Chapter 30: Shadows of the past
They walked slowly across the wild land and took turns riding Diamond. She could go incredibly far without getting tired, and when she did, Alan just sprayed an Elixer on her and she was brimming with energy again. Slowly but steadily they walked on and towards Ruxido. After Ruxido, they’d need to go through some more wild land, and then they’d get to Stormy town, where nearby an unexpected thunderstorm started twenty years ago or so and hadn’t stopped since.
It was getting dark, and they agreed that they should rest. They lit a campfire and sat down, letting their pokémon out of their balls. Then they sat in a ring and stared like hypnotized at the fire.
“I wonder...” said Mark, still staring at the flames, “...what is it like to be wild? I mean, a wild pokémon. What was it like?” He looked at his pokémon.
“When I was wild,” Scyther said, still staring into the fire, “we used to have duels. Nothing is like a good duel. The Mew hunter let me have duels with Kabutops, but nothing is like duelling another Scyther. It was a whole lot better than nothing, though... made me stronger than the average captured Scyther... if only his desire for Mew hadn’t poisoned his mind like that, he would’ve been the best trainer I could ever get. Knew what he was doing, oh yes. Knew what our scythes are worth. Deep inside he really cared for us, his armed squad of pokémon. But I knew that when Mew was somewhere, he’d act like we don’t exist. Just grab the ball, find Mew, catch it, and then plan world domination. While Mew seemed completely out of reach... then he was a very good trainer. We were precious to him, and I knew it. Kabutops was a good friend of mine...” Scyther suddenly seemed to realize he had wandered off the subject. “Yes. Wild. Duels. I remember my last duel in the wild. She was a female. The fastest Scyther with the sharpest scythes I’ve ever seen. But she dared calling me a Scizor... there is no worse insult in a Scyther’s vocabulary.”
“Why did she call you a Scizor?” Mark asked.
“We were having an argument... I guess I called her some things too... but nothing half as bad as that. So, naturally, I challenged her to a duel. A duel about life and death, to be exact – the winner kills the loser. Or well, that’s the unofficial rule. The official rule is that the winner decides what happens to the loser. Not like anyone would accept a loser in the swarm, anyway. But – I mean, if both have agreed to win or give the other one full freedom to kill them, you’d be considered just as much of a loser if you were tender enough to let them live. Anyway, we duelled. She was tough. And I lost. But she... she just looked into my eyes, and then leapt off me and dashed away, without doing what she was meant to do.”
“Well, that’s good,” Mark said.
“Good? No. This is exactly what ruins the reputation of both. Like I said, she was now considered a loser who didn’t have the guts to finish off a fallen enemy, and I was considered a coward begging for mercy. If she had killed me, nice and clean, it would’ve been better for both of us. But it’s not like I cared then, because I happened to fall in love with her right away. She was just so fast... so graceful... I followed her secretly for a few days. Then, a trainer came when she was sleeping. I, the coward, didn’t do anything. The trainer attacked her and caught her, then walked away. I followed him, just to see what he would do. Like I didn’t know it already. Of course he went to a pokémon center, found another trainer, took a Metal coat... for short, evolved her... I’ve never felt so mad in my life. In a rage, I broke the window, and went iside. Two victims, neither of them was that trainer. No,” Scyther added when he saw the look on Mark’s face, “I didn’t kill anyone. One guy got two fingers cut off and I kicked a small kid, although I didn’t intend to, so he got a bleeding nose. Someone had a gun and shot at me, I came to my senses and figured I’d better get out. A bullet hit me just after I got through the window, and everything went black. When I regained consciousness, I was lying somewhere in the grass along with a pool of my own blood and the Mew hunter just noticed me. He took out a pokéball and caught me, and I was sure I was doomed to the same fate. But he just removed the bullet and got me back to health. I tried to forget her, and managed to pretty well. That is, until I battled that Scizor in the pokémon frenzy tournament. I was quicker, she lay there defeated, I was ready for the kill. Then the Scizor looked into my eyes, and said, “You”. I didn’t know what she meant, but I wasn’t bothered. That stupid trainer rose up and started moaning about his Scizor... he looked familiar, but I couldn’t make out who he was. Then I looked at the Scizor again... I suddenly remembered it all like yesterday. When I was under and she claimed victory, when I thought, “Why did I challenge her, I knew she would kill me or I’d have to kill her, both were bad”. And I realized... she was fast for a Scizor, she had a familiar trainer, she knew me, she awoke those memories... this Scizor was the same as the Scyther that didn’t kill me... so in return, I didn’t kill her.”
“So it wasn’t because of the trainer!” Mark realized.
“No, of course not!” Scyther said with disgust. “Trainers who evolve their Scythers don’t deserve to get anything they want. Personally, I’d have liked to give him the slowest, most painful death imaginable, but it’s not like the stupid laws nowadays give pokémon any rights to attack humans. But at least, it’s common courtesy to let someone live who let you live. That’s basic, and that’s why I didn’t kill her that time.”
“Why didn’t you talk to her or something?” Mark asked.
“I did say something to her,” said Scyther. “Before we left the battlefield, I said “Look who’s a Scizor now”. That was the only thing I wanted to say to her.”
“But... isn’t love more powerful than some hate for Scizors? Can’t you love her anyway?”
“It’s not that simple, Mark,” said Scyther and sighed. “We’re brought up to hate every bit of a Scizor. And in addition to not having the two things Scythers care about in life, speed and scythes, Scyther’s evolution isn’t natural. The only way to trigger it is to make the Scyther wear a metallic coat and then compressing it into a different form of energy, like when traded through a trading machine. That’s simply a situation that doesn’t just happen in the wild. Being a Scizor means you’ve been caught by a trainer, which is a sign of weakness and automatically puts you in a lower class than others. This is some strong hate going on, and I can’t help feeling this kind of disgust when I see a Scizor. And this makes me confused...”
Scyther paused, then coninued, “Everyone has a sense of emotion. It means the ability to understand people’s emotions, yours and others’. If it’s strong, you have an easy time understanding emotions, otherwise not. Females have a stronger sense of emotion than males on average, but of course it really varies. Your sense of emotion is split up in two; the negative part and the positive part. If your positive part is weak, you’re for example likely not to understand when you’re in love. If your negative part is weak, you’ll have a hard time understanding why you dislike someone or something. My sides are both pretty strong, but the negative one is significally stronger. So when there’s someone like her around, whom I feel very strong feelings for on both sides, in fact, too strong for me to fully understand them, I’m confused. Sometimes I will despise her, sometimes I’ll feel like abandoning the Scizor hate, freeing her from the trainer and then we could live happily together. But seeing as my negative sense of emotion is stronger, I always have this prickle of hate, and as much as I’d like to love her, I can’t help hating her sometimes. At the moment I love her, but who knows what I’ll think of her tomorrow? It can change overnight.”
Mark was charmed by Scyther’s story, even though he didn’t understand Scyther’s thinking. There was a silence that meant Scyther wasn’t about to say anything else. Mark looked at his other pokémon.
“I was originally a Magikarp,” Gyarados finally said. “A strong Magikarp. That’s very fun. Young trainers used to come to the lake and use their weak pokémon to fight Magikarps. I beat them and watched them run away in horror. Oh, that was the best life I could imagine. But since I liked fighting despite being a Magikarp, it’s only natural that I evolved. Suddenly, I turned into a predator. That wasn’t a problem. You couldn’t see more than two centimeters away from you in that icky stuff, so the prey couldn’t see me. I could just shoot across the lake with my mouth open and it filled with delicious Goldeens completely unaware that they were being eaten. I sort of missed the look on the weak trainers when they just got defeated by a Magikarp, but it was fine, too. The people of Cleanwater, however, weren’t happy with that. They didn’t understand that everyone has to eat. They made up some ridiculous mixtures they called ‘poison’... poison for them, maybe, and poison for the other Water pokémon, but not for me. For me, it was a feast! Dead fish pokémon everywhere! But then that dratted Suicune came. Cleaned the lake. The few living fish pokémon left could see me from the other end of the lake. There was no way to hunt. After the ones that died of the poison were all finished, I was starving to death, but in the end I found a hole. It was small, but I was thin enough to squeeze myself into it. There I lurked and grabbed an occasional Magikarp or Goldeen or Remoraid that happened to swim by. It kept me alive. No one knew where I went. They didn’t bother to check the hole because they thought a Gyarados wouldn’t fit into it. But I was still starving. I completely lost track of time, night after night after night passed, and Suicune always came and cleaned the lake. I tried many ways to get Suicune to stop cleaning it and therefore disabling me from eating. I tried waiting deep down where it hopefully wouldn’t notice me, but when it came and I swam up, when I reached the surface, it was already gone. I tried hiding in my hiding place and trying to hear when it was coming, but then it came slowly and quietly. I tried hiding and counting the seconds to know when to go, but then it came early. I tried waiting near the surface, but then it came at the other end of the lake. And even, when I was the most desperate, I waited with my head out of the water, just so I could ask it to stop, but then it didn’t listen. I hated Suicune, I wanted to get it to stop cleaning the lake, in any way at all, maybe kill it, maybe talk to it, but just somehow make it stop...”
“I’m sure Suicune didn’t intend to make you starve,” May commented.
“Well, either that or Suicune doesn’t understand that I have to eat,” Gyarados replied darkly. “Suicune was afraid of me, of course. If a Magikarp is strong, then what can the Gyarados it becomes be?”
“That’s why Rick’s Suicune refused to fight you!” Mark found out.
“Yes. It was a clone of the real one, and didn’t want to fight me just like the real one. Well, I hope you understand why I ate that Sharpedo the other day... wild prey after all those years was just something I couldn’t let go...”
Mark was stunned by Gyarados’ and Scyther’s stories. He had never thought about how their past was before.
He turned to Charizard. “What about you?”
“Well, my past isn’t interesting,” he said. “I was just born from an egg and given to Taylor. Although I think there was some deal about me being the son of Ash Ketchum’s Charizard.”
“Dad’s?” said Alan suddenly. “But that would make you...”
“Charlie’s little brother, I know,” said Charizard and looked at Charlie, who was in his Charmander form. Charlie looked up at his brother and found it awkward to sit there so tiny compared to his younger brother, so he evolved into a Charmeleon, then a Charizard. Charlie was a bit taller as a Charizard than Mark’s.
“Me? When I was a Sandshrew, I was scared of just about everything. I remember when I had a mock fight with one of my friends – we did that quite often – and he evolved, and I got so scared I ran away. I was always like that, whatever happened. We also used to have digging contest, the fastest digger wins. I was never really good at it, though. Life was one big game. After you caught me, it all changed.”
“Well, I felt this thing... that you were the one and only way for me to get the strongest I could be. And it caused me to want to do better for you, and when I evolved I just felt so mature...”
“That’s the case with all pokémon,” Scyther commented. “It’s in our instincts to want to be the strongest we can be and consider anyone, who has shown superiority in battle and is ready to help us to be strong, the one and only best way to be strong.”
“Yeah,” said Sandslash. “Something like that.”
There was more silence.
“My mother was a Flareon,” said Jolteon at last. “She left us while we were still very young to search for food, and... didn’t come back.”
Mark didn’t say anything. He couldn’t believe that on the second day of his pokémon journey, he had been trying to cause more troubles to Jolteon, who was then just a tiny little Eevee.
“My siblings believed that she was going to come back. But I did not. Of course, I hoped she was there somewhere, maybe just hurt. So I went to search for her. My siblings denied the possibility that she wasn’t coming back. I guess they all died. But because I went to search for her, I managed to find food on my own and even managed to fight off a few pokémon that attacked me. I was just about to give up, lie down on the road and wait for a car to end my troubles when I found you. Of course I thought you were going to do something bad to me, and when you threw the ball at me, I thought it was over – but Charizard, then a Charmander, explained it to you, and it was such a relief when you realized it and took me to the pokémon center, although I didn’t know what you were going to do at first. And well, that’s about all that is to tell of me.”
“There’s nothing interesting about me either,” said Dragonair. I just lived in the Lake of Purity and one day you came and I was so stupid I wanted to touch everything I saw. Like your pokéball.”
There was a long silence.
“Come on, all of my pokémon have said something,” Mark urged the other pokémon. Still, no one said anything.
“OK, Butterfree, now you just tell us something about you.”
“I don’t really remember anything. Becoming a Metapod sorta compresses your brain into almost nothing and throws everything away...”
A few of them laughed, Butterfree’s face went red as she looked hatefully at them.
“My past wasn’t interesting at all,” said Skarmory. “I just lived, my mother brought food back to the nest, and I left the nest when I was able to fly. Then she found me and caught me. That’s it.”
“Me? Well, nothing interesting... but mom claimed that she met Ash Ketchum’s Pikachu once and he saved her...”
“Whoa!” Alan exclaimed. “She must have been the Pikachu Dad told me about... that one time when he was going to release his Pikachu!”
“He meant to release PIKACHU?!” Mark said in disbelief. “Seesh, how many pokémon can one person care this little about?”
“It was because he cared so much about them,” said Alan in defense. “Pikachu wanted to join a group of wild Pikachus and Dad had a really hard time deciding whether to let him or not, in the end he decided to let him go, but Pikachu came back.”
“Oh,” said Mark blankly. “Well, that’s how they always explain it...”
“He cares about his pokémon, goddamn it!” Alan said loudly. “Too much, if anything!”
Mark decided it was best to change the subject, and so did most of the pokémon, looked expectantly at each other, hoping for someone to say something. They didn’t have to wait for very long.
“I lived in the Lake of Purity with the other Laprases there,” said Lapras. “But they mocked me all the time because I was weaker than the average Lapras... I was actually crying when she found me and caught me... I still remember how much that Thundershock hurt on top of all my woes...”
Lapras looked accusingly at May. She didn’t say anything; she was messing with her fingernails yet again.
“Pupitar, now you’re alone left of May’s pokémon...” Mark started, but May interrupted.
“He won’t say anything. He barely says anything at all. He isn’t very social.”
“Oh, OK,” said Mark, glanced at Pupitar, whose expression remained the same, and then turned to Alan’s pokémon.
“I was his first pokémon,” Pamela purred. “But I was born in a stinky old pet shop that dishonoured me in all ways. It was lucky he came and bought me before it had a bad influence on me. All the Skitties there with their snobby behaviour... I was happy to get out. Otherwise I don’t know what I’d have ended up as...”
Alan snorted, but she ignored it, curled herself up and went to sleep.
“I was bought, too,” said Diamond before anyone asked. “From a farm near Cleanwater...”
“I know what farm!” Mark said quickly.
“Yes, yes...” said Diamond impatiently. “It was a pretty boring life, now that I think back. And you were always locked up inside a fence. Didn’t get to run at all... now I get to run as I like! Whee!”
Mark thought she sounded like a very hyperactive character.
Victoria opened her mouth. “You know, I just lived there in Mt. Silver, floating around and scaring the heck out of passing trainers. Every day was the same, once I had a very foolish Golduck attack me, but that was about the most interesting thing that happened in my life. Then Alan came and spotted me, I got really scared and tried to hide but he found me and caught me... and, as weird as it is, I’m glad he did, since otherwise I’d never have seen many of the things I saw while we were in the Johto league.”
“I was born for you, buddy, right in Hoenn, the place of all places!” said Racko happily. “And life in Hoenn was too great for words, so let’s not speak of it!”
Yeah right, Mark thought, but didn’t say anything.
“Well, then it’s just me, I guess,” said Mist and sighed. “Well, I was born in Itsruban, a city that’s pretty far away if I know correctly. I always dreamed of becoming a Vaporeon, and well, here I am. I had a sister called Mystic, and three brothers called Shadow, Wave and Pyro. We all used to hate each other for every reason possible. We were taken by the human who owned our mother out in a cardboard box and left in the garbage, and we then had to look after ourselves.”
“What?” asked Scyther, suddenly turning his head to Mist. “A human threw five Eevees in the garbage?”
“Yep,” said Mist and sighed.
“That’s disgusting,” said Scyther. “How can anyone be that terribly selfish? How can anyone think that just because they don’t need more life to feed, they can throw it away like something nasty they want to get rid of?”
“Suicune threw me away,” said Gyarados bitterly. “Left me there to starve to death in the lake.”
“I don’t understand that either,” said Mark confused. “I mean, legendary pokémon are supposed to protect the pokémon they’re the guardians of, aren’t they? And Suicune should guard water pokémon...”
“Should,” said Gyarados dully. “But didn’t.”
“Anyway, I think we should go to sleep now,” said Alan, probably just to get Gyarados off that subject. “What about if our pokémon all get to sleep out of their balls tonight?”
They all agreed, the pokémon found nice places to lie as the kids took out their sleeping bags. When Mark was in his bag, he started thinking about everything he had found out tonight. Scyther’s story. And not to mention Gyarados’. He had never known his pokémon could have that much of a past behind them. But why on earth didn’t he think of asking before? Scyther just turned out to be a heartbroken philosopher, and Mark knew nothing about it. Could his pokémon be hiding more secrets?
His thoughts drifted away into a dream.