Fun fact, I wrote part of this chapter during a visit to the Art Institute of Chicago in 2005
On the appointed day, I awoke before dawn, although Asaph was not to fetch me until nine. My sleep the night before had been restless, and I'd dreamed of a city of brilliant green. As the light of day gradually lightened my room, I imagined what wonders the day held for me. I had never been to Viridian, of course, and pictured it as the glistening emerald set into the land that people described it as.
The night before I had laid out the finest clothes I had. At the time, I thought them exquisite apparel, but looking back I can only shake my head at how simple my tastes were. Mass-produced cotton and twill are a far cry to the sumptuous hand-woven silks I was to become accustomed to.
A white bird landed on my windowsill, but it wasn't the one I dreamed of.
I hurried through breakfast, being careful not to get anything on my clothing, and waited at the door for Asaph. Shortly after nine am, I saw his personal craft--one of my father's custom dual-rotor helicopters; the proper airship he had commissioned was still in production--land at the docking port outside the factory. Out of courtesy, I waited until he knocked to open the door.
He was an elegant sight, in a green greatcoat that brought out the glimmer in his blue eyes, the eyes that lit up when he greeted me. "Are you ready?" he asked me, and when I nodded my assent he brought a hand to my shoulder and let it rest for a moment as he looked me up and down. "You look very distinguished today," he said, and I smiled.
In the next room, my father, who had already opened the factory for the day but was waiting in the house for my departure, looked on. "Asaph, I want to thank you again," he called, and Asaph nodded. "Have everything?" he asked me, and I nodded to him as well. "Enjoy the museum!" he called, having to return to work. I was glad to be rid of him, even though I would be without him for the entire day.
Asaph and I sat in the middle section of his ship, as a chauffeur took the controls. It was about a half-hour ride from Seafoam to Viridian, and in that time Asaph told me more tales of the world's treasures, including a sculpture from an ancient age that the museum had recently acquired. He was quite eager to see it in person, although he seemed disappointed that he was unable to possess it.
We docked on the roof of the museum, among other ships. I recognized my father's seal on many of them, particularly the finer crafts.
There was a spiral staircase leading down, nothing particularly notable about it except that it lead to the grand entryway, which was a remarkable thing. Marble columns--that had been excavated from ancient ruins, Asaph told me--framed the doors, which were glass and tinted dark.
He held the door for me, and I held my breath upon entering, only to release it the second I entered, for I was greeted by a marvelous sight. One hand held out as though in welcome, a statue of a warrior woman, hair cascading down her shoulders and other hand held on the hilt of her sword as if to say that she was the guardian of the treasures within, stood in the foyer. I could not help but raise my hand to return her gesture of welcome.
Once he had bought our tickets, Asaph smiled at me. "Now, shall we explore?"
I nodded emphatically.
We took our time, dawdling at various masterpieces, with Asaph explaining technique and the histories of the artists to me.
I listened enraptured through the hours, and finally we reached the sculpture he had mentioned on the way. It stood on a pedestal, the centerpiece of a room. He gasped, taken in by the soft features of the statue's subject; a young woman with a Jigglypuff and a basket of flowers.
I found it nothing special. Admittedly it was lifelike, with the pokémon looking as though it would burst into song, but the mood did not strike me as it did Asaph. Instead I occupied myself with the nearby statue of a Gengar that had supposedly belonged to a master trainer ages ago.
"Asaph?" The voice from behind us was sharp yet dignified. He turned, I did not.
"Lucrezia!" he exclaimed, extricating himself from the sculpture and greeting the newcomer.
I wondered if I should involve myself. If I ignored them, I would seem rude, but same if I approached them outright. So I remained where I was and listened intently with my back turned.
"How did the Moreo turn out?" Asaph asked her. I would discover later that he was speaking of an artist.
"Oh, so-so," Lucrezia admitted. "I wound up trading it in for a Hidcomb."
"Hidcomb was an overrated drunken bastard," a third voice interrupted, that of a man younger than either of them. They ignored him.
After a few minutes of discussion of names I had never heard of, during which time I turned my attention to a statue of an ivory butterfly alighting on a silver flower, Asaph returned to me and rested a hand on my shoulder. "How about you go on to the next room without me? Lucrezia and I have some business to discuss, and I know you're eager to keep going."
I nodded. "I didn't want to say anything."
"You've been a very good boy about it," he smiled, his hand falling back to his side. "You're a very patient young man."
Returning his smile, I nodded my head and continued into the next room.
I didn't notice it at first, as the paintings nearest me had my immediate attention, but when I turned to the far wall, it was as though everything around me ceased to exist.
There before me was the most brilliant and beautiful and terrifying thing I'd ever seen. To other lives, it would not have had such a profound effect, but to me it was as though the rest of the world had dropped away and existence was defined entirely by paint on canvas. She was beautiful, in a white robe that matched her flawless wings with every feather defined and looked as they could begin motion at any moment. Her hand extended in assistance, she bore a look of sorrow that the man she wished to help was unaware of her presence, a look that broke my heart to behold. Whatever was left of the world was walled up as the words /I'll be your angel/ resonated through my mind.
My knees gave out, and I was vaguely aware that I somehow was able to find purchase on the seat in the center of the room.
Nothing I had ever seen before could compare. It was at once the ideal and the dread as every detail of the painting sunk into me, filling me as nothing had before. I existed, the painting existed, and there was nothing else.
A faint cracking at the shell of the world, and a hand came to rest on my shoulder. "Beautiful, isn't she?" the man from before asked, and the spell was gone.
Instinctively, I pulled away, to the end of the bench, and he chuckled. "Shy? That's all right."
My view disrupted, I could only stare at the floor, and even the details of that escaped me.
"You're Corbin's boy, aren't you?" the man continued. "I've heard about you. My mother does frequent business with him." When he realized that I was not going to reply, he kept on. "I've never found the art world to be all that interesting myself, but I suppose it has its charm."
He was harsh, his manner cold, his words without feel to them. Or perhaps that was how the world was; I couldn't tell the difference. I edged away from him an inch at a time and I don't think he noticed, for he continued on about things I didn't care about.
I could feel the blankness around me, the empty world breaking and forming and I hated it. I wanted out, to lose myself in the picture that I couldn't bring myself to look at. I wanted the angels, the spirits and the wonder and I couldn't find them; I couldn't bear to see them again.
I'm not sure at what point he left, but when Asaph came to retrieve me, he was gone.
There were two dining rooms in the museum. The first was a simple café, and I started to turn to go into it, but Asaph cleared his throat to catch my attention. "We don't go to places like that," he told me, directing me to the more formal restaurant.
At our booth, he squeezed my hand. "So, I see that painting spoke to you."
I nodded slowly, the angels still dancing in my mind. "Yes..." was my simple, distracted answer.
"You know, there's going to be a Tonio exhibit in Goldenrod in a few months if you'd like to see it."
"That's nice..." I muttered, twining my free hand's fingers in loops in the thin chain that held my mother's ring around my throat.
"Isn't it though?" he asked and I surmised it was meant to be rhetorical. "Some of those pieces have never left Kanto before. I know it's not far, but it's still impressive."
I nodded again, a million miles away.
"Jiri, are you having a good time?"
My head picked up. "Um? Yes, yes I am. Why do you ask?"
He smiled warmly. "You seem so distant. Lost in thought?"
"Yes..." Again I fingered the necklace chain.
He took a sip of a drink that I hadn't noticed him order. "Tell me about that ring," he said, and it was neither a request nor a demand.
"It was my mother's," I told him. Unlike when he had asked about my Mew card, I offered no further information.
He shook his head, smiling sadly, and whispered something in a language I did not recognize. "Your father told me about her," he continued. "I'm so sorry."
I tucked the chain back under my shirt. "I'd rather not speak of that now."
"I understand," he assured.
We returned to Seafoam later that night, after exploring the rest of the museum. It was early evening, but I was exhausted, my divine experience had indeed weakened my constitution. My father accepted me from Asaph and took me upstairs, where I fell asleep and dreamed of angels.