The Persistence of Memory
This is an old X nuzlocke of mone that I started and never finished. I wouldn't mind finishing it some day but I thought for now I would post what I have, starting with the prologue. Criticism is welcome and even encouraged.
PrologueThe college campus thrummed and bubbled with the hustle and bustle of a thousand feet as student after student walked over its well kept lawns and smooth, clear sidewalks. The grey fall morning felt tacky and damp with the passing fog and the brisk chill had much of the populace with light coats and jackets. At the center of the campus, surrounded by a thicket of still green but flowerless crape mertle, burbled a large fountain composed of three bowls. The basin was large and flat bottomed, the water inside covered with a series of small lily pads. The second tier was smaller, rounded and flower-like, the top rim frilled and fluttery. The third tier was small and and nearly spherical, the water gushing out of its top and pooling down over it. Set up a in front of it with an easel and canvas, was a young man. He was on the short side for a guy, only hanging around 5'7", and his skin was a smooth, light brown color. His hair, cut short and on the shaggy side, was rusty auburn. Green eyes followed the broad strokes of a large painter's brush, the blue sky getting the edition of a purple streak. Most people funneled around the painter, too enraptured in their own conversation or daily routine to care what some stranger was doing. A few paused to glance at his painting but then quickly moved on. The minutes ticked by and soon the campus grew quiet and peaceful, the last of the early morning birds talking in quiet susurration. When the last of human noise died away completely, the young man seemed to come out of a trance, jerking his head up to look around him in confusion. He picked up his phone from the small, portable painter's table he next to him. Flicking over the time, he stopped to check a text message from his mother. Ajay, you ate breakfast, right? Ajay rolled his eyes before firing off a quick yes. He returned to his painting, churning over the critique his professor had to given him. While the words hadn't been explicitly used, it had be fairly implied that the painting was considered boring. Ajay frowned and considered it while he added a bit of green to the crape mertles. It certainly wasn't as interesting as his classmate's, sure. And yes, it seemed a bit... barren and cold. The cool colors and the loneliness of the solitary, beautiful fountain... Ajay sighed. Perhaps it was boring. He placed his paint brush down and leaned back against his fold out chair. He carefully scrubbed his eyes with his hands, feeling the callouses on his thumb and index finger. He grimaced and dropped his hands away, standing up. He was packing away his paints when he saw something out of the corner of his eyes. He turned to look just in time for it to dart into the brush with a flurry of leaves and petals. Curiosity burning, he left his paint set behind to approach the brush. Pushing the leaves aside, he found a small, hollow passage created by the bushes branches and leaves. Something giggled at the end of it and he crouched low to crawl through. He barely fit, so it was a tight squeeze, but he pressed ahead. Thorns and stray twigs sometimes caught his coat and the dirt made the knees of his jeans moist and brown. The tunnel continued for far longer than Ajay was certain the bushes did. As the light began to dim, Ajay began to become uncertain about continuing this journey. Just as he was prepared to try and back out the way he came, his hand met not ground but thin air. Before he could catch himself, Ajay was tumbling down. Down, down, down he fell into the deep darkness. The wind rushed past his ears at a roaring volume and his heart was thundering in his throat, half strangling him. Every breath he managed seemed to be sucked from him by his speeding descent. His head felt fuzzy and light headed and just as he was certain he was going to pass out, his fall slowed drastically. It felt like the very atmosphere around him was now buoying him, cushioning his body. Below, from the depths of blackness, a pale light came fluttering up. As it got closer, the details of a tiny creature began to emerge. Pale and blue and pixie like, Ajay came face to face with a flower wielding fairy. He sucked in a sharp breath, mildly in awe of the petiteness and grass the tiny organism exuded. It smiled at him, big eyes seeming to bear into his very soul. "Hi, Human,"it said in a resonating feminine voice. "Don't be frightened..." Ajay couldn't but think in this situation, fright was justified. He didn't say that but the creature laughed as though he had. The hair on the back of his neck rose. "I know this is a lot to take in... And I am sorry." The flower creature drifted closer; Ajay tried to move away but it was like his head was being held in place. Gently, the pale blue antennae on the creature's head touched Ajay's temples. "I have to take you from your world for a while... My world doesn't need a hero... But it does need you." Warmth spread over Ajay's face and down his neck. The heat centralized on his throat and he opened his mouth in a gasp. "What are you-"he tried but his voice died with the taste of ash. "My world is different from yours... it has more to offer you, human, but its also more dangerous. Fear not. When you arrive, a warrior will be waiting for you; he will be your guide." The heat cooled and passed away, leaving Ajay's eyes heavy and his body heavier. The edges of his vision started to get fuzzy. "You two will go on a journey; together you'll find his comrades and your purpose in my world will become apparent. Sleep now, human... Sleep." Ajay struggled against the urge but slowly, without his control, he found himself drifting off. The last sight he had before warm darkness was of the fairy-like creature's smiling face. Then he was gone, unaware of what was around him or happening.
Here is Chapter One in its entirety. I was thinking of trying to pick this back up and work on it as I still remember the story beats I wanted to include. Regardless, criticism is welcome. :)
Chapter One; The First WarriorThere was something tense in the air of Route One as Basil stepped past the border of Vaniville; a smell of lightning and ozone that seemed to linger between the trees, a constant sweet flavor on the olfactory senses. Each step on the cobblestones seemed to have an extra crinkle or crackle, leaving Basil to wonder if a pack of Mareep had recently roamed through the area. The sky was crisp, clear, and cloudless and the sun besieged the area with a subtle heat. A comfortable 75 degrees day was ahead of Basil. He straightened his back pack and ran his fingers through blonde, spiky locks. Blue eyes looked down flat terrain toward the horizon, where the outline of Aquacorde was smokey blue. By foot, his journey would only take an hour, maybe less; it would have been faster if he could have borrowed a pokemon to ride on the journey there but his neighbor, Grace, had said she needed her Rhyhorn for the day. Still... perhaps it was for the best. The Fletchling were in full song and the weather was nice. It was perfect for just slowing down, enjoying the scenery... … Finding possibly dead bodies. Basil’s eyes bugged at the sight of a prostrate young man in the shorter grass at the edge of the path. Terrible as it was, his shock was quickly overwhelmed by curiosity. Taking off at a brisk jog, he cried out, “Hey! Are you okay?” He dropped to his knees in the grass next to the body, taking note that the man looked to be about his age. He reached out for a shoulder and shook gently, eyes darting over a oval face and messy auburn hair. The young man's clothes looked like they had seen better days - mud and twigs covered most of them and there were a few tears here and there in the thin jacket that hung half-off the stranger. There was also a thin scrape on his right cheek, like maybe from a cat or something. “Yoooo, dude, wake up!” he called out, shaking more vigorously. It must have had some effect because the stranger groaned irritably, his eyelids flickering as he came too. “St'p shakin'...” he groused. “So get up,” Basil said. “This isn't a good place for hobos.” The stranger's eyes opened and locked with Basil's, making his heart jump a bit. Annoyance and confusion flooded the stranger's face, but he slowly forced himself up, swaying a bit in place. “I'm not a hobo,” he snapped. “Where... Where am I?” Basil arched a brow. “Is this gonna be one of those clichѐd moments where I find an amnesiac in the woods?” he asked. “And we'll end up traveling together while you try to get your memories back? But then there will be an evil villain who killed your family and wants you now. And of course, then it'll be up to your amazing new friend, Basil, to keep you safe and be the hero! … Is this the situation we're in?” Judging by the stranger's face, this was not the situation. Well... shoot. “This is not an anime,” the stranger griped. “This is real life. I'm not an amnesiac; I don’t know where would we even travel together to; and there isn't an evil villain after me. Instead I'm a year three college art student who has a midterm painting to finish. Who are you?” Definitely not the situation then. Since when is the protagonist's companion an art student? That's more the job description of some lame background character who sticks around for an episode of conflict and then is never seen or heard from again. Bah. “I believe I said I was Basil, the hero. I save fair maidens and stop the world destruction and all that jazz. You, however, didn't even give me your name, Mr. Frumpy Grumpy Hobo-Man.” “I'm not a hobo!” the stranger growled between his teeth. “My name is Ajay. Ajay Patel.” “Sure, sure... Now do you actually want to get off the ground?” Ajay's frustrated blush made Basil smirk just a little bit. Basil stood with his newly found company and found that he was at least three solid inches taller than him - geeze this guy was short. “Did you not drink your milk as a child?” Ajay didn't dignify that with a response, much to Basil's disappointment; there was something enjoyable about ruffling his feathers. “Where am I?” was what he said instead, which Basil supposed was a fair question... for an amnesiac. He still wasn't convinced that Ajay wasn't one. Who, exactly, didn't know where they were, after all? Giving a world weary sigh, Basil decided to help the poor guy out. It was clear he was just in denial. “You're on Route One, remember? Between Vaniville and Aquacorde town.” … Strange. There wasn't a moment of recollection, or anything like one. In fact, it seemed like Ajay's face just got more confused. Jokes aside, Basil was really starting to wonder... “... You know... in Kalos... Uh... That's our region? You were probably heading to Aquacorde to get registered to be a trainer... Is none of this clicking at all, for real?” Apparently not. “Look...” Ajay started hesitantly, “I don't know what you're talking about; I'm starting to think you're delusional and trapped in a fantasy world. So... I’ll just be taking my leave; there has to be someone sane around here...” Wow. Ajay really thought that he, Basil, was crazy. The irony. “Hold on, friendo,” Basil said, grabbing Ajay's elbow. “Where exactly are you from that you haven't heard of Kalos?” “I'm from New York. You know. The Big Apple? I moved down to Mississippi for school...” “Uh... who'z it?” Yes, clearly Basil was the delusional one... “Listen, how about you just come with me to Aquacorde Town?” Basil offered sagely. “There you can talk to someone... ‘sane’ and I can register to be a trainer. Sound chill?” Honestly, Basil just didn’t want to leave Ajay on his own; he might wander off and get eaten by a Luxray or something. For someone so confused and lost, though, Ajay seemed pretty reluctant. A few long moments passed before there was any kind of confirmation or agreement. “Okay... Just let go of me,” Ajay said, pulling out of Basil's grasp. Basil pulled his hands back and held them palms out in a ‘hey, no problem’ gesture. Then he flipped them up and shrugged. “Let's get moving then. We're still pretty far,”he said, brushing past Ajay. He listened to the silence behind him, counting the seconds. At ten, feet began to move over the cobbles and silence hid away in the shade of the trees. “Great! I always wanted a companion on my journey!” Basil teased, grinning. He couldn't see Ajay's face but he had a feeling the expression was probably something along the lines of aggravation. “I'm not a permanent feature in your crazy pilgrimage to wherever,” he said. “Since we're travel buddies, why don't we learn some about each other?” Basil pressed, ignoring his new companion’s snark. “Like... how about you tell me how you ended up where you did?” Ajay had come even with Basil now, so he could see Ajay's face; the expression wasn't flattering to either party. “If I knew how I ended up there, I might actually know where I am.” Basil huffed. “Fine. A better question then; what's the last thing you remember?” Ah, finally Ajay seemed to be at a loss for words. Basil watched as the tanned face grew pensive and softened, eyes dropping to the floor in an attempt to remember how he came to be where he is now. Basil couldn't help but wish he could see into his companion's head and watch the memories play out as well; perhaps it would explain the befuddlement that lingered just at the edge of Ajay's face. “I remember falling down some big, black... hole,” Ajay answered haltingly. “And some kind of flower pixie talking to me... That's it.” “Flower pixie... You mean a Floette? You dreamed about a Floette?” “It wasn't a dream...” “If you say so. Anyway... ask me some questions!” – Ajay was personally thankful when they reached the next town; Aquacorde seemed small and pleasant, reminding him briefly of the villages found in fairy tales. The cobblestone path that they had been following deviated seamlessly into brick and the buildings around them took on a fifties style. The sun's movement over the sky had made it come to rest directly above them and the warm day greatly contrasted the incoming brisk fall air that had been linger at his college campus. During the walk, Ajay had tugged off his coat - looking at it, it was ruined by the skirmish through the bush tunnel - and tied it around his waist. He thought it inexplicably weird that there weren't any cars or, indeed, that Basil had been walking to the next town at all. Along the journey, he'd gone with the other man's question game but mostly used it as an opportunity to ask questions about the world he was currently in. He had come to the conclusion that wherever he was, it wasn't anywhere near his Oxford campus or any form of earth he had ever seen. Especially considering the oddness of the... fauna. Ajay's heart still fluttered with fright at the thought of the massive, demonic looking hound and its pups that they had seen on the walk here. Its black fur gleamed in the sun and its red eyes seemed to bear into Ajay both hungrily and daringly. It shepherded its brood away from the two humans, lips curled and massive teeth bared. Basil had seemed fairly unperturbed by the sight of it and more concerned by Ajay's fear and uncertainty. He had even teased him about being frightened of pokemon, whatever that may be; logically, now, Ajay could conclude that it was what they called the strange wildlife here. Still... he kept his questions to himself on that matter. Ajay had a feeling that Basil was starting to believe he was insane; Ajay wasn't too sure that he wasn't at his point and didn't want it confirmed by someone with an overactive imagination. “This is Aquacorde!” Basil spoke the obvious. “We're finally here, buddy! Now then... we need to head...” Basil turned in a circle, looking down the branching roads and at the buildings for a long moment. He pointed down a set of stairs. “We need to go this way. The Trainers’ Office is there.” Ajay wasn't certain how he'd miss this but... “What exactly are you training?” Basil looked at him as though he'd committed some sacrilege. “What am I training...? Really?” Ajay glared. “Yes. What are you training? Cats, dogs?” “... Eh? Cats and dogs? No... I'm becoming a pokemon trainer. Pokemon. You know, like the ones we saw on the way here?” They descended the steps and began to meander toward a row of buildings to their left. A towering statue of some kind of creature stood in the center. Looking at it, Ajay found it to be the same kind of pixie, flower creature that brought him here... The Floette? “I'm not sure that they're meant to be trained,” Ajay said. That canine certainly didn't look trainable. “Of course they are. Well trained pokemon are companions for life,” Basil said. “They help you do all kinds of stuff.” Ajay was doubtful but continued this line of questioning. “So you have to register for this?” “Yeah. I mean... they don't let just anyone become a trainer. Think of how many pokemon would be mistreated if they did.” The building they stopped in front of was pale brown with green trimming. Hanging above the door, in olden style, was a metal work design though what the design was meant to represent was a lost reference on Ajay. It was a circle split in half horizontally with a smaller circle at the center. The cast iron it was made of seemed to be well maintained and cared for; no rust or corrosion had began to eat away at the shiny black exterior. There were two other... shops? ...connected to this one. One looked like a pharmacy while the other seemed to be a kind of general store, if the display in its glass front said anything. Basil entered the one with the circular marking, Ajay following on his heels. They arrived in some kind of odd waiting room with a reception desk at the back. Two doors sat on either side of the desk and behind the glass sat a woman. She smiled brightly, her brown hair pulled into four complicated ponytails. Her green eyes sparkled with joy and her complexion matched Ajay's own. “Hiya!” she said excitedly. “Welcome to the Trainer Registration Desk, Aquacorde branch! I'm Shauna and I'll be assisting you today!” She reached down and slid a paper out toward them both. Basil took his eagerly while Ajay left his on the counter. “What are your names? I can go ahead be putting you into the trainer database,” Shauna asked, aligning her fingers on the keyboard next to her. “Basil Rex!” “... Ajay Patel.” Shauna hummed happily and started clicking away at the computer next to her. She faltered and leaned to the side to look at Ajay. “Ah, it says you're already in the system,” she said, looking confused. “Have you already registered?” Basi looked to Ajay wide eyed. “Dude, you're already a trainer?! Is that why you were out sleeping in the wilderness like a loon?” he asked. Ajay glared at him. “I'm not already a trainer,” he snapped. “I don't know why I'm already registered. There must be a mistake.” Shauna frowned and looked at her monitor. “So you aren't Ajay Patel, age twenty-three, 5'7”, and of Indian descent?” she asked. Ajay flushed and looked away. “That's me but I don't know why or how that got there...” Shauna shrugged. “Well, you're already here and your starter has already been reserved for you,” she said. She smiled happily. “It’s a good one too! You're pretty lucky.” She stood up and walked to the back of her office; for the first time, Ajay noticed that the back wall was a massive shelf separated into cubicles. Each one had a box inside and a name on said box. Using a rolling ladder, Shauna moved to the top right-most corner and pulled out a box that didn't have a name on it. She then carefully maneuvered herself back down. The box was soon sitting in front of Ajay, waiting to be opened. “This is your starter kit,” Shauna said happily. “Inside is a change of clothes-” here she glanced over his tattered and muddy clothes, much to his embarrassment “-your starter pokemon, some basic healing items, some spare pokeballs... Really just everything you need to get started.” She smiled happily and pushed the box closer. Ajay stared at the box blankly until Basil muscled in closer, nearly knocking him over. “Well, open it!” he said excitedly, pressing into Ajay's side. Ajay shoved him off, his skin crawling at having someone so far into his personal space. “I will! Back off,” he snapped. He approached the box and carefully lifted the lid off. True to her word, there was a change of clothes inside, which was the part that Ajay was most interested in at this point. But situated on a small pedestal in the corner was also a round ball. It reminded Ajay of the metal work sign outside of the building; half of it was white while the other half was red. At front, dead center, was a pale white button that begged to be pressed. He picked the ball up and turned it in his hands. His fingers glided over the smooth edges before catching on a smaller button toward the bottom. Pressing it caused the ball to shrink in his hands, becoming about the size of a golfball. Perhaps his face gave something away because Basil was once again pressing, crowding Ajay with his over exuberance. “I’m gonna guess you don’t know what that is, eh?” Ajay’s face pinched and he jerked away from Basil. “I can make an educated guess that it’s my pokemon… and it’s in a pokeball.” Because everyone and everything in this godforsaken place has to have the word Poke- in front of it… “Hey! You guessed it! Maybe your memories are coming back!” “They were never gone in the first place!” A quiet giggle drew their attention to Shauna once more. She gave them a happy smile before holding out a pen to Basil. “As entertaining as you two are,” she said, “I really need you to fill out your paperwork. I have to get back to work.” Basil took the pen and gave Shauna a quick grin. While he started to fill it out, Ajay found himself under Shauna’s scrutiny. “You need to go change clothes in the meantime,” she said. “The door to the right will take you to the back room. You can change there.” She nudged the box even closer, dropping a massive but polite hint. Ajay took the proffered box and began to shuffle toward the right hand door. He slid inside and found himself in some kind of storage room. One side of the wall was lined with more of the pokeballs on a shelf while the rest of the room was filled with various traveling paraphernalia. It wasn’t the most luxurious of changing rooms but he was getting a free change of clothes. He wasn’t in a position to complain. He tugged off his clothes, one by one, dropping them to the ground in a pile. He stopped in taking off his shirt, wincing as the fabric suddenly seemed to turn into sand paper. Gingerly, he managed to tug it off and reached up a hesitant hand to touch his chest, where the pain had localized. The tender flesh felt warm and slightly raised. He awkwardly looked down and could see a small, angry scrape to match the one on his cheek. More than likely he got it in the fall. He shivered in the cold air and quickly grabbed his new shirt-white, short sleeved, and cotton. Pulling it on as carefully as he could, he followed it up with a long sleeve, button up flannel. His pants were a simple pair of brown cargoes. There was also a dark brown cap, similar to what newspaper boys wore; he carefully adjusted it onto his head and smiled for the first time. He did love a good hat… He tugged on his tennis shoes and strapped on the odd belt that had been mixed in with the clothes. It was odd in that it had several clips, as though it was meant to hold something. Wiggling, Ajay tested the feel of his new apparel. They fit surprisingly well, something else that spooked Ajay; someone who knew him very well had registered him for this insanity. He was starting to wonder if maybe this entire endeavor was just a dream. If it was, he wished he could wake up from it already. His painting really did need him… “Jay, are you done in there yet?” Basil’s voice called from behind the door. Ajay glowered. “No,” he snapped, just to be contrary. “Go away. And don’t call me that!” He went back to examining the clothes before moving onto the rest of his box’s contents. Inside he found a duffel bag, brown, that was already filled with a slew of traveling supplies; simple foods, a fire starter, a series of antiseptic looking bottles, and several of the red and white balls. He picked one up and found it to be significantly lighter than the one he’d originally handled. Curiously, he pressed the button on the front and stared into the empty shell. Why give him pokeballs if they were empty? He dropped the ball back into the compartment he’d found it in. He then slung the bag over his shoulder and turned to look at the last remaining item. The original pokeball sat innocently before him and he picked it up carefully. His fingers moved over the surface once more, searching for more secrets and finding one in the form of a tiny loop at the back. Having an idea, he tested it out; the pokeball clipped securely to his belt, wiggling only slightly when he did. Clever enough to pass, he supposed. “Jay! Com’on, bro, let’s go!” Ajay turned angry eyes on the door before stomping over; he wrenched open the door and stepped back as Basil almost tumbled into him. Straightening up, Basil looked Ajay over before nodding in approval. “You look so much better,” he said. “Less like a hobo.” “I didn’t look like a hobo before,” Ajay growled before shoving past Basil. Basil smiled, an expression Ajay was certain he didn’t expect him to see, and let him slide by. Shauna was seated once more, her full attention on the computer. As Ajay reached the center of the room, however, she looked up and nodded approvingly. “So much better,” she said. “I know you have to feel better too!” Ajay felt his face heat and he looked away. “Yes, thank you…” he mumbled, rubbing the back of his neck. The sound of typing resumed as Shauna spoke, “Your friend is going to be here a little bit longer I’m afraid. So you can either choose to wait on him or you can set out for your journey today.” “Aww, what?” Basil appeared beside Ajay, looking put out. “You mean we can’t be traveling buddies?” he asked. “Well… you can,” Shauna said. “But Ajay would have to opt to leave tomorrow instead of right now.” “Why would it have to be tomorrow?” Ajay asked. “Because that’s how long new registrations take to process,” Shauna answered. “I won’t even have the okay to let him pick his first pokemon until then.” She frowned apologetically. “I know you two are pretty close but…” “We aren’t that close,” Ajay said bluntly. “We actually only met this morning,” Basil agreed. “Oh! I thought… Well, never mind. It really doesn’t matter then.” She returned her attention fully back onto the PC, though Ajay was sure that she was casting furtive glances at them. He frowned and looked up to Basil. “I never said I was going to travel anywhere,” he said. Basil glanced over at Shauna before dragging away from the girl. He dipped his head low so he was on Ajay’s level. “Well… There’s not really much point in you traveling on your own at this point,” Basil said. “I don’t think you really should be traveling on your own. You don’t even know where you are or what’s going on.” Resentfully, Ajay had to agree that Basil had a point. He didn’t know this place very well and he wasn’t sure he had any interest in knowing it with these… Pokemon creatures lurking around. Their unfriendliness was a major deterrent to traveling alone. “Why don’t you just travel with me?” Basil offered. “We can get a room together and just wait for tomorrow. Then we’ll go together.” “I don’t-” “Where else are you going to do?” Basil said, cutting him off. “You keep saying you’re not a hobo but I don’t see you with a home or a place to go.” Ajay fumbled, at a loss; it seemed to be becoming a common occurrence and it wasn’t a feeling he particularly liked. “At least travel with me to the first town, Jay,” Basil continued, voice taking on a coaxing tone. “By then, maybe you’ll have figured out what you want to do and where you want to go. Who knows, maybe even by then, you’ll get your memories back or whatever the hell is going on with you.” The silence stretched and yawned in the awkwardness as Ajay came to terms with the fact that he was in a place where he didn’t have a goal or location to be at; he was purposeless here and couldn’t honestly say he knew how to fix that. At least with Basil, he could maybe, sort of, figure something out… “... Okay,” he gave in, quietly. The size of Basil’s grin made Ajay squirm. “Great!” Standing up straight, Basil turned to Shauna. “We’ll just be waiting until tomorrow,” he said happily. “Me and Mr. Frumpy, Grumpy Hobo will need two rooms.” Shauna smiled happily. “I can make that happen for you two,” she said pleasantly. “We do allow new trainers a place to stay for at least a night before they have to start their journeys. I can get you boys a room each.” Ajay tuned the two of them out as they spoke. Instead, he light brushed his fingers against the little golf ball that hung at his hip. His mind turned over the last hour or two and he puzzled at the odd turn his life had taken. He could only hope that he would wake up soon and find that this had all been just an odd dream; didn’t Alice wake up after her adventures in Wonderland? “Jay! Hey! Did you hear me?” Ajay blinked. “Huh?” Basil reached out and pinched him lightly. “I said let’s go get some lunch,” he repeated. “I could show you around Aquacorde while I’m at it.” Rubbing the spot where he had been pinched, Ajay scowled and reluctantly followed Basil out of the building.
I've got up to Chapter Four written. I'll likely start working on Chapter Five soon. :)
Chapter Two“Here, this is yours.” Ajay stood back as Basil unlocked the dorm door, bringing him back to the first day he arrived on his college campus. The dorm leader at the time had something similar as he was introducing Ajay to his new room. Even more eerily familiar was the interior of the temporary housing. It had the same kind of false, lived in feel as his first dorm room; comfy but barely used furniture, generic paintings, a small, impeccably clean desk… All of which attempted to make their new accommodator feel like they were “home.” However, they lacked any of the charms of true home. The plush, cream colored carpet, while inviting, lacked any stains, hidden or otherwise. The bedding was too neatly pressed and kept to have seen any real use beyond a few stray waifs. And the small desk lacked any of the personal touches to said it belonged to anyone in particular; no half emptied, best mom coffee mugs or crumpled, rough drafts of authorly type. No photos of grandkids that are too old for grandparents or any stains from various artistic pursuits. In fact, to Ajay, the small desk seemed to be the biggest liar out of all of the furniture. “It’s not too bad,”Basil said, breaking Ajay’s reverie. “It’ll do for a night, eh?” Ajay grunted, too tired to really carry on too much conversation. The day had been long and exhausting; it probably would have been even if Basil hadn’t been apart of it. Aquacorde’s small size didn’t mean that it lacked many sights and much to learn. Everything in this world - for Ajay was certain at this point he was in a different world - was different from the one he had left behind. It had the hollowed shell of his own world in that things would seem familiar only briefly from the outside. Basil nudged Ajay to, once again, break his stupor before walking into the room to more closely examine things. Ajay followed, trying to keep his fuzzy, exhausted mind on task. “I think it has everything you need in here,” Basil explained. “Probably a little too much. There actually used be a pokemon trainer school here in Aquacorde. It moved a little further north to Santalune City; it’s closer to a gym leader that way.” “So you’re saying these used to actually be dorm rooms for students?” “Mmhm. Not anymore though, obviously.” Basil yawned widely, covering his mouth with a hand. “I’m going to my room,” he mumbled. “I’ll be next door. Good night.” He waved and made his exit, the door clicking shut behind him. Ajay was now alone in the fake home and he was actually happy for that. He would be hard pressed to say he hated Basil’s company but… there came a time where he would prefer to be alone. He shuffled to the bed and flopped onto it with a sigh. Something jangled at his hip and he reached down lazily to find the golfball. Blindly, he fumbled with the clasp and finally brought the red and white sphere to his eye level on the bed. He left it there and dropped his hand back to the mattress. The ball stared back with its one eye and Ajay noticed it had a small, green leaf on the front. Frowning, he closed his eyes. He was too tired to ponder it at the moment… --- The world Ajay opened his eyes in was green and fresh. The sky was teal and the grass was emerald. The air smelled like mint and roused Ajay to full wakefulness. He sat up slowly in this green, green world and examined his surroundings. It absolutely burst to the brim with flora but seemed eerily empty of fauna, giving the area a barren-ness. A scrubby herb garden (probably the source of the mint scent) grew at the base of the sloping hill Ajay was seated on. Behind him a thicket of various, strange berries grew in a tangled mass of branches. Ajay sat, taking in a deep breath, and for a moment felt peaceful. Then the warmth of another body came to sit next to him. His body tensed and he twisted to find a young boy sitting next to him. The stranger couldn’t be older than ten and wore a green hoodie. He was small and round faced with brown hair and green eyes. And when he looked at Ajay, he pinked a little and scuffed the ground with his tennis shoes. “Hi,” the young boy said softly, almost shyly. “I’m… I’m really happy to finally meet you.” “... Meet me? Who are you?” The boy didn’t answer, instead looking to the blue green sky. “Do you like fruit?” he asked. “I have lots.” The boy sprung sprite-like to his feet and darted to the tangle of bushes. He plucked a pink, vaguely peach shaped fruit from the nearest branch and held it out to Ajay. “Try this one!” he said excitedly. “This is my favorite.” Ajay stared at the fruit, leaning back slightly. He then looked at the boy’s face and, stranger or not, a part of him had a hard time saying no. He gingerly took the peach look-a-like and found it to be extremely supple and slightly fuzzy. The flesh of the fruit indented delicately with even the lightest presses of his fingers. Looking closer, he saw it was mottled with lighter pink spots and faded to a darker shade of pink at the very tip. He brought it close and took a very cautious bite out of the tip. Sweet juice flooded his taste buds and the soft flesh disappeared under his teeth. The flavor was hard to describe, somewhere between a peach and an apple, but it was refreshing and good all the same. As he swallowed the first bite, a fierce hunger roared up in his gut. It was a hollow, achiness, as though he hadn’t eaten in weeks. He devoured the fruit, eating around the hard pit at the center. He finished it and still found the ache there, craving more. He licked his lips free of the sweet juice and dropped the refuse to the side. He eyed the boy who just grinned, revealing a buck toothed smile. “See? I told you it was good… I have more… But not yet, okay?” He flopped down onto the grass and sighed. Ajay watched him moodily, the hunger making a murky anger rise. “Who are you?” he growled, and the sound was deep and echo-y. The boy closed his eyes and smiled contentedly. “I’m whoever you want me to be, Ajay…” he said happily. A dark, bleak cloud rolled over the blue green sky… -- Ajay woke up to the sound of rumbling thunder and groaned. Lightning flashed, illuminating the round, blurry shape on front of him. He blinked blearily in the grey, early morning dimness and his mind crawled with yesterday’s memories. Another flash of lightning and his now clear eyesight focused on the pokeball. He reached out and took it, dragging it with him as he stood and stretched. He shuffled to the mirror that hung on the opposite wall and examined his thorough case of bedhead. He carefully smoothed his auburn locks as best he could and then clipped his pokeball onto his belt. Sluggishly, he moved around the room gathering his sparse belongings. His stomach grumbled loudly as he did so and he knew that breakfast would have to be on the table before he and Basil made their leave. He was just adjusting his cap on his head when a sharp knock and Basil’s voice drew him to the door. “Jaaaaay~ Com’oooooon. I want my pokemon!!” Ajay grumbled. “Be quiet,” he hissed. Other people might still be trying to sleep.” There was silence again as Ajay finished packing. He then opened the door and found Basil standing there impatiently. Something about seeing him there reminded Ajay of his mother’s schnauzer when he really needed to go out. There was the same quivering, anxious, and desperate aura… “Let’s go! Nowwww,” Basil whined. “Okay!” Ajay snapped back, shoving Basil once to send him skittering ahead. Ajay’s companion wasted no time in darting ahead and taking the lead. The difference between them was like night and day as they took the steps down to the first floor. Basil took the stairs two at a time, looking well rested and too perfect for this early in the morning. Ajay dragged to take one stair at all and he could feel that he probably looked like shit. They exited the main lobby and emerged out into the gloomy, damp morning. The sky overhead was grey and overcast with clouds fat and gorged on rain. Greedily, the cumulonimbus held their proffered gains from the thirsty earth, all the while grumbling and rumbling their discomfort at being too full. The dreariness matched Ajay’s mood but somehow neither the weather nor Ajay’s grumpiness seemed to affect Basil. Basil moved across the cobblestone roads quickly, shooting for the pokemon trainer registration office. “Shauna said we could come first thing in the morning,” he said as he walked. Ajay huffed and jogged to catch up to Basil’s longer strides. “I don’t think she meant this early.” Basil ignored him as they came up to the familiar building. They entered, Basil first, to find the same surroundings as yesterday and the same Shauna as well. She smiled at their entrance and Ajay began to wonder if everyone in this universe was run on coffee; Shauna looked entirely too cheerful. “Boys! Good morning!” she chirped excitedly. “I hope you slept okay. I know that the dorms aren’t home, but they endeavor to be comfortable all the same.” They’re definitely not home… “I slept great, Shauna,” Basil said happily. “Well… when I fell asleep.” She nodded. “Just too excited to sleep, huh?” she said, with a slight giggle. “I get that. I was the same way when I got my sweet Francis… Anyway. Let’s not keep you in suspense any longer.” She bent down and Ajay could hear the sounds of a drawer being opened. Then a stack of papers landed on the desk in front of Shauna; stamped across the front of them was a big, green ACCEPTED. Basil whooped loudly and Ajay flinched against the noise. Shauna seemed unaffected, still smiling happily. “Yep! You guessed it, my friend. You are now registered to train pokemon. Now we get to the fun part of you picking out your starter.” She stood and moved to the back of the office. Similarly to Ajay, she took her rolling ladder and slid it to somewhere in the middle. She then scaled to the third from the top shelf and pulled another box out of the cubby. She was bringing it back to the desk in a blink of an eye. She slid it through the glass and smiled. “Each pokeball is marked with a small symbol to tell you their type,” she said. “You should have at least one of each type to choose from.” Ajay moved forward, curious at this point. He admitted that all of the action was finally egging him into full wakefulness. He leaned over as Basil tugged his box open and revealed no one pokeball, like Ajay had, but three. The contents in the box from there were by in large the same with only small stylistic differences. Basil had received a messenger bag in opposition to Ajay’s duffel. His change of clothes were also different, being a blue, collared short sleeved shirt and black pants. It was the three pokeballs that interested Ajay the most though; his box had only contained the one, which left him confused. “Why did I only have one option?” he asked. Shauna shuffled awkwardly. “Well… as I said yesterday, someone preregistered you… they also took the liberty of deciding your starter for you.” Ajay frowned. “People can do that to other people?” he asked. “It’s… it’s not common but sometimes it happens, yes. Some families are pretty traditional and being a pokemon trainer runs in the family… So it’s often not unheard of for families of high standing to preregister their children at birth and request specific pokemon for them to do their journey’s with.” Well, that hardly fit the description of Ajay… “I can’t say if that’s what happened to you,” Shauna continued, leading Ajay to believe his face must have revealed his thoughts. “I actually didn’t do your registration paperwork… I don’t know who could have, honestly.” “I pick this one!” Basil’s voice made both Shauna and Ajay look over as he held a pokeball aloft. If Ajay looked closely, he could see that it had a tiny flame in the same place that his pokeball had leaf. Inquiries about his own registration forgotten for the moment, Ajay carefully tugged his own pokeball off his belt and examined the leaf. “What do the little symbols mean?” he asked. “Oh! That’s the pokemon type,”Shauna said. “Each pokemon we hand out here is generally one type or another. We usually only pass out water, grass, and fire types here.” “Yeah and I picked the best type,” Basil proclaimed. “Fire types are by far the best.” Shauna giggled and rolled her eyes. “I prefer water types, personally,” she said. “But fire types have their own merits… Anyway, that’s everything you boys need to get rolling. Your next stop should be Santalune. Your travel packs have maps so I’m sure you’ll make your way just fine from here. Though I’d at least try to reach the camp grounds in Santalune Forest by today.” As though to agree, the clouds outside gave another low grumbling roar. “Eugh… Let’s get going while the going is good, Jay,” Basil said. He clipped his own pokeball to his hip before turning a sparkling grin on Shauna. “Thank you so much for all of your help,” he said enthusiastically. “It has been my dream for a long time to be doing this.” Shauna smiled. “It makes me feel like we’ve placed that pokemon in good hands to hear you say that,” she said. “Now hurry and get going, boys.” ---- They gratefully stopped for a quick breakfast at a small cafe. Ajay absolutely inhaled his meal, too hungry to care about odd look that Basil sent his way. The eggs and bacon that he’d ended up with disappeared in an instant, leaving his plate with nothing but meager crumbs. He then started on a stack of warm, buttery pancakes, though by then the gaping ache in his belly had subsided enough for him to eat like a human again. Basil stared at him from across the table slightly wide eyed, his own meal of oatmeal largely untouched. “Are you sure you weren’t a hobo before this?” he asked. Ajay felt his face heat and he scowled down at his flapjacks. “Yes,” he snapped. “I just woke up really really hungry. I think I had a dream about food…” Basil’s expression was odd and confusing to Ajay; he couldn’t really decipher it. It was forgotten when the waitress came by a set a bowl of complimentary fruit down. Ajay’s eyes darted over the odd fruits until his eyes landed on a pink, peach-like one that seemed familiar. He picked it up and examined it quietly, something in his brain niggling. “You didn’t strike me as the type to like pecha,” Basil said suddenly. He gestured to the mottled, pink fruit. “They’re pretty sweet… I thought you’d like the rawst berries more.” Ajay frowned at him and shrugged, before taking a bite out of it. The sweetness was almost like coming home. “I’ve never had it before,” he admitted. ---- They set out for the road at a little past eight. The rain hadn’t started though the clouds still threatened their tantrum, churning tumultuously in the sky and occasionally roaring at each other for more room. Despite it being bad, the normal weather made Ajay feel a little less like he was the one out of place in this strange world; it rained often around his campus due to the general climate of the southern states. “Oh!” Basil suddenly said. “We should check each other’s pokemon out… though I don’t think I’ll leave mine out for too long. Fire pokemon don’t like the rain.” Stopping in the middle of the path(this one a criss-cross red brick pattern), Basil grabbed his pokeball and held it out. Ajay watched as it sprang open and a red laser shot out; it quickly recomposed into the silhouette of some kind of creature and as the light cleared, Ajay examined the new addition to their company. Vulpine and small with a round head and large ears, the new creature was almost familiar to Ajay. Getting closer, however, its yellow fur gave off an unnatural warmth and its large, red eyes seem to hold farm more intelligence than the foxes he knew. It gave a soft, chirping squeak and Basil picked it up around the midriff. Its tiny paws dangled and it looked back at him, giving a listless little wiggle of its fluffy tail. “Her name is Cyrene,” he said. “I’ve already decided that.” “What is she?” Basil cradled the furball closes to his chest, one hand sliding along the unnaturally warm fur to hold her bottom. “She’s a Fennekin…” he said, sulkily. “You really don’t know anything about pokemon, huh?” Ajay huffed. “No,” he grumbled. “I thought this was established… How do I let my… thing out?” Basil rolled his eyes. “Just take the pokeball,” he explained, patiently,”and there’s a button on the opposite side. Push it and hold it out.” Ajay followed Basil’s instructions and watched the same process happen. However, instead of something fox-like and quadrupedal, the creature was bipedal and rodent like. It was covered in brown fur but had a green, leafy hood and ears. Two large claws grew on its paws(feet?) and its tiny fore paws housed smaller, less scary looking nails. A breeze ruffled an actual, green sprout on its head as it turned to stare shyly up at Ajay. As its eyes met Ajay’s, he felt a jolt through his brain and there was a fruity, sweet flavor of pecha on his tongue. The air turned green and smelled minty and aromatic.The hunger that had plagued him had dulled and quieted its roaring and the bleak clouds over head gave a tremendous rumbling crack, a streak of lime lightning raising across the sky; a dark figure illuminated briefly in the sky before fading, leaving a Y shaped after image. “It’s good to see you again.” And in front of Ajay wasn’t the little boy but the small, rodent like creature. It smiled, its large incisor not the least bit cumbersome to the expression. Its orange nose twitched and it-he some part of Ajay’s brain corrected patiently-reached up and rubbed it gently. “You…” Ajay tried but choked on the flavor of pecha. Almost nervously, the creature giggled. “It’s okay,” he said. “I’m harmless. I couldn’t dream of hurting you, ever.” He bounced closer to Ajay and gripped his pants leg in a surprisingly dextrous paw. “I’m a Chespin,” he said patiently. “I know you don’t know much about me… Mama Floette said you wouldn’t.” Finally feeling like he could speak, Ajay cautiously asked, “Mama Floette…?” The Chespin nodded. “The one that brought you to me,” he said excitedly. “She used some of her magic to make me specifically for you, Ajay. She made others like me but we have to find them. It could take a while… they’re all spread out… My brothers and sisters.” The Chespin seemed to wilt and looked down at the ground, as though legitimately saddened that his “siblings” were missing. He perked up though and looked back up at Ajay. “Not to worry though… I’ll be here with you… We’ll meet lots of people and pokemon…” “What…. what do I call you?” “Whatever you want. You get to name me.” Ajay was silent, his head spinning, spinning. The smell of mint was overpowering and the taste of pecha was returning. The clouds roared and the lightning cracked fiercely. The wind whipped and whirled and there was a rushing, angry sound in his head. His chest felt like it was burning alive from the smell, the taste, the sound and only one name slipped off his tongue, flavored in lightning and pecha and wind. “Verde…” The Chespin smiled. “Verde I am then.”
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