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Eri
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PostSubject: Story Feedback   Mon Aug 31, 2015 9:05 am

Part I of Chapter One:

The Book of Mal
Chapter One: I am Child

“Dancing bears, painted wings
Things I almost remember
And a song someone sings
Once upon a December~”


He could hear the voice clearly, even though it seemed dreamy –like it came from a dream. It was pretty and light, airy almost. For a second, he glimpsed a small angel smiling brightly at him, her brown hair surrounding her face.

And she was gone, and when Mal woke up, he was in a room with machines and on a strange bed.

“Mal?”

He turned his head slowly (his head felt stuff and it ached) and found a man in sharp business clothes looking at him worriedly. He had red hair that was parted sideways, and warm green eyes that reminded him of the emeralds he once saw somewhere. It was hard to recall anything. He couldn’t remember much actually.

“W-who are you?” he asked tiredly.

The man smiled slightly. “I’m Gabriel. Do you remember anything from last night? Leaf tried to tell me as much as she could.”

Mal was confused. “…Leaf?”

Gabriel’s smile faltered, and he looked at him in even more worried. “Mal, do you remember much of last night?”

Mal tried to remember, but nothing came up much. Just a blur of images, that were too indistinct for him to see clearly.

“M’sorry,” he looked down. “I can’t remember.”

“Anything?”

When he shook his head, he heard the sharp inhale from the man.

“I-I see. Mal, I’ll be back. I need to go get the doctor,” Gabriel gave him one last warm smile before he left.

Once alone in the room, Mal looked around and understood he must’ve been in some kind of hospital then. He was attached to a lot of machines, not that he knew what they were or were for. Instead, he just continued to look around, pass the time, and hope Gabriel came back soon.

Hopefully, his hopes were answered and he came back with the doctor, who checked on him. Mal stayed quiet through it, allowing the doctor to touch him and check his pulse and whatever else he had to check.

“He seems alright now,” the doctor directed towards Gabriel. He turned to Mal then. “We’ll still have to keep you though. You suffered from a very extreme case of pneumonia, which clearly went out of control and wasn’t taken cared of immediately and properly. We’ll keep you under watch, and help you continue to heal through the illness.”

Mal was still silent, but gave a nod to show he heard and had understood the doctor.

“While alright, I do seem to detect a slight wheezing inside his chest,” the doctor tacked on. “We’ll have to check on that, see if it’s anything serious. Hopefully, it’s nothing bad and Malcolm will just need to take something to clear his airway. We’ll have the respiratory doctor come in and talk you two through that, and then give him the medication. He’ll probably have to have some x-rays, just in case. We can go look and see what’s wrong through that as well as CAT scan.”

Mal wasn’t sure he understood all that, but he thought he at least got the gist of it. Soon enough, a male nurse came in, wheeling a huge contraption.

“Hey there, I’m just going to take some x-rays of your lungs, alright buddy?”

When Mal showed it was okay, the man started to set things up, though he did ask Gabriel to step outside for a second. Then Mal had to sit up a little as a pillow was place behind his back to straighten him up, and then a somewhat large and heavy apron-like thing was put onto his front. It wasn’t long before the nurse took the x-rays, and then was finished and gone. Another nurse came in, introducing herself as his main nurse and that she was going to change the “IV” bag attached to him that would also be attached to a bag containing a muscle relaxant medicine. She was quick and efficient, finally drawing attention to the needle that was in Mal’s arm and that he hadn’t noticed before. When she was done, Gabriel took his chair and brought it closer to him.

But before they were to talk and Mal could get answers, they were interrupted by the respiratory doctor.

“Hello,” he greeted Mal. “I’m just going to give you some medication that’s hopefully going to clear your airway and help you to breathe easier, okay? Let me just set it up,” and when he was done, he was putting a mask over Mal’s mouth and nose, where once it was on securely, the doctor did something and then the medication began flowing into the tubes and into the mask, leading to Mal’s inhaling it in.

“That’s right. Breathing in deeply. Try to keep doing that and focus on your breathing. It’ll help you.”

Afterwards, the doctor gave another kind smile and then left him and Gabriel alone. Gabriel cleared his throat, stealing Mal’s attention again. The man awkwardly smiled.

“There’s a lot of things that need to be said, but the first thing I need to tell is that if you don’t remember, Mal…then I should at least tell you I’m your father. I hope you can remember that, but if not, it’s fine. I’ll always be your father regardless.”

Mal felt himself warm up from that and smiled at Gabriel through the mask.

“You had a bad case of pneumonia, which none of us knew,” Gabriel explained in remorse. “We thought it was just a cold or a flu, and that maybe we could help you normally. We were stupidly stubborn, and I’m sorry, son.”

“I understand,” Mal told him, feeling like he did. He would be stubborn about trying to cure it himself actually. He didn’t much like the thought of doctors, although the way he was being treated and cared for now didn’t seem so bad.

Gabriel reached over and took a hand, the one that had the arm that was attached to the IV.

“You’re such a good kid, Mal.”

And Mal was glad, and strangely felt like he finally received the words he craved for, for some reason.


Last edited by Eri on Mon Aug 31, 2015 1:28 pm; edited 1 time in total
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PostSubject: Re: Story Feedback   Mon Aug 31, 2015 11:47 am

And part II!

Mal had to stay awhile at the hospital. Apparently, his pneumonia had been really bad and the sickness was just now going away. Afterwards, he had to recover and get better, but that took time, everyone kept telling him.

He also occasionally kept having trouble breathing. When they found out was wrong, Mal didn’t quite understand, but they told him he had something called ‘asthma.’

“Some people, after a really bad lung infection, can develop this,” his doctor told him. “You had some really bad damage to your lungs, kiddo. It’s healing now, but you’ll have to deal with having asthma through your life. It’s not too bad. Just remember to keep your inhaler with you at all times, so if you have an attack, it’s on you and can help.”

He nodded obediently, but he wasn’t fully understanding. Maybe he can ask his father about it later…

But when Gabriel stepped into the room, his attention was more drawn to the stuffed teddy bear in his arms. Gabriel headed over to him and smiled widely.

“I have a gift for you,” he announced dramatically. Then his smile tinged a bit sadly. “Someone wanted to give you something. Someone really important.”

Mal wanted to ask, but had a feeling it would upset his father. Something sad must’ve happened…

Gabriel handed the teddy bear to him, but it wasn’t a stuffed toy at all. When it came closer, it blinked and Mal yelped. The ‘teddy bear’ giggled while his father chuckled.

“This is a pokémon, Mal. She’s a Teddiursa. Don’t you like bears? You told me you did the other day. And now this one’s all yours.”

“Dancing bears…”

“I like bears,” Mal murmured, the echo of a voice lingering in his head. He held his hands with arms wide open, and the Teddiursa came and jumped into his small arms, nuzzling his chest. He smiled happily.

“Teddi…Can I call you Teddi?” he asked her.

When she smiled and gently butted his chin with her head, Mal laughed and felt happier than he remembered ever being.

“I also wanted you to meet someone. Two people actually. Laylah, come in!” Gabriel spoke towards the door to his hospital room.

In came a woman with beautiful curls of brown hair, pinned back behind her head in an elegant twist. Her hazel eyes were caring towards Mal, which made his feel safe and warm. Held against her soft, lavender blouse, was a kid even younger than Mal. When the kid, brown-haired and chubby-faced, saw him –he hid his face against the woman’s neck.

“Don’t be shy, Cassiel,” her voice was lyrical. “Mal, dear, I’m your mother,” she smiled lovingly at him. “And this is your little brother. Cassiel, say hi to Mal.”

When Cassiel peeked out from behind their mother, he said a quick, quiet hello, and then went back to hiding his face.

Mal looked at the three of them and felt content. This was his family. They loved him and cared.

Somehow, he felt and didn’t understand the pit in his stomach or the feeling something was missing.

~*~

He was held in the hospital for another two weeks, and by then he had completely recovered. Afterwards, he was brought home to a large building that wasn’t like the normal houses. It was too large and fancy, and his father explained that it was more of a ‘manor’ than just a house. And when Mal went inside, it was even bigger and finer than he could have ever imagined.

His little brother excitedly held onto his arm, dragging him further into the manor. Cassiel was so excited, that he was talking speedily with his limited grasps of words and sentences, which made Mal trying to catch up and understand what he was saying.

“Now, now, Cassiel. Your brother’s just recovered, so be patient and take it easy on him,” their mother laughed lightly, patting both boys’ head. “Lita, would you help the boys wash up and then take them to the dining room so we can have dinner? I’d appreciate that so much.”

An older woman than Laylah had suddenly appeared, startling Mal, but her kind smile lit up her wrinkled face.

“Come along, you two. Let’s get you two ready. I’m sure Master Gabriel and Madame Laylah will even include some hot chocolate for you boys, as a good treat!” She swept Cassiel into her surprising strong arms, and held out a hand for Mal to take.

After a quick wash up, grooming, and change of clothes, Lita brought them to the dining room where their parents were already waiting. A whole array of food was waiting for them, and Mal took a deep breath, smelling all the delicious smells and feeling his stomach growl.

“Time to eat, sweetheart,” Laylah told him lovingly.

Mal was eager to do as she said, so helped himself to a bit of everything. Even though the room and the table was large, it didn’t feel like it as he and his family sat close together on one end. He was content with everything, that when it was time to bed, he was practically asleep by the time his head hit the pillow.

But he did end up waking bright and early, and had to get ready for something. He was cleaned and dressed, wearing rather formal, body-fitted clothes. When he was taken to the rest of his family, Gabriel was on the phone, and Laylah was adjusting Cassiel’s bowtie.

“Mom, we’re we going?” he dared to ask.

Not that he needed to be hesitant, because his mother was as kind and loving as ever as she turned towards him.

“We’ll be meeting friends of the family, the de Alcotts. They just recently adopted a young boy, around your age, though I think you’re a year older. We thought it would be nice to introduce you two, while getting together.”

Mal was hesitant about meeting others. He didn’t feel ready somehow, and a feeling of being lacking filled him. But then he felt a hand on his shoulder, he looked to see the owner of it being his father, who smiled warmly at it like always.

“Ready, Mal?”

And just like that, Mal felt better and ready to go.

~*~

The manor was as large as his family’s, towering well over him. Not that that was hard. Mal was small and short, and could barely reach up to his father’s knees. His father was tall too though…

In fact, it seemed that the only one he was taller than was poor, cute and little Cassiel, who had decided to cling to him again.

They were met at the door by a man with sand-colored kind of hair. Sand just like in the beaches. Mmhm. And the man’s eyes were green like the emeralds in his mother’s earrings.

He was named ‘Richard’ (at least Mal thought so, since that’s what his father cheerfully greeted him as), and he opened the door wider to let them all in. He greeted his mother with a kiss on a either of cheeks, which she reciprocated, and then Richard turned to him.

“Why hello there. Don’t be shy. My name is Richard. I’m a good friend of your parents.”

Mal gave a small smile and wave, to which Richard grinned and ruffled his hair. He then brought a maid over.

“Could you bring Mal outside? Raphael’s outside and the two boys can introduce themselves and play? Aileena’s outside with Raphael, so just let her know we have guests. Then just watch the boys as they play, to make sure they stay safe.”

Laylah came and took Cassiel away from Mal’s side, but the little boy protested.

“Cassiel, you’re much too young. You can play with the two of them later, alright? Right now, you stay here with your mom.”

Mal wasn’t too sure about going on his own to meet Raphael either, but he was kind of excited to meet another boy his age and who wasn’t his little brother. As he was brought outside, he caused sight of a little boy who had red hair that was much brighter than Mal’s own, and who seemed like he was struggling to hold onto the Ponyta he was riding on. He looked a little bit scared, but also really determined. Beside him, a beautiful woman was patiently watching, but Mal could see she was ready to help the other boy if he needed.

“Mrs. de Alcott,” the maid beside him called out. “Master Malcolm has arrived, as has the Thrones family. I’ve brought Master Malcolm as Mr. de Alcott requested.”

And when the two’s attention as brought onto Mal, Mal tentatively copied the more formal motions he remembered his father making to his mother the other day.

He bowed deeply, nearly toppling over (though he was glad that it hadn’t been obvious).
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PostSubject: Re: Story Feedback   Sun Sep 06, 2015 9:53 am

The Book of Mal
Chapter Four: I am Verity

Mal watched his mother’s Unfezant fly off into the distance with mixed feelings, and several heavy thoughts went through his head, whirling around chaotically and putting a heavy pressure in his heart.

On one hand, he was thrilled -he was finally on his journey and would be considered an adult. He and Su Lin and Teddi were going to go around Kanto, winning badges, and become the best trainer he could be. That he would be. He’d make it as far as the Indigo League, if he really was going to put his mind and soul into this journey. And yet...

On the other hand, he was unsure. Confused, even. He was about to face the world for what really would be the very first time. No parents, no staff. Just him and his own skills and smarts, and it was an alarming prospect.

And the truth was –he didn’t want to really be a trainer. He had no interest in it.

The fact was, he wasn’t a social person like most aristocrats were, and he doubted he ever would be. He preferred the click clack! noises that were made in his workroom. The way he could focus on his hands creating and molding creations, and the satisfaction that came with results.

He was comfortable talking to people. Sometimes he just preferred the semi-quiet of his machines and inventions, even as they made various noises that were attributed only to themselves. Raphael liked to drag him away from his work (and he would for his friend), but Mal was very rarely outside of his workroom or had gone out as much as he probably should have.

That was stuff he could put out of his head though. It wasn’t like they were leaving Pallet until tomorrow morning. It wouldn’t be so bad if he decided to take a look around, maybe have a look at his cousin’s old home.

Mal’s breath hitched and suddenly he was looking a lot more forward to exploring Pallet, maybe even stumbling upon the home of the cousin he’d always wanted to meet, despite there never being a chance because she’d been taken from him before he could ever see her with his own eyes.

His walk turned slightly more brisk, and he took in the sights. Pallet was a quiet town, with a few buildings dotting the land here and there, and a few children running around playing whatever games their minds came up with, their sweet laughter filling the air and carefree smiles stretching across their childish faces.

It seemed that the whole pace of life was slower here than in other towns. In Celadon, it was always alive with some sort of activity, whether it was a concert, a first airing of a new film, or various other events or venues the city life of Celadon seemed to bring about. Things seemed to be alive in a more active and fast-paced way, whereas here was peaceful and quiet –almost taking a deliberate way of lethargy, and live day to day, opposite to Celadon’s ever-changing, minute by minute lifestyle.

Looking around purposefully, he came across a vintage house right behind Oak’s research lab and stopped to take a look at it curiously, wondering about the place and taking guesses that Oak might even live there.

“Ah, Mal,” said a familiar kind voice. Mal quickly turned around to see Professor Oak coming towards him, smiling softly in the cooling night. “Staying in Pallet tonight, I hear?”

“Yes, Professor,” Mal replied politely, giving a smile back at the elderly professor.

“Well, you are more than welcome to stay in this boring old town until tomorrow,” Oak laughed lightly. “I see you have found my house!”

“Is this one yours?” Mal asked, having only guessed at it and hadn’t been sure before.

“Oh yes. Myself and my grandson live here. You may have heard of him? Does the name Blue Oak ring any bells?” Oak asked cheerfully, still smiling a bit.

Mal forced himself to stay calm, but it was difficult and he wasn’t sure if he could hold his anger in. Damn it all, he knew Blue alright.

He absolutely hated him.

After a few years after his hospitalization, he had snuck out of his lessons to go search the house and had stumbled across a mysterious wing and right into a just as mysterious room, with a mournful father and a music box that had once been held so dear to a cousin he had learned about that day.

His father explained that the music box had once belonged to his cousin, the “Little Duchess” Leaf. She’d been quite loved and doted upon, and even after she had long grown up and set off on her own journey, his father’s estranged family and his father had continued to cherish her.

Sometime after her journey (his father had been vague about the circumstances), Leaf had been about to move into the house after Mal’s father had gotten everything sorted out and ready for her.

Unfortunately, that day never came. Leaf died in a tragic car accident.

Mal had learned there had actually been a survivor from that accident. Blue Oak. That person had been driving the car at the time it happened, and Mal couldn’t help but hate and blame the man.

Blue Oak had caused Leaf to die and no matter what he said to justify it, Mal would never forgive him.

There was a time, a time Mal would have loved to have forgotten, when his mentor and friend, Lance, had introduced him to Blue. Maybe if it had been any other circumstances, Mal would have been honored to meet a league champion...but it had taken all of Mal’s inner strength to prevent himself from attacking Blue and demanding answers right then and there.

“Yes, of course I am familiar with that name. Who wouldn’t know the Kanto Champion? I think I’ve even met him once, when I was younger,” Mal said, keeping up the air of civility. After all, he held no grief with Professor Oak himself, or had any problems.

The fact was, Mal had been taught to be at his utmost respectful and polite standard. He had learned his manners and his etiquette, and had taken them all on and ingrained into himself to the highest degree. A point where Raphael (and even his family) liked to tease that he had taken to the extreme.

“He may be around tonight actually,” Oak told him casually. “I’m sure he would like to see you all grown up and ready to take on a big adventure like this,” a hearty grin moved onto the professor’s face.

Mal froze up. It felt like a nightmare he’d dragged himself into. He was split in two, because he both wanted and didn’t want to meet Blue. He was in turmoil about this. He wanted to get the answers he was desperate for, but he wanted to do it in private and away from prying eyes. There was the other part of him that wanted nothing to do with Blue...

“That would be nice. I do hope he still remembers me at least,” Mal said with a strained smile. He then politely bowed. “If you would excuse me, Professor, I think I still have some last minute checks to do before tomorrow, and I don’t wish to end up rushing in the morning.”

Mal gave a fake laugh and then quickly fled the scene as normally as he could in a person’s eyes. By now it was getting dark and Mal decided to sit on a bench near the research center that he was spending the night at, and started laughing bitterly to himself. Of all the people he had the potential to run into...It had to be stupid Blue Oak.

He did a lot of thinking then, unable to stop his mind. The one thing he could do was turn his thoughts to things that were in the present, and not in a past that he had no control over.

He had absolute certainty of two things that were going to affect him. No matter what, he would have to try to deal with Raphael and Sonia, who seemed determined to be at each other’s throats. He understood Sonia’s icy exterior and if she wanted space, that was understandable, even given the fact they were all traveling together and were in close quarters. He’ll have to find a way to get Raphael to get along with Sonia too, even if the truth was that she may or may not hate him, or simply refused to get along with anyone at all.

There was no reason that they couldn’t be civil about their journey together, in his eyes, even if she was a Darkin and unreasonably hated Raphael simply because of the name he bore as a de Alcott. Or if Raphael would stop and read Sonia’s “atmosphere” correctly at the times where she really just didn’t want to talk to anyone. If he was optimistic (or deluded more probably), maybe after they spent some time together they could find something that they could relate to each other with and go from there. Honestly, that seemed far-fetched, even to Mal, but he could only hope with those two.

The other thing preoccupying his mind was how he needed to sort out his mentor’s thoughts and what Lance was in the midst of planning, in regards to whatever mission the man was probably undercover on.

Lance had heard that he was going on this journey and he sent Mal a rather simple letter saying good luck on the trip, but had included another (and more interesting) letter saying he had managed to retrieve more details about that “sordid machine” he had been keeping track of. Apparently, once Lance would reach Viridian, the details would become much more clearer to him, but Mal knew his mentor tended to see things differently on what was and wasn’t going to be “clear” to someone’s eyes.

Still, he grew uneasy and flashes of that time in his childhood evaded his thoughts, visions of a man in black and a blue P on his front the most prominent of the memory. He felt nauseated, could feel his throat seize up tightly, and it was almost like an invisible hand was choking him…

A nudge against his cheeks caused him to break out of his anxiety attack, and he calmed down, seeing the tender eyes of Teddi and Su Lin staring at him in concern.

Both of his pokémon had been hanging on his shoulders for most of the day, but now that he was sitting down, they settled on his lap in a relaxed and content mood. He smiled softly, and ran his hands across their silky fur, spoiling them but also further using the act to calm himself more.

Idly, Mal glanced at his bag and noticed how it was bulging more than it should have. Curious, he opened it up and saw that there was something that he didn’t pack in there. He pulled it out, feeling his breath catch in his throat and feel a cacophony of emotions explode inside of him.

It was the beloved music box his father had made for Leaf, little dancing bears and elegant swans and all.

The black lacquer glowed slightly from the light of the night’s starlight, and he noticed there was a note attached to it. He bit his lip as he read it, eager to read his father’s words.

Dear Mal,

Good luck on your trip, son. I am truly sorry that I couldn’t see you off, but I hope this makes up for it. I know how much you love this song and hold it just as dear to you as I do. I felt it was fitting for you to take it with you.

Please be gentle with it.

Remember your mother and I will always be proud of you, regardless of what you set off to do, and if you ever need anything, please come to us. You need never to hesitate to seek your family.

I’m proud of you, Mal, and I hope to hear from you soon,

Dad

A tear slowly rolled down Mal’s face, feeling his emotions finally overcome him. This was one of two greatest gifts he’d ever received, the other having his met his beloved pokémon who had steadfastly stuck with him through everything.

For his father to give him a cherished keepsake that meant so much to both of them...It meant so much to Mal. At that moment, it meant the world.

He wound up the music box carefully and closed his eyes, smiling as he listened to the soft melody and letting it waft through him, almost encasing him in its embrace...

Mal started to hum to it as he wistfully looked up into the night sky. He wondered what Leaf would say if she was still around.

What was she like?

What were her interests?

...What would she think of him?

“It’s alright, Mal. Always believe in yourself and live in the moment. You never know what will happen!”

Mal could almost picture her and hear her voice, and he felt his heart squeeze in pain.

“Hey…” he thankfully heard someone interrupt his thoughts. “I had a friend who loved that song…” The stranger’s voice sounded almost longing.

Mal looked up to see who the voice belonged to, but unfortunately the small town of Pallet didn’t have a huge number of outside streetlamps, so he only had a vague outline of the person addressing him.

“Yes. It truly means a lot to myself and my family as well,” Mal said quietly, feeling the pain start to creep up on him again. He tried to refocus on the stranger. “Would you tell me about your friend? What were they like?”

The man sighed in sorrow. “She was amazing,” he chuckled a little, seeming to reminisce. “She was such a lovely girl. She was adventurous! Fun! So utterly lively...I could always count on her to have a smile on her face no matter what was going on. She was the type of person that would always be around to help you if you were down. She was...a woman who I genuinely loved,” the man ended in a pained voice.

“I see,” Mal said, feeling sympathetic and relating a bit to the man. He knew he would have loved Leaf, and found true family in her. “Can I...ask what happened to her?”

As soon as he asked, he regretted it. He regretted it more so, when he heard the answer.

“She died…. some years back. It should be two years now.”

“I’m so sorry,” Mal murmured, feeling insensitive for pushing for an answer. “What was her name?”

“Her name…” the man began fondly “…was Leaf Alexiandre.”

Mal’s breath quickened and his body stiffened up. His hand automatically grabbed his bag, rapidly digging for his flashlight and he practically flung it in the direction of the talker, turning on the light in distress. He looked at the man he was talking to and then felt fury building up in him like a volcano about to erupt.

“Blue Oak!” Mal stared in shock and was barely withholding his anger, now that he was face to face with the man who killed his cousin.

He was desperately trying to hold onto his parents’ values and his self-held beliefs and attitude, trying to keep the anger at bay and not blow up at this man, but there were very few things that got under his skin. This man and what he’d done absolutely encompassed the list.

“Calm yourself, Mal. When you feel yourself about to scream out, take deep, even breaths and count to five.”

‘Easy for you to say, Lance,’ Mal wanted to throw back at his mentor, since he couldn’t even stand to look Blue in the eye.

“Wait a minute,” Blue said slowly, starting to grin a bit. “You’re Mal Thrones, that friend of Lance’s I met!”

Suddenly he was all smiles. “Well, it certainly has been awhile, hasn’t it, kid? Look at you, all grown up now, huh. I’m betting you’re here to start your own journey,” he took a step closer to Mal.

“Don’t you dare come near me,” Mal said furiously, though at least he was managing not to yell. He abruptly stood up, and his two pokémon moved in unison to be in attack positions, growling towards Blue.

“Hey!” Blue was taken aback by what he saw as a sudden change to the interaction between them. He held up his hands. “What the hell’s up with the hostilities, kid?”

He wanted to scream at Blue, tell him not to call him ‘kid.’ He wanted to blurt out everything he’s thought up about this so-called Kanto Champion. Right now, Mal couldn’t believe he had actually felt any sort of sympathy or thought he could relate to this man in any way.

“Leaf…” Mal enunciated slowly, feeling his jaw clench, “happens to be my cousin.”

Blue stood there in shock, probably running over the revelation in his mind several times and processing it.

Honestly, Mal may have never known her or have met her before...but none of that mattered to Mal. He would take any family members he could get, since he’d cherished them all and gave him the sense of belonging and worth he seemed to be craving for all the time.

And this was Leaf. This was someone who had been so precious to his parents, and who his father had painstakingly shared with Mal. This was the same girl, whose image had kept him from being too lonely in his childhood, who he had imagined talking to him and being real family to him. Leaf’s presence, imagined as it was, kept him from being too afraid of reaching out to others and actually trying to be around people and try talking to them.

“Mal, I’m so sorry,” Blue muttered, looking down remorsefully. He tried to come close, but Mal’s Teddiursa and Pancham determinedly kept him back by pushing at his legs. In any other situation, Mal would have thought this had been adorable and called off his two friends with a roll of his eyes, but anyone could tell they were deadly serious and Mal wasn’t in a playful mood.

“Listen closely to me, Blue,” Mal stared the “Champion” straight in the eyes, picking his words carefully. “I have read every report about that night and do you know what conclusion I have come to? I’m disgusted by you. I think you were selfish and messed up in the head.”

“You don’t know the whole story!” Blue gritted his teeth. “If you want to blame someone, blame Giovanni and Team Rocket! They did something to Leaf. They changed her. She wanted to be League Champion and then they came along and made her want to quit!”

It was like all of this had built up in Blue for all this time, and now he was lashing out and ranting with a mad fervor.

“Especially that Giovanni bastard!” Blue snarled venomously. “He’s a fucking snake! He’s probably the whole reason somehow. He changed Leaf’s mind! You know, I always wondered if she fell in love with him. If he twisted her around his finger and played mind games, until she was so sick and messed up in the head that she stopped thinking right. Yeah, that’s it...that’s how it was...

“You think I don’t share the sadness that your family is feeling?” Blue barked out furiously. “What would you know?! And why the hell are you sad, you damn brat?! You’ve never met her!”

Mal flinched back. It was like a blow to his heart, and he felt tears pricking at his eyes, despite the fact he hated the thought of crying in front of this jerk.

But it was also the last straw. Mal wanted so badly to punch Blue in the face, but he knew he was better than that. His parents, Lance...they taught him better than that. And Leaf…even though he hadn’t met her, he felt like he had and he knew she wouldn’t want him to. She would probably be disappointed in Blue...

After a deep breath, he spoke out with steady but sincere and emotional words.

“I don’t care about Team Rocket,” Mal said deliberately. He saw Blue’s eyes flash angrily. “All I care about is what I know and feel is the truth, and the facts that are known. What is fact is that I hold you 100% responsible for what happened to her and nothing you say will ever change that.

“It is true I have never met her…” Mal couldn’t help it. His tears started streaming down his face “…but I wanted that chance! Unlike you, I believe in cherishing every bond that comes to me because I will never throw them away,” he kept his personal thoughts about Leaf to himself; Blue wasn’t worthy of them. “When I heard about what happened to Leaf, it hurt a lot. For some reason, I couldn’t stand the thought of that lost chance. And it was because of you! I will never know what she was like or what we could have done together, no matter how much I imagine it!

“I’ll never be able to really hear her voice or ever see her face to face! And it’s all your fault,” Mal ended in a solemn whisper.

He wiped his face of tears and looked at Blue, who didn’t outwardly react and held a stoic expression that revealed nothing. Mal spoke again, this time more calmly and determined.

“I may not be able to put you away in prison, but I can do something much more satisfying than that –I swear on my life and on my family...I will get stronger, both of my pokémon partners will find that strength, and together we will get those badges, face the League, and head to our most important goal. You.

“We will face you and then we will take away from you the one thing you love most –your position as Champion. Number your days, Blue Oak, because I promise you that I will take that title from you and I’ll keep that promise...not just because a Thrones will always do that, but because that’s what she did.”

He could visibly see Blue want to snarl at that last part, but instead Blue straightened up and laughed mockingly, sneering at him.

“Alright, kid, do your best. I’ll make sure you fail miserably, and you’ll never even get a chance to challenge me,” Blue spat at him. “You won’t get that chance, just like you didn’t get that ‘chance’ with Leaf,” he ended cruelly.

Mal took his breaths, and refused to rise to such a low-blow bait. He was better than this. He was better than him.

Mal turned on his heel and walked towards the research center.

“Believe me, Blue,” Mal said coolly, not facing the other. “You are underestimating me.”

“You didn’t know her and you’ll never get to know her. I was the only one who did,” Blue growled out another retort. “I loved her! You’d never understand. You could never love her as much as I did.”

It made Mal pause.

“You say that,” Mal spoke quietly, “but are you so sure? You blame Team Rocket and this Giovanni, but if she changed so much and you missed it all, could you really say you knew her? I don’t believe you loved her at all, not if you were so selfish as to do what you did.

“But if that’s true, and you loved her so much...I’m glad I don’t and would never love her so much as to sacrifice her life like you did.”

And that had Mal continue on his way, refusing to turn back and acknowledge Blue again.
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PostSubject: Re: Story Feedback   Sun Sep 06, 2015 10:07 am

The Book of Mal
Chapter Five: I am Ties and Binds

Mal couldn’t believe Blue. From his attitude now, it seemed he had never grown out from his arrogant beginnings. Maybe with Leaf….but it had probably all been a show for her, if Mal could guess at the past.

And to bring her up like he had! He felt like Blue was dishonoring Leaf’s memory in a way, and the thought made him balk and want to go back there and make good on his desire to punch his face in.

He let out a frustrated grunt under his breath, and hadn’t even realized he’d already reached the research lab. He paused near the backdoor, laying a hand on the edge of the doorway and placing his forehead on the back of it. He closed his eyes and took deep breaths, trying to center himself.

Mal was just too irritated though. And he hadn’t even gotten to look for Leaf’s home! Not to mention what Blue had said to him…

It upset him more than he’d like to admit.

“Jerk,” Mal muttered, scowling as he straightened up and headed inside.

He hesitated on the thought of heading to bed though. He, Raphael, and Sonia would be leaving tomorrow morning. If he went to bed now, there would be a lot of wasted opportunities. He’d have missed looking for Leaf’s home, maybe grabbing a few objects that he could keep for himself and to also give to his father. His father would be happy about that…

Determined, he was about to head back out when he saw the light on in the main part of the research lab. If he remembered right, all the aides had gone home early and Professor Oak hadn’t been working on something important…

He couldn’t help but be curious, so he decided he’d at least take a quick look. Stepping in, he closed the door quietly and tried to move closer without making any noise. He duck his head around the corner and saw that it was the professor who was in the main part of the lab, oddly looking solemn as he played with a small little Pidgey tooled as a “drinking bird” heat engine.

“Professor?” Mal hesitantly intruded into Oak’s thoughts.

Oak turned his head slightly to face him, and gave a small wave along with a smaller smile.

“Well, well, hadn’t I just seen you?” Oak asked jokingly.

Mal gave an awkward smile back. “Yes, I was walking around, but I got too cold and went in,” he lied.

Oak nodded absentmindedly, tapping the head of the Pidgey drinking bird module.

“Are you...alright, sir?” Mal ventured to ask, because it seemed like such a turnaround to the professor of earlier.

Oak waved him off. “I’m fine, fine….You know, around this time, there was another late starter to their journey some years back. You see, Blue started around this time too.”

Mal refrained from showing his disdain.

“There was another girl too though,” Oak smiled suddenly, and Mal suddenly had a thought and wondered if it was – “Her name was Leaf Alexiandre.”

Wasn’t that almost fateful? Mal was starting his journey around the same time as his cousin. This was something he could connect and relate to her.

“Those two grew up together and were good friends, although they did bicker constantly when they were younger. They also had such a strong rivalry...Truth was, I was hoping Blue would marry her and she’d officially be family,” Oak said wistfully.

The thought of that made Mal want to gag, but he didn’t in respect of the professor. Still, his cousin was way too good for the likes of Blue.

“But I didn’t need that to happen to confess I had already seen her like a daughter to myself,” Oak surprised Mal, who hadn’t known of the professor’s connection to Leaf.

“Did you know her well?” Mal spoke out, unable to help himself.

Oak looked taken aback by his question, before laughing lightly and glancing at the drinking bird with a sad air about him.

“Yes, I knew her quite well. Aside from her being friends with Blue and seeing a lot of her because of that, she also after started to come over to my lab a lot just because. She...didn’t have a very...’satisfying’ childhood and family,” Oak sounded like he chose the most understated word he could, and Mal wondered why.

“She used to come here and keep me company a lot,” the professor revealed. “Whenever I was working on something, or simply just working on my usual duties...She’d be around and I’d let her freely roam the lab. She even used to go back in the Corral and play with the pokémon or help out.

“When Blue hated coming in here and thought my work was boring, she would ignore him and stay here, even as he tried to drag her out to play with him. It used to be that she was a constant figure around here,” Oak murmured. “It’s been years now, but it still feels strange not to see her around here. I can still feel echoes of her presence around…”

Mal watched as Oak once again pushed the Pidgey drinking bird’s head down.

“She loved this thing,” Oak muttered. “I was only bored and had no projects to work on, so I made it. But she came in one morning and she was delighted by it. She would play with it all the time...I even made her a Swanna version for her birthday, right before she was off to go on her journey. I never knew what happened to that thing.”

Thinking of a Swanna drinking bird made Mal think back to Leaf’s treasured music box. He swallowed heavily.

“She is my cousin,” Mal admitted, and Oak looked at him in mild shock.

Then the professor went back to smiling. “Is that so? That’s right, I’d forgotten. Your father is Gabriel Thrones, Leaf’s cousin. I recall, before her...death...she’d just been about to leave her family and go live with your father.”

Mal wanted to ask why, but he had a feeling that he wouldn’t get an answer and that there were some things that were going to be crowded in mystery for now.

“I wanted...I wanted to see where Leaf’s home was before I left,” Mal decided to tell Oak. “I don’t know where it is though.”

Oak frowned at that. “It’s close to Rolt Path. It won’t be hard to miss, since it’s the only home there. It was the old mayor’s mansion, since Leaf’s father used to be the mayor of the town.”

Mal felt relieved that it seemed it wouldn’t be too hard to find, if a bit of a walk.

“It’s unoccupied now though,” Oak suddenly revealed. “Has been since around the time of her death.”

Mal didn’t know how to take that. He admitted that he sort of, even if it was a late time, wanted to meet Leaf’s family and maybe connect with them and slowly come to find them as family as well.

“Thank you, Professor. I will go to check it out anyway,” Mal decided a look would still be a good idea anyhow.

Oak nodded and Mal bowed quickly and turned to head out, only to pause and hear Oak speak again, with the professor having gone back to his drinking bird.

“Mal...family is family...regardless of familiarity. You can be family, even without it. Don’t let anyone ever tell you otherwise.”

Mal stared at him, feeling his emotions act up again.

“Thank you, Professor. That...means a lot,” he whispered.

He left then, feeling somehow elated that Professor Oak knew how he felt and understood. Not only did they care deeply for someone as family...but it was for the same person as well –Leaf.

Mal just felt a little uneasy that it sounded like Oak might have overheard his and Blue’s argument.
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PostSubject: Re: Story Feedback   Sun Sep 06, 2015 10:22 am

The Book of Mal
Chapter Six: I am Silence and Words

Mal sighed after yet another wrong turn. It hadn’t helped that it was night and the streets were long darkened, and again the lack of streetlamps were hindering him.

He wasn’t finding the way to Rolt Path very easy, but he wasn’t going to give up. Not now that he was so close and he had actually found out where Leaf’s home had been. He just needed to push a little farther…

But remembering Oak’s frown as he’d asked about it, Mal wasn’t sure what was wrong. What had happened? Or why on earth was it abandoned?

A few minutes later, his luck managed to turn and he found himself on the right path. He kept going until he reached a hill, where once he’d painstakingly jogged up it, he could see a large three-story building looming in the distance.

A rare grin started spreading across his face and he began to sprint in its direction. However, the closer he came to the mansion-like house, the quicker his grin began to drop.

It was in horrible condition.

There was graffiti all over the outside, and trash littering the ground. He could pick out cigarette butts and food wrappers all over the overgrown lawn, and the various areas where broken glass and some whole bottles and some broken bottles lay.

He continued to walk, feeling upset and wanting to just...do something. He didn’t have a lot of time on his hands, but he couldn’t just let this stand.

He felt tired all of a sudden, like something was weighing him down. And the further he came closer to the abandoned house, Mal just wanted to scream out.

If Leaf was such a respected person, how could people do this to her home? Even stupid, young immature kids and teens...She was the Hero of Kanto! Her name was legendary in this region.

How could people be so careless and disrespect her like this?

Mal could see the broken windows on the bottom, some of them boarded up. Nearby the entrance, the walls were stained with ugly curse words and vicious insults.

He didn’t understand any of them or the people who’d made them.

He made a cursory, disgusted glance over them, lip curling in fury.

SICKO

SELLER!

SELL YOUR SOUL IF YOU’RE GOING TO SELL ANYTHING, BASTARD!


Mal hadn’t a clue what they were going on about. He ignored the insults that were just plain cursing and random things, and focused on what seemed to be directed towards the former owners of the home.

It made him increasingly curious as to what happened and what was going on.

He was wasting time, so he drew his intention away from the graffiti and entered the mansion.

The inside was just as bad, looking like it had been looted and trashed as well. Leftover furniture was broken apart, mirrors smashed, and an old piano was split apart. The piano caught his eye the most, being a well-tutored pianist himself, and it was such a shame to see it the way it was now. He could see it had once been beautiful.

Mal wondered though, if his cousin had played on it before. If she had played a piano, as he did...Finding out there were so many similarities between he and his cousin made him so happy.

It made him wish even more so that she’d been alive.

Frowning, Mal just focused on getting to the massive stairway in the grand hall, and heading to the second floor. He hoped her room would be there and intact, but he wasn’t holding up much hope. By the looks of the rest of the mansion, everything had been taken and the place completely looted, with only rare occurrences of things left behind.

The stairway took a while to get up, and then he had to go through all the rooms on the second floor, of which nothing was of value. It seemed it was the guest rooms, which meant the topmost floor belonged to the family.

Eager to find Leaf’s room, Mal practically ran up the much smaller stairway and headed to the third floor. He grimaced at finding more rooms to go through, but at least it was a much smaller amount.

There were actually three doors, meaning three rooms. Deciding to go to the last, he grumbled when he saw it was the master bedroom. It was completely trashed up and had even more graffiti in it. He uneasily looked around, and decided he had no business being there and went on to the next room.

The next room was much more feminine, but it didn’t feel like it was Leaf’s room. It seemed like it was for an older lady, so he wasn’t sure who it belonged to. Since he was sure it wasn’t Leaf’s, he decided against further looking into it and went on to the next and last room on that floor.

When he went inside the third room, he was definitely sure it was Leaf’s. The walls were covered in sketches of pokémon and of people, and it just had a distinct ‘Leaf’ feel to him. It was dusty in there, but it was at least the most intact place in the mansion.

But, unfortunately, just as bare.

He was lucky enough to see the sketches around, and was happy that those had been left alone. The bed was there, and so were the scarlet red curtains and bedsheets. There was a space near the corner where the floor clearly had a marked space that indicated something large had once lain there, and he made a guess at it being a vanity set before people made off with it.

A larger space next to it might’ve been a wardrobe or dresser. Her closet was open and hangers lay on the floor, indicating that people had stolen her clothing of all things.

It disgusted him and yet also made him terribly sad at the same time.

It felt like his cousin had just been a...trophy piece to these people. Like her memory was nothing but something to forget and leave in the past now.

When she was alive, had she felt like this? Had she felt like anyone really cared about her? That she wasn’t just the title she’d gained?

Mal wasn’t sure if he’d be able to find anything in here, and so began to carefully remove the sketches from the walls. Who knew which new scavenger next would come to take them and sell them off to the next bidder, highlighting them as the work of the “Hero of Kanto”? He could at least take them and give them to Professor Oak, who he knew would treasure and maybe find a nice place for them in his lab.

He got nearer to the closet and managed to see something slightly hidden in the corner. When he went to go investigate what it was, he felt like he’d gotten extremely lucky. Somehow, one of her backpacks had been missed and left behind.

He grabbed it and searched through it eagerly, quickly realizing it might’ve been her pokémon journey backpack, seeing a leftover Potion and some empty and unused pokéballs.

He had to use this backpack. He just had to.

Anything of hers was important and he wanted to keep whatever he found close to him.

More hopeful now, he began to search the place more thoroughly, even searching on the bed. However, he found nothing else and so began to return to taking off the rest of the sketches from the walls. One of them escaped from his grasp and fell to the floor next to the bed, and he reached down to retrieve it.

Mal caught sight of a loose board that he’d missed. Moving the comforter aside, he grabbed the end of the board and lifted slightly, until it was up enough that he could grab it fully with one hand. Now securely holding it, he took his other hand to grab it as well, and then he began to pull it up.

He saw the outline of a medium-sized box laid sideways into the niche and grabbed it with one hand, hurriedly taking it out and then letting go of the floorboard. He looked at it in awe, realizing it was a very expensive, elegant decorative jewelry box, like one of the ones his mother owned.

It was made of wood, like the music box, and colored identically. However, that was where the differences ended. Shapes of elderberries jutted out and decorated the edge of the bottom of the jewelry box, while the top of the lid had a beautiful red hyacinth painted on. The clear lacquer on the blackened wood didn’t shine as much as it had on the music box, showing how much being hidden and left alone had done to lessen its condition.

On its side by the front, there were words engraved. To the left of the locking mechanism read “I sung of Chaos and Night,” and underneath the lock read “Taught by the heav’nly Muse to venture down”. The last part was to the right of the lock, reading “The dark descent, and up to reascend…”

That said, it definitely hadn’t come from his father then. He doubted his father would have engraved anything like that to Leaf, not that Mal understood what it really meant anyway.

He tried to open the jewelry box, but it wouldn’t open. He guessed it was locked and he didn’t want to damage it by forcing it open. He looked under the bed, but didn’t find any keys. He did, however, managed to see a small figure he’d overlooked. He reached for it and managed to tip it closer with his fingers, finally dragging it closer to him after.

His jaw slightly loosened and minutely gaped at the Swanna drinking bird he’d managed to find.

Professor Oak would be elated that he’d found this and to see it again, he was sure. Mal was still surprised it had escaped someone’s notice and hadn’t been stolen, like the rest of Leaf’s stuff. It was still in fairly good condition, minus a few scuff marks that might’ve been made when it had fallen to the floor and had been pushed under the bed, maybe even during the initial onslaught of people coming to raid the place.

Deciding the floorboards would be his best bet, he saw nothing there either. He thought maybe another look at the jewelry box wouldn’t hurt, but the lid wasn’t budging either. However, when he examined it further, he found he could press the locking mechanism. The lid lifted slightly, indicating that the box had finally opened up.

Excited, Mal lifted it up further and saw a shallow compartment that held what looked to be two letters. Disappointed, he pulled them out and saw that that was it, and became further disappointed. And yet as he saw the bottom of that compartment, lined red velvet, he realized there was another lock in the middle of the ornate black elder tree design in the middle of the compartment.

He decided he’d look into the letters first and opened up the first one, noting the date as August 1.

Dear Lady Hyacinth,

I must say I’m still further surprised by your continuing correspondence to me. I also continue to say that you need not keep thanking me for saving you. I wouldn’t have left you to that fate.

I’m unheeded by the fact that you continue to not accept my help, and will continue to offer it. You are not in an ideal situation, and despite our differences and past conflicts, I will be here if you need to seek out aid.

On a higher note, it is our shared birthday. I hope you find this letter well, and the accompanying jewelry box to your liking. As Milton’s words carve into the box, I shall quote to you now: “The mind is its own place, and in itself can make a heaven of hell, and a hell of heaven.”

I suggest you choose to make heaven of hell.

Well wishes on your birthday and a grand 16th,

G

Mal honestly didn’t understand most of that letter, aside from the birthday stuff (even that was kind of odd), but he did feel as if the tone was private and intimate, and he was an intruder.

He was also curious about who this ‘G’ was and why had he (or she?) called Leaf “Lady Hyacinth,” though he could guess that a hyacinth had meaning somehow, as it had been painted onto the jewelry box.

Opening up the next letter, he was stunned to realize it was from Leaf and stiffly noting that it was dated the day of the car crash. His lips twitched a little, at least, noticing that while Leaf’s handwriting was nice, it wasn’t nearly as graceful as this “G” character’s.

G,

I still say you’re an infuriating man...but I do owe you and will continue to thank you for saving me. It wasn’t a pleasant experience. If you hadn’t been there, and as surprised as I was that you (of all people) had saved me, I continue to be grateful that you were.

Thank you for your offer and I promise that I am keeping it in mind. Truthfully, I’ve made plans with my cousin to live with him and run from here, so I believe I have that matter settled for the moment. I also thank you for agreeing to meet me in Viridian City, and look forward to it. I have a great deal to talk to you about, but it can wait until we meet in person, rather than in a letter.

I also smile at you using ‘Paradise Lost’ as a medium to me. Would you want me to quote to you “Better to reign in Hell, than to serve in Heaven”? Yes, you may picture that being said with my usual dry wit, ‘good sir.’

But in honesty, I do adore the jewelry box. It’s beautiful. Thank you for having it made and gifting it to me. I will definitely keep your suggestion in mind, for it may otherwise be the death of me.

I wish you a grand birthday as well, and will hand your gift when we meet,

Lady Hyacinth

Mal was sure that Leaf hadn’t been able to send this to him (now that he was sure ‘G’ was a he), or perhaps had meant to hand it over with the gift personally when she got there. Unfortunately, it had never made it out of this jewelry box, much less this house. He had a lot of questions now, but it wasn’t like he had the answers or even much clues.

‘G’ was just one letter after all, and he had no clue as to why hyacinths (or elderberries for that matter) were involved. There was a good deal of private words and then there were special names. There was also the vague mentioning of some event that required ‘G’ to save her…

He had nothing now, but he could at least work towards finding answers.

Since he’d found no keys, he wouldn’t be able to get to the rest of the jewelry box until he found a way to open that part as well, and pressing on the second lock didn’t work like it had the outside of the jewelry box. He did find, though, that there was a small, hidden compartment above in the lid, just by gently sliding down on a hidden opening, revealing a compact space. A small pendant tumbled out of it and onto Mal’s hand.

It was entirely gold. As he examined the pendant, he saw that it had a Swanna in flight and was one of those spinning ones. As he tried it, he saw that as the pendant spun, the embossed Swanna looked like it was flying.

Smiling slightly, he put the chain over his neck and tucked the pendant under his shirt. Looking back at the jewelry box, he sighed at not being able to open it and grabbed it again. His fingers lightly traced the painted hyacinth, and he looked around at the dusty and almost bare room.

Clutching the jewelry box to his chest, he bent his legs and curled them to him, bending his face over his knees as he cried into them.

He felt like he was so close and yet so far away at the same time.

***

Mal had fallen asleep like that, and had to hurry back to the research center. Raphael, already awake, wrinkled his nose at him and gave him a disdained look. Knowing of his dislike of Mal being usually a morning person and of the fact he probably looked bedraggled, he ignored him and traipsed up the stairs quickly.

After a shower, he began to switch bags, preferring to use the bag he’d found in Leaf’s room. In that way, every time he reached for it or looked at it, he’d be reminded of his cousin. As he began to transfer his stuff, his hand accidentally bumped into something in his previous bag. Curiously pulling it out, he realized belatedly that it was a picture of Leaf.

He and his father had never really had or gotten to see a picture of her in her recent days before her death, having only pictures of her when she was younger. Any newspaper articles that he’d found didn’t add a picture and he knew she disliked taking them.

But this was something completely different. Leaf was smiling back at him, looking around his age, although probably a year older.

Turning to the back, he saw a note from Professor Oak.

I had a feeling you didn’t own much of Leaf’s things, nor any photos of her for you to bring with you. This is a copy of one I keep at my desk, of Leaf around the time of the crash. She was, actually, curiously happy near the end, opposite of her usual mood in those days.

S. Oak

He wondered if the ‘S’ stood for his first name…

Smiling softly, he tucked in the photo carefully back into a pocket in his new backpack and then finished up repacking.

Still, he remembered the state of his cousin’s house and his cheer faltered a bit. His mood was teetering as he reentered the research lab, where Raphael and Sonia were waiting for him. He didn’t look their way as he turned to disappear into the main lab, looking for Oak.

A moment after he was done there, he headed back to them and they silently left, taking their takeaway breakfast with them.

He noted Sonia had dark circles under her eyes, but didn’t mention them to her.

But it seemed he wasn’t the only one who had a bad night.

***

Oak quietly traveled back to his desk, since the new trainers had left and all the commotion would go back to being silenced.

His eyes blinked several times as he caught sight of a small figure he hadn’t thought he’d see again.

The Swanna drinking bird swayed slightly with the breeze from the window, and Oak cautiously reached out to see if it was real. His hand touched it and felt the smooth wood, and he watched it sadly as he picked it up and held it up to his eyes.

“Now where have you been, little one?” he murmured.

He smiled slightly and placed it next to the Pidgey drinking bird, tapping both of their heads and letting them go as he walked away to do his usual duties, and letting two tears freely run down his face.

The lab was so quiet nowadays...
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PostSubject: Re: Story Feedback   Sun Sep 06, 2015 10:38 am

The Book of Mal
Chapter Seven: I am Truths and Untruths

Raphael was like his brother and he got along well enough with Sonia…but the two of them grated on his nerves sometimes. It was like they were a Zangoose and a Seviper, always at each other’s throats and Mal was ready to jump off a cliff with the way those two kept at it. Sonia being Psychic wasn’t a problem with him, but it wasn’t helping the apparent problem those two had with each other. And no one could really control their thoughts, but Raphael definitely had a tendency to be really passionate, so he could imagine that it would probably be a nightmare to Sonia’s senses.

When he thought going on this journey with them would probably be an issue, but one that would probably be overcome over the days they traveled with each other and got to know each other…he hadn’t realized how far of an understatement and improbability that actually was.

He was doing his best to be the peacemaker and bridge, but they were making it beyond difficult.

Still, he worried about Zorua’s health and wasn’t bothered by the fact they’d have to stay around Viridian City rather idly. As long as Zorua was healing and started to feel better, Mal didn’t care that they weren’t moving forward. He had managed to have Blissey give her an egg to keep her stable, but he hadn’t been able to figure out the full extent of what was wrong.

So after the initial stop to Nurse Joy, after she was done with Sonia’s Zorua and a checkup on Raphael’s pokémon, Teddi and Su Lin had their own checkups and a quick assessment showed they would be fine after a day’s rest. And to make sure they would be completely alright, Nurse Joy recommended they were left behind.

Mal was reluctant to do so, but he knew it was best if they rested.

“Be on your best behavior, alright?” he murmured.

They nuzzled his hands in reassurance as he pet them, and he let them settle back down on their temporary beds to rest. Finding that he was passing by Zorua’s bed, and actually seeing no Sonia for once, Mal went over to stop by Zorua’s side.

“Hey, you,” he quietly greeted, since Zorua looked bored being stuck in bed. She yipped at him with a small grin, which made Mal feel like grinning back. “Get better quickly, okay? I’m actually starting to miss your pranks on Raphael. Don’t tell him that though.”

She made a snickering sound, and Mal gave a small wave before walking quick strides out of there.

As he traveled out of the Pokémon Center and walked around for a bit, he noted that it was similar to Celadon City, and was much more bustling with activity than Pallet Town had. It was a busy time of the day too, so he wasn’t surprised to see people up and about.

He walked towards the gym, intending to check it out, though he’d had to ask directions for the place as he’d never been there before. However, someone walked passed him and held onto a newspaper, and suddenly an idea flashed through his head.

Viridian City was the place of the crash. Of where Leaf had died…

This place would have the articles that he may not have been able to read and get his hands on. He could actually find and visit the actual crash site.

He turned around and made a mad dash back towards the Pokémon Center. He burst through the doors, and was disappointed not to see Nurse Joy immediately in sight. Hoping she might be in the back, he hurried his way there and saw her talking to her Chansey.

“Nurse Joy? Can I ask something?” Mal hesitantly called out.

Nurse Joy turned to him, surprised at his sudden entrance.

“Mal, right? Is something the matter?” she gave him a friendly smile.

Mal stayed quiet for a moment, before finally asking her. “There was a girl who died in this city –”

“Are you talking about Leaf?” Nurse Joy took him aback by the quick answer, and by replying with the right girl before he could offer any other details. Nurse Joy’s smile lessened, but never disappeared. “She was such a bright girl…”

Mal looked down. He took a deep breath, before looking back up at Nurse Joy.

“Is there any way I would be able to look into her...Perhaps a place they keep old articles or something…” he tried to keep it vague, not wanting to announce that he was looking into her death or anything.

He also refrained from saying she was his cousin. After Blue, even with Oak’s words, he was hesitant to call her his cousin in front of others, when he was sure others would ridicule him and tell him she wasn’t really, because he hadn’t even met her.

Nurse Joy frowned in thought. “Well, there’s the Viridian Archives. It’s five blocks from here, so you’ll have quite a walk. It’ll be pretty easy to find, as it’s next to and connected to the Viridian City Public Library.”

Mal’s eyes lit up. What a goldmine. This was exactly what he needed.

“Thank you, Nurse Joy! I’ll be back later,” he called out, already on the move after a quick bow.

He was tempted to check in with Su Lin and Teddi, but he knew he would want to bring them and they would stubbornly argue to come, if they met up right now. Even Teddi, who was usually calm and quiet about things, would probably be spurred to act and try to get him to bring them along.

However, only just a block away from the Viridian Archives, he saw two shadows moving behind him as he turned his head, and saw his two pokémon looking right back at him.

“You two should have stayed back at the Center,” he admonished.

“Pan Pan,” “Urse,” both of them gave him hard stares.

Mal sighed and bent down and scooped them into his arms, letting them easily climb up onto his shoulders.

“Pan-Urse!” they echoed into his ear, their voices blending.

“Yes, yes. I love you guys, too.”

Mal rolled his eyes and continued his way, making it in no time to the Archives with Teddi and Su Lin both distracting him and making the time go by faster.

Once there, he had to pay a small fee to go into the part of the Archives he specifically needed to go. There, he was set up with a private area and then was given a catalogue. He was confused and at a lost as to how to use it and navigate the place as well, but he took his time and eventually began to figure it out.

“Alright you two, let’s split up and find these articles,” Mal told them, and he had them go to an area of the private section each.

It took a bit, but soon enough Mal had gathered a lot of old articles. He reached for the first one, reading the title curiously.

Team Rocket Hostile Takeover at Saffron Repelled by Pokémon Trainer!

He remembered something of that back then, but he’d still been a young child and had yet to realize Leaf was his cousin. Later on, when he’d talked to Lance, his mentor had casually, but very vaguely, mentioned something happening at this company building in Saffron years back, but Lance hadn’t elaborated and Mal hadn’t thought to ask or be too interested.

Now that he knew his cousin had been involved, as he skimmed the article, he wished he’d asked more of what had happened and what Lance knew or what he could reveal. Maybe if he’d even met Leaf…

Mal rubbed at his tired eyes, trying to slow down his thinking. He was getting all these thoughts into his head and they were all crowding in. It made it hard for him to think straight.

He did his best to continue on, reaching articles about Leaf’s other accomplishments on paper, like the Game Corner in Celadon City being outed as a Rocket hideout, Team Rocket’s operations in Mt. Moon being halted…

Then he reached the load of articles about Leaf’s defeat of Team Rocket. He was in awe and felt proud of his cousin, and couldn’t believe such a thing had happened and that Leaf had been the cause of it. However, he knew that these days, there were rumors of Team Rocket moving around again, and those trio they’d just met were likely suspects and made his hair raise.

He only hoped it wasn’t true.

There was strangely not a lot of available articles about the crash. He was frustrated about that and wanted to know why, so he went back to the catalogue and typed in the keywords exactly, which came up with a bunch of articles finally. He clicked on them to see where they were located in that area, only to be confounded by the blocked access sign that came up each time.

When he looked for the reason why, he read that they were ‘locked’ information and required specific permission. Why did they need permission and what did it mean by ‘specific’?

He went to the main area of the Archives, the slightly brighter but still dimmed lights making him blink his eyes and try to adjust to the light. The area he’d been in had been mostly dark, so he felt a bit disoriented with the change.

“Excuse me, sir,” he asked the main archivist. “There were articles I wished to look at, but the catalogue said they were locked. I’m supposed to get specific permission, so I was wondering if I may ask you for it?”

The main archivist looked dutifully surprised by this information.

“I’m sorry, but I don’t give out permission for these sorts of things. The only way any of our information gets locked up and becomes classified, is when one or more of the City Council members locks it up.”

Su Lin and Teddi, having felt Mal’s mounting frustration, nudged their noses against his legs in comfort.

“Thanks,” he muttered to the archivist. “Is there at least any way to find out who locked it up?”

“Generally, the person’s initials are in the description part of the blocked page, but otherwise no,” the man told him apologetically.

Mal nodded distractedly at him, before returning back to his room, where Su Lin tugged at his pant leg and pulled him back to the table with the electronic catalogue. There, he pressed the link again, bringing up the ‘classified’ page, and he searched for the initials.

After the message on the page, right on the bottom were two elegantly scrawled letters.

GR

Mal stared at them for a moment, mostly ingraining the G in his head. It was written in the same way ‘G’ had been in those private letters to his cousin.

Who and why?

Who was ‘G’, and why had he locked all of this information up? Why had he seemed so close to his cousin? Why did he write all those words, those specific words in those letters to her?

If, as hinted, G was such an important person in that city, why had he taken time to talk to a small-town girl like Leaf? Was being ‘Hero’ of Kanto such a big deal that a city council member would reach out to Leaf? Or was there something more?

Frustrated at the lack of information, Mal set the catalogue down. He’d wanted to be in Viridian for a chance to find out some answers, only to come away with just more questions.

The least he could have gotten was where the crash site was, and he couldn’t have even gotten that.

“Damn it,” Mal cradled his head in his hands. “Why is this becoming such a mystery?”

His pokémon companions gave him comforting nuzzles, and Mal tried to smile back at them. Picking them up, he cuddled them to him as he flipped through the last of the articles he had there. All of them were just conspiracy theories of Leaf after her death, mainly of who was involved or of her real status of her life.

He actually scoffed at the theories of Team Rocket being involved, aiming for revenge against her. Mal was stubborn about and had practically heard from the horse’s mouth that Blue drove that car and had aimed it towards the other car.

Team Rocket had plausibility, but Mal was sure he knew the truth.

And seeing other articles besmirching or at least pointing a finger at Blue, even in subtle ways, had him smirking in satisfaction.

He looked forward to the day he would bring that jerk down. He wouldn’t quit until he’d put that man down from his pedestal, and taken away his precious title.

On the other hand, Mal tried his best to not pay too much attention to the articles that wanted to say that Leaf could be alive. He didn’t want to bring up his hopes, nor of that of his father’s.

But if Leaf was alive, living somewhere with no memory…

Mal couldn’t help daydreaming about finding her in some city, lost and alone, and then bringing her back home and everything being fine and everyone happy.

He really wished that could be true, and he had a feeling he would never be able to forget these conspiracies ever and he’d be searching hopelessly in every city for his cousin.
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PostSubject: Re: Story Feedback   Sun Sep 06, 2015 10:57 am

The Book of Mal
Chapter Eight: I am Happenstance

Mal left the Viridian Archives despondently, holding onto Teddi and Su Lin, rather than them settling on his shoulders or their favorite spots as always. He did his best to put those thoughts out of his head, forcing the thoughts of Leaf to settle in the back of his mind, else he end up running through the streets in a mad bid to look for her.

Instead, he thought of another female he knew and grimaced. He wasn’t looking forward to going back to the other two, given that he still felt too tired and emotionally drained to deal with them. But a rebellious ‘Leaf thought’ (which echoed her, because he’d heard she was a bit of a rebel) wiggled into his head.

His cousin wouldn’t want him to be so impatient with the situation and to keep trying. Do his best to befriend Sonia and keep trying to reach out, and to have Raphael do the same and becoming a little more understanding of her.

And Leaf would be disappointed in him that he’d left Sonia alone with Zorua back in the Pokémon Center, Mal disliking the situation as it was or not. He should have tried to talk to her, even if she was feeling aggravated due to Zorua’s condition. He’d been taught better than this…

“Pan?” Su Lin nudged her nose against his neck.

He looked down despondently and clutched the bears to him. He didn’t want to be so aggravated with his friend, and he did want to make sure Sonia didn’t have a hard time with them. He wasn’t Psychic, but he could understand that her powers gave her a lot of problems and she felt it was better to shut people out.

But Sonia also truly was entwined with her powers, which made them a part of her.

Sonia, in a way, was like a force of nature. But she had no one to really ground her, and if he really wanted to honestly befriend her, then he had to accept every part of her and find a way to deal with her powers and try to keep the peace between her and Raphael.

He’d be her anchor, whether she wanted him to be or not.

“Aw, how cute! A pair of adorable bears!” he heard a little girl voice out, and he turned towards the source.

He’d walked by a playground, and saw a young father happily pushing his daughter on the swing. She was pointing his way, and he gave a small wave and smile, with his pokémon companions echoing him playfully.

A lump settled in his throat as he watched the father laugh and tickle his daughter, whispering something in her ear while she giggled.

He missed his own father, which made him think about Sonia’s. She hated Raphael because of something to do with her own deceased father, he knew that much. He’d originally only knew and thought it was just Raphael’s family and his friend’s ties to Silph, but he’d thought about it more, and remembered things Lance had told him about the Darkin family.

She had no father. And maybe...maybe she blamed Raphael and his family somehow.

Had this always bothered her? He could maybe understand a bit more why she hated Raphael outright, just from the beginning. With her father passed away and now with Zorua hurt, who was like Teddi and Su Lin to Mal, she must be so lonely and upset right now.

He had to go back. He had to go and see her.

If he wanted to make good on his promise to be Sonia’s anchor and be a true friend, Mal had to go back and be by her side, even if she telekinetically tossed him out of a window.

Jaw set, Mal rushed back to the Pokémon Center determinedly.

***

The first thing Mal saw as he looked for and finally found Nurse Joy, was that she was very busy talking to another trainer. Mal examined the other curiously, noting the well-groomed Ivysaur by the trainer’s side.

The trainer had a cheerful disposition, and held himself straight and with pride. He was clearly confident in himself, and in his Ivysaur, as Mal saw him caress one of Ivysaur’s leaves (who preened at the touch).

Mal had a feeling this guy would be a tough battler and had plenty of experience under his belt.

But it didn’t take away the fact that he was making Mal have to wait to ask Nurse Joy where Sonia and Zorua was, since upon coming to the Pokémon Center, they weren’t where they were last. He’d already passed by Raphael, who had been taking a good nap with his Eevee twins on a bed in their room.

He waited for them to finish, trying not to be impatient and hoping he didn’t look it. Instead, he tried to pass the time by with petting Su Lin and Teddi for a bit. They preened just as much as that Ivysaur had, if not more so.

Finally, Nurse Joy and the confident trainer finished, and that trainer left with his Ivysaur. Mal approached the nurse quickly, and gained her attention.

“Nurse Joy, I was wondering where my companion and her Zorua went to?” he asked anxiously.

“Ah, yes,” Nurse Joy quickly remembered. “Those two were moved upstairs, Room 13.”

“Thank you!” Mal gave a quick bow and then turned on his heel striding away, already heading up the stairs, with Teddi and Su Lin racing around his feet.

The room wasn’t hard to find, and he knocked on the door several times. However, no one was answering and he could guess Sonia was probably ignoring him. Biting his lip, Mal rummaged around in his pockets.

He found the dark chocolate bar that he’d bought on the way, remembering it was Sonia’s favorite and hoping it could be used as an olive branch. Well, here’s to him trying…

He slipped it under the door and then began to talk.

“I’m sorry,” he said softly. “I know you prefer to be alone and just have your pokémon and don’t wish to be with us at all...and that’s okay. But if you need someone to just be there and take it, I’ll be there.

“It was lonely, right? All these years without your father...I’m so grateful for mine. I know how lonely it can be, Sonia. Somehow, all these years…for some reason I’ve had this gaping hole inside that I couldn’t understand. Even with my family, I had no one but Su Lin and Teddi. They have always been there for me. Just like Zorua was for you, I bet. And now she’s hurt and you’re hurting too.

“It’s like the loneliness is back again, isn’t it? Like a terrifying grip on you, with cold all around and you feel like you’re going to die from it? My family saved me from that and I’m so happy to call them family. I just don’t understand how I’m like this and feel all broken up with no reason, but at least they’re there and I have them. I wish I could share the love they have for me with you. So that you can feel warm and chase that cold loneliness away, just like they did for me.

“I don’t...I don’t want you to feel like Raphael and I are the enemies and fight all the time, Sonia. I want to be your friend. I wish you could see that…”

Mal closed his eyes and leant his forehead against the door. Su Lin and Teddi cuddled up to his sides, but he had to get this out.

“The truth is I know there’s a sort of hole inside you too,” he murmured. “But I won’t let it stay there. Don’t shut yourself down. And I’m not afraid of you, Sonia. So I hope you let me in a little.”

He wished he could say this to her face to face, and who knows if she was even listening to him. But he had to pour how he felt out or else he was going to burst.

“I hope you don’t think I hate you,” Mal began to finish off in exhaustion. “The truth is, I truly don’t. I think...I actually think we can be good friends.”

Mal slumped against the doors, and held his two friends to him, feeling worn out. He didn’t know how well he communicated himself and his feelings to her, but he hoped it was enough for her to actually see him and not the people she wanted to lump he with of the rest of the world.

He was Mal Thrones, and he truly, sincerely wanted to be Sonia Darkin’s friend.

***

Mal yawned, and realized with a jolt that he’d nodded off. He was still slumped against the door, and his two pokémon companions were lying comfortably against his now laid out legs. Unfortunately, they were being dorky and had engaged in a staring contest, in which he could see Su Lin’s paw twitching and indicating she was getting impatient. In a moment, Teddi was going to win, and Su Lin was going to sulk.

Exactly a moment later that was exactly what happened. Mal laughed lightly and ruffled Su Lin’s head, and she looked up at him with an almost human-like pout.

“You know you always get impatient,” Mal told her. “Teddi doesn’t as easily.”

Su Lin practically huffed and playfully turned her head from him.

There was a crumpling sound and Mal looked to his side to see Teddi hold up something plastic in his mouth. Taking it from him, Mal realized it was the candy bar wrapper, all emptied out.

He smiled slightly and looked to the door. Maybe things could get better between them all.

Deciding to leave Sonia alone for now, he thought that he should contact his parents to let them know he’d made it fine to Viridian City. Heading downstairs, with Teddi keeping guard at the door and Su Lin following him, Mal located the video-telephones quickly and went straight over.

From there, he dialed his home number and waited for someone to pick up. His mother, Laylah, answered and then she was wearing a gentle smile as she saw her son and his Pancham Su Lin.

“Hello, Mother,” Mal greeted with a small, wry grin. Su Lin held up a paw, before settling on Mal’s lap for a nap.

“Oh, Mal! I’m so happy to hear from you. Hold on a moment –Gabriel! Mal’s on the phone,” she excitedly called out to her husband.

His father quickly made it to her side and also smiled at Mal.

“It’s so good to see you, son,” Gabriel greeted him.

“Father,” Mal embarrassedly rubbed the back of his head. “I’m happy to see you two as well.”

“How have things been?” his mother asked worriedly.

Mal refrained from wincing outwardly, but started to retell his journey from the moment he left Pallet Town to now.

However, he left out a few things. He left out much of Sonia’s powers, and Raphael and Sonia bickering, wanting to figure out how to deal with them and the situation himself. He couldn’t rely on them for answers on everything forever, after all.

He also left out what happened in Pallet, with the Professor, Blue, and Leaf’s home. He thought that the Professor’s thoughts and memories were quite private and not something Mal should talk to anyone about, while Blue made both him and his father quite heated (and he’d prefer not to ruin his first talk with his parents since he’d set off and left them behind on his journey). But what he’d learned about Leaf and Leaf’s home…

That seemed much too intimate and private to just be talked over the phone like this. He felt it was too special not to tell them and talk with them about this face to face.

Finishing up his talk with his parents on a good note, they said their goodbyes before Mal hung up. Looking around the lobby, he saw that the confident trainer with the Ivysaur was still there. Curious about the other male, Mal headed over to him, carefully carrying his sleeping Su Lin.

“Hello. I saw you around earlier,” Mal called out before he reached the trainer. He bowed slightly. “My name’s Mal.”

Surprised at suddenly being addressed, the trainer grinned at him. “Hi there! It’s nice meeting you, Mal. The name’s Cal.”

Mal gestured to the seat next to Cal, who laughed.

“Go ahead! Seat’s free.” And after Mal sat down, Cal asked, “So are you a pokémon trainer too?”

“Yes, I am. I just started though. I received my license and pokédex a few days ago actually,” Mal revealed to the other.

Cal looked extremely interested. “Really? It’s been awhile for me! It feels like forever since I started my own journey. I guess traveling all over helps it feel like that, right? Especially when you’re on foot!”

They shared a laugh over that.

The other trainer then looked a bit sheepish. “Truth is, I’m about Indigo-bound at this point. Just got one last badge left to go, the Earth Badge from Viridian City.”

Cal actually looked a bit uneasy about it, which made Mal’s curiosity flare up badly.

“Is...something the matter?”

Cal chuckled dryly. “I guess you can say so. The thing is, I heard the gym here is extremely tough and hard to beat. The gym leader is scarily difficult to battle against, and I hear the battles –whether you win or lose –are always grueling and always end up exhausting the challengers. The worse part? People think that even then, the gym leader is going easy on the challenger, otherwise the challenger would be utterly destroyed.”

That made Mal shiver, although a part of him felt excited at the prospect of challenging someone so hard to beat, despite his usual interest lying outside battling.

“Yeah, so that’s why I’ve already been in Viridian for a week,” Cal confessed. “I’ve been training and preparing myself and my pokémon, usually over at the Trainer’s House. They have friendly tourneys going on over there and I think it’s been helping. Hey, I know! Why don’t you come check out the Trainer’s House with me today?”

Mal wasn’t too sure and he felt that Raphael would probably be more eager to go, and he also felt that maybe he should stick around with Sonia. He felt a lot of progress had been made between them, and he was hoping he could do a little more to bridge the gap.

“It sounds like a good idea to me, although I think I’ll go tomorrow,” Mal said apologetically.

Cal nodded understandingly. “Okay, cool. Here, let me write down the directions, so you know where to go. I’ll probably head there now though. Got to get that Earth Badge, you know?”

Cal scribbled down the directions on a piece of paper he found in his pack, and then handed it to Mal. They said goodbye and then Cal was leaving the Pokémon Center.

For a moment, Mal wondered what he should do to get Sonia to open up more. Maybe something that helps Psychics...maybe something nice to drink?

He went to Nurse Joy for help, wondering if she’d know anything.

“Nurse Joy, I was wondering about something….”

“Yes?”

Mal suddenly wondered if maybe this was a good idea. He knew that there were people who were anti-Psychic, but this was Nurse Joy…

“Is there something…proper to give to Psychics?” Mal was almost tempted to mutter.

“Oh! Well, let’s see...How about Viridian’s Elderberry Tea?” she suggested. “Elderberries are known for their healing properties, and I know the tea is favored amongst visiting Psychics, and it’s soothing to them.”

Elderberries…

It clicked in his head that elderberries had been on Leaf’s jewelry box that was given by a man calling himself ‘G’...the same G who had written the letters, with the same scrawl that had been the initials of the Viridian Councilman who had locked down articles about Leaf’s death.

“May I ask why is elderberry tea so popular around here?” Mal questioned, feeling like he’d latched onto something.

Nurse Joy laughed delightedly. “You see, elderberry tea was Leaf’s favorite drink. One of the councilman on the board, after her death, suggested it be made Viridian’s signature drink, in honor of her. Hence, Viridian’s Elderberry Tea!”

Mal had a feeling this councilman was the very same mysterious G.

“That’s wonderful. Do you know where I can order one?” Mal reluctantly pushed those thoughts away, focusing on retrieving a drink for Sonia.

“Well, the nearest place would be the outdoor café two blocks away, called Café Wellington.”

Thanking her and giving a polite bow (letting her hold onto Su Lin for him as well), Mal quickly exited the Pokémon Center to find the café. It was rather popular, by the evidence of the crowd, so Mal had to settle for a wait. He ordered two of the tea and received a number ticket, before heading to an empty table to wait for his number to be called out.

Deciding to fiddle with the jewelry box while he waited, hoping the second part would miraculously open, he grabbed his backpack and carefully drew the jewelry box out of it. He examined it and wondered if there was any way he could maybe restore it to its original shine, but was glad it at least came out mostly unscathed from whatever happened at Leaf’s old home.

“That’s an elegant jewelry box,” someone complimented it.

He looked up abruptly, startled at someone approaching while he’d been lost in thought. The man before him was rather intimidatingly tall, and wore a double-breasted suit. Onyx eyes stared darkly at the jewelry box, though there was also an unfamiliar, but yet almost pained, look to his eyes.

“It was my cousin’s,” Mal let slipped quietly, not knowing why he’d reveal such a private thing about something special to a stranger.

The man looked at him in alarm, before a neutral look settled on his face.

“Is it? You should take care not to let it go near fire...They say burning elderwood lets you see the devil,” and the man seemed to grimly smirk briefly at that, a private joke that he seemed to only know.

“It’s made of elderwood?” Mal asked in surprise. “I hadn’t known. I’m not very good at identifying the different types.”

The man reached out and gently trailed the tips of his fingers against the jewelry box, and for some reason Mal let him, unable to bring himself to take the jewelry box away. In fact, Mal felt wrong at the thought of it.

“She drank elderberry tea many a times, but it can’t heal her now,” the man murmured.

Mal stopped breathing for a moment. This was him. This was G.

“She cared,” he rushed to say, feeling he had to say this, like he had to say all he needed to Sonia earlier. “She wrote a letter that day. The day of the crash, she wrote a letter and wanted to give you a gift for your birthday, but she never got to. She wanted to thank you again. She had...she had so much to say to you. I can tell. But most of all...she loved this gift you gave her.”

Mal grasped the jewelry box and held it up to him, with the stranger looking down at it with tired eyes.

“Number 23!” he heard called out, and Mal turned his head towards the pick-up area in irritation.

“Go on,” he heard the stranger mutter. “The tea will get cold and she used to complain that she hated it cold.”

Mal smiled slightly, and in such a short time had learned about Leaf more intimately, of her likes and peculiarities, than he’d ever been able to before –just with a few words of a stranger.

He left the jewelry box in the hands of the stranger, because he instinctively felt the other treasured it as much, if not more than Mal did.

But at the line, as he got his drinks, he realized that for some reason, his image of the man began to fade and he was beginning to forget what the stranger looked like.

Rushing back to his table, he saw no sign of the stranger, but his jewelry box was still on the table.

But beside it was a set of keys on a chain...
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PostSubject: Re: Story Feedback   Fri Sep 11, 2015 9:11 am

[b]The Book of Mal[/b]
Chapter Two: I am Leaves on the Tree (part 1 for now)

After meeting Raphael de Alcott, Mal had come to open up a bit more and had met his first and closest friend, aside from Teddi. Even though the other was a bit more outgoing, slowly becoming more so as the days went by and Raphael got used to being part of his adopted family’s life, Mal found that the other was someone who could understand him a little and really was someone he liked being around and having fun with.

“Mal, are you ready?”

Mal stopped thinking about stuff, and looked down at his finished luggage.

“Yes, Father,” he called out, and grabbed his bag, lugging it after him as he went out of his room. Once out of it though, Henry appeared and grabbed his bag from him, the manservant giving him a small smile. Giving a just as small one back, Henry led the way down to the foyer, where his family was waiting.

“We won’t be long in Kalos, dear, so I hope you packed light,” his mother told him.

Nodding in understanding and confirming he had done so, the family gathered together and headed out to their family car, where they would be driven to the airport. At the airport, Mal felt a little uneasy and stuck closer to his parents. His head was roughly patted and he looked up to see Cassiel grinning down at him from where he was being held in their mother’s arms.

“No scare, no scare!” his little brother giggled.

“No scare,” Mal repeated quietly, smiling up at his brother.

He felt a little better about being in the crowded airport, even though he started feeling uneasy again as they boarded the plane. The feeling quickly went away as the plane eventually went up, and he could looked outside and see the skies and clouds being right next to him. He even saw a few pokémon that amazed him, flying right next to the plane. It was all too soon when he fell asleep and found himself waking up to his father shaking his shoulder.

Automatically, he felt himself flinch and bring his arms up to shield himself. When he realized what he did, he looked at his father in surprise, who was equally looking down at him in shock. Then a grimace appeared on his father’s face, and Mal felt bad and didn’t understand why he had reacted that way.

“Come along, Mal. The plane’s landed and we have to get off.”

Mal did his best to not think of what had happened, instead focusing on what he wanted to see in Anistar City. He had heard about the huge sundial located in the city, and that some said was from outer space. He was really looking forward to seeing it, and hoping he could find out if it did or didn’t come from space. Not that he wouldn’t end up finding out; he was just a kid after all.

“After I do business here, I was going to take you to meet Olympia. She’s a gym leader from this region, and is the gym leader of this city,” his father told him.

Eager and interested now, Mal nodded obediently. His father left then, and he waited with his mother and brother in the hotel room they were staying in. While his father was gone, his mother wanted him to practice his reading, and he devoured a few more books, finding that he really was a good reader and with it, his vocabulary and understanding grew with his expanded reading. When his mother deemd that he’d done enough for then, she also then had him working on manners and etiquette, to which he more than took to. In fact, he took it so seriously that he implanted what he’d learned into whatever he was doing and whenever he could.

“I see someone’s been working hard,” Gabriel commented, and Mal turned to see his father at the door and watching as Mal attempted to walk with a straight posture and some books on his head.

“He suggested and attempted to walk with a straight posture using his books,” Laylah admitted in amusement. “I think our son’s going to turn out to be quite the gentlemen and nobleman.”

Letting them tease him, Mal just gave a small sheepish grin.

“Would you like to meet Olympia now, son?” his father turned to him.

Mal nodded eagerly, though he carefully stacked his books and put them away. His mother fixed him up a little bit, and then he went off to his father’s side, missing his parents trading uncertain looks with each other.
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PostSubject: Re: Story Feedback   Fri Sep 11, 2015 12:10 pm

Again not edited, but here's part 2 of chapter 2 (edited part of the end to make it flow and transition better with the timeskip:

They headed out, moving more towards gym that was easily seen in the distance. Using the rental car that his father had rented, they made it in no time to the Anistar Gym. After they had park and they’d gotten to the be in the gym, the waiting room they were in was comfortable enough that Mal was sat on the couch. Unfortunately, by the look on his father’s face, he understood that he wanted to have a serious talk with Mal.

"Mal, you've been having…odd flashes of images, yes?”

Mal flinched, because he had. Images of a woman, a melodic voice, and shouting. Sometimes he has nightmares that he knows comes from those images, but he can never remember them.

“They’re not good memories,” his father revealed and he looked at his father in alarm. “They’re memories that hurt you, that are of others hurting you. I brought you here today, so that the gym leader could help. She’s a friend of a colleague of mine, and he asked her to help us out, when I revealed that I noticed that you seemed to be remembering and recovering from your amnesia. I was going to ask if she could put a block around your memories, so you don’t have to remember them. Are you okay with that, or do you want to remember?”

The truth was, Mal always felt anxiety at the images and a sort of fear. Minus the melodic voice that made him feel safe and wanted, the other images that blurred and haunted him made him feel small and miserable.

“No, I don’t want to remember,” he said after thinking about it.

He looked at his father determinedly, and Gabriel nodded back. It was then that a woman with dark-purple haired entered, a strange cloak billowing behind her and Mal glimpsing the inside decorated as a pretty galaxy pattern.

“This is Olympia, son,” Gabriel introduced the woman, who gave him a kind smile.

Mal shyly smiled back, and Olympia knelt in front of him.

“Ready for this
Sweet young one
There is no turning back.”

Mal blinked up at her in confusion, but Gabriel laughed lightly and ruffled her crimson hair.

“She tends to speak mostly in haiku,” his father informed him.

Inwardly shrugging, Mal nodded to her and she placed her hands on either side of his head. He felt himself instinctively closing his eyes, not seeing her do the same. In a moment, he felt a pressure around his head and sweat started to gathered at his temples. The pressure increasingly grew until he thought that his head wouldn’t be able to take it. And then suddenly, his mind felt blissfully bank and airy, and he felt calm.

“Is it done?” he heard his father’s voice distantly.

She must have answered silently, because he didn’t hear anything. Then his father asked him to open his eyes and he did, feeling as if everything was normal and nothing had changed. He blinked in confusion.

“Everything okay now?” he asked hesitantly.

“It’s fine, sweetie,” Olympia surprisingly spoke normally.

Mal smiled brightly at her.

He got up and went to his father’s side, and together they headed out with Olympia. His father thanked her for all her help, and she said she hadn’t minded. She then turned to Mal.

“Be well, alright child?” her smile was sad, and he wondered and was almost tempted to ask what she’d seen in his head.

He just nodded though and turned to leave with his father, accidentally brushing against one of Olympia’s white bracelets. With his back to her, he missed her face look surprised before become even more sad than it had been.

Gabriel hadn’t though, and he uneasily wondered what she had seen, knowing that anyone who touched Olympia’s bracelets allowed her to see all of their future.

~*~*~

Currently, Mal was with his father at one of the Kalos banks. Teddi was attached to his back, like usual, while he followed behind his father.

Then there was a loud bang and there was chaos everywhere, and he could see people screaming and crouching to the ground.

“Everyone on the ground!”

His father had placed his hand on Mal’s head, grabbing him close to his side and tucking him in. Mal still felt scared and wanted to leave, but seeing the doors blocked, didn’t think anyone could. So he stayed quiet and close to his father, while the people went around and collected things from everyone.

They wore black uniforms and had their heads and faces covered. They also had blue P’s on their fronts.

“Plasma?” he heard his father mutter. “But they’re in Unova and stay there. Why are they here? Unless this is some kind of hoax…”

One of those people came up to them at last, and suddenly yanked Mal away from his father. His breathing started to get heavy and he was having trouble breathing, so he shoved his hand into his pocket to grab his inhaler, only for it to be knocked from his hand as the man holding yanked him closer and practically had his arm choked up against Mal’s throat.

“Give my son back!” he heard his father screaming at them.

“Later! We need a ticket out of here, and he’s going to be our hostage!”

Dazed and confused, and on the verge of an asthma attack, Mal couldn’t fight back as he was dragged away and then shoved into a truck. Inside, he saw a few pokémon in cages, along with the cash these people stole. A Pancham was next to him, and tentatively reached out to touch his arm.

He gave it a weak smile, before his wheezing became worse and he really couldn’t breathe anymore.

“What the hell’s wrong with you, kid?!” he heard one of the men demand of him, but his vision was so blurry and he couldn’t really focus, so he couldn’t see who and he definitely couldn’t answer back.

“Damn it, who cares. He’s seen us and can identify us, we might as well take care of him.”

He was shoved onto the floor and felt hands around his throat, and he felt himself being choked. The last image he saw was a blurry figure in black, and blue P on the figure’s front.

When he regained consciousness, a man with red hair that wasn’t as bright as Raphael’s but not nearly as dark as Mal’s hair was leaning over him. When Mal looked to the side, the truck was on its side and the robbers were tied up and grouped together.

“You okay?” the man asked him.

He blinked blearily at the other. “…Sort of? What…what happened?”

“Your Teddiursa was pretty smart. It slipped away from your back and managed to get the Pancham in the truck loose. Together they got that man off of you, at the same time as I threw off my disguise and got the truck to stop and took care of those guys. When I checked on you though, you weren’t breathing and I had to give you CPR. You sure you’re okay now?”

“Yeah, I think so,” Mal looked over himself. “I was having an asthma attack, but I’m okay now.”

Teddi and the Pancham came over to him and snuggled into his arms, and he held them tighter. Remembering his manners, he bowed awkwardly in his position.

“Thank you for your help. I’m Mal Thrones.”

The man laughed. “You’re welcome! I’m Lance!”

~*~*~

“And so the battle went on for another year –”

His hand tinkered with the metal bits, fingers aiming to put them together. Green eyes the shade of malachite narrowed in concentration as they watched the tutor drone on, but though it looked like he was paying attention to the other, his concentration was actually aimed at the metal he was tinkering with (even though he wasn’t even looking at them). He froze a bit when his hands threatened to cramp, but when it stopped he continued on.

At the moment, he could feel his Pancham lazily sprawled on his head, chewing on his hair, while his Teddiursa clung and cuddled against his back. Deciding that both he and his pokémon were not really in a good way, just sitting there and listening to the tutor, he held up his hand and waited.

“Yes?” his tutor, a stern, middle-aged man looked at him with a frown.

“May I go to the bathroom?” he asked with a straight face.

His tutor frowned even more, but allowed him to leave. Mal took his time getting up from his seat and politely bowed, turning after towards the door. His legs, longer these days, allowed him to take quick strides towards it, and he exited the room to head somewhere far away from there.

Mal sighed, stretching his legs and then arching his back as he heard it crack. He walked down a hallway, finding himself in front of a mirror, and examined himself idly, noting his crimson hair seemed to be getting too long, while some baby fat seemed to be stubbornly sticking around his cheeks. Lance would probably comment on his hair, while Raphael would tease him about his cheeks and how the old ladies would still love to pinch them. Speaking of those two…

It was a few years, around 8 actually, since Mal had met Raphael de Alcott. The other boy hadn’t changed all that much, aside from being a little less quiet and shy, and even more outgoing and definitely much more social than Mal. His first friend was usually like a whirlwind, and his sunny disposition never failed to make Mal smile.

8 years had also passed since he met Lance Wataru (who he found out was the Johto Champion and a G-man who worked for the government), and he had gotten terribly sick and became an asthmatic. Lance, he had discovered, was an intriguing sort of guy, and got more enigmatic (somehow) the more Mal got to know him –ironically. But he supposed being a government agent and handling classified stuff would do that. And as for his asthma…His hand uneasily shot to the grab his inhaler from over his pocket, feeling the shape of it from outside his pants.

He didn’t get attacks often, but his father said ‘better safe than sorry.’

On another note, Mal had also found through the years, that he liked to read. He tended to ‘devour’ books, as Raphael had commented in awe. He’d studiously had learned a lot, mostly to do with the fact he read frequently, and kept up with his learnings as the heir to the Thrones family. He’d become even more incredibly polite and well-mannered, and he was embarrassed to know that many others had described him as a “polite lord” because of the way he acted.


Aside from his studies, he had also taken to creating things, which he found he truly delighted and enjoyed. Sometimes a little too much, as Raphael would say, but he couldn’t help himself. His parents had even gifted him with turning the manor’s large basement into his own personal workspace and lab.

At the moment, he was supposed to be having a history lesson, but Mal had really wanted to continue a project he’d been eagerly working on for the past week. He couldn’t, however, go straight to his workroom, since the moment he was discovered missing, they would all immediately go there to look for him.

Mal felt bad about it, but he couldn’t help skipping out on his lesson. The tutor was incredibly boring as well, and it was driving him crazy to stay there and listen to the history of some old battle back in another region, especially when he had learned about it already from his own readings.

Humming a bit, he walked around the halls of his home with his Teddiursa and Pancham (who had joined him after what had happened in Kalos, and of whom he’d named Su Lin), both of whom yipped happily by his feet and lovingly rubbed up against him. Suddenly he heard a lovely, but somewhat sad tune playing nearby, the sad song echoing all the way to where he was.

“Come on, you two,” he whispered to the two pokémon.

The melody was playing closer now, and Mal followed it all the way to an area of the mansion he had never been to before. It was dark and seemed abandoned almost, and there was a lonely feel to the air.

When he reached the room to where the melody seemed to have originated, he hesitantly opened the door and was surprised to find his father sitting in the single chair in the room, set in the middle of it, and holding a music box that was surprisingly the source of the music he’d heard. That such a little thing could echo all the way through this wing was amazing, and from afar, Mal could admire the craftsmanship on the box.

“Father?” he called out tentatively, and his father was startled out of watching the music box, his sorrowful and longing face melting into a tender one as he looked at his son.

“Mal, come in, come in.”

Gabriel stood from the chair and pushed it aside, settling himself on the floor in a cross-legged position. He patted the spot beside him invitingly, and Mal moved closer to sit there, his two pokémon companions making themselves comfortable on his lap.

“Sorry, I must have been out of it lately, haven’t I?” Gabriel smiled sadly at him.

Now that Mal had thought about it, his father had been off these days.

“It’s the day of my niece’s death,” Gabriel explained heavily. He pointed to the side, a little up on the wall, and Mal saw the painting of a young pretty girl, looking entirely too seriously for the painting, and Mal oddly feeling like the expression was not a usual one on her -she seemed more like she would be playful and free spirited.

“Her name was Leaf,” Gabriel murmured. “Her favorite movie was Anastasia, so we all ended up nicknaming her ‘Little Duchess.’ I even had this music box made for her with that December song from the movie, when she turned 10,” he held up the music box.

The black lacquer was dulled with the dim lighting of the room, but it looked outwardly clean and taken cared of. There were little bears dancing like ballerinas engraved on the edge of the bottom, and elegant swans embossed in silver at the top. It was quite simple, but pretty in its simplicity.

The bears, though, reminded him of his own liking of bears and how that came about, as well as an angelic voice he never forgot or the song that he kept hearing. He wondered if it was the same song his father was talking about…

Gabriel rewound the music box and then the song began to play from the beginning again. Mal and he sat there, listening to the sad melody solemnly.

Mal felt an ache inside him, and he longed to ask his father how and why his niece had died...but looking at Gabriel, he didn’t think his father wanted to remember and reopen old wounds.

But he couldn’t help but wonder if Leaf had lived, would she have liked him and treated him like family, like the de Thrones had welcomed him wholeheartedly into theirs, whenever he felt incomplete?

Could he have had yet another person to add to his threadbare but most precious family?

~*~*~

“Would you like me to teach you how to play that song on the piano?”

Mal did learn what he had come to find out was his deceased cousin’s favorite song. He played it effortlessly and had memorized it pretty quickly. Sometimes he hummed it when he felt down, or just whenever he felt like it.

He’d also come to learn what had happened to his cousin on his own.

There had been an accident, though the reports said it was suspicious. The driver of the vehicle his cousin had been in had crashed into another car, and then there was a huge wreck and there was a lot of fire.

The driver of the car was Blue Oak –grandson to the great Professor Oak, current Kanto Champion, and was a close friend to his cousin Leaf, and of whom Mal had met some years ago.

When Lance had introduced him to the scarred Blue that first time, Mal couldn’t help the bloom of resentment and even slight anger inside of him, even with the burn scars that clearly decorated Blue’s body and showing the consequences of the crash.

After all, why had he survived and his cousin had not? Why did Blue get to leave that wreck with his life, and yet Leaf had been left to perish in that fire?

And so, Mal couldn’t help but lay blame on Blue for the death of the cousin he never got to know.


Last edited by Eri on Mon Sep 14, 2015 7:59 am; edited 1 time in total
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PostSubject: Re: Story Feedback   Sat Sep 12, 2015 10:35 am

Ha! You put the 'polite lord' bit in there! Very Happy 

I love this chapter, it's written well, it introduces everything perfectly, and there's even Olympia haiku-ing. The one iffy bit is the last chunk; the introduction is a bit awkward and doesn't flow too well. Really, it just needs some editing, but everything other than that is perfect!
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PostSubject: Re: Story Feedback   Mon Sep 14, 2015 8:01 am

Okay, edited that part to make it flow better! Hope the transition to show the timeskip reads much better than before (note it's in red).
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PostSubject: Re: Story Feedback   Mon Sep 14, 2015 3:37 pm

Not fully edited~ (9/18 More edits/additions)

The Book of Mal
Chapter Three: I am Rite of Passage

Mal felt something was…off.

For the past few weeks, he could see his parents whispering to each other and sometimes glancing at him. His brother Cassiel told him not to worry, before usually dragging him to go do something with him, but Mal felt that something had happened and that it involved Mal.

In fact, it had happened around the time Raphael had told him he was going to go on a pokémon journey with his twin Eevee, Sola and Lune, who had been with the orphan since as long as the other could remember.

Wondering at the coincidence of it, he idly mixed the batter he was working on, so that he could create a set of muffins for the patients at the Celadon Hospital, in the cancer ward.

“Siro, may I have another egg?” he asked his friend –the birthday after his hostage incident at Kalos, his parents had gotten him an egg which had hatched into Happiny. They’d hoped having the pokémon would not only help his health in the long run, but help in emergencies as like what happened, when he had had that attack and didn’t have his inhaler on him.

But it has also had the benefit of getting Mal interested in medicine and doing some work in the medical field. He’d learned about it with his Happiny, who’d evolved and evolved through the years until she became a Blissey who often gave eggs for Mal to snack on or mothered him in some way.

Once his Blissey had handed him one of her eggs, Mal dutifully dropped it into the mixture and crushed it with the wooden spoon he’d been using to mix. When he finished, he could bring it to the hospital and hand it out to the patients that he hoped would not only get to enjoy something delicious, but was healthy in some way and would make them feel good as well.

“Mal, are you in the kitchens?” he heard his mother call out.

“Yes, I’m in here, Mother,” he replied, raising his voice slightly louder to get her attention.

His mother entered the kitchens, practically gliding as she smiled beautifully at him when she saw him. Her hair was in an elegant French updo that Mal was proud to remember he’d helped with, while she was currently wearing a well-designed pearl-white chiffon blouse and gray flare business pants. She was probably going to go out for business later.

“I wanted to talk to you about something, Mal,” she said, accepting an egg from an eager Sirona, his Blissey always being helpful and thoughtful.

“What’s wrong, Mother?” he asked, putting down his mixture and spoon.

“But first,” his mother grinned suddenly, taking a phone and aiming it at him, wanting a picture of her son in his apron and looking homely in his kitchen.

Inwardly rolling his eyes, Mal smiled slightly at the phone, causing his mother to giggle slightly.

“Oh, you’ve grown up so much, Mal,” his mother said, sounding oddly wistful. That made Mal really hesitant and wondering what was wrong. “Sweetheart, you know Raphael’s going on his journey, right?”

“Yes,” he answered with a frown.

“Your father and I were thinking it might be a good idea for you to go with Raphael,” Laylah said gently. “You’re 15 now. You’re always so cooped down at your lab, and though we know you’re fine going out and being social, we think you going on a journey would be good for you, and you could go experience the world, grow up and mature some more…”

Mal didn’t show anything on his face, but inwardly he was feeling torn. On one hand, he had no real desire to go out on a journey, but on the other hand it wouldn’t seem so bad and might even be fun. He would be traveling with his best friend after all. It could be more like a fun road trip or something.

“As you wish, Mother. I’ll go with Raphael,” he agreed amiably, giving his mother a small smile.

She beamed happily at him. “That’s fantastic! I’ll make sure your father knows. You should let Raphael know, see if he doesn’t mind a travel companion and all.”

“I will.”

His mother was leaving then, probably to call his father at work. Then she turned at last minute, when she was at the door.

“Oh! And you’ll probably be traveling with another girl –Sonia Darkin!”

Mal blinked and opened his mouth to question his mother, but his mother had already left. He shook his head, and went back to his baking. He finished up there and waited for the muffins to bake, and then he had them all neatly put away in a basket, and he and Sirona left the kitchens together. On his way through his home, Teddi and Su Lin found their way onto his shoulders, and they were all traveling together when they ran into Cassiel.

“Ah! Mal!” his brother enthusiastically and tackled him into a hug.

“Careful now,” he said softly, holding his basket up, while Sirona caught him from behind. Su Lin toppled off of his shoulder, but managed to catch his arm.

Cassiel let go and backed off, seeing the basket. “Oh, are you going to the hospital?”

Mal nodded and Cassiel bit his lip, glancing at the basket shyly.

“Can I have one?” he asked hesitantly.

Mal laughed lightly and took a muffin, handing it to his brother. “Of course, Cassiel. There’s more in the kitchen, if you want, as well. I’ll come see you later.”

Although, he would have to look up this Sonia Darkin too, while he was at it.

~*~*~

At the hospital, he was surprised to find that Celadon’s Nurse Joy was also in the cancer ward, although he’d run into her in the children’s wing. He’d passed out the muffins to the older patients, and came here as a last stop, though spotting Celadon Joy was a nice surprise.

“Hello, Nurse Joy,” Mal smiled slightly, bowing to her.

“Always so polite and formal,” Celadon Joy laughed. “Hello to you too, Mal!”

He handed her a muffin, surprising her. She gave him thanks, which he accepted as he walked along and turned his attention towards the children that had excitedly run up to him. He smiled a little more widely, handing them out to the kids in good cheer. Once he was done, the kids sat together and ate, chattering to each other and being entertained by Mal’s pokémon. He then returned back to Celadon Joy’s side, the both of them watching the kids.

“You’re always so good with kids, Mal,” she commented, watching them fondly.

“They’re sweet and fragile,” he murmured softly. “I like to think I could be there for them, if they need someone to be.”

“Definitely good with people, even though you tend to stay away and be in your lab and with machines,” she turned towards him with a smile. “Anyway, I just wanted to give you this.”

She handed him a card, his medical credentials flashing up at him.

“This is your medical field license, so you can help people and pokémon on the road when you go on your journey.”

He raised his eyebrows. “Did everyone know about me going on a journey before I did?”

“Probably,” she teased him. She ruffled his crimson hair. “Do us nurses proud, Mal.”

He inclined his head towards her.

“Of course, milady.”

Together, they looked over the kids until the kids had to rest. She went back to the Pokémon Center and he went back home, only to find both of parents in the living room and apparently waiting for him.

“Mother, Father,” he bowed slightly. “Is something the matter?”

“Not at all,” Gabriel smiled warmly at him. “We wanted to give you some things for your journey actually.”

His father took out a small box that Mal opened and found a sundial necklace inside. It had a laurel leaf design, which Mal knew was a nod to Leaf, as was the words “Carpe Diem” inscribed on the inside (given how she was the type to “Seize the Day”, which was the family’s motto as well).

“As for me, I wanted to give you this bracelet,” his mother held out a bracelet that doubled as a watch. It had six different wraps, four dark green leather ones in the middle that held the watch piece, and a wrap underneath that comprised of different sized beads and a metal leaf charm, and the top wrap was an emerald colored leather wrap in a snake-like pattern.

“Thank you,” he told them sincerely, feeling warmed by the gifts.

“I want to give you something too,” Cassiel appeared, holding some goggles. “Dad said these were yours from a long time ago, that cousin Leaf gave it for your birthday.”

That surprised Mal, who looked at his father. Gabriel nodded, though he looked hesitant. Taking the goggles that had been a gift from a cousin he had never met but had always treasured and wished to meet, he saw that the style was more steampunk than anything else, and had cogs and gears on the sides of the frames, and magnifying lenses attached to the lens. Curious, he took the elastic strap and stretched it over his head, putting it on. Looking through the dark welding goggle lens, he could see the double eye loupes that were magnifying lenses were fully functional and were clip-ons (so they were easily removable).

“They fit you now,” Gabriel commented, his voice slightly sad.

Mal smiled slightly at his father. “They do. I like them. I like all of the gifts, so thank you all.”

“You might want to think of your own appreciative gifts for your traveling companions,” his mother suggested.

Mal hmmed in thought, idly rubbing his thumb on the gear ring he’d made, twisting the top and making the gears turn. He glanced at it and got an idea.

“I will, Mother. I actually think I have an idea for those gifts already.”

~*~*~

Mal tinkered at his desk, his workshop –for once –rather messy. He’d clean it up soon enough. Most of the time, he got restless at seeing a mess, and the basement in which his workshop was kept in was no exception.

At the moment he wasn’t alone. His best friend was currently pacing a hole into his concrete floor, but Mal chose not to push him. When Raphael chose to start ranting to him, he’d listen. But until then, he'll wait patiently for the other to start.

“I can’t believe it! Why do I need to travel with someone? I’m perfectly fine on my own!”

“I’m traveling with you as well," he reminded the other sardonically.

“And of all people,” Raphael continued on, ignoring him. “It has to be Sonia Darkin. Do you know the Darkin family hates my family? I don’t even know why!”

Mal cleared his throat lightly. “You haven’t met her yet, right? Perhaps she’s...not that bad.”

Raphael deflated quickly. “Yeah, maybe. You’re right. I haven’t met her yet. Maybe...maybe she’s alright.”

Mal gave a faint smile, which was returned by Raphael’s half-grin.

“At least you’ll be coming along, Mal.”

Mal tipped an imaginary hat towards his friend, before placing a final piece to the work he’d been working on. He then handed it over to Raphael, who took it in surprise.

“For you,” Mal closed his friend’s hand around the stainless steel watch. “As an appreciation for my company in the journey, and mine appreciation towards your presence.”

“And because I’m an awesome friend,” Raphael said and grinned cheekily.

“‘And because you’re an awesome friend,’” Mal repeated sarcastically, rolling his eyes.

Raphael snickered, putting on the watch around his wrist.

~*~*~

Mal flattened his burgundy blazer over his russet turtleneck, brushing lint off of the beige accents on his blazer. He sat on the bed and bent down, his black slacks stretching as he reached to retie his plain black Oxfords.

“Ready, Mal?” his brother’s voice sounded from the door.

He looked and smiled slightly at his younger brother. “Almost,” he answered quietly, grabbing his steampunk goggles and hanging them around his neck. He then grabbed his pair of black Kevlar gloves, tugging them on and then going to his brother’s side.

His brother hugged him tightly. “I’m going to miss you.”

“I as well,” Mal pulled back and ruffled his hair. “Work hard, alright? I know you’ll be starting your journey next year, so we’ll probably run into each other soon enough.”

The two of them headed down then, and Mal was met with a crying but smiling mother, who hugged him tightly to her.

“Oh, Mal. I almost want to tell you not to go,” Laylah murmured. She moved away, kissing his forehead.

Gabriel took her place and hugged him as well. “Do us proud, Mal. Enjoy life while you’re out there.”

Mal nodded and his father handed him his pack. Then he was led outside, to where Raphael and his friend’s mother was waiting by their car.

“Long car ride?” he asked his friend wryly.

Raphael grinned at him. “Long car ride.”

And from Celadon City to Pallet Town, it was indeed a long ride. Several stops had to be taken, but Aileena, Raphael’s mother, drove straight through. At the last stop they took, Aileena announced she needed some coffee desperately. She stretched and yawned.

“I’m going to need a long nap after this,” Aileena declared.

Raphael snickered at his mother, turning to Mal. “Glad I’m not the one driving.”

Mal echoed his agreement, and went with him to find something to eat. Soon enough, they were back to driving to Pallet, and they made it to the famous Professor Oak’s lab late morning on a rather cold day.

“Ugh, finally we’re here,” Raphael groaned in the car, cracking his neck. His twin Eevee jumped onto his lap, and Mal’s own pokémon waved from their respective perches on Mal.

Stepping out of the car, Mal straightened up, his prim posture making an appearance despite the long and uncomfortable car ride he had to endure. Looking around curiously, his eyes caught sight of the lab and he remembered the professor was related to Blue. He held back a sneer, but couldn’t help feeling resentful. Instead, he focused on looking around in slight awe of being near one of the most famous labs in the world, and its equally famous Professor Oak. Despite who he was related to, he truly wanted to meet the professor and talk to him.

Raphael told him they were heading up to the laboratory, so he made to follow. His malachite green eyes caught sight of a girl watching their group darkly, and made a guess that it was probably Sonia Darkin –extraordinary Psychic and a student of Sabrina.

When Raphael’s mother introduced him, he gave a nod and listened in closely to the talks. Sonia seemed visibly irritated, and given the current situation, he wondered if it was not perhaps best to wrap this up quickly.

He almost went to snatch Raphael’s hand when he introduced himself to Sonia, but kept it by his side instead. He would prefer not to bring too much attention to the situation, and Sonia would probably more easily explain.

And given when she introduced herself irritably as a Psychic, confirming what Mal had researched, he decided that perhaps it would be best to give her distance at the moment, since she might not be too happy with the attention put on her. However, realizing that there would be no way to just leave and drag Raphael with him without it looking odd –and Raphael was doing a fine job just talking to her and somehow ‘prodding her with a stick’ –Mal decided he needed to find a way to get them to talk peacefully.

Because most of the tension was developing between the two of them, and Sonia was getting increasingly agitated and Raphael wasn’t getting the clue.

It was like a volcano waiting to erupt and Mal was stuck to the ground, probably as some kind of sacrifice.

‘Sarcasm not helping, Mal,’ he told himself.

Then Raphael asked about Sonia’s mother, and he just knew that somehow shit had started to hit the metaphorical fan (excuse his language). He tried a quick interjection, that sort of distracted them, but then Raphael talked about getting a Squirtle and Sonia went off and said what was probably really on Raphael’s mind about choosing more pokémon.

While he was uneasy about Sonia getting all that from Raphael’s mind, he was more uneasy about the feeling he got of what was coming up after all this. He was relieved when Raphael practically dragged him away from Sonia, but groaned inwardly as his friend got worked up and started a rant about the girl.

But then his friend gasped and Raphael’s eyes widened. Frowning, he reached over to touch Raphael.

“Raphael?”

All of a sudden his friend was responsive again, flinching back from Mal and looking shaken. He saw his friend glance at Sonia, and the pieces clicked together in his head. He stepped away from Raphael and headed over to Sonia, opening his mouth to apologize for his friend.

“Apology accepted,” the other nodded and turned away from him. “But next time I’m not taking it unless it comes from your hot-headed friend himself.”

Mal closed his mouth firmly, inclining his head to her.

Just then Professor Oak appeared, and though Raphael was clearly excited, Mal also couldn’t help a tinge of excitement as well.

Still, his first impression of Professor Oak was one of bemusement, even if he was a bit amused as well. And if the man did tend to forget Blue’s name, he wasn’t above being petty to enjoy that.

At the choosing of pokémon, though he had never had any plans for any, Su Lin nipped at his ear and Teddi harshly thumped her head against his back in reminder. If anything, if he chose to get any pokémon, those two would have to pick at them and see if they fit in. His pokémon were particularly possessive and very concerned over him, so they liked to take everything into account.

He was bemused again though, when Oak hadn’t forgotten his name like he had Raphael and Sonia’s, as they picked out their pokédexes. Perhaps it was because his name was so short?

Then he was watching in curiosity and slight awe as Sonia practiced a Psychic ability. But his awe was nothing compared to the woman’s who entered next.

Vivian Fennel, her nametag read.

~*~*~

Mal glanced at the door. It had been at least half an hour so far, since the two females entered Oak’s office. He hadn’t heard a peep from them, but he was getting a bad feeling.

Currently, the adults were engaged in some kind of discussion about pokémon and business, while Raphael had wanted to go check out the pokémon in the Corral. He’d been tempted to go with him, but he felt oddly worried about this situation.

He’d noticed the adults were all tense, especially Oak and Sonia’s mother Yannoa. He hadn’t been blind to the fact that Sonia clearly hadn’t wanted to go with Fennel and answer questions. He was also aware of the Psychic situation, where there were those who were extremely prejudiced against them.

Fennel hadn’t seemed the type, but Mal could see she was still obviously a scientist and had a clinical view of things, even in that short meeting with her before she went and dragged Sonia off. Sighing, he took a chair and turned it towards the door, taking off his blazer and going to put it on the back of the chair when he heard a gasp.

“Your jacket,” Yannoa started. “Is that –what material is that?”

Mal blinked and looked at his blazer, focusing on the inside where Olympia had stitched the galaxy pattern fabric in.

“It’s the same fabric that Olympia of Kalos makes her cloak out of,” Aileena answered for him. “They met when he was younger, and she tends to give him things made of the same material.”

Just as Raphael came back in the room, looking eager about something, there was a loud scream coming from Oak’s office. Without another thought, Mal bolted towards it and forced it open, slamming his shoulder against the door and breaking it to expose the inside, where Sonia and Fennel looked exhausted, and heaving great breaths at the two glared at each other.

Yannoa slipped passed him and stormed in.

“What’s going on in here?!” she yelled angrily.

He stayed quiet, observing as Sonia and Fennel screamed at each other and accused the other of things, but internally he was thinking of the anti-Psychic movement.

Right here and now, there was a clear example of the movement being argued within walls, and not just in the streets and on the forums. As Sonia left furiously, he observed the female that was left. Yannoa looked awkward around Aileena, seeming unsure what to do or say after her daughter’s display. Aileena was clearly doing her best to be polite and keep silent on the matter, while Raphael looked at him and shrugged. Over by the desk, Fennel and Oak seemed to have gone into a quiet, whispered argument.

“If I may,” he interrupted, smiling politely. “I believe all three of us had gotten interrupted as we were getting ready for our journey. It’s getting late, so may I suggest that we find lodgings to stay in and start traveling in the morning? If it’s no trouble.”

Aileena looked outside in surprise. “Oh! It has gotten late.”

Oak looked contrite. “I’m sorry for the inconvenience. It has gotten late, but at least the only thing left would be for me to hand you three some pokéballs for your journey. I suppose that can be done in the morning? It is late, so may I offer my home to you all?”

Yannoa stayed quiet, but Aileena accepted the offer. Neither Raphael nor Mal had anything to oppose, so they nodded to agree as well. After all, they were leaving for their journey in the morning. There was no rush to leave, and really any need to look around for someplace.

“I will let Sonia know,” Yannoa said.

Aileena decided that she’d probably need to take a shower after such a long drive over the days, while Raphael told him he was going to get them a room to bunk in together. By that time, Oak had also decided he probably needed to inform some others of the guests staying over.

Which left Fennel and Mal still in the room.

The young woman still looked shaken, but Mal observed her indifferently.

“Oh, you’re still here?” she gave him a shaky smile, still unnerve with her encounter with Sonia

He smiled faintly and bowed slightly. “Malcolm Thrones, if you didn’t remember, Miss Fennel.”

Her cheeks blushed faintly red, probably because of his behavior. “Oh! So polite. Men these days aren’t usually so gentlemanly or courteous. Please, just call me Vivian.”

Mal nodded and walked over slowly, pausing just at arm’s length from her. He glanced out the office’s window.

“It’s pretty outside, isn’t it?” he said suddenly, causing her to start suddenly.

She glanced outside, blinking behind her glasses. “It is,” she agreed, slowly calming down and letting herself not think of what had just happened.

“But the cherry blossoms have already died,” Mal murmured. “What a shame.”

He turned to her and held out his hand to her, and she curiously but shyly took it, and Mal wasn’t blind to see the effect he was having on her. Admittedly, it was partly purposeful, and somewhat manipulative of him.

“Did you know that cherry blossoms are usually associated with mortality? They’re so beautiful, and yet they’re so transient. They live and then have such quick deaths.” He took a permanent marker from Oak’s desk, and uncapped it. Then he started to trace a pretty cherry motif of a cherry blossom on her palm.

“Their petals were originally white,” Mal explained, looking up at her then with a slight smile. “It is said that a corpse was buried under a cherry blossom tree, and the white petals were stained pink.”

He watched her flinch, and so closed her hand slowly. With her still watching him, he turned her hand over and kissed her knuckles.

“How many corpses will you bury, Miss Vivian?”

She gasped, though she still had red cheeks that he subtly had purposefully drawn from her (was that cruel of him? Perhaps), and he straightened up, giving a small bow. He headed towards the door, pausing by it. He turned to face her one last time.

“I do hope that you don’t end up staining the cherry blossoms red.”

~*~*~

After leaving Fennel behind, Mal had gone to outside of the lab and sat on the porch irritably. He gritted his teeth and ran a hand through his hair, though his crimson locks were quick to fall forward again. He breathed in deeply through his nose.

He’d been needlessly cruel and manipulative, knowingly drawing Fennel into feeling safe and comforted by him, and willingly pulling at her affections. But she had done something that had upset Sonia, and as someone who Mal –like with Raphael –he’d immediately taken to and felt a connection, he’d somehow unconsciously taken her in. Which meant Fennel crossed a line, so he decided he’d do the same.

Mal hated it when he acted like this, and couldn’t understand why he did on certain occasions.

“Damn it,” he muttered, rubbing his palms against his eyes. He then shoved his hands into his pockets, feeling a certain box in his right one. Ah –the gift he’d prepared for Sonia. He had not only been able to introduce himself properly, allowing Raphael to interject and introduce him, but he hadn’t given the gift at the first meeting, as was supposed to be appropriate.

Standing up, he went inside to go look for his other companion on this journey he wasn’t so sure he really wanted to be on. Once he found her by one of the windows near the east side of the lab, staring out of it to the pokémon grazing outside, Mal stood there by the entrance and watched.

Mal tugged on his gloves, quietly observing her. After Sonia had stormed out, everyone had decided to leave her be. It was probably for the best, Mal conceded. She probably needed time to cool down. Still, she seemed like she (despite preferring it) was alone enough already.

According to Raphael (though he had witnessed her reactions himself a bit), she was impossible and quite rude, but maybe what they had seen wasn’t there was to her. His friend could get quite passionate about things, however, so he would take what his friend said into consideration –but not take it as the basis of his interaction with Sonia Darkin. He personally believed that there was more to her, and he would stubbornly wait to see. And if he could drag Raphael along with him…

He thoughtfully fingered the box in his pocket again. The offering he brought, as a gift to his new traveling companion, had sat in his pocket for too long for his liking, and crossing what he felt was a respectful and appropriate time to present it to Sonia. He’d already given Raphael his, a stainless steel wrist watch that was transparent and could see through into the gears of the inside, with a steampunk-skeleton style.

Mal had made it himself, as well as the gear necklace that he had prepared for Sonia. Hers was alike to the ring he’d made for himself, where he could twist the top and move the gears in the ring design, and hers was motivated by the necklace's ball chain. It was simple, but elegant enough. Nothing too extravagant, which seemed would suit her fine.

Hoping she wouldn’t suddenly disappear (he had the strangest feeling she was avoiding him, but that didn’t make sense), Mal strode forward and stood in front of her, ready to try for a better second impression, as he was much unsatisfied with the first one he’d given through Raphael’s introduction of him. He patiently waited for her to acknowledge him, and when she finally reluctantly did, he did a short bow.

“I am Malcolm Thrones, your other journey companion. You may call me Mal, and also please accept this token of my and my family’s gratitude for your company,” Mal presented the small box to her, after finally doing his own, personal introduction to her. It made him feel much better about being able to present himself much more formally.

She looked at it blankly, before almost delicately reaching out to grab it, as if it were a Seviper waiting to bite her. But, assuming she’d just read his mind, she would know what it was anyway, and see there was no harm in it.

Once Sonia had it in hand and had opened it, she was looking at the necklace inscrutably. Then she glanced up at him.

“You know...you’re too prim and proper. Lighten up a little.”

Although, for some reason, he’d gotten the sense that she hadn’t meant it so disparagingly.

His lips twitched upwards slightly.
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