Chapter 26: Return to Ecruteak

Tension was in the air, a high tension. Hotaru walked along a street, heading for her house. She had returned to Ecruteak City but just the expressions of the people who walked past her, were telling her to leave. Hotaru went with a lowered head. She didn't want anyone to notice or even recognize her but without success.

"Is it my imagination or are all the people staring at you?" Shaymin asked, sticking its head out of Hotaru's jacket. It was carried by the girl like a marsupial.

Hotaru walked faster, she almost ran. "I don't know..." she mumbled quietly.

The blonde-haired trainer girl walked around the corner, coming in the next street. She already saw the building where she was living. Hotaru walked straight ahead to the entrance of the building which stood on a small hill. It was a huge house with several apartments. One step before she entered it, Hotaru stopped. Looking at the ground, she was caught in her thoughts. Hotaru quickly turned around, running away again. "Sorry, but I have to do something first," she said to the hedgehog Pokémon. Hotaru dashed around the corner, running past the park with playground of the area. Just the remembrance of it let her run faster.

"Where are you going?" Shaymin asked curiously and rather confused.

"To Miyako!" Hotaru replied. "I have to see her!" she exclaimed. Hotaru took a short cut through a small alley between some other high buildings. She went to a different part of the town. "I can't just come back without telling Miyako!" she yelled into her mind. While clenching her teeth, the blonde-haired girl ran across some streets. She came to an older part of Ecruteak. The area looked very traditional and historic, just like in a museum. The houses were made of wood, in an old traditional style. Hotaru panted slightly, she wiped with her hand across her face. Walking towards a large house which was surrounded by an old stone fence, Hotaru had reached her goal. She stepped in front of the gate to the house. Taking a deep breath before ringing the bell, Hotaru tried to calm down a bit. She pushed the button for the bell and waited to be answered through the intercom.
Nothing happened. Hotaru sighed quietly with hanging shoulders. Nobody was at home. "At least I tried it..." the girl muttered disappointed. Standing there and looking down, Hotaru became sad. "I wonder if she even cared about my disappearance..." Hotaru said to herself mentally. But it was no use. Nobody was in the house. Frustrated, Hotaru went away again. Slowly, and with her hands in her pants pockets, Hotaru went back. She went past the houses and past a couple of shops. Noticing two persons in front of one shop, Hotaru turned her head slightly. The women were staring at the girl and their gazes were following every step she made, seemingly talking about her. She glanced at them suspiciously, almost hearing the conversation. Their looks were filled with hatred and contempt.

"Hey, isn't that this girl?" glaring at the girl, one of the women asked the other one.

Not mentioning anything, Hotaru tried to ignore them when she walked past them. She bit her tongue and did her best not to show her emotions. She just went away until the women were out of sight. Actually until Hotaru didn't see them anyone. Taking a deep breath to calm down, Hotaru continued to walk. She just wanted to disappear or to lock herself into a room with nobody else inside. Swallowing the frustration she felt, Hotaru went home. "I knew it was a bad idea to come back. I was right, nothing had changed. Nothing at all..." Hotaru was talking to herself mentally.

Shaymin didn't dare saying something. The unexpected situation had unsettled it. But it had to do something."Hotaru?" the Pokémon asked.

"Hm?" Hotaru mumbled.

Not daring to ask, Shaymin waited a minute. But it finally spoke. "Did something happen?" Shaymin asked with curiosity.

Before answering to its question, Hotaru were looking for the right words. "No. Nothing unusual," she said with a weak, fake smile. Avoiding every kind of conversation with Shaymin, Hotaru went back. Meanwhile, the sky changed its color. A tender dark color spread out on the afternoon sky. The slight orange color started to disappear. It became evening. The streetlights were already turned on. A small breeze went through the town, letting the leaves of the trees dance. Hotaru went back to the building where her small apartment was. Luckily, it wasn't far away. Hotaru walked across the streets of Ecruteak, ignoring everyone who glanced at her. This feeling hit the girl like thousands of needles. She hated it.
Hotaru entered the entrance hall of the residential complex, she went straight to the wall with the mailboxes. The girl pulled out a key ring with two different keys on it. She opened the mailbox with her name on it, looking inside. Nothing. It was empty as usual. Not one letter. Not even advertisements. She closed it again, walking over to the elevator. Pressing the button on the wall, Hotaru waited for the lift to come. A signal tone sounded and the doors to the elevator opened. The girl quickly lowered her head as she saw two woman and a little girl. She knew them, the older woman who lived in the same complex with her little daughter.

Gasping for a moment, the older woman, seemingly the mother of the child, became angry. Not paying attention to the blonde-haired, the older woman grabbed her daughter's hand, literally dragging her out and walking past Hotaru. She glanced back at her, rather glaring at her. "Isn't that the witch? Why is she back?" asking, the mother of the girl whispered to the other woman.

"Psst, she could hear you. But yes, it is her. After what happened here she still dares showing up here," the other one said.

Just standing there, Hotaru turned her hands into fists. She clenched her teeth, her muscles cramped inside her body. She looked back, glaring at the persons who were talking about her. Hotaru's gaze hardened and the glare let both of the women shudder. Shaymin watched everything, it didn't feel well in this kind of situation. Seeing Hotaru like this, Shaymin was worried. The Pokémon couldn't understand it. But it was going to understand it soon.

"I think she heard us. Scary, isn't she?" the younger woman commented. "Just her gaze let me shiver. She is not a normal child. And she too dangerous. It was all her fault that the school got attacked."

The little girl was glancing back Hotaru. Not understanding why her mother was so scared and afraid of her.
Snapping, the older woman whispered something back, loud enough for Hotaru to hear. "Yes. Hopefully she will disappear again. I can't sleep when I know that there is a witch living in the same building," she hissed in a despising way. She wanted Hotaru to hear it. To feel her hatred towards the girl.

Without saying anything, Hotaru started running. She ran away. The girl sprinted to the stair case, and ran upstairs to the second floor. There she stopped running. Panting heavily, Hotaru leaned her hands on her knees while leaning forward. She bit her lip. Hotaru bit back tears, frustration tears. She blinked a few times to suppress them successfully. Almost being about to scream loudly, Hotaru gulped. Shaymin's eyes widened perplexed. But it didn't dare saying something.

Hotaru swallowed the anger which raised inside her. She went to the corridor where her apartment was. Going around the next corner, Hotaru's eyes went wide as she saw the door to her apartment. She stared it with a shocked gaze. Even Shaymin gasped.
The words 'Witch', 'Witch Girl', 'Leave', and 'We don't want you here!' were written on her door with color. Someone had scribbled it on her door. Trying to forget it, the blonde-haired trainer opened the door with her key and closed it when she entered the room, locking the door again. Hotaru stepped inside. It was rather dark and a bad air filled the living room, there was almost no oxygen. Hotaru rushed to the curtains and pushed them open. She quickly opened the glass door to her balcony, letting fresh air inside. The girl went into her kitchen, she put her index finger of her right hand on the small kitchen shelf in the corner, brushed over it and lifted her hand up again. Her finger was full of dust. All surfaces of the furniture was covered with dust. The small plant in the kitchen window was already withered completely. After all it was a long time since Hotaru was in her flat. Hotaru pulled off her backpack from her back and threw it on the shelf.

"Is that your home?" Shaymin asked as the trainer girl went through the tiny apartment.

Nodding, Hotaru replied. "Yes..." she mumbled.

When the girl went past the bed to open the window in her room Shaymin jumped her bed. "Why do the people call you witch?" the Pokémon asked curiously but unsure.

Waiting, Hotaru didn't reply. She kept quiet. Hotaru left her room again, heading for the fridge in the kitchen. She opened it, looking for something to eat or to drink. It was empty. Just two cans of lemonade and a bottle of water. The girl grabbed a lemonade can, opening it. She took a deep sip of the sweet tasting beverage. "It seems that I have to buy some things..." Hotaru mumbled more to herself. Shaymin just went into the kitchen again, glancing at her saddened. It lowered its head slightly
Sighing while looking out of the kitchen window, Hotaru thought about what the woman had said. "After what happened...then it's true what Professor Elm said. Team Rocket had really attacked Ecruteak City because of me..." the girl thought, drinking her lemonade. "One more good reason for them to hate me..."
Without saying something, Hotaru tossed the empty can into the trash.
She pulled her sleeves up, grabbed cloth from the cupboard and turned on the water, letting it fill the kitchen sink. Throwing the cloth into the water first and wringing it out, she started cleaning her kitchen. It was actually clean and tidied up but dusty. Hotaru wiped the dust away. She cleaned the kitchen first. Then her tiny bathroom, the living room and her own bedroom. Only trying to get different thoughts, Hotaru continued. She didn't even sigh or say a single word. Hotaru went to her small broom chamber and pulled out her vacuum cleaner. She cleaned all the floors in her apartment. Before mopping the floors with an old cleaning cloth. In the same time, Shaymin hopped on the couch in the living room, watching the trainer girl.
It took a while but after Hotaru was finished everything was clean and freed from dust again. Meanwhile, it was already dark and cold outside. The night had begun. The only lights in Ecruteak came from the houses and the streetlights. Just some stars shined weakly from the sky.

"Hotaru?" Shaymin asked, walking over to its friend.

"I will buy some food now. It's already dark, so I have to hurry up, I'll be back in five minutes," Hotaru said, jumping to her feet again. She opened her backpack and took her purse. Putting her jacket on, she grabbed the door knob. "Just wait here," she mumbled, almost about to leave.

Shaymin took a deep breath. "Hotaru? Nobody is here. Isn't someone waiting for-" it tried to ask but couldn't speak any farther.

"There is no one waiting for me," Hotaru said with a serious voice, a hint of sadness appeared in it. "I live alone," she added before leaving her apartment.

She went into the staircase, went downstairs and left the building. Slight chills were sent down her spine, it was cold. Going down the hill, she walked along a street, and around the corner, heading for a small konbini. She went into the supermarket. Some people inside the 24 hour supermarket glanced at the girl. Hotaru quickly grabbed a shopping basket and rushed behind one of the shelves. She grabbed some packages of instant food like instant noodle soups, and two small cups with chocolate pudding, throwing the food into the basket. She quickly went to the next shelf and grabbed two cans of lemonade, putting them into the basket, too. Hotaru just wanted to leave as fast as possible. She hastened to the cash desk where she paid for the food. In a plastic bag she carried the food. "Should be enough for the next days..." Hotaru thought when she exited the konbini. She stood in front of the supermarket for a while.

Deciding to take a different way home, Hotaru went into the opposite direction. Nobody was in sight, no more people on the streets. She went to the small playground in the near. The playground where she had met her best friend for the first time. The only one who really had accepted her, even with her ability. Hotaru went along the footpath to the playground. She went around the trees that separated the playground from the street. In the darkness of the night it felt even lonelier but it was more peaceful. Sighing, the girl went over to the swing and sat down on it. She slightly pushed herself away from the ground. "I'm so was naive to come back..." Hotaru said. "Otherwise... " she mumbled. "I brought a lot more people in danger by traveling around. All of them could have been injured seriously... just because of me... And my Pokémon. If I hadn't escaped Team Rocket they wouldn't have attacked my school... It was all my fault," she told herself in her thoughts. "I'm so stupid!" Hotaru bit back her tears. When she sobbed slightly, she wiped her tears with her sleeve away. "And Shaymin... I wish I could tell it the truth. I don't want to do the same mistake twice. But it's better if it doesn't know... just like Miyako. My problems aren't their problems... And I don't want them to worry about it..."
"It's no use..." she muttered, standing up. Suddenly, Hotaru sneezed, she was freezing. "'s cold..." she stuttered.

"! Got it!?" someone yelled.

Almost getting ready to go home, Hotaru was stopped by some familiar voices. "Miyako?" Hotaru thought. She heard footsteps coming closer to the playground.

"Yes, yes," another known voice said. Definitely a male and young voice. "It's just a pity that it took so long until you got it. But, you're pretty harsh after defending her in all ways before," the male voice said. Hotaru knew it, that voice belonged to a boy in her class called Koichiro.

Another boy came closer. He giggled. "It looks like you are mad at her, right Miyako?'' he asked. Another boy from Hotaru's school.

"Miyako..." Hotaru muttered. She stood up from the swing, slowly walking over to the end of the playground. Just the trees were separating her from the voices. She already saw some shadows, created by the streetlights. She went to the small access from the street.

"Yes! How many times do I still have to tell you until you leave me alone?!" Miyako yelled in anger. She ran to the end of the street, where the access to the playground was, stopping there. She turned around, waiting for the boys to come. "I hate her so much! I hate Hotaru!" she screamed in all her rage. "Do you get it now?! I hate her!"

With her eyes widening, Hotaru's heart almost stopped beating. Seeing her best right in front of her and hearing what she had just said. She let go of the plastic with the food in shock.

The small and actually quiet sound it made when it reached the ground caught the other girl's attention. Miyako slowly turned her head, seeing Hotaru standing only a couple of meters away from herself. "Hotaru..." she mumbled in shock. Miyako stared at the girl who she had just said that she hated her. In disbelief she shook her head slightly. "How..." she mumbled quietly. Staring at each other for a while Hotaru nor Miyako said something.

The boys from the Aotsubasa school quickly ran over to Miyako, standing next to her. "What?" Koichiro gasped. "What are you doing here?!" he yelled at Hotaru.

"How... come you're... back?" Miyako asked, stuttering.

A single tear rolled down Hotaru's cheek. She was breathing heavily, still trying to bear what she just heard. Too shocked to say something, Hotaru continued staring at the brown-haired girl.

the other boy from Hotaru's school pointed at the girl. "Hey! Why did you come back!? We don't want witches like you!" he shouted. "Right, Miyako?''

Miyako turned her hands into fists, biting her tongue.

"Miyako?" Hotaru stuttered. "Tell me...that...this is a lie..." she said.

"Why should we lie?! After what happened we don't want you here!" her classmate, Koichiro, yelled. "Now, go away!"

Ignoring him, Hotaru kept gazing at Miyako. "Why?" she noticed Miyako's arm, it was wrapped into bandages. Something had happened to her. Hotaru's stomach hurt badly, she already knew the answer. "What...happened?" she asked, not wanting to believe it.

"Don't you know!?" the other boy from her school screamed. "We got attacked because of you! Some weird guys attacked our school, they were looking for you," he yelled in frustration and hatred. "It's all your fault! Lots of students got injured just because of you, you witch!"

Every single word hurt Hotaru, it felt like thousands of needles stabbed her into her chest. "But...that's...not..." she stuttered.

"It's true..." Miyako said, mumbling. Almost emotionless, she told the blonde-haired girl about it.

"You heard it! Now leave!" Koichiro shouted at Hotaru.

"But Miyako..." Hotaru stuttered. Her friend didn't do a single move nor said anything to defend her. Miyako kept standing on her place behind the boys from her school.

"Don't you see that we don't want you here? Go away!" Koichiro yelled.

"I thought you were my friend?!" Hotaru yelled with tears streaming out of her eyes. "What is about our promise? We protect each other because were are friends? Did you forget it? You're the only person who every like me! And I like you... I would never betray you..or leave you alone if..." she was cut off by Miyako suddenly.

"But you did!" Miyako yelled. "Don't you get it!? Everything just happened because of you! You brought everyone in danger!" she yelled. "" Miyako stuttered frustrated. "And you didn't even care about it! Students and teachers got injured, the whole school was taken hostage! Nobody was able to do something!" the girl screamed. "No... nothing would have happened if you weren't here..." she almost cried. "You didn't care about anyone! Not even me! And I trusted you! I thought you would come back to help me!" she yelled, raising up her fist with the injured arm. "Go away! You're...too dangerous... witch," she said, biting her lip after mumbling the last word. "I hate you!"

Hotaru kept quiet, she lowered her head. She started sobbing silently after getting called a witch by her best friend. "I know it's my fault...and... I'm sorry..." she mumbled.

"Then leave and don't come back!" the boys yelled at the same time. They stepped back to Miyako. "Let's go," Koichiro said. "I don't know what she could do to us," he said, grabbing Miyako's arm and pulling her away. Miyako glanced back Hotaru but she went with her classmates, leaving Hotaru alone. They went away quickly.

Silence. A couple of minutes passed. Hotaru stood at the same place like before, still not wanting to believe what just happened. It went so fast, she couldn't understand it. Hotaru bit her lower lip in desperation. She picked up the plastic bag and slowly turned around. She left the playground which brought her so many recollections. And now they all got destroyed within a couple of minutes. Was Miyako really the Miyako Hotaru knew from before? Everything had changed. Hotaru went up the hill to her home. In the middle of the street, she stopped walking. She tightened the hold of the bag and turned her other hand into a fist, too. With her head lowered, Hotaru sobbed. She clenched her fist to suppress it but the despair took over her. She started running home as fast as possible. Hotaru dashed up the hill but a few meters before she reached the area of the residential complex where she was living, her legs couldn't carry her anymore. Hotaru dropped to her knees. She opened her mouth and screamed in frustration for a moment. Hotaru started crying. It was too much for her. Her tears didn't stop."Why..." she mumbled in anger. "Why?!" But her rage took over. Hotaru punched the ground with her fist hardly. Punching it over and over again, Hotaru tried to calm down but there was no way for her to be calm now. The pain in her hand didn't even bother her. For that the pain she felt in her chest. The skin of her hand was scrapped through the punch. The pain when she heard people calling her a witch, or when she thought about her past. Sobbing loudly, Hotaru stood up again. She wiped her tears away with her sleeves. Her eyes became red from crying, so Hotaru lowered her head. Her bangs fell over her eyes and covered her face. She went back to her house, entering it. Hotaru went up the stairs to the floor where her apartment was.
Hotaru opened the door and stepped in. Without saying a word, she went past Shaymin. The Pokémon was already asleep. It had fallen asleep on the couch when Hotaru left. The girl went over to the hedgehog and picked it up carefully. She didn't want it to wake up again. Hotaru carried into her bedroom and placed it on her bed gently. Closing the door, she let it sleep. Hotaru went into the kitchen. She packed out the things she had bought. The girl put the cans into the fridge and the instant noodles into a small cupboard.

The blonde-haired trainer girl tossed the plastic bag into the trash, she went into the bathroom. Taking off her clothes, she turned the water in the shower on and hopped under the shower. The water was rather cold, but the girl didn't care about it. Hoping to cool down her red eyes from crying, Hotaru took a long shower. Still thinking about what happened, Hotaru clenched her teeth. She leaned on the wall of the shower with her forehead, touching it slightly. She hit the wall with her fist, but not with so much power as when she hit the ground. It fist was still hurting but somewhere else. Some tears came again, they rolled down Hotaru's cheeks but got washed away from the water.

Minute for minute passed in silence.

The sound of the splashing water slowly became lower and soon disappeared when the girl turned the water off. She went out of the shower, grabbed a nearby towel, drying herself. After her body was dried, she wrapped it around herself. Grabbing another smaller towel, Hotaru dried her hair with it. The cool water from the shower had removed the marks the girl had from crying.
Hotaru went into the kitchen again, getting herself another can of lemonade. She opened it and drank a huge sip from it. Going to check on Shaymin, Hotaru went to her room. Quietly, she opened the door and looked at Shaymin through the crack.

"Isn't someone waiting for you?"

She remembered Shaymin's words. She looked at the sleeping hedgehog Pokémon. "There is nobody... You're the only family I have..." Hotaru thought saddened.

"Nobody is here."

"I can't tell Shaymin about my problems... I don't to bother anyone anymore with it..." Hotaru thought. She closed the door silently and went into the living room, letting herself plop on the couch. Grabbing the remote, she turned the TV on to distract herself from the events of today and from her memories. The only light in the room came from the TV. With the contrast to the darkness in the outside, it was rather too bright for the girl. Changing the channels with the remote every second, Hotaru looked through the TV program. She didn't really want to watch something. The girl gulped as more tears were about to come. She avoided them successfully this time.

Hotaru pulled her knees up to her chest, crouching on her couch.

Yes, I know, sad chapter.
I wasn't in the best mood, so I wrote something sad while I was listening to some OSTs. If you think it's too sad or dramatic please tell me.

Disclaimer: I don't own Pokémon! Pokémon (c) Nintendo!