Eika Yuuto shivered as he stepped out into the cold night, lamenting not being able to find his thicker jacket for this excursion. Unfortunately, not a single one of the dozen guests that celebrated in his home could find it, so the thin wool sweater he wore would have to do.

Yuuto quickly scanned the cul-de-sac before him before finally catching a glimpse of who he was looking for. Even from far away, Yuuto could see his younger brother's steaming breath drifting off into the air under the streetlamp. He then broke into a brisk walk toward where his brother sat in the back of a pickup truck.

Haruki, well dressed in gloves, a beanie cap, and Yuuto's thick jacket for the weather, clutched his sketchbook tightly as he squinted at the deer munching on the front lawn. His eyes darted between the deer and the page that he drew on, constantly retracing the shape of its elegant antlers as his reference. Haruki didn't notice his brother walking next to him.

"Gonna spend time at my party drawing deer?"

Only Haruki snapped his head in the direction of the voice, as the deer jolted up from its meal and ran off into the darkness.

"...Hey, Yuuto." Haruki tried to close his sketchbook as his older brother leaped onto the pickup truck and snatched the book out of his hands.

"Come on, let's see what you've been cooking… hm, this one I like," Yuuto whistled as he focused on one ring out of the many that Haruki sketched. The thin ring had antlers curving outwards, with just enough space between them to place a gem. Even though the sketch was unrefined, Yuuto could already picture it on a delicate finger.

Haruki gently took his sketchbook out of Yuuto's hands. "Thanks. Ah-, I couldn't resist when I saw it outside."

Yuuto simply crossed his arms and raised an eyebrow. Haruki may be nervous around crowds, but that was mostly in public. But a party with friends and family?

Haruki sighed. "Alright, fine. I just… needed some time to think."

"Let me guess, about the art festival?" Yuuto sat down next to him, an annoyed look on his face.

"Yep, it's just, well, I might change the inventory. I'm worried-"

"Whether your stuff is gonna sell?" Yuuto groaned and adjusted his sitting posture. He wasn't too worried. Getting Haruki to stop being so gloomy, however, would take some time.

"The answer is yes. A ton. Hell, you'll probably sell out at the end of it." Yuuto took out a small box from his pocket and handed the glittering silver necklace inside it back to its maker. "With work like this, believe me, people can live with the prices."

Haruki ran his thumb over the Pokemon-inspired necklace's centerpiece: a metallic silver Dragonair coiling around a bright blue crystal with a gold cutout of the Dragon Type symbol glittering from within.

He had spent many days working on this piece and its Serperior-themed twin; after all, his brother's engagement deserved equally special mementos for the couple. However, Haruki still let out a weary sigh at his work.

"I'm talking about original works. Like, something is missing here. Or something else got added. I'm not sure what." Haruki pulled his phone out of his pocket, opened the gallery, and flipped to the still of a necklace that he would sell tomorrow.

Haruki traced the netted pattern of cylinder beads and purple crystals. "Doesn't it feel… I don't know, too rigid? Plain?"

"...I don't think so." Yuuto waved his hand over the picture. "It's nice and organized. There's a sophisticated feel to it."

"No! You just don't get it!" Haruki jammed his phone back into his pocket with a huff. "There is something wrong with it! It looks like it's from one of those 'do jewelry in thirty-minute' books-"

"Have you ever heard of 'beauty is in the eye of the beholder?' I like what you did here, there's going to be someone tomorrow who feels the same."

"What if there isn't one?"

"Haruki, for Christ's sake, you're not even there yet. Can you just wait until tomorrow, see how well it sells, and judge it from there?" Yuuto threw up his arms in resignation. "Or are you going to keep whining?"

The conversation halted as Haruki steamed at his brother's words. Then, with muttered curses, he finally relented, clenching the necklace and handing it back.

At least, he tried to. Yuuto promptly pushed Haruki's hand back.

"No. You keep it. For the next few days, at least." Haruki tried to protest, but Yuuto simply placed his finger on Haruki's lips.

"Might as well give you some help for tomorrow. Wear it and it might draw some attention, you know? Show off a little and people will ask questions, visit your booth, and maybe ask for commissions in the future. Ah, but remember not to sell it. I've only had this for a few hours, and I'd like to keep it."

Haruki stared at his clenched hand for a moment before stuffing it into his jacket pocket. With that, Yuuto hopped off the truck and headed home. Haruki followed.

"…Thanks for talking to me,"

"You're welcome. Oh, by the way…" Yuuto cheekily smiled before quickly yanking his jacket off of Haruki. "Mine."

"Entitled asshole." Haruki half-heartedly reached his hand out toward the jacket, missing as his brother ran up the steps to the front door.

"Then you better get inside if you don't want to catch a cold!" Yuuto slammed the door behind him. Even from outside, Haruki could hear his brother laugh as he made his way down the hall.

Haruki turned back to the front lawn and opened his sketchbook back to his most recent sketch. He looked at it for a moment before writing a small note on the bottom of the page.

"Incomplete. File down antlers. Add more detail?"

He paused, scribbled out the note, and replaced it.


Haruki let out a small smile before shutting the sketchbook. With that, he began to walk back up the steps to the house.

Haruki groggily opened his eyes as his mother made a sudden turn into the venue's front entrance. Gray concrete buildings surrounded Haruki's still-focusing sight. As the car slowed down, Susanee glanced at the passenger seat.

"Did you sleep well?" she asked.

"Not bad." Haruki yawned. After a quick slap to his face to shake off any leftover sense of sleepiness, Haruki leaned over and kissed his mother on the cheek.

"Bye, Mom. Remember, venue closes at five-"

"-so I'll pick you up around six, I know. Have fun~!"

With that, Haruki slung his lunch bag over his shoulder, stepped out of the car, and turned to the many glass doors. The sound of his mother's car faded away behind him and into the distance as he sighed.

The first of four days in the place that he's been stressing over for weeks. He quickly clapped his face with his hands and took one more deep breath.

"You're gonna do great, everyone you've ever known said that you're amazing and that your work is fantastic. Right… fantastic." Haruki took a deep breath. "Now get in there, and get this over and done with quickly."

He hadn't taken a few steps into the venue before he saw a modest group of artists preparing to enter the venue. As he checked in through the attendance booth, the employee who handed him his identification lanyard looked at him curiously.

"Aisle 1120?"

"...yeah?" Haruki slowly nodded. The employee jumped up in excitement and immediately thrust her left hand forward. Haruki recognized the ring that glittered on her finger immediately.

Two point-four-carat amethysts and a point-eight-carat tourmaline. Two weeks spent designing "something with a smooth design, not placing the gemstones side-by-side."

"...you ordered that?" Haruki asked incredulously. The employee shook her head.

"Nope. Husband, for our engagement." She giggled. "Thanks for this. It's absolutely stellar. I'm gonna try to swing by your vendor… maybe tomorrow? So leave some of the good stuff for me!" Haruki looked down in embarrassment and could only nod in response.

A few moments later, the employee waved goodbye as Haruki walked to the vendor hall entrance, a small smile adorning his face.

As he replayed the previous conversation over and over in his mind, Haruki occasionally glanced at his neighboring artists, all great and respected in the community. Haruki had even talked to some of them personally before. But today, they were all competing against one another for what limited budget each visitor was willing to spend.

And now, thanks to his brother's and the employee's encouragement, Haruki believed he had a chance to score big.

As Haruki found his vendor, tucked all alone into a corner of the exhibit hall floor, he immediately threw himself onto a chair and examined his station one last time.

Two more hours left.

Every product was accounted for and the payment system was working. Haruki adjusted the display stand one last time, making sure that each piece of jewelry was properly lit, cleaned, and placed to let each visitor examine every angle.

One hour left.

Haruki checked his phone one last time to kill some time. His thumb swiped again and again, only pausing to see whatever Pokemon news and fanart popped up. He smirked at a fan comic mocking some Pokedex entries, saving it.

Forty-five minutes left.

Haruki tucked his phone away and took a deep breath. It still felt surreal that he was finally here, selling in person at a festival like this. However, he was sure that at least someone would be enthusiastic about his work. Haruki kicked his feet up to relax-

As his legs landed on the empty yet sturdy cardboard boxes, Haruki felt his body lurch backward.

Did he lean too far back? No. He didn't lean at all. The cardboard boxes weren't that high; all he did was put his feet up.

Haruki felt a tingling sensation pass through his back, to his elbows, and it rose to his fingers before he realized with horror that the ceiling above was being swallowed by a circular wall of blue and purple light, obscuring his sight.

He felt his legs angle themselves higher and higher before joining the rest of his body into the hole in the ground, the tingling sensation engulfing him.

Haruki gasped, and then the world disappeared from view.

Forty-four minutes left.

Haruki had long since run out of breath to beg for whatever forces that lay in this strange dimension to let him go. He had no idea how long he'd been falling for; seconds spiraled into minutes that felt like hours. His body tumbled head over heels as the strange tingling sensation buffeted his form. At first, it felt like ants were crawling all over him, but Haruki was beginning to lose his sense of touch in this timeless space.

Suddenly, he saw a dark blue surface rushing towards him. As it rapidly approached, Haruki prayed to every god that he could think of to end this nightmare or, at the very least, put him out of his misery.

The dark blue surface replaced the walls of light in his view and the tingling sensation that tormented his body vanished. But he was promptly met with something worse. He fell a few feet, barely having enough time to grasp his new situation before the icy stings of a stormy ocean assaulted his body. His head immediately fell below the waves, and as he gasped at the sensation, the salty taste of the sea poured into his mouth.

As his belongings were swept away by the waves, Haruki only had enough time to take in one precious gasp of air before the waves enveloped him. He thrashed to the surface, but he only broke through the surface for an instant before he was dragged under the sea.

Haruki blindly thrashed in the dark sea, but his head refused to break through its surface. The lead weights that were his limbs pulled him down, deeper and further away from the surface that was just out of reach. He was just so close! He just had to swim upwards to where oxygen was! But it was all in vain; his body rejected the very notion of buoyancy; the weight growing in his lungs seemed to accelerate his plunge into the abyss below.

Then, a current pressed onto his body and flipped him upside down. Haruki was utterly helpless as the ocean's freezing bite dragged him whichever way it wanted. His body spiraled in all directions until he was lost in the little dark world behind his eyelids. His limbs floundered fruitlessly at the sea; desperately wishing to move anyway he could and for the pain in his chest to go away-

Something smashed into his chest. Haruki felt the slightest of tugs on the back of his shirt, pulling him in a direction against the current. His limp body was baggage for wherever this thing wanted to go, until, for a split second, the tug released its hold on his clothes, only to be replaced by something pressing on both sides of his arm. His arm and body was pulled upwards, until the sensation of water disappeared, replaced by one of complete weightlessness, before crashing onto what felt like solid ground. Haruki opened his eyes from the impact, just enough to see the gray-shelled back that he landed on. A fleeting sense of recognition passed through his mind as the blue-scaled creature turned its blue head to glance at him, followed shortly by an enveloping darkness.

Haruki's eyes slowly squinted open. His vision was blurry; although he could vaguely make out the gray-gridded ceiling above him, he failed to acknowledge any of his senses. It was only when he felt the air filling his lungs that he jolted up.

He immediately took such a deep breath that the back of his throat hurt. He squeezed his eyes shut and breathed in over and over again until he was sure that the sensation of breathing was real. It was only then that he finally realized where he lay.

The rhythmic beeping sound replaced the roaring of the ocean waves, the humid air stuck to his skin instead of the pouring rain, and a soft dry blanket enveloped him, the wet cotton of his older clothes having long disappeared.

Haruki shifted, reaching into his pocket for his phone. He wondered what time it was. A part of him thought about his brother and let him know that he was alright- His hand felt nothing but a thin fabric. There wasn't even a pocket for him to reach into.

He felt around his thigh for a moment, before patting down the rest of his body. Nothing.

How strange. He remembered wearing a T-shirt and jeans this morning, so why could he feel his bare legs? And why were the sleeves so loose? Haruki rubbed his palm over the material covering his thigh; the material was thin and dry, almost like paper. Whatever it was, it ended just past his knee…

Haruki raised the blanket over his head and peered downwards. A light blue hospital gown greeted him, alongside a strange clasp that was hooked onto his left elbow, along with a green wire running from it.

A moment's pause later, he slowly lifted his head from under the blanket and peered around the room.

A beautiful afternoon sun shined brightly from behind the fluttering closed checkered curtains, basking the room with shimmering green and red shadows. The room itself was modestly decorated; two padded straw chairs, a pot of lilac flowers on a small wooden table, and a few wall-mounted cabinets were placed in the corner opposite the bed that Haruki laid on. The air conditioner above him was silent, but Haruki could feel a soft cool breeze blowing through the window. The only thing out of place was the heart rate monitor stationed next to him, the green wire connecting to it.

Haruki grunted as he slowly sat up. The aching sensation in his chest slowly chipped away at his grogginess as he took some deep breaths. As he sat there, Haruki wondered how on Earth he was at a hospital. Wasn't he supposed to be at the art festival?

He could still remember the excitement as the minutes to opening hour counted down, and then he had leaned backward on the chair-

The memory of a crushing pressure in his lungs reemerged. The hospital room turned into a stormy sky as Haruki thought back to the freezing waves that slammed down upon him.

The heart rate monitor increased its tempo.

Water? Where did that water come from? He was in the city! Not the damn beach! He couldn't even remember the last time he went to one! His memories of the sea were all the same; a torrent of water pressing down on him in all directions, frantic strokes towards the surface, and-

There was one more thing he could remember. A savior. Something, a creature, that hauled him out of the sea. It was blue, with a long neck, and… a gray shell.

Lapras. Haruki clenched his hand tightly. He could faintly remember touching the Pokemon's rough shell and wet scales. Yes, there was no doubt about it. He fell into the sea and a Lapras, of all things, fished him out of the water.

With that, Haruki let out a sigh of relief before sinking into the bed. He chose to believe that his mind remembered the Lapras, along with the experience in the sea. But just because he believed that, didn't mean it had actually been real.

When he leaned back on the chair that afternoon, he fell, hit his head, and experienced some sort of… episode? Hallucination? Haruki wasn't sure what word could describe the vividly realistic memories, but regardless, his mind must've interpreted his most recent memories, those of watching Pokemon media on his phone, into a hyper-detailed dream, to fill up whatever darkness had enveloped him after the fall. At that time, someone nearby must've called for emergency services and now here he was; alone in a hospital, without any sort of pain on the back of his head, and would be expecting a doctor soon.

Yes, that must be the explanation. Haruki wasn't a doctor, but the fall must've been really bad for him to experience a near-death experience and the ultimate wish-fulfillment of meeting a Pokemon at the same time.

And on cue, Haruki heard footsteps approaching his room.

A young woman wearing a white coat slammed the door open, her eyes focused solely on her patient. As she strode forward, a second figure followed behind her, wearing an identical coat. Haruki turned towards them-

Whatever greeting he had thought of instantly died in his throat. He could only emit a shuddering gurgle as any sense of normality in his mind collapsed in on itself.

An Audino stood before him, clutching a small clipboard in its paws. It let out a soft chirp of confusion as Haruki's eyes bore into its figure.

"Sir? Sir! Are you feeling alright?" The doctor touched his shoulder.

Haruki gorged on every single detail of the Audino's body. Its body was covered in short thin fur; the only outlier for its even appearance was a tiny area between its ears, where the fur was slightly longer. The two feelers on its ears waggled slightly in Haruki's direction. However, Haruki cared the most about the sunlight reflecting from its eyes. There was depth to it, a certain spark, that gave it a presence Haruki only felt with what few animals he's met in his life. This was no game model; the Audino was alive.

"Can you hear me?! You need to start taking deep breaths!"

It was adorable. Blindingly so, but Haruki couldn't tear his eyes off it. The Audino seemed to grow uncomfortable from Haruki's scrutiny as it awkwardly fidgeted with the clipboard it was holding. Haruki didn't care; on the contrary, he wanted to see more of it! Pokemon would never react to outside stimuli like this! What few interactions he could remember GameFreak allowing between players and their Pokemon were predetermined; feeding, petting, washing, and decorating. Someone else's decisions always limited the bond between player and Pokemon, but not right now! There was so much to see! Its shifting feet and eyes, the twitching feelers, all of it was because of him, and him alone! It was amazing! Incredible-!

"Liz! Play Nice!"

Haruki briefly saw a small cluster of hearts and musical notes sparkle off the Audino's raised hand before his back immediately arched. The rush of emotion and thoughts towards the Audino was suddenly pushed to the side, replaced with a strange sense of calmness. For just a moment, he felt… content. Then, as he slumped back down, the doctor gripped his shoulder.

"Breathe. Slowly."

Haruki did as he was told, forcing the routine into a conscious action. His chest rose and fell for a few moments before he leaned his head backward and rested it on the wall. As the room slowly came into focus for the second time that day, the doctor tenderly gripped his hand.

"Are you feeling alright?" She asked.

Haruki slightly nodded before he turned to look at the Audino once more. He hadn't done anything, yet he felt strangely satisfied with his unquenched curiosity towards the creature. But somewhere in a corner of his mind, he knew that he shouldn't be feeling this way. He was looking at a real Pokemon! He wanted to ask so many questions, hug the dang thing, stroke its fur-

The Audino walked over and carefully pressed its feeler down onto his arm; Haruki didn't even flinch at its cold soft touch.

Minutes of examination passed by until the Audino finally gave a curt nod to the doctor. She scribbled something onto the clipboard and pressed her hand onto Haruki's cheek.

"Liz says that you're stable, but we'll come back later for more extensive examinations, alright? We won't be gone for long."

The doctor grabbed the clipboard and strode back out the door, her Pokemon waddling close behind. The Audino gave one final confused look at her patient before closing the door.

The next few silent minutes were nothing short of agony, as Haruki felt whatever the Audino did slowly but surely wear off. The excitement and the curiosity from before dripped back into his body, like reading a slow-paced novel with the fewest of payoffs per page, but just enough to keep the pages turning.

As his mind entered a crescendo, then deescalated from the now-absent Pokemon in the room, Haruki recollected the events of the past few minutes.

He had just seen a Pokemon face-to-face. A living, breathing creature belonging to the world's highest-grossing media franchise. A franchise built around the friendship between man and nature, where the opportunity for adventure is around every corner. Haruki's breath hitched; this was every kid's dream come true! He had to tell his family! His brother-!

The growing smile on his face vanished.


Closing Author's Note:

"How do you live with Pokemon?"

That's something I want to answer in this story. Owning a creature much larger than any domestic pet, consisting of a completely unseen body structure, and capable of supernatural abilities isn't something anyone can instantly adjust to. Thank you for reading this story! I hope you enjoy it! If you have some constructive criticism, I am open to hearing it.

Shoutout to Opalite, Cyberfire22, Syntax-N, cherrybomb, JoshtheWriter, Seren | Ghost Story Dealer, HiroTheDegen, Arato, and the many other writers in the Pokemon Fanfiction community and Discord for assisting me in crafting and writing this story.