A-Ying had been hungry for a while. He didn’t remember how long, and while he couldn’t remember what it was like to not be hungry, he knew that he hadn’t been hungry back before his mother and father had left and told him to wait for them. But he was hungry now, and while the old steamed bun in the garbage heap was more than half eaten and slightly mouldy, it would be the first thing he would be able to eat, here in his out of the way hiding place. A-Ying has found that this is the perfect hiding place, slightly too small for the shopkeepers and the adults who wanted to hurt him to squeeze into, and slightly too high up for the houndour to reach, with some of his especially destroyed rags to spread out to make the floor softer. He knows that he won’t be able to keep this hiding place forever, as there are other street children who are bigger and faster than him, but for now he’s content to just stay here and eat his dumpling. Because the hiding place is so out of the way, it limits his visibility, and so he has to make sure he listens to the sounds around him in case anyone comes for him. He hopes they won’t. A-Ying does his best to savour the dumpling, dragging out the process of eating it for as long as he can, to make sure that it’s as filling and entertaining as possible. However, he can’t drag it out forever, and once he finishes it, he’s still hungry. He ignores the grumbling of his stomach for as long as he can, and leans against the corner of his hiding place, drawing faces in the dirt with a stick that he found recently. He’s tried to remember his parents' faces, and he thinks he may be able to if he tries, but he still can’t draw them, and so he practices as best he can by pushing the stick through the dirt, and then wiping away each drawing after its done to make room for a new one. He entertains himself this way until it's too dark to see, and then he uses his fingers to tap fun rhythms into the walls. He’d play his dizi, but someone would definitely find him then, and he wants to keep the safety of this hiding place for as long as he can. He drifts off to the thought that he’d feel so much less bored and tired if he wasn’t alone.
Two days later, A-Ying crawls out of his hiding place again after checking that he’s alone, and then drops to the ground, eager to find either some food, or some entertainment today. He hadn’t found any food since that mouldy dumpling, and his stomach was starting to hurt a bit more again. He hasn’t gone to the market in what feels like a while, and so he decides to see if the nice auntie with the spicy food and the chili sauce will be there today. He finds that it’s so much easier to eat rotted or mouldy food if it’s covered in spice, as it adds a flavour that doesn’t make him feel too sick to it. He runs along to the market, doing his best not to get underfoot, so that no rich people see him and feel like they want to hurt him. He’s found that the nicer clothes people wear, the more likely they are to either ignore him or hate him. He doesn’t like either option, and while sometimes he’d rather be hated than ignored, just to make sure that he’s still alive and not completely forgotten, today he doesn’t want to fight. He looks over the stalls, and sees while the nice auntie with the spices isn’t there, the idiotic brother with the oddish is, and so he goes over to him and tries to see if he can steal some food off of him. He goes around the edge of the street, and then crouches down when he comes near to the cart. He sneaks to the side of it, and then waits for the idiotic brother to let down his guard. He doesn’t have to wait long, because before long a tall, rich looking man with a Mawile next to him walks up. The Mawile looks kind of fat, like it would be fairly slow. The man strikes up a conversation with the idiotic brother, something about an eevee that A-Ying doesn’t care about, and A-Ying pops up, grabs a dumpling in each hand, and then pops back down, immediately sneaking away from the stall as fast as he can. As soon as there are people in between him and the shopkeeper, he bolts as fast as he can. A-Ying hears both the shopkeeper and the man yell something, but by that time, he’s too far away for it to mean anything, and he’s long left the shopping centre of the town.
A-Ying runs for a while, just to make sure he hasn’t been followed, and then slows his speed to a walk. He hides a dumpling in his clothes, because he has enough food to last him for days now, and he doesn’t want to let on to any of the other street kids what he’s found. He knows it’s a futile endeavor, because as soon as someone even smaller than him asks or an old man or a pregnant woman asks he’d give it up, but he hopes he wouldn’t have to. He’s hungry. He makes his way back to his hiding place, slowly nibbling the other dumpling. He knows he can’t eat too much or too fast, because one day he had gotten three dumplings, and eaten them all at once, and then thrown up because his stomach felt too full. So he has to eat slowly and carefully and deliberately, and while he’s never been particularly good at being slow or careful, he is very good at doing things deliberately, with a lot of thought behind it. He knows that the spicy aunty sometimes jokes that he doesn’t think things through, but he does, he just thinks through them very fast. So he eats the dumpling slowly, keeping an eye out for any of the houndour that roam the streets.
He makes it back to his hiding place in one piece, and puts the rest of the nibbled dumpling in his robe. He starts to climb up into the small space and then pauses, because he thinks he hears some soft snuffling sounds. He pauses his climb, wiggling his nose to keep the rest of him as still as he can be. The snuffling continues, and then A-Ying hears the faint sounds of a pokemon's cry. He doesn’t recognize the sound, but that's ok, because the only pokemon cries he’d recognize are houndour and rattata, both of which will hurt him so that they can steal his food. He finishes his climb, and then crawls into his hiding space, hoping that whatever is in there will let him share the hiding space. In the space are two similar looking pokemon, the larger of which is grooming the smaller. The larger pokemon is a sort of brown, with a much lighter tuft of fur by its neck and that same shade of fur creating a sort of rounded tip on its tail, and the smaller pokemon looks very similar, down to the rounded curve of the light spot on the end of its tail, with its only difference being its silver colouring and its size, which is absolutely tiny. There are some discarded egg shells around the smaller pokemon, and the rags that he had lain on the ground had been bunched up to create a sort of nest for the two pokemon. He freezes, because he knows that mother pokemon can be very defensive of their babies, especially if they’re newly hatched. He sits up and scrambles for the dumpling in his clothes and tears it in half, offering the larger, unnibbled half to the pokemon. The mother looks up at him and then pads forward warily, before leaping up to grab the other half of the dumpling and padding back to her baby and dropping it down on the floor. A-Ying grins, and goes to sit cross-legged facing the nest, with his back against the wall. The hiding space is big enough to fit both him and the nest, but only barely, small enough that his knees touch the nest. When he’s nibbled his half of the dumpling in half, he tucks it back in his shirt and looks up at the two pokemon, before starting to talk in his softest voice.
“Hello. I’m A-Ying. Do you want to be friends?”
The Mother looks at him, but the baby bounces towards his left knee and looks up at him before exclaiming “Eevee!”
“Is that a yes? I’d like a friend. It’s a bit lonely when you're a beggar. I tried to make friends with some of the boys in town but it didn’t last long because their parents found out. Apparently begging is bad but I don’t really see why when it’s the only way to eat. I tried to stop begging but apparently stealing is worse, so I try to do that less, but sometimes I’m so hungry that sometimes I have to. It was nice having friends while it lasted, but I miss them sometimes.”
The smaller eevee looks a bit sad. “Eevee :( ”
“It’s ok though! People have to listen to their parents. When mine went away, they said I had to wait for them, and so even though they’re probably dead, I still wait in this town!”
When the mother eevee hears this, she looks sharply up, and pads a few steps towards him. A-Ying continues talking.
I’m getting much better at getting food on my own. Sometimes, I’ll eat two days in a row! Not today though, but I have enough food for me to eat for three days in a row. I can share it with you though if you’ll let me stay here.”
The mother pokemon starts to lick his knee. A-Ying giggles, and starts to pet the silver Eevee.
Three days later, the three of them have finished the two dumplings between them, and A-Ying is getting bored of his hiding space. He’s gotten to know the two eevees well enough, and he’s glad that the mother has decided to trust him enough to allow him in the hiding space. He knows he can be fidgety and jumpy, so sometimes he needs to stretch his legs. When he leaves, the mother eevee stays behind, but the silver eevee comes with him to get food. While he doesn’t find any much food, just a melon rind, he does see the trash collector who can read and write, and he spends another day learning about the rules of writing, practising on the dirt by a solitary corner with a long stick.
“Lian-gege! Can you teach me some more characters? I promise to practice them!”
“That's what you say every week A-Ying.”
“And I do! But I was distracted this week. I made a friend!”
The silver eevee pokes its head out from A-Yings shirt.
“Oh? And what’s your friend's name?”
A-Ying shrugs. “She doesn’t have one I think”
“May I make a recommendation then? How about Shuang? I can show you how to write it. Come over here.”
A-Ying nods and stands next to the trash collector, and they spend the rest of the day ensconced in a writing lesson. The trash collector promises to come back to the same corner next week, and A-Ying and A-Shuang go back to the hiding space.
The next two weeks pass relatively similarly, with the eevee’s and A-Ying growing closer as friends, taking turns to find food, and running from houndour together. The mother has recently started grooming A-Ying, and in turn, A-Ying has managed to carve a shitty comb out of wood to comb his hair and the both of the eevees’ tufts of neck fur. He goes to see the trash collector again, but this time, right before he leaves, a man with a Mawile turns the corner and starts to walk towards the trash collector. A-Ying ducks under the trash cart before the man can see him, and judging by the lack of any accusations, he was either successful, or the man had forgotten his face. A-Ying hopes that he’s right on both. The man stops walking right next to A-Ying, and apparently right within hearing distance too, because A-Ying when the trash collector starts talking, and the man starts responding, he can make out every word of their conversation.
“Hello again kind brother. Is there something this one can help you with?”
“That’s very kind of you daozhang. I was wondering if you have run into any eevee’s recently, as I’ve been hunting a rare silver one. It’s mother is meant to be naturally strong too, which should mean that the silver eevee is powerful as well. I should be able to fetch an excellent price for it after I can beat it into shape.”
“No, I’m very sorry. How long ago did you track it to this area? Because I am sorry to tell you, but it may have left long ago.”
“Three weeks, but I only passed through that first time, as something managed to trick me into following a false trail. I have narrowed it down to this town though, so I will be staying here. Do you know of any good places to stay?”
A-Ying tunes out as the two start to talk about inns near the area. He wonders if the silver eevee the hunter is talking about is the same as A-Shuang. He hopes not, but at the same time, it is very likely that even if it isn’t, the hunter mentioned that silver eevees were rare and valuable, meaning that if A-Shuang was found, she would be beaten and hunted by the man anyways. As soon as the man is out of sight, A-Ying comes out from under the trash cart. The trash collector shakes his head.
“What a horrible world, that one would hunt pokemon for sport or for money. Please help A-Shuang stay safe.”
A-Ying nods, and then they say their goodbyes, and then A-Ying sprints back to warn the eevees of their bounty.
He only runs for a minute before the houndour find him, and smelling the dumpling in his clothes, start to chase after him. A-Ying sprints back to his hidey hole, taking the most direct route back to his hidey hole. It hurts his bare feet to sprint so hard, but he ignores it, focusing on getting away from the dogs and warning the eevees about the man hunting them. He scrambles up to his hiding place and crawls as quickly as possible inside. When the eevees are visible, the silver eevee bounds towards him, quickly crawling inside his shirt to look for food, but the mother looks up in alarm at his disheveled state.
“There's a man and he has a Mawile and we have to go because he’s looking for you and he wants to beat you into shape and I don’t want to see you two hurt!”
The mother eevee paws at his chest.
A-Ying takes a deep breath and then nods. “Right. Food first. Yeah. I guess I was so panicked that I forgot we need energy to run away.”
He takes the dumpling out and splits it into two pieces. The three spend a few minutes eating, and then they leave the hiding space together, A-Shuang tucked inside his shirt and the mother eevee riding on his head. They start to walk away from the hiding space towards the edge of town, A-Ying muttering nervously under his breath to the other eevees.
“I hope we don’t get caught. I’m probably a bit too recognizable as a beggar in these rags. Should I buy some clothes? But I don’t have enough money? Should I steal? Maybe in the next town?”
The mother pointedly takes a deep breath on top of his head, and A-Ying follows suit.
When they get to the next town, the mother eevee protects A-Ying from a houndour, and then A-Ying protects her from an angry old man who wants to kick her. It’s fairly uneventful, but soon A-Ying spots the man again, and they start to leave. When they near the edge of town, A-Ying spots the man with the Mawile about fifty feet away, and notices that the man spots him. More noticeably, he then spots the eevee on top of his head, and starts to move towards him. A-Ying takes a deep breath in, and gets ready to act extra cute to fool the man, but before he can breathe out, the mother leaps off the top of his head and sprints towards a nearby forest. A-Ying bolts after it. The Mawile jumps off the man's shoulder. The man runs after it. The Mawile flies/runs after it. A-Shuang climbs out of his shirt and clings to his hair for extra purchase. The man switches directions. The Mawile switches directions. They both start chasing A-Ying. A-Ying overtakes the mother eevee, and then makes wide zigzags through the trees, to make it harder for the man to catch him. The man starts to catch up, and the mother eevee turns to face him. The other pokemon starts to close in and the mother eevee starts to glow. She expands, and then turns into a large black creature, with glowing yellow rings on her ears and tails. She becomes taller and sleeker, and then turns towards the Mawile and lets out a roar. Dark energy pulses from her, and knocks Mawile back, and the battle is initiated. A-Ying stops and stares, and then the man notices. The man starts to chase A-Ying again, and A-Ying scrambles up a tree. As he climbs it, he almost breaks a branch, but manages to get up to the next one before it falls. An idea comes to him.
“Can you do something to that branch to make it fall down when the man is under it?”
“Eevee!” A-Shuang affirms.
The man reaches a spot underneath the branch, and suddenly A-Shuang jumps out from inside A-Yings clothing. To A-Ying, everything after that seems to happen simultaneously.
The silver eevee waves its tail, and glowing gold stars appear and hit everything between the battle that the mother eevee is slowly losing and the tree branch. The tree branch cracks and falls onto the man's head, the Mawile takes a large bite of the mother eevee and rips the flesh off before sprinting towards him, and the force from A-Shuang pushing off from him makes him unbalanced enough that he falls off the tree and lands on the Mawile.
A-Ying crawls off of the Mawile and sprints under where the silver eevee is now falling to catch it. He succeeds, and then goes to check the man's breathing. While they won in the sense that neither the Mawile nor the man are breathing, the mother umbreon is bleeding out onto the forest floor. The mother umbreon and A-Shuang share a few words, and then A-Shuang takes a dagger from the dead man, gives it to A-Ying, and then scrambles up his body to hide back in his shirt.
A-Ying and A-Shuang travel together for a while, before finally ending up in Yiling. They run into a few more people who try to separate them, but A-Ying and A-Shuang grow smarter with each encounter, and soon it barely worries them. The town, while not the kindest place they’ve ever been, is good enough to them that they can eat every other day. When sifting through a trash heap to find food, a man in luxurious purple robes finds them, and calls out.
A-Ying looks at him warily, and feels A-Shuang burrow deeper into the folds of his clothing. He hesitates, but he and A-Shaung have taken on greater challenges than the likes of one man who looks like he’d at least have the ability to make good on his promise to teach him.. He takes the hand of the purple man calling himself Jiang-shushu.