I've been thinking lately. About Okaa-san, and Green, and Ōkido-hakase. Wataru and Kanna and Siba and Kikuko. Different Trainers I met along the way. Ones whose names I never knew, with faces I never memorized. Even the Rockets, and the little boy who used to hang around in their hide-outs. I've been wondering. About all of them.

It's so hard now to imagine what their lives are like outside now. In their little societies, with all the drama and man-made problems. Do they really understand the meaning of the words they seem to proud to speak? Love, I learned in this place, is not a contract to hang over someone's head. Friendship - this kind - doesn't end with the deletion of a phone number. Does it? Maybe I'm just out of touch. I've been alone for so long, I'm the one who doesn't know what words mean. Perhaps we haven't found the words for these kinds of feelings yet, so I made up phrases for myself. If I am wrong, and this really isn't the same thing as love... I like my definition better.

I don't really miss them. It's hard to miss them when they're here in my thoughts. I missed them more when I was still the Champion. To miss someone is to be with him or her, and know the things between you both aren't like they used to be. I missed Green when he saw me as the one who stole his Championship from him, instead of the childhood rival who he liked to tease. And I missed Okaa-san when she saw me as her son who had left a long time ago, instead of the little boy who needed her to kiss it better when he scraped his knee. Worst of all, I missed the strangers when they started calling me "Champion" instead of "Trainer".

But now, everything I remember about them – the memories are sweet, now. Not like communication, which, until I came here, always seemed to be so painful.

I bet they're wondering what I'm doing, staying up here instead of down there with them. I used to wonder, too.

It's because I was the Champion.

It's true. I was ecstatic to be the Champion, yes. I'd worked toward that goal all my life. That was the problem. Once I'd met the goal, I had nothing to work for. I'd gotten everything I'd ever wanted, but lost my sole purpose in life. And being the Champion was simply not the same thing as being a normal Trainer. No carefree traveling or you were irresponsible. No hanging out, or you were shirking your duties. And the other Trainers never had the courage to just battle. To add to it all, I was being chased constantly by reporters. Everything I did ended up in the papers. It wasn't what I wanted, but by the time I realized that, it was too late to go back. The next best thing was to go home.

But I couldn't. I just couldn't go back to home, where there was nothing for me. So I decided to go wherever my feet took me. At first, I was thinking about Johto. They shared our League, but people said the Trainers weren't as serious there. Most people said that condescendingly, but it sounded perfect to me. Of course, I never made it to Johto. This place was as far as I got. Mt. Shirogane. And I'm still here.

When will I go back?

I'm staring now at the blinding brightness that leads to the outside world. It is not like the light that leads to the meadow where wild mushroom and berries grow and there are dead trees and dry places to start a fire. That is not so bright with the walls of mountain to loom over it. There is light there, but no human eyes to register it. There is no brightness.

This is the brightness that comes not from the sun, but from watches, televisions, flickering cameras. This is the brightness that will chase all the peaceful privacy into the deepest corners until it finally shrinks away. This is the brightness that will not leave with the closing of eyelids, because the images it bears are so potent they will embed themselves into my thoughts. And I am scared of that brightness, but ever since the last Time of New Firewood Gathering, I have been staring into it for periods of Time It Takes to Get Hungry in between intervals of Time It Takes to Nap. At first not knowing if I would touch it. And then came the time when I realized that the If had dwindled down to a When without a Why.

I have stepped closer to it. I have never been this close before. I blink because my eyes hurt, but I don't keep them closed. The six Pokémon who were with me before I came have gathered and I can sense that each individual one is feeling my apprehension.

The moment the tip of my foot meets the brightness, it crawls up through the tunnels of me, burning the dark security of those twelve seasons on Mt. Shirogane away.