Chapter 35: The Warrior’s Way
Fan Fiction inspired by Pokemon
Rating: Young Adult
An ominous silence filled the tower as Brian had completed his heroic task. The trainers below us stopped their screaming and made joyous cheers and cries as their pokémon returned to normal. The collars of Project Sakura were no longer in effect. Aizawa’s plans had been foiled and the nightmare was finally over.
I loosened my grip on Ginkgo no kusari so that Ai-san could move around again. I expected her to suddenly lash at me, attack me, maybe strike a killing blow. And yet once she was freed from the tethering chains, she stayed in her kneeling position, as if she had not noticed that the chains had been removed. She sat there frozen, yet trembling, in awe of the plans she had failed to execute completely.
“Why?” she asked. “Why are you still being kind to me, Oda-kun?”
Ai-san looked at me in tears, tattered from both the binding of Ginkgo no kusari and the agony of losing the warrior battle.
“Did we not promise that the loser of this fight dies?”
I shook my head and knelt to her level.
“All I said was that the winner gets a chance to live another day,” I said. “That doesn’t mean the loser must die.”
“I refuse to believe that!” she snapped back. “You and your twisted use of language! How can you go back on your words with such calm demeanor? You were always like that! I was supposed to be your Sakura!”
“But you weren’t my Sakura!” I snapped back. “Who told you that?”
“You told me once that there was a Sakura that you loved. Was that not me? Or maybe you didn’t mean it and didn’t love me after all!”
I paused, thinking about what might have caused Ai-san’s confusion. Then I spoke softly.
“I guess I never told you then. You just assumed something you shouldn’t have for so long.”
I stood up and looked toward the full moon, now visible from the top of the tower.
“It’s true, I loved Sakura, the tree that blooms into the most beautiful denizen of forests and streets alike only once a year. That Sakura was the first to recognize me as Ginkgo, the resilient tree that stands steadfast without change. That’s what she told me, anyway.”
Ai-san’s tears were welling up.
“That’s so beautiful,” said Ai-san. “Who told you that?”
I wiped away a tear from my right eye.
“Her name was Mei Jia. She died six years ago, before I ever met you. I guess it’s been so long that you’ve forgotten that’s how I even brought up Sakura as a metaphor. You mistranslated it ever since.”
“That still doesn’t tell me why you’re being so kind to me, even after all I’ve done to you.”
“Maybe I’m a fool for saying this, or simply just being naive, but having you take the name of Prof. Sakura, even though you don’t deserve it, reminds me of Mei. I can’t do any harm to such a person, even if I tried. Besides, Mei wouldn’t want me to avenge her for her sake. She never even knew you, but she was always happy, even to the day she died. To live so care-free without any regrets; that’s what I loved about her.”
Ai-san nodded and cried.
“Well, I only had one regret and that was I could never defeat you, Oda-kun. Not once could I beat you in a pokémon battle, get a higher mark on a test or grade at the university, or even have you submit to me in romance. You never acknowledged me even once, saying that I ever did a good job as an assistant! I am older than you, but you always treated me like I needed some kind of help from you, even now! You don’t know me at all, Shuichi Oda!”
Erika finished tending to the fallen pokémon under Ai-san’ s control and came toward us. Ai-san continued to scream in frustration.
“I was born of a warlord family,” she said. “I had to endure years of training as a child with my pokémon, knowing that I would one day die along with her! But that was all stripped away from me when my own family was killed. I was only a little girl back then! Can you imagine it, Oda-kun? To have your entire family lost to other warriors in a true pokémon battle?”
My eyes widened as she told me her story. This is the first time she has ever brought it up.
“I escaped and became an academic, hoping that one day I would escape the life I once knew, but nothing can take away such painful memories! And even now, a novice warrior, the one person I cannot defeat, pities me! I hate you so much, Oda-kun!”
Aizawa screamed and cried, making it difficult for me to rationalize the situation. But perhaps, rationalizing was not the most ideal thing to do. I adjusted my glasses and shrugged.
“I don’t pity you at all, Ai-san,” I said. “I expect you to live and answer for your crimes.”
“Answer for my crimes? What are you saying, Oda-kun? I’ve already lost, and you want to let me drown in such painful memories? You really are the villain after all!”
I was shocked. That’s when I remembered what Prof. Juniper told me when I had first talked with her.
“We are mentors,” she said back then. “We are the heroes to the heroes whom we inspire. Of course, there is an alternative. We could be villains too!”
Erika came from behind me and tapped my shoulder.
“It’s okay, Shu-chan,” she said. “Letting your fallen enemy die is the most honorable thing a warrior can do for another. Her memories, her ideology, her dignity all dies with her. Letting her live to regret this moment will breed vengeance, hate, and make her a martyr to the ones she influences. This is the warrior’s way.”
I shook my head. I didn’t want to accept what she was saying. Of the many years I knew Erika, she has never had to correct me so sternly and seriously. Still, I stepped aside for her to approach Ai-san.
“It seems that I had lost my ceremonial dagger in the fight,” said Ai-san. “May I use yours, Lady Erika?”
Erika nodded and unsheathed a small blade she had kept at her waist. She handed the knife to Ai-san and bowed. Ai-san held it to her stomach and turned to me.
“I have one last request, Oda-kun,” she said.
I turned to look at her again.
“That Vileplume is the last remaining partner I have. She was a gift to me as an Oddish in order for me to become a warrior, and I knew that she was special even then. As you know, a Vileplume with the dark petal dance technique is naturally stronger than other Vileplumes, and so in turn, she became my perfect partner. But now I see that being strong is more than just by strength and power alone. Strength also comes from the bonds one has with their loved ones: both people and pokémon.”
Ai-san’s Vileplume stared at her in grief and dismay.
“I know that I cannot change my fate, but for her it’s different. Vileplume was never meant for being a warrior’s pokémon. Even so, she has been trained to die with her trainer. Oda-kun, no, Shuichi, I ask that you take care of her from now on. Don’t let her die with me. Treat her like your other pokémon, with the utmost respect and love that you have given to them like family members. Do it for me.”
As much as I hated Ai-san for what she had done to me and countless other trainers, I could not turn down such a favor. She was Kanon Aizawa after all, my assistant at the university.
“I will, Kanon. Farewell.”
And with that, Erika and I bowed as we watched Kanon finish her last rite. Kanon smiled and stabbed her stomach with a single thrust.
At last, the warrior Kanon Aizawa had fallen into a peaceful state. Erika did not look away, but I turned aside in tears.
Even the night sky grieved upon this sight, as I saw the dark violet petals fall around her. The dark petals of a sad, but truly loyal pokémon.