I forgot the trigger warnings... huge apologies to those who read before I edited :( CW: Child abuse, implied religious abuse, transphobia, mental health episodes, implied partner abuse
Lacunosa Town: where monsters are said to stalk the outskirts at night. For Erdan, though, the monsters were always inside of the walls. Born to a family that was paranoid and reclusive even by Lacunosa standards, he was excluded from being around other children, and had only family to interact with. Said family ran the gauntlet from equally miserable to outright abusive. Erdan ended up the black sheep at a young age thanks to his gender-nonconformity, and so relatives often took the opportunity to degrade and hurt him. His parents encouraged this. They wished to drive the "demons" from their supposed daughter, who was meant to take on roles meant for women in the family; torturing him emotionally was a part of that, but far from the only method. Erdan was locked inside his room for days at a time, called cruel names over and over, denied food, made to watch as his possessions were destroyed, or forced to be a servant for his siblings. It was a humiliating, agonizing existence. The only comfort he found was in the well-worn statuettes of Legendaries his parents kept. The boy would pray to them-to Xerneas, to Shaymin, anyone-in the hopes they'd save him. Nobody from Lacunosa would do so, after all. Even the ones who knew the true nature of his fucked-up family all turned a blind eye.
Finally, one day, Erdan had enough. In a show of reckless impulse he'd never dared to act on before, he broke out of his home and ran away. It was night, and he knew nothing of where to go in the outside world, but the young teen didn't care. He kept running until he couldn't run anymore. Too exhausted to stand, and his heart pounding painfully with anxiety, Erdan slumped against a nearby tree to rest. That was when he heard two childlike voices. They weren't saying actual words, and this fact scared him more than someone having spotted him. If he'd been less tired out, he probably would've scurried off. As is, the boy watched with wide eyes as two shapes appeared to him. They weren't kids from the town here to drag him back… they were Phantumps. Erdan knew these Pokemon, the stories about them had been used to scare him as a young child. They were supposed to be dead kids that lured people into the forest, never to return. He should have been even more scared, but knowing they weren't humans here to torment him made Erdan's fear fade away. Becoming a ghost would probably be less painful than going back home.
The Phantumps began to float away, and against his better instincts, Erdan followed. They took him across a bridge, and towards what he believed was a city. It was both incredible and overwhelming; having been shut inside for so much of his life, Erdan had only ever seen a city in shows or movies. He couldn't have been prepared for the sheer volume of both buildings and people. It was so much, he almost fell over from dizziness. That was when a nearby voice called out to him. Unlike the Phantumps, this one spoke with actual words. It was a woman, and she asked Erdan if he was on his Pokemon journey. Too panicked to think up another lie, he immediately said yes. With the Phantumps still with him, maybe it would convince this lady, and she wouldn't take him home. Wearing a kindly smile the boy didn't trust, she told him if he was tired, he could rest at the PokeCenter. She pointed towards a building with a red roof, and with an awkward thank you, Erdan scrambled off. He was so tired, he didn't even care about risking being caught sleeping by his family. That night at the PokeCenter was his first real night away from home.
That was how Erdan accidentally became a trainer. In theory, anyway. He never actually battled, and never dared to step foot in a gym, but it made for an easy cover story. As he moved on from Opelucid and to cities further from home, his two Phantump friends followed along. Erdan found comfort in their presence; nicknaming them Dusk and Dawn, they were his closest-and only-companions. He began to believe they'd been sent to him by the forest. Whether by a Legendary, or just a personification of the trees, Erdan didn't care. But he knew it couldn't have been a coincidence. Finding a burgeoning sort of faith, a single sprout blooming in the midst of his religious trauma, the boy began to seek answers. Already curious and eager to learn more about the world he'd been so long denied, Erdan dug into old stories and myths, most of it centered around forests. He even started cautiously attending meetings with worshippers of the Legendary Shaymin, curious to know more of their relationship with the entity. Unfortunately, his time here did not end well. Erdan had gotten attached to one of the older women there, even seeing her as a mentor figure, and found the wherewithal to tell her he was transgender. All he wanted to know was if people like him were normal, "natural". But the adult told him in certain terms that no, he was not natural. In a very gentle and tender voice, she warned him of denying the blessing of Mother Nature, of twisting the divine feminine that was his birthright; womanhood was not something to be thrown away. And though she'd always called him a boy before, what followed next was… not that.
Needless to say, Erdan never went back. His faith buried itself deep, and it was never to be shared again.
Already badly hurt inside, his mental state only grew worse in the aftermath of the bigotry and rejection he suffered. Erdan wondered if the world was worth it at all; maybe he should have stayed inside his childhood home and never left. As far as he was aware, his parents nor anyone else in his family never went looking for him. In the end, they hadn't wanted him even as a punching bag. The only ones who wanted him were Dusk and Dawn. Erdan knew they'd leave when they grew tired of him, though. He eventually ended up in a sort of halfway house for homeless queer teens, and stayed there most hours of the day with his Phantumps. The other kids barely bothered him, thankfully, and he'd long learned the ability to speak friendly towards adults without letting them learn a thing; the caretakers of the home liked him, but didn't try to parent him. It was the best Erdan could get. Taking an interest in writing around this time, he preferred to hole up in his corner of his shared room anyway, so social interactions were kept to a minimum. He fell deep into a fixation on his fictional stories, using it as an escape from the dreadful wasteland that had been his entire life; all he needed was something, anything, that could give him meaning. There had to be a reason Erdan existed in this world.
None of his endeavors ever panned out in his time spent at that place. He flailed for direction, and ultimately found none. Writing, art, poetry, even just working menial labor or shitty jobs… none of it gave him what he wanted. Erdan could not fill the void his past left within him. Finally reaching a breaking point as a young adult, he decided to look to other people for answers. Using his ability to act friendly and sociable, Erdan threw himself into a string of messy, short-lived relationships, both platonic and romantic. There had to be someone out there who could make him feel worthwhile. Even just one would be enough. He could not find love or meaning within himself, so what other choice was there? Most of the time, he split with others due to his emotional instability and fear of growing too close, but a few of his lovers were cruel people. They used him, and tore apart his already fragile emotional state. Some of them admitted to only dating him because they saw him as a woman. In the end, Erdan learned one lesson. Whether family or friends or partners, nobody truly cared for him. Unable to look past his self-loathing, he fell into a dark, seemingly inescapable depression. The world held no meaning. The forest never sent him anything. He'd always been kidding himself.
One day, during a downpour, Erdan collapsed onto his knees and fell into the mud outside. He had no ability to stand up any longer. Dusk and Dawn floated above him, shrieking in concern, but Erdan barely heard. He was willing to die here and now. His Phantumps would understand. Maybe he would come back as one of them, and they could go live in the forest together. That was the last conscious thought Erdan held that night.
When he woke up, his Phantumps immediately began to chirrup happily, but Erdan only felt confusion. Looking around, he realized he was in a Pokécenter, and wrapped in several blankets. What happened yesterday? He remembered the rain, but little else. Turning to look again, Erdan finally saw that he wasn't alone. A young person with long silver hair was close to him, and had clearly nodded off sometime in the night. He didn't recognize them at all, but as he shifted himself, they began to stir. Their eyes were pale blue, and Erdan found himself feeling suddenly curious. He asked if they had brought him here, a fact the stranger confirmed, and why they'd stayed. That earned him a shrug.
"Nothing better to do," they said, as if that could hide the relief in their voice.
Their name was Kane.
Kane was… different. Erdan couldn't explain exactly why, but they weren't anything like the other people he'd drawn into his shitty life. The two hit it off quickly as friends, and he learned in a short amount of time that Kane was very hands off in how they showed their care. If Erdan didn't want to talk, that was fine. If he didn't want to eat right then, Kane wrapped up the food for later. They would offer to spend time with him, but if he refused, they would easily find something to do. It felt nice. The lack of pressure took so much weight off of his shoulders. Even his Phantumps liked Kane, and they weren't the type to show affection to any old person that showed up around Erdan. For the first time in a long time, he felt a spark of a long-dead emotion, and struggled to understand what it truly was. Hope, joy, love… who knew? It couldn't heal him, not truly. Still, Erdan found himself able to push back the thoughts of yearning for death. With Kane as his comfort and support, he began to fill his mind instead with thoughts of purpose. Maybe he could go to university, or finally write a novel, something big. It could prove he belonged in this world. Sometimes, he entertained ideas of simply choosing to exist, but those were always firmly rejected. Even Kane couldn't make him feel like he was good enough, though not for lack of trying. They were always there for him; they took him wherever he wanted to go, and sometimes, Erdan swore he felt happy. Not only happy, but safe. When Kane won a stuffed animal for him in a silly carnival game, or held him when he cried, he wondered if the feelings inside his heart were why he was born.
As was expected, though, Erdan went and fucked it up.
It was his 26th birthday. A sudden reminder of his family sent him into a panicked, paranoid spiral; Erdan in his irrational state saw the entire world as his enemy, and every person inside it a monstrous, toxic liar. The only person around him, however, was Kane. He went off on them, and though it was not their first time seeing him in an episode, it was by far the most vicious. He screamed how much he hated them, how much he was sick of being lied to, and how done he was with being pitied. I never want to see you again, Erdan shrieked, I would rather die than have you in my life. Never in the time spent together had he seen them look so shaken. His Phantumps hid from sight. In a very quiet voice, they asked him if he was telling the truth. Yes, Erdan said. I never want to see your face again.
And he didn't.
That was a year before the end of the world as he knew it.
Without Kane, Erdan yet again degraded into a shadow of a person. In the year that followed, he was barely functioning; only his Phantumps could garner a response from him, and even then, it took a lot of effort. Only his Pokemon kept him going. When the dead rose in Unova, and society rapidly crumbled around him, Erdan almost let himself be devoured by the ravenous monsters that were once thinking creatures. If it wasn't for Dusk and Dawn, he likely would've died willingly. But instead, Erdan and his ghosts fled. It reminded him of the first night away from home, when they had led him to safety in Opelucid City. That'd been so long ago. This time, it was the forest they took refuge in. There were undead in the woods as well, but his Phantumps kept him safe in the darkness of the trees, and so Erdan stayed alive. But as the days passed without end, he began to weaken from starvation. Dusk and Dawn could only do so much-they'd never needed sustenance, after all, and while safe water was within their ability to find, food was another matter. Erdan looked within, but could not find any feelings about his fate. He simply didn't care about himself. He did, however, care for his ethereal friends. Would they be sad when he was gone? Would they stay safe within the forest as he rotted into the earth? At least in death, he would feed the living things around him. The thought gave him comfort when he decided to slump against the towering trunk of a great tree, too exhausted to keep moving.
Death, however, evaded him once again. At the foot of that tall tree, a Pokemon unfamiliar to Erdan came to him. It was a Trevenant, the evolution of his special Pokemon, though unlike others of its kind this one gleamed white and red. At first, he wondered if it was a product of his fevered mind. The ghost brought him food and water, and it was then Erdan registered his Phantumps floating beside the Trevenant. Had they found it, and led it to him? Had they known it in the days before they found him outside Opelucid? He didn't know, and at the end of the day, it didn't matter. The Trevenant saved him, and in this, Erdan gained newfound purpose. He would dedicate himself to this caretaker of the forest, and serve them in thanks for their generosity and kindness. In his head, he gave them the name of "Unearth", for they had dug him out of the worthless dead end that was his life.
His years during the outbreak were spent only in the company of ghost Pokemon. With Dusk and Dawn, and his savior Trevenant, he lived in the wild places of the region. They would stay in one place for some time, then move on once the undead or aggressive survivors were too close to their home for comfort. Only on necessary occasions did Erdan venture into towns or cities. Usually, it was to scavenge for things that couldn't be found in nature, such as clothes. During one trip, he found two very important things in his life. The first was a communication device, which after some finagling revealed itself to be a machine that could let him understand the speech of Pokemon. It was a miraculous find, one that finally gave him even more depth in the relationship with his ghosts. The second, and far more important discovery was that of a lone Pumpkaboo. He was scared of other survivors, but with some coaxing, Erdan was able to speak with him. After a long conversation, the ghost type-whose name turned out to be Noontime-was convinced to travel with the rest of them. He fit in without trouble; Dusk and Dawn loved having a new friend, and the Trevenant enjoyed his company as well. Even Erdan felt a spark of joy being around the newcomer. Things were as good as they could be in the middle of a devastated, sick region.
At some point in time, the group ended up back in the vicinity of where Erdan and his Phantumps lived before their society collapsed. Driven by a homesick impulse, he insisted on returning to his former home-the place where he lived with Kane, once. He didn't know why, or what he thought he might find. Their home was still standing, at least, and when Erdan went inside, it was completely empty of other beings, living or otherwise. He felt empty inside, too. Hollow. It was pointless to come back here. Even so, he still took something with him: an old book of painted landscapes, a gift from Kane all those years ago. It was still in the spot where Erdan kept it, safe from any scavengers that had taken other things from his home.
As he left, however, things took a turn for the worse. He and Dusk, the only one of his three kept out of her Pokeball, were attacked by an undead Gardevoir while trying to get back to Unearth. Dusk managed to get off a Confuse Ray-a move that likely saved them both-but before the two of them could flee, the Gardevoir managed to grab the Phantump with its telekinetic power. With a roar of fear and rage, Erdan rushed forward, his knife in an iron grip. He plunged the blade into the putrid flesh of the undead creature, and it shrieked in pain. Though he expected this to break its hold on Dusk, instead, there was a flash of brilliant light, and he felt as if he were falling through space.
His vision went black during this. Unbeknownst to him, Erdan had been taken by the undead's power into an entirely new region.