Never ever before Norman had thought it could be so hard to breathe. The atmosphere was thick, smoke lingering at every corner as bright, yellow, threatening flames consumed the buildings.
“DARIA!!”, it was as if his cry was swallowed by the fire that surrounded him. Still, he ran and yelled, until he spotted a familiar brunette.
“Norman!” came the relieved response as his wife crashed into his open arms.
He held her against his chest for several seconds, inhaling deeply her scent as his fingers lost their way into her long locks of curly brown hair.
With a shaky breath, he broke the embrace and touched softly her face with his fingers.
“What happened…? The explosion was so huge that it blew the Gym’s windows… I-I came as soon as I could…”, then he paused when he realized that someone was missing, “Where’s… Where’s Haruka…? Is she okay?”
The helpless expression upon Daria’s face was enough answer,
“I… I don’t know… I was in the kitchen, drinking a glass of water, and she was in the living room and then I went back to the living room and… I can’t remember but… The blast knocked me to the ground, then the next thing I remember, I was outside and Haruka wasn’t there, and the firemen told me they’ll try to save her, that I should stay still because I hurt my head, but I needed to find you and -Oh dear, I’m so scared…!”
Norman clenched his jaw as Daria began to sob in his arms. For a second, an innocent face flashed before his eyes, bright blue eyes, with sparks of red in them, looking at him with wonder as a huge, toothy smile laugh at him “Daddy!”.
His sweet little Haruka. She wasn’t even four years old…
If there’s Arceus above us watching this… Please, make sure that our little daughter is safe…!
“Sir?” Norman gazed at the voice who called him, a fireman, “Yes?”
“Your wife told us earlier that your child was still stuck inside your house. We send our best men to rescue her.”
“You know if she’s safe?”
“We can only hope so, it seems that the living room wasn’t too much impacted by the explosion, so the chance that your daughter might survive this are-”
But he never had the chance to finish his sentence as a second blast rolled upon all of them. When Norman opened his eyes, he was on the ground. It was as if hell had broken loose on Earth.
Everything was on fire, and a deafening whistle rang into his ears. The world was spinning around him and he tried to stand up.
The Gym leader looked at the place where his house should have been, but instead, he only saw a huge hole in which nothing was left.
He felt tears streaming down his face as a howl escape his throat. One, lonely thought cried helplessly into his mind “Haruka!”
And then, everything faded to black.
Fourteen years later
“Time to get up, Freak!” was her morning alarm before a bucket of frozen water was thrown on her.
She gasped loudly as coldness seized her, and she was on her feet in two seconds.
“I-I’m awake!” she yelled back between chattering teeth.
“You weren’t,” came the spiteful answer, “If you were, you’d be already working on your chores! No breakfast for you today!”
But I haven’t eaten last night too…! came the unspoken thought, but she didn’t show it on her face, and May began her daily routine while trying to ignore her gurgling stomach.
While she walked through the street of this remote community, she readjusted the blindfold that hid her eyes from view.
“You little demoniac freak!”, “Your eyes are cursed! We should have croak them a long time ago!”, “It’s because of you that so many disasters happened!” “You caused enough damages before, so stay where you belong, you freaking monster!”
May clenched her jaw as she tried to ignore those words who plague her mind every second of the days… When they weren’t said by the people in front of her.
She wondered why the community hadn’t killed her yet? If she was so dangerous, they should have get rid of her a long time ago…?
She could have snorted at herself. Of course, they already tried! And the only thing that came out of it was the fact that she destroyed an entire part of a town.
But she couldn’t remember the incident. She was young and only broken memories were left behind; fire, pain, desolation…
“Move faster, Freak! The ground will not be washed all by itself!
“Yes, Ma’am…” she murmured as she accelerated the pace.
As far as she could remember, her life has always been this way: insults, abuse, disdain and pure hatred. And she knew things would ever stay the same until the day she will die.
Still, echoes from the past brought her some comfort when life was too hard, the pain too unbearable. Memories of joy and love.
Before they took her with them, before she became a danger to those around her, she was loved. And it that was what scared her the most.
Because she knew deep inside that those people who deeply loved her were hurt by her in the end.
And it was because she knew she still hurt people in the end that she accepted, at the end of the day, the whipping for her daily mistakes.
Then she went to bed, after getting the chance to eat a little, falling in a deep dreamless sleep, before everything that all over again, as it always has, each day, again, and again,
“Oh my god, May! What did they do to you this time…?”
The frighten expression of her dear and only friend broke her heart and the seventeen years old girl tried to reassure the green haired boy.
“Oh no, don’t worry Wally, it’s not as bad as it seems…!” this could have been convincing if she hadn’t winced while sitting down on a log, next to her younger friend.
“I don’t understand… Why can’t I help you…? This community lives so near Verdanturf Town and yet, no one ever heard of them!” he took her hand in his, “I want to help you May… Each time I see you, you’re in a worse state than before…! How long it will be before you stop coming, huh…?”
She sighed, “Wally… You know that I can’t… I’m dangerous, you know that… And I prefer to be the one to suffer than to hurt people…” while saying that, she readjusted the blindfold that covered her eyes, the soft fabric allowing her to see through it while preventing other to see her eyes.
My cursed eyes…
Her dark thoughts were cut as a little green pokemon jump into her laps
“My, hello there Mint! I’m glad to see you too!” she said in a laugh.
Even if her life could be harsh sometimes, May always had found time to be all by herself, alone in the wood, to breathe a little away from the hatred of the community. It was this way she met Wally for the first time six years ago, but also how she meet Mint, a little abandoned Treecko with a twisted tail, as well as other … Broken… pokemon she took care of…
She tickled the little creature a little before another of her friend came from behind her and cuddled against her legs. Then, the big red orbs of a familiar Poochyena looked back at her, “Hello to you too, Shadow!”
And, as always, her other pokemon friend joined her soon enough, a Ralts and a Numel, called respectively Aurora and Vulcain. From the pocket of her worn cream dress, she gave them some berries that she stole from the community’s stock and looked at them with a fond look.
“You know… You could be a great trainer if they give you the chance…
“And let me roam around the region? Not a chance… They’ll say I’ll cause too many damages… And I don’t have Pokeball, neither a trainer license… And I won’t talk about money…!”
While saying this, the teenager made her way toward a little stream, and it was only a few seconds later that a bright red pokemon emerged from underwater, “I don’t forget you, Monster! Here you go…” The Magikarp beamed at her and eat happily his berries while the four other pokemon join them near the water.
“I still think that it’s an odd surname that you gave him…”
“Why? They said that Magikarp evolved in very powerful pokemon if we take the time to breed them!
“Still, I don’t think I’ll ever have the patience to raise a Magikarp to a Gyarados…”
May only hummed at him and continued to play with the not-so-quite wild pokemon. For a long moment, the two humans stay silent, watching the five pokemon playing with each other in the stream, the quietness of the forest bringing appeasement to May, one she never have inside the community walls.
“I think it’s time for me to head back home…”, said finally Wally
“Already?”, “Yes, my Aunt and Uncle will begin to worry if I’m not at home before the nightfall so…”, “I understand… I hope you’ll come back around here soon!”
Wally smiled at her, with a strange look into his eyes, and gave her a hug, “Don’t worry, I will!” and then, he was gone.
May sighed. She was aware of the boy’s feelings for her, as he confessed them to her one year ago. But as she liked him as a friend, even as a best friend! she didn’t like him this way… And even if he respected her own feelings, sometimes things could be awkward between the two, but she knew that the green-haired boy was moving on on her so she didn’t worry too much about it.
Once she was sure that she was alone, the seventeen years old girl made her way to a certain tree, a tree with a little hole in the trunk wide enough for her to fit one arm in it. She took the little object off the tree and removed the little fabric that protected it.
A wooden flute was hidden here and May brought it to her lips, a familiar tune coming out of it.
A cry pierced the sky and a flurry of red and white feathers came to her, a little head nuzzling against her chest while making a sound of joy. The seventeen years old laugh at the pokemon and hugged it back.
“Yes, Yes! I missed you too Latias!”
Against all odds, she had befriended the Eon pokemon while she was injured to the wing one day. She didn’t have a lot on her to help her, but she did the best she could at this moment and since then, Latias had given her the flute and pay her a visit each time she played it.
“Why won’t you play with the other, they missed you too, you know?”
The Eon pokemon let out another cry of joy before flying toward the other pokemon who greet her with enthusiasm.
May played with them a little longer, but soon enough, she had to say them goodbye. She tried to keep a soothing face, but the pokemon knew better than to think that their dear human was okay with her life. So, it was with worry they let her go, once again, inside the walls of the community village.
The steel-blue haired man looked up from his lupa to the voice who called him. “Huh? Oh, it’s you Norman, I’m glad to see that you could have come after all…!” he had stood up to greet the older man, who waited at the entrance of his house, which had the door wide open, shaking fondly his hand. The raven-haired man laugh at him, “How could I not? No one ever refuses Ligue Champion’s invitation! Plus, Petalburg City Gym didn’t have any challenger schedule for the moment so…”
“I can understand that!” he said lightly, “Now, take a sit, would you? Do you want something to drink?”
“A cup of coffee would be lovely, thank you”
The champion disappeared for a few moments in his kitchen, leaving the Gym leader alone. He took a few moments to looked around him. Even if he already knew that the Champion was a rock nerd, Norman didn’t expect for his house in Mossdeep City to be at the same time so bare in his furniture, and yet so full with rocks and precious stones all over the place. The Petalburg Gym leader took a look at the stone the younger man was studying… And felt his heartache with a familiar pain.
Saphyr… Just like her eyes were…
“Are you okay, Sir?”
Norman jolted out of his thought, seeing that Steven was back with two steaming cups in his hands. He blinked a little, “Oh, I’m fine, don’t worry, I was just lost in thought…” He took the cup from the Champion hand, “Oh, and please, I’m not that old! ‘Norman’ is fine with me.”
“I’ll call you Norman only if you call me Steven”, “I think I can manage with that”, “Good”
They sipped in silence their drink, Steven looking at him with a tiny spark of worry in his eyes as himself was lost in thought watching the stone on the table. Still, the twenty-four years old Champion was well-behaved enough to not ask.
“Well… I know this time of the year is… kind of difficult for you…” Steven managed to say, “... But I know that you were a great Gym leader back in Johto and I really admire you for a long time…”
The Normal-type trainer blinked at him, “Well, thanks I suppose, even if I’m not sure to understand…”
Steven sighed while passing a hand through his silver locks, “Well, you a sort of international reputation and…” he took another sip of his drink, “You know that in two weeks, the Battle Resort will be inaugurated and I thought that you could be the… Guest of honor, in a way, of the opening ceremony, if you don’t mind…”
Norman was speechless at the proposition, “Well… I… I’m really honored that you offer me this opportunity….”
The younger one gave him a strange look, “... But do you realize that… In two weeks, it will be fourteen years old that the incident… Occurred…?”
Of course, the champion was aware of this. As well as a vast majority of people in this part of the Earth. After all, no one had been able to determine what truly happened this day.
This year, she should have been eighteen…
Norman swallowed. “I see…” The gym leader took a deep breath to composed himself a little, still having some difficulties dealing with the incident, even a decade later, “I’ll be honored to be the Godfather of the opening ceremonies of the Battle Resort…” He gave the Champion a little smile “It seems to be an interesting experience and I’m curious now…”
“Are you sure…?”
“Certain, and… Wherever my little Haruka is now, I don’t think she wants to see her family still mourning her… Death…”
Steven gave him a comforting squeeze on the shoulder, “Even if it’s a little late, I’m sorry for your loss” “Don’t be, it’s in the past now…” Norman shook his head, “So now, what should I know? How this place will work, exactly?”
The announcement was broadcast on National TV
“Dear citizens of Hoenn, The League is proud to announce you the official opening date of the Battle Resort! Funded by the Devon Corporation, this first-year edition will be sponsored by the very famous Gym Leader Norman from Petalburg City! (cheers)
The opening ceremony will be held for seven days with, at the end of the week, a ball to close all the festivities! (applause)
Trainers from all Hoenn will be able to battle each other, and even a Special Challenge is proposed for the stronger one of them!
Trainers who wished so could challenge the Eight Gym Leader in a row! But one failed battle and they’ll have to restart all over again! (Dramatic, yet enthusiast music)
The challengers who will have defeated the eight champions the four first day of the opening week will have the opportunity to challenge the Elite Four the fifth day! And if (if!) they are successful at doing so, those said challengers will have the chance to battle the Champion the penultimate day! The seven one will be dedicated to celebrate all the battles that will have occurred all the previous days!
But trainers, beware! The Gym Leader, Elite Four and the Champion prepare their best and stronger team and they will not be a piece of cake! (laughs)
The Battle Resort (BR) is waiting for you! Book now your ticket for the opening ceremony!”
The announcement of the BR’s opening was just like a jolt of electricity through all Hoenn, even in the remote community where lived May.
She was… Fascinated by the event, and even if she knew best then to think she could challenge the Gym leaders, she still wanted to go.
So, one day, while the community’s chiefs were talking about the fact all of them (they were a community of thirty people), she couldn’t help herself to ask,
“When you say “all of us”, does that mean I can go too?”
They had laughed at her,
“If you can gather a team of at least two pokemon before tomorrow evening, well, maybe you could come with us…” said finally the community chief, a man with black piercing eyes and a scar crossing the back of his shave head called Brazgot.
“Really?!” she couldn’t hide the hope behind her words, not catching the venom in the old man words
“But.” the tone was disdainful, “Before that, all your chores have to be finished!”
“I promise they will! Oh, thank you, thank you so much!”
And with that, she ran outside, a wide grin spreading all across her face. If it was not for the blindfold, they could have seen her eyes shined with delight.
“Sir, are you sure about taking the freak with us…?
“I say ‘If’, didn’t I?”
A dark, evil laugh answered him, “Oh, yes ... That right...”
“And so, if I ever find some pokeballs, and if you allow me to capture you, I’ll have the chance to go with them, and maybe experience battles!” her face beamed with hope, “I know that I’m dangerous but… If they propose this agreement, that means it’s safe right?”
Her pokemon friends nodded at her, even Latias who was floating next to her and nuzzling her hair with her nose, gave her encouraging noises.
“Thank you, guys, I don’t know what I would do without you…”
“FREAK! Where are you?! We have work for you so come here right now if you don’t want to be punished!”
“Sorry guys, duty calls” she tried to say lightly before rushing back to the community’s village. “I’ll be right back!”
But she wasn’t. The community people seemed to have decided to make her work harder than before. One wanted her to sew up his cape, another one needed for her pokeballs to be polished, or for their pokemon to be combed,...
And at the end of the day, she didn’t get the chance to have some time for herself. It was the same the following day: it was as if the whole community had decided to make her life a far worse living hell than the rest of the year.
In the end, she finished her chores the exact moment the community called out for the departure.
In the end, she didn’t get the chance to find some pokeballs.
In the end, she was left alone, shelving, like the freak she had always been.
With a heavy heart, she made her way to the small glade with the little stream where she knew that her pokemon-friends were waiting for her.
What a surprise when she saw that in addition to be all reunited, they seemed to have fund pokeballs (a little worn, but it didn’t matter) and, moreover, ready to be captured and help her being a trainer, even if it was for a short amount of time. Even Latias seemed ready to help her, even if May had to tell her it might be dangerous if the community knew that she befriended with an Eon pokemon.
Still, she couldn’t hide the wide grin that spread across her face when she took the pokeballs with the pokemon -her pokemon!- inside for the first time.
Maybe... Maybe things will be different now…
“Chief Brazgot, Sir wait!” May yelled at the leaving party. They turned on their heels, looking at her puzzled and with repulsion in their gaze.
“What do you want, Freak?!” barked the cold voice of the Chief,
“You… You said that if I could gather a pokemon team and finish all my chores before the departure, I could come with you! Look!” she showed them the five pokeballs on her hips (the sixth one with Latias hidden in her clothes), “And I have finished all the things you asked me to do, so I can come with you, as you promised me, right?”
She heard outraged gasp coming from the crowd, yet she didn’t move her gaze from the community Chief's face.
Brazgot looked at her with a cold, angry expression before a predatory grin made his way on his lips.
“Well, well, well. Now that you have pokemon of your own, you think that you could come with us, May…?”
The teenager felt a shiver of pure fear ran down her spine. When the Chief called her by her name, it only meant troubles.
“Now that you have a team of your own, you think that you could ever be a trainer...,?”
She saw him took one of his pokeballs at his belt and tossed it into the air, realizing a giant Salamence
“Then, prove yourself worthy of your team!”
His smile was cold, “Prove us that you are more than a little damn freak...”
Even if she was afraid, May took the first Pokeball on her belt and tossed it in the air. Monster was the one coming out if it.
The crowd laughed at her. “You really thought that you could fight in a battle with a mere Magikarp?” was the Chief sarcastic comment, “You pathetic freak. Salamence, use Dragon Claw”
The move was too fast for May to have the time to command her pokemon to dodge the attack. It fainted instantly. With a shocked expression, she quickly returned it before sending another pokeball, Shadow barking once he was out of the little device.
Before the Chief had the time to say something, she ordered: “Use bite, quickly!”
Brazgot simply shrugged, “Dodge it and use tackle”, and, once again, it was a critical hit.
The battle didn’t last much longer has the Chief wiped the floor with the rest of her team.
Once the fifth pokemon, Mint, fell fainted on the ground, May felt her knees give under her own weight and she sunk to the ground. She didn’t reach for the sixth Pokeball in her dress.
“Pathetic” was the spiteful comment pat at her, “Really, you should know better than to think you could be something more than a freak. You’re dangerous and unable to fight in a pokemon battle. Your arrogance will be the end of you.”
He turned on his heels and began to walk away from her broken form, “Now, you shall remember where your place is, where you belong.” his words were brought to her by the wind
“Remember that you’ll never be something more than a freak.”
Even if the words hurt a lot, May didn’t mind them. Tears were pouring out of her eyes. With shaking hands, she took the still form of Mint, the little Treecko making painful noises at the touch. The teenager felt sobs escaping her throat as other tears made their way onto her cheeks.
“I’m so, so sorry” was the painful word that she croaked at the green pokemon, hugging him softly to her chest, “I’m so sorry to have failed you… All of you…”
She ran to the glade she used as a loophole, where she hid all her belongings, as well as a few berries that she could use to heal her injured pokemon.
She released them all, as well as Latias who chirped worriedly at her, as she took care of her pokemon’s wound, unaware of the tears that blurred her vision.
And all along, she never stopped asking for forgiveness at her pokemon. Then, she sat on the ground, her back on the log and her face hidden in her knees, crying her heart out.
She had been a fool, believing their words...Why would they ever show her kindness…? She was tired, she just wanted to stay there and disappear forever. Nothingness would ever be better than this life.
“... Gon…” came a painful cry behind her. Surprised, May looked sharply above her shoulder and saw a badly injured Bagon limping into the glade, blood streaming down one of his paws.
A Bagon, the first form of Salamence…
Even if the event from before was still vivid in her memory, she couldn’t let this poor little pokemon like this, injured! Plus, this little Bagon was clearly different from the Brazgot’s Salamence!
“Hi there…” she cooed softly, wiping the tears out of her eyes. The little pokemon seemed startled at her voice and looked at her with worry.
“It’s okay, little buddy, I won’t harm you, I promise” she held a hand toward it, “I just want to help you, so come here so that I can have a look at your wounds…”
Slowly, the Bagon made his way to her and she took him gently on her laps, “Here, take the Oran berry, you should feel better after eating a bit of it…”
The dragon type pokemon took it with his two front paws and looked up at her with his big black eyes. Around them, her other pokemon had gathered to look at the new coming one with curiosity.
Yet, the Bagon didn’t eat the berry, only looked at her with a soft expression and then…
“I knew it… You truly are a pure-hearted human…”
“What was that?!” nearly yelled May as panic began to rose in her chest. But then, the glade was illuminated by a white blinding light, and even with the blindfold on her eyes, the teenager had to shield them with one arm.
When the light faded a little, the Bagon on her laps had disappeared. Instead, floating in front of her was a star-shape pokemon, one that May had only heard of.
“You… You are…” she gasped, her jaw dropping to the ground
The pokemon giggled at her, “Nice to meet you, May. I’m Jirachi”
“How what? How I came here? Well, flying seems to be a good answer so I’ll go with that!”
“Wait, what?” asked May, still dumbfounded, “No! I mean… Why are you here…? Why did you…?”
But her question was cut short. The Mythical pokemon flew to her face, his two tiny hands resting on her cheeks, wiping the remnant tears that lingered on them.
“If I took this form, it was to test you. I wanted to see that even if you were still ready to help other people, even at your lowest point, even if the said pokemon remind you of a bad experience.”
Jirachi smiled at her, “And you did it May, you show me that you were still ready to help another living being, regardless of how you are, how you feel…” his smile grew a little more, “A lot of people would have shown selfishness if they have been in your situation, but you… You show some kind of mercy, of selflessness…” Jirachi paused a little, giving her time to process his word, “... And for that, I’ll grant you all your wishes for the next seven days…!”
May looked at the tiny pokemon with astonishment, “No… I-I can’t accept this gift…! it’s too much! I-”
“May”, Jirachi’s voice hard, yet soothing in its tone, “You more than anyone else are worth of this gift, so please, let me help you… Let me help you reach some kind of happiness that was refused to you for a too long time…”
May looked at the star-shaped pokemon for long seconds, her own pokemon at her feet, looking at the two with wonder, astonishment, and maybe a bit of worry.
May finally drew a long breath and said
“Then… I wish that you heal my pokemon… please?”
“That was obvious, why does that not surprise me that it is your first wish, tell me?” Jirachi asked in a chuckled and, with a blink of the eyes, soft light wrapped her injured pokemon and, the next second, they were free from any wounds.
“Don’t thank me, that was pretty easy, barely a warm-up!” Jirachi said with a light tone. “But now, can we start with the good stuff…? I heard that you wished to participate in a tournament, am I right?”
May flushed and looked at her feet “Well, yes, I'd love to, but I don't want for my pokemon to be injured as badly as they were during the battle with…” she didn't finish her sentence as guilt began to grow in her chest, tears, once again, threatening to escape the barrier of her lids.
“Oh my! No! Not of that now! This Brazot guy is an idiot, as well as all the people of this community!” huffed the mystical pokemon, “Maybe it's not a very orthodox way but who knows if you'll ever get the chance to be a trainer once again after this week tournament?” at those words, light exploded from his little body and enveloped each one of the six pokemon. Through the light, May could see their forms change, going bigger and bigger, except for Latias, who was a pokemon who didn't evolve. And, as she watched with open astonishment her pokemon changed before her eyes, she heard Jirachi say, “There. I give your pokemon a strength that equals the love that you have for them and the one they had for you.” the star-shape pokemon giggled lightly, “And I have to say, I'm quite impressed by the bond you form with each of them, even with Latias, and I know for sure how hard it is to be friend with her…!”
When the light vanished, her tiny little pokemons weren’t there anymore. Instead stood proudly a Sceptile, a Mightyena, a Gardevoir, a Gyarados and a Camerupt who all roared in a powerful cry. Latias floated by their side, still the same than before but with what seemed to be a stronger aura.
Both of her hands flew to her open mouth as she looked at them with wonder. They all seemed so… Alive…! And only because of the love she tried to give them everyday…?
If she had been a trainer… They would have become like this…?
Her tearful eyes looked at Jirachi, who was still by her side and try to say something, but words just wouldn’t make their way out of her mouth. He held up a hand to her.
“Don’t! Just… Enjoy your time with your team, would you?”
It was all that she needed, and the next seconds, she was with her newly-yet-for-a-short-time evolved pokemon, petting them on the head, giving compliments and just… being in awe at them.
After a few minutes, Jirachi cleared his throat, “I know that you want to spend time with your team, but we only have the week before us and we haven’t finished with your preparation yet!”
May frowned at the pokemon, “What do you mean by that…?”
“I mean no offense but… Did you have a look at you?” he made a general gesture to her clothes, “Really, I can’t understand how people can treat other human being this bad…”
May blushed with embarrassment at the comment, “Actually… I’m the one who made this dress…”
Jirachi paled, “Oh boy… Well, I hope you won’t mind, but I think some adjustments are needed if you want to melt in the crowd once you’ll be at the Battle Resort”
He snapped his tiny fingers and, this time, it was her who was surrounded by light. Once it cleared out, she saw that her white-worn dress had been substituted for a red shirt and white short. Her hair seemed different too, now they were held up by a tiny ponytail and a bandana which matched her shirt color. Yellow sneakers where at her feet and a little bag firmly tied to her belt.
She twirled on herself, looking at her new clothes with stars in her eyes “Those are the most comfortable things I ever wear!”
“Why, well thank you…!” said proudly, maybe smugly, Jirachi, “Still… I have to do something about the blindfold…”
May felt her blood froze in her veins, “... My blindfold…?” “Yes, it truly doesn’t suit you, if you want my opinion, so if you could just remove it-”
“NO!” she cried before she could stop herself. Jirachi looked at her with wide-eyes.
“I mean… I have to hide my eyes, you know? I don’t want people to see them.”
A pause, “Why?” was the simple question, “They are cursed… And because of that, I caused a lot of pain several years ago, I don’t want it to happen once again…”
Her voice broke at the end and Jirachi could only look at her sadly. “Please, remove it, so I can do something to replace it.”
May helpless expression almost make the Mystical pokemon regret his word, but, with shaking hands, the teenager untied the knot at the back of her head and let the fabric slide upon her face. Slowly, she opened her eyes, revealing for the first time the deepness of their Saphir-like-color in which strings of red taint them in a glorious harmony, making them sparkled in the dimming light of the sun.
Jirachi looked at them silently for long seconds, “I don’t understand why people feared your eyes, they’re wonderful, but I’ll grant you this wish too.” and then, he flew toward her face and kissed her forehead, sending jolt of warm through her face, and before she knew it, a mask delicately framed her face, the slight white color in her vision letting her suppose that the holes for the eyes were masked as well.
She made her way toward the stream in the glade and looked at her reflection. She almost didn’t recognize herself.
Yes, the girl looking back at her was too thin to be truly healthy, and the pale color of her skin show that she wasn’t doing well. Still, there were a form of determination emanating for her, a slight smile on her lips and the half Venetian-mask, mostly white in its color with black and gold engraving drew on it, gave her a catlike look.
She gasped and the reflection did the same.
This girl… It’s me, it’s who I could have been…
It’s the one I’ll be for the next week.
Jirachi, still by her side, looked at her with a soft expression. “I suppose you like it?”
“Like it? I love it! And not just that, but everything you did for me, for them (she gestured at her pokemon) for us…!” she took the star-shape pokemon between her two hands and hugged him close.
“Thank you so much…!”
Jirachi giggled in her arms but a blush could be seen upon his cheeks, “You’re welcome my dear…” he drew back from her arms, “Oh! I forgot to tell you! I had added a little something to the mask! As long as you keep it, those guys from the community would be unable to recognize you, so you don’t have to worry if your path crossed their!” he giggled again, “Also, I make sure that no one will try to know too much about you, or, for example, asking for your trainer ID card!”
Then, the Mystical pokemon flew around her a few times, “What could have I forgot…?” He stopped in front of her, a deep frown upon his sweet features. “I know! There… One more gift to you…”
With wonder, May watched a faint glowing light poured out of Jirachi body toward her left wrist. When it vanished, a silver large bracelet was wrapped around it, a little gem inlaid in it.
“What is it?”, “A Mega Bracelet, if I’m correct. It appears that you humans have found a new way for pokemon to evolve. Unfortunately, I only had a Key Stone with me -the one inlaid in the bracelet. It appears that only certain pokemon can Mega Evolve when holding certain stones, but I’m not sure… I don’t know if you’ll find any use to it but I thought it suits you so…”
May smiled gently at him, “Thank you, for all of this…! It’s like a dream! A wonderful dream come true…!” saying that, she twirled once again on herself. Jirachi expression, however, became more serious.
“Yes, my dear...But there’s one last thing you need to know… without counting tonight, in seven days, when midnight will strike its twelve bells, so that the eight one could begin, everything will turn back to normal. You’ll be once again the one you always have been. I suppose you know what this implied…?”
“That I have to be back before the change occurred, or at least, be away from any festivities so that no one could see the true me, right?”
“Exactly. I don’t have enough energy to make all of this last a little longer, and I might fall into a deep slumber afterward. I’m sorry for that, by the way…”
“Don’t be! You offer me so much more hope in one single hour than I ever had in my whole life! Words are not enough to tell you how much all of this means to me…!”
Jirachi smiled at her, “Then if you’re happy, I am too. Plus, this week, I’ll never be far from you. Call me anytime and I’ll be here in the second.” he beamed a little before his eyes became wide as saucers, “Oh, by Arceus! It’s getting late! Hurry up, dear, the Battle Resort can’t wait! Have a good time: battle, be gay! Now off you go, You’re on your way!” and with a giggle, Jirachi disappeared in a million a tiny light, a chuckled left behind him.
A huge grin was painted on May's face. She quickly made her way toward a fallen tree in which she kept the very few amounts of money she had gathered over the years, and then she turned toward her pokemon who were waiting for her, excitedly.
“Now, guys, ready for the time of our lives?” a chorus of roars answered her and she put them into their Pokeball, except for Latias.
“C’mon, buddy, time to go to the Battle Resort!” she cried in joy while jumping on the pokemon back. She responded with a cry of her own and shoot out to the sky, taking with her the delighted laugh of her trainer and friend.
“Now, children! Listen! Listen up to this old story! Listen to the tale of the Green Air Dragon and the Gold Hearted Man!”
Steven Stone smile slightly at the scene which unfolded in front of him. It was the last representation of the day, the sun had set for at least two hours. A bunch of children was sitting on the ground, watching with awe the storyteller narrated the tale on the sound of an old barrel organ.
It was a very popular tale, one that every people in the Hoenn region knew. Basically, it was about the two giant pokemon who nearly destroyed Earth in its earliest day: Groudon and Kyogre. Rayquaza soon appeared to stop their wrath but, with a careless mistake, was badly injured and nearly die. The story said that he was saved by a human man holding his heart on his sleeve. He took care of the flying dragon until Rayquaza was able to stop Groudon and Kyogre once and for all, sealing them in a deep slumber somewhere in a hidden place of the region.
Deeply thankful for the man kindness, Rayquaza blessed his blood and told him about a far away future he had seen. One day, Groudon and Kyogre will be awakened and will begin to fight one another once again. Himself (Rayquaza) wouldn’t be able to stop them immediately, as he’ll be in a deep sleep. Thus, he put in the man blood the Green Orb, the one which will be able to tame the two legendary pokemon furies until someone else awake him to stop the two titans fury once and for all. It was said that the said chosen child will know great suffer, yet still with their heart on their sleeve.
It was said that the legendary pokemon give the man one last information about the child, but it was forgotten as the time went by.
Steven always liked this story. But with the recent emergence of two small activist groups called Team Magma and Aqua, the Steel-type Champion couldn’t help himself but feel a thread of apprehension while hearing the tale.
He hoped that those activists wouldn’t be silly enough to awake the two Legendaries Pokemon.
Turning on his heels, he made his way toward the counter. “So, how was the day?”
“Great, Sir!” said joyfully the cashier, “We have sold all the tickets! Unfortunately, that means that we cannot afford to have more visit-” but his sentence was cut as a cry pierced through the sky.
Startled by the sudden sound, Steven tensed. Instinctively, his hand reaches to his belt, were his pokeballs where. And before he knew it, a flash a bright red flew in the sky above their heads.
He heard himself gasp as the said flash make a wide turn before slowing a little and land in the ground in front of him.
He blinked several times, not believing what his eyes saw.
Here. Before him. Latias.
And someone was riding on her back!
Gracefully, a little brunette climbed off the legendary pokemon and, after a pet on the head, holding a Pokeball to her and returned the pokemon into it. She dusted a little herself and turned toward the counter, where the cashier and himself were still staring at her.
A part of Steven’s mind told him to close his agape mouth.
The girl was, in honesty, beautiful in all her simplicity. A sort of aura emanating from her, giving her this stunning look, the mask she wore adding a touch of mystery to her.
She jogged in their direction and, once she was a few meters away from them, slow down.
“Excuse me, Sirs, but is it still possible to buy a ticket for this week ceremony, please?”
Steven blinked at her, her voice was soft with a slightly Johtonian accent. Still, he didn’t answer her immediately, as if he couldn't understand her words, yet he had heard them loud and clear…
By Ho-oh, she has a sweet voice- Wait, what?! What am I thinking?!
He shook slightly his head to clear his thoughts. By his side, the ticket-seller was looking at the girl with a dumbfounded expression and then, with an afraid yet a little regretful tone, said
“I-I’m sorry miss, but I have sold the last ticket a few minutes ago… I-I’m afraid that it would be impossible for you to… participate.”
Steven saw the sadness crept upon the girl's face and he felt bad for her. “Really? But there might be another way…?” she asked tentatively, “Please, I dreamed all my life to be able to participate at something like this…! It must have another way, right?”
Crap, I want to help her already, why? And most importantly, how?
It was at this moment that he remembered that his father had given him a spare ticket the week before, ‘so you’ll be able to invite a lovely young woman to come with you at the tournament’ he had said with a wink.
As much as his recent his father for not having been here during a vast majority of his life, he could have kissed him on both cheeks at this moment.
Because he had an unused ticket in his pocket.
“Actually,” he finally said, the mysterious brunette looking in his direction, “I have a spare ticket with me, one that my Father gifted me with, and as I don’t have any use for it, you can take it, if you want”
While saying this, the steel-type Champion had taken the ticket out of his pocket, holding it to the mysterious brunette so that she could take it. The man at his side send him a relieved look before moving away from the pair, but Steven didn’t see it as his gaze was locked upon the young woman before him.
He couldn’t see her eyes through the fabric of her mask, but he could read the surprise drew upon her general features.
“Oh no, I can’t take it like this! It’s too much and you don't know me and-”
“It’s okay,” he cut her, “Plus, I prefer to know that it could be useful to someone else than stay in my pocket for the rest of the opening ceremony.”
The girl was unsure, he could imagine her gaze moving back and forth between the ticket and his face. Finally, she reached for it and took the little piece of paper between thin, delicate fingers.
“Thank you very much, Sir. You have no idea how much this means to me.”
“It’s always a pleasure to be able to help other people” Steven smiled at her, “But please, don’t call me Sir, I’m not that old, you know?”
The mysterious girl smiled back at him, “Well then, how should I call you? My good steel-blue haired Samaritan?”
Steven laughed at her comment, “May I say that you have a good sense of humor?"
“You may” she giggled, and the sound was like tiny tinker bells to his ears, “But, seriously, how should I call you?”
Ah. Steven wasn't prepared for that, and he had a nervous laugh, “You… You mean, you don’t know who I am…?”
She tilted her head to the side, “Should I?”
The Champion blinked at her, clearly surprised, but quickly composed himself, “You know what? It doesn’t matter who I am. My name is Steven Stone. It’s a pleasure to meet you, Mademoiselle.” he said with a charming smile.
She blushed a little, “The pleasure is all mine, Mister Stone, or should I call you Steven?”
“Steven will be fine, but I’m afraid I didn’t catch your name. You are…?”
The brunette seemed a little ill-at-ease, “Well… About that… I prefer not tell it…” Steven looked surprised, “Why?”
“It’s… Kinda personal… You understand?” she really looked embarrassed and the Steel-type trainer decided to not bother more with the subject.
“Very well, Miss sans nom, I’ll not ask for it, I promised!” the relieved look she sent him made his heart beat a little faster.
Once again, her light giggled reach his ears and the twenty-four years old Champion felt warm spread across his chest.
Steven clearly wasn’t a believer of 'love at the first sight', still… There was something about this girl that made him want to simply fall for her.
He was sure that if he had the chance to see her eyes, he’ll be toasted.
That’s not the point Steven! Say something or she’ll think you’re a weirdo!
He coughed to compose himself, “So… Are you here simply for the opening ceremony? Or do you plan to participate in the challenge?” while saying this, he had begun to walk inside the Battle Resort, the mysterious girl following him,
“I’d like to think so” she rubbed the back of her neck, “I kinda came here on a whim, so I don’t know how it will work.”
“That’s the easiest part, you know? It’ll begin tomorrow, at the first hour. For the next four days, each challenger has to defeat the eight Hoenn’s Leaders, starting with Roxanne, then Brawly, Wattson, Flannery, Norman, Winona, Tate and Liza and finally Wallace. Defeat all of them and you’ll be able to move toward the second part of the Challenge: the Elite Four.”
Miss sans nom looked up at him with wide eyes, “Wow, that’s a lot of people…” she tilted once again her head, “I wonder how it’ll be to fight them…”
Steven laughed at her, “Nervous, aren’t you? Don’t worry! it’s the same feeling than battling any other random trainers, just harder.” he let a small smile grace his lips, “It’s a stimulating experience if you want my opinion…”
“I see… I hope I’ll be good enough for it then…”
“Are you kidding?” the Champion asked her, dumbfounded, “You befriended Latias, for crying out loud! And for sure, only strong trainers with a deep connexion to their pokemon are able to, dare I say that, approach a legendary! So believe me” and saying that he put a hand on her shoulder, “Even if I don’t know you, I’m sure that you’ll be more than enough for the Challenge.”
The girl didn’t immediately answer, her masked face looking straight at him with a shocked expression. Then, slowly, a shy smile made its way to her lips “... Thank you…”
He smiled back at her “You’re more than welcome.”
They walked in a companionable silence for a little while and finally, they reached the main place of the island. The night sky was illuminated by the light of the festivals that lingered between the building of the Battle Resort area, stands that offer different kind of activities, food or accessories for customers to buy. In the corner of his eyes, Steven could see that the girl was marveled by all the things that surrounded her as if it was the first time she saw something like this. In a way, Steven found this kind of cute, yet a little disturbing.
Because he had the feeling that the girl did actually know very few things about the world.
I wonder who she is and what she lived through to be like that…
He saw her yawn and Steven smiled a little at it, “Someone is tired, right? I can understand, flying a pokemon can be a very exhausting experience.”
“I suppose so…” she stopped to look around her, “Do you know where I could find a place to sleep? preferably, somewhere cheap, I don’t have a lot of money on me…”
“Don’t worry.” said Steven, “This ticket is a sort of a pass. Once you’ll be at the hotel written on the back, they’ll give you a bracelet that’ll allow you a free access to all options they provide, such as meals or grooming salon for your pokemon.”
She looked stunned, “That seems to be a very expansive ticket then”
“Believe me, you don’t even want to know.”
She looked horrified, “And you gave it to a complete stranger? What told you I’m not a kind of a crook?” she shook her head, “I think that I should return it to you. I can’t let you waste it for a complete stranger-”
“Please, don’t say that” he cut her with a soft voice, “I don’t think I waste it, as you said. I think I gave it to a very promising trainer and I hope that I’ll have the chance to see you rise through all the Challenge.” Steven stopped, “Plus, look. We are already at your hotel so now, go to the counter, register and then have a good night rest. You’ll need all your energy for tomorrow tournament.” And before she could say something, he took her hand and kissed her knuckles. He then looked up at her and gave her a smirk with a wink,
“I’ll hope that our paths will cross soon once again, Mademoiselle sans nom.” Then he left her, walking away with a quick steady pace.
Once he was out of her line of vision, Steven smacked his head against the nearest wall he could find, gaining a few odd looks by the passerby.
What did I just do?! Flirting with her like that after meeting her a half hour ago?! What’s wrong with me?! She didn’t seem to have reached her eighteen birthday yet!
He sighed deeply and let himself sunk to the ground, one hand on his forehead as a light blush tainted his cheeks.
As much as he hated to admit, he knew that the brunette will haunt his thoughts for quite a while now.
Little did he knew that the said brunette was still blushing madly for the next two hours after his leaving, even if a small smile was drawn upon her lips.