by Matt Koester
Jelli didn’t expect Kanto to feel so small. She’s always heard the stories. Just walking around Johto, strangers would tell her of its majesty.
Maybe she was wrong, but Kanto didn’t feel like the stories.
Wandering through Vermillion, she saw a gym. She was still a bit seasick when she defeated its leader.
“Lieutenant Surge sets traps.” she’d been told. “Luckily for you, the traps aren’t working today.”
She knew the whole story. How here He sorted through trash to unlock that gym’s doors. How later he tamed three legendary birds before retreating from the public eye.
She knew the eruption on Cinnabar. The graves hastily taken out of the tower in Lavender. The sunken dungeon.
* * *
Jelli’s phone rang. Beth from Route 26. She gave Beth her number on a whim, and they’d battle when she was training for the League. Beth actually grew up in that in-between area, although she always pretended she didn't. It made it easier to meet new people.
“My lil’ babies are doing great if you wanna battle.” she told Jelli. “I love my Rapidash. Have you ever ridden one? It’s like riding a fresh baked bread.”
“Oh yeah, maybe. I’m in Kanto.”
“You and me both.”
“Real Kanto. I just got off the boat.”
“And you answered my phone call? Aren’t you doing champion stuff?”
“I don’t even know what that means.” Jelli said.
“Me neither, but next time I see you, bring me a Clefairy!”
* * *
Maybe Jelli wasn’t giving Kanto the respect it deserved. She plowed through every gym without trouble. She didn’t have to adjust strategies or mix up her team like in Johto. She used to have to save up for Poké Balls, but since winning the league, she’d been wealthy.
Sometimes Kanto was a museum to the old champion. The corporate tower he liberated from criminals. The boarded-up Safari Zone where he found the warden’s missing teeth.
Sometimes it was a mausoleum. Cerulean City’s gym sat empty, its pool still lukewarm. Two people sat still on Cycling Road.
Sometimes, Kanto felt like a pilgrimage. She, a pilgrim in doubt.
She felt His steps before her as she crisscrossed through the region. Same coast. Roads. Caves. Rock Tunnel. Diglett’s Cave. She decided she’d find that Clefairy.
“You’re here too?” the red-haired boy asked. “I figured it would be a good place to train.”
She hadn’t seen him since Victory Road. The boy who talked about his Pokemon like they were fists. He stole his first Pokemon, but hated criminals. He thought his power was his own. She wiped the floor with him every encounter.
“I’ve been thinking about what Lance said.” he’d told Jelli last time. “But I don’t want to change. I just want to be better.”
Normally he’d speed off, often before they could even finish a battle. He stuck around today.
“I’ll be here next week too.” he said. “Maybe I’ll see you?”
Jelli wished he was a Clefairy. ◒
Matt Koester is a writer, musician, artist and journalist based in Illinois. His work has appeared on ZEAL, Videodame, Micro//Macro, and his blog nomore.games. He is currently working as a composer on the upcoming indie game "We Are Undying," and as a reporter at the Galesburg Daily Register-Mail. He mains Link in Smash.