Chapter 4: Eon Education

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Mason….

I turned my head on my pillow, hoping that my imagination was just acting up.

Mason? It's time to get up…your mom's got breakfast ready….

"Ugh…." I lifted my head from my bed, and looked blearily towards the clock, which displayed '9:30' on its rectangular face. As consciousness wormed its way into me, my mental link with Latias fully developed, and I noticed something pressing into my side and laying over my body. I turned my head to the other side, and found the dragoness simply lying there, her form lightly pressed into mine, a wing laid protectively over me.

Good morning, sleepy head, she said to me as she offered a smile.

"Good morning, Latias," I replied in kind, pulling an arm out from under the covers and scratching behind one of her ears. She gave a soft coo and pressed her head into my hand, enjoying my touch. I gave a small laugh as I sat up. "I could get used to this…how long have you been up?"

Only about five minutes. Your mom left it to me to wake you up…and, oooh yeah, I'm definitely glad I'm not a secret anymore…. She panted slightly as she flopped over onto her side, and I couldn't help but think that she was enjoying herself a bit too much. I lifted my hand and returned it to my side as I extracted myself from my bed. She whined softly in response. Darn. I was just about to ask for a belly-rub.

I laughed quietly again as I pulled on a pair of gym shorts. "Maybe later, Latias. For now, it's time to eat!" We walked—or floated, as the case might have been—down the hall to the kitchen after I made a quick stop in the bathroom as part of my morning routine.

Two weeks had passed since Latias had revealed herself to my mother and father. While she was initially received coldly, she had done everything in her power to earn her way into the good graces of my parents, making their lives easier whenever she could. This won over my dad extremely quickly—if anyone could have an allergic reaction to chores, it was him. My mother, who was more liable to burden herself with menial tasks, was reluctant to relinquish or accept help from Latias, but all it took for her to get her proverbial foot in the door was help load Snow into the car for a vet appointment. Since then, they had come to trust her and almost regard her as a member of the family, a development for which the both of us were extremely thankful. Still, there was one thing that Latias absolutely resented—anything that involved the dogs' hair. When questioned, she immediately cited the utter pain it was to get hair out of her feathers when she preened.

We briefly wondered about giving her a name other than her species name. "It was an extremely common practice back home," Latias had explained, "since it was likely that two Trainers with the same species would eventually meet. It also helped Trainers bond with their Pokémon partners." However, I didn't feel comfortable giving her something other than the name she had gone by for her entire life, so I declined. In any case, I didn't think it was likely that I would meet another Latias any time soon. She and I shared a close enough bond already, and I didn't think a new name would help with that.

We entered the kitchen side by side, and my mom turned from the sink and gave a small wave before gesturing to two plates of bacon, scrambled eggs, and toast on the counter. "Hey! Sorry for not getting you up earlier. I know you're not that hungry the second you wake up, but she was snoring in the most adorable way, and with her wing over you, I figured waking you up would wake her up, too." I snickered and looked over at my partner, and the blush on her face told me everything I needed for a grade 'A' teasing later.

We settled to eat, but not two minutes after we had done so, my mother came over to us again. "Your father and I were thinking this morning about how we were going to handle the move-in for you going to college, and it occurred to the both of us that Latias would obviously want to come with you, right?"

"You sure that's the only thing you talked about, mom?" I asked, fixing her with a look that emphasized that I knew that there was almost certainly more to the conversation.

She sighed, then looked pointedly at Latias. Hey, don't look at me! the dragoness responded, holding up her paws. I wasn't about to lie to him, he kind of figured things out on his own!

"Still, I think it would be a really good idea if you two stuck together, honey," Mom continued, turning back towards me. While I had indeed 'figured things out' like my partner had said, there was still some truth to the matter. Thus, I didn't really have much room to talk back. Someday, though, that would change.

Of course! Latias replied in my stead, and I nodded. But…it'll be so hard to keep me a secret. I won't be able to see you that often at all…. Her brow creased, and a frown marred her features. Unless….

"Yeah?" I prodded, encouraging her to continue.

I would have to do the same thing I did back in Alto Mare. She paused briefly to allow me to recall exactly what that meant. As if on cue, she tittered lightly in amusement when my eyes widened at the memory's resurgence. That means I take on a human illusion using my psychic powers, she continued, addressing my mother. The only problem is I'd have nowhere to live except outdoors, and a random girl in Mason's classes unaccounted for, and also following him around wherever he went would be really weird and make people suspicious before long.

"You can make yourself look like a human?" my mom asked Latias, and she nodded. "This might actually work, then." I looked up with my mouth open, about to ask what she meant, but she held up a hand, silencing me. "See, I have this crazy idea: what if Latias became a student at school with you?"

I gawked at my mom for what I thought was a completely preposterous idea. "Mom, there are so many reasons why that wouldn't work! It's way too late for her to apply, she can't speak a lick of English, and how in God's name will we pay her way?" I then faced my food again, staring at the still-untouched toast. "I wish there was a way. I almost can't stand even thinking about being away from her…but it doesn't seem possible."

My mother put a hand on my shoulder. "I know, honey. That's why we're going to drive down there on Monday and convince them otherwise." My stomach dropped at her declaration. We were going to what?! "Just think of the publicity they'll garner if they award a Pokémon a degree! The mute aspect might be a problem, though, unless you've got another psychic trick for that?"

I know sign language and how to read and write, Latias said. I've had to use my illusion form a huge amount back in Alto Mare, the city I used to live in, so I'm good at posing as a human as long as I have a reason to be where I am. It's pretty lucky that our written language and sign language seem to be the same here as they were on my home world. Small universe, I guess!

"Wait, how d'you know that that's true?" I asked.

I used your computer, duh.

"But I've got it locked behind a password!"

Well, now's a good time to start getting used to me being in your head at all times. And yes, I do mean all times. I blushed furiously, making a mental note to watch my back at night to ensure Latias was actually sleeping.

"Well, the reading and writing is another thing we have going for us, then," my mother replied to the dragoness. "It's only been, what, two months since you all appeared here? People are still trying to work out what you guys are capable of. Some of my co-workers still think you're not much more than animals, despite those Elders being the ones who put the lid on everything. Just how powerful are they, anyway?"

I've met two of them personally. Lady Kyogre is the 'Queen of the Ocean' for a reason—she could drown a continent if she wanted to, Latias replied, causing my mom's eyebrows to shoot up.

"We should probably keep the fact that you're a Legend hidden. That might be hard, though. A Pokémon that can talk telepathically, read, write, and sign is sure to turn some heads."

"How are you so confident?" I asked, swallowing a mouthful of eggs beforehand.

"Hon, I'm going to be blunt: I've had to bullshit my way through many things in my life. This one in particular is crucial for both you and her. I have to assume that separating you with your minds all tangled up the way they are would be really bad." Suddenly, she snapped her fingers. "Hey, wait a second. That could be our trump card! Without one, the other can't function properly!" I couldn't help but groan—I could almost picture the lightbulb turning on above my mom's head. "And hey, if that's not necessarily true, what the administration doesn't know won't hurt them." A rakish grin sprung into being on her face. "We won't be lying…."

"We'll just be withholding various truths." I finished, knowing that was one of my mother's tried and true mantras. It mildly irked me that it had rubbed off on me so easily.

Wow, Mason, Latias said, sporting a huge grin, I didn't know your mom was so eager to get rules bent or broken.

"I've worked government for years," my mom replied. "You've gotta do what you gotta do to get people to do things your way. If that means not playing it totally by the books, no skin off my nose. God knows people in power love to make other people jump through hoops for no reason, even if you're giving them money."

I'll keep that in mind for later, Latias said, seemingly not bothered by the planned duplicity.

"I've already made the calls to the college. They are expecting just the two of us to come and petition for Mason to keep a Pokémon like a pet."

"Heh, well," I remarked, chewing a piece of bacon, "they're in for a rude awakening when they find out this 'pet' wants to go to school."

I could always use my mind control if all else fails, Latias said nonchalantly. A look of horror scarred my features. The dragoness then held up her claws apologetically. C'mon, Mason! I'm just kidding! I already told you I can't do that stuff. We have got to work on your sarcasm radar!

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My mother strode confidently through the building with me right behind her. Unbeknownst to any but us, Latias hovered silently, invisible, off to my right. As we approached the office of residence life, I could see the faintest of smirks adorn my mother's face. Once we arrived, she held the door open for a shade longer than was necessary for me to enter to admit our unseen companion.

The front of the office was empty, save for a receptionist seated behind a desk that had a four-foot wooden barrier on one of its sides, almost obscuring her from view. While my mother dealt with her, I sat down in one of the chairs opposite the barrier. My nervousness must have been palpable because the Eon dragoness, still invisible, nuzzled me on the cheek. Do you really think this will work, Mason?

I hope so, Latias. I'm not too worried…my mom can be really convincing. At that moment, another woman strode into our view from farther back in the office. She was on the shorter side, slightly below my mom's height. She was dressed like she had a presentation to give later that day, unlike the other staff we had seen, and her black hair was cut rather short. She looked at us with hazel eyes through horn-rimmed glasses.

"Mrs. Feist?" she said in a polite tone, and my mother nodded in affirmation. The woman then held out her hand, which my mom promptly shook. "My name is Jan Murkel, and I am the director of residence life. You two can come with me back to my office." We made our way past the front desk, and there was a thin passageway with smaller offices off to our left and more staff at desks to our right. They smiled at us, and one of them flashed a thumbs-up. They must have known why we were there.

At the end of the hall, we entered an office that was slightly larger than the rest, furnished very plainly. I wrinkled my nose ever so slightly—there was a distinct lack of plant life in the room. "Please, sit," she prompted, gesturing to two armchairs situated in front of her desk. "Now, let's get to business. As I understand it, your student wishes to keep one of these 'Pokémon' creatures here on campus as a pet?" My mother nodded, playing along. Ms. Murkel smiled, though a distinct glint entered her eyes. "While we are generally accepting of such a thing, the vetting process is very thorough, and we aren't about to let just anything onto our campus without performing the necessary background checks."

"I think she'll make it through just fine, Ms. Murkel," my mother said, and my heart seized up—I knew what she was about to do, since we practiced the reveal several times during the drive to the campus. "So well in fact that I want to make a proposition to you all. I'm afraid I misled your staff when I asked for an appointment today. My son's friend does not wish to be a pet. Rather, she wishes to become a student here."

The director's eyes widened, and her mouth opened and closed several times while she processed what she had just heard. "Excuse me? A-a student?" She looked between the two of us, trying to find any evidence that we were joking. When she did not find any, she stood from her chair. "I'm sorry, but I must ask you to leave—"

No! You will hear us out! A telepathic shout echoed through our minds, and the woman across from us flinched horribly.

"W-who's there!?" She said, half angry, half terrified. In the heat of the moment, I decided to let Latias take over, nodding towards her. In a flash of light, Latias dropped her invisibility, and the director's pupils shrank to mere pinpricks. She took a deep breath, and I instantly realized she was about to scream bloody murder.

"Latias, can you soundproof the room somehow!?" I half commanded, half pleaded, unable to come up with a solid idea on the spot. The dragoness' eyes flashed blue, and a like colored screen fixed itself onto the surfaces of the room. Blessedly, there were no windows towards the inside of the building to give away that something far outside of human power had just been cast on the office. Furthermore, Ms. Murkel chose not to scream at the top of her lungs, which was a huge relief—I was not about to get my eardrums battered by a misunderstanding.

I gave the director a mareepish look. "Uhm, sorry. I figured that if you screamed, people would have come running and seen her. That wouldn't have been good, considering what we're going to ask."

"I-I'm still terrified, mind you," she responded. "What is that? And what was that talking from…inside my head?"

My name is Latias, ma'am. I was the one who spoke earlier, she replied. I'm part Psychic type, which is how I can use telepathy. My species can turn invisible, fly, and adopt a human illusion, if necessary.

"She's the Pokémon I mentioned on the phone, ma'am," my mother followed.

"Her species is the Eon Pokémon," I supplied.

"A-and the glowing walls?" the director inquired, voice still trembling. "Are we trapped in here?"

No, Latias responded. Mason ordered me to 'soundproof the room.' I know how to use Light Screen, which is a status technique that protects against special attacks. Since a scream isn't technically making physical contact, like a punch or bite, I thought Light Screen would work better than Reflect, which is the physical variant. I can drop the screen at any time, and it will fade on its own after a little bit.

"Hmm. I figured since sound waves are physical rather than some magical type of attack like fire or ice, Reflect would work. Learn something new every day, I guess," I commented, and Latias only giggled in response.

"You ordered it…." The director's eyes lingered on Latias for a brief moment. "Uh, her to do it? "Is she a pet or not?"

Not really, no. Pokémon are friends with humans, and as such, I am Mason's friend. I don't know if you know this, but Pokémon are sapient, intelligent creatures. I wouldn't be talking with you if we weren't! Not only that, but people and Pokémon have lived together as friends since…her face scrunched up as she tried to come up with an accurate response. Since…forever!

I gave a small chuckle, but all the director did was relax slightly. "Okay…I'm still trying to wrap my head around speaking to a sapient being that isn't a human, so forgive my hesitance." Her tone turned business-like once more. "There still remains the question of why you wish to attend."

"I'll start off by saying that Latias and I share a special mental connection, and I'd really rather not have it severed," I offered, but Ms. Murkel waved me off.

"I'm sure you and your mother have plenty of reasons lined up to keep her here, Mr. Feist, considering how choreographed your entrance was." I paled slightly and looked towards my mom, and her face was like stone: completely neutral. "But I asked Latias, and now I will ask a slightly different question of her." Jan turned to the dragoness and looked her in the eyes. "What value do you see in attending, other than staying close to your…uhm, friend? Why would a Pokémon want a higher education?"

I…. I could tell the dragoness was nervous, as it was a rare sight. I scratched her behind her ear—she gave a soft coo in response, and we both smiled.

"It's okay. Take your time," I said, trying to encourage her. After a moment, she nodded, assuring herself of her response.

I never got to see much of my old world, since I was always confined to one island city, miles away from the mainland, she began, speaking directly to Ms. Murkel. I was its only defender and protector for the last two years before I was brought here, and before that, it was me and my…late brother. A frown crossed the director's features at the dragoness' mentioning of Latios. I hardly know anything about the culture of my own species, even, which is just…ridiculous! Latias scoffed a little at her own lack of knowledge.

And now that I'm here, I know even less about the way anything works. What technologies do you have? How do humans express themselves here? What sort of knowledge is there that is completely unknown to us Pokémon that the natives take for granted? Latias broke eye contact. After Mason taught me how to use the Internet, I've been on it a lot in my spare time, looking up whatever I can. But I know that the Internet isn't an expert, even if I learned how to use it well. I want to learn and experience as much of the world as I can by myself, and not live vicariously through Mason and his family. I'm done being cooped up in one spot for all my life. I think it'll be a fun challenge, but….

Finished with her speech, Latias fell silent, and looked to the director, whom stood from her chair. "I think, all told, that you would have been a promising applicant, Latias." My heart sank. Ms. Murkel was going to deny her. "Be that as it may, the time for that has long since passed. However, I believe that, despite not being director of admissions, I can make an exception, on one condition."

Yes? My partner asked, her eyes going wide. I was forced to look away, knuckles going white as I clenched my fists anxiously.

"You may not obtain a legitimate degree from the college, even if you somehow pay for admission. As such, any degree and honors awarded to you at the end of your tenure here will be in name only, and will not assist you in qualifying for any job." The director smiled, a roguish glint in her eyes. "But, as a Pokémon, you have no use for a job. Furthermore, there really isn't any way for a given student to tell if another student is degree-seeking or not, save for outright telling them. How convenient! Ah, but a Pokémon would look quite out of place in classes attended by humans, yes? However, I do believe I caught that Latias here can 'adopt a human illusion?'"

"Does she get to 'attend' and stay with my son or not?" my mother asked bluntly, cutting to the chase.

"Based on my appraisal, yes." Latias could not help but give a happy squeal, and Ms. Murkel beamed at her before turning to me. "I assume you wish for her to stay in the same room as you?" I nodded, and she continued, "I will arrange for her to be your roommate for your first year, as well as begin the process of setting up a profile based on her illusion. That'll take some doing on my end, especially with the office of admissions and the registrar, so there is something I require of you in return, Mr. Feist."

"Just name it—I'll do it no matter what," I answered with vigor, and my mother patted me on the back—unspoken praise for my staunch conviction.

"I admire your loyalty to your partner, young man! Now, from what I read of your file, you show great academic promise. However, I did observe a distinct lack of extracurriculars from your high school years. Thus, I want you to remain the strong study you are while broadening your view of the world around you. My charge to you now is twofold. At no point will you be allowed to fall below a 3.0 GPA, and at no point will you fail to achieve a 3.5 at least once a year." I ran the terms by in my head. two semesters in a year, so only one goof allowed. "You will also become involved in the campus community in some appreciable, impactful way. If either condition is left unmet, I'm afraid I must terminate this housing deal. Otherwise, Latias attends for free."

"Easily done. My boy was at the top of his class out of over two hundred in high school," Mom said with confidence. Jan inclined her head, as if she already knew about that. "And I'm sure he'll rise to the task of leaving his mark on campus."

I, on the other hand, had a completely different reaction. "Really?!" I said incredulously, almost shooting out of my chair. My excitement was curtailed quickly by realizing that I had never participated in anything considered a community. I was sure, though, that my parents would give me some tips on how to do so, as they always did.

"I don't see the harm in it. She's proven herself very friendly and passionate, if a bit boisterous, so I don't have any reason to believe she'll be a danger to the other students. Come to think of it, I should probably prepare for many more calls regarding the very thing you claimed you were coming to see me about. She has no credentials, but we have nothing to lose because of it, as per our deal."

Oh, thank you, thank you, thank you! Latias squealed, rushing forwards and hugging the woman across the desk. She looked over the Pokémon's shoulder and I only shrugged.

"She likes hugs. Overall, she's really affectionate, I've found. Can you believe that her other typing is Dragon?" Ms. Murkel paled ever so slightly. I could tell her impressions of dragons were being shattered on the spot as the dragoness finished her bear…Ursaring hug. "Something else, though. Can we keep her Pokémon status a secret to the faculty and students? Her species is actually very rare in the wild—you'll probably never see another Latias. She can't speak while putting up her human illusion, but she can sign and write."

"That should be fine. One extra student's work should go unnoticed to the faculty, so I shouldn't need to alert them about our arrangement. The ball will always be in your court." The director paused as Latias let go of her and rejoined my mother and me. "What will you be known as?"

In a shower of blue lights, Latias transformed for the first time since I had met her. When the light faded away, I was taken aback by what I saw. She was slightly taller than my mother, appearing to stand at around 5 feet 8 inches. Her physique was very lean, almost toned, as if she exercised daily, and she was moderately tanned; more than me, but less than my mom. Dressed in a green T-shirt, a white skirt, pink shoes, and dark green socks, her chestnut eyes almost shone with a golden light, and long, auburn hair cascaded down to the small of her back. A smile crossed her face, and I was almost entranced by her expressiveness, as well as the cute little dimples that formed at the corners of her mouth.

I'll go by…Ruby! The not-a-human decided, and she stuck out a small hand towards the director. This is a human custom, right? To shake hands?

Ms. Murkel laughed and took Latias up on her offer, shaking once before letting go. "Indeed it is. We will look forward to seeing you in the fall, Ruby! Your illusory skills are quite impressive!" The dragoness then turned and gave me a huge hug, too. I couldn't help but blush at the contact, and hesitantly wrapped my arms around her in kind. Inwardly, I was torn, and an unfamiliar sensation bloomed in the pit of my stomach.

What…is this? I trailed off, hoping that she didn't hear my thoughts. I blinked a couple of times, trying to shake away what was spoiling the moment. Well, they're gone now, whatever they were. Fully giving myself to our embrace, I relished in our victory. Our journey would not have to be cut short after all.