By: Sara Miyamoto
A note to my readers: For those of you who skipped straight to this chapter when you saw it posted, I ask that you return to Chapter One and read, at the very least, the words I have prepared for you there. Once done with that, feel free to make your own decisions about how to proceed.
Remember back at the beginning, when I mentioned that if I had known what was to come, I would have welcomed staying in that clouded daze I was in? Well, now you know why.
Satoshi was pissed at me. The only time he dared to be around me was when we were training for the school's Pokémon battling team. Our coach, Yuri, after watching us battle independently, had decided our battle styles complimented each other perfectly and had paired us up to train for double battles. I think she was starting to regret that decision.
Satoshi's feelings were interfering in our teamwork. He either couldn't or wouldn't put in the effort to coordinate our tactics more closely. In the six weeks or so since we had been paired up, we had made absolutely no significant progress.
But what really bothered me was that Satoshi refused to talk to me outside of practice. The moment practice was over he would split before I could say anything to him. The few times I had tried breaching the subject while on the field he had shot me down, saying we needed to focus on our Pokémon.
And then, the day that made everything worse.
It was Friday, and the following week would mark the end of our first semester. Satoshi and I were trudging through yet another grueling, unproductive practice session. And that's when I heard it. Well, 'heard' might not be the proper word. Something ... bad has happened. Come to Satoshi's dorm room. Now. There was nothing to hear. It was a thought projected into my head by my friend Yukio. But I could 'hear' the pain in her mental voice. Something was, indeed, very wrong.
"Coach Yuri!" I called out across the field. Before she even began to turn I had already grabbed Satoshi by the arm and began to run. "We have to go! It's an emergency! I'll explain later!"
We drew curious stares as we ran. But I don't think anyone was more wide-eyed than Satoshi. "Shigeru, what's going on? What emergency?" His confusion didn't stop him from running, however. Thank goodness for small favors. He was, for the moment, too confused and alarmed to be mad at me.
"I don't know. Something happened at your room."
"What do you mean? How would you know if something had happened?" I think now would be a good time to point out that Satoshi knew nothing of Yukio's powers. I had been the only one Yukio had entrusted with that bit of information.
"Yukio told me," I said simply, leaving him to figure out things from there. It wasn't my place to tell others' secrets.
Even at a full run, it took us about five minutes to cross the entire campus and make it to the dorms. A minute later we were crowning the stairs to the third floor, and just as we did so, we saw Yukio leading Haruka out of Satoshi's room.
Satoshi slowed as we neared the girls. "Haruka?" he asked, seeing the stain of recent tears on her face, her red and puffy eyes.
I kept my hold on his arm firm and steered him away. "Later," I said softly, but he could hear in the tone the fact he should not argue. Yukio was silently informing me of what had happened. Between the description and the trace amounts of emotion that were broadcast along with her message, I was almost ready to throw up by the time they were out of sight. Once they were gone, I finally let go of Satoshi's arm, bracing myself against the wall outside his room and taking several deep breaths. I don't think any virus, any disease on the planet, could have made me feel sicker than I did at that moment.
"Oh, man..." I heard from inside the room. Apparently, while I had been trying to compose myself, Satoshi had wandered in. I walked to the door, not daring to enter myself. I should have told Satoshi that he shouldn't have gone in, but it was too late now. He was looking at his broken door, split near in half and laying on the floor. Then he moved to the shattered window and looked outside. "Oh, god!" he backed up quickly, and didn't stop until he had almost bowled me over.
He looked up at me, and I had never seen him so scared before. "Shigeru... Jamie... he..."
I shook my head softly, grabbed him gently by the shoulders. "I already know, Satoshi. I'll explain it later. But come on. The police will be here really soon. You don't want to actually be inside the room when they show up."
He was too shell shocked to offer any resistance as he led him the rest of the way out of the room, and he plopped to the ground a moment later, leaning back against the wall where I had been in a similar state just minutes before. He was still sitting there, breathing heavily and staring at nothing in particular, when a group of policemen and a plain clothed detective came rushing up the stairs. Seeing us right by the door to the scene of the crime, we seemed a perfectly logical start to their questioning. But, as the uniformed officers took up a protective stance by the door, I curtailed the detective by addressing him first.
"Sir, are you the one in charge?"
He gave me a funny look for a moment before responding. "Yeah, that I am, son."
I then leaned in close as I dared and whispered to him so no one else could hear, "Code Epsilon."
Judging by the detective's reaction, Yukio had not erred in her instructions. 'Code Epsilon' was apparently a world-recognized code used by police forces to label cases that involved psychic activity—something normal officers simply were not cut out to handle. The detective's eyes had gone wide, and he looked at me hard for several seconds. "You shittin' me, son? I haven't heard that in over a decade."
"Sir, if I was the type of person who would be bullshitting you, would I know to say that?"
He looked at me for another several seconds before his expression softened and he sighed heavily, rubbing his forehead with his hand. "I s'pose not. Is it you?"
"No, sir. A friend of mine told me to inform you. She's gone already. She had some ... very important matters to care for that couldn't wait."
The detective sighed again. "Fuck me sideways," he muttered under his breath as he tried to gather his thoughts. "Alright, I understand. You and your friend get lost. The special-cases squad will find you if you're important to the case. The psychic bastards always seem to know."
I sighed in relief. I don't think I had ever felt such tension before. But thank The Creator that I had ended up with a detective who knew what he was doing and was able to think on the fly. I walked back to Satoshi, who hadn't moved at all, and gently lifted him to his feet. What he had seen had apparently affected him deeper than I would have thought possible, because he offered no resistance, raised no objections, as I began to lead him away. I took one look back at the detective as I led Satoshi to the stairs. The detective had pulled out a cell phone and was having a rather animated discussion with whoever was on the other end, having forgotten all about us already.
The time it took to leave the building was one of the most surreal experiences of my life. Around practically every corner was a police officer, stopping students from moving up to the third floor and questioning people. Once outside, I could see several patrol cars, and knew there were more around the corner near to where Jamie had fallen. Thankfully, my car was in the other direction, so Satoshi wouldn't have to be subject to that sight again.
A few minutes later, I had settled him into the passenger seat of my car and was headed for home.
I was really worried by the time I pulled into the parking garage of my apartment complex. Satoshi hadn't done anything except stare out the windshield as we drove. The times I had tried to talk to him, he hadn't responded. I might have feared he had gone into some kind of coma if not for the fact that he responded to my guiding touch as I extracted him from the car and led him up to my apartment on the top floor.
Once inside, I settled him on the couch and took a seat next to him, burying my face in my hands as I tried to collect my thoughts. I thought by this point, my mind would be racing a million miles a minute, but I actually found myself unable to really think on things at all. It took near superhuman amounts of concentration to bring the thoughts I needed to focus on up out of the murky depths that had become the landscape of my thoughts.
Once I had finally gotten enough control over my brain to feel I was ready, I turned to Satoshi. "Satoshi, listen to me. I know what you saw wasn't pleasant, but I need to tell you what happened, and I need you here with me to do it." He didn't respond at all to my words, merely continued to stare out into space. I let out a deep sigh, resigning myself to the only thing I could think of to snap him out of it. "Sorry, Sato-kun..."
I pulled my right arm back, and with as much force as I dared, I slapped him full on the cheek. The crack of skin on skin was loud enough to make me cringe, never mind the stinging of my palm. But, it at least had the desired results: Satoshi yelped in pain, bringing his hands up to cover the left side of his face as he uttered a nigh incomprehensible stream of obscenities. Within seconds, I could already see an angry red welt forming in the shape of my hand.
"God dammit! Son of a bitch! That hurt!" He had partially curled up on himself, and I wondered if perhaps I had gone too far and really caused damage to him. But after a few more moments of ranting, he finally took the time to look around (presumably to find the person who had hit him) and noticed where he was, which immediately put an end to his triad as he dropped his hands and looked at me. "What the..? When did I... How did I get here..?"
I released a sigh of relief. I had finally managed to bring him around. Now, to answer his questions. "You uh ... kind of went catatonic after looking out the window back in your room. I brought you here, since you won't be able to use your room for a while. And uh, sorry for the slap. Nothing else was getting through to you."
"Oh," he said simply, looking at me with a dumbfounded expression. "What ... what happened back there..?"
I let out another sigh as I tried to organize things in my head, resting my head in my open palms. I had to tell him, I just wasn't sure exactly how to go about it. In the end, the blunt approach was all I could think of. I didn't have it in me to sugarcoat the things Jamie had done.
"Okay. Okay. This probably gonna be confusing for you, 'cause it sure as hell is for me, but this is what I know. Jamie had been ... controlling Haruka. He's a psychic." Satoshi gasped at the revelation, but I didn't look up. I wasn't sure I'd be able to finish the story if I looked directly at him. I was already starting to feel sick again. "Tonight he tried to do something bad. Something really bad. I ... I can't bring myself to say it. I think after seeing the state Haruka was in, you can guess. Yukio found out what was going on, and she's who broke in and stopped him. Shoved him out the window to get him away from Haruka. He's alive ... but I don't think he'll be a danger to anyone any time soon."
There was silence between us for several seconds as Satoshi apparently tried to process what I had told him. I kept my face in my hands, taking deep breaths, worried I'd get sick if I tried to look at him right then. Satoshi beat me to it, though. I felt him get up off the couch, heard the sound of footsteps racing away from me, to then be replaced with the sound of retching from the direction of the bathroom.
As the minutes passed, the sounds from the bathroom slowly came to an end, and I eventually felt it as Satoshi plopped himself down on the couch next to me. I finally dared look at him. He was pale, and shaking, and tears streamed down his face. I had to fight the urge to hold him to me.
"How ... how do you know what happened...?" I had to give the boy credit. Despite the state he was in, his voice was rather steady.
Of course, he had asked the one question I didn't feel I was at liberty to answer fully. "Yukio told me. And before you ask when or how ... you'll have to talk to her about that. It's not really my place to say."
Several minutes passed before either of us spoke again. "Shigeru, can I stay here..? I don't really have anywhere else to go..."
I can't believe I had it in my to smile right then. But somehow, his words had drawn one out, however small it may have been. "Of course, Satoshi. I wouldn't have brought you here if you weren't welcome. I know we're having ... problems right now. But I could never turn you away."
"Thanks, Shigeru. That means ... more than I can say right now."
The following week might have been tense if we weren't both so depressed. As it was, we could barely function as human beings, let alone come up with any excuse to be cross with each other. Our spat with each other just didn't seem to matter when weighed against what had happened.
Saturday morning, after a fitful night where I didn't get anything close to something that resembled sleep, I took it upon myself to check on the girls. I would have taken Satoshi with me, but he had passed out on the couch, and I didn't dare wake him. I came to be glad of that after I reached Yukio and Haruka's dorm.
Haruka was, somehow, asleep. Surprisingly, she looked almost peaceful. If nothing else, her face didn't show the pain that Satoshi's did as he slept. Yukio, who had rested even less than I had, explained to me what she was doing. I was scared for her. From the way she described it, it was incredibly risky. But she felt she had no choice. She absolutely refused to let Haruka endure one once of pain more than she could help.
And so it was, twice a day for the next week, that I visited. Each time, I brought Yukio a drink with enough caffeine to keep a drowsy elephant awake for days. Each time, my heart sank a little more. Every time I saw her, Yukio looked worse. As the days wore on, she grew paler (something I thought impossible), her eyes became more heavily ringed by dark circles, and she grew more jittery as the lack of sleep took its toll. Haruka, on the other hand, spent almost all of her time asleep. The few times I came by when she was awake, she stayed in bed, curled up on herself, crying silently.
I was glad our finals for the semester had been taken the previous Friday. I don't think I could have focused in class no matter how hard I tried, but the teachers were basically just reviewing the material we had gone over in the previous months. Satoshi was no better off. We both sat through our classes like little more than breathing corpses. The teachers, knowing at least the gist of what had happened, were sympathetic, and never called us out on our behavior.
In that week, Satoshi and I spent pretty much all of our free time at my apartment. We would talk sometimes, but neither of us seemed able to bring up a topic of any importance, such as the situation at the Halloween party six weeks earlier. Often, one of us would go to say something, but be unable to follow up.
I'm ashamed to admit it. But when Friday, the final day of the semester rolled around, I felt relieved. I was going home and would be away from my problems for a while.
I was concerned for Yukio and Haruka. But I knew after talking to Yukio that morning that they would, eventually, be alright. I was concerned about my relationship with Satoshi. But right then, I just felt like I needed to be away from him.
I knew we were both going back to Masara, but there seemed to be a silent understanding that we would stay as far away as possible from each other during that time. We had talked a little about our plans for the holidays, but we had never once made mention of spending any of the time together. I think Satoshi was as desperate for the time alone as I was. We both had healing to do.
I had purposefully booked a flight later in the day than Satoshi had. When it was time for him to leave, he surprised me by giving me a hug, and then he headed out for the taxi that was waiting in front of the building for him. I was sure by that point that Yukio and Haruka were already in Yamabuki City. I was alone, and my flight wasn't scheduled to leave until much later that evening.
I waited half an hour, just to make sure there was absolutely no chance of Satoshi coming back for some reason. I knew the risk was all but non-existent, as he had very few of his things at my place, but I didn't dare take even that small of a risk being caught doing what I knew I had to do. When I was sure I was safely alone, I laid face-down on the couch, resting my forehead on my folded arms.
And I began to cry.
Satoshi had shed his tears. Haruka and Yukio would likely continue to shed theirs for a long time to come. But foolish, arrogant me had refused to let the tears come, refused to allow myself to express the sorrow I fought tooth and nail to keep inside. I was the strong one. I had to be able to function, to support my friends when they needed me. I couldn't let myself break down and become useless to them.
I was an idiot.
I realized it almost the moment I let the flood gates open. I was jealous of Satoshi, of his ability to take what had happened, grieve, and begin the recovering process like a normal person. How much more useful could I have been, I wondered, if I had let this out at the beginning? How much more help could I have provided Haruka, Yukio, or even Satoshi, had I not been so weak as to feel the need to keep it inside, to not let it affect me?
I cried all the harder at the realization that I may have been able to do more for my friends, if not for the ego I thought I had left behind years ago.
I was a Creator-damned idiot.
Several hours of crying, a short drive, and roughly two hours of security red-tape later, I found myself on a plane headed for Tokiwa City, which contained the closest airport to Masara. I have no clue if the flight was enjoyable or not—the moment the Fasten Seatbelts sign was turned off, I asked the flight attendant for a pillow and blanket and slept like the dead for the entire 14-hour flight. I didn't wake, in fact, until the flight attendant shook me awake to inform me we were about to land and I needed to be awake and buckled in.
I didn't feel at all rested from my sleep, but I refused to let that fact slow me down. I made my way as quickly through baggage claim and customs as was possible, headed across the highway from the airport, and rented a car.
An hour later, I was was pulling into the driveway of my grandfather's estate. I'm not sure I had ever been so happy to see the place. It represented something I was in desperate need of: comfort and security. Once inside, I quickly found my grandfather in his lab and greeted him with a hug that I think I needed far more than he did. He wanted to talk. If I had given him half a chance, we'd have been at it for hours, and normally I would have been all for it. But I excused myself quickly, told him I needed some rest that he attributed to jet lag, and went to my room.
I collapsed into a bed I had all but outgrown and fell asleep.
The next three weeks passed entirely too quickly. Two days after I arrived, Nanami and her husband Saigo arrived to spend the Christmas holiday with Ojiisan. I spent much of the time catching up with Nanami, discussing Pokémon with with Ojiisan, and spending time with my hundreds of monsters in the open fields of the ranch.
I hadn't felt so relaxed since long before school started. For those three weeks, I had no responsibilities, no problems to deal with. I could literally feel my heart mending a little more each day. It was a wonderful feeling to have no worries, and even the daunting thought that my problems were still waiting for me when I returned could not curb my good mood as my vacation continued.
Christmas came and went, an uneventful though immeasurably pleasant experience. For New Year's, Ojiisan and I stayed home and watched the ball drop in Tamamushi Square, toasting in the new year with a bottle of chilled sake.
A few days later, it was time for me to head back. I promised Ojiisan I would do a better job of keeping in touch, and with one final hug I was off. A few hours later I was on a plane headed back for Minamo, and I felt confident that when I got there, I would be able to handle whatever life threw my way.
Like I said before, I'm a Creator-damned idiot.
End Chapter X.