Attempted Capture: Cottonee
Needed Characters: 10000
Actual Characters: 10872
This is a story deal for Ketamine.
I only ask to be free. The butterflies are free. ~Charles Dickens
The sun disappeared for a moment and I looked up to see a Beautifly. For a moment, the sunlight shone through its wings, making them look like stained glass. That second stretched out and the butterfly Pokemon seemed to hang in space, before finally flapping its wings and soaring away.
“One day I want to be like that.” I turned to my friend, only eight years old, but her eyes full of ambition belonging to someone much older. I was puzzled by what she said, but I was used to that. Cynthia never made much sense to me. She was too far gone in her own world.
I stroked the wings of the ceramic Beautifly, all the colors of the rainbow in my palm. But it’s just some cheap glass, I reminded myself. Sand that had been heated, cooled, and refined until it was liquid and translucent, then covered in lead filled paint; all this work probably done by some kid in a third world country. I squeezed my hand shut so I wouldn’t have to look at it. And she’s inside there, inside this…thing. I closed my eyes and tried to stop the tears from coming.
“Show me how you do that,” I said, frustrated. My poor Pokemon, not much more than a white ball of fluff with a few leaves attached, was lying unconscious at my feet. I looked across the field to see Cynthia, the wind blowing her long, blonde hair back behind her like she was the star of an action hero movie. By her side stood a blue and black dog Pokemon, its fists up, ready to fight.
“Alright, I’ll show you one more time.” She sighed. “You don’t have any Pokemon left though. Let me just show you here.” She motioned for me to come over and I did automatically. It was just easier to do what she said. “Look right there,” she said, pointing at the little dog Pokemon’s paw. I noticed the claws in its paw were still oozing something purple and mucus-like. “That’s poison. There are seventeen Pokemon types and different types have strengths and weaknesses. Your Cottonee is weak to poison, so I used Poison Jab. Do you understand?”
I nodded. “What is your Pokemon weak to?”
“Riolu? Well, he’s fighting type, so he’s weak to flying and psychic moves.”
“Which moves do I use then?” I cocked my head to the side, waiting for her reply, so I could take the advice and store it away in my head, like a cautious animal storing food for the winter.
“Well….Cottonee doesn’t have any psychic or flying moves, ‘cept for Dream Eater, and that only works if Riolu is asleep.”
I slumped over, disappointed. “How do I beat you then?”
“You just have to be tricky. Either that or catch another Pokemon.”
“I will. I’ll do both,” I promised solemnly.
Cynthia smiled and tousled my hair, as if I were a little kid. Either way, the recognition felt good.
“Sinnoh flight 197, preparing for takeoff. Please fasten your seat belts and make sure your seats are in the upright and locked position.”
I looked out the window at the runway as the plane lurched forward and began to roll along slowly. It started to move faster and faster, and then, a sudden jerk and we were off the ground. A flash of color outside my window made me jump, and then I realized it was just a curious Chatot. For a moment I had thought it was a Beautifly, one of her Beautifly, but they were rare here. In my hands, I still held the Beautifly that contained my sister, or what was once my sister. Now it was just a pile of ashes and a few pieces of bone. I leaned my head back against the seat and tried to sleep. The flight from Sunnyshore to Fortree would be somewhere in the neighborhood of seven hours. I drifted off to sleep, only to be shaken awake what felt like only a few minutes later.
“Miss,” said an anxious voice, “Miss?” I opened my eyes and looked at the stewardess.
“Can I help you?” I tried to sound polite.
“I was just wondering if you’d like to let your Pokemon out now that we’ve reached a cruising altitude.” I looked around and noticed that many of the people on the flight had a small Pokemon sitting on their laps.
“Sure. And thank you,” I added. I would have rather slept, but it might be comforting to have Cloud next to me.” I fished his Pokeball out of my pocket and clicked the button in the middle. There was a small flash of red light, and then my Cottonee was on my lap, staring up at me with nervous, orange eyes. “It’s gonna be all right, Cloud.” I dug a hand into his fluff and started to pet him. It was like touching a soft wool blanket. The Cottonee cooed and nudged the ceramic Beautifly I held in my other hand. “Don’t touch that, baby,” I whispered, and he seemed to listen. He yawned once, then closed his eyes and seemed to fall asleep. As I continued to pet the tiny ball of cotton, I realized something that made my heart ache in my chest. I had let her down. I had never caught another Pokemon and had never even bothered to evolve Cloud. Hell, I wasn’t even a coordinator, let alone a trainer. I leaned my head against the window and tried to fall asleep again. Sleep was the only way I knew to get rid of the pain. When I woke up again about an hour later, my cheeks were streaked with tears. The pain had found me anyways.
“Cynthia!” I called in greeting as I ran up to her. She was thinner than I remembered, and her skin was an almost gray color. I slowed down. “You don’t look so good.”
She smiled weakly. “I’m fine. Just tired. How are you?”
“I’m good.” I frowned. “You really don’t look too good. Go to the doctor soon, okay?”
“I promise,” she said and placed a hand over her heart. “Cross my heart and hope to die.”
I rolled my eyes. “So what was it you wanted to show me?”
She grinned, almost like we were little kids again. “Come on, it’s inside.”
I followed her into the intimidating castle that housed Sinnoh’s Elite Four. The roar of the waterfall in the background disappeared as I slipped into the cool, air conditioned lobby. Cynthia waved to the few trainers in the lobby, who waved back at her awestruck, and then punched in a code in the wall. A hidden door slid open and she pulled me inside.
Her room was a glorious collection of improbable things. A huge fish tank took up an entire wall and swimming inside were Huntail, Lumineon, and even stranger Pokemon I didn’t know the names of. The other walls were covered in pictures of hundreds of different species of Pokemon and a few of humans. One of those humans was me. I looked closer and saw that the picture was one taken when I was about 12 and she was 14. We looked almost like twins.
“Over here,” her voice called and I turned to her. She was sitting on her bed (which was actually just a mattress with some blankets on it in the corner; I didn’t bother asking) with a picture album in her hands. There was a design made up of Wurmple, Caterpie, and Sewaddle on the cover. I plopped down next to her on the mattress and she opened the album. I gasped. The first page was filled with pictures of a rain forest, which would have been beautiful on its own, but what made it magnificent were the Beautifly nesting in the branches of every tree. The whole forest seemed to be covered in them. She had page after page of pictures of the forest.
“What is this?” I asked her, amazed.
“It’s a forest right outside of Fortree. It’s not well known to people outside of the region, but it’s where the Beautifly go every winter. They nest there. They’re not really used competitively, so people mostly leave it alone.”
“Wow,” I whispered.
She turned to me. “Someday,” she said conspiratorially, “I want to go there.”
“Maybe we can go together.”
She smiled. “That’s the plan, little sister.”
“Ladies and gentlemen, we are now coming in for a landing at Fortree Interregional Airport. Please return your Pokemon to their Pokeballs and collect your belongings.”
I opened my eyes again and stretched, before returning Cloud to his Pokeball. Anything to get this over with. It would be another two hour bus ride to the forest. I slipped the Beautifly into my jacket pocket and placed my hand over it. I would take her to her Beautifly, even if it meant riding a bus through the middle of nowhere for two hours. Cross my heart and hope to die.
It was raining at the funeral. Still, hundreds of people had come and thousands more were mourning. I sat in the front row of the church, my head bowed and my lips sealed, trying to do anything not to cry. One of the Elite Four was giving a eulogy.
“Cynthia was the greatest battler that has ever set foot in this region. Better than me, better than everyone in here.” There were murmurs of approval from the crowd. “And she was also, one of the best people in the region. She cared for injured Pokemon, donated sixty percent of her winnings to Pokemon research, and tutored many younger trainers. I can’t speak for anyone but myself, but,” here he choked back a sob, “I’m going to miss her. She was one of my best friends, and I don’t know what I’ll do without her.”
The trainer stumbled off of the stage and into his seat. Now it as my turn. I stood up and felt my legs wobbling beneath me. I had to do this. I climbed up onto the stage and held the microphone to my lips.
“My sister….” I paused for a moment, unable to continue. “My sister once told me when we were young that she wanted to be like a Beautifly. I think her wish came true. She was a beautiful, kind, and powerful person. She was up above all of us, but that didn’t stop her from coming down to our level to help us when we needed it. And she’s gone now. But I think wherever she is, there are Beautifly there. And she’s happy.” The tears started to roll down my cheeks.
The forest was more beautiful than I had ever imagined. It was pouring down rain, even though the sun was out, and it made everything seem to shimmer in the soft sunlight. The Beautifly flitted back and forth, occasionally stopping to sip water from a leaf or nectar from a flower. The world around me was a living rainbow and I had to close my eyes tightly then reopen them before I could believe the scene in front of me is real.
“Wow,” I whispered, just as I had years before. Slowly, I took the ceramic Beautifly from my pocket. I unscrewed the cap hidden in-between the wings and stopped for a moment. “Cynthia….” I murmured. Then I tossed the ashes into the air. Suddenly, a gust of wind kicked up and scattered the ashes in every direction. For a moment, I saw the last of the ashes spiraling in the air around a Beautifly as it flew by, like tiny planets around a living sun, and then they were gone. I pulled Cloud’s Pokeball from my pocket. “You and I,” I said to my Pokemon, even though I wasn’t sure he could hear me, “Are going to become better. For her.”
I sighed and realized how tired I was. I had been up since four in the morning. Without thinking, I curled up beneath one of the trees and was surprised at how dry it was. Sheltered from the rain, I closed my eyes and allowed myself to fall asleep, watched over by the ghost of my sister and her Beautifly.