Viridian City Pokémon Center / 10 Years Ago
10 year-old Shin stared at the window. The sky was blue. The clouds were moving slowly but surely. The trees were ruffled by the wind. Chikorita was warm and he could feel him move in his arms and lap, and yet he himself felt motionless. Shin hadn’t lost any of his senses, but it seemed like his ability to capture and garner any emotion had vanished.
Chikorita looked up at Shin and leaned against his chest, hoping that someday he could help his old friend in some way. Shin’s consistent and slow breaths were hitting Chikorita’s head as he wondered what was going through Shin’s head after such an unexpected and unwanted event.
Behind the entrance to the room that Shin was staying at after the incident, Nurse Joy looked at him, not being able to say a word or even provide him anything. To Joy, Shin simply looked pale and almost as though he were in a coma with his eyes wide open and sitting down on a chair. She wiped the tears off of her cheeks and walked into the room, not knowing what to say. She noticed that the Chikorita had woken up since the last time she saw him beside his human friend.
“I’m glad Chikorita had survived… Especially after how much you cared for him.” Shin blinked and looked up at Nurse Joy and then down at Chikorita. Oddly enough, Shin couldn’t help but ask himself a question he should know the answer to: why Chikorita was here, especially after he had let him go a year ago.
A year ago…
A year ago, a month ago, even the day before, Shin had a family. He had a house that he would feel happy and warm in. He had guidance, and he had a little brother to protect. If this was some sort of joke, it wasn’t funny at all. He looked around to see if everything was real. He was in one of the beds at the Pokémon Center, with Nurse Joy and Chikorita beside him. Everything seemed real, for better or worse. By the time Shin was rescued out of the forest with Chikorita in his arms, the other Messengers that knew him thought he would need to be supervised. After all, Shin was hardly able to move. He even had a hard time standing up. Shin could have been sent home to his house, but the Messengers and Nurse Joy decided that he should instead be sent over here, where he won’t have to look directly into the past, and where he would have individuals that knew him well would look after him.
Shin looked at Chikorita and reminded himself of what had happened recently, even though all he could remember significantly was seeing himself sit down in the middle of the forest and howling into the sky, asking the Guardian for an answer that was never given…
Viridian Forest / 1 Day Ago
“Shin? Shin~?” Haya pulled onto Shin’s shirt even though his older brother was too distracted by his own thoughts. Shin let the cries of the Pokémon in the forest surround him and thought about all of the memories he has had here in the past 10 years. After turning a decade old, he couldn’t help but realize that this place was practically his second home. Many of his adventures took place here, and he had learned so much from his father, the Sage, and the forest. He was glad he was able to come here for his birthday. Out of all of the memories looked back into, there was one that stood out, and it wasn’t too long ago.
He had to say Good-Bye to a new friend, and wasn’t able to be reunited with him. Nonetheless, throughout the past year, he would come to the forest and see if there was any sign of the Chikorita that he and his brother released a year ago after its severe injuries were cured.
“Shin, are you ok?” Shin opened his eyes and finally gave his attention to Haya. Haya was glad to get his big brother’s attention after many attempts. He smiled and without any warning gave Shin a hug. Shin blushed and hugged back.
“Don’t be mad at me, Shin.” Haya whispered. Haya raised an eyebrow and asked him why he would make such a request. Haya confessed that even though he supported his brother and his thoughts of being a Pokémon trainer, he was sad that things would be different if he did.
“Hey~ It’s not like I’m going anywhere. I just turned 10 is all.” Shin chuckled and ruffled Haya’s hair as he made sure that he knew that that meant.
“Are you going on a journey? You can go now since you’re 10, and I just thought I would miss you if you did.” Shin smiled and lowered himself to Haya’s height, looking carefully at his eyes.
“I don’t know yet, Haya. But I’m not going to lie, I would love to see forests all over the world and encounter all of the Pokémon there; from the depths of this forest to the ones in places like… Unova. It would cert-“
“UNOVA!?” Haya interrupted Shin’s confession with a clear shock. “That’s so far away! You’re going there all by yourself?” Shin gently touched his little brother’s cheek and gave it a little rub. He was undeniably happy that he was finally at the age of being able to train Pokémon of his own and go on voyages to discover new Pokémon, but he himself knew how much he was going to miss all that he had right now.
“Shhh… It’s okay. Maybe when you turn 10, you can come over and join me.” Shin winked and chuckled. Shin’s smile faded away. “But in all seriousness, I honestly don’t know yet. I don’t have a Pokémon of my own yet, and there are so many things I want to do over here in Kanto. Like, talk to Professor Oak over in Palette Town.” Haya listened to his older brother attentively. There were some aspects in his response that Haya didn’t exactly understand, but he was certainly idolizing his older brother at that point. Shin wanted to continue, but that was when he heard his mother’s voice.
“Shin! Haya! Come on~! Let us be a part of your conversation!” Shin and Haya heard their mother scream over from somewhat of a distance. The two brothers looked at each other and ran over to the picnic that was taking place to celebrate Shin’s birthday.
* * *
Shin looked at the sky and smiled as he took another bite of cake that his mother had made from scratch. Every child’s 10th birthday was special in the Kanto Region, and even though his parents had suggested different occasions, Shin insisted that they would come to this forest. No other place made him feel more alive.
“Shin, you haven’t even opened your birthday gift.” Rin got her son’s attention. As Gou and Rin watched, Haya excitedly took the gift out of the bag. Shin smiled at the scene even before he was able to see what he would be getting. Haya seemed so excited, and he could tell that he was the one that picked it out. The small box was wrapped beautifully in leaves and flower petals that Shin was familiar with.
“Wow… I don’t even want to open it. This is s…” As Shin complimented the wrapping paper, Haya interrupted and started to jump on the picnic mat while sitting.
“Open it! Open it!” Haya insisted as Shin looked at the box…
The Guardian of the Forest gives life to the forest and travels through time.
Celebi had its friends, and so did we.
As Shin unwrapped the box, he felt a hotter wind in the air. It felt like a warm fireplace in the winter, which was clearly out of place. Gou looked around and Rin held onto her husband’s arm. The two parents felt something chill down their spines. Shin was disappointed that the moment was interrupted, but he couldn’t help but notice the irregular heat.
The smiles were completely gone by then, and after a few moments, Shin and his family noticed the odor of smoke. Even though Haya was the last to notice any of it, he was the most curious, and was the first to stand up and run over to see what was going on.
“Haya!” His older brother instantly and urgently grabbed onto his small and frail wrist and stopped him from moving anywhere. Haya sat back down on the picnic mat and moved towards Rin, holding her tightly in fear. That was when the fog began to appear and burn Shin’s eyes. The confused 10 year old was consumed by fear, and instinctively followed Haya into Rin’s arms. There was no room in Shin’s mind to even think about the embarrassment of holding onto his mother right as he turned 10 years old. It was hardly relevant at that point.
“Mother… I think… I think we should leave…right now.” Words came out of Shin’s mouth in a shaky whisper. Feeling responsible to see what was going on, Gou stood up and moved towards the fog. His wife and two sons were rather shocked.
“Gou!?” Rin screamed at her husband’s back. Even though there was no discussion or even the transition of thought, by then four knew that it wasn’t fog, but rather, smoke…
“Father… Fath… Where are you going?” Shin noticed his father heading towards the smoke. His grasp almost caught his father’s, but Gou went out of his reach and moved towards the fog. “Father? Father… don’t go! Come back, please!” Shin screamed and Rin was right about to stand up.
That was when Shin heard the explosion…
When Shin gained back consciousness after he fainted in shock of the sound, fire was surrounding him. The cake, the gift that Shin never got to open, were burning. But more importantly, Shin was shocked to see that he was all alone, Rin and Haya no longer in his sight. He stood up and tried to run, but his legs were numb. The trees were burning. Shin could hear the Pokémon crying for help while the smoke and flaming sounds cover them up.
Even after a decade, Shin still can’t help but ask what had happened while he fainted. All he could remember was what everything right before the explosion of flames. His father had kept his faith true, and put himself in danger to support the Guardian of the Forest. His mother Rin and little brother Haya were sacrificed into the flames, and Shin was never able to find out when it had all happened.
Shin’s brief unconsciousness caused a blank moment in his life that was entirely cut out. All Shin could remember then was his escape from the fire. The smoke blinded him and his path towards home. A severe unbearable pain struck Shin’s eyes and he fell onto the ground, wondering if he was going to die as well.
Shin heard the familiar raspy cry and opened his eyes to discover the Pokémon right in his reach. He knew it was the Chikorita that he missed so much. Somehow he was the only one in the world at that moment that he knew. Everything else was gone. Chikorita coughed profusely as Shin took all of the strength he had and reached over to him. Chikorita managed to move closely to Shin’s arms, and he looked at the familiar face in surprise, having no idea what was going on. All he knew was that he was being held onto very tightly by his old friend…
Somehow, holding Chikorita gave Shin the ability to sit up, even though he couldn’t stand up. Their eyes faced the fire as did Shin’s whole body, but his heart and mind were invisible. Shin was pale and frozen despite the heat all around that was burning the forest.
“C…Celebi… Where are you? Help me… Help us… Help everyone…”
Shin was alive, as was Chikorita. But for a boy that had just turned 10, that was not enough. The thought of profuse confusion ran around his mind when he realized that The Guardian of the Forest wasn’t able to protect his family, let alone the entire forest. Every single moment of the messages he had learned, the words of the Sage, and the stories he had been told all came back to Shin’s mind, but it was the senses of doubt, despair, and rage that took all of it away from his heart.
By the time Shin came back to his senses, he was still on the ground, staring into the fire in painful tears. Chikorita looked at Shin, mortified by Shin’s look of shock. He could feel a shiver from Shin’s arms.
It was not a moment later that Shin screamed into the sky with all of the strength he had left. To Chikorita and the rangers that witnessed his scream, it almost sounded like a Houndoom howling into the moon…
Viridian City Pokémon Center / 1 Day Later
Chikorita had fallen asleep after feeling mutual stress with the human friend he was reunited with. But he opened his eyes and blinked as he felt a warm drop of water fall on its leaf, and another, and then another.
Shin grit his teeth and cried, but after crying for almost an entire day, the tears wouldn’t fall out as easily as they did earlier. Subconsciously, Shin had to think of an alternative to let his indescribable emotion out. Shin’s eyes met with Chikorita’s as he looked down at him. For the first time since he was rescued from the forest and sent to the Pokémon Center, he spoke, but his voice was practically a whisper.
“Chikorita…..” Shin held Chikorita tightly, trying hard not to burst into another scream of tears. “Why didn’t the Forest Guardian… why didn’t Celebi save Father, and Mother, and Haya, and the forest?”
Chikorita tilted his head in confusion. But Shin didn’t know why that came into his mind himself. Nonetheless, one of the thousands of emotions he felt at that moment was the feeling of betrayal. Shin remembered his father’s words.
There is always a time when you will doubt, and wonder, which is something we must all treasure, because in the end we think for ourselves, and the Guardian shows us the path.
“THERE IS NO PATH!!!” Shin looked at the window and screamed, which caused a commotion over to the Pokémon Center main hall, not to mention the tremendous amount of shock Chikorita felt as he heard the unexpected gesture. “IT WAS ALL A LIE… NONE OF IT WAS TRUE!!! WHY DID EVERYONE LIE TO ME!!!??? WHY DID THEY TELL ME THAT WE WOULD BE PROTECTED!!!!????” Shin threw his pillow and sheets across the room. By then, Chikorita was gone from his arms, and Shin hardly saw anything through his eyes except fire and smoke. The next thing Shin remembered were his arms losing any sort of freedom and his inability to move.
Shin opened his eyes to see Nurse Joy clutching onto his wrists. He left the room and ran into the Main Hall. Everyone was looking at him. He saw stares, and heard whispers. Shin wanted to run away, but he was imprisoned. Nobody was there, not even the Guardian. He had lost all he had, even his ability to move around and run away. That was the moment when Shin had come to his senses. Buried in his doubts, his anger, and the red and orange flames, was the realization that his family was killed in the fire, and that he was left alone with nothing to trust whatsoever.
Shin closed his eyes and looked down, not wanting to see any of the stares. Everyone knew who he was. Everyone in the city was talking about the fire and the survival of Shin. He expected a yell from Nurse Joy, but that never happened. Joy was stuck herself, having absolutely no idea of how he could let this child stay in this situation. She thought Chikorita’s presence would help, and that he should be brought back to Shin once his wounds were healed. But perhaps it may have worsened the situation.
Joy finally lets go of Shin, knowing that he would slowly walk back to his bed and pretend that nothing had happened. She looked down to see a worried Chikorita stare at Shin moving back into his room. He had run away from Shin as he screamed into air, but he knew that none of it was coming from sanity. Chikorita started to float in the air, and looked behind him to see Nurse Joy pick him up.
“We should give him some time… I’m glad you were okay.” Chikorita merely looked down and moved his attention back to Shin, feeling a tremendous amount of guilt for his inability to help the human child that he owed his life to…
* * *
Shin woke up noticing that it was already nighttime, even though the lights in the Pokémon Center seemed to be on. He clutched onto air as he sat up, realizing that Chikorita wasn’t there. He looked around until he finally concluded that he was gone.
Contrary to Nurse Joy’s assumption, Chikorita was helping Shin quite a bit, and now that he was alone, all he could do was lie down and look at the ceiling. He thought of all of the messages and preaching from the sage, and the carved artwork of the legendary Celebi, which was probably already burnt down as well. He pondered about how wonderful all of it was until he had realized that none of it was true, and that when he was in real need, not only was the Guardian not there, but was not able to save the forest. There was only one explanation to all of it. Celebi is a legendary Pokémon, and is merely a legend. Nobody truly knew if Celebi existed. None of the other Messangers, not even the Sage had seen Celebi with their own eyes. He no longer had any sense of direction at that point. He was left alone in the midst of fire…
“Chiko…?” Shin sat up and looked around, noticing Chikorita at the door and worriedly staring at him. For the first time since the fire, Shin felt relief.
“…You’re back…” As he looked towards the door, Chikorita was followed by Nurse Joy as well as another individual whom he had never met before, but was somehow familiar with. Without any hesitation, the older gentleman in a white lab coat walked over to his bed.
“You must be Shin.” Shin widened his eyes and nodded, trying to remember who this man was. The gentleman continued on. “I need to talk to you...” Shin wondered what he could possibly want from him, and was even more confused when the he introduced himself.
“My name is Oak, Professor Samuel Oak…”