Hello~ Most of you probably don't know me since it's been a very long time since I've posted anything, but that's okay. I'm trying to get back into reading/writing fanfic, so hopefully I'll be able to help others with their writing somehow and get some constructive criticism myself.
This will be an OT journey fic, with each chapter told from the point of view of a pokémon belonging to the main trainer. The point of view will rotate but will not go in any specific order, and the pokémon will be identified (by nickname) with the chapter name.
Rated PG-13 for language, violence, and some mature themes.
Any and all comments are appreciated.
Mind led body
to the edge of the precipice.
They stared in desire
at the naked abyss.
If you love me, said mind,
take that step into silence.
If you love me, said body,
turn and exist.
— "Vertigo" by Anne Stevenson
chapter 1 ; [SENORI]
all or nothing
I never saw him coming.
Was I too young? Was my tail not yet long enough to help me stand higher to watch for danger? Who was to say that my tail was going to grow any longer? And how old was I, anyway? Younger sentret had always been susceptible and vulnerable to such restrictions, but we had no developed, concrete idea of age, just loyalty and ability. I only knew that I was old enough to be shunned by my clan and I was old enough to be blamed for the catastrophe that preceded the banishment.
Was it sleep deprivation? I was alone, after all. There was no one to switch shifts with because no one wanted to defy the clan and end up in my position, too. I could have dozed off without realizing it, and snapped back awake and pushed back the memory into the back of my mind just as quickly... But I'd trained for much of my life to do this. To protect. Sleep was never an issue, not even when I failed—once. Just once. After standing guard almost all day, every day, nothing as pathetic as sleep should have interfered.
It always seemed like there was some kind of opposition to every aspect of my life. It always seemed like life and fate were trying to show me that things could never go completely right or completely wrong, that it all fell somewhere in between and that was how it was meant to be. I never questioned this idea until now, when I thought that I should've felt his presence or smelled him or seen him. He still would have attacked. He still would have taken and given... everything. But things would have made some sort of sense if I had seen something, anything.
I never saw him coming.
It's funny, I guess. Humans are supposed to make some kind of mark when walking through the forest like the one I lived in. They're supposed to snap twigs or leave footprints or mess with the branches and leaves on the trees simply out of boredom. Even if the human that attacked me hadn't done any of this, I still should have seen his shadow with help from the few sun rays pouring through the tree canopies. Or a blur as ran behind me because he was... fast, so very fast.
This human, he was different.
I first noticed that he wasn't just another pokémon when he suddenly came from behind me and swung his leg out to hit the side of my tail as quickly and as hard as he could, causing me to immediately lose my balance and fall face forward into the ground. And as I fell, I was expecting to see claws. Paws. Not human flesh caked with dried dirt and blood.
To say that I was a bit surprised would be an understatement. Before, I was walking around the forest, making sure that everything seemed peaceful. I thought that I was paying attention. Not only had he attacked me after being completely undetected, but I had never seen a human attack anyone before. Only pokémon seemed capable of and willing to face the challenge in the past. I didn't know how to react to this new situation. So I simply remained where I was, silently hoping against hope that he would realize that I wasn't worth the effort and walk away. And then it hit me that this human was a threat to my clan. If he was willing to hurt me, then he would be willing to hurt any other pokémon. And they didn't know he was here. Of course I was the only one that knew he was here.
And of course I was choosing to just... lie on the ground. Though my intentions were true, my confidence was gone. There was no one to cheer me on from the side, no one to acknowledge my efforts, no one to come and assist me at times like these, when things were going wrong.
I didn't really know what else to do. What could I do? Scream? My clan would ignore me and think that I was looking for attention or help for absolutely nothing. I could run to them, but I would probably lead the attacker straight to them. Unacceptable. But I couldn't attack, that much was clear. I didn't know how to track him, I couldn't even see him move properly, and I didn't feel that pokémon and humans should fight. For a moment, I wished that I had had previous experience with fighting humans, but that seemed to be the same as wishing for more attacks on my clan, so I pushed the thought away.
Suddenly, I realized that time had passed, and the human had done nothing else. Time was passing with him standing silently nearby and with me doing nothing but thinking too much. He was most likely waiting for me to do something.
Eventually, I lifted my head up slowly, carefully. The view before me was skewed since mud clung to my face. All I saw were bits and pieces of branches swaying with the wind, bits and pieces of trees just sitting. And watching. Just as they always do. It was all so peaceful and life was so easy for them and they didn't even know it and that would never know and I would always, always know and—
And maybe, just maybe, there were bits and pieces of a stream in my view. Water moving gently in the only direction it knows, going nowhere at full speed. I might have been imagining it, and I sure hope that I was, because if that were true, that would mean the attacker was very close to my clan and I didn't want that. I didn't want that at all.
There were no signs of the human's presence. Fate had sent danger my way and didn't want me to see it, apparently.
I thought that my attacker was still behind me, because it didn't make sense for him to send me sprawling toward the mud only to leave. Finally, I stood up, clenching my tiny hands. I turned around quickly and pulled my fist back, intending to use my sucker punch attack, but no one was there. Briefly, I thought that I had fallen over on my own, and that I was torturing myself by creating visions of a human, believing that it would waste its time on me before realizing its mistake, since no pokémon in the forest would make that mistake ever again.
But those thoughts were interrupted when, from the corner of my eyes, I saw him trying to kick me from the side this time. I didn't even have time to move an inch from my new position before he was pinning me to the ground with his foot. And he bent down, tried to pick me up with his hands. This was the only honest attempt I made during this so-called battle: I bit him. I bit him hard and he didn't cry out but he stopped trying to pick me up and instead, he pressed his foot down harder. And harder. Sharp pains coursed through my jaw; sharp pains flowed through my body so effortlessly, yet in deformed rhythms. I sank further and further into the mud, an everlasting reminder of what defeat really is. And I screamed. I wailed.
My cry echoed and echoed and time passed and it was still just the two of us at the end of it all.
No one was coming to help me and I wasn't going to help myself and finally, finally, he stopped pinning me down and he stepped over me, turned to face me. And he stood there, his fist raised, blood seeping down his right hand to his elbows and inevitably to the innocent forest floor. His tense face had no clear expression; his dark eyes showed no feeling. And I knew, I knew that he was trying to say that he was waiting for me to do something. That he thought I was too slow and needed some kind of false hope.
I didn't move. I didn't say anything. I was giving in, and at the same time, I wasn't. He could have me, as long as he left my clan alone.
Eventually, he moved toward me again. Slowly. Carefully. He shouldn't have been giving out second chances. But he did and I didn't take them as he pulled his arm back and as his fist collided with my body with more force than I could ever imagine a human having. The world seemed to be spinning as I fell back into the mud and saw the sky looking down on me instead of the human. And then there was nothing.
Before I fainted, I could have sworn I heard him sigh and look... disappointed. That was the very first emotion I saw from him, and I will always remember it. But I didn't know what he was expecting. Pokémon are supposed to fight other pokémon, not humans. Was this guy a trainer? He couldn't have been, and maybe I just hadn't spent enough time with him yet, but there was nothing else truly... off about him at this point. Except for the emotionless face and the fact that he wasn't wearing shoes because he was kicking me around, he looked somewhat like all the other young trainers that passed through here with his unkempt black hair, a plain black t-shirt, and shorts that were frayed at the bottom.
Had he not attacked me, I would have thought that he was just like everyone else.
He was different, though.
His movements: silent, yet loud enough to shake the earth and throw it off balance. His words: non-existent, yet sharp enough to break the skin.
When I regained consciousness, I felt a dull, soft throbbing on the side of my head. I was able to open my eyes, though it didn't help the dizziness that accompanied the pain. Confused at first because everything seemed blurry, I kept blinking and my vision slowly became clear.
The first thing I noticed was that the mud on my face was gone.
The second thing I noticed was that I was propped up against a tree and I could see the area where my body was facing the ground not long ago.
And third? My attacker was sitting right next to me, just staring off into the distance, seemingly unaware of my awakening. I thought that I would have been better off unconscious, or at least with my eyes pasted shut. I did not want to see what he was capable of doing next.
I was able to relax, however, when I was able to understand that the forest, aside from our pathetic battlefield, was left untouched. My clan wasn't running around, some panicking at the idea of danger, some preparing to fight. But if they showed up and saw this human next to me, this human so calloused and dirty and void of emotion, they would know that he was some kind of fighter. And they would hate me even more for allowing this threat to be let free.
I wanted to just get up and run. Physically, I didn't know if it was possible. The human had come pretty close to successfully crushing my skull, after all. I was also tired and lacking in energy and motivation. He would catch me easily. What I also wanted to do was tell the human that it wasn't his fault that I wanted to run, that it wasn't his fault that I didn't want to give him a second chance. That it wasn't his fault that I thought I deserved to be attacked the way I was. Of course, I didn't think that he would understand me anyway. In the end, everything I did would have been in vain.
Realizing this, I sighed. I didn't mean to. I really didn't.
Before, the human was just leaning against the tree and he had his arms wrapped around his legs, holding his knees close to his face, his left hand holding on his right wrist. His bloody wrist. And he seemed all right, aside from the dark, dark red painted on his skin. He really did.
But I sighed and that slight noise made him turn his head in my direction immediately and he stared at me with those cold, dark eyes and with a face that I couldn't quite read, no matter how hard I tried or how badly I wanted to. And the grip on his own hands tightened around his right wrist and didn't seem to want to let go as he allowed his knuckles to turn white. White as snow. Whiter than white. I should have been scared. Anyone else would have been scared, but all I could think about was how he was threatening the circulation to his hands by doing so and it wasn't his fault at all. Somehow, it was mine.
"You're awake," he said after a few more moments of nothing.
So much for running. I jumped a bit when he spoke, because I hadn't even thought about him trying to communicate with me and I wasn't expecting his voice to sound both hollow and childish at once. I wasn't sure how that was possible, but that was the best way to describe it at the time.
Moments before, I was regretting making a sound, but now, I wanted to say something again. That, again, it wasn't his fault—but that wouldn't mean anything. What would I have told the children from my clan to do? I would tell them to play along. Get on his good side, act cheerful, and leave whenever the right opportunity presented itself. An opportunity that showed no potential for revenge, anger, or other threats.
"Stating the obvious, are we?" I said, trying to ignore the pain in my jaw, trying to make myself feel lighthearted in order to offer him a somewhat sincere chuckle or smile.
"Yes, I guess I am."
"Look, I—" I cut myself off when I realized that he had actually responded to me. Understood me. Did he, really? This human was different, yes, but it didn't seem likely that he would mistake a genuine, happy response for some sarcastic and somewhat insulting comment directed at him. And suddenly, nothing made sense again.
"Why... Why do you understand me?" I managed to ask even with his stare burning holes into me again and again.
"Am I not supposed to?"
"You're... not supposed to know what I was saying, no. New trainers come by here with their pokémon all the time. They have to try to read their pokémon's body language and gestures first, and the language will come in time, I assume, since I've seen older trainers come by, too... I don't understand..." I stopped myself after I realized that I was rambling.
"If it helps you, I can pretend to not understand."
"If it helps me to do what?" I asked, shifting uncomfortably against the rough trunk of the tree.
His answer sort of explained why he felt the need to attack me earlier. He wanted to test my strength. The outcome, apparently, was that I was weak. That, I could understand, at least. But there was something missing.
"Why would you need me to get stronger?"
Perhaps the only time he couldn't seem to look at me that day was before he answered, "We're going on a journey. For the badges here in Johto. I'm sure you've seen others do it, right? They told me to go and find the first pokémon I saw and capture it, and that was you. The meeting was different than I expected, but... you'll have to do."
"I still don't—"
"You're my first pokémon, Senori."
The human sounded so sure of himself, but I wasn't sure at all. This would mean leaving my clan. Not that they wanted me, but I was convinced that they still needed me. All of them. They just didn't know it. I couldn't leave and come back to find them maimed or eaten or burned to the ground with the rest of the forest or anything else. The blame would go to me—again. No, no, no. And who was Senori? Clearly, it was me, but that wasn't my name. I had never heard it before in my life, but there it was, directed at me, as if I had possessed it my entire life. But the finality of his words almost made my heart stop. Almost made everything seem okay and... real.
I decided to start with the idea that was most likely to help me keep my sanity.
"Um... I'm sorry, but that's not my name. I'm usually called—"
"I don't care what anyone's called you. Your name is Senori," he interrupted, his gaze focused on me once more.
"Fine. It doesn't matter, because I'm not going anywhere with you." I paused for a moment, realizing my quick temper toward him could get me into more trouble if I wasn't careful. He didn't reply, just smiled slightly, as if what I was saying meant nothing. After a few moments, I smiled, too, and continued, "You didn't even catch me in a pokéball. All trainers get their first pokémon in New Bark Town, anyway, which is very close to here. I don't know who helps you start out, really, but I'm sure you can ask around."
The human's eyes widened, as if what I had said now was some kind of revelation that needed to be made known to the entire world. "But that's not what they told me to do. I just listened. I just listened..." His voice trailed off, and he appeared to be lost in thought before he came up with what he thought was an appropriate response. "You're coming with me, and I'll get a pokémon in... New Bark Town, too. That way, I'm doing it right for everyone."
I wondered why this boy didn't know how to start his own pokémon journey properly. Every child always talked on and on about how they imagined their first day as a trainer ever since they learned about the idea of going out, raising all of their favorite creatures and making friends, and becoming so free, so independent, so strong. I started to think that, maybe, his parents kept him sheltered from the idea... but I didn't see how that was possible. There was no way that he would not have heard the fact that he could leave for his journey at the age of ten. Maybe his parents forbid him to go, but he went anyway, and he didn't want to talk to whoever gave out starting pokémon, and he was feigning innocence, but...
I was getting nowhere with these senseless thoughts. That was my problem: I thought too much, and I knew next to nothing. All I knew was that I wasn't leaving with him, and that I would have to get him away from me and out of this forest somehow. Someone else would have to take care of him. There's always someone who wants nothing more than to hold someone else's hand until they know it's time to let go.
"Okay," I said, and realized it was the wrong thing to say when his eyes brightened, just a little bit. "Um... I'll go with you to New Bark Town and see what I can do about helping you get that real first pokémon in your first real pokéball. But then I'm out of here. I have family and friends that I need to stay with."
In response to the last sentence, the words stuck in my throat while his face contorted with fury and he clenched his fists again. "You can't go," he said firmly, looking down at the ground. "You can't ruin this for me. You can't."
"Ruin what? Your journey? There are plenty of other sentret on the other side of Cherrygrove, if you really want one. Just... It can't be me."
"It has to be you. There is no one else but you." He stopped, reached into his pocket and I could feel myself tense up quickly. He pulled out a small object shaped like a cube. It had smooth, rounded corners. It was white with a varying amount of black dots placed randomly on each side. I didn't know what the black parts meant, but it seemed harmless enough, so I relaxed and settled against the tree once more. I remained calm even as he forcefully handed the object to me.
"What's this for?" I asked, struggling to hold it in my rather diminutive paws.
"It's a standard six-sided die. Roll it."
"Excuse me? Roll it?"
"I don't know what you mean..."
"Just roll it. Throw it. Whatever. I can't do it for you or it won't mean anything."
"It's been with me for years. It lasted all this time, survived all the obstacles thrown its way, only to end up in your hands. Only you can roll it." He pushed the paw holding the die toward my chest, causing me to feel a pressure similar to when his foot was pressed against my body. My bones ached, and somehow, I felt my heart when I thought that it was gone. "There is no one else but you," he added, placing emphasis on each and every word.
"What happens when I roll it?" I asked, not quite ready to give in. I was never sure of others unless I knew them personally. I was always careful to not get caught up in someone else's lies or bad intentions. I was sure that here was some good in everyone, but this belief couldn't make me any less wary of him. I didn't trust him and I kept wanting to ask and ask and ask, which made sense, but I wanted to learn more and I didn't know why.
"You'll see that I am right."
I couldn't gather the courage needed to ask anything else. I thrust my paw forward, releasing the object, my eyes never leaving it. It rolled around in the grass before determinedly landing on the side with a single black dot on it. I didn't feel a thing, but his smile was so, so wide, and I was more interested in the object after seeing him like that.
"See? You're number one. There is no one else but you. Even if that pokémon from New Bark Town is supposed to be my first, it won't be. It never will be." He reached forward and grabbed the die delicately, as if he was scared that it might break if he wasn't careful. He held it up high, toward the small amount of sun that was able to pour through the tree canopies. "I'll keep it in my pocket so that you'll always know, Senori. And so everyone else will know. Let's go. Now."
I was reluctant, I swear. I always wanted to be loved, needed. I couldn't help it. I was especially desperate since that terrible incident. And being called number one, well, that fit right into my desires. But I wanted to be loved by the family that I grew up with. The members that I swore to protect from the moment they were born. But they weren't there when this human came to me and they weren't here now and who was I to say that they would definitely be with me at any point in the future? This was my chance. My opportunity. Not theirs. Never would it be theirs. I knew all of this, but I still didn't want to go.
"...Okay. Let's go. But, um... I'm sorry, but I don't know your name." I paused. Stay optimistic. Stay happy and believe in fate. For them, forever and always. "Should I decide it for you?"
And I started to think that, maybe, I was unsure about him and didn't want to leave because—
"My name? My name is Sai."
—I just didn't want him to be right.
We started walking, away from the site of the attack and away from my clan. But I didn't say good-bye. Not yet. We'd have to turn around and come back, and then... Well, I didn't know what I would do then. I tried to turn around to look back, as if it really was my last time seeing this place, but Sai was blocking my way.
"I'm carrying you because it will go faster," he said, annoyed by my constant movement. "From here on out, you could just walk and suck it up."
I wanted to protest and say that he was the one who had caused the pain to begin with, and that if he hadn't come along and ruined everything, then I'd be just fine.
"So... why can you understand me already?" I asked instead.
"That doesn't matter. Are we close yet?"
"It sounds to me like you just don't know. You don't have any kind of explanation, do you?"
Sai stopped walking abruptly and turned me around to face him, obviously not caring about causing further wounds. He was frowning and his eyes seemed even darker than before, and I thought that he was going to explode and attack me again, but he didn't. He set me down on the ground quickly and ordered me to keep walking.
"You can suck it up now rather than later, then. Don't complain. It was your choice," he said, and then waited impatiently for me to start moving.
I took a few steps and realized that I couldn't quite walk straight. I wondered how Sai ended up by me and still didn't know how to get to the two closest cities. I wondered if I was even taking Sai down the right path toward New Bark Town, because if I wasn't... He got angry fast. Real fast. And I didn't want that.
"So what starter pokémon are you thinking of choosing when we get there, anyway?" I asked, trying to distract myself from that thought.
"I don't know. Does it matter?" he asked curiously.
"Well, yeah. They're different types, all with different strengths and weaknesses. Some specialize in attack while others specialize in defense. There's a lot of things to consider."
Sai didn't say anything for the longest time, and I shrugged it off, thinking that he was just daydreaming about what he'd get. I didn't know then that he had no idea what starter pokémon were even available. I never thought that his lack of knowledge could go this far.
"And you're going to help me, right?" he finally said, throwing me off guard when I was already dizzy to begin with. I almost toppled over, but regained my balance and absorbed his words.
"Help you do... what?" I asked, thinking about the last time we talked about helping each other through lack of communication. The conversation didn't look too hopeful.
"You'll tell me about each of them. The pokémon. And then I'm going to watch them and I'll decide from there. The one with the most potential will join us."
"The most potential for what? Actually, nevermind that! You can't just... watch them!" I cried, stopping and nearly falling over again. He stopped, too, and once I knew I was holding his attention, I continued, "Most trainers just walk in, knowing who they want, and they take that pokémon along with any other items the person gives them, and that's that. They're so excited about it and they blabber on about it for hours when they pass this forest. It seems like it's all a part of the journey. Why are you making this so complicated? Why are you the only one who doesn't know what to do?"
Sai paused. "As long as I get the pokémon, it shouldn't matter, right?" he said slowly. "It's still starting out the correct way."
"I suppose that's true," I said quietly, reluctantly, unsure of whose rules he was so determined to follow until the end.
"And you're going to help me, right?" he repeated with that same hollow and childish voice. Like he was embarrassed to ask for my help but he needed it more than anything else in the world so he gave in and asked anyway. And I didn't know why he needed this help. I wouldn't know why for a very long time. Once, I thought that I accepted once more because of my penchant for taking care of others. I thought that it was because he both wanted and needed me, unlike my clan. Or it was because I was afraid of what he'd do to me if I didn't. It would take time until I realized how wrong I was.
"Don't worry. I'm going to take care of you," I said.
My voice was so, so cold.
Re: Survival Project
That was a very interesting start, and really, the way you perfectly describe Senori's feelings is amazing. Both him and Sai seems like such interesting characters, and my only complaint about them is that they seems to fall into the 'damaged' characters category. I did find Sai's avoidance of Senori's question intriguing, and hopefully, we will get an explanation. Senori's past is also shrouded in mystery, and I look forward to see what confrontation will happen when he passes through the forest again and says goodbye to his clan. I've been referring to Senori as a male because I can't be sure of the gender.
Overall, very interesting start and concept. Looking forward to see what you do next.
Re: Survival Project
Thanks, I'm glad you like it so far and think that it's interesting. Mystery was what I was going for, and I was glad to hear that you thought I portrayed the feelings pretty well. Explanations will be provided eventually. =P Out of curiosity, though, how do they seem like "damaged" characters? I'm not too familiar with the term or its implications.
Originally Posted by Kyuujux
Re: Survival Project
I just meant that they both seems to fall in the category of characters who have unresolved issues from the start of the story. It's a bit cliché, but not something to make a fuss about; I even do it sometimes.
Originally Posted by diamondpearl876
Re: Survival Project
Ah, I see. It would seem odd to me, though, if a character had no problems whatsoever at the beginning of the story.
Originally Posted by Kyuujux
Re: Survival Project
There are some stories, usually the ones that has a 10-year-old protagonist, who start with no problems whatsoever.
Originally Posted by diamondpearl876
Re: Survival Project
Ah, yeah. I've seen those characters before. It seems pretty realistic for a ten-year-old, anyway. Thanks for bringing it up~
Originally Posted by Kyuujux
On that note, here's the second chapter.
chapter 2 ; [KUIORA]
Once upon a time, there was a boy who loved a girl—and then the girl left him and the boy did not love her anymore.
She did not want to leave, but she felt that it was her duty to do so. The two of them had been together for many years, and the girl loved the boy more and more every day. The girl was eternally grateful to have him in her life, and often wondered what she had done to deserve him. He deserved more than her. He deserved more than life. But he chose to stay where he was, and the idea of what could have been haunted her. She dwelled on these thoughts, but could not find a way to ease the chaos in her mind.
One day, she stumbled upon someone who told her about the three legendary pokémon that represent emotions, the will to live, and knowledge. They had all been born from the same egg, created by the god of the pokémon universe. They reside deep in the caves of Sinnoh, safe from harm and disturbance.
She felt that it was her duty to see these pokémon, and she told her husband this.
“We have them to thank for everything,” she said. “Every tree, every mountain, every sea, they have all conspired for millions and millions of years to get us both here. And I don’t know why they conspired so much, but I want to see them and thank them for not making their efforts in vain. I need to.”
But the husband did not want to go. He wanted to leave them be, wanted to accept things as they were and not try to interfere with things that cannot be changed.
“You are the most important part of my life. These creatures have given me the ability to love, the desire to live in this terrible world, and the knowledge to know how to survive long enough to make you happy somehow. Do you not think of this? Will you not go with me?” she asked, but still, he would not go.
He tried to convince her to stay, but could not. She left, explaining where she was going and saying that she would be back as soon as possible. She took a ferry to Sinnoh, and several people asked her what was wrong, why did she look so sad, but even she did not know, though she carried with her the comfort of finally finding the answers that she had been looking for.
She visited Uxie at Lake Verity, and thanked the legendary pokémon for its service and effort. The Uxie did not lash out or respond negatively, and so she felt that her emotions were true. She loved her husband, and he loved her, and that was how it was meant to be. When she visited Mesprit at Lake Acuity, it was the same, and she now felt reassured about knowing how to make her husband happy and how to live a fulfilled life.
When she reached Lake Valor to visit Azelf, the pokémon was not there. The cave was empty, and nothing could be found in the lake itself. She decided to stay in the nearest town and try again soon, but she heard rumors of a man who had disturbed Azelf’s resting place and was now being punished for it. Upon hearing more information, she came to realize that the man from the rumors was her husband.
She visited him in the hospital, where he was alive, but still gone. She screamed. She screamed so loud, and he did not—could not—hold her. The doctors could not explain much of anything. She knew more than them, yet knew nothing at all. He had come to see the legendary pokémon after all, but why? And what had the legendary pokémon done to him to make him like this, and again, why? She would never know.
Once upon a time, there was a girl who loved a boy—and when he died by her hands, she could not stop loving him.
This was the last story that Professor Elm told me before I left the lab. He said that it seemed a little too heartbreaking and dark for a young totodile like me, but I had insisted that I could take it, and so he did not hold anything back. The story was sad, yes, but it made me want to travel the world so I could see what else was hiding from me, and so I could see the good parts of life that the professor was much more eager to tell me about. They seemed so common and pure to the point where I couldn’t stand being here.
I didn’t usually value self-induced vulnerability or a lack of strictness, but I believed that I was somewhat lucky to have been raised by Professor Elm. It was destiny, of course, but I still felt lucky. He was timid and quiet and patient, and most importantly, very flexible. I couldn’t imagine another professor giving up a potentially perfect starter pokémon just to keep me satisfied with life, but that’s what he did. While he emphasized training for all of the other starter pokémon, while he taught them to listen to trainers and practice controlling their beginning moves, he told me stories of legendaries and myths about lands that he promised I would see someday. Of course, I took part in the training and had learned that obedience is necessary, especially under certain circumstances—I wouldn’t have wanted to meet a legendary pokémon someday and be completely weak and clueless and disrespectful, after all—but I was not avoiding sleep or practicing outside of normal training times with the others who seemed to exhaust themselves more than needed. It was all about balance and routine. Every day, I woke up, ate, trained, listened to Professor’s Elm stories (or reflected on previous stories if he happened to be too busy), ate some more, and slept. And that was enough for me.
It wasn’t enough on the day that the trainer came for me.
“We’ll be starting the training for today, all right? I hope you’re all refreshed from sleep and ready to go,” Professor Elm said. As usual, I got up from my normal resting spot. The back of the professor’s lab was surrounded by split-rail fences that were designed so that we could look outside of the fence if we wanted to, but without the space to escape. I could understand the precautions, though Professor Elm seemed to trust us so much that I wondered why it was needed. Even I would not have escaped given the opportunity. I was to wait for whatever the legendaries had in store for me, whether it was being stuck here forever or for a special, designated trainer to come and choose me. Still, I adored sitting near the fence, right where the sun shone the brightest, where I could see the entire backyard and everyone in it. This was also where the professor would read me stories; he would never ask me to move, even if the sun was in his eyes and it was difficult for him to concentrate. I only left when told to, and so I left when he announced that it was time to train.
All of the totodile, chikorita, and cyndaquil gathered in the middle of the backyard. I sat on the grass while the others remained standing, already preparing their known attacks. They were having trouble standing with the wind blowing against us, though I did not feel it, as the professor standing in front of me and blocking it. Aside from excited squeals from the pokémon, all was quiet, as if nothing and no one else existed.
As usual, the professor started by talking about us being starter pokémon.
“What can you, as a beginning trainer’s pokémon, do to help the trainer grow and learn? You yourself are not necessarily weak, but are just beginning as well… I cannot teach you much, because it is not up to me,” the professor said, a hint of sadness in his voice. Had he wanted to be a trainer once so he could travel the world, too? “But I can make it easier for them. You will all have to battle, as you know. We’ll warm up by starting out with tackle and scratch attacks, which you’ll often use in battle to start out with.”
There were three large trees in the backyard, all of which looked beaten up and as if they would tumble at any given moment. They had taken much abuse over the years, and we were about to add more to it. We were instructed to go to a different tree based on what type of pokémon we were. At first, we were just told to tackle the tree with however much strength we wanted to, though we would have to increase the strength every turn, so I started out slowly, lightly. With every tackle, I let myself get stronger, allowing my head to adjust to the collision and rough texture of the bark on the tree more and more every time. I didn’t practice my scratch attack, since I had a tendency to scratch at things when I was nervous, so I felt that I had enough practice with it, and that it would just remind me of things that I didn’t want to think about.
“I really like training,” one of the other totodile stated after a while, “but tackling just makes my head hurt all the time!”
“Same here… and I’m not even hitting the tree that hard since I’m so tired!” another totodile said, and for the next few turns, they kept missing the tree entirely and had to be told to stop by the professor before they got hurt more or crashed into something else. The totodile pouted and watched in dismay as the rest of us continued practicing.
I wanted to say that starting out too roughly without any real experience would, of course, cause a headache, as can a lack of sleep and not allowing the body to rest after training for hours on end… but I said nothing and just kept setting a quiet example. I was verbal once, but got nowhere; they weren’t willing to listen and adapt. They didn’t seem capable of watching and adapting that way, either, but at least that didn’t seem like a failure on my part.
Eventually, we moved on to our specialized elemental attacks.
“Of course, all of you have special attacks that only certain pokémon can learn,” the professor said. “Each one of them will be helpful to your trainer in a different way. A cyndaquil’s fire can keep things warm, especially in the winter. They can also help cook food when traveling. Chikorita can carry things with their vines, and, when they evolve, can provide health for all. Totodile can provide water, and, since they generally look tough, can scare away unwanted predators. All of you should be willing to do these things for your future trainer and teammates, just as you are willing to do them for me. Understood?”
We all nodded in agreement and got to work. The chikorita tried carrying anything in sight, whether it was a rock, a plant, or another pokémon. Cyndaquil were practicing on each other, since fire didn’t hurt their bodies, but instead provided more heat to help them feel more powerful and energized. That, and because if they tried to fire at the grass or the plants, the professor would be panicking over the results; it had happened before. And finally, all of the totodile were aiming and shooting water at anything possible, with each of our targets varying in distance and size. Most of the totodile considered the exercise a success based on how soaked the target was, though I didn’t think that helped much since more than one totodile was aiming at the same thing, so my success based on how long I could keep the attack going without having to stop to take a breath.
Just when I thought that I had started improving, the professor forced us to stop due to the cyndaquil starting to miss and setting things on fire again. The totodile were asked to put the fires out, but dead grass still proved that the incident occurred and would likely happen again, so we didn’t bother asking to continue.
The professor eased our sadness with food. He brought out various trays filled with different kinds of berries and he let us choose what we wanted. I just took a few of my favorite Cheri berries. We all spread apart once we got what we wanted, with me going back to my normal spot near the fence, and with the others going back to preparing for training with attacks that wouldn’t destroy the lab completely.
I sat in peace and ate the berries, waiting for Professor Elm to show up and talk to me as he always did around this time of day. The sun shone overhead, rays of light pouring onto my body and the entire backyard, keeping everything warm and safe. I shielded my eyes but didn’t mind doing so. I found it fascinating and strange how the legendary pokémon had made the sun necessary for everyone to live, yet it never had any reaction toward what happened on the land it provided so much for. We could all be gone tomorrow, and would it even notice? Probably not. It would still rise and fall. It did not care about anything or anyone. It did not care about me. Someday, I vowed, I would make it care.
While getting lost in thought, Professor Elm had come over to me and sat down next to me, his back resting against the fence comfortably, and he was smiling. This was unusual to me, since he tended to look rather uncomfortable at other times. He would lean forward and put his face in his hands to try to avoid the sun. If he was annoyed, he never let it show, but I always assumed that he was.
“You look awfully happy today,” I pointed out. As soon as I said it, I hoped that I didn’t sound too rude. My tendency to talk without thinking had caused more problems and fights than I had wanted, and I had been trying to improve and keep my thoughts to myself.
“Yes,” Professor Elm replied. “Someone’s here for you.”
My head snapped in his direction immediately, and I just started at him. “Who would be here for me?”
“A trainer, of course.” He would not stop smiling.
“A trainer… How do you know they’re here for me?” I asked. I didn’t normally ask so many questions, but this seemed too good to be true. And too specific. There were many totodile here. If he would just say that the trainer was here for a totodile, any one of us…
“He said that he saw us training through the fence when passing by,” the professor explained. “He was impressed with what he saw from you.”
I was special, then. The things I had done better than everyone else had finally paid off. I vaguely wished that I had known the trainer was there, so I could have tried even harder and made him think that his decision was undoubtedly the best one that he could possibly make.
“I’m leaving today, then? Now?” I asked stupidly. I felt as if I had not spoken in weeks. I wondered if I really hadn’t.
“If you’re ready. If you want to. I can say no and explain that I feel that you are not ready to be handled, though I’m not a fan of lying…” the professor said, rubbing the back of his head nervously.
“I want to go. It just seems odd, of course...”
“You’re different from the rest, you know. So you’ll be fine. You’ve always wanted something more than just training and the basic necessities of life, unlike the rest of the pokémon. I’ve tried to provide that as best as I could for you, since it’s my job. And I think you’ll get even more of what you want if you leave.”
“Then what are we waiting for? Let’s go,” I said, trying not to sound too excited. It reminded me too much of the others.
“You don’t want to say good-bye to any of the others?” the professor asked, though it sounded more like a statement to me.
I hesitated before saying, “No. They won’t care.”
“They’re young. They just haven’t reached the level of maturity that you have yet. Don’t be too hard on them,” he said, as if he was reading my mind.
“I know.” But it didn’t change my mind. Being stuck in one place had not gotten me far at all, and I seemed to be the only one who noticed how all that the lab’s land was good for was holding the world together. Did the others even know what a world was?
I had never been inside the front of Professor Elm’s lab before. There was a space behind this part of the lab for pokémon when it rained or stormed, so I had been inside a building before, but it made me kind of angry to know that I could have had access to this part of the world this entire time, and yet I had never actually taken advantage of it. There were tall shelves filled with the books that the professor would read to me from, and there were several machines with other people attending to them, looking serious and concentrated on whatever it was that the machines were doing for them. The walls were filled with pictures of what I assumed were other types of pokémon, and with places that I did not recognize. The ground beneath me was soft like the grass, but did not tickle my feet as expected. My attention was immediately drawn to the boy, however, when I first laid eyes on him.
The trainer had asked specifically for me, yet he did not seem pleased to see me. He looked as if he had just woken up, and his arms were covered in cuts and bruises. His hair looked wild. I supposed that I could take it as a sign that he had already traveled to get here, and I was suddenly very interested. Already here was an example of what my future would be…
“This is Sai,” Professor Elm said, motioning to the boy.
“Sai,” I said. I kept repeating the name over and over in my head. Since all of us were called by our species name and had to rely on the differences in voice and body sizes, I had assumed that humans were similar. I had imagined that perhaps they were all named Elm and that they all had to identify each other by individual, unique characteristics. But it looked as if they all had different names! I was learning a lot already.
I was barely paying attention to their conversation, but I heard the parts where Professor Elm explained that I was the totodile that Sai had seen through the fence. I heard bits and pieces about things like the attacks I knew, precautions to take when starting out as a beginning trainer, and then—
“Do you have a trainer’s card?”
“…No, I do not.”
“You do know that you need a trainer’s card if you want to go around traveling with pokémon, right?”
“I… wasn’t expecting to see the totodile. I just happened to be passing by,” Sai replied slowly, carefully. For whatever reason, his words made me grin.
“Where are you from?”
“Ah… Vermilion City,” Sai said, rubbing his arm.
“That’s a bit far, huh? I can’t think of why you’re here, then…” Professor Elm said, more to himself than anyone else, I guessed, since he was starting to pace back and forth, and he wasn’t making eye contact with anyone in the room.
“I happened to be passing by,” Sai repeated, more confidently this time.
The professor ignored him. Eventually, he stopped pacing and looked at me. He looked sort of sad. His eyes told me that he shouldn’t be giving me to a trainer who now looks extremely suspicious by showing up to a random town without any sort of identification. But I wanted to go. I didn’t care who this trainer was. If he was a bad trainer, then the legendary pokémon would punish him accordingly, and my fate would be decided by them. He had to let me go. I briefly wondered what this meant for his job should anyone discover that he gave me away like this, but I found that it didn’t matter to me. I had to leave.
“I assumed that you would have had a trainer’s card already since most people come to this town to get their first pokémon. I will give you a trainer’s card so that you may travel the region of Johto with pokémon. If you want to travel in Kanto, however, you will have to get a new trainer’s card, even though that’s where your hometown is. Understand?” Professor Elm said, looking directly at Sai. The boy nodded, and followed the professor to the back of the room. I was told to wait where I was, and so I did.
It was the first instruction given to me as a pokémon who was owned by a trainer.
When they returned, Sai was holding a small item that I assumed was his new trainer’s card. In his other hand was what I recognized as my pokéball. We were not put in our pokéballs very often, but the experience of being in one was unique, and so I had never forgotten it.
When it was time to leave, the professor walked in front of me, and knelt down so that we could see each other face-to-face. He was smiling again, yet looked sad at the same time. I wondered why this was, since it seemed to be part of his job to say good-bye to all of the pokémon he raised. Shouldn’t he have been used to it by now? Maybe you never got over some things. As I thought of the other pokémon that were still in the backyard and myself, I hoped that that wasn’t true.
“Well, this is what you’ve been waiting for, so I hope it goes well for you, of course...” He sounded wary, and I knew that it was because of the trainer. He didn’t sound as nervous as before, though, so hopefully he had come to trust the trainer more after being together in the back of the room. “Don’t forget anything you’ve learned here, okay? You’re a good pokémon, and I’ll miss you,” Professor Elm said quietly, petting me on the head. I winced, not knowing what to say. I almost felt guilty and believed that I should stay, but it was too late now. And I didn’t truly want to stay. There was nothing to stay for. The professor would have to go on without me.
After what seemed like forever, the professor stood up and shook Sai’s hand, wishing the two of us the best of luck. Sai merely nodded and started walking to the door. I started to follow him. It felt right and odd at the same time. When Sai reached the door, he stepped out into the sunlight, holding the door open for me to walk out, too. Before I did, I looked back at Professor Elm one last time, seeing him wave with one arm, with the other arm tucked behind his back. I waved back for a brief moment, turned, and left. I wondered if I would miss the professor, whatever that meant.
When I stepped outside, I realized that I also had never been in any other part of the town. Flowers were blooming everywhere. There had once been flowers in the backyard of Professor Elm’s lab, but they were quickly burned by the cyndaquil, so he stopped trying to plant them and take care of them. He had enough to take care of, anyway.
I could also see a ton of water to the right. It seemed endless, and I wondered where it led to. Instinctively, I started walking in that direction. As I did, I continued looking around. There were several more buildings, and inside I knew that there was more to see—it was just being hidden from me. Only the determined and curious could be able to see what was inside.
I kept stepping forward toward the water, the only familiar things being the sun, the sky, the grass… They were important, of course, because the legendaries created them, but the rest of the town was why the legendaries had put so much effort into creating such sustainers of life.
I was stopped dead in my tracks, however, when I bumped into something in front of me. I fell backward and looked up. I saw a creature that was standing on its tail, making it taller than me. Its brown fur had felt soft, so I wasn’t hurt too much. I recognized the creature as a sentret, since a few of them had snuck into the professor’s backyard to play around.
“I’m sorry,” I mumbled, getting back to my feet.
“That’s a good way to meet each other, I guess,” Sai said, walking up from behind me.
I looked back and forth between the two of them, wondering how they knew each other. Surely, it couldn’t be Sai’s pokémon… I was a pokémon for beginners, after all, and the boy just got his trainer’s card…
“I guess so! We’ve spent a while trying to get you, and now you’re here. That’s all that really matters,” the sentret said happily.
I blinked. “This is your trainer?” I asked, dumbfounded.
“He’s yours, too.”
“I was his… first pokémon…” the sentret said slowly, “but he insisted on getting a true starter pokémon. He wanted the strongest out of what he could get. He’s been watching you for a while… and he finally said that you were the right one. He got what he wanted, so we can finally get out of here and—”
“Why would he need me if he already had a pokémon?” I asked, slightly upset. It seemed silly to want to be the trainer’s first pokémon when I really just wanted to travel and see the world, but I had put in all of that work only to be second best. I still felt glad, though, that I was chosen at all. I deserved it, after all, and I had wanted this for a long time.
“I wish I knew. Ask him,” the sentret said. But Sai didn’t answer, though he seemed to be paying attention.
“We can leave in a moment,” he simply said after a few moments. Instead of walking like I expected him too, however, he reached into his pocket, and pulled out another object that I had not seen before. He knelt down to see me, just as Professor Elm had done, and handed it to me.
“Did you get this from the professor?” I asked, taking it in my hands. It was warm, but it didn’t look like anything a pokémon could use. “Is it mine?”
“Nope. I got it a long time ago,” Sai explained. “I want you to roll it…”—he glanced at the sentret before looking back at me—“or throw it… or whatever. Please.”
I immediately did as I was told. I threw it on the ground, even though I wasn’t sure why I was doing it. The small, white object revealed two small, black dots when it was done rolling on the ground.
“Your name is Kuiora,” Sai stated after staring at the item for a moment.
“My name?” I didn’t see the correlation.
“Your name is Kuiora, yes.”
So pokémon even got their own names from their trainers. The sentret must have a name, too, then. I would have to see if it was the same as mine or different.
“Kuiora. My second pokémon,” Sai stated. “As I expected.”
“Yeah… I thought we had that established already,” I said, distracted from the name thoughts already.
“I wanted you to know,” he replied quickly, picking up the item and putting it back in his pocket. “I wanted to make it official for you. I made the right choice. And now we can leave.” He stood up, and turned toward the direction I supposed we would be heading in.
I still didn’t fully understand, but at least he hadn’t said I was second best. I had no idea how tough the sentret was, but I was obviously still special to this boy for some reason. And that was fine. Though I was impatient, I knew that I would have to wait to learn more as time would go on.
“Let’s go,” Sai said. He started going in the opposite direction of the town, and I followed. I wondered why we didn’t explore the rest of the buildings, but I had to obey. It was what I was born to do. The legendaries put me with Professor Elm to learn this, and so I could reflect on myself, what I needed, what my destiny was. I was destined to travel, to become stronger, to become special to the legendary pokémon somehow, someway… I would have to find a way to make the best of this all on my own. I was nothing if not the sum of the parts that I had made for myself and for the legendary pokémon, after all.
I thought one last time about the pokémon still in the backyard before leaving the town. They were completely oblivious, and had no idea what they were missing. I hoped that they would know someday. Until then, I would fear well for them. I would fear well for my one and only home.
Re: Survival Project
chapter 3 ; [SENORI]
I would be lying if I said that I wasn’t grateful to have Sai take me away from my home for a while. I led him to New Bark Town in silence as quickly as I could, not only to keep him from getting angry and attacking me again, but to escape from some of the guilt and the obsessive thoughts that had been haunting me for a long time. He followed behind me, his expression blank and his arms loosely dangling back and forth at his sides, but with his eyes never leaving me. I kept looking behind me to make sure that I was safe and that he was still there, but my paranoia was pointless, as he never made a sign that made me think he was a threat.
We reached the town at nightfall. We didn’t see any other humans or pokémon, which I was kind of disappointed in. I had wanted to see how someone else reacted to Sai, but I supposed that I would have to wait. This also meant that Sai would have to wait to get what he wanted.
“Everyone’s sleeping, I guess,” I said softly after a few moments of silence.
“Where are the pokémon?” the boy asked simply. His blue eyes looked darker with the night, but maybe I was imagining things.
“They’re with a human who raises the pokémon to give to new trainers.” I pointed my paw to a nearby building with the back enclosed by a fence. Beyond the fence was simply grass with a few charred areas here and there, and some large trees that appeared a bit old. “He trains the pokémon there so they don’t run off into the forest. I’ve see them sometimes when I’ve come close to the town, but that’s always been during daytime. We’ll have to wait.”
Sai stared at me, and I wondered if he was angry for me pointing out the obvious. There seemed to be an invisible, fine line between treating him as if he were stupid and trying to help him with things that he was somehow completely unaware of.
But all he said was, “Time to sleep, then. You can help me with the rest tomorrow, right?”
“…Yeah,” I replied. No threat. It was all I could think about. Did I want him to punish me? I deserved it, after all. The fact that I was being given a chance at redemption seemed lost and non-existent.
Sai turned around and went to sit by a large tree near the entrance to the town. He put his hands behind his head and then rested the top part of his body against the tree. He closed his eyes shortly after, and he seemed so peaceful and relaxed that I thought he had fallen asleep already. I also went to where he was, though I kept a bit of distance between us.
I jumped a bit when he started talking again. “You’ll help me tomorrow, and then we’ll go through the forest again, and we’ll keep going from there,” he said.
“That seems to be the simplified version of things, yes,” I said under my breath. I didn’t think he would be able to hear me.
“What do you mean?” he asked.
“Picking out your first pokémon seems to be a big deal. When you say we’ll keep going from there, there’s a lot of places to explore, I’m sure. And when we pass through the forest, I guess I’d like to say good-bye to some people, if possible…” My voice trailed off from there. I curled up on the grass, wrapping my tail around my body for warmth. I had forgotten what it felt like to be in this position, and what sleep near someone else felt like. With my eyes still open, I saw Sai snap his open, and look at me curiously.
“Who do you have to say good-bye to?”
“My clan. Or just someone in my clan. I just think that they should know I’m gone, since you’re insistent on taking me on this journey of yours,” I explained. I felt slightly bitter that he was permanently taking me away from my home, but I would find a way around that tomorrow to avoid feeling this way forever.
“You don’t seem too happy about it,” Sai observed.
“They don’t like me anymore, so I’m not really happy, no.”
“Then it should be easier to say good-bye.”
“Yes and no. I’d rather have no one to say good-bye to. It’d be so much easier.”
Sai didn’t answer for a long time after that. Again, I thought that he had fallen asleep. But then he started stirring, trying various positions to get comfortable, and nothing seemed to work. He groaned and complained until he finally went back to his original position. And finally, he said, “I always thought that it’d be better to have someone to say good-bye to. Maybe I was wrong.”
“And why do you say that?” I asked after a few moments.
“It means that, at some point, you had someone, and you cared about them,” he said.
“And you didn’t have anyone to say good-bye to?”
“I could have… but they were hardly worth saying good-bye to.”
I didn’t answer him, and he didn’t say anything after that. He stayed silent for good this time. I didn’t want to press him for further information when he clearly wasn’t comfortable with it and was avoiding specific details. And I didn’t want to try to become closer to him when I still felt connected from my clan. Tomorrow, I would get permission to leave. Tomorrow, I would know that they had officially let me go. Tomorrow, maybe Sai would think that he’d someday have someone to say good-bye to.
As it turned out, we didn’t spend just one day in New Bark Town. Sai just couldn’t decide in a few hours what pokémon he wanted. I told him that there was a grass-type, a fire-type, and a water-type starter that he could choose from. I had to admit that I didn’t know what each species specialized in, but Sai seemed to brighten up again when I pointed out that there was a whole batch of each type that he could look at. I also explained that since each pokémon had weaknesses and strengths, and since he had no other pokémon to try to figure out what weaknesses and strengths he needed, his choices weren’t limited. He said that, in that case, he just wanted the strongest pokémon, and I thought that it would be a simple enough choice from there. But somehow, it wasn’t.
“There’s so many of them,” he said, a hint of excitement in his voice. “I only got a close look at two of them. We’ll have to come back tomorrow.”
This was his excuse every day from then on. We slept in the same area every night, and we stood at a distance from the fence every day to watch the pokémon. Sai tried to walk right up to the fence and climb over a few times, but I had to yell at him to not do that, since the fence was there to keep others out for a reason. He also tried to sit right by a part of the fence to look inside the backyard through the rails, which also seemed odd, so I kept telling him to stop looking creepy and to get away from the fence entirely.
Sai refused to go anywhere else that would make him miss seeing the pokémon during the hours of daylight they were outside. A few times a day, I briefly left to go get some berries from the forest to eat. Seeing that Sai didn’t seem to have anything to eat, I brought him some, too, which he ate quickly and hungrily, though he never asked for more when he looked sadly at his empty hands after eating.
I didn’t really question him, and thought vaguely about going to the forest to say good-bye a few times in order to save time, but then I knew that I’d get the urge to do it all over again when we finally left for good. So I kept quiet and tried to be patient, but it was hard when I wanted to move on. Still, it was better than staying in the forest by myself while torturing my mind with memories.
“Have you picked out a pokémon yet?” I asked after a few days of this.
“No. None of them has stood out so far,” Sai said. “Most of the fire ones keep burning the grass… and each other. I don’t need more chaos. The green pokémon don’t seem much like fighters. I’ve almost gotten through watching all the water-types.”
“Okay,” I said. “Well, I’m going to get more food, then.”
When I came back, Sai was gone. I had come back just in time to see a familiar human walk back into the building with a pokémon following behind him, and I assumed that Sai had finally made his choice. I simply paced back and forth in front of the building that I had first taken him to days ago. It seemed like we had been here forever and done everything that needed to be done, yet in reality, we had accomplished next to nothing. It was all just wishful thinking on my part. The boy had needed a ton of time here for some reason, and I hoped that his decision was worth it. I believed that whatever pokémon he chose would be the correct one to help complete his journey, to make sure that he “listened” properly, as he had put it before. I still didn’t know who he was listening to, but he seemed content when following the instructions given to him, and that was enough.
Soon, I heard the building’s door creak open and saw Sai standing outside, holding the door open for someone. A small, aqua colored creature with red spikes protruding from its back and tail stepped out of the building, and Sai closed the door. So he had chosen the water-type pokémon. No wonder it had taken him so long to choose. The water-types were the last he had looked at.
The totodile walked around aimlessly, seemingly entranced by the surrounding area. Eventually, the totodile’s snout bumped into me, and I bumped into the awkward situation of explaining that I was really Sai’s first pokémon, but admittedly, I had no idea why, nor did I have any idea why the creature in front of me had become a necessary part of our team and journey. I watched as Sai had the totodile roll the dice, just as he had made me do. I wondered if Kuiora—as Sai had named her on the spot—understood him any better than I did at the moment. Probably not. She didn’t look confused, but instead seemed fascinated and relieved.
It was time to go after that. I hoped that I would be fascinated and relieved soon, too, as we moved on toward the forest for what I believed would be the last time.
They later reminded me of Sai.
They had blended in with the night, and they were fast.
They were not from around this area, but they were here nonetheless. And they intended to make the best of their trip at my home. Their trip with my clan.
I’m sure, in their minds, they screamed success.
I was watching out for danger when one of them had come up to me. It was crawling, and moving so slowly. I immediately let my guard down as I sympathetically realized it must be injured. It was too dark to see any blood, but I couldn’t think of any other reason why it was crawling pathetically on the forest floor when I could see that it had feet to use instead. I was using my tail to see as high up and as far as possible, but now I was on my own feet, scrambling over to the seemingly damaged pokémon. As I got closer, I could see that its skin matched the color of the dark sky, with red feathers jutting out of its back and one of its ears. Its eyes looked weak and tired and the creature had dulled yellow jewels on its forehead and chest to match. Its white claws were sharp, and the pokémon had been using them to dig into the ground and propel itself forward. I had never seen this type of pokémon before.
“Are you okay?” I asked. “What happened?”
The pokémon stopped crawling and looked up at me. “I was in a battle and got separated from my trainer,” it explained, stopping to take a breath every few words. “Please help me find him. He couldn’t have gone far… He must be looking for me, but I’m hurt…”
I wished that it was daytime, that I could see its wounds, and get it the proper berries to help heal him. But I didn’t know what was wrong with him, or what kind of pokémon it was and what kind of food it ate anyway. But I also couldn’t just leave my post when I was supposed to be looking out for danger. I had never left my post before.
“Why don’t you just stay with me? I’ll keep you safe, and if your trainer comes through here, I’ll make sure you get back to him. It’s not safe to travel through the night like this.”
“My trainer likes to travel through the night, though. He could be out of the forest by sunrise. He could leave me here,” the pokémon said pathetically.
I found it odd that a trainer would leave his pokémon here, but I had no reason not to believe him. I tried to consider my options. I could stay with the pokémon here, putting it at risk for losing its trainer and getting hurt even further due to lack of proper care. I could go with it and keep watching for danger as we moved along, and then we would have a better chance at finding the trainer. I chose the latter. I figured it was rude to wake someone else up just to take over for me, so I would just do two jobs at once. It would just be a bit different compared to other nights. I would have felt terrible just leaving it where it was and risking its life. It had obviously found me for a reason, after all, and I had to do something about it.
I simply nodded and helped pick up the creature so that it could walk while using me as a crutch. I didn’t care so much about blood, if there was any, as I figured that I could just wash it off later and explain to my clan that I helped a pokémon rather than just idly standing in one spot as usual.
The pokémon explained that the battle had taken place near the edge of the forest, so I led it there. We traveled in silence, and by the time we got there, it was almost sunrise.
I stopped moving with the pokémon. “This is the edge of the forest. It’s close to New Bark Town. Could your trainer be here?” I asked.
“Maybe…” it said softly.
I set the pokémon down so that it could rest on the floor rather than use extra energy trying to stand up. I turned and looked around everywhere, but I saw no one but the damaged creature. I started to say that we could look again when the sun rose completely, since we’d have better luck then. But no one answered me. I turned and looked around everywhere once again, but this time, the pokémon was missing.
The first hint of daylight was showing through the tree canopies. I looked at my body, my paws, the grass.
There was no blood. There was no other pokémon with me.
I thought that I might have learned that helping people and pokémon from then on would have been a terrible idea. But I could not give up my penchant for taking care of people. Not everyone was fake. Not everyone was out to hurt others. I had to believe that there were others that truly needed help. There was no way that Sai could feign such naivety, and there was no way that Kuiora could consume the outside world with a human boy who was just as clueless as she was. Was there a way? I couldn’t believe it. This was my second chance. I had to keep reminding myself of this fact as we traveled through the forest once more. I had been here all my life, but it was time to leave.
I was too preoccupied by my thoughts to pay much attention while Kuiora mumbled on about how pretty and vast the forest was, with Sai agreeing wholeheartedly. She also mentioned how lucky that all of the pokémon here were so friendly so that no one had to battle and exert themselves too harshly, and Sai made some comment about how he didn’t know pokémon could be this calm and quiet. I could see from their point of view to a certain extent. The pokémon here usually left trainers alone unless provoked, but I also thought about the pokémon that had tricked me while she rambled on. But I completely came back to reality when we came across the river that was so close to my home. I stopped moving and asked them to stop for me, too, though my voice cracked when I did so.
“What’s wrong?” they asked in unison.
“My… My clan is near here. I told you I wanted to say good-bye. Do you remember, Sai?” I asked, looking up at the boy. He said nothing, but I could tell by the way he was averting eye contact that he definitely remembered our conversation. “So I’ll be right back. I’ll bring you guys some berries so that you can eat while I’m gone.”
They both nodded, but I wondered if they both understood. Sai didn’t have anyone to say good-bye to, and what about Kuiora? I knew next to nothing about her, except that she didn’t seem to find Sai odd. Instead, everything was new and fascinating to her childish mind. I told myself that I’d have to change that as soon as my head was cleared of this lovely yet degrading place.
I did as I said I would. I brought them various kinds of berries from the nearby trees and bushes, hoping that they could find at least one kind that they liked. I couldn’t recall what kind of berries I had brought Sai before, but I could pay attention soon and fix this, too.
I turned and made my way toward the river without saying a word, unsure of what I would say to them, anyway. I certainly didn’t want to reveal too much about what I was doing and why I had to do it at all.
I found the trees whose branches extended all the way across the river. To get to the other side, I simply climbed up the tree, and ran across the branch only to jump to the ground when I reached the end of the path. It had been a long time since I climbed that tree, and it didn’t feel as natural as usual. I took that as a good sign and was able to smile a little.
I made my way past the clearing on the other side of the river only to find another clearing. While the other clearing was empty, this one was filled with other sentret. Some of them were playing, some were training, some were eating, and some were resting. All of them were unmistakably from my clan, and all of them unmistakably recognized me as an outsider and froze when they realized I was here. Some stared, some ran, and some of them scowled at me. I tried not to look down at the ground in shame, but it was hard. I simply asked to see Ari in the most confident voice that I could manage.
No one moved or acknowledged my request. Some of the smaller sentret asked why I wasn’t able to play with everyone else. Their innocence and lack of awareness at least let me know that at least someone in the clan didn’t know what I had done.
One of the sentret who had previously run away must have gotten Ari for me, even though they didn’t hear my request. Upon seeing Ari, I turned and went back to the first clearing I had been in. The river was loud, but Ari’s footsteps rang louder in my ears. I turned to face him when they became too loud for me to feel comfortable.
“Why are you here?” Ari asked simply. He seemed void of emotions entirely, though I knew what he was thinking. He was thinking of how worthless I was. He was thinking that this was a waste of time, and he was hoping that I would regret showing my face again.
“I’m leaving,” I stated simply. Ari’s expression remained the same; there was no hint of happiness in response to my words. “It was my fault. I know. I’m sorry. I would take it back if I could.”
“Words don’t change anything,” Ari said sharply.
“Words are all I have when my actions aren’t acknowledged anymore.”
“Then you have nothing.”
“…It was my fault.”
There was no injured pokémon. There was a liar and a sentret who was foolish enough to trust the liar.
The pokémon, whatever it was, had lured me away so that its friends and family could invade my home. Simply attacking me at my post may have been loud enough to alert my clan of intruders. It also eliminated the possibility of me shrieking to tell everyone to run, that someone was coming to hurt them. The worst part was that I helped them. I fell into their trap so easily.
When I realized what the pokémon had done, I rushed back to my clan as fast as I could. I nearly fell out of the tree and into the roaring river because I was too focused on trying to get back as quickly as possible. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw an odd movement in the river, a mix of red and brown that I hoped was a part of my imagination. I ran and ran and ran. I didn’t bother trying to protect myself or watch for danger anymore. The danger was already here. I failed, and I wanted it to come after me instead now.
It didn’t. It was already gone.
Before the danger left, it destroyed the clan. Torn parts from sentret and blood were what I had seen in the river. More blood and limbs were splattered through the grass, on the trees, on the leaves. Everywhere. Some sentret bodies were smashed underneath tree branches that had been cut off and left to drop. From the small amount of sentret left, I assumed that some of them had been taken… but I didn’t want to think about why. The sentret who were wounded or almost unharmed were squealing and crying over the sight, not daring to move out of intense fear and sorrow. They had been attacked while I was leading the pokémon to the edge of the forest. The pokémon had successfully taken me far away enough to where I couldn’t hear the slaughter. There was nothing I could do now.
My heart cried and my stomach lurched. My mind screamed disaster.
My family, things were peaceful just moments ago—
The babies, they were just learning to walk—
I should have heard—
I started mumbling about what happened, as if an explanation could reverse everything. The pokémon seemed genuinely hurt. But it was my fault for not looking for blood carefully enough, or other proof that the pokémon was hurt. Wouldn’t we have wanted other pokémon to help us if they could, too? Why hadn’t anyone else helped? It wasn’t my place to ask, but I was asking anyway. They must have been scared. I would have been scared, too. I’m scared right now. I’m sick right now. I was just trying to do a good thing. It would have been terrible to not help, too—
And in the midst of my thoughts, Ari crashed into me and started pummeling me faster than I could blink. He must have heard me, must have been listening, must have been watching the clan break further.
“Why didn’t you warn us about this?! You could have said something before you left with the enemy, at least!”
I didn’t fight back, I didn’t try to breathe, I didn’t dare look him in the eyes.
“They told us that you were on their side. It looks true! Because of you, my wife is hurt, the kids were eaten right here—”
I thought that he was going to kill me, but his punches and his cries eventually weakened and quieted. He eventually stopped, and I heard pathetic wails that only reminded me of the baby sentret once more. He left me with some throbbing, aching bones and a body covered in blood. I was sure that most of the blood was not mine.
“Get out of here. Just go, just leave,” he snarled.
After torturing myself with one last, long glance at the gory scene, I left, and did not try to come back, though I ached to. I could not sleep, could not eat. I wanted to mourn with the others. I didn’t even know everyone who was gone or everyone who had survived. I wanted to mourn, to apologize, to make up for it… but they wouldn’t let me. Unfortunately, I was not completely dead. It should have been me. But I was only dead to them, and rightfully so.
And I was so, so very sorry. So, so sorry. So sorry. I could beat many pokémon, many trials that were thrown at me. Over the years, I had learned that I could beat many things, but—
Life was not one of them.
“They should have gotten you. You were at fault, and yet you were the only one left unharmed.”
“They were trying to avoid commotion from the town as well. If I had heard any of them approaching, you know I would have called out…” I explained, though I knew it was in vain. But I had to try. When Ari would give me permission to leave, he would have all the information to know that he had made the correct choice. His decision would be final and real, done after many weeks of being able to calm down and think rationally.
“Those monsters were not from around here. It shouldn’t happen again, not just because of that, but because we will have more reliable people on post next time from now on,” Ari said, ignoring me almost completely.
I made one last attempt at helping them and said, “Perhaps you should consider relocating the clan—”
“Don’t tell me what I should do! You are not a part of this clan anymore!” Ari cried, rushing after me once more, but stopping halfway through. He didn’t want to relive that night again, not even the best part of it, where he got to punish the one who had caused him so much misery.
“…A trainer came by here and attacked me,” I said simply, now looking at the ground.
I could feel his glare.
“I know that you think he is a threat,” I said quickly. “He is. But he also wants me to be his pokémon. He wants me to… help him.” I wondered: how can words feel so wrong but be so true at the same time? “With your permission, I would like to take him away from the forest and be his pokémon so that he is no longer a threat.”
“As I said, you are not a part of this clan. You may do what you wish, as long as it doesn’t involve us,” Ari said. He was looking around now, presumably watching for Sai. I couldn’t keep the mysterious pokémon from attacking the clan, but I seemed to have some control over Sai. I could get him out of here. I could. It would be so easy.
“So I can leave,” I said.
“…You don’t want me.”
“We don’t want you. Too much damage was done. Take the trainer away from here, and make sure neither of you ever comes back.”
That was all I needed. I felt like a burden had been lifted off of my shoulders. Of course, I still wanted to help the clan. I didn’t want to leave. I would do anything to be accepted again and to be expected to protect everyone again. I would do anything to bring the others back. But nothing could fix what had happened, and it was time to move on. I would protect Sai now. I would protect Kuiora, and anyone else who was going to join us. I would believe that I had survived this attack for a reason, and would take my second chance.
I could leave with Sai now. This was all I wanted.
I didn’t say anything more. I only made eye contact with Ari for a few more long, agonizing moments, hoping that he could see how sorry I was, how much regret I carried around with me. Ari was the only one who had ever broken my heart by banishing me from the clan, the one thing I had loved at the time. But I also broke his heart, though indirectly; I took his wife away, I took his children. No one is ever safe.
When I was walking back to Sai and Kuiora, I still went slowly, taking in the scene one last time. I took in the rough feeling of the bark on the trees as I walked on it. I took in how big and old the tree itself was, and how it took years and years for it to grow this tall and be such an important part of our lives. The river was purely blue, which made me feel a bit better. Everything seemed clean and peaceful. The sun shone down and made me remember what was wonderful about the clan. Seeing the babies learn about the world for the first time. Always discovering new kinds of berries and indulging in the old ones that had treated us so well for so long. Knowing how friendly the other pokémon in the forest seemed to be. Seeing the new trainers with their new pokémon come by with such excitement and joy shining in their eyes.
I would try to remember everything from then on, the good and the bad. I hoped that that was what moving on meant.
When I reached Sai and Kuiora, I simply said that I was ready to go. It seemed easier to speak, as if I wasn’t keeping such a careful watch on everything I said anymore. I certainly had to do that with Ari, but not so much with these two. I’d still make sure to be careful, because I didn’t want to hurt them.
“Where are we headed next?” Sai asked curiously.
“Well, the next town is Cherrygrove City. I don’t really know anything about that place except that new trainers don’t ever seem too happy about going there.”
“They always want these badges, and you apparently can’t find one in Cherrygrove.”
Sai started walking slower and frown a bit. “I’m supposed to get the gym badges. I think that’s what you’re talking about. Well, I don’t want to waste time there, then. Not allowed.”
“Badges?” Kuiora asked, coming out of nowhere. She had been so quiet that I had nearly forgotten she was there.
“Yeah… We train, battle, and get badges. That’s what I was told to do, so that’s what we’re going to do,” Sai said, smiling again.
“I was training at the lab, so I’m ready for that whenever you are,” she said confidently.
“Senori will lead the way,” Sai said, looking at me expectedly.
“I’ve never been anywhere else… but I’m sure we can find the path to whatever place is next,” I said, trying to sound confident as well.
“Okay. It’s unfortunate, but I knew that you couldn’t have already visited everywhere. Thanks, Senori,” Sai said.
Sounding more confident already seemed a little easier after that. I started to lead the way again, unsure where I was going, but feeling all right about it.
Like most new trainers, Sai didn’t care for Cherrygrove City. But he sure did enjoy Violet City, a place completely new and refreshing for all of us.
Re: Survival Project
This is very interesting, here's hoping to see more chapters
Re: Survival Project
Glad you like it so far... I try to update every 2 weeks or a little under that, so expect to see something soon enough~
Originally Posted by sperance
Re: Survival Project
chapter 4 ; [ATIS]
I saved Mondays and Thursdays for Shannon because she loved the idea of type differences, their weaknesses, their strengths. One day, she said, all of her pokémon would have two types. I saved Tuesdays for Joey. Items fascinated him, man-made or not. Fridays were for Jason, since he got so discouraged when he lost a battle. Every Wednesday varied. Saturdays were for Earl–every other day wore him out. I saved one day of the week for me, and that was just to make sure that I was still alive.
I tried to remain optimistic. As a pokémon who didn’t care for pokémon training yet was a classroom pet for a pokémon training school, I didn’t need more than one day of the week. There was no need to indulge myself in information that I didn’t care for, and I didn’t like attention anyway. It was better to focus on someone who wanted to be given attention so that they could learn, someone who enjoyed the subject and would make use of it someday.
It wasn’t that I hated pokémon. I hated peoples’ love for pokémon. It was consuming and overwhelming and encouraged far too much. It seemed to be the only reason for people to wake up in the morning, the only thing that made life worth living. Everything else was forgotten—reading, writing, school for jobs that made food and buildings, school for jobs that helped the sick... There had to be something else to life that not enough people were seeing.
But there was nothing I could do. The kids couldn’t understand me, Earl seemed just as consumed, and I wouldn’t have known what to do out in the world if I left—because despite all of the time that I had spent in a school, I had learned next to nothing.
“Why don’t you teach them something that doesn’t have to do specifically with pokémon?” I asked Earl one day. It was a Friday and the kids had just been let out for the day. We were cleaning up and getting ready to go home. I picked up the garbage on the ground while Earl sorted out papers and straightened out the desks that had been moved in result of the children’s excitement when they were told that they could battle. The excitement was always present. I thought that they got louder each week, and that they caused more messes every week when they tried to run and pile out the door all at once. Now, it was quiet, and I wanted to take advantage of it.
“What you want me to teach them?” Earl asked, not even bothering to look at me. He twirled over to the side of the room to close the windows, as if no one could hear what I was about to say.
“I don’t know…” I faltered, suddenly embarrassed for asking. I didn’t particularly like attention, and I had just blatantly asked for it when I could have stayed invisible. During the day, it was impossible, since the children’s fascination with pokémon automatically turned into a fascination of me, the only pokémon that was allowed out in the classroom. I simply made an effort to say only what needed to be said, and to never leave the corner in front of the classroom unless I really needed to.
“Maybe teach them how to light fires…” I continued, trying to get over my embarrassment. This did need to be said, after all, so I couldn’t back down now. I kept hoping that Earl wouldn’t look at me, and I too refused to look at him and distracted myself by picking up more lost paper and pencils on the ground, though they were bitter reminders of why I was bringing this topic up in the first place.
“Want to teach is a fire? Teach kids fire-types, yes,” Earl replied as he finished closing the windows. I imagined him nodding his head eagerly and intensely. This would have been a good thing if he had understood what I said.
“No… Fires for their journey. To keep warm.” Perhaps, I thought, trying something else that couldn’t be directly related to pokémon would help. “Teach them how to budget their money. How to choose and save food.”
“No, no, no. Kids learn to do that on own time,” Earl said earnestly. And that was the end of that.
What could I say to make him understand? He taught the subject of pokémon all day, and he taught it almost every day. It was ingrained in his mind, probably permanently. He had no desire to teach about the dangers of the world or the possibilities of being something greater. He had told me many times while smiling from ear to ear that this had been his dream since he was a boy, and he was so glad to be here…
Doesn’t it ever get boring? Don’t you ever wonder what holds the world together outside of this school? I wanted to ask, but didn’t.
And I was his pokémon. He certainly took care of me. He kept me fed and rested, didn’t make me battle often anymore since I didn’t like the attention, and he boasted about his oh so special hitmontop every chance he got, even if it was in fragmented English. There was no doubt that I was his, but I just couldn’t think the same way.
On Monday, things went by as they normally did. Water beats fire, grass beats water, and fire beats grass. Electric beats flying, and flying beats grass. “Beats” would be a term used loosely, as factors such as experience and strategy also had a huge effect on the outcome.
Shannon eventually called me over. As usual, she made some statement that was similar to what was just taught, and I would nod my head or shake my head depending on whether her answer was right or wrong.
“Ghost can beat psychic, right?” she said, fidgeting in her seat restlessly and looking at me expectantly.
I nodded and wondered how many questions she would ask me today.
“And psychic can beat poison.”
I nodded at the statement and grinned despite myself.
“Psychic can’t do anything to dark-types, though. I always forget...”
“But—oh! Fighting-types can beat dark-types! You could beat a dark-type with no problem, right?” I would have nodded, albeit reluctantly, but she didn’t give me enough time as she added, “Dark-types seem evil. You could beat all the evil in the world, huh? So cool!”
“I wish,” I said quietly, but all she heard—if she heard me at all—was my name.
She decided that she was done after that. She jumped out of her seat and moved on to show off her newfound knowledge to her friends, and I went back into my corner. I was already exhausted from the conversation and was ready for the day to be over.
On Tuesday, the class got a new student.
He was obviously a bit older than the rest of the kids, and I wondered why he was here. He probably should have been on his journey for at least a few years already. But Earl welcomed him with open arms.
“This is Sai! Sai is new student,” he said after rushing the boy to the front of the classroom. His eyes were closed and he was smiling broadly while the boy only looked to the ground, not bothering to introduce himself. I felt instantly connected to him just for that. My first impression was that he was clearly the outcast and that he didn’t like attention, either. “He will learn lots, yes? Yes. Take a seat now, boy.” And the boy listened. He took a seat in the back of the room, the only place available.
I didn’t think that having Sai here would change anything, but it still felt nice to be a little bit closer to someone. I started to wonder about my first impression, however, when he saw me for the first time. He flinched when he saw me, and I couldn’t tell if it was from surprise or from seeing something rather repulsive. But he didn’t look away. His expression was blank as he stayed focused on me. He seemed to struggle when trying to pay attention to both Earl’s lesson and me, even though I wasn’t doing anything but standing in the corner.
I actually tried leaving the corner to walk in between the desks so I could get out of his sight a few times, but his eyes always seemed to follow me. I even stayed with Jason longer than normal, and tried to stay focused on what he was saying and asking. But Sai was always looking, and I knew it. When you don’t like attention, you always know when someone is looking at you. Someone is always looking at you, no matter how illogical the idea is. The idea consumes your mind. I was used to this since the other kids often recognized my presence, but the anxiety was never this intense with them. Probably because their attention wasn’t constant, and they gave me attention with enthusiasm rather than apathy.
I wished that he would look away. He was here to learn about pokémon, after all, and I was here to pass time until something… anything… happened.
Look away from me. Look away. If you don’t like such attention, why am I getting it? I cannot and do not want to help you.
On Wednesday, I didn’t have anyone to focus on in order to distract myself from Sai. No one seemed to need my help, and there was nothing else for me to do until everyone left. I considered simply leaving the school and hoping no one noticed, but the new boy would definitely have noticed. He was still staring at me. And I still didn’t know what to do about it.
When all the kids were doing an activity with one partner, Sai didn’t have a partner. He hadn’t talked to anyone and everyone was set in their ways by choosing the same partner every time. Earl, with all his good intentions, told me to go be Sai’s partner. The new student spending time with a pokémon in a pokémon school would be good, after all. I didn’t have the energy to protest, and I didn’t want to risk causing a scene, so I reluctantly went to the boy. Up close, his blue eyes seemed soft and intense at the same time. Still unnerved and holding on to silence, I tried to smile as best as I could.
Admittedly, I had no idea what the activity was, so I didn’t know what to do next. He must have known the assignment, but all he said was, “You made it possible for me to be here, so thanks.”
I had no idea what he was talking about. Shifting around uncomfortably, I wanted to say that I just a classroom pet, nothing more. I figured that I should have been grateful he didn’t want to talk about just pokémon, but somehow, I wasn’t. The topic was at least comfortable and familiar, even if I despised it.
“I’m not supposed to take the time to be here,” Sai explained, and I wondered if he caught on to my confusion. “But since you’re here, it’s okay now.”
At this point, I was beyond confused. I was nervous and tired and I wanted this boy to go away. We connected on the wrong level, I decided. My first impression didn’t mean anything good for me.
“Well, you should start the assignment,” I said, trying to say words that would make him stop talking and would make me sound confident at the same time.
“I’m not interested in the assignment,” Sai said, suddenly frowning. He looked back and forth between the paper on his desk and me, and eventually, he settled on staring at me. I was about to open my mouth again to speak when I realized that he had understood me. I hadn’t pointed to the paper or picked up a pencil or made any sign that I was talking about the assignment. Had I? In my nervousness, I may have missed my actions completely…
I stared back at him, not so confident anymore. Maybe I never was. Despite Shannon’s words, I couldn’t beat the evil in the world, especially when I could hardly keep my eyes focused on the path in front of me. I always looked down to the ground, and I ignored the present as best as I could. I focused on what I wanted, but never did anything to get what I wanted.
“You’re so shy…” Sai observed, still looking at me. “You don’t seem to like it here.”
This seemed familiar. He said a statement, so I nodded. He was right, anyway.
“Well, you don’t have to worry anymore. I like it here, since I’m learning about pokémon and getting better like I’m supposed to. But I can’t stay here forever. And when I leave this place, I’m taking you with me.”
On Thursday, I didn’t go to the school. I just told Earl that I didn’t want to go, and he was okay with that. I mentally apologized to Shannon for not being there, but I wasn’t really sorry. I needed a day for myself. All I did was sleep, I was so, so tired.
On Friday, I was glad that I had taken that day off. Friday was all about battles, and I hadn’t battled in such a long time. Earl made me battle a lot as a Tyrogue, but once I had evolved after battling the students’ pokémon so much, I was considered too experienced. And Earl caught on to the fact that I didn’t like being on the battlefield so that everyone could watch me and judge me.
I didn’t usually battle, but thanks to Sai, I had to battle on that particular Friday.
The boy said that he had no pokémon to battle with. I thought that Earl was going to have me battle for him, but he didn’t. Again, he said that I was too experienced, and that I may not listen to a beginner like him.
I was vastly relieved—until Sai asked if he could borrow me for the weekend so that I could help him catch his first pokémon.
“Well,” Earl started. No one had ever requested such a thing, and I had no idea how he was going to react. At that moment, that was what scared me most, more than the idea of actually going with him. That quickly changed when Earl said, “Yes, of course! Hitmontop is strong pokémon. He will help catch for you. A good idea it is.”
And then I was scared of everything.
I spent the day watching other kids battle. But I could hardly pay attention to them when they asked me questions, and eventually, they just left me alone, which I was eternally grateful for. Hearing kids yell commands at the top of their lungs made me anxious. Having others point out when a pokémon lost or won made me cringe. I didn’t need this, but it was what I was going to get with Sai, who simply also watched and seemed to be faring much better than I was. He was absorbing it all, I was sure. He was learning. About pokémon. He would spend his life going on a journey, I was sure. He was no better than the rest of them.
My fears were confirmed when Sai took me away from Earl when the school was let out, even though it was soon revealed that he already had two pokémon. He had brought me to the edge of the city only to meet up with his sentret and totodile, two popular, common choices among the kids in the school. They stared at me with interest, especially the totodile, and I was sure that they had never seen a hitmontop before. I silently wished that I was as common as them so that they would look away from me, but then, the idea of me belonging to a trainer—especially a new one—was inevitable. I couldn’t win.
But I was soon going to be expected to win, I knew...
Looking directly at me, Sai said, “We’re going to the pokémon gym now. You didn’t battle today, so you should be fine.”
Despite myself, I immediately said, “I… I thought that you needed me to help you catch a pokémon.”
“Lying gets you what you want, no? Earl wouldn’t have let me take you if he knew I was going to fight a gym leader for my first battle…”
There was too many things wrong with that sentence, but it successfully shut me up until we got to the gym. When we got to the entrance of the gym, however, I couldn’t stop talking.
“I haven’t battled in forever. You don’t want to use me… What about these guys? I’m a fighting-type. This gym uses flying-types. E-Everyone knows that. Didn’t you learn anything when you were in—”
This time, I shut myself up. To actually deem the information used in class worthwhile was astonishing and unfamiliar to me. I didn’t deserve to get out of this situation so easily, since I hardly was supportive of my real beliefs.
The sentret answered for Sai, anyway. The boy probably wasn’t listening. That was good. “We were going to train, but Sai saw the school and decided to do that instead. We haven’t battled at all,” the sentret said.
“Why… don’t you train and battle when you’re stronger, then?” I asked.
“I can’t waste too much time here. We can do it on the way to the next city. Don’t be difficult,” Sai said sternly, the softness in his eyes gone. So he had been listening. I wished that he hadn’t, and I scolded myself for speaking out to begin with.
“I won’t do well. I wasn’t meant for this,” I said solemnly.
“You’ll be fine. Let’s go,” Sai said. He probably had meant to sound reassuring, but it didn’t work. His voice was now impatient and eager and harsh. Nevertheless, I stepped inside the gym after him and his pokémon.
The first thing I noticed was how big the gym was. The walls extended much higher than that of the school’s, presumably so that the bird pokémon had room to fly without being restricted in any way. Maybe everyone would be so fascinated by the flexibility of the bird pokémon that I wouldn’t be noticed. I could only hope.
The second thing that I noticed was that there was a small line for those who wanted to battle Falkner, the well known gym leader of this city. We waited in line, mostly in silence. The sentret and the totodile made conversation and they briefly introduced themselves to me, but quickly left me alone when they realized that I didn’t want to talk. I could hardly pay attention, anyway. Maybe sometime later I would apologize, if I ever saw them again. They seemed kind enough, but Sai’s first impression had been wrong, so I was wary.
It was eventually, finally, our turn to battle. I just wanted to get it over with. Falkner approached Sai and shook his hand. Sai stared at the handshake curiously and oddly, as if he wasn’t used to the greeting.
“Since I’ve had a lot of battles in a row, this will just be a one-on-one battle,” Falkner said as he turned around impatiently, going to his stand on his side of the arena.
“Should I… make an appointment next time?” Sai asked, his hand still outstretched. Falkner turned once more and stared at the boy.
“If you want. It’s hard to battle ten trainers in a row with just a few pokémon,” Falkner explained, his voice softened and his body less tense.
“Okay, then. I apologize,” Sai said. I stared at him, dumbfounded. Just a moment ago, he had seemed furious with me for trying to disobey him, and now he was acting like the friendliest boy in the world with the gym leader. I tried to dwell on this instead of the fact that I was about to be sent out for battle, but these thoughts also made my head spin.
I staggered back slightly when Sai bent down to talk to me face-to-face. “Look,” he said, “I’m not going to tell you what to do. You battle how you want to. I… wouldn’t know what to say, and you don’t seem to like being told what to do…”
This boy made my head spin. Now he was being just as kind to me. But I couldn’t deny that I appreciated his concern and kindness. I simply nodded and walked slowly to the battlefield, sparing him from having to announce the fact that he would be battling with me.
“A hitmontop, huh? This battle may not last long, then, and that’s a good thing. I’ll send out pidgeotto,” Falkner said, grinning while throwing out a red and white pokéball onto the arena. A bird whose body consisted of various shades of brown appeared. I just looked at the pidgeotto’s features, waiting for the battle to start. The feathers on its head were red, as were the feathers on its tail. I noticed some yellow on its tail as well. It looked a bit tired and dirty, and I really did feel sorry for it. It had probably battled just earlier today, whereas I had been safe for months at this point. I wasn’t so lucky anymore.
“Challenger usually goes first,” Falkner stated after quite a few moments of silence.
“He will be battling on his own. He does not wish for me to command him,” Sai said just as sternly.
“All right, then,” Falkner said, shrugging his shoulders and brushing some of his blue hair out of his eyes. “Pidgeotto, start off with a wing attack!”
Of course he had to choose a move that required flying. The bird spread its wings and took off into the air, completely and easily annihilating all chances for me to attack it. I had no long range attacks, and this was why fighting-types would forever be considered weak to flying-types.
The pidgeotto flew high enough to ensure its own safety, and then flew closer to me. Then it started diving downward, its wings spread out and ready to attack me. I just stared at it, waiting for Sai to give me a command. I didn’t want it, but I was used to being told what to do. The fact that he wasn’t going to command me to do anything hit me too late, as the pidgeotto’s wing slammed into the side of my face and sent me flying to the side and colliding with the concrete floor of the gym, near the wall. Before it hit me, I saw how intense and serious the bird was. Why did it have to look at me like that? I was here against my will…
“Now use quick attack, pidgeotto,” Falkner said.
This time, Sai’s lack of participation didn’t have to register. I got out of the way, though the pidgeotto was still very close to hitting me again. It was much faster than me, but this turned out to be a disadvantage as the bird collided with the wall that I had been near. Its tiredness and speed had made it unable to turn out of the way of danger in time. The bird quickly slunk to the ground, but quickly got back up and stood on its two feet.
“It’s all right, pidgeotto. We’ll avoid speedy attacks from now on. Try to peck at it. Be persistent.”
The pidgeotto extended its wings once more and flew in my direction again, this time more slowly and carefully. I held up my arms to cover my face, but I realized that I wasn’t going to get anywhere if I kept being so defensive. As the bird flew at me with that same intense look, I made it think that I was going to give in to its attack. When it was close enough, I tried to forget the look—just for a few moments—in order to lift my arms from my face and slam one of them down onto one of the bird’s wings. I had successfully pinned one of the pidgeotto’s wings down, and the other one was safely tucked back into the bird’s body. Taken by surprise, the bird kept trying to peck at me out of anger instead of with confidence, but it couldn’t reach me in the position that it was stuck in.
“Pidgeotto, try to get out of there!” Falkner said, his calm and smug demeanor gone.
But it was no use. My arm was stronger than its lone wing. It seemed that the wall had done a lot of damage last time, so I prepared to use my rolling kick attack to send it in that direction once more. As I started to swing one of my legs behind me as far as I could to generate as much power as possible, I quietly said, “I’m sorry,” and hoped that the bird understand. But I wasn’t sure that it would. I couldn’t tell who had more experience, but it was tired, and the type advantage had turned out to be a disadvantage because of it. And since Falkner was the first gym for new trainers, he had obviously been chosen because he was weaker than the rest of the boy’s pokémon. I was sorry for it. But I did what I had to do.
When I had finished preparing my rolling kick attack, I swung my leg around my body and made direct contact with the pidgeotto’s side. The white spikes on my feet dug into its side and the collision made it fly into the wall, just as I had wanted. This time, however, it didn’t get back up on its feet. It was only as the bird fainted that I realized the battle had been done in almost complete silence aside from Falkner’s commands and my apology.
“Pidgeotto, return,” Falkner said solemnly. I wished that, if I had to be here, that it was with Earl, so I could be returned to a pokéball, too. I suddenly remembered that I was with Sai again, and I felt a mixture of nervousness and pride.
I distracted myself by watching Falkner walk over to Sai, who was smiling and had his arm outstretched once more. The gym leader dug into his pocket and took out a small, oddly shaped object, and placed it in Sai’s palm.
“I wish that I could have fought you at full strength, but the hitmontop still would have been tough,” Falkner said. He obviously didn’t like to lose, as told by his voice when he returned his pokémon, but he sounded glad now. “Next time, though, you should use your own pokémon. Earl must have given you the hitmontop to see how you’d do, am I right?”
Sai frowned for just a moment, and I wondered if Falkner would do anything about it. But he didn’t. Sai simply nodded, and Falkner added, “It feels a bit weird, then, giving you the badge when you didn’t seem to do much… but the teamwork was still there. Allowing the hitmontop to do what it wanted based on its personality was a good thing. I can tell you’ll be a good, considerate trainer to your own pokémon.”
Sai smiled again, though not as broadly. With a quiet thank you, Sai turned to leave the gym, clutching the badge in his hand. He looked to the ground as he walked out, just as he had done when being introduced to the class by Earl. I felt connected to him again, but didn’t have much hope for it this time.
Outside of the gym, the mixture of anxiety and happiness returned. It didn’t help when the sentret was tending to my wounds and when the totodile kept yelling about how strong and awesome I was to have beaten the bird so quickly and with apparent ease. I didn’t want their praise. I had just directly contributed to Sai’s journey. Even if I hadn’t meant to, I still did it. He could be doing something else. I’m sure that the world was in need of something besides pokémon trainers. But I had probably just encouraged him to stay as a trainer by winning him his first badge. I hated myself for it, yet I liked knowing that I still had strength, even if I didn’t know it.
I knew that I was right about encouraging Sai when he came to me and told me that I had done a good job, and that he had made the right choice when he chose me to be his pokémon. Again, I remembered him telling me that he would be taking me with him on his journey. It seemed like he had said that so long ago, but really, I had been pushing it into the back of my mind, because the idea seemed impossible. I had no idea what was out there. And the idea of facing the unknown was terrifying. But he seemed set on taking me with him, since he then nicknamed me on the spot.
“Your name is Atis. And Atis, I think you did a good job,” he repeated. The name made it more final. Earl had never given me a name for some reason, and it seemed like a more creative name compared to the kiddy names that the children called their pokémon. There had been many cyndaquil named Blaze, I recalled…
Sai dug in his pocket and pulled out an object. Dice. I recognized the object from some activity that Earl had done with the kids once, but I wasn’t sure what Sai was going to do with it. It seemed pointless in regards to pokémon training, after all, so surely he couldn’t be interested in it.
He seemed to have found some use for it, though. He handed it to me, and told me to throw it. I did so since I could see no harm coming from it. It landed on the number three, and I was still just as confused as before.
“Now you can see it with your own eyes,” Sai said, grinning. “You’re my third pokémon. It’s official.”
“But I—” I started to say. But what? I belonged to Earl? I was miserable with him, though his intentions were pure. Could Sai be much better when I despised trainers who thought of nothing but pokémon? I could at least learn more about the world... Maybe I could convince Sai of being something else. Focusing on one child had always been easier than a whole classroom full of them, anyway. “What about Earl?” I decided to ask anyway. “What about the school?” Surely, I would have time to decide and think. Or time to push back the thoughts and go crazy when I only have a few minutes to make a decision. And I was right.
“We’re leaving in a week,” Sai said. “You best be ready.”
Re: Survival Project
chapter 5 ; [KUIORA]
Violet City wasn’t violet. There was green grass and brown buildings and white walking paths and there weren’t even any violet flowers. And the purple roofs didn’t count. It was sort of disappointing. I don’t know what I had been expecting, but it was certainly more than this. This city looked just like New Bark Town, except just organized in an entirely different way. A city full of flower houses and purple people would have been better.
Senori had a sad expression on his face when we got there. He didn’t even look up from the ground. I didn’t think he was upset for the same reasons as me; he had seen much more than me. I guessed that he was upset about saying good-bye to whoever it was he had left Sai for, but I thought that meant he should be happy. Whoever was holding him down no longer had to hold him down. Unless Senori let it get to him, he was free, just as I was free from Professor Elm. I told him to cheer up a few times, but he just told me that I didn’t understand, and that he’d get over it soon.
Sai seemed unresponsive to the city as a whole at first, too. He walked slowly and said nothing until we came across a large building that he called a school, and another large building that he called a gym. That was when Senori finally spoke before spoken to.
“You know, normal kids wouldn’t be excited about school. Trainers would complain about how they wasted so much time there instead of raising pokémon. Normal kids would be dying of hunger or thirst by now,” he said, holding his stomach.
“What’s school?” I asked. I could be curious, at least, without being scolded.
“It’s where you can learn about a lot of things… especially pokémon-related things,” Sai explained, walking up to the building and pushing his face against the windows.
Senori promptly ran in his direction and pulled at his legs, yelling, “Get away from the window! You got lucky at the professor’s lab, but they’ll definitely see you and think you’re a freak here!”
I noted how Senori mentioned the lab, how Sai must have been watching me and the others the entire time, but I hadn’t noticed at all. It must have been the little brown creature keeping him in line, and he was trying to do it again now. Sai moved, but not because of Senori’s force. He brushed off the pokémon like it was nothing and went back to where he had been before.
“Okay. You don’t have to yell at me. But I’m going there. I won’t stay long, but I think it will help me get better,” he said, still looking at the building.
“Get better at what?” I asked.
“Training. Raising pokémon. Getting badges and getting stronger as fast as possible,” he said. And he smiled.
“I can help with that,” I said eagerly. “Professor Elm taught us how to train at the lab. I knew how to train better than everyone else there, too.”
“You don’t have any experience, little guy. I bet those kids do… and especially the older guy there.”
“But I know how to train. And people should just bring food to you and your pokémon,” I said, trying to speak louder. The pokémon at the lab were hopeless. Hopefully Sai and Senori weren’t like them. I would find out in time by trying to talk more, I decided.
“Fine. We’ll rest and go get food. Happy now?”
“Yes,” Senori said. “If you don’t remember to sleep or feed yourself or your pokémon, there’s going to be issues… Good thing I’m here.”
“But if we just wait here—”
“Shush.” He glared on me and I cut myself off immediately. I had never seen that much seriousness or lack of emotion packed into one face. “I know what you’re talking about, but we don’t need to deal with that anymore, do we? Let’s go, little guy.”
What on earth was he talking about? He thought that I was a boy and he pushed me away in favor of the true first pokémon. I already didn’t like him.
But things got better. He took us to the store and bought enough food to last us for what seemed like forever. He also bought an unbelievable amount of pokéballs, and a backpack to carry it all. I thought that he should’ve just taken the entire store if the owner was willingly given so much away, but Senori explained that he could only buy so much with pokédollars. So this was why Professor Elm never got a bigger lab for us, even when we just seemed to grow and grow…
“Are you really planning on catching that many pokémon?” I asked so that I could stop thinking about him. Professor Elm was gone, and I was free. He didn’t mean anything to me. And I was hoping to prove to him sometime soon that he wouldn’t need to catch so many. I would get stronger, and I’m sure Senori would, too. While I reluctantly accepted that Senori would get better with me, I believed that we could be enough, and that only a couple more pokémon couldn’t hurt.
“What about medicine?” Senori suddenly asked, not seeming to care about what was already bought anymore.
He paused. “Medicine has never helped me,” he said softly.
“It could work for pokémon.”
“Then we’ll get it later.”
“But you’re already out of pokédollars,” Senori pointed out.
“We’ll get more of those later, too,” he replied, his voice stronger again.
Senori sighed and apparently decided to settle on food. “Whatever will be, will be, I guess,” he said, and he made his way over to the entrance of the door, signaling his desire to leave.
And that was the end of that. As we walked out, I noticed that the guy behind the counter, the one who had given Sai suggestions on food types and the pokéballs themselves, was looking at us rather oddly.
Next, we visited a place called the Pokémon Center for the very first time. Sai seemed to have never heard of such a thing. The place was huge and crowded with other trainers who were conversing with each other and showing off their pokémon. I tried holding on to Sai’s ankle to keep myself from getting lost, hoping that he’d join the crowd soon enough. There didn’t seem to be too many totodile around, so surely someone wouldn’t object to seeing one with their own fortunate eyes.
Instead, Sai headed to the front counter and asked what he could do here for his pokémon. There was a lady with pink hair and a soft but genuine smile there for him to talk to. She happily informed him that he could leave us here to get healed from any injuries, or to simply have a place to sleep peacefully and out of pokéballs for the night.
“But I don’t want to give away my pokémon,” Sai said flatly. He glowered at her. “I just got them.”
The lady behind the counter frowned and looked almost like Sai had hurt her physically. “Oh, we don’t keep your pokémon here. You can come back and get them whenever you’d like. Or you could rent a room for yourself for the night and take your pokémon with you.”
The boy’s face almost returned to normal, though he was still frowning. He was still suspicious. “Okay,” he said. “Well, maybe I’ll come back when it’s dark. Thank you.”
After turning away from the front counter and the lady, Sai bent down toward us and whispered, “Now we’ll definitely get that medicine later.” Senori nodded, satisfied this time around, and the boy led us outside once more.
Needless to say, Sai didn’t want to go back to that Pokémon Center. We slept on the outskirts of the city in the grass once again. No one complained, since us two pokémon had been used to it for our entire lives. Sai didn’t seem to mind, either, though I couldn’t understand why.
After that day, though, he left his backpack with us and went off to that school. He’d be gone when we woke up, and he wouldn’t be back until it was dark. We knew where he was, so it wasn’t that big of a deal, but we didn’t know what to do. It wasn’t as if we particularly liked each other. And if we tried to do anything, we risked getting lost. One day, though, I had an idea.
“Let’s catch a strong pokémon for Sai,” I suggested. “If he sees how strong and awesome we are, then he won’t have to use all of those pokéballs.”
“I’m pretty sure he wouldn’t like that. He seems picky about who he chooses,” Senori said. He was sitting against a tree, eyes closed. I glared at him for dismissing my idea in such a nonchalant way, but he continued, “I’m also tired. I haven’t slept well since we’re in unfamiliar territory…”
“Who cares? He has to keep whoever we choose. We’re his pokémon! He has to listen to what we want,” I said. I went over to his backpack, trying to figure out how to reach the contents inside of it. There seemed to be no opening for me to put my hand into. With this roadblock and Senori’s annoying self, I ended up ripping a hole into it with my teeth and not caring too much about it.
“Not listening, huh? I bet you don’t even know how to catch a pokémon,” Senori observed.
“I bet I could,” I said confidently, pulling out one of the spheres with my paws. It was a bit difficult to pull it through the hole I had made on the backpack with my tiny paws, but I managed it. I turned toward Senori, and went to push the button in the middle of the ball. I dropped it once in the process, since it was difficult for me to hold. Senori snickered, and I glared at him once more.
“You’re a baby compared to me. You’re fun to mess with. And it seems natural for someone older like me to do so…” Senori added a bit sadly.
“Yeah, well,” I started, unsure of what to say. I was young, true. But he didn’t have to rub it in my face. I pressed the button on the pokéball instead, and dropped it again as it grew larger, making it harder to hold than before. “All I have to do is press that button. Then, I have to throw it at the pokémon I want to catch. It’s easy. Why don’t you try catching something?”
Senori’s eyes were still closed, but I didn’t give him a warning as I tossed the pokéball in his direction. It didn’t occur to me for a moment that the ball, when it got close enough to Senori, could snap open and suck the little brown creature inside. But that’s exactly what it did. And then it fell to the ground, swaying back and forth every few seconds. I stood there, dumbfounded. Hadn’t Sai already caught him with a pokéball? This shouldn’t have even been possible...
I expected Senori to pop back out and start teasing me again. But he didn’t. The ball stopped moving after what seemed like forever, and then I was left alone to wonder what I had just done. I successfully shut him up, and I could have something to use against him whenever he made fun of me from now on. Also, I figured that I had just saved Sai some time, and that I could now tell him that Senori had a pokéball if it was ever needed.
Walking up to Senori’s pokéball, I wondered if I should let him back out. But that would just be asking for more teasing and more complaints about things I wanted to do. Also, he was tired… Wouldn’t it have been best to just leave him in there to rest? Plus, I wasn’t the trainer. Sai could decide thing about his pokémon himself. This was just an accident, so my actions didn’t count. I picked up the ball, which was easier now that it was back to its original tiny form. It didn’t feel any heavier, nor were there any signs that a pokémon was inside of it. It was almost as if Senori didn’t exist at all. I vaguely wondered again if I should release him, because if I were him, I wouldn’t want to be erased so easily. I had so much to do. I had to get stronger. I had to be deemed worthy of the legends. So much to do, and Sai made it seem like there wasn’t much time…
I decided to just train myself and put Senori’s pokéball in Sai’s backpack. I didn’t need the other pokémon standing around and watching me or trying to say that he could do better just because he was older. I could get a lot more done without him around, and this was especially true since it was still daylight. Sai wouldn’t be back for a long time. Still. So much to do, so little time.
I trained all day and all night, working on punches and kicks and aiming my water attacks correctly while still causing a lot of damage. I had been hoping to find new ways to train after leaving Professor Elm’s lab and seeing what else the world had to offer me, but I tried not to dwell on that and worked with what I had. I trained even after Sai came back, because when he came back, he didn’t ask where Senori was, and I didn’t tell him. He actually seemed calm and satisfied for once, and with the awkward and solemn demeanor he had presented already, I didn’t want to mess with that. He also didn’t ask why the grass or the trees were so wet. He still sat in the grass and he still slept against the trees and I still trained.
As it turned out, it was a good thing that I didn’t catch another strong pokémon for Sai, because he found one on his own. It was a strange looking creature that had been named Atis. It was strange looking, but also intimidating. He didn’t seem to like anyone, his feet and head had spikes on them, and when he battled in the other building Sai liked—the gym, was it?—he fought impressively. The battle was short, and even with the type advantage (I had learned about that from the bird owner, not Sai), he wasn’t afraid and he did what he had to do to win. I wanted to be like him. I vowed to be used in the next gym battle.
This was also the first time I had seen Senori since I had accidentally captured him. That morning, Sai finally asked me where he was when he said that we were going to the gym, and I explained everything to him. Besides a slight smile, Sai didn’t react much, and had to dig through his backpack and try every pokéball until he found Senori’s and let him out. He announced that we would be going to the gym later that day, and to be prepared. Now that I thought about it, I wasn’t sure why, since he never intended for us to battle at all. But that was okay. Atis showed us the regular routine, and next time, I (or Senori, unless Sai realized how much training I had done) would know what to do.
“Was there a reason you had to go and catch me like that?” Senori asked when he finally saw me. We had been standing in the line of the gym.
“Yeah. You didn’t think I could do it. So I did it,” I replied, smirking.
“You knew I was joking. But at least I’m not tired anymore,” Senori said softly, already seeming to give up on the scolding. He just didn’t have the heart to be angry at anyone, I realized.
“Why didn’t you just break out of the pokéball? You were tired, yeah, but it should have been easy.”
“I didn’t want to make Sai mad at me for wasting it.”
And then we were quiet and watched Atis, who seemed naturally quiet unless coerced into speaking. I had no idea how he accomplished such a thing, but he did.
Violet City. The place wasn’t violet, but I got to train, Senori got to rest, Atis got to leave his home, and Sai learned an awful lot in order to earn his first gym badge at the end of it all.
When we were leaving Violet City, the lady from behind the counter at the Pokémon Center was outside, unlocking the doors for the day. She shouted to us, saying that there was a Center in every town, but Sai ignored her. He hadn’t even brought Atis there to heal after his battle, but he hadn’t sustained many injuries, so it was understandable. And when we passed by the school, Atis peered into the windows one final time, but he didn’t seem to need a good-bye like Senori did. I wondered why, but I didn’t question him. I would have to earn his attention through strength in the future, since he was so strong himself.
Unlike the trip to Violet City, we ran into quite a few pokémon trainers and more wild pokémon on the way to the next town. Atis destroyed all the pokémon in one hit, wild or not. Senori and I had a bit more trouble… which I guess was to be expected. It was also difficult when Sai didn’t know attack names when trying to command the both of us (though he let Atis do what he wanted). He just gave us general commands and thought that we should be able to comprehend and act on them in a matter of seconds, but sometimes, we couldn’t. How was I supposed to know what “ram your body into it” meant? I told him that he must be talking about the body slam attack… which I didn’t know anyway, I had to admit. Someday, I’d learn how. Or someday, Sai would learn how to win (or lose) battles like a normal trainer. By the end of the day, I didn’t care which came first.
The hardest part about the traveling trip was the cave that we came across. The cave was old, we could tell. Wild pokémon were even afraid to come out at times since rocks were falling from the ceiling pretty much everywhere. Other trainers didn’t want to take the time to battle. Senori voiced his concern about us getting squished to bits, but Sai didn’t seem fazed. He walked where he wanted and rested where he wanted, with the rest of us being separated while trying to find somewhere safe, somewhere where no other trainer or pokémon was already occupying. I didn’t know how long it took to get through that cave, but it seemed like way too long after being paranoid about rocks and having your life end before you really got anywhere.
Senori was the first and only to be endangered. He had picked an obviously bad spot, and a trainer noticed. The rest of us were resting. We were too far away to look out for him or notice what was going on.
“Watch out!” said an unfamiliar voice out of nowhere, and Senori’s ears perked up. He looked above him and went to move out of the way, but no one would ever know if he would have been too slow or not. The trainer crashed into him and the two went careening away from the rocks, which promptly fell as soon as they were out of the way. I could hear Senori screaming in surprise, not from pain—a good sign.
Sai didn’t react to the situation until after Senori had screamed, until after the trainer pushed him out of the way, and until after the noise of rubble and failure from the rocks subsided. The trainer got up and helped Senori to his wobbly feet. He dusted Senori off and then himself, then stomped angrily over to our trainer.
“You should really watch your pokémon more. Return them to their pokéballs or something. I came in here not long after you, so I’ve seen you this entire time. I feel sorry for your pokémon,” the trainer said.
Sai stood up from his resting spot, and stepped in front of the other trainer so that their faces were inches apart. “I’m sorry that happened, and thanks for saving him. But don’t tell me what to do with my pokémon. I have enough orders without you butting in to my life.”
“A trainer makes his own rules, but should be careful with the rules he makes,” the other trainer said, backing away from Sai, but still looking just as angry.
“You don’t know anything about me. I’m as careful as I can and want to be.”
“Again, I feel sorry for your pokémon. It was none of my business, but if I hadn’t stepped in, your sentret would be dead. Let that sink in,” the trainer said, and then he walked away, stopping only to scratch Senori behind the ears for a few moments of reassurance.
Before Sai let him get away, he yelled, “How long have you been following us, anyway?”
“I’m not following you. But we’ve all been in here for two and a half weeks now, which makes us all even more lucky that no one’s been killed yet,” the other trainer answered, not bothering to turn around.
“Two and a half weeks,” Sai murmured, making his way over to Senori. He bent down to see him face-to-face. “I’m sorry. I wasn’t thinking. Let’s just get out of here.”
Senori could only nod, still confused and shocked and full of dirt.
“Do any of you want to go in your pokéball?” Sai asked loudly, clearly, looking around at the three of us.
“No,” Senori said quickly. “Who will protect you, then?”
“…Fine,” Sai said. “And you two?”
Atis agreed to go in his ball, but I wasn’t about to give up possible training time. I was younger and more alert and stronger; I could handle whatever came my way by myself. I also thought that I could use this incident to tease Senori, but I would have to wait until later.
When we started to make our way through the cave again, Sai took the time to process just how much time had passed. He became increasingly furious with every passing moment. He started sacrificing resting time just to travel more, and all he kept murmuring about was how much time had been wasted here. No more time could be spent here. If we were hungry, we ate and walked at the same time. If we were thirsty, we had to take a drink from the ponds quickly for fear of being left behind, which was a risk we had to take since the availability of water was few and far between. If we were tired, we went in our pokéballs (at which point Senori actually half-heartedly thanked me for catching him and giving him a place to rest). I even saw Sai fight some pokémon himself, even the rock-types, and I made a mental note to myself so that I could see just how strong he was sometime.
It took us three more days to get through the cave, Sai announced later. Somehow, he had been carefully keeping track of time. It was nighttime when we reached the outside of the cave, but Sai didn’t want to stop and rest there. Being near the cave was dangerous, he said, and being in the actual town would make him feel better. That night, we slept in the pokémon center, with the boy making it very clear that he would be taking his pokémon with him into the room. The pink-haired lady behind the counter was confused by his apparent hostility, but she agreed and gave him a room nonetheless for a certain number of pokédollars. The boy didn’t sleep much, but we certainly did. And we took every drink and piece of food offered to us by the people who came by the room and knocked cheerfully.
We had finally reached Azalea Town, where I got to train some more, where Senori realized just how weak he was, where Atis apparently learned how to speak, and where Sai went crazy for the first time.
Re: Survival Project
Hi there! Didn't expect to see you on this forum too. Might as well carbon copy my review. (You're welcome for the bump!)
Review for chapter one:
Your opening is decent, with thoughts entirely appropriate to a sentret, regarding scent and so on. It seems a little fragmented, could perhaps have a clearer train of thought, but in a way that manages to express the confusion and regret I imagine the narrator to have.
For some reason, I really like that you have a human attacking a pokémon. We as readers are so conditioned to assume that all combat with pokémon will take place via standard battles that confronting even a weak one seems bizarre. In any case, the realisation that the human is probably psychopathic, or at the very least an unusual character, is a most potent hook for readers. I love it.
The style flows slightly awkwardly but I imagine it’s a kink that shall be ironed out with practice so I’ll withhold detailed comment until I’ve read a few chapters and have a broader sample of your writing. Can’t fault your grammar though, which is a relief; as I’m sure you’ll agree, grammatical failings are an instant red flag.
The narration could probably use a stronger grounding in the experiencing of the event, if that makes sense. The sentret is analysing things and talking about the inevitability of their defeat and so on but it feels emotionless. Of course, the narration is in hindsight, but I imagine this is a traumatic experience and some clearer reference to that may enhance the passage. Perhaps sentret could shake, or taste blood. While you’re at it, the human probably smells of the wild rather than urban settlements and sentret remarking on that would be good to see. That’s only a suggestion, though.
The creepiness of the human as he grips his wrist is perfect. Fixating on the knuckles is an ideal technique to use, and it works well. I’m still holding to my psychopath theory. His dialogue is also suitably eerie, and although sentret isn’t all that shocked he understands pokémon speech, neither is the reader, so that’s fine.
The characterisation of Senori is interesting; he – if Senori is male – knows a great deal about humans and is aware that he is too often lost in thought. The obvious inference is that he’s insatiably curious about humans, that his clan disapproves, and this is why he’s more or less okay with being captured. I approve of him not immediately accepting it and having concerns other than the human’s journey; it’s an enormous relief from typical journey fics where pokémon are only too happy to drop everything for their new master.
After the human claimed Senori was absolutely the only possible sentret he could have, I made a leap in logic to assume this is a Nuzlocke fic. If I’m right, I shall be enormously pleased for numerous reasons. The use of the die is also intriguing, and another good hook. Even if I weren’t reviewing as part of an exchange, I would still feel compelled to read onwards.
Sai is fascinating and I don’t know what to make of him, Senori is a pleasantly interesting narrator who obviously has a fairly developed personality from the beginning, and there’s enough unknowns without being irritating that this opening chapter has very successfully pulled me in. I can tell I’m going to enjoy reading the rest.
Re: Survival Project
Haha indeed, thank you! I've been on this forum for a while, though I was focusing on Serebii first. Now I shall try to get more attention here. ;p
Originally Posted by unrepentantAuthor
Re: Survival Project
Writing this almost literally made my head spin. :p I felt all the emotions present, and in such a rollercoaster fashion. How about you?
chapter 6 ; [ATIS]
I lost track of days not long after I left Violet City with Sai.
Saying good-bye to Earl had been an easier feat than I had expected—he was happy for me, and seemed all too eager to give me away to a boy who was leaving his school much earlier than the rest of his students. That was his personality, I knew. He was caring and trusting and he always had everyone’s best intentions in mind. I wondered if he would miss me or if he really didn’t want to let me go, but I tried not to dwell on it. I wouldn’t have been able to stand knowing that he would be thinking of me in such a negative way whenever he encountered something that reminded him of me.
Even if he hadn’t wanted me to leave, I would have done so anyway. Leaving meant a better chance of finding joy. And although Sai was rather odd, it was this lack of normalcy that attracted me to him. Maybe, just maybe, I could change him. I could deter him from pokémon training. I could be… something. The path to Azalea Town made me think of this even more, especially when the sentret—or Senori, as I eventually learned—almost got hurt, but was saved by another trainer. Possible danger and discouragement from others could be ideas used against him during my efforts. The situation even made me second guess my decision, though I was prone to such swaying.
Yes, I lost track of the days in order to use time to the best of my ability, rather than to just watch my life pass by slowly, yet in the blink of an eye.
Still, Sai made it difficult to lose track of time. It took a little over three weeks to get out the cave, he said. During those last few days, I was forced to keep up with him because he was walking so fast. If I tried to get lost in my thoughts and ignore the rest of the world like I usually did, I fell behind and panicked. So I tried to keep myself focused. I could hear him mumbling numbers over and over as he swiftly made his way through the rest of the cave while simply assuming that we were close behind. Time seemed important to this boy all of a sudden. Before, he was content to come to the school day after day, and he allowed me an entire week to prepare for my departure. Now, he seemed obsessed with numbers and speed, as if his life depended on it. Kuiora seemed to notice, but didn’t care much—she only tried to get his attention by beating the occasional wild pokémon that dared to fight. And Senori often looked at him with concern, but was too paralyzed to say anything.
When we got to Azalea Town, his suddenly obsessive self scattered and escalated to a pace that no one else could keep up with.
The first night was normal enough. He wanted to sleep in the pokémon center, as expected. No trainer could resist the luxury of pokémon centers, though he didn’t try to hide the glares he gave the nurses who looked at us. Despite his unnecessary anger, they gave us a room with two beds and other standard human things. I watched from the doorway as Sai paced around the room anxiously, and as Kuiora and Senori stared at objects that perhaps only I had seen before—lamps, carpet, indoor plants. They treaded lightly and refused to touch anything, as if it all was sacred and fragile. At one point, a worker from the center knocked on our door and offered us some pokémon food, which they also took as if they were being presented with the greatest gift in the world.
Though curiosity was present, tiredness was overpowering, and the night soon ended. Kuiora and Senori slept together on the bottom bunk since they were closer friends, while I took the top so that no one could see me. Sai didn’t sleep at all—he just kept pacing, back and forth, back and forth, mumbling incomprehensibly. I thought I could feel him watching me, but I was too exhausted to care. Anxiety had a limit when you were constantly exposed to the idea of being crushed by a bunch of rocks, I supposed…
Sai woke us up at sunrise. I thought that I was starting to have a nightmare about earthquakes, but it was just Sai shaking the bed in order to get my attention from the top bunk. I immediately sat up and tried to control my uneven breathing so that I could tell him to stop, but by the time I prepared myself, he had already yelled up to me about going to get breakfast and was out the door.
I climbed down from the bed and saw the other two pokémon staring at me, slightly confused. I almost fell as I tried to steady myself on the floor, and thought to make a break for it like Sai had before they could ask me anything.
“I like his style today,” Kuiora said, not bothering to let the boy get to her. She bounced off of the bed and headed for the door herself, smiling. “I’m going to get some food.”
Senori soon followed her, though he didn’t say anything. I just stood in place for a few moments, wondering whether or not to go with them. Staying and enjoying the peace and quiet was an option, but I knew that if I really wanted to start getting involved with Sai’s life before he decided his fate on his own, I couldn’t just hide forever. I made my way out of the room, finding small amounts of comfort in the soft floor below me.
I followed Senori around the corner, noting how quiet it still was. Everyone else still must have been sleeping. The center surely couldn’t have just been empty—there had been too many trainers around when we arrived last night. It was impossible for me not to notice. While I was wondering why the place was so quiet, I didn’t notice that Senori had stopped moving, and I accidentally bumped into him.
“I-I’m sorry,” I said, looking down to the floor bashfully and running my foot along the carpet, seeking more comfort.
“It’s fine. I’m not sure where Sai went,” Senori said simply.
“Oh. Well… we could try to find a nurse and see if they can tell us where to go…”
“Good idea,” Senori said, nodding. And with that, he took the lead again and kept moving forward. I followed and vowed to pay more attention this time. I considered my endeavor rather successful when I saw a pink-haired nurse first and pointed it out to Senori. He nodded again, went up to the nurse, and tugged at the bottom of her white skirt. She had been talking to another trainer, but immediately took notice of Senori and smiled, asking if the poor pokémon was lost. Again, Senori nodded, and I wished I could have taken the useful role—especially since I would have been allowed to remain silent.
“What are you looking for, dear?” she asked.
“…Food. My trainer went to get food,” Senori said hesitantly, gesturing toward his mouth with his paws.
“Don’t worry, silly. I can understand pokémon,” the nurse said, chuckling slightly. “I spend enough time with them to know what they’re trying to say, no matter what species. Now, the breakfast room is through that door on the other side of the building. Enjoy!” She pointed behind Senori, and then turned away to continue talking to the trainer, a boy who looked vaguely familiar. I didn’t stick around to see him, though, as I followed Senori in the direction that the nurse sent us in. Luckily, the lobby was empty save for a couple people, so I didn’t have to worry about getting lost this time around.
When we got there, however, Sai was gone. Kuiora was obliviously eating nearly everything in sight, especially the berries. She didn’t see us come in, and we had to ask her quite a few times where Sai was before she acknowledged us.
“He came in here and then left this place. Didn’t even eat,” she explained in between bites of food.
“You didn’t follow him to see where he was going?” Senori asked, tilting his head to the side.
“Nope. I was hungry… and he’s the trainer, not me.”
“Huh…” Senori turned to look at me. “He seems, um, rather upbeat today. I’m not really sure if we should go after him and risk ruining it,” he added, smiling awkwardly.
“You can eat,” I offered. I was hungry, but staying meant that I would have to be alone with Senori, since Kuiora clearly wasn’t interested in speaking to us. One-on-one interaction wasn’t exactly my favorite situation to be in, so I just offered to go look for Sai instead. After receiving a skeptical look from the sentret, I quickly said that I’d be careful. He agreed and scrambled over to the table next to the totodile. I was free to leave.
The sky was half bright, half dark when I walked out of the pokémon center. The city itself was half bright, half dark, as the forest towered over the part of the city that we hadn’t come in through. There were some hints of light on the other side where we arrived, and I looked at those areas first, noting how the pavement was uncomfortable beneath my feet. I was used to darkness—I craved it, even—but I couldn’t help hopefully looking toward the lighter side of things. With so little people out this early in the morning and with the illuminated part of the city demanding my attention, finding Sai was an easy task, though deciding whether or not to chase after him was another story.
I had to decide whether or not to chase him because I saw him entering a random house.
It occurred to me that I had no idea where my trainer lived. Wherever it was, it couldn’t have been in Azalea Town… right? Why sleep in the pokémon center, then? He wasn’t the kind that seemed to like much interaction, however. I understood this, but I also understood that there were more efficient ways of going about avoiding those you lived with…
I decided to chase after him. I ran through the small town, trying to focus on the house so that I wouldn’t arrive there only to forget which one he had entered. They all looked the same, just as all trainers were the same. When I got to the house, the door was still propped open, so I reluctantly stepped inside. My heart was beginning to race, and I tried to calm myself down with the idea that this was no different than entering the school. Everyone was allowed there, even if it belonged to Earl. I could only hope that the owner here was as nice as he was.
My heart stopped when Sai tried to walk out just as soon as I entered, and ended up colliding with me unexpectedly. I stumbled backward, falling and landed on my back. I stayed on the ground, making no attempt to stand back up. Surely, things could have been worse, but the idea of being caught unwanted in someone else’s home was enough to send me panicking. And hadn’t I left the other pokémon to avoid this kind of reaction? I couldn’t win.
“Atis!” Sai said excitedly. He reached down and lifted me to put me back on my feet. I looked up at him and there was something odd about his eyes. I knew they were a dark blue, but now they seemed… glazed over. Deadened and desperate, somehow, though his demeanor said otherwise.
“Um, hi,” I started lamely. I couldn’t stop looking at his eyes.
“I’m sorry I skipped breakfast, Atis,” he said quickly. “I wanted to go out and, you know, um, meet people. The door here was unlocked, but I went in the first room and no one was there. And the place was so big and cozy, you know, I couldn’t take it, I’m not used to it, but I’m going to try again, okay?”
“Uh…” He was speaking too fast for me to fully understand. Something about seeing people and not being used to it. I simply nodded—words were useless here.
“Okay, let’s go find the next house then,” Sai said, holding on to my arm and pulling me to the next house over. Why did these things have to almost be right next to each other? I didn’t have much time to process what was going on, but I immediately made a whining noise when Sai went to try opening that door, too.
“What’s wrong, Atis?” Sai asked, though he still went to turn the knob. It was locked.
“I, uh, these houses… They aren’t yours. You can’t just go in them,” I mumbled. His eyes widened in response.
“Why not? Senori always says things like that.”
“They’re private. You have to ask to go in,” I said, a bit more confidently this time.
“Oh. I guess they’re too good and cozy for everyone to have,” Sai said, though his voice was still upbeat, as Senori would have put it.
“Okay, then! Well, we now have a goal for today.”
“Yep. We’re going to get invited to everyone’s houses. We’ll get to everyone in town,” Sai declared, grinning ecstatically.
“Oh…?” I started, but Sai had already started wandering off to find the few people who were already wandering about. I made my way over to him as fast as I could, but I was a bit late. He was talking to a girl who didn’t look quite as confused as I was, but pretty close. Her hands grabbed on to the straps of the bag that rested at her side, and her lips were parted slightly, as if she were going to speak, but was unsure of what to say. There was more sunlight now that dawn had passed—was Sai looking for brightness, too? I couldn’t tell what he wanted. I felt more and more disconnected with this boy with every passing minute, but it seemed to be the opposite for him. He was feeling more, connecting more—at the expense of his dignity, no doubt, but he nonetheless seemed to be making an attempt at being… human.
“So, yeah…” I heard Sai say. “I’d really, really like to come by and see everything and, uh, talk.”
“Um...” the girl said, looking around nervously. And then she spotted me. I was standing behind Sai’s legs, trying to stay hidden yet present so that I could stop him should he do anything too stupid. “Are you a trainer?”
“Yes,” Sai said proudly. “This is Atis, my hitmontop. He’s a little shy, but that’s okay.”
“My brother’s a trainer, too,” she said proudly, thankfully ignoring me from then on. “He just got back to town after getting his first pokémon. He says being around non-trainers is already a bit weird, so maybe he’d like you to come over.”
“That’d be nice. Let’s go, then,” Sai said, taking a step toward her.
“Oh, it’s a bit early right now... Why don’t you come back later? For dinner or something,” the girl said. “Just remember which house I live in, okay? They all look the same.”
Sai’s face fell a little, but he didn’t lose his spirit. He said good-bye to her and told me he was going to go find someone who would talk to him now, and he was off again. What luck he had, after all, getting one step closer to reaching his goal not even five minutes into his adventure! And what terrible encouragement, I thought bitterly.
The next few people he talked to, though, were trainers who didn’t live in Azalea Town. They offered, however, to give away their phone numbers, just in case he ever wanted to talk or if he needed something. When he explained he didn’t have a phone, he was advised to get one, and to hand out his number whenever he was given the chance. It was extremely helpful among trainers, apparently, to have some kind of back-up help if necessary. I wondered where they had learned that. While I didn’t approve of the training thing, I did approve of the tactic…
And while I was lost in my thoughts, Sai had left again. He was off to the pokémart.
At least I knew where the pokémart was. They were always easy to point out because of their blue roofs and a sign that blatantly said what the building was used for. I went inside and spotted Sai talking to the sales clerk, presumably asking for a phone.
We were there for quite a few hours, which was the longest amount of time I had seen Sai sit still for thus far, if you didn’t count the adventure in the cave. There was just so much to choose from, Sai pointed out. Some phones had special features. All of them came in different shapes and sizes, too!
After a while, I no longer bothered to stick around and listen to his ramblings. Following him around everywhere had already been tiring. Instead, I wandered around, seeing what other things that humans were allowed to buy. I ended up in the clothes section, since it was the only part of the store that didn’t scream out to trainers. Yes, people needed clothes for everyday use—and who made these clothes, anyway? Were there really enough people in the world to make enough clothes for everyone, when most people insisted on raising useless pokémon like me? The clothes aisle really wasn’t cutting it, either. Luckily, or unluckily, Sai eventually ran over to me and presented three phones that he had just bought. They all had the same essential feature that he was looking for, though if I remembered right, some of them had games available, along with maps and information about pokémon.
“Don’t you only need… one?” was all I could ask.
“I couldn’t decide which one, so I just bought them all,” Sai said, going to put them in his backpack. He stopped in the middle of this, however, to look at the same clothes that I had just been staring at. “Good idea, Atis. We need some clothes, too.”
And thus began my adventure of watching him pick out clothes. He never looked at more than one article of clothing for more than a few moments, nor did he take the time to put them back. He simply threw them on the ground and kept on looking. He kept a few things, such as a dark green pullover sweater, pants, and some shoes that he’d probably just get annoyed with since he would have to carry them around all the time. He really confused me when he even chose some baby clothes.
“You’re not a baby, Sai,” I pointed out numbly.
“I feel like buying them anyway. I like them,” he said simply. “I don’t know, maybe you or Senori or Kuiora could wear them. You guys are small enough.”
I blanched and wondered why I had to say such things when extremely nervous.
It took a lot of convincing, but I managed to get him back to the pokémon center after his crazy shopping spree. Senori and Kuiora were waiting outside of our room’s door, since we had been gone so long with the key. Sai let us all in the room, and I thought that our day was over—until I remembered that he had to go to that one house for dinner.
I flopped down on the bed, not aiming to get back up. But Senori walked over to me and questioned everything. He was worried, but didn’t know what to do.
“I’m not really sure what happened today, either,” I said lazily, lying there.
“He ran around everywhere, trying to talk to everyone, and he wasn’t angry over nothing. And he bought an awful lot of things. And, uh… I thought you said he was out of pokédollars,” I finished stupidly.
“I did say that.”
“Winning battles, maybe? Maybe he had more than you thought.”
“Maybe…” Senori said. He looked down at the ground, lost in thought.
“Anyway, uh, we’re going to be leaving again soon… for dinner,” I said after a few moments of silence.
“Yep. Apparently, Sai now thinks that the town and everyone in it is his friend.”
Senori’s face brightened. “That’s a good thing! Maybe he won’t be angry anymore.”
I didn’t think that he could change so easily, but I didn’t say anything back. I wasn’t given a chance to, anyway, as Sai came up behind me and tried putting on one of the smaller t-shirts that he had bought earlier.
“Atis, your head is too big. I can’t get this on you,” he said, trying to pull it down harder. I was surprised it hadn’t ripped yet. When I could, I ducked down and pelted forward, so that I was out of the boy’s grasp. He easily took it as a sign that I didn’t want the shirt, and went to Senori instead. Being much smaller (and with a much narrower head), the shirt went on easily. It was a white shirt that had a plain pokéball image on the front of it.
“Do I get a shirt?” Kuiora said, running up to Sai and pulling on his sleeve.
“I bought a lot, so sure…” he said, grabbing another one. This one was black and was designed with random designs like swirls and stars. I had to admit that I preferred that shirt, though it quickly got ripped due to the totodile’s red spikes protruding from her back. It was wearable, but it looked odd. Kuiora didn’t seem to mind; she just liked the attention. She didn’t get much of it, however, as Sai started getting anxious again and didn’t want to stay in the room. He took us back out to the lobby, which was much fuller than it was earlier. It was loud, crowded, and full of pokémon. Apparently, it was exactly what he was looking for.
Until it was time to go to dinner, Sai spent the rest of the time running around the lobby of the pokémon center, talking to everyone and showing off his partly dressed pokémon. Whenever he simply introduced me as his strong hitmontop, I closed my eyes and felt myself redden from embarrassment. There were so many pokémon around—none of which were evolved—and I knew they were all looking at me. All the new pokémon at the school had done the same. Some of the girls thought it was cute, but most people were trainers and were in a hurry to get going in order to get a head start in the forest before dark. They ignored him or brushed him off, and I breathed a huge sigh of relief.
Despite the girl’s previous warning, it was difficult to remember where her house was. I had left it up to him to remember, but apparently, he hadn’t. Thanks to Senori’s generous explanation, Sai was at least able to knock on the door and ask for her, whatever her name was. It took us a while to find her. Sai never seemed keen on using pokéballs, so I took this time to rest as best as I could and to prepare myself for the upcoming situation. I hadn’t been with the boy long, but I had already learned that anything could happen.
I was able to get a better look at her when we found her since it was daytime. Blonde hair, big dark eyes, a narrow face with soft skin and a small mouth. She looked an awful lot like the guy who had saved Senori in the cave, and I hoped my assumptions weren’t correct. Since I had to memorize faces at the pokémon school and there had been quite a few siblings there over the years, I didn’t think I was wrong. I knew, at least, that he wouldn’t be here tonight, but still…
I started paying attention to the situation at hand when she solemnly announced that Sai had been an hour late and had already missed dinner. And she didn’t have any pokémon food, though her brother should have been out shopping for some at that very moment. That only heightened my suspicions, but I didn’t have time to think about it as Sai pushed past her and walked into the house anyway. She looked shocked, but didn’t question him or make any attempt to get rid of him.
Us three pokémon stared at one another, wondering if we should follow. Kuiora decided to take the lead and went in as well—he was our trainer, after all, and we couldn’t get in trouble for being loyal, now could we? I was about to point out my observations about the girl, but decided against it.
“Your house is very pretty,” I heard Sai say as I walked in. It was, indeed, a nice house. I mostly noted how full and complete the place felt—this was the home of people who had been here a long time, and would continue to stay. Everything was clean. There were several pieces of furniture, all of which looked worn but still cared for. The walls were adorned with various paintings, some of them consisting of ordinary items, some of them containing rather inspirational quotes that might have affected me if I wasn’t walking around so uncomfortably. The lights weren’t too bright, which made me feel slightly better, but I had a feeling that the girl was watching us with caution. We were weird and new, but mostly weird.
The other three—especially Sai—were especially interested in all the things that I didn’t care for. Tables, doors, couches, several kitchen supplies—what were they made of? Where did she get them? Why did anyone need a table, anyway? I thought that it would be easy to tell how confused the girl was by her hesitant responses, but she was polite and responded to every question nonetheless. I admired her for it. Finding out that everything that made you comfortable in life was a complete mystery to someone else was surely awkward.
“I don’t mean to be rude… but do you have your own place? Where are you from?”
Sai stopped. He didn’t blink, didn’t move. For a moment, he was passive once again. “Vermilion City. And sure I did,” he said finally, “but it was different.”
“Oh? How so? I don’t know much about the Kanto region,” she explained. She sat down at the table and motioned for Sai to join her, but he didn’t. I wondered if he missed the gesture entirely or was too fascinated by the table to the point where he was afraid of breaking it.
“I’ve never been in a kitchen. People brought food to me,” he said, smiling again.
“Not much of a cook, huh?” she said, smiling back. I noted that she didn’t take Sai so seriously, though I believed actions spoke much louder than words.
“Yeah… I mean, I had walls. And, uh, a bed…”
“I see…” she said, looking at him oddly again. “You sound like my brother. He’s not one for conversation, though he knows how to use words pretty effectively when the situation calls for it. Are you the same?”
The conversation went on like this, with her trying to probe for answers, and with him not being specific at all. He had things. Yes, generic things that anyone could have. He really lived in a city… in some region. He had people who lived with him. Who? Just people. You know. No, I don’t know. Had he always been around pokémon? Maybe. He didn’t like to remember. …I hope you don’t mind my pokémon looking around. They’re curious. And they’re wearing shirts.
Eventually, she gave up, but Sai didn’t get the hint that it was time to leave. It was like playing twenty questions, and Sai had just proved that there could actually be a loser to the game without even knowing it.
I tuned them out until Sai said it was time to go. I was thinking that, in a sense, this was like being with Earl in Violet City. Conversations were vague and inconclusive. No one was particular close with anyone, though they sure tried to be. The main difference was that Earl was never so excited to be in such a place, while Sai was ecstatic.
I thought that maybe something good could come from this hectic day. Sai seemed happiest in a comforting place like this. He sure was happier than any other time I’d seen him so far, anyway. Maybe he could stay in Azalea Town. He didn’t have to travel or train; he could make new goals. Yes, this morning he had had a rather odd… goal. But it had nothing to do with pokémon, and I could work with that. He didn’t even complete his goal, either, but I could work with that, too. I wasn’t accustomed to being a battling pokémon, and neither was Senori. Kuiora may have been another story, but she was young; she could adapt without problem. We could stay, and Sai could become something that wasn’t a trainer, something that wouldn’t make him miserable.
When Sai said it was time to go, the girl ushered us out the door. I was hardly paying attention to anything being said anymore, but I did hear him address her as Sasha. I mentally said good-bye to her, and hoped that we wouldn’t be getting any trouble over visiting if her brother really was the boy who didn’t like Sai.
I also noted that she didn’t invite us to stay for the night. Wasn’t that a normal thing to offer your guests? It was probably for the best if my assumptions about her knowing the hero from the cave. I wasn’t human, so I couldn’t tell the depth of her wariness toward Sai. I just knew that I probably felt more human than he did that day, and that needed to change.
My plan seemed ruined when Sai bought four rooms in the pokémon center that night—one for each of us. The nurse looked at him oddly at first, but then smiled and said it was a considerate thing to do. Pokémon need their alone time, too, after all. My worries ceased when she explained that she would have all of our rooms next to each other, just in case.
After getting room keys, we went around the corner to where all the rooms were located. It was quiet, again, just as it had been during the morning. Sai let the other two pokémon into their rooms, and told them to be good, to not cause trouble. When he went to open my door, though, I stopped him and asked if I could talk to him for a minute.
“Why?” Sai asked, tilting his head to the side slightly.
“I, you know, wanted to talk about today,” I said, trying to sound confident. I was rushing into unknown territory here, I knew. But it seemed like as good a time as any, if Senori and Kuiora’s strange descriptions of Sai were anything to go off of.
“Oh…?” he said as he entered his own room. His backpack and other belongings were still there. I had forgotten that he already had a room. He also already had rented it for two nights, maybe more. Why buy separate rooms now, then? I wondered. My confidence lessened; the lack of concrete answers made me nervous.
“Yeah. I was, um, curious as to how long we’re going to be traveling for?” I asked.
“Not long… but long enough to be able to get all the badges in Johto!” Sai said quickly. He handed me my key—was he expecting all of us to know what to do with a key? I could do it, sure, but maybe not the others…
…Not only was I trying to deter Sai, I was trying to deter myself from the situation at hand. Focus.
“And how many do you have now? Just the one?” I asked.
“Yep,” he replied. I had been hoping for a different answer, but okay. I could deal with that.
“Well, I thought that we could… Well, you seemed happier in Azalea Town today.” I stepped a little further inside the room as I noticed that I was still by the doorway. I had to appear friendly, not scared.
“I guess… Visiting the girl was fun, but she also pointed out my enthusiasm,” Sai said, bending down to take off his shoes. Halfway through untying them, he stood up.
“That’s a bad thing?” I asked, watching him. He started rearranging things in the room—he opened the windows, put the plants in different corners, ruffled and then fixed the bed sheets. It took a long time for him to answer.
“Most of the time...” he finally said, slowly. Once again, he seemed passive, and I wasn’t sure why.
“I think it’s a good thing,” I pointed out, trying to cheer him up.
But it backfired.
“And what do you know?” he snapped, turning sharply to look at me. His eyes were still glazed over, I noticed. It was hard not to notice. I stumbled backward a bit despite myself, as if he had physically hit me.
“Being happy is a g-good thing, Sai… Y-You seemed happy here, you know? Talking to everyone and everything,” I said. I didn’t believe my own words. “M-Maybe we could stay here for a while. It doesn’t have to be permanent, but it could be longer than a few days…”
He simply kept walking around, slower this time, still cleaning things, still attempting to fix things that weren’t broken in the first place. I just stared and wondered if I had said too much and stayed too long.
Eventually, he mumbled, “Get out.”
“Huh?” I wanted to make sure I had heard him right. If I couldn’t succeed now, who knew when I’d try again…?
“I told you to get out,” Sai said, louder and more stern this time. He made his way over the table in the corner of the room.
“I got you guys your own rooms for a reason—”
—he moved the lamp on the table from one side to another—
“—so get out—”
—and it apparently wasn’t good enough, it wasn’t perfect, so he tried again—
“—go to your own room—”
—but it was no good, so he ripped the cord out of the wall—
“—just get out!”
—because it’s always the little things that get to us.
He finally stopped screaming and fumbling with the lamp.
Instead, he growled and threw the lamp at me.
I ducked and let the lamp crash into the closed door behind me. I could hear it shatter. A million pieces all around me. The result of a troubled teenage boy that no one could bother to understand.
I had no choice but to do what he wanted and retreat to my own room. I said nothing more. Opened the door, went into the hallway. Closed the door… and simply sat down. I was holding on to my key so tightly that it dug into my skin and made me bleed a little.
I thought it was over, but the chaos didn’t end there. I could hear him screaming again, unintelligibly this time. Things were still being moved around rather violently, I could tell—I just didn’t know what or how, and I didn’t want to find out.
Suddenly, I jumped a little as I heard someone else yelling. I calmed down a bit as I realized it was Senori. The poor pokémon was too short and probably couldn’t open the door. I stood up slowly and wobbled over to his room’s door, telling him that Sai was just angry… as usual.
“Is he okay?” he asked after we heard yet another crash.
“Yes… No one’s hurting him. He’s just… mad,” I explained as calmly as I could. It wasn’t hard, since I was too paralyzed to care much, like Senori had been earlier. Luckily, the sentret seemed to understand, and left it at that.
Kuiora, however, was another story. Her door opened and she looked at me with a mixture of annoyance and confusion. She had taken the time to drag a chair to the door so that she could open the door. Now, she was looking down at me.
“He’s just angry. We shouldn’t, uh, interfere…” I said before she could question anything, noting the obvious hypocrisy in my words.
“I thought you two were fighting,” she pointed out.
“We kind of were…” I said sheepishly.
“Physical fighting? Pokémon battle fighting?”
“Well, no, but—”
“I’m going to become stronger than you someday, you know.”
“Eh?” I asked. Just what I needed—more cryptic answers… I half-heartedly listened as I checked over the rest of my body to make sure I wasn’t hurt.
“Yeah. You got to fight the first gym battle all by yourself and you apparently got some attention tonight. But I’m going to get stronger than you. It’ll be a competition of sorts,” she said.
Well, I wasn’t hurt physically, but mentally… “I-I don’t want competition—” I started, but she cut me off with a water gun to the face. I didn’t finish my sentence, and was now spitting water out of my mouth instead of words. It was an accurate comparison, but annoying nonetheless.
“You can’t expect to be the strongest and not have competition!” Kuiora cried.
At least it wasn’t a lamp, I thought bitterly. At least I wasn’t hearing screaming or crashing anymore. But now I was wet and cold and utterly defeated. I was done.
“I don’t need this…” I said. I stood up, coughed up the last of the water that had been shot into my mouth, and I finally let myself into my own room. “I’m going to bed. You can have him.”
I shut the door.
I heard nothing else for the rest of the night.
I slept through most of the night, though I woke up shivering and cold a few times, thanks to Kuiora. For some reason, she had a grudge against me, and was going to do anything in her power to win. Cooperation for anyone’s sake was not an option for her.
And Sai… I didn’t know about Sai. All I had done was ask a couple questions, and then violence ensued. Yes, he had given us warning beforehand, but still… He seemed happy, and then it all changed in a few mere moments.
When I awoke, I tried to think about Violet City. I thought about Shannon. How was she doing? Her intentions were always pure. Was it getting her into any trouble? What about Jason? Battles could be so exhausting, I knew. I had been gone for what seemed like forever, now. I didn’t know what day of the week it was. Who was struggling today?
Eventually, I’d have to learn that everyone was always struggling. And I’d have to accept this fact.
I taught myself about some peace of mind and slept through the day.
I was woken up at some point by a loud knocking on the door. Judging by the faint light coming in through the windows, I assumed it was dawn or dusk. It was perfectly good timing or perfectly bad timing.
I got up lazily, rubbing my eyes with my hands, careful not to scratch myself with my spikes. Though I had to stretch a bit to reach, I was able to open the door.
It was Sai.
“Sai,” I breathed tiredly, slowly. He looked tired, too, with the dark circles under his eyes and his sagging limbs. And he still had those glassy, dead eyes…
“Could I stay in your room tonight?” he asked quickly. Well, he sure didn’t waste any time getting to the point, but it wasn’t at all what I was expecting. And what was I expecting, anyway? An apology? …A hug? It wasn’t likely.
“Um…” was all I could say. He looked tired, but apparently, he was still moving quickly, thinking quickly.
“Look, I’m sorry that happened. I-I mean… That’s not right. You have to understand. I get these moods sometimes. Everything speeds up for me, I think so much, and I want to do a million things at once and I want to talk to a million people so I forget things, things don’t get done, and there’s never enough time in the world though it goes by so slowly, and yeah, I seem happy, this is the first time I’ve ever been able to do things I wanted when like this, and it was fun but it turned wrong, I can always turn angry so fast and… and… I’m not usually violent, but that was a touchy subject. I don’t know… Being happy is depressing for me, it’s stressful, everything’s too fast. I can’t think straight right now. I can’t… Do you understand what I’m saying?”
I just stared. He was trying his best to relay his complicated feelings to me, but no, I didn’t understand. Since when was being happy a bad thing? Did all humans have emotions like this? I thought dumbly. I certainly didn’t think so, but what other explanation was there?
“I’m sorry, I am. I, uh, destroyed my room, as you might have guessed…” he said, and then he finally closed his mouth, though it appeared forced.
When I realized he wasn’t going to say anymore, I told him he could stay. And it was okay. Things happened, after all. I was really only saying that to avoid more problems, though.
“If you say so,” Sai said, though he looked happier again, smiling and making his way into the room, just as he had entered Sasha’s place without gaining full permission.
It hit me, then, that it must be nearing nighttime. How could I keep him entertained until he went to sleep? Would he sleep at all? I decided to stay silent.
Eventually, though, he was pacing back and forth, just like he had that first night. And he felt compelled to speak first. He said, “I bought you all separate rooms so you wouldn’t have to see me like that. It happened anyway. I don’t know what happened, I’m sorry.”
“It’s fine,” I said, climbing into the top bunk. If I couldn’t sleep, I would pretend to.
“I thought you’d be mad at me and all. Understandable, you know. I didn’t want to go to Kuiora or Senori, though, or they’d question things. They didn’t see anything, I’d like to keep it that way…”
“…It’s fine,” I said yet again, not bothering to mention their encounters with me.
“Yeah, and you didn’t come out of your room earlier when I knocked and all,” Sai said. He was pacing still, but I supposed it was better than rearranging things all over again.
“I-I was tired.”
“Oh. Well, you didn’t miss too much. Some poison pokémon threatened to kill me after I tried to pick it up and talk to it. Senori had to try to talk some sense into it or something. I don’t remember much else…”
“Sounds like it was another interesting day,” I noted. Somehow, I was still surprised.
But he wasn’t. He just said, “Something like that,” and then we were quiet.