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November 15th, 2012 (12:13 PM).
you can breathe now. x
chapter 13 ; [RENNIO]
I had only been with Sai for a few days now, and already I could spot the many differences between him and Annie. For one, Sai was just weird. He’d never seen a movie before? Annie couldn’t leave a city without watching at least one. He bought knives as gifts? Okay, Annie might have done that, too, but I always thought she was silly for it, while she said it was a joke. Sai was clearly serious. And then there was the part where Sai fled out of nowhere! He seemed so easily frightened, and Annie was fearless. Were the two of them even from the same planet? It didn’t seem very likely.
Despite this, he was a good trainer—he kept us fed, sheltered, and was guilty when he felt he couldn’t take care of us. And I was glad to learn more about him. I was always glad to learn something about people. I had much to learn about the world, I knew, and being with this new team was helping me. I also learned more about religion thanks to Kuiora and her constantly following of Ezrem. She worshipped him, no doubt. I didn’t know how Ezrem was so special, though, but I didn’t say anything. And I learned that Atis was quiet, but I still have yet to figure out why. I hope someday to get him to talk to me.
Senori, he told me his story about his old clan after I told him about Annie. We had been walking to the north side of town, to the flower shop that day.
“So there are others out there like me,” I said to him, trying to cheer him up after he kept looking down to the ground solemnly.
“What do you mean?” he said, peering up.
“There are pokémon—and probably people—out there who carry around an endless amount of guilt, and try to hide it,” I said. “It feels good to be understood, to say the least. I don’t think I’ve ever felt understood before…”
“Well,” Senori started, “if you ever need someone to talk to, I’m here. I like to take care of others, so you’re on the right team.”
I thought so, too.
Over the past few days, the idea of the team being carried around by a ton of pain had… slightly gone away. With Senori and me, there was clearly a lot of pain. There was pain with Ezrem, too, but he hid it a lot better. And there was clearly something bothering Atis and Kuiora and Sai, but they showed me that they could forget about their suffering under the right circumstances. In their cases, they needed proper distractions, and then they seemed fine. I wondered how they felt, then, when reality came crashing down on them.
I decided to figure it out on my own rather than asking. Asking could be too personal, after all. “So what is it like to be happy, and then have your life come flying back into view out of nowhere?” I wanted to know, but that wouldn’t go over too well. So I kept an eye on the people and pokémon around as we went from place to place every day. I kept mental notes to myself, notes about every happy instance that I saw.
A little green pokémon that looked suspiciously like one of the plush dolls we saw helped an older lady find her way to the shopping mall, as she was obviously lost, what with her going around in circles and everything. The little green pokémon helped the lady, and then went back to her trainer, receiving praise. That was happiness, I thought, being able to help others in their time of need. But who could I help at this moment? Senori was supposed to help me, so that didn’t make sense. I didn’t know the others well enough yet to determine whether they needed me. So I tried to lead Ezrem to all the places that we went to, tried to stay in front of him and tell him to follow me, but he brushed me off, scoffing each and every time. Still, I was glad to be with him.
Something else I saw: a human saying hello to everyone and anyone he passed by on the street. Those he said hi to had originally been staring down at the ground rather emotionlessly, but as soon as they were acknowledged, they had a giant smile on their faces. I started saying hello to everyone, too. The pokémon I said hello to waved or said hello back, while the humans just looked at me, confused. I stopped once Kuiora told me that not every human was like Sai, that not all of them could understand pokémon—but it was an interesting experience for me nonetheless.
Finally, I saw a most peculiar thing: a pokémon carrying another pokémon. The larger pokémon, the one who was doing the carrying, almost looked like a human, but its skin was blue in color, and it wasn’t wearing any clothes aside from a black belt around its waist. Its muscles were also fairly big compared to a human’s. The smaller pokémon was a simple purple rodent. My best guess was that it was injured somehow, probably from battle. Well, I could certainly sympathize with the rodent, and I left it at that.
The rest of the city seemed sad, or emotionless, somehow.
So, what did I learn in Goldenrod City? I learned that people came and went… They interacted with each other, sometimes on a superficial level, and sometimes on a deeper level that only the people in question could understand… But why they interacted with others, I could only guess. Maybe it was to ease themselves in thinking they were important. Maybe they just liked the way others made them feel. And maybe they did it because they simply felt they had to, like it was a rule that all humans faced.
In the end, I knew the truth: Annie was gone. I was still coming to terms with it, and it was hard, when everything reminded me of her. Even the way that the city air smelled reminded me of the many other places we had been. But there was nothing that I could do to bring her back, as much as I wanted to. There was nothing I could do to erase the fire, to erase our search for a new trainer, to erase the surprise and grief that accompanied us fully. All I had were memories to think of from time to time, when I felt I could handle it. So now I knew: when reality crashed back down on me, it felt like… being kissed by her ghost—as if she were kissing me on the cheek, calling me her baby, like she used to—and having her promising me that the distance between us was nothing.
It didn’t take long, though, for my suffering to increase tenfold…
Originally, Sai had planned for the gym battle to take place in two weeks. Two weeks! That gave me plenty of time to try to prepare mentally, in case he wanted me to fight. And while looking for happy pokémon and people, that’s partly what I did. Happiness could maybe keep the nerves from getting to me when the time came. I wished that I could say I was sure, but it had been far too long since I battled. The last time I had battled was against Ezrem when he had said something to offend me—whatever it was had escaped my mind now that I had forgiven him—and he knew better than anyone about my fear, so he went easy on me…
That wasn’t very likely to happen in a gym battle, against two people who were very, very determined to defeat each other. Then again, I hadn’t seen Sai’s fighting style, nor much of the Johto region’s gym leader. I just didn’t know what to think.
Needless to say, I was surprised when Sai announced that we would be going to the pokémon gym the day after we visited the radio tower. A while after calling Atis inside by himself for whatever reason, he gathered us all back into the room and sat us down to talk about it.
“After today, I’ve decided to forget about the appointment and just go,” he explained.
“But why?” I couldn’t help but blurt out. Maybe it was childish of me—no, it definitely was—but it just wasn’t fair!
“I know you’re new, Rennio, so you don’t know, right? We’ve been flying through the cities up until now. We’ve gotten the last two gym badges without problem. So we have to continue doing that, okay?” he said, trying to be reassuring. My nervousness must have been shining through somehow.
I thought that Ezrem would say something in protest, but apparently he didn’t think it was his place to speak. And none of the other pokémon said anything, either—they were used to this already, and accepted it for what it was.
But I couldn’t accept it. That night, I lay in the bottom bunk with everyone else, too anxious to sleep. And I wasn’t even sure if Sai would use me in battle or not! But what if he did? What if he used me in battle after all and I got hurt? What if I got injured so badly that I died, or had to be carried like that purple rodent? Who would carry me, then, and help me? Was there any help for me? There was just no telling what would happen to me tomorrow, and it killed me.
I huddled up next to Ezrem, wishing for Annie’s warmth, and didn’t sleep at all.
In the morning, we went to the Goldenrod City pokémon gym… just as planned. I tried to distract myself by finding more happy things in people and pokémon outside, but we were going far too fast for me to be able to pay attention to others and still keep up with everyone else. When we got there, I was more nervous than ever.
Next distraction: the inside of the building. It almost felt like a maze, and an inviting one at that! Like the flower shop, the aroma inside was nice. Several plants lined the walls and the ground, and the walls were colored white with various shades of pink. Every time we walked to the end of a path and turned onto a new one, we hoped it was the last path that we’d have to go through, but they never seemed to end. I would have been okay with that.
As luck would have it, we eventually reached the end of the… maze. It didn’t really feel like a maze anymore by the time we were done with it. It was too straightforward to be one. But as any path promises, we reached our destination and received our prize for it: the gym leader. She looked very young with that smile of hers, just like Annie had, and she almost blended in with the walls with her pink hair, her pink shorts, and her tight white shirt. It wasn’t much of a distraction, but I vaguely wondered what kind of pokémon she specialized in. I would soon find out, I supposed.
“You’re back already?” she said in a sing song voice. “I thought we had set up an appointment. Not that many trainers set up appointments, anyway, but, you know.”
“Yeah…” Sai said, rubbing the back of his head. “I’d like to just battle now, Whitney. If that’s possible, of course…”
“Well, does it look like I’m busy?” Whitney retorted, spreading her arms out as if she was encouraging us to look around. All I saw were more plants, more walls. “We can battle now if that’s what you really want.”
My heart fell, but Sai’s smile was wide.
“Thank you so much,” he said.
“Sure. It’ll be a two on two battle. Get over to that wall, and we’ll battle right here,” she instructed.
“Okay,” Sai said. He turned and motioned for all of us to back up, which we did. When we were against the wall, I knew it was time for him to pick which pokémon he was going to use. “Kuiora”—I let out a breath I didn’t know I had been holding—“do you want to battle first? I know you like to fight.”
“Yes! I do, I do!” she said immediately, and jumped back forward into the arena.
“All right, then, let’s get started,” Whitney said, smiling now. She reached behind her and pulled forth a pokéball. She didn’t say who was going to be choice of pokémon as she threw it forward. Perhaps not so surprisingly, a small, pink pokémon emerged from the ball. Yes, the pokémon was all pink, and it seemed exuberant over the fact with the hearty smile on its face and with its body dancing over to the middle of the arena.
“Clefairy!” it cried.
“I don’t know what that is,” Sai admitted, “so, uh, Kuiora, you can start off however you want.”
“Too lazy to think of an opening strategy? That’s not going to help you win!” Whitney cried, putting her hands on her hips. “Clefairy, use encore when you get the chance.”
I simply watched the battle, wondering what move Kuiora would use and have to repeat. Encore was a nasty, deceptive move, I knew, having had teammates be the victims of its manipulation once or twice.
Kuiora looked like she wasn’t going to do anything at first, but then she pulled her body back, preparing for an attack. When her body lurched forward, she also released a massive stream of water from her mouth, and it was headed straight for the clefairy. The clefairy jumped to the left in an attempt to dodge it. When Kuiora simply moved her jaw in the direction of the clefairy’s location, the pink pokémon jumped to the right. Kuiora kept moving her body and the clefairy kept dancing around like this until the croconaw got fed up and stopped.
“Why did you stop?” cried the clefairy. “It was such a good move! Please do it again!”
“What?” Kuiora asked, dumbfounded. “You thought it was a good move? It didn’t even hit you!”
“So? The water was so pretty.”
“Uh, Kuiora—” Sai said, probably understanding now where this was going.
“Fine,” she said, not listening. “I’ll do it again!”
And she did exactly that. She did it the same way as she had done before, right down to the part where she had to keep chasing the clefairy by turning her jaw in the direction of the pink pokémon’s jumps. This time, however, the clefairy jumped not only to the left and right, but also forward—and eventually, it became close enough to become a threat to Kuiora. Despite this, Kuiora did not stop the attack.
“Clefairy, doubleslap!” cried Whitney.
Since the clefairy was close enough, it took its tiny pink paws and scratched at Kuiora’s face, immediately stopping the flow of water emerging from her mouth. The clefairy did this over and over, on both sides of Kuiora’s face. Due to the tiny claws on its paws, the clefairy was able to draw a little bit of blood from Kuiora.
“Kuiora, punch it back so it stops hitting you!” Sai cried.
“Clefairy, keep using encore,” Whitney said calmly.
“That’s… not… going to happen again!” Kuiora said in between slaps, and finally she pulled her arm back and punched the clefairy in the belly, sending it flying backward. The opponent’s pokémon landed on its feet, but just barely, as it was putting its paws against the ground to help keep composure.
“But the water was so pretty,” the clefairy whined, dusting itself off.
“Of course it’s pretty! It’s my attack,” Kuiora said, grinning wildly. Still, she knew this was no time to be joking around, and she got right back down to business shortly after, her face turning serious. She stood there in battle position, presumably waiting for a command from Sai.
“Oh,” Sai said. “Well, water gun isn’t working, huh? Try bite!”
“Okay!” Kuiora said, making me wonder how she could be so silly and so serious at the same time. I wondered about that regarding myself, often, as that’s how Ezrem described me—but it was another thing entirely to see it happening in another pokémon. I kept watching, intrigued by her—and Sai’s—battling style. Sai, it seemed, didn’t like to be too involved; he liked being a spectator, just like me.
Kuiora leapt forward, dashing straight toward the clefairy, who simply stood there, also waiting for a command.
“Use sing, Clefairy!” cried Whitney, a hint of franticness in her voice now. Apparently, that encore trick worked a lot longer in the past.
The clefairy had started the song before Whitney had even finished calling out her command. It sang a song that sounded suspiciously like a lullaby I had heard in the past. Just when I thought things couldn’t get any worse, my heart fell further, as it reminded me of Annie.
As far as the battle went… The attack was meant to put Kuiora to sleep, but it didn’t have an effect on the croconaw. Either the clefairy didn’t have the time to sing enough of the song, or Kuiora was beyond determined to fulfill our trainer’s commands. She reached the clefairy rather quickly, opened her jaw, and clamped down on top of the clefairy’s head, immediately causing the pink pokémon’s lovely voice to be replaced by shrieking. This seemed to cause Kuiora to only bite harder, as the shrieking grew louder and louder over time. Eventually, the shrieking was reduced to crying, and Kuiora let go, leaping backward and surveying the damage.
“Clefairy, are you okay?” yelled Whitney. She looked like she was going to run into the arena, but stopped herself just in time.
“Yeesh… It hurts…” the clefairy said, rubbing the top of its head, staining its hands with a tiny bit of blood. I decided never to get on Kuiora’s bad side, as her teeth seemed too powerful for me to handle.
“Let’s keep going, clefairy! You can do it. Take your chances and use metronome!”
Surprisingly, I had never heard of this move before. I watched with interest as the clefairy did its best to recover and stand its ground. It took its bloodied hands and lifted them up in the air. Then it started moving its fingers in unison back and forth, back and forth. It did this for a long time, so long that I came to the conclusion that it was just a move to regain composure and focus one’s mind.
“Um, okay,” Sai said, apparently having similar thoughts. “Use bite again, Kuiora!”
Kuiora nodded and made her way over to her opponent, slower this time, probably not seeing the clefairy as much of a threat this time around. Once Kuiora reached the clefairy, she opened her mouth and was about to attack when the clefairy suddenly split into two. When Kuiora clamped her jaw down, the clefairy she was biting down on turned out to only be an illusion, one that disappeared just as quickly as it came.
“What?” she cried. She looked around. The clefairy had split again and again, and now a total of five pink pokémon were surrounding Kuiora on the arena.
Whitney laughed and said, “You already know double team, Clefairy! But I guess it works. Use metronome again!”
“Kuiora, find the real one, and fast!” Sai yelled as he was starting to finally see how dangerous the situation could turn out to be.
Kuiora went to each clefairy, one by one, and attempted to punch each in the stomach. The illusions disappeared, and she could tell she was running out of time as all of the illusions—and the real one—were waving their fingers around again. She went through three of them before the clefairy’s fingers glowed brightly. I heard the familiar cackling of electricity coming from the arena, and closed my eyes in response. I knew what was going to happen next; I didn’t need to watch. I didn’t hear Kuiora cry out, but I did hear her fall to the ground with a thud. Only then did I dare to open my eyes and see that she had fainted.
“Wow. A thundershock attack against a water-type! Yeah, how lucky!” Whitney said, confirming my thoughts. I let out a sigh of relief, glad that the thundershock attack was over. It had shaken me up inside, reminding me of my past battles, and how I had shocked others and been shocked myself. It was never fun, or fulfilling, or enlightening, or whatever pokémon battles were supposed to be.
“Whatever. I bet you knew it was going to an electric-type attack,” Sai said bitterly, returning Kuiora to her pokéball. He placed it in the backpack, which he had taken off and set behind him. “I guess that means I need someone who’s resistant to electricity…”
I froze. I had the vague notion that I should curse Ezrem for being a flying-type pokémon, but that wouldn’t have been fair. I knew what was coming, and there was nothing I could do to stop it. There was nothing I could do in any situation, it seemed.
“I want you to fight,” Sai said, turning to me.
“What?” I blurted out. Stupidly.
“I want you to fight,” he repeated.
“But—” I stopped myself, wondering what I could say. I didn’t know enough about the metronome attack to argue. In my haste, I tried to reason. “Whitney said that it was lucky, right? Right? That means—oh man—that the clefairy can use any attack out there… Any attack… Ground-type attacks… Oh, oh…”
The more and more I thought about it, the more devastated I became. I was about to be put up against an enemy that could use any attack in the world! One stroke of bad luck and I could surely be killed! I couldn’t face that.
Then again, I couldn’t put any of my teammates in that situation either. Now, I decided to curse the gym leader for having such a dangerous pokémon on her team. That just wasn’t fair! It wasn’t! Surely it was against the rules. I peered over at Ezrem, who only nodded to me.
But that was all I could say.
“You should fight, Rennio! For our new trainer!” he said. He was trying to be reassuring, but I could tell that he didn’t have much hope for me. I didn’t know how I knew. It was a hunch of sorts that I couldn’t deny.
“But it’s been so long! And the gym leader has t-two pokémon left!” I cried, flailing my arms around.
“Please,” said Sai. “I need someone who won’t get hurt by electricity.”
“But the clefairy can use attacks other than electric-type attacks!” I cried, but Sai just wasn’t getting it.
“If you won’t fight for Sai,” Ezrem said loudly, “then you should fight for Annie.”
Annie. That hit me, and it hit me hard. Even though she considered me her baby, I knew she wouldn’t want me to act like one forever. She’d want me to grow and be strong and proud. I just couldn’t do that, not when I was the last elekid in the world, not when my species’ continuation depended on me.
But apparently, Sai took my quietness as a sign of surrender, as he said, “Okay. My elekid will fight.”
And apparently, Ezrem took my time to think as a sign of surrender, too, as he pushed me into the arena and left with a cheery “Good luck!”
I didn’t even have the energy to yell at him, to call him a jerk. Because that’s what he was being. A jerk! A real jerk… And what was I being?
“All right,” Whitney said. “Clefairy, use doubleslap!”
The clefairy was coming my way now. I knew that I had to get myself together, and fast. In reality, I knew I could win this battle. I had seen enough moves and strategies and battles for me to put something together quickly and come out as the victor. I had been on a journey long enough for me to have evolved into an electivire by now, though I hadn’t done that because Annie didn’t want a team of evolved pokémon. Yes, I knew that I could win, and easily. I wouldn’t die, or even come close to it. Still, I was frozen.
I was still frozen as the clefairy came up and hit me in the cheeks, over and over again. There was hardly any pain; the clefairy wasn’t that strong, which again told me I could win, and that I wouldn’t die. But there was another pokémon to fight after this! Even if I mustered up the strength to fight the clefairy, I’d have to do it all over again whenever the second pokémon came out. I just couldn’t handle that. So I stood there.
“Elekid, use your own thundershock!” Sai cried.
My first command from Sai. And I wasn’t going to be able to follow it. I continued to let the clefairy hit me, and pretended it hurt. In some ways, it did hurt. It hurt my pride, what little of it I had left. It hurt my species, and the image of strength that I believed we had… I tried to imagine being the clefairy as it used its thundershock. I tried to remember the feeling of releasing the neverending amount of electricity from my body. But I was so detached from myself that I couldn’t imagine it.
“Thundershock!” Sai said again, his voice louder this time.
I vaguely heard Ezrem’s voice, too, cheering me on. Then, I heard everyone’s voice. They were all trying to encourage me to fight, but it wasn’t going to work. I could barely hear them above my own thoughts.
I tried to imagine what it was like to be another elekid or electabuzz or electivire in their time of dying. Did it hurt? What move had finished them off? Or was it an accident? What happened when you died, anyway? What would happen to our legacy if I died and didn’t fulfill my goal to keep the species alive? It was times like these where I wished it was just all over already, so I wouldn’t have to bother trying.
Finally, I tried to imagine Annie… What her face would look like if she were here right now… I saw the fire, and the smoke, and the faces those guards made when I showed up at the end of Ilex Forest… It all haunted me, and perhaps it always would.
I knew—it all came down to one thing: I just wasn’t ready to move on. I just wasn’t ready to try.
“I forfeit,” Sai suddenly said. “I forfeit! Stop hitting him!”
The clefairy ceased its slapping session and stepped back. It smiled at me, but it was a painful smile, not a victorious smile. I wondered how pathetic it thought I was, and then decided I didn’t want to know. I bowed, turned around, and made my way back to my... new trainer, my new team.
“I should have listened to you,” Sai said as I walked back. He put his hands on the sides of his head. “Why don’t I ever listen to anyone? Why do people always tell me what to do?”
“It’s okay. It’s not your fault,” I said, suddenly feeling more terrible. I had been thinking far too much during the battle, but not once had I thought about Sai. Since he was my new trainer, I wanted to please him, I really did, but now I had done nothing but fail him and cause him to question himself.
“It is my fault! They always tell me that it’s my fault—”
“Who does?” Senori chimed in.
“They always do! And now, I’m not listening, so they’re following me!” Sai cried, shaking his head.
I looked at the team, hoping that they knew him well enough by now to know what to do when Sai got in these situations. But no one did anything, no one said anything. How could they not know? Then, I turned to Whitney, wondering if her knowledge of being a gym leader could help somehow. But she looked like she was about to cry, she was staring at us so sadly.
“I need to go,” Sai said, turning around. He walked around the corner, going back through the maze that we came through. He even forgot his backpack.
“Let’s go,” Senori said, leading us all to the maze as well after picking up the bag. When we reached the corner, though, we could hear him running instead of walking now. We started chasing after him, but when we reached the entrance to the gym, he had already left.
“He’s probably going back to the pokémon center,” Senori offered.
So we started heading there.
“Rennio, you really gotta learn to fight again sometime,” Ezrem said on the way back. I knew that he was going to say something, but I didn’t want it to be now. Couldn’t he tell that I felt horrible about what happened? Couldn’t he tell that I was still shaken up?
“I know,” I said quietly.
“Really, I meant what I said! You gotta do it for Annie. But now, more importantly, you’ve got to do it for Sai. He’s our new trainer! He can give us the happiness we’ve always dreamed of! But we can’t just get it for free,” Ezrem said, his voice turning calmer now. “We have to work for it. Okay?”
“I know.” My voice was barely above a whisper.
“Okay. We’ll work on it. I know you can do it,” Ezrem said, and that was the end of that. The rest of the journey to the pokémon center was uneventful and quiet.
We all thought that we’d find Sai locked in his room again, and we all thought that we’d have to sit outside in the hallway again. Senori knocked on the door over and over when we got to the room. But he didn’t answer. He wasn’t there.
“Where else could he be?” Senori said, talking to himself more than he was talking to us.
“Maybe the radio tower,” Atis offered.
“A good idea.”
But he wasn’t there either, despite the emotional reaction he had had there yesterday. He wasn’t at the flower shop, giving flowers to everyone. He wasn’t at the shopping mall, browsing and buying crazy things. We tried other places in the town, places we hadn’t explored yet. We tried searching all day.
…I never expected it to happen so soon.
I’m not talking about fighting, though that was unexpected, too. I’m talking about losing my trainer once more.
Sai, we couldn’t find him anywhere.
Joined Jun 2007
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