Chapter 4 – Spell of the Spotlight
The following morning brought a choice.
“All right, Solonn. The contest hall here in town will be holding two normal rank contests—those are the ones for newcomers—in the upcoming months,” Morgan said. “There’ll be one in three weeks, on the twenty-fifth, and then there’ll be another one two months afterward, on August twenty-fifth. Now, if you start your training now, you could enter into the earlier one, but you might want to wait until the August contest so that you can get more practice in and be more prepared. But it’s your call, Solonn.”
“I’ll go for the earlier one,” Solonn said at once. In his mind, it was no question at all—the sooner he got started with these contests, the sooner, he reckoned, he could be done with them and return to his home.
Morgan nodded. “Okay, then.” She would have preferred for him to wait until the later contest, believing that the extra time to prepare would have done him quite a bit of good. Nonetheless, she chose to respect Solonn’s choice and allowed his decision to stand.
* * *
That afternoon, Solonn’s contest training began in earnest. It was initiated in a way that Solonn found quite odd: Morgan offered him a small, indigo-colored cube and told him to eat it, saying that it would help him to do well in the contests.
Solonn looked at Morgan as if she were crazy. “How is this thing supposed to make any difference in whether or not I win?”
“Well… what it does is it refines your appearance. These pokéblocks will help you look as healthy and as… er, handsome as you can look. Making a good visual impression on the audience and judges is very important.”
Solonn continued to gaze skeptically at the human. Whatever,
he decided finally, and took the pokéblock from Morgan, devouring it quickly. The little candy was… okay
; it was kind of good, except that it had this funny, sort of sour aftertaste. That was really the only fault Solonn could find with the pokéblock, though, and it was really only mildly unpleasant—at first. Then he found the little candy cube beginning to disagree with him… and then to strongly
disagree with him…
Morgan looked on with pity and poorly concealed revulsion as the snorunt’s body rejected the pokéblock. However, that undesired reaction did not dissuade her from attempting to feed Solonn another of those indigo candies later that evening. Solonn resisted at first—he wasn’t exactly eager to throw up again, after all.
“This one’s different,” Morgan tried to assure him. “I made more than one formula since I didn’t know which you’d do best with. Unfortunately, they just so happen to be the same color—but I promise you, they’re not the same. I even got rid of all of the other kind, so there won’t be any mix-ups.”
Solonn stared warily at her for a long while, his stomach threatening to go sour at just the mere memory of what the last pokéblock had done to him. Then, with a sigh of resignation, he accepted this identical-looking yet supposedly different pokéblock. Immediately, he discovered that Morgan had indeed been telling the truth—this little indigo cube was
different from its predecessor. The flavor was one that Solonn immediately and greatly liked, and it didn’t have the disagreeable aftertaste of the other pokéblock. Seconds passed, and it showed no threat of sickening him. Solonn looked up at Morgan with an approving smile.
Morgan smiled back. “Ah, so this one’s a winner, huh?” Solonn nodded in response. “Good! Okay, then. You’ll be getting two of these a day until they’ve done as much for you as they can,” she told him.
This was certainly an aspect of contest training that Solonn didn’t mind in the least. However, he remained skeptical that merely eating candies was going to sufficiently prepare him for any sort of competition. He wondered what else the human might have in store for him in order to get him ready for these contests, these things which were the sole obstacle impeding his return home.
* * *
Around noon the next day, Morgan departed and returned a short while later accompanied by a heretofore unfamiliar presence.
“Solonn, this is Sei Salma, an alakazam,” Morgan said.
The pokémon at her side bowed, her blonde mustache twitching slightly as she smiled warmly. <A pleasure to meet you, young sir,> the alakazam said, her telepathic “voice” simulating a slightly gruff contralto that Solonn guessed was also the sound of Sei’s actual voice. <I understand that you and Ms. Yorke have a most unique relationship, yes?>
“…What?” Somehow Sei’s statement had come across to Solonn in a way that she had certainly not intended.
<You are able to speak to Ms. Yorke in her own language, are you not?> Sei elaborated.
“Oh… Yeah, that’s right,” Solonn confirmed, albeit a bit hesitantly.
<Ms. Yorke and I were discussing this on the way here. We’ve arrived at a conclusion regarding your abilities with which I know you’re already very much in agreement. It’s best that other humans do not discover your abilities, do you not agree?> Sei asked.
“Yeah,” Solonn said. “I’d really feel better if as few people knew about this as possible.” By “people” he was referring not only to humans but to other pokémon, as well. He was very mindful of not letting just anybody learn what he was able to do. In fact, he would really have preferred for Morgan to ask him for permission before revealing his secret to Sei…
<I understand your concern,> Sei said then, <but I assure you, Ms. Yorke had your best interests in mind when she informed me of what you’re able to do. She wouldn’t have told me otherwise. Furthermore, you have my word that I will not reveal your secret to anyone without your consent… And yes, I have just read your thoughts. I do try to tune such things out for the sake of courtesy, but…> She shrugged. <Sometimes thoughts are simply too strong to block.>
Solonn figured then that, courteous or not, Sei would have probably absorbed the knowledge of his abilities sooner or later, either from Morgan or from himself, without having to be told of them.
<The privacy of those who have no form of mental defense is something my people take very seriously,> Sei assured him earnestly. <We wouldn’t be trusted at all by any other species if we didn’t stay out of their minds as much as possible. Even with our measures to respect their privacy in place, many species still do not trust us.>
Whether or not that was meant as a guilt-trip, it certainly worked as one on Solonn. “…Sorry,” he said. “I’m sure you don’t mean to pry into anybody’s business.”
Sei gave a relieved, satisfied smile. <Now. Since protecting the confidentiality of your skills is of such great importance, I’m offering you a means by which to speak more securely with Ms. Yorke.>
“And what would that be?” Solonn asked.
<This.> There was a brief flash of light in Sei’s eyes.
<Well? What do you think?> Morgan asked.
<What do I think of… Hey! How are you using telepathy?> Solonn asked—then, with a jolt, he realized that he, too, was speaking telepathically.
<Sei. She’s connected us via her own mind,> Morgan explained. <That way, we can talk with each other without anyone figuring out that… well, that we
can talk with each other, get it?>
<…I think so,> Solonn said, still somewhat bewildered at the notion of being able to communicate in a psychic fashion. There was something about it that made him feel oddly powerful yet at the same time rather vulnerable, as well. He wondered if he would have agreed to try this method of communication if he had known beforehand that it would involve his mind being opened and shared in such a way.
<This method of conversing is undetectable to humans,> Sei told Solonn then, <and it’s the humans from whom you should be most concerned with protecting your secret. You see, pokémon who are able to speak to and be understood by humans are quite rare, and humans often look upon rarity as something from which they can gain some form of personal profit. If certain humans learned of your abilities, they would seek to exploit you for their own ends. I can guarantee you that you would not find such exploitation to your liking.>
Solonn cast a troubled gaze at Morgan. <Is this true?> he asked. Morgan had come across to him as trustworthy, but now Solonn found himself wondering if she was merely a rare exception in a species which generally could not be trusted.
<Yes,> Morgan said, sounding rather ashamed. <Solonn, I would never
want to see you exploited like that.>
<Well, I wouldn’t want that, either,> he said, shuddering slightly. He turned toward Sei. <Okay. I’ll accept your method,> he said. <Thanks.>
<Think nothing of it,> the alakazam said, and with that she severed the psychic connection between herself and the other two.
The method by which Solonn could converse securely with Morgan that Sei had just made available was a welcome convenience indeed. As Solonn thought about it, something dawned on him: he wondered if the telepathic link could be used to enable Morgan to communicate with her other pokémon. After all, Sei’s telepathic abilities could trick the minds of those conversing into hearing words they understood, thus eliminating the language barrier between Morgan and her pokémon. Why hasn’t Sei offered this to the other pokémon?
Solonn wondered silently.
To Solonn’s surprise, Sei turned her gaze upon him and then shrugged her plated shoulders. “Because they never asked,” she said simply, using her natural voice this time, speaking to Solonn in alakazam language. The snorunt only stared at her in response, apparently not knowing quite how to reply to her statement.
Sei then let out a long sigh. <Whew… It seems I’ve still got a bit of recovering to do before I’m quite up to speed again…>
“You want to return to your ball for a while?” Morgan asked her.
<Mmm… yes, I think so,> Sei answered. <I could do with a little time out of this poor, downtrodden flesh,> she added with a laugh.
Morgan chuckled. “All right, then.” She removed an ultra ball from her belt and recalled Sei with a beam of red light. The alakazam smiled wearily at Solonn before dissolving into energy and being drawn into her ball.
“I just don’t understand how anybody could stand being inside one of those things,” Solonn said with a small shudder, eying the ultra ball as it was minimized and reattached to Morgan’s belt. “It’s just so… ” He trailed off, unable to come up with a truly fitting description of what it was like in the great ball.
“So, you really don’t like being in a ball, huh?” Morgan asked. Solonn made a small, negatory noise in response. “Well, okay. You don’t have to go back in there if you don’t want to.”
Solonn smiled at her. He was sure that with no need to dread a return to the great ball, the time that remained to be spent here with Morgan would be much easier to endure—and perhaps even enjoy.
* * *