Chapter Twenty – Mater, peccavi
The orb wriggled in place before lazily floating into the air. It was hollow and made of aluminum. It was precisely one quarter meter in diameter and one half kilogram in weight. It floated and drifted, set upon by unseen hands.
“You are wasting too much effort.” Saji says flatly. An identical sphere floated in front of her, resting perfectly still in the air. She understood exactly how gravity acted upon the sphere, and just as easily as she understand it, did she countermand it. A precise application of force that was in direct opposition to that of the force exerted by the earth.
Torok, on the other hand, was thinking of holding the sphere up. Invisibly, mental copies of his hands tried to hold the sphere up. Though the lack of feeling in these mental substitutes meant that Torok could not easily perceive the changes in balance that were causing it to roll about.
“Say it again. Acceleration due to gravity is...” Saji prompted.
“Nine point eight meters per second!” Torok spat. “That does nothing for me! It is a damn circle-”
“Sphere.” Saji corrected.
“Regardless. It won’t sit still. I can’t-”
The sphere fell to the floor with a loud clang. With a growl of frustration, Torok turns his back. The discarded sphere shakes, then launches itself in Saji’s general direction. It suddenly stops in the air as she takes hold of it, and then gently returns it to its cradle.
“Frustration will only distract you.” She says.
“Then why is it easy to move it when I am pissed off?” Torok demands. He mentally kicks the sphere across the room again. It slowly floats back to its cradle. Saji sighs and returns her own sphere to its home.
“We have been over this. Your psychic powers were birthed by trauma. It is the worst and sadly the most common way that someone learns to push outside the barrier that contains there mind.” Saji explains again. “Rage will give you more strength, but you already have plenty of it. What you need is focus and control. It only seems difficult to accomplish because you are applying that strength indirectly.”
“We all can’t be as perfect as you.” Torok grumbles.
“No you can’t.” Saji agrees without hesitation, “But that is no excuse to ignore the most basic concepts of discipline.” She stands and walks over to the massive charizard. “Feel it with me...” She says. Saji’s thoughts reach out and take hold of Torok’s. Together, they examine the sphere. It is round. It is smooth. It is hollow. It is uniform. “Within uniformity is simplicity.” She says, with both her voice and mind. “The energy required to lift a half kilogram one meter into the air is four and nine tenths newtons. We will apply five...” She says.
A point of force. The concept of force rendered into tangibility by thought. Theory made into reality. The sphere begins to rise out of its cradle. “Now, maintain the force.” Saji instructs.
Two hands. Three fingers each. Six claws. Ethereal representations of Torok’s hands appear on either side of the orb. Six claws tap on the underside and soon the orb is held up by six invisible applications of force. The orb wobbles, but it stays aloft.
“You don’t need that much energy. Try to take away two of the fingers.” Saji instructs. With a grunt, and an undue amount of concentration, the center two fingers lift off, and break contact with the sphere. “They are still there. You are still using energy to manifest them.” Saji says calmly. “Let them leave your mind.” In time, the two needless fingers are gone. Two hands with two claws each hold the sphere in the air. “And now simplify them. Let them become nothing more than what they must be...” Saji remarks. This takes time. The sphere wobbles and shakes as the two hands with two fingers each are remade into four cylinders of force. Four lines of mental creation that exist only to hold up the orb. “and finally, reduce them.” Saji says. Torok’s tail thrashes with effort. His heart is pounding. His tail is burning. Despite not moving, his body is burning a lot of energy to maintain the force. Four small spheres, like marbles. They are suspended in the air in a perfect square. They support the orb at four points, which rests above them. The effort Torok spent to create them was much greater than that he spent to recreate his hands. Yet the effort needed to maintain these four marbles, was nearly effortless. They were barely there. So long as Torok maintained notice of them, did they seem to remain. After a time, the marbles of thought sunk back to the floor and vanished, leaving the sphere resting in its cradle.
“Better.” Was all that Saji said. It was the only praise she was likely to give him.
Torok and Saji walked side by side down the street. The trek back to the Pokémon Center from the Saffron Institute of the Mind was long enough to be distracting, but not so long as to be needlessly wasteful. “What about Teleportation.” Torok was saying.
“Doubtful.” Saji said factually. “With your comparative lack of focus and overall energy bleed, I doubt you could move more than a quarter mile without exhausting yourself to the point of collapse. That is assuming you perform all the prerequisite calculations flawlessly. You might end up upside down, inside out, or in a wall...” She says. But Torok is not listening.
‘To Those Who Wait’ was the name of the store. The picture out front was of a coin inscribed with the number seven. A collection of strange and eclectic things rested inside the store. No item was new. Each was strange and different. Despite having been a charizard for close to a year now, Torok’s tail wagged excitedly, like he was a charmander again.
“It would be a shortcut in the beginning.” Saji says with resignation. “But it will hold you back.” But Torok is not listening. He walks into the store.
“Welcome!” The Shopkeeper says. “Welcome!” Says a second voice from the ceiling. A zubat hangs from the rafters. As the shopkeeper speaks, the zubat translates everything he says into Auren, the Flying type dialect. It is close enough to Ignis for Torok to understand. Nevertheless, he surprises them both by replying in Kantonian, even if his speech was still flavored with an Ignosian accent.
The item was an Ibanez UB804 upright bass guitar, as the Shopkeeper was quick to explain. It was in excellent condition. It was made (in five parts) of Maple and Walnut. The entire body was finished using Tentacool oil. The strings for the guitar were made from the silk of an Ariados, while the strings of the bow were taken from the mane of a Rabidash. The shopkeeper was sure to insist that this made both guitar and bow extremely resistant to heat. “Perfect for a Fire-Type Trainer!” he said. Of course an instrument of this quality would come with the modest price of ¥100,000. It was at this point that Torok grew irritated.
It was not uncommon for the citizens of Saffron City to at least be partially trained in mental defense. Saffron was a city of psychics after all. It was, however, rare for a Fire/Flying type Pokémon to be psychic. It was extremely rare for any non-psychic typed Pokémon to be trained in the psychic arts. It was unthinkable for that Pokémon to use their powers without the clear instruction to do so being issued by their trainer. And it was impossible, virtually impossible, for such a Pokémon to use those powers on a human. The shopkeeper knew this. He knew all of this. That is why his mental barrier was not present. It would not have prevented Torok from reading the surface thoughts of the Shopkeeper, but it would have alerted him to the intrusion.
“It was worth One hundred thousand.” Torok says. “I was worth that amount the day it was created. But this instrument Is well over ten years old.” He says. Torok indicates a nearly invisable makers mark along the underside of the body. The mark is actually too faint to read, but the shopkeeper knows that it is there. He knows that the mark was intentionally obscured when the luthier had taken it to, had applied too much stain and oil to it. The restoration was marvolusly done. The bass looked as thought it were brand new. But it isn’t. It isn’t and the shopkeeper knows it. The shopkeeper knows it, and now Torok does too. It is all in his head. A charizard can not probe the mind of a human. There is no precident. The idea is non-sense.
“You have a good eye sir.” The shopkeeper says. His external composure is exemplary. He is well trained in the art of salesmanship. In his mind, the Shopkeeper considers the fact that his mind is finite, and contained within a physical boundary. It is the first step to placing the mental wards he will use to prevent further intrusion. A Charizard can not probe the mind of a human. Someone else is. Someone else is looking in on them and feeding the damn lizard with information. A Charizard. It had to be a Class A Pokémon at least. Damned rare. Powerful. It was the kind of Pokémon a gym leader or high status trainer had, or… the government.
“It is a felony to misrepresent an item with intent to defraud.” Torok says calmly. A felony. That means government. SPD or maybe even NPA. That bass guitar was far from the only item of questionable legality that was in the store. The shopkeeper was panicking internally now, even as he lit an award winning smile, “So it is.” He says. Whomever was in his mind earlier is long gone. The lizard was still being fed information.
“I would like to buy this then.” Torok says. “Before any trouble comes of it. I think a sum of twenty thousand is more than a fair price, given its history.”
Twenty thousand would barely cover the initial purchase as well as the costs of having it restored and doctered in the first place. Who was controlling this fire lizard. The Shopkeeper’s thought process paused briefly. If he was government, they would never offer to pay him for contraband. The government always threatens or uses political or legal leverage to get what they want. A detail. A minor detail fixed itself within the shopkeeper’s mind. The monogram on the Charizard’s jacket was barely legible. The same thread as the jakcet itself was used. Only when the light struck it properly, did the monogram reveal itself. Kuro… Black… The Kuroi family. This. This was far worse than the NPA. The damn Yakuza was back. The shopkeeper was about to counteroffer, but he felt his hand go cold. Frost had spread along the glass display case beneath him. The windows too. In fact, the whole room had dropped a few degrees rather quickly. This was not the work of a fire type. This was something else entirely. The dragon grins down at him.
Torok walks out of the shop. The base is contained in a bag and rests on his back. Saji appears beside him a block later.
“Sloppy.” She says. “He will remember you and he will remember that you threatened him.” She chastises.
“What would you have done then?” Torok asks.
“Madam Kuroi favored totems because she was an augur. Divination often requires a distraction to assist in clearing out the perceptions of the current world.” Saji lectures. “You are a pyrokine. Your powers come from that furnace you carry around in your innards. The trigger is the trauma you had to endure as a child. Stress and heat are what you need to focus your rage. Candles would be a far better focus for you, or perhaps a pot of oil.” She stops, and sighs, holding the bridge of her nose. “He was right. It will be fire resistant. You will burn it up eventually. And if you had to have one, I would have gone to the manufacturing company yourself. The Kuroi name is much more suited to regaling that threatening.” She explains.
Torok sits in his room at the Pokémon Center. The bass sits on its stand before him. He focuses. He starts with acknowledging that the act of plucking a string is a simple application of force. He considers it. He imagines it. He visualizes an invisible finger plucking the string, pulling it gently the tiniest of distances. He feels it stretch while also feeling the tension. He lets go. A note rings out. It is soft and mournful. The string is out of tune. Torok brings his focus to the tuning key. In his mind, it feels as if the key is stuck. It refuses to turn for him. He presses harder. With a jerk, the key turns. The string almost snaps as it is over wound. Torok sighs. He can hear the music. He knows the notes. He knows the spots on the neck to press. He knows which of the strings pluck. He knows all of this but it doesn’t happen. It doesn’t play as easily as it had back in Madam Kuroi’s room…
A thought. It was a short flight back to the Kuroi house. It was a short walk to the vault. He knew the code. Inside. Inside sat a table. On the table sat a bag containing exactly 980 grams of ghouls dust. With all the care in the world, Torok took what he needed. One gram, carefully measured. Saji will not miss one gram. If she does, then she will blame the Pokémon they hired to retrieve it. Not in the vault. Torok returns to his room. The house is so empty now that no one lives there. It was always spacious, but now it just seemed so needlessly empty. There was a terrible absence that left the place feeling cold and uninviting. The window on his room is covered in frost. Torok places the gram of dust in an incense bowl, amid the ash that he never bothered to clean out. It was hard to tell the difference between the two. He set up the bass. It rested majestically in a corner. A light. No. Torok looks at the small pile of powder. Buy his will alone, it ignites. Grey, faintly purple smoke starts to waft up towards the ceiling. Torok stands over the burner. He breaths in. He breaths out… He breaths in. The music starts to play. Notes ring out. They are the wrong notes. The strings stretch as they tighten and return to tune. A cord. A perfect cord rings out and fills the empty house. Life seems to flow out of the instrument, as if the very sound of it is enough to wake the building from its slumber.
Torok’s soul leaves his body. Freed from his physical prison, he finds himself floating above the room, above the house, above the city. He can see all of it. He can hear it. He can feel it, touch it, taste it. All is there for him to experience. All is wonderful. Everything is Everywhere. He visits the center and watches Mance and Doctor Azure treat their patients. Then he finds the twins. They have sneaked out the Center and are running though the town together. They are talking about the present that Madam Kuroi had sent them. Torok finds himself looking at Noctua. The sun is setting and he is just waking up. Saji is away, so he has free time to relax. Saji is across town buying food for dinner. She stops as he sees her. She turns to stare at him. She sees him.
Torok finds himself back in his room. The smoke is gone. The dust has all burned away. He is tired. His tailflame is roaring, trying to cool him off. Despite this, the room is covered is frost. His breath comes out of foggy gouts. His chest pounds.
Fate is a shadow on the wall, cast by Torok’s tail flame. He flickers in and out of existence, with only his toothy smile remaining constant. Fate is laughing. He has been laughing. He does not stop laughing.