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Balance (Rewritten) [PG-15]

Discussion in 'Fan Fiction' started by Samayouru, Jan 8, 2017.

  1. Samayouru

    Samayouru Rabid Dusclops Fan

    Balance [PG-15] [Rewritten, Revision 1]

    AUTHOR'S NOTES - So a while back when I joined Serebiiforums for the fifth or sixth time in my life, I had this great idea for a fanfic. It was going to be a dark-ish journeyfic that was going to be edgy and mature and it was going to be the best thing ever. In truth it was rushed and I had no idea what I was going to do with the plot or characters. It was an absolute disaster. So after going away and getting some more experience under my belt (as well as Scrivener for planning out my stories), I finally felt that I could tackle this idea properly and finally write a Pokemon fanfic that people will really enjoy. Still, if you really want to see how cringeworthy the original was, well, here you go. Enjoy laughing at how bad it is! ~

    WARNINGS/ABOUT THE RATING - Yeah the original was PG-15, and I still stand by that rating for this rewrite, considering it has a bit of violence. Nothing too graphic, but there's also a fair old bit of swearing too, so I'm keeping it that way just to be safe.

    EDIT (24/2/18): I’ll cut right to the chase: Balance is one of those sorts of fanfics. You know – the ones that an author writes in haste but then realises later on down the road that no matter how bad it is they actually want to see it through to the end. I’m at that stage right now. I won’t talk about the details because that’s not what you’re here for. I ran through the criticisms people made about Balance and decided that revisions were badly needed, so here we are. The first few chapters are still slow, but hopefully a little bit more believable now I’m a little wiser and a bit more thorough with my writing process.

    FOR NEW READERS: Chapter 1 was originally in this post, but after making some huge modifications to following chapters I’ve decided to move it so it should be located a couple of posts below this one now. Don't worry, there'll also be a handy list of chapters here for the sake of convenience. My apologies for any confusion in advance!

    Last edited: Feb 24, 2018
  2. Polipuff

    Polipuff Artisan of Words

    Unfortunately, I would say that your dialogue is one of your weaker aspects of writing. It’s a little repetitive. You always start with an action, then the actual talking.

    For example:
    Can you see the repetitiveness at the beginning of each paragraph? It’s also okay to just write a few lines without any narrative. Writing too much distracts the reader, as well as the central plot of the story.

    Another thing I noticed was your use of adverbs.

    Instead of adverbs, try using a single verb that describes both at once, or just cut it out completely.

    This one is a little bit more tricky.

    Is it ‘her’ mother, or ‘their’ mother? Try to be more consistent with that in the future. Honestly, for me, ‘their mother’ sounds a little awkward.

    However, I would say that a positive aspect of your writing is the worldbuilding. In the first chapter, you set us up the tone, and some things we might need to know, but you didn’t shove us into everything all at once. This was good.
  3. Umbramatic

    Umbramatic The Ghost Lord

    Hi! I saw you'd rebooted this fic in the Discord chat and decided to check it out even though I never read the origional (though according to you that's probably for the better).

    And boy, I'm really glad I did. You have some really vivid prose going for you, and it helps set up the real meat of the fic and the one thing that keeps me hooked in fics in general: Intrigue.

    It starts out mundane. Ordinary, like the start of a real-life memoir. Then you start dropping breadcrumbs. "New" Castelia? Guards everywhere? A statue of N declaring him the savior of Unova? Not a single Pokemon in sight? I officially like where this fic is going already, and the way you pace it helps so much.

    I did read enough of the original's intro to see it was a journeyfic, and if that's still the case I do wonder how you're going to make that work. But I'm just rambling, and I feel second time's the charm for you.
  4. ChloboShoka

    ChloboShoka Writer

    I had a look at the old thread for comparison and I think you've improved for sure. I liked the dark tone builds up with an innocent beginning and a dark climax at the end of the first chapter.
  5. Samayouru

    Samayouru Rabid Dusclops Fan

    Mfw I see that more than one person has left comments on my fanfic:


    Jokes aside. I'm really happy with the responses I've gotten so far! Now, to reply!

    Polipuff - Yeah thanks for pointing that out. I've been keeping an eye out for inconsistencies and repetition as I write Chapter 2 so hopefully the problems won't be so frequent. Thanks for your feedback!

    Umbramatic - Dropping breadcrumbs is my forte ~ I'm not a fan of shoving exposition down readers' throats when it comes to world building. Sometimes it's the little things that can make something enjoyable! Hope you stick around to see what happens!

    ChloboShoka - I am so glad that I've improved! That's all I really aimed for, just to know that I've grown since my last attempt. Dark stuff is really difficult to write without being edgy so I'm glad I was able to nail the tone!

    I'm still on the first draft of Chapter 2, which is unheard of for me and Pokemon fanfics in the past. I'd rather take my time with it and actually produce something people will enjoy more than if I just rushed through everything. The other thing I've realised is that Chapter 2 also now officially longer than the original Chapter 3 (Chapters 1 and 2 were basically melded together for the remake). Ugh... I am going to need a lot of coffee to make it through this all in one piece! ~
  6. Samayouru

    Samayouru Rabid Dusclops Fan


    A fanfic by Samayouru​


    As an adult, years after everything had happened and everything had drawn to a close, Danielle Solomon would come to affectionately refer to the day her life changed forever as Garbage Day. It was a silly little name, but it fit just as well, and that was all that mattered to her in the end.

    Danielle, or “Danny” as her family and friends called her, had been playing with her dolls in the living room when it all started. She was just six years old at the time, and was in the middle of a very important tea party. It wasn’t long before she heard the patter of footfalls against the thick carpet, and out of the corner of her eye she caught a glimpse of her brother, Matt, edging his way towards the front door. He still hadn’t changed out of his baseball uniform, and the black stripes stood out against the bland, cream-coloured walls.

    ‘Matt,’ came their mother’s voice from the kitchen, calm yet firm all at the same time. ‘Where are you going?’

    Matt started to gnaw his lower lip. He’d been caught. Danny’s mouth tightened as she supressed a giggle. Moms knew everything – that’s what she’d been told by her teachers at school – in fact she was fairly sure just thinking about sneaking off could catch her mother’s attention. She watched and waited, ready to see what excuse Matt had for going out this time. ‘Oh,’ he said. ‘I’m just going to go and meet my friends at the park, that’s all.’

    There was the sound of more footsteps as Mom made her way into the corridor. She was a dumpy woman with her dark hair tied into a bun and she’d been baking again – Danny could tell because she was wearing her sparkly silver apron. She smiled, watching as the apron glittered as it caught the light. It was thanks to this apron that she had a love of glittery things, in fact it one of two common themes in her clothes, the other theme being that everything had to be pink, right down to her dainty little sandals.

    ‘Are you?’ Mom folded her arms and began tapping her foot, glancing over to her daughter. ‘If that’s the case, then would you be a dear and take Danny with you?’

    Matt’s posture stiffened. ‘Do I have to?’

    Mom nodded. ‘If you want to go out and play, then yes.’

    Matt swallowed blatantly as his little sister got to her feet. She dusted her sparkly dress off and stepped carefully over the dolls – she’d have to finish the tea party at some other point. Matt shot her a glare when Mom wasn’t looking but Danny ignored him – it was worth putting up with him if it meant playing at the park for a while.

    ‘Wait here,’ Mom ordered and returned to the kitchen. She was back a few seconds later with a small brown paper bag in her hands. ‘I baked some croissants today,’ she said, handing the bag to Danny. ‘There’s enough in there for the both of you.’

    ‘Thank you, Mom.’ Danny took the bag, grinning as she pocketed it.

    Matt kept his line of sight on the door. ‘Yeah, thanks.’

    ‘And make sure you’re home before dinner.’ Their mother called as they left the flat and headed for the elevator. ‘I want your father to come home to his family waiting for him at the table for once.’

    . . .​

    To Danny, there was no place better in the world than New Castelia. The streets of Band B were always buzzing with activity and when the sun was high enough the white skyscrapers almost looked like they were glowing. They looked their best at night though. The yellowy lights from buildings twinkled like brilliant stars and the neon lights on the high street reminded Danny of a carnival.

    Today was particularly busy – it was a Friday afternoon, and the grownups were just beginning to get off work. Even though it was getting to the point where it was nearing closing time, the shops were as busy as ever. People came in and out of stores in almost a militaristic fashion, some holding bags with the respective shop logos, others completely empty handed.

    Danny gulped as she watched people walking down the streets – she could easily get lost amongst such a large crowd. This didn’t bother Matt however – he’d been walking the streets of Band B on his own for a while now. Of course he’d know them better than Danny did, and he wouldn’t be mean enough to ditch her, right?

    Her brother took her by the hand and led her through the crowds. ‘Come on,’ he said, tugging firmly.

    Danny looked up as they weaved their way through the herd of adults. A lot of them were dressed in black, and many of them were chattering away while pressing weird, rectangle-shaped objects to their ears (Dad had told her that they were called mobile phones, but why they didn’t move on their own was a complete mystery to her). Other people were simply making their way down the street. It was a lovely sunny day, so quite a few people were sitting outside at café tables. Danny watched a few of them as they went by – some eating, others drinking. Just watching them made her lick her lips.

    There were guards out on patrol today too, as they usually were in Band B. People, mostly men, clad head to toe in grey armour that reminded Danny of the brave knights in the bedtime stories mom would read to her. They were the first people to go to if something bad was happening. One of them caught her eye and smiled, baring his white teeth to her, waving in a friendly manner. Danny waved back, smiling just as wide. The guards were always nice to kids like her.

    Then at last the park met Danny’s line of sight. Her grip on her brother’s hand tightened. The swing set was vacant and there was a seat with her name on it. But then something else caught her attention – something that she knew she hadn’t seen before. Positioned in the middle of the park was a statue, and even from a distance it looked huge compared to the adults that towered over Danny and her brother. It wasn’t surprising – new places often popped up in Band B – and according to Dad, it was to make New Castelia a better place, so there was no need to be worried.

    Matt didn’t have to tug this time. They crossed the road without a hitch and met the grass that acted as the borders to the park. Her brother finally let go of her hand and her fingers met cool air almost immediately. Her nostrils flared. The grass had been trimmed very recently and the fresh scent was everywhere just like when Mom would put on one of her fancy perfumes. She paused when she reached the path to the play area, the swings beckoning, but Danny couldn’t help turning back to the statue. She just wanted a small look, and it would only take a second of her time, then she could swing as much as she wanted.

    The person carved into the blotchy beige marble looked young – not young enough to be a teenager, but at the same time not old enough to be a fully grown adult, either. He was wearing a baseball cap that did nothing to hide his abnormally long, flowing hair. Some text had been carved into the circular platform that elevated the man, and while Danny could only understand a handful of words without help from her family, she could understand what each letter looked like. There was a T, then H followed by E and soon the letters formed a phrase in Danny’s mind:


    Danny stood there for a little while, rolling the words over and over in her head as best she could while Matt sat at the base of the statue, staring off into the distance absentmindedly. But eventually the allure of the swings demanded her attention. And yet, as she swung to and fro, and later on skidded down the slide, she couldn’t help but wonder who the man was, and what wonderful deed he’d done to get a statue of himself in New Castelia.

    After a while Danny noticed that her brother wasn’t sitting alone anymore. Another boy had joined him, dressed in the same baseball uniform. He was a lanky boy, being a little bit taller than Matt with fine, pointed features. There was a smart-looking watch on his wrist that glinted wickedly when it reflected the light and it looked like it had probably cost a lot of money. The boy didn’t say hello, or even glance in her direction when she stopped playing, coming over to see what was going on between the two of them.

    Matt huffed when he finally noticed his little sister. ‘Here she comes, Greg,’ he muttered.

    ‘Just say what I told you to say,’ Greg whispered. ‘She’ll play along.’

    Danny narrowed her eyes and folded her arms just like Mom did. ‘What are you two talking about?’

    ‘Oh,’ Matt said, rubbing the back of his neck. ‘We were just thinking about heading over to the junkyard in Band C, that’s all.’

    Danny froze. ‘Band C?’

    Matt nodded curtly. ‘Yeah,’ he said. ‘The borders aren’t too far from here.’ His brow furrowed when he noticed that his sister was starting to bite her nails. ‘We won’t get hurt – the only real difference in Band C is less guards. There’s nothing to worry about unless we were stupid enough to go to Band D or E.’

    ‘But Matt,’ Danny said, suddenly grabbing her brother’s arm, her chest tightening. ‘You’re gonna get us in trouble!’

    Matt frowned and swatted her hand away. ‘We will if you tell on us,’ he said, a sudden sharpness edging his tone. Danny’s abdomen shuddered – she didn’t like it when he used that voice. ‘And if you do, you’ll get punished as well.’

    She gulped and slowly stepped back, putting some distance between herself and her brother. She lowered her gaze and muttered: ‘I’ll be quiet now,’ through her quivering lips.

    ‘Good,’ Matt said, the harsh tone still haunting his voice. Within a heartbeat his frown changed into an eager smile and he turned back to Greg. ‘So, Greg – usual route?’

    . . .​

    It was a lot less lively in Band C. That being said, it wasn’t hard to see why. Band B boasted many exciting places people wanted to see, as well as a high-street amongst other things. It naturally drew the crowds and tourists like flies to honey. But even here there was life – the kids passed the odd person or two as they wandered across the pavements and people were still coming in and out of shops (though the packaging wasn’t nearly as gaudy or grand). Some of the pavement slabs had cracked at some point, producing jagged lines that ran across the concrete like veins, which Danny hopped over or walked around. Stepping on one could break Mom’s back, she’d heard.

    Greg led the two siblings onwards. Only about fifteen minutes had passed since they’d left Band B, but to Danny it felt like hours had trawled by. She often glanced up at the looming buildings before clenching her fists. Why did everything have to look a lot bigger when she was scared?

    The three eventually came to a halt in front of a chain-link fence, and beyond that was an entirely different terrain from the modest houses and neglected pavements. Mountains of garbage had been piled up to form hills. Danny noted the gleam in her brother’s eyes and the grin plastered ear-to-ear across his face. To him it probably looked like adventure. To her, it looked icky, scary and very, very dangerous.

    Greg grabbed a part of the fence that had become bent and twisted and pulled, lifting it up high enough so that all three of them could pass through without a hitch. Danny watched her brother duck underneath the fence and beckon to her to follow. ‘Move it, sis!’

    She couldn’t – her legs suddenly felt too heavy to lift, like they were stuck in pools of cement. Danny brought her hands to her chest and shook her head. ‘But we’re not supposed to be here.’

    ‘You can wait out here if you want,’ Greg said calmly, sneering at Danny. ‘But I guess that means we’ll have to tell everyone at school that you were scared shitless by a junkyard.’

    Danny’s cheeks flushed, burning an intense shade of pink. ‘I’m not scared!’

    Greg gestured to the gaping hole in the fence. ‘Then prove it.’

    Bowing her head, Danny slipped under the fence and hid her eyes from sight. She wasn’t going to give the boys the satisfaction of seeing her trembling lip. She’d just leave them alone until they were done exploring and then she could go home.

    Most of the time was spent by the boys messing around with things strewn about in the junkyard. Swinging on metal bars, sword fighting with pipes and splintered bits of wood, it was all boy stuff that was no interest to Danny – and only made her long for safety back in Band B even more. She sat on the ground with her knees to her chest for most of the time they spend there, waiting for the two to finally get bored.

    The laughter and amusement finally began to fade, and by then the sun was almost about to set. The boys eventually stopped playing about with discarded bits of metal and trash. ‘Okay,’ Matt said as he dusted his uniform off. ‘I’ve gotta take my sister back soon – otherwise Mom will kill me.’

    Danny’s heart swelled and so did her chest. She was going home at last!

    ‘Hold on,’ Greg said. He dashed beyond one of the trash piles, shouting: ‘I’ve just gotta go piss, be back in a minute!’

    Danny got to her feet and held her hands. Oh, she couldn’t wait to get home and play with her dolls a bit more. And then dad would come home and they could have a meal together just like her mother wanted them to. All that had to happen now was for Greg to come back from doing his business and she could forget about this horrible, nasty place.

    But that’s not what happened.

    There was another shout and both Danny and Matt whipped around to see Greg barrelling towards them. ‘Matt!’ he called. ‘Matt, I’ve found something pretty cool back here!’

    Whatever it was, it had clearly impressed Greg to the point that he’d forgotten to pull his fly up. Danny clamped down on her teeth to stop herself from snickering. That would teach him for being so rude to her.

    Matt tilted his head. ‘Really?’

    Greg nodded. ‘Really.’

    Danny continued to grind her teeth, but this time for a different reason. She’d let them have that little bit more fun for now. But it would be getting dark soon. A chill ran down Danny’s spine. All sorts of things lived in the dark – like big, scary monsters that could eat her whole in one bite. Or it could be so dark that neither one of them could see the way back home and they’d never see their families again.

    Greg led them around the trash heap and pointed. ‘Over there.’

    What lay before the three kids were several raised air vents, all carefully placed in a row. A metal grate covered each one, stopping anybody from accidentally plummeting to their doom. Only one had no metal grate to protect it, and it happened to be the closest one to the kids.

    An impish grin spread across Greg’s face. ‘They forgot to close one of the disposal units today.’

    Danny stared at the vent blankly. What was so exciting about a hole in the ground?

    ‘So?’ Matt shrugged.

    Greg dug into his pockets and pulled out a green piece of paper. ‘I bet you five bucks that you can’t keep your balance on the edge of that vent.’

    Danny’s heart dropped into her churning stomach. She looked to her brother, who was staring wide-eyed at the five dollar bill that Greg was now waving in his face. Don’t do it, she thought. Just turn around and say that we’ve got to go home.

    The corners of Matt’s mouth twitched – and so did Danny’s heartbeat. Then his mouth grew into a smirk. ‘You’re on,’ he said and ran over to the vent.

    That’s it. Danny had had enough, it didn’t matter if they’d laugh at her or call her mean names, this was too far. ‘Matt,’ she said in a firm voice. ‘Don’t be stupid – you’re gonna get hurt!’

    Her brother scoffed and rolled his eyes. ‘No I won’t,’ he said, swinging a leg up onto the edge of the vent. ‘I’ll be extra careful not to fall.’

    Greg cupped his hands around his mouth. ‘You gotta stay put on that thing for thirty seconds if you want the money.’

    Matt furrowed his brow as he swung his other leg up. ‘Piece of cake,’ he said, feet pressing firmly against the metal rim. Soon he was standing completely perfectly on top of the vent. ‘Just keep an eye on the time.’ He flung Greg a glare. ‘And if you cheat, I’ll kick your ***.’

    ‘Right back at you, Matt.’ Greg waved, still grinning like a toddler. He looked at the watch on his wrist and started counting. ‘One, two, three, four, five…’

    Danny watched with baited breath. She could already see it happening in her mind’s eye: Matt would lean back, then he’d start to teeter, his arms flailing as he struggled to keep steady.

    ‘Six, seven eight, nine, ten…’

    And then he’d fall, disappearing from view, with only his echoing screams telling her that he was still alive.

    ‘Eleven, twelve, thirteen, fourteen, fifteen…’

    Halfway there. Matt still stood as firm and as still as the statue of the man in the park. It did nothing to soothe her racing pulse or her trembling hands.

    ‘Sixteen, seventeen, eighteen, nineteen, twenty…’

    Matt’s hands stretched out and began to swerve.

    ‘Twenty-one, twenty-two, twenty-three…’

    And then he began to lean back.

    Danny couldn’t take it anymore. Her fears were drowned out as adrenaline pumped through her veins. ‘Matt!’ she screamed and sprinted towards the vent, charged with so much energy that she almost crashed into it. She didn’t care that she had climbed onto the ledge, or that she was now teetering just like Matt was. All she wanted was for her brother to jump down onto the soft earth where he belonged.

    ‘Whoa-ah!’ Matt shouted. He pulled back and started leaning forward, feet breaking contact with the metal rim. He fell with a soft thud, landing on his back. There was a pause before Greg stomped his foot, frowning.

    ‘Dammit,’ he grumbled bitterly. He came over and tossed the bill at Matt, landing just a few inches away from his feet. ‘Well, Matt, here you go.’

    Matt laughed as he rolled over to get up. He swiped the bill with outstretched fingers and lifted it up into the air like it was a trophy. ‘Yes!’

    Danny’s chest tightened once more and the burning shade of pink flooded back to her cheeks again, this time tinting her ears too. ‘That wasn’t funny!’ she shouted, balling her fists so hard that her knuckles turned white. ‘You could’ve fallen and gotten killed!’

    Matt tutted and folded his arms. ‘Chill, sis,’ he said. ‘I wasn’t in any real danger.’ Then he turned, beckoning to her with a finger. ‘Now come on – we’ll miss dinner if you don’t hurry up!’

    Danny’s lips parted, ready to scorn her brother further. But she’d never get the chance to finish what she was about to say. At that moment a breeze rushed through the hills and valleys of garbage, jerking tin cans and other things forward so that they tumbled with an unmusical crash. The breeze turned into a gust, and as it clipped Danny’s cheek she could’ve sworn she’d heard a voice whisper in her ear: ‘Danielle…’

    The wind roared and both Greg and Matt flinched. ‘Why is it so cold?’ Matt asked through gritted teeth. Danielle didn’t know, but that didn’t matter anymore. The strength of the wind grew and what had once felt like an icy pair of fingers brushing her cheeks became like a punch to her gut. Her knees buckled and she teetered back, struggling to keep her balance.

    ‘Danny!’ she heard her brother shout. But it was too late to do anything. Her feet broke contact with the rim and for a heartbeat all Danny could feel was the lack of support underneath her soles.

    She glanced to her brother, who was rushing out to grab her, his eyes wide with horror. But he was too late. Danny’s stomach flipped as she plummeted down into the depths of the disposal unit, screaming helplessly as she was pulled into the darkness. And those screams, coupled with the fading cries from her brother up top, stayed with her until her consciousness was finally overwhelmed by everything and blacked out.
    Last edited: Feb 24, 2018
  7. Samayouru

    Samayouru Rabid Dusclops Fan


    An awful stench hit Danny’s nose. It was the first thing that ran through her mind as she stirred. Her nostrils wrinkled. Why did it smell like rotten fruit all of a sudden?

    Her eyelids flickered, heavier than concrete, and before she knew it she was staring up directly into darkness. Her abdomen kicked and Danny grinded her teeth together to supress her stomach. It wasn’t a complete failure – several deep coughs escaped, jerking her chest forward, but it wasn’t enough to spare her the lingering pain.

    She instinctively hunched over, her forehead and cheeks burning as her body prepared to bring undigested food up. But all that followed were several dry heaves that slowly diminished as her senses got accustomed to her new surroundings. Her mind still had a bit of catching up to do, however. She looked around. What had happened? Where were Mom and Dad and Matt? And why was she here in the horrible, horrible darkness where some nasty creature could get her?

    Everything struck her all at once. Going out with her brother, the streets, the cold gust of air, the voice… and tumbling down the disposal unit.

    ‘Oh no,’ Danny whispered hoarsely, covering her mouth with a trembling hand. She was trapped – stuck in a scary place she didn’t know and stank worse than the trash cans outside did during summer. She drew her knees to her chest. And what was going to happen when someone finally found her? Danny frowned. She was sure that she’d get punished – Matt was definitely in for it at least for taking her to that horrible junkyard. Tears stung and clouded her vision even more so than the surrounding inky blackness – she was lost, in trouble and nobody was ever going to find her down here.

    Bawling didn’t help – or at least not in the way Danny had hoped – nobody rushed in, being drawn by her panicked cries, and if there were any guards down there then they weren’t within earshot either. She only realised this once her tear ducts had finally stopped producing water and were starting to feel sore. She shivered and clutched her arms, rubbing them slowly. What would a grownup do in a situation like this?

    She tilted her head. A grownup would go get help from someone like a guard. All she had to do was explain how she ended up down here and that would be it.

    Danny pushed a leg and tried to stand, only to falter and topple back to the ground. Something rustled underneath her and her body sank, whatever she’d hit moulding to her form. She pressed her hands against the surface and at last understood why she hadn’t been hurt from either falls: she had landed on top of a pile of bags filled with garbage. She swallowed, her skin breaking out in goose bumps. Garbage was icky – even if it was tied up in a bag.

    Second time getting up was the charm and Danny spread out her arms to stop herself from falling this time. She slowly and shakily hobbled down the mountain of bags until her feet met smooth concrete. She sighed. Never had the feeling of a flat surface felt so good against her shoes. Now she actually had a better chance of figuring out where to go.

    Danny narrowed her eyes. What were her options here? She was on safer ground – perhaps it would be a good idea to look around? Mounds of trash surrounded her, boxing her in like the walls of a maze. She held her arms again and shuddered. Why did everything have to look so much worse when there was no light to chase the shadows away?

    Now that she was getting used to the dark, Danny could just make out the gaping maw of another tunnel. Her shoulders fell back almost at once. At least she wouldn’t be stuck here forever. She glanced back to the mound of garbage bags that had saved her from a very nasty landing. She was missing, wasn’t she? So that made this an emergency, right?

    A lump formed in Danny’s throat. She needed to find a grownup, and standing around doing nothing wasn’t going to help.

    . . .​

    The first shaky step was hard, but the hours that followed afterwards were considerably worse. Most of the tunnels only led to more tunnels, and those that didn’t were cut off by walls of garbage that were packed so tightly together that moving them was impossible for a six year old girl. One thing became obviously apparent to Danny as she stumbled about in the catacomb-esque tunnels, something that all of them shared in common: that there were no grownups to be found anywhere.

    But she kept going, only stopping when she absolutely couldn’t walk another mile, which turned out to be more frequent than she’d expected. Her heels began burning with pain, grinding her once steady pace to a straggling limp. Each step was accompanied by a squeak or a whimper, as well as a growing, crushing feeling of homesickness that poked her at every chance it got.

    And then at last her luck started to change. Danny staggered around another dark corner to discover something in the distance: a pinprick of light, orange and mellow, but it shone brilliantly like a tiny flame. Her pulse and pace quickened. ‘Oh thank you,’ she whispered to nobody. ‘Thank you, thank you, thank you!’ It was over. She was going to be okay! Now all she needed to do was find a helpful person so that she could get back home safely.

    Sweet, fresh air filled her lungs as she drew closer and closer to the light. Her steps quickened even more, causing her to ignore her stinging heels and when she got close enough she spied the familiar green shade of grass. Her heart skipped a beat – she must’ve ended up back at the park somehow. She flinched and shielded her face as she emerged outside, the sun glaring sharply at her. It appeared that she’d been in the dark for much longer than she’d thought.

    Her smile drew back into a frown and her breath faltered when she finally adjusted to the changes. Her arms fell to her sides and a single thought rushed through her weary head as she scanned her surroundings: Something’s wrong.

    There were nowhere near as many trees in the park, and they had all been planted in a way that complimented the paths. These ones were tight-knit, and covered in pointy needles that made Danny’s skin crawl. Getting pricked by one of those things would probably hurt a lot. The grass looked like it hadn’t been cut properly in ages, almost coming up to Danny’s knees and completely hiding her shoes. There were sounds too – twittering, tweeting noises that surrounded her like fog. But there was no sign of people. No footfalls striking the pavement, no constant babble of any kind. Danny tugged her bangs, breaths shuddering.

    Yes, something was definitely off about this place.

    She glanced towards the sewage pipe she’d come out from and then back to the trees, rubbing her collarbone. Was it worth going back into the dark to wait for help?

    She cringed after recalling how long it had taken her to get to this point. No, it wasn’t worth it at all. At least someone could see her out here in the light. Danny turned to the left, then right before licking her dry lips and mustering up her voice. ‘Hello?’ she called as loud as she possibly could. ‘Is anyone there?’

    Nothing responded (not counting the tweeting noises, of course).

    Danny opted to sit down at the base if a particularly large tree just a few feet away from the sewage pipe. She didn’t want to stray too far – there was a good chance a bunch of guards would show up on one of their walks around the city if she was still in Band B. All she had to do was wait for them to find her.

    Her stomach suddenly growled, causing her to grab it tightly. That was right – she hadn’t eaten in a while. Danny began to chew at the wall of her mouth. What was she going to do?

    And then as she slid her hands into the pockets of her dress, she knew exactly what. Her fingers suddenly came into contact with something greasy and crinkly, and a weak smile crept across her face – the first she’d had since waking up in the disposal unit. She’d completely forgotten about the croissants Mom had baked for her.

    It took roughly five seconds for Danny to fork one out and tear a sizeable chunk off of it with her teeth. Buttery flavours washed over her taste buds and her rumbling stomach grew calm. Mom’s baking had always been good – and after wandering around in the pipes for such a long time, they tasted even better than she remembered.

    ‘… ow,’ and then there was a noise – a sound unlike any other she’d heard so far. It didn’t register at first, because she was too focussed on not starving to death.

    ‘… ow.’ Once she’d swallowed her second bite Danny paused, lowering the hand holding the croissant, and this time she heard it clearly: ‘Mr-ow.’

    Danny looked around, following the squiggly tree trunks to the grass. Where was that noise coming from? She glanced over her shoulder and there was only the pipe behind her, still as dark and as cold-looking as it had been when she’d exited it.


    There it was again, only much louder this time. Danny scanned her surroundings again and still she was alone as she could be. And then her ears picked something else up – the unmistakeable shaking of leaves as someone – or something – moved past them. Her lips parted as she slowly tilted her head up, only to find herself looking directly into the hugest pair of green eyes she’d ever seen in her life.

    There, perched on a branch fairly high up above the root Danny was sitting on, was a cat. It was standing on its hind legs, its pelt a deep shade of purple flecked with cream spots, and peering down at her, unblinking, as still and as haunting as a statue. Danny had always thought that if she were ever to meet a monster from her nightmares she would immediately scream and run away, but she hadn’t thought that such a bad dream could ever be real. Mom and Dad had told her many times that they were only dreams after all. But Danny knew she was awake – she didn’t feel like she was wading through taffy like she often did in bad dreams – and if that was the case, the monster in the tree had to be real too.

    It was only for a moment, but to Danny it already felt like she had been staring up at the cat for hours. The cat’s mouth eventually twitched and opened, baring its tiny pink tongue and said in a familiar voice: ‘Mr-ow.’

    Danny’s lip grew drier than they already were. She had found the source of the noise.

    The two of them were locked in each other’s gaze for quite a while, and it was only when her eyes began to sting did Danny realise that she needed to blink. The monster licked its lips, showing the little tongue again, and brought its front paws down so that it was walking on all fours. Then it sprung from the branch and landed on another, this one much closer to where Danny was sitting.

    Danny squeaked and drew the bag close to her chest. What should she do? She could try running away, but she wasn’t sure if her aching feet could go for very much longer. The monster was still staring at her – did it even have eyelids? If only her parents were here – they’d know what to do. They could scare this thing away and make it disappear like the bad dreams did.

    ‘Mr-ow,’ the monster was talking again (or at least Danny thought that it was talking). It took a step towards her and tensed its legs, jumping into the air. It landed on the root beside her with a soft thud, causing the root to shake slightly from the sudden additional weight. ‘Mr-ow.’

    ‘No!’ Danny squealed and dragged herself away, edging towards the grass so that she could run away if the monster wanted to eat her. ‘Go away! Leave me alone!’

    This didn’t faze the monster at all. It just kept watching her, now so close that Danny could see herself reflected in its eyeballs twice over. Its nose was twitching and she could hear faint sniffing noises in her ears. She tilted her head. Was it hungry, maybe? She slowly brought the bag away from her chest and the monster suddenly froze, now watching it intensely.

    Danny dug a hand into the bag, tore off a piece of the other croissant and placed it on the root. There was no way she was going to risk having her hand eaten just to find out if this weird monster was hungry or not. She barely managed to move away before the monster pounced on the piece of croissant, immediately clamping it with pointed teeth and chewing with its mouth open.

    Admittedly, the creature did look cute while it was eating. Danny tilted her head. It probably didn’t eat people if it liked croissants (and now that she thought about it, she was fairly sure the monster was too small to eat her up in one bite anyway), and the pink tongue that was now being used to lick the monster’s mouth was adorable. Maybe if she fed it another bit of croissant it would like her more –

    And then, quick as a flash, the monster lunged forward and she found that her fingers were grabbing at thin air. Her head turned, darting in different directions. Where had her food gone? Where was the little monster? What had just happened?

    A high-pitched laugh came from the branches and Danny looked up to find the monster standing on its hind legs again, the paper bag in its paws. It sneered at her and drew its head back, producing another laugh that reminded her of the bullies who’d steal her lunchbox at school.

    Danny stared, slack-jawed and unable to move.

    The monster was actually making fun of her.

    It put the bag in its mouth and broke out into a run on all fours, jumping from the branch and landing on the grass without even flinching. ‘Hey!’ Danny shot up, momentarily ignoring the pain stabbing her heels, and broke into a sprint. It didn’t last long through, the monster was already a few meters ahead of her, and had no trouble weaving its way through the woods. Danny, on the other hand, kept tripping and stumbling over roots and rocks, struggling to keep up with the little thief.

    The monster was nowhere in sight when the last of her energy died, though its giggling still rang out somewhere in the woods. She puffed and propped her upper body by placing her hands on her knees. Sweat coated her forehead. Danny shuddered. Sweat felt gross and slimy – she had to go back to the root and cool down for a while.

    But where was the tree again? Most of the trees in the area looked much smaller when compared to the one she’d been resting at. And why did every path through the woods look the same to her?

    Danny groaned. Great, just great. Now she was lost, cold, her feet were aching and her only source of food was gone forever. And what was even worse was that the sun was setting. Danny glanced at the bruising, purple sky and started rubbing her arms. She had to find somewhere warm and the sooner she did that, the less cold she’d be. She bit down on her lower lip as she limped through the forest. That weird monster that stole her food was bad enough – but what if there were more out there who were more than capable of feasting on little girls like her?

    She gulped. That question had never felt so real before.

    There was no point in trying to find her way back to the sewage pipe – Danny couldn’t tell which way she’d run in her attempt to save the croissant– and she didn’t want to stay out in the open for much longer if night was on the way.

    She slid her hands into her now empty pockets again and started walking faster, her sore soles stinging with every step. On the odd occasion she’d cup her hands around her mouth and call out: ‘Hello?’ several times. Of course, nobody responded, just like in the sewers.

    But after another fifteen minutes of wandering something did respond to her voice. By then Danny’s search for humanity had practically fallen apart. Even more sweat drenched her forehead and every second felt endless. Questions raced through her mind: Where was everyone? What Band was she in? Why was nobody answering her cries for help?

    Her legs finally gave up and she landed against the ground with a reasonable amount of force, almost accidentally biting her tongue in the process. Her feet ached – they were hurting so bad that she couldn’t move anymore. Danny’s eyes squeezed shut and she supressed a shameful croak. She was going to die here and nobody was going to be able to find her body – if anyone lived in this area at all that was!

    Then there was a rustle, and the light tap of feet. Danny looked up, bruise-like shadows under her eyelids, to find something looking down at her – something huge and pink. A big pair of circular eyes were fixed on her – but not in the same way that the cat creature had been watching her, waiting for her to lower her guard. These ones were deep and bright, scanning her from top to bottom. It stretched one of its stubby hands (at least Danny assumed it was a hand) to its mouth and furrowed its brow for a moment. ‘Yoom-tah,’ it murmured. ‘Yoom-tah, yoom.’

    Danny had no idea what “yoom”, “tah” or both words together meant. Her head hurt and she was too tired to even try caring. She just wanted this strange, pink balloon thing with floppy ears to help her.

    The blob turned its back on her and hurriedly waddled back in the direction from whence it came, being swallowed up by bushes. So that explained the rustling sounds. Danny reached out, her fingers stretching as far as they could go without hurting. ‘Don’t go!’ she cried weakly. ‘Please – I don’t want to be stuck here forever!’

    There was more rustling and the pink blob emerged once again, standing out against the dark greens and browns of the forest foliage. Danny’s abdomen fluttered. Oh thank goodness the blob hadn’t completely abandoned her!

    But this time it wasn’t alone. The rustling continued even though there was no way that the blob could brush up against any of the leaves or branches, and a figure emerged from behind – this one a shape Danny definitely recognised. Trailing behind the blob was a man with the largest backpack she’d ever seen in her life slung on his broad shoulders. His clothes were frayed at the ends and to Danny it looked like he hadn’t bathed in weeks. ‘What is it, Wigglytuff?’ he asked in a gruff voice, the corner of his mouth dragging into a frown. ‘What have you found?’

    The blob – a Wigglytuff, the man had called it – pointed one of the stubby paws in Danny’s direction. ‘Yoom-TAH!’

    ‘Hm?’ the man looked over and finally met Danny’s line of sight. His mouth twitched for a brief second before he cast his gaze down, his scruffy fringe covering his line of sight, hiding his face so that Danny couldn’t guess what he was thinking. ‘Oh dear,’ he murmured, his hands tightening into fists before sprawling his fingers out again. ‘What do we have here?’

    Danny opened her mouth to say something, but it felt like the back of her throat had been completely coated in peanut butter, and all that made it out of her mouth was a tiny, slow squeak.

    The man with the backpack overtook the Wigglytuff and knelt down in front of Danny, looming over here like a giant. ‘Can you hear me?’ he asked before following up with another question. ‘Do you understand what I’m saying?’

    Danny nodded as best she could, snivelling. ‘Y-Yes.’

    ‘Good.’ The man’s eyes darted left to right, as the Wigglytuff’s had done as he looked her over. ‘Are you hurt?’

    That was a dumb question – everything ached and Danny’s feet were probably so raw now that she was sure that they had to be taken off. But she didn’t want to be rude, so she simply nodded once more without a word.

    ‘Is that so?’ the man carefully leant forward to get a closer look at her. ‘Where’s the pain?’

    ‘My feet,’ Danny mumbled. She could practically feel the stranger’s gaze burning into the back of her neck. ‘T-They’re sore.’

    The man didn’t respond verbally. Instead, he replied by wiggling Danny’s shoes. She flinched and whimpered quietly and her neck tightened. She was letting a stranger who wasn’t a guard remove her shoes. She couldn’t move – it wasn’t like she could run away if the man did anything bad to her, but it still felt really weird. The bouncing rhythm of steps drew close. It was the Wigglytuff, staring down at her once again. But there was a smile on its face this time, not a sneer or a devious grin, but a kindly smile. It was almost the nice sort of smile Mom would give her after a bad day at school.

    ‘You can trust us,’ the man said, still prying her foot from the first shoe. ‘We wouldn’t be here helping if we had any intention of hurting you.’

    And then at last the tightness around Danny’s foot faded. She tried to suppress a sigh of relief and failed. The other shoe came off shortly after.

    ‘Right,’ the man then said, beckoning to the pink monster. ‘Wigglytuff, would you get the first aid kit for me?’

    The Wigglytuff’s long ears perked up and it bounded over behind its owner. It fiddled with one of the many zippers on the backpack and got to work, eventually pulling out a small leather sack, and handed it to the man with an eager ‘Yoom-tah!’

    ‘Thank you,’ the man said and reached over to Danny’s sweat-soaked socks. ‘All right, let’s have a little look.’ Mild, refreshing air hit Danny’s heels as the man pulled both socks down. There was a moment of silence before she heard him whisper: ‘Oh Jesus.’

    Danny’s back stiffened. ‘Is it bad?’

    ‘Well,’ the man said as he reached into the bag. ‘You’re going to need to rest for a while, young lady, let’s put it like that.’

    Danny whined. To her, it was like the man had just told her that he needed to cut her arms as well as her legs off.

    ‘I’ll clean the blisters so that you won’t get infections,’ the man continued. ‘And then I’ll put some bandages on them so that you’ve got that extra bit of protection.’ He brought out a bottle filled with clear liquid from the bag. ‘And just so you know, this is going to sting a bit.’

    Danny didn’t get time to ask or complain. One moment her wounds were completely cool, the next, they were coated in hot, lashing pain. ‘It hurts!’

    Her hands instinctively clenched and her legs kicked against the grass as the liquid did its work. It hissed and foamed as the dirt and bacteria were eaten away and after a few moments of grinding her teeth and crying the pain finally began to dull, fading away like the glowing embers in a dying fire.

    ‘All right,’ the man said after a few seconds. He dug a hand into the sack and pulled out a bundle of white cloth. ‘We’re almost done – just keep still until I’ve secured the bandages properly.’

    The Wigglytuff returned to Danny’s side and occasionally glanced around, a bit like the guards back in New Castelia would if they were keeping watch for any bad people. Was it looking out for danger? Danny’s stomach wrapped into knots – if there was at least one monster here, then there had to be more, right? She frowned as the grip of the bandages on her heels tightened. Maybe it was best not to think about things like that right now.

    The man made short work of the other heel, eventually pulling back and placing everything back into the bag. ‘That should do it,’ he said, dusting his hands off. ‘Think you can stand up?’

    Danny rolled over and pushed herself so that she was now on her knees. ‘I don’t know,’ she said, slowly bringing her foot forward. She flinched and hissed through her teeth as pressure was applied to the back of her sole. It lingered as she slowly attempted to stand on her own. ‘It still hurts.’

    The man nodded. ‘It will for a few more hours,’ he said. ‘You’ll probably feel better once you’ve gotten some time to heal.’

    The Wigglytuff tilted a little bit so that Danny could use its body for support. The surface of its fur was quite silky, and yet the skin felt quite tight – as if it had been filled to the brim with hot air like a balloon. It took Danny a moment to realise what the pink blob was doing for her and she mustered up a curt nod. It might not be human but she still had to remember to be nice. ‘T-Thank you.’

    The Wigglytuff waved and responded with a friendly ‘Yoom-tah!’, then leaned back so that Danny could gain her bearings properly.

    ‘Hold on,’ the man said. He had put the backpack on his shoulders again and was searching for something at the base of a tree. Danny narrowed her eyes as he fingered his way across grass. ‘Here’s one she could use,’ he murmured under his breath and plucked a reasonably thick branch that was scabbed with bark. ‘Take this to support your weight,’ he told Danny as he gave the stick to her. ‘It’ll make walking much easier.’

    She’d seen what people did with sticks before. Old men and ladies were often seen in Band B hobbling around with a walking stick by their side, like a faithful companion. She staggered a bit as she attempted to walk, lurching like a baby taking its first steps. But at least she was able to stand up again.

    ‘We were just about to set up camp beyond the bushes,’ the man said once Danny was able to keep up a steady pace. ‘You’re more than welcome to join us.’

    The Wigglytuff nodded. ‘Yoom.’

    That wasn’t really what Danny wanted – she needed to find a guard to take her home. But her aching legs screamed, practically begging for the chance to sit down and rest. She could just stay long enough until she felt better and then she could ask the man to take her to the nearest guard, who would then be able to return her to her family. It was that simple.

    ‘Okay then,’ she said, attempting to smile. Only the corners of her mouth made any attempt to curve upwards. The man pushed a path through the bushes so that she could avoid getting scratched by twigs and branches. ‘My name is Danny,’ she added. ‘What’s yours?’

    The man released the branches once the Wigglytuff had passed through. ‘Talbot,’ he replied, and shielded his eyes when he looked up towards the sky. ‘Let’s hurry – it’ll be dark in a little while, and the sooner I start a campfire, the better off we’ll all be.’
    Last edited: Feb 24, 2018
  8. Samayouru

    Samayouru Rabid Dusclops Fan

    AUTHOR'S NOTE: As it turned out Chapter 3's now so big I need to split it into two posts - which is a first for me. Thankfully the next post after this one is also mine, so hopefully it won't disrupt the flow of Chapter 3 too much!


    Talbot’s camp wasn’t what Danny thought it would be. She had heard the word “camp” before on the news, but it was usually associated with Band D or E (or sometimes both depending on how bad things were). The man on the news who talked about it always looked grumpy when he talked about camps, so she didn’t really know what to expect other than it being cold and maybe filled with lots of grownups.

    Instead, it was an open space walled by bushes and trees. There was a small pile of reasonably sized twigs in the centre of the clearing, which Danny assumed to be the start of the previously mentioned campfire. ‘It’s not much,’ Talbot said when he knelt down to continue working on keeping the three of them from freezing during the night. ‘But it should give us enough heat without giving our position away too much.’

    That made sense – she had often heard on the news about the sorts of things people in lower bands got up to. Stealing, attacking, being mean to each other, it was an on-going list of things people would never get away with doing if they lived in Band B like she did.

    And speaking of which…

    Danny sat down on the grass and dropped her walking stick. ‘What Band is this?’

    Talbot frowned as he set his backpack down. ‘Band?’

    ‘Yes,’ Danny replied, nodding to emphasize her words. ‘I come from Band B.’ She patted her chest. ‘Which Band do you come from, mister?’

    Talbot blinked and pulled away from setting his backpack down on the grass. Wigglytuff’s eyes followed him, deep and dark. ‘So,’ he said after a moment. ‘You’re from up there, aren’t you?’

    Danny’s eyebrows quivered. ‘Up there…?’

    ‘The city,’ Talbot continued. ‘Where everyone in Unova lives.’

    Danny paused. It sounded like New Castelia to her, and she was pretty sure there were no other places in Unova besides it. ‘I think so.’

    Talbot and Wigglytuff shared a glance before he took a deep breath. ‘Listen – Danny, was it? – I don’t know how to break this to you lightly but…’ He bit his lip. ‘You’re not in New Castelia anymore.’

    Danny’s shoulders slackened and her mouth grew drier than it already felt. ‘What do you mean?’

    ‘I’m talking about all of this,’ Talbot answered, gesturing to their surroundings. ‘This isn’t part of New Castelia.’

    ‘No.’ Danny placed her head in her hands and started rubbing her temples. ‘I don’t understand.’

    ‘I’m not surprised that you are – it’s a lot to take in.’ Talbot leaned forward and tugged at the grass. ‘Look,’ he said gently. ‘Just tell me how you ended up here and I won’t ask you to do anything else tonight, okay?’

    And so Danny did. She told him all about her brother, the park, encountering Greg, the ill-fated trip to the junkyard in Band C and ending up in the disposal unit. Talbot nodded often and his brow was furrowed throughout the whole story, occasionally looking out of the corner of his eye to Wigglytuff. ‘… And then you found me,’ she finished. By then the sky was turning a brilliant shade of indigo, but there was not a star to be seen.

    ‘I see,’ Talbot murmured, scratching his scruffy chin. He crossed his legs and grabbed the backpack, unzipping it and digging through it with his large hands. ‘You wouldn’t be the first to end up down here, you know.’

    Danny grew quiet for a moment. ‘I’m not?’

    ‘It’s never easy when someone ends up here,’ he continued as he took out a rolled up blanket and unfurled it before handing it to her. It looked incredibly thin and Danny wondered if it would even be able to keep her warm. ‘You look tired,’ Talbot said. ‘Try not to think about it tonight – you look exhausted.’ He drew out another blanket. ‘Just get some rest and I’ll explain things properly to you in the morning.’

    Danny yawned, she didn’t think twice about agreeing with Talbot on that matter. She fell back to the grass and wrapped the blanket around herself like a fabric cocoon as best she could.

    ‘Don’t worry about me or Wigglytuff,’ Talbot said, pointing a thumb to Wigglytuff. ‘We’ll take it in turns to keep watch, we’ll wake you if there’s any trouble.’

    Wigglytuff bounced up and down. ‘Yoom.’

    What happened after that was all a hazy memory to Danny. She faintly recalled murmuring goodnight to her new companions and pressing her back against the grass, but everything beyond that was a mystery to her. Sleep took over, and she was finally pulled into a dreamless state with only her messy thoughts to keep her company.

    . . .​

    ‘Hey, kid.’

    A hand, gently shaking her.

    Danny stirred, mind fuzzy and slow. That was odd – usually it was Mom that would wake her up. Maybe Dad didn’t have to go to work today?

    ‘Kid,’ it was Dad again – though this time he sounded a little different than his usual happy self. ‘It’s time to get up.’

    ‘Good morning,’ Danny murmured. She rubbed her eyes and yawned, her jaw stretching as far as it could go. ‘I had the weirdest dream last night.’ She pushed herself up so that she was sitting upright. ‘I fell down a hole and ended up in a forest filled with monsters.’

    And then she opened her eyes and everything became real again.

    Wigglytuff stood out the most against the green foliage – it was partway through rolling up another blanket when it noticed that she was awake. ‘Yoom,’ it said, smiling and offered her a wave before bouncing over. ‘Yoom-tah?’

    Danny’s throat tightened. There was no way she was awake – she couldn’t be – there was no way a monster like the one standing in front of her could be real, right? But the haziness of slumber was long gone by now and if it really was a dream, then the sight of a jumping pink blob coming towards her would’ve woken her up by now.

    Wigglytuff’s head tilted and it tugged at the blanket draped around Danny’s shoulders. ‘Yoom-tah?’

    Danny cast her gaze down. ‘I don’t know what you’re saying. I’m sorry.’

    ‘Tah.’ Wigglytuff tugged once more at the blanket, pointing with its other stubby hand to the partly rolled up blanket. ‘Yoom-tah.’

    ‘She wants to pack up the blanket,’ the voice that had woken Danny in the first place piped up. It was coming from behind the two of them. ‘It’s part of our routine, you see.’

    ‘She?’ Danny whispered as she passed the blanket over. ‘She’s a girl?’

    Wigglytuff nodded, very much so like a human would despite not having any visible neck. The blob then returned to folding up the blankets.

    ‘Yeah,’ the man – named Talbot if her memory served her right – from last night suddenly strolled into the corner of her eye. ‘Most pokemon have genders just like people do.’

    Danny’s eyebrows lifted. ‘Pokemon?’

    ‘It’s a silly name, I know,’ Talbot said as he started digging through his backpack. ‘I think it’s short for Pocket Monsters – and they’re everywhere down here.’

    Pokemon? Pocket Monsters? Danny leaned forward and rubbed her numbing forehead. ‘My head hurts.’

    ‘Here,’ Talbot said as he took out a red packet. He tossed it in her direction and it landed just shy of Danny’s feet. ‘Eat up – the more energy you have in you, the better off you’ll be.’

    Danny picked up the smooth bag, listening as it crinkled when her grasp around it tightened. There was a transparent area on the packet showing what looked like flat pieces of wrinkly bark inside. ‘What is this stuff?’

    ‘It’s beef jerky,’ Talbot replied. ‘It’ll keep you going until we can scavenge for more food in Accumula.’

    Danny’s eyes lit up as she pulled the packet open. ‘There are other cities down here?’

    ‘There used to be cities and towns,’ Talbot said. Wigglytuff lifted the now completely rolled up blankets and passed them to him. He nodded in thanks to her. ‘Most of them are abandoned, but that still means we have to be careful – others will be looking for stuff too.’

    Danny sniffed the tough piece of jerky in her fingers and wrinkled her nose. ‘This stuff smells really funny.’

    ‘Just eat it,’ Talbot said as he slung the backpack over his shoulders. ‘It won’t taste nice, but it’ll give you something to tide you over until we set up camp somewhere else.’

    He wasn’t wrong. The first tough, stringy bite triggered Danny’s gag reflex. She barely managed to swallow it without bringing it back up.

    Talbot’s eyes fell to her ankles. ‘How’re your blisters doing?’

    Danny had completely forgotten about her feet. ‘I don’t know,’ she answered. She got onto all fours and pressed the sole of her right foot against the grass lightly and carefully. Sore pain bubbled up from deep underneath the skin and Danny winced, suppressing a cry and grinding her teeth. ‘It stings!’

    ‘Right,’ Talbot said, rubbing his chin with his index finger. ‘We’ll have to get you some proper socks to keep them protected – and possibly some new trainers as well.’

    Danny frowned. ‘But what about getting me back home?’

    Talbot turned so that all Danny could see was his back. ‘We’ll talk about that later,’ he said. ‘But I think we need to get you some better equipment for travel first.’

    That made sense. She had been stuck in the pipes of New Castelia for what felt like forever. Wandering around in the dark and getting more blisters didn’t exactly appeal to her and her parents wouldn’t be happy with the state of her feet. Danny’s eyelids sank. ‘Mom and Dad must be really worried about me…’

    Talbot stroked the top of Wigglytuff’s head, which caused the pink blob to start purring. ‘I’m sure that they’re out there looking for you up top – I’ll keep you safe until then.’

    Wigglytuff allowed Danny to use her body for support, and was even kind enough to grab her new walking stick for her. Her steps were shaky and stiff, but this time it was merely because of her wounds. ‘I feel really bad for old people now,’ she said when she reached Talbot’s side. ‘Lots of people get grumpy because old people are so slow in New Castelia.’

    Talbot chuckled warmly. ‘Come on,’ he said, beckoning to both Wigglytuff and Danny. ‘Let’s get moving – we’re burning daylight.’

    . . .​

    While Danny didn’t know all that much about towns, at least she had a better idea of what to look out for this time. If it was anything like New Castelia, then she thought that it would be a fairly busy place (perhaps even more so if it had Bands, too). She anticipated the chatter of city talk as the forest began to draw back, being reduced to nothing more than the odd tree peppering the sides of the dusty track.

    But the air was still, and signs of human activity were non-existent until the three of them reached the end of the path.

    ‘There it is,’ Talbot said, pointing to the start of what had once been a tarmac road. Most of it had fallen into a state of disrepair, crisscrossed by grass that had wormed its way through the surface. ‘We’re just on the outskirts of Accumula.’ He pressed a finger to his lips. ‘Stay as quiet as you can and keep your eyes open for any danger, okay Danny?’

    Danny nodded. ‘Okay.’

    The first few buildings weren’t all that exciting. Sad and neglected, most of them were missing windows and the doors had been boarded up. They had probably been sealed a long time ago too – because some of the wood was starting to rot.

    ‘Here we are,’ Talbot said, a smile spreading across his grizzled face. ‘The Pokemon Center.’

    This building Danny found herself staring up at, lips parted and eyes wide, was unlike anything she had seen before down here. Completely made out of glass that looked incredibly thick, this building stood out like a sore thumb. It was the bright red roof, still blatant despite the thin layer of dirt and grime that coated it, that set it apart from all the others.

    ‘Darn,’ she heard Talbot grumble. His attention had turned to what had probably once been a pair of glass sliding doors. They had been completely shattered – the remaining sabres of glass protruding like jagged teeth. ‘Looks like someone already beat us to it,’ Talbot said, passing a glance to Danny. ‘I guess we’ll just have to make use of whatever we can get our hands on in there.’

    The Pokemon Center turned out to be more than met Danny’s eye. Wigglytuff ran in first with the others not too far behind. ‘Wow,’ Danny whispered as she tilted her head to the ceiling. ‘It’s so much bigger on the inside.’

    ‘That’s what everyone usually says when they see a Pokemon Center for the first time,’ Talbot said as he approached a counter in the corner of the building. He dove under it and began to search – objects rattling as he pushed them aside. ‘Now let’s see what we’ve got.’

    Behind this counter Danny could see several big signs that boldly stated: “POTIONS NOW HALF PRICE – FOR A LIMITED TIME ONLY!” in brightly coloured letters. It reminded her of the billboards in the shops of the high street – if the high street signs were made of cardboard and were covered in icky dust, that was.

    ‘Well,’ Talbot said, poking up into sight once more. He set some spherical objects down on the table – metal ones that were red and white. ‘At least they were nice enough not to take all the Pokeballs for themselves, I guess.’

    Danny tilted her head, her brow furrowing. Not these weird names again. ‘Poke… balls?’

    ‘That’s right.’ Talbot nodded. He tossed one of the balls to Danny and pointed at it. ‘They’re used to capture and contain Pokemon.’

    Danny looked down at the ball in her hand – still slightly cool from being exposed to the air for a very long time. There was a button on what she guessed to be the front of the sphere too. ‘How do you make it work?’

    Talbot dug into a pocket on his coat and pulled out another sphere, this one pink with what resembled a heart on it. ‘Like this,’ he said and pointed the ball at Wigglytuff. ‘Wigglytuff, return.’

    All of a sudden the ball began whistling and a red beam shot out from the button. It hit Wigglytuff and began to dissolve her until she was a silhouette of red light. Then the red light drew back – taking Wigglytuff with it.

    Danny stepped back a bit. ‘W-Where did Wigglytuff go?’ she asked. ‘Is she going to be okay?’

    ‘Everything is perfectly fine,’ Talbot said, fluttering his free hand in an attempt to calm her down. ‘Look, I’ll just bring her back out.’

    He pressed the button with his thumb and the Pokeball grew in size to that of a large baseball. Then he threw it towards the ground, where it bounced and hovered in the air. Then it unhinged and a burst of white light filled the room before it took the familiar shape of Wigglytuff.

    And there she was – fully formed, no injuries or signs of being terrorised by being shut in a tiny sphere in the middle of the floor, beaming happily at Danny. ‘Yoom-tah!’

    Danny was dumbfounded. Nobody had ever told her that stuff like this existed. Not her teachers, not the guards, not her friends and not even her Mom and Dad.

    ‘Danny?’ It was Talbot again. He was frowning. ‘Are you okay?’

    ‘I’m okay,’ Danny said, shuffling her feet. ‘My feet still hurt a bit, that’s all.’

    ‘I’m not surprised, your feet took quite a thrashing back there,’ Talbot said before diving underneath the counter again to scout for more goodies. ‘You’re more than welcome to sit outside for a while – Wigglytuff will keep an eye out for trouble so you’ll be in good hands.’

    The first thing Danny did when she got outside was sit down with her back against the glass walls, dropping the walking stick by her side. It didn’t take long for Wigglytuff to join her and the two of them spend a good five minutes taking in their surroundings. But as quiet as Danny was, there was a hurricane of questions building up in her mind – and she was fairly sure that it would take forever to get them all answered. Why had she not known about any of this before? Surely if a place like this existed as part of Unova, then the grownups would’ve known that this place was here, right?


    There was a noise. A familiar noise to be exact. Wigglytuff jumped up immediately, whipping around frantically.


    Danny’s fist clenched as she spotted it – a flash of purple clashing with the tarmac just a few feet away from where she was sitting. The creature was sitting down, its tail waving back and forth. Danny gritted her teeth and scowled. ‘You again.’

    The monster licked its lips – just as it had done when it was preparing to steal Danny’s remaining croissant. Its big eyes were half closed – it looked as smug as Matt after he’d won an argument with her. ‘Mr-ow,’ it said, purring softy as it rose to stand on all fours. ‘Meow.’

    ‘Yoom!’ Wigglytuff barked from beside Danny, now standing firmly like a guard ready to arrest someone. ‘Yoom-TAH!’

    The monster rolled its eyes and tutted sharply, clearly not caring what Wigglytuff had said one bit. ‘Mr-ow.’

    Wigglytuff’s face quickly turned to a deep shade of red, her cheeks puffing up slightly. Danny scrambled to her feet and backed off. If Wigglytuff was going to blow up, then she didn’t want to be close enough to hear her go bang. Popping balloons always scared her.

    The monster threw its head back and laughed as Wigglytuff grew redder and redder. It stuck out its tongue at her as it giggled, taunting her like a small child, and this was when Danny realised that the purple monster had crossed the line.

    All of a sudden Talbot’s pokemon became someone else – up until now she had been nothing but nice and friendly – but as she roared and ploughed into the tiny purple monster Danny noticed that the look on her face had shifted into a furious glare. The monster had changed too, once wide-eyed and cute, this little creature was now a ball of hissing, spitting fury.

    For a handful of seconds Danny could only watch as Wigglytuff put the monster in its place, the sheer force of her body sending the howling creature flying across the tarmac, but it wasn’t enough to ward the monster off. Instead the monster raised its haunches and hissed, fur on its back brisling and gleaming claws bared, sharp and hook-like. Then it flung itself back towards Wigglytuff, more than ready to return the attack as a flying purple blur fuelled by anger.

    What’s going on out there?’ It was Talbot, rushing out from the Pokemon Center. He had a flat pink backpack underarm, sealed in a plastic bag. His eyes met the purple monster as it landed on Wigglytuff’s face and started slashing at it. Wigglytuff yowled and began shaking her head rapidly, eventually flinging it off and flinching as she rubbed the red scratch marks on her cheeks. Talbot tensed up immediately. ‘Wigglytuff, stop that Purrloin with Sing!’

    Wigglytuff snapped to attention and inhaled, puffing up with air. Then she opened her mouth and a surprisingly melodic tune filled the air. It was like a lullaby, and Danny couldn’t keep a yawn from escaping her throat.

    ‘Stay awake,’ Talbot urged, squeezing Danny’s shoulder. ‘This is important, take a look at the Purrloin.’

    A Purrloin? Was that what the purple monster was known as? Danny turned to see what was happening and found that the Purrloin was no better at staying awake than she was. It yawned very much so like she had and teetered, falling to the tarmac and curling up into a ball.

    ‘Good job, Wigglytuff,’ Talbot said to Wigglytuff, smiling ever so slightly. He turned his attention back to Danny. ‘See that Pokeball in your hand?’

    Danny had completely forgotten that she was still holding the ball. ‘Yes?’

    ‘I want you to throw it at that Purrloin.’

    Danny’s grip on the ball tightened. ‘Won’t that hurt it?’

    Talbot shook his head. ‘Not at all,’ he said. ‘Try it.’

    Danny took a deep breath then lobbed the ball towards the Purrloin. The ball spun as it flew across the air, whistling ever so slightly. It struck the sleeping creature firmly on the head and flung open, sucking the Purrloin up and turning it into red light. The ball then landed on the ground with a soft thud, shaking once, then twice and then drawing to a halt while producing a loud ping.

    There was a moment of stillness that followed after this, and it was only broken when Talbot finally put a hand on his hip and said, ‘That was a nice throw, kid.’

    A nervous smile spread across Danny’s face. ‘T-Thank you.’

    ‘Well,’ Talbot continued, gesturing to the ball. ‘You’d better pick it up before someone else comes along.’ He chuckled gruffly. ‘I’d be pretty mad if some looters got their hands on your first Pokemon before you did.’

    Danny’s arm was halfway reaching towards the Pokeball when Talbot’s words finally sunk in. ‘My first Pokemon?’

    Talbot nodded. ‘Yeah,’ he said. ‘You caught it – so that means that the Purrloin officially belongs to you now.’

    ‘Oh,’ Danny murmured, her fingers making contact with the metal surface. The ball was still slightly warm, so holding it wasn’t an issue. But she kept her eyes fixated on the pokeball. There was something inside it now – a living, breathing creature – and all of a sudden it felt to Danny like the ball had gotten heavier – even if it was merely her mind playing tricks on her.

    ‘We’ll have to get your Purrloin healed up before we move on,’ Talbot said as he tore the plastic bag apart. ‘Most of the medicines in the Center will be useless – the fluids inside dried up years ago – but I’m sure I’ve got some berries that’ll wake it up.’ He flashed her a quick nod. ‘Now, let’s get you geared and ready to travel.’

    . . .​

    Danny couldn’t say that today hadn’t been interesting. Talbot and Wigglytuff had been very kind to her so far. The backpack fit like a glove on her shoulders and upon scouring the mart a second time Talbot found a pair of socks that were not only thick enough to keep her feet protected, but also covered her lower legs quite a fair bit. Needless to say, Danny felt like she was a bit safer outside now.

    In addition to the backpack, the three of them were also able to locate a blanket that had been spared the wrath of the elements by being sealed in a plastic box under the counter (‘I saw that earlier,’ Talbot explained while bunching the blanket up so that he could fold it properly. ‘I was just focussing on getting you a backpack first.’), as well as a torch and a few other supplies that would be handy for surviving in what Talbot called “the wilderness”.

    This was all fine and good. But Danny wasn’t completely satisfied. She was going to have to ask Talbot the question sooner or later, and she got her chance when the three of them exited the Pokemon Center for the last time that day. ‘We’re heading north to Route 2 next,’ Talbot said as he shielded his eyes, head tilted towards the sun. ‘If we move now, then we’ll be able to find a good place to set up camp before the sun slips below the horizon.’

    Danny blinked slowly. ‘Is that how we’re going to get back to New Castelia?’

    A thick silence fell upon Talbot while Wigglytuff’s ears pricked, tense and straight. This tension was so thick that if Danny had a knife, then she was fairly certain she could slice it in half, it felt that solid. ‘I’m…’ Talbot cleared his throat, grinding his teeth together. ‘I’m not sure,’ he said. ‘But there should be other ways to enter the city.’

    Danny reached over and tugged his hand. ‘Are you scared that the guards won’t like you?’

    Talbot swallowed and nodded weakly. ‘You could say that, yes.’

    ‘Don’t worry,’ Danny said, offering him a warm smile. ‘I can just say to the guards that you’re helping me get back home.’

    ‘… Yeah,’ Talbot whispered. ‘Yeah, sure – if you can do that, then I’ll try not to feel so nervous when we meet them, all right?’

    ‘Okay,’ Danny replied before turning to Wigglytuff. ‘Thanks for keeping me safe back there,’ she said. ‘I’ll try my best to make it up to you at some point – that’s what my Mom wants me to do.’

    Wigglytuff patted her shoulder. ‘Yoom-tah.’

    And so the three of them started their trek – this time with more intention than before. Last night Danny had been wandering about in the unknown, but as she clutched the pokeball containing her new Purrloin in her little fingers, she knew that she certainly didn’t feel half as scared as she was before. She was going to get home eventually – it would just take longer than she’d expected, but she was sure that Talbot and Wigglytuff would protect her from danger.

    She offered a glance over her shoulder as they left the ruins of Accumula Town, knowing fully well that she would probably never see it again, and brought the pokeball to her chest as if it were one of her teddy bears that she’d never, ever let go of.

    At least she didn’t have to face all of this alone.

    . . .​

    The following night was a far cry from Danny’s first in this strange new place. She’d walked for what felt like forever yesterday, rushed and scared, but now she was with Talbot she found that time was moving much faster. Before she knew it, the group had gone from entering Accumula all the way to stopping for the night within ten minutes, and thanks to Wigglytuff she didn’t have to use her feet so much. They still felt slightly sore, though.

    Camp was set up under cover this time. The two of them had found a run-down house just north of Accumula and while the door had long since collapsed, the roof was still mostly in one piece. ‘This is very good,’ Talbot told Danny as they unpacked their things. ‘If it rains then we won’t have to worry about staying dry.’

    It made sense and Danny didn’t want to argue with him about it. She had been caught out in the rain once about a year ago and she’d ended up being soaked to the bone. It didn’t help that it had been the middle of winter that day, and so every layer of clothing her mother had helped her with to keep warm felt like cold, soggy blankets. She rubbed her fingers against her palms – she never wanted to feel that wet ever again.

    Most of the late afternoon was spent watching life go by through the permanently open doorway. It was almost like watching TV to Danny, only here, instead of watching a cartoon or the news, she was watching real things right before her eyes. There were other pokemon outside – a whole bunch of them came soaring across the sky in huge groups – grey birds with white chests – producing a bunch of birdsong. And then there were these smaller pokemon shuffling about in the grass – one kind being a small beige coloured rat with striking red and yellow eyes, while the other was an incredibly fluffy dog.

    The dog pokemon was usually on its own, or in small groups of twos and threes, while the rat pokemon were always usually seen in high numbers. Danny pointed to one of these rodents as they came by, watching them running through the knee-high grass and talking to each other in squeaks. ‘What are those, Talbot?’

    ‘Those?’ Talbot asked back, gesturing to the rodents. ‘Those are Patrat – you’ll find them all over the place down here.’

    Then Danny pointed to the small group of dogs, who were rooting about at the base of a tree with their noses sniffing at the grass. ‘And those?’

    ‘Lillipup,’ Talbot said. ‘They’re just as common.’

    Danny blinked. ‘Should we catch a few of them?’ she asked. ‘We’ll be safer if we have more monsters, right?’

    ‘That’s a smart idea in theory,’ Talbot said, bringing out an open bag of jerky. ‘But in practice it’s a little bit more complicated. It’ll mean more mouths to feed in the long run.’ He took out a couple of pieces and handed her one. ‘Plus more time scavenging for extra supplies,’ he added between bites. ‘And less time to find cover before nightfall.’
    Last edited: Feb 24, 2018
  9. Samayouru

    Samayouru Rabid Dusclops Fan

    Danny was in the middle of chewing another piece of jerky when she felt the spherical pokeball press against her arm. Her jaw stopped working and she swallowed, licking her lower lip to clean away any scraps that had managed to escape. Of course, how could she have forgotten so soon? She owned a monster now – just like Talbot did – a much smaller one, but the fact still stood. She plucked the pokeball from the pockets of her dress and grasped it tightly, rubbing the warm surface with her thumb.

    Talbot leant forward from his perch – a fallen beam whose jagged edges were frayed and teeth-like. The floor whined quietly underneath his weight. ‘That reminds me – do you wanna wake your Purrloin up now?’

    If Danny’s fingers weren’t already tightly clasping Purrloin’s pokeball, then they would’ve been trembling. She nodded quickly, eyes bright and ready. ‘Yes.’

    ‘Okay then.’ Talbot whistled to Wigglytuff, who turned from her post on guard duty, and pointed his thumb towards his backpack, which was closer to her than him. ‘Wigglytuff, would you find my Berry Pouch for me?’

    She did so, eventually pulling out a much larger and lumpier-looking leather bag from one of the side pockets. Wigglytuff bounced over and handed it to her owner with an eager ‘Yoom-tah.’

    ‘Thank you,’ Talbot said, waving to her thankfully as she returned to keeping watch, glancing at Purrloin’s pokeball as he undid the strings and rummaged through the bag. ‘Now, do you remember what I told you about pokeballs this morning?’

    Danny furrowed her brow and bit her lip. The memories of the past few hours ran through her mind one after the other. Witnessing Wigglytuff singing Purrloin to sleep, tossing the ball at Purrloin’s curled-up form.

    And then it hit her – the lesson about sending a pokemon out.

    She tossed the ball softly, listening as it whistled and broke open, releasing Purrloin in an explosion of light. She was still curled up, even as her fur made contact with the cold, wooden floorboards that if Danny had suddenly found herself sleeping against, would’ve jolted awake in seconds. By then Talbot had set the bag aside. He gestured to the berry he’d picked out – a blue and brown one that looked like it had very thick skin. ‘One bite of this and your Purrloin will be wide awake.’

    Danny fiddled with the fronds of her dress. One bite? Seriously? Purrloin looked fast asleep and it looked like it was going to take a lot to get the cat pokemon to even stir. Somehow, as she watched Talbot tear the berry in half, she couldn’t help but think that it wasn’t going to work.

    Talbot tossed the half and it landed just shy of Purrloin’s nose. At first nothing happened. Danny rolled her eyes and opened her mouth to state the obvious, but then the sound of huffing breaths drew her attention away. Purrloin’s nose was twitching rapidly, and after several moments of this, the eyelids began to flicker, drawing back to see wide pupils focussing on the scent of the berry.

    The cat pokemon then slowly uncurled, reaching towards the berry with one of its paws and snatched it, shovelling the fruit into its mouth and chewing quickly.

    ‘There you go,’ Talbot said, grinning. ‘There should be a little rectangle on the back of the ball somewhere – press it.’

    Danny turned the pokeball around and scanned the surface, eventually making out the shape Talbot had described on the top half. She pushed her thumb against it and heard a sharp click before the rectangle flipped up like a hatch. It had been hiding a tiny screen that flashed for a minute, then lit up with another blue rectangle in the centre. White text began to appear in fairly smart letters and Danny mouthed them as they spelled out several words:



    LEVEL: 5

    Danny looked back at Talbot. ‘What does “Level” mean?’

    Talbot shrugged. ‘It was something people used to grade pokemon a long time ago.’

    This wasn’t really a very helpful explanation to Danny. ‘Why’s that?’

    ‘It made things easier for people to gauge how strong their pokemon were,’ Talbot replied while Purrloin got to its – no, her, if the little “F” meant that she was a girl – paws. ‘It was just useful for trainers to know how strong their pokemon had to be before going into battle, that’s all.’

    Danny ran a hand through her hair and sighed. ‘That sounds really, really weird.’

    Talbot pressed on his knees as he stood up. ‘Sure is,’ he said and folded his arms. ‘Now, why don’t you introduce yourself to your new pokemon properly?’

    Danny didn’t think twice. She outstretched her hand to Purrloin in an attempt to touch her head. ‘Hi there.’

    ‘No!’ Talbot jerked forward but he wasn’t quick enough to stop her. Her fingers came into contact with Purrloin’s ears and the little cat pokemon suddenly jumped up on two legs, hissing and swiping while her fur bristled. Danny screamed as stinging pain shot through her arm and she shrank back, clutching herself. Purrloin staggered back and bolted to the corner furthest away from the two of them, growling and snarling at her furiously.

    The child brought her arm away from her chest and the first thought that came to her head was the colour red. Lots and lots of red, smeared in thin rosettes across her arm and running down her skin in thick droplets. ‘I got blood!’ she wailed as tears burst from her eyes.

    Talbot sighed and calmly turned to Wigglytuff as she bounced over to see what was wrong. ‘Wigglytuff, could you fetch me some more bandages?’

    More pain, more of that horrible clear liquid that made Danny scream even more and of course, more wounds that needed to be kept clean and safe. By the time Talbot finally tied the knot on the bandages wrapped around her arm, Danny resembled someone who was in hospital. ‘You can’t just do that,’ Talbot told her firmly as he put the remaining bandages away. ‘Purrloin is still feral – she’s nothing like Wigglytuff right now.’

    To Danny, he sounded more like her father after he’d caught her doing something wrong. She pouted and kept her gaze focussed on the floor, too humiliated to say anything back.

    ‘I think it would be better if we all got some rest,’ Talbot continued, watching Purrloin still hunched over at the edge of the wall. ‘This will set her back a little bit – now she thinks she has a reason not to trust you at all.’

    Danny folded her arms without thinking and winced as a jolt of pain ran up her arm again. ‘I don’t think she’ll ever like me.’

    ‘Give it time,’ Talbot said as he unfurled the blankets. ‘You just need to be patient – your Purrloin will forgive you eventually, you just have to play by her rules for a little while, that’s all.’

    Danny rolled her eyes as she settled down for the night. She kept her gaze on Purrloin’s huddled form until she drifted off, absolutely certain that there was no way she was ever going to make friends with the little fur ball.

    During the night Danny could’ve sworn that she’d heard someone calling her name, and when she woke she was fairly sure that she’d been shivering in her sleep. But then again, it had probably been nothing more than a strange dream or a nightmare, either one was completely logical.

    . . .​

    Things didn’t improve for Danny in the couple of days that followed. In fact she eventually became certain that the Purrloin not only disliked her – but absolutely hated every bone in her body. The scratch that ran down Danny’s knuckles was only the beginning. It soon grew to a small collection, and by the end of her fourth day in the world below New Castelia both arms were covered in scrapes that crisscrossed her skin with red, painful lines.

    The only plus side was that it didn’t take long for her feet to improve. What had started out as a staggering limp soon regressed, reducing to a slight hitch in her step. The walking stick helped out a lot and at least Danny didn’t have to worry about keeping up the same pace as Talbot or Wigglytuff, even if they were going much slower for her sake.

    But for every silver lining there was a humongous, overly-bloated dark cloud. While Danny’s feet recovered, it felt like everything else was changing in response to them. Her once brilliantly pink dress soon became coated in spatters of dirt and her little shoes lost their lustrous glitter, becoming caked in layers of mud. Danny was certain that if she returned to her parents right then and there, in the sorry state she was in, they would be furious to see that she had become so dirty, and would probably be forced to have a bath and be sent to bed without supper (that’s what they did to Matt if he tracked mud into the house, though he’d been told millions of times before that he wasn’t supposed to do it in the first place).

    To make matters worse, Danny was now starting to recognise another feeling, one that she was slightly more familiar with: the unrelenting pang of homesickness. It was slight at first – the new world still had much to offer her to keep her mind occupied – but it soon grew, billowing in her chest like steam.

    It didn’t take long for Talbot to pick up on this either. It was mostly thanks to Wigglytuff, who had gone from helping her owner set up and take down camp, to sitting down beside Danny, rubbing her back with her stubby paws.

    They had moved back into the woods when Talbot asked the question that Danny both wanted and dreaded to hear. They were in the middle of setting everything up for another night under the stars at the time, and Talbot had been making use of what they could find to make the new camp as comfy as possible for themselves.

    ‘Danny?’ he began, dropping the branches he’d been gathering to start another campfire. ‘Is everything okay?’

    ‘Yeah,’ Danny said, not even trying to lift her head to look him directly in the eye. It was a bald-faced lie and she knew it. She’d do anything to breathe in the scent of Mom’s freshly-baked goods again, it was better than eating beef jerky nearly every day. ‘I’m fine.’

    Talbot folded his arms. ‘Are you thinking about your family?’

    This time Danny did look up at him. ‘I miss them a lot.’

    ‘Yoom,’ Wigglytuff said, shuffling closer so that she could touch Danny’s shoulder. ‘Yoom-tah.’

    Talbot rubbed the back of his neck. ‘Do you want to talk about them?’

    Danny sighed deeply. She expected to suddenly burst into tears and spray Talbot with a gush of snivelling words. But her throat felt as rigid as a pipe, and no tears glimmered in the corner of her tired eyes. ‘I wanna go home,’ she whispered. ‘My Mom and Dad and my brother are going to be worried about me and I’m scared that I’ll never see them again.’

    Talbot nodded. ‘It’s okay to feel like this,’ he said, kneeling down to her level. ‘I… I still get homesick every now and then, too.’

    Danny raised an eyebrow. She hadn’t heard anything about Talbot’s family before. She reached for Talbot’s jacket, tugging at the sleeves. ‘What’s your family like?’

    Talbot shuffled his feet against the grass and glanced at Wigglytuff. ‘I had a family once,’ he said hesitantly, rubbing his index fingers together. ‘I was a father,’ he offered Danny a shaky smile. ‘My daughter would’ve liked you – she’d do a much better job of helping you tame Purrloin than I am right now.’ He looked up towards the sinking sun. ‘And speaking of which – why don’t we try and see if we can get your pokemon to behave for once?’

    Danny hissed through her teeth and glanced down at the scratches on her arms. Here we go again. She slowly took Purrloin’s pokeball and dropped it, watching as the light took the form of what Danny now considered to be the devil incarnate. She didn’t reach out a hand, or even say hello this time, instead her lips pressed together tightly, not even daring to twitch.

    Purrloin didn’t appear to be in a rush either. The first thing she did once the light faded from her fur was yawn and fall to all fours, scratching behind one of her ears with a hind leg. She was as indifferent as indifference could be.

    ‘She’s improving,’ Talbot remarked, digging into his backpack. ‘Look – she’s much calmer than before, and grooming herself is a sign that she doesn’t think there’s any danger around.’

    Danny didn’t respond, she didn’t even want to breathe in case the Purrloin decided that even that was enough to want to attack her.

    There was a crinkly sound. It was Talbot bringing out another small pack of jerky. Purrloin’s ears pricked up and her nose began to quiver. ‘Mrow,’ she turned to Talbot, returning to standing on two feet. ‘Mr-ow.’

    The corner of Talbot’s mouth lifted into a smirk. He lifted the bag of jerky. ‘You want some?’

    Purrloin took a step forward, eyes bright. ‘Meow.’

    Talbot’s smirk grew back into a sly grin and he chucked the bag, sending it flying in Danny’s direction. She gasped and reached out instinctively, her fingers just grazing the bag before it landed at her feet. Purrloin whipped around to meet Danny directly in the eye, tail swaying back and forth. Danny tilted her head. She’d been in this situation before just a few days ago, when this little brat had managed to steal her croissant. She turned back to Talbot, frowning. ‘What do I do with this?’

    ‘Simple,’ Talbot said calmly. ‘You bribe her with it.’

    Danny pursed her lips, her hands hovering over the packet of jerky. Purrloin was still focussing on her and her movements, staring expectantly and clearly waiting to be fed. Her ears twitched when Danny’s grasp on the bag tightened and her pupils followed it as she brought it to her chest.

    ‘You’ve got her attention,’ Talbot continued. ‘Now, open the bag.’

    Danny did, and as she did so Purrloin took a step forward.

    Talbot leaned forward. ‘Take a piece and show it to her.’

    Danny’s frown grew bigger. ‘She’ll just snatch it from me when I’m not looking at her.’

    Talbot shook his head. ‘Trust me on this.’

    Danny looked to the bag of jerky, then back to Purrloin, and reached with shaky fingers to pick a small piece of dried meat. Purrloin’s irises grew slightly and she took another couple of steps forward. Danny’s mouth was quicker than her nerves and before she could think properly she had taken the jerky in one hand and pointed to Purrloin with the other. ‘No!’

    Purrloin shifted, falling back to all fours and flattening her ears. She hissed, the fur on her back rising.

    Danny’s heart sank. This wasn’t working at all.

    But then Purrloin changed. Her ears were still flat and she refused to move, but the fur on her back fell and she stopped hissing, changing her position so that she was sitting in front of Danny. For just a brief moment the expectant expression in her eyes wavered, and Danny could’ve sworn that she’d seen Purrloin’s mouth twist into a nervous frown.

    ‘All right,’ Talbot said after a few seconds had passed. ‘You can give her the jerky now.’

    Danny slowly placed the scrap of meat on the grass and it was gone almost as quickly as it had come into contact with the grass. Purrloin stuffed the entire piece into her mouth and chewed with the speed of someone who’d been starved for weeks and for a while her defiance faded, her lids sinking over her eyes as she started to purr.

    ‘You see?’ Talbot chuckled. ‘That’s how you get a pokemon to do what you want it to.’

    Danny tilted her head. ‘But what happens when we run out of things to feed it?’

    ‘Simple,’ Talbot replied. ‘By then you should’ve gained its trust enough for them to follow you of their own free will.’

    Danny lowered her head. ‘That’ll probably never happen to Purrloin.’

    Talbot reached out to touch her shoulder. ‘Don’t worry, it will happen someday,’ he said calmly. ‘Like I told you the other night: you just have to be patient with some pokemon – they’ve got minds of their own too.’

    Danny didn’t doubt that – Wigglytuff in her opinion was almost like Mom with the way she acted. But as she watched Purrloin polish off the last of the beef jerky she’d been awarded, Danny was fairly sure that the little cat pokemon was only going to tolerate her as long as she could feed it.

    . . .​

    Something Danny did not expect happened on the fifth day. So far the four of them had only encountered other wild pokemon, but up until then, they had not actually encountered any other people. They were on the outskirts of Striation when it happened, wandering amongst a trail of rubble leading up to the neglected tarmac.

    ‘The Pokemon Centre here should have better supplies,’ Talbot was telling Danny at that moment. ‘Striaton’s much bigger than Accumula so there’s a good chance that there’ll be richer pickings everywhere.’

    Danny gnawed at her lip. ‘And what if everything’s gone?’

    Talbot shrugged. ‘If not, then we keep going, that’s all there is to it.’

    It was Wigglytuff who noticed the grownup first. Her ears perked up, as straight as toy soldiers, and her eyes grew as she sucked in a large breath. ‘Yoom,’ she barked and drew another breath. By now she was at least twice the size she truly was. Danny backed away from her as she had done in Accumula, hoping that she wasn’t going to go bang.

    Talbot’s eyebrows knotted together. ‘Wigglytuff, what’s the matter?’ and then he turned to see the newcomer for himself. He froze, his irises shrinking as his arm reached out to stop Danny from walking forward.

    Danny halted, mere inches away from Talbot’s large palms and looked up at him. ‘What’s happening?’

    But Talbot raised a finger to his mouth. ‘Stay calm,’ he said. ‘Let me do the talking, all right?’

    Danny gritted her teeth, then looked to the approaching wanderer and then darted her eyes back to Talbot, her abdomen tightening. She nodded wordlessly and stepped back, while Wigglytuff jumped forward, back arched and growling.

    The grownup in the distance drew closer and after a while Danny began to see exactly why Talbot was acting so careful. The first thing Danny noticed about this man was the makeshift face mask tied around his head – it was a red handkerchief that covered most of the lower half of his face. Danny’s skin broke out into gooseflesh – anybody who did that in New Castelia was bad news – she remembered the teachers telling kids in her class about people like him. According to them, it was to do with hiding their looks (the word the teachers had used was “identity” or something like that), and this was usually so that they could do bad things without getting caught.

    This guy certainly looked the part – scruffy and dirty, wearing clothes that appeared in desperate need of some repairs, having been torn at the ends. One of the lenses in the sunglasses shielding his eyes had shattered, but still managed to hold its shape, and Danny’s chest tightened when he stopped walking. He offered a short wave with the other hand and spoke in a gravelly voice. ‘Hey there.’

    Talbot didn’t respond verbally, but instead offered a curt nod to the newcomer.

    ‘Nice day today, isn’t it?’ the newcomer continued. ‘Going somewhere important?’

    This time Talbot did respond. ‘Keep moving,’ he said with the firmness of one of the guards in New Castelia. ‘We have no business with you.’

    The hairs on Danny’s neck rose. She didn’t like this one bit.

    The grownup stepped back, but maintained eye contact with Talbot. ‘Hey, no need to be so defensive,’ he said, the folds of his mask creasing so that Danny could just make out the faint outline of a grin. He leaned over and she suddenly found herself staring him directly in the face, making her blood run cold. ‘And you’ve got a little lady with you, too.’

    Danny shrank back and Wigglytuff’s growls swelled in volume. Talbot’s fingers tensed.

    ‘She’s my daughter,’ he said firmly. ‘Now, if you don’t mind, we’ll be on our way.’ He beckoned to Danny. ‘Come on, take my hand.’

    Danny didn’t have to be told twice. She gave him her hand and his fingers closed around her palms. The chills didn’t go away though – she could feel the grownup’s eyes burning into the back of her neck.

    Then Talbot glanced at Wigglytuff. ‘Let’s go, Wigglytuff.’

    Still growling, Wigglytuff obliged. She clearly had no intention of deflating either, and ended up bouncing at a steady pace rather than her usual stroll.

    And then, five seconds later, in the calmest tone Danny had heard him use yet, Talbot ordered: ‘Wigglytuff, use Rollout.’

    Quick as a whip, Wigglytuff flipped around and charged, barrelling with the speed and fervency of a bullet. Danny had about five seconds to look over her shoulder to watch as the balloon pokemon ploughed into the man, who had changed direction and had been trailing behind them, frozen mid-sprint when the balloon pokemon came into contact with him. Talbot stopped when he heard Wigglytuff hit the grownup’s abdomen, signalled with a sickening crack, followed by an ear-splitting howl from the man as he was pushed to the floor. Something fell from his right hand – long and silver – though Danny couldn’t tell what it was before it too fell to the grass.

    ‘Stay here,’ Talbot said to Danny, pointing to her feet, then he slid a hand into one of his pockets and strode over to the grownup. Wigglytuff, who had been keeping guard over him, turned and bounded over to Talbot, who gave her a firm pat on the head. ‘Good girl,’ he said. ‘Now go and keep Danny company while I sort this all out, all right?’

    Wigglytuff nodded. ‘Yoom-tah,’ she chirruped before doing as she was told, offering Danny a kindly smile as she approached.

    The grownup was coughing – and it wasn’t the sort of cough that Danny would hear when her parents or brother had a cold. This one was a strained cough – the kind that someone would make after being strangled or drowning, and had barely escaped with their life. Danny faltered, reaching for Purrloin’s pokeball while glancing at Wigglytuff. All of a sudden Purrloin’s scratches didn’t seem so painful anymore, not when compared to what Wigglytuff was clearly capable of.

    Talbot knelt down and picked up the item the grownup had dropped. He narrowed his eyes, tutting sharply. ‘You don’t even have a pokemon?’ he didn’t wait for the man to answer. ‘Typical.’ Then he pointed the object at him. ‘Consider yourself very lucky. If we ever cross paths again, I will not hesitate to finish you before you’ve even set eyes upon the girl.’

    The grownup didn’t respond at first, he was too busy curing up into foetal position and cringing, clutching his abdomen and gasping for air. But he eventually looked up into Talbot’s face with watery eyes and whispered: ‘**** you,’ in a strained, hoarse voice.

    Danny didn’t get time to see what the object was, for Talbot had pocketed it before returning to her and his pokemon. ‘Why did you do that?’ she asked as Talbot took her by the hand.

    ‘He’s a looter,’ Talbot said. ‘Not a very good one, mind you, but he still would’ve taken everything we had if I hadn’t set Wigglytuff on him.’

    Danny glanced over her shoulder once again, the grownup now quite tiny in the distance. He was still on the ground, though. ‘Why did he take so much interest in me, though?’

    Talbot’s expression didn’t change, but his grip on her hand tightened firmly. ‘You don’t need to worry about that.’

    Danny opened her mouth to ask why again, but soon closed it. She had the nagging feeling that, from staring into Talbot’s stern face, it was probably better that she didn’t find out.


    AUTHOR'S NOTE: This was originally last year's April Fools' chapter. It's so cheesy I just didn't have the heart to get rid of it so here it is.


    The following night was a far cry from Danny’s first in this strange new place. She had been walking for what felt like an eternity yesterday, and while the day had been eventful, it had been nowhere near as harrowing on her legs (even if they still felt a little bit numb).

    Camp was set up under cover this time. The two of them had found a run-down cottage just north of Accumula and while the door had long since collapsed, the roof was still mostly in one piece. ‘This is good,’ Talbot told Danny as they unpacked their belongings. ‘If it rains then we won’t have to worry about staying dry.’

    It made sense and Danny didn’t want to question it. She had been caught out in the rain once about a year ago and she’d ended up being soaked to the bone. It didn’t help that it had been the middle of winter that day, and so every layer of clothing her mother had helped her with to keep warm felt like cold, soggy blankets. It wasn’t something she particularly wanted to experience again.

    Danny was in the middle of chewing another piece of jerky when she felt the spherical pokeball press against her arm. She stopped chewing and swallowed. Of course, she owned a monster now – just like Talbot did. She plucked it from the pockets of her dress and grasped it tightly, rubbing the warm surface with her thumb. ‘I wouldn’t worry about Purrloin tonight,’ Talbot said. ‘You look exhausted, and I think things would go a bit smoother once you’ve gotten some shut-eye.’

    Danny yawned. Talbot was right – maybe it was time to go to bed. She laid down on her back, facing the ceiling and staring at it absentmindedly while clutching the pokeball, cuddling it as if it were a soft toy. It was the first thing she remembered when she settled down – and it was the last thing she remembered touching when she finally drifted off into a dreamless sleep.

    . . .​

    Danny woke up, opening her sapphire blue eyes that were like pools of liquid. She had just had the weirdest dream ever where she was a little girl travelling with a man in a faraway region. She yawned and rubbed her eyes “What time is it?” she said and looked at her clock. “Oh no!” she said “I am late!” and then she got out of bed and got dressed.

    And then she remembered that her name wasn’t Danny. Of course, how could she forget her name? Her real name was Ashley Waterflower Ketchum and today she was going to get her first pokemon and go on an adventure to become a pokemon master, just like her father.

    Ashley put on a jet black shirt with red sleeves and it had the word Slipknot on it. Slipknot was her favourite band and everybody else in Pallet Town thought she was weird because of it and everyone hated her because she was a goth (AN: this is to make Ashley a better character so she is not a mary sue because she has problems, ok?). She put on fishnets, black lipstick, white foundation, black eyeliner, combat boots and a black miniskirt that was all torn at the ends. She was finally ready to go and get a pokemon!

    “Hi Ashley!” her mom said when she came downstairs. Ashley’s mom used to be a gym leader until she met her dad. “Are you ready to get you’re first pokemon?” “Yes,” Ashley said, and then said goodbye to her mom and went outside. Everyone stared at her and gave her nasty looks as she went over to Professor Pine’s lab (AN: Professor Oak is retired in this story and it takes place ten years after the end of the anime that is why he isn’t here anymore). “Hello Ashley” Professor Pine said and he took her over to a table where a pokeball was. “Are you ready to be a pokemon trainer?” “yes” Ashley said. “I want Charmander.” “Charmander is taken.” Professor Pine said. “So is Bulbasaur and Squirtle if you hadn’t been late you could’ve chosen one.”

    “But…” Ashely whimpered, tears gushing down her face. “But I want a pokemon!” “That is why I am giving you this pokemon” Professor Pine said and gave her the pokeball. Ashley opened it and a pokemon came out. It was an Eevee but it had white fur and green eyes instead of brown fur and black eyes. “It is a very special Eevee that’s also shiny” professor Pine said. “It can do fire and water and grass attacks and it can use all the TMs and HMs take very good care of it”.

    “eevee” Eevee said and jumped into Ashely’s arms. “Omg it is so kawaii” she said and thanked the professor and left his lab to start her journey.

    She went to Route 1 when suddenly she saw someone. It was a boy kicking an Articuno! It was a red one with a gold head and it wasn’t blue at all. Ashley knew this boy. His name was Kevin Johnson and he was a bully (AN: it’s true he made fun of me and called me a baby for liking pokemon so screw you Kevin for showing everyone my fanfics at school and laughing at me you’re a jerk!) “YOU’RE SO WEAK!” Kevin screamed meanly. “U COULDN’T EVEN BEAT A CATERPIE!”

    “Hey you leave that Pokemon alone!” Ashley said. “OH YEAH?” Keven screamed. “WHAT R U GONNA DO ABOUT IT?!?!?!?!?!?!?1??!?!?!?!?” “I’ll challenge you to a battle!” Ashley said and sent out Eevee. “HAH!” Kevin shouted and threw a pokeball. “CHARMANDER BEAT THIS KID UP!”

    Kevin’s Charmander came out and it looked sad and miserable and it had scars all over it’s body. “Go Eevee use Hydro Pump!” Ashley said. “EEVEE!” Eevee said and did the move. Charmander cried and collapsed. It was dead. “YOU BICH!” Kevin screamed. “U KILLED MY POKEMON I’LL NEVER FORGIVE YOU FOR THIS!” and then he picked Charmander’s body up and ran away.

    “Are you ok?” Ashley said to the Articuno. The Articuno nodded. “Thank you for saving me from that awful and mean trainer” she said. “My pokeball is on the ground you can take it and I will join you on your quest to become the pokemon master.” “yay” said Eevee and Ashely and so Articuno joined their team and they then went to the first gym and beat Brock’s Onix. “Yay I got my first gym badge!” ashely said and when she got out of the gym she found that everyone in Viridian City was holding a surprise party for her. They had cake and presents and everything for her.

    “omgwtf” Ashley said and she got into a red party dress with black high heels and a necklace with a real ruby on it. Everyone was cheesing her name and she was considered the best trainer ever by the people of Viridian City.

    And so with her new pokemon and her new badge, Ashley went to the next town knowoing that she was destine to be a pokemon master.

    Is it good? Please leave good reviews but no flaming please my teacher told me I was the best in my class so I must be really good because it took me two hours to write this and that’s a really long time to take writing a chapter. I will upload more chapters for my fans soon because I’m super nice.
    Last edited: Feb 24, 2018
  10. Chibi Pika

    Chibi Pika Stay positive

    I wholeheartedly agree! Let’s get this started!

    It’s kind of interesting having a six-year-old protagonist. Initially I thought that chapter 1 was like, her backstory, and then it was going to skip ahead to later in her life. But no we’re going to be following her in this time frame for quite some time, it seems like. I think you did a pretty good job getting into the mindset of a young child. She’s obviously quite overwhelmed by all the stuff she’s going through, but at the same time she bounces back quickly as kids tend to do. I am very much wondering how this is going to end up being a journeyfic though. Definitely not a traditional one!

    And right there in the first chapter we've already got some weird stuff going on with the world. But the narration treats it as business as usual, so you're just reading along, casually taking in all these details and then out of nowhere it hits you like "wait a minute...this is a dystopia, isn't it?"

    oh my god this part destroyed me damn it you're good at setting up suspense frickin hell I think this part took 5 years off the end of my life.

    I like Talbot. He also makes me sad because I suspect something bad happened to his family and that's why he's taken to Danny so much because she reminds him of his daughter. :< At least, I hope I'm wrong. I'm also wondering what his destination is. Seems like he's just a wandering forager, but then, if he's already been to these abandoned cities before, I'd expect them to have already been picked clean...both by himself and the other wanderers. Hmm...

    um. excuse u. does ashley sound like a goffic name to u? NO. shes nothign but a POSER and u r a prep.

    So I just had to take a peek at the old thread and come onnnn...it wasn't THAT horrifying. Pretty clunky and overdone in a lot of places, yeah, but hardly "old shame" material. :p That said, you've gained a lot of polish in just one year! When you said the first one was a disaster, I was expecting something from like four years ago. xD

    But yeah, I'm definitely curious where this will go. It's got a strong atmosphere right now, but I think the plot is yet to come (and I can't just cheat by taking a peek at the old thread to see what the plot is cause you never got that far. curses!)

    Anyway, keep at it!

  11. JX Valentine

    JX Valentine Ever-Discordant

    One of the things that strongly interests me about Gen V fic are the ones that play with the implications of the plot. While the Ghetsis side of Team Plasma was sorta eeeh, the N side was fascinating because it actually pushed us to think about the dynamics between humans and pokémon—and thus, it was one of the few times the thing that the franchise had been building up for over a decade up to that point had been called into question. That very relationship forms the absolute foundations of the franchise's premise, and it takes a lot of creativity to knock that foundation into rubble, to separate humans and pokémon, and to do it well.

    Granted, there's still the lingering question of how exactly your world did it given that there are pokémon that can fly and/or bash down a wall with no problem, but given that Tobias refers to New Castelia as "up there" and that he is highly resistant to the idea of giving Danny a straight answer about whether or not he can get her back there, I have my theories as to why she doesn't seem to know what pokémon are at first.

    But that aside, I honestly love quite a few things about this—but most importantly the characters. (I know. It's always the characters with me, but y'all have to stop writing awesome ones. *fistshake*) Namely, I love the father-daughter dynamic Tobias and Danny have—which, well, turned out to be inherent, given that Tobias is/was actually a father, but still. It's so adorable to see how careful he is around Danny and how he goes out of his way to be the parent she needs right now, with little things like teaching her how to tame Purrloin or assembling her backpack. Even that moment where he defends her from the looter (so calmly and cooly) just paints this picture of Tobias as a papa wolf, and it's wonderful. I guess it's because I'm so used to seeing two traveling companions who are roughly the same age, so a lot of the relationship dynamics—even when platonic—tend to follow certain patterns that this one just dodges completely. But in any case...!

    Then you have Danny, who's real and wonderful. She's a worrywart, obviously sheltered and obviously the good girl, thrust into a journey she neither understands nor would have ever dreamed of taking herself. And most importantly, she's a kid, yet she isn't obnoxious about it. Sure, she's homesick. Sure, she's a bit of a crybaby. But readers are never smacked over the head with either of these parts of her; they're not subjected to constant whining or anything of the sort. When we're reminded of how old and inexperienced Danny is, it just makes sense in the context of the story. And of course, on top of that, there's the fact that she's the chosen one, despite being, you know, a literal little kid who just wants to go home. In short, honestly, I think Danny is utterly fascinating and just works as a protagonist.

    And then, of course, I should mention that I adore the pokémon as well. There's such a wonderful spectrum going on with just the few that we've seen, from the nearly human-like but sweet Wigglytuff (whose constant "yoom-tah"s are adorable, btw) to the utterly feral and animalistic Purrloin. And even Purrloin has flashes of humanity in her, which almost establishes a baseline that elevates pokémon just above the animals we know. In other words, it's interesting to try to figure out exactly how pokémon in your world work, seeing as they've been left to their own devices. And I say this because in canon, pokémon who are left on their own tend to form human-like societies (see: PMD, a number of instances in the anime where pokémon have human-like chats, and so forth), so fanfic tends to fall in line. So it's interesting whenever one that doesn't crops up because then the question becomes "just how sentient are these monsters, and what can we expect from future interactions with them"? Or in short, it's fun. :D

    Finally, the plot itself. As I've noted just a moment ago, I love Danny as a protagonist, as well as the idea that she might come face-to-face with Kyurem on some kinda chosen one quest. But as it stands, it's just fascinating to watch her explore this world because we get so many fun worldbuilding chunks out of it. Every last detail here has been carefully crafted, from the sorts of people that arose from this post-division world to the basic remnants of the world we know. (That entire scene in the pokémon center was almost haunting because here you have a hollowed-out, glass-covered shell of something so familiar, and Tobias is casually explaining a world that's long-since passed as if it's just a fun fact.) But now that Danny's starting to experience homesickness and now that we're getting closer and closer to where the old Castelia had been, it should be fun to see an exploration of her character and a kick-off of the plot proper.

    In other words, it's a fun ride so far, but honestly, I can't wait to see where it goes from here.
  12. DreamSayer

    DreamSayer Name's Adam.

    I’ve read chapter one and I must say that I’m liking it. So far, so good. I liked the somewhat post apocalyptic feel you made for the story. It was really nice.

    This chapter reminded me of why kids shouldn’t be allowed to go to dangerous places. There’s always a chance they’d fall down a hole after getting hit by a cold breeze and never come back.

    You did well in setting a tone throughout the chapter. Especially when Matt got onto the rim and was counting down to thirty. You could really feel the tension in that moment and Danny’s fear of him falling down- something she ended up doing anyway.

    I’ll definitely continue reading the rest of this story. I’m interested to see how things go.
  13. Samayouru

    Samayouru Rabid Dusclops Fan

    Welp it has taken over a month but Chapter 5 is here. I unintentionally ended up making it 17 pages long (21 with the format I use for Serebii Forums). Definitely the longest chapter I've written in my life (and knowing me, it probably won't be the last).

    But first some replies! :D

    Chibi Pika - I am so sorry my story has taken off a few years of your life. I guess I'm going to have to put health and safety warnings on later chapters now. :p

    But seriously I am really glad you like what I'm doing. It makes me happy to know that other people really enjoy reading the things I write and it makes my day. I do intend this to be a slightly different sort of journeyfic in terms of the, er, "formula" shall we put it, that usually pops up with these kinds of fanfics.

    JX Valentine - OHMYGOD SENPAI NOTICED ME!!!!! *fangirls* I wholeheartedly agree with your opinions on Gen V fanfics. When done right they can be interesting and fun. Sure Ghetsis was a flat villain but he wasn't really the focus, he was merely the puppetmaster even if he wasn't as memorable as other villains who do the same thing (porky from MOTHER 3 comes to mind). Of course I've had to think really deeply about how Team Plasma won and what they did after N was made king, but most of it is completely mapped out so I am forbidden from spoiling anything as of now.

    I had to study young children a lot while making Danny so I am pleased people like her. If I had a pound for every person who had whiny kids as protagonists, I'd be very rich indeed. It can work if written well but it's easier said than done. You pretty much summed up how I wanted people to see Talbot (or "Tobias" as you called him xD) as: one big papa wolf who just wants to protect Danny. Then there are your comments about Unova. I actually used the emotions and experiences I felt when I first played a pokemon game. To me, the Johto region was a character itself, and that opinion has stuck with me regardless of the games I'm playing. So of course, I ended up applying this same line of thought to my fanfics.

    Something that really struck me about your review was your comments on the way my pokemon act. Believe it or not, this is also from experience. I have Asperger's Syndrome and a lot of people with the condition actually get along with animals on a far greater scale than most people. The animals I have encountered over the years have all had one thing in common: they are remarkably like us in the ways that they express themselves or how they act. You'd be surprised at how much thankfulness a beetle can show when you help clean hardened mud from its mouth and give it something to drink. They're small things most people don't usually notice and to be able to express these things in the form of writing (especially with a versatile series like Pokemon) is a wonderful gift. Glad you like Balance so far, Jax!

    DreamSayer - Kids are drawn to danger like flies are drawn to honey, it was the perfect sort of setup to get Danny down into the depths of Unova. Thanks for your review! :)



    Striaton was more what Danny had in mind when it came to cities, with skyscrapers that rose up into the sky like firm pillars and the roads were nowhere near as cracked or overflowing with wildlife. But even here amongst familiarity she didn’t feel completely comfortable. While the tall buildings reminded her of New Castelia they were still nothing when compared to the skyscrapers in the high street. They were also caked in layers of dirt and plants that tapered down the structures, covering them with green shawls that swayed in the wind from time to time. Danny thought that they were actually more like skeletons than buildings – empty and scary – who’s only true purpose was to remind her that at one stage people and possibly pokemon had lived in them.

    The group decided to hit the Pokemon Center first. It was their best bet of finding anything that would be of use after all. But alas, as they made their way through the open doors Danny’s heart sank a little bit. The entire place appeared to have been picked clean, right down to the shelves where the potions had been on display. ‘This isn’t surprising,’ Talbot said as he leant over the counter, hoping to find some stray items others could’ve missed. ‘Most scavengers try out their luck here first, but it doesn’t hurt to check – you never know what people might overlook.’

    Danny didn’t respond. She just sat on the edge of the moth-eaten sofas while Wigglytuff stood steadfastly at the doors.

    They were luckier when they entered the back of the building beyond the healing machines. Most of the metal racks which had stored certain medical supplies were completely empty bar one, and on this rack were a couple of unopened packs of bandages and another bottle of the clear liquid Talbot had used on Danny’s injuries. So all in all, it wasn’t a total loss for the group.

    They went on to check a few other places, and yet again they came away with very little. But what few things they got meant Danny was finally going to be able to eat something other than beef jerky, thanks to inspecting some cupboards in one of the few houses that didn’t look like it could fall apart at any second. Miraculously enough, there had been a couple of label less cans hidden away, and Talbot had grinned at her when she’d brought them to him. ‘These cans are in brilliant shape,’ he told her as he ran a finger across the edge of one. ‘You’d be surprised at how long food can last in these things.’

    Danny furrowed her brow. ‘Won’t the food be old and really yucky and gross, though?’

    Talbot shrugged. ‘There’s only one way to find out,’ he said as he packed the cans away. ‘We’ll decide when we’ve got the chance to open them up.’

    Other than the nasty grownup at the edge of the city, there was not a single human soul to be seen. On one hand Danny liked this – she didn’t particularly want to encounter another man like him, and just thinking about how he’d looked at her made her fingers feel cold and sweaty. Yet at the same time she wondered if she’d ever encounter another human like Talbot ever again. It felt so strange to be wandering the streets while being the only people around, especially when Danny was so used to the liveliness of New Castelia.

    It was only natural that she stopped in her tracks when she heard the clack of footsteps against cold concrete. By then they had given up on tackling any other houses and were back on the streets. The clacking was unmistakeable – especially when it was the only sound for what felt to Danny like miles. Talbot must’ve heard it too, because now he had halted while Wigglytuff stood in front of him.

    What met Danny’s eyes when the steps grew closer was a far cry from the man who’d taken a disturbing amount of interest in her. The most obvious thing that stood out was that this person was a woman – a woman dressed in clothes equally as scruffy and well-worn as Talbot’s, with a hand in one pocket and the other holding what appeared to be a rusty pipe. She also appeared to be wearing the remains of a tattered cooking apron around her front, one that was completely covered in dull brown rosettes that Danny assumed to be food stains (or at least she hoped they were just food stains).

    The second thing Danny noticed was that the woman wasn’t alone – perched on her shoulders was an orange monkey that had to be at least half of the six-year old’s height, most likely a pokemon like Purrloin and Wigglytuff. The woman paused when her eyes met Danny and Talbot, her grasp on the pipe slackening ever so slightly. She raised an eyebrow as she passed a glance to her companion. Danny stared at the monkey – its tail and tufts of fur on its head sort of reminded her of the flames from a fire. She gnawed at her lower lip. Did this mean the monkey could use some sort of fire magic like the wizards and dragons in her storybooks?

    The woman lifted a hand to pat her pokemon’s arm, a smirk edging the corner of her mouth. ‘What do you think, Pansear, my boy?’ she asked. ‘Are they a threat or not?’

    Her Pansear chittered and swung down using his owner’s arm as something to hold on to before dropping to the ground. Wigglytuff stepped forward with a stern ‘Yoom-tah,’ and the two stood in front of each other in silence for a few seconds.

    Pansear broke first. ‘Eek,’ he said, casting a mitten-like paw to his owner. ‘Skee, eek.’

    Wigglytuff glanced back to Danny and Talbot, her ears turning like radars. ‘Yoom,’ she responded. ‘Yoom-tah.’

    What followed was about a minute or so of talking between the two pokemon, none of which Danny could understand. Then, with a satisfied smile spreading across the monkey’s face, Pansear returned to his owner’s side, nodding confidently. ‘Ah.’ The woman knelt down so that her pokemon could return to his perch while Wigglytuff bounced back over to Talbot. ‘Well blow me backwards,’ the woman said, rubbing her forehead. ‘It’s been a while since we’ve come across someone who isn’t one of those grubby little looters.’ She smiled and waved to Danny and Talbot. ‘The name’s Gloria – but I like to be called Mustard.’ She spread her arms out. ‘Welcome to Striaton City!’

    Danny scanned Mustard from top to bottom, her lips tightening. Mustard? She had heard some pretty weird nicknames while at school, but to use something you spread on hotdogs? That actually sounded kind of dumb when she thought about it long enough. It wasn’t the weirdest thing she’d seen or heard so far, but she still had a hard time swallowing it.

    Talbot didn’t look very impressed either. He just stood there with his eyes half closed and his arms folded. ‘That’s nice,’ he said nonchalantly. ‘But we really need to get going sooner rather than later.’ He gave Mustard a dismissive wave as he walked by. ‘Come on, Danny.’

    Danny was about to turn and follow when Wigglytuff’s ears perked – just as they’d done before the man on the outskirts appeared. ‘Wait - !’ Mustard cried, freezing Talbot in place as she put a finger to her mouth. ‘Listen.’

    Talbot looked back, his lips parted, possibly with the intention of saying something back to Mustard. But he didn’t, instead he stood still and shut his mouth, raising his line of vision up. It didn’t take long for Danny to find out what Mustard picked up upon. It was slight at first – the faint whispering rattle of what could be items or plastic bottles clacking together and the mumbling of deeper voices that sounded more like Talbot’s. It soon became clear that the three trainers and their pokemon were about to find more company very, very quickly.

    ‘This way,’ Mustard beckoned, indicating to a small alleyway shrouded in rubble. ‘We can’t let them see us.’

    Talbot stepped back before turning and running towards Danny, taking her by the hand and following Mustard with Wigglytuff not too far behind. They ducked down behind a particularly large mound consisting of hunks of concrete and broken bricks, kneeling against the cold pavement as the rattling sounds grew closer. By now the people were close enough so that Danny could make out what they were saying. Her breaths stifled as she huddled up against one of the walls, her fists pressed against her chest.

    ‘I thought I heard something from over here,’ one of the voices, rasp and gruff, said. The tinny rattling sounds grew to a halt. ‘Voices – ones we haven’t heard before.’

    ‘It’s probably just more looters like us,’ another voice, this one sharper in tone, piped up. ‘I wouldn’t worry about them – they’d probably not have very much on them anyways so mugging them would be completely pointless.’

    Mustard stole the chance to peek ever so slightly from the mound of rubble she was hiding against. She popped her head up for a millisecond before shrinking back down, her jawline tight and her grip on the mounds of concrete tense. Talbot turned to her, mouthing ‘How many?’

    Mustard’s tongue poked through her teeth and she put up three fingers. ‘Stay still,’ she mouthed in return.

    Danny shivered. She didn’t even want to think about catching a glimpse of these people – just knowing that they were there was enough to raise the hairs on the back of her neck.

    ‘Come on,’ another voice finally said, breaking through the silent conversation Talbot and Mustard were having. ‘We’ve got to find the new guy – wherever he’s gone off too.’

    ‘You’re right,’ the first voice chimed in. There was a click followed by a sound that Danny could only describe as the creaking noise of something being shoved into a leather pocket. ‘He’ll be on the outskirts – that’s where I sent him today.’ What the guy said next made Danny’s stomach bunch together in knots. ‘I put him on lookout duties to see if he’s able to mug any trainers that come by.’

    Danny glanced at Talbot, who returned the wary look before putting a reassuring hand on her shoulder, and in that moment she realised how thankful she was that Talbot had found her before anybody else.

    . . .

    ‘Those guys have been here for two weeks or so,’ Mustard told them as they headed in the direction that the looters had come from. Danny thought it was a smart move – the further away they were from those people, the better. ‘Or at least I think it was two weeks ago, it’s hard to tell sometimes,’ she continued, scratching her head. ‘They just waltzed on in one day and I don’t think they’ll leave until they’ve snatched up everything that the city has on offer.’

    Talbot rubbed his forehead. ‘Right,’ he said. ‘In that case, do you think you can tell us the quickest way to get out of here? I don’t want to run into any more trouble today, thank you.’

    A smile peeked from the corners of Mustard’s mouth. ‘I’ll do more than that.’ She clicked her fingers and her Pansear jumped down from her shoulders again. ‘I’ve shacked up in a building not too far from here – you’re welcome to join me and rest your legs for a bit.’

    ‘That won’t be needed,’ Talbot said, shaking his head slowly. ‘Just show us out of the city and that’s all we’ll ask from you.’

    Mustard fixed her line of sight on Danny. ‘The kid looks tired,’ she continued. ‘And trust me – if I weren’t being honest, your Wigglytuff would notice it in a heartbeat.’

    Wigglytuff bounced curtly as if to fortify this statement. ‘Yoom-tah.’

    Talbot tutted and rolled his eyes. ‘Very well,’ he said and glared at Mustard. ‘But I will not hold back if I think you’re doing anything funny.’

    ‘Fine by me,’ Mustard said, shrugging briefly. Then she turned around and headed across the road to the north. ‘It’s only a few minutes from here – just keep up and we’ll be there in no time at all.’

    It wasn’t hard to pick out the building Mustard was talking about – it stuck out like a sore thumb against the other apartments, being much smaller than the others. There was a sign on the front of the building in the shape of a pokeball and above that there were the grimy remains of another set of pictures Danny recognised. Only one of them was intact enough to indicate what the complete set had once been and that was the figure of a fork. Danny guessed that at one stage there had been a knife and a spoon as well, she’d seen it on shops in the high street enough times to assume this.

    ‘Here we are,’ Mustard said proudly. ‘It’s not much on the outside, but I’ve deliberately left it looking like that.’ She offered another wry smile. ‘It stops people from being drawn to the place, you know what I mean?’

    Neither Danny nor Talbot replied but it still made complete sense regardless.

    The interior of the first room the group entered confirmed Danny’s thoughts about the place being like a café – mostly because the entire room was filled with round tables and chairs, some of which had been upturned. There were shards of dishes and bowls littering the carpet too, as well as dining utensils that had long since lost their silvery gleam. Talbot scratched his chin. ‘You don’t have much, do you?’

    Mustard chuckled and smiled wryly at her Pansear. ‘We’re not camping out here in the open, if that’s what you mean.’ She weaved her way past the sorry-looking dining tables and stopped in front of a long curtain in an unassuming corner of the room. ‘We’ve set up shop in here, actually.’ She grabbed the curtain and pulled it aside, revealing a door that clearly hadn’t been there when the café was alive with customers. It had been made of plywood and the hinges had cracked some of the paint covering the walls. ‘See?’

    Talbot flicked a nod to Wigglytuff who turned to him and waved one of her paws. He huffed and put a hand on his hip. ‘Let us in, then.’

    The door needed oiling because it creaked when Mustard pushed it in. She waited until the others were in the small corridor before pulling the curtain across again and shutting the door behind her.

    The corridor led to another very large room – this one much wider than the first – and there was the unmistakeable scent of dry herbs in the air. Danny’s nose wrinkled and she couldn’t stop herself from attempting to supress a sneeze – it didn’t work, and she ended up having to use her hands to stop the vapour from going everywhere. In addition to the scent of herbs there was also the sharp smell of ash. It didn’t take Danny long to find the source of this smell either – one of the walls had been torn down at some point, revealing what looked like a stove that had its top torn off. In the middle of this stove was a bed of burning wood and above that was a cooking pot suspended by a metal bar that had been welded to the sides of the walls.

    ‘Yeah, sorry about the smells,’ Mustard said as she set her rucksack down. ‘The herbs I collected last week still haven’t completely dried so you’ll probably be sneezing for a little while.’

    Talbot folded his arms. ‘You’ve managed to find some herbs in a place like this?’

    ‘Yup, they were in the gardens out back – completely fresh and ready to be harvested,’ Mustard replied, nodding confidently. ‘You get used to the smells after a while – it’s actually quite pleasant to come home to, sometimes.’

    Danny surveyed the room, taking in its fine details. ‘I’ve never seen a place like this before.’

    Mustard ran a hand through her hair. ‘I was born and raised here,’ she began, a fond gleam forming in her eyes. ‘Ma and Pa came to this city about a week before I was born – they’d kept themselves going by relying more on the plants and herbs available to them rather than scouring houses.’ She folded her arms and smiled warmly. ‘I was their little mustard seed – that’s where my nickname comes from you know,’ she said. ‘Taught me everything I knew, they did – god rest their souls.’ Mustard gestured to the cooking pot on the fire. ‘I’ve got a soup on the boil,’ she told them. ‘You’re free to have some when it’s at the right temperature – soup isn’t the same to me unless it’s piping hot enough to keep your stomach warm.’

    Danny closed her eyes and inhaled. It did smell quite nice. She turned when she heard the chattering squeaks coming from Mustard’s Pansear, who was talking with Purrloin. Purrloin didn’t look very interested – she rolled her eyes and yawned while the Pansear lectured her. Danny didn’t realise that he was talking about her until he pointed at her with a serious gaze fixed on the bored, purple feline.

    Purrloin didn’t look impressed. She stood on her hind legs with a paw on her hip. ‘Mrow,’ she said back in a bored voice. ‘Mrow, meow, mr-ow.’

    Pansear tutted and shrugged his shoulders. ‘Skree.’

    He wandered off over to Wigglytuff to, from what Danny guessed, have a more fruitful talk with her. Purrloin glanced at them before turning to Danny and scoffing, turning her nose up at the girl as she turned her back and strolled off, as independent as ever.

    Dinner that night was not what Danny expected. The soup Mustard had been making was served in some old mugs that looked like they hadn’t been touched for years. Danny examined her mug carefully – the liquid itself was the colour of peanut butter and floating on the surface were little black specks of what she assumed to be boiled herb leaves. She swallowed thickly. It didn’t look very appetizing to her, but her rumbling tummy was more than ready to remind her that she hadn’t eaten anything for a while.

    Danny brought the mug to her nose and slowly sniffed – it didn’t smell bad at least. She licked her lips and tilted the mug, lapping carefully so that only a small amount entered her mouth. Her eyes widened when the taste hit her tongue. ‘Oh!’

    Talbot, who was already halfway through his soup, looked over. ‘What is it?’

    Danny showed him the mug, a smile forming across her face. ‘This is really good!’

    ‘Thank you,’ Mustard said as she helped herself to another portion. ‘It’s a family recipe passed down from Pa to me – he’d be happy to know you love it.’

    Danny went to bed that night in a very good mood, even if the nagging thoughts of her family came back to haunt her after everyone had settled down. She sighed as she tried to straighten out her thoughts, her arms wrapping around her chest. How were they doing up there without her? She had no clue but she could imagine hundreds of guards scouring the streets of Bands B and C, desperately attempting to find her. Her chest tightened – knowing fully well that they’d never find her up there.

    It had to be quite early in the morning when she next woke up – still dark, she imagined – because she opened her eyes to find that the room was still pitch black. She was shivering again and this time she found that she was holding her arms so tightly that she was sure her fingers would leave big blotchy bruises. Danny frowned. Since when had it gotten so cold? Had the heat from Mustard’s cooking fire vanished while she was asleep?

    She shifted and peeked out from her blankets and the brilliant glowing shades of red and orange stood out blatantly against the darkness. Danny’s teeth began to chatter and she flinched. It was too cold for her to go back to sleep now – the inviting warmth of the fireplace was more than enough to motivate her to slide out from her nest and tiptoe over to steal some of its heat for herself.

    Her eyes began adjusting to the dark and Danny suddenly realised that she wouldn’t be alone. A small bundle was resting there too – rising and falling with each slow breath. It was Purrloin – who had been curled up next to the lingering embers. She unfurled when Danny got up and watched her on all fours, only pausing to scratch behind one of her ears with a hind leg.

    Danny tilted her head, gnawing at her lower lip slowly. Purrloin hadn’t hissed at her for once – and come to think of it, she had almost immediately set to cleaning herself. Isn’t that what Talbot said was a sign of being relaxed about her surroundings?

    Purrloin’s eyes bore into Danny’s and they stared at each other in silence for a while and a bead of sweat ran down Danny’s neck. What should she do? Her heart told her to try and talk to Purrloin, but her head told her otherwise. She shrunk back into her skin as she thought about the possibility of adding yet another set of scratches to her arms and she almost began trembling. Nope, she didn’t particularly want that to happen anytime soon.

    What had Talbot done again? Danny shut her eyes and the mental image of him tossing the bag of beef jerky to her popped up in her mind. With her instructions clear, the little girl got up and moved around to the pot to keep the distance between her and Purrloin for as long as possible. Purrloin didn’t say a word, but her head followed, watching Danny with keen interest. One of her ears flicked back when Danny approached the still lukewarm pot.

    It didn’t take long for the cat pokemon to catch wind of Danny’s plan. She turned the rest of her body and sat with her head perked, following Danny’s hands as she lifted the lid of the pot and reached for a mug that wasn’t dirty yet. The ladle wasn’t far away either, and she carefully dipped it so that there was just enough soup to fill half the cup. Danny’s gaze returned to Purrloin and she pointed to the mug, speaking softly so that she didn’t wake the others up. ‘Do you want some?’

    Purrloin blinked slowly. Danny assumed that meant yes.

    She hardly had any time to set the mug down on the floor before Purrloin fell upon it. She expected her to dive in face first, but instead the feline opted for dipping a paw into the liquid and licking it like she was washing her fur.

    Danny was completely wordless throughout this moment, but inside her mind and heart were fighting louder than ever before. She tossed her thoughts back and forth and by then her hands were two steps ahead. She slowly raised a trembling index finger to Purrloin’s face as she cleaned the last of her pawful of soup, her teeth clamped tightly together. If Purrloin so much as growled then she wasn’t going to take any chances, and half of her could already imagine the pokemon suddenly leaping back and snarling, just as she’d done the first time Danny had tried to do this.

    But she didn’t. Instead she just kept licking her paw, keeping her eyes fixed firmly on her owner as her index finger drew closer and closer.

    She didn’t quite know what to expect from the first physical contact. Part of her thought back to Purrloin’s display of anger, but the other half wondered what would happen if the cat pokemon actually let her do what she was seconds away from doing. She gasped quietly when the tip of her finger met fur. It didn’t feel anything like Danny thought it would. She had been anticipating sleekness, but instead the very first sensation to hit was oily and moist.

    By now Purrloin had stopped washing and her full attention was given to her owner. Danny carefully dragged the finger up before pulling it away and pressing again in an attempt to stroke the bridge of her nose. Purrloin’s expression slowly began to change, her lids sliding over her eyeballs until they were halfway across, and she stayed like this for a few seconds more before bringing her paw up again. But rather than swiping or hissing, Purrloin merely pushed Danny’s finger away politely with a firm ‘Mrow.’

    She got the message almost immediately. She withdrew her hand and placed it on her lap, relief swelling up in her chest. Purrloin yawned, showing her pointy fangs briefly, and sank back down so that she was curled up by the ashes again.

    Danny tore her gaze away from Purrloin, propping her head with her arm, ignoring how her elbow dug into her knee. Trying to process what had just happened as well as fighting off the desire to go back to sleep for just a few minutes more. She eventually gave in and returned to her sleeping bag, giving Purrloin one last lingering look before shutting her eyes and drifting off once again.

    . . .​

    A fine haze had rolled in during the rest of the night, and it blanketed Striaton in a wispy fog that made the forlorn buildings look eerie and otherworldly. Danny had to take a minute to take in this strangely pretty sight while Talbot and Mustard closed up the entrance to Mustard’s base. Wigglytuff and Mustard’s Pansear kept watch as usual, but now they weren’t the only pokemon outside. Danny had decided not to return Purrloin to her pokeball. Somehow, as the little purple feline sat waiting on the sidewalk, Danny doubted that she was going to run away or refuse to follow – not after what had happened last night at least.

    Talbot was the first to return to the streets. ‘So,’ he began, sliding his hands into his pockets. ‘Where do we go from here?’

    Mustard shut the door to the café and pointed to the west. ‘We’re not too far from the edge of the city,’ she replied. ‘It’s only a ten minute walk – fifteen minutes if we want to take our time.’

    After a while Pansear’s ears perked up and he started chattering urgently. ‘Skree!’

    Mustard tilted her head. ‘What’s wrong, Pansear?’

    Pansear leapt down from his owner’s shoulders and ran down the road, gesturing for Mustard to follow.

    Mustard offered the two of them a glance. ‘Hold on, I’ll be right back.’

    And she followed Pansear without another word.

    Talbot and Danny stood in silence, waiting for Mustard to return. For a while it was relatively peaceful, but after a few moments Danny couldn’t help but wonder if she was hearing things – because for a moment she could’ve sworn that she’d heard a clicking sound somewhere in one of the alleyways. Her hands tensed. Was Mustard returning through the alleys or something?

    They didn’t get enough time to realise what was going on. There was a loud BANG! and Danny yelped, covering her ears and squeezing her eyes shut. Purrloin suddenly dropped to all fours and snarled, facing the direction that the noise had come from. ‘****!’ Danny heard Talbot shout, even if it was muffled by her hands. ‘There’s a gun – one of them has a gun!’

    And then there was a scream – it sounded more like a yowl, but Danny couldn’t really tell the difference. She opened her eyes and saw Purrloin facing up against a monster Danny hadn’t seen before – a lizard pokemon with orange skin that folded at its waist, giving it the appearance of someone wearing very baggy pants.

    ‘Purrloin!’ Danny cried and ran over before the lizard pokemon glanced at her. It whipped around and grunted at her, hunching its shoulders and growling. Danny paused and stepped back slightly, her eyes darting from Purrloin to the new pokemon.

    ‘Well, well, well,’ came a familiar voice. Danny looked over her shoulder and her heart dropped into her stomach when she saw who was speaking. The grownup from yesterday stood in front of the group – and behind him stood two other men. ‘I thought you two might be sneaking around here.’

    Talbot tensed his fists and opened his mouth, ready to give Wigglytuff an order.

    But the grownup beat him to the punch. ‘I wouldn’t do that if I were you,’ he said and nodded to one of the men beside him – a burly guy wearing fingerless gloves. In one of his hands was what Danny assumed to be the source of the bang (and possibly the clicking noises too) from earlier – a revolver, gleaming wickedly as the light caught its silver body.

    There was a screeching hiss – it was Purrloin, now sizing the lizard pokemon up, her lips drawn back into a snarl that revealed her needle-like teeth. The other monster seemed equally as ready to fight. It hunched over, shoulders tense and offered Purrloin an equally as sharp scowl. The grownup laughed and nudged the shoulder of the man on his right. ‘Looks like your Scraggy wants to get a piece of that Purrloin over there. Mick.’

    Mick, a tank of a man who looked so big to Danny that she feared that he might be able to squash her with his bare hands, looked in her direction with a toothy grin. Her skin broke out into gooseflesh and her hands instinctively curled up tightly, bringing them to her chest without thinking. ‘That’s enough!’ Talbot said firmly, stepping in front of Danny just as he had done during their first encounter with the looter. ‘Leave the girl out of this.’

    But Mick’s grin didn’t waver in the slightest. ‘She’s got a pokemon,’ he replied, pointing a sausage-like finger in Danny’s direction. ‘That means she’s fair game, just like you are.’

    And then, out of the corner of Danny’s eye, a streak of orange could be seen leaping from corner to corner. She recognised this blur immediately and she tightened her legs, refusing to say anything and hoping that the grownup and his friends hadn’t seen her reaction.

    ‘Now,’ Mick continued. Pansear was perched upon a ruined wall now. ‘How about you hand the girl over?’ He shoved his hands into his pockets. Another leap and Pansear was closer. ‘Then we’ll let you go without any problems.’

    Another leap. Pansear was almost within earshot now.

    Talbot suddenly looked up and his eyes froze when they locked onto Pansear. Danny bit her lip. Now he’d done it – they were going to look behind and then the man with the gun was gonna shoot.

    ‘Screw that, man!’ The other man on the grownup’s right said, drawing the looter’s attention away from Talbot. ‘Let’s just take them out and get it over with –’

    He didn’t get the chance to say anything else, because at that moment Pansear lunged upon the man with the gun. Landing on his head and screaming in a high-pitched voice. ‘Holy ****!’ the looter shouted, eyes wide and jumping back as his friend dropped the gun.

    Get this thing off of me!’ his friend howled, pawing madly at Pansear, who merely dodged each unsuccessful swipe and opened his mouth.

    Above the confusion Danny could hear Mustard’s voice. ‘Pansear, use Ember!’

    And within that moment a small flame erupted from Pansear’s mouth, immediately setting the man’s hair alight. The man screamed again and this time Danny couldn’t hear what his friends were saying in response. Talbot pointed to the panicking men and glanced at Wigglytuff. ‘Now’s your chance, Wigglytuff,’ he said. ‘Use Rollout!’

    Wigglytuff lunged forward into a barrelling roll and didn’t give the men a chance to avoid her. She ploughed through the looter who screeched in pain while Mick ran out of the way, his grin melting into a furious snarl. ‘Scraggy,’ he barked. ‘Use Headbutt!’

    Danny just got enough time to turn around to see that the Scraggy had broken its standoff with Purrloin. It buckled down, aiming its head at Purrloin who was still hissing. ‘Purrloin!’ Danny shouted as the Scraggy charged, but thankfully it looked like Purrloin knew what was coming too. She leapt to the side just as her opponent was about to strike and he ended up crashing into the pavement behind her, sending flecks and shards of concrete flying into the air.

    Danny’s shoulders sagged for a moment before tensing right back up again. She pressed her dry lips together. What was she going to do now? She had a few seconds to spare because the Scraggy, having ploughed through solid concrete, had actually gotten stuck in the pavement and was now desperately trying to pull his head out while Purrloin began washing herself in a furious attempt to flatten her fur. Danny stole the chance to peek over her shoulder at Talbot, now joined by Mustard in the onslaught against the looter and his friends. ‘Talbot!’ she shouted. ‘What do I do now?’

    But her words were drowned out by the yelps firing off from both sides of the battlefield. There was another howl and Danny turned to see that the Scraggy had freed himself and was readying another Headbutt. ‘That’s it, Scraggy!’ Mike called. ‘Tear that kitty to pieces!’

    Danny’s mind (as well as her heart) was racing. What was she going to do? What should she do? She suddenly caught sight of the scratches running up her arms and tensed herself, steeping forward. ‘Use your claws, Purrloin!’

    At first Purrloin only offered Danny a passive glance but this changed when the Scraggy charged – this time making contact with the feline pokemon’s front. Purrloin screeched as she tumbled back and came to a halt in front of Danny’s feet. ‘Purrloin!’ Danny cried and bent down, placing a hand on Purrloin's back without realising what she was doing. ‘C’mon – you’ve got to get up and fight,’ she said, almost begging. ‘Please, Purrloin!’

    Purrloin didn’t move – or at least Danny didn’t think she was going to – but after a second or two her paws began to twitch and, gritting her teeth as she did, the cat began to push herself up again. Somewhere behind Danny came the voice of Talbot, who ordered: ‘Wigglytuff, use Disable!’ followed by a furious growl from Mike.

    ‘Dammit!’ he snarled. Danny looked over to Scraggy and saw exactly why Mike was so mad. Wigglytuff had now joined the fight against the Scraggy, and it appeared that the Scraggy had been about to perform another Headbutt because he looked like he was ready to charge again. But now he was starting to pull back, flinching and groaning while Wigglytuff stood between him and Danny’s Purrloin.

    Purrloin was now on all fours and looked ready to give the Scraggy a piece of her mind. The fur on the back of her neck rose and she sprung forward. ‘That’s it,’ Danny said. ‘Now, scratch him with your claws!’

    Purrloin’s claws unsheathed like miniscule daggers and she plunged them into the Scraggy’s flesh, causing her enemy to screech in pain. He pulled back and found that both Purrloin and Wigglytuff were ganging up on him now. A vein underneath Mick’s neck began throbbing, his face becoming a very vibrant shade of red and to Danny it looked like he was about to burst an artery. She backed away even more. If the man’s head was going to explode, she didn’t want to be anywhere near him when it happened.

    ‘Good job,’ Talbot said. ‘Now finish him off with –’

    But Mick beat Talbot to the punch, bellowing ‘Low Kick!’ loudly. His Scraggy whipped around to face Purrloin again and darted forward, sweeping his leg out and catching Purrloin’s paws before she could react. She yowled and fell to the concrete with a sharp thud.

    Purrloin!’ Danny screamed. Without thinking, she ran to her fallen pokemon. She didn’t care if she was putting herself in danger; all she wanted was to get Purrloin away from the Scraggy before it ended up killing her. Her knees buckled when she reached Purrloin and placed a trembling hand on her shoulder. ‘Are you okay?’

    Without any order from Mike, Scraggy growled and raised his foot again, ready to strike Purrloin regardless of weither Danny was in his way or not.

    Talbot was two steps ahead. His eyes widened and he opened his mouth. ‘Pound!’

    Wigglytuff snapped to attention and stood in front of Danny and Purrloin, acting as a big pink shield. She caught the Scraggy with her stubby hand just before it made contact with her abdomen and Danny felt her jaw drop. She watched as Wigglytuff’s punch pressed against the Scraggy’s jaw and this time the reptile didn’t fight back. His joints went limp as he rocketed back towards the pavement, bouncing once – then twice – across the concrete until he came to a stop by the corner of a wall.

    After that, he did not get back up again.

    There were more howls of pain – this time coming from behind the brawl between the pokemon. All three trainers turned to see Mustard standing triumphantly on the road, watching as the now battered and bruised looters were fleeing. ‘****!’ Mike spat and took out a pokeball, pointing it at Scraggy’s body. A red beam emanated from the centre and coated the fainted pokemon in red light before dragging it back into the safety of the sphere. He offered Danny and Talbot a furious glare before turning tail and running, most likely following his partners back from whichever part of town they came from.

    Not a word was spoken for a few heartbeats – maybe it was because the three of them all needed time to calm down, or maybe it was disbelief that they had made it through the onslaught – but it didn’t stop Talbot from running over to check Purrloin’s wounds. ‘Danny,’ he began while examining a particularly bad cut going across Purrloin’s side. Danny assumed it was from landing on the pavement – she’d done it once too last year and she still had the scar on her knee to show for it. ‘Could you get out my berry pouch? It’s in one of the front pockets.’

    Danny did as she was told, and Talbot took out a blue berry that was round and appeared to have rather tough skin. He clenched it in his fist and it split open, revealing pale inner flesh that looked sinewy. He then placed some of the berry in Purrloin’s mouth before looking to Danny again.
    ‘Now could you get me some bandages?

    ‘I can do that,’ Mustard piped up. She dug into her pockets and pulled out a fresh roll of white cloth. ‘I always have some on me – use as much as you need – I’ve got plenty back at my shelter.’

    Talbot frowned and his brow furrowed as he took the bandages. ‘As soon as we’re done, you’re taking us straight to the border without another word.’

    Danny froze, taking in Talbot’s sudden sharp tone of voice. What on earth had made him speak to her like that?

    Mustard raised an eyebrow, equally as taken aback. ‘Sure thing,’ she said quietly and whistled to her Pansear, who bounded over and climbed back up on her shoulders.

    Purrloin grunted and began to stir, shaking her head slowly and carefully. Her eyes flickered and for a moment she lay their helplessly while Talbot smothered the cut with the rest of the berry and secured it with the bandages. ‘She’ll need time to recover,’ Talbot said after he was finished dressing Purrloin’s wounds. ‘But this should help her heal faster.’ He beckoned to Danny. ‘Let’s keep going – there’s nothing left to do here.’

    . . .​

    The silence that fell amongst the group as they reached the borders of Striaton was not nice to Danny. It felt sticky and thick, sort of like a really wet blanket that had wrapped around her tightly and refused to let her go. She had opted to return Purrloin to her pokeball to get some much needed rest and she grasped the sphere in her hand tightly as she thought about the fight that had occurred. She gnawed at the corner of her mouth. If it hadn’t been for Talbot and Wigglytuff, she would’ve been in a lot of trouble once Purrloin had collapsed. She sighed under her breath. How was she going to protect herself against more of those scary looters if Talbot went missing?

    ‘There it is,’ Mustard said, breaking Danny’s concentration. ‘The exit to Route 3.’ She put her hand on her hips. ‘Beyond that is Nacrene City – which is at least another couple of days travel if you’re planning to walk.’

    Talbot gave her a silent but curt nod. It didn’t stop him from refusing to meet her gaze, however. Danny’s heart sank. It wasn’t Mustard’s fault that the men had ambushed them. Why was he treating her like she’d done something really, really bad?

    The buildings started receding and trees soon began to grow in number. Tarmac gave way to grass and slowly but surely the signs that they were still in Striaton ebbed away. ‘We should be able to keep going from here,’ Talbot said politely after a while. ‘I don’t think you need to follow us any longer.’

    Danny bit her lip briefly. The tone might’ve been calm but it didn’t take her much to understand what Talbot was implying. And after seeing how hard Wigglytuff had hit the looter yesterday, she couldn’t blame Mustard’s steps from faltering.

    Talbot was about to reach out for Danny’s hand when Mustard called out ‘Wait!’ He froze, the ghost of a frown twitching at the corner of his mouth, then pulled back steadily. Mustard dug her hand into one of the pockets of her coat, took something from it, and knelt down so that she could make eye contact with Danny. ‘I’m really sorry for the trouble back there,’ she said, her Pansear nodding as if to emphasise Mustard’s words. ‘I’d like to give you this – it’s not much, but it could come in useful at some point.’

    She let go of the object and Danny found that Mustard had dropped what looked like a black stick in her palms that left black marks on her fingers. ‘What is this?’

    ‘It’s charcoal,’ Mustard replied. ‘It boosts the power of fire attacks when you give it to a pokemon.’ She glanced back towards the city. ‘As you can imagine I have plenty of the stuff, so you’re more than welcome to take that piece with you if you want.’

    Danny smiled softly and pocketed the charcoal. ‘Thank you.’

    Talbot cleared his throat. ‘Now if you don’t mind,’ he began. ‘We’ll be on our way.’ He took Danny’s hand and they started walking. ‘Come on, Danny.’

    Danny waited for a few seconds before looking over her shoulder. Mustard and Pansear were still there, watching the both of them leave. She glanced back for a second to make sure Talbot wasn’t paying attention to her and waved to Mustard, offering her a friendly but silent goodbye. Mustard and Pansear returned the wave, and then they started walking the other way, returning to their home in Striaton.

    They walked wordlessly for a while with Wigglytuff taking the lead, but eventually Talbot took a deep breath, grabbing Danny’s attention in the process. ‘This is why I travel alone,’ he began. ‘Because the more people you’re in the company of, the more likely you are to end up in danger.’ He looked down at her, his eyes reflecting that of a stern parent. ‘Do you understand?’

    Danny drew a hand to her chest and grinded her teeth. No, it wouldn’t be smart to disagree with him. He was a grownup and grownups knew best, right?

    She pulled the hand away and pressed her lips together tightly. ‘Yes Talbot,’ she said, stopping herself from making it sound like she was muttering. ‘I understand’

    Talbot sighed and cast his gaze to the open road before them. ‘Good,’ he said. ‘The quicker you learn now, the better off you’ll be.’
    Last edited: Feb 24, 2018
  14. Negrek

    Negrek Lost but Seeking

    It's nice to see this back! The old version wasn't bad at all, truly, but I think this one definitely is an improvement. Your overall mechanics and prose has improved a lot, and I think the story overall is a bit tighter. Things get rolling faster, if nothing else, and that plus the greater number of chapters means that we get to see a lot more of the story than before, which is great. Congratulations on taking this version way farther than the last, by the way, and I hope the writing continues to go favorably.

    I think you've done a good job of working with a very young protagonist. I think Danny reads a little older than what her stated age was in the last version (like five or six, iirc, and I don't recall that you explicitly say in this version), but she's wonderfully un-irritating for a child character, and at the same time I think you capture her naivete and childish, fantastic thinking well. In some ways using a very young protagonist is similar to using an amnesiac protagonist in that like and amnesiac Danny has a limited understanding of the world around her and is very dependent on other people for her well-being. It'll be interesting to watch her grow, learn, and come into her own on her journey. If that's the way things are going to go, that is!

    Therre are also a lot of cool mysteries to this story, which we got a bit of in the previous version, but of course more have been added here. What exactly happened that caused the creation of New Castelia? Why are all the other cities abandoned, and how did the humans that live outside Castelia end up there? Is there any kind of human civilization at all beyond Castelia (what about other regions)? We don't even know terribly much about how New Castelia works, if it's still being run by Plasma in some way, etc. Danny works well as a blank-slate protagonist here, since she has many of the same questions as the readers, although her priorities may be different (i.e. she's way more interested in getting home than understanding major geopolitical events). Even considering different priorities, though, I'm surprised that she hasn't made any attempt to ask what's going on yet, or even tried to learn more about Talbot and his story.

    It would also be nice to have a little more insight into what Danny's been taught, in terms of history. She doesn't seem to have any clear reference for pokémon; she was at first afraid of "monsters," but those sounded more like your generic "monster in the closet" deals than pokémon specifically, and she's clearly never been taught specifically to fear or avoid pokémon like you might expect from a segregated society. She also apparently didn't recognize N, even though there's a statue to him and he's presumably a super important historical figure. So what exactly does she think New Castelia is? What history has she been taught? Those are things I'd love to know more about.

    Some additional not-terribly-well-organized thoughts for you (sorry, it seems organization isn't really my thing today):

    I completely forgot that you had Kyurem in your sig when advertising the old version; absent that kind of hint I was actually thinking the spooky wind-voice Danny's been hearing was a ghost. (Perhaps a dusknoir, even! Okay, fine, I know we're in Unova.)

    lol, Danny.

    I'm kind of surprised Talbot was so gung-ho on having Danny work with the purrloin. Purrloin clearly doesn't like her, and Danny doesn't particularly like Purrloin much. There are loads of other wild pokémon around that she might work with better and which she at least wouldn't be so wary of. So why not release the purrloin and give something else a try? As of the last chapter it appears to have worked out, but still, I thought it was a weird choice.

    I'm also not clear how any population of looters is surviving by, well, looting stuff, considering that it's apparently been years since the cities outside New Castelia have been abandoned. Decades, actually, based on Mustard's story. Unless the population of looters is very, very small, I'd expected them to have carried off essentially everything valuable by this point. This was especially apparent for me at the Accumula Pokémon Center; I couldn't fathom how Talbot could have expected the PokéCenter to still be intact, given that it's one of the city's prime targets and, again, people have had YEARS to get around to breaking into it. I'm not convinced that the remnants of the previous generations would still be able to sustain the current one, actually; like at this point Mustard's schtick about getting stuff out of gardens wouldn't work, because your majority of useful plants aren't going to grow without active cultivation on a humans' part--those gardens are going to be completely done in by weeds at that point, with the exception of a couple of herb species that are themselves essentially weeds and which might have taken everything over instead. Likewise Mustard's apron. Apparently it's gotten plenty of hard wear, at which point I don't know how it's survived years and years of use. If it's gotten to the point that children have been born and grown up since whatever happened, happened, then either the people out there today have started producing their own goods and food or they're screwed.

    Aside from that, though, I think this is going pretty well. I'm most looking forward to learning more about the world you've set up here and what exactly happened that separated humans from pokémon (largely); it sounds pretty cataclysmic, given how the population's apparently been dramatically reduced and you have huge (but intact) cities sitting empty. That alone suggests it wasn't something like "legendary dragon roasting everyone who doesn't go along with Plasma's plans," so what was it? In any case, I imagine we'll get some answers as Danny's story unfolds. I'm also interested in learning more about Talbot, and I thought the little bit with him at the end of chapter five was great, where it becomes apparent that he's fiercely inclinend to push other people away. Dude has his issues, doesn't he? That's always fun.

    Congrats again on your progress with version, and I wish you luck taking it all the way and completing the story!
  15. Chibi Pika

    Chibi Pika Stay positive

    Hey, new chapter! :D It’s been awhile, hasn’t it?

    And what a chapter it was! A lot happened in this one. A new city, one that’s basically picked clean and overrun with looters, a new character to help them through some pretty scary ****, and Danny bonding with Purrloin! I really liked their late-night bonding scene for a couple of reasons. For one, it was very slow and calm, nothing felt forced or pushed too far, too fast. Danny lets Purrlion set the boundaries the whole time, and carefully figures out what the cat is or is not comfortable with. All in all, it felt very genuine.

    Also, on that note, it’s great to see Danny standing up to her fears and having her first Pokémon battle in this chapter! I mean… in a way, it’s sad too, in a loss of innocence kinda way. That this world even requires that of a six-year-old girl is a little heartbreaking. But of course, as a reader, it will be great to see her adapt and grow into a confident Pokémon trainer. After all, that what a journey is all about, even if this is a different sort of journey.

    But I’m with Negrek in that, if the plasma disaster happened so long ago that Mustard was born after it there definitely shouldn’t be much of anything left to salvage from the remnants of civilization, and any human settlements would have had to turn to hunting/foraging/farming a long time ago.

    Anywho, plenty of interesting things have gone down thus far, but there are still plenty of mysteries yet to be solved, and I get the feeling that as Danny slowly gets accustomed to life down here, she'll be confronted with what the plot is ultimately going to require of her, and that is going to be very interesting indeed.

  16. DreamSayer

    DreamSayer Name's Adam.

    Review for Chapter 2

    I've been nagging myself to pick up on this story again and i had time so i decided to just read one chapter now.

    First thing's first, i honestly also think that Danny is a bit too mature for a 6 year old. I mean, i have a 6yr old sister myself, but i cannot picture her doing any of the stuff Danny does. Well, for the most part anyway. Regardless of that, i quite like Danny as a character already. I've not seen many stories with a 6yr old protagonist, but it's safe to say that this story has a PG rating, right? Or at least it should, but i don't know. I'll have to check up on that.

    I've already spoiled of the fact that the purrlion is going to play a role in future chapters. It's going to bond with Danny and so on, but i'll just pretend i'm oblivious to that fact for now. You did a great job at portraying they typical purrlion. They've always been known to be deceptive and sometimes dangerous. I'm a bit of a cat person myself, so i like it already. I wonder if this will become a Logan-esque journey with Danny and Talbot. I can definitely see it happening, but i can't be so sure just yet. Either way, i'm really excited to see more of this story.
  17. Samayouru

    Samayouru Rabid Dusclops Fan

    Negrek - Welcome back! I'm soooooo glad to know that I've improved on my work!

    I do understand what you mean. Truth be told the reason why I chose a very young protag was so that I could train myself. I knew that I wouldn't get it right the first or in this case the second time, but I've gotta be doing something right if she's at least believable. You're right about the amnesia remark though - there's so many pitfalls an author can fall into while using a kid protag...

    I do think I could've probably written Danny's interactions with Purrloin a little better. It's more the sort of relationship where the kid and their pokemon have to let down their guards and set up boundaries so I'll probably go back soon and do some editing to make that a little bit better.

    I do have the mechanics, history and so on and so forth of my world sorted out (for the most part) it's just a case of bringing it all together. Creating a good post apocalyptic world is a lot easier said than done so hopefully I've done enough to make this world an enjoyable one!

    Chibi Pika - Once again thank you for another one of your lovely reviews!
    I always look forward to your opinions on the scribblings I put up on the internet!

    I'll admit, it felt kinda surreal writing out the first trainer battle. I knew that I wasn't going to make it that Danny wins, but it still felt like I was saying goodbye to the Danny from Chapters 1-4 and finally starting to develop her as a trainer. I'm thoroughly excited about Chapter 6 because that's where interesting things start happening!

    DreamSayer - I mentioned it earlier but I'm going to say it again: a lot of the inspiration for Purrloin came from one of my cats who happens to be a Bengal.
    it seemed only fitting to use her as a reference as well as making her the sassiest thing alive.

    A lot of the comments I made about Danny being too mature is pretty much what I summed up in Negrek's response. So yeah. :p

    The story itself is rated PG-15 because I'm an edgelord and all that good stuff so hopefully that gives you an idea of what to expect. Thanks for the review!

    EXTRA I – A Shattered Family

    Dinner that night was just as quiet as yesterday and Matt was still finding it hard to adjust. Truth be told he could understand why he was finding it hard to cope, but it was nothing like the movies he’d watched while sleeping over at his friends’ apartments. Perhaps it was because they always jumped ahead of time in movies, or maybe (and more likely, Matt believed) the movies his friends always wanted to watch were just really, really badly made.

    But then again Matt hadn’t exactly been prepared for what had happened to poor, little Danny. Most of the stuff he watched were about horrible creatures or monsters attacking cities or people, programs that were a common sight on the television in Unova at least. What had happened to Matt and his sister was real, and if he hadn’t acted like such an ***, then maybe she would still be here and he’d be none the wiser. He was still rolling over these thoughts when Mom placed a plate down in front of him. He glanced passively at it and repressed a sigh. Spaghetti and Bolognese again – just like yesterday and the day before that, easy meals that didn’t take much time to cook were frequent nowadays and with the heavy weight of Danny’s disappearance heavy in the air, Matt couldn’t hold it against her for trying to keep it simple.

    He didn’t touch the meal at first, instead squirming instinctively in his seat, attempting to keep the movements solely in his lower legs. He didn’t want his parents seeing him like this – not during dinnertime anyway – another argument with his parents over the responsibilities of being a good, sensible brother was the last thing he needed. But he couldn’t help but think back to Danny’s expression shift from one of annoyance to alarm, the bitterly cold wind that had come out of seemingly nowhere forcing her to teeter. Her arms stretching out and her legs wobbling and then tilting back and –

    Matt clenched his teeth together. Stop it. It isn’t worth repeating. Not again. He could already feel the swelling feeling in his chest and he crossed his legs to stop himself from putting a hand to his heart and bringing up another watery croak. He pressed his fork against the plate and consciously didn’t tap it – he feared that even doing that would set Mom again. He shuddered internally, her almost vicious tone whispering in the back of his head. He didn’t even think about what Dad was capable of doing if he didn’t just sit there and let his wife have at her son.

    Matt had honestly thought that the first night would be the worst of the lot. He had come home, pale-faced, trembling and without his baby sister. He faintly remembered hearing the guards explain the situation to Mom clearly and calmly, as well as watching she slowly fold in and take her heads in her hands, shuddering and wailing. One of the guards who had been female placed a hand on her shoulder and had consoled her.

    But it hadn’t done much to comfort Mom. Matt stole the chance to glance at her and his shoulders grew heavy when he saw her. She had put little effort to keep her hair back in a bun – greasy and scruffy, he was sure she hadn’t washed it since hearing the news. She hadn’t gotten much sleep last night it seemed (though neither he nor Dad had gotten proper rest either so it wasn’t really all that surprising) for the creases in her skin were blatant against her bloodshot eyes.

    Then there was Dad – who was just as stone-faced as he was when he arrived home from work. His mouth had been set into what seemed to be a permanent frown and he had tilted his gaze down so that he was looking at his plate again. Matt suppressed a gulp. Dad hadn’t spoken a word to him after he found out the news beyond the odd yes or no. In fact he usually responded to Matt in grunts now and hearing each and every one of them caused Matt’s abdomen to shrivel up a little more. He knew fully well that losing Danny was his fault – and he was pretty damn sure his parents were going to remind him of this every day for the rest of his life.

    There was a sharp knock – it was the front door. What was once a solemn dinner time shifted into a frantic rush into the living room. Mom left the table first, followed by Matt and Dad. There was another knock before her hand met the doorknob and, as expected, the two guards from the first night were waiting for them. Mom didn’t even start with a hello or a yes, she just stood there, chest heaving and arms trembling. ‘Have you found her?’

    The two guards offered each other a glance and the female guard took a step forward. ‘We’d like to have a word with you and your family, Mrs Solomon.’

    All three of the Solomons opted to sit on the couch, with Matt sandwiched between his parents. He felt his spine and posture straighten as he glanced at Mom and Dad. It was probably the first time they’d been this physically close since Danny fell.

    At first nobody said a word, the silence thickening with every passing second, but after a while the female guard laced her hands together and gulped. ‘Our apologies for coming on such short notice,’ she began. ‘We’ve been sent here by order of the king.’ She pressed her legs together. Matt’s throat dried up. The king? As in King Michael himself? He stole a peek at his mother and his chest tightened when he noticed that both her lips and her hands were shaking more than ever before. The guard straightened her posture. ‘It is about your daughter, Danielle –’

    Mom lurched forward and met the guard eye to eye. ‘Did you find her?

    The female guard looked to her cohort and then back to the family. ‘I-I’m…’ she lowered her gaze and frowned before taking a deep breath and starting again. ‘I’m sorry, Mrs Solomon, but I’m afraid to say that our rescue teams haven’t found a single trace of her.’ She shook her head slowly. ‘While she is still considered missing, I’m afraid there isn’t much more we can actually do for you.’

    Another silence fell upon the room and the tight feeling in Matt’s chest gave way to one of hollowness. His mouth opened slightly. This isn’t happening, he told himself. It couldn’t be happening. But it was and even if he tried to pinch himself Matt knew that he was fully awake. Mom had pulled back, what little colour remaining in her skin draining away while Dad leant inwards, propping his elbows on his knees and knotting his hands together.

    The male guard opened his mouth to say something but Matt didn’t hear it, his voice was nothing more than muffling sounds in the back of his head as he ran the memory of his little sister falling from view played over and over in his mind’s eye. He squeezed his eyes shut when the stinging sensation in the corners of his eyelids started welling up – he didn’t want to be caught crying. Not here, not now.

    The guards went on to talk about things that Matt didn’t really want to pay attention to, but did so nonetheless. Therapy, rehabilitation, the list went on and on. Matt drew his hands to rest on his legs. What did it matter? The hairs on the back of his neck rose when the guards discussed ways to help him recover from the trauma, but not because of their words. It didn’t take much to feel Dad’s burning angrily into the side of his face while the guards weren’t looking. No, Matt was very certain that his parents wouldn’t be considering therapy for him at any point right now.

    The rest of the evening felt numb and passed like a blur. At one moment Matt was watching as the guards left through the front door, the next he was staring up at the ceiling of his bedroom aimlessly. The choked sobs of his mother still permeated through the walls and when Matt finally became aware of it he finally let go and heard his voice hitch slightly, his face moistening with tears. He fought against the urge to wail, supressing the volume to a rasping croak and shoving a fist into his mouth. It was over. It was all over. Danny was dead and it was his fault, her blood was on his hands and his family would never forgive him for it.

    It took a minute for that thought to sink in and when it did Matt began to tremble, just as he had done on the first night. Shaking his head, he pulled the duvet away and got up, not even bothering to turn the light on. There was no point – it wouldn’t make his room feel any less heavy.

    He decided the best thing to do was to sit at his desk and stare out the window at the vast skyline of New Castelia. Danny had always told him how much she liked the lights of the city, maybe it would help him if he saw what she meant?

    Matt stared at the yellow and red dots in the distance for what felt like hours, eventually propping his head up with his arms, elbows pressing against the surface of the desk. His thoughts lingered back to the chilling breeze once more and frowned. Out of all the things that had happened, this was the strangest thing in his opinion. Granted, it wasn’t unusual for a gust of wind to pass through every once in a while, but that wasn’t what bothered him. No, what bothered Matt the most was just how cold it had felt. Even now, days later, his nerves still shrunk away from the iciness that had been in the air.

    There was something else about that breeze too – something that was probably a lot easier to explain, or at least that was what Matt told himself. For while he had flinched and gritted his teeth when the intense cold had hit him, he could’ve sworn that he’d heard someone – or something, more likely – talking in possibly the deepest voice he’d ever heard, and it had said a name – his sister’s name, no less. Matt’s shoulders hunched over. Where had the voice come from? How on earth had he managed to conjure such a voice? Was it just a figment of his imagination or something else?

    He yawned, gave one last lingering look towards the window before going back to bed and sighed. Regardless of how he felt, deep inside Matt knew that he probably wasn’t going to be getting any answers to his questions anytime soon, and perhaps it was just better to go back to bed and start again tomorrow.
    Last edited: Feb 24, 2018
  18. Chibi Pika

    Chibi Pika Stay positive

    Why look at what we have here. Delicious emotional torment. >:D

    No, but for real, I had always been wondering what was going on with Danny’s family in her absence. Especially Matt, because it was basically his fault! If he hadn’t been playing way off in Band C and taking stupid bets, Danny never would have disappeared. And they have absolutely no idea she’s alive, and no reason to believe that she might be. That is crushing. But no, what really stands out to me is the fact that the parents blame Matt. And not just in the “they know it’s his fault” kind of way—no, they’re legit angry at him. And it hurts. All of the emotions came through perfectly, especially that bit near the end when Matt is alone in his room, crying.

    This reads a bit awkwardly. I’d just go with “A female guard had placed a hand…”

    (Also what’s this about King Michael?) :O

    [SPOIL]I… wow, you know, in retrospect it’s no wonder I was wondering how Matt was dealing with what happened. Because I once lived across the street from a kid in literally the exact same situation that Matt is in. And I always wondered if he ever managed to recover from that. The sheer guilt…[/SPOIL]
    Ack. Okay, gushing over fictional torment is one thing, but this is a little too real. I’m out. Until next time~!

  19. Sike Saner

    Sike Saner Peace to the Mountain

    Got quite the bundle of mysteries here, haven't we? The Unova of this story has clearly changed a lot from what it was in the more familiar past, and of course I wonder what happened. Apparently N had some hand in civilization as Unova currently knows it--though I wonder, of course, if he truly saved the world or if this is just the line the powers-that-be feed the people to keep them content. Whatever the case may be, it's got me eager to learn more.

    Same goes for the matter of New Castelia appearing to be largely ignorant of pokémon. Or maybe it's just Danny? Her mom seems strict af, so maybe she's just hella sheltered. There seems to be a fair bit that's well and truly new to her, though of course part of that could simply be her age.

    And, of course, the Mysterious Frosty Presence with the Sulfur Hexafluoride-*** Voice. At first I thought it was merely tailing Danny (and shoving her into trash chutes :V), but there's Matt being haunted by it, too. Speaking of haunted, maybe it's a spoopy ghost of some sort? Or maybe not...

    And speaking of Matt, it was neat to get a glimpse of him and his family and how they're doing in Danielle's absence. I think I'm going to enjoy these extras, and the story in general. Heck, I already am. :D
  20. Samayouru

    Samayouru Rabid Dusclops Fan

    Chibi Pika - Yes, you can never have enough delicious torment! >:D

    I actually had a lot of trouble with addressing how Danny's family is doing while she's off on a magical adventure with a homeless looter guy in Unova.
    A lot of fanfics don't actually show what the people who the protag knew before they get whisked away go through, and as it turns out it is very easy to fall into the trap of melodrama if you haven't done your research.
    I am glad that I have made you feel pain! ;P

    Also I am really sorry to hear about what happened to your neighbours and their son. I really hope things got better for him too!


    I am thrilled to know that you're enjoying Balance. It's an amazing experience when people you followed and whose works you read as a kid like the stuff you put out. It's also nice to see that you're trying to pick apart some of the mysteries yourself - in fact seeing everyone try to build their own interpretations of what's going on is part of the fun of writing Balance for me. Glad to have you on board, Sike, I hope you stick around for the rest of the story!


    Night-time came and went, and soon Danny and Talbot were on the road once more. They spared little time in packing away their things at dawn, which was something Danny was starting to discover that she disliked. While she was starting to remember that she had been down here for two weeks, being jostled awake by Talbot every sunrise was not fun at all. She had lost count of how many times she’d yawned since Wigglytuff had brought her some breakfast and was certain that no kid should ever have to be up this early in the morning (in fact it should be against the rules, she eventually decided).

    It didn’t actually take as long to get to Nacrene as it had to Striaton, though that might’ve been because Danny was finally getting used to keeping up with Talbot. He seemed to be feeling a little better now after what happened with the scary grownups at least. ‘Nacrene’s tiny – it should be a lot easier to move around there,’ he told her as they made their way down the ancient road. ‘We shouldn’t have to stay long – just enough to see what we can find and move on.’

    Wigglytuff, despite being a few steps ahead of them, was flanking Talbot’s side. Danny looked over to her left see how Purrloin was doing. She was walking on all fours and even though she still limped a bit she appeared to be healing well. It wouldn’t be long before the bandages could come off and she’d be perfectly okay again. Nothing seemed out of order – her pelt was as sleek as usual and every other second or so she noticed that Purrloin would glance at her, apparently keeping an eye on her as well. But like in Striaton, Danny didn’t feel that the cat pokemon was going to run off, even if she had to keep checking to make sure she was still following her.

    She rubbed one of the scratches on her arms and saw how some of the lighter ones were starting to leave scars. Danny pressed her lips together. Explaining these wouldn’t be easy to her parents to say the least, and her dress was so dirty that it barely even sparkled anymore. By this point Danny was sure that it wouldn’t matter to Mom and Dad – she was still alive after all, and the worst she’d probably get is a scolding.

    After a while a square building came into view, just as desolate as the others Danny had come across. ‘There’s the gate to the city,’ Talbot told her. ‘Remember: stay close to me and we’ll be fine.’

    Out of all the towns Danny had seen so far, Nacrene was definitely the most unique, for there was not a skyscraper in sight. Instead, the streets were lined with warehouses made of brick, their metal roofs flimsy and patchy as a result of being exposed to the weather for far too long. A disused set of railroad tracks lay before the group when they crossed the borders of the city, trailing off into the nearby forest. Danny followed these metal lines until they met the edge of the tarmac. ‘What were these things for?’

    ‘Transport probably,’ Talbot said, subconsciously kicking a pebble out of his path without so much as breaking his stride. ‘There are a lot of things like that down here.’

    They stopped for something to eat in the middle of the city. Danny opted to sit on the pavement, watching as a swarm of those grey birds soared over the tops of the buildings (according to Talbot these things were called “Pidoves”). Another small pack of Lillipup was roaming the streets too, barking and yapping like excited children. They passed by without so much as batting an eyelid to the humans, although Purrloin did fall to all fours and puff out her fur a little bit when they drew near.

    Danny chewed at the inside of her mouth for a moment as Purrloin’s fur flattened, rubbing the scars on her right arm. ‘Purrloin,’ she said softly, catching the attention of both Talbot and Wigglytuff, who turned to watch her. Purrloin’s ears perked up and she tilted her head slightly. This was a very good sign – or at least that was what Danny hoped it to be. She reached for the last strip of jerky Talbot had shared with her and tore a piece off, then slowly brought out her hand in Purrloin’s direction.

    If there had been any noises in the background, then Danny hadn’t heard them, her eyes (as well as the others’) were on Purrloin. The cat flicked an ear back before slowly rising to her back paws so that she was standing again. She took a couple of slow, steady steps until she was within an inch of touching Danny’s fingertips and stood there for a second or two. Danny’s abdomen hitched even more than it had done back when she’d offered Purrloin a cup of soup. The pokemon had never been this close – not of her own free will.

    Purrloin’s gaze flickered, and then she returned Danny’s gesture, reaching out with her paws and carefully taking the scrap of meat from her owner’s palm.

    The pressure in Danny’s body exploded and a grin spread across her face and she had to consciously stop herself from shouting with joy – the last thing she wanted to do was scare Purrloin. Talbot chuckled softly while Wigglytuff applauded quietly with her stubby hands. ‘Good job, Danny,’ he said to her when the feline sat back down to eat, a genuine smile peeking at the corners of his mouth. ‘Told you things would change – a little bit of patience can go a very long way sometimes.’

    Of course there wasn’t much else in Nacrene – most of the buildings turned out to be residential so they just had to pick up what they could and move on. But one building –or lack thereof – in particular stuck out to Danny. Most of it had been torn down, but that wasn’t what she was interested in. No, what caught her attention was just how large the chiselled pillars cast across the ground were compared to her.

    There was also a sign in front of this wreck – a large one that looked almost like the billboards they used in the high streets of Band B. Most of the sign had been eaten away by rust, but one thing on the sign stuck out like a sore thumb. This was probably due to it being a brilliant shade of light blue, Danny thought. It certainly drew her attention away from the generic orange and brown stains at least.

    What had been placed on the sign, possibly just below what had once been a paragraph of text, was a symbol. Danny tilted her head and chewed on her lower lip. It looked kind of like a P, but at the same time it also looked like a Z as well. She tapped her chin. She’d seen this symbol before, but where? Maybe it had been on TV at some point?

    Purrloin trotted up to Danny and sat beside her, now looking up at this strange symbol too. ‘Mrow?’

    ‘I don’t know,’ Danny replied absentmindedly. She rubbed the back of her neck. ‘It just looks kinda weird to me, that’s all.’

    ‘This house is safe,’ Talbot called from the closest warehouse to the street. ‘Come on, Danny, we’ve got supplies to find.’

    Danny sighed and followed with Purrloin by her side. She stole the chance to take one more look at the symbol on the sign before entering the warehouse and pushed it out of her thoughts.

    She needed to keep focussed on helping Talbot find things anyway.

    They left Nacrene behind an hour later, and had come away with relatively little, though this didn’t damper Danny’s mood in the slightest. She’d gotten Purrloin to take something from her hands at long last! Now whenever she checked to see how her pokemon was doing she couldn’t help but let her chest swell a little bit.

    At first Danny thought that they were alone, as they’d been on nearly every path between towns so far, but the distant, slow patter of heavy footfalls soon made her think otherwise. A man soon followed these steps, heading in the direction of Nacrene, his face obscured by a scruffy hoodie that covered most of the top half of his face. Danny almost froze when she noticed the pokeball on his belt, but kept moving, drawing close to Purrloin and Talbot as they passed the newcomer by. The memory of Mike’s Scraggy flashed across her head and she gulped. It was better to just keep going and stay out of trouble, like Talbot said.

    She only stole the chance to glance back once – and when she did she noticed that the newcomer was watching them over his shoulder. She still couldn’t make out his face, but his lips were parted ever so slightly. Danny broke away and pushed the thoughts of this man out of her mind. It didn’t matter if he was as friendly as Mustard or as mean as the looters – Talbot wouldn’t be letting his guard slip again, that was certain – and if he didn’t want anything to do with strangers, then she had to feel the same way about them.

    The trees began to thicken, closing in around the road and Danny suspected that they were about to enter another forest. This was confirmed to her by Talbot when he tapped her to get her attention. ‘We’re nearing Pinwheel Forest,’ he told her and took her hand. ‘It’s a pretty huge place so keep a hold on my hand.’ He furrowed his brow. ‘I don’t want to lose you in there.’

    Danny squeezed Talbot’s hand in response. ‘I don’t want to lose you in there too.’

    The first thing that she noticed about the fronds of the forest was the vast amount of shade. Light dappled the road and Danny had to cup her hands above her brow to stop the light from causing her to flinch.

    Wigglytuff suddenly halted, as did Purrloin and as a result so did Talbot. Both their pokemons’ ears suddenly perked up, sharp and tense and the hairs on the back of Purrloin’s neck rose once more. This time her lips drew back into a snarl and the bridge of her nose wrinkled while Wigglytuff began puffing up her body. Danny’s grip on Talbot tightened. ‘What’s wrong?’

    Talbot shook his head and put a finger to his lips. ‘Listen.’

    Danny didn’t hear anything at first, it wasn’t until she slowed her breaths down did she pick up on what Talbot was pointing out. At first it was muffled, but after several seconds had passed Danny could recognise the familiar sounds of someone speaking in a stern tone.

    Danny’s mouth grew dry and her pulse began to hammer. She could recognise that kind of tone anywhere. There were guards down here too! Her chest swelled. They sounded close – incredibly close in fact – and it wouldn’t be hard to get their attention at all if she tried hard enough.

    She let go of Talbot’s grip, her face beaming. It was over – she was finally going to be able to see her family again! ‘Wait here,’ she said. ‘I’ll tell the guards what happened!’

    Talbot’s eyes shot open. ‘Danny!’

    But Danny didn’t hear him, nor did she see him chasing after her with their pokemon not too far behind. If there had been a whole group of guards like she expected then they had dispersed, because there was only one person standing on the main road when she turned the corner. Danny’s pulse began racing when the familiar sight of the grey uniform met her irises. Yes, it was definitely one of them!

    She opened her mouth as she approached the guard. ‘Hey!’
    The guard’s shoulders tensed and he whipped around, his hand instinctively reaching for something fastened around his belt. He stepped back a bit when he finally realised that Danny was approaching him, biting down on his lower lip.

    ‘Can you help us?’ Danny continued. ‘I fell down here a few days ago and I’d like to go home now.’ She brought a hand to her chest. ‘I’m from Band B.’

    ‘Danny!’ Talbot finally caught up to her. But all Danny did was look over her shoulder and grin.

    ‘Don’t worry, Talbot,’ she said. ‘He’s a guard – he’ll take us all back up to New Castelia!’

    ‘D-Don’t move another inch!’

    Danny turned back to the guard to find that he was aiming a pokeball at the ground. He took a deep breath and looked away when Danny’s line of sight met his. She tilted her head. That was funny – she’d never seen guards with pokeballs up in New Castelia. Maybe they were just finding out about pokemon too?

    ‘Don’t move another inch,’ the guard repeated, this time much clearer. ‘Or I will take you down by force.’

    Danny’s breathing hitched. Why was this guard treating her like she was a threat? Weren’t guards supposed to help people in trouble? She felt Talbot’s grip on her shoulder and her back tensed. ‘Talbot’s not a threat,’ she said. ‘He’s been helping me get home!’

    But the guard didn’t back down, nor did his expression waver.

    Talbot tugged at Danny’s shoulder. ‘Come on,’ he whispered. ‘Let’s go before we get into trouble.’

    ‘This is your last warning,’ the guard barked. ‘Leave now.’

    Talbot tugged her shoulder again and this time Danny responded, allowing him to take her hand once more and lead her away from the guard. She faintly heard the sounds of Purrloin and Wigglytuff growling a warning of their own before following, but her senses soon dulled.

    Next thing she knew, she was leaving the forest – but not in the way she’d hoped.

    . . .​

    They didn’t go back to Nacrene nor did they attempt to find another path through the woods. Instead, Talbot took Danny to a secluded section of the road and the two of them sat down on a fallen log for a while in silence.

    Danny didn’t know if Talbot wasn’t talking because he was afraid to or if he wanted to give her some space, but either way she was quietly grateful for it. Purrloin and Wigglytuff kept watch on both sides of the road – if any guards came after them, then at least they’d get a little bit of time to prepare themselves for another fight.

    After a little while of sitting around Talbot broke this silence by taking a deep breath and slouching his shoulders. ‘Danny,’ he began. ‘I’m really sorry that you’ve had to go through all of this.’

    Danny’s lips quivered. ‘Why was he mad at me, Talbot?’ she whimpered. ‘Mom always told me guards were nice people – what did I do to make him upset?’

    Talbot shook his head. ‘It wasn’t your fault,’ he replied. ‘You had no idea what he was going to do.’

    Danny balled her hands into fists, tears sneaking from the corner of her eyes. ‘I-I just want to go home!’

    She crumpled inwards, holding herself as the whimpers escalated into choked sobs. Talbot cast his gaze down and touched her shoulder again, falling silent.

    ‘Danny,’ he said after a while, digging his fingernails into his palms. ‘I suppose I’d better tell you something.’

    Danny didn’t say anything. She just buried her head into her arms and kept sobbing.

    Talbot cleared his throat and stiffened his back. ‘There’s a reason why the man back there was being defensive,’ he said. ‘Things are different down here, Danny, and…’ he faltered, swallowing again. ‘And…’

    Danny peered from the corners of her elbows at him. ‘A-And what?’

    Talbot’s eyelids sank. He opened his mouth, sucking in a deep breath. ‘And –’

    ‘What the hell happened here?’

    Both Danny and Talbot snapped to attention. Her chest hammered, dreading the sight of another guard striding up to them with a pokeball aimed at the both of them, but this feeling slackened when she recognised the scruffy hoodie. It was the grownup from before and this time he wasn’t alone – for perched on his shoulder, very much like Mustard’s Pansear, was another pokemon she hadn’t met down here yet. She couldn’t quite make up her mind on what it most resembled – the reptilian head and scales reminded her of a Scraggy, but the untidy feathers covering most of its body and wings were more like a Pidove. It tilted its head and squawked, eying Danny and keeping its grip on its owner’s shoulder with long talons.

    Purrloin uttered a low growl but Wigglytuff stayed still, blocking the path between the newcomer and her friends with a determined look on her face.

    Talbot shot the man a glare. ‘Just keep moving,’ he ordered firmly. ‘You have no business with us.’

    This did not sway the newcomer in the slightest. He rubbed his forehead and gritted his teeth. ‘Don’t tell me those Plasma soldiers are in Pinwheel Forest again,’ he groaned. ‘Honestly – I was hoping I could get by without any trouble this time, serves me right, I guess.’

    The tears running across Danny’s cheeks began to dry. Plasma soldiers? Was he referring to the guards?

    The man slid his hands into the pockets of the hoodie. ‘Are you two heading for Old Castelia?’

    Danny’s fists unfurled. There was an Old Castelia? She rubbed her face and scowled. Why did everything have to be so confusing?

    Talbot’s glare softened slightly. ‘Who wants to know?’

    ‘I do,’ the man responded. ‘I’m Eli and it just so happens that I live in that city.’ He gestured to the pokemon on his shoulder. ‘Archen and I come here for art supplies mostly – there are tons of them if you know where to look.’

    Talbot shook his head. ‘Hold on – you say that those soldiers come here often?’

    Eli nodded. ‘That’s right,’ he said. ‘So much so that I’ve had to take the long way around several times.’ He folded his arms and smiled. ‘I know the path quite well – it’ll take a bit more time but at least the soldiers aren’t so frequent. Do you want me to take you with me?’

    Talbot rubbed his shoulder before crossing his arms. ‘All right,’ he said. ‘But I won’t hold back if it turns out that you’re lying.’

    Eli shrugged his shoulders. ‘Fair enough.’ He tilted his head when he saw Danny, who was still rubbing her eyes. ‘Is the little lady going to be okay?’

    Talbot’s brow tightened, his lips creasing downwards. ‘She’s my responsibility,’ he said firmly. ‘Not yours.’

    Eli frowned slightly but took a step back. ‘Fair enough.’

    His Archen spread one of its wings, cawing sharply.

    ‘Right,’ his owner continued. ‘We should get a move on – it won’t be long before the soldiers start spreading out, and if we can get a head start on them, the better off we’ll be.’

    . . .​

    Going into the forest for a second time wasn’t something that Danny looked forward to, and neither did Talbot by the looks of it. He kept looking from Eli to Danny every so often, and even though Eli wasn’t showing any signs of betraying the group like Danny thought Talbot suspected, she couldn’t help but bait her breath every time their escort broke his stride. Wigglytuff stuck close to Danny while Purrloin flanked her left – at least if they got ambushed, she’d have a little bit of protection. That did nothing to ease the stinging sensation in her tear ducts though.

    Eli came to a stop when they reached the area where the guard had threatened Danny. She bit her lip and shut her eyes when the image came to her – now wasn’t the time to start crying again. ‘There’s usually a soldier keeping watch around here,’ he told them. ‘They really don’t like it when people attempt to take the short path.’ He placed a hand on his hip. ‘Though I don’t know why they come here so often – there’s nothing but trees and grass around here.’

    Danny opened her mouth to respond but thought better of it. She didn’t want to get caught by the guards again. Wigglytuff offered her a comforting tap and she replied by giving her a small smile.

    ‘The path is to the left,’ Eli continued, pointing to an area of the forest where the trees weren’t so thick. ‘Soldiers probably won’t see us – but be prepared for wild pokemon,’ he said. ‘They don’t seem to like the soldiers being here either.’

    The trees soon gave way to an overgrown path with grass that came up to Danny’s knees, and for a while there was nothing but silence surrounding them. ‘See what I mean?’ Eli whispered after a while. ‘The pokemon go real quiet.’

    Talbot gritted his teeth. ‘That’s never a good sign.’

    There were still signs of life here. Danny stole the chance to follow the rustling of creatures moving about in the branches above them. On the odd occasion she could make out the familiar figures of monkey pokemon leaping from tree to tree, some were blue, others were green. Every so often a Pansear would be among them too, just as quiet as the others. She could also hear skittering sounds coming from the roots and bushes below them, though she didn’t stop to find out what they were.

    It wasn’t long before the muffled barks of a man met their ears. Eli froze when he became aware of this. ‘They’re close,’ he said. ‘Just stick near and we’ll pass them by without a problem.’

    It soon became apparent where the guards were coming from. The trees and shrubs thinned out just enough to give the group a chance to see what was going on. There were two of these guards, rooting around in the overgrown grass. One of them had a pokeball in his hand. ‘Did you find it yet?’ he asked.

    His cohort shook her head. ‘Nope.’

    The first guard scowled. ‘Dammit,’ he muttered. ‘All I had to do was throw a pokeball at it and we wouldn’t be here now.’

    ‘Why do you want one of those bugs anyway?’ the second guard said, raising an eyebrow. ‘You’ve got a Patrat, and they’re pretty good at following orders.’

    ‘Because,’ the first guard replied. ‘Patrat’s terrible at fighting – I want something that can poison things, you know?’

    Something rustled from behind Danny, accompanied by what she believed to be quiet clicking sounds. She daren’t turn around – not while the guards were there.

    Rustle. There it was again, much closer than before. Danny inhaled deeply It was probably just another Pidove or Pansear moving about in the trees or something.

    One of the guards twisted her head in the direction that they’d come from. ‘Let it go,’ she said. ‘We need to join the others in the east.’

    The male guard nodded and the two of them turned their backs on the group, slinking back in what Danny assumed to be the way to the main road.

    There were a few more soft clicks and Danny finally gave in. She turned, her eyes falling upon a creature that looked to be just as tall as Purrloin was. A magenta and black exoskeleton coated the insect’s body like armour and its thick antennae were twitching madly. It hunched down when it noticed Danny, keeping its feelers flat against its tiny head, and it didn’t take her long to figure out why it was acting this way. Dents and fresh scratches coated its armour, giving it a rather battered appearance.

    ‘I guess we’ve found what the grunts were looking for,’ Eli said and looked at Danny. ‘That’s a Venipede – they’re quite common in this forest.’

    Upon hearing Eli’s voice the Venipede clicked again and shrunk back against the bushes, flattening itself even more so it almost looked like a pancake. Talbot looked over his shoulder. ‘We should keep going,’ he said. ‘Before those guards come back.’

    Danny frowned. ‘But the Venipede looks hurt.’ She inched closer to the cowering bug. ‘We should help it.’

    Talbot whipped around and took a deep breath, but faltered when Wigglytuff shook her head and patted Danny’s shoulder. ‘Yoom-tah.’

    Danny almost smiled. It was nice to have Wigglytuff on her side. Talbot growled quietly and turned to Eli. ‘Do you have any oran berries on you?’

    Eli nodded. ‘Sure.’ He glanced at his Archen. ‘You keep an eye out for any Plasma goons.’

    Danny turned to Purrloin. ‘Would you go and help Archen, please?’ she asked, half anticipating Purrloin to scoff and ignore her completely. But Purrloin didn’t. Instead, she fell to all fours and trotted after Archen without a word.

    ‘Just make this quick,’ Talbot whispered. He shut his eyes and pinched the bridge of his nose briefly. ‘Go on.’

    Eli dug into one of the pockets of his hoodie and brought out a familiar looking blue berry. ‘Here you go,’ he said. ‘Just be careful – Venipedes can have a vicious bite if you get on their bad sides.’

    Danny gave him a thankful nod as he gave the berry to her, then she crouched down so that she could just about make out her reflection in the Venipede’s yellow irises. ‘It’s okay,’ she whispered. ‘We’re not going to hurt you.’

    The tip of the Venipede’s pointed mouth (or at least Danny assumed it was a mouth) began twitching and it slowly began to stretch out again. It locked eyes with her and the two of them stared each other down for a handful of seconds before the insect pokemon became aware of the oran berry in her hand. Its feelers rose, curling forward as its feet began to shuffle. It exchanged a nervous glance with Wigglytuff, who nodded softly to it, before shuffling even closer. By now it could reach the berry with its mouth but instead it made contact by running its antennae across the surface of the berry. It paused momentarily when these ticklish feelers met Danny’s skin and she tightened her chest to stop herself from giggling.

    With several more soft clicks the Venipede tilted its head and dug its mouth into the skin of the berry, and this was followed by slow, sloppy munching sounds.

    Danny let go of the berry and beamed up at Talbot. ‘There, all better!’

    There was a sudden yowl from Purrloin and Eli tensed up. ‘Hurry up,’ he said. ‘There are more soldiers heading in our direction.’

    Danny frowned. ‘But what about the Venipede?’

    Talbot waved his hand dismissively. ‘It’ll be fine – now let’s go.’

    The men turned their backs to Danny and started walking. Eli’s Archen and Purrloin soon emerged from the bushes and followed while Wigglytuff gestured to her to follow. She looked to the grownups, then back to Venipede, and bit her lip. She walked over to the insect (who by now was halfway done with the berry) and grabbed its sides, causing it to squeak. ‘Sorry, mister Venipede,’ she said and brought the Venipede over her head and onto her shoulders. ‘I just want to get you to safety.’

    The Venipede, despite producing several sharp clicks that Danny believed to express annoyance, continued munching the oran berry while touching her skin once more with its feelers.

    She soon caught up to the others, the Venipede’s pointy feet digging into the fabric of her dress to stop itself from falling off. Neither one of the grownups knew what she had done until Talbot glanced in her direction. His eyes grew to be as large as dinner plates when he realised what was on her shoulders. ‘Danny!’ he hissed. ‘What the hell do you think you’re doing?!?’

    Eli stopped and turned around, raising an eyebrow when he saw the Venipede for himself. Danny brought her hands together. ‘I-I didn’t want to leave it to the guards!’ she whimpered. ‘It’s safe travelling with us, right?’

    Talbot shut his eyes and pinched the bridge of his nose for a second time. ‘Danny,’ he said. ‘That’s a poisonous pokemon – it could make you very sick if it bites you!’

    The light sensation of feelers grazing Danny’s left cheek started up again but this time she ignored it. ‘It didn’t bite me when I picked it up.’

    Talbot shook his head. ‘No, but it might do it now!’ He pointed to the grass. ‘Set it down before it gets upset, Danny.’

    Eli, on the other hand, was being completely silent. He rubbed his chin and furrowed his brow as he watched this argument unfold.

    ‘Hey, you!’

    Danny’s heart dropped into her stomach. She recognised the voice coming from the trees, and her fears were confirmed when two people in guard uniforms emerged from the edge of the path. The Venipede’s grip on Danny’s shoulder tightened and it gave several frantic clicks and squeaks. The man glared in Danny’s direction and pointed at her. ‘So that’s where the Venipede went,’ he barked. ‘Hand it over, kid, I’ve got dibs on it!’

    Eli’s Archen squawked and Purrloin hissed, the hair on her neck rising as she hunched over. The woman took a pokeball from her belt and threw it into the air. ‘Lillipup, go!’

    The pokeball opened and the light inside of it landed on the ground, taking the familiar form of the little dogs that seemed to be everywhere down in the region of Unova. But this one was a far, far, cry from the wide-eyed, yapping pups that Danny was slowly becoming accustomed to. This one’s fur was much more ragged, and several scars crisscrossed its back. It bore down just like Purrloin and snarled, foam bubbling from its mouth.

    Eli sprang into action immediately. ‘Archen, let’s go!’ he ordered and Archen screeched, leaping forward and exposing its sharp talons at the Lillipup threateningly.

    The male guard scowled and grabbed the pokeball on his belt too. ‘So be it then,’ he grumbled and tossed the ball. ‘I’ll use Patrat to take it from you by force!’

    What emerged from the pokeball was another familiar pokemon – but like the Lillipup, it too had a wild gleam in its red and yellow eyes. It puffed its chest out and produced what sounded to Danny like something between a hiss and a screech before lunging upon Purrloin without warning. Purrloin exploded into a flurry of hisses and claws, turned into a purple blur by all the sudden movements.

    ‘Purrloin!’ Danny cried but Talbot stepped in front of her.

    ‘Let me handle this,’ he told her firmly and clenched his fists. ‘Wigglytuff, hit that Patrat with Pound.’

    Wigglytuff leapt into the air with an eager ‘Yoom-tah!’ before plummeting down in front of the brawling pokemon. She raised a paw and smashed it into the Patrat’s chin, causing it to reel and splutter as it was sent tumbling to the grass. Purrloin dipped her head thankfully before slinking back over to Danny’s side. Danny almost knelt down to see if her pokemon needed any medical attention but was reminded about Venipede when it squeaked once more, watching Archen and Wigglytuff as they entered the fight.

    Instead, she slowly turned her head and met Purrloin directly in the eye. ‘Are you okay?’

    Purrloin nodded and started licking the ruffled fur on her back.

    ‘All right Archen,’ she heard Eli shout. ‘Use Rock Throw!’

    Archen, who had climbed up into the trees, was leaping from one branch to another. The Lillipup, clearly lacking the ability to climb, was jumping up and down in a frenzied attempt to reach its opponent, yapping madly. Danny could also just make out a rock the size of her hand clamped between the Archen pointed teeth. It tossed this rock with an alarming amount of strength, sending it flying straight at the Lillipup’s head like a speeding bullet, and struck it directly on the forehead. This cut the dog pokemon’s barks short and what replaced them was a high-pitched whine as the rock finally came to a stop behind it.

    ‘Keep going, Lillipup!’ the female guard shouted. ‘Come on, snap out of it!’

    The dog pokemon snarled once more and flicked its gaze in Danny’s direction. She stepped back but this did nothing to deter the Lillipup from howling at her. Without warning it charged in her direction, gaze gleaming and fangs exposed. Danny yelped and shielded Venipede’s face as the Lillipup thrust itself at her, forcing her to grit her teeth and flinch.

    But the pain of teeth sinking into her flesh never came. Instead, another snarling noise erupted from her side, followed by an untidy thud. When Danny opened her eyes again she found Purrloin standing in front of her with her claws exposed. Lying on the ground in front of them was the Lillipup, who now had several long gashes trickling blood going across its sides. Danny clenched her jaw. Her pokemon had probably cut deep enough to leave scars.

    Venipede pulled on her dress and brought itself closer, squeaking loudly. Purrloin looked over her shoulder and met the bug pokemon eye to eye with a firm ‘Mrow,’ and a knowing nod.

    All Danny could do was stand there with her lips parted. She struggled to find her voice and all she could do was muster up a quiet ‘Purrloin.’

    ‘Dammit!’ the female guard hissed and brought out the pokeball again, calling her pokemon back in a red light. ‘I’ll never become a knight at this rate!’

    Her cohort’s Patrat appeared to be faring much better. While it was covered in scrapes and scratches, it still looked hungry for battle. Wigglytuff was holding her own just as well – her thick skin certainly helped. The Patrat was attempting to rake its claws across her side but every time they struck her they merely bounced off, leaving her completely unscathed. ‘Ugh, this is pointless,’ the male guard muttered, wiping the sweat from his brow. ‘Patrat, use Bite!’

    Patrat snarled and lunged forward, latching onto Wigglytuff’s head and exposing its teeth before digging them into her forehead. Wigglytuff squealed and both Danny and Venipede flinched. Talbot, however, remained completely still, sight narrowed and brow knit together. ‘Shake it off, Wigglytuff,’ he said calmly. ‘Use Rollout!’

    Wigglytuff fell forward and brought the screeching Patrat with her, crushing it against the grass as she barrelled across the ground. The Patrat’s cries were also cut short and it lost its grip, landing squarely on its back with its mouth hanging open.

    The guard snarled and pointed the pokeball at his pokemon. ‘Return, Patrat,’ he growled and glared at the group. ‘You’d better be damn thankful you have pokemon that can actually fight.’

    There was a sudden bleeping noise followed by static, and both guards quickly put the pokeballs back on their belts. The walkie talkies on the front of their uniforms blared into life and a man’s voice, made gravelly by the static, came through the speaker. ‘Attention all units: please report back to the main road immediately,’ the voice instructed. ‘Repeat: all units report to the main road immediately. Templar Odilia has found Rumination Field. Over.’

    Both guards exchanged nods and offered Eli and Talbot one last lingering glare. ‘Next time we see you, we’ll beat you all to a bloody pulp,’ the man said before following his cohort back into the maze of trees from whence they’d come from.

    The group didn’t waste any time moving on. There was nothing really more to say about the whole thing as it was. But Danny, despite knowing that there was nothing she could do, couldn’t help but wonder what “Rumination Field” meant. It seemed important – at least to the guards it had – maybe Talbot knew something about it?

    She looked up to him as the light sensation of Venipede’s feelers met her face again. ‘Talbot?’


    ‘What’s Rumination Field?’

    Talbot peered over his shoulder at her briefly but didn’t stop walking. ‘I don’t know,’ he replied. ‘Don’t worry about that, we’re not getting involved with whatever it is they’re doing anyway.’

    After a while the trees began thinning out again and Eli took note of this. ‘We’re nearly there,’ he told them. ‘We’ll be meeting the edge of the main path soon.’

    Talbot frowned. ‘And what if that’s where the soldiers are meeting up? What will we do then?’

    ‘Simple,’ Eli said, grinning. ‘Leave them to me – Archen’s got plenty of experience so he can hold his own.’ He rubbed his pokemon’s head. ‘Don’t you, boy?’

    Archen lifted his head and snorted confidently in return.

    Thankfully the path was as empty as a ghost town. Nothing human or pokemon could be seen across the vast stretch of tarmac. It wasn’t long after meeting this road that the sun began to pierce through the branches much stronger than it had around the entrance.

    ‘See, what did I tell ya?’ Eli said. ‘The bridge to Old Castelia is just beyond this point.’

    Talbot stopped walking and so did Danny. He turned to her and knelt down so that he could see her eye to eye. ‘Danny,’ he said firmly. ‘You’ve got to release the Venipede now – it should be safe enough for it to return to the forest without being chased down by any more soldiers.’

    Danny pouted but did as she was told. She slowly took the Venipede by its sides once more and lifted it from her shoulder. There were no squeaks or clicks of protest this time and it turned to Danny, tilting its head upwards when she set it down on the grass. ‘Go on,’ she said. ‘You need to go home.’

    The Venipede, however, stayed put. The only part of its body that it actually moved were its feelers, which reached forward and skimmed across Danny’s arms. It took several slow steps forward before placing one of its front legs on her hand, and before Danny had time to react she suddenly found that the bug was carefully and methodically climbing up her forearm.

    Danny’s arms hitched slightly. ‘What’s it doing?’

    ‘I think it wants to come with you,’ Eli replied, following the Venipede until it was perched firmly on Danny’s shoulders again. He dug into the pockets of his hoodie and pulled out a somewhat battered pokeball. ‘Try this.’

    Talbot stiffened when he watched Danny take the ball from Eli. ‘We won’t have enough supplies to feed it.’

    ‘That’s not a problem,’ Eli replied, placing a hand on his hip. ‘Bugs can survive on berries just as much as they can on meat.’ He offered Talbot a firm grin. ‘My brother runs a group in the heart of the city – if you’re with me, he’ll be able to get you some extra supplies without a problem.’

    Talbot took a breath and raised a finger but exhaled after a few seconds. ‘You’d better be right about that,’ he said.

    Danny shifted her attention back to the Venipede and brought the pokeball to its face. ‘Do you want to join us?’

    The Venipede clicked and touched the sphere with its feelers, its hooked mouth twitching fervently. It glanced to her, then back at the ball, and slowly pushed itself forward until there was enough pressure on the button to cause the pokeball to fling open, sucking Venipede in. The ball closed shut and shook once, twice and then pinged, drawing completely still in Danny’s fingers.

    Eli shrugged. ‘And that’s that.’ He turned back to the road beyond the forest and beckoned. ‘Come on – it’ll be getting dark soon and if we hurry, we’ll be just in time for something to eat back at my brother’s base.’


    Hi there everyone! I'm just putting this little bit at the end because I feel that I need to say some things.

    I'd like to say (or type, in this case) that I am overwhelmed by the responses I've gotten from rewriting Balance both on FF.net as well as Serebiiforums. It's been one hell of a ride so far and I honestly didn't know what to expect when I decided I wanted to give this story another shot. The fact that you all like it and are gaining your own interpretations from what I've written has made me incredibly happy, and even though there are some parts of Balance I don't enjoy writing, overall it has made the experience for me a lot more fun.

    I know, it's a sappy thing to say, but really - thanks everyone. Both you reviewers and readers have been an amazing audience and I really hope we can see Balance through to the end - even if the end is still a very long way off!

    - Sam.
    Last edited: Feb 24, 2018

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