all in the same type-group. So we’re together in all of our classes, there’s ten in a class. I think we’re also paired with Poison and Dark.” I sighed inwardly. That meant I was nowhere near any of my friends – but I was also nowhere near Albert, which was a definite pro.
I walked into the room adjoining the main room, and gasped. Jack was there immediately.
“There’s even a little pool!” I screamed in delight, and indeed there was. Shiny and sparkling, and incredibly deep, it was perfect for training my Dratini. “It’s like they knew we were coming!”
Jack grinned. “There are only a few different types of Dragon-type Pokémon, May, and I think they prepared for everything. Hey, look!” he called, moving into a new room, “There’s even a head-butting wall!”
I giggled, and looked into the room Jack was pointing to. There was a thick wall, indented with small, round markings that were so obviously spots where the previous Dragon student had taught his or her Bagon to Headbutt. “Looks like we’re all set, then. I’m going to get to training straight away!”
Jack simply fell into his newly-found favourite chair and sighed, “I’m too exhausted.” When I asked why, he said, “I had to stand and wait for ninety-seven trainers to go up and get their Pokémon, didn’t I?”
We both laughed. “I’m so sorry!” I said, really meaning it. “I think I might head to my dormitory now. What time is it? It feels so late, but I suppose that must be just down here in the dungeons.”
Jack looked at a wall clock and then hurriedly scrambled to his feet. “Crap! It’s nine o’clock already! We’re half an hour late!”
We ran up to our respective dormitories, Jack to the fifth of eighteen guy’s rooms, and me to mine. The other four girls were already settled in their pyjamas and retired to bed. I quicky slipped into my green pjs and clambered under the covers, and none too soon; somebody knocked a few minutes later.
My heart still beating, I opened the door just a tad. Lance stared at me, dressed in as little clothing as I was. I kept the door shut tight, only letting my face into the light. The girls behind me were just groggily waking up.
"Lance? We're all asleep! Why are you here?"
"May! I'm so sorry, I thought I heard somebody running about ... Anyway, goodnight, girls. Sleep well. At least you're quieter than those rowdy boys - your friend Jack included."
I went scarlet red and wrung my hands. "Ah, so goodnight, then, Lance. You should head to bed too -" I suddenly realised what I was saying, and stood sheepishly.
Lance only smiled. "Yes, I should. It's going to be a big day tomorrow. Get some sleep, and be prepared." He turned to go, but I called him back with a few whispered words.
"For what? Prepared for what?"
Lance looked at me gravely, and then down at the Dratini snaking up my left arm.
"Just be prepared."
I would not take that for any answer.
"What? Tell me, Lance! What?"
He turned his steel grey eyes on me.
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