Printable version

Scyther's Story - Part V: Rob

XXIV

It was late in the night and he was deathly tired when he finally caught up with her.

She was sleeping in the shadow of a tree near the southern edge of Ruxido. The subtle scent led him all the way to her – had it not been for that, he would not have seen her lying there.

It was a good hiding place, but the smell had given her away.

He approached her carefully without making any sound at all so she wouldn’t wake up, and then stopped only a couple of meters away from her.

He watched her sleep. She was curled up on the ground, tightly by the tree. Her breathing was calm and deep.

She was beautiful.

And, considering what he had been thinking and smelling all day, he desperately wanted her.

But something kept him from approaching her further or waking her. He walked to another tree close by and curled up on the ground himself, glancing at her one last time before closing his eyes for some much-needed sleep.

It was a beam of sunlight falling on his face that woke him up the next morning. He opened his eyes sleepily, at first not sure where he was. When he remembered, he rose quickly up and looked over to the other tree.

She was still there, still sleeping, still shielded from the sun by the shadow of the tree.

He was about to walk up to her – his plan didn’t go a lot further than that at the moment – when he faintly heard the sound of approaching footsteps on grass.

He quickly hid behind his tree, peeking past the side of the trunk to see.

It was a tall human boy with dark red, bushy hair and large eyes. He was walking casually towards the forest, completely oblivious to the fact that there were two Scyther just ahead of him.

Razor hid himself better.

The boy approached the approximate spot where Nightmare was still sleeping. Razor knew he should do something, attack the kid or wake her up, but somehow he was frozen in the same spot, unable to bring himself to do anything but watch. After all, what would she do if she now found out he had been following her? Perhaps she would just kill him…

The boy suddenly noticed the Scyther lying under the tree just by his side. He jumped, visibly afraid before he realized that she was asleep.

Razor watched him relax and look at her for a moment before picking a Pokéball from his belt.

“No…” Razor whispered. He wanted to jump out and kill the human before he could do what he was planning, but he was frozen in terror.

The human threw the ball carefully at the sleeping Scyther and then stepped away in case she broke out.

Nightmare’s form dissolved into translucent red light that was zapped into the ball within a second. The ball closed and began to wobble.

Break out of it! Break out of it! Razor thought desperately. You can break out of it and kill him!

He was wrong.

The ball stilled, the red glow on the button in the middle of it fading away, and a little ping indicated a successful capture.

No!

The boy picked up the ball. “Whahey, I caught a Scyther!” he exclaimed happily, attaching the Pokéball to his belt. He paused only momentarily before sprinting back towards where he had come from.

Razor followed him while dread built up in his mind.

XXV

There were two reasons why the Scyther despised, loathed, abhorred the idea of being captured by humans.

The first one was that to be caught was both defeat, which Scyther society never particularly approved of, and directly breaking the fourth law of the Moral Code: allowing oneself to be controlled. To be captured, therefore, was a sign of weakness.

The second one was that humans had discovered the species of Scizor, and for some bizarre and utterly absurd reason preferred it to its pre-evolved form.

Oh, how they loathed the Scizor.

Scyther cherished two things beyond everything else. The first was their speed – few Pokémon if any had their quick reflexes and speedy run. The other was their beautiful, curved scythes, sharper than razors, the mirrors of the soul.

The speed and the scythes were what made all the difference between victory and defeat in a duel, between being attractive and ugly, between a successful hunt and an empty stomach. They were the two things that made Scyther what they were.

To be caught meant to be evolved, and to be evolved meant to lose them both.

Few things were scarier to a Scyther than evolution.

This was why Razor was now deathly afraid: he felt certain that this was the fate that awaited his beloved Nightmare.

And a scary thought it was indeed.

He knew he should just kill the human before it was too late, but he was terrified that the human would notice him and catch him as well. He knew he was wrong to be afraid, but he was.

He followed the trainer as he entered a small, secluded Pokémon Center a short distance away, and found himself a large window on the side that he could look in through.

He saw the boy enter and walk straight to the machine in the corner. Razor felt his blood pumping violently through his veins. The human was really going to do it.

It crossed his mind for a second that the reason he was standing there watching but not doing anything about it was subconscious mind punishing him for breaking the Code by torture.

He watched the human place his bag on the floor and take out a shiny metallic coat – his stomach churned at the sight of this horrible item he had heard spoken of in horror stories as a Descith – before letting it touch Nightmare’s Pokéball. The Metal Coat was sucked into the ball as well.

“Oh, please, no!” Razor whispered desperately by the window as the boy placed the ball under a tube on one side of the machine he was standing by, and another ball under a tube on the other side.

The boy pressed a button.

The two balls were sucked into the tubes. The deed was being done. When the balls came out again, she would be a filthy, slow, pincered Scizor, and nothing could reverse the process.

It was this thought that finally gave him the power to do something. With a roar of blind hate and fury, Razor drove himself headfirst through the window and landed on the floor of the Pokémon Center in a shower of glass shards.

Panic arose immediately. The humans screamed at the sudden invasion as Razor slashed blindly at nothing in particular; a boy reached for a Pokéball but grabbed thin air as his Pokémon were being healed in the back room of the Pokémon Center. The Scyther flew across the floor towards the trainer by the trading machine, hardly even thinking about what he was doing. The claw on his foot accidentally struck a little kid on the way; he hardly noticed. He randomly slashed at the arm of a boy who was running away, but missed.

He was about to reach the cornered trainer by the machine when he eyed the screen. The silhouette of a Scizor was just disappearing off the screen on the right side, and the two Pokéballs dropped back into their original places through the tubes.

She had evolved.

All his power was suddenly drained away. Razor crumbled down to the floor in despair.

“I’ve got a gun! Stay back!” he heard a voice say. He looked up, finally feeling like himself again, and saw an old, paranoid-looking man with a long black object aimed at him.

He realized he’d better get out of there.

Razor quickly got up and flew out back towards the window he had come in through, but felt tiny burning pellets pierce into his back just as he was reaching it. He lost his balance of flight, crashing into the sharp glass shards left in the window frame before managing to crawl out.

He didn’t manage much more. As the horrified cries of “Why did you shoot at it? It was leaving!” and “Oh my God, he’s bleeding!” faded away, he managed to run a short distance towards the forest and just barely into it before he collapsed in a heap on the forest floor, unable to move.

His last conscious thought was that justice had found both of them after all: her a Scizor and him left to bleed to death far away from home.

Then his awareness drifted away and he was left alone and dying in a strange place, having lost all that was worth anything to him.

That was how a bearded man with wild blue eyes found him later that day.

XXVI

Razor blinked.

He couldn’t remember anything at first; it was all cloudy and disorganized.

Death…

Pain…

A female named Nightmare…

His surroundings were dark. He blinked again with difficulty. On second thought, there was some light there by the side.

A strange smell wafted through his nostrils.

He heard breathing.

Razor’s eyes jerked wide open and he turned his head towards the mysterious light source. It was a small candle on a dirty wooden table. Through the dim light he could just see the walls: he was trapped in a small room.

An adult human with a black beard and small, shining blue eyes was sitting on a chair by the table and watching him without saying a word.

Razor squeaked in surprise, rising immediately to his feet. His first reaction was to press his back against the wall, trying to stay as far away from the human as possible. He felt too weak to attack.

The human’s eyes moved along with him, but otherwise he was completely still and quiet.

Razor looked frantically around for a possible escape route, but lack of experience with buildings did not make the door he was pressing up against stand out as a way out. Anyway, although he did not know that, the door was locked, although he would probably have been able to slash it apart.

But he did not think of attempting to slash it apart. He was too scared and confused, and too busy keeping an eye on what the human would do.

Finally the man spoke, still sitting still in his chair.

“Hello, Scyther.”

“What is this place?” Razor asked. He was not sure if he was expecting an answer; the wise Scyther did not agree on whether humans could understand Pokémon language. The Leader had said he doubted it, but one of the most respected Scyther in the swarm, one who had been around more than any other member of the swarm, insisted that he had seen humans talk to their Pokémon.

Apparently he had been right and the Leader wrong, because the human gave a calm, unsurprised answer:

“This is a back room in the unofficial Gym of Alumine, run by me. You are here because I caught you a couple of days ago to be able to treat your wounds and nurse you back to health. I think I’ve succeeded.”

“Release me!” Razor shouted fearfully. “Let me go!”

“I’m afraid I caught you fair and square,” the human said simply. “And I’m afraid I caught you in a special Pokéball of my own creation that prevents you from ever getting too far away from it…”

“No!” Razor screamed. “Let me out! I don’t want this!”

He leapt towards the human, but in mid-air he felt himself disintegrate. In horror he watched his vision fade into red, and then to nothing.

XXVII

The next time he was properly aware of himself, he was in a much larger room, lit by the daylight shining through the many large windows on one wall. Although he did not yet know that, he was in the battle arena of the same Gym that he had been in before.

The human was standing in front of him.

“Don’t try anything, Scyther,” he began. “If you try to attack me now, I am ready to recall you back into the Pokéball you were in just earlier. I only want to help you. Understand?”

“Help me?” Razor replied and chuckled hollowly, curling up in a sitting position by the wall. “How do you think you can help me? You have no idea what I’ve been through. If there is anything being captured by a filthy human to be evolved does not do, it is help.”

“Evolved?” The human looked at him, mildly amused. “I wouldn’t dream of it. Trust me, I like your scythes the way they are. Every bit as much as you do.”

Razor looked up at him, for the first time genuinely surprised. The human’s expression did not change.

“But that is not what I took you here to discuss,” he just said. “I wanted to introduce you to my other Pokémon.”

“I’m not yours,” Razor said quietly.

The human shrugged indifferently. “Call it what you like.”

He took five Pokéballs off his belt with and dropped them on the floor.

“Come out.”

Five white shapes emerged on the floor before the light faded away and left their true colors showing. The first one that caught Razor’s eye was a brown, skeletal Pokémon with a flat head and, astonishingly, a pair of scythes very much like his own on his arms.

There was also a sand-colored pangolin with brown spikes layering his back and two oversized claws on each front paw; he had seen a couple before in the forest, and knew they were called Sandslash. The Sneasel he was also familiar with. The large blue bipedal alligator with the intimidating lower jaw, on the other hand, he had never seen before, nor the sleek tan feline that looked resentfully at him from the back. She had huge, protruding fangs that appeared to be splattered with blood and crimson markings reminiscent of the slash of some huge clawed Pokémon on her shoulders. Although all of them looked somewhat intimidating – not that a Scyther felt particularly intimidated – Razor couldn’t help feeling she was the most vicious-looking.

“Kabutops,” said the human, indicating the creature with the scythes. “Sandslash, Sneasel, Feraligatr, Fangcat. Guys, this is Scyther. He finally completes the team.”

Kabutops nodded, raised his right scythe up into a horizontal position and pointed it at Razor. He looked blankly at it.

“Kabutops, he doesn’t know how to shake hands,” the human said with a slight smile. Razor, of course, had no idea what he was referring to.

Kabutops lowered his scythe apologetically. “Sorry, I forgot.”

“Scyther, will you let me approach you?” the human asked hesitantly. “I just want to tell you he was trying to do. If you attack me, my Pokémon will defend me. Understand?”

He did not understand. He looked at the five Pokémon, especially the Fangcat who was growling protectively as to emphasize his words, and could not possibly imagine why they would defend him.

But he couldn’t feel motivated to take his chances with that.

“Yes,” he simply answered.

The human walked up to him slowly, uncomfortably close in fact. A Scyther generally liked to have plenty of empty space around himself. But he did not complain.

“When humans meet one another,” the human said calmly, kneeling down, “they do this thing called a handshake.”

He held his right hand forward. The hairy human arm was muscular and thick, as were the fingers. Razor didn’t like it; hands like the frail hand of the boy he had caught as First Prey looked pathetic and harmless, but this one did not.

“Now, what you do is to move your right scythe forward too. You don’t have fingers, but that’s all right. You just allow me to grab your scythe. Try it.”

Razor doubtfully held his scythe forward so that the end was close to the human’s outstretched hand. The human smiled and touched the green edge gently, watching him carefully all the while.

“That wasn’t so hard, was it?” he asked simply before suddenly grabbing hold of the scythe with his fingers.

Razor twitched. He felt vulnerable in this position, with one of his scythes held hostage by the human’s muscular hand. He could probably have jerked it away if he had needed it, of course, as the grip wasn’t very tight, but it was still very uncomfortable for a creature so accustomed to having free arm movement.

The human shook the scythe slightly up and down a few times. Then he released it, and Razor withdrew it as quickly as he could.

The human smiled. “You’ll get hang of it.” He stood up and looked at the other Pokémon. “Now, why don’t you Pokémon talk a little and get to know each other?” he said, turned around and began walking towards a small wooden door on the wall.

“Why do I need to know a ridiculous human greeting?” Razor couldn’t help asking.

The human turned back towards him, smiled and gave a cryptic answer:

“You don’t need to if you don’t want to, but neither did they.”

And with that, he exited the room, leaving Razor alone with the other Pokémon.

XXVIII

The Pokémon all seemed very used to this, but Razor was still confused.

Fangcat glared at him once and then walked slowly off to a corner of the room from which she observed the others darkly. None of the other Pokémon were at all surprised or bothered by this, either. They just kept looking at him, apparently waiting for him to say something.

“Who is that human?” Razor finally asked.

“Rob?” Kabutops said, seemingly slightly surprised by the question. “He’s … our trainer?”

Razor closed his eyes and laughed hollowly. “Why do you submit to him? Why do you let him enslave you? Why aren’t you breaking that window and running off? Did he catch you in these strange Pokéballs that keep you from going too far away, too?”

Kabutops looked positively puzzled at the suggestion. “Why would I want to leave? Rob is my best friend. There is nothing for me out there.”

As much as he’d have liked to protest, some little voice in Razor’s head couldn’t help pointing out that there was nothing for him out there either.

Razor sighed. “But to be under a human’s absolute control, being forced to fight your own kind for him? What sort of life is that?”

“We’re not under his absolute control!” Kabutops replied incredulously. “What can he do to force us to do anything we don’t want to? We’re the ones with scythes and claws and fangs.”

Razor looked blankly at him. This was a very strange concept indeed. He still could not imagine why a Pokémon would willingly do anything that a human told him – especially because it was directly against the teachings of the Code. He reminded himself that other Pokémon species didn’t have the Code, but the thought just seemed too absurd.

“Then why do you fight for him?” he finally asked.

“We enjoy it,” Kabutops simply said. “It’s fun! And myself, I like Rob’s company. Trust me, you’ll like him when you get to know him! We all thought like you at first.”

“Rubbish,” Razor replied darkly. “I’ll sooner die than submit to a human’s control.”

Kabutops shook his head and turned to the others. They talked in hushed voices, apparently agreeing to leave him alone, and then walked off into the middle of the room where they started killing time with mock fights of some sort.

Razor slumped down against the wall and closed his eyes. Was he to be brainwashed into obedience like that poor Kabutops, too?

His thoughts wandered back to the events of the day he had left the swarm. And to Nightmare. He realized he hadn’t even managed to touch that trainer who had caught her in his rash assault on the Pokémon Center.

And it hit him harder than ever that he had lost everything. The swarm, his reputation, his freedom, Nightmare…

He tried to remember what she smelled like, but couldn’t recall it properly.

He recited the laws of the Moral Code to himself.

He had feared death.

He had failed to commit suicide after losing his duel.

He had failed to help or alert Nightmare when the human had come to catch her.

He had been caught.

He looked at his shiny scythes. They were still sharp, and he had not subjected his prey to torture before killing it. But that was all he had left. It was the only law left unbroken.

Razor raised his scythe to his throat. There was no thought of Nightmare to stop him now. He deserved to die. He could do it this time.

But no, he couldn’t. Some spark within his mind still wanted to live and paralyzed his scythe, no matter what he did.

It just wouldn’t move.

Bitterly, he curled up by the wall and cried.

XXIX

He lay there the entire day, lost in thoughts of his own misery. Time meant nothing for those hours. He wasn’t sure whether he fell asleep at some point; at least he was dimly aware enough of his surroundings to realize suddenly that the other Pokémon were gone, without having any idea when or how they had disappeared. But he didn’t particularly care either.

It was very late when he heard the little wooden door creak open. A few slow footsteps. The door quietly squeaked shut.

He heard a deep sigh and more slow footsteps.

“Scyther,” said the human’s voice finally.

Razor didn’t move or respond.

He heard the human walk all the way up to him, to being uncomfortably close. It struck him that now his Pokémon weren’t there to protect him anymore and he could take him by surprise and kill him – but somehow, mysteriously, he didn’t want to. He didn’t want to do anything except lie there completely still and be miserable.

The human laid a hand on his shoulder.

Razor twitched, but found a strange comfort in it. For some reason it brought back hazy memories of his mother being affectionate towards him after he had gotten scared from climbing a tree as a Descith.

He didn’t feel as alone anymore.

“I know you hate me,” said the man slowly. “Kabutops told me you don’t like humans and have been lying here all day refusing to talk or move…”

Razor still didn’t answer.

The human sighed. “Please eat something. I don’t want you to starve.”

He could smell the faint scent of fresh meat. It made him realize just how hungry he was: he hadn’t eaten anything at all for days. He felt like he was somehow making a point by lying there absolutely still without reacting to anything, and in a way he wanted to keep doing it, but his growling stomach convinced him otherwise. Reluctantly, he sat up and turned to face the man. He was holding a slab of raw meat of some sort.

“It’s very difficult to find Pokémon meat for sale, I’m sorry,” the human said. “And Pokémon usually find the taste of animal meat strange for the first few times – but I hope it’s not too bad.”

Razor smelled it better. It did smell unfamiliar – but the closest thing he had smelled was the human he had caught for First Prey. He grimaced. The human had been awful, after all.

“Please at least try it.”

His hunger overcame everything else. Razor bit into it, tore a strip of meat off it and swallowed.

It wasn’t as bad as the human. Not the best thing he had ever tasted, but quite edible.

He finished it, one bit at a time. The human stayed there in patient silence while he finished.

Rob, Kabutops had called him…

“How did you like it?”

“It wasn’t too bad, I suppose,” Razor muttered.

Rob smiled faintly. “Well, I’m glad.”

Razor curled up and faced the wall again.

“You didn’t like being in that Pokéball, did you?” Rob asked quietly.

Razor shook his head.

“It’s okay. I won’t put you in there again if you don’t want it. You can stay here tonight. Try to get some sleep.”

Razor was very tired, but hazily surprised by what this human was turning out to be like. He couldn’t help thinking he was actually fairly nice.

“Good night, Scyther.”

“Good night, Rob,” Razor mumbled back.

Had he turned around, he would have seen the human smile as he exited the room.

XXX

After a month with Rob, Razor had made a few observations.

Every day, the Pokémon were let into the room for training, where they freely battled against one another to train their skills. Once a week, they had supervised training where Rob watched them and made suggestions for improvements to their technique or commanded one of them against the others. The Pokémon never minded this; in fact, he sometimes got the feeling they enjoyed it all the more when Rob was ordering them what to do.

Every evening, Rob would ask him if he felt like being alone or if the other Pokémon could sleep in the large room, which Rob called the “battle arena”. Razor always had the final say. He had begun to let him release the other Pokémon to sleep there as well, although Razor always kept a short distance away from them.

One evening every week (on Fridays, more specifically), Rob came in at the end of the training session, recalled his Pokémon into Pokéballs and took them somewhere. They all then returned late in the night, sometimes behaving a little strangely.

The exception from everything was Fangcat. She always liked to stay a bit secluded from the others, she never took part in the unsupervised mock fights, and she never came with the others on Friday nights. Generally she just sat in a corner and licked her paw, often watching him with suspicion. When Rob was there, she would fight if, but only if, he suggested it, and then she would be a very powerful fighter who clearly took immense pleasure in the battling, but was noticeably more violent than her teammates – she was the only one who had ever seriously injured one of the others for as long as Razor had been there, at least. She had stabbed her fangs so deep into Sandslash’s body that Rob had had to cancel the training session and rush with him to the Pokémon Center. But Rob had nonetheless immediately forgiven her. In fact, he often took her alone with him into the little back room while the other Pokémon were training, and they would talk quietly for hours on end. Razor had not quite gone as far as listening at the door, but he could hear the faint echo of their voices through it.

Razor had not taken part in the training sessions, the less asked where they were going every Friday night, anyway, but he was starting to feel a certain longing to do it.

He realized it was only a matter of time when he would be tempted to go ahead and act on it.

And when he had those thoughts, an old sense of duty made him attempt suicide again. He would sometimes sit for a couple of hours alone in the Gym with his scythe raised to his throat, his eyes closed and his mind screaming Do it! but always, invariably, finding himself unable to take his own life.

He was having those thoughts now, as Rob walked into the room to put an end to a training session.

“It’s Friday, guys… get in your balls…”

Razor always felt a little unnerved on Fridays. Rob would leave him alone in the battle arena with only Fangcat for company, and she would sit in the corner, often glaring at him continuously for the hours that they were away. Sure, she never did anything – but he always felt a little uncomfortable alone around Fangcat for some reason. She creeped him out.

“Scyther… would you like to join us?”

Razor looked up. Rob had asked him every Friday if he wanted to come with them, but he had always automatically said no. Now he wasn’t sure. Perhaps it would be interesting to see what it was they were doing, anyway – and how could it hurt?

He stood up. “Okay.”

Rob smiled and took out Razor’s Pokéball. It was different from the others, he noticed; the upper half of it was bright purple and had a small white M in the middle. But by the time he had finished thinking that, he was already dissolving into immaterial form.

When he came out of the ball again, they were in a strange place.

The room was, at a glance, full of people. At a second glance, it was full of people and their drinking glasses. Rob and his Pokémon were standing by a long counter, behind which a bald man stood and wiped a glass with a cloth.

Although Razor did not know that, they were in a bar.

Razor looked around at the people. Most of them were watching the Pokémon with suspicion and hostility. Especially many of them paid special attention to the Scyther.

“Rob…” the bartender sighed, leaning closer to Rob. “Do you really have to bring your Pokémon here every time? I’m dead serious, I’m losing customers for it. They’re not approaching the counter with a Scyther standing there, and honestly, I can’t blame ‘em.”

“They’re harmless,” Rob replied sternly. “If people choose to make judgements because Scyther happens to have blades on his arms, it’s their problem, not mine.”

The bartender sighed again. “I’ll put up with it, Rob, but only because you guys are regulars.”

Rob ignored the comment. “Beers for all of us, please.”

He waved some bills in the bartender’s face, which the bald man reluctantly accepted.

“Honestly, though…” he muttered. “Last time Kabutops nearly caused a serious accident. You better be taking care of that. Pokémon are way too quick to get seriously drunk.”

“One beer is fine!” Rob insisted. “He was well into his second.”

“Only one per Pokémon from now on, then,” the bartender said firmly. Rob just shrugged.

A couple of minutes later, the bartender placed a glass bowl full of a strange, fizzy golden liquid in front of each Pokémon, including Razor. Rob got an ordinary glass.

Razor smelled the drink suspiciously. He wasn’t sure he liked the smell. He looked at the other Pokémon; they were all eagerly slurping it up from the bowls already. Rob was taking a sip from his glass; eying Razor, he put the glass down, wiped his mouth with the back of his hand and leant closer to Razor.

“If you don’t want it, I can drink yours.”

Razor just nodded. He really didn’t like the smell of that liquid.

For some reason that puzzled the Scyther, they all seemed to become gradually more talkative as they finished their drinks. By a very confusing thread of conversation, Kabutops began talking about the strange flashes of ancient memories that kept bothering him because, according to the bits that Razor could piece together, Kabutops was actually an ancient fossil that had been resurrected millions of years after its death.

He didn’t really get it, but that was the basic gist of it.

After they had all finished their drinks and talked for a long while about Kabutops’s memories, Rob finally said they should get going. Despite some mumbled protests, he recalled the Pokémon to take them back to the Gym.

Well, now he knew what they did on Fridays.

XXXI

A few days later, a challenger appeared at the Gym.

There was a training session going on – Razor was just watching as usual – when he faintly heard someone knocking on the front door of the Gym. He looked up in the direction of the larger door of the battle arena, a door which led to the tiny entrance hall, as Rob stepped out of the little side room.

“All right, we have a challenger!” he shouted, causing all the Pokémon to look up. “Get in your balls!”

He held forward five Pokéballs, and five Pokémon dissolved into red energy and were beamed into their respective balls.

Rob looked at Razor, came over to him and knelt in front of where he was sitting.

“Scyther… you’re not ready to start fighting battles for me, are you?”

Razor shook his head. A part of him was thinking it probably wouldn’t be very long before he would be. The rest of him was only all the more determined for it never to happen.

“It’s okay,” Rob just said. “You can watch. I’ll ask for a five-on-five. Just stand by the wall over there so you won’t get hurt.”

Razor nodded and walked over to the wall at the far end of the arena as another harsh knock on the door was heard.

“I’m coming!” Rob shouted with sudden cold annoyance, hurrying towards the door as Razor leant against the wall and watched. He saw Rob tear open the first door, stride into the entrance hall and open the outside door.

“What do you want?” Rob asked somebody in an intimidating voice very much unlike the one he used when talking to his Pokémon. Rob’s huge shape and the only half-open door into the entrance hall made it impossible for Razor to see the challenger.

“Uh, I’m sorry, sir,” said a boy’s voice. “I was just hoping… I mean, this is the unofficial Gym, right?”

“What else would it be?” Rob asked rudely back. “So it’s a battle you want, then?”

“Well, yeah,” the challenger answered.

“Okay, get in,” Rob said, turned around and opened the door to the battle arena up more as the boy stepped doubtfully in and shut the outside door.

As Rob entered with the challenger on his heels, Razor finally got a good look at the boy. He was a tall, lanky teenager with a very pale face and dark hair, a somewhat timid look on his face, but some likeable flare in his eyes. He was wearing a tidy white shirt and black pants, his six Pokéballs visible along his beltline as he held his hands behind his back. He eyed the Scyther by the wall but didn’t look anywhere near as intimidated by the Pokémon as by the man he was about to battle.

“My Scyther is not up for battle right now,” Rob explained shortly. “I hope you don’t mind if we make this a five-on-five?”

“No, of course not,” the boy replied. “Should I be on that end or…?” he then asked, indicating the exit-side of the arena.

“Yes,” Rob said simply, walking over to Scyther’s side. “A recalled Pokémon counts as fainted,” he then clarified. “Whichever one of us is first to recall his fifth Pokémon loses. And since you are carrying six, I want to see you pick one Pokéball you won’t use and put it aside before the battle begins.”

The boy shrugged. “Fair enough.”

His hand drifted towards one Pokéball, then to another, and then back to the first one. He detached it from his belt and looked questioningly at Rob. “What should I do with it?”

“Just put it on the floor.”

The challenger shrugged again, knelt slowly down and placed the Pokéball on the floor without ever looking off Rob. After making sure it wasn’t rolling away, he rose up again.

“Right. You send out first,” he said.

Rob reached for a Pokéball.

“Go, Sneasel!”

He hurled the ball forward so that it burst open in mid-air and revealed a white glowing shape that formed into the black catlike Pokémon. Sneasel landed securely on the ground, narrowing his eyes and looking at the boy.

The challenger picked a Pokéball. “Wartortle, go!”

He threw the ball, and out of it came a lavender-colored tortoise Pokémon with white, frilly ears and tail. He bared his fangs at Sneasel, striking a pose.

“Faint Attack!” Rob said quickly.

“Prepare for a Bubblebeam!” the boy countered.

Razor watched both Pokémon get ready to perform their attacks. Sneasel raised his clawed arms up into the air and spun around, doing a little dance, before seemingly vanishing into thin air. Meanwhile, Wartortle took a deep breath, withdrawing slightly but not entirely into his shell as he knew what was about to happen.

Sneasel popped back into existence, surrounded by an aura of purple energy, just by Wartortle’s side before proceeding to slash his sharp claws across the tortoise’s belly, where they formed two visible, red scratches.

Wartortle cringed with pain, but not for long. “Take this, loser!” he shouted and sprayed a flurry of watery bubbles from his mouth, straight at Sneasel’s face. Razor heard Sneasel screech in surprise somewhere within the huge cloud of foam.

“Slash the bubbles away!” Rob growled, but he wouldn’t have needed to; Sneasel appeared to have just had the same idea. He danced around with his claws in the air, popping the bubbles with ease one after another while gleefully shouting something in the direction of “DIE!” at each bubble.

“Get ready for a Skull Bash,” the boy ordered his Wartortle.

The Pokémon immediately crouched down and drew his head into his shell just as Sneasel popped the last bubbles.

“Sneasel, Slash!” Rob called.

But just as Sneasel jumped towards Wartortle, the tortoise suddenly leapt at him, popping his head out of his shell and hitting the cat squarely in the chest with it.

Sneasel screamed as he was thrown to the ground, but Wartortle landed with a grin on his face. “Serves you right, punk.”

“Who are you calling punk?” Sneasel hissed and sprang up at the tortoise with his claws in attacking position. Wartortle retaliated with a quick high-pressure spurt of water from his mouth that hit Sneasel in mid-jump and blasted him quite a few meters towards the wall.

Razor watched and couldn’t help thinking this looked a little fun. He had never gotten to fight a very wide variety of Pokémon back in the wild, after all – and the only ones he had regularly gotten to have any real fight with were Scyther. The others were prey that he had killed in a few seconds. An ancient instinct was making him excited at the sight of true battling of wits and skill – but at the same time he knew how wrong it was to feel that way.

Sneasel got up and dashed back towards his opponent on all fours.

“Wartortle, Protect!” the challenger yelled. Just as Sneasel jumped into the air again, Wartortle’s head and limbs shot into his shell, and when the black cat Pokémon’s claw came down, it hit only the rock-hard back of the tortoise’s shell.

“Ow,” Sneasel said, rubbing his claw as he stood up again – but right then, Wartortle came out of his shell again and smacked his fist into the cat’s frail body. Sneasel was thrown backwards with a shocked expression and didn’t stand up again.

“Good old Brick Break,” Wartortle said gleefully as his trainer grinned. Rob silently recalled Sneasel.

“Kabutops, I choose you.”

From his Pokéball emerged the ancient brown fossil-monster, who stretched his scythes and locked his gaze on Wartortle.

“You’re going down,” Kabutops hissed menacingly. Razor couldn’t help detecting a sense of humour in it.

The challenger looked thoughtful. “Try another Brick Break, Wartortle,” he ordered after a short pause.

“Coming up,” Wartortle replied before running towards Kabutops.

“Kabutops, Mega Drain!” Rob barked.

Kabutops hissed again and stabbed both of his scythes into the floor. A bright green glow enclosed his body, and similarly with Wartortle; the tortoise attempted to run faster, but that caused him to trip on his stubby legs and be thrown harshly into the ground. He cringed in pain as orbs of green energy ripped themselves loose from his body and flew through the air towards Kabutops.

“Don’t give up, Wartortle!” the boy yelled. “Finish the attack!”

Just as the green glow faded away from both Pokémon, the tortoise raised himself to his feet and dashed at Kabutops, smashing his fist into the fossil Pokémon. Kabutops shuddered and recoiled, but then retaliated by slashing powerfully across Wartortle’s chest with his scythe. The tortoise cried out in pain and then collapsed.

“Return, Wartortle,” the challenger said as he held the Pokéball forward and watched its red beam suck the tortoise Pokémon into the ball. “You did great.”

He paused for a second to think before picking his next Pokéball. “All right, I choose Victreebel.”

He threw the next ball. Razor smiled at the sight of the pitcher plant Pokémon that emerged: there was a familiar sight. They lurked in quite a few areas of Ruxido.

“Victreebel, Razor Leaf!”

“Kabutops, defend by slashing the leaves!”

The yellow plant turned its gaping mouth towards Kabutops and spat out a flurry of sharp leaves that darted at the fossil Pokémon. Kabutops raised his scythes and in a few swipes managed to slash at least half of the leaves away, but the rest went on to stab their razor-edges into his rocklike hide and embed themselves there to make him groan in pain. Razor shook his head; the young Scyther used to play games by provoking some Pokémon such as Victreebel to Razor Leaf them and then slash all the leaves away to walk away unharmed. He could really teach Kabutops a thing or two.

“Rock Slide!” Rob growled.

“Vine Whip, Victreebel!” the boy cried out.

Kabutops’s eyes glowed white as huge chunks of concrete ripped themselves up from the floor, levitated in mid-air for a second and then, as Kabutops swung his scythe, hurled themselves towards the plant Pokémon. Victreebel shut her mouth with her leaf and screwed her eyes shut to brace herself for the impact; within seconds she was buried under a pile of rocks which then melted away into the floor. Razor quickly looked over to Kabutops and realized in astonishment that the floor was magically whole. He hadn’t seen Rock Slides performed before, having lived in and just outside a forest his whole life.

Victreebel now countered by extending a pair of long green vines from her back. The vines shot towards Kabutops; one grabbed him tightly so that he couldn’t move and lifted him off the ground, and the other slapped him across the head a few times.

“Ow – ow – ouch – stop it –” Kabutops chortled between being hit. Razor couldn’t help laughing.

Rob didn’t laugh. He took out Kabutops’s Pokéball and held it out:

“Kabutops, come back!”

Relieved, the fossil Pokémon dissolved into red energy, fading from Victreebel’s grasp, and was beamed back to his Pokéball.

“Okay, then… I choose Fangcat.”

Rob threw out Fangcat’s ball, and the saber-toothed feline materialized on the floor, hissing.

The challenger whistled. “A Fangcat? Nice.”

Rob ignored him. “Fangcat, attack!”

Fangcat dashed across the arena with her red-stained fangs bared.

“Victreebel, use a fast Razor Leaf and then a Sludge Bomb,” the boy ordered quickly.

Victreebel aimed and fired. Her second flurry of leaves in the battle was all the more successful, as Fangcat was not even trying to really defend herself against it. She did make a half-hearted attempt to dodge to the side, but the range of the attack was too great and the tiny, sharp leaves sliced into her skin, causing her to roar in pain.

“Keep going, Fangcat!” Rob urged.

She didn’t need to be told to. The attack only prompted her to run the last few meters faster, and then she leapt gracefully at her target, just as Victreebel spat out a splatter of the slimy green ooze that was its digestive juices.

Fangcat managed to close her eyes before it hit her, but her fur was sizzling with acid when she landed on Victreebel’s body with her claws firmly out and her fangs ready to strike.

She stabbed her fangs straight into Victreebel’s body. It was as simple as that.

Victreebel let out a bloodcurdling scream of pain, more acids gushing out of her mouth and the wound. Her trainer looked at her with worry. “Victreebel, return!” he shouted quickly, letting the Pokéball dematerialize her into red light.

The trainer looked quickly at Rob before picking his next Pokémon while Fangcat shook herself violently in an attempt to get rid of the green acid burning through her skin. She was only moderately successful, but at least she had the sense not to attempt to lick it off.

“Haunter, go!”

The next Pokéball the trainer threw released a strange, purple creature that looked most like a disembodied head and hands floating in the air. He looked down at Fangcat, smiled twistedly with his red, jagged mouth, took a few loops in mid-air and laughed.

“Here, kitty, kitty!”

Fangcat growled and jumped up, but Haunter simply let himself float a little higher up where she couldn’t reach him. He gleefully stuck out his tongue at the acid-covered feline as she landed on her feet on the floor.

“It’s no good, Fangcat,” Rob just said. “You can’t harm a Ghost. Return.”

Fangcat was reluctantly recalled to her Pokéball. Razor recalled the status of the battle: Rob had lost Sneasel, Kabutops and Fangcat, so he had two Pokémon left, but the other trainer had only lost two of his, Wartortle and Victreebel.

Rob sighed. “Go, Feraligatr.”

The challenger paused thoughtfully at the sight of the bulky blue alligator materializing from the ball. “Haunter, use a Shadow Ball.”

The ghost Pokémon grinned widely as he held his disembodied hands with a short distance in between them. In the middle formed a swirling purple orb of darkness, which Haunter then threw down at Feraligatr.

“If it comes closer, use a Crunch,” Rob ordered. “If not…”

Haunter giggled and levitated farther into the air where Feraligatr could definitely not reach him.

“…Hydro Pump.”

“Surprise,” Feraligatr said with a grin before opening his huge mouth and spraying out a jet of high-pressure water straight towards the ghost Pokémon.

“ARGH IT’S COLD IT’S COLD!” Haunter screamed, blasted into the ceiling by the force of the Hydro Pump. After the last drops of water had hit him, the Ghost Pokémon dropped down like a bird that had lost its wings, but after dropping below a certain height, it was as if he had landed on an invisible trampoline and he bounced back upwards. Haunter quickly recovered and positioned himself again.

“Okay, use a Night Shade,” the boy said. “And if he uses another Hydro Pump, try to avoid it.”

Haunter nodded and all of a sudden, all light seemed to flee from the room, disappearing out the windows. Within seconds it was absolutely dark.

“Where did you go?” Feraligatr growled. Razor could hear him swing his head around to try to find light.

“Right behind ya!” came Haunter’s playful voice, and Feraligatr jumped. The light slowly began to return as the alligator attempted to catch the poltergeist in his powerful jaws, but failed as Haunter floated away yet again.

“Ice Beam!” Rob ordered, and Feraligatr drew back his head as an orb of icy energy began to form in his mouth.

“Look out!” the boy cried, but it was too late: just as Haunter turned around, a magnificent beam of ice struck him in the face and he floated lazily down to the ground, knocked out.

Feraligatr was getting weak, however. He bent over to catch his breath as the challenger recalled his Haunter. The score was even, but probably wouldn’t be for long…

“Okay, do it, Murkrow!” called the trainer, throwing yet another ball into the arena. The Pokémon that emerged from it was a small, scrawny, black bird with a slightly dorky expression and a peculiar crest of feathers on his head that looked oddly like a hat.

Murkrow were not known to be powerful – there were a few of them around in Ruxido at night – and as he looked at it so dwarfed in size compared to the huge alligator, Razor couldn’t help thinking that perhaps Rob was about to win this after all.

Rob, unlike Razor, had experience with “weak” Pokémon and the kind of strategies that their trainers could come up with, and therefore knew enough not to underestimate his opponent.

“Feraligatr, use a Screech.”

“Taunt, Murkrow!” the boy shouted.

The little crow was faster. He positioned himself in mid-air so that he was facing Feraligatr and remained mostly steady.

“Heya there, dumbass!” he croaked and made an impolite gesture at the alligator. “Catch me if you can!”

Feraligatr growled. Ignoring Rob’s orders, he took a deep breath and fired a jet of water towards the small bird – a very unwise move, because being small and light, Murkrow was easily agile enough to swoop down out of its way.

“Oh, come on! Can’t do any better than that?” the crow said, flying only a few meters away from the alligator. Feraligatr’s claws glowed as he prepared to slash, but just as he stepped forward, Murkrow flew backwards as well. The alligator growled again with annoyance, snapping his jaws towards the crow, but again Murkrow evaded it with laughable ease.

“Rage!” Rob barked.

Feraligatr’s eyes flashed red as he converted his anger into power and made some further attempts to slash Murkrow. All of them failed.

“Too slow for me… Too slow for me…” Murkrow cooed, flying in especially annoying circles around the alligator with fancy mid-air loops just for the effect. Razor couldn’t help smiling.

“Shadow Ball, Murkrow!” the bird’s trainer shouted.

The crow suddenly flew back and up, his eyes glowing a sinister purple as he charged an orb of shadows in front of him. He pushed it gently with his beak, and it swooped downwards straight into Feraligatr’s face. The alligator roared, flailing his arms around for a second, but then collapsed on the floor, too exhausted to keep going.

“Nice job, Murkrow!” cheered the boy as Rob resentfully recalled his Pokémon.

“All right… I guess it’s time for my last,” he said. “Sandslash, go!”

Razor saw the boy grin widely. Sandslash were, of course, Ground Pokémon, and not at all the fastest around – just the winning combination for Murkrow, as displayed earlier.

He was stricken with sudden slight guilt – if he had agreed to participate in the battle, he would have been able to bring Murkrow down. He was fast, agile and could fly. Rob’s seemingly inevitable shameful 2-0 loss – something that he as a Scyther cringed at the thought of – might have been avoided if he had taken part.

But then he remembered that Rob was a human and he should not be sinking any lower than he had already.

“Sandslash, Sandstorm!” Rob ordered, and a vortex of sand whipped itself up in the middle of the arena, shrouding both Pokémon so that it was only possible to see their faint silhouettes.

“Murkrow, Whirlwind the sand away and then try a quick Taunt!” the boy countered.

This failed rather miserably. The bird was too small and weak to be able to put the entire sandstorm to an end with a Whirlwind. The flow of sand did stir, but Murkrow quickly gave up on that part before realizing that Sandslash simply couldn’t see or hear him in the middle of the sandstorm. Razor could hear some faint cawing within the plume of sand, but there was no way to take it offensively. Rob smiled.

“Now, Sandslash, try to Slash it!”

“Confuse Ray!” the challenger cried.

A ghostly light, only just visible through the sandstorm, began to circle Sandslash mysteriously, distracting him from the command. This gave Murkrow’s trainer another opportunity to act.

“Okay, Murkrow, this is ugly, but we have no choice! Perish Song!”

Even the noise of the sandstorm beating the floor and walls was not enough to cover up the most awful sound that the world had ever heard. Horrible, hellish wailing and screeching filled the room; the boy covered his ears, but Rob just looked worriedly between Scyther and the silhouette of Sandslash in the vortex of sand.

“Fine,” he called out as the Perish Song mercifully ended; Razor actually felt physically ill after it, although he didn’t understand why as he had never been subjected to a Perish Song before. “I forfeit.”

Rob recalled Sandslash and then, after a pause, looked apologetically at Razor and let the Pokéball suck him in as well.

XXXII

The next time Razor was aware of himself, he was lying on a soft bed in the back room with Rob sitting by the bedside with his head resting in his hand. It took him a second to realize that his trainer was half-asleep.

It took him another second to realize with a horrible feeling of dread that he had just thought of Rob as his trainer.

“Rob…?” Razor asked carefully. The man awoke with a start, looking quickly around before realizing where he was.

“Oh, it’s you,” he said with a certain tone of relief.

“Why am I in here?” Razor asked him quizzically.

“The Perish Song can be pretty hard on Pokémon who have never heard it before,” Rob just said. “I thought I’d stay up for you to recover.”

“Oh,” Razor said emptily.

“Yeah,” Rob just replied. “Well, you’re okay now, so I hope you don’t mind if I go to sleep.” He gave Razor a forced smile that could not hide the tiredness evident from his bloodshot eyes.

Razor stood up from the bed and prepared to leave the room.

“Good night, Scyther.”

He didn’t reply.

He opened the door into the battle arena, curled up by his wall and took his mind off things by sharpening his scythes.

It may have been the only law he had yet to break, but he didn’t plan to break it.

He wondered how sharp they were now, anyway. He turned his right blade around so that the moonlight outside flashed in it, and felt a longing to look at the outside world that he hadn’t really seen for what seemed like a lifetime.

He stood up and looked out through the window. There was a street just below, houses all around. It was all unfamiliar. But then his eyes traveled up the street to the shining metallic building at the end of it, and it reminded him of scythes and duels. And his eyes traveled even farther up, to the full moon and stars, and it reminded him of the sacred rituals that had taken place under those very stars, and which he had now blasphemed against by breaking the Code. He thought back to his First Prey and the cold, dead stare of the human boy’s eyes that had aroused a strange feeling of sadness in him when he had offered the meat of his First Prey to Stormblade and Shadowdart. He could even dimly remember sitting on the Leader’s rock as a Descith licking sticky, sweet blood off his premature scythes.

He looked at his scythes again. They were sharp by now, the kind of sharp that would hardly hurt at all when they cut. It would be a small prickle, a little sting, but that would be all. He would hardly even feel the touch of the blade.

He held his scythe to his throat yet again and thought back to the many times he had attempted it before. Rob had even stopped him a couple of times when he happened to barge in on him.

He wasn’t sure what he was afraid of. It wouldn’t be painful. He would probably lose consciousness within seconds. It sounded so awfully easy and non-problematic, but he couldn’t do it anyway.

Perhaps he should test them.

He looked at the soft yellow segment that constituted his left upper arm and raised his right scythe up to it.

He closed his eyes and gritted his teeth before making a short, precise cut.

He couldn’t even feel it at first. He was dimly aware of some liquid trickling down his arm, but only reason told him it was his own blood. He opened his eyes again and smiled. Just how it should be.

Strangely, he felt comforted by the sight of his dark-colored blood, by the light feeling of it trickling down his arm, by the punishment it seemed to be.

He wondered if his left scythe was that sharp too.

There was only one way to find out.

XXXIII

“Scyther!”

He opened an eye. He felt hazy and numb. Comfortably so.

Rob was running towards him from the back room. He realized the room was light. He heard some birdsong outside. It must be morning already.

He realized vaguely that he was lying in a pool of his own blood, but couldn’t get himself to care.

“Fuck…” Rob muttered as he grabbed Razor’s limp scythe and saw the cuts on his arm. He picked the Pokémon up and carried him hurriedly into the back room where he laid him down on the bed and rummaged through some cupboards.

He found a few bottles of potion and sprayed them quickly on the cuts before sitting down.

“Why?” he asked quietly after a few seconds.

“Just wanted to test them…” Razor said faintly.

Rob said nothing as Razor drifted back into unconsciousness.

XXXIV

It was Friday.

When Rob had asked Razor if he wanted to come with them, he had said no. He hadn’t found it too interesting the last time, after all, and wasn’t quite getting the greatness of drinking some stuff and whining about things.

Rob had eyed him with some more concern than usual, but not attempted to persuade him. That was one of the things he liked about Rob. It was actually one of the very few things he could admit to himself he liked about Rob without feeling the urge to slit his own throat for it.

And so, now Razor was alone.

Well, Fangcat was there too, but after staring at him for a few minutes, she had walked slowly into the back room, presumably to sleep on Rob’s bed. She did that sometimes.

So there was no one to disturb him in the battle arena.

He was not going to cut his arms that severely again. It didn’t kill quickly enough, so Rob would find him alive and save him. He hated to see that worried look on Rob’s face. He’d rather either look fine or be dead by the time Rob came back. The plan, as always, was to be dead, but he was starting to have little hope for its success. Now Rob and the others had only just left, at least. They couldn’t be back too soon.

Razor took a few deep breaths. He sharpened his scythes so carefully that he lost track of time; perhaps he had been doing it for a couple of hours when he was finally satisfied. He tested each scythe twice, making sure to make the cuts shallow enough not to bleed too much. They were still perfect; he felt hardly a trace of pain. Just that little prickle.

He sat back against the wall and tried to relax. He looked up at the ceiling. He moved his right scythe blindly up to where it almost touched his throat.

He breathed a few times.

“You deserve it,” he whispered bitterly to himself. “You’re despicable. You’re pathetic.”

He tried to detach himself from it and imagine it was someone else he needed to kill. He took some more calming breaths.

“You’re afraid,” he chuckled. “You fear death.”

He closed his eyes and concentrated on the first law, eliminating everything else from his mind. “Death… is not… to be feared…” he said through his teeth, but his scythe still refused to move.

He forced it to anyway. Just a tiny bit closer. A tiny little bit.

He felt a slight prickle on his neck which caused a cold shiver to spread through his exoskeleton. It had touched. He had almost succeeded. He felt himself grinning.

He most likely would have accomplished his task at last had he not been interrupted by the slamming of the outside door.

Rob was back already.

“Scyther?” he heard the muffled voice from the entrance hall. He opened his eyes and looked quickly at the door before pressing himself against the wall and screwing his eyes shut again.

Do it.

But the knowledge of Rob’s arrival had paralyzed his scythe absolutely again.

He heard Rob knock carefully from the entrance hall. In despair, he opened his eyes and stared at the door.

Do it now. Now!

His scythe betrayed him again. It wouldn’t budge.

The door opened with a low creak.

“Scyther?”

Razor sighed, closed his eyes and lowered his arm from his throat. He could see Rob’s worried expression in his mind’s eye as he heard the man’s quick footsteps. He felt Rob’s hand on his neck, heard the human’s breathing calm down a little.

He had failed again.

He felt himself be dematerialized and sucked into a Pokéball, then rematerialized inside the familiar back room.

“Have a drink,” Rob sighed. Razor was surprised. This was not what he had been expecting at all.

Rob was pouring the same kind of golden liquid that they had been drinking at the bar into a bowl on the table. After half-filling it, he poured the rest into a glass, pushed the bowl towards Razor and took a large sip from the glass himself.

“Drink it,” Rob said, seeing Razor look suspiciously at the drink as he had done the first time he had been faced with it. “It will do you good.”

Razor hesitantly moved to the table, examined the bowl and dipped his tongue into the liquid. It tasted bitter and strange. He cringed.

“It gets better after you’ve had a bit,” Rob commented, halfway through his drink already. Razor couldn’t think of anything to do other than simply obey and begin to lap up the strange drink in spite of himself.

He was right. It did get better after a few times.

Razor finished what was in the bowl to an encouraging look from Rob, who immediately refilled the bowl. Razor drank some more and realized he was actually feeling a little better, although whether it was thanks to the drink or not, he wasn’t sure.

“I failed,” he said finally, quietly.

Rob nodded slowly. “I thought you had maybe… succeeded this time.”

“I had almost done it, but lost my nerve when I heard you,” Razor said bitterly and lapped up a little more of the drink. “Pathetic, isn’t it?”

There were a few seconds of silence.

“Why, Scyther?” Rob asked quietly, staring at his empty glass.

Razor didn’t answer. He just chuckled slightly. Rob had asked it many times already. He had no reason to expect an answer now.

There was more silence.

“I know how you feel…” Rob said suddenly in a very quiet voice.

Razor abruptly looked at him. How could he know anything?

“Life is a pain sometimes,” Rob went on. “For every dream that comes true, ten are shattered. For every happy hour comes a nightmare. When you struggle a long way to a goal only to see it escape from your grip and all your work dissolve into nothing, you really start wondering if it’s all worth it…”

“It isn’t,” Razor replied shortly and lapped up some more of the drink. It was getting quite good now.

Rob smiled. “No,” he agreed. “But do you know what has kept me alive for all these years?”

Razor looked at him. He found it odd to imagine Rob with similar thoughts to him, but somehow it made perfect sense at the same time.

Momentarily forgetting about the drink, he became curious.

Rob chuckled. “Who really gives a damn if it’s worth it?” he said. “As much of a pain as it can be, it’s the only thing you have. When you’re dead, you’re stuck – you don’t want to watch all the opportunities you could have taken unfold into what could have been your future, knowing you can never turn back, grab the opportunities, live that future. At least die knowing you did everything in your power to die happy, even if the happiness never comes.”

Rob suddenly looked straight into Razor’s eyes. “What I’m trying to tell you is that if you die now, you know you’ll die unhappy. But if there is the slightest chance that your dreams could come true, that your life could get better – then you’re better off taking your chances.”

Razor didn’t answer. He wasn’t entirely sure there was a chance everything could improve. But what use would it be dying now while so utterly miserable? Did his life perhaps have a slightest chance of getting better?

Perhaps.

He was feeling too cloudy to think; he just bent over his bowl again and continued lapping up his drink.

XXXV

Then he began to talk.

It was like a dam had suddenly burst and released an uncontrollable flood of Razor’s entire past, his feelings and thoughts.

He told Rob everything about his childhood, how he had met Stormblade and Shadowdart, how they had had mock duels with one another to evolve. He told Rob about how he and Shadowdart somehow never really got along properly and he didn’t understand why. He told Rob how fun it was to just slash away at a patch of tall grass. He told Rob about the Leader’s First Prey lessons and the immense pressure put on the young Scyther. He told Rob about how he had caught a human as his First Prey (at which point Rob didn’t even cringe, which he was very glad for).

And most importantly, he told Rob about Nightmare, the perfection that was her. He described their duel and what a strangely exhilarating feeling it had been when she had cut his scythe. He talked for a while about how he had been ready to die at that one moment, pure and untainted by his later breakings of the Code, but she had refused to do it.

He told Rob about how horrible he had felt while waiting for Shadowdart with Stormblade, his attempted public suicide, his sudden decision to follow Nightmare, his concerns that Shadowdart would never forgive him his final words. He told Rob, bitterly, everything about how he had not dared to help when the trainer had come and evolved her into a Scizor and about his frenzy at the Pokémon Center that had ultimately led to Rob finding him.

And after telling him all this, Razor felt exhausted like he hadn’t slept for that entire month, but immensely, wonderfully relieved.

In return, as Razor had lain down in Rob’s bed and curled up to rest, Rob told him the story of himself as well.

Rob had been an ordinary boy born in the region of Johto. He had begun his Pokémon journey as a kid, picked a Totodile as his starter and traveled with him across the region, but his interest in the journey had quickly died down with the novelty.

However, he had always been fascinated by the one Pokémon that apparently possessed the genes of all the rest – Mew, the most mysterious of the legendary Pokémon. And while giving up on his League dreams, he had acquired much greater ambitions, ones of capturing Mew itself and earning its trust as he had always had a knack for when it came to Pokémon.

He had planned it with immense care. He had caught certain Pokémon that he was fond of because of the sharp weapons that nature had equipped them with. He had run off with some of his parents’ money and founded an unofficial Gym in a much-visited town in Ouen for the profits after spending all he owned on turning an old warehouse on the verge of collapse into a Gym. He had spent sleepless nights dissecting and studying Pokéballs. He had earned enough to buy himself a Master Ball back in the day when the number of Master Balls existing in the world could be counted on the fingers of one hand, and used his knowledge to modify it so that the Pokémon captured within would be unable to escape a certain distance away from the ball. He had been planning to use it on Mew.

He had closed down the Gym and gone to search for Mew. He had searched for years without ever finding it. And he had caught wind of another man who sought the legendary Pokémon, a teenager who had recently opened a Gym using cloned, brainwashed legendaries, and realized that he must find Mew before him, or Mew would be enslaved and treated like any other piece of recyclable garbage.

As it turned out, they had both found Mew.

Rob described how he had at last found the pink legendary lying in the shadow of a tree in a forest, but just as he had drawn his ball he had realized that Mew had been beaten down in that way by his competitor’s own brainwashed clones. And he had thrown his ball, but so had the cloner Rick of Cleanwater City – and Mew had briefly regained consciousness and stirred, moving out of the way of Rob’s ball and into that of Rick’s.

Mew had chosen Rick.

And Rob had gone home in shock, knowing that Rick would abuse Mew like any other underling. He talked about how it still haunted him to that day why Mew would have chosen such a fate, but it had.

Rob had gone through a period of depression, wondering what he could be if he was worse than Rick, but had found no answer. And he had then blamed himself for not finding Mew before, figuring that Mew must have made some sort of a mistake or simply not known what it was dooming itself to.

But in the end he had gotten over it, realized that Mew was gone but the best he could do was live in the dim hope that it would somehow escape from Rick, and reopened his Gym. He had even reluctantly used the ball he had intended for Mew on an injured Scyther.

But, he said, he still found himself lying awake in the night thinking about Mew, or wondering if Mew might one day really escape. And he probably would for the rest of his life.

After hearing this story, Razor realized that they were not too unlike one another after all. They both had an obsession with something that, partly thanks to their own mistakes, was lost forever. They were both outcasts of their species. And most importantly, they both knew exactly what it was like to find one’s life worthless but be unable to end it anyway.

And Razor dimly realized, just as he was about to fall asleep, that Rob was the best friend he had ever had.


Previous chapter --- Next chapter


Comment on this? Please keep all comments strictly related to the fic only; any irrelevant posts will be deleted.

Not logged in - log in to submit a verified comment or submit one as a guest below. Note that your e-mail address will only be recorded for the purpose of notifying you if I reply to your comment. It will not be sold to third parties, displayed anywhere on the website, or used to send unsolicited e-mail. If you would rather not receive a notification upon a reply to your comment, simply leave the e-mail field blank.




467

467


View comments