Solonn continued to feign compliance during Jal’tai’s next visit two days later, looking at whatever he was shown, doing whatever he was told to do, and managing to show no outward sign of resentment or indignation. As soon as the dragon left, however, that veneer fell away, leaving behind a bitter, despondent man who, for the most part, just languished through the hours, lacking the spirit to look after himself beyond the bare minimum needed to keep himself alive. He barely slept, his mind too besieged by thoughts of what lay behind, what might lie in the future, and what could now never come to be to allow him any peace. He didn’t bathe or groom himself in any way, nor did he bother to further his assimilation into his forced humanity by watching any of the latios’s training videos. He ate only when Jal’tai was actually present to monitor him and make sure that he did.
The self-neglect was beginning to take its toll on Solonn—developments that did not go unnoticed by the latios, as Solonn learned the very next evening on Jal’tai’s third visit.
Jal’tai materialized in the room, and Solonn met his eye at once from where he sat in that green armchair. From the moment the dragon appeared, Solonn knew that this visit would not be like the others. The friendly, jovial countenance that the latios had worn during his previous visits was gone; his face was instead a hard-lined mask, the expression not quite readable, but Solonn was sure that it was not a sign of a pleased latios.
Lowering his head slightly and folding his arms in front of his chest, Jal’tai brought himself to hover right in front of Solonn. His feathered brows drew together as if he were wincing in pain, allowing some evidence of concern to show through his features. He held the human’s dark, flat stare for a long moment, then shook his head pityingly.
“Look at you…” the dragon said quietly. He moved even closer to Solonn, his gaze burning upon the former glalie’s unshaven face from only a few inches away now. “Solonn,” he said, his tone heavy, “I know that you’ve been neglecting yourself and your lessons. This won’t do, my boy. This won’t do at all.”
Though the human’s slackened, expressionless features showed no sign of it, a spark of fear awakened and began swiftly growing deep within Solonn, something not quite conscious, something primal. Jal’tai knew that he wasn’t getting what he wanted from his would-be successor, and Solonn strongly suspected that he was about to suffer for disappointing the latios—and perhaps this time Jal’tai would simply give up on ever getting what he wanted from Solonn and decide to cut his losses. In silent terror, Solonn awaited the fuchsia blaze in the dragon’s eyes and the agony that would follow… but no such things came.
“I told you emphatically that you must find it in yourself to make peace with this life,” Jal’tai said soberly, “for it is something you cannot change. I told you this for a very good reason, Solonn: you cannot live a life that you do not accept. If you keep on like this, you’ll waste away… I cannot allow that, Solonn. There is too much at stake. I will not see the future of my city, my mission
, simply fade out like this.”
He ascended higher into the air, stopping just short of scraping the ceiling with his wingtips. From this height, his gaze bore down upon Solonn, its intensity further stoking the human’s certainty that he was about to meet a terrible demise. But still the latios made no move to harm him.
“For the sake of your destiny, as well as that of Convergence and the most noble cause for which it stands, serenity will
be instilled in you,” he told Solonn firmly. “Fortunately, I have come across someone who should be of a tremendous benefit to that end. Her name is Neleng, and you will be having your first session with her tonight. She ought to be arriving in less than an hour.
“I dearly hope to see improvement in you, Solonn. There’s no need for you to make things harder for yourself than you already have.” With those words, Jal’tai made his exit in his usual fashion, vanishing in a burst of golden light.
Solonn’s eyes lingered for a while upon the empty space where Jal’tai had just been, resenting the latios’s ability to simply be gone from this place in a flash—he wished that he could do the same. The ease with which Jal’tai could come and go as he pleased only seemed to rub Solonn’s nose into the fact that he was stuck in the suite, unable to leave. Solonn wondered if perhaps that was part of the reason why Jal’tai always chose to teleport out.
As the minutes passed, Solonn merely sat there, doing nothing. He wasn’t really anticipating Neleng’s arrival; he had been too preoccupied with the notion that he was possibly going to be punished and maybe even killed to pay much attention to what Jal’tai had been saying during his visit. The matter of the impending arrival of another visitor had been pushed to the back of his mind.
At length, the computerized voice of the suite announced an incoming arrival; Solonn, expecting it to be Jal’tai again, was faintly surprised to find someone and something very different appearing within the suite: a chimecho. He was a bit confused by the newly arrived guest until the memory of Jal’tai’s mention of a visitor surfaced within his mind. It was someone with an “N”-name, as far as he recalled; he couldn’t remember the exact name.
The visitor made her way into the den at once, her tail trailing from beneath her as she drifted through the air. She stopped before Solonn and smiled.
“Good evening,” she greeted him in an airy voice. “My name is Neleng, and I’m here to help clear your mind. Are you ready to begin?”
Solonn didn’t respond, gazing upon the chimecho with uncertainty. He had no idea of what this creature was planning to do and therefore couldn’t really be ready for it in any way.
Neleng, however, seemed to have been prepared to proceed regardless of any answer or lack thereof that she might have received. She beamed at him as brightly as if he had just agreed with the utmost enthusiasm to whatever she was about to do. “Very well, then,” she said. She rose upward until the golden suction disc on the top of her head met the ceiling and took hold of it, clinging tightly yet effortlessly.
The chimecho gave a few gentle ripples of her tail as she hung there, smiling serenely down upon Solonn. “Just relax… Float away on a breeze of music…” she said. She began swaying there where she hung, very slowly, very gracefully, and then she began to sing.
She began with only a single voice, but it gradually unfolded into a chorus of many, one voice at a time. Harmonies and countermelodies gracefully intertwined, weaving in and out amongst one another, merging, diverging, and reuniting in cycles.
The music surrounded Solonn, absorbing his mind as it seemed to swirl around him. Under the song’s spell, everything else within the scope of his consciousness was washed away. Soon, the world around him was comprised solely of the swirling currents of melody. Nothing else existed. Nothing else mattered.
He didn’t notice at first when the song finally ended some twenty minutes later. Once he did, he began looking about somewhat dazedly for the source of the music, briefly unable to remember from whence it had come. Then the last of the psychic residue that the chimecho’s song had left within his mind cleared… and he realized slowly that as it had gone, the swarming miseries that had plagued his mind during these past few days had faded.
Not that he had been truly and entirely purged of them; undeniable anguish and bitterness remained within him and would continue to do so as long as did their source: the unwanted, elementless body and the suite that both imprisoned him. But by the preternatural qualities of Neleng’s song, all of those thoughts and feelings, though no more pleasant than they had previously been, were now tamed to a degree. They were now organized in a sense, not perfectly but well enough that they no longer smothered him with their weight. His spirit was freed to begin to rise up out of his fog of despondency, awakening as if from a long and muddling trance.
Solonn’s memory realigned with his awareness; he recalled the sequence of the most recent events as they had occurred. Jal’tai had shown up, saying that Solonn would have a visitor, then Neleng had arrived and had begun to sing. After that point, his memory was still very hazy; he couldn’t remember what had happened between the start of the chimecho’s song and its end, if indeed he had ever actually known what had happened at all.
He turned his sights up to where Neleng was still hanging and still swaying slightly. She appeared to be slowly emerging from a meditative state. She did something to me,
Solonn strongly suspected, something psychic…
Exactly what she had done, he couldn’t be sure. He hoped that it hadn’t been anything harmful, but he was inclined to have a dark feeling about it since she had, after all, been sent to him by Jal’tai.
The chimecho finally fell still, sighing softly as her eyes slowly opened. She detached herself from the ceiling, smiling gently as she descended once more.
“I will see you again tomorrow,” she said. “Drift free until then…”
Neleng floated away then, and Solonn’s gaze followed her as she made her way back to the wall between the suite and the hall outside. She stopped before the lens that was set into the wall and brought the end of her tail up to reach the keypad beside it, folding its prehensile tip and using it to input a sequence of eight numbers. The transport tile below her awakened with green light, and she lowered herself onto it with a quickness that she hadn’t exhibited before. The lens awakened and scanned her, and a second later, she was gone in a green flash.
Solonn’s eyes lingered for a long moment in that direction, looking upon the lens and keypad with a twinge of envy toward the chimecho who had just used them to leave the suite. He longed to do the same, but the system that had offered an open gateway to Neleng also created the barrier that held him there in that suite, for it would only admit those who possessed the codes to open the way in or out.
Jal’tai had shared the codes with Neleng. He had not shared them with Solonn, and he likely had no intention of doing so anytime soon or possibly ever, Solonn was sure. It seemed to him that Jal’tai was intent on keeping him trapped there, while the latios and those whom he employed to aid him could just come and go as they pleased with those codes. Furthermore, Jal’tai himself didn’t even need them; he had the option of teleporting, and he made use of it, too. In fact, he never even bothered with the keypad and tile to get out…
Something clicked into place in Solonn’s brain and clicked hard: Jal’tai never used the transport tile to get out, but he always used it to get in… but why
? Solonn found himself locked into puzzling over the matter at once; this habit of Jal’tai’s was peculiar to him in a distinctly nagging way, one that clearly marked itself as significant. He at first chiefly wondered, as he had done on more than one occasion before, why the latios bothered with the tile at all; couldn’t he just instantly, conveniently enter in the same way as he exited? Why the dragon did not teleport into the suite was a matter that Solonn couldn’t seem to figure out… but when his mind inverted the question, wondering why Jal’tai did
teleport to get out
The first answer that came to Solonn’s mind at that question was that Jal’tai did it that way simply because he could
. But another possible angle occurred to Solonn a beat later: perhaps Jal’tai avoided using the keypad code to leave the suite on the chance that the human might pick up the code from seeing him use it. To Solonn’s mind, it made sense; Jal’tai was just being cautious.
A second later, a powerful realization struck him as his mind was thrown back to what he had just witnessed mere minutes earlier: Jal’tai was being cautious, but Neleng was not…
There was a feeling like a sudden, sharp blow to his chest, seizing his heart in an almost painful thrill. Incredible though it seemed, after all of the work and planning that Jal’tai had clearly put into his endeavor to prepare his replacement, the latios had made a mistake in giving the codes to that chimecho, a mistake whose ramifications had the potential to severely undermine his plans.
All of a sudden, the way from here seemed almost ridiculously clear to Solonn. Neleng held the means for him to escape—he needed only to observe her closely on her departure from now on. He could possibly obtain the code that would allow him to leave the suite by watching her use it.
There remained, however, the matter of what he would do after he got out. No longer being the glalie that he once was and having no real way to prove that he ever was such, returning to Virc-Dho now no longer seemed like an option. The only other familiar place he had to go was Lilycove… and as he thought of that, it occurred to him that if Morgan had been successfully reunited with her other pokémon—or at least with one of the psychics among them—perhaps one of them could look into his mind and confirm to her that he was indeed what he would claim to be. If so, then he could at least have the option of making a new home among some of his friends even if he could never go back to his original home.
But then another thought occurred to him, one that sent a chill straight into his heart: after he made his escape, Jal’tai would be sure to try and find him—and since Solonn had specifically mentioned having fled from Lilycove, that was one of the places where Jal’tai was sure to look.
In his mind, the human saw Jal’tai in the Yorkes’ house with both Morgan and Eliza lying unconscious before him as he scoured their minds for information that might lead him to Solonn. The thought of them having their minds violated in such a manner disgusted Solonn, and the picture that came to him when he imagined what might happen if any of Morgan’s other pokémon were there to try and stop Jal’tai sickened him even further—he suspected that not even all of them combined would be able to take on the latios and that their resisting him could quite possibly cost them their lives.
He sighed heavily; it seemed that Lilycove was out of the question as well, leaving him to wonder just where he could
Anywhere but here will do,
Solonn decided finally, resolutely, anywhere
It seemed that Solonn could not reclaim the life he had once known, that he could no longer share it with the people whom he had known, but he could at least make his life his own again, taking it out of Jal’tai’s talons. He didn’t know what sort of future could possibly lie ahead of him now, but at least now there was a chance that it could be his
With a deep breath, Solonn rose from the chair, shakily but determinedly. He leveled a hard stare at that wall, that barrier separating him from the way to freedom. Soon, he told himself silently, he would surpass that barrier. Soon, he would take back his life.
* * *