chapter 3 ; [SENORI]
I would be lying if I said that I wasn’t grateful to have Sai take me away from my home for a while. I led him to New Bark Town in silence as quickly as I could, not only to keep him from getting angry and attacking me again, but to escape from some of the guilt and the obsessive thoughts that had been haunting me for a long time. He followed behind me, his expression blank and his arms loosely dangling back and forth at his sides, but with his eyes never leaving me. I kept looking behind me to make sure that I was safe and that he was still there, but my paranoia was pointless, as he never made a sign that made me think he was a threat.
We reached the town at nightfall. We didn’t see any other humans or pokémon, which I was kind of disappointed in. I had wanted to see how someone else reacted to Sai, but I supposed that I would have to wait. This also meant that Sai would have to wait to get what he wanted.
“Everyone’s sleeping, I guess,” I said softly after a few moments of silence.
“Where are the pokémon?” the boy asked simply. His blue eyes looked darker with the night, but maybe I was imagining things.
“They’re with a human who raises the pokémon to give to new trainers.” I pointed my paw to a nearby building with the back enclosed by a fence. Beyond the fence was simply grass with a few charred areas here and there, and some large trees that appeared a bit old. “He trains the pokémon there so they don’t run off into the forest. I’ve see them sometimes when I’ve come close to the town, but that’s always been during daytime. We’ll have to wait.”
Sai stared at me, and I wondered if he was angry for me pointing out the obvious. There seemed to be an invisible, fine line between treating him as if he were stupid and trying to help him with things that he was somehow completely unaware of.
But all he said was, “Time to sleep, then. You can help me with the rest tomorrow, right?”
“…Yeah,” I replied. No threat. It was all I could think about. Did I want him to punish me? I deserved it, after all. The fact that I was being given a chance at redemption seemed lost and non-existent.
Sai turned around and went to sit by a large tree near the entrance to the town. He put his hands behind his head and then rested the top part of his body against the tree. He closed his eyes shortly after, and he seemed so peaceful and relaxed that I thought he had fallen asleep already. I also went to where he was, though I kept a bit of distance between us.
I jumped a bit when he started talking again. “You’ll help me tomorrow, and then we’ll go through the forest again, and we’ll keep going from there,” he said.
“That seems to be the simplified version of things, yes,” I said under my breath. I didn’t think he would be able to hear me.
“What do you mean?” he asked.
“Picking out your first pokémon seems to be a big deal. When you say we’ll keep going from there, there’s a lot of places to explore, I’m sure. And when we pass through the forest, I guess I’d like to say good-bye to some of my old clan members, if possible…” My voice trailed off from there. I curled up on the grass, wrapping my tail around my body for warmth. I had forgotten what it felt like to be in this position, and what sleep near someone else felt like. With my eyes still open, I saw Sai snap his open, and look at me curiously.
“Who do you have to say good-bye to?”
“My clan. Or just someone in my clan. I just think that they should know I’m gone, since you’re insistent on taking me on this journey of yours,” I explained. I felt slightly bitter that he was permanently taking me away from my home, but I would find a way around that tomorrow to avoid feeling this way forever.
“You don’t seem too happy about it,” Sai observed.
“They don’t like me anymore, so I’m not really happy, no.”
“Then it should be easier to say good-bye.”
“Yes and no. I’d rather have no one to say good-bye to. It’d be so much easier.”
Sai didn’t answer for a long time after that. Again, I thought that he had fallen asleep. But then he started stirring, trying various positions to get comfortable, and nothing seemed to work. He groaned and complained until he finally went back to his original position. And finally, he said, “I always thought that it’d be better to have someone to say good-bye to. Maybe I was wrong.”
“And why do you say that?” I asked after a few moments.
“It means that, at some point, you had someone, and you cared about them,” he said.
“And you didn’t have anyone to say good-bye to?”
“I could have… but they were hardly worth saying good-bye to.”
I didn’t answer him, and he didn’t say anything after that. He stayed silent for good this time. I didn’t want to press him for further information when he clearly wasn’t comfortable with it and was avoiding specific details. And I didn’t want to try to become closer to him when I still felt connected from my clan. Tomorrow, I would get permission to leave. Tomorrow, I would know that they had officially let me go. Tomorrow, maybe Sai would think that he’d someday have someone to say good-bye to.
As it turned out, we didn’t spend just one day in New Bark Town. Sai just couldn’t decide in a few hours what pokémon he wanted. I told him that there was a grass-type, a fire-type, and a water-type starter that he could choose from. I had to admit that I didn’t know what each species specialized in, but Sai seemed to brighten up again when I pointed out that there was a whole batch of each type that he could look at. I also explained that since each pokémon had weaknesses and strengths, and since he had no other pokémon to try to figure out what weaknesses and strengths he needed, his choices weren’t limited. He said that, in that case, he just wanted the strongest pokémon, and I thought that it would be a simple enough choice from there. But somehow, it wasn’t.
“There’s so many of them,” he said, a hint of excitement in his voice. “I only got a close look at two of them. We’ll have to come back tomorrow.”
This was his excuse every day from then on. We slept in the same area every night, and we stood at a distance from the fence every day to watch the pokémon. Sai tried to walk right up to the fence and climb over a few times, but I had to yell at him to not do that, since the fence was there to keep others out for a reason. He also tried to sit right by a part of the fence to look inside the backyard through the rails, which also seemed odd, so I kept telling him to stop looking creepy and to get away from the fence entirely.
Sai refused to go anywhere else that would make him miss seeing the pokémon during the hours of daylight they were outside. A few times a day, I briefly left to go get some berries from the forest to eat. Seeing that Sai didn’t seem to have anything to eat, I brought him some, too, which he ate quickly and hungrily, though he never asked for more when he looked sadly at his empty hands after eating.
I didn’t really question him, and thought vaguely about going to the forest to say good-bye a few times in order to save time, but then I knew that I’d get the urge to do it all over again when we finally left for good. So I kept quiet and tried to be patient, but it was hard when I wanted to move on. Still, it was better than staying in the forest by myself while torturing my mind with memories.
“Have you picked out a pokémon yet?” I asked after a few days of this.
“No. None of them has stood out so far,” Sai said. “Most of the fire ones keep burning the grass… and each other. I don’t need more chaos. The green pokémon don’t seem much like fighters. I’ve almost gotten through watching all the water-types.”
“Okay,” I said. “Well, I’m going to get more food, then.”
When I came back, Sai was gone. I had come back just in time to see a familiar human walk back into the building with a pokémon following behind him, and I assumed that Sai had finally made his choice. I simply paced back and forth in front of the building that I had first taken him to days ago. It seemed like we had been here forever and done everything that needed to be done, yet in reality, we had accomplished next to nothing. It was all just wishful thinking on my part. The boy had needed a ton of time here for some reason, and I hoped that his decision was worth it. I believed that whatever pokémon he chose would be the correct one to help complete his journey, to make sure that he “listened” properly, as he had put it before. I still didn’t know who he was listening to, but he seemed content when following the instructions given to him, and that was enough.
Soon, I heard the building’s door creak open and saw Sai standing outside, holding the door open for someone. A small, aqua colored creature with red spikes protruding from its back and tail stepped out of the building, and Sai closed the door. So he had chosen the water-type pokémon. No wonder it had taken him so long to choose. The water-types were the last he had looked at.
The totodile walked around aimlessly, seemingly entranced by the surrounding area. Eventually, the totodile’s snout bumped into me, and I bumped into the awkward situation of explaining that I was really Sai’s first pokémon, but admittedly, I had no idea why, nor did I have any idea why the creature in front of me had become a necessary part of our team and journey. I watched as Sai had the totodile roll the dice, just as he had made me do. I wondered if Kuiora—as Sai had named her on the spot—understood him any better than I did at the moment. Probably not. She didn’t look confused, but instead seemed fascinated and relieved.
It was time to go after that. I hoped that I would be fascinated and relieved soon, too, as we moved on toward the forest for what I believed would be the last time.
They later reminded me of Sai.
They had blended in with the night, and they were fast.
They were not from around this area, but they were here nonetheless. And they intended to make the best of their trip at my home. Their trip with my clan.
I’m sure, in their minds, they screamed success.
I was watching out for danger when one of them had come up to me. It was crawling, and moving so slowly. I immediately let my guard down as I sympathetically realized it must be injured. It was too dark to see any blood, but I couldn’t think of any other reason why it was crawling pathetically on the forest floor when I could see that it had feet to use instead. I was using my tail to see as high up and as far as possible, but now I was on my own feet, scrambling over to the seemingly damaged pokémon. As I got closer, I could see that its skin matched the color of the dark sky, with red feathers jutting out of its back and one of its ears. Its eyes looked weak and tired and the creature had dulled yellow jewels on its forehead and chest to match. Its white claws were sharp, and the pokémon had been using them to dig into the ground and propel itself forward. I had never seen this type of pokémon before.
“Are you okay?” I asked. “What happened?”
The pokémon stopped crawling and looked up at me. “I was in a battle and got separated from my trainer,” it explained, stopping to take a breath every few words. “Please help me find him. He couldn’t have gone far… He must be looking for me, but I’m hurt…”
I wished that it was daytime, that I could see its wounds, and get it the proper berries to help heal him. But I didn’t know what was wrong with him, or what kind of pokémon it was and what kind of food it ate anyway. But I also couldn’t just leave my post when I was supposed to be looking out for danger. I had never left my post before.
“Why don’t you just stay with me? I’ll keep you safe, and if your trainer comes through here, I’ll make sure you get back to him. It’s not safe to travel through the night like this.”
“My trainer likes to travel through the night, though. He could be out of the forest by sunrise. He could leave me here,” the pokémon said pathetically.
I found it odd that a trainer would leave his pokémon here, but I had no reason not to believe him. I tried to consider my options. I could stay with the pokémon here, putting it at risk for losing its trainer and getting hurt even further due to lack of proper care. I could go with it and keep watching for danger as we moved along, and then we would have a better chance at finding the trainer. I chose the latter. I figured it was rude to wake someone else up just to take over for me, so I would just do two jobs at once. It would just be a bit different compared to other nights. I would have felt terrible just leaving it where it was and risking its life. It had obviously found me for a reason, after all, and I had to do something about it.
I simply nodded and helped pick up the creature so that it could walk while using me as a crutch. I didn’t care so much about blood, if there was any, as I figured that I could just wash it off later and explain to my clan that I helped a pokémon rather than just idly standing in one spot as usual.
The pokémon explained that the battle had taken place near the edge of the forest, so I led it there. We traveled in silence, and by the time we got there, it was almost sunrise.
I stopped moving with the pokémon. “This is the edge of the forest. It’s close to New Bark Town. Could your trainer be here?” I asked.
“Maybe…” it said softly.
I set the pokémon down so that it could rest on the floor rather than use extra energy trying to stand up. I turned and looked around everywhere, but I saw no one but the damaged creature. I started to say that we could look again when the sun rose completely, since we’d have better luck then. But no one answered me. I turned and looked around everywhere once again, but this time, the pokémon was missing.
The first hint of daylight was showing through the tree canopies. I looked at my body, my paws, the grass.
There was no blood. There was no other pokémon with me.
I thought that I might have learned that helping people and pokémon from then on would have been a terrible idea. But I could not give up my penchant for taking care of people. Not everyone was fake. Not everyone was out to hurt others. I had to believe that there were others that truly needed help. There was no way that Sai could feign such naivety, and there was no way that Kuiora could consume the outside world with a human boy who was just as clueless as she was. Was there a way? I couldn’t believe it. This was my second chance. I had to keep reminding myself of this fact as we traveled through the forest once more. I had been here all my life, but it was time to leave.
I was too preoccupied by my thoughts to pay much attention while Kuiora mumbled on about how pretty and vast the forest was, with Sai agreeing wholeheartedly. She also mentioned how lucky that all of the pokémon here were so friendly so that no one had to battle and exert themselves too harshly, and Sai made some comment about how he didn’t know pokémon could be this calm and quiet. I could see from their point of view to a certain extent. The pokémon here usually left trainers alone unless provoked, but I also thought about the pokémon that had tricked me while she rambled on. But I completely came back to reality when we came across the river that was so close to my home. I stopped moving and asked them to stop for me, too, though my voice cracked when I did so.
“What’s wrong?” they asked in unison.
“My… My clan is near here. I told you I wanted to say good-bye. Do you remember, Sai?” I asked, looking up at the boy. He said nothing, but I could tell by the way he was averting eye contact that he definitely remembered our conversation. “So I’ll be right back. I’ll bring you guys some berries so that you can eat while I’m gone.”
They both nodded, but I wondered if they both understood. Sai didn’t have anyone to say good-bye to, and what about Kuiora? I knew next to nothing about her, except that she didn’t seem to find Sai odd. Instead, everything was new and fascinating to her childish mind. I told myself that I’d have to change that as soon as my head was cleared of this lovely yet degrading place.
I did as I said I would. I brought them various kinds of berries from the nearby trees and bushes, hoping that they could find at least one kind that they liked. I couldn’t recall what kind of berries I had brought Sai before, but I could pay attention soon and fix this, too.
I turned and made my way toward the river without saying a word, unsure of what I would say to them, anyway. I certainly didn’t want to reveal too much about what I was doing and why I had to do it at all.
I found the trees whose branches extended all the way across the river. To get to the other side, I simply climbed up the tree, and ran across the branch only to jump to the ground when I reached the end of the path. It had been a long time since I climbed that tree, and it didn’t feel as natural as usual. I took that as a good sign and was able to smile a little.
I made my way past the clearing on the other side of the river only to find another clearing. While the other clearing was empty, this one was filled with other sentret. Some of them were playing, some were training, some were eating, and some were resting. All of them were unmistakably from my clan, and all of them unmistakably recognized me as an outsider and froze when they realized I was here. Some stared, some ran, and some of them scowled at me. I tried not to look down at the ground in shame, but it was hard. I simply asked to see Ari in the most confident voice that I could manage.
No one moved or acknowledged my request. Some of the smaller sentret asked why I wasn’t able to play with everyone else. Their innocence and lack of awareness at least let me know that someone in the clan didn’t know what I had done.
One of the sentret who had previously run away must have gotten Ari for me, even though they didn’t hear my request. Upon seeing Ari, I turned and went back to the first clearing I had been in. The river was loud, but Ari’s footsteps rang louder in my ears. I turned to face him when they became too loud for me to feel comfortable.
“Why are you here?” Ari asked simply. He seemed void of emotions entirely, though I knew what he was thinking. He was thinking of how worthless I was. He was thinking that this was a waste of time, and he was hoping that I would regret showing my face again.
“I’m leaving,” I stated simply. Ari’s expression remained the same; there was no hint of happiness in response to my words. “It was my fault. I know. I’m sorry. I would take it back if I could.”
“Words don’t change anything,” Ari said sharply.
“Words are all I have when my actions aren’t acknowledged anymore.”
“Then you have nothing.”
“…It was my fault.”