Chapter 2

The first thing you do is empty your computer account. There isn't much in your PC, just a few potions and odd trinkets picked up here and there, but you take them all and shove them into your backpack. You have no pokémon in storage, and that is a relief. You still haven't really figured out what to do with former trainers' pokémon; you've tried releasing them, but they often attack you when you try, and Absol considers it unwise. You do try to be careful—release them far from home, all across the globe, and hope no one will listen to some pokémon's wild tale of a creature that wore its trainer's face but was something else entirely. But if someone took an interest, and the proper lines were drawn—dangerous.

There's the same problem with selling them, with the added fact that buyers often ask questions you would rather not answer. So, for now, you mostly leave them in the PC, to eventually be dealt with by the league. You can't help but feel a bit guilty, knowing the long sleep ahead of them, and when they awake, only the news that their trainer is dead and a new life has been selected for them.

Anyway, you have your hands full with your own pokémon as it is.

You hesitate over the matter of money. You don't really need it, no, but you do love to shop. Absol thinks this is a failing of yours, but she is a pokémon, after all. There are some things she doesn't understand. But money has been a problem in the past. Withdraw too much or spend it too fast, and some far-off computer algorithm will flag your account, and you'll be out a perfectly good identity. At least learning that lesson the hard way has left you with one very large television.

In the end, you decide to take 10,000P; you'll have plenty in the bank for later and enough on hand to purchase a few small things. You can get candy for yourself and for Togetic, a toy or such for Duskull, and probably a small piece of furniture for Rats to chew. The remainder will go under your mattress. You don't know why it's traditional for humans to store money under mattresses, and Absol hasn't been able to explain it to you, but you suppose that's as good a place as any. At least it keeps it out of the way.

You walk out of the Center as easily as you entered and stand outside, squinting in the Fuchsia sunshine. No one looks at you twice, and why would they? You are only Nicholas Garret, one trainer among many and, you certainly hope, not well-known. You are carrying his pokédex, wearing his face and his name. No one will know you're dead for a couple of weeks at least, not until they find the body, and in the meantime you can enjoy all the luxuries of being him. This is all routine for you now; it has been quite some time since you stood dumb and awed on the threshold of a Pokémon Center, gleaming-new pokédex in hand and not a clue what you needed to do with it.

You set out down street, thinking half of heading to the beach, half of heading north and west instead, up to Celadon to get your shopping done. Or maybe you should go home instead. Nicholas Garret did have one pokémon you intend to welcome into your fold, though it probably won't be easy. Titan was always stubborn, and he likely took your death harder than Rats. He won't like to hear about his second trainer dying, either.

One way or another, it will be good to see him again. What few memories remain of him you've pored over so many times they've gone dull and distorted, as much fantasy now as they are fact, but they are all dear ones. You're sure he'll come around eventually. He swore with you, just like the others. And someday not far in the future, you'll set out to fulfill your promise together.

For another moment more you stand there, wavering. Then you see a pair of trainers passing, chatting and enjoying ice cream cones, and are overwhelmed by a desire for sugary things and the gaudy bustle of the mall. And after all, you've waited years to be reunited with Titan; what's another little detour? You head west towards Cycling Road, visions of spectacular purchases dancing in your head.

Absol calls you hopelessly materialistic. You call her a wet blanket.

The child slams open the door and staggers through. There is a grumpy complaint from the raticate dozing in a puddle of sun just inside, but it brushes this aside, along with the concern of a duskull that materializes from a dark corner. It's clutching a pokeball so tight that the blisters on the back of its hand are burst and leaking, but it's too angry to notice the pain.

It storms into the study and hauls open a desk drawer, revealing old egg cartons with dozens of pokeballs shuddering in their depressions. It hurls the ball it's carrying into an empty one, then fumbles to catch it as it bounces out again. Gritting its teeth in pure fury, the child sets the ball back down with aching gentleness, then slams the drawer explosively and stands there glaring at it until a wave of dizziness forces it to lean forward and grab the edge of the desk for support.

It can't stand here forever. The child looks down at itself, does a thorough inspection of the damage. Its shirt is rent open from just above the right hip almost all the way up to its heart, and its left arm is bubbled with half-healed burns. The gash on its chest is already scabbing over, but the clothes are ruined, soaked in blood where they aren't torn.

What a mess. It's always such trouble to find attire to match what's on a corpse, since the original is rarely in any condition to be worn again—trainers rarely go quietly in their sleep. And now it's going need to go out and find replacements.

The child gives the drawer one last accusatory glower. No sense worrying about that now; at the moment it's in no condition for anything but rest. It turns and limps off towards the bedroom, stopping briefly to smile at Duskull, who is hovering nearby and making grumbly little noises of concern. The child will rest, now; and next time it will wait for rain before making a move.