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SURVIVAL PROJECT

chapter 6 ; [ATIS]
escalate

*

I lost track of days not long after I left Violet City with Sai.

Saying good-bye to Earl had been an easier feat than I had expected—he was happy for me, and seemed all too eager to give me away to a boy who was leaving his school much earlier than the rest of his students. That was his personality, I knew. He was caring and trusting and he always had everyone’s best intentions in mind. I wondered if he would miss me or if he really didn’t want to let me go, but I tried not to dwell on it. I wouldn’t have been able to stand knowing that he would be thinking of me in such a negative way whenever he encountered something that reminded him of me.
Hmm. I'm trying to remember, did Sai actually get permission to take Atis or did Sai steal him?

Even if he hadn’t wanted me to leave, I would have done so anyway. Leaving meant a better chance of finding joy. And although Sai was rather odd, it was this lack of normalcy that attracted me to him. Maybe, just maybe, I could change him. I could deter him from pokémon training. I could be… something. The path to Azalea Town made me think of this even more, especially when the sentret—or Senori, as I eventually learned—almost got hurt, but was saved by another trainer. Possible danger and discouragement from others could be ideas used against him during my efforts. The situation even made me second guess my decision, though I was prone to such swaying.

Yes, I lost track of days so that I could focus on using my time wisely rather than watching it simply pass by.
I have to say, this part is by itself already a big development of Atis's character. You're using words very efficiently, and really reinforcing what we know about Atis already.

Still, Sai made it difficult to lose track of time. It took a little over three weeks to get out the cave, he said. During those last few days, I was forced to keep up with him because he was walking so fast. If I tried to get lost in my thoughts and ignore the rest of the world like I usually did, I fell behind and panicked. So I tried to keep myself focused. I could hear him mumbling numbers over and over as he swiftly made his way through the rest of the cave while simply assuming that we were close behind. Time seemed important to this boy all of a sudden. Before, he was content to come to the school day after day, and he allowed me an entire week to prepare for my departure. Now, he seemed obsessed with numbers and speed, as if his life depended on it. Kuiora seemed to notice, but didn’t care much—she only tried to get his attention by beating the occasional wild pokémon that dared to fight. And Senori often looked at him with concern, but was too paralyzed to say anything.
"It took a little over three weeks to get out of the cave." Besides that, another good paragraph.

When we got to Azalea Town, his suddenly obsessive self scattered and escalated to a pace that no one else could keep up with.
Uh oh. Something big is about to go down, isn't it?

The first night was normal enough. He wanted to sleep in the pokémon center, as expected. No trainer could resist the luxury of pokémon centers, though he didn’t try to hide the glares he gave the nurses who looked at us. Despite his unnecessary anger, they gave us a room with two beds and other standard human things. I watched from the doorway as Sai paced around the room anxiously, and as Kuiora and Senori stared at objects that perhaps only I had seen before—lamps, carpet, indoor plants. They treaded lightly and refused to touch anything, as if it all was sacred and fragile. At one point, a worker from the center knocked on our door and offered us some pokémon food, which they also took as if they were being presented with the greatest gift in the world.

Though curiosity was present, tiredness was overpowering, and the night soon ended. Kuiora and Senori slept together on the bottom bunk since they were closer friends, while I took the top so that no one could see me. Sai didn’t sleep at all—he just kept pacing, back and forth, back and forth, mumbling incomprehensibly. I thought I could feel him watching me, but I was too exhausted to care. Anxiety had a limit when you were constantly exposed to the idea of being crushed by a bunch of rocks, I supposed…
I'm beginning to wonder about him again. This isn't normal.

“I like his style today,” Kuiora said, not bothering to let the boy get to her. She bounced off of the bed and headed for the door herself, smiling. “I’m going to get some food.”
Who is the "his" referring to?

Senori soon followed her, though he didn’t say anything. I just stood in place for a few moments, wondering whether or not to go with them. Staying and enjoying the peace and quiet was an option, but I knew that if I really wanted to start getting involved with Sai’s life before he decided his fate on his own, I couldn’t just hide forever. I made my way out of the room, finding small amounts of comfort in the soft floor below me.

I followed Senori around the corner, noting how quiet it still was. Everyone else still must have been sleeping. The center surely couldn’t have just been empty—there had been too many trainers around when we arrived last night. It was impossible for me not to notice. While I was wondering why the place was so quiet, I didn’t notice that Senori had stopped moving, and I accidentally bumped into him.

“I-I’m sorry,” I said, looking down to the floor bashfully and running my foot along the carpet, seeking more comfort.

“It’s fine. I’m not sure where Sai went,” Senori said simply.
I don't think this can possibly have a good ending.

When we got there, however, Sai was gone. Kuiora was obliviously eating nearly everything in sight, especially the berries. She didn’t see us come in, and we had to ask her quite a few times where Sai was before she acknowledged us.

“He came in here and then left this place. Didn’t even eat,” she explained in between bites of food.

“You didn’t follow him to see where he was going?” Senori asked, tilting his head to the side.

“Nope. I was hungry… and he’s the trainer, not me.”
Now I'm beginning to feel Kuiora's personality. You're doing very well at that.

The sky was half bright, half dark when I walked out of the pokémon center. The city itself was half bright, half dark, as the forest towered over the part of the city that we hadn’t come in through. There were some hints of light on the other side where we arrived, and I looked at those areas first, noting how the pavement was uncomfortable beneath my feet. I was used to darkness—I craved it, even—but I couldn’t help hopefully looking toward the lighter side of things. With so little people out this early in the morning and with the illuminated part of the city demanding my attention, finding Sai was an easy task, though deciding whether or not to chase after him was another story.
I personally would not use "half bright, half dark" twice in such rapid succession. It's a little bit repetitive.

I had to decide whether or not to chase him because I saw him entering a random house.

It occurred to me that I had no idea where my trainer lived. Wherever it was, it couldn’t have been in Azalea Town… right? Why sleep in the pokémon center, then? He wasn’t the kind that seemed to like much interaction, however. I understood this, but I also understood that there were more efficient ways of going about avoiding those you lived with…

I decided to chase after him. I ran through the small town, trying to focus on the house so that I wouldn’t arrive there only to forget which one he had entered. They all looked the same, just as all trainers were the same. When I got to the house, the door was still propped open, so I reluctantly stepped inside. My heart was beginning to race, and I tried to calm myself down with the idea that this was no different than entering the school. Everyone was allowed there, even if it belonged to Earl. I could only hope that the owner here was as nice as he was.
I really like the touch of noting that Atis has to remember which house Sai entered. It just seems like something a Pokemon would have to do compared to a human.

My heart stopped when Sai tried to walk out just as soon as I entered, and ended up colliding with me unexpectedly. I stumbled backward, falling and landed on my back. I stayed on the ground, making no attempt to stand back up. Surely, things could have been worse, but the idea of being caught unwanted in someone else’s home was enough to send me panicking. And hadn’t I left the other pokémon to avoid this kind of reaction? I couldn’t win.

“Atis!” Sai said excitedly. He reached down and lifted me to put me back on my feet. I looked up at him and there was something odd about his eyes. I knew they were a dark blue, but now they seemed… glazed over. Deadened and desperate, somehow, though his demeanor said otherwise.
This really, really does not sound like a good thing...

“Um, hi,” I started lamely. I couldn’t stop looking at his eyes.

“I’m sorry I skipped breakfast, Atis,” he said quickly. “I wanted to go out and, you know, um, meet people. The door here was unlocked, but I went in the first room and no one was there. And the place was so big and cozy, you know, I couldn’t take it, I’m not used to it, but I’m going to try again, okay?”
This isn't Sai. Something happened.

“Uh…” He was speaking too fast for me to fully understand. Something about seeing people and not being used to it. I simply nodded—words were useless here.

“Okay, let’s go find the next house then,” Sai said, holding on to my arm and pulling me to the next house over. Why did these things have to almost be right next to each other? I didn’t have much time to process what was going on, but I immediately made a whining noise when Sai went to try opening that door, too.

“What’s wrong, Atis?” Sai asked, though he still went to turn the knob. It was locked.

“I, uh, these houses… They aren’t yours. You can’t just go in them,” I mumbled. His eyes widened in response.

“Why not? Senori always says things like that.”

“They’re private. You have to ask to go in,” I said, a bit more confidently this time.

“Oh. I guess they’re too good and cozy for everyone to have,” Sai said, though his voice was still upbeat, as Senori would have put it.
I'm beginning to wonder if my theory was right. He really seems completely unfamiliar with such simple concepts.

“Uh, right…”

“Okay, then! Well, we now have a goal for today.”

“We do?”

“Yep. We’re going to get invited to everyone’s houses. We’ll get to everyone in town,” Sai declared, grinning ecstatically.
This... isn't going to go well.

“Oh…?” I started, but Sai had already started wandering off to find the few people who were already wandering about. I made my way over to him as fast as I could, but I was a bit late. He was talking to a girl who didn’t look quite as confused as I was, but pretty close. Her hands grabbed on to the straps of the bag that rested at her side, and her lips were parted slightly, as if she were going to speak, but was unsure of what to say. There was more sunlight now that dawn had passed—was Sai looking for brightness, too? I couldn’t tell what he wanted. I felt more and more disconnected with this boy with every passing minute, but it seemed to be the opposite for him. He was feeling more, connecting more—at the expense of his dignity, no doubt, but he nonetheless seemed to be making an attempt at being… human.

“So, yeah…” I heard Sai say. “I’d really, really like to come by and see everything and, uh, talk.”

“Um...” the girl said, looking around nervously. And then she spotted me. I was standing behind Sai’s legs, trying to stay hidden yet present so that I could stop him should he do anything too stupid. “Are you a trainer?”

“Yes,” Sai said proudly. “This is Atis, my hitmontop. He’s a little shy, but that’s okay.”

“My brother’s a trainer, too,” she said proudly, thankfully ignoring me from then on. “He just got back to town after getting his first pokémon. He says being around non-trainers is already a bit weird, so maybe he’d like you to come over.”
Wow, I'm surprised that this actually worked.

“That’d be nice. Let’s go, then,” Sai said, taking a step toward her.

“Oh, it’s a bit early right now... Why don’t you come back later? For dinner or something,” the girl said. “Just remember which house I live in, okay? They all look the same.”
Inviting Sai over for dinner... I don't like where this could be going...

Sai’s face fell a little, but he didn’t lose his spirit. He said good-bye to her and told me he was going to go find someone who would talk to him now, and he was off again. What luck he had, after all, getting one step closer to reaching his goal not even five minutes into his adventure! And what terrible encouragement, I thought bitterly.

The next few people he talked to, though, were trainers who didn’t live in Azalea Town. They offered, however, to give away their phone numbers, just in case he ever wanted to talk or if he needed something. When he explained he didn’t have a phone, he was advised to get one, and to hand out his number whenever he was given the chance. It was extremely helpful among trainers, apparently, to have some kind of back-up help if necessary. I wondered where they had learned that. While I didn’t approve of the training thing, I did approve of the tactic…
Is this meant to lampshade the Pokegear and phone number trading? I had to smile a little at it because of that.

And while I was lost in my thoughts, Sai had left again. He was off to the pokémart.

At least I knew where the pokémart was. They were always easy to point out because of their blue roofs and a sign that blatantly said what the building was used for. I went inside and spotted Sai talking to the sales clerk, presumably asking for a phone.

We were there for quite a few hours, which was the longest amount of time I had seen Sai sit still for thus far, if you didn’t count the adventure in the cave. There was just so much to choose from, Sai pointed out. Some phones had special features. All of them came in different shapes and sizes, too!

After a while, I no longer bothered to stick around and listen to his ramblings. Following him around everywhere had already been tiring. Instead, I wandered around, seeing what other things that humans were allowed to buy. I ended up in the clothes section, since it was the only part of the store that didn’t scream out to trainers. Yes, people needed clothes for everyday use—and who made these clothes, anyway? Were there really enough people in the world to make enough clothes for everyone, when most people insisted on raising useless pokémon like me? The clothes aisle really wasn’t cutting it, either.
Nice expansion on the stock and purpose of a Pokemart.

Luckily, or unluckily, Sai eventually ran over to me and presented three phones that he had just bought. They all had the same essential feature that he was looking for, though if I remembered right, some of them had games available, along with maps and information about pokémon.

“Don’t you only need… one?” was all I could ask.
I am really beginning to wonder about why he has so much money so easily available to him.

“Anyway, uh, we’re going to be leaving again soon… for dinner,” I said after a few moments of silence.

“Dinner?”

“Yep. Apparently, Sai now thinks that the town and everyone in it is his friend.”

Senori’s face brightened. “That’s a good thing! Maybe he won’t be angry anymore.”
I don't know. Something about this gives me a really bad feeling.

Until it was time to go to dinner, Sai spent the rest of the time running around the lobby of the pokémon center, talking to everyone and showing off his partly dressed pokémon. Whenever he simply introduced me as his strong hitmontop, I closed my eyes and felt myself redden from embarrassment. There were so many pokémon around—none of which were evolved—and I knew they were all looking at me. All the new pokémon at the school had done the same. Some of the girls thought it was cute, but most people were trainers and were in a hurry to get going in order to get a head start in the forest before dark. They ignored him or brushed him off, and I breathed a huge sigh of relief.
I can feel Atis's embarrassment here. It's palpable.

I was able to get a better look at her when we found her since it was daytime. Blonde hair, big dark eyes, a narrow face with soft skin and a small mouth. She looked an awful lot like the guy who had saved Senori in the cave, and I hoped my assumptions weren’t correct. Since I had to memorize faces at the pokémon school and there had been quite a few siblings there over the years, I didn’t think I was wrong. I knew, at least, that he wouldn’t be here tonight, but still…
Oh no. Here we go.

I started paying attention to the situation at hand when she solemnly announced that Sai had been an hour late and had already missed dinner. And she didn’t have any pokémon food, though her brother should have been out shopping for some at that very moment. That only heightened my suspicions, but I didn’t have time to think about it as Sai pushed past her and walked into the house anyway. She looked shocked, but didn’t question him or make any attempt to get rid of him.

Us three pokémon stared at one another, wondering if we should follow. Kuiora decided to take the lead and went in as well—he was our trainer, after all, and we couldn’t get in trouble for being loyal, now could we? I was about to point out my observations about the girl, but decided against it.
I really have to say, I love how you're illustrating the differences in their personalities. Kuiora is acting nicely as a catalyst for that.

“I don’t mean to be rude… but do you have your own place? Where are you from?”

Sai stopped. He didn’t blink, didn’t move. For a moment, he was passive once again. “Vermilion City. And sure I did,” he said finally, “but it was different.”
    Spoiler:- Sai:


“Oh? How so? I don’t know much about the Kanto region,” she explained. She sat down at the table and motioned for Sai to join her, but he didn’t. I wondered if he missed the gesture entirely or was too fascinated by the table to the point where he was afraid of breaking it.

“I’ve never been in a kitchen. People brought food to me,” he said, smiling again.

“Not much of a cook, huh?” she said, smiling back. I noted that she didn’t take Sai so seriously, though I believed actions spoke much louder than words.

“Yeah… I mean, I had walls. And, uh, a bed…”
    Spoiler:- Sai:


I tuned them out until Sai said it was time to go. I was thinking that, in a sense, this was like being with Earl in Violet City. Conversations were vague and inconclusive. No one was particularly close with anyone, though they sure tried to be. The main difference was that Earl was never so excited to be in such a place, while Sai was ecstatic.

I thought that maybe something good could come from this hectic day. Sai seemed happiest in a comforting place like this. He sure was happier than any other time I’d seen him so far, anyway. Maybe he could stay in Azalea Town. He didn’t have to travel or train; he could make new goals. Yes, this morning he had had a rather odd… goal. But it had nothing to do with pokémon, and I could work with that. He didn’t even complete his goal, either, but I could work with that, too. I wasn’t accustomed to being a battling pokémon, and neither was Senori. Kuiora may have been another story, but she was young; she could adapt without problem. We could stay, and Sai could become something that wasn’t a trainer, something that wouldn’t make him miserable.
If only Sai's life could be that simple...

When Sai said it was time to go, the girl ushered us out the door. I was hardly paying attention to anything being said anymore, but I did hear him address her as Sasha. I mentally said good-bye to her, and hoped that we wouldn’t be getting any trouble over visiting if her brother really was the boy who didn’t like Sai.

I also noted that she didn’t invite us to stay for the night. Wasn’t that a normal thing to offer your guests? It was probably for the best if my assumptions about her knowing the hero from the cave. I wasn’t human, so I couldn’t tell the depth of her wariness toward Sai. I just knew that I probably felt more human than he did that day, and that needed to change.
That last line strikes me as something worth noting, I think.

“Yep,” he replied. I had been hoping for a different answer, but okay. I could deal with that.

“Well, I thought that we could… Well, you seemed happier in Azalea Town today.” I stepped a little further inside the room as I noticed that I was still by the doorway. I had to appear friendly, not scared.

“I guess… Visiting the girl was fun, but she also pointed out my enthusiasm,” Sai said, bending down to take off his shoes. Halfway through untying them, he stood up.

“That’s a bad thing?” I asked, watching him. He started rearranging things in the room—he opened the windows, put the plants in different corners, ruffled and then fixed the bed sheets. It took a long time for him to answer.

“Most of the time...” he finally said, slowly. Once again, he seemed passive, and I wasn’t sure why.

“I think it’s a good thing,” I pointed out, trying to cheer him up.

But it backfired.

“And what do you know?” he snapped, turning sharply to look at me. His eyes were still glazed over, I noticed. It was hard not to notice. I stumbled backward a bit despite myself, as if he had physically hit me.

“Being happy is a g-good thing, Sai… Y-You seemed happy here, you know? Talking to everyone and everything,” I said. I didn’t believe my own words. “M-Maybe we could stay here for a while. It doesn’t have to be permanent, but it could be longer than a few days…”

He simply kept walking around, slower this time, still cleaning things, still attempting to fix things that weren’t broken in the first place. I just stared and wondered if I had said too much and stayed too long.

Eventually, he mumbled, “Get out.”

“Huh?” I wanted to make sure I had heard him right. If I couldn’t succeed now, who knew when I’d try again…?

“I told you to get out,” Sai said, louder and more stern this time. He made his way over the table in the corner of the room.

“I got you guys your own rooms for a reason—”

—he moved the lamp on the table from one side to another—

“—so get out—”

—and it apparently wasn’t good enough, it wasn’t perfect, so he tried again—

“—go to your own room—”

—but it was no good, so he ripped the cord out of the wall—

“—just get out!”

—because it’s always the little things that get to us.

He finally stopped screaming and fumbling with the lamp.

Instead, he growled and threw the lamp at me.
Yeah, here it goes. I knew he wasn't going to last like that. Something is very, very wrong with him, especially with the hyper-elevation of his mood earlier in the day.

Kuiora, however, was another story. Her door opened and she looked at me with a mixture of annoyance and confusion. She had taken the time to drag a chair to the door so that she could open the door. Now, she was looking down at me.
Another neat bit of characterization for Kuiora, her craftiness and ingenuity.

“He’s just angry. We shouldn’t, uh, interfere…” I said before she could question anything, noting the obvious hypocrisy in my words.

“I thought you two were fighting,” she pointed out.

“We kind of were…” I said sheepishly.

“Physical fighting? Pokémon battle fighting?”

“Well, no, but—”

“I’m going to become stronger than you someday, you know.”

“Eh?” I asked. Just what I needed—more cryptic answers… I half-heartedly listened as I checked over the rest of my body to make sure I wasn’t hurt.

“Yeah. You got to fight the first gym battle all by yourself and you apparently got some attention tonight. But I’m going to get stronger than you. It’ll be a competition of sorts,” she said.

Well, I wasn’t hurt physically, but mentally… “I-I don’t want competition—” I started, but she cut me off with a water gun to the face. I didn’t finish my sentence, and was now spitting water out of my mouth instead of words. It was an accurate comparison, but annoying nonetheless.

“You can’t expect to be the strongest and not have competition!” Kuiora cried.

At least it wasn’t a lamp, I thought bitterly. At least I wasn’t hearing screaming or crashing anymore. But now I was wet and cold and utterly defeated. I was done.

“I don’t need this…” I said. I stood up, coughed up the last of the water that had been shot into my mouth, and I finally let myself into my own room. “I’m going to bed. You can have him.”

“Wait—”

I shut the door.

I heard nothing else for the rest of the night.
The level of development you're giving to the Pokemon is excellent. I'm really loving how each one has their own distinct, developed personality with strengths and flaws that contribute to their respective views of situations.

“Could I stay in your room tonight?” he asked quickly. Well, he sure didn’t waste any time getting to the point, but it wasn’t at all what I was expecting. And what was I expecting, anyway? An apology? …A hug? It wasn’t likely.

“Um…” was all I could say. He looked tired, but apparently, he was still moving quickly, thinking quickly.

“Look, I’m sorry that happened. I-I mean… That’s not right. You have to understand. I get these moods sometimes. Everything speeds up for me, I think so much, and I want to do a million things at once and I want to talk to a million people so I forget things, things don’t get done, and there’s never enough time in the world though it goes by so slowly, and yeah, I seem happy, this is the first time I’ve ever been able to do things I wanted when like this, and it was fun but it turned wrong, I can always turn angry so fast and… and… I’m not usually violent, but that was a touchy subject. I don’t know… Being happy is depressing for me, it’s stressful, everything’s too fast. I can’t think straight right now. I can’t… Do you understand what I’m saying?”
I just got struck like a freight train by a crushing idea that I can guess exactly what his origin actually is if my original guess was wrong. It just hit me.

“Oh. Well, you didn’t miss too much. Some poison pokémon threatened to kill me after I tried to pick it up and talk to it. Senori had to try to talk some sense into it or something. I don’t remember much else…”

“Sounds like it was another interesting day,” I noted. Somehow, I was still surprised.

But he wasn’t. He just said, “Something like that,” and then we were quiet.
And that can't be a good sign either.

All in all, this chapter was very challenging emotionally. You were right that reading it gets a reader emotionally tied to Sai, and that rollercoaster effect you described was in full effect. I really do believe that I can accurately guess what's going on with Sai now. The biggest part I want to comment on is the development of the Pokemon - this chapter was the one where they really began to stand out completely as separate entities, and it worked superbly.