– Chapter 1 –
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Her legs were sore. The corners of boxes poked and prodded them as the moving truck shook down what Tess could only guess was an unpaved road. She had sequestered herself in the corner against the shutter door, her legs the only protection against the last load from her family’s big move. Being packed away like furniture was not Tess’s first choice, but it was the cheapest way to get there. With her dad’s new job, plus moving expenses, there wasn’t much in the family bank, so she had to do what she could for the family.
Though Tess knew it was the right thing to do, it wasn’t long before she deeply regretted it. Her whole body was covered in a thin layer of sweat and her muscles were aching from being clenched up. She had to keep her eyes shut, just to keep from panicking. Thankfully, it wasn’t much longer before the moving truck came to a halt. As she stood up, the chain for the shutter door rattled, then the shutter squealed as it lifted up to reveal her mother and the moving company Vigoroth. Her mother’s face lit up as her gaze shifted to meet Tess’s own. She held her arms out wide as if to beckon Tess into her arms. While her urge to jump was great, Tess settled instead for climbing down then safely embracing her mother.
“I’m so glad you made it alright. How was it?”
As she asked, she took a step back, but held firm to Tess’s shoulders. Her mother’s eyebrows were cinched as she studied her face, as if she could see through Tess. Tess did her best to smile and wave away her mother’s worry.
“Fine, fine. Just glad to be home.”
At the mention of home, her mother’s face once again lit up and she motioned toward the house behind her. It wasn’t huge, but it was much nicer compared to their apartment in the city. The house had two stories with plain windows and an equally plain front door. However, something rather unique was the bright orange roof. Peering around, all the houses seemed to have this unique characteristic. Upon looking around, though, Tess quickly realized how quaint her new hometown was.
“Is that the only other house here?”
She asked, pointing toward their neighbor, a few feet to the left of their home. Her mother didn’t answer right away, but when Tess met her sheepish gaze paired with a nervous grin, Tess already knew the answer. Seeming to sense as such, her mother didn’t answer the question directly. Instead, she tried to change the subject.
“There’s the Pokemon Research Lab. Professor Birch is the main researcher of this area. He has a son about your age.”
Though, uninterested, Tess tried her best to seem enthusiastic as she bobbed her head in response. The Pokemon Lab was impressive, much larger than the two carbon copied houses. It also had its own unique color pallet, a grey building with a green-grey roof. If Tess couldn’t say anything else about the town, she could at least say it was all very interesting to look at. Her mother wrapped an arm around Tess’s shoulder and hugged her once more.
“Welcome home to Littleroot Town.”
With that, Tess’s mother ushered her inside. Vigoroth were bustling about all over the house, helping to move furniture and unload boxes from the moving truck. It didn’t look all that different from a construction site, where Vigoroth typically would also be milling about helping carry and move things. The main floor was all open, the living room and kitchen were separated only by a TV and TV stand that had been arranged in the center of the room. The old couch and dining table lived in their respective areas and were the only other furniture to fill the room.
“You have your own room upstairs. Right across from mine and your father’s. Go on up and see if everything is setup how you like. I’ll fix us some tea in the meantime.”
Tess didn’t get a chance to respond as her mother waddled away to the kitchen and got right to work looking for her teapot. Even among all the chaos, her mother didn’t skip a beat. Tess smiled to herself right before making her way upstairs. The upstairs area was only a fraction of what the downstairs area appeared to be. As Tess ascended the stairs, she was standing at the center of a squat hallway. On either side was a door. Based on what her mother had said, the door to the left was her parent’s room, while the door on the right was her own.
Taking a single step to the right, she was already at her bedroom door. Tess tried not to clench her jaw as she experienced just how small the space was, instead focusing on getting into her bedroom as quickly as possible. Thankfully, her bedroom was a wonderful reprieve to the claustrophobic hallway.
Her room was sparsely decorated, which put her at great ease. Her TV with her gaming console, and her desk with her computer took up one wall, her bed took up another, and the rest were bare. The only real decorations she had were her wall clock and carpet. Her mother complained about how it looked more like a jail cell than a room, but Tess was big fan of the minimalism. As she stepped into the room, she took in the sight from her single bedroom window. The view was almost all trees except for the top of the research lab.
Her parents had said they were going to be moving to a small, rural town. Tess, though, could have never guessed how truly small it was. Once again, her muscles were beginning to fatigue from clenching as her claustrophobia began to set in. She had to look away and instead glanced at her wall clock. The second hand didn’t appear to be moving. She shuffled over to the wall and tapped the glass of the clock, but to no avail.
Before she could take it down and fix the time, her mother called her from downstairs.
“Tess! Tess! Your father! He’s on television.”
Tess sighed. Her mother was always so enamored by the fact that dad was always on TV. As one of the new gym leaders of the Hoenn region, he had caused quite a stir. Her mom recorded every single interview, appearance, and news story that showed even a second of his face. Even now, she was probably downstairs, TV remote in hand, recording whatever program was featuring her father.
Tess didn’t rush down there, despite her mother’s frantic call. As such, by the time she made it down, she could just make out the tail end of whatever segment was on TV.
“And that folks was the first interview with Norman inside his very own gym in Petalburg. With the Pokemon championship tourney beginning, it won’t be long before everyone will get to experience the power of this new gym leader! Thanks for tuning in to Hoenn Regional News.”
With that, her mother turned off the TV. As usual, her mother was swooning on the couch, complimenting everything about Tess’s father. How handsome he was on camera, how he glowed in the new gym, etc. It was enough to make Tess nauseous. She turned to head back up to her room when her mother snapped back to reality and called after her.
“Oh, oh! Wait. While you were upstairs, Professor Birch came by. He wanted to say hi to everyone. It’d be nice if you went and introduced yourself. I’ll keep the tea warm.”
With no opportunity for argument and a deep sigh, Tess nodded her head and shuffled back out the front door. Thankfully, it wasn’t hard to guess where Professor Birch lived. Tess continued her shuffling across the few feet to the only neighbor they had. At the front door, Tess knocked. Almost instantly, from within, Tess could just make out a high pitched voice.
“Just come on in!”
Though the command was clear, Tess found it a little unusual that anyone would just allow a stranger to enter their home. Before Tess could confirm with the disembodied voice that it really did just want her to barge in, it piped up once more.
“Hello? You still there? Come on in! I won’t bite!”
Tess suddenly wasn’t sure if she could trust that. Even so, she opened the door and slipped into the house. Just as the outside was an exact copy of her own home, so was the inside. The only difference was there were no Pokemon moving everything around. Instead, a woman was sitting at the kitchen table, with a small child playing behind her seat. Though Tess was stunned into silence, the woman didn’t seem at all surprised to see her, instead waving her further in.
“Well, hi! Nice to see a new face!”
Tess remained firmly planted at the entrance, unwilling to move any further into the home. This didn’t seem to deter the woman as she let her hand rest back onto the table and smiled.
“My name is Emily, I’m Professor Birch’s wife, and this,” she motioned to the child behind her, “is Poppy.”
At the mention of her name, the little girl waved all without looking away from what appeared to be an intense Pokemon battle as depicted by two Pokemon figures. With their side of introductions done, Emily focused back on Tess, still beaming with a friendly smile.
“Any you are?”
Tess swallowed, but before she could formulate an introduction, the door behind her swung open. There, in the doorway, was a young boy. His hair was a shock of white and Tess’s eyes were immediately drawn to it. Her voice was a whisper as she muttered,
The boy grinned, holding out his hand.
“Hi, Tess. You’re the new neighbor my dad was talking about, right? I’m Professor Birch’s son Brendan.”
Tess blinked, mouth seemingly full of sand. Unable to speak, she simply took his hand in her own and gave a robotic shake. Undeterred, Brendan immediately delved into a spiel on Pokemon, his upcoming journey in the Pokemon tourney, and all the research he planned on doing for his father while out on the road.
Meanwhile, Tess listened in complete shock and silence. It seemed everyone here was starved for human contact, she reasoned with herself. They were so starved that they welcomed strangers in there home, gave their whole life stories so willingly, and didn’t even question where this strange girl had come from. It was beyond Tess’s comprehension. The weirdness of it all only increased when Brendan ended their conversation, promising to help her catch her own Pokemon before skirting around her and heading upstairs.
The rest of the family, proceeded with whatever they were doing before Tess had even entered. Regaining her faculties, Tess muttered a weak goodbye before darting back out the front door. Though she hadn’t been holding her breath, for whatever reason, she felt the need to gulp in as much of the outside air as she could. The newness and strangeness of everything combined was beginning to be too much to bare. Though it was still daylight, Tess was fully prepared to call it a night. However, as she meandered back to her home next door, she could barely make out a voice, calling from within the north woods.
From what Tess knew of the Hoenn region, and that wasn’t much, the only way out of her new town was Route 101. Looking toward where the voice had come, there, between the walls of trees was an opening and a rugged path. Next to the clearing of trees was a sign:
As Tess stood there, there was another yell, and what sounded like a frustrated Pokemon of some kind. Though she knew it was probably best not to enter a route without some kind of guide, if there was a person there, it sounded like they needed help. Even as she chastised herself internally, without much more though, Tess ran toward the route.
To Be Continued…
– Chapter 1 –
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