There are Beautiflies in the garden, wings like stained glass, fluttering bright against flowers with petals of satin. He holds sugar water cupped in his hands – an offering – and laughs with delight as they come to him, multifaceted eyes gleaming in the sun.
This will not last.
The lives of Beautiflies are brief – fleeting glimpses of brilliance, like fireworks fading and dying in the night. They are born, they grow and change, and just as their true colors begin to show they wither away into nothing (too quickly, too abruptly, and people shake their heads and say it's really such a shame).
Memories are much like Beautiflies, he thinks. Easily lost but so hard to forget.
He tilts his face towards the sun; smiles with no regrets.
Stretches his fingers skyward, and watches his memories fly up, up, up into the infinite blue.
Dear Aunt Lydia, Wally writes. I hope this letter finds you well. I'm sure you're terribly worried about me, and I'm sorry for causing you and Uncle such trouble. But… I'm not sorry for running away. You understand, don't you? Sometimes, in life, there are things we just have to do. And I know I'm supposed to go on a journey, Aunt Lydia. It's what I've always dreamed about, ever since –
The surf washes over his bare feet, and Wally glances up from his letter. It's just about dawn, and he is the only one on the beach. Tiny Krabby scuttle past, claws clicking in an attempt at menace, and a cool breeze tugs at the muted grey sea.
He gets to his feet and stretches, curling his toes into the gritty sand. Dawn has always been his favorite time of day – when the rest of the world is asleep, or just beginning to wake, and he feels privy to some ancient secret of the universe. Above the quiet in-and-out of the tide he can almost hear the world turning.
As the sun begins to peek over the edge of the sea, and the clouds turn to shades of pink and orange, Wally wades out into the ocean. He leans back and lets himself be buoyed by the water; allows himself to be lulled by the gentle push-and-pull. The water is cold but he doesn't care. His clothes are getting soaked, but in the end, what does it matter?
He's got two badges now. His Pokemon are getting stronger with each passing day.
Finally, finally, he's on his way to greatness.
"It's such a lovely day, Wally," his mother murmurs. She is standing by the window, gazing outward at the garden all tinged with morning sunlight. Her hair is pulled back with a ribbon, and her face is smooth and serene, not yet creased with age. He is small – no older than five or six – and he sits at the kitchen table, where there are neatly folded napkins and gingham placemats and sunflowers in a blue patterned vase.
"Yes, Momma," he says. "It's a very pretty day."
(But to him, every hour, every minute, every moment is a thousand times lovelier than the last.)
Dear Mr. Norman, Wally writes. I hope this letter finds you well. I know you may not remember me, but that is perfectly alright. You helped me catch my first Pokemon – nearly a year ago, I'd say. I just wanted to thank you again, and let you know that my Ralts and I are in the midst of challenging the Hoenn League, so you never know when I might drop by your gym! Maybe someday I'll even beat your daughter in a Pokemon battle, though I will admit she is very skilled –
There is an urgent tug on his shirt sleeve, and Wally glances up from his letter. Ralts is gesturing towards something in the sky; something that casts its massive, wavering shadow over the earth. But by the time Wally has shaded his eyes from the sun's glare, the shadowy something is already gone, vanished behind the clouds.
"What was it, Ralts?" the boy asks teasingly. "Was it a mythical Pokemon?"
Ralts tilts its head, curious, and Wally laughs the question away. He's sitting on a graffiti'd concrete ledge where weeds and wildflowers grow up between the cracks, listening to the distant whir of wheels on the bike path overhead. Across the water he can see the faint outline of New Mauville shimmering like a mirage – as he looks closer, a Magnemite drifts aimlessly through one of the broken windows.
"Hey kid," a voice says. "Are you alright?"
He turns to see a young woman with short hair and sunglasses – a jogger, by the look of things. Three gleaming Pokeballs rest casually on her hip.
"Ah, yes," Wally says; grins up at her. "I was feeling a little fatigued, so I stopped for a rest. I'll be fine in no time, so please, don't worry yourself on my behalf."
She raises an eyebrow. "If you say so, kid. Just… take it easy, okay? You look real tired."
As she jogs away, Wally thinks that she must be mistaken. The sun in shining and the breeze is calming and the air is crisp and clean, sharp with the electric vitality that only Mauville can bring. Somewhere in the distance, far away from humanity, an Altaria is humming a song just for him.
She must be mistaken, because today he feels just fine.
"It's such a lovely day, Wally," his mother murmurs. She is standing on the balcony, gazing outward at the city all gleaming in the noontime sun. Her hair is pinned back with barrettes shaped like Beautifly's wings, and her eyes crinkle around the edges when she smiles. He is young – no older than eight – and he is bound to his chair, wrapped in blankets but shivering all the same. Somewhere far off is the sound of his friends' laughter as they play their games of pretend, and he wishes more than anything to join them.
"Yes Momma," he says quietly (dutifully). "It is a very lovely day."
Dear Mr. Steven, Wally writes. I hope this letter finds you well. I know you are a busy man, so I'll try my best to keep this message short! We met once, a few months ago – you visited Verdanturf town to help with the Rusturf Tunnel, remember? And when I saw you at the Pokemon Center, you told me about all the wonderful places you'd travelled to in your life, and all the things you'd experienced. It's thanks to you that I finally left home, Mr. Steven. If you hadn't been there, well… I might still be stuck in that place –
A dry, bitter wind brushes past him, and Wally glances up from his letter. He's at the top of Mount Chimney, resting his back against the trunk of a gnarled tree. It stretches its bare, bleach-white branches toward the overcast sky, rattling like bones in the breeze, and he quickly shoves the letter into his pack for safekeeping.
Things tend to be torn away atop the Mount, or so the old soothsayers claim. Torn away and remade anew.
"What do you think, Kirlia?" he asks, squinting against the onslaught of the wind. "When we leave, will I be someone else? Someone stronger?"
The Psychic Pokemon looks at him sadly, puts her arms around his thin frame, and Wally smiles, a quick tremor of the lips. His arms may be covered in bruises, mottled and sickly in hue. His legs may ache deeply, a pain that echoes through his brittle bones. But he is happy all the same. Happy to be here, at the top of the world, with his Pokemon by his side.
(May the winds of Mount Chimney grind him down to dust and singe away his frailty, and may he be reborn from the ashes.)
"It's such a lovely day, Wally," his mother murmurs. The room is white; there are no windows. The air is thick with the cloying stench of sickness, overlaid with the pungent smell of disinfectant. Her face is aged beyond its years, and yet she is still smiling, clinging desperately to something that never was and never will be.
He does not reply.
Dear Mother & Father, Wally writes. I hope this letter finds you both well. Aunt Lydia must have told you about my daring escape by this point (and if not, tell her I am sorry for selling her out), but you must understand: I'm not trying to hurt myself. I'm just trying to live, like a normal human being instead of an invalid. My body may be weaker than others', but that doesn't mean I can't see the world, or train my Pokemon, or accomplish my dreams. You know that I love you both, but –
Someone taps him on the shoulder, and Wally glances up from his letter. The woman is gorgeous, with long hair the color of lilacs and eyes much the same. A Swellow with bright plumage is perched on her shoulder.
"Are you feeling better today?" she asks worriedly.
He nods. "Oh yes, I feel much better. Thank you kindly for your concern. It was just a slight fever, though. I get them often."
At this, her brow furrows. "Are you… Are you sure you should be travelling alone, sweetheart? You were in pretty bad shape last night – it looked like a bit more than a slight fever to me."
No, no, he assures her. Nothing to worry about. Nothing at all.
She leads him up to the treetops, says she has something he should see. There, among the thick foliage and hanging walkways, is her private aviary, where countless bird Pokemon nest. There are Pidgey and Spearow, Noctowl and Murkrow, Swablu and Wingull and Skarmory. Even Pokemon he does not recognize – "rare species from Isshu and Orre and beyond," Winona says, eyes alight with pride.
"This Swellow was injured," she says, stroking the feathers of the bird on her arm. "Everyone told me that I was a fool to try and help it. They said it would never fly again. But look."
The regal Swellow stretches its wings; lets out a screech of triumph.
Gathers the power of the air beneath it, and soars up into the forever sky.
He calls May and asks her to meet him in Lilycove, at the little bench outside the museum where the branches of the weeping willow brush the ground. When she sees him sitting there, her smile fades, and anxiety flickers across her face.
"Wally, you're so pale," she murmurs, sitting next to him and taking his hands in hers. "What… what are you doing here? If you're not feeling well, you really ought to go back to Verdanturf…"
The corner of his mouth quirks into a wry smile. It has swiftly grown tiring, this neverending cycle of pity and good intentions. Why must they treat him so tenderly, placing him on a pedestal like a delicate vase? Why must they try to shelter him from the world he loves beyond compare? Why can no one accept his desire to live?
"May," he says, and puts a small bundle in her hands. "I need you to deliver these letters for me."
"Yes. However… You can only mail one letter each month. Alright? If you mail one a month, there should be enough to last almost a year."
May's confusion is evident. "But Wally… I, I don't understand."
"You don't have to understand. Just… please. Do this for me. It's the only favor I'll ever ask of you."
With wary eyes and a little coaxing, May agrees.
"There's a letter for you in there as well," Wally says. "Read it last, okay? Once everything else is said and done."
On the highest hill of Mossdeep Island, far away from the glaring light of civilization, Wally watches the night sky. He lies back in the damp grass and raises an aching arm to trace the patterns of the stars.
"Orion," he murmurs. "Cassiopeia… Perseus."
The stars glimmer like diamonds on black velvet, so cold and distant (too distant for him to comprehend). He thinks it would be nice to be an astronaut, soaring deep into the infinite unknown. Floating so high above the world; seeing firsthand that which once beckoned his ancestors to discover and create. It would be lonely, too, the life of an astronaut. But worth it all the same.
"Taurus, Scorpius, Pisces…"
Perhaps, Wally thinks, he should reconsider his goal of becoming a Pokemon Master. He'll never beat May anyhow. She's far too strong, and far too kind. Perhaps, then, he will become an astronaut, and spend the rest of his days drifting between comets and nebulas and the icy rings of Saturn.
"Ursa Minor," he whispers. "Cygnus, the swan…"
Yes, Wally decides, though his body is blossoming with pain and his vision is blurring and it's getting more and more difficult to think things through. Yes, someday he will be a pioneer. At the farthest reaches of the universe he will find the meaning behind it all, behind suffering and war and love, and when he returns people will hail him as a hero and a prophet. Someday he will see everything there is to see; know everything there is to know.
Someday he will live.
Life is so beautiful. Don't you agree?