1. We have moved to a new forum system. All your posts and data should have transferred over. Welcome, to the new Serebii Forums. Details here
    Dismiss Notice
  2. We have received legal notice about the sharing of certain images for Pokémon Sword & Shield. Due to this, we have a new rule. If you post said images, you will be removed from the forums until 15:00 UTC on November 14th 2019. We have also killed the leak discussion threads for the time being. Thank you for your patience during this. If you have any queries, use the contact form
  3. Be sure to join the discussion on our discord at: Discord.gg/serebii
    Dismiss Notice
  4. If you're still waiting for the e-mail, be sure to check your junk/spam e-mail folders
    Dismiss Notice

guidance (teen)

Discussion in 'Fan Fiction' started by Rediamond, Mar 16, 2018.

  1. Rediamond

    Rediamond Middle of nowhere

    Chapter Three: Bittern Peak
    Part 2: Verdant Cavern

    Even with her teeth clenched around your torso and her breath in your face, you’re struck by the sheer majesty of your kidnapper. She slinks effortlessly through the forest and you barely rise or fall as she moves. You sometimes catch a glimpse of her tails held high off the floor to keep them pristine. And she is very, very cold. Sometimes you’ll look down and see a leaf start to frost over as she approaches. And then, then her fur! It’s thick enough that you might be able to get lost in it, and you could definitely get lost in her tails. A whole litter probably could. And it’s all well-fluffed and perfectly white and shiny. Her eyes were big and blue, like yours, but bigger and bluer and better.

    By the time she stops you’ve lost track of how long you were even moving. She gently lowers her head and releases you onto the ground. Where you very easily catch your balance despite having been caught a little bit off guard. You glance around at your surroundings and discover that you’re on the smooth cold rocks by the water. You’d thought that those were far away (you had taken Skysong over a whole mountain) but you either didn’t actually go very far with Skysong, there are even more cliffs on the other side of the mountain (which makes you wonder why you even bothered to cross it at all), or the ninetales took you a lot farther than you thought she had.

    Ninetales settles down next to you as you get your bearings. She folds her hind legs under her body, spreads out her tails and reaches out with her forelegs. It would be a comfortable sleeping posture if the ground wasn’t a little bit hard.

    She tilts her head so her eye is looking into yours and gives a greeting bark.

    You reflexively lower your head and whine in submission. This pleases her and she hisses her acceptance.

    “What is your name?”

    The vulpine language is a little complex. She didn’t exactly ask those four words, but it wasn’t just a simple growl either. There are combinations of barks, hisses, growls and postures that each have different meanings and can be strung together. A better, clearer translation might be, “Name?” It’s less… rude than that, though. She’s conversing, not demanding.

    Translation is a difficult subject indeed, and you aren’t quite sure how to say ‘Pixie.’ Or if it even really counts as a ninetales name. You have a quick mental debate between telling her Sh’trake’s (Avalanche’s) thirdborn, which you can say but gives the impression that your trainer doesn’t respect you enough to give you a name, or struggling with human words. You end up barking and hissing out something that ends up more like Icksae than Pixie, but it’s the best you can do. Could you spell it? You don’t know human hardwords but—neither does Skysong, actually.

    Ninetales continues to look into your eyes as you complete your panicked musings and awful answer. She doesn’t seem offput by any of it, though, and she simply responds with what you assume to be her own name, “Kalani.” It’s clearly a human word but she says it with enough grace that you turn around to make sure there isn’t an actual human speaking. She follows it up with quick vulpine expressions: Name. Human. Inquiry?

    You flick your tails in assent.

    She growls consideration before deciding upon an answer. “Will have vulpix name.”

    That feels like lightning in your spine as your body tenses and your mind numbs.

    There is a lot involved in a name. Changing a name. Trifox get placeholder names at birth for convenience (it’s hard to mother a whole litter without being able to call out specific pups). And because you heard Matriarch tell one human that it’s harder to let go of something you name and ninetales ultimately let go of most of their pups. The abandoned ones, like you (and maybe Kalani given her name), they never get a name. But humans are kind of like parents so they can give you a name. But the human names can be changed because they aren’t real, aren’t fox-given. They don’t know you.

    The offer, no… demand? Not quite. Statement. The statement that you will have a vulpix name? It’s akin to adoption.

    Another thought brings you out of shock: Can a vulpix be adopted by a human and ninetales at the same time? Especially if the ninetales is not also adopted by the same human. You don’t think there are rules for that and you want to voice your concern but—there’s a tail on you, gently pressing you down and pulling you in. Before you know it almost your entire body is engulfed in Kalani’s tails, with only your head still sticking out.

    It has been a very long time since you were properly embraced. It’s simultaneously warm and cold in all of the best ways. It’s submissive in a contractual way; you are a pup and you will be cared for and protected. And the name? That means you’re chosen. Wanted.

    Liquid water drips from your eyes and you don’t notice until it freezes in the air and shatters on the stone.

    Kalani turns to look at you and you aren’t sure if she’s going to judge or be mad about getting salt on her fur, but she just shifts her tails to push you up to and against her torso. Then she turns around and lets you exhaust your tears. At some point you fall asleep, you think for just a moment (the sun barely changes), and you wake up in the exact same spot. You’re in the same position as when you fell asleep and the only real change is that Kalani is purring. Vigorously. And because you’re pressed against your skin you can feel it move through her body and into yours. You spend a long time pressed against her and just listening, feeling her happiness.

    Eventually you get careless and flick your tails. The purring quiets and Kalani turns around. You bark that you’re ok but she doesn’t pick up the purring again. Instead she tilts her head and asks, “Pixie. Story. Inquiry?” She pronounces your own name much better than you ever could.

    You freeze, metaphorically and literally. Will she want you less if you tell her? More, out of pity? No. She’s already seen you cry yourself to sleep. Pity is already there and you don’t think her knowing the details is going to change her view of you.

    So you tell her. First it’s about a ninetales who wasn’t bad in any way but made a choice she had to make and you got left out. But she was… kind enough to drop you off at the foot of the mountain, where the humans live, so that someone might still care for you and you’d be safe from the worst of the predators. But then some bad (and, in hindsight, really stupid) humans caught you and you didn’t know how to tell good and bad humans apart. Until they kicked you. Smelly, loud bipeds had no right at all to do that.

    Eventually those humans got put into the cave that they put all of the really bad humans in and you got given to a strange group of people in faux-ice armor. But you’d already died in all the ways that counted so there wasn’t much they could do. One girl, briefly, made a difference. But then, in a cruel twist of fate, she became the queen of your mountain and left you behind at sea level.

    Matriarch. Hummy. Not as bad as the first humans you’d met, but people who would have preferred you been almost anything, anyone else.

    Then Skysong. The human who hadn’t abandoned you. Yet.

    You decide to leave out the part about her mother being a god (and her maybe being a goddess? you aren’t sure if that’s an inherited title or not) because you don’t know what to say and a tiny part of you is afraid that Kalani might decide that, as an older and more powerful fox, she should be the one protecting Skysong instead of you. Which might not be an entirely wrong argument, now that you think about it. But she’s yours and…

    …ok, vulpix don’t have territory. Or pups. And they don’t really need to own anything else because why would you? You aren’t sure whether or not you being Kalani’s pup makes Skysong her human by proxy. But Kalani doesn’t have guide training so Skysong still needs you.

    And you hadn’t noticed how low the sun had fallen while you were telling that story. And you’ve been neglecting your guide fox duties all day. Right when she was toying with replacing you with another guide fox.

    This may be the equivalent event to shitting in Hummy’s bed. Except she had deserved it and Skysong didn’t.

    Kalani inquiry growls.

    “Skysong injured. Blindness. Almost night. Vulnerable. Go there?”

    The last phrase doesn’t use the inquiry growl. It’s a submissive suggestion, one that implies an acceptance of rejection. It would be rude to reject the inquiry growl.

    “Irrelevant. No human night-sees. Other humans do not need help. She does not. And will only be sleeping.”

    Her language is stunning enough that you have to take a minute to process it. You weren’t even aware you could form human-like sentences in vulpine and have them make sense. And her logic is flawless. Skysong gets around just fine at night when she has to urinate. She usually doesn’t even ask for your help. So, she’ll be fine and not much more upset than she already is if you just return in the morning.

    *
    You are woken up once from your evening nap. You feel Kalani shift beside you and when you wake you see her sitting rigid and upright while tracking something in the sky. It takes you a moment, but you beat the sleep from your eyes and follow her gaze. There’s something there, a dark shadow on a night sky visible only from the blocked out starlight as it moves. It’s a bird of some sort, but you don’t know exactly what kind live in this area.

    You expect Kalani to shoot it out of the sky any second. But she doesn’t. Instead she just keeps watching the bird until it can barely dim one star at a time. Then she settles back down and looks at you.

    “Predator.”

    Oh. Right. If it was a very large bird it could carry you away in your sleep. It’s a thing you’re still getting used to about the surface, even years later. Maybe having something to fear from birds. Of course, one would never be able to sneak up on you ever and you could easily kill it in one hit before you got very far off the ground at all, but Kalani wouldn’t know that.

    And it’s nice being looked out for.

    *
    To your great surprise, you’re already in Skysong’s leafswing when you come back under the declining moon. The other you shifts around as you approach and sticks her head out. She spends long seconds staring at you and blinking the sleep out of her eyes. Until Kalani comes into view. Then her magnificent blue eyes open wide and she slinks out of the hammock. The air shimmers around her as her paws hit the ground and a black and red fox is left in the vulpix’ place. She tucks her tail between her hind legs and walks away.

    You briefly entertain the idea of racing after her and defending your honor, but another thought occurs to you right as you start to form a powder snow: Skysong might not even know that you abandoned her last night if the other fox took your place. Starting a fight now would break her, and thus your, cover. You can only huff in impotent rage.

    Kalani sinks lower to the ground and your peripheral and puts her tails down and out. She slowly extends one leg and then another as she crouches along the ground. It’s a hunting stance.

    She’s a very good ninetales.

    You take the opportunity to hop into the leafswing like you had been there all night and were just now coming back after a quick urination break. Skysong barely stirs except to wrap her arms around you and murmur something you don’t understand, either because the words are slurred or you just don’t know the words. And then you feel her heartrate drop beside you as she drifts back off.

    You hear a vulpine scream in the distance and you start purring.

    Mission accomplished.

    *
    The next day is unremarkable. Which, after your last few weeks, is somewhat remarkable. There is a long walk and you do a wonderful job of keeping Skysong and her legs safe from all the mean rocks that would attack her. It’s a forest walk this time, which means shade. It’s amazing after the last few days of rocky coastal and montane trails. You like mountains, but they’re supposed to be snowy not pebbly. And the soil hurts your paws less than barren stone. You notice that Skysong is moving a little faster than yesterday, too.

    You can smell Kalani somewhere, but she’s moving at her own pace off in the forest. You understand. It took you a long time to get used to large groups of humans.

    You haven’t smelled Other Fox since this morning. It’s a wonderful, possibly permanent You think there either would have been more screaming or none at all if Kalani had meant to kill the other fox, but a part of you doesn’t want to give up hope.

    And then there’s lunch and Skysong gives you her entire disk of food. You think it’s fish. It smells like fish and kind of tastes like it. But all of the food stored in metal tastes kind of similar.

    There’s a shorter walk next but it’s all green and shaded and downhill. It’s close enough to the sea that there’s wind and you can smell the salt in the air, but it’s not quite enough to permeate your fur and force you to spend hours getting all of it out so you can smell normal again.

    Then the humans set up their nest for the night and you curl up beside a tree while you aren’t needed. Kalani still hasn’t showed herself yet but you can smell her nearby. Sometimes you think you can even hear her growls.

    They finish about halfway between midsun and moonrise. You jump into Skysong’s leafswing and curl up beside her. She’s engrossed in her metal tablet, strings stretching between it and her ears. The end of the strings are saying words. You don’t understand a lot of them, but you catch a few that you know like “battle.” That one comes up a lot.

    Skysong eats her latesun meal and once again shares a lot of it. This one is some sort of landmeat. Bird, maybe? It’s one of the meats that humans like to slice into tiny thin circles and nibble at it. You don’t see the point and it’s overcooked and oversalted, but it’s not foodpebbles and you’ll take it.

    You don’t see Kalani until well after moonset when you and Skysong are already asleep. You’re woken up to the feeling of movement and the light impression of teeth on your skin. Then Kalani drags you off to the coast again.

    *
    Long ago and across the sea, one clan of humans torched the city of another clan. As humans do. In the blaze, the nest of the Rainbow God was burned. As the Rainbow God descended to survey the damage, he found the bodies of three foxes who had fled into the temple to pray to the rainbow god to spare them. But he had been too focused on the damage to the building to hear their prayers. Ashamed of his role in their deaths, the Rainbow God revived them into beings so powerful they would never again live in fear of humans.

    Generations passed as the Rainbow God aimlessly wandered the skies of the world, refusing to nest in the world of humans. Eventually his flights led him back to his old temple. There he found many foxes like the ones who he had revived years before. He cast a shadow shaped like a fox and descended. He asked the foxes why they stayed in the ruined temple.

    “To keep the grave of our ancestors safe and await the return of the Rainbow God, so that we might thank him for his blessing of our kin.”

    The Rainbow God was moved to reveal his true form.

    “For your devotion and service, I will bless you and set you apart from the other foxes. You will be my emissaries and guardians, protecting people and pokemon alike and enforcing the will of the gods.”

    Ashes poured from the god’s wings and became bound to the foxes, transforming them from ordinary eevee into majestic ninetales.

    *
    A clan of humans engaged in an expedition of discovery. To ensure they stayed in the good graces of The Worldtraveler they brought along a family of ninetales to transmit their prayers and pass on the word of the gods. Many moons later, they arrived on the shores of a new land. As the people moved from island to island to learn from and trade with the natives, the ninetales came along to meet the gods of the new land.

    The island gods received them warmly and each conferred a small blessing of the islands’ power. From the Thunder Guardian they received longer and more beautiful fur. From the Mind Guardian they received mental acuity. From the Earth Guardian they received power over the weather. And from the sea guardian they received even greater longevity.

    Upon meeting the final guardian, they were summoned to the top of the world to meet The Moon. The goddess was so impressed by the stories, devotion and wisdom of the ninetales that she became jealous of the Rainbow God and decided that she must have the foxes for her own. So she cast a spell on the foxes and turned fire to ice. Thus, the foxes could never tolerate a long voyage back across the warm seas. The Moon had made it so they could only be comfortable on the mountain and could never leave her for long.

    And to this day, the ninetales honor their covenant with the Rainbow God to guide humans and pokémon and protect the sacred mountain of the Moon, for even if she is a jealous god, she is a god nonetheless.

    *
    Kalani takes you back well before moonset this time. You return to a foxless leafswing, for better or worse. You flex your legs, rear back and jump… on to the edge of the leafswing. You wind up with your forelegs clinging on to the material, claws extended, and your hindlegs and tails flailing uselessly in the air. You whine for help involuntarily and, you think, justifiably and Skysong extends an arm to scoop you up. In the process your claws very audibly rip the leafswing and you hear Skysong say an unknown but forceful word under her breath.

    “Hey, Pix.”

    There’s no affection in the words. You have been a bad fox. But she still doesn’t throw you out.

    You will make an effort to not chill her nest until enough moonrises have passed that she has forgotten your transgressions.

    *
    Skysong doesn’t speak to you at all until morning meal is complete. Then she calls you over to take her into the woods, out of lightbox range, so that she can urinate. Humans must get partially naked to urinate and, given their absolute unwillingness to let anyone see them undress, they can not do it near a lightbox. She has even instructed you to turn around in courtesy while she does it which seems very unfair. If humans have genitalia, and you remain unconvinced that they do, you would not be attracted to it. Every other part of humans is at least a little gross and you see no reason those parts would be different.

    When everything is done and she reapplies her falsefur, Skysong finally talks to you.

    “Has your new friend taught you new moves?”

    “New mother, actually.”

    Skysong flinches and whirls around so quickly you’re afraid she might collapse again. But she doesn’t. Instead she simply faces Kalani, sitting down on her haunches with her tails wrapped around her body. Skysong lets almost three dozen heartbeats pass before she speaks again.

    “Which way is camp?”

    You raise your ears and find the sound. Then you walk in that direction until the leash is taut.

    “Thank you. Now. Has your new friend taught you any new moves?”

    You bark negation.

    Skysong huffs. “What have you been doing, then?”

    You don’t answer. Neither does Kalani, although a quick glance confirms she’s still following you.

    “Fine. It doesn’t matter. Just, two things. You need to stop harassing the zorua. And we’re passing by a cave today. There are zubat and rattata. I thought we could practice.”

    I did not attack Other Fox,” you protest.

    “Then your new friend needs to stop harassing zorua just because they’re friendly.”

    Other Fox is not friendly. But you’ve reached camp and you know she doesn’t like talking to you with lightboxes around.

    *
    You expected the cave to be dark and cold, like the last one before the giant bee. (Will there be a giant bee in this cave? You really hope not. Of course, the bee wouldn’t be a challenge at all. Just. Your fur.) But the cave isn’t really dark or cold. Cool, sure. It’s a very welcome relief, but it’s not nearly-mountain-cold or even very close. Just a kind of chilly sea level night cool. And the light is dim, like around moonset or moonrise, but it never goes away completely however far you walk inside of it. There are strange plants growing up and down the walls or down in big crevices that sound like distant water. And they glow! You didn’t know that plants could produce light, but these ones do. It’s very considerate of them.

    Skysong stops walking and you abruptly pause without running against the end of the leash and briefly choking a little bit.

    “I hear zubat,” she says. “Remember the plan?”

    You do remember the bat hunting plan. You are to just pelt them with powder snows. It is a very basic plan but one you used to bring down innumerable bats as a pup. You (quietly) bark your agreement and scan the cave for a bat.

    It isn’t very hard to find one and you start whipping your tails around when you do. Skysong takes this as a reminder to bend down and unclip your harness from your leash, allowing you to take a few steps forward get a better vantage point and—bam! Your slush perfectly arcs through the air and nails a sleeping bat in the wing. As it falls and catches its balance—bam—you hit it again! For some reason the bat hasn’t quite gone down yet, but that can be taken care of in a third strike.

    As you mix cold and moisture in your throat, the bat finally turns to you. And screams. Except it’s not quite like a normal scream of fright or delight or mischief. It’s not even like your ‘roar.’ (Skysong calls it a roar and that sounds very impressive.) It’s higher and louder and constantly shifting. It almost feels like it stopped being outside your ears and just became your thoughts. All of your thoughts. It’s very hard to think anything at all. Eventually it quiets down a little and, woah, there are almost nine nines of bats. You think. They fill up most of the cave but it’s like there are two caves and everything’s spinning a little. You fire off a slushball but you think it just hits the side of the cave (oh crap that was right by Skysong, who through the spinning looks really sick). And then you start to feel a half dozen wings hit your body. Which is bad but they can be scratched. Until they start to lift you into the air.

    You do not like flying. You figure this changes the rules to the “up close fight” category, where you’re supposed to scream until the problem goes away. So you reach deep, deep down inside of your body and pull the sound out.

    It hurts when you hit the ground, but the bats have at least started moving deeper into the cave, away from you. Doesn’t stop at least one from defecating all over your beautiful fur on the way out.

    “Ok…” Skysong’s voice and body are shaky even after you’ve completely recovered. “Maybe a rattata, then?”

    You find a rat very quickly. She’s looking at you, inquisitively, and you get a sickening feeling that she’s laughing. You will crush her and show your dominance.

    *
    The healing fluid stings on the bite marks and your tails droop behind you in shame. You did not show your dominance.

    *
    You get to sleep in a building that night in a room with Snaketree, Earthseer, Dirtface and Skysong. It’s the same setup as the ones before with two beds of two heights. Skysong takes one of the bottom levels, the other humans take the tops. Which is fine with you. Ladders are hard.

    Skysong does not bathe you in the same bathroom she uses. Instead you get one of the baths on top of a pillar in a smaller room for urination and defecation, but not baths. (Is it still called a bathroom?) You want to scream and scratch and protest the whole time, especially since she’s being very rough and the soap she uses doesn’t smell great, but she’s been distant and mean sounding all day and you really do want to be clean. So you clench your teeth and live with it.

    She bathes the last of all the humans, leaving you to curl up on her nest while she grooms. Just as you start to drift off to sleep something catches your attention: the scent of blood. Lots of it.

    You quietly whine. You have already voiced your disapproval of her blood grooming and you had hoped that would be enough to make her stop. There’s nothing you can do now without causing a scene, which would get other humans involved and they would maybe see her without her falsefur and one or more of them could die of shock, like your mother told you happens to foxes who tear the cloak off of the falsemice in the creepy building at the base.

    “Christ, is that blood?” Earthseer asks the ceiling loudly. Presumably he’s talking to Skysong even though she isn’t on the ceiling and her name is definitely not “Christ.” As far as you know. She wouldn’t keep her name secret from you, though. Right?

    Skysong doesn’t answer. Earthseer tries again?

    “You alright in there? It smells like a lot of blood out here.”

    You hear Snaketree shift above you but she doesn’t say anything. Neither does Skysong. Earthseer takes the next logical step and bangs on the door.

    “I’m on my period, asshole,” Skysong finally snaps back. Earthseer goes pale and starts stammering apologies.

    A ‘period’ is a bizarre and frankly terrifying quirk of a human female’s anatomy. They do not like sharing details and they constantly cover their hips, so you have been forced to guess as to what it is. Your current theory is that human females have large sores beneath their falsefur that sometimes break open and ooze. They are understandably embarrassed by this and keep their sores hidden at all times. The males probably cover theirs as a sign of solidarity.

    Of course, it is impossible to prove this theory. But you pride yourself on your brilliance in reaching what is most probably the answer with almost no verifiable information.

    But periods smell different from blood. And this is definitely blood. But Earthseer is either stupid or has a very weak sense of smell because he drops the argument and gets back in bed.

    When Skysong leaves the bathroom and gets into her nest, you notice that all the cuts on her legs are gone.

    *
    Next tTme: Big Wave Beach
     
    Last edited: Sep 2, 2018
    Luma likes this.
  2. Cutlerine

    Cutlerine Gone. Not coming back.

    Okay! I finally caught up! Wow, I'm sorry it's taken so long – I read fic mostly during my lunch break, assuming I don't go out for a walk, which means it took a while to catch up. And I'm very glad I did: the tl;dr version of this review is that I really, really like this. Anyway, here's a rambling and disjointed kind of review that I'm patching together out of several weeks' worth of notes. I don't know if it's useful at all, but like, I'm having fun writing it, hopefully it's at least somewhat fun to read.

    Alola makes a lot of sense as a reality show, honestly; it strikes me as a place that's come down with JRPG-itis, where your Volcano Zone and Jungle Zone and Water Zone, etc., are all laid out in a really artificial way, like a theme park. Despite the effort the games put into trying to make you feel like you've moved there, it does feel like the player is basically just there on some weird, scripted holiday. (And like, all the regions are artificial, as with the Great New York Desert and the Magical Interdimensional Forest in Unova, but I feel like I noticed it more with Alola, especially on Akala.) And the show itself is partly based on the journey described in SM, isn't it? Either that, or it's a startling coincidence that the set-up with its central characters reflects the three major players (excluding Hau, of course, but then, I can imagine his role being cut by the producers since you could technically tell the story without him). The recent immigrant, the sheltered girl, the rebel boy; the similarities are vague, right, but they're definitely there, and I like how they work on multiple diegetic levels: they're a message from you to the reader, and from the producers to the viewers of the show.

    Which is, I think, sort of emblematic of this fic's strengths. I could say that it's good; I could say that it's really bloody good; I could say a lot of things, but I don't know if I could actually say how much I like it. The fic just does so much right: it's smart and self-aware without being obnoxious; it slithers freely between a bunch of different flavours of human experience without missing a beat; it reads like, I don't know, a short story by that one author whose name I currently can't remember or something, where you're never quite sure what the rules of reality are, where you can feel the world and its many intricate and murderous relations hovering all around you and informing everything without quite being able to tell how much all of this differ from the stuff you're familiar with in your own life. I love it.

    And it's great pokémon fic, too. The monsters are the core of the franchise, honestly; everything about it is sort of underwhelming, but the consistently great creature design (and, uh, the chance to travel round a fictional country with a boneless rabbit made out of garbage, I never claimed to be anything other than shallow and easily swayed by the charms of vermin) keeps me coming back despite the rest. So I love seeing different takes on these creatures, from almost-human to definitely-animals via every single shade of alien that lies between the two – and this is an area where this fic really shines. They're superb: very foreign, and yet easily familiar enough for the reader to jump readily into their mindset; you make great use of conventional schema for representing alien viewpoints (in particular Pixie's omnipresent kennings) to ensure that we're able to follow everything without any difficulty. Which is important, because in Pixie's POV chapters a lot happens that she doesn't understand but which the reader is meant to understand, and that you manage to convey both of these things at once is a mark of how well you write these segments.

    Their various relationships with humans are fascinating, too. This is another thing that varies a lot – by species, by human, by the writer pushing the two into close proximity – and I really like the thought that you've put into how these different creatures interact with one another. So often in fic it's sort of thoughtless, the relationship between humans and pokémon too well-established to be interrogated at all, but that's most certainly not an accusation I can level at this fic; I didn't think it would be, from the few chapters I'd read of it before and from The Alola Pokédex, but it's worth bringing up all the same, because I still haven't quite worked out all the nuances. The pokémon tend to have the martial inclination that marks them out in all versions of canon, and I feel like that's a part of the origin of battle culture in this world – but I can't tell how far the fact that battling until knockout appears to be an accepted norm is derived from that rather than from the fact that most people have a much less close relationship to their pokémon than Valentina does. I guess that's something I'll look forward to puzzling out the more I read – there are a whole bunch of islands to get through yet, after all!

    Part of that relationship is study, of course. I like your Kukui, and the depth to which you've thought about move usage – mostly because it's so different to the way I think about it; I guess I've always seen the pokémon world in terms of concept and allegory instead of, like, on a meaty biological kinda level, just because for me the idea behind each pokémon (or, every well-designed one, anyway, there have been a few misfires) is so strong that I can't help but see it as some kind of cosmic pun. Which is of course not the only way to do pokémon! And like it's really good to see something that's so much the polar opposite of what I do. Anyway, I already talked about the pokémon, I was trying to talk about Kukui. As one of the few canon characters we've encountered so far, I really like the way you build on the fact that the only view we have of him in-game is that of a child whose sole apparent interest is pokémon training. I've always thought that much of his absurd cheesiness had to be an act, for pretty much the reasons you describe here (he is conscientious and supportive and wants the people he meets to believe in themselves), and viewing him from the other side of the relationship makes that much more apparent. Possibly I'm biased because this is how I interpreted Kukui in the first place? Possibly, yeah. But like, it's still a great portrayal, and you really make it work. (I also like that of course he uses coded commands to direct his pokémon, as I've always thought serious trainers would, while the kids just yell out the names of attacks and give up any semblance of a tactical advantage.)

    I mentioned in a review of The Alola Pokédex that the pokémon world is always just one step away from disaster (and also missed a fun joke about that crappy James Herbert novel, The Rats, which I'm still kicking myself over), and I love how strongly that comes through here. Alola is full of wormhole orphans, weather patterns are still screwed up by the fight at Sootopolis, that kind of thing. This is a world marked by repeated massive trauma, and I think that the way you handle trainer journeys forms an excellent structural parallel. Depending on how you decide to read the culture of the pokémon world, how far it provides structures to support and manage children let loose in a large and dangerous world for the sake of an idea about personal growth, they can be anything from joyous to seriously uncomfortable. (This obviously also depends on individual families too, and I guess there is an argument to be made that, in any world closer to reality than the weird dreamscape represented in the games, children going on trainer journeys is inherently unsavoury, but whatever, I'm going off on a barely-substantiated flight of critical fancy, I'll roll with it and see where I end up.) The tone you shoot for (and hit) is an excellent way of, like, telescoping the personal and the (inter)national into one another, if that makes sense; these people, these social structures, and these repeated cataclysms are all of a piece, and it's just … good. Okay, I ran out of words there, but hopefully you get the point.

    The style you're cultivating works superbly for narration, conversation and the inner life of characters, and the way that you built on that to show Genesis completely overwhelmed by that first battle as it played out was excellent, I think; I'm not actually entirely sure how you did it, but the details kinda slithered away from me the more I read, right up till the point where the battle vanished from the narration entirely as Genesis stopped being able to process it. Moving back towards something more general, though, it also works very well for like, suffusing everything with a sense of meaningfulness. Part of that is just Pixie, constantly looking at two plus two and coming up with five, but part of it is in your phrasing; everything feels kind of like it's pointing to something, in that way you find in some literary fiction and which can either be super engaging or super tedious. (It's definitely engaging here, by the way.) It's just nicely done.

    Okay. That's most of what I had to say done, I think. What follows are first some blow-by-blow comments, and then afterwards a whole bunch of typos and nitpicks I picked up as I read through, because I can't seem to put down this blue pencil.

    It's statements like these that make Pixie's arrogance so endearing, I think. The gap between how she is seen and how she assumes she's seen is so broad that it's hard not to like her for her meanness.

    Man, I can see how to a very fastidious creature like a vulpix this would seem revolting, but Corpsefur is also kind of an awesome name.

    I forget that these are all children quite regularly (which is not so much a criticism of the way you write them as it is a reflection of the fact that I have no memories of being that age that I can trust) but like, they are children, and this is televised; did no one brief her on how she was meant to speak to them on air?

    Ah! I'm always interested to see how people who don't capitalise pokémon names handle that evolutionary line. :p We do what we can with these ridiculous names, I suppose.

    A quick note before I get on to my list of typos and stuff: parts one to three of chapter one and part two of chapter three are black text on black when viewed on the default white-on-black theme. I'm guessing that some formatting that overrides the default text colour got copied along with the text when you posted the chapters.

    That 'if' should be 'of'.

    You've got 'your' for 'you' here.

    Not sure I've ever seen 'ok' before; the only two variants of the word I'm familiar with are 'OK' and 'okay'. Possibly that's a regional thing, or possibly it's just a typo. Maybe the latter, since it happens very consistently throughout the story.

    I'm not sure if having 'pet' rather than 'petting' is an idiomatic way of phrasing it I'm not familiar with, an intentional stylistic thing or a typo, but here it is.

    The only kind of narration that can be joined to dialogue with a comma like that is an attribution. There are a couple of different ways you could handle this particular line; the way I would do it is to end with an ellipsis after 'prizes', then capitalise the subsequent 'the' so that it starts a new sentence.

    “Once again, I would love to, but it’s very hot right now and,” the leash waves a little as
    Same here.

    Missing an O off the end of 'too' there.

    You dip into the past tense for just this one paragraph here, which strikes me as probably unintentional.

    'Never mind' is two words rather than one.

    I've never encountered 'err' with two Rs before, except of course as a verb. I think the spacing noise thing (whatever it is, the sense in which you use it here) is usually only spelled with one.

    You don't need the comma after 'poor', imo; 'orphan kid' has kinda formed a noun phrase sort of thing, such that the comma reads weirdly.

    I do get the sense of this, but this feels like an awkward way to phrase it; 'you have to eat as many awful meals as possible on the trail' would be easier to read.

    Missing a T off the end of the word there.

    I don't think two consecutive clauses in the same sentence beginning with 'only for' has quite the effect you were going for; I guess it was meant to be a reversal that turns into another reversal, but it doesn't really come across that way, and losing the repetition would be more emphatic.

    You could get away with an artsy comma splice here, or just join these two clauses together with an 'and', but either way, they need to be connected in a way that they aren't here.

    The rule you've gone for so far seems to be that 'skulls', referring to members of the team, is uncapitalised, but 'Skull', referring to the team itself, is capitalised – so unless this is meant to be 'skulls are around', 'Skull' probably should be capitalised here.

    You slip back into past tense here for this sentence.

    Missing a closing quotation mark here.

    This reads weirdly – like, the conceit of the narrative perspective is that I (the reader) am being told what I (the POV character) am doing, collapsing our viewpoints together while also keeping them at one remove; when you use a device like the 'What you mean is' in that third sentence, you sort of put the first two sentences here into my mouth, which doesn't fit at all. It would work in first person, or third, but not in second, imo. Perhaps you did that deliberately, to emphasise how jarring Pixie's shock is in this moment? If so, I'm not sure how successful it is as a device.

    I can't tell if this is one of Pixie's coinages or whether it's just a case of missing a 'the' by accident.

    I'd put 'upon contact' after 'shatters'; as it is, it kind of messes up the flow of the sentence.

    Ending two clauses in one sentence with 'the movements' is a bit jarring.

    This is one of those moments where I can't tell if it's a stylistic choice or you just missed the end of the sentence.

    Missing an apostrophe in 'it's'.

    This doesn't strike me as one of those questions that doesn't have a question mark, so I assume it's just a typo.

    'Johto' should be capitalised here.

    That should be 'Illima'.

    I don't quite see how mandibuzz nesting there would be an explanation for the name; they're pretty clearly vultures rather than crows.

    To make this work, I think you'd need to either add 'have' between 'you' and 'been', or switch 'been' for 'be'.

    For a fic that's put serious effort into representing an inhuman point of view, Pixie biting her lip doesn't seem very vulpine.

    The way you've put this kind of implies to me that the subject is the wonderfulness, not the reprieve; I'd have 'permanent' or 'a permanent one' instead of 'permanently'.

    Anyway! This is fantastic, and I'm really glad I put in the time to catch up with it. Hopefully I can review more consistently (and therefore go into a bit more detail about individual chapters) now that I'm not so far behind!
     
    Rediamond likes this.
  3. Rediamond

    Rediamond Middle of nowhere

    @Cutlerine

    Oh boy. Bit too much there to really parse entirely, but... some things that stood out.

    Lunch break readers unite! Um, I have finished Ghost Town by the way. I just had to take a bit to put things into words and then everything got really, really busy and I forgot to actually post those words. Will rectify later today.

    Things are meant to reflect the SM protagonists. Genesis sort of encompasses Hau, in her own way. But it's my personal belief that he didn't need to be in the games at all, so she's more Lillie than Hau.

    Alola in general is a wonderful region for tourism and theatricality both because of its design (Haina Desert being right next to an ice type dungeon (IN HAWAII!!!) is a bigger offender than Akala imo. But the bigger factor is, well Hawaii. It's a place IRL grappling with the consequences of being seen as a province-sized tourist trap. Complete with the loss of independence not only to the people ruling you up close, but to corporations and governments an ocean away. So of course everything's staged, because almost everyone's perception of Hawaii was crafted by careful marketing in our universe.

    I've seen a lot of disagreement among readers as to how intelligent the pokemon of guidance are (setting the Alola Dex aside for a moment). Consensus seems to be that Pixie is below average human intelligence. Unsure where I'd place her, gun to my head. She's just not human enough to measure. Her priorities are off. She'd probably retort that Valentina has below average intelligence for a ninetales. She gets a new team member next arc, which I think you'll enjoy.

    I dunno how you can really justify pokemon battling being an intrinsic part of the culture. In-universe it was seen as a cheap alternative to warfare and dispute resolution that also tended to have about the same results in practice (swords are kinda useless against the people with pet birds made out of swords). And now it's just one of those objectively bad traditions that keeps staying around because, y'know, it's so much effort to just not do that thing. Same with journeys, as you kind of touched on. aNyways, certaiaNly doesN't help that the maiN opponeNt of pokemoN battliNg in receNt memory turNed out to be a terrorist with a joke of a Name.

    The world pokemon presents is one where ten-year-olds routinely come within minutes of failing to stop an apocalypse the government just forgot to intervene against. And that's canoN. Of course sometimes they don't succeed. Or at least, not everything goes back to exactly the way it was before. You give everyone WMDs and some are bound to go off. I think a lot of writers realize this. The problem is they lean so hard into the Fridge Horror of the setting they forget that owning pets with superpowers is kind of awesome. I'm trying to find a balance with guidance between the bad and good, mundane and fantastic: the world sucks because there are bad parents who don't really care about their kids AND because of apocalypses everywhere. And it's great because friendship and pretty nature AND super-powered pets.

    And yes, Corpsefur is an awesome name. Sometimes her value system leads to insults backfiring on her spectacularly.

    Is the plural of mime jr. ... mimes jr.?

    or should i have wrote that as "mime jr... mimes jr.?" or is it mimes jr? when it ends in a question?

    ...so many typos. Fixed all the ones you caught and some others I noticed going through.
     
  4. Rediamond

    Rediamond Middle of nowhere

    Hi. I will make some edits to the prologue within the hour. That's fun. Content notice: discussion of suicide.

    Chapter Four: Route 2
    Part 1: Berry Fields


    “Can you glimmer eye?”

    “…no?”

    You are not sure what a glimmer eye is, as much as you hate to tell Kalani that. It definitely sounds fun and very important, though.

    Kalani doesn’t seem disappointed in you, which is good. Instead she simply stretches out and sits down. “Watch.”

    She closes her eyes for a few heartbeats as you very carefully watch her eyelids. And then she opens and—oh my gods she’s beautiful. Not that you didn’t know that. And not in the mating way either. But she’s very majestic and, her fur and eyes and—

    Glimmer eye. That’s what this is. You see now why she’s starting your training with this move. It is truly the most natural talent of your species.

    “Your turn.”

    “What?”

    Now she raises her snout in disappointment.

    “The energy. You felt it?”

    You shake your head. An imported gesture from the humans.

    “Fine. Watch. Feel.”

    Suddenly she’s indescribable again. It’s the fur. Has to be the fur. You were supposed to… there was something? Your head isn’t right. It feels almost like moonlight, but that’s impossible, moonlight… it has a feel but…

    The glow fades.

    “Feel it?”

    It takes you a bit to gather your thoughts, but you think you did.

    “Moon?”

    She pulses out a rewarding burst of cool air.

    “Yes. Do it.”

    Ok. You will do this. You rustle your fur and try to reach down deep inside of you, like you did for roar. A well of moonlight, maybe? Something to spread throughout your body and make it as radiant as your patron goddess. You take a final deep breath and—

    Nothing. Nothing comes out. You just managed to fluff up your fur.

    Kalani steps forward and scoops you into her tails. Then she starts licking you vigorously to pat your fur down, talking between clumps of fur. “Not from inside. Not for you. Only ninetales. Yours comes from above.” When everything is patted back down, she uncurls and lets you go. “Try again.”

    From above… you close your eyes, raise your tails and focus… above… you feel the wind in your fur and the relative cool of the night and, then, finally, a force behind it. In the air. In your fur. In you for a moment between inhales and exhales. The soul of the night. You can feel it!

    You take a very deep breath and let it bounce around inside of you. Then… eyes. The next step feels natural. You open your eyes and let the Moon out. You see the world through Her eyes for a moment, the souls of everything glowing in silver. And then it’s gone. You’re just a tiny little fox again.

    Kalani steps forward and around you before dropping down and encompassing you in her tails. She doesn’t speak for a while. You’re content with that. Content with everything. You can still feel the moonlight on your body.

    “Practice with your trainer. It’s harder in the day.”

    Trainer.

    You shift uncomfortably. Kalani growls her inquiry.

    “…she doesn’t like you.”

    The words are so soft that they barely stir a strand of Kalani’s fur. But she hears them anyway.

    “She doesn’t need to. Humans are thieves. They take vulpix away. She can borrow you. But she does not deserve you. Own you. They can never own you.”

    “But she was there before you?”

    Kalani growls.

    “Be a wise pup or a quiet one.”

    *​
    It is still far too hot, even just after Moonset. You don’t even really want a walk, you just defecated before returning to Skysong, but you also think that you need to spend more time with her. And walks are a way to do that. Where she has to be mostly focused on you.

    But she isn’t talking to you. And when she finally breaks her silence, it’s in anger.

    “Do you actually have to pee, or are you just out here to smell things?”

    Rude. Besides, you’re in the woods. The part of the woods in the campsite smells about the same as the part eighty-one body lengths away. Or further. Huh. Hadn’t noticed that it had been that far. You pause and mark a tree while she’s stopped, shaking your tails more than necessary before and after the act so she knows that you’re doing it.

    “I learned a new move,” you tell her.

    “Oh.” It’s a neutral tone. Hard to tell how she feels about it. “Let me scan…”

    She drops the leash and takes her backpack off before rummaging around in it. When she finds her tablet, she swings the partially open backpack around her shoulder and points the device at you.

    “Battle information, please.”

    A feminine but… uncanny voice begins to speak.

    “Female vulpix. Nickname: Pixie Registered to you. Ability: Snow Warning. Estimated nature: Bold. Known Moves: Powder Snow, Roar, Baby-Doll Eyes.”

    “Information on Baby-Doll Eyes, please.”

    “Baby-Doll Eyes: A non-damaging fairy-type move. The user stares at the target with its baby-doll eyes, reducing the target’s will to harm the user. Has higher efficacy against disfiguring attacks. Less efficient against mental and status effects. Known learnset:”

    “Thank you.”

    Skysong looks down towards you as she puts the device back away. Then she bends down and starts to run her paw over the grass. You hand her the leash before she accidentally brushes against your urine.

    “It sounds like roar,” she says as she rises to her full height. “Keeps opponents away. Lets you hurt them from a distance. The professor called it ‘zoning.’ We can talk about it later today.” Skysong furtively glances around, even though she can’t actually see anything. Then she speaks. Very quietly. “Are there cameras?”

    You bark negation. Very quietly.

    “Good. Two things. Genesis has a family friend who lives near here. It’s a place to stay indoors tonight. They will have better food than trail food. Second… Second, I’m going to get a new pokémon soon.”

    You immediately and reflexively hiss. There goes her promise. Didn’t even last a Moon.

    “I know. I know. But. You’re spending a lot of time with Kalani, and the Pokédex says that vulpix are raised by their mothers until they evolve and—and I’m just. I don’t want to stop you from leaving. But I don’t want to be left alone. This gives you an option of leaving without… hurting me.” The last words are so quiet even your ears have to strain to hear them. But then, before you can even begin to think of what to say to her, Skysong abruptly raises her voice and shifts her tone. “If you are done here, let’s go back to the camp. People are waiting.”

    *​
    Snaketree steps forward and presses a button. A high-pitched, melodic voice chirps out a few notes on the other side of the door. There are footsteps, an apology that the humans almost certainly can’t hear through a large barrier, more footsteps, and then the door opens.

    There’s a human female standing in the portal. She smells of age and her skin has begin to fold in on itself to maximize surface area and release excess heat. Her hair is the strange grey-blue of a human females in their final evolutionary stage. The smells of wood and dust and time wafts out from the cave behind her.

    “Oh, hello, Genesis! You are Genesis, right? You’re so much taller than you were… three years ago, right?”

    “I think so.”

    “Right when we had just arrived, before… well, before everything that came next.” The female looks past Snaketree (which is difficult due to the adult’s short stature and Snaketree’s great height). “And these are your friends?”

    “Yes. Kekoa and Valentina. We’re traveling together.”

    “That’s wonderful. And the man with the camera is…”

    “Um… he’s just here to—”

    “His name is Marcus,” Skysong adds.

    “I… see. Pleasure to meet you, Marcus?”

    The man doesn’t react one way or another. But you do smell Snowfire approaching from behind.

    “Hello, Mrs. Engleton. Pleasure to meet you. My name is—”

    “You’re Kenneth Weiss.”

    Snowfire gently pushes Skysong and Earthseer aside so he can enter the doorframe.

    “Ah, so you have heard of me.”

    The female host turns around and yells into her dwelling, “Ed, Kenneth Weiss is on our porch right now.”

    “I’m truly flattered. I was just here to say that I am functioning as the guardian of these children and there are some unusual circumstances I feel you should be informed of now.”

    The male host comes to the now crowded doorway. Snowfire starts to explain the apparently unusual circumstances and you whip a tail against Skysong’s leg. She gets the hint and asks to move inside, a request that is mercifully granted. And then the humans just keep talking about lightboxes and tournaments and where everyone sleeps and. Humans certainly don’t let their advanced vocal chords sit idle. Ever. Maybe it’s a way of thanking the gods. Very annoying and self-obsessed worship, but worship nonetheleess.

    Skysong interrupts the conversation between the other humans and your hosts for the night. Which is odd because she almost never interrupts anyone. Or talks much unless she has to.

    “Do you have a place to cook?”

    “Of course. Why?” the male host asks.

    “If we can use some of the berries out back—”

    “You can.”

    “Thank you. I… I would like to cook dinner. For you. And, um, maybe everyone if they can pay some of the costs?”

    Snowfire speaks up behind you.

    “We can. But the Engletons have three people. There are three of you. Eight people on the crew. You sure you’re up to it?”

    “…I’ve cooked for more? It would be a little late, around sunset, but I could finish in time.”

    Snowfire… it’s not a laugh. Or a cough. Something between the two?

    “Well, then. What do you need?”

    “Berries… Many figy, some iapapa. Then some of the sweet, juicy ones. Passho, pinap, wepear, cheri…”

    “We have all of those out back,” female host answers.

    “Good. Then. Cinnamon, vanilla, garlic?”

    “Yes.”

    “Peanut butter… not a lot split between people, but,” she cups her hands around an invisible object. “A bottle?”

    Earthseer answers. “We call them jars.”

    Skysong’s lips tighten and her legs tense a bit.

    “Almost out, we’d need to go get some. But there’s a general store down the road.”

    “Good. Then… maize.”

    “Corn?” Male host asks. “We’d need to get it.”

    “No. Not quite the same. Field corn. The… seeds. They aren’t seeds; I don’t know the word. Those. They might sell it as pokémon food? I need about three kilograms. Might not be able to buy that little, though. And then beans. Black or brown.”

    “…you’re saying you want pokémon food, now?” female host asks.

    “Yes. Sweet corn doesn’t… the way you eat it, it’s not good for you. Other corn can be. You give that to pokémon.”

    “Alright, alright. No need to get upset…”

    “I’m not upset. Just. Maize is important. And… This does not matter.”

    You have no idea what “this” is or why it doesn’t matter.

    “I think that can all be arranged, Valentina,” Snowfire answers. “We have a van. I can take some of the crew down to the pokémon center to get the beans, corn and peanut butter. Anything else you need?”

    There’s more discussion of logistics until Snowfire takes Matriarch and Foresthuman and goes.

    “They’re buying a lot of pokémon food?” you ask Skysong.

    “Vegetables,” she whispers. “Herbivore food.”

    Your interest immediately wanes.

    *​
    The host’s shelter is mostly unremarkable. The forest adjacent to it is extraordinary for all of the sights and smells and even the taste of the air. Row upon row of trees stretches on for hundreds, maybe thousands of body lengths. Between the rows there are vines fenced off with wire from the outside. And on the vines and trees are berries in all stages of development, but most of them are either ripe or almost there.

    Berries aren’t your main food source. They can’t be: you’re a predator. But the taste and the juices running through your mouth and throat like blood, especially since you barely ever get to eat any fresh meat, it’s one of the best feelings. And there are so many berries here that by the time you ate them all the first berry tree you ate from would have regrown twice.

    It’s too hot, even in the omnipresent shade. Otherwise it would be a perfect place. Actually, it could probably do with some more prey species, too… and maybe a stream…

    Fine. It’s not perfect. But still very good.

    Male host takes you to a particular spot in the forest with bizarre, lumpy orange berries hanging on tree branches high above you. “This is the iapapa grove. Now, give me one second to get a ladder…” Male host walks away towards the other end of the grove. When he returns, far more than two heartbeats later (the “second” beat), he’s wheeling a giant metal triangle alongside him.

    “Well, anyone want to pick them?”

    Snaketree sticks a hand out and puts it on the triangle. “I will.”

    “Alright, then.” Male host waves at Skysong. “How many do you need?”

    “Three or four.”

    “Huh. That few?”

    “I will need… maybe twelve figy berries. The rest, depends on how big the berry is. Enough to feed all the people.”

    By the time the exchange ends, Snaketree is moving down the iron triangle, the berries stored in an impromptu pouch she creates with the bottom lip of her falsefur.

    “Done!” she half sings.

    “Good. How long do you think they will take with the maize?” Skysong asks.

    “Oh, probably about now. The store isn’t too far away and they had a car.”

    Skysong nods. “Can Genesis and I go back to the house? I want to get started as soon as I can. I don’t need the other berries for a few hours.”

    “Of course. Do you need me to show you the way?”

    “I’ve got it,” Snaketree chimes in, “but, I’m sorry, Val, I haven’t cooked much…”

    “It’s fine. I just need your pair of eyes. Make sure nothing obvious and bad happens that I miss.”

    Then Skysong bends down to you and runs her hand over your back until she fines the straps of your vest. She undoes them and picks up the vest and leash, but not you. “Sorry, Pix, but there should not be foxes in the kitchen. Kekoa, can you watch her for a few hours?”

    Wait, what? Is this still about Kalani?

    “Yeah, sure,” Earthseer responds. “I’m going to get all of the berries, then?”

    “…if that’s fine with you?”

    “Of course it is.”

    He does not sound as enthusiastic as his words suggest.

    “Okay. Just get… a lot of figy berries, any sweet berries you like?”

    “Sounds good.” His voice remains perfectly flat. He is enjoying the abandonment as much as you are.

    With that taken care of, Skysong takes a hold of Snaketree’s arm and they walk back to the kitchen. Without you.

    *​
    You are beginning to resent the loss of air conditioning as much as the loss of companionship. Even splayed out beneath a tree in a small pile of ice crystals, Midsun and sea level will never be pleasant.

    Dirtface is taking things much better than you. She’s curled up on the other side of the latter, panting in contentment with her tongue dangling out of her mouth. You’ve seen stonepups just shrug off blasts of fire and then keep trying to ‘play’ with their attacker; you suspect the heat could be doubled and Dirtface wouldn’t mind at all.

    “****!”

    You look up to see that, no, Earthseer is not falling off of the ladder. Just a berry that just tears a little on the ground before bouncing up a little and then settling again. In your peripheral vision you see Dirtface bolt up and start to move towards it. You raise your snout and bark, “Job.” That stops Dirtface in her tracks as she awkwardly whips her tail around to try and balance herself and gracefully stop. It doesn’t quite work and her head hits the dirt. Which she then starts rolling around in, berry all but forgotten.

    You take the chance to slowly rise and walk towards the berry. Then you use a paw to fit it inside of your jaw before tearing into it with your teeth, letting the juices flow down your throat and (tragically) your face. This gets Dirtface’s attention and a pained, dog version of the inquiry growl.

    You rub a paw against your neck where your collar ordinarily sits.

    “Not job.”

    *​
    You can hear Skysong and Snaketree in the kitchen, repeatedly cutting things. You hope it’s Snaketree cutting things; Skysong has proven that she cannot be trusted around sharp objects. In addition to the cutting sounds, many smells are leaving the kitchen. None are terribly interesting. They are making herbivore food. It baffles you why someone would put so much effort into hunting and then deliberately not prepare meat.

    The world is otherwise fine. You have found a metal grate in the living room that a seemingly endless supply of cold air blows through. Your body is a little too big to simply sit on the grate and be entirely covered and the grate is rectangular rather than circular. You have gone through many different positions trying to find the coldest and most comfortable one. For now, you are curled around it with your tails on top of your body to trap everything in.

    Earthseer is leaning deep into a chair, their limbs sprawled out to take up as much of the space available as they possibly can. He’s looking intently at his phone, but no sounds are coming out so you can’t begin to guess what he’s doing on the device. Dirtface is curled up at the base of the chair in the exact same position as you.. Not that you’re watching her. Or that she’s watching you. You’re just independently doing the same thing in the same room. And ignoring each other.

    Earthseer’s phone vibrates. He lets it vibrate again before he makes the noise stop, even though he was holding it the entire time and could have done it instantly. Humans are not easily trained; you learned the alarm trick in less than a day.

    “Alola, Makani! Yes, finally have a second alone. Yes, really alone. We’re staying with some of Genesis’ rich family friends, so they probably weren’t given permission to set up cameras in every single room. Probably not intentional on her part, but it was a good move.”

    There’s a voice on the other side, but he has the volume down low and there’s the sound of air whistling by your ears and you really don’t care.

    “…I know, okay? Everyone’s been telling me that. I’m trying, I’m trying. I just really didn’t want to lose the round… Wait. Okay, so there’s going to be a thing next episode where I throw them under the bus. Again. Not proud of it, but I really don’t want to… did they put in the next round’s prizes? Okay. See, I wanted to be nice. But I also don’t want to sleep on the ground every day for maybe weeks or months... Oh, **** off.” He covers the end of the camera and laughs. “I know, I’m insufferable. Been reading whole pages of people argue about it online for the last two hours. Sorry.”

    Earthseer’s expression drops. “Yeah, I’m still alone… Really alone. The girls are three rooms away and I can talk low. Everyone else is on the porch. Just me and the dogs in here… Pixie, I didn’t get another dog… Yes, she’s very cute. A little bit of a *****, though… Metaphorically. And literally.”

    You aren’t sure whether to be offended or honored. You opt for displaying indifference so he’ll keep talking about you. Which he, sadly, does not continue to do. Instead his eyes go wide and he drops his voice down to a whisper.

    “Holy ****… Holy ****. Did they find… No, I didn’t… How is Acerola… ****. Look, I think I can maybe get them to give me a week off… I… Fine. Just… Tell me if you need anything… I’ll try… I’ll try, okay, just… Yeah. It sucks… I love you too. Alola.”

    He puts the device down and seems to sink even deeper into the seat, wallowing in the scent of sadness. Dirtface stirs and meets your gaze, absently moving a paw around. She has no idea what to do. You, however, are a trained therapy fox. Admittedly, only three days of training back when you barely understood human speech. First field test you froze a kid’s tears and played with them. That got you told off but they didn’t tell you exactly what tears were, so you figured that they were like sweat—a thing humans did to cool themselves down, like rolling in ice crystals. So you helpfully cooled down a crying kid. Matriarch stopped your therapy fox training very shortly after that. But you know much, much more about humans now and Dirtface has no training at all.

    You rise and wander over to Earthseer’s chair before sending a ripple through your body that launches you into the air and onto the human’s leg. Then you put two paws on the rim of the chair and force your snout into his hand. It turns out that he’s not very good at petting dogs, runs his hand over you a bit too fast and hard and superficially and your fur gets a little bit knotted from it, but what can you do? You move your full body back on to his leg because humans don’t like it when you press your back paw into their body really hard. He keeps petting you. His breathing is a little bit off, and there are definitely tears on his face. But humans have two types of crying: loud and quiet. And he’s a quiet crier. Like Skysong.

    Eventually Dirtface jumps up on to the chair, a little less gracefully than you had. She takes the other leg and you scoot a little bit to the side. This human is not your territory and you will share.

    Some time later another human enters first into the structure and then, many loud footsteps later (the kind that usually accompany humans with sticks on their heels), into the room. You rise up a little to look at her. She’s unfamiliar. Fully grown, but not old yet. Her skin is even darker than Skysong’s. Her hair is even darker but shorn very short. Her falsefur is mostly black and formal, which is a strange choice for the weather.

    “Alola, Dr. Freeman,” Earthseer mumbles.

    Oh. This is your biggest human rival. On closer inspection you see that she’s far too tall and her limbs are twig-like and gangly.

    “Hello, Kekoa. Mind if I have a seat?”

    Earthseer says something low, quiet and incomprehensible. It apparently means “yes,” and Dr. Freeman sits down in a nearby chair.

    “Do you want to talk about it?” she asks.

    She gets another grunt in return.

    “If you do want to… What’s upsetting you, exactly?”

    There is quiet for so long that you settle back down and lower your ears. Nothing further is going to be said.

    “We can go to a more private space, if you would like,” Dr. Freeman… asks? You aren’t sure if it’s a question.

    “Hunter’s dead,” Earthseer bluntly responds. “One of the younger ones. Started screaming something about dragons and ran off to climb Lanakila with his gumshoos… the pokémon came back three days later, badly injured. They found out later he’d gone off his meds.”

    “I’m very sorry,” Dr. Freeman… apologizes? Like she was the killer. Her voice is very smooth and beautiful for a homicide confession.

    “Always sucks when it’s the young ones,” Earthseer grumbles before roughly beginning to pet you again. He sort of shoves you against the edge of the chair and messes up your fur and you have to try very, very hard not to growl.

    “Do you know if it’s… official?” Dr. Freeman asks. “Or at least if there’s going to be a funeral?”

    “Never funerals. Cost too much. Just… when we find out, everyone sort of wanders to the beach and sits down. And it’s cold and the sand is sharp and colorless, but… it’s nice, in it’s own way. And sometimes the older kids or the younger kids will say something and sometimes no one speaks at all. I’m sure they already did it. Only other thing they’d do is scatter the ashes, and if there’s no body…”

    Dr. Freeman keeps her voice soft and… almost warm. Skysong talks like a river, Dr. Freeman gives hugs with the air. “It sounds like this happens frequently.”

    “Bunch of ****ed up kids no one cares about stuck between a mountain, the desert and a haunted house. It happens. Sometimes it’s nature, sometimes it’s not. Sometimes people just leave and we never learn what happened to them. This is… it’s more closure than we could have had.”

    Earthseer starts to loud cry a little bit and Dr. Freeman takes note.

    “My offer to go some place more private still stands.”

    “I… Yeah. I think I’ll..”

    You jump off right before he stands. Dirtface awkwardly follows, but he gets pushed off a little bit by the standing human’s moving body. You walk back to the air vent and flick a tail from Dirtface to Earthseer. She’ll be with him tomorrow and the next day and the day after that. This is her job.

    *​
    Skysong gives a short speech to the adults at their table inside before Snaketree helps her to the porch. Your leash is still off, but she hasn’t told you off after she left the kitchen. When you reach the outside table, there’s already food on it. And Earthseer and Dirtface are there. As you sit down next to Skysong’s chair, you note that he’s still not feeling good.

    “Hey,” he says. To the girls, officially. But you don’t think he’s really talking to anyone.

    “Hi,” Snaketree responds. And then she abandons all effort at conversation and you hear her move something off the table.

    “Dang, this is good, Val.”

    “Thank you.”

    In contrast to Earthseer, Skysong actually smells happy and she’s doing the human thing where she idly taps a paw on the ground. It’s… not something you’re used to seeing from her.

    “We’re buying a blender,” Snaketree follows up.

    “They need power,” Skysong says.

    “Hmm. For the Pokémon Centers?”

    “They’re also loud. It would be rude.”

    “I guess,” Snaketree concedes.

    And then they all go back to eating their food. Without putting any down for the pokémon.

    “Oh, Kekoa!” Snaketree says. “Mr. Weiss said that there aren’t cameras out here. Well, there is one, but. They won’t use the sound. So we can talk freely.”

    “Good.” Except, he does not sound good. And nothing else is said for a bit.

    You take advantage of the silence to accidentally whip a tail against Skysong’s leg.

    “Food later, Pix,” she says.

    Snaktree scoots her chair back at about the same.

    “Where did you learn to cook like that?”

    “Mexico.”

    “Yeah, but I mean… nevermind. There’s probably still some food left. Either of you want anything?”

    “A tamale and another glass,” Skysong answers.

    “Same I guess.”

    “Alright, then. I’ll be back in a sec!”

    She sounds and smells like she is in a very good mood. Walks like it too. Although she always walks a little fast and carelessly.

    When the door is shut, Skysong speaks again. “Something wrong?”

    “Nothing I want them to make a damn character arc about,” Earthseer answers.

    “I understand. A lot.”

    Earthseer talks again. Even though he had just said he wouldn’t. “Kid from the orphanage died. Walked off into the mountains. Didn’t come back. Not sure if it was a suicide or not.”

    “Not an efficient way to do it. But a passive one. Easy if you’re just on the edge.” She says it casually, like she’s idly noting the sunshine or some music in the distance.

    “Holy **** that’s dark.”

    “Yes. I know. I’ve run off. Not into the mountains, but the desert. I came back. I’m sorry he didn’t.”

    The door opens again and Snaketree reenters with a large cup and a plate.

    “Hey, they just let me bring out a pitcher if that’s cool with you.”

    “It is. Thank you.” Skysong answers with the exact same voice she’d had during and before the prior conversation. And neither party brings it up again.

    *​
    Skysong tries to clean up after the meal and gets into a fight with Snowfire about it. He very aggressively tells her that, no, he can help clean but she will not. It is a very strange situation. You had believed that hardpuddle cleaning was a job that the dominant human in a group delegated to their underlings as a display of authority. This argument almost seems like two humans arguing about who is subservient, except the one who wins does so by exerting their dominance… human social norms are altogether too confusing to keep track of. There should just be one mother and her children and rivals who share territory. Like civilized creatures.

    Very shortly after the dispute ends, Skysong climbs up a flight of stairs, half-heartedly grooms herself and collapses into the lowest rung of a stacked nest, like the ones in the Pokémon Centers. It is well before Moonrise, but you crawl in anyways. You barely got to spend time with her today; Kalani can have you tomorrow night.

    At some point the other two humans come in and fall asleep. You don’t notice. You only learn that it happened when Skysong awakens. “Help me outside,” she whispers. You jump beneath the bed, bring up the leash and let her attach the collar. Then you help her out of the room, down a flight of stairs and out into the night air.

    “Take me to a chair,” she says. And you lead her to the same one that she ate her food in. “…I forgot to feed you, didn’t I?”

    You bark in the affirmative and she laughs for no apparent reason. “Sorry. Got caught up in everything. Take me to the kitchen?”

    You take her into the kitchen and, shockingly, she lets you inside. She opens up the ice cabinet and runs her hand around inside before pulling out one of the large glasses. Then she closes the door with a hindpaw and takes a few steps towards a drawer just above the floor. She bends down, opens it, and removes a hard puddle. She pours some liquid in until it touches her finger right by the rim of the hardpuddle. And then she backs off and motions to you.

    The liquid is pale blue. And it’s also not entirely liquid; there are chunks of ice mixed in to the point that it’s almost half solid. You lap it up and let the wonderful cold seep through your body. It’s also very sweet and flavorful. You’d still prefer flesh, but it’s a wonderful treat. Once you’ve finished lapping everything up and cleaning the hardpuddle with your tongue, she picks it up and sets it on the counter.

    “I… someone can clean it in the morning. Can you take me back outside?”

    You do. She sits back down in the same chair, folds her legs and is quiet. And stays quiet. Until you’re pretty sure she’s just asleep. You curl up near her hindpaws and raise your ears. There’s a fountain somewhere on the property lazily gurgling away, even at this hour of the night. And you can hear owls out in the forest. And you catch a glimpse of a rattata at the very edge of your vision, scurrying around in search of food. Fallen berries, probably. Nature is efficient like that. It cleans up its own messes.

    The door opens and Earthseer steps out, Dirtface behind him.

    “Hey,” he mutters.

    “Hello.”

    He sits down and for a moment there’s just the sound of the fountain and the owls and the scavengers.

    “The food was good, by the way. I don’t think I said that.”

    “Thank you.”

    “And I’m sorry if I said things that I shouldn’t have.”

    “Hmm?”

    “You mentioned that… I was worried that I may have…”

    “Oh,” Skysong unfolds her legs and leans forward. “You didn’t. I’ve been talking with Dr. Freeman and. I have a scale. One I’m almost fine. Ten I’m… not that. When I’m at a one it’s hard to knock me lower. At a seven, very easy. Today was a one.”

    “Heh.” Earthseer kicks a leg out and you reflexively flinch. “I think I’m usually a three. Sometimes a two or four.”

    “Today?” Skysong asks.

    “Five.”

    There’s a distant screech somewhere in the night. A predator winning a battle with prey. Neither of the humans react.

    “Did you like your parents?” Skysong asks.

    “…yeah. They were good. Taught me a lot. About honor. Life. All that. You?”

    “I hated my dad. Now that he’s gone… I still hate him. But I also miss him, a little. Except I hate me for missing him. And hate me for hating him. I know it doesn’t make sense but—”

    “It does.” Earthseer interrupts. “Just… gods, he was such a ****ing idiot. Should have known. Should have told somebody.”

    You look up at the Moon. She is life and time and cold and a nice breeze and a mother’s warmth and all the things felt most in their absence. The pale glimmer of the past seeping into the void of the present. Lunala gazes upon the world from above and sometimes grabs a part of it to hold onto tight and never let go. It’s a futile act; all fires grow cold in time. But she surrounds herself with the embers and searches for a new flame.

    The humans continue to breathe in moonlight and turn it into words.
     
    Last edited: Sep 22, 2018
  5. Ambyssin

    Ambyssin Winter can't come soon enough

    Bringing this over for the game. I'm glad you had Valentina put the dex to use to describe Pixie's new move since, if I'm being honest, Baby-Doll Eyes is not what I would've gotten from that scene with Kalani. I think the curt ninetalesisms made it a bit too hard for me to decipher exactly what was happening. The combination of "Glimmer Eyes" and "Power from the moon" made me actually think Dazzling Gleam or Moonblast for a second. Guess I got my wires crossed there. And, boy, talk about a character doubling down. Valentina's desire for another 'mon is totally reasonable and it would let Pixie go off with Kalani guilt-free but her warped mindset can't comprehend the plan. That's an oof. I think you could've done a bit more with ending the walk scene on Pixie thinking about why getting a second 'mon is a bad idea, but it's fine as it is.

    The scene that follows is laden with Pixieisms. From calling the doorway a portal to getting bothered by humans talking to much. That "self-obsessed worship" bit got me. I do think the conversation about dinner could've used a few more dialogue attributions, as there were so few it got difficult to tell who was talking at times. Valentina doesn't exactly have a distinct "style" to her dialogue that makes it easy to pick out without an identifier. I also needed the cast list open so I could remember who Snowfire was. Actually, that could probably apply to the whole chapter, really. This was the first chapter with Pixie's POV that had a significant dialogue element to it. And a lot of the conversations were quite important. Kekoa gets a lot of depth to him through the one-sided phone call, the conversation with Dr. Freeman, and the moonlight scene at the end. The problem is that dialogue attributions here are so sparsely placed that it reads more like a script with the occassional stage direction that prose.

    But I do really like the content here. At first, I got a bit upset Kekoa was pretty much using contacts to keep tabs on the show he was a part of. Kind of an attempt to game the system, so to speak. I feel like that was bait to turn everything on its ear when we get to the part about the kid from the orphanage dying. Wasn't expecting that. Wasn't expecting Kekoa to take it so hard. And, wow, Pixie was actually sympathetic and able to put aside her own feelings to comfort Kekoa. Lot of good stuff here and interesting depth here! Just don't be surprised if others read this and have trouble following the dialogue. ^^;
     
  6. diamondpearl876

    diamondpearl876 → follow your fire.

    cross-posting with permission

    CHAPTER 3, PART 1

    I like that we get to see Kukui's POV here. The thought that other professors and people kinda undermine his work because he "just" studies Pokémon moves is interesting, although I think with battles being as big as they are in the Pokémon world, moves would a rather popular field of study - how to make them stronger, discovering new ones, teaching them to 'mons, etc. The insight into Pokémon learning a move differently based on the region they're native to is fascinating, and I'd be curious to know, then, why they're called the same exact move (referring to the Stone Edge bits here). Plus Pokémon being divided into class... isn't an original idea on its own, but I like how it's implemented here in terms of helping trainers decide how to form their team based on what they can and can't handle.

    Kukui being a father or tutor sort of figure to Kekoa, Genesis, and Valentina is also adorable. I definitely gained more sympathy for Kekoa as a character with the new found depth he got here and in chapter 4, part 1. ^^ And... I think it's pretty on point, how he encourages Genesis to do and believe things like his journey choices being his own instead of his parents. Kids like them don't need to be hit with the full truth of life right away; we can see in Valentina the effect of what happens when that's the case. I like the contrast.

    CHAPTER 3, PART 2

    Kalani's a good addition to the story, I think. Seeing Pixie contemplate human life vs wildlife is an interesting rollercoaster, especially when she's not certain how to act when her choices inevitably mean disappointing one of them. The scene where Kalani embraces Pixie is a sweet one; you can tell Pixie attaches herself to Kalani quickly, despite her reservations about trusting others not to abandon her. Love the depth.

    Pixie's fear about Kalani taking her place, I think, could be expanded on more? Her logic there is sound, I think, insofar as it can be in her position. Kalani belonging to someone else puts a halt to that idea immediately in reality, but I feel it's kinda just brought up then dropped quickly when it would be extremely in character for Pixie to dote on more.

    I lol'd at this transition scene. Pixie's ego needed taking down a couple notches. ;P

    CHAPTER 4, PART 1

    I mentioned this on Discord somewhere before, but I like the learning curve in terms of Valentina, Kekoa, and Genesis learning how to battle, plus their Pokémon's improvement in battle by extension. I guess it kinda risks feeling dragged on eventually, but right now, the pacing feels perfect and exactly how I'd expect brand new trainers to deal with it. Kalani teaching Pixie another move is... very apt. Kalani would know how to help her more than Valentina right now, after all.

    Valentina showing her own vulnerability about being abandoned is... rare, but a treat to see when it's brought up like it is here. It's a tough balance, trying to protect both your own and another person's interests, but Valentina handles it really maturely here, I think. Pixie handles it a little less maturely, naturally... I might've liked to see her reaction more to the idea, since the conversation ends abruptly, now that I think about it.

    I wonder if Kekoa and Valentina eventually will bond over not having parents. It's a direct contrast to Genesis, but each has their own unique backstory that's made them who they are. Basically, I'll be interested to see the trio's dynamic continue to grow. The focus hasn't been there up until recently, I think, since you were establishing their characters individually with a focus on Pixie.

    Also, that was a beautiful sentence to end the chapter on. Guh.

    Till next time~
     
  7. Rediamond

    Rediamond Middle of nowhere

    Chapter Four: Route 2
    Part 2: Sakura


    The garden is a lot of adult body lengths long, has a nice little brook in the middle with cute wooden bridges over it, and there’s an ivy-covered wall along the outside. And the garden has wonderful trees and bushes and flowers everywhere. There are a lot of pokémon like you, plus a few adults here and there. Your mother is one of them. They moved your father away some time back, but he used to live here.

    That’s sort of how it goes. They put you into paradise and immediately tell you it won’t last.

    It rained the night before and the soil is still squishy and you can almost drink from the sky. But some pale sunlight still filters down from amidst the clouds. You’re sitting by a fountain watching the water arc up from a bird’s mouth and then down into a bowl. Some water droplets break away from the stream and splatter you from time to time. Why? What makes those droplets special? And where does all the water keep coming from?

    The gate opens. You turn and see Jiro, a strange man and a young girl walk in. You’re almost on the other side of the garden and you think there’s time to get under cover before they find you. But you can’t run. James will know and the girl might see you. You have to slowly walk over to a nearby rose bush, climb in and pretend to be napping. They carved out a little cave in it for the pokémon to sleep in and it’s not like you’ve never used it. Perfectly plausible.

    The humans start moving a little after you do.

    “They’re all so pretty!” the girl shrieks. She’s loud enough that it’s still loud where you are.

    “Tell her to be quieter,” Jiro says, “or she’ll upset the chikorita. Makes a bad first impression.”

    There’s a delay before the girl answers. “Oh, sorry.”

    “If she’s high strung, cyndaquil might be a better fit,” James says. “We have some in another paddock.”

    “No, she insists on chikorita. And I’ve already purchased and prepared the import license for the species.”

    Jiro responds in a language you don’t understand, because humans have a lot of different dialects. You only know one.

    The man answers him in normal humanspeak. “I was born here. Grew up here. Married here. Moved to Alola for business.” He sounds quite upset with James. Maybe the girl won’t get a pokémon after all?

    You look her way. She still looks very excited. She’s held in place by her father’s grip on her shoulder, but she’s clearly straining against it. The girl is staring at one of your brothers. He’s munching on some grass in a food dish, completely oblivious to her. Good. She can have him. You will stay in the garden and look at fountains and sleep in bushes.

    “What’s her name?” the girl asks. Very quietly. If you weren’t trying to pay attention and the wind didn’t carry it a little you wouldn’t have caught it.

    “Tell her they aren’t named yet. And that’s a boy,” James says.

    You reach the bush and glance at the humans through the walls of your shelter. The man is doing something weird with his hands, waving them around like he’s trying to scare the girl away. The girl returns the gestures when he’s finished.

    “She wants a girl,” the man says.

    “It’ll cost you extra,” James replies.

    “I can pay it.”

    “Good. Not many girls. We have two with red flowers, one with a gold flower, one with the white and blue pattern.”

    There’s a brief exchange of hands.

    “I want the white and blue one,” the girl says.

    Crap. Maybe she’ll give up if you hide really well and it takes a long time to find you? You retreat deeper into the bush.

    “Alright. I just saw her earlier. Has dark skin, white tips on her spikes. She can treat it like a scavenger hunt if she wants.”

    “Where did you see her?” the man responds.

    “Hmm. Back left, I think. She’s usually near water.”

    There’s a pause and you hear light, quick footsteps. The girl is running. You don’t dare look.

    She gets within five vine lengths of you and stops.

    “Here, chikorita!” she calls.

    You do not approach. She takes a few steps and her feet come into view. You press yourself closer to the ground. “Hmm. You said, water?”

    The girl turns around and you let your head droop. Safe.

    “Wait I think I saw her!”

    She turns back around, takes a few steps and kneels down by the rose bush.

    “There you are! You’re very good at hiding.” She clears her throat and changes her voice a little. “Hello. My name is Ichiko and your name is Sakura and we’re going to be best friends!”

    You shake yourself off and trill. That is the exact same name both of your sisters were given. And several other chikorita besides them. And she is loud and does not know why a chikorita might hide, but. You are hers now. You’re going to have to leave the garden. Might as well try to make the best of it.

    *​

    You slowly blink five or six times while you process what just happened. You are solid, and before you were… not. Pokéball. You’ve been held in them before. Always found them a little weird. You shake your leaf. It’s over now.

    You look around. You’re inside an unfamiliar room.

    The human… Ichiko says something in the other dialect. You turn to face her. Then she just keeps saying things, high pitch and non-stop. You go back to examining the room. There’s sunlight filtering in through a window. But there’s a set of hanging vines with a bunch of thin slats between them that are blocking out some of the light. Unfortunate.

    There are a handful of brightly colored… things on the wall. They’re rectangular. Windows? You don’t sense light coming from them. Some of them appear to have humans in them. Motionless humans. Watching you. The walls are a pale blue. It’s not a bad color. You’d prefer green.

    The main feature of the room is a giant stump covered in thick, fluffy gray moss.There’s a series of small steps leading up to it. They’re each probably short enough for you to climb. You set out to explore it while the human continues talking.

    “Sakura!” the human calls. And then she starts talking in the other dialect again.

    Hmm. No exploration for now. But you would like to get on top of the stump and rest in the sunlight filtering in through the window.

    The human walks over to a box with a hole in it and taps on the top three times. And then she says words. Then one word, very insistent. Again. And then another time. You collapse down onto all fours.

    “Dad, she’s not listening to me!” she calls. In a dialect that makes sense.

    You hear the increasingly less distant sound of footsteps before the door swings open and the adult male from the garden, presumably the girl’s father, enters.

    “Sakura, come here,” he calls. You climb to your feet, waddle over, and sit back down.

    He flashes two quick hand signals at his daughter and then leaves the room again. When the door is shut, the girl speaks in the dialect you understand.

    “Oh… I’m sorry. Can we try that again?”

    You flick your leaf to the other side.

    “Good. I’m Ichiko—I already told you that. I’m going to be your trainer and we’re going to take on the island challenge, which is a lot like gyms. But different,” This all sounds evenly paced and very formal. You suspect she’s planned this. “First you need training. I can’t hear well. And there’s a woman who is going to teach you how to help me. Before that…” she walks back over to the box. “Do you know how to use this?”

    You flick your leaf from side to side. No, you don’t know.

    “I think that’s a ‘no?’ It’s simple. If you need to poop or pee, do it in there. And then I’ll clean it up later.”

    That sounds very unsanitary.

    *​

    There’s a woman kneeling down and saying things to you, but you can barely catch any of it. In the week that you’ve been in Alola Ichiko has taught you several English words. But a cluster of dandelions is not a field of flowers. So it is with languages.

    Holy **** that’s deep.

    Ichiko says something and the woman nods.

    “Hello, Sakura.”

    Oh. She could use real words the whole time. That’s cool.

    “My name is Asuka. I’m going to help train you.”

    She pauses, apparently wanting some kind of an answer even though humans can’t actually talk to pokémon so. What answer are they listening for? You flick your leaf and she resumes talking.

    “This is Pixie,” she motions to a white dog in the corner that’s been curled up in her own tails and glaring at you since you entered. “She’s going to show you some things. And before we go further, I must apologize. It has been years since I spoke Japanese. I may go slow or forget things.” She’s been going fine, but whatever. Humans talk too fast anyway so going ‘slow’ probably means going at an acceptable speed. “Pixie, come.” The dog shakes itself off and walks over to Asuka without looking at you. “Sit.”

    Pixie sits and Asuka walks to the wall to get a metal vine and some sort of a shirt. She hooks them on to the dog, who doesn’t really seem to react to any of it. “Good girl,” she says (in English). Then Asuka turns to you and shifts her tone, to signify that she was not calling you a good girl. Which is very rude. Could’ve left it ambiguous. “Now, watch this.” She turns back to the dog and it’s getting a little hard to track what you’re supposed to hear and what Pixie’s supposed to hear.

    “Pixie, [unfamiliar command word].” The dog moves so that she’s right in front of Asuka’s leg. Then she gives a one word command in English and they both start walking forward. And keep walking. Kind of boring. And then there’s this big sound that sounds like a kind of shrill but very angry and very large duck. The trainer stops moving because, y’know, you want to check that kind of thing out.

    “Did you see that?” she asks you.

    You have absolutely no idea where the bird is so you shake your head.

    “Again. Watch Pixie carefully.”

    She repeats the process and—yup another loud, somewhat unnatural sound. But you did keep your eyes glued to the dog, so you can see that she’s surprisingly uninterested in the whole thing and just whips a tail against Asuka’s leg. And then Asuka stops.

    “Did you get that?” Asuka asks again.

    And, like, you did get the tail whip thing. But you’re still concerned. Birds sometimes try and take your leaf and, yeah, it regrows but you don’t smell as nice while it heals and then you start stressing out and it’s just not worth it.

    You trill your assent. You think you got what she meant for you to get.

    “Okay. Do that. When there’s a loud noise, alert your trainer. Obviously, you don’t have tails, but…” You extend a vine. “Perfect. Now, are you fine trying this outside?”

    *​

    Outside might be the opposite of a garden. There are very, very tall buildings that are entirely lined with windows, random metal trees sticking up everywhere with lights on top, and there are giant things barreling down the paths. And the paths are all some icky black rock. There are a few plants, but they are vastly outnumbered by the not-plants.

    Oh, and those metal meteors? Those are the things that you’re supposed to be on the look out for. This is what you signed up for. Were signed up for. Does that distinction make a difference at this point?

    Pixie flicks a tail against Asuka’s leg and they start walking. You swallow down fear, swing your vine and follow.

    *​

    At least you aren’t the only one with a terrible name anymore.

    Ichiko has picked up two new pokémon in the two or three weeks (who can really bother to keep track?) since you’ve started on your journey together. The first is a bird (a “pikipek”) named Niji, which means rainbow in English. Niji is not at all a colorful bird. You know that Ichiko has hearing problems. You are beginning to wonder if you should just assume she can’t see either. In any case, a bird means watching your leaf which is just more trouble than the help in battle is worth.

    The other new pokémon is named Sumo. She’s a makhuita. And apparently has a Japanese name. You’re beginning to realize that you actually know way less Japanese than you thought you did. And still not too much English after a year and a half... You’d like to think that you’re approaching one full human language between the two. Ichiko has also tried to teach you signs in battle so that she didn’t have to say commands aloud and ruin her whole plan. It was a very good idea. Unfortunately, you had to keep looking over your shoulder the entire battle, which meant that you got hit a lot in the face without time to dodge.

    She’s given up on the scheme.

    Got a little off track there. Where was this going…? Right. Sumo. She doesn’t really bother you and she saved you from getting your hide scratched by a giant mammalian… thing. There was a cave with glowing plants, which was really nice, and then this human-sized mammal with a bizarre yellow headcrest. You mostly just got to stand by and watch Sumo punch it. Until she went down and you got to wrap things up with a nice clean razor leaf. Then Ichiko gave you a very pretty red ribbon.

    The point is that Sumo is a very helpful partner and she can stay.

    *​

    Ichiko’s phone buzzes and you tap her hand with a vine. Even though she’s already reaching for it. Easy to forget but the phone also produces movement which she can feel. Just colors and sounds and names that she struggles with.

    “Sakura, time to go to the road,” she says in English. Roads are the thing with very scary metal things on them and this sounds like a bad plan. But you let her pick up the leash and start ambling away from your view between a forest and the sea towards the distant sound of racing machines.

    She pulls your leash taut when you reach the road. You tap the back of her leg to signal that there aren’t any monsters coming. But that doesn’t seem to be what she wants. Instead she just sits down on a nearby rock.

    “I can’t believe he’s already stopping me,” she huffs in Japanese. “It wasn’t supposed to end like this.”

    You have nothing to say and no way of saying it and she lets the conversation die.

    Eventually one dark blue metal monster stops on the side of the road. Ichiko steps up and opens the door before bending down to pick you up and put you in. It’s a nice gesture. You probably could have entered on your own but to be honest you’d be terrified the entire time. What if it just started leaving?

    There’s a male human in the front. There are a few humans that would enter and leave the house at random and don’t seem to be related to either Ichiko or each other. This male is one of the humans that was in the building more often than not while you and your trainer still lived there.

    “Do you know what this is about?” Ichiko asks, in Japanese.

    The man doesn’t respond.

    “Sakura can tell me short answers.”

    “I don’t know,” the man says. You flick her shoulder twice with your vine.

    The rest of the trip proceeds in silence.

    *​

    The male human leads you down a flight of stairs, into the house’s cave that you’ve never gone into. It turns out that it’s rather small and boring. Grey plates lining everything with a few wooden shelves. Dead wood. It even smells dead and artificial. The air is still and cool.

    Cave explored. You no longer wish to remain there.

    Instead of retreating, the man opens a big, metal door into a room that’s even colder, darker and more sealed off from good air flow. Ichiko’s father is waiting there. When his daughter enters he audibly sighs relief and steps forward, the sound of his shoes’ hard soles hitting the metal floor vibrating through the enclosed room. He bends down a little and hugs Ichiko. The girl returns the hug with less force and a frown.

    “I don’t understand what’s going on,” she tells him in Japanese.

    “Danger.” One word, English, aloud. He lets it bounce off the metal twice without speaking again. It’s very ominous and kind of cool. You want to try that when the mood changes.

    “Danger?” Ichiko answers.

    The father nods. He continues to answer aloud, if slowly, still in English. “Aliens nearby. It’s not safe out there.”

    Aliens? You’re pretty sure you understood the sentence and that sounds kind of awesome and kind of scary.

    “Luna will take care of it,” Ichiko replies. “They almost never hurt anyone, right?”

    Who or what is Luna? A pokémon? A person?

    “Twelve people died in Heahea last week,” the girl’s father counters.

    “I don’t see how I’m safer here than—”

    You hear the faint sound of glass shattering upstairs and you frantically tap the front of her leg: Danger. Stop moving.

    All of the humans go quiet. The father asks a question with his hands and Ichiko nods.

    Nothing happens and everyone stays silent. It’s hard to hear through the thick metal door. Maybe it was an accident? Just one of those sounds the house makes from time to time?

    There’s a very loud slam and you jump a leg length into the air on reflex. The blunt sound of a solid object colliding with the ground. The sound of shattering follows a moment later with a few other smaller impacts. The humans definitely hear that one (Ichiko excepted) and start stepping back towards the corners of the room. Your trainer stands transfixed in the center, staring at the door. You aren’t sure if you should tell her to back off or not.

    Before you can decide there’s a scream from upstairs. One of the other humans usually in the home. Female. Adult but just barely. It strikes you that her scream is unusually short. You should definitely notify Ichiko. But your brain is frozen and you forget as soon as you remember to.

    The human who brought you here says something under his breath. You don’t know the word. There isn’t air flow in this space and you’re starting to taste the pheromones and emotions with your leaf. Fear? Sadness? Something between the two? What would that even be? Both are ramping up with every silent second.

    There’s a rustling outside the door. Quiet, like a leaf in the wind. You almost ignore it on impulse but… there aren’t plants out there. You tap Ichiko’s leg without thinking. It’s time to step back now. She does. And when her shoe hits the ground, the echo bounces twice off the walls.

    There’s a larger rustling outside. You see the adult males slowly reaching for things before there’s another sound, right outside the door. You prepare a vine whip, ready to do what you can to fight the predator. Then something slowly begins to slip under. Quickly, but not putting very much under at all. And when what you’d assumed was just a tongue or a leaf slips in, the whole thing rises into the air.

    You aren’t sure why you were ever so scared. The creature’s barely bigger than you and leaf-thin. Every part of its body is small and delicate. Most of its white, with little stripe patterns mixed in and a thin red stripe at the tip of one arm. If this is an alien, its that place’s equivalent of a pikipek or hoothoot. You relax and the creature stands motionless in the air, watching you with the same curiosity with which you watch it—not that it really has eyes, but pokémon senses aren’t always the same. After a pause, the creature slowly begins to float forward, towards you.

    Then the building explodes.

    At least, that’s what it sounds like. There’s maybe the loudest sound you’ve ever heard, another sound of metal on metal and a human scream. You hunker down and feel the roar of pain through your ears. When the pain becomes, well, bearable, you wrap your vine around Ichiko’s leg. Was the cry of pain hers? The creature moves, flicked through the air like razor leaf, and there’s another, much shorter scream.

    You get a chance to look and let your brain fully catch up with the world. The creature’s still floating in the air, unhurt… but its white parts are stained red across almost its entire body. The human who brought you here is… not so intact. You look away almost immediately. Oh. The girl’s father screamed. There’s red on his leg, seeping through a hole in his pants. His face is tightly controlled and he’s trying hard to be quiet. But his breathing is still very, very loud.

    The creature floats back to the door and resumes its watch.

    “D-damn you,” the father groans out between quick, harsh breaths. And then he has nothing left to say. You see the creature turn away from the father and focus back on Ichiko. On you. After another moment of consideration, it begins to float forward again.

    There’s a blur of red and blue and a feraligatr’s angry roar. You immediately step back while Ichiko remains frozen and, this time, you get to watch the battle unfold. The lizard slashes right into the air as the creature is blown back, seemingly carried by the wind. Then he pounces, his legs launching him forward with claws extended. The creature floats down and only the very tip of its body is hit. When feraligatr pauses, there’s a thin red streak on his chest.

    “Hydro pump!” the father screams.

    The feraligatr rears back, opens his mouth and unleashes a torrent of high-pressure water which bounces off the wall and sprays into you and the humans. But the creature just turns around and becomes thin as a leaf as the water sails right past it.

    “Crunch!”

    Oh gods. It occurs to you what’s going to happen the instant before it does. The streak where feraligatr hit the creature? The… lines… left through the human’s body. It’s sharp. And thin and fast. But not fast enough to dodge the bite. There’s a short roar as feraligatr bites the world’s worst thornbush before it goes quiet as the creature starts to pull itself away.

    Feraligatr collapses to the ground and the creature floats up, softly whining with a voice that sounds like a tiny mechanical bird. It doesn’t seem hurt. Ichiko moves a hand to your belt and you snap a vine up to intercept. How do you fight something like that? Punch it? However hard Sumo hits, she’d just slice her hand open. And there’s nothing that Niji can do if a feraligatr bite barely hurt the creature.

    Ichiko lowers her hand. Is there anything you could do? It would just sever your vines on impact. It looks, sounds, moves sort like a plant. But it’s probably not anything like you inside. How would you even fit organs in a body like that? Your poisons would do nothing. And if it didn’t just flatten out and move between razor leaves it would shred them to pieces on impact.

    The creature advances once more and no one moves to stop it. It extends a limb as it moves towards Ichiko. The appendage is bent along the middle so that the edges curve up. A sign of peace. Ichiko doesn’t move but her legs are shaking and bumping up against your body. You step closer and absorb more of the impact. Reminds her that you’re there, even if there’s nothing you or anyone can do.

    The limb slowly moves towards Ichiko. Then the creature presses the center down against the girl’s wrist and slowly floats up, running the smooth part of the limb against her arm.

    There’s another deafening crash. Your head reflexively flicks up to look as the door is pulled back and in, crumpling into a metal ball before being tossed to the side. There’s a woman with strange purple hair standing there with a tall, thin and bladed creature at her side. Another alien?

    It takes you a moment to realize something. Your head flicked up at the noise. Did that mean…? You look. There’s a thin red flow from your trainer’s arm where the creature had touched her. The alien lets out a soft, pained cry and then extends more of its arm, as well as another one, forward. It slowly, gently wraps them around the cut. Like a bandage. And then it just stays there, motionless. Like it had never been alive.

    “Gallade, step aside,” the purple woman says. Her pokémon obeys and the woman takes a few steps forward, her footsteps echoing on the floor as she does. She hums softly and then speaks again. Her voice is soft and pleading and kind. “Please, let her go.”

    You step away from Ichiko and retract your vines before you can even process why you did it. You see the creature float slightly up and pull one arm away, still leaving one over the cut.

    “I know you’re scared,” the woman continues. Obviously you’re scared. There are… dead things in here. That weren’t dead when you entered. “And you felt her. Found her. But trust me, she can’t help you. Nothing she can do.”

    Nothing. She. Can. Do. A feeling of disgust and disappointment flows through your mind and soul.

    The purple woman stops moving forward and her voice drops an octave. “She can’t bring you home.”

    Your thoughts flash to the garden. Your hiding place. How she’d insisted on dragging you out. The disappointment of her last sentence flashes to rage and—

    There’s warm liquid all over you. Ichiko’s legs stop vibrating and her body falls to the ground, narrowly missing yours.

    You catch glimpses of the fight that follows, but it’s short and fast and your mind isn’t working right. You hear and see and smell things but they don’t become thoughts, instead they instantly get filed as raw memories even as you watch them happen. The gallade charges forward and cloaks his body in a purple energy, the kind that hurts your mind when it hurts your body. And the creature moves forward in anger to meet it, arms fully extended and arced like long knives. There’s only one hit and the creature is sent flying back against the wall where a pokéball meets it.

    The orb rocks violently and you start to form your first half-thought: fear; you should move away. The ball click once and you form another half-thought: guilt; you shouldn’t. It clicks again and you don’t think much of anything, your mind simply a silent screaming match between two ideas and emotions.

    The ball thrashes so violently that you’re almost forced to a decision, which decision you’ll never know, but then it abruptly stops. There’s another click. And then a long silence. No, not silence. There are sounds. The father breathing. The flow of liquid. Static before words come from the woman’s belt.

    “Three down on Bittern Peak. Any sign of the fourth?”

    There’s a deep breath and the sound of footsteps. Less of a sharp tap and an echo this time. There’s a soft splashing sound in its place. The woman bends down and picks the pokéball up before tapping her belt. “I found it,” she says, quietly and devoid of any feeling.

    There’s another burst of static and another voice. “Two hours and fourteen minutes to contain four UBs. That’s a new record, right?”

    More static, the first speaker. “I think so. Any plans after we drop them off?”

    The woman taps her belt. “Three dead, one wounded.”

    Another burst. “Sorry, you aren’t really coming through.”

    “Went after the faller by Big Wave Beach. Three dead, one wounded.” Her words are sharper and louder, but there’s still nothing at all behind them.

    “And, uh, are you around anyone?”

    “Yes.”

    “****. Can you just—"

    She flicks a finger and the noise stops. Then she just stands in the doorway, facing away from you.

    “I’m deeply sorry for your loss, sir.”

    It takes the father several long breaths to respond.

    “You promised you would keep her safe.” His voice is quiet and even, like he were discussing food or weather rather than… what he is.

    “I know.” Your gaze meet’s the gallade and you just blankly look at each other for several seconds, unsure what to do. “There are more portals every month now. More UBs coming through with each portal. We’re doing what we can, but I’m sorry it wasn’t enough.”

    You’re pretty sure that’s not what she was supposed to say. So is the father.

    “I think you should leave my home now.”

    The purple woman lets her head drop. “I can call an ambulance.”

    “Get. Out.”

    She withdraws her gallade and leaves. Leaves you alone with a broken man, a dead feraligatr and two…

    There wasn’t anything you could have done against that… that thing. And she wouldn’t want her pokémon dead if it wouldn’t save anyone. You did what you were supposed to do.

    Your mind continues to spin excuses your soul will never believe.

    *​

    The door opens and Touma, Ichiko’s father, steps in. You stir from your sunbeam nap and turn towards him. He ignores you and walks towards the cabinet to pick up the device that turns the screen on. Oh, not here for you. He does this sometimes, although he does it less and less with every passing season. Just comes into Ichiko’s room and sits down and watches people on the screen for hours.

    Is it still her room? Now and again you’ll find something tucked into the corner of a drawer or the closet that still smells like her. You suppose that eventually Touma will send one of the humans on his team in to remove all of the clothes. There’s still a little pile of fallen shirts on the closet floor, right where they were the day she set out in a bit of a tired rush. She hadn’t been able to sleep the night before. Nerves, she said. She meant fears, anxieties.

    Touma sits down and half-heartedly extends a hand. You get up and walk over to be pet. His hand might be a little too big for it, but the warmth and pressure are nice.

    “I think I’ve figured out what to do with you,” he says.

    You shy away from his touch and take a few steps away. You don’t like the impression, that you’re an inconvenience to be dealt with. But you’d also known this would happen for a long time. He’d let Niji go a few days after the funeral. You’d stopped seeing Sumo around a few weeks after that. Never did find out what happened to her. She’d been caught nearby and you’ve always kind of figured that she’d been released where she’d been caught.

    That option doesn’t exist for you. The garden, your birthplace, is an ocean away. And there aren’t chikorita here. Nowhere to be released to... And you aren’t sure you want to be brought back to the garden. The rational part of that thought is tainted by what the purple woman made you feel.

    He presses a button and the screen flickers to life. On an advertisement. There’s a new type of ultra ball, apparently, and It’s 30% more ultra. The screen fades to black and the rating comes on. And then it flashes to colorful life, a booming male voice radiating from it.

    “Two thousand miles off the California coast, the newest American league rises.” Meh. Long English words. You pay attention to the pictures instead. A sky photo of four islands, a slow pan up an icy mountain. Four humans standing side by side—oh, you recognize one of those. Hala. The Melemele Kahuna. You’d just started to train for that battle when your journey ended. Zooming shot of three humans on a road, each coming in and out of focus as the camera approaches and departs. A girl waving at the camera. An adolescent boy with his arms crossed. Another girl, this one with strange and wonderful plant-colored hair with an ice vulpix in her arms.

    There’s another quick stream of shots. A giant insect pokémon facing down the ice vulpix. The yellow meadow on the other side of the island. A circling shot of a bunch of wooden houses. Two Team Skull grunts doing their… ritual… thing? Like thin tree branches swaying in the wind. You’d remember Ichiko being a little scared when you first encountered them in the big city, but then you actually battled them and, well, you aren’t sure why she was scared about that threat. They’d had a pokémon so toxic it hurt to touch and you still won without getting too banged up.

    The camera shifts back to the mountain and some words appear on screen.

    “This week on Lanakila Dreams… Alola League founder Professor Kukui drops in.” Oh, you remember that guy. He was kind of weird, but not in a mean way. “A battle on Bittern Peak.” You went to that place, too. It was cold and barren and you hated it. View was pretty, though. “And a pokémon’s absence builds new bonds.” The girls talking, with the view kind of far away from them.

    The show itself is fine. Episode starts on the sea by the meadow, ends by the trial cave (even if it no longer holds trials). It’s very much the path that you took right at the end. Same sights and all. That hurts less than you were expecting it to and you aren’t quite sure why. Don’t want to probe it in any case.

    The humans are somewhat more interesting. The one with a rockruff is a jerk. The snake girl almost never has her snake out of its pokéball. You wonder why she even bothers keeping a pokémon. Then the plant-haired girl… you’re pretty sure she has the fox that taught you guide work. The vulpix keeps running off from her trainer which seems like a pretty bad thing for a guide to do. Not that you can really talk about that.

    You don’t really have many thoughts on the girl herself. She was there. Even towards the end of the episode when she got a conversation with the snake girl you didn’t really learn much about either of them. The show just kind of focused on how nice snake girl was to plant girl.

    After a bit the show cuts to an add for super potions (now even super-er) and Touma turns the screen off.

    “What’d you think?” he asks. Even though you can’t answer.

    You do in your head anyways. It was… fine. You don’t really miss traveling. Well, that’s a partial lie. You miss having unobstructed sun beams to bask in for most of the day. The window is nice, but they don’t open it much to let real air in and the sun isn’t always directly shining in. And you’re sort of supposed to just get to the point on walks so whatever human is taking you can go inside. You also aren’t really sure if you’d want to be responsible for another human.

    Is that Touma’s plan for dealing with you? Pass you off to another trainer? See if you kill that one?

    He answers, as if (mis)reading your thoughts. “Going to meet those kids tomorrow. You want to tag along?”

    It sounds like the decision’s already been made and you don’t care enough either way to object. It wouldn’t do any good, anyway.

    *​

    The walk isn’t very far. It’s barely even a walk at all. Touma doesn’t even bother to put on a leash. It’s just out the back door, over some of the sand and then to the back of the other building he owns. The morning isn’t great; you’ve never liked the beach and the wind is too strong and cold for your liking. And this early in the morning the sun isn’t quite strong enough for a really good nap. Kind of cloudy, too. Might not get any good sunbeams today. The heatlamp is fine. But it’s hot. Not warm like the sun is.

    The other humans are already there when you arrive at the other, much larger building on your end of the beach. The three kids and one of the adults from the show last night, plus some humans with machines a little bit smaller than your torso in their hands.

    Touma walks up to the show’s adult (you can’t quite recall his name…). “My apologies for being late, sir.”

    The man also begins to walk forward, hand extended. “No, not at all. We’re early. Getting a few ‘before’ shots of the beach in.” His voice drops as he shakes Touma’s hand, to the point that you can barely hear it over the morning sea wind. “And the show’s usually running late. Never work with children and animals, am I right?” Both men laugh at what was apparently a joke.

    Touma breaks away and turns towards the children. Before immediately turning back to the man, “Are we ready to begin, Mr. Weiss?”

    “Whenever you’re ready,” Weiss replies.

    Touma clears his throat and runs a hand over his jacket.

    “Hello. I am Touma Nakumara, owner of the Big Wave Resort and the Mantine Surfing Association. I will be the host of your challenge today.” He motions behind him. “Dozens of pyukumuku wash up on the resort’s beach every low tide. They aren’t harmful, but they are unsightly. During the journey season I hire trainers staying in the area to remove them. Now? Fewer volunteers. I would usually have the staff do it, but they already have much to do.

    “Your challenge today: remove as many pyukumuku as you can from the beach. Whoever removes the most will win free mantine surfing lessons and rides for the duration of the show.”

    Weiss speaks up, “Any questions before we get started?”

    Plant girl raises her hand.

    “Yes, Valentina?”

    “What’s mantine surfing?”

    The boy answers. “You put a harness on, get hooked up to a big water-type and you do flips off of waves.”

    Touma responds, “Essentially that, yes. Many trainers use it to ride between islands.”

    “I see,” Valentina says.

    A few more words are exchanged, machines are adjusted, and a(n annoying loud) whistle is blown. Two of the kids start running off. The boy’s rockruff follows just behind him, tongue flailing outside of its mouth. Valentina just kneels down and talks to her vulpix for a bit, the exact words lost in the wind. Then she stands up, pulls on the leash and they start casually walking down the beach.

    Weiss and Touma keep their eyes on her.

    “What’s she doing?” Touma asks.

    “Who knows with her. Could be anything.”

    “Did she just… give up? Because she’s blind?”

    Weiss sighs. “Maybe. Maybe not. She might be the strangest kid I’ve worked with in twenty-three seasons.”

    “She should work harder because she’s blind,” Touma says. “It’s not an excuse to fail.”

    He’d said some variation of that many, many times to Ichiko.

    You watch as Valentina bends down and scoops up a pyukumuku in her arms. Then she slowly walks to the ocean and places the pokémon in. Pixie hands her the leash and she walks off to the next one. You see her move six pyukumuku like that before the others have finished throwing every other one on the beach back into the surface.

    The whistle is blown again and the kids all make their way back to the adults. In the end, the girl, Genesis, tossed thirty-three. The boy, Kekoa, he tossed twenty-seven.

    When those two started heading off, Touma grabbed hold of Valentina’s shoulder, causing the girl to flinch.

    “Who is this?” she asks.

    “Mr. Nakumara,” he says, gruffly.

    “Hello, sir,” she answers while moving her shoulder out from under his hand and stepping back.

    “Why didn’t you try?”

    “I’m… sorry, sir?” she says in a way that makes it clear she isn’t quite sure what to be sorry about.

    “The others did four, five times as much as you did. And you let them from the beginning. Why?”

    She goes silent for a while.

    “Do the mantine want to have riders?”

    “What?”

    “Do they?” she clarifies, in a way that makes it clear she didn’t think her question needed clarified.

    “I don’t know.” Touma laughs. “How would I ask them?”

    “Let them go and if they come back, then they want riders? I just… I don’t think I’d want to make a pokémon do something like that for me.”

    Touma smirks, which is like a smile that’s actually a frown. “You battle, correct?”

    “If Pixie doesn’t want to fight, she doesn’t need to. I’ve told her as much.”

    You like her. She has nice hair and she wouldn’t have taken you out of the garden when you clearly didn’t want to go. And yet. If you like something, it’s best to let it go before you hurt it. She understands that.

    You’ve figured out what Touma plans on ‘doing with’ you and you’ll say no and she’ll accept your no. Then you’ll go back to a dead girl’s room and she’ll continue to walk in the sunlight. And that’s for the best, right?

    Right?

    …right?

    Damn it all, you’re doing this, aren’t you?
     
    Last edited: Oct 1, 2018
  8. Ambyssin

    Ambyssin Winter can't come soon enough

    Goodness gracious. This did not turn out like I was expecting it to when I started reading. Given that Sakura initially displays some of the same cynicism as Pixie I firmly expected we'd be ending the chapter off with Sakura ditching Ichiko and just so happening to come across Valentine. What we got instead was a lot more tragic. But let's start out with the basics. I like that things actually begin in Johto and that the Nakamuras are an immigrant family. I was surprised at the revelation that the father is, in fact, the owner of Big Wave Resort and the Mantine Surfing Association. A very interesting way to tie it into canon, even if in the games it's shown that Malie City is the one populated by Johto immigrants. I mean, there's nothing stopping them from going to other islands.

    Although Sakura's voice largely shares a number of similarities with Pixie's as far as snark level and internal monologue go, I appreciate some of the subtle differences. Like how, being raised in that little garden to be given as a starter, Sakura has a better understanding of some human tools compared to Pixie. And she actually uses human names, to boot. Granted, a lot of that gets tossed out the window once she gets to Alola, but I still appreciated it. She even has past history with Pixie, to some degree. Whether Pixie remembers her or not, we'll have to see. Though I get the feeling she'll be upset regardless. Last small tidbit is that it's interesting how strongly Ichiko's father disapproves of her sign language use. My college housed the National Technical Institute for the Deaf and so I had a lot of deaf/hard of hearing classmates and I don't think any of them said their parents ever discouraged sign language. Some who grew up with parents who weren't deaf were determined to learn sign language, but this appears to be the inverse.

    Now let's get to the meet of the chapter, for me... SUDDENLY, ALIENS! I had mentioned in my awards feedback that I think the UB subject really needed to be addressed, so I'm glad to see it finally pop up. And the kartana attack was about as brutal as you could make it while safely getting around a T rating. Though part of it is muddled by our POV character, whose detached voice did mitigate a lot of the fear you'd expect when dealing with an alien. That's my big criticism, if anything... a young sapling should've been more frightened, but Sakura seemed to process everything like a robot. Not feeling, just seeing. In any case, you described kartana well and showcased its brutality nicely. And... am I to take that to be Soliera who showed up to stop it? Or is this just part of your Alolan Security Services group you introduced. Hoping the former, because of the purple hair thing and I like the Ultra Recon Squad even if they had their potential wasted.

    That's all I got. I look foward to Pixie's inevitable hissy fit at getting paired up with Sakura. XP
     
  9. diamondpearl876

    diamondpearl876 → follow your fire.

    Another new POV, huh? I'm not 100% sure how often you plan to switch them around, but without any semblence of order or rhythm to them, they could end up feeling very disjointed for readers who read all in one go as opposed to chapter by chapter updates... especially if the fic's going to be super long like you've mentioned to me before.

    Anyway, Sakura the chikorita reminds me a fair amount of Pixie. They've both got a bit of a flat affect to their narration, except Sakura makes use of more fragmented sentences and less emotional reactions. She suppresses her emotions quite a bit, I think, which I can tell by how they come up ever so slightly at some points during the chapter, particularly when relating to Ichiko's death and what's going to happen to her in the future. The dynamic between Pokémon getting plucked from their homes and having no say in it also relates to Pixie, but I like that they seem to differ in that Pixie's more assertive and Sakura just... goes with the flow and tries her best to suck it up.

    I agree with Amby, too, about Sakura not reacting much to the UB attack. You can tell it affects her, but it's like she's suppressing it in the moment, too, when that doesn't seem quite believable to me. A fight or flight response would probably go into maximum overdrive in an unexpected situation like that. Still, the violent scene is well written, and it broke my heart when Ichiko's father just accused Sakura of not protecting her well enough. That's gotta be a complex that 90% of trained Pokémon develop, I swear. :V

    Also...

    I see this method a lot, and it's the #1 reason why I just don't think it's feasible... at least, not throughout an entire battle. In downtme, sure, but yeah.
     
  10. Rediamond

    Rediamond Middle of nowhere

    Chapter Four: Route 2
    Part 3: Big Wave Beach


    A. Freaking. Plant.

    What did you do to deserve being replaced by a plant? You knew this was coming, but it’s frankly insulting that she chose to do it this way. Why? When did Skysong stop loving you? When you couldn’t guide her through Hau’oli on your own? When you got knocked out by Dirtface and she lost all of her stuff? When you abandoned her right before she collapsed? Or was it when you left her every night?

    …does it matter? The end result is the same. You had your second chance and you utterly failed. Again.

    That doesn’t mean you hate the plant any less. It doesn’t even seem to notice you baring your teeth at her on the other side of the seat. It’s lying just down, flicking its leaf back and forth idly.

    Skysong brought it in the night before. Kneeled down and talked slowly and calmly to it—like she had to you. That speech wasn’t even special! She just does it to everyone. And then the plant had the audacity to try and crawl up on your trainer’s chest at night. It even stayed there when you made things so cold that you got scolded for it. At some point it finally woke up and left to the bathroom where, and you can’t believe it, the plant actually flushed the human’s waste drain! Like, it went in the humans’ litter box and used it.

    And then it just came out like nothing had happened and pulled itself up with its vines. But you’d already covered your bases, spreading out your tails and stretching as far as you could. It leaves, it gives up its spot. Then it just sort of looked at you for a while before extending its vines, and, and—it picked you up! Just moved you off of Skysong entirely. Obviously you weren’t going to take that so you pounced and knocked it back onto the floor. You had very nearly beaten the plant so badly it would never challenge you again (while barely taking any damage yourself, of course) when suddenly Skysong withdrew both of you. Even though the plant had started it!

    And now you know it’s the beginning of the end. Skysong is firmly on the side of her dumb new pet. Even went down to the screen room to listen to some dull voice drone on about plant care. Sure, she gave you a (very short) walk and some food this morning, but that’s all she’s done to recognize you.

    Earthseer enters the room and Skysong doesn’t hear him. Dirtface is, well, it looks like running but she has to slow it down so she doesn’t over take Earthface. She’s right behind his heels as always.

    He taps Skysong on the shoulder and she flinches before reaching up to uncover one of her ears.

    “It’s Kekoa,” he says.

    “Oh, hello. How did the test go?”

    Earthseer bares his teeth. “I passed. Wasn’t even that much harder than the Class I exam. You’ll be fine.”

    “Congratulations! And I hope so. I can’t read or listen very fast but I’m trying.”

    Earthseer pulls out a seat (almost hitting you in the process) and sits down. “I’m going for my Class III in Hau’oli, so I’m back to cramming with you.”

    “That… seems quite sudden. Don’t you need more time?”

    “The professor is coming back today. He’s offered to help me out. And that’s still, what, two weeks away?”

    “If you think you can do it, then do it.”

    Earthseer sighs (with emphasis). “Thank you for the vote of confidence.”

    “You’re welcome.”

    For a while there’s quiet. Earthseer taps on some keys. Skysong listens to her pokédex. You glance at the other side of the chair and notice that the plant’s missing. You do a quick scan of the room and find her lying down by a window, fast asleep. Some guide plant she is. Dirtface is on her side and swatting at her own tail with her paws, sometimes trying to grip into it with her claws.

    You are surrounded by incompetent fools and will be left behind regardless. At least there’s Kalani, now. You aren’t sure how that will work since she has a trainer, but she at least wants you. Badly. It’s a nice change of pace. But there’s still a difference between leaving voluntarily and leaving because you failed your trainer so badly you got replaced.

    “Learn anything about chikorita?” Earthseer eventually asks.

    “Less than I wanted to. They only live in Japan. There is an English language Johto ‘dex, but it was… short. And very technical. Not much information I could understand out there.”

    Earthseer leans back and you have to flick your tails out of the way. “I went to school in Hoenn for a while. I can try and translate things, if you want. Different dialect, but it’s mostly the same.”

    Skysong smiles. “I would like that.”

    “Cool, cool. Just loan me your pokédex when you get a moment. I’ll download the full entry.”

    “Alright. And, um, you can look up rockruff while you’re using it. Or anything else you want to. I don’t mind.”

    “Thanks.”

    They go back to their studies. You idly glance to the window and see that the plant has picked itself up and moved again.

    Imagine that. The damn plant isn’t even good at standing still. Even though that’s their entire thing.

    Sometime later, long enough that you would have succumbed to a nap yourself if you were any less magnificently loyal, Kalani’s human walks into the room.

    “Hey, how’s it going?” he says, a little too loud for an enclosed space.

    “Fine,” Earthseer mutters.

    “…um, who is this?” Skysong asks.

    “Oh. Me. Professor Kukui. We met a few—”

    “I know who you are.” Skysong practically growls the reply.

    “Uh… did I do something wrong? If so, I’m, uh, I can try to make it up to you.”

    “Not you. Your ninetales,” Earthseer says.

    Kalani’s human smacks a forepaw against his face.

    “Sorry. She can be like that… yeah. Knew she wanted pups, should’ve figured she’d be clingy about it.”

    “I think you should take Pixie with you,” Skysong blurts out. Your eyes go wide and the room goes quiet and still. “It’s not that I hate her. Just. She’s happier with your ninetales.”

    You are most certainly—

    You don’t actually know. Are you? Does it matter?

    “Hmm. I’m concerned leaving you without a guide. Or a pokémon at all. A bit hard to power through the island challenge with your fists.” He smiles at the end. It annoys you. This is a very serious matter.

    The plant takes the opportunity to plod into view and show its horrid green face. Skysong reaches a forepaw down and the plant nuzzles it. Gross.

    “I got a new pokémon. She’s trained.”

    By you, apparently. Another little way you set up your downfall. Again.

    “I guess, just…”

    You yap. It doesn’t really have meaning in the way that human speech does. Just that you are present and have things to say.

    Skysong exhales, short and fast as her scent shifts. Annoyance. Anger… Sadness?

    “Can Pixie and I go outside and talk?”

    “Yeah,” there’s more pep in his speech than there was, “certainly.”

    Skysong reaches down for the leash, which you provide. When she stands and you lead her to the doors, the plant takes a tepid step forward before flicking its leaf and sitting down. Good. It knows its place.

    You lead her out of the center entirely and then some, taking her to the base of a large tree several human body lengths into the forest. This will be a private talk.

    “Sit,” you bark. And she does, folding her hindlegs and resting her forepaws in them.

    And then she just hangs her head and lets her mane fall down and she doesn’t say anything at all.

    So that falls to you. “Why?”

    She takes your pokéball out and runs her digits over it, sometimes pausing or slowing down but never stopping for long. “I’ve broken one promise. I would like to keep another.”

    And then she goes back to saying nothing at all. You settle down with your legs under your body and flick your tails to the side. There’s the sound of the wind rustling the trees. The scents of a few birds, some bugs. A handful of juvenile mammals and one adult one. The yellow-maned, long-bodied ones.

    “My father. He had power. Strength. Money. Food. He hurt me. And I thought that if I loved him and did everything he wanted he would stop. But he never did…” She holds up your pokéball in one paw so you can clearly see it. “I have this. And your food. And I can get you hurt. And it scares me.”

    “You have the plant’s ball,” you retort.

    “Yes, but… I know what she wants. What you want. She’s happier like this. You aren’t.”

    Her heartbeat skipped and her scent and breath changed on the last phrase. “Lies,” you growl.

    She releases the pokéball and it falls to the ground. “You like Kalani. She makes you happy. You want her. And I… I hate that. And I hate that I hate that because it means I don’t want you to be happy.” She reaches down and picks up the pokéball again. “I don’t want you to be happy and I have this. That should make you afraid.”

    “Why do you hate her?” you ask.

    For another moment there’s nothing but the sound of the leaves. When she finally speaks again, it’s barely louder than the background noise. “Because she reminds me of my dad.”

    Her scent shifts again, but not with lies. You hear her breaths, fast and shallow, over the leaves. Her limbs are shaking in place and the rest of her body is locked up. You get up and move right in front of her to look into her face. Through the dark glass you can see that her eyes are wide open and bloodshot.

    Panic attack. You were taught how to deal with these during your very brief stint as a therapy fox.

    You slowly climb up onto her hindlegs and start to curl up. At any moment she’ll reach out and start petting you and calm down and everything can go back to—

    There’s a stinging feeling on your side, the feel of air whipping through your fur, and then a dull pain as your body crashes into the ground and rolls over. It hurt. Not as much as one of Dirtface’s tackles, but you still felt it.

    You pick yourself up and look back. Skysong is holding one forepaw aloft, right in front of her face. Her body is still as a corpse, except for her lips. She’s constantly moving those open and shut but no sound escapes.

    Until, of course, it does.

    “Go.”



    Fine.

    It’s over.

    You’ll go.

    You turn around and sprint deeper and deeper into the woods, never pausing to think or feel until you’re thoroughly lost and tired and out of breath. Then you just collapse, letting your legs give out and your face hit the ground. There still aren’t really thoughts. Or feelings. Just a dull resonance with every other time you’ve been here.

    *​

    You watch as four of your siblings slink away, tails between their legs and heads hung low. It’s too warm down here. The ground is wet with snowmelt in the middle of the winter and you need to fluff air through your fur just to stay cool.

    You look over your shoulder at Mother, Firstborn and Fourthborn. Your remaining siblings are pressed against her tails to soak in the cold. Fourthborn averts her eyes when you look at her. Firstborn not only meets your gaze but puffs up her tails.

    Mother barely seems to notice you at all.

    You turn around and walk towards her. That gets a modicum of Mother’s attention. She steps forwards and spreads her tails out into a wall of fur.

    “Only two,” she barks. There’s no apology in it. Just a statement of facts.

    You lay down and whine. Yes, you know only two. But surely you’re better than Firstborn.

    Mother lowers her head and glares at you. When you don’t move she starts to growl. Not inquiry, but aggression. Yesterday she protected you and now she will attack you.

    There’s nothing wrong with that. No morality at all. Just the rule of the Moon. She made her statement and everyone else is left to get out of her way.

    You don’t move. She has asserted her intention. You will allow her wrath to pass.

    Ninetales seldom bluff. But when she picks you up in her jaws, she carriers you away rather than shaking and piercing you. It is an unneeded act of kindness. The closest thing to regret you could ever expect her to show.

    You’re grateful for it. Even when she sets you down in a thicket of sharp plants. Even when she turns around and runs back to her chosen children. It’s a sign that you’re not unlovable. You just aren’t loveable enough.

    * * *​

    Six days later you make your first kill. One of the strange orange-maned rodents, just a little smaller than you. Already starving when you ambushed it. Not sure you could have finished it off otherwise.

    You hate the taste and texture of fur in your mouth but it’s what you’ve got so you start trying to rip into the side and tearing the flesh back. You do so and are rewarded with the sweet, metallic taste of blood in your mouth and the sight of muscle and organ underneath. Just as you prepare to dig in, Fifthborn enters the clearing. He’s always been bigger than you and he looks like he’s eaten at least once in the last week.

    He growls aggression and you turn to leave. If you fought, you would lose and either be killed or be weakened too much to find new prey. He states intention and power, you get out of the way. Such is the way of the world.

    Four days later you’ve had nothing but half of a bird corpse you had to vomit up later the same morning. The prey down here are all faster and larger than you. Even the birds you’ve found managed to get out of the way of your slushballs or just shrug them off. One even dive bombed you and gave you a nasty, skin-breaking peck to the side that still hurts when you move.

    As if the pain and hunger and tiredness (however long you’ve slept) weren’t enough, it starts to rain. Hard. And constantly. The tree you’re under is doing absolutely nothing to protect you and your fur is thoroughly waterlogged. Things can’t get worse. So, despite everything you’ve been told about humans in your life, you’re going to seek out one of their abandoned caves to see if it’s drier.

    When you leave the tree the rain droplets hit hard and fast enough that they actually hurt when they shatter on your skin. But you keep going, doing your best to look down and move one set of paws. And then the next. Over and over again. There is only the next step.

    At some point you reach a dark stone path that’s broken off into cliffs. Gleaming grey icicles stick up from the among the stones. This will require some focus. You jump from one rock to the next. The leap is fine and the feel of wind in your fur is even a little exhilarating. But when your paws hit the ground the impact ripples up your body and through the tear on your skin. You flinch and seize up before slowly relaxing and looking around. You aren’t covered and the rain is still coming down. There is no cover on the rock you’re standing on. You have another two jumps to go until you reach the cave.

    You take a deep breath and run. The first impact hurts in your side and your legs and your skull but you pick yourself back up and take another leap. This time you fall on a sea full of tiny, sharp stones. You can feel them rise up through the creases on your paws and dig into the skin. You yap in pain and freeze up. Moving will hurt. Standing up hurts and is wet.

    You resolve to move. One step. Two steps. You can smell the blood seeping from your paws and feel the tears in your skin made worse with every step on the black, sharp stones. Thirty-seven steps and you’re inside. The interior is dark and smells like bats and… and many unfamiliar things. You look up at the ceiling and focus and, sure enough, you can catch the faint outline of bats. Including some bigger ones. The kind that could end you in one bite to the neck.

    It’s not worth picking a fight in here.

    There’s water on the floor and you want to get higher. Away from predators and harder to spot. You will yourself to take five more steps and a short leap up onto a strange plateau of wood and stone and… something like the icicles outside. And something else that’s smooth and even and unnatural.

    You aren’t alone up here. There’s a light-colored… thing. It’s outside looks like something between fur or skin, with dark spiraling marks etched into it in the shape of eyes. It has two long, jagged ears and a crooked, static mouth. All together, it looks like a ghastly parody of life.

    You take a slow step forward and sniff it. The scent isn’t something you can readily place. A little bit like the floating spheres of ice with long, white, ribbon-y tails. The ones that evolve from the strange yellow and black triangles of ice that live on the ground. Mother said that they are vessels of death.

    Ninetales are also vessels of death. When Mother or Father dies, one of the two chosen children is taken to the peak and blessed by the Moon. But Mother said that these gifts are to help ninetales guide the living, and the other… things, they guide the dead.

    Is this something like that? There’s a similar scent around the entire place.

    You pull back. You can’t hear a heartbeat from inside of it. Or breath. Doesn’t smell like meat, either. It was either never alive or has been dead so long that there’s nothing left but the fur.

    …you want fur. Even if it’s not warm or cold fur you want to be wrapped against something. You take a step closer and sit down, leaning against it. Just as your eyes start to close, you feel something snake under you and you bolt back awake to see a lone black tendril wrapping itself up and around your body.

    You look up to see the ‘head’ bent over. Under the skin you can feel muscles moving, not as one but against each other, like there are dozens of snakes writhing.

    And yet… the tendril isn’t squeezing you hard. It’s just applying pressure. It feels nice. And you know you should be terrified, but you’re starving and bleeding and wet and if this is a predator? Fine. You’ll face your death asleep.

    *​

    You didn’t notice yourself nodding off until you’re woken from your sleep. You shake yourself off and look up. The world is shadowy. Moonrise or moonset. The air currents say moonrise. You catch a scent and immediately snap your head around. Kalani is resting in the clearing, legs beneath her body.

    She growls inquiry.

    “Human left,” you respond.

    Kalani’s fur rises and her ears perk up. You even catch the very beginning of a purr before she catches herself. Then she rises to her paws and walks over to you. She circles your body once before sitting down beside you, her tails flicked to the side so that they cover you up.

    “Good. No vulpix should be human-raised.”

    You pause, distracted for a moment by her radiant fur and cold. There’s actual frost under your paws right now. And for that alone you almost absent-mindedly agree with her.

    But there’s one reservation rattling around in your mind, like a treat inside of a ball.

    “Liked her,” you say.

    Kalani huffs and a burst of cold air swirls out from all of her tails at once, creating a frosty vortex right above your back. “Gave food. Didn’t harm. Very basics of mothering. Far more to it.”

    You flinch and she feels it. She inquiry growls.

    “…hurt. Tried to hurt. Once.”

    She grows, low and deep. The vibrations run through her body and into yours until your breath sounds almost the same. It’s the most serious of all threat growls.

    No dominance displays. No maiming. Just an intent to kill.

    You only heard Mother growl death once, when a two-heads murdered Secondborn and Seventhborn before trying to take out Firstborn. And Mother did fight the deadliest predator on The Mountain and kill it, because the death growl is the closest thing ninetales have to promises. A statement of intention to kill, executed with all of your strength, whatever the costs.

    You interject. “Just discipline. Hurt her. Told me no.”

    Kalani’s words flow seamlessly from her growl. “She had no right.”

    Fine. You’ll beg.

    “Please don’t kill her. Is good human.”

    She barks, sudden and loud and angry. “Left you. Hurt you. No good humans.”

    And… those first two things are true, aren’t they? Yet… you don’t want Mother did. Or even Hummy. They helped you, until they didn’t. And in both cases—all three now—well, you played a role. You weren’t good enough to stay and that’s not their fault.

    You know what you have to do. Ninetales don’t make promises. But you have… some power. There’s something she wants.

    “I leave if you kill human.”

    You feel a wave of confidence as you bark and growl the phrase, followed by an immediate feeling of panic. This makes you unlikeable, doesn’t it? She’ll remember this when she finds other pups she can adopt. You can’t be the only two abandoned vulpix in human care.

    Kalani says nothing for a moment. And then she rises up on her front legs and howls her acceptance to the Moon. It’s the same way that territory understandings are made. Not a promise, but a promise that it won’t be violated without notification that the old agreement is unacceptable.

    It’s… something.

    Kalani settles back down.

    “You were raised by the sea. In heat. Your name is Bright-Stone.” The hard, shiny, cold material that humans put on their buildings in machines. “You are my pup.”
     

Share This Page