It’s odd, the things you remember when you’re watching someone die. I mostly remembered this: it only takes a second. It only takes a second for everything to go wrong; it only takes a second for everything to change. Such is what I learned when I manipulated Obieme into starting that fire and when I decided to follow Sai. And when he jumped… Sai, before this, you didn’t tell anyone that you were hurting so much. Or maybe you did and it went over our heads. Is that how it usually goes? Is that how death is supposed to appear to everyone—completely unnoticed and unexpected until the endless moments of reflection that scream otherwise?
When he jumped, the world stopped. The battle ceased instantly. It felt like there was cotton in my ears and everyone’s shouts emitted no real sound. The walking traffic from the ground below had been dulled and unwillingly shoved into our pathetic world. We were all experiencing the same thing. If anyone’s experience was different, it was Sai’s. Sai, is the white light at the end as bright as it’s supposed to be?
You’re going to tell me all about it, goddamn it.
It only takes a second, and I didn’t even have to think about it at all.
I sprinted forward and jumped after him. I did this because there was something about losing my own dreams that made me even more stubborn when it came to others. Annie would just have to understand my second betrayal, which wasn’t really a betrayal at all to me, but an act of desperation and the desire to see someone—my own savior—live. It was my only choice, just as the nurse had said…
I let myself evolve. At first I was flapping wildly from being unable to fly and soon I had a larger body with larger wings and larger talons and no pain, no pain! Easily and undoubtedly, I could focus now. I positioned myself so that I could dart straight down and catch up to Sai. The wind tried hard to push me back and keep me from flying, but I wasn’t going to take it. As I got closer, I could see that his body faced upward and looked to be at rest already. His eyes were closed and his small movements were graceful, as if this is exactly what he wanted. That was just too bad. This was what he was going to get for not giving me what I wanted at the beginning.
I don’t know exactly when I caught him or how far away from the ground we were. All I know is that he felt heavy in my brand new talons, though my evolved form was clearly stronger. I was carrying not only his body but all of the burdens that he had suffered in his life and had tried to release with one swift jump. I thought his unbelievable weight was going to make us crash despite my efforts, and I struggled to bring him back up to the top of the building. It didn’t take me long to realize that it was just me not being accustomed to my new form, and that I had only acted so fluently in the heat of the moment.
After setting him on top of the building—purposely away from the woman who had started this whole thing—I had to struggle not to collapse on top of him. My new form was exhausted already. As everyone ran over to us, I looked at my wings. There were no signs of scars or burning anymore. I was completely fine. And Sai, so innocent and lost, was clearly not fine. Surely, something more had to be done. Saving him from death itself was not enough. If we left him alone now, he would suffer more and maybe try jumping somewhere again.
“Sai!” Senori yelled, trying to shake our trainer awake. Somewhere along the line, he had fainted in midair. “Wake up! Sai, why did you do this?”
“Isn’t it obvious why he did this?” I scoffed at the furret. “You’re a leader, right? What should we do next?”
“I-I… We should take Sai to a pokémon center!”
I fluffed my feathers, trying to prepare myself to take off again as I said, “Everyone get on my back. Yes, we’re going to take Sai to a pokémon center.”
“A pokémon center? That’s for pokémon—” Atis said frantically, but he didn’t seem to have any better ideas.
“It’s the only place we know. I’m trying, okay? We’re all trying,” I said, shaking my head. “I’m just as worried about him as you are. Let’s just do our best.”
Everyone was silent. Rennio and Kuiora were sobbing and holding each other because even though I had rescued our trainer, it wasn’t over yet. It wouldn’t be over until Sai sincerely smiled again.
“Are you going to take him away from me?” a voice said. I turned swiftly and saw the woman—Sai’s mother, apparently, though I found it hard to believe—walking to us, her head down and her body appearing utterly beaten by the event that had just taken place. When she was close enough, I could see that she was holding back tears.
I sneered. “Of course we are. You haven’t been much help, to say the least.”
“I always knew you’d take him away from me,” she said. She looked at me and smiled weakly. “I knew it from day one. But out of everything I’ve seen regarding this project, I could never have expected this from my own son.”
Her words made me sympathize with her, but I wasn’t about to admit so. There was nothing else for me to say. There was nothing that anyone could say that could change anything or make things better.
“There’s a human hospital right next to the pokémon center in this town. You should take him there instead,” she said after a few moments.
We all looked at each other, quietly deciding that we had to trust her words. As previously instructed, the team climbed on my back, one by one. Everyone except Atis, that is. After all this, he was still being shy and reluctant. I couldn’t blame him.
“It’s up to you, Atis,” I said. “Are you on this team or are you not?”
Atis looked to the ground, then nodded fiercely. With the help of the others, he was also on my back in a matter of moments. Aside from Kuiora, everyone was light and small, so I felt that I could do this. No, I had to do this anyway, even if I had trouble. I lifted myself off of the building’s roof and gently took Sai into my talons once more, noticing how light he was this time.
Together, the six of us flew to the pokémon center.
This was our second time sitting in a waiting room in a matter of days. At this rate, every Nurse Joy in the Johto region would know our names by the end of our journey. That was assuming that Sai would want to continue our journey after this, however. I was no psychiatrist, but I had a feeling that Sai would need to work on himself before even thinking of going back to the gym challenge.
When we had arrived, Senori had surprisingly composed himself enough to be able to explain to the nurse at the counter what had happened to our trainer. She took the boy in her arms and rushed him into the back room. When she returned, she said that there was a special unit in the hospital meant for these kinds of patients. He would have to stay for a week or more, until he was no longer deemed a threat to himself or others. Still, she said, visitors could be allowed at certain times.
So we waited for what seemed like hours. I had to go outside a few times to stretch my wings, and I almost missed being a tiny rufflet that could fit into any building without a problem. It was much easier to follow along and keep up with everything that was happening that way. The evolution had been worth it, though. Had I let Sai fall knowing I could have done something, I don’t think I could have lived with myself.
It was just turning dark outside when Nurse Joy said that Sai was awake, which meant that not too much time could have passed, considering that a majority of the day had been spent making our way to Mahogany Town. She led us into a room in the back, explaining that eventually Sai would have to be moved into a psych ward, but that we could visit him here for now.
“Pokémon are allowed to be with their trainers at all times, but if Sai has any friends that want to see him, they’ll have stricter visiting hours from here on out,” she said, making me wonder what had happened to Marty and Sasha. Surely they didn’t know about the situation and they couldn’t have just left us without figuring out how it ended…
I stopped thinking of them rather quickly when I saw Sai. He looked as normal as he possibly could, as there were no machines by his bed or any cords hooked up to him. He was lying down, looking straight up at the ceiling, eyes open and barely alert. I didn’t have to be near him to know how exhausted he was.
“I’ll leave you guys alone. If you need me, there are nurses all around the hall,” Nurse Joy said quietly, and then she was gone.
At first, things were awkward. No one wanted to go near him because none of us knew what to say. What do you say after you just watched the person in front of you jump off of a building to end his own life? The aftermath seemed like nothing but a delusion that a ghost-type pokémon was forcing upon us.
After a few moments of nothing, I offered to step up first. I told them that I felt obligated to talk to him first, since I was the one who saved him. So I flew over to his bed and nudged him on the cheek with my beak when he didn’t look in my direction. Slowly, he turned his head toward me, but his dark blue eyes were as hollow as ever. He looked back up at the ceiling.
“I’m alive,” he said simply.
“Yeah. That’s my fault. I’m not sorry,” I said bluntly. “If you have any pent up anger that you want to kill me with, I’d totally understand. Actually, I wouldn’t understand, but I’d let you do it anyway.”
Sai smiled at my words. He actually smiled. It seemed difficult for him, but he was then able to prop himself up so that he was sitting up. Staring at me, he said nothing.
“I’m not even part of this team and I saved you! I disobeyed my old trainer’s orders for you. That takes a lot. But you don’t have to be grateful,” I said, being dramatic by folding my wings to make a point.
At this, Sai frowned. “Ezrem,” he said sternly, “you’ve… you’ve always been part of this team. I didn’t know it yet, but you joined the team the same time that Rennio did.”
“Oh, come on,” I said, shaking my head. “You don’t get to be all sappy on me now. You’re supposed to tell me you despise me for saving your life and that the light at the end of the tunnel let you see your whole life over or something.”
The mood had been lightened enough for everyone else to join me at Sai’s bedside. I expected another breakdown from him at the sight of Atis, but he only reached out his hand and scratched the side of the hitmontop’s head. Atis accepted the touch without a problem, an odd feat for him.
“I’m not angry at you. You have to understand… I never wanted to die,” Sai said, looking at us seriously one by one. “I wanted to stop the craziness in my head. I wanted to stop my sickness. It seems… It seems that it’s something I just have to deal with.”
“Well, you seem calmer now, and that’s all that matters, right?” Senori said, jumping on the bed and snuggling into Sai’s lap. Sai used his other hand to scratch the furret behind the ears.
“Yeah… They gave me medication that they say will help,” he said. He added quietly, “Real medication.”
“I don’t know what you—” Senori started.
He was interrupted by a loud banging sound. The door had been shoved open and had crashed against the wall. In stormed Marty, who gave off a fierce glare in Sai’s direction. There was a nurse behind him who was begging him to calm down and stay quiet for the other patients.
“I’ll be quiet once I give this boy a piece of my mind,” Marty said through gritted teeth.
“Wait,” Sai said. “Stay there.”
“Sai, what are you talking about?! This guy’s going to beat you to a pulp!” Atis cried, pulling back from the boy’s touch to hide in the corner.
“Not if I can help it,” Kuiora said, taking a defensive stance in between the two trainers.
Ignoring the two of them, Sai swung his legs around the edge of his bed. He pushed himself off and struggled to keep his balance and stand up. He made his way over to Marty and looked the other boy in the eyes, his fists clenched.
“Whatever you have to say to me, we should at least be face-to-face when you say it,” Sai said confidently.
Marty snickered. “Good grief. Where do I start? First of all, what were you thinking, leaving your pokémon in Ecruteak City all by themselves? What the hell were you doing in a laboratory full of idiots who obviously didn’t know a thing about pokémon?”
“I didn’t want to get them into trouble—”
“Yeah, yeah. I’m sure you’ve got an answer for that. But next! What are the prerequisites for committing suicide? That you be ****ing insane? Me and Sasha just saw something fly down past us in the window while we were fighting, and it obviously wasn’t a bird… Well, then we saw a bird, but still…”
“That was Ezrem. Wait… You were in the lab?”
“You ignored my first question,” Marty said, rolling his eyes.
“I’m as insane as you think I am,” Sai said confidently. Ever since he had admitted to us all of his secrets in one breath, it had obviously been easier for him to speak about himself, especially about his past and personality.
“It’s just like you. You want to kill yourself, so you make it as inconvenient as possible for everyone else. What would have happened to your pokémon? Why’d you make them watch?”
This, however, made Sai look down. “You would have taken my pokémon, right? That’s what I was hoping…”
“Hmph. Of course I would have. You act confident, but I can tell you’re still avoiding some of my questions for a reason.”
“I’m sorry,” Sai replied. “It’s been a long day, as you probably already guessed.”
Marty’s eyes shifted to the empty air beside him, indicating that he had heard something nearby. “Anyway, kid… I’m just glad you’re all right,” he said, and then he stepped aside.
I would like to say that a much calmer person walked into the room this time, but it would only be half true. Sasha, her face red and her hands covering her mouth, came into the room quietly, but immediately burst into tears the moment she saw Sai. She ran up to him and embraced him, almost causing the boy to fall over from the surprise.
“Sasha…?” Sai said, looking at her with concern.
“I’m sorry… I waited to come in so I could stop crying… but I can’t help it!” she sobbed miserably. “I can’t believe you did that to us…” she added, burying her face into his shirt.
“Hmm…” Sai mumbled, putting his arms around her and squeezing her while resting his chin on top of her head. “I’m sorry, too. I didn’t think you’d be affected.”
“Of course I would! I-I wouldn’t want it to happen to anyone, but especially not a friend, dummy…”
I thought Sai was going to push her away as he lifted his head up and extended his arms so that they were just a foot away from each other, but it appeared he only wanted to put enough distance in between the two of them so he could take a good look at her. He gazed intently, as if trying to see if her words had been sincere. Finally, he acquiesced and smiled.
“I’m your friend, huh?” he said. “It’s... really nice to hear that. I don’t know how I can ever repay you because I don’t know what friends do.”
He continued to lean forward until his forehead was touching hers. To see Sai act so closely with another human partly made me want to roll my eyes, but another part of me was happy with embracing others like him rather than pushing them away after what he had just gone through. At first glance, it seemed like Sasha had just walked into our lives, used and seen out of sheer convenience. But if I thought about it, she had been there from the very beginning of my journey with Sai, and possibly even before then. Sai must have thought that she--and Marty--had been his companions this entire time despite their obvious reluctance toward him. And perhaps that was why he felt the need to express his gratitude in the only way he knew how: by tilting his head upward and kissing her on the forehead, right in front of her suddenly flustered brother and in front of all his watchful pokémon. He murmured something I didn’t hear and then looked at her again for a reaction. She blushed and stammered out intelligible words.
“I don’t know what the hell you think you’re doing, but don’t you ever make a move on her again!” Marty fumed, clenching his fists but not taking a step toward them.
“My mother used to do that whenever I was sad,” Sai said, frowning.
“I-It’s fine, Marty,” Sasha said, swaying her hand around. “You’re welcome, Sai, for... whatever I did.”
“You did everything.” He turned to gesture toward the rest of us. “You all did everything. Because of you guys, I have quite a few things left to do. If you don’t mind, Marty... Sasha... I’d like to be alone when she comes.”
“When she comes...?”
“One of the executives of the building you guys found me in,” Sai said. He took a deep breath before explaining everything that he had told us on the roof--about his sickness, his imprisonment, the rules he was forced to follow should he not want to be killed. While he was telling it, his voice was much quieter and less rushed. He wasn’t in a life or death situation anymore; he was free, and his voice portrayed this newfound freedom. By the time he was done, Sasha had broken out in tears once again, and Marty had calmed himself down considerably.
“So that’s why I’m weird. And that’s why I’m a terrible trainer. I wish I could have told you guys and my pokémon much, much sooner, but... I just couldn’t,” he said, stepping away from Sasha. He hung his head low as he sat down on the bed, visibly exhausted.
“It’s okay,” Sasha said.. She went over to Sai on the bed and ruffled his hair with her hands and chuckled through her tears. “That’s my version of your kiss, okay?”
“Okay,” Sai said, smiling.
“Sounds like a bunch of excuses to me,” Marty joked, waving his hand to gesture to Sasha that he was leaving. Indicating that he had gotten what he had come for and that there was nothing else for him to hear, he held the door open and said, “You’re all right, kid.”
And with one last good-bye, they were gone. Sai fell asleep almost instantly after they left, and us pokémon watched over him as if he were going to disappear again at any moment.
She showed up just one day later, at the very same time that Marty and Sasha had come the previous day. This showed me that she had called for information about visiting hours and had obeyed them, coming in at the earliest moment she could. Well, she could have come the day before, but she was probably still recovering. A mother’s loss of a son is quite different from a detached friend loss, so I could forgive her, despite her rather crude first impression.
As Sai had hinted, he knew that she was going to come sooner or later. Whether he knew she’d come so soon, I didn’t know. All I knew was that I was going to go crazy after listening to all of his rehearsing for their meeting. This clearly was not a woman that Sai was confident around. Even while practicing he stumbled over his words and everything came out wrong. He paced around the room and attempted to make small talk with us once in a while, trying not to appear frustrated. It wasn’t working.
When she knocked on the door, Sai supposedly knew it was her because he tensed up and cleared his throat before telling her that she could come in. She opened the door slowly, saying she hoped she wasn’t interrupting anything. She wasn’t interrupting anything at the moment, but I thought that maybe the sanity in the room might have dissipated by the time she left.
Her reaction to seeing Sai was the exact opposite of Sasha and Marty’s. She didn’t cry or appear angry or even seem sad. The tension in the air betrayed her body’s lack of emotion, however. It seemed that either Sai’s stellar intuition was rubbing off on me or she was just terrible at hiding how she was sad over the fact that own son had tried to commit suicide right in front of her.
“Hello, Sai,” she said, putting off the idea of looking at her son for a few more moments while she faced the door as she closed it.
“Hello, Mother,” Sai said, shifting around in his spot uncomfortably. He resorted to laying back down in his bed, probably to prevent any wild actions in the future.
“Did you think I’d come visit you?”
“Yes... I thought you might.”
“To be honest, I wasn’t sure if you’d want to see me. I debated over whether or not to come. But I told myself I just had to see you... one last time,” she said. She certainly wasn’t wasting any time getting to the point. I sat in the corner of the room, pretending to fluff my feathers while the rest of the team listened to conversation intently and, in Atis’s case, nervously. Sai’s mother was choosing not to notice us, perhaps knowing that Sai wouldn’t want to get rid of us for even a moment. This, he had already proven by chasing Atis down to Mahogany Town.
“One last time?”
“I know you, Sai. I know your plans. You won’t be able to keep quiet about us anymore, will you? After all this time, you’re ready to speak,” she said confidently.
Sai stared at her, dumbfounded, and I could only guess that he was surprised over how she had seemed to read his mind.
“What you guys do... It’s horrible. You torture pokémon and turn them into your slaves. You’re not afraid to do similar things to humans. You’re only out to do evil. I can’t... I can’t let that go. Not after being out in the real world for even a short amount of time.”
After a few moments, his mother said, “Do you think I’m evil, Sai?”
“I think that at some point in your life, you were in the wrong place at the wrong time... and you made the wrong choice. Because you’ve mostly been good to me, I think... I don’t really know anymore...”
“Say no more, Sai,” she said, putting her hand up. “I just want you to know that I only made you stay in the laboratory because I was too afraid to lose you, just like I had lost your father. I had no intentions of hurting you.”
“I already know that. But you... you did hurt me. In more ways than one.”
“I... I won’t pretend to understand,” she replied, looking away from him again. So she did have a weak point. This woman was making it hard to tell if she was an ally or an enemy. If I had to, though, I was ready to pounce on her and throw her off a building to see how she liked it instead.
“If there’s more to life out there, I want it,” Sai said, changing the subject. “I mean, I’m still here despite all logic and likelihood, right? I’m the only survivor of this survival project. So I should enjoy the rest of my life while I can--”
“I always knew you’d make it,” she interrupted, putting her hand to her forehead and shaking her head. “I really do marvel at how everything connects. With the way you acted as a child and an early teenager, I could tell exactly how your journey was going to go.”
“You knew I’d... jump off the building?”
“That was the only part I wasn’t expecting. Unlike you... I am not sick. You got that from your father. Like I said, I don’t understand it. It seems those sorts of things cause you to do things that are irrational and completely unexpected.”
“Yes... That sounds about right,” Sai said quietly, as if he were recalling painful memories from the past. It made me wonder just what else he had really gone through before he met me.
“Now, my only question for you is this: what will you do next?”
“I wish I could tell you, honestly, but I don’t even know.”
This was where the team reacted and decided to butt into the conversation. Senori, Atis and I all spoke at once, saying something along the lines of how the woman couldn’t know where we would go next. If she knew, then she would follow us and make our lives miserable, and he didn’t deserve that, he needed something better now--
“It’s okay, guys,” Sai said, patting Atis on the head like he had been doing so lately, to prove to himself that yes, Atis was still here, and he was healthy, safe. “She won’t follow us... even if she can.”
At this, his mother’s eyes widened while we settled down, not completely comprehending his words. We were thinking that this meant he was going to report her along with the rest of the Team Rocket organization, but as it turned out, it was actually the other way around.
“What do you mean, Sai?”
“I’ll give you two days. Pack your things, get out of here. Get as far away as you can,” Sai said. Surprisingly, he wasn’t stumbling, and unless I just wasn’t listening enough, he hadn’t rehearsed this part of the conversation at all. Then again, the conversation wasn’t going like he had imagined it. “I’m reporting the team to the police, of course. I’m giving away as much information as I know. You can tell as many people as you want, but I’ll make sure they’re accounted for in the report... just so you know.”
Kuiora suddenly yelled, “You can’t let this girl go, Sai! She made you go crazy!”
“You said it yourself, Sai. She hurt you and you’re just going to let her go?” Senori added, jumping onto the bed and onto Sai’s shoulders to make sure he was hearing the team.
“She’s still my mother, guys,” he said, not taking his eyes off of her. “I can’t do the same thing to her. I don’t have the heart to do it...”
His mother bowed and said, “I thank you, Sai, but you don’t have to do this. I deserve whatever is coming to me.”
“Your choice. But I won’t be reporting you regardless.”
“You’ve got to be kidding me,” I said, shielding my eyes with my wing for dramatic effect.
“It’s really happening, Ezrem,” Rennio said. “Was Annie ever really as crazy as this?”
“I bet she wasn’t,” Sai said, smirking. I had to admit that Sai not only had a good sense of humor, but also he was doing a decent job at paying attention to all of us in the room at the same time when the most important person was obviously his mother at the moment. He seemed to remember this as he turned to her once more and said, “Do you have anything else to say to me?”
“Nothing that would make things better or change the past. What about you?”
“I want to ask you the same question. What are you going to do if you choose not to turn yourself in?”
“All I can think of is going back to your father, but who knows if that is a good choice or not? It’s been so long. But what I do doesn’t matter. What you do, on the other hand, does matter. Tell people your story. Continue your life and expand your story. Whatever the final product is... Well, that will be my story, too. You’re my son and I think it should be this way.”
“Whatever you want,” Sai said simply. “I’ll... I’ll remember everything you taught me. I’ll try to, anyway. And... I’m going to treat my pokémon right, wherever we go. And--”
“You don’t have to tell me. As your pokémon said, I don’t deserve it.”
“But I still think--”
“I think you’re still too sweet, as always. Remember that I lied to you and kept you trapped for many years.” There was a moment of silence. “I suppose I should just be glad to have witnessed the second day of your birth. The first fifteen years of your life don’t count anymore. I wish you the best of luck as you keep dancing in your fields of infinite possibilities... Sai,” she said.
I could tell that she didn’t want to leave as she opened the door just as slowly as she had before. As she was walking out, she stopped to look back at Sai one more time. Her son nodded, permitting her to leave without feeling any guilt. As the door clicked shut, he buried his face and his hands and I thought he was going to start sobbing.
“Is it bad to be more upset about how I don’t know what to do next? Shouldn’t I be upset that that was the last time I will probably ever see my mother again?”
Senori nuzzled into Sai’s neck in an attempt to comfort him. “You’re fine, Sai. I think you left things on a good note, even if none of us particularly... agree with your actions.”
“Thanks, Senori. I do think I did the right thing.”
“And that’s all that matters,” Atis said, speaking for Senori.
“I think he’s crazy,” Kuiora said, jumping up and down to get her trainer’s attention.
“Tell him something he doesn’t know,” Rennio said.
“I just have one question for you, dear Sai,” I said, interrupting the rest of the team. “I ask you this because, you know, near death experiences are my forte. Well, maybe you didn’t know that. But now you do. So, have you ever felt sorry for the ground because you thought you were putting too much weight on it?”
“Too much weight... as in all my problems?” Sai said, tilting his head in confusion.
“You’ve got it,” I said, impressed with him not taking me too literally, as he had been prone to do in the past.
“I never really thought about it specifically like that, but yeah... I guess so.”
“After that little conversation, I think the ground will be a lot happier from now on with two less people standing so heavily on it,” I said, recalling how heavy he had been in my talons just the day before and recalling how I had thought this same thing myself when I was the type of bird who walked on the ground instead of flying.
“Yeah, I guess so...” Sai said, “and it’s all thanks to you, Ezrem.”
Even though I had saved Sai from his suicide mission and even though I felt I had come to terms with Annie’s death, there was still one final problem weighing on my mind. It was the last kind of problem that made me feel sorry for the ground beneath me. So when the nurse asked us all to leave for a few moments, I told myself that now was the time. There was no exception anymore; there was no reason to put it off. No reason to keep the suffering going.
“Rennio,” I said simply, trying to get his attention. How else could I start to admit that I’d been lying to him for years? The elekid didn’t even have the decency to answer me. He seemed lost in thought, contemplating something, probably the fact that Sai had just let his imprisoner run free. Well, I supposed I could start off in a light manner. I unfolded my wings and wrapped them around him, covering his eyes so he couldn’t see. Not only was I getting enjoyment out of messing with him, but I was also in amazement that nothing was wrong with my wing anymore. I watched as my joke made him flail around for a bit and I only backed off when I saw sparks of electricity generating from the plugs at the top of his head, as I didn’t want to get injured yet again.
“What was that for?” Rennio asked, obviously worked up now. The sparks were still there, and they’d probably remain there until he unleashed the energy somewhere else.
“You should pay attention to me when I address you. I was just making a point,” I said, taking a few steps back, wondering if I was already trying to retreat.
“Well, what do you want?”
“Someone’s in a sour mood. Come here for a minute, okay?” I said. I had noticed that the others were looking at us weirdly now, so I posed the question to make myself sound as innocent as possible. I made the short flight to the other side of the room and watched as Rennio walked over slowly, wishing that I didn’t have to do this.
When Rennio reached me, he looked at me expectantly. It seemed that all of a sudden, I had lost my ability to be manipulative, to make jokes, to beat around the bush.
“Look, Rennio,” I began, “I’m just going to get right to the point.” I paused, deciding to start with the lesser of the two evils. And then, finally-- “You’re not the only elekid in the world... as I told you before.”
It was just like Rennio to suddenly appear overjoyed. The amount of sparks increased. “Really? You found another one? ...When did you have time to do that?”
“Don’t misunderstand me. I always knew you weren’t the only elekid in the world. The entire idea is pretty absurd, to be honest.”
“W-What...?” Rennio said, his face falling. “You mean... You lied to me?”
“I did,” I said bluntly. That was the best way to get to Rennio, otherwise he would think I was pulling another prank on him. But from the defeated look in his eyes, he seemed to believe me right away.
“Where are the other elekid? Why haven’t we seen them?”
“There are some in Unova... where we got you. We got you from a daycare, far away from their home, so you never saw them. And, well, there really are none in Sinnoh. Supposedly, there are even more in Johto, but I don’t know where... which brings me to my next point...”
“...More lies, I mean.”
I nodded again.
“Ezrem, do you know how scared out of my mind I’ve been this entire time? I’ve been so nervous that I was going to die before I could keep the line going. I thought... I thought I was alone this entire time...”
And then came the tears. I sighed, trying not to roll my eyes. As tough as Rennio tried to be at times, he was always just a baby at the end of it all. Maybe it was me being too harsh on him. After all, this was shocking news, and the worst was yet to come.
“You haven’t been alone, Rennio. You’ve had me, right? And you had Annie... for a while. Until I messed everything up, that is,” I added quietly.
“You didn’t do anything, did you? Annie just died in the fire... It was an accident...” Rennio said in between sobs.
“Well, yes, it was an accident. But haven’t you ever wondered how the fire even started? No one else was found in the forest, so it had to come... from us.”
“O-Obieme? Why would he do such a thing?”
“Yes... Obieme started the fire. But it was me who made him start it.” I took a deep breath. “It was me who caused Annie to die, Rennio. I’m so sorry.”
The elekid stared at me in disbelief. “I thought... I thought Annie’s cigarette just dropped after not being put out properly... Ezrem, why would you do such a thing?”
“I had heard stories of a legendary pokemon that comes out in the face of danger in Ilex Forest... so I made my own danger. I wanted the legendary pokemon--the time traveling pokemon--to take me home, back to Unova, back to before we started our journey. I know that doesn’t make up for anything, but there it is. And don’t blame Obieme, he had no idea at all...”
Rennio covered his eyes, an effective coping mechanism since his arms were so thick. More than anything, I wished that I could read his thoughts. I wished I could convince him that there was no real malicious intent in anything I had done. I only wanted--
I only wanted...
What did I want? His trust? To force him to grow up sooner? His undying loyalty? It was a mixture of all these things and more. And I couldn’t explain any of them to him; I was wordless and just as confused as him. But I owed it to him to try to speak.
“You don’t know what you do to me, Rennio,” I said. I had thought this before. I had thought this about him, about Sai. It seemed to be the best way to start out, but it wasn’t going to do if I wanted to get my point across. “You really don’t. If I didn’t lie to you, you wouldn’t have given me the time of day. If you had known about Annie’s death earlier, you would have left me. If I hadn’t done what I had done... Well, then you would have stopped asking for my help, my friendship.”
Rennio kept his face covered, his crying becoming noticeably louder. The other pokemon could even hear him, and as they tried to approach, I had to motion for them to stay away. This was personal. There was nothing they could do. They had Sai to worry about, anyway.
“I didn’t... give you the time of day because everyone warned me about you... I should have listened... Annie... Why did you keep him on the team? Annie...”
“Annie was too kind,” was all I could say. I vaguely wondered if I had chosen a bad time to tell him all of this, but there was no turning back now. I had used my gut instinct, which had usually served me well in the past, since if I thought about things too much, nothing went right. Nothing.
While it was too much to hope for, I had been imagining Rennio running to me and embracing me as if to say he forgave me by now. He did no such thing. He stood there, completely frozen, immobile, sobbing and reliving the experience of Annie’s death all over again. Perhaps he was picturing his own death, too, now that he was just another one of the many electric types in the world.
I shifted around uncomfortably. Was there really nothing else for us to say? Surely it couldn’t end like this. Surely it couldn’t end with him hating me after all we had been through.
“Rennio?” I said. “Is there anything I can do to make this up to you? I’ll do anything you ask.”
“No,” Rennio said instantly. “Y-You can’t bring Annie back. You’ve already tried to break my fear of death, but it hasn’t worked...”
“Okay, so I can’t do anything...” I said, disheartened. “Look, Rennio, I was desperate... but now you can look at me and laugh, right? I had a burned wing and had to evolve to save Sai. So I’m no longer a part of Annie’s precious, unevolved team. And I’m a shiny Rufflet! Those are so rare, I could really be the only one in the world. See how the tables have turned? See?”
“Yes... I see,” Rennio said, removing his arms, letting them fall limp at his side. He looked down and I could see that he was visibly shaking. The sparks that were above his head now surrounded his face, ignited by the tears.
“What... What are you going to do now?” I dared to ask.
“What can I do? I’m not going to leave Sai, not now... I’ll just hope to see another elekid sometime. That will be my new goal... I guess,” he said slowly, his voice void of all energy and happiness. “What will you do? Can I trust you if you say you’ll never lie to me again?”
“If I said yes, would you believe me?”
“No, I suppose not. Well... thank you for telling me. It’s a shame, though. I thought I knew you. I really did,” Rennio said.
I thought he was coming toward me when he started moving, but he only had to walk past me to leave the building. As he brushed past me, I could feel an electric shock even though we weren’t touching. Rennio was powerful, both in battle and in his mind. Whatever damage I had done, it would be fixed eventually. I just had to be patient... starting now.
I stood there, unable to face the rest of the team or even myself. Now that all of my lies were exposed, I felt naked and confused. Sincerely, though, I knew that everything was as it should be now. Sai had accepted me and changed me. Rennio hated me. Kuiora cared for me, though she was still wary and perhaps always would be. The rest of the team dealt with my presence in their own individual ways. It was all fair, whether I liked it or not. I had no choice but to remember that that day, in the mountains where Annie found me, a lot of things went wrong and unbelievably awry.
When Rennio came back not too much later, the sparks were gone. I felt bad for anyone or anything that had gotten in his way outside. I thought I heard thunder outside as I watched him go back to the team. Was it Annie speaking to us, or had Rennio started a storm to say sorry to her for believing in such a fool? I remembered... Patience, patience. Someday, he’ll come back around to you, Ezrem.
It’s too bad I’ve never had any patience. If only the time traveling pokemon could have at least granted me that. But that pokemon was given many chances to help me redeem myself, and it always chose not to do a thing. It didn’t bring me home. It didn’t save my old trainer in the face of danger. Its story didn’t help me convince Rennio that what I had done was right.
...What was I supposed to do now?