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Flying in the Dark

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

  1. diamondpearl876

    diamondpearl876 → follow your fire.

    Double posting for new letter content. Been busy and not writing because I moved halfway across the US, but I'm back and whatnot. 8)

    [letter eleven]


    July 20

    I hope you don’t mind if I just skip the traditional letter format this time. Opening with ‘dear Markus’ sounds way too formal anyway, or it makes it sound like we started talking not too long ago—which is… true, actually, like you said. I dug through my backpack for a while to find your older letters, because I wanted to see what phrase you were talking about again—you know, the one about how the sun rises each day. I ended up piecing them all together in order, partly to reorganize my stuff and partly out of curiosity, and then I saw that you were right! It’s only been 3 months since I reached out to you! That means it’s been 3 months since I started my journey, too. Wow, can you believe

    Yeah, I scribbled that out. I didn’t put anything bad, but I was going on a tangent about myself and I don’t want to make things about myself right now. I think that’s something I do… a lot. In fact, I just did it again. Sorry.

    Point is, I don’t think we were ever super distant with each other or anything. That’s really amazing, you know that? And now it feels to me like we’ve been friends for years. You’ve been more reluctant than me, no doubt, but I’ve tried to encourage you not to be. You were trying really hard to be more open in your last letter, I think. That’s amazing too, but…

    Well, don’t get me wrong. I’ll try to explain, okay? I’m still confused myself, so try to bear with me if you can! When I read through everything you’d written to me so far, I saw that you’d said you don’t like being called Markus. That was the very first thing you wrote and I waved you off like it was no big deal. How can I expect you to open up to me if it seems like I’m not paying attention or that I don’t care? Maybe that sounds silly… but the little details can be pretty important sometimes, too.

    And maybe I’m overthinking this. Tell me if I am, all right? I just felt kind of guilty when you wrote how you rambled on because you didn’t want to tell me something about Enmity. If I’d been paying attention, I would’ve noticed that answering questions about Enmity was difficult for you from the start. Or, well, I noticed, but I wasn’t respectful about it. I shouldn’t have brought Kenneth into the equation without asking beforehand, either. As luck would have it, you were okay with it in the end, but what if?

    I’ve been trying to figure out what I can do better. There’s only so much I can do through letters, after all. It’s hard when you’re not here with me. I’m sorry if this comes out wrong, but it’s easier to brush aside what you can’t physically see. I think that goes for everybody, to be honest. Maybe you can see where I’m coming from. Hopefully.

    It was interesting, to say the least, seeing all over again how you write differently about your surroundings versus how you write about your feelings. I mean, I told you about my run-in with the police and how it still bothers me today, but you explained the jail’s daily schedule to me without much problem. The place doesn’t seem to affect you like I’d expect it to. Not that I want it to bother you and make you suffer more, of course…

    So something tells me I should change the subject before I go on to say something beyond stupid. I’m having trouble with words myself, I guess, but I don’t want to put off writing to you—not after your last letter! Markus, you’ve told me your memory is pretty awful, and I believe you, but consider this for a moment: you recited the phrase about the sun rising in two separate letters almost word for word. That must mean it’s important to you, right? It could be especially important, since the sun isn’t something you can probably see from your

    I’m going to have to cross out this whole letter, aren’t I?

    Okay. Um. What I was getting at is this: you remembered one sentence you wrote to me several weeks ago practically verbatim, but you don’t remember other things very well, like your starters. I can’t help but wonder if you remember what’s important or what’s unimportant instead. There’s a reason for everything you do and don’t say/remember, and I… don’t know those reasons. I just know there’s not much point in telling you every detail about stuff outside Laverre anymore, if it doesn’t mean anything to you. Part of me must have realized that sooner, because yeah, like you said, I’ve been leaning toward helping you boost your self-esteem and whatnot.

    You made it clear about how you’re not interested in that, though, and I should respect that. What am I supposed to write about, then? You say I’m succeeding, but… how?

    I’m going to ask just one favor, if you don’t mind. I hope you don’t mind. I realized something else when re-reading your letters, and maybe it has something to do with why writing your last letter stressed you out so badly. Maybe not. Anyway, will you just think about what it might be when you’re reading the rest of this? Was Enmity really the issue or was it something else?

    Well, onto some lighter topics now! I’ll try to keep this letter short and sweet if I can. You know I’m not too good at that, but yeah. A lot of things happened ever since my journey really got started, so I’ve had more to write about. Besides, it’s helpful to stop running around once in a while and have some downtime. That’s what you told me to do, right? Think slowly and rationally. So I’ll do just that. Ribbons has needed the extra rest lately, after all, and Seybs loves being able to preen or nap without getting interrupted. As for Kai… I give him a piece of fruit, then he’s content.

    Oh, right. You mentioned a lot of tough facts about the League I haven’t really taken too seriously, to be honest. Don’t worry about Kai, though. The fruit I keep with us is from the store. I stock up on our favorite apples and pears if the town I’m in has some fresh ones on the shelves before I leave. Sometimes Kai will pick berries off a tree, but I always make sure they’re wild and not from someone’s farm or garden. He hisses at me whenever I try to explain why he can’t swipe every berry in sight, but what can I do? I don’t want him to get into trouble for trespassing… and now, I don’t want him consuming any berries that might hurt him in the ways you described. Though him becoming less sassy wouldn’t be the worst thing…

    Hmm. I kind of feel like treating Kai tonight now. Me and Kenneth can go collect some wild berries and make a giant fruit salad to split between all of us. Tamato berries would be nice to eat, I think, since they taste best in the colder weather, and of course we’ll get chesto berries, too. They’re Kai’s favorite. If he tries to talk to me, I won’t understand what he’s saying exactly, no... but for now, he’ll reveal how he’s feeling through his body language. It’s similar to our letter exchange, really—we don’t have to be face-to-face to get the gist of the conversation. The more we interact, the easier it’ll be to understand the bigger picture.

    I worry sometimes about pokémon speech, though. Seybs has been my partner for years now and I still only pick up a word here and there, which is better than nothing, I guess. I just thought we’d be having full conversations by this point. I hope that won’t be the case for Ribbons and Kai. It’s just… It’s sad that I can’t even tell you if Seybs misses Anistar because he’s so hard to read. Him being so introverted isn’t usually a problem, but what if he loved Anistar and didn’t want to leave at all? He didn’t make a fuss about traveling, and he seems pretty laid back no matter what he’s doing, but I can’t know for sure unless he tells me. And if he does tell me, I might miss what he’s saying anyway. He could lie, too. I try to listen when he actually does talk, and I’m trying my best to keep him happy, and—

    —and that’s… all I can really do, I think. I’ve gotta show him and the rest of my team that I deserve their trust. Promises about how I’ll be there for them forever, no matter what, aren’t acceptable. Not because I wouldn’t mean it, but because what if I suddenly have no money to buy groceries or a hotel for us to sleep in when it’s going to storm all night? I guess not being able to support my pokémon would mean my parents were right in saying maybe I shouldn’t have gone off to be a trainer in the first place. I’m lucky I’ve gotten this far, and I’ve only gotten this far because I’ve made my pokémon battle other trainers passing by.

    And that’s not even entirely fair. I don’t want to do the gym circuit! Me fighting Olympia was just a way for me to gauge how much experience Kai had while saying goodbye to Anistar. There’s no real reason to make my pokémon exhaust themselves day in and day out when all I want to do is see what the other cities in Kalos are like. Because for me, Anistar wasn’t home, and now that I’m practically an adult I’ve gotta figure out where I want to live and what I want to do for the next several decades of my life.

    Kenneth’s told me that the more badges you have, the more impressive your resume looks for League-related job, apparently, and the League always has opportunities open for traveling trainers. So I guess there’d be some perks to battling, huh? But… why should I work for them if they’re deceiving trainers about anything they possibly can? And what does it say about Kenneth if he works for the Devon Corporation?

    Well, look at that. I’m wandering off on another topic now myself. Some of your habits are rubbing off on me! Or maybe it’d be more accurate to say that your last letter really got me into thinking what it’s like to be in your shoes?

    My point is that Anistar wasn’t home for me. I doubt it’s home for Kai or Ribbons. Like I said, they’ve made it seem like they’re happy to stick it out with me, so I’ll do my best to not worry about it until I’m proven otherwise. There’s just Seybs. So… if Seybs thought Anistar was home and wants to go back someday, I’ll have to be ready to say goodbye to him then, too. Just the idea of it makes me want to

    Okay, I don’t have to get that emotional over something that might never happen anyway. I’m at least smart enough to know the bonds between pokémon and trainer are pretty fragile. It’s nice to think the opposite, though, isn’t it? But whenever I look at Kenneth and Donmel now, I just can’t feel the same about it. Something between them broke and it wasn’t because of anything either of them had done. Their past history just happened to form between them a shaky bond that Kenneth feels obligated to protect for whatever reason.

    Just the other day, it was so cold and the heat broke in the hotel we’ve been staying in. I suggested that Donmel could keep us warm, because that made sense, right? Kenneth just kind of stared at Donmel’s pokéball for a minute, then released the numel without properly greeting him. That blue flame seal did its thing and made Kenneth change his mind, I think. He never did end up asking Donmel for help. We spent a couple hours roaming around town trying to find a decent space heater to buy instead.

    Um. You said that Ribbons might change someday, right? Doesn’t the same go for Kenneth? And for me and you, too, Markus… Kenneth could make amends with Donmel someday. Seybs could grow out of his shell. I could go to Anistar and feel comfortable there, and you could be… somewhere better, and someone you’re happy being. And Ribbons could become a monster, yeah, but couldn’t he also evolve into a xatu and not take advantage of his psychic powers?

    Anything can happen. My parents could get along or finally get the divorce they’ve mentioned when they thought I wasn’t listening. Joey could start actually doing drugs instead of just selling them, or he could leave the business altogether! And there’s my grandmother, of course. Hmm… I can’t say I’ve seen a bad side of her, really, but now that I think about it, she does work for the League, raising baby pokémon to be tame enough for new trainers. I must’ve told you that already when I first talked about Seybs and Ribbons, since I like to brag about how amazing she’s been to me whenever I get the chance to.

    You know… Actually, no, I

    I’m not sure I should

    Why did I just

    Okay, forget it. I thought of something terrible and I can’t get it out of my head now, so I have to bring it up or I’ll go crazy. What if Seybs is the way he is because of some of that GMO stuff you mentioned? If the League tries to mess with a pokémon’s behavior and personality on purpose, wouldn’t starters be the main target so that new trainers are less likely to give up early on in their journey?

    I have a question for you specifically, and you can ignore it if you want, but I’d appreciate it so much if you could answer… If you don’t know the answer, though, don’t sweat it! I’m just assuming here that you met different breeders when you were looking for a new pokémon. Did the breeder who raised Enmity’s egg give you information about what to do when he was born? Were there certain steps you took when deciding which breeder to buy from?

    That’s two questions. Oops. I’ve definitely overdone it with the questions in this letter, so I won’t bug you with anything else, okay? It’s just that you seem to be a bit knowledgeable about the breeding industry, and you could give me some insight about drugs and how they mess with brain chemistry. I wish you didn’t know about the drug stuff, but…

    Maybe I should send a letter to my grandmother herself. Even Joey might be able to point out a useful thing or two, since he’s met Seybs in person before. Eh… Whatever. I trust you to reply the fastest and I already know you put a lot of effort into your replies. Besides, I haven’t spoken to anyone in Anistar since I left, and I never know for sure where my grandmother’s gone for her job. Last I heard she was off to Ambrette Town for a summer class about breeding fossil species.

    So, yeah. I’m gonna try not to worry about it while I wait for you to write back. I know there’s no way for you to figure this out, but I just took a break from writing this letter to go be with my pokémon, mostly Seybs. Sadly, him and Kai and Ribbons have been stuck in their pokéballs a fair amount, only because it’s been cold and the sight of them all fluffed up and listless makes me feel guilty. Kenneth still won’t ask Donmel to heat up our hotel room, which sucks ‘cause we never found that space heater… He did at least keep us company, and he’s totally on board with the berry-picking plan. Now our goal is to collect berries while traveling closer to Lumiose, where the cold fronts coming from Frost Cavern don’t quite reach. And then we can prepare the biggest feast ever once we can stop at their department store for more food.

    I did stop for a second at some point and wonder where we would get the money to buy so much for one meal. But Kenneth said it won’t be a problem, emphasizing how the League’s to thank for that.

    …You know, when I met Kenneth, he didn’t have the look of a traveling trainer, because his clothes were spotless and fashionable. He’s always checking the mirror and making sure he’s presentable, like a super famous person from Hoenn like Steven Stone might show up randomly. Seems silly, right? Well, get this: he says he gets a paycheck just wearing brand name clothing for the Devon Corporation! And he said he’ll help me gather some other things I can flip for money down the road!

    My pokémon must’ve noticed my swift change in mood when Kenneth mentioned helping me, ‘cause they seem to have gotten a boost of energy despite the cold. Kai probably perked up at the thought of berries, and Ribbons won’t stop flying in circles. Seybs isn’t too active, unsurprisingly, but he’s alert and turning his head to stare at all of us like we’re nuts. And maybe we are. I just feel lucky right now, having someone friendly like Kenneth around, I really do.

    Do you remember I told you about my lucky coin? I’ve been holding on real tight to it the last few days, ever since I received your last letter and started writing this one. I guess now’s as good a time as any to let you know what else I noticed, AKA what I asked you to think about a few pages back. I can’t believe I wasn’t more attentive to it, but, well, things have a way of working out without you having to do much about it. Like you said, both me and Kenneth are part of your lives—in a strange sort of way, sure. Still! We’re here, and it’s unsettling for you sometimes. I get that. And maybe you’re right. Maybe I’ll scare Kenneth and we’ll travel separately again. Maybe he’ll stop asking about you. Right now, though, he talks an awful lot about you to think you’re just a harmless man in a cell—your words, not mine! Maybe you remind him of his dad and it keeps him motivated while he searches for him. I don’t know.

    Maybe… Maybe there’s a reason pokémon and humans need to spend a ton of time together before really hearing each other, before understanding what’s being said. It’s a long road and anything can happen in that time, but it’s gotta be worth it in the end.

    Some people, though, don’t wanna travel down that long road. Or it’s not that they don’t want to… but they feel like it might not actually be worth it, you know? I think this is just what people that click right away do: they open up to each other really quick because they finally found someone who will listen to what they have to say and they don’t stop talking because who knows if the other person will stay long enough to hear everything they need to get off their chest.

    I got off track (again). Surprise, surprise.

    The day you last wrote me was your birthday, Mark. July 10. You told me that, remember? You told me when you got your three starters, you were happy about it still being early in the summer because you could be with them and not have to deal with school, too. Adults usually insist birthdays don’t matter at a certain point anymore, but… I think they’re pretty important. They make you think back to everything that’s happened in the past, and I know that’s hard for you. I mean, just look at what I decided to do on my golden birthday. I don’t want the rest of my life to look anything like the last few years have, and now I’m traipsing through Kalos, one city at a time.

    Okay… I actually have one last question for you—but only because you didn’t answer me the first time I asked you forever ago! I want you to call it in the air—heads or tails? You were completely spot on when you said I should make the best of wherever I go, and that it doesn’t matter where. Dendemille’s taught me as much. Just call it, because I’m gonna flip the coin and send it to you as a gift with my next letter. The side it landed on will still be facing up, of course.

    Anyway, the coin’s been lucky for me, but I want to share some of that luck with you now. Keep an eye out for Ribbons after you write me back, because he’s almost healed and he’s ready to practice that chain teleportation technique so that he doesn’t wear himself out flying so much again.

    Till next time,
    Last edited: Jul 3, 2018
  2. Hakajin

    Hakajin Obsessive Shipper

    Really? It's different with me, because I'm neurotically self-aware. With me... I start with myself, but sometimes I decide something about a character, and it makes a lot of sense with what I already have established, and I'm like, oh, yeah, I see where they're coming from. And since characters are a version of the self, putting them in different situations and figuring out how they'd react can tell me something about how I'd react in that situation. That's how I write, anyway...

    Anyway, Letter 9!

    Gotta say, this is probably my favorite chapter so far, because of the interaction between Haley and Kenneth. I really like Kenneth; he's got kind of this gentle aura, and he's guiding Haley... but at the same time, he's still a kid, too, and still wants to be the one who knows what he's doing. Seems like he's not very good at hiding that (the scene where he got defensive about their teams just being different was cute)... I like kind of contrast of maturity and childishness in a character. It makes me feel for them, because they're doing their best to handle their responsibilities, but they're not sure if they're ready. Same with Haley; she's doing her best, but there are things she hasn't thought of, and she's worried her Pokemon have been hurt because of that. That shows that she cares about them... and I also sympathize with how bad she feels about it; I feel really bad when I hurt someone, even if it was just a misunderstanding. Especially if it's a pet or someone I feel responsible for.

    Really like the idea of the bridge of silence... It's a nice and realistic touch, and I like how it ties into the theme of life and death. (Oh, I also forgot to mention, one thing that bothered me about Olympia's lesson: that seems like the kind of thing that can't really be taught, or at least that people learn on their own just as a part of life... So I wonder if that kind of thing was really necessary? I mean, it works if Olympia's only trying to be wise, or if she doesn't really understand how to relate to people very well... the latter seems like it might be the case to me). Haley and Kenneth's training was good; the ways they competed were creative and interesting, and they brought out the personalities of the Pokemon well. I especially liked that last little detail about about Heigani helping Kai showed Kenneth's personality (probably).

    And Kenneth's backstory was great! I'm really interested in his relationship with Donmel, particularly. It seems like their relationship is difficult... And I like that. There are relationships where you want to care about someone, or you do, but for reasons that aren't either person's fault... Or it's something the other person's doing, even though you know they mean well, and... Yeah, definitely had relationships like that. Not sure how I feel about his father leaving after the incident, though; seems like an over-reaction. Oh, but I do like how Kenneth seems to respect Markus, at least. Haley's in kind of an awkward position, huh? Oh, well, at least she did the honest thing.
    Last edited: Oct 27, 2016
  3. Hakajin

    Hakajin Obsessive Shipper

    Letter 10

    Very interested in what Markus is saying about the drugs used to affect Pokemon, especially because of his own experience with drugs. The League seems sinister here... And it's interesting that Markus brings up Devon. I keep forgetting to mention it, but it's pretty obvious that Pokeballs are going to be important in this story. And it's already been stated that they affect Pokemon's personalities and behavior. At this point it's not entirely clear how much of what Markus is saying about the drugs is true (even Haley doubts him this time; good job on the ambiguity there), but he's right, something does seem kinda wrong with doing that to Pokemon. What I especially like here, is that before this, I really didn't think much of it. It's an element of the games, and Kenneth described it in neutral terms, so I didn't question it. But when Markus started talking about it... Really skillful link between drugs and Pokeballs, when it comes to behavior modification, very subtle. It's pretty obvious that there's something a little wrong with the idea of catching Pokemon and forcing them to fight (since my fic is in the vein of the show, that's not something I can really address, but...), but you don't see many people talking about that kind of thing. At least, I don't think you do; I don't read a whole lot of fics like that, but... I've never heard anyone mention it.

    Strange story about the nature path; the detail about the Haunter driving the man insane was especially creepy. Interesting that Markus seems pretty ok with this; seems like he just doesn't care what happens to him. And I really like his talk about being more of a concept. That's the kind of thing that really gets to me, because he's right, you could say that about anyone. But when you get down to it, if we sympathize with people, and they can make us understand what they're thinking through words... it may not be exactly the same, but close enough. It's like their mind in your mind. You can't know someone completely, but... Well, anyway, I like it. Interesting that he talks about Enmity being mute when he's also focusing on communication...

    Seems a little off to me that Markus thinks that Kenneth is holding back, though. Seems like he's pretty forth-coming. I mean, he's a little reluctant, but in the end, I think he comes out with stuff pretty quickly.

    Letter 11

    So Haley finally realizes her own selfishness, huh? I wonder what triggered that? Was it because of her relationship with Kenneth? I wasn't really clear on that. At least she really seems to be trying harder, even though she is overthinking it.

    I like the part where she's questioning whether drugs had anything to do with Ribbons' personality, whether her Grandmother did anything. You can tell how bad she feels about questioning her Grandmother like that when she keeps crossing out things. She's right, though, that it makes sense that starters would be influenced to be more docile.

    I'm a little surprised that after all that, Haley would be ok with the idea of earning money from the League. Still think Kenneth is ok, though; if bad stuff is really going on, then I think he doesn't know about it, and hasn't questioned what he's doing.

    Anyway, good stuff, looking forward to seeing where you go with this!
  4. diamondpearl876

    diamondpearl876 → follow your fire.

    Oops. XD I'm usually pretty good about replying quicker than this. Sorry.

    Yeahhh... I usually write fics where the pokemon are the focus and are sentient, rounded characters, so when I was writing this it seemed strange to me that I was headed in a different direction. Then all the pokeball ideas came in, which'll be important down the road to help flesh out the pokemon characters. And I think Haley's doubting him may be more of denial - if she believes him, what she's doing personally is considered wrong in his eyes. And that would make her feel terrible, like how she felt when she realized she was pushing Ribbons too hard.

    I feel like it's actually something that's explored fairly often... Or at least, it used to be. The whole "catching pokemon and forcing pokemon to fight for you" is a really easy route to take if you're trying to write a dark, more "realistic" pokemon world. But I think people consider it a cliche that's been done to death now. I haven't seen anyone explore the concept in a while, but I don't read too many fics, so I'm not entirely sure on anything I just typed.

    That being said, since I think it's a cliche, I tried to make it subtle and to add some kind of twist on it. Glad to see that that's worked out. XD

    Creepy is what I was going for, so glad it worked out! And yeah, he has a hard time connecting with others on any level. Haley is a surprising exception.

    The idea of being a concept is a concept that I struggle to put into words myself. XD But I think you put it well here.

    Now, I'm extremely glad you pointed this out, because that's something I've been running with and I wasn't sure if I was making that theme clear or not. XD

    Hmm... That makes sense. I know how Markus would justify his thoughts, but thinking back on it, I don't think I've made his thought process on that very clear. I'll have to try to find a better way to implement it during edits or later on down the line.

    Yeahhh, she tends to overthink things... She admitted she was overthinking, too! :p

    She realized it because it was the first letter Markus has really gone in-depth with what's going on in the prison and with what's going on in his mind. It's implied that she feels bad that she hasn't been listening hard enough; she didn't really notice how badly he's been suffering, and she feels selfish for it.

    I mentioned it earlier in this response, but she doesn't want to believe what Markus is saying because it personally affects her. That's part of her being selfish, I suppose, and she knows she has to work on it. I guess you could say earning money from the League is not the best starting point for that.

    Thanks for the comments as always! I'm excited that you're all caught up now. :~)
  5. So sorry this is late!

    I think, out of all of Haley's letters, and probably out of all the letters so far, this is the one where I really felt like the character was really writing a letter. Does that make sense? Like, I like how Haley pieces together her paragraphs at the start and corrects herself several times, and I especially like how contemplative she's become - but not in a Markus sort of way, but in a characteristically Haley way. The way she tries to figure out Markus and the way she talks about how she got Seybs resembles how Markus speaks, and I can attribute that to their frequent interactions, yes, but you do a really good job in keeping the voice still uniquely Haley and not making them sound too mirror-y. Of course they're foils of each other, but watching her figure things out her way and comparing it to how Markus has (presumably) figured things out gives a lot of very good insights, and I can only attribute that to the stellar writing.

    I brought up the first bit about how this feels the most like reading a letter where you know just how much they've poured into writing it because, like Haley's previous one where she clips a part of Markus's letter into hers, the way you actually explore the letter-writing dynamic within the letters make them much more enjoyable to read. There's just something really...human about it, for the lack of a better word, and aside from how they talk (or, well, write), it's a really good way of fleshing out both Haley's and Markus's characters.

    And one last thing:

    There was a plot radar going wee-ooo-wee-ooo after I read this. Thought I'd point it out. :p Great job with this letter, and as always, I'm looking forward to what's coming up!
  6. diamondpearl876

    diamondpearl876 → follow your fire.

    Heh, thanks, though I want to work to make all the letters seem like real letters, you know? I was worried that this one was way too Markus-y in the end, though, so I'm glad that wasn't the case. XD

    Thanks. :3 Not sure if I've mentioned this before, but Haley's the harder of the two for me to write. So hearing that I wrote her well is always nice to hear.

    Heh, making them seem human is my goal, so glad to hear it.

    Good observation. ;) Thanks for commenting and reading, as always!
  7. Cutlerine

    Cutlerine Gone. Not coming back.

    You've got two excellent voices, right from the start: Haley's studied, careful openness, with her crossings-out both visible and like commented-upon, and Markus' very considered, deliberate and self-conscious prose. They're two different ways of choosing what and what not to say, and you know immediately that a) neither is saying everything and b) both are making the most of the opportunity afforded by their correspondence to create their own images of themselves. Also, you get a strong sense that Markus has read Haley's letter and tried hard to figure out what it's all about, what the right way to respond would be, what Haley might be looking for and what of that he can offer in exchange. It's a good way of expressing the weirdness of this whole situation, and the gap in age and experience between the two characters. Epistolary novels usually can't rely on the usual tricks that a story might use to hook a reader in the first chapter – they can never start in meda res, they tend to start slow and kinda bubble along, all that kind of thing. What they can do is aim for immediately striking voices and evocations of character, and you've nailed that here. The first two letters make an excellent opening chapter, if that's the right word.

    What follows is more of the same: intensely focused character portraits, balanced against and feeding off one another. Haley tends to look outwards, to histories and stories from the wider world, and to a potential future; Markus, inwards, to his past and his own well of experience. Haley's language is casual; Markus', formal. (One thing I like a lot is that you don't let either of them be perfectly monotonous: sometimes you get an edge to Haley's tone and sometimes Markus' solemnity becomes a little self-parodic or even a bit pompous, just as would happen with two real people.) It's nicely done, in that despite the fact that it's very clearly balanced and contrived if you stop to think about it, it's also natural enough that you don't actually stop to think about it. You get the benefits of both a clearly structured novel and a more open one at the same time.

    One thing that jolted me out of the illusion for a moment was when Haley describes Seybs as 'pouting' in letter five. That always seemed to me to be something that you can only really do if you have lips, which Seybs doesn't. I guess she's probably describing an attitude rather than a literal gesture, and maybe you intend this as representative of Haley's particular brand of anthropomorphisation – which would be interesting if it were the case, actually – but just in case you didn't, I thought I'd mention it.

    I do like this particular take on the trainer journey. It's such a flexible thing, and the particular kind of horizon-broadening learning experience you make of it is particularly interesting – Olympia's lesson is a case in point, although I'm a little unsure of the precise relationship between the illusory solosis and the kind of moral she delivers at the end. Both seem to make points that I can see being useful to teach someone like Haley, but I'm not sure they make the same point. Possibly that's intentional: we see all this filtered through Haley, after all, so perhaps it's meant to be unclear.

    Also, here is a thing in lieu of a coherent conclusion: this might be the first fic I've ever read where ball seals are not only a thing, but a really interesting thing. I don't actually have anything else to say about that, I just think it's cool. Anyway, I'm looking forward to the next letter(s), when they're done!
  8. diamondpearl876

    diamondpearl876 → follow your fire.

    You know, someone had put a similar comment in their nomination for Flying in the Dark, and until then, I didn't know anyone if anyone was picking up on the whole "they're not saying everything" thing. So your comment in addition to theirs definitely makes me feel like I'm doing something right. XD It's... a very hard thing to portray, and if I ever get discouraged about this fic, it's because I'm not sure that anyone's going to believe the ending when it comes around. It should all make sense in the end, but not if I didn't portray the secretive-ness of everything well enough, you know?

    Real-like characters are what I strive for, always. :3 So good to hear! I kind of feel like what I'm writing is monotonous when I write Markus's POV, to be honest, but looks like that worry's for naught as well.

    I see your point. I don't focus a lot on the pokemon here like I do in my other fics, so what I'd write in another fic probably spills over into here sometimes without my noticing. I'd say she meant a general attitude, but I should probably change it. My goal with Haley and her interacting with her pokemon is for her, more often than not, to not be able to understand what they're trying to say/express to her, though that'll change slowly over the course of the fic.

    I think Olympia's "lesson" is a thing I've struggled with since I first wrote it in the original, lol. It makes sense to me because I know what's up with the characters more than readers at the moment, but... if it's off-putting to readers, I should probably figure out how to replace it with something better if I go back and rewrite that part another time.

    The seal idea was a random idea my mind jumped to when I needed to figure out how to help portray the pokemon in a fic where the pokemon act nothing like what I'm used to writing. Glad to see my mind jumped to a particularly interesting idea. :p Thanks for reading and for the comments, as always!
  9. diamondpearl876

    diamondpearl876 → follow your fire.

    that feeling when your last two updates for this fic have been within a month of moving :') i guess i just gotta move every month or so to keep up a good schedule, huh? okay, i did spend a whole two months writing a spin off with massive spoilers i can't release until the fic's over, but...

    [letter twelve]


    July 29

    So you’ve declared that we dispense with the proper letter etiquette in its entirety, is that right? Now, I’d consider myself a fool if I were to object to your amicable suggestion, but I would, at least, like the air cleared regarding this matter so that the two of us might avoid future misunderstandings. I find that the main drawback of our writing exchange is the lengthy, agonizing wait for your reply should I have reason to believe I’ve upset you. It feels like another form of punishment when I can only offer any sort of consolation from a distance.

    This may come as a surprise to you, but it had not occurred to me before that dwelling on my thoughts as opposed to simply conveying them has been a source of distress for us. It has always been the case for me that my mind reacts far too fast for my body to keep up. Naturally, then, writing each and every word that passes through my head becomes an impossible task. On the other hand, choosing from the endless list of things I could say to you… Haley, it becomes overwhelming, and all the dredged up memories and emotions that follow easily equates the writing process with declaring war on myself if I don’t tread carefully.

    Perhaps you speak the truth when you say the date lingered in the back of my mind when I put pen to paper for my last letter. Who can say for sure? My memories of July 10 already dissipated and merged with all the others I’ve gathered during my 34 years on this earth. If I now try to summon them to the surface, to the level of conscious thought, I’ll be reminded of a past that feels not like my own, as per usual. My brain essentially works as an infallible machine: I input some information and a series of vague images, reassembling the remaining puzzle pieces. Then, my brain spits the completed puzzle back at me, but in the form of a movie, as if I created the moment rather than lived in it.

    As a general rule, people consider their birthday a day to reflect on the past and future. And whereas most people wait around for the remedy to the disappointing realization that life doesn’t happen as planned, you, Haley, analyzed the structure of your life, deigned it unlivable, and assumed control of what came next. Change was guaranteed to you because you took matters into your own hands. The world appears slightly less mysterious to me when I realize how anyone is capable of maintaining enough ambition needed to pursue a path similar to your own.

    You may notice how I didn’t mention the future when referring to myself. I trust you understand why. Given my… unique situation, I suppose I can’t berate myself for not utilizing alternatives to my self-destructive behaviors, but sitting in prison fails as a valid excuse when I rightfully belong here. At any rate, I wouldn’t concern yourself with how scarce or full my letters are. To reiterate an agreement we did manage to reach, this particular form of communication limits our usefulness to each other.

    At this point today, I have been awake for less than two hours. I thought it appropriate to dedicate my allotted free time this morning to articulate all of these challenging facts to you, hoping that last night’s sleep would offer clarity and smoothly guide me through the transcribing process. (On the topic of recognizing what the future may hold and acting accordingly, this is what I can manage more often than not.) Alas, the steps required to retrieve and consume a mere bowl of cereal at breakfast absorbed more of my energy than I care to admit. And so, to ensure that I can complete the tasks demanded of me in the afternoon, I shall have to set the pen down temporarily.

    July 30

    Yet another morning has arrived when it seems to me that no time has passed at all. An immense wave of solemnity washes over me as I write this to you, like it always does each time I stop and realize how severed my connection to the rest of the world is.

    I am aware of how I could have continued this letter without a single mention of the exhaustion that took hold of me yesterday. It’s my wish to instead inform you of how much time has passed—as you have done for me previously; there’s no reason to not indulge in simple honesties—and how I spent the afternoon hours mulling over possible ways to perfectly convey to you a sight which captured my interest. Namely, how the sunlight filtered in through the bars of my cell throughout the morning and into the late afternoon. But I’ve regrettably convinced myself that no existing term or phrase within the Kaloseux language can compare. I know that the view of the sun is foreign to nobody, but when only the night ever comforts me with its cloak of darkness permitting the world to fade away, I thought I’d attempt to preserve this rare daytime repose—even for just a short while.

    I should address a concern of yours before I procrastinate by discussing several unrelated subjects for the second letter in a row. Your question: heads or tails? My answer: heads, I suppose, since dragons represent the tails side of the coin and I’ve not interacted with any species of that type. Fairies relate to the rehabilitation aspect of my life, at least. I’m still skeptical of the whole concept, but by all means, go ahead and humor me with a flip of the coin to see if I’ll get lucky.

    You might just want to reconsider, Haley, physically sending the coin my way. I wouldn’t argue against you updating me on the coin flip outcome in your next letter through words instead. While I greatly appreciate your thoughtfulness in wanting to provide me with something tangible, something which could combat how illusory my world tends to be, my concern lies with the prison itself.

    I’d like to preface this next point with a disclaimer: in no way has the prison’s protocol for mail dictated what I have and haven’t written to you. I discussed before the logic behind what prevents me from elaborating on certain things.

    And now, my warning: prison workers assigned to the mailroom sift through all envelopes, both incoming and outgoing, in search of potentially dangerous information they must report to the warden. Most likely, these employees find their job far too tedious to take seriously. Committing to scrutinizing each and every letter on the off chance one contains a hidden code must sound dreadfully unappealing, and so, I trust that partway through they resort to skimming. This estimation, of course, doesn’t account for gossip and other nonsense which humans indulge in whenever possible.

    So even if they choose not to pry deeply into our particular correspondence, no doubt the presence of your coin will be obvious after they do a quick frisk of the envelope, whether it’s still sealed or not. I have no doubt, too, that they’ll deem the coin harmless. But there is no guarantee that they’ll allow me to add the coin to my small pile of personal belongings for safekeeping. The guidelines for gifting inmates with currency, even an amount of insignificant value, are largely unknown to me.

    Simply put, Haley, I would just hate to see you part with such a cherished item for my sake—only to have it intercepted and seized by the prison workers. Perhaps you can revisit the idea when the days comes that I’m able to break the seal of your letters myself rather than have them handed to me ripped, void of any semblance of privacy? Hmm… They may return the envelope to you without notifying me of its arrival, perhaps… Overall, however, your kindness could cause you more trouble than expected.

    Presumably, these mailing guidelines eluded you when you looked into the matter of exchanging letters with an inmate. Or if you’d learned these guidelines but had forgotten them, I hope that what I outlined above helps you decide whether it’s worth it to gamble. You might already be aware of these facts and are willing to take the gamble, in which case my rambling’s been for naught. …Yes, that’d make sense, I suppose. Heads or tails, is a game of chance by itself, after all, one with its own stakes involved for you.

    So, about that fairy invasion program I spoke of in my last letter… Not long ago, the program’s director asked that a book outlining the effects of rehabilitation be distributed among the prisoners. Written by a Sinnohan researcher who focuses his work around industrial areas like Oreburgh, the book’s style is dense, akin to what you’d read in a social work college course. It mostly follows a case study done on one trainer’s torkoal. The fire-type had contracted a disease which destroyed its ability to battle effectively. The trainer, torn on what to do, consulted a specialist who recommended the torkoal be sent to the region’s main coalmine. There, it could help burn coal and earn back a sense of purpose which would, in turn, restore the quality of life it had lost due to the disease.

    Given this rehabilitation method was a potential hazard for the environment, I can’t fully approve of it. The reasoning behind it makes enough sense, however. Motivation is a powerful factor, and if the pros outweigh the cons, then so be it. Take what you can get and run away without looking back. Or that’s the motto of my cellmate, at any rate.

    Lately I’ve refrained from mentioning my cellmate and other prisoners, for they are of little significance to me, if I’m honest. Their voices resemble white noise, and they learned quickly that pestering me accomplishes nothing unless their goal is to get the cold shoulder treatment. Regardless, I’ve caught my gaze moving in their direction more often than usual since the warden announced the program. Gauging their reactions, the general consensus seems to be one of complete apathy, though I saw a few displays of fleeting hopefulness.

    Bouncer (my cellmate, if you remember, which I wouldn’t blame you if you didn’t) is the only one on our unit I’ve seen that’s still trying to shoo away his bitter feelings in favor of the possibility that the program can indeed provide some relief for his miserable self. His jokes and insults have come to a halt. It seems like he’s not anywhere in the vicinity when in reality he’s just quiet. I often see him bent down, staring at the cemented floor, and contemplating, as if life is no longer a game to him. Even Eyeball, the prisoner in the cell across from ours who is normally the one to indulge in such behaviors, looks at him with a twinge of pity etched in his face.

    When I first was assigned as Bouncer’s cellmate, he accosted me over which part of the bunk bed he wanted to claim, of all things. I merely nodded, murmuring that he could do as he pleased, though I had more trouble forming words at the time compared to now. His argument, expressed more as a threat, was that he’d always be able to hear or see by the moonlight whether I was about to sneak up and harm him.

    The inability to glimpse the moon while lying and winding down from a long day is a downside to allowing Bouncer to decide for me. In the grand scheme of things, it’s not important. There are nights where I experience a lucid dream in which I’m paralyzed, face up on the bottom bunk, left to stare at Bouncer’s hand, bleeding and sprawled over the side. Every time, exactly four drops of blood fall and roll down my cheeks like tears before I’m freed. My imagination upon awakening brings me to a place where I was the one who inflicted Bouncer’s wound, and that the dream was anything but a delusion. The comfort that the sight of the moon brings hardly compensates after a terror like that grips me.

    If I had the guts, I’d ask Bouncer, “When it comes to the healing process, what if the pros outweigh the cons?” A person of sound mind would shake their head and prod into the logistics of that question. It’s a difficult concept to grasp, how these programs are made for people who are comfortable in their sadness, even if they do say they wish for it to disappear. So which would I rather have, the chance to dive into the unknown or the fake safety of familiarity I constantly withdraw myself into?

    Bouncer, surprisingly, might muster the courage necessary to let rehabilitation overshadow his inner demons. I myself could not choose, if you were to seriously demand an answer from me. …I do not want to choose, though I am afraid I already have. I feel that I am taking advantage of an eighteen year old girl (yes, you, of course you) just by talking to her; I feel as if I were to meet you face-to-face, I could simply breathe in your direction and unwittingly poison you in the process.

    You are brave for following through on your ambition to travel, Haley. I could not do it to the extent that you are, for I fear crossroads, both literal ones and figurative ones, and I cannot stand most of the people I would see—man, woman, child, tall, small, big, they’d all look and sound the same to me. Hence why I cannot choose; I’m simply not in a position to do so.

    You expressed a faint, newfound inclination to stop writing about your journey. That idea is based off of yet another misunderstanding, Haley. The less I hear about the outside world, the easier it would be to ignore it, according to your logic. And I wholeheartedly agree with that rationale. Whether I withdraw into myself regardless is another question entirely, but not one to concern yourself with as you take time out of your travels to write to me. There are more pressing matters for your thoughts to attend to, such as how to react to the veiled information you’ve uncovered about the League.

    No doubt there are ways to support the pokémon training hobby while simultaneously discouraging the League’s deceptive behaviors. Adopting from a licensed breeder, regional or otherwise, is not the way to go about it. (You can relay this fact to Mr. Kenneth Chitenay that this is exactly what I did if you so wish, though do expect an insult or two sent my way in response.) Who knows what kind of trainer Enmity could’ve been raised with if I, and thousands of other trainers, hadn’t entertained the League’s breeding industry?

    What’s done is done. What’s done has allowed breeders to take advantage of innocent children and ignorant adults alike, but still, it’s done. Perhaps your grandmother has at some point endorsed the League’s harmful protocol for breeding. Perhaps she hasn’t. Perhaps she takes a more unconventional method and sidesteps the rules without breaching her contract, or plans to present an argument to those of a higher rank than her. I, of course, lack the resources to say one way or the other with any certainty.

    I wish her—or anyone in that position—the best of luck should they try to convince the League to alter their current guidelines and rules for licensed trainers. Most of what the protocols the League follows has a root in legends created over a millennia ago. Petaya berries, for example, only bloom at night, and stories have claimed how their growth is thanks to all the energy absorbed and accumulated from pokémon sleeping in the surrounding area of the plants. Some of the first trainers based their team’s diet around the belief that a pokémon’s power could be boosted for battle if they consumed enough of this energy. And beliefs, because they are so deeply ingrained within a person’s core, are strong enough to influence concepts that should purely rely on logic and reason.

    The thought of GMO berries makes much more sense if you consider legends like that as well. What better way to prevent weakening the false belief of boosted power than making the boost in power a reality—even at the expense of hurting a pokémon in the long term?

    Again, there are ways to avoid the League’s pitfalls. Organic yache berries are too cold for my taste, but they naturally help pokémon build up a resistance to the detrimental effects of ice-type attacks—a perfect side dish for your birds, if I do say so myself. And while Kenneth Chitenay is indeed associated with the Devon Corporation, you could wear brand name clothing from companies detached from the League. Collect broken pokéballs left behind by trainers that failed to capture a ‘mon, fix them, and reuse them to save you from buying for retail price. Alternatively, sell them at your own price. Write something that isn’t a letter and publish it, though I suggest a bit of research alongside this option. Map out the region and a proposed gym circuit, if cartography is one of your interests, and sell to passersby.

    …If it wasn’t obvious by my ability to spew nonstop facts about the breeding industry, I worked as a breeder’s assistant, once upon a time. My addiction ruined the chance I had to continue on for an actual career, and in hindsight, that was a positive outcome. When I looked for a breeder outside of Kalos for a zorua, I chose to forgo the research process and simply hoped that Unova encompassed better morals to pass on to trainers and prospective employees. That hope meant nothing, just as it means nothing for most of the prisoners here in any situation.

    When I asked Enmity’s Unovan breeder the steps to take once he hatched, the instructions given to me were mortifying. Don’t create a reliable, long lasting heat source for him despite newborns being unable to regulate their own body temperature? Don’t offer a plush as a surrogate mother? Don’t worry about the rest of your team teaching the newborn how to hunt? The list could go on, but already my lips are trembling and my fists clenching. I’d engaged in all of these directions as a breeder’s assistant, and reality told me that doing the opposite of each of these things is most ideal.

    We’ve discussed this before, I believe, or correct me if I’m wrong. Not that my foggy memory is the focus of this particular conversation, but see, a breeder’s primary goal should always be to reserve a pokémon’s animalistic traits, even if the intent is to rear them for trainers. This goes for any species, really, on the off chance that the pokémon either ends up in the wild rather than with a trainer or is released later on in its life.

    It’s specifically important for zorua and other fox-like equivalents—fennekin and vulpix, Kantoan or Alolan—to retain their instinctual fear of humans. Mind you, that has nothing at all to do with inducing fear into a pokémon to ensure they obey you in or outside of a battle. Excuse me for the blatant stereotyping, but a feral dark-type feeling safe enough to roam around a crowded city would cause more ruckus than bargained for. The same goes for fire-types, though those critters tend to scare easier.

    Disclaimer: I tried my best with Enmity. Although I knew the reasons why some options were favorable compared to others, I wasn’t the slightest bit trained. Mistakes must have been made. His diet as a newborn could’ve been tweaked, or maybe he wasn’t kept warm enough. My three starters weren’t around to help him learn to hunt, and I didn’t trust a wild pokémon to do the job, so I improvised, acting like a supervisor and letting him learn on his own while I intervened only when his life was at stake. Had I done anything differently, could I have averted his muteness?

    …I have many years to dwell on the consequences of what I did or didn’t do for Enmity. You’ve hinted at my being released in the near future, but that anticipation is reserved for those awaiting trial, those who have a chance of being announced not guilty. I put myself in this hole for a good while, Haley. Someday, though. Someday. I don’t know what will happen on that someday, but it’s nice to know it exists if I can manage to hold on long enough.

    The heads side of your coin features a clefairy, right? Tails is dragons? I could dig through the first half of my letter, but my energy is quickly diminishing as the day ends and the mail carriers will be dropping by early in the morning. I should try to sleep. Flip heads, flip fairies and I’ll do the best I can to move on from… everything. Flip tails or, well, never mind that. Just flip heads for my sake, or say you did. An immeasurable amount of fairy dust will have to be sprinkled over me to make up for the courage I lack, but we’ll make do.

    Markus (yes, Markus, for you)
    Last edited: Jul 3, 2018
  10. Cutlerine

    Cutlerine Gone. Not coming back.

    It's been a while, but it was definitely worth the wait! I loved this one – you do a great job of highlighting the depth of Markus' feeling, the pit he has dug himself into, his endless self-recrimination about the ethics of digging it and of remaining there afterwards. And then of course he's self-aware enough to know that that's what he's doing, and to package this in a certain way because he is writing to Haley, someone who he has a certain image of in his head, and ah, it's just all so good. He repeats himself, but never verbatim, and never in a way that doesn't feel like it contributes; everything matters, because you draw his character like an oil painting, layer mounting upon layer and slowly building towards an image.

    Then of course he brings a new perspective to the information that has already been brought to light about the League and its questionable practices – a perspective that you can't quite trust, any more than you can trust Haley's, because of course he worked with a breeder and his feelings about himself are intense and uncomplimentary, and those may have affected his view of these programmes too. But at the same time, those facts that can be gleaned suggest that neither correspondent is entirely wrong, either, and that there really is something sketchy going on. It's all so deliciously murky.

    Given the tenses of the surrounding sentences, I'm inclined to think there's maybe a 'have' missing between '10' and 'already', but I can see a way in which it would work without one.

    One other note – as far as I know, coins are often contraband in prisons because they can be sharpened against stones or walls and used to cut; I don't know whether that's the case in Kalos, or whether I'd expect Markus to know that or not, given he does claim ignorance about the whole subject of gifting inmates currency. I'd definitely not expect Haley to know it, but you know, I thought I'd mention it just in case.

    Anyway! This is kind of a short review, but in many ways it's sorta difficult to talk at length about specific chapters of something like this, given that nothing actually happens, so to speak, because it's all character; your responses to parts of a chapter sort of merge together into reactions to the letter as a whole. Possibly there's a way to be rigorous about it, but I haven't managed it. It's probably a testament to the quality of the writing that I was too quickly and thoroughly sucked into this particular transmission of curated thoughts from Markus to Haley to come up with more in the way of blow-by-blow analysis. As usual, I'm very much looking forward to what comes next.
  11. Sike Saner

    Sike Saner Peace to the Mountain

    Interesting. I wonder if there are other loopholes that might prevent Unfortunate Memories from shaping the experience in the ball.

    Idk if he intended that in a backhanded/otherwise passive-aggressive manner, but lord knows that's how it struck me. XP

    Anyway, finally caught back up! And now we've got questions on our hands, haven't we. Namely questions about whether or not Markus's claims about the actual nature and purposes of berries/medicines/et cetera actually hold any water. My automatic reaction was skepticism, and I still lean strongly in that direction, but there might be something to the fact that this guy's worked with a breeder.

    Might be. That's a neat thing about this here story: the format makes both narrators especially unreliable. For every thing they say, or say but then cross out, there's surely plenty more they don't. Add that to their inherent fallibility, being people as they are, and yeah.

    I wonder if Haley's going to think twice about sending that coin after all, seeing as yeah there's basically no way Mark'd ever see it. No way, no how. I don't know exactly why I'm so invested in the fate of a coin, but there it is. :p
  12. diamondpearl876

    diamondpearl876 → follow your fire.

    I'm glad to hear it was worth the wait! I just can't seem to write as quickly as I used to, haha. And yeah, his emotional rut mixed with his relationship... Well, there's a lot to it, and there just seems to be more and more to it with every letter I write. I keep thinking at some point I'm going to overdo it, but on the other hand, can you overdo character depth? No idea, but at any rate, I was worried about him repeating himself while writing as well, and I'm glad to hear that's not the case. Or rather, as long as it's not verbatim, I'm A-OK. :p

    Heh, I've never had the word "deliciously" used to refer to my writing before. XD But yes, this is another balance that's been difficult for me to pull off, so I'm glad to hear it works! I've thinking lately about how long lengthwise this fic is going to be, and I think that, for fear of dragging out everything too long and just letting a slice-of-life fic overstay its welcome, this is going to be on the shorter side. That means answers may or may be provided sooner rather than later. ;) Assuming I can write at a decent pace, of course.

    Indeed, "have" should be in there. Thanks for pointing it out!

    Yeah, that's case in Kalos. I meant to point out something about it being a weapon in Markus's rambling, but Markus does enough self-deprecating to want to avoid making Haley think he'd maybe hurt himself with her coin.

    That's okay - I appreciate any comments! ;D I like character-focused reviews so I can see if I'm portraying them right. The worldbuilding comments help, too, since I've been trying to incorporate more and more of that in my work without letting it become the main focus. Thanks for reading and reviewing!

    There's loopholes for everything. ;)

    It has a passive aggressive feel to it, sure. XD

    Heh. Well, I at the very least promise there are answers to these mysteries! I can't promise there won't be some more mystery, though, 'cause these characters are just too much fun.

    You're telling me. I've been thinking about it for forever, whether it's going to be sent or not for real in the end.

    Thanks for reading and commenting! It's nice to know you took the time to catch up! :D
  13. Ambyssin

    Ambyssin Drowning sorrows with Regice & Latios

    This pen "pals" format proved a lot more interesting than I was expecting. It gave you the leverage to be very flexible with how you write Haley and Mark. There are very clear distinctions between them personality wise (Haley's innocence vs. Mark's jadedness and self-loathing, for example). But I thought I noticed some subtleties with their unique "writing styles." Mark, for example, would speak more formally but also had a tendency to speak in riddles or talk around whatever subject he discussed. Haley, by contrast, was much more direct, but had this tendency to repeat herself, or cut herself off, or just flat out cross out some of her thoughts. I thought those little tidbits were nice pieces of characterization for them.

    At the same time, I like the small degrees of progression in Mark's and Haley's characters. As she hears more from Mark, Haley seems to be adopting some of his mindset and mannerisms and is starting to become more cautious and paranoid. In contrast, Mark seems to be opening up more (like Haley does) though he does clearly restrain himself. I know you're studying psychology, so there's a big focus on the mind and some of the ways it messes with us. I'm not sure how much of it I picked up on or misinterpreted, but I gave it a shot. Overall, I'm not exactly sure where this whole thing is going, but I'm very curious to see what's going to happen.

    But let's move on, shall we?

    Letter 1
    I’m going to disagree with Haley to start, here. She calls herself sheltered and thinks she’s not realistic or honest. But she displays a great deal of introspection, especially with her reasons for wanting to travel around Kalos. I’d arguably call it very mature. Her introduction brings up familiar strokes. Overbearing parents who are concerned for her but sort of suffocating her in the process. That’s the kind of situation that brews youthful rebellion, so Haley’s desires (though tepid) make perfect sense. On top of that, I do like the layout you give to Anistar. If for no other reason than it was such an unimportant location for me when I played XY that, aside from the sundial and the mindscrewy gym, I couldn’t tell you anything about it.

    Letter 2
    For Mark’s part, he’s writes pretty eloquently (though I’m not really sure what I expected). His response is definitely vague and leaves me wondering what his “backstory” is really referring to (or if it actually happened, what the details are). So having him call himself an enigma is quite fitting!

    Letter 3
    And that got dark quickly. Then again, I kind of expected it to. It’s not like Haley’s situation is unheard of. But I give you props for writing her in a way that, rather than taking a “whoa is me” approach to everything, she wants to set out to find some success and pursue her own dreams. Then we have Haley’s take on the great war. Like her little snarky tidbits that keeps things from getting too dry. Though, the fact that gym leaders and Pokéballs apparently existed in the time of AZ strikes me as rather tough to believe. I don’t know what the original version of this was like, but I don’t think Haley’s reasoning or plans are that unrealistic. She’s not expecting to take the Kalos League by storm, but also expects to earn some badges and try to win herself enough money to start her own life.

    Letter 4
    With Mark’s side of things, he seems much more reserved. There’s almost this sense of weariness to him that you convey. This bit in particular:

    To me it comes off as speaking in riddles. I guess it’s a vague reference to how drug addiction messing with his mind. In which case, it’s an intriguing way of describing things, that’s for sure.

    Vagueness aside, I do like how you stick to Mark’s own admission that he’s extremely blunt. He doesn’t sugarcoat that his starters died and makes it very clear the drug addiction bit screwed it up. It made the bit with Enmity at the end a lot more heartwrenching.

    Letter 5
    So, Haley’s youthful innocence(?) initially pokes through with this letter. You can tell she wants Mark find Enmity but frankly I as the reader don’t see that happening. So it reads as Haley not picking up on what Mark wanted to convey with that letter, if that’s what you were going for. Also, yours is an interesting take on the inside of Poké Balls, and a decent excuse as to why you can’t just faint a Pokémon to catch it. But the meat here is the gym battle, of course. I like the descriptions Haley give, they were roughly my first impressions of the gym playing XY. You also write a good Olympia (from Haley’s POV anyway), making her very mysterious and tough to read. And I like how Haley got overeager and spoiled the ending. That’s something you’d expect a kid to do.

    Letter 6
    First thing Mark does is take Haley’s description of the gym turn it on its head. I wouldn’t consider comparing that locale to prison, but things are vague enough to make it work. It’s interesting that Enmity goes hand in hand with the drug addiction. Like, Zorua and Zoroark’s are all about distorting themselves to deceive, and drugs distort the mind to the point where everyone close to you doesn’t recognize who you are. His prison culture explanation sounds about right, though I’m surprised he didn’t use Pokémon for the analogies.

    Oh hi, Godot, is that you? XP

    I must commend you for taking such a pragmatic approach to Mark’s prison schedule. With all these shows and movies that kind of sensationalize prisoners and prisons, it’s refreshing to see someone show just how monotonous and soul-draining of an experience it can actually be. Especially since you may have people there for different levels of crime.

    Letter 7
    I think by this point it’s safe to say that the introductions are where these two have the sharpest contrast in their tones/writing styles. Even when Mark sends her depressing stuff, Haley responds with this sense of youthful enthusiasm and curiosity. She’s not ignorant, but she seems to shrug off what a typical response might be like (i.e. “why did I ask something so bad?”). Olympia continues to be incredibly creepy and that life/death line was super cryptic. I’m sure it’s going to be relevant at some point and I’m curious how. And I do like that her depiction of Kenneth, showing tasteful restraint (which goes out the window when she admits to doing that). But I do like the canon references to game stuff. Especially the Devon tidbit. It’s something that, especially since ORAS, I’ve been curious about.

    Letter 8
    And there’s Mark being all gloomy to start things off. I do have to wonder how exactly a drug-related charge resulted in a life sentence, unless I misread something. There’s also some of the typical paranoia you might see in some addicts or dealers. And I like that, again, Mark seems to walk this tightrope that’s almost blending the idea of illusions with the concept of addiction and euphoric responses to drugs. I guess it’s appropriate then that his memory would be a massive amount of mindscrew. I can’t tell if the Hypno had, well, hypnotized him or not. But the sudden, sharp swerving of his mood in very different directions brough that “euphoric high” and “crash” that certain drugs bring about to mind. And interwoven in that is this trapped feeling that Mark has, thinking the addiction has a stranglehold on him, kind of like the Hypno had on his mind at that very moment. So, overall, I thought his memory seemed like a good analogy for the “damage” his drug use brought about.

    Letter 9
    I know I’m repeating myself, but I like how consistent these openings have been. Haley continues to remain very upbeat. Similarly, I like how after she remarks that Kenneth thinks she strays off topic a bit, she does just that and bounces around to different things. Very appropriate. It’s not surprising to see her taking Mark’s advice regarding Ribbons (though she’s still travelling with Kenneth, which leaves me wondering how old he is to have worked with Devon). You have a pretty intriguing take on seals too. It’s certainly nothing I’d ever think about with that throwaway Gen IV mechanic. The recount of her training reads a bit more, I dunno, pedestrian compared to some of the other stuff. It is unusual seeing a series of games as opposed to straight up battling. And I still can’t get a read on Kenneth from Haley’s retelling, but I’m assuming that was intentional. The ending had quite a bit of impact though. I can see that Haley’s unsure of what to make of the common thread she and Kenneth share with respect to their dads. In fact, I’d say her lack of response to Kenneth is arguably more realistic than anything else you could’ve come up with.

    Letter 10
    Mark always comes across as much more perceptive than he gives himself credit for. Especially since he insists his drug use has gone and made his mind rather fuzzy and kind of hazy with regards to his memories. I can’t help but feel like in some ways he’s projecting some of his own insecurities onto Kenneth. Or maybe he just sees himself in the guy based on Haley’s descriptions? Or I’m just spouting nonsense and you can ignore this. From there we have Mark’s extremely dark (or, is it just too realistic?) approach to the whole human-Pokémon dynamic. All of the stuff he says rings true, but he’s been written to be paranoid enough to where I, as the reader, am not entirely sure how accurate his account is. But I’m still tempted to believe him nonetheless. Maybe because I’m quite the pessimist myself. I like how that scary house bit from the games (which was totally stupid) is given a bit of a spotlight here (and a very creepy twist to it at that). And having fairy-types serve as a stand in for therapy dogs (and other animals) is a nifty way to use them. A part of me would’ve just expected canine Pokémon to be used. Lastly, I do think it’s fitting that, given Mark calls himself a pessimist, he tends to end his letters off by putting himself down and reminding Haley not to put too much of a stake in their conversation. It seems right in line for a serious pessimist to do.

    Letter 11
    Interesting. This is the first of Haley’s letters to start off a bit… different. Like, there’s initially her usual enthusiasm, but then she cuts herself off and demonstrates a bit of introspection and calls herself out on some of her behaviors. And that seems to be extending to some of her Pokémon too. Since Pokémon speech has taken more of a centerpiece these last couple of letters, I must wonder if you really mean that eventually humans can understand the Pokémon language, translate what their Pokémon are saying into English, or if it’s reading body language or something? Anyway, aside from that, it’s interesting (and maybe I’m wrong) but it feels like, although Haley’s gained some insight courtesy of Mark, it seems like she’s actually getting more uncertain about what she wants to get out of this journey. She had some semblance of a plan, then she gradually reduced the idea of battling, and now it seems to just be sights-related. It’s interesting and kind of seems to show just how these letters are serving to alter her worldview.

    Letter 12
    To start…

    That’s just a basic tenant of being human, Mark, ya goof.

    Mark again harps on memories, but this time more on their formation and storage. My psychology is a bit rusty but I think he’s hitting the nail on the head. Our memories are less of a pure, factual play by play of what happened and more a combination of our senses as well as our perceptions and thoughts on the matter in the moment they happened. So, in a sense, memories are “tainted” from the moment we make them. And time further erodes the actual facts and replaces them with our own thoughts and perceptions, greatly distorting them. Moving on, there’s the coin aspect, which is more traditional of a prison scenario. Though Mark expresses it very eloquently. Like, I’d just say something like, “It’ll get confiscated,” and move on. Though part of his schtick seems to be saying things in roundabout ways. His pessimism once again shows through with the whole fairy rehabilitation tidbit. Though it’s interesting to see his cellmate seems to have a different opinion. The real substance here is, again, his (skewed) perspective on the whole subject of the League. Like, you can really see the cynicism show through when he’s suggesting alternative things for Haley to do. They start out innocent enough and then become a bit unusual (seriously, selling gym route maps?). I do think you make some good points with the whole animalistic instinct tidbit. Breeders are often a touchy subject when it comes to pets in the real world (to say nothing of puppy mills *shudder*). And I can see how, for a Pokémon like a Zorua, a degree of mistrust is needed to maintain that deceptive “edge” they tend to stereotypically be associated with.
  14. diamondpearl876

    diamondpearl876 → follow your fire.

    Indeed, epistolary works are hit or miss, I think, but I'm glad you seem to be enjoying this one! And yep, those are the exact kind of writing styles I was going for for them! I think it makes sense for someone who experiences a great deal of self-hatred to avoid actually talking about what he's talking about because who'd want to listen to someone like him? And Haley's, I think, comes from her being younger and excited to share her experiences with Markus.

    Yeah, Haley's so focused on Markus that his more pessimistic personality's bound to rub off on him at one point or another. And Haley's the kind of person people naturally want to open up to, though for someone who has trouble doing that, there'll be some reservations and awkwardness about.

    I can't say the plot will be on an epic scale due to its slice-of-life nature, but I can say the fic does have a direction I'm aiming for. XD I'll be interested to see what you think about what happens.

    We often paint/view ourselves in a different light than what we really are, and Haley's no different there. In some ways because of that, Haley's just as much of an unreliable narrator as Markus is. At any rate, I do think she's more mature than she gives herself credit for, and that it's mostly other people's treatment of her that's given her skewed view of herself. Glad to see the worldbuilding bits worked out also! That's something I find that my fics can be lacking in, so I've been trying to incorporate more of it without it overbearing on the characters which are my main focus.

    This is only letter 1 and I'm sure you saw that what you wrote here pretty much describes all his letters. XD

    I've written dubbed whiny characters before, and I know that can get grating over time, so I had to try to steer away from that. The original version also had her just wanting to challenge the gym circuit rather casually and focus entirely on sight seeing; in this version she'll focus on training her pokemon a bit more, but overall, this aspect has largely stayed the same.

    As for the pokeball bit, yeah, that makes sense. It didn't even cross my mind at the time, but... it'll be written out in the next batch of edits, whenever that may be.

    I think speaking in riddles and being blunt are actually contradictions, though no one's pointed that out so I guess it isn't coming off as a problem. He'll do riddles mostly when talking about memories or things particularly uncomfortable for him, while the bluntness comes from his detachment of certain situations (ie. he's desensitized himself to his starters' deaths and they don't bother him anymore).

    Indeed, I wanted Haley to throw a useless bit of optimism his way, lol, as terrible as that sounds. It probably won't happen, but I guess you never know, eh? Enmity will keep playing a big part, at any rate.

    Hmm, I suppose he could've used Pokemon for the analogies - it might've made that section a bit less dry (which some people thought it was).

    Yeah, it'll never really be sensationalized here - Haley won't be breaking his *** out of prison or anything, lol. None of that craziness fits in with the plan I have in mind. XD

    I figure that for someone who's eager to see the world, a foreign travel companion would fit best. I'd actually probably re-write Olympia out of this if I had to do it again. Maybe. I did want a sense of ominousness and crypticness, but I think I could've done it differently. At any rate, her comments do have meaning, though it'll be one of those things ya gotta wait a while to actually have the connection explained. RIP.

    The drug analogies are pretty important, so I'm glad you caught on to them and seemed to like them! Yeah, it's not my intention to explicitly spell out if things happened or not, or if it's really, truly the drugs causing this. Is it really just the drugs or does the severity of it hint at something more? Dun dun dunnn.

    Kenneth's not too much older, 21 or so. He's got connections, heh, to be working in a famous company so young. As for the training bit, I tried to make it interesting but I think every reviewer's in agreement it could've been better, haha. And I'm glad to see the conversation about Kenneth's past worked out! It's something I was a little more unsure of than the training scene, actually... I guess probably because I feel like I know my characters better the more I write them, and I hadn't written much of Kenneth up until this letter.

    No, you're right! It's a mix of projecting his insecurities onto Kenneth as well as his paranoia seeping in again.

    As for the dark versus realistic thing, I'd like to just think he's being realistic while showing his pessimistic side. I don't usually like to make those two concepts synonymous. I see a lot of fics get called "dark" for the sake of being "dark" when really it's just a realistic portrayal of the themes the author is trying to use. No matter what anyone writes or talks or thinks about, no matter how happy it might seem, there's always another side to it that is not so happy at all. Not sure if that makes sense, but shrugs.

    Spot on with Haley's worldview changing, yeah, and again, Markus's paranoia seems to be affecting her.

    Also, yeah, I tend to write pokemon speech so that anyone is able to understand it once they are exposed to pokemon long enough. If my characters can understand pokemon right off the bat in a story it's safe to assume they've had a lot of previous exposure to pokemon whether it's explicitly stated or not (I'm putting this as a disclaimer in case you read my other fics which indeed have characters who can talk to pokemon right off the bat lmfao).

    The word "human" baffles him. :p

    Yeah, definitely. Each time we recall a memory, too, it changes a bit in our minds. We never remember a memory the exact same way every time.

    LOL, yeah, Markus doesn't know how to explain things concisely, that's for sure. He might be blunt about some things but he cares about Haley enough to go into all the details so her chances of understanding the risks of what she's doing are greater (not that a coin is life-changing, but, you know, it has significance for her).

    I appreciate the time you took the read all of this and comment on each chapter individually! Like I said, you were pretty spot on with everything, which means I'm doing my job as a writer and it's really good to know that! Thanks a ton!
  15. diamondpearl876

    diamondpearl876 → follow your fire.

    My apologies for the delay in updates (again) and, maybe even worse, coming in with such a short update. (I'll be jumping to the next letter right away instead of another fic of mine, promise.) I got the idea for this letter when re-reading the fic and it'll set a precursor to some other letters in the future. Related: I polished up some of the language when re-reading and edited out huge chunks of the prison schedule and the Haley/Kenneth training scene based on feedback. I can't say thanks enough for all the comments, even years later. xD

    Anyway, I finished this a couple days ago, but I waited to post until today, July 10, for Markus's birthday! I missed it last year by a few weeks, and no way in hell was it gonna happen this year. Summer seems to be the time of the year I get really inspired for this fic for some reason? Hehe.

    [letter thirteen]

    August 5

    Hey, Mark,

    Uh. I wrote the above without thinking. Does it sound too casual? I can imagine me saying that in a voice like… hey, Mark, we need to talk, all serious like. Don’t worry! That’s not actually the case—not in the urgent sense, anyway. I need to talk to you in the sense that I don’t want you to go, don’t want you to disappear on me. That’s what I did to my family, and that’s what you did to your pokémon, but it doesn’t mean we need to keep up tradition and do it to each other.

    I’m doing a lot of things without thinking. And by that I mean you can have my lucky aluminum coin anyway. I wasted a lot of your time, and I’m sorry for that. That spiel of yours about how coins aren’t allowed in prison? Well, it seemed awfully familiar, so I pulled your old letters from the depths of my backpack. Again. And as expected, you mentioned to me back in May that coins are taken away from you guys, because anyone can sharpen them on the walls and hammer out an escape tool.

    If my coin gets “lost” in the mail system with this letter, it’s fine. Seriously. I’ll take the risk of you reading this, and I’ll take the risk of you not reading it. Plus the risk of my coin not finding its way back to me as a return to sender thing. I’ll write you another letter, one you’ll receive for sure, okay, Mark? Because what I won’t risk is having you worry. I’ll simply wait a few days until I’m in a better mood. I hope that doesn’t come off two-faced. We all have our bad times. Our bad days. I seem to be having more of them lately, like I did when I lived at home, but the phase should pass and I’ll get over it. That’s what my mom always insisted on for any emotion she didn’t approve of. Typical teenage angst and pride and ego, et cetera.

    I had a dream last night. I’d call it a nightmare, but it was borderline, if you only count nightmares as having dead bodies, gore, blood, apocalyptic shenanigans… First of all, have I ever told you it’s a murkrow, of all things, that delivers your letters to me? Half dark-type! Seems uncalled for, if you ask me, like the wardens in Laverre are taunting me. I had enough of that nonsense with my family and Olympia, you know? So I’m not bothered. You know I have a soft spot for flying-types, and he’s a real cutie. There’s a scar on the tip of his beak I see when I pluck the envelope from his mouth—he enjoys a quick tug of war game before cawing in defeat and returning home—so I know it’s him each time.

    What’s he got to do with anything, you ask? You won’t ask if you don’t get this. Come on, Haley. Use your brain for once. He was in my dream… and it was pitch black… but I could see everything. Every nook and cranny in the bald cypress trees dominating Lumiose’s Route 14, every ripple in swamp water even more dully colored than a tirtouga’s shell… Dream me must’ve stolen the dream murkrow’s night vision, I guess. The dream murkrow was out and about, scouting out the recipients of your letter (me and Kenneth, of course) like he was specially trained for. Except he was flying in the dark, so he had no way of realizing he wasn’t anywhere close to us. He got caught in an ariados’s web and untangled himself, but had to drop your letter in the process. Up until then, he had a glint in his eye, and it went away once he landed on the forest floor and searched frantically for what he’d lost. The light of the moon didn’t reach him in the air, let alone on the ground. Not helpful at all. Grudgingly, the dream murkrow let out a sad sigh and turned to fly again, probably back to you guys at Brun Way, but he shook his head, unsure of which direction to head in then, either.

    But he tried. And who’d he run into along the way? Ribbons! …Why my natu wasn’t with me, I don’t know. Dream me might’ve written her own letter and stuck a taboo gift inside. And Ribbons, he had a human voice, squeaky but clear. He told the dream murkrow that he didn’t want me to be found. That in the future, the dream murkrow should stay away. That I was being put in danger because of who the dream murkrow was sending letters for, and that’d be you, Mark. You.

    To make matters worse, the dream murkrow flew back toward Laverre, and I could follow him but not talk to him or make him pay attention to me. He squawked at the guards when he arrived, relaying Ribbons’s message, and then, Bouncer and Eyeball showed up. (I think they did, anyway. The men called themselves your roommates inmates.) And even they asked to switch cells.

    You… asked me if I knew what Kai and them would say to me if they could communicate with me normally like most pokémon can with seasoned trainers. This is the last thing I would’ve expected. I mean, it wasn’t real… or maybe it’s not real just because I don’t understand my pokémon yet?

    Still. As you know, this is an argument I’ve heard time and time again, from a bunch of sources apparently claiming to know me better than I know myself. And to them I just wanna say, look where I am now! Out in Lumiose, the driving force of Kalos, with all its bustling crowds and traffic humming beside you as tourists and residents alike parade up and down the city’s various boulevards. Kids drawing with chalk on the sidewalks, old people plopped down on park benches and chucking sunflower seeds at the local fletchinder, stray glameow sidling against buildings to find a hole or alley to crouch into…

    Well, I’d go on a lot more, but what my mind keeps wandering back to is Professor Sycamore’s lab. I passed by it. Did a double take and everything because the story of your starters hit me all over again! Closed off by a tall, casual metal fence, I couldn’t see any fennekin or froakie or chespin, just some potted berry bushes with burn marks on the rim. One of the pots was even overflowing with water.

    So I think it’s safe to say Professor Sycamore’s raising a batch of starters right now. I couldn’t help but stare and imagine myself working up the courage to ask Professor Sycamore about you. Or stealing the starters for myself, like you did. No doubt I could comfort them, give them a good life, and… Okay, there’s some doubt there, so I won’t finish my thought. Anyway, in the end, Kenneth had to grab me by the arm and lead me down the street, lecturing me about how people don’t take too kindly to a random girl getting in their way.

    Now we’ve rented out our room in the local Pokémon Center and unpacked our things, knowing we’ll throw it all back into our backpacks a couple mornings from now. Once he’s done in the shower, we’re gonna give the Restaurant Le Nah a try. I hear half the building’s a battlefield, with a strong glass wall separating the dining area but still allowing people to peer in. It sounds like a theater, doesn’t it? Trainers challenge each other there all the time, and loser owes them dinner, probably.

    I might try my hand at a battle and head to Prism Tower afterward, just because I don’t want Olympia’s badge to be the only one registered in my name. And defeating Kalos’s electric-type master could be enough to restore the confidence that’s slipped away without me noticing. I’ll let you know what’s up either way.

    Just in case the coin falls out of the envelope or it doesn’t click right away, I flipped for real. The coin landed on heads! Fairies win! You made a promise to keep trying if I did that, and I’m not lying just to see it happen. There’s enough “this or that” confusion in this letter, and to even the playing field, I’ll promise to be more hopeful in my next letter about it.

    Talk to you again soon,
    Last edited: Jul 11, 2018
  16. Cutlerine

    Cutlerine Gone. Not coming back.

    A new FitD chapter! And a belated happy birthday to Markus too. (I wrote this part of my notes yesterday while it was still the 10th, so it … kind of counts? Sorta?) This is a relatively short letter, but that's not a bad thing; lots of letters are short, and in many ways I kinda feel like I prefer the focus of this to the prolix rambling that Markus is sometimes guilty of.

    Anyway: heads, Markus wins, huh. It's impossible to tell if Haley is lying or not, and I expect Markus' thoughts will go in exactly the same direction as mine here. That's going to be a really difficult thing to react to, for someone who has both the temperament and the time to obsess over every tiny detail and overthink everything; I'm not sure how much we'll see of that in his letter, given that that also makes him the kind of person who makes sure his letters say what he wants them to say and not what he actually thinks or feels, but I guess there will be a few hints that sneak through here and there, as always. I think we probably have to take Haley at her word, given that we have nothing outside the letters to work with, but I'm definitely curious about Markus' reaction, or at least how he chooses to present his reaction to Haley.

    And another Gym challenge on the horizon, huh. I like that: it will do Haley good to keep moving along on her journey, for one, trainer journeys being what they are, and for another, Gyms in this interpretation seem to be take their role as part of a trainer's personal growth quite seriously. Given how things went down with Olympia, it will be cool to see what awaits Haley at Lumiose Gym – both what lesson will be offered (if any; Clement strikes me as less, uh, potentially didactic than Olympia, let's say), and whether now she is ready and willing to try and learn it.

    It would be remiss of me not to comment on the fact that we've got the name of the thing in the thing! That's always good. You know you've got to an Important Bit when that happens.

    This extra descriptive clause about the swamp water makes the overall flow of the sentence really awkward, I think. “Every ripple in the dull swamp water”, maybe? It probably needs to be simplified somehow, anyway.

    I think you want either “untangled himself” or “pulled himself free” – it doesn't quite work when phrased like this.

    I think they're chucking seeds at the fletchinder, rather than chucking the fletchinder as well.

    One final thing: in your table of contents in the first post, the title of this chapter isn't italicised as the rest of them are.

    That's about all from me, I think! I really enjoyed this, as usual. I've never read another fic quite like it, and that's a pretty special thing, really.
    diamondpearl876 likes this.
  17. diamondpearl876

    diamondpearl876 → follow your fire.

    xD It counts, sure! And fair enough. I try not to go overboard with it, but if I ever do, let me know!

    Guess we'll see. ;) Since there's a possibility of this short letter being returned, though, she'll be writing another one before we get to his. Not sure how that'll be received by readers, but I'm eager to find out.

    If any indeed. xD Haley expects one, but hopes one doesn't happen. For a variety of reasons.

    woooooooooooooo title drop

    But yeah, this was an important letter. I've been trying to remember if anyone guessed where the fic is going or if they were on the right track, but I hope it works out when we get there.

    And that's a special comment! Hehe. Thanks, as always! <3

    EDIT: oops forgot to say I fixed typos. Those seem to be slipping by me and my beta more and more these days. xD
    Last edited: Jul 13, 2018
  18. diamondpearl876

    diamondpearl876 → follow your fire.

    [letter thirteen]


    August 7

    The trip to Lumiose kicked our butts. I thought we’d sidestepped the Frost Cavern’s grasp, but no, the snow dust followed us all the way to the junction of Routes 15 and 16. The silvery coating had dissolved by the time we spotted the ground circling Lumiose’s fish hatchery, which was overrun with litter. So we knew we were on the right path for a while. We should’ve gone west, past the fish hatchery, but eventually we steered northward and did a double take at a massive graffiti mural of a scrafty holding its own can of spray paint. Somehow, we’d wound up at the Lost Hotel…

    Could it be that you know of the place, Mark? The building gave off a bleak aura much like a barebones skeleton might, what with the coat of algae snaking around its lower half, crossing over into a dewpider nest settled on the ledge of the broken first floor windows. The thatched roof was missing aside from one section ringed by charcoal remains. I think the arsonist(s) were nearby: a bunch of teens wearing ripped caps and baggy tank tops sat by a bonfire, chugging Cryogonal Ices. They cheered over a scuffle between two litleo, who inhaled the nearby flames and spit them back out at each other.

    I mean, maybe they’re good kids—am I old enough to call them that?—but how laidback they were with each other in a place like that… I wonder if they’re renting out the Lost Hotel for free, doing whatever else thugs do to avoid the public’s stink eye. Like, the place could be serving the opposite purpose a halfway house would, helping them prepare for the criminal life and actual jail time up in Laverre.

    Me and Kenneth just… nodded to each other and turned around, careful not to grab their attention by running. And even though I was really, really tempted to, I didn’t dare open my mouth to get Kenneth’s opinion on the situation until we were out of earshot. But he ignored me and opted to push on forward. We were losing daylight, after all. So he suggested we search for a shortcut back to Route 16 to try to make up for lost time.

    We edged past a thicket of white bark trees for an hour. The whole way, Kenneth shushed me every time I tried to spark a conversation, afraid I’d alert any wild pokémon who might wanna jump out and fight us when we least expected it. That’d only slow us down more, he argued… or maybe he knew what I wanted to chat about and had no interest in it. I hummed a song to try to block out the thugs’ laughter that kept worming its way into my head instead.

    As embarrassing as it is to admit it, seeing such a close group of friends having fun made me cringe. Sure, it’s likely they’ll regret associating with each other in the future, but they looked so engrossed, so carefree, I doubt that’s a worry any of them have as I write this. Whatever happens, not everyone gets to experience that sort of camaraderie, you know? And some people even avoid it! Those people always anticipate drama or disagreements which’ll spoil the magic of simply basking in each other’s existence.

    Mind teaching me the art of forgetting, Mark? Because I know that feeling all too well myself.

    Okay, that’s a tasteless joke. But it’s fine, right? I’ve got nothing to sweat about, not when the human brain can hold unlimited memories! Those thugs are monopolizing my time and energy now, but they won’t be in an hour, tomorrow, maybe even in five minutes. I’ll shove them away in favor of bigger and better memories. And I won’t fuss about whatever my brain does with them after that.

    Mark, I’m not sure I’ve told you this before, but your lost memories… aren’t lost. Not the way you think they are, anyway. They’re just waiting for the right cue that’ll signal them to rush back to you. Even if you can’t recall them with the snap of your fingers, they’re still lodged in your brain somewhere, resting, hiding, soaking up your other memories and accumulating to construct the vast thing that is who you are. Besides, memories are committed to changing small details here and there, to bestowing all our past pains and joys and whatever else with free reign to form a brand new memory not recognizable to us—though we don’t hesitate to trust it anyway…

    Right, I’m back after setting my pen down for the day. Speaking of memories, here’s a good one: Kenneth’s actually kinda cute when he’s flustered. Oh, we made it to Route 16, but our “shortcut” led us straight to the edge of the lake owned by the fish hatchery we should’ve stuck near to begin with. Accepting we’d just have to suck it up, around the gravel shoreline we went, only stopping to dispose of driftwood that found its way into our shoes. Two krabby pincers stuck straight up in between the pebbles, and Kenneth picked them up. He pretended to sharpen them with a knife. Uh, for context, apparently we can repurpose them into silverware—you know, to save money or sell to trainers on the road who might’ve forgotten to pack their own. Trainers younger than me especially lack foresight like this, Kenneth says.

    The lesson shifted into a story about how he was lucky enough to unearth a clamperl pearl at the bottom of a pond next to his home in Rustboro. Then he blathered on about his hunt for more pearls so he could make a necklace for his mother until he… screamed. It was no big deal, promise! He’d spotted a lombre flailing about in the water, and since it was so small and shaped like a human, he mistook it for a kid drowning.

    Realizing the situation wasn’t life or death after all, Kenneth’s eyes widened, and he stuttered before he scowled and kicked at the ground. I got the impression he thought he should’ve caught on to the lombre’s identity earlier, then he was embarrassed he didn’t for some reason? But yeah, the blush on his face was priceless! I wish you could’ve seen it.

    And wouldn’t you know it, Kenneth’s scream caught the attention of a hatchery worker crouching on a weatherworn dock at the far end of the lake. He’d been talking to a fisherman—probably a casual, if the dude’s flashy Lake of Rage tie-dye shirt was anything to go by—who was parked on an ice cooler, a thin rod leaning against it. The hatchery worker waved to him real fast before plucking a lure ball from his belt and flung it into the water. Out popped a lapras! The lumps on its shell didn’t look too cozy to ride on, but the hatchery worker hopped on. He cupped his hands around his mouth and yelled out something about staying put.

    We stood there awkwardly, wanting to map out our route from Aqua Fisheries but not quite trusting our sense of direction anymore. Kenneth apologized for the scare straightaway when the hatchery worker finally reached us. The lapras bent its head back and barked in response. Of course, Kenneth couldn’t let it go that easy. The first thing he learned when he moved to Aquacorde, he said, was that noise pollution can drown out communication between water-types. Talk about a perfect getaway vacation spot! I’ll have to remember to ask Kenneth more about it later.

    Anyway, we’d just figured out seating arrangements on the hatchery worker’s lapras when the he pointed out Kenneth’s accent.

    “Hoennese, right?” he said. He pinched the bridge of his nose and sneezed and maybe he was allergic to Kenneth. “I doubt I’m wrong. But no water-type, eh?”

    “Traitorous, I know,” Kenneth said, glancing away.

    “And unfamiliar with lombre, I see.”

    I poked Kenneth on the shoulder. “Wait, but you have Heigani,” I said, then turned to the lapras’s owner. “Heigani’s a corphish. He hasn’t evolved yet, and I can’t say I was planning to go swimming today.”

    He mumbled something I couldn’t hear.

    “Something wrong?”

    “Nah. Was gonna spit some quip about your friend not being a member of Team Aqua, but the moment’s passed.”

    That got a chuckle out of Kenneth. “Hope you’re not assuming Team Magma instead,” he said.

    I just looked on, blinking stupidly as usual. Didn’t I say I wanted to be cultured, Mark? Does that involve learning about all regions, not just Kalos? My gut says yes. Kenneth’s living proof of how things can overlap, after all!

    “Seriously, though,” the hatchery worker went on, “it’s hard to travel Hoenn without two or more water-types on hand. Do consider Aqua Fisheries if you ever need one, yeah? That goes for you, too, young lady, if you think you might ever find yourself there.”

    “Oh, uh. I’ll stick with my birds, thanks.”

    I felt a nip on my toes and had to choke back a scream of my own. A poliwhirl poked its head out of the water, gurgling merrily at the hatchery worker. He dipped his hand under the surface to scratch the water-type’s belly as he went on about how owning more than one water-type is ideal. Carrying a human’s weight long distances can get overwhelming after a while, especially when it comes to dodging cruise ships and ocean liners. It’s like that even for pokémon trained for stamina—just like with Ribbons and his flying back and forth from the prison!

    Oh, and I also learned dual water- and flying-types like ducklett and mantyke exist? But adding another pokémon to my team this early into my journey seems irresponsible in a way… Well, I mostly wanted to brag about how dedicated Aqua Fisheries is to educating anglers and trainers on how to properly handle water-types! Their curriculum takes everything into account, from diet to freshwater and saltwater differences to locating clean bodies of water on the road. I was so impressed I did, in fact, agree to schedule an appointment with them if I change my mind.

    After the lapras dropped us off at the dock, the fishermen started scowling because our footsteps scared the fish away. One reeled in their fly, a tacky looking piece of plastic resembling a yanma, and replaced it with a live baby weedle pulled from a tackle box. I thought I might puke, but the hatchery worker pat the lapras on the back, lamenting over a hook that had caught onto its underbelly by accident once. His face brightened plenty as soon as Kenneth asked for a tour of Aqua Fisheries. How could he not notice the weedle, Mark?! Writing this now in hindsight, I suppose both of them are just… used to it. I can’t fault them for that. So let’s press on, uh, like they did.

    Aqua Fisheries was a decent sized, dome-shaped building. A taupe sign with rich blue letters pointed to where the main office was, along with a quarantine tank area, laboratory, and live feed facility. I anticipated waiting a couple hours for Kenneth, so I had to ask: “This is really cutting it close to sunset, no? We’ll have to find a hotel to stay in when we get to Lumiose, you know, and the place is huge!”

    “I already checked,” Kenneth replied, pulling a curled up map halfway out of his pocket before sliding it back in. “Jaune Plaza’s less than a mile beyond the gate, and there’s plenty to choose from there.”

    I folded my arms, annoyed he hadn’t shared that piece of info with me earlier. We could’ve trekked the long, scenic route around the lake and enjoyed it instead of embarrassing ourselves. But the ordeal over and done with, and there was nothing I could do but my back and let him know I’d be in the shade, writing. Off he went, totally oblivious! It’s like he has a switch he can flip on and off when it comes to reading other peoples’ reactions.

    Honestly, I was wound up that day, and irritable. I hadn’t slept well the night before because of a nightmare, one that I… don’t need to go into the details of here. I’m sure you understand, Mark. You always do.

    I was so tired I had a lapse in judgment and randomly decided to write my grandmother after all. I just know I’ll get scolded over how I haven’t talked to Mom and Dad and Joey since I ditched Anistar, but that’s fine. She’s obligated to do that as my grandmother, not because she doesn’t understand why I’d rather not spare even five minutes for a call.

    You know, Mark, I had an idea. Can I tell my grandma more about you? Yeah, I’m asking permission first this time, because learning from mistakes is a thing. Plus, no doubt she’ll see you in a different light when she hears what you’ve done for me! Then she might be able to hook you up with a job when you’ve finished your sentence! It might not be for a while, but she’s one of those workaholics who couldn’t have chosen a better field and would prefer not to retire till the day they die. If you taught her everything you taught me about the League, maybe you two could even boot up your own private practice and sign me up if my own job hunt in the future is unsuccessful.

    I wrote the basics to her—how Ribbons and Seybs are doing, how Kai’s adapted from his wildlife days, that kind of stuff. Like I said, I didn’t give her the details about the League on your behalf. But I did ask her why Seybs’s predatory instincts hadn’t kicked in even being exposed to a pidgeotto’s natural habitat.

    Ugh. Tons of flying-type trainers would kill to be able to handle their pokémon without fear of having a piece of their flesh bit off in retaliation, yet here I am, unsettled by how comfortable he is on my shoulder. Restless whenever we’re on the road and he curls under my ponytail like he wants to block out the sunlight.

    I’d just wrapped up my grandmother’s letter in an envelope when Kenneth sauntered over, chin tilted upward thoughtfully. After he nearly collided with the tree behind me, I asked how the tour had gone.

    “Oh, I wasn’t paying attention to it much,” he admitted. “I had a few questions about their connections in Hoenn. To see if I could get a lead on where my dad might be.”

    “I thought he was a space astronaut kind of guy?”

    Kenneth’s face scrunched up. “That’s… accurate enough, I suppose,” he said. “I figured maybe they knew a friend of his who could tell me the details of whatever mission he’s off on.”

    “Any luck?”

    “No, but they had a whole list of names of Team Aqua members plastered on the wall to warn water-type trainers.”

    I didn’t know what else to add, so I said, “Yeah. Kaloseux history is touchy, too. I’m sorry.”

    Holding up the krabby pincers from earlier, he said, “The best people can hope to do is pick up the broken pieces and keep moving forward, right? So, Lumiose it is.”

    It occurred to me that we might’ve gone our separate ways then and there if he’d found his lead. Convincing him to stay would’ve been impossible, not to mention selfish. I mean, why would he stay? I’m a random girl he met on the back of some random Mamoswine in the middle of a random wintry route, and he’s got more important things to worry about: his family. The very thing I’ve been avoiding.

    If it wouldn’t burden you too much, Mark, I wanna challenge myself in my next letter to you. I’ll… confess more details about my family. Not the kind of details that give you a brief impression like I’ve already given you, but the nitty gritty kind. It’s not fair to you that I keep skirting around the topic, forcing you to read it and guess at more.

    I’d tell you more now, but I feel I’m slipping too much into the past lately, and I want to go out. Do something. Explore Lumiose properly, not largely mope around for the sake of leaving our Center room like I have the last few days since we got here. I refuse to let that become a pattern. Fairies won in the coin flip! And the bet was that you’d keep trying. I’ll join you on that adventure, all right?

    ~ Haley
  19. Ambyssin

    Ambyssin Drowning sorrows with Regice & Latios

    Bringing this over for the madness. Now, maybe it's because this letter was longer than some of the last ones, but this felt like an even more scatterbrained Haley letter than usual. Like, it was really all over the place zig-zagging from one subject to the next without giving me any real tim to think about or process what had just happened. I don't see anything wrong with that, but I was thinking about it the entire time I was reading the letter. I like the expansion, of sorts, that you give to Route 16 and what, if I'm remembering the games correctly, is just some simple house you go to for a fishing-related item. Having it be a fishery with ties to the 7.8/10 too much water land of Hoenn is unique and ties in that loose Kalos-Hoenn association that Gen VI had going for it but didn't explore all that much. I confess I was a bit confused about the whole Team Aqua thing going on in the exchange Kenneth had... but that might've been intentional? Since Haley was confused too, anyway.

    Also, maybe I'm crazy but this letter feels... out of order compared to the last one? Like, it's sent two days later, but the last one seemed to establish that she was already in Lumiose... but now we're hearing about the journey to Lumiose. I don't know. I get the feeling she's in Lumiose, still, and is just recounting the journey, but the way it's worded made it feel like it was just happening instead of something she was reminiscing on.

    Nitpick aside, the other big part of the chapter was the whole asking permission to talk to her grandmother about Markus. I can't imagine the guy saying yes, at this point. Haley's gotten him to lower his guard a bit, but Markus is still the cautious type and I can imagine him shooting the idea down or at least giving another one of his spiels about why he doesn't deserve that kind of attention and especially not some sort of work opportunity courtesy of Haley's grandmother. Along those lines, I found it curious that, after the brief discovery of the Lost Hotel, she didn't reflect more on her exchanges with Markus since she came away deeming the kids she found there future criminals and finding their presence unsettling. Markus is a convict, after all. I guess that's just Haley's mind at work.

    I will spare the rambling about memories and synaptic pruning b/c I'm still fighting off a sinus infection and I've rambled enough already. Instead, I'll end with this...

    Aka my thoughts when it comes to trying to interact with anyone on the internet. ^^;
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  20. Cutlerine

    Cutlerine Gone. Not coming back.

    A new FitD letter! That's always fun. And it's another Haley one, too, which is interesting. As usual, her voice and preoccupations come through very strongly; it's a delicate thing to write a character who's got that inexperienced tendency towards overwriting without letting that tendency drag the story down, but you manage it here as adroitly as ever – the description of the Lost Hotel part was a great example. Like, it's suffused with Haley's character, and it reads very much like it was written by her, but it's done knowingly, so that the limits of her abilities as a writer are indicated without you actually having to write badly as a result. Does that make sense? It definitely made sense in my head; I'm, uh, less than certain that it makes sense now I've written it down.

    Anyway, there's definitely a sense – and it's been building for a few letters now, I think, but obviously it kind of comes to a head here – that something is mounting. Part of that is the way the memories/dreams stuff is getting more and more prominent (and like, Haley is thinking about it, in a way that I'm not 100% sure she could have managed at the start of the story), but part of it too is the fact that Haley's trainer journey does seem to be starting to have the intended effect on her. For all her continued naïveté, there are definitely signs here that she's not quite the person that she was when she set out. I mean, she kind of says it herself – she's learning from her mistakes, and more than that, from all of this; I feel like she's getting something from travelling with Kenneth, and from corresponding with Markus. Like, she's asking Markus, this time. (She seems to be being kind of optimistic about her chances of getting the response she wants, but, well, I guess that is Haley for you. That, or she has more of an insight into Markus than I do. Which is pretty reasonable, considering how long it's been since I last read any of Markus' letters.)

    Which (more or less) brings me to Haley's resolution to reveal more to Markus. That may or may not be the thing that we've been building towards, but from how Haley put her letter together – she ended with it, after all – it definitely feels like it's part of that thing. Letter-writing, especially personal letter-writing, usually involves a certain amount of self-reflection; if you're going to present an image of yourself to your correspondent, you have to actually think about yourself for a bit so that you know what you want to show and what to hide. It's going to be interesting to see Markus' response; it's been a while since we read anything from him (like in actual real-world time, that is), so I might have to refresh my memory by having a look at a previous letter, but iirc he's definitely experienced enough to be able to see this stuff, and to not always reveal (intentionally, anyway) that he can see it. So that will be cool to see.

    Also, a thing that didn't fit anywhere else: I like that water-types are apparently a Thing in Hoenn, for the exact reasons that we all thought they were. That's Good.

    I was going to say that that should be 'free rein' rather than 'free reign', but it then occurred to me that I'm not sure whether this is a mistake that you've made or one that Haley's made, because I can totally buy her not knowing that this is a horse metaphor rather than a kingship one.
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