"They broke free!"
"Get them, before they can fly too far off!"
"You imbeciles!" the Alakazam scolded his assistants. "If this is your 'Everything is under control, Dr. Victor.', I don't want to see what it looks like when you idiots are losing control!"
He looked up to the hole in the ceiling of the secret laboratory, through which his precious power sources had escaped just a minute ago.
“You heard the doctor, get them back as fast as possible!” one of his assistants commanded.
But the opportunistic Alakazam lifted one finger and stopped the assistant in his tracks. “Wait… this might be our chance to catch even bigger game. Let them rage for a while. I’m sure they’ll be trying to destroy this place.”
They were free! After a long time of captivity, they finally managed to escape their prison. And they would raze this place to the ground. Articuno screeched as it wanted to send out an icy hailstorm in the direction of the laboratory, but it seemingly misjudged its abilities and thick clumps of ice began hailing down onto Zapdos and Moltres. Both of them weren’t fond of their fellow Legendary Pokémon’s attack and soon their bottled-up rage turned into a merciless battle against each other just beneath the newly forming clouds.
Dr. Victor smiled. He just had to hit one of them with his Confusion move, and they completely forgot about him. Now he was focusing on the horizon. While the sky above had turned dark, and it had begun storming, there was a rainbow appearing far away in the distance. And it seemed to be coming closer. The smile on the Alakazam’s face grew bigger as his new unsuspecting power source approached.
There it was. The signal had never been so clear! Ho-Oh could feel the presence now. And it knew where it was coming from. A fight between three Legendary Pokémon was nothing to leave unattended. A loud caw, and it began flying faster, right into a forming storm. Whatever had made the three so angry, Ho-Oh would calm them down, before they destroyed the land beneath them. Dark clouds and storms were already forming in multiple locations. But Ho-Oh had to get to the source of them. It had to extinguish the origin of the fire before wasting time on putting out the smaller flames. There was no time to lose!
Kitakami had always been protected by its three heroes Okidogi, Munkidori and Fezandipiti, but this time, they didn’t seem to respond to the pleas of the various Pokémon begging for their help. Since a few days, there were thick black clouds clinging to the top of the mountain whose base was the home to humans and Pokémon alike. The clouds alone wouldn’t have been a problem, but the constant changing from hail to thunderstorms to extreme heat waves was destroying the rice paddies and apple orchards, and with it most of the trading goods. Kitakami Rice was a delicacy in all of Paldea, and their apples were juicier than those anywhere else.
When the Pokémon spotted Ho-Oh flying into the clouds, they thought that it would help them. That everything would be alright again. But when it simply flew past the mountain, without paying attention to the storm, the residents couldn’t believe it.
“Our actions must have angered the gods!” a Yanma buzzed, while hiding in a shelter from the thunderstorm that was turning the world into an unsafe space to fly around.
“Even Ho-Oh abandoned us. What did we do wrong?” the Smeargle shook his head. He was a mask painter, but all of his colors were getting washed away in the heavy rain before they had a chance to dry.
“It doesn’t matter what we did wrong, we have to make it right! We should try and appease the gods with a festival, like we always do!” a Cyclizar responded.
“No, not like we always do. It has to be something special.” a Scyther shook her head. “We should celebrate a Food Festival! When the gods are angry, what better way to soothe them, than with food?”
There was overall agreement from the other Pokémon, and just a day later, the Pokémon started building the booths whenever there was a heat wave. It wasn’t the best working condition, and since the heat wave only lasted for a few hours before the next hail or thunderstorm interrupted their work, it took them a couple of days and some sleepless nights before the festival was finally ready to begin.
With one final swing of the hammer, the last nail was driven into the wooden plank of the now completed food booth. The Machamp stashed the hammer back in the toolbox and nodded with satisfaction.
“All done!” she announced, but her voice got almost drowned by the rolling thunder and the rain that pattered onto the dome that they had built to protect the Food Festival from the harsh weather conditions, after their first attempt of a booth got smashed by egg-sized hailstones.
She looked at her work with her four hands on her hips and smiled. Dozens of different colored food booths, standing on both sides of the road, just waiting to serve specialties from all of Paldea, were finally ready for getting put in operation.
The evening came with a heat wave, and the Pokémon were already joking about not needing grills at all, well-knowing that it was just a matter of hours until the next change of weather. But the Food Festival had begun, and the aromas of all the different foods started lingering in the heated air under the dome, blending together and created a feeling of security. What bad could happen at a place smelling this good?
And for the first time, after days of worrying, it felt relieving for the inhabitants of Kitakami to be able to smile again. Even if this festival turned out to be ineffective at appeasing the gods, it would still have succeeded in consoling the troubled Pokémon.
“Hot barbecue! Get your grilled goods before they get cold!” a Floragato’s voice lured hungry Pokémon to her booth. She stood there, in front of the grill, juggling with meat, vegetables and something that looked suspiciously similar to a small Clauncher. “Don’t worry, there’s enough for everyone! I once had to grill for a cookie-loving Fuecoco, and I learned my lesson.”
She was juggling so fast, that it looked like the food was flying on its own in front of her. With chopsticks in one hand, she grabbed the food from the grill and threw it in the air, before impaling it with the meat skewer in her other hand. Once the skewer reached its limit, she threw it over to the Pokémon waiting next in line.
“Do you have any vegan options?” a Clawitzer asked from further back.
Floragato quickly hid the Claunchers on her grill, before answering. “Of course! I’ll get you a skewer ready with just vegetables! Or maybe you might want to look further down the road? I heard they make a delicious raindrop cake down there!”
“That sounds great! Bye!” the Clawitzer said, before scuttling away.
“Now that was close.” she sighed. “Anyway… Who wants some more?”
The crowd in front of her booth cheered.
“Okay, let me tell you, those eggs you see here, they weren’t easy to get!” the Scyther in her booth said to the Pokémon crowding it. “In fact, I’m glad I came out alive. My family and I picked them up deep in the forest where they were just lying around, when suddenly, we felt like we were being watched. We picked up as many as we could get and ran for our lives. When looking over the shoulder, I saw that they were right behind us. Fortunately, we were able to outrun them, but that was the last time that we ever set a foot in that part of the forest.”
“What were those things chasing you?” a Gible asked.
“I don’t know. I have never seen them before. But each of them had three big eyes on their heads, and they were jumping after us.” the Scyther’s gaze wandered into the distance, and a look of panic appeared on her face. Then she blinked and shook her head. “That’s the reason why our supply is limited. You can take up to twenty of those eggs, one at a time. But I’d advise you not to eat them right away!” she looked at the Gible who was already chomping on the egg’s hard shell.
The Gible let the egg fall out of his jaw.
“They should be ready in a week or so. That’s when they become squishy and delicious. At least, that’s what my cookbook said about eggs from the deep forest.” she smiled. “So? Who wants one?”
“Ouch!” a Gumshoos exclaimed.
“I told you to be careful! This ramen is spicy!” the Zangoose cook in his booth scolded the poor customer.
“This noodle soup literally bit my tongue!” the outraged Stakeout Pokémon pointed at the ramen bowl in front of him.
“I don’t see anything wrong with it. Maybe you’re just too sensible for spicy food?” he asked.
The Gumshoos looked at the bowl, squinting his eyes. It looked like regular ramen, but something inside it appeared to be slowly moving. Maybe it was just the heat of the dish that was playing tricks on his mind. He grumbled and left the booth, looking for something else to eat.
“Spicy, you say?”, another Zangoose approached the stand.
“Now you look like an aficionada, a connoisseur of my special ramen!” the cook exclaimed with excitement. “Do you want some?”
“Tell me, what kind of peppers do you have to add to disgruntle a Gumshoos?” she curiously asked.
“Peppers? Who said I added peppers?” the cook smiled at the other Cat Ferret Pokémon, before leaning in closely to whisper in her ear. “This is what you need.”
In his claws, he held up two hissing Sevipers.
“Take two of those, then turn up the heat and wait a while. Et voilà, perfectly spiced ramen. Now go tell your friends!” he grinned, while the other Zangoose’s face lightened up with excitement.
“It worked!” a Bidoof shouted, looking at the clear evening sky. “We soothed the gods!”
It looked like he was right. Since a few hours, the temperature had been warm, but that wasn’t unusual for a regular Summer day. There hadn’t been any rain, nor the sound of thunder to be heard. And not a single hailstone had been spotted since the last storm earlier that morning.
“Then we should celebrate! Prepare the parade! Tonight the Food Festival is going to reach its glorious conclusion!” the Cyclizar said with excitement.
The dome over the food stalls was open, and the moonlight illuminated the spots that weren’t already covered by the bright lights from the booths. Hundreds of Pokémon were still crowding the stands, but they were considerate enough not to block the street. And those who weren’t actively ordering food had their heads turned towards said street.
Two Cufants were leading the parade, both with full bags dangling from their sides, from which they grabbed all sorts of candy with their trunks and flung it into the crowd.
After them multiple Azumarills were drumming their bellies to the rhythm of the three Maractuses that were dancing behind them with their unmistakable maraca-like sounds. The Ludicolo that was placed in the middle of the parade had seemingly forgotten where it was supposed to be standing, and was now dancing all over the place, first left from the street, then right from it, but always within the rhythm, and always entertaining the crowds in front of the food stalls. They were cheering and hollering, and some Pokémon even started dancing as well.
And to top it off, there was a single Toxtricity on a wagon, playing the protrusions on her chest like a bass guitar, complete with the sound of it.
More wagons followed the first, each with their own Cufants accompanying them, tossing candy into the excited crowd.
Further down the road, in safe distance to the music parade wagons, a Charmander stood on a wagon that was loaded from top to bottom with fireworks. The Lizard Pokémon used the bright-burning flame on her tail to ignite the fuse of the first rocket and covered her ears before the firework took to the sky with a loud fizz, where it exploded into a lightshow that was shaped like multiple Voltorbs on a dango stick. More firework soon followed, turning the sky bright as day with what looked like a cotton candy Swirlix, a pork hedgehog Shaymin and a suckling Tepig which lasted for mere seconds, before burning up.
All this happened, but the Gible’s attention was lying elsewhere. Since days, it had hoarded the delicious looking eggs that the vendor Scyther said they should be ready by now. Licking his lips, he came closer to the eggs.
“Really?!” a Pokémon next to him shouted in disgust. “A pork hedgehog? That’s scandalous!”
It was a Shaymin that had been watching the parade and the Food Festival with resentment, but now it was fully outraged. “No wonder the gods left us!”
The Gible ignored the angered Gratitude Pokémon. There had been a few critical voices since the beginning of the festival that it would be a barbaric act to cook and eat other Pokémon, even more so in full display for everyone to see, but those voices were quickly silenced. Without further ado, Gible grabbed one of the eggs and put it into his jaw. The Scyther was right! They had become much softer, and it wouldn’t be a problem for him to bite through the shell now. Except that there was no shell.
With another nearby detonation from a cherry bomb, the eggs awakened. Two thin legs were pooping out of their spongy bodies, and they began running. First aimlessly and in circles, bumping into each other, but once they opened up their eyes they sprinted away. The one in Gible’s mouth fought to break free, which was an easy task against the taken by surprise Land Shark Pokémon. It jumped over the baffled Shaymin, right in front of the wagon with the Charmander on it. The wagon was coming closer, and left the newly-hatched Pokémon with no other option. And so it jumped.
Surprisingly strong legs hit the Charmander right in the chest, making her tumble backwards, right into the remaining fireworks. Her eyes went wide in shock when she heard the familiar fizzing of ignited fuses, and she cursed her tail flame for blazing so much. Jumping down from the wagon into safety, she accidentally kicked one of the boxes with the fireworks inside, which in turn fell from the wagon and poured its contents onto the street. Screams resounded from all sides.
Running. It felt good to run! In the distance, the newly-hatched Woodear Pokémon spotted one of her brothers, who was also running. So she followed him. There were explosions behind her, screams, panic. But she didn’t panic. She ran.
A small round thing landed right in front of her. It was fizzing and sparking, but she didn’t care. She ran. And while running, she kicked it to the side with her wobbly, yet strong legs. More screams from the sides. She had no time to lose. Her brother wouldn’t wait for her. But the call of the forest grew stronger the closer it came. And into the forest she and her siblings vanished, leaving all the screaming and explosions behind her.
Food booths were lying in shambles. Some of them were still burning. Pokémon were helping other Pokémon who were hit by firework or were wounded by the collapsing stalls. Baby Pokémon were crying.
The Scyther who had brought the eggs to the Food Festival had used the chaos to abscond. She feared that if the others found out about her true motivations, she would be the next delicacy boiling in a cooking pot, for purposefully bringing this dangerous species to the festival and putting the lives of others at risk. She had been one of the critical voices before, and it wouldn’t need a Detective Pikachu to put two and two together. When she proposed the Food Festival, she didn’t mean to cook other Pokémon, but she was quickly overruled by the other Pokémon and had to watch her idea getting turned into an act of cruelty. “Everything to appease the gods.” she had mumbled, before acting like she played along.
And in the midst of the chaos, dark clouds formed on the former clear sky, before thick hailstones fell down again.
It looked like the gods weren’t soothed at all.
“Close the dome!” the Machamp shouted, and the Pokémon that were left unscathed by the incident followed her command.
The dome was still mostly intact, with just a few burn holes here and there, but it fended off the hail, before more Pokémon could get hurt by the ice clumps.
“Why did we trust this Bidoof with his forecast again?” she shook her head. “The gods aren’t soothed yet! Let’s rebuild the booths and continue with the festival!”
The aftermath of the Toedscool incident was still visible a few days later, when the food booths opened back up again. Less Pokémon than before were visiting the festival, and those who did were hesitant about getting anything that contained other Pokémon.
A desperate Octillery stood in his booth and tried to attract customers with takoyaki. He only had partial success with that.
Very few Pokémon stood at his stall and looked quite skeptically at the Jet Pokémon. And they had all reason to be skeptical, as the Octillery presented the eight ball-shaped snacks with onions sprinkled onto them.
“What did you say was in those things?” an Ursaring mother with her Teddiursa offspring in her arms asked.
The Octillery waved with one of his tentacle arms that looked a bit brighter than his others. “This arm. Don’t worry, it fully regrows after a few days.” he explained.
“Mommy, why is there a fork sticking in the Octillery’s head?” the small Ursaring asked so quietly that only his mother heard her. She was visibly scared by the unusual appearance of the vendor.
“I don’t know.” the Hibernator Pokémon whispered. “And it’s rude to ask.”
The vendor Pokémon didn’t seem to have noticed their quiet conversation. “So? Would you like some?”
“I guess, we’ll take the whole plate.” the mother Ursaring said.
After they were gone, he was alone in his booth again. Even before the Toedscool incident, he hadn’t had a lot of customers. Many were grossed out by a Pokémon cooking and selling its own body parts. But he didn’t care. With a gift of regrowing his arms, he was perfectly suited for sustaining those who came to his booth. And there would be more customers to come for sure, once the Ursaring spread the word of how delicious his takoyaki snacks were.
Whistling, he pulled the fork out from its forehead and began to get out the next portion of takoyaki from the molded pan.
The weather had been better for a few days now, but the residents of Kitakami were still hesitant about celebrating early again. Too deep sat the shock of the disastrous first parade. So deep that, when the day for the scheduled second parade came, most of them wanted to cancel it. In the end, the Pokémon agreed on having a smaller parade. Just wagons pulled by Cuefants this time, but no loud music, and certainly no more fireworks.
And when the wagons were pulled through the street, the general feeling of insecurity was still noticeable, given how quiet the Pokémon were that watched the parade, and given that there was way less enthusiasm for the candy that was given out.
But not everyone was paralyzed by the fear of another catastrophe.
“Welcome!” a squeaky, yet muffled voice greeted the new customers in front of her food stall. “This is the completely vegetarian Raindrop Cake, freshly created in front of your eyes, by me!”
The voice came from a Duosion that was talking from the inside of a large drop of water on a leaf of seaweed that was garnished with two strawberry halves. The Duosion inside the drop of water was shaking a flower. “Just adding a little bit of flavor…” she announced, before she parted herself from the drop, the liquid covering her quickly turning back to its usual green again. A few small seeds were still flowing freely in the water, but when she touched the drop once more, it was almost like watching the water’s surface freeze. Of course, the water wasn’t frozen; it was still wobbly. But the seeds didn’t swim around in it anymore. The water had turned to jelly, locking them in place.
“Bon appétit!” the Duosion happily wiggled as the Clawitzer who was first in line took the plate and seemingly enjoyed the low-calorie meal.
The Pokémon behind the Clawitzer raised their arms.
“I’ll take two!”
“Four for me and the rest of my Maushold!”
“One and a half, please!”
“I’ll work as fast as I can!” the Mitosis Pokémon promised. “Don’t worry! Everyone who wants one will get one! I can do this all week!”
Days after the second parade, the weather in Kitakami hadn’t shown any signs of taking extreme forms again. It was sunny out, with only a few white clouds like fluffy Wooloos in the sky.
“So? What do you think? Are the gods soothed?” the Bidoof, who predicted it wrong the first time, hesitantly asked.
The Machamp sighed. “We can’t be sure, but it certainly looks like we did it. Anyway, we can’t keep the festival running for much longer. We need to till the paddy fields that were destroyed by the weather. And we have to care for the apple orchards as well, so we have a rich harvest next year! Let’s hope for the best that the gods don’t decide to mess up our plans again.”
“I’ll tell the others.” the Plump Mouse Pokémon nodded and started walking towards the food booths.
“Tell them to keep the booths intact! Just in case we need them again!” the Superpower Pokémon called.
Ho-Oh was flapping its wings in panic. It had been a trap right from the start! The Rainbow Pokémon had to witness Moltres getting captured in a fire-proof net and hauled in like a catch in the sea, right in front of its eyes.
Ho-Oh knew it wasn’t fast enough to escape. And so it fought. And so it lost.
When another net on a rope closed around its body, it looked into the eyes of its captor. An Alakazam in a doctor’s overall.
Doctor Victor stared right back at the Legendary Pokémon, while giving orders to his assistants. “Reel it in! If it escapes, I’ll be using your energy as a power source, and I doubt that you’d last very long!”
The Rainbow Pokémon gave up struggling against the net. It was to no use. Scornfully, it looked at the doctor below, who stood on the storm-battered coast, his arms behind his back and just staring into its eyes, while his assistants were reeling in the winch that was connected to the net. A net that had brought down Articuno, Zapdos and Moltres already, which were now being transported away. Just like Ho-Oh would soon be.
One final feeble caw escaped its beak.
And from the darkest depths of the ocean, a powerful roar answered.
“No. Just no! No more strange eggs near our town!” the stern Cyclizar shook his head. In front of him, the apple orchard was filled with dark-colored eggs that were occasionally buzzing with electricity. They were all over the place, some were covered in the mud of the rain-sodden ground, while others were stopped by the treetops of the apple trees. “Get our electric Pokémon to gather them and ship them off!”
“Sorry to interrupt you, but we found a lot of these in the water of the paddy fields.” an Oranguru behind the Cyclizar held up another egg. It was colored in different shades of brown, with a bit of moss covering the surface of the shell.
“Then those can be shipped off as well! We had enough trouble with the chaos that the Toedscools caused, we don’t need another disaster that endangers the harvest!” the Cyclizar commanded.
“Sure, boss.” the Oranguru sauntered off again.
And thus the Pokémon of Kitakami lived in ignorance about what would hatch from the strange new eggs they found. Maybe it would have been of help for them, but their curiosity had been tainted by the recent events, and in the end, they just wanted to return to their normal, boring lives, without any more surprises waiting for them. And so they did.