It's been a while since I did one of these. But I was struck with inspiration a couple days ago and just had to knock this one out.

The idea for this one came from a PokéDex entry from Gold (which is apparently also present in Heart Gold, so people won't have to scramble back to their Game Boy Color systems to verify it) about Rhydon's hide being insensitive. There's a lot of ways to interpret that statement and a variety of implications based on which interpretation you use. I decided to go with this set. This one may be a tiny bit more personally introspective for me, for a variety of reasons which may or may not be reflected in the story itself. I'll let you draw your own conclusions about that.


Sensitivity

One thing I've managed to figure out over the years is that, if you're a normal person, you never stop learning throughout your entire life. And if you're not a normal person and you do stop learning, you generally aren't really living. Life is all about the experience, and each new experience is what adds to life. That's not to say that it's always easy, learning new things; you learn a lot of things you wish you didn't know, and sometimes it's a hard path to learn something you want or need to know. Don't I know that all too well.

It's that kind of mindset that drove me to leave home in the first place, to get out and experience the rest of the world instead of staying cooped up in my little hole. I grew up in a conclave of pretty much all Rhyhorns, Rhydons, and Rhyperiors, rarely exposed to the outside world and only learning a little about the other types of Pokémon there were in the world out there. Sure, we'd get a visitor every now and then, and on occasion we'd have to deal with some adventurous trainer hoping they could find something of value in our little corner of the world, but for the most part we stuck to ourselves and that's the way we liked it.

Of course, that's not to say none of us ever left. On the contrary, we had a few here and there who decided they wanted to see more, or who wanted to experience life under a trainer. And they'd be back every now and then to regale fascinating, entertaining, or horrifying stories of life on the outside. For most, it didn't incite anything except a desire to stay in where the craziness wasn't, but I always found them kind of appealing. So there came a time where I decided to set out on my own.

I guess I'm what you'd call a free spirit - I got tired of seeing the same things over and over again, and I had no desire to be cooped up by some trainer who'd probably be just doing the same thing with me over and over again, having me battle some hapless Pokémon with types that weren't any good against me. I didn't really want to do much battling in the first place. So when I set out on my own, I intended to stay my own Rhydon. That said, I was very eager to make friends, especially with Pokémon that weren't my own kind.

I wasn't too terribly scared to be leaving home for the first time. Our kind are...well, I don't know if I'd go as far as to say "fearless," but we're pretty chill about most things. Part of that is due to our physiology. Our bodies are very tough, especially our hides. We put them through a lot of abuse and take it in stride. And while I've heard a lot of human information about Pokémon is mythical or exaggerated, they got one thing about us right: we can't feel a bloomin' thing on our hides.

Now, of course, we don't not feel anything ever. But if a blow causes pain - usually, something like grass or water or ice that we have a natural sensitivity to - the pain is deep, far below our hides to the parts of our bodies where we actually have nerves. That we can feel, and yeah, it's as unpleasant as you might think. But even with that, we have a lot less to endure than other Pokémon. And yeah, we can take the heat really well. What you call a magma pool, we call a hot tub. Actually, probably a better hot tub than what you would call a hot tub - again, the whole water thing.

As you might expect, when you're not likely to have to endure any kind of serious pain, you get kinda careless about what you put your body through. Our friends and family tend to be pretty rough with each other. Heck, usually when I was hanging out with my friends, we'd get up and wrestle and fight with each other, just for the hell of it. I've personally been sent through weakened rock walls and buried under minor avalanches, by the guys I consider my closest buddies. It's all in good fun - it's not like we're worried about it hurting us.

The ones who have left the fold and come back for visits generally give the impression that the outside world is far less rough in general than we are with each other. The obvious exception being if they go with a trainer and start battling, but if they're going out there for that reason they basically already want it. Since I wasn't planning on doing any battling, I was even less concerned than most about what might happen out there. So I greeted the world pretty much head on and horn forward.

Wel, my naivete did get me in some trouble. But it wasn't really in the way I expected it to, which was probably why it took so long for me to actually catch on to it.

I said before that I didn't really know that much about the outside world or other Pokémon. That was part of the reason I wanted to make a lot of friends - I wanted to expand not just what I knew of the world, but who else occupied the world. It didn't occur to me that I would have to think more about how to approach the world now that I was out in it. That's one of those things that I really could have stood to learn early on, but, well, I didn't.

The first friend I made was a Blaziken. Nice guy, confident, one could say cocksure, very outgoing. We hit it off well right away, and I thought I had a guy on my side for good. But it didn't last nearly that long. It was one night, not long after we met, we were joshing around with a couple other guys and he took a crack at me. I did what I usually did with my buddies, and gave him a nice little playful jab to counter. Well, wouldn't you know it, I shattered that poor bird's arm like it was made of gypsum, and he broke a few ribs from hitting the ground after the blow. Not exactly the outcome I was aiming for.

I'm sure it comes as no shock to you that he was pissed. What I think got him more than the injuries, though, was my response to it. I was pretty callous towards the whole thing, wondering why he was so angry and what I had done wrong. After all, I had just done what I always did with my buddies. The end result was, he wanted me gone, and I obliged, still not getting what had happened.

Now, you may have heard that Rhydons are forgetful. I protest that, we're not really forgetful, we just don't really hold on to things that aren't all that important to us. Something like this, this stuck with me and it wasn't going anywhere. So you would think, after this first lesson, that I'd catch on pretty quickly. Uh-uh. This pattern repeated itself a bunch more times. Different Pokémon, different situations, similar outcomes; I would start getting comfortable, treat them like one of my old friends, and inevitably there would be a serious injury and I would be sent packing, completely lost and wondering if I just couldn't make friends with anyone who wasn't one of my kind. It was pretty disheartening, having so much trouble of this kind, especially because I hadn't even imagined it as a possibility. I mean, I was ready for maybe encountering battles, natural hazards that would put my life at risk like bogs or something, maybe unpleasantness just in general towards me, but this? Not a shade.

But then I had a turn of good luck. It had been a while since I left, not sure exactly how long since at that time I didn't really have a concept of keeping time more than over a few days (we aren't really in dire need of a calendar in our little conclave). I'd had quite a few of those bad experiences - twenty-seven, in fact. See, I do have a good memory when it matters. It was starting to eat at me, and I really was seriously contemplating going back, because I wasn't sure I could make a friend out here. As luck would have it, I was about to, and he was about to turn everything around.

I came across a cave in a rocky cliff, a lot smaller than the caves I was used to but not bad nonetheless. There was an Aggron at the mouth of the cave. Another nice guy, but more quiet and unassuming, just one of those kinds of guys who takes life at face value and avoids trouble. He saw me being kind of downtrodden and invited me in for a meal. I took it, and started being hopeful again. I told myself I wasn't going to screw this one up.

Well, I would have, if he hadn't been a lot tougher than the others. It was the same pattern all over again, after a few days when I got comfortable I started acting like I would with my old friends. The difference this time was that I didn't do any damage. Aggrons are tough, at least as tough as Rhydons if not tougher. It doesn't hurt that they also have that added Steel type which probably would let them survive an entire mountain dropping on them. Unlike Rhydons, though, they have hides that are sensitive, at least to touch in general. So after I chucked him a playful blow after he ribbed me, very much like with the Blaziken, he wasn't hurt at all, but he was confused. I remember him looking at me oddly, and asking me if he'd hit a sore spot. Naturally, this confused me, since I wasn't offended at all, and it took a while to sort anything out.

I gotta hand it to him, though. I mean, Aggrons look like they're mindless battering rams, but seriously, underneath they're sharp as tacks. Once we managed to sort everything out between us he pretty quickly managed to deduce where the problem had been in my previous friendships. Of course, telling it in hindsight like this it's already pretty obvious, but at the time it was a huge revelation to me: I had hurt them because I didn't know how badly I could hurt them. Treating them like my Rhydon buddies was my huge mistake, because they weren't so highly resistant to pain and injury.

You can imagine how I felt after hearing that. Yeah, it really quickly became clear why they had been so pissed off. The world I came from was so different, and they had no idea; they thought I was some kind of psycho who hurt them for the hell of it, or some ridiculously violent guy who got angry and started hitting for no reason. And their world was so different to me, I had no idea that friends had different ways of expressing themselves. The end result was that my ignorance and actions had left me with no friends. Well, one friend, at that point.

I'm so thankful that he was willing to help me out. It meant arresting my travels, but at this point I was much more desperate to stop my unintentional rampage. Unfortunately, accepting his help was the easy part; the rest of it wasn't bound to be so simple.

I basically had to learn a completely different way of interacting with the world. It started with my hands. I don't have a real tactile sense in my hands - that whole insensitive hide thing again. So I didn't really have that intuitive sense of how hard I was grabbing anything, including perhaps the arm of a smaller Pokémon which might get crushed under my grip, as happened to one of my unfortunate friends. Normally, I just grab rocks, which most of them can handle the force I put on them, and if they can't they aren't terribly important in the first place. I had to basically teach myself how to handle everything with kid gloves, and then learn how to adjust that pressure. Fortunately I can kind of feel how hard I'm using those muscles, so even if I can't judge my touch of the object directly, experimenting with different grip strengths to get a better idea of what's safe and what isn't.

It didn't get much easier from there; even though I was getting the general idea of what I had to do, I still had to apply it to everything. And when I say everything, I mean everything. My arms, my legs, my tail, my torso, my head, I had to figure out the force-feedback on every part of my body and how to apply it in all sorts of different situations. Aggron was very helpful, seeing as he was a similar build to myself he could demonstrate what I needed to do. He also helped by giving me examples of what happens when I overdo it. Even I he wasn't using real bones and tissues, the examples were still plenty jarring, the kind of stuff that just doesn't happen to Rhydons.

It did not come easy, and I frequently found myself frustrated. But I stuck with it because I didn't want to spend the rest of my days out in the world alone. I figured out how to interact with others without being too rough. I figured out how to dial back a friendly cuff to something even a Pikachu wouldn't wince at, how to grab and draw someone without dislocating their shoulder or grinding their forearm bones to dust, how to play-fight without it turning into a vicious beating. And I learned how to adjust to a wide variety of different Pokémon, different toughnesses and different attitudes. It made a lot of things easier - for example, I was actually able to eat all those different Berries whole, rather than smashed to a pulp like before. It was a lot less messy.

There was another aspect I had to be trained into, as well, and that was the art of communication. Rhydon buddies don't generally chatter very much; we'll give an occasional jibe or joke, but we aren't much for talking feelings or anything like that. It was very different on the outside, and Aggron had a task in educating me on not just physical sensitivity, but verbal sensitivity as well. How to talk so someone knows I'm joking. How to listen to others and understand how they feel, and what kinds of responses to give. Being a friend in many cases would require me to be sitting around and talking, rather than the more physical style of friendship I had been used to. It was a challenge, especially for a guy like me who's always been on the active side.

It was a long time, with a lot of frustration and failure before elation and success. But I really started to get the hang of it. And as I did, I got more confident again, more certain that I could make friends and then keep them this time. And that's what I did, using what I had learned to get close to other new Pokémon and start becoming more friendly with them. I knew enough to give them a little forewarning about myself, and found they were exceedingly understanding of me. There were times when I got a little more forceful than what I intended, but I had learned enough about dialing it back that I didn't really hurt them, just maybe surprised them a bit. And because they knew what I was going through, they didn't hold it against me. It's a great feeling, really.

I've learned a lot, and even after Aggron had taught me all he could I learned more, either on my own by extending what I had already been taught, or from others who had additional advice to offer me. I've started traveling again, more ready to take on the world than ever before, and able to more readily coexist with the rest of the Pokémon. The first thing I did when I started off again was revisit the friends I had tried to make before, to apologize and explain myself and try to mend the hard feelings. Some of them weren't receptive to my efforts, others were much more willing to forgive and become friends again. I've taken each decision in stride; some were hurt more than others, and I understand enough now to accept that it can be hard to let some things go. But I will keep on my way, trying my best to ensure I never overdo it.

Maybe I'm not a sensitive guy, in more ways than one. But I found that it pays to learn. If for no other reason than a lot of other people are, and if you can figure out how to at least emulate it, you'll be a lot better off.


I think I'll just leave this one at that.