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April 6th, 2013 (10:49 AM).
you can breathe now. x
chapter 22 ; [KUIORA]
I had heard of many stories in the past, but the ones that I remembered in my mind, along with the ones I told the others, seemed to be of most significance.
Once upon a time, there was a girl named Kuiora who loved a boy named Sai—and then the boy left her and she did not love him anymore. True. Not fiction. Fact. I had lost a ton of respect for Sai when he had disappeared on us, and he was slowly starting to gain my trust back, but he hadn’t quite reached the pedestal that I had put him on all those days ago, when he cradled my emotions and told me that I was the strongest pokémon he had.
Still, the story made me wonder. Did it have any unknown relation to Sai? Did he feel that it was his duty to leave us and do whatever he had to do? Was he affiliated with any legendary pokémon that gave him the chance to go on a journey with us? There were so many questions surrounding the boy, and no answers. I thought that perhaps the story could give me answers, but I didn’t like any of them. It meant that one of us would die—probably me, if I chose to go after him. It would be just like the story. Once upon a time, there was a boy who loved a girl—and when the girl died by his hands, he could not stop loving her. The roles were reversed, but they could still ring true. I believed that if I sought to figure out my trainer, then I could potentially be in danger. I didn’t want that, but Sai was irresistibly mysterious and indispensable to me.
And then… there was the story perfectly related to Ezrem, who was also an important part of my life when it came to friendships and teaching me more about what it means to be extraordinarily ordinary. He had recently told me that he burned down the forest and killed his trainer. In the story, a man was mourning his losses, and at the end, the town had accused him of killing his own wife and child by starting the house fire. It sounded perfectly applicable, almost scarily so. Again, I didn’t like the story’s ending. It meant that Ezrem would die of the burn wounds he had received lately. I worried incessantly for his safety and health once I figured out the connection between him and the stories.
Despite my worry, I was still conflicted about him. I wanted to believe that he was a good pokémon, but he was dead set on proving otherwise. And the things he had done were… unforgivable, to say the least. But he was trying. This, I could tell, and it made all the difference. I could deal with him and his trickery if it meant that he was going to try harder for me and everybody else. I hoped that whatever legendary pokémon was watching over him would keep him from dying.
Finally, there was the story about the thieving girl who stole hearts and never returned a single favor anyone gave her. While Ezrem was probably thinking that it was about him at the time (and I may have agreed with him… at the time), I believed that the story was about me. I was a con, a stealer of hearts, too. Sai obviously cared for me and so did Senori and Atis and everyone else, but I never showed any respect or love toward them. I only cared about myself getting stronger. Well, thanks to the ceremony with Lynn and the starmie, I had realized that everyone was special in their own way, and I was working on trying to be as supportive of others as I could possibly be. I feared for the karma that awaited me, but I hoped that the legendaries would find me to be inexorably invincible.
It was strange, being suddenly surrounded by the idea of death. I had told Ezrem that it was all a myth meant to scare children like me, but I had been lying. It was right in front of me, all the time, in these stories… and I knew that the legendaries wouldn’t lie to me. I just didn’t want to believe them, no matter how much I cherished them.
A story’s ending could be undone…
It had to be true.
It came as a shock to me when Atis left. It gave me the sensation that I had felt when I left Professor Elm’s lab. Although I hadn’t cared for the other pokémon, it was the familiarity that had made me feel comfortable there. And even though Atis was almost invisible to me, due to his quiet nature, his presence made everything feel more calm and peaceful. Without him there, I could only see a large, empty hole that couldn’t be filled.
Apparently, Sai was thinking the same, too.
It was safe to assume that no one was able to sleep the night that Atis left. We were all thinking about our own decisions to stay. We were all thinking about where Sai had gone with the hitmontop, and what they were saying to each other. Our thoughts had altered after seeing Sai leave, seeing Ezrem get burned, and seeing a fellow teammate leave. Before, the thoughts consisted of consolation. Now, they were full of fear and the sad feeling of wishing that we had known earlier what we knew at this moment.
Well, since none of us were sleeping when Atis left, no one was sleeping when Sai returned, either. He was in a rush when he closed the door. He was clearly sobbing, and we all believed we knew why. He was distressed over Atis leaving, over losing a pokémon on the team he had tried so hard to build. I vaguely wondered why he didn’t force Atis to stay with us, but I knew that it wasn’t in Sai’s best interests to do so.
Inevitably, we all couldn’t pretend to sleep anymore. We got up, tried to comfort Sai, but it didn’t work. We sat in a circle, as usual, and told jokes to each other to try to get us to laugh and calm down. But there was one thing we didn’t joke about, no matter what (and even Ezrem was mostly quiet and tame about it):
Sai cried all night.
When Sai’s demeanor was finally more serene, he immediately announced, “We’re continuing with our journey… We’re going to the gym.”
The sun had just started rising and peering in through the shut window on the far wall of the pokémon center room. We were all exhausted and emotionally drained, but no one protested. Sai stood up from the bed—where he had been all night—and opened the door, almost pushing us out of the room.
“Watch it, pal,” Ezrem said, frowning at the boy, but that was all he retorted with, which was unusual for his normal talkative self. Senori didn’t even seem to have the energy to glare back at him.
We slowly made our way to the Ecruteak City pokémon gym. Sai was walking slow compared to his preferred swift pace. The sun was fully visible in the sky now. It was just a speck in the daytime, and it was cold, distant… It was brighter than it had any right to be. It still seemed to be dark in my heart. Our hearts.
The gym had a more appropriate atmosphere for our team. It was eerie and shallow, to say the least. The gym was almost completely dark, with only three striking blue lights on either side. It was enough to illuminate the leader that stood in the back of the room, looking at us emotionlessly, as if he were nothing but a lifeless, heartless man. The simplicity of it all sent shivers down my spine. I found it odd that there was no trick to this place. The Violet City gym was intentionally open for flying-type pokémon. Azalea Town was purposefully made into a forest to encourage growth, and in Goldenrod City, there had been a maze. Here, there was nothing but a few lights, brown hardwood floors, and a… man, if you could even call him that.
Even Sai approached the “man” with caution. He kept his distance as he spoke: “Hello… I’m here to face the gym leader. Is that you? If you don’t mind, I’d like to fight now instead of making an appointment.”
The man lifted his arm, his sleeve falling down to reveal pale skin underneath. He snapped his fingers, and six more lights were suddenly lit up in various locations. We could see him a lot better. He had spiky golden hair with a blue headband around his forehead, and he had a matching blue shirt with yellow cuffs. He wore plain jeans, and now, he looked more alive and human. He was even smiling! I slapped myself for falling for the joke and letting him scare me. I should have known better than to fall for the tricks of a man who obviously wanted us to believe in ghost stories that I already knew were fake. Though the odd connection between my team and some stories made me really wonder if they were fake.
“Hello,” he said. “My name is Morty, and—”
“Marty? Is that you?” Sai said, his jaw nearly dropping the floor.
“No, no. Morty, not Marty. I assume you’re talking about the boy who just recently came by to say he would be challenging me soon. Our names are similar, but that is not me.”
“Oh,” Sai said, his body relaxing. “I don’t have to be afraid anymore, I suppose,” he added, chuckling. It made me smile. “The Marty I know wouldn’t hand me a gym badge even if I beat him ten times over.”
“Ah, yes, that would be a troublesome gym leader,” Morty agreed.
“Yes,” Sai said. There was a pause. “Can we battle now, then?”
“Sure. We will use two pokémon each,” Morty said. “I look forward to seeing your strength.”
Sai looked over to me. “Kuiora,” he said, “do you want to battle?”
If I was being honest, I didn’t want to. I was tired and sad and I wasn’t particularly focused on being stronger anymore. I wanted to help Atis, wherever he was. I appreciated Sai’s efforts to make it a point to let me fight first in every gym match, but he had to come to an end. I shook my head no.
“Okay,” Sai said, nodding, as if he could read my thoughts. “Rennio probably isn’t ready to fight yet. Uh. I’ll use Senori, then, since he just evolved.”
“Sure,” Senori said simply, running on all fours to get to the middle of the arena.
“A normal-type, huh? I’m sure you’ll have some interesting moves up your sleeve, then, if that’s the case,” Morty pondered, stroking his chin with one hand. He maximized a pokéball that I just noticed was in his other hand, and he threw it forward, bringing forth what looked like a spiky ball of purple dust… one that had hands and the ability to float around.
“What… What is that thing?” Senori asked.
“Who knows?” Sai said. “But you’re going to beat it, okay? Use tail whip!”
And like that, the battle was underway. Senori sprang toward the purple cloud of dust, a gleam of weary determination in his eyes.
“Haunter, just stay there for a moment,” Morty ordered calmly.
This made Senori halt his momentum. He was able to come to a complete stop before running into the haunter and falling for whatever trap the gym leader was trying to pull.
“What are you doing, Senori? That would be a free hit! Tail whip!”
“Okay…” Senori said carefully, probably not wanting to upset his trainer any further. If it were me in the battle, I would do the same.
Senori sprang forth once more, this time preparing to swing his tail in order to hit the haunter. When Senori collided with the smiling ball of dust, however, his tail went right through, as if the haunter were a… ghost.
And then it hit me. The haunter was a ghost-type! This explained why the gym was so creepy and why the gym leader was trying to pull jokes. Ghost-types always liked pranks and the darkness, and the trainer was just trying to accommodate their needs. It all made sense now, and I had apparently learned something new: normal-type attacks couldn’t effect the ghost in any way, shape, or form.
“You’re joking,” Senori said. “My tail just went right through it! This thing has no solid body!”
“Hmm,” Sai said. “Try a different body part! Tackle!”
But the same thing happened all over again. The furret charged at the haunter, this time looking like he was going to use a headbutt attack. This time, Senori’s entire body went through the haunter, and he landed on the other side, staring at it. The haunter looked completely unfazed.
Senori growled and said, “Evolution was useless for here, Sai. None of my attacks are going to hurt it.”
“Exactly,” Morty said, shaking his head. “You should have done your research before you came here. Ghost-types aren’t affected by certain kinds of moves. I hope you have something else going on in that head of yours, or this battle is as good as over.”
“I knew that already, but I had forgotten. I’m… a little out of it. If Atis were here,” Sai said solemnly, “I bet he would have warned me about that. He would know those kinds of things from being in the school. He would…”
“Sai,” I said, walking up to him and hugging his leg. He looked down at the ground, his eyes appearing stricken and confused.
“But just as certain attacks don’t affect ghost-types, ghost-type attacks don’t hurt normal-types. So you’ve got some advantage… just not enough. Haunter, use sucker punch!” Morty cried.
Fortunately for the haunter, Senori was already in close range so he could attack. Senori was peering back at Sai, unassuming about the move that the haunter was about to use. The haunter drew a significant amount of dark energy to one of its floating hands. It then raised its hand, causing a shadow to appear in front of Senori. Senori turned to look at the haunter now, and was about to dodge out of the way when the haunter struck him straight in the stomach. Before Senori went flying backward, the dark energy transferred into the haunter’s other hand, and the haunter struck Senori yet again.
“Senori,” I called, watching as he lay there, trying to get up after being attacked not just once, but twice, “are you sure that none of your attacks are going to work?”
“I don’t have any special elemental attacks,” Senori said slowly, rubbing his stomach, “so yes, I’m sure.”
“Sai,” I said, poking him in the shoulder. “You should call Senori back. He isn’t going to do well at all. He’ll just get beat up!”
“You think so?” Sai said, looking up. He had apparently missed the sucker punch attack. “Okay. Senori, return.”
“Are you sure you want to do that? If you call the furret back, then you only have one pokémon left,” Morty said.
“I’d rather lose once than let my pokémon continuously get hurt for no reason,” Sai said, though he still didn’t sound like his normal self. His voice sounded forced and hurt more than it had when he had been crying last night. My heart ached for him. “Senori, return,” he said again.
“You should use whoever’s strongest here,” Senori advised. “These ghost-types are no joke. They’re really tough, and they’re probably even more tough than usual since they belong to a gym leader.”
“But Rennio doesn’t want to fight, right?” he said, looking at the elekid.
“That’s right. Sorry… I have to prepare myself yet again…” the young pokémon replied.
“And Ezrem is injured… He’s not even my pokémon… Kuiora, you need to fight, okay? If Atis were here, I guess I’d try using him… He’d be smart enough to figure something out…” Sai trailed off, lost in thought. He appeared to be out of commission yet again.
“Sai,” Senori said, “I know you’re sad that Atis left, but you can’t let it bother you too much. You’re in a gym battle, for crying out loud! Get yourself together!”
“I agree. Don’t lose sight of your goal now!” I said, trying to be as encouraging as possible. “Can’t we have a normal gym battle for once?” I added, exasperated. I found that Senori was much better at handling these sorts of things and that I’d have to work on it.
“You don’t understand. You don’t understand what I did to him. You don’t—”
“I think that,” Morty interrupted, returning the haunter to its pokéball, “for the moment, this battle is over. Come back when you are ready.”
“Sai? What did you do with Atis? You didn’t hurt him, did you?” I said, ignoring the gym leader. We could always come back later, as he said. Sai would just have to deal with breaking the rules once more. I watched as the gym leader turned and disappeared in the shadows, turning off the lights yet again. We were shrouded in darkness.
“I didn’t really hurt him. Someone else did. They’re going to hurt him more, just like they hurt me,” Sai said frantically. He was speaking so quickly that Senori and I were having trouble keeping up.
“Who did, Sai? Where is Atis?”
“I need to go. He’s in Mahogany Town. After all this time, of course I know exactly where it is! I don’t want to know where it is, but I know where it is,” Sai said, out of breath. “Look, I need to go,” he said again. “Stay here. Don’t follow me.”
Just like he had during the Goldenrod City gym breakdown, he turned and dashed out of the building, leaving all of us behind. And just like before, when we left the place and searched all over for him, he was nowhere to be found.
“At least we have a lead this time,” Rennio said thoughtfully, trying to keep from crying. “Are we heading to Mahogany Town?”
“I have a feeling that none of us know where it is,” Ezrem said, and I nodded to him, “but yes, Rennio, I believe that is where we are going.”
We all stood there, slinking our shoulders and tired bodies, wondering where in the world Mahogany Town was. It could have been anywhere. We didn’t have a guide, or food, or water, or money, or a trainer. Again. Without any of this, we couldn’t get anywhere, anyway. All we had was each other, and just barely.
Our pathetic team, for the moment, was the epitome of loss.
Joined Jun 2007
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