Shades of Grey

Twelve years earlier

The nine year old girl precariously balanced on a high beam that hung from the castle's pointed ceiling. Leaning forward, she held one leg straight in the air behind her, her foot aligning with her own head. She felt the wabble that made its way up her leg and attempted to heed her master's call at keeping steady. But it was too late, she lost her footing and before she knew it she was falling from the high ceiling of the gym.

She didn't make a sound as she fell. She relaxed her body, feeling the rush of the air and the floor that came rushing up to meet her.

"Oof!" She hit the wood hard on her back, keeping her hands behind her head so that she didn't bash it on the floor. Coughing, she struggled to force the air back into her lungs.

"What did I tell you, Aisha? Do you not listen to a word that I say? This is your own fault. If you don't concentrate, then the next fall, you may not be so fortunate!"

"My Lady," the call of Sa'lu's butler grabbed her attention.

Never moving, Aisha watched from the floor as the old man approached her, informing her that they had an unexpected guest at the front door requesting to see her. The Master told him to send this guest away as she was busy, but in a low town that Aisha couldn't discern, he mentioned a name.

Sa'lu stopped in her tracks immediately and had to double take. "Here? Are you certain?"

He nodded.

Without so much as a word the woman stormed from the gym, followed by her butler and left Aisha alone to pick up her pieces.

Slowly, the girl pulled herself upright, squinting and wheezing at the pain in her side. When she landed, she was sure she didn't hear anything break this time, but she still felt the bruises. This year she turned nine. This meant the crash mats that were always there to break her fall were now nothing more than a distant memory. Aisha's first lesson was a difficult one; learning how to fall without breaking any bones.

Taking a moment to gather her wits, she pulled herself to her feet and brushed the dust off her leotard. Her body was covered in scrapes and bruises; Sa'lu was a hard taskmaster. Though, at this point, since Sa'lu had left the gym, Aisha could only assume that this session was now over. And as she pulled the old, double doors open and let herself out into the main halls of the castle, she couldn't help but wonder who this important guest was? It didn't take her long to find this out as sneaking up on the main sitting area she peered around the corner. Sa'lu was pacing about in front of a boy of perhaps seventeen who sat on the couch. He was wet from head to toe from the constant thunder showers outside and had the rugged look of a Pokémon Trainer.

Pulling the hood from his head, he let the cloak he wore drop from his shoulders, revealing a brilliant mop of fire- red hair. The scowl on his face was serious and the look in his eyes disillusioned.

"I have to admit, I am surprised to see you," said Sa'lu. "Does anyone else know you're here?"

"I've come alone," the boy assured. "Everyone else thinks that I'm journeying through Unova."

"Unova," Sa'lu mused. "That's a long way in the other direction."

The boy nodded, "I've come to learn from you."

"What is it that you can't learn at the feet of the elders?" Sa'lu scoffed.

But the boy seemed adamant. "What you know is something that no other Master is willing to delve into. I don't just want to be a Dragon Trainer, Sa'lu. I want to be able to understand them on all levels."

Sa'lu fell into another round of pacing, the frown on her face blatant as she took to chewing her thumbnail. "This knowledge you seek is not to be taken lightly, boy. Once you learn these things, they will never leave you."

"I understand. I am ready."

More pacing… more thinking. "Alright," she finally said, "I will give you two months. My butler will show you to your quarters. Your training starts tomorrow."