Chapter Nine: Encourage Without Courage
"Here we are. Goldenrod City Department Store," said an exhausted Skyla, "finally". The girls had safely made their way to their destination, thanks to Skyla's helpful flying-type friends, Unfezant and Swanna. There they were stood in front of the largest store in all of Johto, where they intended to indulge in a little shopping spree. Clothes and accessories were all on the agenda and more particularly new bathing suits for the girls. Not to mention, new pants for Skyla were also on the top of the list. Skyla attempted to cover her behind, mostly by using Elesa as an add-on accessory, which involved Elesa wrapping herself onto Skyla, to hide the gash in the shorts made by the evil Meowth. To any outside party, it would appear as if the two girls were inseparable. As such, weird looks from other patrons were plentiful, although their behaviour was simply acknowledged as typical of tourists because, apparently, tourists are weird. Well, that was Johto's idea of tourists.
"Um, can I help, you ladies?" asked the shop clerk. She raised her left eyebrow, as she noticed the one girl was clung to the other. 'Hmm, could these two girls be an item? They sure do look incredibly close,' she thought to herself.
"Yes, miss. Could you direct us to where you keep the... um... pants?"
"Umm, I'm not entirely sure what you mean?"
"You know, the outerwear version... in particular the women's kind," asked Skyla.
"Huh, you mean... shorts?"
"Exactly. You see, I kind of have a delicate situation here". Skyla pointed at her behind, which Elesa had been covering using her entire body.
'Jeepers. Do I really want to know what this is about?' thought the sales girl. "O-kay. Um, sure. I will, um, show you right away". She had a feeling it was an unusual foreign custom, whereby lovers stick together in the most literal way possible, so she put on a smile and proceeded to do her job without prejudice. The girls followed the sales girl closely behind.
"I think the sales girl thinks we're lovers," Elesa whispered in Skyla's ear, whilst still clinging to her.
"That's probably because you're piggybacking me in the middle of a crowded store," she muttered under her breath, loud enough for Elesa to hear, but soft enough not to be heard by anyone else.
"Well, it's either this or letting everyone see your undies," she said softly, gritting her teeth.
"But couldn't you just back up a little? I feel like I'm in a bad sitcom".
"It's not going to work. If I move any further, your delicates will be on show for all to see".
"Fine. Then, I guess we both have to look like idiots".
Some time later:
"Hallelujah! These shorts are a perfect fit and, most important, I don't have to worry about anyone seeing my panties in public," Skyla said happily, as she admired her rear.
"Thank God for that. I was being to strain my back from all that piggybacking".
"Hey, what about my back? You're the one who was on top of me".
"Now, now. Let's not give the readers funny ideas".
"Well, I'm just glad to have this sorted out now. I shuddered to think what could have happened if I had to spend our whole vacation without decent coverage. I still have nightmares of that one time I lost my bra in the school locker room".
"Ha-ha, oh yes, I remember and that one kid thought it was a melon holder".
"Until the whole class set him straight".
"And everyone knew it belong to you because..."
"Yes, yes. I know because I had the biggest bust. It's not my fault I outgrew all the other girls in freshman year," she grumbled.
"I said it then and I'll say it again, you really need to take better care of your clothes, dear, especially your undergarments".
"Yeah, I know. You don't have to remind me".
Meanwhile, in the Goldenrod City Underground passage, a familiar girl was wandering through. That girl was Lyra. She had given up on finding the old man's answers and had taken time to give her darling Meowth a haircut. The older haircut brother was on staff today, giving Meowth a better haircut than the younger brother could, and thereby increasing its happiness even more so. If only it counted, seeing as Meowth was already at full happiness. The cat purred in content, as it had its fur brushed and washed. Lyra sat on one of the shop's stool, waiting for the Pokémon's treatment to be finished. She gazed around the place and remembered all that occurred there - the time she took a photograph in the Team Rocket uniform and when she donned the clothes again in order to penetrate the Radio Tower in her bid to rescue it from the evil team. She cringed at the memory she had of Silver ripping said uniform off her very body. Good times, she thought. How she wish she could get that excitement back again. Perhaps, that is what set her off to do what she did next...
"All done. Your Pokémon looks so much happier," said the haircut brother.
"Thanks. Aww, Meowth looks so cute," Lyra said in a smile, as she walked away.
Lyra and her Meowth carried on trailing through the Underground passage until reaching the familiar end. They were at the photograph stall, where she was instantly recognised.
"Well, look who is it. The saviour of Goldenrod," said the man at the stall.
"Savour. Of Goldenrod. I'd hardly go that far," Lyra danced around awkwardly.
"Thanks to you, sales have sky-rocketed. People are lining up to take a picture dressed as a Rocket Grunt".
Lyra looked around at the stall and noticed there were no lines of people. Really? It doesn't look like that to me. "So, how much does it cost for a photo these days? I remember you giving them out for free before".
"For you, it still is. Photos are free of charge to all my favourite customers". He grinned.
Come to think of it. Why is it that this Cameron guy always following me around and why is he so willing to take my photo and at no extra cost? I still have a bad feeling about this fellow right here. Wait, that board behind him has a bunch of photos. Huh, they are all photos of young girls and they are mostly of me. I knew it, what a creep. "On second thought... no thanks," Lyra told him.
"Oh, no photo today. That's disappointing," he said. "How about dress-up? I have new accessories I would just love for you to try out".
Eww, you freak. What the Hell, man. You don't go around propositioning underage girls in a seedy underground passageway. That is just wrong and messed up. Gosh, what is up with the men in this world? Why are they either psychotic telepaths or camera-toting creeps? I need to get out of this place already. Lyra felt sick. Her face contorted at the thought of this man attempting to play her like a Barbie doll. She took one look at the inconspicuous changing room, which had no right being there. What was a dressing chamber doing in such a grimy underground lair, she thought. The answers of which she didn't want to imagine. "No way, that's not me. I don't do dress-up," she sneered.
"Oh, but it's such fun". He blocked Lyra's way, in an annoying attempt to stop her from leaving. "Please, won't you reconsidered?"
Get out of my way, fool. Don't make me have to beat you up with my Meowth.
"Hey, is this bozo bothering you?" asked a sharp voice from behind.
Lyra turned around and saw that the voice belonged to her once-rival, Silver. He was exactly as she remembered him; a total jerk. "Silver," she said softly, completely taken back by his sudden arrival. This is so weird. I was just thinking of Silver and here he is. It's true I felt something for him once. To me, he always did seem like a sensitive guy underneath that entire attitude. Great! I feel like a cliché, having had these feelings for a guy who can only be described as the bad boy type. Not to mention, rejecting a nice guy was a tad cruel, but the heart wants what it wants. Except, now, I don't know what my heart wants anymore. One minute, I'm head-over-heels for this girl then I'm back to guys and then girls again. I wish I could just make up my mind, or should I say my heart, because this is making me losing whatever sanity I have left. Not that I had much to start with.
"Dude, leave the girl alone," Silver said to the man, as she gripped onto Cameron's collar in a threatening gesture, "Can't you see, she's not interested"?
"Hey, who are you? You can't just come barging in here when the lady and I are having a casual conversation".
"I'm the guy, who about to punch your teeth out. Casual conversation, yeah right". Silver was prepared to take a swing at the man. Being the hot-blooded male that he was, violence was the only thing he knew how to dish out. That and his acid-tongued responses, but, in this instance, he figured words would not cut it.
"Meowth. Use Pay Day," Lyra quickly called out before Silver could land the first blow. Her Meowth threw large amounts of money at both men hitting and hurting them in the head.
"Ouch, why did you let that thing hit me?" Silver asked Lyra.
"That thing is my friend and, just so you know, I can fight my own battles. I was about ready to beat the guy up myself when you just had to butt your nose in". Upon hearing the words, "beat up, Cameron made a swift departure from the scene worried for his own safety. He also hastily picked up a few coins thrown by Lyra's Meowth as he did so.
"Oh, please. I hardly call using your little kitty to fight is the same thing as beating up a guy yourself. Clearly, you need a man around whether it be a Pokémon or a human being. You're so weak".
Lyra couldn't believe how he could be so brazen enough to say something as misogynistic as that to her face. Weak, am I? Fine then, I won't ask Meowth or any of my Pokémon to do this as I will happily do it myself. And so, she decked him in the face. Her fist hit so fast that the impact caused his nose began to bleed in an instant. "You still think I'm weak now?" she retorted.
Silver held his nose in pain and tilted his head upwards. "Okay, okay. I'm sorry. Forgive me". But his apology lack any sense of vigour to be genuine, so she kicked him in the leg to make sure her point came across. "Alright, Lyra, there's no need to be mad. I didn't mean it". Lyra retreated, content in the knowledge that Silver had learnt his lesson: Never piss off my girl with a mean left hook and a powerful kick to boot. Silver breathed a sigh of relief, grateful she didn't hit him where it would have really hurt. He released his fingers from his nose, as the bleeding stopped a little while later.
After a beat, Lyra asked, "what are you doing here anyway, Silver?"
"Well, I was at the Pokémon League. You know, I train there every Monday and Wednesday". Lyra nodded. She was a tad curious to hear why he wasn't there on this particular Wednesday. "And today, that old guy sics his Abra on me. That blasted thing teleported me here and that's when I saw you".
"The old man with the Abra. At the Pokémon League" Lyra said out loud, but mostly to herself.
"Yeah, him. Weird guy said I had some important mission to do," he said with a hint of annoyance.
Lyra wondered if the "mission" had something to do with her and more specifically her dream. It was all too much of a strange coincidence. She wanted to poke a little more and gets some answers, but she was under the impression that Silver would not be of any help if he knew her motivations for asking. Lyra had to tread lightly, as this was Silver she was dealing with. She decided to start with a simple question, "what did the old coot tell you exactly?"
"Yeah. What exactly?"
"Why do you want to know? Since when do you care so much about the ramblings of a senior citizen?"
"Um... I don't". She was worried he would see through her plan, so she decided to put him on the defensive. "I am just making sure that's the true story and you're not here on your own accord. Like, perhaps, you just wanted an excuse to see me".
"Huh, no way!" Silver exclaimed. His cheeks grew red with each passing second. 'Oh no, this isn't good. I do like Lyra, but how can I admit that to her now, especially after the way I've been acting. I can't tell her about my past. If she knew the truth about my father, would she ever look me the same again? No, I doubt it. I just want things to stay as they are. Those little fights we have is what makes us us. It's better if she thinks of me that way because I certainly can't have her thinking of me as a love-sick teenager even if that is how I feel inside. I’ll rather have that that than being friend-zoned like that goody-two shoes. Ethan, was it?' Silver pondered.
Lyra giggled, as Silver reached the maximum amount of redness his face could possess. "Then, you won't mind telling me what you're really doing here".
"Fine. I'll tell you everything. The old man said I had to go to Goldenrod City for some divine purpose and he zapped me here. That's it. I swear that's all he said. Believe me; I couldn't care less about you. You're the one who got in my way, as you always do. Not the other way round".
"If I bother you so much, then why are you still following me?" Lyra asked.
"Following you? Please. I just so happen to be going in this direction". He frowned. 'The truth is, I am following her because I can't help, but think the reason the old guy sent me here was to pursue her. I didn't tell her this part, but he did say that Lyra needed to be encouraged. I don't know what he meant by that. Heck, if anything, I am the one, who needs the encouragement,' he thought.
"Fine, but don't get in my way".
"Ditto to that".
Stopping midway into Goldenrod Underground, Lyra and Silver had arrived at the front of a newly-opened news stand. Every single national and local newspaper was laid out for all to see. The stall had practically every major publication on display as well. Both Lyra and Silver were curious to see the latest selection of magazines on sale. Silver's eyes lit up at the sight of one.
"Oh wow, the latest issue of PokeChic is out already," he declared with much gusto. "Awesome". Lyra gave him a weird look for getting so excited over a fashion magazine, as he happily paid the vendor in exchange for his purchase. He rolled the magazine up and placed it under his armpit. "Um, I'm getting this for my girlfriend... um... Kar- Karen," he explained. It was a blatant lie.
"Karen from the Elite Four. That Karen?" she tried so hard not to snicker at the thought of Silver having a relationship with that busty maiden.
"Umm, yeah. What other Karen is there?" Silver continued to lie through his teeth. "Err, yes. Karen and I. We are an item. That's why I hang out at the Pokémon League so much. You know, I don't care about the League challenge and all that jazz. I go there just for her". He was finding it hard to breathe, as Lyra seemed extremely unconvinced of his story. "We're totally perfect. Um, she's dark and mysterious. I'm moody. And together, we make great love". He cringed after hearing the last statement fall from his mouth. Not realising the Freudian slip until it was too late. 'That went too far over the line', he thought. Silver grew silent after realising his lies were becoming too obvious with every word said.
"Right. That's nice, I guess. That you and Karen..." But Lyra couldn't hold back anymore and she burst out laughing as a result. Poor guy having to make up a story about how he's buying the magazine for a girlfriend. Silver with a girlfriend. Ha, that's the craziest thing I've ever heard. And Karen of the Elite Four, oh that killed me. This is too funny. Aww and he looks so cute when he's embarrassed. Those red cheeks with that red hair of his are so adorable. I know he probably thinks liking women's fashion magazines is a tad queer for a straight guy, but I think it's rather cute for him to like such things. The way I see it is there is nothing wrong with a man being a little effeminate. And isn't it considered somewhat 'fashionable' for straight men to enjoy girly past-times now? What do they called it again? Umm, metrosexuality... I believe. Ah, but some guys are still too shy for their own good and Silver is no exception. He's so concerned about how he is perceived that he doesn't realise I like him just the way he is. Jerkish on the outside and sensitive on the inside.
Silver was terribly embarrassed with his face turning completely red. 'Why did have I say that? Now, she must think I'm a liar and quite possibly... gay. To make up the existence of a girlfriend to cover up an interest in a girl's fashion magazine is a definitely red flag. She must suspect something now. This is not how I wanted things to pan out. I mean, would it really be so bad if she knew my favourite magazine was a girly one? Oh, the fashion, the girls and the gossip. It's all too good to resist, but my reputation as a bad boy would totally collapse if word got out that I love PokeChic. Oh, screw it'. Silver decided to come clean, but on his own terms. "Fine. The truth is I lo- (no) like PokeChic Magazine. The chicks in here are smoking hot and... that's why I lied before. I didn't want to you feel bad because I know how much you're crushing on me and it would devastate you to know, you're not my type, " he told her in a smarmy tone. 'Oh great. I sounded like a total sleaze, not to mention, an arrogant jerk there. I really need to think before I open my big mouth,' he thought, wanting to hit himself.
"Geez, flatter yourself much? Like I care. You're not my type either". Although Lyra did mean most of what she said, there was a side of her that disagreed with that remark.
'What does she mean, I'm not her type. Does she really find me that repulsive? Oh heck, who am I kidding, even I find myself repulsive. I keep making a mess of things. To whoever said honesty is the best policy, I'm starting to believe you're right. Every single lie from my mouth is only pushing Lyra further and further away. I know I shouldn't do this, but it's only because I can't stand having her so close to me... I should apologize. It's not her fault I'm a broken mess'. Silver was in a battle with the thoughts that had taken up residence inside his head and were running riot. On the one hand, he wanted Lyra to know the truth, but on the other, he did not. Then, he thought about the old man with the Abra and suddenly he wanted to confess what he had been hiding deep inside his heart. Wasn't it about time he did? "Um, Lyra. There are some things I-I think you need to know".
"Oh, what is it now? I'm weak, I'm in your way, I'm not your type, what?"
'No, I'm done with all the lies'. "I know we haven't exactly been friends and I know that's mostly my fault. It's just that I don't know how to express myself in ways that people understand, but you understand, right? It's important that you know I never meant to hurt you and if I did, then I am truly sorry. You should at least know that much," Silver told her. He had to force himself to refrain from spilling the contents of his heart out. 'All she needs to know is I'm sorry. Telling her 'I love you' would be too much for her to hear now,' he convinced himself.
"I was wondering how long it would take for you to apologize. I must say I'm a little surprised to hear it so soon," she said knowingly. She smiled, as she knew how hard it must have been for Silver to not only apologise, but to open a part of himself up to her. For that, she was quite taken with him if only for a while.
"Well, don't get used to it," he said, reverting back to his usual tone.
After a long walk down the Underground, Lyra and Silver found themselves at the other end of the passage. There was that "No Entry" door that they both defied not too long ago. They looked at it and laughed half-heartedly whilst remembering the silly things the pair of them did during the Team Rocket takeover arc.
"Hmm, isn't this familiar?" said Silver stating the obvious.
"Yeah, isn't it just?" Lyra responded.
"I guess this is where we say goodbye. It was nice catching up with you".
"Oh, thank God. I was just waiting for you leave," she joked.
"Ha, very funny. Well, bye then". Silver attempted to hug Lyra as a parting gesture, but he wasn't sure how to go about it. He had never had the courage or even an interest to hug anyone before, let alone someone he desired. But in the moment he placed his arms to hold Lyra, he dropped his magazine. In his absent-mindedness of wanting that hug so bad, he had forgotten he had been holding it for all this time.
"Oh Silver, you dropped your maga-" Lyra could not finish her sentence, as she finally got a clear view of the magazine, while bending down to pick it up. Her eyes were locked on the picture of the cover star. It was Elesa. She didn't need to read the subtitle "Elesa: Unova's hottest superstar" to know exactly who it was. The face of her star was more than enough for Lyra. It was only natural for her to recognise the girl of her dreams. She held onto the magazine with almost all her might.
"Are you OK?"
"Umm, I know this girl".
"You mean Elesa, the model on the cover?"
"Are you making fun of me because of the whole 'Karen' thing?"
"I'm not. I do know Elesa... Well, kind of".
"No way, Elesa is Unova's biggest star and you haven't ever been as far as Kanto, so excuse me if I don't believe you. At least, my phony story was somewhat believable".
"Never mind, you wouldn't understand".
"Anyway, I'm heading off now. Can I have my magazine back?"
"Yeah, of course". She handed the magazine back to Silver.
"Thanks. I guess I'll see you around". Silver turned to leave, but he was unable to actually pull himself away from Lyra. He couldn't understand why she was completely puzzled by what she had seen on the cover of PokeChic Magazine. For her, it suddenly appeared that everything she dreamt and thought she had imagined was in fact real. Even if it was just a photo, she couldn't deny it anymore. Elesa was real. "Um, what's the matter? Is this to do with Elesa?" he asked.
"She's real," Lyra whispered, unsure.
"Yeah, of course she is".
"I thought I imagined everything".
"Okay, you've lost me. What are you talking about? Wait, were you really telling the truth before when you said you knew Elesa?"
"You'll think I'm crazy if I told you".
"Well, if you don't tell me, I'll think you're crazy anyway".
"I thought it was just a dream, but it wasn't".
"So, you had a dream of this girl. That's not so weird. Elesa is famous, after all".
"The thing is I never even heard of her before that, let alone seen a picture of her".
"Now, that is strange. I guess you don't read PokeChic".
"It's not my kind of thing".
"Err, yeah. Well, it's a required taste".
"Remember that old man with the Abra?"
"Of course, I despise them".
"Yeah, they manipulated my dreams".
"Ah, I totally get it now. Did they also send you here too?"
"Umm, sort of. The old man told me to go to Goldenrod to find... something".
'Really? This sounds promising. Maybe, that old guy is on my side after all. This is clearly a way to bring me and Lyra together. At last,' Silver happily thought. "It seems as though he wanted us to meet again," he told her.
"Yes, I think so and I think this magazine is the reason why we had to meet. He wants me to find Elesa, the girl of my dreams. I didn't know it then, but now I do".
'Arrgggggh, what? The girl of her dreams. That can't mean what I think it means,' Silver began to fear the worst in his head and his face shut down in despair all at the same time. Then, suddenly like an active volcano, he felt a rage arise from deep within him and he let it erupt. "So, that's what he meant by 'encourage'," he said angrily.
"Err, what are you talking about, Silver?"
'Oh, that's right. I didn't tell her about that part'. Silver quickly realised he needed to shut it down before Lyra could question him further. "Umm, nothing. Nothing at all," he awkwardly danced around. "Either way, it's not possible to meet Elesa. Not unless you want to go all the way to Unova and I don't recommend that," he said changing the subject slightly.
"Why not? I could take a ferry from Olivine City".
"No, no. They only go to Kanto. None to Unova," he lied.
"Then, I'll go by plane". Lyra then recalled her flight with Skyla in her dream. "Actually, on second thoughts, forget the plane". Silver was relieved, but Lyra was disappointed. Lyra wondered if she had to brave a plane ride over. If she needed to follow her dream to exactly as she dreamed it. Was everything she dreamt really just a premonition and was she really willing to go to all that trouble just for a shot at love? But, before she could answer her own thoughts, Silver tried to get her mind as far away from Elesa as possible in the way of shooting her back down to reality. He knew it was harsh, but a part of him was doing it for her just as much as it was for him.
"Listen, Lyra. That old guy is sick in the head. He's clearly only messing with you. With us," Silver explained, "Elesa is way out there in another world, if not another dimension. Do you really think you would meet her and the two of you would fall in love? Come on, Lyra. You're smart enough to know that's never going to happen. It's not like she's just going to appear out of thin air in a place like t-t-this..."
"I know. I've been fooling myself for a long time, but it was nice to dream a little".
"No. No. No fricking way".
"Silver, what the Hell, man?" she demanded.
His eyes were peering toward something he noticed over Lyra's shoulder. He was looking off in the distance in a malevolent manner, as if he had seen a ghost. Lyra followed his eye line to see what had caused Silver to turn to stone. She shifted her body a full 180 degrees and then, she saw it. Her breath and heartbeat felt like it had been stopped in its tracks. It was Elesa, the object of Lyra's desire and the bane of Silver's existence.