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It's Cold Outside (Holiday Gift Fic 2018)

Discussion in 'Fan Fiction' started by JFought, Jan 1, 2019.

  1. JFought

    JFought Sloooowly writing...

    Serebii Holiday Gift Exchange 2018 Prompt: “Hiding from the cold, together,” requested by Namohysip.

    Summary: The winter solstice is in a couple days, and Diana isn’t very happy about it. But when that bitterness manages get her and her friend stuck in the cold wilderness, she’s ends up finding that maybe there’s a point to this whole winter celebration thing after all.

    So, uh, yeah. Celebrating the new year with the gift fic one-shot. I promised last year that I’d do this, and I like to keep promises if I can, so here I am. Not to mention I really needed something to kick my writing pace into high gear considering the last… 10 months, now? Tbh, coming back from the dead to deliver the application at all made me super nervous, since that’s alerting a whole four people that I still exist (which is like oh god no not four that’s the number of death). But I submitted it, got a prompt, got inspired pretty much immediately, and this is the result. It’s Cold Outside is part me getting out some stuff that I always wanted to do, part me trying to make something in the Christmas spirit, and part me coming to terms with the fact that I am physically incapable of writing anything less than 5k words now. I kinda went into denial before skipping all the other stages into acceptance. I got the prompts, thought of a couple cute scenarios, then was suddenly hit with the wording of “Hiding from the cold, together.” Everything from there kinda just happened. As a result of things just happening, I ended up taking a few risks, and I dunno maybe I shouldn’t have. I was walking on thin ice the entire time, so to speak. I realized that if I were going to take risks, I needed to take a few precautions this time around. It was really only a fear last time (where I also took risks), but I figure the only reason it wasn’t anything more than a fear was because I got lucky. Really lucky. Hopefully, then, this wasn’t too off putting or out there. This is a Liberian one-shot, but I went out of my way to remove it from everything else, and only include elements after I had already deemed that Namohysip might like or otherwise be okay with them. In other words, I tried to be more careful this time, and if you think I failed, please tell me, because I need to know.

    The end result is a weird combination of the two prompts. The big thing, of course, is “Hiding from the cold, together.” The other prompt was a lot more specific, and while this doesn’t follow all of the details, a lot of those elements do show up. Best way I can describe it is that the other prompt was used as a “secondary prompt” to the main “primary prompt.”

    Anyway, I’m not sure how to rate this, but I think PG? Involves a dark theme, and like one swear, but otherwise it’s tame. Another thing I’m obligated to point out again is that it’s a Liberian one-shot, which means it takes place in the same world as other things I have wrote (blah blah blah check signature blah blah blah). However, due to those precautions I mentioned, everything here is self-contained, so don’t worry about not knowing about a character or missing context or whatever.

    And with that, on with the one-shot.

    It’s Cold Outside

    It was cold.

    The door opened. No sound was made. The buizel who had opened it just as silently stepped outside. Snow gently fell from the sky, fluttering in the cold wind and chilling the pokémon’s fur. No words were spoken as the buizel carefully closed the door behind her, flinching when the lock made a slight *click!* Apprehensively, she waited for something to happen, but nothing did, and with a sigh she left behind the door and the large, lavish manor connected to it.

    As the buizel made her way away from the manor and into the city proper, the world started to become loud. The neat, cobble streets of the mercantile district were filled with customers, shopkeepers, passerby, and everything in between, and talk of trade flew through the air. “Last shipment for oran berries! Store up while they’re still in stock!” “I’d like two, please!” “Too cold? How about a scarf for the winter season!” “What sizes do you have?” “And here we have a wooden figure of the King, the perfect gift for the solstice!” “Oh, I just barely have enough Poké for that. If only it were cheaper...” The buizel liked all this noise. It made the city of Kristiled feel alive, as opposed to the insufferable silence of the manor. But she wasn’t here to loiter; she had places to be, and so she kept going, past the stalls and storefronts and neatly plowed roads.

    She continued into the residential district. It was quieter here, as well as somewhat cramped. Kristiled was smaller than it probably should have been, though in their defense the city planners probably never expected a city in the middle of frozen tundra to grow any larger than a couple hundred citizens. Most had already left for the afternoon, but a few ice-type ‘mon were still roaming the streets making idle chatter. “Hey there, fine weather today, isn’t it?” “Yeah, but those clouds don’t look like they’re going to be kind to us later.” The buizel shivered a little, and hurried down the road faster than before. The white brick houses grew more crowded and run-down, only the road staying pristine as she took all the right turns into poorer and poorer areas. Along the way, she noticed an icy sandslash standing in front of a broken door. “Everything’s too expensive, I’m worried we might not be able to afford anything for her this year.” The buizel lifted her brow, then shrugged it off. Somewhere further down, another door opened, and she could hear the voice of a mother to her child: “Come back early, you hear? It gets colder than usual this time of year.” The buizel hugged herself. She was fine. Not an ice-type, but she was used to the cold and had a thick coat of winter fur to help. So no one needed to worry about her.

    Her route ended in front of a (relatively) large building, proudly labeled “KRISTILED DOJO.” The sign looked to have been repainted, probably in anticipation of last-minute solstice shoppers looking to rent TMs or create appointments. “Not that he sees much business anyways,” the buizel thought.

    She pushed open the door, and sure enough, the place was devoid of customers. A lone lucario meditated in the middle of the large, empty room, legs crossed and arms in some sort of pose. The buizel shivered. “Why didn’t he set up a fire in here?”

    She walked up to him and asked: “What are you doing?”

    “Meditating.”

    “In the cold?”

    He lifted open one eye and smirked. “Didn’t you know that the cold helps with meditating?”

    “I know it helps with pneumonia.”

    That broke his concentration. The lucario broke into a fit of laughter and fell backwards. The buizel just watched, unamused. Eventually, he regained his composure and began to push himself up. “I didn’t know you had a sense of humor, Diana!”

    “I wasn’t joking.” Diana sighed. The lucario who ran this dojo was named Nestor. He was pretty old, gray hairs lining his muzzle. According to advertisements he was also wise, but Diana found that hard to believe sometimes.

    Composed, Nestor stood up. “So, what brings you here today? Shouldn’t you be with your family on the solstice?”

    “It’s not the solstice,” Diana replied.

    “But it will be soon. You don’t have to come here every day, y’know.”

    She crossed her arms. “You come here everyday.”

    Nestor looked like he was about to say something, but rubbed the back of his head instead. “Eh, that’s fair,” he said, shrugging it off. “I’ll go get a training dummy.”

    “And set a fire.”

    And set a fire.”

    The lucario went off towards the fire pit in the corner of the room, gave it a good, fiery Blaze Kick, and casually walked to the storage closet. “He sure likes to take his time.” In the half year that Diana had been coming here, she learned that it was common for him to do everything as slowly as possible. It was probably because he was old, but half the time it felt like Nestor did things just to infuriate her. Like some kind of all-knowing jerk.

    He came out with the dummy and drove its stake into a well-worn hole in the floor, one in a row of many similarly worn holes. “It’s ready. Let’s see how far you’ve come.”

    Diana pulled off the coin purse that had been hanging around her neck and sized the dummy up. It was wooden: a log placed on a stake, with a pillow for a head. It was also already burnt, just a step away from being used as fuel for the fire pit. “What is he doing, giving me firewood to train with?!” But she supposed it didn’t matter; as long as it could take a hit.

    So, feeling slightly insulted, she focused energy into her paw, and allowed it to burst into flames.

    “Careful Diana,” Nestor warned. “If you don’t control your flame, then you’ll set the dummy on fire.”

    “I know.” This was a test, then. And an easy one at that. “I’ll show him.”

    With immense concentration and effort, the buizel launched a Fire Punch at the wooden dummy. It didn’t catch. Her confidence validated, Diana hit it again, and again. “four… five… six… seven…” She punched with a slow rhythm, making sure not to overexert herself and accidently set it on fire. At some point, she could hear the door open, complete with a frigid blast of air, but Diana tried to ignore it. “twelve… thirteen… I’ll show them too… fifteen…”

    And on the next punch, her attack exploded. The sudden force surprised her, and Diana found herself looking at the ceiling, a newly created heat source hovering near her tails. She pushed herself up, and sure enough, she failed. The dummy was on fire.

    “You let yourself get distracted,” said Nestor, who offered his paw. She rejected it and got to her feet with indignance. Nestor just shook his head. “And we were so close too. Just a couple more punches and that would’ve been it for this set.” He looked over to the new visitors: a sandshrew and a snover. “Hey, could one of you youngsters help put out this fire real quick?” he asked, pointing to the flaming dummy.

    “Uh, yeah sure,” said the snover. She did as told and held out one of her arms to use Powder Snow, putting it out. Diana sulked as she watched.

    Nestor went back into the storage closet and came back with an oran berry in his paws. He gave it to Diana. “Here.” She took it and started nibbling slowly at it. Nestor glared. “You need to be more careful, Diana,” he scolded. “You’ve made good progress, but just because using Fire Punch doesn’t give you first-degree burns anymore doesn’t mean you’re ready to use it all willy-nilly.”

    Diana went hot with embarrassment. “I know that,” she said, trying to save face in front of the visitors. Visitors that she knew. She turned to them. “Why did you two have to come in right now anyway?”

    The snover shifted around, and the sandshrew squeaked. “We just wanted to watch you…” she said.

    “Yeah, we’re sorry,” apologized the snover.

    Nestor sighed. “You two don’t need to be sorry about anything. And don’t go blamin’ them Diana.”

    The buizel stuffed the rest of the berry in her mouth, wiped her face and crossed her arms. “It’s true.”

    “I’m serious here.” He shook his head. “Buizel like you aren’t meant to be playing around with fire. Literally! As a delta pokémon, it’s your responsibility to be in control of your power, so it’s always on you if something goes wrong.”

    Diana watched Nestor go to retrieve the burnt dummy and throw it in the fire pit. Bitter, she muttered under her breath: “It’s not my fault you set me up…”

    The lucario’s ears shot upright, and he sighed again. “So that’s how it’s gonna be, eh…? Welp.” He moved to close the storage closet, then started walking towards the door.

    Diana became alert. “Wait, what’re you doing?!”

    “I’m closing up shop for the day.” Nestor opened the door, letting the cold air in. “No one’s really coming over besides you, and I figured the time’d be better spent with my grandkids. Can’t keep them waiting a couple days before the solstice, y’know!”

    “But wait!” Diana held out her paw to stop him. “If you leave now, I-I won’t pay you!”

    He just shrugged. “Eh. Didn’t need it anyway. You can hang here if you want, just be sure to put the fire out. See ya next month!” He waved, then closed the door behind him as he left.

    Diana stared at the door. “What the… What the hell?!” She turned to her “friends,” fuming.

    The sandshrew cowered, and the snover held up her paws. “We’re sorry, seriously! We didn’t know that-!”

    “Whatever!” Diana grabbed her coin purse and started heading towards the door. “We’re leaving.”

    “But, what about the fire?” the sandshrew spoke up.

    “Leave it.” Diana hoped the dojo burned down while she was gone.

    She opened the door into the outside, cold air ruffling her fur and falling snow causing her to shiver, but she pushed past it, stomping down the street towards the park. Her two accomplices took their time, but eventually they came running behind her.

    “Those two…” They were her friends, in the sense that they followed her wherever she went. Not really much like friends, actually. It’s been like this for the six months Diana had been venturing into the city: go to the dojo, find these two watching her, and go to the park. Not that she minded all that much. They usually didn’t do a lot of talking, but she knew a few things.

    The snover was named Klara, and was the more talkative and practical of the two. She always seemed a bit more “into it” than the sandshrew, always the first to watch at the dojo, and coming with different questions for Diana every time. She had an aunt, but didn’t really talk about herself or her family all that often. Neither of them did, but Diana didn’t either, so it worked out.

    The sandshrew, youngest of the three, was named Inna, and Diana had no clue why she followed her. Of the two, Inna was always just… there. She didn’t talk much, usually just watched silently, and was kind of a wimp. It never once looked as if she was interested in any of what Diana did, but she kept coming back, so clearly she wanted to be there. She had both a mother and a father; Diana has met both of them, usually because one of them always come out to the park to bring her back home before sunset. They were nice ‘mon, who cared for their daughter. Diana figured it was nice, to have parents like that.

    The trio finally reached the park, a small clearing of sorts surrounded by a low wall. It was called a park, but it was only a park in the sense that it was a lot of land with no buildings. The ground was entirely snow, and only a couple hardy spruces stood to break up the expanse. But it was also the place for children in Kristiled, being one of the few open spaces, and an open space of snow always invites improvisation. So Diana hopped over the wall, Klara and Inna close behind, and leaned against it, watching the various ice-types build their snow forts and have snowball fights and whatever else they decided to do.

    The park was also the best place for rumors, which is what Diana was really here for. Rumors about parents engaging in shady deals in the underground of the Guild Center; about the “Great Kecleon Conspiracy” trying to take over the world one city at a time; about a kid last year who apparently built a replica of Kristiled’s Ice Palace in this very park, and was never seen again afterwards; about the “Three Terrors of East Park,” and how their leader is secretly a noble who lives in some fancy mansion in the northern district. That fancy mansion only had so many books on so many things, and in those six months of secret outings, she never once regretted getting to see the real world.

    No, that wasn’t entirely true. She regretted it a little bit. She stared at Inna, absentmindedly making something in the snow, without a care in the world. “Only a little bit.”

    “What are you doing?” Diana asked.

    Inna didn’t look up from the pile of snow she was gathering. “Making a snowrunt.”

    Diana and Klara just stared. Sometimes she wished she could change the name of “Three Terrors” to “Two Terrors and That One Kid Who Won’t Stop Following Us.”

    She looked away, tried to ignore it, and scanned the park for the usual group of gossipers. They’ve been getting crafty in their attempts to keep Diana away from them lately. Making igloos to hide in, ducking behind walls, having a snowball fight while talking. But this time, they were simply in the far corner, talking nonchalantly. As if somehow the Two Terrors weren’t going to be a threat to them today.

    Diana pushed herself off the wall, stomping through the snow towards them. Klara followed close behind, and Inna stayed back to continue making her snowrunt. As the duo approached, Diana could hear the hushed voices of the group.

    “You don’t really think he’ll get you that, do you? They’re supposed to be rare.”

    “My dad said that’s how he got one! And I want to evolve now!”

    “Can we see if you do get it? I heard they’re supposed to be really-”

    “What’re you all talking about?”

    The group of eight pokémon went stiff. Those facing her looked in fear, while those with their backs turned slowly looked behind them. A sneasel in the group shouted to a lone eevee. “I thought we told you to keep watch!”

    “I forgot, okay?!” he responded, ears dropped.

    “Hey,” Diana growled. “I asked you all a question. I want to know what you were talking about.”

    “W-we weren’t talking about anything,” cowered a vulpix.

    “Don’t play dumb with me: I heard you talking about getting something,” Diana said, pointing at him.

    A smoochum stepped forward. “Well, it is time for the solstice, and…”

    “And what?” Diana raised her fist. “Stop being coy, or I’ll make you tell me.”

    The group collectively flinched. The two snorunt cousins huddled together. They knew that even the combined might of all eight couldn’t take down Diana. They knew that because they tried it once, and she beat them all without even getting hit. The eevee in the group flinched the hardest, still remembering how a month ago he got his own older brother to fight her, and he lost too.

    “Someday, I’ll be the strongest Pokémon in the world,” Diana remembered saying to the battered and bruised Glaceon. “Don’t you forget it.”

    “We were talking about the solstice!” the eevee blurted out. “And The Saint!”

    Diana tilted her head. “The Saint? Who’s that?”

    Gasps echoed throughout the group, the mood turning from fear to disbelief. They began whispering amongst each other.

    “She doesn’t know who The Saint is?!”

    “How does she not know who The Saint is?”

    “Maybe she really is rich!”

    “I think I feel sorry for her...”

    Irritated at the inability of the gossipers to answer her questions, the buizel turned to Klara. “Klara, tell me who The Saint is.”

    “Oh, uh, basically he’s some guy who comes around on the winter solstice and gives gifts to everyone.” When Diana scoffed, Klara gave a bewildered look. “You... really don’t know who he is?”

    The group had ceased talking, all eyes on Diana. “Giving gifts to everyone, huh?” The festivities of Krisitled were always lost on her, but that had to be the most ridiculous of all she had heard. “I never got gifts from anyone on the solstice.”

    Everyone seemed to have been made uncomfortable by that, all looking as if there was something they wanted to say in retaliation. Finally, a swinub muttered what everyone was thinking: “Of course no one would want to give you presents on the solstice.”

    Diana heard that, the words slicing through her like butter. But instead, she grinned. “That’s what this is, isn’t it?”

    “You know what? I don’t think this ‘Saint’ guy exists.”

    A second round of gasps. The smoochum glared. “He does too!”

    “Yeah!” exclaimed the eevee. “If he doesn’t exist, then who’s giving everyone presents?!”

    “It’s probably your parents. Why do you think everyone goes shopping before the solstice?”

    Klara spoke up, uncertainty glimmering in her eyes. “Isn’t it to store up food for the winter?”

    “Not you too!” Did everyone believe in this lie? “That’s just the kind of excuse you’d hear if they were trying to keep secrets!”

    “Admit it!” The eevee came stomping up, a bold fury overtaking him. “You’re just jealous that no one give you gifts on the solstice!”

    “Ha! As if I have anything to be jealous of!” Diana scoffed. “You just don’t want to admit I’m right!”

    “No you’re not!”

    “Yes I am!”

    “No, you’re not!”

    They went on like this for a while. Klara looked back to Inna. She was searching the ground for eyes to put on her snowrunt.

    Suddenly, the eevee broke the chain. “I’ll fight you!”

    And a third round of gasps. The vulpix acted quickly and tried to pull back on his ear. “Don’t do it, Emil! It’s not worth it!”

    Diana was just amused. “You think you can take me?”

    Emil pulled away from his friend looked up at Diana. “I’ve been training! I can beat you up!”

    “Not at the dojo you haven’t,” the buizel pointed out.

    “But I have! So let’s fight right now, and if I win, you admit you’re wrong!”

    Diana looked down at him. Even if he was a little stronger now, it only took one look to be able to tell how quickly the battle would end. “Instantly.” And if she was going to fight someone…

    “No.” She turned around and walked off.

    “What?! No?!” cried out a shocked Emil. “But… if you run away then that’s forfeit! You admit you’re wrong!”

    Diana turned around, angry. “I don’t admit anything, and I’m definitely not wrong about The Saint!” She turned her nose upwards. “I just don’t think you’re worth it.”

    The eevee shook, as if the words themselves were her attack. Tears welled in his eyes, and he broke down on the spot. “Oops… I might have been too blunt. Oh well. It’s better to make him cry than to beat him to a pulp.” Diana looked away and continued, leaving the crying eevee to get comforted by his friends.

    Klara ran to catch up as they headed back towards Inna. “You could’ve beat him, y’know,” she pointed out.

    “Yeah, I know. That’s why I didn’t fight him.” Diana sighed, remembering what Nestor had drilled into her countless times. “Because when a fight is unfair, it’s barely a fight.”

    The two made it to Inna, who was standing proudly before her small, conical creation. It had gray pebbles for eyes; Diana noticed a hole in the snow nearby where she must have dug to find them.

    Inna turned around. “What do you think?” she asked somewhat self-consciously. Diana wasn’t an expert on snow creations, but the snowrunt was pretty amateurish. It had no features besides the eyes and was only about as big as the young sandshrew herself, who was only barely over half Diana’s height.

    “It could be bigger,” Diana pointed out. “Like an actual snorunt.”

    Inna poked her claws together. “Well, I’m not that big yet…”

    “I think it looks cute,” said Klara.

    “Thanks. I think so too.”

    Diana decided to ignore them both and went back to leaning against the wall. She could see Emil in the distance, still glaring at her. She started to fiddle with the coin purse, hoping to block it out.

    “What’s wrong?” Inna asked. Klara absentmindedly kicked some snow around, apprehensive of what Diana might say.

    And then: “Do either of you believe in The Saint?”

    Klara flinched, and the sandshrew was taken aback. “Of course I do!” she earnestly answered.

    “Of course you would,” Diana thought to herself. “But why? How do you know he exists?”

    “Well, he leaves letters, and presents, and my parents don’t know where they come from, so…”

    “But what if they’re lying to you?”

    Inna was taken aback by the question. “Whu… What do you mean lie to me?!”

    “They probably don’t want to tell you the truth,” Diana continued. “I bet it's all just some… ploy. To make up someone who cares about you.”

    “You’re…” Inna’s eyes began to tear up. “You’re wrong! Momma and Pa would never lie to me! And The Saint is real, I know he is!”

    Anger began to boil up inside Diana’s stomach. “Why is everyone so insistent on this?!”

    And then she remembered something. A horrible little something that would shut her “friend” up immediately. And after a little hesitation, Diana went against her better judgement and said it.

    “You know,” she began, a knowing smile growing on her face. “On the way to the dojo, I saw your mom talking about how everything in the market is too expensive.”

    “What…?”

    “And you know what she said? She said that she might not be able to give you any gifts this year. So if you want proof that The Saint is not real, just wait a couple days. See what happens.”

    Inna stood there, tears in her eyes, processing what was just said. And then suddenly, she turned and ran away. Diana watched her as she ran out of the park and out of sight.

    Klara shifted uncomfortably. “Don’t you think you went a little too far?”

    Diana huffed, and crossed her arms. “She’ll be fine.” She turned her gaze towards the snover. “What about you? Do you believe in The Saint?”

    Klara avoided her gaze. “I mean… I’ve been wondering about it, but… I think he might still be real. Maybe.”

    “Maybe…” She thought about Inna and the gossiping kids. It wasn’t a maybe to them. It was certainty. “They’re taking this way too seriously. It’s just some guy who give presents. That’s literally all he is. Don’t they have enough ‘mon who care for them?”

    And then she thought about it some more. “She took it pretty seriously though… Maybe I was a little harsh. But I just don’t understand. Why would a parent make a lie like that?” From what she could tell, the difference between this lie and the kind of lies her father had told was that this lie didn’t hide anything meaningful. It was just little white lie that the kids put their faith in. “Maybe I’m messing things up. Her parents are good, they probably have some kind of reason.” Diana shivered. “They’ll probably be angry at me then, and if they are...”

    A couple moments passed. Diana looked to Klara. “What direction did she head in, anyway?”

    “I think she went east.”

    “But her house isn’t east. Did she…?” With a sigh, Diana pushed off the wall. “I’m going to go look for her.”

    Klara nodded. “Okay.”

    And so, Diana left the park behind to follow Inna. “East from here is the city exit. She didn’t leave the city, did she?” She began to move more quickly, anxiety and guilt starting to build up within as she realized that she must have been much harsher than she thought if she managed to drive Inna out of the city. “She’s never done this before… But she couldn’t have gotten too far.”

    She found herself in front of one of the three openings in the city walls. Out there, the vast expanse of the tundra lay bare, stretching endlessly into the distance. Diana scanned the ground for footprints. There were a few sets, one of which was notably smaller than the others. “And they’re heading north…”

    Diana began to follow, trudging northbound through the snow, away from the noise of Kristiled and back into the quiet. Kristiled’s east wall went on for a while, but Inna’s footprints went farther. Diana found herself dumbfounded that she could have even made it this far. Anxiety began to turn into anger. “Why does she care so much?! You’d think she’d just-” A snowflake landed on Diana’s nose, and she sneezed. “...Go to her parents or something. They would be willing to comfort her.”

    The world grew colder, quieter, and whiter. Kristiled was left far behind, the only sound being Diana making her own tracks. The snow blew gently in the wind, a little more plentiful than before, ominous looking clouds gathering on the horizon. “Those ‘mon in town were right. I better make this quick.” Far off in the distance, she could see the tracks end. And as she got closer, she began to make out a shape camouflaged against the snow. “Inna?!” Diana called out. The shape turned around. Sure enough. But Inna went back to staring at the skyline. “What is she looking… at…”

    As the perspective began to shift with proximity, Diana finally noticed the cliff Inna was sitting in front of. A forest stretched off into the distance, the snow fall making it all seem like a daytime illusion.

    “What are you doing here? It’s dangerous,” Diana asked as she approached. When Inna didn’t respond immediately, she prompted: “Well?”

    Inna spoke softly. “Before I met you, I’d always come here. Whenever I felt sad. Or angry. Or lonely.” She looked up and spoke louder. “It’s really pretty here, and it helps calm me down. Momma always said it was good to find things that calm you down.”

    “Oh.” Diana pondered the sandshrew’s explanation. “Before you met me? Why haven’t you come here since?”

    “I never needed to.” Inna wiped her eyes. “B-but you...”

    And the anger turned back to guilt. “I was too harsh. I shouldn’t have said that at all.”

    Diana looked back up at the storm on the horizon. “Come on, we need to go back.” She walked forward to grab Inna’s arm.

    But Inna pulled back. “No! I wanna be alone right now!”

    “But-”

    As Inna backed away, the snow gave out from under her. And just like that-

    “No!” Diana jumped forward to grab her, and ended up sailing right off the cliff.

    ~~~

    Diana’s whole body ached. Her head felt constricted, and she soon realized it was because her float sac was inflated far past where it was supposed to be. She let out a deep breath, letting the air out, and once it was back to a stable level, she pushed herself out of the buizel-shaped hole in the snow. She looked around, and quickly found herself shivering, the cold finally catching up.

    “What happened? Wait, my-” She checked her neck and found her coin pouch still there. Good. Her father probably would not have given her a new one had she lost it. “But isn’t there something else I should be worrying about?”

    “Wait, Inna!” Diana got to her feet and looked around again. Right now, she was at the bottom of the cliff, between the cliff wall and the coniferous forest. “Is she in the forest?” Diana began to move in that direction. “I remember I jumped after her, but where-”

    Diana suddenly noticed a weird mound of white just in front of her, motionless in the snow. “Inna?” She knocked on the shell, and Inna slowly curled out of her dome-like position.

    “Am I dead?” she asked, clearly shaken by the fall.

    “No, but…” Diana looked back at the cliff wall. “...but it’s going to be hard getting back.”

    Inna got up and followed Diana’s stare. Her eyes widened at the sight of the cliff. “How are we going to get back?” she asked, anxiety gripping the edges of her voice.

    “I don’t know.” Diana looked in both directions and tried to remember what she knew about the map of this area. Kristiled was on a plateau of sorts, with the cliff stretching all the way west until it hit the ocean. To the east, it eventually sloped downwards to meet sea level, but from what she could see, it went on for quite a while. “Definitely not short enough to get to Kristiled before the blizzard hits.” She looked up at the sky. “Or before night falls.” Yet, it was the only option, unless they were willing to try and scale the rocky cliff wall.

    “Maybe we should wait,” Inna suggested. “Everyone will notice we’re gone eventually, right?”

    Diana hadn’t considered that, but she considered it from a different angle. “Oh no, my father! I won’t be home in time for sunset, which means he’ll be angry...”

    She shook her head. “It’s not plausible. You saw the sky, didn’t you? The blizzard will hit us before they get here.”

    Inna looked down. “I didn’t think about that…” And she began to tear up. “What do we do? I’m scared…”

    She immediately went to hug Diana, who almost jumped. “What the?!” Inna’s body was cold to the touch, and super uncomfortable. Diana wasn’t sure how to react at all. “We’ll, uh,” She tried to peel herself away, but Inna just pressed against her harder. “We’ll go east and try to find shelter, okay?” she said, hoping that’d be enough to get her to let go.

    Luckily, it was. The sandshrew sniffled and wiped her eyes. “Okay.”

    And so Diana and Inna began their trek eastward, in hopes of finding something to escape the blizzard and hide out. As they went, the wind grew sharper, and the sky, darker. A reminder that they needed to hurry. Diana shivered. “Or at least get lucky.” All the while, Inna’s expectant stare bore into her back. Every once in a while, Diana looked behind her to see Inna still sporting that stare. “I never realized she trusted me this much.” She wasn’t sure how to feel about it. The added pressure of expectation both weighed on her and drove her forward. “But I can’t let her down.”

    She tried to go over scenarios where they couldn’t find shelter. What would she do then? “We could make an igloo, though neither of us are very good at snow creations. I could also use fire, but I can only keep it up for so long. But if worst comes to worst…”

    That’s when she realized something. “Then Inna will be fine. She’s an ice-type. She’s built to survive this kind of weather. I’m… not.” The thought was frightening, but also… comforting? Regardless, she still found herself shivering at the next gust of wind.

    An hour passed. The sky grew dark, and not because of the clouds. The wind started to pick up, and the trees shook, as if in anticipation. Diana scanned the wall ahead. “Is there anywhere for us to- wait!” Up ahead, she could see an oddly colored patch of wall. Diana quickened her pace, Inna following close behind. It was a cave, locked behind a wall of ice. “The ice doesn’t seem that thick. I bet I could punch through it.”

    “Did you find something?” asked Inna. She brightened up immediately when she saw the cave. “A cave?! Can you-?”

    “Of course I can. Just give me a moment.” Diana pulled her paw back and focused her energy into it. Within no time at all, it burst into flames. “I don’t need to worry about control this time.”

    But she could imagine Nestor watching, and shaking his head. “You think making your attack explode is a good thing? Maybe in battle! But not right now. Last thing anyone needs is for you to blow yourself up.” Diana found herself slightly pissed off at that. She channeled the feeling into a punch and began her attack. She could hear the ice crack, and feel the ice start to melt under her paw. She continued with a slow rhythm, trying to focus and avoid letting her Fire Punch get out of control. Inna silently watched.

    And then, the wall cracked, and with another punch it shattered. The ice wall fell to pieces, the only remnants lying on the edges. Diana stepped into the cave. It was dark, and the light outside revealed that it was actually fairly shallow. It was also protected from the wind, though Diana still found herself shivering. “This is good enough, but we need to start a fire.”

    Inna stepped into the cave. “We’re going to stay here?”

    “Yes, but we need materials for a fire.” Diana looked to the forest outside. “We don’t have what’s necessary to cut down a whole tree, but maybe we can take the branches.”

    She walked outside and looked around. Inna spoke up. “I can help with that.”

    Diana turned and raised her brow. “You can?”

    “Yeah. I can climb, and cut down branches.” She showed off her claws, which, Diana had to admit, were definitely more impressive than hers.

    “But no, I have to do this myself.” “Climb? What if you fall?” Diana asked, hoping to dissuade her.

    “I won’t. Falling off the cliff was scary, but this isn’t that bad. I think I can handle it. And also...” Inna tapped her claws together. “This is my fault, so I want to make myself useful.”

    “What? Inna, this isn’t your fault. It’s…” Diana sighed. “I really have to admit this, don’t I?” It’s my fault. Just leave it to me.”

    “But-”

    Diana turned away, not letting the sandshrew get in another word. She walked right up to the nearest spruce tree and pushed her way through the ground-level branches. “Okay, so where do I start?”

    “...”

    “I don’t know where to start.”

    She just stared at the trunk. “I can’t cut it. I don’t know any moves for that.” She tried bending a tree branch, hoping it’d maybe snap off. But the tree would not have it that way. Even when she put all of her weight on it, the branch held.

    Meanwhile, Diana could hear a *THUNK!* coming from nearby. She wandered out of the spruce, and saw Inna sticking her claws into a fir tree. “Didn’t I tell you to-”

    Inna removed her claws and slashed at a low hanging branch. It detached immediately. “Oh.”

    “See? I can help. So please?” Inna asked.

    Diana felt embarrassed, to be shown up by someone so much weaker than her. She almost wanted to be defiant and say no, but a particularly nasty gust of wind hit Diana’s back, causing her to hunch over and shiver. “Fine. You can deal with it.”

    Inna smiled. “Thank you.” And she immediately went to work. Diana sulked back to the cave. At least she didn’t have to deal with the wind anymore.

    She sat down on the cave floor and lit a fire on her paw. She knew she should be conserving her energy, but right now, she was freezing. Diana held the warmth of her own fire close, and let it melt away her troubles. She could only hold it for so long however, and within five minutes she recognized that she couldn’t keep it for longer without jeopardizing herself. The fire went out, and the cold came back immediately. “I hope she hurries up.”

    This was a test. It felt that way, at least. The entire reason Diana had decided to leave her manor and see Kristiled for herself was to learn how to use fire attacks. And in doing so, she found herself in a situation where that fire was integral to her survival. She remembered how she had asked her father, as politely as she could, if she could begin training in the fire-type. But he said no, you’re not ready. Focus on other types and moves first. It wasn’t until after she started leaving that she realized he wasn’t actually worried about “readiness.” But that didn’t matter: now was her chance to prove him wrong.

    After a while, Inna appeared at the entrance to the cave. “Can you help me bring the branches back?”

    Diana nodded and followed her outside. The cold wind hit her hard, and snow fell furiously. “The blizzard is practically on top of us!” She pushed through anyway, and saw a completely stripped fir tree.

    “I wasn’t sure how much was enough, so…” Inna said with embarrassment.

    “N-No, i-it’s fine.” Diana moved to start gathering branches. “It’s almost done. Then we’ll have a fire again.” The knowledge of warmth drove her on through the cold.

    The branches were all cut into more manageable pieces, though the pine needles made them a bit uncomfortable to move. Despite that, the two managed to gather the branches into the cave, where they piled them up near the back. “Just in case the fire is too hot,” Diana explained. When it was all said and done, she lit her paw up and gave it a good fire punch, immediately illuminating the cave and bringing respite from the decreasing temperature outside. Diana sighed and slid against the wall. “Finally…” The fire the two worked together to create was much warmer than the one Diana had for herself. It also smelled a bit odd, probably because of the burning leaves, but that was a small price to pay.

    Inna sat on the wall opposite to her and looked outside. “It’s starting to get dark.”

    “Good thing we gathered so much wood then,” Diana remarked. “It might last us all night.”

    “All night?” Inna looked worried. “Do you think we’ll get home in time for the solstice?”

    Diana completely forgot about that. “Will we?” “Maybe, if we spend tomorrow traveling back,” she answered. “But it might be better if we wait for help.”

    “I know. I’m just worried that, maybe it’ll take too long.”

    The buizel thought about it. “Does it really matter? You’ll probably still get presents.”

    “Yeah, but… but it won’t be the same. I don’t wanna miss the solstice.” Inna was almost on the verge of tears.

    Diana felt her heart crack a little. “I don’t want to see her cry. What do I do…?” She couldn’t think of anything. Admittedly, she wasn’t sure how to comfort others. “But uh, something quick. What would I want to hear…?”

    “What do you usually do?” she asked without thinking. “Er, on the solstice, I mean.”

    “What do I…? W-well, we all wake up, a-and we look on the table for the presents, and they come with a letter.” Inna started to calm down. “And then, my momma reads the letter The Saint sent us, and I open the presents.”

    “The Saint again…” Diana frowned, but she let the sandshrew continue. “And after that, we go visit our family and spend the rest of the day eating, and playing, and having fun. And I get to talk to everyone, and…” Inna wiped her face. “And I don’t want to miss it.”

    “That sounds nice,” said Diana. She couldn’t imagine what it was like, but it did sound nice. “This is working.” “If we get back, what kind of presents do you want to get?”

    Inna looked up, excitement lighting up in her eyes. “Well, I was thinking about getting a scarf.”

    “A scarf?” Diana considered the thought. “But why would you need a scarf? Aren’t you already fine in the cold?”

    “Yeah, but I saw an adventurer wear one once, and it looked so warm. I’d like to try one.” Inna started thinking about other things. “And… I also asked for an eviolite.”

    “An eviolite? What would you need one of those for?”

    “Well, they’re supposed to make you stronger if you’re not evolved yet, and I thought it’d be useful.” She seemed a bit sheepish. “Or I could give it to Klara. I think she’d like it.”

    “Eviolite are supposed to be expensive though. No wonder her parents couldn’t buy everything.” Diana shook off the thought. “Is that all?”

    “No, there’s one more. I always ask for nanab berries. They’re my favorite berry, but they don’t really grow around here. The Saint gave them to me one year, and I really liked them, so…”

    Diana has had them before. “I guess they’re okay.”

    Inna seemed much better now. But in the process, Diana only found herself feeling wishful. “Makes me wish that…” She closed her eyes, a bitter feeling rising up. At least she could leave the subject behind now.

    But then: “What do you do on the solstice?”

    Diana didn’t expect that. The blizzard outside grew louder, coming down with full force now. “Huh?”

    “Well, you were pretty angry about it before, so I was wondering…” Inna tapped her claws together. For some reason that made Diana feel like she had to say something.

    “I-I… don’t understand it.”

    “What do you mean?”

    Diana sighed. “Meeting with family, throwing a party, The Saint… I don’t get any of it. We don’t do any of that.”

    Now it was Inna’s turn to be taken aback. She almost didn’t seem to understand at first. “Then… Is that why you don’t believe in The Saint? Don’t you still get presents?”

    That struck a fuse. Anger started to build up. “No, I don’t. I told you we don’t do that.

    “But-”

    “We don’t visit family, we don’t have any feast, or throw any party, and we don’t give any presents!”

    “But-!”

    “I mean, how can The Saint exist if I’ve just heard of him? If he’s supposed to give presents to everybody, why haven’t I ever gotten anything?!”

    Inna went quiet. She was contemplating something. Similar to when Diana was contemplating saying the words that put them into this situation.

    Then, she said it. “Momma said that The Saint doesn’t give presents to children who’ve been bad.”

    Diana blinked. “What…” Cogs turned in her head. Anger dissipated into nothing. Everything clicked at once.

    And she started to cry.

    She tried to use her arm to hide it, but it was no use. Her laboured breath and streaks of tears made it obvious to Inna. “Why are you crying?”

    “I don’t know,” Diana said between sobs. It was a lie. Deep down, she knew exactly why she was crying, but she was afraid to admit it to herself.

    And then, out of nowhere, something latched onto her side. It felt heavy, and warm, and when Diana opened her eyes, she found Inna hugging her. She stopped sobbing. “Wh… What are you-?”

    Inna whispered, her head buried into Diana’s arm. “Pa said that if someone’s crying, it’s because they need something. And Momma said it’s because they need a hug.”

    Diana had never figured such things, but then again, this was the second time in her life that she had been hugged. “Inna cares about me… I didn’t think anyone did.” Before long, Diana found herself leaning into the hug. The two just sat there, fire and blizzard going on on opposite sides of the cave.

    Eventually, Diana wiped her face and said, “I think I’m okay now.” Inna detached herself and went back to her spot on the opposite wall. Diana sighed. “You know I’m a noble, right?” Inna was hesitant, but she nodded. “I figured you did. Do you know what nobles do?”

    Inna shook her head. “I know they’re rich, but nothing else.”

    “Well, they don’t really do that much. Some of them are involved with the King, but he’s the one who chooses which ones are. The main reason we’re there is for when the King dies.” Diana looked to the side, away from Inna. “When he dies, someone else has to take his place, and they do that by putting all of the nobles of the generation below him into a fighting tournament. And whoever wins becomes King. Or Queen. That’s how the current King was decided, and…” She sighed again. “And my father is the King’s older brother. He lost.”

    “Wait, you’re-?”

    “Then I come along, and I’m a delta Pokémon, which means increased combat ability and unrestricted type access through magic. Which gives me an advantage over everyone else.”

    When Diana looked back, she saw the troubled expression on Inna’s face. “So… Your pa wants you to win for him?”

    “...Yeah.” “It’s an understatement, but yeah.”

    “What about your momma?”

    “I don’t have one. She left a long time ago.”

    “What?” Inna looked down. “I don’t understand…”

    “I don’t expect you to,” replied Diana. “I just felt like I could talk about it with you. That’s all.”

    “Okay…”

    It really shouldn’t have been a surprise that she didn’t get it. But what really surprised Diana was that despite her lack of understanding, she still listened. “Despite everything, she keeps following me.” Diana had to know.

    “You know, I was wondering. Why do you hang out with me?” she asked.

    Inna looked up. “Well… I don’t have any other friends.” She poked her claws together. “And Momma said that, if you see someone who looks lonely, then that means they want friends, too. You always looked so lonely, so I thought maybe you’d want to be my friend,” she explained. “And, I like following you. It feels safe. I don’t feel lonely around you or Klara.”

    “Oh.” Diana thought to herself. “I didn’t realize she was lonely too. I mean, it seems like she has everything.” She sighed. “Except friends. And… I haven’t been a very good one.”

    “I’m sorry.”

    Inna tilted her head. “What for?”

    “For saying The Saint wasn’t real. And getting us into this mess.”

    She shook her head. “It’s okay, I don’t blame you. You didn’t mean it.”

    “Forgiven that easily?” Diana had to hold back another tear. “You’re way too forgiving, you know that?”

    Inna looked embarrassed. “Is that a bad thing?”

    “No,” She found herself yawning. “No, it’s fine. I think I’m just tired.”

    *yawn* ...Me too,” Inna said, rubbing her eyes.

    “So, we’ll go to sleep for tonight?”

    Inna looked back outside at the howling blizzard. She shivered. “If we have to…”

    Diana wasn’t sure what was up with that, but she shrugged it off. “I think I just want to go to sleep.” She lay down on her side and let her floatation sac deflate, back against the wall. The cave floor wasn’t the bed she was used to, but the fire close by and the presence of a friend made it better, somehow. Or maybe she was just drowsy. “See you in the morning, Inna.”

    “Good night…”

    Diana could hear the unease, but she was asleep before she could consider it.

    ~~~

    (continued in next post.)
     
    Last edited: Jan 2, 2019
  2. JFought

    JFought Sloooowly writing...

    (continued from last post.)

    ~~~

    Diana woke up. Despite the floor, this was the best sleep she had in a while. It was quiet, and warm. She opened her eyes.

    And saw Inna snuggling right up next to her.

    “What the-?!” Diana jumped to her feet and practically leaped backwards. “What is she doing there?! Wasn’t she sleeping on the other side of the cave?! What even-?!”

    Inna stirred, and opened her eyes. “Diana…?”

    “Y-yeah?”

    She got up and rubbed her eyes. “Is it morning?”

    “It is, but, what were you doing sleeping next to me?!”

    “Huh?” Inna looked confused, but then it seemed to click. “Oh. Well, I got scared, because of the blizzard being loud. And at home, my parents let me snuggle with them, so I thought…”

    Diana felt herself begin to calm down. “Well, I’m not your mother, okay?” She went towards the light of the entrance and leaned against the wall. A sigh. “Sorry. I just… wasn’t expecting that.”

    “It’s okay. I didn’t know you wouldn’t like it.”

    Diana shook her head. “That’s not it.” But she didn’t say anything. She looked back outside at the white wilderness. “Anyway, where were we?” She looked back towards the fire to see it went out sometime overnight, the branches all burnt to ash.

    Inna walked up to her. “So, what are we gonna do today? You said we could go out or wait, right?”

    “Right, we need to make a decision...” Waiting would be the safer option. She took a peak at the sky. In spite of the harsh blizzard yesterday, the clouds were still there. “Definitely the safer option. Why did we consider going outside, then?”

    Diana’s paw met her forehead. “Right! Tomorrow’s the winter solstice!”

    Inna tilted her head. “I know that. So what should we do?”

    The buizel looked back up at the sky. “It’s still safer to wait, but what if the search party can’t reach us in time? I can’t… No, she can’t afford to miss the solstice.”

    “I think we should try to get back on our own,” Diana decided.

    “Well…” Inna poked her claws together. “I was thinking, it didn’t take us that long to get here. Not a day, anyway. So maybe we’ll be rescued before the solstice hits.”

    Diana frowned. “You’re right, but do they know where to find us?” The sandshrew’s eyes widened. She hadn’t considered it. “The blizzard would have wiped away our footprints. They don’t know what direction we went in. It could take days for a search party to find us. And-”

    And then her stomach growled. “Dang, I never thought about it, but I haven’t eaten since yesterday afternoon!

    “Are you hungry?” Inna asked. “Because I’m hungry too.”

    “That settles it, then. We’re going to walk back to Kristiled. We should make it back by noon, at the most.”

    “Okay…”

    And so, leaving the cave behind, Diana and her friend continued their eastward journey towards the end of the cliff wall. The buizel tried to inspect the sky and see what the weather might look like. “It looks just like it did yesterday. But it’s not snowing yet. Hopefully that’s a good sign.” A gust of wind suddenly came along to say otherwise. “This wind! It still hasn’t gone away?” A small worry that Diana had was that the blizzard last night wasn’t the worst of it. The two walked on an elevated level of frozen snow compared to yesterday, but the buildup outside the cave wasn’t even half the size of Inna. “It’s just superstition. But I still can’t help but worry.”

    Even if there was an approaching blizzard, she still had to make it back before the solstice. “Inna needs this. I need to get her there before it’s too late.” More than anything, Diana wanted to preserve Inna’s solstice experience. She didn’t want to be responsible for taking it away.

    It was because of that that Diana considered herself lucky when she could see the cliff start to turn into a slope just ahead. She tried to run ahead and check it out. The slope was steep, and still went on for a while into the distance. Diana put her paw against the wall of white. “But it’s also covered in snow. We might be able to climb up this and cut down on time.”

    Inna ran up, panting. “What are we running for?”

    Diana looked back to her. “Do you think you could climb this?”

    “What?” She looked up at the slope Diana was looking at. “I think so. It doesn’t look that hard.”

    “Okay, good. You’ll climb up first. I’ll follow.”

    “But wait, how are you gonna get up?” Inna asked.

    “I have a plan,” the buizel replied. “I’ll just be down here to catch you in case you fall.”

    “O-okay…” Inna didn’t question it further. She trusted in Diana. With a determined look on her face, Inna stuck her claws into the surface of the snow, checked to make sure if it would hold her, and began to steadily climb to the top.

    “When she gets up there, I’ll try using Aqua Jet to scale it. And if that isn’t enough, I’ll try combining it with Ice Punch.” With the plan in mind, Diana watched as Inna got closer and closer to the top. With a grunt of effort, the sandshrew pulled herself over the edge at the top and looked down.

    “Okay.” Water began to circle around Diana’s feet, and in an instant completely enveloped her. She pushed off the ground and rocketed upwards, easily clearing more than half the height of the cliff. When the attack started to peter out, she quickly redirected herself into the slope, and came in hard with an Ice Punch. Inna gasped when she saw Diana hanging on to the hole she created, but Diana wasn’t worried. She got her bearings together, placed her feet on the slope, and pushed off with another Aqua Jet. The move cleared the rest of the way, and she managed a perfect landing at the top.

    Inna was gawking. “That was amazing…”

    Diana was too busy shivering to notice. Using the move got her wet, and it didn’t agree with the cold air. A harsh wind came through the area, making it worse. “L...l-et’s just keep going…”

    After getting their bearings straight and figuring out where west was, the two moved onwards towards Kristiled once again. Diana shivered uncontrollably, and eventually gave in and set her paw on fire for warmth. The heat of the flame wasn’t much compared to the cold and wind, but it was something, and at least stopped her shivering. She kept that up for a couple minutes before deciding she was ready to continue without it. “I need to conserve my strength. This wind is really bad.” It was fighting against her, trying to push her back in the direction she came from, but Diana persevered. Occasionally, she witnessed snow lift off the ground and travel some distance before falling back. “What the heck…? I didn’t know that could happen.” But no snow had fallen yet, so she assumed there was nothing to worry about.

    Diana looked on the horizon. Off in the distance, she could see the high walls of Kristiled. “We’re almost there,” she said out loud. “It shouldn’t be much longer.”

    No response.

    The buizel looked behind her. She saw Inna, struggling forwards, and shivering.

    “Inna!” Diana quickly trudged through the snow to check on her. “What’s wrong?”

    “I’m tired…” the sandshrew whimpered. “A-and cold…”

    “She can get cold?!” Thinking about it, it made sense. Northern sandshrew were descended from southern sandshrew, and the only real difference, aside from typing, was that the northern variety was better equipped to preserve their body heat. That didn’t mean they couldn’t get cold. Especially in this weather, fighting against a cold gale. Diana had to think quickly. “We’re almost there, what can I do?”

    “...Here.” Diana turned around. “Climb onto my back. I’ll carry you.”

    Inna looked up at her, squinting. “A-are you sure?”

    “Yes I am, just hurry up.”

    She did as told, and as soon as Inna’s feet lift the ground, Diana found herself collapsing face first into the snow. “Oh gods! I didn’t realize she was this heavy!” With a grunt of effort, she forced herself up onto four, then two feet. She had to hunch forward, but Diana managed to find a balance. “Okay… now we need to move.”

    A shaky first step, followed by a shaky second as Diana tried to get used to the weight. She used her paws to keep Inna secured on her back, then made a surge forward. The combined weight of the two actually made it somewhat easier to resist the wind, but it didn’t make it any less cold for Diana.

    “You’re warm…” whispered Inna. Diana almost tripped. “She must be delirious! The faster we get to Kristiled, the better.”

    Diana adjusted her direction to head straight towards the entrance. “We’ll make it there in… fifteen minutes, maybe. Just got to keep moving.”

    The wind got harsher. She could barely hear her own breathing over its howling, and Diana had to pause as it pushed against her. Snow picked up off the ground, but she tried not to pay it any mind. “Just keep going...” The snow started to blow through the air and with the wind, moving it all directions. It wasn’t that bad, at first. But then more and more snow started to flake off the surface. “Just keep going…” Visibility started to decrease, the world growing whiter and whiter, Kristiled becoming harder to see. Inna’s grip on her shoulders tightened. “Just keep going! It’ll end soon!”

    But it didn’t. Within the next five minutes, the windstorm had graduated to all-out blizzard.

    Diana remembered what she considered yesterday, should this happen. “If there was ever a time for it, it’s now.” She removed her left paw from the cowering sandshrew and commanded it to burst into flames. The fire fizzled and sparked in the blizzard, steam rising into the air as snow vaporised on contact, but it held, its warmth fighting against the cold winds with a vengeance. Kristiled had disappeared, but the fire’s light allowed her to see at least a couple dozen feet in front of her. Diana tried to gauge how much longer she could hold it. “It feels like ten minutes. That’s just enough time! Kristiled isn’t that far!” The blizzard blocked out her sight, her hearing, and her sense of smell. But it hadn’t taken feeling. Not yet.

    Pushing through and against the wind and snow, Diana continued onwards. She held the fire close, trying to stave off the cold coming in from all directions. While her front, arms, and head were all feeling the heat, her feet felt like they were about to freeze off, and her right arm wanted desperately to let go of its cargo and share in the warmth. Minutes passed, and Kristiled still hadn’t appeared, but Diana knew she was still going in the right direction. Her focus was sharp. She and Inna were going to get back alive, and Inna was going get the chance to spend the solstice with her family.

    A minute passed, and she was certain of it. Another minute passed, and she was still certain, her flame agreeing with a sudden flare. Yet another minute passed, and despite the feeling of lightheadedness that was starting to come over her, the flame starting to flicker wildly, she was still certain she’d make it.

    And then, out of nowhere, a wave of nausea. Diana paused. The world felt colder, the wind felt sharper, the fire felt hotter, and Inna became heavier. She felt incredibly weak, and her flame began to sputter out of control. “No, not yet, not when we’re so close… I have to keep it going!” With an incredible show of willpower, she forced her flame to continue. The fire went from fizzling out to bursting in the air.

    But instead of warmth, it brought pain. Searing hot pain. The fire, now out of control, consumed the entire length of her arm. Diana cried out, but she kept moving. It was warmth, it was something. A strange mixture of steam and smoke rose from the flaming appendage, and eventually she lost all feeling. The hot and cold canceled each other out, leaving only numb. Diana shivered despite the heat, her lightheadedness getting worse as she continued forcing it. “I’m almost there… I… just have to…” The thought was interrupted by a sudden cough.

    And then her fire went out.

    “No!” She tried to bring the fire back. She tried to force it again. But each time she tried, the nausea just got worse. Diana coughed again.

    And that’s when she saw it. Something red, off in the distance; a weird splotch of color in the middle of the white.

    “What is that?” She coughed again. Diana winced from the pain it caused her to do so. When she opened her eyes, the red figure had grown larger.

    She tried to call out. “Help!” Another cough. “P...p-lease! Help!” Her legs gave out, and she collapsed into the snow. She couldn’t feel her arms, or her body, or Inna. But she could still see the red, growing bigger and bigger.

    “Help…” Another cough, and the red consumed her vision.

    ~~~

    The buizel woke up to a white ceiling.

    Her eyes adjusted to the light. “What… happened?” Her feeling was back. And with it, she could feel softness and warmth. “Wait…”

    “Inna!” Diana pushed herself up with a start, but found herself reeling in pain when she put support on her left arm. She flopped back onto the bed she had found herself on, clutching a bandaged arm closely. “My arm?”

    “Hello?” Diana heard the voice. She turned around and saw a froslass floating by her bedside.

    A million thoughts came to her at once. “Who are you?! Where am I?! Where’s-?!”

    The froslass held up her arms. “Calm down! Calm down. Everything is going to be fine. You’re in the infirmary.”

    “What…?” Diana propped herself up against the pillows and headboard using her right arm and looked around the room. It was brick white, with a counter with various supplies in the right corner and a fireplace in the left. The bed she was on was the centerpiece. “What happened?”

    “I’m sure you have many questions,” the nurse began. “Let’s take this slow. You were found at the city border unconscious and in bad shape. We took you here to recover.”

    “The city border?” Suddenly, she remembered the blizzard. The pain of knowing the city was just in front of her. “And the red figure…”

    “Who found me?” Diana asked.

    “Found you? You were just inside the city limits. The guards found you.”

    “Just inside the city limits? But I know I saw someone…” Maybe it was nothing? A hallucination? At any rate, there were better questions to ask the nurse. Diana placed her right arm on her bandaged left. “What happened to my arm…?”

    The froslass didn’t show any worry or hesitation. “When you were brought in, it was badly burnt. We were told you’re a delta pokémon? Is this correct?”

    “Yes, I am…” “Who told them that?”

    “Then what we assume happened was the overuse of an unnatural fire ability, leading to magic exhaustion.” Diana’s stomach dropped at the term. “I almost killed myself out there…”

    “But you got very lucky,” the nurse continued. “You must have been found shortly after fainting, because you only suffered mild internal bleeding and a minor case of frostbite.” Her expression turned a tad darker. “Your arm wasn’t as lucky. The fur was burned off, and there are second-degree burns going the entire length of it.” Diana reflexively hugged her arm closer. “Don’t fret! It should heal in a couple weeks, but until then you should avoid use of it.”

    Diana looked at the bandages. “Father won’t be happy to see this. He’s probably very unhappy already.” The thought of a father reminded her of the remaining question. “Where’s Inna? The sandshrew who was with me? Is she okay?”

    The nurse returned a warm expression. “She’s fine. She suffered from a little bit of shock, but we managed to calm her down. She’s with her parents now.”

    A sigh of relief. “Thank goodness.” There was only one more question worth asking. “How long do I need to stay here for?”

    “As of right now, you’re as fine as you can be. But since you’re young, you’ll have to wait until your parents come to pick you up,” the nurse explained. “You do have visitors waiting on you. Should I call them in?”

    And the relief disappeared. “It had to happen sooner or later, but I have to deal with him now, don’t I?” Diana nodded, resigned to her fate. “Yes, you can.”

    “Alright. Excuse me for a moment.” And the froslass left. When the door closed behind her, Diana waited in steely silence.

    Then, the door creaked open. Diana expected her father, but instead… the head of an eevee poked through. “Emil?!” The instant he was called out, the eevee disappeared, door left ajar from his absence. “What was he doing here?”

    Before she could wonder about that, the door was pushed further open, and in came a familiar snover. “Diana?”

    She wasn’t expecting her, either. “Klara, you’re here?”

    “Well yeah, of course I am.” Klara’s eyes trailed towards Diana’s bandaged arm. “Are… are you okay?”

    The buizel followed her gaze and put her arm to her side. “I’ve felt worse before. This is nothing,” she tried to reassure. Pride aside, this was the second face to greet her that wasn’t her father’s. “Er, who else is here to visit? I thought I saw Emil?”

    “Yeah, Emil and his brother came to visit for some reason. I think his brother made him do it.” Klara shook her head. “Anyway, it’s just me and Nestor otherwise.”

    Diana was surprised. “That’s it?”

    Klara shuffled her feet. “Well, my aunt’s here with me too, but I asked to talk alone, so…”

    “I see…” Diana was actually kind of relieved. It meant her father either didn’t know where she was or didn’t care enough to enforce any kind of discipline. Both were good outcomes, either way. The buizel put her attention back on Klara, only to notice she was shaking. “What’s wrong?”

    “I-I waited, you know. I waited a long time. And you didn’t come back. And…” She looked down, trying to fight back tears. “And I went to the Guild Center to call for help. And they went and tried to find you and Inna. But then they came back because of the blizzard. And they said that maybe…!” She covered her eyes with her leafy arm. “And then they found you, and brought you back in, and you looked so… so…” She choked. “I thought you were dead!”

    Diana didn’t know how to respond. “Klara… You care about me too, don’t you?” That was two pokémon who cared; two “friends” who turned out to be real ones.

    She figured she had to say something. “Well, I’m here now. And I’m not dead.”

    “I know.” Klara vigorously wiped her face with her arm. “I-I’m just crying because I’m happy. That’s it.”

    Diana sighed. “Is that all you came here for then?”

    The snover finally brought her arm back to her side. “I just wanted to make sure you were okay. I’ll leave now.”

    She turned around to do just that, but Diana still had a question hanging at the back of her mind. “Wait.” When Klara turned around, she repeated the same question she had asked Inna yesterday: “I was wondering, why do you follow me around every day?”

    “Why do I follow you? We’re friends, right?” She looked away, a sheepish look crossing her face. “A-and besides, I look up to you, y’know? You’re always so strong, and confident. Even now, after… all that. So y’know.”

    “I see,” Diana said, contemplating. “Thanks for coming to visit. I appreciate it.”

    “No problem, right?” Klara rubbed the back of her head. “I’ll see you tomorrow?”

    The buizel wasn’t sure if she could promise it. “I hope so,” she replied. And with that, Klara left.

    Diana waited for the door to open once again. She thought about her friends, the “Three Terrors of East Park.” “Maybe it’d be nice to actually be friends for once, and not just terrors.”

    The door opened again, and in came Nestor. The old lucario smiled when he saw Diana. “Hey there Diana. You doing fine?”

    And now her mood was spoiled. “Yeah.”

    Nestor’s eyes kept going to her arm. “That’s good to hear.” He traveled over to the bedside. “You gave us all quite a scare, you know. I think I lost a few years worrying about you!”

    Diana huffed. “What are you doing here anyway? Didn’t you say you were going to spend the solstice with your grandkids?”

    “Yeah, I did. But I’d like to consider you an ‘honorary grandkid.’ If that’s okay with you.” He winked.

    She just rolled her eyes. “Whatever.”

    He sighed. “Oh come on now. I came here to see if you were doing well, not get snarked at.”

    “Yeah, well, I’m still angry at you,” said Diana as she crossed her arms.

    “Because I was right? Because you still haven’t got complete control over you fire?” Nestor shook his head. “But that’s not why I’m here. I’m here because I’m actually proud of you, Diana.”

    Diana’s eyes widened. It wasn’t often that Nestor gave praise that sounded so genuine. “What do you mean?”

    “When you first came into my dojo six months ago demanding to be taught fire moves, you were perhaps the rudest, most entitled brat I had ever laid my eyes on. You acted like you owned the place, and got angry at me when you couldn’t get a handle on it immediately.” Nestor took a seat on the edge of the bed. “But since then, you’ve grown a lot. You got two friends, grew a conscious. Still a little rude, though.”

    “Gee, thanks.”

    “You didn’t let me finish!” Nestor chuckled. “But seriously, I never would have thought the spoiled rich kid from back then would go on to save another kid’s life. By herself, no less.”

    “But…” Diana’s face fell. “I’m part of the reason why it happened. It was my fault.”

    “Yeah, I heard as much. But then you took responsibility and made it back. I think that’s something worth being proud of.”

    “I guess...” She wasn’t expecting some weird, slightly insulting pep talk from Nestor. Today was full of surprises, she supposed. “Is that all you came here to talk to me about? Why are you really here?”

    Nestor tilted his head. “Honorary granddaughter?”

    “Besides that! How did you even find out?”

    He smiled. “Well, I am friends with the guildmaster, y’know!”

    “You- Wait, no you’re not!”

    “Ha! I can’t get anything past you!” he exclaimed, laughing. “I just heard from a friend that the guild was up in arms about missing children, that’s all. As for why I’m here…” Nestor pushed himself off the bedside. “What kind of mentor would I be if I didn’t care about the well-being of my students?”

    “But your family…” Diana almost choked. “He cares about me too?”

    “Eh, it’s not the solstice yet. And they understand, so it’s fine for me to be here right now.” Nestor shrugged. “By the way, no one’s come to pick you up. Do you have someone who should be waiting on you?”

    “No, I don’t,” she replied. “He’ll probably come eventually though. Or send someone else.”

    “I see.” Just then, Diana’s stomach growled with intensity. Nestor looked surprised. “How long has it been since you last ate?”

    She hugged her stomach. “I don’t know, how long have I been out for?”

    “Well, the sun should be settin’ soon, so I’d say about-”

    “Wait!” Diana just remembered. “Tomorrow's the solstice, and…!” “She believes in The Saint but The Saint won’t show up, and…!” “Is Inna still here?!” She asked, desperation in her eyes.

    Nestor scratched an ear. “No, she went home with her parents a while ago. Why?”

    “Because her parents can’t afford anything for the solstice!” Inna felt around her neck, and noticed her coin purse wasn’t there. “Where’s my-?!”

    That’s when she noticed it around Nestor’s neck. “Give me pack my coin purse!”

    “I was just holding on to it!” He took it off and handed it back. “Don’t worry, I didn’t steal anything.” His playful tone was practically asking for a punch to the face.

    “Whatever, this is serious!” Diana put the purse back on. “I need to leave now!”

    “What for?”

    “Inna’s parents won’t be able to buy her any presents. And… She told me what she wanted. I need to go and get her gifts before the market closes.” Diana got up and slid off the bed.

    Nestor seemed impressed. “Buy her gifts? Didn’t realize you could be generous! There’s just one problem.”

    She froze to ask. “What?”

    “Someone needs to check you out before you can leave,” he pointed out. Diana felt a spike of anxiety. Then Nestor continued. “But, if you’re my honorary granddaughter, that makes me your honorary grandfather, if you get what I mean.” A wink.

    “You’d do that for me…?” Diana couldn’t believe it. “What’s the catch?”

    Nestor cackled loudly. “The catch is that you have to accept the title!”

    He didn’t expect to be bombarded by a sudden hug from Diana. “Then I accept,” she said, her face buried into his chest fur.

    The lucario gave her a moment, bewildered, yet recognizing its significance. He then gently pushed her away. “Mind the spike, Diana. I didn’t take you for a hugger.”

    Diana blushed under her fur. She had done it without thinking. “I… just thought it was appropriate.” She shook the embarrassment away and made for the door. “Let’s go before the market closes.”

    The two made their way out of the room and down the halls of the infirmary. Diana hugged her bandaged arm closely and thought about the title Nestor gave her. “Honorary granddaughter... I feel so blind, now. My father is never there for me, except when planning lessons or preparing me for when it’s time. But Nestor, Klara, Inna… And apparently Emil, kind of. All of them have been there. The entire time, and not just when it’s convenient, and not for some vengeful ulterior motive. I actually have pokémon who care about me. And now that I can see it...”

    Nestor conversed with the pokémon manning the front desk, explaining how Diana was his “granddaughter” and that he was here to pick her up. The ‘mon didn’t even question it, saying to bring Diana back in a couple days to change bandages and check for infection before letting the two exit the building into the cold.

    “Well, if you want to get gifts for Inna, you better hurry up,” said Nestor, looking up at the clear, darkening sky.

    “Right.” Diana marched forward, but turned back to say: “Thank you, Nestor. For everything.”

    He smiled. “No problem. Hope the winter solstice goes well for you!”

    Diana left the infirmary behind, looked around to ascertain her location, and then made for where she figured the market was. Past walls of plowed snow, past the Guild Center, past buildings of all shapes and sizes as she made her way towards the market district. The road led into it naturally, as she figured a road connected to an important building like the Guild Center would. The road here was lined with stalls and storefronts. She glanced at each to try and find one that had what she needed. “Scarf, eviolite, and a basket of some kind of berry.”

    It was a different experience, to shop in this area rather than simply travel through it. The voices she’d hear now had faces attached to them. The one selling the King figurine was a weavile, and standing next to him was some cubchoo kid she didn’t recognize. The kid was sculpting something right out in the open. “An apprentice, maybe?” She ignored it and moved into the plaza. Looking around at each corner, she found a storefront she remembered hearing earlier this morning. It was a stall placed right in front of a building, surrounded by rope and with a roof adorned with scarves of various colors and sizes. A mothim bundled up in his own wares stood behind a makeshift counter, a hearth lit behind him for warmth. “That’s what I’m looking for.” Diana walked briskly to it.

    “Hello there!” the shopkeeper cheerfully greeted. “You look like you need something! How can I help?” His smile, the decoration, and the hearth all exuded a warm atmosphere. It was probably intentional, given his products.

    “I need a scarf,” Diana explained. “It’s a gift for someone else.”

    “Last minute gift?” She nodded. “That’s fine, no shame in that! What size are we dealing with?”

    “About my size, but a little shorter. Kid-size.”

    “Okay, I’ll see what I have.” The mothim rose from the ground, and flit about his small stall, checking each scarf and judging them. “Hm… Do you have a color in mind?”

    “Color?” “What color would she like?” “How about black?”

    “Black…” He looked around, his eyes settling on a scarf hanging just to the left. He pulled it down and brought it back. “This one?” He held it out for her to see.

    It was simple, but well-made, and would definitely stick out in the snow in case she lost it. She took it into her paws. It was also warm, most likely from being near the hearth all day. Diana nodded. “Yes, this looks good.”

    “That’ll be 80 Poké then,” the mothim tailor offered. Diana reached into her coin purse and pulled out four gold pieces, placing them right on the counter. “Pleasure doing business with you!”

    Leaving the mothim behind, she found herself at loss at what to do with the scarf. She decided to just try wearing it around her neck for now, and looked for a store that could sell the remaining items. The market was calming down, stores closing left and right as she searched for something. Loudly, she heard someone proclaim: “Looking for something? We got you covered!”

    She looked over towards a building, where a red kecleon stared directly at her through an opening. “I’m talking to you, kid! You seem lost! If you need to find something, come over here!” Diana remembered the rumors of the Kecleon Conspiracy. If they were any true, that meant he was probably telling the truth.

    Diana did as told and explained her situation. “Eviolite and berries, eh? What kind of berries?”

    “Er, they were… Nanab, I think.”

    “A rare item and a basket of rare berries.” The kecleon turned a skeptical gray. “You sure you can afford all that?”

    “Definitely.” Money was no object to Diana.

    “Give me a moment then.” The kecleon left into the back of his store and came back with a sack and a basket of nanab berries. “The eviolite is in the sack,” -- he showed her the purple lump within -- “and these five are all the nanab I have in stock. Altogether, the eviolite is 400, the berries are 300, and you get the sack free of charge. 700 Poké in all. How does that sound?” His color had changed to orange, ready for debate.

    But instead, Diana reached into her purse, and pulled out a platinum piece. The kecleon’s eyes widened immediately, color changing to trademark green. “Ooooh, didn’t realize that was what I was dealing with!”

    She placed it down along with some gold pieces. “One platinum and ten gold. That’s enough.”

    “Of course it is!” He counted up his earnings and allowed Diana to take the sack and basket. “It’s been a pleasure,” he said, bowing.

    “Yeah, whatever.” She stuffed the basket and scarf into the sack and carried it off, away from the kecleon.

    The air had grown chilly, night having fallen, and now all Diana had to do was reach Inna’s house. She knew where it was, having passed by it many times, and made for the part of Kristiled it was found in. “I’ll have to wait until they’re asleep first, though.” So she figured she could take her time getting there. The city gradually grew quieter, the streets emptying as doors closed down every road. Everyone was heading back to their families to wait out the night so that festivities could begin the next day. Diana wondered how different it’d be if she were part of it. “No, I am a part of it. That’s what I’m doing right now, playing my part.” Maybe next year, when she wasn’t likely to be confined to the manor for missing an entire day, she could participate in a different way. “That’d be nice.”

    Eventually, she found what she was looking for: a quaint single-story house in a row of similar ones, located on the same path she took every day to get to the dojo. She sat down outside the broken door and looked towards the sky, waiting until she was sure Inna’s family was asleep. Time passed, and the air grew even colder, but Diana didn’t feel cold at all. She did feel hungry though. “I’ll grab something back at the manor.” She held up her left arm and played with the bandages to distract herself while she waited.

    An hour passed, and when she was sure she couldn’t hear anything coming from inside, she took a peek through the entryway where the door should’ve been.

    Inside, the light of a fireplace cast a soft light on the room. It was very small, a kitchen in one corner, a dining area in another, and in the farthest left corner sat three sleeping figures, all curled up close together. Diana cautiously stepped inside and got a better look at the three. A ninetales and a sandslash, both curled around their sandshrew daughter in the middle.

    Diana stared for a while, then shook it off and went to work. She went over to the small table in the dining area and put down the sack. Carefully, she pulled out each item and soundlessly placed them on the table. That’s when she remembered that Inna usually got letters from The Saint. She looked around the house, wondering if her parents had any paper to spare. It was nerve wracking, having to be so quiet when her sleeping parents were right there, but she managed to find a stray pen in the kitchen, and a paper near the fireplace. She went back to the table and went to work.

    “Dear Inna,” it began. Diana tried to think of direction to go with it. It came easier than she thought it would. “The past year has been an eventful one for you. I know how lonely you feel, so it makes me glad to know that you’ve made two new friends since I last wrote to you. You also had an interesting choice of presents this year! I hope the scarf keeps you warm and the berries keep you fed in the upcoming winter months. As for the eviolite, I’m sure Klara would appreciate it a lot.” She hit a block there and decided to wrap it up. “I hope the festivities go well for you this year. Have a good solstice! Sincerely, The Saint.”

    Diana admired her handiwork. It was a little hasty, and the writing was probably much nicer looking than that of Inna’s mother, but she figured Inna wouldn’t be able to tell the difference. Especially since last time Diana checked, she couldn’t read. Taking the sack with her, she quietly made for the exit.

    “Diana…?”

    She froze. Diana looked to where the voice came from, and found Inna staring directly at her from between her sleeping parents. Her anxiety shot through the roof with the realization that she screwed up.

    But instead of tears or anger or some sense of betrayal that she thought she’d recieve, Inna just smiled. “Thank you,” she whispered.

    And all the anxiety melted away into nothing. Diana returned the smile, nodded, and then left.

    ~~~

    Diana opened the door to her manor. It was dark, cold, and quiet. Like always. She tried not to let it bother her. “I did a good deed today. I don’t have any reason to feel scared.” And besides that, her father probably was asleep, and what was the worst he could do, anyway?

    She tossed the sack on the floor and made for the kitchen, stomach still growling and hoping to get something quick. A couple pecha or rawst berries, maybe. Diana was in the mood for something sweet, so she grabbed a pecha berry and traveled through the mansion, up the stairs, and into her dark room.

    That’s when she noticed it wasn’t dark.

    All of the room’s candles were lit, and a box was lying on her bed, waiting for her. “What the…?”

    The buizel cautiously approached the small box, which was a bright red and surrounded by a green ribbon. That’s when she noticed the other thing that came with it. “A letter… N-no way…” She gulped, and started to read.

    Dear Diana,

    First, I must apologize. This is long overdue, much too long. Normally, I limit gift giving to those who need it. I had always assumed you didn’t, and never once looked to deeper to find out that I was wrong. It was an error on my part, and for that I’m sorry. It was only in these past six months that I was given the chance to learn about you. What I learned was that you are rough, bitter, strong-willed, brave, and beneath it all, surprisingly kind. While there is much you can work on, especially regarding those children you always seem to bother, your actions in this recent crisis speak to a much better person beneath it all. Which is why I have confidence that you deserve this overdue gift. You took charge of a bad situation, recognized your faults, and risked your life for another. And you even tried to take my job! Giving gifts to others is a way to communicate how much we care. It’s why around this time of year, in the winter when many have nothing to give, that we give anyway. I can’t fault you for taking my job. In fact, I encourage it. You care deeply for your friends; I won’t put myself in the way of that.

    As for your situation, it always pains me to see a child who believes they are alone in the world. Which is why I believe you need this overdue gift. You may have already figured it out, but there are those who care for you. Compared to that simple fact, any gift I give can only act as reassurance. But I’ll gladly give if I can help reinforce that. And as for the future, I hope you can seperate yourself from what has been forcibly set upon you. You have a powerful gift, and a world of opportunities. Whatever you choose to do, I know you’ll be good at it. And if you do decide to continue down the path laid out for you, then I hope it’s for your own reasons.

    It was a bit last minute, but I hope you find what’s inside the box to be to your satisfaction.

    Sincerely,
    Nicholas “The Saint” Claus.


    Diana couldn’t believe it. It didn’t even feel real. Like the paper she was holding was some kind of mirage, and would melt into thin air if she so much as looked at it funny. But it was very real, lit by candlelight and reinforced by the force of gravity pushing down the top as she held it by the bottom. “The Saint is real…”

    Putting the letter to the side, she turned her attention to the present on her bed. Slowly, she lifted the top off, and looked inside.

    It was a locket.

    She took it out and inspected it. It seemed to be of silver, and was very round. The front and back were decorated with ornate patterns. Very ornate. “This kind of craftsmanship…. I’ve never seen anything like it. This is what he considers last minute?”

    She opened the locket up, and found that it was empty. Waiting to be filled.

    Diana’s vision began to blur with tears. She held the locket close. “Thank you.” The buizel stood there for a while, letting the tears clear out of her system.

    When she was done, she opened her bedside drawer and placed both it and the letter inside. “I can start wearing this when I next get a chance to go outside.” Diana took the box and hid it under her bed, and then remembered that she still hadn’t eaten her pecha berries. She ate in silence, and when done went to put out each of her room’s candles. In the darkness, she contemplated. “I have an outside to go to.” The buizel yawned, then went to bury herself in the covers of her bed.

    It was warm.

    ---

    And noooow I can talk about the risks. The prompt called for a ‘feel-good’ story. Like, the kind that doesn’t make you feel like crap afterwards. Thing is, the subject matter here is kiiinda dark. Again it kinda just… happened. Like, I know why it did, I was in a weird mood at the time, but dang it was a risk to make the story revolve around it. Hurt/comfort was allowed as long as it ended with comfort, but it also came with the caveat of ‘nothing too bleak,’ which was like “oh no does this count maybe i don’t know depends???” In other words, I took a big risk, trying to pull this. I figured that part of what makes a feel-good story is how it ends, and the initial idea, of combining the two prompts except with a twist, lent itself well to having a good, heartwarming end, as long as I don’t try to pull anything fancy. So that’s what I did, and the risk was the beginning and rising action, which featured a cold protagonist and a cold environment. A lot was riding on the climax, falling action, and resolution for this one, basically. I was nervous all around when writing this, as admittedly this is the first time in almost two years that I wrote for a POV that isn’t an important character in the Main Project™. Everyone here was created solely for the purpose of this one-shot… which also means less strength of character because I haven’t been sitting on them forever. I dunno, maybe I’m the only one who sees a bunch of inconsistencies with at least two named characters here.

    Those weren’t the only risks, though. I also decided early on to include magic. I was wary about giving the idea the OK, since this actually happened last year too before I decided to scrap its inclusion there. But I also thought of how magic could actually end up being a good thing for this fic, and I had heard that Namohysip wasn’t exactly shy about playing around with types and their conventions. So after reading some HoC to make sure it’d be fine, I went and included it. I decided to bring back an old term to quickly and concisely explain it, hence “delta pokémon.” That’s technically the term for magic users, but I kinda stopped using it for a while because magic user was just easier to say. I brought it back because it gives an idea on what magic is, without having to go into exposition mode: all I have to do is name drop it and anyone who is even remotely familiar with the TCG or Pokémon fangames has a place to start on understanding the concept as it’s used here. In hindsight though, I think I may have botched its inclusion a little by including “magic exhaustion” into the mix. The concept makes sense if you learned about magic from Chronicles of a Furret, but as part of a separate one-shot it kinda comes out of nowhere that magic has a cost associated with it. So I definitely feel that’s one thing I could’ve done better.

    As for the red figure in the blizzard scene? That was, in fact, The Saint! I say it here because I originally wanted to have The Saint point it out in his letter to Diana, but I realized that he’d probably be too humble to just put it out there that he saved her life. Though, maybe it was better off being left ambiguous in which case crap forget i said anything.

    Finally, it’s a minor thing, but It’s Cold Outside very much fell victim to my inability to measure things. Like, I have no concept of time, don’t know the difference between an inch and a centimeter, and can’t tell when a story concept is going to take more than 10k words. Not once did I ever add any scenes from the original idea, yet my projected word count steadily changed from 5k, to 3k, to 7k, to 9k, to 11k, to 13k. And I still exceeded that. The length of this thing completely blindsided me, and I’m pretty sure I caused Dragonfree some grief since I said I’d have the “7000 word fic done by the 19th as long as I follow this 500 words a day schedule” only for 500 a day to turn into 2000 a day because of how hilariously off I was. Needless to say, I turned it in 3 hours before the deadline. I also think it may have affected the writing quality a little bit as I kinda stayed up until 5 AM every day in order to get scenes done. Which isn’t the best idea.

    With all those notes out of the way, feedback is very appreciated. It’s been a while since I last posted anything here, so to know if I’ve progressed/regressed would be useful. And I know it’s not exactly Christmas anymore, but I hope 2019 goes well for everyone! I’m hoping it can go better on my end too.
     

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