Route 1 was quite an extensive and elaborate habitat for younger Pokémon. It was almost like a nursery forest, making it incredibly simple and easy for weaker Pokémon to hide from predators and trainers. It was not so complex that someone could not navigate through it. It was incredibly easy, but I could see why an amateur trainer like myself could get lost here. There were several winding roads that I figured eventually all led towards Accumula Town, the next town on the map, where Professor Juniper had texted Genna, Farren and I where to meet at around 3:00 PM.
But there was one tiny little winding road that took a hold of my curiosity. It took a hold of Snivy's curiosity, as well. After we had roamed this little road, I had already caught a Pidove and a Patrat, simple and easy. It was now 11:39 AM, so I had plenty of time left and I was already far ahead of the game with a lot of time to spare. But there was a salty scent to the air, which made the route actually smell somewhat like the southern borders of Nuvema Town, where the town met the sea. I just found it incredibly peculiar to find a body of water in this route. If I were to find a Pokémon in the water, I could easily expand the type diversity of my team.
Snivy tilted its head in curiosity, like it did right before my confrontations with Pidove and Patrat. I readied my stance, but when I heard human voices, I relaxed.
Coming out behind an array of trees were two young men, on with a white outfit and a black hat, an ornament sitting on top of really long, unkempt lime green hair. He had a blank stare, and he was being followed anxiously by what looked like a man with black hair and glasses in a lab coat.
"N, I do beg you, please accept my experiment!" the scientist pleaded, carefully trying to pull the man with green hair back by the shoulder or by the arm. "Please! Please!"
"I am really sorry, sir," the man named N said mellowly with a blank stare. "But I cannot accept your research. Bringing back a Pokémon from ancient times is completely unnatural by itself. On top of that, you had the gall to corrupt it with technology. Poor creature. I wish it all of the best in its new life, but I do not think advocating this kind of technology would be a good image."
"But sir! Sir!"
I pretended not to notice, looking around my surroundings and trying to go about my business, but the man named N had finally passed by and was now standing in front of me. It was kind of sketch I will admit, especially since he was practically staring at me like I was his primary focus, the only reason he walked away from the scientist. The other man, however, just looked at him with an eccentric expression, as if he didn't know what to say, either, and that this moment was just as random for him as it was for me.
"Umm, sir?" I asked, trying to slip by. The man named N held out a hand and placed it on my shoulder. Stranger danger, stranger danger!
"You are an interesting fellow," N said with an empty stare, as if focusing on nothing, right before looking down at my Snivy. "An interesting fellow with an interesting Pokémon. Snivy. Pretty rare. Tell me, young man, do you like imprisoning your Pokémon in Poké Balls?" I sure hoped that wasn't a metaphor; this man was especially creepy. Now I understood why some people were hesitant about lowering the require age for Pokémon Trainer Licenses from twelve to ten.
"Uh, I guess I've never thought of it that way," I replied, trying not to show any weakness or any signs of being phased by his rather eccentric demeanor. The scientist remained quiet yet not tranquil.
N chuckled, dropped his hand to his side and took a step back, all to my relief. "I'm sure you find my behavior quite peculiar, which I understand very well. I was raised alongside Pokémon that were abused by their former trainers."
He paused, and pulled out a Poké Ball.
"Although I may be against Pokémon imprisonment," N mused, throwing his Poké Ball into the air to reveal a small cat-like Pokémon, "You may think I am a bit of a hypocrite to have Pokémon myself, right?"
The Pokémon, which I identified to be a Purrloin, glared at me mischievously, licking its purple fur slowly. At my feet, Snivy grew tense and frustrated. It was almost growling. I kept in mind that sometimes Pokémon can sense things humans cannot. Most of the times, they're able to sense things beyond human capabilities.
"I've never believed that catching and having Pokémon by your side was a form of imprisonment," I said, taking a similar stance to my Snivy. My partner looked back at me and nodded.
N tilted his head and pursed his lips, his first show of any kind of emotion. "Oh, you think I wish to battle you? That is far from the truth, but if that's what you want, I suppose I cannot refuse... Dudley, would you care to be referee?"
The scientist jumped, definitely disturbed by whatever was going on between N and him. "Uh, sure, N."
N smiled, and Snivy and I backed up a little. N and his Purrloin did the same, and although we were kind of eyeballing the size of the location, I don't think there was any violation of Pokémon Battling Agency codes.
N looked back at me once he took his stance and had his hands calmly placed at his sides. The way he carried himself, the way he acted, it all seemed to be going to my head.
"I never got your name, young man," N called out, as his Purrloin skipped ahead and took its position.
I hesitated. "The name is Cheren. From Nuvema Town. Is this a one-on-one Pokémon battle?"
N nodded. "One Pokémon will suffice. My Purrloin versus your Snivy."
"Best man wins," I said, nodding, fixing my glasses.
N shook his head and turned his entire expressionless act around. "No, Cheren. Best Pokémon wins."
"Uh, both trainers will only have one Pokémon to battle with," Dudley announced, taking his place on the side in the middle of the field. "It will be N from Anville Town with his Purrloin and Cheren from Nuvema Town with his Snivy. Begin!"
And the battle began. "Snivy, Leer!"
N chuckled. "Purrloin, Fake Out!"
Snivy held its ground and began to execute a glare, but just as it was beginning to take effect, Purrloin had already ran halfway through the field and had made a leap. Right before landing in front of Snivy, it clapped right up in its face, pushing my Pokémon back. It flinched, leaving Purrloin to playfully prance back towards N.
I clenched my teeth together with agitation. "Snivy, let's follow up with Leaf Blade!"
Snivy ran up to Purrloin with sheer focus and lifted its tail, which was turning green as it approached its carefree opponent.
"Purrloin, dodge and use Sand Attack!"
At the last possible moment, causing me to want to punch myself in the stomach, Purrloin dodged Snivy's tail and started kicking up the grass, which was followed by mass amounts of dirt. This caused a massive sand cloud in which I could not see, and supposedly no one else could, either.
A few tense moments, and then the sound of a clash reverberated through the forest. The dust dissipated, and Snivy's tail was resting on top of Purrloin's torso. It lifted its tail proudly, and Purrloin struggled to get up.
Snivy bounced back and swung its tail a few more times, sending Purrloin flying through the air.
"Purrloin, please use Shadow Ball!" N politely cried out, pointing at my Snivy.
Recovering in midair, Purrloin did a few graceful flips and just as it started to fall from gravity, it started to generate a large amount of purple energy it almost immediately sent forth in the shape of a sphere.
"Snivy, dodge it!"
Snivy did its best, but it couldn't dodge an attack so great of size so quickly. It hit almost dead on, blowing Snivy backwards towards me and sliding on the grass.
As Purrloin elegantly landed on the ground with poise, Snivy got up with little difficulty and began to glow green. The leaves on its tail grew a little bigger, and its back stood a little straighter.
"Great job, Snivy!" I called out, pointing towards N's Purrloin. "Great use of your ability Overgrow! Now all Grass-type moves are more powerful!"
N showed little anxiety. "Purrloin, Shadow Ball again!"
As Purrloin leaped through the air and began the same process all over again, Snivy jumped and purposefully landed on its head and began to spin as if breakdancing, and which surrounded him with a whirlwind of grass and leaves from nearby trees. This was so powerful that even Purrloin was sucked into the attack, knocking all of the concentration out of it and making it submit to the force of the wind.
It was a Leaf Tornado.
In snap decision, Snivy stopped spinning on its head and bent the tornado to slam to the ground, causing the blades of grass and the leaves that were caught up with the force of the attack to scatter in random directions and Purrloin to be slammed to the ground.
Purrloin lifted a paw, but after a few moments' struggle, it gave up. It could not pull itself up.
Dudley hesitated, but eventually announced the results. "Uh, N's Purrloin is unable to battle! Cheren's Snivy is the winner!"
Snivy held its head up proudly as the leaves on its tail shrunk back to normal size and as all of the debris finally settled to the ground. N humbly lifted up his Poké Ball in front of him and called back Purrloin, which went into its ball instantly.
"Purrloin, kind friend, you did well. Rest."
I looked to Snivy, beaming back at me with jubilation. "Good job, Snivy! You did amazing! Who knew you had all of that in you?"
Snivy diverted its gaze to N, who quickly approached me with a note of displeasure. I could sense he wasn't being a poor sport, but something had definitely grinded his gears.
"Pokémon are much more powerful and much more what they seem to you, Cheren," N chided, shaking his head with a frown. "I commend you for your victory. I see you have a pretty strong bond with your Snivy so early in your Pokémon career. I can tell you're a beginner; I see how others work with their Pokémon, and I see quite a bit of knowledge for being such an amateur."
I tried not to scowl, but this was obviously not okay. What was his point?
"N, sir," Dudley spoke up, but in vain.
"Quiet," N barked back, almost in a hiss, then turning back to me calm and collected once more. "Now then. I hope you realize that your Pokémon likes you. I can see that much in its eyes and in its heart. But will you always be there for your Pokémon? Will you always be there to defend its rights?"
I sighed, and shook my head, then looking at Snivy with a bleak smile. "I don't think you understand. I love Pokémon, but I don't think using Poké Balls imprisons them. Look, I understand that you've been with Pokémon that have been abused, and though I've never seen it, I know it happens. Villainous teams like Team Rocket in the Kanto region ten years ago have tried to extort Pokémon for their own personal gain. But you just can't go into peoples' lives demanding that they don't do that to their Pokémon. The Pokémon themselves disagree, too. They want the right to be with the trainers they love. Isn't that right, Snivy?"
Snivy nodded joyfully, with incredibly enthusiasm. "Sni! Snivy!"
N smiled with a gleam in his eyes, looking about the forest in mystery. "Well said, I think. But I think we can just agree to disagree for now."
"Fair enough, I suppose," I replied, holding out my hand for him to shake.
He didn't return it, and turned around. "I'll see you later. Dudley, just go back to your lab. Don't free the experiment. It's too dangerous... but you can't undo this. So keep it safe, won't you?"
Dudley tried to respond, but it just ended in grunting and disappointed expressions.
As N started to walk out of sight, he waved goodbye.
I turned to Snivy, and nodded.
As if nothing had ever happened, I walked away from Dudley and went on about my conquest through Route 1.
Whoever this N guy was, I had the most strange feeling that I would run into him again.