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Flying in the Dark [COMPLETE]

Discussion in 'Fan Fiction' started by diamondpearl876, Mar 22, 2015.

  1. diamondpearl876

    diamondpearl876 → follow your fire.

    Thanks to a little writing challenge my friend presented to me, I was able to find the motivation to restart this fic.

    Flying in the Dark is an epistolary slice-of-life fic starring a young, naive trainer named Haley Zamor and a man named Markus Samaras, who is in prison for drug addiction. While a story told in letters has many limitations, I hope that the revisions I have made will have added to each character's voice (particularly Haley's) as well as the worldbuilding aspect that the original version was lacking.

    Any and all comments are appreciated. Further edits will be made based off of reader comments.

    Rated PG-13 for swearing and occasional mature themes, such as mentions of drug addiction, death, and suicide.

    Best new pokémon-chaptered fic (serebii)
    Best pokémon chaptered-fic (serebii)
    Most original overall (serebii)
    Best writing style x3 (serebii)
    Most memorable quote (serebii)
    Best trainer fic x2 (serebii)
    Kenneth for best supporting character (bulbagarden)
    Haley/Markus for best character dynamic x2 (serebii)

    Best character development (serebii)
    Haley/Markus for best non-romantic relationship/interaction (serebii)
    Markus for best protagonist (bulbagarden)
    Markus for best character (bulbagarden)
    Best alternate fic (bulbagarden)


    [1 - haley] - anything to take my mind off of what i was running away from
    [2 - markus] - i would give an excuse but there is none
    [3 - haley] - call it in the air! heads or tails?
    [4 - markus] - one letter for each lost piece of my humanity
    [5 - haley] - for what it's worth...
    [6 - markus] - the night makes us who we are
    [7 - haley] - i'm like a walking contradiction, i guess
    [8 - markus] - illusions are something of a specialty of mine
    [9 - haley] - so now you know
    [10 - markus] - think rationally, think slowly
    [11 - haley] - seeing all over again
    [12 - markus] - a past that feels not like my own
    [13 - haley] - i'll take the risk
    [14 - haley] - in a different light
    [15 - markus] - i chose a long time ago
    [16 - haley] - a single person on the other end
    [17 - markus] - but what i need right now is your words
    [18 - haley] - i haven't found an answer yet
    [19 - markus] - perhaps i can rouse the sleeping courage in me
    [20 - haley] - we were never strangers
    [21 - markus] - there is but one illusion that i would welcome
    [22 - haley] - the truth is where it belongs
    [23 - markus] - i cannot allow myself to falter
    [24 - markus] - a growing, growing, growing sense of dread
    [25 - haley] - please don't retreat into total silence
    [26 - haley] - i don't know what to do with the knowledge that this happened
    [27 - ???] - this is the space between us
    [28 through 32 - haley] - waiting, waiting, waiting for you
    [33 - ???] - words only from now on



    [letters one and two]


    April 21

    Dear Markus Samaras,

    I know I’ll be lucky if you even open this, but if you’ve gotten this far, please don't throw away my letter until you read it all! My family's been telling me that writing to you is a stupid idea, but I don't think so. They say I should want nothing to do with a prisoner, and that people “like you” (their words, not mine) don't want an outsider's pity. But I'm not here to give you pity! I'll explain why I'm writing to you later. I need to get your attention as soon as possible.

    Anyway, I'm sorry if that wasn't the best way to start a letter. I just don't like to sugarcoat things. I want to be a realistic, honest person, so let me tell you about myself. I just had my golden birthday. I'm 18 now! ...Which would be exciting, except lately I've been thinking about my life and wondering if I'm where I should be. Anistar City hasn't done much for me, mostly because I've been homeschooled since I was a kid. And Anistar City is known for having the best schools in Kalos... Ironic, isn't it? I'm a sheltered girl who's been waiting for something to happen. If anything interesting or exciting has happened, I must have missed it.

    I've realized that it's up to me to make something happen. Yesterday I told my parents that I wasn't attending university this year. Instead I'm gonna explore Kalos with my pokémon, since pokémon have always been there for me and understood me. Not that I don't like people or anything. It's quite the opposite. I want to know everything about everyone and then some. My brother asked me about being all-knowing once, but I know that's impossible. ...I crossed that out because I didn't mean to talk about my brother so soon. Sorry about that. What I want is similar to omniscience, though, I guess? By the end of my journey I'll be that person who's heard all kinds of stories... including yours, if you'll write back to me. Obviously you don't have to tell me everything right away. I'm really hoping we can do this in the long run.

    Am I saying a lot all at once? That's just how I am. If it makes you feel better, I could be a bit more simple. Hmm... My father is my teacher and a stay-at-home dad. My mother works as an nurse at our local Pokémon Center. Both of them are against what I want to do. Traveling is dangerous, I'll give them that, but why can't I take what I've learned in school and apply it to the real world? Isn't that why we learn in the first place?

    Well, I've always been different from the rest of my family. I get along with my grandmother, but that's it. I used to run to her house in the middle of the night twice a week or more. She would force herself to stay awake and we would bake oatmeal cookies, watch horror movies or listen to music soft enough for only us to hear. Anything to take my mind off of what I was running away from. Thankfully she's kept this a secret from my parents.

    What's even better is that she's tried to help me be less lonely. She works for Anistar's school system too, but instead of focusing on history or literature, she raises baby pokémon to be tame for younger trainers like me. I wasn't surprised when she gave me a pidgey on my 13th birthday. She loves holidays and special occasions, so she found it appropriate to celebrate my becoming a teenager. After some convincing, my parents let me keep the pidgey.

    That pidgey is now a pidgeotto. I call him Seybs, which is a shortened version of my grandmother's surname. My parents think this is weird, but I'm sure other trainers nickname their pokémon after humans. I did it in honor of my grandmother, so why are they complaining? I know she's not 100% supportive of me either... She's giving me a chance, though. That's what counts.

    When she heard the news, she went so far as to buy me another pokémon. Ribbons, my natu, was born in Johto with the help of a professional breeder. The red spike on the back of his head reminded me of a ribbon, hence his name. He's protective and alert, unlike Seybs... Sorry, Seybs, but you're a lazy battler and would rather sleep on my shoulder any day. I've only had Ribbons for a week and I already know he'll be a great addition to the team.

    Okay... I guess I should tell you why I'm writing to you at this point. Basically I want to see sights I've never seen before—festivals with bright lights and firework shows, crossroads with high plains on one side and rocky mountains on the other, pokémon overcoming type disadvantages… I don't think those memories should be left to the eye alone. The view becomes especially spectacular when you can describe it to someone else and make them feel the same as you did when you first saw it. That's the kind of connection I want with someone.

    But why you, of all people? Well, now’s as good a time as any to talk about my brother for real. Joey’s a year younger than me, and he's been in a whole lot more trouble than I have. He thinks writing to you is risky too, but that's besides the point. He's handled drugs and sold them for money, and says he knows you because of that. He says you probably got caught and sent to jail for rehabilitation. I don't want to make assumptions... but if it's true, I don't mind. I feel safe enough. I chose you because I had to choose someone, and someone my brother knows is the best it's gonna get. I feel that you might appreciate my company and descriptions of the outside world more than other people might.

    Take Anistar City, for example. The starry timekeeping city... Seat of the Kalos League... Home of the famous sundial... Anistar City is where I live, so it should be easy to describe. Guess not. What I said is true enough, but let's try again. Before I forget, though... Sorry if you know about the city already!

    We do have the sundial on the northwest edge of town. Two simple beam bridges, said to signify unity between Kalos and other regions, lead to a cul-de-sac lined with shrubbery and stones with ancient engravings on them. The Gateshead River coming from the nearby mountain flows in between the bridges, and people throw amulet coins into the water after making a secret wish. The area is kept clean in case Diancie, the legendary jewel pokémon, comes to bless us with its presence.

    Every evening the sun falls into a perfect position, and light peaks through the sundial's center, causing it to spin. The wind it creates stirs up the snow from Mamoswine Road and by the time night comes, it looks like it's snowing all over, even if it's not winter. Evening is also when the most tourists gather and train pokémon that can mega evolve, as the golden rock in the cul-de-sac's center is said to be cut from Diancie's body itself and will grant great power to those with potential.

    I don't think Diancie will ever visit, though. The way it releases carbon from its body to make diamonds would be bad for Anistar City, which has already been polluted for several centuries thanks to the old coal mines. Our natural ventilation system is even worse because we're located within the Vallée Étroite Way and surrounded by mountains. The sundial's winds can only do so much. Recently we've been trying to cut down on heavy industry and have gotten rid of our ports.

    Since then the city has been trying to save face by building landmarks that honor our role in the Kalos League as well as our history with the war from 3,000 years ago. The League Council is the most famous example, as it's where the gym leaders meet once a month to discuss the state of the region. There are all sorts of arches and fortifications left over from when Anistar City began as a military outpost, and you can see artifacts and stained glass in just about every museum. Oh, and all of our houses are black and white, framed with timbers. We don't have yards. Outside our windows, we see castrum-patterned pavement, medieval-themed streets and, if you're in a notable district, Gothic Cathedrals.

    We also have parks with swing sets and small zoos, which doesn't sound as cool, but it encourages kids to become trainers when they're older. Training is a common full-time job, and if we're taught anything about the Kalos League, it's that the gym leaders keep the region safe. So my journey shouldn't be all that worrisome. I couldn't tell you why my parents are the only ones that don't support pokémon training...

    I should probably stop here, on the off chance that you didn’t open this letter at all and I just embarrassing myself nonstop. But I hope you’ve gotten this far, because I don’t know anything about you and I’d like to, I really would. Write back to me?

    Haley Zamor


    May 10

    To Haley,

    You can call me Mark. The sound of Markus rolling off the tongue reminds me too much of my pseudo-advanced age. I am already in my thirties and struggle with moving and moving on, if you know what I mean.

    Former drug addict isn’t the most elegant of titles, but it is accurate in the instant case. I’m equally ashamed to admit that part of me that still craves the stuff once in a great while. You say you want to know about me, so I start with that, which you addressed in your letter. I don't believe in sugarcoating either, and as you may learn, I am very blunt. I don't leave room for questions or daydreaming, but I have been known to stray far from any given topic. If anything, I will be an enigma of sorts, a puzzle you'll have to figure out since I can't quite do it myself. Are you still interested in talking to me?

    I’ve been thinking a lot about what I could say to you. There is not much to say. I too see the same sights every day, the difference being that this fact won’t change for me anytime in the near future. I hear inmates yelling obscenities and I see cold, gray bars. I see blurry, orange jumpsuits or the unforgettable shade of blue of a cop's uniform when they swing by each hour. All I’ve been doing is lying on a thin, uncomfortable cot and looking at the ceiling. Above me is a vast sky, but I can’t see it, and, even if I could look through walls, first I’d see my neighbors, more ingrates that society deems unworthy of life itself! But you are different. For some ungodly reason you want to talk to me… I do not recall your brother, I must say… Nonetheless, you are sweet for wanting to help a lonely man such as myself, and even if you change your mind, I will not forget you.

    In return, I suppose I can offer stories of my own life. Though it's been many years, I once traveled around Kalos. I've been in the big cities (Lumiose) and the small towns (Santalune). I’ve dabbled in the freelance field as a performer, probed my way into in the shadier but more official business of breeding, and more. It would be impolite of me to not admit up front, however, that I tend to exaggerate certain details. My own parents exaggerated the most insignificant incidences. If a glass of milk was spilled, then the whole house was drowning. Do you get what I mean?

    Let me tell you the story of my birth, and maybe then you'll know where I went wrong.

    My mother was pregnant with quadruplets. She experienced a premonition that told her not all of us would live. Sure, she foresaw that we would all be born, and we were, but my three brothers did not last long. She was a woman who could spit out fire in her sleep, after all... The fire struck all of us after one week of her trying to suppress her powers, and I was the one who survived the wounds. What really happened, I cannot tell you, but here I am, with no kinship to hold or scars to prove there were others like me. Again, are you interested in talking to me? ...You can still leave.

    Regardless, I will not be like other adults and tell you what you are doing is silly and wrong. I have no place in telling you anything regarding morals. From your words about Anistar City and your sheltered upbringing, I understand that you know only the bare minimum about what a culture might entail. I understand that you want to know more. Why do people act the way they do? What do they believe in? Those kinds of questions seem to be the ones you are asking. It may not be so obvious, but culture cannot simply be described by the language you speak or the kinds of food you eat every day.

    Cultures are all integrated. Each culture bounces ideas off of another, and then the cultures alter themselves according to what they've learned. I will not give specific examples. I will leave it to you to experience the many cultures here in the Kalos region.

    Cultures change constantly, as they are fluid and negotiable. What Lumiose City was like for me could be different from the Lumiose City you will see on your journey. Do not fret about this and think you are being cheated. It just means that you are seeing a different, perhaps improved version of the city, and you should be grateful.

    What else can I say? Cultures are strengthened by their values. Each individual you meet may act in a specific way—either because of their culture, or the way they were raised, or a combination of both.

    Oh, and absolutely, cultures are unique to us human beings. Pokémon do not experience cultures the way we do. They experience communities, yes, but nothing as expansive or as wild as a culture. Perhaps, however, you can teach them what it is like to be you. Assuming you can’t talk to your pokémon yet, they will appreciate it on those days where they cannot communicate with you through gestures alone.

    It’s almost just as important to know what cultures are not. A person’s culture is not the sole explanation for anything a person does. Culture is not the result of a complete consensus, as you will definitely meet rebels and outcasts. Culture is not the same thing as civilization or society, nor is it the same as being refined or sophisticated, as some may think themselves to be. Do not fall into these traps. One culture does not define us all, and one culture cannot make another look inferior or superior. This is the best advice I can give you.

    …You must forgive me for taking so long to write to you. I would give an excuse but there is none.

    Last edited: Oct 30, 2019
  2. armaldo

    armaldo Pittsburgh Pirates 7th Super Bowl

    It's nice to see this back again; I thought it had so much potencial when I first saw it months ago.

    There's not much to say since it's short. Unless I'm remebering incorrectly, Hayley's tone is a little different from before. In the first version, I found her confidence in her herself a little grating, and she came off rather serious and solemn, which I thought was odd for a young girl about to go on a journey. In here, she's not quite as elegant in her syntax and prose, so her childish "I-know-what's-best-for-myself" attitude seems more appropriate; she also seems much more lighthearted than I remembered. These are all probably things you intended to do in the first place, seeing as how the driving force of the story is (supposedly) the contrast between the young and unworldly Hayley and the (relatively) old and *cultivated* Marcus.

    I seem to recall, in the first thread, some people having a problem with how sophisticated (I guess is the word) Marcus comes across. It's not such a big deal for me. In the first place, you'd have to imagine what kind of a person you'd have to be to respond to a letter from a girl half your age -- a girl who only knew of you to begin with through an aquiantence you don't even remember. Add on the the criminal history, with the drugs and the violence and all that, and the fact that he even responded to her speaks to both the kind of person he is and that he isn't a *normal* person. Stories aren't written about normal people anyway.

    One thing I like about this format is that you can have the characters go off in contemplative navel-gazing without it being wildly innapropriate. Because letters are conversations that don't take place in real-time, you can break into tangents and irrelevant topics as much as you want, which is something you are taking advantage of early (for all values approaching "tangential" and "irrelevant", as far as a work of fiction goes). I don't know if you can string that into a long-term, interesting story, but part of the fun in working within a strict construct is learning how to work within it to achieve something that wasn't immediately obvious.

    The story always had a promising premise, but the execution of it lacked a lot in the first incarnation. All appearances seem to indicate that it will be a little different this time around.
  3. diamondpearl876

    diamondpearl876 → follow your fire.

    Hello and thanks for commenting! I'm glad someone who's read the original is interested in the new version.

    Yep, all the changes were intentional and you pointed out exactly what I was going for. I remember reading older reviews for the first time and thinking: "What? Haley's voice doesn't sound formal or anything like Markus's!" Now I re-read the story recently and thought: "What the hell was I thinking?" So yes, very intentional. :D

    Markus's reason for responding will be expanded on in the next letter (an issue that was never addressed in the original). The first thread said that Markus was a bit, um, odd, with schizoid-like tendencies. He's pretty much the same, but hopefully it will flow smoother this time around. Like you said, stories aren't written about normal people. :)

    Indeed. I love this format and I had to try it. This is more a slice-of-life, coming-of-age story, so the plot won't be extremely wild... but hopefully the character development shown through each arc will keep readers interested.

    As Markus wrote... "I would give an excuse but there is none." I'm glad, though, that you see the differences already. Thanks again for commenting!
  4. Uhmm, hey. I've been wanting to read one of your fics for a while, and when I saw this and found out that it was epistolary, I had to see what the fic was up to. I might also be able to offer another perspective as someone who hasn't read the original version (as opposed to armaldo's review above), so yeah.

    I wanna talk about the form first since it's what brought me into the fic. The epistolary form is a big juggling act, which you're probably already familiar with given how you address it in your summary. Unlike a straight narrative, letters are limited by the fact that they are framed by one person addressing another person, and because of this, the characterizations of the letter-senders should be conveyed both in what and how they write. I feel that Haley is much more talkative and idealistic, and I like how her letter is much more unscripted when compared to the wise and somewhat rehearsed tone that Mark's takes. How she uses slashes and italics is cool, too, and it tells us a lot about her character already. You mentioned how one of your big revisions was on the tone of Haley - I think you're successful in making both letters' tones unique from each other, so good job there.

    Besides the whats and hows, the whys of writing a letter to someone are also really important, and this is where I feel that the first two letters move the other way. I have a feeling that the whys are an integral part of the story, which is probably why the only explanation we have right now is pretty vague (in that Haley's decision of writing to Mark is because her brother knows him because they dealt drugs together, and that's supposed to be a good idea because...?). As it stands right now, the motivation behind Haley's writing (and, to an extent, Mark's replying, but right now most of it is hinged on the fact that he's adhering to Haley's requests) isn't too solid, but I do believe that it's something that future letters will be expanding on, so it isn't really an issue as much as it's an observation of what the fic is presenting with these first two letters. There seems to be this mentor-mentee dynamic going on that Haley is asking for, so it'll be interesting to find out why she wants that mentor in Mark and if the roles are that solid (in that, will she be teaching things to him too?). In a way, it makes me both confused about what's going on and wanting to read more. In any case, the latter's all that's important, so yeah.

    As for the other elements, I like how you work with the subjects of the letters, like Haley's feelings about her family or her being 50-50 about Anistar. I especially like Mark's little words-of-wisdom-like break there about culture; it kind of reminds me of the philosopher in Sophie's World (if you've read it, it could be a good inspiration on how the mentor-mentee dynamic between the two would work out), and it becomes very sweet knowing that it's the kind of thing that Haley wants.

    Overall a great start, and I'm interested in how you plan on exploring the dynamic between these two letter-senders. Good job! :)
  5. diamondpearl876

    diamondpearl876 → follow your fire.

    Hey, that's great! I'm glad you're reading. It means a lot.

    Thanks for commenting on their voices. You're right in that Haley is more talkative/idealistic and Markus seemed to "rehearse" what he said. In fact, that's really important to know. :D

    The reason will be further explored on Haley's part in the next letter. It's not something you'd admit in a introductory letter, at least not to her. For Markus... His reasons will change over time.

    I haven't read that. I haven't quite figured out how I want to change Markus's philosophical rantings from the original just yet, but the mentor-mentee dynamic will surely be there. So I'll check it out, thanks!

    Thanks for reviewing!
  6. diamondpearl876

    diamondpearl876 → follow your fire.

    Yo guys! Prepare for a complete overhaul from the original version's 3 and 4. I also now have my first ever beta... so this should be interesting. Any comments are appreciated!

    [letters three and four]


    May 13

    Markus... Mark... Markus...

    Hmm. I don't think your name makes you sound old, so I'm going to call you that. I think it makes you sound kind of wise, actually. I need someone wise in my life.

    I'm still interested in talking to you, of course! Just because you're not confident in yourself doesn't mean you'll scare me away. If anything, going off-topic means you're interested in a subject. Nothing to be sorry about. You might forget to say some important things... and your bluntness could clash with mine... and I don't understand the story of when you were born... Well, we'll see what happens. Even if you don't get to say everything you want to, I'll just form my opinion of you based off of what you do tell me. From what you've said so far, I get the feeling that I can learn a lot from you. ...I guess I meant what I crossed out earlier. I really need someone wise in my life.

    I can't tell you how excited I am! It's not exactly the same as having a traveling partner, but it's close enough. My brother's been begging me to find a friend before leaving Anistar. You don't remember my brother, though... He has a pretty good memory. He was able to remember you by name, after all! Anyway, Joey hasn't had a breakthrough with the whole pokémon journey idea yet. Says it’s safer with someone else looking out for you and keeping you from diving headfirst into stupid stuff. If he wants to harp on the idea, why doesn’t he offer to be my traveling companion himself? His reasoning is sound, but still. I got the message the first time.

    My grandmother used to tell me about how my parents seemed so excited to have kids... I believe it because I've seen my baby calendar. My mother wrote all about her pregnancy, while my father wrote about every meal I had, my first word (which was no) and everything else! They did the same for Joey. But things changed and that excitement went away.

    My father shadowed the licensed audiologists at our local elementary school for a while, then worked full-time as an assistant. He couldn't financially afford to tackle the doctorate level, so this was the next best option. My mother worked as an assistant nurse there while she studied. I don't know much about how they met, so I'm gonna skip that part. All I know is that they were young and eager to get on with their lives, and so they moved in together. Then my mother became pregnant with me—right before earning her credentials.

    They had to make a decision. Going on maternity leave so soon after starting her career wasn't a risk she wanted to take, and even if it was, my father's job wasn't enough to support all of us. So my father made a sacrifice. He offered to give up his job and take care of me full-time, or at least until the situation calmed down. The situation never calmed down, not for them. When Joey was four and I was five, my father looked for a new job in the schools, but he had been out of work for so long that he wasn't even called for an interview. He came to resent the public school system after all he had done for it and he decided to homeschool us. My mother kept working.

    Over time my father became more bitter about not being able to pursue his own dreams. It had been a financial problem before, but now she was in the way. My mother's long work hours and unpredictable shift schedule, along with mine and my brother's tantrums, drained him. He wasn't satisfied, but couldn't catch a break in life; she was satisfied, but wasn't willing to give up that happiness for anyone else. Daytime fights happened daily. Those fights were stupid: “You killed all the houseplants while I've been working!” “That goddamn clock with the swinging litleo tail has got to go.” “Why are you takin’ Xanax and then sleeping twelve hours every night?!” ← That last one influenced Joey a lot.

    My father's Xanax bottle disappeared was stolen and he couldn't get a refill for another month. Late night fights became a thing. They were loud and vulgar, and there was talk of separation. “Who would take the kids? You work all the time and I have no money.” “I'll keep the mementos from our trip to Johto.” “**** you. I'm being serious here!”

    The divorce obviously isn't official yet. I'm not sticking around to watch for however many more years it takes for them to realize they shouldn't have rushed their relationship. I've done enough of trying to convince them their constant bickering is hurting us more than they realize, and I'm rewarding myself with this journey. They tell me that it's dangerous, but they're just afraid I'll be more successful than them. I get to live my dreams while my father sits at home. I get to live my dreams and accomplish more than my mother.

    ...I think my father being an audiologist would have been ironic, since he never hears a word I say. Why my mother takes care of strangers instead of her children is a mystery. The two of them fight day and night, over the phone and face-to-face... My brother hides and I have to

    Never mind. Let's just say that being home all the time isn't any fun.

    I just laughed a bit. Can you believe that? Words can only do so much, but here I am, wanting to give you—with words and nothing else—a different perspective on life. I should've gotten the hint when you told me I couldn't learn about a culture without experiencing it for myself... Your first letter was a bit short, probably because we just met. Try not to be shy in the future, though! Your experiences will help with my experiences... or something like that. If I'm not making sense, it's because I haven't been able to sleep. I want to get going right away! I haven't decided when I'm leaving yet, but I've figured out my plan of action, at least.

    First I should try to describe Anistar's culture, see if I can’t challenge myself to look outside the box and consider the advice you gave me. Maybe I'll get homesick and change my mind. Doubt it. Should I start with its history? You could skip my “lesson” if you know it, but what happened a long time ago meshes with what Anistar is like today.

    The books say traces of life date back to 600,000 years ago. I don't know about that, but let's roll with it. An ancient version of Kalos became the home for two legendary pokémon: Xerneas and Yveltal. Xerneas wanted eternal life for all while Yveltal insisted on mortality. Xerneas and Yveltal fought for several decades to decide the fate of every living being on the planet. Yveltal won and created the concept of death, simultaneously putting Xerneas to sleep for over a thousand years. There were those who couldn't forget what the fairy-type legendary believed in, though, and they worked to wake it from its slumber.

    War was declared between Xerneas and Yveltal worshipers. As time went on, the king couldn't resolve the conflict. The gym leaders called him a failure for being unable to bring peace to Kalos. They tried to dethrone him, and the war became less about religion and more about political power. The king's factions and the league's factions fought against each other, the main question now being whether or not the gym leaders should have power as opposed to a single authoritative figure. The outcome seemed pointless after entire cities were destroyed.

    Diseases and famine spread, and the tension grew stronger. Anistar, being an empty, unpopulated land, became a military outpost for the gym leaders. Even though military outposts are supposed to be prepared for surprise attacks and invasions, Anistar's land was burned to the ground and rebuilt 8 times throughout the war. The Kalos League likes to brag about how there are 8 gym leaders because of Anistar's persistence to flourish. This is also why the monthly council meetings are held in Anistar City!

    But like I said, hundreds of thousands of people died in the war. Generals on both sides grew tired and desperate. To get more ammunition, wild and trained pokémon were forced to fight alongside the soldiers. Most of them tried to run away or break their pokéballs. The king, in a moment of desperation, did something he'd come to regret. He sent his own team of pokémon to fight at the front lines, so that other pokémon might have a chance at freedom and safety. Unfortunately, one of his pokémon, Floette, died in the middle of a crazy battle, which made the king himself go crazy.

    The king's known as AZ these days. I don't know if AZ worshiped Xerneas or Yveltal. Maybe both, since he wanted to reach a balance that would let him and Floette live together, then die together. When that didn't happen, he resigned and disappeared to create the ultimate weapon. This “ultimate weapon” is said to collect life energy that can revive the dead and grant eternal life, and it's said that the king is still living today with Floette. I think Floette was bitter about being revived or something. I forget that part of the story.

    With the king gone, the gym leaders were able to win easily. The Kalos League was established and the champion made a public speech on Anistar's land, announcing that every city would be governed with care and that Kalos was a region that should work to build good character, not despair.

    The king's followers were pretty mad. Mad enough to make fire-type pokémon burn the gym leaders alive, anyway. If the gym leader was too strong, they damaged property and publicly humiliated the townspeople. Another war might have broken out if the champion had forbid the king's followers to live in the region anymore. Instead the Kalos League agreed to let some places (like Geosenge and Camphrier) have their freedom, on the condition that a nearby gym leader could interfere if needed.

    So that's why Anistar's considered a historical landmark. The Kalos League worked to help the city progress, and it's no surprise that they tried to commemorate their win by keeping the historical feel we started with. It's said that the legendary Diancie showed up to build the city out of unbreakable diamonds, but after the sundial was built, the gem-loving sableye from Terminus Cave appeared and stole Diancie away. No one's seen the legendary since, which is probably for the best, given the pollution dilemma I talked about in my last letter. For some silly reason, we preserve Diancie's keepsake anyway.

    Oh, right... Anistar's culture. I think it could be summed up this way: everyone still tries to plant flowers and gardens each spring, even if we know they won't grow. I'm not into flowers and gardens, but our obsession with preserving a history we want to repeat has caused problems for me personally in the past.

    ...I haven't really told anyone this before, but I think you'll understand.

    When I was a middle school student, my father would take me and Joey on “field trips” to the sundial. One day I lost sight of them. I was on one of the bridges, distracted by a young boy leaning over the ledge. I stopped to watch him because he was making a wish, but he wasn't trying to throw a coin into the water. He placed it carefully so that the coin floated on the surface. I'd never seen anyone do that before! I stood there as he ran away and to his mother with a wide smile on his face.

    Then I did something really stupid. I went to the ledge and leaned over like the boy had done. I grabbed the coin. It was mine now... but I must have been too excited and moved too fast, because next thing I knew, I was hanging over the edge. When I was about to call for help, I was pulled back by a strong man in a uniform I'd seen only on TV. He set me down, and I was about to use the manners I'd learned to thank him until he scolded me.

    “How old are ya, miss?” he said. “Shouldn't be trespassing upon Diancie's sacred grounds.”

    “Uh,” I said, caught off guard. “I'm twelve.”

    “A bit older and I'd be able to arrest you on the spot, ya know that?”

    “N-No, I didn't know...”

    “Prison's a bad place. Stay away from here, got it? You'll dirty up the city.”

    I was about to make a comment about how the city was already dirty, but I changed my mind. I ran away to find Joey and my father. My father didn't notice how frantic I was, and Joey knew better than to ask. He was a good brother, keeping Dad occupied while I got into trouble. It's upsetting, knowing I couldn't be there for him when it mattered. A few minutes later and I noticed that I had been holding onto the coin so tight, it made marks on my skin.

    The coin is my lucky charm. It's worth one pokédollar and has a picture of a clefairy on one side, a dratini on the other. I did some research not too long ago and found out that it's made of aluminum, which is why it can float if you're careful. I sort of feel bad for the boy, but he should've known better. He didn't know that if you have a wish, you have to wish hard and work for it. It won't come true if you don't.

    I've never told anyone this story because I've been afraid to find out what would have happened to me if I had gotten into real trouble. ...So I wrote to you. You're sheltered like me and, believe it or not, you live a life that could have been my own, had I not been scared out of my wits. I hope that doesn't bother you, but I'll try to understand if it does.

    I'm taking the coin with me on my journey. I don't plan on going back home, so I might as well take everything I can! We could try to make a game out of it too. Just pretend I'm throwing the coin toward the sky as you read this and call it in the air! Heads or tails? Fairies or dragons? If you win, I'll go to a city you want me to explore the most, and if I win, I go wherever I want—

    Oops. I told you earlier that I have a plan already.

    I plan on leaving Anistar City as soon as possible, but I'm slowly easing my parents into it. I can't make things worse for Joey, after all. So I'm gonna travel south toward Terminus Cave, where I'll catch a flying-type pokémon called noibat. Then I'll challenge Olympia. She's seventh in the traditional gym circuit, which means she'll be super tough. Seybs has experience and Ribbons has ghost-type moves to use against her psychic pokémon, but I don't think it'll be enough. A noibat's bite attack will help, assuming that it'll be strong when I catch it.

    After that I'll head west to Dendemille Town, and then even further west to Lumiose City. It wouldn't be a real journey without visiting the largest city in the world, would it? And I'll branch out in all directions to visit Santalune, Laverre and a few other places. Maybe I'll branch out more... Should I visit anywhere else? I'll think about it too. I do know that I want to love all the cities so much that it'll be hard to choose where I want to live once I'm done traveling, so choose only the best cities for me!

    If I want to settle down after traveling, though, I'll need a lot of money... I'm gonna make Seybs and Ribbons battle every day so they can get stronger and win us the money we'll need. Oh, and if you haven't noticed, I'm gonna be a flying-type trainer. If my grandma hadn't given me Seybs and Ribbons, I wouldn't be going anywhere. There's something interesting about birds, too, that makes me want to keep them. The way they travel in flocks, calling to each other, searching for food to collect and share with each other… Not to mention their singing voices are beautiful, and they have the freedom to fly anywhere in the world if they don’t want to be bound to a trainer or a specific place... It's all fascinating. Honestly, I could go on and on!

    The downfall to having bird pokémon is that... Well, the world isn't nice to them. I've never seen thieves or hunters, but I know they're out there. The question is: do I let my pokémon fly free or request that they stay near me, where they can be safe? Cities don't consider flying-types either. Birds don't have depth perception and they perceive colors differently than we do... yet we just let them crash into reflective windows and move on with our lives. We could build skyscrapers and stations and homes with different materials, but... we don't. And I couldn't tell you why.

    So if traveling routes and cities can both be dangerous, where will my pokémon fly? Where will they be happiest? I could return them to their pokéballs, but what happens to me if danger shows up and I can't release them in time?

    I don't want to talk about that anymore.

    Speaking of pokéballs, though... Have you ever wondered just how many pokéballs are used in a single day? Trained pokémon have to be let out or called back to stretch and eat and battle, bathe, play, sleep—some of these every few hours! Or at least, that’s all what’s recommended to trainers. Doesn’t mean everyone’s doing even these common sense things. And all the pokéballs that are used to try to catch pokémon... I mean, they break easy, and there’s always a trainer who wants to add to their team, a professor who’s looking for a specimen for research, kids practicing their throwing aim for when it’s time for the real deal, and, well, I could go on and on about this, too!

    You get it, though, don’t you? Sorry, if not. I think of strange things like this sometimes. People call me naive and young. I call myself curious. That's why I have to ask you a few questions before I send this letter. Were you ever a pokémon trainer? If so... what happened that made you stop? Where are your pokémon now? And do you think you were destined to be a trainer... or something else?

    I don't think anyone who isn't destined to be a trainer should go on a journey. If their gut tells them to be something else—an architect or a gardener or a priest—then I think they should do that. Traveling is fine, but to do nothing else seems like a giant waste of potential. A trainer should be flexible, smart, dedicated and strong. I like to think I'm all of those things, but what if I'm wrong? What if I should be a nurse like my mother, or a teacher like my dad?

    Just look at the statistics! 90% of new trainers never get more than 5 badges. 80% of Kalos League competitors never get to fight the champion. Seems like no one's meant to be a trainer these days. But I don't think I'll collect all the badges anyway. I'll raise my pokémon to give them a good life. I'll take them to only the best places so that we can find the best home.

    Which reminds me... Don't forget to call it in the air! Heads or tails? Fairies or dragons? Life's no fun without taking risks, don't you think?

    ~ Haley


    May 17

    To Haley,

    If you wish to talk to me, then there’s nothing I will do to try to convince you otherwise, and I will stick to my word when I say I will write you back. In response to your heads or tails question, I can't choose at this very moment. I am determined to say that it does not matter where you go, but instead you should try to make the best of wherever you go. I only ask that you not romanticize places due to your want of exuberance and novelties, and that you should not think too little of why you are writing to me in the first place. I don't mean to warn you about dangerous people, as you've heard it all before. Remember that I know what the world is really like and the idea of forcing me to have a “new perspective” is futile.

    I have been to Anistar City, a long time ago. You might have been just about a year old, in fact. Back then the city was full of life with the ports and manufacturing companies still standing. The pollution was worse than it is now, however, and it was hard to breathe. I did not stay long, and I daresay that it was no place for a child to be brought up. It seems to have worked out, as destiny would have it. Perhaps I was even one of those people you saw and stared at as a baby, wondering who I was—or who anyone was, especially yourself. Who knew that our lives could change to such a degree? It seems odd to think about, and I try not to dwell on it too much.

    Your plan is sound. It seems you are making an attempt to stay close to home rather than traveling to the far ends of the region. You may, however, change your mind about visiting Laverre. If you weren't aware, Brun Way Correctional Center is located on the outskirts of Laverre (which adds to society's stigma that says prisoners should be put to the wayside, but I digress). I don't think I would be able to keep that a secret from you for a variety of reasons, not least because I would feel guilty for it. Whether or not you would truly want to be in the vicinity of the most horrible men in Kalos, it is too early to tell. Please do not be rash about such a decision. I am almost inclined to request that you stay away. To have you see me, then turn away would break my heart. I don't think I could write to you then, as there is not a successful way to disguise a breaking heart.

    Let's move on. “Curious” and “naive” are not things people call themselves, as they're too busy being those things to realize what they are. You hint at being a heretic by the age of twelve, for example, but you don't explicitly say you are a heretic. Should you say that you are a heretic to most people, though... Most likely they will not understand you. It is only those who know, deep in their unconscious, that that is what they are too, who will seek out your demise as a supposed heretic. That being said, it is impossible to think about strange things too much. Those strange things exist to be thought about, and by denying their existence you are doing yourself a disservice.

    ...Your curious, naive self wants to know if I have pokémon, I see. The short answer is that yes, I do and no, I don't. My life revolved around pokémon at some point, which ironically led to the onset of my drug use. It became inevitable that the two should go hand in hand. I wasn't interested in the pokémon themselves, though. Later I used them as a ploy to gain they money I needed to sustain my drug addiction. I can explain for your benefit.

    I'm sure you've heard of Professor Sycamore. If you haven't, don't bother starting your journey just yet. If you have, that means you know about the three mainstream starters. “Which one should I choose?” Such is the biggest concern of a nine-year-old on the eve of his birthday. All three were innocent and had potential, so much so that my brain couldn't comprehend only having to pick one. ...Oh, how my heart maintained a most fascinating glow that night. The glow lit up the whole sky, but you weren't alive to see it. It was a phenomenon as great and rare as the Millennium Comet that summons Jirachi every 1,000 years.

    I'll pause here to point this out: my parents, unlike yours, didn't mind if I went on a journey at a young age. They told me stories and tall tales, as if to encourage me. I would tell you these stories, but I'm afraid the finer details have lapsed into the deeper, forgettable crevices of my mind. That sounds poetic, but prosaically, I can only say that I felt superior to my parents as I took advantage of their carelessness.

    When I walked into Professor Sycamore's lab, I hadn't yet made my decision. I asked him, “Can't I just have them all?” How lucky for me, after all, to be the one child in Lumiose City with a birthday on July 10, during the summer when school wasn't in session. Of course Professor Sycamore said no. He might have expected me to whine, but I asked him how much time I had until the next trainer's birthday. I had one week.

    In the end I took all three starters with me. ...Did I steal them? Did I bribe or threaten Professor Sycamore? I'd like to tell you, but the difference between dreams and reality isn't always obvious for me. Sometimes I feel a little out of it and memories blur together. When that happens I can tell you my personal truth, but it's not the same as telling the truth. I may simply be assuming I went down the traditional trainer route rather than receiving a pidgey from my grandmother. The police didn't come after me, which makes me think Professor Sycamore was afraid to report me. It is of no concern to me now.

    Have I gotten off track here? I must tell you that those three starters... Well, how happy they were not to be separated! They grew up together, learned together and trained together. But while they were close to each other, they were wary of me. I was their trainer for six years and I never learned to understand their language. I was quiet and they would not talk to me unless I spoke to them first.

    There's been research done about this. A pokémon feels like an alien in the presence of his trainer when his trainer doesn't manage the team well enough. Fennekin was a nervous wreck, but what did I know of psychology at that age? Froakie was strong and fought the most, but I never had money to buy supplies, leaving his body to fend for itself naturally until we could reach a Center. Chespin was the most peculiar of all (and I will get into that soon). Research tells me that they adapted to my solitude and survived without the help of anyone but each other. Relationships with others are one of the key factors to contentment in life, given any living creature’s inclination to want to form connections with others, and to travel with a neglectful trainer after being in the care of a loving professor was detrimental. As a result their physical, mental and social development must have suffered, and perhaps this is why they died prematurely.

    Do you perhaps believe in demonology? Demonology suggests ways in which a malevolent spirit can control your actions in life. If we accept that this area of study has even a sliver of merit, then it follows that a man who commits a crime could’ve been unable to restrain himself, and therefore, he can plead insanity as a defense. ...I'd like to believe in this concept. I'd like to believe that my parents didn't care not by their own free will, but because an invincible force was preventing them from doing so. I'd like to believe I was a bad trainer because I wasn't meant to be a trainer (which you asked about). I'd like to believe that my starters' deaths weren't my fault.

    I had been hiding in Santalune Forest for about two months, quite tired of civilization and capable of holding my own in the wilderness. I hadn't released my pokémon during that time, and indeed, the idea of exercise of feeding failed to cross my mind. And somehow, no trainers approached me for a battle or mere small talk (or, if they did, I must have ignored them willfully and dismissed the memory of their existence), until that fateful day in which I threw a cold pokéball out on a battlefield.

    I shuddered when I realized Froakie wasn't moving. Decayed and immediately attracting the local bug-types, I wondered when this had happened, and how. The same was true of Chespin and Fennekin. The other trainer rode away on his gogoat as fast as he could. I collapsed, unable to process the situation, but soon I had to bury them and pay my respects.

    Chespin's death hurt me the most. The grass-type had a tendency to ram into anything he was angry at. Sometimes he bashed his head against trees, sometimes against buildings. Sometimes he spilled his food just to have an excuse to trample on it. Sometimes he targeted me and struck my knee, causing it to dislocate. I was never prepared for such outbursts, but no medical intervention was necessary, as it took but a moment for my knee to slide back into place. At any rate, Chespin seemed to want to teach me an important lesson. I couldn't figure it out. I sent him out to battle often so that he could perform his antics in a more productive setting.

    Once he climbed a tree and jumped off, hitting me on the side of the head. I was so disoriented that when I looked at Chespin, it seemed that he had grown to human size and now had a human voice. He told me he hated me and that he'd met me in all his previous lives. He tried very hard to ruin me in each and every life. When I came to, he was a normal creature with a joyful grin on his face.

    After they died, I retired from training. I traveled to Laverre, a safe haven for those who have nowhere to go and are not bound by the prison system. I refused to go back to my parents, so I made the streets my home and dug in the garbage for food. Prostitutes and policemen approached me daily, but the former learned that I was broke and the latter couldn't do any more damage to me than I had done to myself.

    What did interest me was the move tutor. Trainers went to him so that their starters could learn powerful attacks. I wandered past his house a few times, debating whether or not to knock and introduce myself. It took almost a year of gathering the courage and energy to not only say hello, but also to explain why I no longer had Fennekin, Froakie or Chespin by my side.

    When I told the move tutor my story, he wasn't surprised. He told me that he couldn't have taught my starters the aforementioned attacks because it didn’t sound as if they were content being in my care. Those pokémon usually become destructive and rebellious, and their lifespan expectancy drops if the problems don't improve.

    But even when he teaches pokémon who are content with their trainers, consistent use of the attack puts strain on their bodies and their lifespan expectancy drops anyway. He hadn't found a way to deal with the stress that came with his profession. After a few months of visiting him and holding numerous conversations about the apparent futility of living, he told me how he kept himself afloat: through recreational drug use. And soon...

    Well, drugs make pain disappear and take you into another world. How could I say no?

    How the move tutor didn't become an addict, I don't know. What I know is that I did, and it wasn't pleasant. Addiction is why the inner workings of my mind are distorted; I see no alternative explanation for such that seems plausible. I exaggerate facts to convince myself that I experienced something real. Obsessions, cravings, the never ending search... It's nothing to joke about.

    I couldn't face the move tutor anymore. I had disappointed him not once, but twice. I told him this and he wished me good luck, offering me enough money to travel and take care of myself. I fled to Lumiose and came to the unfortunate realization that I would need more money if I wanted to continue scoring drugs.

    This is when I returned to pokémon training. At that point, it was the only lucrative path I knew of. But I refused to battle, thanks to the terrible images of throwing Froakie’s pokéball constantly invade my headspace whenever I entertained the prospect, and so, I had to resort to unconventional means. With the small amount of the move tutor’s money I had leftover, I bought a zorua egg from a professional Unovan breeder. The species intrigued me because of its stereotypical personality, as well as how its evolution sells for several million pokédollars on the black market due to how rare it is to find a trainer with the perseverance to train them to that point.

    I hoped to be one of those trainers. I named the little zorua Enmity, and I fully expected him to live up to that name. Oh, the mischief we could get into! Oh, the money we could earn with all the tricks up his sleeve until he evolved and we’d strike it even richer!

    But Enmity wasn't like normal zorua. He wasn't hostile toward humans, he didn't cause any trouble and he wasn't reckless. He was shy and often hid behind my legs when anyone walked by. ...And you must understand another thing: Enmity was a mute. I don't know what his voice sounds like, nor even what it sounds like to hear him grunt.

    I wanted to release him, but it would have been a waste of the move tutor's money. I kept this in mind and it became easy to form a bond with him that I didn't have with my starters. So I taught him tricks—real tricks, ones you'd see in a circus. I used his dark-type attacks to create illusions. He made his body look like a human's, or he looked like an inanimate object. With the ladies he used fake tears to earn their admiration. We dressed him up in clothes that would attract an audience and when we had some money I bought a stage near the park on the northern end of Lumiose.

    It was because of him that I wanted to clean myself up in the first place. Enmity didn't talk me down from the stuff. He helped me through it, and he didn't have to say a word. ...It's a shame that prison was what made that final decision for me. I wish I knew where he was now. He was with me when I was arrested and I haven't seen him since.

    And that’s that for now, I’d say. I’ve seen the sun four times since I’ve started writing this letter. I think that makes it Thursday. That’s a long time to be writing, but I had to think long and hard about what happened. I could write one letter per day, one for each lost piece of my humanity, but then you would probably start to think I forgot about you.

    Last edited: Jul 3, 2018
  7. Sike Saner

    Sike Saner Peace to the Mountain

    Oh golly goshes. Okay yeah, I can definitely see what you mean about sprucing up Haley's voice in particular. I enjoyed reading her even more this time around and found her much more interesting.

    Also she made me feel rather better about not knowing what in Enoch's name Markus was talking about wrt the story of when he was born and all that. XP

    That said, I don't actually mind that some of what he says flies over my head. Maybe that wouldn't be the case if he didn't strike me as being an eccentric kind of guy, but as it stands, it just feels... well. Appropriately Markussy. That's a word now.

    Besides, he's putting in plenty of added clarity where it counts. Like when he got to the dead pokeymans surprise bit. Illustrating it a bit more clearly had the nice side effect of illustrating it more vividly in this case. This is a Good Thing, as far as I'm concerned, when it comes to horrible sad creepy gross morbid stuff. :D

    Oh, and my memory seems to be shitting out a bit (maybe I'm too busy thinking about dead things?), but the Diancie stuff: is that a new addition? It's registering that way, and it's registering as neat. Also weirdly amusing, in that here I am imagining an irate Diancie trying to shake off a small swarm of sableye trying to snack on that crystalline booty.

    Good to see this back and better than ever. Looking forward to more. :D
  8. diamondpearl876

    diamondpearl876 → follow your fire.

    Oh, I'm glad. ;_; She's still hard to write, but oh well. It's working out.

    Markussy, huh? Well, let me know if you can't understand something because of my writing rather than because Markus is trying to be obscure. xD

    Haha, the Diancie sections are completely new. Added for a bit of worldbuilding and such...

    Thanks bb! :D
  9. I like how you expanded the characters in these letters. For Haley, she seems awfully aware of her family's situation, and that says a lot about her character. It meshes well with her eagerness to recount Anistar's history to Markus and her own plans for her journey. I especially like the bit in the end where she wonders how many Poke Balls are used in a day - it gives her a curious and observant personality that works well with how she wants someone like Markus to guide her.

    As for Markus, his story about his former Pokemon was pretty heavy, and it sheds a lot of light at how damaged he is. How you explore the dynamics of a trainer and his/her Pokemon is really interesting, and I can't wait to see how you do that with Haley and her Pokemon (especially since she's getting a Noibat, which is like, the best Kalos Pokemon ever). The addition of the move tutor was also surprising but welcome, and it allows the reader to connect the dots to where he is now.

    There's also a certain quality to your narration that doesn't make it tiring to read, which is important for a plot-heavy fic such as this one. From what it looks like, a lot of the letters' content will consist of recountings of past events, which means you'll be conveying a slew of information to your readers with each letter. But the way you present them here is engaging, especially since they're specifically addressed to a particular person, so good job there. (This is more of my own musing in putting your choice of form with your choice of content together, so yeah.)

    Because of this, I'm interested with how you're going to present the "now" of the story (Haley's journey, Markus's imprisonment, their conversation) especially since you'll be interspersing it with bits about their pasts. It's a tough balancing act, especially with your form, but you're pulling it off so far, so I'm excited with how you're going to deal with that.

    Just one nitpick:

    Nitpicky, but this could've benefited from a dash or something that signifies an abrupt break.

    Overall a solid second pair of letters. Good job with it. :)
  10. diamondpearl876

    diamondpearl876 → follow your fire.

    I'm glad you liked that bit - the pokeball thing actually is something that I put in the original without any intention of making it important, but now it is pretty important.

    Haley's interactions with her pokemon will be much different than Markus's, that's for sure. And I love noibat too! :) and all flying-types, really. The move tutor thing is something I thought of while looking at Bulbapedia pages. It seemed to work.

    That's good to hear. I know letters can be tiring and boring to read, but it's my job to make it not boring and tiring to read, huh? Well, these next letters will have some present and past mixed in, so we'll see how it goes.

    Not sure if I agree with that yet, but I'll play with it.

    Thanks for commenting~
  11. diamondpearl876

    diamondpearl876 → follow your fire.

    [letters five and six]


    May 20


    Your last letter was heartbreaking and not what I was expecting at all. I mean, I started my journey, so I can't look back now... But if I had gotten your letter before leaving, I'm not sure I could have made that first step past Anistar's gate. I just can't believe your pokémon are gone already. Didn't you try to figure out what happened to them? Isn't there someone you can ask about Enmity? Doesn't the move tutor know where you are? He could've bailed you out with all that money he has!

    Don't get me wrong, though. I am so glad you'll keep writing to me! You've had a rough time and maybe I should find it amazing that you were able to survive on your own in a world where pokémon are stronger than humans, especially when wild. I wouldn't be able to make it without Seybs and Ribbons. I think that's the difference between us. I was raised to be too dependent on my parents and now I'm afraid to be alone. I’m not sure you’re much afraid of anything and I need someone to show me that's actually possible. I'm not sure what makes these letters so special... but please don't give up on sending them to me. I'm counting on you.

    I'm gonna ask for a second favor too. I don't want to sound like a stalker, but I already knew about the prison in Laverre. I found your contact information on their website. Anyway, please don't try to keep me away from Laverre! Like you said, that's where people go when they're lost. Well, I'm lost. I want to fix myself, but I can't fix myself if I don't know what's missing from my life. I won't decide right now, though, if that's what you want.

    Oh, and I was wondering... I don't know when you're getting out of jail. I don't know if it's soon or in a few years. I don't know anything about life in jail, even though I could've ended up there myself! But when you get out, first you should find Enmity, and then you should visit Anistar. I promise you'll have a better time than you did before.

    So... I started my journey, right? Part of me wishes I could meet Professor Sycamore so I could get one of the Kalos starters. Or maybe I'd get all three somehow. I would've taken care of them for you and made you feel a little better about their passing. Yeah... I'm sorry I can't do that for you.

    For what it's worth, I don't think you're a bad person. If demonology is something you want to believe in, I'm not gonna stop you. I'll just keep hoping you'll reunite with Enmity someday. I'm sure he's lost without you. ...I'm actually a bit surprised that the prison doesn't hold and/or raise your pokémon for you. Did he run away or something? I'd appreciate it if you could tell me.

    Okay, yeah. I went to Terminus Cave a few days ago. I sneaked into my dad's bedroom before I left (my parents have separate rooms) and took out an old textbook about pokémon behavior. I read up on noibat and how they like to swoop down and steal food from people passing by. I wasn't going to let one scare me like that!

    I made my way to the edge of Anistar, memorizing the same sights I'd seen for eighteen years. I hate to admit it, but I might miss the place. Seybs and Ribbons, on the other hand, flew without a care in the world. They flew past the gate, into the Vallée Étroite Way, and past a long, narrow hill down to what seemed like a dead end. I tried to catch up with them as quick as I could and nearly lost my balance.

    Our view after that was blocked by patches of tall grass. I knew that was where wild pokémon hid, and I didn't want to disturb them. I had no choice if I wanted to find a noibat, so we trudged on through and came to a rickety bridge that crossed over a deep river surrounded by spires of rock. The water gleamed a silvery sort of blue that day, which made me even more giddy!

    Seybs, of course, chose that moment to not be lazy and flew across the bridge, landing on the roof of an abandoned house while I stood at the edge of the bridge, afraid of falling through the planks. I scolded him for flying away like that. He pouted and flew back to my shoulder. Ribbons was nice and hopped in front of me, as if testing the bridge's strength. I told him that I weighed much more than him, but he cocked his head in confusion and continued. When I crossed I let out a sigh of relief and looked at the house, which told me that Terminus Cave was nearby. The house once offered a place for coal miners to rest, but now all that's left of that profession is the trolley and scattered remains of the railroad. Just a little further and I'd be in real adventure territory...

    But things never go as planned, do they? In the end I met the noibat outside of Terminus Cave, and oh boy, was he ever bossy. And very, very destructive.

    A group of graveler and lairon surrounded the noibat. They roared and braced themselves from the noibat's gust attack, which stirred up dirt from the ground. The noibat squeaked, trying to project his voice to be powerful too. He seemed to be demanding something, but I didn't know what. I got my answer when one of the lairon gave in and rammed the nearest tree, which caused a few apples to fall from the branches and onto its head. The noibat dove in, but could only hold one of the apples with its tiny paws. Satisfied, he headed back inside Terminus Cave, the other pokémon following him shortly after.

    What made the noibat confront those rock-types, I don't know. Noibat are supposed to use their good vision and sense of smell to stay away from danger, but they're also part dragon. Dragon-types seem to always fight against other pokémon they can't win against. That kind of determination and persistence is exactly what I need for my journey! So after watching in awe as the pokémon went their separate ways, I chased after the noibat. Ribbons blocked the noibat's path by flying ahead and guarding the cave's entrance. Maybe it was harsh to not let the noibat go back home if that's what he wanted, but who knew how long it would take to find another one inside the dark cave?

    I ordered Ribbons to use confusion. His eyes glowed an intense shade of blue, and he transmitted that psychical energy to the noibat, whose body also began to glow. The noibat dropped his apple and held his head, whimpering.

    “Ribbons, tone it down a little bit...” I said, knowing my pokéball would most likely break if I tried to catch a fainted noibat. If I remember right, the world inside a pokéball is perceived differently by each pokémon, and that world is created based off of the pokémon's favorite memory, so that the positive emotions of a pokémon help it maintain the will to live if severely injured. If a pokémon is fainted when caught, though... The world is created with unconscious memories instead, which are usually horrible to remember and keep the pokémon from ever wanting to be recalled. Gym leaders and researchers are studying to see if that situation affects emotional development as well, but I'm not sure how much progress they've made on that yet.

    Anyway. I got sidetracked again. Ribbons listened to my request and the noibat flapped his wings hard so that he could escape. I wasn't going to let that happen, so Seybs chased after him. Oh, shoot. Is it illegal to fight with two pokémon at once? Seybs was slow and I thought we were going to lose the noibat until I saw that he was darting straight for Anistar's gate. He probably thought he was clever, trying to lose us in a maze, but little did he know that I knew Anistar like the back of my hand!

    The noibat traipsed between buildings, but the unfamiliar territory forced him to slow down and decide where to go next. To my surprise, he stopped entirely to sniff the air. I thought he might agree to come with us, but that was silly of me. Soon the noibat was off again, and he hovered outside the pokémart. First he was obsessed with apples, and now the pokémart...

    Then it hit me. Why didn’t it hit me sooner? This is what I looked up in my dad’s book! Perhaps I was too surprised he owned a book about pokémon to digest what it actually had to say. Basically, noibat are known as fruit bats. Over the years their sharp teeth have adapted to consume berries and apples. The noibat must have smelled the fruit stand inside the pokémart and went there, and it explained why he was outside of Terminus Cave and harassing those pokémon to shake the fruit off the tree branches for him.

    I was more than happy to buy the noibat some fruit, but it proved to be a very big mistake. I told Seybs and Ribbons to back off, and then we walked slowly toward the automatic door so that it could open and let the noibat inside. As soon as the door opened, though, he bolted and attacked the fruit stand. The customers yelled, deserted their carts and fled the store, while the cashier took a broom and tried to swipe the noibat away.

    “No! Don't hurt my noibat like that!”

    Your noibat, kid? Get that damn thing back in its pokéball!” the cashier cried, but he didn't stop swinging the broom.

    I fumbled with my backpack and pulled out a pokéball, then rolled it around in my hands restlessly. How was I supposed to throw it at the noibat if he kept moving around so fast? Seybs dove in and pecked at the noibat but was struck by the broom a few times himself. His focus turned toward the cashier. The noibat took that opportunity to sink his teeth into an orange, suck away the nectar and then flee (but not before grabbing another orange to go). It was now or never. While the noibat was weighed down by the fruit, I chucked the pokéball in his general direction. I’d never even practiced before, but my aim was fantastic! The pokéball opened and the noibat transformed into a red light before disappearing inside. The ball swayed back and forth for a few seconds, then stopped and gave way for the victorious ping to indicate the pokéball had registered the noibat’s info.

    I couldn't celebrate yet, because the cashier decided to be a jerk. I hadn't seen the sign that said pokémon weren't allowed! It wasn't really my noibat! But he pushed me out of the store and told me I wasn't allowed to shop there ever again. Well, that's just fine. I'm not planning on coming back anyway, right? It just goes to show how uncaring Anistar is about its longtime residents, too. He must have recognized me! Not that I remembered his face or name or anything…

    Ugh. Fast forward a bit. I was back at home, in the comfort of my room. This was the last night I'd sleep in my own bed. Tomorrow I would battle Olympia and be on my way. Excited, I wanted to leave then, but first I had to introduce myself to the noibat.

    “I'm gonna call you Kai,” I said. The noibat cocked his head to the side. “Not impressed, I see...”

    I brought Kai to my grandmother the next morning and she said that Kai is a boy. Kai means “lovable” in another language I knew when I was younger, and apparently the way I pronounce it makes it sound feminine. I would have changed the name, but he already seemed used to it and I didn't want to ruin that little bit of trust we had. That trust may or may not have been due to all the fruit I left for him to eat overnight.

    I decided to do a bit of training before challenging Olympia. I wanted to make sure Kai knew shadow claw and, well, he didn't know it. I gave Joey enough money to buy the shadow claw TM from the pokémart I was banned from. It cost a lot, but I had enough in my savings account to last a while.

    TMs are weird, I'll tell you that. From what I know, TMs alter multiple brain processes, including motor memory skills and the cognitive ability to understand the move when I command it. But all Kai had to do to learn shadow claw was press his face against the device for a few moments before he jumped back. He had a wild expression, as if he had just witnessed a life-changing revelation. I wonder what he was thinking? Wow, I'm really strong now! I can take on anything! Or maybe he just wanted more fruit.

    Then we did some basic training. Kai clawed some trees, tearing into them with a shadowy energy most flying-types aren’t capable of use, and his reward, of course, was fruit. When he got the hang of it, he focused on speed and accuracy. “Get 'em where it hurts,” I told him, and I think he grinned at me. That's the only way to win a battle, and he knows it! You can't win by being nice. I learned the hard way with Seybs, but I'll get into that in another letter. In short, training isn't my strong suit. Just another thing to work on, I guess.

    So we battled Olympia later that day. Olympia's a psychic-type trainer, and her gym layout is... unique. I've been in there before, just for a tour. I was there again, ready to leave Anistar with a bang. It's strange because her pokémon use their psychic powers constantly to make the gym look like outer space. I mean, doesn't that make her pokémon too tired to fight? Or are they that strong?

    But I think you'd like the view, Markus. It's a small building when you look on the outside, but inside you're surrounded by an endless blanket of stars, which are set in the same patterns you'd be able to see at night. Time seems to come to a standstill when you're there, even though everything around you must have taken billions of years to form in reality. The different winds, coming from all directions, are the only things that tell you that time is moving. You mentioned feeling “out of it” sometimes, and I wasn’t sure I knew what you meant. But I think I got it when stumbling my way through Olympia's gym.

    The gym's vastness got to me, and I almost cried. I was supposedly in space, but gravity was still there, and somehow I feel this ruined a childhood dream of mine. Not only that, but I walked for what seemed like miles and miles. My plans for setting out that day were crushed. I went this way and that, forward and backward, coming full circle once in a while. I only knew I was going the right way when I ran into Olympia's gym trainers. I wanted to keep Kai at full strength, so I used Ribbons when I fought them. I couldn't help but focus on how Ribbons interacted with another psychic-type. For some reason I think I'm gonna be in trouble sometime in the future, and Ribbons will be the one to save us, if only because of his powers.

    Olympia's gym trainers complimented my pokémon. I wonder if they were just being nice, since they've heard stories about me from my parents and other townspeople. Gossip spreads fast in Anistar. I didn't want to hear anything bad about being homeschooled or anything like that. I thanked them and moved on before they could strike up another conversation, my excuse being that I was a new trainer excited to challenge her first gym.

    I reached Olympia several hours later. She greeted me with her silly robotic/poetic voice. Oh, this is a good time to mention that I'm bringing a voice recorder with me on my journey, so that I'm able to write down awesome conversations I have with people. Does that sound creepy? I hope not. I didn't get to record the battle, but I can remember it pretty well.

    Olympia sent out her female meowstic. I know it was female because my neighbors always marvel about Olympia's meowstic pair. They're surprised that the same species of pokémon can look so different, and they bet even Professor Sycamore can't explain that phenomenon. I keep my mouth shut because it's not that big of a discovery. I mean, no human looks exactly the same, so...

    But this is why I like Olympia. She understands the world and acts accordingly. The way she commanded her pokémon was great! Instead of yelling out an attack, she used a calm voice that was barely audible. The meowstic was eager to listen. She attacked Kai with a dark purple ray of light—a psybeam attack. Kai flew into the air to avoid it, and I told him to do what we practiced, hoping that would keep Olympia guessing what we'd do next. Kai was flawless and perfect as he took his claws and collided with Meowstic's psybeam, creating a burst of black clouds. Meowstic staggered backward, a bit of blood dripping down her cheek. Kai huffed with pride.

    I started to wonder if I had made a mistake... I had shown off our trump card at the beginning of the battle, after all. It could have doomed us later on, but Olympia was kind enough to agree to a one-on-one battle, and so time was “precious” (her words, not mine). “I know that preserving a pokémon's health is essential to fledgling trainers,” she had told me, and she had pulled out a single pokéball with such grace it made me think she had chosen to use Meowstic days before I had arrived.

    I was nothing like Olympia. “Kai, use supersonic!” I cried, with enough vigor to have Kai obey me though I hadn't known him long at all. He wasn't eager to listen, but his earlier success encouraged him to help me win this battle. Did I just give away the ending? Where's an eraser when you need one?

    Okay, yeah, we won... but it wasn't easy. What happened next was this: Kai let out a scary cry that spread throughout the whole gym. Meowstic tightened her closed ears, and when this didn't drown out the noise, she resorted to floating upward and out of our sight. Even this backfired, as she came crashing down about a minute later. I thought she'd fall through the floor and never come back... as the floor was transparent and below all you saw was stars. Anyway, Meowstic spun in circles, but Olympia wasn't worried. I hadn't expected Meowstic, a psychic-type, to be confused by a normal-type attack.

    I made my move as soon as I could. I told Kai to use shadow claw again while he had the chance. He sped forward, claws spread out as Meowstic automatically went into defense mode. A light blue barrier assembled itself in front of her, protecting her from harm. Kai slammed into it, unable to see it from such a close angle. He wailed and flew back to his side of the battlefield.

    Meowstic was still confused, and I think her survival instincts kicked in despite that. I asked Kai, in a more friendly tone, to use shadow claw one more time. “This time, it has to hit,” I said. I swear I saw him nod to me, but it may have been wishful thinking. Either way, he was in the middle of his strike when Meowstic's reflect attack reappeared. Kai didn't attempt to stop. He trudged on through. When he was close to the barrier, a ripple was made, and then another ripple, until the barrier was wrecked and Meowstic was struck with more black clouds.

    Meowstic fainted shortly after that. Had Olympia treated me like a new trainer, even though she was the seventh gym leader in the circuit? Did it have anything to do with me living in Anistar? I chalked it up to the idea that using reflect requires an awful lot of energy, and that being confused eventually took its toll. Olympia recalled Meowstic back to her pokéball and walked over to me with a smile on her face.

    “Your pokémon’s ability. Did you know it existed?” she asked me.

    “Kai’s ability? No…”

    “Noibat have an ability called infiltrator. It helps with barrier attacks.”

    “Does it?” I said, too stunned to say anything else. So Kai was the perfect choice after all! He flew over to me and circled my head in his excitement. (He isn’t comfortable perching on my shoulder yet, and he doesn’t like to nuzzle up to me like my other pokémon do, I guess.) He totally knew he deserved all the credit. We won our first gym battle, and in only one try, just as I had planned, thanks to him!

    Olympia pulled me out of my ecstatic thoughts. “You did not know. If one wants to travel on a journey, then one must know certain things about the world. I would like to educate you. Will you let me?”

    “Uh. I’m not interested in schooling anymore—”

    “Not that kind of education. I want to teach you something else. Will you let me?”

    “...When would you need me?”

    “Come by tomorrow night to the gym. You will perform a task for me, and then you will be free to leave on your journey.”

    I agreed because I look up to her as a leader, a sort of icon that I had grown up with. I don't know what she has planned for me! Do you? ...Probably not, but it's worth a shot.

    ~ Haley


    May 29

    To Haley,

    I cannot imagine what Olympia would want from you. I can, at least, apologize for my misbehavior. I am not a friend that knows when to be quiet. That role belongs to the sky, or more specifically, the nighttime sky, which leaves you alone long enough for you to daydream about the unknown. Olympia's gym seems to recreate that atmosphere for you. It's sad to say that I experience that vastness each day, as well as the sense of detachment it brings. That kind of haziness may not be temporary. If you must know about prison—a life you shouldn't be preoccupied with—then you might want to remember that feeling.

    I can, too, answer your other questions. Indeed I miss my starters and Enmity, but I can barely describe what I saw when I learned of their deaths, let alone the emotional state I've been in since. It was daytime, though. I know this much. The world spins a little faster then, and I tend to lose myself in the highlights of the sun's rays. That afternoon, chilly and with clouds spotting the sky, I was meant to judge Chespin's performance with a critical eye during a battle. Instead I released him, saw his body and the other bodies, and my face fell, suddenly submissive to gravity along with the rest of me.

    In my mind I must have been on vacation, in a faraway town in a faraway region, one rich with resources and a history void of war. I must have been consumed by a new, unfamiliar but welcomed view, one with wild, white clouds dotting the sky, and trees standing on hills, tilted slightly to the right with full, flourishing branches. When I try to envision this again, I think of blood, though I'm unsure whether my starters bled at all. If they did, would I have noticed? And if I had noticed, would I have held them close? ...No. I'd have been afraid of their pain latching onto me. Most likely I was under the influence, to the point where I could feel the drug piercing through my system as I walked.

    You say you want to know about Enmity. There should be more to say, as he was my lifeline for a few years, but when you're high, moments blend together. All is lost to you when you recover. This means I cannot recall where Enmity was, or what he was doing... If I cannot tell you about the past, I cannot tell you about the present. There is more of a difference between us than you think. All you've ever wanted is a chance to prove yourself, and now it's here. I've had so many chances but I've always turned the other way to go down a different path. Because of that, I lost Enmity, the last promising thing left in my life.

    I apologize for any confusion that comes from the lack of information. I have many regrets, many visions of how things might’ve been different, but the one wish that has a chance of coming true yet revolves around Enmity's evolution. As you know, I wished for him to become a zoroark when I first bought his egg, so that he may perform more tricks aside from his usual flips and pranks. Zoroark are known for their ability to imitate human speech, to steal anyone's identity and other such miracles. If I could find him, it may still happen.

    Now I have a question for you. Which of your pokémon sends me these letters? From my window I do not get a glimpse of the flying-types that bring the mail each morning. It may be for the best, since I've been defined as a threat to society. Still it brings me great peace of mind when I receive a letter from you, and I am asking because, should I ever see a flying-type approaching, I would like to know if it belongs to you.

    I am feeling particularly down today. I cannot explain why, not entirely, though I may say that the prisoners here are reminding me of the outside world's extravagances by sharing their life stories. I understand this is why you put certain facts and topics into your letters—to make me feel better, that is—but I find myself wishing and daydreaming more after I set them down. It's not your fault, and by no means should this discourage you. This is simply one of the few truths I can offer you and feel confident about.

    I believe I owe you an explanation about prison culture, given how I’d forgone the explanation in my previous spiel about cultures. Plus, it appears to intrigue you for a mix of reasons, and you have offered to me more than I can say. To give you the most appropriate and accurate representation of what it's like here, I will use prison slang as it is used by my cellmates everyday, and I will explain those terms the best I can.

    First, have I not mentioned my cellmate yet in passing or otherwise? Surprising, given how they’re the closest in proximity to me and, I’m sure, have taken a glance at me writing to you once in while. Bouncer (which means, to him, move along and get lost) is one of the toughs around here, and he has the reputation and body to prove it. His sentence was lengthened after he assaulted a police officer who also had no choice but to lock him into solitary confinement at least five times prior. He stands a foot taller than me, is broad-chested and has a strange, moon-shaped scar above his upper lip. He speaks with an accent none of us have been able to recognize thus far, and while the rest of us make guesses, Bouncer learns more slang that turns life into a game he thinks only he can win.

    The inmate across from us, Eyeball, sports an angular face, a narrow nose and a small build, small enough to crumple in the corner of his cell and not be noticed—which has happened before, as he has the personality to match. In a sense, he reminds me of Enmity. He doesn't say much. He simply gives long, disparaging looks to officers and to anyone who tries to get his attention. On special occasions we're deemed worthy of a moment of his time, but even then the best we've gotten is an explanation for why he refuses to socialize often, said with a scowl and a twitch of his dark eyes: “Ya can pretend yer in the real world however much ya want, but ya still gonna feel what's missin' here.”

    His words ring a sort of truth not many of us can admit to each other or ourselves. That's the common bond we share: we miss the outside world. We are kept away from liberty, everyday goods and services, autonomy, relationships... and there is such a thing as too much security. Everything is provided for us, which sounds fine, but this takes away things people like you take for granted—a simple trip to the grocery store, for instance. Someone is always watching you, sometimes out of curiosity, sometimes to spite you. We have little to no friends or family. Some of us had friends and family at some point, but inevitably they grew bored or frustrated, and decided to not come back.

    So all we have is each other and a degrading, monotonous routine we follow. It is not enough.

    5AM. The sun rises. The guards come around, bringing black coffee with a friendly enough smile. The coffee is hot, but there's no sugar, no cream, nothing to soften the taste of hell. Most sleep through the morning, as any request for a substitute drink cannot be considered. Breakfast consists of simple choices: toast and butter, spicy sausages, diced potatoes, a carton of orange juice for those avoiding caffeine—all placed in a small styrofoam box that radiates heat from the bottom. Only plastic cutlery is available to you; you can’t be trusted with the real deal.

    6AM. The guards convince you to wait in the cafeteria as they finish searching each and every cell for illegal paraphernalia, you know, as a safety precaution for inmates like me. Inmates who have reason to want to sneak around and go against the adherence their rehabilitation asks for. They’ll confiscate everyday, mundane items if they locate any, justifying it by claiming the item can be forged into a weapon. A coin can be sharpened and cut through stone walls, for example. In the meantime, small talk passes the time, with those choosing to remain aloof looking on in interest in case a fight breaks out.

    7AM. You take turns using the shower with everyone else. Though there are approximately thirty men on any given floor, there is only one shower room, and one toilet. There's no shower curtain and the toilet sits in the corner, also out in the open for everyone to notice and awkwardly avoid eye contact with you. Good hygiene is not an option. You have no choice but to keep yourself clean, for if you refuse, other prisoners will gang up on you. There are a couple reasons for this: one, if someone is affected by a cold, within days everyone will have it; and two, it is impossible for the guards to keep the showers sanitary at all times, so to keep yourself free of infection is to keep everyone else safe from infection as well. Soap, shampoo, and other necessities are provided by the commissary, but most of us have had sandals brought from the outside to prevent said infections when inside the shower.

    8AM. Here’s a designated exercise hour, before the hottest time of the day sets in. Camaraderie out in the yard is exceptionally rare as well. This is the time of day where there is nothing to do but walk with no destination in mind; you’re not trusted with proper equipment, either. Nothing to do but wait until the hour passes, when that's already all you've been doing for years. You have to remember to be persistent. “Gets ya through,” Eyeball might tell you, and he's right. Persistence is the one attribute you should have that will get you through the rest of your sentence. Persistence helps you keep your emotions and thoughts on an even keel, and to not overreact to any particular situation that might otherwise drive you crazy. Persistence creates and enables a strong mind and a steady spirit.

    9AM. Now there's a distraction to break the monotonous uncertainty plaguing your thoughts. Now is when the guards line up the prisoners and do a head count to ensure everyone is still present after the morning’s events. This is also when you get to see inmates you don't normally see at any other time. The sick inmates will have poor posture, and you briefly measure the status of your own health before retreating and shrinking back into your cell, your own little corner of the universe which, you remember, you can call your own, if nothing else.

    10AM. Once a week you're given a laundry bag, one set of pants and one shirt, and one set of underwear you have no choice but to wear on a consistent basis. One size fits all. But by now you'll at least be showered, dressed and looking semi-presentable, enough to transfer over to laundry duty. Work details are limited jobs reserved for prisoners who exhibit the best behavior. For this you'll only receive about five dollars an hour, but something about that handful of cash makes you feel like a part of society again. That handful of cash, at least, funds items sent by the commissary. While on duty you'll often be appalled by what you find. I will spare you the details.

    12-12:30PM. You have a lunch break at work, served the same way as breakfast. The prisoners become more talkative during this time. Bouncer discusses with me how the prisoners down the hall have been planning a breakout for years, though they are incompetent and haven't come close to coming up with a coherent, logical plan. Once they were going to tunnel their way through a wall in the laundry room, and they were ecstatic and prepared, until Bouncer pointed out that their tunnel would lead them straight to the guard's break room. Their stupidity astounds me, and I would be lying if I said I haven't participated in petty actions such as leaving their socks damp or dyeing them pink, then calling it an accident. It's hypocritical, considering my negative opinion regarding their behavior, but there it is. After lunch, you return to work for a few hours yet.

    3PM. Another exercise hour to shake off the tension from repeating the same motions at work over and over, and after, you return to your cell to be called in another headcount. Inside, the sun beats down and shines through the barred windows like an angelic presence might, and it's still hot. You're sweating and paranoia sets in. If you're anything like me, you're thinking about ways to access hardcore drugs or prescription medications that might knock you out for the rest of the day. Faking a cold or food poisoning might be an option, if only the prison allowed you that luxury. As it stands, the guards are adept to identifying all forms of illness, especially ones far less imposing than the ill mindset that caused us to become criminals in the first place.

    4-6PM. Some prisoners head to narcotics anonymous, anger management sessions, or counseling sessions. I choose not to disclose the experiences I have during my own counseling sessions. Outside of these rehabilitation programs, there are some ways to entertain yourself, but not many. An old-fashioned television with one news station sits in the corner of the hallway, inside an iron box, and through the thick plastic you can watch melancholy images unfold. If you don't want to watch, the reporter's voice echoes throughout the cells. It is difficult to drown out constant reminders of crime. Should you finish your session (or sessions, for some) before time is up, we have nothing but time, and so we become creative with ways to keep ourselves busy. Bouncer once made a checker board out of paper I gave him from my notebook, the same one I write to you in. Some of the men exercise, some create their own games, and some read. I myself would read, but most of the books I might be interested in are not on the approved reading list. On a particularly exciting day, in comes a new inmate, and the prisoners spend their time teaching him the ropes, which involves spewing harsh insults, asking personal questions, and making up strict rules.

    6PM. Dinner comes, served the same way as breakfast and lunch. The day is winding down.

    7PM. Head count. The sun starts to set and your thoughts drift further than normal.

    8PM. Bedtime. Bunk beds are welded together, not with nails or bolts, but with sheet metal. Bouncer prefers to sleep on the top bunk, so I let him. It's easier for me to fall asleep on the bottom bunk, anyway. The lights are left on at all hours of the day so that the guards are able to keep a watchful eye on us, and so the light is blocked by Bouncer's mattress above me. Eyeball, on the other side of the hall, takes his mattress and puts it on the floor. To make a pillow he gathers his belongings and stuffs it under one end of the mat. Despite his efforts he grows restless and makes annoying, non-rhythmic tapping noises that keep the rest of us awake longer than we want to be.

    I suppose it would be nice to have a cool, agreeable evening during which nothing goes wrong and all is forgotten… but it's not necessary. I don't deserve those rare nights when they do come to me. When my thoughts go astray during that blissful phase between wakefulness and sleep, I remember something my father told me, something about being a man one day and how that means doing terrible things. Perhaps he knew I would end up this way long ago.

    8PM-5AM. You sleep. The night makes us who we are, and when the morning comes, you know the truth, which is that that sun will forever keep rising. I have to believe that's true.

    I suppose that is all there it to say for now. Have I disturbed you? Please let me know. It is acceptable to acknowledge any awfulness you find in me.

    Last edited: Jul 3, 2018
  12. Sike Saner

    Sike Saner Peace to the Mountain

    Interesting explanation of the "can't catch fainted pokémon" clause (or in this case, perhaps, "shouldn't catch fainted pokémon"). It's one of the things in the series that I've always been well why not about; as such, it's always kinda fun to see people's answers.

    Of course, all this is if Haley remembers right. Which makes me kind of wonder what the reality is if she doesn't. Idk though, somehow I get a vague feeling that she's at least close to the mark there.

    Ekans spelled backward is snake!

    Maybe she has a separate team on planetarium duty at all times.

    Markus's schedule made for interesting reading as well, though my main thought through all of it was dang, so early.... It's rare for me to be out of bed before eleven, pff. Hopefully that won't have to change anytime soon, at least not without a damn good reason (read: a profitable reason).
  13. diamondpearl876

    diamondpearl876 → follow your fire.

    I've not seen anyone explore it before, actually. I kind of want to know what other people think...

    It would be Markus who is unreliable, if anyone.

    Likely. ;)

    Haha, same here! Prison's not the place for us, clearly.

    Thanks for commenting!
  14. I think this is one of the best parts of the letters since this is where we see them interact with each other instead of just telling each other pieces of their lives. If anything, I'd like more of it sprinkled out in the letters, since it makes the conversation more three-dimensional. This goes on for a few more paragraphs before she starts telling him about her journey, but I would like it if it was spread out throughout the letter more. I know that there's some parts there where she's asking him questions or telling him that he'd like a particular thing, and while I think those are great, I would've wanted more instances like that to make it really feel like they're having a conversation. The same with Markus talking to Haley, although he does spend more time answering her questions than talking about his own life/stories (which is understandable, given the situation he's in).

    Absolutely love this part. I see what you mean about her fascination of Poke Balls in the previous letter coming into play, and it's doing so in a very interesting way. There's an abrupt line break in this paragraph, though, so you might want to fix that.

    Markus seems particularly emotional here, and I'm not sure if it's a bit OOC or if it's a sign to the readers that Enmity is much more than a part of his backstory. There's an explanation a few paragraphs down about him "feeling particularly down today" so I chalked it up to that, but it does stand out amidst his refined and controlled tone.

    I was actually gonna ask this at the end of this review =)) So at least we're gonna get an answer in the next letter.

    I also like what you did with Markus enumerating his schedule, since it does clear up his setting much more. You do a good job in highlighting the monotony of it all and how it affects Markus. I'm sure we'll be seeing more of Bouncer and Eyeball since he points them out here, and it'll be nice to see how Markus interacts with other people face-to-face rather than through writing.

    Overall a good pair of letters - after exploring your characters in the previous pair, you go ahead and further the plot (with Noibat!!! which is bonus points) and expand on the world we've barely seen any of, so I have to give props on how you're going about with the exposition of the fic. Can't wait to see what happens next!
  15. Creepychu

    Creepychu The horror

    First things first, I'm glad you've found the time and motivation to come back to this story, though you might already have guessed as much from the nomination or possibly caught some hints to that effect that time I outright said I thought it was a great concept and I'd love to see it revisited. ;D

    Anyway, I was a bit late to read through the original and never really left a review, so it's time to make up for that.

    To start off with, I think you've done a very good job with giving Haley her own voice, particularly by the addition of those exclamation marks and incorporating struck out passages into the text. Not only do they contribute to the sense that she's writing these out on the spot without a lot of thought to structure and coherence, and second guessing the way she expresses herself a lot, but they also make Haley's letters easy to identify on a purely visual level. Being able to peg which side is talking just by glancing over the passage is definitely a sign of distinctive tone in my book. Good job on that front.

    Content-wise, Haley's letters definitely feel less organized than they were in the first version, skipping from one topic to the other and then doubling back to finish her thoughts later. As with the style they're written in, it all builds up to the impression that she's hammering out her side of the exchange pretty much in one go, which feels very consistent with the notion that she's writing these letters out mid-journey. The way you've rewritten her part also makes her come of as a bit less 'I will fix you' altruistic and a bit more focused on what she has to gain from the exchange, which makes it a little strange to see Markus still concluding that she's obviously doing it to make him feel better. That being said, she is still coming off as naive and well-meaning in her own way so I can see where he could read that conclusion in between the lines.

    Markus, on the other hand, is...well, Markus. He sounds pretty much exactly like he used to, and that's a good thing because the more formal, considered style of writing fit him better in the first place. I really like how naturally he just spins these absurd tall tales and tangents out of whatever he feels like talking about; it makes it understandable how he could get people to go along with all sorts of things he suggests, not by telling us that he has done it but by showing him actively doing it in writing. It's definitely the high point of his letters.

    The world-building bits are interesting stuff so far (and also kind of funny with how Haley is injecting this big bit of region history into the middle of her letter, kind of creates the impression she's trying to impress him) and the incident with the officer makes for a neat little indication of a more rebellious/troublemaking Haley than we had last time. It's also a small step towards making sense of why she'd choose to confide in Markus, which - like with the original - is a bit of an open question at this point in the exchange. Her holding onto the coin so tight that it dug into her hand was also a very effective image; it says a lot about her emotional state at the time with few words. The heads or tails thing also has potential for a running feature; little back and forth rituals like that do tend to crop up when you're in a prolonged exchange of letters/e-mail to an extent so it feels rather natural. I also rather enjoyed Kai's expanded capture story, since it both established more of his personality and quirks and was a neat way to show Haley's inexperience as a trainer.

    That being said, Markus's third letter rang a bit false for me. Firstly, there's the musings on death:

    Firstly, the simile doesn't really work for me because...no, I don't usually give away all my worldly possessions when I go out on vacation. I just tie up any current loose ends I have, make arrangements for the once I can't then close the windows, pull the blinds and lock the front door when I go. If you want to stick by this simile, it'd be better to focus on the aspects that you can draw a pithy comparison between.

    More pertinently, what richness is there to blood pressed against grass exactly, and what is this alleged contrast? The brownish red of dried blood fades right in with dirt-smeared grass and the brown dirt beneath it; unless he had his nose right up to the grass, I don't see how he'd be in any position to appreciate much contrast here. As with the going on vacation simile, I don't really get what you're getting at with this one which makes it not do much for me. Might be a matter of personal experience, but this does come off more as someone trying to be profound rather than someone actually succeeding at it. Not outside the bounds of possibility given Markus's personality, but I felt it was worth noting.

    The other part that made me raise an eyebrow was his description of the prison because it felt a little...incongruous, I suppose? Obviously I'm not speaking from personal experience with the prison system, but the way Markus is rattling off these terms makes him sound less like somebody who actually uses those words and more like a poser trying to show off how in-the-know he is about prison life. The terms are just dropped there without really building up to anything for the most part, like he's going through a checklist or namedropping famous people to try and get credibility, where I'd expect a more natural telling would focus on the people and events and only bring up the terminology when they feel it's relevant to what they're actually trying to get across.

    Secondly, there's the schedule. Listing out his schedule in itself is a solid idea in terms of bringing across his everyday routine, enough so that I'd consider actually working his whole description of what prison is like into that framework, since it feels like it's repeating information from the non-schedule parts as it is. That being said, there's something a bit peculiar about the actual items on the schedule:

    One, one-hour work day? My ignorance of prison administration may be showing here, but having only a single one-hour work shift in the entire day sounds pretty barebones as work rehabilitation programs go. Surely there's more work to be done in this prison than just the laundry, and surely even just the laundry for an entire prison complex would take more than one hour a day to sort out?

    Two, no designated exercise hours? That's some seriously hardline stuff that seems pretty out of place in a prison that still brings you coffee in the mornings and lets you have TV. I know there are exceptions, but ethically run prisons do have to provide at least baseline exercise time for their inmates to prevent muscular atrophy and other ailments of being confined in a limited space all day. Y'know, prison courtyards and all that.

    Three, no screenings or even cell searches for drugs? Markus is locked up for drug abuse and I think it's fair to assume he's not the only one; I'd expect even a hardline prison would want to keep tabs to make sure drugs aren't getting around to the inmates who were locked up to keep them away from drugs.

    Again, not my field of expertise and Markus is definitely an unreliable witness, but this does make me curious what you're basing this description on and what kind of prison the Brun Way Correctional Facility is supposed to be. For a correctional facility focused on rehabilitation they seem awfully unconcerned with actual rehab work and prisoner welfare, but for a straight-up holding facility they seem a bit lax in places, especially in letting an inmate run unfiltered correspondence with a teenage girl. Since the letters exchange is taking place, and since you can apparently get contact details for inmates straight off their website, I'm going to assume it's a rehabiliation-focused place but this description of it does make me wonder.

    At any rate, those are the only things that really stuck out to me negatively. I still love the core concept you're working with and do think the changes you've made with the revisions were for the better, so looking forward to where the story goes from here.
    Last edited: May 12, 2015
  16. diamondpearl876

    diamondpearl876 → follow your fire.

    Makes sense and I'll definitely make a note of this in future letters. I did notice I had a habit of having them respond to each other early on in the letters, then I have them go into whatever it is they want to talk about without addressing the other much. > < I just wasn't sure if anyone else had noticed and was bothered by it.

    Thanks! It was a bit hard to write, so I'm glad you liked it. Also, fixed.
    Guess we'll find out, huh. :~) There was a reason for it, at any rate.

    My beta asked and I was like, oh, yeah, gotta put that in pretty early on. Oops!

    That part will be edited a bit after the recent review I just got, but not by too much.

    Yes! Noibat are adorable! Thanks for reviewing as always! :~)

    Yes, you and a member from Bulba were my main motivations for getting me started on this again. XD i'm balancing 3 fics now, but who cares, right

    This has been a big challenge for me, so I'm glad you think it works out. I can't remember where I came up with the strikethrough idea, but I've always liked making use of italics and other such ways of portraying emphases. I just hope I don't use it too much and it doesn't come off as annoying/out of place sometimes, but I guess that's what my beta's for.

    I'll try to tone down Markus's view of that so it seems less strange. The lack of organization has been completely intentional, so I'm glad it works out for you as well. I don't think that lack of organization would be acceptable in many other forms of story structure.

    I gotta say, I love writing Markus. The tales are fun to come up with and having characters go on random or deep tangents seems to be something I like to do a lot.

    Ah, you just pointed out pretty much everything new I added in one paragraph. XD I'm glad it all seemed to work out, particularly the coin symbolism - it'll definitely show up again as time goes on.

    About Markus's 3rd letter:

    - I think you just taught me that if my instinct tells me something is off, I should probably look back into it and try to change it. The vacation thing was weird the first time I wrote it and I wanted to incorporate it in a better way, but seems it still came off as falsely profound and overall flat. Same with the blood-against-grass idea. My beta didn't quite point it out, so I left it alone, but I'll go back and rework it ASAP.
    - As for the prison lingo - would it suffice if Markus simply said "I will use prison lingo as I talk about prison life" or something obviously better written than that?
    - 1 hour work day... Why did I think that was a good idea again? I'll change the times accordingly.
    - I had a really hard time balancing with a correctional facility that offered rehabilitation and was lax, and a correctional facility that was really mean and offered basically nothing.

    Again, I'll go back and change some things within the next, oh, 2 days. Dunno if you'll want to read that one letter again then, so I hope a future reviewer will find that the edits work well enough. :p
  17. diamondpearl876

    diamondpearl876 → follow your fire.

    [letters seven and eight]


    June 10

    Dear Markus,

    I got your letter a few days ago, but I've been putting off writing back to you. I just don't know what to say! Between the little lesson Olympia tried to teach me and your honesty, I'm not sure what to believe. I do know now that writing these letters is an outlet for you. For me, it's a way to forget. There must be some kind of theory out there, anyway, that says if you write something down and then stop thinking about it, it'll leave your mind forever. And then there will always be some official documentation ready in case you want to remember or prove the memory happened in the first place. My documentation would be in one big notebook with crisp white pages, some torn, some with folded corners, and most written with invisible ink and scrawly cursive...

    Not that I don't appreciate you telling me what prison is like! I mean, I asked for the explanation, didn't I? And like I said, it was an outlet for you. I wasn't prepared is all. I'm like a walking contradiction, I guess. I want to hear about your life and then when you tell me things, I'm reminded that I'm nothing special, and it's hard. I wonder why you're telling me of all people. You have your cellmates, and the guards, and... Well, I guess they wouldn’t be your top choices when it comes to friends. Still, let's just say it's going to take a lot more than one teenager's wanderlust and determination to make a difference in such a crazy world.

    Okay, I'm ready to write about something that's not annoying, and worth sending. First I want you to know I'm worried about Enmity, too, and I hope you're able to find out what happened to him someday. I won’t forget about him, okay? I care about you too much for that! Also, I don't think anything about you is awful, except maybe the way you think you're awful.

    Oh, and Ribbons has been sending these letters so far. He can find his way around without a problem and I know he'll come back. My grandmother taught me how to train him like that, after all, and Seybs and Kai, too! It's strange when Ribbons is gone, though... Kai and Seybs are strong, but I don't feel as safe. So I might make Kai do it. Seybs could do it, but he doesn't care for all the stimulation. As a challenge I sent him to Laverre one summer with Joey and his talonflame, and trying to keep up with such a speedy pokémon was hard for him. Joey told me that Seybs had to exert himself to catch up with his talonflame to let him know they were going the wrong way, and really, each time Seybs complained, it was probably just to get a half hour's worth of rest. Seybs is observant, and he's loyal enough to get the job done. I'll give him that much credit! But he's lazy, slow, and will take any opportunity to show you how bitter he is when you try to make him be the opposite.

    As for Kai... Well, he needs to burn off some of that energy he always has, and this seems like the perfect way to do it. Then again, he'd be the type to make a pit stop every twenty minutes just to eat some fruit... which, by the way, he won't share with his teammates. How am I supposed to make everyone get along when he's acting like that?

    Seriously, though, sending Kai back and forth with the letters would be so easy. Ribbons always comes back with store-bought food in a small pouch, so I know the prison feeds them. Do you know if they give out fruit, though? I guess I could promise Kai a feast or something when he's back, and then he'd be set.

    Anyway, trainers do stuff like this all the time to stay in touch with their families and friends all over Kalos, since cell phone service is pretty awful. The only problem is... Well, when a flying-type's flying alone, trainers see them and think they're wild. Even worse, predators think they're prey. At least pokéballs are useless, but my pokémon aren't safe from guns or electric-types or anything like that.

    Whenever I think of an accident happening, I think of the war three thousand years ago. Flying-types during the war were used to deliver emergency medication between Pokémon Centers, which was really important when one town had less resources than another. Sending these letters to you is almost the same as sending medicine to a friend in need, and I have to remember that doing the right thing sometimes means taking risks and possibly making sacrifices. Strange rationalization, maybe, but there it is!

    So far I've told Ribbons to stay away from areas where hunting is allowed—near the Lost Hotel and the route north of Lumiose, I think are the only ones on the way to Laverre—but that doesn't mean he's gonna make it alright...

    Thinking about this is making me a bit depressed, so let's move on? Now is as good a time as any to tell you what Olympia's “lesson” was. I didn't like the way she went about it, but I guess taking care of trainers is what gym leaders are supposed to do.

    So she asked me to come to her house and babysit her solosis. I didn't know she had a solosis at all, and that should've tipped me off right away. I believed her when she said she usually took him everywhere, but tonight was an exception since she had an important dinner date with a member of the Elite Four. She told me I'd be paid and everything, so I was happy to do it.

    “When I am back, I will show you what I want to show you,” she said calmly.

    The babysitting job went pretty well. The solosis was super energetic. He bounced around non-stop and it was a game to see which one of my pokémon could catch him in the air first. Seybs won a lot more than Kai or Ribbons, since he had the biggest talons and was actually able to carry the solosis on his back.

    Ribbons also let the solosis practice his psychic powers. The solosis lifted some small decorations, like pictures hanging on the wall and a vase, and he was able to put them down without breaking them. After that, Ribbons gave the solosis some advice. I really, really wish I could have understood that conversation! There was so much smiling and giggling going on, I felt a little left out.

    Soon enough Olympia was home and she motioned for me to follow her. I told my pokémon to stay put, but they seemed startled, and suddenly I noticed that the solosis was gone and had seemed to vanish into thin air.

    I asked Olympia where the solosis went as she led me to the kitchen. It was a large kitchen, even though she lived alone. All the cutlery and the appliances were floating in midair, and the black curtains covering the door to the yard were swaying without the help of any winds. I opened my mouth to speak, but everything was so odd that I forgot about the solosis for a moment.

    Olympia pointed to the room we had just come from and told me that the solosis wasn't real. The solosis was simply an illusion she had created for me. I didn't know what to say... Why hadn't Ribbons noticed? I mean, Olympia's powers were far greater than Ribbons's, but still. What was the point of me “babysitting” then?

    Of course, she seemed to read my mind. “You will meet many illusions on your journey, ones made psychically or otherwise,” she said. “You must be prepared for any tragedy that awaits you.”

    I followed her gaze and looked at my pokémon in the other room. They were searching for the solosis, and before they could find out the truth, I ran in and told them it was time to go. I'm not sure if the truth would have bothered them, but I knew I didn't like it, so I practically shoved them into their pokéballs. I stood there, wondering if this was the Olympia I had heard so many stories about from my parents and the townspeople. You know, stories about how she radiated kindness and changed people’s lives with her advice. I didn’t—don’t—think they were true anymore.

    “Do not assume death means stopping. Do not assume existence means living,” Olympia said to me.

    Those words rang in my head, but I had no idea what they meant then, and I have no idea now. She held out a small amount of pokédollars, and I thanked her, then left. Before that, I'd never fought a gym leader, or even met one in person. If I did the gym circuit, and if during each battle I was judged by a gym leader... Well, I don't want any part in it, honestly. So I probably won't fight many of them, unless something changes my mind. And before you ask, I won't be telling my pokémon what happened. Now that I've written it down, I'll forget it anyway, right?

    I knew I wouldn't be able to sleep that night, so I skulked on home, woke up my family, murmured goodbye, then left again. Dad and Mom and Joey didn’t give me much hassle—probably, definitely because they were sick of it—so it worked out. And my grandmother… I didn’t stop to visit her. I was torn on it, but I didn’t think I could face her without losing the resolve I had.

    Moving on... Again...

    We're in Dendemille Town now. Altogether it was a five day journey, and we've been here for what seems like forever already, since the cold weather's mostly been making us feel bored and miserable. Luckily I remembered to pack my winter coat and warm clothes, otherwise I would have had to backtrack all the way to Anistar just to get some!

    We traveled through Route 17 (or Mamoswine Road). When we first showed up, there was a mamoswine sitting patiently by the gate entrance, as if it had been waiting a long time to see me. It nodded to me, lowered itself and turned to its side so that I could climb on. It was strange, riding on a wild pokémon, but during the summer all the townspeople in Anistar would talk about going this way to take a mini-vacation to the wintry areas of Kalos. Because of that I figured that the mamoswine was trustworthy.

    The mamoswine was only able to take a step before we heard a boy calling out from behind us. The mamoswine stopped and stared straight ahead, like it was used to this kind of thing. I'm not sure if there's a set schedule for the rides, so I didn't blame the boy for not wanting to wait. He was out of breath by the time he caught up, and he looked me in the eye and asked if he could ride. Confused, I told him of course he could, what kind of silly question was that? Then he pointed to my pokémon. There wasn't any room for him to sit if my pokémon were there. I returned them... reluctantly... but keeping flying-types out of the freezing weather is for the best. Their safety is more important than mine, after all.

    When the boy hopped on the mamoswine's back, he tried to be nice about it but ended up digging his heel into the mamoswine’s skin by accident. The mamoswine grunted and got no apology from the boy. I offered him a smile to be polite, mostly since I didn't want the ride to seem long and awkward. I asked him his name, and he told me. Kenneth Chitenay... A Kaloseux name, but he had an accent I couldn't place at the time. I looked him over. He's a bit on the short side, with neat, curly black hair and hazel eyes. He wore a white neck scarf, which, to my surprise, he didn't use to cover his face. I assumed it was just there for show. He wore a long, red and expensive-looking trench coat, with dark pants and boots to match. I could smell some light cologne on him. The scent reminded me of grapefruit. None of this hinted as to where he might actually be from, but I got the impression that he cared about his appearance a lot.

    “You're not from Anistar, are you?” I asked him. I felt like I already knew the answer, since I hadn't seen him around before, ever. I think I'd remember someone like him if I had.

    Kenneth shook his head, then motioned for me to look ahead. My legs were dangling over the mamoswine's body and, if I didn't move them, they'd bump into a wild bergmite sleeping on top of a tall mound of snow. Either the mamoswine didn't see the bergmite, or it didn't dare to stray from the path even for a moment. I kept my legs up as we left the peaceful bergmite behind and passed through more mounds of snow at least three times my height.

    I asked him where he came from, then, if not Anistar.

    “I'm from Hoenn,” he said, frowning. “Rustburo, to be exact.”

    I waited for him to go on, to explain why he didn't seem too happy about it. Do you think he expected me to figure it out myself? I put on my best thoughtful face for a few seconds, then opted to say, “I'm not too familiar with Hoenn, sorry. But it makes sense now.”

    He raised an eyebrow. “What does?”

    He pronounces some words wrong. Like, really wrong. He puts no emphasis on different parts of words, too, and his voice is full of... anything but life, I guess? It's more monotonous like I'm used to hearing, anyway. Of course, I didn't make a scene of it. I told him he had an accent and that was it.

    “Makes sense indeed.”

    He peered over to the mountains towering over us. The view made me think we were at the bottom of a canyon and that we'd never get out. All around us were thick blankets of snow that drifted when the wind picked up. I shivered and pulled my coat tighter against my body. I changed the subject. “So what are you doing in Kalos?” I asked.

    “Well, I worked for Devon Corporation for a while. Then my mom retired and wanted to move to Aquacorde, so she did. I didn't want her to go alone, so I came with and decided to try to the whole traveling thing. Though I'm heading to Lumiose now, just to see what the job market's like.”

    “What about your dad?” The question came out before I could think it through. I hadn't expected him to spill so much information about himself at once, and so I assumed he'd just be willing to tell me more, no matter what it was.

    “Don't know about him. Can't say I care, either.”

    I apologized to him and looked away, too ashamed to make eye contact. I wasn't sure what I'd have done without my dad, even if living at home was usually overwhelming.

    Then a thought hit me. “You said Devon Corporation, right?”

    He nodded.

    “Did you know the famous Steven Stone?”

    “Of course,” Kenneth said, waving a hand around. “His father hired me, and once in a while I got a glimpse of him walking around the office building I worked at.”

    “My mother works in a hospital. When she's not with the patients, she buys medicine from the Devon Corporation. She said that he was a great guy who traveled through Hoenn, digging through the earth to find minerals and herbs that Pokémon Centers took advantage of when developing their healing machines.” I never did understand, Markus, why I wasn't allowed to journey when she fawned over a famous traveler, but anyway...

    Kenneth grinned. “He's a respectable man. One of the few that doesn't take Hoenn for granted.”

    I asked him what he meant.

    “Hoenn is unique to the rest of the world due to it's tropical climate. Instead of thinking he's always on some grand vacation, he finds beauty in the seemingly mundane. Hence his rock collection and fascination with steel-types.” He paused. “Not to mention he's the region's champion, yet he doesn't let the power go to his head. He helps others, as you noted, and goes where he's needed.”

    Suddenly the mamoswine mounted itself up high and lurched forward with one sharp motion, causing me to start sliding off of its back. If Kenneth weren't there, I might have fallen right into the snow. Or I would have been paying attention to where we were going. It would have been nice if the mamoswine had given us a warning, don't you think?

    I asked Kenneth the same thing.

    “Agreed,” he mumbled, dusting himself off as if a bunch of snow had gotten on his clothes. “Anyway, are you okay?”

    I said yes and mentioned how I wish my pokémon could be out with me, but they're flying-types.

    “One Kantoan species, one Johtoan species... Nothing from Hoenn?” he said, pointing to the pokéballs on my belt. I wondered aloud about how he knew that stuff and he answered, “If you look hard enough, you'll see that the top of each pokéball is translucent, more or less. I've tinkered with and made enough pokéballs in my lifetime to know.”

    And it was true! I held Kai's pokéball in my hands and was able to see him nestled inside, curled in on himself, like he was sleeping and dreaming about something nice. Who knew? Besides checking to see they can’t fall out of my pockets or backpack, I barely remembered they existed. Well, outside of releasing and returning my birdies, of course. So it made sense I’d never noticed before, as stupid as I looked right then.

    I smiled at Kenneth and said, “Did you make those special apricorn balls and everything?”

    “Yes. Even the master ones.” What was so special about those? I didn't know, and he blinked, then laughed at me. “A master ball can catch any pokémon without fail, even legendaries.” The idea of me catching a pokémon as amazing as Diancie baffled me. Anistar sure wouldn’t take too kindly to me coming home with the sundial’s paragon and telling a tale about how the capture wasn’t difficult at all. He continued, “They're usually only given out to champions or winners of tournaments.”


    Frowning, he said, “Groups like Team Rocket and such have stolen and replicated them before.”

    I didn't know what this Team Rocket was, either, and rather than making myself seem stupid, I told him that no, I didn't have any pokémon from Hoenn.

    “My mother has a volbeat she's been trying to find a home for,” he said. “If you're wanting to make your team more diverse.”

    And again, I didn't know what a volbeat was.

    “The firefly pokémon.”

    “You mean lightning bug?”

    “Maybe in Kalos, that's what you say. In Hoenn we'd call it a firefly.”

    Uh huh... So, I'm not getting a volbeat because it's not a flying-type. I learned very quickly that Kenneth is the argumentative type, and even though the whole conversation was recorded, I only told you what I did so I didn't make him look bad. He's smart and nice... most of the time... but he acts smug when you don't go along with what he wants, or if you don't know what he's talking about. Sorry if I’m painting him in a bad light, because I don’t mean to, but, you know, everyone’s got something about them that others tend to cringe at. I can’t pretend otherwise.

    I did mention that I was heading to Lumiose too, so we're considering traveling together. I can show him around Kalos that way, and he offered to help train my pokémon, since he's more experienced than me. What do you think? I mean, he seems reliable, doesn't he? Or do you need to know more about him first?

    During the rest of the trip, he told me all about Hoenn's culture and its people. I'd go over what he said, but this letter is already getting long as it is! Sometimes I write and write and I get lost in it, especially when the weather is so dull. With the snow and the townspeople shut in, it seems that all Dendemille has is dull days, but me and Kenneth found a few things to do. I'll tell you about our visit to Frost Cavern and whatnot next time, okay?

    Until then!

    ~ Haley


    June 16

    To Haley,

    You may put in your letters as much information as you'd like, and you may take as much time as you need to do so. I will be here, sitting in this cell, regardless of what you decide to tell me or not tell me. While your fear mirrors that which I felt at the beginning of our correspondence, you need not pressure yourself into thinking that if you wait too long to reply, I will believe that you have forgotten about me. I have been hoping that your visit to Dendemille has turned out to be more fruitful and fair to you compared to your experiences in Anistar.

    I must advise you to, at the very least, be careful around this Kenneth Chitenay. What worries me is the intentional withholding of the later conversations between you two, but as you trust me, I suppose I must trust that you left those parts alone for no other reason than the ones you stated. Barring that, I'd say, albeit with hesitation, that he presents himself decently. Knowing he had a part in a renowned corporation dedicated to pokémon training seems promising, but, paranoia prevailing again, I am compelled to consider any hidden motives.

    Now that that is out of the way, I cannot say much about what Olympia demonstrated for you. Perhaps she has given you more to think about than you originally planned for. I wonder how this will affect you in the long-term, if it will at all... Illusions are omnipresent for some, whether they ask for them or not...

    Sick, slow, slick and clean. That's the gist of how they work. The pit of your stomach feels awful at first, and your thoughts come to a near halt. Then your mind begins to process information at a faster pace; your thoughts suddenly turn profound and assertive, above all else. You begin to understand—subtly, no less—what you should have understood at the start, though your emotions had gotten in the way of your practicality. Then the illusion disappears and you are either left with a sense of clarity or hazy memories that your subconscious locks away for future use.

    Illusions, as you might have guessed, are something of a specialty of mine. Either you will dismiss illusions as they come or you might ponder what they mean. Re-reading your ideas regarding forgetfulness, I assume you will find a way to mix the two options. Or perhaps you will ignore all I have just said and find your own path.

    But Olympia's words... Do not assume death means stopping; do not assume existence means living... There rings a certain amount of truth to them, a sense of caution worth listening to. And that is all I have to say on the matter.

    Ribbons has been sending these letters? I see... I was under the impression that natu cannot fly well because their wings are not fully grown... You must forgive me, but at the moment I am finding it hard to imagine a small, unevolved pokémon traveling such long distances. I am picturing Ribbons taking off and rising in the crisp morning air, then, after flying about forty, fifty feet, he tumbles slowly, and he is forced to land on the nearest branch or roof. After several days of this, I would safely assume that the time in between flying spurts increases. That doesn't even account for time spent sleeping or searching for food. If I were you, I would watch out for excessive panting, squinted eyes, and other signs of overexertion or sickness. If any of these signs are present, then you should end his adventures to Laverre before worse symptoms befall him. Send someone else in his place, as you have been contemplating. I would suggest Seybs. Kai might struggle just as well.

    I do, however, vaguely remember you telling me of Ribbons's origins. Your grandmother—I believe she is the one who gave you Ribbons—retrieved him from a professional breeder, correct? If so, I might vouch for his skills based on this fact alone. The most exceptional breeders adopt special routines and tools necessary to maximize a pokémon's strength before it is born and while it is still growing. I would assume, too, that Ribbons is a bit older than you might expect. ...I daresay he may evolve relatively soon, should you train him properly and continue the gym circuit. But you have already deemed the gym circuit unworthy of your efforts, and so I will not argue with that.

    At any rate, your grandmother offered only the best to you, and I commend Ribbons for doing the same given the restrictions he faced. If I may say so, on the assumption that saying so will make you feel better about the matter, it should be noted that laws were passed years ago for trainers who wished to communicate on the road. Hunting along the outskirts of Laverre and the northern ends of Lumiose may be allowed, but aiming to kill a trainer's pokémon for sport is a serious offense. To separate the wild birds of prey and trained flying-types, trainers are advised to have their pokémon wear bells or whistles. Predators, then, can identify targets easier, and at the same time, birds of prey might be persuaded to leave Seybs—or Kai—alone.

    And as a final note, do not worry about sending these letters if you are worried for the safety of your pokémon. Around the time of the war three thousand years ago, flying-types transported medication on an emergency basis, yes, but they certainly did not extend that service to prisoners like me. It was, rather, the worthy members of society that received such attention, and I feel that that was the correct decision. Sacrifices, even now, are very unnecessary. You may deem me cynical, considering how I simply let the world conspire against me. So be it.

    I must admit that I was bothered when I heard about Ribbons traveling to Laverre, and not solely because the aforementioned rationale. I do not meet the pokémon who send your letters, as you know, but I have a personal vendetta against Ribbons... Actually, it is not Ribbons I have issues concerning, but psychic-types in general.

    Don’t fret just yet. Let me explain.

    In your last letter it was implied that you and Kenneth visited Frost Cavern at least once. I do anticipate the retelling of your venture to the most nebulous area of Dendemille. I would be worried, but it seems the two of you made it through safely, nor do you seem to harbor a grudge for the place, as I do.

    As you might know, inside Frost Cavern lies drifting snow and deep fog, both of which grab at your soul and nip at it with fierce persistence so that you are given little choice but to experience absurd, yet breathtaking illusions. When I still had my starters, I had come to Dendemille to experience the sharp change of season. To the west, Brun Way always has the appearance of fall. The view consists mostly of scattered leaves, crunchy, dainty and tinged with reds and golds, as if the route could be set ablaze at a moment's notice. To the east, Mamoswine Road is where all becomes downright cold and dreadful. All is bereft of life on that formidable mountain.

    Dendemille is a curious mixture of the two, which, I suppose, seems appropriate when you know the town's origins. The town was created to unite the two adjacent routes. For a while, pokémon from the surrounding communities were able to live alongside humans. Then Frost Cavern was discovered, at which point Dendemille became known for puppetry and other performances involving deception by psychic-types. Psychologists and philosophers interested in existentialism are drawn to the place, while residents catch or import pokémon from outside the area, as the local species have a reputation for being untrustworthy.

    I leave to you the more precise descriptors of Dendemille and its history. That is your passion, which you should seek to evaluate with a clear head and unbiased mindset so that you do not fall prey to any illusions as I have. Olympia failed to mention this in her lesson.

    I, of course, did not believe any blasphemy about the power of Frost Cavern. The way I saw it, nothing could overpower the high brought on by my choice of drug, that sublime spell I succumbed to each and every day. But what Frost Cavern had to offer was a hypnotic, wintry atmosphere that stole from me my senses. I do not remember walking along the edges of Halfpoint River to the cave's entrance, for my toes were too numb and my vision too blurry to perceive my surroundings.

    When I arrived at my destination, a hypno was waiting for me. A sudden, overwhelming shift in my attitude toward drugs took over. With my whole being I now believed that if I continued to go under the influence—which I would—an overdose was inevitable. The paranoia was remarkable. It felt real, even though the thoughts were beyond my comprehension, beyond rationalization. If it weren't in my nature to be as disconnected from reality as I am, I might have noticed something was wrong. Or perhaps the illusion was that strong after all. The hypno motioned for me to follow, and I, strung out and feeling brave, obeyed.

    The hypno's psychic hold drew me closer and closer to the heart of the cave. On the way there, he explained to me using telepathy other aspects of my fate as a drug addict. His words had a sort of transient beauty about them as they invaded my mind, but I couldn't confidently say that I agreed with them. There was a certain detachment in his eyes, and his features were set off-kilter as he told me that my long-term plans—as if I had had any to begin with—were now out of reach. Short-term goals were possible, but also difficult to attain. Friends and family would desert me, I'd be unable to maintain a permanent home, and I'd soon be an unwelcome member of society. There was no doubt about any of this.

    New emotions stirred within me as I listened to the hypno's spiel. My passion for life became exceptional, and I was determined to change myself, to redeem myself in the eyes of everyone who had come to know me. I would swear off of drugs and remember what it was like to hear my parents say I could be anything I wanted to be, as long as I avoided trouble...

    Lo and behold, as I write this now, all of this has come true since then regardless of the warnings.

    Back to then, however. My aforementioned passion dissipated as quickly as it came. The hypno had a hold on me now, not my parents. To console me, the hypno offered to teleport me anyplace I'd like to go with the limited time I had left.

    His kindness did not serve to soften the desolation that followed.

    The full realization hit me. I would not be able to fulfill my dreams, small or big. Though exhausted, I became fully alert. I was witnessing a profound understanding of weariness... and when despair takes over, you have nowhere else to go. You are ready to go anywhere. The rest of my life dissolved into oblivion, and I wished to die.

    The hypno nodded and said that if I really wanted to die, he could make it happen—sooner rather than later.

    In the deepest corner of Frost Cavern, a claydol awaited us. The pokémon, essentially a doll made of clay, symbolized Dendemille's love for puppetry. I knew it was a psychic-type, but the fact that it was also part ground-type living in a cave filled with ice did not strike me as odd at the time.

    The hypno communicated to the claydol my despair using a regular human's speech. The round protrusion on the claydol's head detached from the rest of its body and spun in circles. “Death is the best possible outcome. It's the only darkness you can't come back from,” the two of them said to me, also in a human's voice, though it sounded like multiple other voices were speaking to me at once.

    I imagined the claydol using its rainbow-colored psybeam attack to pierce me through the heart, and the hypno standing by, watching intently. And then the claydol would use my body to turn me into a clay doll myself...

    Life never felt more somber, then.

    I didn't think anyone could—or would—save me, and even if they tried, they'd use the chance to run away and leave me in the dust. But Chespin, Fennekin and Froakie abruptly popped out of their pokéballs and each let out a worried, yet resolute cry. I was shocked, and had not a clue as to where they had come from. Under the hypno's spell, initially I didn't even recognize them as mine.
    I found my own voice or, at least, I think I did. The corners of my vision were starting to fade, but I could still remember that Fennekin was a fire-type and could melt this whole area if need be. “There's nothing you can do to stop Fennekin once I give the command,” I tried to say to the hypno.

    The hypno stopped, contemplating what to do about this unforeseen circumstance. The psychic-type undoubtedly knew about my starters, but wild pokémon who have never been captured or confined in a pokéball, of course, don't know about the concept of potential energy. It is safe to assume that all three of my pokémon had been watching and listening carefully from inside their pokéballs. Once they heard the hypno's threat, they created a burst of energy within the sphere's force field, which allowed them to escape without me needing to release them. Unlike the time they passed in Santalune, they had the strength and the will to do so.

    Slowly I was able to control myself again. After what seemed like an eternity, the hypno mumbled to itself, relenting and admitting defeat by teleporting all of us toward the entrance of Frost Cavern. I vowed never to come back, and to this day I haven't set foot in that wretched place, despite its allure.

    I didn't know my pokémon cared about me until that incident occurred. Or perhaps they sensed their imminent demise and wanted nothing to do with it, my own safety be damned. Outside the cavern, Chespin rammed into my legs, presumably either to shake off the rest of my confusion or to scold me, though he only added to the disorientation. Later on I'd learn from the move tutor that the chespin line does this both as a sign of anger and devotion, and also to strengthen their lower bodies as they prepare for evolution. Chespin was a leader and had the traits to show it. He represented the group while Fennekin and Froakie stood by, the former licking her paws idly and the latter blowing bubbles from his mouth as a sign of contentment.

    Perhaps they, too, were deluded in their attachment to me, but that is not for me to decide. When caught in a pokéball, a pokémon feels a certain bond with their trainer, which is strengthened by the type of ball used but is prone to fade or strengthen over time, depending. You can ask your friend Kenneth Chitenay about that, if you would like. If he is of any worth at all, he will understand the importance of the work he does.

    One last mention of my pokémon before I end this letter: the prison guards should have Enmity's pokéball hidden somewhere, but I doubt they would give it back, not even after I'm a free man. I don't suppose Kenneth Chitenay would know anything about that as well, but I fear that last piece of Enmity is gone.

    What else can I say? I've left so many friends behind. I can't forget that. You know I can't forget that.

    Last edited: Jul 3, 2018
  18. Sike Saner

    Sike Saner Peace to the Mountain

    What an adorable little ****.

    That... is a very interesting and rather apt way of putting it.

    I'd sure as hell like to know, too, given what I know about that solosis.

    What if the "solosis" told Ribbons the truth and Ribbons thought it was a funny joke or something. "Hehe... good one, flying grapething!"

    Thanks Olympia, you just reminded me that it's been a bit of a longass while since the last time I listened to the lone Alanis Morissette album in my collection.


    Either my brain has turned into chewed gum or the claydol (and possibly also the hypno) came in with the revision. I do have to wonder if the claydol was actually there in the frostycave or not. Either way, nifty critters, those.
  19. diamondpearl876

    diamondpearl876 → follow your fire.

    Kai is super fun to write, ok

    Heh, I'm glad you think so.

    The world may never know.

    Possible, I suppose. xD

    You're welcome.

    Claydol was new, Hypno was new in the sense that it replaced Kadabra in the original version.
  20. I really like how you explored the importance of writing letters to Haley in her letter. That image of writing to forget at the start was really good, and seeing it come back in the middle of the letter made a strong impact, so good job there. And then it gets compounded with the act of sending letters being compared to the act of sending medication, and it makes for a great look at the big picture of two individuals sending letters to each other for different reasons. I thought that was a really strong factor that drove both pairs of letters.

    I'm as confused as Haley was with the scene with Olympia, more of because the motivation seems to be lost in me. This is expected, though, as I feel that we're meant to feel the same way as Haley does, and her reaction of confusion sure does carry over. I'm as wary as Markus with the introduction of Kenneth, but I'm interested in how he'll be putting more of a conflict in Haley's letters with his presence, seeing as they seem to contrast each other well. I'm also interested in how you'll be presenting him as a side character while using the form, so I can't wait to hear all about Haley's thoughts on him.

    I felt that Markus's recounting was stronger this time around, since it expands his relationship with his starter Pokemon really well. I do think the sudden introduction of his desire to end his life was abrupt, but I assume that's what you were going for with the presence of Hypno (who are always really creepy, damn them) and Claydol. I was also a bit surprised with how he reveals that Enmity's Poké Ball was within reach, so I'm interested in how Haley would pick this up in her next letter.

    I also like how you've made their back-and-forth spread throughout the letters in this pair. I also noticed that these letters feel more like parallels of each other than the other pairs, which makes me more curious of all the details you put in them and how they could seemingly connect.

    Overall a great pair of letters, and I can't wait for the next pair! :)

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