Payapa was in a good mood, and that was a good start for Anana. Something had gone right for Anana thus far, at least. She supposed that her sister was contemplating the best spots to hide in the pier section of town. At least she wasn’t complaining about anything, which was a great improvement! Fin had offered to be the seeker to start with, so the game was bound to progress fairly quickly. He was usually pretty good at finding the others, though he always had to concede to Payapa so she’d show herself and they could continue to the next game. In one of these games one time, Anana suspected Fin had actually stumbled across her hiding sister, but had pretended otherwise just to avoid allegations of cheating. He was like that. He knew how to keep his mouth shut for the whole group dynamic to remain as it was. Anana dwelled on that thought for a good half hour, relating painfully to that trait.
Neither of the lagging sisters noticed that Fin, Spike, Chulo, Gail, and Naki had been whispering here and there. The sisters had fallen too far behind to catch anything that the poor kids said under their breath. Payapa would later recall that it was a bit peculiar that they rushed ahead so quickly, but that she herself had been too caught up thinking of hiding spots and how best to brag when inevitably not found. Anana would later feel very foolish for not seeing the betrayal coming, and even further down the road, would cry every night for weeks in having made the stupid decision to play the game leading to her sister’s near-death.
This time, Payapa had picked a fantastic spot. Not to be confused with any of the other places she’d picked to hide, though; those spots had been great, really nice, marvelous... but this one was utterly fantastic. It was so simple it had nearly pained her with its magnificence. She picked the big, tall Pamtre tree to conceal her presence. Its location?: merely a few yards from where Fin had begun his slow count. Perfect! It was so perfect in its simplicity! He would be looking all over the place: in shops, on roofs, behind bushes, all these little places so far from the original starting point. That’s what he’d expect. He’d expect her to be hiding all over, somewhere crafty, when she was really within shouting distance! She really just wanted to burst at how clever she felt. Before long, she would be the victor yet again, and then she’d have to come up with an even better
hiding spot. It’s so stressful being on top,
she mused. I bet he’s gonna find Anana first. She always picks the same type of spot. She’s so predictable, she really should take some pointers from me.
The countdown eventually reached its end, and Payapa’s excitement was at its peak. As expected, Fin immediately ran off to the most bustling part of the city. He was likely to be chased away by some of the shop owners, though neither she nor Anana ever hid in any of those places out of consideration for the poor kids. They had to be accompanied by either her or her sister, and even then, would still receive scornful looks. It was common knowledge that these kids had to steal to eat, which made them rather unpopular with all the vendors for this obvious reason.
She kept her eyes peeled from the top of the tree, making sure Fin was never looking in her direction for too long. Eventually he disappeared into the crowds and didn’t resurface. Good. He was probably looking in lots of bizarre places. So, she looked for Anana instead. Anana’s habit of hiding in obvious places was somewhat embarrassing to her. Being related to such a failure at this game was... well, it was kind of shameful for a Kecleon to be so bad at hiding. Anana never really seemed to want any tips, either, which was all the more bizarre.
She soaked up some good rays while skimming the horizon. All directions she looked, but nothing. Not even one of the other kids. Today’s session might be a little longer. No matter; she could be extremely patient if it meant she’d stay on top. She would just keep looking, see how many dejected losers showed up in the starting spot. It wouldn’t be her, that was for sure!
It actually wasn’t going to be anyone, she found out.
Something like an hour passed before she started to humor that sick ball of suspicion she had in the pit of her stomach. It had started to form a good thirty minutes in, but she was too proud to admit that she might have been duped so early on. She had to wait and see, which, of course, made it harder and harder to admit she thought something funny was going on. The longer she waited, the stupider she looked for falling for the deceit. There wasn’t going to be any winning going on in this situation this time. Not anymore.
She held back fresh, hot, angry tears, and let her heart rend itself. There wasn’t much to do. Her two options were stay in the tree and look like an idiot, or get out of the tree and start looking for Anana. She wanted nothing to do with those traitors. There was no good enough reason they could provide for their abandonment. They were dead to her.
Slowly, she climbed down the tree, scraping up her foot on accident along the way. This was the final straw. She hit the ground and started to cry, loud, obnoxious tears. It had been forever since she’d cried, but it was sorely necessary. Everything had been building up for months. Lately their dad had been really strict, harsh, and weird (would she even dare to instead call it... mean?), Anana had less and less time to play, their mother had been sleeping more and more of the day away, and to top it all off, she had started to realize she didn’t have much of a life’s goal going on, and she had started to also
realize their parents invested all of their energy into grooming Anana. It was too much. The tears were for all of these things she’d let rest where they wouldn’t hurt. The final straw, and really, the thing to pull all of these uncomfortable feelings out, was seeing that she could so easily be tricked in the name of being really good at something as stupid as a kid’s game.
Even as Pokemon passed by, none of them comforted her. They looked on awkwardly, and scurried away at realizing who she was. It was really terrible to be crying in public, but it couldn’t be helped. Watching dozens of Pokemon avoid her only added to her sense of isolation, and she wailed harder.
Something like twenty minutes passed this way, but it was cyclic; she would sometimes think of some pitiable thought and cry louder, and then nearly settle down again only to think of some new way to feel sorry for herself. Eventually she reached a point where all tears had been exhausted, and this is when she sat, knees to chest, back to the tree, and watched the crowds. Something needed to change, but she hadn’t a clue what it would be. Sitting this way, all tightly contained, anger easily found its way into her tiny frame. She scanned everyone who passed, silently judging them, figuring out what type of character they really
were. Watching the way they moved, paying especial attention to their body language. It was really easy to just let yourself ignore these vital things: she had for all too long. If she had really been paying attention, she might have noticed the way Fin’s mouth had twitched actually mattered in his agreement to play with them. She might have noticed the way Gail’s feather’s ruffled for half a moment, she might have noticed the way Naki’s eyes gleamed.
Well. It wasn’t as if she hadn’t noticed at all; she had, too clearly. But it was nice to ignore it and pretend things would go her way. It was just nice to pretend that she could keep up at being best at something, because without it, she really wasn’t very good at anything at all.
And coming to terms with that thought was a little much for a child on the verge of adulthood.
It made her angry. With herself, with others, it didn’t matter. Mostly with others until she came to the realization, to that essential thought, that being angry at other people didn’t fix a situation. It didn’t change anything. She would still be the same Pokemon, and so would they. It would do absolutely nothing. But if she got angry at herself for not paying attention to these details marking everyone as liars, traitors, thieves, and so forth... then she might actually pay attention, and she would be better off for it. She would start to be ahead of everyone again. This minor setback wasn’t enough to keep her down, and that was a pleasing thought. She could still be the best at something, even if that something was judging others most accurately at a glance. That was still useful!
Unfortunately, in her rage, her tail had started to flick angrily. It was a controlled whip. It laid out flat against the ground, but every few seconds it would fling crazily to the left, or right, tapping the packed sand with a “thud.” It was hardly something she thought about: just one of those tics that went off when something was triggered. In this case, when her self-loathing anger was summoned.
Perhaps if she had been paying more attention to her surroundings (something that she would learn more about as an apprentice to a wily snake later on), she would have avoided the tragedy that was to befall her and forever work its way into her psyche as a deep fear.
However, she paid attention only to the crowds in front of her. As a result, she barely noticed when she thwapped a little Rattata right on the head. Well, she hadn’t noticed until it bit her, that was.
She screeched, yelped, and stumbled to the side. Her heart was racing and she nearly had decided to beat the thing to death when it spoke: “Oh! I’m sorry, is someone there?”
She was momentarily stunned. “I... what? Why the hell did you bite me, you little dick!” She went to cradle her tail, going to suck on the offending area as Anana had done herself not more than a couple hours prior. What struck her was that his eyes were closed. Why was he going around like that?
“I thought you were a branch or something and had to check. Apologies, Miss. It’s a little windy here sometimes, you know?” he said with a little squeak of a laugh. “You sound like you’ve been upset recently. I apologize to add to your pile of woe,” he added solemnly.
“Why were you walking around with your eyes closed like a moron?” she asked. There was surely no good answer to this. This kid was definitely some sort of dork just asking to be smacked around. It looked like he’d suffered at someone’s hands already: part of his tail was missing, the end scarred and frayed.
“Well, it doesn’t do me a whole lot of good anymore to keep them open, so I don’t.”
Her body chilled. “I... didn’t know, I mean, you can’t...”
“Yeah, I can’t see a thing. I’m blind. I’m normally better at not bumping into things. I thought I felt your presence, but your tail got me by surprise. I’m truly sorry, Miss.”
She blinked unbelievably at him. There weren’t a whole lot of Pokemon who had become handicapped living around her city. If Pokemon lost limbs or went blind or what have you, they usually had to move out of the city or go to the outskirts. It made them easier prey for everyone if they stayed around... and most couldn’t keep a job after that. There was no aid for Pokemon like these. They either went with family or died alone and hungry, usually.
Plus, her dad didn’t really like “broke” Pokemon like these. He called dependents “broke” both because they were broken in some way, and because it usually meant their cash supply was gone. It wasn’t anything she’d ever had to personally deal with before, so it had meant very little before this point.
“So what’s your name?” she asked.
“Charles is the name my ol’ mum gave me.”
She was relieved someone was looking after this kid. “Oh, where do you guys live?”
“Oh I dunno if my mom’s even alive anymore; I suspect not. But I live in a nice nook behind a noodle shop. There’s some nice finds in the trash there, sometimes.”
She was glad he couldn’t see the disgust on her face at the thought of picking from garbage. She was sure that no matter how badly things progressed in her life, at the very least, she’d never be eating someone else’s refuse. Nasty.
“Oh, you don’t have to make such a gross face,” he said, picking up on the sound of her snuffle. She was greatly embarrassed at her folly; she didn’t mean to let him know she found it gross. Normally, with anyone else, she wouldn’t have cared -- a gross face would have been her blunt, instant reaction, but something about this kid was different. She didn’t want to offend, here. She didn’t want to mindlessly blurt things out, or to criticize him harshly.
The thing making this kid odd, different, was she couldn’t pick up on any tell
as he spoke. He was speaking honestly and without judgment. Time would reveal whether or not she was accurate here, but it felt right. Finally being honest with herself, she felt correct in this estimation of the little rat’s personality traits.
It was kind of nice that he spoke so openly. Always used to dealing with her dad’s angry outbursts, her mother’s half-truths, and her sister’s avoidance, it was rather nice (refreshing, maybe?) to meet someone who didn’t seem to fit the mold of her family.
“I guess I can’t hide that from you, huh,” she said. “I don’t really like garbage all that much when it comes to fine dining.” It was a little funny that he had been able to tell her expression, even if it did fluster her. She half-grinned.
“It’s not so bad, y’know. Empty stomachs are by far quite worse, Miss. What’s your own name, anyhoo?”
Had she ever really had an empty stomach? A truly
empty stomach? She’d been hungry before, but never actually starving. “I’m Payapa. Like the berry,” she added.
“I’ve never actually had one, myself. Are they tasty? I’d like to imagine they are.”
This floored her. “Really?! You’ve really never had one? C’mon, let’s go to my house, I’ll show you some of my favorite berries.”
And like that, without a moment of hesitation, she was ready to open herself up to a complete stranger. It was really for the best that he’d managed to get in while her pride’s wound was fresh and hot; she was at the fragile stage where one gust either way had the power to blow her personality in either direction. Dangerously close to shutting everyone out forever, she had found a friend in the poor, blind rodent and saved herself from becoming the most bitter child in the city.
It was maybe even most miraculous of all that she was going out of her way to take this kid to try food. Perhaps that he didn’t ask anything of her was the most compelling reason why she should let him try different berries out. All the other children made it painfully clear that they wanted food from her and Anana, and often it seemed they had only entertained the sisters in hopes of being offered some treat on the side. It made her feel a little sick in retrospect.
It was no matter now, though. She and Charles would go eat together, and maybe he would be her friend.
Part 14 of "Complementaries"