Epilogue: Another Departure
It was cold outside. Unusually cold for mid-February, anyway. Outside my window, I could see most of Pallet Town, which was pretty quiet today.
By my desk Vulpix was sleeping. The silly fox hadn't really done anything except sleep since we got back home. It felt like such a long time ago, too. It took me a while to get back home, despite Nancy having given me a ticket that dropped me off in Vermillion City. I had chosen to take the long way around, back through Mt. Moon and Viridian Forest instead of the new tunnel that connected Vermillion City to Viridian City.
The first snow of the year fell on the day I finally got back to Pallet Town. It was late November, and my heart would race when I thought about it. When I thought about Deneb, and the kiss we shared that day. But Deneb wasn't here anymore...
He wasn't dead or anything. Jeez. But he did leave Pallet again to continue his Pokemon journey. Guess he still had it in him. Meanwhile, I had been sitting at home for months doing pretty much nothing. Mom had insisted I continue school, but I kept putting it off, telling her I wasn't sure I'd leave on another journey again.
"Star, dinner's ready." Speaking of which, there she was. She poked her head through my bedroom door and smiled.
"Alright," I told her, turning away from my window at last.
"Star, I'm worried about you." When wasn't she?
"You've been back so long, and you haven't done anything yet. No school, no studying... I thought you said you wanted to be a nurse?"
That was true. One of the first things I had shared with Mom upon my return was my dream to become a nurse. Not so much how I came to that conclusion, of course. I think Mom was already wary enough of Pokemon without having to know how I was nearly eaten alive in my dreams by one.
"Yeah, I do."
"So, why don't you get ready?"
"How do you get ready to become a nurse, Mom?" I asked her with a heavy sigh.
"By practicing. Look at this!" She produced a brochure from behind her back and handed it to me. I was expecting her to push school again.
The brochure came from Castelia City's Pokemon Center, all the way out in the Unova Region. That's all I had to see before I looked up at her.
"Something wrong with it?" She asked me, a puzzled expression on her face.
"It's... it's so far away. Are you sure that's okay?" Hard to believe this was coming from the same Mom who was worried about me being on a different street just under a year ago.
"You might be eleven years old already, and NOT a baby," she smirked at that part, "but since you haven't been doing anything, I asked around to see about getting you started. This Pokemon Center is looking for applicants for a program that begins this Spring."
"Spring? Like... weeks from now Spring?"
She nodded. "I'll miss you, of course. But if I don't push you out that door myself you'll probably stay here forever."
It was weird, to say the least. Hearing all this from my own mother. Just as I was about to ask her who she was, and what she had done with my real mother, I stopped. This was exactly the kind of thing I had wished for back when I first started out as a Pokemon Trainer.
"Thanks, Mom." I finally told her.
"You mean you're going?"
"Well, yeah! You already signed me up, right?"
"Well..." She laughed.
Truth of the matter was she hadn't. She had all the paperwork filled out for me already, but hadn't sent it in. Waiting on my response, which she admitted was hoping to be no. But of course, she was right in the end; I couldn't stay here forever. Deneb had left, and he had also asked me to go with him on his journey, which I turned down. I guess in a way, after what happened with Shuppet, I was scared to go back out there. Scared to lose Vulpix, or any of my Pokemon ever again. But I couldn't stay there scared for the rest of my life. I had to follow my dream.
We talked about what the program would be like during dinner. Probably one of the most lively dinners I'd ever had with Mom since that really awkward one involving Professor Oak. The program would last the entire Spring, as well as the Summer to follow if they kept me on. It also depended on how many applicants there were. All the same I was hopeful.
Once dinner was done, I figured it time to go and start packing for my trip. I wouldn't be leaving for a while, but I was certainly in the mood. As I passed the TV in the living room, which Mom always left on, I noticed there was a report on about something relating to Team Rocket. Curios, I sat down on the couch and turned up the volume.
"Team Rocket's activities have apparently moved out of the Kanto and Johto regions. Following the arrest of several members of the criminal organization in Mahogany Town, Team Rocket's other known bases of operation have since been abandoned. Leading the investigation at the time was Kanto region League Champion Lance, who has since stepped out of the public eye.
"Reports have surfaced in Hoenn that Team Rocket continues operations there, but local authorities have been unwilling to share details on the investigation. Rumors also point to criminal activity in the Sevill Archipelago, but are unsubstantiated at this time."
The reporter turned to someone else sitting there with her, a blond woman wearing dark clothes.
"Speaking with us today is Sinnoh Champion Cynthia. How are you, Cynthia?
"Well. Thank you." She spoke curtly.
"I'd like to get to the question on everyone's minds lately: is Champion Lance working undercover in regards to Team Rocket?" The reporter asked.
"I'm not at liberty to say." Cynthia replied coldly.
"Could you share any information as to why Lance hasn't made any public appearances since Mahogany Town?"
"I'm not at liberty to say."
"But the League is in contact with him?" The reporter pressed.
"Lance is working hard to apprehend the villain behind Team Rocket, who hasn't been seen in some time." Cynthia budged, though it wasn't much to go on.
"About that, rumor has it Team Rocket is funded and backed by none other than Viridian City's former Gym Leader, Giovanni. Care to comment on this?"
"I would not." She answered plain.
"W-Well, would you care to comment on the state of Team Rocket? Reports say they've been forced underground."
"Team Rocket is still very much a threat to Kanto, as well as every other region nearby. Until we bring the true mastermind in, never assume otherwise."
"Can you share any information about the events in the Hoenn region these past few months?" The reporter asked next. I leaned in closer.
"I am Sinnoh's Champion. Ask Steven Stone, that's his jurisdiction."
"What about the rumors of Rocket activity in Sevii?"
"Rumors. Nothing more." Cynthia remained blunt.
"Well, thank you for your time, Cynthia." The reporter turned back to the screen. "We'll be right back."
I turned off the TV. Cynthia was dodging the questions regarding Lance, anyone could tell. The last time I'd seen him, he assured me he wouldn't stop until Giovanni was apprehended. But if another League Champion was covering for him...? What if something had happened to him?
I shook my head. That wasn't my problem anymore. As much as I wanted to think I was integral to thwarting Team Rocket's plans, I knew I wasn't. Lance had saved me on several occasions, but if he had gotten caught or worse, there wasn't anything I could do to help him. I didn't like the way it sounded, but it was the truth. The League would take care of everything. After saying a silent prayer for him, I went back upstairs.
Vulpix had just been roused from another of her long naps. After yawning and shaking off the sleep, she perched herself in front of me as I stood in the middle of the room. With a soft bark, she asked what was on my mind.
"Well girl, I think we're going on another adventure." I told her.
Her eyes went wide, and she barked again as if to say, "Really?"
"Yes. Only this time, we're not going to get badges. We're going to help other Pokemon. What do you think about that?"
Vulpix barked again cheerfully. She immediately ran for my closet, digging out my old trainer bag and dragging it to my feet. With another bark she signaled she was ready to go.
"Well, we're not going yet," I told her, kneeling to scratch behind her ears.
"But soon. I wonder what it's going to be like for us this time?"
I looked to my window again. The sun was preparing to set, and a warm, orange light was pouring through the glass. And it finally felt like Spring was here.