:D I was reffering to Android Raptor's comment about Linkin Park (LP)...
And no jail for Asaph...oh, shucks! Maybe a death scene? :)
:D I was reffering to Android Raptor's comment about Linkin Park (LP)...
And no jail for Asaph...oh, shucks! Maybe a death scene? :)
Only two characters die in the fic. One of them, Gloria, died in the first chapter. Another is a very minor character (although it'll have a fair sized impact. No it's not Helen).
Wow! As a mom I must say your 'obsession' message was beautifully written and a delight to read. Thanks, jlc
I actually finished this at about 15 minutes to midnight on New Years Eve, but I was at a con and my friend's laptop was being super slow because it was on hotel wifi and for some reason Bulba wouldn't load at all. But finally! Over a year later, Obsession 20! This is, I tell you now, probably the longest chapter so far, and it's mostly character building. There's seeds of a few future plots but at least one of those I bet you won't pick up on until the next chapter. After 21, the pace will pick up.
The year ended and the year began, and soon after it was time for the Tonio exhibit. The night before, my father took me to Asaph's place. The drive was horribly boring and terribly embarassing, as he elected to do so in his pickup truck. Having to take the way there while hearing him blather on about how mature I was becoming was bad enough, but to venture down the long driveway in such a vehicle was nothing short of mortifying. Two servants had already come to the turnaround, and the second we came to a stop in front of them, I threw open the door and scrambled down, instructing them that my bag was in the bed.
At least then I had the cold as an excuse. I brought my hands to my mouth and exhaled over them, although I had thick gloves, as a means of covering as I darted to the door.
My father didn't try to follow me, simply called after me to have a good time, and even that sounded like an insult.
The night passed without incident. Asaph returned from Saffron, we dined late in the evening, and after a pleasant night's sleep in the guest room that was far more opulent than Asaph's personal room, we headed to Viridian to fetch Veronica.
We touched down in a field of snow, powdering out under us in a magnificent ring. A small colony of Nidoran scurried back into the tall grass at the edges, disturbed by the noise and sight of the craft, but they had ample time to have done so before our landing. Silly things.
Veronica awaited us nearby, the same red dress she had worn when we first met poking out from underneath a thick red peacoat. Her parents waited with her--she had described them to me at our previous meeting. Once embarked, I was met by her father, who thrust his hand out simply and insistently. But protocol demanded that I bow first, as he was a social better. Such a misleading term, but there was none other to use.
Impatient man. He grabbed my hand the moment I arose. "So you're Jirarudan." I had to be amused and a bit impressed by the fact that he pronounced it correctly. "Veronica told us so much about you. You're some sort of prodigy, she says." He patted me on the back as he said that and my brief respect faded. "And you're from Seafoam and your father makes ships...you wouldn't be Corbin's boy, would you?"
Would everyone I met ask me that? I nodded hesitantly, trying to make my disapproval at such a question apparent, but he was oblivious.
"I knew it! You've got his strong chin and broad shoulders. My business CEOs use his helicopters. Nothing but top of the line, you know." He thumped me on the back and laughed. "I wouldn't have thought he'd be interested in art. Always seemed so blue-collar to me."
"Franklin, leave the boy alone," Veronica's mother ordered as she fussed with her daughter's coat. "He's obviously not like his father if he's going to a gala like this." She smiled at me, face unnaturally tight. "We'd love to go, but both of us have conferences in the morning. Putting the finishing touches on the summer line by next week will take some long meetings." Turning back to Veronica, she kissed her forehead. "Tell me how it was. Oh, and I took that thing out of your luggage; you don't need that."
"All right, mother..." She returned the kiss, to the cheek, and turned towards me. A porter had taken the bag next to her, something she seemed surprised at when she reached down for it, for her eyes were slightly wide and her mouth was parted.
I held out my hand for her, bowing slightly to kiss her hand when she took it, but I was startled by her father's sudden laugh. "Tierney, I think someone's got designs on our little girl!" And there was the hand impacting with my back again.
Veronica winced for me, grabbing my hand as she turned red. "It's not like that!" she muttered. This man, I figured, had no sense of decorum. I was simply following the rules of society.
"Now now," her mother chided, "Veronica's far too young for that sort of thing. Besides, he looks like a gentleman."
I bowed to her as well. "Madame. I promise that your daughter will have a brilliant and enlightening trip." It sounded sufficient.
Tierney smiled again, but this time something lit up in her eyes. "Oh, how formal," she cooed. "How nice to meet such a distinguished young person. You'll learn a lot from each other, darling. And from Asaph, of course."
Asaph hadn't left the ship yet. But that was all right; he had to program the route to Goldenrod and ensure that we would have transportation from the airship dock to the museum, so he was quite busy.
After further parting words, Veronica and I boarded the ship. She waved as the door sealed shut before her, then scurried to the window to continue as we took off.
It had been a few hours and the sun was starting to descend ever so slightly. Asaph had more calls to make so Veronica and I were alone in the observation room, she watching the ground and I the sky.
It was so beautiful that day, and although I would come to see that glorious view, the heavens surrounding my shell of metal and glass, daily in the future, back then it was far more outstanding. We handily passed through towering cumulus clouds, the vapor trailing against the window like a fine veil.
For what I thought would be a moment, I glanced over at Veronica. She was staring down over the land with an intensity I'd never seen from her, so I moved to her window to see what she saw. But there was nothing there but the Indigo Plateau, the Pokémon League Village that would spring to life once a year now covered with a thin dusting of snow.
"There's nothing down there," I told her simply. "Why are you frowning?"
She pressed a hand to her mouth and shook her head. "You know, they consecrate the competition to Moltres. But where they get the flame is a closely guarded secret."
Another bird I'd heard of in conjunction with Lugia--the passionate flame. But it didn't matter. "Seems like a waste to me."
"...yeah," she whispered, correcting herself with "yes" as Asasph came back in.
Time seemed to pass us by as we spoke of whatever we pleased. Soon enough, the mountains surrounding Goldenrod came into view, and the outlying city soon after. Beyond that the ocean, only a faint ribbon of silver past the steel and green. Moving in to land, it was lost entirely.
As we disembarked and a porter for the airfield took our luggage, Asaph chuckled to himself. "The two of you...what a wonderful experience this is! I envy you, you know. To be young again, to be doing all this for the first time...You're not sullied by those things that hound everyone else, and you won't be."
"What do you mean?" Veronica asked as the chauffeur held the door of the sleek black sedan open. She had to wait for Asaph to take his seat, but instead he turned back to us.
"Most of the people there can't appreciate things like we can," he told us, adjusting his coat almost as an afterthought. "They come because they want to be seen, to have their pictures on the society page. But the two of you aren't like that." That hand suddenly thrust upwards towards the clouds in an oddly dramatic gesture. "You're better than them, you're above them, like stars in the night sky. And you'll outshine them all."
Veronica had laughed when he made the motion, but now she only smiled thoughtfully. "You really think so? I look forward to it. You hear that, Jiri? We're better than them."
"It's a nice feeling," I said, but bit back that his gesture was thoroughly undistinguished. Did this mean we were better than him as well? That was a very nice feeling indeed.
The car wound through the city, past countless houses and apartments inhabited by people who lived unaware of our purpose, of what higher things existed in the world, of what was possible. It was almost sad, but I kept it inside.
Veronica watched out the opposite window, head turned away and hands folded in her lap. Asaph, in the passenger seat, was silent and took deep breaths. He had been speaking of this event for some time and I knew how eagerly he anticipated it. That calm, not just over him but over all of us, was settling and wonderful, and for a moment I thought we could well be the only three people in the world. Or four, if the driver was considered.
Goldenrod's downtown was magnificent, rows of trees adorned in white lights, and the odd storefront still displaying their Christmas decorations. I hadn't dared speak of my holiday, spent with my father trying to force cheer and presents on me. I had gotten him a pair of cufflinks, simply as a gesture of goodwill, and he commented on how they were so ostentatious and he prefered things plain. He later claimed he had been attempting to be playful, but it was too little, too late. But when Helen came in from the factory and he announced he was treating the both of us to fried chicken, it was enough to send me scurrying to my room. Days like that are best unspoken to better people.
The sun was already almost gone from the sky as we turned down another street, and Asaph told us we weren't far from the museum. I smiled in anticipation and turned back towards Veronica, who still occupied herself with her view. "This should be exciting," I commented.
She started, shaken from her distraction by the sound of my voice. "It should!" she agreed as she returned the smile. "I'm looking forward to it."
"Wait no longer," Asaph said, hushed.
We looked out again to see the museum beside us, the car slowing to a halt in front of a stone double stairway leading to the giant building. As we fully stopped, I unbuckled my seat belt a moment earlier in my eagerness.
Finally we were out, the chauffeur heading off to fulfil his complete contract with Asaph and check us into the hotel. Most didn't have such services, Asaph said, so we had to know where to look.
Up the stairs we went, past the ancient-looking stone Arcanine flanking the stairwell, through the magnificent glass and steel doors to the lobby. The entry hall wasn't as magnificent as the one in Viridian, but still quite beautiful, with stone columns leading up from the marble floor to the intricately carved ceiling adorned on all sides with a row of white lights. Perhaps left over from the holiday, or perhaps to set the mood for the evening.
People in their finery were already milling around around the coat check. I recognized Lucrezia and the man I had spoken with in the factory not long ago; oh yes, her son. I would have to recall that. As I passed them, I heard her tell him not to talk about his job. At least that would free me up. They would be unlikely to mention my father then.
We turned our coats over to the attendees, and Veronica tucked the tickets in her purse. Finally, Asaph led us past the clusters who merely wished to be seen to the premiere hall.
We were right on time; the doors had just opened and we were among the first in. And I was grateful for that, as it afforded us an unhindered view of the exhibit as it had been arranged. Paintings in a timeline of Tonio's work, encapsulating his earliest known sketches to his final masterworks, wound through the hall and past several dividers. A waiter passed with a tray of wineglasses, and the scent in the air told me that some fine Loirian cuisine was waiting for similar treatment.
I started to examine a painting, but Asaph caught my attention. "Jirarudan, there is someone I want you to meet."
He was standing with a woman who appeared to be in her mid-forties, black hair short-cropped and matching the overall look of her dress. She was shaking Veronica's hand, and turned to me for the same. "Hello," she said in what I could already tell was a very thick accent, "I am Amalie, the artist Tonio's descendant. You care for his work?"
Oh yes, she was the guest of honour. I nodded, although I said "To be honest, I haven't seen many of his works before. Although I've loved what I've seen and I look forward to seeing more tonight."
She smiled and continued to Veronica and me. "It's wonderful seeing young people engaged in art. Everyone wants to be trainers nowadays that it's all they care about. They forget there's more to life."
"Madamoiselle Amalie, did you have a good flight?" Asaph asked, although I was certain that Veronica was about to say something.
"Oh, I'm used to it." When she turned to face him, I saw a red mark on her neck that I hadn't noticed before.
He chuckled. "We're all glad you could attend. He was such a powerful painter, the way he brought the world to life."
"Now Asaph, don't monopolize her," an older woman with a museum identification said with a laugh.
Bowing to the both of them, he excused himself and sheparded us into a corner. "Truth be told, she knows very little of Tonio's work. She doesn't care for the art world herself."
"Is she a trainer then?" Veronica asked, a bit faster than usual.
"Only casually. She made her independent name as a race car driver."
Veronica giggled, dropping her gaze to the floor. "Are we starting soon?"
"Of course." People had started to flood the room, and he took a wineglass from the waiter passing by again.
As we approached the line of servers that had emerged holding silver trays aloft, Asaph spoke to us in a hushed tone. "Now, remember your manners," he reminded us. "No wine; you're too young. Keep to no more than two of each of the hors d’oeurves. It will be light, but you'll be able to order from the hotel when we go there."
Veronica giggled ever so slightly. "We've covered this. There's no need to worry."
He let out a sigh. "This is the first major social event for the both of you. A man frets for his children, or his students in this case." His smile seemed forced. So did his calm. "But I'm sure you'll do fine."
"We will. You forget that she and I met at a society event," I reminded him, leaving out the part that we had been in a room away from the main party.
"Yes, yes...As I said, I know you will both do fine. Any decent artist is nervous before a grand unveiling." He patted us on the backs, a far gentler gesture than Franklin had put us through earlier. "Now go. I'll be watching the both of you through the night, but don't let that hinder you. You must learn independence as well, my little treasures."
Weren't we surrounded by treasures?
She smiled up at him, face devoid of those worry lines that marked his. "We'll find you if there's any problem."
"That's a good girl," he sighed, but perked up almost immediately. "Oh, there's Monsieur Vien. I've been meaning to speak with him. I'll see the both of you later."
After some parting words, he headed off, and so did Veronica, although I was never far from them.
I started my way around the room, making small talk with several of the attendees as I went. I spoke of things I knew and learned of many more, but nothing of Lugia.
The paintings were attractive, but not to my taste. He had come to Kanto to learn the styles here and to teach the technique of his native Loire region, and before then, his works were mostly pastoral scenes; shepherds, farmers, and so on. But before I could delve much into his later works, after his shift in interest, something unusual stood out as I turned a corner.
Owing to Tonio's fascination with the natural history of Kanto, a string of paintings covered the excavation of several fossils from a quarry along the Vermillion coast. That, of course, was the spot where Omanyte was first discovered, and so the museum board had brought in quite a rare specimen to oversee the exhibit. An Omastar watched happily from the corner, a safe distance from the paintings depicting the cautious removal of its ancestors from the cliffs where they had laid interred for millennia.
The parallel between the ancient creature and where it was contained was incredible. Such a clever device! Glass or metal confinement would have only distracted from the openness of the exhibit, so the Omastar was kept in place via a simple force field. My father had books on these sorts of things; although they were impractical for construction, they were quite useful for testing mechanisms.
The note said that the field had been specially calibrated for Omastar's strength and level, and I wondered about the mechanics behind that. What a beautiful thing! The machine's simple elegance far eclipsed anything I had seen in the exhibit.
But I would have to research it later. Now was for the art, and it was indeed a lovely exhibit. Simply not as lovely as the shimmering field that contained the pokémon.
The Omastar waved its appendages at all passersby, some of whom waved back. Veronica did, but Asaph didn't, so neither did I.
After circling the room a few times, I returned to something I had been distracted from earlier. The painting had caught my eye more than the others, a landscape of a north Kanto mining town that would later become Pewter City. This was the turning point in Tonio's career, the small building to the right of center being the beginnings of the Natural History museum. When Tonio traveled through the region, objects of interest unearthed in the mine had only recently been displayed, as a means of attracting minor income to what had otherwise been a place of outside interest only as an overnight stop for travelers heading to Viridian or Cerulean.
Building up the area was a slow process, but the museum endured. And Tonio found his interest there, in the fossils and shells on halfhearted shelves in a dusty building. I couldn't help but consider my finding the Lugia figure in the basement exhibit of a distant museum; even though the parallel ended there, it was amusing just the same.
I examined it for a while, taking in the details of things. While it was the same style as his later works, the difference in subject matter was still jarring. He would do very few works of everyday life after this, instead taken with the world that the regions had been long before human life. And that had no interest for me, for without humans, you have no art. Not that landscapes were any better. So dull and boring. I could see those rolling hills only a few miles inland, with the precision and clarity of my own eyes rather than filtered through someone else.
Art was supposed to be something new. Something special, something sacred, something irregular. To only show what we see every day is a waste.
Someone laughed next to me, and for a moment I thought I had said the last thought out loud. But it was only Amalie, with Lucrezia's son behind her. They were muttering to each other, and likely deluding themselves that they were being subtle. But how obvious it was with his hands on her arms and her neck tilted in the very image of Makoto's famed painting of the Camaranian queen and her knight! Asaph had spoken of the innate sensuality of their posturing, and to see it before me was strange.
As I turned to examine another work, I could hear their words, in her native tongue, and he was quite bad at it. I shook my head. At the age of nine I understood the language better than he could at what had to be over three times that.
She laughed again and said something that I couldn't make out, but unlike him, not for lack of understanding. I was simply too far away by then, and left them to their own devices.
By the time I met up with Veronica again, I was quite exhausted and so was she. She subtly threw out a toothpick that had held a bit of Loirian sausage and cheese as she approached me, and indeed the cuisine had been delectible. But the evening had run together for me, as the art failed to affect me. The most impressive thing I had seen in the time was the containment shield, and overall I was disappointed. I had looked forward to the event, and felt let down.
Asaph, on the other hand, was upbeat and cheerful. "What a fascinating exhibit!" he enthused as he approached, hands clasped in a pose reminiscent of multitudes of portraits of saints in ecstasy. "How incredible! And I was pleased with the both of you. Veronica, Jirarudan; people spoke highly of you both."
"Great..." Veronica muttered, her head drooping. Fortunately we had left the hall by that point and it went unnoticed. She rooted around in her purse for the tickets and it took her far longer than it ought to have to find them.
"The hotel is a block away," Asaph said. "I'll take you there, but then I'll be off to a party. You two can manage on your own, right?"
I nodded, feeling a bit tired myself.
"As I said, you can order room service if you want," he reminded us. "Keep it under 7500p, though."
"Jiri can get something. I'll just go to bed," Veronica sighed.
It was after ten and very cold, wind tearing between the buildings and forcing the three of us to tighten up our coats in unconcious unison. Asaph seemed quite warm once settled, in his new hunter coat from his sojourn to Lopatin. Perhaps I could obtain one, or a better one.
By the time we reached the hotel, we were shivering, Veronica and I hunched over with our hands to our mouths, breathing through our gloves. I could hardly pay attention to my surroundings, although I saw Amalie and Lucrezia's son getting in the elevator a few moments before we arrived there.
On the way up, we warmed up considerably. The hotel was rather old, but had been kept up-to-date with things like heating and power, which was always a wonderful thing. Veronica had perked up a bit from the cold, and was humming something to herself.
"Now," Asaph double-checked as he unlocked the door to our room, "I'll be back in a few hours. You two call the front if you need anything. And you can stay up until I get back, but then I will need to retire for the night."
"We'll be fine. You have fun." Why was I sounding like my father? It was just late, that was all. I'd be far less pithy in the morning.
"Goodnight!" Veronica called after him. He waved as he closed the door, and I swear there was a skip in his step.
I was going to ask Veronica if she wanted anything, but she had already turned away to the washroom. Our bags were in the bedroom, I knew, and I wondered if it was all right for me to retrieve anything from it while she was in the adjoining room. In the end, I stayed in the sitting room to listen to the radio until a few minutes after I heard the shower turn off. Some jazz set from a concert decades earlier in a city I had never been to in a club that no longer existed played, and I realized that I wasn't quite listening to it. I was focused on watching the sky instead, the brillant lights of the city below giving a new aspect to the cover of dark.
That was the view I would never quite be able to see from my ship later on, that magnificent illumination in the thick of human congregation. But there were so many other things to see that it didn't matter.
Veronica said my name and it broke me from that reverie. Eventually we decided against a late dinner and that we would simply go to bed. After my shower and change, I laid down next to her. "When we get older, this will be quite improper, you realise," I remarked with a chuckle. "But we're still quite young so no one will think it strange."
"...Yeah..." was all she said. She stared at the ceiling for a moment before she turned the light on her side off. "Get that one."
It was unusual for her to be so blunt, but I acquiesced. Hmm, I was more tired than I had thought. I started to drift off, but Veronica was shifting on the mattress. After a few minutes, I'd had enough. "Veronica, please go to sleep."
"I can't." It was simple and direct.
"You're exhausted. You can sleep now."
"I can't...! I can't sleep with the light off! Aah, when's he getting back? Turn the lights on, I'm not tired, I'm not tired! Turn them on!"
"I don't have to do what you tell me." She was being obstinate, her rudeness sudden and unexpected. "If you had any of that wine, Asaph's going to have your head, you know."
Then she grabbed me, and I could feel she was shaking. It was inappropiately hot in there, so I knew it couldn't have been that. "Please...Turn the lights on...I can't stand this..."
Fine, I decided as I pulled myself up to a sitting position, which fortunately she dislodged for. Perhaps Asaph had brought a sleeping mask I could use. I would, with any luck, be asleep when he returned. A click of the lamp later and the room filled with light.
Veronica had turned to the centre of the bed, sitting on her knees. And she was crying. "...thank you..." she said, quiver of her body distorting her voice slightly.
Had that been it? She was upset? "Veronica, I'm sorry...I'm just tired..."
She waved her hand, the corners of her mouth tensing up. "I get so scared at night..."
"Being in a new place can be uncomfortable," I told her, biting back the idea that I was positive my father had said the same thing to me at some point. "But there's nothing to be afraid of. It's only a hotel room."
"I'm not afraid of the dark."
"Oh?" I patted her hand, as had been discussed in one of my comportment lessons, but it seemed far too little a reaction. "Then what--"
She cut me off before I could ask it, but it was unnecessary anyway. "I get so lonely! Being in the dark terrifies me because I can't *see* anyone! I can't see Ralts...Ralts isn't even *here*..." As she was talking, she grabbed my arm. "That thing my mother said she took out of my luggage, it was my night light. I'm twelve years old and I still sleep with a goddamn nightlight..."
"Oh..." There wasn't much else in it. I worked my arm out of her hold, and drew her close so she leaned against me. "Veronica, you can tell me anything..." I knew I couldn't do anything for her, but it was something suitable to say.
"You're a real friend..." she sighed. "I need someone I can go to...God, that sounds like I'm using you or something..." A sniffle before she said anything else. "I'm sorry. I've just been up for way too long. I had to get up at the crack of dawn to get all made over."
"You did? I woke up about an hour before we left."
"No, see, you look nice when you're all dressed up. I look like some fancy doll," she scowled as she ran a hand through her hair. "You look natural. You just brushed your hair, put your suit on, and dashed some cologne on, right? My parents kept on me all morning--Jiri, they hired a makeup artist!"
I furrowed my brow. "I couldn't tell you were even wearing makeup."
"Exactly! Two hours of skin treatment because I have a few pimples." I almost chastized her for her blunt language but decided against it. "Every person there was twelve once...well, except for you, of course..." She suddenly quieted, staring at the mattress, and I noticed tears welling in her eyes.
"Well, you looked lovely today," I assured her as I handed her a tissue from the bedside table. "Miss Amalie has her own visual flaws and she's spoken of as a beauty. She certainly didn't have any trouble making company," I added with what I hoped was a disarming chuckle as I rose from the bed to open the windowshade. She wouldn't be alone, not with a whole city out there.
"Yeah...but that's different. Birthmarks are considered 'exotic.'" She made brief quote marks with her fingers and I had the impression she did it unaware. "Acne's far too common. It's 'normal' so they can't stand it." After wiping her eyes, she laid back again, setting her head on the overstuffed pillow, the action puncuated by a long sigh. "It would't be so bad if they let me get a word in edgewise. They keep treating me like an infant."
I turned off the light and laid down as well, the new falling snow out the window illuminated by the city around us, the streetlights twenty floors below. "My father's the same way," I muttered, despite Asaph's instructions. "Always trying to force me to live by his rules. He thought I wanted to be a trainer! Can you imagine something so inane?"
She shifted position to face the window.
I continued. "Anyway, I'm just glad that I liked these lessons. He didn't give me a choice." I certainly knew I was leaving out key details, but I didn't particularly care.
"Was your mother the same way?"
That took me off guard. Although it was most ungentlemanly of me, I rather enjoyed the tack I had taken. Perhaps an odd thought, but expressing my distaste for him was almost comforting. By that same gesture, the thought of speaking of my mother made me ill at ease. The thought of describing someone so dear to me and wonderful; why would that be such an uncomfortable thought when complaining about someone I hated came with such ease? "What a strange dichotomy," I mused aloud. "I despise my father but I don't mind talking about him as we were. I love my mother but I can't find the words for her."
A chuckle from Veronica's side. "With all your words, you can't find any for her?"
"Hmm?" I yawned.
She yawned as well before saying "most nine-year-olds don't say things like 'dichotomy'."
Smiling, I reached over to pat her shoulder, but she had already fallen asleep. I remained awake for a bit after, considering the day, but was asleep before Asaph returned.
Dialogue is what I find easiest. Describing things, on the other hand, is my worst enemy.
I'm glad it came across as smooth. This is the first chapter I wrote in bits as opposed to straight through.
Well, my secret is acting out scenes as some of the characters.
Also that I have no life, but shhh.
Well Blackjack, it's fine doing that. I mean, when I write, I think of myself as the main character, so acting it out should be a thinking strategy rather than a secret to good writing. So kudos to you...
(P.S. I don't wanna read your stuff anytime soon cuz it looks too long and intimidating, so this isn't a comment, really)
It's really not that long. 20 chapters in an 11-page thread? I've got some parts that are less than a page long.
Either way, pretty intimidating...
...maybe in Spring Break when I have a ton of time... XD
All right. It'll be here!
I actually did it! Obsession 21!
"Don't you think you need to talk to him today?"
"It's in my head, Helen. I have to get it out somehow. It's...I can't even describe it, but it'll be wonderful!" He didn't look up as he spoke, just kept scrawling something across the paper.
Helen looked startled for a moment, but ultimately just patted his head and poured him some more coffee.
Curiosity got the best of me. I approached the table and hoped he wouldn't say anything, but he was too ensconced in his work to notice. On some discarded pages, the same thing, drawn endlessly and often incomprehensibly where his hand couldn't keep apace of his mind.
It was a strange device, and I wasn't sure what it was at first. It looked like a ball in a cage, but it had to be a ship of some kind. It was the only thing my father designed. Of course, it didn't look like a ship, more like some sort of misguided public art. I shook my head. He was being ridiculous; this would never be anything wonderful.
"Are you all right today?" It took me a moment to realise that was Helen asking me. "You don't have to go out today. Your father will be finished in a little while..." She trailed off, brow furrowed.
"I want to." What was her sudden interest? If she wasn't going to be out with it, I figured, it couldn't be important.
She sighed with her mouth tightened. "Well, whatever helps. I swear, the both of you..." Another incomplete sentence as she headed out to the factory to start the day.
I wouldn't be going anywhere for several hours. The party wasn't until the afternoon, and it was in Seafoam for once, so I had only to dress and walk over. The weather was clear and cool, and the walk would be pleasant. Of course, once the heat set in, it would be unthinkable to do so, but it was only spring. And my father was otherwise occupied, so my dread from the party falling on his day off was nothing. Usually those days were intolerable, and I would either throw myself into my schoolwork or ring up Asaph or Veronica to avoid his questions. The former far more than the latter, of course, as he still wouldn't move the phone from his space.
It would do me good to get out. I'd been studying far too much lately, finishing up only the night before a report on a poem. Something about a meadow, referred to as a meadow many times during the work, with descriptions of flowers and hills. But of course it couldn't possibly actually be a meadow. Symbolism and all that rot, nothing meaning what it says plainly. Finally I had to make things up, based on what I knew of the author, and submitted a paper on how it was a battlefield and the flowers were fallen soldiers. In retrospect, I had based my summary on a Ni Mháille painting whose likeness was tacked to my wall.
Which reminded me, in a roundabout way, of the party that night. It was a birthday party for one of the former board members of the Fuchsia Historical Art Institute. I'd never met the man, but he and Asaph had known each other for years. I wasn't expected to bring a gift, and I wasn't sure how to feel about that. On the one hand, they recognised that I was only starting off, but on the other, they were still treating me like an outsider, a curiosity.
I'd just keep at it, though. Collectors have to be tenacious or they'll never get anywhere. But it was easier than the alternative. Expectations for those my age were simple; we were to be students, and trainers soon after. Hardly any aspired for anything different. Some might be known, briefly, but soon faded. It was so transient.
My thoughts had been like that for a few days, and I hoped the party would shake me from it. An art collector can't start feeling like nothing matters, or he'll never appreciate anything. And I wasn't about to let a few days of fatalism shake me from my chosen path. Besides, it came out of nowhere. Nothing had really changed around me, as was the norm, and it wasn't enough to escalate my usual frustration.
Besides, even though human lives are transient, that's why we have art. Art transcends our mortality, sometimes gripping it by the throat in the process, and leaves behind something far more beautiful than any life could accomplish through only living.
I'd been having those thoughts lately too.
After reading up on some of the treasures of Fuchsia, I curled back up in bed. It was tranquil, peaceful, and made me want to sleep for days. But of course I had a responsibility.
I thought back to the past, those ancient times when the legends were said to walk among us. Had that really changed? Had they ever truly done so, or was that just the foolishness of old? If they had, were they still here and we just ignored them?
Certainly there were some. Veronica had spoken to me of how a field in a north region was a famous gathering place for Shaymin, and they interacted eagerly with humans and most other species save for certain times of year. Phione schools are readily observed in warmer waters. But there wasn't anything especially interesting or aesthetic about either of them. Nothing of true renown.
/The world is pretty boring/, I thought as I yawned and hugged my pillow. Even knowing how everything works doesn't make it interesting. It's not beautiful or anything, just dull. At least the art that Mr. Higuchi specialised in was stylised to some degree and wasn't anything I could see just looking out a window. Most people my age dismissed it as ugly or weird, but I didn't.
And then I was thinking in circles again, so I rolled over and picked up a book on the physics of flight from my bedside table. Even though it was my father's book, I didn't think of him at all during my read.
I didn't bother telling either him or Helen when I left. They knew I was going out, and I didn't care to risk getting my outfit dirty in the factory.
It was a pleasant enough afternoon; warm enough to walk the few miles to my destination and chilled enough to be able to do so without fear of perspiration. I liked being able to be out like that, to feel the wind all around me. It came off the sea with a blast of revitalisation, perking me out of my earlier reverie and making me feel alive. Of course, where I was headed helped with that, to be surrounded by art and people who appreciated it, but the wind itself was a solid cause.
Overhead, a flock of birds called merrily to each other. They seemed to be going the same direction I was, so with a smile, I called back. They ignored me, as was in their nature, and went along their way. Over the crest of a hill, I saw them alight to a tree, and once again I called to them as I passed.
I felt nice. Summer was coming, but not too quickly, and it gave an appreciation for my surroundings. That didn't happen often.
My suit was a bit off, cut low along the chest to button at the base of my ribcage, and I'd have to button my collar before arriving, but overall it was fashionable and pleasing to see. And I had to wonder about the sight of me, what anyone passing by would think of a youth in a tailored suit, walking along the roadside, calling to birds.
Just as my thoughts started to wander back to whatever it was that Helen was adamant my father speak to me about, Mr. Higuchi's home came into view. It wasn't specified to his tastes, although the landscaping was. The garden was low and tempered, and made use of its proximity to the shoreline for a water feature that lined the walkway. As I approached, I saw that the pond was stocked with Magikarp. Not shabby wild ones, but show fish with broad, shiny scales. Walking past, they followed the sight of me, several gold ones standing out of the mass of orange. But I continued to the door.
Some had already arrived, and I was glad for that. Mr. Higuchi was an elderly man, over eighty, and made a comment about hope for the younger generation. I told him of Veronica and he was equally pleased. However, he didn't speak to me the rest of the night.
As I waited for her and Asaph, I made small talk with the early arrivals. Lucrezia and her son were there, dividing as soon as they walked through the door. Lucrezia had dressed the part, in a fine kimono indicating her status, but her son, along with most of the guests, had elected more modern wear. I wondered if I shouldn't have worn something more traditional, as people flocked to admire her, although I hated the constriction of such garments.
Conversations tend to go in circles, not merely the subjects, but the people. They stand in a cluster as they speak, backs to the rest of the room. As such, I wandered around, finally sitting in a low chair next to a lone koto. It wasn't a particularly fancy example of the instrument, but people of Mr. Higuchi's status never have elements without reason. The sound would likely be lovely.
My smile returned as I remembered a festival in my hometown. Mama and I had sat on the ground as we listened to a koto player. Afterwards, I had asked if I could pluck the strings. Had I ever been that young?
Such a pleasant memory. I could almost feel mama's hand on my back as we listened, hear the music in the air instead of conversations that didn't involve me.
I wasn't sure how long I sat there like that. At least ten minutes, but coming back to reality left a strange feeling in my stomach until I noticed that Veronica was sitting beside me. "Are you feeling all right?" she asked as she adjusted a green ribbon that hung too far down.
"I'm all right." I stood, and offered her my hand. "You know, this is the first time I've seen you at an event in something other than the red dress." Another modern outfit, a green gown that exposed her shoulders, something she seemed to have difficulty with as she kept adjusting the cuff that rested on her upper arms.
"Yes, it's new. Do you like it? This is also new." 'This' being a pearl and emerald choker. "Mother got it for me when she went overseas. They're all natural, not a cultured one in the bunch."
"Which makes it more cultured," I noted. "How was your trip?"
We talked for a bit more, mostly about our respective educations, before Asaph disengaged from the circle he had found himself in and approached. "The both of you need to spread out. You can't spend the entire evening talking amongst yourselves. People don't come to these parties to talk to those they talk to all the time." He seemed disappointed, from the slight bend in his back and the furrow over his brow. As he adjusted his pince-nez, something he didn't ordinarily wear and that looked strange on his broad face, he sighed. "I will be spending time away from you tonight. I have my own connections to make."
Veronica took a thread off his tailored vest and balled it between her fingers. "It looks like Miss Chen still has her usual affectionate greeting. It won't do for our mentor to have loose threads on him."
He chuckled. "Why Miss Veronica. Are you planning on having students of your own? Just circulate the room and you'll do fine." And he left us alone again.
"He seems worried," I said flatly.
"Yes. But we should do what he says. He's our teacher for a reason." She cocked her head and smiled at me. "And frankly, this is more interesting than algebra."
We split up, her with a wave to me.
It didn't last long. With the party in full swing an hour later, she approached me. "Jiri...can you come outside with me?"
I'd been occupying myself by the drinks for the past while, but there was only so much interest to be had in a cup. Those around me analysed the amazake as if it was the finest wine, and I listened and wondered with amusement if there was some list somewhere that people drew from to describe drinks.
So I went with her without a word. Rather than stopping in the hallway, she led me into the walk-in closet across the way and pulled the door closed behind us. "I'm so tired, Jiri," she admitted, staring at the ground. "I don't know how people can do this."
"Do what?" I took her hand, remembering what had happened in Goldenrod.
She gave me a bit of a squeeze and brought her gaze up. "Talk for so long about nothing. I tried asking someone about what drew them to a statue they just bought, and all he wanted to do was talk about how much it cost!"
"It's a status symbol. Remember what Asaph told us? Most of these people don't feel anything for what they buy."
"Then why do they do it?" It seemed to hurt her to ask it, but I wasn't sure why.
I smiled in an attempt to cheer her up. "I don't know. But we're the better off for it. We're something special, aren't we?" Before she could answer, I patted her arm. "Like shining stars." Why did saying that make me feel briefly ill?
But she smiled back and it was gone. "I suppose. We'll just have to keep shining." And looking past me, her smile grew. "When I was young, I'd always play pretend in closets like this. It brings back some good memories."
"Oh? What did you play?"
She thought about it for a moment. "I'd be a princess being held captive by ogres, or I'd be exploring a cave and finding treasure...Things like that. Do you ever imagine you're looking for Lugia?"
"Sometimes," I admitted. "But it never seems to play out like that. Mostly the more practical side of gathering information, but it's still exciting."
She giggled. "Sometimes I wonder if you're really only nine."
What an odd thing to say. Somehow I felt both better and worse.
"Well, I suppose it's only natural. We've got to grow up sometime. Anyway, do you want to head back? I think I just needed to take a break."
I nodded. "Yes, Asaph will be cross if we're not there."
She'd only opened the door a bit when she stopped and withdrew from the entrance. I glanced out to see Lucrezia and her son coming out of the ballroom, and given the angle the closet was set to that room, I doubted she could see either of us. Which was fortunate, given the circumstance.
Lucrezia pulled him out into the hallway by his lapels. He didn't struggle or protest--it would have drawn unwanted attention to the situation. As it was, I think only Veronica and I were in a position to notice, although we didn't know what had gone on in the ballroom.
"You brat! How dare you treat your mother like this? How dare you treat anyone like this?" Lucrezia was livid, shaking so hard her dark hair bounced around on her back. "How many times are you going to do this? You're a grown man, the heir to my business! You've already burned far too many bridges with these people with your League title and your stupid dalliances--"
Something shifted in his expression. I wasn't sure what it was, but Veronica sucked in a breath and tightened her grip on my arm.
But Lucrezia continued unabated. "But when you keep flaunting your conquests the same way these people talk about their collections...You have no regard for anybody but yourself! People are just a game to you, aren't they? They're not a game, and if you want to remain my heir, you'll remember that!"
He smirked, and I noticed he wasn't looking at her. Past her. At us? I shivered. "Mother, you're overreacting. Amalie was simply looking for a good time. I can't help that she found it in my hotel room rather than the museum."
Letting out a high snarl, she grabbed his chin and yanked his head down. "You will look at me when I'm speaking to you! I will say this only once more! If you do anything I've addressed one more time, you are out of the business. Do you understand me, brat?"
I didn't hear his reply, as Veronica picked then to pull me further into the closet and pull a coat over the both of us. I could hear her taking deep breaths, and finally she said "I think I'd like to see Cresselia in the light of the full moon. It would be really beautiful."
That was distress, wasn't it? She was upset by that argument. I took her hand with a squeeze. "They say Lugia only flies during a full moon. "
She made an odd noise, almost a squeak, and fell silent. There wasn't any more noise from the hallway, so I disengaged and went to the door to peek out. "No one's here. Want to go back to the party?"
The coat shifted. I assumed she was nodding, since she came forward a moment later. "I'm sorry. I really can't stand to hear fighting."
"It's all right. Let's go back. Hopefully by now we'll have missed the speeches."
She was looking down but smiling. "Hopefully. At least there's amazake."
The hallway was clear, and we headed across to the reception room. The attendees were milling around now, with a few idling by the koto player in the corner, who was far more formal than the one in my memory. Veronica wandered over there, leaving me alone for several minutes, during which nothing of interest happened.
I stared at the window, the people behind me reflected over the ocean. It was near sunset, and the sunset over the ocean is one of the most beautiful sights in the world. Even now I believe this, with all my heart.
And my thoughts shifted to Lugia. I'd been thinking of it more lately, every time I looked at the ocean. Those graceful wings, that beautiful form--beyond any work of art human hands could craft...It was out there somewhere, beneath the waves. And the thought of it made my heart ache. Something so dear to me, so far away...
I heard my name spoken from across the room. The cocktail party effect, since I knew no one was speaking to me. Taking a step back from the glass and scanning the reflection of the room--a trick Asaph had taught us for looking elegantly uninterested--I saw Veronica talking to Lucrezia's son. Odd, I'd have thought she would try to avoid him after that outburst in the hallway; but then, it was his mother doing all the yelling.
That they were talking about me wasn't especially interesting to me, so I turned my attention back to the sea. Others were looking out too, but I knew it meant nothing to them. Simply a view, nothing more.
"Jiri?" I must have been in a daze, since by this point Veronica had already put her hand on my arm. She smiled when I turned, but how strange; Lucrezia's son was standing next to her. "He apologized for what happened earlier and says he wants to make it up to us."
He bowed slightly, the very model of a businessman. "I hadn't meant for anyone to overhear that. Mother was quite demanding and couldn't wait until we left the party. But parents are like that, aren't they?" He smiled. "They don't respect our decisions, our lives."
"I know exactly what you mean," I whispered.
"I suspected you would. Come with me. As she told you, I want to make it up to the both of you." And he turned to the door, waiting for us to accompany him.
Offering my arm to Veronica, I held my head high. Watching the ocean had refreshed me, my sadness gone.
A caterer scurried past us in the hallway, not wanting to be waylaid by guests. We walked rapidly by, Lucrezia's son keeping a brisk pace that was difficult to maintain with dignity. "Now," he said as he pushed open the door to a brilliant library overflowing with books and scrolls from all Kanto's history, "Admittedly, it's been some time since I was a child. Do children still enjoy keeping secrets?"
It was difficult keeping eye contact with him. Not only was the view of the ocean out the window so enticing, but something about that intense look he always had was intimidating. I glanced over at Veronica, who was nodding but had an odd crease in her eyebrows.
I've no doubt he noticed, but he called no attention to it. "I understand the two of you recently came into some money. That mentor of yours mentioned your recent windfalls." Oh yes, Veronica had been granted a substantial sum herself a few months ago. She had dismissed the topic, for the most part. "So the secret I have may be of greater interest to you than those people out there, who treat money like coins to a cat."
Here he bent down to our level, looking us both dead on. Veronica's eyes were wide as she asked him "You said it had something to do with a business arrangement, right?"
"It does. Tomorrow, one of my mother's companies will sign a sizable deal with one of its former competitors. The stock is certain to skyrocket, and whoever owns that stock is poised to make billions overnight. But the deal is very hush-hush. Only a few people know. And now the two of you have the opportunity to be among them, if you swear to keep this a secret."
Billions overnight? I laughed bluntly, but asked "All right, what's the catch?" It seemed like the thing to say.
He chuckled. "No catch. I don't expect anything in return. This isn't a formal business arrangement. I just know that everyone has to get out from under their parents' thumbs eventually. Miss, are you all right?"
Veronica's mouth was taut and breaths pulled in and out rapidly, but only for a moment. She blinked several times and laughed softly before grabbing my arm, working her expression back to a grin. "I'm fine," she breathed with a slight shake in her words and in her grip. "Are you sure about this though? Your mother will be furious at you."
"That isn't anything new," he scoffed. "Now, will you take this information?"
I nodded. After a brief tightening of her grip once again, so did Veronica.
We scurried to find Asaph, and endured the few minutes that it took to disengage him from his conversation. Manners dictated that we couldn't blurt it out, however much we both wanted to.
But oh it was worth it. His expression when we told him of our windfall, the silence as he fumbled with his pince-nez to pocket it as he thought about who to call to arrange everything...
Finally he was able to contact stockbrokers willing to aid at the late hour. All the while, Veronica hugged herself, barely containing excitement, but after a bit, while Asaph was calling, she turned to me. "Jiri...you're happy, right?"
"Mm?" Her question caught me a bit off-guard. "Of course I am. Veronica, we're going to make billions!"
"It's so hard to tell with you." She reached over to me, pushing my head up, and her thumbs pulled my mouth up along the sides. "There! Now you look like you're going to make a fortune!"
I had to smile for real at that. "It hasn't happened yet. Besides, you haven't stopped pacing. You seem nervous."
She flopped down on the couch next to me--Higuchi had given us the run of his living room for our sudden business venture, even though it was unknown to him. "I'm nervous. Excited. I've got energy to burn and there's only a certain number of ways you can do that in a place like this!" Her voice went up at the end, and her eyes were sparkling in the dim light as Asaph came over to us.
"It's all done. The both of you, fortune willing, will wake up to great wealth. Just remember to sell when you think it appropriate."
Veronica nodded. "Of course! Oh, I don't think I'll be able to sleep tonight! Jiri, I wish I could stay with you overnight so we could keep each other awake for this!"
What would happen would happen. What good would staying up all night do when the meeting wouldn't be until after we'd get up? But I nodded anyway. "It'd be nice. But I don't think my father would take kindly to the idea, especially since we've no place to host you."
Asaph laughed. "Ah, youthful exuberance. It's been such a long time. Well, he said the meeting is at nine-thirty, so we ought to rest up. But I know Lucrezia, and she's a genius at making money. Everything she does turns to gold, as they say."
An odd noise from the doorway made us turn our heads. Lucrezia's son was standing there, arms folded.
"How long have you been there?" Asaph asked him with a chuckle.
"Long enough to hear that bit about my mother. You know as well as I do that making money is the only thing she could be considered a genius at." There was something strangely artificial about the joviality in his voice. "I came to tell the two of you that I'm leaving. She has to get up for the meeting, and it's about forty-five minutes to Viridian by helicopter." Those sharp eyes met mine, and my mouth tightened on some unknown reflex. "One your father made, of course."
"It was a pleasure," Veronica said, standing and curtseying with her ankles crossed just right.
I stood as well, offering my hand. "A pleasure," I echoed as he shook it firmly, and I was somewhat relieved when he let go.
"Tell her I give my warmest regards," Asaph asked with another handshake.
But there was no need. Lucrezia entered the room in a flurry of her white houmongi. "So this is where you've gone off to. They have business to attend to, you know. Leave them alone."
He blanched, bowed slightly to us, and headed for the door.
"Honestly, that son of mine..." But she smiled. "I hope your business turns out well."
Asaph kissed her on both cheeks, the same greeting they'd had in the Viridian museum. "I'm certain it will. Enjoy your trip back."
"At least he'll be quiet. He told me he's in no mood to argue with me tonight." Turning back to the doorway, her attention shifted. "Giovanni! Let's go."
Her son nodded at us before the two of them slipped from view.
The way back was dark and cold, but Asaph offered me a ride. Veronica and I held hands in eagerness the way back, but hardly said a word. Asaph himself was content to listen to the radio.
The factory was closed when we rolled up. "It looks a little spooky at night," Veronica whispered, following it with "I'll call you after the meeting."
Asaph wished me good luck, and I was alone, watching their car drive off. She was to stay the night in his guest room as I had before going the rest of the way to Viridian.
I let myself into the silent house, and noticed a note on the banister for me.
/Jiri, if you want to talk, I'll be here tomorrow. -Dad/
I left it where it was and went up to shower, eager for the day ahead. I hoped I would fall asleep quickly and not while away the night hours with fruitless anticipation. But I was fairly tired, and in the end that won over.
Under the covers, I started to drift off almost immediately. Such a wonderful day! And to think that a year ago, I could never have conceived of such a fortune.
/Oh, mama died a year ago./
But I fell asleep right after.
This is beautifully written. You are very good with both dialogue and description, and the characters are well formed and three dimensional.
It also happens to be amazing that you've been writing this since 2003. Most people could never carry it that long. You are very talented.
Oh why thank you!
Actually, I've been working on it for longer than that. Just I had...I think two chapters then, and that's when Bulba started.
Of course, it has its drawbacks. Twice there's been over a year without any chapters, and each part takes me a REALLY long time.
And as of right now I have absolutely no idea what chapter 22 will be about. I've rounded out the first year and thus can start skipping more time, and I know what I need/want to have happen in his life, but the specifics of what goes where and when escape me at this moment.