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April 18th, 2012 (6:24 PM). Edited May 12th, 2012 by psyanic.
There's Something About Lamps
So here I am with another story. This will probably be rated
for some language and violence, later on of course.
Also, I suppose this is an OT fic. At least, there are original trainers and everything, but there isn't much
Chapter 1: Cracked Spirit
We learn something every day, and lots of times it’s that what we thought we learned the day before was wrong.
Battling was only fun when she won. A moment ago, she cheered for her pokemon as they steadily took down her opponent’s team. Now, minutes later, her party broke under its foundations and left her crying. It was something about losing that really got to Connie. Her mind commanded her to get up and walk back into town, but her heart wanted to stay where it was to whimper like a wounded animal. She rubbed a single poke ball, the one that contained her very first pokemon. Unable to bear the memory of it failing again, she tucked it away and wiped her eyes. They stung and were probably red, but she didn’t care.
This is stupid
, she thought as she got up, dusting off her shirt. Dirt flew around and made her cough dryly.
No, I was stupid. Stupid, stupid, stupid.
Sighing, she trudged off Nugget Bridge and went back into town. Her first stop was the pokemon center. As she went in, she bumped into someone. Connie went about to glare at whomever it was, but the frail boy softly smiled at her and apologized before he left. Grumbling, she dropped her pokemon off at the front desk and then sat in one of many of the chairs in the lounge. It didn’t take long, so the nurse called her over and handed Connie her now-healed pokemon. Connie mumbled, “Thanks” and left.
When she went outside, the sun was already fading below the horizon. She debated on whether she should leave town or not. She never minded traveling in the dark, but now, she wasn’t so sure. Nevertheless, her rival was already ahead, probably at Vermilion by now, so she had to press on. That’s what she was supposed to do, wasn’t it?
But staying in the city would mean she was weak; she had already stayed two nights and another night would kill her. Instead, Connie walked forward into the forest and wandered, hopefully to the next town. She held a map in front of her, but she wasn’t focused on it.
How could I have lost? The strategy was perfect and I knew what I was doing . . .
After nearly bumping into a tree, she noticed she wasn’t on the main road anymore. Grass tickled her knees as night fell around her. And for the first time since she started her journey, she was scared, scared of whatever was waiting for her. Her pokemon were with her, but they weren’t much assurance anymore. Her arms were sticky and bugs flew around and bit her exposed flesh. The mosquitos would fly just out of her reach every time her palm nearly swatted them. After a while, she gave up.
She decided today was a bad day. A very bad day.
Thankfully, a light came into view and she had somewhere to go. When she got to it, she saw that it was a streetlight in the middle of a neighborhood, if it was even a neighborhood. She was standing next to a large barn with very few houses around. All she wanted to do was to go home. With nowhere else to go, she stepped on the sidewalk and followed it.
Connie smelled something different about the air. There was a faint hint of . . . shampoo as a breeze passed by. She had reached the corner, and she had stopped. Something else was off. She listened carefully and heard a muffled whisper.
Someone must have been around the corner, standing quietly.
She turned the corner.
Stray leaves fluttered around the pavement in a way to twirl around the boy’s ankles as he was walking ahead besides the fencing of the house next to them. His hair flickered with the wind and fell over his face. The boy’s shoes lightly stepped ahead, but he turned to see the girl staring at him, only a few feet away. He had a slender face with wide, dark eyes that seemed to take in almost everything with endless curiosity.
The trees around them rustled softly, few leaves softly coming down in a neat spiral. The boy stopped and looked at Connie as if he might pull away, but instead he took in her features with shining eyes, making her feel as if she had said something wonderful. Connie knew she barely pronounced a friendly hello, and she noticed the boy’s eyes lingering on the poke balls on her belt. She spoke up again, “Do you live around here?”
“Yes, in the house over there.” He pointed down the street at the collection of lights vaguely revealing the outline of the building. She could at least see the windows. “You must be a trainer.”
“Erm . . . Yeah, I am. Aren’t you one? You look old enough.”
“No, I’m not. I wish I was. Well, technically I am since I have my license and all, but I don’t travel around or anything.”
“If it’s a pokemon problem, I could give you one of mine,” she offered, reaching toward her belt. She wasn’t planning on keeping them anymore anyway. It was only after she had asked did she notice he had a single poke ball loosely dangling off a keychain. Odd.
“Oh, no thanks. My father owns the daycare center here, so we have a few eggs here and there that no one wants.”
“I guess that makes sense.”
He shook his head. “I don’t think so. Pokemon are wonderful things, and I’d hate to give one up.”
“It’s a funny world.”
The boy continued to look over her, but he kept his distance. He turned to face the sidewalk headed toward his home.
“Do you have a place to stay for the night?” he asked, staring at the sky.
“No, not really. Why?”
“You could stay at my home for a while, if you want. We have a lot of rooms and a lot of space. It wouldn’t be any trouble. And you look like you need some sleep. Your eyes look tired.”
Connie hid her face and thought for a moment. She honestly didn’t mind sleeping outside; she was used to it. But the thought of a comfortable bed and a shower was tempting. And the sincerity of his question wooed her over. “Are you sure?”
“My dad’s completely fine with it. He’s like that.” He grinned at her and offered his hand. “I’m Marcelo.”
“Marcelo? Well, okay. I’m Connie,” she said as she shook his hand. “What are you doing out here so late? And how old are you?”
They walked against the warm blowing night on the dusty pavement. Connie looked at the boy, and she knew he was trying to figure her questions so that he could give the best possible answers.
“I’m fourteen,” he began, “and I’m a bit sick. At least, that’s what everyone else tells me, but I feel fine really. My dad doesn’t think the same way, though. He’s always telling me to get fresh air, but not to strain myself. It sounds contradicting. Anyway, it’s the perfect time for a walk this time of night don’t ya think? Sometimes I stay out all night so I can watch the sunrise.”
The two walked in silence before he said, “You know, I saw you in the city before.”
She raised an eyebrow and let her voice slip. “Really? When?”
“Right in the pokemon center, when you were coming out. We bumped into each other.”
“Oh.” She began to remember, and she couldn’t help but feel embarrassed. It wasn’t a happy memory.
“Yeah, but I’m not afraid of you anymore, though.”
“You were afraid of me?” she said, looking away to hide her shock.
“You looked angry and sad at the same time, and I’ve learned you should leave people alone when they’re like that.”
She saw her reflection in his eyes, a dull shape carved out in the black of night. His face, turned toward her, was a delicate flower petal with a certain vibrancy in it. And like a flower, she felt that if she were to hit him, the petal would rip and tear, just like the gracidea she found when she first started her journey. Connie remembered plucking it from the ground so carefully and how soft it was when she held it, keeping it as a sign of luck and hope, and how soon it had been disfigured as she put it in her pocket . . .
And then Marcelo said, “I have a question. How long have you been a trainer?”
“I just turned thirteen, so about three years ago.”
“That sounds like a while. Where did you travel through?”
“Let’s see . . . I’m from Sinnoh so I went there first, then I went through Johto, and now I’m here in Kanto.”
“That sounds fun. But isn’t that traveling a bit too fast?”
“A year per region sounds about average. Even some of my friends are ahead of me, so there’s nothing wrong about it.
“I think there is though. I sometimes think trainers don’t really know what it’s like to travel the world, to explore places or to discover things,” he said. “You can show just about trainer the twilight, when the birds are flocking to their nests and everything’s just calm and peaceful, and you know what the trainer would do? Find an open field and train more. They don’t care. All they really think about is pokemon.”
“No, you don’t care. Earlier today, I saw you rushing through town while you kept staring at the pokemon center. You didn’t look toward the horizon then, when the clouds are pink and the sky’s a brilliant velvet.”
“The point of being a trainer is to battle, and besides, you caught me in a bad mood,” she said, frowning at him. Maybe she took the loss too hard now that she thought about it.
“But you were mad. Your face was red and you stomped when you walked.”
“You think too much,” Connie said, almost insultingly, but she didn’t know why she felt that way.
“I’m not a trainer so I’m not too busy. I have to train pokemon sometimes at our daycare, but we don’t get too many customers anyway. I guess I’ve got lots of time to think.”
They walked further onwards, the house becoming a larger shadow. There were many lights on, with shadows dancing in the windows.
“How many people are in there?” Connie asked, slightly concerned. She didn’t want to intrude.
“It’s just my dad, but he probably has a few pokemon out to keep him company. It gets boring out here, especially since there aren’t many people here.” Marcelo climbed up the wooden steps and went on the porch. He opened the door and beckoned her inside.
There were only a few pairs of shoes in the foyer, all of which Connie avoided to stop her from stepping all over them. Marcelo had pulled off his sneakers, and she did the same. She followed him down the hallways and they arrived at the kitchen, where a man was chasing an aipom as it bounced on pots and pans around the room. The aipom had a ladle clutched in its tail, which dripped on the tile while a meowth darted back and forth as it licked the floor clean. The man fussed at the meowth, but he smiled afterwards and he picked up the feline, shooing it outside. He looked back and saw the two standing in the doorway.
“Ah, you’re back! And who’s that?”
“This is Connie. She’s a pokemon trainer and I met her in Cerulean,” Marcelo said. She smiled and shook his hand. “Oh, by the way, she doesn’t have a place to stay and—“
“Yes, she can!” he answered quickly. “Company’s always good. Lead her upstairs to the guest room. You didn’t have dinner yet, did you Connie?”
“Erm, no, I didn’t.”
“That’s perfect! I was just starting to make some stew. You aren’t a vegetarian are you?” She shook her head. “Good! It should be ready in a few minutes.”
“Hey, come on. The stairs are this way,” Marcelo said. She followed him upstairs, and then he opened a door. He flicked on the light switch. “Here’s the guest room. The bathroom’s over there on the right, and if you need anything, just ask. I’m heading downstairs, so you can change.”
“Why would I need to change?”
He smiled. “No offense, but you smell a bit. It’s like a mixture of sweat and laundry detergent. See you at dinner.”
With that, he hastily shut the door. Connie listened to his footsteps recede down the footsteps before she carefully put her backpack at the foot of the bed, which was right next to a window. It was frighteningly calm outside. Whenever she did stay in the city, it was loud and busy, even more so at night. It was completely different here and she wasn’t sure whether or not that was a good thing. But it wasn’t time for thinking. She kept a tight schedule and it only took her three minutes to shower and head downstairs to meet her hosts.
The smell of food made Connie realize just how hungry she was. Now that she thought about it, she hadn’t eaten for hours. She walked into the dining room where Marcelo had just finished setting the table.
“Trainers shower fast,” he said. He sat down and gestured to the chair across him.
Connie sat on the cushioned seat and met Marcelo’s warm gaze. It was silent for the longest time. At least, that’s how it felt. It was nerve-wracking, just staring into his curious gaze. Finally, his father came in holding a large, black pot on top of his thick oven mitts.
“Ah, move the plates, will you Marcelo? Thank you. My hands are getting hot!”
“That’s a lot,” Connie said, peering inside the pot.
“Ha, yeah it is,” Marcelo said, “but the leftovers aren’t a problem. I’m sure that meowth over there is a bit hungry, not to mention the other pokemon around.”
“So I’m guessing your daycare is successful?” she asked.
“Oh, not too much. We aren’t exactly busy, but we have a bit of business here and there. It’s not a big deal, though. Would you like some bread with that?”
“No, but thanks Mister . . .?”
“Please, just call me Alfonso.” He poured the stew into a bowl and handed it to her. “Enjoy, but be careful. It’s still hot.”
She blew on the spoon before attempting to eat it. The stew slightly scalded her tongue, but the taste was satisfying. “It’s good.”
“Glad to hear! If you want more, please, help yourself,” Alfonso said. He waited a few minutes before asking any questions. “So you’re a trainer, eh? You’re from Sinnoh, right?”
“Yes, but I haven’t been home for a while.”
“Ah, a trainer’s life is hard, isn’t it?”
“Were you a trainer before?”
“Why, yes I was. I traveled a few years, until I decided to settle down. So I opened up this daycare,” he said. “It’s not much, but it keeps me happy. That’s all that really mattered to me.”
“So you help out then, Marcelo?”
“I have been ever since I was younger, when I wasn’t sick anyway.”
“And that’s why you can’t go out and train?” she asked.
Connie noticed a shift in his eyes. “That’s pretty much it. I had a collapsed lung when I was about seven. The doctors make me schedule appointments every month, but I don’t mind too much.”
“But that’s not really sick. I mean you can still travel around, can’t you? Your lungs should be fine by now, if it was that long ago.”
“Better safe than sorry right?” he said, but his voice trailed off. He took a sudden interest in the chopped meat floating around in his stew, and she took that as a sign to drop the subject. “I’m getting tired, so I’m off to bed. See ya in the morning.”
“Night!” Alfonso called to him. A few minutes later, he began gathering the plates and stacked them neatly in the sink. Connie decided to help before she, too, went to her room. He asked, “Are you leaving tomorrow?”
“That’s the plan. Good night, Alfonso.” And she scampered up to her room and collapsed onto the bed. The cool blankets welcomed her as she turned over to stare at the ceiling. Resting always bothered her. She never really sat down just to
. It was always about moving on to the next gym or just training. Maybe he was right . . .
No, he wasn’t. What did he know? He never traveled around and battled, so he couldn’t understand what it meant to be a trainer. But still, he did make a few good points. What a strange meeting to top off a bad day.
How long did they walk together? The walk itself shouldn’t have been very long; she knew they only walked for about five or six minutes, but it felt like hours had passed. He was such a memorable person to her; she couldn’t find anything else to think of. But wait, Marcelo almost seemed to be waiting for her there, so late at night. Why else would he have been there?
No, she was becoming paranoid. He couldn’t have known she was coming through here. Hell, even she didn’t know. She decided to stare at the clock hanging off the wall across her.
Connie yawned and turned over on the bed, shifting so that she could just see the window out from the corner of her eye. The moon was nearly full tonight, large and round, just like Marcelo’s eyes . . .
Her breathing slowed down to a faint, rhythmic pace, then she was fast asleep. She never noticed the raindrops start to fall.
An abrupt slam woke Connie up. She stretched and sat up, peering outside. The sky was gloomy with dark clouds rolling over. It had been raining for quite some time. She could make out the rain as it splashed in various puddles on the road. Groggy, she didn’t bother look for the noise.
Connie forced herself out of the bed and decided to get ready anyway. Traveling would be a hassle, especially if it was raining. Still, she had been through worse, like a nasty blizzard back in Sinnoh. And at that time, she was a rookie trainer and barely knew the way around. Now, she was experienced and rain was no trouble at all.
But she didn’t want to leave. Even though she had only stayed with Marcelo for the night, there was something about him that made her want to linger around a bit. Also, rain ruined her hair and she didn’t appreciate that. Her morale was down too. The previous loss had phased her, if only slightly now. It seemed like ages ago.
Still, it stung. And that was enough to let her stay, she reasoned. Maybe she just wanted to sit down and lay low for a while, avoid anything to do with pokemon for a bit. She wanted a break, not like it would even remotely affect her journey; she was already well prepared for the upcoming league, hopefully to win it all this year.
And then it dawned on her: what’s the point? Winning was a feeling, a state a mind. Other than that, it was a bland emotion that went away just as anything else. Being a champion had always appeased her—ever since she was a little girl, in fact—but she couldn’t decide whether or not it was worth it. Marcelo was right; traveling and looking at the world was something spectacular, and it took her too long to find out.
Her pokemon were valuable too. They created the memories, while forming bonds that she’d cherish for life. But she never had that connection with them like other trainers seemed to have. She barely let them out of their poke balls unless they were battling or training.
Connie pondered this while she crept downstairs, when she noticed just how quiet it was except for the rhythmic raindrops outside. She walked by the kitchen, not particularly hungry, and looked around for her hosts. Apparently, they weren’t around.
Then the sound of a command followed by a thick whack sprung her to head to the backyard, where the pokemon were kept. She reached for the umbrella propped against the backdoor and walked outside onto the patio.
Now that it was morning, she could see the expanse of the daycare, surrounded by simple wood fencing. She wondered why they didn’t try something more . . . durable. Pokemon were bound to escape; being temporarily left behind must have left a bitter feeling. But who was she to judge them? She wanted to do the same, though she wasn’t so sure now.
Another smack in the middle of the rain caused her to watch a battle, Marcelo as the observer. A meowth was stained with mud, wet fur matted down against its skin. The rain must have made it worse; Connie could see it shivering. It yowled as it leapt toward the other pokemon: a wooper. The wooper danced around in the rain and dived into a puddle, just before the meowth could rake it with its claws.
The ground splashed as the meowth crashed headfirst. Steadily, it got up and could only glare at the apathetic wooper, which was stomping in a puddle with a queer smile. The wooper was patient and squirted the meowth, which was enough to propel it further away.
Connie watched and wondered what the hell Marcelo was doing. Was this how daycares were run? The meowth cried out and then gave in to exhaustion and collapsed. Marcelo scooped it into his arms and began going toward the house. The wooper trailed him obediently. That must have been the pokemon he owns, or one of many.
Only then did he notice Connie standing on the patio with an umbrella in her hand.
“Morning,” he said, slightly smiling. He was careful walking up the patio. “You’re up early.”
“I like to get up early for traveling, but the weather doesn’t agree with me today. Where’s Alfonso?”
“Dad’s out at Vermilion. Someone gave him a call and they needed his help. For what, I have no idea. He won’t be home for a while.”
“Oh.” She couldn’t help but stare at the meowth cradled in his arms. It looked so fragile and weak, and she wondered why he even bothered battling it. The act almost seemed cruel. The wooper, on the other hand, plastered a weird grin and waddled around.
He went back inside, while telling his wooper to wipe its paws before stepping onto the floor. Connie followed him and almost giggled as the wooper hopped off and literally scraped its feet on the patio deck. Satisfied, it went inside and disappeared into the kitchen.
Marcelo asked, “Are you planning on leaving any time soon?”
“I was, but it’ll have to wait until the rain clears up,” Connie said. “Why were you battling them?”
“For training,” he said, smoothing down the wet fur of the meowth. It made a soft noise, almost like an exhausted purr.
“But in a daycare? I thought trainers just left pokemon here whenever they wanted to drop them off or something.”
“Some daycares train pokemon, usually to teach new moves.” Marcelo wrapped the meowth in a towel and gently set it down on a couch. “Our daycare is different. We kinda train pokemon for obedience and stuff.”
“So how does that have anything to do with that meowth?” she asked, still staring at the pokemon, resting. “That didn’t look like you were trying to get it to listen to you.”
“She. It’s a she,” he said as he sat next to the pokemon. “And her trainer wanted her to be . . . stronger. I think she was newly caught, so that might be why. She wasn’t much of a fighter when we first got her, but I think she’s improved.”
Connie nodded and sat across from them. “Is she gonna be okay?”
“She’ll be fine. She’s been through worse, I can tell.”
“Does she have a name?” she asked.
“I don’t think so. Her trainer didn’t say anything about it. Actually, he dropped her off and left in a hurry yesterday. He said he’d be back for her in a few days, though.”
She frowned. “That’s weird.”
Marcelo shrugged and petted the meowth. “Most trainers do that. I think they’re embarrassed if they have to let other people train their pokemon. I wouldn’t care, but that’s just people.”
Connie could only nod. The meowth opened her eyes and gradually got up. She stretched her back out before hopping onto the floor. Her face nearly pressed against the glass of the door as she pawed against it.
“Do you like being a trainer?” Marcelo asked.
The question was seemingly random and Connie did her best to quickly formulate an answer. But she wasn’t sure. She wondered if he would have judged her if she told him she wanted to abandon her pokemon and go home. Maybe go back to school and get a real job. She couldn’t tell him, though. They were still strangers. No, friendly acquaintances now. “It’s not too bad or anything.”
“Come on, be honest,” he said all too knowingly.
“I’m not a new trainer or anything, so it’s not too hard anymore.”
He shook his head. It wasn’t the answer he wanted. “I didn’t ask if it was hard. I asked if you liked it.”
“Well, what do you want me to say?” Connie said, cross.
“A yes or no is fine.”
“I-I don’t know anymore,” she admitted, looking down at the floor.
It was silent for a while. At least it seemed that way to Connie. Finally, Marcelo said, “Do you wanna go walk in the rain?”
“Walk in the rain?” she echoed. It had been a long time since she had done that where she wanted to do it, rather than forcing herself for the sake of her journey.
“Yeah, the rain feels good and I love walking in it.”
“I don’t think I’d like it too much.” It was a lie, but he didn’t need to know that. Her childish past was gone the minute she got her pokemon. Playing in the rain was something she just didn’t do anymore, and she couldn’t help but wonder why she stopped.
But he was already halfway out the door, and seeing that she had nothing else to do, she followed him. The rain lightly fell on the road, making soft sounds as they hit the ground. Warm raindrops fell on their skin, and Connie found herself relaxing. A morning fog still hung around, though lighter than it was when she first woke up.
Marcelo began walking around, hopping into random puddles and laughed as his shoes squished in mud. “What about now?”
She couldn’t help but smile. Remembering wasn’t always a bad thing. “It’s okay.”
He licked his lips. “Rain even tastes good.”
“I’ve never tried.” True, she never had. Or maybe she had and just never recalled doing it. But back then, she was happy.
“Oh, you should! Trainers go around and you must have tasted rain water!” She shook her head. It was true: she never had, or she never remembered it. Leaning his head back, Marcelo let his mouth collect the water. And when enough rain fell into his mouth, he gulped. “The air out here is clean, so you don’t have to worry about pollution. I love it here. The best things in life are already in front of you.”
Then Marcelo ran ahead and left her standing there alone. Connie didn’t try to catch up with him, though. Her steps were careful, but they didn’t stop the water from splashing onto her shins. Hair hung over her face, dark and dripping.
What the hell am I doing out here? Listening to some boy who didn’t know anything about pokemon. What did he know about training or traveling?
But he was right. Everything he said made sense to her. Funny, she never liked listening to other people talk so much. It always seemed like a waste of time, and now here she was, absorbing his words like a sponge. Maybe she didn’t have to give up being a trainer. Why would she anyway? She was happy training pokemon, and she knew it; it just took a while to realize it. Winning wasn’t everything, and neither was losing.
It would be different from then on, she decided. Connie sprinted down the road and looked for Marcelo.
Just after lunchtime, the rain ceased and the sky opened up to let the sun shine brightly through the drifting clouds.
Connie was ready. She slung her backpack on and stepped onto the porch, Marcelo not so far behind. He patted her on the shoulder, “I hope you’ll visit again some time. It gets lonely out here.”
She smiled at him. “Thanks for letting me stay. And you have plenty of pokemon around to keep you busy.”
He considered it for a moment. “True, but people are always better company. I suppose it’s easier to have a two-way conversation with people.”
Connie laughed and began walking away. “I hope we’ll meet again some day.”
“We will, I promise. Take care, and be sure to call me some time!” he shouted to her. She waved at him and went away, looking back only once. Meeting him was the easy part, leaving was harder. Connie was going to miss him. Then she was in the woods and she was alone again.
But this time, she didn’t mind.
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