From Everland to Reborn ~ Episode 67
Me on January 1st, 2020: This year, I'ma gonna surprise my buddies by posting FEtR more regularly.
Me on January 29th, 2020: Why do I always make a fool of myself. BUT it's a chapter longer than usual! Does that make it better? Idk maybe? Or maybe not.
Very brief recap:
You might expect that lunch with Mrs. Gwendolyn and I at the same table would be awkward, and you’d only be partially right. We sat at the wooden table that had exactly four chairs and four plates for us. Once Hazel and I took our spots, Mrs. Gwendolyn approached Hazel and whispered something about time and food* to her ear, and then sat herself directly in front of me. Hazel’s father also joined us and sat opposite to Hazel, because that was the side of the table that was wider, for his wheelchair. For just a few moments, there was an air of unease at the table, and no one said or looked at anyone else sharing the table. However, once everyone started eating, the mood slowly but surely started warming up.
Then, Mrs. Gwendolyn surprised me by being the first to break the silence, and with a question addressed at me.
“So, Vanilla. I’m assuming you aren’t from these parts of Reborn? At least I know none near Ametrine City that wears a pink flowy no-sleeved dress like yours with our cold weather.”
I was so astonished that she directed a word at me out of everyone at the table, that I nearly dropped my knife. The content of the question was also bizarre, for it made me wonder if Aladdin had omitted such casual information like our hometown.
“I’m from Everland,” I replied. “I traveled to Reborn to take on the Gym challenge, for we don’t have pokemon back home.”
“Everland? What a coincidence, don’t you think, mom?” Hazel said, but Mrs. Gwendolyn paid no mind to her comment.
“I see. How has the Reborn League treated you? Did you have a chance to fight Kiki? She used to be my sensei long ago, but I heard she passed away recently.”
“Yes, Gwendolyn actually used to be Apophyll Academy’s best martial artist a couple decades ago,” added her husband. “Too bad she couldn't finish her training there.”
I didn't ask why, but questions weren't particularly necessary to get anyone of this family to speak, apparently.
“I couldn't find the peace of mind Kiki told us to seek. I did greatly on courses like judo which required bodily strength, but flunked every single one of the courses that focused on the mind.”
“I don't believe peace of mind can be attained. Only the dead can have the lack of stimulus necessary to attain it,” I said, unsure whether my comment would sit well with Mrs. Gwendolyn. Perhaps it was wishful thinking, but she looked quite pleased.
“I wonder if Kiki did. She always appeared serene,” was all she said about it, before changing gears and asking me of my own experience with the league.
I recounted my time in Reborn since the moment I set foot in Lower Peridot Ward months ago. However, I fumbled over words and omitted quite a few details about my and the Gym leaders’ involvement with the Reborn police, and my unfortunate encounters with Aqua Gang, Magma Gang and the rest of 7th Street. My ‘adventures’, if I may call them so, caught the curiosity of Hazel’s father in particular.
“I do listen to Gossip Gardevoir’s channel on the radio,” he said out of the blue. “We would watch it on the TV, but it's been quite long since it was broken, and we haven't had the time or resources to repair it.”
“And what does GG’s show have to do with Vanilla?” asked Hazel, though I'm sure all three of us had the same question in mind.
“Oh, haha. I think I jumped topics without explaining my thought process,” the old man scratched his head. “You see, GG sometimes talks about a girl called Vanilla, but because I couldn't see her picture, I couldn't piece together that it was you all along. Gwendolyn, you’d know this if you paid attention to her show.”
“I prefer to listen to music on the radio,” Mrs. Gwendolyn replied.
“In any case, you can now rest assured that this girl isn't anyone suspicious. GG says she's even an honorary member of the Reborn police!”
“The police? Then you might've met Arthur?” Hazel asked, all excited.
However, I did not know a single officer’s name, so I had to disappoint her there.
“It's fine. You'll meet him soon anyway.”
“Well, the fact you were recognized by the local police certainly gives you credit. That doesn't excuse your attitude, but I won't butt in. When Aladdin is in better shape, you can speak to him. An honorary member of the police wouldn't hurt a healing man, would she?”
“I promise I'll watch my temper,” I said, just to get on her better side, if such a side was still available to get on. Mrs. Gwendolyn didn't look very convinced by my words, but did not touch the subject for the rest of our meal.
We ate our meal with Hazel’s dad leading the conversation about what Gossip Gardevoir had talked about me on her show. When she’d said that it was her business to know things, she wasn't joking. It was at least comforting to know that whether or not she knew about it, she didn't publicize anything about my personal life that I wouldn't want all of Reborn to know.
An hour or so after we had all finished eating, we heard shuffling on the adjacent room, followed by Aladdin’s voice calling Mrs. Gwendolyn. She instantly stood up from her seat and hurried to the kitchen to serve food for him in a small bowl. Then, like clockwork, she went into Aladdin’s room and her husband carried all the plates to the kitchen to wash. I was going to volunteer to wash them for him, but Hazel stopped me.
“I know you mean well, but my dad actually likes to do the dishes,” she said. “Since he can't move his legs, my mom takes care of everything physical. So he wants to help out in the things he can still do with his hands and while sitting down. Likewise, my job is to take Mocha and gather wood and nuts, and I also help mopping the house after dad sweeps the floors.”
Given that I came from a household where I wasn't expected to do any chores, since those were taken care of by the servants, I was amazed by the teamwork this family had achieved despite their disabilities.
“How are you feeling, Aladdin?” said Mrs Gwendolyn from the room Aladdin was staying in. She had apparently left the door a little open, and whether it was on purpose or not, we could hear their conversation quite clearly.
“I feel a bit dizzy but otherwise not bad,” Aladdin said. “Audino has helped me greatly as always.”
An audino’s pleasant cry followed that statement.
“That is good to hear. I've brought you something to eat. Perhaps some of your dizziness is owed to an empty stomach,” Mrs. Gwendolyn said. Unlike when she speaks to me, she sounded kind and happy when speaking with him.
The spring bed screeched. I assumed that was her pulling him into an upright position to eat. They were silent for a while, but then Aladdin spoke again.
“Mrs. Gwendolyn, I actually have a question,” he said.
“What is that?”
“It might have been a moment of hallucination, but I thought I heard my girlf- ...Vanilla’s voice,” he said, paused and continued. “I don't talk much about her, but I think you know who I mean.”
“I know exactly who you mean,” she replied.
“Well, when I heard her, she was… shouting hysterically. That's nothing unusual since that's all she has done every time we met recently.”
While he spoke, I was ready to stand up and shout hysterically at him for good measure, but Pikachu and Hazel both pushed me back to the chair.
“But my memory is hazy,” he continued. “And the next thing I remember, we were chatting and laughing like we used to. We were in the forest… That's a place we haven't visited for a long while. I know Audino's heal pulse tends to show me bittersweet dreams like those. But I wasn't sure what the realistic part meant. Has she come here? Is she here?”
I thought Mrs. Gwendolyn would deny my being here, but I was surprised when she didn't.
“No, you weren't hallucinating. She's here. Apparently she has come to talk to you, but her tone wasn't friendly to be honest.”
There was a bit of silence there.
“I haven't allowed her to do so, because I was sure she'd hurt you more than you already are,” Mrs. Gwendolyn continued. “But she has since calmed down, and if you want to see her, I'll let her in.”
“I think she hasn't left a great impression on you,” he said, probably because Mrs. Gwendolyn was frowning. “But be assured, she has every reason to hate my existence. After all, I sacrificed our relationship to protect the things I thought were the most precious to me.”
I was almost going to give him credit for acknowledging that I had every right to hate him, but when he called what we had a ‘relationship’, I stood up to make it clear that we had nothing of the sort. What we had was inconsiderate abuse. However, Pikachu again sat me back down and patted my head, perhaps thinking that that would appease my boiling blood.
“I bet if you had met Vanilla before me, you'd have acted the opposite way,” Aladdin laughed. “I'll meet her. Tell her I'll meet her tomorrow. I'll rest today so that I can have a clear mind for our conversation.”
“Sure I will. Now have this food. It should be cool enough to eat now.”
Their conversation ended there, and now Hazel spoke to me.
“When you talk to him tomorrow, you gotta tell him you were angry but don't actually hate him.”
“No, I actually do,” I said.
“Well, it doesn't sound like it, that's for sure,” she said, grinning.
I didn't say anything else, because what a third party I just met a few hours ago thought wasn't of concern to me. Hazel must've picked up on my bad temper, so changed subjects to her mom’s behavior.
“I'm glad my mom is slowly acknowledging you,” she said. “Aladdin said he'd meet you tomorrow, and she didn't oppose one bit.”
“How noble of her, to allow me to see him. Such honor,” I said, with very obvious irony so that even Hazel could hear it.
She indeed heard it, for she knitted her brows and was silent for once, before speaking again, this time with much less spirit.
“I know that my mom is being a pain in the butt to you, but I ask you not to think ill of her,” Hazel said and got closer to my side of the table. “Even though she didn't lose mobility or eyesight or anything, she had to bear with hardships of her own. I've often thought that her excessively protective nature developed as a consequence of the earthquakes.”
“You know, the earthquakes that hit Reborn about 10 years ago. They wrecked the city, I hear, but they also destroyed our home because we are situated under Ametrine mountain and that means avalanches can be the end for us. Speaking of, there was one quite recently, but it was on the other side of the mountain which is more prone to it.”
“So you lost your eyesight 10 years ago?”
“Yep. A block of wood hit my head and apparently damaged my ocular nerves. My dad was the one to pull me out of the house, but he also got his lower half nearly squashed. We made it though, and that's all that counts.”
I didn't say anything else, because I supposed she had to be hiding her bitterness under the brightness of a smile.
“I think I know the meaning of your silence, and you're right to imagine that losing my eyesight at barely 10 years of age was devastating to me. I could no longer walk by myself without bumping and falling, I couldn't eat without making a mess, and I couldn't even attend normal classes at school or play with my friends like I used to. That's what I meant when I said I could relate to your bitterness, because even if I'm truly content with myself now, there was a about half a decade when I was angry at everything, because I wanted my eyesight back.”
I didn't know what to say, and, to be honest, wished Hazel would stop talking about this topic. Yet, I knew that was only a manifestation of the guilt I felt for having, and taking for granted, that which Hazel probably wanted the most in the world.
“My relationship with my parents was also not great after the accident. They tried to teach me to live with my disability, but I refused to do it. I don't know why. I guess the teenage hormones didn't help my mood,” Hazel chuckled, but as a teenager myself, I couldn't laugh. “I remember my mom would ask me to do the chores and I'd do them terribly on purpose, blaming my lack of proper eyesight. Many sessions of therapy eventually made my ill-humor go away, but then I began to realize how monotonous and meaningless my life was. When the anger from the accident cooled down, what came next was depression.”
Hazel paused and smiled at me.
“I think you are still in the anger phase. That's not good, but it's better than being depressed. I accomplished more in life being angry than when I was sad.”
“Anger is a driving force, for sure, but it clouds judgment more than usual. I can speak from experience; made many mistakes that could've been averted had I kept a cool mind.”
I remembered the recent times when I got badly beaten up in 7th Street because I couldn’t hold back from fighting when someone triggered me. Then there was the one too many time when Archer and his gang set me an icy trap because I barged in without no plans other than to beat his ass up. If King were alive, he’d scorn at my lack of improvement. When I was in the Underworld, I was spoiled in a sense, because Wolfie had always kept cool for the both of us even in the face of adversity. Yes… she was good at keeping my emotions in check, starting when we were just kids.
I felt my throat shrink into a knot as a memory of her last moments alive flashed behind my eyes. Even in her last moments, she didn't drown in desperation from her early demise, but went with a serene expression.
I had drifted away to thinking about my cursed short-temper down to Wolfie, and missed what Hazel had been saying, but I answered the question with “yes” to pretend I had been listening.
“I don't think you were listening, but that's alright. I didn't say anything important anyway,” she said, totally seeing through my mind.
“Don't be. I'm the one boring you with my tale. It's just that you reminded me so much of my younger self, I wanted to tell you things can get better. I met Arthur, and together with my now-peacefully-resting therapist, he helped me break out of my melancholy.”
“You mean, your brother?”
“Oh yeah, I forgot to make that clear, didn't I? Silly me,” she said, and scratched her head like her father did. “Mhm, but I think I’ll wait like two minutes. Introductions are better made in person, don’t you think?”
I didn’t know what she meant, but just as Hazel had predicted, the front door opened minutes later. I reacted to the creaking with a simple turn of the head, but when I saw who was standing there, I stood up so quickly that my wooden chair fell back with a clatter. The man at the door stood holding the knob, perhaps for balance or because he was frozen in place. He looked as though he’d seen a ghost, but that was probably not owed to my albinism but instead to my murderous aura.
“What is she doing here?” asked Arthur, except I knew him by another name.
“Do you know each other already? Oh, you must’ve met when Vanilla became an honorary member of the police department, after all,” Hazel said with enthusiasm that neither of us two shared.
“No, we met under very different circumstances,” I said.
After all, the first time I met Archer, it was when I was breaking the law in Everland, and when we met again, it was when he was breaking the law.
I contemplated my options. I could fight him right then and there, but that would only make Mrs. Gwendolyn more hostile against me. She might not allow me to see Aladdin, if she finds out I beat the crap out of her ‘son’. But what else was I supposed to do? Shake our hands and have tea at the same table? No way.
However, when I stepped forward, I felt my skirt being pulled back. I looked down and saw Pikachu, probably making a judgmental face, even though I could not actually read his expression.
“I was just telling Vanilla how you came here around a year ago, and did me and my family so much good,” Hazel said, filling the tense atmosphere. "That's why I call him my brother, even though we're not related, Vanilla."
I looked at Archer with incredulous eyes.
“Just because I didn’t do much good to you, doesn’t mean I couldn’t help others,” he told me. “After all, I’m a police officer. My job is to fight the bad people and help the good ones.”
“Police officer my a-” I was going to say, but Archer cut me short with a loud voice.
“Ah! Ah!” he shouted. “I brought some sweet treats for you. I’ll place them on the table to eat them later.”
He walked in long strides over to the table and dropped the plastic bag he was carrying on top of it. Then, he whispered to me that he had some stuff to talk to me.
“Sorry, Hazel. I have something urgent to tell Vanilla. It’s unfortunately confidential information I can only tell to another member of the Everland Police.”
He said and was going to grab my arm, but I slapped his hand away. Don’t you dare lay a finger on me, I told him with my eyes.
We walked outside, where Arthur judged no one would hear us.
“Listen, I know I’m in no place to demand you anything,” he said. “In fact, I’m in your hands. I admit it. But I am pleading you: please don’t tell any of this family that I’m part of a gang.”
“You mean the leader of a gang,” I corrected, but Archer ignored me.
“They think that I’m a police officer, and I’m not lying when I say I really did try to find employment as one here,” he continued. “But you can imagine how hard it was to do that, given that my record is ruined, mind you, thanks to you.”
“Why are you even in this house? You aren’t even Hazel’s brother or anything. It’s so random.”
“I used to go from house to house asking for a place to stay,” he explained, then he looked at me funnily and said, “If you’re thinking, ‘How pathetic. You couldn’t just sleep outside like the homeless in Peridot Ward’, then I’ll tell you that going from sleeping in a comfy bed to sleeping on a dirty blanket on concrete isn’t an easy task.”
I may or may not have been thinking that, but sure.
“These people gave me a chance to stay and treated me like one of their own. I don’t want them to know that I’m lying about my job. That’s the only lie, after all. I’ve been otherwise very honest about where I come from and that I used to be a police officer there and all that.”
I was silent, and placed a hand under my chin as though I was deep in thought.
“What do you think, Pikachu?” I asked my friend who had followed behind me. “I think I should ruin this man’s whole career, after the low quality treatment I received.”
Pikachu twirled around on the spot. Not sure what that meant.
“How about I tell them that you were part of a crime syndicate when you were in Everland? And that you used your father's political influence to wipe off my accusations? Don’t think you have the upper-hand. If we go down, we’ll go down together.”
We looked at each other like two hyenas might when they fight over their meal.
“Fine. I need to see f*ckface, so until I’m done with that, I can’t have them raising their scum radars. Mrs. Gwendolyn appears to have a talent for that.”
Archer’s facial expression softened.
“It’s good to know that you’re a person with understanding, at least,” he said and extended his hand.
“I’m not going to shake your filthy hand,” I said. “We’re never going to be on good terms.”
Once finished our negotiations, I went inside the house.
But, to drive the message home, I shut the door just when he was coming in so that he would break his nose or something.
*Apparently blind people learn eating manners by locating the food items as if the plate was a 12 hour clock.
VANILLA RATES: REBORN CHARACTERS