Notes: It's 6:27 AM where I live, but I just had to get this done... I wrote this as a fill for a request made to me anonymously. The prompt was: "If you have the time and inspiration, I'd love to see you write anything about Morty! I have this feeling he'd work great with your style, pairings or not." Well, I hope that you find this enjoyable!

Characters: Morty, Eusine.

Universe: Game. G/S/C, HG/SS.

Warnings: language, speculation.

Disclaimer: I do not own Pokémon, nor do I stand to profit from this story in any form. All mistakes are my own.


You were born a sickly child. Orange and red leaves coated the ground when the medicine man told your father that it was unlikely that you would survive the night. There was nothing he could do; you were a small, frail thing, and the old man's herbal remedies could not recreate your mother's womb for you, could not give your little body the months it needed to fully develop. So the old man advised your father to leave your fate to Ho-Oh and took his leave.

But your father had been made a both a widower and father that night, and he could not bear to lose you. He raced you to Goldenrod's new hospital instead, where you were placed in a plastic cage with artificial light and heat, and tubes that forced nutrients into your veins.

Against all odds, you survived the night.

A miracle, the doctors said.

Yet when your father brought you back home, the villagers muttered under their breaths and stayed clear, almost as if you were a bad omen.

— . . . —

You spend your early childhood running small fingers over the silk of your mother's old kimonos. Aside from the faded picture your father keeps on the nightstand, these clothes are all you have to know her by. You pace the cool wooden floors in your bare feet and wonder if she was happy while you hold the silks to your face and inhale what must be her scent (powder and the faint smell of incense).

But the moths have eaten away at the material, and sometimes you fear that when these are gone, so will your last ties to the woman you never got to meet, but you still miss more than anything else.

— . . . —

From the beginning, you knew you were different. While the other children played with their rattata and pidgey, you found yourself surrounded by ghosts instead. Sometimes you liked pretending that the purplish misty apparitions that hovered over your shoulder were pieces of your mother, watching over you from the other side. But the gastly laugh when you fall down and play tricks on you in the dark, and you know that mothers don't do such things, and quickly discard the idea.

The townspeople whisper about you. They say that the real reason you have such an affinity for ghost types is that Ho-Oh had intended you to pass over to the other side alongside your mother. You have one foot in the grave but cling stubbornly to life, like the ghosts (dead, but not really).

Deep down, you agree with them.

Your skin is perpetually cold and sometimes your heart skips a beat and you black out; you're always so close to death, as if tugged by the phantom cord that remains between you and your mother. The ghosts are a testament to that, and despite the fact that your father scolds you for believing in such omens, the truth is always in the back of your mind.

Your father has always been an outsider, as he was not born in Ecruteak—he was simply a Goldenrod businessman who visited the Dance Hall and fell in love with one of the girls there. Their marriage did not go over smoothly with the town, your father often says bitterly when he drinks too much saké. Despite the fact that you were born in the town unlike your father, your golden hair and oddness sets you apart, and you are shunned as well, perhaps even to a higher degree than your father is.

You are very much a child of two worlds, caught between your father's contempt for the restrictive lifestyle that took his wife's life and the need to belong in your mother's world, to conform to those mystic traditions and be accepted.

— . . . —

You see things, but you have learned to keep these sights to yourself.

Your father says that you just an imaginative little boy, and even though you know it isn't just your imagination, you nod when your father tells you this, if only to make him grin lopsidedly at you and ruffle your hair with a tired hand.

Still, the sights come like droplets of water from a leaking ceiling.

The day before the old woman down the road (the one that spits on the ground warily when you pass by) dies, you pick a few lilies from the fields and lay them on the spot that would be her grave.

When one of the kimono girls' acolytes misplaces her scarf, you see it fluttering in the breeze, caught in the fingers of a tree by the Burned Tower, and direct her to it. She doesn't believe you, and by the time she walks away to ask one of her neighbors if they have seen it, Gastly laughs mockingly, fades away, and you know that he has gone to claim it for himself.

Later, when you are lie in bed and try to sleep, he brings it to you, cackling as you take it in your hands and marvel at how much it feels like your mother's old kimonos.

That night you dream a familiar dream of a woman's laughter, kind and loving, and arms that surround you in a warm embrace.

— . . . —

Every year, when the snows come from the east, the sages come down from the Bell Tower and lead the people in prayer. The town prays to Ho-Oh to return warmth to the land to melt away the snow in the spring, and the kimono girls dance each night in the light of a ceremonial fire, the greens and reds of their kimonos illuminated beautifully by the flames.

Your father never goes (the kimono girls haunt him, you think), but you do. You stand on the outskirts of the crowd, watching the women and wondering if your mother looked like that when she danced, or if she was even more beautiful than that.

On one such night the light of the fire catches in your eyes and you suddenly see the one of the girls' kimono slipping too close to the flames and catching. Her screams fill your ears and you find yourself screaming for a bucket of water, for someone to help her, but you are met with frightened stares and frantic shushing noises. When the other children start throwing rocks at you, you run back home and bury your face in your pillow and cry.

— . . . —

The next night, one of the girl's kimonos catches on fire when she dances too close to the flames. She is burned badly before the flames are extinguished, so badly that she will probably never be able to dance again.

Her misfortune is lamented, and your cries from the night before are remembered. Most of the townspeople think that you were the cause of the tragedy, but the sages whisper about prophecy and destiny, and soon they are meeting with your father.

Your father tells you to wait in your room when they come, but you disobey him and listen in from the hallway. Sage Koji speaks in calm tones, almost muted by your father's rising anger.

"The boy has a gift," Sage Koji says, and a shiver runs through your skin.

Your father scoffs in response. "The boy is imaginative, nothing more."

"I suppose that imagining a woman's burning is simply being imaginative?" there is a mocking lilt to the sage's voice, his patience running thin. Accordingly, your father's tone becomes sharper, more defensive.

"Any boy that has been through as much as he has would react the same way. Hell, they'd be even more fucked up than he is!" your father snaps, and it feels like he is attacking you instead of defending you.

Sage Koji loses his patience, at this point. "Y-you heathen! How dare you profane—,"

"You lead the rest of the townspeople in ostracizing us, in alienating my son with your asinine dogma, and now you come into my house with your tail between your legs because of some stupid prophecy—,"

"Sir," a deep voice interrupts, and the room behind the thin shoji doors falls silent. "You yourself have admitted that your son is rather… peculiar. What we are saying is that this peculiarity has a purpose."

Your father laughs humorlessly; he sounds old, you realize. "Oh, yeah? Well, enlighten me as to what this purpose is."

"The sacred texts speak of a chosen one," your father snorts derisively, but the man continues. "One who has been gifted with the power of the sixth sense—to locate things, so to speak, through time and space. In the hands of a pure-hearted trainer, these powers would allow us to summon the legendary Ho-Oh. If we train your son, help cleanse his heart of all impurities, then the legend may very well be fulfilled."

Your heart is pounding, your mind reeling. You cannot believe what you have just heard. It can't be that this curse you've been trying to hide since before you could remember could actually be a gift from Ho-Oh, a trait of a chosen one.

"Outrageous," your father replies, and for some reason, your heart falls at his pronouncement. "You're mistaking supernatural abilities for keen perception. Yes, that's all it is."

You can hear the outrage in Sage Koji's voice when he speaks again. "Ignorant fool!" he hisses.

"Enough, Koji!" the voice from before says authoritatively, an edge of anger slicing through the air. "I apologize for my student's words; we did not come to your home to insult you. Rather, we came to inform you of what we believe. We mean no harm, I assure you… neither towards you nor the boy."

"Yes, well, you've informed me," your father says coldly. "Your purpose has been fulfilled. Isn't it about time you left?"

A sigh, muffled by the distance, but nevertheless, you hear the sound of movement coming from beyond the door. "Indeed. We will not overstay our welcome."

A pause, and then: "The boy is not Komako, Arthur. I cannot speak for the great Ho-Oh, but I truly believe that he has a purpose that transcends the two of us, and I believe that she would want his purpose to be realized."

Silence lingers, thick with the mention of the dead.

Then, the rustling of cloth, the sliding of the shoji doors –

But by that time, you are already running up the stairs, tears blurring your vision.

— . . . —

The air in the tower is thick with age and unfulfilled promises, and you regret coming.

You are disobeying your father by doing this. He may not have forbidden you from going to them, but you heard the conversation, and whether he knows it or not, you know that your father does not want you here, with them.

The truth is you don't even know why you're here. Your mother was a kimono girl, devoted to restoring Ho-Oh to the top of the Bell Tower by following tradition and dancing the old dances. This is your mother's work, isn't it? It runs in your blood, is inscribed into your genes. Wouldn't it be the greatest honor, then, to bring about what she had most wanted? To complete her life's work, you think, would make her happy, even if she is on the other side. You'd like to think that this is why, because your father cannot fault you for loving your mother like he does.

But maybe, just maybe, it is because the sages' words made you believe that these curses are truly gifts, that your oddness has a purpose. You want to be more than the half-breed mongrel that is too imaginative for his own good; you want to be important, needed, worthy of more than avoidances and venomous whispers.

You want these things so, so badly, so you force the dense air into your lungs and keep your eyes on the old, weathered man before you. His face is lined with something more than age (expectant vigilance), and his eyes are hard. You are nine-years-old and scared of this man who looks at you as if you were a risky bet—a wild ponyta at the races, still quick from running in the wild but disobedient, untrustworthy.

"Tell me child," the old man says in his deep voice, "Why are you here?"

You don't know, you don't know, and the reasons you made up seem too selfish, now.

Pure of heart, you think, isn't that what he said I have to be? So you tell him what he wants to hear.

"I want to bring Ho-Oh back, sir," you say, voice wavering slightly, "For Ecruteak."

The sage regards you coolly, dark eyes staring into your own. You fear that he may be able to tell that you are lying with his penetrating eyes, but the man nods once, almost approvingly.

You swallow your lie down, hoping that it doesn't stain your heart too much.

— . . . —

After that day, Sage Gaku trains you, and you struggle to hide this from your father. He is not a lenient teacher—he instructs through absolutes (right and wrong, black and white, light and darkness), gives you problems and expects the right answers.

"The impurity of the human heart is what drove the great Ho-Oh away from Ecruteak," Sage Gaku constantly reminds you. "He was so stricken by our avarice that he fled this tower to find a trainer with a pure heart. The storm that burned down this tower's twin was a reflection of the shadows that plague our hearts—a cancer, a disease," his eyes squint and linger on you appraisingly, as if inspecting you for any defects. "Isn't that right, boy?"

"Yes, sir."

He poses introspective questions that make you look inward, toward your heart, so that you may scrub it clean. It is only through intense self-reflection, he says, that you will ever attain a state of purity that could attract the great Ho-Oh. While he does this, he pushes you to develop your talents—the sight that is so pivotal to finding Ho-Oh. The sages will often hide things throughout the town and ask you where it is, to determine the location of any of the villagers in an instant. You try to oblige them, but your sight has never come when you asked, only when it so chose.

When you sit in meditation, ignoring your muscles' cramping and the growling of your stomach, you feel as if you are trapped in a dark room, behind a shoji door. Someone on the other end of the door is there, and they shine a flashlight across the room to you, through the screen—sights of what is to come, flashes of rainbow and sacred fire—but you can never reach the doors to throw them back, to see what is guiding you. The droplets fall on you when they may, and while you try to control your premonitions, you find that you can only grasp moments, flashes, never concrete images.

It is almost enough to scream in frustration, tear at your clothes, thrash your limbs against the polished, creaking floors of the tower—but such actions would be signs of immaturity, of impurity, so you refrain yourself, swallowing them down.

— . . . —

Your father knows.

He must, you think, because there is no other reason for why he would be avoiding your gaze like this, keeping his lips thinned in disapproval whenever you are in his presence. Bottles of saké are left out more and more, these days, and its contents begin disappearing at an unprecedented, alarming rate.

You want him to just come out and say it, to call you out on being a disobedient son and punish you accordingly. You want him to sneer at you like does to the sages, call you a fool that believes in superstitions and omens like the rest of the townspeople, blinded by their traditions. You are angry at yourself for deceiving your father, loathe that your need for validation and acceptance have overridden your loyalty to him. You feel like a betrayer, a Judas, and you grow to loathe yourself more than you've ever loathed anything else, surprised by the intensity of your feelings.

So you resent him, too, for the saké bottles that keep littering the house, and the way he refuses to look at you, and his own closed mind, which prevents him from accepting the parts of you he should love the most (the parts that belong to your mother, through and through).

One night the two of you are kneeling at the chabu-dai for dinner, and you keep looking at him from across the table, hoping to catch his gaze. Yet he avoids it each time you try to grab on, slipping away like water through your fingers. You are so desperate for contact from the only man that has loved and protected you that you cannot help yourself.

But the words come out wrong.

You want to say: Look at me, father. Tell me that mother would want me to do this. Tell me that I can make the two of you proud by doing what she would have wanted. Tell me that I can be both your son and hers, that you at least tolerate my choices. Tell me that you still love me.

But what comes out is: "Why do insist on living here?"

The words hang between the two of you for long moments before he replies, voice hoarse and words slurred. "This is my house."

"Yes, but you're not from here. You could just as easily go back to Goldenrod and live there since you hate it so much here. Everyone would be happier if you did, especially you."

You realize too late that you spoke as if he were the only outsider in the room; that you were one of them. His eyes search your face for long moments, as if searching for something in the dim light of the paper lanterns. He must have not found it, because he looks away, eyes hard. When he exhales, the pungent stink of alcohol travels through the air, slaps you in the face.

"You wouldn't understand, Morty," he mutters, and you have never heard him sound more defeated.

"Make me understand, then."

Your words sound harsher than you intended. They push him, and despite the fact that he told you never to punch a man when he's down, you need to push him, need to know, need to see him break for once.

He stares down at the surface of the chabu-dai for so long, eyes hazy and distant, that you think he will not respond, but he does, words deliberate and measured. "Have you ever known what it is like to meet someone that makes you want to give everything you've ever wanted up?" he laughs then, but it sounds a lot like a sob, and your hardened heart begins to waver in its determination. "Of course you haven't. Komako… your mother… she was that person for me. That night, when I watched her dance, I had never been so enthralled, so captivated. When she came to sit at our table to entertain us, we spoke for hours and hours, and she told me of this verse from their sacred texts. She recited it for me: everything in the world is created whole, but split in two before birth. To find the fragment of your soul is to balance its arithmetic, and is the greatest gift Ho-Oh can bestow upon us. Silly words from some old storybook, but she believed it enough for the both of us, so I did too.

"I married your mother because I believed that she was that person for me. I thought that everything they said about us meant nothing as long as we were together, and I gave everything up to build this house for her, to let her have both me and her duty. This village… it's too steeped in that dogma you're studying," your heart skips a beat or two, but there is no judgment in your father's voice, only regret, "Too steeped in it to accept her marrying an outsider like me, or seeking medical treatment when she went into labor two months early."

These words are not yours to hear—your father would never share if the bottle of saké were not half empty. You want him to stop, you feel like you're going to be sick.

"They will never accept a different way of life," and he is looking at you, now, the haziness gone from his eyes. "They will never accept you, Morty, not with everything that's different about you, not even if you bring back that bird for them."

Your fists clench on the table. "I have to try," you say through gritted teeth.

He smiles crookedly, sadly. "Of course you do. You were always more like her than me."

The silence stretches again for a few moments before you break it with the dissonant sound of a snarl as you push yourself onto your feet and out the door. It is only when you're stomping through the old cobblestone path, Gastly trailing behind you silently, that you realize that your father never did answer your question.

— . . . —

Despite the fact that many of the villagers know of the sages' efforts with you, they still maintain the same distance. Sometimes you get afraid, because you fear that what your father told you that night was true. You resent and pity your father for saying that, and you avoid going home as much as possible, unwilling to watch him waste away, afraid of what you will see if you do. When you aren't training with Gaku at the Bell Tower, you train with Gastly at its twin.

The Burned Tower is haunted by the dead at night (you recall the legend of that fateful night, the tragedy of the three noble beasts and Ho-Oh's supposed benevolence as it departed), and that is when you choose to skulk about the century-old ash that coats the floors. Gastly grows as you do, evolving into a Haunter, becoming more mischievous as he does. The two of you have never formalized this partnership—you never threw a poké ball to catch him—but he chose you since your childhood and has always been there, lingering in the shadows, cackling and keeping you safe. You are grateful to him and wonder if he is grateful to you, even if you find yourself doubting that more often than not.

It is on one such night that you encounter someone else there, amongst the ashes. He looks to be your age, and is dressed garishly enough to look like some sort of magician. He is an outsider, you realize, and wonder if this is the boy you'd foreseen, once, sitting cross-legged in meditation, images of azure eyes alive with eccentric determination flitting through your mind's eye. Seeing these images, you though: This man is important, so you resolved to wait for the day when you would meet him.

"How odd," the other boy says airily, "I didn't expect to see anyone else in here. The villagers tend to avoid this place like the plague."

"You're right. This place… it's sacred," you say, and you hope that your excitement isn't showing in your voice (because how bad of a first impression would it be if he found out you'd been waiting for this moment for years?).

The boy gives you a lopsided grin. "So I've heard. This is why I'm here, you see."

"You have a thing for sacred ground, then?" you ask, grinning back.

He laughs. "You could say that."

You are new to this, as you have never met someone who doesn't have preconceived notions about your oddness or status as an outsider. You feel nervous, your tongue feels cumbersome and heavy, and your limbs have gone stiff. You think you must look like a fool to this strange boy, but he does not say anything of it. Instead, he pulls at a poké ball at his belt and looks at you confidently, a challenge in his eye.

"Would you do me the honor of having a battle?" he says, grin growing wider as he looks over your shoulder. "Your Haunter seems… pretty eager to do so."

Sure enough, Haunter is sticking his long tongue out at the boy mockingly, cackling at the sight of your face. You blush in mortification, but nod with determination. After all, if you are to bring Ho-Oh back, you have to be strong.

The boy's partner is a tricky kadabra that seems to enjoy teleporting about the ruins and firing psybeams at Haunter. Lucky for the two of you, Haunter has always been crafty himself, and he darts through the shadows, avoiding the kadabra's attacks easily without much effort. After a while of this, you realize that Haunter is playing with them, and that if you don't direct him to end the battle, it'll drag on for hours yet.

So you shout: "Finish it, Haunter, use shadow ball!"

To which the boy replies: "Finish? Aren't we getting a little ahead—,"

But before he can finish his cocky reply, Haunter appears behind kadabra and unleashes a swirling sphere of dark energy that sends the psychic type flying across the chamber with a grunt of pain, hitting one of the crumbling walls and sliding to the floor, passed out.

The boy stares at his kadabra, mouth hanging open in shock, for a few moments. You are scared that he might dislike you now that you've won, nervous to break the silence, but Haunter does it for you, laughing as he floats in the air (he always was a sore winner).

Haunter's laughing seems to knock the boy out of his stupor, and he offers you an impressed smile, much to your relief. "Awesome! Too awesome! That was the best battle I've ever had, though I suspect that you were playing with us through most of it!"

"Um… well…" you struggle for words, not sure of how to reply to that.

"Huh. I haven't introduced myself, have I?" the boy asks, and you realize that this is the moment you've been waiting for. "My name's Eusine. What's yours?"

"Morty," you say, and watch as the boy walks over to you, recalling his kadabra in a flash of red light as he does so.

"A pleasure to meet you, Morty," he's close enough to extend a hand to you to shake (your father taught you how to give a firm handshake, even though you don't have much use for it in a town where the people bow to each other), and you notice that his eyes are azure, and shine with a familiar eccentricity that belies a strong determination—this is him.

"Really," you begin, suppressing the urge to cry, because that would be so uncool. "The pleasure's all mine."

— . . . —

Eusine is an anomaly in this small town, just like you are. The people at the inn would give him dirty looks if he tried to procure a room at this hour of the night, so you invite him to stay at your house for the duration of his stay, and when he accepts, you sneak him up the stairs past your father, who has taken to passing out on the couch clutching a bottle, these days. You are embarrassed, and do not want your new friend to see this. You have never had a friend before, and do not want to mess this up.

The two of you spent the whole night talking. Eusine says he is on the trail of legendary pokémon, and that he came to Ecruteak because he had heard of its 'colorful mythology,' as he called it. Eusine is only thirteen and traveling, and you feel inadequate for being the same age as he is and staying in town. When he asks why you aren't traveling, you hesitate before telling him a shortened version of the truth, and are pleasantly surprised by his reaction.

"That's so awesome!" he exclaims. You must be mistaken, because you could have sworn that you detected an inflection of jealousy in his voice.

"You really think so?"

"Uh, yeah," he says as if it were obvious, "What part of having powers that would allow you to actually meet a legendary pokémon sounds lame?"

When it's phrased that way, you cannot help but agree.

— . . . —

"You are distracted," Gaku observes.

This is the fifth time in a row you've failed to determine the location of a pebble one of the sages hid somewhere in town, and you suppress the urge to growl in frustration.

"I'm not," you insist, irritation creeping into your voice. "I just can't hone in on something as small and insignificant as a pebble."

Gaku's face twists in a frown, and you resist the urge to roll your eyes. You're tired of this: you've been training since you were nine-years-old; isn't it about time that you were deemed ready to summon Ho-Oh? You've lived for nothing but this training for four years, and after all that, Gaku still insists on the same routine—meditation, persistent self-questioning, locating exercises. It is maddening, this stagnation. Your powers are stronger than they've ever been. You know you're ready. Why can't Gaku see that?

"Your impatience speaks of selfishness," the old man says, "The great Ho-Oh will appear when He deems that you are ready; it is not you who dictates when the time for the fated encounter will come."

You open your mouth to retort, but hold your tongue, biting down on your lower lip and taking in a deep breath. Arguing with Gaku will get you nowhere—every time you've ever spoken your mind to him, he has attributed your feelings to some kind of impurity in the heart and subjects you to self-questioning that spans hours. It's been so long that you are beginning to lose sight of why you want to summon Ho-Oh for these people when there are people out there like Eusine who don't care that your father is an outsider, or that you survived your infancy in a manmade incubator, or that you have an affinity for ghosts.

"I apologize for my rudeness, Sage Gaku."

In the end, you keep going because you don't know what you'd be, without this.

— . . . —

Your father is dying.

The medicine man says that is a disease of toxins accumulating in the body. Your father is a bitter man, he says, and all the negative feelings he has been living with for years has brought this about. You imagine your father's resentment, his bitterness, stunting his growth, causing the body's impurities to linger there, like in a backed-up sewage system. He advises you to pray to Ho-Oh for the salvation of his soul, so that He will guide it into the afterlife, so that he may be reunited with his wife. When the old man leaves, your father laughs and says that his liver is failing, and if he were to survive, he would need a transplant. Something Ecruteak cannot offer him.

But when you try to get him to go to Goldenrod for the surgery, he just refuses you and buries deeper into the covers of his old bed. Haunter lingers by his bedside, ever-present grin fading a little, and you know what this means, you don't have to see it in a vision to know. Your father is dying, and you don't know what to do. You stay with him, forsaking Gaku and his training for weeks to remain at his bedside. Your father talks little, becoming increasingly lost within a world of his own creation, talking with specters that seem more and more real to him with each passing day. You wonder if he sees your mother there.

And then the day comes that the smell of death hangs in the air and Haunter's grin has faded completely, and you know what is coming, but do not want to accept it. Still, you stay by his bedside that night, numbed and hopeful beyond reason that he will not die and leave you alone.

"Morty," he says through the haze, glassy eyes looking around for you, "Morty?"

You grab his hand with both of yours. "I'm here, father."

"Morty…" he coughs, and his voice is hoarse. "I'm… sorry."

You cannot accept that these might be his last words, that this bed has become his deathbed. "There's nothing to be sorry for, father… now get some rest, save your strength. It'll be better soon, I promise."

But he shakes his head, the sweat making his graying hair stick to his forehead. "No, Morty, no. Everything… my fault… I was so selfish… never let you… out of shadow…"

You are confused. "What are you talking about?"

"Loved your mother… too much. I couldn't leave this place… even though… hated it for taking her…. Not even… to let you have… normal childhood. I'm sorry… made you stay in a place that didn't accept you… that forced… you to… try… to belong…"

The tears come now, and they sting your eyes, make them burn. "It's alright, father," you say, absolving him so that he'll rest. He needs rest, that's what he needs. "Please, just –,"

"Was never… disappointed in you for… doing it…" he wheezes, and his grip on your hand tightens. "Disappointed in me… for making you try…"

Sobs wrack your body, but your father is smiling, really, truly smiling, and this is the first time you've seem this expression on his face. "Ah… your mother… waiting for me…" his grip on your hands slacken, and you tighten yours in response, clinging to him, "Komako… oh… all those colors… like rain…"

His pupils widen, expression fixed in pleasant surprise, and then he exhales one last shuddering breath, and you realize that he is gone. You crumble in on yourself, burying your face in his chest. Behind you, Haunter makes a small, uncharacteristically sad sound, and for once, you can see nothing but the inside of your eyelids.

— . . . —

Gaku will not train you anymore, after that. You rage at him, demand to be trained, if only to take your mind off the loneliness that plagues you day in and day out since your father died. But the old sage simply shakes his head and turns away from you after five years of stringing you along. Five fucking years. So you shout that you don't need him and his training anyway, that you'll prove him, all of them, wrong, and they should just watch, because one day this fucking outsider will prove them all wrong, will be worthy of Ho-Oh and then they'll all have to lick his boots and beg forgiveness for all the wrongs they've done you and your family. You scream all these things at him even though you don't mean them, even though it's just the grief talking.

No matter how cruelly they have treated you, Ecruteak will always be your home, and you will always seek its approval. You realize how pathetic that sounds, but you cannot help it.

After the cremation (no one but Eusine and a few of the kimono girls attend) and the spreading of the ashes, you walk south, near enough to Goldenrod so that you can find a payphone. You dial a number, and when the pleasant-sounding receptionist says: "Hello, and thank you for calling the Pokémon League Headquarters. How may I help you?", you say: "Yes, I'd like to inquire about starting an official gym in Ecruteak village."

— . . . —

You transform your father's house into a dark, foreboding place with high ceilings and a deep chasm in the middle of it. It becomes your gym, the perfect place for you to train your ghosts and hone your skills, growing closer and closer to being worthy of Ho-Oh with each battle.

When the League comes in, Ecruteak's isolation begins to shatter. The townspeople blame you for it—as Gym Leader, you are responsible for bringing the crowds of trainers to the city, eager for your Fog Badge, and the Pokémon Center and Poké Mart, which stand where the medicine man's hut used to. Modernity encroaches upon the village centuries late, and though the villagers try to resist it, they are helpless to resist the flood. Ecruteak is changing—its population grows, its cobblestone roads have cement poured over them for passing traffic, and different styles of houses begin to be built.

Perhaps they were right to fear you, as you have turned out to be their architect of their destruction, the harbinger of the death of their culture, of their unity as a people. You take more guilt from this than satisfaction, but comfort yourself in knowing that one day, when you bring Ho-Oh back, they'll all thank you for this.

Your powers are blocked whenever you try to find Ho-Oh, or Suicune (Eusine's latest obsession) for that matter. Still, you haven't been defeated once, and you think that means something, that it makes you special. Haunter evolves into a gengar without a trade, and that too makes you feel special. You are an oddity—certainly this means that you are meant for great things. You constantly defy convention and surpass expectations.

But then the day comes that a boy with jet black hair and golden eyes makes his way into your gym, and when you stare into those peculiar eyes and try to see his future, find that you cannot. Frowning, you battle him anyway, and in minutes the boy defeats you, seeing through every trick your ghosts throw at him. His power is insurmountable, you think dumbly for a moment, and when the boy's quilava lands the finishing blow on Gengar the fire illuminates the dark gym and blinds you so that you close your eyes, recoiling from the light.

And you see that boy, standing atop the Bell Tower, a bird of sacred flame and rainbow feathers perched before him.

You are shocked, and maybe just a little envious of this boy with such a bright future ahead of him. Still, you cannot help but feel a bit relieved when you hand him the Fog Badge, and when you smile at him, you find that you are being genuine. Perhaps you are a fool for feeling this way after devoting your life to training for a destiny that seems to have never been yours, but you are glad, at least, for the chance to see this boy's destiny, if even for the briefest of moments.

— . . . —

The village has become a city.

There are still people around that remember you as that odd boy who didn't belong, but now a lot of people see you as the Gym Leader of the Ecruteak Gym—a man to be respected and admired. Children run up to you to show off their gastly, ask how you got to be so strong, and it's at times like those that you wish your father was around to see what you have achieved.

You and Gengar enjoy taking walks through the city at night. Gengar usually floats in the air beside you and cackles, playing with you and snatching at your hat, but even he knows to be quite on some occasions. Together, you observe the things that have changed and the things that haven't, knowing that sometimes they never do.

Ecruteak City has become a place of contradictions, and you cannot help but feel more at home in this new atmosphere.

(And when the sky shines in a flash of rainbow and fire and you hear the cry of a legend, you cannot help but cry and think of your mother, who would have so loved to see this day come.)

You suppose that fate never is certain—they used to say that you were fated to die at birth. They also used to say that your survival made you fate-less, an outsider from the current of time and Ho-Oh's consideration. Of all the rumors that still circulate about you, you prefer this one above all. After years of being told what your fate is, you relish the opportunity to create your own. It is freeing, you think, and as the tides of change keep flowing into this town-turned-city, you prepare yourself to change with it, to grow stronger.

And this time, it's for you, and no one else.

A/N: More of a character study than anything else. I was interested by Morty's in-game dialogue and how he mentions his powers and what he believes to be his destiny. It made me think of how long he must have been preparing for his confrontation with Ho-Oh, and then I thought of why he would want to do that, and then this was born.

As always, thanks go out to the readers. Thank you for taking the time to read this piece! Reviews are always appreciated!

I hope you enjoyed it!