Chapter 15: Mei Jia
Fan Fiction inspired by Pokemon
Rating: Young Adult
Mei Jia was born to her mother and father from a faraway continent. This was both her mother’s and father’s second marriage, and she was the only child born to them. She had half brothers and sisters, but they were much older and were already grown up.
When she was only eighteen months old, her family moved to Viridian City in the Kanto region. Mei Jia quickly learned to walk, talk, and feed herself. When she learned to take care of her own needs, her parents forced her work around the house like a slave. She worked, seldom slept, and if she made even a single mistake, she was punished severely, sometimes beaten for her actions. She suffered in silence, but never shed a tear; and yet the greatest pain she felt was in her heart.
When Mei Jia was six years old, her neighbors complained about noise coming from her house. The local police investigated her house and interrogated her parents. They discovered that Mei Jia had been a victim of abuse as they discovered her lying on the kitchen floor, covered in her own blood.
Mei Jia’s parents were arrested and the authorities looked for solutions as to what to do with the child. They discovered that Mei Jia had relatives in Celadon City and asked them if they would take her in.
The family consisted of the mother’s second cousin, his wife, and their daughter Amy, who was three years older than Mei Jia. At first they were reluctant to take in this little girl, but Amy was thrilled to have a little sister of her own. Mei Jia was taken to Celadon City to meet them and for the first time, was genuinely happy.
Amy and Mei Jia were never real sisters, but Mei Jia always looked up to Amy like one. Mei Jia called her “Amy-nee” to show her affection.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
“Hey Mei Jia, check this out,” said Amy one night as she showed her sister a flyer. “The gym in town just got a new leader and she’s really cool. Her name is Erika, and she’s the youngest gym leader in the Kanto region. They’re having demonstrations to invite new members to an all-girls’ gym. You want to go with me?”
“Is it safe to go, Amy-nee?” asked Mei Jia.
“Don’t worry, it’s within the city, and there will be some really cool pokémon there, too.”
“Pokémon? You mean like the Ratatta that daddy has?”
“Yeah, but there will be grass pokémon. They’re much cuter than Ratatta, don’t you think?”
Mei Jia looked displeased, as if disagreeing with Amy’s thoughts. Still, however, she was happy to go to the gym, so long as she could be with Amy-nee.
Mei Jia and Amy saw a lot of demonstrations and promotions for the new gym leader. Lady Erika herself led most of the events as some of her relatives and closest friends explained what she was doing or passed out forms for various girls to become members. Erika artistically presented the techniques and disciplines that she would teach gym members to uphold with the emphasis on traditional Kanto values. Among these arts were flower arranging, poetry, some kind of folk dance, and etiquette when wearing a kimono.
Many of the girls in the audience were not familiar with some of the arts, as they were accustomed to modern society. Mei Jia, too, did not understand this culture, but she loved watching every second of it.
“Come on, Mei Jia, let’s go watch the pokémon battle demonstration next,” said Amy. “Some of Lady Erika’s friends are challenging one of her uncles. You know, the one who was once a Pokémon League Champion?”
Mei Jia did not listen to Amy. She stood silently as the next demonstration was about to begin: the tea ceremony.
A lot of the girls walked away from the presentation hall to move to the battle hall at the gym. Amy tried to drag Mei Jia to leave also, but she did not budge.
“Hello there, cuties,” said Erika’s assistant Yuki. “Are you here for the tea ceremony demonstration?”
“Actually,” said Amy, “we were just about to–”
“Yes!” interrupted Mei Jia, standing straight as an arrow. “We’d like to try some of Lady Erika’s tea!”
Amy did not know what to make of Mei Jia’s outburst, but she reluctantly stayed behind.
“Wonderful,” said Yuki, smiling warmly. “Please have a seat up front. Help yourselves to some of the candy too. You’ll need it.”
The girls gave each other a confused look as they knelt before a small table with several small candies in front of them. Mei Jia wanted to grab one of them and pop it in her mouth when Amy slapped her wrist.
“You know daddy wouldn’t approve,” she scolded. “He’s a dentist, after all.”
“But isn’t the tea just as bad for your teeth, Amy-nee?” said Mei Jia.
“Yes, and that’s why we shouldn’t be here in the first place.”
“But then aren’t the snacks that mommy gives us after school just as bad?”
Amy glared at Mei Jia without another word. Amy knew how strict her father was with them, but she also loved her mother’s snacks. She closed her eyes and turned away from Mei Jia with a pout.
“As you can see from Lady Erika’s posture,” said the other assistant Irene, “the visual presentation of the tea is just as important as the taste of its contents. All of the senses are used when you are part of the tea ceremony, whether you are a server or a recipient.”
Mei Jia copied Erika as she held her back up straight while waiting for her tea. Amy, on the other hand, slouched and gave a sigh.
“Young ladies, you should now eat the candy that’s in front of you,” said Irene. “Green tea is bitter by nature, and most people are not accustomed to the taste. The candy is used to mask that flavor by balancing it with sweetness.”
The other girls around them sucked on the candy while they waited for their tea. Mei Jia followed suit while Amy stubbornly refused. Yuki came forth and presented them with their cups of tea and noticed that Amy had not swallowed her candy. She gave a subtle smile, wondering whether the girl before her was either brave or foolish for not eating it.
“Before you drink the contents, young ladies, it is customary for you to examine the cup you have been given,” continued Irene. “Slowly rotate the cup in your hands and admire the artwork that made this cup. These cups were made specifically by one of Lady Erika’s uncles who works as a porcelain artisan.”
Mei Jia and Amy glanced at the surfaces of their respective cups, noticing every last detail in its pattern. When they felt they had examined the cup completely, they took a gulp of the tea.
Many of the girls choked, coughed, or made a sour face, expressing disgust with the bitter taste of the tea. Amy, too, noticed this unpleasant flavor and proceeded to grab as many candies as were left on the tables and put them in her mouth. Yuki and Irene shrugged, realizing that their art was not going to be very attractive to most of the girls. Erika remained calm and smiled as she collected the cups for the last cleansing part of the ritual.
And through all of that, Mei Jia laughed.
“That was delicious!” she exclaimed.
Amy cowered before her adopted little sister.
“You mean, you actually liked that stuff?” she said in surprise.
“That’s great, kid,” said Yuki. “So are you interested in any of our classes?”
Mei Jia nodded happily.
“I want to join the tea ceremony class!”
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
Amy’s and Mei Jia’s parents happily signed them both up for the tea ceremony class at the Celadon City Gym. Mei Jia was delighted to go but Amy still felt reluctant.
“But daddy, why do I have to go with her?” she asked.
“You need to look out for Mei Jia,” he said. “She’s your sister after all.”
“And your father and I think it’ll be a great opportunity to help you raise those grades of yours in school,” said her mother.
“I’m getting above average marks just by studying,” said Amy. “How is adding another activity going to help me do better?”
“Having an extracurricular activity helps you be more responsible,” said her father. “And I always thought you wanted to join the gym here. This will simply speed up that process.”
Amy turned her head away from her parents and crossed her arms.
“That’s fine by me, then,” said Amy. “But I can’t make any promises about my grades.”
Mei Jia and Amy attended the first tea ceremony session. The other classes throughout the week had more girls in them, but this one only had seven.
Erika sat before the junior members, front and center, as the presiding gym leader. Her assistants, Yuki and Irene sat on either side of her.
“My name is Claire,” said the gaudy-looking girl with long, curly hair on the far end of the small class room. “I am twelve years old.”
“My name is Rika,” said the plain-looking girl with medium-length straight hair and glasses next to her. “I am also twelve years old.”
“I’m Amy, and I will be turning eleven in a few months.”
“And my name is Mei Jia,” she said, sitting on the other end. “I am eight years old. And I am Amy-nee’s sister!”
Amy grew somewhat annoyed, but let her temper go.
These girls continued to meet for tea ceremony every Thursday and would not gain any new members until a certain boy arrived.
“My name is Shuichi,” he said. “I am eleven years old. And I like drinking delicious tea!”
I was that boy, of course; and he was intruding on the fragile bonds that these girls had prior to his arrival. Most of the girls were not very fond of their new classmate because he was the first boy to enter as a junior member of Erika’s gym. They had also heard about what he did to the poetry class earlier that week.
“So Amy-nee, what do you think of that boy in our class?” asked Mei Jia when they returned home that night.
“Oh, you mean Shuichi?” snarled Amy. “Don’t pay any attention to him. He’s just a stupid little boy who just got lucky in joining the gym.”
“Really?” said Mei Jia, unconvinced. “I think he’s kind of cute.”
“Shuichi, cute? That runt may be second in my grade level, but he’s terrible at sports. And he was at the gym a few days ago peeping on the other girls. I don’t see what Erika sees in him.”
“But Amy-nee, weren’t you only the top of your grade recently? Doesn’t that make him the smarter one over these years?”
Amy and Mei Jia had an awkward silence. Then Amy pouted and crossed her arms.
“Shut up, Mei Jia! I wasn’t that far behind him then either. I worked hard to get to the top of the class. I hate to admit it, but daddy was right. Having the tea ceremony class did help a little in making that happen.”
“Yeah, but if he’s going to be in our class, doesn’t that mean his marks will improve too?”
“Yeah, I guess you’re right,” sighed Amy. “But if he thinks he can take the top of the class again, he has another thing coming. Because I’m a genius! And geniuses don’t fall behind that easily!”
Eight months passed and Amy’s and Shuichi’s skills had improved in performing the tea ceremony. Their efforts allowed them to take and pass the senior member exam. Amy and Shuichi received pokémon from the gym upon completion and set off on their own journeys.
A few more girls had joined the tea ceremony class, but Mei Jia felt all alone.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
Mei Jia felt depressed for the next two years. With her sister and Shuichi gone, she had no one else to turn to at the gym. Her skills had improved over time, but her tea remained bitter and unbearable for the other girls. On her tenth birthday, Erika allowed her to take the senior member exam; but she had failed.
She had then failed the exam twice more after that.
On her fourth chance taking the senior member exam, Mei Jia found out that Amy had qualified for the Pokémon League tournament that was coming up. Additionally, she had watched as Shuichi had finally gotten his eighth gym badge at Celadon City. After two years of separation, Mei Jia felt joyful in cheering on the two people that mattered most to her.
And now it was her turn.
“Relax, Mei Jia,” said Irene, as they prepared for the ceremony for all of Erika’s distinguished guests. “You don’t want to fail a fourth time, do you?”
“Of course not,” said Mei Jia shyly. “But I don’t see my sister here at all. And Shu-chan isn’t here either.”
“Never mind them. They’ll come for sure, I just know it. Just focus on your performance and you’ll be able to catch up with them.”
Erika, who had been patrolling the battle hall for this event, approached Mei Jia with a kind, warm smile.
“You have grown so much all these years, Mei Jia. I know you can make a great tea.”
“But it still tastes bitter and people don’t like it,” said Mei Jia. “How could I ever pass this exam if everyone hates it?”
“That’s not true,” said Erika. “Remember when you made tea for Shu-chan for the first time? He thought yours was the best out of all of the tea he had tasted in the class.”
“But only he liked it! He must have a strong preference for bitter tea!”
Erika shook her head.
“Shu-chan doesn’t like bitter things. He always prefers his tea to be sweet like his mother’s at the department store cafe. And yet, he thought yours was the best even when the other girls didn’t like it at all. Do you know why, Mei Jia?”
Mei Jia looked down and pondered why her tea tasted great to him.
“I don’t know.”
“It’s because you gave him a special ingredient: love.”
Mei Jia blushed.
“What, how?” she stuttered. “I wouldn’t give him something like that! How could you tell anyway? That’s not an ingredient that can make tea taste better!”
“You’re right, Mei Jia,” said Erika. “Because most recipients of the tea ceremony are strangers, the love of a server to them means nothing. However, Shu-chan is no ordinary recipient, is he? I’ve said in our class many times that all of the senses go into taking part in the ceremony. Your emotions are the strongest sense that will determine whether or not the tea will taste great. And love is the most powerful emotion you can give; but it will only work if the recipient gives off that same power.”
Mei Jia’s eyes lit up as if her burdens had been lifted. She had no idea that her very feelings made the difference in how her tea would taste.
Erika looked ahead in the crowd of guests that had arrived.
“It looks like our two guests of honor have arrived, Mei Jia.”
At the far end of the hall where the entrance was, Mei Jia saw two familiar faces: Amy and Shuichi. They were both wearing yukatas and, as usual, Amy had an angry expression as she dragged Shuichi with her. Shuichi was also accompanied by his pokémon Gloom.
“Those two haven’t tasted your tea in a long time,” said Erika. “Show them how much you have improved on your own.”
Mei Jia smiled and bowed to Erika, and then prepared for the senior member exam.
After four times attempting the exam, Mei Jia finally passed and became a senior member of the Celadon City Gym. A crowd of tea ceremony girls cheered and Amy gave Mei Jia a big hug. Shuichi, however, was nowhere to be found.
“Amy-nee, do you know where Shu-chan went?”
“Oh, don’t mind him,” said Amy. “He may have been late in registering for the Pokémon League this time around, but that idiot decided to skip the closing ceremony to go off and train for the next one. Even so, I’m sure he’s very proud of you.”
Mei Jia did not know if her feelings were ever conveyed to Shuichi, but she was happy to know that he was still hard at work on his own dreams. That’s what she admired most about him.
“Congratulations,” said Erika, as Mei Jia stepped up to the stage. “It is my privilege to give you this award and your first pokémon.”
Erika handed Mei Jia a pokéball that had an unusual color in comparison to the others. This was how the selection committee of the gym distinguished special pokémon from the usual issued grass types. Mei Jia’s eyes widened as she held it in her small hands.
“Go ahead and release her,” said Erika. “She will be your partner from now on.”
Mei Jia nodded and released the pokéball. A big, serpent-like creature appeared. Many of the tea ceremony girls gasped in surprise, but Mei Jia felt ecstatic as she gave her new friend a big hug.
“She’s a Dratini,” said Erika. “She was rescued recently from a crime bust that happened in the city along with others. While we did get the chance to release many of them, this Dratini refused to leave us. It was as if she was waiting for a strong trainer to befriend her. And I believe that trainer is you.”
“Thank you, Erika!” said Mei Jia with a big smile. “I will take good care of her!”
After Mei Jia had become a senior member, she decided to leave the gym and go on a journey, the same journey that Amy and Shuichi had taken two years before. But as Mei Jia tried to catch up with them, one would continue moving forward quickly without looking back.
And the other would turn around and return in order to take a different path altogether.