It took a few minutes for Professor Birch to wake up. Tess had tried to leave a couple times. Unfortunately, she was stopped by Brendan, he wouldn’t stop asking about his dad passing out. Either that or she was stopped by the whismur. The little creature was attached to her at the hip. In reality, it was her ankle, but either way, it wouldn’t leave her alone. It would have followed her out if she had let it, but she didn’t feel right, essentially stealing one of the professor’s starter pokemon.
Even so, as the professor stirred back to life, Tess was already shimmying to the front door. However, as all the attention in the room was directed toward him, the professor’s attention went to her. He sat up from the seat he had been propped in and pointed toward the whismur that whined at Tess’s feet.
“That was a wonderful display!”
The whismur went silent, staring at the professor in confusion. It was probably the first time since Tess had met it that it was completely silent. Professor Birch wasn’t done yet, though. He shot up onto his feet and stabbed his finger at Tess.
“And you, excellent, as well!”
Tess blinked. Much like the whismur, she was unsure what he was talking about. Recalling the event in the woods, Tess couldn’t remember any particular action she took that was ‘excellent’ in any way. Still, Birch wouldn’t stop. He enthusiastically paced around the lab, searching for something.
“Wonderful job. Astounding job. Now, where is that bag?”
Brendan eventually was able to pull his dad’s attention to the work table where he had laid out his father’s bag.
“Yes! Thank you, son!”
With that, Birch scuttled over to the table. He spared no time digging through the bag and plucking out three Pokeballs, presumably all the starter balls. Then, he reached under the table and set out Pokeball stands, which he set up and placed each ball on their respective stand. The stands themselves were much more futuristic than Tess expected. Each was a metallic tube with buttons on the front and what appeared to be a small camera just above them.
“Well, while you are both here, let’s talk about the new program I am starting this year.”
He pressed the top button of each stand, which caused a light to shoot out from the camera onto the table just in front of them. The lights wobbled for a few moments before settling and taking shape into three different pokemon: a hoppip, a ralts, and a whismur.
“These are the three starters that I’m offering new trainers that wish to join the tourney for the first time.”
Tess, once again, had no clue how to respond. Her eyes drifted across each starter but paused briefly on the hologram of the whismur. It was, of course, identical to the whismur that was once again whimpering at her feet. Brendan, thankfully, was just as confused as she was.
“Okay, but why? Why aren’t you doing the standard three again this year?”
Birch crossed his arms and grinned madly.
“I’m so glad you asked! As you know, those three have to be imported into our area, right?”
Tess nodded along with Brendan, earning an approving nod of their own from Birch.
“Right. Those pokemon aren’t common, even if they are part of our region. Some would even say they are endangered. So, I took it upon myself to start a conservation program. Until those pokemon become more common in the region, I will be offering various local pokemon for starters.” He couldn’t hold back a small fist pump before he continued, “Pretty cool, right? Plus, it will help showcase all the great pokemon Hoenn has to offer. Win-win, I’d say.”
Tess nodded along, much more enthusiastically than she had intended. Birch’s energy was beyond infectious. However, when her gaze drifted to Brendan, she found that he wasn’t even looking at his dad. Instead, he was focused on the shrunken Pokeball in his hand. It hit Tess instantly. He had one of the original starters of the Hoenn region. She would’ve expected him to be happy and smiling, but his brows were furrowed, and his mouth was set in a deep frown. Tess couldn’t decide if that meant he was upset or if he was just heavily focused.
Birch didn’t seem to notice his son’s reaction, instead, focusing back on Tess.
“So, Tess. I presume you’ll be taking our little whismur, right?”
Before Tess could fully look at Birch, she found a Pokeball flying in her direction. As best as she could, she flailed her arms about, the Pokeball bouncing between her hands. Even the whismur at her feet was panicking, mimicking her flailing. Of course, it emphasized their shared panic by squeaking wildly.
Thankfully, Tess was able to grasp the ball in both hands. As soon as she caught it, all the panicking ceased, and was quickly replaced by Birch laughing. Tess looked up and met the professor’s bright and approving face.
“I’ll take that display as a yes. What do you think?”
Tess stared at the Pokeball in her hand. It was chilly to the touch, much more metal feeling than she had expected. They always looked like plastic or clay on TV and in her parent’s room. They looked fake, but there it was. The real thing was in her hands.
The whismur was making a new noise. Tess looked down at her feet, where the creature was staring up at her. Its head was pretty much its entire body, but it still seemed to tilt its head to the side, allowing its ears to flop over. Tess had to admit it was kind of cute. She couldn’t help smiling at it, and in response, it smiled back. Her heart fluttered. That sealed it.
“I think so.”
Birch clapped his hands.
“Perfect. Now, would you like to name it? It’s a whismur, and you can leave it at that, but it might help your relationship if you name it.”
Tess continued to stare at the little pink creature. A multitude of names flickered through her head, but only one stuck in her mind.
Both Birch and Brendan eyed her suspiciously. Despite all of their differences, they looked identical at that moment. Brendan spoke first.
“Howard? You want to name it Howard? But, it’s a—”
Before he could finish his sentence, Birch jumped in.
“That’s an excellent name. Congratulations on the start of your friendship!”
Tess hadn’t taken her eyes off Howard. The little whismur hadn’t taken its eyes off her either.