Chapter 12: Master Erika
Fan Fiction inspired by Pokemon, Pokemon Conquest
Rating: Young Adult
The girls at the gym were very excited to change me. They worked quickly to undress my garments and put on the kimono they had found for my size. If there weren’t so many hands, their work would have taken longer. I was transformed from a priestess into a wonderful lady in kimono in no time at all!
The girls chose for me a light-green kimono complete with a olive obi. The colors matched more for summer, but I guess there wasn’t very much selection out of their wardrobe for my size. Most of these girls are early-aged adolescents, considerably smaller than adult women.
“I’ll go ahead and wash these for you, ma’am,” said one of the older girls.
She took my regular clothes away to another room before I could even thank her. As I was finally “presentable” to Lady Erika, the woman we met at the door who seemed to be chummy with Shuichi and Amy came in to escort me to the gym leader.
I was in awe of the gym as I walked down the hall. The classroom next door looked pristine and organized for every kind of session they held here. The green room where they raised most of their grass pokémon looked lavish and bright with all the green plants that grew inside. The battle room where trainers challenged for the gym’s badge was as tall as it was wide, with a glass ceiling to let the natural sunlight illuminate the room by day. Every breath I took smelled like a different flower or pine, from the garden scenery.
And yet to think that all of this was owned by a warlord, Shuichi’s master. If she truly is a master of combat, she must also be incredibly beautiful.
“This is Lady Erika’s den,” said the woman. “You may now go and see her.”
She slid the door open and gestured to let me walk in on my own. I entered slowly, paying attention to my posture as well as trying to move around in this getup. Those girls may have tied my obi too tight!
In front of me was a small-figured woman dressed in a beautiful yellow kimono with what looked like pokéballs in its design. She knelt down in the center of the room in a poised position. A red headband kept her smooth, glistening black hair from covering her face. Her skin looked like it glowed on its own with an aura of warmth and sincerity. Her hands gently petted a Bulbasaur that laid comfortably at her feet.
“Welcome to my gym,” said Lady Erika. “You must be Shu-chan’s guest. Please have a seat.”
So she calls her student Shu-chan, just like my master called me that. I guess that makes sense, because we both shared the same character in our first name. She seems like a calm and lovely lady. Could she truly be the warlord that inspired Shuichi?
I knelt down before her where she had gestured, on the left-hand side of the room where a cushion had been laid. There were two other cushions, probably for Amy and Shuichi. In front of those cushions was a small table along with all of the equipment used for making tea. I think Amy mentioned something about how they met in a tea ceremony class at this gym. I guess Lady Erika wanted them both to demonstrate their skills all over again.
“I’m very pleased that you have come to see me,” she said. “May I ask of your name, please?”
“Of course,” I said without thinking as I sat straight up with intensity. “My name is Shuko Oda. Pleased to meet you, too.”
“Oh, so your name is Oda as well. You seem to remind me of Shu-chan somehow, too. Are you related?”
“Actually, I have come to Celadon City to find that out, milady.”
“Oh, don’t be so formal with me, Ms. Shuko. Just call me Erika.”
I relaxed a little, now that I had permission.
“As I was saying, I never knew who my real family was. That’s why I’ve journeyed for so long to find out. I didn’t have any leads until now. I think Shuichi could be my brother.”
“I see. Well it wouldn’t be too surprising if he was, now, wouldn’t it? You two look very much alike, and you share the same surname. But Shu-chan has lived his whole life without any other siblings. His parents are very much accustomed to only having one child. I’m sure you understand that even if you were of his family, they may still not accept you as a daughter and sister.”
“Of course I understand.”
“Then why do you wish to know then? What are you hoping to gain by knowing that you have found your real family?”
“I don’t know, really. I’ve lived thirty years of my life never knowing who they were. I guess I just want peace of mind.”
That’s not all of it, of course. I wanted to know that my real family was safe. I wanted to know that my journey away from Ransei was not in vain. I just wanted to know who I really was and where I came from. If I knew that much, then maybe I wouldn’t feel so bad leaving my entire life in Ransei behind. But I won’t know until I can learn more about Shuichi, and how he has lived up to this point. He is the first lead I have ever had in finding my family. He is the only lead I may ever have.
“Sorry we’re late,” said a masculine voice behind the sliding door.
The door slid open violently as Shuichi and Amy made their entrance. Amy wore a beautiful solid pink kimono. She stood closely behind Shuichi, looking a little embarrassed. But what I found most shocking was that the two were holding hands!
I know Shuichi and Amy have known each other for a long time, and they have been dating as of recently. But from all the encounters I have seen of them together, she never made any physical contact. Other than pounding his head after he made some ridiculous comment, this was a fairly new development to me! Of course, by the time they entered the room, the two separated and bowed before the gym leader.
“Welcome home, Shu-chan,” said Erika. “And it seems you brought back Amy as well. I’m so happy to see you two together now.”
Shuichi and Amy took their seats behind the tea serving tables.
“Wait a minute, I never told you we were together!” said Shuichi in surprise.
“Of course you hadn’t,” shrugged Amy. “I told her for you when we first started dating.”
“How come I wasn’t informed of this?” sulked Shuichi.
“Amazing, Amy!” exclaimed Erika. “All the folds on your kimono are perfect. So, which one of my senior members helped you into that one?”
Surprisingly, Shuichi raised his hand shyly, trying to look away from everyone. Erika started clapping joyfully.
“I never knew you could make such wonderful folds for a woman’s kimono,” said Erika. “Amy must be very proud of you.”
“Yeah, because she was never very good at that kind of stuff, even when we were junior members,” grinned Shuichi.
“Right, Shuichi, and who was it that could never make his tea the right way?” said Amy, shooting back another grin.
“I’ll have you know my tea tastes delicious now! I worked very hard at the department store cafe, brewing tea to earn my way through college!”
“Oh really? Well I had to make tea every morning for all of the admins at the Sinnoh Pokémon League for the first two years I worked there!”
“Yours is probably commercially made tea placed in little bags!”
“And yours is probably too bitter because you’ve masked the flavors so much with all those sweeteners!”
“Are you challenging me?”
“That’s right, Shuichi. I won’t lose to you because I am a genius!”
“Well I’m glad you two are all fired up now,” said Erika. “As you can see before you, I’m giving you two the opportunity to serve tea to all three of us. The one who pleases us most best two out of three shall be named the tea ceremony master!”
Shuichi pointed his finger at the people in the room, excluding Amy and himself. Then he would try and count them again.
“I’m a little confused, Erika. If we’re serving tea to each other too, why would I judge that hers is better than mine?”
“Silly Shu-chan. This Bulbasaur is the third judge. She’s a very good connoisseur of our tea at the gym. She normally belongs to one of the senior members other than Rika, but she’s kind of like their mascot now.”
Shuichi’s face looked pale, as if he couldn’t believe what he was hearing. I’m sure he was wondering how a pokémon could judge the taste in tea, let alone how to decide which one tasted better.
“Very well then,” said Shuichi. “Let’s get started right away!”
Amy and Shuichi simultaneously grabbed the towel before them and started to wipe all of the tea cups with it. This was the first part of the ceremony. The two had been going very fast, when Erika had stopped them by butting in.
“I’m sorry you two, but not only are you being judged by the taste of your tea, but also your performance in the making of that tea. Please show some respect!”
Amy and Shuichi pouted as they slowed down their movements to make their tea for us.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
While Shuichi and Amy were having their odd lovers’ quarrel over who could make the best tea, Erika allowed me to sit next to her for the moment to talk with me personally.
“So Erika, I’ve been meaning to ask–”
“I already know. You want to know how someone like me could be a warlord and the master to Shu-chan, right?”
I was impressed by not only how quickly she knew what I wanted to say to her, but that she admitted to it without a thought or care of how I would feel about it. She really knows how to read into people’s thoughts.
“Well, if you didn’t know, I’m actually the heir to a clan that owns a lot of property here in the Kanto region,” said Erika. “Because of my social status I had to learn to protect myself and my clan. I’ve studied archery since I was a little girl, among other martial arts, so that I could handle combat situations. As a result, I became a warrior by being an asset to my family.”
“But why would your family put you up to something like that? Couldn’t they have hired bodyguards or trained stronger pokémon?”
Erika shook her head. “As an influential family over many parts of Kanto, we have rebels as well as rivals who often send threats to me and my family. My father was an administrator within the Pokémon League Trainers Association and had them offer some options for us as well. I proved myself to be worthy by becoming a tournament champion when I was fourteen and then became the successor of this gym. So long as my family is affiliated with the Pokémon League, we had political protection. But in order to ensure my own security, I still had to follow the instincts of a warlord.”
“I understand that your family must be burdened with such responsibilities by being so affluent. It’s no wonder you have decided to become a warrior. But if I may ask, why have you decided to only have girls at this gym?”
“It’s simple, really. I may be a warrior, but I also enjoy my femininity. I believe the most wonderful thing a girl could do for herself is refine herself in skills that will satisfy her needs to be charming, but most of all, allow them to enjoy just being a girl.
“And frankly there never was a rule that said boys couldn’t join this gym. While most of our activities are strictly feminine by nature, boys and men can still take part in them. But Celadon City is plagued mostly by masculine ideals, from our political structure in the city council to the children who are taught to emphasize gender roles. But Shuichi was different. Something about him wanted to learn more about the feminine activities that my gym had to offer and challenge the status quo, and I gladly took him in as a member.”
I smiled as I watched Shuichi and Amy continue their rivalry in tea making, as they stirred the contents of tea and water together.
“That Shuichi is something else, isn’t he?” I said in admiration.
“Shu-chan may come across sometimes as a coward or a dunce, but he’s far from it. He has a very kind heart for his friends, his family, and his pokémon, and he always has a strong desire to seek out his own justice. These are the qualities that best fit a pokémon warrior, don’t you think?”
The more I think about it, Shuichi reminds me of my big brother, Nagamasa. Maybe that’s why Erika let him become a warrior. Sometimes I wonder what Nagamasa is doing right now.
Once Amy and Shuichi had finished making the tea, they both presented us with a small cup to have a taste. They also gave some tea to Bulbasaur in a saucer.
Erika and I both rotated our first cup in our hands as we experienced the aromas of the tea and visuals of the cup’s design. As we had finished, we drank the contents to enjoy the taste: a bitter, yet soothing green tea. We set down our first cup and did the same with our second. When we had finished, Shuichi and Amy gladly took our cups away and proceeded to ritually wash them in the jar of water they were provided.
“So, Shuko, what did you think of their tea?” asked Erika.
“Well, Amy’s tea was very well balanced in flavor, and I couldn’t see many faults in her presentation. But Shuichi’s tea had a very exquisite flavor that seemed to capture the essence of the ceremony, and his techniques were very clean-cut for a male server. I guess I liked Shuichi’s better.”
Shuichi pumped his right fist toward his chest, as if gesturing that he had just won. Amy rolled her eyes.
“Well actually, I think Shu-chan’s tea and presentation was kind of boring,” said Erika.
Shuichi dropped his jaw and held his head down as if he had been rejected or defeated.
“Of course, since I see Shu-chan more often, I’ve already grown accustomed to the taste. Amy, on the other hand, had a tea that had a nostalgic scent and feel to it, and she knows how to present herself with that Spring kimono she is wearing.”
“That’s not fair!” cried Shuichi. “I helped her put that on.”
Amy made a fist of her own and pounded Shuichi with it. Shuichi covered his head as a habitual reflex.
“In any case, I think Amy did a much better job.”
Amy cheered as she slapped Shuichi on the back. Shuichi reacted in a similar fashion as he did from the pounding, but it was more like out of surprise than out of habit.
Suddenly the Bulbasaur began to cheer in joy as she finished the second saucer. Clearly this was the favored tea that Amy and Shuichi had both made.
“Oh, Bulbasaur, so you like this one, right?” said Erika.
The pokémon jumped for joy and made somersaults, despite the fact she stood on all four legs.
“Amazing!” said Shuichi. “But whose saucer of tea was it?”
Erika inspected the two saucers, contemplating on which one was Shuichi’s and which one was Amy’s. Since the dishes were identical, it was very difficult to tell. As she pondered which saucer had won, however, the Bulbasaur had crawled its way toward Amy.
“Wow! So it was Amy’s tea that she liked! It looks like Amy’s our tea master!”
Amy stood up and jumped for joy. “That’s right, Shuichi! I’m still the genius of Celadon City!”
Shuichi held his head down in utter defeat. I sat there calmly, giggling away at their aside.
“I guess you’re still pretty good at this,” said Shuichi. “I’m happy for you, Amy.”
Shuichi awkwardly extended his arm to Amy, as if to hug her. Amy spaced out a little, wondering what Shuichi’s intentions actually were. She seemed to be just as nervous as he was. And then he decided to shake her hand instead.
As their hands met, Amy grew furious and pouted at Shuichi.
“What is wrong with you!” she shouted. “You’re supposed to be my boyfriend, and all you can do is this? What about the kiss we had earlier?”
Erika and I were in shock. They had kissed? And why haven’t they been able to show any signs of being closer to the rest of us? Perhaps Shuichi is a coward after all. Maybe not when he is with Amy privately, but certainly when other people are involved.
“He may come across as a coward or a dunce, but he’s far from it,” echoed Erika’s voice in my head from the conversation we had earlier.
So that’s what Shuichi is like. He comes off as very shy and very unsure of his feelings when he is around others. But when it comes time for him to do things for the ones he loves, his confidence is unparalleled, like he can do anything.
“What? He kissed her!” a high-pitched voice said behind the sliding door.
The door slid open as rapidly as Shuichi had opened it earlier. Diana in her kimono had barged in, probably without permission, as she carried a small communication device. That’s the other pair that seems to fascinate me. Shuichi and Diana, a professor and his assistant. They may not be romantically involved, but they do seem to be very compatible for their line of work.
As Shuichi and the others froze in shock that Diana came in, the professor’s assistant delivered her message.
“Well Shuichi, you have a video call from Prof. Sycamore,” she said as she handed Shuichi the device.
“Diana, why are you carrying my transceiver in the first place?” asked Shuichi skeptically. “I thought I left it at my office.”
“Well, I may have taken it to make a few calls,” said Diana. “But all of them were to other professors because they have been curious about your work. I had to fill them in about what we have been doing.”
Shuichi had a concerned, yet annoyed look on his face as Diana revealed all of these details. I’m sure he didn’t like the idea that she was rummaging through his work without him knowing.
“In any case, what does the board member want with me this time?” asked Shuichi.
Diana shook her head.
“Not that Prof. Sycamore,” she said. “The other Prof. Sycamore.”