CHAPTER ONEOUR NEIGHBOURHOOD SEEMS much quieter to me now. I guess, compared to the other parts of the city, it is pretty quiet. I quite like it, but I won’t get to stay here long. In less than two weeks, I’ll have to choose whether I spend the rest of my life in Mystic, Instinct or Valor.
Today, I’m not in a typical Pokémon trainer’s outfit. I’m dressed entirely in plain white clothes - it is customary for trainers to dress like this during the aptitude test and the Choosing Ceremony. White represents neutrality, the three team colours combined.
I pull my hair into a ponytail - it’s a strange shade, somewhere between blonde and brown - and grab a pack of Pokéballs, because you never know when you’ll encounter a wild Pokémon.
Two of my Pokémon are on my bed next to me. Venonat, my Buddy, rolls across the mattress and squeaks at me, but Abra just stares at the wall, which is all he does aside from sleeping. He was hard to catch, too: he can teleport away if he gets scared. I scoop both of them up and head downstairs.
My older brother Lester - he’s on Team Instinct, like my parents were - is sitting on the sofa with his pokemon Kabutops.
I clear my throat and he runs over to hug me, making Abra panic and teleport a couple of meters away.
‘Testing day already? You’ve grown up so fast, Allyson.’
Lester is only three years older than me, but he always talks down to me and pretends I’m a young child still. Probably because he knows I don’t like it.
‘I’m still growing, you know.’ I say as he lets go. ‘You’re not. I might be taller than you soon.’ As if. I’m fifteen, and there are twelve-year-olds taller than me.
Lester snorts. ‘Believe that if you want to. I won’t be the one to crush your highly unrealistic dreams. I’ll leave that to reality.’
Before I can retaliate, my mother walks in.
‘Allyson! Are you ready for the aptitude test?’
I narrow my eyes at Lester. Next time, I mouthe.
‘Nothing,’ I say, picking up my Pokémon before they can stray too far. ‘I’m ready.’
I ride my bike to school and meet Fawn at the gate - she's sketching her Growlithe. Fawn’s been my friend for a long time - her older sister Mirtha is friends with Lester too. Fawn is wearing the same all-white outfit that I am, because she reached Level Five about a week before I did. This means that she’s already taken the test, but she’s not allowed to tell me anything about it.
Level Five was a nasty shock for me. I knew it was coming, of course, but it felt too soon. When it happened, my Pokédex chimed and announced that, according to the number of Pokémon I had caught, I was now a Level Five and would have to take the aptitude to test as soon as possible. It’s not the test itself that scares me - it’s the fact that it will most likely choose for me. I have absolutely no idea which team I should be, which team I want to be, and I’m counting on the test to give me my answer. Level 5 trainers are constantly assured that the aptitude test is highly accurate, almost flawless, in its team recommendations. I hope it is, because I’m relying on it.
Fawn runs ahead of me, but she is instantly surrounded by a group of trainers who look a year or two older than us.
‘Make sure you choose Valor, okay? We’re the best.’
‘No! Join Instinct. Mirtha can mentor you. She’s your sister, right?’
‘Pfft. That’s stupid. You choose the team that suits you, okay?’
‘You’re only saying that because no one would choose Mystic otherwise. Everyone knows Valor is better.’
‘Well, if you would look at these statistics of recent gym battles…’
The two of us weave around the crowd and run into the courtyard before we get caught up in another argument. This has been happening ever since we reached Level Five - our white clothing singles us out. Other trainers can wear whatever they like, but they need to have at least one article of clothing in the colour of their team - yellow for Instinct, blue for Mystic and red for Valor. Team leaders and other high-ranking people also have to wear something in black, the colour of experience and maturity.
She’s talking to Jasper, a Mystic trainer, and trying to ignore the older trainers around her, who keep accusing Jasper of badmouthing other teams and trying to convince her to join Mystic. Her Pidgeotto is flying around and pecking them.
Olive waves to us, then turns back to Jasper. ‘So, right now I’m thinking of being a type specialist.’
Fawn nods. ‘That’s a good plan.’
‘Yeah, but I can’t pick a type to specialise in, which is a problem. So far I’m leaning towards Poison, but Flying types aren’t to be ignored. I’m not going to stop collecting Bugs either way, though.’
I’m lost. I don’t get all… this. I love being a Pokémon trainer, of course, but unlike the others, I haven’t planned out my future. I don’t know everything about Pokémon. In fact, I’d probably be lost without my Pokédex to guide me.
‘Um… What should I go with, if I become a specialist?’
Olive glances down at my two Pokémon. ‘Abra is a Psychic type, and Venonat has a couple of Psychic attacks, so you already have a decent Psychic collection. Besides, I think that’s one of the best types for what I know of your playing style. Actually, it might suit mine, too… so that’s another type to consider.’
Fawn laughs. ‘You’re hopeless.’
A boy with scruffy brown hair - dressed in white, like us - runs over and sits down next to me. Wren.
‘So, today you two...’ he says, pointing to me and Olive ‘...will be going through the aptitude test. A test you can’t prepare for. A test that will decide your future. You must be pretty nervous, huh? I was, too.’
‘Knock it off, Wren,' Olive spits.
‘I was even more nervous when I found out that they gave you electric shocks if you didn’t answer questions fast enough.’
‘That’s not true,’ insists Fawn. ‘Stop scaring them. Don’t worry, you guys. It wasn’t even that kind of test…’
Wren grins mischievously. ‘And like an idiot, you just broke the rules by telling them about the test.’
‘You told them.’
‘Ah, but I LIED. And technically, you’re allowed to tell them something that isn’t true. But don’t worry, I won’t dob you in.’
Wren jumps up and sits next to Jasper. He whispers in his ear and runs away as Jasper chases him, yelling something I can’t repeat.
‘Ignore him, Fawn,’ Olive mutters. ‘He always tries to mess with people like that. He’s worse than my brother.’
‘Bet he’s not worse than mine,’ I say.
‘Well, this one time in Science, he went to the teacher…’
The bell rings.
‘Never mind. I’ll tell you later.’
I release my Pokémon and we head off to class.
After lunch, Olive, me and the other new Level Five trainers are sent away to the cafeteria. We’re told to chat and mingle, but no one really wants to. We just sit in silence as, one by one, a test administrator sticks their head out a door and calls one of us in. Most of the testers are Mystic professors. However, it is a member of Instinct who calls out the name ‘Olive Porter,’ leaving me alone.
The large number of Mystics makes me worry again. It's a reminder that your team doesn't just impact your life as a Pokémon trainer, it affects your job afterwards. Being a professor is the most typical Mystic role. Instinct members are usually caretakers, ranchers or bike sellers, while Valor members take riskier careers as police or Rhyhorn racers.
Olive comes back out, her face expressionless, and then I hear the fateful words.
Shaking, I stand up nervously and walk towards the fourth testing room.