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Pokémon Obsession

K_S

Unrepentent Giovanni and Rocket fan
I mean asaph might as well be wearing a sign/shirt saying EVIL SURROGATE FATHER FIGURE for jer' and veronica...

Just saying
 

Blackjack Gabbiani

Merely a collector
Pronouns
Them
Partners
  1. shaymin
  2. dusknoir
All will be revealed in time~
 

K_S

Unrepentent Giovanni and Rocket fan
Im sure it will be... Once asaph puts down the sheering scizzors and steps away from the minors... I suspect fuller evidence will show one way or the other in the next few chapters... My guess is 5? Anyway time (and you via tales) will tell..
 
Obsession 29

Blackjack Gabbiani

Merely a collector
Pronouns
Them
Partners
  1. shaymin
  2. dusknoir
(apparently I gave the wrong chapter threadmark in the last few idk how that happened)


A few months later, I had managed to find a suitable buyer for the Pikachu netsuke and a few other items, and that was the most I could say about that time. Veronica and Asaph had avoided speaking of the difficulties earlier, at least around me, and the factory had returned to what was normal for it. On the surface it seemed as though nothing had happened, and it was easy to forget that anything had.

The springtime came as a welcome, and I'd nearly misplaced the events that had marred and marked the two previous years. Both of them seemed so long ago, though I felt guilty when thinking that of my mother.

I wore the brooch that Asaph had given me more frequently, although it looked lopsided over the heart, as one was supposed to wear them. The pin didn't bother me, as I'd taken to wearing undershirts. Simply that made me feel so much more distinguished, like a historical gentleman, although a foreign one. Kantoian garments were nothing like what I tended towards, although I opted for a mix of east and west. I was considering purchasing a kimono, though I would have to learn how to tie it, and I lacked a family crest. Perhaps I could create one, as they all had to come from somewhere. But I wasn't an artist.

I was already considering what to wear for Asaph's gallery event, though it was nearly a year off. There was so much to fill the time between, like the area between cobblestones in a road, but it was a set destination. I used that imagery a lot in my essays for school, and imagined the figures as puzzles in an adventure.

That reminded me of the time Veronica had come to town. She'd never seen the factory and that was how I wanted it, but it struck me as curious that she'd never asked. That was likely why, as she was far more adept than I at picking up on those sorts of things. For all the studies in the world, that was still something I had to teach myself. I'd moved my research from still photographs to movies, watching the great actors demonstrate these thoughts. It was a shame that most noted through history were unavailable, film being such a new medium. They could never be shared with the living world, although in a way that made them all the more precious.

I did prize a recording made of a singer trained by a woman believed to be the greatest soprano of all time, although it was a tragedy that the teacher herself lived just before the advent of recorded sound. An early inventor had claimed to have recorded her, although the cylinder was believed lost. If it ever surfaced, if it indeed remained in any condition, it would be perhaps the greatest treasure in all music. Although I never believed that it did, and have yet to be proven wrong.

Ah, but it would have been incredible. To hear the voice of the great Gwynifer Gold! But I suspected it would only be a disappointment, the myth having grown greater in our minds than the reality. Perhaps not. The truth of the Bright Fletchling would never be known again.

But to be a muse, as she was to Christianson! Someone who inspired great works, in his case literature, was someone to be treasured regardless. That was the sort of thing I wanted to possess, things that inspired that admiration and love. As many kinds of passions as there are out there, the greatest of them all inspire art. Only then can they be shared outside the self.

I never hoped to be a muse myself. Someone shouldn't have that great passion wasted on a collector. It's what we bring together that's worthy of praise. Of course, that's not to say that we're not worthy ourselves of some sort of glory. We have to be, entrusted as we are with this divine purpose. But we should always take the background to our collections.

It felt like the chill in the air, remaining from winter, was there almost intentionally, to give us a more dramatic feel to our lives. When I would step away from the inferno of the factory, the cold winds off of the ocean would strike me as though they meant to carry me away, and I imagined it happily. Who else had felt this same wind, spinning its way across the world? What works had it run its delicate fingers across on its way to me?

Having made my usual rounds in the city, which I'd drawn out to once a month, I stopped to write some more of my schoolwork. It was nothing of any challenge, but still took time to complete, and I found myself being distracted by my own thoughts. I could be doing so much more, I mused, but I was chained to the pace and requirements of the Kanto schools. Surely there ought to be a way to leave it up to myself.

Although thinking along those lines was pointless. A more advanced schooling would likely give me what Veronica had, and I'd be surrounded by the same typical children, only gussied up in better clothing. None of them would have the sense of wonder of the world that we had, the urge to seek out its treasures.

But then, stars wouldn't shine so bright if it wasn't for the dimness around them.

It's said to be the lot of young adults to hate the world, isn't it? But I never really did, though it frustrated me. So many things barraged my mind, so many questions raised. Why did people seem to be content with grey lives? Why did they remain unaware of what was all around them? Why were there so few shining stars?

I knew even then that I was more skilled than many of my peers. I was able to excel in all subjects with ease, while others struggled to achieve even half my marks. But in a way I envied how they seemed to adapt to their situations. Had I gone to school normally, I wouldn't have Asaph or his lessons, and I'd have remained barriered and quiet. My garrulous tendencies would never have arisen, and my mind would still be overcome by everything.

My mother had once told the tale of how, in my earlier days, I had been struck severely by a cloudy day. It drove me to tears, and I told her that I had wore out the sky by staring at it too long. I had been so grief-stricken, she said, that I was inconsolable until sunrise. I never remembered doing so, but I trusted her account. The beauty of the sky and the sudden loss of it nearly drove me mad, even then.

I suppose that was a mark on my future.

I had been writing as I thought, and was somewhat amazed to look over my work and see that it hadn't been dominated by my mental subject change. The sums were tidy and tied, and even my handwriting had been crisp. All I had to do was fax in the finished product and that would be it for the week.

That left many empty hours, though. The galleries were being worn thin under my eye, thinking back to that tale. The shops were beginning to fill with kitsch and pandering, anticipating the flood from the mainland in the next several months, and I wanted none of it. Maybe if I hadn't had the outlets I'd pondered, I'd have died of boredom. I wondered if that was possible.

Even with the vast differences between my life and those of others, I was bored. It was time for something lively.

Though I was tempted to suddenly hop a bus to Viridian, it would have been far late when I arrived, and I'd no desire to relive the events of my prior jaunt. Something closer by would have to do.

I gathered up my books and supplies to sling them on my back, the strapped satchel I used a far cry from the bulky backpacks worn by others my age. There had to be something to do around town. I decided to stop by the shopping mall to look through the local travel pamphlets.

By chance I had set up on a table outside the mall, so there was no need to cross the road. I always wanted to cross in the middle when there was no traffic, yet Asaph had said that it wasn't mannered to do so.

I did always hate the place. The dingy colours gave the impression of being filthy no matter how much it was cleaned, the shops were, as I said, pandering and kitschy, and the restaurant was anything but authentic. But near the merry-go-round was a rack of papers on local sights, and just going through them could inspire me with the world greater than myself.

That day, though, the reading was all the same thing as always. The same tourist traps, the same shops, the same time shares, the same drabness that summed up the entire town.

I don't think I was capable of properly displaying my disappointment in an obvious enough manner. Dramatics weren't exactly the height of manners, but neither was anything I set eye on.

But complaining wasn't anything worthwhile, and it seemed that I was doing an awful lot of it. I'd find SOMETHING to enjoy there.

And it didn't take nearly as long as I thought. I had anticipated combing the place for hours, but I saw it right as I turned around. The jewellery store where Veronica had taken the prized rock was before me, unremarkable and unobtrusive. But there had been an idea I'd considered for a while, and this was the perfect time.

It was open to the concourse, overlooking that central merry-go-round, and thus filled with the cheery music that constantly played to invite people to ride. I suppose it brought to mind older days of nickelodeons and parasols, but in the modern day it was merely quaint.

Back in that era I would have found it fascinating. The time when foreign influence was flooding Kanto for the first time in centuries would have been amazing to witness firsthand. The majority of accounts that I could locate were political, and that wasn't what I wanted to read about at all. The people who just a decade before had never travelled past the next town, now open to the scope of the world...ah, what a wonder that must have been! Although of course any like myself would have found it immensely frustrating as well, as knowledge of vastness only makes the smallness of our own lives all the more apparent. Hearing about distant places while being shackled in place only salts the wound.

"Are you all right?"

For a moment I'd forgotten where I was. The shop clerk had drawn beside me and looked down with something I figured was concern. "Ah, yes, thank you. I'm interested in getting a conch piercing. Would you be able to do that?"

He tilted his head back and thought for a second. "I don't think we have any in stock. I can check."

It took me a moment. "Oh, not an earring of a conch shell. I'd like to have my ear pierced here." I put my finger up to where I meant, at the cartilage just above the lobe.

"Uh...hold on..." He wandered behind the counter and shuffled through some papers. "I don't think you can...Not without permission from your parents."

There was never going to be a way to get that out of my father, and there wasn't anybody in the mall I could convince to pass off as a parent. But I did have a backup plan. "Are you certain?" I asked as I retrieved my wallet. "I can't help but notice that you're a trainer," this was with a gesture to a pokéball on the back table, "and poké-chow is only getting more expensive."

"Kid, if you think you can bribe me..." But it stopped there as I laid some money on the counter. I'll not share the sum, of course! But as it turned out, it was enough to convince him to relax the rules.




I'm not certain why I got that particular piercing, but it was unusual enough to stand out while looking relatively typical at first glance. It hurt considerably more than I had thought it would, and I had to keep it rinsed with a pungent solution, but it looked very stylish and I felt refocused. Plus I'd been able to use a new business skill that could come in handy later down the line.

I had to stop myself from tugging at the small ring all the way back to the edge of the cliff, and I got to my room without having to answer any uncomfortable questions. Certainly he or Helen would see it within a few days, but I hoped to be able to wear it long enough that Asaph could see it.

For now, though, I had my own secret. Something known only to me, as if it was a treasure map. Something as silly as an earring was small enough, but having something unique was impressive enough to break the dull day.
 
Obsession 30

Blackjack Gabbiani

Merely a collector
Pronouns
Them
Partners
  1. shaymin
  2. dusknoir
I'd of late been pondering that I needed to be more adept at my research of modern art. Not the style; that tended to be an incomprehensible mess of pretension and posturing. But simply the art currently being produced. What future classics was I missing out on?

Veronica and Asaph and I had touched on the subject of past glory, of the works that were now ruined or lost, and how glorious they must have looked in their prime. I had, of course, mused on this shortly before I had done that impulsive thing.

My father had reacted far stranger than I thought he would, simply laughing and complimenting me, saying it suited me. But then, Veronica would say the same, so it must be true. Asaph had looked at it for nearly twice as long, then said only that I ought to start now looking for a new ring for when I would be able to change it. That was some time ago, though, and I now had a few to choose from. At that time, I believe I was wearing a small gold hoop, a simple, typical thing. While before I had found having small earlobes to be a flaw in appearance, it suited the piercing, allowing the ring to loop around in a pleasing way.

Asaph seemed to have settled, returning to the calm I associated with him. The exhibit that would display the Eye of Dawn was still months away, but he was deeply involved in how it would be shown, and incorporated a 3-D image of the setting to lay it out. I was fascinated with the projection, manipulatable on the computer screen, and he had given permission for me to wiggle the view around, so long as I didn't touch anything else.

But even that was some sort of art. Though it was rough, with garish outlines and colours that had no reality, it was a structured work of creativity and science that delighted me. The factory had a few computers that ran programmes like that, but they were all forbidden to me, so being able to manipulate the image was amazing.

Technology was amazing, and I had to be at the cutting edge of it to follow the latest advancements in art. No, I had to be at the edge and the hilt and everything in between. All of history, not simply of technology but of politics and society and trends...It was a hefty responsibility, but I knew it would be worth it for the sake of my collection. This was of course all far beyond my schoolwork, and required independent study.

Asaph's library was perfect for that, with works reaching back to the dawn of writing. Reproductions, sadly, though many of those were rather old themselves. I was reminded of the ancient library in Mn Nefer, burnt by invaders millennia ago, perhaps the greatest tragedy in history.

I wanted things to be different. Even if I had witnessed it in its glory, likely it wouldn't have contented me. I would have wanted more, from further lands, from the known and unknown world.

But I was where I was, when I was, in an evening overlooking the Seafoam coastline. Asaph's library seemed as far to me as the ancient one did. But either way, I had things to do.

The first few books had been simple, and I'd worked through them in about an hour each. They'd been taken from the drawing room, under Helen's eye, and I wondered what my father could possibly derive from them. The next was more challenging, involving considerably more maths and figures, and I had to pay special attention to the diagrams. I would make copies of them, having to rely on my minimal skills to reproduce the parts involved. Aeronautics was an exciting field itself, and I've wondered if I wouldn't have become a pilot had I never been awakened onto the art world. But then, nobody could truly say. In truth I could never conclude those imaginings because nothing else felt right. I was made to be a collector.

It was a bit overwhelming to be met with all of these charts explaining all of these principles. With nobody to guide me through them, I had to trust my own abilities and knowledge. But with the models I made from factory cutoffs, I was confident that I was on the right path.

Every day I studied everything I could get my hands on. I was always reading, listening, watching. My studies of facial expressions had expanded to body language, though that proved much more difficult. It was odd that I could learn, in depth, the histories of detailed artistic movements and yet I would have been unable to understand the artists fully if I had spoken with them directly.

It was frustrating, having that wall still, despite my best efforts. That level of understanding seemed to come naturally to everyone else. But it wasn't without advantages. Looking at things from an outsider's perspective gave it a sense of neutrality. I came at things unswayed by the trends I mimicked; they were an act in the ever ongoing play that was high society. In that play, I did what I liked, collected what I pleased. Certain things were acquired specifically to be sold or traded, and I felt no connection to them.

My latest acquisition had been a cluster of both. A scroll detailing a damiyo's tea ceremony, filled in with delicate illustrations, was for me, while the rest of the lot would be traded. Mr Higuchi was my best bet, and I had arranged a meeting with him for that purpose.

One of the illustrations showed the damiyo's sister, a detail I hadn't known until I had it in my hands. Fortunate, as I may have been tempted to pay more for it. She was stunningly beautiful, tall and strong. Reputedly she had been excellent with a sword, though her brother discouraged this, and she was relegated to mere practice. Her bravery and elegance became her legacy, as well as the overall tragedy of her life. I would have loved to have met her, to discover that long-ago exotic age though someone relegated to the sidelines.

I would have to have it properly set, in a long frame about three fourths of a metre long, with tinted glass to guard against colour degradation. Such a frame would take some time to construct but I had already cleared a space on my wall for it. For the time being, I kept it in a safe, daintily rolled up, to preserve it from the sea air.

I'd taken to writing to faraway places to request information, and as a result, many pamphlets lay in a drawer in my desk, under the east-facing window. They gave me views into lands beyond Kanto, and though were geared towards usual folk, the sort who couldn't appreciate what they were given, the sights remained the same. One detailed a vibrant river cruise that wound through the lush Cascadia region, far across the ocean. The Parfum Palace was represented, the paper written in the native language. Far to the south, the Alspring region boasted art dating back ten thousand years, while to the west, the Mara region's works could date over a million years.

To think that as a species, humans dated back that long, yet only about eight thousand years were recorded. How many great works have been lost, forever forgotten? How many artists changed the way we viewed the world and will go forever uncredited? How many leaders, trendsetters, inventors, designers, created the modern world yet will never be known?

The idea filled my heart, letting it sink heavily in sadness. I put a hand to my face to ensure that I was making the correct facial expression as I looked out the window. Ships were passing, and a light spring rain had started, rising a mist from the water.

I would wonder about those who passed by. Did any of them appreciate art? Did they stop to look around them? How many shining stars toiled away out there, light covered by the everyday? I was fortunate not to be among them.

These thoughts were recorded in a journal. I'd selected a fine one, from the sacred Vaticanae region, adorned with a rustic photograph of the ornate ceiling of the primary temple. The beautiful frescos and paintings, filling the lunettes and every inch around the top, were then undergoing restoration, and to see the work only partially finished was fascinating. Every time I saw it, I felt inspired, the full faith portrayed in it sending excited shivers through me.

I have never been a religious man, but the idea of that consuming faith has fascinated me. So many various gods and legendary pokémon were worshipped the world over, and the fervour and glory that came with it was truly fantastic. It was the same all-consuming feeling that ran through me when I was surrounded by art, and I wondered if my example would inspire others likewise.

Although not all of it reached me. I had visited a traditional garden outside Viridian, and while considered one of the finest of its type, I felt no connection to it. While the trees were marvellously sculpted by great gardeners, the paths winding and philosophical, and the water providing a mirror meant to give the feel of another world, I was unimpressed. Despite the skill in structure, they were simply trees and bushes and rocks and water to me, and I could see their ilk anywhere. Even the much-touted waterfall pond, full of Magikarp and Goldeen in their fullest specially bred glory, far removed from the common examples of their species found everywhere, only came across as common fish to me.

Truth be told, it was a bit frustrating. But that didn't linger, and was gone by the time I left. I had managed to find a book in the gift shop on ukiyo-e prints, and that consumed my time on the bus ride back.

One may point out that the garden was a work of human hands, but it was meant to mirror true nature in every way. They had succeeded in their aim.

Perhaps it was owing to my life near flowers and trees, but the natural world simply bored me. I could see it any day, and it was always there. Even if I was in the depths of a giant city, those things were still somewhere, and it descended into the mundane, the same as steel and glass. There was nothing special about it, and people who sought to recreate it were beyond my understanding.

As I've evidented, I was prone to losing myself in thought. I suppose my overall summation is that there was much of the world I didn't understand, yet that seems to be oversimplifying things.

I didn't talk like other children, or even adults. I didn't think like them. And for the most part, I didn't want to.

Asaph wanted us to be exemplary, but to do that we would have to encapsulate the very image of society folk. We had to stand out by doing what those around us did. It was a heavy contradiction that puzzled me at times, but it seemed to work. We succeeded at surpassing those around us, and did so with ease.

Shining stars, of course. That again collided with my horizon.

With a huff, I fell back on the bed and stared at the ceiling. "If that wasn't there, I could see the stars," I said aloud as I stretched an arm out as I was reaching for what I couldn't see. "I want to see the sky."

Of course I could see the night sky from out my window, but the frame and glass limited my access. I wanted to hold the stars in my very hand. I wanted to live surrounded by the sky. Someday I would have that airship, and I would be able to see nothing but beautiful things.

I'd started to design it in my head, and my education in 3-D computer mapping and model making lent a practical edge to my fantasy. I was going to make my dream.

I had my leg crossed over my bent knee and tapped the wall with my foot, forming a sort of rhythm that brought to mind a touch of some piece Asaph had played for me. I tried to recall what it was called, and sung along with what I could remember. Most around me in society had some sort of musical skill, and I thought singing would be easiest. Though I had been such a quiet child, by then I had become talkative even when alone, so it seemed a natural choice. Maybe it would prove to be a social lubricant, as the saying went.

Again I thought of the daimayo's sister. Something felt empty when I thought of her. What would she think of the world of today? Of the time between? What would she miss, and what would she be glad to escape? I wanted things to be different, in a much different way than I usually did.

Maybe she would have liked my singing. I could show her around Viridian and Goldenrod, teach her how the language had changed, take her shopping for modern clothes, even modern-made traditional clothes, introduce her to what the full world had to offer. I thought sometimes what her hand must have felt like.

I wonder, looking back, if I could have been enamoured with her, or if it was simply a passionate fascination with a tragic figure from a bygone age. Even now I'm not certain.

But that would come to be familiar. I would love deeply, overwhelmingly so, the utter beauty of the world. I would cherish dearly those rare blooms perhaps more than their creators, and cultivate them into something more than the sum of their parts. What others would dismiss as mere objects were what inflamed such passion in me. Even then I felt it, sometimes as intensely as I would later on, and it pushed me onward to new places, new planes of existence.

Ah, I suppose that's awfully elaborate. But it felt that way, as though every piece, even those I obtained specifically to trade, opened a new door for me into untamed grounds. Even if I simply looked through the open door, it would reveal a new sight.

I had a wondrous future set for me. I never could have foreseen such a catastrophic event...

But I'll get to that, in time.

The world would mine for the taking, the idea of the mythic world tree ripe with fruit just for me to gather. Well, me and Veronica, and Asaph of course. But even then I felt like I would surpass them.
 
Obsession 31

Blackjack Gabbiani

Merely a collector
Pronouns
Them
Partners
  1. shaymin
  2. dusknoir
Spring went into summer, and again into autumn, and again into winter. The great wave came and went to much fanfare, the festival presided over by a former victor that my father was more than excited to meet.

The idea of a sporting star being the target of so much adoration was at first repellent to me, until Veronica pointed out the historical and even artistic precedent of such things, the ancient athletes lauded as heralds of the gods, and immortalized in song and sculpture. The feats of demigods fell into that idea, those of labours and legend.

Perhaps some future generation of collectors would surround themselves with the celebrities of today. Though thinking of things in that way was frustrating, as art of modern athletes tended towards the ironic or political, with themes of idol worship or consumerism. I wondered if the ancient collectors were met with the same blocks.

My thoughts of any single subject were brief, however. Overriding all else was the upcoming exhibit, with the prized Eye of Dawn front and center in the minds of us three. Veronica was bubbling over with excitement from her future acquisition garnering so much attention, while Asaph had been interviewed and photographed for the exhibit book. I had been present for the shoot with the gem itself, and had helped Asaph ensure that his tailored deep green suit was draped just right as he sat next to the Eye, posed like a king. I recall his eyes were green that day.

Someday, I imagined, I would be in exhibit books. I would be the one to show off my collection, talk about its history, and indulge myself in the showcase. It would be nice to get recognition, although of course I would be secondary to the displayed treasure. That was the nature of collectors, after all.

Veronica had not gone unnoticed, though her involvement was limited to her role as Asaph's pupil alongside me. We were not photographed nor interviewed, and I had asked that I not be named in case my father were to find out.

I still felt the need to hide it. Asaph told me that if I spoke about my experiences, my father would be confused. "He doesn't understand," Asaph had said, and everything my father did had enforced that. He created remarkable designs for his airships, but he seemed to have no head for understanding the minds of those who purchased them. His helicopters perhaps, and even then he was pounding out another dozen or so for Lucrezia's organisation, but even his simplest of airships, as elaborate as they could be, were simply puzzle pieces to be assembled. The puzzles bore remarkable images, beautiful even, and that part meant nothing to him.

It was frustrating, locked in that situation. I had far more freedom than others of my age who refrained from a trainer journey, traveling to Viridian a few times a week, exploring the ins and outs of Seafoam, reading deep the history of the world. But every time I would return to that room over the sea, and as much as the sea changed daily, it would always be simply what it was.



One day, soon after the photo shoot, I asked Asaph if it was indeed possible for someone to create something indistinguishable from true art if they did so without feeling. He pondered the question for a moment, raising a finger to his cheek and staring out the window in a stylized depiction of thought. "I wonder...perhaps it depends on the observer. If we don't know the story behind a piece, it is often enough to have the piece stand alone. We can regard something like that as true art, yes?"

For some reason, I remembered the strange sculpture from the Mandarin museum. It was sloppy and barely resembled what Asaph had claimed it represented, but people held it in high regard from its age alone. It could have been the culmination of an artist's lifetime, or perhaps it was a simple coincidence in the hands of a playing child. If people knew for sure, would it change anything? If I knew hard work had gone into it, would I fancy it at all? Or would I be even further stymied by it, viewing it as an utter waste? If I knew it was a random result, would that only confirm my view of it, or would I feel enlightened at a respectable piece coming from sheer chance? "Do you think...that my father's airships are art?"

He smiled, mirroring the expression of amusement. "Oh, is that what this is about?"

I flopped down in a high-backed chair, just a bit too quickly for manners. "He's so shallow. He has no mind for better things. But his ships are so highly regarded. I don't understand."

"Well..." Asaph took a seat across from me. "I certainly wouldn't have come to him if I didn't see the appeal. Though I was disappointed in him, personally." He shrugged. "I had expected someone more in tune with his creations. It's the process that concerns him rather than the end result. At least, that's how I see him."

"I have the impression that he doesn't care," I added. "The structure is what concerns him, the construction, without the aesthetic appeal. Like a..." The words fumbled around in my mouth, "I suppose like a tract house. But by sheer happenstance, they end up beautiful. How could that happen?"

"I think..." he mused, "beauty is what the viewer takes away from it. You and Veronica saw the same gem, and it bewitched her. You found it beautiful, of course, but it didn't consume you."

To me, that was a tangent, not related to what I was asking. It was clear that his thoughts were dominated by the Eye, and perhaps I wouldn't get a direct answer out of him. So still I wondered.




As the exhibit approached, only a month or so away, I continued my own career with thoughts to the future, delving ever into the past. The prior conversation stuck with me as I studied scientific innovations. So much of it had been inspired by science fiction, with young fans becoming adults determined to make their fantasies reality. Was that art? And did that make the original works art, no matter how cheaply they were made and no matter how little thought was put into the practicality of their displays? Some had great care taken to display futuristic technology as something rooted in reality, but others were sheer fantasy and yet both were coming true. The force fields I had seen the Omastar displayed in had stemmed from such a fantastic approach, something included as a plot device in wire-laden battles between model spacecraft, and yet there they were.

Some things inspired in such a way could never be considered art, of course. The very concept of the atomic bomb had stemmed from a science fiction novel, but the novel itself was a magnificent work. In that case at least, the relationship was only one-way. It didn't have any of the sticky questions of the other examples, so despite its savagery, I preferred it.

The thought of a painting I had once admired came to mind. Though I had lost interest in it since, it was considered a masterpiece among landscapes. At first glance, and indeed at any glance, it was a beautiful meadow, alit with Volbeat and Illumise in early evening, with gnarled trees sprung up here and to. But it carried with it more than simply the view, having not fifty years before been the site of a horrific battle. It was said that there was not a speck of ground not tainted with blood, and yet when the painter viewed it, none of that anguish remained. I did appreciate his practical view of things, as when asked if the fireflies were meant to represent the souls of the dead, he had said simply that they were there when he painted it. He had painted it as it was to his eye, and the spectre of the battle was in the eye of the viewer.



Regardless of all that, the exhibit loomed. Asaph made several trips to Fuschia to oversee the sight of the display, though Veronica and I were left to wonder at it. The Eye of Dawn was not his only piece to be hosted, and it was the placement of an ancient sword that took up the majority of his time there. He compared it to a puzzle, which only made us want to see the process first hand. The computer simulation only gave an outline and didn't suffice.

We were both spending the night at his mansion again soon before the event. As before, snow was falling, and faint calls came from the surrounding forest. The pond that had once housed Milotic had been converted into a fountain, and the sound was a gentle counterpoint to the stillness as we explored the backyard.

Veronica was pondering a sculpture, a brilliant sunburst that transformed the dull stone into vibrant light. The snowfall gave an odd backdrop to the work, giving it depth and motion as well. I followed her line of sight to the lower ray of the sculpture, where it attached to the base. When she noticed I was watching her, she gestured over to the spot. "I was looking at this here. It's like the artist carved it and then remembered it had to be displayed. The way the lines go, it was like an afterthought."

I examined the place where the bracing stand entered the stone. Sure enough, the lines and scoops that made up the body of the sun followed a line that didn't account for the position of the rods. "I wonder if Asaph noticed."

"Of course he did. He wouldn't have bought it if he hadn't gone over everything there was to go over. But I was thinking that it's pretty regardless."

The sight was jarring and uncomfortable, but in a way that put the piece in a different light. "I want to see it without that. To compare them."

"Do you think the artist made other models?" she asked, still staring.

"I don't know. But it would be fascinating to see a perfect version."

Veronica laughed. "I like it. It makes it even better, knowing a beautiful piece like that can still be beautiful even with an inconsistency."

For a moment I remembered her woes with adolescence, and wondered if her comment reflected that. But her comment had a ring of general truth. It was something innate in our society, that something was perfect for its imperfections, and that was a thought I had never felt true. Imperfection was all around us, and art was supposed to whisk us away from those dull things. It felt uncaring to prize a sloppy piece.

A bowl in Higuchi-san's collection was all the more valuable from a chip that marked the side, where it had been dropped during a siege on an ancient samurai's land. It would have been valuable without that imperfection, but it showed use and function, and was seen as proof that the samurai had handled it himself. A necklace in Asaph's collection, a glimmering pearl string, was dotted with misshapen pearls, and this was evidence that the pearls were natural rather than farmed or artificial. Even everyday people recognised this in a fashion, as I had seen flowerpots through the city, chipped and even shattered, reconfigured into fairy steps and segmented planters.

But my original thoughts remained. It could be said that I valued more foreign aesthetics, but even that wasn't quite accurate. Statues that were rediscovered incomplete and displayed and beloved that way, I wanted to see them whole. A thoughtful expression in a portrait, I wanted to see the subject laughing. It wasn't about imperfections, but rather a want to see things differently, a desire to shape what I took in.

"Are you listening?" cut through my musings.

"Mm? Oh, I apologise. I was lost in thought."

"Well, here's a map." She held up a snowball. "Let's go over to the front driveway and have a snowball fight!"

I was about to refuse until I remembered a picture of imperial court ladies, the model of sophistication and manner, engaged in such play. So I laughed. "I'll race you!"





Wiping snow from my cap, I held the door open for her. "I don't think having Ralts teleport the snowballs behind me is fair play."

She giggled. "If you had a pokémon, I'd let you use them."

"In a case like that, I like to think you would have at least established the rules in advance."

One of the maids greeted us with a bow, and I wondered if she had been waiting the whole time. "Master Asaph bids you join him in the dining room."

"Oh, is it that late already? It seems like it only just got dark."

She smiled. "Time flies. Let me take your coats."

Veronica fluffed out her hair as she handed the maid her coat. "We had a lot of fun out there. Jirarudan has quite an arm! I'm not sure who won, though."

"Probably whoever had the most fun."

The reply left me a bit dry. It may have been true, but it felt like there was something hidden in it.



There was always a welcoming comfort to that mansion. I dreamt of it, and when I confessed that to Veronica, she admitted the same. Despite the rising wall between her and Asaph, she too couldn't resist the allure of the place.

And I couldn't understand why that rift existed. He had agreed to the sale, and if he had regrets, he was fully capable of calling it off. Would it be untoward to approach him with this? I pondered.

It was worth a risk, or so I hoped. After dinner, I headed to Asaph's study. He was already reclining on a magnificent méridienne, a long pipe to his lips and some thick liqueur poured from an elegant bottle. Though he sat up when I entered the room, I doubt he noticed me, attention on the opal before him. The Eye glimmered even in the low light as though it truly watched us, and I noted that must have been how the legendary priestess's disciples had felt.

The Eye looked strange there, as I glanced at it. The gallery had been a much better place but he had moved it for the photographs, and that seemed a bit dishonest. Regardless, it would be headed to the museum the next day, the last piece to join the exhibit.

"Asaph." I said his name boldly, trying to be firm but respectful. "Have I interrupted?"

He shifted, turning towards me while remaining seated. "Come here for a moment." When I did, he put a hand on my shoulder. "What are you thinking right now?"

"Um..." I was rarely at a loss for words any more, but his question took me by surprise. "I wanted to speak with you about Veronica."

"Ah, Veronica..." He chuckled, smiling. "Growing up so fast. I can't really stop it, can I?" Despite his expression and laugh, I knew this was still his melancholy. "Would you like a drink? Brandy may be more to your liking than wine."

"Sure." It was an immature answer and I chastised myself for it.

As he set his pipe aside with a bit of a cough, he chuckled again. "Ah, I haven't smoked in years. But I just got this pipe, and I suppose some of the old urges came with it. Sometimes I just can't resist, even when I know something is terrible for me. Do you ever feel that way?"

"Of course." Didn't everyone? He was doubtless talking about something more specific. "Regardless, I wanted to talk to you."

The glass he gave me had only a dash of brandy. "Go ahead," he said as he replaced the cap on the decanter.

"I know this business with her has upset you." When I said that, he turned from the cabinet to face me full. "But you have the ability to change your mind. To decline her offer."

"Ahh..." He shook his head. "I know. And that's the idea I wrestled with not only the night the offer was made, but for a long time after." The hand on my shoulder again. "Jirarudan, my boy, the both of you are growing up. Time, as they say, marches on. And eventually you'll both be magnificent collectors." He drew back a drink from his glass, finishing it. "I should have known when I took you both on that I would have to face that at some point."

I'd taken a sip as he spoke and found the taste more agreeable than before, but still awfully strong. "But I don't like being a child," I sighed. "It's terribly boring, and I'm rarely taken seriously. I want to be an adult."

His shoulders slumped. "You'll regret it later on. Savor those youthful days, Jirarudan. I don't want you to have any regrets. When you're my age..." Again, he laughed to himself. "I suppose I'm no better than the emperor of Sinnoh, trying to summon the deity of time so he could remain young and reign forever...Already I've outlived him, you know."

Asaph wasn't particularly old, if I recalled correctly, but the short lives of people who sought immortality were a common irony. On the other end, I thought to the far ancient Ki-en-gi region, a primal settlement where the kings were said to have reigned for tens of thousands of years. I wondered if I should have brought it up, but it was impolite to bring up someone's age. Though he had posed the subject...I thought for a moment, longer than I realized.

"Jirarudan? Are you listening?"

I snapped to attention. "I apologise. I was distracted."

He smiled. "Beauty does that." It wasn't until I followed his line of sight that I realised he was still watching the Eye. "My boy, I want you to learn from me."

"I do. You're a wonderful teacher." Despite my saying that, he was beginning to lose me, and I wondered if I shouldn't have just avoided the initial subject altogether. "If I may, though, I still don't quite understand."

As he fetched another drink, the light from the Eye shone across his face. "We can talk about it later. Right now, I'm feeling terribly worn out." He turned what remained from his pipe out into the ashtray to extinguish it, and finished his newly refilled glass in a gulp. I thought about doing likewise but instead just took another sip, which turned out to be all that was left in mine.

"All right. Rest well."

He tilted his head back and laughed softly. "You're growing up too, aren't you?"




The guest room had been redesigned, with two smaller beds replacing the single large one. They lay side by side with a small table between them, decorated with an antique lamp. Veronica had claimed the bed closer to the window, and when she sat upon it, the luxury of the mattress and bedding was obvious. "Aah, what a day," she sighed. "I'm glad to have a few days off." Lying back, she kicked her slippers off and worked her necklace loose, sliding it over to the table. "Where did you go after dinner?"

"I was talking with Asaph." Heavens, that was a soft bed. "He's terribly upset, but he's set in going through with your offer."

She was silent for a moment and I was about to repeat myself. "...If he didn't want to part with it, he wouldn't have agreed to it. That's all there is to it."

"That's essentially what he said. Though I think you'll have to bring this up to him yourself."

"What's to bring up?" she asked as she rolled over to face me. "If he didn't want to part with it, he wouldn't have agreed to it." The same words came a beat faster. "Even if he regrets it, he's still doing it." But she paused again, and came to rest her head against the cover. "...That's not heartless of me, is it?"

I laid back, squirming slightly to remove my socks. I hadn't noticed that they were still slightly damp from the snow. "We're all adults. We can make our own decisions."

"Yeah...adults. ...I could fall asleep right here."

"If you're not going to shower, I'll claim it. But at least change into your nightclothes." I smiled, hoping it was landing on 'amused'. "It wouldn't do to wrinkle up your nice clothes."

She picked her head up just to stick her tongue out at me.

"Adults, yes." I laughed, but I also felt a little superior to her at that moment.




During the night, I awoke to find her staring out the window. Her back was to me, but it was almost as though I could see her expression. Her hand drew down the glass, leaving a trail through the slight condensation, and she sighed heavily.

I wondered if I ought to say something to her, but decided against it. I rolled with my back to her and quickly fell back asleep.



She wasn't in bed when morning came, and I wondered if she had stayed up all night. I listened to see if she was washing up, but there was just silence. After a few minutes more, during which time I pulled the comforter up over my head to savour the feel of the luxurious bed just a little while longer, I reasoned I should get up.

Usually it would be considered impolite to not dress for the day, but at Asaph's house we were permitted to attend breakfast in robe and slippers. Mine were a matching set in soft purple, just a few shades off of lavender, and very comfortable without sacrificing appearance.

I headed for the sitting room and found Veronica, reclining on the couch under the window with a book next to her. I recognized the book as one I had gone through, a guide to famous jewelry written nearly a century ago. Since then, various golden ages had taken place, especially the rise of Hollywood style, so it came off as nearly quaint to the modern eye.

"Oh, good morning, Jiri." She smiled up at me and brushed a strand of golden hair over her white robe. "You were sleeping so soundly that I didn't want to wake you. Asaph agreed."

"What time is it?" There was a clock in the guest room, but I hadn't checked it.

"Uh...I think it's about half past ten. It's not like we have anything set to do today though, so it's ok."

I took a seat in the armchair beside her. "Have I missed breakfast?"

"Not really. I mean, Asaph and I already ate, but it was a cold dish so it's all right."

That wasn't surprising. Recently, Asaph had taken an aesthetic interest in the Botha region, halfway across the world, and the meals from his kitchen had embraced that tradition.

She pulled up to a sitting position and set the book on the table beside her. "Want to have another snowball fight?"

What an odd thing to ask. "No. I don't think we should." I thought back to what Asaph had talked about the prior night. "I'm hoping to study some in the library today."

"That sounds like a good idea. What about?"

"Whatever strikes me."

She laughed, a short chime. "You have so many things that do. You're lucky that way. You see beauty in the most unusual places, and I like that."

"Well," I thought aloud, "the world is an unusual place." I didn't know what I meant by it. I think I just wanted to make her laugh again.

And laugh again she did. "It sure is. What's something unusual on your mind right now?"

Thinking of something was simple. The hard part was narrowing it down. "Ah...hm. There's a book in the far corner of the library that smells horrid. I believe someone spilled something on it at some point." It had come out purely at random.

"I know the one you're talking about!" Her arm shot out as though she was pointing towards it through the wall, and I suppose it was in the rough direction of the shelf containing the book in question. "It's about making beer. I think it sat in the brewery for a century too long!"

"Yes, that would explain it." I tried to copy her laugh but failed. She was still smiling though. "I would have thought the auctioneers would have tried to air it out. Although at least Asaph keeps it protected." The book, along with a few others dotting the shelves, was kept in a protective wrapping that permitted the viewer to see the spine. "It's better than that musty smell that so many old books have, of course."

"Oh, I know! It's so gross and I don't know how book collectors manage it. And it can make you sick since it can harbor a fungus." She waved a hand as if smelling something foul.

The conversation was amusing, but I had other things to do. I gave another smile and headed out, closing the door behind me.



She had put the idea in my head, and the scent became impossible to ignore. I left the library soon after, though usually I was able to spend hours in there. Granted, I had been the one to mention it in the first place, but I wouldn't have without her presence. It was a strange feeling to be confronted with the sudden realisation of what had been around me the whole time. Instead, I returned to the sitting room and found Asaph there instead.

He removed his reading glasses as he stood. "Jirarudan. Are you well?"

"I am," I replied as I tried to think of the rules for asking the same in return, finally settling on "How has your day been?"

"Oh, I can't complain. Come here."

As he returned to his seat, I took the chair next to him, but he patted the couch cushion beside him, so I moved to it. "All right. I'm here now."

He chuckled a bit. "I'm sorry to catch you in the middle of all this. I want you to know that you're still very dear to me, and that hasn't changed."

That was unusual. "I haven't doubted that. The situation between you and Veronica doesn't impact me."

"Our conversation last night showed me a young man very concerned about the people close to him." He slid an arm around my shoulders. "Even if, as you say, it doesn't affect you, you still want to make things right."

I hadn't said that it didn't affect me. I had said it didn't impact me. In my mind, those were very different things, but he had enough on his mind. "What are you reading?"

"Hm? Oh!" A book on the side table had prompted my question, as it hadn't been there before. "Veronica must have brought this in. Ah, it's a history of the Alspring region. I think she brought it from home then." He straightened it, lining the sides up with the edges of the table. "You both do such in-depth research into what you want. It's admirable."

"It just makes sense." I wouldn't comment that I had never known her to do near as much study as I did. "Before we bring something into our lives, we should know it as fully as we're able."

"We should," he said as he pulled me a little closer. "And sometimes even then we make mistakes...Nobody can prepare for everything."

"Even the greatest collectors in history have encountered fakes," I affirmed. "We're only human. Though I can't imagine who would want to con a king, for instance."

"Only the very bold and the very foolish," he laughed, something I could feel vibrating in his chest. "Sometimes we get so wrapped up in our zeal that we forget ourselves. But as collectors, we can scarcely help it."

I curled up next to him on the couch, making sure that my feet still hung over the side, and rested my head on his shoulder. "I want to be able to have that much zeal someday. Like you and she have for that gem." Perhaps I shouldn't have wished for that.

"You will. You're a very passionate boy, and the love for the future you've chosen shows that you have a greater appreciation for the world than most." His hand came to my hair and rested on the back of my head. "You're going to be a great man someday."

"A shining star, you said." It took a moment before I remembered who else had said that. "You know, my mother would have liked you. She wanted wonderment out of the world too."

"Do you take after her?"

"I've been told."

He chuckled. "Then I'm certain I would have liked her too."




After we'd stayed like that for a while, and after I'd finally had some breakfast, the three of us each found ourselves in the library once more. Veronica was already hard at work when I arrived, and it seemed as though Asaph had just begun a search for something. A private library of nearly two thousand books was ours to share, but it seemed small after a while.

"Alspring again, Veronica?" I asked. "We saw your book in the other room."

She giggled. "Sort of. I'm reading about the history of opals. This book talks a lot about the Eye of Dawn. It's a seminal example; quite famous. I'd heard of it before acquiring it, of course, but I didn't know there was so much written about it."

Asaph seemed to tighten at her words, and it was no wonder. She had stated that it was already hers, and even if it was in all but name, that name was his until after the exhibit.

"What about you? What are you here for?"

I hadn't planned on anything, just to wander around. Ought I say the first thing that came to mind, as I did a few hours before? "I'm not sure yet." Turning towards Asaph, I spoke a bit louder. "Perhaps Asaph has a suggestion."

He set his own book down. It was an autobiography of a deposed king from a European region, a first edition. "Well, when did you last study your Kalosian?"

I had a bit of difficulty with that language, and it was far easier to read than speak. "Longer ago than I ought. I suppose you can help me narrow it down."

Asaph searched the shelves to and from for a moment. "Ah! It's upstairs. The bookshelf in my office has one you may enjoy. Bring it down here. La Goupix Prince."

I had read that myself, years ago, in translation. The titular prince wasn't a Vulpix, but rather befriended one. I bowed to Asaph to take his leave and headed upstairs to retrieve it.

His office was small, and he used it mostly to research future acquisitions. For literature to be among those tomes of phone numbers and other contact information was unusual, but it seemed that the book I sought wasn't alone in being out of place. He likely would head to his office with a book in hand and forget to retrieve it.

The hunt and the acquisition were everything to us. Even my far less significant pursuits had meant so much, and even when they gave only things that I intended to trade away in the future that I felt no connection to. It was a giddy high, and I could certainly identify with that scattered mindset. Who knew what sort of fantastic items he had achieved while at that desk?

I settled into the desk chair and tilted it back slightly, taking in the softness and the slightly worn feel of the armrests. It was positioned a bit higher than the more visually striking chairs on the other side, a psychological ploy to have the upper hand in any deals. Neither of the others looked as though they had ever been used, and it was no wonder. While his gallery was on the first floor, hardly anybody was permitted to enter. The second floor was entirely private, and he would never simply invite anybody up unless the situation demanded no less. While he had clearly prepared for that event, I doubted it had ever taken place.

Staying there longer would have been wonderful, but they both expected me down there. I would have to ask to see his references sometime soon, though.



When I returned to the library, Veronica had already moved on to another book, this one about jewelry. While the Eye wasn't considered jewelry, many other opals were covered, including a stunning diadem on the open page. "You would look lovely in that," I whispered as I sat across from her.

Again my mind wandered to the subject of what Asaph planned. The library must have belonged to his parents, as there were two facing spinet-style desks and a couch. More than one person was meant to be here, weren't they? Or perhaps it was simply an aesthetic. Both desks had been salvaged from a distant university library, and bore the ghosts of hundreds of years of essays and study, some lightly imprinted into the wood as they had been written.

"-get started?"

Oh no, I had missed her reply. "Pardon? I apologise; I didn't quite hear you." Best to be honest, but not too honest.

She blinked a few times before smiling. "That's all right. You really think I would look nice in this?" She tapped the page with her thumb. "I wouldn't think of anything to wear with it! It would have to be so plain so that it couldn't even begin to take the stage."

"I'm sure you could do it."

"I...thank you. Thank you." She fidgeted with the pencil in her other hand, tapping it against her notebook. "Um...I also asked if you're ready to get started. Your own book."

"Of course." I set it carefully on the desk and opened it, waiting for my brain to catch up with the foreign words. It was faster each time, it seemed, and I noticed with some glee that there was no loss from the gap in time I had taken.

The book was far more engaging than I had recalled, and by the time I had finished, Veronica and Asaph had both left the room. The book Asaph had been reading still waited on the end table next to the couch, and in my fancy I thought perhaps there was some relevance to the things that had arisen in my mind.

Alas, I found nothing. It was a straightforward read, even rather dry from what I saw. Perhaps my fantasies had gotten ahead of me. Usually I was more practical than that.




The day dawdled on. Veronica was again at work, this time on school assignments, and Asaph had returned to his study, so I took to the gallery. It felt so very right in there, truly a place I was meant to learn from.

There were pieces with those same imperfections, which got me to thinking again of the conversation I had had with Veronica before. When a piece had been damaged, that was one thing. But if a piece turned out with a flaw and was still lauded for it, how did the artist view that? Surely there were so many who had nothing but frustration for being unable to capture their true vision. Even within our own culture, that had to exist, even if less than in the wider world.

A setting of a fantasy, that was the gallery. I wished for that fantasy, fervently and truly and perfectly. I could lose myself in even a collection that wasn't mine. Museums held me as surely as the Earth spins, and I could fall into them entirely. A wonderful, blissful abyss, holding Paradise itself.

Though, like Paradise, my time there was limited. This wasn't my place; I was a mere visitor to that fantastic world. By the time I pulled myself away, several hours had passed. I wasn't sure how I felt for that. A trip to those realms always felt simultaneously an eternity and an instant, and leaving them left me in a daze. It was glorious, and someday that feeling would be mine forever.

As I wandered away from it, I found myself headed in the direction of the study. Asaph would be there, likely in no mood to speak, but in some indescribable way I wanted to be there.

Surprisingly, I found him looking out the window, away from the Eye. "Asaph?" I wouldn't move from the doorway until he permitted me to enter.

After a pause, he shook his head. "Jirarudan..." His voice was soft. "Do me a favor."

"Of course. What is it?"

He set aside another glass, likely filled with more of the brandy. "Don't waste your life. Promise me that."

"I won't waste my life. I promise."

"Promise me!" He spun around and was before me in an instant, kneeling in front of me. "Promise me."

"I promise." What was this about?

"Good boy..." His hands slid around my back as he gently pulled me into a hug. "You've always been such a good boy..."

He was shaking. "Are you all right?" I asked as I begun to return the embrace.

But he pulled out of my grasp, sliding away from my hands. "I am. Just a bit tired still. I'm sorry if I scared you." He wiped at his eyes. "Maybe I'm coming down with something. Though mostly I'm just tired. I'm sorry."

That couldn't be it. "That's all right." I leaned forward and patted his shoulder. "You've been very busy lately. It's understandable that you would be exhausted, but the exhibit is next month. It's soon enough."

He grinned and returned the gesture, and I felt a little better. "You're so wise. I'm supposed to be your mentor and yet..." Then he stood. "Come sit with me."

I followed him to the couch and did as he asked, his arm around me coming as no surprise. What did surprise me, however, was how he didn't speak.
 

K_S

Unrepentent Giovanni and Rocket fan
I'm a little surprised how long it took to set up Veronica's find and incorperate it into a showing. Granted, them setting it up to corrispond with a sporting event (the league?) Gaurentees more traffic. so its smart...

Laughs. I get jir's kneejerk disdain havong been the nerdy kid at a jock school. Glad veronicas point sunk in, though jir's taking it with a grain of salt there.. Or perhaps a spoonfullof salt...

And being a bit salty afterwords, besides.

Though i would debate the idol worship being a "new" thing. Considering the legends ect being paraded about in greek (or the mon equivulant) sculpture alone. Idol just became less mythological personage and more modern and self centric so its a shift in tenor rather than focus.

I have to wonder why asaph would consent to be in the exhibit book featuring a fake (well jir suspects its a fake and suspects asaph knows too) much less make such pomp/circumstance about being in a shot with the questionable gem piece... Wouldnt that tarnish his reputation?

Hm i suspect jir's a bit naivein the "persons secondary arts primary" mindset he's assuming his peers in collecting hold. I can easily imagine many shallow souls doing the upper crust equivulant of "lookie what i got" with shades of"mine all mine" as ego propping for themselves as thier primary motive rather than endorsing the arts.

Jir's father screams engeneer/pragmatic/practicle in his life style and actions. And i wager if jir were less restrained and perhaps forced to interact with his father without any out for a long stretch he'd been climbing the walls and losing his mind.

Makes me wonder how or if jir could survive if asaph hadnt sponsered him. The personality friction is just that bad.

Oh jir you young thing... The answer to that questions a firm yes. I found jir and asaph discussing jir's father to be a rather enlightening section. Amd it is interesting that jirs having the grapple with "beauty in the eye of tje beholder" quandry thats basically the backbone of collecting.

You know i feel silly for forgetting, but what happened to mil' again?

I suspect veronica regularly has to poke jir out of his thoughts. Part of me wonders how often and the other wonders what jir would be doing without those friendly little prods to reality.

It feels like the asaph veronica tensions are less a wall and mounting towards a confrontation. Or a fall out. If thats the case it makes veronicas viewing of the mansion as a safeplace all the more tragic.

You know asaphs "dear to me" line feels like more articulate."its not you its me" lead in... Juat saying... And the last interaction between jir and asaph screams ominous...

Seriously a summary of the last few chapters feels like..

Jir' is humming along happy amongst all the art and history of every place he goes. Pondering the value of the various collections ect about him..

(Tension between asaph and veronica mounts to near jealousy born knife throwing on asaphs part)

Jir hums louder as subtext pulls a tripple axel over his head.
 

Blackjack Gabbiani

Merely a collector
Pronouns
Them
Partners
  1. shaymin
  2. dusknoir
Yeah, next chapter things kinda...explode. I'm warning you now.
 
Obsession 32

Blackjack Gabbiani

Merely a collector
Pronouns
Them
Partners
  1. shaymin
  2. dusknoir
(WARNING! This chapter contains uh....big spoilers here
child molestation by an authority figure, told by an unreliable narrator
so if you want to avoid that, stop reading when they leave the party. It doesn't go into any detail but it's clear what happened)




Everything was finally together, every detail arranged down to the finest. The exhibit was at last upon us.

All the planning in the world seemed to be so distant, however, as I plotted what to pack. Asaph was to take us to the opening night, and we would stay over in a glamorous hotel, as the usual plan went. Though the luxury was part of our lives, it was anything but routine no matter how often we did it.

But this was the first time I would serve as a representative of part of the exhibit. Asaph's involvement as one of the highlighted collectors put an extra responsibility on Veronica and me, possibly the biggest we had experienced so far.

Not only did I have to look the part, I had to act it as well, and the normal degree of class likely wouldn't suffice. I would be expected to go beyond what was demanded of us on an everyday basis, and that was already something that was beyond reproach.

We would have to be flawless. I suppose most people would have been terrified, but I relished the opportunity. It was, after all, something Veronica and I had spent so long refining at similar events that it was second nature to us.

"Shining stars," I repeated from years ago. We would dazzle simply by attending.




We had reservations for one of the most exclusive hotels in Fuchsia. It was a style I greatly enjoyed, with a base in traditional design but bearing modern details as well. The place was a bit of a resort, offering activities that brought tourists to the customs of old, and I knew Veronica and I would enjoy the incense ceremony lesson. The rickshaw ride through a nearby forest wasn't offered in the winter, though, and that was a bit of a disappointment. However, I knew Asaph had reserved a carriage ride for us from the museum to the hotel after the celebration, and I eagerly awaited the exotic flavour that would give.

Of course, that was a term that varied considerably. Foreigners spoke of modern Kanto as exotic, while I would only apply the term to our much different past. While people here often suffered Lumiose Syndrome, disappointment that modern Kalos didn't live up to their romantic and glamourised expectations. It seemed to be a universal issue, a folly of expectation. I do certainly enjoy the fantasy of these regions, but the truth of everyday was always the same.

I had to rise above the everyday. It was my duty in life as one who could appreciate true beauty, and I burned for it. I would have something that surpassed anyone else.




Leaving Seafoam that day was a wonderful feeling. Liberation swelled in me. I was my own person, out in the world, and even the melancholy of knowing I would have to return didn't interfere.

As I packed my suitcases into the boot of Asaph's car, the snow fell lightly around us. Veronica waited patiently in the back seat, which was unusual. She lived in the outskirts of Viridian, distinctly north of our destination. Igasho would have had to have gone in a loop to retrieve both of us. I felt honoured.

And driving past the town limits, that was the best part.

"I'm so excited," Veronica whispered, smiling at me.

I smiled back. "We should be proud."

"Oh, I am!" She had bolted upright as she exclaimed this, held in place only by the seat belt. "I can't wait! I've been waiting so long for this that it feels like I'm going to burst! I couldn't pay attention in school all week for it!"

On some level, I had forgotten she attended a school. If I had thought about it, I would have known, but my impulse was to think that she learned remotely as I did. And, of course, from our mentor. "Asaph is a wonderful teacher, isn't he?" Damn, I had said it aloud, without the connecting thoughts to mark the path.

She nodded swiftly. "Of course! I would rather have him in my school. He would be far more interesting than anyone I have."

I leaned back and soaked in the softness of the antique seats. The car was a classic, and despite the retrofitting still felt so. It brought to mind a bygone time, steeped in sophistication.

Such an odd thought. Had I been in that age, I would have spent my whole life with knowledge of the wider world. A few generations prior as well. But there would be those around who remembered when the world opened to them, when the self-imposed isolation was pried wide like a treasure chest. They would have known those days of turmoil and resistance, an age of both enlightenment and upheaval, and I pondered what someone like Asaph would have thought. He wouldn't, using my age as a baseline, have experienced it firsthand, but he would have known far more of the shifting mindset than me. What a fascinating time it must have been! I wondered what would be thought of my era that far into the future, and even then, part of me hoped I would be thought of in that distant day.

I would have spoken my thoughts to Veronica, but she had since nodded off. Perhaps her burst of energy had expended more from her than she had let on.




Arrival at Asaph's mansion, though a typical thing, was refreshing and eager just the same. I barely noticed the cold or ice, and nearly tripped coming out of the car. "Well, that won't do," I murmured.

Behind me, Veronica laughed.

"Good morning."

She stretched a bit. "Thanks. Mm, it'll be nice to take a vacation. Poor Asaph though! He'll be running himself ragged until the party starts!"

Igasho chuckled. "He's done it before. Everything turns out."

"I think," I told Veronica, "that you and I should visit the hotel spa while he's involved elsewhere."

"Ooh, that does sound delightful. I've heard it's very traditional!"

Taking short marching steps so as not to slip, we slowly made our way inside. Her coat, a long brown style made of neatly trimmed Piloswine fur, was coated in powered snow, giving it a right natural look. Compared to my own felt coat, it was far more stylish. I didn't want to be plain. I wanted to be as exotic as my collection would. And I couldn't wait, with the comparison in my mind, to get that thing hung up and away from me.

Fleeting thoughts like that, little aspirations and doubts and dreams, often flapped their way through my mind. It's funny to think of in hindsight, how many things that meant so much to me at a time would quickly fly on, and how many things that I thought of as meaningless would come to roost.

Though I suppose that's part of life, isn't it? We can never tell where a thought will lead, or what turns out to be a part of something bigger.

At the time, I couldn't have known where any of my flights of fancy would go, or how very soon they would impact me.



It took a few hours for Asaph to greet us, so Veronica and I split up. When I heard his voice, he was speaking to her in the sitting room. They were laughing about something, and I started laughing too, even though I was still across the hall in the gallery. The manners of that action escaped me, but I was alone, so I didn't stifle it.

After a moment, however, I joined them. Asaph hung back in the doorway while Veronica was on the couch under the windows, looking like a stylized holiday postcard with the snow behind her. "I heard something funny," I greeted. "Might I hear it?"

"Ah, Jirarudan." Asaph was smiling, but it thinned when he turned towards me. "You look well. Excited for tonight?"

"Of course!" I hoped my expression beamed with joy. "Are we going to go soon?"

"Absolutely!"

Veronica got up off the couch then. "I'm ready when everyone else is."

"Then let's go!" He gestured to the mid-sized craft on the landing pad near the driveway. "I was about to go find you anyway. I'll alert the staff to transfer your bags!"

Asaph was in rare form, as hyperactive as a child, and I wondered what he must have been like at that age.

It was only after we had boarded the ship and taken off that I realised that I had never heard what they were laughing about.




Again we docked outside the city limits, where a rental car awaited, a special one, far more vintage than most. It reminded me a bit of Asaph's own car, but without the modern touches. It was even bereft of seat belts, something Veronica brought to attention as she noted that her dress wouldn't be wrinkled later on.

Asaph smiled to himself as he drew out his driving gloves, a classic touch. "I'm dropping you two off at the hotel. You'll be shown the room, and I'll join you later. Are you ready?"

"Ready!" Veronica cheered, tossing her arms in the air in a celebratory motion.

"Ready!" I tried to match her tone but remained more physically subdued.

The ride was an easy one, despite the weather and age of the car. Fuschia was a relatively small city compared to others in our travels, but was a sight to behold nonetheless, with frequent pink flowers peeking out from the snow drifts like glimpses of tiny fairies. Beside me, Veronica tugged at her coat as though she was already in the snow.

The hotel was nestled in a small forest on the other side of town, one where the trees gave the illusion of bowing. Be it from the weight of the snow or a simple trick of the eye, it was impressive nonetheless.

Within, the lobby was deceptively simple, looking superficially like so many others, but with a well-manicured history to it that would be difficult to replicate elsewhere. I marveled at a scroll tucked to the corner, the earliest known image of the hotel that dated back centuries. The scroll itself was a reproduction, but I knew the owners possessed the original, and knowing I was so close to something like that was wonderful itself.

A porter led us to our room, and while we set up, Veronica idled with the view. The forest was all around us, and the snow lent a mystical sense to it. I thought of fairy tales, local and foreign, and how so many people had enjoyed the same view through the ages.

"Oh!" she exclaimed. "Look!" A small colony of Nidoran ruffled through the snowbank, occasionally nibbling at something in the underbrush. "They're probably aware of us, so that's nice."

Asaph looked out over them. "They're still wild, but they recognize that we aren't a threat." As if to support this, one of them, a male, looked directly at him. "Ah, you see?"

Veronica waved at it. "Hello, little boy! They're all so cute!"

"Did you bring Ralts with you?" I asked.

"Always! Her pokéball is in my purse." She twirled around. "I can bring you out if you want."

Asaph cleared his throat. "I've got to get going. Last minute touches, you know. I'll see you this evening."

"All right. I look forward to it."

He smiled somewhat. "I've booked you both a full afternoon, so you'd best get ready. You're due in the spa in an hour."

"Ooh!" Veronica set her purse aside, having not gotten Ralts after all. "Jiri, this will be fun. I've heard they do wonderful things with bamboo charcoal, and they have a proprietary tea as well."

"I look forward to it."

There was something I couldn't quite put my finger on about the clothes she pulled out of her suitcase. I had the image of a Hollywood star for some reason. "Is that your dress for tonight?"

"Yeah!" Now she unfurled it, holding it up to herself. A very unusual garment, the dress was of metallic fabric, but not nearly as overwhelmingly shiny as others of the same material. It was drawn slightly to one side, the lines meeting at a bow styled like a fukura suzume knot of the same pink and gold as the rest. "Do you like it? I got it just for the part!"

"It's very modern." I wasn't quite sure what to think of it.

"Aww, you don't like it, do you?" Before I could answer, she laughed. "It's ok. My mom designed this and wants me to wear it around, and I know a lot of people will like it. I love it!" She twirled around, hugging the dress to her chest. "It's going to look wonderful in the midst of everything tonight!"

"Truth be told, I'm a bit envious. Men's formal wear is so dull in comparison." My own suit was an uncomfortable affair, with a snapped bow tie and silver cufflinks that so many others would have. I was to stand out with my personality and engagements, but I wanted to wear something more 'me', whatever that would be.

"Maybe my mom can do something about that," she laughed. "But right now we have an appointment!"




The afternoon had been geared towards relaxation and yet it seemed to fly past as swiftly as a Pidgeot. Veronica's rush to head to the spa was more of a symptom than a cause, but I had felt rushed ever since.

It would all be worth it, though. We both knew that.

The low evening light danced off her dress as we waited for the car. Asaph had hired a driver this time, to return the car to the lot so we could take the carriage back. I shifted my weight from foot to foot while I looked out the lobby window, trying to do so subtly though I knew I shouldn't. It made me look impatient, Asaph had said.

He glanced down at his watch, an antique hand-wound one whose face bore the image of a sea chart. "When we get there, we'll be a few minutes into the event. Check your coats and put the tickets somewhere safe. Veronica, for you that will be your handbag, and Jirarudan, your jacket. I'm counting on the both of you to be on your best." Not simply 'best behavior', but overall 'best'.

"Yes sir!" I jolted with a salute that I hoped came off as playful.

Asaph chuckled. "Yes, yes...I suppose I've got a lot to plan even now."

"Well," Veronica added in his tone, "I suppose that there's a lot to think of."

That merited a full laugh, but a brief one. "Far more than most people know. Even other collectors don't have this degree of involvement."

Knowing Asaph, he insisted on it. No wonder that most didn't, considering the degree of stress he was under. But it was worth it to him to be that exacting if the end product was perfect.

The car drove up and the doorman made way for us, the automatic nature of it exuding professionalism, and I wanted to have something like that be my everyday.

As we settled in the car, Asaph whispered "Let's go!" with a sharp smile.




The museum's face bore giant banners trumpeting the new exhibit, though it wouldn't open to the public for another week or so. They could bear witness to whatever was visible in the lobby, but the rest would remain beyond their reach for the time being.

The lobby had a few people spread about, conversing in small groups, with most attendees in the exhibition space already. Veronica and I set our things with the coat check and already Asaph had engaged with one of those groups. After a moment, he gestured to us, and we followed him over.

"I've been mentoring these two for the past few years," he said with a smile. "Don't be surprised if you see them hosted at an event like this soon enough."

One of his companions, a middle aged woman with a long pearl necklace dripping down to her waist, looked at me, then at Veronica. "Always good to see children taking an interest in art."

A jacketed man to her side nodded. "I feel like we'll be in good hands if you're teaching them, Asaph."

"Oh well, it's on them, really. They're excellent students. Introduce yourselves!"

For a second I wondered if I should bow or shake their hands, but after a glimpse at their western-style outfits, I decided on a handshake. "Jirarudan. Pleased to meet you."

"And I'm Veronica. A pleasure." She bowed first, then offered her hand, a mirror of her multicultual outfit.

"Oh how precious," the woman cooed. "I'm Atsuko, and this is my husband Etsuya."

"They're not only collectors," Asaph told us, "they're also artists, both represented here today!"

Etsuya chuckled. "That we are. I was hoping it would be one of our collaborations, but alas. At least keep in mind that it was the decision of the collectors and not us." I got the idea that he was a bit embarassed, though I would have though it would be far more of an honour to be represented like that.

Veronica asked which pieces were theres, and Atsuko was more than happy to show her. After a short conversation more, Etsuya left to speak with other new arrivals, and I was with Asaph again. He didn't look at me, surveying the room, but it was clear that his question was for me. "Are you well?"

"Ah, I am. Are you?"

"I will be." His voice had returned to its normal pace, but the event still called for his attention to be pulled every which way.

Before I could reply, though, he set off to greet more new arrivals.



As the afternoon rolled into evening, the action had moved to the galleries. While the rest of the museum hadn't been closed off, nobody left the main area, so captivated they were with the others around. And that was what they were doing, after all. They were there to be seen and to see others, and to judge their collections. Physically, they would see the art, but they wouldn't truly witness it, not as it deserved. That could be done later; now was for flaunting.

I'd had pleasant conversations with others, and learned quite a bit about the local landscape, by the time I ran into Veronica again. She was chatting with another person, a foreigner this time, and waved me over to him. "This is the young man I mentioned."

He smiled and held his hand out. "Hello there, Jirarudan." He had paused briefly before saying my name, likely trying to remember it. "Veronica has said much about you."

I greeted him in return. "Oh dear," I sighed, hoping my slight smile was sufficient. "A pleasure to meet you. What brings you here?"

"An excellent question! You see, this!" Here he spread his arm out towards the painting on the wall, "is my creation!" It was of a sleeping Snorlax, but with a freeform style that put emphasis on the idea of slumber rather than likeness.

I nodded. "Very nice. I seem to have missed your name, however."

"Oh, I'm sorry. Craig; nice to meet you." But instead of speaking to either of us, he seemed set in showing off his masterpiece. "I never thought that I would be able to get into a museum like this. I've been in galleries before, but this is my first museum! And in Kanto no less! I love the culture here, and it's so beautiful!"

Veronica giggled. "We like it. Jirarudan, I was telling him that you're another student of Asaph's, and some of your areas of expertise."

"Is that so?"

He gazed around the room before nodding rapidly. "Are either you artists as well, or just collectors? Ugh, I mean...not to belittle collecting. Are you ONLY...no, that's not right either. Is collecting your sole field?"

I'd understood from the beginning, and so did she. It was unusual seeing someone fumble with politeness like that, but I'd had to study to no end for it. Had I come off like this when I first started? I hoped not. "I've drawn before, but I prefer to see the world through the eyes of others when it comes to art. I see the world through my own eyes all the time, after all."

"Wow," Veronica said plainly, "that's a nice way of putting it. I've done a bit of sculpting and photography in school, but nothing serious. It's fun working in the darkroom though, but if I was to pursue it, it would just be a hobby."

For a moment I imagined what it must be like in that scenario, with her high manner versus the foul chemicals needed for developing. I wondered if it bothered her.

"That's good! Any appreciation at all is good," Craig enthused, "especially when it comes to fresh eyes. The art world, museums and galleries and stuff, used to have such a bad reputation for being all hoity-toity, so it does my heart good to see younger people passing all of that by. I mean, it's competitive, but where I'm from in the Chikkawa region, it used to be that you'd barely get noticed if you fell outside certain social classes, no matter how good your art was."

"A common issue around the world," noted Veronica. "Peasants rarely stood a chance at recognition not long ago, though those that were were lauded the same as anybody. It was..." she struggled with a word there but settled on "odd".

Craig laughed. "So, what do you think?" He turned back towards his painting and again gestured broadly at it. "I tried to make it nice and vibrant."

I took another look at the work, taking in more detail this time. The bushes nearby bent and folded, giving the impression of nearby pokémon though they were barely seen, only in dashes of colour. The sky bent over the sleeping giant, emphasizing its round form in a way a more realistic depiction wouldn't have, and the colours of purple and blue brought out a feeling of dusk while not compromising view.

"It feels like it's inviting us to nap alongside it," Veronica laughed. "It's nice! Relaxing."

I had something a bit more verbose planned but when she spoke, I simply agreed. "I like how it brings to mind the tiredness of night through colour alone. And how it's the only figure in the painting but it clearly isn't alone either."

He pumped his fist at his side. "Yes! I'm so glad more people notice that! They think it's the only figure there, but there's a Pidove up in that tree, there's a Patrat in the bushes...did you notice the Munna over there too?" He gestured at a corner with a faint feel of pink. I had to remember what a Munna looked like, as I'd only seen them in pictures.

"I see it! It's in the flowers so it blends in, and it gives the feeling of the flowers swaying in the wind since we can't see it clearly." Veronica had leaned in to see it closer.

Craig smiled broadly. "I've got to mingle with more people, but let me give you two some advice. From one art world citizen to another..." He leaned towards us, so we followed suit. "...don't be afraid. Do what your heart tells you. It'll lead you to great things."

Asaph's words, shining stars, chimed in my head. They were always there, but it was different to hear some external force ringing that clarion call.



An hour or so more passed before I became aware of time passing at all. Everything was so magical that even the crowd and its din didn't bother me.

But with the awareness of time came the realisation that the event would end, and a sudden panic grabbed me. While it would be several more hours indeed, that it would end at all was something terrifying. I wanted to remain there, to live in that environment with this new beauty around me, something I'd never seen before around every turn. And the compliments certainly didn't hurt. It seemed everyone wanted to meet me, and while I'm certain this was due to my age, they expressed that my conversations and insight on the works was impressive.

That didn't help feeling sick, however. I withdrew to a corner by the coat check and busied myself with pamphlets that I didn't really see, just so I wasn't simply staring at the wall or into space. Such behavior couldn't be indulged tonight, not this of all nights, not after everything that had gone into this.

It was foolish of me to still act like that. It was preventing me from enjoying the event that had been so fantastic in all ways, and I had to get over it if I was going to be taken seriously at all. I couldn't have all that good will be for nothing, all those open doors slam shut. I braced my hand against the cold marble wall and put the pamphlet back where it had come from, and turned back to face everything.

What a fool I could be, I mused. Still acting like a child. I wasn't that immature kid who never spoke, who stared at the sky all day. I was to be a collector, a paragon of society, a guardian of history itself. The world's finest things were to be mine and I couldn't be so easily weakened. To be reduced to a trembling mess by the simple reminder that an event would end! It was idiotic, and I shuddered to think that my mother witnessed it. I twisted the ring on my hand in the hopes it would turn her back to me.

"Oh, Jirarudan!" someone called. I didn't know much about her, only that I had briefly spoken with her earlier in the night. "What are you doing over here?"

"Ah, I was getting a bit warm." The coat check was next to the doors, so a quick gesture to the snow outside served as an excuse. "Too cold to go fully outside, you see."

She chuckled. "It does get terribly warm during these events. This time of year it's bearable, but in the summer, it's nearly a test of endurance."

"The things we do for our collections!"

"Exactly!" Her smile told me that she had fallen for my lie, and I felt better. Maybe I would be able to finish the night anyway.

I returned to the crowds with a flutter in my stomach. I could enjoy this paradise, as brief as it would be.




As I entered one of the side rooms, a glint led to a familiar sight. Just as the plans had shown, there was the Eye of Dawn, the entrancing opal that had so bewitched Asaph and Veronica both. It was set off to the side for maximum attention, under the light in the center but not directly so, so the light wouldn't cause a glare. This way, the opal could be seen in full detail, and even the velvet pillow beneath it was chosen to best show off that quality. Asaph stood beside it, smiling as he spoke with a group about his treasure. He nodded at me but didn't call me over, simply acknowledging that I was there.

I took the opportunity to view the gem as it was meant to be, after so many months of preparation to make it perfect. It rested beside other pillars holding jewelry from centuries past. One I recall had a storied history to the present day, having recently been given as an engagement present between movie stars and acquired by the collector after the couple had divorced. Some laughed as they read the description, and I confess it was amusing to me as well.

As I was about to leave the room, Veronica entered, a few people following her. "Oh, Jiri! I was going to show these people my new addition. Want to come too?"

I almost said yes, and then I almost said no. A sudden indecisiveness had come over me and I only blinked in what must have expressed confusion.

"Come on; let's go!" She reached for my wrist and I let her guide me along, the others trailing behind.

Asaph's voice vanished from the din of the room. He had turned towards us as we approached, and took a step back as her companions fanned out.

"Now then, at this present time, Mr. Asaph is the owner of the Eye. I'm set to officially acquire it after the exhibit closes. Asaph, what drew you to the Eye?"

He gasped a bit at Veronica's question. "I would imagine the same as you; the great beauty of the piece. To think that the ancient Alspring civilization carved it so perfectly, something we would struggle to do in the modern day... I imagine the beauty of it set upon the scepter..." He looked away, towards an elegant carving but seemingly past it. "I would have loved to have seen it in its full glory, but...well, we can't always have what we want."

Veronica picked up on his trailed sentence "The scepter was destroyed in a war. The priestess herself tied a smaller opal to it and cast it from a cliff into a fire wall to convince the enemy that the Eye was destroyed. The fire was too great for them to continue their approach, so they gave up their plan of extinguishing it, which allowed her to make her escape with the real Eye."

One of her companions nodded. "Wise of her. It would have cracked in that heat and been unrecognizable."

"Still," another sighed, "it would have been lovely to see the full piece."

Asaph interjected "The Eye is estimated to have been carved over three thousand years ago. Considering the scepter was wood, the one destroyed in the fire was likely one of many. The Eye has always been the important part, the sacred one..."

Veronica nodded. "The Eye is the constant, no matter what it was carried on or who possessed it."

This seemed to be getting personal. I backed out as subtly as I could. Still, as I walked I mused on the history there. Who knew what treasures were lost to time from such an ancient civilisation, ten thousand years of the oldest continuous history in all humanity? There was much to be told there, but time marched on. It remained a vibrant culture, several of them in fact, forever reshaping what it found important.

Even the Eye, once considered sacred, was presently regarded as a marvel of human hands, but no longer a symbol of the divine. What of our present era was once divine? What could be elevated to divine status in the future? And how much truly was a mark of the Gods? Could they bestow divine status onto anything they pleased? Could they revoke it? It was fun to think of what could entail that, leaving me in a sort of dreamlike state.

I was lost in thought when a nearby conversation drew me out of it. I supposed I should be using my opportunities when they were available, so I joined in.




I saw Veronica again near the end of the party, still chatting with her gathering. "Oh!" She came up to me with a skip in her step. "Can you tell Asaph that I'll be heading back later? I've been invited out."

"All right." The last I had seen, they were still together near the Eye, but I'd long since left that area.

She smiled. "I'll see you tomorrow! Have a great night!" As she turned on her heel, she blew a kiss in my direction, and I wasn't sure what to make of that.

Finding Asaph wasn't nearly as easy. Even though the guests were thinning out, plenty still milled about, and made it just difficult enough to find any specific person. It took what was likely about five minutes to locate him in the foyer, nursing a glass of wine. I wanted to impress him, so I approached him with something I had learned earlier. "That wine is special. It's from here in Kanto, the only vinyard in the region."

He stared off, and I wasn't sure he'd heard me.

"Asaph?"

"Mm..." He sighed and took a sip. "It's about time to go. Where's Veronica?"

"Ah yes, she said to tell you that she's been invited out and she'll see us tomorrow. Or rather, she said she'd see me tomorrow, so I assume she means you as well."

Another sip. "...I'm not surprised. She's growing up so fast. Soon she'll be gone..."

Well of course she would. We were being trained for that very purpose, weren't we? To be art collectors, to travel the world, so of course we were going to go away.

"But you're still here. Jirarudan, come here." Instead of waiting for me to move, he took a step closer and wrapped an arm around my shoulder. "I'll call for our ride then."





We waited in mostly silence for the carriage, Asaph only stepping away from me to retrieve our coats and discard his empty cup. Otherwise he stood beside me with his hand on my shoulder. The exhibit had exhausted both of us and I loved the quiet that came in the afterglow, akin to those blissful moments after a wonderful dream.

It was easy to see the carriage approach even from inside, as it was pulled by Rapidash, their flames brilliant against the nighttime snow and the white of their coats giving them a nearly otherworldly glow. Without a word, Asaph took my hand and led me out the door, not looking back.

While the flames from the Rapidash helped to offset the frigid cold, I still nudged closer to Asaph once we had taken our seats, and he again slid his arm around me. "Jirarudan..." he muttered, "don't go anywhere."

An odd thing to say in a moving vehicle. I shook my head against him. "I won't."

I could hear that he was whispering something, but whatever it was got lost in the wind. His other hand came under my chin to tilt my head up, and soon his lips were on mine.

I gasped against them, but this is what adults did, wasn't it? And I was an adult, wasn't I? So I let my eyes close and returned the kiss.

"I'm so glad..." he murmured. "So glad..."

"Me too." Even with my stupidity earlier in the evening, hiding from everything as I had, Asaph still saw me as an adult. I was overjoyed! And what Craig had said came back to me, to do what my heart said, and not to be afraid. I bit back my nervousness and initiated another kiss.

I could feel him smile against me.




The coachman's back was to us, leaving this our secret, and once we had reached the hotel, our room wasn't far away.

I'll not share the details, of course! A gentleman doesn't.

He excused himself after, and I settled back under the covers, worn out from a day and night of new experiences.

As I drifted off, I could hear him in the washroom, and I had to be mistaken because it sounded as though he was crying.
 
Obsession 33

Blackjack Gabbiani

Merely a collector
Pronouns
Them
Partners
  1. shaymin
  2. dusknoir
At that point I had gotten used to it. Being an adult was wonderful, my dreams seeming so much closer.

Not that I had any specifics in mind at that point. I knew I wanted an airship, but no specific works came to mind. An image had begun to take place where all the displays would be in the gallery--it had to have a gallery!--and throughout the ship, but I didn't yet know if my vision was even physically possible yet. Even with studying aeronautics, I wasn't sure what could be accomplished.

I wanted to push the boundaries of what was possible. Not simply in an airship, but in my life. I wanted to see the world as differently from everyone else as I could. I wanted to be a true Renaissance man, a marvel of the world, drawing everyone not only to me, but to my collection.

The wind off the ocean whipped around me, bringing a sense of wildness it never had before. I could do what I wanted, with nothing hindering me. At least, I liked to think of it that way. In reality there were many barriers, but I then could see past them to the prizes that awaited my patience and persistence.

"What are you doing out here?" Helen's voice came under the wind like a bird call. "Jirarudan, come inside. It's so cold out." She had appeared behind me with a coat, though I was quite comfortable in what I had picked out.

"Ah, how are you?" I greeted her with the same practiced charm I gave everyone, remembering to toss up a smile.

"Warm. Now if you're going to stay out here, then put this on." She shoved the coat towards me with a chuckle. "A lot on your mind?"

Everything was on my mind, everything to the horizon and past. "Ah, there's only so much time in the day, isn't there? History could scarcely hold it."

She laughed and came to stand beside me, leaning over the rail that lined the cliff outside the factory. "You're so articulate. I wish I had your sense of drama when I was your age." The way the wind tangled in her hair had its own sense of theatrics, though. "So what are you thinking about?"

I draped the coat over my shoulders and pretended it was an extravagant cape. "The world, I suppose. What do you think the art of the future will look like?"

"Whoo..." Her exhale was almost a whistle. "You'd know more about that than I would. It seems like there's always something completely different on the covers of your magazines. So I'm guessing something we can't even imagine right now."

It was a bit disappointing to hear that. Someone who dealt with technology and art as her trade had to have some insight into that. "That's no good." But my thoughts that day were bursting! I asked her about something I'd recently read. "Have you ever thought about the idea that photography is a form of time travel?"

A sudden laugh burst from her. "Well, that was a change of pace. How's that then? Time travel?"

"Preserving a moment just as it was. Though it's limited, of course." I waved an arm to gesture my surroundings. "Anybody could capture this, for instance, this image of what's around us. It's limited to visual, and whatever the photographer saw fit to capture. But it's something the future could see just as we do."

"Mm. What about painting?"

"That's not really the same, is it?" The difference was clear to me, but she likely needed elaboration. "Paintings are, by their nature, stylized. They're beholden to the style and skill of the painter. Same with sculpting, or anything else." My hand wove in circles as I spoke, unintentionally modeling a cycle of time. "Though they're still invaluable to our knowledge of the era, of course, and understanding much of the world. And great beauty, naturally."

"Naturally." She giggled, but it seemed to be a separate thought. "Understanding the world...if only, huh?"

"What do you mean?"

"Aaahh. Greater minds than us have tried. I don't think anyone can really understand the world."

Again, it was more than a little disappointing to hear that from her. "We have to try, though. Otherwise, what's a heaven for?"

"A man's reach should exceed his grasp, or what's a heaven for...I know that line," she mused, her gaze drawn down to the ocean below, waves flinging themselves desperately at the concrete wall that lined the base. "I read that poem a long time ago but that's all I remember of it. Does that say something about me, do you think?"

I was sure it did, but had no idea what. "Who knows? Maybe one would have to understand the world for that."

She drew closer to me. "Haha...I wish I was a deep thinker like you. It's like you have your own little world and the rest of us are just guests in it. Are Asaph and Veronica the same way?"

At the mention of my mentor, I stood a little straighter. Every good collector had their own world. "How so?"

"Well, do they have the same sort of...broad thinking attitude? I mean just in the past few minutes we've talked about all sorts of stuff, and it all seems really important to you."

That time Veronica had approached me from the bushes and shoved me into an adventure made me think she had her own world for certain, but not of the same variety as mine. And Asaph... "I think Asaph knows what he wants, most of the time. But when he doesn't, then it can upset him."

"Yeah, most people are like that. You sure are."

Was I? I could see the cracks in his calm facade now that I was close enough. Certainly close enough... But he struck me as unusual still. "Am I?"

"Yeah. I hear about you from your father a lot. Stories your mother would tell him. You had trouble explaining things when you were little, and you'd be quiet a lot. She called you a deep thinker."

I took a glance at her. "So that's why you called me that?"

"Yeah," she smiled. "You talk a lot more than I was expecting. I hear you talking to yourself through your door and all that, and Asaph says you're an excellent speaker."

"Oh, does he?"

"And a charmer too. Haha, maybe your father should have The Talk with you." But she mock shuddered when she said it.

I wasn't about to tell her that I had a bit of a head start in that regard, and the idea of such a talk would have repelled me anyway. "Ugh. Though I do read, of course."

She laughed. "I used to read everything I could get my hands on, just like you. Your father did too, he tells me. You end up knowing all sorts of things, don't you? It's a lot of fun. That's how I got into engineering. You never can tell, can you?"

"Had you thought you would take a different path?"

"I'm not sure. I thought I'd be a trainer though, but everyone thinks that. I was for a little while, as you know. Heh..."

"Not me. The whole thing seems utterly pointless to me. Like how children all seem want to be great athletes. It's the fame they want, the recognition and adoration. Frankly," I smirked, "it says something about their lives."

"Hm." She looked away a bit. "If you hadn't met Asaph, I wonder if you'd be so confident in that. Oh!" With a jolt, her back straightened and she turned back towards me, "I didn't mean to be so blunt. It just...I'm sorry."

I had no idea what she was out of sorts about. "Ah...apology accepted then. I suppose if I hadn't met him when I did, I would have met him eventually."

"Yeah but I meant at all."

"Aaah, I see." I turned back towards the ocean view. "Not sure. I probably could have looked into any number of things."

"You still can."

Was she trying to convince me to leave the art world? To leave Asaph? What did she know? I gripped the guide rail tight, and swung against it to cover the gesture, and wanted to tell her that I never wanted to leave but didn't want to tip my hand. "I know."

"I think if I didn't make airships, maybe I'd be a pilot. Or maybe I'd make something else, like cars or boats." She paused. "I could do anything really. Not everyone can really say that, and you're certainly one of those people that can."

"I'll need a pilot's license." Somehow it came out before I could say anything else, and she cocked her head at me. "For my airship."

"Haha, that's a nice thing to work towards. It'll probably be good for you to have a license anyway."

It seemed as though she didn't believe me that I would have one. I'd already planned to ask Asaph about funding a ship, but as I said, I didn't yet know what I wanted, only that I would have it. I was absolutely certain I could pay him back for it, regardless of how expensive it was to be.

Things like cost didn't seem to matter too much. They would work out. They always did.

After another reminder to stay warm, Helen went back inside, leaving me to my thoughts in blissful isolation.




In the next few days, a storm set in, a late winter blast, and Seafoam frothed at the edges with grey and chill, sending me huddled inside for the duration. Being able to languish inside had its appeal, with a sort of melancholia to it that brought to mind the air of a romantic poet. Briefly I considered perhaps sending away for a poet-style shirt until I recalled it was popular among several modern musicians, and I didn't want my motivations to be mistaken.

It wasn't as though I was especially against that music. Most of it was toss, of course, but hearing electronic sounds blended to be tonally pleasing was fascinating, and I wondered what historical musicians would have done the same. Surely there would have been some, and it was amusing to think of what their best known pieces would have sounded like with that technology.

Why, I wondered, had everything turned out the way it did? Did something control the flow of time, the advancement of culture, or was that entirely our doing? Did things /have/ to turn out how they did? All questions with no answers, or at least none that had been found.

Though I never really considered free will to be an issue, it would be fascinating if there was some force out there that willed me into being a collector. Someday I could meet it, perhaps. The Articuno that Veronica and I had discussed had been spotted at the beginning of the storm, and it was said that we were experiencing its wrath, though the reports said it was seen simply flying, with nothing that would indicate it was angered by anything.

Maybe if I looked for long enough, I would see it, I figured, but I never saw anything of the sort. I could barely see the ocean from my window during the depths of the storm, even though I overlooked it from the clifftop. I could barely see the frame of the house, holding it in place against the threat of erosion as the waves flung themselves against the rocks below. A branch of the frame girded itself just below my window, and I wasn't sure if it was there as a security measure, as it seemed wide enough to walk on. If the thought of the crashing ocean below didn't terrify me, I might have tried it in better weather.

I remember the radio was playing as I came downstairs, even though no one else was there. My father and Helen were in the factory, and though it would have been much warmer in there, I'd have had to bundle up to get there, and the effort seemed unworthy for the payoff.

The sound drew me to my father's workspace, his desk with papers covering every space including the computer keyboard. Even a few adhesive notes were affixed to the screen, and I could see he was still working on the vaunted "H class" airship, the one of his fantasies. In profile, it looked absurd, the ball shape of the main body being held aloft by a ring of propellers.

But scrap paper scattered hither and to showed multiple equations, and it was easy to see that he was working though the physics of such a craft. Oddly enough, from what I understood of it, he had somehow managed to make it work. Though a mix of gravity dampeners and extremely powerful motors, this beast would not only fly, but function as a normal airship.

And suddenly I wanted one. I felt as though the ship itself was gripping my very heart. I had to possess this, same as any other treasure. Who would have supposed I would feel that way about something my foolish father designed?

It would be more than anything I had ever set eyes on, but with a few adjustments it could be a suitable home to every treasure I could ever want. It was already a marvel of modern science, but how could it be made into a marvel of art as well?

It was so very close, so incredibly close that I felt dizzy, and I took refuge in the desk chair, leaning back while being careful not to swivel around. "Aaaah!" I exclaimed, somewhere between a shout and a sigh, not sure if it was satisfaction at being suddenly so close to a goal or frustration at still being so far from it.

"You OK?" Helen had come in when I wasn't looking, and from the looks of the notebooks in her hands it was likely to gather some of his notes.

I scrambled up and shoved the chair back in place but forgot to answer.

She smiled. "Hey, is that the H-class? It's such a weird looking thing but he says it can work."

With a glance at the maths behind it, I confirmed "as far as I can see, it can. I didn't think it was possible."

"Yeah, I think he hired some people to run the numbers, but he doesn't really tell me much about this project. I think he wants it to be at least in the testing phase first." She picked up a stray paper and looked it front and back. "You guys really have a lot in common. And if you can keep up with the physics, maybe you could work on this together! Have a bonding activity."

I think I withdrew a bit at the suggestion.

"Hey, it could be fun! I don't know if there's any sort of legal thing we'd have to work with to have an eleven year old on board, but as long as you're not doing any of the physical factory work, it should be fine. Kids build model ships with their parents all the time, right?"

"I'd rather not." I remember that my voice was unusually firm, but she didn't seem to notice.

"Come on, it'd be fun! You can ask him after he gets in. I just popped in to get some things." She picked up a can that was obscured by her hold on the notebook. "Like hot chooooocolate! Haha, there's only so much coffee someone can drink." Of course, what passed for either coffee or her vaunted hot chocolate in the factory was a thin shadow of the real thing. "You want me to make you some before I head back?"

"No thank you." I was glad she had changed the subject, however brief a diversion it was. Asasph had cautioned me many a time to be mindful of who I spent my time with, and while I still trusted her, it was an iffy subject with him.

"Suit yourself. There's some marshmallows in the office so I'll bring some in for you for later."

"I'd rather not." I hadn't meant to repeat myself but it was coming from a different place now, so I elaborated, "I don't much care for them."

"Really? I gotcha. Not much of a sweet tooth, huh?"

"No, I just don't like those. They're not even real marshmallows, which are made with the plant called the marsh mallow."

She raised an eyebrow. "Huh! Learn something new every day. I don't think I've ever seen those but if I can find some, would you want any?"

They were excellent and I had enjoyed them when I did have them, but to have that over the same dull sort of artificial hot chocolate was a dreadful thought, and to expect better quality in both was a step too big for that house. "That's all right, but thank you."

A smile. "So polite." After a beat, she continued on, adding "See you later! Keep warm!" from the next room.





The phone connection was staticky and uncertain but I had to call Asaph regardless, the long cord just enough to permit me to curl up under a big blanket on the couch. In a rush I had explained to him my reaction to the design, like some religious revelation.

He chuckled, a bit of a blistered sound from the uneven audio. "It sounds like you've fallen in love."

"I may just have." It was a bit simpler than discussing any of the more complex feelings I had towards, say, him. Best to save that for later. "It's some of the most intense emotion I've ever experienced." For a moment, I thought back to my reaction to losing my mother, how deeply mired in nothingness I had felt, but even that was more of a hollowness than a true emotion. What an uncomfortable thought, to suddenly conflate the two. "Is that strange?"

"No no, my boy, just the opposite. We collectors live by our passions, Jiri." I could hear him move around as he spoke, shoes clacking on the marble floor. He had likely taken the call on his mobile, quite a luxury in the day. "Every day, that's what we do. You've already been doing it handily." He stopped for a second before resuming his path. "You and I, people like us, we live more deeply than most. You've already surpassed what levels of emotional depth most people ever feel, so it makes sense that you would feel this so intensely."

I pursed my lips, noting to myself that he didn't mention Veronica. Perhaps it was just that he was only talking to me. "So, my baseline is higher already? That makes sense." A passionate life would mean that we had to pursue our dreams or fall into despair. "Asaph, I wanted to ask you something."

He stopped again, leaving me to imagine what he may have been doing. I had pictured him walking in circles on the first floor, between the gallery and the sitting room, so I wondered where he was now. "Y-yes?"

"Ah, sorry, the connection must have faultered for a moment. Regardless, I must talk about money and I know that's a bit rude."

"Haha, no, go ahead." After a beat, that click started again.

"Well, as you know, my present fortune is considerable, and growing all the time. But I also doubt that it would be enough to cover the cost of the H-class. Also I can't risk him learning of, well, just about anything."

"Yes, that would be...we have to keep our secrets, don't we?"

"Quite. So, I'd like to set up some payment system with you where you purchase the ship up front and I repay you for it."

He slowed a bit but didn't stop. "First off, Jiri, there's a lesson you must learn. You must be certain this is what you want. Collectors far too often work on impulse, and you have to think things through."

Was this about Veronica? Or was he going to say this regardless? "Of course."

"You have to be certain this is really love, or a mere passing infatuation. You can't act rashly or you'll do something you'll regret."

"Mm-hmm..." He couldn't be talking about--

"You can't trade this away if you get tired of it. A custom ship will be for your tastes, and of course a second-hand craft will never get your your return investment back."

Ah, so not then. "I know. Do you want me to sleep on it?"

"I want you to take a week to think about it, and do think about it. It's a weighty decision, and you're also asking me to aid you in it, so you can't just think about yourself here. I'll be glad to do it if you're certain, but you have to be absolutely free of doubt."

I pulled the blanket up a bit tighter. "I've got to have the resolve of Queen Marlene."

Another pause of the clicking. "Ah, of course, from the classic novel. I really should get around to reading that one of these days. You really do take in information like a proper sponge, you know?"

"It's only been four hundred years since it was written. What's another one?" I was certain to laugh as I said it.

He chuckled back. "Ah, I'm ever fond of your sense of humor. I'm certain the author would appreciate your support. Regardless, however, we don't even know if your father intends to go through with his design."

"He'd be a fool not to!"

"Well, remember, even studying a potential design is a financial endeavor. You know better than I do the work that goes into things like that."

"I guess..." The den was lined with books on aeronautics and physics and the history of air travel, books I eagerly gobbled up myself as I dreamed of the art of flight. Frankly it was amazing it had taken me so long to desire such a divine chariot as this. Perhaps it was how close the subject of airships was to my father; I wasn't sure.

"If he's going to put effort into this model, it's going to cost him quite a pretty p, so to speak."

"All the better to make it worth his while then, isn't it? To show the demand?"

"Haha, I suppose so. I can approach the subject with him soon. I need to have my ship in anyway. The heating system is acting up a bit, nothing immediately serious but it would be dreadfully hot in the summer."

"Mm-hmm."

"That should be in about a month so I'll talk to him then. If you still desire this ship, of course."

"Of course," I repeated, somehow in the same tone and cadence as him. "Asaph...I'm utterly grateful for everything you've done for me." I was aware I was gripping the blanket with a tight fist. "For taking me seriously as an adult, for teaching me so much..."

"Ah--Jiri, I should be going. Um...you're welcome..."

I felt like the line was unsteady again. "Oh, sorry. I'll see you soon then."

But the line was dead. Maybe we had been cut off, but I doubted it.
 

K_S

Unrepentent Giovanni and Rocket fan
Out of curiousity how many people were ruffled/bailed out from the warning/content? Personally i appreciate the heads up but but i sorta am curious.

I gather jer' is doing ok with the pressure but i worry for (have honestly been worried for) veronica. Not just about the content warning wise but in general she seems both primed to get hauled over coals over her bad buy and the world theyre delving deeper and deeper into.

Rickshaw? Goes to look up... Comes back... Alrighty then i guess it could be charming in the right light... I personally would feel bad for the runners thoguh and wonder if the nitty gritty of the experience would ruffle jir or not.

You know jirs profession and goals that are slowly unfolding here really scream "i do not want to deal with reality" because if youre scorning the everyday what have you really got left? But i see that as a future jir and if jir gets power/money/influence a future world problem on par to kalos' lysamdre issue.

The "midnight in paris" scenario jirs hintong at would likely be both jirs greatest dream and nightmare all at once... And is he round about cslling asaph old? Laughs. Sure thats not how he meant it but still...

Jir sassing the weather for not fitting in his picture perfect head image is funny sad and utterly fitting.

And so jir figures the eastly come easy go slant of fashion... I am surprised to see veronica wearing that piloswine coat more then once to be candid...

I dont know i gotta disagree.w.jir tjere. I always.liked the look of a guy in formal wear but i can see him penning his own ah movie themed uniform later down the line out of spite of modern conventions.

Hm so asaphs student seems a bit self cemtered and honestly anyone influenced by the man probably wpuld turn out like that. Veronicas hobies sound fun and i did like the breakdown and nod towards the fine details of the painting...

Hm this outing seems ominous considerong the age gap... Might be paranoia speaking...

Funny enough i worried veronica was in danger amd it looks like asaphs grooming went to a angle i didnt anticipate as i suspected material and possesion fleecing not... What he did. I'd say you tactfully bowed out of the nitty gritty while explaining it well enough... Amd asaph preying on jir was a logical master stroke... No pesky connected relations to care where victorias likely would notice and have enough clout to act jirs is from a working class home and thus has less eyes and resources.to do anything if they care enough to do so...

Poor kid i suspect this is going to be start.of an ugly downward spiral indeed.
 

Blackjack Gabbiani

Merely a collector
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About the warning, you know, it's funny but nobody has ever brought it up before you.

Some rickshaws are motorized or pulled by other animals and I would imagine they wouldn't be sending a human-run one out in the snow. They're a classy hotel, not the imperial family.

Jiri's downward spiral started before the fic even did just sayin'. But for him to turn out like, say, Lysandre would mean that he would ultimately care about the outside world at all, and well...we've seen the movie.
 

K_S

Unrepentent Giovanni and Rocket fan
Chapter 33 reaction

And considering "being an adult" is a euphenism i am both crimging and squicked out whem jir uses it. Ung. asaph needs a nice long life sentence amd some shiny clappers all things considered.

You know i remember thinking his bird catching ship was so extra in the movie and we can see its conception here and now and i think jis age when he kicked that idea about was part of why it was so...

Its interesting seeing him bounce ideas off of his dads second wife. She can kinda grasp things about the edges so can keep pace a bit with him. Makes him seem less alienated when they do sucsessfully ping off of each other like this.

Ive heard the timetravel camera argument before funnily enough... Granted it was in a pholosophy class and it got torn apart by the cpunter argument of "is it valid if the person in the future is blind and thus cant see the photo".

I had nightmared about that paper thanks for bringing it all back to me.

A little... Understatmemt much? I am curious how jit's family as estranged as they are would react. The second wife is trying to connect.. But her "what if" cound be constrewed as dislike for jirs present ambitions. Something i dont think jir will take well...

Well it put him in a small tizzy and he deflected it well enough i guess...

Him mulling over storm and thoughts was a bit of fun scene building... Though that articunos going to be ragong front and center later.. A nice touch of foreshadowing...

I wonder if jirs newest gimmie project isnt goong to cause conflict on the home front. Itll be very up close and personal for the whole household to see/live with and that could cause frictions.

Even if its the mild "dont want to work with my pedestrian of a father"... And while helen means well shes coaching her offer in the wrong ways not realizing how jirs been both groomed and naturally inclined not to want a sweet as a bribe. Shes treating him younger then he wants to be too and thatll probably derail a lot of her reaching out even if its accidental.

A shame that.

Asaph fiscal idea isnt bad... Also anothrr angle is how cam jir keep it on the down amd low? I mean itsa bleeding air ship for crying out loud i suppose he could let asaph "own it" until he comes of age which is... How far off? Regardless this purchase ia goong to tie them together and give asaph even more leverage.... Poor jir...

And i winced through the tail end of that convo... Jirs not good at keeping this secret because he doesnt know he should... And per the tone of the "never kiss and tell" vibe of the closong of that scene i suspect he never does later either... Which is messed up on so many levels.
 

Blackjack Gabbiani

Merely a collector
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  1. shaymin
  2. dusknoir
Jiri is a pretty messed up kid.

Helen and Corbin aren't married (spoilers: yet) but they've been dating for a while.

ngl if Helen ever found out what Asaph did she would throw him in the smelter.
 

Blackjack Gabbiani

Merely a collector
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  1. shaymin
  2. dusknoir
Corbin would be more "get this man arrested" because he sadly lacks the backbone for much more direct. But he would probably break Asaph's nose while they were waiting for the cops to show up.
 
Obsession 34

Blackjack Gabbiani

Merely a collector
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  2. dusknoir
"Just go, it'll be fine. Have fun!" My father was engaged in his studies, having received a shipment of float stones from Unova, and had been insisting that I would only be bored while he and Helen were at work.

Several months had passed, and the Fuschia exhibit had ended, leaving the Eye of Dawn in Veronica's ownership. She had invited me to her home to see it, and I was eager to do so. And Asaph had invited me for the following day. I hadn't seen him in person since the exhibit, though we had spoken several times. When he had come for repairs to his ship, it was a day I had been out, and I suspected that he had done so intentionally.

He wouldn't be joining us for the handover. The shipment was to go directly from Fuschia to her, and we both thought he may wish to never see the gem again. My presence with him was something she and I had discussed in the runup to my visit, and I expected it to come up again before I left.

Though of course, I had never told her about what had happened that night. That was to remain between him and me.

He had yet to ask me for my answer about the ship, but I suspect that had more to do with my father's further work on the prototype. He was likely waiting for more information, and I planned to speak with him on the subject during my visit. I was looking forward to it, as my desire for an airship hadn't changed.

For the ride up, I had a portable cassette player and a few tapes of suites I had recently fallen for. In that day, it was quite a trendy purchase, and I took care to select headphones that were suitable with my typical hairstyle. It wouldn't do to reach any destination looking a shambles, but I also refused to be bored, and the endless farmland between Seafoam and Viridian was tiresome.

Even though the plan was for one night at each location, I packed for three nights just in case. I suppose I expected Asaph to ask me to remain longer, thinking of his strange behavior before the exhibit, but that was months ago.




Lost in the music, I had to keep focus to ensure that I didn't miss my stop at the depot in south Viridian. I'd been able to listen to my cassettes keenly and without interruption, so I was in a good mood. Even the familiar landscape was kept aloft with imagining a Lugia flying overhead.

I remembered that Veronica's father Franklin was an overbearing man, so I intended to keep my distance as best I could, but he was already waiting as I got off the bus. "Jiri, over here!" he boomed from across the lot and approached with a long stride. "Come here, let me get your bag."

"If you insist." I handed him the lead to my rolling suitcase, but he picked it up by the handle instead. "How are you today, sir?"

He laughed. "No, I'm just 'sir' at work, and this is a long weekend. Let's enjoy ourselves!"

I suppose the intent was for me to find that reassuring, but it made me think of something my father would say. "Then, how are you today?"

"Good. Had a long day at the office but now we're here. Tierney should still be at work when we get there, so don't bother her." I remembered that she was a fashion designer, and the fact that she hosted a runway show at the house likely should have told me that the home doubled as her office, but I wasn't sure I had put those together before.

"Well, it's always good to be able to do what you like." I was trying to say it to his statement about himself.

"Haha, it's a true joy of life, isn't it?" With the suitcase in the boot of the car, he patted me on the back, thankfully much lighter than I would have predicted. "Did you see how I opened that?"

"Opened what?" I had been a bit distracted.

"Here, watch this." He flashed an unusual keychain in his hand before pressing a button on it. There was a click from inside the car, and the lock lifted. "See that? It unlocks the car without a key. It's the latest technology, all the way from Kalos."

I nodded, having heard about it but not seen it in person. "It's nice. Seems like it would come in handy."

"Haha, of course. Haven't a clue how it works, but you're Corbin's kid so you must know all about this stuff."

Unsurprising. It was a symbol to him, removed from any sort of fascination or interest, and that was always disappointing to encounter. "I've read about it."

"So you'll be staying in the guest room. It's just down the hall from Veronica's room, and you've got your own terrace with it. Need anything, you can pick up the phone and the staff can get you whatever."

"Naturally." I leaned back in the passenger seat, and it was a far cry from the rubbery seat in my father's vehicle or even the old and tailored upholstery in Asaph's retrofitted car. This was quite modern all around, and quite delightful. "I hope you don't think it rude that I've never invited Veronica over. My father's house doesn't have the room for overnight guests. Otherwise I certainly would have by now."

Again he laughed. "That's fine. At least here we can keep an eye on you, haha!" He was smiling broadly, but I didn't understand. "Do you want the radio on?"

I had slid the cassette player and headphones into my suitcase before leaving the bus, so it would have been a guess on his part. "I suppose. I rather like the selection the Viridian classical station has. They play works from around the world."

After starting the car, he tuned the radio to the proper station with the push of a button. "It's got all the channels pre-programmed. This one?"

"Yes, thank you."

"You've got good taste. When I was your age I didn't really think about what I listened to, but you've got a keen mind, don't you?"

"I believe I do. That's what people tell me."

"Well, good on you for hearing them out," he chuckled. "Always good to keep those ears open."

He was reminding me of my own father more and more.



I hadn't gotten a good look at the house when I was there before, but it was a very modern-looking place that made use of many windows that dominated an entire side and put the grounds on display. Two smaller houses lay on the other side of the grounds, and I suspected those were where the house staff lived. That was when I realised that I wasn't certain where Asaph's staff lived, even though I knew it was on site somewhere.

Parking took us in a hidden alcove under the main building, with a gate that closed behind us, and an elevator that took us up to the main atrium. To see it empty of people let me take in the details, foremost of all was that it reminded me of a hotel lobby. It was nearly devoid of anything, open with windows everywhere and seating dotted around. There was even a desk there, with a very new computer atop it and a pile of books next to it, and I figured this had to be Tierney's, even if her office was elsewhere. I could hear her talking, or someone I thought had to be her, so that office had to be nearby.

I set my shoes aside and put on the offered slippers, and it was a bit of an unusual feeling to do so in an area that wasn't against a wall. There was a more typical door, of course, but the elevator was further in, leaving two such areas, and I wondered what the protocol was if I wanted to go outside. Was it proper manners to take my shoes and carry them to the door? What about in different weather? Alas, answers would have to wait, and it was sunny besides.

A bit too sunny, but the windows were tempered and the brightness cut to a more tolerable level. A bit too hot, but it was fully air conditioned inside.

Veronica would be waiting in her room, where the Eye would be displayed. Franklin had told me that the delivery had already come, and had described the technology that let him check from his office. I gave him a thankful bow before eagerly heading to her room.

I knocked on her door and waited for a reply, but couldn't tell if the soft sound I heard was what I was looking for. I knocked again.

"I thought I..." She paused. "Come in."

When I entered, the Eye of Dawn was the first thing I saw, the light streaming through it filling the otherwise dim room. Her windowshades were pulled down to its level, ensuring that the sunlight would focus more into the gem, sending a rainbow to every corner. Only then did I see Veronica, sitting on her bed across from it, closer to the door but nearly blending in with the rest of the kaleidoscope. "Am I interrupting?" I asked with a smile.

She looked over at me and her face was shining with that majestic light. "When did you get here?" Her voice was soft. "Please, come in. I need to show you...I need to properly introduce you."

As I went in, I closed the door behind me, leaving it open just a bit. "We've met, but only briefly."

She pulled herself from her bed, standing somewhat unevenly before approaching the gem with reverence. "Jirarudan...This is what I wanted for so long. This is what I had to have the moment I saw it. This...this is the Eye of Dawn." Her voice was trembling, and I thought for a moment that I may have to steady her. It was truly a marvel to see someone so fully overcome by such beauty!

I nodded, then thought about it and bowed in greeting. "It's a pleasure to make your acquaintance."

After drawing in a deep breath, she smiled lopsidedly. "I've been waiting so long for this. Jiri...I can't put anything into words."

I rested my hand on her arm. "You're overcome. It's wonderful to see."

Another deep breath. "You really think so?"

"Of course." I looked down at the gem, displayed on the same pedestal and cushion that Asaph had commissioned for it, and thought back to her impassioned reaction that first day. "I hope someday to have the same wild love for something that you do for the Eye. To be so struck by something at first sight, so utterly consumed by something that powerful...it was like watching a miracle."

"You really think so?" She laughed, a little shakily. "I'm sure there's something. The way you talk about Lugia..."

"Yes, but I've yet to see it in person."

"Mm, that's true."

"Although..." I remember smiling at this, "I suppose the closest I've come is that scroll I told you about. The historical one, with the young woman. Sometimes I think about her a lot."

And she laughed. "You had that same silly smile when you told me about her. The daimyo's sister, right?"

"Yes, her."

"Haha, I think you have a crush on her." Her voice was steadier now, even with the lilt to it, and she waggled a finger at me. "That smile says a lot, you know."

"Now..." I tried to gently deflect the finger with my own, forming almost a fencing stance. "I've thought about that and I'm honestly not sure. There's...there's a lot to think about, and it isn't as though I could talk to her about things."

She took a step back, and I noticed her stance was steadier too. "What was she like? What do you like about her?"

I laughed, trying to convey that same sense of uncertainty. "She's fascinating. She was known for being very intelligent, very charming, and very beautiful, and it seems like...almost like she wasn't given the opportunity to be her own person. She was trapped in the political game of the era, effectively a pawn of her family's interests."

"Oh..." Her expression flattened. "That's a shame."

"It really was. She seemed like a brilliant flower on a pricker bush, something ill-suited to her surroundings..." I trailed off, smiling again despite my dour words. "I wish I could have the chance to speak with her, but such is the march of time."

She seemed to brighten again. "Hey...how about you pretend I'm her?"

"Pardon?"

She skipped over to her closet and withdrew a scarf that she tossed around her head in a complex arrangement, something mirroring the upper class hairstyles of the era. "Pretend I'm her. Talk to me as if I was the daimyo's sister."

"Well, I suppose..." It was an odd proposal but it could be fun, and as beautiful as the Eye was, I was grateful that we weren't going to spend all afternoon talking about it. I would have grown far too restless had that been the case. So I bowed deeply, as far as I could, and waited for further instruction.

Veronica had gathered herself on her bed, sitting genteely with her blanket around her to mimic the heavy robes of a court lady. "I thank you for your loyalty, Jirarudan. For freeing me from my binds. In exchange, I will answer anything you ask." Her voice had changed to a more prim and airy diction, something from a period drama.

Remaining where I was, I tried to keep my voice both quiet and firm. But what would I ask her? If she was truly before me, what would I say? Putting aside any notions of time travel or such. But I couldn't keep her waiting. "My lady...are you happy?" Under normal circumstances it would have been far too pointed a question, even if given carte blanche to ask, but this was between us.

I could hear Veronica pull in a breath at the question and a very quiet "um..." before she cleared her throat. "I confess, I think perhaps both yes and no. There are many things in my life that bring happiness. But..." she sighed, "I wish for my freedom, away from the demands of those around me. And you've delivered me from all that...Stand and look at me."

To view someone of her station would have been a great honour indeed, and I averted my gaze until I was fully standing, certain to smile as though receiving a great boon. "Thank you for this."

"No, all my thanks are to you for freeing me. This era you've brought me to"--oh, we were playing it that way--"seems full of wonders. And I understand that I cannot stay, that I'm merely borrowing this body...yes, your friend must be rewarded as well."

"I will be certain to pass along your blessing to her."

"I'm sure you will. Now, show me this modern era, Jirarudan." She slid her legs back out from under herself to stand again, and kept the blanket around herself until the last moment. I had thought she might leave it on considering that her outfit was a late summer special of shorts and a blouse, something ancient nobility never would have been seen in even if it had been available. I didn't know if I should play along and ask her how she liked her modern garments, but I figured I would let Veronica take the lead as to how far she wanted to take the game.

"Gladly. Um...ought I continue to genuflect as befitting your station or should I treat you in accordance with Veronica's station, to protect your identity?" It was best to get a baseline reading.

She pondered this for a moment. "It depends on if anybody else is around, but mind your manners either way." Her expression softened. "I trust you."

In accordance, I bowed again. "Thank you. Now, if you will, what do you wish to explore first?"

"Well..." She looked around, taking in the Eye but instead moving to the bookshelf. "Much has changed since my lifetime...there's so much to consider." She pondered the books for a moment, drawing her finger down one, before turning back towards me with her hands behind her back. "What do people do for fun in this era?"

Of course. Someone fleeing from a life like that would want to relish being able to enjoy herself. "Well, there are many things. Myself, I like to read, listen to music, go to museums and galleries...Oh, would you like to hear the music I brought with me? In this era, we can record music to play later on at our leisure."

This seemed to excite Veronica, and she clapped in delight. "Oh, show me!"

"Of course. This will be just a moment..." I turned to leave but thought better of it. "On second thought, come with me," I offered with an outstretched hand. "This must seem terribly forward, but in this era, this gesture--"

But she took it before waiting for me to finish, tucking her arm with mine and looking at me with wide eyes that I tried to match to my photographs to no avail. The closest I could think of was 'expectant'. "Jirarudan, please lead on."

With a nod, I did, heading to where Franklin had told me the guest room was. My suitcase was waiting for me, parked in front of the dresser, and I slid my arm away from hers to pick it up. "Pardon me. It's just in here. This is quite a curious invention, and the audio quality isn't the best, which I apologise for, but it's really quite entertaining." I drew out the cassette player and headphones. "Now, you'll have to wear this akin to a hat, so I'm afraid it will have to muss your hair and I apologise for that. Would you like me to continue?"

"Yes please. I want to hear this music."

"Very well." I placed the headset on her, taking care to mind her scarf and brush a stray strand of hair away. "The music is performed in a studio with special equipment to save it onto these cassette tapes," I explained as I popped the player open to show it to her, "and these devices I'm setting on you will let you hear the music as it plays. Of course, I could explain further if you want, though I'm not sure of most of the technical details. But the piece that will play is a foreign one, from the distant Garda region, so it's sure to be unlike anything you've ever heard." And with that, I hit play.

Remembering where I had stopped on the tape, at the end of a "dawn suite", I knew the next would be a "day suite", something bolder and more established, without the building from faintness of its predecessor. At what I could hear of the sound of a trumpet, she pulled in a breath, eyes wide but this time it was easy to identify her expression. "I--" she began to say, but stopped and focused on the music, letting her eyes fall shut to take everything in without distraction. "...it's lovely," she murmured, and I mused that she likely couldn't hear herself.

We stood in silence for a bit, only the faint music wafting from the headphones to fill the space between. It would have been impolite for me to sit on the bed, and very forward to invite her to do so.

Eventually she drew herself away from it, lifting the headset as if removing a crown. "Jirarudan...thank you. That was beautiful. I think next, however, I would like to spend time with you." At a flash she grabbed my hand. "Let's have fun together!"

"O-of course!" This didn't seem historically accurate. "I've been thinking perhaps I could show you, um..." I had going to say that I could show her the television, but I had no idea what was on, and that wouldn't be spending time with me regardless. "...through some of those books that Veronica has. They'll show a great deal of things across a variety of subjects."

She looked every which way before replying. "We can certainly begin. I'd like to see what makes you happy."

"Then very well! We'll have to find a table to sit at, but we could bring a few books at a time. I think it will be quite revelatory."

"What does that mean?" It was an odd thing to ask because I knew Veronica was familiar with that word.

I found myself faultering to explain it, though. "Um...quite eye-opening. Enlightening."

With a laugh, she said "You're such a funny boy. Is that how everybody speaks nowadays?"

"Ah, no, it's considered unusual. But I like it. Words are there to serve a purpose, after all, so what's the use in avoiding more complex words?" I shrugged to add emphasis and hoped it didn't come off as too casual.

"All right, so tell me about the books you have in mind."

One in particular came to mind, one Veronica had told me would be of specific interest to me due to a certain image in it. "Well, there's one I'm especially curious about," I told her as I led her back to her room, "that your host told me of. But I'll be sure to tell you about the breadth of knowledge as much as I can."

"I would expect no less."

I gathered some of the primary books from the shelf and turned back towards her. "I'm not certain where the dining room is, or if this house has a study..." I should have asked before getting the books. They were, of course, very heavy, and all in hardcover as well.

"I believe it's this way." She began to lead me back down the hallway, past the guest room, and through the bend in the hall. "Everything seems familiar. I think she's guiding me from inside. But she can wait." And we reached the dining room, where she sat at the head of the table. "Please," she said with a gesture to the seat at her right hand, "I'm eager to be started."

"Of course." I set most of the books between us towards the middle of the table, but drew one aside to open it. "Now then, it should be...ah, of course." An index showed me where to find what I sought. "This picture is of one of my greatest treasures." Fully opening it between us, closer so she could see it, was a photograph of the Ancient Mew card. "The picture isn't of the one I own, but it looks nearly identical." With a closer look I added "actually I can't see any difference between them. Isn't it stunning? Of course, the picture does nothing to capture the real beauty of it, but you get the idea."

She slid the book the rest of the way towards her to take in the image as best she could. "It is. What is this creature on it?"

"That's called Mew. It's believed to be the ancestor of all pokémon, though this has never been proven. Regardless, it's been recorded throughout history, all over the world. Very few cultures have never reported it."

"I must have heard of it at some point then, and merely forgotten. I apologize." She started to read the entry for the card. "So this image was inspired by a carving seen in a faraway land?"

I nodded. "I've never seen the original. I would love to."

"Perhaps we could go there together!" she exclaimed abruptly with a clap of her hands, bringing them together sharply to clasp them in an expression of excitement. "That would be a truly magnificent adventure, wouldn't it? I would have to borrow your friend for longer, but I don't think she would mind."

"Likely not. Perhaps someday, though we would have to trek through a thick jungle for it."

"As I said, it would be a truly magnificent adventure." She drew her finger down the page to demonstrate that she had returned to reading it. "So there are many of these...not too many. And the text is part of a game the expedition played? Did they make more?"

"I assume they scrawled some on paper, but in truth the card mostly has meaning to me because my mother gave it to me. Though it's lovely..."

Her finger stopped midway through a paragraph. "My mother...she'll be long gone by now, won't she..."

I remembered that the real woman's mother had outlived her, and most of her other children. Best not to bring up what became of her family. The bloodline still existed, that much I knew, and had even married into the imperial family, but none of that would assuage the heartache of personal loss. "I think she would be proud to know you saw this distant future. Such a magnificent accomplishment."

"When I return, I will die, won't I?" Her voice wavered. "I want to have as much fun as I can right now. Oh Jirarudan, please tell me more! Please convince me that the future is something worth believing in!"

Thinking on it, I supposed that would have been the case. To know that the future will be safe would be something vital to hold onto, especially for someone who lived her life for others. Someone of her intelligence would have been thinking ahead, and someone of her compassion likely would as well. Though she also had every reason to be selfish as well, as much as her family had used her as a pawn. Even so, it was a surprisingly dramatic path for Veronica to take this adventure on, and I wasn't certain what to do. "My lady, the world is chaotic as always, but there is always something beautiful to take solace in..."

"Like this image?" she asked, trying to stifle a sniffle.

I leaned in with a smile, putting a hand beside my mouth and whispering "you're very good at this," before sitting up again and continuing as normal "Like what it represents, yes. Things like beauty and culture and the utter magnificence that we humans can create. That's what I love in life. That's why I'm a collector. Because I believe in something greater than the daily world."

She sat up straight, just past the point where it looked prim and into slightly uncomfortable. "You'll find something incredible some day. I know you will." Her hands were clasped before her as she stared intensely into my eyes. I wanted to look away but it would be impolite, so instead I looked at the tip of her nose. "Jirarudan, you've certainly much to be proud of in your life. You know what you want and how to achieve it, and that's far more than I could say."

"My lady..." If this was just Veronica herself I would have put my hand over hers, but one daren't touch someone of noble station in that era! "Please know that you can tell me anything."

Were those tears? I could barely see before she turned away, but I was amazed at how much effort she was putting into our game. "I do know that. And I trust you. That alone is something I can only rarely say." She looked back at me, but not nearly as pointedly. "You've been a great boon to me already. But I don't believe what I'm looking for can be found in these books. Come with me."

"Yes." I had to follow her directly, without putting the books away, and I couldn't tell if the house staff was around to do so for me. Leaving them out wasn't a good move, but I had to obey the order.

She led me back to her room where she retrieved another scarf from her closet. "I think it may...yes, I will cover this for now. Keep it safe for her return." She approached the Eye and draped it in the scarf, wrapping it neatly in a delicate swirl before turning back to me. "Now, she whispers at me that she has a singular piece of technology that you will find fascinating. Please, tell me about this." That was when I noticed she was in possession of a video game system, parked neatly on the shelf under her television.

I knew nothing of such things, but if she wanted to play it, that was what we would do. After a moment of trial and error with the television, I was finally met by the title screen of a game I'd overheard discussion of downtown. The goal was fairly simplistic, to navigate a world of hanging platforms to rescue a princess from a wizard, with no real story beyond that from what I could tell. The game itself stated nothing, asking if I wanted one or two players, and it took another moment to find and connect the second controller. Veronica sat on her bed again, so I drew her desk chair closer for me.

Though it seemed only one character was present at a time, and we quickly learned that if the red character failed in his task, a green doppleganger would take his place. It was awkward to handle, but found myself smiling when I discovered a hidden item by jumping in the right spot.

It was peculiar to note that the game seemed to make literary references through the use of mystical mushrooms, and I wondered if a white Lopunny with a pocketwatch would show up at any point, though I think I may have been thinking a bit too much in a straight line. Alice never contended with this many Squirtle, only the one that I could recall, and I found my thoughts drifting and my green-clad character blindsided by yet another one, Veronica taking control again.

She didn't really speak when it was her time to play, and I felt like she was Veronica again during that time. It was something to herself that she didn't fret over, and even temporary setbacks didn't seem to bother her. I looked over at the Eye of Dawn, nestled under the scarf with its shine stifled by the fabric. With the day dimming, I suppose the light level from under the shade would soon make it uncomfortable to sit where we were, but then why not lower the shade entirely? The actions of others continued to be a mystery to me.

During my turns, she would remark on some elements, usually the fantastical nature of technology mirroring the strange magic of the game, and it was a curious thought. To someone of that era, even a virtual tour of the most mundane things would be akin to sorcery, and I wondered what the noblewoman would have thought of the schematics that let Asaph view the Fuschia exhibit's staging. It was all bold lines and vague determinations, requiring much imagination to envision the finished product, but it was striking to think that just ten years ago, such a thing would have been unthinkable. I considered what the future held. What technology would be sorcery to me?

It was a true marvel of the world to even think of the possibilities.

Eventually we could play no more, all our gathered lives spent, but I was somewhat amazed that we had played as long as we had. Though I wasn't sure of the exact time, the sun was much lower in the sky, and scents from the kitchen were finally wafting down the hall.

"Would you like to continue? You seemed engaged."

She set the controller next to her. "No, thank you. Although that was fun." It was in her regular voice so I wondered if she had dropped the persona, until she turned towards me and spoke again, her voice again that of the noblewoman. "Tell me, Jirarudan. I've given you ample opportunity to ask me anything you wish and you've asked me only one question. Why?"

I had asked more than that, but only one of any real importance, to ask if she was happy. "It's the only thing I thought I could ask that had value to it."

She smiled, but also looked away. "Thank you. I don't think there were any who would have asked me that in my time."

That didn't sound necessarily historically accurate, but Veronica was more making things up as she went along. So I just bowed instead of answering in words before turning off the electronics.

"Are you, then, happy as well?"

"Oh, I..." I said at first as a placeholder with nothing of thought behind it. "I would...say so, I believe. But not as happy as I could be. Such is the purpose of a goal in life, I think, to always have something to strive for. Otherwise, what much else is there?"

She giggled, hand to her lips. "You're certainly honest. How do you intend to reach this euphoria you demand?"

"Well, I suppose I take it when I encounter it," I admitted. "It's not something I really think of in specific terms outside of what acquisitions to pursue. I have some long-term goals, but in the--"

"Tell me about those!" It was blurted out a little more insistent than was proper, but I wasn't about to say so.

Again I took my seat in the desk chair, swiveling it to face her. "Keep this to yourself. But I wish for an airship, and I know how to get one."

"An airship!" Her hand fell to her chest. "What a magnificent idea! Is that truly what it is, a ship that flies?"

I smiled. "Absolutely. They come in many luxurious forms, and are a must-have if one intends to travel frequently. And to potentially transport priceless works, of course."

"Like your card and more."

"And so much more. The beauty of the world...Ah, it requires a chariot worthy of its majesty. There's an experimental design right now that I've been following the development of, and I'm looking forward to seeing where it goes."

"Well, 'where it goes' will hopefully be where you wish, yes?"

At that, I had to laugh myself. The idea of the noblewoman being relaxed enough to engage in wordplay was somewhat inspiring. "Oh, absolutely. Or some similar craft if it doesn't work out with this specific one."

"I'd love to ride in something like that. Something so magnificent...you'll have to show me someday." It seemed as though she had forgotten her own rules for a moment, but that was fine.

"I'd love to have you as my first guest." I would have to have guest rooms, even though I knew they would be rarely used.

She seemed as though she was going to say something further when there was a knock at the door. Franklin peered through the gap in the ajar door and made eye contact with her before saying "Dinner is in five minutes. I hope you're hungry!"

"It's been a long day," she told him, and I wondered if she was intending to carry her game through dinner.

"I'm certainly not opposed to the concept," I said, hoping it came off as witty rather than out of touch.

He chuckled "You kids, I swear," before continuing on.

"Well," I directed, "might I accompany you? I'll show you how to make an entrance in the modern era. Although...it would require me to hold your arm. Do I have that permission?" As I said, this would have been remarkably forward and potentially deadly to ask of the real woman, but it was, after all, a game.

She slid off the bed and adjusted the scarves in her hair before answering. "Permission tentatively granted. Show me first."

"It's like this..." I approached with a slow step, feeling a little hesitant for some reason, and turned to be at her side. At that point, Veronica and I were around the same height, making it easy for me to loop her arm in mine. "Is this permissible?"

She looked down at our linked arms for a few beats. "...This is an entrance in the modern era?"

"To enter a room together like this is to draw attention. I wish we had someone to announce our names as we did, but that's a bit outdated, and dinner tonight isn't nearly as extravagant an event as would merit it."

"Do you think it's a bit...intimate?" she whispered.

I shrugged with my free arm. "It could carry that connotation, and I'll stop if you wish to avoid it. But it's also done among friends. And I would like to consider you my friend, if you'd have me."

"...I don't have many friends..." Again she avoided my direction. "...Very well. I would like to do so."

"Excellent." I wasn't sure why I wanted to have this presentation, but it made sense at the time. In a way it confused me even further, because of the possible meanings of the gesture. It wasn't clearing up my thoughts towards the daimyo's sister at all. But Veronica was at the helm, not me.

Out of all the questions I could have asked, I had picked the one that made the most sense. But it hadn't benefitted me at all.

We arrived in the dining room still linked, and I noted that the books had been moved to a spare chair in the corner. I would have to put them away later. Franklin was at the far head of the table, with Tierney at his left hand like some manner of royal code. To his right was, a little shockingly, Ralts, in a high chair meant for babies, and I wondered if the seat had once been Veronica's. It was impossible to tell the age on such a common object.

Tierney had raised an eyebrow at our entrance, leaning back to face us, but gestured that I was to sit next to her, and Veronica took her place at her father's immediate right, Ralts at her other side. Where it had been during our game was anybody's guess. "So, Jiri, dear, I trust you're not going to go running off to the city."

"P-pardon?" It was more than a bit startling to hear something like that before I could even fully take my seat.

"When you were here for the fashion show. But that was a long time ago, wasn't it, dear?" She laughed, adjusting her slightly-too-wide half rim glasses that had been dislodged by the action. "By the way, the model you wore never made it to market, but Veronica's rugged look was a big hit. Though she's of course told you that, right?"

Veronica had been toying with Ralts, cooing over it, but stopped at the mention of her name. "I was simply wearing it. There was no need for me to take your glory." But it was the noblewoman's voice. We were going to continue the game through dinner, and in front of her parents. I wondered what Ralts would think of it.

Before anyone could remark on Veronica's unusual tone, though, one of the house staff emerged from the kitchen and set a plate before Franklin, with what looked to be fish over greens with toast. It was an unusual combination but something I felt had to be interesting, if nothing else.

"Poached Basculin over frisée," she told us as she set an identical plate in front of Tierney before retreating into the kitchen. I knew I would be served last among humans but wondered if Ralts would be plated before me. The return trip answered that as my plate was set ahead of Ralts, who got a bowl of poké-chow with a steamed kuo berry over the top. It wasn't much for presentation compared to ours, the off-white fish bearing sliced shallot and mustard seeds as the heat slightly wilted the frisée. I wondered if we weren't meant to pile it on the toast, and if so, whole or flaked. It was a unique presentation, to be sure, and I followed Franklin's lead. Veronica seemed to be watching him as well.

"So, Jirarudan," Tierney started, "rumor has it that you're at the top of your class. Is that so?"

The results had come in from the remote school and I had been certain to tell Veronica about my standings. "It's so, or it was a few months ago when I last heard." Though it was hardly a competition, from what I understood.

"Oh yeah?" Franklin had just barely swallowed his first bite before asking. "What are your favorite subjects?"

If Veronica was insistent on continuing the game, she would have to have more attention as an esteemed guest, but there was no way that her parents would play along, so I would have to veer things back to her regularly. I felt suddenly uncomfortable. "Science, I think. Physics is really quite beautiful if you think about it in practical terms."

"You learn physics at your age? School really has changed since I went," he laughed.

"Ah, no but I study on my own. But I do enjoy what I've learned in class. If you mean at all, though, I'd say literature."

"What are your favorite works?" Veronica asked with a lilt, turning her attention back from Ralts. If it suspected anything was strange about her right then, it seemed to play along as well, though I doubt it understood much of what happened.

"Ah, I've recently re-read The Vulpix Prince." I had read it in Kalosian, but it was easier to give the translated title. "It's a beautiful, dreamlike story about a boy from another world."

"Oh, weren't you reading that last term, Veronica?" Tierney asked, pointing at her daughter with her fork in a gesture considered quite rude in my circles.

"I'm...well, who even remembers?" she dismissed with a giggle, trying to wave away attention from herself.

"No, I remember it," Franklin continued, "you said it was beautiful too. But you didn't say it was about aliens."

"Funny that they would read a book about aliens for school," Tierney set in, fork still hovering in her hand like a pencil. "That doesn't seem like the sort of literature we'd be hearing about from that school."

Veronica's eyes were darting about in what I could identify as discomfort. She went to one of the most prestigious schools in all of Kanto, and the thought her parents suddenly had was jarring.

"Oh, it's not really 'about' aliens," I assured them. "It's rife with symbolism and social satire, but it's also about what it means to grow up. Really a remarkable tale, especially for something as short as it is. And the illustrations are part of the story rather than simply being an aside."

Tierney finally set her fork aside to take a drink. "I'm wondering though. What do you like about physics? Veronica's grades could use a bit of a boost, so maybe you could explain things to her."

That was past what could be considered polite, or what could be excused, but I had to remain where I was and so did Veronica. "Apologies, but I don't think that's for me to do. I am, after all, her junior."

Franklin reached over to pat Veronica's hand, and she jolted slightly from the sudden touch. Nobody was to touch the noblewoman, and it seemed Veronica didn't take kindly to it either. "It's all right. We'll get things worked out. You're a bright girl, after all. Already in business for yourself, practically! You're really under a lucky star; isn't that what Asaph said?"

"Shining stars," I blurted. "He said we're shining stars."

"Shining stars, yes," Franklin repeated. "Veronica told us that a while ago but I think it's quite true."

I glanced back at Veronica and she was sitting up eerily straight again but paying rapt attention to the task of moving some flaked fish to the bread. "...Dinner tonight is excellent. I wouldn't have thought of this combination. Chefs never fail to surprise me with their creativity. My compliments!"

I could hear some laughter behind the kitchen door. "You're welcome, Miss Veronica!"

Tierney laughed as well. "You hear that? You're an impressive girl. No sinking into the background."

"Well, naturally." Veronica had a bit of a flip in her voice. "Do you expect differently?"

"Not for my daughter, of course," Tierney returned, but her voice had flattened again. "You're meant to be sensational. And you too, Jiri, from the sounds of it."

I think I sat up a little straighter. "Why thank you." But I also wanted to change the subject. "Tierney, how are your new lines coming along?"

"Ah, clever boy," she said with a nudge of her elbow, far from making contact. "You're going to want to keep an eye on the house if you want to know the next trends in the fashion world. Keep it under your hat, but I can show you a design or two if you want."

"Of course. So the house is branching out then, past trainers?"

"They're still our major youth market, but that just stands to reason. Most kids are trainers at some point, after all, but selling to an older audience can't be ignored."

"That makes perfect sense," Franklin interjected. "You have to be cunning in the fashion field. For me, I get to leave that to my bosses." I wasn't entirely certain what Franklin *did*, but I also wasn't curious enough to ask.

Veronica was still sitting in that odd way, and I was starting to wonder if she was all right. "Jirarudan," she asked in a strangely blunt way, "after dinner I would like to explore outside a bit if you'd accompany me."

"Oh, of course. Will Ralts be joining us?"

She looked down at the pokémon, who was still involved in dinner. "Not immediately, I don't think. I prefer a smaller entourage when traveling, anyway."

Just how far did she intend to take this game? I supposed I would see it through to the end. "We have several hours of daylight left, but we shouldn't stray far from the house." I suspected she would lead us into the woods that lay behind the servants' quarters, or maybe down the main road in front of the house. Somewhere away from the main building, but it was only suspicion.

"What manner of adventure doesn't stray from the known world?" she smiled.

For some reason, her words brought to mind whatever ancestor it must have been that engaged in that jungle expedition that resulted in the Ancient Mew, and I nodded in return.



Following an after-dinner drink of a light berry juice mix combined with sparkling water, something Franklin had referred to as a late summer delight, Veronica and I absconded to the back terrace, diverting only to grab my shoes from where I had left them. Though I noticed she was barefoot. "My lady, I pray you do not intend to walk into the forest with bare feet. It would be very uncomfortable, and as your guardian I--"

"Jiri, stop." Her voice was her own again. The game was over, far earlier than I would have thought.

"Oh...I'm sorry. I though we were still--"

"Please stop." Again, her voice had changed, in only a few words. It was distant and sparse, not the high class lilt of the daimyo's sister and not her usual bright tone. "Jiri..."

"Are you all right?"

She sat on the patio couch and pulled her legs up, taking up just enough room to require me to take to the matching chair forming a L with the couch, both giving perfect views of a delicate garden growing from a stylish concrete planter. "I'm not sure what to do with myself," she admitted, winding a scarf out from her hair and balling it in her hands.

"You have the Eye now. Aren't you over the moon for it?"

"...Keep a close eye on Asaph tomorrow. You will, right?" She stared off into the distance rather than looking towards me.

"Of course. Why?"

"I still feel like I took it from him."

We had been through that, hadn't we? His behaviour was strange and uncomfortable, but he had been very clear about that. "He wouldn't have sold it to you if he wanted to keep it. He thinks of you as a very mature young woman."

"I just spent the past three hours pretending to be some noblewoman from centuries ago." This was a little louder than before.

"People make a lot of money with that kind of dedicated performance." The vision of her as a stage star was new, but it was an image I could easily grasp.

"Jiri, you're probably the nicest person I've ever met." She was still staring off, but a thin smile crossed her lips.

"Oh, why thank you," I smiled back.

"...I meet a lot of people."

We sat in silence for a while, just the rustling of the wind through the terrace garden and the faint wind chimes narrating the scene for us. In due time she went back inside, leaving me alone with my thoughts, but I wasn't sure what to think.
 
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Spiteful Murkrow

Busy Writing Stories I Want to Read
Pronouns
He/Him/His
Partners
  1. nidoran-f
  2. druddigon
  3. swellow
  4. quilava-fobbie
  5. sneasel-kate
Heya, it’s been a long, long while since I crossed paths with this fic. But some twenty-year old cruft aside, I remembered having a good time with it last time and was in the mood for some light reading to round out a night of reviewing, so that sounded like a good enough reason to come back to Jiri/Lawrence’s tale to see just how fast he went off the slippery slope as a kid:

Obsession 10

Although that day had been divine, time has no respect for such things, and life found itself as it always was. And Once again, I found myself caught in boredom's snare. The world seemed so much dimmer and duller after beholding such wonders that it was rare for something to hold my attention for very long. Even Asaph was absent, his life taking him overseas for several weeks.

I mean, on the one hand, this is pretty normal for a child, on the other, considering what I remember of Jiri and his budding obsession about angels…
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One morning I came down for breakfast, and my father greeted me in the kitchen, the smell of fried eggs heavy in the air.

"Jiri," he welcomed with a hand on my shoulder, "I'm taking the day off. How about you and me do something?"

I shrugged, partially noncommittal, partially to extricate his hand. "I presume you had something in mind."

I actually can’t tell if the dialogue in this story is meant to be Jiri/Lawrence’s recollection of how things went back in the day or how they actually were, since that response from him definitely feels a lot older than I expected coming from him as a child.

"Well, let's see..." he thought aloud, putting a slice of toast on a plate next to an apple half and the aforementioned eggs. "We could go shopping, we could go swimming...Oh! I know!" He snapped his fingers, handing me the plate with his other hand. "How about we play some chess?"

… Did Jiri even know how to play chess back at this age? Since I’m well into adulthood right now and I still don’t know how to play it beyond a basic level.
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I took my seat at the kitchen table. "All right," I agreed. It was better than nothing, I reasoned

Whelp, guess Jiri really did know how to play chess as a kid.

"All right, how about after breakfast?" The eagerness in his voice was rather annoying.

"If you want," was my short reply.

He frowned. [ ]

"When you're around Asaph, you just come alive. What happens to that spark, Jiri?"

It’s a bit nitpicky, but if Jiri’s dad had a particularly memorable expression for what he remembers from this exchange, it might be worth explicitly mentioning. Though then again, it’s likely been decades at this point, so I suppose I can’t really fault Jiri if his earlier life was a bit on the hazy side for him.

I shrugged, saying nothing, and starting on my breakfast.

Sitting across from me, he tousled my hair. "Come on...something's gotta bring you out of your shell. You know, we could take the chessboard down to the beach and get some sun while we play. Wanna do that?"

"No, not especially."

Watch as it turns out that one of the pieces is styled after Lugia and he suddenly has an interest in things.

He sighed heavily, looking away briefly. "Oh, right, right, your accident..."

I stared blankly at him before asking him what he meant by that.

"Your mother told me about when she found you face-down in the pond," he replied, laying his hands on the table.

Ah yes, dad brought Jiri’s mom up again. That can only portend good things for where his mood is about to go right now. /s

He couldn't even get something as major as my near-drowning right. "That's not how it happened," I corrected.

He leaned in. "Oh?"

Prompting me. He was waiting for me to fill the silence, and I gave in. "They held me under. It wasn't an accident. They wanted me dead."

Boy, no wonder this kid grew up so screwed up in life. Though I hadn’t realized that that’s what those flashbacks had been pointing to all this time.
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Though it might make sense to give the readers a reminder of who the ‘they’ in this incident is. Granted, I’m a little biased since I’m returning to this story after a long pause, but in general, being generous with hints and reminders in serial works tends to be better for a reading experience than the inverse.

He was still for a moment, then he nodded. "Jiri, you know, your mother saw the whole thing. She told me that they tried to throw you in, but you fainted. They got scared and ran off. I know what they did was inexcusable, but..." He trailed off. "What reason would anyone have to try to kill you, anyway?"

"Because of Mother." It was so simple and he couldn't grasp it.

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I suppose that would explain a thing or two about why Jiri just gloms onto Asaph, since when you feel like your own parents can’t protect you…

"O...kayyyy..." He drew the word out, looking confused. "It was really that strong even after all that time? I knew there was animosity there, but it's really that bad?"

Did he have to be such an enigma? "What do you mean 'after all that time'?"

"You know, about your grandfather?" he prodded.

Ah yes, time to get all the family trauma and skeletons in the closet out this chapter.

I shook my head. "I don't know what you're talking about." Why did he have to be like this?

"Oh, she...she never told you about that? That's strange..." He paused, no doubt wondering if he should reveal the secret. And of course he continued. "Your grandfather was the mayor of the town, and he decided against having the town be a stop on a train route. The townspeople were convinced that the town would have thrived had the train stopped there, and it got so bad that he was forced to resign. I guess some people never got over that."

Well then. I suppose that would explain why Jiri grew up without a ton of neighbors from the point that Obsession kicked up in.

I do wonder if his father’s dialogue here is a bit tail-heavy to the point that it could be handled as two separate paragraphs with a dramatic pause or something in between, but meh. This is quite old as a chapter, so I won’t fault you for not getting too hung up on trying to polish it further.

The lies the man could tell. "That isn't true," I insisted.

"No, no, it's true. Why, what did she tell you?"

He wasn't worth my time. I shoved my plate aside and left the table, heading back up to my room.

Whelp, no chess game between these two, I see.

I came back down a short time later, hoping that my father had given up and returned to work, but this was not to be. In my absence, he had set up the chessboard on the living room coffee table, and arranged a chair at the end opposite the couch. His audacity astounded me.

"Jiri! Want to play that chess game now?" he asked, coming out from the kitchen.

Jiri:
1k80wk.jpg

Father: “... Is that a ‘maybe’?” ^^;

I wasn't going to win, I figured. "All right, I suppose," I sighed, taking a seat in the chair.

He took his place on the couch. "Which side do you want?"

"It doesn't matter."

Yeeeeeeah, this chess game isn’t exactly going to last long. I can already tell.

"All right then." He adjusted the board so that the white pieces were facing me. "You'll start off. Know how to play?"

"Of course."

Mother had taught me once during a thunderstorm, but we had only played that one time. I remembered all the moves, but could not formulate a strategy or anything advanced. But I was not about to let that man talk down to me.

Ah yes, so even Jiri’s pastimes didn’t let him escape his trauma involving his mother. Just wonderful.
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"Good! We'll say, what, half an hour allotment per turn?"

I moved my first piece, the Queen's Knight, without a word, and turned my attention more to the pieces themselves. White like the feathers of the bird. But that just led to thoughts of our earlier conversation.

At this rate, it’s going to turn out that the king/queen really is styled after a Lugia or something. ^^;

Maybe he was telling the truth. But that would mean that there was no white bird, wouldn't it? That there was mother, and nothing else.

And I could not accept that, for reasons I could not fathom. I knew in my heart, as much as I loved my mother, that the bird had saved me.

It puzzled even me, that I would resist his idea so much, but I knew my memory was true.

Ah yes, it’s the Seymour Skinner meme. Even if given how stories work, I would take the under on Jiri/Lawrence being wrong about being saved by Lugia.

"So," he said, breaking my line of thought, "I haven't gotten a chance to sit down and talk with you about your trip to Viridian. How was it?"

I shrugged, slightly disturbed by the sudden intrusion. "I liked it."

Father: “Are you going to tell me about some of the things you found enjoyable about it, or…?”
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He smiled at me. Even with my gaze leveled at the chessboard I could tell. "It's been ages since I was at the museum. A lot of my clients went to some party they had there a few months ago."

Why did he insist on telling me things that I couldn't care less about? "It was nice," I offered, hoping it would make him silent.

That’s called “trying to strike up a conversation”, Jiri. Not that you were really in the mood for that here.

"See anything good?" he asked. "I like the silver room, myself..."

I nodded. "That was nice...I liked the statues..." There was no way I was going to tell him about the angel.

I’m now morbidly curious as to what would’ve happened if he had brought up the angel in the art museum.

A few moves later, he spoke again. "You know...there's something I've wanted to talk to you about for a while." He paused, thinking of how to phrase it. "Recently, Helen and I have...gotten closer. We've been dating for about a year now."

View: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r5vd5cE3n0M

Jiri: “I’m sorry, what?

I suppose it was obvious from the way they acted around each other, but hearing a confirmation was still quite interesting. Helen was a good woman, very kind to me, and she never spoke down to me like he did.

"Oh?" was still all I could say to his statement.

"Yeah..." He smiled at me, patting my hand as I made a move. I waited for him to finish before completing it. "Just wanted to let you know in case you saw us kissing or something."

And cue Jiri flipping out in 3… 2…

And I couldn't have figured it out on my own? Putting aside the fact that I hadn't yet, it was unlikely to traumatize me. My parents had been divorced for several years, it was only natural that at least one of them would find a new partner. Why did he insist on treating me like an imbecile?

"All right," I said, nodding to myself.

Huh. He took that better than I thought that he would. Though I see that even when Jiri’s mom was alive that his family life had problems. .-.

His attention back on the game, we continued in near silence, for which I was extremely grateful. Soon, the game was over, and again he ruffled my hair in that way he had. "That was fun. You know, you're a pretty good player."

I pointed to the board. "But you won."

I actually didn’t realize that Jiri had already made multiple moves over the span of this conversation. I wonder if perhaps it might have made sense to describe a bit more of the chess game happening in passing to give both a sense of time passing and Jiri zoning out hard from the stuff happening in front of him.

"I know, but you put up quite the fight." He smiled, and I suppose it was meant to be warm. "You could be quite the master if you keep it up."

Fine, anything to get him to stop this forced socialization. "I'm going to my room," I said, and he didn't stop me.

I mean, yeah. Lying to make someone feel better does tend to backfire when the lies are super-transparent. ^^;

Obsession 11

While my home life may have been less than ideal, my life with Asaph continued to blossom. He told me frequently how impressed he was with me, how much I was growing with him. I noticed differences too, that I was more outgoing, more eager for even the everyday things. My drawings were getting better, I thought, probably due to my increased focus.

Asaph was the best thing that had happened to me in a long time, and I was grateful to have met him.

I mean, such is life when you’re basically using him as a surrogate father to your biological one. Though I suppose I kinda had a feeling that things were headed in that direction after the reveal that Asaph himself was a Collector like what Jiri/Lawrence becomes later in life.

It was the duty and expectation that a man of his station present a distinguished manner to the rest of society, so he and my father decided that he would instruct me in the ways of gentlemen. Why my father was interested in such a thing, I still do not know. I can only suppose it was to represent the money his factory made, but we did not live like society people, not like Asaph.

Ah yes, new money trying to get accepted into the ranks of old money. ‘Tis a tale as old as time, even if it ultimately was not what Jiri needed in his childhood.

In addition to comportment, he had begun teaching me languages, both past and present, and I was thriving under his tutelage. [ ]

"You're quite the polyglot," he told me one day as he tousled my hair, and was surprised that I knew what the word meant.

I kinda wonder if the bit about Jiri’s studies would benefit a bit from a bit of expansion by adding a couple more concrete anecdotes about the particular languages / things that he was learning, but that’s just me.

He called me a prodigy, something I felt was a bit too lofty. I was simply a good student, that was all. Of course, looking back on it, I realize I may have sold myself short in that regard.

I mean, you knew how to play chess as a kid. You clearly were on the upper end of the bell curve, Jiri.

One day we were on our way to another museum, one across the seas in Hoenn, and I went to him and asked him how he came to have such a charmed life.

"I think I've been very fortunate," he told me, looking out the window of his ship at the ocean waters below. "My family was quite wealthy, and I took an early interest in the finer things in life. I always loved art, and vowed to surround myself with the world's treasures."

He smiled at me and gestured for me to come closer, which I did. His hand came to rest on my shoulder. "I'm grateful that I've found someone to share these things with, Jiri. I never thought I'd find a protégé like you. Truly I've been blessed."

This paragraph IMO should be at least three separate ones, since there was a lot going on in that one paragraph there.

I smiled back at him, resting my hand on his. "I'm glad I found you. My life would be so boring without something like our excursions to fill it."

He chuckled. "You're a good boy, Jiri. A very good boy." That said, he moved from the window to the chair of his ship, which was finally completed. Being a C-Class, it consisted of two rooms; the control room in which we presently stood, and the entrance, which was slightly lower and had a lift to reach it. "It should be about an hour before we reach Lilycove. What say we have a lesson in the meantime?"

Huh. I didn’t realize that Jiri was such a globetrotter under Asaph’s wing. Though I suppose being able to hitch rides on an airship would help quite a bit with casual interregional travel.

We were in Lilycove before I knew it, and we would be staying the night, so we set up the hotel arrangements first. Waiting in the hall of the grand hotel made me feel like a prince. This was the sort of place my father would never go, with the gilt and the glamour and the opulent grandeur that he so avoided. Not like Asaph, he was in his element in such a palatial place.

Huh. With how different Jiri’s father was in terms of outlook from high society, I’m a little surprised that he cared enough to want him to learn its foibles. Unless the idea is that that came along after he saw that Jiri took to Asaph quite quickly.

On our way up to the room, with the bellhop handling our bags, Asaph took my hand in his and gave it a squeeze. "Is this your first night away from home, Jiri?" he asked.

"First time without one of my parents," I said. Mother and I had taken a few overnight trips, nothing really outstanding.

He nodded. "I hope I make a good host for you."

Jiri: “I mean, you haven’t exactly missed on any of the occasions where you hosted me in the past, so…” ^^;

Once in the room, he tipped the bellhop generously, and then we were alone. I sat on the end of one of the two twin beds and looked up at Asaph. "Shall we head to the museum now?"

A smile crossed his face, creasing the lines by his eyes. "We should relax first. It was a long trip, and the museum will be there after we've rested up. Here, I've got something for you."

He reached into his pocket and pulled out a candy, which he unwrapped and pushed into my mouth. The taste of butterscotch dissolved onto my tongue. "Is that good?"

>butterscotch

I’m gonna need to call this man out a bit for his taste there. Though that’s probably just my butterscotch hate speaking.

"Yes, yes, you just surprised me." I swallowed deeply, the sweet confection heavy in my mouth. "It's very good. Did you get it in Seafoam?"

He chuckled to himself, discarding the wrapper. "My boy, there's so much you know, but so much you have yet to learn." And I knew he wasn't talking about the candy, but for the life of me I couldn't figure out what he meant.

I think the implication was that Asaph was asking about whether or not Jiri approved of the idea of resting before going to the museum, but I admittedly struggled to decipher this one myself a bit.

Obsession 12

In those times, I fully believed the childhood adage that I could be anything I wanted. The problem was that there was nothing I wanted to do in life.

Until the day Asaph took me to Mandarin.

I did a double-take at the name until I fired up Bulbapedia. Though the Orange Islands, huh? I wonder if Jiri will straight-up see Lugia while he’s out here, since it did live around there in the anime…

It was a few weeks after our excursion to Lilycove. We hadn't seen each other since, and he greeted me with a demonstrative embrace that nearly squeezed the wind from me. We were outside my father's factory, with the hot air of machinery emanating from the open doors. A breeze blew inland from across the sea as Asaph took me to his ship, his greying blond hair waving slightly as we boarded. My father waved goodbye as we took off, soaring over the cliffs and to the open ocean. I watched the factory become a small dot on the horizon before turning to Asaph.

I actually wonder if you’ve commissioned any art for your stories in the past, since scenes like this one feel like they’d be fun to see art pieces of.

"Where are we going today?" I asked him. It didn't really matter to me; any trip I took with him was bound to be full of wonders.

"Mandarin Island. Ever been?"

I shook my head. I'd never been to the Orange region at all, nor do I think I would ever have were it not for his interventions.

Yeah, I’m half-convinced that Jiri’s going to actually see Lugia while he’s out at Mandarin. Since he does explicitly mention this trip as being one of his watershed moments in life.

"Oh, it's delightful. The museum is running a special exhibit of historical interest to the area. Some of that primitive art is really incredible." He smiled and came to stand next to me, running his fingers through my hair. "It promises to be an eventful day."

Little did I know how right he would prove to be.

Yeah, I’m feeling pretty good about that prediction right about now.

Mandarin Island had a bustling port, but the rest of the city was relatively relaxed. We landed at a pier on a quiet side of the land--Asaph had paid extra for a ship that could land in water--and headed directly to the museum. It was a large building, unassuming, looking more like a university than a repository for ancient treasures.

I mean, there does tend to be a healthy degree of overlap between museum and university architecture, yes.
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Within the hallowed halls, we quickly found the special display room. Native music greeted us on the breeze, piped in softly over the sound system. Asaph gasped, spotting a large stone statue, and herded me over to it.

"Jiri, doll, look at this!" he whispered, his hand on my shoulder.

Well, I see Asaph was getting really attached to Jiri back in the day. Maybe it’s just a high society quirk, though that read a lot more intimately than I was assuming from him there.

I read the museum's summary of the piece, noting that it was thought to be over five thousand years old. "It's certainly ancient," I said, nearly kicking myself for the obviousness of the statement.

But Asaph didn't notice. "Isn't it lovely? The curves and lines are so playful, one would think it was done recently!"

"What is it?" I asked him. It looked like a lump to me. Of course, I was naive then.

"Why Jiri, you don't see it? It's a woman! Notice the wide curving hips and the full breasts?"

I see that Asaph had his priorities in order back in the day. >:V

I shook my head. "No, sorry."

"Well, it is a little abstract," he admitted, patting my shoulder. "Want to move on?"

"Oh yes."

Note to self: Jiri/Lawrence would probably not be a fan of modern art with that sort of reaction.

The next object was a tablet, and Asaph told me it was written in the language of the Shamouti Islanders. This was not the one I was to acquire later in life, but it was similar. Asaph was familiar with some of the Orange languages, and was pointing out the words he knew. I learned "Aqu'hala", which meant "mainland", or more literally, "land without water".

I actually wonder if that term is actually canonical or if you invented it for this story. Since if I hadn’t known better for when this chapter was written, I’d have thought that that term was a play off of ‘Akala’.

We looked in awe at several more objects, both artistic and mundane, before happening upon some small carvings. They were ancient, but still shone with lustre and life. They were of birds, the Legendary Birds, it said.

The largest one looked familiar, and it took me a second before I realized it was the white bird.

Ah yes, so Jiri really did see Lugia here. In a matter of speaking. And this is the point where his obsession (har har) really started to take root.

Of course, I couldn't tell Asaph, what would he say? But how I wanted to! My stomach was twirling about, and I'm positive that my face conveyed my shock. My white bird, finally back to me after all this!

Jiri: “So the white bird really was real back then…”
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According to the summary, the creature was known as Lugia. I finally had a name to go with my beautiful bird! I took a deep breath, noting that I was becoming light headed. I expected a more dramatic reaction from myself, especially after what had happened in Viridian, but as it was, I felt elated. How dare my father tell me that the white bird was a dream? I had evidence it existed, or at least that someone else had seen it.

Ah yes, this is totally a normal and healthy thought process right about now. /s

Though I suppose this story wouldn’t have been called “Obsession” without Jiri going down trains of thought like this. Since hey, something had to motivate him to chase after Lugia all those years later.

"Oh, you certainly like those, don't you?" Asaph asked, tousling my hair once again. "They say that the Legendary Birds of the Orange region are special, more so than the same species from other regions."

Oh, so there are multiple Legendary Birds in this setting. Duly noted, then.

"Tell me about the one in the middle." It wasn't a request, it was a demand, and I regretted my tone the moment I said it.

"Lugia? Well..." He brought his hand to his mouth and paused. "Honestly I don't know that much about it. I know it's said to live at the bottom of the ocean, and is considered sacred to many of the islands in Orange. But that's about it."

Jiri spent half his childhood after this point in Johto stalking Kimono Girls to pester them about Lugia lore, didn’t he? Since you just know that he would want to find out anything and everything he could about his white bird after this encounter.

I nodded absentmindedly, staring at the figure. It was pulling me in, not in the way the angel painting had done, but in a way that made me positively giddy.

"Jiri, are you well? You're breathing awfully strangely..."

I mean, at least he wasn’t audibly squeeing during all of this? ^^;

Damn. My youthful enthusiasm had gotten away from me there, and I exhaled slowly to calm myself. My behaviour went against Asaph's comportment training, and I was sorry for that.

"I apologize. I just got a bit...excited."

He laughed. "The art world can do that to a person. Why, it's done it to me before, especially in my first years as a Collector."

A Collector…

And thus, the die was cast for Jiri/Lawrence to have a completely normal one Xty years later and wind up making glub glub noises with his airship Xty years after this.

At that point, everything in my life settled into place. I knew what my future had to be. "Asaph!" I addressed sharply, again regretting how stern I sounded. "I want to be a Collector too," I blurted out, prompting a giggle from a nearby woman at my bluntness. But I didn't care.

Yeah, I figured. Even if it’s gotten me curious now as to if Jiri will have a few points later on in this story where he briefly wavers on his determination to become a Collector and catch Lugia.

One may think that I wanted Lugia at such a young age, but that is not the case. I wanted the treasures, the stuff of legends.

Huh. Honestly surprised there, though I suppose Jiri/Lawrence does indeed have a ways to go down off his slippery slope.

Asaph raised an eyebrow at me, a thin smirk on his lips. "You want to be a Collector?" he repeated.

"Yes!" I added an unspoken 'with all my heart'.

"Jiri, I..." He looked away, pensive for a moment, then back at me with a sharp turn of his head. "All right! I can teach you the basics, and if you want to continue on, I can teach you that too!" He looked so happy, like he was about to burst into joyous tears, and he dabbed at his eyes with a silk handkerchief. "Jiri, I'm so proud of you..."

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I mean, we already know based off M03, but still.

In those fleeting moments, my life was set before me. I smiled to myself.

The chapters like endings like these always get me in this story. There’s this weird vibe to seeing these happy little moments from Jiri’s earlier life and knowing that they’re building up towards his eventual self-destruction as an adult. Kudos on pulling off the vibe with them.

Boy, did that escalate quickly. I mean, the real ramp-up is probably like a decade down the road for Jiri/Lawrence, but even at this early age, you can already see the pieces start to fall into place for what he ultimately becomes. It’s handled in a fairly believable fashion, which makes the dynamic all the more disquieting to watch as Jiri/Lawrence slips ever deeper into his titular obsession. While I think that you had a bit more room to work with in terms of wordcount, the choice to keep things bite-sized and breezy worked pretty well for this story, especially with its format of zeroing in specific moments that Jiri/Lawrence is recalling years after the fact, which lends itself well to the feeling that we’re seeing someone’s memories being narrated by them.

I won’t harp too much about weaknesses of these chapters since they’re old enough that I doubt you’ll be spending serious time spit-shining them further, but the primary weakness that I saw from them while reading was that there were a few parts that would’ve benefited from a bit more description, especially on specific standout moments and details that stuck with Jiri. I also saw a couple paragraphs that I felt would work better broken up into smaller component paragraphs, though that might be authorial preferences speaking a bit.

Kudos, @Blackjack Gabbiani . I’m unsure if I’ll be coming back to this story since I’ve got a full plate of other targets, including a couple other pieces you wrote, but this won’t be my last brush with Obsession, and I’m still honestly impressed that you managed to wring this out for a character that was basically a one-and-done in the franchise, and to stick to it for so long.
 

Blackjack Gabbiani

Merely a collector
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I do plan on doing a rewrite...once I'm done. Which could be another 20 years for all I know ahahaha

Is it unusual for a kid to learn how to play chess? I learned when I was around that age. Was never any good at it but I figured that most kids did that.

What Asaph means about Jiri not quite understanding yet...haha it's a little foreshadowing for a much more recent chapter.

The thing about the birds of Shamouti being stronger and larger than others of their species is canon! Though it's never said in the actual movie, it appears in supplemental material.

Yeah haha I made that word up. Though! Going back to what you had said earlier about languages, that does have a bit of a bigger part later.
 
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