Note: This is a tale set in the world of Pokémon. While many of the characters in this story are of my own creation, I do not own the canon characters and do not intend to profit from this story in any way.

<-- The tale of Popolo: Part 2 ll The Tale of Popolo: part 4 -->

A week later, I stood at the beginning of the road to Cherrygrove. Waist-high grasses1 waved on either side of the road, just on the edge of dark woods. The path curved out of sight, up ahead.

 Behind me lay the town, in its tiny, weathered, wooden splendor. Before me stood a road I’d never taken without Ethan by my side. Well, a road I’d never taken without Ethan insisting I ought to have his company. He was always saying it wasn’t safe for me to go on my own. And every time we went there, he was catching one Rattata or another.

He had a silver tongue, did Ethan. Or something like that. He never let me see how he did it, but every time we went out, a few more Rattata followed us home. That fellow knew something about Pokémon that had them lining up behind him like baby ducks. Maybe he’d found something in that library that I’d missed.

But here I stood now, without Ethan, thank goodness, but off on a quest to find him. So he was still involved in my life. The irresponsibility of boys, I tell you. And they get away with it, unless hauled in by the ear, and that’s what I had to do.

I heard footsteps coming up fast behind me, and turned around. There was Mr. Elm, huffing and puffing.

            “What is it?” I said. “Have I forgotten anything?”

            “Not forgotten. We’ve had a robbery.”

            “What? Who did it? Where did they go?”

            “It was some red-headed boy2 who’d been lurking around the library. I saw him a few minutes ago running toward Cherrygrove, and he had a Pokéball in his hand, and when I checked the library my Totodile was missing.”

            “So you want me to go and find him?”

            “If you can. But he has a Pokémon, so he could be dangerous. Don’t engage him if you can avoid it. Just go to Cherrygrove and tell my friend where the boy is. Or if you can’t find him. There are only so many places he could have gone.”

            Great. Another boy to keep track of. I kicked at a rock. “Who’s your friend?”

            “He calls himself Mr. Pokémon. Just be sure to call him by that name. He’s another researcher like me, and he’s full of hot air. Actually…I need you to visit him in any case. See why he hasn’t been responding to my letters. We usually have good correspondence.”

            “Anything else you need me to do?” I tapped my foot.           

            “ Just know that the Rattata stick to the tall grass,” said Mr. Elm. “If you keep to the road, you ought to be fine.”

            “Well, that shouldn’t be too – ”

            “And some places on the road are overgrown with tall grass.”

            “Well, if I run through them – ”

            “Running will just draw their attention. I know what you do best, but you’ll have to go slow this time. Trust your Pokémon to take care of you in case that doesn’t work.”

            I glared at him. “Fine. Anything else I need to know? How to bandage a wound, maybe? How to avoid infection? How to know which berries are safe and which aren’t?”

            “Didn’t Ethan tell you about all that?”

            That was true, but I was getting impatient.

            “So you want me to contact you after I’ve done those two things? Found Mr. Pokémon and maybe the thieving redhead?”

            “If you would be so kind.”

            “I don’t know,” I said, looking towards the road. “This just seems like more homework.”

            Mr. Elm harrumphed. “There’s no more homework, young lady! You’re leaving home! You’re going out into the world and becoming an adult! I just need you to do those two things, alright? That won’t take long. Then you can go and be as adventurous as you want.”

            “Not too long,” I said, “Right.” I set off down the road.

1: Waist-high grass, also known as Pokémon Grass, Butcher Grass, and Don’t Go In There, is native to the coast of Johto, and extends a fair distance into Kanto. Highly prized by collectors of rare Pokémon, its presence on lawns is considered a blessing or a pestilence, depending on whom you ask. Campaigns to have it eradicated from Kanto have been proposed by poor farmers who expend much effort in keeping it at bay, and stymied by wealthy estate owners who cultivate it for its Pokémon-attracting abilities (“Grass fit for Darkrai himself,” Anon. Better Gardens for Better Homes, October 8, 3394.)

2: Readers of the Saga of Unown will be familiar with this figure, commonly called Question Mark, as he is the hero of that tale. He also appears in the first books of the Kanto Cycle, the Song of Charizard, and Giovanni Furioso. He is a figure nearly as old as Popolo herself; he plays the role of trickster in Kantonese mythology. To the people of the northeast Cerulean Peninsula he is a heroic trickster, one whose mistakes caused the lighting of the stars and the voices of the people; to those closer to Sliph City he is a villainous buffoon. Popolo’s tale appears to begin by agreeing with the Silphites, but pay attention to the unnamed redhead as he continues to appear.

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