Aboard the Ryujin
The first thing that I notice about the ship is its name. Ryujin is inscribed in gold on the hull, with a long, blue dragon stenciled along the entire side of the ship. I recognize the name; Ryujin was a mythical god of the sea in an archaic mythology from a long time ago; I forget where it originated.
I’m one of the last people to board the ship; I’m keeping an eye out for anyone I know, anything to distract me from the misery of the scene I just left at home. I see a couple faces from school that I recognize, who I exchange nods with, but nobody I actually know. I already said my goodbyes to most of my friends, but I know I at least have one friend coming. Finding her is all I need to save me from the nervous pit in my stomach; someone to relate to. Her name is Kara, and she’s one of my best friends.
I start walking around the deck. In total, I’d guess there are at least 300 people here; Pacifidlog got a lot bigger after the evacuation. Almost everyone here, like me, want to escape the crowded prison that was Pacifidlog. There’s something eerie about a town so close to the water from all sides, with nothing but vacant ocean visible. The prospect of leaving was an attractive one.
Still no sign of Kara. I had figured she’d be looking for me as well, so I’m a little concerned that we haven’t seen each other. I find an area with some chairs lined against the cabin wall, and sit down, pulling out my phone. We’re still docked, so I should be getting reception. I find Kara in my address book, and give her a call.
“The person you’re trying to reach cannot come to the phone right now. Please leave your name and number at the tone.”
The answering machine. This worries me more. Kara was always a very social person, and as far as I knew she kept her phone on at all times. So what was up with this? I leave her a quick message, asking her to let me know where she is.
As I hang up, a voice comes over the loudspeakers, which I hadn’t noticed until just now. One of them is right above my head, and scares the living hell out of me when I hear it.
“This is your captain speaking. Final preparations for launch are almost finished, but there will be a small delay of about 20 minutes. We apologize for the delay, and thank everyone on board for their patience.”
I am a bit comforted by this. She’s probably late, and just getting on board now. I stand up, and begin to shuffle through the crowd, making my gradual way back to the front end of the ship. Contrary to what I had hoped, nobody is boarding. Whatever the delay is, it’s not buying Kara any extra time, which hopefully means she is already on board, after all, and just being elusive.
As I continue roaming about the deck and cabins, my concern slowly grows. She must be looking for me as well. Why wouldn’t she have her phone on? The minutes drag on, but I’m startled when the ship’s whistle blows, as if knocked out of a daze. It’s time to ship out.
As the deafeningly loud sound of the whistle comes to an end, I hear a softer, closer sound, coming from my pocket. The musical ring of my phone.
I snap it open, recognizing the number on the screen as Kara’s.
Her voice is quiet, and seems a little sad. Something is wrong.
“Kara, where are you?”
“Where have you been hiding?” My voice comes out as a little indignant. “I’ve been roaming around like a crazy person for a half hour, trying to find you.”
“Tess, I’m sorry…”
“…what? Kara, what’s going on?” I can feel a pit starting to form in my stomach. I’ve been refusing to believe what is now starting to seem obvious.
“Tess, I’m not on board. I’m not coming.”
“…What? What are you talking about?” The pit is now a void, sucking everything out from the inside.
“Tess, my mom and dad had a talk with me last night…”
“Are they making you stay?! They can’t do that, Kara! My mom tried to do the same thing, but you already applied and were approved, so legally they can’t sto-”
“Tess.” Her voice is stronger now, more solid.
“They never accepted me, Tess. My uncle works in the trainer administration office, and my dad asked him to deny me. He’s afraid for me, Tess.”
I stare out at the town from the deck. The boat has started moving, and the dock is already a little ways off. The reception will cut out soon.
“Kara, we…we were going to travel together…”
“I know, Tess. I’m going to see if I can convince my uncle to put my application back in. But I can see where my family is coming from. They’ve seen some really bad things, and they don’t want to see me go.”
The void in my stomach has consumed me. I can’t speak. I don’t know what to say. I just stare blankly out at my ever-shrinking home.
“Tess, there’s nothing I can do…”
“I KNOW THAT!” Suddenly, a switch turns off in my mind. Maybe it’s me feeling overwhelmed by what Kara’s just told me, or maybe it’s stress from the scene at my house this morning, or possibly a combination of the two, but I’ve suddenly inverted from not knowing what to say to wanting to say everything at once.
“Tess, calm down.”
“SCREW YOU!” I’m shouting, and several people are staring. I can feel the tears coming. I don’t care. “SCREW YOU, AND SCREW YOUR DAMN FAMILY! WE WERE GOING TO BE…” My voice weakens.
“We were going to be a team, Kara…”
I snap my phone closed. For a second I clench it tightly in my hand. Then, without really thinking, I hurl it into the sea. It makes a tiny kerplunk! In the water. The people who were staring turn away now, back to whatever they were doing before.
My mind begins to clear of the rage that had briefly flooded it, leaving only a vacant, empty, shocked sadness. I move slowly to the rail at the edge of the deck, putting my hands on it to support my weight. I lean against it, and watch as a few tears fall into the waters below. It doesn’t really register that they’re mine.
The only thing that had given me the courage to stand up to my mother this morning had been anticipation of what was to come. I knew that whatever happened at the house, soon I would be with Kara, who would understand and sympathize. She was always able to relate to me so well. But now the truth sinks in. The cold, unpleasant, frightening truth. I’m headed off to a strange land, with danger on all sides, and only my Pokemon there to protect me. And now I’m facing it alone.
The angry aura about my companion fades after a while, as the boat approaches. I can see a large number of people milling about on board. The way Jacob has presented himself so far, I’m not sure if he’ll want to run away from all of these people or just stare at them. I hope he chooses the latter, as it would be easier to control.
To my surprise, he doesn’t do either of these things. As everyone files on board, he keeps his eyes fixed on what’s in front of him, following my pace with a vacant expression.
“I want to watch when we leave.”
It’s odd how quickly I get used to him not speaking; his words startle me.
“I want to watch from out here.” He repeats. “When we set off.” He looks at me, and his eyes are expectant; he hopes I’m okay with that. I smile reassuringly at him.
“Sure. It’ll help to watch as we leave; give us a little more closure.” I don’t need all that much closure, but Jacob seems like he might have more fondness for his home than he admits. “Now, c’mon. Let’s see where they’re hiding breakfast.”
We sit down in the cabin’s cafeteria. I have a muffin and coffee, and he just has a banana, saying he’s not very hungry. I ask if it’s nerves. He just shrugs.
We eat in silence for a couple minutes, and then I notice something in his eyes; they’ve become fixated on something just behind me. I turn to take a look.
At the booth behind us sits a girl, probably around 16. She sits leaning against the wall, her eyes staring sadly out the window. She’s a very pretty girl, despite the moist lines on her cheeks from recent tears. I turn back, smirking at my young companion.
“Aww, do you have a crush already?” I prod teasingly. His face goes slightly red, and he averts his eyes.
“She looks sad is all…“ he mumbles. “…I felt bad for her.” This is interesting. Up until this point, I haven’t heard much emotion in his voice, but he sounds genuinely sympathetic. I exhale.
I am about to speak when the horn sounds; we’re about to start moving. On a whim, I lean forward in my seat.
“Listen, bud. How about you go out and watch us set off like you wanted, and I’ll talk to this pretty young lady behind us, see if I can’t cheer her up for you. Okay?” I say, with a sly grin. He blinks in response, and stands up, walking quickly and quietly outside.
By myself now, I lean with my back against the window, stretching my legs out along the seat. I look to my right, where the girl Jacob was staring at is still sitting, still staring, still sad. As far as I can gauge there’s no real purpose to what I’m about to do, but it might gain me a little respect from Jacob, and I’m happy to do it on his behalf.
“Hey.” I say, in the girl’s general direction. She lifts her head up from where it rests on the window, and looks at me.
“You talking to me?”
“Yeah,” I say with a grin. “Is that okay?”
“Sure.” She says, with a shrug. I can see the trace of a smirk tug at the edge of her lip. This encourages me.
“My friend and I couldn’t help noticing-”
“He just left, he’s on deck.”
“Anyway, we couldn’t help but notice how sad you look, for someone embarking on a big, exciting adventure.” I raise an eyebrow in what I hope comes off as partially inquisiatory, partially silly. I don’t want to come off as too prying.
She exhales, and slumps in her seat. “It’s, um…it’s a long story.”
“I hear you, say no more.” I say with a nod. After a moment, I shift into a kneeling position, knees on my seat, leaning towards her. “I’m Keith, by the way.” I say, smiling and outstretching a hand to shake. After a moment, she shakes it, giving a small smile that looks only partially forced, as if she wants to smile but can’t muster up the happiness to go all the way there.
“I’m Tess. Nice to meet you.”
Shattered Gemstones (c) Jay Petrequin, 2012