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Worth (PG-13)

Discussion in 'Fan Fiction' started by PhalanxSigil, Dec 25, 2017.

  1. PhalanxSigil

    PhalanxSigil BONK!

    I need to preface this one with a bit of a warning. I was writing this when my attitude may not have been in the brightest of places, and the subject matter here is a bit dark. As such, I feel like I need to begin by putting some content warnings up front. Read the stuff in the spoiler tag, and if anything that's in there turns you away from the story, that's fine.

    Bullying, Physucal Violence, Neglect, Feelings of Worthlessness, Depression, Mild Reference to Suicidal Thoughts

    Worth​

    What am I to you?

    We’d always been close in Pallet Town. And by that, I mean through proximity. We were never friends; our houses were just close to each other. Didn’t help that my mom was desperate to get me to associate with you. I lived next to the grandson of the great Professor Oak, how could I not want to be friends with him. Right?

    Oh, Mom. If only you’d seen what I had for all these years.

    She’d always seen a smart, outgoing boy, swarmed by people. I’d always seen an annoying, self-obsessed boy who used his so-called “friends” to stroke his ego. Arceus, even his grandfather saw that. It’s why he wanted to send him on a journey in the first place.

    I wish it had helped.

    From the moment we picked our pokémon, I knew that Blue would be trouble for me. He waited for me to pick my pokémon (my charmander, who I named Sally when I learned she was a girl) and picked the one with a type advantage to mine. I, of course, had no idea why he’d picked a squirtle so quickly after I made my choice, and so just thought that he liked the pokémon. When he challenged me to a battle and won…easily…and I saw the smug look on his face, I thought nothing of it. It was pretty normal.

    But then Professor Oak told me about the type chart. He told me that what he was worried about with Blue was coming true before his eyes. He’d only picked squirtle to beat me.

    “I want you to help me with Blue,” he told me. “Please, just try and get through to him. Show him what it means to care about others.”

    Why me though?

    “I’ve tried to appeal to him so much over the years,” – no you haven’t, you’ve let it happen – “and I feel like it would be best if someone his age would show him the light.”

    And just like that, it became clear to me. My journey wasn’t about filling out the PokéDex, you could do that with his eyes closed. No, I was just there to do the work that Professor Oak hadn’t seen himself fit to do. I was an errand boy.

    Great.

    ----------------------------

    Did I do something to hurt you?

    I mean, there’s no other explanation for why you constantly act so hostile to me. Granted, that first win you had against me, when I didn’t really know what I was doing, was the only one you had on me. From then on, I didn’t lose to you. Route 22, Cerulean Bridge, even the SS Anne, didn’t matter.

    And you must’ve been furious, as you seemed to ignore so many people around you.

    Did you know about Bill? Did you even realize that only a half hour from where you battled me on the Cerulean Bridge, there was a man who’d practically transformed himself into a clefairy, and needed help turning back?

    Did you even stop to think that you may have stolen the HM01 from the captain of the SS Anne, who was too sick to hold a conversation, let alone pilot a ship? Were you even aware that I had fetch an Arceus-damned barf bag, feed him an anti-nausea pill, and massage his back, for him to be able enough to steer the ship, and then he decided to give me the HM?

    DID YOU EVEN THE POKÉMON TOWER?

    On a different note, I noticed that you looked solemn while at the Tower. I also noticed your raticate was missing. You know I’d have to be stupid not to put two and two together, especially with your red eyes and dirty face. I’d only wanted to help you, maybe help you grieve. That’s the only reason I reached out to you after the battle.

    You didn’t have to punch me. You didn’t have to call my sympathy for your loss weak, unmanly. You didn’t have to be a jerk.

    But you did. And you were. And it hurt.

    Oh, and on a different note, your grandfather seems very apathetic to my journey, even though it’s ostensibly to help you. Every time I try to get in contact with him, more often than not to update him on you, he just ignores me, talking about how “great my progress with the PokéDex is,” and “go find my aide, he has such-and-such,” and then just hangs up. Does he even care about either of us? Or is he just content to let you be the way you are?

    Pretty bad attitude if you ask me.

    -----------------------

    What. The hell. Is WRONG with you?

    People were in danger, Blue, didn’t you see that? You were in the Silph Co. building with me, I don’t think you could’ve missed it. The hostages. The gang members. Surely you saw that by the time you reached me. Hell, you were a floor above me, you must’ve at least glimpsed what the boss guy was doing?

    But no. You just had to battle me. You just had to let me know that you were gonna crush me, and that you figured that because Team Rocket was there – which usually means that someone is being extorted, tortured, or even killed, but that’s out of your purview, I guess – that I would show up.

    Well guess what? I showed up. And my pokémon were not able to fight at their best against the boss of Team Rocket. Who was holding the manufacturers of the Pokéball for ransom.

    I hope you’re proud of yourself, asshole.

    ------------------------

    What was my journey worth to you?

    Hey, I tried to treat him like a semi-normal human being instead of the sociopath he’s turned into. I tried to humor him when he started bragging about his myriad accomplishments (which I’d done as well, of course), and tried to talk him down when he started yelling at me after I’d beaten him, as usual.

    He just wouldn’t admit defeat, though. He kept claiming that he’d never made any mistakes in raising his pokémon, how his genius would never fail him, and how I couldn’t have won through legitimate means because he was obviously better than me.

    HOW?! HOW IN THE HELL DOES HE STILL THINK THIS WAY??!! I’ve beaten him seven times in a row, saving someone else that he clearly ignored every step of the way, and he still thinks he’s better than me?!

    And then…you showed up. And made my win all about Blue.

    Yes, I’ll admit that you chastised him. Yes, I’ll grant that you hammered home that same message that I’ve been trying to tell him all this time. Yes, you expressed your disappointment.

    But what was the point of me being here, then? You ostensibly said that my journey was more to help Blue than for my own sake, so why, at this last possible moment, do you suddenly feel the need to exert any effort towards him? You never did before. What changed?

    What was my journey even worth to you?

    My enshrinement in the Hall of Fame felt hollow. I don’t think I said anything the entire time.

    Actually, now that I think about it, that might’ve been the last time I spoke to anyone. What was the point of me speaking? What was the point of trying if all of my efforts were either fruitless or rendered null and void? Blue obviously doesn’t care about me. You only cared to use me as a tool to better your blood. Even my mother didn’t seem to notice my protests from so long ago.

    What am I worth to you? What am I worth to anyone?

    And why should I care?

    -

    -

    -------------------------------

    -

    -

    It’s been a long time since I’ve battled like this. You say it’s been a couple of years since I’ve vanished. It feels like longer. But battling still feels good. My pokémon are certainly happy to be getting some fighting in.

    I notice a look in your eyes, though. It’s curious. You seem a little weary yourself. I find myself speaking for the first time in a very, very long time. My voice is rusty, though, and seems to have lowered slightly in pitch. About time puberty hit.

    We talk about your Professor, Elm, and how, although a little absent-minded at times, he really seemed to care about your progress, even going as far as to give you his number and call you from time to time. I express how I would’ve loved it if Professor Oak had done that.

    At mentioning his name, however, you grow silent. It’s hard to make out through the snow, but there’s a sense of sadness growing on your face.

    “Did you know that there’s a requirement for Trainers to be allowed to climb Mt. Silver?” you ask.

    I wasn’t aware at all.

    “Apparently, it’s a new thing. You have to beat all 16 Gyms on the Tohjo continent.” He pauses. “So that means, uh…well…I met your rival, Blue.”

    I’m a little confused.

    “He’s a Gym Leader now. Doesn’t really specialize in a type, but he has a rhydon, so it’s not as if he’s not following in the previous Viridian Leader’s footsteps.” He looks down at his feet. “I mentioned you to him. After I beat him. Said I was inspired to start my journey in the first place because of everything you did.” You chuckle. “He asked me, ‘Did ‘ya know I beat him to the punch?’ I didn’t, and he seemed sad when I told him so.” You look up at me. “Professor Oak didn’t talk about you at all, though, not even when I mentioned your name. Why is that?”

    I feel a sad smile creep onto my face. It’s funny, really. After all this time, and even after hearing someone actually praise me for the efforts of my journey, the same thought forms in my head that’s been there for so long. When you hear it, I can almost see your heart break a little. But I can’t help what I think. I know, in my heart, that it’s true.

    “I’m not worth it.”
     
    Last edited: Jan 6, 2018
  2. ChloboShoka

    ChloboShoka Writer

    This really captured another side to Red that I don't see get explored very often. Red full of angst because of the damage that's stayed with him through the bullying. I also like how you gave a reason for Red not to speak anymore. My favourite part of what tied it in all together was the last scene which I'm presuming is Gold. The feeling of worthlessness remains strong throughout.
     
  3. Mrs. Lovett

    Mrs. Lovett Rolling writer

    Lately I've been revisiting my old games for a spell and thinking about the storylines and the messages they send. It seemed fun and straightforward when I was a kid, but now when I look back on the characters and relationships, they seem surprisingly deep and profound. Maybe it's nostalgia or maybe it's because I'm a writer, I don't know. Haha... But your piece really added some depth to Red and Blue that I hadn't noticed before, and with a twist on Red that honestly never occurred to me.

    For a long time I just thought of them two as rivals who each wanted to just get the other out of their hair. As a kid, my thoughts about Blue mirrored Red's in this story completely: Like, why was he so competitive? Why was he strolling around Silph Co. like he owned the place when I was in the middle of a rescue mission? But a second later, I'd be like 'Oh well, he's gone, hooray'. But having read this, I can now appreciate how frustrated and hurt Red must have actually felt in that situation. This part was especially poignant: "Did I do something to hurt you? I mean, there’s no other explanation for why you constantly act so hostile to me." It really gets across the blank, human sense of confusion Red feels.

    But I also like how Red gives subtle emphasis here on how Blue is only human, too - that he can get hurt too (and probably was, by something, to make him act this way), and that he can grieve for his lost pokemon.

    As for Red, I've read lots of different interpretations of him, but my favorites are the ones like this, which classify him as just a regular kid - one who's been through a lot, yeah, but in the end is just a trainer like everyone else. And not every trainer's journey is the same. And in light of your one-shot, I'm more convinced now that Red's was one of personal discovery and personal mastery, not just mastery of pokemon or battling. You call attention to basically all the points that seem off with his journey to me: First of all, he's sent off on a quest to complete some professor guy's PokeDex to reach a goal that wasn't initially his; when he comes home his own mom just asks if he wants to take a rest and doesn't seem interested in much else, ditto with the professor and his PokeDex, and fourth, his rival is clearly the example of what a good trainer and human being is not, but Red is merely used as the 'good example' next to him in someone's black-and-white perception of them. It's not hard to imagine that Red would feel worthless due to all this, and even that his journey would feel meaningless, since the idea of it was conjured up out of thin air. And the way you expressed all of Red's reactions to this this rationalizes really well why he'd banish himself to the top of a cold mountain all alone.

    But I think what you end up learning from a journey like that is that the worth is something you find along the way, and the last scene seemed to indicate a bit of hope in that regard. I like how you wrote about Red interacting with the HG/SS protag and how he/she finally gets Red to open up a little. There being an actual interaction between them is more satisfying than what the games gave, which was just the same '...' bit. The fact that Blue's a Gym leader now and learning to treat pokemon better seems like a step in the right direction, almost as if Red got to him in the end after all. I like to think that Blue appreciates Red for that deep down, and now that Red knows what's going on with Blue, I hope that one day he'll have this realization as well.

    My only point of critique is to maybe use the all-caps a bit less:

    Mainly here, I had the feeling that they detracted from Red's emotional emphasis rather than added to it. I think the effect you want to go for would be better delivered by italics or even plain text with some rewording, like: "Well guess what? I showed up. And because of you my pokemon weren't able to fight at their best against the leader of the operation, Team Rocket's boss. Who was holding the manufacturers of the Pokeball for ransom. You know, the people who make the things you use as a trainer practically every day. (etc)"

    But all in all, this was a touching and thoughtful read. I like how you made it conversational and not too wordy; it really helped subtle emotions stand out. (Also, if the little dots that came before and after the final scene break were supposed to symbolize Red's silence, then I thought that was really creative. At any rate, that was definitely the first thing that popped into my mind!)
     
  4. Damn.

    That was a great read. And while that’s more-than-likely because this is exactly the kind of premise I enjoy both writing and reading about, I thought you handled the story’s project very well. It shouldn’t come as a surprise that the silent protagonist is introspective, but you take it on a whole other level by making the introspection less about Red and more about Blue.

    Which was a really smart way to take this story, I thought. I already know you do trainer introspection well—one of your previous works that this reminds me of, “Calls With an Ex-Champion”, is testament to that—but taking what is probably the most familiar narrative in Pokemon and giving it a dark but very familiar twist really made me enjoy this. You build up Red as this hurt and self-deprecating character that’s slowly realizing that all of the reasons he had for his journey was amounting to nothing, and it’s such a joy to read.

    The final scene with Ethan ended up becoming my favorite of the story, as it leaves Red in this state of bitter acceptance that puts his isolation in Mt. Silver in a different and more interesting light. I also appreciate how you used Ethan here, in that him being a contrast to Red brought enough out of the latter that put a good finishing touch to his character.

    There was just one very minor thing that I wanted to address:

    I thought this part softened the impact of this whole scene a bit, in that it felt like the story conveniently telling me that it was mixing things up by Red addressing someone else. Compare it to the scene after, where you gradually reveal that Red is not talking to Blue but to Ethan, which IMO is much more effective.

    But that’s really minor, and this is a very well-written and well-executed one-shot. Great job there! :)
     

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