April 18th, 2012 (6:24 PM). Edited May 12th, 2012 by psyanic.
Notes: So here I am with another story. This will probably be rated PG-15 for some language and violence, later on of course.
Also, I suppose this is an OT fic. At least, there are original trainers and everything, but there isn't much adventure.
Chapter 1: Cracked Spirit
We learn something every day, and lots of times it’s that what we thought we learned the day before was wrong.
Battling was only fun when she won. A moment ago, she cheered for her pokemon as they steadily took down her opponent’s team. Now, minutes later, her party broke under its foundations and left her crying. It was something about losing that really got to Connie. Her mind commanded her to get up and walk back into town, but her heart wanted to stay where it was to whimper like a wounded animal. She rubbed a single poke ball, the one that contained her very first pokemon. Unable to bear the memory of it failing again, she tucked it away and wiped her eyes. They stung and were probably red, but she didn’t care.
This is stupid, she thought as she got up, dusting off her shirt. Dirt flew around and made her cough dryly. No, I was stupid. Stupid, stupid, stupid.
Sighing, she trudged off Nugget Bridge and went back into town. Her first stop was the pokemon center. As she went in, she bumped into someone. Connie went about to glare at whomever it was, but the frail boy softly smiled at her and apologized before he left. Grumbling, she dropped her pokemon off at the front desk and then sat in one of many of the chairs in the lounge. It didn’t take long, so the nurse called her over and handed Connie her now-healed pokemon. Connie mumbled, “Thanks” and left.
When she went outside, the sun was already fading below the horizon. She debated on whether she should leave town or not. She never minded traveling in the dark, but now, she wasn’t so sure. Nevertheless, her rival was already ahead, probably at Vermilion by now, so she had to press on. That’s what she was supposed to do, wasn’t it?
But staying in the city would mean she was weak; she had already stayed two nights and another night would kill her. Instead, Connie walked forward into the forest and wandered, hopefully to the next town. She held a map in front of her, but she wasn’t focused on it.
How could I have lost? The strategy was perfect and I knew what I was doing . . .
After nearly bumping into a tree, she noticed she wasn’t on the main road anymore. Grass tickled her knees as night fell around her. And for the first time since she started her journey, she was scared, scared of whatever was waiting for her. Her pokemon were with her, but they weren’t much assurance anymore. Her arms were sticky and bugs flew around and bit her exposed flesh. The mosquitos would fly just out of her reach every time her palm nearly swatted them. After a while, she gave up.
She decided today was a bad day. A very bad day.
Thankfully, a light came into view and she had somewhere to go. When she got to it, she saw that it was a streetlight in the middle of a neighborhood, if it was even a neighborhood. She was standing next to a large barn with very few houses around. All she wanted to do was to go home. With nowhere else to go, she stepped on the sidewalk and followed it.
Connie smelled something different about the air. There was a faint hint of . . . shampoo as a breeze passed by. She had reached the corner, and she had stopped. Something else was off. She listened carefully and heard a muffled whisper. Breathing? Someone must have been around the corner, standing quietly.
She turned the corner.
Stray leaves fluttered around the pavement in a way to twirl around the boy’s ankles as he was walking ahead besides the fencing of the house next to them. His hair flickered with the wind and fell over his face. The boy’s shoes lightly stepped ahead, but he turned to see the girl staring at him, only a few feet away. He had a slender face with wide, dark eyes that seemed to take in almost everything with endless curiosity.
The trees around them rustled softly, few leaves softly coming down in a neat spiral. The boy stopped and looked at Connie as if he might pull away, but instead he took in her features with shining eyes, making her feel as if she had said something wonderful. Connie knew she barely pronounced a friendly hello, and she noticed the boy’s eyes lingering on the poke balls on her belt. She spoke up again, “Do you live around here?”
“Yes, in the house over there.” He pointed down the street at the collection of lights vaguely revealing the outline of the building. She could at least see the windows. “You must be a trainer.”
“Erm . . . Yeah, I am. Aren’t you one? You look old enough.”
“No, I’m not. I wish I was. Well, technically I am since I have my license and all, but I don’t travel around or anything.”
“If it’s a pokemon problem, I could give you one of mine,” she offered, reaching toward her belt. She wasn’t planning on keeping them anymore anyway. It was only after she had asked did she notice he had a single poke ball loosely dangling off a keychain. Odd.
“Oh, no thanks. My father owns the daycare center here, so we have a few eggs here and there that no one wants.”
“I guess that makes sense.”
He shook his head. “I don’t think so. Pokemon are wonderful things, and I’d hate to give one up.”
“It’s a funny world.”
The boy continued to look over her, but he kept his distance. He turned to face the sidewalk headed toward his home.
“Do you have a place to stay for the night?” he asked, staring at the sky.
“No, not really. Why?”
“You could stay at my home for a while, if you want. We have a lot of rooms and a lot of space. It wouldn’t be any trouble. And you look like you need some sleep. Your eyes look tired.”
Connie hid her face and thought for a moment. She honestly didn’t mind sleeping outside; she was used to it. But the thought of a comfortable bed and a shower was tempting. And the sincerity of his question wooed her over. “Are you sure?”
“My dad’s completely fine with it. He’s like that.” He grinned at her and offered his hand. “I’m Marcelo.”
“Marcelo? Well, okay. I’m Connie,” she said as she shook his hand. “What are you doing out here so late? And how old are you?”
They walked against the warm blowing night on the dusty pavement. Connie looked at the boy, and she knew he was trying to figure her questions so that he could give the best possible answers.
“I’m fourteen,” he began, “and I’m a bit sick. At least, that’s what everyone else tells me, but I feel fine really. My dad doesn’t think the same way, though. He’s always telling me to get fresh air, but not to strain myself. It sounds contradicting. Anyway, it’s the perfect time for a walk this time of night don’t ya think? Sometimes I stay out all night so I can watch the sunrise.”
The two walked in silence before he said, “You know, I saw you in the city before.”
She raised an eyebrow and let her voice slip. “Really? When?”
“Right in the pokemon center, when you were coming out. We bumped into each other.”
“Oh.” She began to remember, and she couldn’t help but feel embarrassed. It wasn’t a happy memory.
“Yeah, but I’m not afraid of you anymore, though.”
“You were afraid of me?” she said, looking away to hide her shock.
“You looked angry and sad at the same time, and I’ve learned you should leave people alone when they’re like that.”
She saw her reflection in his eyes, a dull shape carved out in the black of night. His face, turned toward her, was a delicate flower petal with a certain vibrancy in it. And like a flower, she felt that if she were to hit him, the petal would rip and tear, just like the gracidea she found when she first started her journey. Connie remembered plucking it from the ground so carefully and how soft it was when she held it, keeping it as a sign of luck and hope, and how soon it had been disfigured as she put it in her pocket . . .
And then Marcelo said, “I have a question. How long have you been a trainer?”
“I just turned thirteen, so about three years ago.”
“That sounds like a while. Where did you travel through?”
“Let’s see . . . I’m from Sinnoh so I went there first, then I went through Johto, and now I’m here in Kanto.”
“That sounds fun. But isn’t that traveling a bit too fast?”
“A year per region sounds about average. Even some of my friends are ahead of me, so there’s nothing wrong about it.
“I think there is though. I sometimes think trainers don’t really know what it’s like to travel the world, to explore places or to discover things,” he said. “You can show just about trainer the twilight, when the birds are flocking to their nests and everything’s just calm and peaceful, and you know what the trainer would do? Find an open field and train more. They don’t care. All they really think about is pokemon.”
“No, you don’t care. Earlier today, I saw you rushing through town while you kept staring at the pokemon center. You didn’t look toward the horizon then, when the clouds are pink and the sky’s a brilliant velvet.”
“The point of being a trainer is to battle, and besides, you caught me in a bad mood,” she said, frowning at him. Maybe she took the loss too hard now that she thought about it.
“But you were mad. Your face was red and you stomped when you walked.”
“You think too much,” Connie said, almost insultingly, but she didn’t know why she felt that way.
“I’m not a trainer so I’m not too busy. I have to train pokemon sometimes at our daycare, but we don’t get too many customers anyway. I guess I’ve got lots of time to think.”
They walked further onwards, the house becoming a larger shadow. There were many lights on, with shadows dancing in the windows.
“How many people are in there?” Connie asked, slightly concerned. She didn’t want to intrude.
“It’s just my dad, but he probably has a few pokemon out to keep him company. It gets boring out here, especially since there aren’t many people here.” Marcelo climbed up the wooden steps and went on the porch. He opened the door and beckoned her inside.
There were only a few pairs of shoes in the foyer, all of which Connie avoided to stop her from stepping all over them. Marcelo had pulled off his sneakers, and she did the same. She followed him down the hallways and they arrived at the kitchen, where a man was chasing an aipom as it bounced on pots and pans around the room. The aipom had a ladle clutched in its tail, which dripped on the tile while a meowth darted back and forth as it licked the floor clean. The man fussed at the meowth, but he smiled afterwards and he picked up the feline, shooing it outside. He looked back and saw the two standing in the doorway.
“Ah, you’re back! And who’s that?”
“This is Connie. She’s a pokemon trainer and I met her in Cerulean,” Marcelo said. She smiled and shook his hand. “Oh, by the way, she doesn’t have a place to stay and—“
“Yes, she can!” he answered quickly. “Company’s always good. Lead her upstairs to the guest room. You didn’t have dinner yet, did you Connie?”
“Erm, no, I didn’t.”
“That’s perfect! I was just starting to make some stew. You aren’t a vegetarian are you?” She shook her head. “Good! It should be ready in a few minutes.”
“Hey, come on. The stairs are this way,” Marcelo said. She followed him upstairs, and then he opened a door. He flicked on the light switch. “Here’s the guest room. The bathroom’s over there on the right, and if you need anything, just ask. I’m heading downstairs, so you can change.”
“Why would I need to change?”
He smiled. “No offense, but you smell a bit. It’s like a mixture of sweat and laundry detergent. See you at dinner.”
With that, he hastily shut the door. Connie listened to his footsteps recede down the footsteps before she carefully put her backpack at the foot of the bed, which was right next to a window. It was frighteningly calm outside. Whenever she did stay in the city, it was loud and busy, even more so at night. It was completely different here and she wasn’t sure whether or not that was a good thing. But it wasn’t time for thinking. She kept a tight schedule and it only took her three minutes to shower and head downstairs to meet her hosts.
The smell of food made Connie realize just how hungry she was. Now that she thought about it, she hadn’t eaten for hours. She walked into the dining room where Marcelo had just finished setting the table.
“Trainers shower fast,” he said. He sat down and gestured to the chair across him.
Connie sat on the cushioned seat and met Marcelo’s warm gaze. It was silent for the longest time. At least, that’s how it felt. It was nerve-wracking, just staring into his curious gaze. Finally, his father came in holding a large, black pot on top of his thick oven mitts.
“Ah, move the plates, will you Marcelo? Thank you. My hands are getting hot!”
“That’s a lot,” Connie said, peering inside the pot.
“Ha, yeah it is,” Marcelo said, “but the leftovers aren’t a problem. I’m sure that meowth over there is a bit hungry, not to mention the other pokemon around.”
“So I’m guessing your daycare is successful?” she asked.
“Oh, not too much. We aren’t exactly busy, but we have a bit of business here and there. It’s not a big deal, though. Would you like some bread with that?”
“No, but thanks Mister . . .?”
“Please, just call me Alfonso.” He poured the stew into a bowl and handed it to her. “Enjoy, but be careful. It’s still hot.”
She blew on the spoon before attempting to eat it. The stew slightly scalded her tongue, but the taste was satisfying. “It’s good.”
“Glad to hear! If you want more, please, help yourself,” Alfonso said. He waited a few minutes before asking any questions. “So you’re a trainer, eh? You’re from Sinnoh, right?”
“Yes, but I haven’t been home for a while.”
“Ah, a trainer’s life is hard, isn’t it?”
“Were you a trainer before?”
“Why, yes I was. I traveled a few years, until I decided to settle down. So I opened up this daycare,” he said. “It’s not much, but it keeps me happy. That’s all that really mattered to me.”
“So you help out then, Marcelo?”
“I have been ever since I was younger, when I wasn’t sick anyway.”
“And that’s why you can’t go out and train?” she asked.
Connie noticed a shift in his eyes. “That’s pretty much it. I had a collapsed lung when I was about seven. The doctors make me schedule appointments every month, but I don’t mind too much.”
“But that’s not really sick. I mean you can still travel around, can’t you? Your lungs should be fine by now, if it was that long ago.”
“Better safe than sorry right?” he said, but his voice trailed off. He took a sudden interest in the chopped meat floating around in his stew, and she took that as a sign to drop the subject. “I’m getting tired, so I’m off to bed. See ya in the morning.”
“Night!” Alfonso called to him. A few minutes later, he began gathering the plates and stacked them neatly in the sink. Connie decided to help before she, too, went to her room. He asked, “Are you leaving tomorrow?”
“That’s the plan. Good night, Alfonso.” And she scampered up to her room and collapsed onto the bed. The cool blankets welcomed her as she turned over to stare at the ceiling. Resting always bothered her. She never really sat down just to think. It was always about moving on to the next gym or just training. Maybe he was right . . .
No, he wasn’t. What did he know? He never traveled around and battled, so he couldn’t understand what it meant to be a trainer. But still, he did make a few good points. What a strange meeting to top off a bad day.
How long did they walk together? The walk itself shouldn’t have been very long; she knew they only walked for about five or six minutes, but it felt like hours had passed. He was such a memorable person to her; she couldn’t find anything else to think of. But wait, Marcelo almost seemed to be waiting for her there, so late at night. Why else would he have been there?
No, she was becoming paranoid. He couldn’t have known she was coming through here. Hell, even she didn’t know. She decided to stare at the clock hanging off the wall across her.
Connie yawned and turned over on the bed, shifting so that she could just see the window out from the corner of her eye. The moon was nearly full tonight, large and round, just like Marcelo’s eyes . . .
Her breathing slowed down to a faint, rhythmic pace, then she was fast asleep. She never noticed the raindrops start to fall.
An abrupt slam woke Connie up. She stretched and sat up, peering outside. The sky was gloomy with dark clouds rolling over. It had been raining for quite some time. She could make out the rain as it splashed in various puddles on the road. Groggy, she didn’t bother look for the noise.
Connie forced herself out of the bed and decided to get ready anyway. Traveling would be a hassle, especially if it was raining. Still, she had been through worse, like a nasty blizzard back in Sinnoh. And at that time, she was a rookie trainer and barely knew the way around. Now, she was experienced and rain was no trouble at all.
But she didn’t want to leave. Even though she had only stayed with Marcelo for the night, there was something about him that made her want to linger around a bit. Also, rain ruined her hair and she didn’t appreciate that. Her morale was down too. The previous loss had phased her, if only slightly now. It seemed like ages ago.
Still, it stung. And that was enough to let her stay, she reasoned. Maybe she just wanted to sit down and lay low for a while, avoid anything to do with pokemon for a bit. She wanted a break, not like it would even remotely affect her journey; she was already well prepared for the upcoming league, hopefully to win it all this year.
And then it dawned on her: what’s the point? Winning was a feeling, a state a mind. Other than that, it was a bland emotion that went away just as anything else. Being a champion had always appeased her—ever since she was a little girl, in fact—but she couldn’t decide whether or not it was worth it. Marcelo was right; traveling and looking at the world was something spectacular, and it took her too long to find out.
Her pokemon were valuable too. They created the memories, while forming bonds that she’d cherish for life. But she never had that connection with them like other trainers seemed to have. She barely let them out of their poke balls unless they were battling or training.
Connie pondered this while she crept downstairs, when she noticed just how quiet it was except for the rhythmic raindrops outside. She walked by the kitchen, not particularly hungry, and looked around for her hosts. Apparently, they weren’t around.
Then the sound of a command followed by a thick whack sprung her to head to the backyard, where the pokemon were kept. She reached for the umbrella propped against the backdoor and walked outside onto the patio.
Now that it was morning, she could see the expanse of the daycare, surrounded by simple wood fencing. She wondered why they didn’t try something more . . . durable. Pokemon were bound to escape; being temporarily left behind must have left a bitter feeling. But who was she to judge them? She wanted to do the same, though she wasn’t so sure now.
Another smack in the middle of the rain caused her to watch a battle, Marcelo as the observer. A meowth was stained with mud, wet fur matted down against its skin. The rain must have made it worse; Connie could see it shivering. It yowled as it leapt toward the other pokemon: a wooper. The wooper danced around in the rain and dived into a puddle, just before the meowth could rake it with its claws.
The ground splashed as the meowth crashed headfirst. Steadily, it got up and could only glare at the apathetic wooper, which was stomping in a puddle with a queer smile. The wooper was patient and squirted the meowth, which was enough to propel it further away.
Connie watched and wondered what the hell Marcelo was doing. Was this how daycares were run? The meowth cried out and then gave in to exhaustion and collapsed. Marcelo scooped it into his arms and began going toward the house. The wooper trailed him obediently. That must have been the pokemon he owns, or one of many.
Only then did he notice Connie standing on the patio with an umbrella in her hand.
“Morning,” he said, slightly smiling. He was careful walking up the patio. “You’re up early.”
“I like to get up early for traveling, but the weather doesn’t agree with me today. Where’s Alfonso?”
“Dad’s out at Vermilion. Someone gave him a call and they needed his help. For what, I have no idea. He won’t be home for a while.”
“Oh.” She couldn’t help but stare at the meowth cradled in his arms. It looked so fragile and weak, and she wondered why he even bothered battling it. The act almost seemed cruel. The wooper, on the other hand, plastered a weird grin and waddled around.
He went back inside, while telling his wooper to wipe its paws before stepping onto the floor. Connie followed him and almost giggled as the wooper hopped off and literally scraped its feet on the patio deck. Satisfied, it went inside and disappeared into the kitchen.
Marcelo asked, “Are you planning on leaving any time soon?”
“I was, but it’ll have to wait until the rain clears up,” Connie said. “Why were you battling them?”
“For training,” he said, smoothing down the wet fur of the meowth. It made a soft noise, almost like an exhausted purr.
“But in a daycare? I thought trainers just left pokemon here whenever they wanted to drop them off or something.”
“Some daycares train pokemon, usually to teach new moves.” Marcelo wrapped the meowth in a towel and gently set it down on a couch. “Our daycare is different. We kinda train pokemon for obedience and stuff.”
“So how does that have anything to do with that meowth?” she asked, still staring at the pokemon, resting. “That didn’t look like you were trying to get it to listen to you.”
“She. It’s a she,” he said as he sat next to the pokemon. “And her trainer wanted her to be . . . stronger. I think she was newly caught, so that might be why. She wasn’t much of a fighter when we first got her, but I think she’s improved.”
Connie nodded and sat across from them. “Is she gonna be okay?”
“She’ll be fine. She’s been through worse, I can tell.”
“Does she have a name?” she asked.
“I don’t think so. Her trainer didn’t say anything about it. Actually, he dropped her off and left in a hurry yesterday. He said he’d be back for her in a few days, though.”
She frowned. “That’s weird.”
Marcelo shrugged and petted the meowth. “Most trainers do that. I think they’re embarrassed if they have to let other people train their pokemon. I wouldn’t care, but that’s just people.”
Connie could only nod. The meowth opened her eyes and gradually got up. She stretched her back out before hopping onto the floor. Her face nearly pressed against the glass of the door as she pawed against it.
“Do you like being a trainer?” Marcelo asked.
The question was seemingly random and Connie did her best to quickly formulate an answer. But she wasn’t sure. She wondered if he would have judged her if she told him she wanted to abandon her pokemon and go home. Maybe go back to school and get a real job. She couldn’t tell him, though. They were still strangers. No, friendly acquaintances now. “It’s not too bad or anything.”
“Come on, be honest,” he said all too knowingly.
“I’m not a new trainer or anything, so it’s not too hard anymore.”
He shook his head. It wasn’t the answer he wanted. “I didn’t ask if it was hard. I asked if you liked it.”
“Well, what do you want me to say?” Connie said, cross.
“A yes or no is fine.”
“I-I don’t know anymore,” she admitted, looking down at the floor.
It was silent for a while. At least it seemed that way to Connie. Finally, Marcelo said, “Do you wanna go walk in the rain?”
“Walk in the rain?” she echoed. It had been a long time since she had done that where she wanted to do it, rather than forcing herself for the sake of her journey.
“Yeah, the rain feels good and I love walking in it.”
“I don’t think I’d like it too much.” It was a lie, but he didn’t need to know that. Her childish past was gone the minute she got her pokemon. Playing in the rain was something she just didn’t do anymore, and she couldn’t help but wonder why she stopped.
But he was already halfway out the door, and seeing that she had nothing else to do, she followed him. The rain lightly fell on the road, making soft sounds as they hit the ground. Warm raindrops fell on their skin, and Connie found herself relaxing. A morning fog still hung around, though lighter than it was when she first woke up.
Marcelo began walking around, hopping into random puddles and laughed as his shoes squished in mud. “What about now?”
She couldn’t help but smile. Remembering wasn’t always a bad thing. “It’s okay.”
He licked his lips. “Rain even tastes good.”
“I’ve never tried.” True, she never had. Or maybe she had and just never recalled doing it. But back then, she was happy.
“Oh, you should! Trainers go around and you must have tasted rain water!” She shook her head. It was true: she never had, or she never remembered it. Leaning his head back, Marcelo let his mouth collect the water. And when enough rain fell into his mouth, he gulped. “The air out here is clean, so you don’t have to worry about pollution. I love it here. The best things in life are already in front of you.”
Then Marcelo ran ahead and left her standing there alone. Connie didn’t try to catch up with him, though. Her steps were careful, but they didn’t stop the water from splashing onto her shins. Hair hung over her face, dark and dripping.
What the hell am I doing out here? Listening to some boy who didn’t know anything about pokemon. What did he know about training or traveling?
But he was right. Everything he said made sense to her. Funny, she never liked listening to other people talk so much. It always seemed like a waste of time, and now here she was, absorbing his words like a sponge. Maybe she didn’t have to give up being a trainer. Why would she anyway? She was happy training pokemon, and she knew it; it just took a while to realize it. Winning wasn’t everything, and neither was losing.
It would be different from then on, she decided. Connie sprinted down the road and looked for Marcelo.
Just after lunchtime, the rain ceased and the sky opened up to let the sun shine brightly through the drifting clouds.
Connie was ready. She slung her backpack on and stepped onto the porch, Marcelo not so far behind. He patted her on the shoulder, “I hope you’ll visit again some time. It gets lonely out here.”
She smiled at him. “Thanks for letting me stay. And you have plenty of pokemon around to keep you busy.”
He considered it for a moment. “True, but people are always better company. I suppose it’s easier to have a two-way conversation with people.”
Connie laughed and began walking away. “I hope we’ll meet again some day.”
“We will, I promise. Take care, and be sure to call me some time!” he shouted to her. She waved at him and went away, looking back only once. Meeting him was the easy part, leaving was harder. Connie was going to miss him. Then she was in the woods and she was alone again.
But this time, she didn’t mind.
April 19th, 2012 (3:23 AM).
Good first chapter. I'm assuming Marcelo's going to appear again? I sure hope so. I liked him. It seems that Connie has plenty of inner turmoil for your to deal with when you continue.
One thing I kind of like is how we still don't know what Connie's Pokemon are. Was this deliberate?
May 10th, 2012 (5:06 PM).
What happend to your other fan fic!? Hopping on Cloud Nine!? You threw in the towel?! NOOOOOOOOOOOO!!! I liked it!
I read this chapter and somehow forgot about the other one. This one has a better start than the other fiction actually. The other fiction you seemed to have diverged a little bit. I hope that doesn't happen here. Feels pretty good to have a fresh start. It also feels good to be on PC again. I haven't been here in like a month.
I liked the presentation the most. The writing is more fluent and smooth. I think you're getting better at writing fictions. It's going to take a few more chapters to really get me going through. I can't offer much on the story itself. It could go anywhere from there. It could go back in time to see what depressed Connie or you can go into Marcelo's intresting history too. I say a story that keeps me speculating at the start is also a good story.
Sorry that's the best review I could give. It isn't that much, also DON'T ABONDON FICS!! nah j/k.
May 23rd, 2012 (6:22 PM). Edited May 23rd, 2012 by psyanic.
Notes: Oh look, a bad word! Like some language in here. And when I mean some, I mean about one. I thought I might as well get this chapter out before exams, which are next week.
Chapter 2: Only Two
It was a bright day and Reggie couldn’t decide whether or not that was a good thing. He shielded his eyes as he glimpsed at the sun. White, fluffy clouds accented the sky as he left the forest’s shade. Apparently this was as far as any driver would take him, since the place was so out of the way and any further would have been a waste of gas. Nevertheless, he followed the road into a small collection of houses surrounded by wide fields. It wasn’t connected to any main routes, now that he thought about it. Dirt kicked into the air with every step he took. Heat beat down on him; sweat slid down his face and dripped off his chin. His backpack didn’t help, which was bulky with fresh supplies he bought in the last town. Maybe he had bought too much. The fare didn’t help either. His pocket felt especially empty today, lacking the sound of jingling coins.
He cursed the sun under his breath. Setting his bag down for a moment, he reached for the bandana tied around his arm and wiped his face. The cloth felt like it had just been soaked in a tub of water. Disgusting. He pocketed it and hoped it wouldn’t smell too bad later. Either way, he wasn’t going to be able to do his laundry for a while, so it’d stink eventually. He just tried not to think about it.
At least it was quiet, except for the bugs buzzing around along with the occasional songbird. It really was a beautiful place. Spring had just passed and left the land lush and green for the summer to dry up. There weren’t many people around. Nothing much changed.
Deciding he sat too long, Reggie took a swig of water and continued to walk on the road. How long ago had it been since he was here? A week at least. No, it was definitely longer. It might have been a month. He was here the last time he beat Connie, which was . . . Yes, definitely a month.
Along the road, a flimsy fencing popped up, which surrounded a wide, open field. Pokemon were inside it, playing or sleeping. A few of them were even battling, and the others were sure to give them some space. They didn’t care about the heat at all, it seemed. Some even seemed to enjoy the sun’s harsh rays.
There are more pokemon than last time . . .
Reggie leaned on the fence and watched. They looked like they were having fun, and he almost felt jealous that they could spend their time so leisurely.
A voice cut through his thoughts. “Can I help you?”
He turned to a boy, about a head shorter, looking straight at him with a certain enthusiasm shining in his eyes. However, the boy didn’t seem to be that young. “Nah, I’m heading to the daycare. I got a pokemon I need to pick up.”
“I’m going there too. How about we go there together?” But before Reggie could answer, the boy already went ahead. Reggie jogged to catch up and nearly complained about the weight he was carrying, but decided against it. He didn’t know him, and the boy probably didn’t care. So he kept it to himself, like always.
“So what’s in the bag?” the boy asked.
“Nothing much,” Reggie said flatly.
The boy raised an eyebrow and peered at him. “You’re hunching over. That doesn’t seem like nothing to me.”
“It’s just supplies. Don’t you know anything about traveling? Without food or anything, you’d starve, numbskull.” Reggie barely pronounced those last words. Talking made his mouth dry. Dryer than it already was, anyway. He reached back and took another drink from his water bottle.
“Sorry, I’m not a trainer,” the boy said. He seemed to smile at the thought of it. But smile at the thought of what? Not being a trainer? “But it seems like too much to carry around, really.”
Talkative, isn’t he? Reggie frowned. “It’s better to have too much than too little. I’d rather die of overeating than starving.”
“Too much could be a waste, though. Some things might get spoiled, and that’s just throwing away money.”
“What the hell do you know, kid?” Reggie angrily adjusted his shoulder straps, resisting the urge to hit the boy.
He laughed at this. “I guess I don’t know anything then.”
“What’s so funny?”
“Nothing.” But he still had that stupid grin stuck on his face.
Reggie turned away from the boy. Silence stood between them, and Reggie relished it. He hoped he could get his pokemon and leave quickly. It wasn’t a long walk, however, so the moment was short-lived as they approached the building.
The boy stopped in front of the house. “Well, here it is.”
“I know, I can read the sign,” Reggie muttered as he climbed the steps.
“So which pokemon did you drop off here?” he asked, standing in front of the door. The boy opened the door and went in.
“Oh, so you’re her trainer.”
“Her? What the hell are you talking about?”
“Well, I had to know what pokemon to get you,” he said. “This way.”
As far as Reggie could remember, he didn’t drop off his pokemon with a boy. It was definitely with an older man. Not too old, but not a boy his age.
He led him through the house to a single room. It was small with not much in it. Filing cabinets lined the walls, with a desk in the middle to top it off. The boy went over to the cabinets and searched through the row of papers. He shuffled through and pulled out a folder, which he opened and pulled out a sheet of paper.
“Hey, what are you doing?”
“Getting your bill,” said the boy, reading the paper. Then he signed onto the only computer in the room.
This kid must have been messing with him. And Reggie didn’t like being messed with. “Bill? What the hell are you doing? I left my meowth with an older guy.”
“Yes, my father.”
“Oh.” That explained it. Now that he thought about it, he did see a kid in the back with the pokemon.
After typing in a few numbers into a computer and ripping out a receipt, he handed Reggie the bill.
He groaned. Reggie didn’t expect it to be that much. Grumbling, he fished for his wallet and flipped through it, only to find it empty.
“Money trouble?” the boy asked.
“No, it’s nothing. I’ve got it here somewhere.”
“Look, don’t worry too much about—“
Reggie dumped the contents of his backpack and let the items clutter on the floor as he sifted through them. He knew he had the money. Or unless . . . Shit. Maybe he had bought too much. He felt a hand on his shoulder and looked up at the boy.
“Listen, it’s fine. You don’t have to pay with money or anything. Actually, you don’t even have to pay. I’ll get your meowth and you can leave.”
Before he could wander out, Reggie grabbed his shirt and pulled him back. “No, that’s not happening. I’m going to pay, just wait a bit.”
The boy sighed. “Really, don’t worry about it. We’re not all about money, you know.”
“It’s not fine with me. You don’t understand, I have to,” he said, slamming his fist on the floor. It was his virtue: he couldn’t take anything for free, because nothing was free.
“Okay,” he said unsurprised, as if he expected him to say that. “I have an idea. How about you work at the daycare to pay it off? That happens a lot on TV, so I think that’ll work, don’t ya think?”
Did he say TV? “Work here?”
He smiled. “Yeah, right here. We’ve been getting more pokemon lately, and I don’t think we have all the people we need. We could use a hand around here.”
Working off a daycare fee . . . that’s pitiful, Reggie thought. He could go back and sell his supplies, at a lower price anyway. But it wasn’t worth it. That would have lost him money and traveling necessities. He had to agree. “Okay, how long?”
The boy thought for a second. “Does a week or two sound okay?”
“Deal,” said Reggie.
“Okay, but are you sure? I mean, I would just take my pokemon and leave if I had the choice. Really, it’s not a big deal.” Reggie didn’t respond to this, so the boy sighed and offered him a room instead, which he declined. “There’s just nothing you want, is there?”
He shook his head.
“You know, most trainers would have taken my offer and left. I wouldn’t be mad or anything, but I think it’s funny that you didn’t do the same.”
“Hey, what’s your name? I don’t think we even introduced ourselves. I’m Marcelo,” said the boy, offering his hand.
“Reggie.” Marcelo’s hand was considerably thin and flimsy. If Reggie squeezed any tighter, he was sure he could have broken his fingers.
“So that means you’re Connie’s rival, right?”
“Yeah, I am. How did you know?”
“She stayed here for a night some time ago,” said Marcelo. “We’ve been in touch. Well, it looks like we’ve been inside for some time. I better give you a tour before you start working.”
He followed him through the house and outside. So Connie had stayed here. That wasn’t really like her. Then again, Reggie didn’t know her all that well, even though they started training pokemon at the same time. Funny, they had never sustained a conversation, one without cursing and insulting each other at least.
“What?” Reggie said, for Marcelo had told him something and he hadn’t heard him.
“I asked if you were hungry or anything.”
Food. He couldn’t even remember if he ate breakfast or not.
Without a response, Marcelo said, “I’ll pick something up later, then.” They walked outside. “Here we are. I know it’s a bit bland, since there’s not much to show. You can practically see everything from here.”
Outside on the back patio, right in front of the daycare enclosure. He didn’t notice the pond stood in the center before. How could he miss it? Now that he got a closer look, Reggie could make out flowers littered everywhere. But they were all distinct: violets and tulips mixed in with daisies, and even roses. So, Marcelo was a gardener.
“You’ll help me out handle the pokemon. That doesn’t sound too bad, does it? It’s a pretty easy job, actually,” said Marcelo. “You can wait out here while I go order us some food. Let’s call it an early dinner.”
Marcelo went back inside and left him alone. This job wouldn’t be so bad. But he couldn’t help but feel he should’ve just taken his offer and left. He wouldn’t have wasted time working here. No, he had to. Not because he believed that he had to work, even though that was a major role, but because he hadn’t relaxed ever since he left home. In fact, he didn’t ever return home either. Then again, there wasn’t a home to return to. Without any family, what kind of home could he have?
The only way to go was forward. That’s what Mom always said. But everywhere he went, he was a stranger. Maybe he could change that.
Reggie pondered this as Marcelo came back, calling him inside. “Hey, we got dinner here!”
“Was it that fast? How long has it even been?”
“Oh, about thirty minutes or so. You’ve been sitting there for a while. Come on, let’s eat.”
They sat down at a table in what he assumed was the dining room. Marcelo opened up the plastic bag and laid out the contents: noodles. He handed him a bowl and ate from his own.
“Aren’t you hungry?” Marcelo asked.
Reggie looked up, realizing his food was untouched. “I’m just . . . thinking.”
“Well, don’t let your food get cold. Personally, I hate cold noodles. They taste terrible that way,” he said as he slurped a food into his mouth.
“I don’t really care. Food is food.”
“So you weren’t raised with enough to eat.”
It was blunt, but true. Reggie squinted at him, leaning back in his chair as he crossed his arms. He picked up fast. “Is that a problem?”
“No, not really. But is that why you wanted to be a trainer?” he asked.
“What does that have to do with anything?”
“Well, I kind of wonder why people want to be trainers. For me, I want to be a trainer because I can’t. Isn’t that funny? People always seem to want what they can’t have.” He was staring straight at him now. “But either way, it’s interesting to hear about trainers. So tell me, what do you get for being a trainer?”
“Like was it the chance to explore new places, or was it the titles, trophies, and the fame?”
“Why the hell do you even care? I just want to work so I can get out of here,” he grumbled.
“It’s an easy question. You don’t even have to think about it. But it does say a lot about a trainer, don’t ya think?” Marcelo sipped his water. “I didn’t mean it as an insult. I’m just curious.”
Frowning, he said, “Because I had nothing. Training was a way for me to live.”
“You could have just gotten a normal job and worked that way.”
He shook his head. “No, I couldn’t have. I don't have much of a home anymore. I had to get away. Maybe it’s because Mom died.”
“Oh, I’m sorry about that.”
“She died a long time ago. It doesn’t bother me, not anymore.”
“My mother died, too.” Marcelo reached across the table and touched his hand. Oddly, it was reassuring. But instinct took over, and Reggie pulled his hand back. “Didn’t you cry when she died?”
Defiantly, he said, “No. Mom wouldn’t want to see me cry.”
Marcelo said nothing, as if he was waiting for Reggie to say more. Actually, there was more, but he wasn’t going to tell him. After a while, though, Marcelo spoke up. “Looks like we’ve finished eating.” Sure enough, Reggie’s bowl was empty. He could only hope he had enjoyed it, because he barely remembered eating it.
“You can go now. Get some rest, cause you’ll need it. Meet me in the back tomorrow morning, okay?”
Reggie nodded and quietly thanked him for the meal. Marcelo waved him out and he was off. He left through the backyard and hopped the fence to look for a place to sleep. He wandered out of the neighborhood until he found an open field not too far from the forest. There, he lay down in the grass on his sleeping bag. Grass tickled his face as the occasional wind blew.
He lay there, thinking. He wasn’t sure what to make of the day. Part of him wanted to punch Marcelo in the face. But the other half wanted to open up to him, to let his traumas out. Still, something about Marcelo bothered him. He seemed so eager and willing to socialize with him. On the other hand, Reggie usually kept to himself. As a kid, he used to pride himself on spending hours and hours without saying a thing to anyone. When he did talk, it was usually to provoke or to argue with anyone around him.
No wonder he couldn’t keep a friend. His answer to everyone was hostility. And in turn, no one connected with him, nor did they try. So why was Marcelo so different?
It was a while before he could finally sleep.
In the morning, a faint fog rolled over in the back, where Marcelo waited with an apple in his hand. He chewed noisily as Reggie approached him. He tossed the apple core and stood up to greet him. “It’s a wonderful morning, isn’t it?”
“I hate fog,” said Reggie.
“When there’s fog in the morning, it gets sunny in the afternoon.”
“Are we just gonna stand around and talk the whole time?”
He smiled at this. “No, I was just waiting for the pokemon to wake up. You can’t get them to listen to you if they’re grumpy, especially when they’re unfamiliar with you.”
Reggie nodded. He knew that all too well.
“They’ll need to eat first, but I already handled that. Don’t worry, they don’t take long,” said Marcelo.
But he didn’t see any around, so he asked, “Where are they?”
“In the pens over there.” He pointed towards the edge of the field. “That’s just where they sleep and eat. They’ll come out eventually.”
“What are we gonna do today?”
“Oh, the usual. Some pokemon need to be trained because their owners asked, but other than that, we just watch them and make sure they don’t do anything stupid.” Marcelo stopped to cough. “It’s a fun job, though.”
It seemed like a meager work for so many pokemon. “Wait, what about the other pokemon? If they don’t train, what do they do?”
“You remember the ones that just play around the whole time?” Reggie nodded. “They’re here because their trainers want them to breed. Pokemon don’t breed when you force them, so you have to leave them alone and they come around to it eventually. You don’t have to worry about anything today. You’ll watch first, then tomorrow you can help out.”
He wanted to protest, but he knew Marcelo was right: He had no idea how a daycare worked, and how pokemon were trained here. Granted, he did train his own pokemon, but daycares usually trained pokemon differently. That’s why he left his meowth here in the first place.
Soon after, a wooper waddled up to them, stopping a few feet ahead. Marcelo picked up a bag and pulled out ten target balls. Reggie watched him throw them, hard, in different directions. Almost immediately, the wooper shot water at each ball. When it hit one, the ball flew back towards them at their feet. Reggie knew that this must have been drilled into the wooper countless times.
Marcelo scooped up the balls and wiped the grass off. “You’re getting better, Walon.”
The wooper blankly smiled before waddling off again, presumably to gather the other pokemon.
“It’s good,” said Reggie.
“The best here. And you’re going to learn how to make the other pokemon like him. Of course, they’re all different, but you get the general idea. The other pokemon are coming.”
Sure enough, more pokemon approached them. They were different from the others, however. As they ambled toward them, many walked with a certain air of confidence while some had a serious look in their eyes. Amongst them, Reggie spotted a meowth. His meowth. But he wouldn’t reach out for it now; it wasn’t the time.
Once they all got there, Reggie asked, “Do you train all of them?”
“Not at once. I try to keep their training individual. It’s easier, and you get to know them better that way, too.” Marcelo turned towards the pokemon, who were all snapped to attention. Evidently, they were used to this system. “Manny, go with Jaden and spar.”
A grunt came from the back and a machoke stepped up, glancing at the hitmonchan uneasily. Could it have been intimidated? Hitmonchan were known for their elemental punches, and Manny’s body was covered with burns and cuts. He didn’t look too happy with the assignment, but he obeyed anyway.
The two walked a good distance before they began exchanging blows. Every punch Jaden made a sick cracking sound, which caused Reggie to cringe. It was brutal. “Why are you making them do that?”
“They can’t learn anymore from me. The best way now is experience, so they’ll fight,” Marcelo said simply. “Besides, their trainers should be teaching them from now on. They should be trained to how their trainer wants them to battle, not my way.”
It was weird to hear him talk about pokemon battling considering that he wasn’t a trainer. Still, he knew what he was doing so Reggie kept quiet.
After that, Marcelo told each pokemon what to work on or who to battle with. They immediately set out to work. If they complained, Reggie couldn’t see it. Most of them were completely focused on training. They knew why they were here.
He followed Marcelo around as he worked with each pokemon individually, explaining attacks and helping them maneuver in battle. By the end of the day, they didn’t accomplish much. Just talk. How to give certain pokemon specific situations where they’d learn new moves. Most importantly, how to watch pokemon and really observe them. You have to focus and note how they prefer to dodge, whether it was by jumping or diving to the side. Or if they even dodged at all. Look at how they attack and how easily they tire. There’s always something for them to improve on, you just have to be able to spot it.
Even though he didn’t do much, Reggie still learned a lot. He took mental notes about the various ways to train his own pokemon. There was a lot he could improve on.
Days went by. Reggie did more than just watch. At first he was clumsy, trying to emulate what Marcelo had done before. But he got the hang of it. The days grew longer as Marcelo became more comfortable giving him harder tasks and more pokemon to train. Marcelo kept coming up with new ways to train, which forced Reggie to keep up with him. Many of the things he attempted ended up being useless, but he always seemed to be having fun, excited about new possibilities. Enough things worked out so he helped the pokemon tremendously.
And then an odd feeling came over Reggie. He began to be happy. And quietly, he considered Marcelo to be his friend.
But he was worried–Marcelo seemed to be getting increasingly tired. He woke up later each day, and he didn’t move around with the same vigor as the day before. When Reggie asked him about it, he shrugged it off as nothing.
“It happens all the time,” he had said. “More pokemon have been coming through recently. I guess I got Connie to thank for that. She’s been advertising. At least, that’s what she told me. I have no idea why, though.”
“She’s like that,” said Reggie. “But really, you should sit down and rest a while.”
“No, I can’t. If I want to be a trainer one day, I can’t lounge around and do nothing.”
He liked that about Marcelo; he never gave up. He never quit on a pokemon and would take it upon himself to work with it until it perfected a certain move or maneuver. Still, it was stupid to do that when he was getting weaker. Reckless, that’s what it was. Reggie decided not to ask him about it anymore, mainly because he wouldn’t hear it.
“We should end training earlier,” Reggie suggested.
Marcelo sighed, running a hand through his hair. It was the first time he admitted he was tired. “If you want to.”
And he left it at that.
A few more days passed and Reggie had worked off all his debt. It was the last day. After dinner, they lounged in the grass, watching the day come to an end.
“Your last day is over,” Marcelo said quietly. He reached into his pocket and handed him a poke ball. “Here.”
So his meowth was in here. He rolled the ball in his hand and sighed. “I guess I really am done.”
“You could leave now, if you wanted.”
He shook his head. “No, I don’t really want to. I’m too tired right now.”
“Oh, so you don’t have any problems traveling at night.”
“It’s wonderful at night, especially in the summer. It’s not so hot, but not too cold either. Perfect weather.”
Marcelo nodded as if he understood. Then he said, “Are you gonna name her?”
“Her, the meowth.”
He never thought of a name for it. They barely even knew each other. He’d have to think of one, so he let the meowth out and greeted her. The meowth shied away from him at first, but eventually warmed up to him so that it could comfortably sit beside him. She shifted every time he tried to pet her, but it was a start.
“So how long did you have her before you left her here?” asked Marcelo.
“Maybe half a day. I didn’t have her for very long.”
“But she was here for a while, longer than she was with you.” He stood up and stretched. “Reggie, how about we battle? It’s time that you had some fun around here for a change.”
True, he did want to battle and he was curious to see how his meowth would fare in battle. His meowth walked up and arched her back, now prepared. So she wanted to battle, too. “One on one then?”
Almost as if on-cue, the wooper appeared and stepped in front of Marcelo. He bent down and rubbed its head. “You bet. Walon is my only pokemon.”
His meowth growled at the sight of the wooper. Interesting. They spread apart and created room for a battle. Reggie said, “You go first.”
“All right. Walon, Water Gun.”
Before Reggie even said anything, his meowth stepped to the side, dodging the attack, and rushed at the wooper with her claws extended. Walon, however, was ready and shot another Water Gun.
This time, it hit her straight in the face.
She quickly got up, and glared at the grinning pokemon. Reggie groaned. He didn’t need another pokemon that wouldn’t listen to him. “Marcelo, just what the hell did you do to her?”
Marcelo shrugged. “I only trained her. She has a grudge against Walon, though.”
That made him grin. “Slash!”
Was that a bluff? No way could Marcelo teach it that. At least his meowth listened to him this time. She was trained well, and it showed. Speedily, she dived past the wooper as she raked its face. And as soon as the Slash struck, she dashed back in front of Reggie, wiping her claws in the grass. The wooper’s slime could be toxic if left on her claws for too long.
Walon didn’t seem to mind the hit, and continued to attack. But it used Mud Shot instead of Muddy Water, which his meowth easily avoided.
I knew it.
“Why’d you call that out?” he asked. “No way Walon could have used it.”
“You never know. I thought it was worth a shot.”
Focusing back onto the battle, Reggie wondered what moves his meowth would know. It was probably best if he kept guessing. “Faint Attack!”
Unsurprisingly, his meowth stared back at him as if he was crazy. He wasn’t too worried, however. This wasn’t a serious battle, and he wouldn’t mind if he lost. There was a different time and place to be competitive.
His meowth had other plans. She continually charged at Walon, both of them continually exchanging blows. As the wooper used his tail to slam her, she’d retaliate by slashing its face. They knew each other well, so well that every attack one used, the other had a counter for.
Soon, Reggie became more comfortable commanding his meowth, and he developed strategies. Eventually, he gained the upper hand. Just as he was sure he had won, Walon blew a thick mist over the field, disappearing in it. He could see his meowth treading cautiously, her paws sinking into the mud.
A thick stream of water fired from the mist, which hit the meowth straight on. Her body flew backwards and slid to Reggie’s feet, muddy water dampening her fur. As she struggled to get up, Reggie patted her head and shook his head with a slight smile on his face.
“Milam, it’s fine.”
She perked up at the sound of the name–her name–, and rested in his arms, while he returned her. Marcelo and Walon walked over.
“Milam . . . Did you come up with that just now?”
“Is there a problem with that?” he asked.
Marcelo stuck his hands up innocently. “Just wondering.”
“Yeah, I did. She needed a name. I can’t keep calling her meowth, now can I?”
“I suppose not.”
Reggie got up to and dusted his pants. “I didn’t know you could battle that well.”
“I’m out here for a while, so I have plenty of time to practice,” said Marcelo. “At least I got Walon to finally use Muddy Water. I can’t get Walon to get better experience unless he battles against trainers.”
“Why don’t you travel then? You could battle almost every day.”
“I can’t be a trainer, not with my dad stopping me. But I’ve always thought about running away.” He smiled. “I wouldn’t be able to support myself for that long.”
“I could look out for you. Connie, too.”
“That’s nice,” he said, as if Reggie was a child pestering his mother. Then again, Marcelo was older than him. Only by a year, though.
“Are you saying you’re fine here?”
“It’s not a terrible situation. Really, it’s okay here. I like it here, it’s just that–“
“That it could be better as a trainer,” he finished for him.
“Yeah. Life is either a great adventure or nothing. Maybe I’m just not meant to be a trainer.” Marcelo looked off into the distance. “But it’s been fun having you here.”
Shaking his head, he said, “No, I should be thanking you. You trained my meowth and let me pay off my debt.”
“Don’t worry about it. I only let you because you were so stubborn.” This made Reggie smile, but Marcelo shivered and his grin wiped away, turning into a look of concern. How was he cold?
“You okay?” he asked.
“Fine, fine.” Marcelo stepped on the steps of his house and turned towards him. “I’ll see you around.”
Then he went inside. Reggie went back towards the road and lightly jogged to find a campsite before it got dark. As he entered the forest, he quickly turned back and stared at the daycare one last time. It was a small block from his vantage point, but he knew he’d see it again some day.
Looking back, he couldn’t have been more wrong.
June 30th, 2012 (7:17 PM). Edited August 18th, 2012 by psyanic.
Notes: I can pretty much say I failed the Writing Blitz. This is a really short chapter, maybe 1600 words, if that. At least this is the last chapter of the 'prologue' so Chapter Four will be a bit... different, I guess?
Anyway, I didn't enjoy writing this chapter that much, which is probably why it took so long to write it. It wasn't fun, and research for the best of me since I had to check facts here and there, although you might not notice. Even so, I'd like it if you corrected me on things, because I might have overlooked a few things. All comments are welcome, though!
Chapter 3: Lies and Limits
Phyllis hated to lie, especially to her patients. Some looked up to her with hope, hope for good news. And lying about good news brought them down, eventually. Just harder than it would have if she had been honest to begin with. Maybe she shouldn’t have been a doctor, but she had been doing it for a few years now and couldn’t imagine doing anything else. Besides, it would have been a waste of all that schooling she went through.
She gulped and walked into the next patient’s room with another cheap smile. The patient was reading when she came in. He looked terrible — horribly thin and faintly breathing combined with the deathly sound of the heartbeat monitor, beeping steadily. She hated that sound.
“Good afternoon, Doctor,” said the boy, looking up from his book.
Ignoring his greeting, Phyllis read from her clipboard, “Marcelo, is it?”
He nodded excitedly. But why? Why would he be excited to be in the hospital? Surely he was delusional. Or he was hopeful like the others. Unfortunately, all she had to give was bad, bad news. The diagnosis was set and couldn’t be changed – the disease was incurable, or so the research said.
And then the look on his face made her want to lie even more. His face was weathered, yet at the same time it was beaming. She swallowed her pride and pulled out a pen to act as if she was going to take notes. “How long do you think you’re going to be here?”
“In the hospital? Well, I guess until I’m better.” He sounded so sure of it.
“What if I told you you’d never get better?”
Then he smiled. “I wouldn’t mind that at all, Doctor.”
That answer confused her, although it relieved her slightly. There was a lot to this boy. “What do you mean? There are a lot of things you could be doing instead of lying in a bed. There are so many places you could be instead of a hospital. Don’t you want to be elsewhere?”
“Of course. I’d love that, but I’m stuck here and there’s not much I can do about it. I’ll get better eventually.”
His conviction was killing her on the inside. “And how are you so sure?”
“You can never be sure about anything,” he said. “I just trust you.”
“Yes, but you can’t trust me with saving your life from a chronic disease,” said Phyllis, and it was only afterwards did she realize how blunt she was.
But it was too late – his calm demeanor visibly faded into worry as a frown crept onto his face. Worry was written all over him. “So it’s true.”
“How long until I . . .?” His voiced trailed off at the end to a mumble.
“It’s variable, but you have a year, a few if you’re lucky.” Another lie, so Phyllis bit her lip to stop herself from talking.
He was quiet for a while, and Phyllis waited for him to speak. Marcelo had a strange look on his face, pondering. Then he made some muffled laughing sound.
Confused, she asked, “Why are you laughing?”
“It’s just that I’ve always wanted to be a trainer. I grew up on a daycare and pokemon are all I know — they’re the only thing I’ve ever dreamed about. Now, that’s all gone. It’s funny and sad.” He looked away from her, but she could still see him wipe tears from his face. Quietly, he added, “Laughing and crying at the same time hurts.”
There must have been something more encouraging to say, but Phyllis couldn’t imagine what. So she leaned over and touched him on the shoulder, trying to bring some sort of comfort to him. He didn’t know how to react, so he continued to giggle while weeping.
And then she realized something. Marcelo could be a trainer with a bit of luck. She didn’t believe in miracles, but this was the best she could do. “I could help you become a trainer. There would be a ton of precautions and regular check-ups, but it could happen.”
Marcelo wiped stray tears from his face and looked up at her. “Really? That would mean a lot, Doctor. But are you sure it’s possible? There must be a rule against cases like mine going.”
“For good reason,” said another man, walking in. Bags accented his eyes, but he stepped with vigor. “Marcelo, just what do you think you’re doing? You know you can’t go on a journey.”
He looked down, so Phyllis spoke up for him. “You must be his father then?”
“Yes, and your suggestion is insane! He will get better and then he can go, but for now, he’s staying put. He’s going to get treatment!”
“Let’s talk outside.” They went out of the room and walked into the hallway. She gulped, trying to find an easier way to tell him his son was going to die, but there was no other way. Finding a more secluded spot, Phyllis gulped and said, “Marcelo’s condition has only gotten worse. We’ve discovered that his disease is beyond treatment. I’m sorry.”
His father took the news without saying anything at first. Then quietly, he said, “That’s impossible.”
“As of now, you want to consider what would be best for him. His only wish is to leave. Are you really going to take that away?”
“I know that’s what he wants!”
“Then you should understand—“
“I can’t let him go out there! He could die or collapse, and no one will be there to help him. What kind of parent would I be if I let that happen?”
Calmly, she said, “And would you prefer him to stay here, living his last days in a hospital?”
“If there’s a chance he’d survive, yes.”
“I already told you, it’s incurable. He’ll be lucky if he lives through the end of this year.”
“But you told him—“
She raised her hand, and he stopped talking. “I know what I told him. He won’t last long here. There’s nothing for him to do, and his morale will be crippled. Give him this one opportunity to see the world and do what he wants to. He deserves the freedom.”
He sighed and seemed convinced. “I don’t like this one bit, Doctor.”
“Your child’s happiness will be your own. That’s the goal of a parent, isn’t it?”
“Yes, but I always wanted him to bury me, not the other way around.” With that, he headed back to Marcelo’s room.
Phyllis went in the opposite direction and went in her office, where she shoved the papers off her desk and laid her head down.
She didn’t go home that night.
When Phyllis woke up, it was late. She didn’t bother to check the time, not that it mattered.
Her head lifted off the discharge forms for Marcelo, all filled out.
The only thing left was to hand it to him, but would his father let him go? More importantly, why did she even bother? He was just an ordinary patient, no different from the next. Still, something got her to do this for him, but what?
She pondered this as she found her way back to his room. Papers in hand, she prepared to leave them on his bedside table, knocking softly before she entered.
It was surprising to find Marcelo sitting up on his bed, watching a pokemon battle. Given his condition, he should have been resting, but Phyllis wasn’t in the mood to lecture him; she wanted to give him the documents quickly so that she could go back to her office and . . .
“Doctor, what are you doing here?” Marcelo asked. “Aren’t you supposed to be home?”
“And you’re supposed to be resting.” She approached his bed. “Watching the league tournament?”
He nodded. “My friend’s battling.”
“Really? Which is your friend?”
“Her.” He pointed at the girl on the screen. “Her name’s Connie.”
They watched the battle silently before she asked suddenly, “Do you still want to go on a journey, Marcelo?”
He turned away from the screen to look at her and sighed. “My father would never let me.”
“I’ll talk to him about it. I just need to know if you want to.”
But he didn’t answer directly. Instead, he asked, “Why do you want to do this for me?”
She wasn’t sure how to answer him. In fact, she didn’t even know herself. “Good will,” she lied.
Marcelo said nothing, as if he was acknowledging that she lied. Then he said, “Yes, Doctor, I’d like to go on a journey.”
That was all he had to say. She handed him the papers, asking him to sign them. Phyllis wanted to say something else, something to comfort him, but she couldn’t. This was all she could do for him.
The television exploded with excitement as the girl won the battle, and for the first time, Phyllis saw Marcelo truly happy.
In the morning, Marcelo was formally discharged after five days in the hospital.
He had little time to live, and Phyllis was sure he’d ignore it. With whatever life he had left, it was going to be fulfilling. She saw to that. She promised him that much, after all.
It felt good to tell the truth for once.
July 3rd, 2012 (8:11 AM).
July 3rd, 2012 (6:07 PM).
I will definitely continue this. I finally got through the first three chapters, which I'd like to call the extended prologue to introduce the characters and the situations, etc.
Oh, and thanks for the comment!
July 4th, 2012 (12:54 PM).
Ave! I've decided to try and get back into reviewing, so I started out on something I was sure would be of good quality - it had your name attached, after all, and in my experience that tends to indicate a good story.
My introductory flattery out of the way, I really, really like this. The idea behind it is fantastic, and it fits together wonderfully - Connie saying that a year for each region is about right, Reggie's visit, the way Marcelo's view of the world captures moments in hyperreality, missing nothing and embracing everything. I suppose the main point I'm trying to make is that I like it. A lot.
I have got a few suggestions for improvement, however, mostly to do with that last chapter, which it was brutally obvious that you didn't like writing much. The other chapters are fine, though they contain a smattering of typographical errors. For instance, in Chapter Two, you have this:
Moving on, we reach Chapter Three, which, although necessary, I wasn't quite such a fan of. Perhaps it's because I have a better idea than most of what it's like to be in a situation like that, but the scene with Phyllis and Marcelo didn't seem real to me. It definitely passed too quickly, I can say that much, and Phyllis acted totally unlike a doctor in her reaction to Marcelo. Even if she is human, even if she does have concerns and doubts, there's a line that doctors - especially those who work with children - are very careful about not crossing. They have professional standards.
Marcelo's reaction doesn't seem quite right, either. It's all right until he suddenly looks up at her, apparently recovering in an instant; there needs to be a little more time, a little more of a gradual change, and a little more relapsing into some kind of shock or sadness. I know he has a very unusual and surprisingly mature character, but there are some things that most people - let alone fourteen-year-olds - don't take that well to, and I think Marcelo might be taking it slightly too well.
Oh yeah, and using the word 'giggle' really kills the atmosphere. 'Giggle' is one of those wrecking-ball words that ploughs through tension with wild abandon, a lot like the phrase 'luminous pink'. I'd suggest maybe reconsidering it to maintain the atmosphere you built up.
Much of what I've said about the scene with Marcelo applies to the scene with his father: it feels a little too quick, and I don't get the sense that there are two real people arguing here. I get the sense that there's one real person (Phyllis) trying to get past a threshold guardian. Perhaps it's the way he doesn't seem to fight back hard enough, perhaps it's the fact that he hasn't been characterised much beforehand - which makes him the weakest character of the story - but the scene doesn't totally convince me.
That's not to say that this chapter wasn't good. I mean, it's still a fine piece of writing - it could just be better, and that's always worth aiming for. You said yourself that it was a very short chapter, 1600 words, and that's probably one of the reasons that the central thrust of it doesn't come across as wholly convincing: it doesn't have enough space to really be fully developed. I know what it's like to wrestle with a chapter you hate, and offer my congratulations for making it as good as you did - but equally, the fact that you hated it seems to me an indicator that you probably focused a little more on getting through it than polishing it to the smoothest possible finish.
Oh, and at one point Phyllis said this:
The Thinking Man's Guide to Destroying the World * The Rocket Case * The Rocket Revival
Neither Here Nor There * The Beastman * Coriolanus Rowland's Guide to Pokémon Husbandry
Robin Goodfellow's Christmas Carol * Snow * Stranger Than Fiction
My Trip to the End of Time, by Pearl Gideon * A Smell of Petroleum Pervades Throughout
For information about A Grand Day Out, a bizarre short story in video game form, click here.
August 18th, 2012 (9:12 PM).
Notes: Thanks for the review, Cutlerine! A bit of a late reply here, but thanks. And this one only took two months! Hurrah! Well, the span of two months. I went through a phase of not doing anything to do with literature, but I realized I have to finish this story. Oh writer's block, you sneaky bastard.
Chapter 4: Edge of the Shore
There was something magical about the sea. Connie always found herself staring out towards the flat horizon wherever she went. She supposed it became a habit. The wet, briny air helped Connie relax as she sat on the pier and stared at the bow of a ship slice through the waves. It almost reminded her of home in Sunyshore City, where storms brewed and the boats fought the ocean, rising and falling as the waves ripped towards shore. The Vista Lighthouse was almost always busy with all the ships coming into harbor.
Here it was mostly calm, although Hoenn did get a lot of tropical storms and had recently gone through a period of flash flooding. The ocean placid, Connie sat on the edge, her bare feet dangling a few feet over the clear water. It was so clear, in fact, that when she peered down, she could spot a school of magikarp swiftly swimming away from a pack of carvanha along with a lone seadra drifting about. She tossed a discarded seashell and watched the pokemon scatter, but slowly, they would return as if nothing happened.
Then she grabbed her fishing pole with one hand and cast away, watching the lure sink into the water. Reeling it back in, she heard someone come up to her and say, “So you were hanging around here the whole time.”
She didn’t have to look up to know who was behind her. “I need to start fishing more. I’ve had this rod forever, but I barely use it.”
“Great minds think alike.” The boy sat next to her, holding out his own fishing pole and quickly casted the line. He rushed reeling in his fishing line and looked on dully, almost bored. Yet his eyes were full of wonder. Too many contradictions floated around him. She also noted the slowking proudly standing beside him, its hands behind its back.
“Marf?” she said in realization.
He nodded with a spry smile while he tapped his crown full of pride. “Always a pleasure, Connie.”
“And you can talk, too.” Turning towards Marcelo, she asked, “You brought him from Kanto, then?”
“He’s nice company,” he simply said.
“So then you’re going to enter him in the tournament, too.”
He nodded, throwing his lure and reeling it back in a methodical manner, and he didn’t acknowledge her for a while after that. Quietly, they began to talk about their travels through Hoenn, the people they met, and the battles they had won. It was only small talk, but there was some significance in being able to meet each other. Marcelo had constantly come up with excuses to rush through his journey. But time had been kind to their friendship, although Marcelo didn’t seem to receive the same treatment from the last time they had met.
His arms were thinner than she remembered and his face had become slender. Marcelo’s skin took on a smooth texture, so pale that it was almost transparent. Blue veins became visible, and they made him seem fragile. It came to the point that when Connie looked at Marcelo, she was reminded about the things that kept him alive.
Secretly, she worried for him, now more than ever. Three years had passed since he first took to traveling and training, and each year seemed to take more and more out of him.
Evidently, Marf became bored and began blowing bubbles. Connie saw them capture the sun’s rays that made them shine with a variety of colors until the wind carried them farther away out of her sight. They sat leisurely, enjoying the sun’s rays and the sea air.
Then Marcelo jerked on the fishing line — something bit the lure. But whatever he hooked, it was weak. It was no wonder considering how little he seemed to care about fishing. The pokemon splashed on the surface as Connie made out the red scales gleam before the fish flailed back into the water. He would let the line drag out and reel it in. Eventually, the magikarp gave in and allowed itself to be pulled up to the pier. It flopped on the deck.
It could hurt itself, she thought. And then it occurred to her that Marcelo didn’t catch it, so she asked.
“I don’t need anymore pokemon,” he answered. He poked the magikarp and examined the bright scales.
“Then why bother?”
“Fishing is just for fun.” He was pulling the hook out of the magikarp while it calmed down and resorted to wheezing. “Everyone else seems to take it so seriously. Don’t tell me you were trying to catch something?”
“I was wondering what it would be like to train a seadra,” said Connie. In truth, she was fishing, because she knew Marcelo would find her and she didn’t want to be pestered by the other trainers entering the tournament.
“There aren’t many seadra around the piers, I think. They’re probably around the reefs. How about we head out there?”
“The reefs are too far out.”
“Well, we have pokemon.” He grinned.
She stared at him, realizing what he implied. “I was kidding, and we don’t have anything large enough to carry us to fish.”
That didn’t bring him down, though. “I’ve kinda had enough fishing, too. It’ll be dark soon.”
And true enough the sun had almost disappeared while the sky was a deep, empty blue.
“So what do you have in mind?” she asked.
“Let’s go out to sea and explore a bit,” he said. “There are a lot of places left to be found out there. And even if we don’t discover anything, it’ll be fun.”
He continued talking, and Connie was perfectly content listening to him. His enthusiasm hadn’t waned since she first met him; in fact, it grew. Marcelo wanted to do many things, to do exciting things. In turn, Connie got dragged into his antics whenever they found the time to meet up. It was always fun and always hectic — he wanted to do too much. That led him to be rushed, to jump around more. The first year as a trainer was tough, for him especially so. There were always deadlines, whether it was scheduling a gym battle or getting to the next town before it started to get dark. Adjusting took a while.
It was a wonder he even found time to do everything he wanted to. Still, she could tell he was happy, if somewhat weary at the same time, but Connie never mentioned it, at least not to him. Reggie had become slightly friendlier, but he was still distant. They didn’t have much of a rivalry when she thought about it. Reggie became a figure for her to beat who shared a mutual friend. He could be bitter and cold when he needed to, but she rarely saw him around, so they rarely even battled. It was an odd relationship.
Connie stood up and followed Marcelo walk off the pier. Lights turned on from the buildings that were separated from the ocean by the beach. As they approached the shoreline, Marf asked, “Are you sure about this? You don’t know what’s out there.”
Marcelo finished stuffing his shoes and fishing pole in his backpack, grabbing a poke ball to let his quagsire out. “You’re enough to fight off anything that might want to eat us. Walon, too.”
Marf stared at him, bewildered. “I was concerned about you two drowning.”
“Oh,” said Marcelo rather innocently. He turned towards the quagsire. “Walon, we’re going for a swim. You’ll carry Connie, so make sure you follow me.”
Walon nodded and waddled into the waves, Connie right behind him. She flinched as she submerged herself into the icy water.
Marf and Marcelo had gone out further ahead where Marcelo had to cling onto the slowking; eventually, Connie had to do the same. She found herself nervous and jittery. Her arms held on tightly around Walon’s slick body, and as she began to lose sight of the shore, she grew excited. In the daytime, she could go out to open sea, and it wouldn’t even matter. Then, it was only ordinary. At night, it became an adventure.
She didn’t know how long they swam. All she knew was that it was a while before they came across a small island — one that she thought would only be seen in fantasies. There was a cluster of palm trees huddled together in the center, but other than that, it was empty. Marf stepped onto it, immediately lying down and panted heavily. Connie was about to poke him to check if he was all right, but Marcelo called her over.
“What?” she asked.
“Marf is fine,” he said. “He’s meditating. He does that a lot.” He reached out to Walon and patted its head while he returned it.
“So this is it,” said Connie, looking around and seeing nothing but the ocean. “Was this where you wanted to go?”
And Marcelo only smiled at her. Without a word, he pointed to the sky.
Gazing up, she saw the stars and the moon shining against the black background. The night was ripe with many wonders to gaze at. Still, why did he bring her out so far to look at the sky? Then again, he was impulsive. She heard Marcelo laugh lightly, so she said, “What’s so funny?”
“Nothing, nothing,” he said, waving his hand. He lied back in the warm sand with his hands behind his head, relaxed. “Keep looking, Connie.”
Seeing nothing but the stars, she asked, “Why?”
“Can’t you tell? It’s a meteor shower.”
As soon as he said that, a single streak illuminated the sky amongst the stars, dissipating within seconds. She was about to say something, but another one flew through the sky and disappeared in the same way. A few moments passed before more stars shot across the twinkling black canvas, each going in different directions. The sky was a reflection of the ocean, it seemed; it teemed with life and brought its own set of mysteries and wonders.
Marf seemed to have gotten over his fatigue and sat next to them as he explained the different constellations and names of stars with such enthusiasm — Connie felt as if she could have sat there forever, listening to him talk on and on about the wonders before them.
“You know, sometimes the world makes me feel so small,” said Marcelo. “It’s boundless up there. Look, the Pleiades is dragging all the stars away. It’s making it emptier.”
But the stars remained as they shined in the same place they were before. Nothing much had changed, Connie thought. So what was Marcelo talking about?
“Hoenn is known for its connection to the night sky and outer space. Mossdeep is famous for landing the first people on the moon.” Marf cleared his throat. “They didn’t find much up there, though.”
“No proof that clefairy are from there, either,” Marcelo added. “The people here have a lot of legends about the meteors and space.”
“Like what?” she asked.
“Jirachi’s one,” replied Marcelo. “It’s said that jirachi fell from the end of a comet and crashed in Hoenn. Some say it grants wishes to people who sing it a lullaby.”
“Why a lullaby?”
“Because it helps it get a better rest. I know you wouldn’t want to be waked up early.” He smiled.
“True.” She laughed. “Say, if you found jirachi, what would you wish for?”
“If I could wake it up? Well . . .” he trailed off. He lay there silently, evidently thinking.
Marf cut in, answering, “I’d wish for a substantial amount of currency.”
Connie snorted. “What does a pokemon want with money?”
“I would buy myself some property and build a respectable house,” he said rather proudly.
“And what would you do with one?”
“Why, live in it, of course.”
Something took over Connie, something she couldn’t control. It caused her to smile, and then she exploded into laughter. Maybe it had something to do with Marf’s ridiculous pose, which made him clench his fist with a serious expression on his face. But when she glanced back at him, he was grinning, patting Marcelo’s back as he coughed and laughed simultaneously. Even Marf let out a chuckle.
Apparently, even slowking could be funny.
After a while, the only sounds were the waves crashing and receding barely touching their feet. And then Connie asked again, “Marcelo, what would you wish for?”
Moments passed until he said, “I wish I could live on the moon. I could dance with the clefairy all-night and live out in space. It’d be like running away, but it would be lonely.”
“Being a trainer is running away, isn’t it?” said Connie.
“You can go home, though,” he pointed out. “And that’s not exactly running away.”
“Anyway, I think we should head back now. I don’t wanna be late to the opening ceremony tomorrow!” said Marcelo, standing up and letting Walon out again.
And back into the water they went. The trip couldn’t have felt any longer. Walon swam leisurely, which didn’t help that Connie was freezing. Still, it kept her awake for a while, but she couldn’t tell whether or not that was what she wanted. When they finally hit the shore, her clothes drenched and hair clung onto her face, she shivered and told Marcelo thanks for bringing her out there. She would have missed it if he hadn’t told her about it and she wouldn’t even have known about it. Even now, he still broadened her horizons to newer things.
He brushed it off as nothing and waved to her saying, “I’ll see you tomorrow.”
Connie watched him disappear back into the city, probably towards his hotel. She wouldn’t meet him again like this for the coming weeks. After the opening ceremonies marked the start of the tournament. The long competition they’ve been waiting all year for.
Tomorrow, they would be rivals.
August 18th, 2012 (10:34 PM).
I prepared a nice little review, but my poor internet connectivity threw it into the abyss. So um, I will have to settle with a short one.
I expected the story to be some strange circumstances in Marcelo's one year journey before he *ahem* dies. But you surprised me by jumping to Hoenn and three years into the future.
The mention of Jirachi, and the title "Some Stars" actually gave me some idea of the direction the story might go, but I might be wrong.
Your description of the setting is very good. (I should take some pointers from you :x)
So few stuff I liked: Walon has evolved, I didn't expect the Pokemon to reappear. A talking Slowking. Marf is an interesting character, the fact that he's knowledgeable and can talk means he might have some important role in here.
I presume something will happen in the tournament tomorrow, perhaps Reggie might reappear (considering this is a tournament) Yeah so, I am waiting for the next chapter (which i hope wouldn't take two months).
Also a minor nitpick : I wish you could capitalize the first letter of the Pokemon's name like everyone else.
August 20th, 2012 (8:54 AM).
Thanks for the comment! It's a shame when reviews get lost. I had that happen a few times myself, so I've gotten into the habit of copying my reviews.
I think this chapter has the most affiliation with the title, but my goal for the title is to be thematic rather than so plain and obvious as illustrated here. Still, I did feel the need to mention stars somewhere as I actually did watch the meteor showers as I wrote it. I thought it was only appropriate haha. And yes, Reggie will appear next chapter. I know my story's plot is extremely obscure, but hopefully the next one explains itself better.
I do know that some people prefer to capitalize Pokemon names, but I don't in my stories. Pokemon names are basically the species, and it's like saying dog or cat or cow, which aren't capitalized. I find that Pokemon names are common names rather than anything that deserves to be capitalized. But in reality, it's just a preference.