Hello! I figured I should have a double update on finals week because... well, why not? Plus my flu is gone. Thank god.
Thanks go out to Great Phantom Queen, that's-a-moray, TenyumeKasumi, Redheaded Marina, and Great Angemon for their reviews, Sgt Rypht and xSkyBluDreamsx for following, and Sgt Rypht for faving.
Also, Nai and N have very odd ways of speaking. I'm sorry if they seem more odd now. Nai belongs to me, as do Kat and Simon.
Chapter 1: Reflection
Who is he?
The thought ran through their heads almost crazily as they looked at each other. To Nai, there was a tall, scruffy adult there, with hair as green as the tea he drank before bed. The odd cube around his pants reminded Nai of the pendant tucked under his shirt. His eyes, which were really, really grey, held a deep wariness and mistrust. Nai recognized it. It kinda made him think of a hurt Pokemon. Still it was odd. There were people that couldn't trust Nai? How silly! He would just have to show this person then. His clothes were plain and very dirty, Nai discovered. Perhaps this guy was an adventurer and that was why he had such a bad smell. Simon told him most trainers didn't shower on their routes or anything. Well that was no good. He would definitely wash himself. Nai didn't wrinkle his nose however. That would be rude. Despite all of this, he wasn't too concerned. Whoever he was, he was probably really cool.
N however, was terrified. Who was this boy and why was he out here? His two Pokemon were with him, or at least one was his. Their coats were glossy and fluffed, except the mouse (which he had no clue what it was) seemed more rugged. The boy himself was normally nothing unusual. However his eyes were odd, turquoise in color and wide, full of a brightness that to N felt nostalgic and painful. He wore simple clothes, all of which were scruffy with wood splinters and dirt.
"Hey Mister!" the boy began cheerfully, ignoring N's scrutiny. "That dragon seems nice! Can Nai say hello to him?"
N blinked. What a strange child. He did not realize the hypocrisy in the statement. N was likely unaware of the concept of hypocrisy as a whole. Regardless he took in the boy's vigor and smile and felt a niggling pain rise in the back of his brain. "I suppose it is perfectly allowable," N decided after a moment, unable to smile. Nai, if that was his name, seemed not to notice and cheered. The mouse made a noise and N completely froze. That creature had to be a Pokemon; there were few other types of creatures in the world and they were mostly food and study subjects according to his father. But N… but he couldn't understand it. He couldn't understand this Pokemon. What… what was happening to him?
"N?" came Zekrom's voice booming over his head, which unfortunately the odd boy caught. He beamed.
"Your name is N?" he asked innocently, walking away from the legendary dragon for a moment to peer at the tall man. "That's a cool name! It's not as cool as Nai's of course but it fits you really well."
"How…" In dismay, his words had slowed. N struggled to regain his composure. "How do you know that?"
The boy frowned. It was such an unusual expression on his face. N found himself disliking it immensely yet could not grasp the cause. "Cause your big dragon said it," he said simply and he visibly leaned back against an air wall, hands behind his head. From that one stance, N found himself aware of a lot of things yet only one clear fact: this boy is like me. N reeled inwardly at the possibility of another who understood Pokemon as he could. There was relief welling up with him that he wasn't alone… yet he was frightened. Was this one a fool boy too? Nai's eyes… he was afraid he'd see nothing there. Yet there was something wasn't there? The boy's eyes were vibrant, almost holding lives of their own. Strange… they reminded him of…
"N?" N looked at Zekrom in worry, fearing the creature was in pain. No, the creature appeared to be smiling, smiling without a mouth. While he had been thinking, Nai had climbed up onto his friend's back. On Zekrom's head rested the mouse, which was smirking at them all. "I believe you should calm yourself N. Nai is not harming me." The boy's fingers were gently moving along each scale, delicately feeling their way over the grooves between each of them. "Though I am curious to what he is doing."
Turquoise eyes peered down over at the dragon's face, his expression showing shiny white teeth. "Nai is checking your health!" the boy explained happily. "Your scales are really dirty and your muscles seem worn out. Does Mister N give his Pokemon vitamins? Or a bath?" N stared blankly at him, feeling slightly offended, especially when the boy smiled again. "Aw that's okay. Lots of trainers don't know about the vitamins thing and Pokemon usually clean themselves. Dragons can't really do that unless they molt like Dratini. Nai can fix this though! Does Mister N have any other Pokemon?"
Slowly N nodded. "Yes but why?" It was a standard for trainers to have more than one, was it not? Was it important that they didn't?
Nai beamed. "Cause Nai should check their condition too! Nai can tell Mister N is a good, good trainer but there are things great trainers don't know!" He spread his arms wide, apparently unaware of fear. "The Champion didn't know that those "Vitamins" people sell at Slateport are actually steroids. Good vitamins must be made from berry mixes." The boy said all of this with a firm nod, now stroking Zekrom's neck lightly. He frowned suddenly, pausing. "Can Nai see your Pokemon now?"
N jolted and reflexively released his team. He was trying to understand the whole "steroids thing. They sounded awful. By an unspoken signal, the mouse darted away as the five Unova Pokemon appeared. The puppy blinked and looked to follow before sitting on its rump and watching the odd human boy climb down to examine the newcomers, who were quite scary indeed. All of them seemed very puzzled as Nai stepped toward them. N was confused by his lack of concern or even alarm at the beautiful yet dangerous creatures that were leering at his small form.
Vanilluxe looked irritated, which wasn't a big surprise. It was a rather temperamental creature in both sides of the head. He tried to float away but Nai persisted, gently tapping the icicles with the tips of his fingers. The boy smiled pensively, voice floating from his lips in a rather melancholy way. "This one won't do well here Mister N," Nai stated. "Hoenn has a mostly tropical environment. He's really healthy though." N stared and returned the Ice-type.
"How do you know all of this?" He couldn't believe he was being educated in Pokemon care by a child. Yet what Nai was talking about were things N had never heard of, not even from Trainers with their Pokemon in Unova. Perhaps the Berry issue could be blamed on a lack of Berry farmers in Unova. Could it be he had missed commonplace facts in his travels? Or had Ghetsis simply kept them from him? Nai glanced up as if looking for someone then went back to examining Klinklang, carefully rubbing the gears with his thumbs.
"Nai's Papa runs a day-care center. Pokemon, especially Ditto, have to be in a healthy condition before breeding can be even thought of." Nai spoke these words mechanically, as though he hadn't been made only to memorize them, but reiterate them enough times for them to be a law. Hence why he continued apparently. "Pokemon Breeding requires two things to be effective: condition and compatibility. If the Pokemon aren't healthy there may be complications or even bad eggs." He didn't go into bad eggs, which made N wonder… and worry. "If Pokemon aren't compatible, they won't breed together. They may go visit other Pokemon and trainers won't have what they want."
"Do you… force it?" N was not particularly aware of breeding specifics but he had heard so many rumors about improper treatment that the very thought of breeding made him almost nauseous.
Nai looked up at him so fast it might have caused whiplash, eyes brimming with hurt. "Why would we do something like that? That's mean!" N gaped. What could he say to that? The smaller boy looked away and gently patted Carracosta's shell. He paused. "His shell's not shiny. Hmm…" A squeak tore him out of what must have been deep thought. He waved at the arriving mouse, which had a human with him, a girl. He wasn't that blind yeesh.
"Keenan! What are you doing?" She was about five years younger than N himself, maybe six. She reminded him of Anthea. Nai beamed. Clearly, he didn't notice her expression twisting her mouth, looking at N with thinly veiled dismay.
"Nai is checking Mister N's Pokemon," he told her happily, taking the box from the yellow mouse. "Thank you Piku. Mister N's Pokemon need some work. Their diets are too reliant on basic ingredients. Also they need to be cleaned like this shell needs to be shiny. Can you help Nai do that?" Well, she obviously could, otherwise he wouldn't have asked.
She paused, looking quite exasperated and possibly dumbfounded. "Have you asked Mister… N… if this is okay?" the red-headed female asked carefully, glancing between the stunned tea-haired male and the many Pokemon. She knew, N realized, and curiosity tempted him. Why didn't Nai? Or if he did know, why didn't he care? It was like… like them all over again.
Nai looked at her seriously, turquoise eyes losing their shine for a dimmer aqua. "If somebody needs help Nai must help them. Nai shouldn't have to ask about that sort of important thing." With that, he took the box, opened it, and pulled out a sponge. "Kat, can Nai borrow your Lotad?" Kat sighed and tossed out a Pokeball, revealing what looked to N like a walking lilypad. The blue four-legged creature waddled to the lake and tried to gather some water on its pad before padding over to Nai. Nai took the sponge, wet it, and knelt over Carracosta. "You are well taken care of in the flesh," he told the turtle solemnly. "But your shell is really dirty. Don't move too much okay?" Carracosta glanced at N with confusion before submitting to the boy's firm command. N blinked. His stubborn Pokemon… consented? Hm…
"May I speak with you?" The woman, Kat, watched him with fiery brown eyes, glancing between himself and Nai as if the male might jump him at any moment. N hesitated and she went on. "Your Pokemon wouldn't be in better hands than those of my little brother. So may I speak with you?" Only now did he grasp that it hadn't been a request. He silently nodded and followed her.
Submitting to the whims of others again are we? An all-too-familiar voice hissed in his mind. N pushed it away, focusing on this woman. By his limited knowledge of people, he acknowledged she was actually quite pretty. However, the steely look reminded him of that dark-haired boy with the glasses, unforgivingly stern. "Are you planning on harming Nai?" She didn't even stop for pleasantries, glancing back at her brother's fierce scrubbing with a motherly concern so similar to Concordia that N almost screamed. "If you are I will turn you in right now. I don't care if you have no charges on your head." She clutched a Pokeball in another hand. "Nai is important to me."
"You don't have to say anything else ma'am," N hurriedly interjected, raising his hands. His voice sped with his heartbeat, something he feared would break his chest. "I promise I won't harm him. Rather… he came over to me."
Expecting a blow anyway, he was surprised to see Kat sigh. "Of course. My apologies." She shook her head. "He's like that. It's hard for me to remember he's actually twelve. If something is important to him, Keenan won't let it go. Like that nickname of his…" She shook her head and offered him a tiny, strained smile. "Why don't we get you to a bath? I'm sure you'd like one…" Kat seemed reluctant to offer and he almost turned her down.
"What about my Pokemon," N asked warily, looking to see Nai rubbing the shell of Carracosta's stomach with some odd fluid.
"There's no one safer to leave them with than Nai," she assured again. "He's been caring for babies since he was one I swear." Kat smiled and in response he lifted his lips. His friends seemed all right… actually they seemed very happy. So Pokemon could be happy with more than their own trainers. Slowly N nodded and followed her. She was silent a moment as they passed the hardworking preteen .Then she commented. "That little mouse there is a Pikachu. You don't really see them in Unova."
"A Pikachu…" N murmured slowly. "Is that why I couldn't understand it?"
Kat looked at him quizzically, as if wondering how he could not fill the shoes his legend gave him. "Nai understands your Pokemon just fine. Then again..." The young woman only shrugged. "I suppose in your case..."
"In my case?" he repeated, not liking the wording.
Kat nodded dismissively. "All you've cared about is Pokemon as beings, as existing. You've never stopped to figure out what that means."
It was like Zekrom again, talking to him as if they were wiser than the male himself. He would not disagree that he was not as clever as his father or even as understanding as they had been, but to be called a fool over and over only became a more bitter draught as time passed. Kat was younger than him even by the looks of things, not a trainer or even someone who considered Pokemon more than pets. What did she know? How could she understand?
He remained silent as he followed, glancing back again and again to see his Pokemon smiling. Even Carracosta and Vanilluxe in his Pokeball, his most antisocial friends, were taking well to this unnatural child.
N wasn't sure he found that fair.
It was nightfall when Nai finally came home, following with four of N's friends trooping after him. The older man had to admit, they looked much healthier. Zoroark had the smaller male on his shoulders and that Pikachu popped out of his fur. That odd pooch was tripping over its own feet as it walked into the large house. The first thing Nai did was tumble from Zoroark and onto N's unsuspecting lap. He placed a bag in the male's hands.
"Mix these with your Pokemon's food. Don't worry, Nai made sure they knew who got what. Do you like our house? It's nice and big so the Pokemon have lots of places to run around!" Without waiting for an answer to anything he babbled out, Nai plopped down to the floor and went to go sit by the door. The mouse trotted after him, curling up in his arms. "Kat~," Nai whined. "Can you use your telepathy to make Simon get here faster?"
"He's deaf to the cries of the innocent," she replied from the kitchen. He was grateful she was in there and not glaring at him like she had been a few hours ago. At least that had stopped after he showered. As much as he despised admitting it, he had needed one. "Why do you think he went to work in Devon Corp?"
"That's not nice Kat," Nai told her with a giggle. N wondered if the boy even knew what they were talking about. N himself wasn't sure but he kept his face mercifully blank.
"No but it's stereotypical," she replied, walking out with apple fritters. "At least it's better than Dad… where ever that lazy bum is…" N winced at the mention of a father. He'd rather like to forget his. If either of them saw, they didn't comment, not even Kat as she placed the tray on the table. She sat down, completely unconcerned by N's presence now. Did Nai just destroy hostility or something?
"Mister N!" the aforementioned said with sudden excitement. "Zekrom stayed by the lake. He said he liked the air. He wanted me to tell you to not go out and look for him because you'll give him unwanted attention running around like that." With that he turned back to the door, smiling at it patiently. The odd pooch from before began to nudge N's leg with his nose, firmly placing his paws on the man's knee. N smiled a little. Maybe he couldn't understand these Pokemon, but he did love the creatures dearly, even now. Reaching out, he went to let the Pokemon sniff his hand. Overjoyed by the attention, it proceeded to bark very loudly and very gently. Kat went to shush the creature but N shook his head. He wanted to listen. He wanted to understand. It was worth the ear pain.
Nai watched him throughout, looking befuddled and curious. Then his whole body shifted toward the door and the second it open he went streaking down the hall, tackling the stranger out of it. "SIMON~" Kat groaned as there was a strangled, deep-voiced yelp from the doorway. N was thrown out of his fierce concentration at the sound of Nai's overly excited chattering to the person in the doorway. I didn't know kids could have that much energy, N thought as Nai clung to the young man's shoulder, jabbering delightedly about some topics he couldn't grasp from the sheer speed of the boy's words.
Suddenly he stopped and looked at N. "Mister N! This is Simon, my brother!" As though that weren't obvious. N examined the male, who seemed almost as old as N himself. He felt older however, a deep-set exhaustion in his eyes even as he fondly hugged the youngest member of the family. Nai's pure exuberance took away a few of the early age lines from his face. The eyes, brown and thoughtful, did not sparkle with the same animosity Kat had shown him, but merely with an inquisitive pause. He seemed to accept Nai's innocence and lack of panic on the matter, so he merely offered his free hand to the thin tea-green –haired male to shake.
"Pleasure to make your acquaintance," he told N gravely as the other shook his hand. The voice that greeted him was young and deep, like a rich beer that if you savored you could taste the musk of in the air. The Poochyena in N's lap barked his own greeting and Simon smiled a bit more. "Nai has taken quite a shine to you," he commented, putting the aforementioned preteen down so he could run off with the puppy Pokemon. "That's good… very good actually." He motioned that N would join him on the couch. N hesitated before following, now deprived of a Pokemon to hug. This was strange, very strange, especially when Kat patiently shut the living room door behind Nai, muffling his delighted cries and leaving N alone with his Pokemon and these two strange people. Also that… Pikachu was there, sitting on a couch arm with an amused smirk on his face.
At that moment, Simon's grave seriousness changed and he stroked the wisps of dark hair forming at his chin, a smirk curling at his lips. "So…" he drawled quietly, his deep voice flickering with some dark amusement. "You're that N are you?" He examined him, rags to rags. "Hmm… this works out all right then."
"Simon," Kat warned dangerously, her eyes flickering with mistrust. She was standing in front of the living room door, arms crossed with defiance. He laughed quietly.
"You worry too much." Simon watched N over the lenses of his rimless glasses. "I know this is quite sudden, but I have a favor to ask of you." He paused slowly for a breath. "Would you kindly take my brother around the Hoenn region?"