Kimono Girl Keiko

"I don't see why I have to be an Eevee trainer and only an Eevee trainer just because of some stupid tradition!"

In Ecruteak City's world famous Dance Academy, two of the resident Kimono Girls were having a heated disagreement. Dressed in their finest robes, belted at the middle with a wide sash and with elegantly flowing sleeves, they glared at each other, neither willing to be the first to back down.

Keiko, the younger by several years was the one who had spoken. Her robes were a dusky pink with traces of forget-me-nots embroidered onto the silk in intricate patterns. However, she only wore it because the staff at the studio insisted upon it; all the Kimono Girls were required to don their traditional robes whenever they went out in public, one of the many rules Keiko resented. The clothing made her feel self-conscious, set apart from other children and she longed to be able to wear something more casual.

Hiroko, an exotic beauty of nineteen, looked at the young trainee severely. Joining the ranks of the Kimono Girls required dedication, a willingness to accept traditions that went back centuries - and one of those traditions happened to be training an Eevee and evolving it into one of its five forms.

"Precisely because it is our tradition," she replied frostily, recalling the months she had spent training her Eevee, building up his battle skills until he was ready to evolve. When that time came, she had chosen to use a Thunderstone and make her Eevee a Jolteon. "Do you know why we only train Eevees and their evolved forms?"

Keiko knew all right - the tutors had talked about it often enough - but she didn't say so because Hiroko would only tell her anyway.

Hiroko heaved a sigh and began to recite the early history of the Kimono Girls' movement.

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"As you know, our order was founded in 1699 when a dance troupe came to Ecruteak from far across land and sea," she said simply. "This troupe consisted of five young women, sisters who each owned a different Eevee evolution."

"In time, their fame - both as dancers and as Eevee trainers - spread far and wide and parents began sending their daughters to them to be trained. Then, as time caught up with them and they began to lose their youthful beauty, new girls were selected to take their place - but there were always five of them in recognition of the original five sisters and they never trained any Pokemon that wasn't an Eevee or one of its evolutions . . ."

Hiroko paused at this point to take a sip of water from a glass on a nearby table before continuing. "Today, when a girl enters our Academy," she went on, "she takes an oath that - should she become a fully fledged Kimono Girl - she will uphold our traditions at all times. Above all, she must be demure and gentle outside of a Pokemon battle, while being prepared to meet every challenger head-on. She must also . . ."

"You still haven't explained about the Eevees!" Keiko cut in hotly.

"I was getting to that. The reason we only train Eevees is because . . ."

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The low-pitched note of a gong cut Hiroko off before she could finish speaking. It was time for her to go and teach the class of trainees who planned to evolve their Eevees into Jolteon the best ways to handle Electric Pokemon, where to obtain Thunderstones and the various methods that could be used to tell if a stone-evolving Pokemon was ready for the big change.

As a relative newcomer to the Academy, Keiko had not yet received an Eevee - that would happen once she had completed her first year of training, which involved learning a seemingly endless list of customs and traditions. Only then, once each prospective Kimono Girl knew the ins and outs of how to tie on a kimono, how to move with grace and poise and all the rest, was she deemed ready to start serious Pokemon training. But Keiko had long been in two minds about the whole thing . . .

It wasn't that she disliked Eevees - the problem was that she had never been keen on following traditions; she was only here because her mother and her grandmother had trained as Kimono Girls in their youth and wanted her to follow in their footsteps. But Keiko's favourite Pokemon, the one she wanted to train more than any other, was Ledyba. There was something about the cute ladybird-like Pokemon that appealled to her and she didn't see any reason why a Kimono Girl should not become a Ledyba trainer if she wanted to.

In fact, she was already training a Ledyba in secret, one she had found in the garden a few weeks earlier and caught using a Poke Ball she had helped herself to from the academy's supply. These Balls, intended to be given to trainees when they received their Eevees, were kept strictly accounted for and there had been much consternation when it was discovered that one was missing. Keiko still recalled the confusion that erupted, the thorough searches of all the dormitories and her feeling of relief that she had had enough sense not to try and hide her Ledyba's Poke Ball in an obvious location such as her bedside locker.

Instead, she kept Ledyba in a small outhouse and, whenever she could escape the too-watchful eyes of the academy staff, she would go down there and sneak the Bug Type Pokemon out. Then, exchanging her kimono for jeans and a t-shirt and removing the many grips that held her long black hair in its elaborate coiffure, she would head into Ecruteak and mingle freely with the trainers who passed through each day. It was the only time she felt truly relaxed, freed from the pressures of life as a Kimono Girl.

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On this particular day, Keiko made her way down to the outhouse and retrieved her Ledyba's Poke Ball from where she had hidden it after the last time. It had been a while since she last went to Ecruteak - lately, the staff had been working the girls as hard as they could in preparation for the mid-term exams - and she meant to make the most of this opportunity.

"Maybe I should check out that Tin Tower," she mused as she turned to go. "I wonder if there's any truth in that story about . . ."

She looked up with a start when she saw two of her fellow Kimono Girls heading towards her and knew there was no time to get out of sight. An Umbreon walked between them; he belonged to Kimi, the girl on the left and one of the Academy's prefects. Though not yet fully initiated like Hiroko - who was in her final year - she was a stickler for rules and tradition and frowned when she saw Keiko in casual clothes and clutching a Poke Ball.

"Keiko, what do you think you're doing?!" she demanded. "And where did you get that Poke Ball?"

Keiko stammered a bit, wishing there was an explanation that Kimi would accept. But there wasn't one and the other girl - Megumi, or Meg to her friends - gave the wayward trainee a stern look.

"I think you'd better come with us," she said firmly. "Madame Nakayama wanted to speak to you anyway . . ."

Filled with apprehension, Keiko followed Kimi and Meg into the main academy building and down a little-used corridor that led to Madame Nakayama's private quarters.

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Madame Nakayama, who had been a Kimono Girl herself in her youth, sat sipping mint tea as Keiko was led into her study. She sighed at the sight of the girl who didn't seem to care that the Academy had a reputation to uphold and prepared to tell her what had been on her mind for the last week.

"Keiko," she said, staring into Keiko's face, "This is not the first time I have had cause to speak to you. A month ago, you arrived at your Deportment class nearly an hour late and, only last week, you were caught passing notes during Calligraphy. Now, Kimi and Megumi inform me that you have been keeping a Pokemon illicitly . . ."

Keiko blushed and fumbled with the Poke Ball in her hands as she waited to hear what Madame Nakayama had to say. She prayed desperately that she was not in too much trouble, that she would not be forced to give her Ledyba away.

"Keiko, show me what is in your Poke Ball," Madame Nakayama said in a firm but gentle voice.

Her heart pounding, Keiko fought to control her trembling fingers as she pressed the button on the front of Ledyba's Poke Ball. There was a brief flash of light and, seconds later, Ledyba emerged to stand on Madame Nakayama's desk, her large eyes staring at the four human females. Keiko knelt down to reassure her as the other three stared speechlessly.

"A Ledyba?" Meg said in disbelief. "But I thought only Pokemon of the Eevee line could be kept on the premises . . ."

"Who says?!" Keiko shot back, hugging her Ledyba close as if to show she wouldn't give the Pokemon up without a fight. "There are dozens of different Pokemon - why should we be restricted to just one evolutionary line?"

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It took a while for the whole story to emerge and, when Keiko had finished, Madame Nakayama looked at her for several seconds while she pondered what to say next. Tradition was tradition, but it was obvious that Keiko loved her Ledyba passionately and would not give her up easily. But, maybe, there was a way to resolve this . . .

"I've never had to deal with this kind of situation before," she said. "But I am prepared to make a deal - Keiko, you may keep your Ledyba, but only if you can beat one of the other girls in battle. If you lose, you must release your Ledyba back into the wild. Do you understand?"

"Y - yes," Keiko stammered, wondering who Madame Nakayama had in mind as her opponent and hoping the battle would end in her favour. "Whatever you say."

"Good," the woman said as she turned to Kimi and Meg. "Megumi, would you and your Vaporeon do the honours?"

"Of course, Madame," Meg replied as she pulled a Poke Ball out from under her lilac robes. "Keiko, recall your Ledyba and follow me . . ."

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Presently, Keiko and Meg stood facing each other in the Academy's main arena. A crowd of girls stood watching, all of them interested in seeing how this battle would pan out; the idea of one of their number actively choosing to train a Pokemon other than one from the Eevee line was a novelty and they wanted to see how well Keiko had trained her Ledyba.

A girl named Junko was acting as referee and stood on the halfway line with her arm raised. "Let the match begin!" she declared, lowering her arm in a signal for the two opponents to throw their Poke Balls.

"Go, Vaporeon!" Meg called as she sent her Poke Ball spinning through the air and her Water Type Eevee Evolution emerged in a flash of light.

Keiko tried not to let her nerves - brought about by the fact that Ledyba's future as her Pokemon hinged on this one battle - get the better of her and prepared to cast her own Poke Ball. "Ledyba - go!" she shouted, watching as Ledyba materialised on the arena floor and stood staring up at Meg's Vaporeon.

"I'll get things started," said Meg, pointing towards the Ledyba standing opposite her Pokemon. "Vaporeon - Water Gun!"

In response, Vaporeon opened her mouth and prepared to sent a jet of water in Ledyba's direction. Keiko thought fast and quickly came up with what she hoped would be an effective counter-attack. "Dodge it, Ledyba!" she called, watching as Ledyba flew up seconds before Vaporeon's Water Gun knocked her sprawling. But Meg wasn't finished yet.

"Vaporeon - use your Tackle!" she ordered, watching as Vaporeon ran at Ledyba with her head down ready to do the Bug Type some serious damage.

"Tackle back, Ledyba!" Keiko countered. Ledyba responded by launching herself at Vaporeon and trying to push her out of the arena, exerting force against force. Few had expected her to be so gutsy, so determined to win, and a flurry of bets on the outcome promptly began among the crowd of spectators.

"My money's on Vaporeon," someone said as the two Pokemon continued to struggle.

"Mine too - Vaporeon can learn Ice Type moves and Bug Pokemon are weak against Ice."

"Maybe, but, if Keiko's taught that Ledyba Reflect or Safeguard, that might give her some leeway . . ."

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Out on the field, Keiko was urging her Ledyba on, calling on the Bug Pokemon to draw on all her strength and defeat Vaporeon.

"Ledyba - Swift Attack!" she ordered, watching as Ledyba spread her wing-casings and sent a barrage of stars in Vaporeon's direction. Vaporeon began to falter, but Meg wasn't about to give up; the pride of the Kimono Girls and their tradition of only training Eevee evolutions was in her hands.

"Use your Sand Attack, Vaporeon!" she called, deciding to take advantage of the fact that the arena's floor was coated with fine sawdust.

In response, Vaporeon began to kick up the sawdust and send it flying into Ledyba's face. Unable to see what she was doing, Ledyba broke off the battle and staggered around, trying to knock sand out of her eyes as Meg prepared to call on Vaporeon to move in for the kill. Vaporeon herself was breathing heavily, het up by the excitement of the battle, and narrowed her eyes as she waited for her trainer's next orders.

"Now, Vaporeon - let's end this!" Meg called out. "Use your Aurora Beam!"

"We can't lose this, Ledyba," Keiko reminded her own Pokemon as Vaporeon prepared to fire the Aurora Beam, a fairly basic Ice Type move but effective when used appropriately. "Deflect it with your Reflect!"

Seconds before Vaporeon let fly with her Aurora Beam, Ledyba's body glowed briefly and a wall of light appeared between the Bug Pokemon and the incoming Beam. Before Meg had chance to tell Vaporeon to get out of its path, the Aurora Beam ricoched off the barrier Ledyba had summoned and ended up hitting Vaporeon on the flank and knocking her to the ground.

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"Don't give up, Vaporeon!" Meg urged as Vaporeon staggered to her feet, winded but ready to continue the battle. "Try a Quick Attack!"

"Ledyba - Comet Punch!" Keiko countered as Vaporeon darted forward. In response, Ledyba reared up on her hind legs and, when Vaporeon drew level with her, sent one of her round front feet ramming into the Water Pokemon's face. Stunned, Vaporeon staggered around looking punch-drunk before collapsing in a semi-conscious heap.

As the referee, Junko knew she had to wait a few seconds to give Vaporeon chance to recover. When she showed no signs of doing so, Junko raised her hand and prepared to declare Keiko the winner.

"Vaporeon is no longer able to battle!" she told the crowd of onlookers. "The victory goes to Keiko and her . . ."

She broke off and stared hard at the victorious Ledyba as she noticed the Pokemon seemed to be glowing and her body was changing form. She stood up on her hind legs as her head became more oval-shaped and her eyes changed from being round and black to blue and shaped like lozenges. A small dot appeared on her forehead, her hind feet turned red and her height increased until she was only slightly shorter than Keiko.

Junko laughed lightly. "Well, I was about to award the victory to Keiko and Ledyba," she said. "But it seems Ledyba has decided to evolve into Ledian . . . In any case, Keiko is the winner."

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"Congratulations, Keiko," Hiroko said as all the Kimono Girls sat on the lawn relaxing after the battle. "But I guess this means the end of our tradition . . ." she added with a faint trace of regret.

Keiko laughed and patted her Ledian where she sat beside her trainer, the only Bug Pokemon in the midst of several Pokemon of the Eevee line. "Oh, I don't know about that," she said. "I'm still going to become an Eevee trainer like the rest of you - I'll just be training Ledian as well. And," she added, looking Meg directly in the face, "I might evolve mine into a Vaporeon."

"You do whatever you want, Keiko," Meg replied, stroking her Vaporeon as she spoke.

"I will, Meg," Keiko said. "And thanks for a great battle."

She turned back to Ledian, grateful that things had finally been resolved and she no longer had to train her Pokemon in secret.