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    Default Re: Jim: The Hero's Journey

    CHAPTER 44
    Unmasked


    "…Jim?…"

    It was all Leanne could do to keep herself from crying, looking at Jim's pitiable self. Bianca was staring ahead, where Cheren had been, as if in shock. It was hardly to be blamed: her childhood friends, her 'brothers', had split up; their friendship was over…it was as if her entire world had crumbled beneath her feet. Worst of all, there was the thought that she was powerless to do anything about it. Jim had overheard everything, and it was all out in the open. Nothing else could be done.

    The turmoil she was experiencing, however, was minimal compared to the anguish Jim was going through. All this time, his mind had thrown possibilities back and forth: either Cheren had realized he was wrong and had rescinded his initially bitter thoughts, or nothing had changed and their friendship had become non-existent. He had hoped that the former would hold true, that there was some possibility of easing Cheren's misgivings, showing him that they were all unfounded and misinterpreted…but that idea was now gone forever. Cheren had openly, to his face, expressed his disgust with him and his ascension to notoriety, ignoring the insistence that he had never wanted it. Jim hated himself right now; he wished that he had never been saved by Reshiram, that the Tranquil could have just ended him like they purposed, or moreover, that he had been consumed by the dragon's flames. Any of that was better than having to live with the truth, the reality, the pain beyond mere speculation or uncertainty. But this was the truth. This was the reality. The pain was real. His best friend was gone, all because of something beyond his own control…

    Though he didn't look up, he felt the others crowding around to comfort him. He felt Echo's leathery wings, the soft paws of Torch and Torrent, the warm fur of Missy, and even Croco's comforting claw on his shoulder. He then felt a tug at his sleeve, and he opened his eyes, already burning with tears. Through the mist, he saw June, and was surprised to see that there were tears in her own eyes, and she was fighting hard to hold them back.

    "Jim…" she croaked, her voice hoarse. "I'm so sorry…I shouldn't have…"

    She shut her eyes tight, the tears brimming more profusely. But Jim held out one hand and nudged her closer, so that she could hug against his chest.

    "Jim…" Leanne tried again, but she still was unable to say anything more.

    It felt even worse to consider that, only minutes ago, they had been so happy, so jubilant at having defeated Elesa. It was if all of that happiness had been used to fill a party balloon, and a careless boy had popped it, releasing that happiness from its container and scattering it, until none remained where it had once been…

    "'Tears are the silent language of grief': Voltaire."

    Startled, Jim looked up. He knew that voice, and was now sure that things couldn't possibly get any worse…

    It was N.

    "Great…what do you want, N? Come to laugh at the fallen bane of Team Plasma?"

    Jim sat up, his Pokemon crowding around him for better comfort, and also gazing distrustfully at N.

    "No, Jim, I'm not here to laugh at you…"

    There was a look of pity on his face.

    "I saw the way that boy treated you. He was your friend, was he not?"

    A stab of pain hit Jim's chest at those words.

    "He was your friend…"

    "…Yes."

    "And he is unhappy because he thinks you're getting everything easily, while he has it rough?"

    "Stop reminding me…"

    "You are a victim of circumstance, Jim. Fate has chosen a path for you, but not everyone is willing to accept it. It is beyond your control, and I agree that it may not seem admirable, if you wish to stay humble, but with these grievances also come blessings…"

    Jim brushed his eyes with his sleeve.

    "What do you mean, 'blessings'?"

    "Think about it. He says you were lucky in taming a Pokemon no one else could…your Snivy."

    Jim blinked. That was true; it was funny to think about now, but he'd nearly forgotten how stubborn and unyielding June had been towards him when they had started.

    "What I see," N continued, "is an incomparable bond between the two of you, a test that has been passed by the laws of nature…"

    Jim looked down at June. She had stopped crying, though her eyes were still wet, and she gave him a warm, loving smile. He returned it and stroked her smooth, scaly back.

    "Your win during the tournament, of course, was all your own skill, perseverance, and choosing of the correct friends."

    Jim nodded slowly, seeing what he meant: Solomon, Cruise, and The Guy. All three of them had given him great support during the tournament, even when they had dropped out…

    "Of course, I needn't say more about your reputation among Team Plasma," N went on. "but I'll discuss that later. What intrigued me, however, was the second thing he had said: that you are rumored to be the next Hero…"

    His expression had become intent watchfulness, his gaze piercing as he surveyed Jim's face, as if searching for some quality that would mark him as the Hero.

    "That's not proven," Jim said, bitterly. "It's all because I was apparently rescued by Reshiram."

    N gave a barely perceptible start, and his face darkened with deep thought. Jim would have given anything to know what was going on inside his mind.

    "I see. That is not something to speculate on lightly," he said, before pausing briefly. "Jim, I hope you'll forgive me. I went off on a different track, so to speak. What I'm really trying to say is, pain, like maturity, is to be expected on these sorts of journeys. Yes, it hurts, but it is in the past now. You can either live in it, or learn from it. Which would you rather choose?"

    "Well, learn from it, obviously, but what can I learn? That my best friend is jealous and shallow?"

    N chuckled and shook his head.

    "Jim, Jim, Jim…I always thought you were so enlightened. Why are you seeing this as mere black and white?"

    "I don't need you patronizing me. Can't you see I've suffered enough?…"

    "Yes, you've suffered much, and it may be because of me…"

    Jim looked up at him, startled by the regret in his voice.

    "What do you mean?"

    "Come. I wish to have this conversation somewhere private. The Ferris Wheel at the Amusement Park, perhaps?"

    Jim just stared at him, perplexed. What on Earth was he talking about? What could be so important that he'd need to speak to him on the Ferris Wheel?

    June, it seemed, had other misgivings. She sprang up onto Jim's hat and stared straight into N's eyes.

    "And just how do we know you won't try anything funny when the two of you are alone?" she asked, her voice steely.

    N merely smiled softly.

    "Of course, sister Snivy. Given our past, you have every right to bear suspicion. However, I speak in complete earnest: I have no intention to harm Jim."

    (Of course…He can communicate with Pokemon like I can…but what's this 'sister Snivy' stuff?…)

    "June, it's all right. I'll talk with him."

    The others began to clamor in protest, but Jim got to his feet.

    "Now, calm down. I'm not abandoning any of you; you'll be right by my side."

    He said this last part while looking straight at N. The grief and sadness had vanished from his face, to be replaced with firm determination.

    "Do you hear me, N? At the slightest hint that you were merely setting me up for a trap, I'll sic each and every one of my Pokemon on you."

    "…Agreed," said N, calmly. "You have two passes to the Amusement Park?"

    "Yes. I won them at the tournament."

    "Splendid. As it so happens, I have two as well, but no one to accompany me. Perhaps your lady friends…?"

    He glanced at Leanne and Bianca, who had been watching with silent apprehension the whole time, and who now jumped at being addressed.

    "Us?"

    "Yes. You may go and have fun while Jim and I discuss."

    "I don't know…"

    "Come on, Leanne," said Bianca, in a tone that was a bit firmer than he had ever heard her use before, "Jim can take care of himself, can't you, Jim?"

    "…Right. Thanks, Bianca."

    She gave him an encouraging smile and squeeze on the shoulder with her hand. At least she was recovering…

    "Good. Follow me, then."

    As N turned and started off, Jim recalled all of his Pokemon save for June, and the three humans and their Pokemon set off after the mysterious trainer…

    ***


    The Nimbasa Amusement Park was an absolute festival of gaudy, brilliant lights and attractions, open late into the night on most days. There were roller coasters, carnival games, a merry-go-round, and of course, the star attraction, the Nimbasa Ferris Wheel. Massive and festooned with flickering lights, the Ferris wheel was an especial attraction because it allowed one to see all across Nimbasa City, and even the further reaches of Unova. It was especially beautiful at sunset or nightfall, when the sky was lit with the last rays of the sun, or the bright lights of the city.

    At the gate, Jim bid the girls to have fun, and gave them his assurance that he'd be all right. With them off to enjoy themselves, he rejoined N, who had started ahead to the Ferris wheel. Luckily, the line was short, and they were able to get a car to themselves. With a click and shudder, the great wheel began to slowly rotate itself back and upwards. Jim sat with June on his lap, the Snivy still glaring with distrust at N, who sat perfectly at his ease across from them.

    "So?" Jim inquired. "What's on your mind?"

    "…I'm a terrible person, Jim."

    "Huh?"

    "But, how can it be terrible? My intentions have always been pure. How has it come to this?…"

    He seemed to be berating himself over something.

    "N, you're not making any sense…"

    "Jim…"

    He gripped him by the shoulders and stared him straight in the eyes. There was a kind of manic remorse in his own.

    "I know the pain you're going through. I've known it all my life…When I was a boy, I lived among Pokemon…Pokemon injured by pain, sorrow, and hatred…Pokemon marred by abuse and maltreatment…Pokemon abandoned by the ones they thought they could depend on. I vowed that when I was old enough, I would make the world safer for those kinds of Pokemon. I would end their sufferings, heal their wounds, alleviate their pains, but…"

    Jim was beginning to become nervous. He had never seen N so agitated. He was also startled to see a faint glimmer at the corner of his eyes. Was it…tears?

    "N, I don't understand."

    "Of course you don't. Mo one could ever understand. I never asked for this/ I thought I'd be doing the world a kindness!"

    His voice became louder, more animated as his agitation grew.

    "I only wanted to see peace and harmony between Pokemon and humans once and for all! But this! Theft! Kidnappings! Attempted murder! These aren't what I envisioned when I took up the mantle! This is not the world I strove for! It's my fault, Jim! It's all my fault!"

    "N! N! Calm down!" said Jim, thoroughly unsettled. "What are you talking about? You make it sound like…"

    And then it hit him.

    Like a lead brick impacting with the side of his skull.

    It was impossible…

    But…

    "…No…N…you can't mean…you're not…"

    N's agitation had subsided, giving way to an ironic, regretful smile.

    "Put the pieces together, have you?…Yes…I am the leader of Team Plasma…"


    END OF BOOK 1


    ***


    Phew...and with that, the revised and reformatted version of The Hero's Journey, fresh from deviantART, is complete. The other two books have been completed as well, and I shall post them in due time. Thanks for reading! Hope you enjoyed, and continue to enjoy!
    Last edited by TPrower; 21st September 2013 at 10:59 PM.

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