It was raining in Celadon. The pokémon centre was packed, as it always was when the weather was bad. The second-largest city in Kanto had a pokémon centre no bigger than any of the others.
A small table by the window had three teenagers sitting at it. Lily, Zeke and Ben had been too late to get a room for the night, and were discussing what to do next.
"We can stay here," Ben said. "We'll just be in sleeping bags on the floor."
"Along with every ten-year-old in Celadon," Zeke said, waving his hand at a particularly loud group of children. "A bit more privacy might be nice."
"I can't afford a hotel," Lily said. "And you can't either, unless you've just had a rich aunt die or something. I think we'll have to stay here."
"If it stops raining, it should be dry enough by tomorrow night for the tent," Ben said. "You can go without your sleep-in for one day, can't you?"
"Oh, all right, one night with the ankle-biters, and then — hey, is that a pelipper?"
Ben rubbed a clear patch in the fogged-up glass of the window. "It's awfully big for a pelipper."
A girl — about their age, sixteen or seventeen — slid off the pokémon's back, recalled it and made a dash for the centre's door. She went straight to the front desk and handed over some pokéballs. As the nurse set them in the healing machine, the girl looked around for somewhere to sit out the few minutes' wait, saw the empty seat next to Zeke, and trotted over. "Hi," she said. "I'm Faye. Mind if I sit here?" Nobody did, and she slid into the seat.
Lily and the boys introduced themselves. "Are you staying here tonight?" Zeke asked.
Faye nodded. "I was going to challenge Erika, but I think it's a bit late." She ran her fingers through her short, damp hair. "And wet."
"There's no rooms left," Zeke warned her.
She grimaced. "I thought there might not be. Oh well. It's dry. What are you guys here for?"
"The gym," Ben said. Lily groaned and buried her head in her hands theatrically.
"It was tougher than we expected," Zeke admitted.
"What are you complaining about?" Lily grumbled. "You won."
Ben patted her on the back. "You just need to train your growlithe a bit more."
"You've got a growlithe?" Faye said. "Are you going to evolve it? You shouldn't have any trouble with an arcanine."
"I want to train him up a bit first," Lily said. "I haven't had him very long."
"She's been relying on her beedrill," Ben said.
"My beedrill is awesome," Lily said. "He helped me win five badges. You're all jealous of my beedrill."
"Five badges and you're only just getting to Erika?" Faye asked.
"Yeah," Lily said. "We just haven't... gotten around to her before. How many have you got?"
"Seven," Faye said. "So it's just — oh, hang on."
The nurse was waving at her. She walked over and he gave her back a handful of pokéballs, but kept hold of one ultraball, looking concerned. "I'm not sure you should... have this one," he said.
"I caught it perfectly legally," Faye said, her hand out expectantly.
"No, I'm sure you did. It's just... you're awfully young, and... perhaps a bit more experienced-"
"Oh, is that all?" Faye said. "It's fine. I know what I'm doing. Here, look." She pulled her badge case out of her pocket and flipped it open. "And this ball has a nidoking in it. I've got plenty of experience with difficult pokémon." She held her hand out again. "Can I have my pokémon back, please?"
The nurse started to pass the ultraball to her, but stopped halfway. "This isn't really the same..."
"It's fine." Faye leaned over the counter and took the ultraball from his hand. "I know what I'm doing." He still looked unhappy, but didn't try to stop her.
"You've got a nidoking?" Zeke said, when Faye sat back down at the table. "What's it like training one?"
"He can be a handful. I think the trick is to catch them as nidoran and make sure they respect you before they evolve. Are you thinking of getting one?"
"No, I've got a nidoqueen. I thought a female would be easier to raise."
Zeke and Faye chatted about their pokémon for a while, and as they did Faye pulled off her belt and began to rearrange her pokéballs. "What's in the ultraball?" Lily asked when Faye and Zeke seemed to be finished.
Faye grinned. "This is my secret weapon. Erika's beat me once before, but-" She tapped the ultraball. "-she won't this time."
"Yeah, but what is it?" Lily said. "Some sort of fire-type?"
Faye leaned forwards and lowered her voice. "Better. It's an articuno."
"An articuno?" Zeke exclaimed.
Several ten-year-olds appeared by Faye's side. "Have you got an articuno?" one of them said. "Can we see it?"
"Please?" another one added.
"I don't know," Faye said. "I've only just caught it, it's probably-"
"Please please please?" a girl begged. "We've never seen one before. Please?"
"Clear this side," came a call from one of the centre staff. "We're bringing out extra tables. Make room, trainers!"
"After dinner, kids," Faye said. "Go on, get out of the way."
The four teenagers stayed where they were, as they were not in the way, while the staff carried in and set up some trestle tables and chairs. "You've really got an articuno?" said Ben after a while.
"Yep," Faye said. "I was looking for seel in the Seafoam Islands cave a couple of days ago and I saw it, and I thought, that's an ice type. So I caught it."
"How?" Ben said. "I heard they're impossible to catch."
"Not impossible," Faye said. "Just really, really hard. I must have gone through at least thirty ultraballs, but it was worth it."
"Was it, though?" Zeke said, widening his eyes dramatically. "You hear all those stories about the birds, you know, and myths have to start somewhere..."
"It's a rare, powerful pokémon," Faye said cheerfully, "but it's still just a pokémon. It's not supernaturally amazing. Trust me, I battled it."
"Dinner, trainers!" one of the staff yelled, and the conversation was put on hold.
After everyone had eaten, the tables had been put away and the floor had been given a quick vacuum to pick up any dropped food, the gang of children found Faye again. They'd been joined by several others. "Can we see it now?" a boy said. "Please?"
"Okay," Faye said. "Give me some space, then."
The kids backed up into a wide circle around Faye. This did not go unnoticed. "What's going on?" a girl of about thirteen asked one of the boys.
"She's showing us an articuno!" he announced. More heads turned. Soon Faye was in the middle of a crowd of dozens.
"Give me space," she said again, more loudly. "This is a big pokémon, if you want me to show you it I need room!" She shooed the onlookers into a bigger circle, then pulled the ultraball off her belt. "Ready?" She popped the ball open.
In a brilliant flash of white and yellow light, the articuno materialised. It wasn't much taller than any of the staring trainers — shorter than some adults — but it seemed much taller. Its long tail streamers drifted around its legs, and its icy blue feathers seemed to glitter. Those closest to it found themselves shivering. "Wow," someone breathed, and its head whipped around. Its fierce gaze found Faye. It spread its huge wings, its streamers billowing forward as though in a sudden wind, and disappeared.
Faye clipped the ultraball back to her belt. "Show's over, guys."
One of the staff, a middle-aged, dark-haired woman, pushed her way through the crowd. "Pokémon away, please! All pokémon in their pokéballs!" She raised her voice. "If you've booked a room, you might want to consider going there! Anyone else, if you need to borrow a sleeping bag, talk to me! You have five minutes to have all your pokémon away, trainers!" The crowd thinned as some people left for their rooms and there was the intermittent light of trainers recalling their pokémon. Lily claimed a patch of floor against the wall and waved the others over.
"That's a... very impressive pokémon," Ben said as they laid out their sleeping bags.
"Why'd you recall it so fast?" Lily said.
Faye looked away. "Well, I haven't really had the chance to tame it yet. It's probably not safe to have it out around people for more than a few seconds."
"Aren't you going to challenge Erika with it?"
Faye laughed. "Yeah, but I'll spend a few days with it outside the city first. I do have some patience."
"You're the girl with the articuno, aren't you?" The dark-haired woman who'd wanted everyone's pokémon away was standing over them.
Faye looked up. "Yes? I'm not going to let it out inside again, don't worry."
The woman frowned. "Have you talked to anyone about it? Perhaps someone with a bit more experience?"
Faye sighed. "Look, I know what I'm doing. I understand you think I'm young, but I've got plenty of experience with powerful pokémon. I promise if I think it'll give me trouble I'll ask a gym leader for help or something, okay?"
"I'm glad to hear that-" Two younger trainers interrupted her at the same time.
"Can we please have some sleeping bags?" asked one, a girl.
"We can't tell which caterpie's mine and which one's his!" the other, a boy, said tearfully.
"All right, I'll be with you in a moment," the woman said.
"I can sort out your caterpie, if you like," Faye said, getting up. She followed the boy back to his problem, and after a moment the woman sighed and led the girl away.
"I wish I had an articuno," Ben said. "Even if it means adults fussing about it constantly."
"You're lucky to have seen one," Zeke said.
Lily wriggled down into her sleeping bag. "I want to see it in action. If it's anywhere near as strong as it looks, it'll be amazing."
A few minutes later, Faye was back. "Can we come with you tomorrow, when you're training the articuno?" Lily asked her.
"Sure, I guess," Faye said with a shrug. "Just keep your wits about you. Like I said, it's not really tame."
"It didn't look too happy with you, before," Zeke said.
"It always looks angry," Faye said. "It's the beak. I'm going to leave pretty early, before all the little kidlets decide to follow us, okay?"
"Lights out in fifteen minutes!" called one of the staff.
Lily yawned. "I'm going to get my beauty sleep, then. Goodnight, all."
Around midnight, the rain stopped.