Chapter 1: Memories of Ransei
Fan Fiction inspired by Pokemon, Pokemon Conquest
Rating: Young Adult
I was a little girl when I last saw the land of Ransei. It was a beautiful country surrounded by oceans from all sides; a place where pokémon can thrive without being confined by ball technology. It is a place where humans and pokémon live alongside each other, working together, fighting together, sharing agonies and victories as one.
But Ransei was also a land of tradition. To this day the warlords of days gone by continue to rule the kingdoms for power and resources. It is because of warlord rule that the people are militarily driven, and humans and pokémon alike are drafted as warriors.
War is a terrible construct that consumes everyone without care. It didn’t matter if you were a warlord, a warrior, or the various laborers that support them. People and pokémon are killed all the time in the endless war that curses this land.
And yet in this war-driven nation, there is a prophecy that brings hope to the people. One warlord will someday unite all of the kingdoms of Ransei. When that happens, the Creator will reveal himself, and that warlord will be tested. A warlord pure of heart will gain the Creator’s favor and bring peace to Ransei, and the seventeen kingdoms will finally ceasefire and restore the nation as a single entity. This is the Legend of the Hero of Ransei.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
My father was the priest of a small shrine in the kingdom of Aurora. Those who visited our shrine worshiped Arceus, the Creator. While my father’s main duties were to maintain the sacred grounds, he and his wife, my mother, ran an orphanage for children whose parents were killed in various battles.
I was among those children.
There were thirteen of us at this time, many of us were from Aurora, while a few others came from a neighboring friendly territory, Greenleaf. The current warlords of the two kingdoms formed an alliance, which is quite common, but we never know how long such a pact will last.
At the age of twelve, I was the second oldest child at the orphanage, and the oldest girl. In order to help out the family, I tended to the stables, where we raised combat-ready pokémon. Aurora is a kingdom of normal types, and our shrine’s pride and joy were the Eevees we raised for the warlord.
“Hey, you’re the priest’s daughter, aren’t you?” said a boy gawking at me during one of my days working in the field.
Three boys about my age started throwing rocks at me and an Eevee I had been playing with. I shielded my face as the little pokémon hid behind my hakama.
“Is your old man still going on about how the Creator will save us all?” said the second boy.
“You should already know he’s lying to you,” said the third. “He’s been lying to us all!”
“And what’s with the Eevee?” mocked the second one again. “They’re supposed to be one of the best fighters, but he’s hiding behind you? What a coward!”
As the boys started gathering more rocks to throw at me, I stood up and held my shakujo in a stern, aggressive fashion.
“First of all, this Eevee is a girl. She’s not ready for combat yet. And second, it’s not the Creator that will save us. It is the Hero of Ransei that will!”
“Don’t get so full of yourself,” said the first boy. “Our lives are fine without the Creator or the Hero. Our parents will protect this kingdom because they’re strong. Only weak parents get killed in battle.”
My heart was racing and I felt my body heat up faster than ever. These boys were children of warriors who protected our kingdom, and they were spoiled because of their parents’ social status. While throwing rocks at lowly orphans like me was a daily occurrence, speaking about my biological parents like that was unforgivable.
Without another thought I charged at the boys, shakujo in hand. I was about to strike when a taller boy had got in my way.
“Big brother, it’s you,” I said.
My big brother, Nagamasa, was the oldest boy at the orphanage. He was fifteen years old and almost at the age where he would have to choose what to do with his adult life. He was my protector and closest friend.
“You boys may be the sons of warriors, but a true warrior would never harm the innocent,” said Nagamasa. “Now why don’t you kids go home for the day? Haven’t you had enough fun?”
The boys cowered at Nagamasa, and who could blame them? Although he was slender, his posture was straight as an arrow as he stood tall like a warrior. His parents were killed long before he could remember what their faces looked like, but he still wanted to become a warrior. He wanted to be the Hero of Ransei.
“Come on, Shuko, it’s getting late for us, too,” he said. “Mom’s probably got dinner ready for us by now.”
I smiled and nodded, then picked up my Eevee with my calloused hands; and then we walked home together.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
Since there were so many of us, dinner was always very small and very plain. This is probably why we were all so thin. Even so, we were still family, and we cared for each other like real brothers and sisters would.
“Hey Sis, are you okay?” said one of my little brothers, Hiroaki. “Did those boys hurt you again?”
He examined my bruises about my arms and face from the rocks. He was also concerned that I hadn’t eaten anything yet.
“Hey, Misa, stop eating and help me,” said Hiroaki.
Misa was the second youngest girl and only one year younger than me. She obeyed Hiroaki and rubbed my back.
“Those boys really tick me off,” said Misa. “I will never forgive anyone that hurts you, Shuko.”
I was trying to stay calm as the two of them tended to my wounds, but I still couldn’t eat anything. Even so, I let them help me because I know they loved me so much.
“It’s a good thing that big brother Nagamasa was there to save her,” said Kiyomi, another girl. “But Shuko, you should know that he can’t protect you forever.”
“Oh, and why wouldn’t I?” interrupted Nagamasa. “I’m going to be the Hero of Ransei. I will do my best to protect everyone.”
My brothers and sisters stopped eating and cheered for big brother. They all believed that he would be the hero; all but Jinbei.
“But if you’re the hero, how will you be able to protect all of us?” he said. “What if we are scattered all over the place? You can’t be in more than one place at the same time even if you’re the hero.”
Jinbei was one of our recent brothers who joined us. He came from the kingdom of Greenleaf and didn’t necessarily follow all of Aurora’s customs yet.
Nagamasa patted his head.
“Well if I had to only protect a few of you, the girls would come first,” said Nagamasa. “I want the boys to fight alongside me, because you know I can’t be a hero alone.”
Jinbei calmed himself down, but still somewhat unsatisfied with his explanation.
“Well you don’t have to protect me,” said Misa, crossing her arms. “I want to be a warrior, too, you know.”
The other girls cheered for Misa. It was moments like this that made being at the orphanage not so bad. They always made me happy.
“And what about you, Shuko?” asked Hiroaki. “What do you want to be?”
I hesitated and thought about what I wanted to do with my life. I was coming up to Nagamasa’s age too, so I had to start thinking about it soon.
“Get real, Shuko’s plans have already been made,” said Kyoko. “She’s going to be Nagamasa’s wife someday!”
My brothers and sisters made flirtatious noises at me. I blushed.
“No way, is it true?” asked Kiyomi.
“Actually,” I began as I had finally made up my mind. “I want to become this shrine’s priestess. Then I can continue to run the orphanage.”
Silence filled the room, as if I had said something very strange. Then the children burst into laughing.
“So that’s why you always cut your hair so short!” said Kyoko. “You really do love being here that much!”
“Well that’s because I love all of you equally.”
“So you want to be a priestess, Shuko?” said Mother. “I think that’s a fine idea.”
“Yes, but it’s a lot of hard work,” said Father, the current priest. “I hope you’re prepared for that.”
“I will be,” I said. “So please train me well, Father.”
Just then, there came a knocking at our front door. The children grew silent, wondering who could be coming to our shrine when it was so dark. Everyone had finished eating, so Nagamasa and I guided our brothers and sisters to their rooms.
Father opened the door to a warrior and his Staravia, a bird pokémon. The man was dressed in an officer’s uniform, so he was presumably from the warlord’s council.
“Ikeda-sensei, it’s nice to see you,” said the warrior. “Please allow me to speak with you and your wife alone.”
“Of course, sir,” said Father. “It’s always a pleasure to have you.”
The children refused to go to their rooms and listened quietly beside the sliding door nearest the dining room. Father occasionally receives a visit from the warlord’s council to discuss business. This usually meant something might happen to our orphanage, since the government pays for some of the maintenance.
“As you know, Ikeda-sensei, the warlord plans for new changes in our budget,” began the warrior. “I’m sure you’re aware that your shrine is also affected by this change.”
Father nodded. “I’ll do as our lord wishes,” he said. “Just please, spare my children.”
The warrior scoffed. “Your children? You’ve only inherited them because their parents were too weak to take care of them themselves.”
I felt my face burn up again. It’s warriors like him that believe that only the weak are killed in battle, leaving people like him in power. They make me sick.
“How do you plan to keep both your shrine and the orphanage running at the same time? You can’t take care of all of those children forever.”
“Of course not,” said Father. “That’s why the older ones grow up to become responsible adults. Our own Nagamasa plans to join the military next year.”
“Yes, but that’s only one child, Ikeda-sensei,” said the warrior. “You still have twelve more, and who knows how many others you will inherit in the future?”
“What more can we do?” asked Mother. “Those children need us. They’re happy to have a family again, and you would strip them of that happiness? What is the warlord thinking?”
“Please, Nanami, calm yourself,” said Father.
“I will not!” interrupted Mother, then turned to the warrior. “You tell the warlord that we will not give up this orphanage. Never!”
The warrior shook his head and reviewed some more of the reports he had gotten from the orphanage.
“Your budget allows you to keep up to twelve children. And since Nagamasa is still under your care, we can’t allow you to have so many.”
“Then please take Nagamasa now,” said Father. “He wants to be a warrior anyway.”
“Out of the question,” said the warrior. “The boy is not fit for the military. He’s too skinny to be a warrior. Besides, he’s not useful enough, financially speaking. On the other hand…”
The warrior nodded while looking at the reports.
“This Shuko girl you have,” he continued.
I was surprised he mentioned my name. What could he want with me?
“Of all the other children in this orphanage, her parents are not listed here. Are you sure she is an orphan of Ransei?”
“No, sir,” said Father. “Her parents came from a land far away from us. Even so, she is one of our precious children. Nanami cannot bear children of our own, but we both took care of her like we would our own daughter.”
No way, that couldn’t be right. My parents were not killed? Why would Father never tell me such things? Does that mean that, my parents could be alive somewhere? Where could they be? Will I be able to see them again?
As more questions filled my head, I continued to listen quietly to the conversation.
“Even so, Ikeda-sensei, this ‘daughter’ of yours is an anomaly to the orphanage. She is not from Ransei and therefore cannot be one of your children here at the orphanage. But I can change that.”
My parents listened intently to the officer as I tried to hear him both curiously and worriedly.
“Shuko is the perfect age to become a prostitute or a nursemaid,” he said. “She can give our warriors relief or even bear future warriors. Either way, she is very useful to the warlord. How about selling her to us? You will have enough to maintain the orphanage and you will be meeting your maximum quota. It’ll benefit you either way. So how much will you–”
“Forget it,” said Father sternly. “You cannot have Shuko, nor any of the other children.”
“I understand, Ikeda-sensei, I would never touch the other orphans because they are children of Ransei. But you should know that Shuko is not–”
“You still can’t have her! She may not be a child of someone from Ransei, but she is still a child. She wants to become a priestess and care for this shrine and the orphanage after my wife and I are gone. I will make sure she achieves that. She is not your property, sir. She is my daughter!”
“I guess you leave me no choice then,” said the warrior.
The man drew a sword from his scabbard and had his Staravia switch to a combat stance. “I will not be leaving this place empty-handed. It’ll be your daughter or your head, Ikeda. Your choice.”
Father reached from behind him for his shakujo, a priest’s staff that could also be used as a weapon. Mother had also called her Espeon to fight with him. The evolved psychic pokémon teleported into the dining room.
Our shrine’s atmosphere grew tense, as they readied for battle in the next room over. I wanted to cry and scream, knowing that they were all fighting for my sake. Father and Mother never told me the truth, but they were still willing to protect me. I was glad, but now they were in a serious predicament because of me. I had to do something.
But then, Nagamasa slid the door open and burst into the dining room. He ran toward the officer with a knife in his hand. He screamed in rage as the others stayed silent, and thrusted the small blade into the warrior’s chest.
The warrior, surprised at Nagamasa’s attack, fell on the floor without breathing. Nagamasa checked his pulse. Surely he was dead.
The Staravia was infuriated and proceeded to peck at Nagamasa, but Espeon focused its gaze at the bird pokémon and kept it from moving. Espeon used his psychic ability to force Staravia out of the house in midair, through the roof and off into a distant sky.
Nagamasa dropped the bloody knife and started screaming again, but as if in pain.
“Nagamasa, what have you done?” screamed Mother. “We can’t cover this up now.”
Mother tried to calm him down, but he could not hear anything she said. Nagamasa killed a man for my sake. The stench of death made me gag.
I covered my mouth as my other brothers and sisters guided me to the bedrooms. They kept whispering to each other, worried about what would happen to the orphanage, to Nagamasa, and to me.
Then Hiroaki broke away from the others and rummaged through his small drawer of belongings. He grabbed something out of it and handed it to me. When I opened my hand, I was surprised that he would give me something like this: money!
“Please take it, Sis,” said Hiroaki. “It’s not much, but it’s everything I saved up. Use it to get away from this place!”
Hiroaki started to cry. I wanted to comfort him, but he turned my hand away. “Come on, everyone, help Sis out!”
My other brothers and sisters went through their belongings and gathered what little money they also had. Each one of them gave me all of their share. I started to shed tears. Why would they offer so much of what they had to me?
“Please, Shuko,” said Kiyomi. “Use it to run away. Leave this place and go on a journey.”
“I hope this is enough for a boat ride out of here,” said Misa.
“What are you saying?” I asked. “I can’t just leave you all here.”
Jinbei gave me his money and held my hand for a long time.
“All of our parents died, Shuko, but yours are still out there. I just know it! So please, go and find them. That way you won’t ever have to feel the pain we have felt by being here. Never again!”
The other children crowded around me with similar requests. I started to cry. I didn’t want to leave any of them, and yet, I could not reject their kindness.
What should I do, Father? Where should I go?
Mother entered the room where all of the children had been making noise. They all fell silent. Normally she would scold us for being so rowdy late at night, but instead she embraced me, the eldest daughter.
“Don’t worry, Shuko,” she said. “I will protect you, even if it costs me my life.”
I hugged her in return, but then I turned her away.
“I’m going, Mother,” I said. “I’m leaving this place. I will grow up and become a priestess in a land far away from here. And maybe someday, I will return to Ransei and uphold my promise.”
“I understand, Shuko,” she said softly. “And that’s why your father and I are giving you this.”
Mother handed me a small round ball. It was half red and have white, and it glistened like a mirror, but was solid like any steel blade. I didn’t know what to make of this object. Was it a tool? A toy? A valuable keepsake? And what use would it be to me?
“It’s called a pokéball,” said Mother. “They have them in lands far from here to carry pokémon. When your father and I took you in, your real parents were kind enough to leave it with you. I have already placed your favorite Eevee inside to protect you on your journey. We never meant to hide all of this information from you, but it seems that the time is right to tell you all of this.”
I shook my head and thanked Mother by hugging her again. She, too, had tears in her eyes, as if she was letting go of something precious forever.
“Don’t worry about us, my love,” she said. “Father and I will take care of everything here. You just focus on leaving for Greenleaf and taking a boat out of this country. I wish we could all be there for you, but I’m sure you understand how tough times are these days.”
I nodded. I feared not knowing what was to come for me on the journey ahead, but I also feared what my life would be like if I stayed here; and I most feared what would happen to my family if I were to stay.
As I left home quietly, I noticed that Father and Nagamasa were in another argument, probably because of what had happened to the officer. I couldn’t hear exactly how their dialogue went, but I knew that seeing them off would just worsen the situation. I had to leave; and I couldn’t say goodbye to Father, or Big Brother.
Before I walked away into the night, Mother gave me one last embrace along with a small, but important piece of advice.
“When you get to the other lands, find other priests like your father and tell them your name is Shuko Ikeda of Ransei. Those who know your father are friendly and might take you in as a servant. But if you come across a situation where you can find your real family, remember this. Your real name is Shuko Oda.”