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Hardy

Discussion in 'Fan Fiction' started by Psychic, Oct 15, 2018.

  1. Psychic

    Psychic Really and truly Staff Member Moderator

    I wrote a thing! I joined the Pokemon Amino awhile back, and they were holding a fic contest, whose theme was changing opinions or perspectives. I got a pretty simple idea that wound up being way longer than I had intended, but I rather like it, and I hope others do, too! As always feedback is always welcome and appreciated! Thanks for reading!

    Hardy


    Worthless.

    I came to recognize the word from an early age. Since the day I hatched, I heard it flung at me dismissively, disdainfully, with a sneer or an eye roll or a laugh. I could hardly go anywhere without being ridiculed for merely existing.

    I never really understood it. I may not be a strong battler, or very fast, or a good swimmer, or particularly smart. But we’re a hardy, fertile, hard-working bunch that could probably outlive just about any fish in the lake. And I like to think I’m friendly, if folks would just give me a chance.

    But I could hardly even approach other fish. I swear, the moment they noticed my orange scales coming near, they would turn their backs and leave. Sometimes, it seemed like they wanted me to hear their jeers as they swam away. It’s hard to make friends if nobody will even give you a chance.

    I spent a lot of time in schools with my own kind. At least we understood each other – we all experienced the same thing, no matter where we swam. But nobody wanted to talk about it. My parents would glance at one another and change the subject, and my siblings would just say to stick to the school if I didn’t like it. And nobody else seemed to want to spend time with the fish who talked about how nobody seems to like us. At least I didn’t have to endure the bullying in the school, but pretending it didn’t happen didn’t feel all that much better. It felt like I was doomed to be miserable no matter what I did.

    The lake was feeling smaller and smaller by the day. Whether with other fish Pokemon, my own kind, or on my own, it was hard to escape the loneliness.

    Things weren’t so bad by the surface. Everyone considered it a dangerous place, full of too many unknowns and risks. But I liked it. The world there was bigger than just the lake, even if it was filled with dangers in both the sky and on land. But it was different, and a distraction from the loneliness.

    The scariest part was all the birds, swooping and diving through the air, catching other fish in their talons and carrying them far away. It was terrifying, and at first I ducked under the surface any time one of them even looked in my general direction. But when they saw me, they squawked and laughed just like the fish did. I wasn’t even worth hunting.

    Emboldened, I spent more and more of my days on the surface, watching the goings-on between gulps of water. I saw humans, and learned they were the ones responsible for the danger hooks my parents taught us to stay away from since I was a hatchling. Like us, humans engaged in sport battles, and when a fish appeared, they would command their Pokemon to battle them in order to get stronger. But if they deemed the fish worthy, the humans would capture them and bring them on their journey. They would become stronger together.

    I started to wonder...could a human find me worthy enough to bring on their journey? Could they see the potential the other fish didn’t?

    Sometimes, Pokemon approached humans when they wanted to become stronger. If they could do it, why couldn’t I?

    After watching humans interacting with the other fish for a long time, I finally worked up the courage to try. This would be my day. My chance to get away from the ridicule and the silence.

    I poked my head out the surface early on a spring morning, the brisk air cool on my scales, and watched the humans arriving and settling in for the day. This was it, I was going to approach a human, and they would take me with them. I would leave behind the lake and everyone who didn’t believe in me.

    I waited all morning until the sun was high in the sky, and I decided to go for it. There was a human boy who had been sitting on a pier at the edge of the lake all morning, his feet dangling in the water. He had been bringing in fish on the danger hooks, battling them, and releasing them back into the water since sunrise. He could be my future, my escape from this place. And I was ready to leave. I took a big gulp of water, steeled myself, and swam over to look him right in the eye.

    “Karp!” I wheezed in the wide, open air, doing my best to sound insistent.

    The boy looked away from his pole and gave me a brief glance. “Ugh, a Magikarp?” he groaned. My heart sunk. “Not even worth the battle experience. Shoo, goo away, you’re scaring off the good fish,” he said, kicking his feet in the water and splashing at me. It had just enough force that I couldn’t help getting swept backwards, back towards the middle of the lake.

    “Gull gull-gull!” The sound made my heart leap into my throat and my muscles tense with fear. My head snapped upwards as the high-pitched laugh rang out through the midday air. A Wingull was wheeling through the sky, its beady eyes fixed on me, screeching laughter ringing in my ears. I released the breath I hadn’t realized I was holding, but it took a moment for my heart to stop hammering as I recognized I wasn’t in danger, just being mocked. My skin flushed red under my scales.

    I did my best to ignore it and return to the task at hand. Okay, so that one human didn’t want me, that was fine. There were a dozen others here I could try.

    A young woman sat on the shore, taking big bites of a human food sandwich. Maybe if she caught me, she would let me try some.

    Emboldened by the thought of food, I swam over, inflated my lungs, and wheezed another “Karp!”

    “Ugh, another Magikarp?” she groaned. “Aren’t there any decent Pokemon in this lake?” she muttered, and turned away, sandwich still in hand.

    The screeching laughter from the sky made me flinch yet again. I reflexively turned to look up again; there were now two Wingull overhead. All right, just approach someone else.

    I swam up to two younger girls sitting together, chatting and laughing loudly. “Karp,” I said.

    The girls stopped to stare at me. “You could battle it for experience,” the one with pink hair said.

    The one with the brown hair scrunched her face up and stuck out her tongue. “Why don’t you battle it?”

    “Pass,” said the first, and the two girls giggled.

    Again, the squawking laughter from above, and it was louder, now. I looked up to see three Wingull looking down at me this time. I told myself it didn’t matter – I had to keep trying.

    “Gimme a break, I don’t have time for Magikarp,” a girl squeaked, rolling her eyes.

    A boy shook his head no before I could even open my mouth.

    “Not worth it,” said a girl, turning away.

    With each attempt and each rejection, my muscles tired and the laughter grew. A small flock of Wingull was forming overhead, circling through the air to watch and mock me. At least I wasn’t flinching every time I heard their screeching anymore. I just had to do my best to ignore them and keep trying.

    The day continued on like this, until the sun started setting and the humans left, one by one. Eventually, the crowd of Wingull left, too, now that their entertainment was gone. The day was over, and I hadn’t had any luck. At least most of the humans acknowledged me, which was more than I could say for a lot of my other encounters, so it wasn’t so bad. But it still hurt. I would just have to try again tomorrow.

    I returned the next morning bright and early, ready to try again. Just because I wasn’t lucky yesterday didn’t mean today wouldn’t be my day. While I did recognise a few humans from yesterday, there were quite a few new ones, too. As I honed in on my first human, I noticed one of the Wingull from yesterday perched nearby, watching me with interest. Likely ready to mock me again. Except that today, I wound find just the right human.

    I chose a somewhat older man by the water, another danger hook in his hands, a Roselia by his side. Face set with determination, I swam up to him, and gave my insistent “Karp!” with the newfound vigour of a new day. The Roselia immediately turned to a battle stance, petal hands at the ready.

    “Hm? Sorry, little ‘Karp, we’re busy right now,” he said regretfully, patting the Roselia. The flower Pokemon glanced back and forth between his trainer and me, until eventually lowering his arms.

    In spite of myself, I was started by the screeching Wingull laugh again. The seagull Pokemon circled above me, taunting. No matter, I just had to try again. The day was young.

    “Go away, you pest,” a girl groaned before I could even get near.

    “Don’t even think about it,” said a young man, sneering.

    Nearby, a Remoraid shot a jet of water into a Poochyena’s face on land, soaking its black fur and making it whine piteously. It was pretty impressive – I couldn’t do anything like that, and I wasn’t even sure Magikarp could do much offensively aside from fling themselves at an opponent. But that was why I had to join a human, right? To find someone who could teach me to do stuff like that.

    The dog Pokemon’s trainer threw a Pokeball at the Remoraid, which absorbed him into the ball on contact. As she bent down to pick up the Pokeball, I saw my opportunity. Here was a human who appreciated fish Pokemon!

    “Karp!” I cried as I swam over to look up at her hopefully.

    “Oh,” she said, noticing me for the first time. “Sorry, I just caught a water-type Pokemon, I don’t need another,” she apologized, and hurried away, Pokeball in hand and Poochyena barking and bounding after her.

    The same laughter from overhead. No matter, I just had to keep trying.

    “Not another Magikarp,” a boy said as he rolled his eyes.

    “I know you’ve approached everyone here already, and I appreciate your determination, but...sorry, no.” The lady shook her head. All the while, the Wingull laughed.

    As the day ended and another began, I fell into a rhythm. Wake up, spend my days on the surface, endure the barrage of rejection, go home, and do it all again. I even tried engaging some partnered Pokemon in battle sometimes, but their humans usually held them back. I wasn’t worth even that. Still, I had to keep trying, and I did. Day after day, I approached humans, tried to get their attention, got ignored or mocked, and moved on to the next one, all while the Wingull screeched and laughed while they watched.

    The days started blending together, and soon I lost track of how long I had been doing this. My family worried about me, but getting them to talk about it was like pulling scales. They said I should stop, but they didn’t even want to talk about why I was doing it in the first place.

    “Volbeat, just make it go away with Confuse Ray,” a girl said lazily on a new day that felt very much the same as every other. A red firefly Pokemon at her side shot a dazzling, bouncing ball of light towards me. I flinched, but watched, mesmerized, as it floated towards me, unable to take my eyes off it. Was this my first Pokemon battle? If it was, I was ready!

    The next thing I knew, I was floating on my side a considerable distance away from the girl and her Pokemon, dazed and disoriented. My muscles ached, and my skin stung from where I had evidently slapped myself with my own fins, which I had managed to cut on my scales. Repeatedly.

    “Gull-gull!” a chorus of screeching laugh rang out from over my head. I couldn’t stop myself looking up to the beating to pale, blue-stripes wings above me.

    “Sillybeast, Magikarp are worthless!” a Wingull laughed from the sky.

    “What human wants such a useless Pokemon?” another jeered.

    “A Magikarp that thinks it’s worth something! Pathetic!” said another, diving down and swooping past with enough force to send me rolling helplessly along the water’s surface.

    My heart hammering, I dove under the surface away from their reach, where the water thankfully muffled their screeching. I looked up to see their distorted forms circling through the air above me tauntingly. My muscles were frozen, and I stayed there watching their shapes cast shadows on the water as they wheeled about, until they started peeling off one by one. I guess it’s less fun to taunt someone if they can’t hear you.

    Finally, the last Wingull had left, and it seemed safe to come up again. My face breached the surface, and I realized the sun had started setting, and the sky was darkening. Most of the humans had already left, ending another day of my search. At least the Wingull no longer filled the sky over the lake. I breathed a sigh of relief.

    “Sorry about them.”

    I spun around, and saw one last a Wingull, her wings folded, perched on a piece of nearby driftwood. Her feathers were ruffled and dirty, her toenails digging into the wood were overgrown, and she had a definite croak to her voice.

    “O-oh,” was all I could think to say. Nobody had ever apologized to me before. Or really spoken to me at all, come to think of it. And this was a Wingull, a predator.

    “It really wasn’t very nice, and I tried to tell ‘em off. But you know how Wingull flocks get,” she said.

    I didn’t, but I wasn’t about to admit it. “Right.”

    “But anyway, I don’t know what you expect,” she said, preening the firty feathers under one wing. “She would’ve just beat you up anyway, and you wouldn’t have stood a chance. You’re just a Magikarp.”

    “I know,” I murmured, sinking below the surface until only me eyes peeked out.

    “What were you hoping for, anyway?” She looked at me with bright, beady eyes.

    I paused. I hadn’t really said it out loud before, never mind told anyone. “W-well, I was hoping she would catch me,” I said. It came out a lot more meekly than I had intended. It sounded hopeless, really. Embarrassing.

    The Wingull stared at me, her black-tipped beak agape. Her brows furrowed. “Really?” She didn’t sound convinced.

    “Yeah. Everyone turns away the moment they see me. I thought I might find a human who saw me as...” I trailed off as I searched for the words.

    “Worth something?” she finished. I nodded. I looked down at my own reflection in the water, my white whiskers floating on the surface. Did it really sound that pathetic?

    My eyes darted to and from the Wingull hopelessly. She didn’t say anything, looking me up and down and sizing me up. I might have worried she was considering eating me, but maybe I was just getting tired.

    “I get it if you want to leave, Wingull.” I murmured.

    “I’m in no hurry to return to an empty nest, Magikarp,” she said matter-of-factly.

    “Oh. Sorry.” So now I was reminding her of that. Great.

    “Don’t be,” she snapped. She looked up at the darkening sky. “I’ve been around the bend a few times. I’ve hatched more nestlings than I can count by now. I’ve flown across this region, even after my mate passed. I’ve seen a few things in my day,” she said slowly, a bittersweet note in her voice. She turned back to me with bright black eyes. “You Magikarp are a hardy lot if ever I saw one, and I’ve seen a few. You’ve been at this for some time now, and haven’t stopped even with all the rejection and mockery. It’s quite something.”

    “I’ll do it again tomorrow if I have to,” I said quickly. “And the day after. And the day after that. I’ll keep trying until I find a human who takes me with them.” Eventually, my persistence would pay off. Until then, I was ready to approach as many dozens or even hundreds of humans it took until one of them saw my potential and caught me.

    “I like your spunk, Magikarp, but I don’t think the outcome will change,” she croaked, staring at me with her beady eyes. “Humans don’t want Magikarp.”

    I looked back down at the water, seeing the rejection in my face reflected back at me. I was ready to keep trying. I was ready to go on for as long as I had to. Even this wasn’t as bad as what I faced below the surface – the rejection from other fish, the silence from fellow Magikarp, the loneliness if I avoided both. At least doing this, I would eventually find a human that brought me onto their team and took them on their journey. At least then things would change, right?

    Unless this Wingull was right, and no human ever chose me. It was hard to believe – I had always been taught that persistence was key. That was how our kind had thrived, after all – by trying and trying, no matter how hard it was or how long it took. But then, I had been trying to make friends with other fish for so long, and that never went anywhere. Would humans be any different?

    “But,” the Wingull said, so softly I almost didn’t hear her. I looked up to see her face scrunched up in thought. “They might want a Gyarados.”

    I almost laughed, but I was intimately familliar with feeling of being laughed at all my life, so I held it in. “The beings the elders talk about? Aren’t those about as real as Kyogre?”

    “I don’t know of this Kyogre, but Gyarados are real. I haven’t seen them in the wild before, but I have seen them battle alongside humans.”

    “What? You’ve seen them?” was all I could get out. Gyarados were a legend, a folktale. Only the hardiest of Magikarp could dream of someday evolving into one. And yet even though every Magikarp I knew was hardier than the last, they were all still Magikarp. You had to be pretty gullible to believe in such a tale.

    And yet they’re supposedly out there, enough of them that a passing Wingull’s seen them.

    “They’re a rare sight, but I’ve seen ‘em. And they supposedly come from Pokemon like you.”

    The idea that an ordinary Magikarp could evolve into massive sea serpent whose mere presence demands respect, and even fear, had always seemed like just another story to tell hatchlings. A part of passing on our values of persistence and hard work.

    “Magikarp aren’t worth much,” she observed. “But Gyarados are another story. If you were to evolve and become one, well, I’m sure you’d have humans fighting over you.”

    My pulse quickened. Like this, I couldn’t get a human to even pay attention to me. The idea of anyone fighting over me was beyond enamouring. Nobody wants a lowly Magikarp, but if I were to become something great, everyone would see my potential, maybe the potential of all Magikarp. We would no longer be ignored or mocked. My heart felt a little lighter.

    “That would be amazing,” I murmured, feeling a tightness in my throat. I hoped she didn’t notice.

    From there, she explained that in order to evolve, I would have to train to become stronger. With enough training, I would gain the energy to make that push and become a Gyarados. It was an intimidating thought, but enamouring as well. Maybe it was silly, and maybe I was just chasing fairy-tales, but I wanted to believe it, and believe I was capable of doing it.

    Wingull asked me to meet her on the secluded edge of the lake first thing in the morning in three days’ time. She promised to do what she could to help me with my training. I thanked her over and over, hardly able to believe it. She said to save it for that day.

    I spent the next three days hardly able to contain my excitement. I tried to tell my family about my encounter, but they either didn’t believe me or didn’t care. It did sound ridiculous, didn’t it? A Magikarp thinking it could get strong, thinking it could evolve into a Gyarados. I couldn’t bring up that last part without being laughed at by even my fellow Magikarp. I stopped mentioning Gyarados, and remained determined to make it happen, but I started to wonder if I really had just hallucinated all that. Maybe that Volbeat’s confusion-inducing attack really did make me see things.

    By sunrise on the third day, I emerged into the cold morning air at the spot Wingull had mentioned, sure that nothing would happen. As I looked up at the pink shy, clouds crawling by and wind whistling through my scales, I knew it was too good to be true. But I had to see, just in case.

    As the sky took on a blueish hue, my doubt grew. What was I expecting, anyway? If I was going to get stronger, I had to do it on my own. I had already wasted three days I could have spent training, come to think of it. Not that I really knew what I was supposed to be doing, but still. I was wasting my time. And that was all assuming she was telling the truth, anyway – I knew I should just get back to approaching the growing number of humans around the lake. Yet in spite of the doubt, I was too stubborn to leave.

    When I heard the flapping of wings from above, I winced, expecting to hear the sounds of screeching laughter yet again. Instead, I heard a familliar voice. “Hello, Magikarp.”

    Wingull was back, and now she was joined by a Pelipper, the sun reflecting off her huge bill. My heart raced at the sight of it – that pelican could easily swoop down and swallow me in one gulp if she wanted. My body screamed at me to swim away as fast as I could, but I was frozen.

    Wingull must have seen my eyes widen and jaw drop, because she quickly hopped in front of the Pelipper. “No need to be afraid, little Magikarp! This is my daughter. She’s here to help you with training.”

    “If you’ll have me,” the Pelipper said jovially. “Sorry about the scare. I won’t eat you or anything. My mother just asked me if I would help a desperate little Magikarp. With my youngest nestlings gone and my nest empty, it seemed a nice way to put my training to use.”

    “Your training?” I finally managed to squeak now that my pulse was slowing. “Does that mean...?”

    “Oh, yes, I travelled with a human Pokemon trainer for some time,” she said brightly. “I don’t know as much as humans do, but I can certainly try to help. And you can call me Ferry, if you like.”

    “Well, you’ll always be my little nestling to me,” Wingull croaked, preening her much larger daughter’s feathers. Ferry laughed.

    “Of course, Mom,” she said, nuzzling her feathery white face against her mother’s much dirtier one. She turned to preen her wing a moment before looking at me. My heart jumped yet again. I had to remind myself this Pokemon was a predator, and that this was a normal reaction. The fact that I wasn’t running away from this obvious danger was the weird thing, not the other way around.

    “Now, I never trained with a Magikarp before, so I’m not an expert. The closest thing we had on my team was a Carvanha, so I can try and carry over what I remember from their training to you, and that should help you in your quest to evolve and find a human trainer,” she said.

    I didn’t know what a Carvanha was, but I wasn’t going to let these worldly Pokemon see just how small my life seemed to be compared to them. “Sure,” I said, hoping my nervousness wasn’t showing.

    “We’ll work on training your speed, strength, and endurance,” she explained. Wingull nodded along, every bit the proud mother. “What attacks do you know?”

    Something heavy dropped into the pit of my stomach, and my skin flushed under my scales. “Attacks? Um...”

    “Show me,” Ferry said, flying over and landing on top of the water just a few feet away.

    “O-okay,” I said, trying to fight back my nerves. She didn’t call this a real battle, but it would be the closest thing I had ever had to one. I didn’t know much about battling, but I would try my best! I readied myself, my muscles tensing, my heart hammering in my chest.

    “You can do it!” Wingull shouted from the sidelines. I couldn’t help but brighten up a little. I gave her a determined nod in return. I could do this. It was time to prove myself.

    “Karp!” I cried, launching myself out of the water to tackle Ferry with all my might. Scales connected with feathers and skin, and I landed back in the water with a plop. My heart was still beating quickly – I had never really gotten to try that out on another Pokemon before. I was kind of exhilarating.

    I looked up at Ferry to gauge her reaction. She didn’t look hurt, which was admittedly a relief. She looked surprised, which seemed like a good thing, though perhaps not exactly impressed.

    “All right,” she said slowly. “I think that was a tackle. Show me what else you’ve got!”

    “Go, Magikarp!” Wingull shouted yet again. I gave her another nod.

    I got some distance between the two of us, and readied myself yet again. That was kind of the main thing I knew how to do. I knew a small variant on the move, but it didn’t tend to work all that well most of the time. Still, it was worth a shot.

    “Karp!” I cried again, this time flinging myself into her body, kicking my tail quickly in an effort to do more damage. I plopped back into the water, and immediately looked to her again. Even with her huge, hard-to-read beak, the Pelipper looked to be frowning.

    “Okay, I think that’s called flail,” she said, trying to hide her waning enthusiasm and not doing a very good job of it. “It actually gets stronger the weaker you get. Show me more!”

    “I…don’t think I have much else,” I admitted, unable to quite look at her. “Um, maybe, is this an attack?” I asked. I flopped onto my side and commenced oscillating my body frantically, splashing in the water and sending droplets flying in all directions. After a few seconds, I stopped, panting a little, and looked up at her hopefully.

    “It might be, maybe I just haven’t seen it before.” That seemed hard to believe. “What else can you do?”

    “I think that’s it,” I admitted. I didn’t know how to do anything else. I had kinda thought this would be enough. Now it seemed somewhat pathetic.

    “It’s a start,” she said carefully. “You’ll probably learn more attacks as you get stronger.” Wingull nodded.

    I almost mentioned that I had never seen any other Magikarp using any other attacks, but I thought better of it. Maybe she was right, since I didn’t see other Magikarp do much training to become stronger, so it would be hard for them to learn anything else. Maybe I would come to learn more than three – or two and a half – attacks in my journey to evolve and join a human.

    From there, Ferry started me on a strict training regimen. It started with swimming laps across the lake, using my attacks on inanimate objects, and having to endure attacks Ferry threw at me. As a mostly sedentary fish that had always spent more of my time thinking than using my body in any way, it was a lot to get used to. It seemed hard to believe that this would make me strong enough to evolve, but Ferry had the discipline and confidence most wild Pokemon lacked, and I trusted her. At first, other Wingull came to gawk and laugh, but Ferry chased them off, to my great relief. Eventually, they got bored of watching from afar, and left us to our training. We started at first light every morning, stopping for breaks as needed to catch my breath and get some energy back, and went late into the afternoons.

    Every evening, I returned home absolutely exhausted. I kept myself going with dreams of evolving into a powerful Gyarados, and being so awe-inspiring that I could go up to any human and know they’d catch me immediately. But none of that could drown out the aches in all my muscles, the irritation of my skin from where I was missing scales, and the many bruises and callouses. My family was horrified at first, both because of my haggard look and because I was talking to predators. They were sure it was a trap, and if it wasn’t, that I was chasing a silly dream that would amount to nothing. Why didn’t I just focus on finding a mate, or anything other than this useless nonsense? I eventually had to tell them if they couldn’t say anything nice, then I wouldn’t talk to them. I stopped hearing from a lot of my siblings after that.

    Throughout our training, Ferry explained why we were doing this or that, and Wingull cheered me on. Sometimes it seemed pointless, like I wasn’t making any progress. Every day I went home more drained than the last, wondering if this would really make me stronger. But in spite of the exhaustion and feeling of hopelessness, I couldn’t help but look forward to training every day. I liked hearing the Pelipper’s wisdom, and I enjoyed Wingull’s friendliness and her cheers. The two had both had such rich, exciting lives, and even being next to them was exciting by default. I think they enjoyed being together, too. Sometimes I wondered if training me was just an excuse for them to spend time together.

    As the days and weeks wore on, Ferry increased the workload, making me swim more laps and demanding I push myself to go faster, showing me ways to better increase the strength of my attacks and making me go again and again, and using stronger and more potent attacks on me, which she made me start to try and dodge. We didn’t say it out loud, but it soon became clear that I wasn’t learning any new attacks any time soon, so we focused on what I could do instead. We even worked on my splash attack by making me leap out of the water, aiming to jump higher each time. She then started making me dodge attacks in mid-air, which seemed bizarre until she pointed out that a fish out of water was vulnerable to attack, but unexpected. It did seem like a surefire way to land myself in a Pidgeotto’s claws. When I asked if battling would be a part of my training, she said sparring would come once I was ready.

    Every few days was what Ferry called a rest day, where we didn’t train, but she said that wasn’t an excuse to slack off. She instructed me to watch the other Pokemon at the lake, both the wild ones and those accompanied by trainers. Watch them battle, watch them hunt, even watch the way they swim. At first, she showed me what to look out for, and once I got the hang of it she sometimes took those days off from training me, and instructed me to figure it out on my own. Sometimes, Wingull stayed with me on those rest days, and sometimes she joined her daughter.

    Wingull was clearly happy to have Ferry back from wherever she’d been nesting. Sometimes, while I was training or while we were observing other Pokemon, I could hear them talking quietly but enthusiastically about their lives. Ferry asked about her siblings, and sometimes about her late father, and Wingull asked about Ferry’s chicks (her grand-chicks, I realized), and sometimes about Ferry’s time with her human. Those were always my favourite stories. Sometimes, when Ferry was talking about her training days, her eyes would glaze over and she wouldn’t notice me joining in the conversation to ask questions and marvel at her tales. I tried to take fewer breaks over time, but this was always the exception. When Ferry talked about her journey, I had to hear everything. About the people and Pokemon they met, the places they visited, the battles and challenges they endured. It all felt so far away, and yet only just out of reach. All I had to do was evolve and get out of here.

    I often found myself asking about her encounters with Gyarados. It was still hard to believe that these creatures of legend really existed, but she spoke of them like she did any other Pokemon. Ferry had come across three in her journey, each more powerful and intimidating than the last. They were near unstoppable, the way she described them, in both a good and a bad way. Their raw ferocity was unmatched, and they left even the most confident of Pokemon shaking when they first materialized on a battlefield (Ferry included). But they were angry creatures, and two of them lost control at least once during battle, and the last Gyarados’s rage emanated off of her so strongly that she looked ready to burst any moment. Wingull had had less up close experiences with Gyarados, usually opting to give them a wide berth, but even from afar they emenated power and struck fear into the hearts of all. Every Gyarados either had encountered had come very close to hurting humans and Pokemon alike. It sounded to me like both would be content if they never met another in their life. I tried to tell myself that I wouldn’t be like that when I evolved, and focus on my dream of becoming so strong a human would recognize my worth and take me with them to travel the world. But it seemed almost inevitable that I would be just like them. I would just have to do my best.

    Spring turned to summer, and soon enough, Ferry was making me swim laps while simultaneously dodging her attacks. If she got directly in my way, I had to tackle or flail into her. It was particularly satisfying if it happened near the end of a training session, when I was most tired. She was right – my flail really was more powerful the more tired I was from training. I had just never had the chance to notice before, since I had never really pushed myself to the point where I got that exhausted. I was starting to feel something rising inside me, the beginnings of something strong and powerful. I couldn’t reach it just yet, but it was there all the same. I thought about my goal to become a Gyarados, and knew that would somehow be a part of it. I knew I just had to keep working.

    Ferry’s mate, a Swellow named Bastion, visited sometimes. He didn’t like to leave the nest unguarded for long periods, maybe in case one of their chicks ever came home to visit. He had also been on a human trainer journey, though he didn’t have as much experience as Ferry. He had encountered one Gyarados on his journey, and mostly just said he was relieved that he didn’t have to battle it. It was simply huge, with a piercing glare he dared not stare at directly. His team-mates, who had been bolder, said they regretting it.

    Still, Bastion had also trained with fish Pokemon, and was able to give me a few pointers to improve my technique. Ferry also made me dodge and endure attacks from him sometimes, which was an interesting change of pace. His attacks were always more precise than hers, though he didn’t have the same control over their strength and accuracy as she did. When I finally got up the courage to point this out, his face reddened under his feathers, and Ferry pointed out that my even noticing that meant my training was paying off. My heart soared.

    Finally, we got to battling. Wingull cheered for both of us as she watched from the sidelines, and Ferry and I exchanged blows from water and sky. With each match, the thing inside me seemed to pulse and grow, even when I didn’t feel like I had performed all that well. I was disappointed to realize that Ferry was holding back even now, even after all this time, but it quickly became clear that I needed it. I still hadn’t learned any new attacks, which was intensely frustrating. My attacking options were basically to tackle her over and over until I got tired, and then flail about and hope to do a bit more damage. Unfortunately, Pelipper excel at distance attacks, so I had to spend most battles just dodging her until she was close enough to get a hit in. As much as I had been looking forward to battles, the real thing turned out to be a bit of a flop.

    I started really looking forward to Bastion’s visits, both because battling him was a nice change of pace, and because he was more of a physical attacker like me. It felt more like sparring with him – our battles were more of a dance of trading and dodging blows. The air above me whizzed as he zipped back and forth, and I had to find openings to launch myself out of the water to slam into his body. Unlike with Ferry, we both tended to be exhausted by the end of a sparring session. Maybe it was partially because he just didn’t have the same experience and endurance as his mate, but it made me feel a swell of pride regardless.

    I started to realize I really was making progress. I was able to train for longer periods of time without breaks. I could swim more laps, and jump higher in the air. I was no longer getting swept away by every small current or gust of wind in my way. My attacks were actually making Ferry and Bastion wince, and I wasn’t the only one nursing wounds at the end of our matches. Their attacks didn’t hurt the way they used to, even as they stopped holding back as much. Was this some small taste of what it felt like to be a Gyarados? The thing inside me was growing day by day, and I could feel the strength of it beckoning me.

    Even my family started to notice. I was faster than most of my peers, and could take more than them, too. Once, when I was swimming along with a couple of my nieces and nephews, a particularly large Whiscash passed by a little too close, and the force of the displaced water swept them up and sent them tumbling. Without even thinking, I quickly swam around to get behind them, stabilizing and righting them in the water. The hatchlings were so impressed and excited, and kept asking me how I was so fast and strong. My brother and his mate quickly swam over to make sure they were all okay, and gave a quick, nervous thanks before taking their little ones and swimming home. Word must have spread fast, because soon more of my siblings were approaching me and asking how I did it. I wound up saying they could come and check out my training to see, if they wanted. They seemed unsure – they had all heard that I was collaborating with predators, up by the dangers of the surface. I didn’t actually think any of them would wind up accepting my offer, but I told them where to find us anyway.

    The next morning, while leaving home on my way to training as usual, I was intercepted by a half dozen family members. They sheepishly admitted that they wanted to see me train, but were too nervous about the predators and other dangers. So, I put on a friendly face and invited them to come with me, and together we went to meet the birds waiting for us at the surface.

    Wingull, Ferry, and Bastion were clearly surprised to see me with a bunch of other Magikarp in tow – I probably should have asked them first if it was okay to bring spectators, but it seemed a bit late for regrets. The three of us spoke quickly in hushed tones, and I apologized and explained what had happened. Both were thrilled to hear that my training had come in handy, and that other Magikarp were enthusiastic about the idea of it.

    “I think it’s time for you to show them what a Magikarp can do,” Ferry said conspiratorially, a mischievous grin on her face. The other two agreed.

    That day was a bit less about real training as it was about showing other Magikarp what I had learned. Over the course of the day, more and more Magikarp tentatively poked their heads above the water to watch as I cut across the lake, leaped through the air, dodged attacks and gave a few of my own. Every so often I turned to see wide eyes and slack jaws, or I heard a choir of quiet gasps. By the afternoon, a small crowd of Magikarp had gathered to watch, speaking in low murmurs sometimes reaching crescendos of excitement.

    It was exhilarating – I had kind of taken my newfound strength for granted, but it really was unusual for a Magikarp in our lake. They were truly impressed, even by the little things like swimming a few laps without a break. I couldn’t keep the grin off my face for the whole day. Even the three birds seemed to be getting a kick out of the positive attention.

    At the end of the day, Ferry pulled me aside, and the four of us huddled together. “Magikarp, if you have the energy for it, I think they might like to see a battle,” she said, a glint in her eye. She turned to her mate. “Bastion, you’ll face her.” The Swellow nodded, understanding. “This isn’t so much about winning as it is showing them what you’re capable of. You’ve got this,” she said, staring me straight in the eye.

    My heart fluttered, not because she was a predator, but because she was my coach and my friend, and I knew she was rooting for me. “Let’s do this,” I said with a determined nod. She grinned. Wingull whooped with glee.

    We broke our huddle, and Bastion and I readied ourselves, getting some distance between us. Ferry announced the battle between Magikarp and Swellow, and the crowd broke into excited murmurs. A few Wingull circling overhead seemed to take notice, and found nearby perches from which to watch. I glanced back at the crowd of Magikarp, and noticed my parents in the crowd, watching wearily. Okay, the pressure was on.

    What transpired them was an exciting dance between carp and swallow, lake and sky. Bastion swooped through the air, attacking with beak and talons and wings. I dove underwater and flew through the air, dodging attacks left and right and above me. When he was close enough to the water I launched myself at him, tackling at first, then flailing more as the battle wore on. I had plenty of opportunities to show off what I had learned, and I heard cries from the crowd as I dove out of the way of air slashes and landed hits on the swift bird. Ferry was right – this was about showing them what I could do, and while it didn’t seem like much to me, it was clearly impressive to them. Even the Wingull were murmuring in surprise.

    I think at some point, Bastion must have grown frustrated that a crowd of fish and birds were watching a lowly Magikarp keep pace with him. As he wheeled around in the air after I landed a particularly tough flail, I saw a determined glint in his eyes. He knew I was getting tired based on the strength of that last attack, and the way his body glowed, it looked like he was done playing games.

    Bastion closed his eyes, and two more Swellow appeared in the sky next to him, wings outstretched as they caught an updraft. Perfectly in sync, the three birds performed an aerial dance of loops and corkscrews, swooping intricately through the air until it was impossible to determine the original Swellow. This was a double team combined with focusing his energy, I realized – two attacks I had seen him use before, but never in conjunction like this. He adjusted his path, and suddenly the three Swellow were making a beeline straight towards me.

    It occurred to me suddenly exactly what I had to do. It was scary, and kind of reckless, but it also required the kind of resilience my kind was known for. I stopped swimming and faced the three Swellow head-on, waiting. I couldn’t make out the real Bastion like this, but I knew how I could find out. I watched him get closer and closer, all three birds locking eyes with me, winged tilted for the dive, picking up speed. Every part of me screamed that I should dodge to the side or duck underwater to safely, but I ignored it, heart pounding, waiting until he was so close I could see the whites of his eyes-

    “KARP!” I cried moments before he could hit me, slamming my entire body onto the surface of the lake and frantically splashing water everywhere.

    All three Bastion opened their mouths to shout “Swellow!” in surprise, all blinded by the splashing, but the sound clearly came from the one on the left as droplets of water flew through the other two, making them fade from existence.

    With Bastion unable to see, I gave one last victory “Karp!” and flailed my still twisting body straight into his chest, knocking the air out of him. Bastion crashed into the water, sending droplets flying. My heart skipped a beat.

    “And the winner is Magikarp!” Ferry cried,

    Cheers sprang up from the crowd of fellow Magikarp, and they surged forward towards me, completely sweeping me up in their midst. Everyone was chattering excitedly about the battle and trying to congratulate me all at once. I was completely overwhelmed by the love and support, and still high from what felt like a real victory against a trained Swellow. Above us, Wingull circled and squawked with pride, and she and I exchanged a gleeful look – this was a win both for me and for her daughter. In the corner of my eye, I saw Ferry land by her mate in the water, helping him right himself on the surface, but she couldn’t keep the proud grin off her face. She gave me a wave of her blue tipped wing, and Bastion gave me an apologetic smile. And still, beautiful orange scales danced around me as my peers celebrated my win as a win for all of us. The thing inside me was stronger than it had ever been, radiating from my heart to the tips of my scales, feeding off the excitement and joy of my victory. As my family crowded around me excitedly, I could hardly take it all in. It was like the feelings were so big and beautiful they couldn’t possibly be contained by my tiny little body. I felt like I was glowing.

    “Magikarp! You’re evolving!” Wingull cried.

    I looked down at myself, and realized it had to be true. A soft white glow reflected off the water and off the scales of my fellow Magikarp, and it was coming from me. The thing inside me was growing bigger and bigger, until it felt like it was ready to overtake me. Some part of me knew that when it was done, I wouldn’t be a Magikarp anymore. Was this what it felt like to evolve?

    I looked all around me at the beaming faces, thrilled and surprised and perhaps even a little bit scared. If I were to become a Gyarados, I would no longer be the little Magikarp so many people turned away and called worthless and useless. My mere presence would demand respect, and show everyone how far I’ve come. I could become the symbol of change and hope that so many of my kind needed. I could represent all of the challenges and obstacles we’ve had to overcome, and show the world that we were so much more than what they thought. But I also thought about the unstoppable rage, about all the Gyarados that nearly went on rampages, about the unmistakable fear they struck into so many hearts. People might respect my strength, but if they were afraid of me, how would that change my struggle to make friends? Could I really be a symbol for Magikarp if I wasn’t one?

    That’s when it hit me – I didn’t have to be a Gyarados. I had accomplished so much as a Magikarp just from hard work and perseverance and help from my newfound friends. I didn’t need a human to catch me to know my worth. This entire time, evolving had been a means to an end; I had wanted to get stronger, to show people what Magikarp could do, to become a fish that others deemed worthy of friendship and love. And here I was, with three friends that helped me get here, surrounded by family who could see what I was capable of, and were proud of me for it. I had achieved my goal without even having to evolve or be chosen by some human.

    So, surrounded by all my family and friends and people who believed in me, I decided maybe I would stay a Magikarp for a little longer.



    “Are you sure about this?” my mother asked, eyes darting back and forth.

    “I’m sure, Mom,” I said warmly. The morning air was brisk against my scales, a reminder that fall was settling in. Before me, Wingull, Ferry and Bastion were waiting, bright-eyed and ready.

    “The lake won’t be the same without you,” my father said, serious and sad.

    “I know,” I said. “But I’ve wanted to explore the world for some time now, and there are other Magikarp out there like us who I think I could really help. And besides, I think I’ve trained the others well. You’ll be in good hands.” I gestured to the small school of my siblings and nieces and nephews, who grinned. A few gave some joking salutes.

    “You know that’s not what we meant,” my mother said, trying to sound exasperated but unable to hide her smile.

    “I know,” I said again. “I’ll try to come and visit.”

    “You’d better,” said my father. “And you had better not be a Gyarados by then! Ferry won’t be able to fit you in her mouth.” Even as he joked, he shuddered a little. None of us loved the idea of travelling that way, but it was what would work.

    I laughed. “I plan to stay a Magikarp for a long time,” I promised. I motioned to Ferry, and she dipped her beak in the lake to take in a huge billfull of water, and scooped me up with it.

    “Goodbye,” said Ferry and Bastion and Wingull, water sploshing around inside Ferry’s beak as she said it and gently jostling me about.

    “I’ll come back even stronger, and with lots of new stories,” I promised. My parents nodded, eyes wet, as the three birds flapped their wings and we took flight, shouting our last I love you’s as the small crowd of Magikarp in the lake quickly shrank farther and farther away beneath us and behind us.

    Flying was every bit as terrifying and exhilarating as I thought it would be, but that wasn’t even the wildest thing in my near future. Leaving home was scary, but I had already made a huge difference there, and I wanted to continue meeting new Pokemon and training Magikarp across the region, and maybe change the way people saw us. Even if it was just one small Wingull family at a time.
     
    Last edited: Oct 15, 2018
    Virgil134 likes this.
  2. Cutlerine

    Cutlerine a lonesome harp guitar

    Aw, this is really sweet! And it's a lovely take on the human/pokémon relationship, too – obviously the way that wild pokémon seeking strength find humans to partner with is kind of a weird conceit on the games' part so as to make sure pokémon training doesn't seem cruel, but in fic, you can give that concept the development it needs to actually work. Here, you really do make it work: magikarp is pretty much the definition of a pokémon with tremendous potential that is probably only rarely achieved in the wild (like, they're so numerous I've always assumed they're a prey species that doesn't often make it into full-on giant dragon adulthood unless partnered, and it seems like that's also the interpretation you're running with in this story), and it's a perfect candidate for a pokémon character seeking a human to help it toughen up.

    I also really like the elegant way you turn on the word hardy. Technically, in in-game terms, it's a completely useless nature that affects no stats at all – but in terms of actual character, hardiness is a powerful attribute to possess. And of course it's also canonically magikarp's defining quality. They survive; that's what their pokédex entries are all about. Their ability to colonise any kind of water, and not just survive but thrive there, is what ensures that there are enough of them that the species survives its many predators. All three of these connotations are in play here, I think, with this one magikarp that refuses to give in, that even finds the resolve to train with predators. It's just really elegant and smooth.

    And, of course – in the end, the magikarp stays a magikarp. I always like it when there are reasons to not evolve, whether they come from a purely pragmatic place (evolution costs energy, an animal will not expend that energy without good reason) or from a more emotional place like this, where our hero discovers that the journey towards becoming a giant murder serpent was more important than actually becoming said giant murder serpent. I also love that Splash turned out to be the move that won the fight: it just underlines the point of the story so well.

    One small note:

    That should be emanated, rather than emenated.

    In summary: yeah, this is great. Thank you for sharing it!
     
  3. Firaga Metagross

    Firaga Metagross Auferstanden Aus Ruinen

    Oooh, I really like this. It's pretty straightforward and earnest and the execution is solid. Big fan of stories that work game lore/fanon/etc. into them, so this one just really gelled with me. Liked how the fact that no magikarp could actually evolve made Gyarados a mythical being to them. Hearing stories of Gyarados' ferocity from Bastian worked really well in this context.

    The only thing that seemed a little weird to me was that all of the other Pokemon treat Magikarp as useless as trainers do. I get that trainers wouldn't want a Magikarp, but magikarp isn't that weak compared to other low level water pokemon and Pokemon turning down free food to laugh at it doesn't really work IMO.

    Overall, really interesting one-shot, definitely would read another.
     
  4. That was really sweet! It was straightforward and admittedly somewhat predictable, but that doesn't takeaway from how solid the story is. You play into Magikarp's "hardiness" very well early on, and I thought you presented the character's unyielding optimism and perseverance really nicely.

    I also had Little Mac's Smash Bros themes playing in my head during the "training montage", which made it even more enjoyable to read tbh.

    While I would normally be iffy about the straightforwardness of this quote, I did think it worked well the more I saw the story as a fairy tale of sorts. It read better when I took it as "The Legend of the Magikarp that Became Strong Enough to Leave the Lake" or something to that effect, seeing as you have a lot of the archetypes that make up that type of tale represented here. That's not a bad thing, since it does play into those archetypes very well and made the characters easier to empathize with.

    One thing I was 50/50 about though was the final scene. On one hand, I understood why you ended it that way, in that it seemed like the perfect closure to Magikarp's ambitions of leaving the lake. But on the other hand, I thought the transition from the previous scene to that ending seemed a bit less seamless compared to the others? Even if long periods of time passed between Magikarp's first training session and his victory over Bastion (cool name btw), I thought the passage of time was conveyed pretty naturally all throughout. But I didn't feel the same going into the final scene. It read more like an epilogue, which again, I understood where it was coming from, and I did feel that it was a fitting ending, but I thought I'd just bring it up.

    But yeah, it's a very sweet and well-written story, and you had me rooting for Magikarp all throughout. Awesome job! :)
     
  5. Required

    Required Lot 10 Underground Editor/Head Writer

    I liked this. It was unique, and I have found that typically Pokemon perspective stories are dry and terribly boring, but this had a lot of heart. I wouldn't mind writing a one-shot but my mind can't focus like that. I always start off with the intent of something short and then it bloats into a hundred chapter monster.
     

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