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Thread: Survival Project (PG-13)

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    Quote Originally Posted by diamondpearl876 View Post

    SURVIVAL PROJECT

    chapter 23 ; [SENORI]
    armageddon

    *
    Oh, just from that chapter title, I can tell this ain't gonna be good.

    There's a certain poetic justice to it being a Senori chapter as we draw ever closer to the end, though.

    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.
    This paragraph is very, very troubling, and I think that's because of how much detail Senori gives about Sai's breakdown.

    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.
    I have to say, as chilling as this all is, the fact we're getting it all from the perspective of one of the trainer's Pokemon is still really fascinating. One of this story's great strengths has always been its unique presentation of the Pokemon/trainer relationship.

    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.
    I'm kind of surprised Morty didn't come out of the Gym to follow up on the obviously unwell challenger he just had.

    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.”
    Now this is surprising. I didn't think Marty would be this important to the story.

    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 have a bad feeling about this. At the very least, they're going to get kicked out again.

    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.
    They actually found him? I'm quite surprised it went that smoothly.

    “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.”
    This almost seems too easy. There's got to be a catch somewhere.

    “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.
    I was going to ask how they actually conveyed to Marty what they wanted, but now I see that they didn't actually completely manage to tell him everything until now, which is more understandable.

    “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.
    I'm not so certain either, Senori, I'm not so certain either...

    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…”
    I wonder if Gracie is just confused due to being startled or if there is something more to this.

    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.
    Ooh, Mantine? I can't complain there. Seeing one of those is always a nice surprise.

    “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.
    Both Marin and Gracie have nice touches of personality here. I like that you added what may or may not be details superfluous to the main plot at this point, because doing so shows that even as we speed toward the ending of the main narrative, other things independent of it are still happening in the world.

    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.
    I get the feeling Senori is pushing the issue with Gracie a little more than is a good idea...

    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.
    ...but now I see that Senori is at least aware of what's happening, which is a nice detail. Seeing this not end in a misunderstanding and embarrassment is a refreshing change.

    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.
    Yeah, I kind of wish Senori had left it alone too...

    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.
    The way Senori is talking really makes me feel like this is the end. It just... feels like the pre-climax reflection on what's happened.

    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.
    Pleasant imagery, I'm just surprised they got here this fast.

    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.
    This is perfectly in line with the theories I had for a long time.

    “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.”
    If they only knew...

    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.”
    There's definitely a deep connection between Sai and Team Rocket if 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.
    Well it's pretty obvious that something like this would have to happen. It would be a drag on the story if the security wasn't just disposed of.

    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.
    Is this the lab from the games or something different?

    “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.
    An experiment to ... make Pokemon stronger in some way? Curious, it wouldn't have been the first thing I would have thought of. The imagery is pretty brutal.

    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.
    I can't blame Rennio at all for feeling that way...

    “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 think I just saw every theory I had confirmed. I'm not even sure if I should be shocked or not, but man, this is pretty depressing even though I predicted a lot of it. I get the feeling it's going to be all-out bad news from here.

    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.
    His mother knows exactly what words to choose to cause him the most trouble, doesn't she?

    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.”
    And there it is. I knew he had to be part of some kind of experiment or project for a long time now, and my guesses weren't far off the mark.

    A lot makes sense now... his obsession with choosing Pokemon 'fated' to be his, his erratic behavior which can now be mapped to his struggles with what Team Rocket wanted him to do, all of 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…”
    And yet there's still more to it? It always felt like there was some dark secret about his past besides the Team Rocket connection...

    “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.
    I should have known the knife was a Chekhov's Gun, I really, really should have. The question is if Sai actually has the guts to do it.

    “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.”
    Wait, what? They named Sai after a weapon?

    Now I know that's not going to be forgotten. Something like that MUST be meaningful in some way.

    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.
    I'm rather surprised someone who appears to be fairly influential in Team Rocket is giving up this easily. I think it might be a trap.

    “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.”
    I don't buy her 'concern' for him for a minute.

    “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.
    This isn't going to end well for every involved party, I get the feeling...

    All I can say is wow. This was intense. So much happened in this chapter, and so much finally got confirmed and tied up... I can't do anything but rate this highly. Written well, plotted solidly and containing excellent content... it's all here. I have literally nothing I can criticize.
    Last edited by The Great Butler; 25th April 2013 at 10:30 AM.

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  2. #202
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    “Of all places, he sent Atis to a laboratory? Maybe Atis left us to be a lab rat,” Ezrem commented, scoffing at the thought.
    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.
    The two bolded words need to be switched

    Another good chapter sir. Also, remember how I asked if this was based on the rival from Silver/Gold a while back, it seems like I wasn't to far off
    Last edited by Dragonicwari; 27th April 2013 at 3:20 PM.



  3. #203
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    Quote Originally Posted by The Great Butler View Post
    There's a certain poetic justice to it being a Senori chapter as we draw ever closer to the end, though.
    I was hoping someone would say this.

    I have to say, as chilling as this all is, the fact we're getting it all from the perspective of one of the trainer's Pokemon is still really fascinating. One of this story's great strengths has always been its unique presentation of the Pokemon/trainer relationship.
    I'm glad you think so. I've always wanted to write a long fic from various pokemons' point of view, so here it is...

    I'm kind of surprised Morty didn't come out of the Gym to follow up on the obviously unwell challenger he just had.
    Morty's always seemed a bit uncaring to me, but I guess I didn't think of that.

    They actually found him? I'm quite surprised it went that smoothly.
    Some things actually go right in this fic.

    Both Marin and Gracie have nice touches of personality here. I like that you added what may or may not be details superfluous to the main plot at this point, because doing so shows that even as we speed toward the ending of the main narrative, other things independent of it are still happening in the world.
    Gracie's details will be more important later on.

    Pleasant imagery, I'm just surprised they got here this fast.
    I didn't feel dragging out this scene was appropriate, but I did try to add some things in there.

    Is this the lab from the games or something different?
    Something different.

    And yet there's still more to it? It always felt like there was some dark secret about his past besides the Team Rocket connection...
    There's more.



    Wait, what? They named Sai after a weapon?

    Now I know that's not going to be forgotten. Something like that MUST be meaningful in some way.
    Names are an important theme in this fic... It's not really a common theme so I guess it wasn't very noticeable. It should be more noticeable next chapter, though.

    All I can say is wow. This was intense. So much happened in this chapter, and so much finally got confirmed and tied up... I can't do anything but rate this highly. Written well, plotted solidly and containing excellent content... it's all here. I have literally nothing I can criticize.
    I'm glad you liked it so much, especially since this was an important chapter. Thanks for commenting!

    Quote Originally Posted by Dragonicwari View Post
    The two bolded words need to be switched

    Another good chapter sir. Also, remember how I asked if this was based on the rival from Silver/Gold a while back, it seems like I wasn't to far off
    I guess not. There's some differences though.

  4. #204
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    I also wanted to post to say thank you to everyone who nominated and voted for SP. It means a lot to me. I can say I had the biggest smile on my face when I heard I won some things. XP

    That being said, I have added a list of nominations and awards that I've gotten for SP, not only on Serebii, but other forums. Check it out if you want. It's on the first post.

    Also, the next chapter will be released as soon as a couple reviewers catch up on the fic. I don't want to overwhelm anyone. Look forward to it!

  5. #205
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    SURVIVAL PROJECT


    You don’t want to hear the story
    of my life, and anyway
    I don’t want to tell it, I want to listen
    to the enormous waterfalls of the sun.
    — Mary Oliver


    chapter 24 ; [SAI]
    stand my ground

    *

    I was four-years-old when Team Rocket considered me a threat to others.

    My mother upped and left the Kalos region specifically to join the underground organization. She adored pokémon because of their potential power and the important feeling they gave her when she owned said power. She moved without a problem, as my father was in prison for drug abuse. She had nothing else to lose and everything to gain as she realized her goals were the same as Team Rocket's. She was loyal and a hard worker. She went through the ranks faster than anyone the organization had ever known. Soon she became an executive and made decisions about what went on in Mahogany Town's laboratory. Her pregnancy caused some complications, but when I was born I was a precious addition to the team. After my brain had some time to develop, however, things went wrong.

    I was an outrageous child. No one could control me. My mother found it impossible to send me to a daycare or babysitter, as I would throw a tantrum until she was back in my sight. The separation anxiety forced her to take me to the laboratory to work.

    Unlike a normal child, I wasn't interested in playtime. My moods shifted with every few ticks of the clock, but no matter how I felt, I only wanted to follow my mother and do whatever she was doing. Often she was in her office, filling out paperwork and talking on the phone to undercover agents stationed in other cities and regions. She would also supervise experiments and practice battles. I would watch as pokémon were hooked up to machines with numerous black and white cords. The pokémon had fear in their eyes, and this fear remained until their eyes were clawed out or until their whole body was paralyzed with exhaustion.

    It didn't take long for me to start interfering with what I saw. During my frequent outbursts, I would run into the middle of the arena, screaming at the top of my lungs as I was hit by a pokémon's attack. While I broke a lot of bones doing this, they always healed, so I felt no need to stop. I ripped out cords in the machines, too, successfully destroying research the scientists spent weeks collecting. I was irritable and miserable, even as people tried to hold me down. I was irritable because I wanted to be somewhere else, but I didn't have the will to actually leave. I was miserable for no discernible reason. I was even more confused when my mood would skyrocket to the point where I thought I was the most special person in the world. I jumped on desks and believed I was flying as I hopped off. The workers found this, at least, somewhat humorous. Their laughter made me angry and led me back toward my destructive tendencies.

    I never listened to my mother when she scolded me. I wanted to listen, but more research was ruined, more experiments were interrupted and more bones were broken. At some point, the leader of Team Rocket called me into his office to speak with me in the sternest voice I had ever heard, but even he couldn't keep me from thinking insane thoughts and translating them into actions.

    Things got worse. Not only did I want to hurt myself, but also I wanted to hurt others. I didn't like the scientists. They looked at me funny, they never smiled and they didn't do what my mother told them to do. I drew pictures of me stabbing them or killing them by snapping their necks. When I completed a drawing, I showed my mother proudly, thinking she would agree with me. Instead she took away my crayons and burned the drawings before they instigated further problems.

    What happened from then on wasn't my fault. My thoughts raced, and I couldn't stick to a single subject for long. When I acted out, I only realized it after it was all over. I spilled vials full of chemicals, which scarred some scientists' skin and made them writhe in pain. I laughed at them as they had laughed at me. “Try experiments on humans!” I yelled. “See how they like it.” I felt the pressure to keep talking, so I insulted them until my mother took me home for the day.

    Our house was a mess that my mother wouldn't clean up. Every room, even the bathroom, was used as a storage area for the boxes my mother couldn't unpack, perhaps for sentimental reasons. I had to dig for towels and soap, toys and blankets... Eventually I gave up and forgot about hygiene and entertainment. I was bored and rotated between sleeping too much and then sleeping too little. I had vivid dreams about violence and gore, waking up to ponder the reality of what happened. Other times, I'd spend six hours trying to fall asleep, only to end up sweating and crying because of night terrors.

    Occasionally we went out. We ate at restaurants to celebrate holidays, walked to the park and bought groceries at the mart. If we had had the money, I would have been sent to a private school, but my mother insisted on me staying inside those four metallic walls. “You can still learn about the world this way,” she said. If I had known that this was all I would see for most of my childhood and adolescence, I would have been okay without her by my side.

    For two years my antics got the better of me. Team Rocket's finally became sick of me. The leader had given my mother leeway since she was of a higher ranking, but there was only so much he could handle.

    I was six-years-old when Team Rocket wanted me executed.

    *

    “This boy has offered nothing positive to Team Rocket's goals,” the boss started bluntly. I had heard once or twice that his name was Giovanni, but not many workers dared to say it. His appearance didn't help matters. He was a tall man with broad shoulders. He had dark brown hair and thin eyebrows, and he wore a black suit with black slacks held up by a belt. He sported an evil grin, which made me think my mother was the only good person in this place.

    He had set up this meeting for us. She brought me along, of course, since the meeting was about me. We were on the seventeenth floor, waiting for him to speak. We stood in front of him, staring at the coffee on the table, as if this would be a normal conversation during which he might ask us if we wanted some. But he didn't look happy, so I clung to my mother and let her do the talking for once.

    “Master Giovanni, I can explain—”

    “There is no explanation, otherwise the boy would have been tamed long ago. He has ruined years of work and has put a temporary halt to our future research plans. He has blatantly injured other workers, making several of them quit. Above all, he has shown no signs of recovery.” There was a pause. I hid behind my mother. “I like you, Melanie, and I want to like your son. But he's too much, even for you.”

    “What... What are you trying to say, Master Giovanni?” my mother said. Her voice was unnaturally weak.

    “The boy is clearly mentally impaired,” the leader said, “and this is no home for him. I want him gone.”

    “Master Giovanni, with all due respect, I don't want him gone,” my mother said quickly. I clung to her harder, trying my best not to lash out. “I have nothing left but my son. My husband is in jail, and I can't lose my last connection to him. I can't... go through another loss like that. Besides, where will he go? Who will take care of him?”

    “Melanie,” Giovanni said, grinning. “If you let the boy loose now, he will tell everyone what he's seen. We cannot depend on him going somewhere else and staying quiet.”

    “Master Giovanni, please—”

    “I want the boy executed.”

    My mother's eyes widened. “You want him... killed?” she breathed.

    I was six-years-old. I didn't know what an execution was, but I'd never outright seen Team Rocket kill a pokémon, let alone a child. My hatred for them grew tenfold as I realized they might have done it without my knowing. My feelings welled in my chest, and I huffed. I darted forward, reaching with my hands. I attempted to scratch the leader's face, but he held out his arms and kept me still.

    My mother gasped and pulled me away from him. “Sai, how could you attack Master Giovanni?”

    “He's evil!” I cried. “He wants to get rid of me!”

    “Master Giovanni, please reconsider. This is probably just a phase. He will grow out of it...”

    “He's shown absolutely no improvement in two years. I want him gone, and that's final.”

    “Surely, there must be another use for him,” my mother said. I went limp and sobbed, wishing my mother's grasp was more comforting. I thought of ways I could hurt Giovanni further. Maybe in his sleep, when he was least expecting it...

    “Another use? I cannot think of anything this miscreant could be useful for.”

    “I thought you might... try to dispose of him. Hush, Sai, this is important,” my mother said, though she was holding back tears too. “Look, Master Giovanni, I don't want to lose my job here, or my son. There has to be a way. Why don't we keep him here while I'm working? In the basement, with the pokémon?”

    “He certainly fights like a pokémon,” Giovanni said. “Go on.”

    “He'll stay... locked up as I'm working. I'll take him home at night, and—”

    “No more. Have you not thought about him running away and hurting outsiders?”

    She gulped. “As you wish. He'll stay in the cells. I will teach him there in my free time, so he gets proper schooling.”

    “I have yet to see how he will be of use to us.”

    “As you said, Sai seems fond of pokémon. When he is old enough and is no longer a threat, we will send him on a journey.” When Giovanni didn't interrupt, she went on, “He will raise pokémon and send them back for Team Rocket to experiment on. We can see if he is any better at raising pokémon with his... illness. It will be a survival project of sorts.”

    Giovanni leaned back in his seat, making it creak eerily. “Now this,” he said, “sounds interesting.”

    “Okay.” My mother's voice was barely audible. “Okay.”

    “Mommy?” I said quietly, looking up at her.

    What was she possibly planning for me?

    *

    Giovanni demanded that my mother's plan be put in place immediately. Though my mother was in no hurry, we went home shortly after the meeting. When we got there, she told me to get my suitcase and to pick out my favorite toys while she looked at clothes. It was the first direction given to me as an experiment for Team Rocket, but I didn't know it at the time. I was lost and asking myself questions that had no clear answers.

    “We'll feed you there, so there's no need to pack food. Or water...” she said. She kept mumbling things like this to herself, and then she mumbled obscenities about Giovanni, which again made me wonder why she obeyed a man like him.

    Since she was so stressed, I listened to her. I chose a few stuffed animals and some talking machines that reminded me of the ones back at the lab. I put them near my suitcase and watched as my mother filled it with different kinds of clothes, pieces even for different seasons.

    In the middle of our quiet packing session, I stopped her by climbing into her lab and hugging her because she seemed so depressed. At such a young age, I even knew what depression was. It was feeling too little when you wanted to feel anything else. It was a small yet enormous amount of apathy, hatred, loneliness and sadness all built into your soul. Depression was needing all day tomorrow to recover from today. It was something no one should have had to experience, so I tried to comfort her.

    “Mommy,” I said, “are you going to leave me?”

    “No, Sai,” she said, but then she broke down and switched from holding me to holding her face in her hands. She was trying to mask her sorrow but I could feel it and see it.

    I sat there quietly, the sound of her crying mixing in with my racing thoughts. Neither was pleasant to listen to. I couldn't even come up with anything to say to her anymore.

    We sat there in silence for a while.

    Finally, she said, “Let's go... before he thinks too much and changes his mind.”

    We made our way back to the laboratory, acting deliberately slow. We passed the green brick houses and the even greener grass. My mother told me to remember the view, because it would be a long time until I saw it again. I didn't take her too seriously, but I enjoyed the grass tickling my ankles anyway.

    Inside the lab, we went into an area I had never been to before. We usually always went upstairs, but now we were in the basement. I thought it might resemble the basement we had in our own home, but it didn't. There was a movable cot which had a loose leather strap lying out. What caught my eye were the small cages lined up against the walls. Each cage was filled with two or three pokémon. So this was where all those experimental pokémon came from. It made sense to me now.

    My mother brought me over to the far left wall where three empty, larger cages loomed. They were there for bigger pokémon and, in special cases, humans.

    “This,” she said, “will be your new home, Sai.”
    I stared at it, unimpressed. While our house was nothing to brag about, the cage was only about as big as a bathroom. It had a bed in the corner, a sink, a toilet and a barred door. I swallowed hard, squeezing the handle of my suitcase, wishing there was no reason for it to exist.

    My mother opened the door and waited for me to go inside. I refused to move until she pushed me and told me not to be so difficult. I could no longer be difficult or I'd never get released. I didn't think the things I had done were really that terrible, but I was beginning to second guess that notion.

    “Sai, you are going to do extraordinary things for us,” she said in a more lighthearted voice. “I'll be here with you always. That'll help you, right? Can you do this for me?”

    For her, I nodded. I trusted her wholeheartedly. I was six-years-old. I didn't know what I was agreeing to at all.

    She smiled weakly. She shut the door, but I couldn't tell if the bars were shutting me out from the world or if they were shutting me in to keep me safe.

    *

    And so began my life as a human experiment for Team Rocket.

    At first, it didn't seem so bad. I was living with a relatively peaceful state of mind, which happened rarely. The serenity of it all made me think the cage was meant to be my home. It was cozy enough. The bathroom was always accessible, and the pokémon on the other side of the room looked away when I had to go. I had my toys to play with whenever I felt interested. And the bed was comfortable, though I'd outgrow it within a few years. Would my mother buy me a new one? Was she allowed to?

    As she promised, though, she didn't abandon me. She visited me every day—several times a day, in fact. She was more involved in my life than ever before! It seemed like a great deal to me. She taught me my numbers and my letters, saying I'd normally be in school by now and that she wanted to keep me on a regular schedule like most kids.

    But soon my old habits returned. My separation anxiety had improved, but it became increasingly difficult to think about numbers and letters long enough to memorize them. I wanted to destroy things, and people, if given the chance. I was too sad, or too angry. When I was sad, I spent the hours huddled over my suitcase in the corner, begging to go home. This riled up the pokémon, but I ignored them. When I was angry, I tore up clothes and the flashcards my mother had given me to practice with. I yelled and yelled, both curse words and random things on my mind, just to get the thoughts out of my head. But no one came to rescue me, not even my mother.

    “If you want to get out of here,” she told me, “then you have to focus. You can't let your emotions get the best of you. I'm going to teach you everything you need to know so you're prepared when you leave this nice place. But we have to start small.”

    I tried my best. I used self-made routines to help me. I used my fingernails, which were never cut, to etch the alphabet into the stone wall of my cell. I did the numbers, too, zero to one hundred, even when I bled. I needed something I couldn't destroy, and this was it. My mother didn't seem to approve or disapprove. She only seemed pleased that I wasn't hurting others. As a reward, she explained that most pokémon trainers set off on their journey at age ten, which was only four years away. The first four years of my life were a blur now, so I didn't think another four years was a big deal.

    Time passed so quickly I couldn't keep up with it. There were no windows, so I didn't know if it was day or night, winter or summer. Many things happened, but a very special visitor stood out to me the most.

    He was a short man with a shiny bald head. His face was lean and taut. He wore a red tie and a gray suit. He had a soft, inviting smile, so I didn't scream at him, though I was feeling especially wild when he showed up. I had never seen him before, so I knew he wasn't from the lab. His name was Dr. Richards, and then came along new experiences and feelings I didn't have names for.

    *

    “Sai... Sai Luart. Age seven. Is that right?”

    “Yes.”

    “From Kalos? No Kalosian accent, I see.”

    “I guess not.”

    “You might learn their language someday. It's best to learn multiple languages when you're young. You're able to speak the different sounds and learn them better.”

    Silence.

    “You know, I don’t get many young patients like you. I would say you’re special.”

    “That’s what they all said.”

    “Who said that?”

    “Everyone at the lab. They want me dead.”

    “That’s not very kind, is it? Well, I don’t want you gone.”

    Silence.

    “I’d like to hear your side of the story. Is that all right with you?”

    “Did my mother bring you here?”

    “Yes. She did.”

    "...Still. I have nothing to say.”

    “I bet you do. Everyone does. From my understanding… You are a very worrisome young boy. You seem to harbor a ton of anger toward yourself and others, and you seem to use violence when it seems most convenient for you. Many interviewees pointed out that they knew how you were feeling based on the look in your eyes. What do you think?”

    “Yeah. Well, I’ve changed an awful lot since then. I’d love to tell you about it.”

    *

    I ended up learning those languages after all, and then forgetting them soon after because there was no one to talk to. I learned the basics too. Writing didn't take long, as I had partially taught myself by carving the walls. My handwriting was legible enough for her. There wouldn't be many instances in which I had to sign something, anyway. Next came reading. This, at least, gave me something to do when sitting in my cell, but it was hard with my short attention span. My mother gave me plenty of children's books, but she had to replace them every two weeks or so because I tore those apart too. When I said I wanted something more challenging, she brought young adult books. She made jokes about me reading the research materials from the lab, but I didn't find it funny.

    Soon I was ten years old and I hadn't learned anything about pokémon yet. She had lied to me, but tried to make up for it. She told me there were seventeen types of pokémon. She used the pokémon in the basement as an example. Mostly there were fire-types, poison-types and dark-types with us, with a small number of steel-types. These types were the most difficult to raise, she said, but they were worth it. She explained which types were effective against others and which were not so effective. Fire beat grass, water beat fire, grass beat water. It seemed simple enough. If Giovanni could have seen how intelligent I was, he might have let me out sooner, but my mother told me not to get my hopes up this time.

    History and mathematics came next. Addition, subtraction, multiplication and divison weren't too fun, but they would be useful when trying to budget money. Money would be essential, and she promised to have some saved for me. When I went to protest, she hushed me and had me repeat mythological stories originating from Kalos, Kanto, Johto and other regions.

    The lessons, though simple, kept me busy. The books and my mother's visits kept me busy, but it wasn't enough. As it turned out, four years was a very, very long time when most of what I did was sit there, looking at the caged pokémon. While my mother taught me different languages, I taught myself how to talk to the pokémon due to boredom and slight curiosity. It was relatively easy, and I figured it would help me talk to my own team. Why my mother hadn't taught me herself was beyond me.

    I learned by observing. To anyone who doesn't understand, pokémon speak their names, so intonation and body gestures are key. Each pokémon had a clear voice they used for all of their individual emotions. I learned the sounds of sadness, anger and happiness. The pokémon shook their tails when they wanted something, or their eyes glittered when they smiled. Ears flattered when they were worried or guilty, and so on.

    The first full conversation I had with a pokémon—a long, purple snake named Arbok—went something like this.

    “Hello?” I said, wanting to practice. I wanted to socialize. I knew that saying hello was appropriate because that was what my mother used to say when she answered the phone.

    “The boy is talking to himself again,” I heard the arbok say nonchalantly. He wasn't even trying to be quiet, and in truth I had come to understand the many insults he had thrown my way over the last couple of years. These insults had triggered my rage, but with my lack of self-control, I didn't know how to stop him.

    “That's not very nice,” I said. I was in one of my calm, peaceful states. It wouldn't last long, so I had to make use of it while it was still there.

    “It's not?” the arbok said, glaring at me. Then his face softened and his mouth opened in surprise, revealing a red, forked tongue.

    “It's not.” I repeated his words, suddenly too overwhelmed to think of my own.

    “It's apparently a special gift to be able to talk to pokémon, boy. How long have you been listening to us?”

    “I think,” I said, ignoring his question, “it's just because I have nothing else to do. I learn while everyone else is too preoccupied with real life.” I shifted my body, the bareness of my feet grazing the stone floor. I didn't have any socks or shoes on. I wasn't even sure if I had any.

    “That could be it too. Would explain why all the Nurse Joys in the world can understand us perfectly fine.”

    “Nurse Joys?”

    “You'll meet one someday, I'm sure. They do nothing but spend time with pokémon... just like you,” the arbok said snidely. I could feel his scorn firsthand among all of my own emotions.

    “Why do you say that?” I asked.

    “You're getting out of here. We're not,” Arbok said.

    “I'm stuck here for a while.”

    “Then rest, boy. Quit making so much ruckus. Prepare yourself for the world,” Arbok said. He looked away from me and that was the end of the conversation.

    Rest. It was easy for him. He didn't have a list of things he needed to do when he got out of this prison. He didn't have a mind that constantly ticked over, counting the patterns on the walls surrounding three sides of his body. He didn't have songs that his mother used to sing to him. He didn't have images from last night's dreams haunting him. Rest, he said... I would, if only it were that simple.

    It was getting easier. I had a mental illness, as Giovanni had called it, though I wasn't sure what that entailed. My symptoms changed drastically as I grew older. My delusions of grandeur made me believe I was sent to do Arceus' bidding, and I no longer wanted to tear things apart. I had new impulses, and when my moods shifted, they stayed for longer periods of time. That meant I had longer moments of clarity as well.

    But I was sick, no matter what happened.

    *

    “I want to hear it, if you're willing to tell me.”

    “I either feel too much or feel too little. I think I'm better than everyone else and everyone's just keeping me locked up because they don’t like my greatness. I have no desire to live my life half the time because things don't improve. Yet I have many plans for the future... My father is dying in prison, miles and miles away, and I feel like I’m the one killing him. I feel guilty, like I’m being punished for doing that to him. I can’t eat, or I eat too much. I can’t sleep, or I sleep too much. I can’t make any decisions for myself, so I have my mother make them for me. I am bored with everything. I can’t overcome my loneliness. I can’t be with others without going crazy, but I can’t be alone. I can’t concentrate on anything for too long. I want to fight and fight and tell everyone that they’ve all let me down. I want to talk too much, all the time… if you couldn’t tell by now.”

    “It sounds like you're very overwhelmed.”

    “Yes...”

    “I think I can help you, Sai.”

    “You can? Are you sure?”

    “Yes. Why not?”

    “No one’s ever offered to help me before.”

    “Well, I can give you medications to keep your moods stable.”

    “What’s wrong with me?”

    Silence.

    “Give me a name. Tell me what’s wrong with me.”

    “They call it bipolar disorder. Very uncommon in children, but it does happen.”

    “…Thanks.”

    “There is one problem, however. As I told you earlier, Sai… you are very young. Medications for younger patients aren’t forbidden, but they aren’t encouraged, either. Do you know why that is?”

    “No.”

    “This is because your brain is still growing. Your body is still growing. These medications can do things to permanently… mess up your brain chemistry.”

    Silence.

    “You’re young, but this isn’t going to be a phase you’re going to grow out of. Bipolar disorder is forever. Medication might be a necessity for the entirety of your life. Nevertheless, it’s up to you. What will you do?”

    Silence.

    “For your mother, will you take the medication?”

    Silence.

    “Sai?”

    “…Yes… I will.”

    “I hope they work well for you. It may take a long time to find the right one, so let’s get started.”

    *

    Another peculiar symptom that came to me was delusions. That was what my mother called them, anyway, though she regretfully said she could do nothing for me. Dr. Richards would have to take care of it, but he couldn't say whether or not it was the medication. Delusions were common among the mentally ill, but medications could cause terrible side effects.

    By then, I had accepted I was mentally ill. Messed up in the head. Forever sick.

    I was lying in my bed, which I was starting to outgrow. My mother promised it would be replaced soon. The room spun and I forgot where I was. I wanted to punch myself, burn myself, convince myself I was real. But I couldn't move. My lungs seemed to have finally noticed there was a dead spot sitting in the middle of my chest, shriveled up due to lack of use. My vision became blurry. My mind was muddled. I was convinced all my memories belonged to someone else—a pokémon.

    I was a small creature. My fur was dark brown, with some cream color on a circular part of my belly. I had tiny paws, tiny feet. My sense of smell increased tenfold, and my newfound ears felt nothing but danger nearby. I was a pokémon, and yet I wasn't.

    Images flashed before me. They were images of destruction, of blood and gore. This felt different than my normal nightmares. This felt too close to reality. Other pokémon that looked like me were torn apart and eaten alive, even the babies. From far away, I was a powerless spectator, unable to fight. I watched and watched, mouth hanging open in disbelief.

    I violently shook myself. I sat up, taking in the view in front of me. All was dark and all was quiet, aside from my panting. I jumped out of my bed and ran to the other side of the room, crashing into the bars. I had to find that pokémon and save it, but I didn't have the means to do so. I had never seen it in the lab, either.

    The next day, someone was brought into the cell next to mine. I was in my bed, sleeping away my terror, so I didn't get a good look at him. When I woke up, the pokémon were laughing at each other, saying the person next to me was just as crazy as I was. The other boy yelled frantically, praying to Arceus that He would shed some light upon him, Senori Deliro, from the life he had been unwillingly given.

    He was another test subject. Supposedly, Team Rocket thought I was successful.

    I thought about the boy all night. I vowed to find that pokémon and to put it on my team so I could take care of it as best I could. I would name him Senori, for the sake of the boy just like me, the one stuck behind bars in a life less than ordinary.

    *

    Sertraline hydrochloride, anti-depressant, 50mg. Used to confirm the diagnosis of childhood bipolar disorder. Reported frequent headaches, symptoms of mania (delusions of grandeur, high motivation and energy). Discontinued.

    Fluoxetine hydrochloride, anti-depressant, 10mg, increased to 20mg. Used upon request by Master Giovanni upon seeing the effects of sertraline hydrochloride. Reported weight gain (10lbs), frequent nausea, sweating, symptoms of mania (worsened insomnia, delusions of grandeur, impulsive and aggressive behavior). Discontinued.

    Lithium carbonate, anti-psychotic/mood stabilizer, 300mg. Reported severe pain and tremors, and thinking that he was a “zombie, though I’m not sure what that means, but I’ve heard my mother describe it as a bad, bad feeling.” Discontinued upon experiencing suicidal ideation.

    Lamotrigine, anti-convulsant/mood stabilizer, 25mg. Reported better sleeping, calmer moods, slight paranoia. Discontinued upon seeing rash.

    Quetiapine fumarate, anti-psychotic/mood stabilizer, 50mg, increased to 100mg. Reported sleeping too much (16+ hours a day). No other reaction. Discontinued.

    Aripiprazole, anti-psychotic/mood stabilizer, 15mg, increased to 30mg. Reported extreme paranoia (thinking that others wanted to poison him) and an unwillingness to eat. Discontinued.

    Patient refused further treatment but called for me five days later, saying he had changed his mind.

    Divalproex sodium, anti-convulsant/mood stabilizer, 25mg. Reported severe weight gain (30lbs), returned homicidal thoughts, frequent dizziness and aggression, strange and vivid dreams. Discontinued.

    Chlopromazine hydrochloride, anti-psychotic/mood stabilizer, 10mg. Reported lethargy, depersonalization, numbness. Discontinued upon request.

    Risperidone, anti-psychotic/mood stabilizer, 0.5mg, increased to 1mg, then 2mg. Reported slight anxiety, calmer moods, better sleeping.


    *

    I asked my mother to stop celebrating my birthday at the beginning of every January. She tried to cram Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year's Day all into one. It only made me miss the outside world more, which wasn't what I needed. I think I was fourteen-years-old.

    What I needed was to get smarter and stronger. The readings got harder, the mathematics got crazier, and the history more complex. Science came into play, since I needed to know what kind of land I'd be traveling through, as well as human and pokémon biology. Soon, my mother went back to teaching me life skills too.

    Cooking came first. She stated the obvious fact that food would be essential not only for myself, but also for my pokémon. This endeavor failed anyway, as Giovanni forbade me to work in the kitchen. He thought I'd go on a vengeful rampage if I were let out too soon. It would be he who decided my departure date. So my mother told me all about berries, both the poisonous and beneficial ones. She brought well-planed meals to my cell and explained human foods that would give me energy. Not that I needed it, but still. She warned me about avocados and flying-types, excess chocolate for anyone, and so on.

    She taught me how to fight. This, she said, was something we could learn together. She read up on martial arts and watched videos, then relayed the information to me. In the small basement, we practiced kicking, punching and headlocks—any move that could put a murderer or poacher in his place. I hoped I wouldn't have to use these techniques someday, but it never hurt to be prepared.

    Traveling tips, of course, were included. I was told how to make fires, how to find clean water and how to stock my backpack properly. Keeping pokémon out of their pokéballs at night was necessary so as to ensure safety while sleeping. I would have to order them not to sneak off, which would be easy enough to enforce, since I barely slept. I asked if this was really okay, since one of the rules was to not build bonds with my pokémon. My mother said it was a risk I'd have to take. If bonds did form, then I'd have to find a way to prevent separation anxiety when the time came to give them away.

    Lastly, I learned how to read maps. My mother taught me what the little symbols meant, and how to tell which way was north, south, east and west. I only saw the map of Johto, though, since it would be impossible to leave the region. Each city took up its own area of the map, with routes made of forests and roads in between. I located Mahogany Town and hoped I'd never have to come back here again.

    I tried to keep this all straight in my head, but my ability to retain information was starting to fade. Ever since Dr. Richards had given me medicine, my memory had become worse and worse. That was what he meant when he said medicine could potentially ruin my brain chemistry, I supposed. I didn't tell anyone. I didn't want Giovanni to know my mother's lessons were for nothing.

    So I focused on getting better. But it was the hardest thing I had ever done and would probably ever do. Not being sick anymore required me to be an entirely different person, a person I just didn't know how to be. I couldn't live vicariously... I couldn't choose to think differently... My brain was making me this way. There was little I could do.

    More people came into the cells. They were mentally ill, too, so they couldn't teach me normalcy. A woman named Kuiora Loki had bipolar disorder, though she controlled herself by being creative. She was obsessed with sculptures and carvings of pokémon. She etched her drawings into the stone walls at first, threatening to break through. My mother, officially in charge of the project, brought Kuiora some carving blocks over the course of a few months. Giovanni released her after seeing how gentle she was when she expressed herself, and once he made money off of selling her work.

    Another man, Atis Harleen, was the quietest person I had ever met. It took me weeks just to get his full name out of him. He slept most of his time away, and once I was released, he was still there. I never figured out what was wrong with him, or if anything was wrong at all.

    The last person to come into the cells was another man. He only withstood it for one night. He went into a screaming frenzy, yelling about how he didn't deserve to be put in a place like this. He wanted to go somewhere else. He said he'd give my mother two hours before he let himself go. “If you really want me,” he said, “you'll come and get me!” But no one came. Two hours later, I heard the loud, familiar sound of bones cracking against concrete. I covered my ears but I heard it until there was nothing. Later I found out he banged his skull against the stone walls until he put himself into a coma. Giovanni had him executed, not wanting to pay for the hospital bills needed to repair him.

    These people meant the world to me, though I had little to no contact with them. I felt them in my heart and I didn't even know them. They gave me hope and strength, even the unknown man. I especially rooted for Kuiora when she was released, knowing I would be set free someday too. My mother promised me the same thing and I smiled wider than I ever had before.

    I decided they'd help me shape my future pokémon team. I wanted to honor their lives and memories. I pledged to gather pokémon with similar personalities or hobbies. They would even have the same names. There was Senori and Kuiora and Atis and... Well, I would figure out the unknown man's name eventually. It seemed like the perfect plan to me, if I ignored the idea of handing them over to Team Rocket.

    Thankfully, the medication made the delusions subside. I had strange, vivid dreams instead, ones that also helped me shape my future pokémon team. I saw flashes of yellow and cackling electricity, as well as rivers where water wavered between rippling calmly and wildly. A top spun in an army of pokémon fighting against each other. There was a leader in front.

    I dreamed and dreamed, and for once, my future seemed beautiful.

    *

    “So what was that man's name? I'm sure my mother tried to get you to talk to him.”

    “What man?”

    “The one who put himself in a coma.”

    “That has no place here. I'd like to know how you're feeling.”

    “I’d feel a lot better if I knew the man’s name.”

    “I don’t know the man’s name.”

    “Are you sure?”

    “Yes.”

    “...I feel better. But I still miss the outside world.”

    “I don’t think that will go away.”

    “Aren’t you supposed to be the optimistic one?”

    “Yes. I’m sorry.”

    Silence.

    “How about if I do you a favor?”

    “A favor?”

    “Tell me anything that you want to see. Anything from the outside world, and I’ll bring it to you.”

    Silence.

    “You will?”

    “I will. Right now, whatever it is.”

    “Well, I don’t have a window in here. Show me what looks like outside your window at twilight. My favorite part of day.”

    “I can do that. I’ll be right back.”

    A very, very long silence.

    “I was starting to think you’d never come back.”

    “Of course I would. I had to think about it, though. I couldn’t just take a picture, since it’s not twilight yet.”

    “What time of day is it?”

    “Mid-afternoon.”

    “Oh.”

    “I brought you this.”

    “Dice?”

    “Yes. I guess I can tell you one bad thing about myself... since I know so much about you. I’m, ah, afraid of the dark. At twilight, everything starts to turn black, just like the dots on the die. And for me, it’s scary. The only safe place is inside. It’s light and bright inside. The white resembles the purity that I feel from this safety. The intensity at which I feel this fear varies each day… thus the varying numbers on each side of the die.”

    “You’re highly creative. I wish I was.”

    “So I’ve been told. Does it suit you?”

    “It wasn’t exactly what I was looking for, but yes, I suppose so. …Can I keep it?”

    “You can.”

    “Thank you. Thank you.”

    *

    To keep myself occupied, Dr. Richards suggested I find ways to make my upcoming journey special. If I wanted to be creative, I'd have to follow the rules at the same time. So I did.

    I'd have a lot of money, apparently, so I would give each of my pokémon their own rooms. That would keep us separated, and each of us would get much needed privacy. And I would use the pair of die... somehow. I would make my pokémon roll the die for me before catching them. If fate willed it, then the die would land just right. One, two, three, four, five, six pokémon... I knew it would work because every time I thought about Senori being my starter, I rolled the die and it landed on the number one. This would surely make them feel like they belonged on my team, even if they didn't particularly like me (which I assumed they wouldn't, given my illness).

    This only made me more excited to be released.

    Of course, things didn't always go as planned, especially not for me.

    The medication kept my partially stable at best. I went off into rages, and a few nights later, I went into my worst one yet. It wasn't my fault, but the damage was still the same.

    The caged pokémon were restless. For some reason, my mother was late with our food, and the water was dirtied. I didn't mind (and neither did Atis), but the pokémon fretted. If they had to be loyal test subjects, then they needed to be treated as such.

    “It’s bad enough that I have to share a cage with this goddamn kadabra,” Arbok said.

    “Don’t forget that I can mess up your mind. You should watch what you say,” the kadabra replied in an even voice.

    “Yeah. Right. You should have ruined these scientists long ago and gotten us out of here. You’re useless.”

    As their exchanges escalated, my mother arrived, a tray of food in hand. She apologized, but she had thought of something great for me. This made the pokémon glare in my direction, and I shied back into the corner of my cell. She went on, saying she had to get approval from the boss. It always took a while to be able to talk to the boss. The pokémon settled down as they ate. She left and returned with Atis's food, which he thanked her feebly for. Before I knew it, she was in my cell, grinning. I stared at her, expecting her to pull me out of there and into the real world.

    “Sai, battles are going to play a huge, huge part during your journey,” she said. “Giovanni won't let you battle on the second floor but he said”—she extended her arms to show me the room, as if I had never seen it before—“we could fight in here.”

    “That sounds quite a bit dangerous,” I said stupidly, “even for you guys...”

    “Well...” my mother said regretfully, “it's big enough. And the pokémon know better than to disobey by now,” she added, peering over at them. The pokémon didn't dare look up from their bowls.

    “Okay. I trust you,” I said.

    “As you always have. Let's get started.”

    She locked my cell door. Once the pokémon finished eating, she just had to choose the arbok and kadabra to battle. I should've told her about their earlier scuffle, but I didn't have the courage. Luckily, they were on their best behavior, which consisted of mindless obedience. They cooed and shook their tails with vigor. Once the stage was set, I saw that the arbok would be mine, and the kadabra, my mother's.

    “You've been a part of battles before,” my mother said. “It's an entirely different thing to be controlling the battle. You have to know your pokémon inside and out. You have to make predictions and come up with strategies on the spot. You have to balance offense with defense. Do you understand?”

    “Yes.”

    “Good. It's better for you to learn by doing,” she said. “I'll let you go first.”

    This was what I'd be doing in the real world if—when—I got released. I froze as a million emotions swirled within me, threatening to make my chest explode. I didn't want to make pokémon hurt and bleed. I wanted to make friends and to share my dreams with them. But I had to follow the rules. To do anything else would lead to my death...

    I gulped and said, “I don't know any of Arbok's moves.”

    “Then think of standard moves. Think of the basics.”

    “Okay... Arbok, use tackle!” I said, remembering to sound forceful. I had to sound like I was the boss, or else my pokémon wouldn't respect me.

    The arbok lunged at the kadabra, headfirst and with full power. It seemed that the arbok had acted patiently just for the chance to tear the kadabra apart. My first command as a pokémon trainer worked, at any rate. An odd sense of relief passed through my body. I welcomed it.

    The feeling didn't last long, however, as the arbok did more than tackle the kadabra. The kadabra was flung backward, and the arbok didn't allow for the psychic-type to stand up. Arbok plopped down on the kadabra's torso and stayed there.

    “Arbok, get off of him!” I said, rushing to the bars and clinging to them. The arbok didn't appear to hear me.

    “Kadabra, use psychic! Don't hold back,” my mother said.

    The kadabra's body stiffened. He held out the spoon in his hand, closed his eyes and focused. The arbok was enveloped in a bluish light, and he rose up in the air. He tried to lash out at the psychic-type without my ordering him to, but it was too late to reach his opponent, anyway. He went higher and soon his body was twisting in peculiar ways. His tailbone cracked and broke, which made him wail. The horrible sound mixture reverberated in the air.

    “Why are you doing that? This is supposed to be a battle!” I cried, my heart hammering now.

    “Arbok's neck could have been broken instead,” my mother, unaffected by the scene. “We believe that a pokémon should never hold back. They should maim and kill when necessary. If they can't, then they're useless to us. ...I thought you knew this, Sai.”

    “I do know that! I do... But bad things should only happen to bad people, like the ones I hurt. These pokémon are good, trapped here for no reason...” I let my voice trail off. My attention then centered on my abruptly shaking limbs. My volatile thoughts argued with each other. Some of them said violence was the answer, while the other half claimed that no, there had to be another way, or life was meaningless. The sight before me became a blur, and the arbok's screaming deafened. I was rolling and rolling around in my head. I had a front row seat to the end of my world, and there was nothing I could do about it.

    My grasp on the cell's bars tightened considerably. I was used to my view being obscured by these thick pieces of metal that took away my freedom. Sometimes they moved, but I could never see out the door long enough to keep myself satisfied. Even if I were to be let out of this place, would anything ever be enough? Maybe I'd never get over the sun's warmth, or the grass tickling my feet, or how I could converse with others about the simple things in life. Still. It had to be better than this, right?

    I had always wanted to be set free. I had always wondered whether my illness would change, for better or for worse. But the desire to to learn, to know, wasn't actually something you could get used to, like catching colds or eating three meals a day... It was just as a terrible, just as terrifying every time the yearning came.

    I shook the bars, trying to make them bend and break, like the kadabra had done to Arbok. My actions wouldn't have been cruel and unnecessary, at least. The bars weren't living, breathing creatures. ...Or were they? What did I know? But they didn't budge. Instead I beat at them with my head, which reminded me of the nameless man, and I didn't want to be like him, I really didn't, so I used my arms and legs instead. I didn't even make a dent. This only made me angrier. I tried again, ignoring the pain that coursed through my shoulders and down to my feet. If I gave up now, I'd never get out. I'd be stuck in my own devious mind and in my own spiteful body. I couldn't deal with that. I couldn't...

    I turned to my mother. “Let me out!” I yelled. She was the one who had given birth to me. She was the one who had raised me. She had homeschooled me for years. So why couldn't she let me out? Why was she so powerless when I needed help the most?

    Let me out!

    Bruises were forming, bruises that would last for weeks, an everlasting reminder of rage that can't leave.

    Let me out!

    My feet struck a small, sharp section protruding from the main bar, which sliced my toes. Blood seeped to the floor, drip by drip, as if that part of me was crying.

    Let me out!

    My mother was on the other side, trying to soothe me. It didn't work. She was scared of me, otherwise she would have come in and held me.

    Let me out!

    I slid to the floor and sobbed for a life I didn't even know.

    (continued on next post)
    Last edited by diamondpearl876; 7th May 2016 at 5:25 AM.

  6. #206
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    May 2007
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    New York
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    “You say bad things happen to bad people?”

    “Yes.”

    “Bad things have happened to you. Are you a bad person?”

    “Yes. I don't follow the rules like I should. I'm afraid I won't follow them when I'm out, either.”

    “This isn't your fault. You're sick.”

    “Uh huh.”

    “You did this, and you don’t think you’re ill?”

    “I never said that.”

    “Well, you certainly don’t act like anything's wrong with you.”

    Silence.

    “...I don’t know who I am.”

    “You’re Sai Luart.”

    “What does that mean?”

    “It means you’re a strong, courageous boy who’s been through a lot. You’re kind and you’re a dreamer. And it means that you have a lot to look forward to.”

    Silence.

    “Sai?”

    “What do you want from me?”

    Silence.

    “What do you want from me?”

    Silence.

    “What do you want from me? What do you want from my life?”

    *

    To my pokémon—

    I want to love you, whoever you are and whatever that means. I'll eat mint chocolate chip ice cream with you on a swingset at night. We'll watch the moon say goodbye to its missing half. We'll stay up and rent movies, listen to your favorite songs and eat your favorite foods. I want to stop counting the months, the days, the minutes and the seconds until I can see you. I want you guys to tell me when something good or bad, extraordinary or humiliating happens to you. We'll sit in circles and tell stories one by one. I want you to like your name because of the way I say it. You'll realize that you're named after someone special. I want to laugh at stupid jokes until I cry. We'll make a habit of it. I want to try to take care of you before Team Rocket takes you away. I want you to love me more than you love yourself, or vice versa. I'm not sure yet. Either way, I'll save you from your fears.

    I want... to go on adventures with you, but not the kind where we search for treasure, because I'll already have everything I want. And what I want is to hear about your past lives. I want to remember the small details about you. If it's okay, I want to find excuses to hug you. I want to worry about you incessantly, because I don't want to lose you any sooner than I have to. I want you to know that reality is nothing to be scared of, not anymore, and not yet.

    I want to tell you of your perfection, or lack thereof, if you insist on that. I want to experience new things, things I don't yet understand or have names for. We'll eat at restaurants, watch fireworks and stuff like that. I want you to know that your existence means something to me. I want to avoid shame, pain and fear. I'll probably repress my emotions so that I can overcome the rules in my own way. We'll fight against coercion and secrecy as best we can. I'll boost your self-confidence in the process. I want to defend you and then myself. I want to stop charging toward my death.

    I guess what I'm trying to say is that I'm sorry. I'm in a weird situation, and it's anything but pleasant, but we'll deal with it as it comes. I'll hide the facts from you, and you'll keep me sane. You'll be my everything. You're already my everything. But if you get curious, stop yourself before diving in, or at the very least, just think, think before you take a memory of mine.


    *

    A couple more years passed without incident. There wasn't much schooling left for me, so I tried studying the same subjects over and over. Sadly, it was as if my memory had been blocked. I could recall emotions without effort, but facts such as how type differences affect a battle slipped my mind.

    Not having anything to teach me meant seeing less of my mother. I became lonelier and lonelier. I slept with my books, shoes and clothes on the other side of my bed to make it feel like I was sleeping next to someone. It didn't work.

    Once I heard the news, I was restless. I felt wholly unprepared, like I had forgotten everything. That wasn't too far from the truth, anyway. I paced around the room, unable to sleep. The caged pokémon looked at me with disgust, and didn't even bother to say goodbye the following morning. I couldn't blame them.

    My mother came downstairs to get me. She took a set of keys out of her pocket and unlocked the door. Her hand shook as she did so, making it difficult to slide the metal open. I smiled at her, somewhat glad that I wasn't alone in being nervous.

    “Come on, Sai,” she said. “We've got a few things to do before you go.”

    I nodded. I followed her, peering back at my cell one last time before rounding the corner. I realized there was one good thing about being all the way in the basement. No matter where I went from here, I could only go up. Up the stairs and out into the world.

    My mother brought me to the third floor. Walking up the stairs put great strain on my legs. I mentally noted how I'd have to build up my strength yet again if I wanted to survive the journey.

    Next I noticed that the scientists had done a decent job of moving on from my antics. The machines were brand new, and the desks were organized. This room was the definition of cleanliness. On the other side, I noticed, too, a card that had my mother's name on it in fancy, cursive lettering. Melanie Luart...

    “Sit down,” she said, motioning toward the chair in front of her desk. I did so, not feeling the force of my obligations until she started speaking again. “You know your mission. You are to set out on your own pokémon journey. Giovanni has decided you're as ready as you'll ever be.”

    I shifted in my seat. “Must you be so formal?” I said. I didn't know what I had been expecting, but it wasn't this. There was much more to come. I just had to be patient for a little while longer.

    “Yes,” she said simply. “Anyway, your ultimate goal is to prepare pokémon for our use, experimental or otherwise. Utilize everything I've taught you thus far. Catch pokémon with the most potential. The pokémon must become as strong as possible, and when you think their growth is complete, you must report to us and send them to our laboratory. You are not to become attached to them. This ensures that you won't betray us. You are not allowed to leave the region or stray too far away from the main route.”

    “The main route?”

    “You will start in New Bark Town. This is where it will be easiest to find pokémon you can control.”

    “...Do I need to know anything else?”

    “Nothing that you shouldn't know already. Train as much as you can. Don't stay in one place for too long. We can't have you slacking off. If we catch you doing anything that doesn't meet our approval, then you will be punished accordingly.”

    Hadn't I been punished enough just for existing? Saying nothing, I looked down, wanting to leave already. Why were we wasting time here? I felt too energetic for my own good.

    “If I think of anything else, I'll be sure to let you know,” my mother said, standing up. She gestured for me to join her and so I did. Before we left the room, I saw a picture frame that showed me from when I was younger. At least, I thought it was me. Did I ever look like that? But I wasn't sure what I looked like now...

    My mother saw my curiosity. She brought me to the staff bathroom. From my peripheral vision I could see a large mirror hanging on the wall. My skinny frame immediately stuck out to me.

    “Make yourself look presentable,” she said. She reached into her pockets and pulled out a sharp device and handed it to me. “That includes shaving,” she added, smirking.

    “How do I do that?”

    “Figure it out. You're a man now, right?” she said. She left me to be alone with my confusion.

    I wasn't interested in cleaning myself up. The mirror and its image of myself mesmerized me instead. I leaned in over the sink and stared at my face. My dark blue eyes seemed rather intimidating. There were eyes accustomed to the dark, the same old views, and now they were seeing something new. There was a spark inside them that I hadn't seen anywhere else.

    And when had my hair turned black? I thought the little boy in the picture had brown hair, but now I wasn't so sure. Seeing myself all at once threw me off guard. ...How old was I, anyway? I had a baby face with soft skin, aside from the stubble under my mouth. Well, I wasn't about to ask. The answer would only reveal how many years I'd lost.

    I figured I was wasting already, like Team Rocket didn't want me to. I took a quick shower, reveling in the warm water. Then I tried shaving, as my mother requested. For the most part I succeeded, but there were clear cuts making me bleed. I brushed the blood away, wondering if I had made myself look better or worse.

    I stepped out of the bathroom to find my mother waiting for me.

    “Sorry,” I mumbled. “I got sidetracked.”

    “Don't make it a habit,” she said.

    We went outside. I automatically felt new, unfamiliar and overwhelming sensations. The sun's rays blinded me. I was almost blown away by the wind. Dizzy, I kept myself grounded to the concrete below my feet.

    My mother chuckled. It was a sad chuckle used to lighten the mood. She dug into her pocket once more and handed me a rolled up piece of paper.

    “This is a map of the Johto region,” she said. “Head to New Bark Town. You'll be fine.”

    “You think so?” I said. “I can hardly stand the sun as it is.”

    My mother became tense. She paused before saying, “Your father would be proud, you know. He said he'd be proud, no matter what.”

    “It was as if you both knew this would happen...”

    “I didn't. I never meant for it to be this way,” she said, but she wouldn't look at me.

    “I believe you,” I said anyway.

    “Do you?”

    I shrugged. “You're the one who brought up the idea in the first place, but given the circumstances... Yes, I guess I believe you.”

    “Sai... I know you can deal with whatever is thrown at you. ...Your name is like a weapon. Intelligently sharp, and very powerful.”

    That was something I couldn't believe right away. Still I trusted her words and nodded, keeping my disbelief silent, for it was not a prison of stone and metal that I feared, but one built of words and promises.

    *

    The world I had known was a flat world. It took me three weeks before I realized this. At the Team Rocket headquarters, there were flat colors, flat noises and flat people. It had nothing to do with Mahogany Town or geography in general. The real world was just that much more lively. All of its smell, textures and sounds seeped into my bones and made me half-forget everything I had known before. I adapted and was coming out of my shell. This sort of beauty was my new truth.

    As instructed, I made my way to New Bark Town. I traveled through the cave on the east end of Mahogany Town and then it was a matter of heading south. My mother had warned me that this method was the fastest, but also the most dangerous. There were highly skilled pokémon in the icy cavern and the next city, but the playing field would be even when I was halfway to my destination. I fled from many wild pokémon and fought others, which was difficult for the first few days as my body gained experience. A few of them offered to come with me, but I had to decline their offer. Accepting them would have meant breaking the rules too soon.

    The ice cavern was cold. The nights were cold, but nothing could have prepared me for the chilling moment in which I met Senori. When I found him, I didn't know what to do. He was walking around aimlessly, maybe searching for something to eat. I knew he was my starter because he was alone, and his eyes told me he had seen terrible things. I had to capture him somehow.

    I didn't have any pokéballs. I hadn't gone to a Pokémon Center or a pokémart yet. In fact, I hadn't communicated with anyone except a blonde-haired girl who seemed to know too much about me at first glance. She was shocked and nice enough, but I couldn't let her distract me from my journey.

    My tact was less than impressive. I left her, and then I attacked Senori when he couldn't see me, which ensured his dislike for me from the start. It was my only option in terms of catching him, anyway. I forced him to join me with sharp words, like my mother would have done.

    “I don't care what anyone's called you. Your name is Senori,” I had said, trying to sound confident. Inside I was regretful, but there was no way I could let it show.

    I told Senori to roll the die that Dr. Richards had given me way back when. Half of me hoped this wasn't a silly game, and the other half of me was overcome by intuition. When the die showed a single dot, both me and Senori came to the same conclusion.

    “Don't worry. I'm going to take care of you,” he had said.

    And so he did. He took me to New Bark Town's laboratory, which was where Professor Elm raised starters for new trainers. Senori scolded me while I was on the lookout for a proper starter. Kuiora stuck out to me the most. During the training sessions, it was clear to me that she was fierce. She fought to get what she wanted. She was the strongest of them all, and it wasn't just because she wanted to be the strongest. She had natural talent. I discovered she was equally as gentle and that she had a soft spot for legendary pokémon. I took her in. Lying to Professor Elm about my origins was surprisingly simple, but it made me paranoid as well. This journey certainly was going to keep me on my toes.

    Senori told me all about the gym circuit. I assumed that this was what my mother wanted me to do, since the gyms went in order, just like the cities I was supposed to travel through. The badges you won proved your pokémons' strength. Atis was my first step into that adventure. I entered the pokémon school to see if I could learn anything new, but then I swiftly decided that I was going to recruit my third pokémon. Atis's bored, terrified demeanor was too obvious. His reaction toward others told me he didn't want to be there, so I took him in, too, even though he already had a trainer.

    Meeting Atis was important not only because he was an evolved pokémon, but also because he set some ground rules for my journey. I had to set up appointments with gym leaders in order not to disturb them, and during the actual battle, I remained on the sidelines and let Atis do whatever he wanted. I was unsure of what attacks to call out. I couldn't call out the wrong move, as I had done during my training in the cells. We won, and so it all began.

    Several things happened before our next gym battle. We came across a boy who deemed me a terrible trainer. Marty came along at the right moment as he saved Senori from the falling rocks in the cave between Violet City and Azalea Town. If it weren't for him... Well, I don't like to think about it. I don't like to think about the violent words he threw at me, either, but they had some merit. I had been too busy with the racing thoughts in my head to notice any imminent danger, but how could I tell that to Marty without sounding crazy? How could I tell him that I was a good trainer because I knew how to communicate with my pokémon and he didn't? I didn't know what to say around him. His reaction toward me justified my fear of interacting with others.

    That fear soon dissipated. There were many restless, sleepless nights in the cave, and then my mood escalated once we hit Azalea Town. I wanted to do everything at once because I couldn't focus on a single thing. My speech was fast and suddenly I had an endless amount of energy. There was nothing in the world that could stop me. That was why I asked to visit Sasha in her home, though she didn't quite want me to come. I wanted her to be my friend because she accepted me despite being reluctant. Her being Marty's sister was an unfortunate coincidence.

    In the midst of my mania, I spent money on random things. I bought everything in sight, everything except medicine, because it wasn't like the medicine from my past ever did any good. I even bought my pokémon t-shirts, which wasn't so random. It made me feel closer to them. I didn't care about any consequences. I was invincible, even at the hands of Team Rocket.

    It wasn't long, however, before this high energy turned into bouts of anger. I yelled at Atis and launched a lamp in his direction after he said he wanted to stay in Azalea Town longer than anticipated. I wanted to stay, too, but couldn't. He knew nothing of my situation, and for that I despised him and acted in the only way I knew how.

    That night, I couldn't sleep. I couldn't stop thinking about Atis and how I had hurt him. In spite of everything, I wanted to be closer to my pokémon, but now I believed I had succeeded in making him hate me. I had to do something, anything to distract myself. I went into the Azalea Town well and caught as many magikarp as I could. I intentionally caught them because they weren't going to be on my team, and later I gave them to the daycare couple, who could take care of them better than I ever could.

    I got back on track. I fought Bugsy, but that battle turned into a lesson I didn't want. Bugsy didn't understand that I had no use for weak pokémon. It just wasn't an option. I felt proud at my outburst, if only because I was finally following the rules.

    Kuiora, then, became a problem. She wanted to be stronger. Team Rocket wanted her to be stronger. I wanted her to be stronger for herself, not for them. I knew everything. I knew she had been begging for my attention. I didn't give her what she needed until I had no choice but to do so. My lashing out against her... I didn't want it. But sometimes violence really is the answer. Things got better from there. Her gratitude kept me happy.

    I wasn't too surprised when Marty subsequently challenged me to a battle. He wanted to prove he was the better trainer, so that my pokémon would leave me. I agreed to the battle, thinking that I wasn't going to let anyone leave regardless of whether or not they wanted to. I would convince them to stay, like I convinced them to come with me at all. I didn't have to do anything of the sort. Everyone chose to stay. I was secretly glad, but this meant that none of my defenses were were working. Somewhere along the line, I had let my guard down and had let them in.

    Another miracle happened. Rennio showed up. At that point, he was nameless to me, since I hadn't learned the name of the final man in the cells. He seemed so young, so eager to grow, but something was stopping him. He gave off an anxious vibe, like he didn't want to stay in Ilex Forest for too long. I offered to take him in, so that things could be better, if just for a little while.

    Ezrem showed up too, but I didn't need him. I didn't want to seem cruel, but he was persistent. My team was complete! He didn't belong, though technically, I could carry him around and have a full team of six. I said no, expecting my answer to be final. I let him follow for Rennio's sake. If I wasn't able to be the source of comfort Rennio needed, then someone else would have to take on that role.

    Despite my happiness, I fell into a deep depression, as I often did after being manic. The trigger: Marty telling me that Sasha would never want to be my friend, and that I wasn't a suitable traveling companion. To have these facts confirmed dispirited me to the point where I was miserable all the time. I was barely able to move, and as a result, we stayed in Goldenrod City longer than intended. I said yes to Atis when he wanted to show me the city's culture. I found a pocketknife, at least, at the large department store. When I saw it, I thought of my mother and her love of weapons, be it a pokémon or a handheld weapon. Turning it over in my hand, I decided it would be perfect for her, and it was also then I decided I would have to face her again someday, after everything was over.

    But keeping the pocketknife made me recall the rules my mother had set for me. Never become close to your pokémon, she said, but it was clear that Atis wanted to know me more. When I let him write a secret on my back, I felt that it was etched into me like a tattoo or whatever those markings are called. His secret disappeared in the shower the next day, but for one night I had a physical reminder of Atis's sheer existence.

    Then Atis took me to the radio tower. The worker there informed me that Team Rocket was lurking around. I assumed they were after me. They had caught on to all my misdeeds and were ready to take me back to my prison. I had to do something to make up for it. I made Rennio fight, despite his fear of battles. If it were up to me, I wouldn't have made him do it, but it was up people with authority. When we lost to Whitney, my intention wasn't to leave my pokémon behind. I was going to find a safe hiding spot for us to go to, but before I could, I was confronted by a Team Rocket grunt who had been asked to bring me back to Mahogany Town for rehabilitation.

    Rehabilitation involved me being in my cell once more, while being asked to take my medication, which I had unwillingly stopped. I had run out of the medication and had no idea where to refill it, and I had no one to ask. Dr. Richards shook his head, watched me and checked my mouth for pills after I swallowed.

    Soon enough I was manic again. I couldn't think about my pokémons' whereabouts anymore without my mind wandering off somewhere else. I asked Dr. Richards why this happened, since I thought the goal was to keep me stable, not to make me go up and down. He explained very, very slowly that Giovanni had paid him money to give me antidepressants instead of mood stabilizers. This kept my moods high and energized for proper travel. Supposedly I was more active and successful while manic.

    “So they've been watching me the entire time,” I said.

    “Yes... and they'll continue to do so. I'm sorry.”

    When they considered me fully functional, it occurred to me that I hadn't seen my mother at all, but I wasn't going to stick around and prove to her that I had temporarily failed. I fled back to Goldenrod City, hoping my pokémon were waiting for me, and that they had been well taken care of in my absence.

    I was overjoyed when I found them. If they hadn't waited for me, I wasn't sure I could have started over or tracked them down. Unfortunately, I had to deal with their inevitable questions. I tried to pretend nothing happened. It worked, to a certain extent, but I could tell there was a different feeling in the air now, one of tension and mistrust. There was nothing I could do about that, and I figured it was for the best, anyway. Now I could do things better.

    I quickly ran into another obstacle: Sasha. She asked to take Atis and Senori for her pokémon fan club meeting. Either I could have said no and insisted on going to the gym, or I could have gone with my desire to be her friend. I went with the latter. I didn't have the heart to say no, and it was only for a few hours...

    Seeing Senori evolve during the Goldenrod City rematch was worth it. It was a proud moment for both of us. He was finally letting go of his past somehow, as his new movements were much lighter, and less tense. To see my very first pokémon come so far in such a short amount of time made all the pain I had gone through seem like nothing. When Senori came to me that night with my antidepressant bottle in hand, asking me to stay with them, I felt like a true trainer.

    Things were looking up then, and I didn't think it was just the medication having an effect on my brain. But then the incident with Rennio and Ezrem happened. Once again, I had a choice. I chose to backtrack and save Ezrem from his burns. There was no way I could leave him behind now, not with Rennio trying so hard to battle for me. When I called him by his real name and saw him cry, I had to try not to cry for a different reason.

    That day, Atis told me he wanted to leave the team. I understand and didn't question him at all. After the Ezrem ordeal was settled, we celebrated one last day to make Atis happy, and also to try to get him to stay. I couldn't come up with anything that might have convinced him. Only the evil thought of turning him in swayed in my mind. In a way, it was nice timing. I hadn't meant to deceive him, but I couldn't let him go. If I had let him go, I was risking more suffering on my part. I admit it was selfish. When I watched him faint in front of me, the disbelief in his eyes ripped into me. I felt sick. I could only help that my promise to him had rung true in his mind.

    It was unnatural, but I cried all night. My pokémon tried to comfort me despite their own sadness, but there was no way I could tell them what I had done. They would all run and know me as a horrible person. I couldn't afford any more mistakes. Anything else would have let Atis's sacrifice be in vain... but when had I ever been known to stick to the rules? When had I ever not followed my own intuition? Never. I just didn't have it in me.

    My adventure without Atis didn't last long at all. When no one wanted to fight for me at the Ecruteak City gym, I thought of Atis and his introverted self. When Senori couldn't attack the ghost, I thought of Atis's knowledge of the world, which surpassed my own. My team was falling apart, because it wasn't just the trainer that held the team together. We all held the team together in our own way, and the absence of one of us was showing.

    I panicked. I screamed. I was so very tired of keeping quiet about all my lies, all my secrets. I didn't know how much I was revealing, but I didn't pay attention. The only thing I cared about was getting to Atis before he became an experiment of Team Rocket's. He was a special pokémon, just as I was a special child, but his situation could have been handled much more effectively.

    Thanks to the map my mother had given me, I knew exactly how to get back to Mahogany Town. Coincidentally, there was a cave in Ecruteak City that led me there. I didn't stop to rest, even when my limbs felt like they were about to break down. I didn't sleep or hesitate before running back into the lab that offered several years' worth of unfavorable memories to me.

    Inside, I grabbed the first person I came into contact with. I yelled, “Where's my mother? Where is Atis?”

    “Sai...? W-What are you—”

    “Where is she?!” I said, gripping his collar more fiercely. He was making small talk, and that was unacceptable.

    “Last I heard, she was going to train and—”

    I let him go, not needing to hear anything else. There were only two training locations in the building, and whichever one she was in, I knew that she and Atis weren't too far from me anymore. I scrambled up the stairs in the corner, causing two more scientists to drop the materials in their hands. I didn't apologize. My head felt like it was going to burst at any moment if I didn't see Atis, not locked up, not bruised and not bleeding.

    For once, I was glad that everyone recognized me and no one questioned my presence. There were no alarmed shouts about an intruder, so I could go wherever I wanted. I ran up the next of stairs. My gaze shifted from one thing to another, but neither my mother nor Atis were there. I stood there, panting and ignoring side glances, before sprinting across the middle of the arena. I had done purposely as a child, but I had grown up now. Couldn't anyone see that? Couldn't anyone see that I was as normal as I'd ever be, and I was still out of control?

    I went up to the roof. Please be there, I thought. Please be there... I didn't want to bother anyone else as I tried to find them, but at last, I found them. My mother stood next to Atis, and she was far too close for me to be comforted.

    She turned to look at me. “Sai?” she said. “What are you doing here?”

    “You know exactly what I'm here for!” I said in between breaths. I couldn't tell if Atis was disappointed to see me or not. It was times like these where I wished that he was easier to read.

    “Hmm...” my mother said, pacing now. “This pokémon is no longer yours. The moment we took him away, he became the property of Team Rocket.”

    “But I'm... I'm part of Team Rocket too!” I said, the words creating a foul taste in my mouth. I had never admitted this before, and I could only wonder if I would regret it after all was said and done.

    “You're not part of this group. You're... an experiment yourself—”

    I grit my teeth. “Don't remind me,” I said. “I'm a toy, I know. Don't I have a say in anything? What about the others? Where are they right now?”

    “The others? Well, we followed them for a short amount of time,” she said, her voice lowered.

    “What are you saying?”

    “They're dead, Sai. They're all dead. Killed by pokémon, suicide, murdered... You name it, and it probably happened.”

    My eyes widened. To know I was a lone survivor was hard to believe. Wasn't the will to live supposed to push anyone through any adversary? Wasn't misfortune eventually supposed to give way to good fortune? It made no sense to me. I put my hands over my ears, wishing I had heard nothing.

    I took a few steps back. “But they were sick like me...” I said. “They were special...”

    “Whatever they were means nothing. All they are now is dead,” my mother said, shaking her head. “I told you that you'd be able to overcome anything. By the looks of it, you didn't even run into anything truly dangerous. Besides yourself, that is...”

    She walked toward me, and Atis shuddered. What had I learned from Atis? How could I prove to him that his journey with me wasn't for nothing? I tried to persuade him with pleading eyes. His mouth opened for a moment as if he were going to speak, but then his face scrunched up and his eyes closed.

    “Sai!” he suddenly shouted, darting forward. My mother seemed to anticipate his actions and caught him by the arm because he could reach me.

    I bit my lip. “I just want Atis back. I'll do anything you ask.”

    “You say that, but you haven't done much of what I asked of you before you left.”

    “I... I mean it this time. Do whatever you want to me, but let Atis go.”

    “I can't do that, Sai. Pokémon are more than beneficial to us. You know this.” She paused. “It looks like you have friends here to see you.”

    “Mother, please—”

    I cut myself off. Confused, I saw Senori and the rest of the group. I gaped at them, wanting to shout about how crazy they were, how they should be far, far away... Why did they come here, and how did they know where I was?

    My mother went on, talking about how I had such loyal pokémon now... She said I was lonely... Was I lonely? Yes, I was lonely in the sense that no one knew what I was up against in life, but of course I didn't want to give her the pleasure of knowing that. I yelled, this time being random. I just want Atis back... You told me things would get better and they never did, they never did... I won't follow your rules because you lied to me... You lied to me!

    But she knew where to get me most.

    “...And then you will never see the light of day again...”

    I wanted life. I wanted freedom. When she brought up the idea of me dying, I remembered the others and how they were gone now. I fumbled with my pants until I found the pocketknife I had bought at the Goldenrod City department store. I held it out toward her. It was the one weapon I had left, if words weren't going to work and if my pokémon were about to bolt...

    “Are you going to hurt me, Sai? Just as I've supposedly hurt you?” she asked.

    I wasn't sure what my intentions were. I wanted to seem like a scary person, just as everyone else seemed to me. I almost didn't believe it when she put her hands up in surrender and let Atis flee toward us. Atis ran right past me and mumbled things to Senori, things my mind couldn't process. I focused on my mother's words, which hurt me more than any damage the knife could ever do.

    “I’m done listening to you,” I said. It was the most confident thing I had said during the whole conversation.

    “…Then you will pay for it,” my mother said. She reached behind her and pulled out a few pokéballs. She extended them toward me. “A battle,” she said. “If you win, I will see to it that you are allowed to abandon the project. If you lose, you must subject yourself to us, or choose death. It's up to you.”

    I remained silent and unmoving, thinking about the proposal. How could I beat her, a trainer of many years? I had little experience in battling. I had done little actual training with my pokémon. Having three badges couldn't be enough, and I didn't even have the badges to prove my worth. They were lost. It felt like I myself had already lost. And would my pokémon fight for me, anyway?

    Slowly, I put my arm down. I put the knife back into my pocket.

    “Unlike some people, I am not a torturer. I am not a killer.” I sighed. “I agree to your challenge, but only under fair one-on-one conditions. I also won't be forcing any of my pokémon to fight. If they choose to leave me alone in this battle, then so be it.”

    I faced my team. They looked up at me with such innocent, questioning eyes. I managed a smile and kneeled down to be near them.

    “I'm sorry I left again,” I said. “I had to find Atis, but I didn't want to put you guys in any danger. I hope you understand, but if you don't, it's okay. If you don't want to fight for me right now, that's okay too.”

    I reached for Atis gently. He flinched at my touch, but he let me pet him on the side of his head. It was all I needed. I had intended to tell them everything after the incident was over, no matter what happened, but the touch felt so final, so conclusive, that I explained everything in that moment. I explained that I was mentally sick and that I had been imprisoned for it. My goal as a Team Rocket experiment was to train pokémon and then turn them in as test subjects. I told them everything and I was out of breath by the time I was done. I shook my head and repeated that they didn't have to fight for me.

    I didn't wait to see their reactions. I didn't think I could handle it. I told my mother I was ready, and that whoever wanted to fight could step forward.

    “If you're ready, then let's begin,” my mother said, tossing a pokéball in the air. Out popped a small lizard pokémon whose tail lit brightly with fire. The orange creature let out a fierce growl. It was my mother's first pokémon, a charmander from the Kanto region, and it didn't seem to recognize me. To go from playing with this pokémon as a child to fighting in a life or death battle seemed beyond surreal to me.

    I held my breath, my mind reeling with words of false persuasion and comfort. I knew in my heart that not a single pokémon was going to step forward. They had no reason to defend me anymore, and I wouldn't blame them for leaving. But Rennio—Rennio, out of all of them—stood in front of me and faced the charmander.

    “Are you sure this is what you want, Rennio?” I asked quietly. He nodded. Though he was frowning, I could tell he was sincere. “All right. I won't be commanding this battle, as usual. Everything is up to you.”

    And then it began.

    I would like to say everything that happened next was by my own design. I would like to say I watched Rennio battle and cheered him on like any normal trainer would. But I was manic from before, and now I was depressed after Atis's situation. When you're manic and depressed at the same time you can only keep yourself occupied on a single thought for a few seconds before you succumb to something worse. The battle, then, was sporadic for me, and I thanked myself enough to have found the strength, courage and time to explain before the end of it all.

    Come on, Sai. Keep yourself focused. Stay on your toes. But I couldn't do it. Rennio shocked the charmander and the charmander retaliated with a tackle and my thoughts turned to death. It was all over for me. I didn't raise my pokémon well enough. I was a failure of a trainer, just as Marty had said. He should have taken everyone away while he still had the chance.

    Team Rocket should have executed me when they had the chance all those years ago too. I should have been a different experiment, one with cords and machinery and a bunch of paperwork filled with invaluable information. The white cords would have been happy cords and the black cords would have been sad cords and they would have hooked up to me simultaneously, sending me back and forth between the two extreme conditions that constantly pervaded my life. Because that's what life was to me. It's all a game, it's all a game. It's all a joke, a fraud...

    Rennio swung the charmander around by the tail, an otherwise amusing sight. The charmander smashed into the wall. At this point, Kuiora asked to switch in, since her water attacks were much more effective. That was another one on my team. Two out of five. Why were my pokémon here, anyway? Was that Ezrem cheering Kuiora on? Three out of five. My god, they're raising hell. They're raising hell to give to me what they already gave to me once—a chance at independence and happiness. They couldn't do it again. It was too late for me.

    It's okay. If I don't make it, someone else will. A normal person, maybe? It had to be a normal person. Everyone else was dead. All they had ever been was dead. But I believed one of my kind would prevail someday. We were special, after all. Kuiora, when did you get so strong? I didn't train you at all like I should have. You did all this for me? Stop raising hell already. It's too late for me.

    I couldn't sit still anymore. I made my way around the edges of the battleground, watching as intently as I could, which didn't mean much. Kuiora took down the charmander, as expected. She was happy to know that my mother was a fire-type pokémon trainer. My mother sent out her ninetales next. I remembered it being a young vulpix. Why hadn't her charmander evolved? Was my mother threatening me again? If you mistreat a ninetales, you can be cursed... Did I want my pokémon to be cursed? I would have taken the curse for them. But I was cursed enough as it was, the ninetales said.

    Unbelievable. I was cursed with depression and mania. Depression is needing all day tomorrow to recover from today and mania is needing all day today to prepare for the invincible tomorrow. It was a vicious cycle. It never ended. Because of my medication I hardly had any periods of normalcy. I didn't know what it meant to be stable, but my pokémon did. Atis ran into the middle of the battle to make Kuiora save her strength. Four out of five. That left Senori. Senori? What do you think of me? ...What do I think of myself?

    Well, how can your mind get this messed up? How can you be so clueless, so lost? How can you be so lonely that you don't even like yourself for company?

    ...How can you not?


    I tried to give my love to the world. The world didn't seem to want it. The only constants I ever had in life were my mood swings and air. Air kept me alive and breathing and together with my pokémon. It had been with me in the cells, in my dreams, in my lungs.

    It would be the perfect way to go, and I was in the perfect position to go.

    The ninetales was defeated. Was I winning or losing? I wasn't part of the battle anymore. Maybe I never was to begin with. I really couldn't get over this pokémon training thing. I wanted it for so long and then I never grew accustomed to it. I liked the feeling of learning and having my pokémon teach me instead. I liked not being expected to know everything. Tell me, Senori, that I'll never get used to this... this so-called form of living. The unknowing and uncertainty will come to me and I will always be so inviting.

    Senori was last. He was last! This told me something, but I couldn't figure out what. Still. My mother had six pokémon, and I only had four usable pokémon. We were overwhelmed, no matter what my furret did. It was too late for me.

    I backtracked to the edge of the building. This way, I could see not only my pokémon but also my mother and my opponent. I felt like I was watching a show I had no part of. I was completely dissociated from myself. I was already gone. No matter how much I wanted to live, the idea of death overtook me. Even if I won the battle, I would never get better. I would be forever sick. If I lost... Well, then I was even more gone. Either way, I was dead. Who's dead? I'm dead.

    It’s such a shame that I’m drowning in my goddamn shame.

    ...I always wanted to see myself become a better person, but I realize I never got very far. I wanted to see Senori stop worrying about me all the time. I wanted to see Kuiora evolve into her final form and fulfill her dreams. I wanted to hear Atis smile so much that I forgot his normal scared voice. I wanted to continue watching Rennio fight and I wanted to feed him, whatever that meant. I wanted to see Ezrem through his old trainer's eyes.

    It never occurred to me that any of these things could still have happened.

    I might have begged for help, once... but I didn't.

    I jumped.
    Last edited by diamondpearl876; 7th May 2016 at 5:25 AM.

  7. #207
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    Quote Originally Posted by diamondpearl876 View Post

    SURVIVAL PROJECT

    You don’t want to hear the story
    of my life, and anyway
    I don’t want to tell it, I want to listen
    to the enormous waterfalls of the sun.
    — Mary Oliver

    chapter 24 ; [SAI]
    stand my ground

    *
    ...Wait, that... does that actually say Sai?

    That alone would have me nervous, but the quote combined with it just makes it even more chilling. There's a certain sense of finality now that a Sai chapter has finally happened.

    To my pokémon—

    For you all to understand me is the last thing I want. It is a type of contradictory consolation when you tell each other that you want to know me better and I instruct myself to be gracious, but it is true. To truly understand me, my thoughts must flow through you and then consume you. You must see through my eyes to believe what seems to be a million tower-inspired legends, and you must fall victim to numerous pits. I would never demand this of you. For you to understand me is the last thing I want because I am nothing but the sum of the parts that others have made for myself, and that means I am either next to nothing or I am too much, an endless source of devastating fireworks (yes, I’ve seen those—once) and breath that feels like smoke. In the end, if I ask you to understand me, I will be selfish, and I will disappoint you somehow. I would never demand this of you, so think, think before you take a memory…

    *

    I was only four years old when Team Rocket claimed that I was a threat to everyone around me.

    My mother had moved to Johto from a place that she called France. She said that she adored the things that we call pokémon because of their potential power and because of the kind of all-important feeling that they gave her when she owned this strength of theirs. She upped and left without a problem. My father was in prison for constant drug abuse, anyway, so she had nothing else to lose. When she reached Johto, she heard of an organization called Team Rocket and immediately went to join them, as her goals and Team Rocket’s were one and the same. She was loyal and a hard worker, and she went through the ranks faster than anyone the organization had ever known. Within no time at all, she was considered an executive, and she suddenly had a say about what went on in that little laboratory in Mahogany Town. But she was pregnant with me at the time, and I was inevitably her downfall. I was soon born, and for the first few years, I was fine; I was her precious little thing. At the age of four, after my brain had some time to develop, something went wrong with me.
    Is it correct to assume this France is the real-life France (thus meaning this story takes place under the "the regions exist within the real world" theory) as opposed to an assumption of the France-like region that Generation 6 will take place in?

    So far, nothing terribly surprising, but that doesn't mean it's bad. Already I can see that you're fleshing out all of this excellently.

    Supposedly, I was an outrageous child—one that couldn’t be controlled by any means. First of all, my mother suddenly found it impossible to send me to any sort of daycare or babysitter because I would scream bloody murder every time I was apart from her for more than a few minutes. This separation anxiety that I experienced forced her to take me to the laboratory with her each and every day, which was where my recklessness shined further.

    Unlike a normal child, I wasn’t interested in playtime. My moods shifted faster than the ticking of the clock, but no matter how I felt, I only wanted to follow my mother and do whatever she was doing. She was often in her office filling out paperwork and talking on the phone to other members in other cities, other regions. Besides this, she would supervise the experiments that went on in the laboratory, or she would supervise the battles that tested how strong pokémon were and whether or not they were fit to join a Team Rocket member on their endeavors. I would watch as pokémon were hooked up to machines with what seemed to be an endless number of black and white cords, and I would look at the fear in their eyes and wonder if I would ever want to trade places with them. I would watch as pokémon fought until their eyes were clawed out, until every part of their bodies were paralyzed with exhaustion.
    Some of my early theories look like they might be true after all...

    It didn’t take long for me to start interfering with the experiments and the battling. During my frequent outbursts, I was running into the middle of the arena, screaming at the top of my lungs and getting hit by pokémon’s attacks. While I broke quite a few bones doing this, they always healed, so I felt no need to stop. I ripped cords out of the machines and I destroyed a ton of the research that the scientists had spent so much time working on. I was irritable and miserable and unstoppable, even as people tried to hold me down. I was irritable because I wanted to be somewhere else, anywhere else, but I couldn’t find my own strength to actually leave. I was miserable for no discernible reason, and I was even more confused when my mood would skyrocket within the next few minutes to the point where I thought that I was the most special person in the world. I thought that I was the only person in the world who could fly, and instead of destroying things, I felt that I was creating. I jumped on desks and tried to pretend I had wings as I hopped off. The workers found this, at least, somewhat humorous, but I was always made angry yet again by their laughter and then I continued my destructive tendencies. I was unstoppable not only to others, but I also couldn’t even control myself.
    Somehow, even though this is the first time we're getting Sai's story in such detail, I feel like I can definitely see the beginnings of his behavior from previous chapters here. The last sentence, though, is a little confusing. Could you clarify its meaning a bit more?

    I never listened to my mother when she told me to quit this kind of behavior. I wanted to listen, but I didn’t have the heart to do so. More research was ruined and more experiments were interrupted. More bones were broken. After a while, the leader of Team Rocket even called me into his office to speak with me in the sternest voice I had ever heard… but even he didn’t cease the insane thoughts that went through my mind and were translated into actions.

    As time went on, things only got worse. My thoughts had changed from not only wanting to hurt myself by being a part of experiments and battles, but I also wanted to hurt others. I didn’t like the other scientists. They looked at me funny, they never seemed to smile, they hurt the pokémon that my mother loved so much, and they obviously wanted me—and my mother—gone. It started with me simply drawing pictures of stabbing them and killing them by breaking their necks. When I was finished with a drawing, I would show my mother proudly, thinking that she would agree with me, as she never spoke too highly of the other workers. But apparently her words were only jokes, as she quickly reprimanded me and told me never to draw things like that again. Of course, I didn’t listen.
    If I may, I think that if Sai had been seen drawing such a picture or had one of them on himself in a previous chapter, it might have made for a nice teaser that wouldn't have given too much away.

    And again, this matches so perfectly to the Sai we all knew from the previous chapters. It doesn't just feel like typical backstory that explains triggers for the character's behavior; instead, what you're showing here is very easily traced to the characteristics of the present-day Sai. I'm very impressed by that.

    What happened from then on was also out of my control. My thoughts raced so quickly that I couldn’t tell what I was thinking about most of the time. When I did unbelievable things, I only realized it after it had all happened. I spilled vials full of chemicals all over the workers, sending quite a few of them to the floor with their skin being torn apart. They writhed in pain, and I only laughed at them like they laughed at me. I yelled at them to try experiments on humans to see how they liked it. (Later, I would regret this, as it seemed that they took me literally.) I felt the pressure to keep talking, so I insulted them incessantly until my mother came to seize me and take me home for the day, even if she wasn’t done with her work.
    So Sai actually has killed people before?

    I notice a little hint in there to something I've long suspected - that Team Rocket were doing human experiments and Sai was somehow related to them. Time will tell if my exact theory turned out correct, but so far, I'm getting an ominous feeling...

    Things weren’t much better in our actual home. I destroyed things and the house was often a mess that my mother never cleaned up. At night, I would either sleep too much or sleep too little. When I slept too much, I had vivid dreams about violence and gore that made me wonder every day about whether or not they had really happened. It was likely that they could happen, after all, given the nature of the laboratory. At other times, I found it impossible to sleep, even though my own bed was familiar to me. After spending about six hours trying to fall asleep, I would wake up sweating and screaming because of night terrors. The lack of rest only contributed to my untamed moods and actions.

    Occasionally we went out to other places. Sometimes we went to restaurants and went to celebrate holidays and went to the park and went to buy things, and soon, I would have even been sent to school. But mostly there was no time for that, so I stayed inside those four metallic walls and learned about the world that way. If I had known that this was all I would see for about ten years of my life, I would have been fine with leaving more.
    And here's some more that can be traced directly to actions Sai took in previous chapters - the problems he had sleeping directly explain the bizarre and wildly varying incidents with the rooms, while noting that he "went to restaurants" and "went to buy things" can be directly linked to how much he got worked up over those things in the present.

    This was clearly all very well planned out.

    For two years this went on, until the leader of the laboratory had finally gotten sick of me and my wild antics. The boss had given my mother leeway since she was of a higher ranking, but there was only so much he could take.

    I was only six-years-old when Team Rocket wanted me executed immediately.

    *

    “This boy has contributed nothing positive to Team Rocket’s goals,” the boss started bluntly. I had heard once or twice that his name was Giovanni, but not many people dared to say it. His appearance didn’t help matters. He was a tall man with broad shoulders. He had dark brown hair and thin eyebrows. He wore a black suit with black slacks that were held up by a belt. He wore an evil grin, too… and I didn’t think he was much better than the others I knew. My mother was the only good person in this place.

    He had specifically set up a meeting time for my mother and me to come see him. She had brought me along, of course, since the meeting was about me. We were on the seventeenth floor, watching the leader intently as he casually sat back on the blue couch in the middle of his office. We stood in front of him, on the opposite side of the coffee table. All I knew was that he didn’t look happy, so I clung to my mother and let her do all of the talking, though I definitely had something to say.

    “Master Giovanni, I can explain—”

    “There is nothing to explain. If you had an explanation, the boy would have been stopped a long time ago. He has destroyed years of work, and he has put a temporary halt to our future research. He has blatantly hurt other workers in this building and made several of them quit. Above all, he has shown no signs of getting better throughout these past two years.” There was a pause. I flinched at his words and hid behind my mother now. “I like you, Melanie, and I want to like your son. But he is too much to handle, even for you.”

    “What… What are you trying to say, Master Giovanni?” my mother said. Her voice was unnaturally weak.

    “The boy is clearly… mentally impaired,” the leader said, “and he has no home in a place like this. I want him gone for good.”
    That's certainly Giovanni for you, always focused on the goals and how every single possible thing could benefit Team Rocket. I'm feeling more and more confident in that theory I had early on, too.

    “Master Giovanni, with all due respect, I don’t want to do that,” my mother said quickly. I clung to her harder, trying my best not to lash out. “He is my son. I have nothing left but my son. My husband is in jail, and I don’t want to lose my last connection to him. I can’t go through another loss like this. Besides, where will he go? Who will take care of him?”

    “Melanie,” Giovanni said gently, though he was grinning. “If you let the boy loose now, he will speak of everything he has seen. You cannot tell me that he won’t speak, because he’s not yet been put in a situation where he could tell someone something. We cannot depend on him going somewhere else and staying quiet.”

    “Master Giovanni, please—”

    “I want the boy executed.”

    My mother’s eyes widened. “You want him… killed?” she breathed.
    I have to admit, it feels to me that this is a bit of a jump for Giovanni to just immediately decide he wants Sai executed. I can think of other ways he could have this problem taken care of that might give Team Rocket benefit as well, although, I can also see the narrative value in doing it this way.

    I didn’t know the meaning of the word “execution” at the time, but my mother cleared it up for me. The leader of Team Rocket wanted me gone for good. I was only six years old. It didn’t seem plausible to me. Even though the team was ruthless and heartless, they didn’t kill people. They didn’t kill pokémon. At least, I had never seen them kill anyone… My hatred for them grew tenfold as I realized that this had probably been done in the past without my knowing. My feelings welled in my chest, and I huffed. I darted forward, reaching forward with my hands. I jumped at Giovanni, attempting to scratch at his face, but he had apparently been prepared for this. He held out his arms and kept me still. He was much stronger than I was, and there was nothing I could do to get any closer to him.

    My mother gasped and pulled me away from him. “Sai, how could you attack Giovanni, of all people?”

    “He’s evil! He wants to get rid of me!” I cried.
    Sai is noticeably perceptive for his age, I notice. Also, color me surprised that Giovanni didn't simply kill him right there and then. I guess there is some sense of nobility, in some twisted way.

    “Master Giovanni, please reconsider. This is probably just a phase. He will grow out of it…”

    “I’ve given him two years, Melanie. As I’ve said, he’s shown no improvement. I want him gone, and that’s final.”

    “Surely, there must be another use for him,” my mother said. She was struggling to speak, as she was still trying to hold me back. Eventually, finally, I went limp and started crying. I wailed and wailed and wished that my mother’s grasp was more comforting. I started thinking up ways that I could hurt Giovanni further—in his sleep, when he wasn’t expecting it…

    “Another use? I cannot think of anything this miscreant could be useful for.”

    “…I thought you might try to get rid of him. Hush, Sai, this is important,” my mother said, though I could tell that she was trying to hold back tears too. I sobbed quietly, but I couldn’t stop myself completely. “I thought about what happened if he couldn’t get better. Look, Giovanni, I don’t want to lose my job here. Or my son. There has to be a way. Why don’t we keep my son here while I’m working? In the basement, with the other pokémon?"

    “He does apparently think he’s a pokémon that deserves to fight like one,” Giovanni mused. “Go on.”

    “He’ll stay… locked up as I’m working. I’ll take him home at night, and—”

    “No more. Have you not thought about him running away and hurting others? We can’t have him ruin our reputation.”

    She gulped. “As you wish, Master Giovanni. He’ll stay in the cells. I will teach him there in my free time, as if he was going to school.”

    “I have yet to see how he will be of use to us.”

    “Well, as you said… Sai seems fond of pokémon. When he is old enough—you are free to choose the time, so that you no longer see him as a threat—we will set him loose on a journey.” She paused, waiting to see if he would interrupt again. When he didn’t, she continued, “He will raise pokémon and send them back for Team Rocket to use. We can see if he is any better at raising pokémon with his… outlandish personality, compared to the rest of us. It will be a… survival project of sorts.”
    This is the narrative value I mentioned earlier while talking about Giovanni jumping right to wanting Sai killed. Had he simply suggested something like this right away, the opportunity for Melanie to look out for Sai by suggesting it herself would have been lost.

    It's also full confirmation of the theory I long held, that Team Rocket were using him as some sort of experiment and monitoring his actions. I would say that it's a good thing that I figured it out, because that means you foreshadowed it very well with all the pieces present.

    Nice title drop, too.

    Giovanni leaned back in his seat, smiling. “Now this,” he said, “sounds interesting. Again, go on.”

    “Okay,” my mother breathed. Her voice was barely audible. “Okay.”

    “Mommy?” I said quietly, looking up at her.

    What was she possibly planning for me?
    My heart just sank. You really hit hard with that one.

    Giovanni demanded that the plan be put in effect immediately, so that I wouldn’t cause any more unnecessary damage. We went home shortly afterward, though my mother certainly was in no hurry. She walked slowly and stayed quiet the entire way. When we got there, she instructed me to get my suitcase and pick out my favorite toys while she looked at clothes. It was one of the first directions I got as an experiment for Team Rocket, but I didn’t know it at the time. I was still lost and asking questions that had no clear answers.

    “We will feed you there, so there’s no need to pack food. Or water,” she said. She kept mumbling things like this, and then she was mumbling obscenities about Giovanni, which again made me wonder why she obeyed a man like him.

    For once, I listened to her. It seemed like a life or death situation that I should follow. Since I didn’t care much for playtime, I didn’t have many toys to get. I only picked up a few stuffed animals and some talking machines that reminded me of the ones back at the laboratory. I put them in a suitcase and watched as my mother filled it with all different kinds of clothes, pieces even for different seasons.

    In the middle of her packing, I stopped her by climbing into her lap and hugging her because she seemed so depressed. At such a young age, I even knew what depression was. It was feeling too little when you wanted to feel something, anything. It was a small yet enormous amount of apathy and hatred and loneliness and sadness all built into one hollow soul. Depression was needing all day tomorrow to recover from today. It was something that no one should have to experience, so I tried to comfort her. And I tried to get some answers.

    “Mommy,” I said, “are you going to leave me?”
    You're wrecking me emotionally already and I'm not even halfway through the first post. I don't know if I'm going to make it.

    “No, Sai,” she said. She immediately broke into sobs and switched from holding me to holding her face in her hands, trying to mask her sorrow. It didn’t work; I could feel it emanating from every fiber of her being.
    Why do I get the feeling she isn't entirely sincere?

    In the middle of the basement was a movable cot which had a long, leather strap lying out. What caught my eye closely after that, however, were several cages lined up on the walls. They were all filled with pokémon. Some of them even had two or three of them in one small cage. So this was where all of those experimental pokémon came from, I thought. They came from these cages in the basement, and they were strapped onto that cot and wheeled upstairs for further examination or to battle. It all made so much more sense to me now.

    My mother brought me over to the far left wall where three empty, larger cages stood. She explained that they were there for bigger pokémon… but now, they would be used for humans.

    “This,” she said, “will be your new home, Sai.”
    This is like N's story, but somehow even worse. They put him in a cage?

    I stared at it, unimpressed. While my old home had two floors and several rooms, this cage was only about as big as the bathroom. It had a small bed in the corner, a sink, a toilet, and… a barred door. It wasn’t exactly appealing. I swallowed hard, squeezing the handle of my suitcase, wishing that there was no reason for it to exist.
    So it's more of a jail cell than a cage? At least that's a little less horrifying...

    My mother went to open the door, waiting for me to go inside. After a few minutes of me refusing to move, she pushed me and told me not to be so difficult. The time for being difficult had to be over, or I’d never get released. I didn’t think that the things I had done were really that bad, but I was starting to reconsider my notions.

    “Sai, you are going to do extraordinary things for us,” she said in a more lighthearted voice. “Can you do that for me? Can you agree to this? I’ll be here with you always. I know that will help you. Can you do this for me?”

    For her, I nodded. I trusted her wholeheartedly. I was only six years old; I didn’t know what I was agreeing to at all.
    I get the feeling that if he knew, he may not have trusted her so easily. I'm not getting the biggest feeling of honesty out of her.

    She smiled weakly and she shut the doors, but I couldn’t tell if they were shutting me out from the world or if they were shutting me in to keep me safe.

    *

    And so began my life as a human experiment for Team Rocket.

    At first, it didn’t seem so bad. I was beginning to live in a relatively peaceful state of mind, which happened once in a great while. It had started when I had attacked Giovanni and had been hushed by my mother… I knew that I was going to be quieter because I hadn’t been as tough or as violent as I usually was. I felt luckier than ever whenever these kinds of serene moments happened in my life. For a while, it made me think that this cage was meant to be my home, after all. It was cozy enough. The bathroom was always accessible, and the pokémon that often stared at me from across the room looked away when I had to go. And I had my toys to play with whenever I felt interested. And the bed was comfortable, even if it was small, and I wondered what would happen when I outgrew it. Would my mother buy me a new one?

    As she promised, she didn’t abandon me. She came to visit me every day—several times a day, in fact. She was becoming more involved in my life than ever before! It seemed like a great deal to me. She was teaching me my numbers and my letters, saying that I’d normally be in school by now and that she wanted to keep me on a regular schedule, like most kids would be on.
    I really do doubt his mother's sincerity. But maybe my view is skewed because this is the first full-on view we've ever gotten of her.

    But as time went on, my old habits returned. The only thing that had improved was my separation anxiety; I had, indeed, grown out of that phase. Still, it became increasingly difficult to think about numbers and letters long enough to attempt memorizing them. I wanted to destroy things… and people, if given the chance. I was either too sad or too angry. When I was too sad, I spent most of my time huddled over my suitcase in the corner of the room, begging to go home. This riled up the other pokémon in the room, but I ignored them. And when I was too eccentric, I tore up the clothes that I had and the flashcards that my mother had given me to practice with. I yelled and yelled and yelled, both obscenities and random things on my mind, just to get the thoughts out of my zipping head, but no one came to rescue me. Not even my mother.

    “If you ever want to get out of here,” she told me sternly, “then you have to focus. You can’t let your emotions get the best of you. I’m going to teach you everything that you need to know so that you’re prepared when you leave this… nice place. But we have to start small.”
    And this is precisely why. I have to say, though, that the fact you're getting me to react emotionally to both Sai's circumstances and his mother is a good thing. It means I'm invested in what's happening.

    I tried my best. I used self-made routines to help me. I used my forever growing fingernails to etch the alphabet into the stone wall of my cell. I continued to do the numbers, zero to one hundred, even when I started bleeding. It was the only thing I could think of doing. I needed something that I couldn’t destroy, and this was it. My mother didn’t seem to approve or disapprove; she only seemed pleased that I wasn’t being completely destructive. As a reward, she told me that most pokémon trainers set off on their journey at age ten, which was only four years from now. Four years! The first four years of my life now seemed like a blur, so perhaps the next four would go by just as quickly. I didn’t think anything of it.
    That detail about his scratching letters and numbers into the stone walls actually made me physically cringe.

    Time passed so quickly I couldn’t keep up with it. Since I didn’t even have a window in this place, I couldn’t tell if it was day or night, winter or summer. Many things happened, but the one event that stands out the most to me is when I received a very special visitor.

    He was a short man with a shiny bald head. His face was lean and taut. He had a soft, inviting smile, so I didn’t scream or attempt to attack him, though I was feeling especially wild when he came. He wore a red tie and a gray suit, and all I could think about was how I was so glad to see those colors outside of the blood and stone on my walls. I had never seen him before in my life, so I knew he wasn’t from the laboratory. He said that his name was Dr. Richards, and then my days were filled to the brim with new experiences and feelings that I didn’t even have names for.
    I don't get a good feeling from this...

    “Sai… Sai Luart. Age ten. Is that right?”

    “Oui.”

    “I don’t speak French. It’s my understanding that your mother has taught you several languages thus far. Is that also right?”

    “…Sorry. I guess so.”
    I have to admit, that bit about the languages came a bit out of nowhere. I feel like it would have been better to introduce that detail earlier.

    “It’s best to learn multiple languages when you’re young. You’re able to speak the different sounds and learn them better.”

    Silence.

    “You know, I don’t get many young patients like you. I would say that you’re special.”

    “That’s what they all said.”

    “Who said that?”

    “Everyone above us. They wanted me dead.”

    “That’s not very kind, is it? Well, I don’t want you gone.”
    That can't be good. This guy feels very shady to me, and I imagine that he doesn't exactly have good plans in mind for Sai.

    Silence.

    “Sai Luart. Age ten. I have a lot of information written down about you besides this, but I’d like to hear your side of the story. Is that all right with you?”

    “Did my mother bring you here?”

    “Yes. She did.”

    “…Nevertheless, I have no story to tell.”

    “I bet you do. Everyone does. From my understanding… You were a very worrisome young boy. You seem to harbor a ton of anger toward yourself and others, and you seem to cherish violence when it seems most convenient for you. Many interviewees pointed out that they knew how you were feeling based on the look in your eyes. What do you think?”

    “Yeah. Well, I’ve changed an awful lot since then. I’d love to tell you about it.”
    Is Sai being sarcastic here? I ask because he seemed reluctant to say anything just a couple lines before claiming to be willing to tell the story.

    It was true—I had learned many languages. And several other things. After teaching me the basics, she taught me how to write and read. Writing didn’t take long, since I had already partially taught myself by carving in the letters. My handwriting was legible enough for her. She said there wouldn’t be many instances where I had to sign something. Next came reading. This, at least, gave me something to do when sitting in my cell, but it was extremely difficult with my short attention span. It took much longer than it should have to teach me to read according to her, but she succeeded eventually by giving me plenty of children’s books. She had to replenish them every two weeks or so because I tore those apart too. When I said I wanted harder material, she brought young adult books for me. The new books were a challenge that I gladly undertook. My mother occasionally made jokes about me reading the research materials that were always being made on floors above, but I didn’t find it funny. I really did want to take part in that, just to have a chance to be somewhere else, breathing in air that wasn’t heavy and full of unpleasant smells.
    That last bit almost makes me wonder if Sai could have been stabilized and made better progress had he been trained as a scientist. Maybe it would have sufficiently captured his attention.

    Next, she taught me the basics of pokémon. There were different types belonging to each individual pokémon, she said. She used the ones across the room as an example. Mostly, there were fire-types and poison-types and dark-types with us, with a small number of steel-types. These types were the most difficult to raise, she said, but they were highly rewarding. She taught me which types were effective against others and which were not so effective. Fire beat grass, water beat fire, grass beat water. It seemed simple enough, and I passed these tests with flying colors. I thought that if only Giovanni could see how intelligent I was becoming, he would let me out sooner, but my mother solemnly told me not to get my hopes up.

    History and basic mathematics came next. I learned addition and subtraction and division and multiplication, and my mother told me that although the lessons didn’t seem too fun, they would be useful later on when trying to keep money. Money would be absolutely vital, she said, and she promised that she would have plenty of it prepared for me. Every time, I told her not to go through the trouble, but she just shook her head and asked me to repeat the stories behind Kanto and Johto and Hoenn and other pokémon regions, along with the story of how pokémon were discovered in the first place. Apparently, these regions were uninhabited in terms of humans, and one day, pokémon showed up on the shores of Africa. Though plenty of animals lived in Africa, pokémon were deemed as reckless monsters at first, and the people there went to great lengths just to keep them in their native habitats. It took many years for the trusting bonds between pokémon and humans to form. It made me wonder whether or not I was meant to be a pokémon instead, only I ended up in the wrong body, the wrong life.
    That Africa thing is pretty interesting, but it's the last line that really catches me. Sai does seem to have a lot of characteristics that would be expected of a Pokemon, so his question of identity is a very natural one for him to be asking.

    The lessons, though simple, kept me busy. The books kept me busy. My mother’s daily visits kept me busy. But it wasn’t enough. As it turned out… four years was a very, very long time when most of what I did was simply sit there, looking at the pokémon from across the room. While my mother taught me French (our family’s main language, I knew) and English and German and Japanese—she told me that I’d want to be prepared to speak to anyone I came across on my journey—I, out of sheer boredom and slight curiosity, taught myself the art of speaking to pokémon. When all I had was time, it was relatively easy, and I figured that it would be important to talk to my partners. Why my mother hadn’t taught me this on her own time was beyond me.

    I learned by genuine observation. Since, to anyone who couldn’t understand, pokémon only spoke their names, intonation and body gestures were key. Each and every pokémon had a clear voice that they used for all of the individual emotions that they could possibly have. I learned the sounds of sadness, of anger, of happiness. The pokémon shook their tails in delight when they wanted something (in the cells, it was usually food), or, if they didn’t have tails, their eyes glittered when they talked. Ears flattened when they were worried or feeling guilty. And so on. I could feel the emotions pouring out of them with every action they did, and this translated into an understanding of their speech.
    That's a very good explanation of why Sai can speak to Pokemon. I like it.

    “You’ll meet one someday, I’m sure. They do nothing but spend time with pokémon… just like you,” the arbok said rudely. He sneered and looked away from me, and I could hear the sarcastic tone of his voice. It rang through my entire body, and I could feel his scorn firsthand amidst all of my own emotions that were stirring in my heart.

    “Why do you say that?”

    “You’re getting out of here. We’re not,” Arbok said, his contempt abruptly showing.

    “I’m still stuck here for a long, long time,” I said sadly. I couldn’t bear to look at the snake anymore, so I stopped.

    “Then rest, little boy. Quit making so much ruckus all the time. Be calm. And prepare yourself for the world,” Arbok said. It turned away from me and didn’t look back, and I knew that that was the end of the conversation.

    Rest, he said! It was easy for him. He didn’t have a never ending list of things he needed to do when he got out of this forsaken place running through his mind. Okay, maybe he did have this, even though he was supposedly never leaving, but I could say for certain that my thoughts raced faster than his, so that didn’t count. He didn’t have a mind that constantly ticked over, counting the amount of specks in the patterns on the stone walls surrounding three sides of his body. He didn’t have three songs running in his head all at once, songs that were once sung to him by his mother. He didn’t have images from last night’s dreams haunting him and talking to him. Rest, he said… I would, if only it were that simple.
    Wow, um... Sai's life is really horrible, isn't it? I'm glad you held on to all of this about him for so long; it was worth the wait for the payoff.

    “I would love to hear it, if you’d be willing to tell me.”

    “I either feel too much or feel too little. I believe that I am better than everyone else and that they’re just keeping me locked up because they don’t want to admit my greatness. Despite this, I have no desire to live my life half of the time because things can’t possibly improve. When I do want to live, I want to do too many things at once. I have many plans for the future... My father is dying in prison, miles and miles away, and I feel like I’m the one killing him. I feel guilty, like I’m being punished for doing that to him. I can’t eat, or I eat too much. I can’t sleep, or I sleep too much. I can’t make any decisions for myself, so I have my mother make them for me. I am bored with everything, dissatisfied. I can’t overcome my loneliness or fear for the future. I can’t be with others without going crazy, but I can’t be alone. I can’t concentrate on anything for too long. I want to fight and fight and tell everyone that they’ve all let me down. I want to talk too much, all the time… if you couldn’t tell by now.”
    Sai is shockingly open about his issues, which in some way feels a little bit unbelievable. It's not that bad, though, because his being isolated for so long gave him a lot of time to think about it.

    “It sounds like you are very, very overwhelmed.”

    “I am. I am beyond overwhelmed. All the time…”

    “I think I can help you, Sai.”

    “You can? Are you sure?”

    “Yes. Why not?”

    “No one’s ever offered to help me before.”

    “Yes. Well. I can give you medications to keep your moods stable.”
    Well, that's not surprising. I kind of figured that was the kind of doctor he was.

    “What’s wrong with me?”

    Silence.

    “Give me a name. Tell me what’s wrong with me.”

    “They call it bipolar disorder. Very uncommon in children, but it does happen.”
    And honestly, you're handling it as a subject very well. Too many authors romanticize mental illness or turn it into something it is not, but you're showing it as something Sai legitimately struggles with. Major props to you for that.

    “…Thanks.”

    “There is one problem, however. As I told you earlier, Sai… you are very young. Medications for younger patients aren’t forbidden, but they aren’t encouraged, either. Do you know why that is?”

    “No.”

    “This is because your brain is still growing. Your body is still growing. These medications can do things to permanently… mess up your brain chemistry.”

    Silence.

    “You’re young, but this isn’t going to be a phase you’re going to grow out of. Bipolar disorder is forever. Medication will almost be a necessity for the entirety of your life. Nevertheless, it’s up to you. What will you do?”

    Silence.

    “For your mother, will you take the medication?”
    Now, right there is where I lost any respect I might have had for this doctor. It feels to me like he used Sai's mother as leverage to get Sai to agree on taking the medication, which is an underhanded, dirty trick.

    Another peculiar symptom that came to me when I was about eleven years old was… delusions. That was what my mother called them, though she regretfully said that she could do nothing for me. She said that Dr. Richards would have to take care of it. Dr. Richards only said that he wasn’t sure if it was because of medication or if it was just natural. He suspected the latter, as it was apparently common among the mentally ill. And I had come to accept that that was what I was—mentally ill. Messed up in the head. Forever sick.

    I was lying in my tiny bed—I was, indeed, starting to outgrow it, and my mother promised that it would be replaced soon—trying to sleep when it happened. The room started spinning around me. I completely forgot where I was, even though the room was so familiar to me. My breathing grew heavy, and I wanted to punch myself or burn myself and convince myself that I was real. But I couldn’t move. It was hard to even breathe when it felt like a heavy weight sat on my chest, and my lungs seemed to have finally noticed that there was a dead spot in the middle of my chest, shriveled up due to lack of use. Everything I looked at quickly became blurry. I kept blinking to make everything clearer, but in my mind, everything was still muddy. I was suddenly convinced that all the memories I had belonged to someone else because I believed that I was a pokémon. In reality, I knew that I wasn’t, but that was what it felt like.

    I was a small creature. I looked down at myself when I finally had the strength to do. I was a dark brown color, with some cream on a circular part of my belly. I had tiny paws and tiny feet. My sense of smell had increased tenfold, and the ears that I now had felt nothing but danger nearby. Yes, I was a pokémon, yet I was not.
    ...This was how he decided on what Pokemon he had to have?

    Utterly genius. I love it. All that needs to be explained now is his use of the die.

    Images flashed through my mind. There were images of destruction, of blood and gore, just like I had seen in my dreams so many times before. This felt different. This felt utterly and terrifyingly real. Several pokémon that looked just like me were being torn apart and eaten alive, even the babies. From far away, I was a spectator who was powerless and unable to fight, even though the urge to do so clung and screamed at every part of my body. I couldn’t do a thing. I watched and watched, mouth hanging open in disbelief.
    Wait, premonitions?

    I violently shook myself back to reality. I sat straight up, taking in the view in front of me. All was dark. All was quiet, aside from my obvious panting. I jumped out of my bed and tried to run to the other side of the room, crashing into the bars in the process. I wanted to look for that pokémon, but I had never seen it before in the laboratory. I had to find it. I had to find it and save it, but I didn’t have the means to do so.

    The next day, someone was brought into the cell next to me. I was in my bed yet again, sleeping, so I never got a good look at him. When I woke up, the pokémon were murmuring and laughing to each other, saying that the person next to me was “just as crazy as the Sai boy.” I didn’t dare speak to the other boy because he was talking to himself frantically, wildly, praying to Arceus that He would shed some light upon him or that He would come rescue him, Senori Deliro, from the life that he had so suddenly been thrust into. Apparently, I had been so successful up to this point that they decided to bring in another test subject.
    And there's another genius explanation, this time for the nicknames. Wonderful planning.

    Sertraline hydrochloride, anti-depressant, 50mg. Used to confirm the diagnosis of childhood bipolar disorder. Reported frequent headaches, symptoms of mania (delusions of grandeur, high motivation and energy). Discontinued.

    Fluoxetine hydrochloride, anti-depressant, 10mg, increased to 20mg. Used upon request by Master Giovanni upon seeing the effects of sertraline hydrochloride. Reported weight gain (10lbs), frequent nausea, sweating, symptoms of mania (worsened insomnia, delusions of grandeur, impulsive and aggressive behavior). Discontinued.

    Lithium carbonate, anti-psychotic/mood stabilizer, 300mg. Reported severe pain and tremors, and thinking that he was a “zombie, though I’m not sure what that means, but I’ve heard my mother describe it as a bad, bad feeling.” Discontinued upon having intentions for suicide.

    Lamotrigine, anti-convulsant/mood stabilizer, 25mg. Reported better sleeping, calmer moods, slight paranoia. Discontinued upon seeing rash.

    Quetiapine fumarate, anti-psychotic/mood stabilizer, 50mg, increased to 100mg. Reported sleeping too much (16+ hours a day). No other reaction. Discontinued.

    Aripiprazole, anti-psychotic/mood stabilizer, 15mg, increased to 30mg. Reported extreme paranoia (thinking that others wanted to poison him) and an unwillingness to eat. Discontinued.

    Patient tried to refuse all further treatment but called for me five days later, saying he had changed his mind.

    Divalproex sodium, anti-convulsant/mood stabilizer, 25mg. Reported severe weight gain (30lbs), returned homicidal thoughts, frequent dizziness and aggression, strange and vivid dreams. Discontinued.

    Chlopromazine hydrochloride, anti-psychotic/mood stabilizer, 10mg. Reported lethargy, depersonalization, numbness. Discontinued upon request.

    Risperidone, anti-psychotic/mood stabilizer, 0.5mg, increased to 1mg, then 2mg. Reported slight anxiety, calmer moods, better sleeping.
    And I can only imagine how much homework you did to get this. Thank you for treating it seriously.


    to be continued in next post
    Last edited by The Great Butler; 12th May 2013 at 6:31 AM.

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  8. #208
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    Chapter 20

    “Drink this,” she said. “Keep yourself hydrated.”
    lol, I liked that. Sometimes it annoys me in other fic's how humans talk to Pokemon with the most basic speech, and I liked how you made it sound so natural and real coming from her.

    “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.
    Did you know that? Or did you research it?

    And I was sorry to say, buddy, that I didn’t want your self-pity.
    Lol I was waiting for something right that. You really stuck close to his character with that line and it just acreamed that he was an *******. and I loved it

    “and it just so happens that we have a water-type pokémon on the team. Aren’t you lucky?”
    Sounds like something you'd say lol

    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
    Is it me, or is that the first time Ezrem has said something like that? I'm so used to him being so annoyingly self-centered and awful that that took me off guard

    Now, I was nothing but forgiven.
    I bet that really burns him up, lol

    Chapter 21

    “I want to get stronger,” I admitted, “but not in the physical sense.”
    That made me want to cry. Him saying that meant so damn much in the most beautiful way. Nicely done. It's not often that a person can convey that sense of wanting and emotion with such few words

    and he picked up a small, cheap camera.
    Hmm, the word 'cheap' rings wrong with me for some reason. I feel that anything that Sai gives Atis will mean so much to him, and the wording just doesn't fit right with the situation to me.

    “we’ll need a cake. That’s a food, right?
    God Sai is so freaking weird. I'm sure this is some type of hint, but I just can't see it

    “How is it logically impossible to divide by zero, anyway?”
    Hah!

    Before I could even question his enigmatic betrayal, everything went black.
    Sai is such an *******. I want to punch him in the face now

    Chapter 22

    I'm not going to quote any portion in particular with those first four or five paragraphs, but that sequence as a whole was just fantastic. Lol, I created a doc and saved it just because I couldn't get enough of it. Just wonderfully done all in all. The way you blended the stories together to show the different aspects of her relationship was just so completely awesome. My hat is off to you, mam

    Sai cried all night.
    Now I'm actually back to feeling sorry for him

    “I look forward to seeing your strength.”
    Lol that almost sounds like something he would say from the games

    “You’re joking,” Senori said. “My tail just went right through it! This thing has no solid body!”
    I see what you were trying to convey here, but those three lines of dialogue sounded a bit forced and out of place to me

    Hmmm, not alot I found for me to comment on. I can say that I really enjoyed the chapter though. The battle was still a bit too slowly paced for me, but you made up for it by doing one of the best characterisations of Morty that I've seen in awhile. You really played into his mystique pretty well. Kuiora's kinda psuedo depression was an interesting change of pace as well, as I'm not used to her being so gung-ho about not battling. The thing that really got to me this chapter though was the emotion from Sai; it was pretty gripping. Not only that, but his little exclamation about being upset with what he did with Atis really got my blood pumping. Nicely done.

    Chapter 23

    “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.
    So Ati isnt the only one, eh? I could've called that lol

    I nodded again, pulling him harder. The rest of the team looked up at him pleadingly, unable to say a word
    That would be an awesome scene in a movie. Really made me crack up in kind of a funny/sad way

    “You, too,” Gracie said. There was a pause. “What do you guys need? This is a little, um, different…”
    Hah, that cracked me up too

    His personality would, but that didn’t seem helpful at the moment.
    Lol, he'd be easy to find on that basis haha. I'm loving these little whip smart comedy snippets you're putting in

    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.
    Damn you're taking this to a new level. I literally was not prepared for this in any way, shape, or form. Rockets are a lot more intense than I would have figured. Nicely done. I'm digging the blood and intensity

    “Mother, please—” Sai started, but then his body unmistakably tensed up.
    Okay, my 'Sai is defintely a robot' theory has gone completely out the window

    “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
    God this is ****ed up

    You really ****ing pulled out all the stops on this one, didn't you? From my drunken haze last night of reading the chapter you posted yesterday, I do remember several things that play into this one, but a lot of it I still can't remember and you pulled this chapter off really well. I had a feeling that you would drop a bombshell like this on us all at once one day, but I still wasn't prepared. Sorry for my absence of late, but I almost really preferred to read four at once and get all this stuff in rapidly without having to wait for updates. Awesome job pair, I'm impressed

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  9. #209
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    Quote Originally Posted by diamondpearl876 View Post
    I believed that I was nearing fourteen years of age. I had asked my mother to stop celebrating my birthday at the beginning of every January. After missing all of the holidays in the two previous months, I didn’t want her to take pity on me and try to cram all of those days into one. It only made me miss the outside world more, which wasn’t what I needed.
    I'm guessing that he became more aware of the time passing at some point?

    Can't disagree with why he wouldn't want to celebrate his birthday, though.

    What I needed was to get smarter and stronger, both mentally and physically. And that was exactly what I did. The readings got harder, the mathematics got crazier, the history more complex, and science came into play, too, since it would be nothing short of important to know the kind of land I would be treading on. And soon, my mother went back to trying to teach me life skills.

    At first, she tried to teach me about cooking, saying that food would be absolutely essential not only for myself but also for my future pokémon. Eventually, this endeavor failed, as the leader of Team Rocket made it absolutely forbidden for me to leave my cell for any reason. He thought that I would go on a vengeful rampage if I were let out too soon. As he had said in his office, it would be he who decided when I could be set free. So my mother told me all about berries, about which ones were good for a pokémon’s growth and which ones were poisonous. She told me about which types of human foods were good for me (for this, she brought well-planned meals to show me in person) and which were bad for pokémon. Avocados were bad for flying-types, excess chocolate was unhealthy for anyone, and so on.
    Nice detail. He did seem to be well versed in how to feed his Pokemon earlier, so this makes sense.

    She taught me about traveling. She told me to keep all of my pokémon out of their pokéballs at night. This was to ensure safety for myself when I was sleeping. I was to make damn sure, however, that none of them snuck off and got themselves hurt. Well, that would be easy enough, I mused, since I didn’t sleep much anyway. She taught me about making fires and how to prepare my backpack for upcoming trips and how to find clean water nearby if I didn’t already have some. I asked her if this was really okay, since one of the rules of the game was to not have any trusting bonds between pokémon and me (to prevent separation anxiety when the time came to give them away), and she said that it was just a risk that I’d have to take.
    Well we can see how well that whole 'no separation anxiety' thing worked out, can't we?

    I know I keep saying it, but I'm absolutely in love with how well planned out all of these details are. Everything being explained right now is perfectly synced with how Sai acted earlier in the story.

    I tried to keep it all straight in my head, but my skill at retaining information was easily starting to fade. Ever since I had started the medication, my memory had become worse and worse. That was what Dr. Richards had meant when he said they could potentially ruin my brain chemistry, I supposed. I didn’t tell him or my mother, however, because I didn’t want to make it look like I was going to give up so easily, and I didn’t want my mother telling Giovanni that all of the lessons that were aimed at me were for nothing.
    Hmm, I wonder about this. I think I would have liked to see more memory issues from Sai during the story, unless he recovered from his memory loss between this point and the events in the story.

    More people came into the cells. They were just as crazy as me, so they didn’t help. A woman named Kuiora Loki said that she had the same disease as me, though hers was easily controlled by creativity. She was obsessed with the idea of sculptures and carvings of pokémon, especially legendary pokémon. She tried to etch her drawings into the stone walls at first, threatening to break through the walls and escape to her freedom. My mother—who was officially in charge of this project, it seemed—brought her several carving blocks over the course of a few months. Kuiora was released almost immediately once Giovanni saw how gentle and genial she was when she expressed herself in her own way… and once he saw how much money he could make off of selling her work.
    The fact that this Kuiora was also obsessed with Legendary Pokemon gives me some ideas I really, really wish I hadn't had...

    Another man, Atis Harleen, was the quietest person I had ever met… not that I had met many people. To me, it seemed that the saying which claimed the quietest ones were the ones to watch out for was true. It took me two months just to get his full name out of him. He slept most of his time away, and once I was released, he was still there. I never figured out what was wrong with him or if there was anything wrong at all.

    The last person to come to the cells when I was there was another man. He could only stand it for one night. He soon went into a screaming frenzy, yelling about how he didn’t deserve to be put in a place like this. He was apparently going to go somewhere else, somewhere better, against everyone’s will. He said that he was going to give my mother—and anyone who could hear him—two hours before he let himself go. “If you really want me,” he said, “you’ll come and get me!” But no one came. Two hours later, just as he vowed, I heard the loud sound of bone cracking against concrete. It sounded very familiar to me, given my previous excursions on pokémon battlefields. I covered my ears, but still I heard it over and over. It was so loud, and soon, there was nothing. Later, I found out that he had banged his skull against the stone walls until he had put himself into a coma. Giovanni had him executed since he didn’t want to pay for the care it would take to repair him.
    Two very different circumstances, but the way they're handled are both very good. Giovanni's cold, calculating thrift in how he dealt with the unnamed man is pretty chilling.

    These people, though I had little to no contact with them (they were uninterested in me and in the pokémon in the room), they meant the world to me. I felt them in my heart and I didn’t even know them. They gave me hope, they gave me strength, even the unknown man. I especially felt this way when Kuiora was released. I knew that I would be set free somehow, someway, and that things would get better not only for me, but also for the world—because of my doing. My mother promised me the same thing, and when she did, I smiled wider than I ever had whenever she wasn’t around.

    Above all, they helped me to shape my future pokémon team. I wanted to honor their lives and memories, and I was going to do just that. I pledged to keep my future pokémon with similar personalities or hobbies. They would even have the same names. There was Senori and Kuiora and Atis and—well, I would figure out his name later. It seemed like the perfect plan to me, despite knowing that I would have to return them to Team Rocket someday. That part of the project was always stuck in the back of my mind, mostly ignored. I would deal with it when the time came, I decided.
    I love how you had the nicknames for his Pokemon be the names of his fellow captives. That was a brilliant turn.

    “Of course I would. I had to think about it, though. I couldn’t just take a picture and develop it, since it’s not twilight yet.”

    “What time of day is it?”

    “Mid-afternoon.”

    “Oh.”

    “I brought you this.”

    “Dice?”

    “Yes. I guess I can tell you one bad thing about myself... since I know so much about you. I’m, ah, afraid of the dark. At twilight, everything starts to turn black, just like the dots on the die. And for me, it’s scary. The only safe place is inside. It’s light and bright inside. The white resembles the purity that I feel from this safety. The intensity at which I feel this fear varies each day… thus the varying numbers on each side of the die.”
    I'm a bit confused as to who is conversing with Sai here, but now that the die has been explained as well, I'm really feeling like the story is coming to a close. I'm enjoying this so, so much right now.

    To keep myself occupied, Dr. Richards suggested that I should try to find ways to make my future pokémon journey special. I told him that that would be breaking the rules. I couldn’t get close to my pokémon. Well, he said. If I really wanted to be creative, then I could find ways to follow the rules and make things special. So I did.

    With my mother’s insistence, I would have a lot of money, so I would give each of my pokémon their own rooms. That would keep us separated, and would give them a lot of much needed privacy. Yes, that seemed perfect. And I would use the pair of die… somehow. I would make my pokémon roll the dice for me when I was catching them. If they were meant to be with me, then the die would land just right. One, two, three, four, five, six pokémon—they would get whatever correct number they were supposed to get. I knew that I was right because every time I thought about Senori being my first pokémon, I rolled the die and came up with only ones. That would surely make them feel like they belonged on my team and nowhere else, even if they didn’t particularly like me (when I assumed they wouldn’t, given my… disease).
    I know I should be focusing on the full explanation of why Sai uses the die (which is explained well, by the way) but what I really can't help but notice is just how genuine you're being about his illness. That's something I just can't compliment you enough on.

    The medication only partially kept me stable. I still went off into rages, and a few nights later, I went into one of my worst ones yet. It wasn’t my fault (at least, I didn’t like to think so), but the damage was still the same.

    The pokémon in the cages were particularly restless that night. For some reason, my mother was late in bringing us food, and the water was dirtied from not being refilled as it should have been. I didn’t mind (and apparently neither did Atis), but the pokémon were fretting. If they had to be stuck here as loyal test subjects, then they believed that they should be treated right in every form possible.

    “It’s bad enough that I have to share a home with this goddamn kadabra,” Arbok said. He, too, was in a hateful mood that night.

    “Don’t forget that I can mess up your mind. You should watch what you say,” the kadabra replied in an even voice.

    “If you could do that, then you should have ruined the minds of these scientists long ago and gotten us out of here. You’re useless,” the snake retaliated.

    As their exchanges started to escalate, my mother just happened to come into the basement, a tray of food in hand. She apologized for her lateness, but she had thought of a great idea for me, which only made the pokémon glare in my direction. I shied back into the corner of my cell. She went on, saying that she had wanted to get approval from the boss. It always took a while to be able to talk to the boss. She settled down the pokémon by giving them their food, and then went back upstairs temporarily for the rest. She returned, gave Atis his food, which he thanked her feebly for, and then, before I knew it, she was in my cell, smiling excitedly. I stared at her, expecting her to say that it was time to leave—for good.

    “Sai,” my mother said. “I thought about how else I could help you on your journey. Well, battles are going to play a huge, huge part. And Giovanni won’t let you out to battle on the second floor with everyone else, but he said—” She extended her arms out to show me the room, as if I had never seen it before. “—we could fight in here.”
    Oh, this is not going to go well. This whole situation is clearly a powder keg waiting to blow.

    “In my cell…?” I said stupidly. “That sounds quite a bit dangerous, even for you guys…”

    “You’ll… still be in here,” my mother said regretfully, “but the pokémon will be in the center of the room. It’s big enough. And they know better than to disobey by now,” she added, peering over to the other side of the room. The pokémon didn’t dare look up from their feeding bowls.

    “Okay,” I said simply. “Whatever you think is best. I trust you.”

    “As you always have,” my mother said. “Let’s get started.”

    Once the pokémon were finished eating, she locked me back in and then she took the arbok and the kadabra out of the cells. I silently told myself that the idea of her choosing any other pokémon in the room would be guaranteed if she had heard their scuffling earlier. She brought them out into the middle of the room, and as expected, they were on their best behavior as they obeyed mindlessly. The arbok was placed on my side, and she would be battling with the kadabra. The two pokémon hissed as they stared each other down, and I knew that they weren’t pretending to hate each other.

    “You’ve seen battles before… and you’ve even been in them yourself sometimes,” my mother said quietly. “But it’s an entirely different thing to be controlling the battle. You have to know your pokémon inside and out to be able to predict how they’re going to fight. You have to know their attack specialties, their defensive strategies, and, of course, their moves. Do you understand?”
    I don't see any way that this doesn't end with some horrible incident. Even though Sai already admitted in his narration that such a thing is going to happen, the feeling of dread I have isn't diminished.

    “Yes,” I said simply, as I so often had during previous lessons.

    “Good. I won’t explain much. It’s better for you to learn by doing. I’ll let you go first.”

    It suddenly occurred to me that this was what I would be doing in the real word if I ever got released—no, when I got released. I froze as what seemed like a million emotions welled up in my chest, threatening to make it explode. The thought of making pokémon battle in such a harsh manner, as Team Rocket so often encouraged, was unbelievable to me. I only wanted to make friends with pokémon, to share their hopes and dreams and to have them know mine. But I had to follow the rules. I wasn’t able to get close to pokémon. I had to battle with them and make them strong enough to become a fearful force of Team Rocket. To do anything else would lead to my death…
    Again, similar to N's story with the stakes raised, but not bad. It still works.

    I gulped, pretending that there was something stuck in my throat that was preventing me from speaking. Finally, I said, “I don’t know any of the arbok’s moves.”

    “Then think of standard moves like tackle, scratch, defense curl, and tail whip. Just like I taught you when we went over pokémon basics.”

    “Okay… Arbok, use tackle!” I cried, using the force that my mother had instructed me to use, all that time ago. She said that it was vital to sound like I meant it when I was ordering them around, or they wouldn’t have respect for me or feel the need to listen to me.

    It appeared that I had used the right tone of voice, because the arbok immediately lunged at the kadabra, headfirst and with full power. Or maybe he was just waiting for the command so that he could tear the kadabra apart. Either way, my first command as a pokémon trainer seemed to have worked. There was an odd sense of relief that passed through my body, and I welcomed it wholeheartedly.
    I just realized that this is going to end up being an explanation of why he let the Pokemon battle on their own, which means the circumstances are even more likely to not be happy ones.

    This didn’t last long, however, as the arbok didn’t stop at just a tackle attack. The kadabra flung backward and caught itself before it fell on its back. The arbok darted forward again, and the same scenario repeated itself, except that the snake didn’t allow for the psychic-type to get up. He plopped down on the kadabra’s body and stayed there, watching the pokémon beneath him struggle to get back up.

    “Arbok, get off of him!” I cried, clinging on to the bars, wanting to get closer to help the kadabra out. Apparently, the arbok couldn’t hear me over the kadabra yelling the same thing, because he didn’t appear to hear me. The snake, of course, was more prone to listen to me than its opponent.

    “Kadabra, use psychic! Don’t hold back,” my mother said.

    The kadabra stiffened, holding out the spoon in his hand as he closed his eyes and focused. The arbok was soon enveloped in a bluish light, and he rose up into the air. He tried to lash out at the psychic-type with his teeth without me ordering him to, but it was too late to reach far enough. He went higher and higher into the air, and suddenly, his body started twisting in peculiar ways. The kadabra telekinetically caused the arbok’s tailbone to crack and break, making the snake wail and wail. The mixture of horrible sounds seemed to reverberate in the air.

    “Why are you doing that to him? This is supposed to be a battle!” I cried, my eyes wide and my heart hammering.

    “The kadabra could have easily broken the arbok’s neck instead,” my mother said, entirely unaffected. “We believe that pokémon should, at all times, use their full power… and their full power should be enough to kill another if necessary. If they can’t do that, then they’re useless to us.” She sighed. “I thought you knew this, Sai.”
    I think we just saw the exact point where Sai's faith in his mother broke.

    “I do know that. I did. I just… Bad things should only happen to bad people, like the ones I hurt… These pokémon are good and trapped here for no reason…”

    I let my voice trail off as I had to center my attention to my abruptly shaking body. I tried to make it stop, but found it impossible. My volatile thoughts argued against each other. Some of them said that violence was the answer, while the other half claimed that no, there had to be another way, there just had to be, or life was meaningless. Absolutely meaningless. The sight before me was a blur, and the screaming deafened. I was rolling and rolling around in my head incessantly; I had a front row seat to the end of my world, and there was nothing I could do about it.

    My grasp on the bars in front of me tightened considerably. I was used to my view being obscured by these long, thick pieces of metal that also blocked my freedom. Sometimes they were moved out of the way, but I could never see out of the door long enough to keep myself satisfied for more than a few seconds. And I thought—even if I were to be let out of this place, maybe nothing would ever be enough. Maybe I would never get used to the feeling of sun beating down on the back of my neck. Maybe I would never get over the way that grass can tickle my feet when I’m not wearing shoes. Maybe I would never get over the way it feels to converse about the simple things in life. I missed it so now, and although I wasn’t sure I’d ever get used to the experiences, it could at least be a wonderful time. Better than this. I had to know if things would get better or worse or if they would stay the same. I always wanted to be let go, but the desire to be set free wasn’t something you could just get used to, like catching colds or eating at the same time every day… Yes, it was just as terrible, just as terrifying every time it happened.

    I shook the bars in front of me, trying to make them bend to my will and break, just like the kadabra had done to the arbok, only my actions wouldn’t have been cruel and unnecessary. The bars weren’t living and breathing creatures—or were they? What did I know? All I knew was that they didn’t budge. Instead, I beat at them with my head, but this only reminded me of the nameless man, and I didn’t want to be like him, I really didn’t, so I used my arms and hands and legs instead, and every strike hit with a loud clang, but nothing caused any damage, not even a dent. This only made me angrier. I used my own full force, ignoring the obvious pain that followed. Agony shot through my arms and up to my shoulders, through my legs and down to my feet, but I only kept going. I firmly believed that if I gave up now, then I would never get out. I would be trapped here forever, stuck in my own devious mind, my own spiteful body. I couldn’t deal with that. I just couldn’t.

    “Let me out!” I screamed at my mother. Again and again. She was the only one who could help me. She was the one who had given birth to me, she was the one who had raised me, she was the one who had taught me things that I needed to know. She had done all of this for me, so why couldn’t she let me out? Why was she so powerless in the one area that could help me the most?

    Let me out!

    My arms were forming bruises that would last for weeks, a seemingly everlasting reminder of rage that doesn’t leave.

    Let me out!

    My legs hit a small, sharp section that was protruding from the main bar, which sliced my toes. Blood seeped to the floor, drip by drip, as if that part of my body was crying.

    Let me out!

    I hit and hit, screamed and screamed. My mother was on the other side of the door, trying to soothe me with her calming voice. It didn’t work, for it was obvious that she was scared of me. Otherwise she would have come in and held me, like she always did.

    Let me out!

    I slid to the floor and sobbed and sobbed for a life that I didn’t even know.
    That was utterly terrifying... all I can say, really. I really felt like I was seeing that breakdown through Sai's eyes, and I felt the same things he felt.

    “You say that bad things only happen to bad people?”

    “Yes.”

    “Bad things just happened to you. Are you a bad person?”

    “Yes… I don’t follow the rules that I should. I’m afraid that I won’t be able to when I get out, either.”

    “This isn’t your fault. You’re sick, you know.”
    Is this Dr. Richards here?

    “Uh huh.”

    “You did this, and you don’t think you’re ill?”

    “I never said that I didn’t think I was sick.”

    “Well, you certainly don’t seem to act like there’s anything wrong with you. You act so… normal when you’re around me, it’s hard to believe you’re a patient at all.”
    Okay, yeah, it is. Is he the one who gave Sai the die in the earlier scene?

    I also notice his proverbial bedside manner is not the greatest, but I'd expect no less from a psychiatrist on Team Rocket's payroll.

    I want to love you… whoever you are and whatever that means. I want to eat ice cream on the swing set in the backyard with you and I want you to watch part of the moon say hello to its other half and I want to watch your favorite movies and listen to your favorite songs and eat your favorite foods just to wear your heart and I want to one day stop counting the months, the days, the minutes, the seconds, until I can see you and I want to have someone to talk to when something good or bad or extraordinary or humiliating happens to me and I want you to like your name just because of the way I say it and I want to learn to cook just for you and I want to laugh at stupid jokes until I cry and I want to try to take care of you before I send you to a doctor and I want you to love yourself more than you love me and I want to save you from your senseless fears and and and

    and I want to go on adventures with you and pretend that there’s something left for me to find and I want to hear all about your past life and I want to remember every small detail about you and I want to find any excuse in the world to hold you and touch you and breathe you in and I want to worry about you all the time because I’ll be so scared that I’ll lose you any sooner that I have to and I want to stay up late into the night with you because reality feels okay when I’m with you and and and

    and I want to tell you that you’re perfect again and again and wonder why you don’t believe me and I want to spend my life convincing you that you’re perfect and I want to experience the feeling of doing something you don’t understand for the sake of another and I want to cherish your existence because it gives me hope and I want to dream about all these things I want to do with you and for you and I want them to happen in real life and I want to tell you that dreams really do come true so we can feel young again

    and I want to avoid shame and pain and fear and I want to repress my emotions and I want to beat the social norms I know and I want to fight against coercion and secrecy and I want to receive positive attention and I want to boost my self-confidence and I want to defend myself and I want to reach all of my goals and I want to stop charging toward my death

    and and and

    with this

    and more

    I want to

    somehow

    someway

    show you this

    unbelievable enduring unbreakable everlasting persistent endless captivating overwhelming completing empowering undying love I feel for life.
    I don't know what happened in this part, but I like what you did. If this was Sai having a nervous breakdown, as I suspect it is, you did it extremely well.

    “Come on, Sai,” she said. “We’ve got a few things to do before you go.”

    I nodded. I followed her upstairs, looking at my cell one last time before rounding the corner. It hit me that there was, at least, one good thing about being all the way in the basement for the majority of my life. The realization was this: no matter where I would go from here, I could only go up. Up the stairs and out the door into the world.

    She brought me to the third floor. Walking up the stairs had already put a strain on my legs, and I made a mental note that I would have to build up strength if I really wanted to go on this long journey. I was also able to notice that the scientists had done a decent job at cleaning up the terrible messes that I had left behind as a child. All of the machines looked brand new, and their desks were organized. The floor I saw was the complete epitome of cleanliness. The second floor was the same, though I was brought into an office that I hadn’t known existed. The first thing I noticed was a desk that showed a nametag that said “Melanie Luart” on it.
    I get an ominous feeling from seeing Sai's mother's nametag noted. Could it be that there were some facts we did not know about her?

    “Yes,” she said simply. “Anyway, your ultimate goal is to prepare pokémon for our use, experimental or otherwise. To do this, you must raise them to the best of your abilities. Utilize everything I’ve taught you thus far. Catch pokémon that have the most potential by any means necessary. The pokémon must become as strong as possible, and when you think they’re ready, you must report to us and send them to our laboratory. You are not to become attached to them. This ensures that you won’t betray us. You are not allowed to leave the region or stray too far away from the main route.”
    Not that I dislike it - in fact, it works perfectly - but I don't fully understand how he could avoid becoming attached to the Pokemon.

    “The main route?”

    “Yes. You will start in New Bark Town and go from there. This is where all trainers start their journeys, supposedly... This is where it will be easiest to find pokémon that you can control.”
    Interesting way to set up Sai having to follow the 'traditional' Johto path.

    “You need to clean yourself up before you go. Make yourself look presentable,” she said. She reached into her pockets once more, making me think that she was going to lock me in again. Instead, she pulled out a small sharp device and handed it to me. “This includes shaving,” she added, smirking.

    “How do I do that?”

    “Figure it out. You’re a man now, right?” she said. She left me in the room by myself, alone and confused.
    Okay, yeah, that's pretty careless of her. She doesn't seem to be concerned if Sai accidentally cuts his own face off.

    Of course, I wasn’t interested in making myself presentable. The mirror and the image of myself that I hadn’t seen in years mesmerized me instead. I leaned in over the sink, taking a look at my face. Noticing my dark blue eyes first, I couldn’t help but think that they looked rather intimidating. They were eyes that were accustomed to the dark. They were accustomed to the same old views, and now they were seeing something new. There was a spark inside of them that I had never seen anywhere else. I wondered if they would change at all over the course of my journey.

    I also wondered when I had changed so much otherwise. When had my hair turned black? Had it always been black? I thought I had seen the little boy in the picture have brown hair, but now I was not so sure. Seeing myself all at once threw me off guard. And how old was I now, anyway? I still had a young face with soft skin and all, aside from the stubble that covered the bottom half... Well, I wasn’t about to ask. The answer would only tell me how many years I had lost.

    I stared at myself for so long that it suddenly hit me that I was wasting time already, just like they didn’t want me to. After quickly taking a shower (and after not wanting to leave the relieving warm water it offered), I tried shaving, as my mother requested. For the most part I succeeded, but there were clear cuts that I made in the process that made me bleed slightly. I brushed the blood away, wondering if I was making myself look worse or better.
    I'm surprised Sai did that well shaving.

    The elaboration on his seeing his reflection is pretty unsettling to read. His comment on the hair color he thought he had in the photo almost makes me wonder if it wasn't him.

    My mother’s demeanor quickly changed. She tensed up and said, “Your father would be proud, you know. He always said he would be proud, no matter what happened.”

    “It was as if you both knew this was going to happen,” I mumbled.

    “I didn’t. I never meant for this to happen,” she said. She wouldn’t look at me.

    “I believe you,” I said anyway.

    “Do you?” she said.
    I don't. I really have my reservations about believing her.

    “You’re the one who brought up the idea in the first place. That means you thought about it... and probably for a very long time. But under the circumstances at which you brought it up, yeah... I guess I believe you.”

    After a few moments of silence, she said, “Sai. Your name is like a weapon. Intelligently sharp, and very powerful. I know you can deal with whatever is thrown at you.”

    That was something I couldn’t believe right away. It would take time to create that kind of thought within myself. Still, I trusted her words and nodded, but kept my disbelief silent. For it was not a prison of stone and metal that I feared, but one built of words and promises.
    Probably a wise fear to have in his situation.

    As instructed, I made my way to New Bark Town. I had to first travel through the cave on the east end of Mahogany Town and everything from there was just a matter of going south. My mother had warned me that this method was the fastest, but also the most dangerous. There were more powerful wild pokémon in the nearby ice cavern and the next city, but it would quickly level off once I reached a certain point, she said. That was fine with me. I was determined to get myself started as soon as possible; I had already wasted enough time. If I ran into a wild pokémon, I simply fled or fought it myself. It was only difficult for a while because my body wasn’t accustomed to fighting actual opponents. Eventually, though, I was able to stand my ground. A few pokémon even helped me out along the way and offered to come with me, but I had to decline their offer. Accepting would have meant breaking the rules too soon.
    Oh, now I get why he fought with Senori when they first met.

    The ice cavern was cold and the nights were cold, but nothing could have prepared me for the chilling experience that I had when I met Senori. When I found him, my body seemed to freeze up immediately, and I had no idea what to do. He was just walking around aimlessly, maybe looking for something to eat. I knew that he was the right one because he was alone. His eyes told me that he was missing someone because he had seen terrible things, just like the pokémon in my vision had. He was the one, and I had to capture him... somehow.

    It dawned on me that I didn’t have any pokéballs. No... On my way to the outskirts of New Bark Town, I hadn’t tried to go into another city and communicate with anyone. Not only did I want to get to my destination as quickly as possible, but also I wasn’t sure if I could talk to someone else without messing up. It was better to wait. In addition, it was better to start off with a bad impression. I wasn’t allowed to get close to my pokémon, after all. And that was why I attacked Senori when he was powerless—he would then dislike me from the start, and it was my only option in terms of catching pokémon, anyway. I forced him to join me with sharp words, like my mother would do.
    But, as I said earlier, his methods of trying to get his Pokemon to dislike him clearly didn't fully work in the end. Is that something that I am correct to notice?

    “I don’t care what anyone’s called you. Your name is Senori,” I had said, trying to sound confident. Inside, I was regretful, but there was no way I could let it show.

    My confidence only became somewhat founded when I started my tradition of asking the pokémon to roll the die that the doctor had given me way back when. Was I really expecting the die to prove to Senori that he was meant to be my first pokémon? Half of me was hoping, and the other half was overcome by intuition. When the die showed a single dot after it was rolled, my beliefs were confirmed in my mind and apparently in Senori’s.
    I have to say, I really, really love the use of the die even more than ever now that we know the story behind it. Little quirks like that are just great.

    “I’m going to take care of you,” he had said.

    And so he did. He took me to New Bark Town and told me how all trainers begin their pokémon journeys. While he scolded me at the same time, I looked for one out of many for the pokémon that was destined to join me next, at the proper starting point. I watched the totodile, cyndaquil and chikorita through the gates nearby. I only told Senori that no one stuck out to me in order to buy time. In truth, Kuiora stuck out to me immediately. During the training sessions, it was clear to me that she was fierce so she could get what she wanted. She was the strongest mostly because she wanted to be the strongest. Outside of that, though, she was gentle, and when I overheard Professor Elm talking to her, I discovered her love for legendary pokémon. She instantly reminded me of the Kuiora I had known before, so I took her in. Lying to Professor Elm about my origins was surprisingly easy, but it made me paranoid that perhaps the police would come after me as well if I did something wrong. This journey was definitely going to keep me on my toes.

    Next came Atis. Senori had told me about the journey that all trainers take, the one to get the gym badges. I assumed that this was what my mother wanted me to do because the gyms went in a certain order, just like the cities, and the badges proved just how strong you were. Atis was my first step into the real adventure. I stepped into the pokémon school out of curiosity, but then swiftly realized that it was to recruit my third pokémon. His quiet demeanor was too obvious for his own good. Standing at the back of the classroom, his eyes showed an odd mixture of boredom and terror. His reaction to me told me he didn’t want to be here, so I took him away even though he already had a trainer.

    Meeting Atis was important not only because he was already evolved and powerful, but also because he set some ground rules for my journey. Falkner told me that I should set up appointments with gym leaders in order to not disturb them like I had with him. And during the actual battle, I remained on the sidelines and let him do whatever it is that he did during combat. My guise told the others that I just wanted to learn more about his strategy, but I knew otherwise. I stayed silent, unsure of what attacks to call out, and because I was afraid of calling out the wrong move, just as I had done during my personal training. We won—he won—and so it all began.
    The backgrounds of each of the Pokemon are very well detailed, and again, that's an excellent thing. Usually that's not something a lot of authors pay much attention to.

    I see my guess about why Sai didn't give orders during battle was correct.

    The fear eventually dissipated. My moods quickly escalated once we hit Azalea Town after a few restless nights of sleep at the cave. I wanted to meet everyone and do everything at once because I couldn’t focus on a single thing. My speech was fast and I suddenly had an endless amount of energy. There was nothing in the world that could stop me. That was why I asked to visit Sasha in her home even though she suggested that she didn’t want me to come. I wanted her to be my friend because she accepted me despite being reluctant. Her being Marty’s sister was an unfortunate coincidence, but I wouldn’t know it until later.

    In the midst of my mania (which was supposedly the term for these high moods I got), I recklessly started spending money on random things. I bought everything in sight, everything except medicine, because none of my medicine in the past ever did anything good for me. I even bought my pokémon t-shirts, which wasn’t so random, because it made me feel closer to them. I didn’t care about any consequences at the time because I was invincible... even at the hands of Team Rocket!

    It wasn’t long, however, before this high energy changed into bouts of anger. I yelled at Atis and threw things at him simply because he suggested that we stay in Azalea Town longer than I originally wanted. I was angry because I wanted to stay, too, but I couldn’t. He knew nothing of my situation, and for that I despised him in that moment and acted in the only way I knew how.
    Another very good depiction of what someone with bipolar disorder can go through.

    That night, I couldn’t sleep. I couldn’t stop thinking about Atis and how I had so blatantly hurt him. In spite of everything, I wanted to stay. I wanted to be closer to my pokémon. The only good thing about my outburst was that it made him hate me more, but that was only desirable to people who were far away. I had to do something, anything to distract myself. I went into the Azalea Town well and caught as many magikarp as I could. I intentionally caught pokémon that weren’t meant to be on my team so they could be my friends, but I quickly dispelled this notion and released them later on to people who could take care of them better that I ever could. When I was manic, my desires and feelings changed just as quickly as they came.
    Well then, I didn't expect for those Magikarp to be mentioned again.

    When Marty saw the violent exchange and then challenged me to a battle, I wasn’t really surprised. I knew that he would try to work against me somehow. He wanted to prove that he was the better trainer and make my pokémon leave me. I agreed to the battle, thinking that I wasn’t going to let them leave regardless of whether or not they wanted to. I would convince them to stay just like I convinced them to come with me at all. I was surprised, however, when I didn’t have to do anything of the sort. They chose to stay. I was secretly glad, but this meant that none of my defenses were working. Somewhere along the line, I had let my guard down and had let them in.
    That's like what I pointed out earlier. The conflict in Sai's character, specifically regarding his goal to not bond with his Pokemon only to find himself doing so anyway, is very intriguing.

    Suddenly, another miracle happened: Rennio showed up. At that point, he was nameless to me, since I hadn’t learned the name of the final man in the cell. He seemed so young, so eager to grow, but something was stopping him. He gave off the anxious impression that he was scared to stay in Ilex Forest for too long, like the other man who wouldn’t accept imprisonment. He wanted to go somewhere, anywhere better. I offered to take him with me, so that things would be better for him—for a time, anyway.

    Ezrem showed up, too, but I didn’t need him. I didn’t want to seem cruel, but he was just so persistent. There just wasn’t any room on the team. He didn’t belong. Since no one else was in the cells during my time there, I believed my team was complete, even though my mother told me the most pokémon I could have was six at a time. I simply said no, and expected my answer to be final. Still, I let him follow us for Rennio’s sake. If I wasn’t going to be the source of the comfort he needed, then someone else would have to take that role.
    Sai's refusal to officially take in Ezrem makes a lot more sense now.

    Despite these two positive events happening in a row, I suddenly fell into a depression, as I so often did after being manic. I believed the trigger was Marty telling me that Sasha would never want to be my friend or travel with me because I wasn’t a suitable companion. To have this confirmed to me by another person dispirited me to the point where I was miserable all the time and had no energy to travel any further. As a result, we ended up staying in Goldenrod City longer than intended. I ended up saying yes to Atis when he wanted to show me around the city instead of insisting that we should battle the gym leader and move on. Notably, there was a pocketknife I picked up at the large department store. When I saw it, I immediately thought of my mother and her love of weapons of any kind, be it a pokémon weapon or a handheld weapon. Turning it over in my hand, I decided that it would be perfect for her, and it was also then that I realized I would probably have to face her again someday, after everything was over.
    That's what the knife was building toward? Certainly not what I expected...

    Keeping the pocketknife, however, was a terrible reminder of the rules that she had given me. Never become close to your pokémon, she said... to ensure that I wouldn’t betray the team. But Atis was clearly telling me he wanted to get to know me better. He wanted to spend more time with me. When I let him write whatever secret he wanted on my back, I felt that it was etched into me like a tattoo or whatever those markings are called. I knew that I would have to fight the urge to look at what it was, but I let him do it anyway. It would disappear in the shower eventually and ruin any chances of me finding out, at least, but for the time being, I settled on rubbing myself there when I couldn’t sleep to remind myself that Atis was real.
    That part with Atis certainly does hurt pretty badly now...
    Last edited by The Great Butler; 14th May 2013 at 8:39 AM.

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  10. #210
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    Quote Originally Posted by diamondpearl876 View Post
    Time went on and revealed more events that I didn’t want to have to experience. The scene at the radio tower had told me that Team Rocket was lurking around for whatever reason. Automatically I assumed that they were after me. They had caught on to all of my misdeeds and were ready to take me back to my prison. I had to do something quick to make up for it. My choice: I had to make Rennio fight, despite his fear of battles. If it were up to me, I wouldn’t have made him do it, but it was up to people who were much more powerful. When we lost to Whitney, my intention wasn’t to leave my pokémon behind for days at a time. I only wanted to leave and find a safe hiding spot for us to go to as quickly as possible. Before I could find any suitable location, however, I had already been confronted by a Team Rocket grunt who was instructed to come to me and bring me back to Mahogany Town for “rehabilitation.”

    When I found out what this “rehabilitation” was, it seemed unnecessary for me to go all the way back to Mahogany Town, but others apparently differed in opinion. The rehabilitation involved me being in my cell once more while being asked to take my medication. This time I was forced by Dr. Richards to do so. He called me out on not taking it, saying it was fairly obvious when someone stopped. I had no choice but to give in to him. He would check my mouth after every swallow to make sure that the pills were actually gone, and then he would leave me alone with my thoughts.
    Wait... that was where Sai went?

    I don't even know why I failed to question the lack of explanation for that before this, but good job filling in an opening I didn't even realize was there.

    Soon enough I was starting to feel manic again. I couldn’t sit still and I couldn’t think about my pokémon’s whereabouts and conditions anymore without my mind wandering off somewhere else. I asked him why this happened because the goal of medication, I thought, was to keep me stable, not to make me go up and down. He explained to me slowly that Giovanni had paid him money to give me antidepressants instead of mood stabilizers in order to keep my moods “high” and energized for proper travel. Supposedly I was more active and successful during these times in my journey.

    “So they’ve been watching me the entire time,” I said bluntly.

    “Yes... and they’ll continue to do so. I’m sorry.”
    No you aren't, Richards. I knew this guy was bad news.

    I have to give you major points for pulling this off successfully, though. It would be very, very easy to slip into writing a storyline about a bipolar character who is effectively committed and drugged by a villain for exploitative purposes in an offensive way. You don't fall into that.

    But I quickly ran into a problem: Sasha. I had another choice to make when she confronted me about taking my pokémon to the fan club. Either I could say no and insist on going to the gym in order to not waste time or I could go with my own instincts, my own desires of wanting to be her friend. Despite everything, I went with the latter. I just didn’t have the heart to say no, and it was only for a few hours, anyway...

    Seeing Senori evolve into a furret at the Goldenrod City rematch was worth it. It was a proud moment for both of us. He looked as if he were finally letting go of his past somehow, as his new movements were much lighter, much less tense. And to see my very first pokémon come so far in such a short amount of time made all of the exhaustion and pain I had gone through thus far seem like nothing compared to the joy I felt when I was with them. When Senori came to me that night with my antidepressant bottle in hand, asking me to stay with them, I felt like a true trainer for the very first time.
    All these little moments where it's clear he bonded with his Pokemon are just so painful to be reminded of now that I know about the truth of Sai's backgrounds and what the Survival Project actually was.

    Things got worse. That day, Atis told me that he wanted to leave the team. I understood and didn’t question him at all. After the Ezrem ordeal was settled, I tried to celebrate one last day to make Atis happy, and also to try to get him to stay. I couldn’t come up with anything that would convince him. I couldn’t even convince myself of wanting to stay. Only the evil thought of turning him in swayed in my mind. In a way, it was perfect timing. I hadn’t meant to deceive him... but I couldn’t let him go. If I had let him go, I was risking more suffering on my part. It was selfish, I admit. When I watched him faint in front of me, the disbelief in his eyes ripped into me. I felt sick myself. I could only hope that my promise to miss him every day had rung true in his mind.

    It felt unnatural, but I cried all night. My pokémon tried to comfort me despite their own sadness, but there was no way I could tell them what I had done. They would all leave me and know me for the terrible person that I was. I couldn’t afford any more mistakes now. Anything else would have let Atis’s sacrifice be in vain... but when had I ever been known to stick to the rules? When had I ever not followed my own intuition? Never. I just didn’t have it in me. My adventure without Atis didn’t last long at all. When no one wanted to fight for me versus Morty, it reminded me of Atis and his introverted self. When Senori couldn’t attack the ghosts, it reminded me of Atis’s knowledge of the world that surpassed my own. My team was falling apart because it wasn’t just me that could hold the team together. We all held the team together in our own way, and the absence of one of us was showing.

    I panicked. I wailed. I screamed random obscenities because I was so very tired of keeping quiet about all of my lies, all of my secrets. I didn’t know how much I was revealing, but I didn’t care. The only thing I cared about was getting to Atis as soon as possible, before he became an experiment of Team Rocket’s, like I had been. He was a special pokémon, just as I was a special child... but his situation could be handled much more effectively. Something else could be done—or so I hoped.
    Oh no... I guess the answer to that "something else could be done" is that something else couldn't be done. I feel it coming.

    Thanks to the map that my mother had given me, I knew exactly how to get back to Mahogany Town. Coincidentally, there was a cave to the right of Ecruteak City that led me directly there. I didn’t stop to rest until I got there, even when my limbs felt like they were about to break down from fighting so many wild zubats and geodudes. I didn’t sleep or even hesitate a moment before running back into the laboratory that offered so many unfavorable memories to me.

    Inside, I violently grabbed the first person that I came into contact with by the scruff of his collar and yelled, “Where’s my mother? Where is Atis?”

    “I-I don’t know any Atis…” he stammered, dropping the papers that were in his hand.

    “Where’s my mother, then? Where’s Melanie Luart?”

    “Sai…? W-What are you—”

    “Where is she?!” I said more fiercely, gripping more tightly onto his uniform to make a point. He was making small talk, and it was unacceptable to me.

    “Last I heard, she was going to train and—”

    I let him go, not needing to hear anything else. There were only two training locations in the entire place, and whichever one she was in, I knew that she—and Atis—weren’t too far from me anymore. I scrambled up the stairs in the corner, causing two more scientists to make a mess with the materials in their hand. I didn’t even stop to apologize, for I felt I had no reason to and I was in a rush. My head felt like it was going to explode at any moment if I didn’t see that Atis was somewhere in this building, safe. Not locked up or bruised or bleeding.
    Can't blame him for his reaction here, especially after what happened to that Arbok.

    It seemed that, for once, there was one good thing about living in this place for so long. Despite being locked up for years, everyone recognized me. Everyone knew who I was and no one questioned my presence. There were no alarmed shouts about an intruder, so I could go wherever I wanted. They all chose to ignore the wild fire of tears that was undoubtedly falling down my face.

    I ran up the next set of stairs, to the second floor, to the first set of training grounds. My gaze shifted from one person to another, from one pokémon to another, but neither my mother nor Atis were there. They all stopped to stare at me, even the pokémon who were in the middle of attacks. I panted for a moment before sprinting once more. I crossed the middle of the arena to save time, despite the fact that I might have been hit. It reminded me of the time when I was a child and would purposely do this, but I had grown up now. Couldn’t anyone see that? Couldn’t anyone see that I was as normal as I would ever be?

    I went up and up and up, to the roof. That was the only other place they could be now that I knew the second floor wasn’t where I needed to be. Please be there, I thought. Please be there. I didn’t want to have to hurt anyone else just trying to find them. But at last, I did find them. Thankfully, I found only the two of them. No other pokémon—no other signs of harm—were present. The only bad sign was that my mother was standing next to Atis. She was too close, too close.

    She looked at me in disbelief. “Sai?” she said. “What are you doing here?”

    “You know exactly what I’m here for,” I said, motioning toward the fighting-type. Atis was also staring me down, but I couldn’t tell if he was glad or disappointed. It was times like these where I wished that he was easier to read.

    “Hmm…” my mother said. “This pokémon is no longer yours. The moment we took him away, he was the property of Team Rocket.”

    “But I’m… I’m part of Team Rocket, too!” I said, the words leaving a foul taste in my mouth. It was the first time admitting this in my entire life, and I could only wonder if I would regret it after all was said and done.

    “You’re not part of this group. You’re… an experiment yourself—”
    I want to believe that Melanie is having trouble saying this and does not actually believe it, but the feeling that she actually does feel this way is overwhelming me.

    “Don’t remind me,” I said, gritting my teeth. “I’m a toy, I know. Don’t I have a say in anything, too? What about the others? Where are they right now?”

    “The others? Well, we followed them for a short amount of time…” she said, shifting her gaze away from me and lowering her voice.

    “What are you saying?”

    “They’re dead, Sai. They’re all dead. Killed by pokémon, suicide, murdered… You name it, and it probably happened.”
    And I don't feel much remorse from her about this. The only thing surprising to me is that they weren't experimented on to death and instead died outside.

    I bit my lip. “I just want Atis back. I’ll do anything you ask.”

    “You say that, but you haven’t done much of what I asked of you before you left.”

    “I… I mean it this time. Do whatever you want to me, but let Atis go.”

    “I can’t do that, Sai. Pokémon are more than beneficial to us. You know this.” She paused. “It looks like you have friends that are here to see you.”

    “Mother, please—”

    I cut myself off. Confused, I turned around to see Senori and the rest of the group close behind him. I gaped at them, wanting to shout at how crazy they were, how they should be far, far away from here and why did they come here anyway? How did they know where I was?

    My mother went on, talking about how I had such loyal pokémon now… She said I was still lonely… Was I lonely? Yes, I felt lonely in the sense that no one knew what I was up against in my life… but of course I didn’t want to give her the pleasure of knowing that. I yelled, this time being random, I just want Atis back, you told me things would get better and they never did, they never did, I won’t follow your rules because you lied to me. You lied to me!

    But she knew where to get me most.

    “…And then you will never see the light of day again...”
    Yeah, consider any hope I had for her redemption gone. I have to give you points for getting me to think she could be redeemed for so long, though.

    Also, I want to point out that by this point, I feel like this chapter should have had extra trigger warnings for mental illness and abuse at the beginning. Some of this, for example this part here, can be extremely triggering to certain people. I don't fault you for it because I think it was just an honest oversight, but do try to be a little more attentive.

    I wanted life. I wanted freedom. When she brought up the idea of me dying, I remembered the others and how they were gone now, and I fumbled with my pants until I found the pocketknife that I had bought at the Goldenrod City department store. I held it out threateningly toward her. It was the only weapon I had left, if words weren’t going to work and if my pokémon were going to leave me after what they were seeing.

    “Are you going to hurt me, Sai? Just as I’ve supposedly hurt you?” she asked.
    I wish he would, she deserves it.

    I have a feeling I know where this is going to head, though.

    Admittedly, I wasn’t sure what my intentions were. I just wanted to seem like a scary person, just as everyone else seemed to me. I almost didn’t believe it when she put her hands up in surrender and let Atis flee over to the rest of us. Atis ran right past me, as expected, and started mumbling things to Senori that my mind couldn’t properly process. I could only focus on my mother’s words, which hurt me more than any damage the knife could ever do.

    “I’m done listening to you,” I said, and it was the most confident thing I had said during the whole conversation.

    “…Then you will pay for it.”

    I watched as my mother reached behind her and pulled out a few pokéballs off of her belt and extended them toward me. “A pokémon battle,” she said. “If you win, I will see to it that you are allowed to leave this town and leave this project. If you lose… you must subject yourself to us once more, or choose death. It’s up to you.”
    I have to admit, I feel like after how everything else in this story was different from the norm, having the central conflict end up staked on the outcome of a Pokemon battle feels like a little bit of a letdown. It does fit in the narrative, but I feel like I lost a little of the tension.

    I stayed silent for a moment, unmoving, thinking through the proposal. How could I beat her, a trainer of many years? I had little experience in battling. I had done little actual training with my pokémon. Having three badges couldn’t be enough—and I didn’t even have the badges to prove my strength. They were lost. It felt like I myself had already lost. And would my pokémon fight for me, anyway?

    Slowly, I put my arm down, and I put the knife back into my pocket.

    “Unlike some people… I am not a torturer. I am not a killer.” I sighed. “I agree to your challenge, but only under fair one-on-one conditions. I also won’t be forcing any of my pokémon to actually fight. If they choose to leave me alone in this battle, then so be it.”

    I turned to face my team. They looked up me with such innocent, questioning eyes. I smiled as best as I could and kneeled down so I could look at them directly.

    “I’m sorry I left again,” I started. “I had to find Atis, but I didn’t want to put you guys in any danger. I hope you understand, but if you don’t… it’s okay. If you don’t want to fight for me right now, that’s okay too.” I extended my hand out toward Atis gently. He flinched slightly at my touch, but he let me pet him on the side of his head for a few moments. It was all I needed. I had intended to tell them everything after the incident was over, no matter what happened, but the touch felt so final, so conclusive, that I explained everything in that moment: that I was mentally sick and I had been imprisoned for it. My goal as a Team Rocket experiment was to train pokémon for usage in battles and other projects better than any normal person ever could. I told them everything and I was out of breath by the time I was done. I shook my head and repeated that they didn’t have to fight for me.
    Now this feels more in line with what went on in the story. This just feels so genuine that it even touched me a little.

    I didn’t wait to see their reactions. I didn’t think I could handle it. I simply stood up and turned to face my mother, saying I was ready, and that whoever wanted to fight could step forward.

    “If you’re ready, then let’s begin,” my mother said, tossing a pokéball into the air. Out popped a small lizard pokémon whose tail lit brightly with fire. The orange creature let out a fierce growl, saying it was ready to go. It was my mother’s first pokémon, a charmander from the Kanto region, and it didn’t seem to recognize me. To go from playing with this pokémon as a child to fighting in a life or death battle seemed beyond surreal to me.

    I held my breath and waited for the inevitable, my mind reeling with words of false persuasion and comfort. I knew in my heart that not a single pokémon was going to step forward. They had no good reason to defend me anymore, and I wouldn’t blame them for leaving. But Rennio—Rennio, out of all of them—stood in front of me and faced the fire-type pokémon in front of him.
    ...Rennio?

    Now THAT was a true surprise. I would have expected Senori or Kuiora, or even Atis, due to the symbolism each of them would have represented. Rennio is a true surprise.

    “Are you sure this is what you want, Rennio?” I asked quietly.

    He turned his head to me and nodded. Though he was frowning, I could tell his reaction was sincere.

    “All right,” I said. “I won’t be commanding this battle… as usual. Everything is up to you.”

    Again, he nodded. And then it began.

    I would like to say that everything that happened next was by my own design. I would like to say that I watched Rennio battle and cheered him on like any normal trainer would. But I was manic from before, and now I was also depressed from everything that had happened. When you’re manic and depressed at the same time you can only keep yourself occupied on a single thought or situation for a few seconds before you succumb to something worse. The battle, then, was sporadic for me, and I only thanked myself enough to have found the strength, courage, and the time to be able to explain everything to my pokémon before the end of it all.

    Come on, self. Keep me on my toes. Keep me in the know. But I couldn’t do it. Rennio shocked the charmander and the charmander retaliated with a tackle and then my thoughts turned to death. It was all over for me. I didn’t raise my pokémon well enough. I was a failure of a trainer, just as Marty had deemed me to be. He should have taken everyone away while he still had the chance.

    Team Rocket should have executed me when they had the chance, all those years ago. I should have been a different experiment, one with cords and machinery and a bunch of paperwork filled with invaluable information. The white cords would have been happy cords and the black cords would have been sad cords and they would have hooked up to me simultaneously, sending me back and forth between the two extreme emotions that constantly pervaded my life. Because that’s what life was to me. It’s all a game, it’s all a game. It’s all a joke, a fraud…

    Rennio was swinging the charmander around by the tail, an otherwise amusing sight. The charmander smashed into the wall. At this point, Kuiora asked to switch in, since her water attacks were much more effective. There’s another one on my team. Two out of five. Why are my pokémon here, anyway? Is that Ezrem cheering Kuiora on? Three out of five. My god, they’re raising hell. They’re raising hell to give to me what they already gave to me once—a chance at independence and happiness. They can’t do it again. It’s too late for me.
    And there's another surprise - that the other Pokemon are joining in one at a time. I truly wasn't expecting that.

    Unfortunately, Sai's breakdown here feels final, and it may truly be too late to stop it now.

    It’s okay. If I don’t make it, someone else will. A normal person, maybe? It has to be a normal person. Everyone else is dead. All they had ever been was dead. But I believe one of my kind will prevail someway, somewhere. We’re special, after all. Kuiora, when did you get so strong? I didn’t train you at all like I should have. You did all this for me? Stop raising hell already. It’s too late for me.
    I should point out that I like how you're having the battle play out in the background.

    I couldn’t sit still anymore. I started making my way around the edges of the battleground, watching them as intently as I could, which doesn’t say much. Kuiora took down the charmander, as expected. She’ll be happy to know that my mother is a fire-type pokémon trainer. My mother sent out her ninetales next. I remember it being a young vulpix. Why hadn’t Charmander evolved? Is my mother threatening me again? If you mistreat a ninetales, she’s saying, you can be cursed. Do I want my pokémon to be cursed? I’ll take the curse for them. But you’re already cursed enough as it is, the ninetales said…

    Unbelievable. I was cursed with depression and mania. Depression is needing all day tomorrow to recover from today and mania is needing all day today to prepare for the invincible tomorrow. It’s a vicious cycle. It doesn’t end. Because of my medication I hardly have had any periods of normalcy. I don’t know what it means to be stable, but my pokémon do. That’s why Atis just ran into the middle of the battle to make Kuiora save the rest of her strength for what was to come. Four out of five. That leaves Senori. Senori? What do you think of me? …What do I think of myself?
    Senori last... that might be the biggest surprise of this battle yet.

    The ordeal Sai is experiencing at this point is so raw and real that I once again feel like I'm in his shoes.

    Well, how can your mind get this messed up? How can you be so clueless, so lost? How can you be so lonely that you don’t even like yourself for company?

    How could you not?

    I tried to give my love to the world. The world didn’t seem to want it. The only constant I have ever had in my life is my mood swings and air. Air has kept me alive and breathing and together with my pokémon. It has been with me in the cells, in my dreams, in my lungs.

    It would be the perfect way to go. …And I was in the perfect position to go.

    The ninetales was defeated. Was I winning or was I losing? I wasn’t even part of the battle anymore. Maybe I never was to begin with. I really can’t get over this pokémon training thing. I wanted it for so long and I never even grew accustomed to it. I liked the feeling of learning and having my pokémon teach me instead. I liked not being expected to know everything. Tell me, Senori, that I’ll never get used to this—this so-called form of living. The unknowing and uncertainty will come to me and I will always be ever so inviting.

    Senori was the last one. He was the only one I had any hope of getting help from, and he was last. He was last! This told me something, but I couldn’t figure out what. My mother has six pokémon, and I only have four usable pokémon. We are overwhelmed, no matter what my furret does. It’s too late for me.

    I backtracked to the edge of the building. This way I could see not only my pokémon but also my mother and my opponent. I felt like I was watching a show that I had no part of. I was completely dissociated from myself. My only thought: I was already gone. No matter how much I wanted to live, the idea of death and death itself were overtaking me. Even if I won the battle, I would never get better. I would forever be sick. If I lost… Well, then I was even more gone. Either way, I was dead. Who is dead? I’m dead.

    It’s such a shame that I’m drowning in my goddamn shame.

    …I always wanted to see myself become a better person. I wanted to see Senori stop having to worry about me all the time. I wanted to see Kuiora evolve into her final form and fulfill her dreams. I wanted to hear Atis smile so much that I forgot his normal scared voice. I wanted to continue watching Rennio learn to fight again and I wanted to feed him… whatever that meant. I wanted to see Ezrem through his old trainer’s eyes.

    It never once occurred to me that any of these things could still have happened.

    I might have begged for help, once upon a time… but I didn’t.

    I jumped.
    I thought he was going to stab himself, but probably only because I didn't realize they were actually on a roof (I thought they were on the top floor, but still enclosed.) But either way, it was clear quite well in advance that he was going to kill himself.

    I'm not sure what I can say that I haven't said already. This chapter was an ordeal to read because of how dark it got, fitting of the first (and probably only) Sai-centric chapter. Everything made perfect sense, though, and I have to say that I truly am in awe of how well you structured the facts presented here with the things that happened earlier in the narrative.

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  11. #211
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    I don't know if I've reviewed this before, but I've read the entire thing and it is amazing! Keep it up. Also I think I can guess whats going to happen:
        Spoiler:- !!:

  12. #212
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    that's one hell of an update
    >having a sig

  13. #213
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    Quote Originally Posted by The Great Butler View Post
    ...Wait, that... does that actually say Sai?
    That alone would have me nervous, but the quote combined with it just makes it even more chilling. There's a certain sense of finality now that a Sai chapter has finally happened.
    I’m glad you pointed out that quote, I was hoping it’d do something for someone.
    Is it correct to assume this France is the real-life France (thus meaning this story takes place under the "the regions exist within the real world" theory) as opposed to an assumption of the France-like region that Generation 6 will take place in?
    You are correct.
    Somehow, even though this is the first time we're getting Sai's story in such detail, I feel like I can definitely see the beginnings of his behavior from previous chapters here. The last sentence, though, is a little confusing. Could you clarify its meaning a bit more?
    It was oddly worded, I guess. It basically means “No one could stop me, not even myself.”
    If I may, I think that if Sai had been seen drawing such a picture or had one of them on himself in a previous chapter, it might have made for a nice teaser that wouldn't have given too much away.
    I agree. That part wasn’t very planned out.
    So Sai actually has killed people before?
    Yes.
    I have to admit, it feels to me that this is a bit of a jump for Giovanni to just immediately decide he wants Sai executed. I can think of other ways he could have this problem taken care of that might give Team Rocket benefit as well, although, I can also see the narrative value in doing it this way.
    I’m not sure what other things he could have done?
    Sai is noticeably perceptive for his age, I notice. Also, color me surprised that Giovanni didn't simply kill him right there and then. I guess there is some sense of nobility, in some twisted way.
    His, uh, illness makes him perceptive, I would say.
    This is like N's story, but somehow even worse. They put him in a cage?



    So it's more of a jail cell than a cage? At least that's a little less horrifying...
    Lol, not really.
    I have to admit, that bit about the languages came a bit out of nowhere. I feel like it would have been better to introduce that detail earlier.
    Sorry about that.
    Is Sai being sarcastic here? I ask because he seemed reluctant to say anything just a couple lines before claiming to be willing to tell the story.
    Yes, it was supposed to be in italics to show sarcasm but I forgot to change it.
    And I can only imagine how much homework you did to get this. Thank you for treating it seriously.
    Of course.
    Quote Originally Posted by Sidewinder View Post
    Did you know that? Or did you research it?
    Research.
    Is it me, or is that the first time Ezrem has said something like that? I'm so used to him being so annoyingly self-centered and awful that that took me off guard
    He has his moments.
    Hmm, the word 'cheap' rings wrong with me for some reason. I feel that anything that Sai gives Atis will mean so much to him, and the wording just doesn't fit right with the situation to me.
    That makes sense. Sorry about that.
    I'm not going to quote any portion in particular with those first four or five paragraphs, but that sequence as a whole was just fantastic. Lol, I created a doc and saved it just because I couldn't get enough of it. Just wonderfully done all in all. The way you blended the stories together to show the different aspects of her relationship was just so completely awesome. My hat is off to you, mam
    You are too sweet, my dear.
    Kuiora's kinda psuedo depression was an interesting change of pace as well, as I'm not used to her being so gung-ho about not battling. The thing that really got to me this chapter though was the emotion from Sai; it was pretty gripping. Not only that, but his little exclamation about being upset with what he did with Atis really got my blood pumping. Nicely done.
    Everyone’s changing, eh?
    Lol, he'd be easy to find on that basis haha. I'm loving these little whip smart comedy snippets you're putting in
    Gotta do something to lighten up the scene.
    You really ****ing pulled out all the stops on this one, didn't you? From my drunken haze last night of reading the chapter you posted yesterday, I do remember several things that play into this one, but a lot of it I still can't remember and you pulled this chapter off really well. I had a feeling that you would drop a bombshell like this on us all at once one day, but I still wasn't prepared. Sorry for my absence of late, but I almost really preferred to read four at once and get all this stuff in rapidly without having to wait for updates. Awesome job pair, I'm impressed
    Not a problem. I don’t think I dropped enough bombshells.
    Quote Originally Posted by The Great Butler View Post
    Hmm, I wonder about this. I think I would have liked to see more memory issues from Sai during the story, unless he recovered from his memory loss between this point and the events in the story.
    The memory loss is shown in how he can’t remember how to battle. He doesn’t know which types work against what or what he should do to command his pokémon.
    I'm a bit confused as to who is conversing with Sai here, but now that the die has been explained as well, I'm really feeling like the story is coming to a close. I'm enjoying this so, so much right now.
    All those conversations in dialogue only (no narration present) is with the doctor.
    I know I should be focusing on the full explanation of why Sai uses the die (which is explained well, by the way) but what I really can't help but notice is just how genuine you're being about his illness. That's something I just can't compliment you enough on.
    It comes from experience.
    I don't know what happened in this part, but I like what you did. If this was Sai having a nervous breakdown, as I suspect it is, you did it extremely well.
    It was a nervous breakdown/stream of consciousness thing, yes.
    Not that I dislike it - in fact, it works perfectly - but I don't fully understand how he could avoid becoming attached to the Pokemon.
    Wishful thinking on Team Rocket’s part.

    But, as I said earlier, his methods of trying to get his Pokemon to dislike him clearly didn't fully work in the end. Is that something that I am correct to notice?
    Very correct.
    Well then, I didn't expect for those Magikarp to be mentioned again.
    Lmao, they’re very important!!! Okay, not really…
    I have to give you major points for pulling this off successfully, though. It would be very, very easy to slip into writing a storyline about a bipolar character who is effectively committed and drugged by a villain for exploitative purposes in an offensive way. You don't fall into that.
    Yes… The last thing I wanted to do with Sai was be offensive.
    Also, I want to point out that by this point, I feel like this chapter should have had extra trigger warnings for mental illness and abuse at the beginning. Some of this, for example this part here, can be extremely triggering to certain people. I don't fault you for it because I think it was just an honest oversight, but do try to be a little more attentive.
    Sorry about that. I honestly didn’t think about it.
    I have to admit, I feel like after how everything else in this story was different from the norm, having the central conflict end up staked on the outcome of a Pokemon battle feels like a little bit of a letdown. It does fit in the narrative, but I feel like I lost a little of the tension.
    I was worried about this… It’s something I could/should change, but I’m not sure how.
    ...Rennio?

    Now THAT was a true surprise. I would have expected Senori or Kuiora, or even Atis, due to the symbolism each of them would have represented. Rennio is a true surprise.
    Senori going last when he was expected to go first just basically says they were all intending to help him from the beginning.
    I'm not sure what I can say that I haven't said already. This chapter was an ordeal to read because of how dark it got, fitting of the first (and probably only) Sai-centric chapter. Everything made perfect sense, though, and I have to say that I truly am in awe of how well you structured the facts presented here with the things that happened earlier in the narrative.
    There will be a small snippet of Sai at the end, but this is mostly what we get. I’m glad you thought everything made sense.
    Quote Originally Posted by robinhood View Post
    I don't know if I've reviewed this before, but I've read the entire thing and it is amazing! Keep it up. Also I think I can guess whats going to happen:
    Guess we’ll see hehehehehe
    Quote Originally Posted by hl23 View Post
    that's one hell of an update
    Tell me about it.

  14. #214
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    SURVIVAL PROJECT

    chapter 25 ; [EZREM]
    phoenix

    *

    It's odd, the things you remember when you're watching someone die. It only takes a second for everything to go wrong. It only takes a second for everything to change. Such is what I learned when I started that fire and when I decided to follow Sai. And when Sai jumped... Sai, before this, you didn't tell anyone you were hurting so much. Or maybe you did and it went over our heads. Is that how it usually goes? Is death supposed to remain unnoticed and unexpected until the moments of reflection that scream otherwise?

    When Sai jumped, the world stopped. The battle ceased instantly. It felt like there was cotton in my ears and all our shouts emitted no real sound. The walking traffic below was dulled and unwillingly shoved into our pathetic existence. If anyone's experience was different, it was Sai's.

    Sai, is the white light at the end of the tunnel as bright as it's supposed to be?

    You're gonna tell me all about it, goddamn it.


    It only takes a second, and I didn't even have to think about it.

    I sprinted forward and jumped after him. There was something about losing my own dreams that made me stubborn when it came to others. Annie would just have to understand my second betrayal, which didn't seem like a betrayal in reality, but rather an act of desperation. I wanted to see someone live, so I let myself evolve.

    At first I fell freely and flapped wildly. Soon I had a larger body, larger wings and larger talons. There was no pain! I could focus easily then. I positioned myself rightly and darted straight down, catching up to Sai. The wind tried hard to push me back, but I wasn't having any of it. As I got closer, I saw Sai facing upward. He looked to be at rest already, with his eyes closed and his small movements graceful, as if this was exactly what he wanted. That was too bad! This was my revenge. He should've let me be on the team from the beginning.

    I don't know how far we were from the ground when I caught him. Though my evolved form was stronger, he felt heavy. I was carrying not only his body but also his burdens. I thought his weight was going to make us fall, but I struggled and managed to bring him back to the top of the building.

    After setting him down, purposely away from the woman who had started this whole thing, I tried not to collapse from exhaustion. As the team ran over to us, I took a look at my wings. There were no scars, no burns. I was completely fine, and Sai, so innocent and lost, was not fine. Surely there was something we could do. Saving him from death wasn't enough. If we left him alone now, he'd suffer more and maybe try suicide again.

    “Sai!” Senori yelled, shaking our trainer. “Wake up! Sai, why did you do this?”

    “Isn't it obvious?” I scoffed. “You're the leader. What should we do next?”

    “I... We should take Sai to a Pokémon Center!”

    I fluffed my feathers, preparing to fly again. “Get on,” I said.

    “The Pokémon Center? That's not for humans—” Atis said frantically, but he didn't have any better ideas in the heat of the moment.

    “It's the only place we know of. I'm trying, okay? We're all trying,” Senori said.

    We became silent. Atis rubbed his hands together. Senori covered his face with his paws. Rennio and Kuiora sobbed and held each other, because even though I had rescued our trainer, it wasn't over yet. It wouldn't be over until he smiled again.

    “Are you going to take him away from me?” a feminine voice said. I turned and saw Sai's mother coming toward us, her head lowered. She was holding back tears.

    “Of course we are,” I said. “You haven't been much help, to say the least.”

    She ignored me. “I always knew you'd take him away from me,” she said. “I knew it from day one. But out of everything I've seen regarding this project, I never... anticipated this...”

    She seemed sincere enough. I sympathized with her, but I wasn't about to admit it. There was nothing else for me to say. There was nothing that anyone could say to make things better.

    “There's a hospital right next to the lab. You should take him there,” Sai's mother said after a while.

    Could we trust her words? We had no choice. The team climbed on my back, one by one. Everyone except Atis, that is. He was being reluctant and I couldn't blame him.

    “It's up to you, Atis,” I said. “Are you on this team or not?”

    Atis paused, then nodded fiercely. With the help of the others, he was hoisted onto me. I took a breath. I could do this. Aside from Kuiora, everyone was light, so why not? Well, I had to do this, even if I had trouble. I lifted myself off of the building's roof, gently grasping Sai once more.

    Together, the six of us flew to the hospital.

    *

    This was our second time sitting in a waiting room in a matter of days. At this rate, every Nurse Joy in the Johto region would know our names by the end of our journey. I was assuming that Sai would want to continue our journey, however. I was no psychiatrist, but my instincts told me that Sai would need to work on himself before even thinking of going back to the gym circuit.

    When we arrived, Senori composed himself enough to explain to the nurse what had happened to our trainer. She took the boy in her arms and placed him on a stretcher herself, then rushed him into another room. When she returned, she said there was a special unit in the hospital meant for patients like him. He would have to stay for a week or more, until he was no longer a threat to himself or others.

    We waited till we could see him. I went outside to stretch my wings and almost missed being a rufflet that could fit into any building without a problem. The evolution had been worth it, though. Had I let Sai die knowing I could have done something, I don't think I could have lived with myself.

    It was turning dark outside when the nurse said Sai was awake. It seemed like forever ago since we had made our way to Mahogany Town, found him and battled. She led us to his room, explaining how Sai would eventually have to move into a psych ward.

    “Pokémon can be with their trainers at all times, but if Sai has any friends that want to see him, they'll have stricter visiting hours from here on out,” she said. I wondered what had happened to Marty and Sasha. If they knew about the situation, they couldn't have left us without figuring out how it ended!

    I stopped caring about them quickly when I saw Sai. He looked as normal as he possibly could, as there were no machines by his bed, nor were there any cords hooked up to him. He was lying down and was barely alert to his surroundings. I didn't have to be near him to see how lifeless he was.

    “I'll leave you guys alone. If you need anything, there are nurses around the hall,” the nurse said, and then she was gone.

    It was, at first, awkward. No one knew how to approach Sai. What do you do after your trainer tries to end his own life? Well, you put him into good, capable hands. And then what?

    I offered to talk to him since no one else would. I flew to his bed and nudged him on the cheek with my beak when he didn't look in my direction. Slowly his head turned toward me, but his dark blue eyes were as hollow as ever.

    “I'm alive,” he said stupidly.

    “That's my fault. I'm not sorry,” I said. “If you have any pent up anger you want to kill me with, I'd totally understand. Actually, I wouldn't understand, but I'd let you do it anyway.”

    Sai smiled. He smiled! It seemed difficult for him, but he was then able to prop himself up. He said nothing.

    “I'm not part of the team and I saved you! I disobeyed my old trainer's orders for you. That takes a lot of guts, but you don't have to be grateful,” I said dramatically, folding my wings to make a point.

    “Ezrem,” Sai said, frowning now, “you've... always been part of this team. I didn't know it yet, but you joined the team when Rennio did.”

    “Oh, come on!” I said. “You don't have to get all sappy on me now. You're supposed to tell me you despise me. You're supposed to tell me the light at the end of the tunnel let you see your whole life over or something.”

    The mood had lightened enough for everyone else to join me at Sai's bedside. I feared another breakdown when Sai saw Atis, but he only scratched the hitmontop on the head. Atis accepted the touch without a problem.

    “I'm not angry at you,” he said. “You have to understand... I never wanted to die. I wanted to stop the craziness in my head. I wanted to stop my sickness. But it's just... something I have to deal with.”

    “Well, you're calmer, and that's all that matters!” Senori said, hopping onto the bed and snuggling into Sai's lap. Sai used his other hand to pet the furret behind the ears.

    “Yeah... They gave me medication,” he said, then added quietly, “Real medication.”

    “I don't know what you—” Senori started.

    He was interrupted by a banging sound. The door had been shoved open and had bumped against the wall. In stormed Marty, who glared at Sai. There was a nurse behind him, begging for him to leave for the sake of the other patients.

    “I'll leave after I give this boy a piece of my mind,” Marty said through gritted teeth.

    “Wait,” Sai said, seeing us leap to his defense. “Stay there.”

    “This guy's gonna beat you to a pulp!” Atis cried, pulling back and hiding in a corner.

    “Not if I can help it,” Kuiora said, standing between the two trainers.

    Sai swung his legs around the edge of the bed. He stood, somehow managing to keep his balance. He went to Marty and stared the boy down, his fists clenched.

    He said confidently, “Whatever you have to say, you should at least face me like a man when you say it.”

    Marty snickered. “Good grief. Where do I start? What were you thinking, deserting your pokémon? What the hell were you doing in a lab full of idiots like that?”

    “I didn't want them to get in trouble—”

    “Yeah, yeah. I'm sure you've got an answer for that. But what are the prerequisites for committing suicide? That you be ****ing insane? Me and Sasha saw something fly down in the window while we were fighting, and it wasn't a bird... Well, then we saw a bird, but still...”

    “That was Ezrem.” Sai paused. “Wait... You were in the lab?”

    Marty rolled his eyes. “You ignored my first question.”

    “I'm as insane as you think I am,” Sai said. Ever since he had explained his secrets to us, he had no problem speaking about himself, especially about his past and personality.

    “It's just like you. You want to kill yourself, so you make it inconvenient for everyone else. What would your pokémon have done after? Why'd you make them watch?”

    This made Sai look away. “You would have taken them, right? That's what I was hoping...”

    “Of course I would have,” Marty said. “...You act cool, but I can tell you're avoiding me for some reason.”

    “I'm sorry,” Sai replied. “It's been a long day, as you probably can guess.”

    Marty's eyes shifted to the empty air beside him, indicating that he had heard something. “Anyway... I'm glad you're all right,” he said, then stepped aside.

    I'd like to say that a much more relaxed person walked into the room, but it would only be half true. Sasha, her face red and her hands covering her mouth, came into the room. She promptly burst into tears when she saw Sai. She embraced him, almost causing the boy to fall over from surprise.

    “Sasha...?” Sai asked concernedly.

    “I'm sorry... I waited to come in so I could stop crying... but I can't help it!” she cried. “I can't believe you did that to us,” she added, burying her face into his shirt.

    Sai put his arms around her and squeezed her while resting his chin on top of her head. “I'm sorry too,” he said. “I didn't think you'd be affected.”

    “Of course I would be! I-I wouldn't want it to happen to anyone, but especially not a friend, you dummy...”

    Sai lifted his head and extended his arms so that they were a foot away from each other. I thought he was pushing her away, but he only wanted to put enough distance between the two of them so that he could take a good look at her. He gazed at her, judging her. Finally he acquiesced and smiled warmly.

    “I'm your friend, huh?” he said. “It's... really nice to hear that. I don't know how to repay you, since I don't know what friends do.”

    He leaned forward until his forehead was touching hers. To see Sai act so intimately with another human partly made me want to puke, but another part of me was happy to see him interacting with her. Now that I thought about it, Sai must have been hoping that she and Marty would be his companions despite their reluctance toward him. He had just been granted his wish, and so he tilted his head upward and kissed her forehead, right in front of her brother and in front of his pokémon. He murmured something I didn't hear, and she blushed and stammered out intelligible words.

    “I don't know what you're doing, but don't you ever make a move on her again!” Marty said, separating the two of them.

    “My mother used to do that whenever I was sad,” Sai said.

    “It's fine, Marty,” Sasha said shyly, swaying her hand around. “You're welcome, Sai, for... whatever I did.”

    “You did everything. You all did everything. Because of you guys, I have quite a few things left to do. If you don't mind, Marty... Sasha... I'd like to be alone when she comes.”

    “Who?” Sasha asked.

    “One of Team Rocket's executives. My mother,” he said. He sighed, then relayed his past to them. As he told his story, his voice was less rushed. He wasn't in a life or death situation anymore, and he knew it. Before he finished, Sasha had broken out in tears again, and Marty had calmed considerably. “So that's why I'm weird. That's why I'm a terrible trainer. I wish I could have told everyone sooner, but... I couldn't.”

    “Oh...” Sasha said. She ruffled Sai's hair and chuckled through her tears. “Don't beat yourself up, okay?”

    “Okay.”

    “Sounds like a bunch of excuses to me,” Marty said, opening the door to leave. He held it open and said, "Get better soon."

    Sai fell asleep almost immediately after they left. We watched over him as if he were going to disappear into thin air.

    *

    His mother showed up the next day, apparently having known the psych ward's visiting hours. I silently scolded her for not coming sooner, but she was probably still recovering. A mother who loses her son couldn't be taken lightly.

    Sai had been rehearsing for their meeting. This was a woman who knew how to break Sai. Even while practicing he stumbled over his words and everything came out wrong. He paced around the hospital room and attempted to make small talk with us occasionally, trying not to appear frustrated. It didn't work.

    When she knocked on the door, Sai's intuition told him it was her. His muscles became tense. He cleared his throat and told her to come in. She opened the door casually, saying she didn't want to interrupt anything. I didn't say that Sai's sanity might have dissipated by the time she was done with him.

    Sai's mother didn't cry. She didn't seem angry or even sad. The tension betrayed her lack of emotion, however.

    “Hello, Sai,” she said. She watched the door as she closed it.

    “Hello, Mother,” Sai said, imitating her tone. Because he was unable to stay still, he resorted to sitting on his bed.

    “Did you think I'd come?”

    “I thought you might.”

    “I wasn't sure you'd want to see me. I debated over whether or not to come. But I had to see you... one last time,” she said. She certainly wasn't wasting any time getting to the point. I pretended to fluff my feathers while the rest of the team listened nervously.

    “One last time?”

    “I know you, Sai. I know your plans,” she said sadly. “You won't be able to keep quiet about us anymore. After all these years, you're ready to speak.”

    Sai stared at her, dumbfounded. When he pulled himself together, he said, “What you guys do... It's horrible. You torture pokémon and turn them into slaves. You dabble in human trafficking. I can't let that go. Not after being out in the real world.”

    After a few moments, his mother asked, “Do you think I'm evil, Sai?”

    “At some point in your life, you were in the wrong place at the wrong time. You made the wrong choice. But you've mostly been good to me, I think... I don't really know anymore...”

    “Say no more,” she said, putting her hand up. “I just need you to know that I made you stay in the lab because I was afraid of losing you, just like I lost your father. I had no intentions of hurting you.”

    “I know that. But you hurt me in more ways than one.”

    “I can't pretend to understand,” she replied. She as making it difficult to decide whether she was an ally or an enemy. Either way, I was ready to pounce on her and throw her off a building to see how she liked it.

    “If there's more to life out there, I want it,” Sai said, changing the subject. “I mean, I'm here despite all logic and likelihood, right? I survived the survival project. So I should enjoy—”

    “I always knew you'd make it,” she said, not wanting to hear more. “I really do marvel at how everything connects. With the way you acted as a child, I could tell how your journey would go.”

    “You knew I'd... jump off a building?”

    “Well, no. I don't understand your illness. You got that from your father. To me it seems that your brain makes you do irrational things.”

    “That sounds about right,” Sai said. He clasped his hands together, as if he were recalling something painful. I wondered what else he had gone through before meeting us.

    “...What will you do next?”

    “Honestly, I don't even know.”

    This was when the team butt into the conversation. Senori suggested that he shouldn't tell her our plans. If she knew, then she'd follow up and make us miserable.

    “It's okay,” Sai said. “She won't do that.”

    We didn't quite comprehend the meaning of that. I thought he was going to report her because she was a Team Rocket executive, but...

    “What do you mean, Sai?”

    “I'll give you two days. Pack your things. Get out of here. Get as far away as you can,” Sai said. Had this been a part of the rehearsal? “I'm reporting Team Rocket to the police, of course. I'm giving away as much information as I know. You can tell as many people as you want, but I'll make sure they're accounted for in the report. Just so you know.”

    Kuiora suddenly yelled, “You can't let her go, Sai! She made you crazy!”

    “You said it yourself, Sai. She hurt you and you're not sending her to jail?” Rennio said, pulling on Sai's arm to make sure he was hearing us out.

    “She's still my mother, guys,” he said. He didn't take his eyes off of her. “I can't do the same thing to her. I don't have the heart to do it...”

    His mother bowed and said, “I thank you, Sai, but you don't have to do this. I deserve whatever is coming to me.”

    “Your choice. But I won't be reporting you regardless.”

    “You've got to be kidding me!” I said, shielding my eyes to hide this horrendous view.

    “It's really happening, Ezrem,” Rennio said. “Was Annie ever as crazy as this?”

    “I bet she wasn't,” Sai said, smirking. At least he had a good sense of humor. At least he was paying attention to us when his mother was so important to him. “Do you have anything else to say to me?” he asked.

    “Nothing that would make a difference. What about you?”

    “I want to ask you the same question. What are you gonna do if you don't turn yourself in?”

    “...All I can think of is going back to your father, but it's been so long. Well, what I do doesn't matter. What you do, on the other hand, does matter. Tell people your story. Expand your story. Whatever the final product is... That will be my story too.”

    Sai shrugged. “If that's what you want,” he said. “I'll try to remember everything you taught me. I'm going to treat my pokémon right, though. And—”

    “You don't have to tell me."

    “But I think—”

    “I think you're sweet, as always. Don't be.” She paused. “I'm glad to have witnessed this day. The first sixteen years of your life don't count anymore. I wish you the best of luck, Sai.”

    She didn't let Sai say anything more, though I could tell she didn't want to leave, judging by her slow departure. Sai nodded to her, permitting her to leave without guilt. As the door clicked shut, he buried his face in his hands.

    “Is it bad that I don't know what to do next?” he asked. “And I'm never going to see my mother again. Shouldn't I be upset?”

    Senori nuzzled into Sai's neck. “You're fine, Sai. Things ended on a good note, even if none of us... agree with your decision.”

    “Thanks, Senori. But I think what I did was right.”

    “And that's all that matters...” Atis muttered.

    Kuiora said, “I still think he's crazy.”

    “He knows!” Rennio said.

    “Yes, Kuiora. You've said that five times now.” She harrumphed. I ignored her and addressed my trainer. “I just have one question for you, dear Sai. I ask you this because, you know, near death experiences are my forte. Have you ever felt sorry for the ground for putting too much weight on it?”

    “Too much weight... As in, all of my problems?” Sai said, tilting his head in confusion.

    “You got it,” I said, impressed with him not taking me literally.

    “I never really thought about it that way, but yeah...”

    “I don't think you have to worry about that anymore.”

    “I guess not...” Sai said, “and it's all thanks to you, Ezrem.”

    *

    I had saved Sai from his suicide mission and I had come to terms with Annie's death. But there was one final conundrum weighing on my mind. When the nurse asked us all to leave for a few moments so Sai could take his medication, I told myself that it was now or never. There was no reason to put it off anymore, no reason to prolong the suffering.

    “Rennio...” I said, dumbfounded by my hesitation. Where was I supposed to start? I'd been lying to him for years!

    “Yeah?” Rennio said absentmindedly. He was probably worrying about Sai's mother running free.

    I got his full attention by unfolding my wings and wrapping them around his eyes. It was a miracle that my wing was no longer hurt, but then I realized that I would no longer be able to tease Rennio the way I used to. He flailed around for a bit, blinded, and when he began generating electricity, I backed off. Though I deserved it, I didn't want to get injured again so soon.

    “What was that for?” Rennio said, sparking with anger.

    “Just making a point,” I said.

    “Well, what do you want?”

    “Someone's in a sour mood. Come here for a minute,” I said. The others were glancing at us, snickering. I had to get Rennio away from them. I made the short flight to the other side of the hospital lobby, wishing I didn't have to do this.

    When Rennio followed me, it seemed that all of a sudden, I lost my ability to be manipulative, to make jokes and to beat around the bush. I figured I could start with the lesser of the two evils...

    “Look, Rennio,” I said, sighing, “I'm gonna get right to the point. ...You're not the only elekid in the world.”

    And it was just like Rennio to appear overjoyed. “Really?” he cried. “You found another one? ...When did you have time to do that?”

    “Don't misunderstand me. I... always knew you weren't the only elekid in the world. The entire idea was pretty absurd, to be honest.”

    “W-What?” Rennio said, his face falling. “You... lied to me?”

    “I did,” I said bluntly. It was the best way to get to Rennio, otherwise he would think I was pulling another prank on him. But his defeated expression told me he believed me.

    “Where are the other elekid? Why haven't we seen them?”

    “You were born in Sinnoh. Elekid really are rare there. Annie never knew where your egg came from. Supposedly there are some in Unova, but we never saw any. Elekid are native to Johto, but I don't know specifically where... which reminds me...”

    “There's more?”

    I nodded.

    “...More lies, I mean.”

    I nodded again.

    “Ezrem, I've been scared out of my mind since you told me that! I didn't want to die before I could keep the line going. I thought... I thought I was alone this entire time...”

    And then came the tears. Rennio tried to be tough, but deep down he was still a baby. Or maybe I was being harsh. This was shocking news, and the worst was yet to come.

    “You haven't been alone, Rennio. You've had me, right? And you had Annie... until I messed everything up, that is.”

    “You didn't do anything, did you? Annie died in the fire... It was just an accident...” Rennio said in between sobs.

    “Well, yes, it was an accident. But haven't you ever wondered where the fire came from?”

    “But what about Annie's cigarettes? She could've dropped one...”

    “I didn't see her smoke that day. Did you?”

    “No...”

    “The tepig started the fire. But it was me who made him start it. ...It was me who killed Annie, Rennio. I'm so sorry.”

    The elekid stared at me in disbelief, tears still rolling down his cheeks. “Ezrem, why would you do such a thing?”

    “I wanted to meet the legendary pokémon of Ilex Forest. It only comes out in the face of danger, though. So I created my own danger. I wanted the legendary to take me back to Unova. To home. I mean, why'd Annie have to take us all away like that? I know that doesn't make up for anything, but there it is.”

    Rennio covered his eyes, an effective movement since his arms were so thick. I couldn't see whether he was about to attack me with that excess energy of his or not. Somehow I needed to convince him that I hadn't intentionally caused any harm. I only wanted—

    I only wanted...

    What did I want? His trust? His undying loyalty? For him to grow up already? It was a mixture of all these things and more. I was wordless, and yet I owed him an explanation.

    “You don't know what you do to me, Rennio,” I said. “You really don't. If I hadn't lied to you, you wouldn't have given me the time of day. You wouldn't have asked me for my help. You would have left me.”

    Rennio kept his face hidden, his crying becoming noticeably louder. The rest of the team could hear him, and as they tried to approach, I motioned for them to stay away. This was personal. It was better if they focused on Sai instead.

    “I didn't give you the time of day because everyone warned me about you! I should have listened! Annie, why did you keep him on the team? Annie...”

    “Annie was too kind,” was all I could say. It hit me, then, that my confession could have waited. Rennio was feeling insurmountable guilt about my burns and, to top it all off, he almost saw his second trainer die. I had used my gut instinct, even though that usually got me into trouble. There was no turning back now.

    It had been too much to hope for, but I had imagined Rennio embracing me and forgiving me. He did no such thing. He was frozen as he relived the pain of Annie's death all over again. There was a sort of revelation to be had, too, when you learn that you're one among many.

    I waited. Was there really nothing else for us to say? Surely it couldn't end with him hating me after all we had been through.

    “Rennio, is there anything I can do to make this up to you? I'll do anything you ask.”

    “No,” Rennio said instantly. “Y-You can't bring Annie back. You've tried to break my fear of death, but it hasn't worked...”

    “Okay, so I can't do anything,” I said, disheartened. “Rennio, I was desperate... but now you can laugh me me, all right? I evolved to save Sai. I'm no longer a part of Annie's precious, unevolved team. And I'm a shiny braviary! I might be one-of-a-kind. See how the tables have turned? ...See?”

    “Yeah... I see,” Rennio said, removing his arms and letting them fall limp at his side. He was visibly shaking. The electrical sparks now surrounded his face, ignited by the tears.

    “What are you gonna do now?” I asked.

    “What can I do? I'm not gonna leave Sai. I'll just hope to see another elekid sometime. That'll be my new goal...” His voice was void of all happiness. “What about you? Can I trust you?”

    “If I said yes, would you believe me?”

    “No, I suppose not. ...Thanks for telling me. It's a shame, though. I thought I knew you.”

    He went outside. As he brushed past me, I felt a shock even though we weren't touching. Rennio was powerful, both in battle and in his mind. Whatever damage I had done, it would be fixed eventually. I just had to be patient.

    I stood there dumbly, unable to face the team or even myself. Now that my lies were exposed, I was naked and confused, though everything was as it should have been. Sai had accepted me and changed me. Rennio hated me. Kuiora cared for me, albeit warily. The rest of the team dealt with my presence in their own individual ways. It was all fair, whether I liked it or not. I had no choice but to admit that on that day, in that forgettable Sinnohan city where Annie recruited me, a lot of things went wrong.

    When Rennio returned not too much later, the sparks were gone. I felt bad for anyone or anything that had gotten in his way. I heard thunder as I saw him go back to the team. Was it Annie speaking to us, or had Rennio sent a message saying sorry for believing in such a fool? Patience. Someday he'll come back to you, Ezrem.

    It's too bad that I'd never had any patience. It only the time traveling pokémon had at least granted me that. That legendary was given numerous chances to help me redeem myself, and it always chose not to do a thing. It didn't bring me home. It didn't save my old trainer. It didn't prove that what I had done was moral.

    What was I supposed to do now?
    Last edited by diamondpearl876; 22nd September 2016 at 7:58 AM.

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    As you may or may not have noticed, I haven't been reading for quite a few chapters. May I print all of the chapters, with your username as the author for credit? I'll only print one copy and won't sell it or anything

    |Pokemon Parodies|Newest Parody:"The Dog Who is Staying"|

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  16. #216
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jazz14456_Whenwilltheychangeitback View Post
    As you may or may not have noticed, I haven't been reading for quite a few chapters. May I print all of the chapters, with your username as the author for credit? I'll only print one copy and won't sell it or anything
    Yes, you can. Thanks for asking.

  17. #217
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    SURVIVAL PROJECT

    chapter 26 ; [ATIS]
    memory

    *

    I had been teetering on the edge of Sai's wild story, just as he had been teetering between life and death on top of that building. I was where the lies stopped and the truth began. I didn't know this right away. I was too busy being poisoned by a butterfree hiding in the shadows to know much of anything.

    The experience was frightening, and that's an understatement. Back at the school, I didn't have enemies, and I hadn't been through some tragic incident like the rest of the team had. That's why I was the perfect candidate for being Sai's confidant despite my personality. I could look at him with unbiased, fresh eyes. Still I always kept myself far away and hard to reach. I always kept myself safe. To be thrust into Team Rocket's hands was unexpected. I had no way to counteract and I couldn't even depend on my trainer to help me. All I could do was succumb to the feeling of despair and faint after seeing Sai one last time.

    My captor was humane enough to give me the antidote I needed to keep from dying. I woke up on the trip to Mahogany Town, and my body and ability to think slowly recovered. I'm not sure how long we traveled. It's hard to tell time when you have no idea where you are and what's supposed to be happening.

    From the laboratory's basement I was able to overhear two people discussing Sai and how he had finally followed orders. They seemed pleased by the fact that I was the strongest on the team. The prison cell I was in, they said, was to become my new, permanent home.

    I shuddered. A persistent shivering shook through my back. I was going to die, and I was going to die violently, before I had accomplished anything of significance. I imagined my headstone and what it would say. For a moment, I regretted leaving Sai, even though it meant I was reveling in his lies.

    I outright panicked, too, when I heard shuffling. There were other caged pokémon. The room was pitch black, so I couldn't see them, but I had a nagging feeling that told me they knew I was here. Would they be able to get me out of this mess? I wanted to ask, but communicating with others hadn't done a thing for me. I stayed silent.

    Eventually a ray of light poured in as someone opened the door to the basement. The pokémon began whining and pushing each other, anticipating food or, if they were lucky, release. A lady came in, grabbed me and left the others behind. The disappointed groans that followed were overwhelming.

    The lady led me upstairs. The workers I saw shouted orders to each other and the experimental pokémon complied without a shred of contentedness. I couldn't make sense of any particular study being done, but it was enough to scare me into submission.

    Soon we were on top of the building. The enclosure would make escape very difficult and, to make things worse, it seemed that this would be a one-on-one confrontation. It was as if Team Rocket knew each and every one of my fears.

    The lady, wearing a magenta-colored dress that reached her ankles, let me roam. She had straight brown hair that went slightly past her shoulders and green eyes. She almost looked normal, if not for the glaring R logo planted on her chest. I backed away and growled at her. She didn't seem intimidated as she chuckled softly.

    “Don't worry, Hitmontop,” she said. “I'll be calling you that from now on. There's no need for nicknames in a place where everyone is equal.”

    Her voice threw me off. She was related to Sai somehow, but I hadn't yet figured out the puzzle. Her eyes, at least, had a spark like his, the same spark that I could never quite identify. Now I knew that it was the dangerous look of knowing things that no one else did.

    “I know you're confused,” she went on, pulling out a pokéball, “but you don't need answers. We're here to gather an initial assessment of your strength.”

    Before she could test me, Sai showed up. He was frantic, then angry when the lady told him that she wasn't going to return me to him. The rest is a blur. The team showed up, and I begged Senori to do something. I thought he'd know a way out. He didn't.

    Sai composed himself and gave us a quick rundown of his story. Then he asked us to battle. I battled because I felt obligated to. Even if he was a bad person, he wasn't on the same level as the woman we were fighting. There was something about her that made me remember that rough, personal hell I'd been born into.

    I just never expected Sai to jump...

    You can say that you won’t miss me, but I’ll think about you every day.

    *

    I tried to block out those memories, but failed. I had nightmares. They started out vivid and became increasingly unclear once Sai ran into the picture, though I knew everything now. I knew that Sai had no choice but to hand me over to Team Rocket. I knew that Sai was sick and that he wanted to get better. I misjudged him when I decided he was just like everyone else. His journey was never about pokémon at all. It was about survival, and for that, I could forgive him.

    So far, I wasn't regretting my decision. I was almost exactly where I wanted to be, as I had once considered volunteering for a human hospital. I wished, of course, that Sai wasn't the actual patient, but it would have to do for now. I had only hindered him up to this point, after all. It was my duty to make it up to him. I couldn't make myself leave the team again even if I wanted to, not with the way Sai asked for me every few minutes to remind himself that I was still there. I forced myself to give him an eager, supportive smile every time.

    *

    We were there for days. The days turned into weeks. Overall, Sai was in the hospital for one month. During his recovery he was required to attend a group therapy session once a day. He skipped the first few days, saying it could do nothing for him. He had been taught that medication was a cure when it wasn't. He had to write in a journal about how he was feeling as well, but each pencil he was given broke. He grew frustrated and gave up.

    I wrote to him, mostly to keep the team from listening, but also because I wanted him to to cooperate. I found a marker at the receptionist's desk and gave it to Sai. With that, his words would bleed through the pages in the worst case scenario.

    What are you doing? I started. It was a vague yet open ended question. After deciding my handwriting was easy enough to read, I gave him the journal. He sat on the edge of the bed, watching as Ezrem and Kuiora bickered with each other. He seemed confused, but he took the journal and wrote back to me anyway.

    I’m sitting here.

    …Simple, but true. I tried a different approach.

    How are you feeling?

    Like I want to get out of here.

    What are you going to do once you're out?

    No response. Sai shook his head and gave the journal back to me.

    Well, you should do what the nurse says so you can get better. We’re all rooting for you, you know.

    I’m afraid you’ll leave when we get out of here after what I did.

    I looked away, ashamed. Sai was worried about me and he was taking it out on himself. He was so selfish sometimes... or was he selfless? Sometimes I couldn't tell the difference.

    I won’t, I wrote to him.

    …So what do you want me to do?

    Write how you’re feeling. Go to those therapy sessions. …I’ll even go with you if you want.

    You will? Is that allowed?

    Uh… Yes?
    To be honest, I wasn’t sure, but I had to convince him somehow. I’m having some problems myself, so it wouldn't be so bad, I finished, thinking about those unrelenting nightmares.

    Okay. I’ll go.

    *

    So I went to the therapy sessions with him. I was allowed in once I promised to be quiet, since not everyone could understand pokémon. That was fine by me.

    I had no idea what we were getting into. My wild imagination had constructed some fantasy about a bunch of people fighting each other until they were too exhausted to be hurting. That was what Sai made me think of, anyway. He was prone to violence and arguments, and so I had assumed all people with mental illnesses were like that.

    But it wasn't true at all. The advisor gave us a look for being a few minutes late to the meeting, but that was it. The other patients were calm and reserved as they tried to curl up in their seats, pretending not to exist. I wondered if Sai would have told us he was sick if he had had the chance. If these peoples' postures were anything to go by, he would have kept it to himself until the day he died.

    Sai introduced himself and then me, his guest. I felt awkward until I realized that the patients were focused on Sai rather than me. They made eye contact with him and exchanged greetings. It made sense for them to accept one of their own kind. I was only there to absorb information about my trainer, information I could use to understand him and help him better.

    Since we were late, we missed the other introductions. Everyone stated their names and goals again, just for Sai. He relaxed as he welcomed the room's positive vibes. It occurred to me that he probably appreciated the special attention I gave to no one but him. To help him, I would have to keep giving him that attention. I was already surpassing step one by being at his side.

    Next the patients were informed about confidentiality. It was vital, the advisor said, for everyone to understand that what was said in the room stayed in the room. This forced the group members to respect each other's privacy while simultaneously making each other comfortable when sharing.

    Breaking confidentiality is not my intention, so the expanded version of each session will be left out here. The gist of it is that everyone had had a hard life. They had all lost relatives or friends due to disasters they couldn't control. They had all lost their sense of self. They were all like a puzzle that needed to be put back together, but the feat seemed impossible, even with the outside pieces intact.

    I've chosen to leave out Sai's segment too. I respect him as much as I would anyone else, though I don't think he'd mind if I told the whole world. It goes without saying, however, that his problems hit closest to home. Being with him really was home, yet I had known so little for so long. I had no idea what went on inside his head until we participated in group therapy. How did he live with such a scattered mind and no sense of direction? Neither of us knew.

    The only piece of information I'll reveal is his hardest, grandest confession, mostly because policemen and reporters came shortly afterward to air the news on national television. Before his suicide attempt, Sai avoided explaining his emotions in favor of pushing away his past. He never said he was a part of Team Rocket. He never said he was the center of an unethical experiment that left him tormented even during his escape.

    His confession started with an awkward silence that a human voice was meant to fill. This happened often, particularly when a person had finished telling their story and had received feedback.

    “Would anyone else like to take some time to talk today?” the advisor asked. She was an older woman. She mediated the discussion and kept notes on a clipboard she hid in her lap. Usually it was up to her to prod Sai, but she didn't have to as he stood up to make his point.

    “I would,” he said, his fists clenched. “I expect this to leave the room. If it doesn't, I'll be pretty disappointed.”

    “You're protected by confidentiality, Sai,” the advisor said as everyone looked on, bewildered by my trainer's sudden act of courage.

    “I was going to tell someone anyway, but who knows when I'll get out?” He shrugged, then added, “So I'm going to say it here... and hope it reaches the right ears.”

    “We're all listening,” she said hesitantly. The rest of the group nodded.

    Sai took a deep breath. “I'm sure we've all heard of Team Rocket. They're known for stealing and selling pokémon, as well as performing experiments using questionable methods. But no one's been able to locate them. Well, I'm here to say that I know where they are.” He paused. I nudged his leg, urging him to continue. He seemed as ready as he'd ever be, so he had to say it now. “I was a part of them. Not in the way you're probably thinking! I... was one of their experiments.”

    Silence.

    “You guys might have actually supported the idea, had they not gone about it all wrong. Can the mentally ill surpass others in terms of raising pokémon? Can the mentally ill be good for anything besides destroying things and causing problems? It was my job to figure this out. I passed because I survived when no one else did. I failed because I quit. That's how I ended up here. I was tired of it and tried to... leave.”

    Silence.

    “You know the lab on the northern edge of town? That's them. They've been hiding close to your homes all this time and you didn't even know it. ...I'm sorry I didn't have the strength to say anything sooner. I was scared for my life. I wanted... I wanted the freedom the rest of you had. But in the end, we all landed in the same place. It's funny how that works sometimes.”

    Silence.

    Sai sat and leaned back in seat. I saw the corners of his mouth turning upward, though tears were threatening to ruin his smile. The group was quiet, presumably waiting for the advisor to intervene, as she often had to. There was no correct way to respond to something like that, anyway. No words could change Sai's past or the lives of Team Rocket's other victims. Sometimes the world is a better liar than the rest of us combined. This was one of those times. You won, world. You won for a while, anyway... but now you lose.

    “We'll have to finish this session early,” the advisor said, holding her clipboard close to her chest so no one else could see what she had written. “Sai, you and Atis should come with me.”

    *

    “Sai, why are so many people in uniforms here?” asked an anxious Kuiora as she scrutinized the men and women in his hospital room. She could recognize the items in their belts as weapons, but was too naive to know that they could keep us safe if needed. The police ignored her and, as they took turns advancing toward Sai to talk to him, she growled and prepared a water gun attack. Ezrem told her that they weren't here to play her games and inevitably took her away to calm her down.

    Rennio and Senori, having heard of the police before, weren't as wary. We were all supportive of the idea. Not all of the Team Rocket members would be caught, but we were satisfied that Sai's story had reached some sort of conclusion. We couldn't have protested even if we wanted to.

    “We were informed about your... situation,” the policeman in charge said.

    Sai nodded. He had been bitter, not knowing whether or not the police would take action, but he was cooperating now that they were here. He was antsy, too, since the nurses had told him to speak with them after the questioning was over. He insisted on talking to them then, but they kept to themselves, expressions indifferent.

    “Now, how long did you say this has been going on?” the policeman asked, peering at Sai sternly.

    “I was there for at least ten years. They've probably been there much longer,” Sai answered. He fiddled with his hands, which told me he wasn't sure of himself. His knowledge of time had been skewed during his imprisonment. I knew, too, what that could be like.

    “And why didn't you say anything once you were released?”

    Sai gulped, then said, “They threatened me. If I told anyone, I was going to pay for it.”

    The policeman coughed. Did that mean he didn't believe Sai? Surely Sai's current condition told the the truth. Suicide attempts don't just happen wthout a reason. I looked away, ashamed because it didn't matter if we, Sai's pokémon, believed his story when no one else did.

    “You say you saw them do experiments on both pokémon and humans?”

    “They keep pokémon locked up, letting them out only to fight or to hook them up to some machines. I wasn't the only human there, either."

    “I see,” the policeman said, noting the animosity and effort Sai was putting into this discussion. “We know Team Rocket is dangerous, but we just want to hear your side. Some members of the force are already heading there to see what they can find. There's a warrant to get inside if the guards don't comply. We're also here to offer you protection.”

    “Protection...?”

    “Yes. From what you've told us, these people are a threat to you, and they may continue to threaten you through outside sources. If anyone escapes, they may also try to find you to exact revenge. We can keep watch over you and make sure no one finds you.”

    Sai frowned. “You mean you'll keep me in one place. I'll be safe within your care and whatever.”

    “That's the point, yes.”

    “No,” Sai said instantly. “That sounds like what they did to me. Even if your intentions are true, well... If I need anything, I can count on my pokémon.”

    “It's up to you. Just know that the option is open.”

    “I'm stuck here as it is, anyway,” Sai said, rolling his eyes. Did he really hate this place? He had shown me his journal entries, and he had gradually grown more stable. And as if his healing affected mine, my nightmares had been drifting away, so I could reflect on that incident with a clearer head.

    “About that... Well, the nurses say you're free to leave tonight. You've made significant progress in the last month. If you feel differently and want to stay, it would cost you more money than you already owe. This is another reason we offer protection—in case you have nowhere to go afterward.”

    Sai's face lit up. “Really? I'm free to go?”

    The policeman nodded.

    Sai sat there, contemplating the nurses that had been hiding this secret from him earlier as they refused to acknowledge him. “Well, I really don't have anywhere to go... but like I said, I have my pokémon. I'll figure something out.”

    “Then it's settled. We wish you the best of luck, and we thank you for doing what was right.” He took a step forward and extended his arm out to Sai. The boy didn't understand the gesture at first, but figured it out quickly and shook the man's hand.

    When the uniformed group left, Sai didn't hesitate to show his excitement once more. “You hear that, Atis?” he said. “We're getting out of here, and it's all thanks to you!”

    Thankfully, Ezrem and Kuiora returned (with the croconaw sticking out her tongue to the others on their way out), along with Senori and Rennio. I was grateful for their presence, until I realized that they had no idea why Sai was so thrilled.

    “Oh...” I said. “It's not all thanks to me! E-Everyone helped in their own way, you know...”

    “No we didn't,” Senori said. “We stayed back because we figured you two needed, uh, some time together. To get things straight.”

    “Aren't we so considerate?” Ezrem sneered. He flapped his wings and took off into the air, seemingly aiming for Sai. He flew over the boy's head, though, and landed on the other side of the bed.

    “Did you really have to do that?” Rennio said. It wasn't like him to scold the bird. I wanted to know what had happened to them. It wasn't any of my business, but we couldn't afford another break in the team...

    “Yes, I did,” Ezrem said in an even ruder tone than usual.

    “Do we need to get someone to put a ‘do not resuscitate or save’ tattoo on that egotistical head of yours, just in case you get hurt again?” Rennio retaliated, folding his arms.

    “So critical. That’s good, because I’m obviously flawed. That’s why I need my daily dose of attention, since Atis has been hogging it all for the last month.”

    “I… What? I didn’t… I mean—”

    “It’s going to be the next big thing on the news, after the Team Rocket scandal. Prizewinning pokémon scientist Atis finds the cure for brokenhearted boys.”

    I blanched, unable to find the ability to even stutter.

    “Ezrem,” Kuiora said. “Be good.” That was all it took for the braviary to close his beak. He fluffed his feathers, hiding his face in embarrassment, probably from Rennio more than anyone else. The bird had no shame in most situations, I had come to notice.

    “Speaking of news…” said Senori. “Doesn’t this mean… we’ll be on the news? Since Sai reported Team Rocket?”

    The room went quiet. None of us had considered this notion until now. We all looked at our trainer, but as usual, he didn’t have an answer.

    *

    If Senori hadn't pointed out this obvious fact that we had all overlooked, we never would have been prepared to leave the hospital. Despite the warning, I was nervous, less ecstatic than I had been before. I didn't want the inevitable attention. If Sai wanted to move on with his life, though, we had to start over and get past this..

    Sai gathered his small amount of belongings. He checked out of the hospital and asked how he would go about paying for his visit. After a brief lecture from the nurse, we made our way outside and ran into a giant crowd that apparently knew he was going to show up at any minute. Some people in the crowd had cameras, while others had microphones. Each device faced Sai's mouth, begging him to answer private questions. Sai raised his hands, as if to surrender.

    “Sai Luart, would you please tell us about what it was like to be imprisoned by Team Rocket?” one reporter yelled over the rest.

    Another asked, “Is it true that Team Rocket brutally harmed pokémon and humans during their research?”

    No one could see me, but I could feel my face growing hotter by the second. It was odd, the way my anxiety latched onto others when they were being humiliated instead of me. Since Sai was embarrassed, so was I. It wasn't logical, but nothing about anxiety is really logical. It's something I tried not to dwell on too much.

    I pushed Sai along, hoping he'd forget these people. They only wanted to earn money off of his story. Sai stumbled forward, forcing the reporters to make a path for him unless they wanted to be trampled by a trained team of pokémon. The others caught on to what I was doing. Kuiora growled at passers-by while Ezrem pecked at the equipment, breaking camera lenses and producing loud feedback from the microphones. Senori hopped onto Sai's shoulder and used his tail to cover Sai's face, keeping our trainer from being filmed. Rennio threatened the crowd with his electricity.

    When it was safe, we let down our guards and gave Sai room to breathe.

    “Well,” Sai said, “it looks like Team Rocket was found and arrested, at least... Do you think I'll be wanted on television forever?”

    “Just until the next big story...” I said.

    “Remember, Atis, you are a prizewinning scientist pokémon—” Ezrem started.

    “No thanks.”

    “So what are we going to do now?” Rennio asked, still not amused by Ezrem’s antics.

    “I don’t know yet.” He turned his neck in all directions to make sure no one was following him. “...I thought about going back to Ecruteak City, but how can I fight against Morty after what happened last time?”

    Without thinking, I asked, “What happened?” It didn't occur to me that I might have had anything to do with the situation.

    “You don't want to know,” Senori said, so I didn't ask again.

    “Anyway...” Sai went on, “I don't have a solid plan. I want to keep traveling, though. I want to keep learning things. I want to be a better trainer... and a better friend. If we see something we really want to do along the way, then we'll stop and go from there. How does that sound?”

    “You sound like you've thought this out real well,” Ezrem said.

    Sai reached out his arm and clamped his hand around Ezrem's beak, not allowing the braviary to say anything else. It seemed like Sai was going to get angry with him again, but then he laughed.

    “You be quiet,” he said. He let go, then added, “I thought about it in the hospital, but I didn't come up with anything. So sorry.”

    I sighed. His stability was more than any of us could have asked for, and it was nice, having Ezrem's wild demeanor bring some positivity to us. I owed him a great deal already for saving Sai, but now he was helping even more, albeit indirectly. Though they didn't know it, they had all found their own niche in Sai's life. Ezrem offered a good laugh once in a while, which never hurt anybody. Senori guided us down safe paths, and Kuiora's naivety was ideal for keeping us sane. Rennio's youth let Sai know that he was important and that he had someone to take care of. And I... I guess I made Sai determined. I made Sai think about having dreams and reaching out toward those dreams, because I, too, once wondered what I wanted. I wanted the world. I got the world, plus Sai and the rest of the team.

    I didn't know what was in store for him, but I hoped for nothing but the best.
    Last edited by diamondpearl876; 22nd September 2016 at 7:59 AM.

  18. #218
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    Thank you based God
    >having a sig

  19. #219
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    SURVIVAL PROJECT

    chapter 27 ; [SENORI]
    scald

    *

    Oh, Sai... What could I say about him after all that had happened? I never realized that we had such disparate ideas of what life could be. He believed life was supposed to make him scared and paranoid as he was controlled from afar. And here I thought that the hands of fate would guide me and forgive me when I did wrong.

    It was easy to forgive him for what he had done, but I couldn't help but wonder... Was what happened meant to happen? Did fate try to take Sai away, only to have Ezrem defy it? Did fate throw this obstacle at Sai with the intention of having him survive and turn into a better person? Either way, I couldn't blame fate for wanting my trainer back so soon. He certainly was special. His new found will to live couldn't have been mustered so easily.

    Sai had an effect on my beliefs that I still couldn't place, to say the least. If I tried to think about it too hard, though, my mind turned to mush. I was hoping that some sort of understanding would just fall from the sky, but I had no such luck. All I knew was that I couldn't bear the idea of losing Sai after I had lost my clan. It would have been my fault for not helping him sooner. I would have been alone and destined to start another journey doomed to end far too soon.

    I cared about the others too, of course. Each member of the team seemed to take on physical forms of my fears that followed me everywhere I went. The fear of loss, the fear of guilt... Those fears had never left, not even after I evolved. These faults of mine had just been replaced with new hearts, new lives, and they wouldn't go away unless I was separated again, permanently or not. The six of us took breaths like one, and it showed.

    Even if life only offered me inevitable pain, it was worth it to be with them.

    ...That was how I felt, anyway, as we rushed past the news reporters. Didn't they know that a member of Team Rocket—Sai's mother—was still out there? Didn't they know that she had taken away the majority of Sai's life? Probably not. Would they care, even if they knew? Probably not—unless they earned a profit from it. They wouldn't even care if Sai's old cage was placed in the middle of Mahogany Town for everyone to see. They wouldn't even care if he begged them to release him, as he was too exhausted to try to escape himself.

    ...Everyone, reporters included, would pass by, the deepest parts of their brains knowing that Sai was dying for them. They wouldn't stop to think about it. So it went without saying that I was glad when we were out of sight and out of mind. It was a rather pessimistic view, but that was what Sai had taught me. We could only count on a small amount of capable people. We counted on each other. We counted on Marty and Sasha. Maybe we counted on the nurses and the police. But no one else, not until they gave us a reason to consider them worthy. For now, this view would have to stay, but I wished that Sai wouldn't have to keep himself contained within four walls for the rest of his life.

    *

    We were heading back to Ecruteak City. We planned to stay there for a short while, and then we would set out on another adventure.

    Whenever we planned to go anywhere, however, something or someone interrupted us. As if fate were reading my thoughts about trustworthy people, we ran into Marty shortly after the news reporters had gone away. Surprisingly, Sasha wasn't with him, but he quickly explained that he had to see Sai right away. Alone.

    “What's the matter?” Sai asked, scanning the area. “We're alone now...”

    "I waited for those news idiots to get away from you. Look, I'm sorry about what I said in the hospital. I was shocked, that's all. But your pokémon... They did a good job. They must like you a lot,” Marty said quietly, glancing at us one by one.

    “I don't know why, but they do,” Sai said, reaching behind him to pick me up off of his shoulder. He cradled me in his arms and pet me behind the ears. If only I could have explained to Marty that we cared because of the tender moments admist the craziness.

    “It was wrong of me to have said otherwise. It was uncalled for.” When Marty saw that Sai was about to protest, he added, “I know we both said that you're a bad trainer, but you're not. There's a difference between being a bad trainer and learning in the process of becoming a good trainer. That's why I have a request for you.”

    “A request...?”

    Marty plucked a pokéball from his belt and pressed the middle button to enlarge it. He threw back his arm and thrust the ball forward, calling out, “Go, Gracie!”

    The quilava appeared in a flash of red and white, but instead of giving off her battle cry, she sat there, disinterested. The very act of releasing a pokémon set everyone into battle motion regardless. After everything that had transpired, we were worried about betrayal.

    And so, Kuiora took it upon herself to step forward and say, “I'll take care of the fire-type!”

    “Seriously? Marty wants to fight us?” Atis said, covering his face in shame.

    “Looks like it,” Ezrem said. “I'll cheer you on, Kuiora! This *******'s got nothing on you.”

    “I'll fight second if you need to rest!” Rennio cried.

    “Guys,” Sai said, grabbing Kuiora and forcing her back, “I don't think Marty wants to fight. Am I right?”

    Gracie stared at her trainer quizzically, though she didn't seem to want to battle, either. At this, the team relaxed and watched for the other boy's reaction. Marty frowned and nodded sadly, saying, “I just wanted to do that... one last time.”

    Sai waited a moment before saying, “Marty, you're not the kind of person to be so vague. Is something wrong?”

    “Did you know your pokémon came to me and Sasha when you were missing?”

    “No, I didn't,” he replied, but he didn't appear to be surprised.

    “Gracie translated what was going on. She traveled outside of her ball the entire time and talked to some of your pokémon. She's been acting strange ever since then. She won't eat, she won't battle... This is the first time she's looked at me in weeks.”

    “Oh. I see,” Sai said. “Do you want me to talk to her for you?”

    “No!” Marty said. “I mean, I think I know what's going on, but I don't want you to force anything out of her. I've done enough of that already.”

    Gracie hung her head, which only proved Marty's words to be true. I remembered us riding on Marin's back as we talked about her past. About the abuse she endured. About Marty's persistence, his assertiveness and the constant reminders. About how she couldn't handle it. Perhaps I had brought up too many harsh memories and had caused her to treat her trainer with disdain. I told myself that she would have cracked sooner or later, but surely, there had to be some way to help her now...

    “What do you want me to do, then?”

    “Gracie,” Marty said, raising his voice, “I'm giving you a choice. I've given a lot of thought to this. It's been hard because you're my starter, but if you're not happy with me, then... you can leave. I brought you to Sai because his pokémon might have done something for you that I couldn't. You should go with him, if you think that's a better fit.”

    “Marty, what are you—”

    “Shut up, Sai! You'll take her, won't you? I wouldn't be able to live with myself if I let her go and she ended up in the hands of the wrong person. You of all people should know how I feel.”

    Sai had nothing to say to that.

    Gracie spun around, stopping to look at our group, then Marty. Her face was strained, her mouth open as if she wanted to scream and the fire on her back dimming due to the stress. While everyone else watched the scene unravel, I went up to her. It was my fault that she was in this mess to begin with, after all.

    “I know you don't want to stay,” I said, hinting at our last conversation. “This is your chance to be happy!”

    She scratched carelessly at the ground. “Will I be happy with him, though? Is he better than Marty?”

    “Sai's... got his own problems, sure, but they shouldn't conflict with yours. He'd never hurt you.”

    “But Marty's fed me all this time. He took me out of my pokéball to exercise. He trained me enough to evolve, and he's never afraid of me even though I've burned him a few times. On the other hand, he's just so... triggering. And Sasha... She'll be crushed. What about the rest of the team? I-I don't know...”

    “I'm sure Marty's got it covered. They'll have to understand. If you're not happy with what he's done, then... something's still wrong.”

    “You'd think that after all the time, he'd be able to understand me and hear me out,” Gracie said. “But I started to think it'd never happen. I lost hope, so I ignored him. ...I guess that was hard for him not to notice, huh?”

    I nodded. The final decision was hers now. All I could do was make sure she knew that Sai would have her if she chose to go.

    I turned to my trainer. “You'd take her if she wanted to come, right, Sai?” I said.

    “Of course,” he said.

    “No dice?”

    “No dice.”

    I waited for Ezrem to make a sarcastic comment about how unfair the situation was, but the whole team was too busy remembering how they had been given this very same choice once. A lot had happened since then, and it was awkward, seeing it happen to someone else.

    “You hear that, Gracie?” I said. “We'll have you.”

    “I don't know what they're saying over there, Gracie, but... please choose. Don't worry about me,” Marty said. I could see his body tense up. He was trying hard not to show any weakness so that he could stay true to his word.

    Gracie took a cautious step toward Sai. With every move she made, she grew more confident. “...Would you tell Marty that he's a good boy,” she said, “but my heart's just not in it yet?”

    “So this is your decision,” Sai said, leaning down to see his new pokémon. Gracie extinguished the flames on her back and nuzzled up to Sai's leg without hurting him.

    “Well, that's that,” Marty said, turning his back toward us. His shoulders crouched forward and he faltered when he moved, as if he could break at any moment. It had to be difficult, losing your first partner, but it had to be some consolation, to feel you were doing the right thing.

    “Marty, I'm sorry. So is Gracie,” Sai said. “What are you going to do now?”

    “As I said, don't worry about me,” the boy replied, waving his hand around weakly. “Thank you, Sai. I must say, I've grown to love your disappearing acts, so... I think I'll do one of my own. Right now. ...See you around.”

    He bolted toward the other route leading out of Mahogany Town. His disappearance marked the end of Gracie's quest for contentment, and we all welcomed her as best as we could.

    *

    Gracie could be shy, but she still had that determined side of her I saw when we first met. Anyone who could deal with Ezrem and Kuiora's witty bantering, anyway, had to be extremely durable.

    “You're Kuiora's perfect opponent, Gracie. She's ecstatic, so you better watch out. She may shoot a water gun at you without warning,” Ezrem said, flying high enough to where Kuiora couldn't hit him in response.

    “I wouldn't do that!” she cried.

    “You were ready to do it when she was sent out of her pokéball,” Ezrem retorted.

    “W-Well, that was different...”

    “It's okay,” Gracie interrupted. “I'll practice with you anytime, Kuiora. The bird, on the other hand, better not underestimate me or he'll receive a swift kick in the face.”

    “That’s awfully rude of you. If you’re finding it difficult to laugh at yourself, then I’d be happy to do it for you.”

    “Hmph. You can use me for your witty jokes. You can step on me and walk all over me like I’m not even here. But I will not let you look down on me.”

    “Woah,” I said, running up to them since I had been listening to their conversation the entire time. I felt obligated to join at this point, so I did. “Gracie’s standing up for herself and she hasn’t even been on the team for a whole hour.”

    Needless to say, I knew why she said what she did. Having someone look down on her reminded her of the past abuse. I could tell by the intensity in her voice. The human who hurt her literally towered over her and struck her down as punishment constantly, so it made her think of pain. It was similar to how the sentret in my clan looked down on each other when they became taller with their tails. This was how they declared their dominance. Unlike the sentret, though, she didn’t mind being invisible or used as a source of humor. That was just the kind of pokémon she was. With these characteristics, I thought she’d fit nicely into the team.

    “I’ll step all over you while I still can, then,” Ezrem said, rolling his eyes and ignoring me.

    “Is that a threat?” Rennio chimed in.

    “No,” Ezrem defended quickly.

    “I think it is.”

    “Oh, Rennio, where have you been all my life? Such a reliably disappointing pokémon such as yourself deserves to be my top priority.”

    “I was hiding from you, like everyone else should.”

    “L-Let’s all be nice, guys,” Atis said. We were able to hear him though he was traveling behind us, next to Sai. “We don’t want our new companion to think she made the wrong decision, do we?”

    “Let’s talk about something random,” Kuiora offered. “Like, uh, how blue Sai’s eyes are.”

    “What?” Sai said after hearing his name. So much for having an attentive trainer who was watching us to make sure we were behaving. I wondered what he was thinking about, but there was no way to know.

    “You know. Like a lake or something. …I thought of it because I could really go for a swim right now. Sorry. It’s been a while.”

    “The city we’re going to, Olivine City, has a huge ocean next to the ferry port. We could go swimming there if you really wanted,” Rennio suggested.

    “Really? How do you know?”

    “That was where me and my old trainer arrived in Johto. We were able to explore the town a bit before starting at the beginning in New Bark Town.”

    “I’d like to point out that I was there too,” Ezrem said. “And what he says is true.”

    “Wow!” Kuiora said, jumping up in excitement. “Can we go, Sai? Can we?”

    “Uh,” Sai said. “It’s not like we have anything better to do…”

    “That’s a yes!” the croconaw affirmed. “Oh... Sorry, Gracie, I bet you don’t like water, do you?”

    "I don’t mind it,” she lied. “I’m not like most fire-types, I guess.”

    “Isn’t it great to have a fire-type pokémon on our team?” Atis sighed before Ezrem could make another snarky comment. “Maybe she can help us keep warm at night…”

    “It’s just like you to be thinking of sleep. We just spent a month resting in the hospital. Don’t tell me you’re still tired,” I teased him.

    “It w-was a lot harder of a time than it looked, you know…”

    I looked up at Sai to make sure he wasn’t paying attention before continuing to speak. “I don’t know what you did for him or what changed your mind, but thank you.”

    “Ah, I didn’t do anything, really…” the modest hitmontop replied.

    “You did, though. We all stood back on purpose because we knew you could do it. Do you regret it or something?”

    “No… I trust him.”

    “The error you made before was trusting him. Here’s my observation, though: you’d do it again if it meant seeing him smile.”

    “It doesn’t have to be as corny as you make it sound, but yeah.”

    “Excuse me, leader, but is that you talking to yourself over there? Has being with Sai too long made you a little crazy?” Ezrem asked, swooping down to get in between me and Atis.

    “Of course I’m talking to myself,” I said, saving Atis the embarrassment by playing along with his games. “I need an intelligent conversation once in a while, you know.”

    “Your wits don’t match mine, but they’re pretty high up there,” the bird said. “Don’t forget who saved your trainer. I could have left him alone. Maybe then I might not have spent that time cooped up in a tight building with strict women.”

    “It’s not Senori’s fault that braviary are so huge,” Atis protested. Once he realized he had talked, he covered his mouth and hung back a little as if trying to pretend he didn’t exist.

    “Oh, so you do like to talk sometimes,” Ezrem said. “You know, I thought I understood evolution until I met you. I thought about it a lot thanks to my old trainer. Weren’t you only supposed to evolve into a hitmontop if attack and defense were equal? But it seemed your defenses were higher than anything. Now I see—you’ve got a mouth on you, too. …You should use it more often.”

    “I should…?”

    “Actually, I agree with Ezrem for once,” Rennio said. “We’d all like to hear you talk more.”

    “And we’d like to see you battle more,” Kuiora agreed.

    “Then I’d be a real hitmontop, huh?” he said. And he smiled as if he had been forcing back a smile for a long time. Everyone but Sai had missed it ever since the incident.

    “A real hitmontop can also spin on his head,” I said. I laughed, remembering how he couldn’t fully perform the trick for those at the pokémon fan club. Luckily, no one else knew what I was talking about.

    Atis gave me a halfhearted glare and said, “I’ll spin on my head in the water and splash you. All of you.”

    “Except for me, right?” Gracie said.

    “Right. Sorry,” Atis said, blushing.

    “Sounds like a plan to me,” I said. When we all seemed to quiet down, I turned to my trainer and said, “Sai, you haven’t said much. Do you know how to swim?”

    “No…” Sai said slowly, as if the word was completely foreign to him.

    “I thought I’d ask, in any case. Well, we’re going to teach you.”

    I’m going to teach him,” Kuiora corrected.

    “And if he refuses, just remember that I’m an electric-type,” Rennio said, smiling.

    “Oh…” Sai said, finally joining the conversation by grinning. “Is that a challenge?”

    And that was how our next journey began.

    *

    It took us another three days to get to Olivine City. We sped through Ecruteak City due to Sai’s unfavorable memories. From there, we made our way past tall grass with a bunch of wild pokémon and eager trainers. There was no time for bantering like there had been at the beginning, and we were all worn out by the time we arrived, especially Sai, who still hadn’t gotten over the battle that had taken place on the roof. Perhaps he’d never get over it, but it didn't hurt to try.

    Still, this was exactly what we needed. There were no memories associated with Olivine City. No one was threatening to follow or hurt Sai anymore. It was an added bonus that we had something to do besides battle the gym leader first, though I was sure we’d get around to that eventually, considering that the gym challenge was all that he had ever known. There was nothing particularly wrong with that, seeing as how Sai enjoyed battling. He had to grow out of it sometime, though… And it seemed that Atis was starting to rub off on me…

    “Senori?” Sai asked, breaking me out of my thoughts. “Are you going to go in the water?”

    I looked at everything around me. Kuiora and Rennio hadn't wasted any time with getting started, and Sai was happy to give in to the two of them. So here we were, on the west side of Olivine City already, surrounded by sand and a line of beach houses that people could rent out for a day or two. Sai had purchased one, but he said they were expensive so it would be a special treat after everything had happened.

    “Anything to make up for what I did,” he said sadly.

    But the team wouldn’t let him feel guilty. Not right now. We forced him out into the sun and tried to get him into the water, but he said he’d wait to see what everyone was doing first before having some fun himself. He was concerned for us, probably because this was something new to him, and probably because he had a newcomer to care for, a newcomer that could be damaged by too much water exposure.

    So I watched as Kuiora hopped on Ezrem’s back. I watched as Ezrem flew into the sky and over the deeper part of the water, allowing the croconaw to jump off of him and dive right in. I watched as Atis practiced spinning on his head a few times before finally getting the hang of it. He chose to just run into the water, but I was sure he’d keep his promise. I watched as Rennio did a practice thundershock attack on the ground to get the excess electricity away from him before following. I watched as he urged Gracie to come with him, but also to not get too close. “I want to be your friend because you’re the new baby of the team,” he had said, and it made me smile. And it made me think.

    I thought too much, and so Sai interrupted me.

    “I'll go in the water soon,” I said. “I haven’t had a bath in… forever.”

    “Why is that?” he asked, genuinely curious.

    “Because you, as my trainer, haven’t given me one? You take showers by yourself. We have to stay clean too, you know.”

    “Oh,” Sai said. “I didn’t know. I’ll change that from now on. Sorry.”

    “It’s okay. The others don’t seem to mind, not even Kuiora. It might just, uh, be a sentret thing.”

    “You’re a furret.”

    “But I used to be a sentret, no?”

    “I think I’ve known you longer as a furret, though, so it’s a furret thing.”

    “…Just get in the water already,” I said, running behind him and pushing his legs to make him go forward. I didn’t have to do it for long, as he followed along with my movements and made his way into the ocean. He paused after seeing other people and pokémon beside us laughing and playing with toys, as if he were wondering whether or not he belonged, but I gave him one last final push before his feet were covered by sand due to the force of a wave.

    Before he went in any further, he asked, “Don’t I need different clothes for this? Everyone else seems to have… almost nothing on…”

    “Who cares?” I said, running deeper than him and splashing him with water. “You’ll just be special.”

    “Right.” He chuckled and sat down, letting the sea envelop him, as he was afraid to go any further without being able to swim. “Now I’m just waiting for Kuiora.”

    A large figure sprang out of the water, causing a massive amount of water to spray at the two of us. Once I wiped the liquid out of my eyes, I was able to see that it was the troublesome croconaw.

    “You called?” she asked, bowing at her own fantastic entrance.

    “Yes. You said you were going to teach me how to swim, didn’t you?”

    “That I did. You have to be in deeper water. I was barely able to hide myself here while trying to scare you.”

    We went into deeper water, as I was curious to see how this would turn out. Sai going through any new experience was bound to turn either horribly awkward or magnificently perfect. As it turned out, things went horribly awkward. Water-type pokémon and humans swim in a completely different way. Kuiora was able to glide seamlessly through the water. Her body did a wavelike motion as she swam, but if Sai tried to do this, he only floated right back to where he started.

    “He has to move his legs and arms to get around,” Rennio offered, trying hard not to laugh at our trainer.

    “If you think you’re so good at this, then you teach him!” Kuiora fumed, storming off to be with Gracie, who was waiting patiently at the edge of the water, careful not to get too close. “For now, I’m going to be a fire-type pokémon.”

    Ezrem sighed rather loudly, as if we were depriving him of attention. “Someday,” he said, “we’ll all look back on this day, laugh nervously, and then change the subject. I can see it now.”

    “Don’t you get smart with me,” Sai said, irritated.

    “I’m sorry that you only want the dimmest of the dim for your team, dear Sai.”

    “I’ll show you. Rennio, what have you got?”

    “Well, I’m no expert, but… you should kick your legs up and down and keep pushing your arms forward. Don’t take my word for it, though.”

    Sai tried it anyway, and it certainly worked better than Kuiora’s methods. With Rennio’s instructions, he was able to reach even deeper water without touching the ground, and when he stopped, he was able to keep himself afloat. Since he didn’t even sink once, he seemed pretty proud of himself.

    “See, Ezrem? I can do it,” he said.

    “If you’re so sure of yourself, you should swim until you hit the end of the world. And then you should stay there.”

    “You’d get too lonely without him, since you hate the rest of us,” I said, but Sai seemed to have a different idea.

    “The end of the world, huh…?” he said, making his way back to where he could stand. He peered out into the distance, seemingly lost in thought.

    As usual, we were interrupted, this time by the most unexpected of visitors. It appeared to be an incoming tornado made of water, and it was heading relentlessly toward us. As it passed us pokémon, we all got splashed with a large amount of water. All of us held up our arms (or wings) to hide the blow, but it was pretty powerful for me to avoid entirely. When my vision was clear again, I tried to yell about how Sai should watch out, but it was too late. The tornado leaped out of the water and flipped over, revealing Atis’s regular, humanlike form. He landed on top of Sai’s chest, sending the boy completely underwater for the first time since he ventured out of here. Atis went under with him, and after a few moments, they surfaced, with Sai’s hair covering his face and with Atis suddenly having a concerned look on his face.

    “I hope I didn’t hurt you,” he said after spitting out the water he had gotten in his mouth.

    “I didn’t know you could do a thing like that,” Sai said, wiping his hair out of his face.

    “Yeah… Well… Now your hair doesn’t look as messy.”

    “Now you’re a real hitmontop, as you said you would be,” Ezrem complimented.

    “I would shock you for that, but I can’t right now. I’ll get you later,” Rennio threatened.

    “My legs are starting to get tired after swimming and traveling for so long,” Sai said, changing the subject. “I’m getting out of the water for now. The rest of you can do whatever.”

    Sai stepped out, with Atis’s arms wrapped around his neck, legs wrapped around his torso. I had no reason to stay since I was clean now (or as clean as I could be with seawater), so I tagged along. Ezrem and Rennio didn’t want to be alone with each other, but that was the only reason they came too. Gracie and Kuiora had already been waiting there from a while ago.

    “If you wanted a water competition, Atis, you should have just said so,” Kuiora said. “I could have showed off more of my moves.”

    “I’m just glad I stayed at the shore,” Gracie said, shaking her head.

    Sai sat down next to Gracie, setting Atis down next to him. He visibly shivered a bit and then placed his hands over Gracie’s back and asked, “Do you mind?”

    “Not at all,” she replied, smiling and igniting her flames just enough for the warmth to radiate around us.

    “Hmm…” Sai mumbled, rubbing his hands together. Though the majority of his body was facing in Gracie’s direction, his head was facing toward the sea. Again, he seemed lost in thought. Had he really taken the bird so seriously? That was a mistake in and of itself, so I had to make sure he wasn’t doing anything stupid.

    “Sai, what are you thinking about?” I asked.

    “Oh, nothing,” Sai said, but then he changed his mind. “It's just... It’s still hard to talk about. I was caged up for so long that I’m not used to seeing some things. ...I think I like the sea.”

    “So do I! You have great taste,” Kuiora said.

    “Yeah. It tells me that there’s something more out there for me to see. It seems endless, and that’s what I always imagined my life experiences to be. I don’t know… Sorry if I’m rambling.”

    An idea hit me as he spoke. “If you could be around the sea all the time,” I said, “would you be happy?”

    “Yes,” Sai said. “It would be good to have a reminder like this. And I’d like to learn to swim more. It was quite enjoyable. The movement makes me feel free. I’m not trapped like before…”

    “You know what else could get you around to places? The ferry in the city. The port is right over there,” Rennio said, pointing toward a nearby building with a lone ship facing toward it.

    “Ah,” Sai said. “That would certainly help too. I could go anywhere I wanted, anytime…”

    “Sai, are you thinking what I’m thinking?” I said. Apparently, though, no one else was thinking what I was thinking, because they all looked at me in confusion, even Rennio, who I thought had been catching on even just a little bit. “This could be your new home for a while. We don’t have to travel anywhere else if you don’t want to, especially if it brings you bad memories—”

    “I only rented the cabin for one night, though,” Sai interrupted.

    “We can get more money by battling trainers and buy more nights. Or we can buy a real place.”

    “What about the gyms? We only have one out of eight badges right now, since we lost some…”

    “You don’t have to do those anymore, remember? I mean, honestly, did you even enjoy doing them before?”

    “Not since I felt rushed…”

    “Then you’re just making excuses!” Ezrem butted in. “It’s as clear as day.”

    “I’d love to be here all the time!” Kuiora offered.

    “You know me… and Ezrem… have always wanted to travel other places, so this is perfect for us,” Rennio said, nodding.

    “I don’t care where we go. Location isn’t an issue for me,” Gracie said, licking her paws idly.

    “What do you say, Sai? It doesn’t get much better than this,” Atis said. I could tell he was trying to hide excitement in his voice, but he was failing.

    There was a moment of silence before Sai sighed and said, “First, we’ll go to the gym here in Olivine City… just for fun, all right? It won’t be about getting stronger or getting a badge. I want to know what it’s like to be a trainer for a little while longer. I did enjoy that, at least.” He paused. “And then I’ll let you know what I think of your idea.”

    This seemed like a reversal. The pokémon were being impulsive, while Sai wanted to take his time and think. It was hard to tell whether this was a good sign or not. Difficulty making decisions was an equally troublesome problem. We saw a boy who wanted to find a place as soon as possible, with the smallest amount of traveling involved, so that he could start focusing on recovery alone. And what better place than here? We weren’t lying or exaggerating any of the city’s features. We were content, and today seemed to go well enough for him. Our hearts were set, but we were also content to wait. We had been loyal thus far, and we didn’t intend to change that, so we granted the wish of our trainer and went to the gym.
    Last edited by diamondpearl876; 22nd September 2016 at 7:59 AM.

  20. #220
    Join Date
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    Still, this was exactly what we needed. There were no memories associated with Olivine City. No one was threatening to follow or hurt Sai anymore. It was an added bonus that we had something to do besides battle the gym leader first, though I was sure we’d get around to that eventually, considering that the gym challenge was all that he had ever known. There was nothing particularly wrong with that, seeing as how Sai enjoyed battlin. He had to grow out of it sometime, though… And it seemed that Atis was starting to rub off on me…
    Is that suppose to be an accent or are you just missing the g at the end? Really enjoying it so far, keep up the good work!

    True to his word, Sai stepped out of the water, with Atis’s arms wrapped around his neck, legs wrapped around his torso. I had no reason to stay since I was clean now (or as clean as I could be with seawater), so I tagged along. Ezrem and Rennio didn’t want to be alone with each other, but that was the only reason they came, too. Gracie and Kuiora had already been waiting there for a while ago.
    That comes off awkward
    Last edited by Dragonicwari; 16th July 2013 at 7:54 PM.



  21. #221
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    Quote Originally Posted by Dragonicwari View Post
    Is that suppose to be an accent or are you just missing the g at the end? Really enjoying it so far, keep up the good work!



    That comes off awkward
    Fixed. Thanks for pointing it out.

  22. #222
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    Chapter 20

    To think that this was how everyone repaid me for all the damage I had done…
    To me, It's almost like they're saying that he's being repaid with niceness, despite how horrible he's been. It's odd, I feel oddly happy about his plight

    “I see,” she said, and I swore she sounded sadder.
    Usually means something bad. If it hurts, it's healing! If not, you're probably screwed!

    “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,”
    I wouldn't have known that without some research. Nicely done

    I looked down at myself. I was red.
    Obviously he's shiny, so why does he see red? Is he hallucinating?

    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.
    Wow I loved that. Lovely wordplay

    Up until the incident, I was nothing but a good liar. Now, I was nothing but forgiven.
    Perfect way to round out a gorgeous chapter

    Chapter 21

    to be wanted by so many pokémon lovers in the world would be unbearable.
    That's hilarious. If Atis was a human he's be a shut-in crochety old man

    “I want to get stronger,” I admitted, “but not in the physical sense.”
    I really responded to that bit. It's almost like the first time he's stood up for himself in a way that was satisfactory for him. Like it was something that he wanted to do that he would be ready to force if he needed to

    “we’ll need a cake. That’s a food, right?
    No Sai, you're not a total creeper at all

    and I silently scolded him for his lack of manners, not having the courage to say it out loud
    I really hope something happens where Atis doesn't really leave. If he does I'm going to miss moments like this. For god's sake, he's a Pokemon and he's more human than Sai!

    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.
    This formatting seems weird to me, er, well it read weird to me. Two to three sentences per seperated sequence is usually the norm, but the way it looks on the screen made me accidentally skip a few times. Not sure why. Maybe I'm just being ridiculous, but it just felt slightly off to me.

    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.
    Sai did something to him, didn't hey! that bastard! I hate Sai even more now than I did before, and that was quite a bit. I'd say that it confuses me, but I have an inkling of where this is going. Especially since I read the next chapter when you posted it; however, I was under the influence so I don't remember a lot lol. We shall see!

    Chapter 22


    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.
    That was an oddly touching slash disturbing little tidbit there. I've always wondered wether Kuiora has had some sort of emotional trobules. Not that I'm saying she for sure does, mind you. All I'm saying is that when she goes off on these tangents, it kind of just rings out to me that she's not quite so much there. Especially the first sentence that I quoted, it just rings out to me as someone who isn't quite as balanced as they should be. I'm probably completely off base here, but it was something I was thinking of

    Sai cried all night.
    I hope he regrets his actions. I think he does

    “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.”
    Quite an interesting way of speaking. It's very to the point and methodical. I like it quite a bit. It sounds like he's talking to an idiot at first, but he's actually being really direct. So few people ever really are

    bringing forth what looked like a spiky ball of purple dust… one that had hands and the ability to float around.
    I feel like that may be a missed opportunity for a bit more description there

    “Hmm,” Sai said. “Try a different body part! Tackle!”
    Really Sai, really?

    Our pathetic team, for the moment, was the epitome of loss.
    God that's depressing

    Chapter 24

    chapter 24 ; [SAI]
    ****ing finally!

    My mother had moved to Johto from a place that she called France.
    He's french? That explains so much

    I would watch as pokémon fought until their eyes were clawed out, until every part of their bodies were paralyzed with exhaustion.
    That was actually pretty vivid and well written. I liked it quite a bit, however I felt like you could have jacked it up another notch or two by adding two or three more sentences with blood squirting, bones breaking, lacerations, etc. Just a little more description would have really opened up the terror a bit more

    I had heard once or twice that his name was Giovanni,
    Is this the first time you've mentioned someone from the anime/manga? I think it is, though I could be wrong. But I like the direction this is going, and I'm excited to see where you take his portrayl

    It will be a… survival project of sorts.”
    You brilliant maniac! I love it

    Apparently, these regions were uninhabited in terms of humans, and one day, pokémon showed up on the shores of Africa.
    I'm interested in the time frame this happened in. Too early, and word couldn't spread fast enough, too late, and you run the risk of why humanity hadn't discovered them before they discovered them. If that makes sense. I just feel like there might be a continuity issue there in terms of how it asctually came to be. Believe me, I love the concept and how it intermingles with the real world. It's actually pretty unique and well-thought, that was just the first thing I thought of

    Sertraline hydrochloride, anti-depressant, 50mg. Used to confirm the diagnosis of childhood bipolar disorder. Reported frequent headaches, symptoms of mania (delusions of grandeur, high motivation and energy). Discontinued.

    Fluoxetine hydrochloride, anti-depressant, 10mg, increased to 20mg. Used upon request by Master Giovanni upon seeing the effects of sertraline hydrochloride. Reported weight gain (10lbs), frequent nausea, sweating, symptoms of mania (worsened insomnia, delusions of grandeur, impulsive and aggressive behavior). Discontinued.

    Lithium carbonate, anti-psychotic/mood stabilizer, 300mg. Reported severe pain and tremors, and thinking that he was a “zombie, though I’m not sure what that means, but I’ve heard my mother describe it as a bad, bad feeling.” Discontinued upon having intentions for suicide.

    Lamotrigine, anti-convulsant/mood stabilizer, 25mg. Reported better sleeping, calmer moods, slight paranoia. Discontinued upon seeing rash.

    Quetiapine fumarate, anti-psychotic/mood stabilizer, 50mg, increased to 100mg. Reported sleeping too much (16+ hours a day). No other reaction. Discontinued.

    Aripiprazole, anti-psychotic/mood stabilizer, 15mg, increased to 30mg. Reported extreme paranoia (thinking that others wanted to poison him) and an unwillingness to eat. Discontinued.

    Patient tried to refuse all further treatment but called for me five days later, saying he had changed his mind.

    Divalproex sodium, anti-convulsant/mood stabilizer, 25mg. Reported severe weight gain (30lbs), returned homicidal thoughts, frequent dizziness and aggression, strange and vivid dreams. Discontinued.

    Chlopromazine hydrochloride, anti-psychotic/mood stabilizer, 10mg. Reported lethargy, depersonalization, numbness. Discontinued upon request.

    Risperidone, anti-psychotic/mood stabilizer, 0.5mg, increased to 1mg, then 2mg. Reported slight anxiety, calmer moods, better sleeping.
    You're amazingly intelligent, I've told you that before, but this is really quite amazing. Very methodical and directly factual. The thing I'm wondering is where you learned the names/doses/effects of the different medications. Was this something you have already learned, or did you seek an outside source for help?

    Side note: There's too much for me to quote involving the other prisoners that Sai was exposed to. But I just weanted to remind you again of how utterly brilliant you are. The way the sequence of events are falling into place (less so, the names of his future pokemon, but more so his very nature) is simply awe inspiring. The way you layered the development so carefully, and to have it pay off and make so much sense like this, is truely a triumpth of writing dexterity. I'm not just saying that to feed your ego either, I'm just simply amazed

    Don’t stay in one place for too long, or you’ll be prone to start wasting time.
    Hime wanting to always keep moving makes more sense now. I never commented on it, but I always wondered why he was in such a rush

    “Hmm…” my mother said. “This pokémon is no longer yours. The moment we took him away, he was the property of Team Rocket.”
    I started out liking Melanie for saving Sai (I use saving generously) and holding on to that motherly love, but after saying that, I kinda want to kick her in the face

    The white cords would have been happy cords and the black cords would have been sad cords and they would have hooked up to me simultaneously, sending me back and forth between the two extreme emotions that constantly pervaded my life
    God that was brilliant

    You really ****ing pulled it out, didn't you. Every hint you dropped, every sign you waved throughout the chapters, I never got the hint. You told me during one of my theories that I need to think more simply. And there you have it, that's it. I remember in posts you defending the thought of people who are mentally disturbed, and your rampant passion about what you're studying in college. It all makes sense now, the entire story. Everything you've done from the first chapter. I seriously don't even hate Sai anymore. I love him

    Chapter 25


    [QUOTE]being unable to fly and soon I had a larger body with larger wings and larger talons and no pain, no pain![/QUOTE]

    I really loved that proclamation at the end. It lent so much joy and loud triumpth to the situation. I know it was just two words, but when it's read from Ezrem's perspective, it's really quite touching.

    At this rate, every Nurse Joy in the Johto region would know our names by the end of our journey.
    That seems like almost a weird observation from him. I mean, in the games/anime/manga/whatever, every trainer visits almost every Pokemon Center frequently. So it should almost become commonplace for a Pokemon to be aquainted with the Nurse Joy's to the point that it shouldn't be considered odd for them to visit. At the same time though, Sai and everyone don't visit them very often. Wow, now I sound stupid haha. Guess it does make sense. Sorry for rambling lol

    At this, Sai frowned. “Ezrem,” he said sternly, “you’ve… you’ve always been part of this team. I didn’t know it yet, but you joined the team the same time that Rennio did.”
    AWWWWWW

    Marty snickered. “Good grief. Where do I start? First of all, what were you thinking, leaving your pokémon in Ecruteak City all by themselves? What the hell were you doing in a laboratory full of idiots who obviously didn’t know a thing about pokémon?”
    He's so ****ing self-righteous I want to shoot him in the head

    “W-What...?” Rennio said, his face falling. “You mean... You lied to me?”
    I was hoping that that would come up eventually, but to actually read it is rather heartbreaking. The first reaction I had when I read that was I hoped that Rennio kicked his ***, but the primary reaction was one I didn't expect. How sad I was when I read it

    And don’t blame Obieme,
    Seems odd to me that a fire type would die in a fire. Don't know why I didn't comment on it before

    Chapter 26


    chapter 26 ; [ATIS]
    memory
    Yay, Atis chapter!!

    Now I knew: it was the dangerous look of knowing things that no one else did
    I can relate to that. Well, more often than not, I'm wrong about feelings like that, but sometimes I'm right.

    Surprisingly, I was allowed to
    That surprised me as well. Why was he allowed to go the sessions. Well, judging by his demeanor I can say that they probably wouldn't judge him as threatening, but still

    Sai shook his head and immediately said, “No. That sounds exactly like what they did to me. Even if your intentions are true, well… If I need anyone to protect me, I can count on my pokémon.”
    I knew he wouldn't respond to the idea of witness protection like that. After what he told them, I can't even believe that they would suggest it

    “Remember, Atis, you are a prizewinning scientist pokémon—” Ezrem started.

    “No thanks…”
    OMG that was hilarious

    I hoped for nothing but the best.
    Seems kinda futile but I'm gonna go with it, mainly because I want to tackle-hug him

    Chapter 27

    Sai had an effect on my beliefs that I still couldn’t quite place.
    Senori I think is more dependant on Sai than I initally realized. I like it in a way, and in another I don't. I have mixed feelings about their relationship. I guess I've always hoped that Senori would take the Atis route, but the quoted portion really put me in my place

    This *******’s got nothing on you.”
    Argh! That kinda bothered me. I might suggest italicising the word so that it's not replaced by asteriks. It just kind of takes away from the seriousness of the word and it's implications

    “Gracie,” Marty said loudly to get her attention, “I’m giving you a choice. I’ve given a lot of thought to this. It’s been hard because you’re my starter, but if you’re not happy with me, then… you can leave. I brought you to Sai because his pokémon might have done something for you I’m not aware of. You should go with him, if you think that’s a better fit.”
    I really didn't see that coming at all. I don't just mean from Marty, I don't mean from anyone, but especially from him

    “No dice?”

    “No dice.”
    Hah! Dice...love it

    Atis gave me a halfhearted glare and said, “I’ll spin on my head in the water and splash you. All of you.”
    I feel like him saying that was a big moment for him

    But the team wouldn’t let him feel guilty. Not right now. They forced him out onto the sun and tried to get him into the water, but he said he’d wait to see what everyone was doing first before having some fun himself. He was concerned for us, probably because this was something new to him, and probably because he had a newcomer to care for, a newcomer that could be damaged by too much water exposure.
    I feel like I'm just complaining, but one more time I feel like this may have been a missed opportunity for some more description. You literally have everything at your disposal here when it comes to the ocean. Since you spend so much time on the thoughts of the Pokemon, I'm almost kind of really craving some enviromental description

    [QUOTE]Sai going through any new experience was bound to turn either horribly awkward or magnificently perfect[QUOTE]

    LMFAO, exactly my thoughts

    Sai’s hair covering his face and with Atis suddenly having a concerned look on his face.
    The two face's so close together read weird to me

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

    -Thanks to PopPrincess_Lyra for the banner above, and Sworn Metalhead for the banner below -


    All Hail the Six Kings...
    Chapter Three added (03-31-2015)

  23. #223
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    SURVIVAL PROJECT

    chapter 28 ; [KUIORA]
    unanimous

    *

    I thought about coming up with my own myths once upon a time, but I couldn't do it anymore, not after what I had seen. ...How would I have explained the entirety of Sai's life? What if I tried to describe it in a single sentence? Would I ever be able to tell his story with a straight face? I didn't think so. I was real. I was there when he started in New Bark Town. I was there when he jumped. I was there when he survived and tried to get better.

    I connect with Sai's feeling the most when I wonder whether my life had been real or not. I remember how small I used to be. As a totodile, my fangs were less powerful, less pronounced. I couldn't hit hard with my water-type attacks, either. I was young and silly and I only thought of myself. Not anymore.

    I looked at Gracie, the newest friend on the team. Gracie reminded me of the cyndaquil I used to know, the cyndaquil Sai could have picked. What if he hadn't chosen me? Would I ever have come this far? If only Professor Elm could have seen me grow...

    At least I know that death is real. It was right in front of me the entire time and I didn't even know it. I'm sorry, Ezrem, for having told you otherwise. I'm also sorry to the gods above. Most of all, I'm sorry, Sai, for not believing in you when you needed it most. I deserved whatever punishment was coming to me. I've tried to compensate my losses, but to this day I don't know if it was enough.

    Death among the living is real too. That's what Sai thought he was. He thought he was dead, but he wasn't. In the lab, he wasn't living at all, so it made sense. He waited patiently for something better. He waited patiently... for me and the rest of the team. Because of this I was trying to please him instead of the legendaries. How am I doing, Sai? How am I doing? I look at my body sometimes and wonder.

    Love is a funny thing. Love tears itself apart and repairs itself so seamlessly, and really, I'm lucky it's this way, because otherwise I wouldn't have gotten a second chance. I've always loved you Sai... but if I had known about your sadness earlier, I would have loved you hard enough to take your heart and make it start.

    So it goes, I suppose.

    *

    On both sides of the gym lay clusters of shining crystals. When we opened the door (which took some effort, given that it was made of steel), the crystals glimmered in the sunlight and temporarily blinded us. Sai mentioned something about a trap, but his paranoia settled as we moved further inside and saw that no one was there. All that greeted us were statues of a long, snake-like pokémon protruding from the ceiling. They hung above us, connecting in a way that made us feel as if we were under an arch.

    “The steelix statues look like they're kissing,” Ezrem commented, flying up to them to get a closer look.

    “Are they really touching?” Senori asked.

    “Almost.”

    “How adorable,” Gracie said. “This must be a steel-type gym.”

    Soon we heard resounding footsteps and we became quiet. A young woman approached, her hands clasped together and held over her chest. She wore a white dress that went down to her knees and two orange ball-shaped clips in her auburn hair. Her smile was soft and her voice tender as she said, “Welcome to the Olivine City gym. Can I help you?”

    “Well, we were just admiring the decorations... but I would like a gym battle, if that's all right with you,” Sai said sheepishly. “Or we can come back later if you want.”

    “No, you're fine,” she said, shaking her head. “My name is Jasmine, and I would love to have a gym battle with you.”

    “Really? I guess we're lucky. I didn't make an appointment or anything...”

    “No need. Follow me,” she said, motioning for us to come. As we went to the battlefield, I noticed that the girl was walking barefoot. Were her feet used to being cold or something? I'd expect nothing less from a steel-type gym leader, though otherwise, she didn't look the part.

    There weren't any statues or crystals on the battlefield. Everyone stopped except Ezrem, who flew past us and almost crashed into Jasmine.

    “Sorry. I was busy thinking,” Ezrem said, though I could tell he was lying. He had that sarcastic edge in his voice that I was accustomed to.

    Jasmine giggled, and he flew back toward us. More specifically, he passed by me and I could feel his face turn so that his beak brushed against my cheek.

    “W-What was that?” I said, rubbing my cheek in case he had left a mark. Looking at my claws, however, I saw nothing.

    “A good luck kiss... tap... thing,” Ezrem said. “Yes, I stole a kiss from you. For good luck. I know he'll ask you to battle.”

    “What...?” I mumbled. Why was the kiss considered stealing when he had freely given it to me? Was he stealing anything from me, like my concentration on the battle? What a jerk. But I hadn't shied away, so it didn't seem like thievery. It seemed like he was only cheating the world from time itself. This was the kiss we didn't have time for, yet indulged in anyway. “Stupid bird. I'll battle and I won't be distracted by your stupidity!”

    “You want to battle, Kuiora?” Sai asked, apparently not having noticed Ezrem's antics.

    “Yeah, I do!”

    “Wait. Atis, I have a question for you.”

    “Y-Yes...?” Atis said.

    “Is Kuiora a good type match-up for Jasmine? I mean, I sent Senori out against a ghost-type while you were gone, and that was pretty awful, so... I'm asking you.”

    “Is that all...? Well, if Jasmine uses a steelix, Kuiora should be fine. Steelix are part ground-type, which is perfect for her water-type attacks,” Atis explained, nodding.

    “Sounds good,” Sai said. “Otherwise I would've tried Gracie, so she could show off her skills if she wanted.”

    “Gracie would be a good choice, too, but there's a disadvantage...”

    “Ground-types are just as scary as water-types,” Gracie said. “Kuiora can fight.”

    Rennio appeared behind the fire-type and said, “I totally agree. Though I think all pokémon are scary, so I'm not sure how much my opinion counts...”

    Ezrem scoffed. Gracie glared at him and I knew she belonged on this team already. Everyone belonged on the team for some reason or another. I was sure of everyone else's role except my own. Was I the strongest? No, that was probably Atis, even if he didn't show it. I was the baby once, but Rennio had replaced me. It's not like I would have enjoyed that title, anyway. So where was I? I only knew that I leaned toward the extreme. I was always extremely eager, extremely angry or worried... but rarely somewhere in between. Perhaps it wasn't even about where I was in regards to the team, but rather it was about how the others complemented me and kept me balanced. I wanted to make it up to them and make them proud, so I stepped forward onto the battlefield to do what I had to do.

    “Your hitmontop is very smart,” Jasmine said, bringing forth a plain pokéball. “I'll be using Steelix. Did the statues give it away?”

    True to her word, a live steelix emerged from the light. The massive creature definitely beat me in terms of weight and height. Its head was large though it mostly consisted of its jaw alone, and its rock body trailed behind it, only interrupted by spikes sticking out from its sides. I thought that the pokémon was going to break through the roof of the building, but the building was taller than I expected.

    I stood there. Would Sai try to give commands for once? I looked back at him and saw him talking to Atis eagerly.

    “I'll help you,” Atis said, “but we've got to be quick.”

    “I won't wait for you to come up with strategies,” Jasmine said. She pointed at me and said, “Steelix, headbutt!”

    The steelix let out a ferocious battle cry as it brought the front half of its body backward. It lunged at me, and time seemed to stop. Because the snake took us the majority of the battlefield, it shouldn't have taken long for it to reach me. Nevertheless, it seemed to be moving in slow motion as Atis and Sai discussed their ideas.

    “You should have Kuiora use her water-type attacks, yes. Physical attacks won't do much, no matter how powerful she is...” Atis blathered on, making sure the boy was listening.

    “Hmph. So much for counting on my trainer,” I said. I wanted him to feel reliable and valid as a human being for once, but he wasn't doing a good job at commanding the battle.

    Well, the steelix's attack was simple. A simple attack called for simple countermeasures. I pushed off the ground with my feet and jumped away from the steelix's headbutt attack.

    “Sai, pay attention!” I cried as I landed. I placed my hands on my hips to show him I meant business.

    “Sorry,” he said. “I thought it was just common sense to dodge.”

    “A little support couldn't hurt...” Atis said.

    “If you tell me to dodge, you'll feel like you're in control of the whole battle. And that's what you want, right?”

    “If that would make me a proper trainer, yes.”

    “Better do it, then!”

    Sai sighed, probably exasperated by how much he still had to learn. He was lucky, at least, that I knew what to do in case he had trouble thinking on his feet.

    “Use water gun!” he shouted.

    I snickered at the poor steelix. Surely it would succumb to my water gun attack. I held my breath, feeling water swish and accumulate inside of me and up toward my mouth. The steelix stayed where it was, unfazed. I'd show him that he couldn't underestimate me and get away with it. A hefty stream of water shot out directly at it, and I grinned, because there simply wasn't enough room on the battlefield for it to dodge. But at the last second, the steelix raised its tail and slammed it down on the water, dispersing it in all directions.

    “My steelix's tail can block any attack,” Jasmine said. “You won't be able to beat him so easily.”

    “We'll see about that,” Sai said. “Kuiora, figure out a way to use your water gun attack effectivly!”

    “That's not a command!” Atis said, covering his eyes in embarrassment.

    I laughed, too happy over the fact that he was trying. And besides, he had the right idea. I had to break the steelix's defenses, and then I'd be fine. Atis had said not to use physical attacks, but... what if I tried to use a physical and a special attack at the same time?

    I had to be fast or I wouldn't make it. I shot out another water gun and leapt from the ground. The steelix predictably lifted its tail, but it wasn't ready for me to dive straight at its tail with my body. I had hid myself underneath the water so it would take longer for him to see. And as I hoped for, I was faster than the stream of water itself. When the steelix saw me, it seemed surprised, but had nowhere to go. I swat his tail away with my own and fell down to the floor to make way for the real attack.

    The water gun hit the steelix with full force, and my opponent struggled not to topple over. When the water dissipated, it seemed that I had finally made a dent, but not enough damage had been dealt. I scowled.

    “Didn't you say this thing was a ground-type?”

    “Yes... It must have high defensive skills...” Atis said.

    “Obviously.”

    “As the sixth leader in the gym circuit, I'm obligated to let my steelix fight at full power,” Jasmine said. She didn't look like a steel-type leader, but she was certainly starting to act like one. Her shy demeanor must have been a facade.

    It made sense, though, for us to be having so much trouble. We only had three badges—or one, since we had lost some. If Jasmine was the sixth gym leader, then that meant we had messed up our route and we weren't supposed to be here. There were so many other things on our minds that we never considered whether or not we were doing the gym challenge wrong.

    We had taken on stronger opponents, like Marty and Sai's mother... but those battles were desperate. This was not life or death, loss or gain... If we lost, then it would temporarily strike Sai's pride, but it wouldn't pull apart our team. If we won, then at most we'd have something to look back on fondly. Of course I aimed to win, but the outcome seemed bleak now.

    “Steelix, use tail whip,” said Jasmine.

    One hit from that tail and I'd be done for. I wasn't strong enough. My training had only done so much for me. My current body could only do so much for me. ...Was it time to evolve? I had felt the urge to change for some time now, but it didn't seem appropriate. The sitation called for attention on Sai, not me. But I was the center of the show and I could do whatever I wanted now. Could I evolve right here, right now? If only Sai could see me then...

    The steelix lunged at me once more. Its speed told me that it was eager to get this over with.

    “Kuiora, dodge it!” Sai cried. “It'll hurt you!”

    And there was the command I wanted earlier. Thanks, Sai. You never cease to amaze me... but I don't want to move. I want to show you how strong I really am I want to show you that I belong on this team. If I have to evolve to do that, then I will. But what was the hesitation I was feeling? If I was going to evolve, I had to do it quick.

    I remembered my last evolution. I had been in the middle of punching Sai as punishment for not acknowledging me. I had been frustrated, desperate and sad because I wanted too much attention for my own good. I didn't want that anymore. I wanted to be stronger not for myself, but for him. If it would always be a fault of mine, then so be it. Needless to say, though, evolving didn't bring back good memories. Sai punching me had been a grand moment, but now it was just a reminder of how childish I used to be. Similary, I didn't want to evolve now, then lose and have that failure hanging over my head too...

    Being a croconaw had offered me some of the best days of my life. There was the look on Sai's face when the whole team decided to stay with him after the battle with Marty. I had been so excited to meet Ezrem and Rennio, even though I misjudged them as legendaries. I remembered traipsing around Goldenrod City with Atis.

    I remembered some of the worst times, too, like Ezrem getting hurt, Rennio crying, Sai jumping... but all that had made me a better teammate. I realized my mistakes now. As a croconaw, I was as mentally strong as I perhaps would ever be. Did I want to ruin that? Did I want to ruin the form that made me who I am today? Not if I didn't have to.

    And I didn't have to. I just had to fend off the steelix's attack and find a way to defeat it. If I lost, things could be fixed...

    I ignored my trainer's pleas. The rest of the team yelled over to me, particularly Ezrem. Don't you know me by now, Ezrem? Then again, I thought I knew you, but I didn't. Perhaps we can get to know each other better after this. I'm not gonna give up here.

    I put my arms in front of me, indicating that I would be protecting myself. But nothing could have prepared me for the inevitable impact. The steelix swept me off the ground, making it impossible to stop with force. I grabbed onto the steelix's cold tail and held onto it for dear life. I closed my eyes and waited for what would happen next.

    The tip of the steelix's tail was sharp and packed a punch. It threw me into a wall and searing pain soared through me as the red scales on my back were embedded into the dented metal. It took all of my strength to keep holding on to the steelix's tail. The steelix's expression was hard to read, but it seemed angry when it flailed its tail in various directions in an effort to shake me off.

    “Keep going, Steelix,” Jasmine said.

    “Kuiora, what are you doing? Let go!” Sai said. His worry could be heard in his voice. He paced back and forth, wanting to help like any good trainer should. I'd have to make him forgive me later.

    I waited for my chance, but as I crashed and crashed I started to think it would never come. So I had to act now.

    I felt cold, cold enough to do what I had to. Normally I could perform this attack alone, but it wasn't anything I had practiced often. It wasn't as effective without the temperature drop, either. With the steelix's body pressed aganst my scales, I felt like ice. I felt invincible.

    My jaw dropped as my teeth charged themselves with ice-type energy. I thought I was going to freeze to death, but I had to deal with it. The steelix stung its tail downward once more, and I dared myself not to look at the ground unless I lost my energy due to fear. Instead I bit the steel-type's tail as hard as I could. Finally the steelix showed a reaction as it roared and flailed its tail again. I let go and dropped to the floor, barely able to land on my own two feet.

    All I could do was hope it had been enough.

    I could've used my ice fang attack without taking such a risk. But since my body was colder than usual, the chances of the steelix's tail freezing were high. I smiled as icicles formed and hung from the entirety of the steelix's tail, embracing it and holding it in place. No matter how hard the steelix tried, his tail wouldn't budge.

    Sai gaped at me. “That was quite the plan. I wish I had thought of it. But your job isn't done yet, is it?” I nodded and he said, “Use water gun.”

    “Steelix, defend yourself!” Jasmine said, a hint of fear in her voice.

    With the power I had left, I shot several streams of water directly at the steelix's face. The snake-like creature took a considerable amount of damage, as its tail remained immobile, and it breathed heavily. Even if I hadn't attacked, I could see that it was having its own internal battle.

    Jasmine seemed to realize this as she said, “That's enough. I forfeit.”

    Sai was surprised. “Why? I mean, we could keep going...”

    “Sai! Gym leader's call...” Atis said quietly.

    But the gym leader heard him. “Your hitmontop is right. Any trainer should know when to call out their pokémon,” she said, returning the hurt steelix to its pokéball.

    “Oh... Do you think I should've pulled Kuiora out of there?”

    “No. She had a plan. I... didn't have a plan. Steelix's tail is our ultimate weapon right now, but we're working on it.”

    “The gym leader has a weakness?” Ezrem chimed in. “I never would have guessed.”

    “Don't we all?” she said, unperturbed. “Sai's is his inablity to command his pokémon. I can't say I've ever seen a pokémon lead a gym battle before... Nevertheless, your croconaw impressed me greatly. You've done something right with raising her, and that's why you've earned this mineral badge,” she said, extending her hand and opening her palm to reveal a small, octagonal object.

    Sai walked up to her, took the badge and grasped it in his own hand. “Thank you,” he said.

    “Anything for a worthy challenger. Will you be heading to the next gym?”

    “No... This was our last gym battle.”

    At this, Jasmine frowned. “Oh, is that so?”

    “Yes. We were thinking about staying in Olivine for a while.”

    “I hope to see you again. For now, I need to go heal Steelix.”

    “Of course. See you around...”

    Jasmine smiled, turned and left. And as soon as she was gone, Ezrem had something to say.

    “You know, Kuiora, there are three levels of stupid,” Ezrem said. I was having trouble walking, so he bent down and let me climb on his back as we turned to leave ourselves. “There’s the kind of stupid you do without thinking; there’s the kind of stupid that bites you in hindsight; and there’s the kind of stupid where you know it’s stupid and you decide to do it anyway. That move right there? That was a little bit of each one.”

    “What are you talking about?” Gracie intervened. “That was a smart and inventive attack.”

    “Yeah, let’s see you beat that giant snake with just those wings and that annoying beak of yours,” Senori quipped.

    “Ezrem's just mad about his own type disadvantages," Rennio said, shaking his head.

    “Please, guys,” I said weakly. “Don’t fight over me, okay?”

    “Don’t worry… I’m a humble pokémon, really. I’m actually much greater than I think I am.”

    “Why don’t we talk about something worth talking about?” Rennio said. “Like what we’re going to do now.”

    “We’re staying in Olivine City, obviously,” I said quickly.

    “We are?” Sai said. He walked alongside us, occasionally looking at me and asking me if I was all right. “We didn’t even have enough money to buy a shack for two nights.”

    “If you didn’t spend money recklessly… we’d be just fine,” the furret commented. I swore I saw him wink at Sai.

    “It’s not like we’d have to travel any longer, either,” Gracie added.

    “Plus, I like the water. And we have a connection already,” I said.

    “A connection?” Sai said.

    “Um, hello? Jasmine?”

    “Oh… Maybe. Is that really what we all want?”

    “It seems like it,” Rennio said.

    “We just want you to be happy, Sai,” Senori said softly, almost to the point where we couldn’t hear him.

    “Come on. The sea, no traveling because everything's close by, money from gym battle, the actual gym badge, Jasmine. We’ve got it all. I bet she’d help you out since you beat her.”

    “Must you put it so bluntly, Kuiora?” Ezrem said.

    “Be nice to me. I just won a gym battle for you.”

    “Ezrem is always nice to you,” Sai pointed out. “Anyway, if that’s what everyone wants… then that’s what everyone gets.”

    The conversation continued, but I stopped listening. I had gotten the answer I
    wanted, and now I couldn’t stop thinking about Sai’s words. Would he really be happy here? We weren't forcing him to settle down, right? It would be up to us to make his experience as easy and as pleasant as possible. This would be our last step in having him separate from his old home, his old memories… There was nothing better we could ask for.

    And he had noticed how Ezrem was being nice. Had he also noticed that I was close to evolving? What would he have done if he was in my shoes? I had to ask. I broke into whatever conversation they were having and said, “Sai, what would you think of me as a feraligatr?”

    “A feraligatr? I don’t even know what a feraligatr is.”

    “My final form. Duh!”

    “Oh. Right,” he said dumbly.

    Of course. Sai hadn't been waiting for me to evolve during that battle. He had only been worrying about my well-being. He kept me on the team for being whatever I was, whether it be a totodile, a croconaw, or… He would probably accept me if I were any other species. Even a species that kept the team unbalanced and gave us more weaknesses… like another normal-type. He didn’t care. That was just the kind of trainer he was. His life thus far had led him to accept anything promising that came his way, but that didn't mean he didn't ask questions. My life lurked in between the spaces of his words, waiting to be discovered.
    Last edited by diamondpearl876; 22nd September 2016 at 8:00 AM.

  24. #224
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    I opened my jaws, charging my teeth with ice energy. My mouth felt like it would freeze, but I would just have to deal with it for now. When I felt that the attached had charged enough, I waited for the steelix to stop moving so quickly. He swung his tail downward one more time, and I dared myself not to look at the ground lest I should lose the energy in my teeth out of fear. The pain threatened to take my power away, too, but it was just a risk I had to take.
    Should be attack or something, also, you would have a typo during a suspensful part D: It's good so far though, as usual



  25. #225
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    Quote Originally Posted by Dragonicwari
    Should be attack or something, also, you would have a typo during a suspensful part D: It's good so far though, as usual
    I usually hold my tounge on these sort of things, and DP, if I overstepped my bounds, please let me know. The above portion I quoted, Dragonicwari, was your entire post...Seriously? All the things in this chapter you could have commented on, corrected, discussed, that's all you put? I know DP is thankful for any person who comments anything, but I feel like if you're really paying attention to her story and are REALLY giving it your time, you could come u with something better than that. I'm not trying to start a flame war with you or offend you in any way, but come on. 'It's good so far, as usual'?

    You should really look at some of the other posts and replies to her chapters because we all take the time to give her opinions on things that can make her better. You saying only what you said, to me, is like giving a horse invisible water. It doesn't make sense and basically says that you don't really care about what the author is posting at all. If the two of you are friends and this is a post that's okay with DP, the once again, I'm sorry. But this kind of flagrant shortness is almost uncaring and lazy to me when compared to the sheer literary genius that DP puts out on a regular basis. kthnx

    Anyway, onto the review

    My goals had nothing to do with the team or with my trainer; I only thought of myself. Not anymore.
    That's a pretty interesting way of looking at the evolutionary connection that Pokemon feel as they evolve. Even more interesting to me is the fact that Kuiora feels that way. I didn't expect her to come to that realization

    but if I had known about your sorrow all this time, I would have loved you hard enough to take your heart and make it start anew.
    That was really touching actually. Not only a triumpth of gripping wordplay, but once again I'm surprised to see Kuiora being this sincere

    “All the pairs of steelix statues look like they’re kissing,” Ezrem commented
    That literally made me lol

    “A good luck kiss… tap… thing,” Ezrem stammered. “Yes, I stole a kiss from you. For good luck. I know he’ll ask you to battle.”
    That was...amusing. I didn't see Ezrem pulling a move like that. Obviously they have a bond, you've opened that up over previous chapters, but that portion was surprising.

    “I will battle and not be distracted by your stupidity.”
    That line felt a little off to me. Too robotic, to stiff. To me Kuiora has always had kind of a flippant and over the top care-free type attitude that doesn't really jive well with that statement

    “We’ll see about that,” Sai said. “Kuiora, figure out a way to use your water gun attack effectively!”

    “That’s not a command…” Atis said, exasperated.
    Lmao that's exactly what I was thinking. Does Sai have any battle prowess at all? After all those years of watching death fighting, didn't he pick up on anything at all...Sigh...Hah! Sigh = Sai

    “As the sixth gym leader in the gym circuit, I will not go easy on you or ask my steelix to be weaker than it actually is. Will you be able to overcome his defense?” Jasmine said
    Once again, the dialogue seems a bit too stiff here. I don't see why the Gym Leader would be slightly taunting Sai the way she is, and using pseudo predictable machoistic lines like the ones quoted above. It just seems a bit too planned and intentional; instead of being more random and spur of the moment, which would be appropriate since they're in the middle of the battle

    His world lay within the unknown and he displayed that uncertainty through words, questions. My world simply lurked in between the spaces of his words, waiting to be discovered.
    God that was beautiful pair. Perfectly sums up a outsiders/insiders perspective of that kind of bond. Loved it. *Tacklehugs*

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

    -Thanks to PopPrincess_Lyra for the banner above, and Sworn Metalhead for the banner below -


    All Hail the Six Kings...
    Chapter Three added (03-31-2015)

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