Thread: [Pokémon] Survival Project
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Old July 15th, 2013, 12:43 PM
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diamondpearl876
you can breathe now. x
 
Join Date: Jun 2007
Location: Illinois, USA.
Age: 21
Nature: Careful

SURVIVAL PROJECT

chapter 27 ; [SENORI]
scald

*

Oh, Sai. What could I say about him after all that had happened? I never realized that we had such disparate ideas of what life could be. He believed life could be controlled from afar. He believed life could be spent scared and paranoid. And here I thought that life could be spent in the aura of forgiveness and in the hands of fate.

I had already forgiven him for what he had done, but I couldn’t help wondering: was what happened meant to happen? Did fate try to take Sai away, and then Ezrem defied it? Did fate throw this obstacle at Sai with the intentions of having him survive and turn into a better, happier person? Either way, I couldn’t blame fate for wanting my trainer back so soon. He certainly was special. I had always considered him special, but the events over the last week and a half had proved it. He had such great trust in us and the sudden willpower to live couldn’t have been mustered so easily. Sai had an effect on my beliefs that I still couldn’t quite place.

…If I tried to think about it too hard, though, my thoughts turned to mush. I was hoping some sort of understanding would just fall from the sky, but I had no such luck. All I knew was that I couldn’t bear the idea of losing Sai after I had lost all my clan members. Again, it would undoubtedly be my fault for not helping him sooner. Again, I would be alone and destined to start another journey that was doomed to end far too soon.

That was how much I cared. And I cared for not only Sai, but also for the others. It seemed that every member of the team had taken on physical forms of all the fears that threatened to follow me everywhere I went. The fear of loss, the fear of guilt... They had never left. I had never lost them, not even after I evolved. These faults of mine had just been replaced with new hearts, new lives, and they wouldn’t go away unless I was separated from a member of the team, permanently or not. The six of us took breaths like one, and it showed.

Even if life was only offering me inevitable pain, it was worth it to be with them and only them.

That was what I felt, anyway, as we made our way out of the hospital and past the news reporters. Did they know that a dangerous entity—Sai’s mother—might be lurking nearby? Did they know that the boy whose shoulder I was standing on lost a majority of his life to people who only wanted to harm him? Probably not. Would they care, even if they knew? Probably not, unless they earned a profit from it. They wouldn’t even care if Sai’s old cage was placed in the middle of Mahogany Town or if he begged them for release, too exhausted to try to escape himself. All of these people and reporters passing by knew that pokémon live in the wild, babies come from eggs, and that somebody died for their sins. They never stopped to think about it, though. That was why they kept passing by, looking for the next big story. I was glad to see the other people and reporters go. It was a rather pessimistic view, but I couldn’t help it. That was what Sai’s story had taught me: you can only count on a small amount of capable people. For Sai, it was us, Marty, and Sasha. Maybe some nurses, maybe the police. But no one else, not until they gave us a reason to call them worthy. Of course, I would be wishing that the boy’s future changed this negative view. For now, it would have to stay.

*

We were heading back to Ecruteak City only to leave it and set out onto our next big adventure. Of course, whenever we planned to go anywhere, something or someone interrupted us. As if fate were reading my thoughts about trustworthy people, we ran into Marty shortly after the news reporters had gone away while mumbling loudly to themselves about how Sai wouldn’t talk. Surprisingly, Sasha wasn’t with him, and he quickly explained that he had to see Sai right away. Alone.

“What’s the matter?” Sai asked, looking behind him once more. “We’re alone now…”

“Yeah, yeah. I waited for all those news idiots to get away from you. Look, I’m sorry about those things I said in the hospital. I was just stunned, that’s all. But your pokémon… did a good job of protecting you from them. They must like you a lot,” Marty said quietly, peering over at us one by one, giving each of us a confident yet heartbroken smile.

“I don’t know why, but they do,” Sai said, reaching behind him to pick me up off of his shoulder. He cradled me in his arms and pet me behind the ears. If only I could have explained to Marty that we cared because of his tender moments like this amidst the craziness.

“It was wrong of me to have said otherwise. It was uncalled for.” When Marty saw that Sai was about to protest, he added, “I know we both said you’re a bad trainer, but you’re not. There’s a difference between being a bad trainer and learning in the process of becoming a good trainer. That’s why I have a request for you.”

“A request…?”

Marty pulled out a pokéball from his belt and pressed the middle button to enlarge it. He threw back his arm and then thrust it forward, calling out, “Go, Gracie!”

The quilava appeared in a flash of red and white, but instead of giving off a battle cry like I thought she might, she sat there, disinterested. The very act of releasing a pokémon, however, sent everyone into battle motion. Marty was known to be extremely aggressive toward us and after everything that had transpired, we were even more on edge than usual, despite the boy’s kind words.

And so, Kuiora took it upon herself to step forward and say, “I’ll take care of the fire-type!”

“Seriously? Marty wants to fight us?” Atis said, slapping himself on the forehead.

“Looks like it,” Ezrem said. “I’ll support you, Kuiora! This *******’s got nothing on you.”

“I’ll fight second if you need to rest!” Rennio said.

“Guys,” Sai said, grabbing Kuiora and forcing her back to him, “I don’t think Marty wants to fight. Am I right?”

Gracie looked back to her trainer quizzically, even though she didn’t particularly seem to want to battle herself. At this, the team relaxed and watched for the other boy’s reaction. Marty frowned and nodded, saying, “I just wanted to do that… one last time.”

There was a moment of silence before Sai asked, “Marty, you’re not the kind of person to be vague. Is something wrong?”

“Did you know your pokémon came to find me and Sasha so we could help them find you?”

“No, I didn’t,” he replied, but he didn’t appear to be surprised.

“Gracie helped translate what was going on. She traveled outside of her ball the entire time and talked to some of your pokémon. You see, she’s been acting very strangely since then. She won’t eat, she won’t battle… This is the first time she’s looked at me for a long time.”

“Oh. I see,” Sai said, setting me down on the ground. “Do you want me to talk to her for you?”

“No,” Marty said quickly. “I mean, I think I know what’s going on, but I don’t want you to force anything out of her. I think I’ve done enough of that already.”

I saw Gracie hang her head, which only proved Marty’s words to be true. I remembered that time—it seemed so long ago now—where we had ridden on the back of the boy’s mantine and talked about her past. About the abuse she endured. About Marty’s persistence and assertiveness and constant reminders, and how she couldn’t handle it. Perhaps I had brought up too many harsh memories for her and had caused her to treat her trainer with disdain. That hadn’t been my intention, and I stared at her with sad eyes. If she looked at me, she would know that I knew and that I was feeling guilty for it. But she didn’t look my way. I tried to console myself with the fact that she would have cracked sooner or later, with or without me. Surely, there had to be some way to help her now…

“What do you want me to do, then?”

“Gracie,” Marty said loudly to get her attention, “I’m giving you a choice. I’ve given a lot of thought to this. It’s been hard because you’re my starter, but if you’re not happy with me, then… you can leave. I brought you to Sai because his pokémon might have done something for you I’m not aware of. You should go with him, if you think that’s a better fit.”

“Marty, what are you—” Sai started.

“Hush, Sai. You’ll take her, won’t you? I wouldn’t be able to live with myself if I let her go and she ended up in the hands of the wrong person. You of all people should know how I feel.”

At this, Sai kept silent and, perhaps unconsciously, moved toward Atis.

Gracie spun around, stopping once in a while to look at both our group and Marty. Her face looked strained, her mouth was open as if she wanted to say something, and the fire on her back was dimming considerably out of fear. She was obviously confused and unsure of herself. While everyone else stood back and watched the scene unravel, I went up to her and tried to assist her. It was my fault that she was in this mess to begin with, after all.

“I know you don’t want to stay,” I said, hinting at our last conversation. “This is your chance to be happy!”

She looked down suddenly, scratching carelessly at the ground with her paws. “Will I be happy with Sai, though? Is he better than Marty?”

“Sai’s… got his own problems, sure, but they shouldn’t conflict with yours. He would never push you farther than you wanted to go.”

“But Marty’s fed me all this time, and he takes me out of my pokéball to exercise. He trained me enough to evolve and he’s never afraid of me like other people are because they think I’ll burn them. On the other hand, he’s just so… triggering. And what about Sasha? She’ll be crushed. What about the rest of the team? I-I don’t know…”

“I’m sure Marty’s thought about that. Maybe he even talked to them about it. They’ll have to understand. And if you’re not happy with what he’s done, then… something’s still wrong.”

“You’d think that after all this time, he’d be able to understand me and hear me out,” Gracie said, shaking her head. “But I was starting to think it’d never happen. I lost hope, so I ignored him… I guess that was hard for him not to notice, huh?”

I nodded, having nothing else to say. The rest was up to her. The only thing I could do now was make her know that Sai would have her if she chose to go.

“You’d take her if she wanted to come, right, Sai?” I said, turning to my trainer.

“Of course,” Sai said without hesitation.

“No dice?”

“No dice.”

I waited for Ezrem to make a sarcastic comment about how unfair the situation was, but none came. The team was shifting around uncomfortably, probably remembering how they had been given this very same choice once, and how much had happened since then. It was awkward to have it be happening to the initial perpetrator right before your eyes.

“You hear that, Gracie? We’ll have you.”

“I don’t know what they’re saying over there, Gracie, but… please choose. Don’t worry about me,” Marty said. His body was visibly tense; he was trying very hard not to show any weakness so that he could stay true to his word.

Gracie looked at her original trainer once before taking a cautious step toward Sai. With every move she made, she became more confident in her decision, and she ended up walking straight to Sai without any evident reluctance.

“So this is your decision?” Sai asked, leaning down to see his new pokémon.

“…Would you tell Marty that he’s a good boy, but my heart’s just not in it yet?” Gracie confirmed, extinguishing the flames on her back so she could nuzzle up to Sai’s leg without hurting him.

“Well, that’s that,” Marty said, turning away swiftly at the sound of her voice. I could tell he could break at any moment when his shoulders crouched forward and he faltered in his first step. It had to be difficult, losing your first partner, but it had to be some consolation, to feel you were doing the right thing.

“Marty, I’m so sorry, and so is Gracie,” Sai explained sincerely. “I don’t know what else to say. What are you going to do now?”

“As I said, don’t worry about me,” the boy replied, waving his hand around weakly. “Thank you, Sai. I must say, I’ve grown to love your disappearing acts, so… I think I’ll do one of my own. Right now. …See you around.”

And with that, he ran off into the next route leading out of Mahogany Town, leaving his pokémon in our care. His disappearance marked the end of Gracie’s quest for contentment, and we all welcomed her home as best as we could.

*

I originally thought Gracie was very shy, but she still had that determined side of her that I saw when we first fought. Anyone who could deal with Ezrem and Kuiora’s witty bantering, anyway, had to be extremely determined.

“Kuiora’s probably ecstatic that she has a perfect opponent on the team. You better watch out, Gracie. She may shoot a water gun at you at any time,” Ezrem said, flying high enough to where Kuiora couldn’t hit him in response.

“I wouldn’t do that!” she cried instead.

“You were ready to do it when she was sent out of her pokéball,” Ezrem retorted.

“W-Well, that was different…”

“It’s okay,” Gracie interrupted. “I’ll practice with you anytime. The braviary, on the other hand, better not underestimate me or he’ll receive a swift kick in the face.”

“That’s awfully rude of you. If you’re finding it difficult to laugh at yourself, then I’d be happy to do it for you.”

“Hmph. You can use me for your witty jokes. You can step on me and walk all over me like I’m not even here. But I will not let you look down on me.”

“Wow,” I said, running up to them since I had been listening to their conversation the entire time. I felt obligated to join at this point, so I did. “Gracie’s standing up for herself and she hasn’t even been on the team for a whole hour.”

Needless to say, I knew why she said what she did. Having someone look down on her reminded her of the past abuse. I could tell by the intensity in her voice. The human who hurt her literally towered over her and struck her down as punishment constantly, so it made her think of pain. It was similar to how the sentret in my clan looked down on each other when they became taller with their tails. This was how they declared their dominance. Unlike the sentret, though, she didn’t mind being invisible or used as a source of humor. That was just the kind of pokémon she was. With these characteristics, I thought she’d fit nicely into the team.

“I’ll step all over you while I still can, then,” Ezrem said, rolling his eyes and ignoring me.

“Is that a threat?” Rennio chimed in.

“No,” Ezrem defended quickly.

“I think it is.”

“Oh, Rennio, where have you been all my life? Such a reliably disappointing pokémon such as yourself deserves to be my top priority.”

“I was hiding from you, like everyone else should.”

“L-Let’s all be nice, guys,” Atis said. We were able to hear him though he was traveling behind us, next to Sai. “We don’t want our new companion to think she made the wrong decision, do we?”

“Let’s talk about something random,” Kuiora offered. “Like, uh, how blue Sai’s eyes are.”

“What?” Sai said after hearing his name. So much for having an attentive trainer who was watching us to make sure we were behaving. I wondered what he was thinking about, but there was no way to know.

“You know. Like a lake or something. …I thought of it because I could really go for a swim right now. Sorry. It’s been a while.”

“The city we’re going to, Olivine City, has a huge ocean next to the ferry port. We could go swimming there if you really wanted,” Rennio suggested.

“Really? How do you know?”

“That was where me and my old trainer arrived in Johto. We were able to explore the town a bit before starting at the beginning in New Bark Town.”

“I’d like to point out that I was there, too,” Ezrem said. “And what he says is true.”

“Wow!” Kuiora said, jumping up in excitement. “Can we go, Sai? Can we?”

“Uh,” Sai said. “It’s not like we have anything better to do…”

“That’s a yes!” the croconaw affirmed. “Oh. Sorry, Gracie, I bet you don’t like water, do you?”

“I don’t mind it,” she lied. “I’m not like most fire-types, I guess.”

“Isn’t it great to have a fire-type pokémon on our team?” Atis sighed before Ezrem could make another snarky comment. “Maybe she can help us keep warm at night…”

“It’s just like you to be thinking of sleep. We pretty much just rested for a week. Don’t tell me you’re still tired,” I teased him.

“It w-was a lot harder of a time than it looked, you know…”

I looked up at Sai to make sure he wasn’t paying attention before continuing to speak. “I don’t know what you did for him or what changed your mind, but thank you.”

“Ah, I didn’t do anything, really…” the modest hitmontop replied.

“But of course you did. We all stood back on purpose because we knew you could do it. Do you regret it or something?”

“No… I trust him.”

“The error you made before was trusting him. Here’s my observation, though: you’d do it again if it meant seeing him smile.”

“It doesn’t have to be as corny as you make it sound, but yeah.”

“Excuse me, leader, but is that you talking to yourself over there? Has being with Sai too long made you a little crazy?” Ezrem asked, swooping down to get in between me and Atis.

“Of course I’m talking to myself,” I said, saving Atis the embarrassment by playing along with his games. “I need an intelligent conversation once in a while, you know.”

“Your wits don’t match mine, but they’re pretty high up there,” the bird said. “Don’t forget who saved your trainer. I could have left him alone. Maybe then I might not have spent that time cooped up in a tight building with strict women.”

“It’s not Senori’s fault that braviary are so huge,” Atis protested. Once he realized he had talked, however, he covered his mouth immediately and hung back a little as if trying to pretend he didn’t exist.

“Oh, so you do like to talk sometimes,” Ezrem said. “You know, I thought I understood evolution until I met you. I thought about it a lot thanks to my old trainer. Weren’t you only supposed to evolve into a hitmontop if attack and defense were equal? But it seemed your defenses were higher than anything. Now I see—you’ve got a mouth on you, too. …You should use it more often.”

“I should…?”

“Actually, I agree with Ezrem for once,” Rennio said. “We’d all like to hear you talk more.”

“And we’d like to see you battle more,” Kuiora agreed.

“Then I’d be a real hitmontop, huh?” he said. And he smiled as if he had been forcing back a smile for a long time. Everyone but Sai had missed it ever since the incident.

“A real hitmontop can also spin on his head,” I said. I laughed, remembering how he couldn’t fully perform the trick for those at the pokémon fan club. Luckily, no one else knew what I was talking about.

Atis gave me a halfhearted glare and said, “I’ll spin on my head in the water and splash you. All of you.”

“Except for me, right?” Gracie said.

“Right. Sorry,” Atis said, blushing.

“Sounds like a plan to me,” I said. When we all seemed to quiet down, I turned to my trainer and said, “Sai, you haven’t said much. Do you know how to swim?”

“No…” Sai said slowly, as if the word was completely foreign to him.

“I thought I’d ask, in any case. Well, we’re going to teach you.”

“I’m going to teach him,” Kuiora corrected.

“And if he refuses, just remember that I’m an electric-type,” Rennio said, smiling.

“Oh…” Sai said, finally getting into our conversation by grinning. “Is that a challenge?”

And that was how our next journey began.

*

It took us another three days to get to Olivine City. We sped through Ecruteak City due to Sai’s unfavorable memories. From there, we made our way past tall grass with a bunch of wild pokémon and eager trainers. There was no time for bantering like there had been at the beginning, and we were all worn out by the time we arrived, especially Sai, who still hadn’t gotten over the battle that had taken place on the roof. Perhaps he’d never get over it, and it was our duty to help him out to the best of our abilities.

Still, this was exactly what we needed. There were no memories associated with Olivine City. No one was threatening to follow or hurt Sai anymore. It was an added bonus that we had something to do besides battle the gym leader first, though I was sure we’d get around to that eventually, considering that the gym challenge was all that he had ever known. There was nothing particularly wrong with that, seeing as how Sai enjoyed battlin. He had to grow out of it sometime, though… And it seemed that Atis was starting to rub off on me…

“Senori?” Sai asked, breaking me out of my thoughts. “Are you going to go in the water?”

I looked at everything around me. Kuiora hadn’t wasted any time in asking Rennio to bring her to the ocean, and Sai was happy to give in to the two of them. So here we were, on the west side of Olivine City already, surrounded by sand and a line of beach houses that people could rent out for a day or two. Sai had purchased one, but he said they were expensive so it would be a special treat after everything had happened.

“Anything to make up for what I did,” he said sadly.

But the team wouldn’t let him feel guilty. Not right now. They forced him out onto the sun and tried to get him into the water, but he said he’d wait to see what everyone was doing first before having some fun himself. He was concerned for us, probably because this was something new to him, and probably because he had a newcomer to care for, a newcomer that could be damaged by too much water exposure.

So I watched as Kuiora hopped on Ezrem’s back. I watched as Ezrem flew into the sky and over the deeper part of the water, allowing the croconaw to jump off of him and dive right in. I watched as Atis practiced spinning on his head a few times before finally getting the hang of it. He chose to just run into the water, but I was sure he’d keep his promise. I watched as Rennio did a practice thundershock attack on the ground to get the excess electricity away from him before following. I watched as he urged Gracie to come with him, but also to not get too close. I want to be your friend because you’re the new baby of the team, he had said, and it made me smile. And it made me think.

I thought too much, and so Sai interrupted me.

“Yes, I will,” I said simply. “I haven’t had a bath in… forever.”

“Why is that?” he asked, genuinely curious.

“Because you, as my trainer, haven’t given me one? You take showers by yourself. We have to stay clean too, you know.”

“Oh,” Sai said. “I didn’t know. I’ll change that from now on. Sorry.”

“It’s okay. The others don’t seem to mind, not even Kuiora. It might just, uh, be a sentret thing.”

“You’re a furret.”

“But I used to be a sentret, no?”

“I think I’ve known you longer as a furret, though, so it’s a furret thing.”

“…Just get in the water already,” I said, running behind him and pushing his legs to make him go forward. I didn’t have to do it for long, as he followed along with my movements and made his way into the ocean. He paused after seeing other people and pokémon beside us laughing and playing with toys, as if he were wondering whether or not he belonged, but I gave him one last final push before his feet were covered by sand due to the force of a wave.

Before he went in any further, he asked, “Don’t I need different clothes for this? Everyone else seems to have… almost nothing on…”

“Who cares?” I said, running deeper than him and splashing him with water. “You’ll just be special.”

“Right.” He chuckled and sat down, letting the sea envelop him, as he was afraid to go any further without being able to swim. “Now I’m just waiting for Kuiora.”

Suddenly, a large figure sprang out of the water, causing a massive amount of water to spray at the two of us. Once I wiped the liquid out of my eyes, I was able to see that it was the troublesome croconaw.

“You called?” she asked, bowing at her own fantastic entrance.

“Yes. You said you were going to teach me how to swim, didn’t you?”

“That I did. Let’s go. You have to be in deeper water. I was barely able to hide myself here while trying to scare you.”

We went into deeper water, as I was curious to see how this would turn out. Sai going through any new experience was bound to turn either horribly awkward or magnificently perfect. As it turned out, things went horribly awkward. Water-type pokémon and humans swim in a completely different way. Kuiora was able to glide seamlessly through the water. Her body did a wavelike motion as she swam, but if Sai tried to do this, he only floated right back to where he started.

“He has to move his legs and arms to get around,” Rennio offered, trying hard not to laugh at our trainer.

“If you think you’re so good at this, then you teach him!” Kuiora fumed, storming off to be with Gracie, who was waiting patiently at the edge of the water, careful not to get too close. “For now, I’m going to be a fire-type pokémon.”

Ezrem sighed rather loudly, as if we were depriving him of attention. “Someday,” he said, “we’ll all look back on this day, laugh nervously, and then change the subject. I can see it now.”

“Don’t you get smart with me,” Sai said, irritated.

“I’m sorry that you only want the dimmest of the dim for your team, dear Sai.”

“I’ll show you. Rennio, what have you got?”

“Well, I’m no expert, but… you should kick your legs up and down and keep pushing your arms forward. Don’t take my word for it, though.”

Sai tried it anyway, and it certainly worked better than Kuiora’s methods. With Rennio’s instructions, he was able to reach even deeper water without touching the ground, and when he stopped, he was able to keep himself afloat. Since he didn’t even sink once, he seemed pretty proud of himself.

“See, Ezrem? I can do it,” he said confidently.

“If you’re so sure of yourself, you should swim until you hit the end of the world. And then you should stay there.”

“You’d get too lonely without him, since you hate the rest of us,” I said, but Sai seemed to have a different idea.

“The end of the world, huh…?” he said, making his way back to where he could stand. He peered out into the distance, seemingly lost in thought.

As usual, however, we were interrupted, this time by the most unexpected of visitors. It appeared to be an incoming tornado made of water, and it was heading relentlessly toward us. As it passed us pokémon, we all got splashed with a large amount of water. All of us held up our arms (or wings) to hide the blow, but it was pretty powerful for me to avoid entirely. When my vision was clear again, I tried to yell about how Sai should watch out, but it was too late. The tornado leaped out of the water and flipped over, revealing Atis’s regular, humanlike form. He landed on top of Sai’s chest, sending the boy completely underwater for the first time since he ventured out of here. Atis went under with him, and after a few moments, they surfaced, with Sai’s hair covering his face and with Atis suddenly having a concerned look on his face.

“I hope I didn’t hurt you,” he said after spitting out the water he had gotten in his mouth.

“I didn’t know you could do a thing like that,” Sai said, wiping his hair out of his face.

“Yeah… Well… Now your hair doesn’t look as messy,” Atis said, trying to cover up for his actions.

“Now you’re a real hitmontop, as you said you would be,” Ezrem complimented.

“I would shock you for that, but I can’t right now. I’ll get you later,” Rennio threatened.

“My legs are starting to get tired after swimming and traveling for so long,” Sai said, changing the subject. “I’m getting out of the water for now. The rest of you can do whatever.”

True to his word, Sai stepped out of the water, with Atis’s arms wrapped around his neck, legs wrapped around his torso. I had no reason to stay since I was clean now (or as clean as I could be with seawater), so I tagged along. Ezrem and Rennio didn’t want to be alone with each other, but that was the only reason they came, too. Gracie and Kuiora had already been waiting there for a while ago.

“If you wanted a water competition, Atis, you should have just said so,” Kuiora said. “I could have showed off more of my moves.”

“I’m just glad I stayed at the shore,” Gracie said, shaking her head.

Sai sat down next to Gracie, setting Atis down next to him. He visibly shivered a bit and then placed his hands over Gracie’s back and asked, “Do you mind?”

“Not at all,” she replied, smiling and igniting her flames just enough for the warmth to radiate around us.

“Hmm…” Sai mumbled, rubbing his hands together. Though the majority of his body was facing in Gracie’s direction, his head was facing toward the sea. Again, he seemed lost in thought. Had he really taken the bird so seriously? That was a mistake in and of itself, so I had to make sure he wasn’t doing anything stupid.

“Sai, what are you thinking about?” I asked.

“Oh, nothing,” Sai said, but then he changed his mind. “Just… you know… It’s still hard to talk about. I was caged up for so long that I’m not used to seeing such… vast scenery. I like the sea.”

“So do I! You have great taste,” Kuiora said.

“Yeah. It tells me that there’s something more out there for me to see. It seems endless, and that’s what I always imagined my life experiences to be. I don’t know… Sorry if I’m rambling.”

An idea hit me as he spoke. “If you could be around the sea all the time,” I said, “would you be happy?”

“Yes,” Sai said. “It would be good to have a reminder like this. And I’d like to learn to swim more. It was quite enjoyable. The movement makes me feel free. I’m not trapped like before…”

“You know what else could get you around to places? The ferry in the city. The port is right over there,” Rennio said, pointing toward a nearby building with a lone ship facing toward it.

“Ah,” Sai said. “That would certainly help, too. I could go anywhere I wanted, anytime…”

“Sai, are you thinking what I’m thinking?” I said. Apparently, though, no one else was thinking what I was thinking, because they all looked at me in confusion, even Rennio, who I thought had been catching on even just a little bit. “This could be your new home for a while. We don’t have to travel anywhere else if you don’t want to, especially if it brings you bad memories—”

“I only rented the cabin for one night, though,” Sai interrupted.

“We can get more money by battling trainers and buy more nights. Or we can buy a real place.”

“What about the gyms? We only have one out of eight badges right now, since we lost some…”

“You don’t have to do those anymore, remember? I mean, honestly, did you even enjoy doing them before?”

“Not since I felt rushed…”

“Then you’re just making excuses!” Ezrem butted in. “It’s as clear as day.”

“I’d love to be here all the time!” Kuiora offered.

“You know me… and Ezrem… have always wanted to travel other places, so this is perfect for us,” Rennio said, nodding.

“I don’t care where we go. Location isn’t an issue for me,” Gracie said, licking her paws idly.

“What do you say, Sai? It doesn’t get much better than this,” Atis said. I could tell he was trying to hide excitement in his voice, but he was failing.

There was a moment of silence before Sai sighed and said, “First, we’ll go to the gym here in Olivine City… just for fun, all right? It won’t be about getting stronger or getting a badge. I want to know what it’s like to be a trainer for a little while longer. I did enjoy that, at least.” He paused. “And then I’ll let you know what I think of your idea.”

This seemed like a reversal: the pokémon were being impulsive, while Sai wanted to take his time to think. Was this a good sign or not? It was hard to tell. Difficulty making decisions was an equally troublesome problem. We saw a boy who wanted to find a place as soon as possible, with the smallest amount of traveling involved, so that he could start focusing on recovery alone. And what better place than here? We weren’t lying or exaggerating any of the city’s features. We were content, and today seemed to go well enough for him. Our hearts were set, but we were also content to wait. We had been loyal thus far, and we didn’t intend to change that, so we granted the wish of our trainer and went to the gym.
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