/he was a legend in his own time
Word Count: 3 108
Inspiration: Red’s PC: “It looks like it hasn’t been used in a long time…”
I've had this sitting on my computer for the longest time, wondering if I should put it anywhere. It was really hard to write, so I hope you enjoy.
x x x
Pallet Town was nice and golden in the morning, and she decided she liked it very much.
Her name was Kris, and she was a long way from her home in New Bark Town. Two years ago- though it seemed like eighty- she had left for Cherrygrove with a playful Chikorita in order to run an errand for the easily distracted Professor Elm. Never once had it occurred to her that she would end up beating the Champion of the Indigo League (and never once had she considered that the reclusive Lance who often aided her would be that Champion) or that she would leave her verdant homeland of Johto for this place, Kanto.
“Pallet?” The Viridian Trainer Club member had looked at her strangely when she inquired about it the day before. “It’s not the most interesting place. It’s a small town- two houses plus Oak’s lab- and nothing there but old women and dust now. Tourism never really worked, since he’s never home.”
“He? Who are you-” She would have continued, but there was a battle downstairs between old-time rivals which drew attention away from simpler questions.
Later that same afternoon, when the sun was almost ready to sleep, she took a stroll in the dusky white evening to the gym where she had once challenged Blue. It had been a stunningly difficult battle, preceded by two easy victories for the leader. The third time had only been a victory for herself by luck, and the thought still bothered her greatly.
There was a man whose name escaped her drinking from a thermos at the side of the city’s main road. Rumour had it that three years ago- did everything that ever happen occur three years ago?- he was involved in some sort of secret plot to undermine Kanto’s economy, though to her he just looked like an old man with some coffee who asked trainers if they were in a hurry.
As she passed him, he took a cup out of his pack and filled it before motioning in her direction. “Want some coffee?”
The event seemed to be one of obligation on her part, so she accepted and drank deeply.
“Not often that we get a new champion refusing to take the old champion’s place,” he said, making conversation. “Been three years. What’re you up to?”
“I was walking over to the Gym.” She tried to catch her reflection amongst the stars in her cup. “I’ve been thinking about heading south to Pallet Town, but I couldn’t find out much about it. Since Blue’s been so many places, I thought he might be familiar with it.”
“Blue’s from Pallet, you know,” the old man said.
She looked up, putting pieces of the puzzle together. Of course tourism would never flourish. People would want to see the home of Blue, Leader of the Viridian Gym, but hard-edged man was never where he needed to be (though he did seem to have a thing for ruined Cinnabar, but that was another story).
“Thanks, mister,” she said, handing him back the mug.
“Any time,” he replied. “Next time, maybe I’ll show you how to catch a Weedle.”
x x x
“Yeah, I came from Pallet.” Blue snapped the chopsticks apart angrily and motioned for her to come closer with a flicker of his eyes. “Spent the first ten years of my life there with my sister and grandpa, until I left. You’ve met Grandpa, right?”
She blushed. “He’s a- a celebrity in Johto, has a radio show. I’ve met him a couple of times.”
“He’s talked about you. Stop standing there with your mouth open and sit down, will you?”
She complied, half out of fear. Blue’s Gym was closest in comparison to lovely Jasmine’s- empty of tricks and traps if only to announce without distraction that this was a Leader who would not give up without a fight. He ate his dinner in an angry silence; to alleviate her own tension, she brought out Meganium and rubbed one of his petals between her thumb and forefinger.
“You were wrong about one thing, though,” he mumbled through a mouthful of rice, “It’s not me they’d want to see. It’s him.”
“Him,” she repeated, a question without a mark.
“There were two of us who grew up in Pallet. He came the day Grandpa gave me my first Pokemon- I’ll never forget it. I worked so hard to put together a team without any weaknesses, all for him. I’d catch him when he was weak, when he was tired, and he’d beat me every single damn time!” Sensing that his composure was lacking, he stopped and irritably looked up at the ceiling. His voice dropped several decibels. “It took too long to beat the Elite at Indigo- well, you should know about that. But I won. And I was the champion for twenty-six hours before he comes waltzing in with his Pikachu and- and-” Silence ruled for several seconds. “A year of training, and I hold only one record for it. The record for the shortest time being Champion. He came and beat me and refused to stay at Indigo. I couldn’t stay, of course, being the loser, so they gave me this gym that he had cleaned up for me, and Lance took my place.”
Even her light-hearted Meganium was silent under the weight of hope destroyed.
“He lived in my shadow, and I in his. But now I’m the washed-up leader of this useless place and he’s a legend. Go to Pallet, if you really want to, but don’t expect to find him or anything else interesting there. And listen, you,” he said, with the sound of a warning, “You’d better not lose until I beat you. Got it?”
She nodded and left quickly, leaving him with his head in his hands, lamenting the gap that love had put between him and his most hated foe.
x x x
It had been almost midnight when she had started out south of Viridian, but fuelled by coffee and stories, she wouldn’t have been able to sleep if she had tried.
The wind seemed lovelier than usual as it gently stirred the grass at her feet. Faintly, she could hear the cries of the more common breeds of Pokemon, slumbering Rattatta and Sentret in the quiet plains. It was a good time to be awake. To the south, she could just make out the rooftops of the mysterious town where everything seemed to begin.
She had once imagined Pallet to be a bustling metropolis full of eager young trainers hoping to receive a new friend from Professor Oak- just the name made her remember the terrible trials back home in the Radio Tower- but the whisperings of trainers gave her a different image, and she was starting to think she liked it better. After all, if it was as they said, there would not be much difference from her hometown across the sea.
Perhaps in Cherrygrove they had make-believe legends about her, too.
Or perhaps not. A flock of Pidgey suddenly took off into the air as she disturbed their ground-level nest, giving her the need to shield her eyes from the dust. The lack of light was making travel dangerous even with the lack of any natural hazards. Sighing in defeat, she pulled out her flashlight to make camp for the night, resolving to wake as soon as the light of morning was reborn.
x x x
Pallet Town was nice and golden in the morning, and she decided she liked it very much.
The stillness of the land of the living seemed strange; after all, even a small haunt like Lavender would make some noise in its earliest hours (despite the fact that Lavender was a terrible example due to its still-haunted Radio Tower). The description of the bored trainer in Viridian had certainly been accurate. To her immediate right and left were two oddly similar houses, and further to the south a larger building that was hopefully Oak’s lab. In the distance, a Hoothoot called out six times.
Well, then. The back windows of the two closest houses glowed to life as their inhabitants woke. She found the light both alien and inviting, drawing her to the house on the left. The brightly decorated sign, painted with gaudy flowers and smiling faces (the paint still new, as if it had been done in a hurry after somebody had left) read ‘Blue’s House’. The house of the forgotten champion.
She knocked softly. The people of Kanto seemed to be as, if not more, accommodating than the inhabitants of Johto- it was common practice these days to always keep the house open for travelling trainers.
A pleasant-looking woman in her late teens or early twenties opened the door and ushered her in.
It was not until after a delicious (if plain) breakfast was rushed on to the table and she had refused coffee for the third time that the woman started up a conversation.
“’Name’s Daisy,” she said. “My kid brother is the gym leader in Viridian- oh, you probably know that by now. He’s out of town so often that it causes trouble for the trainers. Have you met him?”
“Yes,” she said, looking down.
“Not often that we get trainers in Pallet. What brings you here?”
“Dunno.” She got up, startling the young lady who kept house amidst the dust and absent-mindedness. “I’m sorry.” After seating herself again, she opened, closed, and twisted her mouth before beginning again. Trainers were never the most sociable of people. “I came here from Viridian. There was some small talk about the town, and- well- who else lives here?”
Daisy frowned slightly, giving Kris a little internal jolt- a smile suited her much better. “Small talk, huh? Grandpa Oak lives to the south, and Deliah to the west. She’s- you’ve heard talk of him, haven’t you.”
Kris could only manage a nod. She had a strange feeling of numbness in her stomach.
“Go talk to Grandpa about him. Look, I’m sorry. But as much as it’s affected Deliah, it’s affected poor Blue even more. I’d rather not talk about it.”
x x x
‘Oak Pokemon Research Lab’.
In days long past, she had dreamed of coming to this place- once nurturing the idea of Oak generously making her his closest aide, accompanying him and Mary on his radio show, growing old and beautiful and becoming famous as Kris, Oak’s Favourite Pokemon Professor.
But those days were long over now. These days, she wondered if it would be possible to settle down and raise Water Pokemon. Perhaps in Cianwood, where she would be able to retreat to the Whirlpool Caves where the strange gift she had received in Pewter shone menacingly bright; perhaps in Blackthorn, where the old men with long eyes had given her the Dragonair she now called a partner.
The Leader in Vermillion City had laughed after learning that half of her partners were sea creatures, but Misty of Cerulean City had understood- Dewgong was playful, Lanturn was gentle, Corsola was precious. She couldn’t give them up just to become stronger.
She would have liked to believe that thoughts like that, on their own, made her a better trainer.
Oak was busy at his computer when she stepped in, hardly disturbed by the echo of her footsteps in the deeps. It reminded her of the day they first met, when he handed her the tiny red device and said without words that he trusted her-
“Kris?” He looked up, a smile throwing lines over his face. She wondered how he managed to make it to Goldenrod every day for his show with all his research. “It is you! How are you doing?”
“Fine, Professor,” she said, and stepped over shyly. One of his aides looked up from the massive pile of papers on his desk and waved. “I was in Viridian yesterday and thought I’d come visit.”
“How good of you, then,” he said. “Blue never drops in on his old Grandpa anymore- I haven’t seen him in three years since- well- how is the Kanto Gym Challenge? Not too difficult for a Trainer of your calibre, I’d imagine.”
Three years again. There must be a vow taken to bring it up but never speak of it. “I’ve finished, Professor. After defeating Blaine at the Seafoam Islands, I ran into Blue at the Cinnabar Islands and he agreed to challenge me.”
“Oh? And you beat him so quickly? He’s not getting soft, is he?” He was still smiling, and she felt her tension being lifted off.
“Not at all. It took my three times, and the only reason I won was because of luck- Dragonair learned Hyper Beam and took out his Alakazam on a critical, sir.” She shook her head, wanting to get back on topic. “But what I meant to ask is about a person who lived here once. I know that he beat Blue, and that he was Champion, and that-”
“Ah,” Oak said. “Red, you mean.”
“Red,” she exhaled.
“Yes,” he said, “A boy named Red. Blue’s age. We never thought he’d amount to much more than a small-time breeder, he was so quiet. He went out wandering in the grass north of here one day, ran into a Pikachu- I caught it for him, gave it to him as a gift, and he went off. Only news we heard of him were his accomplishments- almost unbelievable at times, but then he’s quite the unbelievable boy.”
“W-where is he now?”
“Seeking out new competition, are you?”
She wasn’t, but she couldn’t think of another reason, so she nodded.
“Nobody really knows. But if you’ve been all over and haven’t seen a hair of him, there is one place left- Mount Silver, have you heard of it?”
Mount Silver, east of Blackthorn; she’d heard of it in her nightmares. “Yes- sort of.”
“Head west from the entrance of Victory Road. I’ll send them your Identification Number, but they’ll probably ask for verification.”
“You be careful, though. It’s a dreadful place.”
She offered a lopsided grin and turned to leave.
“If you’re in the area, I hope you come visit again.”
x x x
The sun had clearly risen when she exited the laboratory and contemplated her next move. It wasn’t until after she decided that it was best to head for Viridian and take a day to rest that she had accidentally opened the door to the only other house in Pallet.
The woman sitting at the table was frozen with a coffee cup halfway to her lips, staring at her. Kris’ face must have had the same bewildered expression, because the woman eventually smiled, tilted her head and motioned to the seat across from her.
She shut the door quietly and took the seat offered to her shyly, her face burning. “S-sorry, Ma’am.”
“Please.” Her voice was barely louder than a whisper and achingly familiar. It was the voice of her own mother, back in New Bark. “Not a problem- there haven’t been many visitors in a while. What’s your name, honey?”
“Kris. Nice Jhoto name. Where are you from?”
“New Bark, Ma’am.” The table had a nice dark grain, ecru perhaps. Maybe teak.
“Well, my name’s Deliah. I’m from Viridian, but moved here after I had Red. He-”
Deliah regarded her with a strangely sad look in her eyes. “Red’s my son.”
Kris shook her head. “Sorry. I’ve been wandering around, talking to people about him. Oak told me most of the story. I-” She stopped, and her voice lowered. “Do you miss him much?”
She was a mother of legends, nothing but a forgotten artefact. “I worry about Red getting hurt or sick, but he’s a boy. I’m proud that he is doing what he wants to do.”
Kris stood up without meaning to. “I’m going to go find him.” There was a real sort of determination in her voice that scared even her.
“You do that, honey.” Deliah stood and stretched her back. “’S been three years since he left, thirteen since I left his father. Legends, both of them, and idiots too.”
x x x
She stayed at in Red’s house for the day with the excuse that she wanted to rest before venturing to Mount Silver; Deliah dusted off the old bed upstairs and made it with a grim sort of look on her face. Kris considered using his old computer to send something home, but it looked like it hadn’t been used in a long time.
There was a great price that came with a title.
x x x
There was a Larvitar chasing after her, tottering on unsteady legs as she stumbled through the murky darkness. Lanturn’s light extended only so far. The feeling of claustrophobia was choking her.
It was really just an ordinary cave after all, dime-a-dozen in Jhoto and Kanto.
Dark Cave connects Blackthorn and Violet. She lowered herself over the handlebars as a Golbat flew by and wondered if calling out Meganium would make her feel any better. She was on the edge of panic. Union Cave connects Violet and Azalea. Ilex Forest connects Azalea and Goldenrod. The spray of a nearby waterfall hurt her eyes. Why did water run in caves? Sudowoodo connects Goldenrod and Violet. The front wheel of her bicycle hit a rock and it flipped over, bucking her off.
She shook her head and gathered herself in the wake of the fall, pressing a hand to her scraped knee in reflex and squinting at the resulting pain. To her right was a hole in the wall leaking light into the cave.
As soon as she realized that it was not just a mirage, she stood up and took a step closer. Perhaps some Pokemon were making the light. Maybe that Raikou she had seen racing in the grass near Mahogany was in there, causing a ruckus.
Lanturn slipped back into its ball and she stepped in quietly, shyly, to the door in the centre of the world. There was a boy there.
Not an old boy, perhaps her age. He was standing rigidly in the centre of a raised platform, his back to her; he was not moving. Was he lost? What was he doing here? Could he be-
She placed a hand on that awful cold shoulder and he turned around and looked at her with those eyes that betrayed years of silence. There was a tumultuous rumble from all around her as he placed a hand at his hip and prepared to fight.
She had found him.
x x x
He was a legend in his own time.
The story of Red is a terrible story, the boy who spoke little and cared too much. Exhausted and without reason to believe, he crushed those who sought him out but could not derive pleasure from anything anymore.
But why? What changed Red from the boy who lived voraciously, rushing headfirst into everything, loving life with all his heart?
Kris wondered about many things as he meticulously picked her team apart. But her thoughts all returned to the same place- how awful it was to be a legend, how awful, and how very sad.