Credit to Imgur for hosting this image, and Nicolas Poussin for making it.
Hello, everyone! This is a fic I've been working on since November of last year. It's about a world that's far kinder than the one we live in, yet not entirely without cruelty. It's about a world where humans are largely absent, and pokemon are free to cause or resolve their own problems. And it's about pokemon getting hit on the head. A lot.
Specific content warnings will be posted before the beginning of each chapter, but if you need to know exactly what the fic will eventually contain, you can look in the spoiler below. However, although the usage of the 'spoiler box' has come to expand beyond just concealing spoilers, I must point out that, in this case, yes, there are actual spoilers here, so open with care.
Swearing. Severe violence. Death. Drug use portrayed in a comedic fashion. Drug use portrayed in a non-comedic fashion. Bullying (including incitement to suicide).
2018-11-01: Edited Day One, Part Two to include a mention of Espeon seeing Ditto before she enters the equipment shed, based off of Umbramatic's review.
Those who travel know that not every god is evil, and not every place is unhappy. One of these not-entirely-unhappy places was a certain pokemon daycare in an obscure part of the world, where the gate was always open, no one worried about what they were going to eat that day, and the buildings were all old in a comfortable way.
In a small patch of mud in that daycare, a psychic pig was settling in for a nap, despite the full light of noon shining down around him. After spending all that time in constant motion as a spoink, Grumpig enjoyed the opportunities he had to be as still as possible. The only thought in his mind as his eyes closed was that he really should speak to Slakoth at some point to see if he had any good tips for maximizing the relaxation potential of his naps – after he finished his present one, of course.
“Grumpig! Hey, Grumpig! Check out my sweet new bod!” a foxlike creature said, poking Grumpig in the side with a stick.
“Grmm… What?” Grumpig reluctantly opened his eyes to peer at the bipedal, orange-furred fox grinning down at him.
“Yeah, check it out, bro! I’m a delphox now! That means I’m gonna start learning all kinds of sick psychic powers! Doubt any of them will ever be as cool as yours, though,” the fox said.
The psychic pig uttered a dismissive grunt before lowering his snout back into the mud again. “Mmm. I see.”
Not deterred, the fox bent down and whispered into Grumpig’s ear in a conspiratorial tone. “Hey, now that we’re both psychic types, we can tell each other about all the weird shit we read in everyone else’s mind. Because all that noise about respecting privacy and junk is just something we tell the normals, right? C’mon, you can tell me! We’re psy-bros now!”
“I know it’s you, Zoroark.”
The fox laughed. “If I’m Zoroark, then who’s that fine-lookin’ fox-mon over there?” he asked, pointing towards a black bipedal fox with a red mane standing a few yards away. Said pokemon raised their right paw to give a tentative wave in Grumpig’s direction.
“Hey, c’mon dude, you’re not even looking! At least-”
“Oh, gods-dammit! It was the mane, wasn’t it?” the black fox snarled, baring their teeth. “I totally screwed up the mane color, didn’t I? I knew it looked off! I’m sorry, Zoroark. It’s just that- it’s just- Aaarrgghh! Ever since that unown came here, I haven’t been able to do anything right!”
Light bent and twisted around the ‘delphox’, and in his place, a zoroark exactly identical in appearance to the other one now stood. Zoroark walked over to his doppelgänger and held up one of the strands of his mane to that of his double. “Whoa, whoa, you got the look totally right, see? Grumpy here just made a lucky guess!” Zoroark said.
“It’s okay, bro. You don’t need to use your illusion ability to try to cover up my mistake. I’m not- I’m not gonna cry or something dumb like that,” said Ditto. They turned away from their consoler and sprinted across the green yard of the daycare, eyes already becoming wet.
“Wait! I wasn’t using my ability, honest! This is the genuine, one hundred percent real-” Zoroark started, but the sounds of his protestation soon faded into the distance as he ran after Ditto.
Grumpig took a quick peek to confirm that Zoroark was really gone, then settled back into his patch of mud. He’d really have to find out what was going on with Ditto one of these days – Mew knew Zoroark would certainly never be able to resolve the issue – but for now, it was time for a nap. As he began to drift off, Grumpig thought about paying a visit to the feeding trough when he woke up. The thick fat ability didn’t maintain itself, after all.
“Hi Grumpig! Guess who evolved today!” A shrill voice jolted Grumpig back to awareness. Focusing his mental senses, the pig detected the unmistakable signature of another psychic-type. Not Zoroark this time, then. It wasn’t a signature he recognized, but the pokemon seemed to already know him, which meant it was either Braixen or – Oh, no. Oh, no. Please, please let it be Braixen. Grumpig had to admit that the voice didn’t sound anything like that of the fire-typed fox, but evolution might have changed it. Of course, it would’ve probably gotten deeper, not higher, if it changed at all…
“Braixen? Is that you?” Grumpig asked without looking up, deciding to maintain his hope for a moment longer.
“Ha-ha, nope! It’s me, Eevee! Although I’m guess I’m named Espeon now, right?” the voice replied.
It was just faintly possible, actually, that Zoroark could’ve recruited some psychic type new to the daycare into his schemes. He would know that Grumpig wouldn’t be expecting him to try the same trick immediately after it just failed, so maybe- No. It was time to face the truth. Grumpig slowly took to his feet, and peered at the pink-furred pokemon standing just outside of his mud patch. “Out of all the possible forms you could’ve evolved into, you just had to choose that one,” he said.
Espeon’s ears were twitching to and fro with excitement. “Yeah! Like, why wouldn’t I? I mean, I guess it’s not really always like, a choice, you know, but even if it was I’d still pick espeon. Okay, maybe if I had a thunder stone I might’ve considered becoming a jolteon ‘cause they can’t be– uh, ‘cause they can’t be outrun, but they don’t have tails and that is so not my style! Hey, I just realized we both have, like, psychic gem thingies on our foreheads! We’re gem buddies! Wait, do you think Psyduck might, like, try to steal mine? Is that where golducks get theirs from? Because he’s always moping about having headaches and stuff so you’d think he’d just try to evolve but he hasn’t so I thought that maybe-”
“No, psyducks don’t need to steal anyone’s gem to evolve. And these aren’t gemstones. They’re pearls.” Grumpig unconsciously put a hand to the pearls on his forehead, as if to check that someone hadn’t secretly snatched them away during one of his naps.
“Wait, pearls aren’t a type of gem? Is that, like, the sort of thing you just naturally know when you’re a psychic? Wow, I guess I’m going to start knowing a lot of stuff too, now! Ooh, ooh, ooh! I know! You should let me look through those glasses of yours, so I can see whether I’ve become smart or not!”
“First, they’re called choice specs, and second, what? How do glasses have anything to do with intelligence?”
“I tried looking through some human guy’s glasses once, but everything looked really weird, so I assumed that only smart people could see through them normally.”
Grumpig gave a brief snort. “Even a metagross would’ve seen a distorted image if they’d looked through those. Human eyes work differently than ours, so to them, glasses make things appear clearer, not worse. It isn’t smart humans who wear glasses, just ones with poor enough eyesight that they need them to be able to see normally.”
“Huh, really? So if a human who had good eyesight without glasses wore them, they’d have, like, super-vision?” Espeon asked, tilting her head slightly.
The question caused Grumpig to pause and scratch his chin before answering. “I suppose so, but it might be one of those situations where it’s a lot easier to go from bad to okay than it is to go from okay to good. A lot of things work that way, actually. Explains why there’s so much mediocre crap in this world.”
“It was really easy for me to go from good, to like, awesome, though! All I had to do was evolve.”
“Uh-huh. Look, can’t you find someone else to bother? I was just about to take a nap, here.”
“But I wanted to ask you how to do all the psychic things! Couldn’t you teach me, like, just one thing first?”
“No. I want to sleep now.”
“Aw, c’mon, please? Pretty please? Just like one little thing, I promise, and then I won’t bother you the whole rest of the day!” Espeon sat on her haunches and stared soulfully into Grumpig’s eyes, who found the former’s white pupils slightly unsettling.
Grumpig sighed, feeling his desired nap slipping further and further away from him. “Ugh… look, there really aren’t any psychic powers you can learn to use quickly. What did you have in mind?”
“Ha-ha, thanks Grumpig! I knew I could count on you!” Espeon sprang up to her feet and stared pacing back and forth excitedly.
“I didn’t say I’d-” Grumpig started to protest, but was quickly cut off.
“Okay, so like, it’s funny that you said ‘what did you have in mind’ because the first thing I want to know is how to read everyone’s minds and stuff. I know you say you don’t do that kind of thing because, like, ‘privacy’ or whatever,” Espeon said, waving the tips of her forked tail to make air quotes, “but that’s just what we tell the mareeple so they don’t get upset, right? Because psychic-types like us totally read everyone’s minds all the time, right? That’s what I’m gonna do.”
This was exactly what Grumpig was afraid was going to happen. “You do know that Clefairy and Audino can probably hear everything we’re saying, right?”
“Yeah, exactly! Why should they be the only ones who get to snoop on everybody?”
“That’s not what I meant! You can’t just go and say things like that in public! Now that you’ve become an espeon, you have a responsibility to maintain our type’s reputation. It’s hard enough already to get anyone to trust you when you’re a psychic, and you don’t want to make that problem worse.”
“… so you’re saying I should learn how to use telepathy so I can talk about secret-y stuff without anyone knowing?” Espeon asked.
“No! I’m saying you need to think about how people will perceive your actions!”
“But I already spend a lot of time wondering what other people think about me! Like, sometimes I just get this sense that the other pokemon here don’t like me, you know? That’s why I want to learn how to read minds, so I can know for sure whether they do or not.”
“You’ll have to figure it out without any psychic powers, because I’m certainly not going to teach you mind-reading. Besides, it’s really not that hard to find out if people like you,” Grumpig said. Especially not in your case, he thought.
“But it is hard! If you just ask someone, they’ll lie to you! Well, except maybe Slakoth, but who cares what he thinks? And didn’t you say you were gonna teach me something?”
“No, I didn’t. Look, if you’re really serious about learning anything, you can start by going off to a nice, quiet place that isn’t anywhere near here, lying down, and meditating on everything you can feel within that gem in your forehead.”
“What? But that sounds super-boring!”
“That’s too bad. Now go away, I want to take my nap.”
“Ugghh… fine, whatever! I’ll just figure out how to do everything myself, then!” Espeon said, and started to walk away, sulking.
“Good, then you won’t bother me about it anymore,” Grumpig said, arms crossed. After waiting until Espeon was a fair distance away, he sighed, then lied down and rolled around in the mud patch until he had a nice, even coating over his whole body. “Finally,” he muttered. The psychic pig stretched, yawned, and slowly closed his eyelids yet again. It was important to get these naps in when he could. Despite Espeon’s declaration, Grumpig just knew she would be bothering him with questions about psychic stuff for the next several weeks, or even months maybe, Mew forbid. Why couldn’t she have just evolved into a umbreon like he was expecting? Then she could’ve been pestering Zoroark and making his type look bad. Weren’t cool, edgy dark-types supposed to be popular with the youngsters nowadays? Or why not a nice leafeon? Grumpig didn’t see very many of those, but they were certainly decent pokemon, so-
“Greetings, Grumpig! I heard part of your conversation about glasses earlier, and it sounds like you might have a few misconceptions I could help clear up. Would you like to hear my explanation about the principles of optics?”
Grumpig groaned and faced the blocky, blue and red duck that had waddled up next to him, oblivious to the mud their feet were slowly sinking into.
“Can you explain why everyone always keeps bothering me when I’m trying to take a nap?” he said, trying to convey as much exasperation in his voice as he possibly could.
“Certainly!” Porygon replied. “Memories associated with emotions such as frustration are easier to recall, and so the relatively few instances where your sleeping has been interrupted are much more salient to you than the many times when you were able to take a nap without difficulty. As organic creatures tend to estimate the frequency of events by the ease with which they can remember them, you therefore experience an illusion that-”
“I was being sarcastic!” Grumpig nearly shouted.
“Oh. So would you like to hear the explanation about optics?”
“NO!” he roared.
“Hey, keep it down over there! Some of us are trying to get some sleep, and I have sensitive hearing!” Audino hollered from halfway across the daycare lawn.
* * * * * *
Espeon strode across the bright green yard of the daycare without any particular destination in mind. So what if Grumpig wouldn’t help her? With her new psychic-type smartness, there was no doubt that by the end of the day, she’d be able to read any pokemon’s mind like an open book. Well, maybe not quite like that, because Espeon didn’t actually know how to read books. Wait, you didn’t have to know how to read normally to be able to read psychically, right? That would suck. Did Grumpig know how to read? Given the general lack of reading material in the daycare, Espeon wasn’t sure. …did he even know how to do mind-reading, actually? Maybe that was the real reason for his whole ‘respecting privacy’ thing, and why he didn’t want to teach her how to do it. Yeah, that was probably it. Hey, that meant that if Espeon could learn how to do it, she’d actually be a better psychic than Grumpig was!
A sweet, tangy scent wafting through the air drew Espeon out of her musing. It was certainly a nice change from Grumpig’s sweaty odor, she thought. But what could it be? Maybe whoever was responsible for food in the daycare had noticed her new evolution and decided to start making her the quality meals a pokemon of her status deserved. Sniffing, Espeon followed the scent to the southeast corner of the daycare lawn. Farfetch'd was standing there with his back to the fence, holding a plastic bottle filled with dark red sauce in one wing, and dipping his leek stalk into the bottle with his other wing. The duck pokemon’s feathers were dripping with the same sauce, which Espeon took to be the source of the smell. Farfetch’d had started to glare at the psychic pokemon as she had drawn near, and didn’t take his eyes off her as he slowly withdrew his stalk from the bottle, and began to use it to rub more sauce onto his body.
“Hi Farfetch’d! What’s that red stuff you’re putting on yourself? It smells amazing!” Espeon said.
“Ha! That’s what you’d want to me think, isn’t it?” the duck replied, vigorously lathering sauce onto his head.
“Uh... I would?”
“Yes!” Farfetch’d snapped. “See, once I’ve finished covering myself with this olfactory camouflage fluid, I’ll smell like herbs and spices, instead of meat! That means that predators like you won’t be able to find me, and even if they do, I’ll taste awful to them!”
“Wait, wait, wait. Is that, like, barbecue sauce? Ha-ha! That makes you taste better, not worse! You should wash that off or everyone will want to eat you!”
“Never! Don’t think I didn’t notice the fact that Eevee disappeared around the same time you showed up today! This ‘sauce’, as you term it, is the only thing stopping you from devouring me too!” Farfecth’d said, jabbing his stalk at Espeon to punctuate his words. The psychic cat recoiled from the bits of sauce this flicked at her, reinforcing the wild duck pokemon’s surety of the sauce’s deterrent effect.
“I didn’t eat Eevee, I evolved from her! I guess you could say that’s sorta like eating yourself, if you’re trying to be all fancy and poetical and stuff, but like, it really isn’t?”
“So I’m supposed to believe that an utter simpleton like Eevee could evolve into a psychic pokemon like you? Please. I’d have to be as dumb as she was to buy that!”
But that was backwards! You evolved into a psychic pokemon to get smart, not because you were smart! How did Farfetch’d get all these weird ideas? If Espeon could read minds, she’d know in an instant, but- Wait. Wasn’t Farfetch’d always worried that maybe Grumpig or Psyduck or even Unown sometimes could be reading his mind? Espeon recalled that one time Farfetch’d wore a cooking pot on his head all day to try to protect his brain from psychic influence (come to think of it, quite a lot of the plans Farfetch’d made seemed to involve carrying around culinary implements or cooking ingredients). Maybe it was because his mind was really easy to read for some reason? If so, he would be a great first pokemon for Espeon to start practicing her mind-reading on.
“Okay, you got me. I totally ate Eevee. And it was, like, soooo easy too, because her mind was super-empty and everything. If she had been, like, trying to think really loudly at me the whole time or whatever, I wouldn’t have been able to get her, because psychic pokemon like us hate loud thoughts like that.” Espeon licked a drop of sauce off her front paw, then grinned at Farfetch’d, baring her teeth. “But, like, we don’t hate barbecue sauce, so…”
Farfetch’d gave an incoherent quack of surprise and dropped his bottle, then stepped backwards and leveled his leek stalk at Espeon like he was aiming a spear. His leek-wing was trembling, but his voice came out strong and firm when he regained it. “Ha… Ha! Ever since I came to this daycare, you predators have always schemed and plotted my demise while acting all friendly and innocent. But I knew, I knew the day would come when one of you meat-eating monsters would finally be overcome by your savage instincts and attack me directly!”
Uh-oh. Espeon hadn’t expected Farfetch’d to get quite this wound up. Maybe this hadn’t been such a good idea… The psychic cat slowly started to back away.
Gah! She’s getting ready to pounce on me, I know it! Have to keep talking and distract her, Farfetch’d thought. “You’ll never make a meal out of someone as smart as me, though! See, I know you’re trying to trick me into thinking all my thoughts loud enough for your prying psychic mind to read them! …or at least, that’s what you want me to believe! You actually want me to try to not think of anything at all, because you know that my thoughts are so magnificent and expansive that your pathetic brain would burst apart should I think at my full potential! So, that’s exactly what I’m going to do! Not even closing your eyes to fully concentrate on my cogitations would allow you to escape the sensory overload!”
Although still wary, Espeon decided that this would be the best chance she’d have to practice her mind-reading. She locked eyes with the trembling duck and trained her ears on him. The usual sounds of the daycare could be heard behind her, and the occasional bird call came from the forest beyond the fence in front of her. But the only thoughts Espeon could hear were her own. And yet… perhaps it was just the psychic cat’s imagination, but she could faintly feel something, not in her ears but in her fur. It was not so unlike the static-y feeling of rubbing against a blanket fresh from a drying machine, but all of her hairs were still lying flat. Espeon’s heart beat with agitated excitement. Could this be the awakening of her extra-sensory perception? Concentrating further, she noticed that the sensation came in waves, rhythmically increasing and decreasing in strength as it travelled in ripples down her back. If only she could focus just a little more… Slowly, Espeon closed her eyes. Without the twitchy visage of Farfetch’d to distract her, Espeon began to examine every detail of her new perception, attuning her mind to-
“Aaah!” Pain burst from a spot on Espeon’s forehead. She opened her eyes in time to see Farfetch’d bringing his stick back to thwack her noggin a second time. “Hey, what are you- ow! OW!” Relentless, the duck rained down blows with his leek stick, splattering sauce across Espeon’s fur. As quickly as she could, Espeon turned around and sprinted away from the wild duck’s corner of the daycare.
“Justice and righteousness have triumphed! The predator-conspiracy has been thwarted once again by my superior intellect!” Farfetch’d quacked at her retreating form, waving his sauce-stained stick in the air like the blood-soaked blade of a conquering warlord.
Espeon tore across the daycare lawn, once again directionless. She had been aware that there was some sort of connection between using psychic powers and your head hurting, but she hadn’t expected it would happen quite the way it did! Once she had gotten a sufficient distance away from Farfetch’d, she stopped, placed a paw over her aching noggin, and contemplated her situation. Well, there was no hope of doing any mind-reading now. Not with her head hurting so much! Like, maybe if she was Psyduck this would only make her stronger, but she wasn’t a psyduck, she was an espeon, a cute and popular pokemon that did not deserve this, especially not on the day she evolved, which was supposed to be the happiest day of her life!
Fuming, Espeon was barely able to notice the flavor of the barbecue sauce as she licked it off her fur. Oh, great, there was some on her head her tongue couldn’t reach. Weighing her dislike of being unclean against her dislike of getting wet, Espeon made her decision, walked over to the daycare’s pond, and plunged her head into its waters. The remaining barbecue sauce washed off her fur, forming a spreading cloud of red. Carvanha, the pond’s sole inhabitant, shrieked with fright and swam into a crevice. What was this weird pink creature with such strange-smelling blood? Espeon took no notice of the alarm she had caused, and removed her head from the pond. Although the cool water had slightly decreased the ache in her skull, her fur was all drippy and heavy-feeling now! Wow, it would have really sucked if she had evolved into a vaporeon. They had to be wet, like, all the time! Good thing she was an espeon, which… hey, wait, didn’t her species have some sort of sunlight healing ability? She could dry off and get rid of her headache at the same time! Immediately, the psychic cat set off to find the daycare’s sunning rock.
When Espeon arrived, she found that the smooth black surface of the sunning rock was currently occupied by Seviper, as it usually was.
“Salutations, stranger!” said Seviper. “Saturday’s sun: So satisfying. Stranger sees situation similarly?” The snake flicked her tongue out to get a whiff of the newcomer.
“Yeah, that’s like, why I’m here. I want a turn on the sunning rock!” Espeon replied.
“Stranger’s shivering?” Seviper asked.
“What? No, I’m not like cold or anything, I wanna do my species’ sun-healing thingy.”
“Seviper spies several shadeless spots sharing similar sunlight. Stranger should seek said spots.”
Espeon’s tail began to flick back and forth with irritation, and her pupils narrowed as she stared up at the purple snake. “If the sunning stone wasn’t the best place to get sunlight, like, why would you be hogging it all the time? Come on, let me have a turn for once! My head really hurts!”
Seviper returned Espeon’s stare, but spoke calmly. “Sunning stone’s sable surface soaks sunlight, supplies sizzle. Stranger’s species: sizzle self-sourced. Seviper’s species: sans self-supplied sizzle, so Seviper should secure sunning-stone seat.”
Ugh, what was Seviper even on about? It was probably just some nonsense excuse for why she shouldn’t have to stop hogging the sunning rock. Well, now that she was psychic, Espeon was way too smart to let herself be fooled by some stupid snake speech. “Like, I dunno what you just said, but I’m psychic and you’re poison, so that means you have to do what I say and get your fat… everything off the rock! It’s my turn now!”
“Stranger’s statement seems suspect. Seviper’s staying.” Seviper slightly uncoiled herself, then raised her head and tail in a threatening display.
“Okay, you’re asking for it!” Although Espeon didn’t actually know any psychic attacks, surely they couldn’t be that hard to learn, especially when she felt so irritated. Espeon took a few steps back and focused on the aggravating purple snake. This time, she wasn’t going to take her eyes off the target.
“Hrrrrrg… errrggggh!” Espeon’s face contorted and scrunched up as she concentrated as hard as she could on producing some sort of psychic attack. She pointed the prongs of her tail at Seviper in case the attack ended up coming out of that end instead of her forehead. “ERRRGH… You’re really in for it now… HRRRGH!” The psychic cat tried narrowing her eyes as much as possible, then opening them as wide as she could. Nothing happened, and Espeon got similar results when she repeatedly flattened her ears and stood them up again.
Seviper flicked her tongue in and out in confusion, and recalled what Espeon had said about her head hurting. “Stranger’s suffering stroke?” she asked, starting to get slightly worried.
“I’m not having a stroke! I’m using a psychic attack!” Espeon snapped. Come on, why was this so hard? Was it because she had only ever learned one attack when she was an eevee? Well, it wasn’t her fault that she didn’t want to waste time learning any of the stupid boring normal-type attacks! She would’ve just forgotten them as soon as she got awesome psychic powers when she evolved, anyways! Everyone who had said that she was just too dumb to learn any more attacks was dead wrong, especially that stupid slyveon. And they were even more wrong now that she was a psychic and way smarter than she used to be! The pain in her head was getting worse, especially around the gem in her forehead. Did that mean she was about to actually unleash an attack? Maybe if she just focused a little harder and scrunched up her face a little more, then-
“Errr… Aaargh!” The pain spiked to an unbearable level, and Espeon collapsed, moaning. Tears were starting to form in her eyes, so she quickly covered them with her forepaws, before moving one off to gingerly rub her forehead.
Alarmed, Seviper slid off the sunning rock and started slithering off to another part of the daycare. “Stay still! Seviper’ll seek succor!” she promised, and slipped out of Espeon’s blurry vision. Espeon blinked and slowly got up, the pain in her gem subsiding to a dull throb. Wait… Seviper was leaving? It must have been because Espeon managed to exert some sort of psychic influence over her! Ha-ha, yes, the pain was totally worth it! Triumphant, Espeon dragged herself up onto the warm surface of the sunning rock and sat on her haunches, surveying all that she could see of the daycare, gazing from the pond to the mud patch to the equipment shed to the playground to the central brick building. Once she mastered her psychic abilities, she’d be the queen of this mighty realm, and nothing would be denied to her! Then she slumped down and sprawled out across the rock. She really hoped that that sunlight healing thing was easier than mind-reading or using psychic attacks.
After lying down for a while, Espeon was starting to feel better, but whether it was because of the sun healing her or whether the ache had just gone away on its own, she couldn’t say. The stone was warm, but it was hard, too, and it slanted at kind of an awkward angle, so it wasn’t the most comfortable place to rest. Ugh, this was starting to get boring. How could that snake stand just lazing around here all day? Did she occupy herself by thinking of how to say everything in that weird way of speaking? …hmm, was that why Seviper had kept calling her ‘stranger’, or had she really not recognized her? Well, Farfetch’d hadn’t recognized her as having been Eevee, and even Grumpig had thought she was Braixen at first, so perhaps not. Hey, maybe Espeon had a way to find out what people thought of her without having to use any mind reading! Espeon got up, stretched out her back, then leapt off the sunning rock with a plan in mind.
* * * * * *
A one-foot tall tower of wooden blocks stood on a barren patch of dirt in the eastern side of the daycare. Braixen circled the structure, examining the edifice from all angles. He stopped, and slowly extended his paw towards a block jutting out near the top of the tower, then reconsidered. Slakoth was lying down within easy reach of the structure, waiting patiently. Finally, Braixen settled on a particular block, and slid it out of the tower to place it in a small pile of its fellows.
“Your go, Slakoth,” Braixen said.
“Nope,” the sloth replied.
“Um, you’re really not supposed to skip turns in this game…"
“Uh-uh. I’m not going.” Slakoth wasn’t even looking at the tower, but was rather choosing to contemplate a small piece of fuzz he had picked out of his fur.
Braixen sighed. “Alright, I’ll just go again, I guess.” After another period of contemplation, the fox pulled a block out of the increasingly unstable tower. “Now will you go?” Without a moment’s hesitation, Slakoth reached out to put the tip of his claw on a block Braixen had thought was a critical supporting piece, and slowly pushed it out of its spot. To the fire-type’s amazement, the edifice held together. Slakoth turned towards Braixen with an expectant look.
“Wow, this is a bit of a tricky situation you’ve put me in… maybe this one on the left here could… or what if I just… no, that wouldn’t work…” Braixen mumbled, absentmindedly sliding the twig stuck in his bushy tail up and down behind his back. There just had to be another safe move left, and he knew he could find it if he took the time to think it through. “Aha! I’ve got it!” he cried, whipping the twig out of his tail so quickly it caught fire on one end. “I can use the blocks that have been removed to create a model of the larger tower! Then I’ll be able to- aaaugh!” Noticing the flame consuming his favorite stick, Braixen yelped and frantically attempted to blow it out, but only managed to spit out an accidental ember attack that lit up another prong of the twig. “Gyaah!” Desperate, Braixen repeatedly jabbed the stick at the dirt surrounding him, finally managing to plunge it deep enough into the soil to extinguish the blaze. The tower wobbled ominously, but remained standing.
After taking a moment to lament the damage done to his twig, Braixen returned his focus to the game, and constructed a miniature version of the main tower using the blocks that had been removed from it. “Okay, so if I press down here to simulate the pressure from the larger tower, and if I remove this one…” The model tower immediately fell to pieces. “Hmm, maybe I was pressing too hard. Let’s try that again,” Braixen said, setting up the blocks for another trial. Version two met with a similar fate, as did the next several iterations. “Alright… that one was pretty close. If I just-”
“You take too long,” Slakoth said.
“Don’t rush me!” Braixen snapped, startled out of his reverie. “This is a critical decision, I can’t just- no, no, you’re right. I’ll go now.” With much trepidation, the fox selected the first block he’d considered that turn and gingerly poked it out of the tower. The tower held. “Whew, close one. Your turn,” Braixen said, a grin forming on his face. There were absolutely no remaining moves that wouldn’t send the gap-riddled structure tumbling to the ground.
Slakoth remained completely still.
“Wait, you’re not doing this again, are you? Come on, Slakoth!” Braixen pleaded, his happy expression falling away as realization dawned. “Come on, please! I’m just about to win!” The sloth turned his head and, unblinking, stared directly into Braixen’s eyes. Braixen flinched, but managed to squeak out a final “Come on… please…”
Slakoth continued to stare, wordless, his shaggy face fixed into a blank mask.
“Arrggh! Alright, alright, I’ll go again!” With a trembling paw, Braixen reached for the tower once more. Almost as soon as he touched his chosen block, the edifice collapsed, spilling little wooden bricks all across the dirt. “No! I was so close this time! So! Close!” the fox wailed. With a contemptuous sweep of his stick, he demolished what remained of the tower’s foundation.
“I win,” Slakoth said, mouth gradually stretching into a smile.
“You always win this game! Let’s play something different, like, say… connect four,” said Braixen. Without waiting for a response, he began to draw a grid of lines in the dirt with his twig. Slakoth scratched his head with a lone claw, adjusting to the new paradigm. After finishing, Braixen twirled his stick and stuck it back in his tail fur. “There! Feel free to go first if you like,” the fox said.
“Okay,” the sloth replied, and inscribed a circle into the center of the board.
“Alright, I’ll be X’s then.” Braixen sat down and put his own mark next to Slakoth’s. “…going to skip your turn again? Fine with me!” A second X soon appeared next to the first. No matter where Slakoth moved on his turn, Braixen’s next two moves would finish off a line of four. Slakoth’s eyelids raised a notch above their usual halfway point as he began to appreciate this fact.
“Oh, hey Braixen! I’m like, totally new here, so I was just guessing at your name. Did I get it right?” Both game players turned, at varying speeds, to face the pink-furred, fork-tailed pokemon who had just bounded up to them.
“Err, yes, you did,” Braixen replied, uncertain what to make of the stranger, who was standing a little closer to him than he felt comfortable with. “Are you called Espeon, or-”
“Yeah, I am! Ha-ha, it’s so cool we were able to guess each other’s names like that! Do you think it could, like, mean anything?” Espeon asked, gazing into Braixen’s eyes. The fox began to slowly scoot backwards.
“Um… I don’t know if really does. It’s not that unusual for-”
“Whoa, you’ve got, like, a stick or something stuck in your tail there! Let me get that for you,” the stranger interrupted. Ignoring Braixen’s protestations, she deftly maneuvered around him and pulled the twig out with her teeth, than spat it back to the ground. Braixen looked at the espeon slobber and burn marks covering what once had been his favorite stick. “So, are you playing, like, tic-tac-toe or something?” Espeon asked, noticing the lines on the ground.
“No, it’s connect four. Actually, Slakoth and I were kind of in the middle of a game here…” Braixen began, then trailed off into a mumble.
“Wow, connect four? That’s like, so intellectual! You know, I’m a psychic pokemon now- I mean, like I’ve always been for like, a year now- so I bet I could learn to play too!”
“You talk like Eevee,” Slakoth noted. Espeon turned to glare at the sloth before directing her gaze back to Braixen. Her tail perked up as she set her cunning ploy into motion.
“Like, really? Tell me more about this ‘Eevee’.” the psychic cat asked, straining to keep excitement out of her voice.
“Um, well… I guess she’s… energetic?” Braixen said. A long, awkward silence followed.
“…okay, that’s cool. What else do you like about her?” Espeon prompted.
That wasn’t exactly something Braixen ‘liked’ about her, the fox thought. Was there anything he found admirable about Eevee? After another uncomfortably long pause, he finally replied “Her optimism, I guess? Sometimes I feel like I’m just not a good pokemon, that I won’t be able to succeed at anything, or at least not anything that matters… Eevee isn’t like that, though. Even when other pokemon make fun of her, she never lets it get her down for long. It’s like she has this belief that if she just keeps trying, she’ll be really popular one day. That’s something I admire about her.”
“Oh. So… she isn’t, like popular now?” Espeon asked, tail drooping. “Why not?”
“Annoying. Too self-centered,” Slakoth offered.
The fur on Espeon’s back started to bristle. “Whoa, what? Like, how is she self-centered? What about that time she set up that talent competition? Wasn’t that like, super-fun for everyone?” As Braixen remembered it, all the categories Eevee had wanted to be part of the show seemed suspiciously designed to be things only she would have a hope of winning, like ‘Pokemon with the bushiest tail’, ‘Best at getting humans to pet you’, and “Most awesome use of the move ‘covet’”. When everyone else at the daycare decided to change the categories, Eevee spent the entire rest of the day whining about it and making clumsy attempts to sabotage the competition.
“Er, how did you know about that? Aren’t you new here?” Braixen asked.
“Oh, like, you know, that’s because… my psychic powers gave me a vision of the past!” Espeon declared after a timely moment of inspiration.
“Hmm, I didn’t know they could work like that. I thought they only showed you the future.”
“Well, like, obviously my powers can work both ways!” the psychic cat said, the sharpness of her tone catching Braixen off-guard. “There aren’t any moves which only work if you’re facing east and not west, right? That’d be like, totally stupid, right? So why should psychic-vision stuff work any different?”
Embarrassed, Braixen reflexively attempted to grab the stick from his tail for comfort, but his paw came up empty. He was going to evolve into a psychic-type himself, so shouldn’t he know these sorts of things? “Sorry, I’d just never thought of it that way before…” Of course it made sense that you could foresee (postsee?) the past as well as the future! Wasn’t that sort of what you were doing every time you remembered something? Gods, what other dumb misconceptions did Braixen have about-
“Sleep powder. Stun spore,” Slakoth said.
Espeon glanced back at the sloth in irritation. “Um, what?”
“Erm… I think he means that since the wind usually blows west to east here, those moves really do work better when used facing the east, at least most of the time…”
“Okay, north and south then! It doesn’t matter!” Espeon snapped.
“Hmm… I wonder if that’s true for all moves, though? Compasses always point north, and I think they’re a kind of magnet, so maybe magnet bomb works better facing north?" Braixen mused.
Sensing the conversation veering off course, Espeon blurted out “Do you think Eevee’s like, hot? Would you go out with her if she asked you?”
“Wh- what? That’s- that’s,” Braixen stuttered, warm air beginning to vent from his ears, “kind of a personal question, isn’t it?” He quickly looked around to see if anyone was watching him. Not so far away, he spied Clefairy sitting in the daycare’s clover patch. Although she appeared absorbed in the ground around her feet, Braixen suspected it wasn’t her vision she was focusing on.
“I’ll totally keep it a secret, I promise! Come on, you saw how smooth her fur was, right? And you heard about the time she chased off that ghost in the basement when Clefairy was too afraid to do it, right? Wasn’t that like, super brave and sexy of her?”
That wasn’t quite how Braixen remembered the incident. As he heard it, Zoroark had dared Eevee to go into the basement after some pokemon said they heard a strange noise coming from down the stairs. After taking the first few steps down, Eevee wimped out and turned back, whereupon Zoroark shut the door on her. Eventually, after Eevee spent several minutes wailing and scratching at the door, Grumpig came and let her out, and then investigated the basement to discover no ghosts or phantoms of any sort. Almost immediately thereafter, Eevee had started bragging about how she had scared away a powerful ghost pokemon haunting the basement. Despite only knowing a single normal-type move, of course.
“Um, well… that is…”
“Well?” Espeon was leaning uncomfortably close to Braixen again, staring him down. The fox realized he wasn’t going to get out of this without giving her some kind of answer.
“I guess she might be cute if she evolved into a flareon?” Braixen finally managed to say. That big, bushy tail of hers was at least a little attractive, he had to admit.
“A flareon? What’s cute about them? They don’t have any cool psychic powers at all! Like, they barely have any good moves, even! Why would I – um, Eevee – ever evolve into one of those?” A hint of desperation was creeping into the psychic cat’s voice.
“Well, uh, Eevee only knows one move anyways, so I’m not sure that that would bother her… and I’m not sure she’d really be the sort to be good with psychic abilities. To be honest, I don’t really expect her to evolve into a flareon, though. If I had to guess, I’d say she’s probably going to become a slyveon. Not really sure why, exactly… she just seems to remind me of this one slyveon I knew once.”
“I- I can’t believe this! You really think I’m like her?” Espeon said, tears forming in her eyes. “I… I… arrgh!” Without a further word, she got to her feet and bolted away from the sloth and fox.
“Um, no, I said Eevee was like her-” Braixen started, but trailed off as the pokemon he was addressing ran out of earshot. Well, that had been an odd conversation. For a while there, it had seemed like the strange new espeon had had a crush on him, and Braixen didn’t really know how to handle romance. Luckily, it had turned out that the stranger was really just interested in Eevee, for some reason. Sighing, Braixen turned his attention back to the game of connect four drawn in the dirt. A single large ‘O’ was now encircling his line of X’s, blocking their extension on both sides. “What the-”
“Your turn,” Slakoth said.
* * * * * *
Espeon bit her lip and fought back the urge to cry. Why had she ever cared what Braixen thought about her, anyways? Obviously he didn’t know the slightest thing about what she was really like, or what made a pokemon cute! And, it wasn’t like he was the only chance Espeon had at getting a boyfriend. Other attractive, intellectual, eventually-psychic-typed fox pokemon with perfect teeth and fur and the absolute cutest expression when they were nervous were bound to come to the daycare eventually. But even if they didn’t, she could just get Zoroark to use his illusion ability to make himself look however she wanted. So there! Except, wait, wasn’t she supposed to hate dark-types now that she was a psychic? Ugh…
Eventually, Espeon’s aimless wandering brought her near the daycare’s small playground, composed of a mixture of metal and plastic structures repurposed from equipment designed for young humans to use. A certain letter-shaped, single-eyed pokemon was hovering above the top of the playground’s metal slide. Slowly, Unown Q floated down the slide, maintaining the same distance above its surface until it finally made its way to the sand below. Then, it drifted around to the ramp leading up to the slide and began ascending back to the top, at a rate almost imperceptibly slower than it had descended.
Heh. Well, at least Espeon wasn’t the most pathetic psychic type in the daycare. Poor Unown Q would never be able to learn to use any psychic abilities whatsoever, unless levitating in the air counted, which Espeon thought it didn’t ‘cause magnemites could do that too and they weren’t psychic at all. Stuck by a sudden whim, she called out to the pitiable pokemon. “Hey, you think I’m cool and popular, right? Don’t say anything if you agree.”
Unown Q turned its unceasing stare towards Espeon and bobbed up and down wordlessly.
Despite how dumb she knew it was, this response did something to start drying the tears in the psychic cat’s eyes and perk up her ears again. “Okay, now don’t say anything if you think everyone else is totally dumb for not liking me,” she said.
“Hello!” a high-pitched voice responded, eliciting a startled mewl from Espeon. After a brief moment of confusion and frantic head turning, she set her eyes upon Clefairy, who was sitting in the same clover patch near the playground she always sat in, giggling like a mankey.
“Hello Espeon! Why don’t you come over here so I can get a better look at you, teehee~” the fairy called, beckoning with one finger. Espeon really didn’t want to deal with Clefairy now, but she supposed it was something she’d have to do sooner or later. Reluctantly, she trotted over to where the pink fairy pokemon was sitting. “Congratulations on evolving! Your new form looks really cute. Still not as cute as me, teehee~. Hey, are we the same color now?” Clefairy asked, holding her hand out to compare it to the psychic cat’s fur.
Although still fairly upset, Espeon managed to slip into her familiar role as Clefairy’s long-time rival to provide a response. “Ha-ha, nope! You’re like, raw meat pink, while I’m royal violet.”
“Aw, really?” the fairy pouted. “Is ‘royal violet’ even a real color? It sounds like something you made up.”
“No way! It’s totally real,” Espeon protested. “It’s called that ‘cause all the really rich humans used to wear it.” She was about fifty-five percent sure of this.
“Maybe, maybe~! …Say, is my contest ribbon ‘royal violet’? You remember what it looks like, right?” Clefairy said, smiling innocently and fluttering her wings. She knew very well that there was absolutely no way Espeon could’ve forgotten.
“Yeah, it is! It’s my color ‘cause I’m the one who deserves it!” Espeon snapped.
“Oh, so you’re finally admitting you didn’t deserve it during all that time you were a brown and white eevee?”
“Wha- No way! I totally deserved it! But, like, now I super-deserve it! We’re gonna have a rematch, and I’m gonna win this time!”
“Hey, how come you’re challenging her to a rematch when you haven’t even had a first match with me?” a new voice said. Clefairy didn’t bother turning her head, having heard the newcomer approach, but Espeon turned to see Audino walking up to them. The pink and cream pokemon stopped a few feet from the duo and crossed his arms. “I mean, you already beat her the first time, and now you’re even stronger, so what’s the point?”
“Excuse me, but she did not beat me the first time. And she won’t the second time, either~” Clefairy said, a rare harshness creeping into her voice for a moment.
Audino scoffed. “Come on, everyone saw it. You were arguing about the results of that dumb contest you made us sit through, then Eevee got real pissed, screamed, jumped at you, and totally kicked your ass!”
“It wasn’t dumb!” Espeon protested. “But Audino’s right. If that had been a fighting contest instead of a cute contest, I so would’ve won.”
“Oh, you were talking about a rematch of the contest. Are you going to have another fight at the end of that? I’m not going to bother watching if you aren’t.”
“Of course not, silly~! Fairies like me abhor violence, and I’m sure Espeon knows that she’d have no chance of beating me in a fight now that she’s evolved,” Clefairy said.
“What’s that supposed to mean?” Espeon asked, eyes narrowing.
“You haven’t realized?” Clefairy said. “You’re not the same type as your only move anymore, silly! Since it was getting boosted by your adaptability ability, it’ll only be half as strong now.”
Wha- that- that couldn’t be true! There was no way evolving could’ve made her weaker, right? That would be completely ridiculous! Flustered, Espeon opened her mouth to say as much, but, feeling the sensation of hot tears returning to her eyes, quickly closed it in favor of clenching her teeth together and staring at the ground.
Oblivious to the psychic cat’s response, Audino scratched his chin. “Huh, I guess you have a point there. Still think Espeon would win, though. She’s physically stronger than she was as an eevee, so her covet attack wouldn’t be that much weaker, and it’d still get a pretty big boost from the jealousy factor. And it’s not like you have any killer moves, either. Metronome, maybe, but that’s way too unreliable.”
Clefairy casually tossed aside a clover she’d plucked from the ground to examine. “Ah, I guess we’ll just have to disagree~. Say, weren’t you trying to take a nap earlier?”
“Yeah, but I couldn’t fall asleep. All those worry seeds really screw up my sleep schedule.”
“So just don’t use them, silly!”
Audino sighed. “It’s not that simple. If someone got hurt and I still had my klutz ability active, what could I do to help them? Go get Spinda? Mew knows he’s a real help in a crisis… That’s why I’m always looking to battle people, so I can get enough experience to learn heal pulse. Speaking of, that offer to fight’s still open, Espeon.”
“No, I don’t want to fight you!” Espeon snapped, finally looking up again.
“Well, worth a shot. Hey, would you like to help out with my science experiment instead, then? You could help too, Clefairy.”
“I think fairies are supposed to hate science, so no for me, teehee~” Clefairy said.
“…Like, what kind of experiment?” Espeon didn’t think she was in the mood for anything like that, but it did sound like sort of thing smart people would do, so she thought she should at least check it out.
Audino’s feelers perked up as he began to explain. “Okay, so you know how my secret power attack can sometimes paralyze pokemon when I’m fighting on grass, and sometimes put pokemon to sleep when I’m indoors?”
“Uh… yes?” said Espeon, not wanting to sound ignorant.
“So, I was wondering what would happen if I used it on someone while I was standing with one foot indoors and one foot outdoors,” Audino said. “I think I’d only need about twenty trials or so to confirm my hypothesis.”
“Wait, so the experiment is just like, you punching me a bunch of times? Like, totally no way!”
“It’d be for science!” Audino said. “And I’d give you three oran berries for it. Come on, please?”
Clefairy fluttered her wings and spoke in her sweetest voice. “Yes, try it out Espeon! I bet you love science now that you’re psychic!”
“I became a psychic so I could, like, use awesome powers and stuff, not get hit in the head a lot!” Espeon protested, unconsciously rubbing a paw on the spot of her earlier bruising.
“I could punch your ribs instead. Or how about your stomach or kidneys-”
“Oh, so have you learned how to use any powers yet? We’d all love to see them,” Clefairy interrupted.
“Yeah, I totally have! I used, like, an invisible psycho-repulsion wave thing to make Seviper get off that rock she’s always hogging!” Espeon said.
“Wow, I thought Seviper only left that rock because she thought you were having a stroke when you were moaning and wrinkling up your face while trying to use a psychic attack,” Clefairy said, and gave an innocent smile. The afternoon sunlight glistened off her exposed fangs. “But, nope, I guess I must have misheard, teehee~! So, why don’t you show us this special power of yours, Espeon? Use it to make Audino go away, please!”
“Uh…” Thinking back to the incident from before, Espeon could recall Seviper being worried about her health, and then saying something about seeking ‘succor’ before leaving, although the psychic cat’s head had been hurting too much at the time to wonder what it might have meant. But with her head hurting that much, surely she had to have been using some sort of power, right? …Right? Suddenly, Espeon felt a lot less confident. “I dunno… it’s pretty strong, so like, I don’t want to hurt Audino or anything,” she said.
“Heh, I’m tough enough to take it,” the normal type said, shifting into a defensive pose with arms raised in front of his face. “Bring it on!”
“Uh, okay… if you’re really really sure…” Espeon said. Audino nodded. “…This is, like, your last chance, so I’d just leave if I were you…”
“Don’t hold back, Espeon! Use all your power!” Clefairy called.
“Well, okay… here it goes…” Closing her eyes, Espeon concentrated as hard as she could. The tips of her tail waved back and forth, the stone set in her forehead glittered, and the hairs on her back pricked up. …And then, nothing.
“Any time now, Espeon,” said Audino, maintaining his guard.
“Shut up! I’m trying!” the psychic cat replied. An unfortunately familiar throbbing sensation was creeping back into her noggin as she continued to focus, and Espeon was tempted to give up. But unlike with Seviper, the stakes were much greater. Clefairy was watching! This time, even when the pain got to be extreme, she’d keep going until she finally- ARRRGGHHH nope nope nope quitting now! Espeon let out a breath she hadn’t known she was holding, and opened her eyes to a view of an unimpressed Audino and a gleeful Clefairy.
Okay, new tactic. “Suh- ha, ha…” Espeon panted. “Surpri…” She stumbled a few feet towards Audino, then launched into a charge. “Surprise zen headbutt!” she yelled. Espeon slammed her head into Audino’s gut, and bounced back with almost no effect on the normal type, who had dropped into a lower stance with broadly set legs in preparation. “You all saw that, right? That was a psychic attack! A totally legit psychic attack!” she announced, glaring at Clefairy and Audino in turn, daring them to disagree.
“Hey, so does this mean we’re fighting now? I think this means we’re fighting now,” said Audino. His right hand began to glow with the soft light of a hidden power attack – a feat Espeon noted he could do without any appearance of exertion whatsoever.
“What? No-” Espeon cried, scrambling to her feet.
“Too late! Here I come!” Audino shouted, and broke into a run – or at least, what counted as a run for a member of his stubby-legged species.
Thoughts of looking good in front of her rival fled Espeon’s mind at same time she did. It only took her a few bounds to get well beyond Audino’s reach, but she kept running for a while longer, until she had reached the shady side of the main daycare building, out of Clefairy’s sight. She started to pant after the exertion, but – although she had possessed absolutely no intention of crying – these gasps for breath quickly transmuted into pained sobs, and tears began to stream down her eyes. The psychic cat could only imagine how hard Clefairy and Audino must be laughing at her right now – in addition to anyone else who’d seen that pathetic display, of course. ‘Surprise Zen Headbutt’ – what an idiotic idea! Why had she even let Clefairy bait her into the dumb little demonstration, anyways? Espeon knew her rival was always looking for chances to play stupid tricks like that! Her face twisted into a snarl with bared teeth. Well, she’d show her! She’d show everyone! By the end of the day, she was going to learn how to use a psychic attack or have her head explode trying!
…But how? The psychic cat had only to ponder a moment, before becoming aware of a faint sound drifting down from above. Yes, of course! Grumpig might be the only other psychic-type at the daycare besides unown, but you didn’t need to be a psychic to know how to use psychic-type moves! Filled with new energy, Espeon got up and stalked around the corner, fantasies of revenge already filling her mind.
Meanwhile, Clefairy and Audino watched Espeon sprint away from them. The latter made a brief attempt at catching up to her, but quickly abandoned the pursuit and strolled back to the clover patch. “I hope she actually learns some moves soon so we can fight for real,” he said.
“Yes, I hope you get to fight soon too,” Clefairy replied, disappointed at not having gotten to see her rival get beaten into the dust with hidden power attacks. “Oh, well, back to looking for clovers for me~” she said, once more turning her attention towards the ground around her.
“Hey, why do you spend so much time looking for four-leafed clovers? You know you’ll never be able to find one with how much your vision sucks,” Audino asked.
“Why, that just means that if ever I do find one, it’ll be a lot luckier, of course~!” Clefairy grinned and perked up her ears, listening to the sounds of the daycare as she searched.
Swearing. Severe violence. Death. Drug use portrayed in a comedic fashion. Bullying (including one instance of incitement to suicide).
Although the roof of the main daycare building wasn’t much higher than twelve feet off the ground, it was nevertheless the tallest structure within the daycare that could be easily stood upon. A wingless yellow duck was standing near the unfenced edge of that lofty realm, casting a contemptuous gaze at all the pokémon below. “Just look at all those pathetic simpletons, playing and frolicking without a care in the world, utterly unaware of the absolute meaninglessness of their shallow lives. They don’t know what it’s like to suffer- to experience the unbearable throbbing agony that occupies almost all my waking moments. Yet, would I choose to switch places with one of them, to experience the bliss of ignorance and health? No, never! For only I realize the true nature of our existence on this planet- mere playthings created by the gods for their cruel amusement. And, with that veil cast from my senses, I alone can rebel against the fate created for me, forging my own meaning, my own destiny-”
“Hi Psyduck!” a voice trilled from behind, causing said pokemon to quack in alarm and come frighteningly close to tumbling off the roof. Turning around, she noticed a particular pink cat standing right behind her.
“Do you mind!? I was trying to monologue!” Psyduck spat, spittle flying from her beak.
“Really? It kinda looked like you were just standing there talking to yourself,” Espeon said.
“That’s exactly what- urgh, never mind. What do you want?”
“Wellll… I was sorta hoping you might be able to teach me a psychic attack! I like, just evolved this morning so it’s totally understandable that I don’t know any yet.”
Psyduck gave a derisive snort. “Are not the inescapable torments the world inflicts upon our psyches every day tutor enough? As merely one example, all of us are forced to either conform to the strict mandates of society and face the internal agony of strangling our authentic selves, or to face the external agony of being mocked and ostracized by our peers.”
Espeon’s tail waved back and forth uncertainly. “Um, no? I was kinda thinking-”
“-that the dilemma can be avoided by finding individuals who share your innermost values and ideals, to whom you can show your authentic self without fear of scorn and rebuke? No, Espeon, no! For is not the pain of discovering that you and each of your supposed friends were deceiving each other about their supposed true selves, as even the most honest of us are inevitably bound to do by the strict shackles of our limited language, which always falls short of expressing our true meaning – is not that pain ten times worse than either of the previous agonies you sought to avoid?”
“Uh, I kinda meant the sort of psychic attack where you, like, blast someone with some sort of energy thingy.”
A dull ache began to creep into Psyduck’s head, and she clutched her forehead with her webbed hands in her species’ familiar pose. “Oh, you mean the plebeian type of mental attack. Ask Grumpig to teach you.”
Espeon sat on her haunches and pouted. “But I already did, and he didn’t wanna help! He just told me to do some boring meditation thing or whatever.”
“What could you possibly offer me to justify exchanging an afternoon of productive philosophical musings for time spent playing the role of a petty move tutor? A role that a mere T.M. could accomplish?”
“I’ll tell you all the top-secret psychic stuff that only psychic-types get to learn – uh, like, whenever I learn it, that is. Come on, please? I’ve had, like, a really bad day and my head just hurts like, sooo much whenever I try to do any psychic stuff on my own,” Espeon said, confident that this last point would win her sympathy with the migraine-suffering duck.
“Oh, yes, how dreadfully terrible it must be to experience a modicum of cranial discomfort at the times you find convenient to practice psionic abilities,” Psyduck spat, her forehead-grip tightening. “How awful, how vexing it must be to- Wait. What would you use a psychic attack for, in this hypothetical world where I teach you one?”
“It’s not like I’m planning on using it to hurt anyone or anything like that! I just, like… want other pokémon to respect me and stuff! Everyone thinks I’m dumb ‘cause I only know one move, but if I could learn just one more attack, it would prove that I could learn, like, ten more moves if I wanted to!”
But Psyduck had stopped paying attention after the first part, lost in fantasies of Espeon going about blasting all her rivals with head-throbbing amounts of mental force, forcing everyone else to suffer like she did. “Very well, then. I suppose I can see my way to unveiling the secrets of the confusion attack if you exist in a state of such desperate need for it.”
“Wow, really? Thanks, Psyduck! I bet I’ll be like, the most confusing-est pokémon ever!” Espeon said, her tail and ears perking up as she got to her feet.
“Yes, yes, quite. To begin with, how have you been trying to use psychic attacks before?” Psyduck asked.
“Well, I’ve just sort of, like, tried to focus really really hard and scrunch my face up in different ways,” the cat replied.
“’Scrunch your face up’? It sounds like you’re confusing the visual symbols of concentration with the act itself.”
“So is that, like, a good thing or-”
“No, you being confused is of no advantage to performing the attack,” Psyduck scoffed. “What you need to do is come up with a metaphor for conceptualizing your psychic power. Personally, I view mine as an inner scream that increases in volume until it finally bursts forth in an ululation of destructive anguish.”
“I’m not sure I know what that means, but it sounds awesome! I wanna see you do it now,” Espeon said.
Although Psyduck was reluctant to wear down her brilliant mind by channeling psychic energy through it unnecessarily, she had to admit to herself that it wasn’t likely that a subject such as Espeon would be able to grasp how to use confusion by verbal tutelage alone. “…I suppose a demonstration might be edifying,” Psyduck said. She walked over and pulled up the lid of the roof’s trapdoor, then stood to the hinged side of it. “First, I visualize the result I expect my move to accomplish – that trapdoor slamming shut, like how cruel reality slams down on our hopes and dreams. This will help guide the move. Next, I force myself to envision a scream echoing within my skull, getting louder and louder with every moment until I can no longer bear it! And then…”
Psyduck opened her bill to give a loud quack, and Espeon felt a tingling sensation in the hairs on her back. The trapdoor jerked forward a few inches, and gravity pulled it shut. That was it? thought Espeon. She had really been hoping for some sort of big glowy laser beam or the like. “With a feat of the magnitude I just pulled off, I’m certain you must have sensed the psychic energy I unleashed. That should give you a hint of how that energy will feel like internally. Now, you must choose a form of mental visualization to be able to muster and control that power,” Psyduck said.
After pondering this for a while, Espeon finally got an idea. “…Okay, so what if I like, imagined a sort of big beam-cannon thingy strapped to my head that shot out all the psychic stuff? Would that work?”
“Any kind of metaphor can work as long as it’s a true representation of some facet of your psyche. Indeed, have we not all dreamed at times that if only we could express our ideas with the proper force and emphasis, they could overcome the barriers of ignorance and misunderstanding that imprison the plebeians around us, like a cannonball crashing through fortress walls? Which is to say that yes, I believe that kind of imagery could work quite nicely.”
“Awesome! I’m gonna try it out!” Espeon said. After standing up the trapdoor again for a target, she stood back and tensed her body as though about to spring upon some unsuspecting prey. With all her focus, she tried to visualize the details of her head-cannon, from its shiny chrome exterior to the futuristic lights and tubes filled with mysterious glowing liquid adorning it. Her head drooped with the imagined weight of the device, and her ears twitched away from the high-pitched whine Espeon thought it would make while it charged up. Pain started to build within her head once more, but this time Espeon tried to think about all the pain flowing up into her cannon, concentrating into a point, and exploding from its barrel in a beam of light. “TSSEEEEWW!” she yelled, and jerked back from pretend recoil. Opening her eyes, she noted the trapdoor standing exactly as it had been before. “Aw, what gives? I was trying really hard that time!”
“Persistence, Espeon, persistence. You must burn your imagery into your mind so you can see it as easily as if you were observing it with your eyes in the physical world.”
After several more tries without success, and having to endure repeated whines about Espeon’s “brain getting all achey,” Psyduck eventually came to a conclusion. “The problem is that you simply lack the mental strength to muster the level of energy requisite to performing the attack. It is as if you are trying to toss a boulder through a hoop when you cannot even lift it from the ground, and this straining to do something beyond your capacity is the source of your pain.”
“Wait, what? Does that… does that mean I’ll, like, never be able to learn a confusion attack? That’s totally not possible, right? I mean, like, I’m an espeon! My species is super-psychic and stuff! You can’t just say I’m not strong enough!” Espeon wailed. Tears were once more building up in her eyes, and she tilted her head away from Psyduck.
“Cease your catastrophizing! I’m not saying you’ll never learn how to perform confusion. You must simply practice to increase the amount of psionic energy you can use at once, like exercising any other muscle. Perhaps you should start with meditation.”
“But that’s exactly what Grumpig said!” Espeon whined. “I don’t want to waste all my time sitting on a rock in a funny pose with my eyes closed, just like, thinking about nothing or whatever meditation is! Isn’t there, like, an easier move I could learn? One I could use now?”
“Confusion is widely considered to be the most basic form of psychic attack there is. There exists no more elementary move I could teach you.” It was also the only psychic move Psyduck knew.
Espeon’s tail and ears drooped, and she slowly walked towards the trapdoor exiting the roof. “Well… okay… Thanks for like, trying, I guess…” Although the brief tutoring session had done nothing to improve Psyduck’s sympathy towards the pink cat, she couldn’t help but share in Espeon’s disappointment. Hearing that Espeon’s visualization took the form of a weapon had gotten the duck even more excited to watch Espeon blast away her petty rivals with migraine-inducing bursts of psychokinetic force, and to have spent so much time with the wearying cat for no payoff truly grated.
“…Wait. There is one thing you could do to make use of confusion today…”
“Really!?” Espeon said, whirling around so quickly she nearly tripped over her own legs.
“If you acquired Grumpig’s choice specs, their potential to amplify energy generation capacity might enable you to produce the needed output for a confusion attack. But be warned that the power they offer is mastered only with great difficulty, so you must not-”
“Awesome, I’ll go get them!” Espeon interrupted. She immediately whipped around to face the trapdoor again, then stopped. “But wait, like, how am I gonna get Grumpig to give them to me?”
Psyduck moaned and tried to massage away the sudden pain taking up residence in her skull. “I’ll tell you only if you promise to not attempt wearing the choice specs alone! The effects they have on the inexperienced user can be quite severe, so you must wait until I can supervise you before you go shoving them on your face. Just bring them back here, and I’ll assist you in putting them on.”
“Okay, okay, I promise or whatever. So how can I get them?”
“Grumpig won’t be a problem. He’s currently engaged in a slumber of indefinite duration, yet one which I assure you will be longer than the time you’ll need his choice specs for. You’ll find them hidden in a case underneath the loose floorboard in the back right corner of the equipment shed.”
“Great, thanks Psyduck! I’ll be back in like, a light-second!” said Espeon, and turned to trot down the trapdoor stairs. Psyduck rubbed her webbed hands together as she watched her descend, envisioning a choice-spectacled Espeon blasting her foes over and over again.
“Oh, schadenfreude, truly you are my only joy in life…”
* * * * * *
Once she exited the daycare building, Espeon headed to Grumpig’s mud patch to verify that he was, indeed, fully asleep. Seeing the pig snooze in the mud so peacefully made her feel a twinge of guilt, but it soon passed. After all, she was only going to borrow the choice specs, which was totally different from stealing them. Nevertheless, the psychic cat couldn’t help but cast a few more glances back towards Grumpig as she headed towards the equipment shed, and then looked around to see if anyone was watching her when she arrived. She noticed Ditto, untransformed, peeking at her from behind a tree trunk, but they averted their eyes and oozed away as soon as Espeon met her gaze. After she was out of sight, Espeon turned to examine the wooden structure’s lone door. Although lacking a lock, and possessing a conveniently-shaped metal grip for a handle, it had been enough to keep Espeon out when she was an eevee. The door opened outwards, and the handle was too high up for her to reach.
But she wasn’t an eevee anymore. Espeon sat next to the door and arched her behind as high up as it would go, then reached for the handle with her tail. It was still a bit too high, but after trying several different positions, Espeon finally succeeded in getting the tips of her forked tail to wrap around the handle after standing on her front paws and bracing herself against the door. Ha, so there! That was one special espeon skill mastered! Could any of the other eevee forms have done that with their tails? Of course not! …Although, if that stupid sylveon had been watching, she could’ve just used her ribbons instead. And then she would have mocked Espeon for looking like an idiot with her butt thrust up in the air.
Ugh, why did she still think about that sylveon sometimes? Come on, focus! Setting back to her task, Espeon pulled on the door’s handle with all her tail’s might. It didn’t budge. She then tried to walk forward and use her body to pull it open, but it was rather awkward to do so while standing on her front legs. As soon as she moved one paw forward, she found herself leaning back against the door even more, keeping it firmly closed. Frustrated, Espeon released her tail’s grip and turned to stare at the door. This would be a good time to learn telekinesis, she thought. …but who was she kidding? She knew she’d just screw it up and look even dumber than she already had if she tried to do a cool psychic thing like that. Maybe she should just give up on this whole venture. There was no way that some silly glasses would be enough to overcome her total incompetence, anyways.
…like no freaking way was she going to give up! She deserved to have awesome psychic powers, and by Mew, she was going to get them! Espeon got into the same position she had previously, but this time, instead of trying to move her front legs forward, she kicked off with her back legs while still holding onto the handle with her tail. This caused her to flip onto her back, pulling the door forward with her. It came to a rest as it bumped into her forehead, eliciting a slight twinge of pain in her crystal, but Espeon ignored it and scrambled to her feet. She whipped around and jammed a paw into the crack between door and frame, then squeezed her body through the gap.
The equipment shed smelled of musty wood and old leather. It smelled like triumph. Grinning, Espeon strolled to the back-right corner of the shed, avoiding the rusty tools and loose nails strewn about haphazardly. Now, how to pry up that floor-board…? It was already sticking up a bit at one end, so Espeon simply leaped into the air and came down with all her weight on the opposite end of it, which sufficed to lever it up. She pulled aside the board and examined the small space beneath. Two black leather cases rested there. Wait, two? Which one was for the choice specs? She’d just have to look at both of them, she guessed. Espeon reached down to pick up the larger of them in her teeth, then stopped. Grumpig might notice the bite-marks, she thought. Hey, she had gotten smarter! No way would she have thought of that as an Eevee!
Instead, Espeon used her front paws to drag the cases out. Getting the latches open took some time, but was eventually managed with careful use of her claws. The first and larger of the cases opened to reveal a velvet interior with eight indentations. Seven of these were filled with gym badges, polished to a point where even the dim light of the shed was enough to make them shine. Nothing was in the eighth.
The second case contained a pair of thick glasses Espeon assumed to be the choice specs. They were set within a plastic frame so that they were almost like goggles, and a flexible strap connected the ends of each arm. She grabbed them by the plastic part with her teeth, then walked to the shed’s door and carefully peered outside, intending to sneak back to the main building as soon as no one was looking.
Then, she paused. Espeon realized that Psyduck would have to put her webbed hands pretty close to her forehead if she was going to help put the choice specs on. What if it was just a ploy for Psyduck to steal her gem to use it to evolve into a golduck? Sure, Grumpig had said that psyducks didn’t evolve that way, but could she really take that chance? It was pretty suspicious how insistent Psyduck had been that Espeon not try to put the specs on herself. Maybe the safest thing to do would be to just do exactly that and practice using confusion with them on her own.
But, how was she was going to fit them on her face? Maybe the side-pieces could fit between her ears and the weird little hair tufts underneath her ears, Espeon thought, but getting that strap around her head would be tricky. She attempted to hold the specs down with her forepaws and slide her head into them, but it didn’t work. Perhaps she really did need Psyduck’s help with them. Or someone’s, at least. Yet who else could she trust to not tell Grumpig about her little ‘borrowing’? There had been a time when Clefairy might have been that pokémon, but…
Frustrated, Espeon paced back and forth within the equipment shed, until her ears brushed against the handle of a shovel jutting out into the air. Aha! That could hold the specs for her! She didn’t need anyone with a super-smart psychic brain like hers! After draping the strap around the handle, Espeon eventually managed to squeeze her head into the gap and drag the specs off the handle without letting them slip off. Immediately after she did so, the strap pulled tight against the rear of her head, and a wave of dizziness and nausea washed over her. Espeon closed her eyes and hoped the sensation would go away soon.
Just as she was beginning to think this might have been a bad idea, it did. Lifting her eyelids revealed that the glasses did nothing to interfere with her vision. Moreover, she was starting to feel a sense of manic excitement and restlessness, like she had the power to do anything and needed to do it right! Now! Feeling her pulse start to race, Espeon crouched down into her head-cannon firing position and aimed at the door to the equipment shed. This was it! She was finally going to use a psychic ability for real this time! No pain arose in her head as she focused her energy using her now familiar visualization. Power was welling up within her, getting stronger, stronger – now! Espeon sprung towards the door and crashed into it headfirst, knocking stars into her vision. Before she could fully recover, she crouched down again and leapt into the door a second time, with similar results. Wait, what was she- Once more Espeon flung herself forward, but the door had been moved enough by her prior collisions that she only clipped its edge this time, and staggered out of the shed into the brightly lit daycare lawn.
“Hey, there she ish!” someone said. Blinking from the harsh light, Espeon looked left and right in a pained daze, before her eyes settled upon a small furry biped weaving and wobbling his way towards her. He wore a shiny mirror on a strap around his forehead, and carried a small doctor’s bag in one paw and a metal flask in the other. Slithering alongside him as he approached was Seviper, moving almost as sinusoidally as her companion was.
“She’s swaying, stumbling! Stroke seems severe! Supply surgery swiftly, Spinda!” Seviper said as the pair moved up next to Espeon, who was still reeling from her head-door collisions. Spinda came to a halt and dropped his medical bag on the grass, freeing up a paw to twist off the cap of his flask. He took a swig of what smelled to Espeon like some sort of berry juice while he looked her over. To her relief, neither of the two seemed to notice her wearing Grumpig’s choice specs.
“I just, like, bumped my head on something. I don’t need surgery!” Espeon protested.
“Are you sure? You look all worry – I mean, blurry, and theresh this hazy extrsha body that’s floating out of your firsht one! That can’t be healthy!” Spinda slurred.
Espeon opened her mouth to ask what in Mew’s name he was talking about. “I just, like, bumped my head on something. I don’t need surgery!” she said. Wait, did she just say that again? That wasn’t what- “I just, like, bumped my head on something. I don’t need surgery!” Espeon repeated. To her confusion and growing concern, her mouth and tongue appeared to be moving on their own initiative and disregarding all other suggestions for what to do. “I just, like, bumped my head on something. I don’t need surgery!”
“Whoa, repeating yourshelf is a suretain stroke of a sign! You definitely need shurgery!” Spinda said. He bent over and started sorting through his medical bag as he spoke. “Now, a shtroke happens when there’s too mush blood in the brain. So to get all the exshtra blood out, I’m going to have to – hic! – trepanate.” Spinda withdrew a small paw drill from the bag and gave the crank a few experimental spins, producing a horrible grinding noise as the ancient drill bit spun in place. Espeon found herself staring at the ominous device in sick fascination. Was that reddish stuff on the end rust, or-
“Seviper, pleashe restrain the pashient,” Spinda slurred. Yeah, no. Espeon turned to run, but Seviper lunged with astonishing speed, knocking her down. Before she could regain her feet, the viper was coiling her body around the psychic cat’s slender frame, immobilizing her. “Hold realllll shtill now,” Spinda said, approaching with the drill. His arm wavered back and forth as he attempted to align the implement with Espeon’s head, which was jerking and thrashing about as she squirmed within Seviper’s grip. Despite her efforts, Espeon only succeeded at shaking the choice specs off her head – but maybe that would let her speak normally again!
“Let me go!” she tried to yell. Unfortunately, her struggling had caused Seviper to reflexively tighten her grip, allowing her to emit no more than a squeak, completely inaudible to the sloshed Spinda and the hard of hearing reptile. Okay, so she couldn’t shout. Espeon quickly revised her expectations downwards to ‘being able to breathe’. But as Seviper’s coils tightened, it was getting harder and harder to inflate her lungs against their pressure. This was it, she realized. If Espeon couldn’t use a psychic attack now, she was literally going to die.
Espeon tried to concentrate, but black clouds were blotting out her vision, and she could feel Spinda’s drill jabbing into her. Come on head-cannon, fire! Fire! Do literally anything, I don’t care if it looks cool or not! Her thoughts melted down to a desperate jumble: I don’t want to die! Mew, anyone, help! Help! I can’t breathe! I’m-
* * * * * *
GONNA DIE GONNA DIE – Ha, made it! With a well-placed leap, Eevee soared through the air and landed on a rocky outcropping jutting from the middle of a swiftly flowing river. She turned to face the near bank and addressed the smiling pink fairy standing at least two yards away from the river’s edge. “Betcha can’t beat that!” Eevee called, half-yelling to be heard over the roar of the current.
Clefairy smirked in response. “You should never make a bet with a fairy, Eevee~.” After taking a few steps back, Clefairy dashed forwards and leapt at the edge of the riverbank. Her newly evolved wings fluttered and produced a soft glow, and she arced through the air in a graceful parabola, touching down on a rock a few feet closer to the opposite bank than the one Eevee was perched on. She gave a bow and twirled around to face the disbelieving face of her friend.
“Come on, using magic is like, super-cheating!” Eevee protested.
“Nope~! You didn’t say that before we started, so it doesn’t-” Clefairy started to respond, then gave a brief start and glanced towards the far bank of the river. “Actually… you know Eevee… maybe we shouldn’t be doing this. Jumping onto slick rocks in the midst of a raging river isn’t very safe. Let’s just turn back and find something else to do.” The wings on her back gave a nervous flutter.
“Aw, what? Seriously? But we’re already halfway across! And I bet there’s a bunch of totally awesome stuff on the other side of the river, too!” Eevee turned around to scan the far bank for anything cool and exciting. Then her eyes widened.
“…so then I see she’s got basically the tackiest soothe bell ever on, and it makes her look like this big, fat miltank, so I- Oh, ew! Is that that stupid one-move eevee hanging out on our river?” A sylveon was approaching the riverbank, flanked by a glaceon to her left and a luxio to her right. Eevee knew the sylveon’s name, Alice, but she only remembered the glaceon and luxio as being ‘the mean one’ and ‘the dumb one’, respectively.
“Maybe she’s trying to drown herself because she knows how dumb she is,” the glaceon suggested.
The luxio giggled and added, “Maybe she’s jealous of the magikarps ‘cause some of them know splash and tackle!”
“Hey, like, this isn’t your own personal river or whatever! We can use it too! And I know covet, not tackle!” Eevee protested.
Clefairy’s tail was starting to twitch along with her wings. She leapt back to the bank she’d come from and spoke up in a wavering voice: “We were actually just about to leave now – right Eevee? – so there’s no problem, right?”
But neither Alice or Eevee paid her any attention. “Do you really know covet?” the sylveon asked. “Prove it.” A few graceful bounds from rock to rock brought her across the river to an outcropping near Eevee’s. One of her ribbons dipped into a pink bag strapped to her flank, and withdrew a shiny compact disc, which the fairy dangled tantalizingly over the water separating her from the brown fox. “Recognize this, Eevee? It’s the protect TM you were too stupid to learn how to use. Why don’t you take it back with that covet move you totally know for real so everyone can watch you fail at it a second time.”
Eevee’s fur began to bristle. “That’s my TM! I shouldn’t need to, like, take it back, you should just give it to me!” Nevertheless, she found herself glancing down and assessing the distance she’d have to leap. It was a bit further than she’d jumped to get to her current position, but it still seemed doable.
“I am giving it to you, Eevee. What, you’re afraid of a little leap?” Alice took a step back, creating a space for Eevee to land on.
“No!” Eevee snarled. To Clefairy’s horror, Eevee dropped into a crouching position and tensed her legs.
“Don’t risk your life for a TM, Eevee! It’s not even-” Clefairy stopped mid-sentence. It’s not even your TM! It’s a TM for reflect Alice convinced me to switch with your protect TM for a dumb prank! I’m really sorry, I didn’t know she’d take it so far! The real protect TM is hidden underneath my bed, and I promise I’ll give it back as soon as we get away from this stupid river! “-It’s not worth it,” she finished instead.
But Eevee seemed to have barely heard her. She lunged towards Alice’s rock with all her might, and was rewarded by the sylveon recoiling in surprise, apparently having expected Eevee to wimp out. Using her momentum, Eevee sprang directly at Alice, summoning the familiar energy of a covet attack. In that moment, all the envy Eevee had ever felt towards the sylveon – for the uncanny ease with which she picked up new techniques, when Eevee only had one - for all the numerous friends and admirers she attracted, when Eevee only had Clefairy – condensed into a single burning desire aimed at the heart of her adversary. Had Eevee even so much as grazed her target, it would have overwhelmed Alice, forcing her to desperately attempt to hand over everything she had in a feeble attempt to satisfy the terrible jealously. This effect would’ve lasted only a moment, but it would’ve been long enough.
Instead, a gleaming barrier sprang up around Alice, and Eevee bounced off it harmlessly. She stumbled backwards, her paws scrambling for purchase on the slick rock, and slid into the rushing waters.
“Eevee!” Clefairy yelled, and dashed alongside the bank on stubby legs. But she couldn’t keep up with the current as it swept along her flailing friend. At first, Eevee tried to fight the flow, but quickly realized the futility of this and attempted to swim towards the shore instead. But this made it hard to see the upcoming segments of the river, and her head slammed into the edge of a rock. Dazed and disoriented, Eevee nevertheless managed to wedge a paw in between two jutting stones in the outcropping, then dragged herself on top of one of them.
After a few deep gasps, Eevee put a paw up to her forehead and felt a steady trickle of blood. She looked around and saw no other place within easy jumping distance. “Clefairy, help! I’m bleeding!” she yelled at the top of her lungs. Panting, the pink fairy came to a halt at a spot on the bank directly across from Eevee. She was pretty sure she could jump to Eevee’s rock with a running start, but what would she do then? Although the stored moonlight in Clefairy’s wings allowed her to leap as if on the surface of the moon, it wouldn’t be enough to allow her to make the leap back carrying a pokemon as large as she was. And Clefairy was a terrible swimmer, so that was out. What was left? Use metronome and pray for a teleport? If she called up the wrong move, she could easily get them both killed.
Instead, Clefairy turned around to face Alice, who she had heard casually pacing along behind her. “Do something! She might drown if you don’t help her!” she cried.
“It’s her own fault that she’s in this situation, Clefairy,” the sylveon said, shaking her head slowly. “I was just teasing her, and then she went like totally nutso and attacked me. Why should I risk my own hide to save her?”
“But… but we’re fairies! We’re supposed to be nice!” Clefairy said, her tail starting to uncurl as she became increasingly agitated. “We’re supposed to help people!”
Alice reached out and coiled a ribbon around Clefairy, drawing her closer. She giggled. “It sounds like you have a lot to learn about being a fairy. Maybe if you hung out with me instead of that dumb one-move eevee, I could show you how much fun fairies can have.”
“But you’re not fun at all! You’re mean! You hurt people! Can’t you see how much you’ve been hurting Eevee?”
“No, no, no. Don’t you get it? I do help people.” Alice turned to look at her two companions stranded on the opposite side of the river, apparently lacking the courage or skill to make the crossing themselves. “You wanna hear a little secret?” she whispered. “That glaceon, Sylvie, that luxio, Kai – they’re not special like we are. They don’t have fairy magic, they don’t have any good moves, and they’re both even kind of dumb. But when they’re with me, they can feel like they’re important, like they matter. We get to decide what’s cool, what’s popular, and who deserves to get all the good stuff. The reason they can’t just do that on their own? It’s because they’re cowards, Clefairy. On their own, they don’t have the guts to smack down anyone who’d challenge their right to get to decide everything. You think Sylvie could’ve told Eevee to kill herself if I wasn’t here? If no-one else was watching? No! But see, fairies are expected to be cruel, to play tricks. Our job is to help others feel like it’s okay to live out those impulses, too. As long as I’m leading them, Sylvie and Kai never have to feel guilt for what they do.”
Eevee stared out at the duo from across the water, unable to hear their conversation over the roar of the rushing water. What was Clefairy doing?! She wanted to shout, to tell Clefairy to ‘get away from her!’, but when she opened her mouth, no sound came out. A sudden terrible realization dawned: Now that she had evolved, Clefairy had realized that she deserved a better friend than Eevee. Any moment now, the two would turn their backs on her and stroll away, and then Eevee would die. Alone.
“But – but what about-” Clefairy stammered.
Alice gave her tail a dismissive flick. “What about Eevee? She’s a born loser. If my group didn’t make fun of her, someone else would. Same with all the other people we’ve hurt.” Clefairy trembled as Alice’s ribbons drew even tighter around her. “Besides, you’ve hurt pokémon with your pranks, too! Your hearing is pretty good, right? Could you hear that happiny crying after you tricked her into thinking that rotten egg was an oval stone? I could. You see, it’s already too late for you to be a ‘good’ fairy. But if you join me, I can help you embrace your-”
“NO!” Clefairy’s broke free of Alice’s grip and charged towards the river’s edge. She was a good fairy! She’d never be wicked like Alice was! Her wings glowed as she leaped and sailed through the air, before landing on Eevee’s rock as gently as a falling leaf. “Hang on!” she cried, and took hold of Eevee’s paw. The tip of her finger began to glow as she waved it back and forth in the signature pattern of the metronome attack.
“Careful, Clefairy! I’ve heard that metronome always uses the move you really want it to,” Alice called, loud enough to hear from across the water.
“What’s she mean? You’re gonna use some awesome move that’ll get me off this rock, right?” asked Eevee.
“I’m trying to!” Feeling power well up within her, Clefairy pointed her finger at a spot on the near bank. For all that her parents and teachers warned her about the risks of using metronome, she knew from personal experience that as long as you were careful where you were aiming, there really weren’t that many truly dangerous moves. The power peaked, and Clefairy… rapidly waved her arm around a few times. Double slap. Clefairy clenched and unclenched her fist, then tried again. She waggled her finger, gathered power, prayed, and then- Lightning surged out of her body in every direction, striking Eevee, the nearest outcropping, and two unfortunate magikarps in the water around her in a series of flashing arcs. Eevee jerked and spasmed, ripping free of Clefairy’s grip and tumbling into the river once more. The shock of the cold water woke her from the wooziness she’d been starting to feel, but when she tried to marshal her tired limbs back into action, she found them stiff and unresponsive. She was paralyzed!
Unable to steer or even turn her head to look where she was going, Eevee drifted downstream helplessly. Her doom seemed certain. But Eevee knew how to counter paralysis from her occasional scuffles and a rare moment where she’d been genuinely paying attention during a combat lesson. She focused on the one process in her body still under her control – her breathing – and worked on extending that control outwards from her diaphragm. First, she worked on controlling the sizes of the breaths she took, then she started to work on her abdominal muscles. Shortly, she could get her neck and eyes to twitch under her control- just in time to see herself headed for a waterfall! Eevee plummeted over the side and crashed into the water below. It wasn’t a high enough drop to make her hit bottom, but it did submerge her briefly, and it was in that moment that Eevee’s paralyzed jaws chose to start working again and swung open. Water poured into her lungs, and she remained underneath the surface.
Her last thoughts as her consciousness faded were not profound: How could this have happened to me I don’t want to die Clefairy killed me I’m dead I’m drowning I can’t breathe I can’t breathe-
Espeon gasped for air and returned to awareness as the crushing pressure around her midsection miraculously lessoned. As the dark clouds cleared from her vision, she became able to make out a bipedal cow with a top hat and a metal pail dangling over one arm approaching her, Spinda, and Seviper. The latter was flicking her tongue out and peering at the newcomer with interest, this redirected attention apparently being the cause of her loosened grip.
“I say, what’s all this ruckus over here?” Miltank asked, glaring down at the snake and panda with disapproval.
“I’ve diagnoshed this stroke with a pashient, so I’m performing a shurgical operashion,” Spinda replied, waving his drill at her.
“Har-ummph! That espeon needs your quack medicine like she needs a hole in her head!” the miltank said, spitting out a wad of cud in disapproval.
Spinda stopped and stared at the cow in cross-eyed confusion. “But… but thash exactly what she needs!”
“Stuff and nonsense, I say! No, what she needs is Miltank’s Miraculous Milk Tonic-Elixir, a guaranteed cure-all for every ailment, from gout to pinkeye, pancreatitis to pneumonia, sunburn to stroke! Patent pending.” Miltank shoved Spinda aside and held her pail up to Espeon’s muzzle. “If this can’t cure her, nothing will!”
Espeon managed to stop gasping for air long enough to sniff at the proffered liquid sloshing around in the bucket. “Ugh… you… you want me to drink this? This is like, coconut milk, right? I’m totally not drinking this if it’s something you squeezed out of your body!”
“The exact formulation is a closely-guarded secret, but I can assure you it consists of only the finest, most quality-tested, probably legal ingredients!” Miltank withdrew the pail slightly. “However, should you not wish to imbibe my tonic, you’re perfectly free to accept the ministration of this drill-clutching ‘doctor’ over here instead,” she said, gesturing at a wobbling Spinda.
“Okay, okay, I’ll drink it!” Espeon said, and carefully extended her tongue to lap up a small quantity of the mysterious liquid. Almost immediately, she began coughing and spat it back out. “Oh Mew, that did taste like it came from someone’s body! Ew ew ew ew!”
“Well? How do you feel? Less stroke-afflicted, I hope?” Miltank asked.
“I don’t have a stroke!” Espeon yelled. “But, like, I feel like I’m gonna hurl and my sides are totally crushed and it hurts every time I breathe!”
“Seviper’s stranger securing strategy superfluously strict? Sorry,” Seviper said, and further loosened her constricting coils. As soon as she did so, Espeon renewed her thrashing and struggling, and managed to wriggle free. Espeon then proceeded to run directly away from her benefactors as fast her legs could carry her.
“Just look at that vigorous stride – a sure sign of good health, I’d say! Yes, this is another miraculous recovery wrought by the salubrious effect of Miltank’s Miraculous Milk Tonic-Elixir!” Miltank cheered.
“Wait… Eshpeon’s healthy now? Uh, okay…” Spinda said, and attempted to pack his drill back into his bag, but only succeeded in shoving it into a nearby bush. He soon gave up looking for it and moved on to writing his case notes down in a little journal: “Patient, yuong male liepard, diagnosd w/stroke and idiopathic pink fur color. Ressisted treatment by by head drilling, but condition resolved anyway. Medical hypothesis: Seviper squeezed all xcess blood in head back into body. Treat all future stroke w/big vice grip applyed to torso.” Then, after straightening the mirror on his head, Spinda picked up his doctor’s bag and wobbled away.
“Stranger’s saved? Splendid!” Seviper slithered off back towards her sunning rock, convinced that she’d done her good deed for the day.
Meanwhile, Espeon was in a much worse mood. That complaint earlier had been no exaggeration, and the only thing stopping her from sobbing over how much her chest was hurting was the certainty that that’d make the pain ten times worse. Why hadn’t Psyduck warned her about those glasses? She could’ve died back there! The only time she’d ever been more afraid for her life was that one time she fell into that river and nearly – wait, what? Espeon couldn’t remember having ever fallen into any river! There weren’t even any rivers close to the daycare, so the thought was especially odd. Of course, she could recall having seen a few before she had come to the daycare, but-
Wait. How exactly had Espeon come to the daycare? Try as hard as she could, Espeon couldn’t remember the day she arrived there, nor could she recall ever leaving the place she used to live at. It was really, really weird. Surely she couldn’t have just totally forgotten something like- Oh crap, the glasses! She needed to go and return those choice specs to Grumpig’s little hidey-hole before he woke up and realized they were missing! Espeon did a one-eighty and sprinted back to where Seviper had been holding her earlier.
To Espeon’s horror, she found the choice specs dangling by their strap from one of Miltank’s hooves as the bipedal bovine looked them over. “I say, these are quite the peculiar spectacles! And to think they were just lying on the grass here where any oaf could step on them! …but why are they even here at all? Could there be a pokémon at the daycare in need of my miraculous tonic to cure their ailing vision?”
“What? No! Those are like, choice specs. They’re supposed to like, make your psychic powers get stronger and psychic-ier, but instead they just make you repeat everything or something! Anyways, I have like, no idea how they got out here, but they’re Grumpig’s, and I really need to get them back to him, okay? So it would be totally awesome if you could just, uh, hoof them over to me,” Espeon said.
In response, Miltank gasped and let the specs slip into her milk pail, which she’d briefly set down. “Great Mary Queen of Chatots! You mean to tell me that these humble lenses are one of the legendary ‘choice items’? Why, I thought those were a myth, like the supposed ‘Maximal Ether’ or the ‘Hyper De-evolution Spray’!”
Espeon winced at the thought of having to lick Miltank’s foul smelling concoction off the lenses. Then her brain got around to processing what she’d just heard. “Wait, there’s… there’s something can make you stop being evolved? How can you get it?” The psychic cat’s tail stood ramrod straight and her eyes began to widen as she was overwhelmed with a sudden hope and yearning she hadn’t even realized she had.
“Didn’t I just say it was merely mythical?” Miltank scoffed. “Besides, I thought you eevees were all about evolving! Why would you ever want to de-evolve?”
…Oh. “Cause being an Espeon sucks!” she snapped. “I’ve been trying all day, but I haven’t been able to do any psychic things at all! All that’s happened is that I’ve been hit with a stick, gotten a lot of headaches, looked dumb in front of Clefairy, learned that my crush thinks I’m just like the evilest sylveon on the planet, and nearly got squeezed to death while Spinda tried to poke a hole in my head!”
“Are you sure you haven’t exhibited any manifestations of psychic power? Just before I came and rescued you from that sham physician, I heard a voice in my head calling for help! Wasn’t that your telepathy?”
“Wait… like, really? I actually did do a psychic thing!? This is awesome! Wait, wait, let me try again!” Espeon narrowed her eyes and concentrated. “Okay, like, what Unown letter am I thinking of?” she asked. Miltank heard no voice in her mind, but observed Espeon’s forked tail-tips subconsciously crossing over each other to form an X-shape.
“Wow, you’re right!” Espeon cheered. “I do have telepathy! I’m gonna go tell everyone! No, I’m gonna go telepathize it to everyone!” She immediately bounded off to parts unknown, choice specs forgotten once again. Miltank watched her go, then hefted up the pail of milk. She had said the specs belonged to Grumpig, right?
It turned out that the psychic pig was just waking up again as Miltank finished trotting over to his mud patch. “Greetings, Mr. Grumpig! I’d never known you were in possession of one of the fabled ‘choice items’ before!” she said, withdrawing the item from her milk pail.
The sight of the familiar glasses shocked Grumpig out of his post-nap grogginess immediately. “What!? Where did you get those from?” he asked, activating his telekinesis to rip them out of Miltank’s grip.
“I found them just sitting in that field over yonder. Espeon – that’s who Eevee evolved into, in case you missed it – told me that she had ‘no idea’ how they got there. It’s really quite the mystery.”
“Did she, now,” Grumpig said. Ugh, now he would have to go have a talk with the irksome cat. Hopefully she hadn’t caused too much mischief with the specs – if she had at least managed to not start any fires, she would have done better than Grumpig’s first time using the item. He got up, stretched out his aging limbs and back, and shook loose mud off himself. “Thanks for returning my glasses, Miltank, but they aren’t really any sort of ‘fabled item’. Practically every other pokémon uses some sort of choice item in professional battling these days. And they’re rather overrated, if you ask me. In my day, if you saw a pokémon using the same move over and over again, it either meant they’d been hit by an encore, or they were an uncreative hack who couldn’t win a battle without resorting to cheap spamming tactics. See, we used to have this idea that a good battler wasn’t just someone who won all the time, but a pokémon with style, with honor, who knew how to entertain an audience. If they saw the only way to win would be by spamming swift a dozen times while constantly running away from the opponent, well, then they’d grit their teeth and accept they were going to lose that fight. But you can bet your pearls they’d go out with some sort of wild combination of moves and use of the environment no one had ever seen before! And dare I say it, battling was more fun in those days, too!”
“Eh? What sort of poppycock are you blathering on about? A gentlemon wouldn’t be caught dead fighting for the amusement of audiences, like some sort of commoner brawling in an alehouse in front of drunkards and gamblers! And of course, honorable battlers only fight under the Marquess of Chopleberry rules, which forbid any sort of ‘creative’ tactics entirely!”
“…Ergh, nevermind. I’ve got to go and find Espeon,” Grumpig said, giving a dismissive snort to Miltanks’ outdated notions. What was the deal with that pokémon, exactly? It was like she’d been born over a hundred years ago… Putting the question out of his mind, the psychic pig set out on a brief tour of the daycare, and soon located Espeon sitting behind the equipment shed, head turned to the ground. He trotted up to her and opened his mouth to give a long lecture about respect for other pokémon’s personal property and the virtue of hard work over cheap trinkets, but stopped short upon seeing the tears streaming down Espeon’s face. “…Why are you crying like that? Did you get yourself hurt using my choice specs?”
Espeon fought down her sobbing enough to choke out a response in between sniffles. “No… I never touched your stupid choice specs. And I’m not hurt.” To Grumpig’s surprise, her response sounded sincere. “It’s just that, like… like… I can’t seem to do anything right!” the cat wailed. “Like, I’m supposed to be able to do this telepathy thing, but I totally can’t do it, no matter how hard I try! I can’t do any psychic stuff besides a simple confusion attack, but even Psyduck knows how to do that, and she’s like, not even psychic!”
Grumpig’s jaw briefly opened in shock. “Wait… you’re saying you already learned how to use confusion? Show me.” In response, Espeon focused her gaze on a small rock sticking out of the grass, and the gem on her head glowed for a moment. An unseen force struck the stone and sent it tumbling a few feet, and Grumpig caught a brief tingle of psychic static generated by the attack. That… that was much better than the first time Grumpig had ever been able to use telekinesis as a spoink! The psychic pig had always been aware that his species was somewhat middling in terms of psychic potential, while espeon were considered to be near the top in that regard, but to have it rubbed in his face like this still stung. Why should that lazy, half-brained cat get to have-
“See? It’s not even that strong!” Espeon said, and began to sob again.
The psychic pig gritted his teeth and forced himself to swallow his jealousy before responding. “Look, you can’t expect yourself to have learned all the different moves and abilities psychic pokémon can use the very first day you became one! Just being able to use confusion at that level already is pretty impressive, and you should feel proud of yourself for that!”
“No! You- you don’t understand! My species should be able to use every move immediately! It’s totally like I’m not a real Espeon at all!”
“Now you’re just being absurd! There aren’t any pokémon who can use all their moves immediately – excepting unown, I suppose. No one would think you aren’t a real Espeon just because you’ve only learned confusion so far.”
At this, Espeon’s ears seemed to perk up a bit. “You really think I’m an Espeon? Ha… well… I guess I don’t totally suck… Thanks, Grumpig.” Sniffling, the psychic cat got to her feet and sprinted away. She quickly made her way inside the main daycare building, one of the few places where she was certain not to see that dumb, stupid unown who had ruined everything. The pink cat’s legs wobbled and she collapsed to the ground, shortly before her flesh melted into pink goo. Once fully de-transformed, Ditto flowed into a quiet corner and began to reflect on the day’s events.
Meanwhile, Grumpig shook his head at the sight of the departing pink pokémon, then entered the equipment shed to place the choice specs back in their hiding spot. If it hadn’t been Espeon, who had taken them? …Zoroark, probably. He’d have to find someplace else to put them soon, but until he did, this would at least protect them from the other pokémon. As he was about to put the loose floorboard back in place, a sudden whim struck Grumpig, and he found himself opening the old badge case to look at its contents again. If he had had the sort of psychic power an espeon could eventually master, could he have…? No. He’d already accepted his relative weakness. Best to focus on the things he could control, instead. His real problem was that he should’ve just never touched those choice specs. They hadn’t ever really done anything except cause trouble, had they? He’d really been an idiot going into that match against Wattson with those on, hadn’t he.
…That had really been quite a fight, hadn’t it? The youngest gym leader in Hoenn against a pokemon so old he’d had to get a fake id in order to be allowed to participate in the league. Still, despite his age, and despite the questionable choice of the choice specs, Grumpig had been in top form in that battle, landing power gem after power gem, psychic after psychic. Until- until… wait, how had it ended? Obviously not with a victory, but, even if he’d been knocked out… why couldn’t he remember waking up in the pokecenter later, or looking back over tapes of the match? And for that matter, why hadn’t he tried to challenge Wattson again? Had his fake id been found out? Had he decided to retire (as if!)? Then why didn’t he have any memory of those things?
Grumpig puzzled over these thoughts as he returned the badge case and started to head out of the equipment shed. There had to be some explanation- Oh, there was Espeon again. “You certainly cheered up fast,” he said to the enthusiastic looking cat as she wandered by the shed.
“Oh, um, yeah!” Espeon said, although she had no idea what he was talking about. Seeing the psychic pig in conjunction with the equipment shed made her suddenly remember the choice specs again, and for a moment she was worried that Grumpig had figured out she’d borrowed them and was about to give her some sort of boring lecture about personal property rights and valuing hard work over trinkets or something like that. But instead, he simply gave a brief grunt of acknowledgement and started to head towards the feeding trough. Huh, he must not have realized it was her who’d taken the specs. Whew! Relieved, Espeon decided to go and find Clefairy so she could rub her new power in the fairy’s face again!
The psychic pig shook his head as he turned to watch her run off yet again. Were all espeon so mercurial? No, it was probably just her, he reflected. A rumble in his stomach reminded him that it was long past his preferred feeding time, so he resumed his trot towards the- Wait. Hadn’t he been thinking about something important before he saw Espeon? …Ah, it was probably nothing. As the psychic pig reached the feeding trough, he looked in the sky and noticed it was getting rather late. Hopefully Slakoth would still be awake when he was finished eating. Grumpig was getting a sense that he’d really need that discussion about napping tips soon, he thought.
* * * * * *
Finally, the sun began to set over the daycare, and Sylvie sighed with relief. Not much tended to happen at night, and if anything did, the darkness would make it much easier for the sableye to stay hidden while she dealt with whatever problem those morons had gotten themselves into. Seriously, couldn’t she leave them alone for one day without one of those idiots nearly getting themselves killed? At least all she’d had to do to resolve today’s incident was create a minor illusory whisper into that miltank’s ear.
…Admittedly, those little episodes did provide some much needed entertainment, especially after Ho-Oh had told her to quit scaring people in the basement. Sylvie still didn’t really see why she couldn’t have a little fun while was she working. The whole point of the daycare was that it was hidden from you-know-who’s perception, wasn’t it? She shouldn’t need to stay quite so under the radar as most ghosts did, the sableye thought. Maybe the reason why was that Ho-Oh thought she shouldn’t be having any fun while she was doing what was effectively a sort of penance. In a minor way, she had contributed to the need for the daycare, after all. It was something Sylvie tried her hardest to forget, but of course that would be impossible as long as that eevee remained at the daycare, forever reminding her of the day she simply stood and did nothing while a pokémon drowned. When Eevee had evolved, Sylvie had gained some hope that the fox might have been leaving the daycare soon, but today’s observation of her had proved that that happy moment was still a fair ways away.
All told, Sylvie couldn’t really complain too much about her new life- or unlife, as it was. She knew she had it a lot easier than most ghosts out there, doomed to an existence spent either cowering in the shadows or constantly moving from place to place, forever on the run from-
“Hello, Sylvie,” a voice called from above. “Thinking of me?” Sylvie immediately whirled around and looked up at the towering figure of the pokémon who had just spoken. Two great wings terminating in grasping claws rather than feathers stretched out of the blood-red body of the great bird-like beast. Yveltal had come for her.
Although Sylvie had at first despised her new ability, stall, after becoming a sableye, she had grudgingly grown to appreciate that it could sometimes be useful. Many times it had saved her from her equally newfound rashness, and she had come to realize that a moment spent in thought before acting was rarely a moment wasted. Unfortunately, this was not one of these times. Before she could react, Yveltal reached out and seized her with a massive, enveloping wing. “What- what do you want with me?” Sylvie stammered.
“The same thing I always want. Death,” Yveltal replied.
“But I’m a servant of Mew! By the agreement, you’re not allowed to kill me!” Sylvie managed to squirm an arm free and stick a hand into her mouth. From underneath her tongue, she pulled out a golden coin emblazoned with Mew’s seal. “I have her badge!”
“Ah, yes, it all seems to check out, doesn’t it? Mew has exactly one sableye on her payroll, who’s currently on an observation mission of indefinite duration at this particular daycare. I can see that you were a glaceon in your past life, just like the one in Mew’s records. And that badge of yours is indeed the genuine item.”
“…So that means you’re going to let me go, right?” Sylvie asked, struggling to get her other arm free. Yveltal ignored her and continued.
“But, see, a funny thing happened while I was out looking for ghosts in Nimbasa city yesterday. I was just about to reap this scrawny little sableye, when – wouldn’t you know it- he pulls out a coin just like yours, claiming he’s a servant of Mew. I say that surely he’s mistaken - Mew’s only employing one sableye at the moment, on a mission halfway across the world. So then he tells me about how this other sableye approached him with Mew’s emblem and told him he could go and take a little vacation while she took over his mission. Sound familiar?”
“Look, whoever it was must have just stolen that coin or something-”
“Ah yes, I’ve heard that there are a lot of stolen emblems floating around in the hands – or should I say, talons – of unscrupulous characters. See, here’s what I think happened. I think Ho-oh found a miserable, weak-willed glaceon in the throes of death, and gave her just enough juice to become a ghost instead of fading into oblivion, then promised to resurrect her fully if she’d complete a little task for them.” Yveltal’s grip tightened, to the point where a living creature would no longer have been able to breathe.
“There’s no proof of any of that!” Sylvie yelled. “You can’t just kill me based on some crazy theory you thought up!”
“You know, you do have a point. Maybe I’m wrong. Maybe if I hurt you, Mew will detect it and teleport in, screaming and hollering and threatening to call down the wrath of Arceus upon me for violating the agreement. But here’s the thing: for all the falsehoods mortals spread about me, there is one thing they get right. I love to gamble.” Before Sylvie could respond, Yveltal grabbed the arm she had managed to get loose and tore it off her body with the ease of a child ripping off a butterfly’s wing. While she screamed, Yveltal casually turned their head from left to right, surveying their surroundings. “Huh. It looks like Mew isn’t coming to save you. Guess I was right.”
Sylvie ground her crystalline teeth together. Ghosts felt pain… but it was more because they remembered themselves as pain-feeling creatures than because they strictly needed to. She forced herself to turn her lidless eyes towards the stump of her arm. It wasn’t bleeding. It wasn’t alive. And – she repeated to herself – it wasn’t feeling, either. …it still hurt, but now Sylvie could focus on other matters. Like not getting killed. “Yes, I’m working for Ho-Oh! If you spare me, I’ll tell you where to find their other servants!” she shrieked, desperately trying to think of a halfway plausible lie as to where any of them might be, or even who any of them might be.
“While I appreciate the sentiment, I’m afraid that’s not possible. Ever since I discovered Ho-oh’s little project here, I’ve been hunting down and eradicating all the little pawns they’ve assigned to it. And you’re the last of them, Sylvie. Did Ho-Oh tell you that? Did they tell you about the drifblim that made deliveries to this place until the night he suddenly vanished? Did they warn you when the claydol buried in a ring around this area were found discarded in a soggy, melted heap at the bottom of a ditch? No?”
“That’s not- that’s not all of them! I know-”
“Yes, yes, I’m sure your lies are quite creative and you must’ve worked very hard on them. Let’s cut to the chase, shall we? I want death, but it doesn’t have to be your death. If you’re really so intent on prolonging that feeble state of existence you ghosts think is living, than you can do a small favor for me. Kill one of the residents of this little ‘daycare’ before the next sunrise, and I’ll agree to leave you alone for, say, seventy years. How’s that sound?”
At this, Sylvie fell silent. Her squirming temporarily ceased as she turned the proposition over in her head. In one sense, it wouldn’t be difficult at all, really. As clueless and dysfunctional as the daycare pokémon were, they could barely even manage to go a day without nearly getting themselves killed without an assassin’s assistance. Add that fact to her sableye form’s natural talent for stealth and violence, her experience at navigating the daycare unseen, and her keen understanding of the daycare residents’ patterns and weaknesses, and she could probably kill over half of them in a single night.
“Even the carvanha or the unown would count,” Yveltal crooned, lifting Sylvie up to eye level. “Or what about that slakoth? I can’t imagine an easier pokémon to kill, especially for a ghost like you. He’s already indistinguishable from a corpse half the time, anyways.”
“Oh, and consider this: Even if you refuse, every single one of the daycare residents will still die very, very soon from now. Call it, ah, a death god’s intuition. All you’d be doing is throwing away your own life. So what’s it going to be, Sylvie? Yes or no?”
“…Yes. I’ll do it. There’s this one espeon at the daycare I knew back when she was an eevee. I hate her. Whenever I look at her, she always reminds me of one of the worst moments of my life. But I have to take care of her anyways, and I know she’d hate me, if she knew I was here, and she’s just so- so stupid! And so self-centered, and she has the gall to just… keep being cheerful even though she’s such a shitty pokémon, and I think she even knows she’s shitty! So… I’ll do it. I’ll kill Espeon,” Sylvie said, speaking no louder than a whisper.
Yveltal’s grip loosened, and the bird let out a brief series of harsh, guttural caws Sylvie could only interpret as laughter. “Excellent! Splendid! I knew you’d see things my way, Sylvie. But just, ah, indulge me a little, please. Tell me how you’re going to kill her.”
“Because I’m having a little trouble understanding how you’ll do that without any limbs or eyes,” Yveltal said, tilting his head curiously.
“What do you- AAAAAAAHHHHHHHH! FUCK, FUCK, FUCK!” Sylvie yelled as Yveltal casually inserted the point of a talon into her right eye socket and pried out its sapphire contents.
“See, here’s the thing, Sylvie. I can always tell when someone lies to me about their intention to kill. You were never really planning on killing that espeon, were you? You were just going to run far, far away from here as soon as I let you of my sight.”
In the midst of pain, Sylvie found a sudden surge of strength and determination that allowed her to speak again. “Aaahh… Fuck… fuck you! You’re wrong!” she shrieked.
“Oh, am I?” Yveltal asked. “I suppose it’s possible that you deluded yourself, in the heat of the moment, into believing that you were actually going to murder her. But my power’s never wrong, Sylvie. As soon as you spoke, I knew you didn’t have it in you to kill.”
“No, not wrong about that. About Ho-Oh. They didn’t revive me as a ghost, or promise to resurrect me fully. I- I heard from other ghosts that Ho-Oh was looking for a sableye who used to be a glaceon. That Ho-Oh could provide redemption. So I found them. And I don’t know if their plan will work, but I’m not going to let it fail because of the same fucking cowardice I had in life! Because if it does work, then- Then you won’t be able to torture pokémon like me anymore! We won’t have to hide all the time anymore, so maybe we’ll have a chance to actually become happy again!”
Yveltal clicked their beak together several times, and waved a talon in Sylvie’s face. “Tsk, tsk, tsk. You really should have learned to be a little less credulous by now, shouldn’t you? What’s more likely, Sylvie? That you just happened to die young and become a ghost naturally while meeting the exact specifications Ho-Oh needed, and then you just happened to blunder across some of Ho-Oh’s servants despite both you and them doing their best to stay unnoticed at all times? Or is it more likely that Ho-Oh had you killed, turned you into a ghost, told some of their other sorry servants to come and recruit you, and let you think joining up with Happy-Rainbow-Funtime-Bird was your idea?”
“I don’t care, okay? I don’t care! Even if Ho-Oh did do all those things- I’d do them too, to achieve what-AHHHHHHHH!”
A sound akin to a stick of chalk being snapped in half could be faintly heard as the death god twisted and popped off Sylvie’s right leg. “Didn’t I already make it clear that I was tired of your lies, Sylvie? If you were actually capable of killing someone, you’d have agreed to my offer. And I doubt you know even a fraction of the atrocities Ho-Oh’s committed while trying to complete this little project of theirs. Do you even know what happens to the pokemon who leave this daycare? Has Ho-Oh even told you that much?”
In response, Sylvie said nothing, her head and remaining limbs hanging limp from her body.
“…Sylvie? Are you still there, Sylvie?” Yveltal shook the sableye back and forth a few times, but received no reaction from the unfortunate creature. Unconscious already? Was it just Yveltal, or were Ho-Oh’s little toys not as durable as they used to be? Why, it was almost as if the rainbow god’s ideal of letting souls reincarnate again and again and again instead of throwing them out when they started to rot was beginning to have actual consequences! Who would’ve thought that shitting all over The Freak’s original designs for the system the instant they were dead could’ve been a bad idea?
Ah well, not that there was much Yveltal could do about it while Mew remained in charge, other than fight the inevitable decline. The god cast down Sylvie’s lifeless body and flapped their wings, unleashing a pulse of energy. It swept over the sableye, and when it passed, absolutely nothing of her remained. A few more wing beats bore Yveltal into the air, where the god began to contemplate their next moves as they glared down at the unsuspecting inhabitants of the daycare below.
Hello! Decided to finally get you a review on this story.
This is a really nice slice-of-life fic with hints of a greater plot. It's got a good sense of humor and the characters are distinct and memorable - especially Espeon, your protagonist. I feel sorry for her, and yet I want her to stop being stupid.
The main points of criticism I can think of:
-There was one part where I was unsure if Ditto was behind everything Espeon did or if it was really her. It became a bit clearer later but it threw me off at first.
-The ending of Chapter 2 with Yveltal was, while clearly leading up to bigger, better things, a bit abrupt after the silly shenanigans before. Yveltal also has stereotypical evil overlord vibes I'm not sure work for this story, though this could change later.
But yeah, this is a very cute Pokemon-centric fic, and I'm betting you have good things in store for it.
This is a really nice slice-of-life fic with hints of a greater plot. It's got a good sense of humor and the characters are distinct and memorable - especially Espeon, your protagonist. I feel sorry for her, and yet I want her to stop being stupid.
Yeah, Espeon ended up being my favorite character despite my initial determination to avoid using overused pokemon like the eeveelutions in my stories. This was kind of her 'focus episode' so she won't have quite as much a central role in the upcoming chapters, but she'll definitely still have a big part to play later on.
Huh, I intended for there to be some uncertainty about what was going on when Espeon was suddenly able to use confusion in her second talk with Grumpig, but I hadn't intended to suggest that Ditto had been Espeon for the entire story! I guess I might add in a mention of Espeon seeing Ditto in the midst of her meeting all the other pokemon to make it clearer that this wasn't the case.
-The ending of Chapter 2 with Yveltal was, while clearly leading up to bigger, better things, a bit abrupt after the silly shenanigans before. Yveltal also has stereotypical evil overlord vibes I'm not sure work for this story, though this could change later.
Yeah, I was kind of hoping that the abruptness and tonal dissonance of the last part would build anticipation for what will happen next in the story, and also add to the feeling of Yveltal as a legitimate threat to the rest of the characters. I thought that including the flashback sequence with Eevee and Clefairy would make the ending scene feel like it wasn't too out of sync, since the reader would've already been exposed to the possibility of Pokemon dying in this fic, but I guess it didn't work out as smoothly as I hoped.
Also, I guess it's kind of clichéd by now, but I really like the motif of 'serious' elements intruding into a silly, lighthearted world.
As for the character of Yveltal... I guess I have to admit that I don't really have a lot of experience writing villain characters, and looking back, I guess they do check off quite a few of the evil overlord stereotypes. At some point, I might release some 'interlude' chapters focusing on the actions of the various legendary Pokemon going on behind the scenes, which hopefully might add a bit of depth to Yveltal's character.
Thanks! I definitely have a lot planned for this fic, and I'm excited to finally be making progress on it again. Despite what happened at the end of day one, there's still a lot of humor and lighthearted scenes coming up, so if you enjoyed this chapter, I think you'll continue to enjoy the upcoming ones.
This is a fun fic! It seems all too rare that we get a real comedy-centric 'fic around here these days, and you clearly do have a good feel for writing comedy. The funniest part, to me, was where Espeon was staggering around making strangled noises while she tried to use a psychic attack on Seviper, but there were plenty of good moments throughout these chapters. I also didn't realize that Farfetch'd was a character you'd already used in a fanfic, and it was fun to see him turn up here. I don't know whether he's going to be particularly important, but he does seem to have a way of stealing whatever scene he's in.
Of course, by the end of the second chapter it's looking as though not everything is going to be quite as lighthearted and silly as all that, hmm? I do enjoy stories that can switch between silliness and real darkness, and I was happy to see some hints of a plot developing at the end of the second chapter. It also sounds like a particularly interesting plot; there's clearly a lot going on in the background, at least three different legendary factions pulling the strings behind the scenes, and some kind of battle over the balance between life and death. Pretty heavy for a story where the most dramatic thing to happen up to that point was... okay, an Espeon nearly getting suffocated and/or experiencing unwanted brain surgery, but before that it was Seviper mistaking Espeon's "psychic attack" for a stroke.
It's always tough to balance serious stuff with comedy, of course. At this point we haven't really seen the two intersect all that much; the scene with Yveltal is pretty much all serious, and the daycare scenes are pretty much all silly, and flashback, while there was a bit of humor in it, was primarily dramatic. To me, the intro, which I'd say was pretty much everything up to Espeon getting the choice specs, went on a little long. The scenes from the daycare are entertaining, and you definitely have a knack for creating a distinct and memorable set of characters. All the various residents of the daycare have their own quirks and personalities, and while they're obviously exaggerated, they work well for a comedy (and maybe, considering their situation, their eccentricities are understandable). However, I got much more interested once you started dropping hints that they were all actually in purgatory, and in general the character introductions started to drag for me after a while. It's tricky, because obviously you want to establish the atmosphere of the daycare, and part of the point, I think, is a bit of bait and switch on the reader, where they come to realize that not everything is as it seems. For me, though, I would have preferred some earlier, subtler hints that something was amiss. As it is, you pretty much go from zero to Espeon remembering a serious "near-death" experience, then musing about how she can't remember how she got from there to here, which pretty much tips your hand. Some earlier moments of oddness, hints that something wasn't quite right at the daycare center, would have drawn me into the narrative earlier and given me more opportunity to enjoy putting the pieces together, instead of the way things are now, where the shift in tone is pretty abrupt and there isn't a lot of build-up on the mystery.
Alternatively, you might have sprinkled in some hints earlier on that I simply missed, in which case good on you and the fact that they went over my head is my problem and not yours.
I mentioned earlier, but it bears repeating, that your characters are a lot of fun. I'm sure it will be even more fun to watch them try and confront whatever heinous things Yveltal has in store for the daycare. Presumably the god of death's going to get more than he bargained for.
I'm also kind of curious about Clefairy's role in everything. Assuming she actually is the same clefairy that Eevee knew previously, did she also die in the same river incident as Eevee, or at some point and simply wind up at the daycare through other means? Her relationship with Eevee also seems different now; in the flashback she acts like a genuine friend, but from what we see of her in the daycare she's definitely more like a frienemy at best. If she is indeed the same clefairy, she and Eevee probably have some serious reckoning to do once they both realize what's going on and especially if Clefairy's death really did have some connection to Eevee's.
I wish I recognized and knew the story behind the painting at the beginning of the fic! I have a feeling it would give me a better idea of what all is going on here.
I had some line-by-line notes but unfortunately lost all of them. In general your mechanics are fine outside of the odd typo, missing word, whatever. You do misspell sylveon as "slyveon" in Chapter 1, though (it's correct in Chapter 2).
All in all I'm glad I got to check this one out, and I look forward to seeing where the story goes from here! We've only just seen the first stirrings of a plot, but it looks like it's going to have a lot of my favorite things, especially if you manage to keep up some of the wackiness in the face of the more grim death-stuff. Best of luck with your writing!
“Okay, so like, it’s funny that you said ‘what did you have in mind’ because the first thing I want to know is how to read everyone’s minds and stuff. I know you say you don’t do that kind of thing because, like, ‘privacy’ or whatever,” Espeon said, waving the tips of her forked tail to make air quotes, “but that’s just what we tell the mareeple so they don’t get upset, right? Because psychic-types like us totally read everyone’s minds all the time, right? That’s what I’m gonna do.”
“Justice and righteousness have triumphed! The predator-conspiracy has been thwarted once again by my superior intellect!” Farfetch’d quacked at her retreating form, waving his sauce-stained stick in the air like the blood-soaked blade of a conquering warlord.
Okay, so this ended up being quite long for Part One of just a portion of a story, and to be honest, that really shows in the writing style. A lot of the story is told through dense amounts of dialogue, and what description there is equally wordy. In a story like this that’s very slice-of-life, it’s very hard to pull something like this off and keep investment throughout.
However, this doesn’t detract from the story, even though there isn’t a lot happening, as the dialogue flows well, shows off a wide range of personalities from the characters, and works in tandem with the inner thoughts of the characters, which similarly reads fluidly. I had a lot of fun reading the Seviper’s alliterative dialogue in particular.
What’s expressed in the dialogue is very interesting as well, as the colourful cast of characters all have their various strengths, weaknesses and quirks, and often clash with each other, especially with the Espeon that doesn’t seem well liked in the group, which keeps things engaging even without much at stake. I’m sort of reminded of A. Lee Martinez’s Too Many Curses, which similarly has a varied cast of characters filled with monsters in a confined setting.
The situations they get into were fun to read, with high points being the Farfetch’d that covers himself with barbecue sauce (words I never thought I’d utter) and the constant back and forth between Slaking and Braixen in their games. Even though it sounds trivial taken out of context, it was really entertaining, and although I expect the story will go in a dark direction later, given how you’ve marked it with content warnings throughout, I hope to see more of it later on, since the character dynamics make it all worth reading through.
I have a few minor complaints directed towards the story and worldbuilding. I don’t get a definite sense of what’s at stake here, and even though Espeon is a well fleshed-out character who wants to be loved and seen as smart despite having a lot thrown against her, what’s the worst that could happen if she doesn’t break through her psychic powers? I guess this is the side effect of the story having such a slice-of-life tone, so it’s not a major issue and works for a story like this, but still, if there was more conflict sooner, it would make it more immediately rewarding.
Also, with the daycare, I don’t get the sense this is connected to the rest of the world, even though the characters reference their experiences outside with their trainers and contests and whatnot. If so, where do the humans working at the daycare factor into this? Why doesn’t Espeon reflect on her trainer or how she ended up in the daycare, if she doesn’t have a trainer? And if the Pokemon there are shown to be so intelligent and have such nuanced personalities, why don’t they consider escape, or at least try to communicate with the humans in some way, or anything else that shows the Pokemon aren’t just left on their own to kill time and have more of a reason to be there?
But whatever. This is a fun read so far, and I really like the fic for what it is so far, so I’m willing to stick around for the ride. Thanks for sharing with us, and I’ll try to get into Part Two soon.
Hi there! So I'm here to review as a prize for the Mod Review Madness event that finished sometime ago!
So I agree with everyone else you did great with the Pokemon's voices and personalities there. Almost all of them are unique and distinct from one another and some interactions play off nicely together, like with Espeon and Grumpig there.
I admit I think I read the review responses before reading this, so I already had an idea that this is more than just a slice of life story of Pokemon in the daycare center. The different direction Part Two went still threw me off (in a good way!), though, and I'm interested how that particular plot point will come to play. After reading both parts, Part One did felt a bit long to finally get to the turning point in Part Two. I agree some subtler hints of something's not right might make the change in tone easier transition.
Part Two also gives me a different perspective on some characters. At first I thought of Espeon as very energetic and self-absorb but I think the other Pokemon have been giving her a hard time. The flashback scene then makes more sense of Eevee/Espeon's personality as it's revealed how she has been bullied, and so I don't blame her wanting attention. Even then, I hope maybe one day she'll learn she doesn't need attention from others to be happy.
Speaking of that flashback, I too was taken aback Clefairy's personality is different from the flashback compare to her being in the daycare center. Maybe Clefairy didn't remember their friendship back then, which seems to happen with other Pokemon in the daycare losing memories also.
Overall I enjoyed what you have here so far and I migh come back to see how this develops!
Hey! I'm here to take up your request in the Review Game. I've read Part One of Day One, and here are my thoughts.
So, right from the start, it seems that this is a pretty comedy-heavy story. Comedy is an element that's very tough to review or criticize, given its largely subjective nature, so the best I or anyone can really do on that front is describe their own reception of it. For me, the comedy in this was kind of hit-and-miss i guess they never miss huh NO SHUT UP GO AWAY okay back to the point as the characters and their interactions tiptoe the line between darkly humorous and just meanspirited a lot of the time. There's a bunch of dimensions to it, of course, but to simplify, there were jokes that didn't land well enough to excuse the dickish behavior for me.
I did notice that most of these were in the beginning. I think it may have something to do with the fact that the way the story starts, it seems like Grumpig is going to be our protagonist, when for basically the rest of the part it's Espeon (which makes sense given the title, but it's not unheard of for a story to be named after an antagonist, so one can't really make any strong assumptions based on that alone). The way Espeon is introduced makes her seem like the antagonist (being annoying, inconsiderate of others' feelings, interrupting the nap of "our hero" Grumpig), and for me, that image kind of stuck around until halfway through the story when I realized this was the character I was supposed to be rooting for. From that point on, the image started to correct itself and reading became easier. Especially when, you know, Clefairy comes in and outb*tches Espeon.
Moving on from comedy to a much more easily critiqued prose, I noticed a lot of headjumping (or whatever it's called when the narration gives many different characters' internal monologues or thoughts). Most of it was well executed and followable, but at times the switches were pretty rapid and out of the blue, one example I can remember here being about the carvanha remarking on the odd-scented "blood". I think generally a good rule of thumb would be to have the thoughts of only one character (or unified enough group) per paragraph, much like it is with dialogue already - or to phrase some in a way that doesn't directly plant the microphone to the character's brain.
Continuing on the subject of prose, I only noticed a few typos, three of them curiously enough being the same: "sylveon" as "slyveon". I wondered if it was intentional given its frequency, but I saw it spelled the right way in latter chapters, so I'm guessing it was just a typo. A fourth typo would be "Farfetch'd" as "Farfecth’d" during that character's scene. Nice bumping into him again after Missing Mod Madness, by the way!
There's not that much of a plot so far, but for what I assume is mostly a slice-of-life type fic, that's understandable. Right now the biggest focus seems to be on whether Espeon will actually learn psychic skills - and possibly also why her head seems to start hurting if she tries a psychic attack. Might just be normal headaches (or I guess not normal because she's not an eevee anymore ehuehuehuehue), but you never know.
As said before, a bunch of the characters are kind of mean, but you do seem to have a good enough amount of likability in the mix too to keep it from getting grating so far. With more time to develop the characters further on the way
A detail I liked in this story was how the mon (sans) have some idea how the world and the phenomena and objects within it work, but it stops there and the rest they have to guess or get from hear-say. Examples of this would be Grumpig's misunderstanding of glasses and Espeon's "explanation" of her "post-sight". This makes the mon seem kind of childlike, which is charming. Seviper only speaking in sibilant-starting words was pretty amusing, too. And impressive from a writer's perspective.
Finally, something more subjective again, but I would advocate for shorter chapter lengths. Those make it easier to attract new readers and even allow you to bump your thread more frequently, wink wink. This part was already divided by three breaks, so I don't know if not having good places to split would really hold up as a reason. In the end, though, it's your fic and therefore your call.
Hope this feedback had some degree of usefulness, and good luck with the rest of the fic. If you have any questions regarding my comments or just generally about what I thought of some aspect, feel free to ask them. Until next time, see ya!
Alright, so after reading Part Two, I have a much more clear idea of what this fic is trying to do, and for the most part, it succeeds.
This chapter continues on the tradition of your penchant for quirky characters, and like with the first part, the chemistry, interactions and different personalities on display here is stunning. Despite the fact most of them don’t have names aside from their species, they’re all memorable in their own way. From the pompous Psyduck to the snake-oil salesman Miltank to the overeager Spinda doctor. They were all very colourful and stole the scene whenever they appeared. I was also glad to see more of that alliterative Seviper.
I felt the story was a bit more engaging this time around as well. Sylveon, after all the stressing out about her psychic powers, does reach a resolution to her arc here, and we even get some of her backstory as an Eevee. The stakes also increase, as we get a bit more insight into the workings of the daycare with a good hook thrown in at the end which paints the story in a whole different light. However, as excited as it left me to see how it will progress, I also had some reservations about the ending.
First off, I found myself kind of confused at the sequence of events there. I got the gist of it, as Yveltal confronts the Glaceon-turned-Sableye and offs her, implying something sinister about the nature of the daycare as a whole, a lot of it was dumped in exposition and wasn’t brought up very elegantly as a result. This isn’t helped by the general wordiness of the prose.
As strange as it sounds to say this, considering a lot of your humour veers on black comedy, the ending also felt tonally jarring. Although there was more drama in the second part than the first with Eevee almost dying (or so it seems), the escalation from slice of life to cosmic horror did provide a bit of a whiplash. I felt this could’ve been foreshadowed more at the beginning, as I really wouldn’t have expected the fic to go this direction when I first picked it up. Still, it does open up the door to a bigger type of story, so it wasn’t a bad way to cap off the first day. Perhaps I’ll get used to it in the next day, now I have a better idea of the direction it’s headed.
There isn’t much to critique here with the prose or the dialogue that I haven’t said for the review in my previous chapter. While the dialogue is consistently strong, it can be just as wordy as the prose, which makes this story a bit longer than it needs to be. In the future, it would help if you divided the chapter parts more evenly, as reading through 10k words in one sitting with each part is a lot to stomach.
Still, the parts that worked really worked, and I look forward to seeing more of it in the future when you get round to it.