Re: Survival Project
My fears were confirmed when Sai took me away from Earl when the school was let out, even though it was soon revealed that he already had two pokémon. He had brought me to the edge of the city only to meet up with his sentret and totodile, two popular, common choices among the kids in the school. They stared at me with interest, especially the totodile, and I was sure that they had never seen a hitmontop before. I silently wished that I was as common as them so that they would look away from me, but then, the idea of me belonging to a trainer—especially a new one—was inevitable. I couldn’t win.
But I was soon going to be expected to win, I knew...
Looking directly at me, Sai said, “We’re going to the pokémon gym now. You didn’t battle today, so you should be fine.”
Despite myself, I immediately said, “I… I thought that you needed me to help you catch a pokémon.”
“Lying gets you what you want, no? Earl wouldn’t have let me take you if he knew I was going to fight a gym leader for my first battle…”
There was too many things wrong with that sentence, but it successfully shut me up until we got to the gym. When we got to the entrance of the gym, however, I couldn’t stop talking.
“I haven’t battled in forever. You don’t want to use me… What about these guys? I’m a fighting-type. This gym uses flying-types. E-Everyone knows that. Didn’t you learn anything when you were in—”
This time, I shut myself up. To actually deem the information used in class worthwhile was astonishing and unfamiliar to me. I didn’t deserve to get out of this situation so easily, since I hardly was supportive of my real beliefs.
The sentret answered for Sai, anyway. The boy probably wasn’t listening. That was good. “We were going to train, but Sai saw the school and decided to do that instead. We haven’t battled at all,” the sentret said.
“Why… don’t you train and battle when you’re stronger, then?” I asked.
“I can’t waste too much time here. We can do it on the way to the next city. Don’t be difficult,” Sai said sternly, the softness in his eyes gone. So he had been listening. I wished that he hadn’t, and I scolded myself for speaking out to begin with.
“I won’t do well. I wasn’t meant for this,” I said solemnly.
“You’ll be fine. Let’s go,” Sai said. He probably had meant to sound reassuring, but it didn’t work. His voice was now impatient and eager and harsh. Nevertheless, I stepped inside the gym after him and his pokémon.
The first thing I noticed was how big the gym was. The walls extended much higher than that of the school’s, presumably so that the bird pokémon had room to fly without being restricted in any way. Maybe everyone would be so fascinated by the flexibility of the bird pokémon that I wouldn’t be noticed. I could only hope.
The second thing that I noticed was that there was a small line for those who wanted to battle Falkner, the well known gym leader of this city. We waited in line, mostly in silence. The sentret and the totodile made conversation and they briefly introduced themselves to me, but quickly left me alone when they realized that I didn’t want to talk. I could hardly pay attention, anyway. Maybe sometime later I would apologize, if I ever saw them again. They seemed kind enough, but Sai’s first impression had been wrong, so I was wary.
It was eventually, finally, our turn to battle. I just wanted to get it over with. Falkner approached Sai and shook his hand. Sai stared at the handshake curiously and oddly, as if he wasn’t used to the greeting.
“Since I’ve had a lot of battles in a row, this will just be a one-on-one battle,” Falkner said as he turned around impatiently, going to his stand on his side of the arena.
“Should I… make an appointment next time?” Sai asked, his hand still outstretched. Falkner turned once more and stared at the boy.
“If you want. It’s hard to battle ten trainers in a row with just a few pokémon,” Falkner explained, his voice softened and his body less tense.
“Okay, then. I apologize,” Sai said. I stared at him, dumbfounded. Just a moment ago, he had seemed furious with me for trying to disobey him, and now he was acting like the friendliest boy in the world with the gym leader. I tried to dwell on this instead of the fact that I was about to be sent out for battle, but these thoughts also made my head spin.
I staggered back slightly when Sai bent down to talk to me face-to-face. “Look,” he said, “I’m not going to tell you what to do. You battle how you want to. I… wouldn’t know what to say, and you don’t seem to like being told what to do…”
This boy made my head spin. Now he was being just as kind to me. But I couldn’t deny that I appreciated his concern and kindness. I simply nodded and walked slowly to the battlefield, sparing him from having to announce the fact that he would be battling with me.
“A hitmontop, huh? This battle may not last long, then, and that’s a good thing. I’ll send out pidgeotto,” Falkner said, grinning while throwing out a red and white pokéball onto the arena. A bird whose body consisted of various shades of brown appeared. I just looked at the pidgeotto’s features, waiting for the battle to start. The feathers on its head were red, as were the feathers on its tail. I noticed some yellow on its tail as well. It looked a bit tired and dirty, and I really did feel sorry for it. It had probably battled just earlier today, whereas I had been safe for months at this point. I wasn’t so lucky anymore.
“Challenger usually goes first,” Falkner stated after quite a few moments of silence.
“He will be battling on his own. He does not wish for me to command him,” Sai said just as sternly.
“All right, then,” Falkner said, shrugging his shoulders and brushing some of his blue hair out of his eyes. “Pidgeotto, start off with a wing attack!”
Of course he had to choose a move that required flying. The bird spread its wings and took off into the air, completely and easily annihilating all chances for me to attack it. I had no long range attacks, and this was why fighting-types would forever be considered weak to flying-types.
The pidgeotto flew high enough to ensure its own safety, and then flew closer to me. Then it started diving downward, its wings spread out and ready to attack me. I just stared at it, waiting for Sai to give me a command. I didn’t want it, but I was used to being told what to do. The fact that he wasn’t going to command me to do anything hit me too late, as the pidgeotto’s wing slammed into the side of my face and sent me flying to the side and colliding with the concrete floor of the gym, near the wall. Before it hit me, I saw how intense and serious the bird was. Why did it have to look at me like that? I was here against my will…
“Now use quick attack, Pidgeotto,” Falkner said.
This time, Sai’s lack of participation didn’t have to register. I got out of the way, though the pidgeotto was still very close to hitting me again. It was much faster than me, but this turned out to be a disadvantage as the bird collided with the wall that I had been near. Its tiredness and speed had made it unable to turn out of the way of danger in time. The bird quickly slunk to the ground, but quickly got back up and stood on its two feet.
“It’s all right, pidgeotto. We’ll avoid speedy attacks from now on. Try to peck at it. Be persistent.”
The pidgeotto extended its wings once more and flew in my direction again, this time more slowly and carefully. I held up my arms to cover my face, but I realized that I wasn’t going to get anywhere if I kept being so defensive. As the bird flew at me with that same intense look, I made it think that I was going to give in to its attack. When it was close enough, I tried to forget the look—just for a few moments—in order to lift my arms from my face and slam one of them down onto one of the bird’s wings. I had successfully pinned one of the pidgeotto’s wings down, and the other one was safely tucked back into the bird’s body. Taken by surprise, the bird kept trying to peck at me out of anger instead of with confidence, but it couldn’t reach me in the position that it was stuck in.
“Pidgeotto, try to get out of there!” Falkner said, his calm and smug demeanor gone.
But it was no use. My arm was stronger than its lone wing. It seemed that the wall had done a lot of damage last time, so I prepared to use my rolling kick attack to send it in that direction once more. As I started to swing one of my legs behind me as far as I could to generate as much power as possible, I quietly said, “I’m sorry,” and hoped that the bird understand. But I wasn’t sure that it would. I couldn’t tell who had more experience, but it was tired, and the type advantage had turned out to be a disadvantage because of it. And since Falkner was the first gym for new trainers, he had obviously been chosen because he was weaker than the rest of the boy’s pokémon. I was sorry for it. But I did what I had to do.
When I had finished preparing my rolling kick attack, I swung my leg around my body and made direct contact with the pidgeotto’s side. The white spikes on my feet dug into its side and the collision made it fly into the wall, just as I had wanted. This time, however, it didn’t get back up on its feet. It was only as the bird fainted that I realized the battle had been done in almost complete silence aside from Falkner’s commands and my apology.
“Pidgeotto, return,” Falkner said solemnly. I wished that, if I had to be here, that it was with Earl, so I could be returned to a pokéball, too. I suddenly remembered that I was with Sai again, and I felt a mixture of nervousness and pride.
I distracted myself by watching Falkner walk over to Sai, who was smiling and had his arm outstretched once more. The gym leader dug into his pocket and took out a small, oddly shaped object, and placed it in Sai’s palm.
“I wish that I could have fought you at full strength, but the hitmontop still would have been tough,” Falkner said. He obviously didn’t like to lose, as told by his voice when he returned his pokémon, but he sounded glad now. “Next time, though, you should use your own pokémon. Earl must have given you the hitmontop to see how you’d do, am I right?”
Sai frowned for just a moment, and I wondered if Falkner would do anything about it. But he didn’t. Sai simply nodded, and Falkner added, “It feels a bit weird, then, giving you the badge when you didn’t seem to do much… but the teamwork was still there. Allowing the hitmontop to do what it wanted based on its personality was a good thing. I can tell you’ll be a good, considerate trainer to your own pokémon.”
Sai smiled again, though not as broadly. With a quiet thank you, Sai turned to leave the gym, clutching the badge in his hand. He looked to the ground as he walked out, just as he had done when being introduced to the class by Earl. I felt connected to him again, but didn’t have much hope for it this time.
Outside of the gym, the mixture of anxiety and happiness returned. It didn’t help when the sentret was tending to my wounds and when the totodile kept yelling about how strong and awesome I was to have beaten the bird so quickly and with apparent ease. I didn’t want their praise. I had just directly contributed to Sai’s journey. Even if I hadn’t meant to, I still did it. He could be doing something else. I’m sure that the world was in need of something besides pokémon trainers. But I had probably just encouraged him to stay as a trainer by winning him his first badge. I hated myself for it, yet I liked knowing that I still had strength, even if I didn’t know it.
I knew that I was right about encouraging Sai when he came to me and told me that I had done a good job, and that he had made the right choice when he chose me to be his pokémon. Again, I remembered him telling me that he would be taking me with him on his journey. It seemed like he had said that so long ago, but really, I had been pushing it into the back of my mind, because the idea seemed impossible. I had no idea what was out there. And the idea of facing the unknown was terrifying. But he seemed set on taking me with him, since he then nicknamed me on the spot.
“Your name is Atis. And Atis, I think you did a good job,” he repeated. The name made it more final. Earl had never given me a name for some reason, and it seemed like a more creative name compared to the kiddy names that the children called their pokémon. There had been many cyndaquil named Blaze, I recalled…
Sai dug in his pocket and pulled out an object. Dice. I recognized the object from some activity that Earl had done with the kids once, but I wasn’t sure what Sai was going to do with it. It seemed pointless in regards to pokémon training, after all, so surely he couldn’t be interested in it.
He seemed to have found some use for it, though. He handed it to me, and told me to throw it. I did so since I could see no harm coming from it. It landed on the number three, and I was still just as confused as before.
“Now you can see it with your own eyes,” Sai said, grinning. “You’re my third pokémon. It’s official.”
“But I—” I started to say. But what? I belonged to Earl? I was miserable with him, though his intentions were pure. Could Sai be much better when I despised trainers who thought of nothing but pokémon? I could at least learn more about the world... Maybe I could convince Sai of being something else. Focusing on one child had always been easier than a whole classroom full of them, anyway. “What about Earl?” I decided to ask anyway. “What about the school?” Surely, I would have time to decide and think. Or time to push back the thoughts and go crazy when I only have a few minutes to make a decision. And I was right.
“We’re leaving in a week,” Sai said. “You best be ready.”
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