Epiphany – A moment or event in which a character achieves a spiritual insight into life or into her or his own circumstances.
I think... I'm in love with her…
Nervously, I glanced down at my pokégear, hoping for some sign that she was still okay and well. The shrill ring of the device in question startled me out of my thoughts, and I frantically scrambled to answer the incoming call. My Marill looked up from the edge of the tall grass several feet away and made a squeak of curiosity.
"Ah, Hibiki! Guess what?"
"Uh," I glanced up and brought my knee up out of habit. My foot started to slowly slip off the rotting wood, but I didn't mind. "What?"
"I just got my sixteenth gym badge! Isn't that awesome?"
"Yeah, I'm happy for you." I looked at the afternoon sky and noted that there wasn't a cloud in sight. I hummed in approval and turned my attention back to my pokégear. "So, are you headed home?"
"Mmhm! Just as soon as I talk to Professor Oak. Then I'll fly straight home!"
I kicked off of the stump I was sitting on and nodded to my Marill. She gave an excited nod before running back to my side, almost tripping in her excitement. Wordlessly, I recalled her and called out Ho-Oh, my only pokémon capable of flight at the moment.
"I'll see you later then?"
"Yeah, see you, Hibiki!"
I mounted the legendary carefully and pointed out our destination. The firebird spread its wings proudly before taking to the azure sky with one great leap. One hand flew up to keep a firm hold on my favorite hat while the other kept a strong grip on the bird's thick neck. A smile broke out on my face as I imagined just how happy she would be when I saw her. Within minutes, New Bark Town was in sight and eventually under us. I patted Ho-Oh to remind it of our destination, and slowly, it began its careful descent.
Silently, I dismounted Ho-Oh and stroked its long, fine feathers. Just another thing I wanted to show her. While she was journeying through Kanto, I took the time to get my last Johto badge and go to Kanto myself. That was when I met up with a certain man in Pewter City and the kimono girls… But really, that was a story for another day. I called the great legendary bird back into its pokéball and sent Marill back out. She happily bounded back to my side and followed me into my house. My father looked up from his paper knowingly, his weathered eyes twinkling.
"Kotone's on her way back, is she?"
I gave a curt nod and quickly began the climb up to my room. Out of the corner of my eye, I could see him shake his head slightly, though he was smiling.
"Why don't you just tell her you love her already, Hibiki?" he called after me teasingly. My hand stopped over the door handle, frozen in place. "Or better yet, just travel together. That way, you wouldn't have to keep coming back here to disturb me all the time." I could just barely pick out the smugness in his joking tone.
Not sure what to say in return, I finally entered my room and shut the door after me. Marill bounced into my vision and regarded me with concern. I shook my head with a smile and patted her head softly.
"No, he's right Marill."
She tilted her round body to the side in confusion.
"I… I do love her." I scratched my cheek from embarrassment at my own admission and stared at the window across the room. "I just don't know how to properly deal with those feelings. I mean, look at me: I drop everything I'm doing just to run back here for the chance to see her all the time. Are these feelings healthy if they're hindering my journey like this?"
Marill shook her head, grabbed a pokéball from my belt, and released Meganium. Marill seemed to be briefing her on the situation at hand, and soon enough, even she was shaking her head at me. I chuckled and brought both pokémon closer, so I could hug the two of them. They always reminded me of her with how much they encouraged me and helped me move forward.
I released my two pokémon and turned to the girl in question with a smile.
Her arms went behind her back, and she leaned forward as she always did.
"I must have the best timing to always catch you at home!" she sang happily. "Maybe I have psychic powers?"
I wasn't about to burst her bubble and tell her that I always planned it that way. No, I was going to let her be content with that. As usual, she came to sit on the plush carpet in front of me. Her Typhlosion trailed in after her.
"So, how does it feel to be the champion of two regions?"
"Hmm?" She stopped in mid-stretch and quirked an eyebrow. "Not much different…"
I could tell the excitement was dying along with her talkativeness. I sank back, putting my weight on my hands and regarded her carefully. Kotone wasn't really the social type unless she was riled up about something. "Actions speak louder than words," she had told me once.
"Something missing?" I guessed. Her head snapped up as though I hit the nail right on the head. "Aha," I thought to myself.
"I guess so," she said quietly, bringing her knees up to her chin. There was something else she wanted to say.
"Keeping anything else from me?"
The way she tensed up told me I had gotten that right, too.
"Yeah," she started with a pout. We were best friends, so it was impossible to hide anything from each other.
"Theoretically," I pointed out in my mind. There were so many things I was hiding on my end that it almost seemed unfair. Almost.
"Professor Oak gave me permission to go to Mt. Silver."
"And?" I could tell that there was more to this than I thought.
"I-I…" she trailed off, her cheeks taking on a slight hue. "I don't want to go alone."
I raised an eyebrow at this. The champion had traveled across two regions by herself but couldn't take on a lone mountain?
"Want me to come along?" I teased. Her silence was somewhat disconcerting.
"Yes," she finally answered timidly. When she looked up at me, though, her eyes were pained. "But it's said to be so dangerous up there that you can only get permission to go there if you collect all of Kanto's badges…"
"I only have three left," I told her automatically. She blinked slowly, as though trying to comprehend what I had just said, so I rolled my eyes in response. "Contrary to what you probably think, I have been journeying around myself, you know."
"B-but," she fumbled around with the hem of her trousers, obviously flustered. "You're always here whenever I pass by. It's almost as though… you never leave."
I let out a light laugh, much to her embarrassment and sank back into my Meganium. She seemed to be chuckling along with me. It was as though Kotone had forgotten just how often she called me with the pokégear whenever she did anything and vice versa. Soon enough, I gained my bearings and faced her flushed form with an air of seriousness.
"Don't you remember that time we ran into each other in Celadon City?" I reminded her. Her face only burned brighter.
"Y-yeah! I get it already!" She puffed her cheeks out at me and waved her fists at me in mock anger. Her Typhlosion growled at his trainer's distress behind her before fixing me with a warning glare. I gave the pokémon a playful smile in return and noted that he relaxed soon after.
"Getting back to the topic… I'd be happy to go with you if you didn't mind accompanying me on the rest of my journey…"
"Of course I don't mind."
I wasted no time in getting back to my feet and offered her my hand.
"Then let's go."
The spark between our hands was a painful reminder that I was hopelessly in love…
"And there isn't a thing I can do about it," I mumbled under my breath.