Chapter 29: Beauty in the Midst of War
Fan fiction inspired by Pokemon, Pokemon Conquest
Rating: Young Adult
The aromas of rice porridge and dumplings filled the chilly airs of the merchant district of Nixtorm’s capital. Even though other kingdoms were experiencing temperate spring climates, this kingdom always had snow and a wintry environment.
“Good morning, Lord Shuichi!” waved some of the townspeople as I passed by.
I smiled and waved back as I continued my regular rounds in this allying kingdom.
“Thank you for stopping by again, Lord Shuichi,” said one of the food vendors. “Will it be the usual?”
“Of course,” I said as I released Politoed from his pokéball. “An order of dumplings for me and a pickled ponigiri for this guy.”
“And the large saltwater ponigiri to go, right?” she asked.
“Not a problem, my lord. Coming right up!”
The cook prepared my orders as Politoed and I sat at the bench before her. Of all the vendors in Nixtorm, this was the one Politoed liked the most. Dragonair was too big to eat with us, so I had to give her something to go later. And as much as I’d like to share a meal with Roku, he scares away customers with his Muk smell. Sometimes I let him play around in the dumpster outside of town.
“Her you go, my lord. That’ll be four hundred.”
“Four hundred?” I said in surprise. “I usually pay three hundred! Did your prices go up or something?”
“No way, Lord Shuichi,” she said casually, “but the lady over there said you’d pay for hers!”
I turned to my right to see a petite young lady in her typical red and white kimono, similar to the fashion of Shuko’s priestess garment. She was sitting happily as always with an umbrella to shield snow away from her Volcarona. I sighed.
“All right, I’ll pay for it.”
I handed the vendor more than I should have given and sat with my pokémon, eating our routine lunch.
“Thank you, Shuichi!” said my uninvited guest charmingly. “You must be the nicest guy in all of the Resistance! I’m so pleased to call you Master!”
“You really shouldn’t call me that, Okuni,” I said. “So what are you doing here this time?”
“You’re so mean to me these days!” she pouted. “All I wanted was a snack for Volcarona, but I didn’t have any money on me because I spent it all finding a way here from Spectra!”
“Then you shouldn’t have come.”
“But of course I did! Who else would keep an eye on your love life with that scary girl?”
“Her name is Amy,” I said annoyingly. “And you should be the last one to keep an eye on us.”
Okuni moved over closer to me at the bench as she pressed her chest against my right arm.
“But does she do this for you?” she said coyly. “Tell me, when was the last time you two had a good time together?”
“That’s none of your business.”
“That long, huh? I think it’s time you asked Okuni for help! A few words out of me, and I’ll make sure she’ll be all over you next time.”
Okuni puckered her lips as she tried to peck one on my cheek. Politoed held her back as I gently pushed away her face.
“You’re so uptight these days, Shuichi,” said Okuni. “Do you enjoy yourself at all around here?”
I scarfed down the rest of my dumplings and washed it down with hot tea.
“Of course I do,” I said. “But lately, I’ve been busy either patrolling the five kingdoms under our control or training with Hanzo. Amy’s been busy doing the same and working with Gracia. It’s kind of hard to enjoy myself when a battle can happen any minute. You saw what happened when Takahiro’s army tried to invade Avia, right?”
Okuni received another order of ponigiri as she handed a few pieces to Volcarona and Politoed.
“Of course I saw it,” she said. “I’ve seen it my entire life. I’ve gone to other countries and found they don’t have wars like we do here.”
Okuni paused and took a bite out of a ponigiri and washed it down with some tea.
“But even so, I still come back to Ransei. Do you know why that is, Shuichi?”
I shook my head and listened.
“It’s because I love Ransei. The scenery, the culture, the pokémon, and most of all, the people who live here. It may be a war-torn country unlike other parts of the world, but people here are more full of life. They don’t take things for granted like people do in other more peaceful countries. That’s because they live, knowing that the next day might be another battle or another political establishment. Sure, I would like to see peace in Ransei too, but sometimes I wonder if that will take away from the other beautiful things that happen here because of war.”
“I don’t understand,” I said. “What can possibly be beautiful in the midst of war?”
Okuni polished off her plate and got up from the bench.
“That’s not something I can just show you, Shuichi. You’ll have to see that for yourself.”
Okuni and Volcarona left the stand and went on their way back to the Nixtorm castle, where my other officers were stationed. I’m not very sure what she means by beauty from war, but her words resonated in me for another reason. Shuko said something similar when I asked her before coming to Ransei. She said she loves Ransei because it’s a place she can call home.
I smiled warmly, thinking that to myself as I returned Politoed to his pokéball. I was about to walk away when the cook cleared her throat.
“That’ll be another two hundred fifty, for the order of ponigiri that girl just ate.”
I sighed and handed her some more money. I guess some things never change.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
Amy and Gracia had been waiting for me in the castle’s parlor room. The two of them had been training their pokémon and decided to call it a day once the snowstorm brewed.
“Sorry I’m late, ladies,” I said embarrassingly. “I’ll never get used to those blizzards out there.”
Amy stared and inspected me very closely. She took a whiff and held her nose.
“Shuichi, why do you smell like you just came from a brothel near the dump? Are you sure you’re not cheating on me?”
I held my hands up in embarrassment, since this was a regular suspicion of hers.
“I guarantee you, that’s not what I was doing, Amy. I ran into Okuni while I was out in the merchant district; and I used Roku’s sludgy body to protect me from the snowstorm.”
“Gross! Next time bring an umbrella with you or something. Or better yet, just use Okuni’s!”
I laughed uneasily. I guess Amy is more concerned about my hygiene than she is about what Okuni might be doing to me. Considering how jealous she gets, that surprises me. On the other hand, I guess I’m so used to Roku’s smell, I don’t notice that other people think it reeks.
“Well, go on!” said Amy. “Go take a bath or something! I don’t want to be near you right now!”
“Oh come on,” I said. “You’ve known I’ve had this Muk for a long time now. Shouldn’t you be used to his smell by now?”
Amy pushed me in the direction of the bathroom, trying to hold her breath.
“I’ll never get used to that smell. Now go!”
Amy forcefully pushed me into the large tub and left to summon someone to fill it with hot water. I sighed and waited patiently for the water to flow as I set aside my pokémon and dirty clothes neatly.
Once the bath was ready, I slid inside and let myself soak for a while. Sometimes I wonder what Amy is really thinking. She seems to be naturally jealous of people who get too close to me, and gets caught up in things I don’t see as a problem. Maybe I’m just being selfish to think that way, but how could I assure her that everything’s fine?
But everything’s not fine. We’re in the middle of a war, and I am at the head of a group that’s trying to start a revolution. It’s stressful! She knows that, and I know that. It’s very difficult for us to enjoy ourselves just in knowing that alone! So why push the issue?
Maybe Okuni’s right. Maybe I should find what is beautiful about Ransei.
“Uhm, Shuichi?” said a shrill, yet meek voice behind the partition. “Do you have a minute?”
That was Gracia, the young lady from Nixtorm who Amy has been teaching the arts of pokémon battling from our region. I shyly turned toward the wall away from the entryway, so I wouldn’t get caught looking at her, even if we couldn’t see each other.
“No, just stay right there,” I said shyly. “I’m not ready yet.”
“For heaven’s sake, why would you think I’d want to see you naked?” she shouted as I covered my ears. “That’s not why I’m here!”
I put down the soap and brush quietly and listened to what she had to say.
“Anyway, I think,” she paused, trying to search for the right words. “I think, you should be a little nicer to Amy. Well, that’s what she told me, I think.”
Gracia reminds me of some of the students I had for seminars at the university. I immediately responded back to get some clarity.
“Are you sure that’s what she told you? What exactly did she say?”
“How-how should I know?” she stuttered. “She never tells me anything! Not directly, anyway.”
I sighed and picked up the brush to wash my back.
“I don’t know how to explain it,” Gracia continued, “but, she likes talking about you a lot. In fact, I’m pretty sure we spend more time talking about you than we do talking about pokémon.”
I stopped scrubbing and listened to her as I rinsed myself off.
“What does she say about me?”
“Well, she says you’re a pervert, an idiot, and she doesn’t know how you managed to become a professor where you come from.”
I soaked my head into the tub water to try and clear my head.
“Wait, she said what?” I shouted as I resurfaced.
“But she also says nicer things about you, too. More often than the other things, really.”
“Well, she says you’re kind, sweet, and funny, too. She says you’re very responsible and always had a soft spot for girls. She says she doesn’t like that part of you, but I can tell she’s actually very grateful. She gives you such high praises, sometimes I think I might have fallen for you.”
I soaked my head again.
“N-n-no way! I’d never do such a thing! Even if I did, I would never accept it!”
My bath was almost finished as the water turned lukewarm.
“You see, I’d rather see you by her side.”
I stopped whatever I was doing and listened carefully.
“I know that the others think Amy is a scary girl, and she’s certainly that way whenever you’re around. But I see her differently, being around her most of the time. That’s because whenever she thinks about you, she’s much happier. She forgets about the fact that you’re our leader and that we are in the middle of a war. And when I see her like that, I think it’s beautiful.”
There’s that feeling again: beauty. Okuni was talking about it earlier also. Has Amy discovered what’s beautiful about Ransei yet? Maybe I can ask her about what that might be.
“But lately, Amy hasn’t been like that,” said Gracia. “Something’s troubling her, and I thought that maybe you would know what it was, since you’re her boyfriend.”
I slowly got out of the tub and reached for a towel while staying behind the partition.
“Some boyfriend I turned out to be,” I said sarcastically. “I couldn’t even tell she was troubled. Guess I’m a terrible person after all.”
“No you’re not, Lord Shuichi!” she exclaimed.
I stopped drying myself off and tried to figure out what she meant by that.
“You’re the leader of the Resistance. You brought hope back to the eastern kingdoms of Ransei.”
I knew it. All she wanted to do was remind me how important my role was to their movement. I don’t remember wanting to do this in the first place. All I wanted to do was solve the case of two Board of Professors’ deaths and deliver justice. I never asked to cause a revolution!
“But more importantly, you are everything to Amy!”
My eyes widened. Is that what Gracia has been trying to tell me?
“She’s at peace when she thinks about you. And when she’s like that, it’s the most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen in Ransei. The other officers feel that way, too. So please, Shuichi, be kind to Amy. For her sake!”
I paused as I finished drying myself off, collecting my thoughts.
“I’m so sorry, my lord,” she apologized profusely. “I should be calling you Lord Ginkgo! I guess I just hear your name so much from Amy, I start to call you that! Please forgive me!”
I was surprised at first, but then I burst into laughter.
“Shuichi’s just fine,” I said. “And besides, my name isn’t ‘Ginkgo.’ That’s just a name I was given for being a pokémon professor!”
“Well that’s just weird,” said Gracia plainly.
“So yeah, just go ahead and call me Shuichi. You don’t even have to add any honorifics. I don’t call any of you by your surnames, right, Ms. Akechi?”
“That’s too strange!” said Gracia. “That’s my father’s name! I get it now, fine!”
We laughed as I walked toward the edge of the bathroom to grab my robe.
“So if you don’t mind me asking then,” said Gracia, “what is your surname?”
I haven’t told anyone from this region, since it never came up. Well, since I’m not acting as a professor right now and I’m technically on sabbatical, I guess it was okay to tell them.
“It’s Oda. My name is Shuichi Oda.”
“Oda, huh?” said Gracia cheerfully. “That’s a great–”
She stopped mid-thought as our eyes met. I had draped my robe on hastily, but still exposed certain parts, parts that she could see clearly. I looked at her terrified face as she stared below my field of vision at me. Her face grew beet red.
“Get away from me!” she screamed as she darted down the hallway. “Damn you, Shuichi, you pervert!”
I sighed and scratched my head as I made myself a little more decent. I really hope Amy doesn’t misunderstand what just happened. But before I could leave the bathroom, Hanzo appeared before me in a flash.
“Lord Shuichi, I’m sorry to bother you at such short notice,” he said. “Please meet with the rest of us in the war council room.”