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Old July 18th, 2013 (1:40 PM). Edited July 18th, 2013 by icomeanon6.
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icomeanon6 icomeanon6 is offline
It's "I Come Anon"
    Join Date: Feb 2008
    Location: Northern Virginia
    Age: 25
    Gender: Male
    Posts: 1,184
    This is my entry for the 2013 Pokecommunity Get-Together Small Writing Competition. I've decided to retire the characters I used in the '09-'11 competitions because I know them so well now that it didn't seem in the spirit of writing something quickly from scratch to use them again.

    What follows is the version submitted to the judges; a revised version may be posted later. The prompt was
    "union/unity." Enjoy!

    By What Right?

    Moriko was dodging trees on her way down the hill. This was an old game of hers: to see how quickly she could reach the bottom without getting scraped up. She was doing well until she forgot about one root five yards from the field. Her knee hit the grass first, and her arms landed before her face. She lay like that for a minute or so until the aching subsided. It was late in the year, and the earth had a stale smell.

    She got up, and checked to see where she was hurt. Her elbows were fine, but her right knee was bleeding through her dress. Nothing seemed to be going right today, neither for her nor for her home. She moved on slowly across the field and down the path that lead into Ecruteak City.

    As expected, there was a crowd of people surrounding the gateway to the Bell Tower. Moriko stayed out of the thick of it, and found a spot under the eaves of a nearby house. There was a lot of talking, which made for much more noise than she cared for. She overheard a group of women in fine kimonos who were standing nearby.

    “How long are they going to be in there?”

    “Who knows? I never thought I’d see outsiders allowed inside one of the Towers in my time.”

    “You don’t think they’ll try to rebuild the Gong Tower, do you?”

    “I wouldn’t put it past them. These Goldenrod pigs would rather see a skyscraper there, I’m sure!”

    Moriko shivered. She looked up and to her right, where the abandoned perch of Ho-Oh remained. The outsiders couldn’t possibly understand these magnificent structures; neither the ancient majesty of the Bell Tower, nor the tragic history of the Gong Tower.

    “Look! They’re coming out!”

    Moriko couldn’t see over the already silent crowd. She clambered up onto a windowsill to get a better view. The doors of the building guarding the way to the Tower opened as deliberately as they always did. Deliberately too emerged Gaku—the eldest and greatest of the Three Sages. Moriko had seen him only three times in her life, and she breathed in sharply as he made a quiet gesture to the crowd, and they cleared a path. Gaku walked forward, and behind him followed the other Sages and two strangers.

    At the sight of these outsiders the crowd began to grumble and grow restless again. The two were dressed in a way that Moriko had only seen in photographs. One of them—a man—wore black pants and a matching coat. The other was a woman, and her dress stopped just below her knees.

    Go home!

    It was her father’s voice, Moriko was sure, and it was soon joined by many others. The strangers were quiet until the Sage Masa uttered “Enough.”

    The noise subsided, and the male stranger took the opportunity to respond. “Good sirs and madams, we are here to work in the best interest of Johto, and that means the best interest of Ecruteak as well.”

    Moriko felt her skin crawl. Johto, the man said: an imaginary designation that didn’t even originate west of the Indigo Plateau.

    “No one here’s going to answer to your so-called Pokémon League!”

    “We serve the Towers!”

    “That’s right!”

    “And no one else!”

    The Sages and the strangers were now emerging from the crowd. Moriko jumped back down, and then kept still as they walked by. The woman noticed her, and for a few moments their eyes met. She looked down at Moriko with an expression that was not angry, but still cold. It was confident, but dispassionate. It passed right through Moriko’s bones and penetrated her heart.

    It said, ‘I own you.’


    That evening, Moriko was scooping rice into two wooden bowls. She had no problem with fixing dinner every night now that her mother was gone. If it were up to her father, they would have to eat three hours after sundown. Besides, it made it all the more special on holy days when her father didn’t have to work and he would fix something nice.

    The wild mushrooms on the stove were in danger of burning when Moriko removed them. She examined them thoroughly and sighed. It hardly mattered that she could always find the best mushrooms when she always forgot they were cooking. She dished them into the bowls with the rice, poured a cup of wine for her father and water for herself, and then sat down to wait. She stared at the black window and fiddled with the Apricorn Ball at her waist.

    Half an hour passed, and Moriko’s eyelids grew heavy. But then she felt a cold breeze, and looking up she saw that it accompanied her father. He closed the door to their small cabin behind him, and took off his coat and boots. “Sorry I’m late.”

    “It’s all right.”

    Her father walked over to the table, and wasted no time in kneeling and facing west to the Towers. Moriko followed suit, and after ten seconds of silence they were ready to sit down and eat.

    Moriko had only known her father to tell one sort of lie, and she heard it every night. “It’s delicious. Thank you.”

    It was an insult to either her intelligence or her taste, but family was family. “You’re welcome.”

    After that, it was an unusually quiet meal. Moriko’s father scowled throughout, and had to refill his wine far too early. When he was on his third cup, he finally spoke again.

    “Did you go to the city today?”

    Moriko suddenly felt a strong urge to go to bed. Why her father felt the need to give his angry rants to those who already agreed with him was beyond her. “Yes.”

    Her father rubbed his eyes. “I don’t want you ever stepping foot into one of these ‘gyms’ they’re building. Not even if they build one here.”

    Moriko stared at her food. “Of course not.”

    “It’s a disgrace…All the children forgetting their duties to Heaven and The Sea, and for what? Some asinine competition schemed up by greedy businessmen.”

    There was nothing to say, so Moriko said nothing.

    “They’re going to take everything from us, you know…Our sovereignty, our culture, our values, everything. And they’re doing it through the children…your children and grandchildren.”

    Moriko hated going to bed sad. “I know.” They were both done eating, so she started cleaning up.

    “And you’re not marrying anyone from Goldenrod either, got it?”

    “I don’t want to, anyway.”

    Her father stood up and trudged over to his bedroom. “Good.”

    When everything was put away, Moriko stood still for a minute or so. Something was bugging her, but it wasn’t just the outsiders. In any case, she needed some air. She opened the door, and stepped into the night.

    She walked behind the house and uphill until the trees blocked the light of the windows entirely. She was aware of nothing except for the sound of insects until her eyes adjusted and she could see the faint silhouettes of the forest around her. Something then compelled her to let her Pokémon out of her ball.

    She closed her eyes for the brief flash from the Apricorn Ball, and there stood Kiri, her young Heracross. The large beetle looked around, and then looked at Moriko, wondering what needed to be done. There was nothing she had to do, though, and Moriko simply patted her on the horn and sat down.

    Now that she could see Kiri—her eyes, anyway—Moriko understood what had been bothering her all afternoon. She had always thought of Kiri as her friend, ever since her father had caught her. She had been a toddler then, and had given no thought to what Kiri’s life had been like before that. Since then she had learned about Apricorns. The specifics were beyond her, but the main idea was as simple as it was disconcerting. Exposure to the insides of an Apricorn induced a temporary but radical docility in Pokémon, without which it would be inconceivable for children to train any but the most gentle.

    Moriko had never believed in a forced friendship. That was the way of Goldenrod to the south, and Saffron to the east. They claimed that those to the east were all of Kanto, and all those to the west were of Johto, whether the people of other cities believed in Regional sovereignty or not. Those from the big cities did not keep Pokémon as their friends. Their Pokémon stayed through coercion, through fear of reprisal. Everyone in Ecruteak knew this.

    But now the more she thought, the less she knew. Whether it came from the outsiders or had been buried in her since her early years, doubt was in her heart. She wanted to be better than them, and she had to know for sure.
    She put her hand on Kiri’s horn again, and spoke softly. “Kiri, I need you to sleep in the trees tonight. Do you understand?”

    Kiri rubbed her horn on Moriko’s arm and made a familiar noise. She understood, and flew onto the trunk of a nearby Teak. Moriko fastened the Apricorn Ball to her waist, and walked back downhill. She was tired, but she was also confident in Kiri and in herself.


    The next morning was cold and gray. Moriko had errands to run in the city, but first she spent some time with Kiri. Kiri was sucking sap when Moriko found her, and she flew back down right away. They walked through the wooded hills for some time, and things were no different than usual. Some Rattata passed by, and Moriko spotted another Heracross, but Kiri stayed close the entire time.

    An hour before midday they reached the crest of a sheer hill that gave a view of Ecruteak City. No matter how many times Moriko saw it, the old rooftops were always comforting, and the Bell Tower was always striking. As she sat on the brink with Kiri, she gazed on the Tower and thought of the charge left to humanity by Ho-Oh, lord of the Heavens: to live in harmony with Pokémon, and remain vigilant for his return.

    This new league and their gyms understood nothing of this. They saw Pokémon as tools for a brutal, frivolous game. Only through honest work and fighting only in righteous defense would any trainer give Ho-Oh cause to return. Moriko could not conceive that such a trainer could ever come out of the Pokémon League.

    This meant she had to be better than them. She had to have so strong a bond with Kiri that they would be friends without outside influence. When they left that place, Kiri stayed out of her Apricorn Ball. She stayed out when Moriko left for the city, and she stayed out when Moriko went to bed as well.

    The days that followed were colder, but still promising. Every morning they went for a walk, and Moriko was always there to say good night. It was on the fourth evening that she walked back into the cabin and found her father sitting at the table. Moriko was surprised that he wasn’t asleep already, but she didn’t let it show. She removed her shoes and almost reached her room.

    “I noticed Kiri’s been sleeping outside lately.”

    Moriko stopped in her tracks. She said nothing, and did not turn around.

    “It’s your choice, of course, and I’m not going to stop you. Just remember that you’re not the first kid to think they can change the nature of Pokémon. It’s not an easy thing to accept, but that’s just how they are.”

    Moriko’s ears were open, but she kept her mind shut. Kiri didn’t need her ball. She had seen it for herself.

    “That’s all. Sleep tight.”

    Moriko entered her room and shut the door. She did not sleep easily that night.

    The next morning she awoke an hour before dawn and wasted no time in getting dressed and out of the house. She walked to where she thought she had left Kiri, but she could not see her. She kicked the leaves and cursed herself for coming out while it was still so dark. The hour that passed was long, and Moriko spent most of it walking aimlessly between the trees. Finally, when she came back to the first place she had tried it was light enough that she could spot her Pokémon.

    “Kiri, come down.”

    Kiri detached from the trunk and floated down with the help of her wings. Moriko started walking uphill, and gestured for Kiri to follow. Kiri did, though it seemed to Moriko that she kept more distance than usual. Surely it was her imagination.

    Along the way, Moriko found herself growing angry at her father. He was just a hard, old man who had never tried to understand his daughter. He was nothing like Kiri. Kiri knew her. Kiri trusted her.

    The sun was climbing, and though the forest remained cold it became clearer. It was soon that Moriko realized that Kiri had stopped following her a few yards back. She remained calm, and turned around. Kiri was staring up into the trees. Moriko looked up as well, and saw a number of Heracross feeding on tree sap.

    Her heart pounded. She looked back down at Kiri, and her mind began racing. Something seemed wrong. The look in Kiri’s eyes had changed. They were less attentive—or were they more attentive? Yes, they were attentive to the surroundings, but not attentive to her. She recognized the look: it was that of a wild Pokémon—unmindful of her so long as she did not move.

    She told herself that it wasn’t so. She told herself over and over and ever more forcefully, but she believed herself less and less each time. She kept staring at Kiri, whose smallest movement would change her conclusion. Her hands were sweating despite the cold.

    Kiri’s wings opened, and a thousand thoughts passed through Moriko’s mind. Was this a test from Ho-Oh? To see if she was true to her word that Kiri was free? Free to stay or leave if she wanted? It was only fair—they were friends, and friendship had to be mutual. By what right could she interfere in how Kiri wanted to live?

    Kiri began to rise. Moriko could only panic.

    She’s leaving me.

    I’m overreacting.

    I don’t want to lose her.

    I haven’t the right.

    But the ball was already in her hand and stretched out in front of her. She closed her eyes, and when she opened them, Kiri was inside and under her control—indefinitely.

    Moriko fell to her knees, and she wept. She was no better than any of them.

    Never again did she say any word against the Pokémon League or the Johto Region, and the question of whether Kiri would have left then given a real choice haunted her for the rest of her life.
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    Reply With Quote
    Old July 19th, 2013 (7:34 PM).
    Astinus's Avatar
    Astinus Astinus is offline
      Join Date: May 2006
      Age: 31
      Gender: Male
      Posts: 10,107
      Congratulations again on getting first place!

      I do have to agree that the ending was rushed. The beginning was definitely my favorite part, as you built up Moriko's world and the history of Johto/Kanto with the League. Seeing stories dealing with Johto's history in particular is always good. Almost wish there was a way to keep the story focused on that.

      Yes, the ending was rushed. If only you had more time, I'm sure you would have been able to develop more of Moriko's relationship with Kiri. Marcin is right when he said that Kiri's misbehaving only seemed to start happening after Moriko's father mentioned it. Maybe the revised edition will show more of Kiri's slow return back to the wild and if Moriko sees it before her father mentions it, and how she realizes that the League might be onto something when she almost loses her friend.

      Looking forward to seeing a revised version if there is one! Or maybe just something more on this story's history.
      "Now the trumpet summons us again--
      not as a call to bear arms, though arms we need--
      not as a call to battle, though embattled we are--
      but a call to bear the burden of a long twilight struggle, year in and year out."
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