The latios departed the den, and Solonn shuffled out after him with a final glance back at the now dark and lifeless television screen. He wasn’t particularly impressed with it; he was already somewhat familiar with television, having watched it with Morgan a couple of times back when he was still small enough to be kept indoors. Even then, though the ability of that device to reproduce images and sounds even more faithfully than one’s own memory could do was certainly an incredible achievement in his eyes, what he’d seen of its programming had fallen short of appealing to his tastes. Under normal circumstances, the idea of the stations this city boasted, run by pokémon for pokémon, might have been fairly intriguing to him. But again, these were far from normal circumstances.
Solonn was guided next into a walk-in closet. It was fairly long and wide enough to admit Jal’tai’s generous, rigid wingspan, albeit only just.
“Now, it was never my intent to have you running around in your underwear all the time,” Jal’tai said, with yet another of his chuckles. “Here, I have provided you with an exquisite collection of some of the finest menswear money can buy. I’ve spared no expense for you, my boy—why, just look at this here.” He gestured to his right, where a navy blue jacket hung.
Much less interested in it than the latios seemed to be, “Hm,” Solonn said with the ghost of a nod, just for the sake of giving some response to appease Jal’tai. In truth, he found nothing at all remarkable about the garment. He was equally unmoved by the other articles of clothing that Jal’tai showed him from what was now his wardrobe, but he gave the latios, who was obviously quite proud of these purchases, an occasional, noncommittal noise or vague nod, feigning at least some interest in and attention to what was being presented to him. In spirit, however, he could not be farther from the closet and the expensive fashions therein, let alone any care for these things.
As there wasn’t room enough in the closet for Jal’tai to turn around, the dragon chose to teleport in order to make his exit. He then resumed his tour, ushering Solonn into a spacious bathroom, one that had been designed with multiple, varying species in mind. It contained sinks at three different heights and four different kinds of toilets. The shower was quite large, and it possessed multiple spigots of varying shapes and sizes; in addition to the standard one that dispensed water, the extra spigots offered bathing options such as “mud”, “sand”, and “acid”, according to a large, yellow label affixed just outside the shower compartment. There were labels of this sort next to each of the fixtures, bearing instructions for their use in human- and unown-script. Solonn noted that there were also small, white labels, apparently handwritten, that designated certain of the fixtures for human use.
There were also mirrors in this room: one over each sink and a tall one that stood alone against the opposite wall. It was in the latter mirror that Solonn saw his new, human face for the first time. The dark eyes that had become his own stared back at him from within the glass, bloodshot and glazed over with a listless despair. The expression on that face seemed to plead to be looked upon no more, as if considering itself a sight that could not be endured, and the man who beheld it could indeed not stand the sight. Their features seized by anguish, both his face and its mirror image turned harshly away from one another.
Solonn did not notice at first when Jal’tai spoke next, the dragon’s words reaching him with a delay through the fog enveloping his mind.
“This, Solonn, is where you’ll attend to your hygienic needs… among other needs,” the latios said. “Be sure to read those labels; they’ll show you exactly how to use these things, as well as which among them you should use and which you should not. Generally speaking, most of this equipment is for the purposes of cleaning and grooming yourself, whereas this—” Jal’tai craned his neck toward the toilets, pointing at the one that was labeled as suitable for use by humans. “—well, its purpose is…”
Short moments later, they both left the bathroom and the topic of its purposes. Jal’tai then brought Solonn to the other end of the suite, where the kitchen was located. The room itself was quite small, as were the appliances within it: the refrigerator, sink, counter, and electric range were much shorter than their counterparts in kitchens designed solely for human use (though the refrigerator was also rather wider than the typical human-style model, so as not to forsake any of its capacity). Cabinets, drawers, a toaster, a blender, and a microwave oven were also set up at heights that were convenient for smaller species. Yellow instruction labels like those found in the bathroom were present here, too, detailing the use of each of the appliances. There was also a modest dining area adjoined to the kitchen, containing a small, low table and a trio of cushioned, wooden stools.
“Here is where you can get yourself something to eat whenever the need or desire arises, as I would imagine it surely must have by now,” Jal’tai said. “You must be famished, hmm?”
Indeed Solonn was hungry, and considerably so; he had not eaten since the evening before last, after all. However, he had been so preoccupied through much of the time since that that sensation, as well as several other physical complaints, had gone very largely ignored. Still, for the dragon’s sake, “Hm,” he responded, yet another minimal noise, with yet another minimal nod as the sole factor indicating his reply as affirmative.
“Mmm-hmm, figured as much,” Jal’tai said with a warm smile (that the latios had just smiled at the confirmation of his hunger was not lost on Solonn, nor did it fail to bother him). He pulled first a bowl and then a box of frosted corn flakes from the cabinets, setting both items down on top of the kitchen counter. He then fetched a quart-sized carton of milk from the refrigerator and a nanab berry from a bowl of fruit that sat on the dining room table and set them down on the counter, as well. Faintly humming the jazzy tune from earlier, the dragon dispensed a small amount of cereal and milk into the bowl, then diced up the nanab with his claws and put the fruit into the bowl, too.
Jal’tai took a spoon out from the drawer and brought it along with the bowl of cereal to the table, then fixed a glass of milk, set it upon the table as well, and beckoned Solonn to come over. The human complied, stopping a couple of feet away from Jal’tai as the latios pulled out a chair for him, indicating with a talon that he expected Solonn to take his seat here.
Having seen Morgan sit down before, Solonn had a sense of how it was done in human-fashion—he knew what the action looked like, at least. At any rate, it was enough for him to just try it without much hesitation. He moved over to the chair, trying to allow his body to fold up and conform to it in a way that matched the image of a seated human in his memory. He did a fairly commendable job of it, too, although he did drop himself onto the stool a little too hard, resulting in a bit of an unpleasant shock to his tailbone despite the chair’s cushioning.
“I certainly hope you like this,” Jal’tai said pleasantly as he hovered beside Solonn. “It’s something for which I confess to have developed something of an addiction,” he said with a chuckle. “Plus, it’s something that’s very easy to whip up; I’m sure that you can do it yourself anytime now that you’ve seen me do it. Now, I wouldn’t go so far as to say that this is the sort of thing you ought to be living on, but as far as more advanced meal preparation goes… well, no one becomes a master chef in a day, now do they?” He laughed again, then turned an expectant gaze straight into Solonn’s eyes. “Well, have at it, then!” he said cheerfully.
Solonn turned his gaze downward and merely stared into his cereal for a moment. He was not particularly moved to eat despite his body’s need for him to do so, but with the latios hanging around like a second shadow, he reckoned that he’d better just get it over and done. Almost robotically, he began to lower his hand toward the bowl—but it was caught short of descending into the cereal by the swift action of a blue, three-clawed talon.
“Whoops!” Jal’tai exclaimed, laughing. “I can’t believe I could be so forgetful… Here.” He lifted the spoon from where it sat beside the bowl. “Use this; it’s proper human etiquette, not to mention less messy. You just scoop it up like this,” he said, miming the action a couple of times in demonstration before handing the spoon to Solonn.
Solonn did well enough with the spoon; he only spilled a couple of spoonfuls. The sweet flavor of the cereal and berries was not unpleasant to him, but failed to pique his interest. His apathy toward eating made it somewhat difficult to finish his breakfast, but he managed to finish it nonetheless, earning a pleased smile from the draconic face that had been hovering beside him in order to ensure that the human accepted the food and drink that he had been given.
“There, now wasn’t that nice?” Jal’tai asked, earning himself another of the human’s vague responses. He took a small roll of paper towels from the cabinets, tearing one off to clean up the spilled cereal, then disposed of the used tissue and put the bowl, spoon, and glass into the sink. Once he was finished tidying up, he motioned for Solonn to rise and follow him once more, and the human did so without a word, allowing himself to be led back into the den.
Once there, Jal’tai immediately took the remote from its compartment in the arm of the green chair and turned on the television, bringing a rather tone-deaf, singing meowth to life on the screen. “You’ll recall that I mentioned having something else to show you over here, correct?” the latios said as he made his way over to the armoire, opening the cabinet under the television and producing a DVD jewel case from it. Solonn gave even less of a response than he had been giving, but Jal’tai didn’t seem to mind.
The dragon looked over his shoulder and saw Solonn just standing there beside the armchair. “Go ahead and have a seat in that chair,” he instructed the human while carefully prying the DVD out of its case with his claws. “Watch me carefully, now,” he said once he saw that Solonn had sat down where he was told to sit. He turned on the DVD player, inserted the disc into it, and then went over to hover right beside Solonn.
“This is just one of a series of videos I made specially for the benefit of my successor in the event that said successor would come to me in the form of a pokémon,” Jal’tai said as the video started, bringing up a simple menu in unown-script onto the screen. The menu bore only two options: “Setup” and “Play”. “Now, to begin the video, you simply press these.” He highlighted the “Play” option and pressed the “ENTER” button, making certain that his actions were performed in clear view of Solonn and not too quickly to be followed. “This will pause it if you need to take a break while viewing; this one will go back and replay certain parts if you feel you need to review them or if you miss something; and this one will stop it when you’ve finished watching it,” he explained, indicating others among the remote’s buttons. “Then just take the disc out and put it back where it belongs—the ‘OPEN’ button is right there on the device; you’ll also find ‘POWER’ buttons on all the devices there to turn them off when you’re done using them.”
Meanwhile, the video began to play. Rather loud, synthesizer-based music blared forth, and the title “Humanity and You” appeared on the screen in brightly colored letters.
Jal’tai grinned. “I think you’ll enjoy these, Solonn; they really turned out quite nicely, in my opinion. These videos will help you learn the basic habits and skills of living as a human. Once you’ve watched this volume, you can just pop in another one and watch that. Mind you, they are numbered, and you’d do well to watch them in numerical order—some of the later ones might be a bit confusing if you don’t,” he advised Solonn, chuckling yet again.
Jal’tai placed the remote in Solonn’s hand, then drifted over to the wall that separated the suite from the hall outside. “I’ll check in on you again sometime soon,” he said. “Oops… I fear you might have missed some of the beginning of that video due to my talking,” he added, sounding mildly embarrassed and apologetic. “You might want to back that up, then. Well, anyway, I’ll be seeing you!” With that, the dragon left the suite, once again foregoing the keypad and transport tile and teleporting out instead.
Solonn stared dully at the television screen, not really absorbing anything occurring there and not bothering to restart the video from the beginning as per Jal’tai’s advice, either. His mind was still on Jal’tai even though the latios had left. Solonn had stashed much of his loathing for Jal’tai deep within his mind while in his presence, silently detached from it through a sort of numb, temporary resignation born out of self-preservation. But now, with the latios no longer shadowing him, all of the offense, hatred, and bitter indignation that Jal’tai had inspired within him came to the forefront once again.
Solonn very briefly allowed his attention to light upon the video. Almost immediately, he shut the doors of his mind to it once more. He had quickly developed a rather strong dislike for the program, for it was, after all, the handiwork of that latios, just another element of his scheme. Solonn paid the video no further mind even as it concluded, returned to the menu screen, and began playing its loud theme music on a continuous loop.
* * *