Saturday, August 16, 2014

The Reading List: Catcher in the Rye

Hey, guys, what's up?  Welcome to another (I know, I actually wrote one of these again!) edition of The Reading List.  Today, I'll be reviewing Catcher in the Rye.

Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger tells the story of Holden Caulfield, a boy who drops out of school and decides to wander around New York for a few days in a psychological funk.  At the end, he has a mental breakthrough/breakdown and gets admitted to a mental hospital.  The whole novel is Holden's coming to term with death, sexuality, and other heady themes that are omnipresent in the adult world.

Holden is an interesting character.  While many stories use their main character either as an author surrogate or as a hero of the land, Catcher takes us through the fragmented view of  truly disturbed main character.  It's not the first bok to do this, nor is it the last, but few books that survive in our collective consciousness from that time read like it, if any.

So why?  Why does Catcher stay in our collective culture over fifty years after its original publication?

It may do good to look at the context of the book.  The 1950's were a radical time in the world, and this is reflective in some of the literature of the time.  The violence of World War Two could finally be looked at and comprehended, as seen in books like Elie Wiesel's Night (which I'm not looking forward to talking about) and the works of Ernest Hemingway.  Writers like Isaac Asimov and Daniel Keyes were looking at the new world filled with the promise of science with caution.  Meanwhile, two British friends were looking to the past to understand the space in which they were currently living.  Bradbury and Vonnegut were warning people about what the future could look like, while William S. Burroughs' Naked Lunch attempted to encapsulate the culture that people didn't always want to talk about.

J.D. Salinger's only real success is an attempt at a lot of these ideas.  Holden's messed up headspace, while not caused by wartime trauma, is very much reminiscent of it.  Many a veteran has spent sleepless nights roaming around in a daze without help, although the vilification of war and soldiers that came with America's involvement in Vietnam was still a few years away.  Though it doesn't use the trappings of science fiction, it looks to the future through the unsure eyes of a cynical teen.  And though it isn't fantasy, Holden's flashback give context to the state in which he currently is.

The book is very much a product of its time, in both dialect and content.  Its language can be as foreign to some as a novel written in Old English, but the tone is what's important, and why I feel Catcher has survived so long.

Catcher very adequately captures that moment in your teenage years when you realize you don't have all the answers.  For Holden, its when he flunks out of school and doesn't know where he's going to go next.  For others, maybe its the first time you were rejected by someone you like, or when you learned something about your friends or parents.  Maybe it comes when you graduate high school and try to live as an adult for the first time.  You feel lost and confused, unsure of yourself.  You want to sit down and let the emotions rill over you, but you also want to be independent and strong.  You probably also want to go back home.

This is why Catcher remains so beloved today.  It still holds an important message to teens and anyone struggling.  That is why, of all the books from the 50's, this one still holds.  Wiesel, Hemingway and Burroughs are historical artifacts, better suited for history than English.  Asimov and Keyes' worlds seem naive to us now, while Vonnegut and Bradbury's messages need some tweaking to fit into our understanding.  Tolkien and Lewis still hold up, but lose a bit of their immediacy.

What Salinger was able to do was immortalize the pain and suffering that accompanies adolescence.  In this way, though the language and settings of Catcher become more and more distant, Holden's story and emotions still resonate with students today, and will probably continue to for generations to come.

Thanks for reading this installment of The Reading List.  See you next time!

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Frozen: Disney's Most Overrated Film

I promised you guys, and here it is.  My feelings on the Internet's reaction to Disney's 2013 film, Frozen.  This will primarily be a rebuttal to some of the more popular claims to Frozen's "brilliance."

Now, don't misunderstand me.  I love this movie.  I really love it.  The music and visuals are beautiful, the characters are great, the humor is well-done for the most part, and the plot, while not the most original, still pulls out some neat twists.  But, if you read my last post, you know this.

However, I believe that nothing made by humans is perfect.  Everything has some flaws, and this movie is no exception.  That said, I also covered that in the last post, so I won't repeat them here.  Today, I'll be going over why Frozen is a good Disney movie and not Disney's secret, counter-cultural masterpiece.



The reason I'm not writing is because I read this.  This is a REALLY well written rebuttal to a lot of the arguments I was looking at talking about here.  I don't agree with all of her points, but I don't really want to write a rebuttal to her post.  Read it and pretend she likes Frozen and you'll basically have what I was going to talk about.  She goes into a lot of details about why Frozen isn't actually feminist by using some good ideas and concepts from feminist theory and it's just really good and smart.

If I do have one major criticism, it's that it is far too negative.  I understand that she doesn't like the movie, but it feels like the writer is doing this more out of spite than anything else.  Regardless, she does raise good points.

I'm only really writing this because I promised you guys I would write something on how I feel about the responses to Frozen.  When I came across this in my research, I felt awful.  I knew I'd just link to the article and feel like a cop out.  I'm sorry, but I don't have much to add to the conversation.

Hopefully, you still found it enlightening.  Sorry, guys.  I'll have a not cop-out post soon.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Frozen: A Movie Review

I started thinking about Frozen again recently.  It's one of Disney's biggest hits in many years and has become the favorite of many a watcher, myself included.  It's also become one of Disney's most polarizing features, drawing ire from as many sides as give heaps of praise.  I figured I could give my two cents as someone who enjoys it, but can also see some flaws.  In this post, I will be going through the plot of Frozen and showing why Frozen is one of Disney's greatest films.  In the next post, I will be facing down Tumblr and saying why Frozen is Disney's most overrated films.

After preparing mentally for my Internet crucifixion, let's dive in.

Frozen opens with the traditional Disney castle opening, followed by the newer Steamboat Willie credit, and a slow, artsy shot of snowflakes panning back to reveal the main title.  The song that plays over it is the beautiful chanting of "Vuelie."  It's a nice opening and helps set the mood, but it does feel disconnected from the rest of the film.  It feels like it's trying to be "Circle of Life," but the rest of the film doesn't have music similar to it like Lion King did.  The next song is a much better indication of the music overall, but "Vuelie" is a better fit as an opener, so it's a bit of a catch-22.  It gives me chills everytime I hear it and pumps me up to watch the movie, though, so I guess it's doing something right.

The next three songs, "Frozen Heart," "Do You Wanna Build a Snowman?" and "For the First Time in Forever" encompass what I think of as the exposition phase of the movie.  "Frozen Heart" starts this off with very literally.  It establishes the tone of the movie and songs to follow better than "Vuelie," and offers a few subtle clues as to what will come later in the movie.  It's a nice song, but a bit forgettable.  It does what it needs to; it's not superfluous or excessive in any way.

From "Frozen Heart," we get a beautiful pan up to an aurora and down into Arendelle (I'll talk about visuals  at the end, this is more of a plot summary and how well the music works with it) where we find our two main characters, Anna and Elsa.  Cute little Anna pesters Elsa to sneak downstairs so they can play with Elsa's special ice powers.  It's clear that this is a regular occurence with them and something they both enjoy.  They play, in a very adorable scene, until tragedy strikes and Elsa accidentally hits Anna in the head with an ice bolt.  Her mother and father come running and take Anna to a group of trolls who heal her (and adopt a young Kristoff & Sven), saving her life while removing all memory of Elsa's magic.  This scene sets up the primary conflict of the movie: Elsa has to keep an integral part of who she is hidden from everyone, including her dear sister.  The actual ticking clock, Arendelle's covered in a glacier conflict is a direct result of this.

Quick fade from Anna and Elsa being separated and "Do You Wanna Build a Snowman?" begins.  This song is fun, upbeat and peppy for the first two verses, reflecting Anna's still youthful optimism that she can coax Elsa out of her isolation.  It also serves as a time lapse, showing what the rift of Elsa forcing her magic away from her sister did to their relationship over time, while also bringing the characters up to present day.  Structurally, this song is one of two in the soundtrack without a chorus ("Vuelie" doesn't count because it's just chanting).  This repetition of the same basic phrasing without a REAL repetition like a chorus indicates that this sort of exchange was a regular, perhaps even daily, occurence growing up.  Musically, the tune is simple enough to get stuck in your head with enough complexity that it's fun to listen to repeatedly.

The final verse is a very hard tonal shift from bright and upbeat to sad and slow, reflecting the mourning the sisters are in after the death of their parents.  The shift in tempo and use of lower violin notes and clarinet accent this feeling.  What this does to the characters is interesting as well.  Not only does it give them some baggage to carry around, but, to quote from the Escapist's Bob Chipman's review of Frozen, "offing them [the parents] early instead of later...forces both girls into states of arrested development.  By the time they've reached adulthood...Anna is still a sweetly naive child desparate for affection and human contact, while permanently trapped in puberty; withdrawn, introverted, terrified of uncontrollable forces in her own body and paralyzed by self-conciousness of what people will think of her if she shows her true self."  What this also does for the movie is make the characters much more relatable.  To put it simply, Anna feels much more like she could be one of my friends than the 20-something she's supposed to be, and I know my little sister will turn into either one of them or a combination of the two by the time she's my age.

Frozen's exposition ends with "For the First Time in Forever."  This is where we meet the Anna and Elsa who will be doing most of the action.  We're introduced to the status quo of their lives by how they react to Elsa's coronation.  Anna reacts with excited optimism of a chance to interact with people again and maybe even find a special someone.  Elsa, meanwhile, looks on with fear and anxiety of having to put herself in the public eye, consoling herself with the knowledge that things will be more normal the following day.  The violin and woodwinds play quickly and vibrantly during Anna's verses, capturing her excitement perfectly, while Elsa's verse is softer and more regal, matching her uneasiness well.  Anna's solo choruses are dreamy and happy, while the use of brass and flutes during the last chorus blends both of their emotions together beautifully.  This is my favorite song from Frozen, just barely beating out "Let it Go," as the music is some of the finest in a lovely score.

From here, we are introduced to Hans, Prince of the Southern Isles.  He's an interesting character to say the least, and will be talked more about at that point in the story (you know what I'm talking about).  For now, he's a nice guy, someone who finally connects with Anna.  Like the young child she is inside, she falls pretty much instantly in love with him and, at the after party, they hook up in the peppy "Love is an Open Door."  "Peppy" is the word to describe it.  From the simple guitar and tambourine opening to the light accents of winds and violins in the verses to the massive swells in the chorus, the whole song is a great love song with a nice catchy tune.  As a villain song, (which it kind of is) it's cleverly disguised, but I feel people can read into it too much to make it a villain song.  While it has small elements that hint at some deviousness underneath, some elements people have pulled out seem really far-fetched.  Read this and see how many "villanous details" you agree with.

After this, Elsa rejects Anna's engagement, leading to a confrontation between the two where Elsa's ice powers are revealed.  Every thinking she's a monster, her worst fear, Elsa runs off into the mountains, freezing the sea around Arendelle solid.  Anna rides off after her, leaving Hans in charge.

This leads into "Let it Go," the big centerpiece of the movie and it's easy to see why.  The song swells from a simple yet haunting piano refrain, adding layers of strings as the piano becomes more complex.  The first chorus is nice and light, almost timid.  In the second verse, the piano and strings become more energetic and uplifting, becoming even more so as the second chorus comes.  The bridge seems to build and build, coupled with Idina Menzel's voice rising and rising in pitch until she bursts full force into the final chorus.  The music blasts into the uplifting final strains as Menzel belts out her final notes.  I am shocked she hasn't won a Tony yet and I hope, if she goes back to Broadway, she finally gets her dues.  "Let it Go" also serves a narrative purpose, aside from being the big, flashy "Under the Sea" or "Be Our Guest" of the movie.  This is the moment where Elsa finally loses her inhibitions and accepts herself for who she is.  This is probably why a lot of people, especially older fans, react so strongly to it.  Everyone who has been a teen has at some point felt this way.  They finally feel comfortable in their own skin and enjoy the person they are growing up to be.

After this, there's a long break of songs in the movie.  This section of the movie deals with Anna meeting up with Kristoff and Sven, an ice harvester and his pet reindeer.  Kristoff is a much different character than Hans, our other male lead.  Where Hans was charming and kind, Kristoff is a bit of a jerk.  He's a bit like the big, dumb jock to Hans' polite nerd, to use old stereotypes.  His interactions with Sven, speaking for him and acting as if he is his conscience, are immensely endearing, though.  This decision to leave Sven as a non-talking animal was smart, as it gave Kristoff a lot of personality he would have lost otherwise.

Oh yeah, Kristoff does get a minute long musical number.  It's a bit of a gross-out number and really forgettable, despite Jonathon Groff's really good singing voice.  I don't really like it, and it doesn't add much to the plot.

Kristoff and Anna are joined by Olaf, a talking snowman made in the exact same way the girls made snowmen as kids.  Olaf is introduced with the comedic "In Summer."  It has a simple melody, cute lyrics and some memorable visuals.  This is the only completely comedic song, with the comedy coming from his ignorance over what summer, a thing he desparately wants to experience, will mean for a snowman like himself.  It's cute while it lasts, but not terribly important.  It adds nothing to the plot and doesn't reveal too much about Olaf's character.  As a comic relief character, he might not need as much history as the dramatic characters, but it would be nice to know a bit more about him.

The group travels to Elsa's newly made ice castle.  Anna tries to reconnect with her sister, but Elsa's fears over what happened to Anna all those years ago make her brush Anna off.  This leads into the reprise of "For the First Time in Forever."  It follows the same structure as the end of the song, with different lyrics and one notable exception.  After Anna tells Elsa she accidentally blanketed Arendelle in snow, Elsa freaks out.  She conjures a mini blizzard around her and takes over the song.  Elsa overpowers Anna at the end, eventually leading to a beautiful crescendo followed by Elsa shooting Anna in the heart with ice and conjuring a massive snow monster to kick Anna and her party out.

Kristoff notices that Anna's hair is growing white, so he takes her to see his family; the trolls who long ago saved Anna from a similar blast.  Meanwhile, Hans has gone with a group to bring Elsa back to Arendelle.  Things go wrong when they are attacked by the snow monster that kicked out our heroes and two rogue agents attempt to kill Elsa.  Elsa nearly kills them back before Hans stops her and begs her to see reason.  She lets down her attack long enough for one of the men to knock her out.  She is then taken back to Arendelle and imprisoned.

Kristoff and Anna arrive at the trolls' home where they greet her and immediately assume the two of them are a romantic item.  This is my main problem with the trolls.  In the beginning, they seemed very noble, serious creatures that could have a quirky edge.  Here, they seem to be an amalgamation of every loud, noisy, over-interested family in media.  Either of these could have worked (though the second would have seemed a bit strange in the beginning), but instead, the trolls seem just inconsistent.  Coupled with the overly simple "Fixer Upper" and its awful rhyme scheme, the trolls are my least favorite part of the movie.  The only thing they do to advance the plot is to misdirect the climax, which I'll get to soon.

After informing Anna that only an act of true love can save her, they race back to Arendelle to get Anna back to Hans.  When they reunite, however, Hans reveals himself to be only interested in her to get the throne and that everything is going according to plan.  This twist was well done, revealed with a line that caused theaters worldwide to gasp in shock.  I've seen some criticism leveled at this, saying that the story could easily have been done with the Duke as the main villain and forcing Anna to come to a choice about who she would rather be with.  I can see that, but I think that would be putting too much emphasis on romantic love, which the story does not center around.

But, does this make the Hans turn bad?  No, and there is an interesting theory about why this might have happened that my friend shared with me.  In Hans Christian Andersen's The Snow Queen, which Frozen is inspired by, there is a mirror created by an evil troll which reflects all that is bad and ugly in the world.  Now, perhaps, Hans is based off of this mirror, just more literally.  He reflects Anna's excitement and love in "Love is an Open Door," the strength of Arendelle's people when he tells off the Duke while Anna is away, and Elsa's fear when he visits her in jail.  It's just a theory, but it seems to make sense.

After Hans leaves Anna to die, she is saved by Olaf and the two of them realize that Kristoff would be her true love.  Olaf tries to get Anna to Kristoff while Elsa breaks out of jail, causing a brutal blizzard.  Hans chases after her and the four struggle to find each other in the raging snow.  There's a great action scene here as Kristoff and Anna race to each other.  Meanwhile, Hans confronts Elsa and lies to her, saying that the ice magic finally worked its way through Anna's heart and killed her.  Distraught, Elsa falls to her knees, freezing the blizzard in place.  Kristoff and a nearly-frozen Anna see each other, but, in one final act, Anna runs to save Elsa from Hans' sword, blocking the blade but freezing in the process.  Elsa looks up to find her dear sister frozen solid.  She sobs next to her statue-like sister as the othe heroes gather around to mourn.

But Disney doesn't kill off a marketable princess yet.  The misdirection I mentioned with the trolls happens here.  Instead of the act of true love being a standard kiss, Anna's sacrifice out of love for her sister thaws her heart and revives her.  With this power of love, Elsa thaws all of Arendelle and our heroes live happily ever after.  Curiously, she does this to a reprise of "Vuelie," which ordinarily would call back to that number, but as "Vuelie" doesn't do too much with the story, it feels out of place.  Maybe they were trying to bookend the film, but there are still a few minutes after this, and the film ends with an instrumental reprise of "Do You Wanna Build a Snowman," another slightly odd choice.

Frozen looks absolutely gorgeous.  The animation is unlike anything else Disney's done; at once cartoony and realistic.  "Let it Go" is the visual splendor of the movieThe locations draw heavily from Scandinavia, particularly Norway, and they could not have picked a more beautiful setting.  The fjord used for Arendelle's inspiration is apparently Naeroyfjord, a beautiful fjord and what most people think of when they think Norway.  The movie is littered with small homages to Scandinavian and Sami culture, which give it a unique style.  The effects are stunning, especially Elsa's magic and her ice castle.  The way the light reflects and refracts inside it are simply stunning.

The voice work is equally as impressive.  Kristen Bell plays Anna wonderfully sweet and awkward, Idina Menzel capture Elsa's emotions very well, Jonathon Groff keeps Kristoff likable while staying the straight man, Santino Fontana plays both sides of Hans extremely well, and Josh Gad is fun to listen to and laugh at.  The minor characters are all memorable too, with props going to Alan Tudyk for making his Duke of Weselton both hilarious and despicable with each line.

If you've made it this far, congratulations!  You just read 2,866 words of some random guy on the internet's opinion on a children's movie!  (Shut up, I had to write it all!)  In all seriousness, thank you for making it to the end.  I hope you enjoyed it and maybe found something interesting to think about.  I really do like this movie, and would put it in one of my top movies of all time.  However, no movie is without it's flaws and I hope I've addressed some major ones.  Next time you see me, I'll be discussing some of the many reasons why Frozen is Disney's most overrated movie.  See you then!

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Nuzlocke: Moving On

Hey guys,

I've been doing some thinking and I have decided to stop updating Beryl Dreams here.

I will continue to update on the Nuzlocke forums, but, realistically, it's easier to read it there.  It will update more frequently and allows for easier user commenting and input.

I may delete the previous updates in the future, but for now, they will remain here.

If you would like to check out further updates, please follow this link to the Nuzlocke forums.

Thanks for reading!


Thursday, June 26, 2014

Beryl Dreams: Part 12

Part 12: Tidal Rise

I was standing above my last battle in the Dewford Gym.  We had given Steven his letter and escorted him back to town, where he gave us a TM as thanks.  After that, we healed and headed over to the Gym, where we had been battling for the past hour or so.

"Use Gust, Heather!"  I said, watching my beautiful butterfly blow away the Machop in front of her.  The girl recalled the small, human-like fighter.

"Heather, take a little break."  I said, recalling her.  "Go, Daniel!"

"Come on out, Meditite!"  She said, sending out the small meditating Pokemon.

"Daniel, Ember!"  I said.  He breathed small flames at the short Pokemon and knocked it out.

"Great work!"  I said.

Daniel turned back to me and smiled.  Then, he started to glow a hot white.  He grew at least a whole foot taller, grew long arms and a beak and even longer claws.

I smiled.  "Looking good."  I said.  Daniel looked down at his new evolved form.

"Thanks."  he said.  His voice was deeper, like a kid going through puberty.

"How does it feel?"  I asked.

Daniel stared at his newly formed arms.  "Really weird."  he muttered, fixated on them.

I smirked.  "Come on, let's go."

Our team walked into the arena.  Like in Rustboro, it was a large room rimmed by seats with a rocky battlefield covered in stalagmites.  Unlike Rustboro's gym, though, the field was ringed by a quickly running river, and the seats were filled with jocks and martial artists.

The daimyo, Brawly, was sitting on a rough-hewn rocky throne, looking down on me with contempt.  He wore an orange kimono, blue and white waves flowing on the bottom of it.

He stepped down off the throne and onto a small platform in front of it.  The crowd exploded into bellows and chanting.  After about five minutes, I was annoyed and ready to fight.

Brawly lowered his arms and everyone quieted down.  Then he looked up at me and smirked.

"Welcome to the Dewford Gym."  he boomed.  "I am Brawly, and I will be your opponent.  Defeat me and you win.  Are you ready?"

"I was ready before I even got here."  I huffed.

Brawly laughed and threw his kimono open.  He was shirtless, with a pair of navy blue hakama held up by a belt that also held his Poke Balls.  He grabbed one and sent out the Pokemon inside.

A Machop popped out onto the battlefield and flexed his muscles.  The crowd went insane once more.

"Heather, let's do this!"  I said, sending out my Beautifly.

The crowd erupted into laughter at the sight of her.  Heather looked down and blushed.  I gritted my teeth as I felt my blood boiling.

"Heather, Gust that runt out of here."  I snarled.  Heather looked back at me, questioning.  The audience was still guffawing.

"I said, Gust!"  I yelled.  Heather turned back to the Machop and beat its wings at it.  The wind whipped Brawly and mine's jackets and knocked the Machop to the floor.

The crowd went silent.

Brawly looked at me and smiled.  "Machop, use Seismic Toss."

"Use Gust again!"

Heather beat up another gale while the Machop struggled to get close to her.  Eventually, the wind lifted him off his feet and he landed, fainted, at Brawly's feet.

"Alright, then."  Brawly sneered.  "Makuhita, go!"

"Daniel, show them what you're worth!"  I said as I returned Heather and sent him out.

He stood, staring down the small bag-ish Pokemon, and shook his legs, emitting small sparks.  Makuhita punched his open hand and stepped into a fighting stance.

"Daniel, Peck!"

"Makuhita, dodge."

Daniel shot forward, beak first and jabbed at the Makuhita.  It jumped out of the way and Daniel went in for another jab.  The Makuhita continued to slide out of the way.  The two of them danced two full circles around the ring.  The crowd was starting the snicker again.

I screamed.  "Daniel, use Peck!"

"Knock Off."

Makuhita jumped above Daniel's attack and slammed its fist into his beak.  Daniel fell with his beak sandwiched between Makuhita's fist and the ground.


I couldn't breathe.  My vision blurred with tears, and I felt a pain in my side.  My hand found its way to Daniel's ball and clicked the button.  Daniel disappeared into red light and was replaced by Heather, which I guess my other hand found.

I briefly felt the wind that blew Makuhita away and the thud that followed as it landed in the center of the battlefield.  I ran as soon as the buzzer signaling my victory rang, ran through the maze of the gym and into the bright sandy beaches to the center.

"Wake up."  I heard someone say in the recesses of my mind.  I woke up slowly to see Brawly standing over me, wearing an orange t-shirt and shorts.

I glared at him.  "Why are you here?"

"You forgot this."  he said, handing me the Knuckle Badge.  I took it reluctantly from him and placed it in my pocket.

I stood up, stretching out the kinks I'd attained from dozing in a chair.  Brawly grabbed my shoulders and pulled me in close.

"You need to get your emotions in check if you want to go further."  he whispered.  "My goal is to try and get you riled up and off focus.  Your Combusken is going to be fine, but I guarantee if you try that with another leader, they will die."

He pulled away from me and smiled, regaining a public facade.  He bowed to me and I bowed back.  Then, he left me to my worrying.

"Sir?"  The nurse said, waking me.  "Your Pokemon are healed now, sir."

I sprang up and ran down the hall, past nurses and Chanseys imported from Kanto, and over to the operating room.

Two lines of beds sat along the walls, filled with various sick or injured Pokemon.  I walked slowly over to the second bed down on the right and knelt down next to it.

Daniel was doing a lot better than before.  He was sitting up, awake and breathing.  He looked at me with no small amount of hurt in his eyes.  His beak was wrapped in white gauze bandages.

"Daniel,"  I started, my eyes blurring from tears.  I threw my head onto his lap and flung my arms around his neck.

"I'm sorry."  I sobbed into him.  "I'm sorry, I'm sorry, I'm sorry, I'm sorry, I'm sorry."

Daniel wrapped his small, new-ish arms around me and rubbed my back.

"I'm sorry, I'm sorry, I'm sorry, I'm sorry, I'm sorry, I'm sorry, I'm sorry."

"It's okay."  Daniel whispered through the bandages.

"I'm sorry, I'm sorry, I'm sorry, I'm sorry, I'm sorry, I'm sorry, I'm sorry, I'm sorry, I'm sorry."

"It's okay."

I stayed like that for a long time before I finally thought Daniel was being serious.

Pokémon: 7       Badges: 1         Deaths: 2            Current Location: Dewford Town

Beryl Dreams: Part 9

AN: Holy crap, how did I never post this one?  This is like really important.  Whoops.

Part 9: Stone Cold

"Great work, Tiffany!"  I said as the last Geodude fell to the ground, unconscious.  The young Trainer recalled the small rocky creature and handed over a small stack of cash.

"Congratulations." he said.  "Now you're ready to fight Daimyo Roxanne."

"Great, where is she?"

"Right this way."

A secret door behind him opened.  We walked through the small corridor to a dark room.

Suddenly, the lights all went on.  In front of me, was a giant battlefield littered with jagged boulders.  A lot of Hikers and Trainers with rock-types were in the stands, cheering Roxanne's name.

On the other side of the battlefield, Roxanne stood on a raised platform.  Her brown hair was tied back into with a pink ribbon and she wore a long, blue and pink kimono.

"Welcome, challenger, to the Rustboro Gym!"  she said.  "I am Daimyo Roxanne.  Here, we are one with the Pokemon of the mountains, the Rock-type."

"It is an honor to challenge you, Daimyo."  I said, bowing to her.  "But we will not lose."

"Well, let's see about that."

I walked up to my platform.  The referee walked onto the field and started the match.

"In the red corner, the Daimyo of Rustboro, the queen of the Rock-type, the master of the mountains, Roxanne!"

The crowd screamed for her.

"And in this corner, from Littleroot Town, the newcomer to the Trainer scene, please welcome, Challenger Matt!"

Everyone applauded and some even called my name, wishing me good luck.  I waved to them and smiled, blushing a little.


"Go, Geo!"

"Tiffany, let's go!"

The two combatants stared each other down.  The crowd roared in anticipation of the coming fight.

"Tiffany, Water Gun!"

Tiffany spat water at the small rock, knocking it out.

"Geode, your turn!"  Roxanne said as she sent out her second Pokemon.  Tiffany Water Gun'd it down before it could attack again.

"You're doing well, but how will you handle this?  Go Nozu!"  she said, sending out a small rocky nose Pokemon.

"Alright, you know what to do, Tiffany."

"Right!"  she said, before Water Gunning the Nosepass.

Sadly, it was still standing after the drench, though it was a little unsteady.  It then jumped into the air before slamming down again, launching rocks into the air.  They crashed into Tiffany and pinned her wings.

"Tiffany!"  I screamed.

"I'm okay!"  she called back before launching another Water Gun.  The rocks fell away from her as the Nosepass was pushed back.  Tiffany flew around, trying to avoid attacks and shoot another Water Gun.  Once the Nosepass got its footing, it shot another Rock Tomb and pinned her to the ground.

"Tiffany, Water Gun!  You almost have him!"

"Nozu, Rock Throw!"

Somehow, the Nosepass moved first.  Rocks erupted from the ground as the Pokemon glowed a dull tan.  They hovered over Tiffany, her eyes filled with fear.

I watched helpless as the rocks fell and crushed her.

"Tiffany!"  I screamed.  My vision grew blurry as tears filled my eyes.

"Oh, Arceus."  Roxanne said.  "You have Nuzlocke, don't you?"

I nodded wordlessly, fumbling for the right ball.

"We don't have to end this."  Roxanne tried.

"No."  I said.  "We have to.  Heather, use Absorb!"

Heather flew out into the field and Absorbed the last remaining energy from Nozu.  It fell to the ground, knocked out cold.

The crowd cheered for my Pyrrhic victory.  I ran out onto the field and began frantically scraping the rocks to find Tiffany.

I cringed when I saw her.  Her wings looked broken, her body slightly flattened.  A trail of blood flowed from her beak.

"No."  I whispered.

"Matt?"  she weakly asked.

"I'm right here."  I said, trying to hold back sobs.

"Did we win?"

I smiled through the pain.  "Yeah. We did."

"Did I do good?"

I sniffed.  "You did better than I ever would have imagined."

Tiffany started breathing heavily.  "Can I ask you something?"


"Can you sing to me?"

I blinked back tears and held her mangled body to my chest.

Just close your eyes,

The sun is going down.

You'll be alright,

No one can hurt you now.

Come morning light,

You and I'll be safe and sound.

R.I.P. Tiffany
Lv. 4- Lv. 13

Pokémon: 5 Badges: 1 Deaths: 1 Current Location: Rustboro City

Eulogy:  We have our first death.  This does not bode well for us.  Poor Tiffany.  Managed to take on the entire Gym up to that goddamn Nosepass.  I thought she could still outspeed him after two Rock Tombs, but apparently not.  R.I.P. Tiffany.

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Beryl Dreams: Part 11

Part 11: Grotto Nuevo

I stood on the deck of Mr. Briney's ship and stared out over the ocean.  The sun turned the ocean and sky a blazing amber as it sunk lower in the sky.  I sighed, then walked back down into my room.

John jumped onto me as soon as I flopped onto the bed and curled up into a ball on my chest.  Tyler laid down next to him and Heather perched herself on my headboard.

"Is something going on guys?"  I asked.

"We're just tired."  Daniel said as he jumped onto the bed, followed by Brandon and Bryan.

I smiled as we all drifted asleep, rocked by the gentle waves.

"Thanks for the ride, Mr. Briney!" I said as the team and I walked onto the golden sands of Dewford Island.

The town was much smaller, almost as small as Littleroot.  There was a Pokemon Center, a couple houses and, of course, the Gym.  But that wasn't why we'd come.

"Come on, guys.  Let's go deliver this letter."  I said.  We walked north along the beach, taking in the salty air and the sunshine.

"Hey, kid!"  a man called to me.  I looked and saw a fisherman sitting on the beach a little ways away.

"Battle?"  I asked.

"You know it."  he said, standing up.  "Go, Haepari!"

He set out a small blue and red jellyfish, which floated slightly in the air.

"Come on, let's go Brandon!"  I said as the little bug Pokemon jumped in front of me.

"Poison Sting!"


Brandon jumped forward to slice up the jellyfish, but it shot out a long, purple-glowing tentacle, which hit Brandon square in the chest.  Brandon cut the Tentacool and jumped back, looking queasy.

"Brandon, come back!  Bryan, use Pound!"

Bryan shot forward from behind me, jumped over Brandon and knocked out the Tentacool with one ear strike.

"Dang, you're good."  the fisherman said, recalling his jellyfish.

"Thanks."  I said, scooping up Brandon from the sand and rushing back to the Center.

As soon as we were healed, we walked back to the beach and into Granite Cave.  It felt big and empty, yet still teeming with unseen life.

We walked further and further into the darkness, descending and descending into the inky depths.

Suddenly, I heard another set of footprints approach.  I turned around and stared into the black.

A small, bipedal yellow Pokemon stepped up to me.  He punched his fists together and stared us down.

"Human.  What are you doing here?"  it said.

"I'm just trying to deliver a letter to someone."  I said, waving it at him.

"If you wish to pass, you must defeat me."  he said, stepping back into a fighting stance.

I looked down and saw Brandon walking towards the Makuhita.

"You sure about this, Brandon?"  I asked.

"Yes."  he said, staring down his opponent.

The two Pokemon stared each other down for another moment.  Then, Brandon leaped forward, claws outstretched.  The Makuhita grabbed him and threw him to the ground.  Brandon jumped up again scratched him twice before he was thrown down again.

"You okay?"  Bryan called from right behind me.  I could feel Daniel steaming from a little bit behind me.

As the Makuhita came closer to him, Brandon spun, cutting the Makuhita across the front.

"I'm fine."  Brandon said.

The Makuhita got to his feet.  "You have truly bested me, sir." he said.  "I ask you to finish this fight."

I knelt down next to Brandon and looked at him.  "How would you like to come with us?"  I asked.  "You could train with many different partners and get much stronger."

He looked up at me.  "Do you really think so?"

I smiled.  "Definitely."

He nodded.  I pulled out a Poke Ball and touched it to his forehead.  He was sucked into the ball, and it clicked.

"What's his name?"  Heather asked.

I checked the digital display on top of the ball.  "It says 'Spencer'."

I stood up and let the ball disappear into the ether.  "We'll see him back in town.  Come on, let's go find Steven."

Pokémon: 7       Badges: 1         Deaths: 1            Current Location: Granite Cave

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Beryl Dreams: Part 10

Part 10: My Old Friend

I wandered out of the center the next day, walking slowly down the white streets of Rustboro.  I kept everyone in their Poke Balls for now.  I wanted to be alone.

Despite that, I heard the familiar sound of a Poke Ball opening.  The small increase in temperature told me it was Daniel walking next to me.  I looked down at him and saw his big black eyes staring pleadingly back at me.  I knelt down and picked him up.

"You!"  a voice said.  I slowly turned to look as the scientist from Petalburg Woods came running towards me.

"Yes?"  I asked.

"Matt, right?" he said.  "I need your help.  That Team Aqua jerk from the forest stole some goods from me and then ran towards the caves.  Can you help?"

I sighed.  "Yeah."

He smiled at me.  "Thank you."

I walked, still clutching Daniel, over to Route 116.  We waded through the tall, cool grass, avoiding the eyesights of Trainers and wild Pokemon.

As we entered the cave, we saw and old man sitting next to the entrance, slowly playing a flute.  The high-pitched sound echoed into the dark cave.

The pale stones of the cave glowed with a dim light.  A misty fog made things hard to make out as they moved around silently.

My footsteps resonated in the cave, echoing in the pale mist.  It felt as if I was entering a newly excavated ruin or ancient tomb.  I felt like I was disturbing something old and forgotten.

Suddenly, I heard a low growling noise.  I looked further into the cave and saw a Poochyena shoot at me from the mist.

It sunk its claws into my jacket and tried to take a bite out of my throat.  I fell backwards and let go of Daniel.

Daniel scratched the Poochyena off of me and blew a mass of embers at it.  It fell over, unconscious.

"Arceus damn it!"  the grunt said, running up to get his partner.  He had a briefcase and a Wingull under his arm.  The pain and the poor bird brought tears to my eyes.

"Take the stupid things!"  he said, throwing the bird and briefcase to the ground and grabbing his Pokemon, running past me to the exit.  I scooped up the injured bird and briefcase.

"Excuse me?"  a voice said.  I turned around and saw a small pink ball of a Pokemon walking toward me.

"I saw how you rescued that Wingull.  Would you mind if I came with you?"  he asked.

I smiled.  "Sure.  What's your name?"

"Bryan."  he said as we walked out of the cave.

Pokémon: 6       Badges: 1         Deaths: 1            Current Location: Rusturf Tunnel

Thursday, April 24, 2014

The Reading List: A Separate Peace

Welcome to The Reading List, where I review books an English teacher forced you to read.  This is a new series where I review books I read for English class, and tell you my thoughts on them.  Today, we are going to look at the first book I read for Accelerated English 3-4, A Separate Peace by John Knowles.

Spoiler Warning: The following contains spoilers for A Separate Peace.

A Separate Peace is a novel about friendship during the Second World War.  Gene Forrester, our narrator, is a quiet, studious teenage boy going to New Hampshire's Devon School in 1942.  During the summer session, he befriends his roommate, an energetic and incredibly charismatic boy named Finny.  Throughout the summer, Gene and Finny become great friends and form a secret society, the focal point of which is jumping out of a tall tree into a river.

As the summer progresses, Gene begins to suspect that Finny secretly wants to beat him in academics, as Gene is better academically and Finny is better in sports.  Although Finny begins to soothe Gene's paranoia, it still causes Gene, during one tree jump, to shake the branch, causing Finny to crash to the ground below and break his leg.

In my mind, the book can be divided into four parts, each following the seasons.  The above-mentioned plot takes place during summer, the carefree days where boys can and will be boys, and everything is more laid back.  The war is far enough away to be a distant dream, like the heat on a pleasant summer day.  Gene's paranoia, like annoying insects buzzing around a picnic, is the biggest conflict in this part of the novel, an issue at the time, but not very important.

Finny's leg breaking marks the beginning of fall.  As everyone returns to class, something about the chill in the air suggests that things are about to change.  War, like the coming New England winter, is more present, and several of the boys talk about enlisting.  Leper, a kind-hearted, gentle classmate, is the first to enlist and leaves school.  Meanwhile, Finny actively denies the existence of the war, claiming it's all a conspiracy by old men to keep them down.  As fall changes into winter, Finny seeks to train Gene, sheltered by the thought that the war is far away.

Winter, like in real life, can be described as brief celebrations in the middle of frozen hardship.  Finny organizes a winter carnival, complete with games, music, and alcohol.  As the carnival progresses, though, Gene gets a letter from Leper, saying that he "escaped" from the army.  Gene meets him and finds out that Leper has been driven to some form of madness by his stay in the army.  This makes Gene afraid of the army which he and his friends are so close to being drafted to.  Meanwhile, some of the other boys have been investigating what happened to Finny's leg.  During the "trial" they conduct, Finny loses patience and runs out of the hall, breaking his leg again.  A few days later, Finny is dead, as cold as the New England snow.

After winter comes spring.  New life does indeed bloom at Devon, but it is not new life for the numbed students.  Instead, a group of military workers set up shop at Devon.  The novel ends with the boys leaving school and enlisting in the military while Gene reflects on the events that transpired over the past year.

Gene and Finny's relationship is the main focus, and while it is interesting, both characters are very juvenile.  Finny's delusions about the war may have been important at the time, but they come across as incredibly naive to a modern audience all too familiar with the horrors of World War 2.  Finny, however, is the personality of the duo, as Gene's quiet smarts give him a bad case of blank slate.  The other secondary characters are more interesting, but don't get as much text space when they're not actively contributing to the plot.

In the beginning, the story is incredibly light and carefree.  The various machinations of Finny's mind take precedence over really good characterization of Gene, who doesn't get good depth until after Finny's leg breaks, which comes about a third of the way through the book.  Unfortunately, this is the climax of the book, and everything after that matches the "falling action" archetype well.  There are few stakes in this book and the position of the climax so early kills off any stakes it might have had.

I am not a huge fan of A Separate Peace.  Of all the books I've read for English, this one was the most dated, with the purposeful omission of Shakespeare.  While not a bad book and certainly one whose setting we don't see discussed much in literature, it's a rather dull and easy read.  It feels like it wanted to reach for some big message and let that come at the expense of proper pacing and plot construction.  Not a terrible book by any means, but not the best either.

I hope you enjoyed this first installment of The Reading List.  As I finish up my second year in high school, look forward to more and more reviews of books I have to read, and maybe you did too.  Thank you for reading, and I'll see you next time.

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Beryl Dreams: Part 8

Part 8: Prepare for Trouble

I lobbed the Poke Ball at the small bug.  It wriggled for a few seconds before clicking with a bright red burst of light.  I picked it up and let out our newest member, Brandon.

"Welcome to the team, Brandon!"  I said.  "This is Daniel, John, Tyler, Heather and Tiffany."

"Hello, teammates."  he said.  "I look forward to battling alongside you."

"Let's get back to training, Matt."  Daniel said, tugging at my pant leg.

"Alright, let's go!"

We trained on that route for the rest of the day.  Everyone grew much, much stronger as we fought all of the trainers there.

"Great job, Heather!"  I said as the fainted Marill was returned to its trainer.

"Thanks."  she said.  Suddenly, she started to glow.  Her round form elongated into a thin body, and two massive wings sprouted from its back.

"You have a Beautifly?"  the girl I just beat said.  "I'm so jealous!"

"That was great work, Heather!"  I said, giving her a hug.

"You look great!"  Daniel said.

"Thanks."  she said, smiling somehow.

The sun was going down fast, so we left the route and went back to the Center.  As I handed over the Poke Balls to the nurse, she looked me straight in the eye.

"You're Norman's child, aren't you?"  she asked.

"Yes, I am."  I said.

"Well, welcome to Hoenn!"  she said.

"Thank you!"  I replied, smiling back.

"Are you aware of how the Gym system works for a Trainer?"

"I think so.  Could you explain it to me, though?  It might be different than in Johto."

"Sure thing!"  she said, smiling and handing me back the Poke Balls.  "You see, Hoenn, like most regions, is divided into eight prefectures, each headed by a daimyo.  If you defeat them and their Gym, you win their Badge.  Collect all eight, then head to Ever Grande City and challenge the Elite Four!"

"Wow, sounds like fun!"  I said.

"So, are you going to take on Rustboro's daimyo?"  she asked.

"You bet I am!"

Pokémon: 6 Badges: 0 Deaths: 0 Current Location: Rustboro City

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Beryl Dreams: Part 6

Let's post two things out of order as well!

Part 6: Afforest and Deforest

The team crept into the forest.  The trees turned sunlight into a broken patchwork of light and shadow.  The air smelt damp and musty, the scent of decaying leaves in the air.  Our footsteps squelched on the wet, fallen leaves as we walked deeper into the woods.

"Hey, you!"  a Bug Catcher shouted, running at us as we entered the forest.  "Let's fight!"

I sighed a little bit.  "Alright.  John, let's go."  I said as he jumped off my shoulder.

"Go, Wurmple!"  He said, throwing out the bug Heather had just evolved from.

"Tackle, John."  I said as he knocked out the Wurmple.  The Bug Catcher recalled it and sent out a second Wurmple.  John then knocked it out, as he did with the third, fourth and fifth ones.

"Alright, John.  Let's wrap this up."

"Not yet!  Wurmple, Poison Sting!"

The worm shot a long purple barb that embedded itself in John's side as he knocked it into the nearest tree, unconscious.

"John!"  Tyler said, running out to him.  John rolled over onto its back, turning a sickly shade of lavender.  I picked him up and started to run out of the forest.

"Matt!"  Daniel screamed as he ran beside me.  "I don't think he'll make it!"

"We'll make it!"  I yelled back.  I saw the edge of Petalburg.  My heart leaped a bit.

"Matt..."  John weakly murmured.

I shoved a Potion into his mouth.  "J-just shush, okay, John?  Y-y-you'll be ok-kay..."

A few hours later, John jumped into my lap.  I hugged him close to my chest, a few stray tears falling down my cheeks.  Everyone else crowded around, ecstatic.

"You ready to get going?"  John asked, smiling.

"Yeah, let's go."  I said.

We walked back into the forest, a couple Antidotes in my backpack.  We strolled through the tall grass as the sun began to set, some of the wild Pokemon settling down to sleep.

As we rounded one of the bends, I heard a fight breaking out.

"Hand over the goddamn goods!"  someone yelled.

"Please, don't hurt me!"  someone else responded.

I heard a loud smack, followed by a thud onto the wet ground.  I ran out of my hiding place, team behind me, to help.

A young man in a black and white striped shirt with a blue bandana and blue pants was standing over another man in a lab coat.  His glasses were askew, and his nose was bloody.  The thug's hands were covered in the sticky red liquid, and it looked like his Poochyena was about to draw some more.

"Hey, you!"  I yelled.  He looked at me and snarled.  His Poochyena leaped towards me.  Tiffany swooped down in front and spat a Water Gun at it.

The small dog blinked at her, one of its eyes with a massive pink scar across it.  It rammed into her, knocking her onto the ground and pinning her.

"Tiffany, Water Gun!"  I yelled.  She spat water into its face, knocking it off of her.  I ran up to her with a Potion.  She sprang back up into the air and began again spraying water into the opponent's face.

Eventually, it fell down, knocked out.  The goon looked up at us, panic across his face.  He recalled his Pokemon and ran back the way he came.

I ran to the scientist, who was just putting his papers back into his briefcase, and helped him up.

"Are you okay?"  I asked.

"Yes."  he said, wiping a red streak on his coat.  "Thank you for getting rid of him.  I'd be swamped if I'd lost these goods."

"Well, I just didn't want to let someone get hurt and not help them."

He pulled a small blue and red Poke Ball out of his coat.  "This is a Great Ball.  It's significantly better than a normal Poke Ball.  I'd like you to have this as a reward."

I took it.  "Thank you so much, sir."

"Don't mention it."  he said, smiling.  "Now, I need to get back to Rustboro.  Goodbye!"

He walked off the way the goon went.  I started to walk that way as well when a small bird flew directly at my face.

Daniel jumped in front of me and Scratched it out of the air.  It fell, unconscious, to the ground.

"What was that?"  John asked.

"I think that was our catch."  I said, dejected.

Daniel winced.  "Sorry."  he said.

"Good going, Foghorn."  Tyler muttered.

"Don't worry, I didn't really want a Taillow, that would have evolved into an awesome Swellow..."

"We should get going."  Tiffany said.

"Right."  I said, sighing a bit.  "Let's go."

Pokémon: 5       Badges: 0         Deaths: 0            Current Location: Petalburg Woods

Beryl Dreams: Part 7

It's been roughly five billion years, let's post something!

Part 7: Preparations

We finally made it out of the forest.  The sunlight made me squint, but the cool spray of the lake made the heat bearable.  We fought a couple of battles with the Trainers n the shore.

"Zagu, use Tackle!"  a young Lady said.

"Scratch, Daniel!"  I said.  Daniel dodged the Tackle and knocked the Zigzagoon out with a hard Scratch.

"Great job, Daniel!"  I said.

"Thanks."  he replied, burning sparks flying from his mouth.  They landed near Heather and almost singed her silk.

"AAH!" she screamed, jumping back.

"Sorry!"  Daniel said, wincing.

"That's okay."  I said, wrapping Heather in my jacket.  "Looks like we finally have a Fire-type attack.  That's good!"

Daniel's cheeks turned an even darker orange.  "Thanks."

"No problem.  Maybe we should let the others take a turn."

"Can I try?"  John said, jumping onto the ground.

I looked across the lake.  On the bridge were two little girls, twins, battling each other.  I walked over to them and asked for a battle.

"Okay!"  they said in unison.  They stepped back together and sent out their Pokemon: a Seedot and a Lotad.

"John, Tyler, let's go!"  I said as they leaped into the fray.

"Dot, use Bide!"  one of the girls said.  The little acorn started to glow a dull red.

"Lot, use Astonish!"  The Lotad's eyes glowed red.  Suddenly, Tyler cried out in pain.

"Enough!  John, Tail Whip!  Tyler, keep Tackling the Lotad!"

John's tail started furiously shaking back and forth as Tyler knocked the Lotad around.  It soon fainted and was recalled.

The Seedot continued glowing until a burst of white light shot out from around it.  We closed our eyes as the brilliant display...

...fizzled out into nothing.  We stood, staring at the Seedot.

"Tyler."  I said.  Tyler knocked the seed out with one Tackle.

"You guys worked great out there."  I told John and Tyler as we walked to the end of the route.

"Yeah.  I guess once this guy got some experience, he could mess around with me."  Tyler said, nudging John.

"Thanks!"  John said, smiling a giant smile.

We walked into Rustboro together: a boy, two birds, a cocoon, a raccoon, a dog, and a dream.

Pokémon: 5       Badges: 0         Deaths: 0            Current Location: Rustboro City

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Beryl Dreams: Part 5

Author's Note: I know I've been posting this on the official Nuzlocke forum.  Sadly, you might get spoiled if you read it there before here.  That said, I will keep posting here.

Part 5: Sparkling Twilight

Daniel pecked me slightly on the cheek.  "Matt?"  he said, a concerned tone in his voice.

"Yeah?" I asked.

"Are you okay?"  he asked.  "We've been getting kind of worried."

I sat up in the bed and ran my hand through my hair.  "Yeah, let's go."

In a few minutes, the whole team and I had left Petalburg.  Daniel, Tyler and Heather were walking next to me, while John rode on my shoulder.

The sound of the ocean calmed me down somewhat.  I took a deep breath of the salty air.  It made me miss my old hometown of Olivine.  I remembered the last day we were there.

"Matt!"  she said.

I turned around.  "Mara!"

She ran up to me and threw her arms around me.  "I'm going to miss you."

"Me too."  I said, leaning in to give her a kiss.

"Promise me you'll write."

"I promise.  And as soon as we get settled and the war clears up, we'll probably come back and visit."

"I'll be counting the days..."

"Matt!"  Daniel screamed.  I snapped back to reality.

"What?"  I said.  John was on the ground with everyone, looking up at me.

"You just spaced out and stopped.  Are you feeling okay?"  Heather asked.

"I'm fine.  Really.  Let's just get moving."

"You were thinking about someone, weren't you?"  a voice said.

I turned around.  A small blue and white bird, a Wingull, was hovering behind me.

"Yeah, I was."  I said, tentatively.  "How did you know?"

"You walked out here looking a little nervous and tired, like you hadn't gotten a lot of sleep.  When you smelled the ocean, you looked like you relaxed.  There's no ocean where you could have come from, so you must have thought about another place, probably with another person."

I nodded slightly.  "Impressive."

"And I can't help but notice you guys have a bit of a Rock-type problem.  I could come with you if you want."

I smiled.  "Welcome aboard, Miss..."

"Tiffany."  she said.  John hopped back onto my shoulder and the team, now five strong walked into the grass.

"Now, Heather."  I said, kneeling down next to her.  "We're going to do a lot of training with you today.  Are you ready?"

"Alright."  she said, quietly.

We started to train.  Training involved a lot of training of the others as well, especially in the beginning.  As she grew in power and gained new attacks, she began to take on opponents by herself.  Eventually we fought a youngster on the beach, with Heather taking a prominent role.

After walking him back to Petalburg and healing, we decided to head to the forest.

"Hey."  A boy called as we walked toward the entrance.  He walked toward us slowly.  He was abut my height, though a bit younger, with light blonde hair and a well-tailored blue suit.

"My name is Winston."  he said.  "Would you like to battle?"

"Sure."  I said.

He smirked.  "Very well.  Jigu, show this peasant how it's done."

His Zigzagoon popped out of its Poke Ball, its ginger fur glistening in the pale sunlight.  I sent Heather out.

"Poison Sting!"  I cried, watching the purple barb dig into the prim Pokemon's side.

"Tackle, Jigu dear." Winston said.  Jigu slammed into Heather, sending her flying.  She slithered back to the field, slowly and launched another couple of barbs at it.

"Oh, dear, Jigu, you're poisoned.  That won't do."  Winston said, spraying a yellow-green liquid on it.

"Was that a Full Restore?"  I asked.


"Dude, that's just cheap."

"So what?  I'm rich.  I can do whatever I want, like knock out your Wurmple here.  Jigu, Tackle, please."

Jigu slammed into Heather again, this time sending her flying straight into Tiffany.  She caught her in her beak and set her down gently.

"Easy there.  I'll take it from here."  She sprayed him with a Water Gun while I looked at Heather.

"You okay?"  I asked.

"Yeah."  She said, weakly.  "Maybe healing?"

I smiled.  "After Tiffany beats the snot out of this jerk, we will."

"Matt?"  John said.  "Tiffany and Tyler both got pretty hurt, so I'm gonna fight.   Is that okay?"

"Wait, what?"  I said, looking back up.  Tiffany and Tyler were both on the ground.  Tyler was licking his wounds and Tiffany was struggling along on her minuscule legs.


"The power of good breeding, my friend."  Winston said, looking smug as ever.  "Jigu, be a dear and show this common Zigzagoon how a real Pokemon battles."

Daniel stepped in front of John.  "You did not just insult John.  You're going to pay for that."  he growled.

Jigu lunged at Daniel.  Daniel slid underneath, raking a claw on his belly.  Jigu landed in a dazed heap on the ground.

"Tell your bird to stand down!"  Winston commanded.

"Leave the pet alone, Daniel."  I said.  Daniel sighed then walked back to me.  Winston walked over, picked up Jigu, and thrust some cash at me.

"Look, do-"

"Don't say anything.  Just shut up and take the money, you uncouth slob."  He said before marching off to heal his precious pet.

"What a jerk."  I said.

"I'll say."  Tyler growled.  "His primped up pet sure hits like a-"

Suddenly, Heather began to glow slightly.  We all backed up and stared at her as she glowed a bright white.  After a few seconds, the Wurmple was gone, and in its place was a white oval with spikes sticking out of it.

"She just evolved!"  Tiffany cried weakly.

"Awesome!"  I said, picking Heather up and hugging her.  "I'm so proud of you."

"Thanks."  she said.  "Now, can we get some healing done?"

We laughed as we started walking back to Petalburg.

Pokémon: 5       Badges: 0         Deaths: 0            Current Location: Route 104

Thursday, February 20, 2014

El Amor es de Oro: Day 8

February 20, 2014

Lena and I walked into the atrium together.  It had been a couple of days since we last hung out together.  I'd been too focused on curling to give her a thought.  But, Max had changed my mind.

"Dude, you have to go out with her."  he said three nights ago when we got back to the room.


"Yeah, man.  She totally digs you."

"But we have-"

"A game that we're going to lose tomorrow?  Dude, have some fun.  The games are over soon anyway.  You gotta get some digits."

"Alright." I said before turning out the lights.

Now, we were walking together, talking in the main hallway.  The sun was just setting over the Black Sea, turning the sky and water a beautiful orange.  People were hanging out, but it felt less busy than before.  It was as if everyone had taken this moment to watch the sunset and enjoy their time here.

"I'm sorry you guys aren't in the finals."  she said.

"We never really thought we'd get there.  It's fine."

She grabbed my hand gently as we walked.  "It's so beautiful out here tonight."

"Not as beautiful as you."

Even in the orange light, her dark skin blushed.  I'm sure mine did too.  God, that was stupid.  Who was I, Max?

"Thank you."  she said.

Well, it worked.  Thank God.

"You want something to eat?"  I asked.

"Sure."  she said.  We walked over to a small cafe, got two plates of pierogis, and sat down in front of a window.

"This has been the best time of my life."  I said.

"Same here." she said.

"What's been your favorite part?"  I asked.

She looked at me, her dark eyes bright in the low light.  "You."

I scooted over to her and put my arm around her.  She leaned in close to me and put her feet up on a third chair.  We sat there, watching the sun sink lower and lower until it disappeared below the Black Sea.

"I can't remember the last time I saw a sunset."  I said.

"Me neither."

We untangled ourselves and threw away our food.  Then, I walked her back to her room.

"Buenas noches."  I said.

"Buenas noches, mi carino."  she said.  She leaned in and gave me a kiss on the cheek, then closed the door.

I walked in a daze back to the room.  Max and Matt were talking.  I walked in and flopped on the bed.

"So, the date went well?"  Max asked, smiling.

I smiled back.  "You could say that."

Thursday, February 13, 2014

El Amor es de Oro: Day 7

February 13, 2014

"Hey."  Max said, clapping me on the shoulder.  "You got this."

I smiled at him, then turned back to the ice.  Tyler and Max were waiting ahead of me, brooms at the ready.  Bryan was waiting down at the end of the ice, showing me where I needed to throw.  It was the final stone, the last shot.

I nodded to all three of them.  They nodded back.  I knelt down and grasped the handle of the stone.

I looked up to the British team on the other side of the ice.  Matt was standing there, watching me while one of his friends talked at him.

He was watching me.  Why?

I looked back to the ice and tried to clear my head.

I took a deep breath in.

I breathed out and pushed off the ice.

The stone and I slid forward, gliding on the smooth ice.  I gritted my teeth, trying to keep my path steady and straight.

I let go of the stone.

Max and Tyler started to sleep as I stopped, helpless to what would happen.  Bryan shouted to them, telling them when to sweep and when to stop.

I took a sharp, harsh breath as they finally peeled away from the ice.  Two stone resounded with a loud CLACK as they stopped in the target.

I sighed and turned back to the scoreboard.

One point.  Nowhere near enough to win.  I looked back to see Matt and his team cheering, celebrating.

I picked myself up off the ice as my team joined me.  We all walked over to the Brits and shook hands.

"Great match."  Matt said, pulling me into a bear hug.

"Same to you."  I said, rubbing my arm where he squeezed me.

We walked out of that arena together.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

El Amor es de Oro: Day 6

February 12, 2014

I took a deep breath and knocked on the door.  The coffee in my other hand shook slightly with each tap.

Lena opened the door, wearing a tank top and sweatpants.  "Ryan, what are you doing here?"

"I came to bring you breakfast."  I said, lifting the plate of muffins from the ground.

She smiled.  "Come in."

I walked into her room.  Aside from the bags and clothes, it was exactly the same as mine.  I sat down on the bed and placed the plate next to me.  She grabbed it and sat next to me.

"So I saw you didn't do so well."  she said, taking a sip of the coffee.

"Yeah, but it's all leading up to the finals.  I'm not worried."

"I'm sure you'll do great."

"Yeah.  Hey, how'd you do in your game?"

She was quiet for a little bit.  "I got 46th."

"Oh."  I said.  "I'm sorry."

"Don't be."  she said.  "That's great!"

"Oh."  I said, surprised.

"That's better than I did last year."

I smiled.  "Well, that's good."

She set her muffin down and looked at me.  "Are you doing anything later today?"

"Match against Denmark."

"Right.  After that?"

"Probably going to rest up or something.  Why?"

She turned back to her plate.  "I just wanted to see if you wanted to hang out."

I put my hand on her shoulder.  "I'd love to."

"Really?" she said, smiling and looking up at me.

"Yeah."  I said.

She hugged me.  "Thanks."

"No prob."  I said, hugging her back.

All of a sudden, my watch beeped.  "I'd better get going."  I said.

"Oh, okay.  Thanks for breakfast."

"No problem.  See you later."

"Bye!  Good luck!"

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

El Amor es de Oro: Day 5

February 11, 2014

Max and I got back to our hotel rooms and flopped on the bed.  Two losses in a row had really drained our spirits.  I turned over onto my back and closed my eyes, trying to take a nap.

An hour or so later, I woke up.  Max was still sleeping, but I was starving.  I threw on a jacket and walked out to the cafe.

I poured two cups a coffee, bought a bagel and sat down at a table.  I spread cream cheese on my bagel and was taking a bite when a small Japanese girl walked up to the table.

"Um, excuse me, is that seat taken?"  she asked.

"No, take it."  I said.

"Thank you."  she sat down across from me and ate her muffin.

"You're Lena's friend, right?"  I asked.

She swallowed.  "Yeah, actually.  You're Ryan?"

"Yeah.  Nice to meet you."

"Same here.  I'm Renai."

We sat for a little while, her eating and me sipping.  The event on the T.V. ended and switched to something else.

"Hey, it's biatlon!"  Renai said.  I looked up at it too.

Women lined up at the starting line, skis on their feet and guns on their backs.  They were tensed up, ready to sprint off and compete for the ultimate prize.

"Look, there's Lena, in the back!"  Renai shook me and pointed.  I looked and saw her, goggles and uniform on, ready for the race.

"I hope she does well."  I said.

Renai looked at me.  "She won't win, you know."

"Yeah."  I said.  "I'm pretty sure she does too."

"Then why does she do it?"

"She can compete on the world stage.  If she can do at least a little better than her best, she's happy."  I looked to her.  "I don't expect I'll be taking the gold in curling, but I'm not complaining."

"I guess you're right."  Renai said.  "I guess it's different for me."

I glanced at her sideways.  "Figure skater?"

"Yeah."  she said.  "How'd you know?"

"Just a guess."  I stood up.  "Well, I need to get going.  It was nice meeting you Renai."

"Oh, yeah, same here, Ryan."  she said, turning back to the T.V.

I walked back up to the room.  Max was just waking up when I shoved the coffee into his hands and rubbed his back.

"You feeling okay?"  he asked when I sat down next to him.

"Yeah."  I said, thinking about Lena, up there in the mountains, skiing and shooting.

Sunday, February 9, 2014

El Amor es de Oro: Day 4

February 9, 2014

"Ryan!"  I heard her say.  I turned and saw Lena running up to me.

"Hey, Lena!"  I said.  "What are you doing here?"

"I remembered you guys are starting today.  I just wanted to wish you good luck."

"Thanks!"  I said.  Max grabbed my arm.

"Come on, Ryan, we have to go."

"Okay.  See you, Lena!"  I said as the rest of the team moved on.  I ran up to Max and fell into step.

Max playfully punched me in the arm.  "You sly dog."


"You somehow got a girl to like you in less than three days.  That takes skill."

I chuckled a bit.  "Yeah, right.  She does not like me."

"I wouldn't be so quick to right this off."  he said.  "It took me a good year to get Tammy to go out with me, and it looks like this Lena chick is willing to date you after a few nights."

"Please.  All we did was hang out at the rink, then get breakfast the next morning."

"Wow.  You already got her on two dates.  That's some hardcore romancing."

"I-"  I stopped and stared at him.  "'Hardcore romancing?'"

"Yeah.  What?"

I shook my head.  "That is potentially the dumbest thing you have ever said."

"At least its not as dumb as what you say."

"Hey!"  I said, hitting him in the arm.  We laughed as we walked out of the village and over to the stadium.

The arena was as expected: long rows of ice, people warming up, seats half-filled.  We set our bags down and started to lace up our shoes.

"Do you think she actually likes me?"  I asked.

Max was silent for a moment.  "It's as good a possibility as anything else."

I smiled.  "Could you maybe..."

"Give you some advice?"  he asked.


He finished tying his shoes and looked at me.  "First, ask yourself.  Do you really like her?"

"I- I don't know.  I just met her."

"Well, when you figure that out, then I can start helping you."

I finished lacing up the shoes and smiled at him.  "Thanks."

"No problem, bud."  He said, clapping me on the shoulder.

We stepped onto the ice.  Our opponents, the Norwegian team, stood on the other side of the ice, with pants that looked like my grandma's curtains.

"But, right now, let's focus on kicking these Vikings' ass."  I said.

"That's my Ryan."

Saturday, February 8, 2014

El Amor es de Oro: Day 3

February 8, 2014

I woke up at a little after 8 the next morning.  Max was still snoring in the bed next to me.  I got dressed, sprayed on some deodorant, and went down to the cafe.

I didn't see her when I walked down, so I sat down at one of the tables near the edge of the cafe.  Teammates from every nation were eating breakfast, laughing loudly at jokes and conversing about...something.  I couldn't understand them even when talking slowly.

"Ryan?"  I heard an accented voice say.  I looked up and saw Magdalena standing there.

"Magdalena, it's good to see you."  I said, standing and shaking her hand.  We sat down and started to talk.

"How did you sleep?"  she asked.

"Well enough."  I said.  "Not like back home, but it was good."

"Same here."  she said.

"Would you like anything?"  I asked, standing.

"Just some coffee, please."

"Got it."

I walked over to the large tank of coffee and poured two cups.  I grabbed a few sugar packets and cream cups and walked back, setting one of the cups in front of her.  I poured two sugar packets in my cup and swirled it.  She just started drinking hers.

"Your Spanish is very good."  she said.  "Where did you learn?"

"I learned it in school, actually.  We had to take a foreign language to graduate, so I chose Spanish.  But last summer, I spent some time working in Buenos Aires."

"It's a beautiful city."  she said.  "Have you ever been to Mendoza?"

"No, I haven't.  Is that where you're from?"

"I'm from Palmira.  It's a small town outside of Mendoza.  It's a lovely little town."

"Well, I'll have to visit next time I'm there."

We sat quiet for a while, sipping our coffee.  The flat screens played some skiing footage a couple Nordic guys were deeply interested in.

"How long have you been curling?"  she asked.

I swallowed and put my cup down.  "I actually started after the last Games.  My friend was kind of obsessed with it, so we found a trainer and started getting to work.  How about you?"

"I started skiing when I was a little girl.  I always loved it, and when I was fifteen, I started training in the biathlon."

"Is this your first Games?"

"No, I went to the Games last year.  You probably wouldn't have seen me.  Argentina doesn't do too well at the Games."

"Well, with you on their team, I think Argentina might get a medal this year."

She chuckled a little and blushed.  "Thank you."

"Magdalena!"  one of her teammates called as she ran up to her.  "Nuestra entrenador quiere hablar sobre el evento."

"Bueno, estoy yendo." she said, standing up.  "I have to go.  It was good to see you Ryan."

"Same here, Magdalena."  I said.

"Please, call me Lena."  she said before leaving with her friend.

I threw the cups away and walked back to the room.  Max was still snoring away.

Friday, February 7, 2014

El Amor es de Oro: Day 2

February 7, 2014

I walked back into the village, still aglow from the opening ceremony, as were the other hundreds of athletes around me.  Everyone was talking quickly and excitedly and sharing photos.  As soon as I could, I ducked down the hall into my room.

"WHOO!"  Max said, beanie askew and enthusiastically waving his flag.  "That was AMAZING!"

"Calm down!"  I said, changing into a Team USA t-shirt.

"I'm just too freaking amped!" he screamed, shaking my shoulders.  I put my hands on his and held him down.

"Come on, man, keep it cool.  We've got that party at the rink."

He took off his beanie and sweater and changed into a t-shirt.  He grabbed my arm.  "Come on, man, let's go!"  he said.

We ran through the halls, pushing past Russians and Ukrainians having conversations, a group of Swedish skiers playing tag in one of the atria, Chinese and Irish girls hanging out at the cafe, and a couple Norwegians flirting with Peruvian girls, until we got to the ice rink.

It was packed.  Everyone was on the ice, or in various stages of putting on skates.  People were milling about, introducing each other, laughing.  Max and I laced on skates and glided out onto the ice.

We hadn't been on the ice since practice back home.  It felt good to be back there, the cold, the slight wobbling at first, the sound of metal scraping and slicing frozen water.

A loud shout silenced us.  We all looked over at a tall man in a German uniform standing on a cooler.  He was held in place by two of his teammates.

"Wir danken für Ihr Kommen."  he started.  "Wir sind alle sehr stolz, hier in Sotschi. Wir sind in der Blüte unseres Lebens. Ja, es darf gefeiert werden!"

Everyone cheered.  I cheered with them, though I asked Max, "Do you know what he said?"

"No idea.  Come on, let's skate!"

We skated around for a while, talking to people.  It was kind of annoying having the figure and speedskaters darting in and out of us, but it was still fun.  Someone started passing around some Russian beer in plastic cups.  It tasted nothing like the stuff I was used to, but I drank it in the spirit of the Games.

Eventually, the ice started thinning out as people started leaving.  A New Zealander I was talking to was leaving on the arm of some Turkish guy when I was knocked down onto the ice.

"Max," I started, picking myself up.  "How many-"

"Disculpe, señor!"  the girl who bumped into me said.  I was struck by her for a moment before regaining my voice.

"No, it's no trouble.  Es mi culpa."  I said, hoping my three years of Spanish in high school would pay off.

She had big, dark eyes and a long, curly ponytail that ran down her back.  Her skin was tanned slightly, probably from days spent on the slopes.  She was small with powerful legs.  Her Spanish was thickly accented with the Argentine accent I heard on my trip to Buenos Aires.

I held my hand out.  "Tienes problemas patinando sobre el hielo?"  I asked.

"No, no tengo problemas."  she responded.  "Mi amiga allí me empujó."

I looked over and saw a small a petite Japanese girl staring at us while skating with some other figure skaters.

"No es una problema."  I replied.  "Me llamo Ryan.  Cómo te llamas?"

"Magdalena Castro.  Soy de la Argentina."

"En cuál deporte vas a competir?"  I asked as we skated back towards the entrance.

"En el biatlón.  Y tu?"

"El curling."

She nodded.  "Vas a competir el domingo, no?"

"Sí." I said.  "Y cuándo vas a competir?"

"El martes."  she said.  We walked out of the rink and took our skates off.  We talked more as we walked until we reached the main atrium.

"Cuándo veo a ti otra vez?"  she asked.

"Quiéres desayunar en el café manana?"

"Sí.  Nos vemos."  she said, walking back to her room.

"Nos vemos!"  I called after her.

*If my German sucks, don't blame me, blame these guys.

Thursday, February 6, 2014

El Amor es de Oro: Day 1

I love the Olympics.  I really do.  So, to show my love for it, I thought I would write a little short story for each day of the competition.  Enjoy!

February 6, 2014

"We made it!"  Max said, jumping up and down.  I nearly fell over as he shook me, dark blue suitcases in hand.

"Seriously, calm down." I said, moving with the crowd into the Olympic Village.  I fumbled in my backpack for my entrance pass.

"Well, excuse me."  Max said as we got in line behind a group of girls speed-talking in French.  "I'm just a bit excited that we finally got into the Olympics."

I chuckled a bit as we moved forward.  "This is your dream.  I'm just glad you're happy."

"Oh, come on.  If it was just my dream, you wouldn't have nearly pushed me off the team in qualifiers."

"I didn't even know what curling was until you forced me to watch it in Vancouver."

"And hasn't it made your life so much better?"

"It's definitely made it more interesting."  I said as I handed over my pass.  The woman scanned it, then handed it back to me.

"Welcome to Sochi, Mr. White."  she said.

"Thank you." I said, picking up my bags and meeting up with the rest of the Americans.

"Alright, guys!"  one of the coaches said.  "I know you're all excited, but just remember to be smart.  We're on Floor 3 in Building A.  Get your room mates and get settled in."

We picked up our bags and all moved as one unit through the halls.  Athletes in uniforms conversed in what sounded like every language around the world.  More people than I'd ever seen before were milling about, relaxing, joking, hanging out.  In a small cafe, people were sitting, staring at figure skating on flat screens.

Max and I set our bags down in our room.  I started to unpack as Max dashed out of the room, probably to get a Coke or something.

Suddenly, I heard a knock on the door.  I turned around to see a tall, lanky fellow with dark hair and a bright, white smile in the open door.

"Hey, mate.  How you doing?"  he said with the high accent of the Brits.

"Good.  Yourself?"  I said, walking over to him.

"Not bad.  Name's Matt Davis."  he said, holding his hand out.

I took it and gave it a good shake.  "Ryan White."


"Yeah.  You too?"

"Yeah.  Guess we'll be seeing each other out on the ice."


He looked down at his watch, then looked back at me.  "Listen, I've got to run.  Some of the Germans are putting together a party down at the ice rink after the ceremony tomorrow.  Tell your roommate to come."

"'Kay.  I will."  I said.

He smiled.  "Great.  Nice to meet you, Ryan."

"Same here, Matt."  I said.  He walked away and I closed the door.  I turned back to my suitcase and resumed unpacking.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Beryl Dreams: Part 4

Part 4: Paternal Instinct

The four of us walked back into Oldale Town to rest.  After that, we set out for Route 102.  I warned the guys to be wary.  There were a lot more Trainers here than on other routes.

"Hey, kid."  Tyler said, walking next to John.  "You ever been a fight?"

"N-no."  John said.  "Why would I?"

"Arceus Christ, you've never been in a fight?"  Tyler shouted.  "What good are you then?"

"Stop making fun of him, Tyler."  Daniel warned.

"Hey, you!"  a high voice said.  We all looked to see a small boy running towards us.

"We just made eye contact!  Now we have to battle!" he shouted before sending out his Zigzagoon.  Tyler stepped in front of us.

"Watch and learn, kid.  This is how you fight."  he said, his fur bristling.

The spiky Pokemon lunged at him and knocked him down.  Daniel jumped into the fray and scratched our foe, knocking him out.  The kid handed over some money and I walked with him back to town.

"How old are you?"  I asked, a bit concerned with how young he looked.

"10.  I just got my first Pokemon from the new Gym Leader in Petalburg." he said, brimming with excitement.

"Nice.  Well, here's the center.  See you around!"

"Bye!" he called back as he walked into the center.  I walked back down the route while Tyler and Daniel argued on the ground below me.

"I had him!  Why did you but in?"

"You were going to get hurt.  At least stop complaining about it."

"Whatever."  Tyler huffed.

As we walked down the route, we fought another group of Trainers; a Bug Catcher who walked back to Oldale alone, another new trainer who went back home to Petalburg, and a Lass who asked me to walk her home.

"Bye Matt!"  she said as she walked inside her house.

"Bye Tiana!" I said.  The team and I walked to the Center and relaxed.

It was late that night.  Daniel and Tyler were sleeping on the other bed while I talked to Mom on the phone.

"Alright, Mom, I'm going to bed.  I love you.  Bye."  I said, then hang up the phone.

Suddenly, John jumped up on the bed.  "Matt?"  he said.

"Yeah?"  I asked.

"I was just wondering, um, could I maybe try a battle?"  he asked, sheepishly.

I swung my feet off the bed, stepped into a pair of slippers and pulled on my shirt and jacket.  "Let's go."

John beamed at me, then jumped on my shoulder.  We sneaked out of the Center and onto the dark route.  The Pokemon were much more active, as fewer people would be out here at night.

"Now, John.  You can't knock this Pokemon out.  I want to catch it."


Just then, a small red and white caterpillar walked out of the brush.  John tackled it and it flew into the trees.  I threw the Poke Ball into the trees.  It hit the Pokemon and fell to the ground.  After hearing the click, John grabbed the ball in his mouth.  The two of us sneaked back into the room and let it out.

"Where am I?"  the Wurmple asked.

"It's okay."  I said.  "You fought my friend John and I caught you."

"Oh." she said, growing quiet.

"What's your name?" John asked.

"Heather."  she murmured.

"Nice to meet you, Heather."  I said.  "I'm Matt, and those two are Daniel and Tyler."

"Can I go back into the ball?"  she asked.

"Sure thing."  I said.  She was enveloped in red light and returned to the ball.  I climbed back into the bed and John wriggled next to me.

The next day, we walked into the Gym.  Heather, still a bit shy, stayed in her ball.  Unfortunately, John was having a hard time convincing Daniel and Tyler that he actually had a battle.

Regardless, I walked into Dad's Gym.  It was very plain, with boxes up against the walls.  Dad was standing in the foyer, directing his Trainers.

"Dad!"  I said, running to give him a hug.  He turned to embrace me.

"Matt!  It's good to see you!"  he said.  "How's everything back home?"

"Things are going fine."  I said.  "How's the Gym?"

"It's exciting!  I missed being a Gym Leader ever since Whitney took over Goldenrod."

Just then, a small boy walked into the room.  "Um, sir?"  he asked.

"Wally?  What are you doing here?"  Dad asked.

"Um, I was wondering if you could help me get a Pokemon?"  he weakly asked.

Dad smiled.  "Matt, why don't you take Wally out to the route and help him catch a Pokemon."

Wally's eyes lit up.  "Really?"

"Sure.  Take these to help you."  Dad said, handing him two Poke Balls.

"Thank you sir!"  he said.

"Come on, Wally."  I said.  We walked out to the route and, after some confusion as to which ball was which, Wally returned with a new friend, a Ralts.

"So. Dad," I asked once Wally left, "can we battle now?"

Dad looked a bit shocked.  "H-how many Pokemon do you have?"

"Four, why?"

He sighed.  "Son, I think I'm just too strong for you."

My stomach dropped.  I was crushed.  "But, why?"

"I think it would be best if you came back once you had four badges."  he said.  "Say hi to your mother for me."

I walked out the Gym as he returned to his work.  I stayed at the Center that night and just slept, dreamlessly.

Pokémon: 4       Badges: 0         Deaths: 0            Current Location: Petalburg City