Thread: [Pokémon] Survival Project
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Old January 16th, 2013, 11:44 AM
diamondpearl876's Avatar
diamondpearl876
you can breathe now. x
 
Join Date: Jun 2007
Location: Illinois, USA.
Age: 21
Nature: Careful
Hehe, glad you liked it. And indeed, Sai is back...


SURVIVAL PROJECT

chapter 17 ; [ATIS]
resolute

*

Back at the Violet City pokémon school, they all had had high hopes for me. Shannon had thought I’d be a great kick boxer, even though I hardly spun on my top or fought with my legs. Joey had hoped that I would magically turn into a fire-type pokémon for whatever reason. And Jason had wished he could be my trainer someday. They created these scenarios for me without having asked me what I wanted out of life. Well, if only they could look at me now... I was just being reunited with my trainer, who chose to abandon us and leave us to temporarily live as wild pokémon shortly after I decided that he would never do such a thing.

And living as a wild pokémon sure wasn’t easy—not for me, at least. It was my first time out there on my own, after all. I wasn’t on my own, per se, but since Senori didn’t give me an escort (and preferably so), I was basically all by myself. I didn’t want to kill anyone for food, but it was dreadful to be eating the same kinds of berries day after day. And the dirty pond water surely wasn’t healthy for any of us. Still, I had to fight a few wild pokémon to obtain these undesirable resources, which definitely didn’t make for an ideal habitat. I was scared for my life as I fought these creatures. They had tried to talk to me sensibly at first, but I had a feeling that they were only out to backstab me, so I instigated a battle. It was a peculiar habit I had picked up after being out in the wild for just a few days: fight first, and talk later.

It was like this for about a week and a half before Sai showed his face again—in the middle of night, no less. We were all woken up by Kuiora’s cry and the two’s subsequent exchanges, dazed and tired. Of course, we all immediately felt more awake when we saw that our trainer had so quietly returned. No one showed any excitement, though. The confusion surrounding the entire situation loomed through the air, and we wanted explanations right then and there. But Sai didn’t offer any. He simply said hello to each of us, and then said it was good to be back, and that he was so, so sorry. So sorry. But that was it. Eventually, we all went back to sleep, hoping this would all appear as a dream in the morning. I noted that Sai was back to his usual self, at least—he didn’t sleep at all.

Needless to say, I felt betrayed. I thought I knew Sai—as well as I possibly could, anyway, given his odd demeanor. I had felt the closest to him compared to the rest of the team. He held my secret, I knew his secret, and we had had many rather heartfelt conversations in the past. Yes, I felt the closest to him… but still, he had left me—left us—presumably knowing the damage that his actions might cause. Even if he was different, he would definitely know that such a sudden disappearance would cause turmoil.

There was no way around it: Sai had truly messed up. And the very next morning, he was trying to cover up his mistakes with jokes.

*

“I thought about what we should do when I returned,” Sai said. We were making our way back to the Goldenrod City pokémon center, leaving behind the area that none of us would miss. “And I thought, we should take over the world!”

“No,” Ezrem said immediately.

“Hey, now, you haven’t even listened to my ideas yet,” Sai said, folding his arms and pouting.

“No,” Ezrem said again more sharp this time. Clearly, even he wasn’t too fond of Sai at the moment, either.

“Let him talk,” I said out of nowhere. Even if I wasn’t happy with my trainer, I still wanted to hear him speak, hoping he would crack eventually and tell us what he was doing with his life for the last week and a half.

“No,” Ezrem said one final time, grinning at me. I looked away, ashamed.

“Well, anyway,” Sai said. “I thought that we’d continue our journey here, the journey to keep getting the badges, you know, and then, once we have all… eight of them? I think there’s eight. Anyway, when we get all of them, we can become the champion! The strongest team in the Johto region.”

“Isn’t that the point of this journey, anyway? This doesn’t sound like anything you just made up,” Rennio said.

“That’s not our goal here,” Sai said solemnly, “but it could be. Then, once we became the champion, every pokémon in the world would want to be on our team! We could form an army of sentret, an army of elekid”—at this, Rennio blanched—“an army of hitmontop, and so on. And we would take over the government and make sure no one in the world ever had to suffer ever again.”

No one dared to ask the question that we were all thinking, though the suffering part he mentioned gave us a clue.

Apparently, Senori thought that if he couldn’t make Sai feel bad about leaving, he could make him feel bad about other things, as he said, “Sai, I have something to tell you.”

“What, you don’t think it’s a good idea?”

“Not that. Well, if you haven’t noticed already, we… we accidentally got your backpack stolen,” Senori said slowly, carefully.

“Oh. Yeah, I noticed,” Sai said, the spirit in his voice still there. “Is that all?”

“That means your badges were stolen,” Senori then said bluntly.

“Oh,” Sai said. “Oh.”

“Yeah… Look, I’m really sorry about that. I should have been paying more attention.”

“It’s okay. We don’t really need them, anyway. Like I said, our goal isn’t to become the champion or anything, right?”

“What is our goal, then?” Ezrem chimed in.

“To be the strongest we can possibly be,” Sai said after a few moments, and I could tell there was more to it.

There was another pause before he said, “Wait. That means we have no money for a pokémon center room, right?”

“Right…” Senori said regretfully.

“What about food?”

“We have one bag of pokémon food, but that’s it.”

Another pause. Then—“Well, I was going to head to the gym right after the pokémon center, anyway. I guess we’re going there first.”

There was a plus side to all of this, I supposed: Sai was back to his cheery, careless self. No longer was he self-loathing, but he felt pride in his actions and words once more. It didn’t make sense to me. If he had suffered wherever he had gone, then why did he seem so happy about it? That was what I thought about as we headed to the Goldenrod City gym—much to my dismay, of course—but I couldn’t come to any sort of logical conclusion. My head hurt just thinking about the boy.

I did see something interesting, though. Since I walked behind Sai, I could see him reach into his pockets at some point. He pulled out a bottle, and held it as his side. He started at it for a few moments, opened it at his side discreetly, and he took out a small, white piece of… food? It didn’t look like food, but that was what I thought the pill was as he put it in his mouth and swallowed it. After a few minutes, it hit me—it was medication, as Earl had called it once. He had taken some for his own sickness, he told me once, though I never found out what that illness was. So Sai had meant what he said: he was always sick. But what exactly was his illness?

My head still hurt—to the point where it was about to burst. Why did I have to have such a confusing trainer? Admittedly, I was still glad he was back, though I wasn’t glad about heading straight to the gym…

Luckily for me, we were interrupted by two familiar people before we even reached the gym. I recognized them as Marty and Sasha. Maybe it wasn’t so lucky, after all, since Marty hated Sai, but he seemed calm and collected as he approached us.

“Yo, Sai,” Marty said. “I saw your croconaw running around Ilex Forest the other day. Where were you?”

If Marty knew that we were all thinking the same exact thing, then he would immediately call the police and have us taken away from him. So no one said anything. It was also curious to note that Kuiora had escaped our clutches, despite being told to stay around the designated area. Had Senori really allowed that?

“She’s a strong pokémon,” Sai said, avoiding the question. “She could handle herself, so I let her go out and get some exercise.”

“Right. Not the smartest thing, you know.”

“Marty, she wasn’t alone, remember? She had that rufflet right there. See, it really is Sai’s, right?” Sasha said, turning to the black-haired boy.

“Uh,” Sai said. “He’s not exactly mine. He just likes to follow me around for whatever reason.”

“Still, she wasn’t alone. That’s all that matters. Eh, Marty?”

“I suppose,” Marty replied. He looked a lot more sociable now that his sister was around. I hoped that, if he had to keep running into him, that she would be by his side. “Looks like you could have caught that rufflet for me, after all.”

“What? No way! I never would have allowed that!” Ezrem butted in, jumping up and down to gain attention to his obvious fury. He started hopping toward Marty, threatening to peck him, but Sasha stopped him.

“Yeah, but not if he’s taken a liking to Sai,” Sasha said, bending down to pet the bird on the head. At this, Ezrem relaxed and accepted the head scratches.

“Anyway… What are you guys doing in Goldenrod City?” Sai said, changing the subject.

“Ah, yes. I had a favor I wanted to ask you, so we’ve been looking for you the last few days!” Sasha said. Sai’s head drooped. He was starting to feel bad for leaving not only the team, but his potential friends, I thought.

“A favor?” he said.

“Yeah. There’s a pokémon fan club on the west side of the city. We’re here for this month’s meeting. Marty is even going to join this time!” Sasha said, putting her hands together and looking at him. Marty nodded, smiling. “We focus on pokémon types, and we’re asked to bring a pokémon of the specified types to the meeting if we can, so we can show them off and stuff. Well, this week, we’re asking for normal-type pokémon and fighting-type pokémon. But I only raise grass-types, so…”

She looked at Ezrem, and then at Senori, and then at me. Oh, no, I thought. I wished that I was a normal-type pokémon so that I could at least pass off this opportunity to someone else. But I was, of course, the only fighting-type on the team!

“Oh,” Sai said. “You want to take Atis and Senori? But we were about to go to the pokémon gym…”

“The meeting is in an hour, and it’s only two hours long. You can go to the gym tonight! Not a problem,” Sasha said excitedly. “Also, I’d like to take the rufflet, if I can, since he’s so rare.”

“Well, that’s up to Ezrem,” Sai said. He paused. His face was strained, and I could tell he was torn between catering to his friends and getting on with his journey after being delayed for such a long, long time. Like I was about to burst from my questions about him, he looked like he was about to burst if he didn’t get the Goldenrod City gym badge within the next five minutes. “I don’t know…”

“What do you say, Ezrem? Do you want to come with?”

I looked at him, wishing that I was getting a choice. The bird looked back and forth between her and Marty, and eventually shook his head no.

“I’m not going with that guy. I’m sticking with Sai.”

“What’d he say?” she asked.

“He said he doesn’t want to go with you.”

“Pretty please?” she asked, giving him more head scratches.

Ezrem pulled away and said, “First you asked for my potential pokéball, and now you want my enthusiasm and obedience? What’s next? Will you be out for my blood? The answer is no!”

“He still said… no,” Sai said, keeping things simple. A smart idea, I gathered.

“Aw,” Sasha said, frowning and standing up. “Okay. What about Senori and Atis? Is that okay? I promise that I’ll return them as soon as I can.”

Again, Sai paused. His face still appeared confused and torn. Finally, he said, “Sure... Just be back by dusk, okay? I really need to go to the gym today.”

“Deal!” Sasha said, clapping her hands together. She walked up to Senori and picked him up, hugging him and telling him what a great time they were going to have together. Then, she came over to me and grabbed my hand, ignoring the spikes that could easily pierce her skin. She had a lot of guts, I thought. I guessed that was how excited she was for the meeting. She pulled me along, and I forced myself to be dragged in whatever direction she was going to take me. I walked backward for a moment, waving good-bye to Sai and the others, vaguely wondering when I would see Sai next.

First, Sai had abandoned us, and now, he was sending us off to spend time with other trainers! Okay, the second part wasn’t so bad. It wasn’t as if the trainers were complete strangers or anything. Sasha had proven herself to be nice, and Sai was probably trying to successfully get on Marty’s good side. I still didn’t like the idea, though. A pokémon fan club? I expected it to be everything that I despised, all in one clear setting.

And it was.

*

As it turned out, no one else in the pokémon fan club had a normal- or a fighting-type pokémon, so me and Senori ended up being the center of attention. We really were in the center, too, since everyone was sitting around a circular table, and Sasha put us both on the table when we arrived, telling us to just sit back and relax and have some fun. I didn’t tell her so, but I wouldn’t just be sitting back, relaxing and having fun—of all things, why did she think I would have fun?— during this meeting.

“All right!” a loud man’s voice boomed once we arrived and took our places. He was wearing a nice brown suit with a white scarf coiled around his neck. His voice was thunderous, and it nearly made me jump. “Everyone look at these beautiful pokémon! Our own beautiful Sasha has brought them for us tonight along with her brother. Everyone give her a round of applause!” The entire room clapped except for me and Senori. He looked just as lost as I did, but satisfied. “Yes, everyone look at these beautiful pokémon! We revel in their presence! We thank them for being here every day! We look at them and smile. They bring us joy, and they help us with our hopes, our fears, our dreams. We owe a lot to these creatures that make our world a ton brighter. So today, sentret and hitmontop, on behalf of all of us… I thank you.”

The man’s words just made me feel more uncomfortable. Not only was he near worshipping pokémon, he was making sure that everyone was staring at us. I didn’t like being the center of attention... Eventually, I had to sit down because I couldn’t make myself stand anymore without feeling like I was going to fall over. My legs were shaking way too much. Senori sat, too, but for different reasons, I assumed.

“We will talk today about the relationship between normal- and fighting-type pokémon. Normal-types are just that—normal! But they offer us a great perspective in life and offer a sense of what it means to be unique. Fighting-types teach us to stand up for ourselves”—at this, I cringed, because this is what I only wished I could do—“and, while fighting-types have the advantage over normal-types, we know that they can work in harmony somehow, someway. Sasha”—she snapped her head toward him, as she previously was too busy looking at us and smiling—“why don’t you start out the conversation today, since they are your pokémon?”

“Oh, no,” she said, laughing. “They’re not mine. They belong to a friend of mine. It is as you say, George. We are very lucky to have them today.” She stopped, and everyone clapped again. “It is also true when you say that normal-types are unique. I know that they can learn almost any kind of elemental attack! This includes fire-type attacks, electric-type attacks, and so on. It truly is a wonder.”

“It really is!” said the man named George. “This sentret, when it evolves and becomes stronger, will learn many moves that will be useful in battle and useful in learning more about the world.”

“Now that you mention it, George,” Sasha said, looking at Senori confusedly, “this sentret’s trainer already almost has three badges. Aren’t sentret supposed to evolve at a low level? I’m surprised he hasn’t evolved yet!”

At this, Senori stood up again. He turned around and around, surveying the audience’s reactions. Everyone was nodding and whispering amongst themselves.

“What’s wrong?” I asked him.

“I’ve been around for a long time, and the idea of evolution has never really occurred to me. I didn’t know it was so… commonplace for my species,” Senori said slowly. “They gave me an idea.”

“You’re going to evolve? Right here?” I asked stupidly.

“Don’t be silly. I have to put on a show, like Kuiora… or something,” Senori said. I could tell he was only joking, and that he would really evolve now if he could. It seemed to be something like a revelation to him. He sat down again, sighing a breath of relief.

“Well, I’m glad you’re having a good time,” I said as the man kept talking.

“You’re not dead, right? That’s all that matters. What’s life without a little adventure?” Senori said, grinning at me.

“It’s safe,” I said, “and comfortable.”

“…Fair enough.”

“Now,” George said, bringing my attention back to him, “what about you, son? Sasha’s brother. I’m afraid I don’t know your name!”

“Marty,” he replied. He was sitting next to Sasha, and all eyes were on him now.

“Do you have anything to add?”

“Well, while normal-types have access to a lot of different types of moves, the attacks aren’t as powerful as, say, a fire-type’s attacks would be.”

“That’s very true,” George said, nodding.

“Way to be a downer,” Senori said, glaring at him, but the boy couldn’t understand.

“Fighting-types, on the other hand, are almost the exact opposite to normal-types,” Marty went on, ignoring Senori. “They have a lot of advantages, too, but they also have a lot more weaknesses, not like normal-types. And they have very limited attacks. I have yet to see a fighting-type that knows a move that doesn’t match their type.”

“This boy is very knowledgeable! I am glad you brought him along, Sasha.”

“That’s my brother for you,” she said, smiling at the two of them.

“Yes, yes. Well, the last thing I have to point out for now is that hitmontop are really rare around these parts. Again, we are blessed to have this one here with us today,” George said.

I gulped. Why did I have to be such a seemingly rare pokémon? Just because my species and pre-evolved forms evolve a little differently than others, doesn’t mean that we should be so rare! I wished that I was as common as a sentret, like Senori. Then I wouldn’t have to be worrying about this extra attention. I gulped again, and moved my feet back and forth, trying to focus on the rhythm of my movements. It didn’t work; I was still extremely nervous.

Someone raised their hand. George messed with his white scarf for a moment before called on them and the man, who said, “Can we get the hitmontop to show us some of its signature moves?”

“Signature moves, my boy?”

“Yeah. It should be able to spin on its top and do handstands and stuff like that.”

“A marvelous idea!” George said, clapping his hands, which sounded just as thunderous as his voice. I shuddered. “Hitmontop, will you do this for us? Will you?”

“Uh,” I said dumbly. How could I say no when they couldn’t even understand me? I tried shaking my head no, but they only egged me on by offering encouraging words that only served to make me more self-conscious in the end.

“Come on!” Senori even said. “You can do it. I’ll make sure Sai doesn’t use you in the gym battle if you do it.”

Well, there was some honest motivation. I shakily stood up on my feet, which took a lot longer than it should have. Everyone cheered, to my dismay. I bent forward, my hands now touching the table. It had been such a long time since I had done this, I wasn’t sure if I could still do it. There was only one way to find out. I pushed off of my legs and soon, they were up in the air. I tried to use my hands to balance, but I found myself shaking in all the wrong directions, and I almost fell. Somehow, I moved my hands so that they were in a different, more comfortable location, and I was able to keep myself up. Everyone cheered again.

There was one trick down. There was only one more trick to do. I kept my handstand position, trying to remember how to spin on my own head. Soon, I thought I had it, and I used my hands to propel myself to the left. I then moved my hands out of the way completely so that the only thing that keeping my upright was the pointed top of my head. I was spinning slowly, as I hadn’t given much power when I moved my hands. There wasn’t much I could do about that except keep moving my body in the direction that I was spinning, but, again, it had been so long since I had done this, that I couldn’t get enough momentum. I eventually had to stop spinning, as I was dizzy and I didn’t have enough speed to keep going. I fell over on my stomach, and sighed.

Still, everyone cheered and commended my attempts, especially Sasha and Marty. I didn’t say anything, just smiled weakly and waved my hand in a passive manner. I could tell that I was sweating, but at least not profusely.

When the audience quieted down, George had another grand idea. “It is well known,” he said, “that fighting-types have the advantage over normal-types. These two pokémon, however, have the same trainer! That means they have seen each other battle, and they know each other’s moves well. Why don’t we have a mock battle?”

Dizzy, a mock battle was the last thing I needed. Senori, on the other hand, was all for it.

“I need practice now,” Senori said. “Won’t you show me what it’s like to come close to evolving?”

“Uh,” I said. “Do you really want me to? I mean, we could always say no…”

“Nah,” Senori said, lifting himself. “I’m making you do this.”

“I wouldn’t expect anything less from you,” I said, sighing, and also lifting myself.

“You two don’t actually have to hurt each other,” Marty said immediately, probably seeing the worried look in my eyes.

“Ah, Marty, you are concerned for these pokémon’s well being, I see,” George said.

“Yes, I’m always concerned about that.”

“Why is that? I mean, of course it’s natural, but I’d like to hear your point of view.”

“Well, mine might be a bit unique. At least, I hope so,” Marty said, rubbing the back of his head sheepishly. “I don’t like admitting this, but… my father used to abuse pokémon”—at this, everyone gasped slightly, some dramatically, but truthfully—“and I hated that. I really, really despised that, actually.” He paused. “There was nothing I could do to stop it when I was younger. Now, though, I’ve rescued my pokémon from him. And since then, I’ve vowed to keep them safe, and other pokémon safe. That includes… these pokémon. I’m not saying their trainer is abusive, but…”

“But?”

“He’s concerning. Sometimes.”

“That’s understandable. These pokémon are lucky to have you.”

Marty’s story was touching to me. I thought about it for a moment, wondering what my life would be like if Sai was truly abusive. I mean, he had run away temporarily and all, but he didn’t mean to hurt us. He said he was sorry, and perhaps he had his reasons to be secretive. If he was physically abusive, however, we’d have bruises… We’d be scarred while battling and while talking to others—like Rennio was, only worse…

Yes, things could be a lot worse.

Then again, things could be a lot better.

Again, I was torn—did I want to stay with Sai, or did I want to go somewhere else… anywhere else? I was coming closer to my decision, though I was scared of what the future might bring.

“So,” Marty said after a few moments of silence, “if these pokémon don’t want to fight, I won’t make them.”

“I want to fight!” Senori said, raising his little paw as high as he possibly could. He ran over to me, then, and raised my hand, too.

“W-What are you doing?” I asked, forcing it back down.

“I want you to fight,” Senori said, “and as your leader, you should listen to me.”

“I-I don’t know…” I said, looking around. Admittedly, after doing all those tricks already, things were a lot less nerve wracking. I could battle if that was what Senori really wanted. I owed him, anyway, for taking care of me when Sai couldn’t… “Okay,” I finally said, raising my hand again.

“It appears as if they both want to fight!” George cried, and everyone clapped—hopefully for the last time, because I was getting tired of hearing it. “The rules are up to the pokémon. They don’t have to actually hurt each other, as Marty said. You both may begin whenever your hearts desire!”

Senori went to the other side of the table. I stood on the other end, by the door of the building. I supposed that I could leave whenever I wanted, if I really wanted to… And were we really fighting on a table? We would have to keep our attacks as light and playful as possible, so we didn’t break anything…

Senori got down on all fours, and immediately charged at me. He lifted his body up in the air and kicked his legs out, preparing to hit me with them. I put up my hands in an X formation in order to block him, and it worked—he barely moved me an inch.

“As expected of you,” Senori said. “Your defense is high. Always. Even outside of battle.”

“You… know me so well, don’t you?” I said sarcastically. It reminded me of how I thought I knew Sai, and I felt dispirited suddenly.

“Yes,” Senori said. “Just like I know that you’ve been thinking of leaving the group recently.”

I froze. How did the sentret know that? Just because he was the leader… That didn’t give him the right to read minds… or the power…! It wasn’t fair. What if he told Sai and Sai stopped me? Previously, I didn’t think he would stop me, but now, I wasn’t so sure…

The sentret used this moment to try to kick me again. This time, it worked, and I fell backward into someone’s lap. They immediately picked me up and said it was okay, “just don’t let your guard down again,” as if it were so easy. I climbed back onto the table, trying to appear unfazed.

“You’ve appeared very distant from the group ever since Sai gave us the choice to leave or stay,” Senori explained, grinning. “It’s very obvious, really. Your defenses failed you, in a sense.”

“I see…”

“It really is up to you, though. I won’t stop you.”

“You won’t?” I asked. Senori nodded. “After Sai disappeared, I was really thinking of leaving… for real this time…”

“Is that your feeble idea of revenge? You base your life decisions on what Sai does?”

“Well, he is my trainer, and he dictates everything…”

“I’m sure that your life revolving around his is all that he’s ever wanted. I’m sure that he hates that he had to put you through such a trial in order to be on your mind night and day, but if hatred and despair are the types of gravity that keep you near him… Well, you know that he will be that force.”

Senori was being as stubborn and as blunt as always… I was starting to get a little mad, to say the least. My life did not revolve around Sai! It revolved around things that made me happy—like poetry, the seasons, the art of growing older and becoming wiser—things that I didn’t know much about, but wanted to know about…

And—“You really don’t have to make it look like he wants me so much. He doesn’t like anyone hating him. I’m sure he would think it’s better if I were gone, in that case.”

“You really think so? Because I don’t. Better prove it to me, then!”

Fine, I thought. I would. I ran over toward him, pulling my arm back at the same time, preparing for a punch. As I reached him, though, he jumped toward me, bouncing off of m. I stopped myself from running, expecting this, as this was popular way for pokémon to avoid my punches. I turned, and as Senori landed on the other side of the small table, I was able to punch him in the back. As angry as I was, I still didn’t make Senori feel the wrath of the spikes on my head. I couldn’t do that to him. He fell forward, onto his stomach, and stayed there for a moment. The crowd cheered for my apparent victory.

“Yes, I want to grow older and become wiser, too. I know now that I want to evolve,” Senori said, getting back on his feet. “But I will do it with Sai.”

“That’s where we differ, then,” I said, and I felt that I really accepted it, really accepted leaving as my fate.

“Where will you go? What will you do?” Senori asked, facing me now. He looked genuinely curious.

“I don’t even know…” I said solemnly.

“Then give yourself some time to think about it. Don’t leave us just yet.”

“I wasn’t planning on it.”

“Good.”

“Don’t get me wrong. I feel trapped if I stay and guilty if I leave… I’m not heartless or anything…” I said, feeling the need to explain myself.

“That sounds unpleasant.”

“…It has its moments.”

“Just don’t act too distant toward us from now until then!” Senori ordered.

“Yeah, yeah,” I said quietly. It would be easier said than done, as I was afraid that I would change my mind the more that I spent time with them.

“And let me win this battle!”

My guard had been let down once more; I was no longer angry. The sentret charged toward me again, this time without preparing for a kick. I stood there, unsure of what his next move was. When he reached me, it didn’t seem like he was going to attack me at all. In the end, he tricked me—he only hit me with a headbutt, not a prepared punch or a kick. I flew backward, this time missing a person and landing on the floor behind everyone.

Apparently, that meant I had been knocked out of the official designated arena, as George said, “The sentret wins! This goes to show that even normal-types can overcome any obstacle that comes across them!”

For the last time, everyone clapped. And for that, I was thankful.

As the meeting came to an end and as Sasha and Marty took us back to Sai, I was lost in my own thoughts. The meeting had confirmed a lot for me. Yes, I was thankful not only for the meeting ending and helping me, but for a lot of other things, even if I didn’t show it sometimes. I was thankful to know that the beginning of understand comes in the small form of knowing that life is hard, but that doesn’t mean it won’t break… I was thankful for the concepts of ritual—like eating three meals a day—and feeling the sensation of fullness, of temporary completeness. I was thankful for the planet’s ability to give meaning to both life and death. I was thankful for simple daily moments, such as the sunrise, and the moment where the clouds break through the moon at night. I was thankful for the odd kindness from strangers, for intense emotions such as grief and ecstasy, for the ultimately unknowable organ that is the heart. I was thankful for having a mind that was curious at all.

At that moment, I was mostly thankful for the chance to leave. And I knew… I honestly knew now: soon, it would be time to go.
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