The next two chapters are very short in comparison to others, so I am releasing this final chapter and the epilogue at the same time. Here it is, guys. The ending of Survival Project. I will leave a few notes after the epilogue if anyone’s interested…
My sister told me a soul mate is not the person
who makes you the happiest but the one who
makes you feel the most, who conducts your heart
to bang the loudest, who can drag you giggling
with forgiveness from the cellar they locked you in.
— Sierra DeMulder
chapter 29 ; [RENNIO]
We were in the middle of our first apartment soon enough.
After a week of extensively searching the city's open living spaces, Sai finally chose a place that he figured was suitable for us. The apartment complex lay just on the outskirts of town, near the gym (Jasmine had indeed helped us upon request). Just north was the route that led back to Ecruteak City, and all features of Olivine would require a bit of walking. This was perfect, Sai claimed, for both states of mind. When he was manic, he could burn off energy walking to wherever he was going. When he was depressed, he’d have to fight himself to get anywhere at all. We also promised to not let him wallow in his self-pity when those times came.
The place he chose was actually a series of buildings, all owned by the same company. We were asked to pay a deposit fee. Sai did so, though afterward he counted all his money over again to see if we had enough to stay for a while. I whispered in his ear, telling him not to worry because I would battle for him some more if I had to.
We were on the first floor, specifically requested by Sai. He didn’t want to be reminded of being high up, though three floors high wasn’t particularly high enough to hurt him should he have decided to jump again. No one pointed this out. We thought that if we had to protect him from potential burglars, we could do so easily—because that’s what pokémon with trainers do. Anyway, the room was fairly normal. Kitchen, couches, television, bathroom. Only two bedrooms—it was impossible to get a room for all of us. He promised that we could use the second room if we ever needed privacy and we just smiled, nodding our heads as if it really mattered...
Time passed at an unbelievable rate. Not only were we incredibly lucky to have found a home so quickly, a place we could relax at and help Sai at the same time, but also we were adapting nicely. Each one of us developed a daily routine that was impossible to break once started. Senori, loyal and faithful as ever, decided to stay home most days to be the sole protector. He would keep the place clean, would keep watch for any danger, would go out hunting for food when Sai didn’t have time to buy anything. He would be responsible for making sure Sai slept on a regular schedule. Jokingly, he said he’d also keep Ezrem from destroying the place with a huge gust of wind, but Ezrem wasn’t around much (thankfully, I thought at first). The bird pokémon spent much of his time in the northern route of the city, where a small forest-like area and several wild pokémon resided. He, too, kept watch over them, flying in the sky during the day (and sometimes even at night), looking for possible predators and performing good deeds that the pokémon couldn’t do themselves. It was his stable act of atonement, he told me once, and from that day on he became slightly tolerable to me. I haven’t entirely forgiven him yet, and I doubt I ever will.
Kuiora, in the beginning, didn’t want to hone her battling skills anymore. She was afraid she would have to evolve someday when she didn’t want to. Sai, however, convinced her otherwise, saying nothing would change if she evolved, nothing but her appearance, and he asked her to come with him to the Cianwood gym to train. She reluctantly agreed and went twice a month to practice with him. Eventually she said she was having growing pains, so she suspected that she'd have to give in soon enough.
As for Atis… Sai and Atis did even more together. The hitmontop probably spent the most time with him. He occasionally went to Cianwood to help Sai with type match-ups and commanding a battle. The gym leader himself, named Chuck, helped Sai physically, as the boy’s skinny, pale body left a lot to be desired. During the other days of the week, Sai worked part-time in Jasmine’s gym as the person who guarded the gym and led challengers in to the battleground. He also volunteered at Olivine City’s hospital in the psychiatric unit. This was a suggestion made by Atis, and Sai had been hesitant because he figured it would be triggering. Nothing out of the ordinary happened, though. He returned home on those days with new found information about himself, about his illness, about things he could do to help others. He mostly wanted to sign up as an organ donor. “The doctors can take anything they want, if someone will have me…” he said.
As for me and Gracie, we tried to do the best we could. She helped me get over my fear of death by fighting with me. Her being a fire-type was especially convenient and helpful, though frightening. I couldn’t have asked for a better new member for the team. She said she wanted to be productive with the rest of the team, and I felt the same way. We had one idea—but it was one I was skeptical of. I spent a long trying to gather up the courage to do it.
Yeah, time had passed. It was interesting, really, how certain events slowed down time and other events sped it up. Sitting in a Pokémon Center waiting room or in a hospital hindered our journey in more ways than one, for example. Battles hastened my life and made it feel shorter. Watching Sai jump had been an odd, encumbering mixture of both senses.
But that was in the past now. He made a vow to tell us whenever he was feeling down again. He was so open about his feelings that sometimes we had to ask him to stop talking, or else he'd just break our hearts. I thought he understood those kinds of requests, but I couldn't be too sure. He'd leave the the room and we'd find him either looking out the window or sitting at the edge of the sea, as if he was asking himself what part of himself would spill the secrets that were supposed to go with him to the grave.
I can tell you, Sai. It's the child within you, the one that still lives inside you despite your age, the one you'll be trying to make amends with for many years to come. I believe you can do it because I'm growing up too. It doesn't seem like it, but I am. Remember the first time you brought home groceries? You were so excited, you almost broke down the door. Everyone asked you what was wrong and you only paid attention to me, telling me to come to you because you had a surprise. You held out a red apple and explained that the clerk told you apples are definitely a pokémon's favorite. You took a bite out of it and handed the rest to me. “I'm feeding you,” you said. “I helped you start it. Now it's your turn.” You reminded me so much of Annie in that moment, but you're a person all your own. You have your quirks and you have silly stories to tell. You almost made melt with happiness, you know that? Well, I don't need to be fed anymore, and that's all right.
I had heard rumors. Supposedly the lighthouse on the southeast end of town was a home to many electric-type pokémon. I always wondered and hoped that there would be an elekid there for me to meet. Ezrem, during his one moment of truth, had told me there were elekid in Johto, after all. When I asked Jasmine, his words were confirmed, and my chest tightened considerably, so much so that I thought I'd never recover.
Jasmine's ampharos was in charge, while there were other trainers' pokémon that gave off electrical energy to keep the light glowing at night. Water-type pokémon trainers were present, too, to test their abilities. After I explained my situation to her, she encouraged me to talk to her when I was ready. At that point she would set up a meeting.
On the day of that meeting, Gracie agreed to come with me. I told her everything because she was a good listener. She was too good to me, really. I enjoyed her warmth, her kindness, and if all went as planned, maybe she could get something out of this as well.
“Maybe I can get over my fear of water with all those water-types there,” she said cheerfully. She seemed just as excited as I was somehow.
“Maybe,” I said. “Don't tell Kuiora, though, or she'll ask you to take her there every day.”
“I'll keep that in mind.”
We made idle chitchat like this, nonsensical and only half-witty, until we arrived at the lighthouse. Jasmine told us to meet her at the very top, so we moved along slowly, as if we didn't want the suspense to end. Step after step made me want to cling to Gracie and never let go because I know she wouldn't lie to me. She wasn't Ezrem. She wasn't the pokémon whose words still resounded in my ears.
At the top we saw no one. Gracie didn't seem disappointed, though. She saw that the middle of the room was enclosed by a brick wall that extended to the ceiling. She pushed me to the enclosure's entrance, and I tried to resist her, but then I saw Jasmine and I stopped. Jasmine smiled that pretty smile of hers and I knew she couldn't be tricking me.
“Jasmine?” I said, as if she was a ghost or a hologram that might vanish in an instant. Gracie made one final pushed and I stumbled into the gym leader. She laughed and picked me up, unafraid of being shocked. She must be used to this. She must be used to holding elekid. One must be here.
She twirled around, quiet as ever, and I saw them. Not just one elekid, but two. “Twins,” Jasmine said. “Born and raised in Johto by the daycare people.” I remembered them. It seemed so long ago. If only Ezrem's lies had been exposed then... but this was worth the wait. The elekid on the left had a red bow tied to her left spark plug, and the one on the right wore a blue wristband. Otherwise they were identical, and I could see why a trainer would have to separate them. All the same, I knew they were just like me. Just like me...
I tried to run to them, but I was in Jasmine's arms. I asked her if I could be let down. She obliged and my legs suddenly became clumsy. I tried not to seem too eager, but I was sure I was failing. I awkwardly asked them if I could hug them. I wouldn't have even minded getting electrocuted at this point. They nodded, grinning at me.
My life, up until that point, had been nothing but a long, long list of events that would have been made better, had there been another elekid at my side. I would be lying if I said I remembered everything on the list, but the majority was overwhelming and left me to wonder whether I could stop waiting. Was it strange to feel like every day before this one was a dream? This seemed like a dream, too, my arms wrapped around them, their cold skin against mine.
I wanted to know all about them. I wanted to know where they've been. I wanted to save them from their senseless fears. I wanted to watch them grow older. I wanted to show them what it meant to be broken and then whole again. I wanted to hold their hands. I wanted them to see me respond to the music that was their laughter.
Before I do any of this, I fear they’ll disappear.
They were still in my arms. In that instant I gained two friends and my sanity. I gained this all in one breath. They told me that they knew my story, and that they were very sorry. They said that I was a good pokémon—untainted, despite everything. My way of showing gratitude was just breathing, in and out, and not disappearing on them as well.
When I finally came back to reality, I heard Jasmine talking to Gracie. She was telling the fire-type that we could stop by anytime. I could help out around here and see the elekid whenever I wanted. Gracie could help out the gym by brazing together metal statues ruined in the heat of battle. Gracie agreed.
“I've been listening, don't worry,” I said, releasing the two elekid. How long had we been standing there?
“You'll help out? Is that what you want?”
“Yeah!” I said. “We've been looking for things to do, and this seems okay. Now I wonder why I put this off for so long...”
“I can understand,” the female elekid says.
“It must've been hard...” the male elekid adds.
“It was,” I said, but in truth, the pain seemed long gone, thrown into another dimension.
I felt relieved and redeemed in the name of my evolution line.
I had decided, and maybe Ezrem had, too, but I won't dare ask. Sai's home was my home. Here in Olivine City, I was safe and secure. I had exactly what I wanted. I got along with the elekid just fine. We told each other funny stories and they even introduced me to other electric-types. I even offered to bring Ezrem with me so he could meet them and see how happy I was, but he declined gracefully. Yeah, Ezrem had lied to me... but he had also given me something to look forward to.
“I trust you're doing fine,” Ezrem said. “I always knew you'd be fine.”
“Well, I at least knew I couldn't fool you forever.”
I told Sai, too, on a day where he didn't seem exhausted. That was how he came home most days, and he fell asleep without eating. Senori had to wake him up so he could get something in his stomach and gain more weight. Kuiora gave the team baths, but she was careful with Gracie and me. Atis spoke more and more, so much so that I thought I'd have to tell him to shut up too.
We stayed in our home, my plugs sparking to a nice, internal rhythm. I was a small creature, but I was up to Sai's knees by now and I could still fly on Ezrem's back without hurting him. I hoped one day to grow bigger, but I wasn't too concerned. No one was concerned about changing. We had done enough of that. Inside we all feel like nobility, special and lucky and completely right. It was like we were draped in gold, watching rainbows glitter at our feet. Here, my team could be anyone—and so could I.