Disclaimer: No, I still don't own Pokemon. All rights are copyright their respective owners. I do, however, own two adorable Celebi and Umbreon plushies. Mean Look, Baton Pass, and Perish Song, anyone?
They had insisted upon a photo shoot. Edward probably should have seen it coming and Felix probably had, but it didn't make the tedious process any less annoying. The family would probably have it enlarged and framed by an outside source to put in the massive hall kept for just such significant happenings, forever a reminder to the family and the world of the four Godminds who would either make or rewrite history on this day.
Each of the four Godminds stood at the forefront, of course. Their order was no indication of hierarchy- it was merely the order in which they were always seen and portrayed: by order of age, from eldest to youngest. First stood Alexander, his blue robe fashioned with the Titan of the Seas clashing vividly with his amber skin and limpid platinum blonde hair, posing in a sneering position for which he would always be remembered when the camera caught him in its eye. Behind him stood his tutor, Crassus, the aged Alakazam bending with arthritis so that he stood considerably shorter than his charge; next to Crassus, almost as an afterthought, stood Alexander's Lowmind mother and father, their tiny statures and visages not reflected in the guise of their comparatively giant son.
Felix stood next in line, his clothes and fluffy light red hair, along with his perpetual half-smile, making him seem a far softer figure than his younger cousin. Felix had no living immediate family to speak of at the manor and his tutor, Edward's Uncle Cassius, was unfortunately unavailable due to his job as director and conductor of the Goldenrod Philharmonic Orchestra, so he himself stood alone. Cradled gently in his arms was Felix's Chimecho, its light, airy form and cheerful smile a foil for its owner's.
Dwarfed by his father and tutor, who were one in the same, Oberon stood hunched, as though he feared the camera. Edward and Oberon's father, the Gardevoir that the family knew as Puck, brushed the long blue bangs out of Oberon's eyes with a tender gesture, revealing the large, striking blue eyes that Oberon's mother had given him. They formed such a contrast with his father's own dull red orbs that Edward wondered, not for the first time, how he and his brother could have come from the same parents. Nonetheless, Oberon shrunk from the contact, telling their father that he preferred his eyes to stay hidden. Edward sighed as the hurt that their father kept so well hidden sprung into his eyes for a moment, but it receded just as quickly and he instead moved his hand to Oberon's shoulder.
Why did Oberon have to be that way? Certainly, he had been far closer to their mother, who had been his original tutor, but could he not see how his father loved him so? Why could he not allow himself to open to that affection? Could he not see that their father still grieved as much as he himself?
Too many questions, too many empty answers. Edward shook his head as Grandfather fiddled with the tripod of the only camera the family could find, hearing him mentally curse as his unwieldy hands knocked the thing off of the stand for the umpteenth time. At his own feet stood Helena, regally poised and patient as ever. Her figure formed a nice contrast to his own appearance, thought Edward, her deep, black eyes offsetting his own red ones nicely; her fur, too, he thought was a nice accompaniment to his own distinctly Morrison red hair, but this was perhaps taking the comparison a bit too far, as he was naturally inclined to be a bit biased towards his tutor.
He did not know how long they stood in such static poses, but it seemed an age. Grandfather finally managed to get the camera set up (after delegating the task to Edward's second cousin Philip) after yet more setbacks, and it was sometime in mid-afternoon when the four Godminds at last began to say their goodbyes.
The Godminds, their tutors and parents all stood at the far gate at the south end of the courtyard, the reaching branches of the Ilex Forest just creeping over the bluestone walls, dripping forlorn little raindrops onto the ground of the courtyard. Alexander reveled in this sort of weather, and it only served to boost his insufferable confidence as he proclaimed to his gushing parents promises of swift, calculated victory.
Edward's own parting was much less loud. As tightly as he could manage, Edward and Oberon's father grasped one of their hands in each of his- a gesture that was nonetheless saddening, the grip was so feeble.
I wish for both of you to know that you have made me more proud than I could have ever imagined, he said to them, teary eyes looking them both over, as though he were trying to imprint their images in his memory forever. That I should have fathered not one but two of the greatest psychics that this family has ever known… it is overwhelming. He turned his eyes to the ground, his tone becoming melancholic instead of proud. But I nonetheless feel that this is a last goodbye… I shall not see you again as you are now.
Father… replied Edward, troubled by Puck's deeply saddened mental voice. It is for but a while that we part the manor; why are you so troubled?
"H-have we done anything to earn your disfavor?" asked Oberon in his squeak of a voice. Their father simply shook his head.
No, do not be troubled on my account, my children. This… this is simply difficult for me to do. We Gardevoir can be so attached to those that we love that we can barely let go even for the greater good. A smile played about their father's mouth even as a tear rolled down his alabaster cheek. But I shouldn't have to tell you that; you are, after all, my children.
Edward grasped his father's hand as hard as he dared, fighting back the tears that threatened to surface in his eyes. Oberon merely looked at the ground.
Slowly and with a clear amount of internal effort, Puck released his grip from his children's hands. Taking a deep breath to steady his own raging emotions, their father continued: I will speak once more as a father and once as your tutor, Oberon, and I shall begin with the latter. I expect you to come back from this journey different than as you are now. You are a sniveling, shirking coward though you possess a potential of strength beyond even mine- and you would not be glaring at me so if you knew it to not be true. I have done my best in the stead of your mother to give you the mind and abilities that you will need no matter what you will do with your life, but you lack any sort of confidence. I am, for this reason, ashamed to call you my son. Oberon seethed beneath his masking bangs; could his father, his supposedly loving father, really be saying this without a touch of regret?
And you, Edward, though I am not your tutor, I ask you this as a tutor and superior, and not as a father. Will you make sure that Oberon complies with this?
Edward nodded to his father. It should not be too difficult to keep him in line.
Oberon raised his voice indignantly. "Keep me in line! I have just as much a stake in this as he!"
Well, this shows that you were listening, at least, replied their father, chuckling silently. His eyes and tone softened once more. And now I may speak once more as father. Oberon, I have something here for you… something that I know you have coveted ever since I first began to wear it.
In the strictest sense, their father wore only one thing. "What? You can't mean… not mom's locket? But… she gave that to you…"
And what is to stop me from giving it to you? You will fight loneliness as well as battles on this journey, my sons, and this will give you hope. Any way in which I can be of help to you is worthwhile. Puck slipped the slender, golden chain off of his neck and placed it, with only a slight pause, into Oberon's small, trembling hands.
"…thank you," said Oberon quietly, not meeting his father's face as he stared at the small piece of jewelry in his hand. At length, he slipped it over his own neck, where it reached down fully to his waist due to his lack of height. A subdued little smile crept onto his face. Edward and Puck exchanged one last nod before Puck closed his eyes and simply vanished.
So… that was it, then. They were left to their own devices.
Not quite yet, dear Edward; I think you would be a mess if I left you entirely to your own devices. I have but one thing that I must tell you. Ah, yes. He had all but forgotten his own tutor.
For shame, she chuckled. Am I that easily forgettable?
Not at all, Helena. What was it that you wished to say to me? Looking about, he could not see her anywhere in the expansive courtyard. His heart sank; so he would not see her once more before he left. She must have been called to something inside the manor… that had to be it.
Sentimentality is not how we thrive, dear Edward. At any rate, that which I did not have a chance to tell you this morning is that- her stream of thought ceased, abruptly, for just a moment. That was odd; Helena almost never misspoke or corrected herself. Nonetheless, her thoughts came to him strong once more, as though there had been no interruption. My apologies; I do not know what came over me.
Are you feeling well, Helena? asked Edward with an intentional tone of concern.
Do not be so concerned for my welfare. I merely lost concentration for a moment. I only wished to give you the motivation before you left that I will personally watch you at Mt. Silver if you should be successful in your endeavors. She paused once more. Take care, Edward.
I shall. With that, their link closed, and for the first time in that day, or, indeed, for years, Edward felt in his mind…
…nothing. No presence of any kind. They were truly on their own, then.
"Now what?" asked Oberon.
Edward sighed. Now for business.
Four Godminds going in the same direction would have been suicidal. No matter how withdrawn or pleasant each of them tried to be, the presence of so many others with equivocal powers would lead them to destroy each other. Such instincts were only barely contained in the manor. Thus, it was decided after a remarkably civil discussion that Felix and Alexander would take the path north to Goldenrod City while Edward and Oberon would head south through the woods to Azalea Town.
An outsider that were to look at the pair of brothers carefully picking their way through the wet, mossy underbrush and dripping branches with umbrellas held over their heads would never think of them as woodsmen by any stretch of the imagination. They resembled pale, gangly introverts lacking for exercise more than anything else, but moved with a practiced step through the dense woods as a Goldeen through water. Every now and then one of them would gesture and a branch would shift upwards over their umbrellas to let them pass. A more astute observer would note that though they were slogging fairly rapidly through sodden underbrush and leaves, their feet made no discernable sound, and though the taller of the two was wearing archaic clothes that made him look like the son of a Johto nobleman of antiquity, no branch or burr ever snagged even a thread of his vêtements grandes.
All in all, the Morrisons were not good woodsmen. The woods simply did what they wanted, or else. It was generally considered a good arrangement, as no woodsmen, no matter how hard they looked, would ever stumble across the manor. A shame, really, thought Edward. They always had so much food to spare.
As Edward and Oberon tramped through the sodden forest and a particularly stubborn bough that was frantically trying to lift itself high enough to clear their passage was ripped from its host tree for lollygagging by Edward's gesture, Edward asked his brother, Oberon, you have been this way more often than I. How far is it to the main path?
"Oh? Erm… about half a mile I believe. Why?"
Since we are, for lack of a better term, Pokemon "trainers"- Edward's mental tone as he all but spat the word was a calculated mix of sigh, disgust and the placating voice one uses on a spoiled child. Though I certainly fit the description better than you, it would be prudent to find some sort of capture in these woods before we get on the main thoroughfare, do you not think?
"Well…" hummed Oberon, hearing the underlying question beyond the simple affirmation that Edward had asked. "There is a Nidoran about a quarter mile to the east. Everything else around here seems to be under cover due to the rain."
Can you tell what gender?
"How would I know?!" snapped Oberon; the rain had been playing havoc with his hair ever since they left the protective barrier of the Morrison's courtyard weather shield, and he was not in a good mood. "They have very… uncomplicated minds. There's little to read."
Edward sighed. Point taken; it was a stupid question. Still, it's better than nothing, and I do believe it will be no trouble. He began to walk off deeper into the woods, but Oberon's voice, a touch of malicious chuckle creeping in, called after him, "Edward, that's west."
I knew that, he replied, pivoting in place and thrusting ahead with his umbrella as if there had been no interruption.
Most Pokemon in the world could be classified as being at the low end of Lowminds as creatures that functioned totally or very nearly so on instinct and needs. Some built up a semblance of a social structure, but there was no true power in it, as most Highminds knew. Yet even these were the minority, and most Pokemon simply lived out their days as sole agents of instinct: eating, living, hunting, mating, dying. The rule among these most minor of species was by strength alone. They knew no other way.
However, in less than a million, even a hundred million, there is sometimes the oddball that is bred. They might lack in strength, but what they lack in power they make up for in… ideas.
The tiny female Nidoran scuttled gleefully along through the thick Ilex underbrush, not minding the rain at all even though it made the creature's thick fur sodden and heavy. She loved the rain, but couldn't understand why she never saw any others out foraging when the tears of the trees fell down. Oh well, it meant she could gather more food, even if it meant crossing over to another Nidoran's territory, who would just run her off if it was bright-light-time.
She remembered that she cried when she was sad. Maybe they were sad because the trees were sad? Why were the trees sad, then? She had lost one of her cubs in dead-tree-time last year… did the trees cry because a little-tree died? She chewed a juicy-looking plant as she thought about this in her dim, wandering way.
If that was so, then why was everyone else in the forest sad? Should she be? Was it wrong to be out foraging like this? But… didn't the tears of the trees feel so good?
The little Nidoran held onto the plant with her teeth until the very last minute as she was lifted into the air; it was so hard to find this kind, and she wanted to savor it until the very last minute. So… there was someone else out here when the trees were crying. Probably a big Ursaring, she thought. After all, she would have been an easy target if there were anyone else out. She wondered if she would taste like the plant she had just eaten.
It occurred to her as she hung limply in the air that she didn't feel anything holding her up. Was this why she never saw anyone else out when the trees were crying? Were they going to hurt her?
She saw two figures picking their way through the trees to where she hung suspended in the air, holding two strange mushrooms in the air off of which the tears of the trees fell off, keeping those under them dry. Gee, she had never thought of that before. If others could stop the tears of the trees from hitting them, they could go out as they wished. She saddened at the thought; she liked being alone out here.
Oberon couldn't hide his puzzlement. "Well, this is the Nidoran I detected, but…"
There is something wrong with it?
"If you would wish, you could call it that. It doesn't feel any fear or puzzlement that-"
She, Oberon, interrupted Edward. This is a female.
"…very well, she," replied Oberon with a touch of exasperation in his voice, "does not feel any sort of fear or that anything is out of the ordinary as you hold her there."
Has she any idea what we are?
"Not that I can tell."
Good, replied Edward, digging in the satchel that hung at his side. He raised an Ultra Ball in his fingers. She should offer no resistance to this, then.
The Nidoran saw that which Edward was holding and began to panic, thrashing about and squeaking in high-pitched tones of fear even as she hung in the air. She knew what that was- another tall thing like the two of them had used it on a fellow Nidorina with whom she sometimes foraged when food was plenty. It had eaten her up in one big gulp and the tall thing had taken her away while the little berry thing was still wiggling. She somehow knew that the little berry thing hadn't eaten her friend like she ate the plants and that her friend still had the in-out breeze in her, but she didn't want to be taken away like her friend had been. Not while she could still enjoy the tears of the trees. She bared her little fangs at the tall things, lowering her ears in a threatening way and raising the tiny poisonous barbs that blended so neatly into her fur.
Edward sighed. I suppose we could not count ourselves so lucky. Shut her up, would you, Oberon?
"Very well." Oberon stood still, looking down at the ground with his umbrella in hand as he focused his thoughts on a single leaf, memorizing every vein and contour of the cracked, brown- possibly oak- husk. He snapped his head up, brushing his hair out of his eyes as they met those of the Nidoran, still hissing and spluttering ineffectively in the air. She continued on her little rampage for a moment, then instantly fell limp and quiet as she stared into Oberon's unblinking blue eyes. She couldn't understand where the two tall things had gone, or why she saw nothing but leaves. Had they…? She could not even think of a question.
Edward casually tossed the Ultra Ball which enveloped the Nidoran with a flash of light. It did not shake even once before the capture mechanism clicked into place, sealing the little creature's fate.
What a strange little creature... Interesting technique, by the way, said Edward. My hypnosis isn't quite as strong as that. How do you do yours?
Oberon let his hair fall back and looked up at his brother's face, his eyes and expression thus obscured as usual. "It isn't hypnosis. Mom taught me that; her ways always work better for me than Dad's."
Oh… Quickly changing the subject as he saw what was clearly a sullen look descend on his brother, Edward snapped his umbrella forward, spattering his brother with stray raindrops. Oberon gave an indignant glare.
We have to get going; Azalea Town is still a long way off, and I don't relish the thought of tramping through these woods until all hours of the night.
Oberon shrugged. "Alright then; follow me."
The two continued on into the damp forest, the trees seemingly closing behind them, leaving no trace that they had ever been there.
And night descended on the Ilex Forest.