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Thread: Survival Project (PG-13)

  1. #176
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    Quote Originally Posted by diamondpearl876 View Post
    “Something like that,” I said sarcastically. The revelation that I had come to felt even better knowing that Sai was here to witness it, but I wouldn’t admit it.
    Something is off about the bolded part, but I'm not sure what it could be.

    “Okay, Kuiora,” said Sai, though he didn’t appear to know what to say next; he was talking for the sake of talking. “Uh, just like we planned, all right? Start off with a bite attack!”
    I like Sai here so far, with his attitude toards Ezrem and his fibbing to Whitney. He's been seeming more childish than usual. Or maybe child-like.

    And indeed it was. The croconaw immediately spat out a spray of water, hitting her target dead on, since the clefairy was right in front of her face, her mouth.
    I see what you were going for with the "her face, her mouth". But it just doesn't quite work for me. Maybe it just needs more words? "her face, and by extension, her mouth"?

    It was a legit pokémon attack, one that had occurred in several battles before today, and one that would continue to appear for all of eternity.
    I think the use of "legit" here is a bit too colloquial for me. I would just go "legitimate".

    Up until now, I hadn’t noticed the urge that my body had had to evolve for ages, now. It was a peculiar sensation that other sentret in my clan had reported having in the past, but they never dared act on it. It was the sensation of feeling like you were about to burst out of your skin at any moment. Your eyes bulged at random times, wanting to pop out of your body and watch from the outside as the inside of you was turned completely inside out. Your ears were hearing sounds that didn’t really exist—it was the inner cry of the soul that they were hearing, but they didn’t know that. Only the heart knew, and I had kept it from reacting all this time, but no longer.
    Great paragraph for two reasons: One, I always feel the physical trauma that evolving MUST come with is too down-played, and two, the the part about the sounds and the soul. Great stuff.

    When the evolution was completely, I immediately looked behind me. My bushy, important tail was no longer there. Of course, I still had a tail—I was expecting this—but it was a longer tail. A natural tail. One that wasn’t blessed. And that was what mattered.
    The whole chapter was obviously leading up to this moment, and it was extraordinarily well handled. Great paragraph there.

    “Ah,” Sai said sheepishly. “I don’t know… I’m sorry! I didn’t expect to win! Well, I was hoping to win, of course, but I didn’t want to make you cry! Can I tell you some jokes or something?”
    So weird.

    -I have to admit, this chapter perplexed me; I really thought this story was done with gym battles and basic trainer storying. It seemed we were full-steam ahead into whatever it was that made Sai run away, especially since he no longer has his previous badges. So I was curious to see another chapter focusing on winning a gym badge. Obviously the crux going forward HAS to be the relationship between Sai and Team Rocket, right? I would think.

    I thought the Senori evolution stuff was very well done and powerfully written. Good work with that, as always!


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  2. #177
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    Quote Originally Posted by diamondpearl876 View Post

    SURVIVAL PROJECT

    chapter 18 ; [SENORI]
    crescendo

    *
    Three cheers for symbolic titles?

    Sometimes, I thought that life was defined by the distance between what you wanted and what you needed. I especially felt this way at the pokémon fan club, where the solution to all of my problems came to me in the most unexpected instant, in the most unexpected fashion. Who knew that a human could solve what they had no knowledge about? Who knew that fate would bring such an opportunity to me? I surely didn’t. I just knew that I needed to move on from my past, and that I wanted to do it in the least painful way possible. The pokémon fan club had provided me with some insight I never would have thought of myself; it helped me realize that the distance I originally thought of as so far apart was as close as it could possibly be!

    As Sasha and Marty brought us back to Sai, and as we shortly thereafter made our way to the gym (before Sai went completely insane over breaking the rules once again), I felt like I was at home. I felt as if I were in the forest and experiencing every part of nature as sharply all over again; this was how I knew my answer was correct.
    I just caught that "before Sai went completely insane" part here, and it immediately gets me thinking. Did something happen off-screen? Sai didn't seem to be "going insane over breaking the rules again" last chapter.

    There was something odd about the clouds moving in our direction that sent shivers down my spine. The few trees in the city swaying in the wind made me think they were speaking to me. There was a silence that emanated from the cracks in the pavement below my feet; it was a distant echo of the times that I was alone. The memories were muffled by all of our footsteps; they were only tearing loose in an attempt to break my shell. What would they find? I could only guess that they’d find my resolution of thinking it was best to stay away from my clan, and then, the memories would try to bring me back to the nightmare that I had already lived through once. Well, I had already vowed not to live there again—the dead, the result of my carelessness, hung below me, muttering to themselves in discontent. While I was deeply sorry and forever would be, I had to do this for myself.
    Well, that was... something. Sure looks like Senori's feeling introspective today.

    And why did I believe evolving would help, anyway? The reason was simple, and almost agonizingly so. I would be getting rid of the one thing that every sentret of my clan cherished most about themselves.

    I would be getting rid of my tail.
    I think some hairs could be split here. Furret does kind of have a tail, it's just pretty much fused into the Furret's body.

    When all sentret were born, we held a ritual to bless it. It was a blessing that we hoped would bring about great growth and prosperity to this important part of the body. We even made a point to say that we didn’t want the sentret to evolve, just so they could keep this vital part of them forever. We always had contests to see whose was longer and therefore most efficient in helping the clan succeed—this was how Ari and me were chosen as the leaders. And if I were to lose my tail, no longer would the leader in me be telling me to stand on it and keep an eye out for others, to keep an ear out for danger, just like I had done so many nights in the forest, including the one that ruined me. I could instead look at the path right in front of me rather the one that was miles away.
    Now that, on the other hand, makes a lot of sense. Perfect explanation for why the tail is so important.

    And it just so happened that were heading to the gym at this very moment. The timing couldn’t have been any more spectacular.

    I willed my heart to stop pounding, but it ignored me.

    *

    “You’re back again, huh? It’s been a while. You must have been doing a lot of training,” Whitney observed when we approached her for another battle.
    Boy, that's an understatement.

    “Something like that,” I said sarcastically. The revelation that I had come to felt even better knowing that Sai was here to witness it, but I wouldn’t admit it. I was still bitter toward him for leaving at all, and I was still curious as to where on earth he was. My next goal would have to be finding this out, since once I evolved, I would be prepared to deal with him and his emotions even more fully.
    Minor corrections: "The revelation that I had come to feel."

    Sai glared at me for a moment, which just made me grin at him. “Yes, we’ve trained a lot for our rematch,” he lied.
    Is it really all that much of a lie, though? They did have to learn some skills while surviving in the wild without Sai.

    “Well, we can start the battle whenever. We will again use two pokémon each,” Whitney said, pulling a pokéball out of her back pocket. She thrust it forward, revealing the same pink pokémon that had fought and won last time.

    “Clefairy! I’m here!” it cried as it emerged.

    “Can I fight?” Ezrem chimed in, pulling on Sai’s pant leg.

    “No?” Sai said, as if the answer was obvious.

    “Rude… Well, then, what about Rennio?” Ezrem said, now pulling on the elekid’s arm, making him panic in retaliation.

    “I won’t do that to him again if he doesn’t want to fight,” Sai said firmly.

    “On a more serious note,” I said, glaring at Ezrem and taking Rennio from him, “can I fight, Sai? We’re all so eager to fight for you, as you can see!”

    “Kuiora first,” Sai said, just as firmly. “She asked me earlier. She wants a rematch against the clefairy, and I don’t blame her. But you can fight second, okay?”

    “Okay,” I said after a few moments, thinking that this was acceptable. As strong as Kuiora was, I didn’t think she could beat both of the gym leader’s pokémon. They seemed far too powerful and their strategies were better than her’s, though perhaps she had come up with something in all of the time we had spent doing practically nothing near Ilex Forest.
    Ezrem is kind of adorable here. This scene is a pretty nice way to quickly look at the personalities of all of Sai's Pokemon minus Atis.

    Senori might be hoping too hard for Kuiora to fail, though. I get the feeling Kuiora might actually pull off a big upset.

    Minor error: "their strategies were better than hers."

    “Yes! Thank you, Sai!” Kuiora cried ecstatically, taking her place in the middle of the arena. She stood her ground in a position that made me immediately question my previous beliefs about her. Maybe she really could beat both pokémon, and then, I wouldn’t have a chance to fight. Well, my trainer’s decision was already made. I would just have to wait it out. Of course, if I didn’t fight now, there would be other opportunities—but why would I want to wait any longer than I had to?
    I wonder if we'll get to see that conversation Sai and Kuiora had in a future chapter. Based on Kuiora's enthusiasm here, I bet it was quite something.

    “Okay, Kuiora,” said Sai, though he didn’t appear to know what to say next; he was talking for the sake of talking. “Uh, just like we planned, all right? Start off with a bite attack!”

    Though she appeared perplexed by his confusing words, she obeyed, and pounced at the clefairy with lightning speed. The clefairy didn’t even have time to move, nor did Whitney have time to call out an attack. Kuiora bit down on the clefairy’s arm, causing the fairy to cry out in pain.

    “That’s so you can’t use your metronome attack this time! No electricity will be coming from those little paws,” the croconaw said through gritted teeth.
    Why do I feel like Kuiora might be tempting fate here somehow?

    I laughed and marveled over Kuiora. How had she gotten so fast in a short amount of time? And not only was she faster, but she looked more determined. She looked… wiser, older. Just what had happened to her while Sai was gone? Whatever it was, I was suddenly glad that I didn’t have to worry about her being off on her own anymore. If I didn’t end up having a chance to fight against one of Whitney’s pokémon, this battle would at least still be worth it.
    I like the evolution - no pun intended - of Senori's thoughts regarding Kuiora and this battle.

    The clefairy tried to use its good arm to cradle the bad one, but its arm just wasn’t long enough to reach over to the other side. Its bad arm hung there, limp and slightly bleeding, apparently now unusable, just as Kuiora had intended.

    “I see how it is,” the clefairy said, wincing.

    “You do? Show me what you’ve got, then!”

    “Clefairy, don’t let it get you down! Use growl!” Whitney ordered.

    The clefairy obeyed. Though its voice clearly showed that it was in pain, it grunted and then let out a high pitched howl that made even Kuiora (and the rest of us) take a few steps backward. It was unfathomable to see such a tiny creature let out such a ferocious sound, but apparently it was possible. And the clefairy’s plan worked—it had regained its self-confidence, and was ready to fight again.
    Interesting tactic there. Not the kind of thing I would have thought of.

    “Now use pound!” Whitney cried.

    Though the clefairy had one arm out of commission, the other was still perfectly fine. The clefairy proved this by charging at Kuiora while she was out of commission herself. The fairy used its good arm to punch Kuiora in the stomach over and over, causing the croconaw’s feet to slide backward against the gym floor with each and every hit.

    “Good! Try a doubleslap now. Keep her confused.”

    The clefairy obeyed by jumping off of the ground. Keeping itself suspended, it was now slapping its paws into Kuiora’s face, making it move back and forth, back and forth. Kuiora was clearly shown to be dizzy when she tried to swipe away the clefairy with her own paws, but kept missing and swiping the air instead.

    “Kuiora,” Sai said, uncertainty still in his voice, but a hint of excitement, too, “use water gun! It’s a perfect chance!”

    And indeed it was. The croconaw immediately spat out a spray of water, hitting her target dead on, since the clefairy was right in front of her face, her mouth. As the stream of water grew longer, the clefairy was thrown further backwards, as it could not escape the flow. Whitney had to even move out of the way before getting hit, and the attack finally ended once the water gun and the clefairy struck the wall outside of the arena.
    The action is definitely going well here. This battle is simple, but it's flowing at a fast, exciting pace.

    Sai's behavior is once again a little disturbing, though. He's returning to normal but so slowly that he still seems out of sorts. Something feels off.

    “The pokémon got knocked out of the arena,” Sai observed. “Does that mean Kuiora wins?”

    “That would work in an official tournament,” Whitney said, smiling weakly, “but not here. Clefairy, you can get up, right?”

    “Oh,” Sai said, clearly bummed that the battle would go on.
    That little touch of Sai being disappointed over the battle continuing is a really nice bit.

    As Whitney had predicted, the clefairy was able to stand up, but just barely. After feeling the impact of a limp arm and the full force of a water gun attack done by an evolved pokémon, it looked like it was going to faint at any given moment. It had a lot of spirit, though—I could give it credit for that.

    “All right, Kuiora,” Sai said. “One more water gun and you should win.”

    Kuiora nodded. She thrust her head backward, preparing to shoot another stream of water. When she brought her head forward, a blast of water shot forth as well, heading straight for the clefairy.

    “Clefairy, dodge it!” Whitney said, a hint of worry in her voice.

    The clefairy dodged it in a peculiar way. Instead of moving out of the way, the clefairy suddenly grew… smaller. It happened in tiny increments. Every time the clefairy changed size, an afterimage was left behind, and it disappeared as quickly as it came. By the end of the move, the clefairy was hardly visible, and the water gun ran right above its head, missing completely.

    “Clefairy, why did you use minimize? That may make you smaller, but it makes you hurt a lot more!” Whitney whined. Once again, she looked like she was about to run into the arena, but she restrained herself by keeping her arms folded above her head, and by spinning around on her heels.
    I was about to say that Clefairy was using Minimize without an order. I'm glad you didn't let it become an error.

    “It was the only way I could dodge,” a voice even higher pitched than the previous growl said. “I can barely move…”

    “Oh, dear,” Whitney said, placing a hand in front of her mouth dramatically.

    “Well, bite isn’t going to work,” Sai said, “and water gun isn’t too likely to hit. Try… stomping on it? Knock it out once and for all!”

    “Okay,” said Kuiora happily. She walked over to the clefairy casually, staring down at it when she reached her target. She smiled and lifted her foot, and at that moment, the clefairy started growing larger again, bit by bit. This time, afterimages of the tiny clefairy were present every time the fairy grew a little bigger. Just when the clefairy was about to reach its full capacity, Kuiora brought her foot down as hard as she could on the clefairy’s head, causing it to fall forward on its stomach with a thud.

    The clefairy did not get up.
    Nice use of tactics here. The Stomp-targeting-Minimize move is not seen very often at all.

    I thought that stomping on the clefairy was a little harsh, but I didn’t say anything. It was a legit pokémon attack, one that had occurred in several battles before today, and one that would continue to appear for all of eternity. The clefairy simply had to suffer the fate of being a pokémon, just like the rest of us. Just like I would be doing soon enough, I hoped.

    And I did get that chance. It was surprising to all of us, but Kuiora stepped down from battling as soon as she defeated the clefairy.

    “I got my revenge, just like I wanted,” was all that she said. But Kuiora—the one that I knew, anyway—wasn’t ever likely to turn down a battle. So this was entirely new. Not unwelcome, but definitely new. Still, I appreciated the notion, and I congratulated her and told her that I would win the battle.
    That is indeed a little strange for Kuiora to back off willingly. It struck me right away.

    “If you don’t, I’m still able to battle, right? I’ll pick up the pieces for you,” she said.

    “Don’t worry. I never lose,” I said, feeling confident. In that moment, I honestly couldn’t remember a time that I had lost a battle—one that consisted of fighting, anyway. I was sure that it had happened, but it wasn’t going to faze me. Not today.

    “What if you really do lose, though? It can happen! Even I’ve lost!”

    “If I lose, then you’ll have witnessed the single most unlikely thing to ever happen,” I said, grinning. As much as I wanted to—in order to keep everything a surprise—I couldn’t hide my excitement. This was my answer, my salvation. And it was going to happen now, in front of Sai, in front of my—our—team.
    Senori's going to lose, I get the feeling now...

    I eagerly leapt out into the arena, waiting for my opponent to appear. After a few moments, though, it didn’t look like Whitney was going to send anyone out. I looked at her, confused, and saw that she was trying not to cry.

    “My poor clefairy!” she lamented, burying her face in her hands, sobbing.

    “Uh,” Sai said quickly, “Kuiora won fair and square. A gym leader should know that, yeah?”

    “I do, don’t you worry. We can still win!” she said, now wiping her eyes. She recalled the clefairy and took out another pokéball out of her back pocket. “Go, Miltank!”

    When it emerged, I thought that the miltank… Well, at least it lived up to its name. It was a cow, so it provided milk, and it looked like a tank. Yes, the thing was huge compared to me when I was on all fours. It was at least two feet taller, and considerably wider and thicker. It was mostly pink, though not as pink as the clefairy had been. Its belly was a cream color, and there were six well-placed protrusions on its belly that I thought were called utters, I wasn’t sure. Its ears and its feet were black, and it had a pink tail with a black ball on the end of it. I vaguely wondered if a miltank’s tail was as important to the species as it was to my sentret clan. The creature also had notable white horns on top of its head, which could have been important as well.
    Senori's description of Miltank is at once hilarious and fascinating. Excellent work.

    “Miltank!” it cried. Apparently, Whitney’s pokémon had a thing for announcing its name to the world when they approached a battle. Well, that was all fine and dandy, I thought, though I wondered if it ever confused Whitney into thinking she couldn’t understand pokémon—if she could even understand pokémon at all, anyway. The human species was certainly an odd one.

    “Okay,” Whitney said. “We’re going to try to end this as quickly as possible. Miltank, use body slam!”

    Ouch, I thought. If I thought that Kuiora’s stomping attack was bad, since she was a big pokémon herself and particularly powerful, then this was terrible. Not only was the miltank probably stronger than Kuiora, but it was at least twice her weight. I braced myself for an awful attack.

    The miltank ran toward me, its utters and body fat flapping along the way. It was an amusing sight to see, but I couldn’t let my guard down already. I got down on all fours, frowning and yet reveling in how big of an adversary I had to face. Well, that was just fine—if my opponent had to look tougher and be larger than me, then it was giving me all the more reason to evolve in the middle of the battle.
    I just noticed that you're using "utters" instead of the correct word for what a cow has, which are "udders." I didn't catch it the first time.

    When the miltank was close enough to me, I hopped in its direction, landing on its head and using its head to bounce forward and back onto the ground behind it. The cow took a few moments to stop its momentum, but when it did, it turned and looked at me furiously.

    “How dare you evade my attack!” it said, charging at me once more. But I did the same thing again, successfully dodging. Not only was the opponent fearsome, but it had quite a temper as well. Very fortunate. The scene reminded me of heading into that lady’s house and trying to escape the broom that she so eagerly swung at me with.
    So that incident WAS important! Impressive job bringing back trivial details with bigger meaning than previously.

    “I’m just doing my job,” I said, teasing. I put my finger up to my head as if to say that was an obvious answer, and that the miltank was rather dull. The move only served to infuriate the cow further.

    “Use your own body slam, Senori!” Sai ordered.

    “My attack is just called slam, thank you very much,” I said defiantly. Still, I did the same thing that the miltank had been doing before, though I was much quicker due to my smaller size. This also meant that the miltank couldn’t jump over my head, or even move in any direction to get out of the way in time. My body blasted against the miltank’s, causing it to lose its breath as it was knocked backward. I noticed that I didn’t move him much, but the impact was still there, as the pokémon’s shoulders had drooped a little and it appeared less confident.
    Unless you are referring to Miltank with the generic "him," that cannot be refused to refer to Miltank, as Miltank is a female-only species.

    “Good job, good job. Use slam again,” commented Sai.

    “Yes, yes,” I said, mimicking him. I didn’t say so, but I was glad for his praise, his attentiveness. It would, hopefully, serve me again sooner rather than later.

    I prepared to use my slam attack once more when Whitney shouted, “Miltank, use defense curl!”
    Oh no, I know what's coming. This can't be good.

    I should have known better than to attack the miltank when it was using defense curl, since it was one of my own moves that had proven to be very useful in the past. With the miltank’s size and weight, the effect was all the more difficult against my small frame. I was running to the cow when it was putting itself into a rolled up position, but I was going too fast to stop myself—one of the disadvantages to being fast. When my body collided with the miltank’s—just as before—this time it was me who was knocked backward. The miltank’s body was rock hard, and I now had a throbbing headache. I grabbed my head, knowing it was futile, but hoping it would stop soon.

    “Okay, Miltank, I think it’s time for your signature move. Rollout!” Whitney commanded, and all hints of her crying self were gone.
    And it makes sense for that crying self to be gone, because this is exactly what I've been waiting for all along, Miltank's Rollout.

    “What’s rollout?” I asked myself, afraid to soon find out. Since we were both normal-type pokémon that hadn’t quite reached the threshold where we could learn the elemental moves discussed at the pokémon fan club, I was expecting for every ordered attack to be familiar and similar to my own. This, however, was completely new to me.

    I waited for the miltank to obey, but it stayed in its ball-like position. It looked daunting just like that, but it was even more damaging to my self-confidence when it started rolling toward me, and at a remarkable speed I wasn’t anticipating from the larger pokémon. Stunned, I wasn’t able to dodge the rollout as it crashed into me, forcing my body to bend back so that I was leaning against my tail in an awkward position. The miltank continued to flatten my body as it tumbled over my stomach, my face, my ears. Out of every body part I had, the tail hurt the most. And it went without saying that I was sick of my tail hurting. It signified pride. It signified strength, and I was tired of pretending that it was an object I didn’t really own just because it was in a location that I couldn’t always see.
    That was painful to read because of it making you envision the suffering Senori's going through. Nice work tying back the significance of the tail, though.

    I had to evolve now, or never.

    Up until now, I hadn’t noticed the urge that my body had had to evolve for ages, now. It was a peculiar sensation that other sentret in my clan had reported having in the past, but they never dared act on it. It was the sensation of feeling like you were about to burst out of your skin at any moment. Your eyes bulged at random times, wanting to pop out of your body and watch from the outside as the inside of you was turned completely inside out. Your ears were hearing sounds that didn’t really exist—it was the inner cry of the soul that they were hearing, but they didn’t know that. Only the heart knew, and I had kept it from reacting all this time, but no longer.

    The miltank must have realized what I was about to do, no doubt, since the sensation was so strong within me. It had unfurled and been watching me carefully for the last several moments. It looked entirely unhappy, unpleased. Now, however, it was rolled back up into a ball, and it was heading straight toward me, faster than ever. I had time, though, since it was all the way on the other side of the arena.

    “I’m not going to let you do that, darn it!” it said harshly.

    “Senori, dodge it, and quick!” Sai said.

    But I wasn’t planning on dodging it. No, I didn’t want to dodge it. I wanted to stop the attack dead in its tracks. I had to prove that strength lay hidden inside of me somewhere else, and not just in my tail. I had relied on it in battles and in other situations too many time in the past. I didn’t want that anymore.
    I really hope Senori's overconfidence will not be something he regrets.

    I stood exactly where I was, facing the miltank, keeping my body as straight as I could, not allowing for any twisting or the desire to turn away. I thrust my arm and my paws forward, and waited.

    “Senori, what are you doing? Dodge it!” called Sai.

    “Nah,” I said, grinning and hoping he could see it. He would just have to trust what was to come. He seemed accustomed to trusting people, anyhow—almost too much. So I could follow myself, just this once, and then I would never obey another command from my trainer again.

    Finally, the miltank reached me and collided with me once more. Instead of allowing myself to be flattened like a pancake yet again, I pushed at the big ball, keeping it suspended on the ground. I grimaced; I was using every ounce of my body, every ounce of my power, just to keep this miltank here. And for what? I wasn’t attacking it or causing damage, so this was simply delaying the battle further. I supposed that I was causing the miltank to waste some of its energy but I didn’t know if that would be enough.

    “I… won’t let you… stop me!” I cried through gritted teeth. I couldn’t see miltank’s face as it rolled, but judging by the sudden increase in power at my words, I could tell that it was more angry than ever.

    So I had proven to myself that I had strength somewhere else. It was an enlightening feeling, to say the least. Who knew that I had it in me? Now, I had to figure out how to give myself a chance to evolve. The miltank, given the chance, was going to try to stop me at any cost… I had to keep it distracted somehow, someway…

    And in a battle, the best way to do that was to let the opponent pokémon recover from getting hurt.

    I started letting the miltank push me back on purpose, letting it believe that it was finally beginning to overpower me. It was quite the opposite, but of course I didn’t say so—I was controlling the situation entirely. I looked behind me, seeing how close we were to the wall. It was still quite a stretch to get there, but I could manage. I let the miltank push me back even faster now, and the fury emanating from the cow vanished—it really thought that it was winning. When we were close enough to the wall, I moved my feet to the left and then jumped out of the way completing, allowing the miltank to smash into the wall, just as planned.

    I didn’t waste any time after that. I let go of my inhibitions, and all of the inner energy inside of me that I had been keeping contained in a bottle of sorts. Through my eyes, I could see that I was beginning to glow. I didn’t dare look down anymore—my old body was old news. Surprisingly, the transition didn’t hurt at all. I could feel my body grow longer, more slender. My arms—which had felt sometimes like an odd pair of wings in the past—were now shaped like normal arms, with longer paws. My ears grew shorter, which pleased me as well, as maybe now my hearing wouldn’t be so sharp, as that had also been a prominent feature in my clan… I wondered how my insides were changing, but it didn’t matter, as long as everything significant was present. As far as my color went, I couldn’t tell if I’d still be the dark shade of brown that I had always been. I would have to look in a mirror later, or, preferably, have Sai tell me.
    That was awesome. All of it. I'm glad Senori's confidence paid off, and it paid off in such a great read.

    When the evolution was completely, I immediately looked behind me. My bushy, important tail was no longer there. Of course, I still had a tail—I was expecting this—but it was a longer tail. A natural tail. One that wasn’t blessed. And that was what mattered.
    Can you explain Senori's opinion regarding his new tail a bit more to me? I don't fully understand why he feels the way he does about it.

    I looked at the miltank, who was staring at me vigorously. It had stood back up and kicked at the wall a few times while I was finishing. While I was fully happy with myself, it wasn’t happy for me at all.

    “Senori,” Sai said. “You evolved! Wow…”

    Ah, yes, and then there was the spectating crowd. I looked back at him, waving to him with my new arm, which felt awkward, but I was sure that I would get used to it. For now, he seemed content, and that was what counted to me.
    Senori, don't get too cocky yet... finish off Miltank first.

    “Miltank, I know things aren’t looking too good, but you can do it! Use rollout,” Whitney said. The hint of urgency had returned to her frail voice.

    Miltank huffed and obeyed, returning to its ball-like form. As he headed toward me, I swished my tail around, reveling in the fact that it was a soft tail now, not one made of any substance at all.

    “Use a new attack or something, Senori!” Sai said.

    I chuckled. “Just because I evolved doesn’t mean that I forgot all of my attacks or anything,” I said, also reveling in the fact that my voice was the same.

    All the while, the miltank was charging toward me once more. Yes, I was treating the miltank like a joke, now. I knew there was no hope for it.

    When it was close enough to take seriously, I focused my senses. While my hearing was still intact, everything else had enhanced. I started intently at the miltank. When I thought it was best to perform a body slam, I did so—and my prediction was dead on. I hit the miltank with the full force of my new body directly on its head, stopping not only the rollout, but the entire pokémon itself. I returned to my original position, watching the effects take place. The miltank was grabbing its head and going around in circles, dizzy and confused.

    “All right,” Whitney said. “That’s enough. A gym leader knows when she’s… lost…” Before she even finished her sentence, she had already burst into tears. Her sobbing echoed throughout the entire gym, it was so loud.
    Well then. I didn't expect Whitney to start crying like this, even if she does so in the games.

    “Ah,” Sai said sheepishly. “I don’t know… I’m sorry! I didn’t expect to win! Well, I was hoping to win, of course, but I didn’t want to make you cry! Can I tell you some jokes or something?”

    “Jokes won’t work, you jerk!” she cried as she returned the miltank to its pokéball. I watched it as it was immersed in a flash of red, thanking it for its time and effort silently.

    Next, Whitney pulled one last thing out of her back pocket. She peered down at it in her hand for a moment before she flung it in my direction. It landed on the ground in front of me, so I picked it up in my new paws. The object was shaped like a golden diamond with silver edges. The gym badge certainly lived up to Goldenrod City’s expectations, I thought.

    I ran up to Sai—rather clumsily, I must say—and handed it to him.

    “I believe it’s your win, not mine,” he said cheerfully, petting me on the head, “but I suppose I can hold onto it for you.”

    “If the miltank had made me use any body parts that I couldn’t control yet, I would have been doomed. You flatter me,” I said just as eagerly.

    “Jerk,” Whitney said again.

    I looked at the others, gouging their reactions. Atis looked proud, though he didn’t say anything and kept himself behind everyone else. Kuiora didn’t appear as jealous of the attention as I thought she’d be. Rennio was beyond relieved that I took over his fighting position—when our eyes met, I could tell that he was saying thank you.
    Interesting that Atis was there the entire time, not to mention that he appears to be proud of Senori.

    As for Ezrem…

    “How about a good math joke?” he said. “That always cheers everyone up. So, say this gym leader and her opponent have two pokémon. The opponent loses no pokémon, while the gym leader loses both. How many pokémon does the gym leader have now?”

    “Ezrem?”

    “Yes?”

    “Shut up,” I said, but nothing could ruin my mood. My voice betrayed me; I was trying not to laugh.
    Okay, that was actually pretty funny.

    We had not only won a gym badge from Whitney, but money. The first thing we did with our money was buy a new backpack, new food, new water, more clothes for Sai. He spent it all in one place, as usual—back to his old self. The second thing was purchased was a night in the pokémon center to celebrate. It was a major step up from being out in the wild, I had to admit.
    I hope I'm off base with this unsettled feeling I'm getting.

    Sai was sitting on the bed, looking happy yet strained at the same time. Wasn’t he glad that we had won? Wasn’t he glad that we could move on to the next part of journey? I got on all fours—finding this position much more preferable to standing on my tail, as if I were constantly watching for danger—and went over to Sai’s new backpack. I dug through it, looking for something. When I finally found it, I wobbled over to the boy, and handed it to him.

    It was the bottle of medication that he had brought back with him Atis had told me about it, and I agreed it was peculiar… but not unwelcome.

    “Won’t you stay with us this time?” I said. “We were worried when you left...”

    Sai took the bottle slowly, turning it over in his hands for a very, very long few moments. He looked at me, smiling sadly, and he patted me on the head.

    “I’ll try to stay,” he said simply.

    And that was what I wanted. This Sai—the loyal one, the excited one, the happy one—was the one we loved and wanted to stay with us. Though he was reckless and his emotions ran higher compared to all of the other people and pokémon I’d met, it wasn’t anything that we couldn’t deal with. Yes, this was the Sai I wanted to protect and serve at the same time. This was the Sai that, with my new form, I wanted to continue growing as a leader with.

    That night, when we were all sleeping, with Atis on the top bunk and with everyone else on the floor, I went up to be on the bed with Sai. He just smiled at me, said his mind was racing, as usual, and he couldn’t sleep… as usual. I didn’t say a word; I rolled myself into a tiny ball and curled up next to his side, silently telling him that I hoped that he meant what he said what he told me he would stay with us.

    It was the most comfortable that I had ever been.
    I love how warm that ending feels.

    Of course, there's something much deeper beneath the surface going on. I think there's enough to go on to make a clear guess as to what's going on with Sai, though I'll refrain from doing so for now. I have the feeling that something very important is going to happen soon.

    I thought this chapter felt a lot like a return to form after the Absent Sai story arc. Those chapters weren't bad, but they felt vastly different than what came before them. This chapter felt like ones from before Sai ran away.

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  3. #178
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    Dragonicwari

    Is that suppose to be completed?
    And this stared?
    Yes and yes. Fixed.

    While I can completely understand what your saying, this felt awkward to read for whatever reason. It's probably just me, so don't worry about it
    Yeah, I don’t know what is wrong with it.

    Sid87

    Something is off about the bolded part, but I'm not sure what it could be.
    Me neither.

    I think the use of "legit" here is a bit too colloquial for me. I would just go "legitimate".
    I didn’t even consider whether or not legit sounded colloquial at all. Interesting.

    -I have to admit, this chapter perplexed me; I really thought this story was done with gym battles and basic trainer storying. It seemed we were full-steam ahead into whatever it was that made Sai run away, especially since he no longer has his previous badges. So I was curious to see another chapter focusing on winning a gym badge. Obviously the crux going forward HAS to be the relationship between Sai and Team Rocket, right? I would think.

    I thought the Senori evolution stuff was very well done and powerfully written. Good work with that, as always!
    Yes, I did this on purpose in the hopes that I would be, uh, paralleling Sai’s moods. Sai’s moods and demeanor go up and down constantly, and I was hoping to portray that with speeding up and slowing down and then speeding up the plot again. If it didn’t work, oops. But yes, the plot will move forward from here on; a couple more things just have to happen first.

    Thanks for commenting.

    The Great Butler

    I just caught that "before Sai went completely insane" part here, and it immediately gets me thinking. Did something happen off-screen? Sai didn't seem to be "going insane over breaking the rules again" last chapter.
    No, nothing happened off-screen. It was just a reminder that Sai’s gone crazy in the past and Senori didn’t want it to happen again.

    Minor corrections: "The revelation that I had come to feel."
    Fixed, as well as the other error.

    Is it really all that much of a lie, though? They did have to learn some skills while surviving in the wild without Sai.
    I guess that’s true, yeah.

    Sai's behavior is once again a little disturbing, though. He's returning to normal but so slowly that he still seems out of sorts. Something feels off.
    Is his behavior ever not disturbing?

    That is indeed a little strange for Kuiora to back off willingly. It struck me right away.
    She’s changed quite a bit.

    I just noticed that you're using "utters" instead of the correct word for what a cow has, which are "udders." I didn't catch it the first time.
    Well, I feel dumb. Fixed.

    Unless you are referring to Miltank with the generic "him," that cannot be refused to refer to Miltank, as Miltank is a female-only species.
    Oops.

    Can you explain Senori's opinion regarding his new tail a bit more to me? I don't fully understand why he feels the way he does about it.
    I wrote in the chapter that Senori’s clan appreciated the sentret tail. They “blessed” it because it was their main tool in tracking food and watching for predators at night. Senori was hoping to get rid of his tail so he would break his main connection to his old clan. He feels this way about his new tail because there’s nothing special about it at all. It’s just a normal furret tail that can’t help him do the things that he once cared to do for his clan.

    Of course, there's something much deeper beneath the surface going on. I think there's enough to go on to make a clear guess as to what's going on with Sai, though I'll refrain from doing so for now. I have the feeling that something very important is going to happen soon.

    I thought this chapter felt a lot like a return to form after the Absent Sai story arc. Those chapters weren't bad, but they felt vastly different than what came before them. This chapter felt like ones from before Sai ran away.
    [/quote]

    A couple more important things have to happen soon and then we’ll be full force into the Sai story arc.

    I would read my response to Sid87’s similar response to “this chapter felt a lot like a return to form”. It was done on purpose. Thanks for commenting as always~

    | survival project |
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    | flying in the dark |
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    | love and other nightmares |
    | limited time, limited abilities. kyurem says she can be cured in exchange for saving those who need saving. |
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  4. #179
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    SURVIVAL PROJECT

    chapter 19 ; [RENNIO]
    ephemeral

    *

    I had to been to many places. I had been to small villages, large villages, cities, towns that wished they were cities. I had been to the sea, the desert, the highest bridge in the world. I had been to these places and back again, only in different regions. It was all the same when you thought that you could die at any moment, when you couldn’t help but wonder what was wrong with you. So I could tell anyone that what could have been tasted like sand, which made me ache for something to drink as my conscious dragged me across a desert of regret. What should have been tasted like salt water, which made ships roar out to the stars in the dead of night, hoping to be answered so it wouldn’t have to feel so alone on the big blue sea.

    What could have been, what should have been. That was what my life consisted of. I was beyond limited, when I wanted to be limitless. I no longer wanted to fear every threat that came my way. I no longer wanted to let Annie creep into my thoughts when she was least wanted. I no longer wanted to let Ezrem’s words make me think that I had to accomplish something huge, something larger than myself.

    What could I do about it? Well, I had already spent enough time learning about other people and pokémon. It only hit me now that it was entirely another thing to learn from people and pokémon. Yes, that was why everyone came in and out of my life in such a wild, quick paced fashion—they were meant to heal me in their own way. It was time for them to finally teach me something that was not only full of wisdom, but useful to the way in which I thought about life.

    I mostly thanked Senori for this. I thanked Sai, too, but for different reasons. When Sai disappeared, I was crushed. Simply crushed. I fretted over him day in and day out, wondering if he was okay. I thought it was the Annie situation all over again, except without the fire! How could he do that to me, when we had just become partners? We had scarcely touched the surface of our journey… and then he left, leaving me to wonder what could have been all over again. It wasn’t a pleasurable week, to say the least. But Senori helped me out. He showed me that I was having a strange sort of combination of delusions of grandeur and guilty delusions. I thought that everything was my fault, yet at the same time, I thought that I was invincible. Since I had already had such a low event occur in my life, it simply couldn’t happen again—that was my reasoning. Senori showed me that it was all a lie. Sai had disappeared—it was true. I had to accept it: a low event had happened again. And I thought it was my fault, for not battling, or for battling poorly, rather…

    Then, Sai came back. To say that I was ecstatic was an understatement. He was perfectly okay! He wanted our journey to continue! Even though he said we were going to the pokémon gym right away, I swear that it didn’t matter to me at that moment. And then—when we really did arrive at the pokémon gym…! Senori’s fight had inspired me. He had finally found a way to let go of his past. Even though he didn’t tell me this, I could see it on his face the moment that he evolved. He looked like a free pokémon, through and through. For a moment, I felt like we were at home, though that was nowhere permanent yet.

    Home.

    That was where me—and Ezrem—wanted to be.

    I finally approached Sai about this. I finally tried to find a way to get us there, once and for all.

    That would be step one, I decided.

    *

    It was the morning after the second Goldenrod City gym battle. I woke up early that day, full of energy and determination. I noticed that Sai was up already, too—he was lying in his bed, murmuring to himself about something—and used this chance to talk to him.

    “Sai,” I said, approaching him. I made sure to be quiet, since Senori was lying at his side, sleeping still.

    “Yes, Elekid?” he said, turning his head to look at me.

    “Won’t you call me Rennio?” I said first. If he was going to listen to my thoughts and take them to heart, then he had to know who I really was.

    “I don’t consider that your name,” he said plainly, “but I know you do, along with the others. Did your old trainer give you that name?”

    “Yes,” I said, smiling at the positive memory of Annie. “That’s why I want you to call me it, too, especially if you’re not going to give me another name…”

    “It would be even worse to give you another name. You can keep calling yourself what you want. Anyway,” Sai said, “what did you want to talk about?”

    “I wanted to talk about me and Ezrem,” I said, allowing him to change the subject. Someday, I believed that he would call me by my name. “Our goals for the future…”

    “The future?” Sai said, as if the idea was foreign to him. I wondered if it truly was. Annie always had had a goal in mind, but they were the exact opposite of each other, it seemed.

    “Yes,” I said. “Me and Ezrem have been looking for home. We really want to get there someday.”

    “Where’s home for you?”

    “Unova. Rufflet are from Unova, and apparently… so were elekid… once upon a time…”

    “Oh,” Sai said simply, my words apparently having no effect on him. “I don’t know where that is.”

    “There are maps and stuff to help you figure those kinds of things out,” I said quickly. “And there’s ships. And planes. Plenty of transportation modes!”

    “Why didn’t you just go there after your trainer passed, then?”

    “We’re just pokémon…” I said. My voice was soft; he had stung me with his blunt choice of words. Did he have any social skills at all? “We can’t do that by ourselves. That’s why we need you.”

    Sai thought for a moment. “So you want me to bring you to this Unova place, huh?”

    “That’s exactly right! I’ll do anything for it! And so would Ezrem, if you’d give him a chance to be on the team,” I said, glad we were getting somewhere now. It felt invigoration, empowering.

    “What would you do?” Sai said curiously.

    “I’d… finally battle for you. Ezrem would, too, if you needed him. I’ll stop being a baby for you. I’ll try, anyway. I’ll really try… and I’ve never even tried before—”

    “Stop,” Sai interrupted suddenly. I froze, wondering if I had said anything wrong. “You don’t have to try for me. That’s up to you. Either way, I wouldn’t be able to fulfill your request.”

    I could feel my heart fall. It had become a familiar sensation lately, it seemed. “Why not?” I asked.

    “I can’t leave the region.”

    “Why not?” I asked again.

    “It’s complicated. I have—had—people following me… If I left the region, surely they would hunt me down until the end of time… and do unimaginable things…” Sai said, looking up to the top of the bunk. He looked lost in thought now, forlorn and desperate.

    “So you’ll never leave the region?”

    “No,” Sai said, “but maybe I can get you guys there. I can’t make any promises, but—”

    “That’s good enough!” I cried, and then I remembered that I had to keep my voice down. I stopped for a moment, then continued, “I promise that I’ll fight for you from now on. We’re leaving for the next town soon, right? I promise that I’ll battle the first trainer that we come across. You’ll see, I’ll do better than I did at the gym.”

    But Sai didn’t look impressed. “Like I said, you don’t have to fight for me. In fact, your not fighting probably helps you out even more.”

    “What? That doesn’t make any sense…” I said, wondering how on earth my not being able to fight was at all useful to anyone.

    “I can’t explain. But do what you want.”

    “Okay,” I said, deciding not to push him further. He was already being mysterious and confusing as it was, and I had completed my goal of getting him to think about us going to Unova, anyway. That was a start.

    We were quiet for a few moments, with him looking at me peculiarly. Even when my eyes shifted back and forth between him and whatever else I could look at nervously, he didn’t stop peering over at me. His dark eyes were an odd color of blue; it almost made him look crazy, as if he were feeling intensely wound up inside. He looked like… he was longing for something. That was the best way I could put it. Maybe it had to do with me, since he was staring at me so intently.

    Well, since he was looking to please me (maybe—hopefully), I dared to ask, “Will you… feed me sometime? My old trainer used to feed me… It’s been a long time since anyone’s done that… I just want it done, for old time’s sake, you know. I’m sorry if that’s weird. Yeah. I’m sorry.”

    At this, Sai just laughed. “I feed you all the time. Every day, in fact. So I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

    “Feeding me. Like… a baby.”

    Sai chuckled again. “I still don’t know what you’re talking about, but you aren’t a baby. You can feed yourself. But maybe. Maybe that could be your prize for fighting.”

    I thought for a moment, satisfied with his answer—it would give me further motivation to fight, after all. “I have one last question,” I said, thinking back to older times, now. His disappearance hadn’t happened too far back, but still, it was just as fresh in my memory as Annie’s death.

    “Go for it.”

    “Why did you leave us? We were so worried about you…”

    “…Senori said the same thing.”

    “Because it’s true.”

    “I can’t tell you,” Sai said quietly, finally looking away. “I had… business to take care of. If I could have taken you guys along, I would have. I would have put you all in your pokéballs or something. But be glad you stayed where you were.”

    “Why? Being wild pokémon when we belong to a trainer is no fun at all,” I said, shuddering at the idea all over again.

    “Maybe one day, you’ll come with me, and you’ll regret you ever did.”

    …And that was the end of that conversation. At least we had gotten somewhere, but I understood my trainer even less, now. When would it all finally be clear to me? Perhaps never, but that wouldn’t have been very ideal. I would just have to wait and see.

    *

    Though my words had seemed to come out of nowhere, I intended to keep my promise of fighting the first trainer we saw on our way to the next destination: Ecruteak City. Of course I was nervous, and of course I would probably want to back down as soon as the situation was closer, but I pushed those thoughts aside for now. We left early in the morning—shortly after our conversation, as everyone else had risen to the sound of our voices—and we headed through the northern exit of the city. I noticed Sai was walking quicker than he usually did, as if he was in a hurry.

    “So, uh, why are we flying through the cities? I think that’s how you put it before, anyway,” I asked, keeping my pace brisk in order to keep up with him. It wasn’t working. The others seemed perfectly fine with doing this.

    “We are flying through the cities… because that’s what I was ordered to do.”

    I gave up my pace in order to think about this for a moment. As long as I could see the group, I supposed that I could afford to keep myself slightly behind. Again, I tried comparing Annie to Sai. Annie was on a journey because she wanted to be. Sai was on a journey, even though he didn’t want to be. Annie was a free spirit, and Sai was tired down by some invisible wires that only he could see. Yeah, that sounded about right. Did it make any more sense to me? Not at all.

    I decided to try a different approach. I went up to Senori and asked him how long they had been traveling.

    “Well, we spent a week and a half out in the wild recently… And we spent a week in a cave, once… but other than that, we’ve been moving quickly. So maybe a month, or a month and a half,” Senori said thoughtfully.

    “Do you know why he’s going so fast?”

    “No one does. You’re not alone.”

    “Hmm. Well—”

    Suddenly, Ezrem, who had been walking in front of me until now, stopped moving and let me bump into him. I stumbled backward, mumbling that I was sorry, and to watch what he was doing.

    “Oops,” Ezrem said, grinning. “But really. I’m trying not to let your mind wander too far. It’s too small and fragile to be out by itself, don’t you think?”

    “Hey! That’s not very nice,” I said, huffing and crossing my arms.

    “You’re the one who says he’s a baby,” Ezrem said. “Look, enough’s gone wrong already, right? Don’t try to bring any more drama into our lives. Our schedules are full.”

    “Oh, yeah? And what exactly are we so busy with?” I said.

    “Moving on to the next city, and getting closer to home. You should know that.”

    I did know that, but I didn’t say anything in response. Smiling, I figured that soon, I would tell Ezrem that I had talked to Sai about going home, and that he had agreed to at least think about it. That was closer than we had ever gotten in years, since Annie never seemed like she was going to let us go or finish her journey (not that I would have left, had she not passed—but Ezrem was another story). He would be so thrilled, I just knew it! And after he knew, nothing would be able to bring his spirits down like they were at this moment, for whatever reason.

    Things were quiet for a while after that. We kept traveling, and we only dared to speak up when we were hungry. Sai, of course, being the good trainer that he was—and I still believed he was a good trainer, despite what his sudden leave, because I thought that that was a problem with me, not him—fed us, but he told us that we should walk and eat at the same time, because we were running out of time. Dusk would start setting it soon, he said. Due to past experiences, I didn’t feel that we had been moving long enough for it to be dark anytime soon, but I listened anyway. That was just the kind of pokémon that I was.

    It was only when dusk really did start setting in that Ezrem approached me again.

    “So you talked to him about going home, huh? It was hard not to notice that smile on your face after I talked about it.”

    “Yeah. I told him about Unova and everything,” I said, surprised in a good way about his more normal demeanor.

    “I don’t know if Unova is really home or not. I mean, rufflet live there and all, and so did elekid, but who says that we’ll like it there?”

    “Ezrem?” I asked, not sure what he was saying. After we had come all this way, he was going to change his mind? It didn’t make sense.

    “Home could be just about anywhere. We could just take life as it is, and end up in the same happy spot as we would if he went to Unova. Do you get what I’m saying?”

    “I guess… So you want to give up the plan?”

    “No. If we can get to Unova, we should take that chance. I’m just saying that I’m not as excited about it as I once was.”

    Well, that was certainly a better response. Had he given up the plan entirely, I would have felt simply crushed. I had only followed in his footsteps was because he was so much smarter than me and because I was always so lost on my own. If he didn’t even know the path to succeeding in life, I obviously wouldn’t have a chance.

    “Yeah…” I said, deciding to change the subject to something that I was (slightly) more confident about. To get him to think about it, I also told him that I’d fight again.”

    “You did?” Ezrem said, his eyes growing wide.

    “I did,” I said. I thought for a moment, then added, “I meant it this time, too.”

    “Then what am I focusing on my own self-pity for? I can find a trainer for you! This won’t be a problem at all!” Ezrem said.

    I didn’t stop him, because he seemed so happy about my words that I just didn’t have the heart to tell him that I wasn’t ready yet. In truth, I didn’t know if I was ready or not anymore. Senori had certainly inspired me, and I had grown a lot when Sai had disappeared, but still. I only knew that it wouldn’t be hard to find a trainer. While I had promised to fight the first trainer we came across, we had encountered several trainers thus far, and Sai hadn’t spoken to any of them about a battle. Either he had forgotten, or he truly thought that not fighting was best for me. I couldn’t believe that. How else was I supposed to gain respect to the electivire line?

    Ezrem literally ran up to every trainer we saw after that. He frantically tried pointing to them, and then to Sai, since none of them could understand him. Most of them blew him off, confused and in a hurry to find shelter before it got completely dark. When he got tired of being ignored, he started kicking them in the shins. I couldn’t help but laugh. Such behavior was so… Ezrem-like, and it appealed to me greatly compared to his earlier self.

    Eventually, he found a trainer who approached Sai.

    “Is that your rufflet?” he said, pointing to Ezrem.

    “No,” Sai said, “but he likes to follow me around. He wants me to battle you.”

    “I can battle you,” the trainer said immediately, automatically. “Let’s make it interesting, okay? If I win, I get that rufflet. If I lose, you can, of course, keep him.”

    Sai thought for a moment. Was he really going to use Ezrem as a bargaining tool? My heart began to pound. If this was how my first battle as a brand new pokémon was going to go, then I definitely wasn’t prepared or willing to participate anymore.

    Finally, Sai said, “I’m not interested in making bets. Ask him.”

    “Tell him it’s a deal. I have faith in Rennio,” Ezrem said.

    “Ezrem, just because you’re having an identity crisis doesn’t mean that you can gamble your life away!” I cried, waving my arms at him frantically. He simply kept his eyes on the trainer in front of him.

    “He says okay,” Sai said emotionlessly.

    “All right,” the boy said, licking his lips. “Let’s do this.”

    And so it started. While I started sweating profusely, Sai and the other boy took their positions, turning the clearing we were standing on into an arena. I was already standing in the middle, so at least I didn’t have to walk to the middle while my legs were shaking. This battle was off to a good start, I thought sarcastically, bitterly.

    “Go, Arcanine!” the boy cried, eager to get started.

    I, as usual, wasn’t mentally—or physically, as it turned out—prepared for my opponent. The pokémon that appeared resembled a dog. The most notable thing I saw was that it was at least three times my size. It had a cream-colored mane covering around its neck, head, and legs. The otherwise orange pokémon had random black stripes on its body.

    As a greeting, it growled ferociously.

    “You have got to be kidding me,” I said weakly.

    “I believe in you, Rennio!” Ezrem called again from the sidelines. “What do you have to lose, anyway? Your life? You got that for free!”

    I waved to him slowly, and I felt more like I was signaling for him to shut up than thanking him for his (very kind) support. I tried hard not to let my thoughts succumb to death, and so far, it was working, aside from being forced to think about it due to Ezrem’s comment. Yes, there was an obvious change that had taken place in me, and it was already showing.

    “Don’t forget your catchphrase!” I heard Ezrem call amidst all of his cheering.

    “Yeah, yeah,” I said. “Rennio has come back to the world!”

    The arcanine laughed. “You have, have you? This should be an enthralling match between me and a little pipsqueak like you.”

    Words were either exceedingly encouraging or exceedingly brutal, I realized. I didn’t say anything, but took the mention of my size to heart. If only I had evolved… But it was too late for that. My promise to Annie had been made—and kept.

    “Elekid,” Sai said kindly, “show me what kind of moves you’ve got, okay?”

    “Right,” I said, trying to put myself into an intimidating stance, but the arcanine didn’t seem fazed.

    “You know why my trainer made such a dangerous bet for your trainer? Because he knew he wouldn’t lose! You don’t scare me!” it roared.

    “Hmm,” was my response. I couldn’t back down now. I wanted to crawl back to Sai and beg him for forgiveness already, but it was too late. I had gotten myself into this mess, and it up to me to get out of it, too. This had to be done not only for my sake now, but for Ezrem’s as well. I would have to smack him later for putting me—and himself—into such a life-threatening position.

    I started running at the arcanine, unsure of what attack I would even be doing or how it would affect the giant monster. It had been so long since I battled that I apparently forgot the meaning of strategy. Nevertheless, I ran until I was in front of the arcanine. The dog crouched downward, looking like it was going to bite me the first chance it got. I wasn’t going to give it that chance, so as I got close to his mouth, I slid down on my knees, going under his head and positioning myself under its belly. Here, I felt somewhat safe, compared to being outside in the arena, where anything could happen. I knew that I had to attack, though, so I jumped up to the arcanine’s underside and kicked it with as much force as I could muster. The arcanine yelped, as he probably wasn’t expecting any move from me, much less one that was so powerful. I immediately made my way back out into the arena, afraid that he would crush me in retaliation.

    “Not bad for someone of your size,” the arcanine said, one eye closed from wincing.

    “Exactly… Don’t underestimate me…” I said, but my words didn’t sound very strong. My voice was still shaky, confused and lost. Baby-like.

    “Sure,” it said. “I won’t.”

    “That was my low kick attack,” I said, turning to Sai to make sure that he could hear me. Of course, this turned out to be a big mistake—it left an opening for the arcanine to attack me.

    “Arcanine, use take down!” the pokémon’s trainer called.

    Before I knew it, I was being sprawled backward, landing by Sai and the others. I cried out in pain, not expecting the sudden impact of the attack. The arcanine had collided directly with my stomach, and I held it comfortingly, swaying back and forth, hoping the cradling motion would send the terrible sensation away.

    “Don’t talk to me,” Sai ordered. “Use your own attacks.”

    I nodded. I had learned that Sai mostly enjoyed being a spectator of battles, while checking in here and there to keep everything sane and controlled. That made sense to me. Besides, he wasn’t experienced enough to control me, so this was for the best. I made my way back to the center of the arena, legs shaking from the sudden pain. It hadn’t been a terribly powerful attack, but it told me that the arcanine not only knew what it was doing, but it knew how to make full use of every single move it had.

    I continued trying to run under the arcanine and using low kicks, but this time, the dog knew what to expect. Every time that I got close, it hopped out of the way with extraordinary speed, and it tried to fight back with more take down attacks. Similarly, I dodged out of the way each time—but just barely, due to the pokémon’s enormity and my nervousness attempting to keep me frozen. At least my speed, during all of this break time in between battles, hadn’t betrayed me much.

    Eventually, I decided to stop playing games, and to try really attacking—with a move that couldn’t be avoided, no matter how hard the arcanine tried. I ran to my side of the arena, making the arcanine think that I was forfeiting. I tried to focus my mind, recalling what it was like to use this attack. It felt like being pure, as if I was striking the arcanine with the full force of the night sky that everyone wishes upon. I released a series of bright, solid stars toward the dog. The arcanine tried to avoid the volley of stars, of course, but I kept shooting so many of them that several of them hit, causing more and more damage with each blast.

    The arcanine growled. “How dare you use those cheap tricks,” it said.

    “They’re legit attacks…” I countered. “Obviously.”

    This only made the arcanine angrier. I scolded myself, wondering why I was only serving to aggravate the pokémon further. A more furious pokémon meant more powerful attacks, and more powerful attacks meant that the battle would turn against my favor.

    Apparently, Sai noticed this. “Use thundershock, Elekid!” he cried.

    That, I could obey. It was the next attack that I was going to use, anyway. With all of the sweat that I had been building up on my body due to anxiety, the attack was going to have a much greater impact. I tried to focus my mind once more, remembering not only myself using the attack in the past, but the clefairy from the Goldenrod City gym. If a normal-type pokémon could use elemental attacks, then so could I…

    When I released the loud, crackling streak of lightning, it felt like a huge relief to me. I had done it. I had really done it. And by my own free will, no less. It wasn’t done as self-defense, and it wasn’t done just for the sake of doing it. I was doing it during a battle, a real battle. I had never felt more immensely proud of myself, and I smiled as the electricity engulfed the arcanine in a beautiful yellow glow.

    Then, things backfired on me. I hadn’t been wanting to make the arcanine angrier, but apparently, losing made its fury rise and rise. That was the goal of the battle, of course, so I wanted to win, but… Apparently, the arcanine hadn’t been expecting me to be this powerful.

    “This must be a joke,” the arcanine snarled. “That trainer is new, no doubt. And you—you are anything but new to this. I can feel it in my bones.”

    “Y-Yes… Well, that’s a long story, you see—”

    “One that I’m not interested in hearing,” the arcanine interrupted. “If you want to play a game of elementals, then I will join you.”

    As if they were communicating telepathically, the trainer yelled, “Arcanine, use flamethrower!”

    That was when I froze completely. Flamethrower, I knew, was the most powerful fire-type attack anyone could use. Since it was being used by a fire-type pokémon, the flamethrower’s power was probably going to be beyond my imagination. It was a simple logic that even I, in my anxious state, could understand. I remembered Ezrem, and I remembered that I was the last elekid, and I remembered other instances in which I had seen hurt pokémon—none of these memories were pleasant, to say the least, though I cherished Ezrem dearly.

    The arcanine drew in a deep, deep breath, and I could swear that it was grinning at me as it did so. Its head drew back, and when it burst forward, so did an intense streak of red and orange flames. I stood there, unsure of what to do. I wasn’t ready to die or be hurt. I still had so much to do.

    “Rennio, you have to do something!” Ezrem cried, flapping his wings up and down, up and down…

    But later, I knew that he knew I wasn’t going to do anything. He was flapping his wings not to get my attention, but so that he could fly over to me as quickly as possible. He stood in front of me, and I saw him, and I wanted to scream at him to move, but I couldn’t—even my lungs were shut down. Ezrem braced himself with one wing as the flames clashed with his tiny body.

    I simply watched as Ezrem was shrouded by the fire. It hurt me, as if I were the one being hit, and so I couldn’t imagine what kind of agony that my friend was going through. It reminded me of Annie, of the forest fire, all over again—like so many things did. It was as if the world was conspiring to be against us, forever and for always.

    When the attack ended, Ezrem started shrieking from the pain. He hopped around like an imbecile, holding on to the wing that had taken the most damage.

    “What’s going on here?!” the boy cried. “The rufflet wasn’t supposed to be in the battle! I can’t believe this! You just hurt my shiny pokémon!”

    At this, Ezrem stopped hopping, though he looked like he was going to topple over instead.

    “Shiny?” he said, and he was so quiet that I was probably the only one who heard him.

    “Battle’s over,” Sai said quickly, rushing over to me and Ezrem.

    “Shiny?” Ezrem repeated. “That’s what I am? That’s why everyone’s after me? Because I’m shiny?”

    “I need to get him to a pokémon center,” Sai explained, picking up Ezrem in his arms, holding him carefully.

    “This isn’t over yet! The bet is still on!”

    “The bet is over! No one wins,” Sai said firmly, glaring at the boy. He started running back toward Goldenrod City, motioning for all of us to follow.

    We all followed, with me being the farthest behind.

    *

    It took about an hour to get back to the Goldenrod City pokémon center. The entire time, Ezrem was shrieking from either pain, or from the realization that he was a shiny pokémon. I wasn’t sure what that meant, but evidently it was nothing special.

    When Sai handed Ezrem over to the nurse at the counter, she asked what on earth had happened.

    “We ran into a tough pokémon,” was all Sai said, his head drooping low. He was out of breath, but he was doing a good job at trying not to let it show.

    “My goodness,” she said. “It definitely looks like he got burnt. I’ll have to take a closer look at him. Please wait in the lobby, and I’ll come get you as soon as I have more information.”

    “Thank you,” Sai said.

    The running, the encounter with the nurse, the waiting—it all went by like a blur to me. It wasn’t something that I pleasantly wanted to remember, anyway. I had gotten Ezrem hurt, and badly so. I hadn’t meant to, I really hadn’t. My freezing was supposed to be my problem, not his! He shouldn’t have run into the arena so selflessly. He shouldn’t have taken the blow for me. It should have been me who had gotten burnt. At least he wasn’t killed—that would, of course, be the worst outcome—but still… Once again, I was overcome by endless, all-encompassing guilt.

    “It’s okay…” Sai said, noticing this. He was patting me on the shoulder. “Rennio, you did a good job,” he added.

    “Rennio…” I said to myself. Sai had finally called me by my name.

    I started crying, both from happiness and sadness.

    Until now, I hadn’t thought such a thing was possible, but it was.
    Last edited by diamondpearl876; 19th February 2013 at 3:26 AM.

    | survival project |
    | this trainer is different. everyone knows it, but no one can explain it. |
    | complete |


    | flying in the dark |
    | he's hiding something. she just doesn't know it. |
    | on hiatus|


    | love and other nightmares |
    | limited time, limited abilities. kyurem says she can be cured in exchange for saving those who need saving. |
    | chapter 1 released |


  5. #180
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    Arkansas
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    Sorry it took me so long pair. <3!

    Sometimes, I thought that life was defined by the distance between what you wanted and what you needed.
    Wonderful way to open a chapter. Really sets the tone

    I would be getting rid of my tail.
    ARGH! I hate that I saw your banner before it actually happened!

    Ezrem said, now pulling on the elekid’s arm, making him panic in retaliation.
    Retaliation read really weird for me. Such a combative word, and even though Ezrem is grabbing him, I feel like a word like response would read better

    This time, afterimages of the tiny clefairy were present every time the fairy grew a little bigger.
    Very nice description of the effects of minimize. I certainly wouldn't have portrayed it that way, but it works better than anything I could have come up with. It's almost like the game if I remember correctly. The shrinking, then a flash of multiple outlines. Though I could be wrong. Anyway, nicely done

    “If I lose, then you’ll have witnessed the single most unlikely thing to ever happen,” I said, grinning
    Sounds like something Dorian would say lol

    “Okay, Miltank, I think it’s time for your signature move. Rollout!” Whitney commanded, and all hints of her crying self were gone.
    Your version of Whitney seems pretty preachy, so it works I guess. Ordinarily though, I'd advise against using such a long sentence in the middle of battle. You dig?

    my old body was old news.
    For some reason, not only does this perfectly describe evolution from a Pokemon's POV, but it's my favorite sentence in the chapter. awesome

    “Use a new attack or something, Senori!” Sai said.
    LOL, I can see a normal, inexperienced trainer saying something like that, but with Sai, it means so much more than confusion and excitement to me. It goes to show that once again, he's out of his element, and has only the slightest idea what he doing. I may be out of sorts here, but that sentence really showed me more of Sai.

    Chapter 19

    when you couldn’t help but wonder what was wrong with you
    You're such an annoyingly amazing writer, you know that? Anyway, the portion I quoted is something I feel like any person could sympathize with, and I really responded to it

    I thought it was the Annie situation all over again, except without the fire!
    Feels like an odd place for an exclamation point. read weird to me

    Plenty of transportation modes!”
    That made me lol

    “It’s complicated. I have—had—people following me… If I left the region, surely they would hunt me down until the end of time… and do unimaginable things…”
    The pauses really added to the gravity of what Sai was talking about, so good job on that. I'm not sure if this is the second, or third time you've mentioned that Sai thinks people are following him, but it's infuriatingly mysterious, and I really, really like it

    “Maybe one day, you’ll come with me, and you’ll regret you ever did.”
    I still say he's a ****ing robot and needed his electricity fix, but whatever, I'm just going to go sit and play with my theories in the corner

    because that’s what I was ordered to do.”
    There it is again. NVM, I forgot that you had a bachelor's in being cryptic haha

    “Ezrem, just because you’re have an identity crisis doesn’t mean that you can gamble your life away!”
    That line struck me as so sad for some reason

    I continued trying to run under the arcanine and using low kicks, but this time, the dog knew what to expect.
    I really can't imagine a worse opponent for Rennio. Really though, that sounds awful. The expression and words he used when it happened were spot on and it gave a perfect peek into his mind and emotions. You should be proud of that

    “Shiny?” Ezrem repeated. “That’s what I am? That’s why everyone’s after me? Because I’m shiny?
    Thank god, I was hoping he'd get to it soon, so this is a real relief lol

    Hmm, yeah, two great chapters as usual. The one with Senori expanded on some theories I had about him in a surprisingly touching way, and I've felt like evolution was something that was due for him, so I was quite pleased by that. You lead up to it really casually and naturally too, which is something that can be quite hard to do. With chapter 19, the biggest standout for me was Ezrem's realization about his shiny status, which is apt to inspire all sorts of even more awfulness from him that he already has. It's off, even though the chapter was Rennio based, I found myself examining the other characters more. Interesting

    Anyway, awesome job as usual, and I look forward to the next chapter

    An Ancient Treasure, a Terrible Price. Take the Risk, Eat the World
    (Final Chapter added 05-15-2014)

    -Thanks to PopPrincess_Lyra for the amazing banner-


  6. #181
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    Dec 2011
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    Pittsburgh, PA
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    I read the chapter, but I didn't do a breakdown as I went, so I'm just going to give my thoughts.

    You did it again; you took one of the characters I was disinterested in and evoked feelings from me. And Renny really started having his own voice this time. He came off as more innocent and naive, yet full of heart and desire, even if his courage and strength can't match them. I told you my earlier problem with Rennio was he didn't sound like a "new" character yet that really seemed set-apart from early Senori or Atis, but I think you did build him as his own character here.

    Ezrem remains a mystery; he threw himself in harm's way to save Rennio? I wouldn't have seen that coming before. It was heartfelt to see that kind of move from him. Perhaps he felt too guilty for goading Rennio into such a dangerous battle, but still... it seems different than what I've imagined.

    There was some writing here I didn't think flowed well and some lines I had to re-read to follow well. One example in particular is:

    So I could tell anyone that what could have been tasted like sand, which made me ache for something to drink as my conscious dragged me across a desert of regret. What should have been tasted like salt water, which made ships roar out to the stars in the dead of night, hoping to be answered so it wouldn’t have to feel so alone on the big blue sea.
    I had to read that about a half dozen times in several different inflections to figure out what Rennio was saying.

    A section that hit me hard:

    “I can’t tell you,” Sai said quietly, finally looking away. “I had… business to take care of. If I could have taken you guys along, I would have. I would have put you all in your pokéballs or something. But be glad you stayed where you were.”

    “Why? Being wild pokémon when we belong to a trainer is no fun at all,” I said, shuddering at the idea all over again.

    “Maybe one day, you’ll come with me, and you’ll regret you ever did.”
    That... is Sai TOTALLY admitting he *IS* going to leave again at some point, right? I was shocked by that, but I guess Sai has never lied to his pokemon before, so why would he lie about that? Still... is it foreshadowing? Or just Sai being dreadful? Can't decide!

    Another very good chapter, as per usual. I'm... GUESSING Ezrem is next? It seems a while since we've heard from him.


    Sid87's Gen 6 Igloo Shop!

    FC: 3823-9867-2750

  7. #182
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    Feb 2013
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    Just read the first chapter and I absolutely love it. There is nothing more for me to say.

  8. #183
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    May 2007
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    Illinois, USA
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    Sidewinder

    Sorry it took me so long pair. <3!
    You’re cute, so I forgive you.

    ARGH! I hate that I saw your banner before it actually happened!
    I’m sorry! I waited two weeks to release the banner.

    Your version of Whitney seems pretty preachy, so it works I guess. Ordinarily though, I'd advise against using such a long sentence in the middle of battle. You dig?
    Makes sense. I’m reading the pokémon adventures manga right now and they always talk so much during the middle of the battle, it’s weird. So… I dig.

    LOL, I can see a normal, inexperienced trainer saying something like that, but with Sai, it means so much more than confusion and excitement to me. It goes to show that once again, he's out of his element, and has only the slightest idea what he doing. I may be out of sorts here, but that sentence really showed me more of Sai.
    It does show Sai. You’d think that after all this time he could manage a simple battle, but nah. He’d rather stay on the sidelines and do nothing.

    You're such an annoyingly amazing writer, you know that? Anyway, the portion I quoted is something I feel like any person could sympathize with, and I really responded to it
    WHY THANK YOU.

    The pauses really added to the gravity of what Sai was talking about, so good job on that. I'm not sure if this is the second, or third time you've mentioned that Sai thinks people are following him, but it's infuriatingly mysterious, and I really, really like it
    This is probably the third or fourth time now. He’s a paranoid dork.

    I still say he's a ****ing robot and needed his electricity fix, but whatever, I'm just going to go sit and play with my theories in the corner
    Sai takes great offense to this. *CRY*

    There it is again. NVM, I forgot that you had a bachelor's in being cryptic haha
    Oh, so THAT’S what I’m going to college for.

    I really can't imagine a worse opponent for Rennio. Really though, that sounds awful. The expression and words he used when it happened were spot on and it gave a perfect peek into his mind and emotions. You should be proud of that
    Exactly what I was going for. Fire-type pokémon? Bad memories. Fully evolved? Doesn’t even know how to battle a caterpie. It makes for great tragedy.

    Thanks for commenting!

    Sid87

    You did it again; you took one of the characters I was disinterested in and evoked feelings from me. And Renny really started having his own voice this time. He came off as more innocent and naive, yet full of heart and desire, even if his courage and strength can't match them. I told you my earlier problem with Rennio was he didn't sound like a "new" character yet that really seemed set-apart from early Senori or Atis, but I think you did build him as his own character here.
    I feel vaguely proud of this right now.

    Ezrem remains a mystery; he threw himself in harm's way to save Rennio? I wouldn't have seen that coming before. It was heartfelt to see that kind of move from him. Perhaps he felt too guilty for goading Rennio into such a dangerous battle, but still... it seems different than what I've imagined.
    It seems everyone was too quick to judge Ezrem as a “bad” character.

    That... is Sai TOTALLY admitting he *IS* going to leave again at some point, right? I was shocked by that, but I guess Sai has never lied to his pokemon before, so why would he lie about that? Still... is it foreshadowing? Or just Sai being dreadful? Can't decide!
    That really is Sai admitting it. Strange, huh? Guess we’ll see what happens.

    Another very good chapter, as per usual. I'm... GUESSING Ezrem is next? It seems a while since we've heard from him.
    Who else could it be? Mr. oh-god-I’m-shiny-what-the-**** will come through next.

    Thanks for commenting!

    UberHexagon

    Just read the first chapter and I absolutely love it. There is nothing more for me to say.
    I’m glad you like it! Hope it inspires you to read the rest of the fic when you have time…

    | survival project |
    | this trainer is different. everyone knows it, but no one can explain it. |
    | complete |


    | flying in the dark |
    | he's hiding something. she just doesn't know it. |
    | on hiatus|


    | love and other nightmares |
    | limited time, limited abilities. kyurem says she can be cured in exchange for saving those who need saving. |
    | chapter 1 released |


  9. #184
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    SURVIVAL PROJECT

    chapter 20 ; [EZREM]
    mentality

    *


    To think that the world was keeping such a huge secret from me was unbelievable. To think that this was how everyone repaid me for all the damage I had done… It was deniable. More than anything, I wanted to deny it. I had started trying to be a good pokémon, after all! I was staying away from Kuiora, because she was so much better than me, and I didn’t want to taint her further than I already had. I was trying to help Rennio in his time of need by encouraging him in my own way—he would understand entirely, I knew. And I had taken the heat for him—literally, even! While my whole body had been engulfed in pain, my one wing was badly burnt, or so the nurse had said.

    I had just been handed over to the nurse by Sai, and she had said that. That was the only good thing about this whole situation—Sai was showing that he at least cared about me a little by taking me to the pokémon center, despite his obvious wish to get to Ecruteak City as soon as possible. So the rotten boy did have a soft spot in his heart for me!

    But now, that was by far the last thing on my mind. My head was reeling, and I felt like I was going to vomit at any moment. My one wing ached vaguely, and as for the other one… Well, I wouldn’t have minded it being amputated if it meant that the agony would subside.

    The nurse brought me into the back room of the pokémon center. There were plenty of beds, some of them filled with obviously sick pokémon, and others completely empty and cleaned, ready for use by anybody. Next to each bed was a large, grey machine that was similar to the one behind the main counter. I assumed that it was used to heal pokémon.

    But the nurse didn’t hook me up to this machine. She simply set me on the bed and told me to relax, and that everything was going to be okay. Her voice sounded so sad that I couldn’t believe her.

    “Everything will be all right,” she said again. She went out of the room for a moment, and came back with a glass of water. “Drink this,” she said. “Keep yourself hydrated.”

    Next, she went over to the far wall and grabbed a pair of gloves from a small box. She put them on. I knew that she was preparing to touch me, and I flinched just thinking about it. But she didn’t even touch me at first. Looking at me, she began mumbling to herself about how the feathers had been charred off, and that the skin underneath appeared very pale. Finally, she reached toward me—I braced myself to feel an immense amount of pain, but shockingly, when her gloves came into contact with my wing, I felt nothing.

    “Does that hurt?” she said.

    “N-No,” I managed to say.

    “I see,” she said, and I swore she sounded sadder. Just great, I thought. Then—“I’m going to examine your airway,” she added calmly, soothingly, “and check your breathing, to make sure that you’re functioning correctly there.”

    That was fine, I thought. I could deal with that. I breathed in and out as normally as I could, and it only hurt when I exhaled, as part of the flames had struck the lower part of my neck. Apparently, she was concerned about this.

    “Your airway seems fine, which is good,” she said. “But the wing…”

    And it all went downhill from there.

    *

    The nurse picked me up and cradled me as she brought me back out to Sai. When he saw us, he stood up immediately, and looked at her expectantly.

    “Well?” he said. “What’s wrong with him?”

    I wanted to choke him then, and tell him that there was nothing wrong with me. There was nothing wrong at all… And it just so happened that everyone but me thought the opposite!

    “The base of Ezrem’s neck and his one wing are minor burns that can be treated with care and in time. The other wing, however… The other wing has sustained severe third degree burns…” the nurse said, her voice trailing off, as if she couldn’t continue. She cradled me further, though, and it would have been comfortable—if I wasn’t able to understand her.

    “So? What does that even mean? What are you trying to say?” Sai said, motioning for her to go on with his hands. Such an impatient little boy, he was.

    “Third degree burns are also called full thickness burns. This is because they destroy the entire outer layer of skin, and the layer of nerve fibers underneath. This means that usually, not a lot of pain can be felt, which seems like a fortunate sign,” the nurse said. She sighed. “But unfortunately, these types of burns cannot be treated, even with care and in time, even with our machines here. I’m sorry, but he may not be able to use his wing anymore.”

    I froze. I had been expecting something terrible, but I hadn’t been expecting this. I wouldn’t be able to fly anymore? I wouldn’t be able to suspend in the air, showing off to the world that I was freer than everyone else? A part of me that had been with me through thick and thin would no longer be there. It was inconceivable, impossible…

    Sai got my hopes when he said, “He may not be able to? Is there any other way?”

    “There could be a way, but I can’t be certain. No one can.”

    “What is it?” I blurted out. I would do anything she asked—

    “Well, skin grafts could be an option. Skin grafts are used to permanently replace destroyed tissues. They are very expensive, however, and would require Ezrem to stay for a much longer period of time in order to recover.”

    Sai thought for a long, long time. The nurse was about to prod him to speak when he said, “I’m a trainer. I don’t have much money…”

    My heart fell. Of course we didn’t, I already was aware of this. And I knew, even though he wasn’t saying it, that we were low on time, too, for whatever reason.

    “There’s another way, though,” she went on. “If he evolves, the nerve fibers may be replaced and he could use his wing again. It may not be as effective, but it’s better than nothing. It’s a possibility, anyway.”

    … I would do anything she asked, except for that.

    Of course the solution to my problem would be the one thing that I had promised I wouldn’t do for Annie. I mean, at the time, I only did it because I wanted to get home, and I willing to listen to anything she said… and I had planned on evolving sometime when I was on my own… and she was gone now… and I wanted to keep her memory alive now that I cared what I had done to her… I just didn’t know. This was also inconceivable, impossible.

    “Okay,” Sai said. He looked at me solemnly, as if he were telling me sorry for neglecting me all this time. “What else can we do?”

    But I was lost in a train of thought, and I didn’t want to hear it.

    *

    I was hit with two low blows in a row. I had lost the use of my wing, through a situation that could have been entirely avoided if I weren’t so stupid. That’s not to say that I regretted saving Rennio. That just meant that I shouldn’t have pushed for him to battle in the first place… even if he really needed to do it eventually.

    And the secret. The secret!

    How could I not have known? That was the first thing that I wondered when I found out. Really. After all these years, why hadn’t Annie told me? Knowing her, it probably wouldn’t have mattered whether or not she told me. But she had always believed that one should be aware of their own identity, so… why hadn’t she told me? Why hadn’t Rennio told me? And why hadn’t Kuiora, given her love for rare and legendary pokémon? On second thought, she had been close to telling me, once, but we had gotten interrupted. Thinking back on it now, I was grateful that she hadn’t told me, because that meant that she didn’t have to see me this way…

    My mind continued spinning as we left the pokémon center and started heading back toward Ecruteak City.

    “We’re heading back, now,” Sai said. “I’m sorry for the interruption.” And that was all that I had bothered to listen to. He carried me as he walked briskly, as if he thought that my legs weren’t able to move or something. And maybe he felt sorry for me. And I was sorry to say, buddy, that I didn’t want your self-pity. But I didn’t make a sound. No one else did, either, but I thought that I heard Rennio crying—again.

    I soon found out what the nurse had said about healing my burns, however, when we had reached the same clearing where the incident had taken place. Sai had stopped here on purpose and set me down. He asked for Kuiora to step forward, and for the rest of the group to back off.

    “Kuiora,” I said, my voice barely above a whisper. Could she still think that I was special? Probably not!

    She nodded. Her head tilted backward, and when she lurched forward, a soft stream of water came, too. She hit me in the neck, and then moved toward my other wing. Since the wounds were still fresh, I roared in pain.

    “What was that for?” I cried through gritted teeth.

    “The nurse said you have to take cool baths for your burns,” Sai explained, “and it just so happens that we have a water-type pokémon on the team. Aren’t you lucky?”

    I felt anything but lucky, but I said nothing.

    Next, Sai handed me two small pills, similar to the ones he had been taking himself. “For the pain,” he said, and we both nodded. I opened my mouth and he stuck them on my tongue. I nearly died trying to swallow them without water, but I managed to get them down and keep them down.

    “And now,” Sai said, taking out a small bottle from his pocket, “we put some cream on it.”

    He put some of the cream on his hands, and he gently rubbed it into the side of my neck, and on both of my wings. Of course, the wing that would be out of commission forever didn’t hurt, while the others were still trying to make me scream. I didn’t know whether to be thankful or spiteful over the fact that the worst burn was mocking me by staying so silent.

    Finally, Sai took out some bandages from his pocket. I assumed that he got all of these supplies from the nurse, and I vaguely wondered what would happen if we ran out on the middle of the route. I thought back to when I told Rennio our schedules were full. This conversation had just happened this morning. Then, my only worry was getting home. Now, I was worried about being a shiny pokémon that everyone targeted, and being a useless flying-type pokémon for the rest of my life.

    Sai placed a square shaped patch on my neck, over the minor part that was burned slightly. Then, he wrapped the other two wings fully. He had to try at least three times before he got it right, though.

    “Sorry,” he said. “I’ve never done this before.”

    “It’s okay,” I said sadly. “Me neither.”

    When he was finally finished and satisfied with his attempt, I tried flapping my wings and immediately regretted it. My left wing didn’t—couldn’t—move at all, and my right wing paid me back in full for daring to move it. I cringed.

    And soon enough, all was quiet again. Sai offered to carry me the rest of the way, but I said no, I wanted to walk with the rest of the group. In truth, I wanted to talk to Kuiora… and after that, I wanted to talk to Rennio.

    I ignored the desperate looks from the elekid as I motioned for Kuiora to come to the back of the line with me. I saw Rennio turn his back to me regretfully as he started following Sai. Occasionally, I saw him turn back again and again, but he never said a word. He acted and looked as if he had been the one burnt instead. And in a way, I was sure he felt burnt. I would have to take care of it later.

    I wondered what would come of these conversations. At least Kuiora was still caring for me. That was a start. But she looked angry, I knew, as if she didn’t want to help me to begin with. Maybe it was all in my head, but I sure didn’t think so.

    “Well, what do you want?” she said in a tone that pretty much confirmed my fears.

    When I didn’t answer, she looked as if she was about to leave, but I stopped her by pecking her on the tail. She soon acquiesced, sick of the passive-aggressive attacks.

    “Do you want to know,” I started, “what’s worse than a legendary pokémon who has a short temper, is a bit smite happy, and who has no developed sense of humor?”

    “Uh,” she said. “Sure?”

    “What’s worse is a legendary pokémon with a short temper who is very smite happy, and has a highly developed sense of humor.”

    “I’m not sure I know what you’re getting at…”

    “Even the legendary pokémon can be just like us! They can destroy others, destroy places, and get lost in their own minds. It’s such a mind blowing catastrophe.”

    “Ezrem, are you okay? I mean, I know you’re not okay… But even before all of this, you haven’t seemed like yourself lately.”

    “I’m special to you, and therefore I am invisible, like the rest of your worshipped friends. Who cares?” I said, knowing that I was being difficult, but I didn’t care.

    “I do, and that’s exactly why!”

    I couldn’t stand it. I wanted her to care, but at the same time I didn’t. Looking over at Atis, I thought about bothering the others.

    “What about you, Atis?” he said, hopping over to the fighting-type pokémon, who was staying close to Sai from behind. “Do you care?”

    “I guess so…” he said, looking at me oddly. Apparently, he had been eavesdropping. As expected from the quietest member of the group.

    “What do you think about the legendary pokémon? What do you think about me? Am I evil?”

    “W-Well, I’ve never seen you do anything bad… like hurt anyone or anything…” Atis said, walking slower and slower now, his feet turning uncomfortably as he did so.

    “Any decent human being wouldn’t do such a thing. But I am neither decent or a human being. You lose.”

    “Ezrem—” Kuiora tried to start, but she didn’t seem to know where she was going with it.

    “Calm yourself, Kuiora,” I said. “I am clearly having an identity crisis here, and you are not allowed to interrupt.”

    “You’re my friend. I’ll interrupt if I want to. Why don’t we keep standing in the back and talk it out a little?”

    But I didn’t want to talk it out anymore, though I knew it was inevitable. Torn, I kept spouting out nonsense, talking about how everyone in the world was keeping a secret from me that I just couldn’t figure out.

    “But I finally found out,” I told Kuiora. “I’m a shiny pokémon. A real, live, breathing shiny pokémon. Isn’t that fantastical?”

    “Ezrem,” she said, “it’s not a bad thing. That’s why I’ve thought you were special all this time, and you’re still—”

    “But you must be mad, right? Obviously, I didn’t know that I was shiny, but I still claimed myself to be legendary in front of you. That’s some deceitful stuff right there, don’t you think?”

    “Yeah, I’m angry… but I can’t stay angry with you, considering the state you’re in,” Kuiora said, looking me over thoroughly, making a point. “I’ve been angry before, and I’ve learned from it. I don’t want to be that way again, especially not with you.”

    “You should be angry. Angrier than you’ve ever been.”

    “Why? What’s so bad about being a shiny pokémon?” she asked, genuinely curious.

    She wanted to know why it was a bad thing? I could tell her why. I told her everything. I told her about making Rennio believe that he was the last elekid on this planet, just so that he would become attached to me and never want to leave. I told her that being a shiny pokémon suddenly made me feel like the only shiny rufflet in the world, and it made me feel lonely, and I wanted to bring someone down with me. I was missing my monster more than anything. I told her that I wanted to be the same monster that I was when I killed my previous trainer in a fire. In a fire that I started. I told her how ironic it was, now, that I should get burned myself. It was karma, I knew. Pure karma.

    “And that,” I concluded, “is why you should be mad with me. I am a terrible pokémon, and I know it, and I won’t stop it, though I’ve tried. I tried keeping quiet with you, and I’m going to tell Rennio… soon. Not today, but soon.”

    Kuiora stopped walking, making me stop, too. Her face was turning red, the sides of her mouth turned down as low as I had ever seen them.

    “You killed your trainer? You told Rennio that?” she said weakly.

    “I did,” I said, smiling for dramatic effect.

    “I don’t want to be angry. Don’t do this,” she said, noticing my theatrics. She knew me too well.

    “You should hurt me. Or kill me. Or something. Really. I deserve it.”

    “No, Ezrem!” Kuiora cried. “I won’t!”

    When she continued this persistent refusal for a little while, Sai finally stopped moving, probably having heard part of the conversation despite being several steps ahead of us, thanks to Kuiora’s frantic screaming. I couldn’t see his face, but his fists were clenched, and I feared for the worst.

    He turned, bent over, and picked me up by the wing—the bad one. I hung there, trying to flap my other wing wildly, ignoring the pain, trying to make a point that I was still stronger than he ever would be as a trainer. I was either yelling out obscenities or grunting sounds at this point, and eventually, when I realized that I truly needed both of my wings to get anywhere, I let Sai win and let myself go limp.

    “Let’s get this straight,” Sai said, keeping his firm grip on me. “You are not on this team. I helped you and broke the rules yet again out of the kindness of my heart, but you are still not on this team. I don’t know what you were saying, but you won’t antagonize my pokémon if you’re going to keep following us around. You’ve only been allowed to follow us around because of… Rennio. It was a favor I did for him in exchange for his being on my team. Do you understand?”

    “Yeah, yeah,” I said quietly. I was much calmer now, but looked much more ashamed. I should have felt ashamed, I thought. I wanted to be on this trainer’s team, and I already had very little hope of doing so… and now, my chances might have just been ruined forever.

    “Besides,” Sai said, suddenly calmer now. “He cares a lot about you, so you should listen. He came to me just this morning to talk about you. I’ll leave you to guess what it was about, since you won’t talk to him or listen to others.”

    “Okay,” I said simply. I didn’t mention how we had already talked about it, and I dreaded the fact that we had to talk yet again, and soon. My witty comments and his jokes were set aside. “I’m sorry,” I added, my voice even more quiet.

    It was strange, in a way, to have Sai being the only one to calm me down. There was some solace, I knew, in the fact that he didn’t like me. I felt that I deserved it. With Rennio and Kuiora, I wanted them to hate me yet I wanted them to love me at the same time. It was a poor place to be on the battlefield on friendship.

    Sai lowered his arm and released his grasp on my wing, causing me to start falling to the ground, but I kept myself levitated before I crashed, making my wing explode with pain yet again. At this rate, how long would it take to heal? My landing was soft and quiet, unlike the previous conversation and confrontation.

    Kuiora didn’t give up, as expected. I both despised her and cherished her for it at that moment. She came up to me, asking, “Do you know what the most important thing in this world is?”

    “If you say friendship, I’ll stab you with your spinal cord,” I retorted.

    “Despite everything, I know you wouldn’t do that,” Kuiora said. “It is companionship, though. I used to only want companionship with legendary pokémon, and ignored everyone else at Professor Elm’s lab for it. Now, I regret it, and I’d like to start over. I won’t even consider you legendary if you think it’s a bad thing, okay?”

    I looked down at myself. I was red. The color of passion, of violence. Even more ironically, it was the color of fire. It fit me perfectly. What color was I really supposed to be? I asked her.

    “Blue,” she said. “I’ve seen pictures. That’s how I knew.”

    “I see,” I said. The color of loneliness was blue. I was not meant to be blue, and therefore… I wasn’t meant to be lonely? Was that what it was? It was such a strange, strange concept. “So… you still want to be with me?”

    “I do.”

    “Then… if you really want to… I’d like to spend more time together, too. I say that Arceus made another one of me to love you better than I ever will, but we can settle with my stupid self for now, I suppose. So… what are you doing between now and forever?”

    Kuiora giggled, and I knew that all was well.

    *

    That was one battle down. Now, I had another battle to face. In some respects, it was the harder of the two battles, and in some respects, it was easier. I knew Rennio better, for one, so I knew that he would instantly begin by incessantly asking for forgiveness. But it was this same exact thing that made it harder—I knew him, and yet he didn’t know me. He didn’t know the first thing about me, even after all these years. The fact made me want to open to him, but it wasn’t time. Not yet.

    “Rennio,” I said, leaving Kuiora with her giggling self to go to talk to him.

    He snapped his head in my direction, and I could see his teary eyes. So he had been crying, after all. This was nothing new. It was only new in the sense that he was crying over me. Usually, he was always crying about himself… I mentally scolded myself for making him cry, even though I had tried to be… heroic. Something less than sinful.

    “E-Ezrem!” he said, turning his body around fully and embracing me. I winced at the agony, but made no attempt to pull back.

    “You’re, uh, squishing me,” I said to make him let go. He finally did, and I ruffled my feathers with my beak to make me feel at tiny bit more comfortable among all these bandages. The medicine was starting to settle in, at least, and I felt more at ease.

    “Sorry,” he said. “I bet that must have hurt”—I shook my head up and down—“but sorry for everything. I tried to battle, I really did. But that attack just seemed so powerful. And look, I was right! It got you burned, and it’s all my fault…”

    He started sobbing again. I used my head to turn his body around, and made him keep walking, so we wouldn’t get too far behind. I saw Kuiora turned toward us, smiling, but she turned to face Sai again when she saw me looking at her. It gave me some of the strength I needed to talk to Rennio.

    “Rennio, do you know why I jumped in front of that arcanine’s flamethrower?”

    “No… Not at all…”

    “Because I wanted to. What would happen if you got injured?” I said, stopping myself for a moment. I didn’t want to pull the card that told him he was the last elekid in the world, not anymore. “My… My best friend would have gotten hurt. And badly. And that would have made him very, very sad. So I wanted to prevent that. It was only the natural thing for me to do.”

    “I would have been sad, yeah… But now I’m sad that you’re hurt, too!” he wailed.

    “I know. I know,” I said. “But it’s not so bad. Um. I’d even… prefer myself to be this way, you know?”

    “You… You do? Who would ever want to be injured?” Rennio said.

    “Think of it this way. I’m really strong, right? And these burns are a setback, yeah. But when I face pokémon in battle and defeat them—or any other adversary, really, such as life itself—think of the praise I can receive when I win!”

    “Oh… I guess I get it…” Rennio said, wiping away his tears.

    “Do you, Rennio? Praise shall be sung from one corner of the nation to the next. Statues could be raised in my honor. People could name their children after me. That sort of thing, you know? Usually, notes of the famous songs die out, statues crumble, and more people die. Still, I would live on as a monument of pride. People will tell tales around campfires to send shudders down others’ spines, mothers will tell children that if they are bad I shall return for them and drag them screaming into the night, scholars shall use me as a cautionary tale that power can have too high a price, and both the pious and the wicked will pray to their gods in their temples and cry upon their deathbeds to save them from the fires below, where I shall be waiting for them. That, my dear Rennio, is legacy. So yeah, I don’t mind these burns one bit.”

    “Wow,” Rennio breathed, and his voice was barely above a whisper.

    “Exactly. I’ve blown your mind, just like I can strike the hearts of many others with my newfound self.”

    “Are you really sure, Ezrem? You like to tell these stories all the time,” he pointed out.

    “I’m very sure,” I said, finding it somehow odd that he had noticed and yet believed me every other time I told him something.

    “Is there anything I can do for you? I’m not a water-type pokémon or anything, but I can surely do something…”

    “Not really.”

    “I want to do something, though…”

    “Ask Sai to change my bandages next time. We’ll see if you can do it.”

    “Okay! Is there anything else?”

    “Rennio, I am miserable for the moment and perfectly happy about it. You don’t have to do a thing.”

    The idea of me being happy was a lie, but in this case, it was a lie that was necessary and warranted. Without it, Rennio would carry around the guilt of hurting me forever. That was just the kind of pokémon he was. And anyway, white lies were simply truths that someone tucked under the bed, all the while showing the receiver of the white lie to the doorway so they would not ask any questions. The other lies I had told—the ones I had confided to Kuiora instead, for the moment—would be handled somewhere further down the line.

    Eventually, Rennio gave up. The conversation was short and it was over. It had gone about as well as I had expected. If I had had any luck, he would have hated me for the rest of my life, and then asked me to leave him and Sai in peace. Such was not the case. Maybe someday, I thought, when he finds out everything, but I didn’t have much hope.

    For now, we weren’t anywhere close to Ecruteak City, our real destination, but I felt that I had reached a new part of my life. There was going to be hard times and good times, obviously—but I could handle them. I was handling burns, and I was becoming more and more aware of myself. Those two things would help me become… a better pokémon. A better bird. A better friend.

    I thought of Annie again. I thought of the ways she compared the grand scheme of life to the more ordinary gifts of life. She said that when she pictured herself it was always just like an outline in a coloring book with the inside not yet completed. Or she said that, if no coloring books were available, she would look at the night sky and think that her life would make up a picture within the stars; she would connect the dots and everything would make sense. The lines had finally been filled in. That was how I felt.

    Up until the incident, I was nothing but a good liar. Now, I was nothing but forgiven.
    Last edited by diamondpearl876; 4th March 2013 at 12:23 AM.

    | survival project |
    | this trainer is different. everyone knows it, but no one can explain it. |
    | complete |


    | flying in the dark |
    | he's hiding something. she just doesn't know it. |
    | on hiatus|


    | love and other nightmares |
    | limited time, limited abilities. kyurem says she can be cured in exchange for saving those who need saving. |
    | chapter 1 released |


  10. #185
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    “Calm yourself, Kuiora,” Ezrem said, speaking for me. “I am clearly having an identity crisis here, and you are not allowed to interrupt.”
    The speaking for me part confuses me... Ezrem is speaking for... Ezrem?
    Last edited by Dragonicwari; 3rd March 2013 at 11:50 PM. Reason: Tag error


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  11. #186
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    Quote Originally Posted by Dragonicwari View Post
    The speaking for me part confuses me... Ezrem is speaking for... Ezrem?
    That part was supposed to be part of a different chapter. Oops.

    Fixed.

    | survival project |
    | this trainer is different. everyone knows it, but no one can explain it. |
    | complete |


    | flying in the dark |
    | he's hiding something. she just doesn't know it. |
    | on hiatus|


    | love and other nightmares |
    | limited time, limited abilities. kyurem says she can be cured in exchange for saving those who need saving. |
    | chapter 1 released |


  12. #187
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    Great story, can you please add me to the pm list?
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  13. #188
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    Since I'm two chapters behind, I'm only going to give some general thoughts on each one instead of my usual picking apart.

    Chapter 19: Excellent, very solid starting section. The first few paragraphs are written with a fine selection of words, and Rennio's thoughts are very clear as a result. Sai is, as usual, mysterious - but the picture about what's going on regarding the people who are following him is gradually becoming clearer. I think we're also getting some ideas on how the team might progressively break up over time, now that the Unova thing has been brought up. Sai's comments on why he left are worrying. That he speaks of being "ordered" to fly through the cities further reinforces a theory I had regarding his origin. The battle was fairly short, but it was well-written and advanced the plot appropriately. Finally, the ending was heartwarming, even if it came at the cost of Ezrem getting burned.

    Chapter 20: The first two paragraphs give us a good, continuing grasp on Ezrem's conflicted character. He does genuinely want to be good, but he clearly cannot shake some of his dimmer views of Sai, perhaps with good reason.

    ...aaand it finally happened. One of Sai's Pokemon got really effed up bad. It was only a matter of time. I see this being a major event that changes just about everything at least as far as Sai and Ezrem go. It already looks like I might be right. Let me guess: Ezrem's struggle with the issue of evolution is going to continue to trouble him, isn't it?

    Sai's attempts to care for Ezrem are rather touching, even if they are crudely done on his part. He's trying, and that's what matters.

    I didn't understand Ezrem's breakdown fully until he made the comment about feeling like the only Shiny Rufflet, comparing himself to what he made Rennio believe. Then it hit me with the force of a truck.

    Wow, um... Sai really didn't hesitate to put Ezrem in his place. That said, though, Ezrem deserved it with all the stunts he was pulling leading up to that.

    Ezrem's inner monologues about colors and their meanings are quite intriguing.


    And done. I really liked both of these chapters, so please don't think otherwise because of these brief reviews.
    Last edited by The Great Butler; 11th March 2013 at 10:24 AM.

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  14. #189
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    I'm trying to squeeze this in on my break, so I'm just going to review my thoughts on it rather than do a big breakdown.

    If I didn't know any better from the fact that you've written this in advance, I'd say that this was the chapter where you stabbed back at all of us readers for saying Ezrem was evil or villainous or malicious. He's still a bit... off... here, but he's more reasoned out and apologetic.

    The scene with Ezrem and the nurse was INCREDIBLY touching, and you really conveyed her shock and mourning (for lack of a better word) well through just Ezrem's point of view of her demeanor and voice. I felt more for Ezrem through her reactions to caring for him than I did at any other point in the chapter. It wasn't overstated at all--it's pretty much just Ezrem saying she sounded sad--but the words you used in her dialogue and the actions of getting water for him all came together really well to paint her picture.

    Ezrem's loyalty to Annie in the sense that he doesn't want to evolve even when it could save him is an interesting point, and really the key moment for "Ezrem feels things!" as far as I was concerned. Even when he saved Rennio, I was sure there was a manipulation behind his motivation, or at least just self-preservation. But when he shuns the prospect of evolving out of respect for Annie's memory... that was a brilliantly subtle way to REALLY show that he cares.

    The subsequent scene on the road to Ecruteak, I thought things got a bit weird. Ezrem started seeming a bit loopy, and I wasn't sure what the impetus for that was. Was it the medication? Was it the crashing around him of his deceits? It wasn't really clear to me. He just started acting weird. Suddenly he cared about what Kui and Atis think of him? And he's, at turns, being aggressive and strangely passive. It was just weird to me, and I kept re-reading things to make sure I was picturing it correctly. That said... the feeling of wanting someone to both be mad at you and care for you is a strangely universal one--the need to just know others strongly consider you--so I loved your usage of that emotion.

    We get another glimpse of Sai as borderline unfeeling when he was flinging Ezrem about by one of his injured wings. It harkened back to his beating of Senori at the beginning where he was capable and willing to inflict pain on innocent (as innocent as Ezrem gets) pokemon.


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  15. #190
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    Quote Originally Posted by pokerock4 View Post
    Great story, can you please add me to the pm list?
    Yes, yes I can.

    Quote Originally Posted by The Great Butler View Post
    Finally, the ending was heartwarming, even if it came at the cost of Ezrem getting burned.
    I'm glad you thought so. I didn't actually want a sad ending, as Ezrem would hate that.

    ...aaand it finally happened. One of Sai's Pokemon got really effed up bad. It was only a matter of time. I see this being a major event that changes just about everything at least as far as Sai and Ezrem go. It already looks like I might be right. Let me guess: Ezrem's struggle with the issue of evolution is going to continue to trouble him, isn't it?
    Yes, you're right. It'll come up in a few more chapters. And yes, it really was only a matter of time till Sai messed up big time... though I'm not actually sure this is particularly Sai's fault. Ah, well.

    I didn't understand Ezrem's breakdown fully until he made the comment about feeling like the only Shiny Rufflet, comparing himself to what he made Rennio believe. Then it hit me with the force of a truck.
    I thought it might. It sounded like a great idea when I first thought of it. SO EMOTIONAL

    Wow, um... Sai really didn't hesitate to put Ezrem in his place. That said, though, Ezrem deserved it with all the stunts he was pulling leading up to that.
    Yep, Sai has a temper like that.

    Thanks for commenting!

    Quote Originally Posted by Sid87 View Post
    If I didn't know any better from the fact that you've written this in advance, I'd say that this was the chapter where you stabbed back at all of us readers for saying Ezrem was evil or villainous or malicious. He's still a bit... off... here, but he's more reasoned out and apologetic.
    Lmao, nah, this was planned from the very beginning, have no fear.

    The scene with Ezrem and the nurse was INCREDIBLY touching, and you really conveyed her shock and mourning (for lack of a better word) well through just Ezrem's point of view of her demeanor and voice. I felt more for Ezrem through her reactions to caring for him than I did at any other point in the chapter. It wasn't overstated at all--it's pretty much just Ezrem saying she sounded sad--but the words you used in her dialogue and the actions of getting water for him all came together really well to paint her picture.
    I'm glad you liked this scene because I wasn't sure about it when posting.

    Ezrem's loyalty to Annie in the sense that he doesn't want to evolve even when it could save him is an interesting point, and really the key moment for "Ezrem feels things!" as far as I was concerned. Even when he saved Rennio, I was sure there was a manipulation behind his motivation, or at least just self-preservation. But when he shuns the prospect of evolving out of respect for Annie's memory... that was a brilliantly subtle way to REALLY show that he cares.
    Hmm, we'll see where he goes with this evolution thing, eh?

    The subsequent scene on the road to Ecruteak, I thought things got a bit weird. Ezrem started seeming a bit loopy, and I wasn't sure what the impetus for that was. Was it the medication? Was it the crashing around him of his deceits? It wasn't really clear to me. He just started acting weird. Suddenly he cared about what Kui and Atis think of him? And he's, at turns, being aggressive and strangely passive. It was just weird to me, and I kept re-reading things to make sure I was picturing it correctly. That said... the feeling of wanting someone to both be mad at you and care for you is a strangely universal one--the need to just know others strongly consider you--so I loved your usage of that emotion.
    I think it was just the reality of the situation crashing down on him all at once.

    We get another glimpse of Sai as borderline unfeeling when he was flinging Ezrem about by one of his injured wings. It harkened back to his beating of Senori at the beginning where he was capable and willing to inflict pain on innocent (as innocent as Ezrem gets) pokemon.
    I'm glad you remembered this.

    Thanks for commenting!

    | survival project |
    | this trainer is different. everyone knows it, but no one can explain it. |
    | complete |


    | flying in the dark |
    | he's hiding something. she just doesn't know it. |
    | on hiatus|


    | love and other nightmares |
    | limited time, limited abilities. kyurem says she can be cured in exchange for saving those who need saving. |
    | chapter 1 released |


  16. #191
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    SURVIVAL PROJECT

    chapter 21 ; [ATIS]
    cynosure

    *

    If there was anyone in the world I didn’t want to be (next to my hitmontop self, of course), it was Ezrem. Though valiant, he was being incredibly reckless. Running into an attack like that… I could never dream of doing it. And finding out he was a shiny pokémon… Well, it was a shock to me, too. Of course, I knew what shiny pokémon were, thanks to Earl. Their rarity and value were very well known to me; some of the kid’s dreams were to find one for themselves one day. So I knew what kind of trauma it would cause to find out you were one of them—to be wanted by so many pokémon lovers in the world would be unbearable.

    While we were waiting in the pokémon center, I thought about what it would be like to not know myself as well as Ezrem. What if I didn’t know whether or not I hated my species? What if I didn’t know how I truly felt about humans? What would I have? Who would I be? In a sense, I didn’t know myself. I didn’t know where I wanted to go with the life that I was given. I didn’t know where I would go once I left Sai.

    But Ezrem’s situation had given me some ideas. Maybe I could offer to work in a hospital—one for humans, and maybe pokémon—so that I could help people who truly needed it. Maybe I could volunteer—the term that Earl had pinned down for my job at the pokémon academy—my time to charities and assisting others. I would be around people whose lives didn’t revolve around pokémon, which was what I wanted, and I could explore other options—reading, poetry, games that involved skill and strategy—on the side.

    Yes, I had ideas now, which is more than what I had ever had before. It was time to go. It was time to help Sai out, and repay him back for all that he had done for me… And he had done a lot, despite everything. He gave me shelter, and food, and entertainment, and he taught me what it was like to be human… It was tough, being human, there was no doubt. Though he didn’t live up to all of my expectations, it didn’t mean that I didn’t enjoy our time together. I only hoped that he thought the same, but I couldn’t be sure. I believed that I was one of his problems. The art of pokémon training put such a great strain on him that I wondered if he thought he could go back and change it all. All those rules, all that pain, all those breakdowns… None of it could have been healthy for him.

    If I could rid Sai of one of his problems, I could do that.

    “Sai,” I said quietly as we waited, not wanting to disturb the peaceful atmosphere of the healing building. When he didn’t answer, I poked him in the shoulder gently. He looked thoughtful and stressed when he looked at me.

    “Yes, Atis?”

    “I…” My voice trailed off; I wasn’t sure how to go about this. “Well… Do you remember the time you gave us a choice? You made us say whether or not we wanted to stay or go...”

    Sai was quiet and his stare lingered. I swallowed and twiddled my hands around, nervous. Finally, he said, “Yeah, I remember. Why… Why do you bring it up now?”

    The pause in his voice—it sent shivers down my spine. When he talked, he was always so brash, so sure in what he was saying, even if he regretted it later. In the moment, he knew what he wanted to say, and he said it with such admirable boldness. But now he was stopping his speech, and it made me wonder—

    “I… I think I’ve made my decision,” I said, not daring to look him in those heartbreaking eyes of his.

    “You want to leave, don’t you?”

    I nodded, still refusing to look his way. The others, however, weren’t afraid to glare or peer at me, depending on their sudden views.

    “So, you finally decided something for yourself, huh?” Senori said. He smiled at me, albeit sadly, and I forced myself to smile back.

    “Atis,” Kuiora said, “we haven’t settled our competition yet to see who is stronger out of the two of us!”

    “I can assure you,” I said, trying to sound as bold as Sai, “that you are stronger than me now.”

    “You think so?”

    “Yes. I never fight, and I don’t hone my skills. You do—all the time.”

    “You’re still going to leave? Don’t you want to get stronger?”

    “I want to get stronger,” I admitted, “but not in the physical sense.”

    “Atis, I don’t know you enough to say you should stay or leave,” Rennio said, “but I would have liked to learn more about you. I’ll be sad to see you go.”

    “Thank you, Rennio,” I said, surprised at his wanting to learn about me. I wondered what he would have thought about me, what with my abnormal view of not wanting to be all that a pokémon can be. In the end, I decided that this, too, was for the best.

    Now, all that was left was to wait for Sai’s response. He continued to look at me, and I cast my eyes upward to see him. I knew that I would have to do it sooner or later, and it was as good a time as any. Those dark blue eyes still looked sad, but I was entirely convinced that it was only because Ezrem was in the back of the pokémon center, hurt and probably scared for his life. I didn’t envy him, but I empathized. And I was sympathetic for Sai, thinking that it even though everyone looked forward to being a trainer, it wasn’t a walk in the park when all was said and done.

    “When would you like to go?” was all that Sai said.

    “Soon,” I replied quickly, believing that his response was his way of telling me that he was glad for my departure, “to get out of your—”

    “Atis,” he suddenly interrupted. “Do you know what today is?”

    I froze. Today was the day that Ezrem got hurt, and today—hopefully—would be the day that I left this team for good. I couldn’t think of any other possibilities.

    “N-No,” I managed to say.

    “Earl told me all about you,” Sai said. He paused, seeming lost in thought. He seemed to be doing that a lot today… Eventually, he continued, “He told me that in the middle of June was the time that you came to him at the pokémon academy as a... tyrogue, I think it was. He said that you were with him for three years. If you were still with him today, this would mark the beginning of the fourth year.”

    I stared at him, dumbfounded. Even I hadn’t remembered this. Did Earl really care about me so much that he remembered the exact day that I came to him? And he cared enough that he told my future trainer all about me! I mean, I never doubted that he was a caring man, but it still came as an eye opener to me. The beauty of loving pokémon seemed to shine through at times like this…

    “It’s the middle of June, isn’t it?” I said, finishing his thoughts for him.

    “Yeah,” Sai said. “It’s not the exact day, but it’s close.”

    “Why,” I couldn’t help but say, “does it matter?”

    “Atis,” Kuiora immediately scolded, “don’t you know what that means? It’s your birthday!”

    My birthday? I knew what a birthday was, and it certainly wasn’t this. Nevertheless, I didn’t protest, and let her believe what she wanted.

    “Professor Elm always celebrated the day that me and the other pokémon at the lab joined him. He said that the year was full of good memories of us growing up,” Kuiora went on. “This means that we should celebrate before you go! It’s a must, and I won’t take no for an answer. If you want,” she added, winking, “we can even celebrate the fact that you admitted I’m stronger than you.”

    At this, I had to laugh. Kuiora’s childish self was really shining through, and I admitted to myself that I would miss it. I was sure that I could find a childish character just about anywhere in the world, but no one could be better at it than her.

    “I don’t know what a birthday is,” Sai said peculiarly, “but I think she’s right. We should celebrate before you go.” He stopped again, thinking. “Please stay with us long enough to get to Ecruteak City again. This place has brought… interesting memories, but the celebration’s location should bring only good ones. And as you know, we have to tend to Ezrem, too.”

    “O-Okay,” I said, knowing I could manage just a few more days with them. It would give them time to accept my leaving and adjust to the idea without facing the pain that I was already gone, anyway.

    It was the least that I could do, I thought, considering the bad news that soon followed.

    *

    The next two days went by slowly and quickly at the same time. It was slow in my mind, because I was still befuddling myself over the fact that I wasn’t one hundred percent sure what my next actions would be. Clearly, I would be starting in Ecruteak City, but I didn’t know what the renowned city had to offer besides burned towers that once housed the legendary pokémon that created Johto. As fascinating as that was, the stories weren’t going to get me anywhere. They would be good for Kuiora, at least, though she had probably already heard the stories a thousand times before, knowing her.

    The trip was quick—literally. With Sai carrying Ezrem in his arms and with his swift pace, we were making great time. We had reached the same clearing where the incident took place by the middle of the first day. We took a break, however, to temporarily tend to Ezrem’s wounds. Why Sai had waited until we reached the clearing again was beyond me; if it were up to me, the wounds would have been taken care of in the pokémon center. But I was in no position to judge Sai, no matter how odd he seemed.

    As we went on, there then was the point where Ezrem was having his so called identity crisis, and he went off on Kuiora and—to a much lesser extent—me. Sai had to interrupt, and his sudden fury made me cower, as always, and it only made me glad that I was leaving. I would only partly miss his rollercoaster emotions. The situation did serve, however, to prove to me what happens when someone doesn’t know themselves—they go crazy, and can only be tamed by the goals they have set for their future. I continued to sympathize with the bird, even though he had caused many problems for me in the past. He did help me to know, after all, that I didn’t want to be someone like him.

    Everything after that was quiet. I saw Ezrem and Rennio talking, but I couldn’t hear them. And Kuiora seemed both furious and pleased at the same time, but I didn’t question her. Senori passed me his famous all knowing smiles at me from time to time, as there were no more words to pass between us. All that needed to be said was said during the mock battle at the pokémon fan club. That was fine with me.

    The night before we reached Ecruteak City, I woke up just in time to see Sai sneak off. I was too dazed and tired to follow him, but I still took great note of it. His walk was slow, too, making me believe that he was just… thinking. Yeah, he was just thinking. I convinced myself of this and went back to sleep. He would be there in the morning.

    *

    And he was there in the morning. This brought about a great sense of relief to me. To have him disappear on me again would have put a big dent in our plans and an even bigger dent in our broken team. No one asked where Sai had gone the previous night—it would only be until much later that I would find out.

    “So,” Sai said as we walked past the front gates that indicated we were now entering the city, “what are you supposed to do on a birthday, anyway?”

    “Have lots of cake,” I said before Kuiora could butt in and say something completely out of line.

    “Don’t forget presents,” she said, getting her own word in, anyway.

    “Okay. Cake and presents. Uh,” Sai said, stopping to rest for once. He peered around, taking in his surroundings. There were plenty of tall, well made oriental buildings around, and they looked like they were recently—and frequently—cleaned, to keep away graffiti and the harshness of nature. They were also thoroughly taken care of in the sense that, up close, I couldn’t see a single hole in any of the walls. The pavement below our feet was set up with a grid-like pattern, and along the roads were high, triumphal arches—I had learned that structures like this were meant to honor the rulers who had built the city in the past. The towers in the back of the city, of course, stuck out among anything, as they were among the tallest. One of them was noticeably burned and broken, while the other’s embattlements at the top still looked strong and loved.

    This was obviously a city that took care of its buildings, and therefore its people. It looked like a very efficient and suitable place for me.

    “Okay,” Sai said again, breaking my focus of the city. As he said this, someone approached the gate, motioning us to move out of the way so he could get past. We took a few steps forward, with Sai mumbling in discontent over the idea that someone had pushed him around yet again. Afterward, however, he was thrilled and inspired.

    “Good thing we have money again, or this would be impossible,” Sai went on happily. “Clearly, the first place we should go is to the shopping center.”

    And so that was where we went. We had to peer inside several buildings that were open to the public, seeing a restaurant and a dance hall in the process, but we eventually found it and ventured inside. The shopping center wasn’t nearly as huge as the mall in Goldenrod City, but it still brought back memories, and I vaguely wondered what Sai had done—or would eventually do—with the pocket knife he had bought. And I hoped that he wouldn’t think such a thing was a perfect gift for me.

    Luckily for me, he didn’t think so. He went up and down the aisles, picking up peculiar items, just as he had done before, but he always put them back where they belonged. Soon he reached the electronics section, and he picked up a small, cheap camera.

    “Atis,” he said, “do you like taking pictures?”

    I was nervous so I nodded but then said, “I’ve never taken any before, so I don’t know…”

    “Is it something you’d like to do? Won’t you remember us with it? Pictures can show you just about anything, right?”

    “I could. Right. I could do it,” I said, now smiling. Sai was being thoughtful and considerate toward me, and only me, when often he put himself at the center of his world. I was grateful for that, even if I couldn’t show it. It only made me wonder further, though, about what kind of person he associated himself with back at home.

    “It’s settled, then,” Sai said, handing it to me. “This will be your present from all of us.”

    Kuiora cheered, Rennio was explaining to Ezrem what the situation was, and Senori was quiet. Would I like to capture this moment forever? I took the camera from Sai, and we went to the counter to purchase it.

    *

    “Next,” Sai said as we walked out of the store, “we’ll need a cake. That’s a food, right? So we’ll go back to that restaurant we passed by.”

    Inside, chandeliers hung from the ceiling—the lighting was dim, giving off a relaxed atmosphere. I soon noticed that this was a pokémon themed restaurant, however, when the frames on the walls were full of pictures depicting pokémon from different regions, and, when we were seated (which Sai was confused about, since we had never been to a formal restaurant before), the table’s design was embellished with etchings of small, quick pokémon related facts. The theme served to remind me of why I was leaving, and, even if I wasn’t fond of it, the idea was appropriate.

    Overall, though, the restaurant was a nice one, but I was pretty sure that it wouldn’t be so specialized to the point where it would serve cake to anyone who asked. And I was right. Looking at the menu now, there was no cake listed anywhere. I had to laugh, though, when Kuiora was looking at it upside down, asking what all of the funny shapes on the paper was.

    “Kuiora doesn’t know how to read,” Ezrem said in a teasing manner.

    “Neither do you,” Rennio retorted. It helped that he knew things about Ezrem that no one else knew, and he gave Kuiora a high five for it. The difference in size between the two pokémon’s hands made it difficult, so it was amusing.

    “Well, Atis,” Senori said in the middle of a chuckle, “what are you going to get? I can’t read, either, so I don’t know what’s there.”

    “How nice of you to admit that you can’t read,” I said. “Aren’t you… confused as to why I can?”

    “Nah,” Senori said, smiling that all knowing smile of it. He was probably remembering that I came from a school. It had seemed like such a long time ago that the three of them—Sai, Kuiora, and Senori—had come to whisk me away from the school just to fight Falkner at the Violet City gym, and then consequently take me on an entire journey.

    “I see,” I said. “Well, they have cupcakes. I guess that works…”

    At the right moment, the person who was waiting on us came to our table, asking us what we wanted. Sai immediately said that everyone just wanted a cupcake.

    “Just cupcakes. One for Atis, of course”—he pointed to me, and then the others—“and one for Kuiora, Senori, Rennio, me, and I suppose Ezrem can have one too. Cupcakes.”

    “Atis is the only one who should get a cupcake, Sai!” Kuiora said, rising from her seat. “It’s his birthday!”

    Sai ignored her, and nodded to the waiter, who looked confused. Since this was a restaurant that specialized in hamburgers (since that was what the menu mostly consisted of), I assumed that he didn’t get many orders like this. Not to mention the quick, informal tone and words that Sai used to order. His odd self was continuing to show, and I wondered how it was possible that he had never been to a restaurant before, not only with us, but in his past.

    When the waiter left, we all sat there, talking about random things. Rennio was the first to bring up the pokémon facts on the table, asking if there were any about his species. I looked over the table, seeing that apparently, the legendary ho-oh could revive dead people and pokémon, while the rare bird called skarmory could replenish its steel feathers by itself. There were other etchings, but these particularly stood out to me, showing that there was always a second chance in life. I didn’t see anything about the electric-type, and I told him that. He looked disappointed.

    “Hey, now,” Ezrem said. Though he was burned by the neck, his voice sounded normal, and I was sure everyone was thankful for that. “Let’s all think about the cupcakes. I want to order so many cupcakes so that I can eat until my internal organs start a revolution and leave.”

    “Haven’t they already done that? Kind of, anyway,” Kuiora said, though she covered her mouth as soon as she said it. “Sorry,” she said, her voice muffled.

    Ezrem blanched. “Yes, I suppose they have. Darn it,” he said, quickly returning to his cheery self. “I guess I’ll have to settle for one cupcake.”

    “Cupcakes aren’t healthy for you, anyway,” Sai said.

    “So? Cake isn’t any better. I say we still should have gotten a cake somehow. We could have split it into parts, and then—”

    “And then you could have conned everyone into give you their parts?” Senori said, interrupting him with a grin.

    “Yes. You get me, Senori. I am so lucky to have someone who knows me as fantastically as you do,” Ezrem said sarcastically.

    “You could just... uh… divide the cake by zero, and then keep it forever for yourself,” I said. Stupidly. I knew that you couldn’t divide by zero, but I wanted to keep the two from fighting, knowing that they weren’t particularly fond of each other. Apparently, Ezrem knew this, too.

    “How is it logically impossible to divide by zero, anyway?” he said. “Let’s say this cake really exists, but no one owns this cake. It just exists. If I divide it by six, so there’s one piece for everyone, then there are six pieces. If I divide it by zero, then the cake still exists. It may be mathematically impossible, given that limits exist. But who is to tell me that I cannot divide a cake by zero?”

    I blushed at his response. I didn’t know how to answer, and I didn’t even know if the question was directly aimed at me! Luckily, Kuiora answered for me.

    “You, Ezrem,” she said, shaking her head, “are a smart pokémon.”

    “I would hardly say so,” Senori said, folding his small arms.

    “Annie used to tell you about all that math stuff, didn’t she?” Rennio chimed in, winking at Senori to keep the sentret—no, furret—calm.

    “Do you want to hear another math joke, then? I know you do. Let’s say that my long lost brother”—I cringed at his reference to him being a shiny pokémon—“collects ghouls in his home. Yeah, you heard me, Senori. Don’t you look at me like that. He collects ghouls. Now, let’s say that two thirds of these ghouls are—”

    Ezrem was, thankfully, interrupted by the waiter who had returned with all of the cupcakes. He set one down in front of each of us. I thanked him for it, even if he couldn’t understand me. Sai said nothing, and I silently scolded him for his lack of manners, not having the courage to say it out loud.

    I looked down, nervous. Noticing the camera at my side, I decided that now was a good a time as any to start using it. I wouldn’t be able to look at the pictures right away, but with time, I would know that I was taking good ones without having to even see them before judging.

    I picked it up in my hands again, enjoying the welcoming feeling of cool plastic on my hands. Twisting it around in my hand, I wondered if it would be misleading for me to take pictures of them. If I took pictures of them, it meant that I wanted to remember them forever, and maybe they would think that I wanted to stay, after all. I didn’t want to give them that impression, but I did want to remember them at the same time. I supposed that even if they thought I would want to stay, there would be undeniable proof at the end of the day: my departure, and, unlike Sai’s return… Well, there would be no return for me.

    So I took my pictures, one by one. In his picture, Sai was looking at the cupcake as if it was an alien creature that he was studying. Highly appropriate, I thought. I caught Kuiora in the middle of her first bite; her jaws were hanging open and the cupcake lay unassuming on the table in front of her. Also appropriate—I would remember her power this way. Senori actually took the first bite, though, and it reminded me of his leadership. Ezrem was messy in his picture, as he had white icing all over his beak by the time his cupcake was gone. And Rennio, I could tell that his hands would look delicate as they held the food in his picture, as if he were trying very hard not to hurt it in the process of eating it. Impossible, but an admirable struggle.

    And that was it—I had a picture of everyone. I could have asked for everyone to gather next to each other so we could all be in a single picture, but I was too nervous to ask. I didn’t want to disrupt the peaceful, hunger satisfied atmosphere that we had at the moment. Besides, I didn’t want to eventually develop these pictures and see me. I was afraid of seeing that I had made the wrong decision.

    “Ah,” Ezrem said when he was finished, patting his stomach with his functioning but battered wing. “That was good. It’s been a while since I’ve had any sweets.”

    “It’s definitely different from berries,” Rennio agreed.

    “Berries aren’t so bad!” Kuiora said, folding her arms. “Cheri berries are good, anyway.”

    “Whatever you say, whatever you say,” Ezrem said, waving her off. “Well, Atis, there were your presents. I sincerely hope you enjoyed them. And I wonder if there are any more for you.”

    “There’s… more?” I said, thinking that it was unlikely—and particularly unfavorable—for there to be more.

    “Who knows? If there’s more, then I’d like to warn you that some gifts are better left unopened, anyway. I’m mostly referring to the kind of gifts that explode in your face upon opening.”

    “That’s…” I started, swallowing, “well, nice. Thanks for the warning…”

    “Anytime,” Ezrem said, and I saw Senori glare at him from across the table.

    “Don’t listen to him, Atis,” Senori said. “There’s nothing more.”

    “Actually,” Sai interrupted, “there is.” His voice was quiet, perhaps the quietest that I had ever heard it.

    “Oh? Please, Sai, enlighten us,” Senori said, looking at him suspiciously.

    “It’s for Atis only to know. For now, the day is over. Let’s go to the pokémon center.”

    *

    Sai still didn’t have enough money to buy everyone their own room, and he apologized for that. I didn’t mind—in the end, it wouldn’t matter to me. It was odd, though, that it was the last time that I would see everyone together in a pokémon center room. I looked up at the top bunk, wondering if I would be sleeping there tonight, listening to the breathing of those calm heartbeats below me…

    Sai was regarding me dubiously. He peered over at me every few moments, as if savoring his time with me, all the while knowing that there was more to come. I shuddered. It was an awkward stare he gave me, and those eyes that gave me mixed emotions would probably give me those same feelings every time I remembered them. I was sure that I would never see the dark glow of his eyes in anybody ever again, that was how unique they were to me.

    When everyone was settling into their sleeping positions, muttering to themselves in tired discontent, Sai announced, “I’m going out with Atis for one last time. Say your good-byes… as I will be letting him go.”

    Everyone stopped what they were doing just to come up to me. Senori simply nodded to me and went back to his position on the bed, with me thinking that it was rather cute to see the two of them so close together.

    Since he couldn’t use his wings well enough, Ezrem stood up on his clawed feet to peck my on the head. He whispered in my ear, “Don’t forget about those exploding gifts.” I let out a stifled, forced laugh.

    Rennio pushed Ezrem out of the way, and as a reward I smiled at him, telling him that I wished I could have gotten to know him, too. He didn’t have anything else to say. I knew what he was thinking, anyway, despite our lack of connection.

    And Kuiora, with her enormous size and weight, just had to hug me. I thought she was going to crush my frail, skinny body in the process. Thankfully, she let go soon enough, and said good-bye in the least confident voice I had ever heard from her.

    Sai didn’t say anything. Due to our past experiences together, I was wholly expecting him to say something later—in private. My gaze lingered on him, the sensation of us knowing something that no one else knew taking over. I got the vague feeling that he knew something that I didn’t, but I ignored it. After a few moments, he went to the door and held it open, motioning for me to step outside. I did so, looking back at the others one last time before watching the door close shut, which started this first new chapter of my life.

    The walk to… wherever was silent. I wasn’t even sure where we were going, and supposedly, neither did Sai, as he was always peering this way and that every few seconds. We were seemingly making our way back to the entrance of the city. The night sky and lit moon loomed above us. There were very few people out at this time, which made me and Sai feel like the only ones in the world, with us being of the light and the city being of the dark. Nevertheless, we continued on, and we passed the front gates, just as we had done early this morning. I was already backtracking through my journey, and I speculated about how far I would go until I was satisfied.

    Eventually, Sai stopped. We had reached an area that appeared familiar to me, though Sai had taken a turn that led us into a more forested section. Trees lined the peripheral parts of my view, while a small clearing lay ahead of us, with bushes marking a dead end.

    “Atis,” Sai said. “Yesterday… Senori had told me that you didn’t quite know what you were going to do with your life after this. So I thought about it for you. I… remembered… someone that can help you. She will take you to a place where she thinks she can help you. I, ah, already told her that you would be coming with her, so it’s a little too late to say no right now. You can always say no later, I suppose, if you want to…”

    I stood there, finding his voice even more unnatural than it had been earlier. I couldn’t quite place it—such was often the case with this boy—but the pauses in his words were finally starting to make sense. This was different from when he was giving me answers in other situations. When he talked about himself or his past life, he was at least being honest with us, though he kept his answers discreet for protection’s sake. But this… He was lying to me.

    He was lying to me, and I didn’t know why.

    Suddenly, anxiety welled up within me. Shifting around uncomfortably, I remembered when he had temporarily deserted us. Had he gone to this lady he kept speaking about? It seemed that he didn’t particularly enjoy her company, either, so perhaps he felt the need to lie about her. Not that this made me feel any better. In fact, it only made me automatically despise whatever disaster was waiting for me.

    My concentration was broken when a strong gust of wind blew in my direction and knocked the camera out of my hand. It clattered to the ground, and I chased after it quickly, afraid of it being unusable and unable to be developed. When I retrieved it, I looked up, still feeling the wind blow against my skin. I noticed, however, that Sai seemed unaffected. His hair remained in one spot, and his body didn’t threaten to blow over with the force of nature.

    And soon, I started to feel lightheaded, ill, tired.

    Sai frowned as he noticed my abrupt distress.

    “Earl told me all about you,” Sai went on, just like he had said at the pokémon center. This time, he didn’t pause; he let it all out, word by word.

    I listened, wondering if his voice would be louder than the beating of my heart.

    “He told me,” Sai started, “that you were an obedient pokémon that always acted with a clear head and a clear conscience. He said that you were smarter than he could ever be. Though you were shy, he always took it as a sign that you were simply breathing in the air and thanking life for every chance you could do that. As time went on in our journey, I could see that he was right, and I could see that I was proud to have you on my team. He also said that someday, you would want to accomplish great things. I suppose that now is the time…” I flinched at his pause yet again. “I know you’ve always been outcast from the rest of us by your own wishes, and I respected that, but I wished that we could have spent more time together. I will wish that always. You can say that you won’t miss me, but I’ll think about you every day.”

    As he spoke, I began sobbing, not only because of his obviously heartfelt words and my consequent confusion, but because something was happening inside of me and it felt terrible. I was sick to my stomach, as if I would start retching at any moment. My head was about to split open. I wanted to believe that Sai would help me, but he did nothing. He knew this was going to happen. He knew it. I wanted to believe that this was really my trainer, the one I had trusted all this time…

    My head kept spinning, spinning. Spinning.

    Whatever was happening to me was happening fast. Soon, I was falling backward, hearing that Sai was sobbing, too. Before I could even question his enigmatic betrayal, everything went black.

    | survival project |
    | this trainer is different. everyone knows it, but no one can explain it. |
    | complete |


    | flying in the dark |
    | he's hiding something. she just doesn't know it. |
    | on hiatus|


    | love and other nightmares |
    | limited time, limited abilities. kyurem says she can be cured in exchange for saving those who need saving. |
    | chapter 1 released |


  17. #192
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    Quote Originally Posted by diamondpearl876 View Post

    SURVIVAL PROJECT

    chapter 21 ; [ATIS]
    cynosure

    *

    If there was anyone in the world I didn’t want to be (next to my hitmontop self, of course), it was Ezrem. Though valiant, he was being incredibly reckless. Running into an attack like that… I could never dream of doing it. And finding out he was a shiny pokémon… Well, it was a shock to me, too. Of course, I knew what shiny pokémon were, thanks to Earl. Their rarity and value were very well known to me; some of the kid’s dreams were to find one for themselves one day. So I knew what kind of trauma it would cause to find out you were one of them—to be wanted by so many pokémon lovers in the world would be unbearable.

    While we were waiting in the pokémon center, I thought about what it would be like to not know myself as well as Ezrem. What if I didn’t know whether or not I hated my species? What if I didn’t know how I truly felt about humans? What would I have? Who would I be? In a sense, I didn’t know myself. I didn’t know where I wanted to go with the life that I was given. I didn’t know where I would go once I left Sai.
    I think I would offer as a counterpoint to Atis's point here that perhaps he would be more relieved if he was in Ezrem's position in terms of self-awareness. He seems very stressed from the knowledge of his own identity and trying to figure out where he belongs, so maybe it would be a relief for him to believe a simplified story instead of the truth.

    But Ezrem’s situation had given me some ideas. Maybe I could offer to work in a hospital—one for humans, and maybe pokémon—so that I could help people who truly needed it. Maybe I could volunteer—the term that Earl had pinned down for my job at the pokémon academy—my time to charities and assisting others. I would be around people whose lives didn’t revolve around pokémon, which was what I wanted, and I could explore other options—reading, poetry, games that involved skill and strategy—on the side.
    How many people are there that have lives that don't revolve around Pokemon, really?

    He has good thinking here though. Atis doesn't seem to have much of an ego, so a job where he helps others is well suited to him.

    Yes, I had ideas now, which is more than what I had ever had before. It was time to go. It was time to help Sai out, and repay him back for all that he had done for me… And he had done a lot, despite everything. He gave me shelter, and food, and entertainment, and he taught me what it was like to be human… It was tough, being human, there was no doubt. Though he didn’t live up to all of my expectations, it didn’t mean that I didn’t enjoy our time together. I only hoped that he thought the same, but I couldn’t be sure. I believed that I was one of his problems. The art of pokémon training put such a great strain on him that I wondered if he thought he could go back and change it all. All those rules, all that pain, all those breakdowns… None of it could have been healthy for him.

    If I could rid Sai of one of his problems, I could do that.

    “Sai,” I said quietly as we waited, not wanting to disturb the peaceful atmosphere of the healing building. When he didn’t answer, I poked him in the shoulder gently. He looked thoughtful and stressed when he looked at me.

    “Yes, Atis?”

    “I…” My voice trailed off; I wasn’t sure how to go about this. “Well… Do you remember the time you gave us a choice? You made us say whether or not we wanted to stay or go...”

    Sai was quiet and his stare lingered. I swallowed and twiddled my hands around, nervous. Finally, he said, “Yeah, I remember. Why… Why do you bring it up now?”

    The pause in his voice—it sent shivers down my spine. When he talked, he was always so brash, so sure in what he was saying, even if he regretted it later. In the moment, he knew what he wanted to say, and he said it with such admirable boldness. But now he was stopping his speech, and it made me wonder—

    “I… I think I’ve made my decision,” I said, not daring to look him in those heartbreaking eyes of his.

    “You want to leave, don’t you?”

    I nodded, still refusing to look his way. The others, however, weren’t afraid to glare or peer at me, depending on their sudden views.
    I can't say I'm surprised he made this decision - there really wasn't much doubt in my mind he'd choose to leave - but that doesn't mean it doesn't take the wind out of my sails all the same. From my perspective, I can't honestly say that I understand Atis's logic, but when I put myself in his position and adopt his thought process, I grasp it a lot more.

    Now for the reactions...

    “So, you finally decided something for yourself, huh?” Senori said. He smiled at me, albeit sadly, and I forced myself to smile back.

    “Atis,” Kuiora said, “we haven’t settled our competition yet to see who is stronger out of the two of us!”

    “I can assure you,” I said, trying to sound as bold as Sai, “that you are stronger than me now.”

    “You think so?”

    “Yes. I never fight, and I don’t hone my skills. You do—all the time.”

    “You’re still going to leave? Don’t you want to get stronger?”

    “I want to get stronger,” I admitted, “but not in the physical sense.”

    “Atis, I don’t know you enough to say you should stay or leave,” Rennio said, “but I would have liked to learn more about you. I’ll be sad to see you go.”
    I choked up a little, I must confess.

    “Thank you, Rennio,” I said, surprised at his wanting to learn about me. I wondered what he would have thought about me, what with my abnormal view of not wanting to be all that a pokémon can be. In the end, I decided that this, too, was for the best.

    Now, all that was left was to wait for Sai’s response. He continued to look at me, and I cast my eyes upward to see him. I knew that I would have to do it sooner or later, and it was as good a time as any. Those dark blue eyes still looked sad, but I was entirely convinced that it was only because Ezrem was in the back of the pokémon center, hurt and probably scared for his life. I didn’t envy him, but I empathized. And I was sympathetic for Sai, thinking that it even though everyone looked forward to being a trainer, it wasn’t a walk in the park when all was said and done.

    “When would you like to go?” was all that Sai said.

    “Soon,” I replied quickly, believing that his response was his way of telling me that he was glad for my departure, “to get out of your—”

    “Atis,” he suddenly interrupted. “Do you know what today is?”
    I stopped there, because my blood ran cold. This can't be a good thing.

    I froze. Today was the day that Ezrem got hurt, and today—hopefully—would be the day that I left this team for good. I couldn’t think of any other possibilities.

    “N-No,” I managed to say.

    “Earl told me all about you,” Sai said. He paused, seeming lost in thought. He seemed to be doing that a lot today… Eventually, he continued, “He told me that in the middle of June was the time that you came to him at the pokémon academy as a... tyrogue, I think it was. He said that you were with him for three years. If you were still with him today, this would mark the beginning of the fourth year.”

    I stared at him, dumbfounded. Even I hadn’t remembered this. Did Earl really care about me so much that he remembered the exact day that I came to him? And he cared enough that he told my future trainer all about me! I mean, I never doubted that he was a caring man, but it still came as an eye opener to me. The beauty of loving pokémon seemed to shine through at times like this…
    I was right, it's a game changer for Atis's relationship to Sai, but even further, it affects his relationship to Earl as well. Curious.

    “It’s the middle of June, isn’t it?” I said, finishing his thoughts for him.

    “Yeah,” Sai said. “It’s not the exact day, but it’s close.”

    “Why,” I couldn’t help but say, “does it matter?”

    “Atis,” Kuiora immediately scolded, “don’t you know what that means? It’s your birthday!”

    My birthday? I knew what a birthday was, and it certainly wasn’t this. Nevertheless, I didn’t protest, and let her believe what she wanted.

    “Professor Elm always celebrated the day that me and the other pokémon at the lab joined him. He said that the year was full of good memories of us growing up,” Kuiora went on. “This means that we should celebrate before you go! It’s a must, and I won’t take no for an answer. If you want,” she added, winking, “we can even celebrate the fact that you admitted I’m stronger than you.”
    I'm surprised at how well the Pokemon are taking this, though Ezrem is excluded from the group right now and might have a different kind of reaction when he finds out.

    At this, I had to laugh. Kuiora’s childish self was really shining through, and I admitted to myself that I would miss it. I was sure that I could find a childish character just about anywhere in the world, but no one could be better at it than her.

    “I don’t know what a birthday is,” Sai said peculiarly, “but I think she’s right. We should celebrate before you go.” He stopped again, thinking. “Please stay with us long enough to get to Ecruteak City again. This place has brought… interesting memories, but the celebration’s location should bring only good ones. And as you know, we have to tend to Ezrem, too.”

    “O-Okay,” I said, knowing I could manage just a few more days with them. It would give them time to accept my leaving and adjust to the idea without facing the pain that I was already gone, anyway.

    It was the least that I could do, I thought, considering the bad news that soon followed.
    ...I should have known everything was going too smoothly.

    The next two days went by slowly and quickly at the same time. It was slow in my mind, because I was still befuddling myself over the fact that I wasn’t one hundred percent sure what my next actions would be. Clearly, I would be starting in Ecruteak City, but I didn’t know what the renowned city had to offer besides burned towers that once housed the legendary pokémon that created Johto. As fascinating as that was, the stories weren’t going to get me anywhere. They would be good for Kuiora, at least, though she had probably already heard the stories a thousand times before, knowing her.

    The trip was quick—literally. With Sai carrying Ezrem in his arms and with his swift pace, we were making great time. We had reached the same clearing where the incident took place by the middle of the first day. We took a break, however, to temporarily tend to Ezrem’s wounds. Why Sai had waited until we reached the clearing again was beyond me; if it were up to me, the wounds would have been taken care of in the pokémon center. But I was in no position to judge Sai, no matter how odd he seemed.

    As we went on, there then was the point where Ezrem was having his so called identity crisis, and he went off on Kuiora and—to a much lesser extent—me. Sai had to interrupt, and his sudden fury made me cower, as always, and it only made me glad that I was leaving. I would only partly miss his rollercoaster emotions. The situation did serve, however, to prove to me what happens when someone doesn’t know themselves—they go crazy, and can only be tamed by the goals they have set for their future. I continued to sympathize with the bird, even though he had caused many problems for me in the past. He did help me to know, after all, that I didn’t want to be someone like him.

    Everything after that was quiet. I saw Ezrem and Rennio talking, but I couldn’t hear them. And Kuiora seemed both furious and pleased at the same time, but I didn’t question her. Senori passed me his famous all knowing smiles at me from time to time, as there were no more words to pass between us. All that needed to be said was said during the mock battle at the pokémon fan club. That was fine with me.

    The night before we reached Ecruteak City, I woke up just in time to see Sai sneak off. I was too dazed and tired to follow him, but I still took great note of it. His walk was slow, too, making me believe that he was just… thinking. Yeah, he was just thinking. I convinced myself of this and went back to sleep. He would be there in the morning.

    *

    And he was there in the morning. This brought about a great sense of relief to me. To have him disappear on me again would have put a big dent in our plans and an even bigger dent in our broken team. No one asked where Sai had gone the previous night—it would only be until much later that I would find out.
    Simultaneously, that last line gives me both relief and nervous pause. Until I reached it I really thought he did run away again, but the ominous note that Atis attaches to finding out where he was makes me really nervous.

    “So,” Sai said as we walked past the front gates that indicated we were now entering the city, “what are you supposed to do on a birthday, anyway?”

    “Have lots of cake,” I said before Kuiora could butt in and say something completely out of line.

    “Don’t forget presents,” she said, getting her own word in, anyway.

    “Okay. Cake and presents. Uh,” Sai said, stopping to rest for once. He peered around, taking in his surroundings. There were plenty of tall, well made oriental buildings around, and they looked like they were recently—and frequently—cleaned, to keep away graffiti and the harshness of nature. They were also thoroughly taken care of in the sense that, up close, I couldn’t see a single hole in any of the walls. The pavement below our feet was set up with a grid-like pattern, and along the roads were high, triumphal arches—I had learned that structures like this were meant to honor the rulers who had built the city in the past. The towers in the back of the city, of course, stuck out among anything, as they were among the tallest. One of them was noticeably burned and broken, while the other’s embattlements at the top still looked strong and loved.

    This was obviously a city that took care of its buildings, and therefore its people. It looked like a very efficient and suitable place for me.

    “Okay,” Sai said again, breaking my focus of the city. As he said this, someone approached the gate, motioning us to move out of the way so he could get past. We took a few steps forward, with Sai mumbling in discontent over the idea that someone had pushed him around yet again. Afterward, however, he was thrilled and inspired.

    “Good thing we have money again, or this would be impossible,” Sai went on happily. “Clearly, the first place we should go is to the shopping center.”
    I get a very bad feeling out of the sudden mention about money. It's probably nothing, but it raises a suspicion in my mind that I'd rather not entertain.

    And so that was where we went. We had to peer inside several buildings that were open to the public, seeing a restaurant and a dance hall in the process, but we eventually found it and ventured inside. The shopping center wasn’t nearly as huge as the mall in Goldenrod City, but it still brought back memories, and I vaguely wondered what Sai had done—or would eventually do—with the pocket knife he had bought. And I hoped that he wouldn’t think such a thing was a perfect gift for me.

    Luckily for me, he didn’t think so. He went up and down the aisles, picking up peculiar items, just as he had done before, but he always put them back where they belonged. Soon he reached the electronics section, and he picked up a small, cheap camera.

    “Atis,” he said, “do you like taking pictures?”

    I was nervous so I nodded but then said, “I’ve never taken any before, so I don’t know…”

    “Is it something you’d like to do? Won’t you remember us with it? Pictures can show you just about anything, right?”

    “I could. Right. I could do it,” I said, now smiling. Sai was being thoughtful and considerate toward me, and only me, when often he put himself at the center of his world. I was grateful for that, even if I couldn’t show it. It only made me wonder further, though, about what kind of person he associated himself with back at home.

    “It’s settled, then,” Sai said, handing it to me. “This will be your present from all of us.”

    Kuiora cheered, Rennio was explaining to Ezrem what the situation was, and Senori was quiet. Would I like to capture this moment forever? I took the camera from Sai, and we went to the counter to purchase it.
    That was rather cute. I smiled.

    “Just cupcakes. One for Atis, of course”—he pointed to me, and then the others—“and one for Kuiora, Senori, Rennio, me, and I suppose Ezrem can have one too. Cupcakes.”

    “Atis is the only one who should get a cupcake, Sai!” Kuiora said, rising from her seat. “It’s his birthday!”

    Sai ignored her, and nodded to the waiter, who looked confused. Since this was a restaurant that specialized in hamburgers (since that was what the menu mostly consisted of), I assumed that he didn’t get many orders like this. Not to mention the quick, informal tone and words that Sai used to order. His odd self was continuing to show, and I wondered how it was possible that he had never been to a restaurant before, not only with us, but in his past.
    This awkwardness on the group's part is adorable, too. It works perfectly for them.

    When the waiter left, we all sat there, talking about random things. Rennio was the first to bring up the pokémon facts on the table, asking if there were any about his species. I looked over the table, seeing that apparently, the legendary ho-oh could revive dead people and pokémon, while the rare bird called skarmory could replenish its steel feathers by itself. There were other etchings, but these particularly stood out to me, showing that there was always a second chance in life. I didn’t see anything about the electric-type, and I told him that. He looked disappointed.

    “Hey, now,” Ezrem said. Though he was burned by the neck, his voice sounded normal, and I was sure everyone was thankful for that. “Let’s all think about the cupcakes. I want to order so many cupcakes so that I can eat until my internal organs start a revolution and leave.”

    “Haven’t they already done that? Kind of, anyway,” Kuiora said, though she covered her mouth as soon as she said it. “Sorry,” she said, her voice muffled.

    Ezrem blanched. “Yes, I suppose they have. Darn it,” he said, quickly returning to his cheery self. “I guess I’ll have to settle for one cupcake.”

    “Cupcakes aren’t healthy for you, anyway,” Sai said.

    “So? Cake isn’t any better. I say we still should have gotten a cake somehow. We could have split it into parts, and then—”

    “And then you could have conned everyone into give you their parts?” Senori said, interrupting him with a grin.

    “Yes. You get me, Senori. I am so lucky to have someone who knows me as fantastically as you do,” Ezrem said sarcastically.

    “You could just... uh… divide the cake by zero, and then keep it forever for yourself,” I said. Stupidly. I knew that you couldn’t divide by zero, but I wanted to keep the two from fighting, knowing that they weren’t particularly fond of each other. Apparently, Ezrem knew this, too.

    “How is it logically impossible to divide by zero, anyway?” he said. “Let’s say this cake really exists, but no one owns this cake. It just exists. If I divide it by six, so there’s one piece for everyone, then there are six pieces. If I divide it by zero, then the cake still exists. It may be mathematically impossible, given that limits exist. But who is to tell me that I cannot divide a cake by zero?”

    I blushed at his response. I didn’t know how to answer, and I didn’t even know if the question was directly aimed at me! Luckily, Kuiora answered for me.

    “You, Ezrem,” she said, shaking her head, “are a smart pokémon.”

    “I would hardly say so,” Senori said, folding his small arms.

    “Annie used to tell you about all that math stuff, didn’t she?” Rennio chimed in, winking at Senori to keep the sentret—no, furret—calm.

    “Do you want to hear another math joke, then? I know you do. Let’s say that my long lost brother”—I cringed at his reference to him being a shiny pokémon—“collects ghouls in his home. Yeah, you heard me, Senori. Don’t you look at me like that. He collects ghouls. Now, let’s say that two thirds of these ghouls are—”

    Ezrem was, thankfully, interrupted by the waiter who had returned with all of the cupcakes. He set one down in front of each of us. I thanked him for it, even if he couldn’t understand me. Sai said nothing, and I silently scolded him for his lack of manners, not having the courage to say it out loud.

    I looked down, nervous. Noticing the camera at my side, I decided that now was a good a time as any to start using it. I wouldn’t be able to look at the pictures right away, but with time, I would know that I was taking good ones without having to even see them before judging.

    I picked it up in my hands again, enjoying the welcoming feeling of cool plastic on my hands. Twisting it around in my hand, I wondered if it would be misleading for me to take pictures of them. If I took pictures of them, it meant that I wanted to remember them forever, and maybe they would think that I wanted to stay, after all. I didn’t want to give them that impression, but I did want to remember them at the same time. I supposed that even if they thought I would want to stay, there would be undeniable proof at the end of the day: my departure, and, unlike Sai’s return… Well, there would be no return for me.

    So I took my pictures, one by one. In his picture, Sai was looking at the cupcake as if it was an alien creature that he was studying. Highly appropriate, I thought. I caught Kuiora in the middle of her first bite; her jaws were hanging open and the cupcake lay unassuming on the table in front of her. Also appropriate—I would remember her power this way. Senori actually took the first bite, though, and it reminded me of his leadership. Ezrem was messy in his picture, as he had white icing all over his beak by the time his cupcake was gone. And Rennio, I could tell that his hands would look delicate as they held the food in his picture, as if he were trying very hard not to hurt it in the process of eating it. Impossible, but an admirable struggle.

    And that was it—I had a picture of everyone. I could have asked for everyone to gather next to each other so we could all be in a single picture, but I was too nervous to ask. I didn’t want to disrupt the peaceful, hunger satisfied atmosphere that we had at the moment. Besides, I didn’t want to eventually develop these pictures and see me. I was afraid of seeing that I had made the wrong decision.
    The interactions among the characters are excellent here, as are the emotions you've written. Very, very well done. You've got a great writing style in this section - everything is cleanly written, and your words are chosen smartly and effectively.

    “Ah,” Ezrem said when he was finished, patting his stomach with his functioning but battered wing. “That was good. It’s been a while since I’ve had any sweets.”

    “It’s definitely different from berries,” Rennio agreed.

    “Berries aren’t so bad!” Kuiora said, folding her arms. “Cheri berries are good, anyway.”

    “Whatever you say, whatever you say,” Ezrem said, waving her off. “Well, Atis, there were your presents. I sincerely hope you enjoyed them. And I wonder if there are any more for you.”

    “There’s… more?” I said, thinking that it was unlikely—and particularly unfavorable—for there to be more.

    “Who knows? If there’s more, then I’d like to warn you that some gifts are better left unopened, anyway. I’m mostly referring to the kind of gifts that explode in your face upon opening.”

    “That’s…” I started, swallowing, “well, nice. Thanks for the warning…”

    “Anytime,” Ezrem said, and I saw Senori glare at him from across the table.

    “Don’t listen to him, Atis,” Senori said. “There’s nothing more.”

    “Actually,” Sai interrupted, “there is.” His voice was quiet, perhaps the quietest that I had ever heard it.

    “Oh? Please, Sai, enlighten us,” Senori said, looking at him suspiciously.

    “It’s for Atis only to know. For now, the day is over. Let’s go to the pokémon center.”
    Something is suspicious here...

    Sai still didn’t have enough money to buy everyone their own room, and he apologized for that. I didn’t mind—in the end, it wouldn’t matter to me. It was odd, though, that it was the last time that I would see everyone together in a pokémon center room. I looked up at the top bunk, wondering if I would be sleeping there tonight, listening to the breathing of those calm heartbeats below me…

    Sai was regarding me dubiously. He peered over at me every few moments, as if savoring his time with me, all the while knowing that there was more to come. I shuddered. It was an awkward stare he gave me, and those eyes that gave me mixed emotions would probably give me those same feelings every time I remembered them. I was sure that I would never see the dark glow of his eyes in anybody ever again, that was how unique they were to me.

    When everyone was settling into their sleeping positions, muttering to themselves in tired discontent, Sai announced, “I’m going out with Atis for one last time. Say your good-byes… as I will be letting him go.”

    Everyone stopped what they were doing just to come up to me. Senori simply nodded to me and went back to his position on the bed, with me thinking that it was rather cute to see the two of them so close together.

    Since he couldn’t use his wings well enough, Ezrem stood up on his clawed feet to peck my on the head. He whispered in my ear, “Don’t forget about those exploding gifts.” I let out a stifled, forced laugh.
    I'm only interrupting this so-far-great scene to point out that you typed "my" where "me" should be.

    Rennio pushed Ezrem out of the way, and as a reward I smiled at him, telling him that I wished I could have gotten to know him, too. He didn’t have anything else to say. I knew what he was thinking, anyway, despite our lack of connection.

    And Kuiora, with her enormous size and weight, just had to hug me. I thought she was going to crush my frail, skinny body in the process. Thankfully, she let go soon enough, and said good-bye in the least confident voice I had ever heard from her.

    Sai didn’t say anything. Due to our past experiences together, I was wholly expecting him to say something later—in private. My gaze lingered on him, the sensation of us knowing something that no one else knew taking over. I got the vague feeling that he knew something that I didn’t, but I ignored it. After a few moments, he went to the door and held it open, motioning for me to step outside. I did so, looking back at the others one last time before watching the door close shut, which started this first new chapter of my life.

    The walk to… wherever was silent. I wasn’t even sure where we were going, and supposedly, neither did Sai, as he was always peering this way and that every few seconds. We were seemingly making our way back to the entrance of the city. The night sky and lit moon loomed above us. There were very few people out at this time, which made me and Sai feel like the only ones in the world, with us being of the light and the city being of the dark. Nevertheless, we continued on, and we passed the front gates, just as we had done early this morning. I was already backtracking through my journey, and I speculated about how far I would go until I was satisfied.

    Eventually, Sai stopped. We had reached an area that appeared familiar to me, though Sai had taken a turn that led us into a more forested section. Trees lined the peripheral parts of my view, while a small clearing lay ahead of us, with bushes marking a dead end.

    “Atis,” Sai said. “Yesterday… Senori had told me that you didn’t quite know what you were going to do with your life after this. So I thought about it for you. I… remembered… someone that can help you. She will take you to a place where she thinks she can help you. I, ah, already told her that you would be coming with her, so it’s a little too late to say no right now. You can always say no later, I suppose, if you want to…”
    Hmm... this is curious...

    I stood there, finding his voice even more unnatural than it had been earlier. I couldn’t quite place it—such was often the case with this boy—but the pauses in his words were finally starting to make sense. This was different from when he was giving me answers in other situations. When he talked about himself or his past life, he was at least being honest with us, though he kept his answers discreet for protection’s sake. But this… He was lying to me.

    He was lying to me, and I didn’t know why.

    Suddenly, anxiety welled up within me. Shifting around uncomfortably, I remembered when he had temporarily deserted us. Had he gone to this lady he kept speaking about? It seemed that he didn’t particularly enjoy her company, either, so perhaps he felt the need to lie about her. Not that this made me feel any better. In fact, it only made me automatically despise whatever disaster was waiting for me.

    My concentration was broken when a strong gust of wind blew in my direction and knocked the camera out of my hand. It clattered to the ground, and I chased after it quickly, afraid of it being unusable and unable to be developed. When I retrieved it, I looked up, still feeling the wind blow against my skin. I noticed, however, that Sai seemed unaffected. His hair remained in one spot, and his body didn’t threaten to blow over with the force of nature.

    And soon, I started to feel lightheaded, ill, tired.

    Sai frowned as he noticed my abrupt distress.

    “Earl told me all about you,” Sai went on, just like he had said at the pokémon center. This time, he didn’t pause; he let it all out, word by word.

    I listened, wondering if his voice would be louder than the beating of my heart.

    “He told me,” Sai started, “that you were an obedient pokémon that always acted with a clear head and a clear conscience. He said that you were smarter than he could ever be. Though you were shy, he always took it as a sign that you were simply breathing in the air and thanking life for every chance you could do that. As time went on in our journey, I could see that he was right, and I could see that I was proud to have you on my team. He also said that someday, you would want to accomplish great things. I suppose that now is the time…” I flinched at his pause yet again. “I know you’ve always been outcast from the rest of us by your own wishes, and I respected that, but I wished that we could have spent more time together. I will wish that always. You can say that you won’t miss me, but I’ll think about you every day.”

    As he spoke, I began sobbing, not only because of his obviously heartfelt words and my consequent confusion, but because something was happening inside of me and it felt terrible. I was sick to my stomach, as if I would start retching at any moment. My head was about to split open. I wanted to believe that Sai would help me, but he did nothing. He knew this was going to happen. He knew it. I wanted to believe that this was really my trainer, the one I had trusted all this time…

    My head kept spinning, spinning. Spinning.

    Whatever was happening to me was happening fast. Soon, I was falling backward, hearing that Sai was sobbing, too. Before I could even question his enigmatic betrayal, everything went black.
    I... I'm not sure what to say. I think I need to think about this more. I know something serious just happened, I just need to wrap my mind around it.

    I know I say this a lot but I really do think this was one of the best chapters yet, if not the best one. You've always done well with the emotional punch of the story but this chapter took it to another level; I could really feel like I was right in Atis's shoes the entire time.

    I noticed you mentioned in the PM that this is the beginning of the end here. It certainly felt like it, with the marked escalation in everything. I'm ready.

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  18. #193
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    Quote Originally Posted by The Great Butler View Post
    I think I would offer as a counterpoint to Atis's point here that perhaps he would be more relieved if he was in Ezrem's position in terms of self-awareness. He seems very stressed from the knowledge of his own identity and trying to figure out where he belongs, so maybe it would be a relief for him to believe a simplified story instead of the truth.
    Eh, that could be true. I didn't really think about it.

    How many people are there that have lives that don't revolve around Pokemon, really?
    In the pokemon world? Not many.



    I can't say I'm surprised he made this decision - there really wasn't much doubt in my mind he'd choose to leave - but that doesn't mean it doesn't take the wind out of my sails all the same. From my perspective, I can't honestly say that I understand Atis's logic, but when I put myself in his position and adopt his thought process, I grasp it a lot more.
    Ah, I'm glad you can understand it a bit better that way. I know it's a hard decision to accept right away.

    I choked up a little, I must confess.
    Cute.
    I'm surprised at how well the Pokemon are taking this, though Ezrem is excluded from the group right now and might have a different kind of reaction when he finds out.
    I think they take it well because they understand.



    I get a very bad feeling out of the sudden mention about money. It's probably nothing, but it raises a suspicion in my mind that I'd rather not entertain.
    It's probably not much. The money thing is just an important aspect to show his "sickness" (and yes, that's a hint).


    The interactions among the characters are excellent here, as are the emotions you've written. Very, very well done. You've got a great writing style in this section - everything is cleanly written, and your words are chosen smartly and effectively.
    Glad you liked it.
    I... I'm not sure what to say. I think I need to think about this more. I know something serious just happened, I just need to wrap my mind around it.

    I know I say this a lot but I really do think this was one of the best chapters yet, if not the best one. You've always done well with the emotional punch of the story but this chapter took it to another level; I could really feel like I was right in Atis's shoes the entire time.

    I noticed you mentioned in the PM that this is the beginning of the end here. It certainly felt like it, with the marked escalation in everything. I'm ready.
    Glad you're ready. You'll be even more ready as soon as you wrap your head around what just happened, LOL.

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  19. #194
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    You know... I had a Tab open for this story, and then my laptop had to restart at some point and I lost it. Then I forgot about it, and then I remembered it! But here I am.

    So Sai had his inevitable heel turn, but not in any way I could have seen coming. I'm curious as how Sai... poisoned?... Atis without his knowing. I didn't see any visual cues in there like Sai touching Atis' cupcake or Atis noticing a sharp sensation when Sai touched him or anything like that. So I wonder how that happened to Atis.

    There's a part of me that wonders just how devious this plan might be, and what the camera has to do with anything. It doesn't seem like Sai would so carefully have selected a camera for a present if Atis was never going to be able to develop the pictures in it (the story doesn't READ as though this is a digital display camera, so I'm assuming by the description that it is a simple disposable camera), so what's the clue there? Can't say I fully have an idea on that one yet.

    Some of the interactions in this chapter seemed a bit weird. Ezrem, especially. With his math jokes and talk of exploding gifts... he just seemed all over the place, and his dialogue didn't strike me as especially inspired. It just struck me as frenetic and odd. Rennio's voice was cute and endearing. Kuiora was heartfelt. Senori... I guess you set up what you did with him where he had his "knowing moments" with Atis, so he didn't have to have much of a voice, though I'd have preferred something... maybe some delayed gratitude for helping him reach his evolutionary state? Maybe some show of mutual respect? So all-in-all, maybe it was just Ezrem who was weird to me.

    Sai's voice was strong, though we had Atis explicitly telling us why and how. And that's not a bad thing because it suits Atis' character to do so. Atis is unsure, nervous, anxious, and suspicious, so for him to NOT acknowledge changes in Sai's voice would be out-of-character. It really worked for Atis to be describing that, and it raised the tension of everything.

    I'm harkening back a lot to the "I am always sick" chapter because that, obviously, is supposed to be setting up what is happening here. I don't see it, though. The thought I'm having is... if Atis wasn't going to leave, Sai wouldn't be doing this here. So it's not like he's trading pokemon for his medicine or well-being. Unless his eventual goal is to do this with all the members of his group when their journey is complete (which seems likely, I guess). So... hm. Not sure.


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  20. #195
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    Quote Originally Posted by Sid87 View Post
    So Sai had his inevitable heel turn, but not in any way I could have seen coming. I'm curious as how Sai... poisoned?... Atis without his knowing. I didn't see any visual cues in there like Sai touching Atis' cupcake or Atis noticing a sharp sensation when Sai touched him or anything like that. So I wonder how that happened to Atis.
    There's a very simple explanation that will be explained in the next chapter.


    Some of the interactions in this chapter seemed a bit weird. Ezrem, especially. With his math jokes and talk of exploding gifts... he just seemed all over the place, and his dialogue didn't strike me as especially inspired. It just struck me as frenetic and odd. Rennio's voice was cute and endearing. Kuiora was heartfelt. Senori... I guess you set up what you did with him where he had his "knowing moments" with Atis, so he didn't have to have much of a voice, though I'd have preferred something... maybe some delayed gratitude for helping him reach his evolutionary state? Maybe some show of mutual respect? So all-in-all, maybe it was just Ezrem who was weird to me.
    Eh, I guess I'm not used to writing characters like Ezrem so he's all over the place for me. And you're right, I could have added something between Senori and Atis. I'll remember that.

    I'm harkening back a lot to the "I am always sick" chapter because that, obviously, is supposed to be setting up what is happening here. I don't see it, though. The thought I'm having is... if Atis wasn't going to leave, Sai wouldn't be doing this here. So it's not like he's trading pokemon for his medicine or well-being. Unless his eventual goal is to do this with all the members of his group when their journey is complete (which seems likely, I guess). So... hm. Not sure.
    That is his eventual goal. All I can really say is that Sai was meant to do this with Atis (or someone else) a long time ago, but, alas, he tends to break the "rules".

    | survival project |
    | this trainer is different. everyone knows it, but no one can explain it. |
    | complete |


    | flying in the dark |
    | he's hiding something. she just doesn't know it. |
    | on hiatus|


    | love and other nightmares |
    | limited time, limited abilities. kyurem says she can be cured in exchange for saving those who need saving. |
    | chapter 1 released |


  21. #196
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    SURVIVAL PROJECT

    chapter 22 ; [KUIORA]
    epitome

    *

    I had heard of many stories in the past, but the ones that I remembered in my mind, along with the ones I told the others, seemed to be of most significance.

    Once upon a time, there was a girl named Kuiora who loved a boy named Sai—and then the boy left her and she did not love him anymore. True. Not fiction. Fact. I had lost a ton of respect for Sai when he had disappeared on us, and he was slowly starting to gain my trust back, but he hadn’t quite reached the pedestal that I had put him on all those days ago, when he cradled my emotions and told me that I was the strongest pokémon he had.

    Still, the story made me wonder. Did it have any unknown relation to Sai? Did he feel that it was his duty to leave us and do whatever he had to do? Was he affiliated with any legendary pokémon that gave him the chance to go on a journey with us? There were so many questions surrounding the boy, and no answers. I thought that perhaps the story could give me answers, but I didn’t like any of them. It meant that one of us would die—probably me, if I chose to go after him. It would be just like the story. Once upon a time, there was a boy who loved a girl—and when the girl died by his hands, he could not stop loving her. The roles were reversed, but they could still ring true. I believed that if I sought to figure out my trainer, then I could potentially be in danger. I didn’t want that, but Sai was irresistibly mysterious and indispensable to me.

    And then… there was the story perfectly related to Ezrem, who was also an important part of my life when it came to friendships and teaching me more about what it means to be extraordinarily ordinary. He had recently told me that he burned down the forest and killed his trainer. In the story, a man was mourning his losses, and at the end, the town had accused him of killing his own wife and child by starting the house fire. It sounded perfectly applicable, almost scarily so. Again, I didn’t like the story’s ending. It meant that Ezrem would die of the burn wounds he had received lately. I worried incessantly for his safety and health once I figured out the connection between him and the stories.

    Despite my worry, I was still conflicted about him. I wanted to believe that he was a good pokémon, but he was dead set on proving otherwise. And the things he had done were… unforgivable, to say the least. But he was trying. This, I could tell, and it made all the difference. I could deal with him and his trickery if it meant that he was going to try harder for me and everybody else. I hoped that whatever legendary pokémon was watching over him would keep him from dying.

    Finally, there was the story about the thieving girl who stole hearts and never returned a single favor anyone gave her. While Ezrem was probably thinking that it was about him at the time (and I may have agreed with him… at the time), I believed that the story was about me. I was a con, a stealer of hearts, too. Sai obviously cared for me and so did Senori and Atis and everyone else, but I never showed any respect or love toward them. I only cared about myself getting stronger. Well, thanks to the ceremony with Lynn and the starmie, I had realized that everyone was special in their own way, and I was working on trying to be as supportive of others as I could possibly be. I feared for the karma that awaited me, but I hoped that the legendaries would find me to be inexorably invincible.

    It was strange, being suddenly surrounded by the idea of death. I had told Ezrem that it was all a myth meant to scare children like me, but I had been lying. It was right in front of me, all the time, in these stories… and I knew that the legendaries wouldn’t lie to me. I just didn’t want to believe them, no matter how much I cherished them.

    A story’s ending could be undone…

    It had to be true.

    *

    It came as a shock to me when Atis left. It gave me the sensation that I had felt when I left Professor Elm’s lab. Although I hadn’t cared for the other pokémon, it was the familiarity that had made me feel comfortable there. And even though Atis was almost invisible to me, due to his quiet nature, his presence made everything feel more calm and peaceful. Without him there, I could only see a large, empty hole that couldn’t be filled.

    Apparently, Sai was thinking the same, too.

    It was safe to assume that no one was able to sleep the night that Atis left. We were all thinking about our own decisions to stay. We were all thinking about where Sai had gone with the hitmontop, and what they were saying to each other. Our thoughts had altered after seeing Sai leave, seeing Ezrem get burned, and seeing a fellow teammate leave. Before, the thoughts consisted of consolation. Now, they were full of fear and the sad feeling of wishing that we had known earlier what we knew at this moment.

    Well, since none of us were sleeping when Atis left, no one was sleeping when Sai returned, either. He was in a rush when he closed the door. He was clearly sobbing, and we all believed we knew why. He was distressed over Atis leaving, over losing a pokémon on the team he had tried so hard to build. I vaguely wondered why he didn’t force Atis to stay with us, but I knew that it wasn’t in Sai’s best interests to do so.

    Inevitably, we all couldn’t pretend to sleep anymore. We got up, tried to comfort Sai, but it didn’t work. We sat in a circle, as usual, and told jokes to each other to try to get us to laugh and calm down. But there was one thing we didn’t joke about, no matter what (and even Ezrem was mostly quiet and tame about it):

    Sai cried all night.

    *

    When Sai’s demeanor was finally more serene, he immediately announced, “We’re continuing with our journey… We’re going to the gym.”

    The sun had just started rising and peering in through the shut window on the far wall of the pokémon center room. We were all exhausted and emotionally drained, but no one protested. Sai stood up from the bed—where he had been all night—and opened the door, almost pushing us out of the room.

    “Watch it, pal,” Ezrem said, frowning at the boy, but that was all he retorted with, which was unusual for his normal talkative self. Senori didn’t even seem to have the energy to glare back at him.

    We slowly made our way to the Ecruteak City pokémon gym. Sai was walking slow compared to his preferred swift pace. The sun was fully visible in the sky now. It was just a speck in the daytime, and it was cold, distant… It was brighter than it had any right to be. It still seemed to be dark in my heart. Our hearts.

    The gym had a more appropriate atmosphere for our team. It was eerie and shallow, to say the least. The gym was almost completely dark, with only three striking blue lights on either side. It was enough to illuminate the leader that stood in the back of the room, looking at us emotionlessly, as if he were nothing but a lifeless, heartless man. The simplicity of it all sent shivers down my spine. I found it odd that there was no trick to this place. The Violet City gym was intentionally open for flying-type pokémon. Azalea Town was purposefully made into a forest to encourage growth, and in Goldenrod City, there had been a maze. Here, there was nothing but a few lights, brown hardwood floors, and a… man, if you could even call him that.

    Even Sai approached the “man” with caution. He kept his distance as he spoke: “Hello… I’m here to face the gym leader. Is that you? If you don’t mind, I’d like to fight now instead of making an appointment.”

    The man lifted his arm, his sleeve falling down to reveal pale skin underneath. He snapped his fingers, and six more lights were suddenly lit up in various locations. We could see him a lot better. He had spiky golden hair with a blue headband around his forehead, and he had a matching blue shirt with yellow cuffs. He wore plain jeans, and now, he looked more alive and human. He was even smiling! I slapped myself for falling for the joke and letting him scare me. I should have known better than to fall for the tricks of a man who obviously wanted us to believe in ghost stories that I already knew were fake. Though the odd connection between my team and some stories made me really wonder if they were fake.

    “Hello,” he said. “My name is Morty, and—”

    “Marty? Is that you?” Sai said, his jaw nearly dropping the floor.

    “No, no. Morty, not Marty. I assume you’re talking about the boy who just recently came by to say he would be challenging me soon. Our names are similar, but that is not me.”

    “Oh,” Sai said, his body relaxing. “I don’t have to be afraid anymore, I suppose,” he added, chuckling. It made me smile. “The Marty I know wouldn’t hand me a gym badge even if I beat him ten times over.”

    “Ah, yes, that would be a troublesome gym leader,” Morty agreed.

    “Yes,” Sai said. There was a pause. “Can we battle now, then?”

    “Sure. We will use two pokémon each,” Morty said. “I look forward to seeing your strength.”

    Sai looked over to me. “Kuiora,” he said, “do you want to battle?”

    If I was being honest, I didn’t want to. I was tired and sad and I wasn’t particularly focused on being stronger anymore. I wanted to help Atis, wherever he was. I appreciated Sai’s efforts to make it a point to let me fight first in every gym match, but he had to come to an end. I shook my head no.

    “Okay,” Sai said, nodding, as if he could read my thoughts. “Rennio probably isn’t ready to fight yet. Uh. I’ll use Senori, then, since he just evolved.”

    “Sure,” Senori said simply, running on all fours to get to the middle of the arena.

    “A normal-type, huh? I’m sure you’ll have some interesting moves up your sleeve, then, if that’s the case,” Morty pondered, stroking his chin with one hand. He maximized a pokéball that I just noticed was in his other hand, and he threw it forward, bringing forth what looked like a spiky ball of purple dust… one that had hands and the ability to float around.

    “What… What is that thing?” Senori asked.

    “Who knows?” Sai said. “But you’re going to beat it, okay? Use tail whip!”

    And like that, the battle was underway. Senori sprang toward the purple cloud of dust, a gleam of weary determination in his eyes.

    “Haunter, just stay there for a moment,” Morty ordered calmly.

    This made Senori halt his momentum. He was able to come to a complete stop before running into the haunter and falling for whatever trap the gym leader was trying to pull.

    “What are you doing, Senori? That would be a free hit! Tail whip!”

    “Okay…” Senori said carefully, probably not wanting to upset his trainer any further. If it were me in the battle, I would do the same.

    Senori sprang forth once more, this time preparing to swing his tail in order to hit the haunter. When Senori collided with the smiling ball of dust, however, his tail went right through, as if the haunter were a… ghost.

    And then it hit me. The haunter was a ghost-type! This explained why the gym was so creepy and why the gym leader was trying to pull jokes. Ghost-types always liked pranks and the darkness, and the trainer was just trying to accommodate their needs. It all made sense now, and I had apparently learned something new: normal-type attacks couldn’t effect the ghost in any way, shape, or form.

    “You’re joking,” Senori said. “My tail just went right through it! This thing has no solid body!”

    “Hmm,” Sai said. “Try a different body part! Tackle!”

    But the same thing happened all over again. The furret charged at the haunter, this time looking like he was going to use a headbutt attack. This time, Senori’s entire body went through the haunter, and he landed on the other side, staring at it. The haunter looked completely unfazed.

    Senori growled and said, “Evolution was useless for here, Sai. None of my attacks are going to hurt it.”

    “Exactly,” Morty said, shaking his head. “You should have done your research before you came here. Ghost-types aren’t affected by certain kinds of moves. I hope you have something else going on in that head of yours, or this battle is as good as over.”

    “I knew that already, but I had forgotten. I’m… a little out of it. If Atis were here,” Sai said solemnly, “I bet he would have warned me about that. He would know those kinds of things from being in the school. He would…”

    “Sai,” I said, walking up to him and hugging his leg. He looked down at the ground, his eyes appearing stricken and confused.

    “But just as certain attacks don’t affect ghost-types, ghost-type attacks don’t hurt normal-types. So you’ve got some advantage… just not enough. Haunter, use sucker punch!” Morty cried.

    Fortunately for the haunter, Senori was already in close range so he could attack. Senori was peering back at Sai, unassuming about the move that the haunter was about to use. The haunter drew a significant amount of dark energy to one of its floating hands. It then raised its hand, causing a shadow to appear in front of Senori. Senori turned to look at the haunter now, and was about to dodge out of the way when the haunter struck him straight in the stomach. Before Senori went flying backward, the dark energy transferred into the haunter’s other hand, and the haunter struck Senori yet again.

    “Senori,” I called, watching as he lay there, trying to get up after being attacked not just once, but twice, “are you sure that none of your attacks are going to work?”

    “I don’t have any special elemental attacks,” Senori said slowly, rubbing his stomach, “so yes, I’m sure.”

    “Sai,” I said, poking him in the shoulder. “You should call Senori back. He isn’t going to do well at all. He’ll just get beat up!”

    “You think so?” Sai said, looking up. He had apparently missed the sucker punch attack. “Okay. Senori, return.”

    “Are you sure you want to do that? If you call the furret back, then you only have one pokémon left,” Morty said.

    “I’d rather lose once than let my pokémon continuously get hurt for no reason,” Sai said, though he still didn’t sound like his normal self. His voice sounded forced and hurt more than it had when he had been crying last night. My heart ached for him. “Senori, return,” he said again.

    “You should use whoever’s strongest here,” Senori advised. “These ghost-types are no joke. They’re really tough, and they’re probably even more tough than usual since they belong to a gym leader.”

    “But Rennio doesn’t want to fight, right?” he said, looking at the elekid.

    “That’s right. Sorry… I have to prepare myself yet again…” the young pokémon replied.

    “And Ezrem is injured… He’s not even my pokémon… Kuiora, you need to fight, okay? If Atis were here, I guess I’d try using him… He’d be smart enough to figure something out…” Sai trailed off, lost in thought. He appeared to be out of commission yet again.

    “Sai,” Senori said, “I know you’re sad that Atis left, but you can’t let it bother you too much. You’re in a gym battle, for crying out loud! Get yourself together!”

    “I agree. Don’t lose sight of your goal now!” I said, trying to be as encouraging as possible. “Can’t we have a normal gym battle for once?” I added, exasperated. I found that Senori was much better at handling these sorts of things and that I’d have to work on it.

    “You don’t understand. You don’t understand what I did to him. You don’t—”

    “I think that,” Morty interrupted, returning the haunter to its pokéball, “for the moment, this battle is over. Come back when you are ready.”

    “Sai? What did you do with Atis? You didn’t hurt him, did you?” I said, ignoring the gym leader. We could always come back later, as he said. Sai would just have to deal with breaking the rules once more. I watched as the gym leader turned and disappeared in the shadows, turning off the lights yet again. We were shrouded in darkness.

    “I didn’t really hurt him. Someone else did. They’re going to hurt him more, just like they hurt me,” Sai said frantically. He was speaking so quickly that Senori and I were having trouble keeping up.

    “Who did, Sai? Where is Atis?”

    “I need to go. He’s in Mahogany Town. After all this time, of course I know exactly where it is! I don’t want to know where it is, but I know where it is,” Sai said, out of breath. “Look, I need to go,” he said again. “Stay here. Don’t follow me.”

    Just like he had during the Goldenrod City gym breakdown, he turned and dashed out of the building, leaving all of us behind. And just like before, when we left the place and searched all over for him, he was nowhere to be found.

    “At least we have a lead this time,” Rennio said thoughtfully, trying to keep from crying. “Are we heading to Mahogany Town?”

    “I have a feeling that none of us know where it is,” Ezrem said, and I nodded to him, “but yes, Rennio, I believe that is where we are going.”

    We all stood there, slinking our shoulders and tired bodies, wondering where in the world Mahogany Town was. It could have been anywhere. We didn’t have a guide, or food, or water, or money, or a trainer. Again. Without any of this, we couldn’t get anywhere, anyway. All we had was each other, and just barely.

    Our pathetic team, for the moment, was the epitome of loss.

    | survival project |
    | this trainer is different. everyone knows it, but no one can explain it. |
    | complete |


    | flying in the dark |
    | he's hiding something. she just doesn't know it. |
    | on hiatus|


    | love and other nightmares |
    | limited time, limited abilities. kyurem says she can be cured in exchange for saving those who need saving. |
    | chapter 1 released |


  22. #197
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    Quote Originally Posted by diamondpearl876 View Post

    SURVIVAL PROJECT

    chapter 22 ; [KUIORA]
    epitome

    *

    I had heard of many stories in the past, but the ones that I remembered in my mind, along with the ones I told the others, seemed to be of most significance.

    Once upon a time, there was a girl named Kuiora who loved a boy named Sai—and then the boy left her and she did not love him anymore. True. Not fiction. Fact. I had lost a ton of respect for Sai when he had disappeared on us, and he was slowly starting to gain my trust back, but he hadn’t quite reached the pedestal that I had put him on all those days ago, when he cradled my emotions and told me that I was the strongest pokémon he had.
    I have to admit, this beginning catches me just a bit off guard. The "once upon a time" story reads like it could be the feelings Kuiora now has about Sai's actions earlier in the story, but given the entire context, this almost reads like something Kuiora would say some time in the future, as if there was a timeskip of some kind and the characters were looking back on the events of the story.

    Maybe I'm jumping the gun with trying to reach a conclusion.

    Still, the story made me wonder. Did it have any unknown relation to Sai? Did he feel that it was his duty to leave us and do whatever he had to do? Was he affiliated with any legendary pokémon that gave him the chance to go on a journey with us? There were so many questions surrounding the boy, and no answers. I thought that perhaps the story could give me answers, but I didn’t like any of them. It meant that one of us would die—probably me, if I chose to go after him. It would be just like the story. Once upon a time, there was a boy who loved a girl—and when the girl died by his hands, he could not stop loving her. The roles were reversed, but they could still ring true. I believed that if I sought to figure out my trainer, then I could potentially be in danger. I didn’t want that, but Sai was irresistibly mysterious and indispensable to me.
    Yeah, this really reads like Kuiora narrating her thoughts in some sort of epilogue. There must be some meaning here that's just going over my head.

    I do like the way Kuiora is explaining her thoughts, though. They are presented in an intelligent, articulate fashion that is pleasant to read. Also, the comments about the story that she keeps referring to relate quite well to the relationship between her and Sai, though that's part of what I don't understand - they relate so well that they contribute to the feeling that the story Kuiora is speaking of is her relationship with Sai.

    And then… there was the story perfectly related to Ezrem, who was also an important part of my life when it came to friendships and teaching me more about what it means to be extraordinarily ordinary. He had recently told me that he burned down the forest and killed his trainer. In the story, a man was mourning his losses, and at the end, the town had accused him of killing his own wife and child by starting the house fire. It sounded perfectly applicable, almost scarily so. Again, I didn’t like the story’s ending. It meant that Ezrem would die of the burn wounds he had received lately. I worried incessantly for his safety and health once I figured out the connection between him and the stories.
    Wait, I think I'm beginning to see a narrative here...

    Despite my worry, I was still conflicted about him. I wanted to believe that he was a good pokémon, but he was dead set on proving otherwise. And the things he had done were… unforgivable, to say the least. But he was trying. This, I could tell, and it made all the difference. I could deal with him and his trickery if it meant that he was going to try harder for me and everybody else. I hoped that whatever legendary pokémon was watching over him would keep him from dying.
    Wait, is he trying to earn forgiveness or to be a bad Pokemon? I don't fully grasp Kuiora's thoughts here.

    Finally, there was the story about the thieving girl who stole hearts and never returned a single favor anyone gave her. While Ezrem was probably thinking that it was about him at the time (and I may have agreed with him… at the time), I believed that the story was about me. I was a con, a stealer of hearts, too. Sai obviously cared for me and so did Senori and Atis and everyone else, but I never showed any respect or love toward them. I only cared about myself getting stronger. Well, thanks to the ceremony with Lynn and the starmie, I had realized that everyone was special in their own way, and I was working on trying to be as supportive of others as I could possibly be. I feared for the karma that awaited me, but I hoped that the legendaries would find me to be inexorably invincible.

    It was strange, being suddenly surrounded by the idea of death. I had told Ezrem that it was all a myth meant to scare children like me, but I had been lying. It was right in front of me, all the time, in these stories… and I knew that the legendaries wouldn’t lie to me. I just didn’t want to believe them, no matter how much I cherished them.

    A story’s ending could be undone…

    It had to be true.
    I'm seeing some definite narrative threads now, and I'm not entirely sure I like where they're going. There's some bad stuff about to go down, isn't there?

    The usage of stories as they relate to the characters is a good idea. It illustrates clearly what kind of paths each of them are very possibly set on.

    It came as a shock to me when Atis left. It gave me the sensation that I had felt when I left Professor Elm’s lab. Although I hadn’t cared for the other pokémon, it was the familiarity that had made me feel comfortable there. And even though Atis was almost invisible to me, due to his quiet nature, his presence made everything feel more calm and peaceful. Without him there, I could only see a large, empty hole that couldn’t be filled.

    Apparently, Sai was thinking the same, too.

    It was safe to assume that no one was able to sleep the night that Atis left. We were all thinking about our own decisions to stay. We were all thinking about where Sai had gone with the hitmontop, and what they were saying to each other. Our thoughts had altered after seeing Sai leave, seeing Ezrem get burned, and seeing a fellow teammate leave. Before, the thoughts consisted of consolation. Now, they were full of fear and the sad feeling of wishing that we had known earlier what we knew at this moment.

    Well, since none of us were sleeping when Atis left, no one was sleeping when Sai returned, either. He was in a rush when he closed the door. He was clearly sobbing, and we all believed we knew why. He was distressed over Atis leaving, over losing a pokémon on the team he had tried so hard to build. I vaguely wondered why he didn’t force Atis to stay with us, but I knew that it wasn’t in Sai’s best interests to do so.
    After thinking more about what happened previously, I'm really beginning to feel that what Kuiora/the Pokemon feel is disconnected from what Sai is actually doing. I can't help but see a bit more of a sinister overtone against what's happening, even though I truly don't want to.

    For example, Sai crying is one thing, but I note very cautiously that Kuiora said they all believed they knew why he was doing so. His being in a rush could very easily be due to doing something he didn't want to be caught doing, just as much as it could be out of sadness.

    When Sai’s demeanor was finally more serene, he immediately announced, “We’re continuing with our journey… We’re going to the gym.”

    The sun had just started rising and peering in through the shut window on the far wall of the pokémon center room. We were all exhausted and emotionally drained, but no one protested. Sai stood up from the bed—where he had been all night—and opened the door, almost pushing us out of the room.

    “Watch it, pal,” Ezrem said, frowning at the boy, but that was all he retorted with, which was unusual for his normal talkative self. Senori didn’t even seem to have the energy to glare back at him.

    We slowly made our way to the Ecruteak City pokémon gym. Sai was walking slow compared to his preferred swift pace. The sun was fully visible in the sky now. It was just a speck in the daytime, and it was cold, distant… It was brighter than it had any right to be. It still seemed to be dark in my heart. Our hearts.
    There is something very strange going on here that goes far deeper than just what we saw of Atis's departure.

    The gym had a more appropriate atmosphere for our team. It was eerie and shallow, to say the least. The gym was almost completely dark, with only three striking blue lights on either side. It was enough to illuminate the leader that stood in the back of the room, looking at us emotionlessly, as if he were nothing but a lifeless, heartless man. The simplicity of it all sent shivers down my spine. I found it odd that there was no trick to this place. The Violet City gym was intentionally open for flying-type pokémon. Azalea Town was purposefully made into a forest to encourage growth, and in Goldenrod City, there had been a maze. Here, there was nothing but a few lights, brown hardwood floors, and a… man, if you could even call him that.

    Even Sai approached the “man” with caution. He kept his distance as he spoke: “Hello… I’m here to face the gym leader. Is that you? If you don’t mind, I’d like to fight now instead of making an appointment.”

    The man lifted his arm, his sleeve falling down to reveal pale skin underneath. He snapped his fingers, and six more lights were suddenly lit up in various locations. We could see him a lot better. He had spiky golden hair with a blue headband around his forehead, and he had a matching blue shirt with yellow cuffs. He wore plain jeans, and now, he looked more alive and human. He was even smiling! I slapped myself for falling for the joke and letting him scare me. I should have known better than to fall for the tricks of a man who obviously wanted us to believe in ghost stories that I already knew were fake. Though the odd connection between my team and some stories made me really wonder if they were fake.

    “Hello,” he said. “My name is Morty, and—”

    “Marty? Is that you?” Sai said, his jaw nearly dropping the floor.

    “No, no. Morty, not Marty. I assume you’re talking about the boy who just recently came by to say he would be challenging me soon. Our names are similar, but that is not me.”

    “Oh,” Sai said, his body relaxing. “I don’t have to be afraid anymore, I suppose,” he added, chuckling. It made me smile. “The Marty I know wouldn’t hand me a gym badge even if I beat him ten times over.”
    There's another strike in the corner that says Sai has severe social issues for whatever reason, if he has trouble with associating names to identities.

    “Ah, yes, that would be a troublesome gym leader,” Morty agreed.

    “Yes,” Sai said. There was a pause. “Can we battle now, then?”

    “Sure. We will use two pokémon each,” Morty said. “I look forward to seeing your strength.”

    Sai looked over to me. “Kuiora,” he said, “do you want to battle?”

    If I was being honest, I didn’t want to. I was tired and sad and I wasn’t particularly focused on being stronger anymore. I wanted to help Atis, wherever he was. I appreciated Sai’s efforts to make it a point to let me fight first in every gym match, but he had to come to an end. I shook my head no.

    “Okay,” Sai said, nodding, as if he could read my thoughts. “Rennio probably isn’t ready to fight yet. Uh. I’ll use Senori, then, since he just evolved.”

    “Sure,” Senori said simply, running on all fours to get to the middle of the arena.

    “A normal-type, huh? I’m sure you’ll have some interesting moves up your sleeve, then, if that’s the case,” Morty pondered, stroking his chin with one hand. He maximized a pokéball that I just noticed was in his other hand, and he threw it forward, bringing forth what looked like a spiky ball of purple dust… one that had hands and the ability to float around.
    I don't think Senori is going to win, due to type disadvantage. In fact, I'm willing to venture a guess as far out as Sai losing and that being the major event that pushes him toward some final break.

    “What… What is that thing?” Senori asked.

    “Who knows?” Sai said. “But you’re going to beat it, okay? Use tail whip!”

    And like that, the battle was underway. Senori sprang toward the purple cloud of dust, a gleam of weary determination in his eyes.

    “Haunter, just stay there for a moment,” Morty ordered calmly.

    This made Senori halt his momentum. He was able to come to a complete stop before running into the haunter and falling for whatever trap the gym leader was trying to pull.

    “What are you doing, Senori? That would be a free hit! Tail whip!”

    “Okay…” Senori said carefully, probably not wanting to upset his trainer any further. If it were me in the battle, I would do the same.
    I don't see this ending well at all. Something bad is coming, I know it.

    “Are you sure you want to do that? If you call the furret back, then you only have one pokémon left,” Morty said.

    “I’d rather lose once than let my pokémon continuously get hurt for no reason,” Sai said, though he still didn’t sound like his normal self. His voice sounded forced and hurt more than it had when he had been crying last night. My heart ached for him. “Senori, return,” he said again.
    This situation is going to explode very soon, I can feel it. Sai's just so far out of it now that I think we may have passed the point of no return.

    “You should use whoever’s strongest here,” Senori advised. “These ghost-types are no joke. They’re really tough, and they’re probably even more tough than usual since they belong to a gym leader.”

    “But Rennio doesn’t want to fight, right?” he said, looking at the elekid.

    “That’s right. Sorry… I have to prepare myself yet again…” the young pokémon replied.

    “And Ezrem is injured… He’s not even my pokémon… Kuiora, you need to fight, okay? If Atis were here, I guess I’d try using him… He’d be smart enough to figure something out…” Sai trailed off, lost in thought. He appeared to be out of commission yet again.

    “Sai,” Senori said, “I know you’re sad that Atis left, but you can’t let it bother you too much. You’re in a gym battle, for crying out loud! Get yourself together!”

    “I agree. Don’t lose sight of your goal now!” I said, trying to be as encouraging as possible. “Can’t we have a normal gym battle for once?” I added, exasperated. I found that Senori was much better at handling these sorts of things and that I’d have to work on it.

    “You don’t understand. You don’t understand what I did to him. You don’t—”
    Oh dear God, here it goes.

    Now might be a good point to mention that I didn't actually realize Atis was poisoned at the end of the previous chapter. I thought he was having a strong emotional reaction that manifested itself physically.

    “I think that,” Morty interrupted, returning the haunter to its pokéball, “for the moment, this battle is over. Come back when you are ready.”

    “Sai? What did you do with Atis? You didn’t hurt him, did you?” I said, ignoring the gym leader. We could always come back later, as he said. Sai would just have to deal with breaking the rules once more. I watched as the gym leader turned and disappeared in the shadows, turning off the lights yet again. We were shrouded in darkness.

    “I didn’t really hurt him. Someone else did. They’re going to hurt him more, just like they hurt me,” Sai said frantically. He was speaking so quickly that Senori and I were having trouble keeping up.
    Wait, what? Now I'm really suspicious...

    “Who did, Sai? Where is Atis?”

    “I need to go. He’s in Mahogany Town. After all this time, of course I know exactly where it is! I don’t want to know where it is, but I know where it is,” Sai said, out of breath. “Look, I need to go,” he said again. “Stay here. Don’t follow me.”

    Just like he had during the Goldenrod City gym breakdown, he turned and dashed out of the building, leaving all of us behind. And just like before, when we left the place and searched all over for him, he was nowhere to be found.

    “At least we have a lead this time,” Rennio said thoughtfully, trying to keep from crying. “Are we heading to Mahogany Town?”

    “I have a feeling that none of us know where it is,” Ezrem said, and I nodded to him, “but yes, Rennio, I believe that is where we are going.”

    We all stood there, slinking our shoulders and tired bodies, wondering where in the world Mahogany Town was. It could have been anywhere. We didn’t have a guide, or food, or water, or money, or a trainer. Again. Without any of this, we couldn’t get anywhere, anyway. All we had was each other, and just barely.

    Our pathetic team, for the moment, was the epitome of loss.
    Now with Mahogany Town involved, I feel safe in guessing now that Team Rocket is involved in this somehow, and Sai has ties to them in some way. I suspected it from his breakdown in Goldenrod City but I haven't felt truly confident in putting it out there until now.

    This chapter answered some questions, while at the same time raising plenty more. I don't know what more I can really say - at least we have a clear plot thread to drive us through to the end, and some idea of what may happen next. Beyond that, I'm just along for the ride and enjoying every minute.

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  23. #198
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    This story is still alive right? I've really enjoyed it so far. I even made an account on this site just to write this comment mang, hook me up with an update.
    Last edited by hl23; 21st April 2013 at 9:42 PM.

  24. #199
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    Quote Originally Posted by The Great Butler View Post
    I have to admit, this beginning catches me just a bit off guard. The "once upon a time" story reads like it could be the feelings Kuiora now has about Sai's actions earlier in the story, but given the entire context, this almost reads like something Kuiora would say some time in the future, as if there was a timeskip of some kind and the characters were looking back on the events of the story.

    Maybe I'm jumping the gun with trying to reach a conclusion.
    It makes sense. I think it's more poor writing on my part, since it confuses you. Sorry about that.





    Wait, is he trying to earn forgiveness or to be a bad Pokemon? I don't fully grasp Kuiora's thoughts here.
    In a sense, he's trying to do both. He's trying to be a bad pokemon because he knows he doesn't deserve good things but he still wants those good things and to be forgiven... if that makes sense.


    For example, Sai crying is one thing, but I note very cautiously that Kuiora said they all believed they knew why he was doing so. His being in a rush could very easily be due to doing something he didn't want to be caught doing, just as much as it could be out of sadness.
    Yes, I'm glad you pointed this out. His pokemon are totally out of the loop in terms of knowing what's going on.


    There's another strike in the corner that says Sai has severe social issues for whatever reason, if he has trouble with associating names to identities.
    I wouldn't read too much into this, I just thought Morty and Marty's names were similar and thought it would be a quirk to add in there. Morty could barely be seen because of the darkness, too, so it's not a visual thing.

    This situation is going to explode very soon, I can feel it. Sai's just so far out of it now that I think we may have passed the point of no return.
    You like to point out all the suspense that's going on, and I guess that's good. XD It means I'm doing something right...


    Now might be a good point to mention that I didn't actually realize Atis was poisoned at the end of the previous chapter. I thought he was having a strong emotional reaction that manifested itself physically.
    It wasn't meant to be clear at the time.

    Now with Mahogany Town involved, I feel safe in guessing now that Team Rocket is involved in this somehow, and Sai has ties to them in some way. I suspected it from his breakdown in Goldenrod City but I haven't felt truly confident in putting it out there until now.

    This chapter answered some questions, while at the same time raising plenty more. I don't know what more I can really say - at least we have a clear plot thread to drive us through to the end, and some idea of what may happen next. Beyond that, I'm just along for the ride and enjoying every minute.
    Yep, Team Rocket is involved, that's for sure.

    Thanks for commenting!

    Quote Originally Posted by hl23 View Post
    This story is still alive right? I've really enjoyed it so far. I even made an account on this site just to write this comment mang, hook me up with an update.
    Yes, this story is still alive. Thanks for reading and commenting!

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    | love and other nightmares |
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  25. #200
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    SURVIVAL PROJECT

    chapter 23 ; [SENORI]
    armageddon

    *

    Out of all of Sai’s breakdowns, the one in the Ecruteak City gym had to be the worst. His dark blue eyes, which had been reliably switching from crazy to sane in the past within a matter of moments, were completely, insatiably wild now. I would have even said they looked like they were about to roll into the back of his head, and then he would inevitably pass out. No such thing happened, but it was close. Instead, he ran off (again), his body moving in an odd zigzag pattern, as his knees were wobbly. He was screaming about Mahogany Town, and how much of a wretched place it had been all of his life, and he was screaming about all of the obscene things he would do to the place if he ever got the chance. It was the first time that I had ever heard him want to be violent, aside from the time where he had attacked me. I had come to the conclusion, though, that he had done it out of necessity, not out of malice.

    And again, he was nowhere to be found when we left the gym. He had darted off quite fast, making it a point so that we wouldn’t follow him. It was either that or he was really in a hurry to put an end to the city that had apparently ruined his life. I remembered the last time that he had disappeared on us… It was safe to assume that all of us had lost some respect for him as a trainer, and that we had suffered for it. We had been cast off as wild pokémon, gotten our belongings stolen, and I had been beaten by a lady with a broom because I was, undoubtedly, trying to steal from others as a sort of revenge.

    Admittedly, and unsurprisingly, I was feeling guilty over Sai’s second disappearance. I had finally found the path to moving on from my clan’s banishment by evolving, and now, since I was no longer focused on only myself, I was supposed to be helping my trainer. I still felt responsible for his overall well being. But after all this time, I had learned next to nothing about his past life, his tendencies, and his emotions. I knew no more about how to control him than I did my own life.

    The only consolation we had was that we knew where he was going.

    It would have been even better if we knew how to get there.

    “The fact that none of us are humans is really a catastrophe. Then again, if we weren’t pokémon, we wouldn’t be in this mess,” I said, trying to keep everyone’s spirits up, but I was failing.

    “I can’t tell you how many times that I’ve wished I was human, just to find a place. This is one of those times,” Ezrem said, shaking his head.

    “Agreed,” said Rennio.

    Kuiora remained quiet, and I knew that she loved being a pokémon, but now was not the time for us to be helpless and relying on a trainer.

    We were standing outside of the Ecruteak City gym, ignoring the stares of people passing by. Obviously, it was strange for a pack of pokémon to be out and about by themselves. It was a good thing that no one could understand us talk about our missing trainer, or perhaps they would be calling the police, just like Marty had threatened.

    And then it hit me. Marty. Marty knew about Sai’s untamed demeanor. As soon as that boy saw us, he would be questioning our trainer and threatening to do something about it. It was possible that some unfavorable consequences would come out of our search, but at this point, I was desperate for anything.

    “It’s risky,” I said to the team, “but I think I know who to find.”

    *

    The first and most blatant place for us to look was the pokémon center. That was where most of the trainers decided to stay in a city, after all. Inside, the four of us disregarded the new, stranger looks of the new people as we went from room to room, knocking on each and every door. We split up to save time, though Rennio had to stay with me because he wasn’t sure what Marty or Sasha looked like. Some people answered, and when I didn’t recognize them, I bowed in apology and went to the next door, knowing it was useless to try to talk to them. In the end, however, no one found either of the people we were looking for.

    “It was a good idea,” Ezrem said, which made me feel grateful for his presence for once. “But it didn’t work.”

    “And we don’t have time to wait for the people who aren’t here, do we?” I said, rubbing my chin, making everyone believe that I was thinking. I really was only spacing out, worn out and wanting to rest, but it was good to pretend.

    The next places we checked were the fancy restaurant and the mart, the same ones we had gone to with Sai for Atis’s “birthday.” We scoured the entirety of both places, but we didn’t find Marty or Sasha, and even worse, we eventually got kicked out of both places for supposedly causing a disturbance. We stood quietly outside of the pokémon mart now, more lost than we were before.

    “This is a place where a lot of history about legendary pokémon originates, right?” Kuiora finally said. It was the first thing she had said during the entire search.

    “Right,” I said. Even I knew about the story of the towers in the back of the city without the croconaw telling me.

    “That probably means there’s lots of visitors, right? Like… Professor Elm was famous, and so a lot of people visited him. They always stayed in… hotels, I think they were called. Maybe Ecruteak City has a place like that for Marty and Sasha to stay in.”

    “A brilliant idea, Kuiora,” Ezrem said, hopping over to her. He was getting along well without the patent use of his wings. “Let’s go find one.”

    I hadn’t wanted to explore buildings in the city that we hadn’t been to yet, in case we weren’t allowed in. Then again, we hadn’t been allowed in the restaurant or the mart without our trainer, so this would be no different, and Kuiora had a point when she said that it was a likely place for Marty and Sasha to be. I nodded, deciding to go along with them.

    So then we went from building to building, choosing to look in the windows instead of going inside. We saw normal houses, more restaurants, a dance hall, and I saw Kuiora even take a peek into the towers, though she clearly knew that they weren’t part of a hotel. The search reminded me of when I tried to get Sai to stop looking into buildings, and I wished that we were still at that point of our journey, when things somehow made more sense than they did now.

    The last building that we looked in, of course, happened to be the hotel. Rennio had spotted it, saying that he could tell that it was a hotel because of the bellboys walking up the stairs with trays in their hands, and with the lady at the counter checking people in. We rushed inside, eager to have finally reached our destination. The hallways were mostly quiet except for the occasional person walking about, so we weren’t worried about getting kicked out this time. Again, we went from room to room, knocking and knocking and hoping.

    By some great stroke of luck, we found Marty on the third floor. He opened the door, looking up and down the hallway, confused as to who could have been knocking. I had to pull on his pants leg to get his attention, even though there were four of us there, and none of us were particularly small anymore. He was rubbing his eyes, making me think that he had just woken up and was simply in a daze.

    “A furret?” he said sleepily. “And a croconaw… And I’ve seen that rufflet before. Sai’s team?”

    I nodded. “Sai isn’t here,” I said, although he couldn’t understand me. I had to say it to make it feel real.

    “What the hell? What are you guys doing here?” he said, fully alert now.

    “Sai isn’t here,” I said again, trying to hold back tears. They had snuck up on me when I least expected them. Stepping forward, I pulled on Marty’s leg, motioning for him to come with us.

    “Do you need me for something?” he said, not moving an inch.

    I nodded again, pulling him harder. The rest of the team looked up at him pleadingly, unable to say a word.

    “I don’t know what you want… I’m sorry… Here, maybe Gracie will know,” Marty said. He pulled away from my grasp and went into his room for a moment. He returned with the same small fire-type pokémon that I had fought back when we had the battle to decide who would stay or go. This pokémon looked slightly different, however. For one, I could now see her maroon-colored eyes. Her body was longer and more slender, though the colors were exactly the same. And instead of having just some spots on her back for flames to shoot out of, I could see that she could use her head to fight, too. She had evolved sometime between our battle and now, it seemed.

    “You’ve grown,” I said stupidly, trying to figure out a way to start this awkward conversation.

    “You, too,” Gracie said. There was a pause. “What do you guys need? This is a little, um, different…”

    “Our trainer… is missing. He went to a place called Mahogany Town, and we have no idea where it is. We were hoping Marty or Sasha would know. They’re the only two other humans we know…” I said, soon trailing off. I didn’t realize until I was done talking that I had been speaking almost as fast as Sai had been. At some point in time, it seemed that I had adopted some of his idiosyncrasies.

    I smiled so widely when she replied, “We’ve been there once or twice. I’m sure we can take you there.”

    “Really? Oh geez, this is great. Thank you so much,” I said, running up to hug her.

    “Watch out for the fire-type,” Ezrem said, pulling me by the scruff of my neck. I glared at him, but was thankful that I hadn’t burned myself, too.

    “Ahem,” I said, leaving that clumsy situation alone just to head into another one. “I don’t mean to be pushy, but can we go… now? We don’t want him to get himself hurt or lost.” I avoided saying that he had done it once before.

    “Of course,” she said, smiling timidly. “One minute.”

    *

    After somehow conveying the situation to Marty for a few moments and after Marty told Sasha the situation, Gracie led all seven of us out of the hotel, taking us to the eastern edge of town. I had a feeling that the only reason Marty was listening was because it was his own pokémon. If it weren’t for Gracie, we would definitely be going much slower, or we wouldn’t be going at all.

    When we reached the gate that would take us to the next section of the Johto region, she pointed to a sign and signaled for Marty to look at it.

    That was when Marty got angry.

    “Mahogany Town? Are you kidding me? Sai went to Mahogany Town and left his pokémon here?” He looked at me scarily, and for one brief moment I wished that I wasn’t the leader of the team. Ezrem could take the heat for this one if he really wanted to.

    “Marty,” Sasha said serenely, probably trying to project her feelings onto him. “Maybe he had a good reason for going. We don’t know anything yet. Let’s just help these pokémon get to him for now, and stay calm.”

    “Fine,” Marty muttered, and he kept walking ahead of all of us.

    Sasha turned to all of us. “I’m sorry about him, guys,” she said. “We’ll find Sai. It’ll be all right.”

    I could only hope that she was right. Despite everything, I had to admit that I wasn’t feeling as optimistic this time around. Sure, I was certain that we could locate him, since we were lucky that he talked more than usual, but I wasn’t so certain about us being glad when we found him.

    We passed through the gate that would lead us to the Mahogany Town path. The guard there waved at us, and it was a relief to not be given threatening looks for the first time that day. Sasha waved back and smiled. I thought about how we were also lucky to have someone like her with us. She was always kind to us, and exceedingly so. It was preferable to her brother, who, instead of having identical characteristics as siblings should, had quite a temper and easily held grudges toward others. I remembered hearing Marty’s story at the pokémon fan club, however, and somehow I was glad to have him around, too. More than anything, he cared about our well being.

    Deciding to bring this up to someone who could understand me, I caught up with Gracie, who was walking next to Marty while the rest of us trailed closely behind.

    “I know now why Marty was so keen on having us battle before,” I said. It seemed like a perfectly pleasant way to start a conversation.

    The newly evolved quilava flinched at my sudden appearance next to her. “You do?” she said. “I don’t… I don’t know what you’re talking about…”

    Luckily for the quilava, Marty interrupted the beginning of our talk. Immediately after the guard postings was an entrance to a cave and a rather small body of water. I could already see the other side, and I hoped that it led to where Sai would be.

    “Well”—I noticed that Gracie’s attention shifted toward him suddenly instead of me—“we could either go the long way, or the short way. And there is no way in hell that I am spending over a week in a cave for the sake of Sai. So we’re going over the river.”

    He reached behind his back and pulled a red and white pokéball off of his belt. He threw it forward, just like every other trainer would. His throw was different, however, as he had thrown it into the river, and the ball disappeared beneath the water’s surface. Soon, a massive water-type pokémon emerged and floated above so that we could see the top of its body. It looked like it had long, blue wings, like a flying-type might, but they were really just fins that were larger than most sea pokémon’s. Short blue antennae sat on its head, swishing around with excitement. It had black beady eyes that were looking at us expectantly.

    “She can help us, guys,” Marty said. “Marin, I need you to do us a favor. We need to get across this river and go to Mahogany Town. Do you think you can carry all of us?” he asked, motioning to every member of our group.

    Marin surveyed us, giving us a good look over for a few seconds. Its face scrunched up into a ball when it peered over at Kuiora.

    “The croconaw can swim,” she said, and I thought that she would tell the rest of us no for a second. But then she smiled, and I knew that everything would go smoothly from here on out.

    “Fantastic,” Sasha said, stepping up to the edge of the river. Marin got close enough so the young girl could climb on her back and rest peacefully, without wobbling and falling over. Marty did the same, and then gazed back at us.

    “Do you want to go back in your pokéball, Gracie?”

    “No,” Gracie said, shaking her head. “I have to get over being around water sometime, right?”

    So the quilava was scared of water. It was typical for a fire-type. I thought that was why she was scared of my sudden appearance—she simply was afraid of what was coming next. But soon I would learn that that had nothing to do with it.

    Kuiora was able to lower herself into the water, and she mentioned how it had been a long time since she could swim like this. After that… Well, it was a gratifying thing that Marin was as long as she was wide, or the rest of us wouldn’t have fit. Gracie stood on her hind legs behind Marty, and I went to be next to her. This made sense since we were long and slender, and thus could accommodate our body positions satisfactorily. Rennio and Ezrem, on the other hand, had to sit in Marty and Sasha’s laps respectively.

    “Your poor wings,” Sasha said, noticing rather swiftly. “What happened to you?”

    Ezrem didn’t answer her. He sat there, looking straight ahead.

    “Hmm,” Marty said after a few moments of awkward silence. If he seemed concerned about the rufflet, he didn’t express it. “I suppose we’re off.”

    And so we were. Marin slowly turned her body around so that she was facing our destination. It only took a couple seconds longer for her to start wading through the water at a quiet pace that would keep us all from falling backward.

    After a while, it occurred to me that it could be a long ride. I attempted to talk to Gracie again by saying, “But yeah, anyway, I know what Marty went through. He mentioned it at the pokémon fan club Sasha goes to.”

    “Oh,” Gracie said simply. She was shy, and perhaps I was going to be pushing too far, but I wanted something to distract me from the mess that was Sai.

    “Do you know anything about it? You’re a pokémon, after all, and Marty’s father used to… abuse pokémon.”

    “I was supposed to be a pet, so I was in the house when he did that. It was because of that man that Marty left and went on a journey to the first place. He didn’t like it… as you know,” Gracie said. Though she was speaking more, I could tell that she was still being vague.

    A part of my heart instantly ached for her. Her flinching at my appearance wasn’t because of her being scared of water; it was because of her being scared of touch in general. And why would someone be afraid of touch? I almost wanted to slap myself in the face because of how obvious it was.

    “Hmm,” I said, not wanting to force her to admit to anything she didn’t want to. I despised talking about my clan; similarly, she would probably hate talking about Marty’s father. “That stinks,” I went on brainlessly. “Would you have rather been a battler or a pet?”

    “It doesn’t matter to me either way,” Gracie said. “It’s just that Marty gets to be too much sometimes. For instance… you know how Marty’s acted with Sai. He acts intensely insane with every bad trainer he comes across, even if the trainer doesn’t seem too bad to Sasha or me. Sasha’s the only one who can keep him somewhat calm… since she can talk to him…”

    Of course, Gracie didn’t know that I knew what was going on inside her head. I felt that I was invading her mind and making her spill all of its contents against her will, when in reality I was doing no such thing. And in a sense, I felt that I was betraying Marty’s privacy. We were talking about a very intimate part of his past without him knowing it, and even worse, we were doing it right in his presence! It was times like these that I wished others were like Sai—private and able to talk to pokémon—only less eccentric and less prone to running away.

    To avoid feeling even more guilt, I kept quiet. It was Gracie who intentionally went on and said, “I wished that would leave it alone and let me forget.”

    “You’ll move on,” I said. “I don’t know how exactly, since I’ve never been in your situation, but you will. I did, too, so I know you can.”

    “Thanks…” Gracie said shyly, and then she turned away.

    The rest of the trip was relatively quiet. There was some more murmuring from Sasha about Ezrem’s wings, and she kept checking them to make sure that the bandages were on as snugly and as tightly as they could be. Marty made some comments about being scared of accidentally dropping Rennio in the water and consequently electrocuting us all, and thankfully, though his fears were warranted, it never happened. The only other noise that accompanied us on our journey was the sound of Kuiora gurgling in the water, enjoying her time swimming.

    I was reflecting about Gracie’s ambiguous yet straightforward story, my story, and Rennio’s and Ezrem’s and everyone else’s. I had originally thought that nothing bad could happen to me, and once I was banished, I thought that my story was the most unique in the world, that no one else’s story could ever compare. Like most older pokémon (or like most of the sentret in my clan), I thought I knew everything that I needed to know. When I met Sai, I realized that I’d been a total idiot and that I needed a lot more focus in my life. I worked hard as his pokémon, and when it began to dawn on me that my heart was not necessarily being my best friend, I tried very even harder to beat it. And did beat it, by evolving and getting rid of my tail, my only connection to my clan. Now, as Sai’s relocation was just a hair’s breadth away, I felt that everything I knew was wrong, my perspective was utterly indefensible, and that there are no objective standards for anything anyone could imagine… including the idea that there are stages to life that everyone must follow. There’s not much imagination or creativity there, when you start thinking about it. Humans and pokémon alike have created these artificial goals simply because we wanted to have some way to explain the way the world works.

    At this point, I decided that I didn’t care much anymore. I hoped to spend the time that remained in a way that was best for not only me, but for every single one of us on the team… including Sai.

    *

    Mahogany Town looked like a pleasant enough place, one that I would have loved to spend more time in, if we weren’t on the lookout for our renegade trainer. I would have loved to spend more time here because the town almost looked like a humanized version of a forest. All of the buildings were a light green color, with the roofs being of a darker green. Unusually, there was no pavement to walk upon here, and the grass looked well taken care of, beautiful and alive. Several carriages were lined up next to every building, with a crowd of people at each—they were waiting for their turn at whatever goods the carriages were selling. Not a single person looked like they wished they were somewhere else in the world.

    Well, we were about to ruin this trend, effortlessly so. None of us wanted to be here. Marty and Sasha and Gracie probably wanted to be in their cozy hotel room, and the rest of us wanted to be at the Ecruteak City pokémon gym, pretending that nothing was wrong with our trainer.

    “Let’s start looking,” Marty mumbled. As expected, his mood was growing lower and lower by the minute.

    Sasha decided to take over the hard part for Marty, as he “would talk about him terribly and then we’d never find him,” apparently. I supposed that was true. When Sasha talked about him, he seemed nothing short of ordinary. She went from person to person, speaking to anyone who would talk back, asking them if they had seen a boy of about fifteen years coming by lately.

    “Medium build, black hair, blue eyes… Plain clothes…” she added, trying to think of anything that would make Sai stand out. His personality would, but that didn’t seem helpful at the moment.

    “Are you trying to cut in line? Get in the back!” one old man said. He clearly wasn’t paying attention to anything Sasha was saying. We ended up leaving those kinds of people alone, not wanting to hear them speak again.

    “I haven’t seen a boy like that,” one old lady said. “But there aren’t a lot of young people in this town. I’m sure he would stick out.”

    That sounded more promising, but it took a few more tries before we reached any sort of conclusive answer.

    Finally, someone answered nonchalantly, “I saw a boy like that. Hard not to miss him when he’s away from everyone else. He went toward that laboratory over there.” The woman pointed to a lone metallic building at the edge of town. It was away from all of the other buildings, and no carriages or large amount of people were there.

    “Thank you very much,” Sasha said, bowing curtly. She was suddenly in a hurry. She strode over to the laboratory, and the rest of us eagerly followed.

    “Of all places, he send Atis to a laboratory? Maybe Atis left us to be a lab rat,” Ezrem commented, scoffing at the thought.

    “Shut up,” I said. “Sai would never do that. And Atis would never willingly agree to that, either.”

    Ezrem said nothing more, but he coughed mockingly. Rennio was shrinking back from the place, staying behind all of us. Kuiora looked up at the building in awe, probably never having seen something more creepy yet fascinating in her life. Gracie didn’t seem to have a reaction… since it wasn’t her trainer that we were talking about. And Atis… I looked for him, but then I remembered that he wasn’t here.

    He was in the building in front of us. And so was Sai.

    Sasha stopped in front of the entrance, but Marty barged right on in, fists clenched and raring to go if necessary. I knew he wouldn’t hesitate to punch Sai in the face once he was given the chance. The rest of us followed. We were more reluctant this time, but we knew we couldn’t turn back now.

    The first floor of the building seemed anticlimactic to us. I didn’t quite know what we were expecting to see, but it wasn’t an empty floor with a simple counter, much like the one we saw at pokémon centers. A fountain stood in the middle of the room, with plants and chairs surrounding it for comfort. Other than this, only one thing stood out: there was a guard blocking the stairs leading upward.

    Marty approached this guard first and said, “Excuse me, but we were told one of our… friends came through here. We really need to see him. If you don’t mind, would you let us through?”

    “Sorry,” the guard said in a husky voice with the slightest hint of an accent, “but no one is allowed upstairs. Authorized personnel only.”

    “Authorized personnel? Like hell the boy is authorized to be in a place like this. He barely knows how to tell his right foot from his left.”

    “If he was able to get upstairs,” the guard said firmly, “then he was authorized.”

    Marty gritted his teeth; he was getting real angry, real fast. “I didn’t come all this way to be told that Sai is as mysterious as ever, and that I should leave him alone to stay that way. Let us through.”

    “The answer is no,” the man insisted.

    “Marty…” Sasha said, about to lightly touch him on the shoulder, but it was too late.

    Marty had gestured to Gracie to attack, and, as loyally as ever, Gracie obeyed him. She dashed forward, running underneath the guard’s legs and knocking him off balance. He fell on his stomach, groaning at the impact of his chin hitting the ground. Marty thanked Gracie for her services and stepped over the guard, running up the stairs and motioning for all of us to follow. Stunned, we felt obliged to obey just as well as Gracie had.

    Upstairs was where the real scenery came into play. The first floor donned nothing that any normal building would—and should—have. I had never been inside a laboratory before, so maybe that contributed to my unusual viewpoint, but I was sure that this place wasn’t normal. Along the walls were several computers and full desks where people sat, wearing long, white lab coats. They were holding clipboards and scribbling on them with their pens furiously, or they were messing with the vials that sat in front of them. What stood out the most, however, was the machine in the middle of the room. Part of the machine hung from the ceiling, and part of it was connected with the ground and a cot. On the cot lay a purple snake-like pokémon, and it was writing in pain as a man next to it was taking notes…

    On the first floor, Sai wasn’t there, but there was the buzzing of the machines and a ton of screaming.

    “Keep going,” Marty yelled over the screaming, “until you find him.”

    We went to the edge of the room, which led us to the stairs leading to the second floor. As we ran through the room, the scientists nearby looked up from their clipboards and looked at us curiously, suddenly panicking and demanding that the intruders be attacked. As we ran as quickly as we could, I noticed that there were also stairs leading down, and I kept a mental note to myself that said we should return to this floor if we didn’t find Sai anywhere else.

    The second floor wasn’t much better in terms of content, though it was quieter. The room was completely empty save for two people and two pokémon, taking their places on the arena that was designated by white chalk on the otherwise empty, bare floor. The battle would seem normal if the pokémon didn’t look like they were battling to the death. There was blood—both dried blood and new blood—all over their bodies and in the fighting area. The pokémon were panting heavily, while the trainers—if you could even call them that—stood by watching, completely unscathed.

    “What the hell is going on here?” one of the people yelled when he took notice of us.

    “I swear to Arceus… If I see Sai do anything so much as touch one of these pokémon like these other bastards, I’m going to pound his skull in,” Marty said.

    Even Sasha didn’t try to stop him from speaking bad things about Sai this time. Her mouth was raised over her hand in shock. There was something wrong with the place, and there was something even more wrong with our trainer being so closely associated with it. Still, no questions were answered. Instead, more questions arrived.

    “Attack the intruders!” said an unfamiliar voice. We looked behind us and noticed that some of the people in lab coats from the first floor had pursued us.

    The other man from the arena pointed to us and said, “You heard the guy. Attack them, granbull!”

    “You too, sunflora!” cried the second man.

    “Oh, this is such a joke. You mean to fight with two injured pokémon?” Marty teased. “I’m just trying to find someone. Get out of my way.”

    “No can do,” said the scientist behind us, and the ones who had followed us—there were three in all—also took out pokéballs and released their pokémon. I didn’t have time to get a good look at them, nor did I want to. I just wanted to find Sai and leave and forget any of this had ever happened.

    “Senori,” Marty said harshly as he released Halcyon and another pokémon I didn’t know he had, “go find your goddamn trainer. Me and Sasha will be fine, here. Tell Sai that I’m going to beat the crap out of him when I see him, too.”

    “Sure,” I mumbled. “Come on, guys.”

    I darted forward on all paws, crossing the arena. The granbull tried to catch my tail in between its teeth, because I stupidly got too close—that’s what happens when confusion takes over—but I narrowly escaped. The sunflora tried to take Ezrem out since he appeared weaker, but Ezrem yelled something about being a flying-type and having the advantage, so the grass-type shrunk back, trying to cradle its wounds instead. Kuiora and Rennio got by without problems, unless you counted Rennio’s sudden sobbing problematic.

    “I just want Annie!” he cried, and when he stopped, Kuiora had to start carrying him and tell him to suck it up. He stopped talking about his older trainer and now asked to stay and fight for his new trainer, but no one was actually going to let him do so.

    “Not in this mess,” Ezrem agreed.

    The third and fourth floors were standard rooms with desks and machines lined up everywhere. The only difference from the first floor was that it seemed that there were individual offices for the people who worked here. The privacy that the enclosed walls offered thankfully allowed us to sneak by quietly, and without being noticed. Kuiora let out a huge sigh of relief, but that was the only sound we made, and it was hardly damaging.

    We kept running and running, floor after floor, not daring to stop even once. Most of the rooms looked the same, and thankfully, we went by relatively unnoticed. It was finally different on the seventeenth floor—I think it was the seventeenth floor, anyway. It resembled a modern, humanized living room. There was a couch in the middle of the room, a coffee table in front of it, and some plants in the each corner, giving the place a rather relaxing atmosphere. We were anything but relaxed, however. Questions were running swiftly through my mind. Where was Sai? Why was he affiliated with a place like this? Where was Atis, and what kind of tests could they be running on him? Why were there pokémon fighting so brutally when battling was supposed to be fun? My thoughts lingered on the basement that we didn’t get to see, but it was too late to go back and explore.

    The stairs in this room were hidden behind the tall couch. When we arrived at the foot of the stairs, I could see that there was a door at the top, which was different from all of the other floors. From the light that was pouring inside, it seemed that these stairs led outside.

    “Well, guys,” I said, out of breath from running, “this is one of the last places Sai could be. Let’s hope he’s here.” I paused. “Or not. Whichever you prefer,” I added solemnly.

    Luckily—or unluckily, depending—Sai was at the top of the building. I was glad to see that he was safe and that he seemed physically unharmed. He wasn’t alone. I was also glad to see that Atis was standing a good ten feet in front of him. The only person I didn’t recognize was a woman that was by Atis. She was short and had a small body, but it seemed that she had a rather firm grasp on the fighting-type’s arm. And the fighting-type was visibly shuddering; we could all see it, even though we were far away.

    “It looks like you have friends that are here to see you,” the woman said calmly.

    “Mother, please—” Sai started, but then his body unmistakably tensed up. He turned to see us, and his eyes went wide with amazement.

    I took a closer look at the woman that was with Sai. Apparently, it was his mother. Why wasn’t his mother back in Vermilion City, where he said he was from? Was it just another lie he told us? And surprisingly enough, she didn’t look very similar to him. She had green eyes instead of blue, and her hair almost looked black, but I could tell it was just a dark brown because of the sun that was highlighting it.

    “You’ve grown, Sai,” the woman went on. “You have such loyal pokémon now… just like you always wanted.” I saw her squeeze Atis’s arm, and he only shook harder. “And you look even more like your father than before. You’ve got the same wildly lonely look in your eyes. Are you still lonely, Sai?” she said in a sympathetic, motherly tone.

    “Stop it!” Sai cried, snapping his attention back to her. His voice had a much harsher tone than it normally did, and it almost made me shake myself. “I just want Atis back. Give me Atis back right now…!”

    “You willingly gave me the hitmontop. You even let us poison him and make him faint just to capture him, so he wouldn’t fight back. And you’re telling me that you want to take it all back?” the woman said tauntingly.

    I gasped. Had Sai really done that? It seemed unreal to me, to hear of him being so unnaturally… cruel. I looked at the others, and I could tell that they were all thinking the same thing.

    “I do,” Sai said determinedly. “I thought… I thought I could abide by your rules, if it meant I could be free. I can’t do it, though. I won’t.” His words sounded reassuring. They sounded more like the Sai I knew, but I was still beyond confused. I stood there with the others, utterly frozen.

    “You were ordered to prepare pokémon like this, and give them to us. You’ve done exactly so. We thank you for it.”

    “No! I want him back! I’ve seen what you guys do to pokémon. You call yourself Team Rocket and say that you’re just trying to make the world a better place, but I’ve seen what you do! It’s nothing good. Nothing good at all. I won’t put Atis through that. I won’t—”

    “And then you will never see the light of day again. That was the deal, was it not? I created this project to save you, Sai. To save you. To give you a life you’ve always dreamed of…”

    “I didn’t want this! I never did. I only did it because… because you promised me things would get better. That I would get better. But I never got better! Not even for a second!”

    “It’s not my fault that you believed my words,” the woman said evenly, but her words didn’t match the ruined expression on her face.

    “You promised! You promised…” Sai said. He started sobbing as he reached into his pocket and pulled out the knife that he had bought in Goldenrod City. I almost cried, too. Had he been waiting for this moment all his life? He held it out threateningly toward her. His arm was as firm as the woman’s grasp on Atis.

    “Are you going to hurt me, Sai? Just as I’ve supposedly hurt you?” she asked.

    “Why not? You like weapons. You love them so much that you decided to name me after one. How nice of you,” he said sarcastically between sobs. “Give me Atis back. I don’t want to have to use it.”

    The woman frowned, and she let go of Atis and put her hands in the air, as if signaling surrender. I watched in awe as Atis ran over to us quicker than I had ever seen him run before. When he got close to us, I could see real terror in his eyes. I went up to him and hugged him, but Atis said there was no time for a reunion.

    “We’ve got to get Sai out of here,” he said with haste. “Before he goes crazy. Please, Senori, you’ve got to talk to him and… and…” But he couldn’t continue.

    It was clear to me that Sai wasn’t fond of this woman. Despite this, she obviously knew about him more than anyone else. She knew everything, perhaps.

    “If she knows Sai, maybe she can help us keep him from going crazy,” I offered quietly. Apparently, I hadn’t been quiet enough, because my trainer obviously heard me.

    “Don’t talk to her! She’s only going to tell you about all the bad things I’ve done. Even if what she says isn’t true, she’ll win. She always wins…” Sai said, his arm twitching slightly now. He was staring directly at her, talking loudly to make sure we could hear him.

    “Sai,” his mother said. “Just as you weren’t allowed to get close to your pokémon, I’m not allowed to be close to you. I’m your mother. Why else would I want to be like this to my son? I don’t want to be like this. Please understand and put the knife down.”

    “No,” Sai said. “I won’t. I’m done listening to you.”

    “…Then you will pay for it.”

    “Please, Senori,” Atis begged again. “You have to do something.”

    More than anything, I wanted to help Sai. I felt that it was all I lived for, really…

    But Sai already seemed too far gone.

    | survival project |
    | this trainer is different. everyone knows it, but no one can explain it. |
    | complete |


    | flying in the dark |
    | he's hiding something. she just doesn't know it. |
    | on hiatus|


    | love and other nightmares |
    | limited time, limited abilities. kyurem says she can be cured in exchange for saving those who need saving. |
    | chapter 1 released |


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