Regret

Death. War. Destruction. The world of the future lies in ruins. I got the chance to go back and stop it from ever happening, only to discover that I was the cause. This is how I destroyed the world.

https://www.fanfiction.net/s/5808527/1/Regret

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31. Revelations

Watch your thoughts, for they become words.
Watch your words, for they become actions.
Watch your actions, for they become habits.
Watch your habits, for they become character.
Watch your character, for it becomes your destiny 
~ Anon.

-O-O-O-

"There's only so much anyone can take before they want to curl up and cry. No matter how hard you are, no matter how stoic, there's always something that tramples across your breaking point.

Who you are is defined by how you deal with that. You either give up and live life wondering what could have been, or you rise to the challenge. No matter what happens, as long as you know you've risen to the challenge, you can take solace in that.

Insanity awaits those that wonder what could have been, even as they live up to the challenge."

- Glacia Frost, 47th Hoenn League Champion, Hoenn Elite Four Member 3002-3025. (November 16th, 3002)

-O-O-O

I was aware of three things when I woke up.

The first that was my concussion was no longer present – in fact, it had vanished without a trace. The second was that my mask was no longer covering my face and the third that it was dark. And I was cold.

"And finally, the hero awakes."

I jumped up at the sound of Ayd's voice and squinted in the darkness. I found him sat across the other side of a campfire, coatless and with a small creature rummaging through his backpack. He smiled at me as I managed to lean on an arm groggily and asked me how I was doing.

Before I thought about anything like that I asked him, "Where's my pokémon?"

He waved behind him where I saw my pokémon talking to some of his and some I didn't recognise. Lacey was talking to Irenui, Xander to Leif, Erra was scuttling around a large yellow yeti with black lightning patterns across its fur and the charmeleon was off to the side, huddled away from everyone with a golden furred horse sat near him, its mane the colour of fire and glowing in the dark night light.

"The electabuzz is Claire and the rapidash is Lucy," Ayd explained with another wave of his hand. There was a low, bellow-like sound from somewhere behind me and I jumped even as he said, "And I believe you've met Myos."

I looked at the hovering claydol with a raised eyebrow. "Uh, yeah. Briefly. I think. I don't remember much of it."

Ayd snorted a hollow laugh. "I'm not surprised, given how out of it you were. I had to get Willow to heal you up; you're lucky she can heal injuries, otherwise you'd be in hospital right now."

The mention of a gardevoir put me on red-alert. "Where is she?" I asked, alarmed. "She's not here right now, is she?"

He shrugged. "She's around. So is Ripper. I let them go off and hunt."

I nodded, relieved that I wouldn't have to encounter the demon. "How comes you've got eight pokémon with you then?" I wondered. "I thought people were only allowed to carry around six."

He smirked. "That's what they recommend. When you're experienced enough as a trainer, those recommendations become a lot more lax. I can look after eight pokémon well enough; four of them hunt for their food most of the time and the other four aren't too much of a hassle."

There was a small sound from by his feet; something like a childish burp. He laughed as something pulled its face out of his backpack and I stared in amazement at the creature. It was barely two foot tall, with dark brown scaly skin, though blue scales decorated the entirety of its tail and most of its back. Two small arms hung from its chest and it had thickly muscled legs.

The most prominent feature of it, however, was its domed head. It looked to be reinforced by extra bone, decorated by a ring of spikes which also framed its snout and deep red eyes.

I'd never seen anything like it before. It looked up to Ayd and cawed a little babyish sound as it hopped up and down for attention.

He laughed as he swept it up into a hug. "Yes, yes. You're a good boy, aren't you? Did you like those treats?" He tickled the creature's stomach, making it gurgle a laugh, though I was thoroughly weirded out by watching him use baby talk. Somehow, it just didn't seem to fit.

"I've got to figure out a way to get you to eat away from my pack though," he lamented, the creature oblivious to his concerns as it clamoured for more attention.

I leaned closer towards it. "What is that?"

He grinned. "A cranidos. They're extinct now, but a few have been cloned for places like zoos and that. They're under strict breeding laws too; it's a miracle I ever managed to get Chris to reserve him for me."

I stared at the creature, amazed. "That's the pokémon you had Chris holding for you?"

He nodded. "Uh-huh. This little guy's Phos. I've wanted a cranidos ever since I saw a picture of one in school all those years ago. And now I have this little guy. Don't I?"

I watched in silence as he continued to baby the creature before he let it scamper off to play with Loki. I wondered just why my pokémon weren't rushing to my side since I'd awoken, but once I caught site of Loki bouncing around with the cranidos I realised that they were being distracted for a bit; enjoying themselves and not worrying about me for once.

More than that, they were giving me time alone with Ayd. I'd complained to them constantly about having to speak with him and it seemed they were making sure I went through with it.

I rubbed my face with a groan and pulled the blanket up to my shoulders. "This is really warm," I mumbled as I pinched the bridge of my nose. "And it smells like sweat. And deodorant."

"That's because it happens to be my coat," Adryan informed me, completely deadpan. I blinked and stared down at it long enough to see the telltale pockets and buttons, barely hiding the blush as I tried to offer it back to him.

"It's alright," he told me with a wave of his hand. "I'm warm enough by the fire. Ice adaption or no, you were out of it for a while, so it's probably best if you keep warm." He smiled at me once before all humour dropped from his face. "So what the hell were you thinking in going in there alone?"

I stared at the ground, completely embarrassed. "I wanted a psychic," I mumbled, weakly.

He leant forwards expectantly. "And?"

I heard a small laugh escape my throat. "I think I've reconsidered my stance on that. The only ones I've met that didn't belong to you have all tried to kill me. I think I'm going to play by logic and avoid them from now on."

"Huh," he grunted and leant back on the sand. "You're lucky Myos found you when he did. I had him, Willow and Ripper all looking through Mirage Tower for you. By the time I got there, it'd been completely covered by sand and no one had seen you leave. You really should have waited around for someone to accompany you in there, you know?"

I pulled a face at him. "In all fairness, I wasn't expecting to have a group of baltoy try and sacrifice me to their claydol elder... god... whatever that was."

He winced. "Alright, point." With a shake of his head he looked around the small camp and stared at my most recent pokémon. "Nice charmeleon by the way."

"Glad you think so," I grunted. "He hates humans. He tries to attack me every time we're alone and he even ditched me up in the tower there."

Once again the man before me winced. "Okay. Maybe not so nice then. He got a name?"

I shook my head. "Nothing yet. If you like him so much, you should take him. He's not exactly making my life easier."

Adryan looked at the charmelon for a moment, seemed to consider it but then shook his head. "He's your pokémon. You've gone through the effort of getting surgery on him. You're the one who's attempted to bond with him despite the fact he hates humans and you've even managed to earn a little bit of his respect."

I shrugged. "I suppose... wait, what? I've earned his respect? How? And how did you even find that out?"

He grinned. "I have two psychics and a ghost that can communicate with me. I can find out a lot more about your pokémon than you with a lot less effort. Myos told me that you got into an argument with him and punched him on the snout. Apparently you impressed him with the fact you attacked him without a weapon."

I looked toward the pokémon with a raised eyebrow and shook my head dismissively. "Sure, I've earned a bit of his respect. It's not helping the fact that he won't listen to me."

"Because every pokémon listens to you once it begins to respect you," Ayd drawled. "You impressed it. That doesn't mean he has to listen to you. You've only impressed him with yourself as a person. You haven't done anything to help in terms of battling."

I frowned and looked into the fire. "I pointed out things with the claydol," I mumbled, vaguely recalling the battle.

He snorted. "One battle. Obviously it should have realised how much of a master you are."

I glared and threw a handful of sand at him. "Okay. So I got my hopes up. You don't need to completely rip me to pieces about it."

"Well I think I'm entitled to, after the way you ridiculed me," he shot back with a grin. "Or have you conveniently forgotten all that abuse you gave me?"

"Alright," I relented. "Am I to be expecting continual insults as retribution then?"

He grinned once more. "You should just expect them period. Do you not know me enough to realise this?"

"I can hope, can't I?" I smiled and shook my head. The small silence between us made me realise something; he hadn't yet asked me anything to do with Dewford. Or anything whilst he was in the Origin Cluster. It was like he was actively avoided it.

It was what I'd wanted for a while and it was the reason why I went to the Mirage Tower in the first place.

Yet I couldn't sit there in silence, not knowing why he wasn't saying anything.

"Why the change?" I asked rather abruptly. He looked up sharply as I shook my head to myself. "Before... back in Mauville. You were pretty much telling me you weren't my friend anymore if I wasn't going to tell you anything about what happened to me. Now you're not saying anything about it."

The orange glow of the fire barely showed the red in his face. He made a strangled sound as he rubbed the back of his necked before finally he sighed and stared at me. "I... I kinda realised I was being incredibly selfish. I shouldn't have tried to force you into telling me something you obviously didn't want to share. I mean, I'm meant to be your friend; I'm meant to support you, not be an ass and make you do exactly what I want."

I shrugged with one side more than the other. "I can see why you did that though. I was putting you and your pokémon in danger. I'm not exactly a good friend if I expect you to put yourself and those you care about in danger without a damn good explanation."

He pulled a face. "Yeah... but you don't really need to give me one if you don't want to." He leant back and rolled his shoulder until there was a loud clicking sound. "I, uh, did like you said – I checked around with what's been happening in Dewford. If that's what happened to you I can see why you didn't want to share that."

I felt myself hide my chin underneath his coat. It meant he had to know about that all. In spite of the face that I was a killer, he was still supporting me. The fact that he hadn't run away screaming or reported me to police or anything meant that I could trust him.

I stared at my knees through the coat and thought about it all. It was past time that I let the truth out. Even if he hadn't given me the whole truth about everything, Adryan had pretty much adopted me as a younger brother. Even if he ditched me when I told him, I knew that I owed him the truth.

I took a breath before I looked up at him. "No... you deserve to know. You've put yourself out on an arm and a limb for me all the time – you pretty much took the whole showing me the ropes thing above and beyond what you needed to. You've done all that without any sort of real explanation... so it's about time that you actually knew it all." I shook my head and breathed out a long breath. I couldn't understand why I was so nervous about it all. All I needed to do was tell the truth about a few things. It wasn't the most difficult task I'd ever had to do, nor was it the most dangerous. Yet somehow, it made my stomach churn and bubble with anticipation more than anything else ever did.

"Ask me what you want," I told him, forcing the thoughts into words. "I'll answer whatever you want honestly."

He looked shocked for a moment, though a small smirk crept onto his face afterwards. "Anything I ask?"

I rolled my eyes. "Yes, anything. Though if you're going to waste it all asking ludicrous questions about my sex life or whether or not I was birthed from a mareep, you might as well safe yourself the bother."

Despite the seriousness of the situation, Adyran laughed. "'Birthed from a mareep'?" he parroted.

I grinned. "Believe it or not, I do know you well enough to expect some jokes."

He smiled. "I suppose." He shrugged and moved slightly closer towards the fire, staring at it as all humour faded from his face and posture. "So... Dewford." He pulled a face, almost like he was chewing on the question. "Did you... I mean did they..." he sighed and shook his head. "That thing about the gardevoir... and the trainer. Was that you?"

I shuddered at the mention of it alone. It seemed right that he would ask it first; he'd only just discussed it, though he'd also seen my reaction to his gardevoir and listened to me nearly forcing him to keep the demon away from me.

It was still the hardest thing to try and vocalise though.

I swallowed. "It... it was. Sort of. Mostly." I scoffed a small, scornful laugh and hated myself for being too weak to talk about it easily. "I was exploring in the caves around Dewford and found my way out into the forests. I got lost in there... and I found these little clusters of leech seeds, left by some sceptile."

I looked up to the sky and saw it all play before me once more; seeing it in perfect clarity within my mind's eye. "I trekked through the forests for a while, trying to make sure I didn't come across the sceptile that had left them... I did. Though not in the way I first thought. They'd been skinned; their organs were slopping out of their bodies, the area stank of blood... everything just screamed that I had to get away from there. Anything that could kill two sceptile like that wasn't something I wanted to come across.

"But I didn't get to run," I said, a great, cold knot twisting in my stomach. I didn't want to say the rest... the words died in my throat, forming a great big lump. I forced the words past the lump and found my vision blurring under a liquid haze.

"Something knocked me into a tree with some sort of psychic force. I woke up... and I was pinned to a tree. All through psychic force. I figured... I figured it was going to skin me alive. I figured I was going to become part of that gruesome fucker's dress." I glanced at Ayd just the once and saw the horror and pity on his face. I felt like I'd been stabbed in the stomach at that. He was my best friend; the person that had always treated me as an equal. I couldn't take him pitying me.

"I was only partly right though," I whispered, chokingly. "There was this hariyama... the demon made it appear... and it... and it... and it raped it!" I felt a tear slip down my chin and hiccupped pitifully. "The demon... it pressed that damn emotion spike into the hariyama... it made it enjoy being raped! And then it... it started skinning it! Alive! In front of me! And it... it told me I'd be next.

"But then I realised there was another gardevoir hiding... the one that was pinning me to the tree," I recalled, shaking violently and barely keeping myself from sobbing. "The one it the trees, it was the main demon's mate... it enjoyed watching it rape and skin things! And then... once the demon was done with the hariyama... it... it... it told me I was next."

The tears were pouring from my eyes without rest. My nose dripped and my body convulsed as I hugged my knees, desperately wishing I never had to say another word.

It was almost like Adryan had read my mind when I felt him press a hand on my shoulder and squeeze it gently. "You don't have to say anything else if you don't want to."

I shook my head, still sobbing. "No... I... I need to say it. The demoness... it came over to me. It wouldn't let me go... I pleaded... I begged... I threatened it. It wouldn't let me escape. Then... then... it sliced open my bottoms... and then... and then... it pressed that damn spike into me... and it made me react to it. It... it tried to make me like the fact it was sucking on my neck."

I felt my shoulder squeezed again and hugged my knees even tighter. I was so close to revealing it all. There was only a little left. Just another few sentences and it would all be over with.

"My bandolier has an emergency release button. I managed to press it... my pokémon got out and they killed them. They killed those cursed bastards and gave them exactly what they deserved! Except-" I shook my head and stared past the fire, fixing my gaze on my pokémon in the distance. The sight of them, calm and happy made me a little calmer, a little bit more able to speak.

"Their trainer appeared some time later. He didn't seem bothered at all that I'd killed two of his pokémon. He... he didn't seem to care at all." His face appeared in my vision. The same cruel, taunting face. The same cloak he wore. The same simple insignia marking him as a champion. "He saw me. He saw that they'd stripped me. He saw that they'd tried to rape me. And he... he laughed. He laughed at the fact they'd tried... that they'd tried to do that to me. I had a gun... and... and I shot him. Between the eyes. He was a Hoenn champion and he let that happen! He laughed at it! He laughed and... and... and..."

I couldn't say anything else. I burst into tears completely. I felt Adryan squeeze my shoulder once more and I buried my face in his in an instant. His arms wrapped around me as I sobbed my heart out, remembering it all. I felt every vile emotion I felt that day. I felt every fear again. Every horrible touch on my skin. It all came back to me and forced itself out in saline grief.

For the first time though, I felt safe. I felt like nothing could do that to me again... like it had never happened in the first place.

I ended up crying until my eyes had dried out and Adryan's shirt was soaked with my tears, snot and drool. The whole while he said nothing; he just held me and let me cry. Only when I finally sat back up did I realise how hard I'd gripped onto him; that I'd actually managed to cause finger-sized bruises around his shoulders.

"S-sorry," I grunted as I wiped my eyes with my palms.

He held my arms a moment and smiled. "S'alright," he said as he tried to peel the damp shirt from his shoulder. "You needed to get it out; I understand. For what it's worth, I'm sorry I made you relive it."

I shook my head and managed to smile. "It's okay," I reassured him. "I... I feel better now that I've spoke about it. I never mentioned it before; I just buried it as far as it could possibly go. I thought... I cried for a week straight afterwards, you know?" I managed to say with a small laugh. "I thought I'd long since cried all my tears out."

He gave me a small, soft smile. "Funny thing about tears, you're never completely out of them." He patted my shoulder and made sure I was absolutely certain I was alright before he snatched his pack from the floor and changed into a cleaner, non-snot-soaked shirt. "I feel bad that there's still more I want to know," he admitted as he sat down in front of me, holding his dirty top near the fire to dry.

I wiped my eyes again and grinned. "I told you I'd answer whatever you wanted me to. That undoubtedly was the hardest thing to go through. I promise I won't break down like that again."

He nodded, though seemed completely reluctant to push any matter further. "Yeah," he said with a tiny shrug. "But after a full-on break down like that, I can't really ask more can I?"

"I'm the one that told you to, aren't I?" I pointed out. "Besides, it wasn't much of a break down, was it? I was only crying."

He looked at me, one eyebrow above the other, disbelief obvious. "You were crying for over an hour."

I blinked. "What?" It certainly didn't feel like I was crying for an hour! And yet, when I looked around the camp, I found that most of the pokémon had gone to sleep; mine huddled together in the cold of the night, sleeping with each other. Ayd's doing the same. Although in the distance I saw the charmeleon, as well as the claydol and also Ripper, all seemingly talking about something.

I grunted a small amused sound. "I guess it could have been an hour then."

"It was," Adryan informed me, deathly serious. "Your pokémon even came over a few times, wondering how you were. You just didn't seem to notice them. I even spoke to them and you, but you still didn't seem to realise. Eventually they took my word that I'd make sure you were okay before they went to sleep."

I stared once more and blinked, trying to remember it. I couldn't recall any of my pokémon ever coming near me. I couldn't remember anything other than the fact I was crying. Everything just seemed to be a complete blank spot.

"I... thanks," I whispered, full of gratitude.

He smiled a sheepish smile and rubbed the back of his neck. "See why I don't really want to press you anymore? It seems kinda cruel."

"I suppose," I agreed as I stared at the sky. There was no moon, only clouds and they drifted lazily across the dim expanse, suiting my calm mood rather perfectly at the time. "But the important points now are that I'm not tired and I know what I'm like; if you ask me tomorrow, I'm likely to try and get out of telling you everything. It's taken a damn lot of courage to make myself tell you all this; you don't know how much I want to run away screaming and hide underneath a rock. Even though the worst part is over. So I'd rather you do ask me; it's not being cruel if I tell you to, is it?"

He gave me a small smirk as he pulled his drying shirt away from the fire. "There are many things I can make of that line of conversation. Be thankful I appreciate that this is a serious conversation." I groaned as he chuckled to himself. "So alright then, back to actual questions. What happened to cause the whole ghost stalking you thing? I've never heard of a makuhita coming back from death to kill someone."

I blew out a breath. At least it wasn't another soul-crushing conversation. He knew I'd killed once trainer. What was one more to that figure? At least, if he had killed Owen, it meant we had something more in common.

"It wasn't a makuhita," I told him. "Well, it was at first. I caught him in Granite Cave – even managed to bond with him for a few days. I actually quite liked him," I confided with a poignant grin. "But... I'd felt like I'd been followed for a few days. Turns out I had been; by a shedinja."

Adryan's hissed breath told me all the disbelief and surprise he had towards that. I offered him a small, deathly serious look as I continued, "The shedinja came after us in the cave. It was in the dark and I didn't have Lacey under control then. She all but fed me to the shedinja then and there, thinking if I died, she could be free. It managed to kill the makuhita, but I managed to kill the shedinja with a lighter and some deodorant. But because I'd killed the shedinja's shell-"

"It took over the closest available thing," Ayd finished for me. He whistled a low amazed sound as he contemplated it all. "So how'd you end up with a shedinja trying to kill you?"

I chuckled nervously. "Well, funny story that. You see, that started in the Petalburg Woods. Long story short, I ended up with a load of bugs hunting me, trying to eat me. I managed to get away from them and found out they were being controlled by someone. It was that Sinnohian Elite – Aaron? He was there just happily taking travellers out of commission, feeding on them like his insects."

Adryan stared at me, open mouthed. "You have got to be kidding me. An Elite was doing that?"

I gave him a sharp look. "A champion let his demons go around skinning things in Dewford. You think an Elite's going to be above using their power?" He gave me a small, apologetic look before I sighed and apologised to him. "Aaron was picking people off, abusing the fact that he could get away with it. He tried doing it to me too. I fell into this pit and he set an ariados on me."

Adryan looked like a child being given a bedtime story. "What happened?"

I shrugged. "I shot it. I found the remains of a Johto champion and realised Aaron was something that I couldn't mess around with. I lucked out and escaped; I crawled through the decomposing body of a gyarados – remind me never to do that again – and fell into a stream. But he caught up with me later on, just after I'd met Lacey. She tried to kill me when we first met and I knew I couldn't let Aaron carry on killing people. So I convinced Lacey to help me kill him."

Granted it was more of a case of she believed I could kill her if she disobeyed, but it was still technically convincing her.

Adryan pulled a face as he hugged his knees. "You killed an Elite..." he whispered, shell shocked.

"I had to," I told him. "I've never claimed to be morally pure. It could be said that I'm far from it," I whispered with a scornful laugh. "But I can't stand around and leave someone to kill loads of innocents."

Adryan shook his head. "Yeah... but an Elite. They found out he'd ingested poison; there's a whole big investigation into it. There's a load of hoopla about it now; the Sinnoh government think the Hoenn one killed him, whereas the Hoenn government think he was a Sinnoh spy."

I groaned and placed my head between my knees. I knew that wasn't good. It could never have ended well. But it had to be obvious that no one would have forcefully fed him it. He was in the middle of the woods, away from anyone else and consumed a plant that grew there. I convinced myself they'd find Lacey's cabin and just think he was the latest victim of a serial killer.

"I was only trying to help," I whispered. "I didn't want to cause a whole big incident or something. I just wanted to stop innocent people dying."

Adryan slapped his hands on his knees. "Well what did you think would happen when people found an Elite was dead? That people would think 'Oh, that's a shame, that' and then carry on skipping through the woods?" He sighed and dropped his head, staring despondently at the sandy dunes beneath us. "But... I can't blame you. I might not have been able to do the same in your position, but many people would have. He would have got off without any charges... it probably would have been pinned on someone who the government wanted to put away.

"I can't blame you for it and I'm sure as hell not going to say anything about it," he revealed. "It was... in some twisted, perverse, illegal way, the right thing to do. More than that though; what sort of friend would I be to make you suffer an emotional break down and then condemn you to becoming a human pincushion for the rest of your life, all in one night?"

I stared at him, completely confused. "What do you mean by that? Wouldn't I just be executed?"

He looked at me, blinked and then stared with an open mouth. "You sure you're actually not completely out of tune with reality? How can you not know about the stereotypical prison jokes?"

I shrugged and felt myself becoming increasingly embarrassed. "All I know is it's where people who commit crimes go. I don't get why there'd be jokes about it."

He blinked again. "Dropping the soap?"

"Huh?" I grunted, confused.

He pressed the issue, "Getting human booster shots?"

"What?"

"Needing a doughnut?"

I frowned. "What does food have to do with prison? Isn't it just where people get sent to when they do crimes? They get secluded away from people, locked away and are left to starve to death or just executed, depending on their crimes?"

Adryan leant closer, truly confused. "You're... joking right? You're just pulling my leg. How can you not know about prisons?"

I buried my chin in his coat again. "I do!" I snapped, truly embarrassed with my lack of knowledge. "People do something bad, then they're locked away, killed or made to repay for it by serving the community."

"Where do you come from?" he wondered, perplexed. "How... just how is it you seem to think people are being killed in prison? Capital punishment's been out of action for forty years."

Give it ten and it'll be a social norm.

"Prison. It's notorious for gay jokes," Adryan informed me. "It's a large institute full of only one gender, locked away for years at a time. It's well known that if you go there, you're going to end up becoming some long-term inmate's bitch."

I nodded. It made sense. Take people away from the opposite sex for a while and eventually they would turn to each other to satisfy their urges. It wasn't unheard of... and at least it was better than them turning to pokémon. Or the dead.

One thing still confused me though. "So... what's a doughnut?"

 

It was probably about an hour later when Adryan felt the awkwardness had died and he could talk to me again. I have to admit though, seeing him try and explain a doughnut was quite possibly one of the funniest conversations I'd ever had with him. I was half-tempted to ask him for an explanation on where babies come from, just to see how awkward he'd be around that.

 

He finally sat next to me around the fire and gave me a small, barely amused snort. "Please, never make me have to explain anything like that again to you. That was several levels of weird and awkward, all at once."

I pouted at him. "Ah, come on, please? Surely there's something else you could tell me about?" I tapped my finger against my chin in pantomime thought. "So what's this whole thing with dropping the soap?"

He made a strangled gasp as he leapt away, shaking his head all the while. "No, no, no, no! I am not having this conversation with you! I'm not listening! I'm not!" he protested as he stuck his fingers in his ears. "La, la, la, la, la!"

I broke down laughing on the spot. "You're reaction..." I wheezed, gripping my sides. "Man that was totally worth it. You're such a prude!"

He flushed bright red and poked a finger in the ground. "I'm not a prude," he murmured. "I just find it incredibly awkward to have to explain things like that with someone listening so attentively! It's freaky! You shouldn't be that engrossed in learning those sorts of things! You looked like I was teaching you about the different ways you can flatten oddish into bank notes!"

I perked up immediately. "You can do that?"

"Something save me," he groaned as he buried his face in his hands. "Just so you know-" he waved his finger between us, "-you and me, we're not nearly close enough to be discussing the various different ways people use tools to ease the pain after butt sex. Or anything in detail regarding that sort of activity. I do not like having that amount of attention put on me, end of – least of all from you." He sighed and pinched the bridge of his nose. "Gods, it's like trying to explain to my sister what a blowjob is."

I cocked my head. "You have a sister?" That was news to me. He'd never mentioned anything about her before. In fact, apart from passing mentions about from his parents, he'd almost never discussed his family. I caught myself as I was pondering that – I knew that little about that aspect of his life that I didn't even know his surname!

He nodded. "Yeah. She's seventeen at the moment. I think." He stopped and counted on his fingers. "Yeah, seventeen. And no, you're not sleeping with her!" he snapped quickly, giving me a huge glare. "Touch her in any way and I swear I'll lock you in a room full of eighty year olds having old people sex!"

I pictured it for only a moment and shuddered in revulsion. "So wait, you're happy to talk to me about old people sex, yet not anything else? That's weird."

He floundered, hand jittering as he tried to think of something to say. "That's different."

"Whatever," I said with a shrug. "So if you're not wanting to talk about those things in such detail, does that mean I can?" I grinned impishly before he could even think of a reply. "So what's your opinion on mast-"

"I'm not listening!" he yelped and clamped his hands over his ears instantly.

I cackled evilly as I fell back against the sand. "Prude."

He glared at me. "I am not a prude. But, whatever, believe it if you must. I just don't like the fact about talking about anything like that anywhere near my pokémon. I can't help but think that somehow it could get back to someone I really don't want finding out about anything, which coupled with the rule of Chinese whispers means that they'll get completely the wrong end of the stick."

"You worry too much," I pointed out.

"Hey, stranger things have happened," he said, holding his hands up in surrender. "Talking of; I've got my third and final question. Since we've had emotional breakdowns, confessions of a teen killer and now perverse sexual education, I think it's time we add something else to that list."

I was clueless as to what he could want to ask next. As far as I was concerned I'd managed to give an answer to every obvious question my actions had ever produced. I rolled my shoulders to click my back as I told him to go ahead.

"You're not really from Kismet, are you?" he asked, a devious glint in his eyes. "That's not the question," he said just as I opened my mouth, "but it's me just thinking it through. It was when you were applying for a trainer form; you took way too long to write that down. Most people would write it instantly, say they don't know, or stumble and ask how it's spelt. You looked like you were thinking about it all. Which means that you're not from there and you're actually from somewhere you don't want people knowing about. And since you're being all honest with me tonight..."

He grinned and I could see where the conversation was going. My heart had already begun to pound in my chest. I knew the answer I would have to give. I knew the possible reactions it would cause. I knew that I'd had the exact same conversation with my pokémon, yet with Adryan it seemed so much more... important? Nerve-wracking? Intimidating? I couldn't put my finger on the feelings at the time.

"So where exactly are you from then?" he asked as he leant forwards, hands in his lap. "Are you a prison baby? Did you get born there and never told of them, thus producing your complete lack of knowledge towards them?"

I snorted softly. "If only," I mumbled. I took a breath and my words died in my throat constantly, my own body refusing to put them into words. I hissed at myself and tried to force it into happening. Come on solider; truth! Now! That's an order!

"I'm not from Kismet," I told him. "Well, I am, but not exactly," I allowed, the words seemingly pouring out my mouth. "I'm not from this Kismet. I'm not from this anything. I'm... well... I'm from the future."

Never had I found the words coming out of my mouth sounding so stupid and full of bad-film-plot cliché.

Unsurprisingly Adryan burst out laughing. "Yeah, future, good one. Let me guess, a magical pink celebi appeared before you and warped you back into the past and told you that you had to do a mission of great importance to save the future?" He leant forwards and winked. "Were there robots in your 'future'? Has mankind started fighting them for fuel and dominance?"

"It wasn't pink," I mumbled, extremely aware of my burning ears.

Adryan stopped short. "Huh?" he grunted.

"It wasn't pink," I told him, speaking louder. "The celebi. It was green... ish. And it didn't tell me anything either, it just made everything explode into green light, then I found myself in some woman's house and being told pretty much what you said." I frowned and stared at the sand beneath me. "Except for robots. There's no robots where I'm from. There's no... nothing."

"Ri-ight," Adryan drawled. "Are you sure you just weren't abducted by little green clefairy? I mean, I believe you about everything before; no one is that good of an actor. But the future? Really?"

"I'm not making it up!" I snapped, glaring at him as fiercely as I could. "Go get your big freaky claydol!" I ordered him, waving my arm in the pokémon's general direction. "Get it to read my thoughts. Get it to share the images with you or something! That doesn't give you a brain tumour, so you'll see everything just like I saw it!"

He watched me silently for a moment, evaluating me like I was a weird foreign object from another time on display. Which in a way, I suppose I was. Finally he stood up and called over his claydol, which hovered over to us without delay.

I looked up and watched them both stood – floating in Myos' case – there in silence. The claydol's eyes lit up every so often and I knew it had to be speaking to him telepathically. I watched and wondered how Adryan could speak to it in silence. Could he share thoughts with it? The very idea of that made my mind wander; could I learn to do that to?

I snapped out of my reverie as Myos appeared before me like a spectre, floating in eerie silence before me.

[We are told you wish us to view your memories,] it grunted directly into my brain, bringing the familiar sting of pain. [We can do so, but only with your permission. Do you wish us to do this mortal?]

I nodded determinedly. "Do it," I commanded it. "This is the only way he'll believe me. And, well... it'll be nice to know that someone else will know exactly what my time is like."

The claydol hummed some sort of toneless tune. [Very well mortal.]

I felt the strange presence in my mind spread out, slowly and tentatively touching different parts of my brain. It was slow at first and felt like there was a gentle heat slowly spreading through my head.

Then once the heat filled my head, the images started flashing in my brain. Every single experience of my lifetime was condensed into a ten-second long picture show, leaving me on the floor reeling, my eyes spinning in their sockets and a thin trickle of blood oozing from my nose.

I felt the claydol's presence in my mind again as some invisible force helped me back to my feet. [We apologise, mortal. We would have extracted the images slower, but there is only so long we can spend within your mind.]

I nodded, woozy on my feet. "What... what do you mean?" I asked of it.

The soft humming was back again. [We are psychic. Our powers are driven by a factor of four; instinct, emotion, conscious and unconscious effort. When we spend too long within your mind, instinct and unconscious effort break free, screaming at our core to kill you.]

I swallowed the bile that raced up my throat in fear. "Wh-what do you mean?"

[Fear not mortal,] it commanded me. [Attachment of consciousness like actions of sharing thoughts is a final step of predatory nature. We shut down our prey's mind from the inside; granting it a quick, painless death. It is instinct and it is why trainers have to spend so long training us before attempting such a connection.]

I nodded quickly, fearfully. "Good to know."

[We are pleased you think so,] the claydol hummed again. [Many trainers ignore the advice of psychics and other pokémon. It is most foolish.] With that it left me, standing there and feeling somewhat emptier in the head as it floated over towards Adryan.

I couldn't just stand around like a lemon though as Myos transferred my memories to Adryan. I walked towards them as Adryan's eyes rolled backwards in his head and he collapsed to the floor, nose bleeding and groaning softly.

Seeing that I jogged the last few steps, even though I heard him whisper he was okay. It must have been exactly what happened to me, I realised.

When Adryan finally managed to pull himself up he remained sitting on the sand, holding his head with one hand and pinching his nose with the other. Only when he saw me did he offer a small smile and attempt to stand up again.

"You..." he breathed as he gave up trying to stand, instead just sitting on the floor. "You... you're really from the future, aren't you?"

I grinned as I sat down next to him. "Well, I did try telling you that, but someone didn't seem to believe me."

"It's not exactly the easiest thing to believe," he shot back. Instantly afterwards he sighed and apologised as he stared at the night-sky above. "I don't believe it," he whispered, seemingly to himself. "Those people... they actually could have been telling the truth."

That caught my attention. I leant forward eagerly, asking what he meant. I was certain that I was a first-case; but what if there'd been other people, before I'd managed to come along? What if I wasn't the only choice, but rather the last one? What if everyone before me had failed?

I forced myself to stop thinking about it quickly. I knew it would only confuse and distract me in the future.

Adryan rubbed his eyelids as he obviously tried to remember it all. "There was this kid a few years back; had a girafarig with him. He managed to cause a controversy because he did a few things that got the media's attention. Then he claimed that there was something we needed to do; something in particular we had to stop... or start... or change in order to stop... or make something happened." He cursed as he glared up at the heavens. "Why can't I remember any of it?"

I fought away any stray ideas towards his amnesia as I gripped his shoulders, making him face me. "What happened to him?" I demanded. "Did he succeed? What happened?"

"I... don't know," Adryan whispered as he rubbed his head, then decided to smack it with a palm instead. "Why can't I remember? I know... I know the kid just disappeared one day. Like one minute he was there, the next he wasn't. His pokémon too. I remember... I remember there was an investigation for a while. But then every record of what he'd said just vanished and no one seemed able to remember what he'd done... what he'd said, or even what he looked like."

I dropped my hands from his shoulders as I sunk to the sand. He'd disappeared. I remember feeling almost heartbroken at the news; it was like my only chance for finding out what had happened had just upped and vanished – my hopes built up and then crushed lower than they originally had been.

He'd vanished without a trace, with all records of his existence eradicated. I thought that maybe someone like Erica's group could have done something like that, but I knew they couldn't have made the unknown public like Adryan forget. Not really.

"Maybe..." Adryan whispered, drawing my attention. He frowned and gripped his knees hard, concentration palpable. "Maybe he really was from the future. Maybe... maybe he managed to do exactly what he needed to do. If he changed everything, then maybe... maybe he just vanished because everything had been changed and his future never existed... so he'd never existed. Or maybe his time was up; he might have only been allowed here until he'd done his job, then was plonked back in his own world."

I felt like someone had ripped my heart out and left a huge hole in my being. The thought of everything Adryan had told me stung worse than I could have ever imagined. I knelt there on the sand for a while, just... thinking.

What if I managed to succeed? Did that mean I'd disappear too? Would everyone forget I'd ever existed, all traces of me removed from existence? What about my pokémon, what would happen to them? Would they be warped with me? He said the girafarig vanished too; did that vanish with the person?

If they didn't, would they forget me too? Would they end up wherever I was at the time, alone, confused and having forgotten everything? If they did, what would happen? Would Lacey kill them all? Would Erra still be so timid? Would they help save the world, only to forget and kill each other?

Would everyone I knew forget me too? Erica... Chris... Mia... Adryan? Would they all forget I ever existed, left only with the obvious strange feeling that they should remember me, yet couldn't?

Could I honestly complete the task, knowing such a thing would happen?

"I... I can't..." I whispered as I stared despondently at the floor.

I felt Adryan's eyes settle on me as he moved to face me. "Can't what?" he asked.

I shook my head, focused only on the floor. "I can't... I can't do this... I can't be expected to come along and save everything... if I'm only going to die, or vanish, or who knows what in the end!"

"Hey," Adryan whispered. "No one said that would happen. For all we know, you could still be here afterwards."

I slapped away his hands as he tried to place them on my shoulders. "I'm not a child Adryan!" I shouted at him. "I heard what you said! If I do what I need to, I'm just going to vanish and everyone's going to forget about me! I don't know what'll happen to my pokémon; they could just warp out of existence like me, or they could get stuck there and end up killing each other if they don't remember it all either! I can't skip along and happily save the world knowing they're going to kill each other and no one that's become important to me will remember me!"

I found my head shoved onto his shoulder yet again. I think I would have cried once more, if I was able to. Instead I just remained there, shocked into stillness, unable to feel anything, unable to think anything apart from the soul-shattering news that I'd just up and vanish from everything.

I knew then... I convinced myself that it wasn't something I could happily do. I couldn't force my pokémon to go through a potentially lethal reward. I knew if it was just myself... if I hadn't met anyone... if I was completely alone, I could have done it with ease. But since I'd formed those bonds, it kept me from wanting to do it.

I was slapped in the face with a brutal reminder of the past. Put compassion aside. Leave it behind. The moment you develop it, you've started along a road that will only end in your death.

I remembered it so clearly and not just through the claydol flashing my memories at me. It was one of the first things I ever learnt in education; one of the few things that was ingrained into us from a young age.

I'd come into this world, experienced it and decided that such a philosophy on life was wrong.

And then it slapped me in the face with how right it was.

I remember being there; held by Adryan as he thought I was crying again, him reassuring me that everything would be okay. Deep down I knew it wasn't going to be. I remember that I couldn't think of anything at the time but how much the world had changed me; how much of my old life I'd deserted and how much I'd potentially screwed myself over.

It wasn't fair.

I'd ditched my old life, thinking my new one was for the better. I'd escaped it because I hated almost everything about it, only to discover that no matter what I hated about it, nothing changed the fact that it was right.

I felt like I'd been punched in the gut as I pushed myself off Adryan, staring unseeingly past him.

"We'll find a way around it, I promise," he told me as he shook me by the shoulders. "What if I did whatever you need to do? What if it wasn't you that dealt the final blow?"

I blinked to focus myself and shook my head at him. "You saw what my world's like. Living in constant fear of pokémon; having disease spread through the nations, having nations attack nations and everything turning on you because of some sort of pandemic... there's not one blow that can stop all that. That much is obvious; I've just been refusing to see it all this time. There's not one thing I need to do, but many little things. Everything must have snowballed. I must have already let a few things happen that shouldn't have. I can't stop it all. There's too much to do. I can't stop what everything's meant to become! I-"

Adryan struck me, hard with the back of his hand. I fell to the floor and looked up at him, rubbing my sore cheek as he rubbed his hand.

"Stop acting like that," he growled. "I've known you for a few months now and you're one of my best friends. For heaven's sakes, I've seen your entire history in my own mind! You're not a quitter, I know that much for certain." He sighed and offered a hand to me. "Now, how long do we have left until it's all irreversible?"

I let him pull me to my feet as the time stuck out in my brain like a neon sign. "Until the end of the year," I told him, defeated.

"Oh... fuck," he whispered, arms dropping to his side uselessly.

I sniffed. "Yeah. Welcome to my hopeless world."

"It's not hopeless," he told me, even though he didn't seem to think so himself. "We just need to figure out exactly what we're doing. If we work that out, then we'll know what to do."

I looked up at him, bewildered. "What's this 'we' about? I'm the stupid tool that's been chosen to try and do this. I'm the one that knows exactly what I've got to stop the world becoming and it was me that bastard imp celebi chose for the job!"

He folded his arms and gave me a stern look. "And did it ever say that you had to do this alone? I've seen exactly what happened, remember? I know it didn't so much as even give you a 'to do' list, which means that it doesn't care how you get the job done, just as long as you get it done."

"I..." my words faltered as I saw the conviction in his face. "Why are you volunteering to help me? Twenty minutes ago, you didn't believe me."

He grinned. "Hey, I'm your friend, aren't I? It's what friends do; look out for each other, provide each other with amusement, help each other to save the world. It'll all in the job description, just look it up on the internet." He winked and laughed. "Besides, I've always liked the idea of becoming world famous. I wonder; if people realised we did it, could I get my own followers? 'The Cult of Adryan'. It sounds quite catchy, don't you think?"

"This isn't a comedy show," I told him, deathly serious. "You can't just make jokes out of this to hope it all seems better!"

"Really? And just tell me, since when did you become the expert on how to cope with dealing with the fate of the world?" he countered. "You've dealt with it in such a serious way and all it's given you is severe brain trauma and a lot of missing hours sleep. At least dealing with it light-heartedly you have some vain hope of kidding yourself that it's not as bad as it seems."

I stuffed my hands in my pockets as I stared at the floor. "It's not you that runs the risk of popping out of existence."

"Hey, we'll find a loophole in that, don't you worry," Adryan reassured me. It was the first time in the entire conversation that there was any sort of belief in his voice... the first time it seemed like he actually fully believed it could be possible. "Besides, I haven't told you the best part about this all yet, have I?"

I looked up sharply, hope burning in my chest. "What's that?"

He grinned a horrific impish grin. "Well, I'm privy to all your memories now, aren't I?"

The fires of hope turned into ice of horror. "Oh... no. No. No!" I protested, shaking my head as mortification set in. "No, I don't believe you!"

"Really?" he asked, that damned grin taking over the whole of his face. "Well, if you don't believe me, I'll have to prove it to you. I mean, I doubt the pokémon centres really want to know how you've been repainting their rooms, or what you really thought of certain people. But I could always go around and throw you at people and be like, 'Hey, meet this guy. He once ran around in the snow with a plunger stuck to his butt and a photo of his army sergeant protecting his modesty."

"Oh gods," I breathed and wished for nothing more than the ground to swallow me up. He couldn't know about the hazing I had to go through! No one was ever, ever going to find out about it, if I'd had my way! But he knew! It wasn't fair!

"Oh and what's this?" he continued, loving every torturous minute. "You lost your virginity to that woman? Marybelle? Really, what were you thinking? She looks like she was born the wrong way round; her hands look like feet and my god those teeth are horrible!"

"Shut up!" I wailed and clamped my hands over my ears. Both my ears and face burnt, keeping my whole body warm in the desert night. I closed myself in as much as I could, praying to whatever god that could hear me that the ground would eat me whole and save me from such mortification. "I'm going to take that claydol apart, atom by atom," I swore.

Adryan chuckled as he crouched down next to me. "He'll sense you coming a mile off. Besides, I can ruin you socially from now own." He poked my head with a finger and laughed an evil, gleeful sound. "I know you more intimately than anyone's ever going to know you. And I'm going to lord it over you at every possible opportunity."

I sunk to the floor, groaning and defeated. "I hate you. So much."

He cackled again. "Payback my friend; payback. Now do you see what I mean? Sure, you're horrified beyond belief, but isn't that better than dealing with everything with such a gloomy outlook in life?"

"No," I grunted. "I'd rather be gloomy than have ever let you know, let alone see any of that!"

"Too late now!" he taunted. "So seriously then; what do we do from here? You've got to have a plan? Something you've been doing all this time?"

I shook my head. "Can we talk about that later? It's not exactly a bedtime story."

He nodded, quiet and serious. "Alright. Tomorrow we'll start sorting out everything we need to do. In the mean time, we might as well get some sleep before the sandstorms start up again. It's a miracle we haven't managed to wake any of the pokémon up too. Though I think it's more a case of they've been leaving us to it."

I nodded silently as he stood up and made way to his sleeping bag. Only after a few steps did I call out after him. He stopped and turned his head, genuine confusion and worry on his face.

I flushed. "Thanks," I grunted. "For everything."

He shrugged. "I'm your friend. It's what we do. You'd do the same for me."

"Yeah..." I whispered as I watched him manoeuvre his way between the pokémon. Only when I was alone did I truly start to think on everything again; the end results of my journey, what would happen along the way and mostly whether or not I could actually go through with it or not.

Everything about compassion played in my mind again. If I'd left it behind, I could have carried on without hesitation. Since I'd regained it and made bonds, I was reluctant to do my duty. I'd disappear once I'd done what I needed to do and everyone would forget I'd ever existed in the first place.

I think... I think that day broke a little inside. It was the first major crack towards everything about me that changed afterwards. The day made me realise three things that I carried with me, always; even if you don't like something, it doesn't mean it's not the best solution, the right thing to do wasn't always the easiest, nor was it the best in everyone else's opinion and that indifference was probably the only effective method of getting everything done in the best way possible.

Though mostly I realised that no matter what, you could never truly change who you were. No matter how far away you got, something would always drag you right back down to the starting line again.

Fate... is truly a fickle bitch.

 
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