Chapter i: Good luck, Luck Lewis
Chapter i: Good luck, Luck Lewis
Luck Lewis is a young Pokémon trainer from New Bark Town in the adventure-packed region Johto, too enthusiastic for his own good and too optimistic it might be unhealthy. Maple is a secretive researcher who soured over years of isolation and cigarettes, and she has been on a mission ever since the mythical Pokémon Mew came to her in a dream, although she's not yet aware of how important it actually is.
A light-hearted, positive journeyfic where an odd couple explore Johto in the search of badges and legends (whilst having the fate of the universe in their hands).
It has been talking to me.
I must listen.
You were right, I have not been myself, but, how could I? I wish I could explain. My “personal project”, as I have been calling it in hopes to appease your curiosity, what I have been calling it to feel normal, has become a force I am unable to ignore for much longer. It is better for everyone this way, for the time being.
I will probably not be back, but know I have good reason to,
Thank you, for everything.
New Bark Town, Spring of 2021.
The very last thing Frankie Lewis told his son before peculiarly disappearing for reasons his mother will never tell, was something that now hung from the boy's wall in the form of a poster of a particularly smiley Sunflora in a grassy field in front of a bright blue sky: carpe diem.
Carpe diem, and it resonated inside his mind every time he thought about his dad, a nostalgic melody that played at particularly quiet corners of his house. A last attempt at parenthood knowing he wasn't going to be around for much longer, and, after he was gone, he made sure the young Luck Lewis had something positive to hold on to, rather than the heavy shadow of his absence (and give his poor mother a little peace of mind, watching their boy smile at her, mouthing Latin with missing milk teeth). And carpe diem thought Luck Lewis as he tied his shoes, his hands shaking slightly, on a Saturday morning.
A Saturday morning he had been waiting for as long as he could remember.
One quick look at Luck's room was enough to decipher what was going on inside that head of his; walls caked with glossy posters of Pokémon battles, shelves ridden with Pokémon League paraphernalia, Pokémon books and vinyl action figures. The floor, carpeted with the apparent slaughtering of a closet, and a bag, slopply packed with a few pieces of underwear and unimaginable quantities of denim.
Luck was a (aspirign) Pokémon Trainer, dreaming of a world of danger and excitement and a lifetime of adventures.
And the biggest one was just about to begin.
He stared at the mirror, fixing his long blond hair and smiling at his reflection, a smile that melted down to a nervous grimace.
Times didn’t stop under Dialga’s careful watch, and the Pokémon world wasn't left unchanged: the Pokémon trainers that dipped their toes into the turbulent waters of battles and championships grew older by the day. History took its time, but it was finally decided unanimously by the societies of Kanto, Johto, Hoenn and other regions alike: it wasn't the safest thing to have an eleven year old wandering around with a health hazard of a creature inside a Pokéball. It wasn't something Luck was worried about, though: sure, he had to wait a couple extra days for that fateful Saturday morning, but isn’t waiting what makes special days even more special?
Pimples or no pimples on his face (and back), puberty or no puberty making his voice sound like an injured Spearow trapped inside a pipe, he was about to leave home, just like his mother and father had done before him, to discover what Johto had in store for him, and it made his insides churn and gurgle as he posed in front of his mirror, practising all he was to do once he got his hands on the precious device that was the red-and-white Pokéball.
After all those years, it was finally here; the second most important day in a Pokémon trainers' life (second only to their dad going missing, of course).
"Come on, Luck", he murmured, patting himself on the cheek and fixing his hair once more, "you've got this, man... heh, you've been waiting for this for so long", he gulped, cold electricity running through his veins, "carpe diem, carpe diem...".
"Luck!", his mother called from downstairs, snapping him out of his mirror-induced trance, "breakfast is ready, come on down!".
"... Alright, here we go...".
"You don't want to keep Professor Elm waiting!".
Luck fixed a couple strands of frizzy, curly hair under his cap as he slid downstairs, hiding his hands inside his light denim jacket and leaning against the wall, "morning, Dandelion".
Dandelion, his mother's old Venusaur, laid on the living room's carpet and snored, contempt. The arrival of spring had made the flower on his back bloom like the ruby rose bushes from his mother's beloved garden, and it opened like a parasol of magenta, filling the house with a sweet, honey-like scent and scattering itchy yellow powder like thin, late winter snow. They had since taken out everything but a couch and the TV — because it was mounted on the wall — from the living room to make space for the cyan behemoth; his mother couldn't quite bring herself to explain to him that he wasn't the backpack-sized, bug-eyed Bulbasaur from so many years ago any more, and a habit of walking outside his Pokéball beside her had now landed them with what was possibly the largest houseplant ever.
"I made Lum berry pancakes", his mother smiled, turning around a slab of golden batter on a sizzling frying pan, a delightful sound he could barely hear over Dandelion's snoring.
"... Lum berry pancakes?", Luck laughed, "where did those come from?".
"Oh, I'm just trying out some new recipes, for good luck, Luck!", she beamed, "I also added some Aguav berries to it, and a little bit of Wepear...".
Luck snorted as she placed his plate on the table: the array of green berries and leafy bits had been arranged to resemble the shape of a stubby-legged, leaf-headed Chikorita. He looked up at her and she shrugged, "hey, choose whatever you want to choose, I'm not saying anything". She sipped from her cup of tea, swirling it around in thought, "... but, I mean, you can't deny how very powerful grass types are in battle...".
"Yes, yes, I know", she giggled, "you don't go for the strongest Pokémon because there is no such thing as strong or weak Pokémon... oh, you're your dad's living image". She walked away from the stove and embraced him in a hug, instinctively fixing his usually messy hair and straightening his clothes, "he would be so very proud of you, Lucky. I am very proud of you ".
"Come on", Luck chuckled into her shirt, taking in the homely scent of pancake batter and shampoo that was making him tingle with nostalgia. He was almost taller than her now, and her thick blond hair, mirror image of his, brushed against his face and tickled his cheek, "don't make me cry now, I don't want to embarrass myself in front of Professor Elm".
"Nothing embarrassing about shedding a tear or two", she joked, masking her voice as it cracked, trying to laugh it off, "or what? You don't want the Pokémon Professor to know you're a little mama's boy?". Luck laughed, pulling away from the hug as she grabbed his face, giving a little pat to his round, sun-kissed cheeks. "You will always be my good luck charm, boy, you hear me? Whether you're here, in Kanto, in Sinnoh, in Alola or wherever your heart takes you....", she smiled, "... but try not to go that far, or I'm really going to miss you". She wiped an astray tear away, shaking it off and laughing, "now... finish your breakfast and get going!".
Luck sniffled, savouring every last bite of the stack of three pancakes drenched in syrup and Moomoo butter: he feared he may never try food quite as good as his mother's ever again, picturing a miserable life's worth of prepackaged meals from the Pokémon Centre (he even ate through the whole Hondew berry leaf that was the stem of the Chikorita's head just because it was covered in syrup). He gulped down a Razz Berry milkshake, insisting he shouldn't brush his teeth because he wanted to "take the taste with him" but going back to do so after being hit with his mother's death stare.
And, when the clock struck ten, he stood in the middle of their home, fixing his hat and pulling the backpack that laid on one of the table's chair's on his back, looking around and remembering every year of his childhood that came before that fateful day; watching the walls painted with memories and hearing ghostly laughs in the hallways, the floor still dirty with the mirage of his muddy footprints from when his feet were the size of his palms and the broken pieces of a ceramic base, struck by a football that came flying from outside.
There wasn’t a thing he wouldn’t miss, and yet, he couldn’t wait to get going.
"Goodbye, Dandelion", he smiled, placing a hand on the Pokémon’s rough skin. The Venusaur lazily opened his eyes. One of his vine whips emerged from the flower on his back, twisting around Luck's arm and he caressing it, wishing him good fortune and for him to come back from time to time, just to say hello.
"I'll miss you, buddy".
It crooned a deep-voiced purr as it stood up, walking towards him with the pace of an orbiting planet and nudging its big head against his body.
"He will miss you too", his mother said, trying to hold back her tears. Luck rubbed Dandelion's coarse head and gave him a few pats, "don't get any bigger while I'm out, you hear me?", he laughed, "that couch over there is hanging for dear life".
"Go on, dear! Make mama proud!" his mother shouted at him from the door, Venusaur's green vine waving him goodbye alongside her, "and you'll make me extra proud if you choose the grass type starter...".
"Goodbye, ma!", Luck waved back, laughing to himself.
"Good luck, Luck Lewis! I love you! Say hi to Lorelei for me!".
The sun beamed down on young Luck Lewis's face as he walked across the canvas of white, wooden houses with sky blue rooftops surrounded by emerald forests and sapphire lakes that was the small-but-never-boring New Bark Town. The trees were grand and green, and the breeze blew his hair back as he picked up the pace, his sneakers mushing the carpet of soft grass and kicking the occasional pebble here and there: he could feel it in the air, and it filled his lungs like helium in a big, rubber balloon. Today was the day, the big day; he had gotten up early, chose his favourite jacket and jeans, psyched himself up after an entire week of nervousness in front of his toothpaste-freckled mirror, monologued about motivation for hours on end, gave his Pokémon battle books and CDs one last look and puked, once before bed and once after waking up and thinking of choosing his first Pokémon... this was it, the best day of his life.
And it was only bound to get better and better, for Professor Elm's laboratory was now but metres away, inside, everything he had ever dreamed of.
"Carpe diem, Luck Lewis".
The air conditioning was strong, and a sudden kick of the pungent scent of chemicals got inside his nostrils as though he was being submerged in gelid soap water. Every white-coat-thick-goggles-wearing individual turned to him as the door opened and closed, and he felt his face flushing as silence filled the room, waving hello.
"If it isn't Luck Lewis!".
Professor Elm emerged to greet him and his heart skipped a beat, "Professor...!", he choked, a wave of excitement and admiration washing over him and making him bow, but the man grabbed his hand and stretched it, smiling and fixing his glasses, "come on now, less formalities", he joked, awkwardly, "I get you're nervous, but don't make me feel older than I already am!".
Professor Elm had been Luck's number one idol ever since he read about his discoveries regarding the Pikachu evolution line and Pichu novelty on a Pokémon magazine, many years ago (well, number “one” after his dad and Sage Riperton, the lead singer of his favourite band: Sage Riperton and The Magnemites, naturally). They were both much younger then, but finally getting to meet him made him feel like he was ten once more, watching him on the nature channel on TV (he could almost feel the braces back on his teeth!).
"Now, now, come on", he placed a hand on his shoulder and walked him over to another room in the white, sparklingly clean laboratory. Lining the walls where all sorts of mechanical trinkets and shelves lined up with test tubes, but they were all outshined by its most striking piece of equipment, in the centre of it was a large, capsule-shaped machine, and as they approached it, it opened with a hiss to reveal three shiny red-and-white Pokéballs like fruits hanging from a mystical tree, glinting and sparkling before Luck's celeste eyes.
Professor Elm cleared his throat, shifting nervously, "I have talked to your mother, Luck, and she said you have a rather... unusual request", he hesitated, brushing the back of his head, "it's not something we do very often... well, we've never quite done it before, in fact, but your mother and my wife became quite acquainted… er, she was very insistent that I... oh, darn...", he laughed, anxious, "what's the worst thing that could happen, right?".
He reached over the circular apparatus and grabbed the three orbs, clutching them with nervousness, "just... don't wreck my dear lab" he whispered at them and Luck held his breath, playing with the hem of his jacket and biting his cheeks.
"Are you ready?", Professor Elm smiled, making the boy giggle with excitement and nod, "come on out!".
With the push of a button in the middle of the red and white halves of the Pokéballs, three rays of red light materialised and struck the laboratory’s floor like lightning bolts with laser silence, taking the shape of three different small creatures, making Luck's knees wobble and a shaky breath escape his lips, who were curled up into a smile.
The three creatures were Johto's signature starter Pokémon, and the first one up was Chikorita, the grass type starter in the shape of a short, pear-like, four-legged dinosaur, the colour of light green vegetable cream. The rubbery, attentive creature blined at the blinding white lights and yawned: it was round and innocent in appearance: around its pale neck it had a collar of tiny, blunt thorns. It had a small, stubby tail, a small mouth opened in a smile, and big, shiny red eyes, as well as a parasol-like leaf on top of its head, which it swung around as it found itself free to roam the foreign room.
Then, there was Totodile, the water type starter, which threw a clicky, defiant bite into the air as soon as it was out of its Pokéball. The chubby blue reptile was standing on two feet, both of its short arms together in front of its pale yellow chest. It turned towards Professor Elm, allowing Luck to see the pointy spikes that ran down its back and tail in the same red that matched its eyes, which were surrounded by a black spots that hooded them like eyeliner. Its mouth was wide open, revealing rows of pearly-white, razor-sharp teeth, and it playfully launched itself towards the researcher, who yelped as his calf was caught between the strong jaws. “Bit of a troublesome one, this one”, he chuckled nervously, grunting as he tried to free himself, “... let go, you little…”.
Luck giggled, turning towards the last Pokémon who was sitting, mouth agape, on the same spot where it materialised a couple of seconds ago. Finally, there was Cyndaquil, the fire type starter, looking at him with an air of interest, tilting its head at the sight of the trainer. It was a bit smaller than the other two; a roundish rodent with dark blue fur and a light, beige belly, walking on four short, chubby limbs that occasionally allowed him to stand upright when it wished to see a bit beyond what a quadrupedal horizon revealed. With its long snout it sniffed the air, and it didn’t pry its elongated, small eyes that weren't visible amongst its fur from the young boy, who found himself, too, staring at it. Suddenly, it sneezed, and the four red spots of his back were revealed, exuding heat, projecting vivid flames for a split second.
"Heh, cute little buggers, aren't they?", Professor Elm finally freed himself from the Totodile, stepping a bit further away and fidgeting with his fingers. He always found curious the excitement of young trainers as they were presented with the very three Pokémon he saw every day and that were the cause of many of his headaches (and leg-aches), "one's a walking blade, the other has massive chompers and the third is a fire hazard... heh…”, he whispered to himself, “... well, Luck, you better... uh... you better make your choice quick, buddy!".
Luck took his hat off, running a hand through his hair and kneeling down to meet the three Pokémon at eye level (making Professor Elm cringe at the closeness of the boy’s nose and Totodile’s teeth), wich now looked around at the beeping machines and flashing lights from the laboratory with interest. "Hello there, my name is Luck, Luck Lewis", he smiled, eyes flashing with a turbulent mess of elated emotions and fingers twiddling, nervous at the prospect of the important decision, "and... and I'm going to be one of you's trainer! How does that sound? Trainer? Or... or do you prefer... friend?".
Luck had always loved Pokémon. Once he hit the age when plush dolls were not enough his mother was presented with the task of stopping his countless attempts of bringing “catches” home — not because she was afraid he'd do anything particularly bad with a little Rattata, but because she feared what a protective Raticate without a Pokéball could do to her furniture later on —. He had cried and begged and nagged because he had always felt a burning passion for everything that meant being a Pokémon trainer, just like his mom and missing father, because even though they hadn't had much time together as a family, his mother still saw his smile on his young face when it lit up at the sight of a Pokémon, and the art of battlers and training was the closest thing he had to a family tradition...
And so, he held his hand out towards the three starter Pokemon to let them make the choice for him. "It was only fair!", he thought. In that way, both of them had a say in the matter, and he would be happy knowing his companion, too, chose him as a trainer.
There's a certain kind of static that fills the air when a second in the clock becomes more important than the other, and the laboratory was filled with the energy that moves history forward, the future eyes of those who will one day listen to this tale opened amongst white tiles and stainless steel surfaces, silent and unblinking. When the feeling of time becomes thicker, the barely noticeable change in the atmosphere makes lightbulbs flicker and the air, change direction. Time is an interesting debacle, a creature not precisely alive, and yet breathing and thinking, and it behaves in strange ways when it so desires.
There seemed to be one Pokémon out of the three who appeared to be more interested in him than in looking around the lab, when its other two companions scattered, making grey hairs pop out of the Professor’s scalp. Its two eyes were fixed upon him, or, rather, on his hair, and when he gave it the opportunity, it climbed up his arm and sat down on his neck, nibbling on a strand of his long blond locks, ruffling it with his plushy, round paws. Luck laughed, tickled, and grabbed a hold of him, pulling him off and holding him up.
Time seemed to dance, elated, when young Luck Lewis locked eyes with the warm, blue-beige Cyndaquil, wearing the artificial gleam of a white bulb as a white halo.
"... Would you look at that!", Professor Elm chimed, clearing his throat and shaking the strange feeling that had made his skin tingle, there for a moment and gone in the next, "I think the Cyndaquil likes you!".
"You think so?", Luck chuckled, oblivious. The Cyndaquil raised his arms towards his hair, so, the trainer placed the Pokémon ontop of his head, where it seemed to perfectly fit, "damn, you're heavier than you look, little guy", he mumbled, holding still to keep the nubby rodent from falling, "... I also realise I just placed you on my hair and... well, I'm not really fond of catching on fire, so, if you could do me that favour…".
"You better get used to it, then", Professor Elms laughed, putting the Chikorita and Totodile back into their Pokéballs with a sigh of relief, giving his trusty machine a grateful pat, "everybody loves Fire-types until all of your clothes' hems are black". He turned to the capsule and pulled out the empty, remaining Pokéball, extending it towards Luck, "and he chose you, so, it's not like you can give it back now".
Luck smiled, giving the Cyndaquil a pat and making him squeal excitedly. "... I guess he did'', he laughed, and when he stood up, the Pokemon slipped from his head, falling into his arms, “oops, we gotta work on that”, he chuckled, feeling a sudden warmth running through his veins (and his skin... and his clothes… oh, no, was he on fire already?).
"Your mother already signed some papers for you, so... there's only one more thing left to do before you start your journey, Luck", Professor Elm cheered, walking up to his desk and opening a drawer. Luck and his new Cyndaquil, who was perched on his shoulder, gave him a look of anticipation as he, slowly, took out a little red box and handed it over.
The box, at Luck's touch, revealed itself to be an intricate electronic device, lighting up a screen and speaking through a microphone with a robotic, male voice: "Cyndaquil, the Fire Mouse Pokémon. It usually stays hunched over. If it is angry or surprised, it shoots flames out of its back".
Luck gaped at the talking gadget. "That is your new Pokédex", Professor Elm explained, proudly, leaning over his desk, "it is a collaborative project myself and other Pokémon Professors from all around the world are constantly working to improve and expand upon, and it is because of trainers like you that it is a raging success. It’s a portable Pokémon encyclopaedia upon which you will find precise information about almost every creature you come across in your journey; and your task as a Pokémon trainer, Luck, is to fill as many profiles as you can with as much information as you can possibly find". He walked up to him and placed a hand on his shoulder, "so, I guess we can say that you and your new partner have to catch 'em all!".
The air on Luck Lewis' face felt different as he exited Professor Elm's lab: it was warmer, at least, but that may have just been the Cyndaquil he now had, witnessing the world for the very first time on his new trainer’s shoulder. Luck was never the most observant kid, and what he lacked in brains he valiantly made up for in nerve. But perhaps if he had grown to be a little quieter and more introspective, he could’ve recognised he now marched to a slightly different tune. He wasn’t just a kid anymore, or, perhaps he was, but his role in the course of history had a bit more stakes now that he smiled at the cheerful Pokémon, who looked out towards the horizon with wonder. He took a deep breath, stretching out towards the sky and letting out a victorious shout, jumping and buzzing with excitement, "I got my first Pokémon!".
He took Cyndaquil by the arms and held him like a plush doll, swinging him around and prancing in circles as it squealed, sharing his enthusiasm with high-pitched cries and fiery exclamations of excitement. After a few missteps they ended up on the grass, laughing and breathing heavily. Luck set his eyes on the fat, white clouds that took the shapes of powerful creatures, two words echoing inside his head: carpe diem.
"I'm gonna make you proud, dad".
An idea suddenly popped into his head, "oh, Cyndaquil, come here", he called him, pulling his new, last generation PokéGear his mother had gotten him a few weeks ago for his journey, "let's take a picture!".
Luck's mother's PokéGear vibrated on the kitchen counter, and she dried her hands off from washing dishes as she picked it up, still wiping away tears from bawling her eyes out all morning at the thought of his little Luck with missing teeth being all grown up now. "Dammit, Luck", he chuckled between hiccups and tears, beginning to cry once more, "what an adorable picture, but... you didn’t pick the grass starter!".
And as she ran upstairs to her room to look at a photo album she stored under the bed, the picture she had received on her PokéGear was still lit up on the screen: Luck Lewis, laying on the grass, making a peace sign at the camera next to the bobbly, blue head of his new Cyndaquil friend who smiled at it too, it's snout looking particularly large thanks to the odd angle the picture was taken from.
And the message accompanying it read only two words: carpe diem!