Thanks for the reviews as always, guys. I've been busy due to holidays so I won't be giving individual replies this time, but do know that I read them and appreciate them. I just want to get a chapter out today because it's been a while.
@The Great Butler: the word was "death".
chapter 16 ; [KUIORA]
If I had learned anything about the team this past week and a half, it was this: everyone makes mistakes—even me, unfortunately. Of course, I had known this before, but the consequences of my mistakes had increased greatly since going on a pokémon journey. After all, who at Professor Elm’s lab cared if my water gun wasn’t as powerful as it was supposed to be? Well, I did, but that was beside the point. No one else saw, and that was what mattered.
On the other hand, now my mistakes were becoming much more noticeable. How embarrassing it was for me to lose to that clefairy when it was a simple normal-type pokémon. It wasn’t my fault that it so luckily had an electric-type attack at its disposal, but the defeat was still unbearable. I had spent the rest of the day lamenting and imagining the scene over and over in my mind while I was in my pokéball, which was different from the peaceful restfulness that the ball had provided for me in the past. Ezrem had told me that Rennio had experienced a loss much more painful, though, and it made me breathe a slight sigh of relief.
Ezrem was also so nice to inform me that Sai had disappeared… My trainer had made the greatest mistake of all, by leaving his team when they needed him the most! We needed him to retrain us for the gym, and then have us all head back there for a rematch! Where could he possibly have gone to at a time like this? I couldn’t so easily forgive him, no matter where he was. Maybe I was just being stubborn, but I didn’t care.
Then there was Senori, who went and lost our supplies in the blink of an eye—a blunder that also wasn’t his fault, but the blame was still on him. Atis made the mistake of never wanting to fight or become stronger. And Ezrem seemed to miss the memo, too. He was a legendary pokémon that didn’t even know he was a legendary pokémon! I had been about to tell him why he was so special, especially to me, but we had gotten so rudely interrupted.
I knew that he was special because I had seen pictures of rufflet and braviary in the past, at Professor Elm’s lab, when I had heard the story I had recited to Ezrem. I had noticed a difference between Ezrem and the rufflet in the pictures—it hit me a few moments after we had met—and I thought: weren’t rufflet supposed to be blue, not red?
I made a note to myself, saying that I would have to ask him about it sometime, so he knew.
Two more days passed after the interruption me and Ezrem had during our conversation, but I hadn’t brought it up to him because he had suddenly turned so quiet. Something had clearly happened to him on that trip where he ran away from me and from Sasha, but I couldn’t figure it out, nor would he tell me. He never told me much about himself. The only things that came out of that bird’s mouth were things that made me feel like I had the right to slap him upside the head, even if he was a legendary. And I had done that, several times. But I had stopped entirely for the last two days—that’s how mute he was being.
Needless to say, he wasn’t making great company. I vaguely wished that I could switch my partner, but Senori wouldn’t allow it. “I think I’m a better fit for Rennio, and you don’t like Atis, anyway,” he had said. Well, fine. I would just find my own, new partner outside of the team, then!
When Ezrem was napping against the trees we had sat against while talking and laughing, I went over to a pond that he had shown me when we first arrived into the wild. Being a wild pokémon, I had gathered, was nothing special. You had to retrieve your own food and water instead of having it handed to you, and there was other competition out there, whereas everyone at the lab had been… friends. Those who wanted a trainer waited ever so patiently, while those who didn’t want a trainer had to live in fear of being caught. Yeah, it wasn’t anything special, and not for the first time, I was glad to have been raised by Professor Elm. But I would at least put good use to this pond by finding myself a new escort.
I stood by the edge of the pond, leaning over and washing my face with my paws. I thought I would wait for a water-type pokémon to come around and talk to me—one was bound to swim up to the surface of pond eventually, after all. Getting bored rather quickly, I remembered that I was a water-type pokémon myself, and decided to just plunge into the water myself and find someone. Diving into the water, I wondered what kinds of pokémon I would run into.
I soon found out. There were plenty of magikarp swimming around together and murmuring to themselves as they passed by. A few psyduck floated around the water, some on their backs, which looked rather odd, but I said nothing. To my dismay, I didn’t see any totodile—I guessed that they were only really found near Professor Elm’s lab, after all.
The most peculiar thing I found was a pack of poliwag, all huddled around together at the bottom of the pond, away from everyone else, as if they were discussing some secret that couldn’t be known to the rest of the pokémon there. I made my way over to them, curious and hoping to learn more about them. There were a couple psyduck and magikarp in the pack, I noticed as I swam over to them, but not too many. There was also a larger version of the poliwag present, one with arms and longer legs. I assumed it to be a powerful, evolved form.
As I approached, I heard one of the poliwag say, “The ceremony will take place tonight, so everyone should be there if they can.”
“Ceremony? What ceremony?” I instinctively said, butting in as I placed my feet on the bottom of the pond. I put myself in between the poliwag who spoke and a psyduck, noting the rough, pebbly exterior of the pond floor. Whatever they had to say, I wished they would say it fast so I could get the feeling away from my poor feet.
They all looked at me curiously, suspiciously, and no one said anything for a while. Finally, the poliwhirl stepped in and asked, “Excuse me, but who are you?”
“I am Kuiora, the only croconaw in this pond!” I cried, my voice full of excitement as I was able to prove myself to others. “Since I am the only croconaw, that also makes me the strongest.”
“I see…” the poliwhirl said, scratching its belly. “You are new to this pond, then.”
“I have a trainer, but he’s kind of missing at the moment,” I explained, “so here I am.”
“I see,” the poliwhirl said again. Since it had no real mouth, just a stomach full of swirls that all went in the same direction, I couldn’t tell if he was happy to see me or not. He seemed to accept me, at least, when he added, “Well, welcome to the pond. We have a tradition here that takes place once in a great while, at no specific times. Would you like to join us?”
“Sure!” I said, filled with glee over finding not just one partner, but several of them. I could least tell that the psyduck were smiling at me with their upturned bills, so I felt comfortable.
“There are very few staryu around these parts,” the poliwhirl—who I came to see was the leader, now—started. “There are also very few water stones that we come across. They’re either left by trainers who found them in other bodies of water, or they are left from the skies above. We find them around here before anyone else does, with any sort of luck. As you can probably tell, we’ve found a water stone, and therefore we are ready to evolve one of the chosen staryu.”
“Why is this a ceremony?” I interrupted, remembering some more stories about certain pokémon from Professor Elm’s lab. “Don’t pokémon evolve from stones all the time?”
“Well, yes,” the poliwhirl admitted, “but the staryu are an interesting, special species.”
“The creature that staryu evolves into is known as starmie. Starmie are considered to be… alien creatures. That status shows us that they are very rare and are deserving of special treatment.”
Once the poliwhirl was done talking, I was even more certain that I had come to the right place. Not only had I found several partners, now I had come across the chance to meet another rare, legendary pokémon! This day was just getting better and better.
“Every participant gathers their own food around the forest. Any food goes,” the poliwhirl went on. “The choice has been given to all pokémon, as we couldn’t reach an agreement on whether or not killing others for food was acceptable. For some, it is okay by their moral standards. For others, not so much. Anyway, you will bring this food to the ceremony, and the rest will be made clear to you during the actual ritual. Oh, and another thing—men are not allowed to know about this ceremony.”
“Why not?” I asked, suddenly feeling a bit more solemn. I was hoping to bring Ezrem to the ceremony if I was able to. Then again, he wasn’t a water-type pokémon, so he wouldn’t have been applicable no matter what. Still, I wanted to share this momentous occasion with him.
“Some ceremonies involve only men. It depends on the sex of whoever finds the water stone. This is because staryu are genderless,” the poliwhirl explained. “In this case, a female found the stone.”
“I see,” I said, my voice quiet and probably barely audible above the magikarp that swam above us, still murmuring the same words over and over.
“Any other questions?”
“Nope!” I said, while the others shook their heads no. I wondered why they had been so silent up until now, but I assumed that they were just unaccustomed to my presence, and felt a threat to the unknown water-type that had so dared to take over the conversation.
“In that case,” the poliwhirl said, lifting her arm, “I will meet you all at the south end of the pond at dusk.”
Everyone nodded this time, and then they all swam away in different directions. Only the poliwhirl remained.
“This is the first time we will have a croconaw at our ceremony. I think it’s a bit unnerving for them, to have the ritual turn out a bit differently,” she said, laughing. Apparently, she had been reading my mind. “By the way, my name is Lynn. You don’t have to remember, since I’m the only poliwhirl in Ilex Forest and therefore I’m easily recognizable, but there it is, just in case you were wondering.”
I thought that it was very nice to meet Lynn, but that it would be even nicer to meet that legendary starmie later on. I looked forward to it immensely.
One of the drawbacks to being a pokémon was that it was very difficult to tell time. At Professor Elm’s lab, I hadn’t paid attention to the prospect of time. I just knew that when it was dark, it was time to sleep, and when it was light, it was time to wake up and train. Naturally, then, I had no idea how long I had until it would be dusk, until it would be time to head to the south end of the pond for the ceremony. I even asked the entire team, but no one knew, not even Atis.
“Why do you need to know?” the ever so curious Senori asked me.
“I have to be somewhere at dusk,” I said.
“You’re not supposed to be going out on your own. What if we need you and can’t find you?”
“I’m not a baby like Rennio, you know,” I retorted, ignoring his question. “I’m young, but I can handle myself. I met some friends, okay? I want to spend some time with them before Sai comes back. If Sai comes back,” I corrected myself at the last minute.
Senori glared at me. “He’ll come back,” he said, just like he had told me once before. His face was strained to the point where I could feel the pain of the situation he held inside him.
“Well, I need as much distraction from this situation as you do. I don’t like it any more than you or anyone else on the team,” I said, willing to admit just about anything to be able to see that rare, legendary pokémon. I was being vague, but at least I wasn’t lying.
Senori was quiet for a few moments, contemplating my answer. Finally, he said, “Just don’t go getting into trouble. And make sure that Ezrem is with you or knows where you are, at least. We don’t need to lose another member of the team.”
“I’ll be fine,” I said. I thought for a moment, wondering how much leeway the sentret was going to offer me. “Say, can I take that bag of pokémon food that you got in Goldenrod City?”
“Definitely not. Now you’re asking for too much,” Senori said, glaring at me again. “Eat some berries. I know you like those.”
“Fine, fine,” I said, sighing. At least I had won one battle—the most important one. The second battle was miniscule in comparison.
I turned, smiling as I did so. I hadn’t gotten much out of the conversation except a full-hearted confirmation of Sai’s future return, which I did hope for, despite my negativity toward the suvject. Again, I wanted a rematch at the Goldenrod City gym. I wanted his continual affection as he saw me grow stronger. I wanted to evolve for him one more time, and grow so tall that he had to look up at me just to see my face. Yes, I wanted him to come back, but knowing his personality, it wasn’t very likely.
The concept of Sai and his crazy self consumed my thoughts as I searched for the berries that I would eat during the upcoming ceremony. I chose to get Cheri berries, which were my favorite because of the spicy, pungent flavor they offered, but were hard to find because they were located around flowers. There were mostly trees and bushes around the forest, which made my quest difficult. In the end, I had to settle for only a couple of Cheri berries, and a mixture of other types. I hoped that would be satisfactory. I also hoped that the situation with Sai wouldn’t be so similar—what if I had to settle with whatever came my way in the future, and he wasn’t a part of my life?
I went back to find Ezrem still napping against the trees. He awoke when he heard my footsteps, but he was as silent as ever. Naturally, we didn’t exchange many words. I sat there, counting out the amount of berries I had, and finding a wide leaf from a nearby tree to place them on, making the job of carrying them easier.
When the slightest hint of darkness came over the horizon, I told Ezrem that I was leaving for a while, and that I’d be back later.
“Where are you going?” he said, which was the first time he showed any interest in me all day.
“I met some friends. Water-type friends!” I said. “You wouldn’t understand the joys of water-types, would you?”
“No, no at all. You’re right. I will stay here,” he said, smiling.
Good, I thought. And with that, I set out toward the south end of the pond. When I got to the edge of the pond where I had originally dove in, I realized another drawback to being a pokémon: I didn’t know my directions… so I didn’t know what south even meant. Luckily, I saw a group of poliwag on the other side, and swam across the pond to meet up with them.
“Hello!” I said, trying to be cheerful so they would accept me, just like Lynn had. It looked like they had had plenty of time to reconsider my participation, as they gleefully said hello back. My own glee disappeared, however, when I saw just how thin the poliwag looked when they were outside the water. It appeared as if I could see their internal organs! It made me feel uncomfortable, and I thought vaguely that at least they were going to be putting some food in their stomachs to fatten them up some more during the ceremony.
Each of them had some food with them, as expected. Some, like me, had berries, while others had some caterpie and weedle with them… I could see some of the poliwag eyeing the dead bugs and shifting around, but no one said anything about it. Lynn wasn’t kidding when she said that some pokémon had different moral standards when it came to killing pokémon, I supposed. I was against it, but I felt no hatred to those who were for it.
Soon, a couple of psyduck came waddling up to us, joining the group. They expressed their regrets for the magikarp who wanted to attend for the entire thing, but couldn’t make it due to not being able to breathe on land.
“They’ll be able to see part of the ceremony later, at least. Too bad it mostly has to take place on land,” one of the poliwag said.
“Why does it have to take place on land?” I asked.
“You’ll see. Anyway, I think we have everyone. Lynn and the staryu are at the entrance to Ilex Forest, so let’s go,” she said, leading the way.
We left the area where my team was camping, and we went past the gates and guards so that we could enter Ilex Forest. Once we were inside the forest, we went around what seemed like a million trees that were all part of a labyrinth we’d never be able to escape.
“I thought they were at the entrance,” I said, growing weary of being lost.
“Sorry. Here we are,” the poliwag said, moving to reveal a large clearing, filled with even more poliwag and psyduck, all of which were chattering amongst themselves, waiting for the ceremony to start. Lynn and the staryu—the future legendary starmie!—stood in the middle of the clearing, and I could see a blue, shimmering item in Lynn’s hand.
The poliwag and psyduck from my group went to join the larger group, and I stood there, lost and confused. What was I supposed to do now? I followed behind them and placed myself in the circle, pretending that I knew what I was doing. There, apparently, were downsides to being the only—and the strongest—croconaw here. And I felt like I was the only living thing here among a bunch of bones, since all the poliwag were so skinny. Even from afar, I could tell that Lynn was not so different, though she was evolved. At least the staryu looked normal…
“Ladies!” Lynn roared. Immediately, everyone stood to face her, and quieted so they could hear her. “Thank you. I am glad to see that you could all make it. Without further ado, we can begin the ceremony. We will make it as quick as possible, as Comerhi here has been waiting for a long time for this day to come. Isn’t that right, Comerhi?”
“Yes, yes it is,” said the staryu.
I took a moment to take in the presence of the staryu. As expected, the main shape of the pokémon involved a star. It had five appendages, all of which were a golden-brown color. The appendages were also apparently very flexible, as the staryu was taking every moment possible to move its body around in anticipation. The middle part of the star was a dark yellow, and in the very middle of the pokémon, there was a circular, red ruby that was glowing, like the water stone in Lynn’s hand. So this was what a rare pokémon looked like, one I hadn’t even heard of before! I wondered how that was possible, and mentally scolded Professor Elm for not telling me about staryu and starmie before.
“Now, we all have enjoyed having Comheri as an addition to our team here in Ilex Forest and Goldenrod City. She—for today, she has stated that she would prefer to be referred to as a female, to fit in with all of you—has lived here for about ten years, and is now finally ready to set forth into the unknown, mysterious adventure known as evolution,” Lynn said, and bowed. “She was born here to two starmie who have unfortunately left us since then. She was a temperamental baby pokémon, but was easily soothed by the presence of all of us. She appreciated our company. As she grew up… Well, there are many stories to tell. Does everyone remember, when she was young, how she used to swim in the ponds and pretend to be a magikarp, spouting off all kinds of nonsense? I bet we all remember. And then, there was the time where she learned to walk on land for the very first time. Her determination was an inspiration to all of us. Finally, no one can forget the moment where her two parents sacrificed themselves so that she would not get caught by a trainer…”
She stopped, allowing the silence to spread over the group and engulf them.
“Anyway… I’m a bit jealous. Maybe one day there will be no staryu in Ilex Forest, and I can use the stone on myself, though I am not as special as this well-renowned species,” Lynn said.
She paused for a moment yet again. This time, the audience chuckled at her joke. I stood there in awe, not knowing previously that poliwhirl also needed a water stone to evolve. How noble and selfless Lynn was!
“Enough memories. As I said, Comerhi has been waiting a long time for this day. She is ready to move on with her life and become the alien creature known as starmie. Though she will be as mysterious as ever, we vow to love her with all that we have, and for as long as we live. Now, Comerhi will come around to each and every one of you, and she will sprinkle some of her body’s dust on the food you have brought. This is done to bless everyone and to make sure that her un-evolved form will live on forever in our hearts.”
Just as Lynn said, Comerhi made her way around each concentric circle, shaking her flexible body. I could see her body practically falling apart, appendage by appendage, as she went around spreading dust on everyone’s food. I supposed that was what happened when staryu prepared to evolve in the presence of a water stone. It was peculiar to me—evolution hadn’t been an act of destroying, but an act of creating and molding.
I was the last circle that Comerhi came to. When she passed me, I felt like I was a part of something unbelievable and unique, as if the staryu had already evolved and become legendary. There was something about Lynn’s words that made the staryu appear special already, with all of her memories and connections within the Ilex Forest and Goldenrod City group. I wondered for a moment, if everyone was rare, including me—just because of the interesting and different lives that we led.
When Comerhi was finished, she made her way back up to Lynn and the water stone.
“Now, you may all eat your blessed food,” Lynn said, “as Comerhi finally touches this water stone, which was found by one of the group members among us today. Let us have a moment of silence for this group member, who has allowed this celebratory occasion to take place.”
For a few moments, all that was heard was chewing among random parts of the group. After the moment of silence was over, Lynn turned to Comerhi and held her arms out, revealing to the world the precious water stone that was so cherished within the group. Comerhi stepped forward, and bent over slowly—as if to savor the moment. Eventually, the top part of her star body touched the blue rock, and she began to glow.
It was when she first started to glow that I began eating all my berries, ignoring the bitter taste of dust in my mouth. I watched intently as Comerhi star body grew bigger and bigger. I was even more surprised when Comerhi grew a second star behind the first one! Though what astounded me most was how the staryu’s red core was disintegrating and falling apart right in front of our very eyes. All of its red, red pieces fell to the forest floor amidst the white glow. That was all I could make of the new starmie’s form until the illumination finally faded away. Once it was gone, I could see that, instead of golden-brown, her body was purple, still with a darker yellow portion in the middle. What fascinated me the most was the red jewel that the starmie now possessed. Unlike the staryu’s, it was much brighter, much larger, and much more red, as if to signify an intense passion for life. Once the full transformation had taken place, Comerhi let out a deep grunt, which sounded robotic, yet rhythmic—a symbol of its new alien form, I assumed.
Everyone yelled out for joy or clapped if they had hands. I joined them soon after, and I also finished the rest of my berries. I swallowed the last of the dust that remained on my tongue, and waited for whatever came next.
After what seemed like forever, Lynn continued, “When you are done eating your food, you may come up here and take a part of Comerhi’s lost core, which is a symbol of its ability to communicate with others. Embrace this piece of jewelry as you sleep tonight, and use it to dream of your lover, or someone important to you. Once everyone is finished, the last part of the ceremony will commence, and everyone will follow Comerhi to the pond of her choice and take her first swim with her alien form.”
Everyone did as Lynn said. Some pokémon were already finished, so they made their way through the concentric circle and picked up a piece of broken red stone, bowing down to Comerhi as they did so, and giving a few words of respect. Once I saw that they were talking to the new legendary, I was more eager to join. I got up and stepped over a bunch of poliwag and psyduck to get to the middle of the clearing. I chose my own piece of red stone, which was very jagged and sharp, so I had to make sure not to hurt myself with it. Since it was only necessary, I also bowed to Comerhi, and asked her, “So, what’s it feel like to be a legendary?”
But Comerhi only laughed and said, “I’m not a legendary. There are plenty of staryu—starmie—in the world.”
“Then why is there a big ceremony celebrating your evolution?” I couldn’t help but ask.
“Because staryu and starmie are rare among this area, and their rarity is cherished here. It really is nice, and I wish I could say we were rare, but that’s all,” Comerhi said. I wondered if she was smiling or annoyed. I didn’t know which, so I just bowed again and made my leave.
Comerhi left with me, though. I walked slower to let her pass me, still thinking I owed her my respects. She treaded through the concentric circles one last time, and I watched as all of the poliwag and psyduck stood up to follow her. Lynn also followed her, and ended up walking beside me, looking at me expectantly.
“So, what did you think?”
“I think it’s very special for water-types. I learned some things that I will think of tonight,” I said simply, quietly. I was stil trying to get over the fact that starmie wasn’t legendary after all.
“I see. Well, if you ever come around here with your trainer, you should visit us again, and see if we have anything else going on.”
As we kept walking toward the pond that Comerhi chose for the remainder of the ceremony, my walking got slower. It was really dark, now, so no one really noticed—they just kept on walking by. Instead of going to the pond with the group, I turned and made my way back to Ezrem and the others. It took a while, but it gave me plenty of time to think. In the end, though, I couldn’t think about much of anything. It was the first time in a while I had been shaken up. My whole understanding of the world had just been brought into question, after all.
Ezrem and the others were already sleeping when I returned. I guessed they hadn’t really missed me or worried about me too much, as they had previously said they would. I sat against a tree next to Ezrem, which is where I normally slept, but somehow, I knew I wasn’t going to get any rest tonight.
I held the red jewel in my hand, thinking back to the ceremony. It felt like it was years ago already, for some reason. The starmie’s words rang in my ears. They weren’t rare! They weren’t legendary! But the group treated them as such. Where was the justice in that? Wasn’t that an insult to the real rare, legendary pokémon? But then, I thought back to the stories I had told the team… All of them had ended up in disaster somehow, someway. Surely, the legendaries wouldn’t want that. The legendaries would want humans and pokémon alike to celebrate each other and lift each other’s spirits. And that’s exactly what the group did. That’s exactly what Sai did, when he tried to make us feel special for being a part of his team. What’s what Senori did, when he wanted to be our leader and take care of us so lovingly. That’s what I did, when trying to impress Ezrem or make myself feel more superior than I really was.
Being ordinary can be powerful after all, I thought. That meant that even Senori and Atis and Rennio and I were special. Ezrem was definitely special, but now, he was special in an… ordinary kind of way. In the end, I decided that I wouldn’t ask him about his shiny self—it didn’t matter, anyway.
I lay down, and thought of everyone, holding the jewel close to my heart. Yes, they were all special, and I was glad to have them all here. I was glad that Senori looked out for me earlier, and I was glad for Ezrem’s terrible jokes and manipulative self. I hoped now, more than ever, that Sai would return.
What happened next was a great stroke of luck. I wished that epiphanies hit me more often, if this was what happened after them. Really. So that is the way of it. You wake up, thinking the day will go as planned. But it never goes as planned. Between all of the exchanges you have with people and pokémon, there’s this and that. This and that may change your hopes and dreams! There’s you’ll never guess… and didn’t I tell you?—both of which may make you feel attacked. But by the end of the day, there’s hey, by the way, I love you, too…
I heard something. Someone.
I immediately bolted upright, and listened for the source of the sound. Yes, there was definitely someone approaching, and it sounded like… human footsteps.
“Who’s there?” I cried, vaguely hoping to wake up the others in case it was a violent intruder. I held up the sharp end of the jewel in my head, prepared to use it if I had to.
It wasn’t a violent intruder, or a legendary pokémon, or any other member of the team just happening to wake up and scare me.
It was Sai.