21st July 2010, 3:05 AM
Roses and Marigolds (K+), Contest/Advanceshipping One-shot
So I wrote this fic a little more than a year ago, and since I've started getting into writing fanfiction for Pokemon again, I want (more) input on my most recent Pokemon fic that isn't a drabble.
This fic is -supposedly- a one-shot, even though it's kind of... a bit less than 7000 or so words.
Also, although ultimately advanceshipping, contains lots of contest for any of you contestshippers that would normally be put off by advanceshipping. In fact, there are more blatantly contestshipping scenes than there are advance... But okay.
It's also very much an experimental fic, with lots of streams of consciousness and OOC.
No, I really don't think that Haruka acts like in the fic, really, but... rawr.
WARNINGS: ANGST, OOC, STREAMS OF CONSCIOUSNESS, CONFUSING METAPHORS, and STRANGE DESCRIPTION
Also, I got lazy with the formatting, just because I can.
There's really a lot more italics used for emphasis, but all I did was add the breaks in the story. 8D
If you must, read the fully formatted version here:
I want to write more advanceshipping fanfiction, but mostly I'm stuck at a road-block because mostly how I feel about this pairing is conveyed in this fic.
ANYWAY, for those who are tl;dr, here goes everything:
Roses and Marigolds
Word Count: 6,973
It is petty and stereotypical that she should blame her father. And yet she does.
When Haruka was little, she was used to not being important. Her parents were young, restless, intelligent, and daring – and apparently, frisky, or else she or her brother wouldn’t have been brought into the world.
For some reason, she never once thought of herself in the way she thinks of her parents. She had her youth (obviously she would, she was younger than they), sure, but she never thought she was born along the same vein as they were. She was not nearly that extraordinary.
Haruka wasn’t meant to stand out. With her parents, she never did, really.
It’s not like her parents were ever bad to her in any sort of way. They were good people, but they let their youth, their restlessness, intelligence, and daring get in the way of actually being good parents. They loved her, after all. They did all of the stuff you’re supposed to do when you’re parents – give you birthday presents, read bedtime stories, have a couple of too-much-information conversations. Nothing of which stood out among the conventional parent-kid stuff, and never did.
For a while she was like Masato who was just glad when he was involved, who would blush with pride when their great father Senri allowed him to play with the Pokémon or come with on training excursions. Masato sure swelled in the attention he got, from being the great Senri’s son. He beamed with the honor of belonging to the great Senri’s flesh and blood, one of two inheritors of quite a formidable legacy of Pokémon training and battling. Everyone expects her and her little brother to live up to that legacy.
But that was just it.
It was always about the Pokémon. They got the place of honor in Dad’s limited possession of free time. Something Haruka and Masato never, ever had. Even from when she was little, she lived in a city of roses.
So she grew up like that, accepting her unimportance. She never did like the Pokémon. She always wondered if she would matter more, if she became one.
She tries to twirl the ball on her index finger, and almost drops it. She wonders fleetingly if the Pokémon inside of it can feel its sanctuary slipping carelessly from her grasp. The Professor’s words echo in her head: “Maybe, someday, you’ll be as good a trainer as your father.”
But really, she doesn’t know what she wants, or what she’s going to do with the thing inside of the ball she almost just dropped. Wait, the thing has a name. At…Atchamo, was it? She doesn’t know the first thing about it. She isn’t her father. Not even remotely close.
She can’t help but feel envious of Satoshi, a boy close to her age if not a few years older. He’s traveled all over. He’s good with Pokémon. He is what she isn’t.
She just met him after he fought tooth-and-nail to protect his precious Pokémon Pikachu, and after the thing completely fried her bike.
Not that that hasn’t happened before.
She should be angry at him, this… this… Satoshi. And yet she is fascinated.
He’s a little rough around the edges, sure, but then again he stands out. Look at the extent to which he devoted himself to his Pokémon. She’s never met anyone quite like him. After all, he almost killed himself over the little yellow rat. She isn’t sure why, but when she saw his determined expression as his gaze was transfixed on the ailing Pikachu in his arms as she and the Professor pulled the kid up to safety, she thought of her father.
Maybe she is a little frustrated. She blinks a few times, trying to get the image of the charred bike before her to reconfigure itself into a working machine again. It doesn’t.
She will march over there and give him a piece of her mind.
When she wrenches the door open, the words evaporate in her throat as she observes the scene: A sleeping Pikachu, with a dozing Satoshi keeping vigil. He is so gentle, so worried. Pikachu awakes and goes to cuddle with his beloved partner. The sun reflects the marigolds in a trellis behind the window at the very moment, and she sees golden. He reminds her of marigolds. She associates him with them, and for good reason: They’re a sunny, happy flower. They look unencumbered; they always stand up straight, even when the wind buffets them, and they’re humble but bold, and they’re beautiful.
Maybe she’ll forgive him, for now. But she can’t help but think that Pokémon are very lucky creatures. Maybe she’ll learn why they’re so important. Maybe she’ll ask why Pikachu is so important to Satoshi. Maybe she’ll ask for pointers. Maybe that’ll give her answers as to why, ever since she was little, when her father looked at her, she wasn’t sure it was her that he was seeing.
She wonders, still, what it’s like to be your own person. To stand out.
Maybe she’ll ask Satoshi that, too.
Haruka soon realizes that Satoshi’s just a kid, like her. He can be kind of dumb and kind of immature and he’s a lot like her brother but at the same time he’s extraordinary.
She soon realizes that Pokémon is his life, just like her father. She fancies herself a little disappointed.
She can’t keep up with him. What has she gotten herself into? She is lagging behind; he’s obviously some Olympic runner or something, because he walks at such a brisk pace without stopping. He is looking directly ahead and doesn’t look back as if he’s racing towards a finish line.
Where is it? After all, she is staring directly ahead, too. But all she sees is a winding, twisting road that when followed, makes knives cut through her chest.
He will definitely leave her behind.
He will forget I am even here.
As she thinks those words she is so, so bitter, but like with everything, she faces the truth. She isn’t good with Pokémon. She isn’t what her father or mother or brother or anyone wants her to be, what everyone expects her to be. Atchamo must be so confused and frustrated stuck with such a useless, useless “trainer” like she is. She isn’t even a very good traveler, and she isn’t important enough for him to remember, while his Pokémon narrow his line of sight.
It’s now or never.
She is mildly surprised when Satoshi turns around, waiting. For her alone. Patiently.
He’s definitely overly eager, but he calms down just the same. He takes the time to carefully craft explanations, to answer her every little whim. He isn’t impatient with her. When he speaks he speaks with passion, and for some reason, she remembers the gold and fiery color of marigolds.
Haruka is included in Satoshi’s inner circle. She belongs.
He is so unlike her father. For that, she thinks she likes Satoshi better.
She thinks she’s found her calling. Contests are her chance for her (oh and maybe her Pokémon too) to have every excuse in the world to be flashy and beautiful and extraordinary.
The background has been her place for her entire life, so how could she pursue gym battles? Satoshi laughs; she can tell he’s a little disappointed he lost a rival, but he supports her all the same. Her brother, too. And Takeshi, a Pokémon breeder that Satoshi once traveled with.
It’s different, being supported.
And she prays she will glitter along the wind like her gorgeous Agehunt. But she is so nervous that she is shaking.
The arrogant boy with the green hair and green eyes that smells of wild roses isn’t making things easy for her, either.
Satoshi seems so sure of Haruka, though. That’s different too. She’s never sure of herself. Then why does he have so much confidence in her?
If she resents anything about Shuu, it’s that the first rose he ever gave her wasn’t even directly for her. Again, it was for a Pokémon. Specifically, her Agehunt.
Not that she minded or anything. Because it was still a nice gesture.
Not that it bothered her in the first place, or anything. Because it didn’t.
Not that she wasn’t used to being picked over a Pokémon, or anything. Because she was.
But still if she could pick one thing about Shuu that bothered her, that would be the most prominent, by far.
That was the only rose that he ever gave her (more or less) that she didn’t keep.
She tore it to shreds, until every scarlet petal was stripped from its stem.
There’s a certain thrill in being sought out by Shuu. Haruka feels his presence grace contest halls more and more often. She’s not used to being liked. It was he who singled her out in the first place, not the other way around. It makes her feel sly. Like they’re playing a game. He has the upper hand, but then again she’s not used to even being a player.
After all, she is ever in the company of roses. He makes her feel important, and wanted. She likes this game.
There’s a first time for everything.
There’s an excitement in partaking in contests. They’re actually something she’s good at. There are people behind her, supporting her, rooting for her, believing in her. She’s starting to do all of those things for herself.
And when she faces him, tantalizingly as his rival, she is alive. Truly, and for the first time, alive, as well as comfortable with herself and with Pokémon.
For the first time, she’s significant.
These are adjectives that have never applied to her before.
All of her firsts, she’s had with him.
She stands opposite Shuu, but she’s also standing next to him at the same time. He gives her a quick, small smile, and playfully flips his green hair. Maybe they’ll go out to eat afterwards, but at the moment business needs to be attended to. He looks up at the scoreboard. Their faces stare back at them, side-by-side. Her heart twinges. She likes seeing their pictures like that, together. Another contest battle. She is celebrating even before the competition ends. It doesn’t matter who the victor is, as long as they can talk love over ginger tea and mochi.
She steals another glance at him. As if by intuition, he turns back to meet her. There’s the familiar competitive flame in his otherwise cool green eyes. She is warmed, comforted, enamored by the heat that emanates from them.
How she lives for this gaze.
“Stage on!” she cries. The red-and-white ball hits the field; Eneko appears in a sudden flash of blinding light.
“Go, Butterfree!” His confident voice surrounds the stadium. The battle begins.
Her breath is stolen.
She never quite had his confidence, his swagger. Just the sound of his battle cry sends doubt up and down her spine.
She is paralyzed.
Once in her self-conscious state of mind she told him of this little fear, this little folly, this little doubt of her own skill – and he leaned over her and responded with a whisper gently, simply, “You are you and I am me.” Her eyes slide out of focus. He is all the way across the battlefield. She sees him there, and yet she sees so much more; she sees the roses, ever the roses and then she is dizzy; the flower’s heavy fragrance suddenly envelops her, imbibes her.
She is reminiscing at exactly the wrong time.
He has made his move, and she has not responded. He surveys her with confusion. He calls across the stadium, to no avail. She does not see him scowl or shake his head. She does not see his expression change from bemused to reproachful. She does not see the disappointment or the indignation.
It is a quick loss, but strangely she doesn’t feel saddened or motivated by it. Even stranger, there’s a sense of nothingness. An emptiness. Naturally she is thrilled that Shuu is the one to claim victory but…
She wonders, fleetingly, when her feelings about contests have changed.
He is looking at her back of her head sternly, solemnly. He is not at a loss for words; on the contrary. He has too many words to say, but she will not let him look at her face.
She imagines the look of his eyes. The glinting flame that she saw opposite hers on the battlefield has probably turned to smoke, especially in the black of night. She knows what color they are, how many seconds, minutes, hours, has she spent gazing lovingly in them, reveling in both his presence and her good fortune? But she knows his gaze has long since burned out into something strange and unfathomable, and that is why she refuses to face him.
His disappointment hovers over her, perfuming the air, breaking through the usually-impenetrable guise of roses. She doesn’t know what’s coming, and yet she has a strange idea, but no, he wouldn’t. He couldn’t.
“What were you doing out there? You were just standing there. I was afraid you’d passed out.” His voice is low. By dropping his tone, he is trying to sound reposed, even when the uneasiness leaves a trill at the end of his question.
Not knowing what else to do, she goes on the defensive. “Eneko and I didn’t have good enough sync, that’s all.”
“You let your Pokémon take a beating,” he says slowly. “Eneko is lucky Roserade knocked it out before even three minutes were up.” She does not make the mistake of thinking he is arrogant.
She is caught, captured. She fancies herself smaller than the Pokémon tucked safely away in her waist pack. “I… I know.” She is stammering, and dread is making her tremble.
“Why did you do it?”
The answer to this question she doesn’t know, and can’t respond that she does. She wants to tell him that she was just distracted, she was caught off-guard, that she was not nearly prepared enough – but then of course, she would be lying. “I was thinking of you,” she whispers shyly. The truth. Still her back is turned; he can’t see the flush creep up her neck.
“Were you really?” His response, as she predicted, is suspicious. The recrimination still hangs apprehensively in the air. “You certainly weren’t thinking about our battle.”
“Shuu!” She exclaims. “How could you accuse me of such a thing?”
“You were being careless. Your head wasn’t on straight...”
Silence. He is still speaking, but dread has muted him. She can’t will herself to respond. There is fear now. She is waiting for him to scold her, reprimand her, and maybe, maybe for them to kiss and make up afterward. How can she tell him, that the moment she heard his voice soaring across the stadium, so ready, so confident, so enthusing, that she was blinded by the red, lightly shaded to be similar in color to the brightest blood, that she was choked by these roses, as they replaced the very air she breathed? She smells ocean water and tastes salt, the very taste of fear.
“…You weren’t taking our battle seriously at all. I’m wondering when exactly you stopped caring…”
Caring? A strangled laugh rises from her throat, and dies before it leaves her mouth. Because oh, how she cares.
She feels his hand on her shoulder, assailed by another whiff of roses, and she is forced to turn around. He appears actually as she imagined, serious and thoughtful. “When I met you, you were just a coordinator starting out, remember?”
In a small voice she says, “Yes.”
“I remember it too. You reminded me so much of myself. And yet you’d blossomed so quickly. Such charisma, such determination.” He says this tenderly, soothingly.
There is softness in the mossy green of his stare. He takes a lock of her hair and tucks it behind her ear. He cups her face, and she shuts her eyes instinctively as she lifts her chin, waiting. She hopes he forgives her, for whatever she did.
The kiss doesn’t come. Her murky eyes flutter open and when they do it’s clear that he doesn’t. Forgive her, that is.
“I didn’t see any of that today.” There is a twinge of bitterness, and yet there is also resolve. “Haruka…”
Why is he speaking to her in such a tone? What does he mean? He must understand, she wasn’t being serious at all, and she definitely regrets it, she will definitely try harder next time; it’s because he was her opponent, if he wasn’t there she would have performed a lot more admirable…
“I care a lot about you, but I think we have to end this…” He strokes her cheek with his thumb. She steps backwards, shying away from his touch.
“End what?” She blurts out. She does not dare breathe. She knows what he means and at the same time she doesn’t want to.
“This.” He pauses. Gestures. “Us.”
She chokes, “But why?”
He is so calm and so collected while she regains the skill of breathing she finds that she is breathing very, very rapidly and her heart is thudding, pumping dread to her arteries, returning denial through her veins –
“I’m sorry, but I will not let myself stand in the way of your dream.” He is not looking at her.
“But I thought you loved me!” She is not her usual self; her own voice, childish and high-pitched, sounds foreign and unfamiliar to her as the plead tumbles headlong through her lips.
If you’re sorry, why are you breaking up with me?
Suddenly she is angry. She is certainly being rational. There is no reason for him to end their relationship, not when they had been going so well. He isn’t making sense, or at least, she doesn’t understand.
It hurts her how he hesitates to respond. “I do.” And she doesn’t doubt that, for a second. Because through the pain that is suddenly making it hard to breathe, she knows he does.
He continues. “…But I also love what I do. What we do. Before we got together we were rivals. I am a coordinator first. And once, you were. But it feels like you’ve forgotten.” He goes out of focus when he lifts his head to meet her gaze. All of a sudden his image blurs, as water runs from her eyes. He steps closer, to wipe the tears that are beginning to fall freely. She backs away from his touch, and inches further and further away.
She gets what he chooses.
It isn’t her.
For the first time in forever, she finds herself completely and utterly alone. Suddenly she is homesick even though she really doesn’t want to be there, and suddenly she is friend-sick, even though she really is so far away from them. The water is hot enough to scald, but she is too numb to notice, to care. No, it’s not that she’s too numb. She definitely feels the stinging water, as if the topmost layers of her skin are completely evaporating off her body. But it doesn’t hurt the same, and not nearly as much.
Shuu’s words reverberate in her head; her mind is buzzing. Haruka tries to think straight but she can’t; her bandana is off, and how Masato always said that Haruka was squeezing her brain dry of intelligent-thinking juices every single time she tied that piece of cloth to her head. But she always liked the bandana, especially the way it settles over her chestnut locks. Otherwise, her hair always seems so wild, spreading in all directions. Something’s not complete without it.
But now, her hair is soggy and steamy and limp. She feels really uncomfortable.
The bath is so very hot, her tears are so very warm, and yet her heart is so very cold. It is in tatters, little bits, even more fragile than paper, with the texture of silk and the feebleness of a sand dollar.
She has to get him out of her head.
It’s a first she wants to stop thinking about. For a crazed, wild instant, Haruka blames herself. Shuu likes beautiful things. Is she not beautiful enough? The instant passes and she sighs, and then she realizes she should be thinking like that more, but for some reason, isn’t.
Obsessively and mindlessly, she cleans. She scrubs her skin until it is red and raw, until she can get the scent of roses out of her hair.
Obsessively and mindlessly, she cleans. She empties her bag of all of its contents, beginning the process of destroying everything reminiscent of a romantic relationship between her and Shuu, until she can get all of the roses out of her life.
It’s turning out to be surprisingly easy.
Haruka usually keeps the petals pressed in a large book about Pokémon contests. She shakes the book out and they go flying. They have since lost their fragrance and pigment, reminiscent of their formal glory.
These petals end up in tatters, too.
She reaches further into her bag (when was the last time she actually even cleaned this thing?) into its depths, and is greeted with a smarting pain; a cracked, though particularly sharp thorn from a dead stem connects with her palm. Her eyes water as she gingerly feels around for more, and deposits them in the garbage.
Groping to the corners of the bag, she finds two things: a wishing star, and what appears to be half of an orange startburst-centered contest ribbon, tied white-tipped fuchsia cloth.
The star-burst glints gold as the glossy surface catches the light.
Haruka can’t really pinpoint the reason why, but she suddenly wants to go to Shin’ou.
When she entered her first Grand Festival, she was just gauging her newfound skills.
What surprised her was that even her parents came (okay, maybe not Dad but she definitely chalked it up to him being busy), and they believed in her.
What stunned her was that all of their eyes were on her (Satoshi’s, Shuu’s, Takeshi’s, her brother’s), and they believed in her.
What scared her was that she still didn’t know what to believe.
When she entered her second Grand Festival, she wanted to win. She would do anything, anything to win. She wasn’t some newbie anymore, and there was something so appealing to be seasoned and talented, and to tap into otherwise dormant self-confidence.
What saddened her was that she didn’t, even though the dreamer-part of Haruka – a tiny part of her that isn’t tainted, is still free, unencumbered and innocently hopeful – believed she could.
What shocked her was how quickly she could slip back into that limbo of shattered confidence and insecurity, even though this part of Haruka – a part of her that never really ever went away – she believed she had completely buried away.
What stole her was the innumerable scent of wild roses: of chasing rivals, and of chasing dreams.
She isn’t sure about either part of her.
It’s strange that everyone else seems to.
In the pursuit of her third Grand Festival, she does it without them.
She remembers her last contest with her precious friends’ eyes watching her, one where Satoshi entered as well, which turned out to be a draw between them.
He had no grasp of contests, as he was always the unglamorous and inelegant battler, and she had a newly evolved Pokémon… And yet, they tied.
At the start of her career as a Pokémon trainer, she would have not had any hope whatsoever if she faced him in battle. He was with her, at the start of her career, and look at how she’s grown. And yet, they fought toe-to-toe.
She doesn’t doubt his prowess for a second, because he’s amazing. Everything he sets his mind to, he pretty much ends up successfully doing. Because he’s Satoshi.
Pulling out the trophy of victory, a ribbon half that Haruka shares with Satoshi, she recalls where Harley is going, where Saori is going, and most importantly, where Shuu is going.
Now, she knows what route to take. And everyone will say when she meets the finish line, “Because she’s Haruka.”
She wants to prove to everyone she can do it on her own, that she’s independent. She ties her new, emerald bandana to her head and she goes off, utterly alone, with her own power.
Her fingers tighten around the ribbon, and for some reason, she gets the image of marigolds.
“I can’t do this,” she says to the screen. Another lost contest; another disaster upon disaster.
Her lip quivers. She isn’t extremely weepy, but she’s not against showing her emotion, either. Lately, she’s been showing her emotions a lot. But there’s no one to see.
“Of course you can!” Even on the other side, Satoshi’s voice radiates confidence, belief, and security. All of the things that, at the moment, she lacks.
Conversation shifts. “So, you’re in Shin’ou now?”
“Yeah, Takeshi’s with me too. I met this girl named Hikari, and she’s traveling with us too. She wants to be a top coordinator, just like you!”
She can’t help but feel a twinge of jealousy, and a jolt of longing. A new coordinator to be pampered by Satoshi, to receive his guidance… “Oh, I see…”
“Haruka, what’s wrong?”
Once again, her emotions are betrayed on her face. “It’s nothing, it’s just…”
He interrupts. “Still feeling down about that contest?”
“Listen… I was just thinking… I don’t know. If it were you traveling alone, you would be a lot more successful than me.”
He erupts into good-natured laughter. “You’re doing fine, keep it up. I admit I was really surprised when you said you wanted to travel alone…”
“I was too.”
“And don’t compare yourself to me – after all, you are you, and I am me. I’ve never traveled by myself really, either. You’re the brave one.”
Admittance escapes her; she sounds like a child. “It’s a bit lonely, sometimes…”
He looks confused. “Wait, don’t you have Shuu and Harley-san with you in Johto?”
“They’re my rivals. We don’t travel together.”
He nods. “True. It might not count for much, but you still have me!”
But you’re so far away.
He grins. “Well, I’m obviously in Shin’ou… I’m not sure I can do much but… Don’t feel lonely, because I’m still cheering you on. Don’t doubt your abilities. I know you’ll do great. Because… You’re Haruka.”
She doesn’t know what exactly it is about him, but her heart suddenly doesn’t feel as heavy. She feels uplifted, renewed. Lighter, as if she’s floating. When they hang up, she pulls out the ribbon, and holds it against her chest. Her cheeks suddenly feel very warm.
She feels someone tap on her shoulder, and she sees a flash of green hair, and knows it is Shuu.
“You look a little lost,” he says.
She’s surprised to see him, and reddens, stuffing the ribbon hastily into her pack. “Shuu! What are you doing here?”
He gives her a wry look. “Because I was wondering if you needed a guidepost.”
Nervously, Haruka glances down into her bag; all he can see is her green bandana and her brunette locks poking out from underneath. She really doesn’t feel so forlorn anymore, especially after her conversation with Satoshi, but she’s happy to see Shuu, nonetheless.
The next day, she wins her first Johto contest.
But after another loss (maybe the first was a fluke, maybe she’s really not as good as she thinks she is) she still feels self-conscious, and still has doubts. She asks Shuu how he is able to survive so long traveling by himself, and why she can’t seem to be able to win a single, damned contest without her team of cheerleaders holding her up.
“You are you, and I am me,” he whispers, gently into her ear. She’s heard those words before; she isn’t exactly sure where, but the only person she hears and sees and smells and feels is Shuu when he holds out another rose. They’re still playing this game. No wonder she is so smitten by him.
When she looks behind and beyond him and his little gift, she sees the horizon line, painted with gold and orange.
“I’m worried… This is like the second time she hasn’t made it through to the second round. In a row.” Satoshi adds the last line abruptly, for emphasis. He’s talking about Hikari, the new girl that he’s traveling with in the Shin’ou region.
“She must be devastated…” says Haruka. In the beginning, when Satoshi had told her of a girl he was traveling with in the Shin’ou region was a coordinator just starting out, Haruka was determined to dislike her. Listening to Satoshi talk about Hikari’s recent failures, Haruka feels more empathetic and sympathetic. But there’s still that little bit of her that wishes that she was the one traveling with Satoshi, there’s still that little bit of her that isn’t sure she will make it on her own.
“She is,” Satoshi adds fervently. “Hikari’s so different from you. You had to build your confidence up when you were first starting out, but now her confidence is completely shattered.”
Haruka knows the feeling. Satoshi can’t tell because the line of vision in the tele-screen is so very limited, but she has half a ribbon in her palm.
His words resound in her ears. Hikari’s so different from you.
Then which one of us is better?
She shakes her head, trying to clear it. She shouldn’t be thinking things like that. She only knows she wants to see him.
Lifting her head away from the screen, she sees a poster for a contest… An international contest, hosted by Mikuri, her idol, from the Houen region… to be hosted in the Shin’ou region…
Her blue eyes sparkle, because now she has the perfect opportunity to.
Hikari is spunky and fun and beautiful, and she can see instantly why Satoshi is so fond of her, because in a short time Haruka’s fond of her as well. Hikari is optimistic and headstrong, brash and confident, and she just sparkles. So much of her reminds Haruka of Satoshi.
Haruka finds she likes Hikari very much. They will compete together in the face of her favorite contest master, the wonderfully handsome Mikuri. And Shuu, Harley, and Saori will be watching her; she asked them to come along, but they were merely lightly amused and shocked that she would travel so far just to enter in a contest. Mikuri is Shuu’s idol too, he once told her, but there was no reason to cross the ocean just to take part in a fairly often contest.
“But Satoshi is in Shin’ou, don’t you want to visit him?” She didn’t realize she was only speaking for herself.
She didn’t see the hurt look on Shuu’s face, but he regained his composure quickly and bid her good luck.
The four of them, Haruka, Hikari, Takeshi, and Satoshi stare at the stadium in which the Mikuri Cup will take place.
“Wow, it’s beautiful…” Haruka breathes. They all stare in silence, because the stadium truly looks magical, against the lakeside. Something about magic compels her to ask him something she’s wanted to ask since her arrival in Shin’ou three days ago. She reveals the ribbon, which she had kept hidden behind her back. “Satoshi, do you still have this?”
“Yeah, of course,” is his response, and all of a sudden she feels light-headed, when he pulls his half from his pocket. His half catches the moonlight, as the starburst rejoins, complete.
Hikari looks confused. “Is that something you both won in a contest?”
“Yeah, it was in the Toneriko Town festival, wasn’t it?” Nostalgia hits her in waves as she holds her half of the ribbon, cupping it with two hands as if it were something sacred. And Haruka realizes what she’s been missing. What the ribbon means to her suddenly flows from her mouth like water from a spigot, and her eyes go blank and out of focus, because she suddenly has double-vision; she sees all the experiences and memories Haruka is talking about in the ribbon. From where she stands Satoshi’s face is reflected on the marigold-colored surface.
“…I feel like it gives me strength,” Hikari finishes, and Haruka but feel even more kinship with her.
“It’s the same for me! This ribbon has always saved me in Johto!” She flushes with excitement; it dawns on her that tomorrow, they will be facing each other on the contest stage.
She realizes with a pang that the center of the ribbon really isn’t a starburst at all, but a marigold in bloom.
Haruka doesn’t want to leave, but she won’t show it on her face. Her eyes are glimmering, maybe they’re wet, but most likely it’s just the light of the sun (she wouldn’t admit to it, if she were crying), which very much resembles the starburst on her favorite contest ribbon. The image of his face is still burned onto its surface.
The sun is still that color, even when the boat gets so loud that all of hers’ and her friends’ goodbyes are drowned out and muted.
It’s not like she was never hopeful.
It’s just that she never had reasons, really, to hope.
Of course he wasn’t going to ask her to travel with him again. Pokémon training and his goal to be a Master were all clearly more important than she; he was so like Senri in that respect. She wouldn’t have ever expected it, and of course he has the notion in his head that she wants to continue traversing an expansive region not knowing whether she will succeed or fail with her rivals constantly edging out over her and the roses swaying ominously in the wind, so why is she disappointed?
It’s not marigold season.
The water is wide, and is only getting wider. Back to a lonely region, where she has nothing but this stupid little ribbon, and yet it’s so important that once, when she almost lost it, she freaked out. Back to a harsh region, where she has to continue her pursuit of a dream that seems farther and farther away (she lost to a newbie in the Mikuri Cup, after all).
On the other side of the water, Shuu is waiting, having missed her. She feels like she’s regressed, and her melancholy clearly shows through her face. She walks into his embrace and they still on the spot; her head on his shoulder. He says calm and sweet words and she suddenly forgets and she leans to taste his lips. When they break apart and he dries her tears, he holds out a scarlet flower, and even then she’s a little crestfallen to see that it’s not orange and gold.
When Shuu kisses her, it’s like she’s competing with him then, too.
Somehow she always ends up bumping against a wall, and it’s almost like he’s attacking her with his kisses, zealous and passionate. She responds in full, trying hard as she can to edge out over him, and always at the end of these kissing sessions she’s left completely out of breath and her lips are scarlet as his roses, and so thoroughly used up they’re worn.
The fast and furious kissing never lets them have any room to breathe at all, and she’s always wondering how his composure is able to stay in such equilibrium, while she’s always left dizzy and disoriented. It always takes a really long time for her breathing to stabilize, almost to the point where she feels like she’s going to faint.
Kind of like a rivalry their kissing is, really. Not that it surprises her. After all, they were rivals to begin with. Shuu is flashy and romantic and arrogant. Shuu is all business.
But sometimes she just wants him to be gentle and encompassing. Sometimes she just wants to be petted, with tender affection. She doesn’t need the flashiness. But all the moments she’s about to bring up what she wants, she sees the look on his face and goes quiet, held at bay in the mercy of the roses. He talks so much about love that she’s convinced she’s in love with him, too.
It hurts for only a second more.
They probably were only meant to be rivals.
It doesn’t take Haruka long at all to convince herself of this, because she’s already on her way. What really does sting though, is that, again, again, again, she isn’t chosen to be loved over loving something else.
Why do people even have to make that choice?
Is there a limit on what a person can love, can focus on?
Her father can’t see past his gym, her ex-boyfriend can’t see past their rivalry.
Her brown hair is swept up by the salty ocean wind, and she tries to brush it behind her ear. The water really is wide, but it won’t stop her, even though it almost did, once.
The water is about to close over them.
The sea temple’s protective bubble is about to shatter, and Haruka can’t help but feel dread the same way that she can’t help but feel her waterlogged shoes. She can feel blisters forming, when the angry fabric from her woolen socks meets her sweating, aching feet and salt water. But those are the least of her worries.
After all, she, Satoshi, and Pikachu are going to die.
And she is about to give up because her lungs are about to give out and there is only so much air left in the collapsing bubble, and they’re searching frantically for an exit, an escape from the deadly water.
Satoshi looks around desperately and he finds a large metal pod. There’s the mark of the Phantom on it, but it’s a human port and that means, someone will be safe from drowning for the time being while in it. With strength she isn’t sure he possesses, he pulls up the pod and opens it.
“Haruka, get in here!” He grabs her hand, and the momentum forces her to step inside the pod. “It’s a human port. You have to!”
She knows what’s coming, but she doesn’t want to believe it, but she’s too tired, they haven’t slept, and they’ve spent the night trying to salvage their lives. He couldn’t. He wouldn’t. Would he? She refuses to think anymore.
He’s slowly lowering her into the life pod. He’s ever so gentle, ever so encompassing. The warmth from his hands seeps through her soaked shirt, sending an electric tingle throughout her body. It’s relaxing, and now that she is lying down she doesn’t want to get up. She’s looking up at him quizzically; can two people fit in here?
Now Pikachu is placed in the pod as well.
She freezes. She knows. He’s opening his mouth to speak, but she can’t hear him. However, she knows what he is saying. When he closes the port, she snaps out of it. Why isn’t he in the pod with her? She screams. “Satoshi!”
But he’s already gone; he can’t hear her. Her breathing is steadily faster and faster, and her heart feels like it’s going to leap from her chest. Pretty soon, they will run out of air.
The seconds drag on and on and on. Time has stopped, and yet his time is running out. She is begging now. He can’t hear her, and yet she needs him to hear her, or else why is she just talking to herself? She believes in him; he’s alive, he has to be alive. She won’t even consider the alternative.
Manaphy complies; the Prince sends Haruka’s pleas to him.
Please don’t fall on dead ears.
Heart Swap doesn’t work like it usually does, and that is, as the name implies, switches the heart of one person to the other, and vice versa. She wouldn’t mind switching places with him; it’s her fault, if he’s…
No. She won’t think about it. She squeezes her eyes shut and digs her fingers deeper into her knuckles.
But that’s not what happens. It’s more like… they became one.
Satoshi and Haruka sit side by side in a field of flowers. Hikari and Takeshi are tactful enough so that they do not make themselves visible, but Haruka knows they are hovering nearby, but essentially, Satoshi and Haruka are alone.
And since they are alone, she tells him about the roses.
Naturally, he doesn’t understand. He just smiles. Laughs. “I know you like roses, Haruka, but they have thorns.”
He is much more insightful than he looks.
He stands up suddenly and goes behind a row of tall, green, sturdy plants. Haruka hears rustling, and then Satoshi reappears with a handful of marigolds.
Even from where she sits, she can smell them, and she shuts her eyes, intoxicated as she’s never been before.
“Now me, I like these.”
They are bold, beautiful.
Satoshi is different from the roses – he’s boundless.
Unabashedly, she pulls her to him until she feels his soft lips on hers.
She tastes his shock and uncertainty and surprise. She also feels a sense of innocence, a sense of abandon. She is satisfied. How quickly she finds and is familiar with the fact that she loves him, when just before how tantalized she was by the roses.
Again, he embodies gentleness, encompassing warmth. He is a very good kisser, even for his first time.
But she will teach him to be better.