It begins with one small stone and ends with a resounding crash.
"Read all about it! Landslide caves in the entrance to Meteor Falls. Scientists believe the lack of plant life has caused the erosion. Debates over placing non native Pokemon begin again. . ."
The paper slides out of Wallace's suddenly numb hands.
May jumps off her Swellow before he touches the ground.
"Move. I'm the champion of Hoenn!" she calls, breaking through the growing crowd. She places her hands on the rough surface of the rocks, hope mingling with hopelessness.
"How long?" she whispers, eyes damp.
"Only a few weeks, Ma'am."
"It's touch and go if we want to prevent further collapse."
"What about the people?"
"We're evacuating from the lower entrance. But we've sent in some golbat scouts and according to their supersonic, the deeper levels are totally blocked off."
May closes her eyes. She needs to think of answer, and she can't. Her beldum floats uncertainly. It nudges her but she only turns away. "I think that he's gone Beldum. Gone."
"Wallace, what has happened to you? Glacia said-"
"Glacia should shut her mouth."
"I know such a tragedy can be crippling, but you have to accept-"
"I don't have to accept any thing, Juan! What do you know?" Flashing eyes, tangled hair, covers flung, the whole room in discord. Repeat: "What do you know?"
"This is most childish, Wallace."
"Get out." His voice is hard, calm, brittle. "Get out."
Slowly his mentor backs away.
The paper work is stacked high. He stares at it. "Son . . ."
The newest up grade to the PokeNav. Hone in on the exact location of a trainer. "Son . . ."
If the trainer is out of range, the PokeNav will sound three times. "Son . . ."
The paper work is stacked high. What does it matter any more?
The silence is like the sea and they're drowning in it.
Sidney curses. "Why?"
"There's nothing we can-"
"Shut up, Glacia, shut up. Every one knows your heart is made of ice."
"Ghosts don't leave," Pheobe murmurs, shivering in her light attire.
"I do care." Glacia repeats it like a litany. "I do. I care."
"Gone. Hiding from his grief."
"Give the man a break!"
"Grief always catches up with you." They look at light-hearted Pheobe and decide they don't want to know.
"Elites." They turn to him. "All we can do is be strong." Drake closes his eyes but his voice is steady. "All we can do is be strong."
Cynthia clenches the stone in her hands. She only met him once. Just a conversation. Just a stone souvenir.
Does she think of him some nights? Yes. Yes.
Fate taunts her. "Nothing's going to happen now . . ."
She smashes the stone on the ground.
Roxanne pauses in her lecture. "The most famous trainers to come from Rustboro . . ."
Her students clamor to answer, eager faces, eyes shining.
"There's the Cutter!"
"What about you Miss Roxanne?"
"There's one more, I think."
"Steven, that's it. Steven Stone!"
They look for approval.
"Quite correct," she says.
Some times it's better to forget.
"He told me all about solrocks and lunatones and he never got angry when I asked too many questions. I should have kept it, Mommy!"
She hugs her son close. "Kept what, Sweetie?"
"He gave it to me and I gave it away. I should have kept it!" The crown shaped rock, the silver hair, the smile won't leave his head. "I should have kept it and now, he's dead."
"Do you miss him?" he asks the empty house. "Of course you do, we all do."Wallace slumps to the ground surrounded on all sides by stones, stones, all his stones. "Steven!"
"We're taking challenges again?"
"We can't mope around forever, there's a world out there."
"Mope! Don't act like it's not important -"
"This is our job. Do you think Steven would have wanted us to shirk it?"
"He hated it here anyway," Phoebe mutters.
"Don't say that," Sidney shouts at her.
"Fine. I won't, but it's true."
"Steven Stone was a great but eccentric man. He had a deep passion for rocks and caves . . ."
The newspaper finds its way into the trash bin.
"It's been two months Steven. They excavated the cave but you were gone. They couldn't even find your body. Steven . . . where are you?"
"Juan – "
Wallace is standing in the doorway. His billowy white cape is drawn close about him.
Juan stands politely. "Come in."
"I found a prism scale – on the beach. It's terribly beautiful. I – I would like for you to have it. It's only fitting."
"Ah, Wallace. My dear friend, I need no gifts from you. All harsh words are forgiven. You have been grieving, no? We are rarely elegant in grief."
Boneless with relief, Wallace sinks into one of Juan's many luxurious seats. "Guilt, Juan."
"Guilt is an inelegant emotion. Pure tragedy has its own beauty, but guilt is ugly. And I am terribly, terribly guilty."
"Why should guilt plague you, Wallace?"
"Do you know why Steven quit as champion?"
"Neither do I. I know nothing. I call- I called myself his closest friend, and I never asked him if he was content with his life. I assumed so, just because he was quiet, and kind, and smiled. I didn't ask-" Wallace's voice goes rough and choking. He swallows, and continues. "I didn't ask why he left us all. I didn't ask if he was coming back. And I never – I never thought to follow him. Not once. Never."
"I'm sorry about your son," the president of Silph Co says. "I have no children. I can't imagine your pain."
"Don't worry about it!" Mr. Stone says, trying for his usual hearty boom.
"But I am worried – about you." Mr. Stone's colleague and friend draws himself up and crosses his arms. "It's ridiculous to pretend you're quite fine and dandy. You're not, so why don't I order lunch and let's talk about it. Please don't glare at me like that. You know I'm right."
"If it makes you so happy, order lunch, then!"
Ten minutes later, they're sitting with a plate of tea sandwiches between them. "Why don't you tell me about Steven," his friend says gently.
Mr. Stone grabs a pecha berry sandwich and shoves it into his mouth. Over on his desk, the phone rings. "I should get that," he says, rising.
"Alright – it's your choice. I don't mean to be so pushy, I just want to help."
Mr. Stone hovers uncertainty by his desk. Coming to a sudden decision, he turns back. "Steven," he says fiercely, loudly enough to be heard over the phone's ringing, "was brilliant. Maybe all parents say that, but he was. He was brilliant and focused enough to be anything in the world he wanted to be." Mr. Stone falls silent, fingering his his tie. "But I didn't think about that, then. I only thought that he would be brilliant at following in my footsteps as the head of the Devon Corporation. It wasn't optional.
"I gave him a beldum as his first pokemon, because every child should have a pokemon. He really loved that funny little beldum. I'd see them playing together in the streets. And then he met another child, Roxanne, who had a nosepass. She wanted to be a rock-type specialist and the champion. I think she encouraged him to be a steel-type trainer. So one day, he told me he was going to go on a pokemon journey and make his beldum strong. I let him because I thought he'd come back soon enough. But then he didn't. And didn't. And then, somehow, he was the champion.
"I don't think I've ever properly accepted that up until now. I certainly never recognized it as a great accomplishment. We never exactly had a fight, because Steven hated to raise his voice. He hated to argue at all, but he did when he thought it was necessary. I kept telling him to come back. I told him it was his duty as my son and that he was a horrible son. I shouldn't have said that, but I got carried away with my anger. I felt, betrayed, slightly. Maybe.
"Last year, before all hell broke lose with Kyogre and Groudon, I sent him my ultimatum, carried by some eager young trainer. Come home and be my son. Or not be my son at all.
"I can't forgive myself for doing that. I can't. Please, I don't want to talk about this anymore."
"I mean, I know I'm sort of a punk," Sidney tells Phoebe. He's drunk on the midnight air, giddy and exhausted. "But Steven didn't really care about that. He acted like I was level with him, even though he was refined and all that, and I was all sorts of worthless on the streets back then. He helped me pick out these clothes, y'know, since I had no idea. I never thought he had problems. I mean, he wasn't spoiled, but he was always so distant I figured things didn't get to him much, y'know? Well, I figured he'd always stick around. Well, I don't know what he really felt. Well, I guess I didn't much know him at all."
"He hated it here," Phoebe tells Sidney, once he's fallen asleep on her shoulder. "I ran into him once at Mt. Pyre, when I was there visiting grandma. He was wandering around, looking at the stones. He was in a weird mood. Maybe Mt. Pyre was getting to him. The gloom sinks in without you really noticing, and he was acting as maudlin as I think it's possible for him to get.
"He said that everyone puts him in boxes. That he's a coward because he's not brave enough to find out who he is. That he's a coward to travel when he has responsibilities. That he's just a coward. He said he didn't want to disappoint anyone, but whatever he did he'd disappoint someone and that he was sick of expectations and angry at himself for not meeting them. He was a mess.
"But Sidney, he said it wasn't my fault, or any of our faults. He said it was his own mess to deal with, so please not to talk to anyone else about it. Maybe I should have. But he asked me to keep his secret and so I did. I think he was happier down there for those last few days in Meteor Falls then he was all the rest of the time, anyway."
"It was a bit strange though," May says to Wally. "I went to his house a few time, and there's nothing in it but rocks. I mean, it didn't look like he lived there. It wasn't really his home."
Wally speaks quietly. "At my house everyone loved me, but I needed to leave. Sometimes I think you have to. So sometimes I sort of feel as if I understand why he went off to Meteor Falls. Even if it didn't end well, I understand that maybe it was something he needed to do."
"I found that girl again and she was nice. She gave me it back and I buried it right outside his house and, mom, I feel better now."
"I'm proud of you, sweetheart. When you grow up you'll often feel sad, but the beautiful thing is that grief passes."
Somewhere, footsteps echo in a cavern and a man crouches to examine the wall.
Steven sighs and he smiles.
– he's free.
"All those shining stars at night are the stones I'll never get to know..." - Steven Stone