View Full Version : Obsession (ongoing, PG-13 overall)

Blackjack Gabbiani
30th June 2006, 12:56 AM
I bring you the first part of my epic Jirarudan backstory Obsession! Why does our favorite Collector do what he does? Read on to find out! And yes, the chapters are awfully short, I know.

Don't know who Jirarudan is? He's also known by Gelarden or Lawrence III, and is the antigonist of the second movie.

Anyway, onto the first chapter!


obsession: a persistent disturbing preoccupation with an often unreasonable idea or feeling...

Why do I do it? What is it about Collecting that keeps me in its clutches? Is it as simple as greed?

I doubt that. If it was pure greed, I would not feel like this. No, it is an addiction.

Every time I think about it, I lose a little bit of my humanity. Someday I shall be completely at its mercy, unable to connect with any aspect of the man I once was.

Perhaps you think me harmless, despite my disconnection. I ask you, would a harmless man have done what I did? I do not know which of us is the bigger fool, you, for thinking such things, or me, for allowing myself to become this.

Perhaps I should begin from the beginning. My earliest memory is a simple enough one. I was looking through my mother's heirloom chest with her, and came across a small envelope. With her permission, I opened it.

The contents of that envelope changed my life forever.

Inside was the most beautiful thing I had ever seen. Even in the dim light of the attic, it shone with its full magnificence and splendor.

Entranced, I turned my eyes towards my mother, who smiled. "That's the Ancient Mew card, dear. You can have it if you want. But be careful with it, it's very valuable."

If it was important enough to merit a warning, I knew it had to be very special. From that moment on, it was, and still remains, my most treasured possession.

My mother was a wonderful woman. She was tall, with a shock of emerald hair, and eyes that reflected the universe. She was a healer, studying the restorative powers of herbs and plants, and the entire world respected her.

Except my hometown. We lived far from any respectable place, on a the distant shore, where such mysterious practices were considered to be the domain of lesser people. Her potions and elixirs were effective, to be sure, but the townspeople always regarded us with scorn. During the day, they would turn their backs on us and curse us when we left, but at night, they would sneak out and purchase her wares. Hypocrites. I learned very young to be distrusting.

Mother was the opposite. She told me that everyone has good within them, but I did not believe her. Oh, mother, how you would recant if you saw me now! But I digress...

When I was but eight years of age, Mother took ill. She sent for my father, who lived apart from us, and warned me that she may leave me soon. One day, she called me to her bedside, and removed the red ring from her finger. "Jirarudan," she addressed me, "this ring has been in my family for many years, and I want you to have it." She put it gently in my outstretched palm, and smiled weakly. "Jiri, when you feel alone, clutch the ring, and I'll be there."

My eyes widened in shock. She was dying, and this was her way of telling me. It was no longer a possibility, but a cold fact.

"Jiri, dear," she continued, "I want you to know something, and carry it with you forever." Her voice was getting fainter, and her eyes drooped shut. I lay down next to her and hugged her. "You've always been my shining star," she whispered.

"I'll be your angel."

And with that, she was gone.

30th June 2006, 1:01 PM
Interesting, very interesting. You don't see many stories with Jirarudan in it. Can't wait for the next chapter.

Blackjack Gabbiani
30th June 2006, 11:38 PM
I'll probably post the next chapter in another week or so. Thanks for reviewing!

The Great Butler
1st July 2006, 3:15 AM
Hey, I like this. I must say I am a fan of the 'diary' style, of having the character telling the story in the first person.

It's very good. Keep up doing this well, and you'll have a big hit on your hands for sure.

Blackjack Gabbiani
1st July 2006, 4:09 AM
Yay! I actually have eleven chapters written so far, so I've got a fair amount to work with.

Thanks for reviewing!

1st July 2006, 4:14 AM
x.O You wouldn't believe how close I became to becoming a closet reader of this fic. It is very good, but I can't think of anything to say... ^.^;;

Wells, I am quite enjoying this first chappy! I personally haven't read in any stories about this character, so it will be nice to see your take on him. :) Your history for him was quite well done, in my opinion. Great job!

Keep up the good work!

Blackjack Gabbiani
1st July 2006, 6:48 AM
Yeah, there aren't very many fics about him, even fewer that don't make him an unfeeling villian. (granted, he *is* insane, but it's not an evil sort of insane like the IMM or Giovanni)

Thanks for reviewing!

Blackjack Gabbiani
8th July 2006, 2:00 AM
Second chapter! This is the shortest one so far, so don't think I'm slacking off or anything.

I stayed with her for hours, my young mind unable to comprehend life without her. Finally, I came to the conclusion that it was simply a bad dream, and if I went to sleep, I would awaken in the true world, and she would be there, and everything would be all right. So I curled up and slept for what I later discovered was two days.

When I awoke, I was in my own bed, and my first reaction was joy. I was right, it was only a dream. But then I heard voices outside my room.

"He's going to have to live with his father from now on." "Oh yes, the poor thing. But maybe now, he can grow up right."

If they saw me now, they, too, would recant.

I curled up into a ball, clutching the ring to my chest. Mother, you told me you'd be there for me. Where were you when I needed you the most? My hands shook, and I choked back sobs, for I feared what would happen if the women outside heard me.

I spent the night like that, sobbing quietly to myself, with the ring to my heart. Early in the morning, I heard someone at the door. My father had arrived.

As the door to my room opened, I ducked down into the covers and pretended to be asleep.

"I can wait," he said. Slowly, I opened my eyes and peeked out. He smiled, and knelt down at the bedside. "Jiri, I'm sorry I wasn't here earlier. My work kept me away until now. I'm just...sorry I didn't get a chance to say goodbye to her."

"Papa..." was the only word I could say. I tried to hold them back, but the tears flowed freely now. He took me in his arms and stroked the back of my head, whispering softly to me. And only then could I return to sleep.

8th July 2006, 2:20 AM
Now that is a memorable fanfiction. I have never seen a fanfiction with Jirarudan in it, but I'm glad I finally took the chance to read this.

I do not know which of us is the bigger fool, you, for thinking such things, or me, for allowing myself to become this.

This is the sentence that stood out to me the most, very profound.

I would quote more if there was more to quote, but these chapters are short. My advice to make your story better is to prolong the chapters to at least three pages of Microsoft Word.

Second, it is a little bit comma happy(You use too many commas). Other than than that your grammar is immaculate.

I hope this helps your story a little bit. I'll be checking on this story every five days.

Blackjack Gabbiani
8th July 2006, 2:46 AM
I'll probably update every Friday, actually, but thanks!

Yeah, back near the beginning all the chapters are really short, since I wrote them on a whim and wasn't sure if I was continuing it or not. But now that I know I am, the chapters are getting longer.

The Great Butler
8th July 2006, 2:51 AM
Interesting.....gives him quite an interesting backstory indeed. I see this becoming a very deep fic with a very deep star....

And Silentvibrava, XD^1 featured him as "Lawrence III" but not written nearly as well as this.

Blackjack Gabbiani
8th July 2006, 7:42 AM

What's XD^1?

Haunt of the Vile
8th July 2006, 1:23 PM
Your sig has taunted me for a while so I just had to come and read this xD.
I'm not very good in giving comments to fan-fics, but I hope you're glad with "I like it much" o.O;; I'm so sorry that I can't give better comment than this ._. but one thing I can say. Your chapters are ridiculously SHORT xD!!

And, indeed, this is one great phrase.

I do not know which of us is the bigger fool, you, for thinking such things, or me, for allowing myself to become this.

Keep it up, pal, and try to make longer chaps, ok ;)?

The Great Butler
9th July 2006, 2:15 AM
^^ XD^1 is my first fanfic, Enigma Shadow.....it was the first in the series of which the fic "The Return of Shadow" belongs to.

Blackjack Gabbiani
9th July 2006, 7:01 AM
All right.

And like I said, the later chapters are a lot longer. Of course, for me, "a lot" is a relative term.

Blackjack Gabbiani
15th July 2006, 6:53 AM
Here's chapter 3, just as I promised. In here, we see more of Jiri's father, and we start to get into Jiri's psyche some more. Next chapter, I have to warn you, doesn't make a lot of sense at the time, but will when more chapters are posted.

I tried to attend her funeral, which was held in the backyard of our simple home, but I could not bear the sight. My mother, who had been as exuberant and lively as ever just a short time before, being lowered into the ground...it was far too much for me to take. Again, I took refuge in my room, and again I held the ring to my chest.

Certain rituals, especially to a broken mind, provide comfort. But mine was quickly leading to frustration. She told me she would be there for me. So where was she? I needed her more than ever before and she was not here! Distraught, I pounded the cabinet as hard as I could.

A flash of gold, and the card fell to the ground.

I know I said earlier that the Ancient Mew card is my most valued posession. That is because I do not consider the ring to be mine, but rather still belonging to my mother. Even after all these years--lifetimes in themselves--her presence remains with me.

However, I am positive that, had she lived to see who I am today, she would want nothing to do with me.

I stared at that card for a long time, not moving to pick it up, just observing it where it lay, taking in all the details. Gradually, my hand crept out to retrieve it; but I was interrupted by my father's entrance to my room.


I averted my gaze, fixated on the card. But I wasn't looking at it, not really.

"You know, tomorrow I'm going back to Seafoam...you'll be coming with me..."

*...mother, where are you? You told me you'd be here...*

"You may want to say goodbye. The...burial is...already over..."

*...you didn't lie to me, did you? Mother, you promised me...*

I didn't hear most of what he said. I managed to catch that he loved me, and that he'd help me gather my things, and that I should say farewell to my friends--foolish man, I have no friends, don't you know that?

The image of the card was growing fainter, my father's voice more distant. I was withdrawing, and soon I would be gone entirely.

*...mother, please, I need you now...*

The Great Butler
15th July 2006, 10:51 PM
A little short, but the content makes up for it. I like very much how you're portraying Lawrence (I can't get used to calling him anything but that) in such a different light.

Blackjack Gabbiani
16th July 2006, 3:34 AM
I must admit, I'm starting to warm to the name Lawrence. I don't know why. But it's that "third" part that gets me, especially since in this fic I've established that his father's name is Corbin. Corbin Lawrence maybe?

The Great Butler
16th July 2006, 3:37 AM
I think Lawrence has kind of a regal air to it as a name, which fits him in such that he's not a common crook or thief but a dignified and refined man. I do recall someone mentioning that "Lawrence" means 'crowned with laurel,' so....yeah.

Blackjack Gabbiani
16th July 2006, 6:24 AM
Which just makes me think of his unfortunate hair.

18th July 2006, 10:01 AM
Hey, I remember you from the Wallace Club!
And I didn't know you wrote fanfic. Even more, I didn't know you wrote about Jirarudan. Guess it's true that you really do learn something new everyday.

Anyway, onto my review.

It's very nice. It really caught my attention the moment I read the first line. And even though the chapters are short, they are very portraying and amazing, to be blunt. I really like them. I really like the character development. Jirarudan really is an interesting character, and it's nice to see something written about him. The way you develop him is pretty darn amazing.

I really can't wait to read more of this, and I am very happy to have found this.

Great work! =D


Blackjack Gabbiani
18th July 2006, 10:06 AM
Whoo second page!

Whoo being recognized!

Seriously, thanks for reading and thanks even more for your generous review! Really, it means a lot.

Blackjack Gabbiani
22nd July 2006, 7:49 AM
Chapter 4, or as I like to call it, the Psycho-Go-Nuts chapter. This won't make much sense now, but in later chapters, it's explained.

...i have never liked the water...

from my earliest memories, the water has been my downfall...

right now i can feel the water around me, pulling me farther and farther away from the world, and I can feel the white wings around me, just like before...

...like before...

mother never really did believe me...she clung to her belief of there being good in us all...in her world, she never believed that someone could do something like that...

...perhaps her world was like this...

...they held me down, beneath the water...i struggled in vain, out of reflex. they were going to kill me, i knew that, and gave in.

and then i saw it. white wings coming to me. i knew not if it was a demon or an angel, but it was coming to take me away from there, far away.

the great bird calmed me, took me in its wings as the breath left me, and I could feel the world melting away. death had no fear for me, not as long as this creature held me.

there was silence, and peace, and warmth, and stillness...

and then the world returned.

i was no longer beneath the waves, in the wings of the white bird. instead, i was in the chair by the fireplace, a blanket wrapped around me. for a brief second, i thought i had imagined it, but then i felt the water still on my skin.

mother told me there were many spirits of the water, but my tale of a white bird perplexed her. perhaps i had imagined it after all, imagined the safety it provided, the respite from a cruel world.

despite this, i have kept the image of the bird in my heart. perhaps one day i shall see it again, if only in a dream.

i am beginning to awaken. there is a calm about this place, as different as it is from the world beneath the waves. so this is where father has taken me; this is my new home.

it is like the water. this time, there will be no white bird to save me.

When I came to, in my father's home, the first thing I heard, through the open window, were the waves of the ocean.

The Great Butler
23rd July 2006, 3:15 AM
Ooooh...mysterious and enigmatic, much like Lawrence himself. However, just like Lawrence, the mystery and enigma will be cleared up.

Blackjack Gabbiani
23rd July 2006, 3:28 AM
I began work on chapter 12 this morning. It's coming along nicely. I should have it done by the time it gets there on here.

23rd July 2006, 9:24 AM
Nice. Very nice. Deep, mysterious, vague, and spellbinding. But there's this one feeling I can't quite grasp. I dunno, connection maybe? I'm really not sure, but the way it's played out it makes me feels like I'm right there. I guess you could say that the emotion is so strong that you feel like you're a part of it, IMO. I really do hope that made sense. *sweatdrop*

Chapter 12? Wow. Just out of curiosity, how long have you been working on this? Because you're obviously doing quite well with it.

All in all, great work and a nice chapter!


Blackjack Gabbiani
23rd July 2006, 11:21 AM
I've been working on it for a few years now. Yeah, I know, it should be longer with that sort of effort, but it's tough to write for me. I think the time between chapters 11 and 12 may be the shortest, since 12 should be finished shortly.

23rd July 2006, 11:45 AM
A few years, huh? I applaud your persistence. I certainly couldn't keep working at something for years. Heck, I couldn't even work at something for months. And for writing about a character that doesn't have many facts to base things off of, you're doing well. From reading so far, I can tell that you've put in a lot of effort into this. For me, numbers in writing, whether they regard to amount of chapters or amount of years spent doing something, really don't matter. What really matters is the piece of writing itself. Quality, not quantity you could say, eh?

Keep on working, you're doing great! =D


Blackjack Gabbiani
23rd July 2006, 11:56 AM
And unlike pretty much every other multi-parter I've attempted in the past (OK, so one was a dreadful Street Fighter fic and the other was an FFVI comedy that really wasn't all that funny, so I'm not working with a lot of backup here), I fully intend to *finish* this one. Probably because it's the first 'long fic' I've done that's halfway decent.

Blackjack Gabbiani
29th July 2006, 8:00 AM
Another Friday, another chapter!

Despite my thoughts, the sound of the water was soothing, almost like the backdrop to a dream.

But I had had enough of dreams for the time being, at least the sort one has while asleep. My dreams have always been concurrent to my goals.

But I am getting ahead of myself.

I lay in bed for a few more minutes, getting my bearings. I was in Kanto, in Seafoam, at my father's home; that much I knew. I had been here only once before, but too long ago to clearly remember it.

The room was sparse, with a few cardboard boxes stacked against the wall. That was all that remained of what my life had been, just whatever could be brought along.

Only a week ago, my life was untouched. Now I may as well be adrift on the open ocean.

There were voices down the hallway, and I slid out of bed to crawl to the door--having been bedridden for the time I was left me unable to properly walk. I recognized my father's voice, as he spoke to a woman I did not know.

"--don't know, Helen. He's still asleep, so it'll have to wait." My father's voice was even and calm as always.

The woman paused. "I've never seen anything like that...What did you do with that ring of his?"

I gasped, looking around for it. What if he had forgotten it? What if it was lost in the move?

"It's on the desk. Can't have it getting lost in the covers..."

A low sigh escaped from my parted lips, and with shaking legs, I stood, leaning against the wall for support. The desk was only a few steps away by normal measure, but it took my entire focus to reach it. The ring shone, glimmering like the waves of the ocean, as I took it in my hand, clasping it to my chest and sinking to my weary knees. It was back with me now, the treasure that just a short time ago still adorned my mother's hand. My grip around it tightened, and I felt safer.

Seafoam is a small town, despite the crowds that pass through it every year. My father's home and shop were atop a cliff, which was not only necessary for his business but kept us away from the areas people congregated.

I have always valued solitude, even before that. So I was grateful for the silence, the only sounds around being from the hangar. My father was, and I would presume still is, a renowned airship engineer, attracting clientèle from the world over.

Although I did not know it, my future was being set at that very moment.

The next thing I remember was several hours later, the sound of the door opening. At first I did not notice, until I felt someone in the room with me.

"Jiri? Are you here with me now?" My father knelt down to me, resting a hand on my shoulder. "What's that in your hand?"

Reluctantly, I opened my fist, revealing the ring on my palm. In the past hours, it had left an imprint in my skin. Oddly fitting, I thought.

"Gloria's ring..." he whispered, a faint twinge of sadness in his voice. "I thought that was it..."

I tried to say something, but could not find my voice.

"Jiri," he continued, moving his hand to my face and brushing away a tear I did not know had formed. "Jiri, I'm sorry I wasn't there earlier...I wanted to be, but..."

I held up my hand, the one with the mark most evident. There was no need for him to explain.

He took me close, sighing. "Jiri, I want to hear your voice."

Again, I was unable to speak, so I merely shook my head against his chest.

"My beautiful boy..." he muttered as his hand found the back of my head. "My little angel..."

I gasped. I couldn't be an angel, no, not while mother was my angel.

"Jiri? Jiri, what's wrong?"

With a flat tone that surprised even me, I managed to whisper "...mama's gone..."

He nodded. "...yes. I'm sorry."

The ring glimmered in my hand, the light reflected from the waves outside catching it, and I mimicked his nod. "Yes," I echoed, as he picked me up and lay me back in bed.

"You should take it easy," he whispered, tucking the covers around me once more. The ring now shone from the bedside table, its ruby twinkling casting a dance on the ceiling.

I could not listen to his further words, although I was aware he continued to speak. Lying there, the light put me in a trance, and I fell asleep once again, thinking of the ocean.

The Pokemon Master
29th July 2006, 12:38 PM
Here’s your promised review! And you’re quite right about not many fictions including Jiraruden (Lawrence III) as a true character. Mine does/will, though. Meaning I’ve introduced him already and am planning a great deal of the story to include him. Anyways, enough about my fiction, ‘tis not why I’m here.


Jiraruden: This character’s personality and development are incredible. This is the first fiction that I’ve seen that really gets into the author’s view of what Jiraruden’s past is like, and it’s incredibly well done. Truly astounding work, with the loss of his mother, coupled with the reception of the Ancient Mew card, and adoption by his father all working together to make him withdraw from the world and from humanity. Even the kid-like situation helps contribute to that, with a complete lack of friends, hypocritical adults, and other children his age all tormenting both him and his mother because of the medicines she makes. I can really see how this would lead into the collector’s obsession, but exactly how I’m not yet certain. Truly an amazing character, though.
Mother (name unknown): I enjoyed this description of Lawrence’s mother quite a lot, actually. Her hard, lonely life, coupled with her incredible love for her son, create the image of a truly great parent, caring only for her son. A pity she had to die so soon, though…
Corbin: Ah, a clueless father, who had never really been involved in his son’s life before the death of his wife. Personally, I think Jiraruden’s scorn for this ignorant parent is very well placed. Though he really just seems to be trying to connect with his son, as any good parent should.


This is a very nice plot, all in flashback, which makes for a nice, different style of writing than my usual reviews. The way you handle it is excellent indeed, I managed to enjoy it despite the shortness of each Chapter. Don’t really have much to suggest for length improvement, however. Anyway, I like the direction of this, and the way you've introduced the various pieces of Jiraruden's past that will make him who he is in the present. It just seems to flow together very well, and that white bird... Lugia. ;)


Flawless, as far as I could tell. Truly amazing work here.


An excellent piece of work, but it could use a little more length.

Well, I look forward to reading more of this! Great job so far!

Until we meet again...

The Great Butler
29th July 2006, 9:21 PM
Whoa....another excellent chapter.....this will probably win an award in the next Fanfic Awards for Character Development. It's absolutely flawless.

29th July 2006, 9:31 PM
Yay another fanfic I get to review.

As it's been said before this is the first fanfic really that's gone into Lawrence's past very well and descriptive.

Good job and I'll keep reading this.

Blackjack Gabbiani
30th July 2006, 6:14 AM
Aww shucks, you guys. You're going to make me blush.

And Pokemon Master--his mother's name has been mentioned once, it's Gloria. And you're going to have to tell me when your fic comes out because the more Jiri fics, the better.

Character development? Oh my...why thank you! Do you know when these awards will be?

30th July 2006, 10:07 PM
Yet another chapter! Amazing! I really enjoyed it!
Poor Jiri... The li'l guy needs a hug... And his poor father, not knowing what to do with him.

One reason why I'm really liking this is that I can relate to it, something a little stronger than feeling like I'm there. You see, my mother passed away a couple of years ago, and my father was still living with us, but he worked like a dog, so it kept him away from us. That and a few relationships with women other than my mother. He never was a father to me until my mother died, and for what he did -- or didn't -- do, I still can't forgive him and I still can't look at him the way I should. I mean, I want to look at him lovingly and happily and such, but I still look at him in the partially bitter way that I used to.

My point is that I know the way Jirarudan feels, and I can't help but feel sorry for him. He needs some sort of outlet, that's what he needs. Something to... Oh, I dunno. Get him towards putting his life back together?

I seem to have drifted off there for a second. Anyway, excellent chapter! I really love the way this is going. It flawless and beautiful! Keep up the amazing work! =D


Blackjack Gabbiani
31st July 2006, 12:51 AM
Oh, he's going to get an outlet all right, and we all know what it is.

And thank you! I aim to touch peop---wait. Let me rephrase that.

The Pokemon Master
3rd August 2006, 7:24 AM
Oh. Sorry, must have missed it. Anyway, my fic's already up (has been for some time), I just have been caught up in a whirlwind of other things to do and haven't managed to complete another Chapter Part yet. *sighs* Oh well.

Until we meet again...

Blackjack Gabbiani
5th August 2006, 3:06 AM
Your story looks interesting. I'll have to give it a full read sometime, but 17 pages is a lot to go through.

And it's Friday, so you know what that means! Chapter 6 up now! In which we meet a mysterious man...

The next few weeks passed, strangely uneventful, given my acclimation. It was most peculiar, for I do not recall anything of those weeks clearly.

I know I spent a great deal of time in my room, looking out the window. Seafoam is a pleasant enough town for others, but for me it was like being in another world.

But the sky...the sky was the same, and it brought comfort. The sky would be always as it was at home. And it was safe, as home had been, as the wings of the white bird had been.

I would see it again, where the sky met the ocean. But that day would be a long way off, and I still had much to happen in my life.

One thing I know only from the stories of my father and his assistant Helen was that I would do things that startled the both of them greatly. I have no memory of this incident, but he would tell me that I insisted on drawing angels. I do not doubt him, as I dreamed of angels and white wings nearly every night.

After a particularly disturbing day, to hear him tell it, wherein I had locked myself in my room and covered every inch of paper with images of angels, he decided something had to change.

Hoping to play on my artistic nature, he began taking me to his workshop. He would show me sketches and models of the ships he was constructing, and how they were made. I took to them quickly; it seems I was eager for an outlet.

This part I remember with considerably more clarity than the weeks before it.

Most of the patrons came to know me by name, but did not pay me much mind. But I learned to read people from my dealings with them. I could tell much about a person from the things I saw. Most people were the idle rich, those wishing to show off their wealth with a custom-made token from the famous airship engineer Corbin.

But one man stood out from the rest. He had a regal bearing, and an air of eternal calm, as though he knew how to take exactly what he wanted from life. He would smile kindly at me during his conversations with my father and the other engineers, but we had never spoken until one day.

Had that day never come, I cannot imagine where fate would have taken me.

Father had set up a station for me to work on my drawings, and I had an idea for that day's project. I would sketch my Ancient Mew card; see if I could capture its essence on paper.

I had barely gotten set up when I heard a sharp gasp from behind me. The regal man was there, wide green eyes fixated on the card. "M...my boy!" he stammered. "Wherever did you get that card?"

I looked at it, then at him. "My mother gave it to me," I said simply as I returned to the picture.

"I see...You know, it's not often that you see one of those, much less in the hands of one as young as you."

"Not often," I repeated, only to find his extended hand between me and the paper.

"My name is Asaph," he introduced.

"Jirarudan." I shook his hand firmly and tried to turn my attention back to the picture.

"Do you think I...could get a closer look?" That calm of his was rapidly fading, so I nodded.

"Be careful with it," I added, very close to my mother's own tone when she had issued such a warning to me.

He turned the thin card over in his hands, the gold sheet and gemstones glinting in the half-light. "Incredible. Do you know where she got this?"

"From her parents, I presume." My short answers sufficed for most people, but I could tell Asaph wanted to know more. "She only told me that it was a family heirloom."

A slow nod of his head. "I see..."

I started shading in a part I had already drawn. "Why do you take such interest in it?"

He set the card back next to me and drew himself up to full height, like a regal speaker about to deliver an address. "Well, my boy, I...am a Collector."

The Great Butler
5th August 2006, 3:17 AM
That last line sent a chill down my spine. You can feel it....

Flawless, once again. This thing will likely win an award for character development, if I haven't said that already.

Blackjack Gabbiani
5th August 2006, 3:23 AM
Whee! When are these awards, anyway?

The Great Butler
5th August 2006, 3:32 AM
Whee! When are these awards, anyway?

I don't know. I know Lady Myuu ran the last one though---she's a friend, so maybe I'll ask her next time I see her.

The Pokemon Master
5th August 2006, 6:51 AM
I think you did, Butler. :P Anyway, that Chapter was once again short but brilliant. I loved the last line, it makes me want to quote this:

"I'm afraid I'm not a trainer, young lady. I am merely... a collector.

-Lawrence III/Jiraruden

Guess we know where he got that from now, huh? And I wonder what his obsession with angels has got to do with anything... Well, at least I finally thought of his father's business relating to his collecting. That is likely how he gets his massive airship/assault engine.

By the way, my fic is interesting after you get past the Prologue (which is horribly clichéd). Just a warning that I generally give people now... I still want to fix that thing...

Until we meet again...

Blackjack Gabbiani
5th August 2006, 7:38 AM
If you remember, the ceiling of his gallery room was decorated with angels.

I actually didn't invent the idea of Jiri's mother and her sad fate. I read it on a fansite about him, and althought I'm not sure how canon it is, I liked the idea. The site also said that she gave him his ruby ring.

I suppose I should get the book that had his ship blueprints, maybe this information would be in there, if it exists.

6th August 2006, 8:49 AM
Ooohhh. It's getting meaty and juicy... The plot, that is.

Kinda clever how ya chose the name Asaph, considering its meaning. He certainly does seem mysterious. Looks like he'll possibly be a major influence on our young Jirarudan. :D

Wait. There's a book with his ship blueprints?! *jaw drops*

Anyway, amazing chapter. I'm adoring how this is playing out. Excellent work! Very, very nice.


Blackjack Gabbiani
6th August 2006, 9:50 AM
The meaning is why I chose it. Plus I needed an exotic sounding name.

You haven't seen the last of Asaph, that's for sure.

Yeah, it's not a full-on blueprint, but it has a cross-section of the ship, and details the gallery and the command chair, as well as explains the propellors and the turret.

Blackjack Gabbiani
11th August 2006, 9:35 AM
Part seven! Hard to believe I've been doing this for seven weeks already...warning, this is another short one. I had to come up with a story behind the card, and this was the best I could do...

A Collector... I had heard of such people before, those who lived their lives for artifacts of the ancient world. The idea had intrigued me in mention, but I had not paid it much mind past that. But now I had to know more.

"A Collector..." I repeated softly, evidently enough to cause him to duck down to my level.

"Yes..." he smiled gently, meeting my gaze.

Eye contact was intensely uncomfortable for me at that time, so I looked away, back at the card. "...what do you know of this?" I asked him, running my finger over the thin gold sheet.

His smile broadened and his eyes danced. "I'm surprised your mother hasn't told you yet."

"...mother isn't here," I whispered, but evidently he did not hear me.

"It's a remarkable relic, really. There's only been a few on the market in recent years..." He paused to clear his throat before continuing. "Many years ago, that picture was found on the wall of an ancient building, deep in the jungle. One of the explorers who found it that day made a painting of it, but found that he could not capture the brilliant gold sheen of the original. So he hired a goldsmith and a jeweler to make these cards, and gave them to everyone involved in the expedition. There were over two hundred people who took part, so the cards are just common enough that people 'discover' them in their heirlooms, and rare and fine enough that people will pay dearly for them."

I looked at him out of the corner of my eye, still focused on the card. "Mama said it was in her family for many years. She told me it was called Ancient Mew."

"Yes, yes, that's what people have taken to calling it."

He still seemed excited by his find, but was calming, so I turned to look at him again. "...Tell me more."

"...more?" His eyebrows raised elegantly. "What did you have in mind, my boy?"

I looked back at the card, running my finger down the jeweled face. "...what does the writing say?"

"Hmm..." He put his hand to his face as though lost in thought. "It's based on a game they found around the same area, but I'm really not certain what it says. I'm sure some cursory research could be done to find out, though."

For the time, that was good enough for me. I later found out, but that is neither here nor there for the continuation of my tale.

Asaph was enthralling, regaling me with tales of his own treasures, and I listened, enraptured, to every word. But then he was called away to check on some specifications for his ship, leaving me to absorb everything he had told me.

A slow smile spread across my face, although at the time I did not know why.

The Pokemon Master
11th August 2006, 10:06 AM
Hmm... Quite interesting indeed. I actually never really wondered about the Ancient Mew card, so it's nice to see a backstory for it. And Jiraruden has been turned to the art of collecting...

Once again, great work! Wonder what'll happen next Friday?

Until we meet again...

Blackjack Gabbiani
12th August 2006, 1:35 AM
Yeah, I had to think of something realistic for him to get his hands on...

And thanks for reviewing!

12th August 2006, 1:47 AM
You could do better in length but yet I'm really liking your plots and backstory's for stuff like the Mew Card.

The Great Butler
12th August 2006, 2:34 AM
The backstory with Ancient Mew is amazing. Even though it's short, the content more than makes up for it.

Blackjack Gabbiani
12th August 2006, 6:31 AM
Aww, thanks you guys.

13th August 2006, 8:01 AM
Geez, I have to keep up with this! Sorry for being a day or so late! ^^;

Anyway, it's getting very interesting! Backstories are really nice. I'm really glad you used one about the Mew Card. Throughout the story so far, Jirarudan has been very quiet, and it seems like he's spoken the most in this chapter. But that's a good thing. He needs to open up to someone.

Great chapter and I can't wait till next Friday!


Blackjack Gabbiani
13th August 2006, 10:08 AM
Well, he tends to be rather introverted, what with his ship being basically his own private world...but yes, he does talk a lot in the movie. To everything he can, really--his computer, the Birds, himself...

Asaph will bring out a lot of Jiri's attributes in later chapters.

Blackjack Gabbiani
19th August 2006, 12:29 AM
Now it's time for Chapter Eight! You all know the drill by now.

I could not wait to speak to him again. That night and the following morning, I was quite frustrated. Speaking with Asaph had been as though I was shown another world, brighter than this, but his departure me shoved back into the grey tones of reality.

It felt different with him. He spoke of things so distant and strange, but in such a way that felt as though I had known them my entire life, and I craved more.

Eagerly, I sat at the desk my father had set up for me, and waited for Asaph to arrive. I was so excited that I could not work on the sketch from the day before, though my Mew card lay before me, glimmering in the light from the entryway.

Hours I waited, not moving from that spot. The swirls of work around me went unnoticed, the sounds and sweat of the factory passing me by, until finally he entered. Instead of heading off to speak with one of the engineers as he usually did, he immediately looked in my direction, and his face lit up to see that I was indeed present.

I smiled at him, the only thing I could think to do, and he approached me. "Young master Jirarudan, how does the day find you today?" he asked.

"Quite well, and you?"

He placed a hand on my shoulder, and I did not struggle away as I did from others who did the same. "Very well, now that I'm here. I was looking forward to seeing you again." A warm smile settled on his face, and he leaned down to whisper to me. "I could hardly wait to come here today. We have much to talk about, don't we?"

I nodded. "I think so, yes. I could hardly wait for you to arrive," I confessed, hoping that my expression conveyed my thoughts as well as the words I spoke. "I dreamed of what tales you might tell me."

"Very well then!" he proclaimed, pulling a chair over from against the wall and setting it near my own. "Tell me, my boy, have you ever heard the tale of the Eye of Dawn?"

We spoke for hours; or rather he did, and I listened with utmost attention. Several times I noticed my father watching us, but he did not disturb us until nearly an hour to close, when he took Asaph into the factory proper with him. But I was satisfied, at least momentarily. Asaph's stories had left me in a near-trance, as though my mind had left my body and was ensconced in the legends of which he spoke. With a tired smile, I slumped down in my chair and closed my eyes, letting the etherealness that still hung in the air linger as long as I could.

For a brief moment, I thought I heard my mother call my name. But I opened my eyes and it was only Helen.

"Jiri?" she repeated, leaning down to my level. "Your father told me to come get you. He has something he wants to ask you."

Reluctantly I slid off the chair and away from the desk, feeling as though I was abandoning a part of myself. I was pleased to notice that Asaph was in my father's office, but even his presence could not alleviate the feeling that I had been torn from a dream world. My father gestured for me to sit down and I did, and the weight of the world forced me into place.

Asaph's hand closed lightly around my shoulder and I felt slightly better, but not enough to make a difference.

"Jiri, as you know," my father began, "my work keeps me very busy. I'm not able to spend the time with you that you need."

I nodded absently, not really caring what he said.

"I know how much you love art, and when I saw you and Asaph hit it off, well..." His voice cracked as he spoke, and he paused to clear his throat. "Jiri...I've spoken with Asaph, and we came up with an idea I think you'll like."

Looking back, I may not have considered it if my father had said it. But he yielded the floor to Asaph to finish the thought. Asaph squeezed my shoulder to get my attention, and smiled at me when I looked up at him. "Jiri...how would you like to spend some time with me?"

I have no clear memory of the moment immediately following his words, as I am fairly certain that I blacked out for a split second. I grabbed his hand--hard, I recall, as he winced slightly--and jolted up from the chair to face him. "I would love it!" I blurted. "I...I would love to!"

In the background, my father continued, something about socializing me or some such rot. But I didn't care.

We made plans to meet in three days time, when Asaph would take me to the Viridian museum. The days between were the longest in my life.

The Great Butler
20th August 2006, 1:51 AM
Ah, this chapter leaves me with a taste of what's to come. Good job.

Blackjack Gabbiani
20th August 2006, 2:42 AM
Why thank you.

The Great Butler
20th August 2006, 2:48 AM
Why thank you.

Anytime :)

This is what's great about fan fiction. We get to explore characters the official canon never gave a second look.

The Pokemon Master
20th August 2006, 6:05 AM
Whoo! I'm BACK! Anyway, sorry, I didn't review this yesterday. So Jiraruden's going to live with Asaph (at least for a little while)... For some reason I'm torn between thinking that the guy has ulterior motives or is just plain nice. Oh well... Perhaps Asaph is the one he will obtain his airship from. The dad's business has to have something to do with that. Anyway, marvelous Chapter as usual! Can't wait untill next week!

Until we meet again...

20th August 2006, 7:08 AM
Awesome, awesome, awesome. I agree with The Pokemon Master about Asaph's motives. He seems just a bit too nice. Maybe it's just me, but I'm getting odd vibes about the guy. =/

Anyway, great chapter! I'm really interested to see what's gonna happen next! =D


Blackjack Gabbiani
20th August 2006, 11:21 PM
So Jiraruden's going to live with Asaph (at least for a little while)...

Actually no, he's just going to do things with him. Jiri's still going to live with his father.

And yes, Asaph certainly is...interesting. He'll get even more...interesting...as the fic progresses.

Blackjack Gabbiani
26th August 2006, 12:13 AM
Chapter Nine already! Wow! I wrote part of this at the Art Institute in Chicago last summer.

On the appointed day, I awoke before dawn, although Asaph was not to fetch me until nine. My sleep the night before had been restless, and I'd dreamed of a city of brilliant green. As the light of day gradually lightened my room, I imagined what wonders the day held for me. I had never been to Viridian, of course, and pictured it as the glistening emerald set into the land that people described it as.

The night before I had laid out the finest clothes I had. At the time, I thought them exquisite apparel, but looking back I can only shake my head at how simple my tastes were. Mass-produced cotton and twill are a far cry to the sumptuous hand-woven silks I was to become accustomed to.

A white bird landed on my windowsill, but it wasn't the one I dreamed of.

I hurried through breakfast, being careful not to get anything on my clothing, and waited at the door for Asaph. Shortly after nine am, I saw his personal craft--one of my father's custom dual-rotor helicopters; the proper airship he had commissioned was still in production--land at the docking port outside the factory. Out of courtesy, I waited until he knocked to open the door.

He was an elegant sight, in a green greatcoat that brought out the glimmer in his blue eyes, the eyes that lit up when he greeted me. "Are you ready?" he asked me, and when I nodded my assent he brought a hand to my shoulder and let it rest for a moment as he looked me up and down. "You look very distinguished today," he said, and I smiled.

In the next room, my father, who had already opened the factory for the day but was waiting in the house for my departure, looked on. "Asaph, I want to thank you again," he called, and Asaph nodded. "Have everything?" he asked me, and I nodded to him as well. "Enjoy the museum!" he called, having to return to work. I was glad to be rid of him, even though I would be without him for the entire day.

Asaph and I sat in the middle section of his ship, as a chauffeur took the controls. It was about a half-hour ride from Seafoam to Viridian, and in that time Asaph told me more tales of the world's treasures, including a sculpture from an ancient age that the museum had recently acquired. He was quite eager to see it in person, although he seemed disappointed that he was unable to possess it.

We docked on the roof of the museum, among other ships. I recognized my father's seal on many of them, particularly the finer crafts.

There was a spiral staircase leading down, nothing particularly notable about it except that it lead to the grand entryway, which was a remarkable thing. Marble columns--that had been excavated from ancient ruins, Asaph told me--framed the doors, which were glass and tinted dark.

He held the door for me, and I held my breath upon entering, only to release it the second I entered, for I was greeted by a marvelous sight. One hand held out as though in welcome, a statue of a warrior woman, hair cascading down her shoulders and other hand held on the hilt of her sword as if to say that she was the guardian of the treasures within, stood in the foyer. I could not help but raise my hand to return her gesture of welcome.

Once he had bought our tickets, Asaph smiled at me. "Now, shall we explore?"

I nodded emphatically.

We took our time, dawdling at various masterpieces, with Asaph explaining technique and the histories of the artists to me.

I listened enraptured through the hours, and finally we reached the sculpture he had mentioned on the way. It stood on a pedestal, the centerpiece of a room. He gasped, taken in by the soft features of the statue's subject; a young woman with a Jigglypuff and a basket of flowers.

I found it nothing special. Admittedly it was lifelike, with the pokémon looking as though it would burst into song, but the mood did not strike me as it did Asaph. Instead I occupied myself with the nearby statue of a Gengar that had supposedly belonged to a master trainer ages ago.

"Asaph?" The voice from behind us was sharp yet dignified. He turned, I did not.

"Lucrezia!" he exclaimed, extricating himself from the sculpture and greeting the newcomer.

I wondered if I should involve myself. If I ignored them, I would seem rude, but same if I approached them outright. So I remained where I was and listened intently with my back turned.

"How did the Moreo turn out?" Asaph asked her. I would discover later that he was speaking of an artist.

"Oh, so-so," Lucrezia admitted. "I wound up trading it in for a Hidcomb."

"Hidcomb was an overrated drunken bastard," a third voice interrupted, that of a man younger than either of them. They ignored him.

After a few minutes of discussion of names I had never heard of, during which time I turned my attention to a statue of an ivory butterfly alighting on a silver flower, Asaph returned to me and rested a hand on my shoulder. "How about you go on to the next room without me? Lucrezia and I have some business to discuss, and I know you're eager to keep going."

I nodded. "I didn't want to say anything."

"You've been a very good boy about it," he smiled, his hand falling back to his side. "You're a very patient young man."

Returning his smile, I nodded my head and continued into the next room.

I didn't notice it at first, as the paintings nearest me had my immediate attention, but when I turned to the far wall, it was as though everything around me ceased to exist.

There before me was the most brilliant and beautiful and terrifying thing I'd ever seen. To other lives, it would not have had such a profound effect, but to me it was as though the rest of the world had dropped away and existence was defined entirely by paint on canvas. She was beautiful, in a white robe that matched her flawless wings with every feather defined and looked as they could begin motion at any moment. Her hand extended in assistance, she bore a look of sorrow that the man she wished to help was unaware of her presence, a look that broke my heart to behold. Whatever was left of the world was walled up as the words /I'll be your angel/ resonated through my mind.

My knees gave out, and I was vaguely aware that I somehow was able to find purchase on the seat in the center of the room.

Nothing I had ever seen before could compare. It was at once the ideal and the dread as every detail of the painting sunk into me, filling me as nothing had before. I existed, the painting existed, and there was nothing else.

A faint cracking at the shell of the world, and a hand came to rest on my shoulder. "Beautiful, isn't she?" the man from before asked, and the spell was gone.

Instinctively, I pulled away, to the end of the bench, and he chuckled. "Shy? That's all right."

My view disrupted, I could only stare at the floor, and even the details of that escaped me.

"You're Corbin's boy, aren't you?" the man continued. "I've heard about you. My mother does frequent business with him." When he realized that I was not going to reply, he kept on. "I've never found the art world to be all that interesting myself, but I suppose it has its charm."

He was harsh, his manner cold, his words without feel to them. Or perhaps that was how the world was; I couldn't tell the difference. I edged away from him an inch at a time and I don't think he noticed, for he continued on about things I didn't care about.

I could feel the blankness around me, the empty world breaking and forming and I hated it. I wanted out, to lose myself in the picture that I couldn't bring myself to look at. I wanted the angels, the spirits and the wonder and I couldn't find them; I couldn't bear to see them again.

I'm not sure at what point he left, but when Asaph came to retrieve me, he was gone.

There were two dining rooms in the museum. The first was a simple café, and I started to turn to go into it, but Asaph cleared his throat to catch my attention. "We don't go to places like that," he told me, directing me to the more formal restaurant.

At our booth, he squeezed my hand. "So, I see that painting spoke to you."

I nodded slowly, the angels still dancing in my mind. "Yes..." was my simple, distracted answer.

"You know, there's going to be a Tonio exhibit in Goldenrod in a few months if you'd like to see it."

"That's nice..." I muttered, twining my free hand's fingers in loops in the thin chain that held my mother's ring around my throat.

"Isn't it though?" he asked and I surmised it was meant to be rhetorical. "Some of those pieces have never left Kanto before. I know it's not far, but it's still impressive."

I nodded again, a million miles away.

"Jiri, are you having a good time?"

My head picked up. "Um? Yes, yes I am. Why do you ask?"

He smiled warmly. "You seem so distant. Lost in thought?"

"Yes..." Again I fingered the necklace chain.

He took a sip of a drink that I hadn't noticed him order. "Tell me about that ring," he said, and it was neither a request nor a demand.

"It was my mother's," I told him. Unlike when he had asked about my Mew card, I offered no further information.

He shook his head, smiling sadly, and whispered something in a language I did not recognize. "Your father told me about her," he continued. "I'm so sorry."

I tucked the chain back under my shirt. "I'd rather not speak of that now."

"I understand," he assured.

We returned to Seafoam later that night, after exploring the rest of the museum. It was early evening, but I was exhausted, my divine experience had indeed weakened my constitution. My father accepted me from Asaph and took me upstairs, where I fell asleep and dreamed of angels.

The Great Butler
26th August 2006, 2:33 AM
Another good chapter, though this one was a little less than the others for me. Maybe it's because there were no major revelations here, but that doesn't take away from its quality.

I like the wording here, it fits the British "dignified" air of Lawrence.

27th August 2006, 12:46 AM
Great chapter! I really can't wait to see more. You've done an amazing job so far! =D

Oh, and I may or may not be able to review next week. You see, I live in the southeastern coast (of the U.S.), and depending where a tropical storm in the Caribbean is gonna go, I may or may not have to evacuate. So don't be alarmed if I'm not able to review. But I will do everything in my power to find out what's gonna happen in the next chapter.


Blackjack Gabbiani
27th August 2006, 6:55 AM
Well, you could always peek ahead on Bulbagarden, since I've got all 12 parts thus far.

I'm sorry. Well, it's a good thing you're getting out of there.

The Pokemon Master
27th August 2006, 9:24 AM
Hiya! 'Tis finally time for me to leave a review!

I enjoyed this Chapter, more than the others in that it was a great deal longer, and the quality hasn't been shaken in the slightest. Another amazing job, although I end up wondering what this particular painting of the angel has to do with anything... And who was that other guy?

Another great piece of work, and I can't wait for the next one.

Until we meet again...

Blackjack Gabbiani
28th August 2006, 2:01 AM
The two people in this chapter were supposed to be my attempt at being subtle. Apparently I was too subtle since no one knew who they were supposed to be ***************. I should try to make it more obvious, but I'm really not sure how.

(Yes, so I changed my mind. Check the edit date vs post date. You're not getting it out of me)

The Pokemon Master
28th August 2006, 2:23 AM
Oh! Well, I suppose they make an interesting contribution... Though since you've outright told us who they are, I doubt they'll make many (if any) further appearances. Or will they? Hmm...

Until we meet again...

Blackjack Gabbiani
1st September 2006, 8:00 PM
And now we reach chapter 10. Only two more to go until we're caught up with what I have so far! Still no headway on 13, although I know what I want to have happen in it...

Here in 10, some of the mysteries from chapter 4 are delved into, as well as some things Jiri thinks are true but aren't. Or are they? Given that it's his POV, we may never know what's true and what isn't.

Although that day had been divine, time has no respect for such things, and life found itself as it always was. And once again, I found myself caught in boredom's snare. The world seemed so much dimmer and duller after beholding such wonders that it was rare for something to hold my attention for very long. Even Asaph was absent, his life taking him overseas for several weeks.

One morning I came down for breakfast, and my father greeted me in the kitchen, the smell of fried eggs heavy in the air. "Jiri," he welcomed with a hand on my shoulder, "I'm taking the day off. How about you and me do something?"

I shrugged, partially noncommittal, partially to extricate his hand. "I presume you had something in mind."

"Well, let's see..." he thought aloud, putting a slice of toast on a plate next to an apple half and the aforementioned eggs. "We could go shopping, we could go swimming...Oh! I know!" He snapped his fingers, handing me the plate with his other hand. "How about we play some chess?"

I took my seat at the kitchen table. "All right," I agreed. It was better than nothing, I reasoned.

"All right, how about after breakfast?" The eagerness in his voice was rather annoying.

"If you want," was my short reply.

He frowned. "When you're around Asaph, you just come alive. What happens to that spark, Jiri?"

I shrugged, saying nothing, and starting on my breakfast.

Sitting across from me, he tousled my hair. "Come on...something's gotta bring you out of your shell. You know, we could take the chessboard down to the beach and get some sun while we play. Wanna do that?"

"No, not especially."

He sighed heavily, looking away briefly. "Oh, right, right, your accident..."

I stared blankly at him before asking him what he meant by that.

"Your mother told me about when she found you face-down in the pond," he replied, laying his hands on the table.

He couldn't even get something as major as my near-drowning right. "That's not how it happened," I corrected.

He leaned in. "Oh?"

Prompting me. He was waiting for me to fill the silence, and I gave in. "They held me under. It wasn't an accident. They wanted me dead."

He was still for a moment, then he nodded. "Jiri, you know, your mother saw the whole thing. She told me that they tried to throw you in, but you fainted. They got scared and ran off. I know what they did was inexcusable, but..." He trailed off. "What reason would anyone have to try to kill you, anyway?"

"Because of Mother." It was so simple and he couldn't grasp it.

"O...kayyyy..." He drew the word out, looking confused. "It was really that strong even after all that time? I knew there was animosity there, but it's really that bad?"

Did he have to be such an enigma? "What do you mean 'after all that time'?"

"You know, about your grandfather?" he prodded.

I shook my head. "I don't know what you're talking about." Why did he have to be like this?

"Oh, she...she never told you about that? That's strange..." He paused, no doubt wondering if he should reveal the secret. And of course he continued. "Your grandfather was the mayor of the town, and he decided against having the town be a stop on a train route. The townspeople were convinced that the town would have thrived had the train stopped there, and it got so bad that he was forced to resign. I guess some people never got over that."

The lies the man could tell. "That isn't true," I insisted.

"No, no, it's true. Why, what did she tell you?"

He wasn't worth my time. I shoved my plate aside and left the table, heading back up to my room.

I came back down a short time later, hoping that my father had given up and returned to work, but this was not to be. In my absence, he had set up the chessboard on the living room coffee table, and arranged a chair at the end opposite the couch. His audacity astounded me.

"Jiri! Want to play that chess game now?" he asked, coming out from the kitchen.

I wasn't going to win, I figured. "All right, I suppose," I sighed, taking a seat in the chair.

He took his place on the couch. "Which side do you want?"

"It doesn't matter."

"All right then." He adjusted the board so that the white pieces were facing me. "You'll start off. Know how to play?"

"Of course." Mother had taught me once during a thunderstorm, but we had only played that one time. I remembered all the moves, but could not formulate a strategy or anything advanced. But I was not about to let that man talk down to me.

"Good! We'll say, what, half an hour allotment per turn?"

I moved my first piece, the Queen's Knight, without a word, and turned my attention more to the pieces themselves. White like the feathers of the bird. But that just lead to thoughts of our earlier conversation.

Maybe he was telling the truth. But that would mean that there was no white bird, wouldn't it? That there was mother, and nothing else.

And I could not accept that, for reasons I could not fathom. I knew in my heart, as much as I loved my mother, that the bird had saved me.

It puzzled even me, that I would resist his idea so much, but I knew my memory was true.

"So," he said, breaking my line of thought, "I haven't gotten a chance to sit down and talk with you about your trip to Viridian. How was it?"

I shrugged, slightly disturbed by the sudden intrusion. "I liked it."

He smiled at me. Even with my gaze leveled at the chessboard I could tell. "It's been ages since I was at the museum. A lot of my clients went to some party they had there a few months ago."

Why did he insist on telling me things that I couldn't care less about? "It was nice," I offered, hoping it would make him silent.

"See anything good?" he asked. "I like the silver room, myself..."

I nodded. "That was nice...I liked the statues..." There was no way I was going to tell him about the angel.

A few moves later, he spoke again. "You know...there's something I've wanted to talk to you about for a while." He paused, thinking of how to phrase it. "Recently, Helen and I have...gotten closer. We've been dating for about a year now."

I suppose it was obvious from the way they acted around each other, but hearing a confirmation was still quite interesting. Helen was a good woman, very kind to me, and she never spoke down to me like he did. "Oh?" was still all I could say to his statement.

"Yeah..." He smiled at me, patting my hand as I made a move. I waited for him to finish before completing it. "Just wanted to let you know in case you saw us kissing or something."

And I couldn't have figured it out on my own? Putting aside the fact that I hadn't yet, it was unlikely to traumatize me. My parents had been divorced for several years, it was only natural that at least one of them would find a new partner. Why did he insist on treating me like an imbecile? "All right," I said, nodding to myself.

His attention back on the game, we continued in near silence, for which I was extremely grateful. Soon, the game was over, and again he ruffled my hair in that way he had. "That was fun. You know, you're a pretty good player."

I pointed to the board. "But you won."

"I know, but you put up quite the fight." He smiled, and I suppose it was meant to be warm. "You could be quite the master if you keep it up."

Fine, anything to get him to stop this forced socialization. "I'm going to my room," I said, and he didn't stop me.

The Pokemon Master
3rd September 2006, 10:58 AM
Oh, good. More Chapter goodness! And the quality of this maketh it another wonderful read. So this is how Chess makes its appearance in Jiri's life... Very interesting. Still, I kinda wish he'd give his father a chance, at least. It's so cruel of him to close up like that. Even though it's what leads up to the collector's obsession. ;) Another enjoyable Chapter, as usual, and I might be seeing you on Bulbagarden in the near future!

Until we meet again...

Blackjack Gabbiani
3rd September 2006, 5:24 PM
Yeah, he paints his father out to be this really bad guy, but really his father's nice and wants the best for his son...

And yay Bulbagarden!

4th September 2006, 10:06 PM
Yay! Another chapter!

And I'm sorry I'm late for reviewing! ^_^; Geez, I really need to learn to be on schedule.

Anyway, amazing chapter! We're starting to see the colder side of Jiri, I see. Oddly though, I like this side of him. You portray him so well, you know that?

Hmm.. Maybe I'm getting caught up in trivial details, but I have a question. When Jiri says "they" when he refers to the people that held him underwater, to whom is he referring? Hm. I'm not asking for exact people or anything that may possibly give away the plot, but I was wondering if "they" were children his age, adults, or just an angry mob of citizens. Hmm. Maybe I'm just focusing too much on details or perhaps I'm not reading well enough.

Anyway, I really enjoyed this chapter! I must say, Bulbagarden looks really tempting right about now. But even if I do read everything there so far, I'll continue to review here, for I prefer reviewing things sections at a time rather than as a whole.

Can't wait to see next week's chapter! =D


Blackjack Gabbiani
5th September 2006, 7:05 AM
"They" would be other kids, probably around his age.

Good news! I just got back from Kumoricon where Obsession (well, the first 12 chapters since that's all I have now) won Best Novella!

Blackjack Gabbiani
8th September 2006, 9:07 AM
Chapter 11. I suppose this begs the question of what I should do next week, when I post the conclusion of what I have. Any thoughts? I still haven't written anything of 13, although I know what I want to have happen in it...

While my home life may have been less than ideal, my life with Asaph continued to blossom. He told me frequently how impressed he was with me, how much I was growing with him. I noticed differences too, that I was more outgoing, more eager for even the everyday things. My drawings were getting better, I thought, probably due to my increased focus.

Asaph was the best thing that had happened to me in a long time, and I was grateful to have met him.

It was the duty and expectation that a man of his station present a distinguished manner to the rest of society, so he and my father decided that he would instruct me in the ways of gentlemen. Why my father was interested in such a thing, I still do not know. I can only suppose it was to represent the money his factory made, but we did not live like society people, not like Asaph.

In addition to comportment, he had begun teaching me languages, both past and present, and I was thriving under his tutelage. "You're quite the polyglot," he told me one day as he tousled my hair, and was surprised that I knew what the word meant.

He called me a prodigy, something I felt was a bit too lofty. I was simply a good student, that was all. Of course, looking back on it, I realize I may have sold myself short in that regard.

One day we were on our way to another museum, one across the seas in Hoenn, and I went to him and asked him how he came to have such a charmed life. "I think I've been very fortunate," he told me, looking out the window of his ship at the ocean waters below. "My family was quite wealthy, and I took an early interest in the finer things in life. I always loved art, and vowed to surround myself with the world's treasures." He smiled at me and gestured for me to come closer, which I did. His hand came to rest on my shoulder. "I'm grateful that I've found someone to share these things with, Jiri. I never thought I'd find a protégé like you. Truly I've been blessed."

I smiled back at him, resting my hand on his. "I'm glad I found you. My life would be so boring without something like our excursions to fill it."

He chuckled. "You're a good boy, Jiri. A very good boy." That said, he moved from the window to the chair of his ship, which was finally completed. Being a C-Class, it consisted of two rooms; the control room in which we presently stood, and the entrance, which was slightly lower and had a lift to reach it. "It should be about an hour before we reach Lilycove. What say we have a lesson in the meantime?"

We were in Lilycove before I knew it, and we would be staying the night, so we set up the hotel arrangements first. Waiting in the hall of the grand hotel made me feel like a prince. This was the sort of place my father would never go, with the gilt and the glamour and the opulent grandeur that he so avoided. Not like Asaph, he was in his element in such a palatial place.

On our way up to the room, with the bellhop handling our bags, Asaph took my hand in his and gave it a squeeze. "Is this your first night away from home, Jiri?" he asked.

"First time without one of my parents," I said. Mother and I had taken a few overnight trips, nothing really outstanding.

He nodded. "I hope I make a good host for you."

Once in the room, he tipped the bellhop generously, and then we were alone. I sat on the end of one of the two twin beds and looked up at Asaph. "Shall we head to the museum now?"

A smile crossed his face, creasing the lines by his eyes. "We should relax first. It was a long trip, and the museum will be there after we've rested up. Here, I've got something for you." He reached into his pocket and pulled out a candy, which he unwrapped and pushed into my mouth. The taste of butterscotch dissolved onto my tongue. "Is that good?"

"Yes, yes, you just surprised me." I swallowed deeply, the sweet confection heavy in my mouth. "It's very good. Did you get it in Seafoam?"

He chuckled to himself, discarding the wrapper. "My boy, there's so much you know, but so much you have yet to learn." And I knew he wasn't talking about the candy, but for the life of me I couldn't figure out what he meant.

9th September 2006, 8:36 AM
Oh my gosh! Congratulations! *clapclap* You really deserved to win something for this. Again, congrats! =D

BTW, thanks for answering my question.

Hmm. Personally, I really dunno what you should do for next week. Good luck on writing chapter 13, though. Take your time on it, for there's no need to rush.

Yet another awesome chapter! Everything flows and fits together so well. So Jiri's in Lilycove? Awesome. That's pretty far away from Seafoam. Hmm. Asaph certainly seems to be a tad bit odd. Dang, this chapter's got me wanting candy. *raids pantry*

I'm really excited to see next week's chapter! Great job so far! =D

Blackjack Gabbiani
9th September 2006, 4:03 PM
Asaph is pretty darn creepy, isn't he? *giggle* Unfortunately, I haven't written *why* yet...

The Pokemon Master
11th September 2006, 2:17 AM
Well, well, well! What does that Asaph have planned, I wonder... He could very easily take advantage of Jiri's devotion to him, and I am beginning to suspect that his entire role so far has been a screen to cover the fact that he's trying to separate Jiri from the Ancient Mew card. Only the author truly knows...

Anyway, great job on this Chapter! And good luck on Chapter 13! Lastly, could you clarify that question a bit? It seems a little vague to me...

Until we meet again...

Blackjack Gabbiani
11th September 2006, 6:36 AM
Clarify what question?

The Pokemon Master
12th September 2006, 6:49 PM
I suppose this begs the question of what I should do next week, when I post the conclusion of what I have. Any thoughts?^That one! ;)

Until we meet again...

Blackjack Gabbiani
13th September 2006, 6:59 AM
Well, since I post a chapter each week, next week (or...this one) will be the last one since I only have 12 parts so far. So what should I do in the meantime? Chapter 13 seems a while off (although I hope to do it before the end of the year).

8th October 2006, 8:47 AM
This is a good story. I hope you get chapter 13 up soon.

Blackjack Gabbiani
28th October 2006, 8:54 AM
I wanted to wait until I had 13 written to post 12, but what the heck, here's 12 anyway. Still no 13 yet, nothing written of it, although I do know that I'll be introducing a new character to the fold.

But first--Obsession fanart!

http://www.deviantart.com/deviation/37273611/ A cast picture by the fabulous JulieArticuno

http://www.deviantart.com/deviation/35408319/ Jiri and Asaph, by AngelLover89

I love you guys, have I ever told you that? And now, with no further ado, I present to you Ob12.

In those times, I fully believed the childhood adage that I could be anything I wanted. The problem was that there was nothing I wanted to do in life.

Until the day Asaph took me to Mandarin.

It was a few weeks after our excursion to Lilycove. We hadn't seen each other since, and he greeted me with a demonstrative embrace that nearly squeezed the wind from me. We were outside my father's factory, with the hot air of machinery emanating from the open doors. A breeze blew inland from across the sea as Asaph took me to his ship, his greying blond hair waving slightly as we boarded. My father waved goodbye as we took off, soaring over the cliffs and to the open ocean. I watched the factory become a small dot on the horizon before turning to Asaph.

"Where are we going today?" I asked him. It didn't really matter to me; any trip I took with him was bound to be full of wonders.

"Mandarin Island. Ever been?"

I shook my head. I'd never been to the Orange region at all, nor do I think I would ever have were it not for his interventions.

"Oh, it's delightful. The museum is running a special exhibit of historical interest to the area. Some of that primitive art is really incredible." He smiled and came to stand next to me, running his fingers through my hair. "It promises to be an eventful day."

Little did I know how right he would prove to be.

Mandarin Island had a bustling port, but the rest of the city was relatively relaxed. We landed at a pier on a quiet side of the land--Asaph had paid extra for a ship that could land in water--and headed directly to the museum. It was a large building, unassuming, looking more like a university than a repository for ancient treasures.

Within the hallowed halls, we quickly found the special display room. Native music greeted us on the breeze, piped in softly over the sound system. Asaph gasped, spotting a large stone statue, and herded me over to it. "Jiri, doll, look at this!" he whispered, his hand on my shoulder.

I read the museum's summary of the piece, noting that it was thought to be over five thousand years old. "It's certainly ancient," I said, nearly kicking myself for the obviousness of the statement.

But Asaph didn't notice. "Isn't it lovely? The curves and lines are so playful, one would think it was done recently!"

"What is it?" I asked him. It looked like a lump to me. Of course, I was naive then.

"Why Jiri, you don't see it? It's a woman! Notice the wide curving hips and the full breasts?"

I shook my head. "No, sorry."

"Well, it is a little abstract," he admitted, patting my shoulder. "Want to move on?"

"Oh yes."

The next object was a tablet, and Asaph told me it was written in the language of the Shamouti Islanders. This was not the one I was to aquire later in life, but it was similar. Asaph was familiar with some of the Orange languages, and was pointing out the words he knew. I learned "Aqu'hala", which meant "mainland", or more literally, "land without water".

We looked in awe at several more objects, both artistic and mundane, before happening upon some small carvings. They were ancient, but still shone with lustre and life. They were of birds, the Legendary Birds, it said.

The largest one looked familiar, and it took me a second before I realized it was the white bird.

Of course, I couldn't tell Asaph, what would he say? But how I wanted to! My stomach was twirling about, and I'm positive that my face conveyed my shock. My white bird, finally back to me after all this!

According to the summary, the creature was known as Lugia. I finally had a name to go with my beautiful bird! I took a deep breath, noting that I was becoming light headed. I expected a more dramatic reaction from myself, especially after what had happened in Viridian, but as it was, I felt elated. How dare my father tell me that the white bird was a dream? I had evidence it existed, or at least that someone else had seen it.

"Oh, you certainly like those, don't you?" Asaph asked, tousling my hair once again. "They say that the Legendary Birds of the Orange region are special, more so than the same species from other regions."

"Tell me about the one in the middle." It wasn't a request, it was a demand, and I regretted my tone the moment I said it.

"Lugia? Well..." He brought his hand to his mouth and paused. "Honestly I don't know that much about it. I know it's said to live at the bottom of the ocean, and is considered sacred to many of the islands in Orange. But that's about it."

I nodded absentmindedly, staring at the figure. It was pulling me in, not in the way the angel painting had done, but in a way that made me positively giddy.

"Jiri, are you well? You're breathing awfully strangely..."

Damn. My youthful enthusiasm had gotten away from me there, and I exhaled slowly to calm myself. My behaviour went against Asaph's comportment training, and I was sorry for that. "I apologize. I just got a bit...excited."

He laughed. "The art world can do that to a person. Why, it's done it to me before, especially in my first years as a Collector."

A Collector...

At that point, everything in my life settled into place. I knew what my future had to be. "Asaph!" I addressed sharply, again regretting how stern I sounded. "I want to be a Collector too," I blurted out, prompting a giggle from a nearby woman at my bluntness. But I didn't care.

One may think that I wanted Lugia at such a young age, but that is not the case. I wanted the treasures, the stuff of legends.

Asaph raised an eyebrow at me, a thin smirk on his lips. "You want to be a Collector?" he repeated.

"Yes!" I added an unspoken 'with all my heart'.

"Jiri, I..." He looked away, pensive for a moment, then back at me with a sharp turn of his head. "All right! I can teach you the basics, and if you want to continue on, I can teach you that too!" He looked so happy, like he was about to burst into joyous tears, and he dabbed at his eyes with a silk handkerchief. "Jiri, I'm so proud of you..."

In those fleeting moments, my life was set before me. I smiled to myself.

The Pokemon Master
28th October 2006, 4:25 PM
Hoo boy! Now the seeds have been planted in Jiri's head, and he'll follow the path of a collector until he wants to both prove to his father that his "white bird" (Lugia) exists and add some marvelous pieces to his collection. At least I think that that's what is going to happen after reading this Chapter. Maybe there's some other plot twist ahead that will help him in his obsession...

Anyway, very well written (as usual), and I hope you figure out how to write Chapter 13... If you want, you could PM me for ideas or a basic structure of the Chapter and such, but I can't promise anything. I still have a massive amount of reviewing to do...

Until we meet again...

Blackjack Gabbiani
29th October 2006, 4:15 AM
Thanks for stopping by!

Oh yes, I've got some interesting things planned for later on, don't you fret.

The Pokemon Master
29th October 2006, 11:59 AM
You're welcome!

And what I actually meant by that was that if you want, I could help you write it (since you're stuck), by giving you a framework or getting it started. Something like that. Just trying to help out...

Until we meet again...

Blackjack Gabbiani
30th October 2006, 1:42 AM
I'll have to think about it, but thank you for the offer!

2nd November 2006, 1:07 AM
Oh my! I'm sorry I'm late! ^_^;

Yay! A new chapter! And fanart! Oh my goodness!

This chapter was fabulous! I'm loving the way the plotline is going. You are incredibly talented indeed. *claps*

A new character? Oooh, I can't wait!

I know this is probably the most unproductive review ever, but I'm sort of at a lost of words due to excitement.

Good luck writing the next chapter. I'm really, really interested to see what's going to unfold, and beautiful job so far!


Blackjack Gabbiani
8th November 2006, 2:21 AM
I can't believe it! Chapter 13 at long last!

After that, things moved slowly at first. Asaph began teaching me some art history along with my usual language study, which I soaked up like the proverbial sponge. I found myself far more interested in the creations of the ancient world and those of the Renaissance than those of the modern world, although that had more to do with the quality of individual artists than anything else. I never cared for abstractions, as my reaction to the statue in Mandarin had shown. Things had to show what they meant, or I would pass them by.

One day, Asaph announced that I must have a new outfit, for we would be attending a party at the end of the week. He told me that my museum clothes would not suffice, that I must be dressed the part of the aspiring young Collector that I now was. He gave my father a short list of some suitable designers, but as expected, my father was unable to take me. In return, he gave Asaph some money and told him to purchase what he saw fit. So Asaph and I traveled to a boutique in Viridian, where he bought me a magnificent lavender greatcoat in the finest fabrics. When he saw me in it the first time, he gasped and said that I was a heavenly sight.

Finally, the day of the party arrived. I donned the garment once more and waited at the airship dock for Asaph. It was summer's end, and the wind blowing through my hair had a faint chill as well at the salt smell it usually carried.

Suddenly, a hand rested on my shoulder, and I instinctively pulled away. "You're awfully jumpy today," my father said. "Are you sure you're ready to go to a fancy party?"

I stepped away from him. Anyone would be jumpy if a hand appeared on their shoulder without warning, and he was a fool to assume otherwise. "Of course I am."

"Do you know what goes on at these parties?"

One thing to understand is that my father was never told that it was a Collector party. Asaph had said to keep that a secret, and I knew why. Father would not understand how much it meant to me, nor would he understand why I felt it my destiny. In response to his question, I shook my head. "People will be making society connections there. It's going to be a lot of talk, I think."

He chuckled, and his hand found my shoulder again, against my wishes, but I let it stay there anyway. "I'll never understand why people find those so interesting. Well, if you get bored, Asaph will probably be willing to bring you back. Or you can see Viridian; it's a beautiful city."

"It is," I agreed. I liked it a well sight better than Seafoam, what I had seen of it, anyway. Seafoam, for all the crowds, was a rather dingy town that gave itself body and soul to the ocean.

Asaph's ship arrived then, and I was glad to go.

We landed at a crowded dock in the yard of a mansion, and trekked the few hundred feet to the elaborate doorway, where we were greeted by a doorman. As I had been taught by Asaph, I passed the man a tip as he held the door, and he smiled.

"This party is really rather casual," Asaph muttered to me as we entered. "At the parties of note, they'll have someone announcing you as you come in." But I hardly paid him any mind, although I did fancy the image.

The mansion's entryway was very posh, with classical columns rising over modern checked marble floors that reflected the declining sun from out the window. We were led to a larger room that I assumed was the ballroom. All around were people, and all in their finery. They discussed art mostly, tossing around names I had never heard and prices that made me gasp.

Of course, Asaph was in his element. It was like a whirlwind, the way he introduced me to so many people. Many of them knew me as "Corbin's son", which of course I despised. I regret to say that I remember very little detail, as I was quite overwhelmed. I recall being passed around from person to person like a curiosity, a young boy who already had his life set before him, even though I knew the attendees themselves had been determined that early.

After a time, Asaph spotted the woman we had met at the Viridian Museum, Lucrezia, and left me to talk with her. With him gone, I sighed. This whole endeavor was quite overwhelming, and I found my head spinning from all the excitement. I knew I had to brave these excursions in the future, to make connections and to expand my horizons, but for now, I was still a beginner, so I ducked into the sitting room when no one was looking.

I thought I was alone at first until I heard a girl giggling. "That's it! Now jump!" she said to something, so I looked around. There, kneeling on the floor behind the couch, was a girl probably a few years older than myself. Before her was a pokémon I'd only seen in books, a Ralts. It was jumping at something in her hand, which she held aloft and wiggled. She laughed, and handed it the treat anyway, which it promptly devoured.

I couldn't help but laugh myself, although I wasn't sure why.

At the sound, she and the Ralts turned to face me, her curly blonde hair twisting with her action. "Oh, I didn't know anyone else was in here. My parents aren't looking for me already, are they?" she asked, with a tone indicating that she thought it was far too soon.

I shook my head. "Not that I know of. Sorry to disturb you. Would you rather I leave you alone?"

She stood, and the Ralts ran in front of her. "No, that's ok. It's good to see someone younger around here." With a smile, she held out her hand. "I'm Veronica."

Frankly, I was unsure of what to do. Should I shake her hand or kiss it? Should I bow? Kneel? I took a moment to decide, during which time I took her hand and raised it a little, looking to her for cues. She smiled at me, but otherwise did nothing, so I settled on drawing the offered hand closer and making eye contact. "Jirarudan."

"Interesting name," she said as I let go of her hand. "So who are you with?"

"Me? I'm here with Asaph. Do you know him?"

"I think my parents have done business with him...not sure. I know I've heard the name, though." She grabbed my hand again. "I didn't introduce you to Ralts!" And with that, she pulled me down to the ground, where her pokémon waited. "Ralts, this is Ji...um...no, I've got it, Jira--"

"Jiri is fine," I assured her. "I know, it's a mouthful."

"This is Jiri," she finished with a laugh, and her Ralts laughed too. "Jiri, this is Ralts. I got her for my birthday last month. She's from Hoenn!"

"So I hear. Aren't they pretty rare?"

She nodded. "They're psychic, and people say they can sense emotions. But this one just seems to sense when I've got treats." As if on cue, Ralts went up on tiptoe with arms extended, begging for something. "Oh fine, here's another one." Veronica took another treat from her purse and gave it to the Ralts, who nibbled on it happily. "Now that she's pacified, want to sit down?"

"Oh, all right." I stood first and offered my hand to Veronica, who took it with a slightly coy look. We moved to the couch and I noticed that she sat very ladylike, with her back straight and her legs crossed at the ankle. I had to watch my own posture, remembering what Asaph had taught me in his comportment lessons. Ralts played at her feet, amusing itself with the elaborate lines on the rug beneath us.

"So..." Veronica started after a brief silence, "how do you know Asaph?"

"He's one of my father's patrons. We got to talking one day and I found him fascinating." I had hoped that she wouldn't ask further, but of course she did.

"Oh? What does your father do? Is he an artist?"

I shook my head, reluctant to talk about the man. "He makes ships," was all the information I offered.

"Ooh, sounds exotic. That must take you all over the place! So where are you from?" She leaned in, intrigued.

"I'm just from Kanto. Little town, though, far to the east. But now I live in Seafoam."

"Seafoam's nice. We go there sometimes in the winter. I'm from here in Viridian, myself. It's nice too." She paused. "I probably sound like a complete idiot, don't I? 'That's nice, that's nice'."

I laughed, probably a bit too loud given my manner. But I was starting to relax. "It's all right, I'm not the best at conversation myself." After a moment, I added "Veronica? Are you going to be a Collector too, then?"

She looked away for just a moment, then back at me with brown eyes bright. "Well, both my parents are...so I guess I am. But for now, no one talks to me at parties 'cause I'm only twelve."

Was there some reluctance there? I quickly forgot it. "This is my first party, and everyone was treating me like a curiosity since I'm only nine."

"Nine, really? You act so much older...but then, you do look young." She tilted her head at me. "So why do you want to be a Collector anyway?"

"Well..." I smiled, more to myself than to her. "The world fascinates me. I want to know the mysteries of the planet. And what better way than to surround myself with articles of distinction?" It sounded like something Asaph would say, or tell me to say, but I didn't care. I couldn't tell her about the white bird, at least not right away. Besides, it was truth, if not wrapped in a shell of peculiarity.

"Mm." It was a noncommital noise, and she looked as though she was thinking about something. "I've always loved the art world. Have you been to the Viridian Museum?"

"Oh yes, I was there a few months ago with Asaph. It was...breathtaking." Angels flitted through my mind as I remembered the painting that had so posessed me. "What's your favorite part?"

"I like the silver room, myself," she said as she bent to pick up her Ralts. "My parents have a set just like one that's on exhibit. I think it was made by the same crafter. Yours?"

"I like the paintings," I admitted. "Especially the Neo-Classical era ones. I thought they did the best job of conveying emotion." My reaction would never cross my lips.

She petted her Ralts, scratching in between the horns, to which Ralts sighed happily and nuzzled her hand. "So do you have any pokémon? I've just got this one here."

I shook my head. "No, can't say that training ever interested me."

"You don't have to be a trainer, you can just own them. Like I'm no trainer." She laughed. "I'd make a horrible trainer."

"No, I still don't think I'd like one." My father had several, to assist in the factory. Mostly Machamps for transport and construction aid, and some strong fire types to heat the metal to where it was malleable. But I had never wanted one for myself, and thoughts of Lugia were a long time off.

"Well, they're not for everyone. Ralts keeps me more than occupied, anyway." She stood, still holding the creature. "Well, I think I'd best be heading back out there. My parents are probably looking for me by now. It was nice meeting you, Jiri."

I nodded. "I should probably return to the party as well. Asaph is probably tearing the place apart trying to find me." Following her to the door, I opened it for her.

"Oh, a gentleman." She giggled again. "Well, like I said, it was nice meeting you. I hope I see you again. Will you be at the opening in Saffron next month?"

"I hadn't heard about that. I might be." I would have to ask Asaph about that.

"I'll look for you there, then!" And with that, she scampered off, Ralts in hand.

I occupied myself with idle conversation with people I didn't care for the rest of the night, untl the party's end when Asaph, who I hadn't seen in hours, found me and asked me if I was ready to return to Seafoam. I told him I was, but in truth, the dull day-to-day of that town would only depress me.

When we were walking back to the ship, Asaph asked me if I had enjoyed myself, and I thought of Veronica and said yes.

The Pokemon Master
8th November 2006, 10:41 PM
Well, well, well! Jiri's starting to notice people other than Asaph! It's about time... Even if it's only one person. Anyway, this Chapter was pulled off with as much aplomb as the previous ones, and I personally see no fault in how the plot is developing (despite your earlier concerns). Veronica seems like a pretty nice young girl, and Jiri's obviously attracted to her, but she doesn't seem to have very much in common with him. Wonder how that'll turn out... Apart from that, I'm glad to see his lavender overcoat finally making an appearance! Funny how I enjoy the little things that directly connect him to what he'll be when he gets older...

Anyway, great Chapter as usual! And you're quite welcome about the offer. Here's to hoping that the next Chapter falls through into writing soon!

Until we meet again...

Blackjack Gabbiani
9th November 2006, 8:16 AM
Problem is that I have no idea what should happen next chapter. But yay, you liked Veronica!

The Pokemon Master
9th November 2006, 10:36 PM
Problem is that I have no idea what should happen next chapter.
Oh... That can't be good... I tend to get the exact opposite problem whenever I encounter one in writing. Plenty of ideas, but a complete inability to write any down. ;) Hope you think of something!

Until we meet again...

13th November 2006, 2:30 AM
Wow. That's my gut reaction. The first few chapters were short-ish, but quality over quantity- Warriors by Erin Hunter easily blew all six Harry Potter books on first week sales, but Warriors is only a fourth of HP's size. So pull that peice of the air head and chew it. (Yeah, random simmile.)

I love to death the fact that everything about him makes perfect sence; as does probably everyone else who has had the pleasure of devoruing this fic. (Warning, I'm about to make a... obivus statement) Such as when he's playing chess with his father, the part of the movie jumps out when he says something about catching another bird being another move in the game of chess, can't remember exactly what he says.

I love this too death. I accualy don't have any fics going on at the moment, so it's not like my oppion matters. (I am perticipating in "Why Pikachu has Red Cheeks and Other Short Stories) So yeah, there's my two cents.

EDIT: Fwee, crappy post!

Blackjack Gabbiani
13th November 2006, 7:04 AM
"It's like a simple game of chess..." Yeah, I try to encorperate everything we know from canon about him into the fic--the chess, the angels, the airship...

And of course your opinion matters! And I thank you for it.

14th November 2006, 3:10 AM
That was it... (Bows, then trips)

Can't wait for the next chappie.

Blackjack Gabbiani
14th November 2006, 9:42 AM
Once I figure out what it should be about, I'll get started on it!

17th November 2006, 1:50 AM
I know I am obnoxiously late. Please forgive me, for I've been staying away from home in a place with no internet whatsoever, hence the reason why I haven't reviewed. But I am so sorry! ^_^;

Great chapter, as usual. Jiri's becoming a bit social! Yay! Veronica seems like an interesting character. Nice to see Jiri's got himself a friend -- perhaps more? *shrugs*
I really liked the chapter though. You captured the setting excellently.

Good luck on the next chapter! I can't wait to read it! =)


Blackjack Gabbiani
17th November 2006, 1:53 AM
Hey, a late review is better than no review at all. And heck, it bumps the thread, right?

I've got a fair amount planned for Veronica, so you'll be seeing plenty of her. Problem is that I don't know when to bring her back in.

18th November 2006, 2:07 AM
I have a gift. It's a drawing. Hooray. That's pretty much all I have to say.

click me (http://i143.photobucket.com/albums/r138/xalifesochanged/11-16-2006085126PM.jpg)


Blackjack Gabbiani
18th November 2006, 7:39 AM
Yay! It's so cute, and so sad. Very fitting.

27th December 2006, 1:37 PM
This is good, very good. Nice touch bringing in his overcoat, though I see it aa a sort of everyday robe, not an overcoat.

Hope to read more soon! Very good! Veronica seems kind of sweet.


Blackjack Gabbiani
27th December 2006, 11:05 PM
Yeah, I like Veronica a lot.

As for his coat, I think he wears an undershirt under it, like guys in old movies.

Thanks for the review!

15th January 2007, 3:10 PM
Finally got around to reading this. Very interesting, suits his character well. Can't wait for the next part. :)

Blackjack Gabbiani
16th January 2007, 12:54 AM
Thank you! I'll keep you all posted!

So far I haven't gotten any ideas for the next chapter. Well, I have one, but it'll require some research.

28th June 2007, 11:12 AM
*bumps topic* Meep.

'Ello, my friends. I come with fanart.
...That I have been putting off for quite some time now. XP

It's Asaph this time, just much younger-looking then the story version. *sweatdrop* So, enjoy! =]

click, please? (http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v736/Mew564/asaph2-2.jpg)


Blackjack Gabbiani
28th June 2007, 11:14 AM
Yay! Thank you so much! (of course you showed it to me already, but you can never say thank you too many times)

Chapter 14 should be started within the month. I just need to think of a reason for Corbin to bring up what he brings up. If anyone wants to be spoiled and think they can help me, PM me.

Blackjack Gabbiani
20th July 2007, 10:47 AM
Here we go! And within a month too!

I had to do some self-reflection for this chapter. You'll know the parts when you get there.

This was originally slated to be much longer, but then I decided to chop it up into two or possibly three chapters. Otherwise it'd be HUGE.


Asaph had told me over the past few weeks that soon he would make a new acquisition, so when he called me one evening to tell me that he finally had the item in his possession, I could scarcely contain my excitement. He would pick me up early the next morning and take me to his mansion, which lay just over the Seafoam bridge on the mainland. I had never been invited there before; all my meetings with him were either here or some place he would take me in his ship, so I wondered what sorts of things I would see in his own collection.

What would my future collection hold? What wonders of the world would I come to someday possess? I pushed such questions to the back of my mind as I lay in bed, trying in vain to sleep. My window was closed, as it was getting colder outside, so I could not hear the ocean that night. But with the absence of the sea breeze to which I'd become accustomed, a dull silence spread across my room, and I found sleeping to be difficult. Eventually, lulled by promises of what the awakening day would bring, I finally drifted off.

I rose early, with the sun, and I could hear my father down the hall. It was rare of me to wake before the factory opened, so I dawdled in my room and waited for the hallway to fall silent before heading to wash up.

The greatcoat that Asaph had gotten me was off being cleaned, so I attired myself in simpler clothes. Black slacks and a plain green dress shirt felt so common compared with what I had seen at the party, but I figured it was good enough for private company.

Satisfied for the time being, I went downstairs, keeping as quiet as I could. I could hear my father talking in the kitchen, and I assumed it was to Helen, since she was the only one who would come into the house.

"When I heard you were sick, I assumed the worst," he said. That's right, Helen had been absent the past few days.

"You big worrywart," she teased. "It's just a cold."

I was about to join them in the kitchen when he continued. "I was thinking about Gloria. She used to expose herself to all kinds of weird stuff and then try to cure it. That's what wound up killing her, in fact. She found something she couldn't cure."

It took me a moment, during which time I didn't move, and everything fell apart. Had he just said what I thought he said? As the world slowly reassembled itself, I concluded that he had. But rather than shake and cry as I would have before, I grabbed the thing closest to me and beat it firmly against the back of the couch. The book in my hands, some tome on engineering, shifted sharply with each impact, causing the cover to pinch against my fingers. But I didn't care. How dare he? How DARE he?

I heard the sound of his voice saying my name, but I didn't care to look. I didn't want to see him, not now, not ever again, so I threw the book as hard as I could in the direction of the voice, grabbed my shoes from the entryway, and ran out the door.

The sun was rising behind me as I stormed away from the factory. As soon as I was positive that he wasn't following me, I stopped to put on my shoes, tying them with sharp pulling movements that made them too tight for my feet. But I wasn't about to do it again, so I kept walking as much as they hurt.

I figured I would stay on the road until the bridge, and then wait for Asaph's car. There would be very little traffic heading into Seafoam this time of day; most of the scant vehicles on the road were heading further inland for a day of work.

"Stupid roads," I muttered, pausing to brush sand off my shoes. It seemed that even separated from the shoreline, the sand found a way to annoy. With every step I heard the telltale crunch of the cursed grit against pavement, and I swore under my breath at the sound. It seemed to increase with each move I made, until finally I was stomping in a circle, a long, loud shout escaping me.

What was he thinking? How could he say something like that? What kind of an idiot was he? He *wasn't* thinking, that had to be it! He never thought about what he did! He didn't care about me or anything! He didn't CARE!

Words failed me, and I continued to scream my rage at him with base sounds. I must have been quite the sight--calling out and flailing around, kicking at the ground and nearly falling over from the effort as the sun crept up over the city.

Finally, my body had taken all it could, and I found myself on the ground, staring out at the road, with one hand over my knees and the other balled up at my side, hitting the sandy road lightly every few seconds. Someone across the street came to their door to see what had caused all the noise, but I didn't move. I saw her watching me for a second, out of the corner of my eye, before going back in her house and leaving me alone with my thoughts.

I sat like that, my back to the cement wall separating the beach from the main road. It was only on the eastern side of town; the tourists preferred their views unfettered. My clothes were covered in sand. What would Asaph think? I couldn't face him looking like this, he'd be horrified. But I couldn't go back to the house either, that was simply out of the question. So I remained there for a while, sitting by the side of the road in a little ball.

A car stopped near me eventually, but I hardly noticed it until the door opened and a man stepped out. "Jiri? Young master Jirarudan, what are you doing out here?"

When I realized that he was talking to me, I looked up hazily and immediately regretted it. "Asaph..."

He knelt down to me. "What happened? You look--"

I raised my hand, wincing to keep tears at bay. I wasn't about to cry like a child in front of him. "We should go," I muttered, most undignified, as I pulled myself to my feet and brushed some of the sand off. His hand joined mine, dusting off the side of my pants. He looked up at me, concern evident in his expression, and looked as though he wanted to say something.

Finally, as he stood, he did. "You'll want to get washed up when we get there," he said softly, patting me lightly on the back and ushering me towards the car. His chauffeur, a grey-haired man with a black cap, smiled kindly at me from the front seat.

But before I could take my seat in the rear, someone began speaking. "Is that your kid?"

Asaph and I looked up. The woman who had investigated my outburst earlier was standing in her doorway. "I look after him, yes," he replied. "Why do you ask?"

She spoke to him, but kept her eyes on me, something that made me extremely uncomfortable. "He was out here screamin' and carryin' on about something about half an hour ago. Woke up the whole house."

He glanced down at me for a second. "I see. Well, I apologize. I will speak with him. Thank you for telling me." And with a hand to my shoulder, he nudged me into the car.

20th July 2007, 11:33 AM
Heya! Guess who it is XD

As always, I'm uber excited to see a new chapter being posted to Obsession. Things like that make my day. Wow. My days are made by fanfic. XP It controls my life, I swear. But without Obsession, I'd suffer from withdrawal. And I'm not kidding. Seriously. Is that a bad thing? Haha. Who knows?

But awesome chapter! As said before, it's good to know that you divided it into parts. It helps things flow and fall into place, if ya know what I mean. Plus, it keeps me wondering what's gonna happen. And that's always a good thing IMO.

What I'm really wondering -- aside from what's gonna happen with Asaph -- is what Jiri's father is gonna do with the poor kid when he gets back. If I were Corbin, I'd be all "WTF" over the whole situation, but maybe that's just the way I am. *shrugs*

I'm a big sucker for emotions, if ya haven't noticed. And you really portray them well. As a reader, I can feel them. Helps to grow closer to our narrator.

I can't wait for the next chapter! ^_^


Blackjack Gabbiani
20th July 2007, 12:04 PM
Corbin tries, he really does. But he got Jiri so suddenly, and he's really not equipped to handle a boy like him.

And your reviews always make me squee.

Blackjack Gabbiani
2nd August 2007, 2:27 AM
Just a scant few days since the last one? What is the world coming to? And I need input--I have to decide if the next chapter should be a "dream" one like the 4th one was, or if he should wake up without incident.

We drove on for a while, coming to the main stretch of the city before he said anything. I was afraid that he was going to ask me things I was not ready to discuss, but he simply asked the driver to turn on the radio. The man turned a dial and light classical from a Viridian station filled the air.

The inside of the car was surprisingly modern given the older appearance of the exterior. It had been retrofitted with amenities that the manufacturer could never have imagined. I toyed with one of them, the switch to the windows, for a moment before settling on lowering mine about an inch. The wind in my hair felt like calming fingers, and I relaxed into the back of the seat.

Finally we crossed the bridge marking the Seafoam city limits and entered the surrounding farmland. There were small hamlets dotting the area from here to Viridian, but mostly disconnected houses marked the land.

Asaph's was a reasonable distance from the coast, in an area populated by businesspeople from the cities wishing to live out of the way. The factory got a fair amount of business from such people, since they could afford father's services and would seek means to reach their respective work destinations quickly. His mansion was atop a hill, nestled in a wooded area that sprung up around the building. It was a peaceful looking place, but I scarcely noticed, still consumed with my thoughts.

The car rolled to a stop at the end of the driveway, but it took until the driver opened my door for me to notice. "We're here," he said, but Asaph moved next to him.

"I'll handle it, Igasho," and the man stood down. Asaph put his hand on my shoulder. "We've arrived, Jiri. I want to know what you think of my home."

With fingers like lead, I fumbled with the latch of the seat belt until it released, and took his offered hand as he helped me out of the car. And that was when I finally looked at the structure that loomed over us. It looked more like a palace than an estate, as though it had been brought here from some distant time and place. Each corner bore towers dotted with windows, and the entryway led out to a veranda with the roof held aloft by caryatids. Above was a balcony with a door mirroring the one below it. The whole of it was constructed from rugged stone, making it look as though it had been there for centuries rather than the few years in truth.

Asaph bowed to me, extending an arm towards the building. "Welcome to my humble home, young master Jirarudan," he greeted. "After you."

As I walked through the ornate doorway carved in with an A, Igasho doffed his cap to me, and it was as though I was entering another world. I suppose it looked basically similar to the mansion where I had met Veronica, but being there for me and not for an event brought out the hugeness of the moment. The entrance led to a long hallway, with inlaid marble floors below and long arches above. Further in, there was a stairway to the second story, draped with carpeting in a deep muted red. More immediately, sculptures on pedestals lined the hall, and both looked ancient.

"Do you like it, Jiri?" Asaph asked from behind me.

I turned away from the wonders to face him. "I do! It's beautiful..." But even the beauty of this place was not enough to deliver me from my father's words.

He frowned. "But?"

My temporary reverie broken, I looked at the floor. "I heard my father say something heartless."

"And that's why you were so out of sorts?" I nodded, and he put his hand on my shoulder. My own came up to rest on his. "I'm sorry. Can you tell me what he said?"

"No, I'm afraid not..." I had to hold back a yawn as I spoke.

"Oh, you're all worn out!" he exclaimed. "Would you like to rest a while?"

I thought about it. I did feel exhausted, both mentally and physically, but I would be taking advantage of his hospitality, wouldn't I? In the end, I decided to take him up on it. "If you think that would be all right," I muttered.

"Speak up, Jiri," he said, starting to lead me down the hall. "Gentlemen don't mumble."

"No...I suppose they don't." I wasn't a gentleman yet, but my voice was slightly stronger anyway.

He lead me up the stairs and down another elegant hallway, his leather shoes making a steady beat as he walked. "The guest room is being cleaned. There was an unfortunate incident with one of my servants and a bottle of wood polish, so the room is uninhabitable."

Under ordinary circumstances, I would have laughed, but in my current funk I could only manage a noncommittal noise.

"Anyway," he continued, opening another carved wooden door, "you'll have to rest up in my room. I hope it--oh yes, good, they arranged it nicely. Sometimes they don't get to it until nearly lunch."

I peeked into the room and was greeted by a cozier place than the outside. It was smaller than I would have pictured, with wooden floors and a wooden bed, still exquisitely styled, of course. A thick quilt, probably handmade, was folded at the foot over a fine coverlet in deep purple. Above the bed was a gilded frame holding a brilliant landscape, mirroring the forest view from out the window.

Asaph drew the shades closed. "Is this dark enough?" he asked. "Oh, but you can't sleep like that, you'll get sand all over the sheets." In a moment, he was at the elaborately carved dresser beneath the window, retrieving a nightshirt. "Put this on, I'll wait out here."

I glanced back to the adjoining washroom. "What should I do with what I'm wearing?"

"I'll have Zihna wash them. She should be done by the time you wake up."

Taking the nightshirt from him, I went to the washroom and changed, silent the entire time. When I came back out, the corner of the bed had been turned down for me, and a young woman with dark hair and dark eyes waited for me. Asaph was gone, and the woman said "If you're looking for Sir Asaph, he said he would return to wake you."

"Did he say when?" I asked as I climbed into bed. The sheets were smooth and pleasant.

She went to gather my clothes and emerged a moment later. "I think he'll give you about two hours. By your leave, sir?"

It took me a second to think of what she meant by that. "Oh! You may go." And with a slight bow, she exited, leaving me alone in the dark room. It took me only a few minutes to fall asleep, not needing the sound of the ocean.

The Pokemon Master
6th August 2007, 7:32 PM
You know, I’m not sure what I can do to properly apologize for my extended absence as a reviewer. Except, perhaps, a review or two. ;) Really, I’m sorry that they’re so ridiculously late. Here we go!

…Um. Not sure whether I should classify this as Chapter 14 Parts 1 & 2 or just review the whole thing… Oh well, I guess an overall review should suffice.

Lawrence seems to have a rather lot of fallings-out with his father… it’s really a pity that they cannot seem to get along. Anyway, at least Asaph steps in to save the day! Lucky for Jirarudan that he has such a good friend, especially one who can teach him all kinds of etiquette. Not to mention helping nurture his unique sense of humor. I’m quite interested in what it is that Asaph will introduce Jirarudan to, though… Very likely something else that will play a significant part in Jirarudan’s mounting obsession. Overall, the quality of your work remains untarnished when I compare it to what has come before. Excellent job!

…With one very minor exception, unfortunately. Here it is…

What was he thinking? How could he say something like that? What kind of an idiot was he? He *wasn't* thinking, that had to be it! He never thought about what he did! He didn't care about me or anything! He didn't CARE!While the asterisks around the word do their job of emphasizing the word, I can’t help but feel it would have been better off italicized instead.

Still, this little thing does next to nothing to dilute the quality of the work. Although I can’t say I wouldn’t have preferred a longer Chapter to three separate Parts if you had them already written… ;) Of course, it’s entirely your decision.

Also, about your request for input… In my opinion, it depends. Do you have something that neither he nor Asaph could possibly know about that you would like to introduce? If so, full dream steam ahead! If not, if Asaph could reasonably introduce it instead and you would prefer it that way, a simple wake-up and back to conscious experiences is probably better.

There you go! My review and opinion for you. I am looking eagerly forward to the next Chapter…

Until we meet again…

Blackjack Gabbiani
7th August 2007, 9:20 AM
Ooh, you return! Good to see you again.

Yeah, I write these in Notepad, so I can't italicize things. Maybe I could write in HTML or basic code...

And I think I know what I'm going to do with the dream. Thanks for the input!

7th August 2007, 9:25 AM
Guess who it is! XD

And again, GAH at missing out on this. Epic events like this need to be recognized. Seriously. But anyway...

I like how you talk about the island being more than just an island. Reading about forest-like areas is more interesting than hearing about typical sunny beaches and such.

Also, I'm liking the names. They add variety, which is always appreciated. 8D

But as I've said before, the separation into chapters is a bit more effective than having one gigantic one. It'd just look out of place. Maybe? *shrugs* But seeing the similarity of chapter lengths and such makes it appear a bit more organized.. If that makes sense.

I'm so glad you were able to come up with this so soon! That's awesome! And of course, I can't wait to read what's going to become of this!

As for input, you know I can be found on AIM. But most of my "input" is usually "yeah..." or such, so I may not be the most reliable source. XD


Blackjack Gabbiani
7th August 2007, 9:31 AM
Well, the forests and stuff are on the mainland, but I'm basing Seafoam more on the coastal cities of Oregon than any place tropical (yes, I know it has palm trees in the anime. I don't care). Plus it's the off season, so all the tourists are gone.

Blackjack Gabbiani
1st October 2007, 3:24 AM
Can it be? Ob16? Holy crap! And in less than two months, too!

I was dreaming...

Only bits and pieces do I remember, but what remains could have just as easily been lost had I not heard Asaph's voice cutting through the veil. I started, jolted awake with a gasp, but he steadied me.

He was sitting next to me, pulled up entirely onto the bed, and he put his hand to my chest. "Jiri, it's time to wake up. Kuri's nearly finished with lunch, and she hates to be kept waiting."

I sighed, trying in vain to recover the memories. But what remained was enough. "I dreamt that mama brought me here."

"Oh?" He laid down facing me, head on the pillow, as though we were school chums at a slumber party. "She wanted you to be a Collector?"

"Yes...yes, I think she did."

He smiled. "I'm glad. Your father doesn't understand such things, but I like to think differently of your mother."

"As do I..." I trailed off, thoughts of her still in my mind.

"Are you feeling better?"

"A little," I confessed, then asked without thinking "What were your parents like?"

He blinked, and I hoped he wasn't insulted. But then he laughed, a hearty sound. "My parents? Well, they were quite wealthy, as you know. They were both Collectors themselves; well, they were by the time I was born." He patted my hand, which lay limply next to my head. "They were very upright people, but very...understanding." And he trailed off, looking pensive.

I decided against pressing further, and closed my hand over his.

"Tell me about your mother, Jiri," he whispered, moving a few inches closer. "She must have been wonderful."

Tell him about mama? My mind raced, trying to think of where to begin. "She was...yes, she was wonderful," I echoed, mad at myself for my unoriginality. "She was tall, taller than pa--my father, with long hair, and she carried herself like a woman of the world."

"Like a society woman?"

I shook my head. "Like someone who knew the secrets of creation. She always smiled as though she knew something the rest of us didn't." As I spoke, my memories of her came to life in my mind and I could see her clearly, more so than I could since she'd been gone, and I could feel tears sliding down my face.

"I'm sorry, I didn't mean to distress you. I was merely curious, that's all." He gave my hand a gentle squeeze. "How are your studies?"

I had been taking remote lessons a few days a week. The work was simple and I always finished it quickly. "Boring," I sniffed, wiping at my eyes.

"Anything you're taking an interest in? It's always good to have a hobby, you know."

Working up a smile, I shifted to face him, my hand still in his. "I like learning about science. How things work and all." People were confusing, even frightening. Hard facts were where I found my comfort. They didn't change, and they couldn't turn against you. But for the time, I could put my faith in Asaph.

He returned the smile as he sat up and released my hand. "A worthwhile endeavor. Always good to appreciate the concrete things in life as well as the artistic. Which reminds me, you're here to see my acquisition, aren't you?"

Of course, I had nearly forgotten, and I rose with him. "Yes I am," I said, swinging my legs over the edge of the bed to stand up. The nightshirt I wore must have come to his feet on him, because it fell to the floor plus several more inches on me. I had to pull it up, bunching the fabric in both hands, and he laughed.

"I suppose I should have given you something shorter. Well, I'll go see if she's ready with your clothes." He withdrew from the room, and I sat on the bed, having to pull myself back onto it.

I was getting taller, and indeed, everyone at the factory had said that they could see a difference in me just since I had arrived last spring, but I still felt so small when surrounded by Asaph's opulence. If I was indeed to be a Collector, I would have to familiarize myself with things of elegance. And my clothing would have to be one of the first things to change. What I called my finery was nothing compared even to what Asaph wore to bed. This garment I found myself in, although simple cotton, was softer than anything I owned.

Lost for a moment, I was interrupted by Asaph returning to the room. "We're in luck, she was just headed down the hallway with them!" He patted the stack of neatly folded clothes. "Fresh from the dryer," he said, handing them to me. "I'll be in the hallway. Do hurry, I can't wait to show you my acquisition."

I dressed quickly and headed out of the room, eager to see whatever it was he had to show me. What could it be?

He led me to the back of the house, where a servant opened the door to the backyard. There was a newly-laid water structure there in a clearing. It wasn't very big, but it was large enough to hold an enormous snakelike sea creature. As Asaph drew closer, he raised an arm, and the pokémon lowered its head to him. "Jiri," he said, gently scratching the beast under the chin, "meet Milotic."

I had seen Milotics in books and on television before and was never that impressed, but seeing one in person was breathtaking. It was much more graceful than I had thought, and the pink of its fins seemed to glow in the shaded light. The blue scales on its tail shared that quality, and the creature seemed to be singing softly as Asaph turned his attention back to me.

"What do you think?" he asked me, smiling proudly. "It cost me quite a pretty penny, but I think it was worth it."

"It's lovely," I said, taking a step closer. Milotic reared up and spread the fins on its tail, its song changing note to a harsher key.

He raised his hand and struck the creature, not very hard, but enough to cause a resounding noise. "You don't act like that," he snapped. "Be nice." It slunk back, turning again towards him with its head down. "That's better."

Tentatively, I held my hand up to Milotic's neck. It didn't move, so I patted it quickly and withdrew. It was scaly but smooth, and although my hand hadn't lingered, I got a fair feeling of the beast. "It's nice," I said, words failing me. "But are you sure it's all right to hit it like that?"

He laughed. "Jiri, pokémon are meant to take hits. A little slap from time to time keeps them in line."

I furrowed my brow in thought. "But papa always says to treat pokémon with kindness."

Asaph rested a hand on my shoulder and knelt down to my level. His hand was slick from touching the Milotic. "Jiri, is this the same father who said such unkind things about your mother just this very morning?"

A lump stuck in my throat and I swallowed it down as best I could. "Y...yes, true. But I've heard the same from others...I read an article about the regional champion, and he said--"

He cut me off with a raised hand. "Jiri, Jiri, that's for trainers, and we're not trainers. There's a world of difference between people like that and people like us. Pokémon aren't used for brute force in the world we build, they're like works of art to admire."

This confused me. "So, we keep them and do nothing with them? That doesn't seem fair."

He patted my shoulder again. "Jiri my boy, trainers keep them in stasis until they call them out for a beating. Here, we can give them the proper respect, as one would a great masterpiece." He returned to near Milotic and rubbed under one of the fins. "This beast would go to waste as a battler. It would only result in broken scales and the lack of any market value. One doesn't battle with a work of art; that's just silly."

I thought about that for a few moments. It made sense the way Asaph explained it, but why was such a view unpopular? I asked him.

"Well, people are taken in by the popular culture. They hear about strong battlers and want to emulate them with little regard for common sense." Milotic slowly drew away as he spoke, and he let it go with no acknowledgment. "If more people were like us..." He trailed off, sighing slightly. "But then, I'd hate for our profession to be filled with rank amateurs. Sully our reputation and all that."

That made sense too. I looked back up at Milotic, examining it. Every scale was in place, every fin set finely and gleaming. But as it splashed around in the pond, it met my gaze. Something in its eyes shone darkly, and I stepped back from it. There was in those eyes a glimpse of something wrong, something hideous. Malice? No, something else, something I couldn't discern.

"At any rate," Asaph interjected, disrupting my thoughts, "Kuri's bound to be waiting for us, and we can't keep her." He guided me inside before I could had time to reflect on what I'd seen.

2nd November 2007, 4:07 AM
Hey! I am aware that this is more than late, but better late than never, right?

16th chapter already? Jeez, time sure does fly, but I'm glad to see you've gotten so far.
Anyway, the chapter gave me the usual goodness and entertainment that your writing always provides.
I've been rereading what you've written so far a bit beyond the surface, and it's nice to see the symbolism and connections within the plot. It's as if the characters have worlds of their own which are fascinating to explore. Thus, I am interested on watching the plotline progress.
Excellent work thus far and good luck with the next chapter! If you need input or such, feel free to let me know!

Blackjack Gabbiani
2nd November 2007, 8:18 AM
I hope to have the next chapter out by the end of the month. It's my own personal NaNo (since there's no way in hell I can ever do 50K words in one month).

And believe me, no one finds this more fascinating than I do. Although you probably come really close.

Blackjack Gabbiani
1st December 2007, 8:09 AM
HOLY CRAP I CAN'T BELIEVE IT! An HOUR before my deadline I finally finish it! Everyone, it's Obsession 17!

The opulence of the mansion was a wonder to behold, but yet the feel of the place escaped me as I tried not to think about the Milotic. Was Asaph right? He had to be; his words made so much sense. While it was a work of art, it was also a living thing and would have to be punished for its misdeeds. I supposed that was up to the discretion of the owner.

"Jiri, why do you linger?" Asasph asked. He had stopped outside the dining room and looked back at me from the open door.

"I'm sorry," I said, focusing on the world around me.

He patted me on the back, but he was frowning. "You have to learn to stay in this world. Things can't keep pulling you to distraction.

I could smell the prepared lunch waiting for us inside the room. The aroma was enticing, and beyond my recognition. Unfortunately, it was then that I realized I hadn't had anything to eat yet that day, and my stomach rumbled with the revelation. Embarassed, I covered my mouth out of reflex and hoped that I hadn't broken any protocol.

But Asaph just laughed, his dour expression from just a few seconds ago gone. "Sounds like we need to do something about that! Have a seat," he said, taking the chair at the head of the table.

The room was like no dining room I'd ever entered. It was long, with a table to match, built to seat at least a dozen. Alone one off-white wall was a lengthy buffet with an elegant silver tea service as the centerpiece, with which a servant was pouring tea into porcelain cups.

Above us on the low-hanging ceiling was a grand chandelier spread out like an opening blossom. It caught the sunlight shimmering in from the window on the far wall, reflecting it through the room with little captured rainbows. It forced a smile to my face, and I tried my best to keep it a reserved one.

I sat at Asaph's right hand, on a high-backed wooden chair with ornate patterns carved in, and a white silken cushion on the seat. The tea was set before us, and I took a sip, finding it too hot for the time being. I was surprised at my ability to remain silent, though. The old me would have cried out or dropped the cup, and I was glad for the change.

Another servant came out of the adjoined kitchen with serving trays, and finally I could put a visual to the luscious scent. A bowl of soup was placed before me, with a spoon that had to be silver peeking out from atop the charger. I looked to Asaph for a sign that I should begin, and he nodded, raising his own spoon to his lips and blowing on the liquid.

I did the same, watching the steam dissipate with my breath, until I was satisfied that it was cool enough, and took a taste. I had never had anything like it before; it was rich with cream and potatoes, but mostly something I couldn't put my finger on. "What is this?" I asked.

"Say it better," Asaph instructed. "You're too blunt."

"Oh, um...on what are we dining? It's delicious, but I can't place it."

He smiled. "It's leek soup. Have you ever had leeks before?"

"I don't think so...but I've heard they're often paired with Farfetch'd. Is that what I smell from the kitchen still?"

"You're very astute. I believe you're right." He looked towards the servant, waiting at the door to the kitchen, and she nodded. "Ah, there you go."

"I've never had that before either." Certainly I had had things like Miltank before, but Farfetch'd was a delicacy, far beyond my thus far unsophisticated palate. I briefly wondered what it would be like before turning my attention back to the bowl before me. "Things sure taste different in a place like this," I mused aloud.

"How do you mean?"

I wasn't entirely sure what I meant, but he had requested a reply. "Things..." I started, waving my hand around. "Things are more...vibrant here. You notice more in an environment like this." Was that what I meant? I decided it was. "And it brings your senses to life, all of them. Right now, taste. I don't think this would be quite the same in any other place," I concluded with a gesture to the remainder of the soup.

His smile turned into a gentle laugh. "I never though of it that way. But I suppose every place has its own aura about it. Personally," he said, leaning in,"I find that food tastes best in museum restaurants. To be in a place like that, so close to the finest works of history, is simply divine. Music sounds better there too--if you ever have the opportunity to go to a museum event with music, you'll be amazed. Even the most familiar of pieces will take on a new life in a setting like that."

"It sounds wonderful..." I whispered, letting the image fill my mind. Vision and memory were certainly more vivid in a place surrounded by treasures such as those. Although the mansions I had been to were opulent, they were also inhabited by personalities, ones that were perhaps too strong. I wanted to see the luxury by myself, not to be seen as the curiosity to which my young age lent itself. Being here with just Asaph was good, and I found myself blessed by our silence.

Soon we were ready for the second course, and the serving girl brought the fragrant salads around. They were simple in construct, with a simple red wine dressing, but the focus was on the meat. I cut a piece and tasted it, and was greeted with something sweeter than I had imagined. "Mmm...I like this."

"I thought you might. What sorts of things do you dine on at home?" Asaph asked.

"Oh..." Having to think about my drab home life in the midst of all this removed me from the situation, and I was none too pleased. "He likes common things. Last night we had hot dogs, and the night before, grilled cheese sandwiches."

"Really." Asaph didn't sound surprised, or much of anything. "With all that money he makes from the factory, he certainly doesn't live like it."

"I know..." I had mused on that subject before, but only in passing.

"What do you think about that?"

I had never come to a conclusion in my brief thoughts. "I don't know what I think. It just happens. Is it really that important?"

"Jiri..." he sighed, "he has the means to enjoy the finer things in life, yet elects not to. I pity people like that. It's like they're living their lives with their eyes closed."

"He's been blinded," I echoed, thinking I was repeating his sentiment, but he corrected me.

"No no, not blinded. That implies that he couldn't help it. Like how some people can't help being poor. But people like your father, they're choosing to live the way they do." He shook his head. "It's a pity that there's still people who do that."

I almost felt sorry for my father in that moment, but then I remembered what he had said that morning. "Um...any further word on that Tonio exhibit? You mentioned it a while ago."

"Of course!" And we were distracted by the mention of the exhibit, and planned to go to Goldenrod to see it.

With lunch finished, we took our leave from the dining room. I was amazed at how well-trained his staff was; the serving girl was already clearing the table before we had even left the room. And when Asaph began to open the door to the hallway, a passing servant reached for it and held it steady. Asaph thanked him with a silent nod of the head, and I did the same. The man nodded back at me, and I smiled to myself. "Asaph?" I asked, close on his heels but keeping a gentlemanly distance, "Have you ever known a Collector to have grown up like I have? You know, out of wealth. Mother lived quite simply, and well, you know."

He continued walking, although at a slower pace. "Honestly no. But that's not to say there haven't been, I just haven't met them. Everyone has to start somewhere, and I'd say with your education, you'll be just fine once you begin your career. That is, if you continue to learn from me and the others."

"Sounds reasonable," I said as he lead me into the sitting room.

The room was about the same size as the dining room, with several huge windows set into the far wall, but they were all covered with sumptuous drapery, and so not letting in much light. I saw the reason for the dimness when I looked around; the walls were home to many paintings, reaching up to the high ceiling in the old manner. I recognized a few artists' styles from the museums and our studies, and wondered for a brief moment if they were originals. But of course they were originals; Asaph wouldn't settle for anything less.

There was a fancy overstuffed couch under the windows, with a long mahogany table before it, upon which was a modern style chess set. Rather than the abstract figures, they were miniature sculptures, and rather than being dressed in medieval European garments as would be typical, they had more modern clothing from the past century. They were no less elegant for it, and were all easily recognizable for what they were. I picked up the knight, which was now a mighty warrior astride a lovely Rapidash, pulled up into a flawless pesade. Although it was made of wood, it was painted in such a way that made the flames on his mount's back seem as though they could burn my hand.

"Marvelous set, isn't it?" Asaph asked. "I bought it some time ago, but haven't found anyone to play against. You know, aside from my staff, and that grows tiring after a while."

I smiled at him, taking a seat on the couch. "Shall we begin?"

He sat next to me and pulled the slender table closer, the pieces rattling on the board but not moving from their designated positions. "You can begin." As I examined the board and pondered what move I should use to open, he asked "Do you play often? This seems like something you'd enjoy."

"I played against my father, but that grew tiring after a while," I deadpanned.

It took him a second before it registered, and he laughed. "You're developing quite the wit. Your father told me that you rarely smiled when we first began our excursions."

"I had nothing really to smile about," I admitted, moving a pawn forward two squares. "My life at that time was far from happy."

"Yes, yes..." He was pensive as he made his move. "There's been long stretches like that in my life...Not the same situations, with your mother and all, but times of darkness. But I've found that times in the dark help you appreciate the light."

I wondered what his experiences had been, but it wasn't the time to ask such things. I remained silent for several turns, focusing on the board in front of me at first, then looking up at the paintings on the wall opposite us. Playing with Asaph reminded me of the time mother had taught me, but now I could think of her without feeling the loss. Perhaps I was maturing, or perhaps it had been sufficient time. But then I remembered what my father had said that morning, and lowered my gaze to the board once again.

I must have been deeper in thought than I was aware, because Asaph brought his hand to mine and told me that it was my turn.

"Oh! Thank you." I flashed him a smile before pondering my rook's position.

"You know...you've been looking at people more. I think it shows a marked improvement from where we began." He rested his hand over mine as I was about to make a move. "Why, you scarcely cast eyes my way when we met, and now even when you're thinking deeply about something, you make the gesture of looking at me when I speak."

I did, didn't I? The more I thought about it, the truer it was. I had been a ball of self-absorption, lost in pity, when I came to Seafoam. But under Asaph's tutelage, I had blossomed.

"But I can't help noticing that you're still upset about something. Is it what happened earlier?"

What did he mean? What my father had said? My father's words no longer mattered, although I would have to return there. Although I lived in the same house, I was a world apart. And I realized I hadn't considered the issue of the Milotic since it happened. Asaph was a good man, and I had no reason to doubt what he told me. Pokémon are meant to take hits, I knew that logically. Seeing it put into practice was unnerving, but I realized he was telling the truth. In both the wild and in captivity, they would do far more damage to each other than a reprimand from a human would.

He gave my shoulder a gentle squeeze. "Still thinking about your move?"

"Oh!" Quickly I moved the piece over which I'd been thinking, regretting the move immediately.

"Ooh...I'm afraid I take your bishop now," he said with a front of sadness but a touch of triumph to back it up.

"You're getting into this, aren't you?" I laughed. Perhaps the younger me would have been insulted by his tone, but now I found only mirth in his dramatics.

"Yes, I suppose I am!" he laughed back, snatching up the piece like a diving bird pulling a fish from the water. We were most undistinguished, but neither of us cared.

Our game continued along similar lines for nearly an hour, with Asaph emerging victorious. He spoke with a servant who had walked in as I rearranged the pieces in their proper positions, and after a few minutes, returned to sit beside me on the couch.

"Jiri, it occurs to me that you didn't answer my question."

I looked up. "Question? Oh, about being upset?"

"Yes...you've seemed so distant off and on today."

Settling back in my seat, I put my hands behind my head and smiled at him. "No, I think everything's all right." And I meant it. My thoughts from earlier had been settled, and I felt better.

"I'm glad. You know, you'll have to return to Seafoam eventually."

With a groan, I told him "I know. I think I'll be ready for it."

"How will you deal with your father?"

I waved my hand dismissively. "It's easy to avoid him; he stays in the factory most of the day. In a while this will blow over."

"Are you certain?" There was concern in his voice. "You did make a bit of a scene earlier, and that was without his presence."

It was true, as much as I hated to think of it. "It was a momentary lapse. I hardly slept last night, and it affected my reasoning." Which was also true, at least the part about my hours.

He chuckled. "There's been times where I've been so pulled into the trail of some item or another, I have to be reminded to sleep. You know, it happened when I got Milotic. I stayed up until all hours just watching it swim."

That made me feel even better. He did care for it, otherwise he wouldn't have done something like that. "That's a lovely image."

"Yes..." After a moment of silence, he pulled himself to his feet and held out his hand. "Jiri, would you like to see more of my home?"

I accepted his offer, and he began introducing me to the paintings in the sitting room in great detail.

That night, after a day surrounded by the finest things the world had to offer, I returned to Seafoam. The factory was long closed, and the lights were all off in the house. I noticed the book I had attacked that morning was sitting on the table, pages still in disarray.

But yet it didn't upset me. In fact, I couldn't stop smiling.

1st December 2007, 8:44 AM
Alright! These reviews are just rollin' along! *parties*

For an hour before the deadline, you did well! I was afraid this would be a "better late than never" situation, but things turned out great! :D

As said previously, I like the images created. Like, the vocabulary really brings it to life: "sumptuous," "flawless." You've got good adjectives going on.

And bringing up Jiri's future is pretty good. It's nice to see Jiri thinking about what he wants to do with his life rather than completely focusing on the present.
Also, seeing Jiri and Asaph appear as more down-to-earth people really lets the audience connect to the imagery, if that makes sense. Everything has really worked together so far, even when characters or such are missing. Good job with that -- it's hard to achieve a decent balance.

Good luck with the next chapter, of course!

Blackjack Gabbiani
1st December 2007, 8:52 AM
Yes, Jiri starts off as a simple kid, growing into the elaborate man we all know. But, as we'll delve into, does he really change that much? I'd say more but I may spoil.

I had to keep going to dictionary.com for the spellings on half the words. That's the perils of having a large vocabulary but not being able to spell for jack.

1st December 2007, 8:58 AM
Yes, Jiri starts off as a simple kid, growing into the elaborate man we all know. But, as we'll delve into, does he really change that much? I'd say more but I may spoil.

I had to keep going to dictionary.com for the spellings on half the words. That's the perils of having a large vocabulary but not being able to spell for jack.

Exactly, it's a decision between complete and total transformation or just minor alterations upon character.

Well, you could always just have me copy/paste the text into Word, and I'll spellcheck it for ya.

Blackjack Gabbiani
1st December 2007, 9:00 AM
Heehee, that could work. Yeah, I *used* to have Word, but then my computer got viruses and had to be wiped, and the guy who reinstalled everything didn't put that back on for some reason.

Besides, Notepad's smaller anyway.

14th May 2008, 1:28 PM
Beautiful, beautiful. I haven't allowed myself lately to present a fiction with such expansive praise as I am about to shower here, but I have exceptions. This can easily be one of the most underappreciated fictions I've seen.

First of all I love your style--ambiance would be more accurate--it's brought about as sublimely by the refined opulence of Jirarudan's surroundings as the beautiful little motifs and emotional themes you've created for the psychology of this very interesting child. To follow the developments in the feelings and the thoughts and the people in his life gives a sort of delight that I have reserved only for the darkest of tragedy since my shift in tastes. This fiction needs more attention and possibly a moderately large fanbase.

And, to add to it, the fiction appears very certainly to be a downfall plot at heart. Jirarudan says it in the beginning; it's a chronicle of his fall into the state he is at present date, and things like these warm my heart. I can see several of the themes of his which will eventually be corrupted to the state we see him in the Power of One, and it will be magnificent to see them corrupt, and fairly interesting to see how you'll handle it given your current gentle style.

I'm beginning to wonder if he ever sees Veronica again afterwards. She's beginning to look not so much a character as a theme and a demonstration of Jirarudan's experiences with society. Only a whim of mine. Also, do you have any specific decision regarding the pronunciation of Jiraruden's name? It's a Japanese approximation, after all, and to speak it in it's original way would be a little awkward with the sort of pronunciations one would think of in Jiraruden's company. Speaking it with an Anglic accent, indeed, only makes it more unusual.

Well, I am very glad that I was introduced properly to this fiction. I dearly hope its current hiatus is only like one of mine: hardly significant, but a quirk, with full expectation of a next chapter at some future point of time.

Blackjack Gabbiani
14th May 2008, 10:11 PM

Yeah, I have plans for Veronica, but they're not...ohh, to say anything more would be a spoiler. Of sorts. You're right about one thing you said in reference to her, though, but I won't say what.

Six months since the last chapter is long, but it's not the longest. There was a stretch where I didn't write anything for over a year.

As far as the pronunciation, it's apparently pronounced ji-ra-ru-da-n, but to pronounce each syllable would be aukward. I tend to say it JI'-ru-dan, but a friend pronounces it ji-RAH-ru-dan. So I'm not sure, and since it's never said in dialogue, I can't really go by anything spoken.

It's so hard to get into the right mood to write this fic. Usually I can write for him pretty easily, but this fic has a very unusual mindset. Not to mention I have to research a whole bunch--that's one of the things holding up the next chapter; I have to look into some stuff. But then a key thing is, of course, his future ship, which breaks our world's laws of physics, so there's really no way to research something like that.

I think I've been right about my characterization though. Everything I've found out about him after writing has meshed with elements of the story. Such as when I found out that, according to his character sketch sheet, he wears a long-sleeved shirt under his...whatever that thing is he wears in the movie. And I've been writing him as mildly autistic with sensory issues. A lot of people with issues like that wear heavier clothes because of the added pressure, even in inappropiate weather. And his movie is in tropical islands in the middle of summer.

Honestly, I was worried you wouldn't like it because the tone is so far removed from fics like Take. I suppose it's just a different sort of darkness.

31st July 2008, 7:46 PM
Yay a fan fic for Jirarudan.
I always loved his character and you have portayed him exellantly. His charactration is portayed very well. S I gotta say well done for that. The story is moving along nicely.

31st July 2008, 7:49 PM
Yay a fan fic for Jirarudan.
I always loved his character and you have portayed him exellantly. His charactration is portayed very well. S I gotta say well done for that. The story is moving along nicely.

Blackjack Gabbiani
1st August 2008, 5:35 AM

And you have good timing. I started work on chapter 18 a few days ago and I hope to have it up in a few weeks.

...what? Yeah, "time frames" have never been my strong suit.

Blackjack Gabbiani
15th September 2008, 7:35 AM
Ok, ok, "a month and a half" is still "a few weeks", right? OBSESSION 18 is live! In which...well...just read. Also I hear tell about a fanfic contest, so if you're so inclined to spare a vote, WELL then! Anyway, enjoy!

My father and I hardly spoke at all over the next few days, which suited me just fine. He tried to project his facade of doting parent, but I would never let him get to me. Every time he looked at me, it was with that downcast expression meant to inspire pity. What a fool.

He replaced the book I had ripped, but felt the need to tell me how expensive it had been. It would mean nothing to him to dip into that money he sat upon and never used; there was no use trying to make me feel for something that had been entirely his fault.

In the meantime, I busied myself with my studies. I would never admit it to /him/, but as I had told Asaph, I was beginning to take a shine to science. I decided that if I kept it to myself, it would be an acceptable interest.

My father would have insisted that it was in my blood or something clichéd like that, but the reality was simple. Science is facts, it's the way things are. And facts are constant, staying the same no matter if people see them for what they are or not.

It was like art in so many ways. People will banter about the meanings of the pieces, but the pieces themselves will always be the same, unchanging despite whatever meanings people attribute to them.

And like art, it was beautiful. What a wonder it was to know such things, the secrets of the universe itself! Science is the divine, that which only a few can ever understand, and art is a reflection of that same power.

For his part, my father was busy with work, not only in the factory, but with blueprints. It had been years since his last ship design premiered, and he had been hit by two new ideas, so he had taken to his office in his spare time. He had asked Helen to watch me, but I scarcely needed such a thing, and she agreed. She was a far more connective person than he was, yet we rarely spoke. Perhaps that was part of it, but I didn't want to ruin it.

One time, a telephone call from Asaph brought me out of my room. The only telephone on the second floor was in my father's bedroom, another sign of his irrationality. He insisted that I had to be social, and yet forced me into his world to follow through with that when I wished to have remote contact. It was really no wonder I preferred spending time with Asaph versus speaking to him distantly.

Asaph had traveled overseas, in search of ancient treasure as he always did. No, that's not true, most of his treasures were from the past five hundred years. But this was from a time long passed, longer by far than his normal scope. This quest had taken him to Lopatin, a narrow spit of a region far to the north that brushed against the continent as though the two were hesitant to touch.

I answered the telephone in the living room; better there than in the confined space defined by my father. Asaph greeted me and immediately told me how cold it was there. "And it's very difficult to find a suitable coat in this part of the region," he added.

"Did you make the acquisition?" I asked, smiling genuinely for what seemed like the first time in an eon.

He took in a long breath. This was what he had called for, after all, but he had to have a proper introduction. "Jiri..." he let out, hushed, "it's the most magnificent jewel I've ever had the honor of viewing. And now it's mine...it's mine after so long."

He had told me of the jewel when we first met. The Eye of Dawn, the brilliant pokéball-sized white opal that had once crowned the scepter of a priestess in Tirari...it had been his goal for decades. He rarely spoke of it to me or other Collectors, but when he left to procure it, he was breathless and shivery. Obviously he would never show this side of himself to just anyone, but even so I hoped that I would be calmer in such a situation, even to no one but myself. "I'm glad...it must be stunning."

"I can't wait for you to see it, Jiri. It's...it's perfect. It's the most ideal thing I've ev--" And he stopped mid-word and cleared his throat. "You'll understand when you see it. I could never do it justice."

His voice had dropped to the point where I could scarcely hear it and I had to focus entirely to do so. "I look forward to it," I told him softly, in keeping with his tone.

There was silence on the line for a moment, and I wondered if he hadn't been cut off until he resumed speaking, in his normal voice. "So your birthday is this month, isn't it?"

"No, it was last week. You left shortly before it." It had been a small thing without any fuss, hardly worth mentioning.

"...oh." Again he lapsed into silence, this lasting for quite a bit longer. I was about to address him when he continued. "Well, I'm sorry I missed it..."

"It doesn't matter," I dismissed quickly, waving my hand although he wouldn't see it. "I've already told people I was nine anyway."

"You did, I see..." he mused, finally deciding on a simple "You shouldn't do that."

"Pardon?" He confused me sometimes, although he always had a higher purpose for doing so, so I waited.

But his speech was slow and halted. "You...don't want to be older, Jiri. You should stay young for as long as you can. It's...it's really best." He stumbled over the words in a way I'd never heard him do before.

I remained still for several seconds, trying to think of what to say and cursing myself for the delay. "But now I *am* nine, so it doesn't matter, right?"

"No, I-I suppose it doesn't," he admitted, with a pang of reluctance to it.

"...when will you be back in Kanto?" I asked, to clear the air more than anything else.

"Oh yes!" That seemed to snap him out of whatever plagued him. "I'm going to remain here for at least another week. Lopatin is rich in history, and it's been a long time since I've been here, so I'd like to revisit some places. Oh, but when I come back, I'll have a surprise for you."

"For my birthday? You don't have--"

He chuckled. "Oh no, it's just that we'll have a new student joining us shortly. I think you'll get along wonderfully."

I doubted it, but I had to trust him. "That's good to hear."

We spoke for a bit longer before he was called away, and since I was downstairs I decided to make myself some lunch. When I was studying, I could ignore hunger or other needs for far longer than I could when I wasn't absorbed in something.

I opened the refrigerator just as my father rushed in from the factory, scrambling for something on the dining room table. "Have to fi--oh, Jiri! Tell you what, come out and see me in my office when you're done. I've got a client there now, but--here it is!--there's something I want to go over with you." He grabbed the sheaf of papers and ran back out.

Peculiar. Although the factory wasn't without its interests, for him to speak with me out there was unusual of late. At least he recognized that the days were past where I would sit in the corner and attempt to draw, something I was, in retrospect, never very good at. Nevertheless, I returned my attention to finding something edible.

The food in that house was horrid; nothing but the simplest of things. A short time ago I would have eaten it with no issue, but speaking with Asaph at his mansion made me reconsider many things I had previously taken for granted. The thought of eating something as base as a processed hot dog was repugnant to me now, where I had tolerated it not long ago. But that was precisely what I had, microwaved to tastelessness and wrapped in a slice of bleached white bread and adorned with ketchup so sugary that my front teeth stung, something I had never noticed before.

How could my father live like this? No no, how could *I* live like this? I at least knew better.

I choked down the food, finding it barely tolerable while a month ago I'd have eaten it without a thought. I would have to learn to dine like a gentleman if I was to ever become one, I mused as I brushed stray crumbs from my shirt. I had to be presentable before I entered the factory, in case the employees saw me.

But none of them even looked my way for more than a glance. Even with as much as I had changed these past months, as distant as I had been of late, I still escaped their notice as simply another fixture of the factory.

As anticipated, someone was in the office with my father, and through the windowed walls he looked familiar, but I could not place him. Still, his presence made me uncomfortable, the tinge of a painful memory dancing at the corners of my mind.

I occupied myself with thoughts of the future, what my own collection would someday entail. I could almost see it; my treasures surrounding me, filling my mansion at every available space, scaling the walls and perched in the hallways on elegant columns of the finest marble...or was marble too commonplace? I'd have to find a way of setting myself apart from even my fellow Collectors. Well, Asaph could help me with that when it came time. For now I could plan the overarch and fill in the details later.

"--a pleasure dealing with you again," I heard and the words cut through my daydream, trailing shivers down my back and fastening me back in my surroundings.

"As always. Give your mother my best." That was my father as he shook the man's hand in the doorway. "Jiri, come on."

As I stood, the man about to leave looked me up and down, and his thin mouth tightened into a smirk. "Your son is becoming quite the gentleman," he said in a clipped voice, adjusting the line of his black suit, hand nearly obscuring the red insignia over his heart.

I smiled, hoping it was a disarming look to pave over the unsettling feeling I still could not shake, and my father clasped my shoulder. "That's my boy!" he said proudly, and with that the disturbed sense was gone, filled in with revulsion. I wasn't his boy! Well...no, I was, but only in the biological way. He had nothing to do with my path or my future, and he certainly did nothing to encourage me to be a man of the world.

But I in turn did nothing to dislodge his grip.

The man had left, a familiar dash of cologne in his wake. A brief flash in my mind of ivory and silver, and it was gone as suddenly as it had appeared. "He's very perceptive," my father started. "I've told him about you, but to pick up on something like that is pretty impressive."

"It doesn't matter," I said, belatedly aware of how non sequitur that sounded. "You said you had something to tell me."

"Oh, that's right!" He snapped his fingers and headed back towards the office, the implication for me to follow unsaid. I held still for a moment, knowing what he wanted and waiting for him to put it to words, before I realized that he never would.

He was at his desk when I opened the door--of course he had closed it behind him, even though he knew I was behind him. "What is this about?" I asked him, taking the seat across from him before he could extend the invitation. If he was going to be less than polite I would act in kind.

"Well, I've been..." And he stopped, seeming to think about something. "First off, I want to make sure. I've never seen you take an interest in pokémon, so you probably wouldn't go on a trainer's journey next year, right?"

/Or ever/ I mentally added, but confirmed his query. Living things held no passion for me and he should have known that long before asking.

"Ok..." Another pause, this time considerably longer. "I...I was saving some money for you. In case you went on a journey. But since it doesn't look like you will, then I was thinking of giving it to you now."

"Are you now." I looked out the window, towards the factory door. There was a small white bird fluffing itself in the open entryway, craving the heat put off by the factory proper but unwilling to go any further.

"Jiri...tomorrow I'm going to go to the bank and transfer 50,000 p into your account."

It took me a moment. At first I wasn't certain I heard him correctly, or even at all, and was about to ask him to repeat himself, but turning back towards him and seeing his expression told me everything. I had heard him right, he was telling me the truth, he was giving me--


"What?" I blurted out, more of a clarification of his statement than a reply to his attention.

"You're so stone-faced, I wasn't sure if you heard me." He chuckled. "I said I'm--"

"Yes!" It was a shout, quite undignified, and I forced myself to keep my composure although my mind was racing. Why would he give me so much money? This was my father after all, the man who never made an effort, the man who always insisted he knew what was best for me and didn't know a thing, and this man was giving me how much? Words failed me and rather than make a further fool of myself, I lapsed into silence.

"Now, I know you're going to be using that money, but there's going to be some limits." He continued on about monthly access and investments and such things, and I nodded furiously at each point. I heard them and processed them but I don't think he knew that.

The next day I accompanied him to the bank early in the morning and watched the transfer take place. All the way back I held the bank receipt showing the total amount, and I thought maybe my father wasn't so bad after all.

But when he returned to the blueprints on the dining room table, the first thing he picked up was that book, and I knew I had been right before.

15th September 2008, 7:46 AM
OMG Ob18!! Yay! It's been awhile; it really has.

Gah Jiri... What can I say; his personality is portrayed in numerous ways here: innocent, philosophical, bratty -- it's awesome. Glad to see we can really get in touch with his emotions, especially during this integral part of his development.
I'm really loving this white bird symbolism/motif you've got going on, definitely an interesting touch.
And I'm fascinated with the Eye of Dawn; it's definitely quite mysterious and intriguing.

Overall, I look forward to seeing how things will play out. This has been a really interesting and diverse chapter!
And man, Jiri is such a little brat. I could complain about that for hours. Haha
And OMG Asaph, you are such a creeper. Seriously XD


Blackjack Gabbiani
15th September 2008, 7:53 AM
I want to smack Jiri in this fic. But then I want to smack him in the movie too, get some sense into him because we all know he has none.

If you read my fic Frustration, the Eye of Dawn is in that.

The phone call with Asaph was meant to take up only a scant few lines. It mutated into something huge. By contrast, the conversation with Corbin was going to be the primary focus of the chapter, and we can see how that changed.

16th September 2008, 10:44 PM
Excellent. ;D

Blackjack Gabbiani
17th September 2008, 3:21 AM
Yaaaay, glad you like it! Any further thoughts?

17th September 2008, 7:05 PM
You'll like this: I nominated Obsession for the fanfiction awards. It deserves a place certainly, however unobtrusive it might be.

Interesting to see Veronica will soon be joining us again; I suppose I was wrong about her never returning. It seems to be one of those little narrative tricks of chance that Asaph finds exactly that girl independently. Here we see the beginnings of a society between them more advanced than meeting at a party. I should probably not speculate too far in case my whole assumption is incorrect.


Jiri is starting to learn aristocracy. Nice to see him condescending other people over the appreciation of art and science while preferring complete emotional composure over Asaph's intellectual fever. He's got all the makings of a Lawrence III, I can see it.

Said aristocracy is, at the moment, too fledgling to give him any serious mental psychoses or consequences, it seems. All in due time.

The quote

But none of them even looked my way for more than a glance. Even with as much as I had changed these past months, as distant as I had been of late, I still escaped their notice as simply another fixture of the factory.

so accurately represents the thoughts of one who, having lived without knowing in an unsocial, exceptional existence for several years, suddenly realizes how much this fact makes him superior to everyone else and actively watches out for attention that I laughed.

It also amuses me that Dad the neglectful is now supplying large sums of money to a very spoiled child. I can guess how this might turn out...

Well. Made me happy. Hope you do this sort of thing often again.

Blackjack Gabbiani
17th September 2008, 11:19 PM
Yes, you're correct. Shhhh

Corbin's never been truly neglectful. He tries his best, but his best honestly isn't good enough. He wasn't prepared to be a father when Jiri was born, and it never occured to him in eight years to try in case it came up, which it did when Gloria died, and now he's stuck with a kid who he loves but has no idea how to handle or deal with. Especially since, despite what Corbin stubbornly insists upon, Jiri is far from the normal child he thinks of.

Currently he's not quite condescending of Asaph, more of purely baffled. He still has his own reaction to the angel painting fresh in his mind (it happened only during the summer), and isn't about to contradict anyone else's feelings for art...at least not their reactions. If they hated something that he loved, he'd probably take it as a personal affront.

The line about no one noticing him in the factory was also more puzzlement. For all the attention he got when he first arrived, now he finds himself little more than window dressing. And if their reaction to him was attention once, and he's changed so much, shouldn't they be paying him *more* attention out of curiosity? It never occurs to him that no one in the factory notices that he's changed, or that they'd think of him as anything but the boss's son, come to live with him that spring and seen every so often since. That anyone would get used to him is what puzzles him, which I suppose is a form of superiority, because he sure as heck wouldn't pay any of them any special mind (notice how they're always refered to as, not to be punny, a collective, a single entity--the workers in the factory--rather than any individuals).

And Jiri already has severe mental psychoses, he doesn't need the aristocracy coming along and giving him any more. Hahahaha.

I wouldn't consider Jiri spoiled, at least not at this point in his life (although he'll certainly become such). His mother doted, but they lived simply. His father loves, but not nearly enough. Asaph would be the one to spoil him, but more with expectations than any material goods.

Expect me to "do this sort of thing" soon enough--I try to write a chapter each November while everyone's doing NaNo.

And thank you so much for the vote!

Kurloz Makara
24th October 2008, 3:04 AM
OMFG!!! A Lawrence III fanfiction?! YAY!!!! He's so cool! (and gorgeous)!!!! He's my favorite bad guy (besides Maxie and Ardos)!!! Can't wait for next chappie!

Blackjack Gabbiani
24th October 2008, 10:03 AM
Then you should look into joining the comm advertised in my sig (although you'll need an LJ...however you don't need one to comment to posts others have made).

I write a fair amount about him...hmm, for some reason I haven't put much of it up here though. He's...very interesting to write for, and it can be quite draining at times to do so because he's so far removed from the situations around him.

Have you heard his image song? It's really awesome.

Anyway, what do you think of the story?

Kurloz Makara
24th October 2008, 1:44 PM
Wow, that's flattering, but... What's an LJ?

Anyway, your story is very well written. It actually seems that Lawrence is telling the story himself!!

As I said, can't wait!;492-s;

Blackjack Gabbiani
25th October 2008, 5:39 AM
LJ=LiveJournal. You can check out the link if you like.

Getting into character is quite an endeavor. Most characters I can turn on and off, but he stays with me...

Blackjack Gabbiani
29th November 2008, 8:58 AM
So my yearly writing month has accomplished more than one thing. Not only did I complete Ob19 ahead of schedule, I also edited the previous chapters to flow better, to correct mistakes, and for various stuff. Hehehe. Anyway, onward!


Asaph had returned, bringing the chill with him as though it had come carefully packaged in the crate with his beloved gem. Snow fell lightly, delicately, as it never had on my hometown. It had always been heavy and deep, and mother and I often had to remain inside for days. This dusting gave the town the feeling of spirits, and the constant shiver that ran through me had little to do with the cold.

That day, as even the faint light from behind thick clouds did nothing to dissipate the pallor of still morning, I dressed in the chilly room. The factory would warm the place; indeed, the house was never as cold as it would be without it due to the everpresent heat from the core furnace, but at this hour it wasn't nearly enough.

Following the scent of breakfast, I found not my father in the kitchen but Helen. "Oh, Jiri!" she chirped, turning a pancake over on the skillet. "I knew you'd be getting up soon, but I wasn't sure exactly when Asaph was coming."

It took me a moment. I had in fact left a note on the counter that I would be meeting with Asaph in the morning, and he usually came to fetch me quite early, but papa never seemed to notice such things. For Helen to do so took me by surprise. "What's that smell?" I asked. There was a strange scent, familiar, but nothing like papa's pancakes.

"Oh, just some of this." She scooped more onto the skillet before handing me a small bottle off the counter. "I brought it from home. It's orange extract, gives the pancakes a little flair."

The bottle was already uncapped and a caricature of oranges wafted around. It was as though someone had created an olfactory sketch of an orange, recognizable, and at once meaning to and not meaning to be one. "How very strange," I must have said, or something like it, because she laughed.

"Strange?" she chuckled, gently retrieving the bottle. "I guess so. I picked it up in college. My roommate was from Trinacria and she loved stuff like this. I thought she overdid it most of the time with all the food, but this is pretty good. Here, try some." In a move quicker than I had thought her capable of, she had torn off a piece and pressed it to my lips.

First was the scent, like an orange perfume, and the taste carried that to the back of my mouth. There was a sharpness around the edges that I didn't recognize, that had the makings of a brilliant contrast, as art critics go on about things like light and shadow. It clung to my palate as though it wanted me to taste every morsel, and would not let go until I did so. I eagerly set into the plate she had put on the counter for me, after a moment remembering to check my composure, but I was pleased that I had kept to my manners.

"So I've heard about your hobby," she said, leaning next to me as the next batch sizzled.

Did she mean collecting? My studies? ...god, please let it be my studies. If my father ever found out about the true direction of my time with Asaph, it would be the end of everything. He had no understanding of the finer things, and Asaph had said that people like that meet people like us with hostility. Slowly I lowered my eyelids and, as calmly as I could, asked "Pardon?"

A gentle smile touched her lips but it did nothing to calm my racing nerves. "Your pictures. Corbin says you're buying up magazines and asking the factory workers to bring in their old ones so you can put the pictures up in your room. You know, I'd like to see that sometime, when you're not getting ready to go somewhere."

I relaxed, letting out a sigh and setting down the fork that my hand had tightened around without my notice. I supposed I was further away from polite society than I wanted to think. Although with my father's ignorance, my chosen path could remain set.

Soon after, there was a knock at the door, and my heart settled. My initial nervousness at Helen's statement, although she had meant nothing of the sort by it, had lingered. "That will be Asaph. I'll be back this evening."

"All right, call if you'll be later than eleven. Corbin says you have an essay to write up."

"I wrote it last night." My remote tutor assigned us essays regularly, and I had done mine on a painting I had taken a shine to. I couldn't possibly study it properly until I saw it in person, but it existed on a distant continent, far beyond my present means, so I had to settle for pictures.

"That was fast. But you're so smart it's no problem for you, is it?" she said as she followed me to the entryway and opened the closet.

"Not usually. It's very simple work." I threw open the door and was immediately disappointed.

Rather than Asaph, his chauffeur Igasho was waiting for me. But, like a gentleman himself, Igasho bowed to me. "Master Asaph is awaiting the arrival of the new student. He sent me to fetch you in his stead."

I nodded. "Thank you. I'll be out in a moment."

As I started to close the door, Helen caught it. "Aren't you going to invite him in?" she asked, handing me my coat. "It's cold out there."

Pausing, I considered this. He hadn't asked to enter, and he had the car. On the other hand, protocol demanded that he not make such a request on his own. A second later I reopened the door. "Would you like to come in?"

Helen smiled. I couldn't see it, but I am positive of it.

The drive was mostly in silence. Although it was nearly eight am, the world was still cast in darkness, and the drive from Seafoam took only half an hour. Sleep tugged at me, although I had been well-rested the night before, and I caught myself nodding off. The soft music from the radio wasn't helping matters any either, with delicate violins as subtle as cobwebs emanating from the speaker.

"Sir," I heard a voice saying; Igasho of course, "we've arrived."

"Of course, of course..." I muttered, shaking my head to clear my mind as the car rolled to a stop.

Inside I was greeted by an attending servant I hadn't met before, who took my coat and leaned down to untie my shoes. Instinctively I pulled back, but he told me that the rain meant I would have to change into slippers, which he lay before me. They were soft and formed and just my size, and I wondered briefly how Asaph knew such a thing until I remembered that he had purchased a great deal of my wardrobe.

"They're in the sitting room," the servant informed me. "Follow me."

It was the room where Asaph and I had played chess, to the right of the entryway, and it dawned on me as I was led there that I hadn't given much thought to the new student. It didn't matter, though, since she was waiting just past the doorway.

I knew I had met her before, as one remembers the form of a sculpture. Not wanting to be impolite, I bowed to her, and she held out her hand. "Have you figured out what to do with it?" she asked with a smile before giggling airily.

Oh, that was it! I took her hand and whispered "Miss...Veronica," hoping that she hadn't caught my slight pause. There were so many people to remember, but I was learning them well. I glanced up at Asaph, standing off to the side, and he nodded, so I brushed my lips against the back of her hand and smiled up at her.

"You're learning. But that's good, that's what I'm here for too." Another laugh and she gently pulled her hand back. "Now rise, Sir Jiri."

I had to smile at that. "I'm no sir."

"Your Highness then?"

"I'm no king either."

She leaned in towards me. "Then what are you?"

Asaph touched her shoulder. "The both of you are here to learn. And someday you may associate with kings and nobility as easily as some people associate with their grocers." Reaching over with his other arm, he pulled me in. "Now come, I was introducing Miss Veronica to Madame Remi."

He spoke of one of his first acquisitions, a piece by a painter known for fantasy sequences fashioned so realistically that she was rumored in her lifetime to have the ability to enter new worlds. Veronica seemed taken by the use of color to represent emotion; rather than relying on greys and blues for sadness, Madame Remi had tinted the defeated warriors in white. I had wondered initially if this was to represent their passage as spirits, and Asaph had said that they were very much alive. But then he had stopped and wondered himself if they weren't lost souls just the same.

What had captivated me, however, was the realism. The fighters were as real as seeing people through a television screen, and the forest looked as though someone had shrunk a real one. But the detail that had caught my eye was the bent old man off to the side. He was nearly obscured, standing in a shadow of deep purple as nearly blending in with the ruined walls of the ancient, overgrown building serving as the backdrop. He seemed forlorn, staring at the soldiers with an utterly lost expression.

Veronica had noticed him as well, holding her finger a respectful distance from the canvas as she indicated him. "Was he the one the warriors had fought?" She was correct; Asaph had told me that, but she had figured it out on her own, and so he brightened, but only briefly.

"What makes you say that?" he asked cautiously, not wanting to tip his hand too much.

"He's shaded in green, so I think he may be a forest guardian. But mostly it's the movement on his hands. They're a peculiar color, like she went over them in the faintest red, and they're blurred. Madame Remi didn't make mistakes like that, so it was intentional. He cast some sort of spell on them, and I think it made him lose his mind."

"Lose his mind?" I blurted out. It was a perplexing statement and I felt I had to question it.

Asaph scowled at me but it quickly passed. "Go on, Veronica."

She laughed, and that too dissipated. "His expression. He hadn't intended to hurt them so badly, and I don't think he was entirely there at the time."

"Hmm. Jirarudan, why don't you tell Miss Veronica your conclusion."

"Oh?" Why would he want me to do that? "All right. When I first saw this, I thought as though his powers were beyond his control because he had only just come by them. They're quite new, and so he doesn't know what to do with them."

Veronica's face lit up. "Yes, that makes sense! Look how he's standing among younger plants."

Oh, was he? I hadn't noticed that, and based my assumption on his expression alone.

But Asaph drew us both together, between us and kneeling. "Such brilliant minds you both possess! Such brilliant Collectors you'll be!"

We spent the next several hours similarly discussing and dissecting further works. She was introduced to Milotic, which seemed to have mellowed sinced I first saw it.

"Does it sing?" Veronica asked, petting it and remarking on the feel of the scales.

"It...hasn't in a few weeks," Asaph admitted with some reluctance. "The water is being heated, and it doesn't seem to like that, but it's a necessity in this climate."

"Well, just the same, I'm glad Ralts lives inside with me."

Asaph seemed quite impressed by her, and in hindsight I believe it was because she understood why keeping it in a pokéball wasn't an option.

Soon it was time for lunch, and I again sat at Asaph's right, Veronica at his left. The serving girl set the plates before us, uncovering them to reveal chicken with what I later learned to be lingonberries, and a bed of whipped potatoes. Veronica said she had had such a dish at the Castle, the poshest establishment in Viridian, and had asked if it could be prepared.

But something was wrong. A cloud of garlic choked nearly everything, and the taste of it in the potatoes was nearly unbearable.

"Pardon me," Asaph said simply, and excused himself from the room, into the kitchen. Veronica and I waited for a moment before either of us spoke, and begun at the same time, as voices behind the door were raised.

"So you're from Seafoam, right?" she asked, clipping my own comment, but it was no loss at all.

"I am. There's not much there if you're not a tourist or a surfer though."

She shook her head with a force that could nearly be described as violent. "Don't you know what lives there? It's amazing!"

"Um..." Such a question confounded me, but she continued without me.

"Articuno, you silly boy! It lives on one of the islands off the coast, but it's been spotted there a bunch of times."

Yet another familiar name...yes, it was one of the Legendary Birds Asaph had spoken of. But that meant it was connected to...I could scarcely believe it. "A...did you say Articuno? The legendary Bird of Ice?"

"Yep! The one and only! Well, it's the prettiest, anyway."

I lived near to a Legendary, moreover one with a link to my Lugia...the very consideration was overwhelming, and I had to take a drink of tea to settle myself. "Beautiful..." I whispered.

"Yes...beautiful. I have to start saying that instead of 'pretty', don't I? But really it's both. Although nothing compared to Cresselia, or Equuorn, or things like that."

I had heard of neither before then, and would later discover that the latter was a unicorn possessing healing powers, native to a region far around the world that I have yet to visit. Now I doubt I ever shall. But I get ahead of myself.

"Sorry. I love the Legendaries..." She grinned conspiratorially, but paused as a woman stomped out of the kitchen, tears running down her face and a high toque clenched in her fist. Asaph followed, silent but quite stern. Once the two had exited into the hallway, Veronica picked up where she left off. "I want one. I want all of them really, but I'd have nowhere to put them. But to have just one...if I had to pick, it'd have to be Cresselia. It's the crescent moon, and absolutely stunning. And they say it brings good dreams and fights the bad ones. Why, you'd never have to worry about nightmares again!" A shout from outside wavered her smile, but she pulled it back again just as swiftly. "Jiri, do you know much about the Legendaries of...oh, where are you from again? Before Seafoam."

"An unpleasant, unimportant place. Nothing worth discussing, and nothing interesting in it." The words tumbled out rapidly and I had to cover my abruptness. She was someone I could tell, at least in moderation. "Veronica...what do you know of Lugia?"

There was silence, and her eyes widened. For a moment I thought I had somehow offended her. There was a lot about Lugia I had yet to discover, and apparently still is. But then she laughed. "It's the moon too, you know, to Ho-Oh's sun. But that's about all they have in common, I think. It lives on the sea floor, but that's really strange for a bird. Wouldn't it need hollow bones to fly? Unless it doesn't have them..." A pause while she took a drink, longer than usual. "I'm sorry. I tend to run at the mouth when I get started on them. That's why I didn't bring them up when we talked before at the party."

"Perfectly all right." I had relaxed at her eagerness. "It's a psychic type, isn't it? Maybe that protects it. Am I to assume no one's ever studied one?"

"There's not a lot known about it. Or really a lot of Legendaries. Just from the old stories, and a lot of those aren't reliable."

"Yes." I smiled, thinking of one of the few things I'd been able to find. "I doubt it can truly cause a forty-day storm merely by flapping." The thought of those majestic wings was enough to cause distraction, though, but I hardly had time for that.

"Personally, I think," she leaned in before continuing, "most of those are deliberate to keep people away. If the Legendaries had such terrible powers, we'd all be in trouble. I think the people who come up with this stuff are just, as they say, blowing smoke."

It made sense. There were many inanimate objects, jewels especially, rumored to be cursed. It would only stand to reason that people would imbue pokémon with such superstitions as well, particularly those ones that less enlightened people would see as holy.

Asaph approached then, so Veronica finished with a quick "Tell me if you see Articuno."

"I will," I smiled. The very idea was thrilling. Logically I knew that it was unlikely; I had spent the past seven months of my life there and never heard a word about the beast, but emotionally I was stricken with excitement.

"I'm sorry for my absence," Asaph said, resuming his seat. "What did you two talk about?"

"Oh nothing," Veronica giggled. "Just shooting the breeze."

"I'm glad you're getting along." He seemed to be back to his old self, smiling kindly at us. "Elma will be preparing a replacement; it should be ready soon. In the meantime we're going to have an impromptu lesson--how to fire an employee."

I saw Kuri again years later, working as a waitress. I doubt she ever worked for society again.

The rest of the day passed in a similar manner to the first part, with Veronica and I unable to continue our conversation. She asked me for my telephone number, but because I would have to speak downstairs, I declined. However, the Tonio event was but a few weeks away, just past the first of the year, and Asaph insisted that we both attend.

Looking for wings of ice yielded nothing, but I watched over the ocean every day just the same.

29th November 2008, 9:02 AM
This has really come far. I'm so proud of you!!!
You know my thoughts thus far, but I'll still say that I can't wait to see what awesome stuff you can come up with in that mind of yours. Whatever it is, it's gonna be great. :]

This chapter has officially made my month complete.

Blackjack Gabbiani
29th November 2008, 9:13 AM
So far I've come, but I have so far to go yet.

Thank you, for your review and for all your help and everything.

7th December 2008, 6:31 PM
A gentle smile touched her lips but it did nothing to calm my racing nerves. "Your pictures. Corbin says you're buying up magazines and asking the factory workers to bring in their old ones so you can put the pictures up in your room. You know, I'd like to see that sometime, when you're not getting ready to go somewhere."

I haven't ever seen nerves race. I've known a heart to race, and probably blood too, but not nerves.

Aside from that isolated slip, the technical aspects were impeccable as ever. Good to hear the NaNoWriMo was successful in its own way. I myself didn't find entirely what I was looking for despite making the 50k words.

The problem with being a (technically) regular reviewer of a work such as yours is there is nothing to criticise. The amount of care spent on every individual word seems to become more concentrated in your shorter chapters, so that you see barely an error of any sort around the paragraphs. (This chapter, if I'm not mistaken, is a little on the large side by Obsession standards, but still fairly short by general SPPF conventions.)

It did seem slightly strange to me though that you would give such time and verbosity into describing the taste of orange flavoured pancakes. I can only understand it as a brief parody of his usual introspective enraptured way of seeing the delicacies of life, an application of his immortal art to the mundanity of good food.

I relaxed, letting out a sigh and setting down the fork that my hand had tightened around without my notice. I supposed I was further away from polite society than I wanted to think. Although with my father's ignorance, my chosen path could remain set.

Why exactly did he think this particular thought? I understand it but not its relevance to the situation, probably because I'm being thick at the moment. What I can think of is that he is so far from polite society at the moment, that he can pass by others in his house without being too conspicuously lofty; this is a disappointment and also a blessing, because it ensures his secrecy from his father. You might want to make it clearer in any case.

I found it amusing that Jirarudan sees people of repute as he would see a work of art, hence "I knew I had met her before, as one remembers the form of a sculpture." It also hints very strongly of the very slight attraction the two seem to have for each other, or at least that one has for the other.

I should like to know what background Veronica came from -- she is much more learned in the ways of fine living than Jirarudan, yet her experience with these ways is also a work in progress. It's possible that those around her did not really make any efforts to train her until some very few habits (such as using words like 'pretty') had already set in. It is also possible that she had a family similar to Jirarudan's, and started early or caught things more quickly. This seems unlikely, though.

So we see the first theme of legendary pokémon obsession. Veronica is more stricken with the desire for actual possession than Jirarudan at this moment, unless he too has dreams of capturing Articuno in his hopes of seeing it. But we see Jirarudan eventually go much farther than Veronica, who isn't in any canon I know of in the firs place, so something's at work here.

Blackjack Gabbiani
8th December 2008, 4:42 AM
Funny, I hear "racing nerves" all the time...maybe it's a regional thing (not sure where you're from). Although if it is, I'll have to work on that.

The part with the pancakes is because at this point in time he's accustomed still to very simple things, so anything that's "exotic" will be perceived by him to be better automatically than commonplace things. He'll quickly grow out of that, but developing discriminating tastes have yet to come. At this place in time it's more of the novelty that impresses him.

His paranoia at the thought that his father might suspect is because Asaph had told him not to let his father know (mentioned in a previous chapter, but only briefly, so I'm not surprised it was forgotten). Asaph had said that people like Corbin wouldn't understand and that it could be met with hostility, and since Jirarudan already thinks very little of his father, his imagination as to what this could mean has gotten away from him. Although he could wind up with his suspicion having a basis...but I'm not saying just yet.

We'll find more about Veronica (who *is* an OC, yes) in due time. She's mentioned her parents as being collectors themselves, and in the same social circles.
You know though...you just gave me an idea for her (*opens notes*). I can tell you in PM if you want.

She's going to be a major formative figure in his life, as the conversation there indicates. Although she's constantly taking shape--heck, I hadn't gotten the idea to make her mad for Legendaries until right before I started writing the chapter (although it was a while before I reached that part), and one thing that will come into play later was a spur-of-the-moment thing (watch her lines for anything that could be percieved as foreshadowing or suspicious and you'll see what I mean).

Thank you for the review!

Kurloz Makara
20th December 2008, 11:16 PM
Hey, what's up?

Sorry I haven't been reviewing lately. My computer's broken.

Liked the last few chapters. I can't wait for more about Jirarudan.

(Now you making me call him by his JP name!!)

Keep it up!!;444;

Blackjack Gabbiani
21st December 2008, 9:13 AM
It has more flair than "Lawrence"...although that may be because Lorenc (pronounced the same) was the name of my high school English teacher.

But if the Japanese can release merchandise with the name "Meowth" on it, I can use the name "Jirarudan" in my otherwise dub-name-using fics.

If I may ask, do you have any specific thoughts about the recent chapters?

23rd February 2009, 6:01 PM
so i herd u wanted a review.

Well, for starters, Jirarudan is a very interesting character, who has himself in an air of nobility and grace. The diary style of this fic is very interesting, and his inner thoughts are intriguing to read about.

Sorry that I don't have much to say, but... Yeah. Never give up, never surrender!

Blackjack Gabbiani
24th February 2009, 3:30 AM
Why hai!

His inner thoughts mess me up most of the time. He's so far removed from what's going on and it's only going to get worse as his obsession grows.

24th February 2009, 5:12 AM
Well, Jirarudan has similaries to Charlie from Flowers For Algeron in my opinion, for the fact that he's slowly losing his "humanity" to his desires, just similar to Charlie's desire for intellect causes him to slowly become less happy and his life, and when he wanted a life of joy, he slowly goes on a slow journey of the destruction of his intellect.

All in all, keep going with the flow you have, it's a brilliant thriller.

Blackjack Gabbiani
25th February 2009, 11:01 AM
Well, the thing is that losing himself to his passions is what makes Jirarudan happy. Which is why I can't watch the end of the movie any more, because then he has to face the world as it is rather than his own private world, and even though it was his own stupid fault, that's still a horrible thing to go through (especially because I have the very distinct impression--and so do most of the WWC members--that he was so lost in his own world that he didn't even *realize* that his actions had consequences, much less what those were).

Blackjack Gabbiani
1st January 2010, 8:50 AM
Oh holy crap I can't believe I made my deadline by 22 minutes. Of course, I'm at a con so it's down to 15 minutes due to slow connections, but here! Obsession chapter 20! More than a year past due but still in 2009! Note to self--next time you mention an upcoming event in the fic's timeline, don't take four and a half years to get to it.

The year ended and the year began, and soon after it was time for the Tonio exhibit. The night before, my father took me to Asaph's place. The drive was horribly boring and terribly embarassing, as he elected to do so in his pickup truck. Having to take the way there while hearing him blather on about how mature I was becoming was bad enough, but to venture down the long driveway in such a vehicle was nothing short of mortifying. Two servants had already come to the turnaround, and the second we came to a stop in front of them, I threw open the door and scrambled down, instructing them that my bag was in the bed.

At least then I had the cold as an excuse. I brought my hands to my mouth and exhaled over them, although I had thick gloves, as a means of covering as I darted to the door.

My father didn't try to follow me, simply called after me to have a good time, and even that sounded like an insult.

The night passed without incident. Asaph returned from Saffron, we dined late in the evening, and after a pleasant night's sleep in the guest room that was far more opulent than Asaph's personal room, we headed to Viridian to fetch Veronica.

We touched down in a field of snow, powdering out under us in a magnificent ring. A small colony of Nidoran scurried back into the tall grass at the edges, disturbed by the noise and sight of the craft, but they had ample time to have done so before our landing. Silly things.

Veronica awaited us nearby, the same red dress she had worn when we first met poking out from underneath a thick red peacoat. Her parents waited with her--she had described them to me at our previous meeting. Once embarked, I was met by her father, who thrust his hand out simply and insistently. But protocol demanded that I bow first, as he was a social better. Such a misleading term, but there was none other to use.

Impatient man. He grabbed my hand the moment I arose. "So you're Jirarudan." I had to be amused and a bit impressed by the fact that he pronounced it correctly. "Veronica told us so much about you. You're some sort of prodigy, she says." He patted me on the back as he said that and my brief respect faded. "And you're from Seafoam and your father makes ships...you wouldn't be Corbin's boy, would you?"

Would everyone I met ask me that? I nodded hesitantly, trying to make my disapproval at such a question apparent, but he was oblivious.

"I knew it! You've got his strong chin and broad shoulders. My business CEOs use his helicopters. Nothing but top of the line, you know." He thumped me on the back and laughed. "I wouldn't have thought he'd be interested in art. Always seemed so blue-collar to me."

"Franklin, leave the boy alone," Veronica's mother ordered as she fussed with her daughter's coat. "He's obviously not like his father if he's going to a gala like this." She smiled at me, face unnaturally tight. "We'd love to go, but both of us have conferences in the morning. Putting the finishing touches on the summer line by next week will take some long meetings." Turning back to Veronica, she kissed her forehead. "Tell me how it was. Oh, and I took that thing out of your luggage; you don't need that."

"All right, mother..." She returned the kiss, to the cheek, and turned towards me. A porter had taken the bag next to her, something she seemed surprised at when she reached down for it, for her eyes were slightly wide and her mouth was parted.

I held out my hand for her, bowing slightly to kiss her hand when she took it, but I was startled by her father's sudden laugh. "Tierney, I think someone's got designs on our little girl!" And there was the hand impacting with my back again.

Veronica winced for me, grabbing my hand as she turned red. "It's not like that!" she muttered. This man, I figured, had no sense of decorum. I was simply following the rules of society.

"Now now," her mother chided, "Veronica's far too young for that sort of thing. Besides, he looks like a gentleman."

I bowed to her as well. "Madame. I promise that your daughter will have a brilliant and enlightening trip." It sounded sufficient.

Tierney smiled again, but this time something lit up in her eyes. "Oh, how formal," she cooed. "How nice to meet such a distinguished young person. You'll learn a lot from each other, darling. And from Asaph, of course."

Asaph hadn't left the ship yet. But that was all right; he had to program the route to Goldenrod and ensure that we would have transportation from the airship dock to the museum, so he was quite busy.

After further parting words, Veronica and I boarded the ship. She waved as the door sealed shut before her, then scurried to the window to continue as we took off.

It had been a few hours and the sun was starting to descend ever so slightly. Asaph had more calls to make so Veronica and I were alone in the observation room, she watching the ground and I the sky.

It was so beautiful that day, and although I would come to see that glorious view, the heavens surrounding my shell of metal and glass, daily in the future, back then it was far more outstanding. We handily passed through towering cumulus clouds, the vapor trailing against the window like a fine veil.

For what I thought would be a moment, I glanced over at Veronica. She was staring down over the land with an intensity I'd never seen from her, so I moved to her window to see what she saw. But there was nothing there but the Indigo Plateau, the Pokémon League Village that would spring to life once a year now covered with a thin dusting of snow.

"There's nothing down there," I told her simply. "Why are you frowning?"

She pressed a hand to her mouth and shook her head. "You know, they consecrate the competition to Moltres. But where they get the flame is a closely guarded secret."

Another bird I'd heard of in conjunction with Lugia--the passionate flame. But it didn't matter. "Seems like a waste to me."

"...yeah," she whispered, correcting herself with "yes" as Asasph came back in.

Time seemed to pass us by as we spoke of whatever we pleased. Soon enough, the mountains surrounding Goldenrod came into view, and the outlying city soon after. Beyond that the ocean, only a faint ribbon of silver past the steel and green. Moving in to land, it was lost entirely.

As we disembarked and a porter for the airfield took our luggage, Asaph chuckled to himself. "The two of you...what a wonderful experience this is! I envy you, you know. To be young again, to be doing all this for the first time...You're not sullied by those things that hound everyone else, and you won't be."

"What do you mean?" Veronica asked as the chauffeur held the door of the sleek black sedan open. She had to wait for Asaph to take his seat, but instead he turned back to us.

"Most of the people there can't appreciate things like we can," he told us, adjusting his coat almost as an afterthought. "They come because they want to be seen, to have their pictures on the society page. But the two of you aren't like that." That hand suddenly thrust upwards towards the clouds in an oddly dramatic gesture. "You're better than them, you're above them, like stars in the night sky. And you'll outshine them all."

Veronica had laughed when he made the motion, but now she only smiled thoughtfully. "You really think so? I look forward to it. You hear that, Jiri? We're better than them."

"It's a nice feeling," I said, but bit back that his gesture was thoroughly undistinguished. Did this mean we were better than him as well? That was a very nice feeling indeed.

The car wound through the city, past countless houses and apartments inhabited by people who lived unaware of our purpose, of what higher things existed in the world, of what was possible. It was almost sad, but I kept it inside.

Veronica watched out the opposite window, head turned away and hands folded in her lap. Asaph, in the passenger seat, was silent and took deep breaths. He had been speaking of this event for some time and I knew how eagerly he anticipated it. That calm, not just over him but over all of us, was settling and wonderful, and for a moment I thought we could well be the only three people in the world. Or four, if the driver was considered.

Goldenrod's downtown was magnificent, rows of trees adorned in white lights, and the odd storefront still displaying their Christmas decorations. I hadn't dared speak of my holiday, spent with my father trying to force cheer and presents on me. I had gotten him a pair of cufflinks, simply as a gesture of goodwill, and he commented on how they were so ostentatious and he prefered things plain. He later claimed he had been attempting to be playful, but it was too little, too late. But when Helen came in from the factory and he announced he was treating the both of us to fried chicken, it was enough to send me scurrying to my room. Days like that are best unspoken to better people.

The sun was already almost gone from the sky as we turned down another street, and Asaph told us we weren't far from the museum. I smiled in anticipation and turned back towards Veronica, who still occupied herself with her view. "This should be exciting," I commented.

She started, shaken from her distraction by the sound of my voice. "It should!" she agreed as she returned the smile. "I'm looking forward to it."

"Wait no longer," Asaph said, hushed.

We looked out again to see the museum beside us, the car slowing to a halt in front of a stone double stairway leading to the giant building. As we fully stopped, I unbuckled my seat belt a moment earlier in my eagerness.

Finally we were out, the chauffeur heading off to fulfil his complete contract with Asaph and check us into the hotel. Most didn't have such services, Asaph said, so we had to know where to look.

Up the stairs we went, past the ancient-looking stone Arcanine flanking the stairwell, through the magnificent glass and steel doors to the lobby. The entry hall wasn't as magnificent as the one in Viridian, but still quite beautiful, with stone columns leading up from the marble floor to the intricately carved ceiling adorned on all sides with a row of white lights. Perhaps left over from the holiday, or perhaps to set the mood for the evening.

People in their finery were already milling around around the coat check. I recognized Lucrezia and the man I had spoken with in the factory not long ago; oh yes, her son. I would have to recall that. As I passed them, I heard her tell him not to talk about his job. At least that would free me up. They would be unlikely to mention my father then.

We turned our coats over to the attendees, and Veronica tucked the tickets in her purse. Finally, Asaph led us past the clusters who merely wished to be seen to the premiere hall.

We were right on time; the doors had just opened and we were among the first in. And I was grateful for that, as it afforded us an unhindered view of the exhibit as it had been arranged. Paintings in a timeline of Tonio's work, encapsulating his earliest known sketches to his final masterworks, wound through the hall and past several dividers. A waiter passed with a tray of wineglasses, and the scent in the air told me that some fine Loirian cuisine was waiting for similar treatment.

I started to examine a painting, but Asaph caught my attention. "Jirarudan, there is someone I want you to meet."

He was standing with a woman who appeared to be in her mid-forties, black hair short-cropped and matching the overall look of her dress. She was shaking Veronica's hand, and turned to me for the same. "Hello," she said in what I could already tell was a very thick accent, "I am Amalie, the artist Tonio's descendant. You care for his work?"

Oh yes, she was the guest of honour. I nodded, although I said "To be honest, I haven't seen many of his works before. Although I've loved what I've seen and I look forward to seeing more tonight."

She smiled and continued to Veronica and me. "It's wonderful seeing young people engaged in art. Everyone wants to be trainers nowadays that it's all they care about. They forget there's more to life."

"Madamoiselle Amalie, did you have a good flight?" Asaph asked, although I was certain that Veronica was about to say something.

"Oh, I'm used to it." When she turned to face him, I saw a red mark on her neck that I hadn't noticed before.

He chuckled. "We're all glad you could attend. He was such a powerful painter, the way he brought the world to life."

"Now Asaph, don't monopolize her," an older woman with a museum identification said with a laugh.

Bowing to the both of them, he excused himself and sheparded us into a corner. "Truth be told, she knows very little of Tonio's work. She doesn't care for the art world herself."

"Is she a trainer then?" Veronica asked, a bit faster than usual.

"Only casually. She made her independent name as a race car driver."

Veronica giggled, dropping her gaze to the floor. "Are we starting soon?"

"Of course." People had started to flood the room, and he took a wineglass from the waiter passing by again.

As we approached the line of servers that had emerged holding silver trays aloft, Asaph spoke to us in a hushed tone. "Now, remember your manners," he reminded us. "No wine; you're too young. Keep to no more than two of each of the hors d’oeurves. It will be light, but you'll be able to order from the hotel when we go there."

Veronica giggled ever so slightly. "We've covered this. There's no need to worry."

He let out a sigh. "This is the first major social event for the both of you. A man frets for his children, or his students in this case." His smile seemed forced. So did his calm. "But I'm sure you'll do fine."

"We will. You forget that she and I met at a society event," I reminded him, leaving out the part that we had been in a room away from the main party.

"Yes, yes...As I said, I know you will both do fine. Any decent artist is nervous before a grand unveiling." He patted us on the backs, a far gentler gesture than Franklin had put us through earlier. "Now go. I'll be watching the both of you through the night, but don't let that hinder you. You must learn independence as well, my little treasures."

Weren't we surrounded by treasures?

She smiled up at him, face devoid of those worry lines that marked his. "We'll find you if there's any problem."

"That's a good girl," he sighed, but perked up almost immediately. "Oh, there's Monsieur Vien. I've been meaning to speak with him. I'll see the both of you later."

After some parting words, he headed off, and so did Veronica, although I was never far from them.

I started my way around the room, making small talk with several of the attendees as I went. I spoke of things I knew and learned of many more, but nothing of Lugia.

The paintings were attractive, but not to my taste. He had come to Kanto to learn the styles here and to teach the technique of his native Loire region, and before then, his works were mostly pastoral scenes; shepherds, farmers, and so on. But before I could delve much into his later works, after his shift in interest, something unusual stood out as I turned a corner.

Owing to Tonio's fascination with the natural history of Kanto, a string of paintings covered the excavation of several fossils from a quarry along the Vermillion coast. That, of course, was the spot where Omanyte was first discovered, and so the museum board had brought in quite a rare specimen to oversee the exhibit. An Omastar watched happily from the corner, a safe distance from the paintings depicting the cautious removal of its ancestors from the cliffs where they had laid interred for millennia.

The parallel between the ancient creature and where it was contained was incredible. Such a clever device! Glass or metal confinement would have only distracted from the openness of the exhibit, so the Omastar was kept in place via a simple force field. My father had books on these sorts of things; although they were impractical for construction, they were quite useful for testing mechanisms.

The note said that the field had been specially calibrated for Omastar's strength and level, and I wondered about the mechanics behind that. What a beautiful thing! The machine's simple elegance far eclipsed anything I had seen in the exhibit.

But I would have to research it later. Now was for the art, and it was indeed a lovely exhibit. Simply not as lovely as the shimmering field that contained the pokémon.

The Omastar waved its appendages at all passersby, some of whom waved back. Veronica did, but Asaph didn't, so neither did I.

After circling the room a few times, I returned to something I had been distracted from earlier. The painting had caught my eye more than the others, a landscape of a north Kanto mining town that would later become Pewter City. This was the turning point in Tonio's career, the small building to the right of center being the beginnings of the Natural History museum. When Tonio traveled through the region, objects of interest unearthed in the mine had only recently been displayed, as a means of attracting minor income to what had otherwise been a place of outside interest only as an overnight stop for travelers heading to Viridian or Cerulean.

Building up the area was a slow process, but the museum endured. And Tonio found his interest there, in the fossils and shells on halfhearted shelves in a dusty building. I couldn't help but consider my finding the Lugia figure in the basement exhibit of a distant museum; even though the parallel ended there, it was amusing just the same.

I examined it for a while, taking in the details of things. While it was the same style as his later works, the difference in subject matter was still jarring. He would do very few works of everyday life after this, instead taken with the world that the regions had been long before human life. And that had no interest for me, for without humans, you have no art. Not that landscapes were any better. So dull and boring. I could see those rolling hills only a few miles inland, with the precision and clarity of my own eyes rather than filtered through someone else.

Art was supposed to be something new. Something special, something sacred, something irregular. To only show what we see every day is a waste.

Someone laughed next to me, and for a moment I thought I had said the last thought out loud. But it was only Amalie, with Lucrezia's son behind her. They were muttering to each other, and likely deluding themselves that they were being subtle. But how obvious it was with his hands on her arms and her neck tilted in the very image of Makoto's famed painting of the Camaranian queen and her knight! Asaph had spoken of the innate sensuality of their posturing, and to see it before me was strange.

As I turned to examine another work, I could hear their words, in her native tongue, and he was quite bad at it. I shook my head. At the age of nine I understood the language better than he could at what had to be over three times that.

She laughed again and said something that I couldn't make out, but unlike him, not for lack of understanding. I was simply too far away by then, and left them to their own devices.

By the time I met up with Veronica again, I was quite exhausted and so was she. She subtly threw out a toothpick that had held a bit of Loirian sausage and cheese as she approached me, and indeed the cuisine had been delectible. But the evening had run together for me, as the art failed to affect me. The most impressive thing I had seen in the time was the containment shield, and overall I was disappointed. I had looked forward to the event, and felt let down.

Asaph, on the other hand, was upbeat and cheerful. "What a fascinating exhibit!" he enthused as he approached, hands clasped in a pose reminiscent of multitudes of portraits of saints in ecstasy. "How incredible! And I was pleased with the both of you. Veronica, Jirarudan; people spoke highly of you both."

"Great..." Veronica muttered, her head drooping. Fortunately we had left the hall by that point and it went unnoticed. She rooted around in her purse for the tickets and it took her far longer than it ought to have to find them.

"The hotel is a block away," Asaph said. "I'll take you there, but then I'll be off to a party. You two can manage on your own, right?"

I nodded, feeling a bit tired myself.

"As I said, you can order room service if you want," he reminded us. "Keep it under 7500p, though."

"Jiri can get something. I'll just go to bed," Veronica sighed.

It was after ten and very cold, wind tearing between the buildings and forcing the three of us to tighten up our coats in unconcious unison. Asaph seemed quite warm once settled, in his new hunter coat from his sojourn to Lopatin. Perhaps I could obtain one, or a better one.

By the time we reached the hotel, we were shivering, Veronica and I hunched over with our hands to our mouths, breathing through our gloves. I could hardly pay attention to my surroundings, although I saw Amalie and Lucrezia's son getting in the elevator a few moments before we arrived there.

On the way up, we warmed up considerably. The hotel was rather old, but had been kept up-to-date with things like heating and power, which was always a wonderful thing. Veronica had perked up a bit from the cold, and was humming something to herself.

"Now," Asaph double-checked as he unlocked the door to our room, "I'll be back in a few hours. You two call the front if you need anything. And you can stay up until I get back, but then I will need to retire for the night."

"We'll be fine. You have fun." Why was I sounding like my father? It was just late, that was all. I'd be far less pithy in the morning.

"Goodnight!" Veronica called after him. He waved as he closed the door, and I swear there was a skip in his step.

I was going to ask Veronica if she wanted anything, but she had already turned away to the washroom. Our bags were in the bedroom, I knew, and I wondered if it was all right for me to retrieve anything from it while she was in the adjoining room. In the end, I stayed in the sitting room to listen to the radio until a few minutes after I heard the shower turn off. Some jazz set from a concert decades earlier in a city I had never been to in a club that no longer existed played, and I realized that I wasn't quite listening to it. I was focused on watching the sky instead, the brillant lights of the city below giving a new aspect to the cover of dark.

That was the view I would never quite be able to see from my ship later on, that magnificent illumination in the thick of human congregation. But there were so many other things to see that it didn't matter.

Veronica said my name and it broke me from that reverie. Eventually we decided against a late dinner and that we would simply go to bed. After my shower and change, I laid down next to her. "When we get older, this will be quite improper, you realise," I remarked with a chuckle. "But we're still quite young so no one will think it strange."

"...Yeah..." was all she said. She stared at the ceiling for a moment before she turned the light on her side off. "Get that one."

It was unusual for her to be so blunt, but I acquiesced. Hmm, I was more tired than I had thought. I started to drift off, but Veronica was shifting on the mattress. After a few minutes, I'd had enough. "Veronica, please go to sleep."

"I can't." It was simple and direct.

"You're exhausted. You can sleep now."

"I can't...! I can't sleep with the light off! Aah, when's he getting back? Turn the lights on, I'm not tired, I'm not tired! Turn them on!"

"I don't have to do what you tell me." She was being obstinate, her rudeness sudden and unexpected. "If you had any of that wine, Asaph's going to have your head, you know."

Then she grabbed me, and I could feel she was shaking. It was inappropiately hot in there, so I knew it couldn't have been that. "Please...Turn the lights on...I can't stand this..."

Fine, I decided as I pulled myself up to a sitting position, which fortunately she dislodged for. Perhaps Asaph had brought a sleeping mask I could use. I would, with any luck, be asleep when he returned. A click of the lamp later and the room filled with light.

Veronica had turned to the centre of the bed, sitting on her knees. And she was crying. "...thank you..." she said, quiver of her body distorting her voice slightly.

Had that been it? She was upset? "Veronica, I'm sorry...I'm just tired..."

She waved her hand, the corners of her mouth tensing up. "I get so scared at night..."

"Being in a new place can be uncomfortable," I told her, biting back the idea that I was positive my father had said the same thing to me at some point. "But there's nothing to be afraid of. It's only a hotel room."

"I'm not afraid of the dark."

"Oh?" I patted her hand, as had been discussed in one of my comportment lessons, but it seemed far too little a reaction. "Then what--"

She cut me off before I could ask it, but it was unnecessary anyway. "I get so lonely! Being in the dark terrifies me because I can't *see* anyone! I can't see Ralts...Ralts isn't even *here*..." As she was talking, she grabbed my arm. "That thing my mother said she took out of my luggage, it was my night light. I'm twelve years old and I still sleep with a goddamn nightlight..."

"Oh..." There wasn't much else in it. I worked my arm out of her hold, and drew her close so she leaned against me. "Veronica, you can tell me anything..." I knew I couldn't do anything for her, but it was something suitable to say.

"You're a real friend..." she sighed. "I need someone I can go to...God, that sounds like I'm using you or something..." A sniffle before she said anything else. "I'm sorry. I've just been up for way too long. I had to get up at the crack of dawn to get all made over."

"You did? I woke up about an hour before we left."

"No, see, you look nice when you're all dressed up. I look like some fancy doll," she scowled as she ran a hand through her hair. "You look natural. You just brushed your hair, put your suit on, and dashed some cologne on, right? My parents kept on me all morning--Jiri, they hired a makeup artist!"

I furrowed my brow. "I couldn't tell you were even wearing makeup."

"Exactly! Two hours of skin treatment because I have a few pimples." I almost chastized her for her blunt language but decided against it. "Every person there was twelve once...well, except for you, of course..." She suddenly quieted, staring at the mattress, and I noticed tears welling in her eyes.

"Well, you looked lovely today," I assured her as I handed her a tissue from the bedside table. "Miss Amalie has her own visual flaws and she's spoken of as a beauty. She certainly didn't have any trouble making company," I added with what I hoped was a disarming chuckle as I rose from the bed to open the windowshade. She wouldn't be alone, not with a whole city out there.

"Yeah...but that's different. Birthmarks are considered 'exotic.'" She made brief quote marks with her fingers and I had the impression she did it unaware. "Acne's far too common. It's 'normal' so they can't stand it." After wiping her eyes, she laid back again, setting her head on the overstuffed pillow, the action puncuated by a long sigh. "It would't be so bad if they let me get a word in edgewise. They keep treating me like an infant."

I turned off the light and laid down as well, the new falling snow out the window illuminated by the city around us, the streetlights twenty floors below. "My father's the same way," I muttered, despite Asaph's instructions. "Always trying to force me to live by his rules. He thought I wanted to be a trainer! Can you imagine something so inane?"

She shifted position to face the window.

I continued. "Anyway, I'm just glad that I liked these lessons. He didn't give me a choice." I certainly knew I was leaving out key details, but I didn't particularly care.

"Was your mother the same way?"

That took me off guard. Although it was most ungentlemanly of me, I rather enjoyed the tack I had taken. Perhaps an odd thought, but expressing my distaste for him was almost comforting. By that same gesture, the thought of speaking of my mother made me ill at ease. The thought of describing someone so dear to me and wonderful; why would that be such an uncomfortable thought when complaining about someone I hated came with such ease? "What a strange dichotomy," I mused aloud. "I despise my father but I don't mind talking about him as we were. I love my mother but I can't find the words for her."

A chuckle from Veronica's side. "With all your words, you can't find any for her?"

"Hmm?" I yawned.

She yawned as well before saying "most nine-year-olds don't say things like 'dichotomy'."

Smiling, I reached over to pat her shoulder, but she had already fallen asleep. I remained awake for a bit after, considering the day, but was asleep before Asaph returned.

2nd January 2010, 3:03 PM
Well, what do ya know... another chap of Obsession.

I like how you portray the world from Lawrence's view. It is rather strange to realize that a child barely nine thinks that way but you manage to describe things just right. It's amusing how he despises his father's world and thinks low of Pokemon- excluding Lugia, of course. And yet for all his art-talk you manage to show us he has his personal tastes and his love for technology. And the way he dismisses landscape and nature helps to relate to his apathy to the climate changes in the movie.

To be honest, I don't like characters with his personality- the kind that wave off the sport or discipline seemingly controlling the world they live in and frown upon it. And yet it isn't entirely his fault- Asaph, that little good-for-nothing fox who doesn't realise the greatness of competitive battling and being a Pokemon trainer, shapes him this way. And from the latest chap it is shown that he uses two children as a way to elevate himself, to show that not only he is an excellent collector, gentlemen, yada yada but that he can teach others his way.

But I like Veronica's character- she at least treats Pokemon like living beings and doesn't cling to her society status the way her mentor and fellow apprentice do.

IMO it would be interesting to see a confrontation between Lawrence and some famous Pokemon trainer around Veronica's age who had managed to gain high status thanks to battling. We need a clash between two prodigies from different worlds. Clash of personalities and words of course. :)

Blackjack Gabbiani
2nd January 2010, 8:00 PM
His apathy towards the world isn't entirely due to Asaph's influence--it was present before they met and initally due in part to how he was treated by his peers as a child and in part due to that I seriously think he's autistic (which is why I write him as being so socially blind--see his reaction when Veronica starts to suffer; he's not truly indifferent, he just doesn't get it)--but Asaph certainly isn't helping things. Asaph's really kind of a prick, isn't he? And then there's Corbin, who uses pokémon but more or less as employees, since they're for factory work along with the humans. And it ALSO doesn't help that Corbin pretty much has his OWN little world.

Veronica is an interesting character. It's funny--I had an idea of what she'd look like for years before I got to the point where she actually entered the fic. And then movie 6 came out...yeeeeah, needless to say, my reaction to Diane was interesting.

2nd January 2010, 9:20 PM
Yeah, but Corbin at least treats his Pokemon fairly well from what we've seen so far and doesn't consider himself elite despite all the money he makes. But I still hope for more conflict in the story- it is kinda slow and I'm not talking about updates.

Blackjack Gabbiani
4th January 2010, 7:17 AM
Yeah...my telling is pretty slow and I think a lot of it is because it takes so long for me to write it. Although another is that it's a biography, more or less. And another is that things are still in the setup stage. Only one more chapter for the first year, and then I can start skipping more time between them.

4th January 2010, 1:17 PM
Congratulations for breaking your immense writer's block! May you have many more useful chapters.

It's so pleasant to read a story where the main characters revolve around art again. Makes me think of an Oscar Wilde hero, but with more substance. And the aesthetic content of the story goes straight up.

Jiri's reaction to the exhibit requires some thought. The fact that he considered a piece of engineering, one whose mechanism he doesn't in fact understand, more beautiful than an art exhibit mystifies me. Was Tonio unusually realistic in his paintings? You've established that the mundanity in his art turned Jiri off, but I don't know if Jiri prefers particularly fantastic art or Tonio's more of a landscape maker than a very esoteric artist.

I don't see any reason that he won't be more properly enthralled by art in other visits and other museums, I suppose; this was centered on one single artist and perhaps he wasn't to Jiri's taste. But I think his interest with the single pokémon exhibit is important to keep in mind, seeing as collecting above all will dominate him later on. Probably the one point I haven't managed to understand yet is how the beauty of the cage interested him more than the pokémon itself. Omastar is not as rare as a legendary, I suppose, and its force field might be rarer to Jirarudan, but I don't see what this would imply about Jiri's disposition and possible future interests.

Tierney's personality is very subtly hinted in the story. I found it a little harsh perhaps that she simply took out the nightlight so briskly, without comment or argument, but maybe this was an unusually harsh night for Veronica. She seems like someone who can get to business with a minimum of fuss, generally, but she has a regard for society. What did you say her background was?

I muse with Jirarudan. How strange it is that dislike and contempt comes so easily in conversation, when higher matters of love catch in our throats.

Blackjack Gabbiani
4th January 2010, 1:44 PM
The dislike for the exhibit is because Jirarudan likes things. Things are concrete, things are wonderful, things don't change. Remember his love of science back when? Facts stay the same no matter if anyone knows it or not. Besides, he can see a landscape by looking out the window at the right time. He wants to see something special, something unique.

And bear in mind his collection in the movie. Inorganic crafted artifacts not even resembling any sense of life. Of course, the one time he tries to branch out and look what happens.

Tierney's background will be revealed later, or rather Veronica's will and her parents through that. But in the meantime, she thinks her daughter is too old to sleep with a nightlight, something Veronica seems to have taken into herself ("I'm twelve years old and I still sleep with a goddamn nightlight...")

Jiri just has odd speech patterns anyway. His formality varies in intensity in canon, (although his action towards other humans is always polite), and he seems to go off on tangents when speaking (especially in English although he does it in Japanese too).

Kurloz Makara
6th January 2010, 3:01 PM
Welcome back, Blackjack! I was getting worried!

Is the force field around that Omastar the same one Jiri uses for Zapdos and Moltres? That was the only thing that stood out to me. Sorry if I missed anything else. :)

You did a wonderful job with description, and no OOCness from Jiri, either. 100/5! ;249;

Also, I think Jiri might be autistic, too. :D

Blackjack Gabbiani
7th January 2010, 7:56 AM
It's certainly the kernel of his idea.

Wow, a 2000% improvement!

Blackjack Gabbiani
30th June 2010, 1:14 AM
"Don't you think you need to talk to him today?"

"It's in my head, Helen. I have to get it out somehow. It's...I can't even describe it, but it'll be wonderful!" He didn't look up as he spoke, just kept scrawling something across the paper.

Helen looked startled for a moment, but ultimately just patted his head and poured him some more coffee.

Curiosity got the best of me. I approached the table and hoped he wouldn't say anything, but he was too ensconced in his work to notice. On some discarded pages, the same thing, drawn endlessly and often incomprehensibly where his hand couldn't keep apace of his mind.

It was a strange device, and I wasn't sure what it was at first. It looked like a ball in a cage, but it had to be a ship of some kind. It was the only thing my father designed. Of course, it didn't look like a ship, more like some sort of misguided public art. I shook my head. He was being ridiculous; this would never be anything wonderful.

"Are you all right today?" It took me a moment to realise that was Helen asking me. "You don't have to go out today. Your father will be finished in a little while..." She trailed off, brow furrowed.

"I want to." What was her sudden interest? If she wasn't going to be out with it, I figured, it couldn't be important.

She sighed with her mouth tightened. "Well, whatever helps. I swear, the both of you..." Another incomplete sentence as she headed out to the factory to start the day.

I wouldn't be going anywhere for several hours. The party wasn't until the afternoon, and it was in Seafoam for once, so I had only to dress and walk over. The weather was clear and cool, and the walk would be pleasant. Of course, once the heat set in, it would be unthinkable to do so, but it was only spring. And my father was otherwise occupied, so my dread from the party falling on his day off was nothing. Usually those days were intolerable, and I would either throw myself into my schoolwork or ring up Asaph or Veronica to avoid his questions. The former far more than the latter, of course, as he still wouldn't move the phone from his space.

It would do me good to get out. I'd been studying far too much lately, finishing up only the night before a report on a poem. Something about a meadow, referred to as a meadow many times during the work, with descriptions of flowers and hills. But of course it couldn't possibly actually be a meadow. Symbolism and all that rot, nothing meaning what it says plainly. Finally I had to make things up, based on what I knew of the author, and submitted a paper on how it was a battlefield and the flowers were fallen soldiers. In retrospect, I had based my summary on a Ni Mháille painting whose likeness was tacked to my wall.

Which reminded me, in a roundabout way, of the party that night. It was a birthday party for one of the former board members of the Fuchsia Historical Art Institute. I'd never met the man, but he and Asaph had known each other for years. I wasn't expected to bring a gift, and I wasn't sure how to feel about that. On the one hand, they recognised that I was only starting off, but on the other, they were still treating me like an outsider, a curiosity.

I'd just keep at it, though. Collectors have to be tenacious or they'll never get anywhere. But it was easier than the alternative. Expectations for those my age were simple; we were to be students, and trainers soon after. Hardly any aspired for anything different. Some might be known, briefly, but soon faded. It was so transient.

My thoughts had been like that for a few days, and I hoped the party would shake me from it. An art collector can't start feeling like nothing matters, or he'll never appreciate anything. And I wasn't about to let a few days of fatalism shake me from my chosen path. Besides, it came out of nowhere. Nothing had really changed around me, as was the norm, and it wasn't enough to escalate my usual frustration.

Besides, even though human lives are transient, that's why we have art. Art transcends our mortality, sometimes gripping it by the throat in the process, and leaves behind something far more beautiful than any life could accomplish through only living.

I'd been having those thoughts lately too.

After reading up on some of the treasures of Fuchsia, I curled back up in bed. It was tranquil, peaceful, and made me want to sleep for days. But of course I had a responsibility.

I thought back to the past, those ancient times when the legends were said to walk among us. Had that really changed? Had they ever truly done so, or was that just the foolishness of old? If they had, were they still here and we just ignored them?

Certainly there were some. Veronica had spoken to me of how a field in a north region was a famous gathering place for Shaymin, and they interacted eagerly with humans and most other species save for certain times of year. Phione schools are readily observed in warmer waters. But there wasn't anything especially interesting or aesthetic about either of them. Nothing of true renown.

/The world is pretty boring/, I thought as I yawned and hugged my pillow. Even knowing how everything works doesn't make it interesting. It's not beautiful or anything, just dull. At least the art that Mr. Higuchi specialised in was stylised to some degree and wasn't anything I could see just looking out a window. Most people my age dismissed it as ugly or weird, but I didn't.

And then I was thinking in circles again, so I rolled over and picked up a book on the physics of flight from my bedside table. Even though it was my father's book, I didn't think of him at all during my read.

I didn't bother telling either him or Helen when I left. They knew I was going out, and I didn't care to risk getting my outfit dirty in the factory.

It was a pleasant enough afternoon; warm enough to walk the few miles to my destination and chilled enough to be able to do so without fear of perspiration. I liked being able to be out like that, to feel the wind all around me. It came off the sea with a blast of revitalisation, perking me out of my earlier reverie and making me feel alive. Of course, where I was headed helped with that, to be surrounded by art and people who appreciated it, but the wind itself was a solid cause.

Overhead, a flock of birds called merrily to each other. They seemed to be going the same direction I was, so with a smile, I called back. They ignored me, as was in their nature, and went along their way. Over the crest of a hill, I saw them alight to a tree, and once again I called to them as I passed.

I felt nice. Summer was coming, but not too quickly, and it gave an appreciation for my surroundings. That didn't happen often.

My suit was a bit off, cut low along the chest to button at the base of my ribcage, and I'd have to button my collar before arriving, but overall it was fashionable and pleasing to see. And I had to wonder about the sight of me, what anyone passing by would think of a youth in a tailored suit, walking along the roadside, calling to birds.

Just as my thoughts started to wander back to whatever it was that Helen was adamant my father speak to me about, Mr. Higuchi's home came into view. It wasn't specified to his tastes, although the landscaping was. The garden was low and tempered, and made use of its proximity to the shoreline for a water feature that lined the walkway. As I approached, I saw that the pond was stocked with Magikarp. Not shabby wild ones, but show fish with broad, shiny scales. Walking past, they followed the sight of me, several gold ones standing out of the mass of orange. But I continued to the door.

Some had already arrived, and I was glad for that. Mr. Higuchi was an elderly man, over eighty, and made a comment about hope for the younger generation. I told him of Veronica and he was equally pleased. However, he didn't speak to me the rest of the night.

As I waited for her and Asaph, I made small talk with the early arrivals. Lucrezia and her son were there, dividing as soon as they walked through the door. Lucrezia had dressed the part, in a fine kimono indicating her status, but her son, along with most of the guests, had elected more modern wear. I wondered if I shouldn't have worn something more traditional, as people flocked to admire her, although I hated the constriction of such garments.

Conversations tend to go in circles, not merely the subjects, but the people. They stand in a cluster as they speak, backs to the rest of the room. As such, I wandered around, finally sitting in a low chair next to a lone koto. It wasn't a particularly fancy example of the instrument, but people of Mr. Higuchi's status never have elements without reason. The sound would likely be lovely.

My smile returned as I remembered a festival in my hometown. Mama and I had sat on the ground as we listened to a koto player. Afterwards, I had asked if I could pluck the strings. Had I ever been that young?

Such a pleasant memory. I could almost feel mama's hand on my back as we listened, hear the music in the air instead of conversations that didn't involve me.

I wasn't sure how long I sat there like that. At least ten minutes, but coming back to reality left a strange feeling in my stomach until I noticed that Veronica was sitting beside me. "Are you feeling all right?" she asked as she adjusted a green ribbon that hung too far down.

"I'm all right." I stood, and offered her my hand. "You know, this is the first time I've seen you at an event in something other than the red dress." Another modern outfit, a green gown that exposed her shoulders, something she seemed to have difficulty with as she kept adjusting the cuff that rested on her upper arms.

"Yes, it's new. Do you like it? This is also new." 'This' being a pearl and emerald choker. "Mother got it for me when she went overseas. They're all natural, not a cultured one in the bunch."

"Which makes it more cultured," I noted. "How was your trip?"

We talked for a bit more, mostly about our respective educations, before Asaph disengaged from the circle he had found himself in and approached. "The both of you need to spread out. You can't spend the entire evening talking amongst yourselves. People don't come to these parties to talk to those they talk to all the time." He seemed disappointed, from the slight bend in his back and the furrow over his brow. As he adjusted his pince-nez, something he didn't ordinarily wear and that looked strange on his broad face, he sighed. "I will be spending time away from you tonight. I have my own connections to make."

Veronica took a thread off his tailored vest and balled it between her fingers. "It looks like Miss Chen still has her usual affectionate greeting. It won't do for our mentor to have loose threads on him."

He chuckled. "Why Miss Veronica. Are you planning on having students of your own? Just circulate the room and you'll do fine." And he left us alone again.

"He seems worried," I said flatly.

"Yes. But we should do what he says. He's our teacher for a reason." She cocked her head and smiled at me. "And frankly, this is more interesting than algebra."

We split up, her with a wave to me.

It didn't last long. With the party in full swing an hour later, she approached me. "Jiri...can you come outside with me?"

I'd been occupying myself by the drinks for the past while, but there was only so much interest to be had in a cup. Those around me analysed the amazake as if it was the finest wine, and I listened and wondered with amusement if there was some list somewhere that people drew from to describe drinks.

So I went with her without a word. Rather than stopping in the hallway, she led me into the walk-in closet across the way and pulled the door closed behind us. "I'm so tired, Jiri," she admitted, staring at the ground. "I don't know how people can do this."

"Do what?" I took her hand, remembering what had happened in Goldenrod.

She gave me a bit of a squeeze and brought her gaze up. "Talk for so long about nothing. I tried asking someone about what drew them to a statue they just bought, and all he wanted to do was talk about how much it cost!"

"It's a status symbol. Remember what Asaph told us? Most of these people don't feel anything for what they buy."

"Then why do they do it?" It seemed to hurt her to ask it, but I wasn't sure why.

I smiled in an attempt to cheer her up. "I don't know. But we're the better off for it. We're something special, aren't we?" Before she could answer, I patted her arm. "Like shining stars." Why did saying that make me feel briefly ill?

But she smiled back and it was gone. "I suppose. We'll just have to keep shining." And looking past me, her smile grew. "When I was young, I'd always play pretend in closets like this. It brings back some good memories."

"Oh? What did you play?"

She thought about it for a moment. "I'd be a princess being held captive by ogres, or I'd be exploring a cave and finding treasure...Things like that. Do you ever imagine you're looking for Lugia?"

"Sometimes," I admitted. "But it never seems to play out like that. Mostly the more practical side of gathering information, but it's still exciting."

She giggled. "Sometimes I wonder if you're really only nine."

What an odd thing to say. Somehow I felt both better and worse.

"Well, I suppose it's only natural. We've got to grow up sometime. Anyway, do you want to head back? I think I just needed to take a break."

I nodded. "Yes, Asaph will be cross if we're not there."

She'd only opened the door a bit when she stopped and withdrew from the entrance. I glanced out to see Lucrezia and her son coming out of the ballroom, and given the angle the closet was set to that room, I doubted she could see either of us. Which was fortunate, given the circumstance.

Lucrezia pulled him out into the hallway by his lapels. He didn't struggle or protest--it would have drawn unwanted attention to the situation. As it was, I think only Veronica and I were in a position to notice, although we didn't know what had gone on in the ballroom.

"You brat! How dare you treat your mother like this? How dare you treat anyone like this?" Lucrezia was livid, shaking so hard her dark hair bounced around on her back. "How many times are you going to do this? You're a grown man, the heir to my business! You've already burned far too many bridges with these people with your League title and your stupid dalliances--"

Something shifted in his expression. I wasn't sure what it was, but Veronica sucked in a breath and tightened her grip on my arm.

But Lucrezia continued unabated. "But when you keep flaunting your conquests the same way these people talk about their collections...You have no regard for anybody but yourself! People are just a game to you, aren't they? They're not a game, and if you want to remain my heir, you'll remember that!"

He smirked, and I noticed he wasn't looking at her. Past her. At us? I shivered. "Mother, you're overreacting. Amalie was simply looking for a good time. I can't help that she found it in my hotel room rather than the museum."

Letting out a high snarl, she grabbed his chin and yanked his head down. "You will look at me when I'm speaking to you! I will say this only once more! If you do anything I've addressed one more time, you are out of the business. Do you understand me, brat?"

I didn't hear his reply, as Veronica picked then to pull me further into the closet and pull a coat over the both of us. I could hear her taking deep breaths, and finally she said "I think I'd like to see Cresselia in the light of the full moon. It would be really beautiful."

That was distress, wasn't it? She was upset by that argument. I took her hand with a squeeze. "They say Lugia only flies during a full moon. "

She made an odd noise, almost a squeak, and fell silent. There wasn't any more noise from the hallway, so I disengaged and went to the door to peek out. "No one's here. Want to go back to the party?"

The coat shifted. I assumed she was nodding, since she came forward a moment later. "I'm sorry. I really can't stand to hear fighting."

"It's all right. Let's go back. Hopefully by now we'll have missed the speeches."

She was looking down but smiling. "Hopefully. At least there's amazake."

The hallway was clear, and we headed across to the reception room. The attendees were milling around now, with a few idling by the koto player in the corner, who was far more formal than the one in my memory. Veronica wandered over there, leaving me alone for several minutes, during which nothing of interest happened.

I stared at the window, the people behind me reflected over the ocean. It was near sunset, and the sunset over the ocean is one of the most beautiful sights in the world. Even now I believe this, with all my heart.

And my thoughts shifted to Lugia. I'd been thinking of it more lately, every time I looked at the ocean. Those graceful wings, that beautiful form--beyond any work of art human hands could craft...It was out there somewhere, beneath the waves. And the thought of it made my heart ache. Something so dear to me, so far away...

I heard my name spoken from across the room. The cocktail party effect, since I knew no one was speaking to me. Taking a step back from the glass and scanning the reflection of the room--a trick Asaph had taught us for looking elegantly uninterested--I saw Veronica talking to Lucrezia's son. Odd, I'd have thought she would try to avoid him after that outburst in the hallway; but then, it was his mother doing all the yelling.

That they were talking about me wasn't especially interesting to me, so I turned my attention back to the sea. Others were looking out too, but I knew it meant nothing to them. Simply a view, nothing more.

"Jiri?" I must have been in a daze, since by this point Veronica had already put her hand on my arm. She smiled when I turned, but how strange; Lucrezia's son was standing next to her. "He apologized for what happened earlier and says he wants to make it up to us."

He bowed slightly, the very model of a businessman. "I hadn't meant for anyone to overhear that. Mother was quite demanding and couldn't wait until we left the party. But parents are like that, aren't they?" He smiled. "They don't respect our decisions, our lives."

"I know exactly what you mean," I whispered.

"I suspected you would. Come with me. As she told you, I want to make it up to the both of you." And he turned to the door, waiting for us to accompany him.

Offering my arm to Veronica, I held my head high. Watching the ocean had refreshed me, my sadness gone.

A caterer scurried past us in the hallway, not wanting to be waylaid by guests. We walked rapidly by, Lucrezia's son keeping a brisk pace that was difficult to maintain with dignity. "Now," he said as he pushed open the door to a brilliant library overflowing with books and scrolls from all Kanto's history, "Admittedly, it's been some time since I was a child. Do children still enjoy keeping secrets?"

It was difficult keeping eye contact with him. Not only was the view of the ocean out the window so enticing, but something about that intense look he always had was intimidating. I glanced over at Veronica, who was nodding but had an odd crease in her eyebrows.

I've no doubt he noticed, but he called no attention to it. "I understand the two of you recently came into some money. That mentor of yours mentioned your recent windfalls." Oh yes, Veronica had been granted a substantial sum herself a few months ago. She had dismissed the topic, for the most part. "So the secret I have may be of greater interest to you than those people out there, who treat money like coins to a cat."

Here he bent down to our level, looking us both dead on. Veronica's eyes were wide as she asked him "You said it had something to do with a business arrangement, right?"

"It does. Tomorrow, one of my mother's companies will sign a sizable deal with one of its former competitors. The stock is certain to skyrocket, and whoever owns that stock is poised to make billions overnight. But the deal is very hush-hush. Only a few people know. And now the two of you have the opportunity to be among them, if you swear to keep this a secret."

Billions overnight? I laughed bluntly, but asked "All right, what's the catch?" It seemed like the thing to say.

He chuckled. "No catch. I don't expect anything in return. This isn't a formal business arrangement. I just know that everyone has to get out from under their parents' thumbs eventually. Miss, are you all right?"

Veronica's mouth was taut and breaths pulled in and out rapidly, but only for a moment. She blinked several times and laughed softly before grabbing my arm, working her expression back to a grin. "I'm fine," she breathed with a slight shake in her words and in her grip. "Are you sure about this though? Your mother will be furious at you."

"That isn't anything new," he scoffed. "Now, will you take this information?"

I nodded. After a brief tightening of her grip once again, so did Veronica.

We scurried to find Asaph, and endured the few minutes that it took to disengage him from his conversation. Manners dictated that we couldn't blurt it out, however much we both wanted to.

But oh it was worth it. His expression when we told him of our windfall, the silence as he fumbled with his pince-nez to pocket it as he thought about who to call to arrange everything...

Finally he was able to contact stockbrokers willing to aid at the late hour. All the while, Veronica hugged herself, barely containing excitement, but after a bit, while Asaph was calling, she turned to me. "Jiri...you're happy, right?"

"Mm?" Her question caught me a bit off-guard. "Of course I am. Veronica, we're going to make billions!"

"It's so hard to tell with you." She reached over to me, pushing my head up, and her thumbs pulled my mouth up along the sides. "There! Now you look like you're going to make a fortune!"

I had to smile for real at that. "It hasn't happened yet. Besides, you haven't stopped pacing. You seem nervous."

She flopped down on the couch next to me--Higuchi had given us the run of his living room for our sudden business venture, even though it was unknown to him. "I'm nervous. Excited. I've got energy to burn and there's only a certain number of ways you can do that in a place like this!" Her voice went up at the end, and her eyes were sparkling in the dim light as Asaph came over to us.

"It's all done. The both of you, fortune willing, will wake up to great wealth. Just remember to sell when you think it appropriate."

Veronica nodded. "Of course! Oh, I don't think I'll be able to sleep tonight! Jiri, I wish I could stay with you overnight so we could keep each other awake for this!"

What would happen would happen. What good would staying up all night do when the meeting wouldn't be until after we'd get up? But I nodded anyway. "It'd be nice. But I don't think my father would take kindly to the idea, especially since we've no place to host you."

Asaph laughed. "Ah, youthful exuberance. It's been such a long time. Well, he said the meeting is at nine-thirty, so we ought to rest up. But I know Lucrezia, and she's a genius at making money. Everything she does turns to gold, as they say."

An odd noise from the doorway made us turn our heads. Lucrezia's son was standing there, arms folded.

"How long have you been there?" Asaph asked him with a chuckle.

"Long enough to hear that bit about my mother. You know as well as I do that making money is the only thing she could be considered a genius at." There was something strangely artificial about the joviality in his voice. "I came to tell the two of you that I'm leaving. She has to get up for the meeting, and it's about forty-five minutes to Viridian by helicopter." Those sharp eyes met mine, and my mouth tightened on some unknown reflex. "One your father made, of course."

"It was a pleasure," Veronica said, standing and curtseying with her ankles crossed just right.

I stood as well, offering my hand. "A pleasure," I echoed as he shook it firmly, and I was somewhat relieved when he let go.

"Tell her I give my warmest regards," Asaph asked with another handshake.

But there was no need. Lucrezia entered the room in a flurry of her white houmongi. "So this is where you've gone off to. They have business to attend to, you know. Leave them alone."

He blanched, bowed slightly to us, and headed for the door.

"Honestly, that son of mine..." But she smiled. "I hope your business turns out well."

Asaph kissed her on both cheeks, the same greeting they'd had in the Viridian museum. "I'm certain it will. Enjoy your trip back."

"At least he'll be quiet. He told me he's in no mood to argue with me tonight." Turning back to the doorway, her attention shifted. "Giovanni! Let's go."

Her son nodded at us before the two of them slipped from view.

The way back was dark and cold, but Asaph offered me a ride. Veronica and I held hands in eagerness the way back, but hardly said a word. Asaph himself was content to listen to the radio.

The factory was closed when we rolled up. "It looks a little spooky at night," Veronica whispered, following it with "I'll call you after the meeting."

Asaph wished me good luck, and I was alone, watching their car drive off. She was to stay the night in his guest room as I had before going the rest of the way to Viridian.

I let myself into the silent house, and noticed a note on the banister for me.

/Jiri, if you want to talk, I'll be here tomorrow. -Dad/

I left it where it was and went up to shower, eager for the day ahead. I hoped I would fall asleep quickly and not while away the night hours with fruitless anticipation. But I was fairly tired, and in the end that won over.

Under the covers, I started to drift off almost immediately. Such a wonderful day! And to think that a year ago, I could never have conceived of such a fortune.

/Oh, mama died a year ago./

But I fell asleep right after.

4th July 2010, 4:38 PM
The slashes denoting his thoughts, are they a new development? It's a little odd to narrate thoughts like dialogue in a point-of-view so centred on Jiri anyway, but they went along with the flow (that second one looks actually essential to me), so it could make sense.

His pointing out that the legendaries that have been sighted haven't turned out to be astonishing masterpieces of art, as well as his already established disinterest in animate things, makes me wonder. He's never personally seen a legendary, has he? This fic being so canon, the major legendaries will be proven to exist, but I wonder how he'll react to their physical presence. If Lugia has only been sighted through illustrations in mythological works, what's to say that it isn't beautiful much more as a myth than a real living thing? It's entirely possible he's chasing a beautiful idea that isn't any more than that.

On the other hand, a legendary is basically a myth made real. Maybe it does have the mystic ability to be a real masterpiece of art.

The two of them are so genuinely excited about their fortune. Will Lucrezia's fallout affect them, too? I don't think she'll have happy thoughts for the kids who own the stocks, even if Giovanni basically used them.

Besides, even though human lives are transient, that's why we have art. Art transcends our mortality, sometimes gripping it by the throat in the process, and leaves behind something far more beautiful than any life could accomplish through only living.

Ooh. I'm pretty sure this is a central idea to Obsession, even to Jirarudan himself, and it means something (perhaps that his trademark worldview is starting to develop already) that you state it directly now. It's certainly one recourse for the depressed art-lover. Currently he is disturbed by the idea that life is kind of disregarded because art is a much better vessel of existence, but I could imagine his growing used to the idea. (I am.) Not that any of this ruinous change is going to happen immediately: for now we're thinking of those millions and exactly what comes of them.

I don't know how you've taken the relative speed with which you posted this chapter, I personally think you're out of the rut. Even if the writers block hasn't left you, your will to write is probably a good match for it.

Blackjack Gabbiani
5th July 2010, 12:10 AM
Aww thank you!

The slashes aren't new, I just forgot to change them to italics when I posted it (I write everything in Notepad and you can't italisize there).

We know from canon how he comes to react to legendaries--he hardly has any reaction at all to the birds other than a means to an end, and that Lugia overrides his logic. Although his reactions to things are muted throughout the film, and I think that's something within him rather than specific to the situation. But that certainly doesn't help matters any.

His ponderings on mortality and the transience of life were, of course, a branch of what he realizes at the end, but they'll show up. He's more impacted by that than he realizes. And he's not really disturbed by it. On the contrary, it makes sense to him. Although you're correct; it will grow.

Relative speed? A month and a half? Well I suppose the last one took two months. This felt longer, since I hiatused from an online RP to do it.

Blackjack Gabbiani
7th February 2011, 12:06 AM
And then, chapter 22!

And then it was summer's end. Veronica and I had prospered off the information and had made quite tidy sums from it, investing and re-investing and overcoming small losses, always staying ahead of where we had been after that fateful morning. By the months passed, we had far, far surpassed that generous starting point.

We had both elected to keep our fortunes secret from our families, and I for one was having a surprisingly easy time of it. Thanks to the ample boutiques in Seafoam, there to cash in on tourist money, I had started to dress better, although not as fine as I would prefer. But finally I was rid of the denim shorts and slogan-ridden shirts my father had initially supplied me with. Veronica was still at the mercy of her parents' demands to look a certain way, but she was able to sway the endless parade of stylists ever so slightly. And she was doing better in school. She had been having difficulty in some of her courses at the Viridian Academy, and had been unwilling to approach her parents about hiring summer tutors, a detail she'd sworn me to secrecy over.

My father simply assumed that my sudden style change was Asaph's influence, and laughed that he should have given Asaph more of a discount on the C-class.

It was a cold summer that year, and fog off the ocean swarmed around my clifftop home. But I didn't spend much time there anyway. Asaph and the both of us were meeting more, doing more, going more places. It was liberating in ways that our previous excursions with him hadn't been, in ways we couldn't describe. We were closer to being his equals; that was the closest thing we could put words to.

Perhaps someday we could surpass him. We would outshine them all, he had told us, and the thought was more than idle fancy in my mind. It would be a ways off and we would have to maintain ourselves, but it was a thought we both entertained.

I would be ten soon. Asaph was quite eager for it and had let on that he was in the process of procuring a fantastic gift for me. For Veronica's birthday, her thirteenth, he had given her an early century duchess's circlet with brilliant gems of blue inset with red and a band of yellow that she recognized as being in the image of a Manaphy egg. Although she had told me after that what she had wanted most had gone dismissed; a Lunar Wing, the bended feather of Cresselia. It was an inelegant statement but I simply nodded.

That project of my father’s, his dream design, had lasted months and at times he would hole himself up on his days off to work on it for ceaseless hours. To me it still looked impractical, like a flying saucer from some cheap movie. But the longer he spent on it, the less time he could pester me. Not that he didn’t continue to be a source of embarrassment. It was humiliating having a father who delighted in the cheap thrills of the town, in the gaudy, shallow attractions of the constant carnival that was Seafoam. Even that annual surfing display saw him eagerly feed into the blitz of t-shirts and banners, and I had the good sense to leave town on that day.

I was headed to the north, to Veronica's home in Viridian. The glamorous city awaited, with its mansions and skyscrapers rising to the brilliant blue sky. And today was something special. Her mother Tierney was hosting a premiere of her company's latest line, and the grounds and home were decked out in anticipation. I wore my finest suit for the occasion, although it was far too hot to do so, and asked Igasho to turn on the air conditioning in the car. Asaph was already in Viridian, so we drove on alone in thankful silence.

Forest gave way to a seemingly endless expanse of farmland, mansions dotted along the hills between them. This was what artists sought to capture in so many landscapes, but it meant nothing to me as I sunk down in my seat a bit and thought about everything that had happened over the past several months. I had done that a lot, just as I had been pensive before that party.

To finally be respected...It was a step, but money alone wouldn't wrest me from that reinforced cage. I needed something further, and unfortunately the only thing that would satisfy my father in that regard would be to age. And that was something money couldn't buy, not in that direction.

It was something beautiful to be on my own, to be in the world as a person and not somebody’s child. Liberating and peaceful, although still unsettling at its core. Were they humoring me?

Those thoughts were kept at bay by the beauty of the sun streaming through the clouds.

I’d never been to Veronica’s home before, but once I arrived, there was no time to relax. The main entryway was overrun by catering trucks and magazine cadres, the side yard covered by workmen putting the finishing touches on a runway and arranging chairs around it. Tierney brushed past me in the main hall, talking over a large cellular phone, and I was left in a sea of people to find Veronica on my own.

But it was simple enough. After peeking down the hallway past the double doors marked “private”, I saw her under a cloud of hairspray, through a wall of stylists.

“Jiri!” she exclaimed, spotting me in her mirror. “Come in!”

I did as was asked, although the smell in the room was terrible, and stood next to her, stifling a cough. “I’m glad to see you,” I said, waving a hand in front of my face to expel the chemical cloud.

“I hoped you’d get here early,” she smiled as a curler worked its way into her bangs. “Although goodness, did you just sneak into a lady’s bedchamber?”

I think I stammered for a moment before retorting “Well, milady knows I’m an awful knave.”

That earned a laugh. “I think a good squirt of this hairspray would set you right. So I’m glad you’re here. Mom’s been terribly rushed today. This is her first time hosting an event like this, and she’s trying to show off as much as possible. Everything has to be perfect, and that means I have to be perfect too.” She reached out and squeezed my hand. “So I’m probably going to need to run off with you somewhere.”

I chuckled, although I wasn’t sure why. “I don’t think that will be a problem.”

“And you might have to go hide too,” she sighed. “One of the child models got sick and she thinks you’re around the right size to pick up the slack.”

Well, that was unexpected. I wasn’t sure what to say for some time, although I was dimly aware that my brow was furrowed, so I hoped that would suffice as reply enough.

“She’s going to be pretty adamant about it, so if you don’t want to, you should be prepared to hold on fast.”

I considered things. To be part of the presentation process could be fascinating. To be regarded along with the art, as essential as the frame…or perhaps I was just being overdramatic. “Either way,” I said although I was certain I hadn’t said the first part aloud, “it should be an interesting experience.”

“Hold off on saying that until you see the outfit,” Veronica warned.

Clearly, the only course of action was to forge ahead with it. Tierney had been brusque, yes, but the requested outfit was rather unique. It was reminiscent of nobility, the light blue ruffles and contours of the classical era, and it felt oddly empowering to wear it. Although I questioned her assertation that it represented the Lorainne region, as it was clearly far more northern than that. I turned around in front of the mirror, admiring the ties on the calf-fitting boots, the buttoned leggings, even the curl they’d put in my hair along the sides of my face.

I heard a giggle behind me, even though my dressers had left by that point. “You look nice,” Veronica said. “Like you stepped out of an old Windsor painting.”

“Thank you!” I exclaimed. “I knew it couldn’t be Lorainnian, but she kept insisting.”

When I turned towards her, she was frowning slightly. “...Yeah, she’s like that. Once she gets her head on something...but it doesn’t matter, I guess. Do you like my outfit?”

She was outfitted in a pink dress with fringe along all edges, a leather strand belt adorned with turquoise at the tips, high pink boots with a pokéball emblem embossed into their sides, and topped off with a wide brim cowgirl hat with a large darker pink bow flopped against itself. It was somewhere between comical and something that would be potentially trendy. “It’s very pink,” I observed to be funny.

It must have worked because she laughed. “I like it, actually. It’s a shame it would violate the uniform code or I’d wear it to school. Especially the hat. I think it’d take the edge off the people behind me if they can’t see the board. How did you get into distance classes, anyway? I think I’d enjoy that a lot more. Oh, but then I wouldn’t have as many excuses to leave the house. But at least I wouldn’t have to look any way special for it. Oh dear, I’m running at the mouth again.” She tried to shake it off by laughing again.

I put a hand on her arm. “We’ll have to save some of this for later.” Tierney was coming around the corner.

At the sight of the two of us, she gasped dramatically. “Oh you two are so--” and immediately set to work on last-minute corrections. She fluffed Veronica’s bow, set the fringe on her arms and at her knees straight, and tucked a stray curl under the hat. As for me, it was a flurry of tugs and fluffing as she tried to make the half-size larger clothes seem as if they were made for me. Finally she stood, and, licking her fingers first, wound them into the pre-curled hair at the sides of my face and tugged.

“Ow!” It was painful, but at least brief.

“Beauty hurts,” she said harriedly, looking us up and down again. “Aren’t you both perfect. Now, you’re going on near the end, as punctuation of sorts. I had to change the schedule around for that and Lada is very mad, so you can’t say a word about it. After you make your appearances, stay out there and all the other models will join you for a bow. But don’t bow until I do. And don’t pinch your face up, Veronica, I’m not sending you back to the makeup chair an hour before you go on. This is perhaps the biggest day of Mommy’s life so I need you to be absolutely perfect.”

Veronica had made a bit of a face at the mention of the famous model, but I didn’t think it was anything strange. “Are there any musical cues we have to worry about?” she asked.

“No, only the adult models are walking in time with the beat. Nobody expects that from the children. Now, I’d kiss you but I’m not going to muss your hair, so here.” Tierney leaned in and very gingerly put her arm around Veronica’s shoulder in what passed for a hug. “The director will give you your cues; you remember Nhung. He’ll tell you what to do and for now mommy has to go start things off, kiss kiss!” Without waiting for a reply, she hurried off again, a bluster of headset and designer fabric.

Veronica was staring absently at the ground, and my gaze followed suit. “What are we looking at?”

She started suddenly, pulling in a gasp. “Oh, nothing. Just we should get over there.”

“Right.” I offered my arm and she accepted, smoothing out a bunching of fabric that had gathered around my elbow.

The end of the opposite wing was a maelstrom of swarming garments on the most polished-looking people I had ever seen. They didn’t seem real, but like very realistic puppets, or a cluster of especially well-trained Ditto. I wanted to say that to Veronica, in the hopes that a witty remark may lighten her mood, but something in the tightness of her mouth silently told me that I should remain quiet.

How strange, I thought. I had been told that that was a sign of nervousness and I accepted that, but with nothing better to do to fill the time, I pondered why that was. If someone had the want for quiet, wouldn’t it only make sense to say so? In our field, we were surrounded by such magnificent beauty; why would we want to take our eyes from it to look at each other?

Was that something I would learn when I was older? I hated to consider anything like that. Knowledge came with time, but age was something different altogether.

I shifted against Veronica’s arm, which she still held in hers, and thought about something else. I needed something opulent if I was to stand out among collectors, and had been considering an airship. The solution may have seemed obvious from the beginning, but nothing in my father’s catalog would serve my purposes if I was to live by my desires. Only the finest, the most luxurious, would do, and his crafts were still only vehicles at their core. My imagination had concocted a traveling hotel room, the sort of room found in upscale resorts I read about in my magazines, but my father’s ships at the top of his line only had a cot that pulled down from the wall and a tiny washroom, both unfit for any respected society man for anything but an overnight voyage.

Maybe I could talk Veronica into getting a ship as well. We’d be quite a pair, traveling the world and searching for our beloved legendaries with the only human company we wanted.

We’d have them someday; I knew we would. We had the drive, and the means were commonplace. If someone got to them before we did, we had the money, or we would in the future. Of course, that would eliminate the thrill of the chase, but the end result would be the same.

I wondered what Lugia’s feathers looked like up close. What they felt like. Those fins on its back, were they flexible or rigid, and did they have feathers as well?

And Veronica’s voice cut through, a wavering giggle. “What are you doing, Jiri?”

I had my hand out in front of me as though I’d been petting something. My imagination had gotten away from me. “Thinking about Lugia. Don’t you imagine what it’d be like to touch Cresselia?”

She shook her head, wider in scope than a simple negative gesture would be. Was she looking around for something? “Now’s not the time.”

Ah yes, that I understood. These things were secret, never to be spoken of in the houses of our parents. They were for us alone, just as our fortunes and our futures were. “That makes sense,” I agreed. “I apologize.”

She stood in silence again, absorbing everything around her. Sometimes I envied that, the ability to take everything in. I could internalise only some of what happened, whether it made sense or not. Asaph told us that we both had our strengths in our approaches, that Veronica had everything at her disposal while I could do things with my assorted knowledge that no one else could think to do, and that we came out about the same.

I thought back to the Madame Remi painting in his home, and how we had approached our interpretations of it. Such a novel approach to things, I mused.

Then we were shuffled forward in line by quite a pace, Veronica having to grab onto her hat to keep it on her head. A man with a headset and a very tight shirt awaited us at the end, just before a curtain divided us from outside. He looked us up and down, requesting that we turn around, and he straightened some of the frills on my outfit and some of the fringe on Veronica’s dress before speaking. “You’ll go down to the end; pace yourself as you walk, Tierney is going to talk about your outfits. Then pause, and turn around and go to the end of the line, you can’t miss it. Don’t talk to anyone; they’ll still be taking your pictures even when you’re in the line. Keep yourselves expressionless until you get in line, then big smiles!” He forced the corners of his mouth up with fingers to emphasise his point. “She’ll call you all back onto the stage, and you’ll do a faster version of what you did before. Got it?” He didn’t wait for any reply before ushering me forward, separating me from Veronica.

And then we were all that mattered, the targets of every eye surrounding the makeshift stage. Cameras clicked and flashed as I began my walk down to where Tierney stood. She narrated, voice coming from speakers on either side of us. “Add a touch of the classics to your journey with this decadent ensemble based on the timeless classical masters,” the description came in an oddly flat tone, and I wondered if that was intentional. But she wasn’t done. “The boots are practical as well as stylish, with the leg-fitted design keeping your feet safe from the weather, and the soles are made for anything from a ball to a trek through the woods.”

Unsure if I should do anything, I turned on my heel to reveal the soles of my shoes to the audience. It was met with more camera flashes, and my head swam from the commotion.

“The layers will keep trainers protected from the elements, and the soft blue color is easy to spot in an emergency,” she went on, and I had a jolt of distress. It wouldn’t help if someone was drowning, and I started to lose my enthusiasm, unaware of what else she talked about. Absently, I wandered to the end of the line of brightly smiling models lining the side of the building near the stage.

But the moment was over at the sight of Veronica in the spotlight. How did that take me out of it? I wondered internally, and my smile came naturally.

“This exotic ensemble is a Towan fantasy, from the soft pink Miltank leather throughout to the hand-polished turquoise that dot her outfit. Don’t let the delicate appearance fool you—it’s as durable as it is lovely. Note the ease of movement, the holding capacity of the belt,” here, Veronica demonstrated that the strands came apart, affording one rope for each pokéball, “the beauty and strength of the open range.”

Veronica had reached the end of the runway by that point, and twirled around as she crossed the mark, fringe spinning outward. She blew a kiss to the audience before joining me at the end of the line.

She looked so happy, I thought, a marked change from just a few moments ago. But I couldn’t say anything, so I kept smiling and thought how delicious it was that here was another part of my life that my father would never know about. It was a wonderful feeling, so liberating, and I hoped that someday, Veronica would know that same freedom.

“Let’s go away,” I heard, and I looked at her. We weren’t supposed to talk yet! But “Let’s go away,” she repeated, this time in my line of sight.

I shook my head, widening my smile in the hopes she’d get the hint, and averting my eyes back to the audience. I noticed Asaph was present, near the end of the runway, and I thought I saw Lucrezia and Mr. Higuchi as well, although I wasn’t certain. One person I was positive was not in attendance was Lucrezia’s son, although I scarcely blamed either of them for that. He’d spoke of breaking away from our parents, something he’d yet to do. For all his success, he was still in his mother’s shadow. It was no wonder he had rebelled, as strange a way as it was to do so. Becoming a trainer...it was almost silly, really.

More pictures, more polite applause, more dull narrative, and finally we were herded back to the stage, retracing our steps after Nhung readjusted our clothes. The music, which had been a nondescript soft piece that merited no description, switched to a pounding beat, and the older models pounded their heels with the beat, working it into their walk. Tierney had talked about that, how no one expected the child models to do that. And I didn’t try to copy it, despite seeing the words as confrontational at best and demeaning at worst. I kept to my own pace, walking a gentleman’s walk as I’d carefully learned.

A brief pose at the end—I bowed gracefully, while Veronica did another twirl—and we headed back inside, single-file. The other models, working almost as a single entity, went back to the dressing rooms, but Veronica grabbed my hand. “Let’s go now.” It was no longer a request. The tightness of her grip and the slight bulge of her eyes told me that it was a command.

“All right, milady, where will we be off to?” I tried to make light of it. Her and her hiding.

“Viridian. Let’s go to Viridian. There’s a bus that goes by here every half-hour and the pickup point’s only a five-minute walk from here. Let’s go!”

She really meant to leave? Not simply another game of hers? I followed along, towed by her grip but of my own accord. “Your mother will be cross with us,” I told her even knowing it would do no good.

“After-parties are boring anyway. We won’t miss anything. We’ll be back by evening. No one will know we’re gone.”

If she was adamant about it or simply trying to convince herself, I couldn’t tell the difference.

She led me to the main entryway, deserted save for empty vehicles and a reporting crew that had suffered equipment failure and was loading their van. They paid us no mind and I was glad for it. About halfway down the driveway, Veronica let go of my wrist. “...Jiri, I’ll pay fare for both of us. It’s not much, but I don’t think you have your wallet on you, do you?”

How long had she been planning to do this? The thought slightly disturbed me. “I have to say, we’ll be quite the sight in these outfits. I know they’re meant for trainers, but they’re so...elaborate.”

Her pace slowed and she fell back with me. “I didn’t think you’d be in one. But still, I need to get away from there sometimes. Besides, Viridian is a great city! I don’t think anyone will notice!” She started humming something under her breath, a skip suddenly in her step. “Viridiaaaan, Viridiaaaan, hmm hmm hmmmmmm.”

As much as her mood swings puzzled me, I had to admit that it would do me good to get away as well. Living at a fast pace had its place, but not all the time. I skipped along with her, recalling the mood of my outfit and the child noblemen in all their carefree fortune.

The world was open to us, wasn’t it? It would do no good to stay in one place. And as the bus pulled up, I felt the size of that open world swell in the air around me.

Sgeckledorf Spoongeblorb
23rd June 2011, 8:48 PM
OH HO HO THIS IS DELICIOUS (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p0j0lO7uQBo)

Hey, even though it took me two months and a dissapointing permaban to finally get myself to review your fic, I think I can sum what I like about it in a few words:


Thank God I got that out of my system.

Noob out.

Blackjack Gabbiani
24th June 2011, 8:17 AM
Hahaha thank you! Any specific thoughts?

I have to say that I can't see that link. It leads to a list of videos.

Sgeckledorf Spoongeblorb
24th June 2011, 11:58 AM
Oh. I'll change it later to an actual vid.

Blackjack Gabbiani
24th June 2011, 8:57 PM
Pffft hahahaha.

Well, I'm glad you like the story with such enthusiasm!

Sgeckledorf Spoongeblorb
24th June 2011, 9:02 PM
Yesirre, I love this fic (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C_VheAwZBuQ&feature=related).

Say, when will there be more?

Blackjack Gabbiani
25th June 2011, 1:26 AM
Oh goodness I have no idea. I've been working on it since basically the last chapter was over and yet I'm kinda slow.

As you may have noticed.

But next part is a lot more development and something big happens at the end.

Sgeckledorf Spoongeblorb
25th June 2011, 4:13 AM
Niiice. Can't wait.

Blackjack Gabbiani
12th October 2011, 9:26 AM
Finally, chapter 23! And before anyone asks, no the guy near the end of the chapter is NOT Petrel. He's just some guy. Also I keep mentally subtitling this chapter "The Adventures of Aspie Boy and Bipolar Girl".

Veronica couldn't stop giggling, with a skip in her step as she paid our fares and headed to a seat in the back of the bus. I followed, sitting across the aisle from her. The bus was nearly deserted, with only a few locals about. The area she lived in was just north of the predominantly farm country that Asaph's home lay in, although his was some ways away. It was an unflinching place, where life droned on without incident yet personalities were laid bare and blunt. Far too quiet for my tastes, to say nothing of too impolite.

She took my hand and patted it. "You look like you've never been on a bus before."

"I take the bus sometimes. To downtown mostly." Although given Seafoam's small size, it was more of a shuttle, despite being called otherwise.

"It's a nice feeling, being so free, isn't it?"

I looked around. The bus was clean, with only a lingering diesel smell to give away the more unsavoury associations with this mode of transportation. "It's better than I thought it would be," I admitted. "A bit bumpy though." The roads out there were considered region roads rather than those belonging to any set city, although we were inside the outskirts of the Viridian city limits.

"Yeah, that happens. Jiri..." Her tone changed, became softer, and her gaze wandered to the ground. "...I'm glad you're here with me. I hate being alone."

"I remember that, from that night in Goldenrod."

"You and I are very special people, aren't we?" Another aspect of the Goldenrod trip. Asaph's words lingered with us, working their way into our hearts and the depths of our minds. "We're better than most, right?"

She was ending everything with a question. "Are you not sure of that? Because I am."

She looked even further away, turning her head towards the front of the bus but not looking much at it. "All this pageantry gets to me after a while. It's so artificial."

That was certainly understandable. "Yes, it's not very charming. Your mother may be a nice person, but she's a terrible designer." Having to buffer something negative with something positive, although I didn't think I meant the compliment.

Green eyes back at me. "Oh, I like my dress. I like it a lot. Yours though..." She giggled again, which was encouraging. "Honestly I'm not sure what she was going for. I think she saw a painting and decided to make it into a trainer outfit. I think it takes more than some sturdy shoes to accomplish that."

"True, true. Although I think yours would be better without the hat."

Was she insulted or just kidding me? She harrumphed and sat back in her seat, slouching in a way Asaph would never allow. "I like my hat! It's kicky." But then she laughed again. "And it keeps Ralts with me. It's just tall enough to keep a pokéball on my head. But don't tell anybody. Mom would be mad that I'm messing my hair."

The words /Among other things/ came to mind and I wasn't sure why, but I figured it wasn't time to say it.

"You aren't very interested in pokémon, are you?" she asked abruptly, and it took me a moment to hear her.

"Oh? No, not really." I sat forward at that, still looking at her. "Other than Lugia, but it's a world apart."

I thought she would ask why, but she didn't and I was glad for it. "...Cresselia is supposed to be really lovely. I wish I had it today."

"Well, you just had your birthday. Perhaps you'll be surprised at Christmas."

She sighed. "...Your birthday is coming up. Is there anything you want?"

Without thinking, I said "If I had Lugia, we could just fly there."

It garnered a laugh, and I felt a wave of embarrassment. "I can see you doing that when no one's looking. Taking it out of its display and flying around on it." She made fluttering motions with her hands as she added "maybe with a scarf and goggles, like a gentleman aviator. Oh, and driving gloves! Can't forget those!"

"I wouldn't do that," I muttered, turning towards the window. "I was kidding. One doesn't ride on Lugia."

Another sigh. "You're so confusing. I know you want to soar across the sky on Lugia. And I know you adore it, but your voice gets so dull when you talk about it." In the reflection, I could see that she was staring out her own window, her back to me. "I tend to think that you're reigning yourself in, like if you let yourself get excited about it, you wouldn't be able to keep up your decorum. But I don't know if you're actually that way or not."

"How long were you planning this?" Perhaps a jump of subject, but it had been on my mind. "You had the money on hand, and exact fare at that, even though you're still in your clothes from the show."

She giggled as she had before. "I told you I'd have to go off somewhere with you, didn't I? Don't say I didn't warn you."

Not that I had much of a choice. I suppose I could have resisted, but it would have been ungentlemanly to do so. "I hope you told someone."

"They heard me." That was true, there'd been several designers around her at the time she told me. "We'll be back before the end of the party anyway. Mom and dad won't even notice that we're gone. Asaph might, but we'll be there before he knows it."

That made sense. Viridian downtown wasn't very far, and the trip was over in about fifteen minutes. By that time, the bus had filled up more than half, and many people stared at us in our new designer outfits. But it only made us laugh, their disbelief at what they'd all gobble up the moment it hit shelves. Maybe to them it was like seeing the future, Veronica and I harbingers of what was to come.

I was half tempted to say something to that effect when we disembarked, Veronica grabbing me by the wrist again and pulling me from my seat, but for some reason neither of us could stop laughing by that point.

I'd had my apprehensions about the sudden trip, but once we arrived amidst the towering buildings, those feelings dissolved into the fragrant air. Viridian always smelled of flowers, of plants, known as it was as the Eternally Green Paradise.

To be young and carefree in the big city...that was a wonder of the world, a work of art by itself. We were independent, living by our own means, and no one could tell us what to do.

She still held my wrist even when she stopped at a corner. "So where should we go? Want to get some lunch? I haven't eaten all day."

I thought back to my breakfast of reheated doria. Keeping my money secret from my father meant still dealing with whatever he filled the refrigerator with. "I'd like that."

"Did you bring any money? I mean, if you didn't, I can pay for it, it's no problem, but..."

"I have some. I didn't know if the servers would be tipped at the party, and I brought some in case they would." My wallet was stuffed into my pocket, and I was glad that it didn't show from the outside or Tierney likely would have demanded that I hand it over before heading out onto the runway.

"And here you were getting on my case for bringing money," Veronica snickered.

The difference there was that she'd brought exact change. Hadn't I said that on the bus? She got dismissive when I said so then, but now she was just smiling. "You're confusing too," I replied.

"Let's all be confusing!" she exclaimed loudly, smiling broadly. "The world is confusing! Let's rise to the challenge! Come on!" And then she scampered off, to the next corner, where she turned on her heel and waited with her hands behind her back.

By the time I caught up with her, she'd done a few spins in place. "You're going to get your dress all sweaty," I chided, but I got the feeling she wasn't paying attention.

"Ooooooh, look at that!" she announced, pointing dramatically at an old-looking hotel. "They have a western tea service! Let's go!"

I would have protested, but her bringing attention to the subject of food had brought to mind that I was quite hungry myself, so I followed along.

The interior, past the uniformed doorman who held the doors for us, was broad and tall, with vaulted ceilings and thick metal rails down the staircase that trailed up a side of the room to a mysterious balcony with tiny black and white photographs dotting the wall. It took almost no effort to imagine the place playing host to the worlds' elite, to picture this being a centerpoint of prestige.

As I looked around, marvelling at the moulding and detail, I could hear Veronica asking for a seat for two in the dining room. Glancing over at her, I couldn't help but think how she breached the worlds. Still very much a child, that much was clear by looking at her in all her frills and ribbons. But acting very much as an adult, that much was clear by her composed boldness.

But Asaph had told us to hold onto our youth, despite our maturity, so I wondered if I could live in this time and be nine for longer than I logically could. It was impossible, of course, but ah, such a dream.

We were led to a tiny table near the centre fixture of the room, big enough only for the two of us, with her purse having to take rest wedged behind her back. That fixture loomed over us, a giant round sitting structure with an inner rise crowned by an opulent blooming plant, and decked with plush seats. One of them was next to us, pulled up to our table as if expecting an uninvited guest. But Veronica and I sat across from each other, and she smiled as if she had done this every day.

"I love tea, the whole service. Something about food being so much more special when it's small and ceremonial, you know?"

I glanced at the small glossy menu set before us, next to the prearranged teacups with double chargers and faux-silver table setting. "I suppose. Domestic tea ceremonies can't hold my attention, but I appreciate the sentiment. I've never had a western tea before."

She giggled as she sorted through the small basket of jams that sat at the edge of the table. "The tea tastes so good though! You should try to sit through one. The reward's well worth it. But you don't get little cakes with it. Ooh!" Selecting a tiny glass jar from the basket, she opened it with a flourish of her wrist. "I love marmalade. Mama tells me I have to watch my weight, but things like this...well, she's not here, is she?"

I took a jar of strawberry preserves. "Something a bit sweet. I suppose this means the scones will be rather bland."

She looked at the menu as well. "Probably." Leaning in conspiratorially, she confided "I can never eat those without getting crumbs everywhere. It's a good thing Asaph isn't here either!"

"A lack of authority figures is certainly exciting," I agreed. "What are we going to do after this?"

Leaning back, she smirked. "How about you pick the next activity?"

"Oh well then!" But despite my enthusiastic reception to this idea, I had to pause to think. I hadn't seen much of Viridian. "Well...I think we're just a few blocks from the art museum."

Veronica scoffed, her expression turning to a frown. "Jiriiiiiii" and it came out in a long high tone "We do that so much! Viridian is a big city!"

"But they have a new exhibit," I told her. "That'll be something we haven't seen before, and I don't think Asaph will take us to it." It was on automobiles, the classic designs rarely seen in modern builds. Asaph didn't appreciate the artwork of machinery, considering it far too practical to be viewed as proper art. But I disagreed. A sleek design was as artistic as any jewel or painting.

"Aah fine. I guess I did let you pick. You're so boring sometimes!" But she was smiling again anyway.

A server appeared, seemingly out of thin air given our distracted attentions. "Are you ready to order? Two Peter Bunearies?"

That was the name that was given to the insultingly base children's menu, and Veronica shook her head. "Absolutely not! We'd like the full service, please."

The woman eyed us for a moment. While the full service menu was far more to our tastes, it was also three times more expensive, and there were two of us. "All right, of course."

We placed our orders and Veronica adjusted her hat. "I swear, the nerve of some people," she said, ensuring that Ralts's pokéball was firmly in place. "Assuming something like that. We're almost adults."

"I remember that story," I commented. "The one the service is named for. A Buneary sneaks out and gets into all sorts of trouble."

Veronica laughed, the dainty society laugh we were taught. "Ah yes. One would think a Buneary wearing a jacket would be a giveaway that it was special."

"Didn't he lose his jacket at one point?"

She thought for a moment. "I'm not sure. It's been years since I've read that."

"Me too..." There was something lost there, wasn't there? It was supposed to be a childhood canon, part of the means that form us, and we'd both forgotten how it went.

"There's someone at school who named their Nidoran Peter, because of its ears," she mused softly. "But when it evolves, the name won't fit any more."

The tea came and was poured elegantly into cups, the leaves falling into metal nets placed over the teacups. We waited until the waitress was gone to continue our conversation. I'd ordered a light tea from China and sipped at it although it was far too hot to do so. Veronica stirred in some honey to her herbal tea and waited. "Have you given any thought to naming your Ralts?" I asked as she tapped her spoon at the side of her cup. "Or will you?"

"I'm not sure. I can't think of any name that would suit her. But Ralts aren't like humans. In the wild they don't give each other names."

"Are there any species that do?" I asked.

"Jynx do. They have a pretty complex language, although they have difficulty speaking most human languages. Something about the way their throats are formed. Aaaaand..." That tapping again, though her spoon was clean of tea, and she looked up at the ceiling, speckled with paint to give the impression of wear and age. "And I think Yamask do but that whole thing is really creepy...'

I'd heard of them, those creatures that were said to have once been human. I wasn't sure if that was true or not, but they were often found in ancient tombs and had taken on the death masks of those buried there. And they guarded treasure, things they never used but prevented anyone from taking. How silly of them. The dead person wasn't about to enjoy such things, and the Yamask certainly weren't, so why not let the living take and enjoy the treasures within? To bury them was just a waste.

I must have been smiling because Veronica burst into laughter, louder than before. "Let me guess. Yamask to tombs to treasures to your collection, right?"

"You know me too well." She was only mostly right, as I hadn't yet connected it to myself yet, but it was certainly heading there.

The tea service was phenomenal. Elegant though accessible, with simple delicacies that satisfied my hunger for the finer things in life. But I must confess it distressed me. Such simple things and yet they were far more than my normal life. It was frustrating to bite into a delicious cucumber sandwich only to realize that even my father could make something like this and yet chose not to.

Veronica was her usual garrulous self, speaking of school, of home, of art and society. In turn I told her of my studies, of the clippings that decorated my room, of the madness that consumed Seafoam every summer surrounding the surfing competition.

"You know, my mother's had a few of her sportwear designs in that competition. The Humungadunga attracts a lot of athletes from around the world, so it's great press for her."

"I don't know how you can say that name with a straight face," I told her, admiring a painting on the wall. "I absolutely refuse to say such an inane name."

She chuckled. "Sometimes I think you're just a very tiny old man. You come off as so relaxed about things but sometimes your sense of humor just..." She trailed off, shaking her hands in the air to dismiss the unfinished sentence. "I know you have one though. That's more than some people. But you're not a very spontaneous person either, today excepted."

I leaned back in my chair, the plush walls of it taking the edge off the surrounding people as it blocked them from view. "Yes...I must admit that I thought I'd need more quiet. But the museum will provide that."


"Yes, after all the hustle and bustle of our outings, even our normal ones, I need solitude for a while to get my thoughts in order."

Veronica reached for the last of the tea cakes, a small lemon bar. "Mm, strong. You seem like you have your thoughts in order all the time. Nothing really seems to get to you."

I thought back to my outburst the year before, when I'd broken my father's book and stormed out of the house. "Not much, I suppose. Shall we move on? The museum awaits!"

She paid for both of us, something I'd wondered if she'd do, and we left, tumbling out of the doors as we both laughed for the sheer joy of our freedom. It had come on suddenly, exhasperatingly, and we willingly gave ourselves to the emotion. Being outdoors in the city was a thrill we'd yet to adjust to, and I hoped we never would. But Veronica lived here, albeit off in the distance, and it had yet to wear out in her mind, so I had hopes for the future.

The sights lay out around us, filling us with a sense of an exotic locale. Buildings wore faded paint ads for businesses that no longer existed, and large ancient vertical signs for things that did. It was a young city as far as the world knew, but it had seen its share of time pass by, and looked akin to some of the faraway cities I'd read about so longingly. Someday I'd see them, but for now their younger sibling would have to suffice.

The past century had seen a boom, and our route took us by several places that had been constructed in that fat era. We'd been relatively untouched by war, even though it had decimated places as nearby as Celadon, so we had far more of our past to bear. And it was beautiful to behold, the modern era rising and swelling around us with the bounty of endless energy. Wood gave way to brick, brick gave way to steel and glass, and all of it suited the city perfectly. Viridian, the eternally green paradise, was our present and we meant to enjoy it fully.

A park lay to our left as we continued on, block after block of tall trees and statuary, with people and pokémon taking up the benches that dotted the path. "We should go through there later," I pointed out.

Veronica glanced over, a spring in her step. "Eeeeh," she muttered. "That area smells bad. I think people sleep there."

That was a trainer's life, wasn't it? Going wherever, sleeping where they pleased, taking up space. None of them were even looking at the statues, and that was a pity far beyond anything else. "So close and yet so far," I murmured.

"You're doing it again," she chided me. "I'm guessing you had some thought that led up to that, but it didn't make any sense coming off of what I said. Remember, Asasph told you that you have to elaborate more so you don't come off as odd. Why do you do that, anyway?"

"I don't know. Things make perfect sense to me."

"We're not mind readers, Jiri," she giggled, but it was broken as she glanced back and forth as we passed by a bench dominated by drunken scofflaws and a shaggy Growlithe that may well have been inebriated as well. I could guess that she was trying to ignore them, based off her increase in pace.

"I do--" I was about to tell her that I don't suppose mind readers would be permitted to attend auctions when she grabbed my wrist, an action that made me pull my hand away. "I don't mind holding hands, but please try to show less force!"

Her brow was furrowed again; was she trying to concentrate? Was she upset? Perhaps she'd misread me. "Well, there's the museum."

There indeed. The building wasn't much on the outside, a misleading box of brick propped up on a slab of cement that had been dotted by a few sculptures. It was easy to pass it by, to mistake it for something it wasn't, but the rewards inside were the whole of the world.

We together walked up the stairs to the front entrance, and I commented that they ought to have a doorman here as well as I held the steel-edged door for her. She didn't respond, keeping her eyes on the floor as she passed me by. A novel thing to do. I did the same as I followed her in, experiencing my familiar surroundings in a new way. How smart of her!

I noticed she didn't check her pokéball at the coat check although people were asked to do so. As much as I valued the rules of society, Veronica wasn't likely to make Ralts known at any point, so I figured it wouldn't be worth it to say anything. Not that a Ralts couldn't cause trouble in a museum, of course. But I knew Veronica.

She was laughing again, having received a compliment on her outfit from the clerk, and enthusing about her mother's design. The clerk was all too eager to see mine then, and I twirled around slowly just as I had a few hours ago. The attention was odd. We were here to see things, not to be seen, and I had the feeling of being on display myself. That would be interesting, I mused, to be the art itself and be admired by all who beheld me. Oh, what a dreamer I was!

But we were surrounded by the bounty of the world, and so personages had to be left at the door. Nothing was ever meant to surpass the art, and even the grandest person would be so much background noise before the pieces.

Veronica was already inside, looking around. "So where to first? The silver room?" That was her favourite, I recalled.

"I want to see the automobile exhibit." I thought I'd told her, but in retrospect I may have simply thought it. Even so, I was positive I'd said the new exhibit.

"Oh huh. It's closed today."

I stood still for a moment, staring at her. "But the museum's open."

She wandered over to a sign, taking an inordinate amount of time to do so. "It says that they have to have more security on it so they don't offer it every day."

Had she not understood me? "But the museum's open," I repeated, slower and more distinctive. Perhaps I'd rushed my words before, so I made certain she would hear me.

"I know that." She was slow and distinctive as well, staring back at me. "I can't do anything about that. We'll have to come back." Her mood had shifted considerably, away from the distinctly cheerful ebullience from a moment ago.

"Odd, I hadn't figured you to take much interest in that exhibit." I started heading in, passing the room of prehistoric continental art.

"What's that mean? You're so weird." After a chuckle, she followed along. "I hadn't figured you for a car guy either. You don't seem the sort."

I paused in front of an especially realistic sculpture of a working man. "The designs fascinate me. They're beautiful, to have a functional work of art. At least those are. Commonplace machines lose their beauty, not only because of their being everywhere, but because they're dumbed down. I wish I knew why they did that."

Veronica smiled. "Maybe they want to keep the special ones special. Like people, like how we're shining stars. We wouldn't be if everyone was."

That made as much sense as anything, although I doubt that was the aim of the companies. "We're very rare, that's certain. But I still want to see them."

"You can always come back. It'll be here for a while longer." She examined the sculpture, shivering slightly, before moving on to a red bench that wasn't for sitting.

"I suppose." I had to remind myself of that, that it would be there and I could see it. Otherwise I'd be very put out by the whole affair. What sort of museum couldn't afford basic manpower for its exhibits? It put a damper on the whole thing.

"You're frowning, right? It's hard to tell."

"Hmm?" I held a hand to my face, and sure enough the corners of my mouth were tightened down. "I suppose I am. It's frustrating."

"Tell me about it. This is what, the fifth time today that I've told you how hard to read you are? But I suppose that makes you a good dealer, since people can't tell what you're thinking. You'll be a wiz at negotiating."

That hadn't been what I meant at all. But she was right about the future, I hoped. "Once I have things to negotiate with. I've got my eye on a sculpture for sale downtown." One of the many art galleries in Seafoam had caught my attention with a piece of a Wingull nest, and I sensed that the price was due to skyrocket due to the market shifting towards natural scenes. "How boring though."

"I missed something, didn't I? Let's go to the silver room!" She reached for my hand again, this time more genteelly, and we went off together, me biting back that she was doing the same thing I did.

What a brilliant event, the two of us wandering the museum of our own accord! From the silver room to the ancient treasures of the Orange region (none of my brilliant Lugia, though) to paintings from a distant continent and era, we were free to behold whatever we pleased. Free in a world of beauty and perfection, the highest freedom we could imagine. I never wanted it to end.

But of course it had to. Even paradise has its working hours, and the Viridian Museum closed its doors after far too short a time.

It was after dark, and Veronica pulled her fringed top tighter.

"If I had a jacket, I'd offer it to you," I told her, although it would make no difference for her to know a theoretical situation.

"I appreciate it. Chilly for this time of year."

"Oh?" I took in the night, the breeze between the buildings, the streetlamps over us, the people in the park across the way. "It's fairly warm for me. But Seafoam tends to be colder than further inland."

"In that case, I wish I had your fortitude," she murmured. "Let's get back to the bus stop in a hurry."

"All right." The shortest route was through the park, and I started off that way automatically.

"Jiri, where are--" Heaven only knows what she was planning on finishing that with. But she followed along a moment later, linking her arm in mind as she came up beside me. "Don't say anything, ok?"

I nodded. Was this a game? But I could play along, even if I couldn't tell her to do anything in return.

We continued through the park as she held tight to me, nearly through when one of the drunkards stepped out in front of us, smelling of all manner of debris and filth. "Going somewhere?"

Veronica kept me moving, trying to steer me around him.

He held out a rough, dirty hand. "There's a fee for fancy people to pass through. Hand over your money."

That was trouble. She broke away from me and we both started to run, and both of us were stopped by growling dogs. The Growlithe in front of me snarled, backing me towards her again, while she was cornered by a Houndour with its fur in patches. "...Jiri, why did you go through the park! You knew I didn't want to go through the park!" Her words were slightly drawn out and a bit higher and thicker than usual. "Aaah fine!" she exclaimed before I could answer. "I didn't want to have to do this, but go! Ralts!"

She'd taken off her hat and brandished Ralts's pokéball, triggering it to release the small psychic-type. Ralts appeared with a chirp of its name, twirling around in the air before landing in front of the Houndour.

Once she had sent out Ralts, attention seemed to be off me, something I was glad for. I wandered on the outskirts, not wanting to be involved but not wanting to abandon Veronica either. I could have run, but no gentleman would run. Would it be gentlemanly of me to try to fight the muggers myself? Asaph had never covered this situation, and Veronica had told me not to say anything, so I was puzzled in silence.

"Since I'm such a nice guy," the filthy man laughed, "I'll let you go first."

She was up against a massive type disadvantage, but she stood her ground. Her mouth tightened and eyes narrowed, pink dress looking inflamed under the streetlamp. "Ralts! Double Team!"

Ralts squealed and focused itself, creating identical false images of itself through force of will. The Houndour looked unimpressed, despite the ring of Ralts around it. With what seemed to be a roll of its eyes, it brought its teeth down on one at random.

All the images vanished. Bite had been super-effective, and Ralts was knocked out, tossed out of the Houndour's mouth like a toy. Veronica cried out and scrambled about with her hat, recalling Ralts and trying to hide the ball again.

"Say, that's a nice hat," the man said, approaching. "Would look awfully nice on Daisy here."

She took a step back. "...You can't have it!"

"Don't think you have much of a choice. Give it here, or I take it out of your friend here."

I felt that hand coming at me and ducked just in time. He managed a handful of blue fabric that I was grateful was slick, as it enabled me to slip out of his hold. He reached for Veronica, who was holding her hat down with both hands on the floppy sides. "Stop it!" she screamed. "Get away! Jiri, run!"

I couldn't leave her, so I darted only a short way, a few bench lengths to the end of the block. She was struggling with the man, who'd grabbed her hat and was pulling at the ribbon. After a moment that seemed to hang in the air, it ripped away from the hat, sending her tumbling back. But her hands didn't move from her prized crown, and neither the man nor his dogs seemed to have any interest in chasing us once they had extricated the ribbon.

She didn't speak either, just concentrated on running, and so did I. It was as if our very souls depended on it, no matter if they followed us or not. The city was reduced to its sidewalks, and nothing else mattered.

Reaching the bus stop was akin to finding a holy land, and I thought of a painting we'd just seen of exactly that. Veronica clung to the post that announced the times, swinging around it to bring herself to a stop, her breathing heavy from her open mouth. It was far too long before she said anything, and when she did it was low and precise. "Why would you take us through there? You saw those dangerous people and you dragged me in there anyway!"

I shook my head, not wanting to break my promise not to speak.

"Say something!" she yelled, clamping onto my arm with her hand tight. "Tell me why I lost my ribbon! Tell me why you're SMILING!"

I had been and knew it, thinking of that painting of the weary travellers reaching their destination. It had relaxed me, put me in a world apart from our terrifying reality. She told me to talk, but words jumbled around in my head. "...It was fastest," I managed, letting out a breath. "To cut through the park would take about three minutes off our walk."

"You didn't think!" Still yelling. "You didn't think about those people! You saw them on the way in! Didn't anything at all set off any red flags for you?"

I thought about it. I remembered a man with a Growlithe, but nothing had really stood out. "Really I didn't notice."

Another thing happened that I didn't expect. She brought her hand up and slapped me across the face, not very strong, but enough to get her point across. She was furious and made me know it. "I'm sick of this! You never notice anything! You get us into this situation and now I have to go home without my ribbon!"

She wasn't making any sense. We weren't here by my volition, after all. "But Veronica, it was your idea."

She shrieked, loudly, as a bus drove up and the door opened. "Everything ok?" the driver asked.

"Just frustrated," she told him. "Is this the bus to south Viridian?"

The driver laughed. "South Viridian? Hoo boy, no. That stops running at five."

Her eyes widened, and she looked down. "I see. That's ok. We'll find another way."

"Well, the pokémon center's about two blocks east from here. There's phones there if you need to call anyone."

"All right. Thank you, sir." Her voice was higher again, and softer, as she took a step back and waited for the door to close. As the bus drove off, the driver taking another look at us, she turned away. "...come on. I'm sorry for slapping you. It's my fault."

Was she still mad? Her fury seemed to have dissipated, but she'd said she was frustrated. I followed her. "I was smiling because I was thinking about a painting."


"You asked my why I was smiling."

"Oh..." She let out a long breath. "We have to admit to all this. Our parents and Asaph are going to be completely furious. They've probably been looking for us. I didn't know it was so late."

I followed along without a word, not wanting to say anything even though I could. Trainers were so base, so far beneath us. How could people like that man be the ideal of most children? Neither of those dogs were of any value, and that's what battling did. That's what it did to people as well, made them value strength and intimidation above anything else.

"I have to heal Ralts first. But I should make the call. Yes..." Higher still, softer still, and I wasn't sure if she was talking to me or to herself.

The centre came into view, a rise of a building, a giant dome with a plaza of stairs in front. Veronica straightened her hat, said "Here goes nothing", and took a few marching steps into the street.

And then a car came from seemingly nowhere, turning in a wide berth and screeching to a halt in front of us. Asasph's car, unmistakably so. And he was driving it, rather than his usual chauffeur.

"Get in," he told us from the rolled-down window. I don't think I'd ever heard his voice so terse, nor him so short-winded.

"How did you find us?" I had to wonder.

"No talking, either of you." He hadn't bothered with driving gloves, and I could see in the light from the open door that his knuckles were white around the steering wheel.

As I slid in next to Veronica, she took my hand and gave it a squeeze. But this time I pulled it away, and we may as well have been half a world from each other.

Sgeckledorf Spoongeblorb
23rd October 2011, 1:29 AM
You know, you could have made that guy Petrel, and then had the story gone off on a tangent where Jiri is forced into Team Rocket and put into some mission to go capture Lugia.

Blackjack Gabbiani
25th October 2011, 2:13 AM
Pfft. that happened in a RP I was in once but it was post movie

Nah I just found myself writing "nice guy" and laughing because I figured unless I said something, everyone would think he was Petrel.

Nurse Jenny
9th August 2012, 11:49 PM
I literally have no idea what I'm doing, I haven't used a forum in forever and I was going to sign up and then I remembered I signed up a thousand years ago with this ridiculous username for whatever reason. (This is FYPV / Perosha.) But I just reread this last night because I put it on my Kindle, so I thought I might as well leave a review because I put it on my Kindle, come on. Also maybe it might inspire you to put up another chapter before you hit the one-year mark between them (hey, I can dream).

DISCLAIMER: I've only read the text of the story, not any of the in-between bits, so if you said something in there that would be relevant I have no idea what it is. Herp.

Anyway, I was going to just list things I liked about it and then I realized that would amount to "lol everything," so lemme try and be more articulate about it:

+ Worldbuilding. The anime is easily my favorite "world" in the Pokémon franchise, simply because it's the most expansive; fifteen movies and 750+ episodes where the main characters travel constantly can't help but create an interesting and vibrant world, even if we only see certain little slices of it from one particular perspective (and even if the nuts and bolts of how that society actually functions largely aren't evident from that perspective we're restricted to). So I inherently love any well-done fic set in the anime that branches out and shows us what life is like for anyone but one of the random few children traveling as trainers. And not only is Obsession set outside that familiar sphere, it's about a particularly interesting slice of society: the idle rich, who we see enough of to know that they're very much there, but who are really never explored in-universe, since none of the protagonists have ever come from wealth. So for me, Obsession doesn't feel like a fanfic in the sense of it being "added to" to the main world; rather, it's simply showing us the exact same world from a different perspective, one that Ash and his friends will never have.

+ Characters. Pokémon may be a franchise about sentient magical monsters who beat the tar out of each other, but for me, all the trappings of that don't carry much story weight; if you can't write characters who are believable, three-dimensional humans even after stripping away anything to do with Pokémon, then all the catching and training and battling in the world won't make your story interesting. But Obsession is exactly that: an immersive study of a character who doesn't have much to do with the omnipresent pocket monsters, and which doesn't use any of the "gimmicks" of Pokémon training to try and make the audience care about the character. (How many fics are there about an original trainer out on their journey? Countless. How many have a main character you'd want to read about even if they weren't a trainer? Precious few.)

Jirarudan's first-person narration doesn't just show us the world, it shows us his world, the world as he sees it, and hearing everything directly from him gives a really solid foundation to his characterization; you understand him both by reading the lines and by reading between the lines, so to speak. And while I think the gradual lengthening of chapters wasn't strictly intended for this purpose, to me it helps to convey the way he changes over the year-and-a-bit between chapter one and where we are now, opening up to the world. As he develops his outlook on life and becomes more observant, we the audience see more as well, because he is our guide. Additionally, his attitude towards the world and other people isn't typical, and that makes hearing his thoughts and observing his behavior more interesting by definition; for me, Jirarudan in Obsession is relatable enough to be sympathetic, but also just alien enough to be someone that you have to constantly pay attention to, to figure out what might be going on around him that he himself isn't perceiving. Because the character has such a strong, clear voice, the whole fic does too, and that's always a good thing.

(The other characters are all well-done as well, but I don't want to have to write a paragraph on each of them, so.)

+ Details. …a.k.a. those things the devil is in, haha. Strictly speaking I suppose this falls under worldbuilding, but by this I mean all the little nods to other people and places in the greater shared universe, whether it's Giovanni's involvement in Jirarudan's fortunes or the explanation for the Ancient Mew card in-universe. The blend of details the audience already knows with details that have been supplied by the author (ex. listing both the real Cresselia and the fakemon "Equuhorn" as other legendaries) creates a kind of mortar that holds the universe of the story together. The world is big, and if we as readers have only been exposed to some of it before, that's not going to stop those who live there from referencing people, places, and Pokémon outside of our knowledge with the same ease that they refer to things we've heard of. It can be hard sometimes to balance those sorts of "real-details" and "fake-details," but this fic does it perfectly, creating a seamless whole that never betrays the source material while giving it scope it at the same time.

I could probably go on about other things I like, but having a few solid categories makes it nice and organized, so I think I'll cut myself off here, haha. I don't really have any critiques as such, because I don't prefer to critique a work in progress, so I'll just say that I'm looking forward to the rest and will be happy to assess the thing cover-to-cover once it's finished someday. Thanks for writing this, and keep up the good work; I'll be back after the next update, whenever that will be!

(And in a puff of smoke, I shall now disappear back to my native habitat of Tumblr…)

Blackjack Gabbiani
8th November 2012, 8:47 AM
And now I see the review well after that year mark has passed! Though I am working on the next chapter, so don't anybody think that I forgot about this! It's just been difficult lately--I've talked about this on my tumblr and on my LJ, but I've been suffering from some pretty intense pain that prevents me from sitting very long, so working on things like a fanfic is almost impossible. I have tumblr access on my phone if anyone wants to talk to me (blackjackgabbiani, all one word), but it's hard to write a several pages chapter on a phone with no real file ability. I already idled out of a roleplay over this too (though I do plan on reapplying when I get this fixed).

So bear with me! I do love reading reviews too, hint hint.

And yes, I love his perspective too. He has such a unique way of seeing things, even in the movie, and it's a perspective of so much vibrancy and life but also of such denial and blindness to the things that are obvious to everyone else. He's so convinced of things that he becomes an unreliable narrator in the truest sense--because he can't see outside his own view of things, so to him another side simply doesn't exist.

Blackjack Gabbiani
1st January 2013, 1:34 AM
I'm sorry this is so late! Anyway, here's chapter 24 all ready to go! (and just in time for your fanfic contest voting consideration wink wink)

I realised, as time went by, that my perception of my surroundings changed with experience. The familiar small town of Seafoam was dull and listless, but passing through a small town where I had never been brought my mind alive, and I wondered about all the people milling about, what filled their lives. Even the routes we took through the big cities had become tiresome, those scenes that had once magnetized my attention now mapped out in detail in my brain, but to take another path to even the same location reawakened me.

One thing that I never grew weary of was the destination, because it was always art. While I would be bored to tears with the same view, the same street, the same buildings, I could stare for hours at the same paintings, the same sculptures, the same silverworks.

I muddled through my schoolworks, barely paying them any of my distracted mind. What we were taught had nothing to do with my path in life, and I almost pitied those who it did. Almost, of course, because they had every opportunity to break from their grey paths and open themselves to the full colour of the world.

How foolish, to live willingly in that place! No, my world would be far distant from theirs, although we would occupy the same space. A world apart, on the same planet. How silly to think how simple it all had been so far, and how far I'd come in just a short time.

I reflected a lot on that of late, the ease in which I'd been able to achieve what I had. Surely this was destiny! I was meant to be a collector, and the thought was quite divine. Divine, of course, in the most literal sense. Such objects filled me with a fervor, knowing that I held around me something so immortal, so far beyond the everyday sphere.

And none was the wiser. That tiny room in my father's house, outcropped over the sea, contained the works of the world. Or what little of the world I could obtain, with my comparatively limited funds. Yet even that small fragment was a spectrum of wonder far greater than anyone around me could ever concieve.

Though surrounded by dinge and fade, I had my sanctuary. Along all walls, every space filled with treasures present or distant. Those I had truly garnered fanned out along the east wall, the single window there illumininating them at the day's dawn, that image the first thing I would see upon waking. My bed lay along the south wall, a simple thing beneath the window overlooking the ocean, so I disguised there and the west wall with images snipped from magazines of the finest things in life. To dismiss those as simple pictures! Alas, I remembered from what seemed like ages ago when they were remarked on as such, and couldn't help but chuckle. Even Helen was ignorant to their true nature, as I fully intended on acquiring each one of them in the future.

The closet, tucked away next to the door, was graced with a neat row of my new, more sophisticated clothes, with those my father had foisted on me hidden on a shelf across, so that they wouldn't sully my prefered wardrobe with their unwanted touch.

Perhaps an aside is in order. I kept them for appearances, how ironic! I would gladly be rid of them in an instant were it not for my father expecting to see me in them on certain occations of exclusively his own interests. He knew the importance of dressing well to meet his clients, but there it ended! A gentleman must be at his best at all public times, yet he clung to the excuse of simply not being at his office to explain away why he continued to wear such atrocities as tank tops and ripped shorts. Those things that he wore during construction! Their purposes ended at the factory door, yet he insisted! How terribly backwards. Simply the thought of it sent my spine shuddering. And I had to don similar wear despite discomfort from all angles at the act. Ah, how funny that even something as common as cotton could rise from the coarseness of those simple garments to the softness and elegance of a fine button-down with the proper guidance.

Ah, I digress. I had a goal for the day.

I closed the closet door behind me, sitting amidst my finery on a chest that held my out of season garments. This unfortunately meant that I was facing that which I described, but I wasn't looking at it. Taking out a hand mirror--a cheap purchase at a drugstore--I began to speak.

"Ahaha! Of course, the use of white conjures the idea of cold."

"Why my dear such-and-such, you look divine! It's been ages, darling."

"Charming, charming!"

Such pithy statements! Even Asaph knew that. But small talk and meaningless comments were an art onto themselves, one that collectors were expected to master. It was like a verbal dance, with the main movement of the body being unimportant and all meaning in the hands and face.

He told me to watch my tone, as it was often flat. I would be percieved as passionless if that continued, so I practiced the ups and downs of my voice as though I was a singer or a stage performer. I may well have been a stage performer, for all the rehearsal it required, but without a script to rely on. I would have to write my own script, with a mind to the rules that the dialogue be inane.

Whatever purpose it served, it seemed to be effective, for whatever strange reason that was beyond my understanding. People seemed to respond better to me when I said such things, so I had no reason to stop.

I think it was some sort of code. By saying things that no one would normally say, I established that I spoke their secret language.

Some of my pictures were held in that tiny room as well, integrated into this process. I moved one of the repulsive shirts aside and took up a stack of photocopies. This was what the mirror was for, in whole.

On the back of one I had written "happiness". The front had the image of a young woman with her mouth curved up to where her teeth were visible, and her eyes were narrowed from the movement. I wasn't sure what indicated happiness about it, but the photograph, taken some fifty years before and held in high regard among those who collected such things, was said to be exemplary in the subject's joy. And so I mimicked her smile, though to me it looked like any other. Adjusting my face to take on these unfamiliar expressions was strange, but it too seemed to have its purposes.

How odd though. I expressed myself, and obviously at that, never trying to obscure myself. This seemed as though I was exposing too much of my heart, yet Asaph called it sublety. Did other collectors expend all their energy and observation on their pursued pieces with no room in their minds for anything else? Perhaps that was why their special code was so simplistic.

Maintaining that smile, I examined myself in the mirror and spoke again.

"The reds give such a vivid, lively feel to the otherwise boring landscape." I redid it. Collectors don't say things like "boring" when speaking to other collectors. "The reds give such a vivid, lively feel to the otherwise drab landscape." And I still wasn't sure if that was right.

Another picture, this of a frowning old man. It was what I would term a scowl, but others said that it was merely an effect of ancient photography requiring the sitter to remain still for quite a long time. Perhaps he was simply an unpleasant fellow to begin with, or perhaps it was his unfortunate resemblence to a granbull that caused the assumption.

"I think so-and-so's suits are quite overrated for the price." No, I had to do that again, we didn't mention price either. "So-and-so's suits are quite common," with "common" stressed to imply that it was beyond mere number, but rather something that the great unwashed would wear. Inflection was important as well, as it could change the meaning of a word through implication.

Changing back to the first image, I repeated her smile and closed my eyes, thinking of the position of every muscle in my face. I wouldn't always have a mirror close at hand, so I had to memorize these things from feel alone.

It was arduous work, trying to maintain this artificial facade. But I looked on it as an art in itself. To exaggerate myself to that degree was to be literally larger than life, and that was something that lent itself quite well to my desired path. I would be among so many pieces that were more than the sum of their parts, so I had to project myself accordingly.

Although that didn't prevent it from being irritatingly repetitive.

"The empty space summons up such a hollowness in the piece." Collectors, for whatever reason, loved to attribute deep meaning to white or black spaces, thinking them truly significant. While certainly they could draw the eye and could make a piece more aestheticly pleasing, surely sometimes they would simply be what was in front of the artist! Yet no one seemed to consider that basic possibility, no matter how drawn from life they recognized the piece to be.

As I grew, I became increasingly aware of the absurdity of life. Children encouraged to leave into the world and bond with animals, while adults created meaningless lives for themselves, devoid of any interest or colour. Both wedged themselves into their tight roles and refused to budge, as stubborn and listless as Ursarings in winter, and any outside the tiny scrap of the world left visible from their select view was something ignored.

I had been set on the path through that grey world once, not knowing anything else. My father had saved money for a trainer journey, and doubtless I would be settling into that life in some other world where I had not discovered art. And yet that discovery had been so <i>simple</i> that it was a shock as to how rare it was to live with color and spark. A brush had been drawn across my life, painting across it the finest things, while those around me remained colourblind.

And it baffled me. Nothing had stood in my way, I realised, and there had been nothing special about me. How many others would there be if they simply looked around?

But it was best this way. Shining stars and all that, as we had been told. As I had been told all that time ago.

I missed her, of course, my dear mother. But with more and more to fill my days, the grief had faded.

With some sense of irony, I had to chuckle at the next photograph being marked "sorrow". Perhaps this was what I had looked like when first brought to this place, mouth turned down and corners tight, eyes squinted and watery, brows like thin wings wavering above.

I had trouble imagining this face on anybody. It seemed distant, something almost comical, contraindicitive of the specified emotion. Asaph, perhaps. Both his parents had passed, yet I couldn't picture him grieving in any such way. Lucrezia had worn a kimono that marked her as a widow, but her jolly, boisterious presentation made it impossible to imagine her otherwise. Even having seen her wrath was still seeing her in bombast, an overwhelming wind surrounding her.

Her son either, the notorious ground trainer. Following that thought, he had lost his father, and yet his smooth and even manner remained in any image I could summon.

Someone closer; Helen perhaps. I'd witnessed her in cheer, in irritation (mostly directed towards my father), in seriousness, in wonderment, but never in sorrow, not like this. I knew she experienced it, thinking back on a story she had told of a failed attempt at breeding her Ninetales that had ended in a stillborn Vulpix of a deep yellow colour. It upset her still, though this had taken place before I was born, and she had paused to wipe away tears many times. Yet that past sadness looked nothing like this image, despite the photograph's pedigree. It had been messy, with unmentionable fluids and a sickness to her, though at the time I had simply wondered, silently of course, if a Fire Stone would have still forced evolution.

Ah yes, the sciences. My studies--my own studies, far from my classes, of course--had fallen on the display cage that had shown the Omastar to all. It was remarkable, and I wondered if there was a way to alter it to display pieces in suspension. Something magnetic could be isolated to display a work in metal while not interfering with anything around it, but that would leave any works of other matter. It was a puzzlement that perplexed me, and I wondered if I could contact the engineer.

Of course, I would have to. I couldn't figure it out on my own. Even as a collector, I was beholden to those who had trod that path before, those gatherers, those artists, those merchants, those patrons. The entire of the art world would be mine, and the thought was intoxicating. I would be an intrinsic part of the very culture of everything. Ah! but that didn't matter! To be a movable part of something eternal, to know that I possessed a collection of true immortality, and to dwell amongst it for as long as I could, those were all I cared about.

Every thought led back to that far too distant future. Time flowed far too slowly, as if testing my patience and resolve to reach that grand goal. But I didn't care. I'd reach it eventually, no matter what my present situation threw at me; no matter the monochrome of my environment, I would burst into the full spectrum!

I realised at that point that I was laughing. When that had happened I wasn't sure, but I was glad that it was a soft, gentlemanly laugh. It had been a rather funny thought, I mused, though the sentiment in it was the absolute truth.

That truth must have been why, when I saw myself in the mirror, I looked nothing akin to the pictures of mirth. Which only complicated things. I felt happy, silly even, and none of that was reflected in pictures supposing to showcase those very things.

Of course, I'd seen those features on others; those shining eyes, those broad smiles, but it was so different that had it not been entirely situational, I wouldn't have seen it at all. How odd, how strange, how confusing! But that was the way of things, wasn't it?

"Of course, it's all part of the game," I chirped merrily at the mirror. But that just made me think of when I'd played chess with Asaph. It had been so long ago, and I suddenly wanted to again. I set the mirror aside and stood, tucking the pictures under the clothes again and carefully arranging things before closing the closet door behind me and heading for the phone to ring him.

I knew from experience that the telephones in his home were fancy things, modern yet in the more ornate style of old movies. There was a certain glamour element in the mystique of old Hollywood that many collectors found themselves emulating, the idea of a subtle world of grandeur all around us if we simply knew how to seek it out. Even the everyday was glamourous when captured in that unique way, and even collectors had everyday lives. Of course, that was what I sought, to have that majesty at my fingertips at all moments. So by the time it rang, I was a bit envious already.

"Asaph's residence, may I ask who calls?" That was his butler, who only came on occasionally. It was an odd arrangement, very atypical, and led to me having no idea of the man's name.

"Yes, this is Jirarudan. May I speak with the master of the house?"

There was a shuffling of papers, and I suspected he was turning pages in a notebook. "Master Asaph is unavailable."

I thought as much. He was still refusing my calls, after the impromptu jaunt through the city. "Ah, very well. Thank you."

"However, he does have a message for you."

"Oh?" That was surprising. I didn't expect that he would want to have any sort of communication with me until later. Though in honesty, I felt he was vastly overreacting.

"Master Asaph wishes to inform you of his representation in the upcoming exhibit of collectors of the Kanto region in Fuschia City."

Ah, so that was why he had spent so much time in Mr. Higuchi's company. Such fortune being minted at that party! It was beautiful, how everything came together like that, my star shining amidst the light of his. "Thank you for informing me."

"Have you anything further?"

I had the suspicion that at an earlier, uneducated point in my life I would have simply hung up at that. "Tell him I await hearing from him. Thank you."

After ending the call, I rested the phone on my bedside table and leaned back on my bed. Such a beautiful thing it must be to lend to an exhibit! To have so many view that which you'd brought together!

But how many of them would understand it? How many would see it and move on without any impact? I frowned. That simply wouldn't do. It was a distressing thought, but I did trust his judgement. I'd have to ask him the next time we spoke.

"Master Asaph wishes to inform you--" I repeated. Something had unsettled me in that when it was said, but I wasn't sure what until I heard it in my own voice. Why, it was a benefit that I hadn't caught it at the time, else I'd have thought he was dismissing me! To do so without a word would be inexcusibly rude, after all. I was grateful that it hadn't been the case, but how strange that I would worry of it after nothing of the sort was said.

I sighed as I reached over to pull the shade closed, taking a look at the sky as I did. A storm was coming, and in those months it would bring with it some bitter cold far removed from the season. I wondered briefly what Articuno did on its rumored nearby island in that weather, where it took shelter. Though the cold was meaningless to an ice type, and nothing compared to what would come in a scant few months, the wind and rain were sure to drive at its land.

And they did me no favours either. Such weather only reminded me of my position overlooking the ocean, already no doubt heavy with thick-capped waves and grey swells. Someday I would overlook it all, the stormy grey of the world never touching me, but for the time, I burrowed under my blankets in anticipation.

Blackjack Gabbiani
20th November 2013, 10:31 AM
So something has gone all pear-shaped around here when it takes me this long to tick out a chapter of pure character development, right? Though it's been a heckofa year, and I'm in the process of moving as well. But this time I at least know what the *next* chapter will be about! Expect a lot more plot next time around. As for now, have Jiri and Veronica on an adventure in Seafoam!

The streets of Seafoam were briefly coated in an artificial sense of festivity, as though it were carried on the ocean breeze. Storefronts trumpeted all summer long of vacation joy--always vacation, as though life here was transient for everyone--with nothing behind the facade, then quickly shuttered close. Even the art galleries focused on the surrounding area with no care beyond that limited scope. It was a world floating in a void, but it would have to do for the time being.

It was, I confess, a pleasant view. The plains gave way to the ocean in a crash of surf and rock, the greenery of the area belying the lifelessness of the buildings. Even my walk to the town, through it took some time, was pleasant, down a gentle slope that stretched across the top of a gradually evening cliff until it became flush with the flat land of the main roads. Sometimes, if the weather was disagreeable, I took the shuttle bus that looped around the town, but on fair days I preferred the walk.

It was on one of those days, in the early autumn, that I was notified of new works at a preferred gallery, and I was heading down to see them. It was clear and dry, to say nothing of unseasonably hot, though cool compared to further inland. Small miracles, I thought as I passed a row of houses. A familiar-looking woman watched me from the window of one, the same who had told Asaph of my ill behaviour. How strange to think that such a thing had been only the previous hear! I wondered if she'd notice the change in me, or if those details had been lost to the rabble.

No matter. I had my mission and wasn't to be dissuaded. Though I waved to her just the same, turning back to the road before I could see if she returned the gesture.

The sunshine was nice, especially knowing that awaiting us were several months of cold. Though it stormed and fogged and howled, Seafoam never grew truly dark, and yet it was never the right kind of light in that span of months. I would take in what I could, so I slowed my pace as I neared an expanse of woodland and walked in silence for a few minutes.


That was an odd noise, standing out from the normal noise of wind and distant cars. I stood still, ocean breeze against me, as I tried to figure out where this thing was coming from.

"Psst! Jiri!"

I turned around, but nobody was there. Clearly I was hearing things. Perhaps a dream still lingered in me, or perhaps it was just a trick of the wind.

"Jiri! Over here!"

The harsher tone was coming from the bushes at the roadside. What could a person who would hide in the shrubs possibly want with me? But I approached anyway, a caution in my step.

The greenery shook, parting slightly for the person to stick their face out. There, crouched and clad in a cap and sunglasses, was Veronica. "I was wondering if you'd even notice."

"What are you--"

"Come with me!" she blurted. "Let's go on an adventure! We're out in the wild world, so let's enjoy ourselves!"

"How strange..." I mused, realising that I said it aloud. But something in her manner that I couldn't quite put my finger on seemed quite inspiring.

She was starting to become agitated, flapping her gloved hands in a tic reminiscent of a habit I'd had in my distant youth. "Come on! How many days are so perfect for adventuring?"

I smiled, softly I hoped. "I haven't any other plans. I suppose this is as good an activity as any."

Veronica let out a high-pitched squeal that caused me to rethink my agreement, and clapped her hands before extending her arm in an offering of companionship. "Then let's go! This is going to be so fun, la la la..."

"Are you singing?"

"Sure! Care to join me?"

"No thank you. But you're welcome to continue." I took her arm then, wrapping mine around hers as though we were entering a grand ball. But that image didn't last when she began singing aimless notes again.

And yet her tunelessness didn't bother me. It was easy to tell that she was happy; I didn't need my pictures for that. And her joy was infectious, prompting me to hum along in my own tune.

"I thought you said you didn't want to sing!" she declared with a giggle.

"Well, you see, I'm not singing, I'm humming."

"You're so weird!" Another laugh, giving way to more toneless vocalising and a bit of a skip in her step, still keeping pace with me. "Now, what shall our first adventure be, hmm hmm hmm? Exploring is always good! But we have to be careful, because we're being chased!"

"Oh, are we now?"

"Yep! By brigands! They want to make us find treasure for them!"

I'd been suspicious of her idea, but her explanation seemed too fanciful to be symbolic. We were playing out a story, the parts being imaginative rather than pulled from life. "That sounds like a lark. What are they after?"

She paused to think for a moment. "They're after our gold, of course! Gold is always what brigands want."

"I suppose you have a point. How do we know them when we see them?"

"Ah...They have black uniforms! Black uniforms and newsboy hats."

I'd seen them in the past, around Lucrezia's lavish beach house on the far side of town. "Ah yes, I'm familiar with them. We must avoid the mansions if we're to remain unnoticed."

She beamed. "Wonderful! Now, they're after us so we've got to stay safe. Follow me!"

"All right." Though I shouldn't have agreed so quickly, as her immediate reaction was to dive back into the bushes.

"Now then," she mused as I ducked down to join her, "we need to stay off the main roads. They have wicked knights looking for us."

It was an ancient tale now? I decided to go along again. "Don't forget the evil queen and dark prince."

"Of course. And if they catch us, they'll toss us in the hole and leave us there!"

She was spinning quite a tale. But it was delightful fun, at least so far. "Well we certainly don't want that. We'll do our best to avoid such a fate."

Her hand on her cap, she darted out of our hiding spot. "Come on! We have to keep on the move!" The new angle, her in front of me, revealed two long ribbons off the sides of her cap, tied back around her draped hair.

"Where are we going?" I wondered.

"Well..." She was headed somewhere, even if that place was whatever happened to be right in front of her, and didn't stop her pace. "Let's stay in the forest! We'll see what we can find that way."

The forest. Such things held no interest to me. "The city is far more interesting. Can't we go there?"

"Jiiiiriiiii..." It came out higher than her normal tone, and filled with more air. "The queen's forces are filling the streets! We can't risk it!"

This tale she spun was becoming confusing and we hadn't yet begun our adventure. But I complied. "All right. Lead the way."

"Good! Now, this way!" Back into the bushes we went, and I found myself wondering why we had ever left them. She pulled me along as though she had a decided place in mind.

"This is certainly not what I had in mind for the day..." I pondered to myself.

The green of the forest bled together as we continued on our fantastic path. It was as if we had wandered into an abstract, with only the occasional stroke of a brown trunk to break the single colour. Even the wild pokémon around us darted too quickly to register.

"Oh!" Veronica exclaimed, her dedicated path coming to a halt. "A hidden castle!"

I looked ahead. Before us was an abandoned treehouse, somehow holding up through unknown years. A Pidgey nest was visible on the simple handrail along the edge, though it was impossible to tell how long it had been there. Below it on the ground was the outline of a tyre swing, covered in leaves, and above it whisped the remains of a rotten rope. The whole thing was about as far from a castle as a structure could get.

"This castle was sacked by the evil queen," she muttered, bowing her head as if she was truly mourning. "Come on! Let's look for survivors!"

"Must we...?" But again I followed, this time up the blocks hammered into the trunk. Through some miracle they held. When I reached the top, Veronica was already looking about the small space. "What are you trying to find?"

She looked back at me for a moment, and the image of my study cards flashed in my mind, a picture said to be of longing. But that didn't make sense. She was having a merry time of things, so there had to be some mistake. "We're trying to find if anyone remains! There has to be--oh!"

The source of her surprise was a young Rattata, sniffing along the boards for acorns. "Oh, that's something. Is that what you're looking for?"

She knelt down before it, hand extended. "A survivor...Oh dear, you seem to be the only one. We arrived too late! I can offer only my apologies..."

The Rattata sniffed at her glove before scurrying away, down the tree and into the bushes. "Do we follow it?" I asked despite preferring that the sky would fall around us.

"No...it's enough to know." Slowly standing, she smiled. "We should leave it be. It's got enough to deal with. But maybe we can find something of value here."

"Are we tomb robbers?"

Veronica gasped in fake shock. "Absolutely not! We've been hired to sell what remains to rebuild the castle!"

With every word, her storyline seemed to further embrace surrealism. "I...suppose this...rock is worth something. Maybe those Pidgies brought it up here."

"Jirarudan! That's not a rock!" Her sudden insistence was a bit startling. "That's a gem from the royal sceptre! We need to take it with us!"

"Well...the king must be terribly worried about it." Queens rarely wielded sceptres, so I hoped that my choice matched with her vision. "But we have our mission. Shall we go?" I couldn't take a moment more in that dingy place, and despite my compliance with her fantasy, I was near about to leave.

"All right. The evil queen won't be coming back, so this place is as safe as it can be." She pushed past me and started down the ladder. "Town will be our best bet. We'll have to see what we can get for the gem."

I wondered if she was truly going to attempt to sell a plain rock. How far was this fantasy truly going to take us? Her decision to crown Lucrezia an evil queen--I knew that

Veronica was aware of who had been my thought, who owned the beach house surrounded by black-capped guards--was quite the visual, but a strange one. What would she do if we encountered the woman? Would she blurt out accusations of warmongering? Lucrezia may already demonstrate hostility towards us, making money as we had off of her back, although Asaph had doubted that she was aware of the source of our information. When I was back on solid ground, I immediately began wandering in the direction of the city centre, and was glad that Veronica followed along.

Seafoam was quiet, the tourists from inland having discarded it in favour of a daily life. Only a few remained, blending with the locals though sheer weakness of number, and for the most part milled around quietly. Veronica and I passed onto the main road without notice, though she stopped to peer around a building. "One can never be too careful with the queen's forces about."

Lucrezia would have returned to Viridian for business, and her son as well, so the chances of us running into anyone related to Veronica's tale were slim. "Ah...the queen and prince are elsewhere this season, and their forces have accompanied them. I think the chances of encountering them are low."

She vehemently shook her head. "She has spies everywhere. We have to be careful when moving about."

How far was she going to take this? "All right. How will we know them? By the uniform?"

"They wouldn't be spies if they dressed with the queen's emblem. We won't know them until they cause trouble, and that makes the city especially dangerous. We have to move so as to not bring attention to ourselves."

I had the suspicion that it would be far more difficult than that, especially since we seemed to be the only young people about at that hour, and were dressed irregularly sophisticated compared to our peers besides. "Are you positive that's possible?"

"Just act natural...or uh, try to act like a normal person. It'll take steely determination and an iron will to succeed in this labour."

Nothing I had studied through etiquette or my photo collection had any solutions on how to react to such a thing, though I wasn't certain if the entire sentence had been directed towards me or not. "I suppose that's awfully...metallic. Let's do our best."

"That's the spirit." It didn't sound much like how an upbeat phrase like that was meant to, but there were so many variations that it was hard to keep up. "Now, the gem market should be around here someplace."

The only gemstone store was in the small shopping mall in the middle of town, and I felt uneasy. Would she truly attempt to pass this common rock off as the fairy tale she handily spun? "At least we can see some jewellery. Not that the things in this town are worthwhile, but it'll be fun."

"This isn't a mission of fun, Jiri. This is serious." She peered around another corner before darting across the street.

By the time I caught up to her, I remembered another feature of the mall, a merry-go-round. "The king's steeds are being held captive in the middle of the fortress."

She shook her head. "No, they're false. Entertainment for those under the queen's control, so they don't notice the tyranny."

That was the first time she had contradicted me since we began on this bizarre improvised quest. "Ah, bread and circuses."

The common shops were closed, their purpose of feeding commercial goods to tourists fulfilled for another year, so the majority of the mall was silent. I hadn't been there for nearly a year, and even then it had been beneath me. In my childhood I may have enjoyed such a thing, at least the merry-go-round, or perhaps the novelty hat shop, but those days seemed so foreign and fogged.

We moved past so many dingy rooms, some of them empty for seemingly years, others stocked with shirts and trinkets awaiting the return of spring. One surprisingly lively shop carried upscale surfing equipment, an activity that drew people even in the coldest parts of winter, still months away. Yet our goal waited at the end of the hallway, the very heart of the single-level building.

There was the merry-go-round, with its signature blue-flamed Rapidash standing out among those surrounding it. Some were the typical normal Rapidash and Ponyta, even a Zebstrika, and others were more novel sorts such as Seadra and an unmoving Vileplume. The benches that usually adorned these devices were fashioned as Swanna, the distant, notoriously aggressive white bird. But it wasn't my white bird, so there was no point.

Though it was a rickety machine, and clearly only casually cared for, some considered it a work of art. Perhaps it had been in its heyday, but no longer, and that was a disappointment. Typical for Seafoam, however, taking in only the sea itself.

Veronica passed everything by, heading with heavier, quicker steps to the jewellery store. The stone in her hand was covered tightly by white knuckles as she crossed the threshold. But before I could catch up, she darted back, running towards a far door. "They've gotten to us! Run!"

Oh, so that was her plan. It was a bit disappointing; my curiosity having overtaken reason. I followed along swiftly anyway, passing a few employees along the way.

From behind us, a loud whistle blew, followed in a split-second by a harsh "STOP!" and the heavy footfalls of a security guard in pursuit.

"Run, Jiri! Don't let the guard get you!" she called from in front of me.

She hadn't stolen anything, that much I knew. She was running because of her stupid game. Did she really intend to let this go so far that we'd both get in trouble? I slowed in my pace, coming to a low jog. "Veronica, come back."

But she continued, the guard at her heel.

"It's a stupid rock," I called to her as the guard reached his prey, grabbing her shoulder and pulling her against a wall.

She let out a sharp cry as she wedged her firm fist between her body and the wall. "I won't let go!"

The man sighed. "Give it back, kid. You don't want the trouble. Look, your friend is telling you to stop."

"I can't let go! I have to get this to--" Her destination was cut off by the guard pulling her forearm back to reveal the contents of her hand, barely covered by her fingers.

He sighed. "Kid...really? You bring in a rock from outside and pretend that you're stealing it? I almost called Jenny in on you. Runnin' out of the jewellery store like that..."

Veronica rubbed her newly released arm. "...come on, Jirarudan. Our mission is over."

"Lousy kids and their pranks..." I heard the guard mutter as he slunk past me to his original location, rubbing the back of his head. "Never understand kids today..."

I followed to where Veronica had wandered, just outside the door to outside. Her breath was heavy, rising and falling her chest like a rapid tide. "...can't believe it..."

"Veronica, it was foolish. Why did you keep--"

But she turned and walked away from me. As she crossed the road I could see that the rock was still held tight in her hand. I gave her a moment before I followed, my mind turning over on itself trying to figure out her actions.

She was standing at a lookout point, a picturesque fence the only barrier between her and a cliff, and rolling the rock over again in her hands. She'd speak in time enough, I figured.

The view was certainly nice, even with the looming rock targeted by so many surfers in view, and my thought process from earlier came back. Around me, the air was cool and slow, breezing in from distant lands. Who knew what secrets had been whispered into it, the thousands of people feeling the same wind at that moment? It was a lovely thought, to be such a part of the world, as if I was already amidst the finest art. The depths of the world and its treasures would be mine for the picking, and it was an honour to be so blessed. To others, the breeze simply passed them by without notice, and so went the world.

Veronica noticed, though. She raised an arm to catch the wind, the other tossing the rock almost casually into the water before firmly planting on her hat to secure it, ribbons flapping as if they were birds in low flight.

"What's it like where you come from?" It was the first thing she'd said since the dawn of our adventure that took place outside the story.

"Far too quiet. Unsettlingly so." I spoke the truth, of course. That wretched, hateful town had been boring besides.

"Sometimes the quiet is nice." Her head was lowered, and I followed her gaze.

"What do you see?"

She took a moment before looking back at me. "I guess a lot, but I'm not really looking. Just thinking. You ever just space out?"

I laughed at that, reflecting on how very much of my time was spent deep in thought. "So very much," I declared, feeling as though I was repeating myself though I knew I hadn't spoken the first aloud. "Papa's always telling me to be more social. I suppose he means to have friends over rather than to have dealings and connections at parties. I don't understand why. I'm simply doing business like he does."

"Your birthday's later this month, isn't it?"

"Yes. I'll be ten."

She sighed. "I remember when I turned ten. I wanted a pokémon so badly. Even a Magikarp would have done."

"I can't see you with one. Something as clumsy and ungainly as that wouldn't suit you."

"Then what could you see me with?"

It was something I had to think about. She was so many things at once that attempting to narrow it to a handful of species was difficult. "Ralts does suit you. Eevee, Gothita, Chikorita, Murkrow..."

"Things just beginning their journey," she whispered. "First stage, not yet evolved. I can see that." A silence fell over us until she finally stated "You'd have a Xatu. It thinks about the past and future, but not the present. You're very much like them."

I chuckled. "I'd never thought of it that way. I suppose if I had to elaborate, I would say that Ralts is a given, Eevee is complex and changing, Gothita is stylish, Chikorita is..." I paused. "...I'm not sure. It just comes to mind. Oh, and Cresselia, of course, since you want it so much."

She grinned, something I hadn't seen for a while. "And you'd have Lugia. It's awfully funny-looking, but I guess Cresselia is too."

"The heart wants what the heart wants!" Perhaps it was a bit too enthuastic on my part, because she took a step back. But then she laughed, so I continued. "We'll reach that point someday. After all, we're the shining stars."

"I guess we are. And shining stars can't be playing with rocks in the middle of town. ...I should go back home."

"Oh? I was hoping we could tour the galleries together."

She shook her head, her ribbons flowing slightly looser. "I don't feel up to it today. I'm going to go home and take a nap, then play with Ralts some."

"Do you want me to wait for the bus with you?"

"No..." Reaching into her pocket, she produced Ralts' pokéball. "If I don't see you before then, I'll see you at your birthday party, or whatever you have for it. Ta-ta!"

Before I could say anything, she and Ralts had teleported away. I knew that a creature of Ralts' limited power couldn't have gotten her far, and she was likely still in the town, but my part was at least over.

It had been a tiring day, but with the gallery ahead under the noonday sun, I supposed it was really just starting. Nothing that happened later could live up to that morning.

4th January 2014, 8:45 PM
I haven't had all this for a long time, being nine, being in high society, being friends with thirteen-year-olds. Too long. Since time is a little strait for me, I'll read from chapter 22 where I left off, instead of rereading from the beginning, just yet. Your fic seems to have a dreamy way of staying in the present, anyway. Childhood viewed retrospectively. You take your time between updates.

Tierney brushed past me in the main hall, talking over a large cellular phone, and I was left in a sea of people to find Veronica on my own.

No welcome? I imagine these people take guests seriously, even if they're young boys and from lower families. I kind of like the idea, though, as if you've landed up at your friend's house half a block down the street.

It was reminiscent of nobility, the light blue ruffles and contours of the classical era, and it felt oddly empowering to wear it.

Do you have a good idea of your fic's pokehistory, which you probably do if you're writing a fic about art and museum keeping. Does the classical era correspond to any earth period? The ruffles and calf fit boots makes me vaguely think of the 18th century, Europe getting super refined, Casanova's court dress or something. I also imagine that would look questionable to 21 century children.

Jirarudan has some moments where his train of thought tries to sort of shake the reader off -- most of his remarks/exclamations about his own feelings come unexpectedly, partly like non sequiturs. The mechanism dips into silence for a few intervening steps before resurfacing with the thought it just came up with. It's far from being completely unheard of, I think I associate it with the thinking of a young boy; still I wonder if he's not a little... fascinated with the way his own mind turns, eager to draw poetic, interior-life-like conclusions about himself:

But the moment was over at the sight of Veronica in the spotlight. How did that take me out of it?

I thought back to the Madame Remi painting in his home, and how we had approached our interpretations of it. Such a novel approach to things, I mused.

Jirarudan would never have thought of taking a bus to Viridian on his own, that's for sure. He would have had the trip planned out and hotel bookings in advance. Veronica I'm sure has a hatred for the sickly-sweet life she's been brought up in, all the appearances and empty pleasures. Well, perhaps she doesn't mind all the pleasures.

"Yeah, that happens. Jiri..." Her tone changed, became softer, and her gaze wandered to the ground. "...I'm glad you're here with me. I hate being alone."

But both of them also shy away from too much company, 'fake' friendships... They are so goddamned tight.

"I tend to think that you're reigning yourself in,

It's 'reining'. You are pulling the (metaphorical) reins on yourself.

It had come on suddenly, exhasperatingly, and we willingly gave ourselves to the emotion.

Also I'm sure there's no 'h' in dictionary 'exasperate', and I don't think I've seen that variant spelling anywhere.

You're doing it again," she chided me. "I'm guessing you had some thought that led up to that, but it didn't make any sense coming off of what I said.

Veronica sees it too!

That would be interesting, I mused, to be the art itself and be admired by all who beheld me.

Second time in a day he's thought that. I'm trying to detect anything in him now that, once he grows up, will eventually become the celebrated Obsession. I don't think he has any overbearing fixation on anything inanimate right now. He doesn't value human things, friends' company, individual pokemon, bonds of affection, so his interests are naturally on inanimate things: material possessions, ways of being happy; the nice afternoon spent with Veronica, not Veronica herself. But that's not a fixation. I have fixations on poems or abstract concepts, where I care about nothing else, only the cold fleshless thing itself. His real desire is just happiness. He always places the things he desires -- Lugia, high society, the airship -- as part of the wider sweep of his fantasies, as accessories to that better world, in which he'll have everything he's wanting right now. Which is probably how we all saw the world when we were that young. I guess possibly Obsession is what you get when these better worlds shrivel up and eventually get put in the corner.

His snob theory of art -- things become worthless when they are vulgar, part of a crowd -- and Jiri and Veronica's feeling that they are above the common mark. Is there some association between them and works of art, or is it simply that they value things (art, people) by placing them in high class situations. Or both.

I realised, as time went by, that my perception of my surroundings changed with experience.

And now a year passes (IRL).

I was meant to be a collector, and the thought was quite divine. Divine, of course, in the most literal sense. Such objects filled me with a fervor, knowing that I held around me something so immortal, so far beyond the everyday sphere.

I take back that he's only interested in happiness and nothing else, that's silly, nobody does just, happiness in the abstract. Of course he genuinely has art in his life. But I still think there's a difference between fantasies of real life and those of art. Art takes an exertion of the imagination. It's kind of selfless, in that you're creating another's fantasy, or exercising some 'ideal' of beauty. Being artificial, it doesn't come spontaneously. That's not the same as wanting one beautiful airborne night just for yourself.

I like how the style has changed. The clarity of physical circumstances hasn't suffered because it's still you writing the prose, but now Jirarudan has receded from actual humanity, is more baroque with his sentences, harder to follow, more obscure and esoteric with his sentiments. His head is full of artificial pageantry. What does Veronica think of him.

This chapter is so horrible. Jirarudan has surrounded himself with ghosts of human behaviour and he's trying to train himself with them. He has no more clue than he did the last chapter, but now what he had is swamped with pleasantries and stale 'taste'. I know he obviously hasn't lost his mind, his thoughts are as cutting as before, somewhat more so, but there's something so disturbing about the vapidity of the prose... His first person in the previous chapters knew how to talk about life, and this one is overriden with the language of his small-talk training.

And yet that discovery had been so <i>simple</i> that it was a shock as to how rare it was to live with color and spark.

HTML italics. Wasn't there a move towards <strong> and <em> tags at some point? Who would ever take that much time?

I had trouble imagining this face on anybody. It seemed distant, something almost comical, contraindicitive of the specified emotion.

Well, yeah. Sometimes I think conversational expressions are as exaggerated as any comic face.

It had been messy, with unmentionable fluids and a sickness to her, though at the time I had simply wondered, silently of course, if a Fire Stone would have still forced evolution.

Holy ****, Jirarudan! Also, that it's something he thought at that time, not as a symptom of his condition now. That's very right, and keeps this moment from getting heavy-handed.

I thought as much. He was still refusing my calls, after the impromptu jaunt through the city. "Ah, very well. Thank you."

The time interval between this chapter and the next? Asaph hasn't been talking to him since then, and I don't see why he would permanently dismiss Jirarudan on the grounds of such an indiscipline. He is nine years old. A thirteen-year-old got him into the trip; you'd more or less expect him to be her responsibility. ...I don't completely remember their relationship.

So something has gone all pear-shaped around here when it takes me this long to tick out a chapter of pure character development, right?

...Another year passed!

The streets of Seafoam were briefly coated in an artificial sense of festivity, as though it were carried on the ocean breeze. Storefronts trumpeted all summer long of vacation joy--always vacation, as though life here was transient for everyone--with nothing behind the facade, then quickly shuttered close.

The tense inconsistency here I have to point out. 'As though it were' on its own is fine, because 'were' is a respectable tense for hypothetical situations -- "if it were carried on the ocean wind, it would not stay". 'As though life here was' is also fine because 'was' is also an accepted tense for hypothetical situations. But to use both in the same paragraph -- that's inconsistent.

A familiar-looking woman watched me from the window of one, the same who had told Asaph of my ill behaviour. How strange to think that such a thing had been only the previous hear!

Wait what where? When?

This one really seems completely like a dream, Veronica literally appears out of nowhere and whisks Jirarudan away, she's not talking normal, they are playing confusing fantasy games... something the dreaming mind conjures up out of the materials it's got to work with. ...You're doing a prompt. Probably not.

She looked back at me for a moment, and the image of my study cards flashed in my mind, a picture said to be of longing. But that didn't make sense. She was having a merry time of things, so there had to be some mistake. "We're trying to find if anyone remains! There has to be--oh!"

Oh, it's character development. Starting to make sense.

An adventure in Seafoam. Possibly the second-last chapter threw me for a loop, because this seems kind of part of the character-continuity of 23, 22, etc, while chapter 24 is him alone and it sort of enters a creepy world of its own. Jirarudan has schizo elements. This one is really nice. I can feel sad for these cute Jiri-Veronica moments, considering they must be getting all too scarce in the coming chapters. I also like that you don't explain everything, about HOW everyone is feeling and WHY they're feeling and WHAT DOES IT MEAN, which has to be relinquished anyway, from a POV of Jirarudan growing up.

Blackjack Gabbiani
5th January 2014, 10:35 AM
The woman he mentions is from the chapter that's post #105 in this thread.

It's funny. The chapter you describe as "horrible" for his regression is more of a character moment, or that's how I meant it. In the film, he demonstrates some traits that may indicate autism (though it's of course impossible to know for sure since he literally *can't* meet all the diagnostic criteria just based on how little he's shown), and part of autism is difficulty in recognizing facial expression. He's training himself to do so, and to be sociable by rote (another difficulty). Of course, for him it ends up being far shallower in practice, which of course leads to further viewing others as not having the necessary depth to appreciate these treasures...so basically doing these things by rote is just going to continue his problems but hey.

As far as the classical eras and everything, XY really threw a wrench in that design considering that it places three THOUSAND years ago what to us is three HUNDRED years ago (and yet the date of the moon landing is unchanged, making it MORE confusing). But as for his outfit, I'm actually describing a famous painting. Can you think of which one? (and heh, for bonus points, guess what Veronica is wearing. Hint--it's a LOT more recent, from a tv show)

His ultimate obsession...I'm not sure if it really *is* Lugia, or even anything specific. Though he certainly comes to value Lugia above almost (ALMOST) everything else...

And heh, thanks for the spelling input. It's funny though, I do put everything through spell checkers before I post them. I guess in my "no that isn't misspelled that's the name of a Pokémon" skipping, some things squeeze through.

5th January 2014, 3:46 PM
Oh god, did I just describe autistic people as 'horrible'.

That said, autism can be horrible, and progressing through life undiagnosed and untreated can certainly be horrible.

Let me look at your Conquest Problem thread. ...1700's France is 3000 years ago. Got damn. I feel like the only explanation that'll fit the different canons' random caprices is that, pokemon is so far ahead of our world's timeline and it has gone through so many stages of history, that the stages have actually repeated multiple times, and everybody's gained crazy technologies and lost them and regained them, and Casanova has existed not only 300 but 3000 and 30000 years ago. As to which painting: I'm definitely not widely versed in classical art, even all the famous ones, and, Windsor is clearly not a real painter (I definitely didn't have to Google that to find out), so I'm gonna try Veronica's outfit. (Not, try on, as it would not fit me.) Nope, no idea. I suck.

I guess one doesn't have to have an obsession for one single thing, to be an obsessive type -- someone who fixates on a definite vocation and is always overly focussed on just the objects of that vocation. Lugia certainly becomes the thing he follows to the point of ruining himself/the world.

Blackjack Gabbiani
8th January 2014, 7:11 AM
Ah no, that's fine! It can be a pain to work with, and even as an adult he seems to neither know nor care how he comes off to others (though he's also a bit of a sarcastic ******* in canon as well). But since socialization and presentation are key parts of his work, he'll have to learn how to navigate those situations somehow, and going through empty phrases in the way someone would study lines from a play can help him link things together.

His fancy outfit is quite well-known as being the "blue" part of The Blue Boy by Thomas Gainsborough. Veronica's fringe dress and big hat has a far different inspiration--Mimi from the first season of Digimon. I sort of went all over with that.

That part was set up in part with my friend Abby, a previous poster in this thread. Though we seem to have lost contact, so I hope she comes to look at the thread at some point!

Lugia is definitely a severe obsession. Even with saying that legendaries have always been his passion, Jirarudan seems to have never pursued one before. The ship is set up for these specific captures, with the capture rings seemingly calibrated for *something* specific with the four birds. And even with his viewing the other three as secondary, perhaps something to trade away or sell, a previous pursuit would likely have left him with *something*, because the man doesn't give up until he's *forced* to. Lugia is special to him, above even other legendaries. Is there anything else above it, in canon? Ultimately, his Mew card, but even that seems to be based in something other than his obsession.

I can imagine him trying to find the mural depicted on the card, tracking it to a group of scientists, only to find it was assumed destroyed! That must be frustrating as well, a dead end.

Blackjack Gabbiani
30th June 2014, 8:29 AM
(well...it's not the LONGEST gap between chapters. And despite my earlier apprehension, it's also not the longest chapter. But it felt like it! This one took so much research to write, and half the questions I had I couldn't find answers for! But I hope you enjoy some of the regions I mention in here. I also worked some friends of mine into it~ Enjoy chapter 26!)

Autumn had settled in, draping the coast in a veil of fog and chill. The sea below churned in grey fury, making the view from my window an experiment in monochrome. Though my adventure with Veronica had been only at the start of the month, the cold, threatened for some time, had settled in quickly, changing my environment rapidly.

With the time of year came my birthday, something I had attempted to avoid discussing with anybody. Though the year before I'd given my age as advanced by one before the date arrived, this year I understood the importance of youth, of preserving it while I could.

Yet ten was a milestone. This age was what flooded the streets and forests and plains with those starry-eyed children intent on entering the Pokémon League, perhaps to become the Champion, that grandest of all trainers of the land.

As I've spoken of before, the draw of such things had always escaped me.

Perhaps if I'd not met Asaph I'd have been preparing for such a journey anyway, regardless of my disinterest. I wondered what starter I'd have had. Veronica had compared me to a Natu, seeing the past and future with no mind for the present, but that species was rare to begin a journey with, especially outside the Johto region. Likely I'd be saddled with one of the trio more typical for Kanto, and simply have fallen in line like the others. I wondered how long it would have taken me to have abandoned the quest, as I knew that would be the inevitable outcome.

I had just completed an essay on some forgettable subject when a knock came on my door--a patter tapping out some silly tune, indicating that it was my father. "Knock knock," he chimed as if I wouldn't have heard the physical result.

"Come in."

He left the door open a wedge and unfolded a paper in his hand. He'd asked me for a birthday wish list, and I'd hesitated on it, not knowing if doing so was mannered or not, but finally I'd relented, jotting down a few choice items. "I wanted to ask you some things about this list. Your birthday's tomorrow, of course, and I can't find some of these."

That was strange. "They're relatively commonplace. You ought to, even here."

"Well...it's more that I don't know what they are. Like this one; I've got no clue what a...'chatelaine' is." He stumbled over the word as though it was difficult.

"It's a pocket chain." He'd recently spent a day enthusing over the purchase of an electronic encyclopaedia, yet apparently couldn't be bothered to use it himself.

"Oh, so you want a pocket watch? That's a funny choice for a kid your age."

I bristled at the reference to age. At ten, I was nearly an adult. Even aside from training or going on an aimless journey, there were a host of liberties opening to me and he still treated me though I were small. "A watch is something one may hang on a chatelaine. I wouldn't be adverse to receiving one. Of course, it would be impolite" I stressed the word "to turn down a gift, though gifts must" another stress "be given with thought and consideration."

"Oh." The flatness of his tone left little from which to derive meaning.

"Well, I guess that makes sense. Now, I don't know who some of these people are that you mention. Designers, I guess, right?"

I hadn't asked for any art, since it would raise too many questions, but history had shown that he preferred to give clothing. I could at least guide him to the proper choices. "More or less, though some are shops. You'll be able to find them in Viridian."

He chuckled. "You have a lot more elaborate tastes than I did."

"I question your use of the past tense." Asaph would likely snap at me for such a comment, but the irritation in it would go over my father's head.

Again he laughed, of course. "I guess you're right! Wow, you're getting quite a sense of humor too. When I'd visit when you were little, you'd never laugh at anything."

That wasn't true. He just never heard me. "You were hardly there."

"Ah, yeah. Sorry about that..." He tsked under his breath as he rubbed the back of his head. "Just didn't have a lot of time. I wish you could have come out here though, too...Gloria loved the ocean..."

"...I have to send this in," I muttered as I turned back to my work.

"Oh. I'm sorry. I didn't mean to...she would have been so proud of you."

There was a pause before he moved, and another before he finally left. Rather than do what I had said, I instead drew out the chain from my shirt and held mother's ring in my hands. That's when I made a wonderful discovery.

The following morning, I left early, before the dawn, and headed townward. My usual routine of wandering the galleries played out nicely, and one of the owners wished me a fine birthday. I walked along the promenade, listening to the ocean trying to rise up and touch the Wingulls that cawed above it, teasing the waves into going ever higher. Even from the cafe where I dined, though it was around the corner from the view, still carried the sounds of the playful birds.

The small bookshop across from the shopping mall had gotten in a new art book, so I treated myself, petting the shopkeeper's Meowth that lazed across the counter as I paid. It pushed into my hand, enjoying the feel of my new adornment. Though I'd been by myself all day, I felt as though I was in the finest of company.

When I returned to the cliffside, nightfall was already touching at the corners of the sky. It wasn't especially late, but the year showing its age. I hoped to slip in quietly and head to my room, but my father was waiting in the living room, on the couch that faced away and sitting so he faced me.

"Jiri, I'm glad you're here! I expected you'd get back around this time. Go get dressed up; we're going out to dinner."

I froze. Anything my father picked would be some horrid place, a gaudy tourist trap with pseudo-food designed to appeal to base instinct for overly filling meals.

"Come on, we're going to Viridian City so we have to drive there."

That was a bit better, though I still didn't trust him. Viridian was vast and held everything from high culture to the lowest. "What are we doing?"

He stood, and I could see that he still wore the suit he did business in. "I just said, we're going out to dinner."

"Specifically, Corbin," Helen said from the kitchen. I could hear her fussing with something in a cup, likely tea. "Tell him specifically where we're going."

"Oh yeah." It was as though it had never occurred to him to answer what I'd asked. "It's a place called Fengsugou. Heard of it? It's supposed to be pretty nice."

I hadn't, and mused over his settling for 'pretty nice' for what he insisted was a major milestone. "Mm. I suppose it's better than nothing."

"Hahaha! You're getting a nice sense of humour. I'm glad; you always seemed like nothing made you smile."

Had I been making a joke? I went over my words to think of what he could be talking about and came up with nothing. Without a further word, I started up the stairs, but he stopped me.

"Jiri...? What's that on your hand?"

I glanced down. "Oh, this morning I tried it on and it fit my hand."

He smiled, but his eyes were slightly furrowed. "My god. I never thought I'd see you wear Gloria's ring. It looks so good on you. Heh...she always wore that. It meant so much to her. And I'm really glad you like it."

He knew I had it, and I'd wore it on a chain. What was the difference? It did make me feel more mature, that it fit, but those things shouldn't matter to him.

My silence must have gone unnoticed, because he continued. "You wouldn't let that thing out of your grip, remember? I had to come in when you were asleep and put it on the table so you wouldn't lose it. You know, sometimes, I wonder how--" and suddenly he fell silent. When I looked back up at him, Helen had taken his arm and was whispering lowly in his ear.

But at least it gave me the respite necessary to take my leave.

"You look really nice, Jirarudan," Helen said as we exited onto the mainland from the short bridge out of town. She and I inhabited the back seat of the smaller car--there was simply no way that I would be seen in the truck. "How are you doing today?"

I'd been staring out the window at the dim stars, tracking our movements by the distant lights. "Mm? I'm all right. It's really like any other day, though I did pamper myself earlier."

"What did you do? I saw you got a new book. What's it about?"

I faced her briefly to answer, intending to turn back quickly. "It's a history of Lorrainian art in the Kalos region."

"Oh yeah?" She smiled. "Kalosian art is really pretty."

"Lorrainian art is often overlooked. It's similar but not as gaudy, and Kalosian masters were often inspired by the more realistic traits."

"Does it have pictures? I'd like to see what you mean."

She was taking interest in my passion for art. I could indulge her, but I couldn't risk her finding out my secret. "Maybe sometime, when I'm done."

"By the way," she continued as she leaned back, "congratulations on your grades. How do you do it? You never seem to study and you're getting way higher grades than me or your father did at that age."

I did study, and far too much. But it was only natural that she assume as she did, as I kept to myself regardless of the circumstance. "I don't see how you could figure that."

"I guess. I mean, we never see you. You could be doing anything up there. I tell your father you're probably writing the great Kantan novel. You know, you're one smart cookie. You're gonna do great things someday."

"It's not like I'm a prodigy or anything." This line of discussion was making me uncomfortable."

Either she didn't notice or she didn't care, because she laughed. "Haha, well, you'll find something."

I was ten. Though I had looked forward to the number, I was far behind so many. Madame Remi had her first gallery showing at ten, and was noted at the time to have bemoaned her lost youth. Stafford, Rhi, even the more recent Alkire, all had their hold in the art world long before my age. It was disheartening sometimes to wander through a museum full of those bright youths, but I had my own and I would do what I would with it. "...I'd rather not talk about it."

She paused, silent for a while before squeezing my hand. "What made you decide to put that ring on?"

I answered as I wiggled my hand from her grasp. "I try it on every so often to see if it fits. Today it did."

"Oh. That's nice. I never met Gloria, but I think she'd be really proud of you. She seemed like a great person."

I think that was the first time I'd ever heard Helen talk about my mother, and it didn't seem right. She was so close with my father that I would hope the subject would come up more often. As Helen said, she'd never met her, but my father had no excuse.

"Are you excited to be ten?" I'd said nothing in between and her conversation continued unabated.

"I suppose. I'm glad to have my youth."

From the front, my father laughed, a sharp, noiseful sound. "Corbin!" Helen snapped, tapping the back of his headrest. "Ah, sorry about that. He just thought you sounded a lot older there."

"Helen, come on, it was funny. A little kid saying that he's glad to have his youth?"

The car suddenly seemed so much smaller than ever before, and I wanted out but we were in motion. Had we been stopped or going slower than we were, I would have darted away in an instant, I know that much for certain. I could feel my face arrange itself in what the photographs depicted as an overwhelmed expression, and it was a small victory that it was at least what I was feeling.

"Corbin, apologize."

He sighed. "I'm sorry. It was just that it sounded like something an old man would say."


"I'm sorry!" He glanced at me through the rearview. "Jiri, it's just you don't sound like kids your age. It's not a bad thing, not at all. You sound really smart, like Helen said, way more than either of us."

I didn't feel smart. A smart person would have better company.

Helen sighed, almost identical in length and capacity as my father's previous sigh. "There's a lot he doesn't understand. In meetings he keeps those things under his hat until later when it's just us, but sometimes I swear..." Another sigh. "He's proud of you."

"I am! And don't ever doubt that! You're a very special boy and I'm proud to have you as a son." His driving was wavering a little, but it was still within acceptable parameters. "I want you to know that your father loves you."

Frankly I didn't care. I know he said it honestly, but his understanding of such things was limited. "Mm. Thank you."

"Jiri, what do you say?" This was Helen, prodding me in the arm.

It took me a moment to comprehend what she meant. "...loveyoutoo."

He laughed again. "That's the spirit!"

Under that starry sky, I wished I could be anywhere else.

Our arrival at Fengsugou was mundane. It had begun to rain, so my father went to park elsewhere while Helen and I ducked inside. I recall that her umbrella was impractically small, so we were both grateful that we'd only had to cross a small space to the door. "Any further and I'd have to restyle my hair," I remarked, and she giggled slightly.

"Isn't that my line? Your hair looks fine."

Hers was worn down, something I never saw. At the factory, it was a matter of safety to make hair as short as possible, so it was usually up with pins. Even so, it still only went to the lobes of her ears, slightly shorter on one side, creating the image of a modern flapper sans headdress. "Yours too. Though it could use a little something."

"Oh yeah? Like what?"

"I think...a flapper headband. Or a cloche."

"Oh yeah?" I wasn't sure if she had already forgotten that she'd just said that. "I'll have to look into those."

She was humouring me, which was disappointing. She didn't know what those things were, so why would she act otherwise? I'd have told her if she had asked, and I almost did anyway.

From where I stood, I could see a glimpse of the interior. It was down a curved stairway, but with a limited view I could make out the host station nestled in the space, backed by a large aquarium against the stair wall, in which a few domestic-sized Goldeen and Seaking swam about lazily. The decor indicated that it was a specifically Hengduanian restaurant, and I was a bit disappointed in myself that, though I could identify the architecture, I knew nothing of the cuisine.

Helen took a deep breath. "Mm, smells good, doesn't it? It's been a while. I'm in the mood for something spicy. If it's ok with you, anyway. It's banquet style so everyone has a bit of everything."

That was interesting. I dreamed of attending imperial and royal events, and banquet style was often found in those, especially in the east. Perhaps this could be practice for the future.

The door opened but I didn't pay much attention. It would be my father, I assumed, and he wasn't worth much notice, especially during my fancy.


That wasn't the voice I was expecting. I turned. "Asaph?"

He smiled, eyes and mouth crinkling at the sides, and chuckled. "I wasn't about to miss your birthday."

"I didn't know you'd be coming." I remember thinking that my voice was duller than it should have been.

"Your father didn't tell you?" He glanced at Helen, who shrugged.

"I wouldn't put it past him," she muttered. "He can be a real scatterbrain sometimes."

Asaph laughed. "Not like Jirarudan. He's perhaps the sharpest person I've ever met."

I was? I suppose he would think so, not having seen the study of expressions and tones that I devoted hours, days to. Without that information, he would think it came naturally.

"That's great to hear." Helen craned her head to peek out the paned window. "Since he does remote school, we don't get a lot of feedback about him. I mean, it's obvious that he's smart, but other than that, you know?"

He nodded, just as the door opened again. "Ah, Corbin. We were just singing the praises of your son."

My father reached a hand to my hair, no doubt to tousle it in that clichéd manner, and I ducked away. Not only did I disapprove of the action in general, I had my hair styled just so. He was being highly disrespectful, and it belied his praise. "He's a very special boy. We were talking about that in the car."

It was hideously dull to hear that man talk. "Pardon. I'll go check the table," I told Helen and excused myself down the stairs. It was rude to depart without the acknowledgement of the other two, and I suspected that Asaph would speak to me about it later, but it was necessary.

It was a regret that I couldn't properly appreciate my surroundings at that point. The staircase brought to mind the elegant entrances that royalty would make, and the faint splashing and vocalisations of the aquarium fish could substitute for applause. Yet, coming off of those horribly shallow remarks--what did "special" even mean?--they felt as though they were mocking me.

Fortunately, such pessimism was short-lived, and the decor caught up with me. Though Hengduan was a very modern region, embracing radical new designs in its architecture, the restaurant was in a far more classical style. It was symmetrical, with even the chairs surrounding the tables all pointing the same directions on either side of the room. Deep red dominated the scene, highlit in gold and surrounding a small mock sky well, an inlaid light substituting for the sun and interior plants instead of the usual sumptuous garden. The effect, while not true to form, was a reasonable substitute. The walls were decorated simply, with traditional fans and inconspicuous lanterns, to an understated effect.

Overall, it was magnificent, and I briefly forgot my discomfort.

"Excuse me, can I help you?" A hostess was at my side, looking almost amused. I assumed it was for my age.

"Yes, I would like to know if the table for Jirarudan is ready for seating."

She pursed her lips. "I don't think we have any tables under that name."

My stomach fell. Could he have forgotten to make a reservation? I wouldn't put it past him. We could obtain a table as walk-ins, but it was the principle of the thing.

And then my father came down the stairs. "Ah, I think the table's under the name Corbin?" It was enunciated as a question, and a strange one at that. Why would he put it under his own name when it was my birthday?

"Table for four? Right this way."

He HAD reserved in his name. Had he no social decorum at all? I was aghast. It was my day, not his, and yet he had shifted the focus.

Asaph and Helen trailed down the stairs, and we were led to a round table next to the garden area. To continue the symmetry, we sat in a x pattern, complimenting our surroundings.

"How about this, huh?" my father asked, and I was dimly aware that it was directed at me. "Turning ten, having a big fancy dinner...I tell ya, it seems like just yesterday that you were this little baby."

Helen was smiling. "Corbin, honey, I think Jiri may be a bit overwhelmed."

I wasn't, though his presence was quickly changing that. I was simply enamored with my surroundings. Perhaps someday I would dine with royalty in settings near to this. No, I rethought, I most certainly would.

Asaph placed his napkin on his lap and looked at me to do the same. In the rush, I'd forgotten, and wondered if my distraction made it excusable. "Jirarudan is an excellent student," he stated, as though clearing the fog. "As I was saying, he absorbs information incredibly. I've never met anyone who seeks out knowledge as much as he does."

"Hey! Good job!" The plainness of my father's words stood out starkly against our surroundings. "Yeah, he's always got a book in his hand or something. And he's really into international stuff. That's why I thought he'd like this place. He cuts out pictures and stuff of different locations and paintings and puts them on his wall."

My stomach tightened, Asaph's prior warning coming to the front of my head he wouldn't understand this is our secret...

But Asaph just smiled in a small way. "Seeing the world without leaving home. It really is magnificent, to have that sort of mind."

It wasn't just that. It was my escape from the dullness of Seafoam, my injection of colour into it. I felt rather wobbly to think of it, and wanted to hide under the table. Just a few years ago, I would have.Thinking of that, however, of how far I'd truly come in such a short time, straightened my back and focused my mind. "Seeing the world," I echoed. "Someday I will; I know I will."

It had been a comment to myself, so I was a bit surprised by Helen's words. "What do you want to see?"

I paused. It couldn't tip my hand. "Well...I'd love to see Hengduan. It's supposed to be beautiful. And Kalos, of course..."

"Aah, the Parfum Palace," Helen sighed, in a tone I'd learned was called wistful. "I used to read all about it. Maybe we can go there together."

There was a lot more to Kalos than one building, though I wanted to see the magnificent castle as well. "Maybe," I humored her, thinking of our conversation earlier.

"I took a vacation in Hoenn once," my father said, as though the conversation concerned him. "Really hot there, but the beaches are incredible. And you gotta take a trip on a yacht. It's amazing."

"I'm sure it is," Asaph chuckled. We'd gone to the Lilycove museum together, the distance taking us only a weekend. It was another of our secrets. "I tend to vary between being a rambling man and a homebody. I suppose that's why I ordered such a ship from you, Corbin."

"Oh yeah? I'm glad to hear it."

Before we could delve further into the subject, a server placed two small trays of sliced fruits and candied nuts on either side the lazy susan, and another set cups of jasmine tea before us. All were things I'd had before, but here amidst the finery, they seemed a world apart.

Though my mind had wandered, thinking on the great museums of the world, I quickly snapped to attention at the scent of the tea. It was as if a bouquet had been set before me, inviting me to drink the entirety of its being, and I took a sip, remembering halfway to draw in air around it.

Though it was hot, it was far from the scalding messes found in that cliffside house, and I was able to enjoy it without burning my tongue.

It was at that time that I realised that I knew very little of Hengduanian customs. Was I to drink before the servers were finished? Was I to say something beforehand, a prayer or an address? I dropped my hands to my lap, fidgeting with my ring again.

But Asaph had said nothing to correct me. Perhaps I was doing everything right. Yes, I had to be. Though I continued turning the ring around my finger for a moment longer.

"I think we should toast the birthday boy." It came not from my father, as I would have predicted, but from Helen. She held her cup up at about face height, looking every bit my previous image of her as a flapper toasting a wild life.

Everyone followed suit, and in the moment before I did I marveled at the differing images the other two presented in their action. My father was a mid-century Shikaakwa piece, the working man raising a glass in an unfamiliar environment, while Asaph was a courted gentleman in a Brittanian intimate, gilded scene. I hoped to present a distinguished figure myself, though my thoughts were of my surroundings and I knew I couldn't possibly fit the model of Hengduan style.

"To Jirarudan--may your days be short and your years be long!" It was a toast meant to invoke the idea of a leisurely life, but it had always confused me. I had protested it in the past but for the time I pushed that aside.

"To Jirarudan!" We all brought our cups forward in imitation of the ceremonial clinking of glasses, and drank at the same time. It was a strange feeling, that shared action.

We began on the food before us, the candied nuts being my favourite. Similar confections were sold in Seafoam, but their quality was far below, made for the masses. These were light, with the slight glaze neither overtaking the core nor being dominated by it.

The normalcy of the fruits was odd. Though they were clearly simple supermarket offerings, their presentation changed their taste. I laughed to myself, something that struck my father's attention, as I mused over my own simple beginnings. It was nothing, I told him.

The opening course, and then the appetizers, were without incident, and soon a bowl wafting lightly-scented steam was placed on the round in the middle of the table, and then another, and another. The dishes were larger than the cuisine's standard, indicating a meal of fewer courses than the class would normally hold. I felt as though I was a guest of a monarch, the finery of the region around me.

"Oh wow..." my father gasped. "Hey, this is neat, don't you think?"

I pretended not to notice that he was probably directing it at me, and hoped Asaph wouldn't think it rude. We hadn't covered these sorts of situations in our lessons, of what to do when addressed by someone utterly ignorant of social mores or manners.

Glancing across the table and him and Helen, I saw that they both nodded to the servers, so I did the same. They nodded back, and I felt somehow accomplished.

I admit that I didn't know most of the dishes, but the enticing smell was wild, appealing to some newly uncovered part of my mind. There was a distinct spice to most of them, though I remembered that banquet dishes were milder than those of the everyday. How funny, to think that milder was special!

"Jirarudan." It was Asaph. "If you could have anything in the world, what would it be?"

I hadn't expected to be put on the spot like that. Knowing our arrangement and our secrets, there were many things I couldn't say. It was a test, but I wasn't certain how to pass it. Likely to name something without those hidden elements. "Well..." I pondered, twisting the ring around my finger again. I thought of the freedom I had with him, and how we could go anywhere in his ship, one that was steady enough to display priceless works in security, and the answer became clear. "I would like an airship."

It made perfect sense, and I didn't know why I hadn't thought of it before.

My father sat back, grinning. "Well! I had no idea!" Was that sarcasm or did he genuinely not know? I hadn't known, but people seemed to be able to guess qualities of others. I would have to speak to Asaph about it.

"Ooh, what kind?" Helen asked, leaning forward with her head on her hand. Her elbow was on the table but I said nothing.

I was a bit dizzy. "Oh...who knows? It's a flight of fancy. I'm not certain." Though, in that moment, I was. The elegance of Asaph's ship had always captivated me, and for a moment I felt as I did when I was soaring over the land and sea.

"He looks so happy," I heard her whisper to someone, perhaps even herself, but it was faint. I'd closed my eyes to focus on my dream, images of the surface below as clear as life.

The rest of the meal proceeded without incident, aside from the continued magnificence of the food. Although by now I would simply repeat myself to describe them all!

Hengduan banquets had no sweet dessert, and I was grateful that it would prevent the classless cake that my father had presented me with the year before. Though we capped the meal with a sweet, it was in the form of a milky, tea-like drink that tasted of almonds.

"So," my father pronounced, "if you'd like, we can do presents now."

That was something else I wasn't sure of, if presents should be given in public. It seemed horribly rude, but again, Asaph nodded me on. "All right," I muttered, looking around as I did just in case.

Helen smiled, which I caught only briefly. "I'll start." She retrieved her purse from under her chair, drawing something out from it and handing it to me. Again I looked at Asaph and again he nodded for me to proceed, so I did, drawing my finger under the tape holding the wrapping paper closed so as not to rip anything.

Within was the image of a distant castle, the famous Neuswaronessstein, dream of a mad king. I'd dreamt of it once, a few months before, and the idea of an unfinished palace, lost without its dreamer, was incredibly tragic and appealing. Turning the book over to the front cover revealed that it was on palaces around the world.

"I hope you like it," she grinned. "You seem to love all those faraway things. I saw this and it just fit."

Though her words were off in the distance as I stared at the back cover again, finally setting it down when I realised that we were to continue.

Asaph had prepared a fancier gift, a small hinged fabric box with the name of a jeweler in town in small foreign letters across the top. "I've looked forward to this. It took a considerable effort to keep it a secret."

Carefully I tilted open the lid, the contents shining in the dim overhead light before I could see it entirely. I could hear Helen oohing in anticipation as I drew it back, revealing a gold brooch with a highly stylized hiragana "Ji" engraved lightly into it. When I drew it out of the box, I could hear my father laugh sharply, causing me to nearly drop it. "Fancy! That'll be something you keep your whole life."

"Ji", I said to myself, running my fingers over the engraved surface. It was ever so slightly coarser than the polished area around it, and it was an interesting sensation. "Ji..."

Asaph chuckled. "I'm glad you see that. I worried it may have been too calligraphic to discern properly."

I recall being entranced by it, still feeling that emery-like area and repeating "Ji" as though it was a holy mantra. Even then I didn't understand why.

"Jiri, can you show us?" I'm not sure who said it, but it broke me out of the trance. I tilted the box to show it to them and the two gasped simultaneously.

"Asaph..." My father dropped his voice and I believe he thought that I couldn't hear him. "Are you sure? That looks really expensive."

Asaph waved his hand ever so slightly. "Don't think of it." It was slightly softer, but it was still very audible.

I put the cover back over the brooch, brushing the surface again as I did, and took another sip of the almond tea.

"Oh, that's right!" my father exclaimed, though I knew that it was an artificial energy. "My present!" He extended the second word in the manner of a teen idol, and Helen lightly slapped his shoulder I assume for it. Grinning, he presented me with a red envelope, the telltale sign of a gift of money.

Again I felt uncomfortable, and again I looked around to see who was watching, but I opened it anyway. It was a novel sort, the kind held closed with a wind of string, and I peeked inside without withdrawing the funds. It wasn't money itself, but a bank note made out for an embarrassingly high sum.

I felt a bit woozy, although the money was minor compared to what I had already made. It felt as though he was attempting to buy my happiness, and it bothered me to no end. "I'm not certain I can accept this," I told him.

"Oh come on, it's a drop in the bucket compared to what Asaph must have gotten that pin for." I followed his eyeline to the box that held it.

Asaph turned towards me, reaching his hand to mine. "No matter what it is, it's fine. Accept it graciously."

I lowered my head. "Very well. Thank you, father." Although it did nothing to sway my opinion, I could set it aside.

"Father now, huh? Heh, you're making me feel old. So, you can do whatever you want with that, of course. You've been so responsible with what I gave you before, buying your own clothes and books and all that." He shook his head. "I couldn't handle all that when I was your age. I don't know how you do it."

Though I was a bit lost in thought. The meal, the generous gifts, the opulent surroundings, the mélange of smells still drifting around the table, even the distant rain, grown stronger since our arrival; all together it drew round in my brain, too many things to sort through all at once. It was odd how I could handle such things in other situations.

"Jiri, have you had a good birthday?" I refocused to see Helen smiling at me.

"I have. Thank you all. It's been an honour. I feel like nobility."

"Oh shucks." Obviously my father, with his plain language. "We were hoping you'd feel like royalty."

"Royalty has too many obligations. I've not got the head or want for matters of the world."

He stared at me for a moment, as did Helen, who at least was smiling. Asaph carried on with his tea as though nothing was unusual. "That...that just came out of you, didn't it? You spend a lot of time thinking about that kind of stuff, don't you?"

"I read a lot about them." More specifically about their treasures, and those of their regions and nations. The art of every area of the world...I sighed just thinking about it.

"Getting tired? I don't blame you; you've had a long day." He laughed softly, under his breath.

I was tired, come to think of it, although he had misinterpreted my sigh. It wasn't important. "A bit. It must be near midnight by now."

He checked his watch, a surprisingly expensive-looking piece for a man who lived so pathetically despite his fortune. "It's close to ten. We should hit the road, since I think they close at ten. I had a great time."

"Me too," Helen added. "Corbin, we'll have to come here sometime, just the two of us."

"Oh?" Asaph quirked an eyebrow, his voice turning up at the end. "Jirarudan never speaks of these things, so I'm terribly behind on you, Corbin. Considering that your son is my business, I feel that I must."

Helen laughed, something high and bubbly. "We've been seeing each other for a while now. Almost as long as we've known you!"

But the discussion of relationships seemed inappropriate. Petty gossip had no room in these situations, and it was strange to see Asaph entering into it. Why was he so interested? "So, we spoke of leaving?"

My father turned to me, eyebrows furrowed. "I...guess we did. Everyone ready? I pre-paid so we can just go."

As we all stood from the table, I tucked the book under my arm and the envelope into my inner jacket pocket, taking the jewelry box into my hand. "I had a wonderful time. Thank you all for coming." Saying so, I bowed midway.

"Ooh, our little society boy," Helen said as she bowed back, at a smaller angle, and Asaph followed suit. Though my father had already wandered off, seemingly unaware of my gesture.

When I looked back from where he had vanished to, Asaph was offering his arm. "Shall I accompany you up the stairs, young sir?"

Helen laughed, and she looked what the pictures had called amused. "Two gentlemen."

For some reason I wanted to ignore that. I took his arm and he led me up the grand staircase. The sound of the rain outside, pounding against the door and window, was soothing in a way, and I thought back to something I had read about how there was something in our psychology to find rain relaxing, though I couldn't remember why. "I believe Corbin went to fetch the car."

"He should have said something."

"Yes, he should have. Although he's polite in manners of business, the ideas of everyday manners escape him."

Helen had followed us, and nodded, I assume in agreement. "He's got some work to do. But I've talked to him. I'm going to go wait out there for him, and I'll tell you when he's pulled up." The windows were red, of course, in keeping with the theme, and it was nearly impossible to see out of them.

"Very well. I will see you both later, Helen. Give my best to Corbin."

"I will." She held the door open for a moment, pulling her umbrella open outside before joining it, leaving me with Asaph.

"I must be heading back myself. I'd love to have you over some time, perhaps for a few days."

That sounded like paradise! "And I'd love to join you. Do you have a preference in date?"

"Not especially. Though autumn in the hills is a sight to behold, and I want to share it with you." He smiled, and I didn't need my pictures to identify it as kindly.

"I'll call you and we'll arrange this. Will Veronica be joining us?" Her appearance in Seafoam had been a surreal experience, but I still valued her company.

"Perhaps, if she wishes. I haven't seen her since that trip you both took to Viridian, though I've spoken to her. It's about time I reach out."

That was relieving for some reason. "I look forward to hearing her answer."

The door poked open slightly and Helen told us that the car was ready, so I said my goodbyes and headed out, shielded under her umbrella.

The drive back to Seafoam saw drowsiness catch me, lulling me to sleep with the gentle, repetitive motion of the car over the road, and the feel of the brooch under my ringed finger. I fell into dreams to the sound of the rain.

Blackjack Gabbiani
31st December 2014, 5:43 AM
There was a phenomenal magic in the air, the mid-November snow falling gently from the heavens as I came down the long driveway to Asaph's mansion. It was enough to make me forget, at least for a moment, that I'd had to take the bus and walk from the highway, but it had been a pleasant enough journey, allowing me to reflect on the event.

On my approach, I saw Tierney pull out of the other side of the looped driveway, her car the latest style. Veronica was in the doorway, and she waved enthusiastically, dropping her suitcase and seeming not to notice the floor staffer that pulled it inside.

The brief cloud of snow that the tyres pulled up brought my thoughts to my future airship. Though I had pondered on the idea long before my birthday, that declaration had cemented it in my head. It was cold in the atmosphere, colder than this, but I would be safe and warm in my ship, overlooking the snow and fog in my world of fantasy.

"You're looking well, young master Jirarudan." Asaph's address, but it came from Veronica. Somehow I had continued to the door during my vision. "Please, come in."

The doorman chuckled. I suppose he had said the same to her a few moments before. It was strange to me how I was to tip a doorman or valet at a hotel but not at a home, despite both being salaried. There was so much in society that made little sense, and it helped to follow Asaph's word and view it as playing a part, going through scenarios as though they were secret codes meant to unlock our social connections.

"Jiiiii~riiiii~" Veronica had started prodding me gently in the arm. "Don't you have something to say?"

It took me a second. "Oh! Greetings, Veronica. How does the day find you?" I think I had heard a similar welcome from Asaph once.

"Getting a little hazy with the weather there? Maybe Articuno froze your brain?" She was grinning widely, her bright white teeth seeming akin to the snowfall. "You're being a bit of a space case today and we've only just got here. Your dad drop you off at the road, is that why you walked up?"

"He couldn't come. I took the bus."

Her grin vanished. "You hate the bus. And that would mean you'd have to walk from the highway."

"Yes." Of course that's what it meant. Why would she bother to state that?

"Well, what happened? Is he ok?"

"My father?" That was what she was asking, I assumed. "He's fine. Somebody died in the factory and he has to meet with the authorities."

By then her face had taken on the guise of what the pictures had labeled 'horrified'. "Oh my god! That's awful! What happened?"

"Somebody died. That's all I know. Likely an explosion from an out of control furnace, or a falling beam." I hadn't heard any explosions, so the first was unlikely though still possible, though I tended to think the second, as they were working on another C class for an unimportant customer.

She rested a hand on my arm. "That's...so awful. I'm so sorry."

Her reaction seemed odd, and I came razor-close to asking her why, but figured it would be inappropriate. Better to save that for Asaph later. Although on that subject, "Where's Asaph?"

She made a faint choking sound. "I don't know. Here, they said. Somewhere in the house."

Was she disturbed by the change of subject? There was so much guesswork in the delicate uncoding of society. "His employees don't know?" I peeked over my shoulder towards the doorman, who had taken my suitcase and set it with Veronica's. He looked towards me soon after I had him, and shrugged.

"That's strange. Usually he'd be greeting us."

"Last I saw he was in the guest room upstairs. He's probably getting things all set for you. You know what a perfectionist he can be. I can take you two up there." The doorman picked the bags up again and waited for our word.

"All right! Let's go up there together!"

The doorman nodded and headed towards the stairs.

"Wow, it's like a ski chalet up here, with the snow coming down outside," Veronica remarked. The wooden interior certainly gave off that vibe, the heavy beams and minimal decoration evoking that faraway image. The last point was on her mind as well. "I wonder why he keeps it so plain."

"I keep it that way," Asaph said, emerging from the guest room as the heavy double doors closed slowly behind him, "so that my collection stands out even more."

"We were just wondering where you were! It's good to see you!"

He bowed slightly, in a western manner with his arm bent before him. "Greetings. Welcome to my humble home. I trust it's to your liking."

We both returned the gesture, Veronica's bow shallower than mine. "It's been far too long since I've been here," I said.

"Me either," she added. I'd forgotten that she'd stayed there after Mr. Higuchi's party, that fateful night half a year ago. "Asaph, are we going to see your gallery today? It's really beautiful."

He smiled, and pushed his glasses up a little farther. For some reason he was wearing the pince-nez he'd worn that day, and at a few other occasions. "Of course. Get unpacked and we can go there immediately."

"Yay!" She wiggled, I assume in excitement, and hummed as she headed to the guest room.

I remained, unsure of something. "Jirarudan, are you all right?" Asaph rested a hand on my shoulder, the same way Veronica had earlier.

"...Veronica had a strange reaction to something earlier, and I don't understand. She acted as though I was the strange one, and I'm concerned about it."

"Is that so? What was it?"

I pursed my lips in thought. "I had to take the bus today, and walk from the highway. My father couldn't bring me, because there was a death in the factory." At that he gasped slightly, but let me continue. "I feel like it shouldn't affect me, because it doesn't. I didn't know the man, and his life had nothing to do with mine."

He thought for a moment. "Are you happy that it wasn't your father?"

"I'm not sure. It's a world apart. If he died, it would impact me directly. I...don't think I would care otherwise."

A frown. "I think you would. I know you would. You're a smart boy."

What did that have to do with anything? But I'd already asked him so much. Maybe later. "All right..."

"Now!" he exclaimed, patting me on the shoulder with a lightness that belied his emphasis, "go get unpacked. Put your things in the dresser, since you're staying a few days, and then I'll take you both to the gallery."

The much vaunted gallery was along the front hallway, across from the room where his glorious Madame Remi was displayed, and before the library on the end. Opening the doors was akin to entering a museum, which Asaph knew well, setting a scene with his slowness. We savoured the experience, and were greeted with a glow before us, captured in a beam of natural light. This was the gem he had sought before, the fabled Eye of Dawn, and he led us first to it. "Isn't it wonderful? I saw it in a book and I had to have it."

Veronica let out a long breath, ducking her head up and down to view it at different angles. Being an opal, this meant a shifting vision through the spectrum. I followed suit.

It was a remarkable gem, flawless, and regarded highly. I, too, had seen pictures of it before Asaph had ever mentioned it, although it was indistinguishable from other opals save for the smoothness of its round cut. Even the scepter it had once rested in had left no mark.

Perhaps it really was blessed. As the story went, it had been been possessed by an ancient priestess whose region was attacked by brigands, who stole the scepter, yet the Eye of Dawn remained. She claimed that her god had hidden it away until the invaders had left, although a more likely explanation was that they had come from a region where shell resin was used to similar visual effect and they had thought the gem to be only coated.

Even if it was as mundane as that, it didn't really matter. What did was the end result, displayed on a velvet pillow on a dark wood pillar. Its dark surroundings offset it wonderfully, giving it a glow beyond its own properties.

Veronica hadn't altered her view the entire time, staring at the otherworldly gem as though it had put a spell on her. "What are you thinking of, Miss Veronica?" Asaph asked with an uplift to his voice.

"...Buying this. I want to buy it."

His head tilted back slightly, his eyes widening slightly. They were green again that day, and despite the shock of the moment, I realised that I had no idea what colour they really were. "Miss Veronica..." he began, but trailed off.

"I mean it. Name your price and I'll pay it." Normally we would negotiate, but we were dealing with our own mentor.

"Veronica..." This sounded farther away than his prior address. "...I..." Words seemed to catch in his throat. This gem had meant so much to him, to be suddenly propositioned on it was entirely out of the blue. "I'll think about it. I'll have an answer for you by the end of your stay."

She sighed, finally diverting her gaze. "Thank you. I promise that you won't regret it."

He signed as well, nearly twice the length of hers as though he had much more to say behind it, though words didn't manifest. Instead, he simply wandered towards the door.

"Asaph?" Her voice was soft. "If you don't want to part with it, I understand."

"I said I'll think about it. Now, come along." After a short pause, he left the room entirely.

We took a moment to follow, unsure of what to do, and when we did, Asaph wasn't to be found. Perhaps he was in the library.

It was an ancient-seeming room, one no older than the rest of the mansion but kept intentionally old-fashioned by way of dim lights against dark wood, both in past-century styles. The shelves, lining the wall, were hand-carved, ever-so-slight imperfections showing their true nature, and held their strength against the weight of so many volumes.

A few books had their own spaces, contained in glass cases on velvet risers on pillars of the same dark wood. Some were open to pages, some simply modestly displayed their covers. I'd only heard of one, a ridiculous novel of poor literative quality but nonetheless renowned for being among the first to take to a printing press. Of course, there had been several of those--Asaph and I had seen one together--all with their faults and flaws, but all with the same goal of bringing reading to the masses. Though it did nothing to improve the quality of the written word. People could gripe and moan about the modern era, but schlock and pabulum have always been the predominant quality of entertainment.

Which was what made true art all that more important. In every age, they were that which had risen above low expectations to grasp what was important. It didn't matter if they weren't popular, or if people didn't understand them; the only thing that mattered was having something truly worthwhile to say, statements that would ring out beyond their era.

"You're spacing out. Are you ok?" Veronica was standing before another displayed book, this one shown flat on its back with a map centrepiece unfurled around it, showing one of the first attempts to explore the Kata Tjuta region. Of course, they were all colonists, but even the natives had never attempted such a massive feat. It can be amazing what fresh eyes will see. I suppose I must have been thinking of that instead of answering her because she repeated herself, about twice as loud.

"Veronica, please. We're in a library." I smirked to show her it was a joke.

"Well, are you?"

I looked back at the book in front of me. "I suppose. Are you?"

She sighed, moving to sit on a long chaise lounge whose dark green subtly offset the dark brown of the wall next to it. I think, had we been in more relaxed surroundings, she would have flopped onto it. "I don't know. I think he's really mad at me. But he never said no. He always told us to be direct if we're not willing to part with something, and he didn't do that. I shouldn't have said anything though. I know how much that gem means to him."

"Well, as you said, if he didn't want to, he would have said something. I think we ought to take him at his word that he'll consider it."

"...all right." She looked skywards with another sigh. "It's really neat, isn't it? The ceiling." I followed her gaze to the carved panels, all perfectly square and interlocked. "The scrollwork is amazing."

"It is. Though it's a bit plain, just along the edges like that."

She giggled. "You're always one for the more rococo styles, aren't you? All ornate and fancy."

"Not always!" For some reason that made me defensive and to this day I've no idea why. "Neoclassical, art deco, primitives...I love so many styles!"

That pulled her to her feet. "I didn't know you were so protective. I'm sorry."

Something in her demeanor seemed dour and downcast, so I reached a hand to her shoulder. "It's all right. I think I reacted out of kind."

"You rarely come across so passionate. I mean, I know you ARE, but to hear it in your voice was...unexpected."

I pulled my hand back just a bit to pat her shoulder a few times instead. "Is it that rare?"

That prompted another laugh from her. "You really can't tell, can you? That's so weird. You're weird."

I took a step back and bowed shortly. "At our social standings, the term is 'eccentric'."

"Ah yes, I forgot. That's so eccentric. You're eccentric." By this time she was grinning, the strain over her dilemma seemingly forgotten.

With that defused, I considered our surroundings. Perhaps there was something here that could aid in our quests for the legendaries. I started to examine the bookshelves, and was pleased that they were grouped by subject.

"Thoughts are getting away with you, aren't they? What are you looking for?"

It had been a reasonable conclusion, I thought. Surely the same had occurred to her to do. "Information on our legendaries of choice. We may be able to find something here."

"Ooh, that sounds like fun."

We spent a few hours like that, finding nothing but sharing notes on what we thought may be relevant to the other. Though it was nothing that we didn't know, it was amazing to find such information laid before us.

Finally we left the library, and Veronica challenged me to a game of chess in the den. But once we opened the elegant doors, there was Asaph, leaning back on the couch with a glass of something in his hand. The room had been lit only through the windows, and by that hour it was growing dim.

"I'm still considering your offer, young lady Veronica," he said in an uneven voice. "Though I need to clear my head first."

"Where did you go to?" I asked.

He sat up straighter. "The kitchen. I was thirsty." After a beat, he rose, grunting slightly as he did. "I'm not nearly as young as I used to be. Time marches on...Pardon me." With a sigh, he headed for the door, and we both made room for him.

"He seems really upset," Veronica remarked. "And is he drunk?"

I'd smelt his breath as he passed, laden with alcohol. "It seems that way. He never drinks to excess." I thought I should continue. "But if he'd been adamant on keeping the gem, he would have said so, so I doubt that's the reason."

"I guess. But he still seems upset."

"Perhaps he received unsettling news. We only got here around noon; who knows what happened this morning."

This time she did flop onto the couch, where he'd been sitting. "I guess. Maybe he heard about what happened in your father's factory."

I doubted that was the case. He'd seemed surprised when I brought it up, and even if he had prior knowledge, he'd have no reason to react so poorly. It would certainly make the news, but not until the evening, after any necessary people had been informed. "I feel a bit odd."

"Eh?" She looked back at me. "About the factory?"

That took a stretch of the imagination. "No, it's...I feel like I ought to have expressed my interest first. And yet it didn't occur to me. I would like to possess the Eye of Dawn as well."

There was that light laugh again, every bit the society lady. "Who knows? Maybe someday you will."

"Maybe I'll have to obtain it from you." I was certain to make my laugh match hers.

But it didn't seem to work, and she changed the subject as abruptly as she often claimed I did. "Jiri...I'm so stressed out. School is getting harder every day."

"I'm sorry to hear that." I sat beside her. "What subjects are you in?"

"The usual. You're so lucky that you don't go. And I wish I could take you to the dance, but it has to be someone else from the school, and you're too young too. I don't like anyone there. They're all so shallow."

"Compared to us shining stars, anybody would be."

"You still remember that, huh? That was a nice trip. I want to go to Goldenrod again sometime."

"Oh?" I leaned back a bit. "You didn't seem to enjoy yourself at all. You were very melancholy in the air, and you had that to-do in the hotel. I wouldn't have thought you had any fun at all."

"Aaah," she sighed, "but the art was divine, and the party was otherworldly. It was, yeah, it was like going to another planet where everyone was so classy and beautiful."

"And your dance won't be nearly as glamorous."

"Not at all! Ugh, teenage boys are so gross. Teenage girls for that matter, but in a different way. You're lucky you've got all this knowledge going into it. I don't think you'll get gross. I know you won't."

"Well, thank you for that. Though I'm not looking forward to puberty. I've started it already, a little bit, but I've got to prepare for the skin issues that will arise." I realised after I said it that it was impolite to say such disgusting things.

She noticed it too, and tisked slightly. "Jiri my boy," she had lowered her voice to say that, imitating Asaph's tone, "you need to think before you speak." In her normal voice, she continued. "If I may share too much, it can take a lot to mask those things. I think I told you about that before, how my mom hired these makeup people to make me 'presentable'."

"Yes sir," I replied to the first part, and she looked at me strangely.

Before she could say anything, one of the servants opened the door. "Pardon me, but Master Asaph invites you to dinner."

"Oh!" Veronica exclaimed. "I didn't even notice it was that late. Jirarudan, will you accompany me?"

I rose from the couch and offered her my arm. "M'lady."

She linked hers in mine with a giggle. "M'lord."

The dining hall was the same as always, with low lights and full place settings though it was only the three of us. I'd half been expecting some manner of aprčs-ski menu given our prior comparison, though that idea had only existed in the minds of Veronica and myself. Asaph was seated at the head, by the far window, so we arranged ourselves at his sides. His expression was impossible to read, even with all my studies--nothing in my cards had resembled that.

Veronica seemed equally puzzled, her brow low and eyes indirect. "Asaph, are you well?" she asked.

His attention first went to the attending servant. "Another glass, please." The man nodded and headed to a low wine cabinet that lined the wall. "...I'm fine. I'm still considering your offer, however."

"It is just that, an offer," she reminded him as she set the cloth napkin on her lap. "You're free to decline, of course."

"I'm still considering your offer," he repeated, a slight bit louder. His glass was refilled and he nodded a thanks. "This is the sort of thing you have to learn to deal with."

Oh? Had this been a test? Was his reaction exaggerated to teach us how to deal with difficult collectors? He was overall a calm man, and overall a generous man, so this was uncharacteristic to say the least.

"I understand. You seem to be under stress from it, though."

He shook his head. "Don't make assumptions, Veronica. Consider the facts and examine your target with detachment."

"I am. And the fact is--"

"Veronica. I'll give my answer soon enough. Be patient." His voice had returned to normal, and his expression to neutral. "...Would the both of you care for some wine? Just a taste, of course, but you're under my supervision."

She smiled, and I did as well. "I will," I said, wondering what it would be like. "Are we to bear anything in mind for it?"

Veronica had requested some as well. "You mean things like terrior and legs and stuff? I know legs means how it stays on the glass when swirled, but I can't remember if that's good or bad."

Asaph chuckled. "Concord, fetch them a taste." The man nodded and retrieved two glasses from the cabinet, as well as the same bottle from before.

The smell was strange, though Asaph would buy only the best. I swirled it around as I'd seen at parties before taking a sip, and I immediately regretted it. It was sour and bitter and went straight to the tip of my nose. But it was what people of class drank, so I sipped again, pushing the resistance away.

Veronica seemed to be doing the same thing, pondering each taste as though it was a fine gem, though her thoughts on it were impossible to tell. "It's a bit dry."

"Yes, it's supposed to be. What else?"

"Uh...I'm going to guess it's got wepear berries in it. And maybe a bit of bluk too."

I wasn't picking up on any of that. The fermentation seemed to overpower everything else, and I wondered if I should say that. After another sip, though, I found myself muttering "I'd rather just have water."

Hearing that, he laughed. "You'll be expected to drink wine at many occasions. You should get used to it. Tell me, how does it taste?"

In my head, the answer was simply "bad", but I couldn't very well say that aloud. "I can't really taste much of it. The alcohol is so strong that everything else is lost."

A nod. "That makes sense, if you're not used to it."

"I feel like it isn't a good match to dinner. I don't know what it is, but going by the smell it seems like they'd counteract," Veronica mused, in her own world.

"I suppose time will tell," he told her. "Speaking of..."

Concord nodded, something I only noticed out of the corner of my eye, and headed into the kitchen.

Veronica was watching Asaph, I presume to pick up on any reaction he may have towards her, and didn't take her eyes off him until after our plates were set before us. It was Kantan fare, the clam and leek soup over rice so popular in Celadon. Briefly I thought back to the time we'd had Farfetch'd salad, and wondered what Veronica would have thought of that.

After we'd begun on it, Asaph instructed us to try another sip. A moment passed once we had before the tastes melded. "That's di--that's not very good," Veronica remarked, lips slightly tight. "They don't go at all."

I looked down at the bowl, trying to sum up the words to describe the disjointedness of the tastes. "It...seems like somebody attempted to dress a clam up with fruit juice and sat it in the sun."

Veronica giggled, but Asaph wasn't amused at all. "Jirarudan, you're being very rude. You know better than to make such insulting comments. Now, sit outside."

That was confusing, and I stared down while I pondered what it could mean.

"Sit outside." It was a bit louder.

"Sit outside? I don't understand."

"Concord will take your chair. You'll sit in the hallway until you can restate your thoughts elegantly."

I'd heard about such actions, in stories both fiction and fact, though they were all set in older times. Modern variants were only found in schools, I'd thought, and involved water buckets, but even those seemed sensationalised. It was as though I'd suddenly been taken elsewere, much farther than the hallway.

My distance from them was more than a few metres. How far had I gone? Was this part of Asaph's strange behavior or had I truly been so offensive? It was a bit over the top, I knew. Was that enough? The sour taste in my mouth was from far more than the wine.

I could hear them talking inside, reduced to pure voice without distinct words. Was it about me? About the wine or dinner? About our fantasy through Seafoam--no, he wouldn't know about that. I wondered what he would have thought of it, and remembered his anger at our excursion to Viridian.

Asaph had changed. Or maybe I hadn't noticed these things to begin with. He wasn't the calm man I'd first met, taking on strange nervous traits. Though he was getting older, and seemed far more concerned about it than before. He had taken to slightly dyeing his hair, returning more yellow to it, and had added brown contacts to his rotation (unless that was his natural color). His wardrobe hadn't changed, though from pictures I'd seen, he dressed much the same throughout his life.

Instead of thinking further about Asaph, I took the path set by the wardrobe. I liked the clothes I saw around, though I had yet to find my ideal look. Once I did, though, I wanted to wear nothing but. Something for all weather, that would look classy in all circumstances.

My mind again took a branched road, to the weather. Last winter, Asaph had mentioned a heated pool for his Milotic, which he hadn't brought up since. The grand double doors to the back garden were down the hall from me, and I considered heading over there. But I'd been told to sit, so I did. Milotic could wait.

I'd sat there until I lost track of time, when Concord retrieved me. I returned to my seat as Veronica and Asaph chatted away, and I wondered if they noticed me. But Veronica smiled at me as I drew up my chair.

"Have you thought of a better way to phrase it?" Asaph asked with an arched eyebrow.

I hadn't been thinking of anything like that. Had I been meant to? "I...suppose it tasted of low tide," I mused, thinking of the clamdiggers in Seafoam. "The clams are fresh, but the wine made them seem old. It acted against the miso as well, giving them a sweet and sour taste where it should be salty. It throws the taster off."

He leaned back. "Very good. You have to reign in your words. You're a gentleman now."

That made me feel better, somewhat warm. "I'm glad to hear that. May I ask what I missed?"

"I was telling him about the summer line that mother is working on," Veronica filled in. "The world classics line that we modeled was a hit, so she's looking to more varied regions now."

"She never released mine, did she? I haven't seen it in the catalogs or stores."

"No she didn't." A slight giggle. "It was deemed impractical for trainers, due to the fabric. It isn't meant for travel."

"Mm, too bad. It was a classic look. Though I wouldn't expect a trainer to appreciate that."

She sat back in her chair, tilting her heat back to gaze at the ceiling. "Someone called it 'poncy'. I was surprised."

"That isn't a word you hear often," Asaph added. "Jiri, was it you?" He was smiling slightly, with only one corner raised.

I waved my hand in front of my face as if dispelling the thought. "It does sound like something I'd say, but I rather liked that design. What other regions is she looking to?"

"Uh...the Mara region was one she brought up." It was in far off Kenya, known for its enormous pokemon populations. "She's planning a safari look with local style. I don't remember the others. She was thinking Mn Nefer as well, but she stopped because she was only relying on the ancient past for it."

Another faraway region, modern, but once the home of powerful pharaohs. "Yes, we have to have both. The past is the past, but the present can draw from it."

Asaph finished the draught he was taking before replying. "That's very wise. The both of you are very intelligent."

Veronica smiled, broader this time. "Thank you. We're shining stars, after all."

It took me a moment to remember why that term made my stomach sink.

"Of course. Although, I must excuse myself." He patted his mouth with the cloth napkin before gesturing for Concord. "Please tell the kitchen that it was excellent. Pardon me." Standing, he bowed to us deeply and left the room.

I watched Veronica, who was looking towards the door where he had exited, expression back to plain. "Don't worry about it." I hoped I was being reassuring.

"It's what I said." She seemed to droop as she spoke. "It's always what I say. I make things worse all the time."

That had never seemed to be the case. "No you don't. I've always found you to be very polite."

After a pause, she set her spoon over her bowl, the signal that she was finished as well. "Really?"

"Really." Since we were all finished, I set mine as well. "Have you known me to be anything but forthcoming?"

That merited a smile. "I guess that's true. You're sly, you have a devious side, but you're honest."

Sly and devious? Those were unusual. "How do you mean?"

"Well, you had no trouble with the offer Lucrezia's son came to us with, or for my adventures. And you're always looking for opportunities for your collection. You've got a keen eye that's always open."

I sat straighter. "Thank you very much. I admire the way you look at the world, your uniqueness and quirks. You seem like an artist that way." Talking in that way...whatever it was seemed comforting to me. Putting it into words made me think about it in ways that I couldn't when I simply thought about it.

"You're so sweet." She waved a hand in front of her face. "I wish I was as creative as you though. You seem like you're seeing everything for the first time, and it gives you a great fresh perspective."

That was a positive way of looking at things. Better than my frustrations with the world. "That sounds good."

"Still..." she sighed, "I wish that I knew why he left so quickly. Have you ever wished you were psychic?"

"Sometimes, I suppose." The change of subject was a bit baffling. "I assume you specifically mean that you wish to be telepathic rather than, say, telekinetic."

That giggle seemed to indicate that she was perking up. "I guess I do! Yes, that's what I mean. He's so hard to understand today." Even though the conversation had returned to Asaph, she smiled and continued to.

A servant came to gather the dinnerware, so I relayed Asaph's message and posed the offer to Veronica to return to the library.

Despite us being culturally mature, for the purposes of society and manner, Veronica and I were still considered children. It was a matter of frustration that we would have to become adults twice, but for the night it meant that we shared the single bed in the guest room. Asaph entertained frequently, but usually those making the short journey from Viridian, and so he was equipped to suit that.

For all her modern style, Veronica's nightdress was of an old fashion, and foreign, all ruffles along the sleeve and collar, draped to the ankle. Most exotic was that she wore a nightcap, her long blonde hair tucked mostly underneath it. Mine was more typical of our location, a pajama set in dark blue, with a breast pocket for show. It was plainer than I liked, but the material was far more comfortable than her cotton garment looked.

She adjusted the elastic along her cap as she sat, then took a moment to turn off the bedside lamp. "Want to know a secret?" she asked conspiratorially.

"Ooh, palace intrigue?" I leaned in, across my side of the bed. "Go on."

"I don't need my night light now."

That was impressive, after the to-do in Goldenrod. "Wonderful! What changed?"

She laid back against the pre-fluffed pillows. "I dimmed a light a little each night for a while until I was more used to it. Though it still bothers me a little."

"Every little bit," I murmured, sliding under the soft covers. The blanket was every bit as fluffy and thick as an Altaria's wings, and the faint howl of the wind through the woods just outside the window gave an air of gothic drama. Briefly my mind wandered back to the events of the morning, of the sirens and fuss in the factory, and wondered what the employee's family was doing against the cold right then. I'm still not sure why.

"I hope Asaph is all right," she sighed, her arms folded over the top of the pulled blanket. "Where do you think he went after dinner?"

"I couldn't guess."

"Aah, but I can't stop thinking about that jewel! It's so entrancing, like a magic ball."

The light on my end of the bed was still on, but I turned towards her instead, lying on my side and propping my head up on my arm. "You're a true collector, to be so impassioned. I hope to find that sort of passion in my career. It's admirable."

I would, as you know, come to that consumed life in due time.

"Yeah...you will, I think. You're the type that won't have any trouble with it." Smiling a bit and closing her eyes, she added "are you ready to go to bed?"

It had been a long day, feeling like two of them if not more. "Of course." I turned off the light, letting only the dim perimeter lights and the moon off the snow in. "Good night, Veronica."

"Good night, Jirarudan. I hope tomorrow is easier on both of us."

I hoped so too.

Blackjack Gabbiani
18th September 2015, 9:24 AM
Last chapter was a bit of a cliffhanger wasn't it? Hopefully this will answer some things. My wonderful friend Leianne helped considerably with this chapter so I want you all to give her a round of applause. On with the fic!

The night had refreshed us, and we were awakened by the morning call of a Dodrio from a distant farm. Veronica yawned and stretched her arms out to brush against the wall. She seemed untroubled, and that she had slept through the night relaxed me as well.

"Pleasant dreams?" I asked, standing from the bed and drawing the thin curtain open. No doubt my hair was a mess, but hers was its typical fluff. Perhaps I ought to invest in a nightcap myself, I mused.

"I don't really remember. But it's better than bad dreams." She smoothed out her side of the bed despite servants to do so. "It's funny. Even that sudden moment when the memories of the day before hit you...it didn't bother me."

"Perhaps you're becoming a true collector."

She stood silent for a moment, putting a hand to her forehead. "...Maybe. Would you mind if I showered first?"

"Not at all." She left without a word and I took a seat by the window, looking out at the landscape. The thin forest surrounding the mansion gave way to grassland and farms. The soft chatter of Pidgeys in the trees came through the thick glass with unusual clarity, and a Raticate stalked for prey in the snow, gathering frost on its fur and leaving a brushy track behind it.

I felt as though I was simply viewing a painting. Something hung on a wall that would be replaced with a different scene in time. But truthfully, I wouldn't have had it any other way.

"It's your turn." It had only been a few minutes, but when sharing quarters with someone it was simply polite to be quick. Even her hair had been blow-dried in the short time.

"Ah, thank you."

We met Asaph for breakfast, and conversation remained light and free of the tension from the night before. Though in theory it was pleasant, in practice it was unsettling, like an exercise in surrealism. I had in mind the image of a painting I had seen, an otherwise ordinary looking man with no nose. The picture had disturbed me, and I'd slept fitfully the night after. I hoped that breakfast wouldn't lead to a similar situation.

As we finished, however, he took the last sip of his coffee and cleared his throat. "Veronica. I have come to a decision."

She sat upright, having adopted a slight slump during the meal. "Yes?"

"...By my calculations and estimation of your wealth, the price we discussed will nearly wipe you out, correct?"

That was odd. It was nearly forbidden to discuss money in public, and I was far enough outside the situation to qualify.

Veronica gulped, but remained steadfast. "I don't care."

He made direct eye contact with her, and I shifted with discomfort. "With that understanding, the Eye of Dawn is yours."

She gasped, a broadening smile forming. "Thank you so much! I won't disappoint you. I'll treat it with the reverence it deserves."

"I do have one condition, however." At his word, she seemed to jump ever so slightly.


"You will not take ownership of it right away. As you know, I've been invited to participate in an exhibit of the Fuchsia Museum, and I intend to display it there." Though there was nothing left in his cup, he raised it to his lips in a social gesture. "I will list it as on loan from you, but possessed by me, and will surrender full ownership to you after the exhibit closes."

"Yes, of course." Ever the demonstrative speaker, she nodded rapidly, though within the outlines of manners. "I'll have time to set up a proper display for it by then."

"Yes, that should give you plenty of time." It seemed sarcastic, though he would have no reason to be. Perhaps he was genuine and simply tired; I doubted that he had slept well.

Her smile had wavered but never disappeared. "I'll have the full payment to you within the week."

"I expect you will. You're very responsible." That was said without any suspicion.

Maybe it was the light from the high window hitting her just right, but she seemed in that moment to glow.

Asaph forbad me from taking the bus back to Seafoam, and made sure I was bundled up and sent back in Igasho's care. The chauffer rarely spoke, but I was company enough for myself. I'd developed the habit some time before of talking to myself quietly, enough to scarcely be noticed by those around me.

"He'll be busy," I mused, thinking of my father. "So much paperwork and damage recovery. I'll get to be alone, so that's nice. I've got plenty to do." I had a report due for class, and intended to brush up on some of the languages I had studied. Thinking of that, I lapsed into ancient Kantan simply because I could. "<I wonder if anybody can understand me when I say these things...It isn't as though it's common to hear. And there isn't much literature to keep it alive, either.>"

I could hear a chuckle from the front seat. Perhaps Igasho had heard me and somehow understood, or perhaps it was simply a coincidence.

"<The servant must have great hearing.>" Of course, the word for servant was difficult to translate, as it referred to all the staff of a private residence, though in later stages was used to speak of all public employees, such as carriage taxis and merchants.

He chuckled again, and whispered something that sounded like "<They does indeed.>" Ancient Kantan had no gender modifiers, and what would translate as "they" was treated as singular.

"When did you learn it?" I'd reverted to my native tongue and conversational volume.

"A while back. I studied literature before I became a driver. I took this job because it wasn't much work, and I could read between trips."

It was unusual for servants to share their personal lives, but I had asked. "Formal study?"

"A bit. I never went to university, but I read a lot. You read a lot too, don't you?"

He'd never seen me with a book, but Asaph would likely have spoken of him. "Of course. The world is there to unlock."

"That's a nice way of looking at things." That chuckle again. What an odd way of laughing.

"I hope so. I'll be the shining star of the collector world."

"It's nice to have goals."

Neither of us said anything after that.

Seafoam was windy, beating against the buildings and sending the sparse winter populace inside. Tourists stayed away that time of year, and with them their money. Although that didn't affect the factory, with consistent business no matter the weather.

The heat from it, though tempered considerably through distance, kept the house from having to run heat until night. It was one of the few pleasant things about living there. But being the room directly over the ocean, mine was the coldest of all.

I had to spend time there, though. Wearing heavier clothes helped me train for my professional life, a world of formalwear and meetings. And they were more comfortable than lighter clothes, even when it was hot out.

And, of course, that elsewhere I would be pestered by an unpleasant element.

I took up a book on gemstones, the discussion of the past few days putting my mind on them. The usual diamonds and emeralds dotted the pages, but more uncommon ones such as pyrope and kunzite. I idilly flipped to the section on opals.

"Oh," I remarked to myself, "I didn't expect that..." Though there was no accompanying picture, it brought up the Eye of Dawn, devoting half a sentence to it alongside another, larger one that had belonged to a king. The article spoke of histories of certain deposits, as well as artificial ones. The science of artificial gems was an interesting one, but all I cared about was how to detect them. So many collectors, even well-established ones, were fooled by them, although I trusted Asaph in his acquisition. After all, he was the one who taught me to look for them.

Veronica hadn't looked, though. If it had been a fake, she would have been swindled. "I hadn't either, but I wasn't looking..."

She was naive, I thought. Unpolished, to use the language of the book. But I thought of the supposed diamond star, far away in space, and imagined her shining from the heavens someday. "She could be brighter than me."

The thought of her surpassing me inspired a faint jealousy, alongside fainter pride. I wondered how Asaph felt about it, knowing that it was inevitable for us to outshine him.

I'd have servants of my own someday, although it was discomforting. Having to deal with people around my collection on a daily basis as a disturbing thought. Even if they were entirely trustworthy, accidents would be more likely to happen, but that wasn't my primary reason.

To say that I disliked people would be untrue. I liked Veronica. I liked Asaph. I liked Helen. I even liked the bustle of the deal, the rush those dealings gave. But I preferred to be with my collection. Even as sparse as it was in those days, I felt as though I was surrounded by dear friends.

I rolled off the bed where I had come to read, remembering that Asaph had instructed us to sit and stand. I'd wondered about that, since it wasn't a social rule when we were by ourselves.

My mother's ring was slightly twisted on my finger. The ruby wasn't of any reasonable quality, and I suppose a man of sense would replace the stone. But then it wouldn't be her ring.

My other hand rested on the latest addition to my collection, a small netsuke of the prior century, in the shape of a more compact Pikachu. The style of the time had started the trend away from the older designs and towards cuter variants, although it had yet to achieve the Hi Skitty level of commercialism. The ears lay back and the tail wrapped around the body in order to provide a smoother surface, as the carver was still a beginner at the time. But he had gone on to become a master at his craft, even in the decline of the kimono style, and earlier works were sought. I had been lucky to nab it, but the seller didn't seem to know what they had.

"There's so many idiots in this field," I told the carving. "You're fortunate to have been plucked from a life of obscurity. I'll give you the attention you deserve." Until I sold or traded it, of course, as the piece didn't interest me directly, but even something held temporaily ought to be given respect.

Strange as it may seem, I swear I felt as though it was happy.

I'd do that. I'd make a collection the pieces themselves could be proud of.

I had returned to my schoolwork, finishing my maths in short time. I didn't mind it, and I knew it was commonplace for students to hate it. Initially it had been difficult for me to understand, but when a teacher failed to make something clear I knew how to research what I needed.

History was less grasping. Kanto is a land of rich history and fascinating figures, but the textbooks were dry and lifeless. The essays I wrote on it were similar, dull and apathetic. I could do better, of course, but lower quality was already doing very well to them. It was pandering, but it was all they deserved. Initially I had done so to see what would happen. Maybe I was like that sculptor then, satisfying the masses and hoping my real talent would shine through while knowing that it would be wasted to show it fully.

What I had thought earlier, about there being so many idiots, came to mind again, but I hadn't time to think as the doorbell rang.

My father and Helen were in the factory and wouldn't hear it, so I had to leave my sanctuary to answer it. I nearly didn't, admittedly, with that frustration in my head.

But I primed my best manner as I drew open the door at the base of the steps. "May I help you?"

The man wore a shirt embroidered with the name and logo of a nearby television station. "Yes, I'm looking for Corbin."

I had nearly forgotten about the events of the previous day. "Of course. He'll be in the factory. Please try there first in the future."

He pulled back a bit. "Oh um...I just assumed due to the hour...I apologize. Are you his son?"

"Yes. I'll show you there." There was an entrance through the house, but I wasn't about to take him there. "Pardon me for a moment."

If I had to guess, I'd take him for confused when I closed the door. It was still snowing, and I had to dress for taking him through the back. The shoes I had just taken off would suffice for a short jaunt, though they wouldn't be appropriate for longer walks in those conditions.

He had already started to walk around the back of the house, nearly out of sight around the corner, when I returned to attention. I had told him I would show him there! "Pardon me."

"Oh? I'm sorry, you closed the door and I thought you had changed your mind."

"Why would you think that?"

He shrugged. "Aah, I don't know. Anyway, lead the way!"

I did as I had offered, taking him to the gigantic wide doors designed for the delivery of large materials. They were wide open, as they usually were to aerate the factory, and I was able to lead him in without waiting.

"Hey, thanks. Say, what's your name?"

"Jirarudan," I answered as I looked off into the depths of the factory, which was considerably quieter than usual.

"Oh, that's an unusual name. What do you think about the tragedy in the factory?"

How unprofessional. "It's got nothing to do with me. You print hundreds of obituaries every week; do you have thoughts on all of them?"

He backed off a bit from where he had knelt down to address me. "I...see. I guess that's all right. Is that the office in there?"

I could see my father and Helen inside. "Yes. You'll be able to speak with either of them."

"Hey, thanks there J--" I could tell that he had entirely forgotten my name. "kid."

I didn't feel like wasting any more time on him, so I bowed slightly and headed back to the house. He hadn't done any wonders for my sense of disappointment in those around me.

It was pessimistic of me, looking back. The foolishness of the age combined with my awakening of the world past myself...I suppose that always leads to negativity. But I had difficulty looking past those reactions.

Perhaps I had come across as too grim. Saying that the tragedy had nothing to do with me seemed to shock the man, but it was true. Veronica and Asaph had confirmed that for me, and even my initial concern had regarded my lack of reaction to it.

The art world was full of shocking things. Every day I was moved by things that didn't concern me. My world was filling with them like a plungepool under a giant waterfall, and I had all I needed in it.

I returned to my small world, the wonders of it embracing me.

"Hey, Jiri?" Some time later, it was Helen. "Can I come in?"

I had nodded off, my face in a book. "Mm...all right." It was too late for a nap anyway, the sun already down.

She closed the door behind her and stood against it. "Thank you for bringing that reporter to us. They've been coming to the house all day."

"You're welcome." I sat up on the bed, but didn't stand as I should. "There's more to your visit than that."

"Haha yeah...I wanted to talk to you about something he said. Jiri, I know you think that this tragedy doesn't affect you..."

When she paused for words, I added my thoughts. "It doesn't though. The factory is covered against these things, and you have cameras throughout to prove that it was an accident, so you aren't in any danger of closing. Even a lawsuit would be inconsequential."

She sighed and came closer. "I guess you're right. But it comes off as cold, and people can misinterpret it. Even if something doesn't affect you at all, if people are worried about it, you should show some concern. You're so polite! It should be easy for you." With a tilt of her head, she smiled. "What would Asaph say you should do?"

"I asked him," I recalled. "He said I was just happy it wasn't my father."

"Oh huh." She had been in the process of kneeling down but at that, tilted back slightly on her heel. "That makes sense. Yeah, I can see that. But do you see what I mean?"

It wasn't the easiest thing to answer. I understood what she meant, but the approach to the subject was unusual. It didn't make sense, like so much of the world; it was a cloud passing around me. "I'm confused. But I'll try."

"That's good!" She rocketed upwards, back to her feet. "You'll do it. I know you will." Another pause. "You know fathers. They worry. But you're such a smart boy, I don't think we have anything to worry about."

'We' didn't go unnoticed, but I didn't really care. "Thank you."

"What are you reading?"

I closed the cover, marking my place with a finger. "A history of political art in the Cascadia region."

"Oh yeah? I didn't know you were into that. I thought you liked more classical stuff."

"I don't much care for it. But I like studying the evolution of techniques."

Another smile. "Studying is good for you. You're lucky that way. In a way, it's good that you don't want to be a trainer. A lot of kids miss a lot of education that way, even when they take distance classes like you. They don't devote the time they should."

I leaned back against the wall, putting the book aside and drawing my hand away from its place. "You were a trainer briefly, correct?"

"Ah, for a few months. Tried to do the league and everything. I did get a few gym badges, but eh...it's not for everyone. Although I'm glad I did it. Vulpix and I got super close during it, and we had some fun."

I could hear the waves out the window. "She's a beautiful Ninetales."

"She is. Have you thought about having a partner pokémon? Even if you're not a trainer, they're wonderful company. It's a mutual relationship."

I could feel my hairdo become ever so slightly out of place as it rubbed against the window frame. "Someone told me that I remind them of a Xatu."

"Oh, that's clever," she chuckled. "I can sort of see it. Though I think of you more like a Pidgey. Destined for greatness!"

Pidgey were so common, though. I know she meant it as a compliment, more or less, and I suppose I was of common birth, and Pidgeot was so elegant. "Thank you."

"Would you want to have a Xatu? Or anything else?"

Oh, the pokémon I could have listed. Lugia even then was at the top of my list. Likely a Milotic, for show and later trade. Anything sufficiently beautiful or legendary, of course. But nothing that would be usually seen, I thought. "Not really."

"Well, if you change your mind, we could help you find someone."

"No thank you." Such a strange offer. "I can make my own connections."

"Haha! I wish I'd sounded as sophisticated as you when I was your age!" There was a certain charm evident in her voice. "You really are an impressive kid."

That was my aim, of course. I wanted to be that shining star that both my mother and Asaph had said. And I knew I would be. It was fate, destiny, whatever one wanted to call it. "Thank you. I hope to be an impressive adult as well." It came out more serious than I wanted, so I smiled.

"You will be. There's no doubt in my mind about it." I think her smile was more natural. I still hadn't mastered that. "I have to get back down there, but it was nice having this conversation with you. I feel like I understand you more now."

I nodded back. "Thank you. I had a pleasant time as well."

She laughed as she headed back down the stairs, and it sounded like something in a dream.

4th December 2015, 10:05 AM
Gosh, I'm so sorry about how flaky I always am about being active here... Has it really been a year since I never replied to your last VM? Anyway, I'll catch up now.

I had just completed an essay on some forgettable subject when a knock came on my door--a patter tapping out some silly tune, indicating that it was my father. "Knock knock," he chimed as if I wouldn't have heard the physical result.

"Come in."

It doesn't take time to understand what a treasure he really is. At least, this boy, in this story

He smiled, but his eyes were slightly furrowed. "My god. I never thought I'd see you wear Gloria's ring. It looks so good on you. Heh...she always wore that. It meant so much to her. And I'm really glad you like it."

He knew I had it, and I'd wore it on a chain. What was the difference? It did make me feel more mature, that it fit, but those things shouldn't matter to him.

I certainly do remember being jealous about sharing feelings with others, as though you don't trust what they might do with them.

"Helen, come on, it was funny. A little kid saying that he's glad to have his youth?"

The car suddenly seemed so much smaller than ever before, and I wanted out but we were in motion. Had we been stopped or going slower than we were, I would have darted away in an instant, I know that much for certain. I could feel my face arrange itself in what the photographs depicted as an overwhelmed expression, and it was a small victory that it was at least what I was feeling.

This scene is very powerful.


That wasn't the voice I was expecting. I turned. "Asaph?"

He smiled, eyes and mouth crinkling at the sides, and chuckled. "I wasn't about to miss your birthday."

"I didn't know you'd be coming." I remember thinking that my voice was duller than it should have been.

It was a good idea, considering how overwhelming the night eventually became. Asaph is one of the few people who can offer emotional support. I rather like how he bought Jiri's dependence by being the one adult who supports his response to fear and inadequacy, which is of course to build an idea of himself as an established adult, someone supported by high culture... except that Asaph, I feel, won't really be the one to help him into proper emotional support and companionship. His way of doing things is a little cold. Is it true that what he only really wants from Jiri is a skilled and genius protegee?

Everyone followed suit, and in the moment before I did I marveled at the differing images the other two presented in their action. My father was a mid-century Shikaakwa piece, the working man raising a glass in an unfamiliar environment, while Asaph was a courted gentleman in a Brittanian intimate, gilded scene. I hoped to present a distinguished figure myself, though my thoughts were of my surroundings and I knew I couldn't possibly fit the model of Hengduan style.

What a framing. *Corbin voice* Jeez, kid!

I hadn't expected to be put on the spot like that. Knowing our arrangement and our secrets, there were many things I couldn't say. It was a test, but I wasn't certain how to pass it. Likely to name something without those hidden elements. "Well..." I pondered, twisting the ring around my finger again. I thought of the freedom I had with him, and how we could go anywhere in his ship, one that was steady enough to display priceless works in security, and the answer became clear. "I would like an airship."

It made perfect sense, and I didn't know why I hadn't thought of it before.


"Ji", I said to myself, running my fingers over the engraved surface. It was ever so slightly coarser than the polished area around it, and it was an interesting sensation. "Ji..."

Asaph chuckled. "I'm glad you see that. I worried it may have been too calligraphic to discern properly."

I recall being entranced by it, still feeling that emery-like area and repeating "Ji" as though it was a holy mantra. Even then I didn't understand why.

I love this powerful tactile/sensory moment (Asaph really might be the only adult who knows how to reach Jirarudan where he can touch him).

Again I felt uncomfortable, and again I looked around to see who was watching, but I opened it anyway. It was a novel sort, the kind held closed with a wind of string, and I peeked inside without withdrawing the funds. It wasn't money itself, but a bank note made out for an embarrassingly high sum.


Though I was a bit lost in thought. The meal, the generous gifts, the opulent surroundings, the mélange of smells still drifting around the table, even the distant rain, grown stronger since our arrival; all together it drew round in my brain, too many things to sort through all at once. It was odd how I could handle such things in other situations.

"Jiri, have you had a good birthday?" I refocused to see Helen smiling at me.

"I have. Thank you all. It's been an honour. I feel like nobility."

A gift of money is a little bit cold for the occasion. I can imagine Corbin being absolutely stumped about what he would want as a gift (and also, not perhaps spending too much thought on event planning in the first place).

The method Jiri has for understanding interpersonal conneciton, which is polite manners and ceremony, isn't totally barren and fruitless. You know, parties and hostings are also expressions of good feelings between people -- they're formal because you mean them. We can see that happening in the pure fact that taking him out, and to an event that Asaph prooobably had some influence in choosing, has no choice but to affect him.

"Jiiiii~riiiii~" Veronica had started prodding me gently in the arm. "Don't you have something to say?"

It took me a second. "Oh! Greetings, Veronica. How does the day find you?" I think I had heard a similar welcome from Asaph once.


He thought for a moment. "Are you happy that it wasn't your father?"

"I'm not sure. It's a world apart. If he died, it would impact me directly. I...don't think I would care otherwise."

A frown. "I think you would. I know you would. You're a smart boy."

What did that have to do with anything? But I'd already asked him so much.

I think his friends might be beginning to start leaving him in the dust.

It was an ancient-seeming room, one no older than the rest of the mansion but kept intentionally old-fashioned by way of dim lights against dark wood, both in past-century styles. The shelves, lining the wall, were hand-carved, ever-so-slight imperfections showing their true nature, and held their strength against the weight of so many volumes.

I like what you said quiite a long time ago, about always taking art on its face value, for what you immediately see and feel from it. In architecture, it has the effect that Jiri doesn't put his focus on extraneous data of which style, which terminology, which provenance -- what we see is only what's actually happening -- the honest, experiential effect of being in that room.

I took a step back and bowed shortly. "At our social standings, the term is 'eccentric'."

"Ah yes, I forgot. That's so eccentric. You're eccentric." By this time she was grinning, the strain over her dilemma seemingly forgotten.

I'm glad they still haven't forgotten how to talk after all.... yet.

there was Asaph, leaning back on the couch with a glass of something in his hand. The room had been lit only through the windows, and by that hour it was growing dim.

"I'm still considering your offer, young lady Veronica," he said in an uneven voice. "Though I need to clear my head first."


"Oh!" Veronica exclaimed. "I didn't even notice it was that late. Jirarudan, will you accompany me?"

I rose from the couch and offered her my arm. "M'lady."

She linked hers in mine with a giggle. "M'lord."

Oh, will these kids get through all right?

"Veronica. I'll give my answer soon enough. Be patient." His voice had returned to normal, and his expression to neutral. "...Would the both of you care for some wine? Just a taste, of course, but you're under my supervision."


"Uh...I'm going to guess it's got wepear berries in it. And maybe a bit of bluk too."

I wasn't picking up on any of that. The fermentation seemed to overpower everything else, and I wondered if I should say that. After another sip, though, I found myself muttering "I'd rather just have water."

I always thought talk about notes was pretty bunkum, too.

Veronica giggled, but Asaph wasn't amused at all. "Jirarudan, you're being very rude. You know better than to make such insulting comments. Now, sit outside."

That was confusing, and I stared down while I pondered what it could mean.

"Sit outside." It was a bit louder.

"Sit outside? I don't understand."

Oh, I knew it! I knew this was coming.

Instead of thinking further about Asaph, I took the path set by the wardrobe. I liked the clothes I saw around, though I had yet to find my ideal look. Once I did, though, I wanted to wear nothing but. Something for all weather, that would look classy in all circumstances.

Yeah, I expect he wouldn't be much interesting in the concept of era-based fashion.

"No she didn't." A slight giggle. "It was deemed impractical for trainers, due to the fabric. It isn't meant for travel."

"Mm, too bad. It was a classic look. Though I wouldn't expect a trainer to appreciate that."

She sat back in her chair, tilting her heat back to gaze at the ceiling. "Someone called it 'poncy'. I was surprised."

It's so charming that you have trainers in this world, to sneer at their fashion tastes.

I sat straighter. "Thank you very much. I admire the way you look at the world, your uniqueness and quirks. You seem like an artist that way." Talking in that way...whatever it was seemed comforting to me. Putting it into words made me think about it in ways that I couldn't when I simply thought about it.

"You're so sweet." She waved a hand in front of her face. "I wish I was as creative as you though. You seem like you're seeing everything for the first time, and it gives you a great fresh perspective."

I hope they keep staying close for a while (Jiri's and her troubles are probably only beginning).

or all her modern style, Veronica's nightdress was of an old fashion, and foreign, all ruffles along the sleeve and collar, draped to the ankle. Most exotic was that she wore a nightcap, her long blonde hair tucked mostly underneath it. Mine was more typical of our location, a pajama set in dark blue, with a breast pocket for show.

That's adorable

Though there was nothing left in his cup, he raised it to his lips in a social gesture.

Nice, Asaph

He'd never seen me with a book, but Asaph would likely have spoken of him. "Of course. The world is there to unlock."

"That's a nice way of looking at things." That chuckle again. What an odd way of laughing.

"I hope so. I'll be the shining star of the collector world."

"It's nice to have goals."

Listen well, Jiri... That's the laugh of the working class.

My other hand rested on the latest addition to my collection, a small netsuke of the prior century, in the shape of a more compact Pikachu. The style of the time had started the trend away from the older designs and towards cuter variants, although it had yet to achieve the Hi Skitty level of commercialism. The ears lay back and the tail wrapped around the body in order to provide a smoother surface, as the carver was still a beginner at the time. But he had gone on to become a master at his craft, even in the decline of the kimono style, and earlier works were sought. I had been lucky to nab it, but the seller didn't seem to know what they had.

I didn't even know what a netsuke was. What a fascinating object, considering how many different shapes it can take!

I always enjoy coming to this story and its sensitivity around being a child, being isolated, being in the middle of a lot of people's feelings. Hope the next one comes soon!

Blackjack Gabbiani
5th December 2015, 6:22 AM
Aww, I'm so happy now! Thank you for such a thoughtful review!

It's good to know that people reading understand the sort of thing I'm going for with him, and that they like my OCs.

I'll go down a bit in order here on some notes.

-What Asaph wants is complicated, and to be honest it isn't the same all the time. Remember how Jirarudan described him as a "man of eternal calm" initially? He's prone to rolling around with his intent and emotion.

-The comparasion to a "mid-century Shikaakwa piece" is meant to invoke the American midwest, specifically the factory workers around Chicago (the name is the origin of "Chicago" as well). "Brittania" is obvious, of course. I love coming up with region names! In the next chapter, I explain the Mara region being in Kenya, but the other region is Egypt.

-Money isn't an unusual gift in east Asia! There are red envelopes specifically for it, too. But there's a certain privacy as well.

-As far as fashion, he likes what he likes. I mean look at the movie. What even IS that garment? And he has a shirt on underneath it, according to a production note.

-I'm a bit confused about "It's so charming that you have trainers in this world". This is an animeverse fic, after all...or do you mean about how it's drawing attention to how strangely most trainers dress?

-Regarding what the future holds for these kids--even Jirarudan admits that this is the story of his downfall. Though what will that mean for Veronica? ... ... ...well, for that we'll have to wait until I get around to writing more (which I AM but we all know how slowly I write).

-The part about Hi Skitty I actually lifted from a book about collecting Japanese antiques, which talked about the history of netsuke and how they progressively tended more towards cuteness, and said they never "plumbed the depths of Hello Kitty". Although some are pretty darn cute. There's an exhibit about them at the art museum downtown right now and some are downright adorable. There's one of a mouse (it SAYS it's a rat but the proportions are far more mouse-like) holding a little seed and it's the cutest thing ever.

I love learning about all these things he'd encounter. All the random items, especially those that would be more common for a kid in Japan, but for all over the world. This is a really fun fic to write.

And the birthday chapter is my favorite. I did SO much research into the cuisine and the decoration and everything...I cooked a few dishes too. Good thing I can get the right ingredients around here too!

Thank you so much for the review and the in-depth look at things!

5th December 2015, 6:42 AM
-What Asaph wants is complicated, and to be honest it isn't the same all the time. Remember how Jirarudan described him as a "man of eternal calm" initially? He's prone to rolling around with his intent and emotion.

I bet so much of it will only be left to decode later (and considering that a lot of it happened when Jiri was a child, he might never be able to understand all of it).

-Money isn't an unusual gift in east Asia! There are red envelopes specifically for it, too. But there's a certain privacy as well.

I certainly do know! I realized that it's more auspicious especially when embarking on new ventures -- which, at age ten, is very topical for Jiri.

-I'm a bit confused about "It's so charming that you have trainers in this world". This is an animeverse fic, after all...or do you mean about how it's drawing attention to how strangely most trainers dress?

Like sorry about that. The games have a lot of fashion but it's very animey and gaudy. I like the idea of high designers creating sharp looks for these commercialized, grubby tallgrass mongers. That's just what an elite art class would do.

-Regarding what the future holds for these kids--even Jirarudan admits that this is the story of his downfall. Though what will that mean for Veronica? ... ... ...well, for that we'll have to wait until I get around to writing more (which I AM but we all know how slowly I write).

I bet she survives it. Bam. Called it in front of the whole world. (jk)

-The part about Hi Skitty I actually lifted from a book about collecting Japanese antiques, which talked about the history of netsuke and how they progressively tended more towards cuteness, and said they never "plumbed the depths of Hello Kitty". Although some are pretty darn cute. There's an exhibit about them at the art museum downtown right now and some are downright adorable. There's one of a mouse (it SAYS it's a rat but the proportions are far more mouse-like) holding a little seed and it's the cutest thing ever.

Imagine the classical art of Japan going through modernification! I'd have loved to see that mouse netsuke.

And the birthday chapter is my favorite. I did SO much research into the cuisine and the decoration and everything...I cooked a few dishes too. Good thing I can get the right ingredients around here too!

Ah yeah I love jasmine tea. Hengduan is of course China, right?

Blackjack Gabbiani
5th December 2015, 7:11 AM
Yeah, specifically Sczehuan (I cannot spell). And the restaurant is named after Arcanine.

I can snap a pic next time I'm there and show you the netsuke.

Blackjack Gabbiani
1st January 2016, 10:19 AM
A few months later, I had managed to find a suitable buyer for the Pikachu netsuke and a few other items, and that was the most I could say about that time. Veronica and Asaph had avoided speaking of the difficulties earlier, at least around me, and the factory had returned to what was normal for it. On the surface it seemed as though nothing had happened, and it was easy to forget that anything had.

The springtime came as a welcome, and I'd nearly misplaced the events that had marred and marked the two previous years. Both of them seemed so long ago, though I felt guilty when thinking that of my mother.

I wore the brooch that Asaph had given me more frequently, although it looked lopsided over the heart, as one was supposed to wear them. The pin didn't bother me, as I'd taken to wearing undershirts. Simply that made me feel so much more distinguished, like a historical gentleman, although a foreign one. Kantoian garments were nothing like what I tended towards, although I opted for a mix of east and west. I was considering purchasing a kimono, though I would have to learn how to tie it, and I lacked a family crest. Perhaps I could create one, as they all had to come from somewhere. But I wasn't an artist.

I was already considering what to wear for Asaph's gallery event, though it was nearly a year off. There was so much to fill the time between, like the area between cobblestones in a road, but it was a set destination. I used that imagery a lot in my essays for school, and imagined the figures as puzzles in an adventure.

That reminded me of the time Veronica had come to town. She'd never seen the factory and that was how I wanted it, but it struck me as curious that she'd never asked. That was likely why, as she was far more adept than I at picking up on those sorts of things. For all the studies in the world, that was still something I had to teach myself. I'd moved my research from still photographs to movies, watching the great actors demonstrate these thoughts. It was a shame that most noted through history were unavailable, film being such a new medium. They could never be shared with the living world, although in a way that made them all the more precious.

I did prize a recording made of a singer trained by a woman believed to be the greatest soprano of all time, although it was a tragedy that the teacher herself lived just before the advent of recorded sound. An early inventor had claimed to have recorded her, although the cylinder was believed lost. If it ever surfaced, if it indeed remained in any condition, it would be perhaps the greatest treasure in all music. Although I never believed that it did, and have yet to be proven wrong.

Ah, but it would have been incredible. To hear the voice of the great Gwynifer Gold! But I suspected it would only be a disappointment, the myth having grown greater in our minds than the reality. Perhaps not. The truth of the Bright Fletchling would never be known again.

But to be a muse, as she was to Christianson! Someone who inspired great works, in his case literature, was someone to be treasured regardless. That was the sort of thing I wanted to possess, things that inspired that admiration and love. As many kinds of passions as there are out there, the greatest of them all inspire art. Only then can they be shared outside the self.

I never hoped to be a muse myself. Someone shouldn't have that great passion wasted on a collector. It's what we bring together that's worthy of praise. Of course, that's not to say that we're not worthy ourselves of some sort of glory. We have to be, entrusted as we are with this divine purpose. But we should always take the background to our collections.

It felt like the chill in the air, remaining from winter, was there almost intentionally, to give us a more dramatic feel to our lives. When I would step away from the inferno of the factory, the cold winds off of the ocean would strike me as though they meant to carry me away, and I imagined it happily. Who else had felt this same wind, spinning its way across the world? What works had it run its delicate fingers across on its way to me?

Having made my usual rounds in the city, which I'd drawn out to once a month, I stopped to write some more of my schoolwork. It was nothing of any challenge, but still took time to complete, and I found myself being distracted by my own thoughts. I could be doing so much more, I mused, but I was chained to the pace and requirements of the Kanto schools. Surely there ought to be a way to leave it up to myself.

Although thinking along those lines was pointless. A more advanced schooling would likely give me what Veronica had, and I'd be surrounded by the same typical children, only gussied up in better clothing. None of them would have the sense of wonder of the world that we had, the urge to seek out its treasures.

But then, stars wouldn't shine so bright if it wasn't for the dimness around them.

It's said to be the lot of young adults to hate the world, isn't it? But I never really did, though it frustrated me. So many things barraged my mind, so many questions raised. Why did people seem to be content with grey lives? Why did they remain unaware of what was all around them? Why were there so few shining stars?

I knew even then that I was more skilled than many of my peers. I was able to excel in all subjects with ease, while others struggled to achieve even half my marks. But in a way I envied how they seemed to adapt to their situations. Had I gone to school normally, I wouldn't have Asaph or his lessons, and I'd have remained barriered and quiet. My garrulous tendencies would never have arisen, and my mind would still be overcome by everything.

My mother had once told the tale of how, in my earlier days, I had been struck severely by a cloudy day. It drove me to tears, and I told her that I had wore out the sky by staring at it too long. I had been so grief-stricken, she said, that I was inconsolable until sunrise. I never remembered doing so, but I trusted her account. The beauty of the sky and the sudden loss of it nearly drove me mad, even then.

I suppose that was a mark on my future.

I had been writing as I thought, and was somewhat amazed to look over my work and see that it hadn't been dominated by my mental subject change. The sums were tidy and tied, and even my handwriting had been crisp. All I had to do was fax in the finished product and that would be it for the week.

That left many empty hours, though. The galleries were being worn thin under my eye, thinking back to that tale. The shops were beginning to fill with kitsch and pandering, anticipating the flood from the mainland in the next several months, and I wanted none of it. Maybe if I hadn't had the outlets I'd pondered, I'd have died of boredom. I wondered if that was possible.

Even with the vast differences between my life and those of others, I was bored. It was time for something lively.

Though I was tempted to suddenly hop a bus to Viridian, it would have been far late when I arrived, and I'd no desire to relive the events of my prior jaunt. Something closer by would have to do.

I gathered up my books and supplies to sling them on my back, the strapped satchel I used a far cry from the bulky backpacks worn by others my age. There had to be something to do around town. I decided to stop by the shopping mall to look through the local travel pamphlets.

By chance I had set up on a table outside the mall, so there was no need to cross the road. I always wanted to cross in the middle when there was no traffic, yet Asaph had said that it wasn't mannered to do so.

I did always hate the place. The dingy colours gave the impression of being filthy no matter how much it was cleaned, the shops were, as I said, pandering and kitschy, and the restaurant was anything but authentic. But near the merry-go-round was a rack of papers on local sights, and just going through them could inspire me with the world greater than myself.

That day, though, the reading was all the same thing as always. The same tourist traps, the same shops, the same time shares, the same drabness that summed up the entire town.

I don't think I was capable of properly displaying my disappointment in an obvious enough manner. Dramatics weren't exactly the height of manners, but neither was anything I set eye on.

But complaining wasn't anything worthwhile, and it seemed that I was doing an awful lot of it. I'd find SOMETHING to enjoy there.

And it didn't take nearly as long as I thought. I had anticipated combing the place for hours, but I saw it right as I turned around. The jewellery store where Veronica had taken the prized rock was before me, unremarkable and unobtrusive. But there had been an idea I'd considered for a while, and this was the perfect time.

It was open to the concourse, overlooking that central merry-go-round, and thus filled with the cheery music that constantly played to invite people to ride. I suppose it brought to mind older days of nickelodeons and parasols, but in the modern day it was merely quaint.

Back in that era I would have found it fascinating. The time when foreign influence was flooding Kanto for the first time in centuries would have been amazing to witness firsthand. The majority of accounts that I could locate were political, and that wasn't what I wanted to read about at all. The people who just a decade before had never travelled past the next town, now open to the scope of the world...ah, what a wonder that must have been! Although of course any like myself would have found it immensely frustrating as well, as knowledge of vastness only makes the smallness of our own lives all the more apparent. Hearing about distant places while being shackled in place only salts the wound.

"Are you all right?"

For a moment I'd forgotten where I was. The shop clerk had drawn beside me and looked down with something I figured was concern. "Ah, yes, thank you. I'm interested in getting a conch piercing. Would you be able to do that?"

He tilted his head back and thought for a second. "I don't think we have any in stock. I can check."

It took me a moment. "Oh, not an earring of a conch shell. I'd like to have my ear pierced here." I put my finger up to where I meant, at the cartilage just above the lobe.

"Uh...hold on..." He wandered behind the counter and shuffled through some papers. "I don't think you can...Not without permission from your parents."

There was never going to be a way to get that out of my father, and there wasn't anybody in the mall I could convince to pass off as a parent. But I did have a backup plan. "Are you certain?" I asked as I retrieved my wallet. "I can't help but notice that you're a trainer," this was with a gesture to a pokéball on the back table, "and poké-chow is only getting more expensive."

"Kid, if you think you can bribe me..." But it stopped there as I laid some money on the counter. I'll not share the sum, of course! But as it turned out, it was enough to convince him to relax the rules.

I'm not certain why I got that particular piercing, but it was unusual enough to stand out while looking relatively typical at first glance. It hurt considerably more than I had thought it would, and I had to keep it rinsed with a pungent solution, but it looked very stylish and I felt refocused. Plus I'd been able to use a new business skill that could come in handy later down the line.

I had to stop myself from tugging at the small ring all the way back to the edge of the cliff, and I got to my room without having to answer any uncomfortable questions. Certainly he or Helen would see it within a few days, but I hoped to be able to wear it long enough that Asaph could see it.

For now, though, I had my own secret. Something known only to me, as if it was a treasure map. Something as silly as an earring was small enough, but having something unique was impressive enough to break the dull day.

Blackjack Gabbiani
31st May 2016, 6:07 AM
Chapter 30! My goodness golly it seems like an eternity and he's only ten.

I'd of late been pondering that I needed to be more adept at my research of modern art. Not the style; that tended to be an incomprehensible mess of pretension and posturing. But simply the art currently being produced. What future classics was I missing out on?

Veronica and Asaph and I had touched on the subject of past glory, of the works that were now ruined or lost, and how glorious they must have looked in their prime. I had, of course, mused on this shortly before I had done that impulsive thing.

My father had reacted far stranger than I thought he would, simply laughing and complimenting me, saying it suited me. But then, Veronica would say the same, so it must be true. Asaph had looked at it for nearly twice as long, then said only that I ought to start now looking for a new ring for when I would be able to change it. That was some time ago, though, and I now had a few to choose from. At that time, I believe I was wearing a small gold hoop, a simple, typical thing. While before I had found having small earlobes to be a flaw in appearance, it suited the piercing, allowing the ring to loop around in a pleasing way.

Asaph seemed to have settled, returning to the calm I associated with him. The exhibit that would display the Eye of Dawn was still months away, but he was deeply involved in how it would be shown, and incorporated a 3-D image of the setting to lay it out. I was fascinated with the projection, manipulatable on the computer screen, and he had given permission for me to wiggle the view around, so long as I didn't touch anything else.

But even that was some sort of art. Though it was rough, with garish outlines and colours that had no reality, it was a structured work of creativity and science that delighted me. The factory had a few computers that ran programmes like that, but they were all forbidden to me, so being able to manipulate the image was amazing.

Technology was amazing, and I had to be at the cutting edge of it to follow the latest advancements in art. No, I had to be at the edge and the hilt and everything in between. All of history, not simply of technology but of politics and society and trends...It was a hefty responsibility, but I knew it would be worth it for the sake of my collection. This was of course all far beyond my schoolwork, and required independent study.

Asaph's library was perfect for that, with works reaching back to the dawn of writing. Reproductions, sadly, though many of those were rather old themselves. I was reminded of the ancient library in Mn Nefer, burnt by invaders millennia ago, perhaps the greatest tragedy in history.

I wanted things to be different. Even if I had witnessed it in its glory, likely it wouldn't have contented me. I would have wanted more, from further lands, from the known and unknown world.

But I was where I was, when I was, in an evening overlooking the Seafoam coastline. Asaph's library seemed as far to me as the ancient one did. But either way, I had things to do.

The first few books had been simple, and I'd worked through them in about an hour each. They'd been taken from the drawing room, under Helen's eye, and I wondered what my father could possibly derive from them. The next was more challenging, involving considerably more maths and figures, and I had to pay special attention to the diagrams. I would make copies of them, having to rely on my minimal skills to reproduce the parts involved. Aeronautics was an exciting field itself, and I've wondered if I wouldn't have become a pilot had I never been awakened onto the art world. But then, nobody could truly say. In truth I could never conclude those imaginings because nothing else felt right. I was made to be a collector.

It was a bit overwhelming to be met with all of these charts explaining all of these principles. With nobody to guide me through them, I had to trust my own abilities and knowledge. But with the models I made from factory cutoffs, I was confident that I was on the right path.

Every day I studied everything I could get my hands on. I was always reading, listening, watching. My studies of facial expressions had expanded to body language, though that proved much more difficult. It was odd that I could learn, in depth, the histories of detailed artistic movements and yet I would have been unable to understand the artists fully if I had spoken with them directly.

It was frustrating, having that wall still, despite my best efforts. That level of understanding seemed to come naturally to everyone else. But it wasn't without advantages. Looking at things from an outsider's perspective gave it a sense of neutrality. I came at things unswayed by the trends I mimicked; they were an act in the ever ongoing play that was high society. In that play, I did what I liked, collected what I pleased. Certain things were acquired specifically to be sold or traded, and I felt no connection to them.

My latest acquisition had been a cluster of both. A scroll detailing a damiyo's tea ceremony, filled in with delicate illustrations, was for me, while the rest of the lot would be traded. Mr Higuchi was my best bet, and I had arranged a meeting with him for that purpose.

One of the illustrations showed the damiyo's sister, a detail I hadn't known until I had it in my hands. Fortunate, as I may have been tempted to pay more for it. She was stunningly beautiful, tall and strong. Reputedly she had been excellent with a sword, though her brother discouraged this, and she was relegated to mere practice. Her bravery and elegance became her legacy, as well as the overall tragedy of her life. I would have loved to have met her, to discover that long-ago exotic age though someone relegated to the sidelines.

I would have to have it properly set, in a long frame about three fourths of a metre long, with tinted glass to guard against colour degradation. Such a frame would take some time to construct but I had already cleared a space on my wall for it. For the time being, I kept it in a safe, daintily rolled up, to preserve it from the sea air.

I'd taken to writing to faraway places to request information, and as a result, many pamphlets lay in a drawer in my desk, under the east-facing window. They gave me views into lands beyond Kanto, and though were geared towards usual folk, the sort who couldn't appreciate what they were given, the sights remained the same. One detailed a vibrant river cruise that wound through the lush Cascadia region, far across the ocean. The Parfum Palace was represented, the paper written in the native language. Far to the south, the Alspring region boasted art dating back ten thousand years, while to the west, the Mara region's works could date over a million years.

To think that as a species, humans dated back that long, yet only about eight thousand years were recorded. How many great works have been lost, forever forgotten? How many artists changed the way we viewed the world and will go forever uncredited? How many leaders, trendsetters, inventors, designers, created the modern world yet will never be known?

The idea filled my heart, letting it sink heavily in sadness. I put a hand to my face to ensure that I was making the correct facial expression as I looked out the window. Ships were passing, and a light spring rain had started, rising a mist from the water.

I would wonder about those who passed by. Did any of them appreciate art? Did they stop to look around them? How many shining stars toiled away out there, light covered by the everyday? I was fortunate not to be among them.

These thoughts were recorded in a journal. I'd selected a fine one, from the sacred Vaticanae region, adorned with a rustic photograph of the ornate ceiling of the primary temple. The beautiful frescos and paintings, filling the lunettes and every inch around the top, were then undergoing restoration, and to see the work only partially finished was fascinating. Every time I saw it, I felt inspired, the full faith portrayed in it sending excited shivers through me.

I have never been a religious man, but the idea of that consuming faith has fascinated me. So many various gods and legendary pokémon were worshipped the world over, and the fervour and glory that came with it was truly fantastic. It was the same all-consuming feeling that ran through me when I was surrounded by art, and I wondered if my example would inspire others likewise.

Although not all of it reached me. I had visited a traditional garden outside Viridian, and while considered one of the finest of its type, I felt no connection to it. While the trees were marvellously sculpted by great gardeners, the paths winding and philosophical, and the water providing a mirror meant to give the feel of another world, I was unimpressed. Despite the skill in structure, they were simply trees and bushes and rocks and water to me, and I could see their ilk anywhere. Even the much-touted waterfall pond, full of Magikarp and Goldeen in their fullest specially bred glory, far removed from the common examples of their species found everywhere, only came across as common fish to me.

Truth be told, it was a bit frustrating. But that didn't linger, and was gone by the time I left. I had managed to find a book in the gift shop on ukiyo-e prints, and that consumed my time on the bus ride back.

One may point out that the garden was a work of human hands, but it was meant to mirror true nature in every way. They had succeeded in their aim.

Perhaps it was owing to my life near flowers and trees, but the natural world simply bored me. I could see it any day, and it was always there. Even if I was in the depths of a giant city, those things were still somewhere, and it descended into the mundane, the same as steel and glass. There was nothing special about it, and people who sought to recreate it were beyond my understanding.

As I've evidented, I was prone to losing myself in thought. I suppose my overall summation is that there was much of the world I didn't understand, yet that seems to be oversimplifying things.

I didn't talk like other children, or even adults. I didn't think like them. And for the most part, I didn't want to.

Asaph wanted us to be exemplary, but to do that we would have to encapsulate the very image of society folk. We had to stand out by doing what those around us did. It was a heavy contradiction that puzzled me at times, but it seemed to work. We succeeded at surpassing those around us, and did so with ease.

Shining stars, of course. That again collided with my horizon.

With a huff, I fell back on the bed and stared at the ceiling. "If that wasn't there, I could see the stars," I said aloud as I stretched an arm out as I was reaching for what I couldn't see. "I want to see the sky."

Of course I could see the night sky from out my window, but the frame and glass limited my access. I wanted to hold the stars in my very hand. I wanted to live surrounded by the sky. Someday I would have that airship, and I would be able to see nothing but beautiful things.

I'd started to design it in my head, and my education in 3-D computer mapping and model making lent a practical edge to my fantasy. I was going to make my dream.

I had my leg crossed over my bent knee and tapped the wall with my foot, forming a sort of rhythm that brought to mind a touch of some piece Asaph had played for me. I tried to recall what it was called, and sung along with what I could remember. Most around me in society had some sort of musical skill, and I thought singing would be easiest. Though I had been such a quiet child, by then I had become talkative even when alone, so it seemed a natural choice. Maybe it would prove to be a social lubricant, as the saying went.

Again I thought of the daimayo's sister. Something felt empty when I thought of her. What would she think of the world of today? Of the time between? What would she miss, and what would she be glad to escape? I wanted things to be different, in a much different way than I usually did.

Maybe she would have liked my singing. I could show her around Viridian and Goldenrod, teach her how the language had changed, take her shopping for modern clothes, even modern-made traditional clothes, introduce her to what the full world had to offer. I thought sometimes what her hand must have felt like.

I wonder, looking back, if I could have been enamoured with her, or if it was simply a passionate fascination with a tragic figure from a bygone age. Even now I'm not certain.

But that would come to be familiar. I would love deeply, overwhelmingly so, the utter beauty of the world. I would cherish dearly those rare blooms perhaps more than their creators, and cultivate them into something more than the sum of their parts. What others would dismiss as mere objects were what inflamed such passion in me. Even then I felt it, sometimes as intensely as I would later on, and it pushed me onward to new places, new planes of existence.

Ah, I suppose that's awfully elaborate. But it felt that way, as though every piece, even those I obtained specifically to trade, opened a new door for me into untamed grounds. Even if I simply looked through the open door, it would reveal a new sight.

I had a wondrous future set for me. I never could have foreseen such a catastrophic event...

But I'll get to that, in time.

The world would mine for the taking, the idea of the mythic world tree ripe with fruit just for me to gather. Well, me and Veronica, and Asaph of course. But even then I felt like I would surpass them.

31st May 2016, 8:19 AM
(Weird I thought I already had an account here! Oh well here I am!)

I thought this was a nice introspective chapter hinting at some important future events. Planning for the airship is in progress!

I like Jiri's fascination with the daimyo's sister (yay Conquest reference which I seriously need to finish that game) and his daydream about what they'd do together. I always enjoy the scenes where Jiri interacts with others, especially people who don't know him, so it's interesting to see his fantasy of being with another person.

I also really like the idea of him singing and I look forward to seeing what that leads to!

As always, I can't wait for the next chapter. And beyond, what will happen at the Eye of Dawn exhibit...

Blackjack Gabbiani
31st May 2016, 10:28 AM
Huh, I thought you did too. Odd.

Imma have to hurry with putting more of the airship together. Something like that will need years to build, and he's gotta have a way of at least starting to buy it.

Something BIG will happen at the exhibit (or rather just afterwards) that will send the story on a different path. Or maybe I'm overselling it. Maybe it isn't as impactful as I'm thinking. Oh well.

22nd July 2016, 9:16 AM
Hey there! I finished reading your whole fic a few days ago and wanted to give you my compliments ;D It's really well written! I don't think I get to read stories within the high society quite often and certainly not stories set in the Pokemon universe outside of the trainer's point of view, but this is something other readers have said too isn't it? I guess the fact that you focused on an antagonist that barely had any screen time in the 2nd movie helps a lot. And yes I just registered here to give you a reply although I started reading this out of curiosity around 2007 and stopped for a while when I left the forum life.
It's funny, I was reminded about your fic through a wave of nostalgia for the second movie that started growing thanks to the teams debate in Pokemon Go. I remembered liking it a lot even when I mostly read books, and now I see it still holds up. Now I guess I'll have to wait for new chapters like everybody else... Is there a way to subscribe to threads?

But again, the way you write how Jirarudan talks or thinks sounds so much like him even when there is little in the canon to borrow from. You have added so much depth to his character that to me you have even surpassed the writing in the movie and I say this after watching it recently since that one... Didn't hold up. You also are good at writing all the descriptions, I can tell you did enough research about art and applied it to all the details when you were able to. One of my favorite chapters has to be the one where you describe how Jiri practices emotions through pictures, an autistic personality is the best way to go for him considering how far he went to catch Lugia and how little he cared about his surroundings. The OC's you added also make the story more interesting, they clearly help Jiri develop in different directions, Asaph for the collector life and maybe Veronica for emotions? I'm curious to see how Jiri's relationship with his father will develop after all the meddling Asaph has done.

If there is something I would criticize and it's becoming more apparent in the latest chapters is how it feels like you are trying to place all the big changes in Jiri's life that make him the person he is in the movie at the age of 10. I would point out specifically to the chapter where he gets his ear pierced, I don't know, it felt kinda out of character or sudden? I know he has an earring in the movie and there is no explanation for it but that decision seems like something that would happen at the age of 16. You could start skipping years to develop him in different ways, it would help you get closer to conflicts and at the same time cover more events through the schedule you follow but eh this is just my suggestion, I imagine as the writer you got other things planned out.

Thanks for giving me an engaging read linked to Pokemon for me to spend my free time on. I wish I could subscribe to this thread to receive emails when it updates since I don't check forums often but I guess there isn't a way or is it? I guess I could just give this thread a visit once in a while.

Blackjack Gabbiani
17th September 2016, 7:19 AM
Mm, I see what you mean. I wanted him to do something impulsive and to show how he was starting to be willing to go to extreme lengths to get what he wants, and there was that. I'm trying to space things out a bit (the chapter I'm working on now takes place the better part of a year after the last one up here) and that will be increasing later. As for something that would happen later in life, he's also trying to be more adult than he really is.

But yeah, I'm trying to space things out more. There's a few big things happening that I have to build around but after 10 is where it starts getting spaced further apart, and after 15 that will get further.

I'm glad you like so much else!

Blackjack Gabbiani
22nd August 2017, 4:05 AM
Holy cheese it's been far too long. Chapter 31 at long last! I'm very nervous about this chapter, and downright terrified of the next one. So I really hope that everyone likes it.

Spring went into summer, and again into autumn, and again into winter. The great wave came and went to much fanfare, the festival presided over by a former victor that my father was more than excited to meet.

The idea of a sporting star being the target of so much adoration was at first repellent to me, until Veronica pointed out the historical and even artistic precedent of such things, the ancient athletes lauded as heralds of the gods, and immortalized in song and sculpture. The feats of demigods fell into that idea, those of labours and legend.

Perhaps some future generation of collectors would surround themselves with the celebrities of today. Though thinking of things in that way was frustrating, as art of modern athletes tended towards the ironic or political, with themes of idol worship or consumerism. I wondered if the ancient collectors were met with the same blocks.

My thoughts of any single subject were brief, however. Overriding all else was the upcoming exhibit, with the prized Eye of Dawn front and center in the minds of us three. Veronica was bubbling over with excitement from her future acquisition garnering so much attention, while Asaph had been interviewed and photographed for the exhibit book. I had been present for the shoot with the gem itself, and had helped Asaph ensure that his tailored deep green suit was draped just right as he sat next to the Eye, posed like a king. I recall his eyes were green that day.

Someday, I imagined, I would be in exhibit books. I would be the one to show off my collection, talk about its history, and indulge myself in the showcase. It would be nice to get recognition, although of course I would be secondary to the displayed treasure. That was the nature of collectors, after all.

Veronica had not gone unnoticed, though her involvement was limited to her role as Asaph's pupil alongside me. We were not photographed nor interviewed, and I had asked that I not be named in case my father were to find out.

I still felt the need to hide it. Asaph told me that if I spoke about my experiences, my father would be confused. "He doesn't understand," Asaph had said, and everything my father did had enforced that. He created remarkable designs for his airships, but he seemed to have no head for understanding the minds of those who purchased them. His helicopters perhaps, and even then he was pounding out another dozen or so for Lucrezia's organisation, but even his simplest of airships, as elaborate as they could be, were simply puzzle pieces to be assembled. The puzzles bore remarkable images, beautiful even, and that part meant nothing to him.

It was frustrating, locked in that situation. I had far more freedom than others of my age who refrained from a trainer journey, traveling to Viridian a few times a week, exploring the ins and outs of Seafoam, reading deep the history of the world. But every time I would return to that room over the sea, and as much as the sea changed daily, it would always be simply what it was.

One day, soon after the photo shoot, I asked Asaph if it was indeed possible for someone to create something indistinguishable from true art if they did so without feeling. He pondered the question for a moment, raising a finger to his cheek and staring out the window in a stylized depiction of thought. "I wonder...perhaps it depends on the observer. If we don't know the story behind a piece, it is often enough to have the piece stand alone. We can regard something like that as true art, yes?"

For some reason, I remembered the strange sculpture from the Mandarin museum. It was sloppy and barely resembled what Asaph had claimed it represented, but people held it in high regard from its age alone. It could have been the culmination of an artist's lifetime, or perhaps it was a simple coincidence in the hands of a playing child. If people knew for sure, would it change anything? If I knew hard work had gone into it, would I fancy it at all? Or would I be even further stymied by it, viewing it as an utter waste? If I knew it was a random result, would that only confirm my view of it, or would I feel enlightened at a respectable piece coming from sheer chance? "Do you think...that my father's airships are art?"

He smiled, mirroring the expression of amusement. "Oh, is that what this is about?"

I flopped down in a high-backed chair, just a bit too quickly for manners. "He's so shallow. He has no mind for better things. But his ships are so highly regarded. I don't understand."

"Well..." Asaph took a seat across from me. "I certainly wouldn't have come to him if I didn't see the appeal. Though I was disappointed in him, personally." He shrugged. "I had expected someone more in tune with his creations. It's the process that concerns him rather than the end result. At least, that's how I see him."

"I have the impression that he doesn't care," I added. "The structure is what concerns him, the construction, without the aesthetic appeal. Like a..." The words fumbled around in my mouth, "I suppose like a tract house. But by sheer happenstance, they end up beautiful. How could that happen?"

"I think..." he mused, "beauty is what the viewer takes away from it. You and Veronica saw the same gem, and it bewitched her. You found it beautiful, of course, but it didn't consume you."

To me, that was a tangent, not related to what I was asking. It was clear that his thoughts were dominated by the Eye, and perhaps I wouldn't get a direct answer out of him. So still I wondered.

As the exhibit approached, only a month or so away, I continued my own career with thoughts to the future, delving ever into the past. The prior conversation stuck with me as I studied scientific innovations. So much of it had been inspired by science fiction, with young fans becoming adults determined to make their fantasies reality. Was that art? And did that make the original works art, no matter how cheaply they were made and no matter how little thought was put into the practicality of their displays? Some had great care taken to display futuristic technology as something rooted in reality, but others were sheer fantasy and yet both were coming true. The force fields I had seen the Omastar displayed in had stemmed from such a fantastic approach, something included as a plot device in wire-laden battles between model spacecraft, and yet there they were.

Some things inspired in such a way could never be considered art, of course. The very concept of the atomic bomb had stemmed from a science fiction novel, but the novel itself was a magnificent work. In that case at least, the relationship was only one-way. It didn't have any of the sticky questions of the other examples, so despite its savagery, I preferred it.

The thought of a painting I had once admired came to mind. Though I had lost interest in it since, it was considered a masterpiece among landscapes. At first glance, and indeed at any glance, it was a beautiful meadow, alit with Volbeat and Illumise in early evening, with gnarled trees sprung up here and to. But it carried with it more than simply the view, having not fifty years before been the site of a horrific battle. It was said that there was not a speck of ground not tainted with blood, and yet when the painter viewed it, none of that anguish remained. I did appreciate his practical view of things, as when asked if the fireflies were meant to represent the souls of the dead, he had said simply that they were there when he painted it. He had painted it as it was to his eye, and the spectre of the battle was in the eye of the viewer.

Regardless of all that, the exhibit loomed. Asaph made several trips to Fuschia to oversee the sight of the display, though Veronica and I were left to wonder at it. The Eye of Dawn was not his only piece to be hosted, and it was the placement of an ancient sword that took up the majority of his time there. He compared it to a puzzle, which only made us want to see the process first hand. The computer simulation only gave an outline and didn't suffice.

We were both spending the night at his mansion again soon before the event. As before, snow was falling, and faint calls came from the surrounding forest. The pond that had once housed Milotic had been converted into a fountain, and the sound was a gentle counterpoint to the stillness as we explored the backyard.

Veronica was pondering a sculpture, a brilliant sunburst that transformed the dull stone into vibrant light. The snowfall gave an odd backdrop to the work, giving it depth and motion as well. I followed her line of sight to the lower ray of the sculpture, where it attached to the base. When she noticed I was watching her, she gestured over to the spot. "I was looking at this here. It's like the artist carved it and then remembered it had to be displayed. The way the lines go, it was like an afterthought."

I examined the place where the bracing stand entered the stone. Sure enough, the lines and scoops that made up the body of the sun followed a line that didn't account for the position of the rods. "I wonder if Asaph noticed."

"Of course he did. He wouldn't have bought it if he hadn't gone over everything there was to go over. But I was thinking that it's pretty regardless."

The sight was jarring and uncomfortable, but in a way that put the piece in a different light. "I want to see it without that. To compare them."

"Do you think the artist made other models?" she asked, still staring.

"I don't know. But it would be fascinating to see a perfect version."

Veronica laughed. "I like it. It makes it even better, knowing a beautiful piece like that can still be beautiful even with an inconsistency."

For a moment I remembered her woes with adolescence, and wondered if her comment reflected that. But her comment had a ring of general truth. It was something innate in our society, that something was perfect for its imperfections, and that was a thought I had never felt true. Imperfection was all around us, and art was supposed to whisk us away from those dull things. It felt uncaring to prize a sloppy piece.

A bowl in Higuchi-san's collection was all the more valuable from a chip that marked the side, where it had been dropped during a siege on an ancient samurai's land. It would have been valuable without that imperfection, but it showed use and function, and was seen as proof that the samurai had handled it himself. A necklace in Asaph's collection, a glimmering pearl string, was dotted with misshapen pearls, and this was evidence that the pearls were natural rather than farmed or artificial. Even everyday people recognised this in a fashion, as I had seen flowerpots through the city, chipped and even shattered, reconfigured into fairy steps and segmented planters.

But my original thoughts remained. It could be said that I valued more foreign aesthetics, but even that wasn't quite accurate. Statues that were rediscovered incomplete and displayed and beloved that way, I wanted to see them whole. A thoughtful expression in a portrait, I wanted to see the subject laughing. It wasn't about imperfections, but rather a want to see things differently, a desire to shape what I took in.

"Are you listening?" cut through my musings.

"Mm? Oh, I apologise. I was lost in thought."

"Well, here's a map." She held up a snowball. "Let's go over to the front driveway and have a snowball fight!"

I was about to refuse until I remembered a picture of imperial court ladies, the model of sophistication and manner, engaged in such play. So I laughed. "I'll race you!"

Wiping snow from my cap, I held the door open for her. "I don't think having Ralts teleport the snowballs behind me is fair play."

She giggled. "If you had a pokémon, I'd let you use them."

"In a case like that, I like to think you would have at least established the rules in advance."

One of the maids greeted us with a bow, and I wondered if she had been waiting the whole time. "Master Asaph bids you join him in the dining room."

"Oh, is it that late already? It seems like it only just got dark."

She smiled. "Time flies. Let me take your coats."

Veronica fluffed out her hair as she handed the maid her coat. "We had a lot of fun out there. Jirarudan has quite an arm! I'm not sure who won, though."

"Probably whoever had the most fun."

The reply left me a bit dry. It may have been true, but it felt like there was something hidden in it.

There was always a welcoming comfort to that mansion. I dreamt of it, and when I confessed that to Veronica, she admitted the same. Despite the rising wall between her and Asaph, she too couldn't resist the allure of the place.

And I couldn't understand why that rift existed. He had agreed to the sale, and if he had regrets, he was fully capable of calling it off. Would it be untoward to approach him with this? I pondered.

It was worth a risk, or so I hoped. After dinner, I headed to Asaph's study. He was already reclining on a magnificent méridienne, a long pipe to his lips and some thick liqueur poured from an elegant bottle. Though he sat up when I entered the room, I doubt he noticed me, attention on the opal before him. The Eye glimmered even in the low light as though it truly watched us, and I noted that must have been how the legendary priestess's disciples had felt.

The Eye looked strange there, as I glanced at it. The gallery had been a much better place but he had moved it for the photographs, and that seemed a bit dishonest. Regardless, it would be headed to the museum the next day, the last piece to join the exhibit.

"Asaph." I said his name boldly, trying to be firm but respectful. "Have I interrupted?"

He shifted, turning towards me while remaining seated. "Come here for a moment." When I did, he put a hand on my shoulder. "What are you thinking right now?"

"Um..." I was rarely at a loss for words any more, but his question took me by surprise. "I wanted to speak with you about Veronica."

"Ah, Veronica..." He chuckled, smiling. "Growing up so fast. I can't really stop it, can I?" Despite his expression and laugh, I knew this was still his melancholy. "Would you like a drink? Brandy may be more to your liking than wine."

"Sure." It was an immature answer and I chastised myself for it.

As he set his pipe aside with a bit of a cough, he chuckled again. "Ah, I haven't smoked in years. But I just got this pipe, and I suppose some of the old urges came with it. Sometimes I just can't resist, even when I know something is terrible for me. Do you ever feel that way?"

"Of course." Didn't everyone? He was doubtless talking about something more specific. "Regardless, I wanted to talk to you."

The glass he gave me had only a dash of brandy. "Go ahead," he said as he replaced the cap on the decanter.

"I know this business with her has upset you." When I said that, he turned from the cabinet to face me full. "But you have the ability to change your mind. To decline her offer."

"Ahh..." He shook his head. "I know. And that's the idea I wrestled with not only the night the offer was made, but for a long time after." The hand on my shoulder again. "Jirarudan, my boy, the both of you are growing up. Time, as they say, marches on. And eventually you'll both be magnificent collectors." He drew back a drink from his glass, finishing it. "I should have known when I took you both on that I would have to face that at some point."

I'd taken a sip as he spoke and found the taste more agreeable than before, but still awfully strong. "But I don't like being a child," I sighed. "It's terribly boring, and I'm rarely taken seriously. I want to be an adult."

His shoulders slumped. "You'll regret it later on. Savor those youthful days, Jirarudan. I don't want you to have any regrets. When you're my age..." Again, he laughed to himself. "I suppose I'm no better than the emperor of Sinnoh, trying to summon the deity of time so he could remain young and reign forever...Already I've outlived him, you know."

Asaph wasn't particularly old, if I recalled correctly, but the short lives of people who sought immortality were a common irony. On the other end, I thought to the far ancient Ki-en-gi region, a primal settlement where the kings were said to have reigned for tens of thousands of years. I wondered if I should have brought it up, but it was impolite to bring up someone's age. Though he had posed the subject...I thought for a moment, longer than I realized.

"Jirarudan? Are you listening?"

I snapped to attention. "I apologise. I was distracted."

He smiled. "Beauty does that." It wasn't until I followed his line of sight that I realised he was still watching the Eye. "My boy, I want you to learn from me."

"I do. You're a wonderful teacher." Despite my saying that, he was beginning to lose me, and I wondered if I shouldn't have just avoided the initial subject altogether. "If I may, though, I still don't quite understand."

As he fetched another drink, the light from the Eye shone across his face. "We can talk about it later. Right now, I'm feeling terribly worn out." He turned what remained from his pipe out into the ashtray to extinguish it, and finished his newly refilled glass in a gulp. I thought about doing likewise but instead just took another sip, which turned out to be all that was left in mine.

"All right. Rest well."

He tilted his head back and laughed softly. "You're growing up too, aren't you?"

The guest room had been redesigned, with two smaller beds replacing the single large one. They lay side by side with a small table between them, decorated with an antique lamp. Veronica had claimed the bed closer to the window, and when she sat upon it, the luxury of the mattress and bedding was obvious. "Aah, what a day," she sighed. "I'm glad to have a few days off." Lying back, she kicked her slippers off and worked her necklace loose, sliding it over to the table. "Where did you go after dinner?"

"I was talking with Asaph." Heavens, that was a soft bed. "He's terribly upset, but he's set in going through with your offer."

She was silent for a moment and I was about to repeat myself. "...If he didn't want to part with it, he wouldn't have agreed to it. That's all there is to it."

"That's essentially what he said. Though I think you'll have to bring this up to him yourself."

"What's to bring up?" she asked as she rolled over to face me. "If he didn't want to part with it, he wouldn't have agreed to it." The same words came a beat faster. "Even if he regrets it, he's still doing it." But she paused again, and came to rest her head against the cover. "...That's not heartless of me, is it?"

I laid back, squirming slightly to remove my socks. I hadn't noticed that they were still slightly damp from the snow. "We're all adults. We can make our own decisions."

"Yeah...adults. ...I could fall asleep right here."

"If you're not going to shower, I'll claim it. But at least change into your nightclothes." I smiled, hoping it was landing on 'amused'. "It wouldn't do to wrinkle up your nice clothes."

She picked her head up just to stick her tongue out at me.

"Adults, yes." I laughed, but I also felt a little superior to her at that moment.

During the night, I awoke to find her staring out the window. Her back was to me, but it was almost as though I could see her expression. Her hand drew down the glass, leaving a trail through the slight condensation, and she sighed heavily.

I wondered if I ought to say something to her, but decided against it. I rolled with my back to her and quickly fell back asleep.

She wasn't in bed when morning came, and I wondered if she had stayed up all night. I listened to see if she was washing up, but there was just silence. After a few minutes more, during which time I pulled the comforter up over my head to savour the feel of the luxurious bed just a little while longer, I reasoned I should get up.

Usually it would be considered impolite to not dress for the day, but at Asaph's house we were permitted to attend breakfast in robe and slippers. Mine were a matching set in soft purple, just a few shades off of lavender, and very comfortable without sacrificing appearance.

I headed for the sitting room and found Veronica, reclining on the couch under the window with a book next to her. I recognized the book as one I had gone through, a guide to famous jewelry written nearly a century ago. Since then, various golden ages had taken place, especially the rise of Hollywood style, so it came off as nearly quaint to the modern eye.

"Oh, good morning, Jiri." She smiled up at me and brushed a strand of golden hair over her white robe. "You were sleeping so soundly that I didn't want to wake you. Asaph agreed."

"What time is it?" There was a clock in the guest room, but I hadn't checked it.

"Uh...I think it's about half past ten. It's not like we have anything set to do today though, so it's ok."

I took a seat in the armchair beside her. "Have I missed breakfast?"

"Not really. I mean, Asaph and I already ate, but it was a cold dish so it's all right."

That wasn't surprising. Recently, Asaph had taken an aesthetic interest in the Botha region, halfway across the world, and the meals from his kitchen had embraced that tradition.

She pulled up to a sitting position and set the book on the table beside her. "Want to have another snowball fight?"

What an odd thing to ask. "No. I don't think we should." I thought back to what Asaph had talked about the prior night. "I'm hoping to study some in the library today."

"That sounds like a good idea. What about?"

"Whatever strikes me."

She laughed, a short chime. "You have so many things that do. You're lucky that way. You see beauty in the most unusual places, and I like that."

"Well," I thought aloud, "the world is an unusual place." I didn't know what I meant by it. I think I just wanted to make her laugh again.

And laugh again she did. "It sure is. What's something unusual on your mind right now?"

Thinking of something was simple. The hard part was narrowing it down. "Ah...hm. There's a book in the far corner of the library that smells horrid. I believe someone spilled something on it at some point." It had come out purely at random.

"I know the one you're talking about!" Her arm shot out as though she was pointing towards it through the wall, and I suppose it was in the rough direction of the shelf containing the book in question. "It's about making beer. I think it sat in the brewery for a century too long!"

"Yes, that would explain it." I tried to copy her laugh but failed. She was still smiling though. "I would have thought the auctioneers would have tried to air it out. Although at least Asaph keeps it protected." The book, along with a few others dotting the shelves, was kept in a protective wrapping that permitted the viewer to see the spine. "It's better than that musty smell that so many old books have, of course."

"Oh, I know! It's so gross and I don't know how book collectors manage it. And it can make you sick since it can harbor a fungus." She waved a hand as if smelling something foul.

The conversation was amusing, but I had other things to do. I gave another smile and headed out, closing the door behind me.

She had put the idea in my head, and the scent became impossible to ignore. I left the library soon after, though usually I was able to spend hours in there. Granted, I had been the one to mention it in the first place, but I wouldn't have without her presence. It was a strange feeling to be confronted with the sudden realisation of what had been around me the whole time. Instead, I returned to the sitting room and found Asaph there instead.

He removed his reading glasses as he stood. "Jirarudan. Are you well?"

"I am," I replied as I tried to think of the rules for asking the same in return, finally settling on "How has your day been?"

"Oh, I can't complain. Come here."

As he returned to his seat, I took the chair next to him, but he patted the couch cushion beside him, so I moved to it. "All right. I'm here now."

He chuckled a bit. "I'm sorry to catch you in the middle of all this. I want you to know that you're still very dear to me, and that hasn't changed."

That was unusual. "I haven't doubted that. The situation between you and Veronica doesn't impact me."

"Our conversation last night showed me a young man very concerned about the people close to him." He slid an arm around my shoulders. "Even if, as you say, it doesn't affect you, you still want to make things right."

I hadn't said that it didn't affect me. I had said it didn't impact me. In my mind, those were very different things, but he had enough on his mind. "What are you reading?"

"Hm? Oh!" A book on the side table had prompted my question, as it hadn't been there before. "Veronica must have brought this in. Ah, it's a history of the Alspring region. I think she brought it from home then." He straightened it, lining the sides up with the edges of the table. "You both do such in-depth research into what you want. It's admirable."

"It just makes sense." I wouldn't comment that I had never known her to do near as much study as I did. "Before we bring something into our lives, we should know it as fully as we're able."

"We should," he said as he pulled me a little closer. "And sometimes even then we make mistakes...Nobody can prepare for everything."

"Even the greatest collectors in history have encountered fakes," I affirmed. "We're only human. Though I can't imagine who would want to con a king, for instance."

"Only the very bold and the very foolish," he laughed, something I could feel vibrating in his chest. "Sometimes we get so wrapped up in our zeal that we forget ourselves. But as collectors, we can scarcely help it."

I curled up next to him on the couch, making sure that my feet still hung over the side, and rested my head on his shoulder. "I want to be able to have that much zeal someday. Like you and she have for that gem." Perhaps I shouldn't have wished for that.

"You will. You're a very passionate boy, and the love for the future you've chosen shows that you have a greater appreciation for the world than most." His hand came to my hair and rested on the back of my head. "You're going to be a great man someday."

"A shining star, you said." It took a moment before I remembered who else had said that. "You know, my mother would have liked you. She wanted wonderment out of the world too."

"Do you take after her?"

"I've been told."

He chuckled. "Then I'm certain I would have liked her too."

After we'd stayed like that for a while, and after I'd finally had some breakfast, the three of us each found ourselves in the library once more. Veronica was already hard at work when I arrived, and it seemed as though Asaph had just begun a search for something. A private library of nearly two thousand books was ours to share, but it seemed small after a while.

"Alspring again, Veronica?" I asked. "We saw your book in the other room."

She giggled. "Sort of. I'm reading about the history of opals. This book talks a lot about the Eye of Dawn. It's a seminal example; quite famous. I'd heard of it before acquiring it, of course, but I didn't know there was so much written about it."

Asaph seemed to tighten at her words, and it was no wonder. She had stated that it was already hers, and even if it was in all but name, that name was his until after the exhibit.

"What about you? What are you here for?"

I hadn't planned on anything, just to wander around. Ought I say the first thing that came to mind, as I did a few hours before? "I'm not sure yet." Turning towards Asaph, I spoke a bit louder. "Perhaps Asaph has a suggestion."

He set his own book down. It was an autobiography of a deposed king from a European region, a first edition. "Well, when did you last study your Kalosian?"

I had a bit of difficulty with that language, and it was far easier to read than speak. "Longer ago than I ought. I suppose you can help me narrow it down."

Asaph searched the shelves to and from for a moment. "Ah! It's upstairs. The bookshelf in my office has one you may enjoy. Bring it down here. La Goupix Prince."

I had read that myself, years ago, in translation. The titular prince wasn't a Vulpix, but rather befriended one. I bowed to Asaph to take his leave and headed upstairs to retrieve it.

His office was small, and he used it mostly to research future acquisitions. For literature to be among those tomes of phone numbers and other contact information was unusual, but it seemed that the book I sought wasn't alone in being out of place. He likely would head to his office with a book in hand and forget to retrieve it.

The hunt and the acquisition were everything to us. Even my far less significant pursuits had meant so much, and even when they gave only things that I intended to trade away in the future that I felt no connection to. It was a giddy high, and I could certainly identify with that scattered mindset. Who knew what sort of fantastic items he had achieved while at that desk?

I settled into the desk chair and tilted it back slightly, taking in the softness and the slightly worn feel of the armrests. It was positioned a bit higher than the more visually striking chairs on the other side, a psychological ploy to have the upper hand in any deals. Neither of the others looked as though they had ever been used, and it was no wonder. While his gallery was on the first floor, hardly anybody was permitted to enter. The second floor was entirely private, and he would never simply invite anybody up unless the situation demanded no less. While he had clearly prepared for that event, I doubted it had ever taken place.

Staying there longer would have been wonderful, but they both expected me down there. I would have to ask to see his references sometime soon, though.

When I returned to the library, Veronica had already moved on to another book, this one about jewelry. While the Eye wasn't considered jewelry, many other opals were covered, including a stunning diadem on the open page. "You would look lovely in that," I whispered as I sat across from her.

Again my mind wandered to the subject of what Asaph planned. The library must have belonged to his parents, as there were two facing spinet-style desks and a couch. More than one person was meant to be here, weren't they? Or perhaps it was simply an aesthetic. Both desks had been salvaged from a distant university library, and bore the ghosts of hundreds of years of essays and study, some lightly imprinted into the wood as they had been written.

"-get started?"

Oh no, I had missed her reply. "Pardon? I apologise; I didn't quite hear you." Best to be honest, but not too honest.

She blinked a few times before smiling. "That's all right. You really think I would look nice in this?" She tapped the page with her thumb. "I wouldn't think of anything to wear with it! It would have to be so plain so that it couldn't even begin to take the stage."

"I'm sure you could do it."

"I...thank you. Thank you." She fidgeted with the pencil in her other hand, tapping it against her notebook. "Um...I also asked if you're ready to get started. Your own book."

"Of course." I set it carefully on the desk and opened it, waiting for my brain to catch up with the foreign words. It was faster each time, it seemed, and I noticed with some glee that there was no loss from the gap in time I had taken.

The book was far more engaging than I had recalled, and by the time I had finished, Veronica and Asaph had both left the room. The book Asaph had been reading still waited on the end table next to the couch, and in my fancy I thought perhaps there was some relevance to the things that had arisen in my mind.

Alas, I found nothing. It was a straightforward read, even rather dry from what I saw. Perhaps my fantasies had gotten ahead of me. Usually I was more practical than that.

The day dawdled on. Veronica was again at work, this time on school assignments, and Asaph had returned to his study, so I took to the gallery. It felt so very right in there, truly a place I was meant to learn from.

There were pieces with those same imperfections, which got me to thinking again of the conversation I had had with Veronica before. When a piece had been damaged, that was one thing. But if a piece turned out with a flaw and was still lauded for it, how did the artist view that? Surely there were so many who had nothing but frustration for being unable to capture their true vision. Even within our own culture, that had to exist, even if less than in the wider world.

A setting of a fantasy, that was the gallery. I wished for that fantasy, fervently and truly and perfectly. I could lose myself in even a collection that wasn't mine. Museums held me as surely as the Earth spins, and I could fall into them entirely. A wonderful, blissful abyss, holding Paradise itself.

Though, like Paradise, my time there was limited. This wasn't my place; I was a mere visitor to that fantastic world. By the time I pulled myself away, several hours had passed. I wasn't sure how I felt for that. A trip to those realms always felt simultaneously an eternity and an instant, and leaving them left me in a daze. It was glorious, and someday that feeling would be mine forever.

As I wandered away from it, I found myself headed in the direction of the study. Asaph would be there, likely in no mood to speak, but in some indescribable way I wanted to be there.

Surprisingly, I found him looking out the window, away from the Eye. "Asaph?" I wouldn't move from the doorway until he permitted me to enter.

After a pause, he shook his head. "Jirarudan..." His voice was soft. "Do me a favor."

"Of course. What is it?"

He set aside another glass, likely filled with more of the brandy. "Don't waste your life. Promise me that."

"I won't waste my life. I promise."

"Promise me!" He spun around and was before me in an instant, kneeling in front of me. "Promise me."

"I promise." What was this about?

"Good boy..." His hands slid around my back as he gently pulled me into a hug. "You've always been such a good boy..."

He was shaking. "Are you all right?" I asked as I begun to return the embrace.

But he pulled out of my grasp, sliding away from my hands. "I am. Just a bit tired still. I'm sorry if I scared you." He wiped at his eyes. "Maybe I'm coming down with something. Though mostly I'm just tired. I'm sorry."

That couldn't be it. "That's all right." I leaned forward and patted his shoulder. "You've been very busy lately. It's understandable that you would be exhausted, but the exhibit is next month. It's soon enough."

He grinned and returned the gesture, and I felt a little better. "You're so wise. I'm supposed to be your mentor and yet..." Then he stood. "Come sit with me."

I followed him to the couch and did as he asked, his arm around me coming as no surprise. What did surprise me, however, was how he didn't speak.

24th August 2017, 1:36 AM
I liked this chapter, a lot of foreshadowing and tension between the characters. Also Asaph is starting to get creepy (or creepier anyway) so I get the feeling their days at the mansion won't be much longer. Don't trust him, Jiri! Obviously something major will happen between all of them at the exhibit so hopefully we won't be left in suspense much longer. No pressure though haha

Blackjack Gabbiani
30th August 2017, 5:57 AM
Next chapter legit scares me to write because something really big is going to happen.

I'm glad you liked it!