"Thanks for doing this for me, Gramps," I said, smirking at the name I used to call him. He chuckled lightly as his eyes flicked to meet mine in the rear-view mirror of his car.
"Well, it's really no trouble at all, Blue! Although I must admit, it is just a tiny bit odd. I mean, don't you usually just fly places with Pidgeot?"
True. I did. This occasion deserved a special occasion, however, and I voiced this to him: "It's special. I need time to think, and I think it deserves the lack of convenience."
He nodded, smiling. "That's true, I suppose." After that, he left me to my thoughts, instead focusing on driving.
I didn't really know what I should think about. Hell, I couldn't really think, at that. I was heading toward a new chapter in my life, and to be honest, that almost frightened me. I was no longer the brave little kid I had been several years ago; that bravery had stemmed from my naďveté. I'm no coward, of course, but now that I've been exposed to the problems of the world, it's no longer my *****.
I tried hard to clear my mind. I focused on the hums of the engines of the other cars that surrounded us. Separately, they were just an annoyance, but together, they were a chorus, a chorus of human ingenuity and, for me, loss.
The hums were doing their job, better than I had expected. With them as my mental canvas, I was suddenly able to lay before me the memories I had been seeking just a minute earlier. From when I had just caught him just outside of Mt. Moon, to when I used him to finish off Red's Bulbasaur in Cerulean City, and finally to when he had been severely wounded by Red's Charmeleon on the S.S. Anne.
That one I spent a considerable amount of time dwelling on. It wasn't entirely Red's fault, I knew that much; if the place hadn't been packed, I would have been able to make it to a Pokémon Center in time. As it was, though, I had to sit on the edge of a pier, Raticate in my arms, as the life slowly drained from his helpless body.
That day, something had changed inside of me. No longer was I playing for the hell of it. I was playing to win. I had to do it, for Raticate. I didn't know much about loss or sacrifice, but I didn't want his to be in vain. I swore on his grave that I would come out on top, that I would be Champion… for him. I kept going, pushing harder, but for some reason, I kept losing, over and over. I was still good enough to beat the gyms, but I could never beat Red again, despite always being one step ahead of him.
And then… I finally got far enough. I had all eight of the badges I needed and my Pokémon were in tip-top shape. One by one, I swept through the Elite Four: Lorelei, Bruno, Agatha, Lance. None of them presented even a smidgen of a threat. At the time, I thought it was hilarious, an eleven-year-old singlehandedly defeating the four most powerful trainers in Kanto. Now… I just don't know.
Then, not a day after I had risen right to the top, I was faced with a challenger, the one person I wanted to see the least then: Red.
It was a long, tiring (even for us, as the trainers), and ultimately decisive battle. Red won. My own grandfather came and congratulated him for his victory, and berated me for the way I treated my Pokémon. Sure, I had been a little hard on them, but I had to win! And yet, I didn't. I had broken my promise to Raticate, and on top of that, Gramps thought I was a loser. Maybe I was. I didn't know, and I still don't know.
The sound of the car's engine grinding to a halt startled me. My eyes flicked open; I had been sleeping. Had they been memories, then, or dreams? I suppose it didn't really matter. Gramps twisted his head around to look at me while he adjusted the radio.
"I'll be here," was his simple statement. I nodded, and stepped outside, slamming the car door shut as I did so.
Cascades of rain swept over me, and I pulled my jacket tighter against my body. Rain. Perfect.
I had to squint my eyes as I walked toward the small building that housed the remaining graves from Lavender Tower: the Soul House. Eager to escape the cold waves of water in free-fall, I ducked inside, closing the door shut behind me.
I hurriedly checked in; I wanted this to be over as quickly as possible. With a swish of a pen, my name glistened at the bottom of a small list. I sighed as I realized I recognized some of the names (Good people, I thought). I put down the list and made my way through the humble abode of deceased creatures.
The house itself was pretty small; one floor, but on a plot of land about two-hundred feet in length and about the same in width. When the city council had decided to scrap the Pokémon Tower in favor of a radio tower, most trainers had paid for their deceased partners to be moved somewhere private. Some, however, including me, decided to support the creation of a new, albeit smaller, building in town. Whether they did it because they lived nearby or it felt proper to let them stay here, I don't know. All I know is that I preferred the quiet solemnity the town offered when I came to visit.
I soon arrived at his resting place. The gravestone was simple granite in an arc shape. I was eleven when he was buried, I didn't have the time or money to have something better made. It suited him, though, being a Normal-type. There were only a few words carved into the surface: the day he died and some silly poem I wrote. I knelt down to read it again:
Even though you now are gone
You have been laid to rest
Just know that I'll remember you
'Cuz you really were the best
A couple tears broke from their hiding place in my lids and raced down my cheeks. I couldn't help it; all the emotions I had held back for years came flooding back: the anguish that tore through me as he breathed his last, the anger I felt against Red, and the melancholic inspiration that drove me to conquer the League. I sat back on the tile floor as I was consumed by the flood of feelings. I sobbed, attracting a couple stares from the few people around that were surprised to see the 'rough and tough' Gym Leader of Viridian City crying like a baby. I didn't care. They didn't know me, or what I went through. They could never understand the feeling of having your dreams torn away from you.
I knew what I had to do, though. I wiped away my tears and pulled a piece of paper out of my pocket. On it I had written all of the things that were bothering me and complicating my life with Green. I unfolded it and laid it face-down over Raticate's grave. Next was a lighter. I sparked the device, causing the paper to burst into flame. I smiled as I watched the flames slowly snake their way across the page, biting and chewing at the paper, leaving only a fragile fragment of ash behind.
When all was said and done, and the ashes had crumbled, disappearing into the tiny holes in the soil, I felt a great weight lift from my soul. It was as if those problems were an anchor that had tethered me to misery. For the first time in a long while, I felt… alive. I bid Raticate farewell one last time, pitching forward to kiss the headstone. I stood then, and walked out of the building.
The rain had somehow let up in the time I had been in there. I realized that Gramps' car was nowhere to be seen when I felt a hand on my shoulder. My hand immediately flew up in response. I would recognize that hand anywhere. Green spun me around and wrapped her arms around me. She leaned her head against my chest, and I swayed back and forth, laying my arms around her shoulders lightly. After a couple moments of this, she squeezed, then let go.
"Thank you, Blue, thank you so much!"
I was surprised. "Thank me? For what?"
"You're letting go of the past. That's all I wanted."
"Well, it's hard to deny you." Her lips stretched into a wide smile and she pulled me down to sit on the steps in front of the building.
"Still, thank you. I couldn't stand seeing you dwell on the past so much. It was getting to be too much, for me AND you." She leaned over and her lips lightly brushed against my cheek. I realized it, then. It was over. All the troubles that had ridden on me in the past, those were all gone. All I had to look forward to was a good life with Green, as Gym Leader of Viridian City.
We stayed there on the steps for a long time, leaning against each other. The great blankets of gray overhead broke, casting glistening beams of sunshine all over us. It might have been cliché as all hell, but I couldn't have asked for anything more.