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The Curious and the Shiny: New Game Plus [The Manifold Curiosity]

Discussion in 'Fan Fiction' started by NebulaDreams, Dec 1, 2018.

  1. NebulaDreams

    NebulaDreams A Dense Irritating Miniature Beast of Burden

    Hello, dear readers. As you can see, this is a new version of The Curious and the Shiny, where I've made substantial changes to the early chapters, as there was a serious problem with the opening hook and more that could've been fleshed out in terms of character motivation, so the early chapters were reworked to address that, along with tighter description, less repetitive-sounding prose, and a few extra bits of lore.

    The old version was well received to some extent as those who stuck through the opening chapters liked the worldbuilding elements, the mystery surrounding the story and the varied cast of characters, alongside the chemistry between the two main leads. However, there were a few flaws that some couldn't get past, as they couldn't identify with Shine's quest to find Curio, since he is shown to care a lot for her as he looks back at her fondly, but the problem is, since she doesn't get properly introduced until Chapter 3, that resulted in a lack of investment towards the story.

    I've made one major change to the first arc of this fic (The Chase Arc), in that Shine doesn't remember much about Curio, and because of that, a lot of dialogue had to be changed throughout to fit that narrative. By design, this would mean the readers would get to know Curio at the same time Shine is relearning bits and pieces about her, which I hope will add to the mystique of that character and make for a much more identifiable quest for Shine, as his motivation is made more personal here.

    The old forum thread will still be up for comparison's sake: https://forums.serebii.net/threads/...ny-old-version-the-manifold-curiosity.661899/

    These chapters will be updated weekly depending on chapter length. If a chapter scrapes around 7k, like the first one, I'm going to let it sit for a week, but if there are two chapters that add up to that, I'll update for two in a week. As I have a backlog of 27 chapters, this means the story will be updated over the course of three and a half months at the very least, possibly more than that if I've written other chapters afterwards.

    This is set in the same universe of stories as Black Paint, which is known as The Manifold Curiosity. While this story can work as a standalone story, it also features a grand overarching narrative that has consequences for the other fic. This story contains the sort of character moments you'd come to expect from my main fic, so if you enjoyed that, you'll definitely like this one too, especially if you want an expanded look at the universe featured in Black Paint.

    Summary: Two old friends reunite after five years, but broken friendships aren't easily mended as the ghosts of their past continue to haunt them in the form of a mysterious organization called GeL. In their journey to repair their relationship, Shine and Curio will face their repressed memories, meet new allies and teach themselves and others to bridge the gap between Pokémon and mankind.

    Content Warning: This story mostly sits at a T, but there are dark themes throughout such as depictions of bullying, carnivore confusion, repressed memories and grief. A lot of these won't be prominent right away, but will slowly unfold as the narrative goes on, and there is one point where the story goes even further than that, but will be kept hidden for now as to avoid spoilers.

    [​IMG]

    The sunlit gravel burned all that walked across it, yet the Luxray dashed through. Even as his paws blistered from the bare dirt and his wounds burned with the intense heat in the air, he had to. His sensitive ear picked up the footsteps of his pursuers, chasing from behind.

    He ran towards the cityscapes ahead of him, where humans awaited, along with the promise of relief from his injuries, and afterwards, a normal life. Behind, though, was them. He didn’t want to imagine what they had in store for him if they caught him.

    The more he ran, the more he wheezed with exhaustion, and by the time he reached the junction where the roads from the other cities converged, he stopped to catch his breath. Cars, vehicles, trucks, all honked in cacophony. And in them, humans. He ran alongside the asphalt, shouting to anyone that might’ve listened as he ran. Surely, one person must’ve seen his condition and stopped to help, but nobody did. They blitzed through the road, which even he couldn’t catch up with in his faltering condition. Why did nobody notice him? His heart pumped. How far behind were those grunts?

    In desperation, he flung himself into the highway, into the path of oncoming cars which swerved in different directions and blared furiously. Sense came back long enough for the Luxray to dodge out of the way out of the road, only for another car to come hurtling towards his way, and crashed into his side, sending him spinning towards the hot asphalt before rolling on his back. He groaned as dull pain spread through his stomach, as he tried to get a sense of how bad his injuries were. Then it struck him. He was about to die. There were so many questions, so many injustices left, and so many dreams waiting to be realised, all of which would be undone. He only hoped anyone listening might’ve heard his last words.

    P-please,” he croaked in human tongue, “I, I wanna l-live. P-please, h-help.”

    With the sun shining above him, his vision faded to black.

    The Chase Arc

    You think of love as just a memory
    A fog that smothers you, its hard to breathe
    But when you're on your own that’s when you're free
    You're three years older, and you’ll always be now.’


    Steven Wilson – Three Years Older

    Chapter 1. Dendemille's Dilemma

    Shine woke up with the memory of his escape five years ago burning in his head. He squinted as light from the windows danced on his face, stirring him from his slumber, and for a while, he stayed there, curling himself in a ball at the end of the bed, just for a moment longer. Only for a moment though, as a familiar hand patted Shine’s belly, firmly, but softly, across his scar where the car had hit him.

    “C’mon Shine,” his trainer Tony said. “We should get ready soon.”

    The Luxray only groaned, retreating further into his half-sleep. Each day usually started like this, which was always for hardest for him as he preferred to sleep in. Why wake up? The days were the same and the world moved around Shine while he lay dormant. Why bother? No matter how much he tried to delay those thoughts with distractions, those fractured memories wouldn’t leave him alone. What was the point? The only thing that brought him back into the world was the feel of his trainer’s hand, soft and firm, stroking at his side.

    “I woke up a little earlier than usual so I’m willing to give you a wash, since it’s been a bit long. Would you like that?”

    Though it was just another part of his routine at that point, it was hard to say no to Tony’s soothing voice. So he opened his remaining eye, stretched on the bedspread and followed Tony, who was already dressed in his anti-static gear, into the bathroom where he sat down on the smooth floor and allowed his trainer to rinse him off with the shower, taking extra care to suppress his electric field. As he waited, the question burned on Shine’s lips, and although he didn’t wish to complain to his trainer, who had worked so hard on their project in between shifts, he had to ask.

    Sorry to bring this up again,” Shine said in his human tongue, “But are you planning on going back to the documentary at some point?

    Tony grunted as he squirted pet shampoo onto Shine’s body with gloved hands. When Shine first met him, he remembered his speech skills took Tony by surprise, but after living together for so long, his trainer got used to his special talent.

    “To be honest, I really don’t know. I want to work on it, sure, but there’s not much else we can do. We only know partly about what happened to you, we don’t know where your friends have gone, or who was even responsible for the takeover in the first place. I’ve looked in the papers, in the libraries, everywhere, but can’t find any more info on the facility than what you’ve given me. I’m really sorry, but that’s all I can say for now.”

    He sighed. As much as it frustrated him, they had found no leads at all, even after months of sifting through all the contacts, as there was no other trace of the GeL project’s existence anywhere. It was like finding a needle in a haystack, or perhaps a less-cliched human idiom to the same effect.

    I see. Again, I’m sorry if I’m being a pain.”

    “Don’t be silly, Shine. If I wasn’t interested, I never would’ve started this documentary business in the first place. You’re doing fine. Personally, I’d just sit on it for a few days and come back later, we both deserve a bit of a break from it.”

    Shine winced as a wooden brush combed through his thick fur.

    “Maybe you could pass on your special skills to another Pokemon looking to connect with their trainers, if it’d help take your mind off things.”

    Perhaps.” He had quite a bit of fun teaching Bobby arithmetic and parts of the human tongue, as he learned during his first year at GeL, but aside from that, he found little motivation to teach every Pokemon in Ambrette that language. There were only a few that had similar skills to him, and they usually had business somewhere else.

    “Or maybe, you could get yourself a treat, like a turnover or another good book to read. I don’t mind spoiling you if that’s what you want.”

    Thanks, but the library’s enough for me. Besides, I don’t want to sponge off of you too much, if that’s what they call it.”

    Tony chuckled as he turned the water off and patted Shine dry with the towel. “I really don’t mind. Look at me though, Shine.”

    He obliged and looked into his trainer’s eyes, which visibly smiled even though he couldn’t see the mouth through that electric-resistant mask.

    “You’ve got to enjoy yourself more. You’re here where it’s peaceful, and you have freedoms that a lot of Pokemon wouldn’t dream of having without your skills. Why not make the most of it?”

    A pang of guilt nestled in Shine’s gut. As much as he wanted to keep up with Tony’s boundless energy, he always found himself lagging behind. There were still the memories that revisited him, some good, but buried by the rest. The eye. The arm. The smell of burning fur. The taste of oxidation. The screams. The broken dreams. But he was free from that now. At least, he hoped so. His eye moistened as those fragments of time resurfaced, and Tony embraced him, hugging him tight through that suit. It felt strangely comforting even as the rubber stuck to Shine’s coat.

    “It’s alright, it’s alright. You don’t need to worry anymore.”

    I-I know,” Shine said through his sniffles. “I-I’ll try to en-enjoy today. T-thanks.”

    After Tony dried him off, the two made small talk over a breakfast of Tepig rashers about the things Tony experienced on his marine trips, including taking a selfie with a Mantine, which temporarily made Shine forget about his worries. After his trainer waved goodbye to head for work, though, the house was silent once more. Shine laid down on the couch for a minute, staring at the clock that ticked constantly, and sighed.

    There were so many hours left in the day, yet he was still waiting for it to pass. He had to get out of there, even if it was temporary, and so, Shine walked through his door flap out of the apartment complex and into the sunlit streets of Ambrette Town. His collar jingled proudly as he padded along the pavement. The townsfolk passed, nonplussed to the Luxray's presence, with some familiar, yet nameless faces greeting Shine, alongside their Pokemon that stared on with passing interest, while he looked straight on and made his way to the library.

    His presence there was welcomed by the members of staff, who had gotten used to the prospect of a visiting Luxray at that point, and attended to his needs, retrieving a fantasy book for him to sink his teeth into and newspapers for him to leaf through. He took those in his maw and laid them out in the garden in the shady spot underneath a tree.

    There, he read under the cool spot, and moments later, a Murkrow appeared, fluttering towards him before perching on a bit of tree bark. Her name was Bauble, and she wore a red string anklet above her foot, which she shook proudly to Shine.

    “Why Shine!” she cawed, wiggling her three toes, “Someone tied this for me! Do you like it?”

    “Yes,” he said with a smile, “It suits you.”

    “And so does your collar!” It didn’t take long for her to stick her beak into Shine’s neck, fiddling about with the red accessory Tony had given him. “I bet it’ll look great in my collection!”

    He shook his head, almost whipping Bauble in the face with his mane in an effort to get her off.

    “You’re not stealing this again. You don’t just take from other people.”

    “Sure I do!” she said with a grin below her beak, “But anyway, you know what I came for, so let’s get to it!”

    He hummed a reply and the two nuzzled close to each other. Shine got his paws on the Regional Roundup first, as Bauble liked to hear about events happening within Kalos, particularly those that centred around Pokemon related affairs. When Shine read on his own, he would read about a variety of topics, from book reviews to political features, but mainly, because there was some hope left he would find out more about the GeL project from there, or the whereabouts of the remaining subjects. However, once when he attempted to read a piece about Kalos’ national debt, Bauble flew off in a huff, so whenever they were together, Shine made sure to read on her interest level.

    “Whozzat?"

    There was a picture of a Machoke holding up a championship belt triumphantly. Although he had no interest in sports, Shine knew him as Rex Revolver. On the top however, was the headline 'REX RETIRES!' with the caption 'Consecutive four year Machampion calls it quits!'

    "He seems pretty satisfied!" Bauble said.

    "He's quitting."

    "Aw. Well that sucks."

    "Do you want me to read on?"

    "Eh, don't care for sports."

    Having said that, Bauble still had her biases. They continued on, flicking from page to page. The next article of interest had a picture of camera footage, with a group of Scraggy and Scrafty crowding around something in the middle. Shine read out the headings.

    "Scraggy Syndrome - Should we arrest criminal Pokémon?"

    Bauble crowed in anger.

    "That's the stupidest thing I've heard in a while! Why don’t they just let us be! Do humans really get paid to write this crap?”

    "Yes, depending on whether or not they're freelance, they can either get paid for each article they write or..." Shine trailed off, realising that he was going off a tangent. It was pointless to explain to someone of Bauble’s fleeting interest all the intricacies of the judicial system, and how there was essentially none for Pokemon, allowing the police or trainers to take matters into their own hands, for better or for worse.

    "I don’t really have a good answer for that."

    "They shouldn't be paid at all if you ask me!"

    Shine brushed aside her comment and continued looking.

    "Oh, Shine!" Bauble said. "When can I see your film?"

    “Probably never at this rate,” he said, not taking his eye off the paper.

    "What?" Bauble screeched, "Why not? Do you hate me?"

    "Trust me, it has nothing to do with that. We've worked on it a lot, but doesn't look like we have the right angle for it yet."

    "Can't I take one little peek at it?"

    "It's not up to me, I'm afraid. It's mostly Tony's project, since he's the one putting it all together."

    "Forget Tony! Why not do it when he's out?"

    Shine sighed. Perhaps he shouldn’t have let it slip to a random Pokemon that frequently tried to steal from him. But she already expressed interest in their project, so it was too late to say no at that point.

    “I’ll consider it.”

    Bauble pouted and turned her head dismissively.

    “Whatever. Continue.”

    “A Future Without Cars - Gogoat leads to less congestion, study finds.”

    “Boring,” Bauble said. “Slow news day, isn’t it?”

    “A little,” Shine muttered.

    When Shine turned the next page, the photo sent a chill through Shine’s spine. The picture, taking up half the page, featured a night-time scene of a Lucario throwing a punch at a gathering of shadows, where the most important detail was their left arm. The arm they used to punch with wasn’t the same length as the other, had five fingers instead of three paws, and shone like a jewel underneath the street-lamps. Shine's heart leapt in his chest. He brought himself as close to the photo as possible, checking the details of the arm multiple times to see if it really was like that Lucario’s, and more after that, trying to prove himself wrong. But after the seventh time, there was no doubt about it. The Lucario in that picture had an artificial arm.

    The Lucario in that picture was none other than one of the old subjects of GeL: Curio.

    “T-that’s her!" he exclaimed.

    “Whozzer?” Bauble shrieked. “Read the darn paper, why don’t ya? It’s the only interestin’ thing here so far!”

    Shine almost leapt from his spot. All he wanted was to run to Tony’s workplace and tell him they had a lead, but when he thought about the context behind the photo, he anchored himself down and read through the article.

    “A Lucario was spotted at night battling against the gang of Pokemon, believed to be known as the ‘Thousand Claws’, who have terrorised Dendemille Town ever since their arrival, with burglaries and reported kidnappings of other Pokemon. The altercation lasted only a minute as they dispersed when the police came. So far, the details of the Lucario are elusive, but as they have speech skills similar to that of humans, they are wanted for questioning by the force, as they’re believed to be a part of the rogue criminals.”

    Shine’s eye widened upon reading that last sentence.

    “Bless the white god’s tail!”

    Shine ignored Bauble’s cries of protest as he stuffed the newspaper in his mouth and made a beeline for the library’s exit, dashing off further into town where the coast was to Tony's workplace. He didn't care how fast he went or whether or not he accidentally bumped into things on his way.

    He didn't even slow down when he reached the cliff-side, going only by inertia and almost fell off the edge, kicking a few pebbles off the cliff face in the process, but staggered back to his feet and carried on his route.

    Eventually, Shine reached the coast where the main part of Ambrette Town sat, rushed past the aquarium over to the neighbouring Marine Conservation Centre, and charged through the entrance into the reception. He remembered where Tony's office was, which was by his right, and without thinking, ran towards the direction of the door.

    “Hey hey hey!” an unfamiliar voice of an old man called. “What do you think you’re doing here?!”

    Shine spat the newspaper out. “Sorry, my trainer’s in there, I have to speak to him!”

    Shine balanced himself on his hindpaws to pull the handle down, but when he did, the door wouldn’t open. It was locked. Shine glanced at the old man who was practically white with confusion, mumbling to the other person at the desk who Shine knew as Ines, the communications head. No interaction with her ended in a friendly conversation, but regardless, Shine thought it best to explain his situation to someone familiar with Tony. He padded over to the desk, balancing on his tip-toes and making eye-contact with Ines, who shot him a glare that could’ve frozen the air around them.”

    “Shine, I’m going to have to ask you to leave.”

    Please miss Ines, let me explain myself, I need to--”

    “Everyone in there, including Tony, is busy taking care of something important, and we’re trying to bluff our way out of a PR disaster. They can’t have anybody else coming in no matter what for the whole day.”

    But--”

    She retracted a Pokeball from her belt and held it towards Shine.

    “I said you can’t come in no matter what. If you don’t leave, you’ll have to answer to Tundremie.”

    Even for Ines, this was rather cold for her. Each time Shine wanted to visit Tony on-break, she often refused to let him in unless either of them gave notice, but there, she turned him down instantly. Her treatment always seemed unfair to him, and she seemed to have a bias against Pokemon in general, but he understood Tony had to deal with delicate situations if a rescued Pokemon ever went into surgery, and besides, dealing with her Aurorus was another issue entirely. Despite the burning sensation in his paws, he took a deep breath and relaxed his stance.

    Can you at least pass a message to him, please?”

    She lowered her Pokeball but didn’t change her glacial expression otherwise.

    “Make it quick.”

    Shine rushed over to where he dropped the newspaper and picked it back up, propping it onto Ines’ desk.

    Tell him to read page twelve.”

    “I’ll see if I have time to, now please, we’ve got calls to make here.” Her expression softened, letting her guard down for just a moment. “Sorry.”

    He walked out of the centre with pent-up energy surging through him. When the beach came in sight, he took off towards it and vented his frustrations through his run, kicking sand everywhere he went and tasting the burn of the seaweed nearby.

    After five years of waiting and not knowing anyone’s whereabouts, something had surfaced from the ashes, but the most burning question, amongst many others was what happened to force the two to separate in the first place. He slowed down his pace to a brisk walk as the realization dawned on him. What was that Sinnohan Pokemon doing in Dendemille, or getting involved with dangerous Pokemon for that matter? Was she docile or was she a threat? And even more than that, trying to get his answers meant he would have to cross half the region to get to that town, which was easier said than done.

    He could’ve ran all the way through the wild, leaving him to face the indifferent wildlife all on his own, and Curio might not’ve been there by the time he arrived, if he lived through that. Going by train would save a lot of time, but it would’ve been much faster to rent a flying Pokemon. Not even the fastest trains in the world held a candle to a Dragonite; if he could find a ranch that owned one, it would’ve taken an hour to get to Dendemille. The only issue was cost.

    Pokemon could hop on buses and trains for free as long as it wasn’t during peak hours and fitted the size and weight limit, but transport by flying Pokemon was a different matter entirely. The handlers were the ones in charge, and their services to pilot the Pokemon required payment just like any other human selling goods. The faster the Pokemon, the more their fliers were likely to charge. He wasn’t sure how much it was for a Dragonite exactly, but probably a lot. He thought about putting his plan into fruition, but when he took the time to consider it, he stopped in his tracks.

    Doing all of that meant he would have to venture on his own accord, without Tony’s help or anyone else in Ambrette town that knew him. Having stayed with his trainer for so long in the comfort of his abode, he was at a loss for himself, and since he was so busy at that moment, he couldn’t run his plans through him first. And so, Shine slowly padded back to the apartment, tail dragging on the ground beneath him, and even as he stepped through the flap, his mind was in a muddle.

    His stomach rumbled as it approached noon. It would probably be good to grab some lunch, and as he headed towards the kitchen, the window above the sink tapped. Bauble came flying in through the open slit, which she often did whenever they didn’t meet straight at the library.

    “Care to tell me why you dashed off like that?” she cawed, her beak pointed downwards.

    “Oh, sorry,” Shine said. “Something came up, so I want to head to Dendemille later.”

    "What? How in the world are you gonna get there?"

    "I don’t know yet. At the moment, I’m not even sure if it’s worth it yet, unless the trip is quick."

    "And what’re you thinkin’?"

    "Well, do you know if there’s a ranch nearby that takes care of Dragonite?"

    "Hmm," Bauble said, turning her head away. "There might be. But. But-but-but." She looked at Shine with a cunning smile. "What would you give me in return if I did know there was one? Perhaps, your collar?"

    "Excuse me?" Shine sputtered. "What is your obsession with my collar?"

    "Oh nothing, it just looks so nice! Besides, I think I deserve something for being abandoned."

    “My collar is--” He paused. Bauble had asked for his collar since she met him, which got tiring. Tony had given it to him as a present when he got his trainer license, which was why he’d been reluctant for her to snatch it off him. If he gave it up, that would mean betraying him. Then it dawned on him that was the reason he had been so reluctant to travel in the first place. Since time was of the essence at that point, Shine steeled his resolve. It was time to tear off the band-aid. He hesitated before he lifted his neck up for the intruding Murkrow.

    “Fine. Come and get it, then.”

    Bauble flew to the back of Shine’s neck to unclasp his collar and ran her beak through his fur, which tickled a little, but within seconds, the collar released and Bauble held what was Tony’s memento in her mouth. Seeing how pleased Bauble was with her prize, Shine felt a knot of guilt tie itself in his stomach. Nevertheless, his goal was more important than keeping himself leashed to some sort of tradition.

    "Are there Dragonite, Bauble?"

    "Why yeth, there are," she said, slightly muffled by what she was holding. "You haff money for that, yeth?"

    "I'll sort that out in a minute. If you don't mind, can you wait outside for me while I get the cash?"

    "Cointh?" Shine anticipated she would ask about that, as if she imagined there was a vault in the flat that had a pool of solid gold she could gawk at.

    "Bills.”

    "Aw."

    As soon as Bauble hopped out of the door with the collar, Shine’s eye flickered gold, which turned on his special vision to find the safe in Tony's bedroom closet.

    Tony was the one that taught Shine how to use money in the real world. While his days in the facility gave him the knowledge of basic arithmetic earlier on, to even differential equations in his later years, currency was alien to him in such a closed-off environment. Not long after the two officially partnered up, Tony shared the code to his safe, as he trusted Shine to only use it for emergencies. He hadn't needed to use it in the two years he stayed in Tony's flat. This, however, was an emergency. A largely personal emergency, but an emergency nonetheless.

    Unfortunately, the safe wasn't Pokémon friendly, as the code could only be punched in on a small keypad. He had to type in the code with his muzzle, which took a few tries but once he entered the right combination, it opened with a satisfying click, revealing the vast amounts of money inside. He gasped at the sight of it, which held seemingly endless stacks of paper, but he would only take what he needed however. The price of the Dragonite, he didn't know, but if he had to guess, it would be around 20000 Pokedollars, so he took ten 2000 bills out and after counting it twice over with his paws, Shine locked the safe door shut.

    Travelling to the middle of nowhere with a loose stash of bills in his mouth was undesirable, especially as a Pokémon, so Shine searched in Tony's drawers for a little bag he could bundle them in. He found a small drawstring bag, stuffed the bills in it, then placed it in his mouth. Now he was ready to go.

    As he made his way to the door, however, Shine realised what he was about to do: fly half the region to see someone that might not even be there and hadn’t met in half his life. As unsure as he was though, he needed answers to unlock his past, and if Curio’s reappearance helped him retrieve those again, it would’ve been worth it.

    But something still nagged at him, as he also realised how much it would worry Tony to travel for a few days unannounced, so he backtracked to Tony's bedroom and got out a pen and a pad. Gripping the pen with his mouth, Shine wrote as best as he could on the lined paper.

    'Looking for a Lucario. Will be back in a few days - S.'

    With that, Shine picked the money-bag back up and left the flat.

    Bauble had waited on the railing, absent-mindedly staring out into the noon sky, and when Shine came back, she took the drawstring bag in her talons and wrapped it around Shine’s neck, which he supposed was an adequate enough replacement for the collar.

    She glided over to the road at the other end of the block, leaving Shine to follow her, and when they got close enough, she flew off again, gliding into the distance up the main street, and although it took some time for each other to find their rhythm, once the two knew each other's patterns of movement, Bauble no longer had to wait for Shine to catch up as he ran after her. They went further up the road, reached the outskirts of Ambrette towards the more mountainous areas of land where the ground got more bumpy, and to a path that sat outside of the forest of Route 9.

    Travelling through the dappled path, with the open space in front of him and the quiet rustling of the leaves overhead gave him time to reflect, making him remember something before he dashed off to Tony.

    “I think I might’ve stolen that library’s newspaper.”

    “Yeah, so?” Bauble cawed. “It’s just paper.”

    “I suppose.”

    They continued their trek in silence, and when the two arrived, Shine saw the most dragons he had ever seen in one area. When he first heard of the ranches, he didn't know what to expect with how it was organised, however, what he saw was separated by a fence was an open field, as the dragon types and dragon-looking Pokemon freely flew around the area and ran through the shallow grass. There were Charizard, Dragonite, Salamence, Goodra and all the like, but as well as that, their young accompanied them in their previous evolutions. While most species kept within their own circles, there were a few that freely mingled with others scattered across.

    Plenty of humans operated the field as well. Some tended to their own Pokémon by feeding them, playing with them or resting by them, and others worked in the farmland area separate from the Pokémon area. There was so much happening at once there, Shine didn't know where to start. It made him feel dizzy looking at it, trying to keep a track of all the activity there and turning his head back and forth to where his blindside couldn't see.

    It was kind of similar to how the facility functioned during its golden age, except outdoors and less densely packed. He supposed some things never changed.

    He remembered what he came there for however, and padded over to the closest barn on the path, with Bauble hopping alongside him on the fence. When he reached the entrance, Shine was greeted by a woman dressed head to toe in flight gear, who drew her hand close to her belt, seemingly cautious of the two that approached her.

    "If you've come here to steal our crops, beat it," she said.

    Shine gulped as he mustered up the confidence to speak.

    "Um, I need a ride to Dendemille Town as quickly as possible, please." To complete the request, he bowed politely to her. The woman took off her visor, not taken completely off guard but still revealing her surprise as she arched an eyebrow.

    "Well I'll be. Did that Murkrow bring you here?"

    Shine nodded, and the woman gave him a pointed look.

    "Well I must apologise. I don't know what she told you, but we don't make no exceptions for Pokémon. Even you have to pay."

    "No problem. I'm looking to buy a Dragonite."

    Upon hearing this, the lady chortled, holding her fist in front of her hand to stifle herself.

    "A Dragonite? Good one! Where in Arceus' crack did you find that much money to buy one?"

    "It’s hanging by my neck."

    The woman laughed again, slapping her knee.

    "Naw, naw, I apologise, I believe ya. Forgive me for bein’ so rude." She took a deep breath and presented her gloved hand to him.

    "Name's Adele. Pleasure to do business with ya. What's yours?"

    "Shine.”

    "Cool! If you'll follow me to the field, I'll walk you through what we have."

    Adele jumped over the fence. Before Shine could follow, he winced as Bauble's beak tugged at his fur.

    "Yeah, I'm kind of banned here, so I'll take my leave now. I hope whatever you're doing in Dendemille works out for you."

    Shine partly wondered what she did to earn such ire from the rancher, but he smiled anyway and bowed to his sticky-beaked helper.

    "Thanks. Enjoy your collar."

    "Will do!" Bauble gave an appreciative chirp and swooped up in the air, disappearing past the trees.

    Shine crawled under the fence and caught up with Adele as they weaved through the field. Already, he sensed the attention he was getting from a group of Charmander nearby who all stared at him and talked amongst themselves from a distance. As he couldn’t hear them, he brushed it aside.

    "If you don't mind me asking," Adele said, "Where'd you learn to speak so well?"

    "Through a caring enough trainer and lots of practice," Shine said, which was half true.

    "You don't say. All things considered, you speak much better than half of my workers on the farm!"

    "I wouldn't say that."

    "Don't humble yourself. Actually, we've tried our hand at teaching our Pokémon here to speak, and it ain't easy, let me tell you. We've had problems finding other Pokémon that speak like us for the job, so we do it ourselves, and some of them can carry conversations, but they've still got a helluva way to go. Others though, they have no focus for it whatsoever. I can't even get one peep out of them before they fly off!"

    Shine couldn't help but laugh, thinking back to how often he stumbled in the language tests at first.

    "It is always the hardest trying to get the first word out, after all. If it's not in their nature, leave them be."

    "I don't know, we've been surprised before. Still, a Pokémon such as yourself is somewhat of a rarity around these parts. It's hard to—"

    She paused as a glob of green slime splashed over her glasses from her left side, which came from a Goodra who waved at Adele with a slimy paw. She chortled as she wiped off the gunk and approached the dragon.

    "Hell-o A-dell," the Goodra pronounced carefully in the human tongue.

    "Good to see you too, Petri." She welcomed the Goodra with open arms and didn't hesitate to hug Petri as he coated her with more slime.

    "How's the lessons coming along?"

    "Slow and a-nnoy-ing. But not bad."

    "It'll get better," Shine chimed in, bringing Petri's attention to him. "I found it hard to string together words as well."

    Petri gasped, clutching his chest with his paw. "A new tea-cher?"

    "Nope," Adele said, "Just a visitor of ours."

    "O-K." Petri gave a disappointed smile.

    "Sorry, we gotta go Petri. I'll come back in a bit. See you then!"

    Adele waved to Petri which he returned, and also waved in Shine's direction. He nodded before catching up with Adele, who was still covered in slime.

    "Does that come off easily?" Shine said.

    "Depends. You hardly notice it after a while."

    Perhaps it was easier for humans to get slime off their clothes, but he winced at the thought of getting it stuck in his fur.

    The two reached the part of the field where the Dragonite congregated, a group of five who were all huddled around each other.

    "Attention!" she shouted, and the Dragonite all turned to face her. She counted them all with her finger, then pointed to a blank space.

    "Lyra.” The Dragonite on the far left took a step forward. "Would you be so kind to fetch Accendare, please?"

    They nodded. Shine couldn't even see them flap their wings before he had to shield himself from the gust of wind, and when he opened his eye, Lyra was nowhere to be seen in the sky. After a moment, he saw the two approaching from the air and flinched upon their landing as the ground rumbled, getting a crowd of laughter from the Dragonite already on land. Once he recovered, he eyed Accendare, whose ribs stuck out slightly and seemed smaller compared to the rest, with the addition of a Postmon’s pager around their ankle. They looked off into the distance with their arms crossed.

    “Good! Now,” Adele turned to Shine, “What’s your poison?”

    The Dragonite gossiped on their own.

    “What is a Luxray doing here?”

    “By golly, he must be loaded!”

    “He can’t be serious.”

    Who’s the fastest?” Shine asked, mostly for curiosity’s sake.

    “Well, that’d be Bally!” She pointed to the Dragonite in the middle, who was the tallest of the bunch. “Easy to handle, and can reach the peak of Snowbelle City in just an hour.”

    Bally gave Shine a smug smile. So he could’ve gotten to Dendemille in half an hour.

    How much?”

    “Ninety thousand!”

    Shine had anticipated the steep price tag just to see how far up he could go.

    And who’s the cheapest?”

    “Figure you’d say that next.” She pointed to Accendare. “You know this lil’ stowaway’s name. I don’t know how urgent your situation is, but she’ll do a good enough job for you if your only destination is Dendemille. She can get there in roughly an hour and a quarter if you don’t mind the bumpy ride.”

    It wasn’t exactly within the hour, but it was close enough and much better than he expected for the cheapest. Dragonite truly were first rate.

    How much?”

    “Thirty thousand!”

    Oh,” he whispered. Somewhere, he had miscalculated how much he needed. Speed, handle-ability and rarity were his first standards of measurement, but there must have been something forgotten in the rush.

    I see. I’m ten thousand short, unfortunately.”

    There was a collective sigh from the group of Dragonite.

    “I might as well mention this is a very generous price around these parts. You might get cheaper further east, but for what’s available here, that’s a bargain.”

    That was it. He forgot to take availability into factor as well. Adele grunted as she retrieved Shine’s pouch from her pocket and knelt down to Shine. Only then did he realise how foolish he must have looked.

    Sorry for wasting your time,” Shine said.

    “Nonsense!” She smiled. “I completely understand. We haven’t had a customer like you come to our ranch before, so you’ve made it worth my while!”

    I see. Well, thank you.”

    He bowed once more before turning back to the path. That was it. He’d have to return home to Tony, to his peaceful neighbourhood, to his mediocre life since leaving the facility with his questions unanswered. The train was still a possibility to travel through, but by taking the longer route, he risked losing his only other lead to fully understanding his past. As he pondered this, he saw Petri, the Goodra from earlier in the distance. Thinking back to the conversation he had with Adele about finding teachers for the Pokémon on the ranch, he couldn’t help smile at what he had in mind. Once more, Shine turned to Adele who was checking on Accendare.

    Adele!” he shouted.

    Adele faced him again with a confused look.

    I’ll pay the twenty thousand for Accendare, and work for as long as it takes to teach Petri to speak properly!”

    A glint appeared in Adele’s eyes and she clapped her hands together.

    “Now we’re talking business! As long as you’re fine with it being unpaid work, we’re square!”

    I don’t mind.”

    “Good!” Adele gently undid the pouch from Shine’s neck and opened it, counting its contents, 20000 Poke dollars in ten bills, before making it disappear into her jacket.

    “We need to make sure you'll come back to us to start your first lesson, so me and Accendare will be there to pick you up in two days at the most.”

    Two days?” he asked. Even he wasn’t sure he would be able to get Curio back in that time.

    “Yup. We can’t make the returning time too open, otherwise it’ll be like you’re getting a trip for free. Is that fine with you?”

    Shine looked to his side. Again, he wasn’t certain Curio would still be there, but he had nothing to lose by not taking up the offer except his trainer’s money.

    Yes, but I might need to bring a friend of mine back here.”

    "Same size as you?"

    "She's a Lucario."

    "Fine. The spikes might be a problem, but it's doable. In that case, we'll be there at 2PM on Wednesday, so don't forget that. Oh, one more thing." Adele approached Shine and knelt down to his level, uncomfortably close to his face with a serious expression.

    "We kinda have a serious policy on customers paying us back. If you try to weasel your way out of it or aren't there in time two days from now, well, your ass is grass."

    "I can assure you I'll be there."

    Adele backed away from him, smiling again.

    "Good! Ahem." She pulled out a walkie talkie and spoke into it. "You two! Accendare's gear please, on the double!"

    A moment later, two young assistants, a scruffy boy and a ribboned girl, lugged the gear in front of Adele, and she commanded them to tend to Accendare, who held up her paws in the air for them to equip her. The scruffy looking boy tried to wrap the harness around Accendare's arms, who knelt down with all four paws on the ground, and took one step to the side in an effort to pull the strap back, but missed and ended up slipping off of her, catching Accendare's arm with the loose strap which made her shriek.

    "Damn it, I told you to be careful!" Adele said, stomping over to let the boy down. "The last thing I need you to do is to hurt Accy!

    "Sorry miss," he said, looking up at her with guilty eyes.

    "Never mind, I'll handle this from here on out. Clearly, you need more training. Girl, you've done a good job, so that's it for now. Go take him back and make him run a lap across the field."

    The ribboned apprentice nodded and left with the glum looking boy. Adele leaned in to stroke Accendare's head.

    "It'll get more comfy with time, sweetie. That clod really doesn't make it easy for you, does he?"

    Accendare shook her head in reply.

    “There there.” She turned to Shine. “Shall we?”

    From there, Accendare went on all fours, presenting the saddle on her back. Adele offered a hand to Shine, gesturing to pick him up, and he sat in her arm as she climbed up Accendare to the front. She placed him in one of the empty backseats of the saddle which were mostly fit for humans but not Pokémon that weren’t bipedal. Nevertheless, he gripped the belt in front of him with ease, but a chill washed over him when he realised he was on the back of a dragon that could cycle the globe in less than a day.

    “Accendare, any tips for first timers?”

    “Um, hold on for dear life?” she said. He couldn’t see her face, but he imagined she looked quite nervous herself. “Oh, and um, thanks for picking me by the way.”

    “You’re welcome.”

    With that, the Dragonite leaned forward and started flapping her wings, sending a wave of movement through the seat, where Shine lightly bobbed up and down. Adele gently raised the bridle, and Accendare’s wings beat, progressively getting more rapid. Eventually, the ground below Shine felt weightless. Accendare was in the air.

    The rest of the dragons cleared the way, each flying to opposite ends of the field; the young were either picked up on the way or were left to rush to their parents as quickly as possible. Then Adele whipped the bridle.

    Accendare burst forward, slapping Shine across the face with a burst of wind. The ranch was behind him in an instant, and next, the trees all became a blur of green, and a blur of brown as they passed the cliffs. All the while, Shine had no time to process the level of speed he was riding at. Already, the spike in speed left him feeling dizzy, but all he could focus on was holding onto the strap and not letting go. It was something he never wanted to experience again, but the two motivating thoughts were finding Curio and by extension, regaining his lost past.
     
    Last edited: Dec 2, 2018
  2. Namohysip

    Namohysip Well-Known Member

    Bi-weekly, huh? Hopefully it won’t be too hard for me to follow that sort of thing. Like I had told you before, the upload rate is actually going to be pretty fast on my side, and my chapters are a liiiittle shorter than this first one.


    __


    Hello. I told you that I’d be trying to keep up with your fic and at least give it a shot, so here I am! I haven’t read a single word yet. But I am going to give it a read. I figured it you’re doing an update wave, it’d be the perfect time for me to jump on! I just… hope you don’t upload too fast, or this first chapter (about 6.8k, I think) isn’t the normal trend, because if you’re uploading about 14k words per week, that’ll be hard for me to keep up with! Anyway, enough about upload worries, I’ll look at the actual story now.


    Hopefully I’ll be of some use to you. I know absolutely nothing about your fic except it has a Lucario with a crazy arm. Frankly I wasn’t even sure which one was Curio. So this will be a fresh perspective on your updated version.


    As is tradition, let me take a look at the very first sentence of the fic, the most important sentence. You do well to set the general scene. Sunlit, so it’s daytime, and given that the gravel is burning, suggesting that it’s perhaps noontime? And then we have Luxray, dashing through regardless, clearly in a rush. Overall, a good sentence that sets up the basics of the scene. The following few sentences of the paragraph are a little weaker. I’m a bit confused at the “bare dirt” and “gravel” at the same time—it’s a mixture? I’m not sure what you mean by gravel now. And pursuers! So we’re definitely in medias res right now. Starting right in the action. Classic start.

    Eh, so it’s not PMD? Bah! I’m out.


    __


    Ahh, good. The prelude was not a flash-forward! Those tend to bug me. Instead, it was something that happened long ago, and now we’re in present day. That’s fine.


    Figuratively, or…?

    One, that’s racist. Two, that’s also PMD.


    __


    I’m about halfway through the chapter based on what the scroll bar is telling me, and it seems that we’ve already got a general goal in mine for Shine—find Curio. It’s a bit of a vague goal, but maybe for a Luxray it won’t be as difficult as it would be for a human in the same circumstances. The world is coming together slightly, though at this point I’m just following whatever Shine does. The interactions with Bauble are pretty fun, though.


    Wait. Dragon ranch. Charizard? C’mon! What’s that wannabe doing in there?! I guess they meant the Dragon egg group or something.



    Yooo, a Goodra! That talks! I feel right at home already.

    Mob feelings intensify.



    Hmm, this is a somewhat weak ending sentence. Like, I basically already know that this is what Shane—ugh, I mean, Shine—gonna need some time to get used to that name when I’m reading two fics with names one letter off—We already know that he’s trying to recover his past, to an extent, and Curio is the key to that. But all the elements are there. We have his motivation and the wind. If those were just tied together a bit more strongly…! Soemthing about the wind threatening to knocking him away, but his thoughts about Curio and her being a possible key to her past gluing him down? Eh, maybe not.

    This first chapter was very wide but not too deep. Lots of setup. Lots of tidbits about the world to take in that I didn't quite fully process. Lots of things going on that I don't know are important or not. If they're all important, I'm probably going to need reminders as they're revisited, even if they're subtle ones. Or maybe that's just my inexperience with non-PMD talking, or having such autonomous Pokemon in a non-PMD setting. That in itself isn't a problem, since it's established right at the start, but, you know. Still different.

    Well! That’s chapter 1! I hope I don’t procrastinate and I can actually keep up with this. I just hope the chapters aren’t as long as this one if you’re gonna upload twice a week. Hoo! That’s blazing, even for me! But I’m still interested, so that’s a plus. Let’s see where this story takes me.


    Thanks for the read!
     
    NebulaDreams likes this.
  3. NebulaDreams

    NebulaDreams A Dense Irritating Miniature Beast of Burden

    Thanks for reviewing, @Namohysip! I'm glad I could get you on board with this rebooted version of the fic so far! With your comments about the first chapter, yeah, I sort of expected that to be a problem with the starting chapters in particular, in that there's a lot of setup before digging into the meat of the story. Since I'm starting a lot of things from the ground-up in terms of the Pokemon world, while also setting up a grand plot such as this, it's bound to cast a very wide net at first. Still, the first chapter I presented here seems like a huge improvement from the old version, so that's a plus.

    The Curious and The Shiny Chapter 2. Dendemille’s Pests

    The first thing Shine did when Accendare landed was topple to the ground and throw up. His head swam, his face felt like it was melting, and his body generally felt unpleasant. At that time, he didn’t want to think about Tony back home, about Bauble or anything else. He locked himself up in his little bubble, only burst by the presence of Accendare and Adele beside him.

    “Oh dear,” Accendare exclaimed. “Are you alright there? I wasn’t that bad, was I?”

    No response.

    “Man, the trip really took the wind out of your sails, huh?” Adele said. “Hold on, I might be able to help you.”

    Shine ingested some sort of tangy liquid, and after a moment, coherent thoughts formed again, and in time, the haze over his body cleared up. He looked to Adele with a weary expression.

    “Thank you,” he said.

    “Don’t mention it. First timers usually get sick, although most first timers don’t usually opt for a Dragonite. Can you stand?”

    He slowly got to his feet and tried to stretch, but after such a long ride, his legs were too tired for him to keep a proper balance, so he toppled to the floor.

    “Well, this is embarrassing.”

    “Oh tosh, with that sort of speed, it’s no wonder you’re tuckered out! Don’t worry, it’ll pass if you get a lil’ rest.”

    “I’ll be fine from here on out then.” He forced a smile.

    “In that case, take care, and don’t forget our agreement now!”

    “I promise I won’t.”

    “Hold on, um, Mister Shine,” Accendare chimed in. “Can I join in with Petri’s lesson as well?”

    “I don’t see why not.”

    “Thanks,” she said with a wan smile before flapping her wings again. Adele waved him goodbye and with one flick of her wrist, Accendare took off, blasting him in the face with wind.

    When Shine eventually came to, he recognised he stood in a park with a big wooden gazebo at the very edge, and the few people strolling through were already looking his direction, undoubtedly weirded out by the air-delivered Luxray. He tried to ignore them and looked further into the distance, where past a surrounding cluster of trees, there were cottages and wooden houses that snaked up a series of hills, topped with a windmill whose blades swirled in the air.

    Once his legs regained some semblance of strength, he paced around idly, trying to reorient himself with the sensation of walking and to figure out where he could ask around. His first thought was to find the town square, and so Shine padded over to the park’s exit and continued down the main road.

    In his journey through the paths of Dendemille, he walked out the stiffness in his joints, and by strolling through the picturesque landscapes of the area, with the mixture of white, pink, and red flower petals flittering down and the scent of vanilla gently wafting in the air, he calmed his nerves from the ride. At least, until he had to interrogate the strangers in town.

    In time he found the main square and upon entering the plaza, the presence seemed different from what he was used to in Ambrette. The area was less densely populated, and whereas there was always activity from the coastal Pokémon flying in and the amount of tourists the town gathered during summertime, he found Dendemille more or less beat to the tune of its own drum. Many older trainers drifted in and out of the town’s hub, dressed in plain-clothes or overalls, with their farming Pokémon almost as tall as them by their side, with only a few younger trainers to be seen, presumably in transit to the next city.

    A dozen of market stalls stood in the centre, most of which were run by trainers with different assortments of training paraphernalia and farmers with their crops or fresh meat, while an old trader sat quietly under a tent with makeshift shelves of books surrounding him.

    He was the first person Shine could think of to ask about Curio’s whereabouts. Usually, Shine would’ve been anxious confronting strangers on his own, even with his skills, but the excitement of finding the lead outweighed any embarrassment he’d subject himself to. Perhaps on instinct, as someone he expected was well read probably had the most information about local affairs, he padded over to the tent, glancing over to the shelves to see if there was anything interesting he could look up later back home. He poked his nose into the trader’s inventory where old paper wafted in the air, something of a comfort to Shine’s affinity for books.

    “’Lo there,” the trader said, making Shine jump. “Don’t worry, I know you’re ‘armless. I’ve not ‘idden any meat in those books, though I do’ave a treat if you’re ‘ungry.”

    “Um, no thank you, sir,” Shine said, bowing. “Do you have any time to spare?”

    The trader smiled.

    “Well, I’m chuffed to ‘elp out any well spoken Pokémon. Don’t usually see your kind outside them big cities.”

    “Mmm hmm. Have you seen a Lucario with a metal arm around here recently?”

    “You mean Curio?” the trader asked, scratching his balding head. “’aven’t seen her myself, but I’ve ‘eard plenty about ‘er. She’s a right old troublemaker, ‘pparently.” He leafed through his own copy of The Regional Roundup. “She went at those Claws, she did.”

    “Yes, I read that, but the police think she might have something to do with them. You don’t think she’s a part of some criminal gang, do you?”

    “Well I don’t know. Just what I’ve ‘eard. She’s stirred up plenty of trouble before, so I wouldn’t put it past ‘er.”

    That neither confirmed or denied Shine’s fears.

    “Um, what else has she done in this town to cause such a fuss?”

    “Broke into that vineyard, for starters.” He pointed at the windmill in the distance. “That thing’s protected by a gate, you see, and from what I read, she climbed over it and destroyed a lot of crops on the way, then bam, out again.”

    “Oh.” It wasn’t what he hoped to hear at all. The trader must’ve seen the worry on his face as he gave him a reassuring smile.

    “On the other ‘and, she is quite popular with the locals, from what I ‘ear. Some folks at the pub talk about ‘er all the time, with all the interestin’ stories she tells. Some says she took down a Garchomp single-’andedly, or pawdedly. Others says she jumped off of Jubilife Tower and lived, though I reckon that’s a bunch o’ crap. Either way, not every town gets a talkin’ Lucario with a metal arm like ‘er, for better or for worse I suppose.”

    Shine’s mouth went agape as it was a lot to take in at once, but still, he had to focus on the task at hand, or paw.

    “Do you know where I can find Curio, then?”

    “You can check the windmill, but 'side from that, I can’t be of much more ‘elp, I’m afraid. Sorry.”

    “No, no, you’ve given me plenty to work with, sir. Thank you.”

    “And you. ‘Bout time I got someone who’s polite in my lot, not like these old farts here.” He flashed a self-satisfied grin and Shine bowed to him before retreating to one corner of the plaza, resting on the cold cobblestone floor. He contemplated the information the trader gave him, soaking up the atmosphere of the market square as faraway conversation passed, while the distant notes of a guitar drifted in and faded out.

    There was still a lot he didn’t remember about Curio. He hadn’t come across her once in Sinnoh since their escape, or any other subject for that matter despite his constant searching, and five years was a long time to change, especially when one had to adapt to an alien environment like Shine did before he met Tony. She could’ve been anywhere.

    A sense of dread lingered over him like a thundercloud. When he eventually met her, if he eventually met her, would she even want to see him after all this time? His own memories of her were vague at best, so would she even recognise him?

    He shook himself out of his thought bubble and got to his feet, looking to the mill in the distance. Perhaps that would’ve given him a clue on her whereabouts.

    And so, he started the long trek up the series of hills where the cottages sat, thatched roofs and all. On closer inspection, Shine noticed some of those houses had farm lots in their front gardens which were tended to by Pokémon and their trainers, and as he passed by, they stopped their work to stare at him, which struck him as odd at first. He didn’t stop, but the further he advanced, the more he noticed what the Pokémon and trainers did when they spotted him.

    A few Pokémon roaming outside the cottages immediately sprang out of their work or napping sessions to stand in front of the fields with their backs straightened, their teeth clenched, their eyes tracking, everything to indicate they were cautious of Shine’s presence. Their trainers caught wind of this too, either standing by their guarding Pokémon or summoning others outside their balls, ready to command them to fight. Wary of his own presence, he took a deep breath and advanced further up the path ahead, quickening his pace.

    Once he reached the top, Shine stopped to marvel at the sheer size of the mill for the first time with his own eye. What he viewed from far away at first didn’t give much of an indication of the foundation of the windmill itself, but when he faced it from the edge of the hill, he had to tilt his head upward to see the top of it. The blades gently rotated in the wind and the air whooshed with every revolution.

    When he let his head down, he narrowed his eye at the series of tall metal fences surrounding the grounds of the mill, kept under lock and key by a gate. The trader mentioned Curio ‘trespassed’, not simply walked in as if it was a park, and for good reason too. There were plants with Razz Berries, Bluk Berries and many other berries he couldn’t recall at the top of his head, while he sniffed the air and tasted the sickly scent of honey. Any self-respecting owner wouldn’t let a wild Pokemon take from their wares, after all.

    Shine’s eye flashed gold and the surroundings turned transparent, allowing him a full view of everything going on at the mill. Several humans were inside the buildings, nowhere near close to where he could talk to them, and two others were outside picking berries from the plants, one further away and one closer to the gate, a boy in his teens. There was also a Leafeon on patrol walking around the perimeter of the fence from the inside, but Shine preferred to get the boy’s attention first to avoid being chased by a guarding Pokémon, as they were small enough to fit through the metal bars.

    He softly padded through the grass along the edge of the fence with his see-through vision still active, getting closer to his lead until he saw him through the grating. Shine opened his mouth to shout, then--

    “Hey boy!” A coarse voice called from far away. “Come here this instant!”

    “Y-yes Sir!” he stammered, and left his berry basket unattended as he rushed to the mill.

    Shine cursed himself. His potential source of information had disappeared. If he found somewhere to hide, he would be able to try again, but he considered the chance that the Leafeon would catch him while he looked.

    He turned around and carefully retraced his steps to the path leading to the gate, when something tugged at his paw. He winced as he tried to shake it off, but the more he struggled to get it free, the tighter it wrapped around his ankle, like some sort of rope activated by a trap. He took a deep breath and calmed himself. It wouldn’t’ve done any good to panic.

    “Well lookie here,” a femme voice called, “I caught me a...” The voice trailed off for a moment, then a set of paws traipsed through the grass and the Leafeon stood in front of him, squinting her eyes at the Luxray.

    “Wait, what are you again? I don’t think I’ve seen your type around here before.”

    “I’m a--”

    “Don’t care, but you look like a cat Pokémon, and it’s always fishy when one of your kind shows up on these grounds, and I don’t see a collar on you.” A trail of grass knots snaked under Shine’s body and tied themselves around each of his limbs, anchoring him to the ground. He squirmed in its grasp, but with each movement, the knots surrounding him pulled taut. “You in cahoots with Thousand Claws?”

    “Why would I be?”

    The Leafeon hummed to herself, and one by one, the grass knots unwound themselves from Shine’s body, allowing him to stand upright again.

    “Congratulations,” she said with a smug grin, “You passed the idiot test. If you were one of them, you’d be too stupid to play dumb, if that makes sense.”

    Shine stood on the pads of his feet, teeth bared.

    “Alright, you’ve got a lot of explaining to do, miss. Why did you attack me?”

    “Well, I didn’t attack you, just consider it a little rough-housing from me.”

    “That’s what I’d call an attack.”

    She stuck her tongue out. “A rose by any other name, I guess is what the humans say.”

    “Marguerite!” The coarse voice called out again. The two turned towards the source and saw the face of a weathered-looking man with gardening gloves behind the fence. “Don’t just stand there; when there’s a Claw that invades our turf, attack on sight!”

    “Excuse me,” Shine chimed in, “I don’t know who exactly these Claws are supposed to be, but I’m certainly not one of them.”

    The man rubbed his forehead, mumbling to himself as he approached the end of his side of the grate. “Well blow me down, how’d I get another talkin’ Pokémon outside my property?”

    “Never mind that. I heard a Lucario trespassed upon this vineyard, is that correct? I’m trying to find her, you see, and any information you have on her will be helpful.”

    “Oh for the love of--” He cracked his knuckles. “I thought I’d hear the end of that lousy Lucario. I guess you know her, then. If it’ll get her rotten ass out of this town, I might as well tell you what you want to know. I’ll open the fence.”

    Shine nodded and headed for the entrance alongside Marguerite, who didn’t hesitate to nudge his side once he and the caretaker were done talking.

    “Okay, I’m not surprised by a lot of things and I find that awesome. Not one, but two human speaking Pokémon coming here so soon together? I’m pretty sure the world’s going to explode at this rate.”

    He mumbled a response as he advanced through the newly-opened gate. The caretaker was there to greet him as he gestured towards the path in front of them and followed behind, walking on the footpath surrounded by many different exotic looking berries. Shine took a whiff of them, only to be greeted with many different potent, sickly smells that tingled the senses, which he scratched his nose at. The caretaker stopped just beneath the windmill’s blades, and crossed his arms with a stern expression.

    “All right, then, spit it out.”

    “When did Curio do this, and what did she do anyway?”

    “Just yesterday, in fact. See that there?” He pointed at one part of the grate. “That’s where she climbed up. Can’t explain how. This fence was installed to keep Pokémon of her ilk from getting in at all.” He moved his finger downward, trailing through the mess of uprooted plants. “She ran through them silvervines there and ruined them. They hadn’t even finished growing and they’ve been there for two months. Had enough trouble with the Claws trying to steal them as it is.

    Now, me and Marguerite were on the site at the time, so you can imagine I tried to get her to bugger off somewhere else. When I shouted to get her to stop, she climbed over the fence again and ran off. She did say she was sorry and swore it was for a good cause, but not before she called me a grumpy old fart. That sort of disrespect shouldn’t be stood for from Pokemon, I tell you. Next thing you know, they’ll be takin’ over and ruining us all, and then, who knows, the white god’ll rain a firestorm over our heads and--”

    “Excuse me,” Shine said, thumping his paw, “I don’t mean to interrupt, but this is urgent. Would you happen to know where she went afterwards, or if she came back here?”

    “Yes.” He pointed at the ground with the tip of his boot. “She left behind a bag on that day.”

    Shine cocked his head.

    “Don’t ask me where she got it from, but it was in the way, so I had to store it in one of the sheds. I took a little peek in there and it was filled with all sorts of scraps. Opened cans, trinkets, broken equipment like bikes and crowbars, loose bits of paper. I could go on forever, but that doesn’t even scratch the surface of what’s in that bag. It was gone by next morning; guess she must’ve taken it back. Haven’t heard nothing about her since, good riddance. That’s as far as my involvement goes with it, anyway. I’m sure you had something to do with it too though, Marguerite. Why don’t you tell this lad here what business you had with the Lucario, hmm? Take a break while you’re at it.”

    Marguerite’s ears perked up as she leered at her master. She looked at Shine once more, then turned to the exiting path.

    “I’d be pleased as punch to,” she said, more for herself than her trainer.

    “Thank you very much for the information,” Shine said, bowing.

    “Don’t mention it. Have fun with her,” he said with a grin.

    Shine followed Marguerite out the smelly vineyard as the caretaker closed the gate behind them.

    “So Marguerite, is it?” he asked.

    “Ugh, just call me Leafeon. He has the worst taste for names.”

    “Right, Leafeon, what else happened that night?”

    “Well, she just appeared outside the fence again and asked me to give back her bag. She had some nerve asking me that, because that’s what any Pokémon would ask after destroying a trainer’s stuff. I said no, but she offered me something in return for it, so I thought screw it, why not?”

    “She did?”

    “Sure, follow me.”

    Leafeon led the way to an odd looking patch of dirt in the midst of the green hill, which had a musky smell to it. Clearly, she had marked her territory. In any case, she dug through the ground, sending clumps of mud everywhere until she reached the bottom, and pulled out an object. It was an odd looking metallic Magikarp made to scale with empty cans of Cheri Psycho Soda for the body, yellow bits of plastic sticking out for a tail and large wads of gum for the eyes. It was a ‘rare, unusual, or intriguing object’ or in other words, a curio. Of what he remembered, it was similar to the sculptures she used to make in GeL.

    “I’m impressed.”

    “You could say that. Useless, but not bad for a Pokémon. You can have it if you want.”

    Shine wrinkled his nose at the suggestion, considering it was still marked with Leafeon’s scent.

    “I’ll pass for now, thanks. But, why did she give this to you?”

    “Beats me. Why does any Pokémon do anything?”

    “Point taken. You haven’t heard anything else from her?”

    “Nope, she hasn’t come back here since.”

    “In that case.” Shine bowed to Leafeon. “Thanks, I’ll be on my way now.”

    “Wait a sec, how long are you going to be chasing her tail for?”

    “As long as it takes me to find her before Wednesday.”

    “Then a word of advice.” She gave him a serious look. “Find some shelter before midnight. Those Thousand Claws will get to you otherwise, and there are loads of them too, so be extra careful.”

    Shine knew they were a gang, and one that Curio might’ve been associated with, but he didn’t bother asking her for any more info and bowed to her before he made his way down the hill again.

    As he glanced over to the small landowners, who still looked cautious in his presence, he gained a new found understanding for the town's weird air. It wasn't unheard of to have Pokémon form gangs in the cities, and he experienced it a few times in previous encounters before he met Tony, but they were only limited to a few dozen at the most, so they didn't cast much of a net. In that many numbers, no wonder the townsfolk were so apprehensive around him.

    Shine remembered the lack of a jingle by his neck and internally cursed Bauble, however helpful she was. She had to take his collar, of all things.

    Once he reached the town centre again, he was a little more at ease as the passers by there didn't acknowledge his existence, but still, he was nowhere closer to finding Curio than he was earlier. He wouldn’t give up though, so after a couple of hours of greeting, bowing and apologising to random strangers, it approached sundown, and his stomach started to rumble, but Shine eventually found a link to one of Curio's regular spots through another trainer and his Greninja.

    Although he didn't know where she was exactly, the trainer made an offhand mention to seeing her at a pub he frequently took his Pokémon to called The Vine, a block away from the town square. Shine thanked them and found it not long after, although it was fairly hidden amongst the flashier neighbouring shops.

    He entered and was greeted with the quietude of the late afternoon, with only a few young trainers crowded around the pool table, clearly not there for the drink. The only other noticeable figure was a Venusaur, most likely the place's namesake, plopped down in the space of the corner where it almost touched the ceiling, where vines that grew from their body snaked along the walls. Shine briefly looked them over as he was amazed at the sight of something so big cramped inside a closed space, before padding over to them, where they lazily lifted their tired eyes open.

    "Excuse me," Shine said,"Is Curio here?"

    "Perhaps," The Venusaur groaned, and let out a mighty yawn before closing their eyes again. "Poke-room, on the right, maybe."

    Shine nodded and headed for the room in question, which featured a door with a crudely drawn Pokeball etched on the wooden frame. With one prod of his paw, Shine opened it, revealing a more lively scene to the ones inhabited by the humans.

    It was how Shine expected a local Poke-room to be from what he heard on the Pokespeaker Forums online. There were a few cushions scattered around the floor with various Pokémon lying on them, a low table set with a Quilladin and a Delphox sat around it playing some sort of chess game, and a couch with a trainer and his Gligar lounging around on it, typing on their PokePad. Curiously enough, there were also drawings on the walls of different kinds of Pokemon, doodled with various coloured markers, with a crude style that vaguely reminded him of her work. Still no actual sign of her, though. When Shine entered, the Gligar immediately turned towards the door and grew wide eyed.

    “You’re Shine? Man, never thought I’d get the chance to see you!”

    They flew noiselessly from his trainer’s comfort to greet Shine, pointing their barb to the right of Shine’s face where his socket had closed over.

    “I was wondering what that eye looked like.” In the same breath, he retracted his tail in a sharp movement. “Whoops, how rude of me.” He stepped back and cleared his throat.

    “Name’s Barley,” he said in human tongue as he presented his claw to Shine, “And I’m the co-manager of this little shindig, along with my trainer.”

    “’Sup.” They reached a lazy hand into the air, still fixated on the screen.

    Shine spaced out for a moment, trying to make heads or tails of what Barley just told him. If he knew his name, he must’ve known Curio for quite some time, long enough for her to tell him more about Shine than he himself would admit. And if he could speak the human tongue as well, then…

    “Are you just gonna stare at it?” Barley said, making a face. Shine took the hint and shook paws with him.

    “It’s a pleasure to meet you, Barley,” he said in the same tongue, then switched to his own. “I take it you’re on the forums, then?”

    “Sure I am! But we can get that out of the way later.” Barley rubbed his claws in a quick motion. “What can I do for you? We’ve got cushions, snacks, toys, and a lot of board games if you’re into that sort of thing.”

    “Heh,” the Delphox snorted from across the room, “Three or four, more like.”

    “Well, I’m still working on that area. But yeah, if there’s anything you want, be our guest!”

    Shine had come a long way, and the empty feeling in his stomach only grew with each passing minute, but first, he had to address the Donphan in the room.

    “Actually, I’m here to see Curio, although she doesn’t seem to be here, does she?”

    “Sorry, you just about missed her,” he said with a shrug. “She only came out a moment ago.”

    “You’re joking.”

    “Nope, she said she had business to take care of, whatever that means. She usually does her own thing.”

    He sighed. After all that time looking around town, Shine was nowhere closer to properly meeting her than before.

    “Great.”

    “Yeah, that is rather unfortunate. But, you’ve come to the right place, since she’s a regular visitor here. Hopefully, you’ll get to see her soon, so why not make yourself at home?”

    “Even so, I’m in a hurry to find her, so I’d rather not waste any time.”

    The Delphox huffed from across the room.

    “That’s probably not going to happen for two reasons. First, there are those Thousand Claws. If you catch yourself alone out there, they’ll come out all at once and capture you. And that’s not even the worst of it.” He stopped to knock over his opponent’s Pawniard, much to Quilladin’s chagrin.

    “Secondly, I have a little motto when it comes to that little vixen.” Making a point of this, the Delphox snapped his claws in the air. “You don’t find Curio, Curio finds you. Barley will tell you just as much.”

    Barley nodded with a worried look. Shine looked to his feet and thought it over. If he stayed where he was in that room, there was the chance that Curio would come back eventually, but that was no guarantee. His paws still bounced with the excitement of finding his lead.

    If he was to chase after her again, he would need to find a way to venture outside while keeping out of trouble. He sat close to the table the two starter Pokémon were playing at, giving him a view of the board, where the Quilladin stared for a moment, reaching a paw out to move one of his chess pieces, then retracted it soon after.

    “I’ve heard a few things about the gang,” Shine said, “but why here of all places?”

    “Haven’t a clue.” The Delphox shrugged. “I’ve only been here a few days tops while my trainer gets her contest business sorted out. I can’t wait for us to get out of this stinking town.”

    Barley glided over to the table next to Shine’s spot.

    “Well this town’s hardly stinking, but it would be a lot better if it wasn’t for them. As far as I know, it just happened. Lots of Meowth bred on the outskirts of town, some other Pokemon migrated from the other cities, the strays already in this town joined forces and that’s how it came to be. Since then, they’ve wreaked all sorts of havoc across this town. Crops are being ruined left and right. Fights have been started. They’ve even stolen wallets before.”

    “But,” Shine said, “What do they need wallets for?”

    The Quilladin raised his paw in the air and gestured at a row of chipped teeth.

    “Why’d you think they left me this little present? Because they can.”

    “Yes, we’ve heard about it five times already,” the Delphox said, pointing to the chessboard, “I’m still waiting on your turn.”

    “I’m thinkin’ on it, okay? This human game’s hard, you know.”

    Barley tugged on Shine’s shoulder with a grave look.

    “You can see why it’s such a problem, and nobody knows what to do with it, not even the police. And they’ve done worse. Sometimes, when I glide over town during the day, I see...” He hesitated, then continued in a low voice. “Dead bodies in the alleys. Only small Pokémon like Rattata and such, but with so many in their gang, they could do it to any Pokémon no matter how big or small.”

    Shine looked deeply into Barley’s eyes, which were misty, and it felt as if the Gligar would’ve broken down any minute. The issue clearly meant a lot to the purple bat-looking Pokemon, but if that was the case, then why would Curio get entangled with such a gang in the first place?

    “At the risk of sounding like a fool,” Shine said, “The paper mentioned Curio was a part of the Claws, and that she was wanted by the police. That can’t be true, can it?”

    Thankfully, Barley broke off into laughter.

    “By his white ass, no! The papers don’t know squat about her, even though she’s been here a while!”

    “It seems like she’s made a name for herself already, then.”

    “You think?” the Delphox chimed in. “You don’t get to see her kind every day, especially not with that arm.”

    “Oh yeah,” Barley said, looking expectantly at Shine, “I know she’s mentioned you before as an old friend, but you must know a lot more about her than we do. Even after all this time, we don’t know anything about her or where she came from, just random bits and pieces, but now you’re here, what is the story behind that arm of hers anyway?” The other two Pokémon stopped their game to stare at Shine, who all gazed at him with a shared curiosity. Shine suddenly felt a lump in his throat.

    The circumstances behind her arm weren’t something he wanted to remember, but of all the memories he buried of GeL, both good and bad, if there was one thing Shine could think back on for days, it was how Curio acted once Shine and his remaining crew took her to their hideout.

    Ignoring everyone else’s reaction to her new arm, Curio would stare at it and grip it for ages. To see her go nearly catatonic was one thing, but having to gag her to stop her from screaming and giving away their location was another. Curio would thrash about and wail, repeating the word ‘stop’ over and over, and although it took the whole team to restrain her, she kept fighting for ages until she was in a state to start talking again. When she did, what she told them about her experiences, or at least, all her mind could bare to tell them, he long since blocked out of his mind.

    If Curio hadn’t told those Pokémon about it, all Shine could glean from it was that she repressed those memories on the same level Shine had. He swallowed and spoke clearly.

    “I’m sorry, but I’m afraid I can’t tell you anything Curio hasn’t told you before, for her sake. None of us want to talk about it.”

    “Why not?” Quilladin exclaimed, “You’re the guy who--” The Delphox whacked the top of Quilladin’s head with his wooden staff.

    “Watch your tongue, sapling.”

    Barley’s barbed tail drooped behind him, but nevertheless, he smiled and placed a claw on Shine’s shoulder.

    “I understand. I won’t press her about it anymore.”

    Shine nodded in gratitude. Even if he didn’t recall much about his old friends, they were as entitled to keep secrets as he was.

    An awkward air filled the room after that. Shine sat there, digesting the information he was given as he watched the game progress. The Quilladin nursed his head, still trying to find a way to end his turn while the Delphox waited with bated breath. Barley crept over to the Grass Pokémon’s side and whispered in his ear, and momentarily, there was a glint in his eyes, where he slammed the Gardevoir, or in this case, Sirknight, over the opponent’s Bisharp. In the same breath, the Delphox made his move and overtook the Sirknight with his Nidoqueen.

    “What?” The Quilladin said, banging his paws on the table. “That’s not fair, I only just made that move!”

    The Delphox smiled. “So?”

    Shine budged out from his sitting place as the two argued back and forth. He wasn’t gaining anything by staying in this room, even if it was safer. It might’ve been preferable to the threat of the outdoors, but to him, getting to meet Curio was top priority, even if he had to find a way to sleuth around the city. For the journey, he took a few bites from the shared snack bowl and a quick swig of water, which restored a little of his energy, but before he exited the room, Barley glided in front of him, giving him the same worried look he made earlier.

    “Are you sure you want to look for her at this time of night?” Barley said.

    “Are you going to stop me?” Shine said.

    “No, no, it’s your choice after all, just be careful, please. From what I gather, Curio cares about you, so I don’t think she’ll want to see you end up as cat food, if it comes to that.”

    Shine gulped. Part of him secretly hoped Barley would try to put up some sort of fight if it was that severe, but the Gligar stepped aside and gave him leeway to exit.

    “It’s nice speaking to another Pokemon like me. One more thing, though,” he added, “What’s your name on the forums?”

    “’Congress-Of-Dunsparces’, with dashes between the words. I’ll be looking forward to go through it with my trainer once I get home, but for now, good luck keeping this place afloat.”

    Barley nodded and widely smiled. “Will do. And safe travels, my friend.”

    Before Shine left the room, he caught a glimpse of the Quilladin on the floor as he lifted the table’s leg and flipped it over, sending chess pieces tumbling everywhere with a crash.
     
    Last edited: Dec 8, 2018
  4. Namohysip

    Namohysip Well-Known Member

    And here comes chapter 2! Okay, this was an interesting chapter in terms of that feeling of making progress, so to speak. Shine feels like he's getting closer to finding Curio, but somehow I feel like they aren't actually going to meet each other for a little while, or a lotta while. It feels like a star-crossed sort of thing, though I'd be pleasantly surprised if I'm proven wrong, as things like that can frustrate me, heh.

    The highlight of this chapter was Shine running into friends of Curio. How interesting, to be so close to someone and yet so far away! What they knew about her and what Shine knew--it was an interesting parallel. I know from your discussions that Shine used to know a whole lot more about Curio before the whole "repressed memories" thing came into play in this iteration, but I think the parallel works well. If anything, I think you could have banked on it a bit more. Don't you think Shine would feel a touch of envy toward these Pokemon and how they know seemingly more about Curio than she does, or perhaps just information in general? I feel like there would have been a touch or two of this, and it didn't feel addressed, perhaps because in the original draft that simply wasn't the case.

    Another thing that really impressed me was how you weaved in the "state of affairs" of Pokemon and human relations in this world. For one, it's really solidified here that Pokemon that can speak the human tongue is not as much of an extreme rarity as it is in the games or the anime or other canons (excluding PMD) where generally Pokemon are either speaking their own language, inaccessible to humans, or they're more akin to animals of varying intelligence. You did well to establish this difference early on. I'm sure there will be nuances to go on with soon regarding this, but in terms of the basics? I feel you established it well.

    Ahh, what a classic trope. Vigilante-like person popular with locals yet not with authority.

    ...That's a strangely specific phrase. Oh boy, what kind of foreshadowing am I looking at, here...

    Another classic, nighttime creeps that only turn up when the sun's deep and down...

    This last bit struck me as odd. It's the first time that I felt Shine's memories of Curio and how much he had access to were a bit ambiguous. Maybe it was a remnant of the old draft? Did Shine suddenly get a sort of memory lapse where he actually remembered what Curio was with that arm, or something? Also, this and the following paragraph were a bit hard to follow. I'm not sure if it was an old summary or what, but it was a vague mishmash of memories that I don't think was intended to be that way. Honestly, I feel like this could have been saved for later when Shine's memories were more... intact and recovered, if that ever happens, and only leave a tiny taste here. Not really sure.

    Anyway, aside from that one awkward bit, chapter was great! World building is strong, and that's what I enjoyed the most this time around.
     
    NebulaDreams likes this.
  5. NebulaDreams

    NebulaDreams A Dense Irritating Miniature Beast of Burden

    Thanks for reviewing, @Namohysip! As I said in Discord, I'm really getting the feeling the changes I made to this draft were for the better. As you said, there were some things that were remnants of the old draft, like the scene you mentioned near the end, but seeing your comment about how I could've banked more on the scene where Shine interacts with Curio's friends, yeah, I have to agree. It would've made the scene a bit more interesting if that came into play, but oh well.

    ---

    Chapter 3. Dendemille's Dealer

    When Shine came out, the sky turned a dusky blue with streetlights illuminating the paths before him. Aware of the dangers lurking in the shadows, he turned his golden vision on, making the outlines of the buildings a milky white and everything else transparent. Almost everyone and their Pokémon were settling down for the day, all except a few that looked particularly feline, scattered in various alleys and little hideouts further away from the town centre.

    Shine took a deep breath, going through everything in his head that had already been ruled out about Curio’s whereabouts. The square was worth another check, but after that, it was safe to assume she wouldn’t be lurking there during the night. The windmill was out, as she likely had no reason to return there again. Everything else inside the town was out, as Shine asked around for hours with little to no results. Even with his ability to see through objects, Curio was nowhere in his view.

    Even with Barley and his friends back at the Vine, she was just as elusive to them as she was to every other stranger in Dendemille. She seemed to tell a lot about herself, yet very little about her true nature. With that, more questions swirled around in Shine’s head. What was she doing there in the first place? When did she arrive? Did she have somewhere to stay? Then the Delphox’s motto played back in his head.

    ‘You don’t find Curio, Curio finds you.’

    He shifted his focus back to the hollow streets he stood in the middle of, as he was still safe while he was nearby the openly lit pub, but once he ventured further into the darkness, his undivided attention would have to go towards keeping out of harm’s way, somehow. With nowhere else to go except forward, Shine took one slow step into the night, mentally repeating the motto like a mantra.

    The trip to the square was easy, as he spotted none of the Claws lurking about on the way there or nearby the centre. His hope was that there was still a stall open that had more information, but when he reached the area, all of the tables had cleared out and the camper vans had driven away, leaving an entire section of the area empty. The only other human activity happening was the nightlife, and even then, they stayed isolated inside the pub windows that cast a warm orange glow out to the cold open. After a minute of combing through humankind and Pokémon alike, he found no results, although there was one Lucario sitting idly beside their trainer in a booth at a pub named Charizard’s Spit.

    They certainly weren’t Curio, as their left arm would’ve been transparent if that was the case, but they still had the power of aura, which was a step beyond Shine’s night vision. While a Luxray was limited to its sight, a Lucario’s aura could easily stretch beyond that, for hundreds of meters and miles in exceptional cases, even with closed eyes, and with that, Shine made his way towards the door.

    The place was a lot more lively than the Vine in terms of its patrons where a lot more adults chatted around the counter holding all sorts of various liquids in shots, pints and pitchers, with a few younger trainers sat in various places drinking soda. Shine wrinkled his nose at it as he walked through the bar area, thinking back to the sickly smells of the vineyard, but it didn’t take long for him to find the Lucario, who sat in a corner amongst different young trainers and their Pokémon, tracing their paw on the rim of an empty glass. Eventually, they looked up and the two made eye contact with one another, which was quickly broken as they made a face and tugged on their trainer’s shoulder.

    “What’s wrong?” the young girl asked. Without a word, the Lucario pointed to Shine, bringing her into contact with him.

    “What do you want with Luccy?” she said, glaring at him

    He hoped for a more tactful introduction as he had business with the Lucario alone, but he remembered most trainers weren’t as lax as Tony was, especially not in a place overrun by criminal cats, so he had to remedy it with a polite greeting. He approached them slowly and bowed.

    “Sorry Miss.” He raised his voice to speak over the commotion. “I don’t mean to alert you but I have something I’d like to ask him if you have the time.”

    “Oh, yeah yeah, sure!” Her eyes almost leapt out of their sockets as she scurried past out of the booth. “I’ll refill our drinks, just give me a minute, okay Luccy?”

    Luccy rapidly nodded their head and their trainer reached out for the glass, leaving the two in their own company. The Lucario stared at Shine with their mouth agape.

    “You c-can speak?” he stuttered.

    “Yes,” Shine said back in his own tongue, “But never mind that. I’m looking for someone important to me and I need your help. Do you sense a Lucario with a metal arm named Curio nearby?”

    “I--” Luccy covered his mouth, and balled his paw into a fist before letting it fall to his lap.

    “S-s-sorry, I have no id-d-dea what you’re t-t-talking about.”

    Shine grunted. Although he would take most things at face value, one look at him made it obvious he hid something. He leered at the Lucario, something he hadn’t had to do in a while.

    “I can’t stress this enough. It’s very important for you to tell me the truth if it helps me find her. I know you of all Pokémon can help even if your aura isn’t very strong, and I know she’s around these parts; she couldn’t have gone outside this town already. So tell me where she is, please, sir Luccy.”

    Luccy broke out into a sharp fit of laughter.

    “I’m telling you, I d-d-don’t know them. I mean, a Luc-c-cario with a metal arm, that’s stupid!”

    Shine leaned in as close as the space could allow on the opposite side of the table, stopping him from outright pouncing on the Lucario. Shine was starting to run out of options and this was his only lead, else he would have to throw himself back into the chaos of the night. To restrain himself, he took a deep breath and sat back down on the bench.

    “If you don’t tell me where she is, then I’m afraid we’ll have to take this outside, your trainer be damned. I have to apologise for this, but for the final time, I can’t let this opportunity pass me by. So tell me now and--”

    Luccy gasped and pointed to his trainer, who held two pints of cola.

    “What’s going on here?” she said. Shine smiled to her, trying his best to look genuine.

    “Hello again Miss, I was hoping for sir Luccy to give me some information, but now that you’re here, I’m trying to find a Lucario wielding a metal arm, if you’ve seen her recently.”

    The trainer’s eyes drooped and she thumped both glasses on the table, sitting next to Luccy who clutched her arm.

    “Calm down. I’ll explain for you. We’d rather not talk about it, for his sake. I don’t wanna fight you for it if you have nothing else to say.”

    This was Shine’s last chance to get a response out of them, and to do that, he would have to come up with something desperate, even if it was a lie. Not having seen her for five years wasn’t a good enough excuse as it required a long winded explanation of his plans, so he took another breath and tried to give his best performance.

    “My friend Curio is lost. Me and my trainer’s team have been trying to find her for days. We were originally supposed to pass by here straight to Anistar when she started an argument and left in a huff, and she tends to create trouble when she’s in a bad mood. I apologise for anything of ill she’s caused you, but we’ve been trying to remedy that by getting her to come back with us. It’s only in her nature, I’m sure you understand, so please, it’s important to fix the mess we made if it will help her stop causing havoc, or fighting with other Pokemon in the street, or trespassing windmills.”

    “That’s not t-t-true.” Luccy tugged on her shoulder. “Don’t believe him, he’s lying, he’s a bald faced liar, please!”

    His cries of protest came out as nothing more than animalistic whimpers which only Shine and his kind could understand. Shine felt the familiar twist in his stomach, seeing how desperate the poor Lucario was to communicate with his trainer, but there were more pressing issues at hand than a wounded conscience. The trainer held up her hand to him and he stopped, then she gave Shine a friendly smile.

    “Well, I did see her pass by the square to that path that leads to the outskirts just ten or so minutes ago, but that’s about it. Something must’ve happened between these two because I don’t know why, but Luccy started growling and chasing her tail. I mean, you went straight for it, didn’t you?” She placed her hand on his paw. “I guess she must’ve said something terrible to you to make you so angry, huh?”

    He hummed to himself, letting go of her arms at last and cast a sullen look at his glass. The trainer sniggered and took a sip of her own.

    “This is kinda sudden, you know. I thought the metal arm was strange, but I’ve only been here a few days and I’ve already met two Pokémon that can speak like us! I guess lightning’s gonna strike down on my head next time I go out.”

    A chuckled escaped Shine’s lips. Considering his powers, that was funnier than the trainer would’ve thought.

    “I understand. To be honest, I’m finding all this strange myself, but let’s get back on track. You stopped Luccy and...”

    “And that’s it. He calmed down soon after, and now we’re having a few drinks before we take on the next gym in Anistar, just like you. Well, not drinks drinks but, you know.”

    Flushing a hot pink, the trainer took a swig of the cola and exhaled. Along with her, Luccy chugged the entirety of his drink in one go, letting out a series of quiet hiccups. Shine sussed out that the Lucario knew about Curio and would hint to her whereabouts, but there was the gut feeling to do some more prodding.

    “Well, thank you for your time,” Shine said, bowing, “I’m rather new to this place, so I think I’ll need someone to point me in the right direction of those outskirts.”

    “Right, right,” the trainer said, “You know, I dunno if I can describe it so easily.” She stopped and grabbed ahold of Luccy’s paw again. “Can you show this nice Pokémon the way?”

    Luccy darted his eyes back to Shine, then back to his trainer, and sighed.

    “If I must,” he said, more for himself than his trainer.

    “Thanks!” She shook it and made some room for the Lucario to scurry out of the booth. Shine didn’t wait for him to show him out before heading for the door.

    “And don’t stray out too far! Those Claws are dangerous!”

    Luccy gave another low grunt from far away before joining Shine outside, whose paws tightened into fists.

    “Um, d-d-do you mind if I do something quickly?”

    The knot in Shine’s stomach grew taut, and he took a deep breath, preparing himself for what was about to come.

    “Go ahead. I’m sorry if--” A ball of aura flew past his face, but missed, only brushing past Shine’s mane.

    “If you wanted a free hit, you could’ve just said so.”

    “Yeah, I know, b-b-but--” Luccy paused, then waved his arms in the air. “That was so unfair! You can’t do that to me, you never lie to a Lucario!”

    “Yes, I know that little maxim, but lies also beget lies. Now please, for the last time. Tell me what you know about Curio.”

    Luccy grumbled, pulling on the appendages behind his head.

    “Oh dear, I guess there’s no point hiding it, now you got my trainer to spill it. You know what, though? I hate that Lucario's guts. Whenever she passes me by, she feels the need to poke me with that arm. I get goosebumps whenever I feel that cold thing. Not only that, I can’t pass her by without her saying something like ‘Hey Lu-lu-luccy, how’s your st-st-stutter today?’ When I saw her back there, it was the last straw with me, you know. If you don’t mind me saying so, I wanted to swipe that smug little face off.”

    Shine closed his eye and exhaled. Even though his memory of her was still fuzzy, there was something about Luccy’s words that struck a nerve. Shine fought back the urge to pounce on him again. Luccy must’ve sensed it with his aura, so he nervously smiled.

    “Hey, s-s-sorry. Nobody likes having someone else insulting someone you c-c-care about. I just don’t understand her.” He cast a glance to the road and rubbed his paws together. “She creeps me out. Not just that arm, but her aura. It’s like nothing I’ve felt before, just a whirlwind of emotions and random thoughts without any way to read into them. I sense many dark secrets from her, and you as well, like you both have been through something terrible, yet all locked away in some v-v-vault, or something. I w-w-wish I could help you with that.”

    “I understand that, but I’m in a hurry. Do you sense her close by or not?”

    “Go straight up that path to Route 15,” Luccy said, pointing,”And you’ll see her on the outskirts there. I can see she’s adding something to something. I think she’s lighting a fire. It’s kind of hard to--”

    “Alright, thank you!”

    Without turning back, Shine sprinted for the path and kept running. His heart pumped. His breaths were light. His heavy paws pounded on the pavement and echoed through the streets. That was it. He finally found Curio, the Lucario that would lead to him regaining his memories. As the momentum of his limbs carried him, he saw himself catching up to her any second, even if he couldn’t see her with his naked eye.

    Shine’s ears twitched. Sets of paws pitter-pattered from the distance behind him. As he ran more and more, it got louder, turning from faint slithers of noise to an assortment of marches sounding in different rhythms. Shine didn’t look back, but his heart quickened and he continued running. As Shine finally saw the border that separated the town from the route, he sprang forward and sprinted, but his movements became erratic, no longer going in a straight line. The sounds of the Claws behind him went from marches to stomps as their paws slapped the floor. Shine still focused on his goal, not taking an eye off the gate.

    “Night Slash!”

    A hot streak of red tore through Shine’s leg, staggering him instantly. His face met the concrete. Without thinking, Shine clambered his way forward with his forepaws, but he only covered a few paces before a mass of paws grabbed him by his uninjured leg. They spoke amongst themselves, all understanding obscured by a cacophony of dozens of mewling voices, and dragged him into the darkness of the alleyway.

    “Right guys, I wanna good look at his mug!”

    Shine tried to squirm away, however, many sets of paws pinned him down, only giving him leeway to move his head and swish his tail. Another set of paws picked him up by his side and flipped him over, giving a full view of the Thousand Claws for him to see. Shine took a deep breath and prepared himself for their big reveal after all this searching.

    It wasn’t quite a thousand, not even by a quarter, but it was still a lot.

    A mix of shadows blended into one another, all shifting at the sides of the walls. Although he hadn’t adjusted to the dark immediately, one thing that stuck out to him was the stench, somewhere halfway between wet fur and rotten eggs, which made him gag. One look with his golden vision revealed all. Various cat Pokémon crowded around the sides, all marked with scars and fur discoloured with garbage and grime, sitting in formation around a Meowth. They looked the most battle scarred out of the group, with three massive orange streaks covering the face save for their eyes, two thin irises of bright blue. They sniffed around him, poking their nose in various places on Shine’s body, who was still pinned down by the gang before him.

    “Say,” the Meowth said in a high pitched drawl, “Ya smell awfully nice, ya know. Not like us. We can’t getta decent place to bathe. We don’t even wanna lick ourselves clean, we’re that awful. But youze.” He coursed his calloused paws through Shine’s mane. “Youze is very smooth, and soapy. There’s only one type-a Pokémon that smells like that around here, izzat right?”

    A few weak mewls came from the stray pack.

    “So, where’s your trainer, huh? Seems like the kinda fella that has a lot of dough. Tell ya what, why don’t you walk us over to him, huh?”

    Shine grunted, his leg still throbbing from the open wound. They were interrogating him over how nice he smelled, of all things. Why did Tony have to bathe him beforehand?

    “Why does that matter to you?”

    To that, the Meowth frowned and swiped a claw across Shine’s face.

    “Did I say ya could talk back? Hell no, you don’t realise who you’re messin’ with! This is our turf!”

    More mewling came from the circle.

    “Come on, least you can do is tell us!”

    “He’s nowhere near this town.”

    The Meowth tugged on Shine’s mane, pulling him closer to his face to the point Shine could smell his decay-ridden breath.

    “Whaddya mean, he’s nowhere near this town? What’re you doin’ here then, huh?”

    “That means I have nothing to offer you. Now, if you let me go, I have places to be, forget the leg.”

    “Like I said, that doesn’t tell me nuthin’! Don’t screw with me like--” The Meowth’s eyes widened and he let go of Shine’s mane. He held a paw close to his face and muttered to himself before turning to the rest of the pack, speaking in a chaotic chorus, and when he finally turned, the Meowth hissed at Shine, making every other member join him in unison.

    “So you’re one of them, huh?” The Meowth threw another swipe at him, but instead of scratching, he punched, clocking Shine across his jaw. Shine groaned as the Meowth pulled him up by his mane again.

    “You’re the kindsa Pokémon I hate da most, the kindsa Pokémon that act so high and mighty on their own, the kindsa Pokémon that think they can jus’ waltz anywhere they like without trouble! Ya wouldn’t be nuthin’ if it wasn’t for your trainer, you’re nuthin’ but a pet!”

    Punch after punch flew across Shine’s head. He gritted his teeth, withstanding the blows and trying to find some other way out of the situation. Although he couldn’t move his body, his tail was still free, which was enough, and so he wagged it back and forth, charging up the static field around his body.

    Shine released his charge, shocking everyone that restrained him, including the Meowth. The rest of the Claws let go, vibrating on the floor, and the Meowth stood, shaking rapidly. Without hesitation, Shine stood up and limped his way out of the alleyway, trying to run. His leg burned from the still open wound, but there was no time to think. He sprang towards the border, gritting his teeth as he focused on reaching Curio, bad leg or not.

    The familiar sets of paws stomped behind him. He tried not to turn back as he got closer and closer, and finally, like Luccy said, plumes of smoke rose up into the night sky.

    All at once, the Claws tackled him. A dozen sets of calloused paws smothered his back and dug into the skin. They hissed and growled, tearing new open wounds in various places around Shine’s body. With each new cut, he sent screams that echoed into the night. Each attempt at storing up electricity was interrupted with more flashes of pain. They stopped, pinning him down to the ground for their leader to stagger in front of Shine, blocking his view of the border, and the Meowth caressed the part of Shine’s face where his eye was missing.

    “Ya know, I wonder what happened to that eye of yours.” If there was any hint of compassion in his voice, that faded away when the leader smiled and pointed a claw at his remaining eye.

    “Don’t matter. Now you’ll have a matching set.”

    No matter how hard he tried to free himself from his grasp, the other Claws held his head back too, preventing him from even tilting it. With no options left, Shine braced himself for the impact. The moment lasted a few seconds, but it felt like minutes to Shine. In that time, he reflected on the journey that brought him there so far, and how he ended up going from the comfort of Tony’s home to facing his death.

    He was born in GeL, that much he remembered. He didn’t even have a name, or anything of the sort, rather, he was just a Shinx. He knew they had parents somewhere else, but he didn’t. No matter how much the other Pokémon born in GeL comforted him or how much the staff tried to get him to socialise with the other Pokémon, he left himself alone, curling up in a ball in his dormitory, sometimes refusing to eat. Then came Curio. Though he only remembered bits and pieces of their interactions together, something warm sparked inside of him whenever they did. Over the next four years, everything was fine, until they came along. The rest after that was a blur, up until the point Tony met him, as well as that car accident.

    Would the news even reach Tony back home? Would humans find his body and report on it like the columns Shine read in the obituaries? Of course not. Millions of Pokémon died every day, maybe more. What would his death mean to anyone else except for Tony, his trainer, and Curio, another Pokémon? Would she find his body somehow? She was right over there while he was still pinned down. What was she doing? And finally, what truly happened at the facility that forced them to escape?

    With all of these questions left unanswered, hot tears dripped down Shine’s fur, stinging his facial wounds.

    A cloud of sugar and sweet tea wafted in the air. One whiff of it distracted him from his fate and brought back memories of the vineyard and all its familiar smells. He opened his eye, and all of the Claws in front of him, including the leader, turned their heads towards the border, sniffing at the air. One by one, the Claws wandered into the distance in a pack, and the Meowth took a few paces before he turned around with a wide smile on his face.

    “Hey, hey, don’t forget him, we still gots business with him! Dat smell though...”

    He joined the rest of the pack, cackling as he padded over to the source of the pleasant stench while a set of paws lifted Shine off his feet and slowly carried him. He shivered with all the cuts around his body, and he fell limply into the paws of his captors. His eye flickered open and shut. Everything in his system told him to sleep, but the thoughts of Curio kept him awake.

    The rest of the trip continued like this, drifting between alertness and sleepiness, and eventually, Shine closed his eye for a moment and caught a wink of sleep.

    ---

    "They want us to name ourselves, or somethin’. I came up with one already, so what about you, huh?



    Nothing yet? You could talk to me if you want help with one.



    Okay, I’m gettin’ sick of this silent treatment! If you wanna be that way, fine, but I’m namin’ you anyway, something like, like...



    Shine! You’re Shine from here on out! S-H-I-N-E. Got me?”


    –-

    When he awakened to a glow of orange, there she was, standing in front of the fire. The Lucario with the metal arm. The Lucario that hung out with strangers at night. The Lucario that wrecked the crops in the vineyard. His old friend, Curio.

    “How’s it going, you bastards?” She presented a bag to the Claws that crowded around her feet. “This is what you’ve been lookin’ for, a bag full of catnip, silvervine and many other things to stuff your faces with!”

    She lowered it for a moment, and raised it back into the air when all the other Claws leaned against her legs, trying to nab their prize.

    “What’s this? You want it all, huh? Well, I guess I could hand it to you here, buuuuuuut...” She turned to the leader, who drooled in the bag’s presence. “I think you have somethin’ of mine you need to return first. So how ‘bout it?”

    The Meowth stared for a moment before slapping himself in the face, pulling him out of his catnip coma. “Yeah, yeah, sure, we ain’t had much use for him anyhow. So we’ll take the bag now and--”

    “Ah, ah, ah, one thing I forgot to mention, there’s something else you’ve gotta do before you earn this.” Her cheerful expression dropped. “Get outta this town and split up.”

    “What?” the Meowth exclaimed, pointing a claw towards her. “You’re on the freakin’ moon if you expect us to do that, this is our town! And what’s it to you, you don’t care about what we do anyway!”

    Curio absent-mindedly picked at her ears, holding the bag close to her. “Well, I guess that’s true in a way. I don’t care about what you do to get by, every Pokémon’s gotta fill their bellies somehow.” She gnashed her sharp teeth. “So far though, you guys have been like pests. And I’ve seen pests like you that’ve done less crappy things in the cities, and you know what happens to them?”

    “What?”

    “They get exterminated.”

    At that, the Meowth’s eyes widened and the pack took a few paces back behind her to join him.

    “W-what?”

    “You heard me. To the police, your kind are nothing but vermin. What’s the point of dealing with a bunch of stupid Pokemon like you who won’t listen to reason? They don’t care about your struggles. You don’t even have laws protectin’ your kind. So when someone finally gets off their ass here and comes to deal with the situation with all their Growlithe and Arcanine and whatnot, you know what’ll happen to you?”

    The Meowth stared at her, mouth agape.

    “Cat got your tongue? Okay, I’ll answer for you. They’ll char your bones to dust.”

    All of the Claws cowered before the leader, and the Meowth turned to the rest of his gang, conversing in shrill mewls, and commanded them to stand in formation around him, hissing at Curio.

    “Ya-ya can’t threaten us, who d’ya think you are, ya dumbass! My Claws will tear ya to shreds and--” He gasped as Curio held the bag over the fire.

    “Oh, I’m sorry!” Curio said in a mocking tone, leaning closer to the gang as the bag hung over the flames. “I don’t play that sort of game. Lay a finger on me or Shine and I’ll drop the bag! Just think of it. You’ll probably never get this chance again in your miserable lives, so I’ll give you two options. Leave us alone and never come back, or watch all of this burn! I can just picture it. You’d toss yourself into this fire just to get one more taste of this! So what’s it gonna be, huh?”

    The gang backed down again, and the Claws stood motionlessly alongside their leader.

    “Come on, I ain’t got all night. Oh! Maybe you need something to motivate you. How’s this, then?”

    Curio stepped back and outstretched her metal arm towards the group, giving them a full view of the palm of her hand which had a red spot in the middle of it. The gang kept their eyes tracked on the movement of her hand as she aimed it at them, until the red spot opened like a gate, revealing its metallic insides. Then, a blue ball of energy grew from the inside of it. The gang behind the Meowth screamed at the sight, backing further and further away from their leader, who looked as though he would collapse.

    “Wanna see what this arm can do?”

    The Meowth hyperventilated and fell on his knees, holding out both his paws in front of him.

    “Okay, okay, okay, I’ll bite, we’ll take the bag and leave, jus’ stop whatever you’re doin’! Stop!”

    The sphere disappeared and the hole in her hand closed over.

    “There,” she said with a toothy grin. “That wasn’t so hard, was it?”

    She threw the bag to the ground, revealing a pile of other tiny bags of powder, flowers and colourful looking fruits, and in an instant, the gang poked their heads into the bag and left one by one, heading towards the forest. Eventually, the group that held Shine let go as well, dropping his limp body on the grass as they joined the rest. The Meowth was the last to join, who retrieved a silvervine fruit and cupped it in his paws. Before he left, he scowled at Curio.

    “I thought you was crazy for a Pokemon, or even for somethin’ like a human, but you’re not even that! You’re an it!”

    Just like the rest, the Meowth ran towards the route and disappeared into the night, but not before Curio flipped the Skarmory behind their backs, blowing a Razzberry.

    A moment passed between them. Shine kept silent, not knowing what to say, and Curio cast a glance at Shine’s direction. It came back to him. Her green eyes glowed in the dark, like they always did, and even the new scar across her muzzle didn’t blemish her face. It was the first time they made eye contact in five years. That moment of serene silence broke as Curio burst into laughter.

    “Wow, I can’t believe that actually worked! Just goes to show how stupid they were, huh? So, what’s cookin’, Shine?”

    His vision faded as the stinging sensation of his wounds got to him at last. Curio bent over, putting her paw behind his head.

    “Oh crap.”

    Before he could say anything to reassure her, Shine fainted.
     

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