“We were born together… but we have to live and die separately. I knew this… I knew…”
“Mayu, we’ll be together. We will.”
“We can’t be together forever.”
- Mayu & Mio Amakura, Fatal Frame II Crimson Butterfly
A Chance Encounter
“But how could we forget challenger Lyra? I tell you, I thought this lass would make it all the way, but with one hit from Karen’s Houndoom down went her team.”
“Couldn’t agree more. You know, I really thought Lyra would have made it too. But you must admit there is something to commend for a person successfully taking out three out of four of them.”
Tian laid on the floor, flat on her belly, in front of the TV set. Her mother’s Umbreon, Hayate, was curled up at her side, possibly trying to catch up on his sleep now that there were little ones running around the house again. Two baby Eevee’s were playing with each other on the floor with their mother, Chao-xing, a Vaporeon, keeping watch over them. There was a third Eevee who was in the middle of being groomed before its new family came to pick it up.
When her parents first talked about the move Tian really wasn’t expecting her mom to continued breeding Eevee’s, as she was pretty sure Hoenn did not have Kimono Girl’s, or tea houses like Johto. Let alone Eevees and their evolutions. “They still make for good company,” was her mom’s explanation.
And having grown up with one or more evolved form of Eevee in the house, Tian found herself agreeing.
It was summer, and the twins had long finished their mandatory schooling, and having quit their part-time jobs, Tian found herself with nothing better to do than watch reruns of the years Johto League challengers. There wasn’t anything new to watch, nor were there any tournaments to look forward to for a while. Boredom, mixed with the summer heat of Hoenn left her feeling rather sluggish.
“Hayate,” her mom called from the kitchen. “Come on, it’s lunchtime.”
Immediately the Umbreon got onto its paws and scampered into the kitchen. Tian got onto her knees and looked over her shoulder. The woman in her late-thirties was just in the middle of placing a second bowl of Pokémon food down before she called for Chao-xing. Her mother, Hua, had graying blue hair cut in layers, down to her collar at the longest. Hua’s daughters both inherited her green eyes that made her stand out amongst her two sisters and relatives in Johto‘s tea houses. She was once quite beautiful in her youth, but having two pregnancies and raising three children took its toll on her. Before she met her husband, Hua was a Kimono Girl, a dancer for her families tea house in the Johto region. With Chao-xing, Hua had created beautiful water choreography.
“I know what you’re thinking,” Hua said without looking up at Tian, “And lunch for us won’t be ready for a little while longer. While you wait, can you do me a favor? Ladon asked if we could send over a few of his CD’s. Think you can take them over to the post office in Oldale Town?”
“Why can’t Yue do it?” asked Tian.
“No, no!” Yue yelled from the upstairs bathroom, “Just stay in the tub, and I’ll get a - EEEEK!”
A thud was heard shortly after, and Tian got her answer. “Give me a minute,” said Tian.
She hurried upstairs to the bedroom the twins shared. There was a stark difference between the two sides. Yue’s things were in order, and her bed was neatly made with her Espeon Poké doll rested on her pillows. While Tian had clothes laying on the floor, her blankets were turned over, and her Umbreon Poké doll was hanging over the edge of the bed. The only thing on her side that looked remotely neat and orderly were Tian’s collection of Poké dolls of Johto’s local Pokémon.
Tian had to search her closet for her fanny pack, which she secured around her waist once she found it. She quickly brushed her black hair out and pulled it back into a low ponytail. With that completed she tied a blue bandana with a white Poké Ball emblem around her head. Tian rarely left the house with her hair down since they moved to Hoenn, it was muggy enough as it was.
She hurried down the hall, brushing passed a soapy Yue with the Eevee wrapped in a towel. Tian jumped down the last three steps; she snatched the package Hua left on the kitchen table and hurried to the door. Quickly, she shoved on her sneakers, then called over her shoulder, “I’m headed out, Mom.”
News of an open Gym Leader position reached her father’s ears six months ago. He applied and got the job, much to the delight of the family. However, that required the family to move from Olivine City in Johto, to Hoenn. It was made a little easier since her dad had an old friend who lived in Hoenn, and the fact that the girls brother, Ladon, had been gone for few years.
Her dad, Norman, left Johto a good two weeks before his wife and daughters to oversee the gym’s renovations. The rest of the family moved in a month ago and had only just gotten settled into the new house. And they had only seen Norman on the weekends, come Monday morning he was back at the Gym. Tian could describe Littleroot Town as ‘sleepy.’ The neighborhood they lived in only had one kid around the twins age, but he was always running around town or poking his nose around Route 101.
The trip from Littleroot to Oldale was actually quite short. Short enough that it was generally considered safe to travel without a Pokémon. That did not necessarily mean people would let their young children travel Route 101 without adult supervision. But at sixteen, Tian and Yue were allowed a little more freedom than the younger kids. If she was going to Petalburg City where Norman’s Gym was located then that would be a Ponyta of a different color.
In a way Tian understood why Norman wanted to live separately from his family. So Hua and the girls could live peacefully compared to his hectic life as a Gym Leader. Spending time with any of them would have been put on hold due to challengers, and it was a way for Norman to separate his work life from his personal life. But it seemed like they hardly saw him anymore.
Tian had hardly set foot onto Route 101 when she heard someone yelling for help. She only needed to take two steps before she found a portly man in a white lab coat clinging onto the trunk of a tree with a small grey-black Pokémon trying to nip at him. The man’s coat suggested that he was a man of science, but the clothes underneath were a bit casual; a dark t-shirt, kaki shorts, and a pair of sandals.
The Pokémon trying to attack him was a Poochyena, one of the few Hoenn Pokémon Tian could actually recognize. She knew they were commonplace on Route 101, and if your Pokémon were skilled enough they were hardly an issue. But this little guy seemed to pride itself in tenacity. “You there!” The man shouted while still clinging to the tree, “I dropped my bag, there’s three Poké Ball’s in it.”
Tian looked down at her feet; there was a well-used, brown messenger bag on the ground; three red and white Poké Balls had spilled out. Just pick one? How? She didn’t even know what was in them. Biting her lower lip, Tian snatched the middle ball, and tossed it into the air. Here goes nothing.
In a flash, a small orange and yellow chicken-like Pokémon appeared at her feet. The little Pokémon ruffled its feathers as it stretched relieved to be out of its ball for a while. And Tian had no idea what kind of Pokémon it was. Though, going by the orange and yellow color scheme, she was going to go out on a limb and say it was a fire-type. “I’m really going out on a limb here.” Tian balled one hand in front of her mouth; she said, “Ember!”
The little Pokémon puffed up its chest as much as it could. Exhaling, a small flurry of tiny flames spewed out of its beak. The embers slammed into the Poochyena’s side, knocking the little guy off its paws. “Alright, good,” said Tian. “Now use Ember again!”
Chirping in acknowledgement, the Pokémon repeated the process once more. Poochyena fled the scene, whimpering with its tail between its legs. The man in the white coat slid down the tree, then braced his back against the trunk to take in a few calming breaths. A broad smile happened upon his face moments later, and he gave Tian a clap on the back. “Thanks a lot, kid,” he said. “You really saved my hide there.”
Pausing for a moment, the man gripped his chin and looked Tian over. The wheels in his head were clearly turning. Now that Tian had a good look at this man, she realized there was something familiar about him. The man gasped, and snapped his fingers, “Oh! Yes, of course! You’re one of Norman’s girls! Tian, right?”
She nodded, and he laughed. “I didn’t even realize who you were at first. Last time I saw either of you and Ladon was about six, seven years ago. You’ve grown into quite the young lady.”
In a moment of pride Tian straightened her back with her head held high. She smiled with a pink blush on her face. “Thank you.”
She remembered why this man seemed so familiar to her. He must have been Professor Birch, an old friend of Norman’s. About seven years ago Birch, his wife, and two sons spent the summer with them in Johto. The twins had mostly played with the older boy as the, then, thirteen-year-old Ladon considered too young to supervise a four-year-old.
Both the Professor, and Tian jumped when they heard the rustle in the grass a few yards from them. Quickly, Professor Birch snatched up his messenger bag and the remaining two Poke Balls. “Perhaps we should move this conversation elsewhere,” the Professor suggested.
Nodding in agreement Tian quickly recalled the orange Pokémon and followed the Professor back into Littleroot Town.
The Professors lab was within walking distance, but still in a pretty busy area of town. The building was air conditioned, thank god for that, white and sterile. A man behind a receptionists desk smiled politely as the pair walked by. Birch prompted a door marked ‘AUTHORIZE PERSONEL ONLY’ open, gesturing for Tian to follow him. Down the hall on the other side they crossed paths with a few people in white coats. Two people, a man and a woman, had walked up to the two to ask the Professor what happened. Birch explained the events that transpired on Route 101 before he handed them two of the Poké Balls from his messenger bag.
After the they walked off, the Professor lead Tian to the door at the very back of the hall. Inside was a more secluded room, presumably the Professor’s office. The desk was cluttered with papers and several folders; the mess just about buried his computer under it all. The bookshelves were in disarray, books littered the floor, papers were crammed between tomes, and Tian was willing to believe they weren’t organized. “So, Tian,” the Professor said while he hung his messenger bag on the chair behind his desk. He got out the last remaining Poké Ball and continued, “Norman’s told me you don’t have your first Pokémon, yet. Could’ve fooled me with your performance back there!”
Embarrassed, Tian rubbed the back of her neck while she smiled a lopsided grin. “I just… like to watch the Pokémon League, and tournaments is all…” she said with a shrug. “Besides, I was kind of going out on a limb with that little guy.”
“Speaking of ‘that little guy,’” Birch tossed the Poké Ball to Tian. “I’d like you to keep that Torchic as my thanks.”
She almost dropped the Poké Ball when she heard this. “Really?!”
“Why not? Seems like Torchic had taken a shine to you. A good trainer will do him some good, I’m sure.”
“Thank you, Professor!” Tian said with a bright, tooth bearing smile.
“You know,” said Birch. “My boy, Brendan, happens to be out on Route 103 as we speak surveying Pokémon for me. It wouldn’t hurt to drop by to say hi.”
Tian couldn’t remember a whole lot about Brendan, which was more than she could say about his brother. But, she ultimately agreed to meet with Brendan after she dropped off Ladon’s package. Walking back to Route 101 Tian let Torchic out of his Poké Ball. It felt a little odd to think she finally had her starter Pokémon, and it was a fire-type. She always did say that she would have chosen Cyndiquil out of Johto’s three starters.
Furrowing her brow, Tian held Torchic up to her eyelevel as they continued their trek. “So,” said Tian. “It’s not that unusual for people to nickname their Pokémon. So, with that in mind, is it okay if I call you Zuko?”
The newly dubbed Zuko let out a happy trill in response. Tian sprinted through Route 101 to Oldale Town. Immediately, she stopped at the post office to ship off Ladon’s package. With her errand done, Tian took a moment to get out her PokéNav Plus, a ‘sorry-for-forcing-you-away-from-everything-you-know-and-love’slash early birthday gift from Norman. It was the latest Devon Corp product, with several app functions. But the only app Tian and Yue had on theirs was the AreaNav, which was basically a map.
According to the Area Nave Route 103 was just up north, and in reality it was no different than Route 101. Full of tall grass, full of wild Pokémon. Zuko had is fun in battling a few wild Pokémon. Surprisingly enough, there was small a pond at the end of the border where a boy of sixteen stood, crouching over it. He carried a small notebook and pencil in one hand.
It was obvious that he was exposed to quite a bit of sunlight, going by his tanned skin. There was a bit of brown hair that poked out of his black and white knit cap. He had on a tight red and black shirt, and a pair of loose shorts. Brendan did look familiar, but not quite from what little memories she had of him, but from a nightmare she had not too long ago, and the fact that he was her neighbor‘s son. Strange, perhaps Tian had remembered him subconsciously. Granted it did not explain how she could accurately guess what he looked like seven years after they met.
“Let’s see,” Brendan muttered under his breath. He quickly jotted down a few notes in his notebook, “The Pokémon on this Route seem to like the pond, it is a good source of water, so…”
Tian cleared her throat, jumping, the boy almost fell head first into the pond. When Brendan regained his balance, he immediately whipped around to find Tian, calming down a moment later as evident when he laughed, “Sorry, I thought something was about to jump out and attack for a moment. Can I help you, Miss?”
“Em… your dad suggested I stop by to say hello,” said Tian. “I’m Tian, moved in next door like a month ago.”
Brendan thought for a moment before he snapped his fingers in realization. Wow, he really was Professor Birch’s son. “Yeah, I remember you! You’re the Gym Leader’s kid, Tina!”
“When Dad said you guys were moving in next door, I was hoping I’d get to see Landon again.”
“Ladon. His name is Ladon.”
“Never really hung out with girls before.”
“And it shows.”
“Hey, aren’t there supposed to be two of you?” asked Brendan. “Like… twins or something?”
Tian resisted the need to roll her eyes. “Yeah, we’re like twins or something,” she said. “Yue’s back at the house.”
“Oh, okay, I’m Brendan, in case you forgot,” he said, reintroducing himself properly. “I kind of remember visiting your family before. It’s nice to finally meet you… again.”
“Yeah,” Tian said drolly as she held Zuko to her abdomen.
“Oh, did Dad give you that Torchic?” asked Brendan. He crouched down to look Zuko in the eye. A moment later, he smile while ruffling Zuko on the crown of his head. “Yup, I’d recognize this little guy anywhere. Well, since we’re both here, why don’t we have a quick battle, then?”
Zuko leaped out of Tian’s arms and puffed his chest out. “Sure,” said Tian. She placed her hands on her hips. “Why not?”
Smirking, Brendan reached behind him and removed a Poké Ball from his belt. He tossed it into the air, exclaiming, “Let’s go, Andre!”
A small blue and orange Pokémon appeared in front of him. It had a round head with a fin at the crown, and its tail. It had on a blank expression that made it look like it was always smiling. It was a cute little fella, but it looked like it was going to leave Zuko at a type disadvantage. “Andre, use Tackle!” Brendan shouted.
Tian exclaimed, “Scratch, Zuko!”
Andre sprinted towards Zuko, muttering to itself all the while. He slammed into Zuko, head first, throwing the little fire-type a foot across the field. Regaining his balance, Zuko leapt up and swiped its claws across Andre’s face. “Use water gun, Andre!” declared Brendan.
Tian shouted, “Watch out!”
Andre took a deep breath in, and a stream of water shot out of its mouth. Zuko was utterly drenched, his talons clawed into the ground to keep himself in place. This wasn’t good. She couldn’t have Zuko counter with Ember, it wouldn’t have any effect on Andre.
“Zuko, use Growl!” she shouted.
A sharp shrill sound escaped from Zuko’s mouth. Andre slunked back, his head shuttering in distaste. “Come on, Andre!” Brendan encouraged. “We’re not going to let that stop us. Use Water Gun again!”
“Dodge it! Then counter with Scratch!”
Panic stricken, Zuko scurried from left to right until he tripped over his own feet. He tensed as Andre’s Water Gun attack sailed right over his head. Zuko sprung back onto his feet when the attack finally ended. He sprinted up to Andre; he swept around in a circle, slashing at Andre all the while. Andre was flung across the field, landing close to the pond. The blue and orange Pokémon let out a pitiful whimper with stars dancing across its eyes.
Brendan smiled weakly, recalling Andre into his Poké Ball. “All in all,” he said through a sigh. “It was a good battle. Not bad for a girl.”
Tian glowered at Brendan as soon as he said that. Did he really ended that with ‘for a girl?’ Was he seriously playing that card? And here she was, childishly thinking that card got old once they were old enough to leave the school yard. Showed how little she knew. “Yeah,” Tian said with a lack of enthusiasm. She recalled Zuko into his ball. “It was… fun.”
Brendan’s comments aside, it really was fun. Tian had anxiously waited to become a Pokémon Trainer for years, and the day had come completely unexpectedly. She loved the excitement that bubbled in the pit of her stomach. Analyzing the situation and choosing the proper attack for the desired outcome. It was exhilarating.
Tian shifted her weight from side to side after a long moment of silence between the two. Brendan, realizing things were getting just as awkward on his side as they were hers, rubbed the back of his neck. “I’d uh… like to stay and chat, but… ahem,” Tian cleared her throat. “My mom’s probably expecting me… Wasn’t really supposed to be gone this long…”
“Yeah, I need to… get back to the lab anyway.” He walked pass Tian, and gave her a two fingered salute. “Catch you later, neighbor.”
The sun was beginning to set by the time Tian made it home. She just stared at the front door for a while, trying to decide how to go about this. Was Hua about to give her the scolding of a lifetime? For starters, Tian should not have taken this long to have something shipped. And then there was the fact that she was coming home with a Pokémon. In her excitement, Tian accepted the Professor’s gift without really thinking.
Maybe if she explained what happened with Professor Birch Hua would understand. Tian had done her good deed for the day, after all. But that might not excuse Zuko. Then again, they were a family of Pokémon people, Norman was a Gym Leader, Ladon was a Pokémon Ranger, and Hua bred Eevee’s. Maybe it wouldn’t be so bad.
Tian reached out for the doorknob, but the door swung open before she could touch it. Yue stood in the doorway, smiling boldly all the while. It was always like that with the two of them, they always knew when the other was behind a closed door and could never sneak up on each other. They just always knew when the other was right there.
Physically, Yue was Tian’s double; same face, same eye shape, same green eyes, same black hair. However, Yue always wore her hair long, and in two pigtails. The girls used to switch places a lot when they were younger, especially on their classmates and teachers. Norman and Hua got many calls from the school complaining about that sort of thing. Eventually, Hua had enough of it and cut Tian’s hair short to make their little game all the more difficult.
When Tian’s hair grew out a little, she decided that she liked how it looked, and wore her hair in layers ever since. It was probably around that age when the twins started acting more like individuals, so the change came with less complaint than what Hua was expecting.
Inside Tian could see Hua watching a period drama starring Brycen, and her mother’s favorite actress, Diantha in one of her earliest works. Silently, Tian walked inside, and pulled off her shoes. Maybe Hua didn’t notice the time. “So, what Pokémon did Professor Birch give you?” Hua asked without turning away from the screen.
In a act of sheer brilliance Tian answered with, “Huh?”
“Professor Birch called a little while ago,” Yue explained. She was bouncing on the balls of her feet, while she clapped her hands together. “He asked me if I could stop by tomorrow to choose my own Pokémon!”
“He also asked if you were planning on becoming a Trainer,” Hua added. “If so, he’d like for you to stop by the lab tomorrow, too.”
“Well…” Tian rubbed the back of her neck. She had been thinking about leaving home sometime soon during her trek back. That was always the plan, she and Yue would get their starter Pokémon, collect badges, challenge the Elite Four, and the Champion. “Uh… d-did the Professor tell you what happened?”
“Yes, he did,” said Hua. The girls walked back into the living room and sat on either side of their mother. “He also told me that it wasn’t the first time he was chased around by local Pokémon, and that it won’t be the last. So… What’s it going to be? You going to leave the nest now?”
Yue exclaimed, “I’m going! I’d love to see the rest of Hoenn!”
Both Hua and Tian had on their own worried looks. “Yue,” Hua said gently. “There’s a few places in Hoenn that require sea travel in order to get there. Don’t you think-”
“I’ll, uh…” Yue forced herself to look away, “I’ll cross that bridge when I get there. What about you, Mom? You’re going to be okay if Sis and I leave?”
Hua waved her hand at that. “Oh, never mind your old mother. I want you to have the fun of meeting as many people and Pokémon as you can.”
“Are you sure?” asked Tian. “We wouldn’t want to leave you alone…”
“Tian, I haven’t had a moment alone since Ladon was born,” Hua said bluntly. “And then you two came along and I’ve hardly have had the time to sneeze. I love you both, but raising twins was a handful. When one of you got sick you’d share it between yourselves, I had to get two sets of clothes for you for every new school year, the times you’ve switched places, and the arguments I had to separate between the three of you kids. I am in need of a little alone time.
“Besides, it’s natural for kids your age to start their own journeys. Go out there, see the world, round out your character a bit. A little journeying will do you both some good.”
Nodding, Tian said, “Okay. I’ll go with Yue to see the Professor tomorrow. If it’s early enough we might be able to make it to Petalburg City to see Dad.”
“Ohmigosh! Dad’s going to be thrilled!” Yue cheered.
“Now, let’s see your first Pokémon,” Hua said, grasping Tian by the arm.
Dinner that night consisted of fish potstickers and white rice, a favorite between the three. Tian introduced Zuko to the family when she let him out to eat. Yue practically gushed over how cute he was and couldn’t wait to see what her options were. Hua laid out an extra bowl of Pokémon food so Zuko could eat with Chao-xing, Hayate, and the Eevees.
Tian wasn’t sure how she was going to sleep that night. When she accepted Zuko, she had hoped to set off within a few days or a week. But, here she was, getting ready to leave with Yue in the morning. She figured she would find herself laying awake to second guess her decision, or out of pure excitement.
After eating, the twins kissed their mother goodnight, grabbed Zuko and hurried up stairs to their room. Tian changed into a pair of loose shorts, and a tank top featuring the logo of the animated program My Little Ponyta. Yue had listed off everything they should pack before morning. Their PokéNav Plus, wallets, PJ’s, a change of clothes, toiletries, and there was no way Tian was going to leave without her Umbreon doll. All the while Zuko roamed around the girls room, his curiosity having gotten the better of him.
That night, after the lights had been turned out, Tian laid awake with Zuko snuggled against her side, and one arm wrapped around her Umbreon doll. How in the heck did one quick errand turn into a life-changing event? It seemed like something that came straight out of the TV shows Tian watched when she was younger. Something that just did not happen to people like her.
Tian had been meaning to talk to her parents about starting her own journey in Johto, but she never got around to it for one reason or another. Now that she was just hours away from it, it felt a little surreal. It was like the rug was pulled out from under her. Everything had happened so fast, Tian wasn’t sure how she felt.
If Tian thought about it too much she might not be able to sleep. The last thing she wanted now was to ask Yue to put it off for a few days. Tian was ready to go. She wanted to collect Gym badges, and become the new Champion.
This was really happening.