How Does Your Garden Grow?

There was a time when I was one of the top trainers on the Pokemon League circuit. I travelled from city to city, training my Pokemon and battling other trainers. It was a hard life on the road - often, I would have to spend the night outdoors if it was too far to the nearest town or city - but the rewards were worth it. The main reward was seeing my Pokemon grow stronger as a result of all the care and training I lavished on them. Yes, I said care and training. Some trainers think it's enough to make their Pokemon strong and powerful so that they can win as many battles as possible; they forget they're dealing with living creatures that have feelings and emotions.

Anyway, I was one of the top Pokemon trainers. But that was more than fifty years ago; now, I am too old to cope with the rigours of travelling around all the time. So I have retired to a pretty little cottage where I spend my days tending the plants which grow in the garden. Of course, I couldn't do it without the help of my Pokemon, not least because my husband passed away a few years ago and my children and grandchildren are all busy training their own Pokemon. I do see them from time to time, but mostly it's just me and my Pokemon. Not counting the wild ones who visit my garden occasionally, I currently share my life with three Pokemon: a Vileplume, an Audino and a Delcatty. I used to have more, but I put the others up for adoption when I retired from the League, being careful to make sure they all went to good homes.

Sorry, where are my manners? I haven't even introduced myself yet. My name is Annie - Annie Slater, to be precise - and, as I already told you, I'm a retired Pokemon trainer. This little cottage where I live is my haven, but I am always ready to open it up to anyone, human or Pokemon, who needs it.

It was a warm day in early summer. Audino, Vileplume and I were outside doing a spot of gardening. Delcatty was outside too, but, like any self-respecting cat, she had found the sunniest spot in the garden and gone to sleep there. I was just going to the outside tap to refill the watering can when I noticed something moving over by the flowerpots. Curious, I went to take a closer look. There sat a pretty little Grass Type Pokemon with three blade-like leaves growing out of her bulb-like head, below which she had only the hint of a body.

I looked at her closely, trying to place her. I'd never seen a Pokemon like this in my garden before, though I had encountered one like it on my journey. But its name escaped me for a moment, at least until the Pokemon spoke. "Petilil," she said in a sweet voice. Of course - that was it. The Pokemon I had encountered all those years ago was a Petilil. But there were no wild Petilils living locally, so where had this one come from? I would have to make enquiries to see if she had a trainer or was a wild Petilil who had somehow ended up miles from her home territory.

As I bent to pick her up, she squealed, obviously frightened of something. But what? Surely nothing in the garden, which has always been a haven of peace and tranquility. "Shh," I whispered to her. "It's all right, little one. I'm not going to hurt you. I'm just going to take you down to the Pokemon Centre and see if your trainer's looking for you."

At the mention of the word "trainer", Petilil began to struggle and cry out. I wondered why she was reacting this way; even a wild Pokemon will generally allow humans to handle them once they realise the human means them no harm. But not this Petilil. She was fighting to escape from my arms, squealing so loudly that, had my nearest neighbours lived a little closer, they might have come to see what was wrong. As it was, I was sure her cries could be heard in town. "What is it?" I asked her gently, putting her down on the ground. "Do you have a trainer?"

"Lil," she said, nodding emphatically. Though I couldn't help noticing that there was a slight edge to her voice, as if she and her trainer did not get on. I had encountered such a thing before, but it usually involved newly captured Pokemon who were still adjusting to their new trainers. It took the Oddish which evolved into my Vileplume nearly a week to get used to me, but we got there in the end and he became one of my best Pokemon. Perhaps this Petilil was in a similar situation - though that didn't explain how she came to be in my garden - and just needed time to adjust.

"Then don't you want to go back to him . . . her?" I stammered, unsure of the Petilil's trainer's gender. Petilil and its evolved form, Lilligant, are the sort of Pokemon that generally appeal to female trainers, but you can't make assumptions about these things. During my travels, I met a girl whose Pokemon were Machoke, Pinsir, Throh, Lairon, Onix and Forretress, the sort of Pokemon you'd expect would belong to a boy. But there's no reason why a girl can't have a team like that, so, by the same token, it was possible that the Petilil belonged to a male trainer.

"Lil!" This time, Petilil shook her head vigorously. "Petilil!" She looked up at me, silently pleading with me not to take her back to her trainer. This presented me with a dilemma; I've always prided myself on being a law-abiding person and I would never take a Pokemon from its rightful trainer. On the other hand, Petilil seemed pretty adamant that she did not want to go back, which suggested that her trainer was . . . not a nice person. But I had no proof, just a suspicion and that wasn't enough reason not to give her back. However, there was a way I could at least find out a little more about her situation.

"Audino!" I called. "Come here a moment!"

My Audino is one of the few Pokemon who have mastered human language, which comes in useful if I need someone to translate what another Pokemon is saying. Such as now - I had to find out why Petilil didn't want to go back to her trainer and Audino was the only one who could help me. I watched as she knelt down beside Petilil and the two of them began conversing in Pokemon language. After a moment or two, Audino turned to me and spoke. "Petilil says her trainer is a boy named Theo."

"Petilil lil pet petilil lil."

"Theo is a very tough trainer and expects only the best from his Pokemon," translated Audino.

I frowned. I'd encountered trainers like this on my travels, but that didn't explain why Petilil was not with Theo, much less how she had come to be in my garden. I told Audino to question Petilil again and, minutes later, the reply came back via my talking Normal Type. "Petilil says she lost a battle and Theo got really mad at her. He called her a "useless weed" and threatened to throw her on a compost heap if she lost again. It didn't matter that the Pokemon which defeated her was a Pidgeotto with a Type advantage. Anyway, that was when she got scared and ran away. Then, when she saw your garden . . ."

" . . . she thought it would be the perfect place to hide," I concluded. My garden is certainly a haven for Bug and Grass Pokemon, so I could understand why Petilil had decided to take refuge here. I remembered something my Pokedex had said many years ago, something about Petilils preferring nutrient-rich soil. Clearly, my garden, with its well-tended plants, had seemed like paradise to this runaway Grass Pokemon and I wished I could let her stay. But, whether I liked it or not, she belonged to Theo and I could not take her away from him without proof that he was mistreating her. She had said he was a "tough trainer", that he got mad at her for losing a battle, but that did not make him an abusive trainer. For all I knew, he was growing frantic with worry looking for her.

"Look, Petilil," I said, my eyes meeting hers. "I know you don't want to go back to Theo, but he's your trainer, so . . ." But I got no further before I noticed that Petilil's eyes were brimming with tears. There was no doubt about it; she really didn't want to be returned to this Theo guy. And, seeing her like that, I could hardly refuse her. "But I suppose it won't hurt to let you stay for a while," I told her.

"Petilil!" For the first time since I found her by my flowerpots, Petilil looked happy. In fact, she was so happy that she leapt into the air and sent a flurry of glowing leaves in the direction of a nearby garden ornament in the shape of a Chikorita. Magical Leaf, I thought, remembering my days as a trainer.

I took Petilil inside and gave her some of Vileplume's plant food, which she eagerly accepted. Then, she hopped onto the windowsill and went to sleep; seeing her like that reminded me of Vileplume when he was still an Oddish. The only difference was that he legally belonged to me, whereas Petilil was still officially Theo's. Having been away from the Pokemon League circuit for a few years, I did not know who all the kids currently travelling round the Gyms were. But there were always several at the Pokemon Centre, so maybe one of them knew Theo, or at least knew of him. I decided to make enquiries there.

I couldn't take Petilil with me, just in case Theo happened to be at the Pokemon Centre. So I left her with Audino, Vileplume and Delcatty and set off down the road. I live in a place called Silverwood Town, a small community built around a main square, from which you can reach the shops and the Pokemon Centre. The latter is a quaint old building, staffed by the ubiquitous Nurse Joy and several members of the Chansey line. I have heard of Pokemon Centres in other regions which use Audinos as nurses, but here it's Chansey and Blissey.

Anyway, I went down to the Pokemon Centre. As usual, the waiting room had several trainers hanging around, some with the anxious look of those whose Pokemon were receiving treatment, while others looked as though they had simply stopped off for a break. Silverwood doesn't have a Pokemon Gym, but it is about halfway between two cities which do have Gyms, so a lot of trainers pass through here. And no doubt some of these trainers must have met Theo on their travels. I approached the nearest trainer, a fair-haired girl cradling a Caterpie in her arms, and asked her if she knew him.

She nodded. "He comes from the same town as me," she explained. "And he's really competitive."

I questioned the other kids in the Centre and, bit by bit, I built up a picture of what sort of trainer Theo was. I learned that he was one of those trainers who push their Pokemon really hard, forcing them to train for hours without a break and often putting them into battle against opponents they stand little chance of beating. I frowned, recalling what Audino had said about Petilil being made to battle a Pidgeotto. And Nurse Joy told me her sister (also called Joy, needless to say) in the next town over had recently had to warn a boy about battling his Pokemon to the point of collapse, though she couldn't be sure if it was Theo. However, she promised me that she would keep an eye out. I did not mention that I had Theo's Petilil hiding on my premises.

I left, feeling less than satisfied. True what I'd found out about Theo confirmed my suspicions about him, but, unless he was found to have a record for mistreating his Pokemon, he would be well within his rights to claim Petilil back. It would make little difference whether she wanted to go with him or not; he had caught her and that meant she was officially his. It was obvious from what the trainers at the Pokemon Centre had said that he was deeply insensitive to his Pokemon's feelings, but that in itself was not a crime. Even so, I made a mental note to keep an eye out for Theo and give him a piece of my mind.

As it turned out, I didn't have to wait long. On returning home, I found Vileplume and Delcatty standing at the gate which leads into the back garden. Delcatty's hackles were raised and she was hissing in the way she used to when I called her into battle, while Vileplume looked as though he was about to shoot some sort of powder out of his flower. They were confronting a young boy with spikey black hair, who wore a blue t-shirt and black knee-length trousers. "Get out of my way, you stupid Pokemon!" he yelled. "I've come to get my Petilil!"

I looked at him closely; this had to be the Theo I'd heard so much about. Well, it was obvious that no-one had taught him any manners. "Young man," I said as I drew level with him, "in my day, we used a little word called "please"."

He whipped round at the sound of my voice. "What's it to you, Grandma?!"

"I am not your grandma!" I retorted, thinking a few whacks with a garden cane might do this brat some good. "And you are trespassing on my property. Kindly leave."

"No, not without my Petilil!" And, with that, Theo pulled out a Poke Ball and opened it, revealing that it was empty. "This was her Poke Ball, but she ran away from me. So I sent my Honchkrow to scout round and he traced her to this place." I noticed that he omitted to mention any of the stuff Audino had told me about him calling Petilil a "useless weed" and threatening her with the compost heap because she lost to a Pidgeotto. "Now, hand her over!" He looked at me in way which said I had better do as he said, lest he call the police.

Not wanting any trouble, I reluctantly went in the house and entered the back garden via the kitchen. I found Audino and Petilil playing together happily and wished I didn't have to do what I was about to do. But I had no choice; Theo wanted Petilil back and, without proof that he was mistreating her, I had to do as he said. I slowly walked up to the two Pokemon, who immediately stopped their game and looked at me questioningly. "Petilil," I said, feeling as though I was betraying her, handing her over to the enemy, "Your trainer, Theo - he's here. I know you don't want to go with him, but you've got to. You belong with him." I bent down and picked her up in my arms.

"Petilil!" Petilil began to cry out and struggle as I carried her through the house and out into the front garden. I did not need Audino to tell me that she was begging me not to give her back to Theo. But he was her official trainer and, much as I disliked his attitude, I had no choice but to do as he said. So I forced myself to ignore Petilil's cries and carried her to where Theo was waiting.

As I placed Petilil down on the ground, Theo readied the Poke Ball he had shown me. "Petilil, ret . . .!" But he never got to finish. Petilil suddenly looked at him angrily and let loose a burst of energy which knocked him off his feet. Frustration, I realised, a move which increases in power the more a Pokemon hates its trainer. And, judging by the power Petilil had unleashed, she really hated Theo. From what I'd seen of him so far, not to mention what I'd learned at the Pokemon Centre, he seemed to be one of those trainers who only care about winning and see their Pokemon as simply a means to an end.

Yelling words which boys his age should not have anywhere near their vocabularies, Theo got up, only to be knocked down again as Delcatty Tackled him. "Right, you asked for it," he muttered, pulling a Poke Ball out of his pocket. "Let's see how you deal with my Seviper!" But, before he could call out the black snake, he was hit by a SolarBeam courtesy of Vileplume, who had been quietly absorbing sunlight while Delcatty kept Theo's attention diverted. And, whether by accident or design, Petilil's Poke Ball was knocked out of Theo's hand and went flying through the air, landing on the concrete driveway.

When Theo, his face now resembling a thundercloud, retrieved the Poke Ball and tried to recall Petilil, it quickly became apparent that the Ball had been broken in the fall, since it kept springing open. Poke Balls can withstand a certain amount of punishment, but they are not designed to be dropped onto concrete from a height. "Sorry," I told Theo, as he tried to recall Petilil for the tenth time. "But, if the Poke Ball's broken, you'll have to capture your Petilil all over again." Someone had told me this early in my Pokemon journey. "Besides, I don't think Petilil wants you to be her trainer anymore," I added. Not if the way she had used Frustration on Theo when he first tried to recall her was anything to go by . . .

As if to back me up, Petilil pointedly turned her back on Theo. "Pet!" she said, in a tone which corresponded to a "hmmph!" in humans.

"We'll see about that," muttered Theo. But, before he could call out any of his Pokemon, Delcatty and Vileplume both attacked him at once, using the strongest moves they knew. Hit by a combined SolarBeam and Thunderbolt, he went running out of the front gate, his clothes smoking, yelling at the top of his lungs. They say bullies are cowards and, in Theo's case, it looked like it was true; certainly, what little courage he had seemed to have left him the moment two Pokemon attacked him at once. That was the last I saw of him. I don't know if he ever caught another Petilil, but, if he did, I doubt he would have treated her any better than the first. Some trainers never seem to learn that Pokemon are more than just tools for battling.

I later gave Petilil to Helen, one of my granddaughters, to raise, after she expressed an interest in Grass Pokemon. Now that she belonged to a caring trainer, and not a brat who only cared about winning, Petilil thrived and she's now a beautiful Lilligant. And, every time Helen and Lilligant drop by to see me, I recall the runaway Petilil who sought refuge in my garden.