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[OS] Simpler than Magic

Discussion in 'Fan Fiction' started by Venia Silente, Oct 19, 2017.

  1. Venia Silente

    Venia Silente [](int x){return x;}

    Hello there! About some time I hadn't published a story here so I guess why not, anytime is a good time.

    In this opportunity I want to bring to you a story that I originally wrote for a contest about "magic". Like, just the word, in general terms, and see what do we do with it. For this story, I wanted to focus less on what magic might or might not be -it is a bit of an overused term, after all- and more on how magic is perceived as, or isn't.

    There are some author notes of value at the bottom, but other than that and without further ado...



    "Simpler than Magic
    (by Venia Silente)

    All his time away from home, following the gossip, researching the books, had been for this moment of solitude away from civilization. The Slugma that had been surrounding him had receded and gone to their places of hiding before his might. Trent the human looked down to the Flygon right before him, one of many Pokémon who ceremoniously but harshly had tried to stop him in his endeavor into the remote mountain.


    "Well?” spoke the human, addressing the Flygon. “I carry nothing else with me. I was assured passage to where the bird lies.”


    The Flygon and the other Pokémon around had been murmuring for a while. The remote island where they lived was, certainly, home to a bird. There were certainly Skarmory in one of the abandoned settlements, remainders of old civilizations, down the mountain. Maybe some common birds by the pond. But no, that was not it. The Flygon flew closer to the ceiling of the cave, then down to approach some nearby Quilava and Shuckle, battered after their attempts to stop the human.


    Trent observed as the bunch of wild Pokémon seemed to argue for a moment. He looked down to the floor, to the only luggage he was carrying with him, a small crystal casket covered in a mantle; he frowned and wondered if it was of any importance that his meeting would be further delayed.


    After some deliberations, the Flygon took flight and motioned for the human to follow into the depths of the mountain. The other wild Pokémon each went their own ways, some of them following the duo from a distance.


    "Hey, just hang on a bit,” demanded the human as he leapt down some ledges and tried to keep the Flygon’s pace. “This place is made for mountain-dwellers! Why is the bird living here anyway?”


    The Flygon turned to the human and buzzed, but otherwise continued her way. She didn’t really care to explain what little she knew, the human would not understand her language anyway. And as a guest, her revealing more than advised would likely not be welcome.


    Following the cave, climbing up and down as it twisted and reached into the mountain, was a slow and tiring task, but progress was made clearer as Trent felt with each level they climbed down the air became fresher and the cave became wider. They were closer to an exit, most likely an opening to a hole in the mountain with access to the open sky, the human thought. Just a bit later, the duo saw light.


    The Flygon flew ahead fast and performed some sort of dance, buzzing every once in awhile. All the time, Trent could not see or hear anything nearby, so he continued ahead until he saw an opening below and took it. The light was much clearer now, and he could make out in the wind the smell of fresh air and of flowers, although he did not recognize the variety. As the Flygon kept dancing she moved closer to an opening, and Trent followed climbing down the last steps of rocks before finding himself at a patch of dirt facing some flowers, and a ledge right in front of him, in the outside world.


    "Is this the place?” he asked to the Flygon. “The bird lives here?”


    The Flygon nodded, then retreated. Trent attempted to follow, but the Flygon harshly bat her wings and Trent was pushed back a short distance.


    "...Hey!”


    Flygon buzzed back, trying to match the human’s tone. The two bickered at each other for a moment, the Flygon keeping her position, until it dawned upon the human that the place where they were standing was where they would “sit” for their meeting.


    "...Whatever,” he said finally. He knelt down and inspected his box, removing the mantle that covered it. “Just let me see the bird at once.”


    At that the Flygon retreated, singing a song of her own making that Trent took to be some sort of welcome gesture, or announcement for the host bird. The human snickered and produced from one of his pockets his shiny New 1DS XL Advance, the latest model of the handheld device that he was using for this trip: it was equipped with everything from a food rations calculator to GPS to camera and Pokémon radar; but the most recent addition, and the one Trent had the most use for now, a built-in alternative Pokédex.


    Trent opened the casket and carefully ran his fingers over the object inside.


    The Pokédex he had was linked to the global Poképedia database, “the open encyclopedia that anyone can edit”.


    He caressed the dead flower. While not rare, it was special in its kind.


    Trent stared at the icon of the encyclopedia for a moment and then started the app. He thought of all he had read about the bird that was supposedly living here; a colorful and majestic creature by many considered mythical, by some even some sort of Protector deity, yet by others, like Trent, taken to be not better than a random cryptid resulting from the pale records and less than stellar research methods of the old times.


    He took a moment to look at the flower in reverence, Not as common as a lily or a carnation, not as rare as the Gracidea or the mysterious Time Flower. How curious, he thought, that both the meadowlark flower and the bird living here were thought to be connected to rainbows and the happiness of people.


    Suddenly a high chirp came from the opening of the cave; Trent thought he could see something moving, and readied himself for the meeting. It was only fitting that today the bird would too join death in a sense, here in the «Mountain of Revival».


    Trent inhaled in anticipation. For years people like him had researched the tales, the folklore and the rumors. Every time something was said to be magical or supernatural, people like him would jump to the call to debunk the myths and drag its subjects through the mud. His people had researched the “magician” tricks of creatures like Delphox, had followed the trail of fire that crossed the nearby continent during the solstice, had replicated the telepathic abilities of Pokémon like Alakazam. If there was any way to make the universe around them less marvelous, Trent and his peers would rise to the task.


    The stories told of a creature, shaped like a bird, but not a normal Pokémon like the others. A creature whose light shone and nurtured the grasslands. Whose plumage gave light like that of the early morning. Whose aura was capable of bringing the deceased back to life.


    Tales of an abomination, Trent said in his mind.


    Really poor storytelling coupled with badly founded research, which he would today fix and then sell the rights to the movie, Trent muttered to himself. He closed the container and rose to meet the hidden creature lurking in the mountain. He heard the fluttering of wings and smiled; after picking up his container, he slowly walked to the opening of the cave, ready to call out the bird and its cult.


    He had to cover his eyes for a moment when he reached out. Over six hours in a cave had taken its toll, and he had to take a moment to readjust. He was finally able to look ahead. He was standing on a ledge, about three meters above a clearing in what appeared to be a hollow outside of the mountain. A shadow moved to his right, and he turned to that side to see the Flygon land nearby, eyeing him cautiously.


    Ready to greet the bird, Trent turned to the clearing and took a look in the direction the sound of wings fluttering came.


    "...T-that’s the bird?” he had to ask.


    A short distance in front of him, happily hopping around and pulling blades of grass every once in a while, was an orange and fluffy bird, no larger than a common Spearow. A number of disordered thin feathers of golden colouration adorned the bird’s tail, and two small greenish feathers danced around its neck, animated by the wind. The crown piece was a pair of embellished feathers on top of the little bird’s head.


    Trent coughed uncomfortably and turned to the Flygon with a puzzled expression. It was the kind of bird he expected, certainly, except… much smaller.


    "Uhm… is it reallythe Ho-Oh?” he asked with a voice just a bit shaken. “Did- did I miss a pyre or something?”


    The Flygon looked at the human, blinked a couple of times and responded with a buzz of contentment as she pointed to the little bird. Trent grimaced as the revelation that came to him - not only the thought that he could have just lost the opportunity to record the supposed ritual of rejuvenation of the so-called Ho-Oh, but also the realization that it was possible that -just like the Flygon - the little bird would not be able to answer his questions.


    He took a couple steps closer to the end of the ledge and sat on the edge. He could just grab the bird in his hand, squeeze it into unconsciousness and go to the nearest laboratory to run tests on it, if he could get past the Flygon. Trent sighed. His meeting was going the complete opposite to what he had expected.


    "You’re telling me… that is the Ho-Oh?” he repeated.


    The Flygon nodded emphatically. She seemed so proud of being around the overly adorned Spearow, it didn’t matter if she had to assure the human for the third time already that yes, it was a Ho-Oh!


    Trent sighed, then stood up and called to the little bird. The Flygon imitated the gesture, and the Ho-Oh came flying all the way to her, chirping all the way. After circling around for a moment, the creature landed by the Flygon and trilled a happy note.


    "You are the one I wanted to meet then,” Trent said as he snapped a couple of pictures of the pair with his handheld.


    The little bird turned to him and gave him a greeting chirp. Trent thought to himself, he was sure he was not feeling anything special coming from the bird. Some records said about a mental voice, but all he was hearing was content trills.


    "...I can not lose this chance to prove the truth to the world, but how?” he asked, both to himself and to the bird. “You were supposed to answer to me!”


    His change in tone brought as a response a warning growl from the Flygon, but Trent stood his ground.


    "Come on, tell me something!” He picked his glass cage and moved it closer to the pair, revealing the dead flower inside. “Were you dead? Did you do something special?”


    The Flygon stared at him and let out a more inquisitive growl, as if she was asking for the meaning of the words, but Trent could not be sure. He focused his attention on the little bird who was preening its feathers and paying him mild attention.


    Trent continued asking questions, spoke of the tales of a guardian who shone light to Johto, spoke of the story of the Ecruteak Towers. He pointed to the cage a couple of times, trying to make the little Ho-Oh pay attention to it. He had to find out what the supposed “magic” of Ho-Oh was about. He had to.


    But the little bird gave him no useful response. It would just hop or flutter around, examining him at moments and then retreating back to where the Flygon was, chirping in amusement. Trent clenched his fists, all this effort just to meet a painted Spearow.


    In a moment of misguided judgment, Trent attempted to step in and grab the Ho-Oh. He could submit it to examination with the devices he was bringing with him, he thought, and perhaps even later take it to a lab. A first attempt to grab the bird failed, as it just pranced out of reach and chirped happily. Trent pounced after it and the Flygon yelped in surprise. Suddenly there was a ruckus as the bird, having escaped once again the grasp of the human, went to the border of the ledge and started crying alarm and Trent found his way blocked by the Flygon, who had just leaped in and placed herself in the way, tail curled, head lowered.


    Trent growled a threat, the Flygon buzzed what could be assumed to be the same. The two eyed each other for a moment, ready to pounce at each other in their attempt to fetch or protect the little bird. Both tensed their legs.


    The time for the leap never came. Suddenly a strong gust came down and knocked both off their feet; before they could have the time to recover, a stream of fire came from the other side of the clearing and curled around the ledge, surrounded them and blocking the access to the cave behind them. Trent stumbled and tried to get up, he heard the fire cackle madly as it receded; a moment after he woke up to try and see what was happening when suddenly the ledge shook due to a strong tremor and Trent fell sat on the ground, noticing a large shadow was covering him.


    He did not find the little bird. The bird he found himself in presence of was much larger in size, much meaner in expression; a larger and more adorned version of the little bird, its plumage much more colorful and ruffled by the wind, with a much more muscular build that pulsated with the energy fed from the heart of such an incredible creature. A black mask surrounded the eyes that were fixated at him with an angry expression.


    Trent could not see the creature’s talons, as it had clung to the side of the rocky ledge. He thought it better to not think of a better use for talons with that kind of sharpness.


    "...Uhm...”


    Trent carefully leaned to the side and looked past the bird, to see a fan of thin golden feathers trailing behind it, and then up, to see a crest of thick curled feathers of similar colouration adorning its head.

    It was definitely a Ho-Oh, Trent thought, one at least twice his size, and compared to the little bird he had met before, this one looked much more muscular, decorated, healthy and aggressive. Mood-wise, Trent assumed with a gulp, this was just about the worst way possible to meet a Ho-Oh.

    "Who dares!” asked a voice out of nowhere, somehow resonating in Trent’s mind as he saw the larger bird shriek and bat his wings. “Who dares strike my nest in the Mountain of Revival!”





    The larger bird’s voice came gruff as it turned to the Flygon. “Your announcement was that a human would come look around,” he said accusingly.


    "Y-yes, Protector...”


    Trent jerked his head in the direction of the voice. It felt feminine, coarse, and in a strange way, livid blue in guilt. Only the Flygon was there, it had to have come from her, but how?


    "I must apologize,” the Flygon continued, trying what appeared to be a voice, mental or not, less coarse and more reflective of the greenery that had welcomed the human before. “He- he said there were questions for Ho-Oh.”


    "Uhm,” interjected Trent, wondering if he was indeed before the same bird said to once have been the Protector of Johto, “I came here because-”


    The larger Ho-Oh suddenly screeched, making Trent wince and prompting the smaller Ho-Oh to emerge from its hiding spot and fly down to the greenery. After that, the larger bird resumed speaking with a commanding voice.


    "I don’t allow humans here except for my examination! Why is the chick involved?”


    "...Chick?” asked Trent, leering at the direction the smaller bird went.


    "I-I thought it was any Ho-Oh?” The Flygon buzzed a hurried apology, her voice sounding somewhat confused and, Trent could swear, reddish and blushing in embarrassment. Her feet and wings trembled. “The human said it was questions and looking around. I did not think it would be a problem if the chick wasn’t-”


    "...Problem?!”


    A sudden pain similar to a toothache shook Trent in that moment as the larger Ho-Oh detached from the wall and climbed to the ledge; Trent was not sure where was he feeling the pain come from; he knew what it was, it felt that familiar, but his body was not able to tell him where did it ache, where could he rub or clutch to find relief. He turned to the Flygon, who was shaking as well, and could not help but lower his sight as the larger bird craned over closer to the Flygon.


    At a corner of his mind, the idea emerged that in this place even the voice of the Flygon was as colorful as the birds and the landscape, but it was a faint thought that managed to draw but a dim curl in the corner of his lip.


    "You are assigned the protection and education of the chick, Spectrum.”


    At that Trent couldn’t help but snort - vocally and mentally; the larger Ho-Oh turned an eye to him then dismissed him. Wild Pokémon educating each other. The idea in and of itself was not strange, but seeing what had come of this day, in this isolated place, all Trent could think of was a blind person guiding another.


    "I thought the questions w-would be… education?” the Flygon ventured, in an inquisitive, yellowish illuminating voice as she lowered her neck and wings and turned her sight to the ground.


    Trent had to admit, that feeling in her voice and the fact that he was the one supposed to provide the questions made him feel a mild discomfort. Not guilt, not pity; no, he was above such peasant feelings he smugly reminded himself. Mere discomfort.


    "W-well… yes. But!” spoke the larger Ho-Oh. Trent saw the creature step back and stand proud, wings folded. It breathed in and out. “It’s supposed to be safe. That’s the deal.”


    The Flygon nodded and remained in her place, glued to the ground. Trent felt alarmed as the larger Ho-Oh turned its full attention to him, all of a sudden his intention to confront the bird - the real one this time - was weighed down by a veiled oppression, as if the very presence of the bird was translating all commands in his body and his mind to not act against the creature in front of him.


    Trent took a moment to focus, with some difficulty, and scoffed as the large creature straightened itself.


    "And this is the one who bring the questions?” Ho-Oh the larger asked. “I receive worshippers here, yet you come with full intention to attack?”


    Trent made sure his casket was okay then he turned to Ho-Oh with a smile that, hard to admit, took him some effort. “I am here because I know what you really are,” he announced. “A Pokémon like any other.”


    The larger Ho-Oh eyed the human cautiously; Trent could swear the bird seemed to find him amusing.


    "This is all just telepathy and an analogue to the Pressure ability, I’m calling all that out,” Trent continued. He crossed his arms then pointed his chin at the Ho-Oh. “For all your flair you are not a magical bird.”


    At that Ho-Oh’s plumage bristled; the bird seemed to adjust himself in his seating position, without ever leaving Trent out of his sight. The bird eyed the casket beside the human, then turned his attention to the Flygon for a moment.


    "Your mistake shall be dealt with later, Spectrum; for now, you take Nix-”


    "Oh great, the chick has a name,” scoffed Trent, crossing his arms as he eyed the Flygon.


    "-and stay with her by the downwind, ready to take flight.”


    "What? ‘Her’?”


    As the Flygon nodded and headed to the smaller bird, trying to get her attention, Trent straightened himself and stood closer to the end of the ledge so he could see the smaller Ho-Oh prancing around. He then turned to Ho-Oh the larger and inquired, still not uncrossing his arms.


    "Now what is that? You saying that fledgling is a she?”


    For a response Ho-Oh the larger simply cocked his head.


    Trent mumbled some things for a moment, unsure how to point out to the bird that that could not be. He finally frowned, uncrossed his arms and scratched his head for a moment, as the Ho-Oh watched him with a tilted head all the time.


    "...Why? Isn’t that evident?” the larger bird asked.


    "Uhm… no? That makes like, zero sense,” Trent sighed and gesticulated a bit. “You cannot have a gender. You are a colorful Fearow and all, but you are not that similar to them.”


    The comparison seemed to draw a response of annoyance from the larger bird, but it otherwise remained in place. Trent produced his handheld and pointed it to the Ho-Oh.


    "Creatures like you are bizarre, incorrect, if you want it in a way. There’s never been more than one of you at a time, the records are at least that good,” Trent announced matter-of-factly. He looked at his screen to confirm that the Pokémon in front of him did, indeed, read a Ho-Oh and not a Ditto or a Zoroark.


    "Because you don’t belong here, right?” he continued. “You are a remainder of an older world, like the other creatures that have been spoken of in Hoenn and Sinnoh. A parasite that hides in a veil of constructed tales and cheap tricks.”


    Trent suddenly had an idea; it had seemed obvious to him that he had to check that he was not being cheated, after all, if this Ho-Oh was the real one, maybe the smaller one was a Ditto. That would explain everything!


    He made an attempt to move to the edge and point his handheld sensor to the chick, but suddenly there was a gust around him and he found himself before a thick wall of feathers, the wing of the Ho-Oh that had come down right in front of him. Trent looked up, the message was clear and did not need words.


    Still, as he raised his hands innocently and stepped back, he managed to swing the handheld just enough that he could point it in the general direction of the smaller bird when Ho-Oh moved its wing. A moment later there was a beep. The screen read the same general pointers as before.


    "Ho-Oh.” He thought for a moment. “There’s… no sense in this. You can’t have gender, there’s too few of you. It's not viable for a species. The Pokédex states it clearly! Genderless!”


    "You really see me as bizarre,” interjected the larger bird mentally. “You say I am a lie?”


    Having heard that, Spectrum the Flygon buzzed from the distance and came closer, flying a short distance behind the larger Ho-Oh and looking at him. She growled something, but it did not get “translated”.


    "Yo-you have to be!” claimed Trent. He saved the handheld in his pocket and moved to the glass box. The information could not be that wrong. “The standing theory is a bird-shaped monoclonal organism, that could engage in synkleptony to introduce genetic variance in its self-replication."


    Spectrum blinked and buzzed something, then turned to Ho-Oh; the larger bird raised his head and gave the human a long stare down that more or less attempted to convey the same expression as a head tilt in humans.


    Trent scoffed. "There’s just not enough of you.”


    He opened the box and produced the dead flower. He took a long look at it. “You are alone, you survive by trickery, by convincing others to feed and host you.”


    Ho-Oh lowered and shook its head. Its mental voice came a bitter lament. “There’s few of us, yes. But we manage to survive.”


    Trent pointed to the smaller Ho-Oh. “So what does that make you of her? Father? Mother? Because if you do have genders you have to be one of the two.”


    At that Spectrum interjected and glared at him; Trent just stared at her for a moment, not understanding a thing, and that prompted Ho-Oh to point to the dragon to land on the ledge.


    "The shared voice doesn’t work well at that distance,” Ho-Oh explained. “She says you mean sexes, and that by sta-”


    "Oh come on don’t give me that load of...” Trent threw his arms up, then snarled at Ho-Oh. “One would think we’d have figured it out when you lived back at Ecruteak! You were right there!”


    Ho-Oh the larger straightened his head and ruffled his plumage, he looked at the human with an expression that revealed a measure of amusement at the thoughts of a time back.


    "...It was you then,” continued Trent.


    "...Yes,” came the simple answer. “I am the father.”


    Trent stood there dumbfounded. He thought about the matter for a while, made some calculations in his mind, thinking of the bird’s age… it had been so long since Ecruteak. A realization came- there had to be a female Ho-Oh, or else the chick would be a different species. He inquired, a hand on his waist. “So, the mother?”


    Ho-Oh and Spectrum both pointed up with a wing, and Trent turned around to look up the mountain. A fair distance above the cave, a third Ho-Oh could be seen perched on a salient. She - this time Trent had enough assurance it was a she- was eyeing the situation carefully from the distance, but so far had remained silent and in a defensive posture, ready to swoop down, unlike her joyful fledgling.


    "...absolutely nuts,” muttered Trent to himself as he facepalmed and completed a mental thought. “You are saying you are a normal bird?”


    At that, Ho-Oh remained silent and inspected Trent then the casket, his eyes narrowed at the sight of it. The human took notice of the gesture and opened the cage to produce the dead flower from it. He defiantly waved it in front of Ho-Oh and Spectrum.


    "You are saying there are entire families of birds that can, presumably, resuscitate the dead?”


    Ho-Oh nodded. Trent tensed, and dared approach the larger bird.


    "Do you have any idea what that would even mean?”


    Ho-Oh awaited for a moment, ruffled his plumage, then nodded.


    A moment of tense silence followed as the larger bird went back to preening his feathers and standing idly, as if mocking the human.


    "Hah! Please!” Trent laughed finally; he circled around the place for a moment, waving the dead flower and taking looks at it and at the patch of greenery below for a moment. “You swear that you can revive the dead? That’s not possible. We’d have seen the effects. It’s never-”


    Ho-Oh trilled as he shot the human an amused look. “You count only me, who else are you going to test?” The mental voice sounded belittling this time.


    "I’m not buying it. It could just have been something else. There’s only one account,” remarked Trent, pointing an accusing finger at the larger bird, “from traitorous peasants, eager to sing platitudes if it meant avoiding being burned alive!”


    The bird straightened his head and his whole body became tense, wings suddenly unfurled. “If you mean what happened in Ecruteak,” spoke Ho-Oh softly this time, “I did not mean to-”


    Trent scoffed and glared at the bird. “So you claim you did it? You claim you can revive this flower?” He inched just a bit closer; enough of a distance that Spectrum buzzed and assumed her defensive position again. Ho-Oh just stood in his place, an agitated and angered breath reflected on the shuffling of the plumage in his chest.


    "Prove it to me,” the human spoke, daring the Pokémon.


    Spectrum buzzed, but made no further movement. H-Oh just glared back at the human.


    "What’s in it for you?” the bird inquired with his own accusing tone. “You don’t believe I’m normal, you don’t believe I’m special either. You just won’t believe.”


    Trent flinched. “I believe I can unveil the answer,” he ventured. “You have to be normal, or you have to be made normal. We are past these old wives tales about bird gods and who knows what else.”


    Ho-Oh inched closer and fixated his eyes on the flower. “I never claimed to be a god,” he said sternly. “I only ruled over your people.”


    "Well, they did! People did!” Trent cried, clenching his fists. “They have to see that they are wrong and move past! What matters is us, people! The things we can do!”


    Ho-Oh breathed with a tired gesture and resumed his straight posture. He cawed at the human. “Humans.” He shook his head. “You would play games with the dead?”


    "We want to!” Trent claimed, betraying his entitlement. “Why should some random overgrown Fearow have such a power if it exists in nature? It should be given to humans to do it. To understand it and bring it down, to use for our own progress.”


    Ho-Oh watched as the human grew irate, his hubris revealing more a child than a man. He smiled and waved his wing idly in Trent’s general direction. “And if I can’t?”


    Trent snorted and raised the dead flower in a gesture of affront to the bird. “Then you are a liar, a commoner, a creature below humans, to be caught in a Pokéball like everything else. This is the-”


    That was when Trent looked at the flower and saw it in its vivid violet colors, the leaves straightened and flexible once again. The flower shone a gold light for a moment, gold like the crest of the larger bird, gold like the mineral that the humans valued so much. The Flygon emitted a growl in surprise and attempted to approach.


    Trent was surprised enough as well. The sense of hubris that had been building in him froze just for a moment, and a measure of fear claimed him as he realized what he had in his hand.


    "I-it can’t be… how?” he whispered, fixated on the flower still held in front of him by his own hand. “What, when did you?”


    The human smelled the flower, gasped and moved quickly; he went to try and fetch some instruments from his bag as the Flygon was watching; he waved and brushed the flower almost carelessly against the bag in his excitement. After a moment, the human had placed the flower in a basket, not really bothering to look.


    Suddenly the Flygon buzzed a high pitch and Trent, surprised, turned his attention to her and saw her pointing to the flower.


    "...Oh?”


    The human raised his hand once again and saw the flower rapidly decaying, dying once again in his hand; in just five seconds it had resumed its dead, withered state.


    "...What the- wait!” he cried. “No, no, I saw it working! You are not playing with my mind are you?”


    "That is outside my capability,” Ho-Oh crooned. “It seems in your anger you have killed it.”


    Trent looked at the dead flower for a moment; he took a moment to examine it and let out some groans and grunts of displeasure as he confirmed the flower was as dead as it was when he first brought it here.


    He stood up and shoot a mean look at the Ho-Oh. “You did something! I- I couldn’t have!” He swung his free arm, losing his patience. “It was alive. I felt it!”


    "Like you said,” Ho-Oh answered harshly as he turned around to take a look at the patch of greenery, “I am not special.”


    "No, no, this- this...” Trent started pacing around trying to rationalize, flower basket still in hand. “You can’t revive the dead! This was just some witchcraft, yes! You… a reanimation? Trying to extract the last chemicals from the flower! It only would look alive, yes?”


    The bird did not pay the human much mind, he sat there looking at his chick and only every once in awhile giving the human angered looks as the human rambled on about the possibilities.


    "It is your light, or your fire, yes?”


    Pacing.


    "...appearing like near-free transmission of energy...”


    Fumbling.


    "...you stole it…”


    Constructing his own narrative.


    “…so you never stay for long, and they’d never figure out what you took away...”


    Looking for an answer that never came.


    The Ho-Oh sighed and turned to the human. A moment later, he bristled his plumage and gave him a demeaning look. A look that had the effect of causing Trent to stop and turn, angered, in the direction of the larger bird, walking up to him.


    "Whatever you did, it was some apparel, some sleight-of-hand. You-” Trent almost tripped on a pebble as he made his way closer to Ho-Oh, leaving his bag behind. “You are going to show me how did you do it, you… cheater!”


    Ho-Oh’s eyes shot wide open and the bird stood up, unfolding his wings to the full extent of his wingspan. He shrieked loudly, a shriek that was not translated for Trent but that did not to be translated. The Flygon nearby chose to move away from Ho-Oh and closer to the human for once.


    The bird looked down at the human now and after chirping a mock “cheater”, started circling about him, looking angered, the Pressure and aggression of his presence once again felt by the human.


    "How naïve of you to call cheater the one you ask for help!” cried the bird, suddenly craning closer and snapping his beak very close to the human’s head.


    Trent flinched but stood his ground, gritting his teeth and fumbling at the bird.


    Ho-Oh continued circling the human. “So it is your thought that this is something unnatural? Witchcraft? Sorcery? Alchemy?” The bird laughed mentally, accompanying the gesture with a cackle. “You don’t even know how to use those words.”


    The bird brushed against the wall of the mountain and then turned back, marching around Trent who had to duck to avoid being hit by the bird’s wing. At that the bird leered at him and made a gesture not much unlike a chuckle.


    "That this works because I ‘cheat’ and sing,” the Protector asked; he proceeded to huff in annoyance and ceremoniously wave his wings towards the human, “something ominous like «sunlum bananta, spiru» and then I do something behind your back? That I ought not be praised because...”


    As the bird was speaking, it took Trent a blink to notice a bit of light, and realize what was happening.


    "No no wait don’t-!” he cried.


    Trent raised a hand, then looked down to the basket in his hands: the flower shone its renewed vitality and colors for a moment and then, as Ho-Oh kept rambling, died for the third time already in his own hand, way before the human could even take a simple picture. The trainer was just left there, his hands still signaling to the bird in a defeated gesture.


    "...so that things keep working and no one ever asks if we did!”


    Ho-Oh paced for a moment around the ledge, continuing what appeared for Trent to be some sort of lecture; the righteousness of which was, of course, lost to to the human if not to the bird as well.


    "But no, I can’t keep things alive. I’m not even the one doing this thing!” the larger bid cried as he finally stopped on the edge of the ledge, leering at the human again.


    Trent pondered for a moment what as going on, how to continue; he frowned, not being able to think of a comeback, a gesture that the bird noticed. Trent eyed the bird, thinking of a new demand, not wanting to accept defeat.


    Ho-Oh spread his wings for a moment and showed off his chest at an imaginary opponent. “Oh? Want eternal life, is it? Go pester the showoff deer in the other continent! Or go with the red bird, if what you want is zombies,” he added with a graver mental voice.


    Trent thought for a moment at the implied threat he had just received. He thought back to the various tales of such special creatures and what had science found of them as of late. A spark lit in his mind as he realized what had truly happened to the flower; he was just about to intervene and ask a question about that, but the larger bird eyed Trent and craned his head towards him.


    "Or are you to blame me about that kind of thing, too? What kind of ‘god’ do your people believe I am?”


    Ho-Oh came much closer to the human and for the first time Trent could distinguish the features in Ho-Oh’s crest, golden and well taken care of. The bird was eyeing him not unlike how he had seen a Fearow eye prey, and his latest shriek had felt more like a warning shot than anything else.


    "Well?”


    Trent stood there, frozen, his mind only now catching on to the realization that he could be burned to a crisp where he stood and then himself become part of the little experiment he had brought with him if the larger bird felt like it. Under the watchful eye of the “Protector”, right now he did not feel very protected. In the corner of his eye he saw the Flygon that had been accompanying the chick slowly step aside and come to rest closer to the rocks, where the chick also stood; the little dragon looking glad that she would not be sharing room with the human.


    "U-uhm, it’s....” He looked down at the basket. “It didn’t change.”


    The Ho-Oh glanced at the basket for a moment, then resumed his glare at the human and shook his body, still annoyed at what the presence of the human had done.


    Trent didn’t mind. He continued with his hypothesis. “When the Towers fell under attack, you rescued three Eeveelutions”


    "They were loyal and dearest servants who gave their lives for me,” answered Ho-Oh with a violent nod, still angry. “I had to try.”


    "...They changed.”


    The Flygon looked up to the Ho-Oh, who showed no reaction.


    "They changed because they were alive, but they were already alive when you arrived. They died after you rescued them.”


    The nod from the bird was only implied this time.


    "My flower can’t remain alive until I replant it, no matter what you can do. I already killed it when I tore it from the ground, so now something different must take its place.”


    This time Ho-Oh turned away and closed his eyes for a moment. He seemed to ponder for a moment and then he eyed the human once again.


    "I told you, we are not ‘gods’. We barely make it, we are made to survive. With few of our number, how did you think our species remained stable?”


    "You are not the gods, nor the magicians,” Trent said as he looked down, half disappointed, half hopeful. “You are the wand. The trick hat.”


    "When Nix matures she shall take my place,” Ho-Oh asserted. Trent saw him lean on the ledge and ruffle his left wing gently. “She would be the ‘trick hat’ you speak of if she ever needs support. Beast that weren’t there before will somehow come into existence, I’m sure.”


    "From a pyre of your fire assembled to protect their number,” spoke Trent continuing the bird’s thought, “just as a pyre was set up somewhere in the world to protect your number.”


    Trent let the flower basket go, and it fell to the ground. He returned to pick his bag, produced a notebook and started jotting down some notes. He reached a page where the header «Mountain of Revival» was written. He grimaced, stroke through the writing and added a note below.


    «Not this one»


    There were still mysterious creatures to track, and one important question to answer.


    It had to end with the power to create somewhere.


    It had to make sense.


    He turned around and left, not even bowing to the bird, as simple as a Fearow in his eyes.


    He didn’t look back. He wouldn’t ever know what he missed.






    It had been a while already since the human had left the hidden clearing; night was approaching, and a tired Nix was being taken care of by the Flygon sent to serve the family, who tried to keep her entertained and secure with demonstrations of simple flight maneuvers.


    The male bird had been pacing around the spring for a moment, eyeing the cave where the nest was every once in a while; the female approached him and looked him up down, until she got his attention.


    "Glad that you notice that I am here,” she spoke amused at the male’s social antics.


    The male seemed to cough for a moment, he turned to the female and finally settled down on the ground. He fluffed his feathers for a moment, then made a gesture to the female, inviting her to approach.


    "Why didn’t you tell the human the whole truth?” the female cooed as she settled down besides her chosen mate.


    "What? And have to explain the entire story?” the male replied in a disapproving tone. He looked up for a moment and then turned his eyes to the cave. “They can’t take being in the wrong, let alone being in the right.”


    "He mentioned he was a studious something...”


    "And where did that get him in the end?” the Protector chirped. “He comes here and attacks us claiming to be trying to find out about magical powers.”


    The female fell silent for a moment. She reminded herself that she didn’t like the chick being involved; that could be sorted later though, right now her mate seemed to have been somehow shaken from the experience shared with the visiting human.


    "Still,” the male continued, this time in a callous tone, “he falls flat for the same apparel and sleight-of-hand that he derided. He builds his own hero tale? Let him have it.”


    The female hummed and looked back to where Nix was pestering Spectrum. She felt comfortable knowing the family was safe. Knowing there was a family at all, considering how hard life had been for Ho-Oh ever since he left the Towers.


    She deigned proper to switch the theme of the conversation to what had really held her interest.


    "It is beautiful in a way,” cooed the female as she nuzzled the male, “how could he miss the magic right by his feet.”


    The male eyed the female, their eyes stayed fixated in each other for a while. After a moment, the male coughed and craned his head.


    "...Which of them all do you mean?” he asked curiously.


    She bumped her head against his. “I was looking when you revived the flower, you know,” she accused. She took on the sight of the male as he flustered and tried to feign ignorance. “But I mean, this.” The female strengthened her nuzzling of her mate and he responded to her attention likewise. “That in a world dead to our kind, we met and thrived.”


    The pair furtively eyed back at the clearing, where Nix and Spectrum were finally asleep, leaning against the rocky ledge.


    "Even if you were hiding alone for centuries, I heard your song,” she crooned.


    "I’m sorry it was a sad song,” he answered thinking back to the times when he flew away from Ecruteak, from the betrayal and pillage of both mankind and Pokémonkind.


    "It helped me find you. And I like our song,” was the female’s answer, as the pair eyed the chick. “There’s a whole world to listen to it now.”


    The male nodded, and the two Pokémon spent a moment preening each other before finally falling asleep, the male drifting into unconsciousness as the thought reached him that perhaps the world was, somehow, willing to give back for the bad times.


    Love had brought him life, more than once. He did not care to understand it or question how it happened.


    He only cared that it was a happy song.


    --o--



    Author's Notes

    • The Flygon character Spectrum is part of the cast of WAAPT and (c) bittersweetnsour @ Tumblr, who allowed me to use her with permission.
    • The Ho-Oh chick Nix is (c) Luke924, SpitefulMurkrow and other players @ WAAPT, as part of their work in worldbuilding for the Legendaries. She was opened as a shared character for the playerbase.
    • The mention of Ho-Oh being a "Protector" relates to the role of the Legendaries Ho-Oh and Lugia as guardians of Johto in the region's lore, and also draws from the use of the term in SpitefulMurkrow's "Fledglings" for Lugia, used here with permission.
    • The mention to the “Mountain of Revival” is a nod to Ho-Oh’s scenario in the Pokémon Rumble World game. Slugma, Shuckle and Quilava are normal mooks and bosses in that scenario. Ho-Oh is the final (Special) boss.
    • The meadowlark is a flower from the Nintendo Streetpass game “Flower Town”. Its flavour text ties it to tales about rainbows.
    • Trent mentions "monoclonal" species and "synkleptony" (see Klepton), both phenomena related to how a species can reproduce asexually or even with help from across a species boundary. These phenomena are mostly seen in creatures like frogs and worms in real life.
    • The “incantation” “sunlum bananta, spiru” is modified Esperanto from “sunlume banantajon, spiru”, more or less “have bathed under the sunlight, breathe”. No warranty is given about the actual applicability of this incantation.

    Betareading was done by various partners such as Tagg @ WAAPT, Exodus @ /vp/'s writethread, and Virgil @ Serebii among others.

    The entry was originally posted for Pokécommunity's Get Together 2017 Small Writing Contest.

    Finally, like all my other Pokémon entries, this story takes place in the Suocéverse.
     
  2. Cutlerine

    Cutlerine Gone. Not coming back.

    This is an interesting one! I'll admit I'm not at all familiar with your world, which you indicate in your author's notes is quite a well-developed entity on its own, which I think makes the story a little difficult to approach in some ways – like, it's unclear to me why Trent thought he would be able to talk to the Ho-oh when none of the other pokémon he's encountered had been able to speak with him in any meaningful way; perhaps that would be clearer if I knew more about the world. If I had one qualm with the story, it's that it didn't feel very accessible, in a lot of ways; I appreciate that it's part of a larger project, but given that you're presenting it here as a one-shot, giving some context for all this might be nice. It doesn't have to be much, just a line or two here or there when something relevant comes up.

    But now I'm getting into critique before I've said what I liked! And there's a lot to like here. Probably the strongest element is the way you keep us guessing as to the truth of things: first you think that Trent's probably being set up to be wrong, then you think it might be a double-bluff and he's right, and it goes back and forth like that right up to the end. The picture gets more and more complicated every time it repeats, until you end up in this really interesting and nuanced position at the end, when the two Ho-oh are discussing what just happened. It's an excellent structure, and it works really well.

    And it's funny, too! You handle the clash of opinions and characters between Trent and Ho-oh wonderfully; it's very entertaining. Also, and this is not strictly a related point but I have to say it, I really like your representation of telepathy as inflected with colour and emotion in ways that audible voices can't be. It's an excellent touch that really captures how alien it is, and it makes it very distinctive.

    Sometimes, though, your prose seems like it doesn't quite hold together. It's difficult to explain what I mean without an example, so here's one:

    Joining these three sentences together like this doesn't quite work, to my mind. Sometimes you can be a bit liberal with semicolons, and I think this is one of those occasions. More than that, though, there are several occasions where the language seems a bit too clinical or abstract for the situation ('similar to a toothache; 'detached from the wall'; 'rub or clutch to find relief') and others where it feels like there are more words than are necessary to make the sentence work ('where was he feeling the pain come from'; 'where did it ache'; 'where could he rub or clutch to find relief'). In a couple of those cases, I think the extra words actually damage the sense a little – 'his body was not able to tell him where did it ache' isn't grammatically correct, for instance.

    While I'm on the subject of things that might stand to benefit from a little polish, here are a couple of little things I noticed:

    I'm not sure what the angle brackets are doing here. Am I missing something? It looks a bit odd.

    'Cannot' should be one word, and I think that it might be a good idea to remove the 'to' between 'answer' and 'me'. 'You were supposed to answer to me' implies that Ho-oh was meant to obey him; 'You were supposed to answer me' implies that it was meant to speak.

    That said! The core of this story, the idea and the way you've structured it, are really great; it might just benefit from a bit of work in terms of how you present the prose, I think. I've never really read anything of yours before, but I'll have to investigate your other work sometime.
     
  3. Venia Silente

    Venia Silente [](int x){return x;}

    Thanks for taking the time to review. And sorry for the lateness.

    On the subject of the story being hard to approach, which is one thing I wanted to address early on:

    While the story is intended to stand on its own, yes it does rely on some things to be more immediately "accessible". It does rely on drawing out some things from wherever feels convenient, headcanons included: while not specific to my continuity for example, the idea that Ho-Oh and Trent can communicate directly is put there to be taken at a face value, and it can be drawn out from a comparison to e.g.: Shamoutli Lugia being able to communicate with Ash and team directly.

    (For an extra irony point it is hinted at some point that Trent could have cared more to question precisely that. he just didn't. He's skewed like that)

    As you do mention, much of the story lies in the back and forth between the parties as they try to tackle the idea of truth (and of magic, of course). Were this part of a more spread out story we could have gone a number of places with this, but the story had to end somewhere "soon"-ish. Structurally speaking, it makes sense that the story would reach a breaking point when Ho-Oh complained about (basically) the same things that Trent did, and I am glad to know that you found it interesting as it was able to reach such a point.

    That said, this story did not go where I originally intended it to, and that might have marked the audience's perceptions of it somewhat. Yes, that does to happen when working under challenge conditions. It was my ideal that Trent and Ho-Oh would have had a battle, as that would have allowed for a less repetitive structure and a different venue of presenting Ho-Oh's final argument. I am content that, given the formulation of the story, it is -so far- not perceived as lacking in its delivery.


    I have taken note of your corrections, in particular this one:
    Why? Well, my usual nemesis still show up such as the commas and colons, as well as a language that still shows its technical-writing origins every once in a while. But that particular sentence seems to have emerged from an unexpected clash of a number of things, the most important of which is that that was the second to last scene I wrote in the story, so it underwent less proofreading than others. I guess that specific part of the scene feels like way too flowery or "clinical" compared to the others? Oh well, after how much I tried to be abstract with Spectrum, it had to end up happening somewhere I guess.

    Oh, speaking of Spectrum:

    Much of this colouring of telepathy was my interpretation of Spectrum as a guest character; the Flygon is described and portrayed by her author as having a colorful voice in a more mechanical sense, but I thought that invoking a bit of synesthesia would have made her intentions when speaking easier to perceive at the same time as drawing a contrast with the more canonical perception of Flygon communication - by sing and sound as they bat their wings. I'm glad that it worked and I'm going to guess Spectrum's author is going to find this of value as well, I'm passing down the message.

    I'll continue working on my prose then; trying to pay more attention to those nemeses and getting up a couple bodyguards here and there. I like to think, and I hope it to be true, that compared to my previous works I am at least improving in the right direction when it comes to writing prose that is less technical and follows a better pace for reading. In that sense having people like you who point out the various intersecting issues when that is not well achieved, or is achieved at a cost - like what you mention of adding words ending up damaging the intended message - is welcome. Even better if they enjoy the story, too!

    Well, that would be things for now. Once again thanks for taking the time, and I hope if you fall to the itch to seek out more of my stories you end up enjoying them, despite the likeliness of their relative age to this one meaning that they will display more notoriously the issues you have found with this particular one.
     

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