(Author’s Note: Blaze was not outside of his ball, so I’m going to pretend like the bell melted on its own. Creepy. Moving on)
Hurting. Badly. FFFFFFFFFFreak
Way to go, Zayna. You are such an idiot.
Yet I didn’t have the concentration needed to scold myself properly. Pain was biting at my senses, blinding me to anything else. I whimpered pathetically as I cradled my wounded hand to my stomach. I bit my lip to fight back the choked sounds, but it did little for the tears stinging at my eyes.
Water. I needed water. Some cold. Anything—anything to stop this pain. I picked a direction and random and started running. My Pokémon made various calls of alarm, but I hardly heard them as I stumbled from the enchanted meadow. The scenery changed dramatically so suddenly that I stopped dead in my tracks.
The field of colorful wildflowers ended abruptly, leading into a thin layer of snow. I could feel the temperature dropping at an alarming rate. Winter, it seems, had finally come. And I was utterly unprepared. Still, my eyes fell to the snow at my feet. Without hesitation, I crouched down and buried my hands in the frozen water. It stung at first, causing me to gasp in pain. But the snow melted and soothed the burning sensation in my palm. A small white cloud rose from my mouth as I sighed in relief, and the tears I had been fighting finally fell down my cheeks.
My relief didn’t last long. The cold numbed helped to numb the pain, but it began eating at my body warmth as well. I didn’t have a coat, and I was dressed in summer clothes. Not long after sitting in the snow, I began shivering… and quietly sobbing.
It was all my fault I was in this miserable state. I had been weak. I did something stupid, something greedy, and I had paid for it. I had known better! But why hadn’t I listened? Why did I give in? The words that I had heard echoed in the bell returned to haunt me, causing me to shiver more violently. Greed. I was a horrible, greedy person.
I bit down on my lip and squeezed my eyes shut. Was this who I was? Was this how I was before I lost my memory? I feared the answer to that. If it was true, then how could I live with myself? If it was false, then I should be deeply ashamed. Neither seemed too promising.
My Pokémon finally caught up to me (Critter had probably slowed them down). They circled me, looking at me worriedly. I wiped the tears from my face before glancing at each one.
“Thank you for your help,” I mumbled in a frail voice. Then, I returned them to their capsules. They tried to object, but I was firm with them. Though I appreciated their concern, I just wanted to be alone. Turning my back to the cursed bell meadow, I prepared for a trek through the wintering forest.
I didn’t even take a step before I found myself staring at the solemn face of an old woman.
She was dressed in an old fur coat, standing in the midst of the leafless trees. Dark eyes framed with crow’s feet scrutinized me closely, beneath curly gray hair that rolled over her shoulders. I stared back, speechless. How long had she been there, silently watching me? After a long moment of unbroken silence, the woman raised a liver-spotted hand and beckoned me forward wordlessly. I was rooted in place, still fighting over my initial shock.
When I didn’t move, the woman spoke up. “You rang the bells, didn’t you?”
Her voice was deep, but rich, like the voice of a strong matriarch.
“H-how…?” I started.
She shook her head, ending my question. Beckoning again, she commanded, “Come. Let me see.”
I still wasn’t sure if I trusted this stranger… But was she offering to help? At that point, I was willing to do anything to stop the pain. Mentally crossing my fingers (which I seemed to do a lot) I timidly approached her. When I reached her, she held out her hand expectantly. Cautiously, I offered my hand with the palm facing up. She gently took it and inspected the wound.
“You are fortunate,” she surmised after studying it for some time. “It could have been worse. Much worse.”
Reaching into her coat, she withdrew something from around her neck. It was a small pouch decorated with colorful beads. The lip was encompassed by a crown of fang-teeth. The mysterious woman pulled the pouch open and fished out a white bottle of some sort.
“You know about the bells?” I asked as she squeezed a white cream from the bottle.
The woman didn’t reply. Instead, she dabbed the cream onto the burns. I winced as the cream stung, and if it weren’t for her firm grip I would have snatched my hand back. But as with the snow, the cream turned cool and soothing after a moment.
She shook her head slowly from side to side. Pulling a ribbon of cloth from around her neck, she began wrapping my hand. “It is forbidden to ring them all. Only one was to be chosen.”
“But I didn’t know,” I objected, feeling that the whole situation wasn’t fair. I didn’t need this stranger to judge me. Even though I knew that what I had done was wrong.
“You didn’t need to know,” she replied, her tone neither harsh nor kind. “Wasn’t one gift enough? Why would you ask for more?”
I frowned in frustration. “I don’t understand.”
“You understand enough to know that what you did was wrong.”
I bit my lip and turned away.
The woman’s expression softened, and for the first time she truly seemed sympathetic. “Yet you are human—and what’s more, a youngling. Mistakes are a natural part of life; you will always make them, but you do not need to let them determine who you are. You can learn wisdom from them, or let them needlessly burden you. That decision is up to you, and you only.”
She finished binding my hand, then took a step back. Those dark eyes of hers stared up into mine. “That is why this wound is your only punishment—because you are yet full of potential. You are quite capable of correcting your mistakes and finding the right path. I sense within you a good heart; do not dwindle in self-pity. An important lesson was learned here today: make it count.”
I stared at the woman. “Who are you?”
She just smiled and handed me the strange pouch. “Take this—use the cream when needed.”
I opened my mouth to say something, but she had turned her back to me. The woman started walking away… but something funny was going on. She was growing… transparent. I gasped as she literally faded away.
Vanished, into thin air…