Chapter 9: The First Compliment
Fan Fiction inspired by Pokemon
Rating: Young Adult
Brian and I were taken to Nuvema Town when Prof. Juniper and her assistant picked us up from the battle. Brian remained at some hospital in the area in order to recover from his injuries. I was taken to Prof. Juniper’s lab.
The professor’s assistant stared at me less than half a meter from my face, eyes filled with far too much affection and curiosity. I could see the green glimmer in her eyes behind those thick red glasses.
“So you’re Prof. Ginkgo, the loser that Prof. Juniper keeps talking about recently?” she said.
I felt embarrassed and angry at the same time as the assistant pushed me closer on the couch I was sitting on.
“Professor Juniper, who is this girl anyway?” I asked.
My senior was conveniently lost in thought, reading some texts and reports from other professors, at her desk.
“Hey, you’re kind of cute,” said the assistant.
“And exactly how old is she anyway?” I asked again. “Hey, are you listening?”
“Bianca, get away from the kid,” said Prof. Juniper, without even looking away from what she was reading. “And she’s far too young for you to be asking me that question, Prof. Ginkgo.”
“I’m not a pervert, you know.”
“Of course not. You’re just a naïve young professor who can’t even tell that Bianca’s kidding.”
I was shocked. This young assistant of hers, analyzing me so closely with glimmering eyes is just kidding?
“First of all, kid, she thinks of everything as cute,” said Prof. Juniper. “Careful, she might steal your Muk out of ‘cuteness’ if she so desired.”
Bianca turned away from me and toward the senior professor.
“Gross!” she said in denial. “Muk isn’t worthy of being cute! I can’t believe that guy even keeps such a thing! Besides, his Poliwhirl is much cuter!”
That’s right. I had left Poliwhirl at the pokémon center when that whole Prof. Sakura fiasco happened. Bianca must’ve spent quality time with him already.
“Bianca, I need you to check on Brian for me,” said Prof. Juniper. “Let Prof. Ginkgo breathe for a minute, okay? I need to talk to him.”
Bianca acknowledged Prof. Juniper and left the lab. I was relieved that she agreed to leave so quickly. Although for a second there, it did feel good to get a compliment, even if it was a joke. When was the last time I’ve ever gotten a compliment like that from a girl?
- ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
After three weeks of training at the tea ceremony class, I finally managed to be prepared. I brought my own kimono and put it on in time so I didn’t have to suffer the embarrassment of being in a girl’s kimono or the wrath of the senior members for being late. Today was also the first day I would have to prepare tea for my classmates.
There are a total of eight people in the tea ceremony class at Celadon City Gym. Lady Erika, the gym leader, is our supervisor. Her attendants, Yuki and Irene, are senior members of the gym who have already perfected their techniques in the ceremony. The four remaining girls Amy, Mei Jia, Rika, and Claire are junior members. I am the only male member of this group and the only male member of the Celadon City Gym.
I would be serving Erika, Irene, Rika, and Mei Jia today, in that order. Rika, the other server for today’s class, will be serving Yuki, Amy, and me. Rika’s tea is watered down, compared to the other girls’ tea; but still, I could not be outdone by her. For today, I brought with me a secret ingredient.
While the senior members were passing around the sugar candies, I mixed the green tea powder in the bowl along with a few drops of an extra ingredient I brought from home. Luckily, no one had noticed. When the tea was ready, I gave the cups to Erika, Irene, and Rika, respectively. The bowl I used to mix the tea only had enough contents for three cupfuls, even though I was supposed to pour four. Now that my tray was empty, I could work on the cup for Mei Jia.
The girls who received my cup silently pondered the sight and smells of the tea I served. Rika had offered a cup to me as well, but I put it aside so that I could work on this last cup.
“Hey, this is surprisingly sweet,” said Irene.
The other girls looked at her, wondering what she meant by that. Rika left her table and came toward me with an inquisitive, yet accusing glare.
“Shuichi, what did you do to the tea?” she asked. “You put something in it, didn’t you?”
I simply smiled with pride.
“It’s one of the secret ingredients that goes into my mother’s sweet tea at the cafe in the department store,” I said. “It’s nectar from her Bellsprout. I just grabbed some from its mouth this morning.”
Irene and the other girls spat out their tea.
“That’s not nectar, that’s drool!” shouted Irene.
“I don’t think I’ll ever drink the cafe tea again,” said Claire.
“Shu-chan, I know it’s perfectly fine to sweeten your tea,” said Erika, “but this is a tea ceremony. The only thing that sweetens a tea is the effort that is put into making it.”
I glanced at the gym leader in boredom and continued to prepare another cup.
As I prepared the last cup for Mei Jia, I started to put in my secret ingredient. However, Rika slapped my hand, disarming me of my charming weapon.
“No, Shuichi, you’re going to make this one the proper way!”
I nodded, poured the water, and mixed the bowl with graceful agitation. When it was finished, I poured it into a cup and served it to Mei Jia. The other girls looked at her while she went through the process of admiring the cup and the smell of the aromas. Then she took a sip.
“That’s strange,” said Mei Jia. “It’s nothing like Rika’s tea.”
“What did you say, you little brat?” Rika said, growing frustrated. “How could this boy make a better tea than me, and with so little experience?”
“Actually, it tastes exactly like hot water,” said Mei Jia.
Rika pounded the top of my head, following suit of all the girls who had done it to me thus far. I covered my head in pain. “How could you forget to put the most important ingredient in your tea?”
“I’m so sorry,” I cried. “I was making that cup so quickly, I must have forgotten!”
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
The next week, Mei Jia served me her tea. I had finally gotten the hang of the ceremonial process and gladly accepted it. I glanced at the simple design of the cup on all of its sides.
If Rika was known for making the lightest tea in our class, Mei Jia was known for making the bitterest. Luckily the sweetness of the sugar candy endured in my mouth this time, so it shouldn’t be too bad. With that in mind, I held the cup to my mouth and gave a sip.
“Hey, this isn’t too bad,” I said. “Mei Jia, I think you’re the best server in this whole class!”
I gave my server a warm smile. She started to blush. Meanwhile, the other girls put down their cups and gasped.
“No way,” said Claire. “Mei Jia served me that same tea, and it tastes the same as always. Has the bitterness gone to your head, Shuichi?”
“No, I mean it. This little girl has way more talent than all of you.”
“It’s okay,” Mei Jia frowned. “You don’t have to be nice to me. Be honest, please.”
“I am being honest,” I said. “It was great!”
Yuki took the cup from my hand and drank what remained in it. She almost gagged and spat it out immediately. It seems that Yuki and I tasted two different things, despite them being from the same cup.
“You idiot!” she shouted while pounding my head.
“I get it now,” Erika smiled. “Shu-chan isn’t distracted by the bitterness of the tea. He’s in love.”
We all turned to our supervisor in shock. Amy walked over to me and pounded my head as well.
“You pervert! She’s three years younger than us. I don’t even think she’s old enough to like guys yet, let alone guys like you!”
“Oh, come on,” I said. “Why would I like her? She complained about my tea last week! And she’s far too small and timid for me! Who would like a girl like her anyway?”
I looked at Mei Jia. Tears began to well up in her eyes. I know I was trying to lie in order to get myself out of embarrassment, but I guess I went too far. I frowned and tried to respond in the most serious fashion.
“Hey, Mei Jia, I’m sorry, I didn’t mean–”
“Go away!” she slapped my hand away. “If you didn’t like it, then just say so!”
Mei Jia ran out of the room crying. Amy pounded my head again.
“Now look, you made her cry, you jerk!” she shouted. “You better apologize next week or leave this gym immediately! I can’t believe I thought of you as a friend!”
That was perhaps the first time anyone other than Lady Erika acknowledged me as a friend at the gym.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
About eight months later, I graduated from elementary school. This was when more girls would choose to either continue with school or join the Celadon City Gym to become pokémon trainers. Unfortunately, our tea ceremony class didn’t get any bigger, probably because of all the rumors about the perverted guy in that class.
“As you all know, next week we will be evaluating some of you to become senior members of Celadon City Gym,” said Erika at today’s session. “The senior member selection committee has been evaluating each one of you for possible recommendation for this exam. Junior members taking this exam will have to present a skill they have learned from the classes they have been taking here to members of my family. If they are satisfied with your performance, you will become a certified senior member of the Celadon City Gym and receive your very first pokémon. Senior members may then choose to supervise our classes here, partake in the battle training class, or go on their own journey.”
“I will now reveal the names of the candidates we deemed worthy enough to take the senior member exam,” said Irene.
She read from a piece of paper she had in front of her.
“Amy, Shuichi, I am pleased to announce that you are the representatives for the tea ceremony class. Please be here promptly on Monday in your kimonos for the examination.”
The other girls clapped for us. I was glad they would accept me, but I couldn’t understand the reasoning.
“But Lady Erika, I’ve been here for a short amount of time,” I said. “Why would I be selected to perform the tea ceremony?”
“Shu-chan, you have shown the most improvement in your time here,” said Erika. “I think it’s wonderful that you can finally hold your head high and serve some delicious tea to my family.”
“And frankly, the other senior members are hoping you pass this exam to go on a journey with your pokémon,” said Irene. “That way, you can get out of our hair.”
I cringed and my limbs froze as I felt an imaginary arrow pierce my heart. The other girls giggled.
“And with that, Amy, Shuichi, you will be preparing the tea for today’s class,” said Irene. “Think of this not as practice, but the real thing. Make your best tea and satisfy your classmates.”
Amy and I bowed to our instructors and proceeded to the ceremonial tables. This is my opportunity to become something better. To be a better tea server than Amy. To please Lady Erika and her family. But most of all, to start my journey as a pokémon trainer.