A warm breeze swept into the cabin, and dusk came with it. In Pallet a snowstorm raged, but on the Orange Islands where Kirish lived, tropical weather was king. Zakana felt the warmth envelope him as his cold fever morphed into a dripping sweat. His mind drifted to his recent moments with Kirish. She was always an unstoppable force. To think that she had hurt all this time was unbelievable.
Yumin moved to the open door, peered out. “That’s not good. Not good at all.”
Zakana knew Yumin was trying to avoid what had just happened in the room.
“What are Wailmer Wars?” he asked.
The walking pink egg of a Pokémon waddled up to Yumin. “Chansey!” it said.
“I don’t know yet.” Yumin leaned down, looked into the Pokémon’s eyes. “Chansey, keep watching after Zakana here, okay? I need to check on Kirish. This isn’t good at all,” he repeated.
“Chansey!” the Pokémon nodded, bobbed from one foot to the other.
Yumin stood tall, reached his full height of six feet. “Chansey took care of you and patched you up Zakana so show her some thanks. I’m going to check on Kirish. I think she’s in a really vulnerable state right now. Not thinking straight.” Yumin paused, pointed to a table against the south wall. “Use that Poke-talker if you need to get in touch with me. I’ve got the other. Be safe and don’t do anything stupid. Wait until I get back, okay?”
Zakana nodded. “Where’s Slowpoke?”
“Kirish and I took it the Pokémon Center down the road. It got banged up a bit, but should be fine. If you feel well enough you can go pick it up. You’ll be going to Celadon with me as soon as you’re better. Then we can get to Bambi.” Yumin shot Zakana a disturbing look that said, you better be ready. Then he shut the door.
“Chansey!” announced the Pokémon again, sidling up to the bed like a concerned relative. Its eyes and nose scrunched up, made its face seem even smaller on its oblong, misshapen body. Zakana lowered himself slowly so as not to irritate his shoulder any more, and laid his head on his pillow.
“Chansey,” he sighed, unable to oppose these things any longer, said, “thank you.”
“Some information would come in handy right about now. Where’s Oodi when you need him?”
Zakana scanned the room for his backpack. He noticed where he was for the first time. He had been so out of sorts that he had forgotten where he was or how he’d gotten there. He was in Kirish’s home and he had gotten there because of Yumin. It had been over 6 years since he’d been on the Orange Islands and if he never came back it would be too soon.
“Chansey, say . . . could you bring me that backpack from over there?” Zakana pointed to a chair across the room.
Chansey scuttled to the pack, brought it back immediately. “Chansey!”
“Thanks,” he said, pulling back the zipper and removing the Pokedex. He let his backpack fall to the floor.
“Oodi,” he said, opening his device. “Give me a read on this Pokémon.”
“Chansey. The lucky Pokémon. Chansey are almost always associated with taking care of sick people and are usually used as healing Pokémon. They are said to bring good luck wherever they go.”
“So, am I supposed to rub its lucky egg or something? Rub the top of its head?”
“Shall I use the jokes I am equipped with or answer truthfully in this situation?”
Zakana sighed. “If you’re gonna use a joke just use it. It doesn’t work if you ask beforehand.”
“Then no, you probably shouldn’t rub the Chansey.”
“Really, Oodi? Thanks for that clarification.”
The door swung open again, and a child emerged from the darkness. “Kirish! You home?”
Zakana looked up, alarmed, strained his neck to see a bronze-skinned girl wearing a bright lemon tank top and beige shorts, making her look like an overly artificially flavored popsicle. Her eyes grew wide when she took in the sight of Zakana, reared her head back, making her long straight hair fly in front of her face. She pushed it out of the way, said. “Who the heck are you? And where is Kirish?”
This spunky island girl didn’t seem to knock or wait for answers. She quickly moved to the Poke-talker, patting Chansey on her way there, said, “Why isn’t the radio on? Kirish always has it on. All day. All night.”
She clicked a button and another voice invaded the room. It was nasal and urgent. The girl tweaked the frequency and the broadcast smoothed out.
“There seems to have been a blackout in both Saffron and Vermillion City, folks. The entire city has just lost power. The last time Vermillion experienced a blackout was twenty-two years ago, and Saffron just six years ago. But this is the first time in history both cities have experienced a blackout simultaneously. If you’re listening, please stay calm, as city officials are doing everything they can to return power to you. Above all, stay safe. This is Jose Dunlop reporting from Celadon City.”
The girl interrupted by turning the volume down, saying, “Holy Corsola! You gonna tell me where Kirish is or what?”
Zakana sighed, his exhaustion taking over. He didn’t want to give this girl any easy answers. Instead he spoke to Chansey. “Hey Chansey, I hope you didn’t teach this little girl her manners.”
“My name is Cecilia, and I’ve got more manners than you! What are you doing in Kirish’s house?”
Blood rushed to Zakana’s head, one because of his position and two, because of the cacophony of sound happening nearby. Its source was a bleached Popsicle named Cecilia. Zakana treaded slowly. He didn’t fully understand his situation and knew it would be wise not to make the same mistake twice.
“I’m Kirish’s brother, Cecilia. Can you please calm down . . . or speak more quietly? One of the two?”
Cecilia ignored Zakana’s request. Her expression of shock slid down her face, formed a pouch beneath her chin. She rectified, clearly horrified by something.
“Kirish’s brother is much younger. Just 6 or 7 years old. That can’t be right.”
Zakana felt a sharp stab in his heart. A knife plunged into his chest. It was stuck, unable to be removed. Now it slammed against the cavity of his chest over and over. Zakana felt all the air from his lungs leave him. He gasped, felt hot tears cover his face.
Then Cecilia said his name.
The whisper of it brought the episodes back without warning or delay. A wave of darkness overtook Zakana, sent him into a shadowed universe. For some amount of time that Zakana did not understand, he blacked out only to be wakened by Cecilia fanning him and apologizing with words and strokes to his good shoulder. It took him some time before he could speak.
“I can’t believe it . . .”
The truth hit him. The bad news stung him. Kirish had lied. Who else did she tell that horrible and distorted thing to?
Zakana cleared the desert in his throat, said, “Cecilia. I’m Kirish’s other brother, Zakana.”
“Other brother?” Cecilia looked as shocked as Zakana felt. Her eyes widened again, her green eyes appearing like limes on top of her Popsicle body. “Why didn’t Kirish ever mention you? You’re just a few years younger than her.”
Zakana knew why but he didn’t feel like explaining it to this stranger. “Who are you Cecilia? What’s your relationship with my sister?”
Cecilia folded her hands together, fell into a business-like stupor, as though she had been waiting for this question to be asked all along.
“I’m training to be a Pokémon Breeder with Kirish. She’s the best on all of the
Islands. I’m not from Faij. I was born on Knaoui, just a few kilometers away from here. My parents let me live here to study under Kirish.” Cecilia paused, seemed to take in Zakana for the first time, Kirish’s other brother.
“How come you’re here, anyway? Did you get in a fight?”
“Yeah, with a Pokémon. It tried to kill me.”
“A Pokémon tried to kill you! That’s terrible!” Cecilia stood up suddenly. “Do you need anything? Now that I know you’re Kirish’s brother, I’m really sorry for being rude. I need to talk to Kirish though. I can’t believe she’s not here . . . and she didn’t have her radio on. She’s never done that in the two years that I’ve lived here.”
It was obvious to Zakana what had changed in the room. The only new thing to enter Kirish’s home was him. She had turned off the radio for Zakana, worried that it might upset him or talk about Pokémon too much.
“Cecilia,” Zakana whispered. “If you can help me get up and out of here, we can go find Kirish together.” Suddenly, Zakana felt a sense of loss for his sister. She had completely denied his existence. He wasn’t real, nothing, a name that didn’t spark anything in her friend’s minds or eyes. He was fiction.
Cecilia nodded, moved next to Zakana. “Let’s get you up then.”
“Apparently I dislocated my shoulder and screwed up a disk in my back.”
Cecilia froze, looked down at Zakana’ body aghast. Then her face changed. It lit up like fireworks in the night sky, sparkling and popping with every passing second. Zakana looked down at himself, and at the same time felt the sudden change in energy.
“It’s hatching!” Cecilia squealed with delight.
“Well get it off me! I don’t want all those egg juices getting on me!”
“No way! You’re not supposed to move an egg while it’s hatching. It could alter the Pokémon’s development!”
Kirish had been wrong. The egg was very much close to hatching. And now something withered and slimy emerged, pieces of eggshell fell in piles between Zakana’s legs. Chansey dashed to the hatching Pokémon, watched intently. The smiling pink thing had suddenly become intense, fierce, like it would fight anything that interrupted this birth.
With a puttering sound, a white ball resembling the inside of a cooked egg came alive.
Zakana could not recognize any discernible face. It was merely a puffy ball of white, that grew a shade of pink the longer Zakana studied it.
Again, Cecilia shrieked. “This is why I love being a breeder!” It’s a—”
“Happiny,” Oodi said upon opening. “The playful Pokémon. Happiny likes to collect small items and carry them around. This Pokémon lives to bring happiness to others and to find it itself.”
Happiny’s face appeared in its mess of white and pink skin, or rather it had turned around, revealing two egg-white eyes, dark pink spots on its cheeks, a real egg in its pouch, and a wavering pink ponytail thing that hung from the crown of its head. It grinned and crawled toward Zakana’s face.
“Do all these Pokémon have eggs?”
When the Pokémon inched closer, Zakana began to panic, thinking he didn’t want baby urine anywhere near his face.
“And why is it coming toward me? Cecilia!”
“It likes you. And it comes from the same family as Chansey, that’s why they both have eggs. Happiny evolves into Chansey.”
Chansey moved in, scooped up the Happiny off Zakana’s chest.
A wailing sound that resembled a human baby’s bubbled forth from Happiny. Chansey rocked it over its shoulder, patting the pink ball on its back continuously.
“Chansey, leave the Happiny with Zakana. See what happens.”
Chansey shot Cecilia a nasty look. Then, after another minute of the cries, obeyed. When Happiny reached Zakana again, it became silent. Again, it crawled toward his face.
“This thing is gonna need extra care. Zakana, can you watch it while I go and get Kirish?”
“Don’t leave me with it! Can’t you feed it or something?”
Cecilia stopped at the door, turned abruptly. “Shoot! This is exactly what Kirish is talking about.” Cecilia flew to the edge of the bed, looked down at Zakana. “I’m sorry. I’m just a little rash.”
Zakana already knew this by the way she stormed into the room and demanded answers. In a way, she reminded him of Bambi.
“I need to chill out. I’m supposed to be a breeder and I was about to leave this newborn with you. I could leave it with Chansey, but the fact that you’re here . . .” Cecilia’s eyes grew wide, her smile tightened into a thin line. “I mean . . . its not that you can’t watch it, I just . . .”
“Relax, Cecilia. I get your meaning. I don’t know the first thing about Pokémon.” He sensed that Cecilia was afraid he might hurt the newborn. He could see the fear in her eyes. It was the same fear he had when Kirish was around.
Again, Chansey scooped up Happiny. The two of them chattered to each other in another language.
Zakana took his free moment to sit up. Clenching at the abs he pulled himself into a sitting position. His shoulder throbbed.
“Let’s put this thing in a sling.”
Cecilia immediately came back with a sling and adjusted it across Zakana’s body. It relieved some of the weight of his hanging arm. His feet hit solid ground.
“Cecilia. Some girl came running in saying something about Wailmer Wars. What are they?”
Cecilia grabbed the Poke-talker off the table, moved to the door again, opened it. Then she gave a heavy sigh. “Come on, let’s talk outside.” She waited until Zakana limped outside, then said, “Chansey watch after the little tyke. We won’t be long.”
A sea breeze carried a wave of darkness, filled Zakana’s senses with doom. There was something eerily quiet about his surroundings as if the Pokémon knew something was coming too. Zakana heard a grunt nearby, looked to where it came.
Next to Kirish’s home there was a den—a fenced area housing subtle sounds and scents that Zakana slowly noticed one by one. A flame lit the arena and Zakana heard a guttural growl.
“What’s over there?”
Cecilia stopped at the fence. “Hey, sweet thing. Come here and say hi to Kirish’s brother.”
An orange chicklet waltzed into the light. When Zakana first saw it he thought its wings had been removed. Its claws seemed rather large for its tiny size. Zakana looked closer and saw that its wings were tucked tightly to its body. It appeared orange in the light, with feathers on the top of its head resembling a flame. It jumped from foot to foot, said, “Torchic!”
Zakana withdrew Oodi.
“Torchic. The chick Pokémon. It has a flame sac inside its belly that perpetually burns. It is able to launch fireballs as hot as 1,800 degrees Fahrenheit.”
Another breeze swept past Zakana, caused him to lose his balance. Torchic felt it too and shivered. Zakana got the feeling there were many more Pokémon in the darkness. Three turtle Pokémon moved to the fence, followed by a green thing that walked on all fours. Vines hung from its neck. Finally, the Pokémon creating the flame came forward. It was an orange lizard that stood on two feet, with a flame burning at the tip of its tail.
“Charmander!” it said.
“These are all Pokémon that came from eggs?”
“Most of them.” Cecilia grabbed Torchic and squeezed it. “This one loves hugs. It gets warmer if you hug it. Want to try?”
Zakana glanced at his injured shoulder, then back at Cecilia.
“Oh right.” She laid the chick back in the den. “People think all Pokémon come from eggs but that’s not true. Some of them have live births. All of the Pokémon you see here are Kirish’s.”
“Kirish owns all these little ones?”
Cecilia nodded. “They may be small but they’re super rare. She makes good money sending them to different regions. Most of the Pokémon are known as starting Pokémon. That means these are the common Pokémon given to trainers who first start their journey.” Cecilia giggled, pet the shell of one of the turtles. “I got my starter from Kirish, too.”
Zakana tried to take everything in but it didn’t make a lot of sense. He didn’t understand what made a Pokémon more rare than another. Maybe certain trainers hunted them because they were more powerful. Suddenly, Zakana wondered how many Pokémon inhabited the Earth. But one thing at a time.
“Cecilia. About the Wailmer Wars. You were saying . . .”
“Ahh right. Come on, let’s go find Kirish.”
“Can I pick up my Pokémon from the Pokémon Center first?”
“Of course. It’s just down the road.” Cecilia reached underneath a fold in her skirt and withdrew a Pokeball.
A ferret Pokémon emerged from the ball. It scurried in circles around Cecilia’s feet before standing stock-still. An orange-red glow radiated from Quilava, lighting the space around them.
The grass felt damp underneath Zakana’s boots. Another wave of sweat overcame him. His jeans, undershirt stuck to him, made him feel nauseous. “Let’s go get my Slowpoke.”
When he stepped into the Pokémon Center some ten minutes later, he felt some relief. Soon, he would have his Pokémon. Next time he’d be able to protect his Slowpoke. He’d be able to protect Kirish. There was no other option.
The Pokémon Center was a giant dome of sound and chaos. He didn’t know what most Pokémon centers were like, but this one seemed . . . dire. A faint sound of flutes and pianos lingered in the distance, coming from speakers situated along the walls. Zakana pointed to the reception where two ladies dressed in light pink nurse outfits leaned over the counter. They were deep in conversation with two trainers. At that moment, a third nurse sat down behind the counter followed by one of those pink nurse Pokémon. It was the same as the one in Kirish’s house. A Chansey.
“C’mon. Let’s ask about your Slowpoke.”
Cecilia marched up to the counter, her Quilava trailing behind her. Like Zakana’s home, having Pokémon roam about was perfectly fine and normal in Pokémon Centers. Zakana nearly tripped over a Pokémon that was literally just weeds, all tangled up in each other. Its two white eyes blinked at him.
“I’m here to pick up a Slowpoke.” Cecilia smiled to the lady with auburn hair behind the counter.
“Oh, hi Cecilia. You know the drill, swipe your card, sweetie.”
Cecilia sighed, stamped her foot as though she didn’t have time for such niceties. “It’s not gonna show up, cause I didn’t bring it in. Kirish did.” Cecilia stopped, seemingly waiting for the name drop to have some effect. It had none. “This is Kirish’s brother and the Slowpoke is his.”
The nurse continued to type at her computer feverishly. She didn’t look up as her glasses slid down her nose. “Well then he can swipe his card.”
“Swipe your card, Zakana.” Now, she seemed to be getting impatient with him.
“I don’t have a card.”
At this the nurse looked up. She stopped typing. Who did you say you were?”
“My name is Zakana Hayline. I’m Kirish’s brother.”
“Kirish’s brother. I’ve never heard of you.” The nurse lost her focus when her computer started beeping. She slammed down on the space bar, looked up. “Why don’t you have a card?”
“Long story,” Zakana said. “Can I just have my Slowpoke?”
“Oh, for Jirachi’s sakes!” The nurse threw her arms up in disgust, shot back into her chair. “Sorry, I’m just a little busy! This isn’t a good time, Cecilia.” The nurse pressed a button and a Pokeball appeared through an opening in the counter. “This is the Slowpoke. If you’re lying about this guy, I know where to find you. I’m only doing this cause . . .” Again, she lost her focus. “I’d get out of here if I were you!”
“What the hell is going on?”
Again, the beeping ensued, causing the sounds to be permanently stuck inside Zakana’s head. It was a constant headache as he walked back to Kirish’s place. He didn’t even hear the first part of Cecilia explaining what the Wailmer Wars were.
“Got the basics?” she said.
He most certainly didn’t. He nodded in agreement anyway.
“This organization is hunting the Wailmer for their skin. They’ve got a lot of Vitamin C packed in there. That’s why the Wailmer are going extinct. It’s a really dangerous problem. They’re on the most endangered Pokémon list, and are quickly approaching the number one spot.”
The sentence was something right out of Kirish’s mouth. This truly was Kirish’s prodigy. It was too much for a twelve year old to talk like this. Well, any twelve year old that wasn’t Kirish.
“Wailmer are just one of the company’s targets.” Cecilia let out a sigh of frustration. “They’re bad. And dangerous! They don’t care about people or Pokémon. If they’ve come to this island, everyone is in real trouble. We’ve wasted enough time. We have to get to Kirish!”
They didn’t need to go far. And Zakana soon found out he wasn’t the only one injured. Yumin jogged down the trail toward them, a young boy in his arms. “Get in the house, now!”
It wasn’t the first time his family had told him to do that.
Zakana wheeled around, obeyed. Cecilia darted ahead, threw the door open. “Who’s that?”
“Found him out by Gush Beach.” Yumin laid him on the table, cried out. “Chansey! Get some towels!”
The boy, who couldn’t have been more than nine years old, bled profusely from the forehead. He moaned, opened his eyes. “Am I going to die?”
Yumin snatched a towel from Chansey’s outstretched hands, dabbed it to the boy’s forehead. “You’re not going to die. It’s just a flesh wound. “You said the Pokémon attacked you? Are you sure it was unprovoked?”
“I ain’t lying, mister!”
“Alright, just lie back and calm down.”
The door swung open again, and Kirish rushed in, her clothes stained from sweat. The girl who had interrupted earlier was in tow.
“I’ll take care of the boy,” Kirish said. Her voice had a platinum quality to it that reminded Zakana of their mother. “Get the papers and go, Yumin. Take Zakana with you now. Get to Bambi.”
Yumin gave her a questioning look that she did not return.
“Go!” she said. “It’s too dangerous if you stay here!”
“What’s going on,” Cecilia said, putting her arm around the other girl.
“Wailmer Wars is an understatement,” Kirish said, taking Yumin’s spot at the bedside. She pushed the sandy hair out of her face. “They have no right to be here!”
Under her breath, the other girl spat out the words, “The Viterals,” as though it were some type of poison.
“Contact me as soon as you get to the Center in Celadon City.”
This is why Kirish seemed so much older, so much more weathered. She was fighting crime and saving children’s lives every day. For a moment, Zakana wished he could take it all back. He wanted to say sorry but he was too scared. He had never crossed the apology barrier with Kirish and he wasn’t sure how she would react. It could be with open arms or with lightning bolts and metal stakes to the heart. Zakana grabbed his pack with his good arm, felt how much heavier it was, or how much weaker he’d become.
Yumin flew to the door, opened it, and said, “We’ll talk soon, okay? Hold out, Kirish. You are this island’s lifeblood. Everyone here knows that.”
Zakana felt sad because everyone knew that but him. He didn’t have time to appreciate how awesome his sister was. Without meaning to, the words “I’m sorry” slipped out. They were there, drooping like beeswax from the ceiling. Kirish heard them and lowered her head. She turned away from Zakana as Yumin coaxed him out the door. Zakana could hear the sounds coming from his sister. First, in silent whimpers, and then quick, staccato sobs for the second time that day. Zakana heard those sounds until Cecilia shut the door on him, and even after he stood there in the darkness.
To be continued . . .
If you missed Chapter 4, you can find it here.
Artwork credit here and here.