It was after the battle was over.
‘Oh! I have been defeated! Alack, alay! Lady Korrina gave a terrible display! This is it. I must give up my title and admit that your strength far exceeds…’
Korrina could parrot off her spiel in her sleep – she had done, once, which had been rather embarrassing the morning after. Doing so now gave her time to process what had just happened.
She had lost, that much was clear. It hadn’t technically been cheating, but only technically. It had, however, been a style of battle she’d never seen before.
She suspected that even if he’d battled properly, this ‘Waluigi’ would have won. The Slowpoke was disgustingly strong, and had a type advantage against her team. But he hadn’t. The army of would-be Pokémon Masters knew type advantages. Waluigi hadn’t fought like them. He’d been… new. Interesting.
When was the last time something interesting had happened to her?
‘…and here, why don’t you take this TM? I’ve really been…’
‘Er, yeah, that’s great and all, but we’re actually looking for… what was it again? Yeah, a… Mega Ring?’
After all this, he still had the power to surprise her.
‘A… a Mega Ring? Well…’
She looked at Lucario, still unconscious on the arena floor. Rather scorched, too. Usually, he told her when a trainer had an extraordinary aura. She then took them to the ancient tower of her ancestors, gave them a quick battle (and one of the Lucarios she power-bred), and pronounced them Mega Ring and wife. You may kiss the jewellery.
That wasn’t going to happen today. However, if any trainer could accomplish extraordinary things…
‘Sure, I’ll roll with it. Here it is – your very own Mega Ring! It’s in the shape of a bracelet, so it’s super easy to wear!’
The bracelet drooped limply off Waluigi’s stick-thin wrist. He looked at it for a while; then he slid it up his thigh instead.
Lucario seemed to be summoning up the last of his strength to say something. She’d find out what later.
‘Go well, Cooltrainer Waluigi!’
She held out a hand to shake it. Waluigi grasped it, kissed the air above it, and span towards the exit. The Slowpoke trundled after him.
‘Oh yeah, Waluigi’s the winner! Yeah yeah, I know bro, you helped too. What? Really? Hey, I didn’t look closely! Okay, sis, you helped too…’
Then they were gone.
The weirdness was over. Back to leading a gym, fighting kids, playing Crash Team Racing. And so on and so forth and so on and so forth.
She whipped a Revive potion out of her bag, and gave Lucario a couple of sprays. He was up in a flash, his snout close to her face.
‘Mademoiselle Korrina! That man!’
‘…was weird? Yeah, I know. What about the Slowpoke? Did it seem like he was talking to it?’
‘What about the Slowpoke?’ Lucario aura-snorted. ‘She’s just a Slowpoke, I’m not talking about her. The trainer, though… he had no aura.’
Korrina had mastery enough over her jaw now. She merely raised an eyebrow.
‘None at all.’
‘How is that a thing? What does it mean?’
‘I don’t know, but it could mean that he is very dangerous, this… what was his name?’
Korrina had to think surprisingly hard about that one, considering he’d just left. ‘Igiwaru? Somethin’ like that. So he’s dangerous?’
‘And he’s got a powerful Pokémon. That means even more danger. Somebody should keep an eye…’
‘Mademoiselle, you are not going after him.’
‘And why in the Distortion Realm not!?’
‘Because the gym needs running, because Mega Rings need giving to strong trainers, and because the author tried that in the first draft of this story and couldn’t make you interesting.’
Korrina opened her mouth for a second, thinking of a conclusive counterargument that never came. She stomped over to the PlayStation instead.
‘So not because you’re scared of his lack of aura,’ she spat.
‘Definitely not. At all.’
* * *
‘Back here?’ said Waluigi. ‘What was the point of all that then? What was the point of the gym, and the roller-skating chick, and the police cell?’
Slowpoke rolled her eyes. It was a long process.
During this, Waluigi was once again able to appreciate the humidity and giant insects of the forest. There was the pool. There were the useless red fish. There was the streaming sweat.
The only difference was that he wasn’t wearing his sequined jacket, having bestowed it to the Machoke in the gym. Probably for the best anyway – it had been quite heavy. Not appropriate for the closeness of the forest.
He was wearing a sombrero and poncho instead.
‘You cretin,’ thought Slowpoke, when she had finished. ‘We got the badge from Korrina. That allows you to Surf on my back, over there.’
Her tail pointed out over the water. Waluigi’s eyes followed it.
The jungle became surprisingly dark under the canopy. There were vines over the water, and haze, and clouds of tiny mosquitos.
So non-Pokémon animals did live here, after all. The worst non-Pokémon animals.
‘Why do we need a badge for that?’
‘Because… I have no idea, but apparently you need the badge. Pokémon world rules.’
‘That’s dumb. Would the police come for us?’
‘Probably.’ The small pink hippo shrugged, somehow.
‘Why couldn’t you just go yourself?’
‘Ah.’ She straightened out of the ‘shrug’. ‘Now that, there is a good reason for. Shall we go for a swim?’