Author's Note: Hi guys! Thanks for anyone who bothered to wait for this chapter. Hopefully future updates will be more frequent.
SO. I switched to Japanese names. There is no reason for this except that name changing really gets under my skin. With names, there are also honorifics. I know that this is going to really piss some people off and some of you are going to want to give me a long lecture about how you should never use Japanese honorifics in an English fanfic and blah blah blah. Guys, I've heard it all, and I really don't care. I like using the honorifics and that's all there is to it. If you don't like it, don't read the fanfic. Or copy and paste onto Word and find-and-replace all the honorifics away.
HOWEVER, if you have any suggestions/criticism on how to better use the honorifics, don't hesitate to let me know/chew me out for screwing up.
Oh and as for the chapter itself... the main thing that bothers me about it is that Crys has barely mentioned her Pokemon so far in the fic... but I'll fix that soon.
All right, let's backtrack a little bit for this part.
Before Green flew off to the meeting in the Indigo Plateau, he stopped by the PokéMart in Tokiwa City to stock up on supplies.
Years ago - so I'm told - Tokiwa City was a clearing of a forest. It had been dim from the trees that hovered over it on all sides, and you had to speak loudly to be heard over the constant chirp of Poppo and buzz of Spear. On the outskirts of town, bug catchers had showed off the newest additions to their team, and lasses had plucked leaves from each others' hair. Occasionally a rookie trainer, fresh out of the forest, would have been stomping his feet in anger outside the Tokiwa Gym, demanding a challenge and daring the absent Gym Leader to come out of hiding and fight him. These trainers had never considered the idea that they would have lost even if Sakaki had been there to battle.
It was different now that the forest was gone - well, almost gone, anyway. Poppo and bug catchers searched for Caterpie elsewhere. Trainers entered the town looking as though they'd just had a stroll through the park.
Green never had been a sentimental person, yet the absence of the forest he'd braved as a child made the city seem empty. He took comfort in the mosses that grew on the stony pavement and buildings; it made him feel as though the forest refused to die.
How odd he should feel this way.
But then again, everything seemed to sadden Green these days. Ever since he'd heard about Red.
As Green neared the PokéMart, he sensed somebody watching him. He looked up and met the eyes of a girl standing by the Mart's entrance.
He stopped walking - a sudden déjà vu swept over him as he took in the girl's features. She was a Trainer - that was clear. She was dressed like a lass, but her clothes were worn and her hair was matted. The look on her face was unreadable - a mixture of hope, hunger, and fear - and she wouldn't remove her gaze from Green's face.
As Green approached the Mart entrance, the girl gestured toward him and opened her mouth - then closed it, seeming to lose courage to speak. Green knew it would have been polite ask what she wanted, but he strode past her. If she didn't have the will to say it, he didn't have the time to listen. Besides, she was probably just a fangirl.
"Good morning!" The merchant greeted Green as he stepped in. "What can I get you today?"
"Three Potions and a Paralyze Heal, please."
"Yessir. Going on a trip?" Green noted the overly-friendly tone in the man's voice. The merchant was one of those people who knew that it was a big deal to be an acquaintance of a former champion and was proud of it, but tried to act like it didn't matter.
"Briefly," Green answered dismissively.
"I see." The merchant turned to take the items off the shelves. "I saw that girl there talking to you. Do you know her?"
Something in the man's tone implied there was something significant about this.
"That - nothing. She just wanted to ask me to battle."
"Oh," the man said - but his face was disappointed by, and doubtful of, the casual answer. "That's all? There was a brief pause and the merchant must have felt awkward, because he added, "That's pretty rude. You think they'd learn to just appear at the Gym."
Green was getting irritated. "It's fine. She's just a kid."
He glanced impatiently at the door and caught sight of the girl watching them through the window.
Déjà vu again. Green didn't know why.
"Whatever you say," the man rattled on. There was a thud - the merchant had dropped the items onto the table. Green took the change from the tray, placed the potions in his bag, and started off.
He passed the girl again on his way out, and was ignoring her again when she caught his hand.
He spun around and looked at her. There was a tentative smile on her face and her eyes bore right into him.
"Green," she whispered. "It's me. Leaf."
"You recognize me, don't you, Green?" She continued, her face unchanging. "It hasn't been that long?"
"Erm... I'm sorry? Did we battle before, or something?" Sometimes Green met up with people who had battled him before he became the Champion. They all hoped he remembered them, but he rarely did.
"Battle - what, no!" There was a hint of desperation. "It' me, silly! Leaf!"
This was odd. Usually his forgotten former rivals were mildly disappointed to learn that Green didn't remember them. This girl was in a frenzy.
''I'm sorry," said Green unsurely. "Remind me how I met you...?"
"We were babies!" She cried.
"Um, you must be mistaken - "
"It happened! We went to school together!" She almost shrieked in his face.
Cleary, this girl had mental issues. Green backed away, smiling awkwardly. Trying to lighten the mood, he said, "If I'd ever known someone named Leaf, I think I'd remember - "
"You don't remember?" She butted in. "You don't remember when you said we'd be friends our whole lives!?"
And suddenly Green remembered where the déjà vu came from.
Green smirked. He loved this feeling. He towered above the black-eyed boy in both body and power, and he loved it. He laughed.
"I don't like to play anymore, Red!"
"But, why?" His black eyes were as deep as Mt. Otsukimi.
"'Cause you're a loser-crybaby!"
"Why!?" Red scrambled to his feet.
"I hate you!" Green fist met Red's jaw and the smaller boy fell back onto his knees. Cruel laughter filled the air.
There was pure anger and hurt in Red's eyes - yet the boy did nothing to stand up for himself.
"You too chicken to fight back?" Green sneered.
"I could never hurt you, Green," Red said steadily.
"'Why?'" Red shot, springing to his feet. "You don't remember? You don't remember when you said we'd be friends our whole lives!?"
Stunned, Green stepped backwards, yanking away from the girl. "I'm sorry," He said tightly. "That wasn't me."
"But we've been friends since we were little!" Leaf protested.
He backed away. "No."
She pursued him. "We both hoped that each other would be Champion someday!"
"That's not - "
"Remember the hiking trip when the whole class raced to the top of Mt. Otsukimi and we won - together!?"
A dusty path. Mud. Red face down in it.
"That'll teach you to get ahead of me, loser! I'm gonna win - by myself!" Green laughed as he ran away.
Green stared at the girl dumbly.
Her deep eyes were as black as Mt. Otsukimi.
"Please Green?" She whispered. "Not you, too."
She grabbed his wrist and he flinched; her touch was like the bite of an Itomaru. Then something rose up in him. That cold thing that he'd hoped he'd never see again - there it was. It kicked his vulnerability in the gut and all that was left was a calm, stiff disgust.
Green yanked his hand away hard and Leaf stumbled before falling onto her knees.
"That never happened. You must be mistaken."
The coldness didn't recede until Green had put quite a bit of distance between himself and the PokéMart. He looked back over his shoulder. Leaf was gone.
Shaken, Green pressed the button on his belt and appeared in a beam of red light. He climbed onto its back without saying anything.
"Sekiei Plateau. Fly," were the only words he could manage.
Green's eyes were locked on Mt. Otsukimi until it was time to land.
OK. Now let's get back to where we were.
Sigh. Meetings. Matis was right about one thing - they were not what I had envisioned when I stood before the Sekiei Plateau that fateful day. Geez. I don't even know what I did envision. When I decided to take the Gym Challenge, I was only thinking about getting away from Wakaba Town. I'd wanted to go to a place where it would just be me and my Pokémon, and no one else to hold us down. That happiness had ended at Fusube City.
Except for the Hall of Fame. The Hall of Fame was my haven when I wanted to be alone with my Pokémon, and Wataru. The two of us would meet there and he'd tell me stories about Champions past. He loved history and knew the answer to almost any question you could think of. In return, I told him about Johto. Wataru was from Johto, but had moved to Kanto when he was very young and didn't remember very much. He liked to hear about Johto's legends.
Wataru had gone to eat dinner after the meeting, though, so I expected the Hall of Fame to be empty. Thus, I was a little taken aback when I swung open the door to see none other than Green.
"Oh! H-hi," I said.
"Good evening, Champion," Green said nonchalantly as I shut the door behind me. "You seem rather surprised to see me.
'I just - "
"What's the matter? Have you forgotten that I, too, was once the Champion?"
I grimaced. "It's not that. I'm just not used to running into people here."
"I see." Green's voice was oddly mellow and distant.
I moved to stand next to Green. He was facing the wall that showed every former champion's picture. I spotted my own picture in a corner, next to Red's. My face looked rather plain, and my hair was dirty, but you could tell I was glowing with joy. Next to me, Red beamed at the camera like an excited schoolboy. It was kind of funny, seeing him like that - everyone thought of him as this great legendary Champion who defeated Team Rocket, became Champion, and then ran away and mysteriously disappeared. But judging from the picture, he could have been any ordinary kid off the street. I found Wataru's picture. He wore a calm but deep smile. Green's much-younger-seeming face was between the pictures of Wataru and Red, and Green stood out for his youth and by the fact that he was sticking his tongue out at the camera. I wondered if Green was looking at that picture and regretting the fact that he hadn't taken his short reign more seriously. But then I glanced at Green's face, and I could see that he wasn't looking at his own picture.
He was looking at Red's.
Oh, I thought, swallowing. That explained why Green was acting so distant. I'd probably interrupted him in some kind of memorial for Red. Now that I thought about it, Wataru had told me that Red and Green had known each other since they were babies.
"Should I leave you alone, Green?" I asked tentatively. I didn't want to butt in but I didn't want him to think I didn't want to be around him.
Green turned around and looked at me directly for the first time. "No. It's fine."
"Are you, um, thinking about Red?"
He nodded. "Yeah."
"I'm, um, sorry for your loss."
He looked at me fiercely. "I don't think he's really dead."
I gulped. "Oh?"
"They just declared him dead because they needed a new permanent Champion. They really had no reason to believe that. Just because there was a rock slide in the place where he was last spotted doesn't mean he's dead."
"…That's true," I said solemnly.
"For all we know," Green continued, "Red is living among us now. He could have changed his identity. I'm sure that's what happened. He was getting sick of the pressure of being the Champion. That doesn't mean he'd become some kind of hermit."
"Hmm." I nodded.
"Besides," Green continued, "a rock slide wouldn't kill Red. Nothing could. That kid was… just invincible."
"That's how I felt about my brother," I blurted – then bit my tongue. Why did I just say that!?
Casually, Green shifted his attention to me. "Who?"
Darn. I had to tell him now. My heart was beating rapidly.
I wasn't used to talking about my brother.
"My… older brother went missing when I was in third grade," I explained, trying to sound matter-of-fact, but failing. "He was… I was sure he was all right. But he… they found his body in Tsunagari Cave."
"Oh," said Green quietly. "I'm… so sorry to hear that."
"Don't be. I don't know why I just told you," I said, sitting down against the shelf that held the Hall of Fame PC. "I don't like to talk about it."
Green sat down next to me. "Why not?"
I considered. "Because people don't care."
"Makes sense," said Green. "But why'd you tell me, then?"
"Because I can't keep my mouth shut," I answered automatically. But then I thought about it – why had I? "You have… this thing about you. And it makes me want to tell you things. I guess it's because you'd understand."
Green raised his eyebrows. "I would, would I?"
"Well, yeah," I said. "I mean, since your friend is missing too."
Green laughed cynically. "I was never Red's 'friend'. And you might want to think twice before pouring your heart out to me again. I'll probably stomp on it."
I bit my lip. This was why I didn't talk about it. Stupid me. "S-sorry."
"Don't apologize," said Green. "I was just warning you."
"Hmm," I said, and sighed. "Hey, Green?"
"About Red… what was he like?"
Green laughed again, though more softly this time. "Of all the questions you could have asked me about Red, you ask that one. Look. I grew up with Red. I could tell you his address, his date of birth, and his mother's maiden name, but I don't think I ever really knew what he was like.
"Red was… I guess there were some obvious qualities. He was quiet. He always seemed kind of disconnected from the outside world. But he was really friendly and adventurous. And he always seemed kind of weak, but nothing had the power to really bring him down." He paused and looked at me suddenly. "You know what? Now that I think about it, Red is a lot like you."
"Really?" I asked, curious and pleased. "How so?"
"Hmm. Well, you know. Kind-hearted. Curious. And… " he grinned wickedly as he sprung to his feet. "And really fun to tease."
"H-hey!" I jumped up, ready to give him a piece of my mind – but he'd already turned his back on me.
I crossed my arms and pouted at him behind his back. "You're such a jerk."
"I know I am," Green said nonchalantly as he moved towards the door. Then he paused, doubled over, and looked at the picture wall. "Smell ya later."
"What!?" I demanded indignantly.
"I wasn't talking to you," Green said quietly as he shut the door behind him.