Mr. Kopi POV
I know I make it look easy, but being "me" was the hardest role I ever had to play. Discovering everything from human food, toilets, and even cooking in many ways has been harder than any Pokemon I've faced. To perfect the guise of Mr.Kopi, I spent dozens of hours trying to understand what makes you tick. Despite that, though, it's still the most fun I've ever had in my life. Because for once, I had a choice in the matter. And to make sure that Talyor's first gym battle goes off without a hitch, I decided to use the resource that truly made me tow the line of human and Pokemon.
Through my hours of research, I found a wealth of easily accessible knowledge that was blatantly 100% true. And that my friends were a magazine/news work that just happened to originate in Jubilife: The Daily Jube. Day by day, the TDJ has never failed once to give me a wellspring of knowledge on all the latest data. Without it, I would never know that Cynthia and Alder's forbidden love, Ash's love triangle between Misty and Serena, and the truth behind the mysterious Dynamax of the Galar region (P.S. it's the steroids in the Dynamax Band). What's even better is that every month they would give an interview to a Gym Leader from another region. This time it was Lt. Surge. Whose philosophy might be the perfect thing we need right now.
"Pokemon battles are like war. Any trainer worth their salt knows how to see their opponent's weaknesses and not make sure that they can see theirs. It's a tough world out there, and if you hesitate, it will eat you alive."
It is one of my favorite quotes I've heard in awhile, and it truly made me think that maybe our worlds aren't so different after all. Either way, it was the truth and a fate that I will never let Taylor experience. So with the words of my stubborn mentor blazing in my ear, I decided to give Taylor the "talk." And her reaction was less than I hoped.
"You're worrying too much, Mr.Kopi, these last few battles have been easy as pie. Besides, if I handled the Triumvirate, I can get for sure handle, Roark," she said with the brightest of smiles.
Ironically this reaction was both what I feared and hoped for. Ever since she met with Phoebe, Taylor's confidence has finally reached the level; I knew it could be. But with such a milestone at risk, it could be too much of a good thing. Which meant I had to choose my next words very carefully.
"Well, if you're so confident, you wouldn't mind humoring me now, would you?"
"Whatever you say, Lt.Kopi, but can you humor me in return?"
"Okay, what is it?"
"If I manage to pass your training with flying colors, you have to transform into whatever I want for a day!"
"Okay then, it's a deal."
And as we shook hands, to confirm our deal and Taylor drifted off to sleep, I got to work preparing her toughest of challenges.
Just because Mr.Kopi is my best friend, doesn't mean he didn't have his faults. One of which is that he is a huge sasaeng fan. Once he gets attached to someone with even the slightest hint of popularity, he tends to talk about them endlessly until someone else catches his eye. Today was a great example as "Lt.Kopi" wrestled me out of bed and into the deepest parts of Route 202, far from prying eyes with only a protein bar to my name. Along our merry way, I even noticed how far Lt.Kopi had gone into the act. The relatively lanky man with wavy white hair and gray eyes was now dressed in a sleeveless green shirt and camouflage pants in a buzzcut. He even started to adopt Lt. Surge's personality because as soon as we gained enough distance, we started immediately.
"Okay private, listen up! If you follow my advice, then you may have a chance in Oreburgh City. And hopefully, by the end of this regiment, you'll finally learn it all. So let's begin!"
It was a good thing I was such a good actor because inside I was worried as all heck. Even with all research, a part of me is worried that I will never fit in. Taylor told me not to deny who I was, and I want her to live her life to the absolute fullest. The only way I knew to do that was through pain, through struggle, and I never want that. And yet, I still think that tapping into that part is the only way I know-how, which means that in a way, I may never escape Apex. But I failed Taylor once, and that is a mistake that I will never make again.
After explaining all the rules and objectives of the challenges, I finally decided to let my actions do the talking. If Taylor is going to survive, she needs to learn a couple of very important lessons for herself. And the first step involved Ziggy. Once the Tiny Raccoon made its appearance, my cells shifted to that of a nearby Starly. The operative goal was for him to give me the lightest of taps. Though that might be easier said than done as even with a sudden headbutt coming my way, all it took was a small zag and outstretched talon to send him zigging to a nearby tree!
I almost thought that I went too hard on him, but Ziggy, by that time, had already gotten back up for a second attempt! Or so I thought as before the second headbutt could land Ziggy threw a sand arrack right at my face! But I could still see coming from a mile away as all I did was send the sand flying back in his face! Momentum once again took its course, spiraling the Pokemon straight into another tree! Right before the hit, though, I could see clear as day that this fight wasn't going to be a short one. Because I sensed a momentum in both him and Taylor, but without any brakes, without synergy, that speed meant nothing. Roark already has the type advantage, so you need to take every other you can get. The question is, how will you respond?
Two hours passed, and I still couldn't find the answer as Ziggy managed to leave a sparkling impression on every tree in a half-mile radius. Ziggy was still going strong if not a little dazed while Taylor was quite the opposite. As she started to kick a tree in frustration, rubbed the wound even more with the haughtiest laugh I could muster. In the height of that frustration, however, Taylor's eyes shone with inspiration. Like a predator, I laid in wait while Ziggy returned to restrategize with Taylor, with their bond becoming stronger by the second. It all came to a head as Ziggy, with all of his speed, broke into a full-on blitzkrieg! I expected another predictable attack, but Taylor gave a last-second command that cloaks us both in scathing sand! Almost instinctively, I started to veer off to his blind spot only to find that it caught up with me. Combined that with my slightly lagged defense and I realized Taylor's ploy upon the hit! Ziggy's speed and stubbornness made his moves predictable and easy to counter, combining that with this dense environment, and he was useless. But using a combination of tail whip and speed, he was able to get the drop on me and lower my defenses! Overall I couldn't have thought of anything better for Ziggy, but Nadia might be a different story altogether.
Half an hour later, we started the training back up again with Nadia. This time though, I didn't even bother having a preplanned transformation; I already had something in the works for her. As always, Nadia gave me an expression of pure confidence and ambition, two things that Taylor desperately needed before this journey began. But that pride of hers turned against her in an instant as I transformed into Nadia's greatest weakness: herself. For seemingly the thousandth time, I took on the form of my enemy and combined it with my most magnetic technique: the charm button. And just like that, Nadia went from an energetic combatant to lovesick Rockruff.
Some say that pride is the worst out of the sins, but from personal experience, I know that it could be a virtue in the right hands, but that part is up to you, Taylor. Already I could see her mind percolate and ponder over what to do next for a good 15 minutes. After that, she started to change up her strategy.
"Nadia, sweet, beautiful Nadia, I can't believe you're getting tricked by this cheap knockoff!"
Nadia then looked to Taylor in confusion as she ranted on.
"Can't you see that he is mocking your very being? Sure it may look like you, but the fact that it's even trying is an insult to your utter magnificence!"
Knowing Nadia, she probably only understood half of that, but the message was clear. Shockingly enough, Nadia's stupor turned into a burning rage as it unfurled a hell mary of double kicks! What's worse is that each kick led to the other perfectly, all the while, her pride growing all the more! I decided that she was never going to give in, so I let her hit me with one of her kicks, and faked being knocked out. With her pride finally sated, Taylor learned two important lessons on pride for both her and Nadia.
With one more lesson left, I thought that it was fine to leave well enough alone for one day. However, Taylor wasn't going to take no for an answer. I commanded her to bring out all of her Pokemon and wait for the storm. Even outside of Sinnoh, the Starly line has claimed the world of competitive battling, which may be ironic, given that their real strength comes in great numbers. And with my charm button, those numbers were at my full command. With all my speed, I arrived at Taylor first, and in my human form, I drew a line in the sand right in front of her. After that, I moved until I faced Taylor's back. Like a coming storm, the woods started to whistle with the sound of over a dozen incoming Pokemon, but I didn't let that distract me from my speech.
"It's a tough world out there, and if you hesitate, it will eat you alive Taylor. In the heat of battle, you can't run away, and you can never lose your edge. Do that, and no one can take anything away from you. Not a single Pokemon is going to pass that line because you're not going to allow it. And don't worry Taylor, I'm with you every step of the way."
I could almost hear her mind worrying as she gave out of the mother of all gulps. She then stood her ground and gave her an answer.
"Yeah, okay," she said in a shaky breath.
And it was at that moment that I realized that she wasn't, her palms were shaking, her breaths hushed, like before she was nothing but a shaking mess. At first, I didn't understand, given her fight with the Triumvirate, until I realized my two fatal errors in judgment. Taylor was a girl with a lot of potentials, but Trixie's bullying and that Urasring had taken their toll on her. And at that moment, I realized that I just reopened up every last wound all at once. The second error was even worse; despite my confidence, I will admit that the Charm button was one of the few skills that I didn't test very well (I've never seen the outside until Leonard took me). Which meant that even I didn't know how well it worked at full power.
My dozen of Starly soon became several dozen, and they were all rabid from pheromones. As they all collectively screamed with the force of quaking thunder, a painful memory flashed in my mind with my body moving all on its own. In an instant, I revealed my true form and moved past Taylor's Pokemon to face them all at full power! At full speed, I twisted my blob of a body until it became a corkscrew of unstoppable momentum! In one fell swoop, I knocked all of my opponents out of their stupor, bruised but okay. They all didn't matter, though, as I finally dropped the Lt.Kopi act and once again reassured Taylor.
"Okay, I guess you won, let's head back," I said in earnest.
Taylor thankfully understood the full meaning behind it all as we wordlessly headed back to Jubilife. It was here that I fully remembered what I saw at that moment. Instead of Taylor sweating and cowering, I saw myself, and at the center of those swirling Starly's, I saw Leonard, with the same inviting smile he's always had, which brought two frightening questions. If Leonard truly loved me so much, why did he still let them hurt me in the end? And in my effort to train Taylor, am I just repeating history?
A day of grueling and inventive training ends with a looming question for another day! Will Lt.Kopi's training make all the difference in the trials to come? Find out next time as the journey continues ever forward!