The professor got up to pass out the exams. It was a moment Adrian had been waiting for since he was old enough to understand what his parents were saying, one that he had been born for. With the anticipation in mind, he decided it was worthy of a smile, a rare occurrence for him.
The professor shot Adrian an odd glance; he had never seen him smile before. Puzzled, the professor left the sealed exam on Adrian’s desk and continued. A few minutes later, he instructed them to begin.
Methodically, carefully, Adrian opened his exam and placed it at the exact center of his desk with the corners proportionally aligned to the corners of his desk. With it at last the exact way he liked it, he opened the first page and realigned the exam to his desk.
As Adrian's deep gray eyes raced across the page, another smile came as he saw how easy the exam would be. For the most prestigious academy in the world, the Pokemon Trainers Academy did not have an exceptionally difficult entrance exam. The first question was one that Adrian had seen at least thrice before: “Which two types are super-effective against the most varieties of Pokemon?” He wrote in “Ground and Fighting,” clearly, such that there could be no mistake, and continued. The two hundred and fifty-seven questions continued in the same fashion, basic questions that Adrian knew but could logically deduce even if he didn’t. It was the set of questions that came afterwards that he found interesting.
The curiosity was first aroused by the instructions: “There are neither correct nor incorrect answers for the following questions. There are no specific answers that the Academy is looking for. However, your answers to these questions will affect both your scores and your chances of entrance so please consider them carefully.”
Eagerly, Adrian turned over the first page of questions. “Is it better to begin training for an Azumarill as an Azurill or Marill? Why?” Adrian considered for a moment, and then decided Marill would be better because it learned rollout, which would make it better able to utilize its unusually high strength. And then Adrian wondered how anyone could have thought otherwise. The second section of the test continued that way for almost the entire test. While the instructions said that there were no correct or incorrect answers, the solution to every question seemed obvious. Except for one question, the 301st question of the test: “Explain your personal opinion on the role of Pokemon-trainer relationships insofar as battling is concerned.” Instantly, he knew what to say, that the trainers needed to know their Pokemon’s limit and that personal friendship would encourage the Pokemon to strive for success. But as he wrote his answer, he knew it had no meaning to him. It was merely a collection of empirical data from so many sources that he couldn’t place it. Of that much he was certain. Nonetheless, it made him sick that he was depending on what he could only describe as a feeling, that he could not remember exactly where he found that answer.
It continued to eat at him for the rest of the exam. As he answered the remainder of the questions, the words of that question continued to sear themselves into the forefront of his mind. By the time the test was over, he could see it in his mind’s eye, the exact font, the exact way the lighting flickered as he read the question, the small gray dot below the “x” in “explain,” how the professor had sneezed as he read the word “relationships.” Trembling, he picked up his exam and gave it to the professor. Alarmed, the professor looked up to check the time. It was 10:47 and twenty-eight seconds. He had completed the day-long exam in less than three hours. Blinking bewilderedly, the professor marked the completion time.
“Can I go now?” Adrian asked quietly.
The professor just nodded.
His father sat in their house library on his massive-red chair, seated across from the fireplace with his legs crossed. As Adrian passed, slightly heavy footed, his fathers’ head moved a little in his direction, recognizing the sound, but only for an instant. Adrian, now walking quietly, tiptoed up the massive staircase that led to the third story and his room.
There, he turned on his computer, which had been waiting for him, and queried all of his reading material, notes, and assignments on Pokemon-trainer relationships. His eyes stared deep into the computer, as if expecting to find something pleasant behind the screen.
Nothing. Adrian had failed to find where it was that he had read or heard about the relevance of Pokemon-trainer relationships. It haunted him at all hours of the day now, in class, in bed at night, and even in his sleep.
He knew that it was unacceptable. He replayed the entire test over and over in his mind, repeatedly imagined that “99%.” It was everywhere: in the clouds, laughing at him from his cereal bowl, in the way the leaves fell from the trees. It made him to pull out his jet black hairs one by one as he sat on the counter in front of the mirror, just trying to waste time until he would be so tired that he would have to fall asleep. There was no refuge from its torments, nowhere except in his studies. Book by book he devoured philosophy, biology, tactics, and most of all mathematics. Adrian loved math, the way that it remained the same no matter how long he looked at the numbers. The numbers themselves were in fact a refuge for him. They did not arrange themselves into “99%’s,” the way the real world did. And best of all, he could memorize the answers one by one so that he could sleep in peace.
But the world was not math. It was far more the nihilistic world he read of in the classical novels and epics, one that was forever changing and evolving. And he hated every bit of the world. He hated that people just did things, without thought or logic. He hated people most of all, with all of their cruelty and hatred and vice. Worst of all, there was no way to escape them, no reprieve of solitude.
Nonetheless, he had long since taught himself to tolerate vile man, just as a child learns to cope with the horrors of death, but it had been a most difficult process. First, he childishly tried to pretend that people were not despicable, that they were really good, but disappointment after disappointment made that strategy too painful to bear. Then he tried to relieve himself of their company, by seeking solitude at every moment, but the more he tried to keep to himself, the more they tried to drag him into their tragic little world. At last, he had found the solution: to live and let live. He would live his life, accepting their contact but making no exertions to embed himself in their world.
Fortunately, there were more cheerful things to dwell on. Usually. But 99 had overrun his last fortress, that of the intellectual universe. There he was king, and could control things as he wished. Nonetheless, the war on his home turf was almost over. He had checked the mailing schedules, and between ten and eleven in the morning the victor would emerge.