Chapter 22: Ginkgo no Kusari
Fan Fiction inspired by Pokemon
Rating: Young Adult
Erika and I faced each other on opposite sides of the battle room. I held onto my new weapon while she carried her bow. Vileplume stood in a corner to avoid any confrontation.
“We will now begin your training as a warrior, Shu-chan,” said Erika. “I will choose your opponent.”
Erika released her Tangela, a grass type pokémon whose face was covered in endless vines. While Tangela does in fact become stronger as Tangrowth, Erika’s Tangela never learned ancient power to do so. What’s more is that Erika never used this particular Tangela in a gym battle before. Her normal Tangela, like many others, had red feet. This one’s feet were black.
“A new Tangela, huh?” I shrugged. “Guess I have to start somewhere.”
Without giving any signals, my battle began. I prepared for the first attack and charged at the pokémon. The Tangela immediately countered my slashes with a vine whip. Erika had not even said a single command yet. This Tangela was smart enough to act on his own.
Tangela’s vines extended and grabbed a hold of me and constricted my body. Fortunately my arms could still move, so I used the edges of the bladed fans to cut at his vines. As I applied enough pressure to induce pain, the Tangela let go of his grip on me and I was let loose from midair. I fell to the ground butt-first, still holding on to the blades. Then I noticed something in the corner of my eye.
Without time to think, I shielded my face with the blades. I looked away out of fear when the sound of a single arrow deflected off of one of the blades. When I removed the blades, Erika stood poised, bow gripped in her hands in an aimed position. Erika reached from behind her to grab another arrow from her quiver.
“Wait a minute, I thought I was fighting Tangela!” I shouted in confusion. “How could you–”
“Don’t be so naive, Shuichi!” said Erika in her formal voice.
Calling me by my first name is always a sign that she is serious.
“Don’t forget, this is a warrior battle. When you are up against a pokémon, you must assume that the trainer will be fighting with it. This Tangela knows this better than any of my other pokémon and will fight both a pokémon and its trainer without a single command. He may be considered unruly, but he will obey me based on my desire to kill!”
I trembled in fear. Was I hearing this right from Erika, the girl that allowed me to stay in Celadon City’s Gym as its only male member?
“Maybe you thought that a woman who studies traditional arts couldn’t have such an instinct. Maybe you thought I would go easy on you. Maybe you thought I would be kinder to you because you are my ‘Shu-chan.’ Let me clarify then: war is also a theme in traditional arts; nothing can be learned if you take it easy; and if I had the chance after all these years, Shu-chan, I will kill you!”
Erika fired another arrow, but this time it was in a different direction. Once again without thinking, I held the bladed fans together and extended them as if they were one larger fan. I held on tightly and swung them as hard as I could in the air, causing enough pressure to make a small wind powerful enough to knock the arrow off course. The arrow landed just a few centimeters to the left of my Vileplume, who had been trembling in fear.
“It seems you’ve already demonstrated excellent reflexes, Shuichi,” said Erika. “You have already used Ginkgo no kusari as both a shield and a fan to deflect projectiles, two traits unique to this weapon from the kusarigama it is based on. But you must know by now that you can’t stay on defense forever, Shuichi.”
I grabbed a length of the gold-plated chain in my right hand and swung it as Cindy had demonstrated earlier. It wobbled in my hands and occasionally scraped the ground. I was afraid that any wrong moves would change the angle and hit me instead! I released the chain, hoping to thrust the bladed fan in the direction of Erika, but my aim was off by a meter to the right and a meter short of its target.
I tried to pull back the chain to try another attack, but Tangela interfered and grabbed the chain also. We had been locked in a tug of war. Erika readied another arrow. Any more distractions and I was done for.
“Vileplume, snap out of it and help me!” I shouted toward my pokémon.
Vileplume jumped from her position and fired an acid strike on Tangela. Tangela’s vines felt a sting from the attack and he recoiled somewhat, but still had a firm grip. Erika shot the other arrow in my direction.
With the other blade in my left hand feeling much tension from the rest of the chain held on by Tangela, I couldn’t use it to deflect the arrow. I ducked down, hoping that the arrow was aimed for my head or higher. The arrow blazed over me, but then hit something more critical. Vileplume, who was in the line of fire, took a direct piercing from the arrow in one of her large petals.
Fortunately, Vileplume’s petals can regenerate over time because she is a grass type pokémon. Still, she got very dizzy and weak, and was unable to attack. It confused me, too.
The symptoms Vileplume had were that of a pokémon poisoning. Since Vileplume is also a poison type, that shouldn’t cause an effect.
“Haven’t you figured it out yet?” asked Erika.
I looked toward my opponents.
“What did you do?”
“Along with my quiver, I also carry various pouches which contain vials of various poisons. While Vileplume is immune to all pokémon-based poisons, she is weak to this one in particular. This poison is man-made and its composition is chloride-based. Your Vileplume is suffering from dehydration as the water in her petals combines with the chloride.”
“Stop it now, Erika! This isn’t fair! Vileplume and I have never fought like this!”
“Never fought a warrior battle before? In a warrior battle, one’s preparation or experience doesn’t matter, and you certainly don’t just stop the battle in the middle of it. You either kill your opponent or be killed. You must learn fast, Shuichi, if you are ever to defeat Kanon Aizawa.”
With Vileplume out of commission, I used all my strength to return the chain from the Tangela to me. I caught enough of the length for me to spin the right blade one more time. Tangela tried to stop the spinning by grabbing the chain length, but I resisted by blocking his appendages with my left blade.
Erika readied another arrow as she coated it with one of her pipettes. This one was probably made of a poison that is lethal to humans.
Without a second thought, I ran closer to Erika and released the chain, as if I was hitting a tennis ball with a forehand strike in the direction of her left arm.
The chain length hooked on to Erika’s bow and spun around enough to tether the weapon in her hands. I held on tightly with my left hand in order to make sure Erika could not use her bow. Tangela tried to use his vines to constrict me, but I extended the left blade directly at his covered face. Without another strike, my two opponents froze in place. Still, the two of them remained calm.
Erika relaxed a little more and let go of her bow. The bow and the other end of my chain dropped to the ground with a resonant impact that echoed throughout the battle room.
“It seems our match is over,” said Erika. “Cindy, get the antidote to neutralize Vileplume’s poison.”
Cindy entered the room with a syringe and a large needle ready to help Vileplume. I looked at Tangela who was still looking at me aggressively with my blade still in his face. Then I looked at Erika who stood as calm as ever.
“But Erika, I thought you said–”
“Believe me, Shu-chan, if our match continued, I would’ve found a way to kill you both,” she interrupted me. “I let my guard down on purpose so that I could have Vileplume treated right away. You don’t have the heart to kill me anyway.”
“How dare you use my kindness against me!” I said, shaking my fist.
“You know, if you used your Poliwhirl in battle, you could’ve had that pokémon shoot a water gun at Vileplume’s petals. The water would dilute the solution if there was enough of it and your Vileplume would’ve been unharmed.”
“But I didn’t think of bringing any other pokémon. And even now, I still don’t think I would.”
“Why not, Shu-chan?”
I frowned solemnly as I thought about it.
“Vileplume got hurt because of me. I can’t stand having all of my pokémon suffer just for me.”
“A wise decision, coming from a kind man. But remember, there’s only so much you can do with just one pokémon as a warlord. What happens if you are faced with a pokémon whose type and strength have an advantage over Vileplume? Will you be able to protect her from a fire based attack?”
“Of course I would. I would do anything for my pokémon, even at the cost of my life.”
“True, but the loss of your life means the loss of your bond with the pokémon, too. They would be deeply sad if that were to happen. That means it is still in your best interest to live. You have four pokémon with you as a professor, do you not? Next Sunday, we will have another warlord battle. I expect to see all of them in attendance this time.”
I shook my head. “Ai-san could approach us at any moment,” I said. “She knows where I live. I need to be as ready as possible! Erika, please close down the gym temporarily so I can have more training time.”
Erika shook her head.
“As an employee of the Pokémon League Trainers Association, I have an obligation to continue running the gym for conventional battles and evaluating challengers worthy enough of the Rainbow badge. Besides, why would you suggest that the girls should halt their own personal training just for yours? That’s very selfish of you.”
“Then what more should I do to train as a warrior?”
“Use the rest of the week to improve the bond with all of your pokémon, especially Vileplume. I have a feeling she is your best pokémon link.”
I looked at her with a confused expression.
“A pokémon link?”
“It refers to a pokémon that faithfully executes all the commands of its master, without a single word from the warlord. I told you, even the strongest warriors long ago could only do this with six pokémon. Naturally, Tangela here is mine.”
“That makes you a pretty lousy–”
I stared at Erika’s arm as she made a fist ready to pound my head. I decided to shut up quickly.
“Warriors are frowned upon these days,” said Erika, “and since I am also a gym leader, there have been a lot of restrictions on my potential as one. If this were another time and place, I would have definitely had more pokémon linked with me!”
After the battle was over, Erika and I cleaned up and changed back into our kimonos. I left with my healed Vileplume not knowing how to go about our training, but I refused to call it a day.
And then I had an idea. A very unorthodox idea.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
As evening came, I had dinner with my folks again. The summer nights still took time to come, so I asked my parents to play another match of tennis with them.
“Really, Shuichi, you want to have a doubles match with us?” asked my father.
“But Brian wasn’t at all interested in playing tennis with us all day!” said my mother.
“Wait, you mean you finally found a girlfriend who’s willing to play with you?” said my father excitedly.
I scratched my head in embarrassment as I set up the net outside our apartment complex. Brian had sat nearby in the coutyard. He was completely uninterested.
“Actually, mom and dad, I would like to try something a little different.”
I thought back to the techniques I used to wield Ginkgo no kusari. The melee attacks, the deflections, and even the chain thrusts could all be imitated by the use of a tennis racket. I got a smaller racket from the community storage bin.
“I want to play doubles against both of you, no switching teams this time. Vileplume will be my partner.”