My childhood for me was never 'conventional'. I didn't grow up with a mother and a father like most other children. I didn't have dolls or toys. But there again, what is normal when my mother is an unknown shadow of my father's past and my father... well, where do I start with him? Powerful, ruthless, he had everything and there was nothing he wanted that he couldn't get... well except one thing. But she was long gone...
All I know of her; the woman whose name can never be spoken, was that she was truly beautiful. An angel.
I'm told my birth was both filled with joy and great sorrow… new life began as hers faded. There was nothing the medics could do the help her. Or so they had said. It cost them their lives anyhow. For how else can a crime lord such as he handle such a loss?
My birth was the last time he saw me until I was ten...
Dark storm clouds pressed in around the island and sharp waves lifted the sea onto jagged rocks. Rain scorched the atmosphere, hurtling down like pointed spears, pounding at the hard, stone walls of the old castle.
I stood on the balcony's edge on the rooftop, a blindfold wrapped tightly around my head and arms outstretched. Every stroked step I took was slow and careful. One slip and I would fall, spiralling to my death on the rocks below. But I tried to keep my mind off that, drawing my attention to the point of the exercise.
"Good, Aisha! Now slowly, slowly!" my instructor; Sa'lu stood by just out of arm's reach. "Remember now, let your mind go. Picture the surface and most importantly, picture yourself doing the exercise."
I took in a deep breath, my heart threatening to break out of my ribcage. Every one of my joints ached from the cold and the endless training but still she pushed me on.
A flash of lightning flared through the dark sky so bright that for a split second, I could see through my blindfold. Thunder tore up the heavens, and the earth beneath my feet shook immensely.
"Just focus." Taking in another breath, I finally mustered the strength to lift my outstretched arms above my head, making my body shaky. The strong wind threatened to knock me right off the edge as slowly I leaned my body forward.
My hands touched the slippery, firm surface of the limestone ledge, my fingers barely gripping its sides.
"Good," I heard my instructor purr. "That's the way."
Steadily, I lifted my legs, hesitantly releasing my feet from their grip on the wall. I lifted my body up, my arms shaking under the pressure of my own weight and the weight of the howling wind. Rain pierced my skin and drenched my leotard. My cheeks were burning hot though I was immensely cold.
Coiling my arms, I leaned my body over into a backbend, now exposing my stomach to the storm. And then finally with what remaining strength I had, I pulled myself upright only to flip over and over again, becoming quicker as I went along the wall.
I had to count my steps, one false move and I would simply...
I halted immediately, one leg hanging out in mid-air, gulping down the urge to tear off my blindfold. I attempted to put my leg down in front of me but there was nothing but air. I felt the approach of my master as she reached up and ripped off my blindfold anyway and immediately I had to fight combined dizziness and the urge to panic as I glimpsed the crashing ocean below me. One more step and I would have been down there…
"Aisha, how many times do I have to tell you?" The old master's voice shrilled. "Trace your steps! It does matter how fast this exercise is done, but it is also important to pace your self. Otherwise you end up down there with the fishes." She signalled to the ocean below.
I heaved a sigh, running my hands through my drenched, waist-long hair. "I'm sorry. It's just that I can't bring my mind into focus. It's too cold."
"Quit your complaining!" Sa'lu shouted. "If you can't bring your mind to do this, then you're good for nothing in the eyes of me. Now, let's do this again, and we're not stopping until you get it right."
I let my body sink into the soft, linen sheets of my bed. Every one of my joints were sore and bruised from such intense training. Never in my life had I trained so hard. My master, Sa'lu; the owner of this island was a hard taskmaster, but she always knew when I struggled with an exercise and would often leave it for a time when I could perform better.
But this time she had pushed me almost beyond my limits. Twice I had very nearly scraped an encounter with the rocks below and three times I'd slipped and fallen back onto the balcony by Sa'lu's feet. Each time, Sa'lu hadn't been there to help me hold my balance.
The loud scratching noise at the door echoed throughout my bedchamber which brought me out from beneath the sheets. I carefully padded across an icy floor and opened the door just a crack, allowing entry to an orange and tanned, striped Pokémon.
The feline's stride was redeemed and dignified as he made his way back to my bed, patting at my pillow, asking me for attention.
"Ko'rah," I sighed sitting down next to him.
The cat-like Pokémon purred loudly as I stroked his fine, silky fur. Ko'rah was a strange Pokémon cross breed. Part Persian and part something else. I wasn't sure what that something was, but it was obvious that whatever it was, it had a striped pattern down its back just like Ko'rah's.
He was not my cat however. He belonged to Sa'lu. Everything belonged to her. The master of the island, and also a master of Pokémon herself she had retired and come to live in this place where she had since taken on another form of training. A member of the elite in the 'shadow world', it was here that people like my father would bring a child of theirs to be brought up. Children meant for bigger and greater things than mere Pokémon mastery.
I'd spent ten years in this place, at the foot of this woman. She'd told me on my tenth birthday, everything would change and that I would have to be prepared.
My tenth birthday would be tomorrow.
A loud scratching at the bedroom door caused me to stir, interrupting the strange dream I was having. I blinked awake in the darkness of my bedchamber and realised much to my disappointment, it was still evening.
"Merrooowww!" A demanding howl came from the floor across the room.
I reached a tired hand over to the lamp on my bedside. "Ko'rah! What?" I demanded at the cat, squinting in the light until my eyes had adjusted.
"Merroooww!" The Pokémon moaned, again scratching at the door, demanding his departure from the room.
I slid from the bed, wrapping myself in a dressing gown that was said to have once belonged to my mother. I pulled the door open, trying not to let it creak on its hinges like it normally did, and watched as Ko'rah curiously dashed from the room and down the long hallway. This wasn't normal for Ko'rah to do this! Usually the Pokémon spent his night sleeping at the foot of my bed, unconcerned as to what was going on in the outside world.
"Ko'rah!" I hissed, following the Pokémon on his little quest, ordering him back but it was to no avail.
The Pokémon approached another wooden door slightly ajar and pushed his way into the room. I paused. This door was to Sa'lu's office, the one room of the castle with which my entry was forbidden. I glared angrily at Ko'rah through the crack he'd left behind. He had since taken residency by the fireplace.
I could hear voices in the room, low and sinister. My name was mentioned and immediately I knew who was there...
I watched through the crack in the door as Sa'lu paced in front of the fireplace, oblivious to Ko'rah's intrusion.
"I have trained her to the best of my ability within the time frame I've been given but…" she paused biting her bottom lip.
"But what?" the large man asked coldly.
"It's not enough," she whispered through gritted teeth.
"What?" he almost leapt from his chair. "What do you mean it's not enough? I've given you more than enough! More than I originally proposed." He headed over toward Sa'lu, circling her. Even through the door I could feel his presence and high authority.
Sa'lu looked at her empty glass, placing it down on the table. "You don't understand Giovanni. She is too…. independent. She has her mother's spirit. It will take longer to curb this."
The man's mouth snapped shut. As if lost for an argument, he backed down, his tone becoming calm. "No. That won't be necessary."
Sa'lu sighed, "Then I fear this sentiment you still have toward your late wife will become your undoing. I've done everything to the best of my ability, Giovanni. There is nothing else I can do, Aisha is yours."
The man named Giovanni seemed suddenly taken aback as he stopped… as though the thought of taking me in under his wing had only just struck him.
"Alright," he whispered after a moment of uneasy hesitation, "I'll take her, give you your money and we'll leave tomorrow."
Sa'lu seemed happy, though she chose not to answer him. She simply turned her back to him, facing the fire place. "Good, then I'll get my butler to show you to your sleeping quarters. I'll have her ready for you first thing tomorrow morning."