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All Suns Must Set [Chapter 1]

Discussion in 'Fan Fiction' started by Firaga Metagross, Nov 27, 2018.

  1. Firaga Metagross

    Firaga Metagross Auferstanden Aus Ruinen

    This story takes place at the same time as "The Skull That Bears Seeds" and the same continent, and that's about it.

    Shams leaves the company of Lillie for but a moment and suddenly he's picking fights with her brother.

    Content warning [pg-13]: swearing, some violence (mostly battles), and some general emotional sadness

    Chapter 1
     
    Last edited: Nov 27, 2018
  2. Firaga Metagross

    Firaga Metagross Auferstanden Aus Ruinen

    All Suns Must Set

    Chapter 1

    Shams looked forward to giving that smug prick Gladion a piece of his mind and maybe even a piece of his fist. They initially encountered each other outside of Heahea City, after Shams thrashed the two Kalosian researchers acting like smug tourists and parted ways with Lillie, who he imagined was still playing Solitaire with a worn deck of cards in the lobby of the Tide Song Hotel. Gladion donned clothes not unlike those of Team Skull, who Lillie told Shams to avoid and herself avoided by secluding herself away after finishing her shopping. Unlike both Team Skull and Lillie, Gladion's clothes were boldly form fitting and made Shams' baggy hoodie and athletic sweatpants look pathetic in comparison.

    Their first battle together was vigorous and competitive as Shams had hoped. Mercury, Shams' Brionne, was pushed to her limits by Type: Null, Gladion's mysterious Chimera who could armor through Mercury's water gun blasts and send her reeling with every tackle. Hau, Shams' occasional travel companion, cheered on the sidelines for Shams, who had to quickly pull a victory out of his ass. Compensating for Mercury's small movepool with ingenuity, Shams had her sweep Type: Null's feel from under him with a sharp water shot and then just lay on him with water attacks until Gladion relented, striking a pose that covered his face and the fact that he was a sore loser.

    Even in defeat, Gladion scolded Hau for not taking battling seriously, which he responded to by putting his hands behind his head and grinning because he didn't take anything seriously. All three of them knew that Hau was the weakest battler (his loss to Gladion right before Shams arrived proved it), but Gladion was the only one who acted personally insulted by his apathy.

    "If you keep battling like this, you're just going to get your Pokémon hurt. They deserve a better trainer than you."

    Hau kept his same upbeat expression while Gladion verbally twisted a knife in his guts. Shams was working up the courage to defend Hau's honor, but Gladion already began to leave, only briefly staring Shams in the eyes before disappearing down the road northward. Shams and Hau turned to each other after he'd vanished from sight, with Hau breaking the silence.

    "Sheesh, that guy sure takes himself seriously. What's buggin' him?"

    "Who knows," Shams responded, still focusing on his adversary.

    "Welp, I should probably train some more before Brooklet Hill. I'll be near Paniola if you need me," Hau said, parting ways with Shams opposite Gladion, back from where they came.

    All alone once again, Shams journeyed northward.

    ---------------------------------------------------------------------

    The sun had set by the time Shams reached the Pokémon Center on the outskirts of a small town near Brooklet Hill. It was too late for serious preparations for tomorrows trial, but early enough that Shams could convince the center staff to warm up some leftovers for him and his Pokémon. Even after living in Alola for a month, Shams still wasn't accustomed to eating eggs with spam, which no Kantan would eat unless desperate, but this late in the day Shams would settle for anything. Mercury chowing down on her bowl of Unova formula Pokémon Food, which was near omnipresent in Alola despite the presence of healthier, fresh local foods. Carlito, Shams' Noibat named after his Alolan Uncle who took him on hikes in the Melemele mountains and taught him how to not suck at soccer, picked away at his food at a more moderate pace, as he'd been napping in the Pokéball most of the day.

    As his Pokémon ate, Shams lazily looked around the nearly empty dining room. Unlike the heavily standardized Pokémon centers in Kanto, the result of a very active gym system and large trainer base, Alolan centers were just (old) buildings with Pokémon healing machines and lodgings. This Pokémon center in particular looked like an old Unovan building from a century or two ago whose wooden structure at one point conveyed domination, but now just blended into the rustic landscape. The dining room chairs were fancy, but uncomfortable like all old wooden chairs and water damage stained the otherwise beautiful walls.

    Mercury and Carlito vacuumed up their food, so by the time Shams had swallowed every piece of egg and meat, they were ready to go. Returning the pair to their balls, Shams navigated the building to his room, whose three beds he had all to himself. Taking one nearest to him, Shams threw his backpack on the ground next to its nightstand and threw himself on top of the covers. The walk from the Paniola that day treated Shams lightly compared to the more hilly routes in Melemele, but he welcomed rest nevertheless and stretched his limbs out, imitating his Meowth back home (Lucky was all rest and no work).

    Shams stared at the ceiling for a few minutes before succumbing to boredom and releasing Carlito, who popped into existance, flapping his wings about the room in excitement.

    "What do you wanna do, buddy?" he asked as Carlito landed on his shoulder and nuzzled him, which Shams gladly returned, "Do you wanna talk with mom? She hasn't seen your cute face in days!"

    Carlito made a positive squeak as Shams walked out with him to the Center's common room. A couple travelers were minding their own business at the warn pool table while their Pokémon rested on the sidelines. Shams headed to the opposite end of the room, which had a few booths for using the videophone. A few moments of fiddling with technology later and Shams' Mom was on screen.

    "Hi Honey, how are you--Awww, Carlito, hellooo."

    "He's such a good boyyyy. Say hi to Mom, Carlito!"

    Carlito landed in front of the screen and stared at the image of Mom, who was making kissy faces at him.

    "Hold on, let me get Lucky!" Mom said, leaving briefly and returning with their Meowth, surveying the house from the new vantage point in Mom's arms.

    "Lucky, psss, psss, psss, I'm over here," Shams said as he waved his hands to attract Lucky's attention, who was too busy noticing Carlito's visage to pay him any mind. After a few moments of concentration, Lucky whacked Carlito's image with her paw and, noticing nothing happened, whacked it again. Carlito was unaffected on the other side. A moment of chuckles later and Mom began her questioning.

    "So how's your journey going? I see you've gotten to Akala Island in one piece."

    "It's been going great so far. Heahea City is pretty nice, although all I really did there is get dragged around the shopping district by Lillie."

    "Aww, that's nice. Did you carry around her bags?"

    "Mooom!"

    "I'm just teasing, honey," Mom joked, "How are your friends doing? I don't see them with you."

    "Lillie's staying at a hotel in Heahea. Don't ask me why; something personal, I guess."

    "That's too bad," Mom commented. "Make sure to check up on her."

    "Yeah, I will," Shams promised. "Oh right, also Hau's back in Paniola training."

    "You're near there?"

    "I'm north of there, in the next town over or so. There's a trial nearby, so I'm getting ready for it."

    "If that's the case, why aren't you and Hau tackling it together? I thought you two did those things together."

    "Oh he got his as--, lost pretty badly to this grouchy trainer on the way there, so he's going back to Paniola to train some more."

    "Oh, poor dear. Shams, why didn't you go with him?"

    "He's the one who needs training, not me."

    "Shams!" Mom scolded in a motherly way.

    "What? It's true," Shams explained, "He'll be fiiine."

    Mom gave Shams "The Look" and dropped the issue.

    "Anyway, the guy he lost to, this punk Gladion, he was no joke. He had, like, this really weird Pokemon with like a mask and a weird claws and fish tail. I dunno, but it really gave Mercury a good fight. That's why she's still resting in her ball."

    "Huh, I don't think I've heard of something like that before. Not in Alola or Kanto."

    "Yeah, It was super tough, but Mercury was able to clutch it out cuz she's the best, you know."

    "I know, dear."

    "She's gotten real strong since she evolved, not that dickhead Gladion would admit it even though I beat him fair and square. He's got a real attitude, you know, thinks he can lecture Hau just cuz he's soooo cool and has a strong Pokémon. Like maybe if I got some ripped skinny jeans and went around posing with my hands in front of my face, I could go around lecturing people about how much they're failing their Pokémon too!"

    "You sound like he's been on your mind all day," Mom commented half-jokingly.

    "Oooh, yeah. When I next seem him, I'm going to give him a real piece of my mind. I'll beat him like before, and then I'll give him a thorough tongue-lashing. Ah, I can't wait to see that jerk's face again," Shams promised, pumped up with a great deal of energy.

    "Sounds like you're close already!" Teased Mom, much to Shams' annoyance.

    "Mooom!"

    "I'm glad to see you're making new friends. You've got Lillie and Hau and this boy--"

    "Gladion is not my friend!"

    "--and I'm happy you're forming your own little social group. I worry about you, you know, that you don't have many friends."

    "Yes, Mom. I know."

    "Well, I'm glad you're doing well away from home," said Mom, "By the way, I talked some more with your father today. He says he would like you to call him sometime soon."

    "Yeah, I bet he would." Shams replied bitterly.

    "You don't have to talk with him if you don't want to, but I'm sure he'd love to hear about your Pokémon Journey."

    "I thought we moved back to Alola so that we wouldn't have to talk with him again."

    "Shams...," Mom started, "It's not like that. We just... grew apart. Please, just think about it, okay?"

    Shams decided to nix the topic. "Look I gotta go. Carlito was cooped up all day and needs to stretch his wings, right buddy?"

    Carlito remained perched on Shams shoulder, despite the invitation to fly.

    "Ok dear, I'll let you go," Mom conceded, "Take care of yourself and your Pokémon."

    "Love you!"

    "I love you, too."

    Shams quickly turned off the videophone and turned to his Noibat.

    "Let's go for a walk, Carlito! I've still got the energy."

    ---------------------------------------------------------------------

    The low sun gave the whole sky a soft orange tint and just enough light so that Shams could see the path ahead of him. The small town had only a few roads and most of those connected a string of stores and houses to Paniola Town and, by extension, to the massive Paniola Ranch, which employed almost half the residents of both towns. But Shams didn't take the roads, he took a dirt path stamped down by Trial Goers and locals on their way to the scenic ponds of Brooklet Hill, which Shams recognized as once famous because he'd read about them in a very out-of-date issue of some magazine left at the vet's office and never heard about them afterwards.

    Carlito's draconic chirping as he noticed someone adjusting a wooden fence across the trail. Upon closer inspection, it was a girl around Shams' age with a blue bob haircut and loose fitting clothes.

    "Are you here for the trial?" she inquired, "The place is closed for the day."

    "I'm not, well, I am, but like, not right now," Shams explained, "I'm just on a walk."

    Lana, who introduced herself as the Trial Captain, chatted Shams up as they walked back to town. He told her about Carlito (friendly, outgoing, likes ear rubs, but not belly rubs) and she told him about the Trial (Water-based, shouldn't take more than an hour, get to ride a Lapras) and they both told each other about their hometowns (Konikoni for her, Celadon, but now Iki for him). As they reached the fork in the road ending their walk together, Lana gave some parting advice.

    "By the way, you'll need a swimsuit for the trial. I can't tell you how many people I've had fall off of lapras or get slapped with water gun and be soaked the whole time."

    "...Fine," Shams said, noticeably grimacing at the thought.

    "Believe me, you'll be glad you wore a suit. I saw a trial-goer get knocked in the water without one and he got swallowed whole by a Gyarados," Lana recounted, completely straight-faced.

    "Right."

    Lana kept up her facade even as they parted ways. The sky was pitch black as Shams returned to the Pokemon Center, which was as empty as the street, save for one half-asleep attendant at the front desk. Carito, sleepy as well, perched quietly on Shams' shoulder before Shams returned him to his ball. Shams slightly unpacked his backpack in preparation for the morning. His clean clothes laid neatly folded on the nightstand, save for one crucial piece, a pair of swim trunks.

    Shams had spent most of his life avoiding places with swimming and not swimming when he was at those places. He had swam once before and decided that once was one time more than he needed to swim. Shams could stay alive in the water and that's all that mattered to him. He was ready to just wear day clothes to Brooklet hill and instead just never touch water, which seemed like a reasonable plan at the time.

    Satisfied with his decision, Shams went to the bathroom with his toiletry bag and prepared to wind down for the night. The mirror in the bathroom had other plans, and as Shams stared into it while brushing his teeth, he saw the few renegade neck hairs that he'd missed shaving that morning. Cursing his own failure, Shams switched over to shaving mode and attempted again to eviscerate the hairs hiding in the valley of his Adam's apple. After a few minutes, Shams only succeeded in having a red, irritated neck with small hairs hiding just out of reach. Reflecting on his failure, Shams returned to his room.

    He staring at his clothes: long cargo pants, a printed tee, and a thick Celadon U hoodie. He knew in his heart that he was going to the waterfront and his plan to be perfectly dry would fail like his plan to be perfectly free of neck hairs. He capitulated and made plans to visit the clothes store in the morning.

    ---------------------------------------------------------------------

    The relic of a small tourist boom, the nearest clothes store to the Pokemon Center was a trendy little place fortunate to be located on a main road and near a bus stop, which currently ferried people to and from Paniola. "Seasalt Selections", as the wooden sign hanging tangentially to the story read, differed from other clothes stores in town by being neither a small family run textiles shop nor an Unovan chain store dumping cheap product to sink said textiles shop, but instead a moderately expensive "boutique" stocked with trendy swimwear and fashionable accessories and touristy clap-trap.

    After a half hour of picking at his eggs and sipping tea, Shams quelled his nerves and entered Seasalt Selections, whose interior was lit up more by the morning sun than by the electrical grid. Only a handful of staff populated the store, and they were too busy prepping it to pay Shams any mind, other than generic pleasantries, as he navigated the aisles to the swimsuit section.

    Most of the suits were hung up on display racks, but Shams instead focused on a display table which laid out a number of different men's trunks for easy viewing. Their colors ranged from blue to dark blue to "black", and even a dark red, but they were all in the same basic style, as were the rest of the trunks in the store and every store in a 25 mile radius for that matter. Shams picked up a dark blue pair that seemed to cover more leg than the rest and looked at it for a moment before preparing to check out.

    A spot of color in the corner of his eye grabbed Shams' full attention. His gaze shifted to a two piece swimsuit displayed by a curvy mannequin. The soft, warm reds invited Shams to look closer at the pattern of orange tropical flowers which seemed to melt into the background. The halter straps, which tied into a large bow behind the neck, curved seamlessly into the base of the breasts. The bottom piece fit this same archetype, curving around the legs and complementing the hips with a fabric bow on each side. The whole attracted attention with its flair while staying within the canon of existing styles.

    "You know that's probably not the best swimsuit to do the trial in, right?"

    Shams made a small yelp and turned to face Lana, standing within arm's reach.

    "The ones over there would be more appropriate," she said, pointing to the row of women's one-pieces while attempting to hide a smirk.

    "I-I already have a swimsuit!" Shams shouted, mortified and beet red, waving the blue swim trunks in front of himself, "I was just about to go pay for it!"

    "Oh yeah, surrrre," Lana said comically drawing out the syllables, "No need to convince me."

    Still red, Shams left to go pay, Lana following close behind.

    "What are you doing here anyway?" Shams accused, focusing on Lana as he fished out his wallet for the cashier.

    "I saw you enter while I was walking over, so I thought I'd check up on my favorite Trial Goer. It's not like I'm following you around, just a coincidence." Lana explained in her usual humorously detached tone.

    Shams paid for his suit and the two of them left the store in silence. The bus stop, previously mostly empty, was packed with tanned men in thick work pants and thin shirts staring at nowhere in particular out of boredom. As the two passed it on their way, Lana broke the silence.

    "It's strange to think that these men will be gone for a while."

    "What?" Shams asked, knocked out of his foul mood by confusion.

    "Well, I usually see this same group of people every day when I walk to Brooklet Hill, but in a few weeks I won't---"

    "No, I get that," Shams clarified, waving his hands, "I mean why won't they be here?"

    "You did hear about the giant strike that's going down at the end of the month, right?"

    "Yes, everyone knows," Shams replied, "I don't live under a rock."

    "Well, these guys commute to Paniola every morning to work on the ranch, and ranch hands are part of the group going on strike, so I'm not going to see them bunched together waiting for the bus starting next month," Lana explained, "It's weird is all."

    "And so you don't like this...or...?"

    "I don't care one way or the other," Lana responded, back to being blasé, "It's their business, not mine."

    Truthfully, Shams felt like he didn't have any stake in it either, and was too busy focusing on the Island Challenge regardless. The rest of their walk was marked by silence.

    ---------------------------------------------------------------------

    "Welcome, brave trainer! I am Lana, the captain of Brooklet Hill!" Lana recited theatrically to Shams, reminding him that he was just one Trial Goer of many in Alola, "I preside over the Water Trial!"

    "Oh strong and capable trainer, may I ask you for your aid?" Lana requested, laying the theatrics on thick.

    "Sure."

    "Then follow me please. And take this!" Lana said, foisting a pole with a net at the end upon Shams as the two entered into Brooklet Hill proper. The trial was already getting weirder than Shams expected, but he decided to roll with it anyway. As they walked up, Lana commented:

    "It's not going to do you any good buying a swimsuit, but not putting it on."

    "I'll put it on when I need to."

    "Okaaay," Lana replied with a skeptical tone.

    At the end of path that served as an antechamber of sorts, Shams saw the first of many large circular pools ringed by grass and dirt paths. His task became immediately clear.

    "A terrible blight has afflicted Brooklet hill! It breaks the spirits of Pokémon and turns them mad! An ancient curse not of Pokémon, but of man! Indefatigable Trial Goer, I beseech you, purify the sacred waters!"

    Brooklet hill's water system consisted of a number of pools with waterfalls that drained into each other before draining into the ocean. These pools were fed by a stream that originated at the top of the hill. In the years of the tourist boom, the hill hosted thousands of tourists from across the world who hiked near the stream, camped on the hillside, and toured the ponds. Shams knew this from his first glimpse of the waters, which were still afflicted with a layer of discarded plastics not dissimilar from the brown ring on a dirty toilet.

    "Well, I guess I better get to work," Shams muttered, releasing Mercury and Carlito to make his glorified janitorial duties less lonely. Shams began skimming the edge of the pool with the net, filling it up to the brim with little effort, while his Pokémon played behind him. Lana, who came prepared with garbage bags, held one open for Shams as he replicated the process of scooping and dumping into the bag. The bags filled up quickly mostly with bottles and cans and plastic bags, which grossed out Shams with their grime and sogginess.

    Shams finished his third bag of trash after ten minutes or so of garbage fishing, which Lana chucked in a pile with the others. Turning to face the Trial Captain, Shams wiped the sweat off his brow and wondered aloud how much more janitorial work he'd have to endure.

    "I'd worry more about what's behind you," Lana pointed out.

    Shams turned back to the pool, finding a Poliwag poking out of the water, midway through charging up a water gun attack. Shams had a split second realization before being blasted by a stream of high-velocity water which knocked him flat on the ground. Lana laughed at the whole situation while Shams regained his senses.

    "Carlito, Pluck! Mercury, Disarming Voice!" Shams ordered, soaked and enraged on the ground. His Pokémon made short work of the offending Poliwag, who now lay unconscious on the beach. Lana, in character, spoke over Shams before he could voice his complaints.

    "Oh brave Trial Goer, You have purified this pond and defeated its guardian!" Lana acted, referring to a still very impure body of water. "Only two more remain until the curse is broken!"

    Water permeated the entirety of Shams' hoodie, soaking the rest of his clothes with it. He was too miserable to celebrate his victory. Lana's ****-eating grin, the "I knew it" expression, didn't help.

    "If you'd like to change into something more comfortable, there's some bushes over there you can use. Don't worry, I won't peek."

    That was just the excuse Shams needed for some time to himself. While Mercury and Carlito kept watch, Shams grappled with his emotions and with his clothes. He was glad to ditch the now heavy sweatshirt, leaving only his equally soaked t-shirt. His athletic pants presented more of a barrier. As he began to slide them down, Shams focused on his legs, once smooth and noticeably muscular, now covered in a worrying layer of dark brown hair. It was his father's hair. Shams felt a strong urge to pull it out with his bare hands. He quickly put on his swim trunks, which unfortunately only went a little past the knees, and decided that was enough.

    "What took you so long?" Lana asked as Shams emerged from the brush. "Decided to remain pre-soaked in preparation for your next fight? Good idea."

    Shams glared in response, not willing to dignify the comment with words. Lana led the damp Trial Goer to the next pool, below the first and connected via a small waterfall. Unlike the first one, this body of water had its garbage clumped together in floating pockets centered around scattered boulders which poked through the surface of the water. As Shams approached the shore, Lana foisted a couple garbage bags into the moist trainer's hands.

    "Oh Trial Goer, this sacred pond too needs cleansing! To purify it, you must travel to its core and manually remove the source of the contamination! But fear not, you have the aid of a trusty water steed!"

    Lana dramatically pulled a Pokéball from her belt and released a Lapras onto the water's surface. The Lapras cried out as he saw his trainer, who gestured at Shams to hop on. After a few seconds of finding comfortable spots on Lapras' rocky back for one human and two Pokémon, Shams sailed off towards the center, pole in one hand and open trash bag in the other.

    Not wanting a repeat of last time, Shams had Carlito and Mercury vigilantly watching the water for hiding Pokémon while he began to scrape garbage off the surface of the lake. He could hear "You only need to do one of the rocks" yelled at him from the shore. At the rate it was taking him to awkwardly lift each scoop of refuse weighed down by water, Shams was sure he couldn't do more than that anyway.

    Shams had removed a little more than half of the floating detritus when he struck an unusually heavy object in the water, which produced an unusual, angry croak. Disturbed by the contact, a Poliwhirl surfaced in the middle of the garbage and sprayed Shams, who desperately clung to the Lapras. Another Poliwhirl, hearing the signal, ambushed Mercury from his hiding spot under another garbage pile, spraying her with an accurate, but ineffectual blast of water. Shams cursed his luck that he'd be soaked twice by surprise attacks and hastily ordered attacks from both of his companions.

    "Gust! Tackle!" Shams yelled out, hoping Mercury and Carlito could infer the rest. On cue, they sprung into action, each engaging one of the Poliwhirl in single combat. As the pair both started to maul their respective foes, Shams wrung out his drenched t-shirt and pulled another net's worth of plastic bottles into the now awkwardly large bag resting on Lapras' back. Scoop after scoop, Shams looked up occasionally and yelled encouraging words of advice to Mercury who had resolved to win the battle solely by slamming her body into Poliwhirl's. Carlito, who won in three quick hits, simply rested next to his trainer while he shoveled the remaining garbage into a second plastic bag.

    When he dropped off the bags at the shore, Shams had only one question for Lana.

    "Is getting soaked the ****ing trial? You could have dumped a bucket of water on me at the start and saved us both the hassle!"

    "Oh Trial Goer, if only you knew what lay ahead. You would beg to be soaked a thousand times instead!" Lana responded, pretty openly enjoying Shams' torment. "Your final trial awaits. Deep inside is a being as old as Tapus and as fearsome as Kyogre. One Trial Goer, far stronger than you, was swallowed whole in an instant. Another saw its form and went mad. But you too must face it, your final test."

    "Just show me where this thing is so I can beat it already," Shams demanded, wishing he could be somewhere warm and cozy instead. Lana complied with her exasperated guest, transferring both him and Lapras to their final destination. The last pool was largest of all, deep as any lake, and most curious of all, almost perfectly clean on top. Near the center floated a lone can. Lana wordlessly released Lapras into the water and awaited Shams' embarking.

    "Carlito, go get that can over there" Shams ordered his noibat, who faithfully flew out to the middle of the water, snatched the soda can with his talons and deposited it right into one of the bags. Lana rolled her eyes at Shams.

    "Oh, Trial Goer, you shouldn't deny fate and skip your most important task," Lana said, tone and words at odds as she pointed at the lake. "Now, go forth!"

    And so Shams, wet, uncomfortable, and accompanied by two loving companions, went forth, sailing on Lapras' back to the center of the last body of water in search of a beast of epic proportions.

    Shams, Carlito, and Mercury scanned the water, but between the three of them, all they could make out was a handful of small Wishiwashi minding their own business. By Shams' estimation, there were no mad Pokémon in this pool, let alone something that could cap off the trial.

    "Hey Lana, is this the right place? There isn't **** in this pool!" Shams yelled to the shore. Lana gestured feigned offense before yelling back.

    "Oh foolish Trial Goer, do you not realize? In your search for a great creature, you've missed the enemy right in front of you! You've fallen right into our trap!" Lana responded with great fervor, shifting her body into dramatic poses with each sentence. At least, that's what Shams assumed she was doing (It was hard to make out subtleties from a distance).

    Carlito's screeching interrupted Shams' train of thought, bringing his attention to a spot in the water now swarming with Wishiwashi moving in unity. Shams couldn't properly gauge their speed because of the movement of the water, but he knew enough to be worried.

    "Mercury, shoot them first with Disarming Voice!" Shams ordered his Brionne, who jumped into the water to strike at the enemy. The small water Pokémon coalesced first, forming a fearsome shape and powering through both Mercury and her attack.

    "Mercury!" Shams cried out, rising to his feet on the Lapras. "Carlito! Hit it with gust!"

    The noibat complied, whipping up a small squall. Despite the energy, it did more to the water than it did to the submerged Wishiwashi school. Neither Carlito nor Wishiwashi could damage each other at this spacing, Shams reckoned. As long as his Noibat could fly, Shams could stall for time to plan.

    Despite being sent reeling from Wishiwashi's solid hit, Mercury returned to Shams' side, ready for battle and searching for the now submerged Wishiwashi.

    "Carlito, try listening for that thing! Nothing that big is silent!" Shams yelled from his command position on Lapras. Carlito lowered his altitude, gliding right above the water's surface, ears pointed down. Minutes passed as Mercury, antsy to get back into the fight, waited at Shams' side for the water beast to emerge again.

    A watery crash from behind scared Carlito to a high altitude, just out of range of the surfacing Wishiwashi. Mercury, without orders or hesitation, leapt into the pool and released a Disarming Voice at her opponent. The ray of heart-shaped waves smacked a few Wishiwashi out of formation, forcing the school back underwater.

    "Good hit, Mercury!" Shams complemented. "Carlito, how about drawing that Pokémon to the surface again?"

    Once again Carlito glided above the water's surface, aware of Wishiwashi's attack pattern, and once again Wishiwashi attacked from behind, only to miss and be struck by Mercury's magical rays. As Shams' team repeated this process a third time, he yelled back to shore.

    "You know, for something so big, this one's really dumb!"

    Face red, Lana yelled back.

    "Don't speak ill of something that can eat you whole! I've seen it happen."

    Shams turned back to the area where Carlito and Mercury were probing for their adversary again. Crouching down closer to Mercury's height, he spoke.

    "The Trial Captain's pretty full of herself, isn't she? You've got this in the bag, I know it," Shams reassured his Brionne. Mercury broke her fierce concentration to squeal in agreement.

    "Huh, thing's been gone for a while now," Shams remarked, "Hey, Carlito, where's that Pokémon?"

    The Noibat expressed his ignorance through chirping. Mercury and Shams knew just about as much. Carlito began to fly in a more risky pattern to draw out the Wishiwashi horde, but to no avail. Jonesing for the fight, Mercury too began to actively seek out her opponent, diving into the water for short intervals further and further away.

    "Hey, careful!" Shams yelled, not sure which one he was more worried for. Carlito accepted that the Wishiwashi had disappeared and began circling around Shams and Lapras instead. Mercury expressed her tenacity in the worst way, refusing to return or take caution.

    That recklessness came back to bite her. Shams had no way to reaching Mercury as she once again dove underwater, only to witness a mass of identical water Pokemon charge her with fearsome unity. The Brionne could only freeze up as Wishiwashi clamped her in its powerful jaws and dragged her down out of Shams' sight.

    Shams yelled Mercury's name a couple times in panic, hoping in vain that she'd respond. Sensing his trainer's distress, Carlito swooped back into action. They both knew that a mass of water was only garbled noise to Carlito's ears, but they both wished it wasn't.

    "She's a water type, you doofus! She can't drown!"

    Hearing Lana almost expressing genuine concern quelled Shams' worries. She was right. Mercury was in her element. All Shams and Carlito could do was wait.

    Minute after minute passed as Shams stared into the inky darkness of the water. He felt his perception of time warp, then reset when he spied a small blip of pink light. Only one Pokemon could make light like that.

    Mercury, ragged and bruised, emerged moments later. Shams tried to vocalize his emotions properly, but could only make garbled mouth sounds at his Brionne, who raced towards him, pursued by a furious Wishiwashi school. The Wishiwashi formation showed the scars of battle. The "dangerous predator" forme missed several chucks of "flesh", exposing its core.

    Shams only had to yell out "Carlito!" for the Noibat to dive back into battle. Carlito whipped up a huge gust once again and struck the distracted Wishiwashi school, which began to disintegrate from the strong wind.

    "Finish it with air cutter!" Shams commanded. Carlito flapped his wings in one snap, sending two crossed blades of energy hurtling towards the water. With one solid hit, the Wishiwashi lost all of its momentum and began to fragment, as if the swarm had lost its cohesion.

    "Good one, boy!" Shams said, moderately pumping his fists while Carlito screeched with joy.

    Only Mercury, no longer pursued, noticed the Wishiwashi reforming and reprioritizing. Each fish in the school turned to the jubilant flying-type and, before anyone could react, shot a jet of water in unison. No one stream would normally faze the resistant Carlito, but sheer volume alone overwhelmed the fledgling dragon, who dropped lifelessly into the water with a graceless splash.

    Both Shams and Mercury acted instinctively. Without hesitation or forethought, Shams flung himself into the pool in the direction of his vulnerable companion. He disregarded the initial shock of the cold water and began to sloppily swim towards Carlito, barely visible and slowly sinking. Shams didn't even have time to curse his lack of technique and lack of air as he flailed his limbs as fast as he could, striving to save Carlito from a terrible fate.

    A sudden and strong current pulled Shams forward, the result of an equally concerned Mercury assisting with aqua jet before re-engaging with the depleted, but hostile Wishiwashi. Now only a few meters away from Carlito, Shams summoned another burst of vigor and closed the gap. Carlito responded positively to his trainer's grasp and let Shams return him to the safety of the air above. Both of them gasped for oxygen upon re-entry, Carlito flapping, wet and exhausted, from Shams to the safety of Lapras' back.

    A few seconds of rest was all Shams could afford before diving back into the fray. He could make out Mercury tangling with the Wishiwashi school, now in tatters. Mercury was quickly using up what little fairy energy she had left trying to identify and hit the weak but evasive lead Wishiwashi, hiding in a disorganized mass of subordinates. With each stream of fae energy, the Brionne finished off a few fish and provoked the rest into a physical counter attack. He wanted to give orders, or be a second set of eyes, or do something to help, but Shams knew all he was doing was wasting oxygen. Shams surfaced to the sight of Carlito, perched, drying his wings on top of Lapras.

    "Carlitoooo! How are you holding up?"

    Carlito screeched happily at the sight of his trainer, but his usual energy was gone. Shams pondered whether Carlito could fight in his current condition, but given the heaviness of his breathing, Shams barely trusted him to just fly about. Still, he couldn't let Mercury fight alone.

    Shams bobbed up and down with the mild waves until he was struck by an epiphany. He'd watched enough battling in his life time to have remembered something from an old broadcast of a Cerulean Gym battle involving a similar situation. Gym battles aren't the same as Trials and the Pokémon weren't the same, but the general idea was equivalent. It was certainly dangerous, but it was just reckless enough to work.

    "I'm going in, Carlito!" Shams yelled to his companion before taking a gulp of air and submerging for a decisive last time.

    The bright pink flash of Mercury's Disarming Voice lit the way. The attack lacked the usual crispness, a sign that Mercury was forcing out fairy attacks on will alone. Shams swam as fast as he could towards Mercury and the remaining Wishiwashi, knowing that if Mercury were forced to start using Water Gun underwater, she was finished. The lead Wishiwashi was easy to spot at this point, but the remaining ones formed a tight protective barrier around it. Such a barrier was tough for a modestly sized Pokemon like Mercury to penetrate without some sort of energy attack. She simply wasn't large enough. But Shams on the other hand, could put his semi-athletic physique to use.

    Neither Mercury nor her opponent expected Shams to swim right into the Wishiwashi, giving the water's guardian a sloppy, but effective tackle. With one good hit, the fish formation scattered and the lead Wishiwashi fled in Mercury's direction. While Shams flailed about in the water, struggling to breathe or find his bearings, Mercury with the grace of a dancer, corkscrewed with an Aqua Jet and felled the Wishiwashi with a conclusive blow.

    The celebration would have to wait, Shams was almost out of breathable air. He made a beeline for the surface and then for land.

    ---------------------------------------------------------------------

    Shambling and dripping from every point, Shams emerged on the beach. Carlito and Mercury, worried about their friend, rubbed up against him and cooed with what little energy they had. Shams fell to his knees and embraced the pair, reassuring them.

    "It's okay. It's okay. I'm here. It's okay. We did it. We did it."

    A large towel tossed lazily on top of Shams interrupted him. Moving the cloth of off his face, Shams saw Lana, smirking with hands on her hips.

    "Wow great job! You took the centerpiece I had lovingly prepared and trounced it!"

    Before Shams could form words, Lana jumped right into formalities.

    "Congratulations, Trial Goer!" she recited, "You have purified the waters, banishing the evil from whence it came! In recognition of your skill, I present you with Waterium Z!"

    Lana shoved the aqua crystal in Shams' face and he quickly pocketed it as he dried himself off. Mercury's moist skin kept Shams' legs wet as she continued to express her affection, but he didn't mind. The trio could feel soreness throughout, but were too joyful to care.

    "Let me walk you back to the entrance. Never know when a gyarados will show up and gobble you whole. I've seen it happen here, you know," Lana offered with a wink and a smile. Shams couldn't really refuse.

    ---------------------------------------------------------------------

    The two of them skirted the bodies of water, chit-chating.

    "Oh Mew, I'm pooped. All this water business is too much!" Shams complained, damp clothes in hand and Pokemon returned to their balls.

    "You seemed to handle it pretty well for someone who clearly hates it. Literally diving into danger isn't what most people would do."

    "I couldn't abandon Carlito in the water," Shams explained nonchalantly. "No decent person would let their Pokémon get hurt like that."

    "Most Trial Goers just freeze up when Wishiwashi tramples all over their starters. They hesitate to save their partners. And in that split second of terror, they're chomped in one bite!" Lana told him, moving her hands to simulate jaws.

    "Of course they are."

    "Well, either way, I thought you looked very heroic," Lana admitted. "Even as you emerged dripping on the beach."

    Shams didn't usually get this quality of praise from girls and his face showed it. He quickly hid behind his towel as Lana jumped back into teasing him for the rest of the way back.

    "Well, that was fun. It's been a while since I've had to heal my Wishiwashi, so thanks for the extra work," Lana let him know. "Maybe next time we can just do the swimming part and we can skip the work."

    "I've got what I came for, so next time, I won't be doing either!"

    "Harsh," Lana remarked. "It's a shame, too. You look way better in a swimsuit than baggy clothes. I'd almost have felt bad if you got swallowed whole during the trial."

    "Well, you got to see me like that once, which is one more time than you should have," Shams retorted as he walked away. "So you should consider yourself lucky."

    The two of them parted with Lana sticking her tongue out as hard as she could.
     
  3. Cutlerine

    Cutlerine a lonesome harp guitar

    It's cool to see more work from you! And this is an interesting one, huh. There are lots of seeds planted here that I can see developing in different directions: Shams' burgeoning teenage arrogance (which I sense is covering a deeper insecurity, and going by the numerous hints you drop, I have some fairly strong suspicions as to what that insecurity might be, but let's leave that till the story actually gets to it), his relationships with his mother and father, the whole political situation that's so omnipresent in The Skull that Bears Seeds being just a distant, abstract background thing for these people. I wonder if Gladion will be a point of contact between these two stories? Like, he's Skull-affiliated, and it'll be interesting to see what that even means in this context, where the team is something more than what characters tell us it is in-game.

    I do think that the opening is kind of odd, though, in that it's almost completely a straight retelling of the event as it plays out in-game; there's not much there to grab the attention. It's delivered in a distant sort of way, too, in that I feel like someone's telling me about all this rather than me actually witnessing it – maybe starting with the battle itself would make a good hook? Or you could begin with the conversation between Shams and his mother, and show all of this stuff filtered through Shams' perspective in the dialogue. Either way, I think there probably should be something more there than is present.

    Once things get going, though, there's a lot more character and stuff – as I said, Shams starts to come alive immediately when the dialogue begins, and as his relationship with his mother takes shape the story seems to begin properly. And the trial itself features a great action scene! It sounds completely nightmarish – I'm not a water person, for what are probably obvious reasons – but it's very cool regardless. It's just that beginning that doesn't quite land with me, I think.

    The repetition of 'herself' makes this sentence a bit awkward, I think.

    This seems sort of strange to me – if this was their first encounter, it's odd that Shams had expectations. Unless the point is that Shams hopes all battles will be vigorous and competitive? Yeah, perhaps that's it.

    Missing an apostrophe here.

    There should be a comma after 'chairs'.

    That comma after 'returned' should be a 'full stop'.

    Same here, after 'joked'.

    'Teased' here shouldn't be capitalised.

    Not sure why 'journey' is capitalised here.

    Or why 'trialgoers' (which should also be one word, I think) is capitalised here. You do follow the games when it comes to capitalising things, I know, but I don't think things like that are actually capitalised in-game, either.

    The commas after 'inquired' and 'explained' should be full stops.

    Actually, I'm going to stop listing these – I've noticed that you do this every time there's an attribution in the middle of some dialogue, so I'll explain why I'm correcting it instead. If a single sentence of dialogue is broken up by an attribution in the middle ( “That,” she said, “would be telling.”), then there's a comma after the attribution and the dialogue resumes without a capital. If two sentences of dialogue are broken up by an attribution in the middle (“That would be telling,” she said. “You'll have to wait and see.”), then there's a full stop after the attribution, and the dialogue resumes with a capital.

    Either that should be 'stared' or there's a word missing here between 'He' and 'staring'.

    That should be 'was missing', rather than 'missed', and 'chunks', rather than 'chucks'.

    But yeah! This is ... definitely one to watch, huh. For a variety of reasons. :> I will be certainly keeping an eye on it to see how it develops!
     

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