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October 19th, 2012 (8:02 PM).
you can breathe now. x
Yeah, I can see why you wouldn't like his past. It's not something he's quite proud of, either. Thanks for commenting.
So I've decided that I'll be writing the remainder of Survival Project for this year's upcoming NaNoWriMo. I chose this because I wanted to participate for the second year in a row, and starting something else would pretty much ensure that I'd never finish this, and I really do want to finish this fic. Whether or not I'll succeed is up in the air, of course, and this means tons of editing may be happening, but at the very least, this means that the fic will be planned out from this chapter until the end. The fic will have a total of ~30 chapters if all goes according to plan, so we're about halfway there. Wish me luck, and I'll see you all in the beginning of November with a new chapter.
chapter 11 ; [RENNIO]
I still remember her like it was yesterday. She had long, flowing blonde hair, green eyes. Her love for us pokémon had no boundaries. She found beauty in all things, even the things that made people cringe when she talked about them, like philosophy and math. She was the first person I saw when I hatched from my egg. Where she got that egg, I never knew, but it was all I could do to thank her for retrieving it.
It was yesterday. In my mind. In my dreams. In my hopes, in my fears.
She asked me once, “If you were to think about it, would you predict that you’d have more fears than hopes, or more hopes than fears?”
Back then, I didn’t have to think about it.
Now, I think too much.
Yes, I remember her like it was yesterday… I remember even the little things that I observed over the years. She refused to sleep on her sides, so as to never leave her back wide open. She only spoke of Arceus to those who didn’t believe, again, to make them cringe all out of good fun. She never looked at the ground or at the sky as she walked, because she wasn’t afraid of the never-ending path in front of her.
My favorite memory was when she embraced me. She made it look like a normal hug, made it feel like a stronghold.
And it’s all so ironic, I know. I think too much about it now, these fears that outweigh my hopes.
It’s ironic because… the one time she truly needed me, I let her go.
My first thought amongst the chaos.
We were simply out getting wood to build our own fire—and when we found it, all we wanted to do was get rid of it and run. It was just extra fuel for the fire heading our way, after all…
I had to do a double take before I realized that, yes, there really was one coming our way. The crackling sound that I had heard so many times before on our journey now rang through my ears and tormented me relentlessly. The flames were taller than I’d ever seen them before, and the air smelled burnt, crisp, sharp. My senses were exhausted in a matter of seconds. I stood there, confused and dazed, wondering if I was in a dream…
Annie, we have no water-type pokémon, we’re nowhere near the exit or entrance, and there’s nothing but more trees surrounding us, more fuel…
Something had to be done, but judging by our clear lack of action, everyone was thinking the same things as me and no one knew what to do. The fire was growing larger and coming closer to us with every passing second. Closer, closer.
“What are those things that are always in your mouth?” I asked once. We were just beginning our journey to Johto, as we were on the boat that would lead us to the renowned region. Though I had been traveling with her for quite some time, I had never questioned her about her peculiar eating habit.
She grabbed another spoonful of berries for me and placed them in my mouth. I smiled as I chewed in order to thank her. I was old enough to feed myself, yet she was always insisting on me being the baby of the group, the one who received all the extra special attention. I was grateful for the care, and so I thanked her for every bite.
“They’re called cigarettes,” she said, starting to prepare another mouthful for me.
“Can I have one?” I asked, swallowing the food in my mouth. “They must taste good if you have them all the time.”
“Nope, you can’t,” she said, smiling to herself. She put the white stick in her mouth once more and then removed it, a puff of smoke following behind. She always did this, over and over, until she had completely gone through the stick.
“They’re not good for pokémon, and I can’t have my baby having something that isn’t good for him, right?”
“I guess not… What about the others?” I questioned, wondering if I would be jealous of the others for once instead of it being the other way around.
“They don’t get one, either.”
She continued feeding me the berries, spoonful by spoonful. I sat there and watched her smoke quietly, wondering what the taste was like, the texture, the feeling that she had when the eating session both started and ended. I supposed I would never know.
When she was done, she took out a device which sparked a bit of fire, and started all over again.
That’s what must have happened. Annie must have dropped one of her cigarettes after lighting it on fire, dropped it, and left it there. There was no other explanation in my eyes. Because of her sudden carelessness, we were all stuck in this mess.
I forgave her instantly, though my body said otherwise. I wanted to stay, but my legs were quickly starting to betray me. My knees felt as if they were going to buckle at any moment, or turn and start heading in the other direction.
It was always this way. My thoughts were much different than my actions. Why couldn’t my mind and body just cooperate? Why was I such a baby on the outside and then so sure of myself on the inside? Wasn’t the mind supposed to send signals to the brain which would in turn send signals to the body? Or something like that? I remembered Annie telling me once. But it just didn’t ring true for me.
I wanted to stay. I wanted to stay and protect her, protect those green eyes in a fire that was turning everything gray.
But I was the first to run.
The other pokémon on the team, particularly Ezrem, always liked to make fun of the day that I was born. Hatching from the egg and not being able to understand their taunting language was apparently amusing. And apparently, the first thing that I was told was my name.
When I hatched from my egg, the last thing that I wanted to hear about was my name. I was hungry and I was cold, so I wanted food and warmth right away. I could no longer turn to my egg to sustain me, so I had to find these things elsewhere. But on top of my basic necessities, I was overwhelmed with a sense of confusion. The only thing recognizable to me was voices, since I could hear them inside the egg. The other pokémon surrounding me were foreign, and so were my surroundings. Where was I? Was I supposed to be where I already was, or was some other place waiting for me? Did I hatch too soon, too late?
Despite my needs, Annie did not feed me or hold me or tell me where I was. Again, I was informed that the first thing she did was tell me my name.
“Rennio. Your name is Rennio,” she said. She beamed at me, along with the rest of her pokémon, all of which were foreign to me. They were whispering amongst themselves, however—or making fun of me, of course—so I assumed they must have known me somehow. I didn’t know what their names were, so I just stared at them. Their words mean nothing to me.
“Renee was my littlest sister’s name, and the end of your name makes it sound a little more boyish. It’s perfect for my new baby pokémon!” she said ecstatically.
At first, I couldn’t understand. But as Ezrem told me the story once when he felt like teasing me, I began to comprehend the situation’s significance. One of the first things a baby does when it’s born is try to figure out if the world is a safe place. Is the world trustworthy? Are people trustworthy? Annie didn’t feed me or hold me or tell me I could feel safe, but giving me a name and explaining its origin provided me with a sense of relief. That was her way of telling me that she was trustworthy. She knew I existed, and she loved and valued my existence enough to give me an identity.
My hunger and desire for warmth waited, and that was fine. I didn’t know much of anything at the time, but I felt safe here. And that was enough.
I heard her cry my name as soon as I started dashing in the opposite direction. I knew it then, I knew I should have stayed. But what else could I do? What was more important, her existence or my existence? Ezrem had told me so many times, so many times: I was the last of my species. If I were to die, there would never be another elekid or electabuzz or electivire.
This belief of almost being extinct had frozen my very being many times in the past. Because of this fear, I was unable to participate in battles, since there was always the possibility being hurt beyond repair. Because of this fear, death consumed my thoughts even in the safest of situations. Because of this fear, it was my goal in life to just be able to survive or create another one of my species.
But I was also able to understand the significance of oneself and others because of this fear. I knew that without my trainer, I could not have come as far I had. She was one who had nurtured me from the very start, and it was extremely important for me to repay my debt to her somehow. In the old days, I would usually just continue to be her baby pokémon, since that’s what she wanted, that was what she was content with. Occasionally I’d have to be with her when she cried, and I’d cheer her on in battles from the sidelines…
But because of this fear, I also ran away from my trainer when she needed me most.
I ran past the tree branches that fell to the ground, trying to block my escape. My legs were short and, due to the quick pace that I was running at, started to ache soon after my dash. Despite this, I kept on going, and I didn’t dare to look back, knowing that I’d have more regrets if I did.
To be honest, I had no idea where I was going, or even if I was truly saving myself. I just knew that standing still was not the answer unless I wanted death to come, which I certainly didn’t.
I ran. The fire was closer than ever before now, and smoke was starting to invade my lungs every time I tried to inhale. My body tried to stop itself a few times so I could cough, but I wouldn’t have any of it. I kept trudging forward despite myself, wavering from side to side as I did. Because of this, I got scorched by the fire a bit, and bumped into a few trees that were simply waiting to be devoured. I couldn’t see where I was going at all.
Moments like these are recalled as blurs because everything looks the same, no matter how you think of it. There were flames everywhere I looked, I was scared no matter where I was, and I alone everywhere I ended up. So I have no idea how I made it to the end of the forest, the opposite side from where we entered. All I knew was that I must have been running an awfully long time with an awfully large stroke of luck following shortly behind. All I knew was that my startled eyes and burnt body and shrieking self must have alerted the guards at the building, because they soon ran into the forest themselves and put out the fire.
They scoured the entire forest from top to bottom. It wasn’t hard, given the destruction. But in the end, only Ezrem and I were found. Annie and the others were nowhere to be seen.
Ring around the rosie, she called it.
The goal was to make yourself dizzy by spinning in a circle with other people in the group, ones you were holding hands with. Then, at the end, you were all supposed to fall together, laughing.
But she said—ashes, ashes.
She said she’d never let me fall, no matter what.
It was just a game. A kid’s game, one she didn’t expect me to understand.
I knew what she meant, deep down.
She left through ashes; I fell without laughing.
And remembering hurts.
But I can at least remember Ezrem without pain engulfing me. Ezrem, who has always been by my side. Even when he was teasing me, I knew that he wouldn’t betray me for anything. And now that it was just the two of us, our bond was that much stronger.
I often wondered what would have happened had he passed away in the fire with everyone else. With me being far too dependent on others, I can’t imagine that things would have gone well. I may have been crying forever, I may have gotten tangled up with a bad trainer, I may have gone off to die somewhere by myself due to some misfortune that I didn’t see coming…
Yes, Ezrem and Annie taught me all about death and the ephemeral thing that is life. I forgave him, as long as he stayed by my side.
And he did stay by my side. He explained to me his desire to return home, and it made perfect sense to me, given our situation. Who wouldn’t want to go home after a long, grueling journey? He said he’d take me with him since I had nowhere else to go, and I was more than happy to oblige. His plan involved getting a new trainer, which also made sense to me, since there was no way for us to know the layout of the regions. To find a new trainer, we also agreed to stay in the forest. Not only had we learned that it was usually full of new trainers whose potential we could judge, there was always the hope in the back of our minds that said Annie would come back for us someday, somehow.
So we remained where we were, avoiding the burned side of the forest as well as we could. We stayed near the entrance, the one full of better memories, better times, which seemed so far away now. Ezrem taught me which berries in the forest were good for eating after I explained that the thought of killing a pokémon for food was unacceptable to me. Then it became my job to retrieve our food and water while Ezrem stayed near the entrance and watched for trainers. Warmth was an afterthought; we never made fires.
I’d come back with berries every day, and I’d stare at him expectedly. He always knew that my gaze asked the same question: had he found anyone with potential? Because we don’t want just anybody.
He’d always look at me sadly, shaking his head.
“Someday, but not today,” he’d say.
One day, I returned with berries and simply told Ezrem, “I’m scared.”
He motioned for me to open my hands and dug his beak into the pile. Halfway through, he pulled back, finally realizing that I had said something.
“Scared of what?”
I signed. If anyone should know what I’m scared of, it should be Ezrem. “What if I die before I’m able to keep my species from going extinct?” I asked.
“Well,” Ezrem said, swallowing though he had no berry in his mouth, “you just can’t think like that, okay?”
“Why not? It’s entirely possible.”
“If you let the fear consume you, you are destined to fail!”
“I suppose.” I paused. He was probably waiting for me to say something more, but I couldn’t think of anything. I stared at the berries, and then said awkwardly, “Will you… feed me?”
“Feed you?” Ezrem stared at me, perplexed. “Rennio, you’re not a baby anymore!”
“She used to feed me. Annie did.”
Ezrem snickered, but I knew that he was just hiding the pain that came with me saying her name. He dug his beak into my hands again, pulling back and taking a berry from my hand. He leaned in toward me, seemingly handing it to me, but he moved back again and chewed it himself. I stood there, disappointed, but it wasn’t like I wasn’t expecting it.
“Listen, Rennio!” he said after he finished the berry. “I’ll tell you what. You need more confidence. I want to teach you a catchphrase that you can have.”
“A catchphrase?” I said, dumbfounded.
“A catchphrase. Every time you battle a pokémon, you must say you have come back to the world! Every time you come back from getting food and water, you must say you have come back to the world. As time goes on you’ll say it in more and more situations. This will let everyone around you, including yourself, know that you are, indeed, alive, and that the elekid line lives on. Do you understand?”
“I-I think so,” I said, shifting my feet uncomfortably. “The idea just seems silly to me.”
“It may be silly, but babies do silly things. Now, if you want me to feed you like Annie used to, say it!”
I hesitated. I did need more confidence, but Ezrem’s solution was just words. What power did words have? They didn’t magically make me reproduce or cause elekid eggs to start lying around everywhere. They were just there to boost my ego, nothing more.
“Say it!” Ezrem said impatiently.
“I don’t know…”
“Then I’m not feeding you.”
And not only did I need more confidence, I needed Annie. As comforting as he was, Ezrem just didn’t meet all my needs. If I could have just this, I would feel much, much better, and be able to move on for just a little while longer.
“Fine,” I said, sighing. “I have come back to the world.”
“Say your name and say it loudly, or no one will know who you are!”
“Rennio has come back to the world!”
Ezrem smiled. “Yes, yes you have,” he said, taking the berries from me.
An unknown amount of time passed before the day we found Sai, before I felt like I really had returned to the world.
When I came back from searching for berries and shouting my silly catchphrase, I was expecting to find Ezrem still hiding behind bushes, watching. When I saw that instead, he was actually interacting with a trainer, I knew that something special was happening. Ezrem had finally found and picked someone!
I wasn’t expecting, however, to be attacked by another pokémon. And I wasn’t expecting Ezrem to get rejected, and for me to be welcomed with open arms. And I wasn’t expecting for the new trainer to try to take my name away.
Overall, I was overcome with mixed emotions. I knew that a trainer battling wild pokémon to capture them was fairly ordinary, but it had just never happened to me, so I wasn’t prepared in the slightest. The idea to defend myself hadn’t come to me; I let Ezrem do all the work to protect me, as usual. And when he was rejected despite his noble actions, I thought about unfair it was to him—after all his hard work, he had finally come to a decision only to be shut down. My heart ached for him, but there was nothing I could think of that would help him except to go along with Sai like he requested.
And that’s exactly what I did. I trusted Ezrem’s judgment, his reasoning. Even after Sai told me I had no name, I decided that he was an ideal trainer. I was okay with not having a name in his eyes as long as I knew my own true self, and as long as Ezrem knew who I was, too. I would continue to identify myself the way Annie identified me, so that her memory could live on.
It was the least I could do for her.
And just like that, Ezrem and I found ourselves making our way to Goldenrod City for the second time. This time was, of course, much different. We were with different pokémon, a different trainer… We were with complete strangers. The air was slightly tenser, for some reason I could not decipher just by looking at or making small talk with the strangers. Perhaps they had just gone through some ordeal, too, though I could not imagine anything as bad as our story.
The atmosphere was also much quieter. With Annie, we were always talking about something or another. Since she could understand us after being with us for such a long time, there was never a dull moment with her. I decided, then, to try to get to know my new teammates, my new trainer.
“Why don’t you guys tell us something about yourselves?” I said, talking to anyone who was willing to listen. I motioned over to Ezrem, making sure to include him in the conversations, too.
The three pokémon introduced themselves as Senori, Kuiora, and Atis. The names would be difficult to remember, but I’m sure I would learn them in time. I supposed that meant that he still thought I had no name, but he didn’t say anything in protest.
“Another trainer that gives their pokémon funny names!” Ezrem cried, keeping up with the rest of the group, just as he had promised me. I looked up at Sai, and noticed that he was still ignoring Ezrem—even more so, as he wouldn’t so much as glance at the bird.
“I do not have a funny name, thank you very much. I think it’s quite pretty,” Kuiora said, putting her small hands on her hips and glaring at Ezrem.
“It’s hardly what I’d call pretty.”
“You just say that before you’re a boy, and things aren’t pretty to you,” Kuiora retorted.
“I don’t mind mine,” said Senori while the other two bickered. “I had a different one before, but I think I like this one better.”
“You had a name before? What was it?” I asked, suddenly curious. So Sai had forced Senori to get a new name, but not me? He didn’t make any sense to me so far, but I still respected him.
“It doesn’t matter now. It was a long time ago,” Senori replied, smiling softly.
“Oh.” I decided not to press him. “What about you, Atis?” I asked, trying to include him, too, since he hadn’t said much yet.
“I didn’t have a name before…” he said shyly, keeping his head lowered toward the ground.
“Sai,” I said, noticing our trainer hadn’t said much, either, despite being able to understand us, “where do you get your names for us, then?”
“I… I knew some people with the same names. I don’t know many other names or anything, so I use them,” Sai said, looking down at me. He tried to smile but failed, as if he were recalling some painful memory. His answer seemed simple yet weird in my eyes for some reason I couldn’t explain, so I didn’t press him, either. Yes, there certainly was some pain surrounding this group, pain I didn’t know about yet. I was sure it was just another thing I’d learn in time.
If it were up to me, suffering wouldn’t exist. But it’s part of what makes us who we are, and personally, I was glad to find others who had experienced pain just like I had. So far, my journey with our new trainer seemed hopeful; it seemed like it would be a journey toward healing and peace.
I smiled at Sai. When it looked like he didn’t know how to respond, I said, “It was nice to meet you.”
“It was nice to have met you, too…” said Sai, offering a slight smile back.
“I had a trainer once before,” I said rather impulsively, catching myself off guard since I hadn’t talked about Annie to anyone except Ezrem. “She was really nice.”
“Yeah? Maybe she can travel with us sometime if we run into her,” Sai said, suddenly appearing hopeful and excited. I didn’t blame him, I really didn’t—Annie would be a great traveling companion if she were alive—but his words stung.
“She won’t be able to. She passed away a while ago,” I said, now looking down at the ground.
“Oh. Well, it looks like it’ll just be me and my pokémon, then… The trainer back there and his sister didn’t want to travel with me, either,” he said sadly, his eagerness fading. I let the conversation go once more, regretting bringing it up. I made a mental note to myself, saying that I would have to inquire and learn more about these little things that I let go now, but was still curious about.
We kept walking from there, making more small talk about things that were less significant to me. I noticed that Kuiora kept quite close to Ezrem, probably because she still thought he was a legendary pokémon for some reason or another. I thought it was amusing and chuckled at him a few times, only to have him glare at me and shut me up rather quickly.
Occasionally, a wild pokémon would attack and I would get to see my new teammates battle. While they seemed somewhat strong, I knew that had a long way to go compared to me and Ezrem. I vaguely wondered how impressed Sai would be once he battled with us (assuming he’d eventually warm up to Ezrem and want him on the team), but I was also overly pleased with the fact that he didn’t ask me to fight even once. A fear of battling accompanied my fear of death and injury, so I didn’t want to fight if I could help it. Annie never made me do anything I didn’t want to, but with Sai, it could have been different. I supposed I would have to wait and see.
I noticed that Sai fed us plenty of food and made sure we were satisfied with a place to sleep. A few peaceful nights passed before we neared the end of the forest. Given mine and Ezrem’s past, I was also relieved about how our trek through Ilex Forest was rather uneventful. The only thing that particularly stood out to me was the damaged areas of the forest. They brought back haunting memories, mixed feelings, and an overwhelming desire to leave. Luckily, that’s exactly what we were going to do, and soon, I knew, since I recognized the forest’s exit. When we were close enough, I turned one final time to the destruction that caused me so much anguish, and said good-bye. I pretended to be walking beside Annie as I believed I was returning to the world, to our journey, starting with Goldenrod City.
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