Author's notes are after the chapter, but for now: please have mercy on my multi-tasking soul. This story has been kicking around for years now, and I've only just recently got past the opening of chapter one. I know, I'm lame.
Somewhere in Pastoria City wandered a boy.
He was about thirteen, and it was obvious from the way his hair had been hastily pulled around that he wasn’t accustomed to paying much attention to it. Today was important, though! After about six months of wading around Sinnoh in pursuit of Gym Badges he had finally touched base in Pastoria again. Sure he was going to take on Crasher Wake – but that was later.
Family came first.
Frankly, Rodney was amazed he still remembered the way around Pastoria. It had been a while since he had come here last, after all – so long that the residents, normally able to call one another by name, didn’t even recognize him. He didn’t mind it all that much, actually; if someone saw him and scampered back to tell his family, then the whole surprise would be ruined, wouldn’t it?
Rodney gave a little smile at the thought of their faces.
A few seconds later he had his head stuck firmly in the clouds, letting his feet do the walking and not paying much attention to where he was going. It was for this exact reason that he slammed into someone – loudly. The other person made a chirp of surprise and either the collision or the unpleasant ‘thud’ made Rodney snapped back to earth. He immediately spewing out apologies at a breakneck pace.
“Whoa!” said the other guy.
This made Rodney pause. ‘Whoa’? You weren’t supposed to say “whoa” when someone nearly runs you over, you were supposed to recoil or apologize or something…
“Dude! You’re back!” The boy in front of him was beaming ear to ear, blue eyes wide and sparkling happily. There was only one person Rodney knew who could do that, and that was Hamilton Harrison. And lo, here he was, totally ruining Rodney’s secret entrance.
Since it was Ham, though, he couldn’t be mad.
“You caught me,” he chuckled. “Seriously, though, I’m just passing through to fight Crasher Wake.” He saw the expression on his brother’s face and added, “But of course I was going to visit you all!”
“Oh. Well, that’s okay, then.” Hamilton coughed, dusted himself off, and immediately after immersed Rodney in a tight hug.
Not at all expecting this – even though a part of him knew it was totally normal Ham behavior – Rodney took a step back, laughing as he went. “Still no self-control, I see!”
Ham pulled out of the hug and regarded him with a caricature of a serious expression, head ducked down slightly with a heavily bemused frown and raised eyebrow. Rodney mirrored the look, and after a few seconds of stalemate they both burst out laughing.
“The incredible power of imitation returns!” Hamilton pointed out, giggling.
“One does one’s best.” Rodney shrugged. “But… man, it’s good to see you again. You haven’t been bellyaching about me being gone, have you?”
“No,” said Hamilton. “Not really. I mean, I miss you, but yeah…” His speech drifted off as he became focused on another figure, shorter and squatter than both of them, which had just come darting through the crowd and paused obediently at Rodney’s feet. It was a purple and black pig-like Pokémon, with oversized ears and three black gems on its head and chest. The Grumpig paused a second to catch his breath and then noticed who was in front of him.
“Hey!” gasped Hamilton. “Tristan… he evolved!”
“Yes he did,” said Rodney smugly. “Say hi to Ham, Tristan.”
The Grumpig’s eyes lit up immediately and he waved at Hamilton. “Grrra!” chirped the Pokémon in elation, pleased to find that the brother of his Trainer was excited to see him. Hamilton reached out and scratched Tristan behind the ears, making his smile grow wider. Both of them really seemed to enjoy it, and Rodney took another step back with a pleased smile on his face.
After Hamilton and Tristan had finished catching up with one another, the former turned back to Rodney. “You said you were going to stay here for a while, right?”
“Well, I was thinking two or three days, time to prepare for the battle with—Hey!” Hamilton had grabbed his arm mid-sentence and dashed off in the opposite direction, practically forcing Rodney to follow lest he lose a limb. Tristan scrambled after them.
When Hamilton had finally given Rodney back use of his left arm, the trio had paused in front of an unfamiliar building.
“Okay,” said Rodney. “What is this?”
Hamilton started to look at him strangely, but suddenly seemed to remember something. “Oh! Um, we moved since you left, Rod. There’s a guest room if you want.”
Rodney was slightly put off at being demoted to ‘guest room’, but a second later he remembered that it would certainly take him a while to finish his quest and furnishing a new place for him would just be silly. So he smiled and said, “Alright.” Hamilton practically pranced inside the house, calling loudly and obnoxiously to their father as he did so.
Miles Harrison slowly clopped down the staircase; eleven in the morning was much too early for him to wake up, and if his hyperactive son needed him downstairs then he might as well get some coffee anyway. When he got to the landing and saw the familiar – and utterly odd – hairstyle next to Hamilton’s, all grogginess immediately left his face.
“Kiddo! You’re here!” He swiftly walked over and presented Rodney his second giant bear hug of the day, which he returned happily. They exchanged overjoyed greetings to one another, and when the excitement had died down Rodney looked around.
“Well, the house looks nice so far,” he noted.
“Oh! That’s right,” said Miles. “I guess Hamilton filled you in about the new house?” Rodney nodded in response, and Miles flashed another one of his trademark crooked grins. “Well then I’ll need to take you somewhere to catch up.” He made a gesture for the boys to follow him, and they took a left into a well-lit kitchen. Rodney continued to look around as he sat down, and soon afterward the other two noticed a soft muttering coming from him.
“You’re still doing that?” asked Hamilton.
“Watch it, Hamilton,” warned Miles. “He can’t help it. You know that.”
“Yeah,” continued Hamilton, “but you’d think he would have grown out of it by—” He stopped when he realized Rodney had snapped out of his little muttering trance and was frowning disapprovingly at him.
Hamilton grinned nervously. “Um, sorry. I was just…”
“Nah, it’s alright.” Rodney cut him short. The discussion was shot down there, and there was silence in the room before Rodney turned to his father. “So where’s Mom?”
“Still at work,” he said. The Harrisons had always worked in a very opposite way than the standard family; their mother Lisa was an absolute terror at all things domestic and Miles was practically a prodigy, so Miles was the stay-at-home dad while his wife supported the family. “So… let’s see your Gym Badges, huh?”
“Oh! Sure.” Rodney dove for his backpack, up until then sitting on the ground, and fished out a rather simple-looking wooden case. Unlatching it, he opened it up to display the pieces of metal inside. Miles and Hamilton crowded around it – however, the former’s expression soon turned to one of confusion.
“You… uh… got to the Pokémon League with three Badges?”
There was a pause as Rodney tried to think this sentence through, and after he understood it he burst out laughing. “No, Dad! I’m here to fight Crasher Wake. After that I’ll be on the road again.”
“Ohhhhhhhh.” Miles let out a breath of air. “I see. Here I thought you had beaten the Champion already… never mind that, then!” He laughed. “Good work, son. You’re doing great.”
Rodney smiled. He didn’t get to see his father much nowadays, and getting a Fatherly Statement of Approval in person was a valuable thing to a thirteen-year-old. After the moment of basking had passed, he began talking again. “So, Ham said something about a guest room. Can I stay there while I’m in Pastoria?”
“Of course you can!” cheered Miles, breaking out into his lopsided grin again. “It’s all yours, pal.”
He smiled and thanked his father before getting up, obviously intending to head for the guest room. Tristan (previously leaning against the wall to listen in on the conversation unnoticed) popped back into motion to follow him. However, before they could even get out of the room, Hamilton slid in front of the door with his arms outstretched.
“You’re not going anywhere,” he said, “until you show me your team!”
Rodney rolled his green eyes and smiled. “Fine.”
Hamilton smirked and dashed out to the backyard, Rodney having to run just as fast to find his way through the unfamiliar house. Once there, though, he saw something much more familiar lounging on the lawn – a small frog-like Pokémon, navy blue with a few white stripes around it. Upon noticing someone entering his domain, the Croagunk cracked an eye open; when he noticed that the someone belonged to him, it closed again and he continued to doze.
“Oh, come on, Craig! Don’t be that way,” Rodney said jokingly as he walked up to the Pokémon and crouched next to him. Finally, Craig had no choice but to acknowledge Rodney’s existence, and when that happened he sat up slowly and said “Gunk.” before returning to sleep.
“Oh, you’re so kind,” he remarked flatly.
Craig rolled onto his side.
Sufficiently deflated from his run-in with Craig (who didn’t seem to like him at all), Rodney turned around and back to Hamilton. “You wanted to see my team, right?” he asked.
Miles walked out into the yard as well and stood beside Hamilton. They both had their arms crossed expectantly, and their eyes were both trained on Rodney. Without a word Tristan teetered over to stand next to Rodney, and after that a procession of three Pokémon was sent out on a bright red wave of light. The first was a bipedal lizard Pokémon with red scales and a flame on its tail, the second a flying purple scorpion (this one latched itself to Rodney’s arm a second after it was sent out), and the third was a majestic white-furred creature with what looked like a scythe sticking out of its head.
“Well, this is Viola,” began Rodney, holding up his arm with the Gligar attached. “And over there is Vulcan – the Charmeleon – and Whitney – the Absol.” The two Pokémon stared blankly at Miles and Hamilton. Finally Rodney told the creatures, “Guys, this is my family.” With that cleared up, they all chirped greetings to the humans, who returned the sentiments.
A second later, though, Miles seemed to remember something. “…How did you get a Charmander? You didn’t meet Professor Oak, did you?”
“Me? No.” Rodney shook his head. “A guy in Jubilife was giving away Charmander eggs, said he was combating overpopulation in the Charicific Valley. Personally I think he just overbred his own Charizard and didn’t want to handle the eggs, but here he is.” He regarded Vulcan with a laugh; the Charmeleon quickly reverted to his normal emotionless state.
With the deadpan expression having killed his good mood, Rodney gestured with his free arm first to his team, then to Hamilton and Miles. “And now we have all met one another,” he said. “Can I sleep now?”
“It’s only noon!” protested Hamilton.
“Yeah, but I’m tired.” With that, he returned everyone except Tristan – whose Pokéball dangled around Rodney’s neck – and walked inside. Tristan, you’ll understand, was a claustrophobic; for that reason, he didn’t at all enjoy dark, enclosed places (including his own Pokéball, hence the whole following-Rodney-around ordeal).
Hamilton turned around and looked after him with a pout, and then turned to his father expecting unrestrained support.
Instead Miles said, “Let him nap, Ham. He’s had a long day.”
When Rodney woke up, it was somewhere around seven o’clock in the morning.
After regarding the clock with mild surprise and climbing out of bed, Rodney realized that he was still in his clothes from the previous night. He moaned softly; if there was one thing that got under his father’s skin, it was people sleeping in their clothes. Maybe he wouldn’t notice if Rodney left quietly?
As soon as he took a step, of course, Tristan was awake and standing next to him. Early after the two had began journeying together, the Pokémon had begun to slip unnoticeably into the role of “bodyguard”; due to the claustrophobia that kept him out of his Pokéball, Tristan had found himself having to follow Rodney literally everywhere.
With the Psychic-type now sneaking helpfully behind him, the duo slipped quietly down the staircase. Rodney had assumed that the house was relatively new, and he was right: the wood didn’t creak much at all, and being covered by plush carpeting the whole thing was actually really quiet. After hastily scribbling out a note to leave on the kitchen counter and abducting a few of the less disgusting Berries crammed in various places around the refrigerator, the duo exited without a hitch. The rest of the trip succeeded in a similar manner, and around evening they were walking back the way they came the day before.
Stopping at the entrance to the Valor Lakefront, Rodney and Tristan stopped to rest for a few minutes before walking valiantly through the opening in the trees. When they got to the lake itself, though, it wasn’t until both of them plopped happily at the edge until they noticed him.
‘Him’ was a man of average height and yet managed to be thin as a toothpick, dressed entirely in black. The man was staring at the bottom of the lake, wearing an altogether creepy stare as he gazed into the inky depths. And he stared… and stared… and stared.
Rodney tilted his head with a raised eyebrow.
After a few more seconds of silent gazing into the water, the man in the black cloak stood up from his previous stooped position and dusted himself off. Thus accomplished, the man turned around and walked pleasantly into the trees, disappearing perfectly into the deepening shadow. Within seconds there was a rustling noise from behind Rodney, and he turned around just in time to hop up and out of the trajectory of a human-shaped blob zooming through.
The person skidded to a halt a few feet away from Rodney; he was also dressed in black, though his hair was short and scruffy instead of the slicked-down coating atop the other man’s head. When he turned around Rodney noticed with some unease that he had an X-shaped scar down his cheek; however, it seemed to have not healed properly or something, as the marking was also black. It was not a pleasant addition to his ghostly-pale skin and otherwise youthful face.
The two boys and the Grumpig stared at each other.
“Oh,” said the black-haired boy. He then muttered something in a foreign language and looked around quickly before turning back to Rodney. “Um, you two! Yes, you over there!” He pointed at Trainer and Pokémon, but made no further action before he started talking again. “Have you seen a man in a black cloak run through here?”
“Um, he was looking in the lake,” offered Rodney, looking unsettled.
“Lake. Right.” The boy turned his head to observe the lake in question, then walked over to it and craned his neck over the depths of Lake Valor. He apparently expected to see something interesting in there, but the ever-present layer of Psyducks blocked his view just as much as they did everyone else’s. “…There doesn’t seem to be anything here,” he observed out loud.
“Well,” began Rodney, “there are—”
“No, no, not the wildlife,” muttered the kid irritably. “So… which way did this man go when he left?” His previous irritated state seemed to have evaporated into the air.
Rodney pointed to the trees; the boy followed his finger and muttered yet another string of foreign words that were decidedly not happy-sounding. Thus accomplished, he sighed and returned to English. “Into the trees?”
“Yep. Walked right in and disappeared.”
“Then he could be anywhere!” the boy complained rather loudly. After fuming for a few minutes more, this rather unusual kid seemed to deflate and sat down by the edge of the lake. “Well, he’s definitely gone by now…” He pounded a fist into the grass, obviously irritated at his losing the man’s trail. “…I guess I might as well stay here a bit longer.”
“Why?” asked Rodney, walking over. “Where are you going?”
“Oh. Uh, home.” The boy cleared his throat. “Yeah, home. I was supposed to find him for… um, for a game.”
“He was an adult.”
“Er… older brother?”
Rodney realized quickly after that that this boy was a particularly bad liar, but didn’t say so out loud. Instead he took a glance at his Pokémon, still sitting by the edge of the lake. Tristan seemed to be eyeing the boy suspiciously, which further solidified Rodney’s suspicions that something was being hidden from him; when a pig with the power to shatter minds eyes you suspiciously, then you know something’s going on.
Then he started muttering.
That was the thing about Rodney; at seemingly random intervals, his brain would sort of overload and he would begin saying nonsense under his breath. It was quite disturbing when you weren’t accustomed to it. Hilariously, this boy seemed quite accustomed to it, and merely looked at him strangely instead of flying into the standard-issue panic that usually came out of strangers who were inaquaintanced with his quirkiness.
The boy remained quiet for a few minutes, not exactly sure if it was his place to interrupt the young Trainer. But finally he reached out one pale hand and tapped Rodney on the shoulder, at which point he seemed to return to Earth.
“Uh, yes?” He turned and blinked at the boy.
“What’s your name?” the boy asked, leaning in closer.
Rodney, in response, leaned farther away from him and gave the boy his name. Immediately the black-haired youth returned to an appropriate sitting position and smiled pleasantly.
“Really! Nice to meet you. I’m X.”
“Is that your… actual name?”
“Yep. X. Is there something wrong with my name?”
“Oh! Uh… uh, no!” Rodney suddenly realized that he sounded like he was poking fun at the kid. “It’s just that a lot of Trainers… well, they give themselves unusual nicknames like X or Alpha or something edgy like that to sound cool. I didn’t know if you were one of those guys or if your name is actually… um… X.” He decided not to comment on the tastes his parents had in names – after all, he wasn’t really one to talk with a name like ‘Rodney’.
X looked dumbfounded. “Really? People do that?”
X stood up and dusted himself off. “Well, I guess everyone’s entitled to their own silly aliases… anyway, I should go. See you.” With that, X turned around and walked purposefully into the trees. Rodney was just about to follow him when he noticed something curious about the ground – it seemed to have a piece of rock on it, about three inches square* in its entirety and flat like a slab. Rodney figured that X must have dropped it, and picked up the object for a closer look. Etched on the small rock was a circle with a dot scratched inside it.
Rodney was thoroughly confused by this object but knew it was certainly of great historical significance. Therefore, it should be returned to its owner. He stood up and walked over to the space in the forest where X had disappeared into, fingering the rock nervously as he went along. Tristan – who had noticed absolutely nothing of the slab – only began moving when he realized that something was amiss and that Rodney was now halfway across the lakefront. He ran over quickly, which was quite a shame. A little way into the forest, Rodney found himself needing to cling to a tree to regain his balance (and hold out a leg to stop Tristan from going any farther). He peered forward nervously.
In front of him laid an immense void.
*For those of you who don’t use the US customary units of measurement, about the dimensions of a Game Boy Advance SP.
Welcome to Abecedarian, kids. As mentioned previously, have mercy on my multitasking soul, as I believe I will be able to tackle this and Wings Have We without the hindrance of the Pokémon Mystery Dungeon Curse. C: So, um, enjoy, and don't forget to keep your eyes peeled for some familiar faces someplace or another...
That said, please enjoy Abecedarian (which is, as a matter of fact, a real word) in its revamped and retooled glory.