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A Hundred Tries (One-Shot)

Discussion in 'Fan Fiction' started by [Imaginative]:[Clockwork], Apr 19, 2015.

  1. [Imaginative]:[Clockwork]

    [Imaginative]:[Clockwork] X-treme trainer

    It's been a little while since I posted a one-shot, but I finally got the motivation to write something new. I just finished White and started White 2 (which I was disappointed to find out is more of a sequel to Black), and I felt like I wanted to write something set in Unova, which I've never done before. This one-shot was written all in one sitting, so I'm sure there's plenty to criticize, but I'm pretty happy with it. I think I could have nailed the tone I was going for a little more, but I think/hope I got the idea down. The sixth generation was so unique in terms of story variation, while at the same time being (in my opinion) a little generic in overall execution, and I wanted to convey that here. Hopefully it's at least readable!

    A Hundred Tries

    “This is nothing,” Hilbert said, watching his Darmanitan clear away several large stones near the bank of the river cutting through Route 10. “I can’t believe they closed the route off because of a little landslide.” He sat on a rock at the edge of the cleared space, recalling his Pokémon.

    “Seriously,” Hilda agreed, putting her hands on her hips and surveying the area. Other than the rocks, it all looked much the same: the grassy cliffs, the swiftly moving river, and the beaten-down path had all been there two years ago. Luckily, this time spring had brought out the flowers, rather than the wintertime ice she had slipped across back then. “If anything, it’s better this way. A hike like this is the perfect way to test trainers.” Noticing how low the sun had set, she took off her sunglasses and sat next to Hilbert. “You’d think they’d want to prove themselves,” she said, shrugging exaggeratedly. “We did.”

    “For real. I don’t see any of these kids fulfilling ancient prophecies. They just don’t have it in ‘em nowadays.”

    “Well, technically only one of us was the hero,” Hilda said slyly, cocking an eyebrow, “and the stone was in my bag, so…”

    Hilbert distinctly remembered the stone being in his bag, but he refrained from getting into the same argument they had had many times before. Either way, the dragon had been released and they had moved on with their post-hero lives.

    “Whatever you believe to be true,” he said, getting up and unrolling his sleeping bag, “the point is that this new kid all over the news could never had stopped the Team Plasma we knew. The Plasma revival was just a shadow of the original.”

    “Yeah, I mean, good for them, but either one of us could have taken them out in half the time if we hadn’t been out of the country.” She stood up and moved toward the cliff overlooking the river, adjusting her dirty old hat. Her Xtransceiver started ringing, but she quickly rejected the call.

    “Who was that?”

    “Just Cheren. Mom must have told him we were back in Unova.”

    “He’s doing pretty well,” Hilbert said quietly, watching stars gradually appear in the sky. “His gym’s already one of the more popular ones for beginning trainers. He was really happy the last time we talked.”

    “Well, he’s allowed to be happy,” she answered, smiling wryly. “He didn’t save the world. It’s all uphill for him.” She kicked some pebbles off the cliff and watched them land in the river with several small plunks.

    “This was always my favorite route,” Hilbert said, trying to get their minds off of Cheren. “It’s perfect for camping.”

    “It really is,” she answered, gladly taking the bait. She moved toward where he was sitting on his sleeping bag. “I think I slept here a few extra nights the first time around. I was so nervous for the League, and this place really helped calm me down.” She released her Chandelure to help start a fire with the bundle of sticks she had laid out. Soon, it was crackling nicely. “It’s also where I caught Scout,” she said proudly, plucking the Braviary’s Poké Ball off of her belt.

    “I wish I would have spent more time out here,” he said slowly, grinning. “I was way too excited, though. I knew N would be waiting for me, so I rushed all the way through here and the Victory Road.” He pulled one of his own Poké Balls out of his backpack. “Luckily, though, I had time to catch Lorna, the far superior bird of Unova.”

    Hilda laughed out loud and sauntered toward her friend. “I think anyone would choose a mighty hunter,” she said, waving Scout’s Poké Ball around, “over a scavenger.” She tapped Lorna’s ball. “Just sayin’.”

    “I assure you that Mandibuzz are quite popular.” His Xtransceiver suddenly rang, with Cheren’s contact picture smiling above his name. He let it ring several times until his answering machine picked it up. “I don’t know if I’m ready to be reunited just yet,” he said, trying to hide his guilt.

    “Same,” she huffed, rolling out her own sleeping bag. “I always have trouble talking to him and Bianca now. It’s like we’re not even on the same wavelength. I guess that’s just how it goes. I was always getting stronger, and they couldn’t really keep up. It was my fault for training all the time.”

    “If it makes you feel better, Cheren beat me a couple times, and I still felt like we were on two totally different paths. It just sucks, ‘cause we were all best friends.” The sky was much darker now, and if not for the fire, they wouldn’t have been able to see each other’s faces.

    “It’s hard to relate to a hero,” she answered, exhaling with a puff. “I think he and Bianca saw it coming more than I did. They always said I was so strong that by the time Team Plasma ended, it was like there was no other option. Sometimes I wonder what would have happened if N had won.”

    “See, I’m not sure there is an ‘if.’” He tossed Lorna’s Poké Ball up and down as he spoke. “If you look throughout history, good always beats evil. Even if it takes a hundred tries, the bad side loses in the end. It’s almost… inevitable.”

    Hilda could have imagined someone like Professor Juniper giving the exact same speech, using it to inspire her young trainees right before a fateful battle. However, she couldn’t help but notice that it sounded a little hollow when Hilbert said it. Worst of all, she agreed with him, both in the idea and in the sentiment his weary tone implied.

    “To be fair, N’s not exactly evil. But still, it’s not like I wanted him to win or anything,” she muttered. “But sometimes I wish it had just been different. The whole thing. The journey, I mean.” Suddenly, she vividly remembered the feeling of walking through Chargestone Cave, and how every hair on her body had stood on end. It had been the worst part of the whole journey, thanks in part to the cave’s deep caverns that she had spent days exploring. It was just another detour, a box she could check off of the Unova Exploration List, but the entire time she had been wishing she could just battle Cheren or roast marshmallows with Bianca. It was the first time she had felt like she was doing something wrong.

    “Once,” she said suddenly, looking straight at the fire, “N asked me if I had a dream. I said ‘yes.’ I mean, he had just given this big speech about his and Team Plasma’s dream, so I didn’t want to look like some dreamless idiot. It was a lie, though.” She clasped her hands together. “I didn’t know what I wanted. I was just moving along like I thought I should. I wish I would have told him the truth.”

    “He actually asked me the exact same question,” Hilbert said. He lay back, resting on the puffy pillow section of his sleeping bag. “I said ‘no,’ though. My dream was to beat him and Team Plasma, but I thought it might piss him off if he thought the kid who was stopping him all the time was just some aimless doof.” He smiled as he remembered the disappointed look on N’s face, but became straight-faced again when thought about the colorful little playroom in the middle of that enormous, regal castle. “It doesn’t even matter, though. We were always meant to end up right here, sitting on a route that might as well not even exist anymore, a memory for all the new trainers. Everything but the final battle is just details that nobody remembers.” He waved his hand in the air dismissively.

    “Maybe,” she said. “Probably. I definitely don’t know what Red’s big speech was right before he finished off Team Rocket. It’d be nice to get a do-over, though. I think I’d do things a lot differently. More time with Cheren and Bianca, for one. Plus, I’d call home more. And then, I think I’d even try to step aside and let Cheren battle N, even if I knew he’d lose. All the battling was just exhausting by that point, and I know he’d like it.”

    “All I know is that I wouldn’t’ve looked for all those sages. It was too plain of a job for the champion. If I got a second chance, I’d just disappear, like all great heroes.”

    They both laughed, and Hilda agreed, if only because trawling through Chargestone Cave for a second time had come close to matching the misery of the first time.

    “You know I love Puck,” she continued, referring to her Samurott, “but I think it’d be cool to train a Snivy. Cheren seemed to like it, and I always thought having a grass type would be really nice in the desert. That was always the biggest flaw in my team.”

    “But then you’d be wondering what Oshawott would be like, or if Tepig had been the right choice.” Hilbert sat up and wrapped his arms around his knees. “There’s no winning.”

    “That’s why we need infinite do-overs,” she said, giggling. “I want to try it all until I find out exactly what I want.”

    She pictured sitting in her room, wearing her freshly bought baseball cap, as she had nearly three years ago. The summer sun was shining through her window, and Cheren was with her, complaining like usual. She could remember everything so clearly.

    “I heard from Professor Juniper,” he said. She could even hear his voice, the nasally way it had sounded then, not his strong, gym leader voice. He wasn’t quite grown yet. “We can have a Pokémon?” After commenting on Bianca’s lateness – Hilda had a feeling that in any number of second chances, Cheren’s seriousness would rub harshly against Bianca’s aloofness – she would bust through the door with an apology, and the three of them would pick their Pokémon.

    Snivy this time,’ she thought, and as soon as she picked up the Poké Ball, it was as if there was no other choice, as if Oshawott and Tepig could only belong to Bianca and Cheren.

    “Hey, I know!” Bianca shouted, and Professor Juniper’s assistant faded from memory, leaving only the young lady with so much doubt and so much potential. “Let’s have a Pokémon battle!”

    It was the same and unique and nostalgic and hopeful, and they were all friends again, just like it had been. Hilda lost her first battle, one of the many details that would be forgotten in the unstoppable trample of the inevitable. She only hoped that this time around, she wouldn’t want a second try.
     
  2. Hi there! You're working with a really interesting premise here, and I thought you presented it really well. The conversation isn't really heavy in the literal sense, but it delves a lot into the characters' minds and we get a lot of wonderful insight out of it. The effect of the story is really telling since the very first line of dialogue of the story suddenly becomes much more meaningful when you read it the second time.

    I also thought that you did well in breaking down the cockiness of their tones at the start and watching it turn into this mesh of regret and wistfulness by the middle. It was heartbreaking to see them talk about Cheren, Bianca, and N so lowly at first then turning into how they felt so removed from them (and their world in general) nowadays. I thought you did a good job in sustaining that kind of emotion throughout the whole fic.

    I was just a bit confused with the ending. I'm not sure if it's because of the meta elements and self-awareness of the fic as a whole, but I'm torn with deciding if the ending is a scene imagined by Hilda or an implication of a game reset. The former makes sense seeing as there are lines saying that she's picturing and remembering events, but the latter isn't really impossible since she was talking about infinite do-overs and second tries right before it.

    I'm also 50/50 about the "directionlessness" of the fic. On one hand, I completely understand the feeling of aimlessness I get in the end, since we're meant to sympathize with how the only way Hilbert and Hilda's journeys will have "direction" again is if they return to where their journeys started and try doing it differently. Again, I find that premise really interesting, and I feel that you're successful in conveying that. But on the other hand, I find myself wondering what I, as a reader, should be taking away from the story after being presented with this aimlessness. I know that the idea of the reset is brought up, but it's left me wondering, what happens to Hilbert and Hilda then? Are all of their ramblings about their journeys meant to tell the reader that starting over is the only way out? Are we meant to feel the literal dead end they're feeling by the time we finish the story? Both of these are valid takeaways IMO (hence why I'm 50/50 with all this rambling :p ), but I just thought I'd bring it up since, coupled with my confusion with the ending in general, it didn't really give me a solid sense of closure for the whole thing (not that it didn't give me closure, because it did; I'm just not sure what to make of it and if it's the kind of closure that's best for this kind of premise).

    So sorry for all that rambling in that last paragraph - just goes to show how effective your fic is in making your readers think. :) Overall I do think it's a really good one-shot, and a great character study of the protagonists. Good job with it! :D
     
  3. [Imaginative]:[Clockwork]

    [Imaginative]:[Clockwork] X-treme trainer

    Hey! Thanks for reviewing! I was afraid this was too dull to get much attention, haha.

    Thank you! There were a lot of ideas I had when I started writing this thing, and one of them was the a sort of post-hero syndrome I imagine all protagonists eventually go through, during which they have to figure out how to live in a world where they're no longer the ones expected to step up to plate when a villain attacks. Hilda and Hilbert haven't quite found their balance yet, so they're still detached from their old life and friends without having found anything new.

    I thought this might be confusing, and I should probably edit it to make it a little clearer. However, I'm glad you pointed this out, since I basically love any chance I have to explain why I did something so that I can clear up confusion. (As a side note, if somehow the ambiguity of this fic is something you don't want tainted by author explanations, you might want to stop reading here, because there's going to be a few things I talk about.)

    To clear things up, it's actually both! I was trying to use the idea of her remembering that first day to transition to the (overly subtle, if not nonexistent) reveal that the game had been reset. I wanted the language in the last paragraph to reflect that things were different this time, implying the beginning of a new story. Technically, what I imagined is that the entire Cheren-Hilda-Bianca meeting was after the game was reset, and Hilda's remembering of it as something that had already happened is the last and soon-to-be-gone memories of the previous playthrough. Sort of the feeling you get when you start a new game, and you remember all these details you had forgotten. At first, jumping from a fully grown team at the end of the game to a level 5 Pokemon at the beginning is weird to the point of distracting, but eventually you forget all of the stuff in your previous save and embrace the new reality you've started. That's what I wanted, anyway, but I think I was probably too vague.

    I think this fic's biggest weakness is the fact that it's overly ambiguous, but I do like that it let you come up with a couple of really good interpretations! I wanted it to be vague enough that you get from the story what you wanted, but I can tell you that what I was thinking when I first started playing with the idea of this fic. I had just finished White and started White 2, which if you don't know, is a direct sequel to White and take place two years later. This gave me the idea of BW having a direct and unavoidable endpoint. No matter what the details of your journey, even if you don't finish the game, the existence of B2W2 means that whatever you do will always create the exact same two-years-later Unova from those games. This could also be applied to GSC/HGSS, but those games were less relevant to my interests when I was writing this, haha.

    Anyway, to me, this did sort of make things pointless. If they're destined by the hands of a pre-written plot to stop Team Plasma and then only be vaguely mentioned but never seen by anyone two years later, then the ending is so unavoidable that it's meaningless. What does have meaning, however, is the entire journey before that. The do-overs won't effect the ending, but Hilda and Hilbert might have just enough remaining memory to push their new journeys in a direction that won't feel so wasted once they get to the end, like Hilda seems to be doing at the end of this fic.

    Unfortunately, that makes the fic just a really long way to say, "It's about the journey, not the destination," or something equally cheesy. I hope the meta-ness adds something at least a little more interesting, though, and if you have a different interpretation, I would highly encourage sticking with it. I left this thing vague so that I didn't influence readers with my idea. Of course, that's kind of ruined if they read this post beforehand, but whatever.

    It was great! I love reading people's thoughts, and I'm glad you were able to come up with a few interesting interpretations. Thanks for the review!
     
  4. Creepychu

    Creepychu The horror

    First things first, I must say I really enjoyed the central conceit here. I'm a bit of a serial reseteer myself, so I could definitely relate to that sense of feeling like you'd want to try the whole thing over again and do it properly this time. Hilda's remark about not getting a good challenge out of Bianca and Cheren was her fault for training all the time definitely hit home too, since I do tend to wind up way above expected party levels quite quickly and then feel vaguely bad about just walking all over these big, hyped up encounters. I also liked the way you incorporated the game restart into the narrative, since it accomplishes it very smoothly and adds this 'the end is never the end' kind of vibe to the ending, like they're just going to wind up in this same situation again. Finally, the transition from cocky bravado to regret and alienation was very well done and provided a sense of progress to the story, despite the aimlessness of the actual events.

    If I were to criticize anything, it'd be that this vague sort of meta-awareness does make for some strange points in the dialogue. In particular, Hilbert's musings on inevitability stuck out to me quite a bit:

    Not sure if I can put my finger on it exactly, but this feels very...formal, I guess? Waxing philosophical about the role of inevitability in the struggle between good and evil feels like a bit of a leap from the way he talks before and after this point, which feels a lot less preachy and has a lot more hesitance and clipped phrases. You sort of note that in the narration by mentioning it sounds like a speech, which makes me suspect that might be intentional, but it was a little jarring and I don't see a clear purpose for it beyond underlining the central theme so I thought I'd mention it.

    On the whole, a very enjoyable little characterization piece and an interesting take on the herding nature of the game plot, and reseting.
     
  5. [Imaginative]:[Clockwork]

    [Imaginative]:[Clockwork] X-treme trainer

    Thank you! I typically headcanon certain personalities for my player characters, and I liked putting some of those traits onto Hilda and Hilbert here. I'm glad you were able to relate! I'm also relieved to hear the aimlessness wasn't too much of a detractor. I was hoping discussion and meta aspects would be interesting enough on their own, but sometimes nothing beats a good showdown between two over-powered Pokemon. I'm just glad it wasn't too dull.

    I get exactly what you mean! Rereading this thing, I see a few more instances of things that are maybe too awkwardly obvious in getting the point across. It was supposed to be a big idea he had been thinking of, but I agree that he probably wouldn't phrase it like that, so I'll do some rewrites and see if I can fix it up a little bit.

    On the whole, a very enjoyable little characterization piece and an interesting take on the herding nature of the game plot, and reseting.[/QUOTE]

    I think "herding" is exactly the kind of idea I had in mind while writing this, but I didn't think of that specific word, which is a shame, because it's a perfect description. But anyway, thank you for the review! I'm glad you liked it, and I'll try to fix a few of the weirdly formal lines.
     

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