Chapter 78, everybody! Good news, I think we're good for the next chapters, might have to go through them again to iron them out but the next couple of chapters should be set! And then this chapter we get to see some Pokémon chatting, always fun.
Moving on to reviews: thank you frostxd60, Segwayman, Rogue147, Dragonkeeper10, thor94, DeathCrawler, talesfanjmf, Cyan Quartz, The Mystery Assassin, epantoja521, Reader, Viruz pirate, and major wallace, thanks for the reviews! Always nice to see appreciation for the Team Rocket trio. XD
Pokémon © Game Freak; Nintendo
And now, for something completely different:
The Pokémon League would like to remind all trainers to consider Pokémon relations in the wild when housing their Pokémon. Please do not put your Vulpix or Fennekin in with your Torchic. Thank you.
Pikachu was much happier with his massage, for the record, especially after that mess Team Rocket did was combed out.
"Oh-oh-oh-oh yeah," he groaned. "Thi-i-i-s is the li-i-i-ife."
"So this is going well," Bulbasaur observed, tipping his head at Pikachu before looking over at Horsea. "And how are you doing?"
"Really glad that this isn't just washing right off," Horsea said, swimming around in the little pool. "I was worried it would."
"So the moral of this story is 'different strokes for different folks.'"
"Duh," Darkrai noised from the shadows, making Togepi perk up and run over. "No, go away, shoo."
"Mum!" Togepi trilled.
"I am not your mother."
"No for a number of reasons, starting with 'I'm a Dark type,' going through to 'I'm a different species' and settling firmly at 'I'm the wrong gender.' Go bother Misty."
"That's right," Bulbasaur said, nodding. "'Dad' would be a better title."
"You're not helping," Darkrai grumbled, sinking further into the shadow he was hiding in as he glared at Bulbasaur.
Bulbasaur made a noncommitted noise at that, looked over at Misty coming over. "There, see? Here she comes now."
"Hey Togepi, ready for some lunch?" Misty asked, crouching down next to the little egg Pokémon.
"Dad!" Togepi chirped, causing both Bulbasaur and Darkrai to start choking and spluttering.
"What's the matter with you two?"
Considering Darkrai had fully sunk into the shadows to keep from being overheard, Bulbasaur was pretty sure she wasn't getting an answer right now. Wave her off, causing her to declare them weird before carting Togepi off to the table.
"Ahhhh…maybe someday we can explain gender concepts better to the kid," Bulbasaur decided, rolling to his stomach. Tipped his head at the shadow, decided he wasn't getting an answer right now, shoved to his feet and padded over to where Brock was serving lunch under this Suzie lady's supervision.
"And you say you're self-taught?" she asked.
"Well, some of this was home-ec class," Brock said. "And then some of it was reading cookbooks and watching cooking shows…I did find this one really nice website where people upload their recipes, so that's cool."
"I think I know that website. And the fact that Vulpix likes it too says a lot—usually I can't get her to eat anything I didn't make myself."
"That's because the storebought stuff tastes like garbage and nobody else knows how to properly season food," Vulpix said in-between bites.
"There is something to say about homemade," Bulbasaur agreed, nodding and sitting when Brock put a dish in front of him.
"It's the homey touch," Drowzee agreed.
"Not sure what to make of the garnish though," Patches said, causing Zubat to pause in her eating to look around.
"Wait, there's a garnish?" she asked.
"It's like a piece of parsley, you're fine," Bulbasaur told her. "It's like…a palate cleanser, or something."
"This is parsley?" Geodude asked, pinching it out to look at it.
"I'm pretty sure it's parsley. It could be cilantro."
"Moving on from the garnish," Vulpix said. "What's it like, traveling around with a trainer? I kind of want to, but Suzie doesn't want to leave the place."
"It's all right, for the most part," Bulbasaur told her. "Unless you run into some weirdo."
"Like that nutty magician that hypnotized Ash and the rest of the team," Patches muttered.
"Or Team Rocket," Geodude said. "But they sort of fall into the 'harmless' category."
"Oh," Zubat said. "I thought he was talking about Drowzee."
"That was ONE TIME," Drowzee protested.
"But it's REALLY FUN travelling around and exploring!" Vee put in.
"What are we talking about?" Pikachu asked, coming over with a plate drowned in ketchup.
"How can you taste anything with all that ketchup on it?" Bulbasaur demanded.
"It enhances the flavor, thank you very much."
"Okay, next question," Vulpix said, before pointing her head at the shadows where Darkrai was hiding. "What is THAT thing?"
"NOT deaf, if you're wondering," Darkrai muttered.
Bulbasaur glanced at the trainers to see if they noticed, back at Vulpix. "That's Darkrai. He's…a question mark."
"I heard that."
"Mister Darkrai is AWESOME," Vee said vehemently. "He's a Dark type and there's NONE OF THOSE in Kanto maybe when I evolve I'll pick Umbreon so I can be a Dark type too there's nothing in Kanto that can counter them so that's AWESOME—"
"And where'd you get that idea?" Geodude asked him.
"There's no Fairy types in Kanto, right?"
"Think Jigglypuff counts," Onix rumbled.
"Mr. Mime," Pikachu added.
"Fighting and Bug," Darkrai said. "And last I checked there's plenty of those in Kanto."
"Dangit," Vee sighed, ears drooping. "I was hoping to narrow it down."
"Eight options IS a lot," Patches agreed. "At least I only have the one, and there's no rush there."
"I'm already done," Lenny declared happily.
"Good, you can give me your share."
"I meant with evolving."
Vulpix tipped her head. "So…is the Darkrai part of the package?"
"Why?" Pikachu asked.
Bulbasaur cottoned onto it first. "You're asking because you'd like to travel with us."
"Well…yeah. I love Suzie to bits, but like I said, she's settled in, and you know how humans get once they've got territory of their own."
"Pretty sure they're called 'houses,'" Vee offered. "But yeah—Bill was like that too."
Something about that made Pikachu choke, but Bulbasaur ignored it. "Well we'd definitely make room—Brock only has the five of us with him, so he's got an extra slot. And we're in desperate need of a Fire type."
"I do like Brock," Vulpix said. "And how desperate?"
"We've been having to start fires with Will-O-Wisp."
"I miss eating food that doesn't taste like a Ghost type," Drowzee sighed.
"Wait," Gastly said, looking at his food with concern. "The food tastes like ghost? Wait, how do YOU know what that tastes like?"
"What we're saying is, I don't think it'd take much convincing," Bulbasaur said.
"And besides, it's really Frenzy you should be worried about," Patches said.
"The bug?" Vulpix asked, blinking before looking over at Frenzy, sitting placidly where he had been released and not moving. "I've got a quadruple advantage over him, I think I'm fine."
"I'm…actually pretty sure that doesn't make a bit of difference."
"Okay Frenzy, lunch," Ash said, putting a dish down in front of the Parasect. "Try not to break the plate this time, okay?"
Frenzy didn't move, didn't blink as Ash stepped back and watched.
Ash sighed, stepped back again. "Eat your lunch, Frenzy—no wait remember what I said about not breaking the plate that's not ours—"
Vulpix was flat-ears horrified when she finally managed to tear her attention away from Frenzy—now sitting placidly where he had been as Ash took the shattered remains of the plate to Suzie to apologize. "That's not normal. You know that, right?"
"We're aware," Bulbasaur said.
"Painfully aware," Pikachu agreed.
Vulpix had apparently made up her mind after lunch—the whole time Suzie and Brock were talking, Vulpix kept winding around Brock's legs and trilling.
"I've never seen Vulpix like this," Suzie said. "Usually she's really standoffish with strangers."
"Maybe she liked the food," Ash offered.
"That one's strange too—are you trying to talk me into something, girl?"
"Yes," Vulpix declared. "Yes I am and I'm hoping I don't have to actually go running after these people in the morning."
"It is mighty inconvenient that humans don't learn Pokénese," Oddish said.
"Well look at their head-to-body ratio," Omastar said, gesturing at them. "See, it takes like…five heads or something to make up their bodies. Us, meantime, are ALL head—it just stands to reason that we're smarter."
"That doesn't sound right," Squirtle said, looking at Psyduck.
Psyduck tipped his head, looking more confused than usual. "I don't know, and I don't want to think about it because it feels like a headache."
But thankfully, Suzie wasn't as dim as many humans.
"You're sure business will pick back up?" she asked them in the morning.
"Positive," Brock said.
"The guys running the salon keep following us," Ash said. "Once they know we left, they'll be off too."
"That sounds concerning," Suzie said.
"It was, but we're used to it by now," Misty said, waving a hand. "It helps that they're not really a threat, just weird."
"And fond of improv, as we found out," Ash added.
"Right," Suzie muttered, obviously debating about something. Finally nodded, looked at Brock.
"Can I ask you a favor?" she asked him. "Vulpix really wants to travel, but I almost never leave town except to go to conventions anymore, and I think she's getting bored. But if she could travel with you for a while—"
"Yes YES please yes!" Vulpix cheered, bounding around Brock's legs.
"I think she'd appreciate that."
"W-well—I mean are you sure?" Brock asked. "Because, you know, we don't really know each other—"
Suzie crouched to pet Vulpix. "Here's the thing about Pokémon: I've found them to be excellent judges of character. Vulpix likes you, so that's good enough for me. So how about it?" she asked, looking up—and then blinking when Brock did one of those deep kneeling bows on his hands and knees.
"I accept!" he sobbed. "And if I fail I'll throw myself in front of a stampeding Rhydon!"
"Pretty sure that won't be necessary," Bulbasaur said.
"Well at least he's dedicated," Vulpix observed as Suzie assured Brock that wouldn't be necessary, please stop crying I need to get Vulpix's ball.
"At least there's that. And why are you crying?" he asked Drowzee.
"Finally," Drowzee sobbed. "No more funky-flavored Ghost taste."
"I still need to know how you know that," Gastly said, glaring at Drowzee.
Bulbasaur sighed, looked to Vulpix. "Now you're sure about this? It's not too late to back out."
"I'm sure," Vulpix said sternly. "I can take whatever you guys throw at me."
"We'll hold you to that."