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Well, I'm sorry for the extremely long wait. What else can I say? Real life has been kicking my ***. I guess if anyone cares, they can ask for details, but I'm mainly here to release the next chapter. It's an introductory chapter for a new pokemon, so it's shorter than the others, but I hope you all enjoy it nonetheless.
chapter 10 ; [EZREM]
There was a team of pokémon who had a trainer, once. She gave us all annoying names. There was Kephi the venipede, Obieme the tepig, Virokoe the purrloin, and when we went to Sinnoh and then to Johto, we got Rennio the elekid. Despite the weird names, they loved her so. I did not love her, but I tolerated her—just because she was the type of person that made you enjoy your name just because of the way she said it. And we all liked her enough to the point where we all agreed never to evolve simply because she wanted a team of non-evolved pokémon. We loved her—liked her, in my case—because she was easygoing, nice, compromising… and therefore she was also easy to manipulate.
After receiving six badges in Unova and six badges in Sinnoh, she had wanted to go to Hoenn. She never wanted our journey to be over so she never completed any gym circuit, and she wanted to see the waters and the unique cities there, she said. I told her that I was a rufflet that came from Johto, and I wanted to see home once more. Somehow she believed me; she trusted me wholeheartedly. In reality, I had heard of a legendary pokémon that could travel through time. I wanted to travel through the future so that my journey with her could finally be over, and I could permanently find a place I could call home. She had taken me when I was young, and moving around did not satisfy me in the slightest.
Because I pretended to love her and because she truly loved us, she sacrificed her dream of going to Hoenn for me. We took a boat to get to Johto, just so that she could travel the sea as if she were really going to her dream region. She never talked about it, but we all knew she was thinking of it.
When we got to the Johto region, she of course started the gym circuit over. I had agreed to let her do this, since I told her my home was in Azalea Town—only two badges in, it wouldn’t take long, I could at least give her that. When we finally reached the town and Ilex Forest, however, I wished that it had been the last gym.
I didn’t intend to do it. People in the town said that Celebi, the forest’s protector, only came out in the face of danger. Well, then, I thought, I would have to create my own danger so that I may talk to this forest guardian! I asked the tepig named Obieme to start a fire for me and then come help me find food. But our trainer and the other pokémon aren’t here to watch the fire, he said! She was out getting wood. I said it was fine, we needed to mark a meeting place anyway, and that was what our trainer had told me to do. She hadn’t. But of course the tepig with the silly name listened to me and started the fire and left with me. And of course the fire spread because no one was near it for a very long time and the winds were strong that day.
If the forest guardian ever came, I never knew. All I knew was that my trainer must have gotten trapped somewhere along with the rest of the pokémon. Rennio escaped because he had gotten lost and got help at the next town, and though Obieme was with me, I hadn’t seen him since. They were all dead, I knew, and it was my fault. The forest guardian was meant to help me but spited me instead.
My name is Ezrem. I got that name from my trainer, once. She told me that the name sounded like it could be a type of jewel, an item to be cherished because it seemed so delicate yet, beneath its pretty exterior, was unyielding and sharp. She was certainly right, but I never got the chance to tell her so. I could not change my ways and she died for it.
My name is Ezrem, and I don’t need pity to suffer from or feel guilty for my actions. This is just the surface of my story, but details are not needed here…
My trainer said Johto was meant to be a new place, a new home, a new adventure. Again, she was certainly right. There was the incident, and then after, I had been watching over Rennio. Being the only survivor besides myself, he was shaken by the incident and at a complete loss as to what to do next. His situation was especially dire in his mind because I had once told him that there weren’t many elekid in the Unova or Sinnoh region—they were going extinct! And since then he had been panicking over battles and making sure that he was kept safe at all costs.
“Now that we’re the only ones, I vow to protect you!” I said to him shortly after the incident, trying to quickly atone for what I had done. It was the least I could do, and maybe he could help me find a home here in Johto, since, according to the spiteful forest guardian, going back to Unova was out of the question due to the evil stunt I had pulled. I could only hope that we wouldn’t find an elekid in Johto, which was believed to be their main region. If that ever happened, what would I do? I had not a clue.
I had not a clue about much of anything. We were, of course, still in Ilex Forest when we met Sai, three months after the incident. When Rennio was away, I liked to stand near the entrance of the forest and watch for potential trainers to manipulate into taking me home or finding me a home. So when I saw those trainers Marty and Sai, when I saw that Sai had little training experience and was copying Marty just to make himself look smart, I decided to butt in. The sentret was thrown back into the bushes, and I found my chance. I introduced myself in the best way possible—with advice! That would surely make them interested in me and think of me as a good pokémon, one who liked to help others…
Seeing the two of them fight afterward only confirmed my decision. Marty had been a contender but had failed. He was too angry, stuck in his own ways… He just wasn’t for me. On the other hand, Sai’s pokémon stayed loyal to him, and they must have been doing so for a good reason, whatever reason it was. I needed loyalty, for Sai not to betray me. His apparent lack of knowledge appealed to me as well.
I continued watching them, keeping Rennio in my mind. He was out getting food and knew exactly where to find me, just as I knew where exactly to find him. I could have gone to help him, but I was waiting for my chance to step in, here…
“You know my sister?” the boy named Marty cried. He stood in the clearing, fists clenched and his feet spread apart. I couldn’t see his face, as his back was to me, but I could assume that he didn’t look too pleased.
“I met her and saw your house,” Sai said, remaining calm. He was standing now, when before he had been kneeling down next to his pokémon. A hitmontop stood behind him, and the other two, a sentret and a croconaw, stood in front.
“Did she say anything about me?” Marty said, his tone softer, his body still betraying him.
“She said you were a good trainer.”
Now, Marty’s pose started to change. His stood up straight, his fists unclenched. His voice was growing softer as he said, “She did?”
“Yeah, she did. I bet she’d want to be as strong as you if she were a trainer.”
“She is a trainer. She wants to leave Azalea Town soon, too,” he said quietly. Then, he tried to flame up again, though I could tell it was fake as he said, “Don’t think that she’d want to travel with us or anything! Or that I would want to. I’m out of here now.”
I knew his voice was fake because his body betrayed him when he didn’t stomp off or anything, just walked like a normal person you would pass by on the road. And with that, he was out of my sight. It looked like he had gone back to Azalea Town despite saying he wanted to leave. Nevertheless, I kept a note in my head—if Marty ever showed up again, he had a weakness: his sister, and maybe just the idea of being a trainer.
This was when I decided to step out. If I waited any longer, Rennio would come back to interrupt me, or Sai would leave, and I’d lose him! It couldn’t happen. He was the one and I knew it, had to believe it. With my two stubby feet I made my way through the bushes, ignoring the giant leaves that tried to block my view of the boy. The rustling noise caught his attention, and before I even revealed myself completely, he was looking at me.
“I just saw you!” the sentret cried, darting out even further in front of Sai, as if I was an enemy.
“Yes, yes, you did! And I helped you, and you won,” I said, grinning like I was clearly an idiot.
The sentret looked confused for a moment, letting his guard down. He said, “Yes, we did win... You weren’t talking like that before, though.”
“No? I talk this way, all the time, believe me!” I said, jumping up and down, fluttering my wings ever so slightly. Ever so slightly, yes, but it would change soon enough! This was the beginning of my long flight home, wherever that was.
I looked up at Sai, expecting him to notice me and want to take me in immediately like most other trainers had. Trainers must not see rufflet in Johto very often, and it shows by their excitement, their desperation and the use of all their pokéballs, despite the fact that I can never be formally caught. My old pokéball was out there somewhere, but if Sai was the one, he would be okay with that…
But Sai didn’t do anything. He looked down at me, staring rather blankly. I thought maybe he didn’t know how rare rufflet were around these parts, and that once he knew, his mind would change easily. So I started gesturing toward Sai as clearly as I could. Speaking would be useless, as he couldn’t understand me. I flew over to him, landed by his side and used my wing to point toward his backpack, where I assumed his pokéballs were. Immediately he bent down and opened it for me, allowing me to retrieve whatever it was I wanted. In any other situation that would have been a bad idea, but alas! This time I only took out a pokéball, empty or not, didn’t matter. After I dropped it to the ground, I started jumping up and down, up and down to show my excitement. But still, Sai’s facial expression was blink, his body limp.
I stopped jumping up and down. Frowning, I turned to the sentret and said, “Tell your trainer I want to join his team.”
“He can understand you,” the sentret replied automatically, emotionlessly.
“He can?” I asked just as automatically.
“Yeah… He’s an interesting human, to say the least.”
I turned back toward Sai, looking straight into his eyes and trying to keep a blank facial expression myself. I wasn’t afraid of him! I wasn’t afraid of a trainer who could somehow talk to pokémon, and I had to show it. Yes, it only confirmed my suspicions of Sai being the one. He was special, all right. I could tell him everything straight to his face someday and he’d understand.
“I want to join your team!” I cried, jumping up and down again. “I can’t be caught in a pokéball, but I will remain loyal! I will never stray from your side if you take me with you. I have experience, I’m smart, ask your sentret there…”
“No,” Sai interrupted. My beak hung open for a moment, confused as to what I had just heard. Had Sai really just rejected me out front?
Just as I was about to try to change his mind, I heard a crackling sound and a distinct humming noise. It was loud enough to attract the attention of everyone nearby. They were alarmed while I was not. But what bad timing, I thought! It was Rennio, and I knew it. That was what happened when you were stuck with him for so long and watched his every move…
Out of the bushes jumped Rennio, screaming “Rennio has come back to the world!”
The little yellow and black elekid stood there with an armful of red berries, looking around, presumably for me. Once he spotted me, he obviously noted how friendly I was with these pokémon and this trainer already, so he steadily made his way over to us. It would be hard for him to see my inevitable disgrace and disappointment, but such was life, I supposed. I couldn’t have predicted, however, what happened next.
“Atis, get that pokémon!” Sai cried suddenly, his arm extended and pointing directly at Rennio. The hitmontop from behind peaked out around Sai as if he were peering around the side of a building, watching for danger. He saw Rennio and had a dreadful look on his face, but nevertheless launched forward and onto the spinner on the top of his head. He started spinning wildly, preparing to kick the poor elekid out of the way…
This all happened too fast for me to react right away. Once I figured out the situation, however, I remembered—I had to protect Rennio at all costs, even from Sai, my future trainer. Blowing the pokéball away in the process, I flapped my wings as aggressively as I could to make it to Rennio in time. I knocked him out of the way, figuring it was safer than attacking the dangerous hitmontop (Atis, was it?) head on.
All the red berries flew out of Rennio’s arm as he crashed to the ground beside him with a thud. The hitmontop tried to slow down and control his movement but he only succeeded in wobbling to and fro and then colliding with the same bushes that I had been watching from. He stood up a few moments later, looking for his target but appeared dizzy. Atis was a hitmontop who wasn’t too used to spinning on its own head, apparently.
“No attacking Rennio!” I cried, admittedly unsure if I should be talking to Atis or Sai. Atis seemed like he’d listen immediately despite me not being his trainer, so I turned to Sai in the end. “He’s my friend. He would also like to join your team with me.”
“What?” Rennio asked, looking up at me. I realized that I was still standing on top of his body, so before I got electrocuted, I swiftly jumped off of him, realizing at the same time that he had no idea what the situation was at the moment. I would have to fill him in later. For now, I tried to motion for him to follow along with me.
“We would both like to join your team,” I repeated, more calmly and more determined this time. I started walking up to Sai, motioning again for Rennio to follow me. I knew he’d listen to me, as he trusted my judgment despite everything… And he did follow, leaving his berries behind.
Sai frowned, simply staring once more. This time, he was staring at Rennio. There wasn’t much else I could say. How much more straightforward could I be? We both wanted to be his pokémon. He looked like he needed a rare pokémon and an electric-type, anyway, right? But I was wrong.
I got my hopes up a lot when he started digging around in his pocket for something. At first I assumed it was a pokéball, but then thought that pokéballs were too big to fit in a human’s pocket, even when minimized. My hopes dropped away once he pulled out a black and white dice, and then another one. They stared at me mockingly, just as Sai had been doing not too long ago. I started seeing what was going on when Sai handed Rennio the dice as well. Sai clearly preferred Rennio over me, though I could not tell why.
“Roll it,” said Sai.
Rennio peered over at me, and I nodded. So Rennio rolled it, or something like that. Like the berries, he dropped them on the ground as if I had just rammed him in the stomach once more. He probably wasn’t ready for another trainer or another traner’s attention, the poor guy, but it had to be done, I thought.
Both of the dice landed on the ground with a thud. One of them had a single black dot on it, while the other had three. I looked up to Sai, both eager and wary of seeing his reaction. His reaction was gleeful, overjoyed, and I felt empty.
“You’re my fourth pokémon!” Sai cried, diving down onto his knees and leaning in to apparently hug the poor electric-type. Rennio was embraced ever so lovingly, and he looked over to me, puzzled and utterly defeated. His facial expression was the equivalent of asking me whether or not he should electrocute this boy and make a run for it, but I was too stunned to move.
“Are you going to give him a name?” chimed in the croconaw, who had just been watching during this entire ordeal.
Sai paused, then carefully answered, “No. The elekid doesn’t have a name.”
“My name is Rennio, given by my other—”
“You don’t have a name,” Sai interrupted, releasing his hold on the pokémon.
“I don’t?” he said quietly, looking heartbroken, as if he would really have to give up his old name.
“No, you don’t.”
“So I’m really your pokémon?”
“Yes, you are.”
“Are you sure? What about my friend, Ezrem?” he asked, pointing to me.
“Ezrem is not my pokémon, but you are.”
Rennio frowned, but he wasn’t the type to deny others. He also wasn’t the type to doubt me, so he must have known I had something up my sleeve. Instead of turning away from Sai, he said, “Can I at least say good-bye to him first?”
“Go right ahead, but… Kuiora, go over there and make sure he doesn’t run off on us, okay?” Sai asked, petting the rather menacing looking water-type and directing her over to us.
As if she was reading my mind, the first thing that she said when the two of them made it over to the other side of the clearing was: “My trainer is very picky about what pokémon is on his team. This elekid is very lucky.”
“Lucky, huh?” I said under my breath. Yes, it confirmed that Sai was a good trainer. But what good did that do for me if I couldn’t be with him? Although I was jealous of Rennio, I tried to be happy for him, tried to lay out my future plans, but none were coming to me. And he was looking at me expectantly, clearly waiting for those plans to be said.
“Lucky!” Kuiora said, jumping up and down gleefully.
I couldn’t help but smile at the two of them. It reminded me of Obieme and the others with our former trainer, in a way…
“Well,” I said, scoffing to myself, “I have a feeling this will be a very good trainer for you, Rennio.”
“You’re just going to leave me?”
“What kind of question is that? I want to go home with you, and Sai is going to help us do just that.”
“Home?” Kuiora asked.
“Yes… to Unova, or somewhere like home.”
Suddenly, the croconaw’s eyes widened considerably. She began jumping up and down again, this time higher and higher, overflowed with joy. She also tried to tackle me in a fun way, but I thankfully dodged out of the way before any of my wings were broken.
“What was that for?”
“You’re a legendary pokémon, aren’t you?! You’re from a foreign land! I’ve heard stories about you and your evolved form! I know you’re legendary, so don’t try to hide it from me!”
“Stories?” I asked. I couldn’t help but be curious.
“Stories about such bravery and strength, about rescuing and war. Yes, they were definitely about you. I can’t believe I got to find a legendary pokémon so early on in our journey!” she said, holding her paws together and gleaming at me.
I had never heard of such stories, but I pretended like I had. I told her that yes, they were about me and my evolved form breviary. And yes, I was indeed a legendary pokémon. If Sai wouldn’t accept me, then having one of his pokémon accept me was clearly the next best thing. Then, maybe, he would realize how much his team liked me, and he would ask me to join the team. Yes, that could work, just maybe! It was worth a shot, at any rate.
“This is just great! Sai is so picky he doesn’t know what he’s doing. You should be on our team, too,” she said excitedly.
“Yes, I should be.”
“You should be on the team, Ezrem! I can’t do this alone,” Rennio said, snapping my attention back toward him. I had been so engrossed in the legendary pokémon business that I had almost forgotten him, the poor pokémon.
“Don’t worry, my friend,” I said generously. “I will go on this journey with you! I’ve got it all planned out, don’t you worry.”
“You really do?”
“I do. You should say yes to being on his team. Walk up to her replacement and welcome him home. And I will follow and protect you, despite the boy’s protests.”
I said I promised, and Rennio smiled. Kuiora smiled, for other reasons, but it was a smile nonetheless. I smiled, too, but I didn’t know what I was smiling for. After all, I had chosen Sai, but he hadn’t chosen me?
He betrayed me from the start. But I was stuck. I had vowed to make it up to Rennio, and it was my fault we were in this mess to begin with, anyway.
Right now, I was grounded; my wings were broken. It was crystal clear that my dreams were hanging from a wire, ready to drop and crash at any moment.
Rennio, Sai, you don’t know what you do to me.
I will make it home…
Wow, that rufflet expected too much, or had his hopes too high. Too bad Sai rejected him, but it's interesting to see him following them around if Sai chose his Elekid friend.
I kinda...don't like that rufflet though, and his history with his first trainer...
Yeah, I can see why you wouldn't like his past. It's not something he's quite proud of, either. Thanks for commenting.
So I've decided that I'll be writing the remainder of Survival Project for this year's upcoming NaNoWriMo. I chose this because I wanted to participate for the second year in a row, and starting something else would pretty much ensure that I'd never finish this, and I really do want to finish this fic. Whether or not I'll succeed is up in the air, of course, and this means tons of editing may be happening, but at the very least, this means that the fic will be planned out from this chapter until the end. The fic will have a total of ~30 chapters if all goes according to plan, so we're about halfway there. Wish me luck, and I'll see you all in the beginning of November with a new chapter.
chapter 11 ; [RENNIO]
I still remember her like it was yesterday. She had long, flowing blonde hair, green eyes. Her love for us pokémon had no boundaries. She found beauty in all things, even the things that made people cringe when she talked about them, like philosophy and math. She was the first person I saw when I hatched from my egg. Where she got that egg, I never knew, but it was all I could do to thank her for retrieving it.
It was yesterday. In my mind. In my dreams. In my hopes, in my fears.
She asked me once, “If you were to think about it, would you predict that you’d have more fears than hopes, or more hopes than fears?”
Back then, I didn’t have to think about it.
Now, I think too much.
Yes, I remember her like it was yesterday… I remember even the little things that I observed over the years. She refused to sleep on her sides, so as to never leave her back wide open. She only spoke of Arceus to those who didn’t believe, again, to make them cringe all out of good fun. She never looked at the ground or at the sky as she walked, because she wasn’t afraid of the never-ending path in front of her.
My favorite memory was when she embraced me. She made it look like a normal hug, made it feel like a stronghold.
And it’s all so ironic, I know. I think too much about it now, these fears that outweigh my hopes.
It’s ironic because… the one time she truly needed me, I let her go.
My first thought amongst the chaos.
We were simply out getting wood to build our own fire—and when we found it, all we wanted to do was get rid of it and run. It was just extra fuel for the fire heading our way, after all…
I had to do a double take before I realized that, yes, there really was one coming our way. The crackling sound that I had heard so many times before on our journey now rang through my ears and tormented me relentlessly. The flames were taller than I’d ever seen them before, and the air smelled burnt, crisp, sharp. My senses were exhausted in a matter of seconds. I stood there, confused and dazed, wondering if I was in a dream…
Annie, we have no water-type pokémon, we’re nowhere near the exit or entrance, and there’s nothing but more trees surrounding us, more fuel…
Something had to be done, but judging by our clear lack of action, everyone was thinking the same things as me and no one knew what to do. The fire was growing larger and coming closer to us with every passing second. Closer, closer.
“What are those things that are always in your mouth?” I asked once. We were just beginning our journey to Johto, as we were on the boat that would lead us to the renowned region. Though I had been traveling with her for quite some time, I had never questioned her about her peculiar eating habit.
She grabbed another spoonful of berries for me and placed them in my mouth. I smiled as I chewed in order to thank her. I was old enough to feed myself, yet she was always insisting on me being the baby of the group, the one who received all the extra special attention. I was grateful for the care, and so I thanked her for every bite.
“They’re called cigarettes,” she said, starting to prepare another mouthful for me.
“Can I have one?” I asked, swallowing the food in my mouth. “They must taste good if you have them all the time.”
“Nope, you can’t,” she said, smiling to herself. She put the white stick in her mouth once more and then removed it, a puff of smoke following behind. She always did this, over and over, until she had completely gone through the stick.
“They’re not good for pokémon, and I can’t have my baby having something that isn’t good for him, right?”
“I guess not… What about the others?” I questioned, wondering if I would be jealous of the others for once instead of it being the other way around.
“They don’t get one, either.”
She continued feeding me the berries, spoonful by spoonful. I sat there and watched her smoke quietly, wondering what the taste was like, the texture, the feeling that she had when the eating session both started and ended. I supposed I would never know.
When she was done, she took out a device which sparked a bit of fire, and started all over again.
That’s what must have happened. Annie must have dropped one of her cigarettes after lighting it on fire, dropped it, and left it there. There was no other explanation in my eyes. Because of her sudden carelessness, we were all stuck in this mess.
I forgave her instantly, though my body said otherwise. I wanted to stay, but my legs were quickly starting to betray me. My knees felt as if they were going to buckle at any moment, or turn and start heading in the other direction.
It was always this way. My thoughts were much different than my actions. Why couldn’t my mind and body just cooperate? Why was I such a baby on the outside and then so sure of myself on the inside? Wasn’t the mind supposed to send signals to the brain which would in turn send signals to the body? Or something like that? I remembered Annie telling me once. But it just didn’t ring true for me.
I wanted to stay. I wanted to stay and protect her, protect those green eyes in a fire that was turning everything gray.
But I was the first to run.
The other pokémon on the team, particularly Ezrem, always liked to make fun of the day that I was born. Hatching from the egg and not being able to understand their taunting language was apparently amusing. And apparently, the first thing that I was told was my name.
When I hatched from my egg, the last thing that I wanted to hear about was my name. I was hungry and I was cold, so I wanted food and warmth right away. I could no longer turn to my egg to sustain me, so I had to find these things elsewhere. But on top of my basic necessities, I was overwhelmed with a sense of confusion. The only thing recognizable to me was voices, since I could hear them inside the egg. The other pokémon surrounding me were foreign, and so were my surroundings. Where was I? Was I supposed to be where I already was, or was some other place waiting for me? Did I hatch too soon, too late?
Despite my needs, Annie did not feed me or hold me or tell me where I was. Again, I was informed that the first thing she did was tell me my name.
“Rennio. Your name is Rennio,” she said. She beamed at me, along with the rest of her pokémon, all of which were foreign to me. They were whispering amongst themselves, however—or making fun of me, of course—so I assumed they must have known me somehow. I didn’t know what their names were, so I just stared at them. Their words mean nothing to me.
“Renee was my littlest sister’s name, and the end of your name makes it sound a little more boyish. It’s perfect for my new baby pokémon!” she said ecstatically.
At first, I couldn’t understand. But as Ezrem told me the story once when he felt like teasing me, I began to comprehend the situation’s significance. One of the first things a baby does when it’s born is try to figure out if the world is a safe place. Is the world trustworthy? Are people trustworthy? Annie didn’t feed me or hold me or tell me I could feel safe, but giving me a name and explaining its origin provided me with a sense of relief. That was her way of telling me that she was trustworthy. She knew I existed, and she loved and valued my existence enough to give me an identity.
My hunger and desire for warmth waited, and that was fine. I didn’t know much of anything at the time, but I felt safe here. And that was enough.
I heard her cry my name as soon as I started dashing in the opposite direction. I knew it then, I knew I should have stayed. But what else could I do? What was more important, her existence or my existence? Ezrem had told me so many times, so many times: I was the last of my species. If I were to die, there would never be another elekid or electabuzz or electivire.
This belief of almost being extinct had frozen my very being many times in the past. Because of this fear, I was unable to participate in battles, since there was always the possibility being hurt beyond repair. Because of this fear, death consumed my thoughts even in the safest of situations. Because of this fear, it was my goal in life to just be able to survive or create another one of my species.
But I was also able to understand the significance of oneself and others because of this fear. I knew that without my trainer, I could not have come as far I had. She was one who had nurtured me from the very start, and it was extremely important for me to repay my debt to her somehow. In the old days, I would usually just continue to be her baby pokémon, since that’s what she wanted, that was what she was content with. Occasionally I’d have to be with her when she cried, and I’d cheer her on in battles from the sidelines…
But because of this fear, I also ran away from my trainer when she needed me most.
I ran past the tree branches that fell to the ground, trying to block my escape. My legs were short and, due to the quick pace that I was running at, started to ache soon after my dash. Despite this, I kept on going, and I didn’t dare to look back, knowing that I’d have more regrets if I did.
To be honest, I had no idea where I was going, or even if I was truly saving myself. I just knew that standing still was not the answer unless I wanted death to come, which I certainly didn’t.
I ran. The fire was closer than ever before now, and smoke was starting to invade my lungs every time I tried to inhale. My body tried to stop itself a few times so I could cough, but I wouldn’t have any of it. I kept trudging forward despite myself, wavering from side to side as I did. Because of this, I got scorched by the fire a bit, and bumped into a few trees that were simply waiting to be devoured. I couldn’t see where I was going at all.
Moments like these are recalled as blurs because everything looks the same, no matter how you think of it. There were flames everywhere I looked, I was scared no matter where I was, and I alone everywhere I ended up. So I have no idea how I made it to the end of the forest, the opposite side from where we entered. All I knew was that I must have been running an awfully long time with an awfully large stroke of luck following shortly behind. All I knew was that my startled eyes and burnt body and shrieking self must have alerted the guards at the building, because they soon ran into the forest themselves and put out the fire.
They scoured the entire forest from top to bottom. It wasn’t hard, given the destruction. But in the end, only Ezrem and I were found. Annie and the others were nowhere to be seen.
Ring around the rosie, she called it.
The goal was to make yourself dizzy by spinning in a circle with other people in the group, ones you were holding hands with. Then, at the end, you were all supposed to fall together, laughing.
But she said—ashes, ashes.
She said she’d never let me fall, no matter what.
It was just a game. A kid’s game, one she didn’t expect me to understand.
I knew what she meant, deep down.
She left through ashes; I fell without laughing.
And remembering hurts.
But I can at least remember Ezrem without pain engulfing me. Ezrem, who has always been by my side. Even when he was teasing me, I knew that he wouldn’t betray me for anything. And now that it was just the two of us, our bond was that much stronger.
I often wondered what would have happened had he passed away in the fire with everyone else. With me being far too dependent on others, I can’t imagine that things would have gone well. I may have been crying forever, I may have gotten tangled up with a bad trainer, I may have gone off to die somewhere by myself due to some misfortune that I didn’t see coming…
Yes, Ezrem and Annie taught me all about death and the ephemeral thing that is life. I forgave him, as long as he stayed by my side.
And he did stay by my side. He explained to me his desire to return home, and it made perfect sense to me, given our situation. Who wouldn’t want to go home after a long, grueling journey? He said he’d take me with him since I had nowhere else to go, and I was more than happy to oblige. His plan involved getting a new trainer, which also made sense to me, since there was no way for us to know the layout of the regions. To find a new trainer, we also agreed to stay in the forest. Not only had we learned that it was usually full of new trainers whose potential we could judge, there was always the hope in the back of our minds that said Annie would come back for us someday, somehow.
So we remained where we were, avoiding the burned side of the forest as well as we could. We stayed near the entrance, the one full of better memories, better times, which seemed so far away now. Ezrem taught me which berries in the forest were good for eating after I explained that the thought of killing a pokémon for food was unacceptable to me. Then it became my job to retrieve our food and water while Ezrem stayed near the entrance and watched for trainers. Warmth was an afterthought; we never made fires.
I’d come back with berries every day, and I’d stare at him expectedly. He always knew that my gaze asked the same question: had he found anyone with potential? Because we don’t want just anybody.
He’d always look at me sadly, shaking his head.
“Someday, but not today,” he’d say.
One day, I returned with berries and simply told Ezrem, “I’m scared.”
He motioned for me to open my hands and dug his beak into the pile. Halfway through, he pulled back, finally realizing that I had said something.
“Scared of what?”
I signed. If anyone should know what I’m scared of, it should be Ezrem. “What if I die before I’m able to keep my species from going extinct?” I asked.
“Well,” Ezrem said, swallowing though he had no berry in his mouth, “you just can’t think like that, okay?”
“Why not? It’s entirely possible.”
“If you let the fear consume you, you are destined to fail!”
“I suppose.” I paused. He was probably waiting for me to say something more, but I couldn’t think of anything. I stared at the berries, and then said awkwardly, “Will you… feed me?”
“Feed you?” Ezrem stared at me, perplexed. “Rennio, you’re not a baby anymore!”
“She used to feed me. Annie did.”
Ezrem snickered, but I knew that he was just hiding the pain that came with me saying her name. He dug his beak into my hands again, pulling back and taking a berry from my hand. He leaned in toward me, seemingly handing it to me, but he moved back again and chewed it himself. I stood there, disappointed, but it wasn’t like I wasn’t expecting it.
“Listen, Rennio!” he said after he finished the berry. “I’ll tell you what. You need more confidence. I want to teach you a catchphrase that you can have.”
“A catchphrase?” I said, dumbfounded.
“A catchphrase. Every time you battle a pokémon, you must say you have come back to the world! Every time you come back from getting food and water, you must say you have come back to the world. As time goes on you’ll say it in more and more situations. This will let everyone around you, including yourself, know that you are, indeed, alive, and that the elekid line lives on. Do you understand?”
“I-I think so,” I said, shifting my feet uncomfortably. “The idea just seems silly to me.”
“It may be silly, but babies do silly things. Now, if you want me to feed you like Annie used to, say it!”
I hesitated. I did need more confidence, but Ezrem’s solution was just words. What power did words have? They didn’t magically make me reproduce or cause elekid eggs to start lying around everywhere. They were just there to boost my ego, nothing more.
“Say it!” Ezrem said impatiently.
“I don’t know…”
“Then I’m not feeding you.”
And not only did I need more confidence, I needed Annie. As comforting as he was, Ezrem just didn’t meet all my needs. If I could have just this, I would feel much, much better, and be able to move on for just a little while longer.
“Fine,” I said, sighing. “I have come back to the world.”
“Say your name and say it loudly, or no one will know who you are!”
“Rennio has come back to the world!”
Ezrem smiled. “Yes, yes you have,” he said, taking the berries from me.
An unknown amount of time passed before the day we found Sai, before I felt like I really had returned to the world.
When I came back from searching for berries and shouting my silly catchphrase, I was expecting to find Ezrem still hiding behind bushes, watching. When I saw that instead, he was actually interacting with a trainer, I knew that something special was happening. Ezrem had finally found and picked someone!
I wasn’t expecting, however, to be attacked by another pokémon. And I wasn’t expecting Ezrem to get rejected, and for me to be welcomed with open arms. And I wasn’t expecting for the new trainer to try to take my name away.
Overall, I was overcome with mixed emotions. I knew that a trainer battling wild pokémon to capture them was fairly ordinary, but it had just never happened to me, so I wasn’t prepared in the slightest. The idea to defend myself hadn’t come to me; I let Ezrem do all the work to protect me, as usual. And when he was rejected despite his noble actions, I thought about unfair it was to him—after all his hard work, he had finally come to a decision only to be shut down. My heart ached for him, but there was nothing I could think of that would help him except to go along with Sai like he requested.
And that’s exactly what I did. I trusted Ezrem’s judgment, his reasoning. Even after Sai told me I had no name, I decided that he was an ideal trainer. I was okay with not having a name in his eyes as long as I knew my own true self, and as long as Ezrem knew who I was, too. I would continue to identify myself the way Annie identified me, so that her memory could live on.
It was the least I could do for her.
And just like that, Ezrem and I found ourselves making our way to Goldenrod City for the second time. This time was, of course, much different. We were with different pokémon, a different trainer… We were with complete strangers. The air was slightly tenser, for some reason I could not decipher just by looking at or making small talk with the strangers. Perhaps they had just gone through some ordeal, too, though I could not imagine anything as bad as our story.
The atmosphere was also much quieter. With Annie, we were always talking about something or another. Since she could understand us after being with us for such a long time, there was never a dull moment with her. I decided, then, to try to get to know my new teammates, my new trainer.
“Why don’t you guys tell us something about yourselves?” I said, talking to anyone who was willing to listen. I motioned over to Ezrem, making sure to include him in the conversations, too.
The three pokémon introduced themselves as Senori, Kuiora, and Atis. The names would be difficult to remember, but I’m sure I would learn them in time. I supposed that meant that he still thought I had no name, but he didn’t say anything in protest.
“Another trainer that gives their pokémon funny names!” Ezrem cried, keeping up with the rest of the group, just as he had promised me. I looked up at Sai, and noticed that he was still ignoring Ezrem—even more so, as he wouldn’t so much as glance at the bird.
“I do not have a funny name, thank you very much. I think it’s quite pretty,” Kuiora said, putting her small hands on her hips and glaring at Ezrem.
“It’s hardly what I’d call pretty.”
“You just say that before you’re a boy, and things aren’t pretty to you,” Kuiora retorted.
“I don’t mind mine,” said Senori while the other two bickered. “I had a different one before, but I think I like this one better.”
“You had a name before? What was it?” I asked, suddenly curious. So Sai had forced Senori to get a new name, but not me? He didn’t make any sense to me so far, but I still respected him.
“It doesn’t matter now. It was a long time ago,” Senori replied, smiling softly.
“Oh.” I decided not to press him. “What about you, Atis?” I asked, trying to include him, too, since he hadn’t said much yet.
“I didn’t have a name before…” he said shyly, keeping his head lowered toward the ground.
“Sai,” I said, noticing our trainer hadn’t said much, either, despite being able to understand us, “where do you get your names for us, then?”
“I… I knew some people with the same names. I don’t know many other names or anything, so I use them,” Sai said, looking down at me. He tried to smile but failed, as if he were recalling some painful memory. His answer seemed simple yet weird in my eyes for some reason I couldn’t explain, so I didn’t press him, either. Yes, there certainly was some pain surrounding this group, pain I didn’t know about yet. I was sure it was just another thing I’d learn in time.
If it were up to me, suffering wouldn’t exist. But it’s part of what makes us who we are, and personally, I was glad to find others who had experienced pain just like I had. So far, my journey with our new trainer seemed hopeful; it seemed like it would be a journey toward healing and peace.
I smiled at Sai. When it looked like he didn’t know how to respond, I said, “It was nice to meet you.”
“It was nice to have met you, too…” said Sai, offering a slight smile back.
“I had a trainer once before,” I said rather impulsively, catching myself off guard since I hadn’t talked about Annie to anyone except Ezrem. “She was really nice.”
“Yeah? Maybe she can travel with us sometime if we run into her,” Sai said, suddenly appearing hopeful and excited. I didn’t blame him, I really didn’t—Annie would be a great traveling companion if she were alive—but his words stung.
“She won’t be able to. She passed away a while ago,” I said, now looking down at the ground.
“Oh. Well, it looks like it’ll just be me and my pokémon, then… The trainer back there and his sister didn’t want to travel with me, either,” he said sadly, his eagerness fading. I let the conversation go once more, regretting bringing it up. I made a mental note to myself, saying that I would have to inquire and learn more about these little things that I let go now, but was still curious about.
We kept walking from there, making more small talk about things that were less significant to me. I noticed that Kuiora kept quite close to Ezrem, probably because she still thought he was a legendary pokémon for some reason or another. I thought it was amusing and chuckled at him a few times, only to have him glare at me and shut me up rather quickly.
Occasionally, a wild pokémon would attack and I would get to see my new teammates battle. While they seemed somewhat strong, I knew that had a long way to go compared to me and Ezrem. I vaguely wondered how impressed Sai would be once he battled with us (assuming he’d eventually warm up to Ezrem and want him on the team), but I was also overly pleased with the fact that he didn’t ask me to fight even once. A fear of battling accompanied my fear of death and injury, so I didn’t want to fight if I could help it. Annie never made me do anything I didn’t want to, but with Sai, it could have been different. I supposed I would have to wait and see.
I noticed that Sai fed us plenty of food and made sure we were satisfied with a place to sleep. A few peaceful nights passed before we neared the end of the forest. Given mine and Ezrem’s past, I was also relieved about how our trek through Ilex Forest was rather uneventful. The only thing that particularly stood out to me was the damaged areas of the forest. They brought back haunting memories, mixed feelings, and an overwhelming desire to leave. Luckily, that’s exactly what we were going to do, and soon, I knew, since I recognized the forest’s exit. When we were close enough, I turned one final time to the destruction that caused me so much anguish, and said good-bye. I pretended to be walking beside Annie as I believed I was returning to the world, to our journey, starting with Goldenrod City.
chapter 12 ; [ATIS]
He felt like progress.
…Sometimes, anyway. I couldn’t tell most of the time.
On one hand, I had been able to leave Earl and the wild kids that attended the Violet City pokémon school, just like I wanted. I was no longer able to stand giving myself up to the concept of pokémon training day after day, and Sai rescued me from that when I needed him most. But traveling with Sai was partly like being part of my nightmares, where we were training for the sake of training, getting badges for the sake of having them, and not having any future goal in mind. The other half of the journey consisted of being free, of being able to explore the world and see it for what it is. And that was what I liked. I wanted Sai to be able to contribute to the world in some way that didn’t involve pokémon, and he was beginning to do that by slowing down his journey, but… Well, yes, Sai felt like progress—but only sometimes.
And somehow, I know that pokémon don’t often get a second chance to choose their trainers. I can only count on one hand the amount of situations that could offer a second chance, and I don’t even have that many fingers. More importantly, neither scenario is pretty: a trainer either dies or abandons his pokémon. As much as I despised being the pokémon of a trainer, I wouldn’t wish that upon myself or anyone else.
But Marty, when he came along, he presented what originally seemed to be unthinkable to a trainer, people who normally can’t stand being separated from their partners. He forced Sai into reconsidering his choice in pokémon. He forced Sai into thinking about our opinions and desires and dreams. And Sai gave us a choice—to stay or go! The choice to go or stay, it was as simple as that, really, and not one that many trainers would have the guts to offer.
When it was my turn to decide and answer, I wasn’t sure what to say. Again, Sai felt like progress, but was it enough to me? Was it worth it to stay until the boy finished his journey and had to find something else to do with his life? Was it worth it to leave and try to make it on my own in a society where pokémon are nothing more than pets or tools of violence? I weighed my options right then and there, but I was very limited on time. I simply said that I needed time to think about it, and at least it was true.
So, when were making our way to Goldenrod City, I knew I still had a choice to make. Though Sai seemed strict and set in his ways, I knew that he wouldn’t honestly take my choice away from me if I decided to bring it up again. He was clearly following someone else’s rules and setting his own aside, only allowing them to be set free when he deemed it safe and perhaps necessary. I felt that, this far into the journey, I could say this with certainty, when my life was anything but certain…
It seemed especially so when Sai suddenly stopped walking, when I was expecting him to keep going and going until he reached the gym, even if it took all his energy and hours and hours of no sleep. It wouldn’t be out of character for him, anyway. But he stopped, and I crashed into the back of his legs accidentally.
“Sai?” I said. He was glancing at a lone building in front of us. It was surrounded by a short white fence where cries of happy and playful pokémon could be heard inside. The sign ahead read: Daycare Center—We Take Care of All Pokémon! After the previous ordeal, I vaguely wondered if he was considering abandoning us here, but the thought fled from my mind just as quickly as it came. I also knew that he wouldn’t do that…
“A daycare is a place where people or pokémon stay and get taken care of, right? Fed and bathed and stuff?” he asked, turning toward Senori. I wondered how Senori would know, but didn’t say anything, as usual.
“I don’t know,” Senori admitted, “but we can always go inside and ask, if you’re really curious.”
“I am,” Sai said, moving forward now to the door. I followed closely behind him, careful not to have the chance of bumping into him again.
When we got inside, there was an older woman sitting behind a counter, reading a book. She glanced up at us and immediately stood and smiled as if she hadn’t had any visitors in years. Perhaps she was lonely after being only with pokémon. I would be lonely, too, if I was stuck with them for an extended period of time.
“Hello!” she said, putting her hands together and holding them up to her face gleefully. “Welcome to the daycare center! How can I help you?”
“You take care of pokémon, right?” Sai said, not even bothering to greet her.
“Yes, me and my husband take care of pokémon here. He’s out in the back giving a young pichu a bath right now”—so maybe she wasn’t lonely after all, I thought, and smiled, too—“and that’s just one example of what we do here. If you need a vacation day, we’re here for you! If your pokémon wants a unique place to train, this is a place to do it. We’re here for any reason you made need our services.”
“Ah, yes…” Sai said, taking his backpack off and rummaging through it. “I caught a bunch of magikarp the other day. I know I can’t carry more than six pokémon, and I know I won’t be using them on my team, so…”
“So you want us to take care of them?” the older lady finished for him.
“Exactly,” Sai said. He took out one pokéball and placed it on the counter. He went through his backpack again and pulled out another pokéball. And another. And another… In total, I counted about twenty of them. The older lady looked stunned rather than eager now.
“Son, do you know how much it’s going to cost for us to keep all of these magikarp?” she asked.
Sai looked down to the ground, and I could see that his face was turning red. “I don’t know why I caught them. I mean, I was going to use them for food… but I thought about it and that didn’t seem like a good idea…”
“You were going to eat them?”
“Yeah… I mean, yeah, isn’t that normal?”
“I’m glad you changed your mind,” she said, ignoring his question. “But it will cost a lot for you to leave them here, depending on how long it takes you to come back for them.”
“I don’t intend on coming back.”
“I have no use for them. I know they’re probably expecting a trainer to take care of them, and this is my way of showing them that they were in my thoughts. I hope you understand. They were in an old, small cave with terrible water before, and here, maybe they’ll be treated better.”
“So you’re giving them to us to keep.”
“I will give you anything. I will pay you now if you want instead,” Sai said, looking through his backpack again, probably for money.
“That would be acceptable,” she said, and told him how much it would cost. As soon as she told him, Sai paused while looking through his backpack, as if he was reconsidering his choice, but he went through with it and paid the older lady. He had a strained look on his face. I wondered if he was guilty for spending money after carelessly buying so much in Azalea Town.
But that became an afterthought as we left and kept heading toward our destination. I kept repeating the scene over and over in my head and noted that Sai could let go of pokémon—if he really tried.
I supposed that was a start.
Goldenrod City surely lived up to its name. The outside of each building was built with yellow bricks, save for the pokémon center, which looked like every other one we had seen so far: made of a grey exterior with a red roof, and a medical sign on the top to indicate the building’s purpose. Even the shopping center looked different than the others we had seen so far. Getting closer, I could tell that instead of it being a normal mart, it was an entire mall, with several floors and various types of sales inside. Several people were walking in, while others were walking out with bags in hand.
“This city is huge,” Kuiora pointed out as we kept walking around, getting ourselves familiar with the area we would be in for at least the next few days.
“It is! I wonder what they need all these buildings for, anyway,” Senori said.
“There’s a gambling place,” I said, reading the sign of the building we had just passed. I kept reading them as we went by. “And a radio tower. A flower shop, a bowling alley… Regular houses…”
It occurred to me, then, that I should try to take Sai around the town and expose him to these other places unrelated to pokémon, to at least expose him to other ideas out there in the world. It was worth a shot, anyway. The worst case scenario would be that Sai would despise everything and anything about each place, but the boy seemed to be excited about every little thing back in Azalea Town, so that was unlikely. Still, I could tell that he was slowing down quite a bit. I would have to observe his new tired behavior so that I could get used to it, and not be as negatively affected by it as I was by his previous outburst.
“Sai?” I said again, though this time I didn’t bump into his leg. Instead, I pulled on his pants leg, trying to get his attention as best as I could. I wasn’t used to trying to get another person’s attention, and didn’t know how much was too much or how much was too little. Still, my efforts seemed to work as he stopped to peer down at me expectantly, saying nothing in order to let me speak. “After we go to the pokémon center, why don’t we… you know… actually explore the town more thoroughly? I mean… if you’re okay with that, that is…”
“Like go into the buildings and stuff?”
“Yes!” I said a little too loudly. He was understanding me pretty well; things were going smoothly so far already. “Um, again, if that’s all right with you.”
Sai hesitated for a moment, lost in thought. After a few moments of silence and awkward staring, he finally said, “Sure, if that’s what you want. I want to go to the gym first to set up a battle appointment first, but I’ll make it happen in two weeks.”
Though this was clearly not like his ordinary self, I was cheering on the inside.
Within the hour, it was official: the gym battle would take place two weeks from today. Since we were already so close to the gym, we stopped by to set up Sai’s “appointment.” I didn’t know why he felt compelled to schedule the gym battle, since what we had done so far was just approach the gym leader when we were ready, but he simply explained that he was following the rules now that he knew them better. As his pokémon, I felt obligated to go along with him, so I stayed quiet.
That night, we stayed in the pokémon center, with all of us staying in the same room. Sai explained that although he was earning money from winning pokémon battles with trainers, he didn’t have enough anymore to cover the cost of all of us having our own room after the encounter with the daycare lady. None of us complained, as this was nothing new to us, though there were whispers about what we’d do about food. I lay on the top bunk, as always, remembering how he knew this about me, and fell asleep wondering what else he knew and kept to himself.
The day after, the first place I took him to was the shopping mall. With the building being as large as it was, surely there was something unrelated to pokémon inside. And I was right. While there were floors dedicated to supplies and pokémon food, there were sections for clothes, gifts, candy, video games, music, movies, and much more.
“You can buy us more shirts,” Kuiora said casually, walking behind Sai to stay close to Ezrem, who was just peering around, exploring the place like everyone else.
“You can have one, but I don’t want one,” Senori said. “The last one covered my tail and made things feel really weird for me.”
I wouldn’t have minded a shirt to feel more human, but I said nothing and watched as Sai looked around, trying to decide where to go first. I tried to push him toward the movie section since he was having trouble choosing, but he said, “I’ve never seen a movie in my life. I don’t know.”
“You’ve never seen a movie before?” said Rennio, who was also standing close to Ezrem. I was just glad it was the bird and not me. “Even me and Ezrem have seen a movie before. We saw one about a boy and a girl who wanted to erase their memories of each other, but then changed their minds and had to go through a lot of trouble to remember each other.”
“It sounds interesting… People make up things like that?”
“Yeah. Watching movies is something every human should do,” Rennio added, nodding.
“I don’t think it’d be appropriate to see one… Maybe some other time,” Sai said after a moment, and I stopped pushing him in that direction. The last thing I wanted to do was make him uncomfortable. Instead, I offered to take him to the gift shop. Surely he had someone back home to think of, even if he didn’t speak about his home too often.
“There’s one person,” he said, his voice quiet. “I don’t know what she’d like…”
“That’s the point of shopping—to look around and see!” I said, pushing him over there. Where I was getting this energy and motivation from, I didn’t know, but it was nice. This time, he accepted and didn’t complain.
When we finally got over there, he glanced at the various items that were stocked on the shelves. There were picture frames, bobble heads, cards, a section for the cheapest little trinkets, plush dolls. Kuiora was glancing through the shelves as well, finding a totodile plush doll and hugging it tightly to herself.
“Look at this, Ezrem! This is what I used to look like! Don’t I look much tougher now?” she said, looking at him expectantly.
“Yes, yes you do,” Ezrem said, smiling at her.
Senori was following Sai, probably eager to see what he’d choose. The sentret was always watching out for our trainer, I noticed, and that was for the best, seeing as how I couldn’t properly do it myself…
Eventually, I caught up to the two of them and started following Sai, too. He was roaming the aisles, lingering at some of them and not others. He didn’t appear to be interested in anything in particular until he came across the shelf with pieces of various outdoor equipment. There were tents, pieces of sports equipment, and a shelf for all of the smaller items, like pocket knives. And that’s exactly what he picked up: a pocket knife. He held it out in his outstretched hands, turning it over and over in his palm.
“You want that for her?” I asked incredulously.
“That’s not a very girly gift, you know,” Senori said, folding his arms and smiling.
“She’s a fan of weapons,” said Sai.
“Sounds dangerous,” Senori said, his grin disappearing from his face.
“Hmm,” was all he replied with.
“Everyone’s got a secret,” Ezrem said, coming up behind me and scaring me to the point where I almost jumped. My body turned in his direction, my breath quickly accelerating at his presence. I didn’t know if there were any ill feelings about attacking his partner, and quite frankly, his cunning personality frightened me considerably.
“W-What do you mean?” I asked. I was losing my confidence rather quickly. At least I had gotten Sai to think about something other than the gym, but now Ezrem was here.
“Who knows what he really wants to do with that knife?” he said. He fluffed up his feathers and pretended like what he was saying was nothing, though the thought seemed sinister to me, even though I didn’t think Sai was a sinister person. “There’s a secret in everyone, in every place! I bet plenty of people have stolen from this mall. My old trainer used to do so when she was out of money and desperate for food!”
“W-Well, we’re not stealing anything… even though we’re low on money…” I said in Sai’s defense, though in my opinion, I was doing poorly. Apparently, Ezrem thought so, too.
“I’m just saying,” Ezrem said. “How well do you really know your trainer?”
Not very well, I thought, but kept my mouth shut.
“Ezrem, be nice,” said Kuiora, who had been listening in on the conversation and had been giggling up until now.
“I am always nice! I’m just saying that I’d like to know my trainer real well, so I’m watching Sai.”
“You’re scaring Atis.”
“It’s not my problem if he gets scared so easily,” Ezrem retorted, grinning.
“Well, I don’t care. Just shut up. You’re not even Sai’s pokemon,” Kuiora said, going back to her childish ways, though I was thankful for it.
Needless to say, Ezrem went quiet after that comment. He watched Sai like a bird always seems to watch its prey. He made sure that Sai bought the pocketknife, and that was the end of the journey in the mall, since I couldn’t bring myself to push him anywhere else.
The next day, I brought him to the flower shop because the place sounded pretty innocent compared to the mall, where there was so many things to look at and consider. Ezrem wouldn’t be able to bring me down this time.
The flower shop was at the north end of the city, so I made sure to wake them all up early, though I wanted to stay at the top of the bunk and rest a little while longer. So did Sai, as it took quite a lot of shaking to get him to finally wake up, which was odd considering he never seemed to sleep. Now it seemed that he slept too much.
On the way to the flower shop, the aroma of the city changed. Before, the city air was polluted and not very appealing when breathed in. Now, the air smelled much more pleasant and inviting, which made me feel like we were going to a good place, one where we would all feel comfortable.
Inside we discovered the source of the beautiful aroma. There was a bunch of women, each of them doing their own chores within the shop. One was water the various plants, another was placing them in a satisfactory order, another waited at the counter, looking at us expectantly. From the look on her ecstatic face, I could tell that she didn’t get many men coming into the shop.
“Would you like to buy any flowers today?” she asked sweetly, cupping her hands together and holding them behind her back.
“Maybe,” Sai said quickly, and the rest of the group seemed to take that as permission to look around and see what they wanted. Kuiora was attracted to the blue flowers immediately, with Ezrem and Rennio following close behind. Senori went to the red flowers, and I stood by the yellow ones. Sai roamed around the shop, coming to each of us at least once.
When he reached Kuiora the second time, he picked out a blue flower, bent down a bit to see her face to face, and gave it to her, smiling.
“For you,” he said.
“Why?” she said, but she was reaching out nonetheless.
“For being my pokémon, of course,” he said as she took it from him.
One by one, he came to each of us and gave us a flower from the vases that we were standing by, and thanked us for being his pokémon. He even went over to Ezrem and thanked him for joining us, which was surprising to all of us considering the past rejection, but none of us protested. Then, he went to all of the individual ladies in the store and gave them one, too, saying, “You give out flowers every day, but how many times do you have flowers given to you?”
After seeing our trainer be so kind, I had to say that I was impressed. Senori must have noticed, too, as he decided to join in on the giving atmosphere and took out a red flower for Sai, trying to hand it to him.
“I don’t deserve one, but thank you,” Sai said. He took the flower from Senori’s hand, but then put it back into the vase, where he thought he belonged. Then he went up to the counter and paid for the flowers that he had given us and the ladies.
“You should take a vase with you, too, to put them in,” the lady at the counter offered, handing an empty one to him.
“What do I do with it?” Sai asked.
“Fill it with water and put the flowers in there so they don’t die. It’s on us, since you were so kind.”
“It’s okay. You don’t have to give me this.”
“We want to!” she said, smelling the blue flower in her hand and smiling.
“Well, it’s just a vase, right? Okay,” he said, finally giving into something. “Thank you, too.”
“Our pleasure,” said the lady at the counter.
The next day, I didn’t take Sai anywhere. I decided to take a day for myself, since this idea of taking charge of my life for once was absolutely draining on me. I stayed in the bunk all day as the others lounged around and talked. Sai filled the vase he got from the flower shop with water and put all the flowers we had bought into it. It didn’t look like a pretty bouquet, as the color combination wasn’t appealing with three blue flowers, one yellow, and one red. But I lay in bed all day looking at it and I smiled to myself anyway. After being rejected by Sasha and Marty, Sai had gotten the human interaction that he so desperately needed. And maybe even more important than that, he was showing us that he appreciated us for being with him. I thought, again, about my choice to stay or go. I was cherished where I was, there was no doubt. Sai wasn’t out to maliciously harm me or anything by wanting to do pokémon training; it was his own preference, and it just happened to be a preference that was similar to most others’ in the world. I decided to just keep going with my plan, to keep spending time with Sai and the others, and then I would give myself more time to decide. This wasn’t something that I could rush. No, this wasn’t something I had to rush at all…
I thought that maybe I’d regret it later, but I took him to the casino after the flower shop. I’d heard horror stories of people becoming addicted to gambling and losing all of their money, but I thought that we had nothing left to lose, being so low on money, anyway. And Sai didn’t seem like the type to get addicted to one thing, but instead to a bunch of things.
“This place is loud,” Rennio complained the moment we got inside. And indeed, it was loud. The sound of coins clanging against each other and on machines filled the air. Victory music was playing at some machines, but not others. There was angry shouting and cries of joy all at once. Yes, this place seemed to fit Sai perfectly, since he was happy one moment and furious the next and then seemingly sad. At least he seemed interested, but he was also completely lost.
“I have no idea what to do,” he admitted sheepishly.
“You’ve never heard of a casino before, either?” Ezrem cried, trying to be heard over the musical building.
“Well, then. I know the perfect place for you to start,” Ezrem said, and I instantly forgave him for the ordeal at the shopping mall since he was choosing to take charge. He navigated the rows of games and slot machines, trying to find whatever it was that he was looking for. Eventually, we reached a table that had a wheel on top of it. The wheel consisted of black and red lines with various numbers on them. People were crowded around the table, murmuring excitedly.
“Roulette,” was all Ezrem said at first. When Sai still seemed confused, he continued, “You make bets on what color you think the ball will land on. Or you can bet on what kind of number the ball will land on. Whatever you want!”
“Sounds easy,” Sai said, walking up to the table and joining everyone else.
“Exactly!” said Ezrem, clearly proud of himself.
So Sai joined in on the next bet, with all of us sitting at the edge of table and watching intently. Most people were making complicated bets to try to get more money. They offered thirty pokédollars if the ball landed on a red number between one and eighteen, for example. But Sai focused on simplicity.
“It will land on black,” was all he said at first. When he was instructed to place money on the table to bet with, he did so, though he was reluctant. He looked at me, and I knew he was silently asking why I didn’t tell him we would be spending more money. I shrugged my shoulders, pretending that I didn’t know. The others encouraged him to put the money down anyway.
It turned out that Sai didn’t have to worry too much about money. In fact, it was the opposite. He ended up winning his first bet, and made a profit off of it. Then he won again. And again, with his simple bets. I wondered how he was so good at guessing when his chances were so low and there was no way that anyone could possibly win every time he played. Well, he did lose about once or twice, but that was it. In the end, he still made more than he lost. It reminded me of the dice he always carried around with him. When he introduced himself as my new trainer, he had instructed me to roll the dice, somehow knowing that the outcome of the roll would show a three—and sure enough, two black dots and one black dot showed up. How did he know? Was his intuition that reliable for him? As I watched him bet on red or black and win again and again, that seemed like the most plausible explanation.
I didn’t know how much Sai had earned from his adventures here at the casino, but he was smiling at the end, saying, “Now I don’t have to feel guilty for spending so much money at the daycare or at the flower shop. We can have food and a room at the pokémon center still!”
And that was all that mattered to him. He didn’t even want to leave and explore the rest of the place, he just wanted to win money at the game he was at. His childish eagerness over adult-like responsibilities made me giggle, which got me some odd looks from the others. I ignored them—was the image of a giggling hitmontop really that funny? It probably was, and the image of myself made me giggle again as we left, pokédollars still in Sai’s hands.
On the last day of our thorough exploration of Goldenrod City, I decided to take him to the radio tower. I didn’t know that it would be the last place we would be able to go. I just knew that Earl always used to listen to the radio back in Violet City, and the people on air always had something to say. There seemed to be no end to the amount of things they could share and laugh about. This, to me, was a good thing to show Sai. But my plan backfired.
Once again, I woke everyone up early because we had discovered that the radio tower was at the northern end of the city, like the flower shop. I wanted to make sure we had enough time to get to that part of the city and then browse the radio tower. Sai was more eager to get up today than he had been before, I noted, probably because of yesterday’s winning adventure.
When we arrived there, the man at the counter explained that the place was free. There wouldn’t be much to see, he said, because maintenance was being performed upstairs and we weren’t. allowed to go any higher than the first floor. Once the man let us go, we thanked him and wandered around inside. Of course, there wasn’t much to see on the first floor. The place looked like the inside of any other building. The only striking feature I could see was that the counter that the man was at extended throughout the entire room, and even more people were behind the counter, looking at us expectantly and smiling warmly. One of them wore headphones and had an interesting, complex piece of machinery in front of them, but that was about it. There were stairs leading upstairs, but we weren’t sure whether or not we could go up, despite having paid to be here.
“Well,” Sai said dumbly. “This is it.”
“I guess so…” I said, disappointed, despite the warning we had received.
“Don’t look so forlorn, boy!” called the guy who had the headphones on. “Come over here!”
Sai obeyed instantly, and the rest of us followed. We got a closer look at the machinery the guy had. There was a microphone to accompany the headphones, and the flat part of the machine had a ton of buttons and words on it to indicate what each button did. I couldn’t read any of them upside down, though.
“Hello, guys!” the man behind the counter continued. I wondered why he was talking so loud, when we were right in front of him, clearly able to hear. “Welcome to the radio tower! I know you can’t go upstairs, so you’re probably wondering why you came here…”
“Definitely,” Kuiora butted in, peaking her head up over the counter. I winced.
“Well, you may not be able to look around the rest of the place, but you can get your spot on the radio right here! See this jar we have here?” he said, pointing to it. I hadn’t noticed it before. It was a small jar that had some pokédollars in it. “If you pay a small amount of money, I’ll record your voice so it appears on the radio. You can say just about anything you want!”
“Anything we want?” said Ezrem, who was now peering next to Kuiora.
“Well, almost anything. You must be appropriate, of course!”
“Nevermind,” said Ezrem, backing down from the counter.
“What about the rest of you? Some people just like to vent and complain, others say hi to their families, others talk about their pokémon… Why, just the other day, someone even came here just to mention that they had seen a Team Rocket member floating around the city recently,” he said, his voice growing quieter.
I could feel Sai tense up next to me almost instantly.
“T-Team Rocket?” he said.
“Yeah, the group of bad guys that took over—”
“I’m sorry, but we need to go now,” Sai said. He was turned around and walking before he was even done speaking. The man watched him go along with the rest of us.
“Are you guys confused? Because I’m confused,” Senori said to break the silence.
“Well, what are we waiting for? We have to listen to him! Let’s go!” Kuiora said, pulling along Ezrem, who pulled on one of the plugs on top of Rennio’s head.
Senori and I listened to her, knowing better than to deny her wishes. Senori waved good-bye to the man behind the counter and apologized for his trainer’s behavior.
When we were back out in the city air, we struggled to keep up. Since Kuiora, Ezrem, and Rennio got a head start, they had an easier time following Sai back to the pokémon center. We tried not to lose them, all the while wondering what was happening to Sai this time.
“Do you know what’s wrong with him?” Senori asked me, then started running on all fours, seeing that his thoughts were keeping us further and further behind. I shook my head and started running.
At the pokémon center, it was at least easy to find our room from the front lobby, since we’d gone done that hallway several times before. This time, though, none of us could get in because the door was locked. We all sat outside in complete silence, none of us daring to disturb our trainer. Eventually, though, Sai showed his face again.
“Atis?” he said, peering out into the hallway through a small crack in the door.
“Y-Yes?” I said, trying to stand up, but my feet were wobbly. I was the one responsible for this situation, yet I didn’t know how to take full responsibility. The idea was unfavorable to me, to say the least.
“Come in here, please,” he said softly, which calmed my nerves a bit, but not by much. I stumbled over Kuiora’s tail and she squealed. I apologized lamely, thinking now that neither the hallway nor the room was where I wanted to be. Sai seemed like the least threatening, so I just went into the room and quickly shut the door behind me before Kuiora could yell at me.
“Atis,” Sai said again.
I simply nodded, afraid to speak.
“I’m sorry, but we’ll have to go to the gym as soon as possible now. Forget the appointment,” Sai went on. “These people are following me. I just know it.”
“W-Who’s… following you, Sai?” I dared to ask.
Sai was quiet, then he spoke after a few moments: “Do you want to be closer to me or something? Are you feeling like the others are getting more attention or something? I didn’t know. You should have told me.”
I looked up, caught off guard. “N-No, that’s not—”
“I don’t know how to be close to people. Or pokémon, for that matter,” he said solemnly, ignoring me. “I’m not allowed to be close to anyone, so it’s fine. I guess. But if that’s what you want…”
I waited for him to go on, but he didn’t. He looked at me, his dark blue eyes full of sadness. The panic that he was in at the radio tower had vanished.
He went over to the bed and started rummaging through his backpack. He pulled out a marker, which I didn’t even know he had. It made me think that there was no end to the amount of things in his backpack, just like there was no end to the things to the radio.
“I use it to practice writing sometimes,” he said. “I don’t know what to do. It might sound weird, I know. I don’t know. We can share a secret about each other, all right? You share one secret, and I’ll share one of mine. You can read my secret, but I won’t read yours. You can write it on my back, and I’ll write yours on a piece of paper, since you don’t wear shirts.”
“Um,” was all I could think to say. A secret? About me? About my trainer? I had mixed feelings, as I usually did. I had never told anyone a secret about me since I was too shy. But it would be nice to know my trainer a bit more, and maybe it could help me make my decision…
“This could make us feel closer, you know? Since that’s what you want,” Sai went on. He went over to the table in the corner of the room, and picked up the piece of paper that had been lying there since the day we rented out the room. It had all of the pokémon center’s housing rules on it, but he took the marker and wrote over the words. Soon, I would be able to read those words, whatever they were. I noted that it took him a long time to write, as if writing each letter was agonizing for him.
When he was done, he took off his shirt. Since Earl had always told me I shouldn’t look at his body out of self-consciousness, I turned to look away from Sai as well. But then Sai came closer to me and bent down, making it hard to not see him. He handed me the marker and nodded.
“This is…” I said, trailing off. I didn’t know how to put it. It was weird, writing on a human’s back, was it not? Would it stay there forever? What if someone else saw? Couldn’t I just not write a secret, and Sai would never know?
But Sai seemed so calm compared to his panicky demeanor at the radio tower. I wanted to keep him calm. So I took the marker and wrote on his back as quickly as I could to get the awkwardness over with. I didn’t even have to think about what I wrote: I wish I was human.
Yes, I did wish I was a human. If I were human, I would do my absolute best to get rid of my shy demeanor. I’d travel the entire world, see what each city and town had to offer. I’d meet all the great kinds of people out there, and all the terrible kinds of people, too. I wouldn’t have pokémon to protect me; I’d protect myself. And as I traveled, I’d find out what I wanted to do with the rest of my life.
I wished the same for Sai.
I had believed that I had done a good job of finally forcing myself to do something I wanted in life. I had believed that I was doing a good thing for Sai by showing him around the city, proving him that there was more to like than the pokémon that constantly followed him around. Perhaps I had been wrong, because now he was being paranoid. Now he seemed to be crazy again, thinking someone was stalking him, watching his every move. This seemed completely illogical to me, but there was nothing I could say to prove it to him. All I could think was that, at the end of the day, his life revolved around this journey for the gym badges. To him, there was nothing else, and though it bothered me, I couldn’t change him. His emotions and passion were fierce, his eyes set on one goal and one goal only. Still, I would wait out my decision. It wasn’t anything that I had to declare right now, and truthfully, I was afraid of deciding, anyway.
To thankfully distract me, Sai handed me the piece of paper he had written on, and turned to look away from me. I went to read it, both terrified and drawn to the idea at the same time—
I am always sick.
It's quite long, and I like it. :D
I like Atis showing his trainer around.
Wonder why Sai's "running away" from Team Rocket though. :\
chapter 13 ; [RENNIO]
I had only been with Sai for a few days now, and already I could spot the many differences between him and Annie. For one, Sai was just weird. He’d never seen a movie before? Annie couldn’t leave a city without watching at least one. He bought knives as gifts? Okay, Annie might have done that, too, but I always thought she was silly for it, while she said it was a joke. Sai was clearly serious. And then there was the part where Sai fled out of nowhere! He seemed so easily frightened, and Annie was fearless. Were the two of them even from the same planet? It didn’t seem very likely.
Despite this, he was a good trainer—he kept us fed, sheltered, and was guilty when he felt he couldn’t take care of us. And I was glad to learn more about him. I was always glad to learn something about people. I had much to learn about the world, I knew, and being with this new team was helping me. I also learned more about religion thanks to Kuiora and her constantly following of Ezrem. She worshipped him, no doubt. I didn’t know how Ezrem was so special, though, but I didn’t say anything. And I learned that Atis was quiet, but I still have yet to figure out why. I hope someday to get him to talk to me.
Senori, he told me his story about his old clan after I told him about Annie. We had been walking to the north side of town, to the flower shop that day.
“So there are others out there like me,” I said to him, trying to cheer him up after he kept looking down to the ground solemnly.
“What do you mean?” he said, peering up.
“There are pokémon—and probably people—out there who carry around an endless amount of guilt, and try to hide it,” I said. “It feels good to be understood, to say the least. I don’t think I’ve ever felt understood before…”
“Well,” Senori started, “if you ever need someone to talk to, I’m here. I like to take care of others, so you’re on the right team.”
I thought so, too.
Over the past few days, the idea of the team being carried around by a ton of pain had… slightly gone away. With Senori and me, there was clearly a lot of pain. There was pain with Ezrem, too, but he hid it a lot better. And there was clearly something bothering Atis and Kuiora and Sai, but they showed me that they could forget about their suffering under the right circumstances. In their cases, they needed proper distractions, and then they seemed fine. I wondered how they felt, then, when reality came crashing down on them.
I decided to figure it out on my own rather than asking. Asking could be too personal, after all. “So what is it like to be happy, and then have your life come flying back into view out of nowhere?” I wanted to know, but that wouldn’t go over too well. So I kept an eye on the people and pokémon around as we went from place to place every day. I kept mental notes to myself, notes about every happy instance that I saw.
A little green pokémon that looked suspiciously like one of the plush dolls we saw helped an older lady find her way to the shopping mall, as she was obviously lost, what with her going around in circles and everything. The little green pokémon helped the lady, and then went back to her trainer, receiving praise. That was happiness, I thought, being able to help others in their time of need. But who could I help at this moment? Senori was supposed to help me, so that didn’t make sense. I didn’t know the others well enough yet to determine whether they needed me. So I tried to lead Ezrem to all the places that we went to, tried to stay in front of him and tell him to follow me, but he brushed me off, scoffing each and every time. Still, I was glad to be with him.
Something else I saw: a human saying hello to everyone and anyone he passed by on the street. Those he said hi to had originally been staring down at the ground rather emotionlessly, but as soon as they were acknowledged, they had a giant smile on their faces. I started saying hello to everyone, too. The pokémon I said hello to waved or said hello back, while the humans just looked at me, confused. I stopped once Kuiora told me that not every human was like Sai, that not all of them could understand pokémon—but it was an interesting experience for me nonetheless.
Finally, I saw a most peculiar thing: a pokémon carrying another pokémon. The larger pokémon, the one who was doing the carrying, almost looked like a human, but its skin was blue in color, and it wasn’t wearing any clothes aside from a black belt around its waist. Its muscles were also fairly big compared to a human’s. The smaller pokémon was a simple purple rodent. My best guess was that it was injured somehow, probably from battle. Well, I could certainly sympathize with the rodent, and I left it at that.
The rest of the city seemed sad, or emotionless, somehow.
So, what did I learn in Goldenrod City? I learned that people came and went… They interacted with each other, sometimes on a superficial level, and sometimes on a deeper level that only the people in question could understand… But why they interacted with others, I could only guess. Maybe it was to ease themselves in thinking they were important. Maybe they just liked the way others made them feel. And maybe they did it because they simply felt they had to, like it was a rule that all humans faced.
In the end, I knew the truth: Annie was gone. I was still coming to terms with it, and it was hard, when everything reminded me of her. Even the way that the city air smelled reminded me of the many other places we had been. But there was nothing that I could do to bring her back, as much as I wanted to. There was nothing I could do to erase the fire, to erase our search for a new trainer, to erase the surprise and grief that accompanied us fully. All I had were memories to think of from time to time, when I felt I could handle it. So now I knew: when reality crashed back down on me, it felt like… being kissed by her ghost—as if she were kissing me on the cheek, calling me her baby, like she used to—and having her promising me that the distance between us was nothing.
It didn’t take long, though, for my suffering to increase tenfold…
Originally, Sai had planned for the gym battle to take place in two weeks. Two weeks! That gave me plenty of time to try to prepare mentally, in case he wanted me to fight. And while looking for happy pokémon and people, that’s partly what I did. Happiness could maybe keep the nerves from getting to me when the time came. I wished that I could say I was sure, but it had been far too long since I battled. The last time I had battled was against Ezrem when he had said something to offend me—whatever it was had escaped my mind now that I had forgiven him—and he knew better than anyone about my fear, so he went easy on me…
That wasn’t very likely to happen in a gym battle, against two people who were very, very determined to defeat each other. Then again, I hadn’t seen Sai’s fighting style, nor much of the Johto region’s gym leader. I just didn’t know what to think.
Needless to say, I was surprised when Sai announced that we would be going to the pokémon gym the day after we visited the radio tower. A while after calling Atis inside by himself for whatever reason, he gathered us all back into the room and sat us down to talk about it.
“After today, I’ve decided to forget about the appointment and just go,” he explained.
“But why?” I couldn’t help but blurt out. Maybe it was childish of me—no, it definitely was—but it just wasn’t fair!
“I know you’re new, Rennio, so you don’t know, right? We’ve been flying through the cities up until now. We’ve gotten the last two gym badges without problem. So we have to continue doing that, okay?” he said, trying to be reassuring. My nervousness must have been shining through somehow.
I thought that Ezrem would say something in protest, but apparently he didn’t think it was his place to speak. And none of the other pokémon said anything, either—they were used to this already, and accepted it for what it was.
But I couldn’t accept it. That night, I lay in the bottom bunk with everyone else, too anxious to sleep. And I wasn’t even sure if Sai would use me in battle or not! But what if he did? What if he used me in battle after all and I got hurt? What if I got injured so badly that I died, or had to be carried like that purple rodent? Who would carry me, then, and help me? Was there any help for me? There was just no telling what would happen to me tomorrow, and it killed me.
I huddled up next to Ezrem, wishing for Annie’s warmth, and didn’t sleep at all.
In the morning, we went to the Goldenrod City pokémon gym… just as planned. I tried to distract myself by finding more happy things in people and pokémon outside, but we were going far too fast for me to be able to pay attention to others and still keep up with everyone else. When we got there, I was more nervous than ever.
Next distraction: the inside of the building. It almost felt like a maze, and an inviting one at that! Like the flower shop, the aroma inside was nice. Several plants lined the walls and the ground, and the walls were colored white with various shades of pink. Every time we walked to the end of a path and turned onto a new one, we hoped it was the last path that we’d have to go through, but they never seemed to end. I would have been okay with that.
As luck would have it, we eventually reached the end of the… maze. It didn’t really feel like a maze anymore by the time we were done with it. It was too straightforward to be one. But as any path promises, we reached our destination and received our prize for it: the gym leader. She looked very young with that smile of hers, just like Annie had, and she almost blended in with the walls with her pink hair, her pink shorts, and her tight white shirt. It wasn’t much of a distraction, but I vaguely wondered what kind of pokémon she specialized in. I would soon find out, I supposed.
“You’re back already?” she said in a sing song voice. “I thought we had set up an appointment. Not that many trainers set up appointments, anyway, but, you know.”
“Yeah…” Sai said, rubbing the back of his head. “I’d like to just battle now, Whitney. If that’s possible, of course…”
“Well, does it look like I’m busy?” Whitney retorted, spreading her arms out as if she was encouraging us to look around. All I saw were more plants, more walls. “We can battle now if that’s what you really want.”
My heart fell, but Sai’s smile was wide.
“Thank you so much,” he said.
“Sure. It’ll be a two on two battle. Get over to that wall, and we’ll battle right here,” she instructed.
“Okay,” Sai said. He turned and motioned for all of us to back up, which we did. When we were against the wall, I knew it was time for him to pick which pokémon he was going to use. “Kuiora”—I let out a breath I didn’t know I had been holding—“do you want to battle first? I know you like to fight.”
“Yes! I do, I do!” she said immediately, and jumped back forward into the arena.
“All right, then, let’s get started,” Whitney said, smiling now. She reached behind her and pulled forth a pokéball. She didn’t say who was going to be choice of pokémon as she threw it forward. Perhaps not so surprisingly, a small, pink pokémon emerged from the ball. Yes, the pokémon was all pink, and it seemed exuberant over the fact with the hearty smile on its face and with its body dancing over to the middle of the arena.
“Clefairy!” it cried.
“I don’t know what that is,” Sai admitted, “so, uh, Kuiora, you can start off however you want.”
“Too lazy to think of an opening strategy? That’s not going to help you win!” Whitney cried, putting her hands on her hips. “Clefairy, use encore when you get the chance.”
I simply watched the battle, wondering what move Kuiora would use and have to repeat. Encore was a nasty, deceptive move, I knew, having had teammates be the victims of its manipulation once or twice.
Kuiora looked like she wasn’t going to do anything at first, but then she pulled her body back, preparing for an attack. When her body lurched forward, she also released a massive stream of water from her mouth, and it was headed straight for the clefairy. The clefairy jumped to the left in an attempt to dodge it. When Kuiora simply moved her jaw in the direction of the clefairy’s location, the pink pokémon jumped to the right. Kuiora kept moving her body and the clefairy kept dancing around like this until the croconaw got fed up and stopped.
“Why did you stop?” cried the clefairy. “It was such a good move! Please do it again!”
“What?” Kuiora asked, dumbfounded. “You thought it was a good move? It didn’t even hit you!”
“So? The water was so pretty.”
“Uh, Kuiora—” Sai said, probably understanding now where this was going.
“Fine,” she said, not listening. “I’ll do it again!”
And she did exactly that. She did it the same way as she had done before, right down to the part where she had to keep chasing the clefairy by turning her jaw in the direction of the pink pokémon’s jumps. This time, however, the clefairy jumped not only to the left and right, but also forward—and eventually, it became close enough to become a threat to Kuiora. Despite this, Kuiora did not stop the attack.
“Clefairy, doubleslap!” cried Whitney.
Since the clefairy was close enough, it took its tiny pink paws and scratched at Kuiora’s face, immediately stopping the flow of water emerging from her mouth. The clefairy did this over and over, on both sides of Kuiora’s face. Due to the tiny claws on its paws, the clefairy was able to draw a little bit of blood from Kuiora.
“Kuiora, punch it back so it stops hitting you!” Sai cried.
“Clefairy, keep using encore,” Whitney said calmly.
“That’s… not… going to happen again!” Kuiora said in between slaps, and finally she pulled her arm back and punched the clefairy in the belly, sending it flying backward. The opponent’s pokémon landed on its feet, but just barely, as it was putting its paws against the ground to help keep composure.
“But the water was so pretty,” the clefairy whined, dusting itself off.
“Of course it’s pretty! It’s my attack,” Kuiora said, grinning wildly. Still, she knew this was no time to be joking around, and she got right back down to business shortly after, her face turning serious. She stood there in battle position, presumably waiting for a command from Sai.
“Oh,” Sai said. “Well, water gun isn’t working, huh? Try bite!”
“Okay!” Kuiora said, making me wonder how she could be so silly and so serious at the same time. I wondered about that regarding myself, often, as that’s how Ezrem described me—but it was another thing entirely to see it happening in another pokémon. I kept watching, intrigued by her—and Sai’s—battling style. Sai, it seemed, didn’t like to be too involved; he liked being a spectator, just like me.
Kuiora leapt forward, dashing straight toward the clefairy, who simply stood there, also waiting for a command.
“Use sing, Clefairy!” cried Whitney, a hint of franticness in her voice now. Apparently, that encore trick worked a lot longer in the past.
The clefairy had started the song before Whitney had even finished calling out her command. It sang a song that sounded suspiciously like a lullaby I had heard in the past. Just when I thought things couldn’t get any worse, my heart fell further, as it reminded me of Annie.
As far as the battle went… The attack was meant to put Kuiora to sleep, but it didn’t have an effect on the croconaw. Either the clefairy didn’t have the time to sing enough of the song, or Kuiora was beyond determined to fulfill our trainer’s commands. She reached the clefairy rather quickly, opened her jaw, and clamped down on top of the clefairy’s head, immediately causing the pink pokémon’s lovely voice to be replaced by shrieking. This seemed to cause Kuiora to only bite harder, as the shrieking grew louder and louder over time. Eventually, the shrieking was reduced to crying, and Kuiora let go, leaping backward and surveying the damage.
“Clefairy, are you okay?” yelled Whitney. She looked like she was going to run into the arena, but stopped herself just in time.
“Yeesh… It hurts…” the clefairy said, rubbing the top of its head, staining its hands with a tiny bit of blood. I decided never to get on Kuiora’s bad side, as her teeth seemed too powerful for me to handle.
“Let’s keep going, clefairy! You can do it. Take your chances and use metronome!”
Surprisingly, I had never heard of this move before. I watched with interest as the clefairy did its best to recover and stand its ground. It took its bloodied hands and lifted them up in the air. Then it started moving its fingers in unison back and forth, back and forth. It did this for a long time, so long that I came to the conclusion that it was just a move to regain composure and focus one’s mind.
“Um, okay,” Sai said, apparently having similar thoughts. “Use bite again, Kuiora!”
Kuiora nodded and made her way over to her opponent, slower this time, probably not seeing the clefairy as much of a threat this time around. Once Kuiora reached the clefairy, she opened her mouth and was about to attack when the clefairy suddenly split into two. When Kuiora clamped her jaw down, the clefairy she was biting down on turned out to only be an illusion, one that disappeared just as quickly as it came.
“What?” she cried. She looked around. The clefairy had split again and again, and now a total of five pink pokémon were surrounding Kuiora on the arena.
Whitney laughed and said, “You already know double team, Clefairy! But I guess it works. Use metronome again!”
“Kuiora, find the real one, and fast!” Sai yelled as he was starting to finally see how dangerous the situation could turn out to be.
Kuiora went to each clefairy, one by one, and attempted to punch each in the stomach. The illusions disappeared, and she could tell she was running out of time as all of the illusions—and the real one—were waving their fingers around again. She went through three of them before the clefairy’s fingers glowed brightly. I heard the familiar cackling of electricity coming from the arena, and closed my eyes in response. I knew what was going to happen next; I didn’t need to watch. I didn’t hear Kuiora cry out, but I did hear her fall to the ground with a thud. Only then did I dare to open my eyes and see that she had fainted.
“Wow. A thundershock attack against a water-type! Yeah, how lucky!” Whitney said, confirming my thoughts. I let out a sigh of relief, glad that the thundershock attack was over. It had shaken me up inside, reminding me of my past battles, and how I had shocked others and been shocked myself. It was never fun, or fulfilling, or enlightening, or whatever pokémon battles were supposed to be.
“Whatever. I bet you knew it was going to an electric-type attack,” Sai said bitterly, returning Kuiora to her pokéball. He placed it in the backpack, which he had taken off and set behind him. “I guess that means I need someone who’s resistant to electricity…”
I froze. I had the vague notion that I should curse Ezrem for being a flying-type pokémon, but that wouldn’t have been fair. I knew what was coming, and there was nothing I could do to stop it. There was nothing I could do in any situation, it seemed.
“I want you to fight,” Sai said, turning to me.
“What?” I blurted out. Stupidly.
“I want you to fight,” he repeated.
“But—” I stopped myself, wondering what I could say. I didn’t know enough about the metronome attack to argue. In my haste, I tried to reason. “Whitney said that it was lucky, right? Right? That means—oh man—that the clefairy can use any attack out there… Any attack… Ground-type attacks… Oh, oh…”
The more and more I thought about it, the more devastated I became. I was about to be put up against an enemy that could use any attack in the world! One stroke of bad luck and I could surely be killed! I couldn’t face that.
Then again, I couldn’t put any of my teammates in that situation either. Now, I decided to curse the gym leader for having such a dangerous pokémon on her team. That just wasn’t fair! It wasn’t! Surely it was against the rules. I peered over at Ezrem, who only nodded to me.
But that was all I could say.
“You should fight, Rennio! For our new trainer!” he said. He was trying to be reassuring, but I could tell that he didn’t have much hope for me. I didn’t know how I knew. It was a hunch of sorts that I couldn’t deny.
“But it’s been so long! And the gym leader has t-two pokémon left!” I cried, flailing my arms around.
“Please,” said Sai. “I need someone who won’t get hurt by electricity.”
“But the clefairy can use attacks other than electric-type attacks!” I cried, but Sai just wasn’t getting it.
“If you won’t fight for Sai,” Ezrem said loudly, “then you should fight for Annie.”
Annie. That hit me, and it hit me hard. Even though she considered me her baby, I knew she wouldn’t want me to act like one forever. She’d want me to grow and be strong and proud. I just couldn’t do that, not when I was the last elekid in the world, not when my species’ continuation depended on me.
But apparently, Sai took my quietness as a sign of surrender, as he said, “Okay. My elekid will fight.”
And apparently, Ezrem took my time to think as a sign of surrender, too, as he pushed me into the arena and left with a cheery “Good luck!”
I didn’t even have the energy to yell at him, to call him a jerk. Because that’s what he was being. A jerk! A real jerk… And what was I being?
“All right,” Whitney said. “Clefairy, use doubleslap!”
The clefairy was coming my way now. I knew that I had to get myself together, and fast. In reality, I knew I could win this battle. I had seen enough moves and strategies and battles for me to put something together quickly and come out as the victor. I had been on a journey long enough for me to have evolved into an electivire by now, though I hadn’t done that because Annie didn’t want a team of evolved pokémon. Yes, I knew that I could win, and easily. I wouldn’t die, or even come close to it. Still, I was frozen.
I was still frozen as the clefairy came up and hit me in the cheeks, over and over again. There was hardly any pain; the clefairy wasn’t that strong, which again told me I could win, and that I wouldn’t die. But there was another pokémon to fight after this! Even if I mustered up the strength to fight the clefairy, I’d have to do it all over again whenever the second pokémon came out. I just couldn’t handle that. So I stood there.
“Elekid, use your own thundershock!” Sai cried.
My first command from Sai. And I wasn’t going to be able to follow it. I continued to let the clefairy hit me, and pretended it hurt. In some ways, it did hurt. It hurt my pride, what little of it I had left. It hurt my species, and the image of strength that I believed we had… I tried to imagine being the clefairy as it used its thundershock. I tried to remember the feeling of releasing the neverending amount of electricity from my body. But I was so detached from myself that I couldn’t imagine it.
“Thundershock!” Sai said again, his voice louder this time.
I vaguely heard Ezrem’s voice, too, cheering me on. Then, I heard everyone’s voice. They were all trying to encourage me to fight, but it wasn’t going to work. I could barely hear them above my own thoughts.
I tried to imagine what it was like to be another elekid or electabuzz or electivire in their time of dying. Did it hurt? What move had finished them off? Or was it an accident? What happened when you died, anyway? What would happen to our legacy if I died and didn’t fulfill my goal to keep the species alive? It was times like these where I wished it was just all over already, so I wouldn’t have to bother trying.
Finally, I tried to imagine Annie… What her face would look like if she were here right now… I saw the fire, and the smoke, and the faces those guards made when I showed up at the end of Ilex Forest… It all haunted me, and perhaps it always would.
I knew—it all came down to one thing: I just wasn’t ready to move on. I just wasn’t ready to try.
“I forfeit,” Sai suddenly said. “I forfeit! Stop hitting him!”
The clefairy ceased its slapping session and stepped back. It smiled at me, but it was a painful smile, not a victorious smile. I wondered how pathetic it thought I was, and then decided I didn’t want to know. I bowed, turned around, and made my way back to my... new trainer, my new team.
“I should have listened to you,” Sai said as I walked back. He put his hands on the sides of his head. “Why don’t I ever listen to anyone? Why do people always tell me what to do?”
“It’s okay. It’s not your fault,” I said, suddenly feeling more terrible. I had been thinking far too much during the battle, but not once had I thought about Sai. Since he was my new trainer, I wanted to please him, I really did, but now I had done nothing but fail him and cause him to question himself.
“It is my fault! They always tell me that it’s my fault—”
“Who does?” Senori chimed in.
“They always do! And now, I’m not listening, so they’re following me!” Sai cried, shaking his head.
I looked at the team, hoping that they knew him well enough by now to know what to do when Sai got in these situations. But no one did anything, no one said anything. How could they not know? Then, I turned to Whitney, wondering if her knowledge of being a gym leader could help somehow. But she looked like she was about to cry, she was staring at us so sadly.
“I need to go,” Sai said, turning around. He walked around the corner, going back through the maze that we came through. He even forgot his backpack.
“Let’s go,” Senori said, leading us all to the maze as well after picking up the bag. When we reached the corner, though, we could hear him running instead of walking now. We started chasing after him, but when we reached the entrance to the gym, he had already left.
“He’s probably going back to the pokémon center,” Senori offered.
So we started heading there.
“Rennio, you really gotta learn to fight again sometime,” Ezrem said on the way back. I knew that he was going to say something, but I didn’t want it to be now. Couldn’t he tell that I felt horrible about what happened? Couldn’t he tell that I was still shaken up?
“I know,” I said quietly.
“Really, I meant what I said! You gotta do it for Annie. But now, more importantly, you’ve got to do it for Sai. He’s our new trainer! He can give us the happiness we’ve always dreamed of! But we can’t just get it for free,” Ezrem said, his voice turning calmer now. “We have to work for it. Okay?”
“I know.” My voice was barely above a whisper.
“Okay. We’ll work on it. I know you can do it,” Ezrem said, and that was the end of that. The rest of the journey to the pokémon center was uneventful and quiet.
We all thought that we’d find Sai locked in his room again, and we all thought that we’d have to sit outside in the hallway again. Senori knocked on the door over and over when we got to the room. But he didn’t answer. He wasn’t there.
“Where else could he be?” Senori said, talking to himself more than he was talking to us.
“Maybe the radio tower,” Atis offered.
“A good idea.”
But he wasn’t there either, despite the emotional reaction he had had there yesterday. He wasn’t at the flower shop, giving flowers to everyone. He wasn’t at the shopping mall, browsing and buying crazy things. We tried other places in the town, places we hadn’t explored yet. We tried searching all day.
…I never expected it to happen so soon.
I’m not talking about fighting, though that was unexpected, too. I’m talking about losing my trainer once more.
Sai, we couldn’t find him anywhere.
chapter 14 ; [SENORI]
We thoroughly searched the city and its outskirts for two days before we… stopped. I don’t want to say that we gave up, but it almost felt that way. It seemed that we had accepted the fact that Sai was erratic, and to find any sort of predictability in his life was impossible and a waste of time. So we stopped searching—or gave up—all the while hoping that he would come back to us, and soon.
Though we had settled on having him find us, I of course was worried about him and his health. Surely, a human thinking that other humans following him wasn’t a good sign. There was that and the fact that he had left his backpack behind, so where he could go without access to money—and therefore human food—was beyond me. And hadn’t he said his home was in Vermilion City? That was in another region entirely! There was no way he would be going so far away to see that female friend or family member of his, but then… where else could he have gone? Nothing made sense to me.
But I didn’t have much time to think about Sai, because while we waiting for him to get over whatever spell he was going through, we had to figure out how to take care of ourselves. For the first day, things were easy. Since Sai had left his backpack behind, we had access to the room key and were able to stay in the pokémon center room. All I had to do was climb on Kuiora’s back and insert the key into the lock, and we were inside, even after a few unsuccessful tries on my part.
In one of our many group discussions, it was suggested that we try backtracking and going to Azalea Town, but it was too risky. What if Sai came back while we were gone? The idea of going to the next city, where no one had ever gone before, was worse. Besides, it was even riskier to separate and not be able to keep an eye out on each other—it was especially worrisome for the younger pokémon like Kuiora and Rennio. The only ones capable of taking care of them were me, Ezrem, and Atis. But I had so painfully learned that I couldn’t be in two places at the same time, I wouldn’t be able to trust Ezrem when I was so far away from him, and Atis didn’t seem too interested in the job anyway. I decided it, then: we would stay in Goldenrod City.
The next problem had us questioning whether or not we would be staying in the pokémon center until Sai came back, or if we would have to settle for temporarily living as wild pokémon again.
“I don’t want to be spending all of Sai’s money,” I said, “but I want him to have a place where he can look for us when he comes back.”
“If he comes back,” Kuiora said.
I shot her a look and said, “He’ll come back.”
“How do you know?”
I didn’t know, but I had to believe in him. I had to believe that this journey wasn’t all for nothing and that it wasn’t going to crash so easily. “I just know,” I said.
“Well,” Kuiora said, “I don’t care what we do, but it’d be cool to know what it’s like to be a wild pokémon.”
“You don’t want to know,” Rennio said rather solemnly. He was probably still feeling guilty, and I didn’t blame him.
“No one else has anything to add?” I said, trying to keep things on topic.
“I-I think we should stay here… for now,” Atis said.
“Yeah… This is a big city, and it’ll be a lot harder to find him when we’re out in the wild…” Atis replied.
“Fair enough,” Senori said. “In that case, I say we should stay here for five days. That seems like a reasonable amount of time, right? If he’s not back in five days, then we’ll leave.”
No one protested or offered any other possible solutions.
And just as I had suggested, we waited for five days. Amidst all the curious thoughts I had about Sai, I tried to take care of everyone. If anyone wanted to be out of the room—which was fairly often, as our personalities liked to clash so much—the pokémon that wanted to leave had to make sure that someone was still there, just in case Sai came back. For food and water, we used what Sai’s backpack had available; there was plenty to spread around. We passed the time mostly by sleeping, and there was the occasional teasing between Atis, Kuiora, and Ezrem. I thought that I even heard Rennio crying at some point, but I didn’t want to intrude. He needed time to heal, I knew.
Yes, we waited for five days… but Sai didn’t show up.
Needless to say, it was unfavorable to all of us when I said that we were going to leave the pokémon center room and return to the wild for now. We were bored and antsy and confused and we just wanted our trainer to be back, but we had to make the best out of our situation.
That was when Ezrem spoke up.
“Who said that you get to be in charge here?” he said.
“W-What?” I said, not expecting that from him at all. Even though I didn’t trust him, I didn’t expect him to have anything against me.
“I asked you what makes you think you get to be the boss of everyone.”
“Well,” I said, pausing because I really didn’t know, I really didn’t deserve it, “no one else wants the position, do they?”
“I do,” said Ezrem, standing up and walking over to me. “I’ll be the new leader.”
“You?” I said. “You’re not even officially on the team!”
“I can make a better leader than you.”
“You think so? How?”
“I’ve been with a trainer a lot longer than you, so I know what to do in dangerous situations,” he explained. After a moment, he added, “Plus, when we met, I gave you good advice on how to win that battle, so you owe me.”
“You may have been with a trainer longer, but you haven’t been with our trainer as long as I have. I was Sai’s first pokémon!” I said proudly. I could feel Kuiora’s subsequent glare.
“We should stay here. It’d be safer! What are you going to do if an extra strong pokémon attacks us? Huh?”
I thought for a moment before saying, “The pokémon around the forest are weaker, we already know that. We could stay there.”
“What about food and water?”
“We have food and water in Sai’s backpack still. And we know how to get food in the wild. Is that what you’re afraid of? You don’t know how to be a good wild pokémon, so you want to hide?” I said, grinning.
“That’s not it. I just think it’s a dumb idea!”
“Look, Sai’s money is not ours to spend. We need to save it for when he has to buy us stuff. And what are we going to do when we run out of food and water? We can’t go buying food like a human can. We were lucky that Sai had paid for the five nights we’ve spent here already!”
“And what are you going to do when a trainer comes along and tries to catch us?”
“I’m not worried about that. We’re strong, and can’t be caught by pokéballs,” I said, feeling more confident in myself when Ezrem didn’t say anything in response. “Now, I think everyone should have an escort that stays with them. This should keep everyone safe, especially when you want to wander off and do whatever.”
“Fine,” Ezrem said, smiling now and going back to sit with the others. “I’ll let you be the leader if I get to go with Kuiora.”
“Really?” Kuiora squealed.
“That’s fine,” I said. I looked at Rennio and Atis. Both of them had been mostly quiet until now, but it was time to get their input. “I’d like to take Rennio with me, so I can protect him if needed. Is that okay with you, Atis? You’re strong enough to handle yourself, right?”
“Right,” Atis said immediately, and I could tell he was thankful for my decision to put him alone.
“Okay, then Rennio is coming with me. Is that fine?”
“Yeah,” Rennio said simply, looking down. I could tell he felt ashamed, and perhaps a little upset that he wasn’t with Ezrem. I looked over to the bird to see if he had any reaction to the pairings, but he was busy talking with the croconaw.
“Good,” I said softly. “Then let’s go.”
If Ezrem was good for anything, it was for deciding where to stay while we were in the wild, because he had brought up a good point, after all: strong pokémon could be out there. Staying near the forest was out best bet. So I took everyone to the outskirts of the forest, a little bit past the daycare center. Kuiora suggested that we stay at the daycare center for the time being, but I explained that that, too, would cost money that wasn’t ours to spend.
And so began our journey into the wild once more. If I was being honest, it did feel strange to be back right where I started. Still, I had to continue believing that Sai would return when he was ready, no matter how long it took. He was my trainer, and he wouldn’t just abandon us like that.
It was amusing, at least, watching Kuiora try to be a wild pokemon. I second guessed my decision to let her be paired together with Ezrem, noting his deceitful nature, but he seemed to genuinely help her out. I had suggested that they try to avoid the food and water in the backpack and try to earn it out in the open, so that they always had something to come back to if they were desperate. Surprisingly, they listened, so now Ezrem was teaching her that drinking out of ponds and rivers was the only way to get water, aside from having her shoot out water guns, of course. And since killing wild pokémon for food was apparently against his personal beliefs, Ezrem and Kuiora explored the area to find out where the best berries were, and he taught her how to choose which ones were good to eat.
“This isn’t fair. I have to be a wild pokémon again? I’m sick of these berries and gross pond water!” Ezrem said once, but I knew he was just making excuses so he could devour the food and water in the backpack, so I laughed at him.
“Don’t laugh at Ezrem,” Kuiora said seriously.
“You should choose your battles more wisely,” I said, remembering how Kuiora had recently confronted Ezrem to stick up for Atis.
“Whatever you say.”
I laughed again. Whatever I said, huh? I admitted that I liked when everyone followed my rules, my directions. It made me feel like a leader again. Granted, I had always felt like the leader of this team, since Sai seemed incapable of taking care of himself sometimes, but now, this only confirmed my self-centered thoughts and made me feel as if I were truly back with my clan once again. Still, I hoped Sai would return, because a part of me felt lost without him.
Atis stuck to himself, which wasn’t a shock at all. Occasionally, he tried to help out Kuiora when Ezrem could only laugh at her for whatever reason, so that was nice to see. But otherwise, he stayed in between the trees and kept himself hidden, and he slept by himself, as usual.
As for Rennio and me… Well, it was a quiet adventure. That was the best way I could put it. I just couldn’t get many words out of him, no matter how much I tried to make small talk. He knew what he was doing, however. He knew how to pick berries, where to get water, and he followed all the rules I put on him—the ones that said we should all sleep together, we shouldn’t leave our partners, and so on. So he wasn’t completely intolerable.
Eventually, though, I decided to try getting to the root of the problem, since it was clear that making small talk with him wasn’t going to get us anywhere.
“It’s not your fault, you know,” I said to him a couple days after we had ventured out into the wild.
“Huh?” he said—with no emotion, so I knew he was pretending to not know what I was talking about.
“It’s not your fault that Sai left,” I said. “He’s always been a little bit weird. If you had been around longer, I guarantee that you wouldn’t be blaming yourself as much as you are now.”
“How do you know I’ve been blaming myself?” he said. That was the longest sentence I had gotten out of him thus far.
“Because I’ve felt guilty for things in my life, just like you, remember? Once you feel guilty for one thing, you pretty much feel guilty for everything bad that follows. I’m sure you know what I’m talking about.”
“Oh. Yeah. You’re right.”
“See? So don’t worry about it,” I assured him, but I couldn’t think of anything else to say.
“I’ll try not to.”
“Is that all that’s bugging you?” I said, having a feeling that there was something else. There was always something else when it came to guilt—it was true. I hadn’t lied to him.
“Well,” Rennio said, “we’re so close to where my trainer was killed. I don’t know if I like it.” A pause. “Okay, I definitely don’t like it.”
“I understand,” I said. “I went back to my clan after the incident, and it wasn’t exactly the best experience in the world.”
“Yeah. But it helped me start to let go. So hopefully, this can be the start of your new adventure… again. You get a third chance.”
Rennio chuckled lightly. It was a success in my book. But then he frowned and sniffled… and then he started sobbing.
“I’m sorry,” he said, wiping at his eyes. “Water is supposed to be a good thing for electric-type pokémon, I know, but I can’t help but be so sad.”
“It’s okay. Don’t cry,” I said. “Don’t cry.”
He did anyway.
We continued with what we were doing. At least we were no longer bored and antsy, but we still definitely wanted our trainer to come back. But then, there was an incident. As if our luck couldn’t get any worse.
Sai’s backpack was stolen.
Even though I carried it by day and kept it near me by night, it was stolen. One night, we had gone to sleep with it there, and when we woke up, it was gone.
All that money, all that food, all that water… It was now gone. I vaguely wondered if Sai had come back to pick it up, but it didn’t seem likely. Surely he would have taken us with him if that were the case. Also, even if he was back in Goldenrod City, he wouldn’t know where we were. So someone—another trainer, probably—had swiped it while we were sleeping.
“Really?” Ezrem remarked, grinning. “It’s ironic to have all that money and food and water stolen when you were trying not to use it all, don’t you think? I knew I should have been the leader.”
I said nothing, evaluating the situation. On one hand, things were not so bad. We were faring quite nicely in the wild, here. The loss of water and food was not a problem. It was really the loss of money that worried me. What would happen when Sai came back and found that all of his hard earned cash was gone? Even worse, the two badges we had won were gone! How would he react to that? Would he go crazy again? Would he leave again? That’s how unpredictable he was.
“I guess we could keep an eye out for it,” I said. “Other than that, there’s nothing we can do but keep going on, just like we have been.”
Everyone agreed, even Ezrem, so that’s exactly what we did. The group dispersed and separated into escorts once more, except, I noted, that Ezrem went over to Rennio and whispered to him about something for a few moments before returning to Kuiora. He must have said something better than I did, because later on, Rennio actually decided to start a conversation with me.
“Do you feel guilty now, too?” he said.
“Of course. I was in charge of the backpack, after all. All of Sai’s stuff…”
“Well, don’t feel bad! I just remembered something about Goldenrod City as you were talking. I know of a way we can fix things!” Rennio said, smiling at me.
“Yeah! When we were exploring a bit with Atis, someone told me a secret about the people of Goldenrod City.”
“Apparently, they’re very giving people. They like to help out in others’ times of need. A human could walk up to another human, ask to borrow their kitchen, and the kitchen owner would say yes in a heartbeat! I’ll bet they’re kind to pokémon, too.”
“So you’re saying we should go to a bunch of human houses and replace the stuff we had in the backpack?”
“Uh,” I said, stunned. I hadn’t heard anyone say such a thing about the people of Goldenrod City, but it certainly was plausible. It’s not like we would be breaking into their houses and stealing or anything. No, they would be offering to us. Maybe it was finally a sign of luck coming our way. We could really maybe replace the money, food, water we had lost, as well as some of Sai’s clothes.
“We wouldn’t be able to replace the badges we lost,” I finally said. That was the most important part to me; that was what we had worked the hardest for.
“No, but perhaps Sai won’t even notice,” Rennio offered.
“You’re certainly optimistic,” I pointed out.
“So, are we going to do it or not?”
“It’s worth a try,” I said. I just couldn’t ignore that happy face of his, especially when he was so forlorn the day before. “We can even keep an eye out for Sai while we’re there, which is good. Let’s go.”
We let everyone know where we would be for the rest of the day, and then we headed back to Goldenrod City. I should have known better than to get my hopes up, because we didn’t see Sai anywhere.
“He’ll come back,” Rennio said, and I thought about how ironic it was that our roles had switched so suddenly.
“Yeah. I know,” I said, but I wasn’t entirely sure that I sounded at all convincing.
Coming back to Goldenrod City sure brought back some memories; it already seemed like forever since we had been here. Mostly, they were good memories. Sai was out expanding his horizons while Atis was breaking out of his shell. Kuiora and Ezrem got closer, and Rennio… Well, Rennio got the worst of it, but still. This city was on my list of favorites—until Sai had left us, of course.
Now, we had to pick up the pieces after his selfish disappearing act. I had had high hopes up until this point, because the idea of going from house to house to replace his belongings made everything feel all too real, and I didn’t want to accept that my trainer, the one I had put so much faith in since the very beginning, would do this sort of thing.
“Are we sure this house belongs to a human?” I asked when we came upon our first potential helpers. “This isn’t a building like the flower shop or anything, right?”
“Don’t know. Who cares? Anyone could help us out at this point.”
“True,” I said. I looked up, overwhelmed by the tallness of the house’s door. I wished that, for a moment, I could grow to the necessary height to be able to look into a human’s eyes, and plead for help in our time of need. That wasn’t going to happen—I simply knocked on the door as hard as I could with my little brown paws.
At first, no one answered. We waited outside the door for a very awkward few minutes before I suggested that maybe no one was home.
“Try knocking again. I know that sometimes, if you’re persistent, people will eventually answer,” Rennio offered.
So I knocked again. Sure enough, someone showed up within the minute. I couldn’t tell if Rennio was right or if I just hadn’t knocked loud enough, but I made a note to remember his words for future houses.
The person who answered the door was a man who looked like he was older than Sai, but he didn’t look as wrinkly as the lady at the daycare center. He had blonde hair that was parted in the middle, and brown eyes. He looked like he was wearing pajamas, which I thought was odd until I realized the sun was already setting, and that it was probably around dinner time. My stomach rumbled in response.
This seemed to catch the man’s attention, since before, he was just looking out the door with a blank look, wondering who on earth had been there. Finally, he looked down at us, and smiled.
“Pokémon at my door, huh? That’s a new one,” he said. My heart fell—maybe the people of Goldenrod City weren’t so accustomed to giving out items and food to pokémon, after all. I was about to lose hope and turn around when he added, “Sounds like you’re hungry. Are you here for food?”
I nodded as vigorously as I could. Yes, we were hungry! Yes, we needed food! Nevermind the fact that we could get food back where we were camping. We wanted human food or pokémon food, it didn’t matter which. To avoid looking desperate, I didn’t say any of this, of course.
“One moment,” he said, closing the door on us.
“I can’t believe that worked,” I said, turning to Rennio, who had a wide grin on his face.
“See? I told you. All of our problems are solved!” he cried, jumping up and down excitedly.
“Yeah,” I said. Then, in a quieter tone: “Sai will be happy.”
A few moments later, the door opened again, and there stood the same man as before. He leaned down to hand us a bag of opened pokémon food.
“Here,” he said. “I’m sure my snubbull won’t mind sharing, right?”
“Awesome,” I said. “Thank you very much.”
“Have a good night,” he said, and closed the door once more.
Again, I couldn’t believe it had worked. Maybe all of our problems really were solved. There was only one way to find out, so we went next door to get to the next house. Again, I knocked—as loud as I could this time around.
And again, someone answered the door for us! Things were going a lot easier than I had anticipated. Well, I don’t know what I had been anticipating, but it wasn’t this.
Of course, things don’t always go as planned.
We ran into some immediate trouble as soon as I said, “Hello!”
The person—this time a lady with brown hair and brown eyes, also wearing lazy clothes—peered down at us. She didn’t greet us with a smile, though. She looked at me, puzzled, and was about to close the door on us. She only failed because I stuck half my body into the door so she couldn’t get rid of us that easily.
“Wait!” I yelled. “We’re just looking for some food… or water… or clothes. Anything you don’t need, anything you want to get rid of! Someone stole all of our stuff, so, yeah…”
But still, she looked at me oddly, remaining mute. Suddenly, it hit me. She couldn’t understand pokémon. The language barrier wasn’t an issue at the last house because my stomach had spoken for me by rumbling ever so loudly.
“Sorry, I don’t know what you’re saying. Good-bye now,” she said, confirming my suspicions. She went to close the door again, and this time I didn’t stop her.
“Well, I wasn’t expecting that,” Rennio said as we walked away from the house. “I’ve always been so used to having Annie understand me… Sai could understand me, too…”
“All these gold houses look the same. You would think that all the people inside them would be the same—nice and friendly, like that first guy,” I said.
“That’s not how things work, I guess.”
“Should we keep looking until we find someone who can understand pokémon?”
“Is it worth it? I mean, how many people can really understand us? Mostly trainers, and I’ll bet the trainers aren’t staying in houses here…”
“We could go to the pokémon center.”
“They’ll recognize us. We were there too long.”
“I say we go to one more house, see what those people are like,” he said.
I nodded. It would be a waste to go to just two houses and stop there. We went next door, the last house in this row. For what I hoped wouldn’t be the last time, I knocked on the door—only to have it automatically open in front of me.
“Uh,” I said, knocking again. The door opened a bit further. It was evident that no one was opening the door, but that they had already left the door open, and that my knocking was propelling it forward.
“Does that mean anyone can go in?” Rennio said. I should have taken this as an obvious no—if even Rennio, after traveling from place to place, region to region, didn’t know, then we should just accept the defeat and leave. Still, I was curious—what if the answer was yes? There was so much to gain, and little left to lose.
“Stay here,” I said. “I’m going in.”
“Are you sure about this…?”
“Yes,” I said. I was the leader here, and I was going to do what I thought was best. So I got down on all fours and crept through the door. It was unexpected for me, really—I used to yell at Sai for walking into random houses and for acting like a creepy person, and now I was doing the same exact thing. Almost, anyway. The owners were practically inviting me in by leaving the door open! If I was wrong, it wasn’t my fault that I didn’t know everything about human customs. I was just a pokémon that was swept away by fate from the forest near New Bark Town, that was all.
Of course, there wouldn’t be a way to relay that to the owners of the house, if they saw me. No—they had to see me, or me taking anything would be stealing. I started to purposefully look for them amongst all the human things that surrounded me. I hadn’t gotten far yet; I was still in the front hallway. I could already see stairs leading upward, but I decided to stay on the floor I was on. It seemed more inviting that the unknown, anyway, what with all of the paintings hung on the wall and the comfy-looking couches and the lamps that offered a dim amount of light, enough for me to make my way around. I vaguely wondered what kind of people lived here, since their house seemed much different from Sasha’s in Azalea Town. It was strange to me how the furnishing and layout of a house was made to fit the lives of the humans in it, while pokémon center rooms were so bland and made for anyone. I hoped that Sai would have a comfortable place to live someday, and that it would look like how he wanted it to.
While I was thinking of Sai and us and living in a house in the future, one odd thing occurred to me: there wasn’t a single sign of pokémon living in this house. There wasn’t even a painting of a pokémon. This seemed so odd to me, as all the houses I had been in had shown some sign of being our fans.
I should have taken this as an immediate sign to leave, but I kept on going until I reached the kitchen. It looked like a normal kitchen, with a stove and a fridge and a table and such, though there was some weird thing protruding in the middle of it all. I think Sasha had called it an island, once. It didn’t seem to serve a purpose for anything, not like everything else. I thought that it was good for keeping me hidden, but that was about it.
As it turns out, that “island” wasn’t good for anything, not even keeping me hidden. I didn’t get a chance to search the rest of the house or find the owners, because they found me. And they obviously weren’t very happy to see me, because I was met with a big slap in the back from a broom. The bristles scratched against my skin, and the impact of the blow caused me to fall flat on my stomach. I cried out briefly, and tried to get back on my paws to flee, but I was hit again.
“Get out of my house, you evil creature! How dare you come in here!” I heard a lady yell, along with some other crazy obscenities that made me look like I was a monster sent to her house to kill her.
After a few more hits, I was able to get on my paws and escape the next swipe of the broom. I darted back toward the front hallway, and saw my escape! The door was right there! But the lady was chasing me, and was doing quite a good job of it. She managed to hit me one more time before I was able to swiftly run out the door, past Rennio and out onto the street. I had to backtrack in order to get Rennio, because he was as confused as ever and now he was being hit by her broom, too. I ran up to him, grabbed him by the arm, ignoring how the open bag of pokémon food was spilling all over, and dragged him to the other side of the street.
“And stay out!” the lady yelled, threateningly waving her broom in the air. She then slammed the door, and that was the last we saw of her.
“What was that all about?” Rennio asked, rubbing his head.
“We explored the house of a pokémon hater,” I said. “Go figure. I think it’s safe to say we’re done, now.”
“I’m sorry,” Rennio said. “I was just trying to help.”
“It’s not your fault. At least we got one bag of food…” I trailed off, noting how there was very little left in the bag after having to run away from the lady. “Well, we got some, anyway.”
On the way back, I wondered who on earth would tell a pokémon that the people of Goldenrod City were so nice, when it was anything but true. I decided to ask him about it.
“Rennio, who told you that knocking on peoples’ houses and asking them for things in Goldenrod City was acceptable?”
“Um… Ezrem did,” Rennio replied. “He said not to tell you that he said it because you don’t like him… Why do you need to know?”
That explained everything—why Ezrem was okay with giving up the leader position, why Ezrem was whispering to Rennio that one time, and why Ezrem was okay with letting Rennio stay with me… All this time, he was planning to use Rennio to spite me somehow, someway. And his plan, whether it was thoroughly thought out or not, had certainly worked.
“Nothing. I’m an idiot.”
When we returned to the group, everyone except Atis came up to us to see what we had retrieved. When they saw that all we had was a measly bag of pokémon food that was already opened, they looked clearly upset.
“You guys were gone for a long time, and that’s what you come back with? Geez, I could have done better than that!” Kuiora cried.
“Yeah,” Ezrem said. “All that work for nothing.”
I glared at him. “Don’t you even talk, Ezrem. I know it was you who told Rennio about that. You wasted our time!”
“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” he said, smiling widely.
“I would think that your smile lights up the sky, considering how nice you were trying to be, but now I know it’s just the glow of everyone else’s hopes and dreams being incinerated,” I said, too angry and upset to care if my words hurt him or not.
“You don’t say,” he replied, still smiling.
“I’ll bet you stole Sai’s backpack and hid it somewhere just to make me mad!”
“I wouldn’t do such a thing to my new trainer,” he said. “You’re losing your head over something so silly. That just goes to show you that I should have been the leader!”
And maybe he was right. Maybe his deceitful nature could have benefited us in this situation. Had he gone instead of me, he may have been able to convince those humans to give him what he wanted. I didn’t know how that was possible since the language barrier would still exist and that lady would still be hating pokémon no matter what, but after what happened, I was second guessing myself yet again. He probably would have kept us in the pokémon center for a longer time, and then we would still be there, happy and safe, with all of our belongings intact.
I was no leader, and if I was, I was a shameful one—forever and always.
That night, I didn’t sleep. There wasn’t anything to protect except one bag of food, but I kept watch over it anyway. I lay there all night, wondering what I could do to be better. I thought that I had gotten past this pain already by scrutinizing the team’s individual needs and by deciding that I wouldn’t let Sai’s rollercoaster emotions get to me. Those things had gone over well for me, but now, Sai was gone entirely… and my world was turned upside down. He obviously needed me at this very moment, but I couldn’t help him because I didn’t know where he was. And the team here obviously needed me, too, but in different ways… in ways that always seemed to backfire against me no matter how hard I tried.
After thinking some more, I couldn’t rationalize any reason for me to continue thinking that I was a bad leader. I had done the best I could, and the bad things that had happened were out of my control. Besides, the bad things that happened weren’t even… bad. They hadn’t extremely harmed anyone emotionally and physically, after all. Really, all I had to do was go along with my instincts and not follow others’, mainly Ezrem’s (and Rennio’s, which was unfair, but look where it had gotten me this time).
So why was I still doubting myself? I recalled the conversation that me and Rennio had had earlier in our adventure. And of course, I concluded that the guilt of ruining my entire clan was still haunting me. Everyone’s cries, the sneasel’s lies, being banished after all of my hard work and after all of my heartfelt explanations… I always knew that it wouldn’t be something I could get over so easily, but the fact that it was still bothering me made me wonder if I would get over it.
There had to be another way.
I vowed to figure it out, with or without Sai.
chapter 15 ; [EZREM]
Ah, how nice it was to have things go my way once in a great while.
I do mean that. It truly felt like it had been a long time since the positive side of life had catered to me. First, there was Annie’s death… which I tried not to dwell on, but it seemed to keep showing up in my life, thanks to Rennio’s obvious and subsequent grief. Then, I spent the longest time looking for a new trainer. When I finally found him, he had rejected me faster than I could blink! And now… that new trainer was already gone, off doing whatever, wherever. It was like Annie’s disappearance all over again—except this time, an air of uncertainty wafted about us. I couldn’t imagine what that had done to poor Rennio! If things like this kept happening, not only would he have issues about death and loss, but he would have abandonment issues, too. Well, I could at least make sure that I stayed with him, even if Sai despised me.
And so far, that was exactly what I did. Even when Sai, my main reasoning for staying, left, I remained by Rennio’s side. I stood by the team. I even offered to be the leader! Seeing Senori send us out into the wild once more was the last thing I wanted, especially when it reminded me of Annie, so I wanted to take over. That didn’t go as planned. (I had started learning that most things, when done for my selfish reasons, didn’t go as planned.) I agreed to let go of my offer if I was with Kuiora, because at least she treated me with some respect. She marveled over me every chance she got! It was a boost to my ego which I always so desperately needed.
Still, I didn’t like Senori for bringing us closer to the place that had caused me so much pain in the past. I looked for any way to get back at him, and when the backpack was stolen (which, contrary to popular belief, I had no part of) I found my chance. I told Rennio that all of Goldenrod City’s citizens were nice people, and that Senori and him should go see them and try to get more supplies. I knew that the city people probably weren’t so nice, as I had learned in the past that snobbish people often lived in big, expensive cities like this one. Apparently, Rennio hadn’t noticed. And I could tell by the look on Senori’s face when he returned that things hadn’t gone as well as he had previously hoped. It was a small victory, but a victory nonetheless.
Kuiora’s called me evil for it—and various other things—a few times, but I don’t like that term. It makes me sound worse than I actually thought I was. I preferred being called… ethically unfettered.
Yes, that sounded about right.
“So, what do you think is wrong with Sai?” Kuiora asked me once. We were sitting against the trees near the entrance—or exit, depending how you looked at it—of Ilex Forest. I was sure that the rest of the team couldn’t hear us, so I didn’t bother telling her to hush, as Sai seemed to be a complex, confusing, and argumentative topic among the group.
“As if I know!” I said, my eyes closed as I rested. “Haven’t you been with him longer?”
“Of course I have,” she retorted. “But you’re a legendary, so you should know these things.”
Legendary. I wasn’t legendary, that much was very clear to me. I had been given special treatment before, for some unknown reason… but no one went so far as to bow down to me. To her, however, I was the most important thing in life! I was the last thing she thought about before she went to sleep at night, and I was the first thing she thought of when she awoke in the morning. I was the one she worshipped and put before her own self. Religion, I knew, was something that people and pokémon believe for the same reason children believe in fairy tales: it gives them false, redeeming hope. I could provide that for her, I supposed. So I had to continue playing my newfound role, or it would be lost forever.
“Well,” I said, thinking, “it’s like Sai has read the handbook for human behavior, but he didn’t quite understand most of the instructions.”
“Tell me about it,” Kuiora said, and her calmer demeanor told me I had done well in answering her, even though I was being about as vague as I could possibly get. “You think there’s really someone following him?”
“Who knows? Paranoia is poisonous. It’s a poisonous wish that makes everything become true, so even if it’s not true, it’s at least real in his mind.”
“I know. He better not go off and get himself killed or anything,” I said softly.
“Death,” Kuiora said, her chin lifted, “is just a myth invented to scare young children.”
“You think so?” I said, looking up at her. I knew she was young, but to be this naïve about such a pertinent concept seemed unreal to me. Could I possibly tell her about Annie, about what I did? Surely, she would accept that it was the work of a legendary; it was something that simply had to be done to communicate with other fellow legendaries. Still, I couldn’t bring myself to do it. There was always the off chance that she could tell someone else… and I mostly worried about Rennio finding out. It would have simply broken his heart into a million more pieces.
“Yeah. There’s all these stories about dying too soon, or too late, or in the most horrible ways, and it’s all meant to scare people and pokémon like me. I don’t know why anyone would go to the trouble to make those things up! If you believe in the legendary pokémon, you can never die. It’s as simple as that. They’ll always remember you, no matter what happens to you.”
How delusional, I thought, but didn’t say anything.
A few moments of silence passed before she changed the topic and said, “Do you want to hear a story?”
“Yes! I know plenty of stories about rare and legendary pokémon. You might already know this story, but I’d like to tell you anyway. It’s about your evolved form.”
At this I was intrigued. There were tales about my species? About my evolved form? Now, that was something. I nodded, wanting to hear more.
“Okay,” she said. “Most stories try to avoid spoiling the end. But you need to know before we decide to continue: she didn’t want to come back.”
“Shut up, and listen to the story!” she snapped, hitting me lightly in the face.
“With a temper like yours, I’m truly surprised the world is still here…” I said, rubbing the spot where she hit me.
“Shut up,” she said again. “Do you want to hear this or not?”
“Yes, yes. I will be quiet,” I said. For thinking I was a legendary pokémon, she sure still had a lot of guts, standing up to me the way she did. Maybe she believed that it was a way for legendaries to remember her better, I thought—it was the best I could think of, and I admired it, in a way.
And so, she went on.
There once was a girl who was a con. She was a con because she became close to anyone and everyone she came into contact with in Unova, just to steal their hearts. Everyone became enamored with her at first sight, and they always wanted to be there for her, always wanted to be by her side, even in the darkest moments. But she was only with them for her own benefit. She just wanted their money, their jewelry, their priceless heirlooms—anything that she could get her hands on successfully, and in a decent amount of time.
But one day, she stole too much. She had taken a diamond ring that her boyfriend—whom she pretended to care for—had bought for her, and then immediately left him in the dust. And she didn’t have an explanation for this boy who had come to love her so much, so he kept bothering her and bothering her, becoming for threatening each time, hoping for an answer. This was the first time that anyone had ever called her out on her selfish crimes, and she couldn’t handle it. Somehow, she had let her guard down, and now, it was time to pay for all that she had done. She decided to leave the town.
Leaving by train or by plane was out of the question, as it was easy to follow those who left that way. Besides, to take a plane or a train meant that she would know where she was going, and she had not a clue where to go.
She decided to leave in a hot air balloon that she had taken from an old friend, to put it to good use and to make sure she wasn’t followed to wherever she was going. She made sure it was a light blue hot air balloon, so that if anyone looked into the sky at the exact same moment she was passing by, they wouldn’t notice her, as she was blending in perfectly.
But her plan still backfired. The boyfriend had been a trainer once, and a very strong one at that. He sent his braviary out to look for her, because he knew that the braviary would not give up, no matter what. It took many days and nights to find her, but the braviary eventually located her hovering above the sea. And then it took many days and nights for the braviary to turn around and come back home, but she wouldn’t listen. She was starting to feel bad for all she had done, and she couldn’t face the past.
What happened next was both karma and a stroke of luck all at once. A streak of lightning crashed down on the hot air balloon one night when there was a storm, and she went careening, along with the remains of the balloon, into the water below. But the braviary, despite its confusion and disdain for the girl’s audacity and thievery, caught her in its claws just as she was about to break her fall. It took her home, and from there, the girl worked to improve her life so that she could form real relationships that she reciprocated fully.
“The end,” she said. She added hastily, “Of course, if we were at Professor Elm’s lab, there’d be pictures and stuff, but we don’t have that here. Sorry.”
I thought about the story for a moment. How appropriate, to hear a story about my species and have the human in question have a similar personality to my own. Perhaps Kuiora had done that on purpose, or maybe it was just fate to have the guilt of thievery follow me wherever I went. The difference between me and the story was simple: I couldn’t save anyone, not even Rennio. That was definite, it was a given. And besides that, there was something else bugging me.
“I have a question,” I said after a few moments, not wanting to make her angry, but I was genuinely wondering about this, above all else.
“Legendaries aren’t owned by trainers. It’s just not feasible, right?”
“Yeah, legendaries are far too powerful. Why?”
“Well, the braviary in the story is owned by a trainer. So, by default, the braviary is not a legendary pokémon. And, well, Sai has me as his pokémon. Kind of, anyway. So…” I explained, trailing off. I braced myself, waiting to be hit again or something. But surprisingly, she had an answer for me.
“Rufflet and braviary are really rare. I heard they can only be caught by the toughest of trainers on Victory Road! That’s almost legendary status. You’re right, normal rufflet and braviary aren’t legendary. But you, Ezrem, are legendary, and for a very special reason!”
“What reason is that?” I asked, so very curious to hear something that could potentially redeem my terrible personality.
But I didn’t get my answer, as I was knocked in the head by something other than Kuiora’s fist. I let out a tiny squeal of surprise, and looked in the opposite direction, wondering what on earth the team was trying to do to me—probably trying to get revenge somehow, I thought. But I didn’t see the team. All I saw was a red and white object on the grass.
“Oh, man,” I said. “Not this again.”
“What’s wrong? What was that?”
“A trainer’s trying to catch me. As usual. It happened a lot in the forest. Look”—I frantically looked around, and saw a girl running up to us—“I have to go. You should hide if you can,” I said, and with that, I darted away from her, away from the rest of the team.
At first, I didn’t know where to go. All I could think about was why so many trainers were after me. Yes, rufflet were rare. Yes, rufflet were usually only found in Unova. But it didn’t mean that every trainer who looked at my pretty face had to come after me so aggressively! I considered myself lucky because no one could officially catch me by pokéball, thanks to Annie, but there were other means of catching a pokémon, I knew. The trainer could try to battle me and take me by force. I know—trainers have tried.
Before I knew it, I was heading back into Ilex Forest. I passed the gates and the guards, their expressions more curious than alarmed. It wasn’t the brightest idea, heading back to the place that brought so much pain for me, but it was a lot easier to hide amongst a bunch of trees than it was amongst clear, open paths.
I dared to stop and look behind me for a moment to see if the girl was still following me. Indeed, she was, and she didn’t seem to have any intentions on losing me in the forest. Well, we would see about that. I darted to the left, crossing a pond by running on the rocks that stood out above the water. The human tried to cross, too, but since she was much larger than me, she was also going much slower.
I made my way through this part of the forest, and of course came upon the burnt part of it, the one I had so casually knocked down in the past. Though it would hurt, I decided to stay here, because it was more likely for the girl to try to find me in an area with a lot of trees, rather than a part of the forest that had a small amount of hiding places. I slowed down now, sure that she wouldn’t catch up. I started walking, surveying the damage. I stepped over dropped tree branches, had to go around fallen trunks, saw nothing but debris polluting a nearby body of water… I saw no pokémon—surely no one would want to live here anymore.
And the next time I turned, I came across another pokéball. It was floating in the nearby pond. Curious, I made my way into the water until I could grab it. When I got out of the water, I examined it. The ball showed no sign of being affected by the fire, so maybe it was a fairly new item here, or maybe it had been spared. And it was a special kind of pokéball, not just a regular red and white one…
It looked like the one Annie had had for me—it was blue on top and white on bottom, with two stripes of red on the sides. A great ball, she had called it once, though I didn’t see what was so great about it. But it hit me—this could be my pokéball! This could have once belonged to Annie! Now, I had to decide what to do with it… Who knew how much time I had to consider, given my situation?
Part of me wanted to destroy the pokéball. Part of me wanted to be set free of Annie’s grasp—forever. If that was the route I went down, I would crush the pokéball and make it crumble into a bunch of pieces. Part of me thought this was a bad idea, because then maybe other trainers could really catch me with pokéballs now. Is that even how it worked? After all this time traveling, I didn’t know. And then, part of me was skeptical, wondering if it was really my pokéball at all. What if there was a pokémon inside? If I destroyed the pokéball, would the pokémon inside die? I didn’t want to kill anyone else…
I heard a rustle, and the girl appeared once more.
So she had followed me to the burnt area of the forest. She was smarter than I gave her credit for. Luckily for her, I suddenly didn’t have the energy to move. I turned to face her, and we stared at each other for a few moments. I realized the direness of the situation once more—she wanted me as her pokémon, when I already belonged to someone else. I went to run again, but she called for me to wait.
“Wait,” she said again. “That pokéball might belong to my brother! We’ve been looking for it for a long time.”
I stood there, unsure of what to do. Part of me wanted the ball to be mine after all, and part of me wanted to give it to this girl and forget this whole situation had even happened.
I looked at the girl again, seeing that she was putting away the pokéball she had in her hand. She put up her arms and said, “My name is Sasha. I won’t catch you if that’s what you want… Please, could I just have the ball, and I’ll leave you alone?”
Two new players of this game showed up—Kuiora, and a boy who looked like this Sasha girl. Great, I thought. Now I had to worry about Kuiora being caught—what if Sai hadn’t properly caught her in a pokéball?—and I had to worry about the new guy potentially chasing us.
“Ezrem, why did you run away like that?” Kuiora said, walking up to me and looking me over, as if to see whether or not I sustained any damage.
“She was trying to catch me,” I said simply.
“Look, Marty, it might be Halcyon’s ball. Remember, you dropped it while we were out here?” Sasha said. I looked down at the ball, so curious about its true origins. How hard it was, to think about the possibility of passing up this once in a lifetime chance!
“Oh. That’s right. So that… bird… has it?”
“It’s a rufflet, from Unova! I was trying to catch it to give it to you for your birthday, since pokémon like that one are one in a million! But it didn’t work…”
“It’s the thought that counts, right? Besides, that Sai’s croconaw. Looks like it’s his… rufflet, too.”
“Sai? I didn’t see him anywhere…”
“Oh…” said Kuiora. She whispered into my ear: “That Marty kid really hates Sai. We can’t let him know that Sai’s disappeared or they’ll kill each other for sure.”
Then, to Marty, she said, “Sai’s out shopping.”
I automatically said, “Sai is sleeping at the pokémon center, and we’re out here exploring.” This, of course, only got me knocked in the head by Kuiora again for telling two completely different stories.
“I don’t know what they just said, but I’m fairly sure whatever the rufflet said can’t be repeated in polite conversation,” Marty said sarcastically.
“Idiot,” I said, now realizing that our efforts were futile, since they couldn’t understand us, anyway. “And I was almost destined to be your pokémon? As if.”
“Sai’s probably letting them run rampant on purpose. Go figure,” Marty said.
“You should really be nicer to him. He does try.”
“Not hard enough.”
At this, I threw the great ball directly at Marty’s face. At this point, I didn’t care if the ball was mine. I was just glad that I hadn’t been caught by this imbecile, and that I hadn’t chosen him during the battle between him and Sai. I felt fiercely proud of having Annie as a trainer, and therefore suddenly didn’t care if I was still bound by her or not. She was never so stuck up and she never looked down upon others the way he did. Sasha, on the other hand, was nice—but it didn’t stop me from being a jerk to her brother! And of course, there was Sai, who was nice to me half the time and completely ignorant during the other half.
“Thanks a lot,” Marty muttered, rubbing his head as he reached down to get the pokéball. “Let’s go, Sasha.”
I stuck out my tongue at them as they turned to leave, with Sasha looking back at me one more time, regretfully. I also got another hit in the head from Kuiora once they were gone. Soon, I would have a permanent bump there.
“Well, should we go back, too?” Kuiora said. “Senori might kill us if he realizes we’ve been gone.”
“I’ll only go with you if you stop saying that word,” I said, but I was already walking in the direction that would lead us back to the team.
“Don’t make me say it.”
“Don’t make me guess it.”
I turned, walking backwards so I could glare at her. “If you’re going to say it, then stop following me.”
“I’m not following you. I’m following the path,” she said, pointedly keeping her gaze on the horizon just to prove a point.
I sighed. I felt that this was one of the longest days ever. Still, some things had been made concrete to me. Kuiora cared about me, for one. This meant more to me than I could say. There was always Rennio, but Rennio stood by my side because he didn’t know my faults. Kuiora knew I had faults, knew that there was plenty of them to go around, but she stayed with me, and she even put me on a rather high pedestal.
In addition, it appeared that I cared for Annie more than I originally thought I did. For the first time, I had felt pride over being her past pokémon, and I didn’t mind the fact that I gave up the possibility of destroying my old pokéball. She was always in the back of my mind, whether I liked it or not. She kept my conscience at bay. I vowed to continue trying to be good, for her—once I figured out what good was, anyway.
In a more general sense, I had learned that having something wasn’t the same as keeping something. It was a lesson I wished I hadn’t learned, but such was life. This meant that just because I had Rennio and Kuiora’s love, it didn’t mean that it would last forever. Just because Annie had been there for me once, didn’t mean that she would ever be there for me again. Just because I thought Sai would make a great trainer for me, didn’t mean that he would actually live up to my expectations. And just because I would have made my home in the future, didn’t mean that it would stay with me forever.
Yes, there were many levels to my pain. I unraveled each level, one by one, as we went back to the team, wondering and wishing. The pain wasn’t like a knife, or like fire, or ice, or any of a thousand other metaphors. It was simply just pain. And it drowned out the rest of the world as I felt a harsh, white flash of sensation take over, reminding me that I should try a little harder.
Thanks for the reviews as always, guys. I've been busy due to holidays so I won't be giving individual replies this time, but do know that I read them and appreciate them. I just want to get a chapter out today because it's been a while.
@The Great Butler: the word was "death".
chapter 16 ; [KUIORA]
If I had learned anything about the team this past week and a half, it was this: everyone makes mistakes—even me, unfortunately. Of course, I had known this before, but the consequences of my mistakes had increased greatly since going on a pokémon journey. After all, who at Professor Elm’s lab cared if my water gun wasn’t as powerful as it was supposed to be? Well, I did, but that was beside the point. No one else saw, and that was what mattered.
On the other hand, now my mistakes were becoming much more noticeable. How embarrassing it was for me to lose to that clefairy when it was a simple normal-type pokémon. It wasn’t my fault that it so luckily had an electric-type attack at its disposal, but the defeat was still unbearable. I had spent the rest of the day lamenting and imagining the scene over and over in my mind while I was in my pokéball, which was different from the peaceful restfulness that the ball had provided for me in the past. Ezrem had told me that Rennio had experienced a loss much more painful, though, and it made me breathe a slight sigh of relief.
Ezrem was also so nice to inform me that Sai had disappeared… My trainer had made the greatest mistake of all, by leaving his team when they needed him the most! We needed him to retrain us for the gym, and then have us all head back there for a rematch! Where could he possibly have gone to at a time like this? I couldn’t so easily forgive him, no matter where he was. Maybe I was just being stubborn, but I didn’t care.
Then there was Senori, who went and lost our supplies in the blink of an eye—a blunder that also wasn’t his fault, but the blame was still on him. Atis made the mistake of never wanting to fight or become stronger. And Ezrem seemed to miss the memo, too. He was a legendary pokémon that didn’t even know he was a legendary pokémon! I had been about to tell him why he was so special, especially to me, but we had gotten so rudely interrupted.
I knew that he was special because I had seen pictures of rufflet and braviary in the past, at Professor Elm’s lab, when I had heard the story I had recited to Ezrem. I had noticed a difference between Ezrem and the rufflet in the pictures—it hit me a few moments after we had met—and I thought: weren’t rufflet supposed to be blue, not red?
I made a note to myself, saying that I would have to ask him about it sometime, so he knew.
Two more days passed after the interruption me and Ezrem had during our conversation, but I hadn’t brought it up to him because he had suddenly turned so quiet. Something had clearly happened to him on that trip where he ran away from me and from Sasha, but I couldn’t figure it out, nor would he tell me. He never told me much about himself. The only things that came out of that bird’s mouth were things that made me feel like I had the right to slap him upside the head, even if he was a legendary. And I had done that, several times. But I had stopped entirely for the last two days—that’s how mute he was being.
Needless to say, he wasn’t making great company. I vaguely wished that I could switch my partner, but Senori wouldn’t allow it. “I think I’m a better fit for Rennio, and you don’t like Atis, anyway,” he had said. Well, fine. I would just find my own, new partner outside of the team, then!
When Ezrem was napping against the trees we had sat against while talking and laughing, I went over to a pond that he had shown me when we first arrived into the wild. Being a wild pokémon, I had gathered, was nothing special. You had to retrieve your own food and water instead of having it handed to you, and there was other competition out there, whereas everyone at the lab had been… friends. Those who wanted a trainer waited ever so patiently, while those who didn’t want a trainer had to live in fear of being caught. Yeah, it wasn’t anything special, and not for the first time, I was glad to have been raised by Professor Elm. But I would at least put good use to this pond by finding myself a new escort.
I stood by the edge of the pond, leaning over and washing my face with my paws. I thought I would wait for a water-type pokémon to come around and talk to me—one was bound to swim up to the surface of pond eventually, after all. Getting bored rather quickly, I remembered that I was a water-type pokémon myself, and decided to just plunge into the water myself and find someone. Diving into the water, I wondered what kinds of pokémon I would run into.
I soon found out. There were plenty of magikarp swimming around together and murmuring to themselves as they passed by. A few psyduck floated around the water, some on their backs, which looked rather odd, but I said nothing. To my dismay, I didn’t see any totodile—I guessed that they were only really found near Professor Elm’s lab, after all.
The most peculiar thing I found was a pack of poliwag, all huddled around together at the bottom of the pond, away from everyone else, as if they were discussing some secret that couldn’t be known to the rest of the pokémon there. I made my way over to them, curious and hoping to learn more about them. There were a couple psyduck and magikarp in the pack, I noticed as I swam over to them, but not too many. There was also a larger version of the poliwag present, one with arms and longer legs. I assumed it to be a powerful, evolved form.
As I approached, I heard one of the poliwag say, “The ceremony will take place tonight, so everyone should be there if they can.”
“Ceremony? What ceremony?” I instinctively said, butting in as I placed my feet on the bottom of the pond. I put myself in between the poliwag who spoke and a psyduck, noting the rough, pebbly exterior of the pond floor. Whatever they had to say, I wished they would say it fast so I could get the feeling away from my poor feet.
They all looked at me curiously, suspiciously, and no one said anything for a while. Finally, the poliwhirl stepped in and asked, “Excuse me, but who are you?”
“I am Kuiora, the only croconaw in this pond!” I cried, my voice full of excitement as I was able to prove myself to others. “Since I am the only croconaw, that also makes me the strongest.”
“I see…” the poliwhirl said, scratching its belly. “You are new to this pond, then.”
“I have a trainer, but he’s kind of missing at the moment,” I explained, “so here I am.”
“I see,” the poliwhirl said again. Since it had no real mouth, just a stomach full of swirls that all went in the same direction, I couldn’t tell if he was happy to see me or not. He seemed to accept me, at least, when he added, “Well, welcome to the pond. We have a tradition here that takes place once in a great while, at no specific times. Would you like to join us?”
“Sure!” I said, filled with glee over finding not just one partner, but several of them. I could least tell that the psyduck were smiling at me with their upturned bills, so I felt comfortable.
“There are very few staryu around these parts,” the poliwhirl—who I came to see was the leader, now—started. “There are also very few water stones that we come across. They’re either left by trainers who found them in other bodies of water, or they are left from the skies above. We find them around here before anyone else does, with any sort of luck. As you can probably tell, we’ve found a water stone, and therefore we are ready to evolve one of the chosen staryu.”
“Why is this a ceremony?” I interrupted, remembering some more stories about certain pokémon from Professor Elm’s lab. “Don’t pokémon evolve from stones all the time?”
“Well, yes,” the poliwhirl admitted, “but the staryu are an interesting, special species.”
“The creature that staryu evolves into is known as starmie. Starmie are considered to be… alien creatures. That status shows us that they are very rare and are deserving of special treatment.”
Once the poliwhirl was done talking, I was even more certain that I had come to the right place. Not only had I found several partners, now I had come across the chance to meet another rare, legendary pokémon! This day was just getting better and better.
“Every participant gathers their own food around the forest. Any food goes,” the poliwhirl went on. “The choice has been given to all pokémon, as we couldn’t reach an agreement on whether or not killing others for food was acceptable. For some, it is okay by their moral standards. For others, not so much. Anyway, you will bring this food to the ceremony, and the rest will be made clear to you during the actual ritual. Oh, and another thing—men are not allowed to know about this ceremony.”
“Why not?” I asked, suddenly feeling a bit more solemn. I was hoping to bring Ezrem to the ceremony if I was able to. Then again, he wasn’t a water-type pokémon, so he wouldn’t have been applicable no matter what. Still, I wanted to share this momentous occasion with him.
“Some ceremonies involve only men. It depends on the sex of whoever finds the water stone. This is because staryu are genderless,” the poliwhirl explained. “In this case, a female found the stone.”
“I see,” I said, my voice quiet and probably barely audible above the magikarp that swam above us, still murmuring the same words over and over.
“Any other questions?”
“Nope!” I said, while the others shook their heads no. I wondered why they had been so silent up until now, but I assumed that they were just unaccustomed to my presence, and felt a threat to the unknown water-type that had so dared to take over the conversation.
“In that case,” the poliwhirl said, lifting her arm, “I will meet you all at the south end of the pond at dusk.”
Everyone nodded this time, and then they all swam away in different directions. Only the poliwhirl remained.
“This is the first time we will have a croconaw at our ceremony. I think it’s a bit unnerving for them, to have the ritual turn out a bit differently,” she said, laughing. Apparently, she had been reading my mind. “By the way, my name is Lynn. You don’t have to remember, since I’m the only poliwhirl in Ilex Forest and therefore I’m easily recognizable, but there it is, just in case you were wondering.”
I thought that it was very nice to meet Lynn, but that it would be even nicer to meet that legendary starmie later on. I looked forward to it immensely.
One of the drawbacks to being a pokémon was that it was very difficult to tell time. At Professor Elm’s lab, I hadn’t paid attention to the prospect of time. I just knew that when it was dark, it was time to sleep, and when it was light, it was time to wake up and train. Naturally, then, I had no idea how long I had until it would be dusk, until it would be time to head to the south end of the pond for the ceremony. I even asked the entire team, but no one knew, not even Atis.
“Why do you need to know?” the ever so curious Senori asked me.
“I have to be somewhere at dusk,” I said.
“You’re not supposed to be going out on your own. What if we need you and can’t find you?”
“I’m not a baby like Rennio, you know,” I retorted, ignoring his question. “I’m young, but I can handle myself. I met some friends, okay? I want to spend some time with them before Sai comes back. If Sai comes back,” I corrected myself at the last minute.
Senori glared at me. “He’ll come back,” he said, just like he had told me once before. His face was strained to the point where I could feel the pain of the situation he held inside him.
“Well, I need as much distraction from this situation as you do. I don’t like it any more than you or anyone else on the team,” I said, willing to admit just about anything to be able to see that rare, legendary pokémon. I was being vague, but at least I wasn’t lying.
Senori was quiet for a few moments, contemplating my answer. Finally, he said, “Just don’t go getting into trouble. And make sure that Ezrem is with you or knows where you are, at least. We don’t need to lose another member of the team.”
“I’ll be fine,” I said. I thought for a moment, wondering how much leeway the sentret was going to offer me. “Say, can I take that bag of pokémon food that you got in Goldenrod City?”
“Definitely not. Now you’re asking for too much,” Senori said, glaring at me again. “Eat some berries. I know you like those.”
“Fine, fine,” I said, sighing. At least I had won one battle—the most important one. The second battle was miniscule in comparison.
I turned, smiling as I did so. I hadn’t gotten much out of the conversation except a full-hearted confirmation of Sai’s future return, which I did hope for, despite my negativity toward the suvject. Again, I wanted a rematch at the Goldenrod City gym. I wanted his continual affection as he saw me grow stronger. I wanted to evolve for him one more time, and grow so tall that he had to look up at me just to see my face. Yes, I wanted him to come back, but knowing his personality, it wasn’t very likely.
The concept of Sai and his crazy self consumed my thoughts as I searched for the berries that I would eat during the upcoming ceremony. I chose to get Cheri berries, which were my favorite because of the spicy, pungent flavor they offered, but were hard to find because they were located around flowers. There were mostly trees and bushes around the forest, which made my quest difficult. In the end, I had to settle for only a couple of Cheri berries, and a mixture of other types. I hoped that would be satisfactory. I also hoped that the situation with Sai wouldn’t be so similar—what if I had to settle with whatever came my way in the future, and he wasn’t a part of my life?
I went back to find Ezrem still napping against the trees. He awoke when he heard my footsteps, but he was as silent as ever. Naturally, we didn’t exchange many words. I sat there, counting out the amount of berries I had, and finding a wide leaf from a nearby tree to place them on, making the job of carrying them easier.
When the slightest hint of darkness came over the horizon, I told Ezrem that I was leaving for a while, and that I’d be back later.
“Where are you going?” he said, which was the first time he showed any interest in me all day.
“I met some friends. Water-type friends!” I said. “You wouldn’t understand the joys of water-types, would you?”
“No, no at all. You’re right. I will stay here,” he said, smiling.
Good, I thought. And with that, I set out toward the south end of the pond. When I got to the edge of the pond where I had originally dove in, I realized another drawback to being a pokémon: I didn’t know my directions… so I didn’t know what south even meant. Luckily, I saw a group of poliwag on the other side, and swam across the pond to meet up with them.
“Hello!” I said, trying to be cheerful so they would accept me, just like Lynn had. It looked like they had had plenty of time to reconsider my participation, as they gleefully said hello back. My own glee disappeared, however, when I saw just how thin the poliwag looked when they were outside the water. It appeared as if I could see their internal organs! It made me feel uncomfortable, and I thought vaguely that at least they were going to be putting some food in their stomachs to fatten them up some more during the ceremony.
Each of them had some food with them, as expected. Some, like me, had berries, while others had some caterpie and weedle with them… I could see some of the poliwag eyeing the dead bugs and shifting around, but no one said anything about it. Lynn wasn’t kidding when she said that some pokémon had different moral standards when it came to killing pokémon, I supposed. I was against it, but I felt no hatred to those who were for it.
Soon, a couple of psyduck came waddling up to us, joining the group. They expressed their regrets for the magikarp who wanted to attend for the entire thing, but couldn’t make it due to not being able to breathe on land.
“They’ll be able to see part of the ceremony later, at least. Too bad it mostly has to take place on land,” one of the poliwag said.
“Why does it have to take place on land?” I asked.
“You’ll see. Anyway, I think we have everyone. Lynn and the staryu are at the entrance to Ilex Forest, so let’s go,” she said, leading the way.
We left the area where my team was camping, and we went past the gates and guards so that we could enter Ilex Forest. Once we were inside the forest, we went around what seemed like a million trees that were all part of a labyrinth we’d never be able to escape.
“I thought they were at the entrance,” I said, growing weary of being lost.
“Sorry. Here we are,” the poliwag said, moving to reveal a large clearing, filled with even more poliwag and psyduck, all of which were chattering amongst themselves, waiting for the ceremony to start. Lynn and the staryu—the future legendary starmie!—stood in the middle of the clearing, and I could see a blue, shimmering item in Lynn’s hand.
The poliwag and psyduck from my group went to join the larger group, and I stood there, lost and confused. What was I supposed to do now? I followed behind them and placed myself in the circle, pretending that I knew what I was doing. There, apparently, were downsides to being the only—and the strongest—croconaw here. And I felt like I was the only living thing here among a bunch of bones, since all the poliwag were so skinny. Even from afar, I could tell that Lynn was not so different, though she was evolved. At least the staryu looked normal…
“Ladies!” Lynn roared. Immediately, everyone stood to face her, and quieted so they could hear her. “Thank you. I am glad to see that you could all make it. Without further ado, we can begin the ceremony. We will make it as quick as possible, as Comerhi here has been waiting for a long time for this day to come. Isn’t that right, Comerhi?”
“Yes, yes it is,” said the staryu.
I took a moment to take in the presence of the staryu. As expected, the main shape of the pokémon involved a star. It had five appendages, all of which were a golden-brown color. The appendages were also apparently very flexible, as the staryu was taking every moment possible to move its body around in anticipation. The middle part of the star was a dark yellow, and in the very middle of the pokémon, there was a circular, red ruby that was glowing, like the water stone in Lynn’s hand. So this was what a rare pokémon looked like, one I hadn’t even heard of before! I wondered how that was possible, and mentally scolded Professor Elm for not telling me about staryu and starmie before.
“Now, we all have enjoyed having Comheri as an addition to our team here in Ilex Forest and Goldenrod City. She—for today, she has stated that she would prefer to be referred to as a female, to fit in with all of you—has lived here for about ten years, and is now finally ready to set forth into the unknown, mysterious adventure known as evolution,” Lynn said, and bowed. “She was born here to two starmie who have unfortunately left us since then. She was a temperamental baby pokémon, but was easily soothed by the presence of all of us. She appreciated our company. As she grew up… Well, there are many stories to tell. Does everyone remember, when she was young, how she used to swim in the ponds and pretend to be a magikarp, spouting off all kinds of nonsense? I bet we all remember. And then, there was the time where she learned to walk on land for the very first time. Her determination was an inspiration to all of us. Finally, no one can forget the moment where her two parents sacrificed themselves so that she would not get caught by a trainer…”
She stopped, allowing the silence to spread over the group and engulf them.
“Anyway… I’m a bit jealous. Maybe one day there will be no staryu in Ilex Forest, and I can use the stone on myself, though I am not as special as this well-renowned species,” Lynn said.
She paused for a moment yet again. This time, the audience chuckled at her joke. I stood there in awe, not knowing previously that poliwhirl also needed a water stone to evolve. How noble and selfless Lynn was!
“Enough memories. As I said, Comerhi has been waiting a long time for this day. She is ready to move on with her life and become the alien creature known as starmie. Though she will be as mysterious as ever, we vow to love her with all that we have, and for as long as we live. Now, Comerhi will come around to each and every one of you, and she will sprinkle some of her body’s dust on the food you have brought. This is done to bless everyone and to make sure that her un-evolved form will live on forever in our hearts.”
Just as Lynn said, Comerhi made her way around each concentric circle, shaking her flexible body. I could see her body practically falling apart, appendage by appendage, as she went around spreading dust on everyone’s food. I supposed that was what happened when staryu prepared to evolve in the presence of a water stone. It was peculiar to me—evolution hadn’t been an act of destroying, but an act of creating and molding.
I was the last circle that Comerhi came to. When she passed me, I felt like I was a part of something unbelievable and unique, as if the staryu had already evolved and become legendary. There was something about Lynn’s words that made the staryu appear special already, with all of her memories and connections within the Ilex Forest and Goldenrod City group. I wondered for a moment, if everyone was rare, including me—just because of the interesting and different lives that we led.
When Comerhi was finished, she made her way back up to Lynn and the water stone.
“Now, you may all eat your blessed food,” Lynn said, “as Comerhi finally touches this water stone, which was found by one of the group members among us today. Let us have a moment of silence for this group member, who has allowed this celebratory occasion to take place.”
For a few moments, all that was heard was chewing among random parts of the group. After the moment of silence was over, Lynn turned to Comerhi and held her arms out, revealing to the world the precious water stone that was so cherished within the group. Comerhi stepped forward, and bent over slowly—as if to savor the moment. Eventually, the top part of her star body touched the blue rock, and she began to glow.
It was when she first started to glow that I began eating all my berries, ignoring the bitter taste of dust in my mouth. I watched intently as Comerhi star body grew bigger and bigger. I was even more surprised when Comerhi grew a second star behind the first one! Though what astounded me most was how the staryu’s red core was disintegrating and falling apart right in front of our very eyes. All of its red, red pieces fell to the forest floor amidst the white glow. That was all I could make of the new starmie’s form until the illumination finally faded away. Once it was gone, I could see that, instead of golden-brown, her body was purple, still with a darker yellow portion in the middle. What fascinated me the most was the red jewel that the starmie now possessed. Unlike the staryu’s, it was much brighter, much larger, and much more red, as if to signify an intense passion for life. Once the full transformation had taken place, Comerhi let out a deep grunt, which sounded robotic, yet rhythmic—a symbol of its new alien form, I assumed.
Everyone yelled out for joy or clapped if they had hands. I joined them soon after, and I also finished the rest of my berries. I swallowed the last of the dust that remained on my tongue, and waited for whatever came next.
After what seemed like forever, Lynn continued, “When you are done eating your food, you may come up here and take a part of Comerhi’s lost core, which is a symbol of its ability to communicate with others. Embrace this piece of jewelry as you sleep tonight, and use it to dream of your lover, or someone important to you. Once everyone is finished, the last part of the ceremony will commence, and everyone will follow Comerhi to the pond of her choice and take her first swim with her alien form.”
Everyone did as Lynn said. Some pokémon were already finished, so they made their way through the concentric circle and picked up a piece of broken red stone, bowing down to Comerhi as they did so, and giving a few words of respect. Once I saw that they were talking to the new legendary, I was more eager to join. I got up and stepped over a bunch of poliwag and psyduck to get to the middle of the clearing. I chose my own piece of red stone, which was very jagged and sharp, so I had to make sure not to hurt myself with it. Since it was only necessary, I also bowed to Comerhi, and asked her, “So, what’s it feel like to be a legendary?”
But Comerhi only laughed and said, “I’m not a legendary. There are plenty of staryu—starmie—in the world.”
“Then why is there a big ceremony celebrating your evolution?” I couldn’t help but ask.
“Because staryu and starmie are rare among this area, and their rarity is cherished here. It really is nice, and I wish I could say we were rare, but that’s all,” Comerhi said. I wondered if she was smiling or annoyed. I didn’t know which, so I just bowed again and made my leave.
Comerhi left with me, though. I walked slower to let her pass me, still thinking I owed her my respects. She treaded through the concentric circles one last time, and I watched as all of the poliwag and psyduck stood up to follow her. Lynn also followed her, and ended up walking beside me, looking at me expectantly.
“So, what did you think?”
“I think it’s very special for water-types. I learned some things that I will think of tonight,” I said simply, quietly. I was stil trying to get over the fact that starmie wasn’t legendary after all.
“I see. Well, if you ever come around here with your trainer, you should visit us again, and see if we have anything else going on.”
As we kept walking toward the pond that Comerhi chose for the remainder of the ceremony, my walking got slower. It was really dark, now, so no one really noticed—they just kept on walking by. Instead of going to the pond with the group, I turned and made my way back to Ezrem and the others. It took a while, but it gave me plenty of time to think. In the end, though, I couldn’t think about much of anything. It was the first time in a while I had been shaken up. My whole understanding of the world had just been brought into question, after all.
Ezrem and the others were already sleeping when I returned. I guessed they hadn’t really missed me or worried about me too much, as they had previously said they would. I sat against a tree next to Ezrem, which is where I normally slept, but somehow, I knew I wasn’t going to get any rest tonight.
I held the red jewel in my hand, thinking back to the ceremony. It felt like it was years ago already, for some reason. The starmie’s words rang in my ears. They weren’t rare! They weren’t legendary! But the group treated them as such. Where was the justice in that? Wasn’t that an insult to the real rare, legendary pokémon? But then, I thought back to the stories I had told the team… All of them had ended up in disaster somehow, someway. Surely, the legendaries wouldn’t want that. The legendaries would want humans and pokémon alike to celebrate each other and lift each other’s spirits. And that’s exactly what the group did. That’s exactly what Sai did, when he tried to make us feel special for being a part of his team. What’s what Senori did, when he wanted to be our leader and take care of us so lovingly. That’s what I did, when trying to impress Ezrem or make myself feel more superior than I really was.
Being ordinary can be powerful after all, I thought. That meant that even Senori and Atis and Rennio and I were special. Ezrem was definitely special, but now, he was special in an… ordinary kind of way. In the end, I decided that I wouldn’t ask him about his shiny self—it didn’t matter, anyway.
I lay down, and thought of everyone, holding the jewel close to my heart. Yes, they were all special, and I was glad to have them all here. I was glad that Senori looked out for me earlier, and I was glad for Ezrem’s terrible jokes and manipulative self. I hoped now, more than ever, that Sai would return.
What happened next was a great stroke of luck. I wished that epiphanies hit me more often, if this was what happened after them. Really. So that is the way of it. You wake up, thinking the day will go as planned. But it never goes as planned. Between all of the exchanges you have with people and pokémon, there’s this and that. This and that may change your hopes and dreams! There’s you’ll never guess… and didn’t I tell you?—both of which may make you feel attacked. But by the end of the day, there’s hey, by the way, I love you, too…
I heard something. Someone.
I immediately bolted upright, and listened for the source of the sound. Yes, there was definitely someone approaching, and it sounded like… human footsteps.
“Who’s there?” I cried, vaguely hoping to wake up the others in case it was a violent intruder. I held up the sharp end of the jewel in my head, prepared to use it if I had to.
It wasn’t a violent intruder, or a legendary pokémon, or any other member of the team just happening to wake up and scare me.
It was Sai.
The little adventure Kuiora had was really nice and wonderful. :3
And the things she realized, that was really wonderful.
It's about time Sai returned! Now I can't wait for the next chapter.
Hehe, glad you liked it. And indeed, Sai is back...
chapter 17 ; [ATIS]
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.”
“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…”
“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.”
“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.”
“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.
chapter 18 ; [SENORI]
Sometimes, I thought that life was defined by the distance between what you wanted and what you needed. I especially felt this way at the pokémon fan club, where the solution to all of my problems came to me in the most unexpected instant, in the most unexpected fashion. Who knew that a human could solve what they had no knowledge about? Who knew that fate would bring such an opportunity to me? I surely didn’t. I just knew that I needed to move on from my past, and that I wanted to do it in the least painful way possible. The pokémon fan club had provided me with some insight I never would have thought of myself; it helped me realize that the distance I originally thought of as so far apart was as close as it could possibly be!
As Sasha and Marty brought us back to Sai, and as we shortly thereafter made our way to the gym (before Sai went completely insane over breaking the rules once again), I felt like I was at home. I felt as if I were in the forest and experiencing every part of nature as sharply all over again; this was how I knew my answer was correct.
There was something odd about the clouds moving in our direction that sent shivers down my spine. The few trees in the city swaying in the wind made me think they were speaking to me. There was a silence that emanated from the cracks in the pavement below my feet; it was a distant echo of the times that I was alone. The memories were muffled by all of our footsteps; they were only tearing loose in an attempt to break my shell. What would they find? I could only guess that they’d find my resolution of thinking it was best to stay away from my clan, and then, the memories would try to bring me back to the nightmare that I had already lived through once. Well, I had already vowed not to live there again—the dead, the result of my carelessness, hung below me, muttering to themselves in discontent. While I was deeply sorry and forever would be, I had to do this for myself.
And why did I believe evolving would help, anyway? The reason was simple, and almost agonizingly so. I would be getting rid of the one thing that every sentret of my clan cherished most about themselves.
I would be getting rid of my tail.
When all sentret were born, we held a ritual to bless it. It was a blessing that we hoped would bring about great growth and prosperity to this important part of the body. We even made a point to say that we didn’t want the sentret to evolve, just so they could keep this vital part of them forever. We always had contests to see whose was longer and therefore most efficient in helping the clan succeed—this was how Ari and me were chosen as the leaders. And if I were to lose my tail, no longer would the leader in me be telling me to stand on it and keep an eye out for others, to keep an ear out for danger, just like I had done so many nights in the forest, including the one that ruined me. I could instead look at the path right in front of me rather the one that was miles away.
And it just so happened that were heading to the gym at this very moment. The timing couldn’t have been any more spectacular.
I willed my heart to stop pounding, but it ignored me.
“You’re back again, huh? It’s been a while. You must have been doing a lot of training,” Whitney observed when we approached her for another battle.
“Something like that,” I said sarcastically. The revelation that I had come to felt even better knowing that Sai was here to witness it, but I wouldn’t admit it. I was still bitter toward him for leaving at all, and I was still curious as to where on earth he was. My next goal would have to be finding this out, since once I evolved, I would be prepared to deal with him and his emotions even more fully.
Sai glared at me for a moment, which just made me grin at him. “Yes, we’ve trained a lot for our rematch,” he lied.
“Well, we can start the battle whenever. We will again use two pokémon each,” Whitney said, pulling a pokéball out of her back pocket. She thrust it forward, revealing the same pink pokémon that had fought and won last time.
“Clefairy! I’m here!” it cried as it emerged.
“Can I fight?” Ezrem chimed in, pulling on Sai’s pant leg.
“No?” Sai said, as if the answer was obvious.
“Rude… Well, then, what about Rennio?” Ezrem said, now pulling on the elekid’s arm, making him panic in retaliation.
“I won’t do that to him again if he doesn’t want to fight,” Sai said firmly.
“On a more serious note,” I said, glaring at Ezrem and taking Rennio from him, “can I fight, Sai? We’re all so eager to fight for you, as you can see!”
“Kuiora first,” Sai said, just as firmly. “She asked me earlier. She wants a rematch against the clefairy, and I don’t blame her. But you can fight second, okay?”
“Okay,” I said after a few moments, thinking that this was acceptable. As strong as Kuiora was, I didn’t think she could beat both of the gym leader’s pokémon. They seemed far too powerful and their strategies were better than her’s, though perhaps she had come up with something in all of the time we had spent doing practically nothing near Ilex Forest.
“Yes! Thank you, Sai!” Kuiora cried ecstatically, taking her place in the middle of the arena. She stood her ground in a position that made me immediately question my previous beliefs about her. Maybe she really could beat both pokémon, and then, I wouldn’t have a chance to fight. Well, my trainer’s decision was already made. I would just have to wait it out. Of course, if I didn’t fight now, there would be other opportunities—but why would I want to wait any longer than I had to?
“Okay, Kuiora,” said Sai, though he didn’t appear to know what to say next; he was talking for the sake of talking. “Uh, just like we planned, all right? Start off with a bite attack!”
Though she appeared perplexed by his confusing words, she obeyed, and pounced at the clefairy with lightning speed. The clefairy didn’t even have time to move, nor did Whitney have time to call out an attack. Kuiora bit down on the clefairy’s arm, causing the fairy to cry out in pain.
“That’s so you can’t use your metronome attack this time! No electricity will be coming from those little paws,” the croconaw said through gritted teeth.
I laughed and marveled over Kuiora. How had she gotten so fast in a short amount of time? And not only was she faster, but she looked more determined. She looked… wiser, older. Just what had happened to her while Sai was gone? Whatever it was, I was suddenly glad that I didn’t have to worry about her being off on her own anymore. If I didn’t end up having a chance to fight against one of Whitney’s pokémon, this battle would at least still be worth it.
The clefairy tried to use its good arm to cradle the bad one, but its arm just wasn’t long enough to reach over to the other side. Its bad arm hung there, limp and slightly bleeding, apparently now unusable, just as Kuiora had intended.
“I see how it is,” the clefairy said, wincing.
“You do? Show me what you’ve got, then!”
“Clefairy, don’t let it get you down! Use growl!” Whitney ordered.
The clefairy obeyed. Though its voice clearly showed that it was in pain, it grunted and then let out a high pitched howl that made even Kuiora (and the rest of us) take a few steps backward. It was unfathomable to see such a tiny creature let out such a ferocious sound, but apparently it was possible. And the clefairy’s plan worked—it had regained its self-confidence, and was ready to fight again.
“Now use pound!” Whitney cried.
Though the clefairy had one arm out of commission, the other was still perfectly fine. The clefairy proved this by charging at Kuiora while she was out of commission herself. The fairy used its good arm to punch Kuiora in the stomach over and over, causing the croconaw’s feet to slide backward against the gym floor with each and every hit.
“Good! Try a doubleslap now. Keep her confused.”
The clefairy obeyed by jumping off of the ground. Keeping itself suspended, it was now slapping its paws into Kuiora’s face, making it move back and forth, back and forth. Kuiora was clearly shown to be dizzy when she tried to swipe away the clefairy with her own paws, but kept missing and swiping the air instead.
“Kuiora,” Sai said, uncertainty still in his voice, but a hint of excitement, too, “use water gun! It’s a perfect chance!”
And indeed it was. The croconaw immediately spat out a spray of water, hitting her target dead on, since the clefairy was right in front of her face, her mouth. As the stream of water grew longer, the clefairy was thrown further backwards, as it could not escape the flow. Whitney had to even move out of the way before getting hit, and the attack finally ended once the water gun and the clefairy struck the wall outside of the arena.
“The pokémon got knocked out of the arena,” Sai observed. “Does that mean Kuiora wins?”
“That would work in an official tournament,” Whitney said, smiling weakly, “but not here. Clefairy, you can get up, right?”
“Oh,” Sai said, clearly bummed that the battle would go on.
As Whitney had predicted, the clefairy was able to stand up, but just barely. After feeling the impact of a limp arm and the full force of a water gun attack done by an evolved pokémon, it looked like it was going to faint at any given moment. It had a lot of spirit, though—I could give it credit for that.
“All right, Kuiora,” Sai said. “One more water gun and you should win.”
Kuiora nodded. She thrust her head backward, preparing to shoot another stream of water. When she brought her head forward, a blast of water shot forth as well, heading straight for the clefairy.
“Clefairy, dodge it!” Whitney said, a hint of worry in her voice.
The clefairy dodged it in a peculiar way. Instead of moving out of the way, the clefairy suddenly grew… smaller. It happened in tiny increments. Every time the clefairy changed size, an afterimage was left behind, and it disappeared as quickly as it came. By the end of the move, the clefairy was hardly visible, and the water gun ran right above its head, missing completely.
“Clefairy, why did you use minimize? That may make you smaller, but it makes you hurt a lot more!” Whitney whined. Once again, she looked like she was about to run into the arena, but she restrained herself by keeping her arms folded above her head, and by spinning around on her heels.
“It was the only way I could dodge,” a voice even higher pitched than the previous growl said. “I can barely move…”
“Oh, dear,” Whitney said, placing a hand in front of her mouth dramatically.
“Well, bite isn’t going to work,” Sai said, “and water gun isn’t too likely to hit. Try… stomping on it? Knock it out once and for all!”
“Okay,” said Kuiora happily. She walked over to the clefairy casually, staring down at it when she reached her target. She smiled and lifted her foot, and at that moment, the clefairy started growing larger again, bit by bit. This time, afterimages of the tiny clefairy were present every time the fairy grew a little bigger. Just when the clefairy was about to reach its full capacity, Kuiora brought her foot down as hard as she could on the clefairy’s head, causing it to fall forward on its stomach with a thud.
The clefairy did not get up.
I thought that stomping on the clefairy was a little harsh, but I didn’t say anything. It was a legit pokémon attack, one that had occurred in several battles before today, and one that would continue to appear for all of eternity. The clefairy simply had to suffer the fate of being a pokémon, just like the rest of us. Just like I would be doing soon enough, I hoped.
And I did get that chance. It was surprising to all of us, but Kuiora stepped down from battling as soon as she defeated the clefairy.
“I got my revenge, just like I wanted,” was all that she said. But Kuiora—the one that I knew, anyway—wasn’t ever likely to turn down a battle. So this was entirely new. Not unwelcome, but definitely new. Still, I appreciated the notion, and I congratulated her and told her that I would win the battle.
“If you don’t, I’m still able to battle, right? I’ll pick up the pieces for you,” she said.
“Don’t worry. I never lose,” I said, feeling confident. In that moment, I honestly couldn’t remember a time that I had lost a battle—one that consisted of fighting, anyway. I was sure that it had happened, but it wasn’t going to faze me. Not today.
“What if you really do lose, though? It can happen! Even I’ve lost!”
“If I lose, then you’ll have witnessed the single most unlikely thing to ever happen,” I said, grinning. As much as I wanted to—in order to keep everything a surprise—I couldn’t hide my excitement. This was my answer, my salvation. And it was going to happen now, in front of Sai, in front of my—our—team.
I eagerly leapt out into the arena, waiting for my opponent to appear. After a few moments, though, it didn’t look like Whitney was going to send anyone out. I looked at her, confused, and saw that she was trying not to cry.
“My poor clefairy!” she lamented, burying her face in her hands, sobbing.
“Uh,” Sai said quickly, “Kuiora won fair and square. A gym leader should know that, yeah?”
“I do, don’t you worry. We can still win!” she said, now wiping her eyes. She recalled the clefairy and took out another pokéball out of her back pocket. “Go, Miltank!”
When it emerged, I thought that the miltank… Well, at least it lived up to its name. It was a cow, so it provided milk, and it looked like a tank. Yes, the thing was huge compared to me when I was on all fours. It was at least two feet taller, and considerably wider and thicker. It was mostly pink, though not as pink as the clefairy had been. Its belly was a cream color, and there were six well-placed protrusions on its belly that I thought were called utters, I wasn’t sure. Its ears and its feet were black, and it had a pink tail with a black ball on the end of it. I vaguely wondered if a miltank’s tail was as important to the species as it was to my sentret clan. The creature also had notable white horns on top of its head, which could have been important as well.
“Miltank!” it cried. Apparently, Whitney’s pokémon had a thing for announcing its name to the world when they approached a battle. Well, that was all fine and dandy, I thought, though I wondered if it ever confused Whitney into thinking she couldn’t understand pokémon—if she could even understand pokémon at all, anyway. The human species was certainly an odd one.
“Okay,” Whitney said. “We’re going to try to end this as quickly as possible. Miltank, use body slam!”
Ouch, I thought. If I thought that Kuiora’s stomping attack was bad, since she was a big pokémon herself and particularly powerful, then this was terrible. Not only was the miltank probably stronger than Kuiora, but it was at least twice her weight. I braced myself for an awful attack.
The miltank ran toward me, its utters and body fat flapping along the way. It was an amusing sight to see, but I couldn’t let my guard down already. I got down on all fours, frowning and yet reveling in how big of an adversary I had to face. Well, that was just fine—if my opponent had to look tougher and be larger than me, then it was giving me all the more reason to evolve in the middle of the battle.
When the miltank was close enough to me, I hopped in its direction, landing on its head and using its head to bounce forward and back onto the ground behind it. The cow took a few moments to stop its momentum, but when it did, it turned and looked at me furiously.
“How dare you evade my attack!” it said, charging at me once more. But I did the same thing again, successfully dodging. Not only was the opponent fearsome, but it had quite a temper as well. Very fortunate. The scene reminded me of heading into that lady’s house and trying to escape the broom that she so eagerly swung at me with.
“I’m just doing my job,” I said, teasing. I put my finger up to my head as if to say that was an obvious answer, and that the miltank was rather dull. The move only served to infuriate the cow further.
“Use your own body slam, Senori!” Sai ordered.
“My attack is just called slam, thank you very much,” I said defiantly. Still, I did the same thing that the miltank had been doing before, though I was much quicker due to my smaller size. This also meant that the miltank couldn’t jump over my head, or even move in any direction to get out of the way in time. My body blasted against the miltank’s, causing it to lose its breath as it was knocked backward. I noticed that I didn’t move him much, but the impact was still there, as the pokémon’s shoulders had drooped a little and it appeared less confident.
“Good job, good job. Use slam again,” commented Sai.
“Yes, yes,” I said, mimicking him. I didn’t say so, but I was glad for his praise, his attentiveness. It would, hopefully, serve me again sooner rather than later.
I prepared to use my slam attack once more when Whitney shouted, “Miltank, use defense curl!”
I should have known better than to attack the miltank when it was using defense curl, since it was one of my own moves that had proven to be very useful in the past. With the miltank’s size and weight, the effect was all the more difficult against my small frame. I was running to the cow when it was putting itself into a rolled up position, but I was going too fast to stop myself—one of the disadvantages to being fast. When my body collided with the miltank’s—just as before—this time it was me who was knocked backward. The miltank’s body was rock hard, and I now had a throbbing headache. I grabbed my head, knowing it was futile, but hoping it would stop soon.
“Okay, Miltank, I think it’s time for your signature move. Rollout!” Whitney commanded, and all hints of her crying self were gone.
“What’s rollout?” I asked myself, afraid to soon find out. Since we were both normal-type pokémon that hadn’t quite reached the threshold where we could learn the elemental moves discussed at the pokémon fan club, I was expecting for every ordered attack to be familiar and similar to my own. This, however, was completely new to me.
I waited for the miltank to obey, but it stayed in its ball-like position. It looked daunting just like that, but it was even more damaging to my self-confidence when it started rolling toward me, and at a remarkable speed I wasn’t anticipating from the larger pokémon. Stunned, I wasn’t able to dodge the rollout as it crashed into me, forcing my body to bend back so that I was leaning against my tail in an awkward position. The miltank continued to flatten my body as it tumbled over my stomach, my face, my ears. Out of every body part I had, the tail hurt the most. And it went without saying that I was sick of my tail hurting. It signified pride. It signified strength, and I was tired of pretending that it was an object I didn’t really own just because it was in a location that I couldn’t always see.
I had to evolve now, or never.
Up until now, I hadn’t noticed the urge that my body had had to evolve for ages, now. It was a peculiar sensation that other sentret in my clan had reported having in the past, but they never dared act on it. It was the sensation of feeling like you were about to burst out of your skin at any moment. Your eyes bulged at random times, wanting to pop out of your body and watch from the outside as the inside of you was turned completely inside out. Your ears were hearing sounds that didn’t really exist—it was the inner cry of the soul that they were hearing, but they didn’t know that. Only the heart knew, and I had kept it from reacting all this time, but no longer.
The miltank must have realized what I was about to do, no doubt, since the sensation was so strong within me. It had unfurled and been watching me carefully for the last several moments. It looked entirely unhappy, unpleased. Now, however, it was rolled back up into a ball, and it was heading straight toward me, faster than ever. I had time, though, since it was all the way on the other side of the arena.
“I’m not going to let you do that, darn it!” it said harshly.
“Senori, dodge it, and quick!” Sai said.
But I wasn’t planning on dodging it. No, I didn’t want to dodge it. I wanted to stop the attack dead in its tracks. I had to prove that strength lay hidden inside of me somewhere else, and not just in my tail. I had relied on it in battles and in other situations too many time in the past. I didn’t want that anymore.
I stood exactly where I was, facing the miltank, keeping my body as straight as I could, not allowing for any twisting or the desire to turn away. I thrust my arm and my paws forward, and waited.
“Senori, what are you doing? Dodge it!” called Sai.
“Nah,” I said, grinning and hoping he could see it. He would just have to trust what was to come. He seemed accustomed to trusting people, anyhow—almost too much. So I could follow myself, just this once, and then I would never obey another command from my trainer again.
Finally, the miltank reached me and collided with me once more. Instead of allowing myself to be flattened like a pancake yet again, I pushed at the big ball, keeping it suspended on the ground. I grimaced; I was using every ounce of my body, every ounce of my power, just to keep this miltank here. And for what? I wasn’t attacking it or causing damage, so this was simply delaying the battle further. I supposed that I was causing the miltank to waste some of its energy but I didn’t know if that would be enough.
“I… won’t let you… stop me!” I cried through gritted teeth. I couldn’t see miltank’s face as it rolled, but judging by the sudden increase in power at my words, I could tell that it was more angry than ever.
So I had proven to myself that I had strength somewhere else. It was an enlightening feeling, to say the least. Who knew that I had it in me? Now, I had to figure out how to give myself a chance to evolve. The miltank, given the chance, was going to try to stop me at any cost… I had to keep it distracted somehow, someway…
And in a battle, the best way to do that was to let the opponent pokémon recover from getting hurt.
I started letting the miltank push me back on purpose, letting it believe that it was finally beginning to overpower me. It was quite the opposite, but of course I didn’t say so—I was controlling the situation entirely. I looked behind me, seeing how close we were to the wall. It was still quite a stretch to get there, but I could manage. I let the miltank push me back even faster now, and the fury emanating from the cow vanished—it really thought that it was winning. When we were close enough to the wall, I moved my feet to the left and then jumped out of the way completing, allowing the miltank to smash into the wall, just as planned.
I didn’t waste any time after that. I let go of my inhibitions, and all of the inner energy inside of me that I had been keeping contained in a bottle of sorts. Through my eyes, I could see that I was beginning to glow. I didn’t dare look down anymore—my old body was old news. Surprisingly, the transition didn’t hurt at all. I could feel my body grow longer, more slender. My arms—which had felt sometimes like an odd pair of wings in the past—were now shaped like normal arms, with longer paws. My ears grew shorter, which pleased me as well, as maybe now my hearing wouldn’t be so sharp, as that had also been a prominent feature in my clan… I wondered how my insides were changing, but it didn’t matter, as long as everything significant was present. As far as my color went, I couldn’t tell if I’d still be the dark shade of brown that I had always been. I would have to look in a mirror later, or, preferably, have Sai tell me.
When the evolution was completely, I immediately looked behind me. My bushy, important tail was no longer there. Of course, I still had a tail—I was expecting this—but it was a longer tail. A natural tail. One that wasn’t blessed. And that was what mattered.
I looked at the miltank, who was staring at me vigorously. It had stood back up and kicked at the wall a few times while I was finishing. While I was fully happy with myself, it wasn’t happy for me at all.
“Senori,” Sai said. “You evolved! Wow…”
Ah, yes, and then there was the spectating crowd. I looked back at him, waving to him with my new arm, which felt awkward, but I was sure that I would get used to it. For now, he seemed content, and that was what counted to me.
“Miltank, I know things aren’t looking too good, but you can do it! Use rollout,” Whitney said. The hint of urgency had returned to her frail voice.
Miltank huffed and obeyed, returning to its ball-like form. As he headed toward me, I swished my tail around, reveling in the fact that it was a soft tail now, not one made of any substance at all.
“Use a new attack or something, Senori!” Sai said.
I chuckled. “Just because I evolved doesn’t mean that I forgot all of my attacks or anything,” I said, also reveling in the fact that my voice was the same.
All the while, the miltank was charging toward me once more. Yes, I was treating the miltank like a joke, now. I knew there was no hope for it.
When it was close enough to take seriously, I focused my senses. While my hearing was still intact, everything else had enhanced. I started intently at the miltank. When I thought it was best to perform a body slam, I did so—and my prediction was dead on. I hit the miltank with the full force of my new body directly on its head, stopping not only the rollout, but the entire pokémon itself. I returned to my original position, watching the effects take place. The miltank was grabbing its head and going around in circles, dizzy and confused.
“All right,” Whitney said. “That’s enough. A gym leader knows when she’s… lost…” Before she even finished her sentence, she had already burst into tears. Her sobbing echoed throughout the entire gym, it was so loud.
“Ah,” Sai said sheepishly. “I don’t know… I’m sorry! I didn’t expect to win! Well, I was hoping to win, of course, but I didn’t want to make you cry! Can I tell you some jokes or something?”
“Jokes won’t work, you jerk!” she cried as she returned the miltank to its pokéball. I watched it as it was immersed in a flash of red, thanking it for its time and effort silently.
Next, Whitney pulled one last thing out of her back pocket. She peered down at it in her hand for a moment before she flung it in my direction. It landed on the ground in front of me, so I picked it up in my new paws. The object was shaped like a golden diamond with silver edges. The gym badge certainly lived up to Goldenrod City’s expectations, I thought.
I ran up to Sai—rather clumsily, I must say—and handed it to him.
“I believe it’s your win, not mine,” he said cheerfully, petting me on the head, “but I suppose I can hold onto it for you.”
“If the miltank had made me use any body parts that I couldn’t control yet, I would have been doomed. You flatter me,” I said just as eagerly.
“Jerk,” Whitney said again.
I looked at the others, gouging their reactions. Atis looked proud, though he didn’t say anything and kept himself behind everyone else. Kuiora didn’t appear as jealous of the attention as I thought she’d be. Rennio was beyond relieved that I took over his fighting position—when our eyes met, I could tell that he was saying thank you.
As for Ezrem…
“How about a good math joke?” he said. “That always cheers everyone up. So, say this gym leader and her opponent have two pokémon. The opponent loses no pokémon, while the gym leader loses both. How many pokémon does the gym leader have now?”
“Shut up,” I said, but nothing could ruin my mood. My voice betrayed me; I was trying not to laugh.
We had not only won a gym badge from Whitney, but money. The first thing we did with our money was buy a new backpack, new food, new water, more clothes for Sai. He spent it all in one place, as usual—back to his old self. The second thing was purchased was a night in the pokémon center to celebrate. It was a major step up from being out in the wild, I had to admit.
Back at the pokémon center, Sai insisted on the idea that the badge was entirely mine.
“But what about me?” Kuiora cried. So she was jealous after all, I thought.
“Senori evolved! After all this time. I thought it was never going to happen,” he said. “Your badge is the one you won in your own gym battle.”
“That badge is lost, thanks to Senori,” Kuiora pouted.
“Sorry,” I said. “We can share this badge. You earned it, too. And next time, the spotlight can be yours.”
“Deal,” she said, satisfied.
All of us—except for Sai—sat in a circle on the carpeted floor, passing the gym badge around and indulging in its presence. That wasn’t the only thing that I was thinking about, though.
Sai was sitting on the bed, looking happy yet strained at the same time. Wasn’t he glad that we had won? Wasn’t he glad that we could move on to the next part of journey? I got on all fours—finding this position much more preferable to standing on my tail, as if I were constantly watching for danger—and went over to Sai’s new backpack. I dug through it, looking for something. When I finally found it, I wobbled over to the boy, and handed it to him.
It was the bottle of medication that he had brought back with him Atis had told me about it, and I agreed it was peculiar… but not unwelcome.
“Won’t you stay with us this time?” I said. “We were worried when you left...”
Sai took the bottle slowly, turning it over in his hands for a very, very long few moments. He looked at me, smiling sadly, and he patted me on the head.
“I’ll try to stay,” he said simply.
And that was what I wanted. This Sai—the loyal one, the excited one, the happy one—was the one we loved and wanted to stay with us. Though he was reckless and his emotions ran higher compared to all of the other people and pokémon I’d met, it wasn’t anything that we couldn’t deal with. Yes, this was the Sai I wanted to protect and serve at the same time. This was the Sai that, with my new form, I wanted to continue growing as a leader with.
That night, when we were all sleeping, with Atis on the top bunk and with everyone else on the floor, I went up to be on the bed with Sai. He just smiled at me, said his mind was racing, as usual, and he couldn’t sleep… as usual. I didn’t say a word; I rolled myself into a tiny ball and curled up next to his side, silently telling him that I hoped that he meant what he said what he told me he would stay with us.
It was the most comfortable that I had ever been.
I may not be posting my comments as of late, but I have been reading this fanfic every time a new chapter is available. :3
Anyway, yay that Senori has evolved into a Furret. I love Furrets so darn much. :3
Also, does this mean you'll change your signature too?
Eagerly awaiting the next chapter~
And I wasn't thinking of a new banner until you mentioned it. I'll look into it.
I spent a weekend catching up on this, and I'm glad that you posted a new chapter I can comment on.
This is a great fic. I love that it's written from the point of view of Sai's Pokemon. It makes the story more fulfilling, as we get their histories from their eyes, and as they take the reader on the mystery that is Sai. Speaking of Sai, he's a boy full of mystery. Every time I think I can guess what his life was like before he met Senori, there's always some small clue that you drop that changes everything.
Specifically for the last chapter, I love Senori's reasons for evolving. Heck, I just like that he evolved. Furrets are so adorable. Plus, what is Sai planning to do with the Gym badges? And will he go back to get the two that were stolen, or just continue on without them in that way that Sai does?
Really, this is one of the fics that keeps me reading Pokemon fanfiction. I'm glad that you're back to writing here on PC with such an amazing fic.
Sai is indeed full of mystery. I guess we'll have to see what happens next! And furrets are definitely cute, though I actually think sentrets are cuter. Oh, well. Senori demanded to evolve.
Thanks for commenting!
chapter 19 ; [RENNIO]
I had to been to many places. I had been to small villages, large villages, cities, towns that wished they were cities. I had been to the sea, the desert, the highest bridge in the world. I had been to these places and back again, only in different regions. It was all the same when you thought that you could die at any moment, when you couldn’t help but wonder what was wrong with you. So I could tell anyone that what could have been tasted like sand, which made me ache for something to drink as my conscious dragged me across a desert of regret. What should have been tasted like salt water, which made ships roar out to the stars in the dead of night, hoping to be answered so it wouldn’t have to feel so alone on the big blue sea.
What could have been, what should have been. That was what my life consisted of. I was beyond limited, when I wanted to be limitless. I no longer wanted to fear every threat that came my way. I no longer wanted to let Annie creep into my thoughts when she was least wanted. I no longer wanted to let Ezrem’s words make me think that I had to accomplish something huge, something larger than myself.
What could I do about it? Well, I had already spent enough time learning about other people and pokémon. It only hit me now that it was entirely another thing to learn from people and pokémon. Yes, that was why everyone came in and out of my life in such a wild, quick paced fashion—they were meant to heal me in their own way. It was time for them to finally teach me something that was not only full of wisdom, but useful to the way in which I thought about life.
I mostly thanked Senori for this. I thanked Sai, too, but for different reasons. When Sai disappeared, I was crushed. Simply crushed. I fretted over him day in and day out, wondering if he was okay. I thought it was the Annie situation all over again, except without the fire! How could he do that to me, when we had just become partners? We had scarcely touched the surface of our journey… and then he left, leaving me to wonder what could have been all over again. It wasn’t a pleasurable week, to say the least. But Senori helped me out. He showed me that I was having a strange sort of combination of delusions of grandeur and guilty delusions. I thought that everything was my fault, yet at the same time, I thought that I was invincible. Since I had already had such a low event occur in my life, it simply couldn’t happen again—that was my reasoning. Senori showed me that it was all a lie. Sai had disappeared—it was true. I had to accept it: a low event had happened again. And I thought it was my fault, for not battling, or for battling poorly, rather…
Then, Sai came back. To say that I was ecstatic was an understatement. He was perfectly okay! He wanted our journey to continue! Even though he said we were going to the pokémon gym right away, I swear that it didn’t matter to me at that moment. And then—when we really did arrive at the pokémon gym…! Senori’s fight had inspired me. He had finally found a way to let go of his past. Even though he didn’t tell me this, I could see it on his face the moment that he evolved. He looked like a free pokémon, through and through. For a moment, I felt like we were at home, though that was nowhere permanent yet.
That was where me—and Ezrem—wanted to be.
I finally approached Sai about this. I finally tried to find a way to get us there, once and for all.
That would be step one, I decided.
It was the morning after the second Goldenrod City gym battle. I woke up early that day, full of energy and determination. I noticed that Sai was up already, too—he was lying in his bed, murmuring to himself about something—and used this chance to talk to him.
“Sai,” I said, approaching him. I made sure to be quiet, since Senori was lying at his side, sleeping still.
“Yes, Elekid?” he said, turning his head to look at me.
“Won’t you call me Rennio?” I said first. If he was going to listen to my thoughts and take them to heart, then he had to know who I really was.
“I don’t consider that your name,” he said plainly, “but I know you do, along with the others. Did your old trainer give you that name?”
“Yes,” I said, smiling at the positive memory of Annie. “That’s why I want you to call me it, too, especially if you’re not going to give me another name…”
“It would be even worse to give you another name. You can keep calling yourself what you want. Anyway,” Sai said, “what did you want to talk about?”
“I wanted to talk about me and Ezrem,” I said, allowing him to change the subject. Someday, I believed that he would call me by my name. “Our goals for the future…”
“The future?” Sai said, as if the idea was foreign to him. I wondered if it truly was. Annie always had had a goal in mind, but they were the exact opposite of each other, it seemed.
“Yes,” I said. “Me and Ezrem have been looking for home. We really want to get there someday.”
“Where’s home for you?”
“Unova. Rufflet are from Unova, and apparently… so were elekid… once upon a time…”
“Oh,” Sai said simply, my words apparently having no effect on him. “I don’t know where that is.”
“There are maps and stuff to help you figure those kinds of things out,” I said quickly. “And there’s ships. And planes. Plenty of transportation modes!”
“Why didn’t you just go there after your trainer passed, then?”
“We’re just pokémon…” I said. My voice was soft; he had stung me with his blunt choice of words. Did he have any social skills at all? “We can’t do that by ourselves. That’s why we need you.”
Sai thought for a moment. “So you want me to bring you to this Unova place, huh?”
“That’s exactly right! I’ll do anything for it! And so would Ezrem, if you’d give him a chance to be on the team,” I said, glad we were getting somewhere now. It felt invigoration, empowering.
“What would you do?” Sai said curiously.
“I’d… finally battle for you. Ezrem would, too, if you needed him. I’ll stop being a baby for you. I’ll try, anyway. I’ll really try… and I’ve never even tried before—”
“Stop,” Sai interrupted suddenly. I froze, wondering if I had said anything wrong. “You don’t have to try for me. That’s up to you. Either way, I wouldn’t be able to fulfill your request.”
I could feel my heart fall. It had become a familiar sensation lately, it seemed. “Why not?” I asked.
“I can’t leave the region.”
“Why not?” I asked again.
“It’s complicated. I have—had—people following me… If I left the region, surely they would hunt me down until the end of time… and do unimaginable things…” Sai said, looking up to the top of the bunk. He looked lost in thought now, forlorn and desperate.
“So you’ll never leave the region?”
“No,” Sai said, “but maybe I can get you guys there. I can’t make any promises, but—”
“That’s good enough!” I cried, and then I remembered that I had to keep my voice down. I stopped for a moment, then continued, “I promise that I’ll fight for you from now on. We’re leaving for the next town soon, right? I promise that I’ll battle the first trainer that we come across. You’ll see, I’ll do better than I did at the gym.”
But Sai didn’t look impressed. “Like I said, you don’t have to fight for me. In fact, your not fighting probably helps you out even more.”
“What? That doesn’t make any sense…” I said, wondering how on earth my not being able to fight was at all useful to anyone.
“I can’t explain. But do what you want.”
“Okay,” I said, deciding not to push him further. He was already being mysterious and confusing as it was, and I had completed my goal of getting him to think about us going to Unova, anyway. That was a start.
We were quiet for a few moments, with him looking at me peculiarly. Even when my eyes shifted back and forth between him and whatever else I could look at nervously, he didn’t stop peering over at me. His dark eyes were an odd color of blue; it almost made him look crazy, as if he were feeling intensely wound up inside. He looked like… he was longing for something. That was the best way I could put it. Maybe it had to do with me, since he was staring at me so intently.
Well, since he was looking to please me (maybe—hopefully), I dared to ask, “Will you… feed me sometime? My old trainer used to feed me… It’s been a long time since anyone’s done that… I just want it done, for old time’s sake, you know. I’m sorry if that’s weird. Yeah. I’m sorry.”
At this, Sai just laughed. “I feed you all the time. Every day, in fact. So I don’t know what you’re talking about.”
“Feeding me. Like… a baby.”
Sai chuckled again. “I still don’t know what you’re talking about, but you aren’t a baby. You can feed yourself. But maybe. Maybe that could be your prize for fighting.”
I thought for a moment, satisfied with his answer—it would give me further motivation to fight, after all. “I have one last question,” I said, thinking back to older times, now. His disappearance hadn’t happened too far back, but still, it was just as fresh in my memory as Annie’s death.
“Go for it.”
“Why did you leave us? We were so worried about you…”
“…Senori said the same thing.”
“Because it’s true.”
“I can’t tell you,” Sai said quietly, finally looking away. “I had… business to take care of. If I could have taken you guys along, I would have. I would have put you all in your pokéballs or something. But be glad you stayed where you were.”
“Why? Being wild pokémon when we belong to a trainer is no fun at all,” I said, shuddering at the idea all over again.
“Maybe one day, you’ll come with me, and you’ll regret you ever did.”
…And that was the end of that conversation. At least we had gotten somewhere, but I understood my trainer even less, now. When would it all finally be clear to me? Perhaps never, but that wouldn’t have been very ideal. I would just have to wait and see.
Though my words had seemed to come out of nowhere, I intended to keep my promise of fighting the first trainer we saw on our way to the next destination: Ecruteak City. Of course I was nervous, and of course I would probably want to back down as soon as the situation was closer, but I pushed those thoughts aside for now. We left early in the morning—shortly after our conversation, as everyone else had risen to the sound of our voices—and we headed through the northern exit of the city. I noticed Sai was walking quicker than he usually did, as if he was in a hurry.
“So, uh, why are we flying through the cities? I think that’s how you put it before, anyway,” I asked, keeping my pace brisk in order to keep up with him. It wasn’t working. The others seemed perfectly fine with doing this.
“We are flying through the cities… because that’s what I was ordered to do.”
I gave up my pace in order to think about this for a moment. As long as I could see the group, I supposed that I could afford to keep myself slightly behind. Again, I tried comparing Annie to Sai. Annie was on a journey because she wanted to be. Sai was on a journey, even though he didn’t want to be. Annie was a free spirit, and Sai was tired down by some invisible wires that only he could see. Yeah, that sounded about right. Did it make any more sense to me? Not at all.
I decided to try a different approach. I went up to Senori and asked him how long they had been traveling.
“Well, we spent a week and a half out in the wild recently… And we spent a week in a cave, once… but other than that, we’ve been moving quickly. So maybe a month, or a month and a half,” Senori said thoughtfully.
“Do you know why he’s going so fast?”
“No one does. You’re not alone.”
Suddenly, Ezrem, who had been walking in front of me until now, stopped moving and let me bump into him. I stumbled backward, mumbling that I was sorry, and to watch what he was doing.
“Oops,” Ezrem said, grinning. “But really. I’m trying not to let your mind wander too far. It’s too small and fragile to be out by itself, don’t you think?”
“Hey! That’s not very nice,” I said, huffing and crossing my arms.
“You’re the one who says he’s a baby,” Ezrem said. “Look, enough’s gone wrong already, right? Don’t try to bring any more drama into our lives. Our schedules are full.”
“Oh, yeah? And what exactly are we so busy with?” I said.
“Moving on to the next city, and getting closer to home. You should know that.”
I did know that, but I didn’t say anything in response. Smiling, I figured that soon, I would tell Ezrem that I had talked to Sai about going home, and that he had agreed to at least think about it. That was closer than we had ever gotten in years, since Annie never seemed like she was going to let us go or finish her journey (not that I would have left, had she not passed—but Ezrem was another story). He would be so thrilled, I just knew it! And after he knew, nothing would be able to bring his spirits down like they were at this moment, for whatever reason.
Things were quiet for a while after that. We kept traveling, and we only dared to speak up when we were hungry. Sai, of course, being the good trainer that he was—and I still believed he was a good trainer, despite what his sudden leave, because I thought that that was a problem with me, not him—fed us, but he told us that we should walk and eat at the same time, because we were running out of time. Dusk would start setting it soon, he said. Due to past experiences, I didn’t feel that we had been moving long enough for it to be dark anytime soon, but I listened anyway. That was just the kind of pokémon that I was.
It was only when dusk really did start setting in that Ezrem approached me again.
“So you talked to him about going home, huh? It was hard not to notice that smile on your face after I talked about it.”
“Yeah. I told him about Unova and everything,” I said, surprised in a good way about his more normal demeanor.
“I don’t know if Unova is really home or not. I mean, rufflet live there and all, and so did elekid, but who says that we’ll like it there?”
“Ezrem?” I asked, not sure what he was saying. After we had come all this way, he was going to change his mind? It didn’t make sense.
“Home could be just about anywhere. We could just take life as it is, and end up in the same happy spot as we would if he went to Unova. Do you get what I’m saying?”
“I guess… So you want to give up the plan?”
“No. If we can get to Unova, we should take that chance. I’m just saying that I’m not as excited about it as I once was.”
Well, that was certainly a better response. Had he given up the plan entirely, I would have felt simply crushed. I had only followed in his footsteps was because he was so much smarter than me and because I was always so lost on my own. If he didn’t even know the path to succeeding in life, I obviously wouldn’t have a chance.
“Yeah…” I said, deciding to change the subject to something that I was (slightly) more confident about. To get him to think about it, I also told him that I’d fight again.”
“You did?” Ezrem said, his eyes growing wide.
“I did,” I said. I thought for a moment, then added, “I meant it this time, too.”
“Then what am I focusing on my own self-pity for? I can find a trainer for you! This won’t be a problem at all!” Ezrem said.
I didn’t stop him, because he seemed so happy about my words that I just didn’t have the heart to tell him that I wasn’t ready yet. In truth, I didn’t know if I was ready or not anymore. Senori had certainly inspired me, and I had grown a lot when Sai had disappeared, but still. I only knew that it wouldn’t be hard to find a trainer. While I had promised to fight the first trainer we came across, we had encountered several trainers thus far, and Sai hadn’t spoken to any of them about a battle. Either he had forgotten, or he truly thought that not fighting was best for me. I couldn’t believe that. How else was I supposed to gain respect to the electivire line?
Ezrem literally ran up to every trainer we saw after that. He frantically tried pointing to them, and then to Sai, since none of them could understand him. Most of them blew him off, confused and in a hurry to find shelter before it got completely dark. When he got tired of being ignored, he started kicking them in the shins. I couldn’t help but laugh. Such behavior was so… Ezrem-like, and it appealed to me greatly compared to his earlier self.
Eventually, he found a trainer who approached Sai.
“Is that your rufflet?” he said, pointing to Ezrem.
“No,” Sai said, “but he likes to follow me around. He wants me to battle you.”
“I can battle you,” the trainer said immediately, automatically. “Let’s make it interesting, okay? If I win, I get that rufflet. If I lose, you can, of course, keep him.”
Sai thought for a moment. Was he really going to use Ezrem as a bargaining tool? My heart began to pound. If this was how my first battle as a brand new pokémon was going to go, then I definitely wasn’t prepared or willing to participate anymore.
Finally, Sai said, “I’m not interested in making bets. Ask him.”
“Tell him it’s a deal. I have faith in Rennio,” Ezrem said.
“Ezrem, just because you’re have an identity crisis doesn’t mean that you can gamble your life away!” I cried, waving my arms at him frantically. He simply kept his eyes on the trainer in front of him.
“He says okay,” Sai said emotionlessly.
“All right,” the boy said, licking his lips. “Let’s do this.”
And so it started. While I started sweating profusely, Sai and the other boy took their positions, turning the clearing we were standing on into an arena. I was already standing in the middle, so at least I didn’t have to walk to the middle while my legs were shaking. This battle was off to a good start, I thought sarcastically, bitterly.
“Go, Arcanine!” the boy cried, eager to get started.
I, as usual, wasn’t mentally—or physically, as it turned out—prepared for my opponent. The pokémon that appeared resembled a dog. The most notable thing I saw was that it was at least three times my size. It had a cream-colored mane covering around its neck, head, and legs. The otherwise orange pokémon had random black stripes on its body.
As a greeting, it growled ferociously.
“You have got to be kidding me,” I said weakly.
“I believe in you, Rennio!” Ezrem called again from the sidelines. “What do you have to lose, anyway? Your life? You got that for free!”
I waved to him slowly, and I felt more like I was signaling for him to shut up than thanking him for his (very kind) support. I tried hard not to let my thoughts succumb to death, and so far, it was working, aside from being forced to think about it due to Ezrem’s comment. Yes, there was an obvious change that had taken place in me, and it was already showing.
“Don’t forget your catchphrase!” I heard Ezrem call amidst all of his cheering.
“Yeah, yeah,” I said. “Rennio has come back to the world!”
The arcanine laughed. “You have, have you? This should be an enthralling match between me and a little pipsqueak like you.”
Words were either exceedingly encouraging or exceedingly brutal, I realized. I didn’t say anything, but took the mention of my size to heart. If only I had evolved… But it was too late for that. My promise to Annie had been made—and kept.
“Elekid,” Sai said kindly, “show me what kind of moves you’ve got, okay?”
“Right,” I said, trying to put myself into an intimidating stance, but the arcanine didn’t seem fazed.
“You know why my trainer made such a dangerous bet for your trainer? Because he knew he wouldn’t lose! You don’t scare me!” it roared.
“Hmm,” was my response. I couldn’t back down now. I wanted to crawl back to Sai and beg him for forgiveness already, but it was too late. I had gotten myself into this mess, and it up to me to get out of it, too. This had to be done not only for my sake now, but for Ezrem’s as well. I would have to smack him later for putting me—and himself—into such a life-threatening position.
I started running at the arcanine, unsure of what attack I would even be doing or how it would affect the giant monster. It had been so long since I battled that I apparently forgot the meaning of strategy. Nevertheless, I ran until I was in front of the arcanine. The dog crouched downward, looking like it was going to bite me the first chance it got. I wasn’t going to give it that chance, so as I got close to his mouth, I slid down on my knees, going under his head and positioning myself under its belly. Here, I felt somewhat safe, compared to being outside in the arena, where anything could happen. I knew that I had to attack, though, so I jumped up to the arcanine’s underside and kicked it with as much force as I could muster. The arcanine yelped, as he probably wasn’t expecting any move from me, much less one that was so powerful. I immediately made my way back out into the arena, afraid that he would crush me in retaliation.
“Not bad for someone of your size,” the arcanine said, one eye closed from wincing.
“Exactly… Don’t underestimate me…” I said, but my words didn’t sound very strong. My voice was still shaky, confused and lost. Baby-like.
“Sure,” it said. “I won’t.”
“That was my low kick attack,” I said, turning to Sai to make sure that he could hear me. Of course, this turned out to be a big mistake—it left an opening for the arcanine to attack me.
“Arcanine, use take down!” the pokémon’s trainer called.
Before I knew it, I was being sprawled backward, landing by Sai and the others. I cried out in pain, not expecting the sudden impact of the attack. The arcanine had collided directly with my stomach, and I held it comfortingly, swaying back and forth, hoping the cradling motion would send the terrible sensation away.
“Don’t talk to me,” Sai ordered. “Use your own attacks.”
I nodded. I had learned that Sai mostly enjoyed being a spectator of battles, while checking in here and there to keep everything sane and controlled. That made sense to me. Besides, he wasn’t experienced enough to control me, so this was for the best. I made my way back to the center of the arena, legs shaking from the sudden pain. It hadn’t been a terribly powerful attack, but it told me that the arcanine not only knew what it was doing, but it knew how to make full use of every single move it had.
I continued trying to run under the arcanine and using low kicks, but this time, the dog knew what to expect. Every time that I got close, it hopped out of the way with extraordinary speed, and it tried to fight back with more take down attacks. Similarly, I dodged out of the way each time—but just barely, due to the pokémon’s enormity and my nervousness attempting to keep me frozen. At least my speed, during all of this break time in between battles, hadn’t betrayed me much.
Eventually, I decided to stop playing games, and to try really attacking—with a move that couldn’t be avoided, no matter how hard the arcanine tried. I ran to my side of the arena, making the arcanine think that I was forfeiting. I tried to focus my mind, recalling what it was like to use this attack. It felt like being pure, as if I was striking the arcanine with the full force of the night sky that everyone wishes upon. I released a series of bright, solid stars toward the dog. The arcanine tried to avoid the volley of stars, of course, but I kept shooting so many of them that several of them hit, causing more and more damage with each blast.
The arcanine growled. “How dare you use those cheap tricks,” it said.
“They’re legit attacks…” I countered. “Obviously.”
This only made the arcanine angrier. I scolded myself, wondering why I was only serving to aggravate the pokémon further. A more furious pokémon meant more powerful attacks, and more powerful attacks meant that the battle would turn against my favor.
Apparently, Sai noticed this. “Use thundershock, Elekid!” he cried.
That, I could obey. It was the next attack that I was going to use, anyway. With all of the sweat that I had been building up on my body due to anxiety, the attack was going to have a much greater impact. I tried to focus my mind once more, remembering not only myself using the attack in the past, but the clefairy from the Goldenrod City gym. If a normal-type pokémon could use elemental attacks, then so could I…
When I released the loud, crackling streak of lightning, it felt like a huge relief to me. I had done it. I had really done it. And by my own free will, no less. It wasn’t done as self-defense, and it wasn’t done just for the sake of doing it. I was doing it during a battle, a real battle. I had never felt more immensely proud of myself, and I smiled as the electricity engulfed the arcanine in a beautiful yellow glow.
Then, things backfired on me. I hadn’t been wanting to make the arcanine angrier, but apparently, losing made its fury rise and rise. That was the goal of the battle, of course, so I wanted to win, but… Apparently, the arcanine hadn’t been expecting me to be this powerful.
“This must be a joke,” the arcanine snarled. “That trainer is new, no doubt. And you—you are anything but new to this. I can feel it in my bones.”
“Y-Yes… Well, that’s a long story, you see—”
“One that I’m not interested in hearing,” the arcanine interrupted. “If you want to play a game of elementals, then I will join you.”
As if they were communicating telepathically, the trainer yelled, “Arcanine, use flamethrower!”
That was when I froze completely. Flamethrower, I knew, was the most powerful fire-type attack anyone could use. Since it was being used by a fire-type pokémon, the flamethrower’s power was probably going to be beyond my imagination. It was a simple logic that even I, in my anxious state, could understand. I remembered Ezrem, and I remembered that I was the last elekid, and I remembered other instances in which I had seen hurt pokémon—none of these memories were pleasant, to say the least, though I cherished Ezrem dearly.
The arcanine drew in a deep, deep breath, and I could swear that it was grinning at me as it did so. Its head drew back, and when it burst forward, so did an intense streak of red and orange flames. I stood there, unsure of what to do. I wasn’t ready to die or be hurt. I still had so much to do.
“Rennio, you have to do something!” Ezrem cried, flapping his wings up and down, up and down…
But later, I knew that he knew I wasn’t going to do anything. He was flapping his wings not to get my attention, but so that he could fly over to me as quickly as possible. He stood in front of me, and I saw him, and I wanted to scream at him to move, but I couldn’t—even my lungs were shut down. Ezrem braced himself with one wing as the flames clashed with his tiny body.
I simply watched as Ezrem was shrouded by the fire. It hurt me, as if I were the one being hit, and so I couldn’t imagine what kind of agony that my friend was going through. It reminded me of Annie, of the forest fire, all over again—like so many things did. It was as if the world was conspiring to be against us, forever and for always.
When the attack ended, Ezrem started shrieking from the pain. He hopped around like an imbecile, holding on to the wing that had taken the most damage.
“What’s going on here?!” the boy cried. “The rufflet wasn’t supposed to be in the battle! I can’t believe this! You just hurt my shiny pokémon!”
At this, Ezrem stopped hopping, though he looked like he was going to topple over instead.
“Shiny?” he said, and he was so quiet that I was probably the only one who heard him.
“Battle’s over,” Sai said quickly, rushing over to me and Ezrem.
“Shiny?” Ezrem repeated. “That’s what I am? That’s why everyone’s after me? Because I’m shiny?”
“I need to get him to a pokémon center,” Sai explained, picking up Ezrem in his arms, holding him carefully.
“This isn’t over yet! The bet is still on!”
“The bet is over! No one wins,” Sai said firmly, glaring at the boy. He started running back toward Goldenrod City, motioning for all of us to follow.
We all followed, with me being the farthest behind.
It took about an hour to get back to the Goldenrod City pokémon center. The entire time, Ezrem was shrieking from either pain, or from the realization that he was a shiny pokémon. I wasn’t sure what that meant, but evidently it was nothing special.
When Sai handed Ezrem over to the nurse at the counter, she asked what on earth had happened.
“We ran into a tough pokémon,” was all Sai said, his head drooping low. He was out of breath, but he was doing a good job at trying not to let it show.
“My goodness,” she said. “It definitely looks like he got burnt. I’ll have to take a closer look at him. Please wait in the lobby, and I’ll come get you as soon as I have more information.”
“Thank you,” Sai said.
The running, the encounter with the nurse, the waiting—it all went by like a blur to me. It wasn’t something that I pleasantly wanted to remember, anyway. I had gotten Ezrem hurt, and badly so. I hadn’t meant to, I really hadn’t. My freezing was supposed to be my problem, not his! He shouldn’t have run into the arena so selflessly. He shouldn’t have taken the blow for me. It should have been me who had gotten burnt. At least he wasn’t killed—that would, of course, be the worst outcome—but still… Once again, I was overcome by endless, all-encompassing guilt.
“It’s okay…” Sai said, noticing this. He was patting me on the shoulder. “Rennio, you did a good job,” he added.
“Rennio…” I said to myself. Sai had finally called me by my name.
I started crying, both from happiness and sadness.
Until now, I hadn’t thought such a thing was possible, but it was.
That is a really great chapter. Also, I thought the Croconaw already told Ezrem that he's a shiny. But either he didn't believe or my mind is not working properly anymore.
And it made me curious as to why Ezrem risked his own to save Reinno.
Anyway, it was touching when Sai said Reinno's name. :3
Aw, that was a great chapter, not only for Rennio but also Ezrem. Rennio's starting to grow up a little, getting a little more confident. And Ezrem did something incredible, risking his life like that for Rennio. And what a way to end, with Sai using Rennio's name, just like he asked.
This chapter was great because of those little moments of characterization. I also liked how you described how Swift feels to the Pokemon using the attack. That was a nice touch.
Glad you liked it!
Glad you liked it!
chapter 20 ; [EZREM]
To think that the world was keeping such a huge secret from me was unbelievable. To think that this was how everyone repaid me for all the damage I had done… It was deniable. More than anything, I wanted to deny it. I had started trying to be a good pokémon, after all! I was staying away from Kuiora, because she was so much better than me, and I didn’t want to taint her further than I already had. I was trying to help Rennio in his time of need by encouraging him in my own way—he would understand entirely, I knew. And I had taken the heat for him—literally, even! While my whole body had been engulfed in pain, my one wing was badly burnt, or so the nurse had said.
I had just been handed over to the nurse by Sai, and she had said that. That was the only good thing about this whole situation—Sai was showing that he at least cared about me a little by taking me to the pokémon center, despite his obvious wish to get to Ecruteak City as soon as possible. So the rotten boy did have a soft spot in his heart for me!
But now, that was by far the last thing on my mind. My head was reeling, and I felt like I was going to vomit at any moment. My one wing ached vaguely, and as for the other one… Well, I wouldn’t have minded it being amputated if it meant that the agony would subside.
The nurse brought me into the back room of the pokémon center. There were plenty of beds, some of them filled with obviously sick pokémon, and others completely empty and cleaned, ready for use by anybody. Next to each bed was a large, grey machine that was similar to the one behind the main counter. I assumed that it was used to heal pokémon.
But the nurse didn’t hook me up to this machine. She simply set me on the bed and told me to relax, and that everything was going to be okay. Her voice sounded so sad that I couldn’t believe her.
“Everything will be all right,” she said again. She went out of the room for a moment, and came back with a glass of water. “Drink this,” she said. “Keep yourself hydrated.”
Next, she went over to the far wall and grabbed a pair of gloves from a small box. She put them on. I knew that she was preparing to touch me, and I flinched just thinking about it. But she didn’t even touch me at first. Looking at me, she began mumbling to herself about how the feathers had been charred off, and that the skin underneath appeared very pale. Finally, she reached toward me—I braced myself to feel an immense amount of pain, but shockingly, when her gloves came into contact with my wing, I felt nothing.
“Does that hurt?” she said.
“N-No,” I managed to say.
“I see,” she said, and I swore she sounded sadder. Just great, I thought. Then—“I’m going to examine your airway,” she added calmly, soothingly, “and check your breathing, to make sure that you’re functioning correctly there.”
That was fine, I thought. I could deal with that. I breathed in and out as normally as I could, and it only hurt when I exhaled, as part of the flames had struck the lower part of my neck. Apparently, she was concerned about this.
“Your airway seems fine, which is good,” she said. “But the wing…”
And it all went downhill from there.
The nurse picked me up and cradled me as she brought me back out to Sai. When he saw us, he stood up immediately, and looked at her expectantly.
“Well?” he said. “What’s wrong with him?”
I wanted to choke him then, and tell him that there was nothing wrong with me. There was nothing wrong at all… And it just so happened that everyone but me thought the opposite!
“The base of Ezrem’s neck and his one wing are minor burns that can be treated with care and in time. The other wing, however… The other wing has sustained severe third degree burns…” the nurse said, her voice trailing off, as if she couldn’t continue. She cradled me further, though, and it would have been comfortable—if I wasn’t able to understand her.
“So? What does that even mean? What are you trying to say?” Sai said, motioning for her to go on with his hands. Such an impatient little boy, he was.
“Third degree burns are also called full thickness burns. This is because they destroy the entire outer layer of skin, and the layer of nerve fibers underneath. This means that usually, not a lot of pain can be felt, which seems like a fortunate sign,” the nurse said. She sighed. “But unfortunately, these types of burns cannot be treated, even with care and in time, even with our machines here. I’m sorry, but he may not be able to use his wing anymore.”
I froze. I had been expecting something terrible, but I hadn’t been expecting this. I wouldn’t be able to fly anymore? I wouldn’t be able to suspend in the air, showing off to the world that I was freer than everyone else? A part of me that had been with me through thick and thin would no longer be there. It was inconceivable, impossible…
Sai got my hopes when he said, “He may not be able to? Is there any other way?”
“There could be a way, but I can’t be certain. No one can.”
“What is it?” I blurted out. I would do anything she asked—
“Well, skin grafts could be an option. Skin grafts are used to permanently replace destroyed tissues. They are very expensive, however, and would require Ezrem to stay for a much longer period of time in order to recover.”
Sai thought for a long, long time. The nurse was about to prod him to speak when he said, “I’m a trainer. I don’t have much money…”
My heart fell. Of course we didn’t, I already was aware of this. And I knew, even though he wasn’t saying it, that we were low on time, too, for whatever reason.
“There’s another way, though,” she went on. “If he evolves, the nerve fibers may be replaced and he could use his wing again. It may not be as effective, but it’s better than nothing. It’s a possibility, anyway.”
… I would do anything she asked, except for that.
Of course the solution to my problem would be the one thing that I had promised I wouldn’t do for Annie. I mean, at the time, I only did it because I wanted to get home, and I willing to listen to anything she said… and I had planned on evolving sometime when I was on my own… and she was gone now… and I wanted to keep her memory alive now that I cared what I had done to her… I just didn’t know. This was also inconceivable, impossible.
“Okay,” Sai said. He looked at me solemnly, as if he were telling me sorry for neglecting me all this time. “What else can we do?”
But I was lost in a train of thought, and I didn’t want to hear it.
I was hit with two low blows in a row. I had lost the use of my wing, through a situation that could have been entirely avoided if I weren’t so stupid. That’s not to say that I regretted saving Rennio. That just meant that I shouldn’t have pushed for him to battle in the first place… even if he really needed to do it eventually.
And the secret. The secret!
How could I not have known? That was the first thing that I wondered when I found out. Really. After all these years, why hadn’t Annie told me? Knowing her, it probably wouldn’t have mattered whether or not she told me. But she had always believed that one should be aware of their own identity, so… why hadn’t she told me? Why hadn’t Rennio told me? And why hadn’t Kuiora, given her love for rare and legendary pokémon? On second thought, she had been close to telling me, once, but we had gotten interrupted. Thinking back on it now, I was grateful that she hadn’t told me, because that meant that she didn’t have to see me this way…
My mind continued spinning as we left the pokémon center and started heading back toward Ecruteak City.
“We’re heading back, now,” Sai said. “I’m sorry for the interruption.” And that was all that I had bothered to listen to. He carried me as he walked briskly, as if he thought that my legs weren’t able to move or something. And maybe he felt sorry for me. And I was sorry to say, buddy, that I didn’t want your self-pity. But I didn’t make a sound. No one else did, either, but I thought that I heard Rennio crying—again.
I soon found out what the nurse had said about healing my burns, however, when we had reached the same clearing where the incident had taken place. Sai had stopped here on purpose and set me down. He asked for Kuiora to step forward, and for the rest of the group to back off.
“Kuiora,” I said, my voice barely above a whisper. Could she still think that I was special? Probably not!
She nodded. Her head tilted backward, and when she lurched forward, a soft stream of water came, too. She hit me in the neck, and then moved toward my other wing. Since the wounds were still fresh, I roared in pain.
“What was that for?” I cried through gritted teeth.
“The nurse said you have to take cool baths for your burns,” Sai explained, “and it just so happens that we have a water-type pokémon on the team. Aren’t you lucky?”
I felt anything but lucky, but I said nothing.
Next, Sai handed me two small pills, similar to the ones he had been taking himself. “For the pain,” he said, and we both nodded. I opened my mouth and he stuck them on my tongue. I nearly died trying to swallow them without water, but I managed to get them down and keep them down.
“And now,” Sai said, taking out a small bottle from his pocket, “we put some cream on it.”
He put some of the cream on his hands, and he gently rubbed it into the side of my neck, and on both of my wings. Of course, the wing that would be out of commission forever didn’t hurt, while the others were still trying to make me scream. I didn’t know whether to be thankful or spiteful over the fact that the worst burn was mocking me by staying so silent.
Finally, Sai took out some bandages from his pocket. I assumed that he got all of these supplies from the nurse, and I vaguely wondered what would happen if we ran out on the middle of the route. I thought back to when I told Rennio our schedules were full. This conversation had just happened this morning. Then, my only worry was getting home. Now, I was worried about being a shiny pokémon that everyone targeted, and being a useless flying-type pokémon for the rest of my life.
Sai placed a square shaped patch on my neck, over the minor part that was burned slightly. Then, he wrapped the other two wings fully. He had to try at least three times before he got it right, though.
“Sorry,” he said. “I’ve never done this before.”
“It’s okay,” I said sadly. “Me neither.”
When he was finally finished and satisfied with his attempt, I tried flapping my wings and immediately regretted it. My left wing didn’t—couldn’t—move at all, and my right wing paid me back in full for daring to move it. I cringed.
And soon enough, all was quiet again. Sai offered to carry me the rest of the way, but I said no, I wanted to walk with the rest of the group. In truth, I wanted to talk to Kuiora… and after that, I wanted to talk to Rennio.
I ignored the desperate looks from the elekid as I motioned for Kuiora to come to the back of the line with me. I saw Rennio turn his back to me regretfully as he started following Sai. Occasionally, I saw him turn back again and again, but he never said a word. He acted and looked as if he had been the one burnt instead. And in a way, I was sure he felt burnt. I would have to take care of it later.
I wondered what would come of these conversations. At least Kuiora was still caring for me. That was a start. But she looked angry, I knew, as if she didn’t want to help me to begin with. Maybe it was all in my head, but I sure didn’t think so.
“Well, what do you want?” she said in a tone that pretty much confirmed my fears.
When I didn’t answer, she looked as if she was about to leave, but I stopped her by pecking her on the tail. She soon acquiesced, sick of the passive-aggressive attacks.
“Do you want to know,” I started, “what’s worse than a legendary pokémon who has a short temper, is a bit smite happy, and who has no developed sense of humor?”
“Uh,” she said. “Sure?”
“What’s worse is a legendary pokémon with a short temper who is very smite happy, and has a highly developed sense of humor.”
“I’m not sure I know what you’re getting at…”
“Even the legendary pokémon can be just like us! They can destroy others, destroy places, and get lost in their own minds. It’s such a mind blowing catastrophe.”
“Ezrem, are you okay? I mean, I know you’re not okay… But even before all of this, you haven’t seemed like yourself lately.”
“I’m special to you, and therefore I am invisible, like the rest of your worshipped friends. Who cares?” I said, knowing that I was being difficult, but I didn’t care.
“I do, and that’s exactly why!”
I couldn’t stand it. I wanted her to care, but at the same time I didn’t. Looking over at Atis, I thought about bothering the others.
“What about you, Atis?” he said, hopping over to the fighting-type pokémon, who was staying close to Sai from behind. “Do you care?”
“I guess so…” he said, looking at me oddly. Apparently, he had been eavesdropping. As expected from the quietest member of the group.
“What do you think about the legendary pokémon? What do you think about me? Am I evil?”
“W-Well, I’ve never seen you do anything bad… like hurt anyone or anything…” Atis said, walking slower and slower now, his feet turning uncomfortably as he did so.
“Any decent human being wouldn’t do such a thing. But I am neither decent or a human being. You lose.”
“Ezrem—” Kuiora tried to start, but she didn’t seem to know where she was going with it.
“Calm yourself, Kuiora,” I said. “I am clearly having an identity crisis here, and you are not allowed to interrupt.”
“You’re my friend. I’ll interrupt if I want to. Why don’t we keep standing in the back and talk it out a little?”
But I didn’t want to talk it out anymore, though I knew it was inevitable. Torn, I kept spouting out nonsense, talking about how everyone in the world was keeping a secret from me that I just couldn’t figure out.
“But I finally found out,” I told Kuiora. “I’m a shiny pokémon. A real, live, breathing shiny pokémon. Isn’t that fantastical?”
“Ezrem,” she said, “it’s not a bad thing. That’s why I’ve thought you were special all this time, and you’re still—”
“But you must be mad, right? Obviously, I didn’t know that I was shiny, but I still claimed myself to be legendary in front of you. That’s some deceitful stuff right there, don’t you think?”
“Yeah, I’m angry… but I can’t stay angry with you, considering the state you’re in,” Kuiora said, looking me over thoroughly, making a point. “I’ve been angry before, and I’ve learned from it. I don’t want to be that way again, especially not with you.”
“You should be angry. Angrier than you’ve ever been.”
“Why? What’s so bad about being a shiny pokémon?” she asked, genuinely curious.
She wanted to know why it was a bad thing? I could tell her why. I told her everything. I told her about making Rennio believe that he was the last elekid on this planet, just so that he would become attached to me and never want to leave. I told her that being a shiny pokémon suddenly made me feel like the only shiny rufflet in the world, and it made me feel lonely, and I wanted to bring someone down with me. I was missing my monster more than anything. I told her that I wanted to be the same monster that I was when I killed my previous trainer in a fire. In a fire that I started. I told her how ironic it was, now, that I should get burned myself. It was karma, I knew. Pure karma.
“And that,” I concluded, “is why you should be mad with me. I am a terrible pokémon, and I know it, and I won’t stop it, though I’ve tried. I tried keeping quiet with you, and I’m going to tell Rennio… soon. Not today, but soon.”
Kuiora stopped walking, making me stop, too. Her face was turning red, the sides of her mouth turned down as low as I had ever seen them.
“You killed your trainer? You told Rennio that?” she said weakly.
“I did,” I said, smiling for dramatic effect.
“I don’t want to be angry. Don’t do this,” she said, noticing my theatrics. She knew me too well.
“You should hurt me. Or kill me. Or something. Really. I deserve it.”
“No, Ezrem!” Kuiora cried. “I won’t!”
When she continued this persistent refusal for a little while, Sai finally stopped moving, probably having heard part of the conversation despite being several steps ahead of us, thanks to Kuiora’s frantic screaming. I couldn’t see his face, but his fists were clenched, and I feared for the worst.
He turned, bent over, and picked me up by the wing—the bad one. I hung there, trying to flap my other wing wildly, ignoring the pain, trying to make a point that I was still stronger than he ever would be as a trainer. I was either yelling out obscenities or grunting sounds at this point, and eventually, when I realized that I truly needed both of my wings to get anywhere, I let Sai win and let myself go limp.
“Let’s get this straight,” Sai said, keeping his firm grip on me. “You are not on this team. I helped you and broke the rules yet again out of the kindness of my heart, but you are still not on this team. I don’t know what you were saying, but you won’t antagonize my pokémon if you’re going to keep following us around. You’ve only been allowed to follow us around because of… Rennio. It was a favor I did for him in exchange for his being on my team. Do you understand?”
“Yeah, yeah,” I said quietly. I was much calmer now, but looked much more ashamed. I should have felt ashamed, I thought. I wanted to be on this trainer’s team, and I already had very little hope of doing so… and now, my chances might have just been ruined forever.
“Besides,” Sai said, suddenly calmer now. “He cares a lot about you, so you should listen. He came to me just this morning to talk about you. I’ll leave you to guess what it was about, since you won’t talk to him or listen to others.”
“Okay,” I said simply. I didn’t mention how we had already talked about it, and I dreaded the fact that we had to talk yet again, and soon. My witty comments and his jokes were set aside. “I’m sorry,” I added, my voice even more quiet.
It was strange, in a way, to have Sai being the only one to calm me down. There was some solace, I knew, in the fact that he didn’t like me. I felt that I deserved it. With Rennio and Kuiora, I wanted them to hate me yet I wanted them to love me at the same time. It was a poor place to be on the battlefield on friendship.
Sai lowered his arm and released his grasp on my wing, causing me to start falling to the ground, but I kept myself levitated before I crashed, making my wing explode with pain yet again. At this rate, how long would it take to heal? My landing was soft and quiet, unlike the previous conversation and confrontation.
Kuiora didn’t give up, as expected. I both despised her and cherished her for it at that moment. She came up to me, asking, “Do you know what the most important thing in this world is?”
“If you say friendship, I’ll stab you with your spinal cord,” I retorted.
“Despite everything, I know you wouldn’t do that,” Kuiora said. “It is companionship, though. I used to only want companionship with legendary pokémon, and ignored everyone else at Professor Elm’s lab for it. Now, I regret it, and I’d like to start over. I won’t even consider you legendary if you think it’s a bad thing, okay?”
I looked down at myself. I was red. The color of passion, of violence. Even more ironically, it was the color of fire. It fit me perfectly. What color was I really supposed to be? I asked her.
“Blue,” she said. “I’ve seen pictures. That’s how I knew.”
“I see,” I said. The color of loneliness was blue. I was not meant to be blue, and therefore… I wasn’t meant to be lonely? Was that what it was? It was such a strange, strange concept. “So… you still want to be with me?”
“Then… if you really want to… I’d like to spend more time together, too. I say that Arceus made another one of me to love you better than I ever will, but we can settle with my stupid self for now, I suppose. So… what are you doing between now and forever?”
Kuiora giggled, and I knew that all was well.
That was one battle down. Now, I had another battle to face. In some respects, it was the harder of the two battles, and in some respects, it was easier. I knew Rennio better, for one, so I knew that he would instantly begin by incessantly asking for forgiveness. But it was this same exact thing that made it harder—I knew him, and yet he didn’t know me. He didn’t know the first thing about me, even after all these years. The fact made me want to open to him, but it wasn’t time. Not yet.
“Rennio,” I said, leaving Kuiora with her giggling self to go to talk to him.
He snapped his head in my direction, and I could see his teary eyes. So he had been crying, after all. This was nothing new. It was only new in the sense that he was crying over me. Usually, he was always crying about himself… I mentally scolded myself for making him cry, even though I had tried to be… heroic. Something less than sinful.
“E-Ezrem!” he said, turning his body around fully and embracing me. I winced at the agony, but made no attempt to pull back.
“You’re, uh, squishing me,” I said to make him let go. He finally did, and I ruffled my feathers with my beak to make me feel at tiny bit more comfortable among all these bandages. The medicine was starting to settle in, at least, and I felt more at ease.
“Sorry,” he said. “I bet that must have hurt”—I shook my head up and down—“but sorry for everything. I tried to battle, I really did. But that attack just seemed so powerful. And look, I was right! It got you burned, and it’s all my fault…”
He started sobbing again. I used my head to turn his body around, and made him keep walking, so we wouldn’t get too far behind. I saw Kuiora turned toward us, smiling, but she turned to face Sai again when she saw me looking at her. It gave me some of the strength I needed to talk to Rennio.
“Rennio, do you know why I jumped in front of that arcanine’s flamethrower?”
“No… Not at all…”
“Because I wanted to. What would happen if you got injured?” I said, stopping myself for a moment. I didn’t want to pull the card that told him he was the last elekid in the world, not anymore. “My… My best friend would have gotten hurt. And badly. And that would have made him very, very sad. So I wanted to prevent that. It was only the natural thing for me to do.”
“I would have been sad, yeah… But now I’m sad that you’re hurt, too!” he wailed.
“I know. I know,” I said. “But it’s not so bad. Um. I’d even… prefer myself to be this way, you know?”
“You… You do? Who would ever want to be injured?” Rennio said.
“Think of it this way. I’m really strong, right? And these burns are a setback, yeah. But when I face pokémon in battle and defeat them—or any other adversary, really, such as life itself—think of the praise I can receive when I win!”
“Oh… I guess I get it…” Rennio said, wiping away his tears.
“Do you, Rennio? Praise shall be sung from one corner of the nation to the next. Statues could be raised in my honor. People could name their children after me. That sort of thing, you know? Usually, notes of the famous songs die out, statues crumble, and more people die. Still, I would live on as a monument of pride. People will tell tales around campfires to send shudders down others’ spines, mothers will tell children that if they are bad I shall return for them and drag them screaming into the night, scholars shall use me as a cautionary tale that power can have too high a price, and both the pious and the wicked will pray to their gods in their temples and cry upon their deathbeds to save them from the fires below, where I shall be waiting for them. That, my dear Rennio, is legacy. So yeah, I don’t mind these burns one bit.”
“Wow,” Rennio breathed, and his voice was barely above a whisper.
“Exactly. I’ve blown your mind, just like I can strike the hearts of many others with my newfound self.”
“Are you really sure, Ezrem? You like to tell these stories all the time,” he pointed out.
“I’m very sure,” I said, finding it somehow odd that he had noticed and yet believed me every other time I told him something.
“Is there anything I can do for you? I’m not a water-type pokémon or anything, but I can surely do something…”
“I want to do something, though…”
“Ask Sai to change my bandages next time. We’ll see if you can do it.”
“Okay! Is there anything else?”
“Rennio, I am miserable for the moment and perfectly happy about it. You don’t have to do a thing.”
The idea of me being happy was a lie, but in this case, it was a lie that was necessary and warranted. Without it, Rennio would carry around the guilt of hurting me forever. That was just the kind of pokémon he was. And anyway, white lies were simply truths that someone tucked under the bed, all the while showing the receiver of the white lie to the doorway so they would not ask any questions. The other lies I had told—the ones I had confided to Kuiora instead, for the moment—would be handled somewhere further down the line.
Eventually, Rennio gave up. The conversation was short and it was over. It had gone about as well as I had expected. If I had had any luck, he would have hated me for the rest of my life, and then asked me to leave him and Sai in peace. Such was not the case. Maybe someday, I thought, when he finds out everything, but I didn’t have much hope.
For now, we weren’t anywhere close to Ecruteak City, our real destination, but I felt that I had reached a new part of my life. There was going to be hard times and good times, obviously—but I could handle them. I was handling burns, and I was becoming more and more aware of myself. Those two things would help me become… a better pokémon. A better bird. A better friend.
I thought of Annie again. I thought of the ways she compared the grand scheme of life to the more ordinary gifts of life. She said that when she pictured herself it was always just like an outline in a coloring book with the inside not yet completed. Or she said that, if no coloring books were available, she would look at the night sky and think that her life would make up a picture within the stars; she would connect the dots and everything would make sense. The lines had finally been filled in. That was how I felt.
Up until the incident, I was nothing but a good liar. Now, I was nothing but forgiven.
Awesome chapter as usual. It's kinda sad for Ezrem to be feeling that way.
Aw well. Awaiting for the next chapter.
Good for Ezrem to be forgiven by those he cares about, and to begin to not . It's interesting that he's having a few literal "trials by fire", having to face the same element that killed his original trainer and then nearly got Rennio badly hurt.
I'm looking forward to seeing what Ezrem goes through to try and evolve. (Since I figure he will evolve by your banner.)