Chapter 17: The Slob of Slateport
Fan fiction inspired by Pokemon
Rating: Young Adult
Finding a boyfriend for Claire seemed effortless over the years, but looking for a husband for Erika proved to be extremely difficult. When I first accepted the job, I asked Erika what she was looking for in a man.
“I never thought about it,” she said. “I guess I want someone who’s handsome and will appreciate that I’m a grass pokémon trainer.”
Either way, part of looking for a husband for Erika required my judgment and I would have to find out more from her as time went by. I visited the candidates on my days off from school and work, which was usually on the weekends. The results from my visitations and canvasses were less satisfactory, however.
“Sorry, I’m getting married to someone else in a few months.”
“Sorry, girls like that are a turn-off. I like big boobs, you know?”
“Sorry, I’m allergic to grass pokémon,” said another candidate who sneezed at the sight of my Vileplume.
“No way, dude, I don’t swing that way.” This candidate thought I was meeting him for myself.
A lot of these candidates didn’t give me the time of day, and it seemed very hopeless for me to find any suitable person that Erika and her family would like. Even worse, however, was when I eventually did find some candidates who would like to meet Erika. I would give my report to her and she would evaluate each guy.
“This guy is too fat.”
“This one is too scary and ugly.”
“This one reminds me too much of you, Shu-chan!” She was looking at a profile of one of the guys I thought was pretty cool.
“This one is you!” she said, pounding my head looking at a registration form for my classes. Not sure how I accidentally threw that in the mix.
Events like these would go on for two years into my college experience. No matter how insistent Erika’s family was in wanted her to get married, she was not pleased with any candidates nor was she obliged to choose them.
Then it happened just before the end of my sophomore year at the University during my break.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
I was assigned to visit a man who lived in Petalburg City in the Hoenn region. Supposedly he was a relative of Irene’s husband, Kosuke. They had been married for less than a year and moved there. During my break, I took a plane to the Hoenn region and visited Irene at her new home.
“Hey there, Shuichi,” said Irene who was anticipating my arrival at her doorstep.
Irene was always a little chubbier than the other girls, but recently she had lost some weight. She was the veteran senior member and assistant to Erika’s tea ceremony class along with Yuki, prior to getting married. Yuki was much nicer to the girls and me, but Irene always more strict and adamant about our etiquette. She always expected us to speak formally to her and refer to her with the most appropriate honorific. She didn’t always return the same courtesy to us, but I wouldn’t question her on that. Anyone who opposed her, particularly me, would be severely punished.
“Good morning, Irene-senpai,” I said as I waved to her.
Irene made a fist and pounded my head.
“What was that for?”
“First of all,” said Irene, “you didn’t tell me you were coming. Lady Erika had to inform me. And second, never wave to your hosts. Always bow. Is that understood?”
Irene gave me a wrathful glare.
“I mean, yes, ma’am.”
“Good. Now hurry up and sit down for a minute. I have a new tea recipe for you to try out.”
Irene and Kosuke work out of their home as local grocers for some of the townsfolk. Kosuke is a florist and tends to the garden outside. While his largest market is for flowers and some native Hoenn fruits and vegetables, he also grows a few herbs and spices. This provides Irene with some extra ingredients she uses to make tea. Their dining room doubles as a tea house for traveling guests like me.
“Here you go, Shuichi,” she said as she served me a cup of tea.
As expected of a tea ceremony student at the Celadon Gym, I was to take part in all of the recipient’s activities, even if we were in an informal setting. Irene is simply that strict. I rotated the cup in my hands and examined it. The cup itself was double the size of the ones we normally had during tea ceremony class. Then again, it was also narrow and cylindrical, and its solid rustic red color made it look less authentic too. The contents inside was supposed to be green tea, but it had a dark orange tint to it. Maybe that was just the discoloration due to the cup’s reddish solid design, I couldn’t be too sure.
Once I finished my quick examination, I held the cup to my lips and took a sip.
Not even a milliliter of the liquid, and I coughed and gasped for air. It wasn’t that it was bitter; I had gotten used to that taste over the years. This tea had a spicy sensation. And a very hot one at that! I wasn’t sure which had scalded me more either: the spices in the tea or the boiling temperature that it was given to me!
“Is everything okay, Shuichi?” asked Irene.
“Wa-ah,” I said in a panic, tongue still burning from the spices sitting on it.
“I guess I put too much Figy berry in that one,” said Irene with a sigh. “Alright, Shuichi, quit complaining and run outside to my husband. He’ll give you some water.”
I bowed to Irene and dashed out to the gardens. Kosuke, a burly man who clearly had not shaved since he married Irene, was watering some of his flowers.
“Oh hey, Shuichi, how are you?” he asked.
I made some incomprehensible noises as my mouth hung wide open, panting for water. Kosuke scratched the back of his head and laughed.
“Let me guess, Irene gave you the Figy berry tea, didn’t she? She serves that to me when I make her really angry too. No worries, open wide!”
Kosuke aimed his garden hose nozzle at me, four meters away, and fired it with the jet stream setting. I was hit with the effect of a water gun attack in the chest at first as he adjusted toward my gaping mouth. My thirst was quenched and the spiciness dissipated, but now I was drenched.
Vileplume, who had been watching me idly from the patio, burst into laughter as she sipped some tea with Irene.
“Well, it looks to me like your pokémon likes my tea more than you,” said Irene. “Now we know who’s the strongest member of your team.”
Vileplume’s mouth was stained in the red liquid that I tried drinking earlier. I was glad the tea meant for me didn’t go to waste, but it gave Irene more reason to make fun of me.
“Well that’s because Vileplume’s spice tolerance is really high,” I shrugged. “She always finishes whatever peppers I don’t eat.”
“Save the excuses,” said Irene, unimpressed. “Now, what is it you wanted to talk to us about?”
Kosuke and I joined Irene in the dining room. Vileplume stayed outside, helping their pokémon, Nuzleaf and Zigzagoon, plant some more bulbs for the garden.
“So what does Lady Erika need us for?” asked Kosuke merrily.
“Actually, this isn’t about you two,” I said. “It’s about Jun. I’m here to ask him if he wants to marry Lady Erika. I was told he’s living here with you two?”
Irene frowned and shook her head in dismay, as if she felt some kind of shame. Kosuke gave me an embarrassed expression.
“Well, my cousin Jun technically lives here,” said Kosuke. “However–”
“Look somewhere else, Shuichi,” said Irene sternly. “Jun’s not worthy of Lady Erika at all.”
“But Dear, this might be a good chance for him to get himself out into the world,” said Kosuke.
“And force Lady Erika to marry that slob?” said Irene. “Out of the question!”
“I’m sorry,” I said, trying to butt in. “What exactly do you mean by ‘slob,’ Irene-senpai?”
Kosuke raised his hand and tried to chime in.
“Well you see, Jun is–”
“He’s a no-good, freeloading, lazybones slob who’s spent the last five years in undergrad at the University of Pokémon Studies in Slateport City. He’s been on academic probation at least twice and he’s not showing any signs of improvement at all. I’m surprised his family hasn’t disowned him yet, but he and my husband come from a very prestigious family with a lot of scholars, so he has to follow that tradition.”
“Wow, and I thought I had it rough being in the program for at least two years, working between classes and two jobs,” I said. “That’s a lot of pressure on him.”
“At any rate, it would never work out between him and Lady Erika. She is way out of his league.”
“Oh come on, Irene-senpai,” I tried to reassure her. “I’ve gone through a lot of guys on this matter. She’s turned down some pretty successful men for very trivial reasons. Maybe she’s just looking for a slob like Jun. You don’t know that.”
Irene turned her head away from me and glared from the side.
“Do you really believe you know Lady Erika better than I do now, Shuichi? Do you think that knowing her for eight years while attending the gym occasionally makes up for over fifteen years of our friendship? Did you know that she and I talk with each other everyday even now, while you only see her twice a week?”
I turned toward the window to watch Vileplume and the others plant bulbs. Zigzagoon apparently made a huge mess while digging holes and Vileplume got dirt in her eyes. Nuzleaf was reprimanding Zigzagoon, just like how Irene was angry at me.
“Are you even listening to me, Shuichi?”
“Well actually, Erika has been–”
“How dare you not address your gym leader with the proper title! Even if she’s okay with it, you, as member of the Celadon City Gym, must always address Lady Erika properly in public! Do you understand me?”
Irene was in a mad rage, as she often was when the girls and I were acting improper during tea ceremony class. I never really questioned why she was so insistent on us having good etiquette, but I guess that’s why she had left the gym after she got married. I really have to hand it to Kosuke. He’s got the courage to be with her for the rest of his life.
“Calm down, Dear,” said Kosuke softly. “That’s not how we treat our guests, right? Shuichi is a guest just like anyone else.”
Irene sat quietly and caught her breath.
“The truth is,” began Kosuke, “that Lady Erika spoke with the two of us about your arrival and the question request she had for Jun. My wife was very adamant in refusing him then, but your gym leader was very insistent that you come here to evaluate him. Irene hasn’t been very comfortable with the idea that she trusts you more than her now. Please give her some time.”
I always knew that Erika had put a lot of faith in me in looking for a husband for her. Still, I was very surprised that she would go as far as trusting me over her closest friends. Now I’ve been humbled.
“Right,” I nodded. “So where is Jun now?”
Kosuke rubbed Irene’s back as he continued talking to me.
“You won’t find him here, I’m afraid. While he’s usually here on the weekends, midterms come up next week. Hopefully he’s been studying his brains out at the library more than staying cooped up in his dormitory; but we’ll never know about that.”
“It’s fine,” said Irene sarcastically. “See for yourself what Jun is really like. And maybe you can knock some sense into him while you’re at it. Think you can do that, Oda-kun?”
Oda-kun? Irene only calls me that when she’s really serious about a favor. I had to do my best for her now. After all, she is Irene-senpai, the senior member that taught me how to be a good tea server, and a better man at the Celadon City Gym.
“Of course, ma’am,” I said as I stood up and bowed. “I’ll do my best. Thank you for the tea.”
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
The next morning, Vileplume and I took the train to Slateport City, granted we had to take a ferry across a lake between rail lines. Once we got there, we headed straight for the university campus.
The University of Pokémon Studies is a chain of schools which offer the best in pokémon-related fields and use of them in business and other work. I went to the chapter in Saffron while Jun attended the one at Slateport. While our schools are often rivals in intercollegiate activities, I have worked with their Special Investigations Department at least once, since I was an intern for the department at Saffron. All of the schools in the University of Pokémon Studies work together in that manner.
I was walking in the quad when I spotted a thin, unkempt man in a white tee-shirt and frail-looking shorts. He was idling away, sipping tea out of a paper cup, reading a book that looked more like a manga than something he would have had to read for a class.
The description I was given as well as the photo matched. This was definitely him.
“Hello there, Jun,” I said as I approached him.
Jun glanced up from his book while taking another sip of his tea.
“So, you must be Shuichi, right?” he said in a soft, monotone voice. “Kosuke said something about you last night. Totally disturbed my sleep.”
Sleep? Kosuke called him at eight o’clock in the evening! No college student goes to bed at eight, especially not on the weekend before midterms!
“So, you came to ask me about some girl, right?” he continued to goad me.
I had about enough of his nonsense. As a fellow college student, I felt disgusted that someone like him was even still attending classes as long as he has. How had he dodged getting expelled up until now?
But scolding him wasn’t the real reason I came to see him. I was here on behalf of Erika, the gym leader worthy of respect and good manners. And as she had told me, there is only one way to judge a person’s character. That’s what I’ll do to see whether he is a good match for her.
“Actually Jun, I’m here to challenge you to a pokémon battle!” I declared openly in the quad.
Other students around us heard me and stopped briefly. Some whispered to each other about me, but most of the comments seemed to be about Jun. What kind of reputation did he have at this school?
I stepped back and gave Jun some room to have a makeshift battlefield in the middle of the quad. Jun set aside his book and tea cup as he slouched toward his part of the field. Vileplume stood to my side, ready for action, but even she was surprised at what the slob of Slateport City would do.
Once he got into position, Jun arched his back upright, straight as an arrow. His eyes, which had been hazy and glossed over since we met were now focused and sharp like daggers. With an excited grin on his face, he looked me straight in the eye while holding out a single pokéball in his right hand.
“I accept, Shuichi Oda. State your rules.”