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Platonic: A Family and Friendship One-Shot Contest

Chibi Pika

Stay positive
Three entries in and a fourth on the way! :D And one week left for anyone still working on theirs! You can do it!

Also--anyone out there not participating in the contest and willing to take a quick look at any of the entries so far? I know the contestants would really appreciate it!
 
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DeliriousAbsol

Call me Del
Emailed my entry in! Thanks for running this =D So glad I could get it finished in time.
 

Samayouru

Rabid Dusclops Fan
And with that, my entry has been sent off too! I'm relieved that I got it done on time (though most of my time spent working on this particular story involved slamming my head against the keyboard, screaming and questioning why I became a fanfic author in the first place). Good luck to everyone taking part!
 

Ambyssin

Winter can't come soon enough
So I take it this means the contest is actually happening, then? Have fun, judges. And good luck to everyone who submitted (although I'm sure you'll all be fine). ^^
 

ChloboShoka

Writer
I'm glad this got some entries. I can't wait to read everybody's work. Mine will most likely look pitiful as it's only 600 words.
 

Ambyssin

Winter can't come soon enough
I'm glad this got some entries. I can't wait to read everybody's work. Mine will most likely look pitiful as it's only 600 words.
Hey now, I'm sure it's great. Quality over quantity; it's not how many words you have, it's what you do with them, right? XP
 

TikTok13

Oh, I have a title?
Man oh man, that was something... Just clocked in at over 7000 words and sent it off to Pi. Hopefully it actually sent. This was basically the hardest thing I've ever done, and I spent most of it crying and wondering why I don't have friends like the one I wrote, in real life, at least. It might not win, but it's what I value as friendship, and I hope some people enjoy reading.

Good luck everyone, may the odds be ever in your favour!
 

AmericanPi

Write on
The contest is officially closed! Thank you to everyone who sent in an entry. We're standing at seven entries, which is two more than last year's contest, so great job everyone!

Now all that's left to do is to sit tight and wait for all of us judges to finish judging the contest entries. We'll try to get the judging done by December 1st.

Thanks again!
 
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AmericanPi

Write on
Quick update on things: The judges are currently working on their reviews and rankings, and from the way things look the results should be out on December 1st. :)

EDIT November 30th, 2017: Unfortunately real-life things have come up for me, so we judges have pushed back the judging deadline to December 25th, which is the date that the results will be revealed. Thanks for understanding, and sorry for the inconvenience.
 
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AmericanPi

Write on
Platonic: A Family and Friendship One-Shot Contest
Final results

Hello, all, and thank you for your patience! We may be a few days late, but hey, at least we got results posted by the end of 2017, and better late than never, right? Anyways, we are now ready for that moment you’ve all been waiting for: the results of the 2017 one-shot contest, Platonic!

But first, some formalities.

Just like in the contests of previous years, each of our participating judges ranked your scores independently from seventh to first place. In doing so, they assigned each entry a rank and set number of points according to the following chart:

1st place: 70 points
2nd place: 60 points
3rd place: 50 points
4th place: 40 points
5th place: 30 points
6th place: 20 points
7th place: 10 points

Each fic's final score and rank, then, was determined by adding the judges' scores together.

Although we only had a handful of entries, each one was fascinating in their own right, so this time around, because of that short participant list, I’d like to emphasize that getting sixth or seventh place is not necessarily a bad thing. It was tough to decide on who should place how, as you can probably tell by the wide variety of rankings in the following reviews. So before anything else, thank you to the participants for making this year exciting!

Just like in previous years, each entry will be posted in order from seventh to first place, along with their rankings and reviews. While we did our best to post each one in its entirety, there was at least one fic that broke the character limit, and as such, we can only post excerpts. This may take some time and trimming on our part, so please do not post until all of the entries have been successfully posted. There will be a closing post in a few minutes giving you the go-ahead to post reactions to the results and the like, so please keep an eye on this thread within the hour!

Once again, thank you to the participants and even to the viewers for another exciting, wonderful year. We hope you enjoy the entries as much as we have, and we’ll see you at the closing post!
 

AmericanPi

Write on
7th place: "The First Friend" by ChloboShoka

Scoring
AmericanPi: 5th place (30 points)
Bay: 7th place (10 points)
Chibi Pika: 7th place (10 points)
Dragronfree: 7th place (10 points)
Total: 7th place (60 points)

I was Mama and Papa's perfect daughter, but I always felt like I had something missing. All I wanted was a perfect life. I wanted the best grades, the best toys and the best clothes. I had all off that, but I still struggled to make any real friends.

I had just returned from ballerina class when Papa told me it would be my last. It was the dawn of a new era, and I would have to begin my career as a prosecutor. Pity... I always felt perfectly graceful in my pink shoes and dress – first time I ever felt on top with something.

He took me to Ilex Forest, where we had a picnic outside Celebi's Shrine. Back then, I didn't know much about pokémon, even though Mama was a gym leader in Sinnoh. Mama and Papa were immensely talented people, but their quest for perfection drove them apart.

So it was just me, Papa and my little brother who was twice the size of me back then. We were prosecutors – the best in the business. We hated criminals with a passion. Half of Team Rocket are in prison thanks to Papa's hard work.

All seemed peaceful until I saw bright red eyes under rustling leaves. I bit my lip. Back then, I couldn't bring myself to say I was scared as Papa said that fear was a sign of weakness. The eyes drew nearer to me and once they were out of the shadows, I noticed that it was a pokémon?”

“What's that?” I asked Papa.

“That's oddish,” Papa responded, sipping his tea. “Very weak, but with the right training, it can evolve into something spectacular.”

Oddish jumped and charged towards me with a great smile. I didn't know that it was trying to be friendly. Who knows what it could have done? It might have been poisonous or even killed us.

“Papa!” I shrieked, hurdling behind his back. “Why is that oddish walking towards me?”

“It knows your potential,” Papa said. He dug deep into his pocket and placed a red and white ball in my hand.

“What's this Papa?”

“That is a pokéball,” Papa explained, “your mother uses these to catch her pokémon and keep them safe. The ball is your pokémon's home and signs that it belongs to you – and you alone.”

“So how do I catch it?”

“Simple!” Papa clicked his fingers. “You simply throw the ball at the pokémon. Try it on that Oddish. You are destined to succeed. Look how eager it is to see you.”

I tossed the ball at Oddish's head and I was alarmed at how the ball sucked the pokémon in with a strange red aura. I felt my heart tingle and stomach churn with every movement the ball made. Then all of a sudden, the ball ceased to move.

I crawled towards the ball and picked it up. It seemed heavier than earlier. “I've caught Oddish!” I erupted with laughter. The feeling that I caught my first pokémon overfilled me with joy. It was the day I made my first real friend.

“Congratulations Franziska,” Papa said. “You've made your first steps into the real world. Pokémon is not my speciality, so I will call your mother and she will assist you with your training.”

The divorce papers that laid dormant on my father's desk were tossed in the trash. I didn't know why Papa brought me into the forest full of pokémon if he wasn't interested in them. A lot has happened since that fateful day twenty years ago. I'm in my thirties and the oddish I caught is now a beautiful bellossom. Our babies are now out travelling around the world. I'm so happy for them, but a part of me wishes that they chose to be a prosecutor too so I could keep a better eye on them.

My father never got to see his grandchildren, but my mother is still youthfully glowing and dancing with ghosts like she was twenty years ago. Pokémon had brought my family back together, and I will always be thankful for them.

Reviews

AmericanPi
For the most part, this was a fun story and a strong entry despite its short length. I love how you incorporated both contest themes of family and friendship into just a few hundred words, because we have Franziska making friends with Oddish, which led to her family coming back together. It was fun to read Franziska's account of how she met her beloved Bellossom. The story read like a wise person reminiscing about the past, which I believe is what you were going for, so great job on that. Overall the entry was a nice memoir of a woman who is grateful that Pokemon, specifically her Bellossom, helped her be less lonely and brought her family back together.

The beginning and middle of this entry were nice, because the beginning showed Franziska being dissatisfied with her life and going on the fateful trip with her father, while the middle was a cute account of how she captured Oddish with the help of her father. However, I felt that the ending was a little rushed and unpolished. After Franziska's father told her that he would contact her mother, I expected Franziska to react to the unexpected news, but instead the memory ended and Franziska moved on to tell readers quickly what happened to her life in general after she caught Oddish in Ilex Forest. I think a line break after Franziska's father's congratulations would have been a nice indicator that the memory was over and the epilogue was starting.

Speaking of the epilogue, I really liked the line "The divorce papers… were tossed in the trash" because it showed rather than told what happened in Franziska's life after she caught Oddish. However, the line after that one - "I didn't know why Papa brought me into the forest" - felt out of place, considering that the surrounding sentences were all feel-good answers rather than questions. Also, more content in the epilogue section would have been really nice, because currently we have no idea of how exactly Pokemon brought Franziska's family back together. I think if you had expanded the ending and maybe included a line break to indicate that time has passed, the ending and the entry as a whole would be a lot stronger.

Overall, this was a fun entry to read, and a great example of how great stories can be short and concise. A slightly expanded epilogue/ending section would have been nice, but the story as it is serves its purpose: to entertain readers through a memoir of how a person met her Pokemon friend. Great job on it!


Bay
So, I’m really getting Ace Attorney/Pokemon crossover vibes here and I’m all for Franziska going on a Pokemon journey haha. I checked the contest rules and I don’t think we mentioned fics from other franchises or crossovers will be disqualified, however this still could hurt your entry since not all the judges will be familiar with Ace Attorney. This is something to keep in mind if you decided to do crossovers next time.

I think you can easily have this story feature original characters with a bit of revising, like having Papa be a police officer/detective instead of prosecutor, but that’s just my preference and you don’t have to go with it.

With that out of the way, while I think this makes for a cute first meeting I do think you can focus on developing Franziska and Oddish’s friendship a lot more. I would love to see some of the challenges the two faced together, like maybe Franziska pushed Oddish too hard during a training session and she tries to win Oddish’s trust back (and a great opportunity to bring out Franziska’s characterization more like in the games). Or the two got themselves in a tight situation and Oddish helped Franziska somehow. I think there are endless opportunities where you can go with their friendship next.


Chibi Pika
Now this is a cute little story. The bond between a trainer and their first Pokémon is one of the classic staples of the Pokémon series, but it’s one that means even more when someone struggles to make human friends. I think you did a good job getting across the feeling of wonder and anticipation of a young girl catching her first Pokémon.

I must admit I had a hard time getting a read on the protagonist’s age. I thought she was like ten years old, but then her father abruptly pulls her out of ballerina class to go to law school? And then it later references her being in a prosecutor in the past tense, implying that she was already a prosecutor before the first Pokémon scene happens? But then the end of the story confirms that, no really, she was ten years old, so… I guess she entered the family business really young then? I kind of feel like we’ve got two different story themes mashed together here, and that they don’t quite work with the same protagonist.

I think the details about entering the family business would work better if they were framed as happening later, when she’s older (perhaps with Bellossom there by her side, supporting her as she takes on the difficult task of going through law school.) I also would’ve liked to have more detail regarding the family situation, with the divorce, and how exactly Pokémon managed to bring the family back together. And of course, I’d have liked to see Franziska bonding with Oddish! Their first time interacting after the capture had to have been an important moment. Did Oddish warm up to her right away, or was it shy, and took some time getting used to people?

Overall, some cute themes here, but I’d really like to see them get fleshed out more.


Dragonfree
This story has an intriguing premise, but unfortunately I don't think the execution did it justice.

I'm an Ace Attorney fan, so I recognize the crossover: the narrator is Franziska von Karma, her father is Manfred von Karma, and her little brother who's twice her size is Miles Edgeworth - only they've all been transplanted into the Pokémon world. But you don't really do much with that concept, and to be honest I don't find them very in character. Surely Manfred von Karma would frown upon such frivolities as training Pokémon instead of focusing on one's prosecution career, and I have a very hard time picturing Franziska von Karma shrieking at the sight of an Oddish or being openly excited about the prospect of making friends (she's younger, sure, but we've seen Franziska at this age in Ace Attorney Investigations, and she was already every bit the confident, arrogant, commandeering character that she is in the main series, if somewhat more childish about it). They talk about prosecution and perfection a bit, but ultimately they don't really feel like themselves, and you don't do much to really explore what these characters might be like if they lived in the Pokémon world - Edgeworth, the character who'd be most familiar and most interesting to explore in a new context, doesn't even get any lines, despite apparently being present at the picnic. Meanwhile, I suspect a reader unfamiliar with Ace Attorney would just be hopelessly confused here - casually mentioning that this child is about to start her career as a prosecutor is pretty baffling with no further context.

Independent of the crossover element, though, there just isn't a lot to this story. To begin with, the story is titled "The First Friend", and Franziska eagerly recounts that this was the day she made her first real friend. But what the story depicts isn't Franziska making a friend at all; it's her throwing a ball at a random Oddish. She and the Oddish don't have any kind of meaningful interaction at all, much less form any kind of emotional bond. That's not friendship; while the Pokémon games often act as if a caught Pokémon is automatically your friend, this is a simplification for gameplay purposes, and in a narrative story, that's not enough. If you want to convey that Franziska made a friend, then you have to make the Oddish an actual character, and make the two of them interact in a way that creates a sense of a bond forming between them, not just make her capture it and leave it at that.

The idea of Pokémon bringing an estranged family back together, meanwhile, is a cool one, and I'd have loved to see that tackled interestingly. However, it feels very told and not shown here, and it's hard to get a real grasp on how and why it happens. Apparently, Manfred and Fantina were divorcing, but when Franziska catches the Oddish, Manfred calls Fantina to get her to help with Franziska's training, and that brings the family closer together again. However, it's Manfred who randomly takes Franziska out for a picnic in a forest full of Pokémon, Manfred who encourages Franziska to capture the Oddish, Manfred who gives her a ball to catch it with. The Oddish doesn't unexpectedly come into their lives and slowly change their attitudes - it's Manfred who orchestrates every step involved and then declares this means Franziska must see her mother more. All in all, it kind of reads like Manfred just wants to stop his wife from divorcing him and takes his daughter out to catch a Pokémon in order to use that as a pretext to call off the divorce. And, I mean, that's actually reasonably in character and kind of a cool premise if that was what you were going for (I don't think you were, though, given the narrative doesn't really seem to treat it that way), but at that point it's not so much a story about platonic or familial relationships and more of a story about Manfred von Karma scheming while Franziska is oblivious. And either way, if you wanted the story to be how the Oddish changes things for the family, then to make that really work we'd need to actually see how it changes things, what their relationship is like and how and why it becomes different after Franziska becomes a trainer, instead of just cutting to the divorce papers being thrown in the trash.

There's also a line in your penultimate paragraph that really threw me for a loop:

I'm in my thirties and the oddish I caught is now a beautiful bellossom. Our babies are now out travelling around the world.
Our babies? The way this is phrased, you're implying Franziska had children with her Bellossom. I strongly expect that's not in fact what you meant, but the actual father of her children is never mentioned, so there's nobody else here for that "Our" to refer to.

So all in all, I'm afraid this entry missed the mark for me. The story's too short to give either of the potential platonic/familial relationships present here any real degree of focus that'd make them compelling. It could make for a neat longer story, though, if you actually explored these relationships in a more focused way.
 

AmericanPi

Write on
6th place: "The Devil Went Down To Johto" by The Teller

Scoring
AmericanPi: 4th place (40 points)
Bay: 6th place (20 points)
Chibi Pika: 6th place (20 points)
Dragronfree: 6th place (20 points)
Total: 6th place (100 points)

It’s another warm and sunny day here in New Bark Town, Johto! The trees sway slightly with the strong breeze that’s passing through, the Hoothoot fast asleep, gripping the tree branch with one claw, and the rare Pineco awaiting for the next poor insect prey to fly too close. We find ourselves at Professor Elm’s laboratory, where starter Pokémon, meant to be given out to new trainers today, are anxious to see how the day plays out. We close in to see a playpen where a Chikorita, Cyndaquil, and Totodile are prancing about, excited for the day to have come.

“Today will be the day!” says Chikorita, his voice deep and gruff. “I’ll be chosen and within a few days, I’ll have singlehandedly beaten all the gym leaders of Johto and taking on the Elite Four themselves!”

“Um…” comes Cyndaquil, his voice softer and unsure, “I hope that my trainer doesn’t overdo it with the training. I hope they have a nice team of friendly Pokémon that all want to work together.”

“Girl, honey, sugar pie, sweetie,” blares Totodile, her commanding voice barreling over Cyndaquil’s and completely drowning him out, “if you can beat the most powerful trainers around just by yourself, then Johto’s really as weak as that Kalosian trainer said it is. And I’m gonna do the same without breaking a sweat or evolving!”

Chikorita extends two of his vines.

“What’d you say?! You mocking me, Totodile?! Pokémon battle, right now! You and me!”

“And risk bruising my beautiful face for my new trainer, baby? Never! Plus, wouldn’t it look bad for you if the trainers come in and you’re still hiding in the corner, licking the bruises I would hand you to?”

Cyndaquil tries to step in to mediate.

“Now now, let’s not fight…”

“I think SOMEONE’S itching for a bruising, and it ain’t me!” bellows Chikorita.

“Girl, you better check yourself before you wreck yourself!” counters Totodile, wagging a claw in front of Chikorita.

Professor Elm opens the door and immediately knocks over an enormous pile of research papers on the added effect of Flame Body on egg hatching.

“Oh, fiddlesticks! Not again. I just reorganized that pile.”

He turns to the starters.

“Well guys, today’s the day! Huh?”

He sees that Chikorita and Totodile are about to go at each other’s throats again.

“Are you two at it again? Why can’t you be more civil like Cyndaquil here?”

He walks over and picks Cyndaquil up, stroking his head gently.

“You’ll have all the time in the world to battle once you get your own trainers and set out into the wide world. Who knows? Maybe your trainers will become rivals and you’ll get plenty of times to battle each other!”

He sets Cyndaquil back down into the playpen.

“Until then, though, no fighting. I don’t want to have to tell a new trainer that his or her first Pokémon is already at the Pokémon Center. Now then…”

He brandishes three Poké Balls.

“Chikorita, Cyndaquil, Totodile, return!”

The three go into their Poké Balls and the professor turns around to head out, knocking over an expensive microscope onto the ground. It lands on the pile of papers he had just knocked over. Elm sighs, exhausted and thankful that his clumsiness saved him a fortune for once.

Soon after, we found ourselves in the lobby area of the lab. Elm has the Poké Balls set up and everything is in order. Everybody is just waiting for the new trainers to stop by. Eventually, a young boy steps into the lab. Elm goes over to greet him and immediately trips over his own two feet, sending him crashing onto the floor in a heap

“Ack! Not the first impression I wanted to impart.”

He picks himself up and greets the boy.

“Hello! I’m Professor Elm, the Johto region’s professor, but your mother probably already told you that.”

He looks at the boy and behind him.

“Um…aren’t there supposed to be more of you coming? I thought we had a couple more new trainers coming today?”

The boy shrugs.

“I don’t know of anyone else coming. I thought it was just me.”

“Oh, well, perhaps Professor Oak made a mistake in his email to me. It just means that there won’t be a bunch of you fighting over your selections today, am I right?”

Elm gives a small laugh at his observation and the boy gives one back politely. Elm ushers the boy over to the three Poké Balls.

“Inside each of these is a Pokémon. You can choose only one to take with you, and they will be your very first Pokémon, so choose wisely.”

He taps on each of the Poké Balls, activating them.

“Come on out, everybody!”

The starters all come out and give out a cry.

“I’m the strongest!” says Chikorita.

“H-hello,” stutters Cyndaquil.

“Let’s hit the road, darling!” comes Totodile.

The three look around and see only one child.

“Where’s the other two?” asks Totodile.

“I don’t know…” replies Cyndaquil.

“Wow, I’ve never seen these outside of books before!” says the boy.

“Haha, yeah, they’re wonderful creatures, Pokémon,” replies Elm.

“But I’ve already decided,” says the boy, picking up Cyndaquil, “that I want Cyndaquil to be my starter Pokémon!”

“What!” demands Chikorita.

“Me?” asks Cyndaquil, in disbelief.

“Oh, the fire-type Cyndaquil, huh?” pipes up Elm. “That’s a very good choice!”

“Professor! Are you suggesting that I’m NOT a ‘very good choice’?!” fires back Chikorita.

“Excellent against Bugsy and Pryce, whom I’m sure you’ll meet later,” continues Elm.

“Thank you for choosing me,” says Cyndaquil.

He turns his head around to his two friends.

“I’ll miss you both. I won’t forget our promise. I’ll keep in contact as much as I can.”

“Oh baby doll, I don’t want you to go!” cries Totodile. “I already miss you SO much! You take care of yourself out there, you hear?!”

“It’s fine if you get a head start, Cyndaquil!” says Chikorita. “You need it! I’ll be out of here soon and we’ll see each other again and battle!”

Both Cyndaquil and Totodile can tell that Chikorita is holding back tears.

“Okay everybody, back into the balls you go!” says Elm. “Well, our new star trainer, let’s get you set up for your very own Pokémon adventure!”

And that was that.

The following day, we see Chikorita and Totodile in the playpen, looking more lonely than usual. Professor Elm walks into the room, immediately spilling both a stack of papers on the validity of old Unovan lore and a mostly filled and stale can of Soda Pop onto the floor. Elm sighs.

“I really should invest in one of those automatic sliding doors,” he says to himself.

He then looks at the two Pokémon.

“Then again, I wouldn’t put it past the two of you to stage a breakout as soon as that happens, would I?”

“Professor,” says Chikorita, “I am shocked and appalled that you would think-”

“First chance, honey,” interrupts Totodile.

Elm chuckles to himself.

“Well, I know you both miss Cyndaquil a lot, so I’m glad to see you both taking it so well. How about we go to the forest today to explore for new Pokémon?”

“Cyndaquil would’ve loved for us to go exploring,” says Totodile.

“Yeah, let’s do it for him,” says Chikorita.

“Wonderful! I’m glad you two are so excited about this,” says Elm.

We then cut to the nearby forest located just north of New Bark Town. A flock of Pidgey, led by a Pidgeot, flies overhead. Professor Elm is walking down a dirt path, his pants already muddy from him having fallen over after tripping over a pebble. Beside him are Chikorita and Totodile, looking around in all directions for undiscovered Pokémon.

“I’m just sure of it that we’ll find some newly discovered Pokémon today!” beams Elm.

Suddenly, he hears some rustling in the nearby bushes.

“There it is!” he says, and he leaps into the bushes, scurrying around for his new discovery.
Just as Chikorita and Totodile turn towards his direction, they hear a whisper on the winds.

“I’m over here…”

It sounds like a boy and a girl are both talking at the same time.

“Huh? Did you hear that, Totodile?” asks Chikorita.

“Girl, I’m not deaf! You know I heard it, too! It sounded like it was coming from over there,” replies Totodile, walking towards where the voices had come from.

The two walk through fields of tall grass, following the voices as they grew louder.

“I’m just beyond the meadow. Please find me.”

Eventually, we find Chikorita and Totodile exiting the tall meadow and come across a small clearing. On all sides besides behind them there is a dense forest and in front of them is a large, tall, old, twisting tree. There are no sounds of any Pokémon nearby.

“Hey, we’re here!” yells Chikorita.

Slowly, a Pokémon materializes above them, seemingly out of thin air, hovering above the tree. It is long like Ekans, but much larger, with spikes running along its sides. Three, black, scarf-like appendages sprout from the back of its neck, with what looked like its ribcage encasing around the neck entirely. The face is hidden behind a golden mask, with beady red eyes peering out from behind it.

“I know,” it says, its tone now changed to something more akin to a high-pitched man a little too excited to be selling candy to small children.

The two remain undaunted.

“Are you the strange critter who told us to come here?” asks Totodile.

“Yesssss.”

Chikorita turns to Totodile.

“He’s certainly not a Pokémon I’ve ever seen before.”

He turns back to Giratina.

“You should come meet the professor! He’s a total weirdo, like you, but you warm up to him eventually.”

Giratina writhes in place.

“The human…who gave away your friend…”

“What?!” says Totodile.

“How’d you know about that?” demands Chikorita.

“I have…the power…to bring him back…To make all…as it was…To recreate…the both of you…into the more powerful versions…of yourself…”

Chikorita and Totodile look at each other. What exactly is this Pokémon implying here? Bringing back Cyndaquil? Allowing them to evolve into their final forms? Could one Pokémon really be able to do all of that?

“The offer…is yours…”

“We refuse!” shouts Chikorita.

Giratina remains silent.

“That’s right, sugar! Our friend’s life is his to live out!”

Giratina remains silent still.

“We were upset that Cyndaquil was separated from us, yeah,” continues Chikorita, “But we all knew that it would happen one day. Though we’re still upset, it’s not at Cyndaquil. It’s at the lazy trainers who never showed up to pick us! We’re happy for Cyndaquil, ‘cause he’s getting to live his dream just like we will someday.”

“That’s right, honey,” adds Totodile. “If Cyndaquil were here right now, we’d only wish him the best. Maybe some friendly ribbing. And as for that ‘ultimate power’ thing you were just talking about? No thanks. We intend to become powerful by our own merits. Cyndaquil would never let us hear the end of it if he found out we cheated into becoming the strongest. I plan on taking on the strongest trainers in the land with the knowledge that I earned those victories.”

And even still, Giratina remains silent. Chikorita and Totodile both look at the creature, not having anything else to add. Then, Giratina’s eyes glow a sinister red, and an unearthly yowl erupts from all directions. It is deep, reverberating, angry, and sounds nothing like Giratina. The two starters look everywhere for the source of the noise, but can’t find it. Giratina then starts to fade back into the shadows, slowly, bit by bit, leaving its glowing red eyes the last to dissolve. Giratina does not make a sound the entire time, and it is too ambiguous as to whether it was angry or not. It is simply as if it was never there at all. Chikorita and Totodile look at each other in disbelief. Was it all a shared dream? A trick by a psychic Pokémon?

“Chikorita! Totodile! Where are you two?!” comes a distant voice.

It is Professor Elm’s. He was looking for them. The two decided to scamper back to where they were a few minutes ago, not wanting the professor to encounter THIS new discovery.

“THERE you two are! I’d thought I’d lost you…again.”

The professor looks worse for wear. The two could only imagine how much physical abuse he has endured by nature in such a short period of time.

“You look just fine to me, professor!” beams Chikorita.

“Sug’, we’re just fine on our own. Don’t be needing a babysitter for us every time you lose us,” says Totodile.

“So did you find any new Pokémon out there?!” Elm asks, his hopes and dreams about to burst with joy.

Chikorita and Totodile briefly look at one another and shake their heads.

“There ain’t one new friend out there we saw,” says Totodile.

“Maybe if we went in this totally different direction, we might find some!” yells Chikorita, stomping away towards another path in the woods.

“Wait up, Chikorita, wait up!” yells Elm.

We pull back amongst the trees to the long road they have ahead of them, and the sun is peaking beautifully at the end of the trail. I’d say that I cannot wait to see how Chikorita, Totodile, and Cyndaquil’s adventures begin and intersect! I’m sure it’ll be the most joyous reunion a set of three friends can have!

~The End

Reviews

AmericanPi
This fic was really quite funny and entertaining. I loved Chikorita, Cyndaquil, and Totodile's personalities, especially Chikorita's - I did not expect such a cute Pokemon to have such a gruff, belligerent demeanor. The antics of the three starter Pokemon were quite endearing to read about, from the sassy Totodile to the timid Cyndaquil. Giratina suddenly appearing and offering Chikorita and Totodile to bring back Cyndaquil and make everyone stronger would seem cheesy and out-of-place normally, but you did a great job at firmly establishing your entry as a comedy from the get-go, so Giratina's appearance felt more hilarious than weird to me. I loved how gratuitously and obviously evil Giratina was, and its presence in your story was a case of random humor done right.

Elm was the real MVP here, because he was just this cute clumsy sweetheart who kept getting himself hurt when he really didn't have to. My favorite part of the story was when Elm knocked over an expensive microscope and it happened to fall onto the stack of papers he just knocked to the ground.

Unfortunately, your entry didn't fulfill the contest theme as well as it could have, which is a shame because it was so amusing. The theme of this contest was friendships and familial relationships, and while we got a good glimpse of the friendship between Chikorita, Cyndaquil, and Totodile, that friendship wasn't as well developed as it could have been.

For example, in the beginning we mostly saw Chikorita and Totodile at odds with each other, with Cyndaquil attempting to mediate and failing. It didn't seem like that great of a friendship to me, at least not at first. Some more development of that friendship before Cyndaquil's departure would have worked wonders for setting up the later scene, the one where Totodile and Chikorita reject Giratina's offer and show the readers how strong their friendship with Cyndaquil is. Speaking of that scene, I liked how Chikorita and Totodile's rejection was a nice testament to the friendship they had with Cyndaquil, but their decision to reject Giratina's offer felt more like it was done because they didn't trust Giratina, not because they cared for Cyndaquil. A different test of friendship would have worked better in my opinion. Some expanding of Chikorita and Totodile's reasoning would have worked as well.

Despite this fic not fulfilling the contest theme as well as it could have, it was still a very fun, amusing, and enjoyable read. And if you developed the friendship between the starter Pokemon more, this fic would maintain its charm while also fulfilling the contest theme well. Overall, great job on writing a funny fic!


Bay
What I like most about this story is the voice you gave to your characters. The personality you gave them are simple but still effective in that their interactions are entertaining there. I think my favorite is Totodile there.

Unfortunately, I feel this story has some pacing issues. I feel you didn’t give enough time for Totodile and Chikorita feeling sad that Cyndaquil isn’t with them anymore. I also think Giratina’s appearance there was a bit random. I can see you’re going for Totodile and Chikorita going to be stronger the proper way, but I feel you can show more how Totodile and Chikorita wanted a trainer like their friend did, but then they later are fine getting a trainer when the time is right.

Another problem I want to point out is your narration flows awkward at times. For instance,

We find ourselves at Professor Elm’s laboratory, where starter Pokémon, meant to be given out to new trainers today, are anxious to see how the day plays out. We close in to see a playpen where a Chikorita, Cyndaquil, and Totodile are prancing about, excited for the day to have come.

We then cut to the nearby forest located just north of New Bark Town. A flock of Pidgey, led by a Pidgeot, flies overhead.
The way you have the “we” pronouns there sounds like a tv narrator or script instead of proper prose. I think the lines with the “we” pronouns you can rewrite those a bit to have the sentences flow better.


Chibi Pika
If there’s one word to describe this fic, it’d be “fun.” You take a simple, lighthearted concept, throw in some fun personalities and an entertaining (and completely unexpected!) encounter at the end of it, and just plain had fun with it.

The three main characters are memorable, and their interactions are cute—I’d just like to see more of them interacting! There’s that fight at the start, and since Chikorita and Totodile are the more boisterous of the trio, they get the chance to make an impression, but Cyndaquil really only gets that one bit where he tries to mediate. Then he get gets chosen as a starter and we don’t see him again. And while it was pretty obvious you were going for the “friends who fight and heckle each other but actually care about each other an awful lot” kind of dynamic, I’d have liked to see that get expanded on. Cyndaquil mentions a promise to reunite with the other two—how about if we got to see them make that promise? The moment when the trio realizes that they’ll be separated has a lot of potential to make their bond feel that much stronger, and would help make their reactions to his choosing feel a little less abrupt.

The encounter with Giratina is of course the standout moment of the fic. I liked the description of its voice, as it made it very easy to imagine what all of its dialogue sounded like, but I’d have liked more description of how the encounter felt. Something a little more otherworldly, you know? This is an encounter with Giratina, after all—it’d be fun to see you go all-out! Shadowy chill creeping down the spine, ghostly aura distorting the clearing and making it seem like there’s no way out, you name it. Or perhaps even Chikorita and Totodile having a vision of Giratina’s offer—seeing it with their own eyes would make it that much harder to turn down. Which leads into my next point—I think they turned it down too easily. I’m definitely glad that they refused, but I’d love to see it be more difficult for them. This is a deal with the devil, after all, and he can grant you your strongest desires. I think seeing them grapple with temptation for a bit before focusing on their good memories with Cyndaquil (and then coming to the realization that that being a true friend means putting his happiness first) would have made that moment more impactful.

Overall a fun read with an unexpectedly mature theme addressing how sometimes letting a friend live their own life is the best way to do right by them. I think it just needs a few tweaks to fix the abrupt pacing and reinforce the emotional moments, and you’ll have a great one-shot on your hands.


Dragonfree
Well, this fic sure went in a different direction than I expected.

I quite liked what ended up being the core idea about friendship communicated here - that real friends are happy for the opportunities their friends get and don't want to undo that just to avoid being separated, or as Totodile puts it, Our friend’s life is his to live out! For a contest like this, it's possible to just write a story about characters being friends, but it's a little more interesting to go for something that says a bit about friendship, and it was nice to see you do that here. I also enjoyed how distinct the characters are and the fact you chose to make Chikorita the gruff, battle-obsessed one contrary to the usual stereotype, and all in all you made the three starters and Elm pretty endearing. And I couldn't help but smile at the running gag about Elm's clumsiness, particularly the part where miraculously the stack of papers he spills at one point ends up cushioning the expensive microscope that falls later - I have a weakness for little background events that relate back to previous background events.

On the other hand, Giratina's sudden appearance just feels a bit random and bizarre. Why is Giratina appearing to them, now? The way that it seems to just pop up for no particular reason and then simply leaves again once the theme has been delivered, without doing anything besides making the starters this offer and slinking away when they say no, makes it feel like a plot device purely there to allow Totodile and Chikorita to state their case for not wanting to forcibly bring Cyndaquil back. And because something like Giratina appearing out of thin air is a pretty huge thing and out of line with the established tone of the story, the fact it happens so casually and out of nowhere makes the story feel disjointed and strange. There are a number of ways you could handle this differently that would make it more cohesive, I think: Giratina could have been a theme throughout the story, with Elm working on finding it from the beginning or something like that; it could appear in direct response to something one of the starters (or Elm) had been doing/thinking, e.g. if one of them had just made a wish to see Cyndaquil again; you could get some kind of lore in there providing a clear reason for Giratina to choose to appear to them at this moment; it could have more repercussions for the narrative; or you could simply flesh out its appearance a bit more, capitalize on what you're currently doing to make it seem unsettling and go for making it really come across as scary and threatening and creating tension. All in all, I don't think the plot is currently as satisfying as it could be.

And this fic could really use being fleshed out with more character development and emotional weight. We barely see any sign that the starters are all particularly good friends at the beginning: we just see Totodile and Chikorita arguing while completely ignoring Cyndaquil. As a result, it comes as a somewhat jarring surprise to the reader when the trainer picks Cyndaquil and all of a sudden the starters are having a tearful goodbye, talking about how much they'll miss each other. A lot of the story ends up being inconsequential filler dialogue that doesn't really add anything, like most of the dialogue when the trainer is at the lab before he picks up Cyndaquil - but meanwhile we're missing the kind of development of the characters' relationships that'd make us really care. Totodile and Chikorita are cute and very distinct, which is good, but they're also kind of cartoony, exaggerated and one-note, and it's a little hard to see them as real people and take their feelings seriously. If you spent a bit more time developing them and giving their personalities nuance - and mind you, it's possible to have kind of exaggerated personalities that still feel like people and resonate emotionally! - I think we'd be able to get more invested in the three starters' relationship.

The narration here sounds almost like it's starting to evoke a script for a movie, describing camera movements and cuts. It's sort of a neat idea in principle, but I think it ends up sounding weird, because you don't fully commit to it - we only really see it during the scene transitions, while in between you just describe what's going on like regular narration. I'm not sure it would do much for this particular story even if it were more consistent, but either way as it is now it's a little jarring every time it happens as we need to remind ourselves that oh, yeah, that's a thing you're doing.

Overall, I enjoyed your take on the theme and the cute character work, but unfortunately I felt the execution was lacking in impact and prevented this from being as effective as it could be.
 

AmericanPi

Write on
5th place: "1/8192" by Samayouru

Scoring
AmericanPi: 7th place (10 points)
Bay: 2nd place (60 points)
Chibi Pika: 5th place (30 points)
Dragronfree: 5th place (30 points)
Total: 5th place (130 points)

Ken exited the cave leading to Oreburgh at three minutes past ten – at least two hours later than he’d initially planned. Oreburgh Gate had proven more difficult to navigate than people had told him back in Jublife. His mistake had been simple – taking a left rather than keeping straight on had been his downfall and he’d been stupid enough to believe that writing down the directions somewhere wouldn’t be needed. He hurriedly sprinted across the road to what could be considered the high street of the sleepy little mining town and throughout it all he only had one building on his mind: the pokemon centre.

The familiar red roof stuck out like a sore thumb and today, just like every other day, was shaping up to be a busy one. People had already beaten Ken to the comfy sofas that looked out across the sidewalks and even as he approached the sliding glass doors at least three trainers were in front of him. That didn’t matter though – most of these people just wanted to heal up before moving out and he was no exception. There was a ticket dispenser positioned on a pole just beyond the doors – a fairly common sight during the busier hours of service. Above that was a sign stating: PLEASE TAKE ONE in large, black letters – easily the first thing someone would notice upon entering the centre.

Ken tilted his head and reached for the tiny piece of card poking out from the muzzle of the machine and gave it a firm pull, feeling the ticket tear away from the one behind it. It was a simplistic way of keeping order but for the most part it did its job well – something that was a lot easier to handle than in Hoenn. He shuddered internally, flashbacks of being crammed into a tiny room like a tin of sardines – he was amazed his ace trainer uniform hadn’t been completely annihilated by the chaos. Thankfully there was none of that here in Oreburgh – other trainers milled about, talking to each other as they waited for their numbers to be called out on the speakers just above the windows.

There was a chiming noise that resembled the ring of a doorbell and a woman’s voice, slightly muffled by the recording equipment, broke the gaggle of chatter. ‘Attention please – we are now serving numbers fifty-five through to sixty. I repeat: we are now serving numbers fifty-five through to sixty, thank you for listening.’

Ken checked the number in his hand and let his shoulders slouch. Number seventy-two – he had at least a good ten minutes at the most to wait. This was actually a blessing in disguise to him – at least he had a few more minutes to run through the basics of his plan again. He got onto tip-toes so that he could see above the crowd, scanning the walls carefully. His brows rose when he caught sight of the glowing sign just above the doors leading to the bedrooms, displaying the word VACANCIES in green light. Good – hopefully he could bag the last one before anybody else – if not, then he’d have to rely on the hotel about a block from the centre.

It was then that a single trainer entered the building and trailing behind her was a horse pokemon that had to be almost as tall as she was. Ken gnawed at the wall of his mouth. Ponyta were fairly common in Sinnoh, but not ones like this. What gave it away were the eye-catching blue flames that made up most of this pokemon’s mane and tail as well as having a pelt that was so white it almost looked like it was sparkling. He wasn’t the only one who noticed the difference either, for people who were much closer to this trainer were following her as she got her ticket and joined the queue.

A younger girl in what Ken assumed to be a girl scout’s uniform (they were nicknamed “picnickers”, if he recalled correctly) whipped around, holding an orange fox with several tails in her arms. She straightened her back a bit when her eyes met the oddly-coloured Ponyta. ‘Oh wow,’ she said. ‘Olivia actually got something!’

‘You serious?’ another trainer piped up, removing his hands from the pockets of his denim jeans. His mouth opened a little bit when he, too, saw the horse. ‘Oh man,’ he said and nudged the scout with his elbow. ‘Looks like you won the bet with Pascal, eh?’

Ken furrowed his brow. They were obviously either regulars at the centre or local trainers (most probably the latter). But why were they gossiping about this one trainer and her pokemon? Had she been here long? He wanted to follow this trail of questions, but before he could even start the chime from the speakers grabbed his attention away.

‘Attention – we are now serving numbers seventy-one to seventy-five. I repeat: we are now serving numbers seventy-one to seventy-five. Thank you for listening.’

Ken hurriedly gathered his belongings and pushed the blue-flamed Ponyta out of his mind. He had bigger things to think about anyway – like getting a room sorted out.

* * *​

Route 207 wasn’t exactly the most picturesque place in Sinnoh – it certainly wasn’t featured on many postcards anyway. Mount Coronet had stolen all of its thunder for sure – it loomed over the little stretch of earth – its peaks completely cloaked in clouds that hid its true height quite well. It was here that Ken had decided to train – he stood looking towards the mountain for a while, lips parted, before turning his attention to the pokeball in his hands.

Time to start training.

He tossed the ball into the air and shouted: ‘Bagon, go!’ and the ball unhinged, creating a beam of light that materialised into a reptilian pokemon no taller than Ken’s knees. He couldn’t help but muster a wide smile when he saw how sleek the grey armour on his newest pokemon’s head appeared. He’d paid a fortune to get the right breeder for the job – and that money had been put to good use – just uttering the name “Salamence” would cause any battler no matter how old or young to shiver in fear. Ken almost began beaming now he had one of his own – something that would prove very valuable in the Sinnoh championships.

Bagon snorted and ran a tongue over his sharp fangs, offering Ken a small squeaking hiss as a greeting.

Ken waved back. ‘Good morning to you too,’ he said and gestured to the tall grass beside them. ‘We’re going to start training today – I hope you’re ready.’

Bagon gave him a sharp nod.

Ken then reached for another pokeball on his belt and tossed it, unleashing another beam of light that formed into a blue bipedal jackal with black markings around its face. ‘Lucario here will show you how training works,’ Ken told the reptile. ‘He can sum it up better than I could, at least.’

Lucario bowed and knelt down so that he was almost staring Bagon in the eye and gestured with his paws to the grass, and then back to Bagon, who tilted his head to one side for a moment. It took Lucario another sweeping gesture to the grass for his teammate to finally understand what was going on. Bagon dipped his head and growled, raising his chin confidently, and it wasn’t long after this that Ken began walking around in the grass, trawling for good targets that the youngster could handle without much trouble.

Machop weren’t too hard to find around Sinnoh, however Ken wanted to start out easy on Bagon – he was still very young and he didn’t want to overwhelm the little guy. The championships would ask much of him – and if he wasn’t able to give it, then it could result in disaster. Ken shook his head and rubbed his shoulders. He’d heard many a tale from other trainers – stories of breakdowns and casualties both human and pokemon – he didn’t want to end up like that.

Grinding itself was a fairly mundane task – all that was really required of Bagon was to seek out a Machop (which wasn’t hard at all thanks to the grey colouration of Machop’s skin stood out quite blatantly against the reddish earth) and take it down. He struggled a bit with his first attempts – one Machop almost knocked him out by sweeping its legs across, bowling him over when they made contact with Bagon’s stumpy legs. But of course, that was what Lucario was for. After a few moments of fighting Bagon would switch with Lucario and let him finish the job. It was the oldest trick in the battler’s book, but it got the job done.

This continued for a good two or three hours until Ken decided it was time for a break. They stopped for lunch at the edge of the path leading up to the mountainside. Bagon was especially twitchy – he started jumping up and down as Ken got out his food bowl. ‘Calm down, it’s coming,’ he laughed as the baby dragon attempted to take the bowl from him with his stubby hands. Lucario sat with his legs crossed, chuckling slightly as he waited for his meal. Bagon almost fell onto the bowl when it was properly loaded with food, forcing another laugh from his owner. ‘Don’t eat too quickly, you’ll get a stomach ache if you do that,’ he said and set the other bowl down in front of Lucario. ‘There you go, boy.’

But Lucario didn’t respond – instead, he had turned in the direction of the road below, and Ken had to follow his line of sight for a minute to find out what had caught his attention.

Coming over the horizon was a very familiar sight – the blue flames gave it away. Beside the Ponyta was the girl – Olivia, he thought – who had walked into the pokemon centre so proudly. On her right was another pokemon that he assumed was hers – a tall red rodent with yellow markings that made it look like it was wearing a safety jacket of some kind. Ken set down his meal. He’d heard about Watchog before – they were native to Unova, and apparently they were just as common as Zigzagoon or Poochyena in Hoenn. He didn’t think they’d look so peculiar, however. Perhaps it was the yellow and red bands of colour that made up their eyes?

He offered a polite wave when Olivia was near enough to see him. ‘Hey there.’

Olivia snapped up, her back and neck straightening rigidly. She slackened when she realised where the voice had come from. ‘Oh, hello,’ she said before leaning over to her Watchog and mumbling to it quietly.

Ken slid down from his perch so that he too was standing in the middle of the track. ‘Are you here to train too?’ he asked. ‘That’s what I’m doing.’

Olivia stopped whispering to Watchog and paused – shaking her head. ‘No,’ she replied after a moment. ‘I’m just taking a break from hunting.’

Ken raised an eyebrow. ‘Hunting?’

Olivia patted her Ponyta on the back. ‘Shiny hunting.’

Ken felt his jaw drop, but thankfully it wasn’t enough to part his lips. He scratched his head for a moment. ‘Didn’t you just get one of those?’ He pointed to the Ponyta, who snorted and flicked its ears forward.

‘Yep,’ Olivia said matter-of-factly. ‘But it wasn’t what I was looking for – not this time at least.’
Ken barely pulled the corners of his mouth from twisting into a frown. Ponyta was a decent pokemon to have on a team – let alone a shiny one – why would she not be satisfied with what she’d managed to find?

A firm grunt cut through his thoughts – it was Bagon, who had gulped down the last of the contents of his food bowl and was bouncing up and down impatiently on the ledge above him. Lucario, on the other hand, simply rolled his eyes and tutted at the little baby dragon.
Olivia swerved past Ken and he followed her, the Watchog flicking a firm glance in his direction. ‘We’ve got more hunting to do,’ Olivia said over her shoulder and smiled when she caught sight of the very impatient Bagon. ‘And it looks like you’ve got to get back to training as well,’ she looked back at Ken for a moment. ‘Don’t worry about me – I know Route 207 like the back of my hand.’

And somehow, as Ken watched the trio shrink into the distance, he didn’t doubt Olivia’s parting statement one bit.

* * *​

The crowds around the centre had thinned considerably by the time Ken returned from training – something he was incredibly thankful for. All he wanted to do as he made his way back was to eat and take a hot shower. He wasn’t at all surprised when the familiar figure of Olivia came into view, either. She waved briefly to him while she was at the counter with her Ponyta, and went back to talking with the nurse as if nothing had happened.

‘I see you’ve met Olivia,’ came a gruff voice from behind. Ken turned to see a burly man in hiking gear sitting on one of the sofas. There was a brown fox sitting on his shoulders that stood up when it realised its owner was talking to someone.

Ken tilted his head. ‘Do you know her?’

‘A bit.’ The man scratched his chin. ‘She’s been coming here for well over a month now.’

‘Ah,’ Ken said. ‘I suppose you know she’s a hunter, then?’

‘Yup,’ the man replied. ‘I’m Pascal – lived here all my life, I have.’ He cocked a thumb in Olivia’s direction. ‘But I don’t thing I’ve ever met someone as obsessed with catching a shiny pokemon as she is.’ He raised his hands ‘She just showed up out of the blue – at first we thought maybe she was just training or taking a vacation, but nope, turns out she’s been spending all this time at the base of Mount Coronet searching for a shiny.’ He slowly shrugged. ‘I don’t know why she hunts like this when there are easier ways to do it,’ he laughed and gestured to the fox on his shoulders. ‘I used the DexNav to get mine – you know, that program from Hoenn that was really popular for a couple of years.’ He smiled. ‘Only took an hour or so to find Zorua here – he was totally worth it in the end.’

The Zorua yapped as if to reinforce his owner’s opinion.

‘And I’m pretty sure it wouldn’t be too hard to locate a shiny charm either,’ Pascal continued. ‘But who am I to judge, eh?’

Ken nodded without a word.

Pascal rubbed the back of his neck. ‘I can’t imagine why anybody would want to keep searching for days and days just to find one pokemon that looks slightly different from others.’

Ken tilted his head and pressed his lips into a straight line. Why did Olivia waste so much time when there were easier methods? He rubbed his chin. He’d have to ask her if she was around Route 207 tomorrow.

He didn’t have to wait long – or perhaps that was because time felt much quicker when the mind was elsewhere. The first half of training next morning came and went, and soon Ken found himself waiting on the ledge he’d chosen yesterday. He could faintly hear the sounds of sloppy gobbling coming from Bagon as he ploughed through his meal, but that didn’t bother him. He only became aware of it when he finally caught sight of Olivia coming over the horizon with her team by her side.

He gestured to her when she got close enough. ‘Hey Olivia!’

Olivia looked up at him and dipped her head. ‘Hi there, trainer.’

Ken placed his hands on his folded knees. ‘Wanna sit up here and eat with me?’

Olivia muttered something to her two pokemon and they both nodded in unison. She then turned her attention back to Ken. ‘Sure.’

They climbed up and sat on the grass next to him – Olivia’s pokemon opting to sit with Ken’s team. Ken had to press his tongue against the floor of his mouth – he didn’t want to bombard his guest with questions, not yet anyway. He decided to wait until she looked comfortable enough; choosing to speak after shed picked a particularly fresh-looking croissant from her lunchbox.

He started out with an easy question: ‘How’re you doing today?’

Olivia took a bite from the croissant in her hands. ‘Fine.’

‘Have you found anything yet?’

Olivia swallowed. ‘Not yet,’ she replied. ‘I’m not surprised, considering I just caught Ponyta the other day.’

They sat for a while in awkward silence, chewing and thinking. Ken tilted his head and decided to pop the question. He rubbed the back of his neck. ‘I’ve been wondering – why do you shiny hunt like this when there’s easier methods to use?’

Olivia set down the box containing her lunch and paused, knitting her brow together before looking him directly in the eye without flinching. ‘It was a long time ago,’ she began. ‘I was about six years old when I encountered my first shiny pokemon,’ she said. ‘It was on a fishing trip with my dad in Johto.’ She twiddled her fingers together. ‘I’m sure you’ve probably heard about what happened at the Lake of Rage, right?’

Ken had. ‘Wasn’t that the place where a red Gyarados used to live?’

‘That’s right,’ Olivia continued. ‘I didn’t just know about it – I saw it with my own eyes.’ As if on cue, the twinkle in her irises grew brighter. ‘It was a magnificent thing you know – it had to be at least twenty-five feet tall,’ she said. ‘And the gleam it radiated when it rose up from the surface of the water was amazing.’ She folded her arms. ‘It took a ten-year old kid to finally subdue and capture it – and I felt so jealous of him. He’d caught something truly special.’

Ken began to pack his belongings away. ‘I wish I’d been there myself,’ he said. ‘That kid had a lot of guts – he must’ve been a really good trainer if he was able to do that.’

‘He was.’ Olivia nodded slowly and thoughtfully. ‘I soon discovered that other pokemon could be differently coloured too – and that a whole community of people were searching night and day to find them – I knew from that moment on that I wanted to look for a special pokemon of my own,’ she said. ‘Easier methods don’t really appeal to me – perhaps it’s because I like a good challenge and a few surprises every now and then. Sure, it can take a long time and people make fun of me for it.’ She placed a hand on her Watchog’s back. ‘But sometimes something a little different can mean a lot to someone, y’know?’

Ken’s lips tightened. ‘That makes sense, I guess.’

Olivia began to gather her things together and her two pokemon stood up. ‘Anyway I’ve got to get moving,’ she said to Ken as she made her way back down the ledge with her team in tow. ‘By the way – I don’t believe you told me your name.’

‘Ken,’ Ken replied. ‘It’s Ken.’

Olivia waved to him as she went. ‘It’s very nice to meet you, Ken,’ she said. ‘I’ll see you back at the pokemon centre!’

Ken waved back. ‘Yeah,’ he said and cupped his hands together over his mouth and called: ‘Good luck with your hunt!’ to her.

This went on for two weeks in an almost rigid manner – Ken would head back to Oreburgh, get some sleep, would say hi to Olivia before heading out to train with Bagon again. Then he’d meet Olivia for lunch on the ridge below the entrance to Mount Coronet and they’d talk.

It was on Ken’s final day of training that things finally drew to a head. By now Bagon had grown at least a foot in height and the grey scales on his head were starting to widen. This was a promising sign – it would not be long now before he’d finally evolve and Ken could upgrade his training to something a little bit more challenging. He didn’t need Lucario now – Bagon was more than capable of taking down pokemon by himself, but he couldn’t help but admit it felt a bit strange not having the jackal pokemon by his side, ready to intervene before a Machop ended up knocking his newest pokemon out.

Lunchtime rolled by, and of course the trainers and their pokemon met on the ledge as usual. They were in the middle of their meal when Watchog suddenly snapped to attention, tail high and claws arched.

She led him over to a small group of rough-looking bushes and Watchog suddenly arched over, flexing its arms impatiently.

Olivia pressed a finger to her lips. ‘Careful,’ she whispered. ‘I don’t wanna spook it – it’s just over there by the bushes.’

Ken followed her and finally saw what exactly “it” was. It was a small bug pokemon coloured a pale shade of orange with a cream ruff around its neck. The bug pokemon was milling around underneath the bushes, plucking small berries from its thin branches and munching them down in two or three bites. Ken couldn’t supress his jaw from dropping. This was it – this was the pokemon that Olivia had spent two weeks of her life searching for. Ken frowned slightly. ‘That’s a Kricketot.’

‘Not just a Kricketot,’ Olivia whispered back. ‘A shiny Kricketot.’ She then leant over to her Watchog. ‘You know what to do.’

Her Watchog snorted and slinked off into the grass without making a single sound. It soon appeared on other side of the clearing, its red and yellow eyes blatant against the pale shades of green and lime. The Kricketot had no idea what was about to happen – its back was turned away from its stalker as it waddled away from one bush and focussed on harvesting the next.

Olivia wordlessly pointed to the bug pokemon and held up three fingers, then two, then one.

The final finger dropped and Watchog exploded from its position in the foliage. The Kricketune had barely any time to turn around and face its attacker before Olivia shouted, ‘Watchog, use Mean Look!’

Within a heartbeat Watchog leant forward and snarled at the Kricketot, causing it to squeal and shudder – frozen in place like a statue.

But this didn’t last long – Olivia shot out from the bushes. ‘Now, Watchog, use Hypnosis!’

On her command the rodent pokemon leaned inwards so it was staring the Kricketune in the eye, its red and yellow colours starting to swirl and twist in ways that were mesmerizing to watch. For a while the bug pokemon began to mumble and teeter, subdued by its opponent, but then snapped back, eyes wide and antennae tense.

‘Dammit!’ Olivia shouted. ‘Quickly, Watchog, use Mean Look again!’

But she wasn’t fast enough. The Kricketune had already turned and started to sprint away towards the path leading away from the bushes.

Ken snapped into action. ‘Bagon, block that Kricketot’s path!’ he shouted and Bagon leapt forward just in time. He stood in front of the path, spreading his arms as wide as he could (which of course didn’t stretch very far in the end). The Kricketot screeched and slid to a halt in front of Bagon before bending down and rocketing forward, landing head-first into Bagon’s chest. But Bagon barely even flinched – instead he growled and straightened his back, pushing the bug pokemon back with the same amount of force.

Ken was about to praise Bagon for his actions but stopped when he noticed that Bagon was starting to glow. The baby dragon was enveloped in a white light that began to expand in every direction. Ken’s pulse began to race and he clenched his fists against his abdomen – Bagon was finally evolving!

The dragon’s body morphed – becoming lumpier and rounder – and when the light faded what stood in front of the Kricketot was a ball-like pokemon covered in large grey scales that covered most of its body. A pair of yellow eyes shone from deep within the only exposed area in the centre of the scales, boring down upon the now dwarfed bug and completely blocking its path. Watchog had caught up to the two of them and stood behind the Kricketot, stopping it from escaping in the direction it had been running from.

‘Great job,’ Olivia called. ‘Now’s your chance Watchog – use Hypnosis again!’

The Kricketot turned around and on cue Watchog leaned in again, the rings in its eyes began to move again, this time catching the bug pokemon’s full attention. It followed these swirls of colour for a few second before topping backwards and landing on its back, fully unconscious.

Olivia didn’t waste any time – she took out a white ball with a red rim around the middle and tossed it, watching as it spiralled towards the Kricketot. Watchog stepped out of the path of the ball and it struck her target directly on the stomach, flinging open and sucking it inside. The ball shuddered a bit before dropping to the ground, struggling once, then twice, then a third time.

Ken didn’t start breathing again until he heard the familiar clicking sound that signalled capture.

For about seven or eight seconds there was nothing but silence – which was broken when Olivia balled one of her hands into a fist and pumped it into the air. ‘Yes!’

Ken applauded, a grin forming across his face. ‘Well done,’ he said and rubbed the top of Shelgon’s armour. ‘You did good too, Shelgon.’

Shelgon squeezed his eyes shut and slowly plodded around so that he could tilt his body up and give his owner a beaming nod.

Olivia approached the ball and picked it up, her face bright and her eyes gleaming with happiness. ‘I got it,’ she whispered. ‘I finally got it! I can move on now!’

Ken’s heart suddenly sunk a bit. Bagon had evolved – that meant he could move on too. He bit his lip for a moment but stopped when Olivia’s eyes met his. ‘Y-Yeah,’ he said. ‘I can move on too, I guess.’

Olivia stopped smiling – finally realising what this meant to her too. ‘Oh, yeah, that’s right.’

There was another silence – this one lasting much longer than the first one had. Ken shifted his gaze – he had to do something to lighten the mood. ‘Uh, hey,’ he said after a while. ‘Wanna head back to the pokemon centre for a while?’

The smile from before snuck into the corners of Olivia’s mouth. ‘I’d like that,’ she said and beckoned to Watchog. ‘Let’s go – we can eat lunch while our pokemon are getting healed up.’

* * *​

Both Amber and Pascal were at the centre again when they got back to Oreburgh for the last time today. They were both sitting at the windows again and the both of them instantly got to their feet when they saw the two of them returning with their spoils. Amber was the first to greet them. ‘You’re back early,’ she remarked as they entered through the sliding doors. ‘Did you get what you were after?’

Olivia nodded. ‘Yup.’

Pascal gave her two thumbs up from where he was sitting. ‘Go on then – what did you get this time?’

Olivia shook her palms. ‘Just a sec,’ she told them. ‘I’ve gotta heal my team – I’ll be back in a moment.’

It wasn’t long after she joined the small queue at the desk when another trainer entered the building – followed by a pokemon that caused other trainers to back off slightly as it followed its owner. The first thing that caught Ken’s attention about this behemoth was the row of saw-like teeth that jutted from its mouth, followed by the amount of scars that littered its rough-looking hide. Most of these scars were especially prominent on the fin-like blades that adorned its stubby arms.

Ken knew this pokemon all too well – it was a popular choice for competitive battlers in Sinnoh. If he had a pokedollar for how many Garchomp he’d encountered in a fight, he would be a very rich man indeed. Other trainers knew to steer clear of this gigantic dragon – a flick of its tail alone would be enough to sweep most of the people and their pokemon off their feet – however this one looked as if it had been trained incredibly well. It merely offered the people below it a brief glance every now and then and it kept its tail and fins upwards so that the chance of actually hitting anybody was fairly slim.

Its trainer was quite well dressed – wearing a formal blue suit with a bowtie around his neck. Clearly this person had been in many battles and had lost very few of them if he could afford such smart clothing. He took out a pokeball and recalled the Garchomp when he joined the queue just a few people behind Olivia, who was now being served. She returned within a few minutes with Kricketot’s pokeball in her hands. ‘Are you ready to see him?’

Amber nodded while Pascal got to his feet. ‘Go for it, kid,’ he said, folding his arms and leaning against the chair he’d been sitting on.

Olivia tossed the ball and it bounced against the floor and opened, returning to her hand as it released her latest catch. ‘Here he is,’ she said. The light faded after morphing into Kricketot, who instantly began looking up at the group and tilting his head. A flurry of sparkles glittered around him. ‘Isn’t he great?’

Amber raised an eyebrow. ‘A Kricketot?’

‘Yup!’ Olivia beamed. ‘I’ve always loved how golden they look – it’s a really underrated shiny – at least it is to me.’ She reached down and scooped the bug pokemon into her arms. ‘Took about three weeks in total – but it was definitely worth it in the end!’

Pascal placed a hand on her shoulder. ‘He’s a beaut,’ he said. ‘Congrats on finally getting something that you wanted.’

Ken opened his mouth to congratulate her as well but was cut off when a guffaw came from behind the group. All the trainers turned to see the smartly-dressed battler watching them from afar. His pokemon had been healed up too – the Garchomp was by his side and looking on at them wordlessly. ‘Let me get this straight,’ he began in a stuffy tone that reminded Ken of a spoilt Meowth. ‘You wasted all that time searching for a Kricketot?’

Olivia tilted her head. ‘Yeah, so?’

The newcomer put a hand on his hips. ‘Did you at least get one with a good nature?’

Olivia looked down at her pokemon, then back up to the newcomer. ‘The nurse told me he has a bold nature, if that’s what you mean.’

The newcomer tutted and rolled his eyes. ‘The worst nature possible,’ he said. Ken felt his abdomen tighten and he started to grind his teeth. ‘Listen – that Kricketot of yours’ only strength is that it’s a different colour,’ he glanced up proudly to his Garchomp. ‘If you want to get anywhere in life, you need to spend time getting good pokemon like my Garchomp here instead of wasting your time with pokemon that wouldn’t stand a chance in battle.’

Ken snapped. He didn’t even give Olivia time to respond, instead standing in front of her and glaring daggers at the newcomer. ‘And what makes you so different from her?’ he asked, straining to keep the volume of his voice from rising. ‘You probably spent hundreds of hours or a ton of money getting that Garchomp of yours.’

The newcomer’s back tensed up. ‘Well… yes,’ he said, his tone much softer than before. ‘B-But at least my pokemon has a use!’ He gestured to the Kricketot. ‘Besides – why on earth would you want to waste so much time getting a shiny pokemon when you can just commission a breeder to hatch one for you?’

Ken furrowed his brow and stepped forward, looking over his shoulder to Olivia before staring the newcomer dead in the face. ‘Because something a little different can mean a lot to someone.’

Both Pascal and Amber nodded in unison. Ken’s chest slackened a little bit – it was nice to know he was being backed up.

The newcomer’s cheeks grew bright red and he clenched his fists. ‘W-Whatever,’ he spat and brushed past the group. ‘Come on, Garchomp – we’ve got better things to do.’

The Garchomp snorted and plodded along, keeping up with his owner at a steady pace. The group followed their exit until they went beyond the glass windows and down the street – completely out of sight.

Pascal broke the silence first. ‘Wow, what a jerk.’

Amber nodded. ‘Yeah.’

Ken touched Olivia’s shoulder. ‘Are you okay?’

But Olivia, who had not spoken a word during their encounter with the young man, simply nodded her head and smiled as if it had never happened. ‘Yes,’ she said. ‘Don’t worry about it – I get that lecture all the time.’

Pascal yawned and stretched his arms. ‘Welp,’ he began. ‘I’ve got to get going.’ He offered the group a parting wave as he walked through the sliding doors. ‘Maybe I’ll see you two around sometime, eh?’

Amber trailed after him. ‘Come back to Oreburgh at some point,’ she called. ‘I’d like to see what you’ve found in the future!’

Both Olivia and Ken waved back. God, he was gonna miss seeing them every day.

Olivia focussed her attention back on Ken while returning Kricketot to his ball. ‘Where are you going to go next, then?’

‘Well,’ Ken said, rubbing his chin slowly. ‘Acuity Lakefront has plenty of Machoke – and the constant hail would get Shelgon used to weather conditions that often show up during battles.’

‘Sounds good,’ Olivia said, shoving her hands into her pockets. ‘Snorunt often gather there – who knows – I might get lucky and find a shiny female.’ She smiled warmly. ‘What do you think?’

Ken returned the warm smile and tightened the straps of his backpack. ‘I think that’s a good target to aim for,’ he said. ‘To Acuity, then?’

Olivia patted her Kricketot on the head and followed her new friend out onto the streets. ‘To Acuity.’

THE END

Reviews

AmericanPi
I'm not sure if slice-of-life was the genre you were going for, but the fact that your entry focuses on regular trainers doing regular things like battling and catching Pokemon makes it seem like a slice-of-life fic. With that note, I'll admit that slice-of-life as a genre is a mixed bag for me. It can be done well, and occasionally I do come across an amazing slice-of-life fic, but oftentimes, to me at least, slice-of-life fics lack that "oomph" factor that other genres have and fall by the wayside in favor of more high-stakes fics.

In your case, your fic's plot, setting, and characters felt normal. Normal in and of itself isn't bad because familiar personalities and settings can be spun into nice stories, but your entry didn't pop out to me because it failed to distinguish itself from stories we've seen many times before. In your entry we have two acquaintances who become friends through one of them defending the other from a bully character, which is a familiar plotline that has been done time and time again. The bully character - the rich snob - felt especially cliched and one-dimensional, because he didn't do anything besides unfairly criticize Olivia and get schooled by Ken. The fact that I'd seen everything before somewhat lessened the story's impact on me.

As for the other characters, Ken and Olivia didn't have very memorable personalities - Ken was more or less a regular trainer, and Olivia, while being a shiny hunter who uses more difficult shiny hunting methods, otherwise was just your average nice girl. They weren't bad characters though, and I did enjoy aspects of them. I liked how Ken is a competitive battler who is still nice to casual trainers and treats his Pokemon well, because that was a nice contrast to the bully. As for Olivia, it was nice to see a sympathetic shiny hunter who challenges herself when she hunts for shinies.

The way Ken and Olivia grew from acquaintances to traveling companions was fun to read. Your entry touched upon all the important events in their friendship - it started with Ken's curiosity about Olivia's shiny hunting and the two trainers' awkward lunches together, but ended with Ken and Olivia having a real friendship and deciding to travel together. The natural progression of Ken and Olivia's relationship, in my opinion, is the strongest aspect of your entry.

Overall, I'm a person who tends to not fully appreciate slice-of-life stories, so please don't take my criticism to heart. I think that if you added some interesting things to spice up your story - like giving Ken some quirks or adding some depth to the rich bully - this could be a very good and enjoyable one-shot. Even though the story as it is felt normal to me, it was well-written and fulfilled the prompt nicely, so great job on that.


Bay
I think this is a cute concept there having a trainer and shiny hunter getting to know one another. While you do have Ken being one of those competitive battlers, you do have him have empathy and be more caring than that Garchomp trainer, and you have him stick up for her there. I like that Ken understand Olivia’s point of view on how she hunts shiny her own way.

On the other hand, though, I’m getting this shiny hunting bias vibe there. It’s hard for me to explain. Both competitive battling and shiny hunting both take time to do, but you made it seem those that do competitive battling are the ones that are uncreative and wasting their time. Though granted, I can see you have this as conflict near the end and it works.

One minor thing is perhaps have Lucario a bigger role. Seems he’s only used to train with Bagon. Thought it would be a good opportunity to showcase the Pokemon’s interactions there.


Chibi Pika
This is really well-written. The description paints a vivid picture of Sinnoh, to the point where I practically feel like I’m there. It doesn’t just feel like a story taking place in a video game world. Your portrayal of Oreburgh feels thoroughly lived-in, with a well-used Pokémon center and the sense that trainers are constantly coming and going and living their lives, pursuing different goals, interacting with the locals, ect.

I really like a lot of the themes on display here, too. It’s a different spin on the classic journey vs. destination. And I think it works specifically because it challenges the reader. I do have a hard time relating to the idea of getting a sense of accomplishment out of a task that’s 100% luck. I do have a hard time seeing a roll of the dice as a challenge. But then in the end it cuts through all of that simply by pointing out how something different can mean a lot to someone, and I think that simplicity is its biggest strength.

I do think you struggle at times to adapt certain in-game concepts to a real-life setting though. Two weeks is a humongous investment to get something in-game, but feels kind of trivial for a real-life goal (I’ve spent years tracking down a few of my rarest collectibles!) And the mention of the Shiny Charm is a nice in-game nod, but I’m having a hard time imagining how it would work in a real-life setting, and felt it was a little bit distracting as a result.

I’ve only got one other problem with the story, though it’s an important one—I’d have liked to see more focus on Ken and Olivia’s friendship! I do like how it’s kind of a quiet understanding that slowly builds over time as they both work toward their respective goals. And that understated feel is nice, as it kind of sneaks up on them--they don’t realize how much they’ve enjoyed each other’s company until it’s time to part ways. But i think it needed a little extra something to make me feel more like this one-shot embodied the theme of the contest. A moment where Ken realizes that working towards your goals is fun, but it’s more fun to not be doing it alone. A brief moment of surprise when Ken realizes that Olivia wants to travel with him, and the realization that he’d been hoping she would, even if he hadn’t wanted to ask because it might seem like his goals were more important than hers. Something like that.

But that’s really only to do with how it stands as an entry in this particular contest. As a standalone piece, I think it’s an effective story that does a good job exploring its themes and forcing the reader to look at things a little differently than they might have.


Dragonfree
In many ways I liked this fic, but I'm not sure it's a fic about platonic relationships - it feels more like a fic about shiny hunting, or about different kinds of training, speculating on how different game players would map onto trainers in the "real" Pokémon world. Ken does become friends with Olivia, but their relationship isn't particularly close or particularly interesting, nor is it really the focus of the story - we only actually see them interact in the context of shiny hunting, first with him asking her about it, then him helping her get the Kricketot, then him confronting the competitive battler who looks down on her shiny hunting. For the purposes of this story as a free-standing one-shot about a shiny hunter, there's nothing wrong with that - but in this particular contest, this story feels out of place. It's technically got a friendship in it, but it's incidental; you're not really exploring or developing that aspect at all, the way you're exploring the concept of in-world shiny hunting.

There's plenty to like about the story itself, though. I really like how you show training in your version of the Pokémon universe - the familiar in-game technique of switching the trainee out for a more experienced Pokémon, but where the Pokémon (although very minor characters) have a bit of a sense of personality and individuality and can mostly handle it themselves. I think you've struck a fun balance there between sticking faithfully to the game mechanics and reimagining it as a realistic technique practiced in a real world. I also enjoy your portrayal of all the little, mundane aspects of the world, with the crowds at the Pokémon Center, the limited free rooms, the packed lunches, which lend it a sense of realism and believability.

Additionally, you do a good job of making the characters likeable in a short space. Olivia's enthusiasm about what she's doing in particular comes through really well, and it's fun to see her unusual approach to Pokémon play out so earnestly - I figure you drew from personal experience, and it shows in the way she talks about shinies. Ken isn't super-interesting, but perhaps because of all those nice little mundane details and so on, he just feels like a person, and the way he thinks about training is distinctly different from Olivia but also very natural and more like how your average reader would.

The competitive battler character in the final scene, though, is awfully flat and cartoony in comparison, and the confrontation with him feels kind of trite and clichéd. Real-life snobs don't generally go out of their way to actively, personally, individually confront random strangers who are being happy about things they find silly, just to mock them to their face - mocking them to their like-minded friends, who'll laugh along with them, sure, but it's not very fun or satisfying to singlehandedly confront a group of strangers who are inevitably just going to tell you to get lost and mind your own business. I think this would work a lot better if he had some kind of actual reason to interact with them and the snobbery happened to come out in relation to that. Even supposing this guy is confident and obnoxious enough to do this without blinking, though - why does he immediately get so flustered just at Ken telling him "Well, I bet you spent lots of time and money getting your Garchomp"? That's really not a devastating takedown: the whole point of what he was saying in the first place was that good competitive Pokémon, like Garchomp, are worth that time and effort but shiny Kricketot are not. Someone who really believes that wouldn't bat an eye at Ken's comeback, much less someone who believes it so strongly he'd interrupt strangers just to make it clear to them what losers they are for thinking otherwise. All in all, I can't take this guy seriously or see him as a real person at all, and it makes this scene end up as the low point of the story - which is a shame, because this is the climactic moment of Ken standing up for Olivia, where you really want us to believe in the emotions he's feeling.

Also, you have Ken say that "God, he was gonna miss seeing [Amber and Pascal] every day", which seems kind of bizarre - he's had all of one brief conversation with Pascal (again, strictly focused on shiny hunting), and none at all with Amber as far as we've seen (Amber doesn't even have a name in the narration until suddenly in the last scene), so it just seems weird that he's so invested in them all of a sudden. With Olivia you at least tell us they kept meeting for lunch, so we can infer that that's how they really grew to be good friends even though we only see a few scenes with them interacting meaningfully, but with Amber and Pascal there's just nothing at all there, and it feels forced. If he really grew to be excellent friends with them offscreen, you need to truly show us that before having him expound on how much he'll miss them.

Finally, you've got a fair few typos here and there, and sometimes there are weird contradictions or non-sequiturs that may also just be proofreading mistakes - for example, in the first scene you've got "he had at least a good ten minutes at the most to wait", with both "at least" and "at the most", and the latter doesn't make sense in this context at all since he's being disappointed at how long the wait is. Other than these minor fumbles, though, your prose is generally clean and well executed.

All in all, I thought this was a lot of fun as a brief exploration of a "real" shiny hunter, the different ways that trainers approach training, and a nice, lived-in interpretation of the Pokémon world in general. I felt it faltered a bit in its effort to be relevant to the theme, though, as you don't truly develop the friendship between the main characters and instead focus only on Olivia's shiny hunting. Her friendship with Ken mostly happens in the background or offscreen - and the final scene, where their relationship is meant to truly solidify as Ken comes to her defense, is unfortunately easily the least believable part of the story. This entry would've done better in a different contest - but it's a nice read nonetheless, and the way you write the Pokémon world here makes me want to read your other stories.
 

AmericanPi

Write on
4th place: "The Brightest People" by Nerdy McNerdface

Scoring
AmericanPi: 6th place (20 points)
Bay: 4th place (40 points)
Chibi Pika: 4th place (40 points)
Dragronfree: 3rd place (50 points)
Total: 4th place (150 points)

The evening was still. Clouds of pollutions arose to the sullen London sky, as the sunbeams caught on them and turned them blazing reds and deep purples. At this time the city felt oddly still - the hustle and bustle of mundane work routines had settled down, but the magic of city nightlife had yet to take effect. For such a populated and tourism-centred area, it was almost abnormal for the area to be so quiet.

A young man, probably no older than twenty, stood by the bank of the River Thames, his short, unruly blonde hair rustling faintly in the wind. His gloved hands were placed on a cold metal fence surrounding the river, as he stared out onto its wavy yet calm surface.

He wasn't standing there for a purpose of any kind - while water tended to not usually be a problem for him, he wasn't exactly a river fanatic either. No, he was just standing there, appreciating the evening, lost in thought. Sometimes this period of the day could last hours, where he'd just stop and relax to the sound of the river gently passing in front of him. It wasn't like anyone cared, so why not?

The peaceful quiet was interrupted when a faint, muffled beeping noise appeared out of nowhere. The man snapped back to reality, checking his left jacket pocket to pick up the source of the noise. As he pulled out a small device, the beeping could be heard more clearly, this time with an automated voice accompanying it:

"Pokemon approaching from the river. Pokemon approaching from the river. Pokemon approaching. Pokemon approaching."

The man hastily shoved the device back into where he found it, his other hand locating the second pocket on the right. From there he drew out a red and white sphere with a button and black ring splitting the two colours apart, his thumb hovering over the button as he stared at the river. The waters still seemed calm, but the device only beeped faster as each second passed.

The river slowly began to pulsate directly in front of him. Whatever creature lay under that spot was heading to the surface in a hurry. The man had seen this sort of event occur enough times now to be confident in the culprit of this behaviour, but the sheer size of the waves being created by its approach meant that this was no simple battle of any kind.

As the sea dragon burst out of the water with the force of a torpedo, the device within his left pocket stopped beeping, instead saying a line the man knew off by heart at this point.

"Pokemon located."

The man brought the ball he was holding directly above his head, clicking the button with force before throwing it out ahead of him, crying "Go! Magneton!"

The two halves of the sphere split apart, as red plasma escaped from its innards and formed a peculiar creature made out of metal. It hovered above the water as the man caught the falling split ball and sealed the two parts together again. Before he even had a chance to think of his next idea, the foe screeched and started making a beeline towards the Magneton. This didn't faze the man too much, however. He'd been here enough times to have a tactic for when a powerful enemy such as a Gyarados was approaching fast.

"Magneton, let's use a Thunder Wave on it!"

The metal creature swerved out of the way of the Gyarados, all eyes focused on the snake-like body of the Water-Flying Type as it started channelling electricity through its body. The Gyarados was quick to realise its foe had moved, and made a fluent turn to where the Magneton was located. However, a sharp electric strike stopped it right in its tracks, where the Magneton had struck it. It tried to move, but the Magneton's electricity had paralysed the creature and left it stuck in midair, powerless to the Steel beast's next attack.

The man punched the air. "Alright, Magenton! We've got it where we want it, now for a Thunderbolt!"

The Magneton didn't need telling twice. Electrical energy began forming in front of it, slowly creating a larger and larger ball of crackling power, before the Electric-Steel Type released it as a searing bolt of lightning. On any other Pokemon that attack was strong enough, but a Gyarados' muscles were extremely vulnerable to electricity as the cost of having both the ability to manipulate water and to fly.

The Gyarados roared as the bolt struck it, now knowing that it tried to mess with the wrong Pokemon and trainer. As the paralysis it was under slowly wore off, it shakily sunk back into the water to heal.

The Magneton flew back to its trainer as he welcomed it back over to the side of the bank. "Well done Magneton, you did great out there! I'll feed you some candy when we get back, ok? You really deserve it."

As the man let his Magneton return to a red plasma form and rest in its ball, the calm seemed to almost instantly swamp the evening again, as though it had never left. People walking by hadn't batted an eye at what just occurred in the River Thames - one or two boats passed by stress-free, the odd lost tourist was locating their destination on a map without looking up to see the commotion at all, it was though that battle had never happened at all. This response was expected, though - the man had learned almost nobody knew he existed long ago now.

He turned at a woman's voice from behind him. "Hey Spark, that was a good one."

The voice belonged to a woman with hair as dark as her skin, wearing red and white clothing that even Spark couldn't deny looked great on her. As she approached him, he gave a reply. "It was nothing, Candela, I've done it all before at this point. You could've helped if you wanted to, though."

Candela smirked. "Oh no, I didn't want to battle. You know all my Fire Types wouldn't be able to take on a monster like Gyarados. I do have to say though, you should've caught it."

Spark shook his head. "Don't talk like that, you're gonna sound like Blanche. Next moment you'll be telling me how Lapras sometimes swims upside down if there's a heatwave going on."

Candela laughed. "Course not. I would've done what you did, I just thought Blanche would've disapproved if she was here. Likely would've talked about how it was bigger than what's in your pants and that she could've really used it for updating Willow's Pokedex. Speaking of, did she actually tell that to you? Or was that just Tauros crap you invented?"

Spark shook his head. "She actually did tell me that, but considering the cocky smile she had on for the rest of the conversation I'd bet that it actually was just one big Tauros dump."

"Man, the cheek," Candela replied. "Makes a good example of a few of the insane facts she's said that are true though. Makes you wonder whether she's actually seen all that stuff or is just making uneducated guesses based off of wild rumours and nonsense."

"When you're done chattering away about your Blanche conspiracy behind her back," Spark interjected, "I'll be ready to hear why you're around this part of London for once instead of the Tower."

Candela shrugged. "What? It's not like I don't do the same about you when I'm talking to Blanche. But anyway, as I was walking down here, I spotted something I've got a feeling you might enjoy. Not telling what by the way, it's a surprise."

"Hmm?" His head rose slightly. "So you found something, and instead of keeping it to yourself and only telling us later like you always do, you decided to drag me along with you to see it? Either this is pretty freaking good or you're pulling my leg."

"I'm not pulling your leg, Spark," Candela said, holding her arms up. "Look, my hands are nowhere near those toned calf muscles of yours."

"Ha ha, very funny." Spark walked up so he was beside her. "Alright, take me to this fantastical place of wonderful things."

She winked at him. "Oh, you bet."

As they started walking down the side of the Thames, a thought occurred to Spark. "Hey Candela, is Blanche coming with us?"

Candela sighed. "Not sure. I did tell her before I came to get you, but she just looked up and said 'I'm working'. Dunno if that meant she was gonna spend the rest of the evening doing just that or if she was actually gonna stop studying for a moment and go see. Either way she didn't want to be disturbed so I just went to get you and here we are."

Spark nodded, and the two kept walking. Normally at this point some kind of friendly row would've somehow been created between the two of them, but today there was only silence. Candela spoke up. "Hey man, you alright? By now on any other occasion you've thrown some kind of insult at me. What's on your mind?"

He frowned. "I've just been thinking, you know? Always bad when you think too much, I know, but once you've started it's hard to stop."

"Mhm," Candela agreed. "That's why I gave up on deep thinking. But seeing as you didn't, I'll let you continue."

Spark shrugged and kept going. "Today I was looking over at that convention centre they have nearby and seeing all the people walking in and out, since they've been having this huge convention and all, and I just felt kinda... sad. All those people..."

"...and you couldn't join them." Candela finished for him. "That's what it is, right?"

"Yeah, I guess. I keep thinking of it, and I just, I dunno... I feel worse than how I originally felt last year. Like, I know 2016 wasn't a great year for the world, and since the first time I had a good, long think about this I've grown to know and accept what I am, but all those feelings just kinda came back..."

He felt a sharp elbow on his shoulder. "Hey Spark, it's alright. You've got me, Blanche, Willow, all the people who play this game-"

"But that's the thing," Spark responded bitterly, his voice suddenly laced with hostility towards his female companion. "Nobody plays Pokemon GO anymore, Candela."

She didn't have a response for that. The two kept on walking in silence, before Spark spoke up again. "Sorry. I... didn't mean to lash out like that. It's just something I know I'll never be able to fully accept, and I guess I got angry. You're right, Candela. I've got you and Blanche and Willow, at least."

He was surprised when Candela suddenly pulled him into a tight hug. "Spark, I'll be here for you, and so will Blanche and Willow. The way we live may have its ups and downs, but it's what was given to us. And as long as there's something bright in this existence, then it's worth living for."

She let him go. "I said that I gave up on deep thinking, but as you'd expect from, me that's just a little lie. I can't deny I've stood upon many bridges before and wondered if the world would care if I vanished. This game is dying, so why does it matter if I go along with it? It's a very easy idea to think. But the thing is, I thought about Blanche, and Willow, and you, and that's why I'm still here, because you all mean so much to me. Spark, you really are as bright as your name says. Don't ever forget that."

The silence surrounded them once more. Spark stared at Candela for a moment before answering. "Well, I won't deny I'm still not feeling amazing, but I... I needed that, or something like that. Thanks, Candela. You mean a lot to me too."

She smiled. "Anything for a close friend. And I guess you didn't realise, but we've made it."

Spark turned to Candela. "The London Eye gym? Why did you hide this from me? I could literally see it from where we were standing before. It's not like I-"

"Look at the Gym Podium," Candela insisted, "or you might miss it hatching."

The confused look she earned in return shifted to stare at the podium. Atop the very highest one, a single egg was perched, coloured a shade of deep blue with thin white stripes forming bands around it. Just as Spark registered all this, a crack split the top of the egg.

"There," Candela said to him, almost in a whisper. "And would you hear that? The crowd's gone wild."

Spark took a moment to glance down from the egg and there, before his eyes, was a group of around twenty teenagers holding their phones, all dressed up in red, yellow or blue gear and cheering. He could even hear some of them yelling out in delight.

"It's hatching! It's hatching! Guys, let's take this one down altogether."

"Sure, but if I'm the last to tap the win's going to Team Mystic!"

"But wouldn't it go to Instinct anyway, because, y'know, it's a freaking Zapdos?!"

The egg cracked fully, and a searing light took over the podium, causing both Spark and Candela to take a moment to look away for fear of being blinded. As the light died down, the two looked back, and Spark gasped. There, before his very eyes, was the Pokemon he'd always searched for his whole life.

Zapdos.

While the teenagers may have been oblivious to it, their Pokemon were released beside them and posed, ready for battle. Arcanines, Nidokings, even the odd Charizard and Meganium could be seen among the group, all roaring and preparing attacks as they waited for their trainers to give the command.

As the teenagers all began tapping rapidly on their phone screens, chanting for their teams and yelling out in excitement, and the Pokemon started clashing against Zapdos, Spark couldn't help but talk. "Candela, I... oh my god, thank you!"

Candela winked at him. "No problem. We just thought you'd like to see some of the fans having a blast against the Pokemon you've always wanted to see."

The Zapdos curved and arced in the sky, attempting to dodge the hits of the enemies below. The Charizard promptly followed behind, breathing fire onto the electrical legend, while the Meganium attempted to reach it using its powerful vines. It was a sight to behold, but a sudden thought occurred to Spark. "Wait, 'we'?"

"Yes." A second woman's voice answered the question from behind him, and he turned to see Blanche and Professor Willow walking up towards the two of them. Blanche continued, flicking her long, white hair out of her face. "You've been seeming down since that convention's been going on, so I thought I could do something special for my next idea to discover more Pokemon."

Willow interjected. "Well, Blanche, it was partly both of us..."

She gave him an innocent yet mocking look. "Whatever you say. So the idea was that we could summon powerful Pokemon if we-"

Spark laughed. "I don't care how you did it, I just can't believe you actually did! And Candela here was saying she didn't even know if you were coming..."

Candela shrugged. "Did you really expect me to tell you the whole truth right off the bat as long as I made leg puns?"

The four of them watched as psychic beams fired into the sky, water streams danced in the air and poisonous gases floated up to where Zapdos was rapidly growing tired. Before long the legendary bird was too tired to carry on, and soared off into the distance to find a rest spot. The group of teenagers cheered altogether, before debates started on which team claimed the win. As their cheerful bickering continued, Spark turned to his three friends.

"You know, guys, you really are the brightest people I will ever know."

Reviews

AmericanPi
Oh man, this hit me right in the feels. Pokemon GO really feels like it happened ages ago, and now I feel bad that I stopped playing.

Onto the review proper though, despite this fic making me tear up a little, I'm afraid I was confused about what's going on in the fic. Reading the entry left me with more questions than answers, which is okay in a chaptered fic. In a one-shot, however, you really want to make sure everything is understood and tied up nicely.

The questions I have are, which universe does the fic take place in, our universe or the Pokemon World or somewhere else? Are the Pokemon real or AR? Why couldn't Spark join the people at the convention center? Is it because he doesn't exist on the same plane of reality as the rest of the population (because he's a fictional character and all), or am I reading too much into Spark's dialogue? Speaking of that question, are Spark, Candela, Blanche, and Willow real people in our world? If so, what is their role in Pokemon GO? Is Pokemon GO the same as it is in our world - as in, an AR mobile game - or is it something bigger? And why was Spark so disappointed that no one plays Pokemon GO anymore? Is it because he helped create it, or is there a bigger reason, like his existence being tied into the game's popularity?

Questions aside, I expected the blue mood to stay throughout the whole story, but the tempo increased with the battle against the Gyarados. I think your entry would have been stronger if its pace stayed consistent throughout. Spark and Candela's conversation felt somewhat rushed, and I think it would have been more poignant if the narration had slowed down the conversation with pauses and descriptions of the characters' feelings as they talked. Remember that you had 10,000 words to work with, so slowing down the pace would have only helped.

Despite my criticism of it, this entry was heartwarming to read. The fact that I enjoyed reading the fic even though I didn't completely understand it shows how heartwarming it is. I liked Spark's melancholy and the quiet sadness of the River Thames in the beginning. In the middle, Candela's conversation with Spark was bittersweet, and I really got the message that she's a good friend to Spark and will be no matter what happens. The ending was quite uplifting, with Candela, Blanche, and Willow taking Spark to see something they know he'd love to see.

Overall, I'd say the biggest weakness of your entry is the fact that it leaves many questions about the nature of Pokemon GO unanswered. Other than that, though, this was a good entry that solidly fulfilled the prompt with the nice friendship between Spark and Candela. Great job!


Bay
Oh cool a Pokemon Go fic, always interesting how writers are able to write stories from that. This is kinda funny as I was reading your entry while downtown, and I was sitting outside besides a store/clocktower that is a gym haha.

But anyways, I like your approach to this contest’s theme there. Yeah, I remember how Go used to be big and everyone was playing, but as the months went by the playerbase starts disappearing. The raids, overhauled gyms, and 2nd gen and 3rd gen Pokemon then got some life back into the mobile game. Maybe not to the level as last year, but enough for the dedicated players to continue for a while longer. I’ve done several legendary raids now and it’s fun seeing familiar faces joined in the raids.

Spark’s battle with Gyarados there made me wish we can do battles like that heh (I guess gyms you can do that, but it’s not the same you know?). I like the interaction with him and Candela and their Blanche conspiracies. Poor Spark feeling depressed over Go’s state, fortunately his friends there thought of legendary raids and I thought that’s sweet.

Since you have the setting be London/UK, I take it you’re from that area? Just curious.

I think the only issue I can see is the meta-ish feel of it. There was a bit more focus on Go’s state than Spark’s friendship with his pals until later. My comments talking about Go meta sorta proves that oops haha. While I can totally relate to this on a personal level, this story might not resonate as well to those that are not Go players. But hey, I’m sure that the readers that do play Go will love this.


Chibi Pika
I have to admit, I was not expecting any GO fic. Which is why this story surprised me in a lot of good ways. In particular, I like how you don’t outright reveal that it’s a GO fic until halfway through, but there are subtle hints here and there. The real-world locations. The fact that none of the passersby even see the Gyarados. That sort of thing. I also love the way you have Spark and Candela play off each other. Their banter with each other, and about Blanche, is fun and really gives off the impression that these three are close friends who have known each other for ages and enjoy a good ribbing.

I actually had a hard time placing this one because there’s nothing I can really point to that was done wrong. It’s a solid entry with no obvious flaws. But at the same time, it didn’t really capture me like I thought it would, and I think part of the reason for that is that all the emotional weight of Spark’s depression is carried out through his dialogue with Candela, as opposed to us feeling it firsthand by seeing it happen. Particularly regarding the convention center—something about that mention didn’t carry the full weight that I think you were going for. Imagine if they’d actually walked past the convention center as Candela is leading Spark through town, and then he gets all quiet as all the memories come flooding back. And they’re happy memories, but they hurt, because they highlight a past that he doesn’t think can ever return. That sort of thing. Basically, I think you’ve got a good foundation for a lot of the emotions in this piece,but I don’t think they were explored to their fullest. In addition, I feel that while the description got the job done, none of it quite stood out either, especially since this more of a quiet, moody piece that could really benefit from description that emphasizes the feel of the setting--the loneliness of the streets, the excitement of the convention that Spark feels isolated from. That sort of thing.

All that said though, I do really like the ending, and I think you did a great job making me feel the bond between the three team leaders, which is what’s really important.


Dragonfree
A Pokémon Go fic! I love that we got a Go fic in this contest - I wasn't expecting it at all, but as one of those supposedly nonexistent people who still play Go, I enjoyed that a lot.

The concept here generally tickles me - the idea of Go's augmented reality being a real layer on top of the world, where the Pokémon physically exist and the characters are real, really does create a tragically lonely existence for the game's four characters, who are the only people in the AR world who can actually see and interact with each other as real people. And that's what the fic really capitalizes on: Spark and Candela's depression and loneliness, and how the characters ultimately cope by supporting each other, through little gestures like letting Spark witness a legendary raid. That support is sweet, and in a contest focusing on platonic relationships, I think you definitely hit the right approach here, exploring how these characters help each other through a strange, soulcrushing situation with no way out.

I do think the story is a little short, though. The first third of it, while hinting lightly that Spark's not entirely okay, mostly builds up to the ultimately irrelevant battle against the Gyarados, and while I think it's kind of a neat way to introduce the concept (and I really dig the subtlety of those darker hints), it doesn't leave too much space left to develop the characters' relationships, which are what really matters. We get a fairly nice sense of the dynamic between Spark and Candela, although it'd be nice to have more, but while some of how Blanche fits in is communicated through Spark and Candela's conversation, Blanche gets all of two actual lines and Professor Willow gets one - I think it might have strengthened the story to include them a little more, since you end up saying it's all of them supporting each other, not just Spark and Candela, and that seems natural when it's literally just the four of them. (Professor Willow, in particular, barely even feels like a character here.)

I'm also a little confused by the Pokémon Go players bickering about which team claimed the win. The game shows statistics about which team did the most damage at the end of a raid, and that seems like the most obvious way to classify a "win" for a team, if one cares about that sort of thing; why are they arguing about something like the last tap (something impossible to determine) when that much more sensible statistic is right there? You also show Zapdos soaring off to rest and the teenagers cheering and then arguing about who won, instead of trying to catch the Zapdos. These two things are giving me the impression you stopped playing Go before raids became a thing and aren't 100% clear on how they work, which is a shame. (It's possible you're just taking artistic license, but it seems counterproductive to take any artistic license in a story whose premise revolves around the idea of a real-world video game being real - if the game they're playing isn't literally Pokémon Go as it exists in the real world, I think that takes away from it a bit.)

(And I was kind of disappointed you described the group simply as "teenagers". One of the neat things about Pokémon Go is that all sorts of people play it! And most of the people I meet playing appear to be twenty-somethings, followed by preteen kids, so if anything teenagers are a minority. My experience is probably not entirely universal, but it does feel sort of off and stereotypical to describe it as teeangers.)

You show Spark speaking to his Magneton like an individual that can fully understand him (as opposed to a nonsapient creature that only obeys battle commands), which raises the question of how the Pokémon fit into all this - don't they count as company for any of the four characters? Why doesn't Spark have his Pokémon out more of the time, just to make it easier to deal by having someone around that does notice he exists and care about him? It would've been fun to explore this as part of the story, but it's completely ignored once the battle is over, which I think is a bit of a missed opportunity.

Regardless, this was a sweet story that I enjoyed, and Spark and Candela's relationship came through nicely. I just wish it'd spent a little more time on these relationships, and that it were a little more faithful to the actual game.
 
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