About Names: I'm using the names Whitlea and Blair (from the demo games) for the protagonists of the story because I don't think of Touko and Touya as the player characters, but as different characters with the same sprites. And I don't like the names "Black" and "White." So yeah.
Japanese names will be used for humans and Pokémon because I don't like name localization. Readers on other stories have requested glossaries for some of the lesser-known names, so those will be included at the beginning of every chapter.
"And so that's the story of how I learned this valuable lesson: being a hero isn't about what Pokémon you catch and what power they have – it's about using your power to help those who need it!"
I held my breath for a moment and then, breaking into my normal voice, demanded, "Is that good enough?"
"It's about using your power to help those who need it!" my voice echoed back at me. The director nodded her head, and I sighed loudly and removed my headset hastily – probably too hastily, as the director noticeably winced when I shoved the expensive equipment back onto the rack.
"Good work, Whitlea," the director said, probably with a hint of sarcasm. It had been a long day. I was recording for the special one-hour season finale of Pokémon Trainer Whitlea, and had gotten just a little bit cranky towards the end.
But, whatever. I was done now. I shut the door of the recording booth behind me and took a deep breath. "Thanks, Director," I responded in a voice that I hoped matched her tone.
The director and I never really got along. She was nice enough, and deep down inside I knew that her constructive criticism was essential, especially for someone like me who has had almost no previous acting experience... but I still don't take well to people who try to tell me what to do.
Which was why I was looking forward to getting the heck out of here. As much as having my own animated series was a childhood dream come true, I had since discovered that acting was not my thing. Fun-acting – like the kind you use to play April Fool's Day pranks and tell stories – that was fun. But I couldn't stand being told how to act. Now my contract was over and I wouldn't have to! I was practically skipping as I said my final good-byes to the director and headed out the door.
Before I went my own way, I stopped to take a last look at the building that contained the recording studio. I really have my own cartoon! My five-year-old self would be so proud! The show isn't always perfectly accurate to my life – actually, it's almost entirely made-up – but it's still pretty amazing to hear my voice on the Kids BW! lineup right in between all the superheroes I used to admire when I was a kid. Ariadosman, Zubatman, Supper Effective Man, Wonderguard Woman, Captain Unova, and Pokémon Trainer Whitlea. Crazy, right? I always dreamed of being a superhero when I was little. I would run around in a bathing suit and a cape made of bedsheets and hit bullies with a toilet plunger. I called myself "PokéGirl" because every time I attacked someone, I would pretend I was using Pokémon moves.
Sadly, resurrecting Reshiram was not as fun as hitting people with a toilet plunger. Reshiram didn't spend much time with me, anyway. It liked to hang out on Dragonspiral Tower. But it would come with me when I called it, which means I sometimes get to show it to kids who go to Dragonspiral Tower on field trips. So, yeah. Kinda famous. Fortunately, I've mostly managed to avoid being recognizable by sight, though people notice me occasionally.
Nimbasa City's warm wind, as well as the relief of a finished job, lightened my mood quite a bit. The city was a festive place at this time of year, too. Everyone was having fun. I going to meet my friends for dinner later, but I had time to kill, so I decided to have fun, too. What to do? The amusement park was crowded like crazy, so the Ferris wheel was out of the question. I decided to head for the stadiums for some friendly battles, taking in the sights as I passed through the city. School kids, enjoying the beginning of their summer vacation, chewed on cotton candy from the amusement park. Families marched towards the stadium, decked out in the colors of their favorite team. Hungry tourists lined up by street vendors.
The streets of Nimbasa are lined with bushes, and after a minute or so of walking, I became aware of a constant rustling of the leaves. I paused. Was there a certain type of Pokémon in Nimbasa that hid in bushes? Yeah, it was probably the Zuruggu. They were pretty active this time of year.
I kept moving. I hadn't noticed that the rustling had stopped until it picked up again soon after I started moving. A thought occurred to me: was someone following me? I stopped. Sure enough, the rustling stopped, too.
It might have been a coincidence. I started walking again. Who would follow me, a murderer? No, there's no way anyone would murder someone in the middle of a busy street in broad daylight. But I put a hand in my bag, reaching for a Poké Ball, just in case. On the other hand, maybe it was paparazzi or something. I didn't get too much of that, since most of my fame comes from a cartoon, but it could happen. Sure enough, the rustling picked up as I was walking. I stopped. It stopped.
"All right, who's there?" I demanded.
I snapped a large branch off the bush. "Seriously, Mister, or Miss, or whoever you are – I know you're there, and I know you're creeping on me! I mean, how stupid do you think I am? What, you expect me to believe it's a coincidence that you just happen to stop moving whenever I stop? Yeah, I don't think so! Seriously, zero points for subtlety, there. Go back to Stalking 101. If I hear you following me one more time, I swear to Reshiram I'm gonna take this branch and beat you black and blue! Understand?"
And with that, I proceeded on my way.
Except – there it was again. Are you serious people? Without hesitation I clutched my branch, marched back, pinpointed the location of the noise and slammed the branch straight down.
It was a male voice, and it sounded like I'd got him good. Just to make sure I scared him off, I whacked the bush a few more times.
"Hey, stop! I'm sorry I'm sorry!"
Hmm. That voice - !
"I'm sorry, okay!" After one final whack, the target popped out of the bushes, crawling frantically to escape. A head of messy, long green hair, a gray tank top, a long, skinny body, a funky green cube thing clipped to his belt buckle, and...
My jaw dropped. No way.
"N?" I exclaimed, incredulous.
"I'm sorry!" he cried again, shielding his face with his arms as though afraid I would whack him again. Yup, it was definitely N, on his knees in the dirt, twigs tangled in his ponytail, bruised and practically in tears. "I'm sorry Whitlea I'm so sorry I didn't know you didn't wanna be followed or I never would've followed you I didn't mean to I just wondered where you were going that's all I wasn't going to follow you anymore after you said to stop following you I was just turning around to crawl back I promise I'm sorry!"
Well, now I feel like a horrible person.
"Uh, I'm sorry!" I stammered, scrambling through the bushes to reach him on the other side. "I didn't know it was you! Are you okay?"
He didn't answer. I drew closer, inspecting the damage. Well, crap. It looked like I'd nailed him in the eye. He was trembling in fear. Crap. I hadn't been trying to cause any permanent damage. I was just trying to scare him out of the bush! Great job, Whitlea. Way to completely traumatize the poor guy!
"I'm sorry," I repeated. "I didn't know you were just trying to leave. I'm so, so sorry! Are you all right?"
He removed his arms from his head long enough to peer at me cautiously... but he averted his gaze the next moment.
"Should I get something for your eye?" I pressed.
"...No," he finally answered. "don't want anything."
"I'm so sorry," I repeated for the zillionth time.
"I wasn't trying to stalk you!" N said emphatically.
"I know!" I assured him, even thought that was pretty much what he'd been doing. "I didn't know it was you. But I have a question."
He sniffled. Great, now I'd made him cry. "Yes?"
"What in the world were you doing?"
He looked at me for a brief moment before again averting his eyes. "People watching," he answered. "Watching you. I didn't wanna take a vacation, but my boss said to take a vacation, but I didn't know where to go, so I decided to come to Nimbasa, because everyone says I need to work on understanding the hearts of people, and then I thought about it and I know that most people don't understand the hearts of Pokémon and if they want to understand they go Pokémon watching, right? They watch Pokémon. And then I heard someone say Nimbasa City is good for people watching and so I thought that I wanted to go to Nimbasa City for vacation because my boss is bossy and says I need to take time for myself even though I didn't want to so I was here watching people and then I saw you and I wanted to watch you instead so I followed you but I didn't know you didn't want me to! Honest!"
I was reminded that N spoke at rocket speed and was really hard to follow sometimes.
"Um, I didn't quite catch all that, but basically you mean you were hangin' out and you saw me and wanted to know what I was doing?"
He sniffled again and nodded.
"Dude... why didn't you just say hi?"
He rubbed his eye. "I... I don't know. Should I have said hi? Do you want me to say hi?"
"Okay," he said, with a straight face. "Hi."
I laughed out loud.
N was noticeably confused at my reaction, and he blushed, embarrassed. Now I felt bad again. Biting back more laughter, I stood up and reached an arm out to help N. He ignored it and stood up on his own.
"Hi, N," I replied. "Good to see ya." I moved towards him for a quick hug, but he just flinched. Well, that was a fair reaction, considering I'd just beaten him up.
We stood there for a moment, quite awkwardly, until finally N broke the silence.
"Whitlea, can you do me a favor?" he asked. "May I hear your Pokémon's voices?"
Five minutes later and we were sitting on a bench by the Pokémon Musical Theater. took the opportunity to size N up curiously. He looked about the same as I remembered him, with a long nose, narrow gray eyes, and practically-concave chest. But his hair was tangled and knotted with twigs, and his clothes were covered in dirt. His eye was still watering, and he was covered in scratches. In short, he looked like a wreck. What had he been doing since he'd been gone? I'd wondered that a lot over the last year since I'd seen him, and now that he was in front of me I was dying of curiosity. Part of it was concern, too. When I'd seen him before he had always been very well-groomed for a traveling trainer. Team Plasma must have made sure he always looked presentable. Judging from how mangled he was, perhaps he didn't know how to take care of himself. What else couldn't he do when he was on his own? It was a bit worrying.
He had, at least, cheered up considerably when my first Pokémon, Peanut, had been released from its Poké Ball and jumped into his lap. Of course, Peanut had that effect on people. It is impossible to be sad when you have a small, fuzzy, hyperactive Water-type climbing all over you.
I, on the other hand, kind of had that feeling you get when you're hanging out with someone and they're talking on the phone. It was just weird that N could understand my Pokémon better than I could, especially since he was speaking normal human language. His seemingly one-sided conversation got him a few odd glances from passers-by, but, naturally, N didn't notice. He was too fascinated with Peanut.
"You've battled a lot since I last saw you, Mijumaru, but you still look the same," N observed. "Why is that?"
"Oh, I see. That stone on your collar? I didn't know there was an item like that! Well, I'm glad that you can stay the way you are, if that makes you happy."
Peanut chirped in agreement.
See what I mean? I'd seen N talk to Pokémon before, but I still wasn't quite used to it. Peanut was an incredibly hyper and playful Pokémon, and if it evolved and got bigger, it wouldn't be able to run around and jump on people anymore. I didn't think it would be happy if it had to sit still and stay in its Poké Ball most of the time, so I gave it an Everstone. I wasn't even aware that Peanut fully understood this, and yet it had apparently managed to communicate such information to N. It was fascinating to watch, if a little bit odd.
"So what has your trainer been up to?" N asked.
More chirping. What was Peanut telling it?
"I see, I see. She's been quite busy. Have you been getting enough rest?" A pause. A funny look appeared on N's face. "O. So you've been trying to find the... sages, too."
"Hey, N," I interrupted, embarrassed for some reason – I guess because I had no idea how N felt about the sages and I didn't want to upset him again, "why don't you ask me all this stuff directly?"
For a moment he didn't reply and I figured it was useless trying to get his attention when there was a Pokémon around, but finally, never taking his eyes off Peanut, he replied. "As I've told you, Pokémon are easier for me to talk to than humans. Someday, when I learn to understand the hearts of humans, and when I learn how to tell if they're lying... then I'll start talking to them."
Pokémon don't lie. He'd said that before, and I'd always wondered what he meant by it. I made a mental note to ask him later. "N... you're never gonna learn how to understand people if you don't talk to them, first."
He stopped petting Peanut for a second and looked at me. "But I... don't want to!" he argued.
I frowned. "Why not?"
"It's just... ," he confessed, petting Peanut again. "Humans are stupid! I mean, for one thing, they lie – I don't get why they want to lie all the time and make things difficult for themselves, but they do, and they do a lot of other stupid things, too, like tell jokes and that's pretty much the same thing as lying except everyone says it's not for some reason even though it is, and also they ask questions they already know the answers to, and they always want to you say pointless things like hi even though I don't get why it's so important to say hi when you could just walk up to them and get to the point but for some reason everyone thinks that's rude and if you don't say hi they hit you with sticks!" N glared at me accusingly.
"I wasn't – "
"And the worst part," N continued, "is that they act like this is all supposed to make sense, and if you ask them why they do things they laugh at you and don't answer, and it's just... every time I watch people interact with each other I don't get it, I just don't know how they do it! And no one will teach me!" Is he going to start crying or something?
I winced. "Sorry, dude. I just didn't understand. I'm sorry I hurt your feelings."
Peanut nudged N's hand comfortingly. N hugged it.
Poor N. The last time I'd seen him he'd seemed so... optimistic. Now he had a cloud over his head. I'd hoped he'd adapt to the outside world after some time but, seeing as he still thought it was a good idea to crawl through bushes following people, apparently he hadn't. It didn't sound like the people in his life – whoever they were – were very understanding, either.
I wished I could help him. The line from the last episode of my cartoon, corny as it was, ran through my head. Help those who need it!
And then I got an idea.
"I could help you!" I blurted. "You said no one would teach you, right? I can teach you! I mean... I've never had awesome social skills of my own, either, but I know the basics at least..."
For once in his life, he looked at me. "Teach me? How?"
"I... I don't know." I hadn't exactly thought about how. "Well, maybe you could, like, come hang out with me once a day and I could, like, explain how people interact and stuff."
Now it sounded like a stupid idea. But I liked it, anyway. I mean, actually hanging out with people was the best way to get to know them, right? Besides, I liked the idea of hanging out with him. I liked him. But I'd never spent any actual time with him, other than like, battling over the fate of the region.
"You would do that for me?" N asked, sounding almost suspicious.
"Yeah, of course. I want to help you."
"Why?" N asked.
I frowned. Why? Was this Lesson 1 – Altruism, or something? Come to think of it... I couldn't really describe why. Then I thought for a moment. "I bet it's... for the same reason that you wanted to help Pokémon, I think."
For a second, his eyes widened in understanding... then he looked away. Had I upset him again? He was awfully sensitive today. But after a minute he quietly said, "I think... I know what you mean."
I grinned. This is how you teach N about humans: relate them to Pokémon. Genius.
"See?" I said lightly. "We – the rest of the world – we're not that different from you, are we?"
"I... suppose not," he reluctantly agreed. "Even though you don't make sense."
I laughed again. "Thanks, N. Anyway, I have an idea for your first lesson."
"My friends and brother and I are going to eat dinner together soon. Do you wanna join us?"
He considered it for a moment. "By 'friends', do you mean... Cheren... and Bel?"
"Yeah, Cheren and Bel. So you do remember them. You made your shadow dudes follow them around, right?"
"Yes," N answered, as though that was unimportant. "And at the end, Cheren... was there, with Champion Adeku."
"...I'll go," N said after a slight hesitation.
I beamed. I was starting to get excited about this very strange project, and I was anticipating the looks on my friends' faces when I randomly showed up with our former antagonist. "Great!" I told him. "Don't worry, N! As my apprentice, you'll be a normal person in no time... no offense."
N did not reply. He had tuned me out, opting to "listen" to something Peanut was chirping instead.
I sighed. This would take a long, long while.
Notes:The idea Pokémon Trainer Whitlea comes from being able to watch a cartoon about yourself in-game. The idea reminded me of Jackie Chan Adventures, so I decided to make it a minor plot-point and have Whitlea do her own voice.
Kids BW! is obviously a parody of Kids WB! Instead of Warner Brothers, I guess it stands for Black and White. Haha.
Superhero parodies should be obvious. I always thought of Whitlea and her friends as a "herd of misfits" type deal, so Cheren is the extreme introvert who can't make friends because he doesn't care about anything but Pokémon battles; Bel is the slow, dense girl; and Whitlea is the obsessive superhero/comic book geek who does a ton of weirdball stuff and doesn't care what anyone thinks of her. Blair doesn't fit in with them because he's not socially awkward enough.