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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

    Accolades:
    2018 Serebii Fanfiction Forum Awards
    Won:

    Best Pokémon Chaptered Fic (Established Author)
    Best Character Dynamic - Curio and Shine
    Best Pokémon-Centric

    Nominated:
    Best Plot
    Best Setting
    Funniest Character - Curio


    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, a Luxray and Lucario, reunite after five years, but broken friendships aren't easily mended. Ghosts of their past haunt them in the form of a mysterious organization, GeL. In their journey to repair their relationship, they 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, and repressed memories. 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: Apr 15, 2019
    WishIhadaManafi5 likes this.
  2. Namohysip

    Namohysip Dragon Enthusiast

    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!
     
  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 Dragon Enthusiast

    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.
     
  6. Namohysip

    Namohysip Dragon Enthusiast

    I don’t have a lot of quotes to take from the first part of this chapter. I got quickly interested when Shine started talking to Luccy and that little exchange, just desperately trying to coax out any information that he could. It seems that Curio is a bit of an anti-hero, from the way she’s being described, though that could always just be some kind of perception thing. I still don’t know anything about her. For some reason I had this idea that she was more on the noble side, but perhaps not. Or perhaps not in the way I was thinking.


    I think the steps taken to get the information showed a good balance of restraint and desperation, though I can’t help but wonder how others in the bar would be reacting to Shine’s… somewhat aggressive and forward approach to getting answers. I feel like there’d at least be a bit of tension from onlookers.


    Okay, I have to admit, that small detail being brought back here was a very nice touch. Kudos.



    I like Curio.

    ___

    So… wow! They actually met up! Hot damn! I actually thought this was going to last a while longer, with Shine and Curio constantly missing each other for a few chapters in a frustrating game of star-crossed companions. But no, they already met! And like star-crossed… companions, they’ve even got one of them fainting in the others’ arms. How romantic.


    That’s about all I really have to say. The encounter with the Claws was pretty interesting, just your stereotypical bad guy bunch. I think they’ve done their purpose well enough, though who knows, they might make a return down the line. It feels like they might in one way or another like recurring rivals. I’m definitely interested in the next chapter, hoping that we can see our first, uh, proper exchange between the titular duo!
     
    NebulaDreams likes this.
  7. NebulaDreams

    NebulaDreams A Dense Irritating Miniature Beast of Burden

    Thanks, @Namohysip! I'll echo what I said in Discord and state that if I continued using the same structure for the next few chapters where Shine chases after Curio, the story would've gotten really tedious, so I'm glad I quelled your fears in that area.

    ---

    Chapter 4. Dendemille's Dancer

    Hey Shine! Why doncha read me one of those stories from the book Mama gave me?”

    What, right now?”

    Right right now, pretty please!”

    Alright. I guess we should start with the first one. Fittingly called Part the First. Ahem.

    Once, trees grew from blood-soaked soil. After the gods slept, man and Pokemon fought against one another, killing millions, and only then, did their blood mix into the land. From there, they tried to co-exist, but did not entirely mix. Pokemon still could not fully understand man. Language and logic was separate, and so, their worlds remained separate, or so they thought.

    In one corner of the earth, a human couple took one lonely egg from the mountain and kept it warm in their cottage. They could not bear children of their own, as the woman was infertile, however, after the egg hatched into a Bonsly, they took care of it as their own. Despite its nature, they adapted by airing out the cottage whenever possible, as Bonsly could not stay too damp, or else, die. Even when forced to hunt Pokemon to sustain themselves for the day in their rickety abode, they spent every other second looking after the Pokemon, so much so, the villagers grew distant from them.

    At first, it only spoke in cries and moans. After spending a prolonged amount of time with them, however, they uttered their first word in the human tongue: love. A word abstract and immaterial to most Pokemon, but felt all the same by this one. Although this surprised the two, they welcomed Bonsly with open arms and passed their knowledge down to him, but nevertheless, remained cautious, and warned them to keep silent outside. The idea of Pokemon speaking human, for one thing, was an affront to nature, as it was not by the white god’s design, which scared the settlers within their village. Beyond that, it was said that if Pokemon were allowed to speak, they would show themselves as the dominant species and break the great chain of being, and bring chaos unto the world.

    By the time the Bonsly evolved into a Sudowoodo, sprouting to double its size, they could converse fully with their surrogate parents, and would question the world, their own existence, and everything both infinitely large and infinitesimal. Although they couldn’t answer, the Sudowoodo’s curiosity was boundless. They desired to explore the world at large, to see that giant ball of fire sink into the sea, to see campfires shine brilliant lights in empty woods, and to see flares shoot into the sky from wayward ships for Dragonite to drag to safety.

    Despite their wishes, their surrogates would not allow their leave. They could not enforce it, only persuade against, and so, they obeyed, for the moment. While they slept, the Sudowoodo ventured outside and talked to the villagers, who reacted with ire and commanded their Pokemon to attack. They hid in plain sight by turning into a tree, allowing their escape. Once they returned home, however, their cottage was in flames. Their surrogates kneeled down in front of the chief, who summoned a pair of Houndoom at their feet from their binding spell, ready to attack. The Sudowoodo charged through the mob to meet their surrogates and pleaded with the chief, begging them to leave their loved ones alone. The chief only saw something unnatural, and commanded the Houndoom to fire. The Sudowoodo caught alight, in front of their parents who taught them the very thing that destroyed their home. Before they burned out completely, through the flames, the Sudowoodo stood in the middle of the mob's circle and spoke thus.

    “You came with your swords, torches and predators, I came with my human tongue. I might be the first to speak your language, but I will certainly not be the last. These words will spread on like wildfire even after I burn out.”

    They turned to ash, as did their surrogates, and so, the village moved on while the cottage’s remains laid still. The two Houndoom, however, learned to understand their master, and devoured them before fleeing that land, roaming the wild away from human civilization.”


    Well, that was kinda depressing, but kinda cool too, like she used to tell me! Can we read the next page?”

    Go on. We have time before our next lesson.”

    Thanks. I could listen to you read for ages, you know.”

    Hm, I guess that’s a good thing.”

    ---

    A white light shone into the space and soon enough, Shine’s paws touched the floor once again as everything came back to him: the Claws that tore at his body, the air that smelled of sugar, and Curio. She stood to his right with her arms crossed, looking at one of the nurses, except it clearly wasn’t Nurse Joy if the pink stubble was anything to go by.

    “Well,” Curio said in her distinct human tongue, “We free to go now? You’ve kinda been keepin’ me here all night, with no good movies or anythin'. The entertainment's really weak here, you know.”

    “Um, okay," the male nurse said, "but everything looks fine, and his leg’s healed up now, so go for it.”

    “Awesome.” Curio headed out of the treatment bay through to the main hall with her satchel bag in tow, as Shine followed after her. His leg no longer burned when he applied pressure on it, but he shambled out of the room to try and catch up with her, eventually walking by her side. The sunlight beamed in from the windows at the entrance bay, so he must’ve been there the whole night.

    Shine’s heart pumped rapidly. He was finally alone with Curio and could ask about what happened at GeL and how she got on since then, but when he opened his mouth to speak, no words came out, even though his questions lingered on. Curio didn’t respond either, walking out of the Pokémon Centre into Dendemille’s daylight, and only when they were out, Curio stopped and turned to face Shine for the first time.

    “Um, Curio?” he said.

    “Yeah, it’s me,” she said with a frown, and knelt down to his level. “So, do you mind telling me what the hell you were thinking last night?!” She grabbed him by the shoulders and shook him violently.

    “I, uh, I was looking for you, I heard—”

    “Yeah, I know that much. Barley said you went snoopin’ around, and that’s fine and all, but letting yourself become that Meowth’s ransom shouldn’t have been on your to-do list! So I’ll ask again, what were you thinking?”

    “Um.” He pieced together last night’s events quickly under Curio’s gaze, and remembered he ran into the streets when he heard of her whereabouts, therefore leading him to the gang of diseased cats of his own accord. Finally, he let out a defeated sigh.

    “Sorry, what I did was stupid. I looked for you all day and found nothing, so when Luccy told me, it must’ve gotten to my head. I had no excuse.”

    “You idiot.” She looked scornful for a moment, then burst into laughter and wrapped her arms around Shine’s body. “Stupid, crap for brains, idiot.” She leaned in closer to Shine to the point where the tip of her spike touched his chest. Somehow, he trusted her enough not to impale him.

    “Oh sunshine, it’s good to see you again.”

    That nickname came back to him, as he suddenly remembered Curio used it on him during the facility days. He smiled and stood on the tips of his hindpaws, joining her embrace.

    “And you. I don’t even know where to start. Are you alright with that arm? What were you doing all this time? How did you end up here? Why—"

    "Oh c'mon, we'd be sitting here all day if I told you everything." Curio released Shine and the two made eye contact again. "Besides, I've got places to be."

    "You do?"

    "Yeah, nothing important, so let's just walk and talk for now. That’ll be a surprise for later.” Curio stood and led the way as Shine followed by her side.

    Again, he was at a loss for what to say. He glanced at a few of the passers-by on his side, who was surprised to see they paid no attention to the two strutting Pokémon, and in general, the citizens were less downcast and more eager to smile. Then he remembered how apprehensive they were around him when the Thousand Claws still inhabited the city and how Curio drove them out. That was a good place to start.

    “Sorry you had to drag me to the Pokémon centre,” he said, “I wish we met under less desperate conditions.”

    “Well,” Curio said, “Them’s the breaks, I guess. Hopefully we won’t have to deal with those guys ever again. Hopefully.”

    “You mean you don’t know?”

    “Eh, they’re slower than a buncha Slowpoke in a race, but I’m sure they get the hint.”

    “Still, it’s amazing you knew exactly what to do.”

    “Wanna know something even more amazing? I didn’t know. That was just a fluke as far as I’m concerned.”

    “But—”

    “Anythin’ could’ve gone wrong. What was stopping them from just pouncing on me and killing me to take the bag right away, huh?”

    Curio stuck her tongue out.

    “They were so damn annoying. I couldn’t find a place to sleep at night the first few days I was here. Even the police were on my tail even though I didn’t do jack. I shook ‘em off eventually, but before that, it was mostly rough sleeping, more than any other city I’ve been to in this region, ‘til I found Barley.”

    “Well.” He looked up at her. “I’d love to hear it all someday. It sounds like you’ve been on so many adventures already.”

    The disgust flushed itself from Curio’s face and she flashed Shine a toothy grin.

    “You bet. My weeks beat most people’s years, both humans and Pokémon.”

    “Including jumping off of Jubilife Tower, apparently?”

    “Eh, long story, but hey, we’re here!”

    Curio stopped outside a glass window with the silhouette of a Pikachu on a sign nearby. They opened the door with a bell ringing past them. As Shine walked in, he sniffed at the different scents of coffee beans, cheese and buttermilk wafting from the kitchen, and his stomach rumbled. He hadn’t eaten since his excursion to the inn the night before.

    “Hold on just a second,” Curio said, “They’re upstairs.”

    “They?” Shine added.

    A uniformed girl dashed out from behind the counter, and a Pikachu bounced behind her.

    “Sorry,” she said, “I’ve gotta run! Have fun!”

    The Pikachu gave a shrill cry of goodbye as the girl exited the cafe, then turned to the two patrons and bounced up and down on the floor near Curio’s legs.

    “Curio!” he said, “Continuing lesson, yes?”

    She nodded. Pikachu glanced at Shine briefly and scurried behind Curio, poking his head out with a perplexed look.

    "Never seen Pokémon like that before! What are you?"

    "A Luxray. My name is Shine. It's nice to meet you, fellow Pikachu."

    "Ooh, Shine! Shine! Love that name!" Pikachu skittered across the smooth floor and climbed on top of the counter again, disappearing behind the workspace. Shine looked around the yellow painted insides of the cafe, marked with all sorts of scribbles on the walls, and the locals were focused on themselves, ignoring the presence of the Pokémon there.

    "Nice place," he said.

    "Eh."

    Shine followed Curio to the counter where a tanned pudgy man leaned behind it, waving at her with a hairy arm.

    “Ay!” he said, “What’s the plan for today?”

    “Same as before,” Curio said. “Say, can you fix up somethin’ for my friend here?”

    The man peered over the bar and looked down to Shine, moustache twitching.

    “Maybe, but that depends if his kind is lactose intolerant.”

    “Actually,” Shine said,“I’ve had plenty of dairy myself and I can safely say I’ve never had any problems with it.”

    The man gave him a wide smile. “Just my luck, another one! Barley knows how to pick ‘em!” He stopped to lift the bar stand and waved at the two, disappearing into the hissing coffee machines. Shine followed Curio into a barren looking break room with a low cut table in the middle and a small bed filled with plushes in the corner where Pikachu sat, and he joined Curio on the floor opposite the yellow rodent.

    “So you’re a teacher?” Shine said.

    “You’re givin’ me too much credit, you know. I just go wherever Barley has work for me, talk to the Pokémon for a bit and get a day’s grub out of it. I’d rather just be doin’ my own thing, but eh, it beats hunting to get by.”

    “I know the feeling.”

    The two chatted idly until the pudgy man stomped in with a basket of croissants and laid them at the centre of the table, where the Pikachu jumped up to the edge.

    “I’ll get some water too!”

    The man left the three Pokémon to their breakfast. Pikachu immediately tore into it, leaving a mess of flakes on the surface, while Curio took a few paws worth of croissants and laid some on the floor beside Shine while she attended to hers. When Shine nibbled at the tip of his croissant, he bit into a layer of creamy cheddar. He looked over to Curio with a wide eye.

    “This is stunning!” he said as she held hers out.

    “Right? I couldn’t have picked a better place to teach if I tried!” She took a big bite out of one end and pulled back, making a string of cheese dangle from the middle of the pastry.

    After Shine finished eating every last morsel of croissant he could and drank his fill from a bowl, he was full again. He yawned and felt satisfyingly tired; with the tingle of cheese still on his tongue and the sweet smells drifting in from the kitchen, he could have curled up into a ball and slept on the spot right there.

    Before he lost himself in his reverie, Curio’s knuckle rapidly rubbed at his head.

    “You’re one sleepy bugger, aren’t you?”

    “What does a creature like me usually do after it’s had a nice meal? It’s only natural.”

    “Eh, excuses. You know, you could leave if you don’t wanna stick around.”

    “Not after finding you. I wouldn’t miss this for the world.” Of course, he hadn’t told her about his plans to start teaching the Goodra back at Ambrette, but he put it aside for another occasion when he could speak to Curio about how he came to find her.

    “Suit yourself.” Curio shrugged and turned to Pikachu. “So, been trainin’ recently?”

    Pikachu tapped his rosy cheek with a thoughtful expression, and opened his mouth to say something, but hesitated, then opened it again.

    “Little. Trainer young.”

    “Is she even allowed to do that yet?”

    “No. Out school. Sometimes, train alone.”

    “What do you usually get to battle?”

    “Street Pokemon. I battle. Mostly lose.”

    “It ain’t easy when you’re starting out.”


    “Feel small. Em...”

    Pikachu stopped, scrunching up his soft, round face.

    “Em-beer-ess-in.”

    “Em-barr-ass-ing,” Shine chimed in. “It’s pronounced embarrassing.” Pikachu gave Shine an unsure look, to which Curio leaned in and spoke in his ear.

    “I’m not too hung up on that stuff yet,” she said. “Just let him speak as well as he can and he’ll get it right over time.”

    “But—”

    Curio pulled away from him and continued her conversation, the start of many to come. In the span of a few hours, they talked about things such as what Pikachu’s to-be trainer did outside of school, what his relationship was with her father, also the owner of the cafe, what friends Pikachu made out in the town square, how he started using Curio’s teachings to impress said friends, and a story about how Pikachu ended up being chased by a Purrloin at night and lived to squeak about it another day.

    What Shine noticed about the way Curio spoke to her student was how she would let them go uninterrupted without correcting them for ages, despite their many odd pronunciations and grammar mistakes. Although he had the urge to interrupt, he suppressed it and thought about how he would go on to teach the dragon horde later, occasionally asking Pikachu a few questions of his own.

    When the shift was over, Curio stood up and said her goodbyes to Pikachu as she exited out the back and Shine followed after her into the sunlight. They walked out of the alleyway as Curio dribbled a can down the road.

    It was past noon and Shine still had a whole day and a bit left to get Curio to come back to Ambrette with him, which seemed harder the longer he hung out with her. She had a life in Dendemille, as she appeared to do well as a teacher, had built a reputation with the townsfolk, either positive or negative, and found plenty to do despite the town’s rurality. Not once did she mention GeL during that whole talk.

    “Fancy goin’ down the park later?” Curio asked, interrupting his thoughts. “There’s supposed to be a band there. It's free!"

    “We could, but I need to tell you something important.”

    Curio kicked hard, sending the can flying into the air which landed in the distant streets.

    “Oh boy, here we go. Out with it, then.”

    “It’s about how I got here. Doesn’t it seem odd to you that I just happened to be in Dendemille the same time as you?”

    “Not really. Could’ve just been complete coincidence as far as I care.”

    “Well, it was no coincidence. I saw you got into a bit of trouble with those Claws in the news.”

    “Yeah, and?”

    “I was in Ambrette Town at the time. As soon as I read what happened, I flew into Dendemille to try and find you.”

    Curio stopped short of entering the road where cars passed by, and knelt down to Shine with a questioning look.

    “You don’t have wings, do you?”

    “No, but I looked all day to find you and--”

    “Just cut to the chase, Shine.”

    “Oh, I,” he stammered. “My trainer’s doing research on the GeL facility and we need to interview you all the way back in Ambrette.”

    At that moment, Shine saw that look in her eyes for the first time in years, the way her pupils dilated, making them look as if they were lost in a sea of green. It was the first time since they reunited that Curio looked visibly fearful. Not even the confrontation last night stirred her. She exhaled, as if she was about to say something, but set her eyes back on the road, wordless. With that, he realised he just crossed a line. His approach might have been too direct, or that he essentially asked her to travel half the region with him unannounced, or that he reopened old wounds just with the mere mention of the word ‘GeL’, but for whatever reason, the fingers on her metal arm twitched mechanically, clicking with each micro-movement, then abruptly stopped.

    “Crap.” Her tone was flat and raspy. “I knew you were going to say that. Was that what you came here for, then, to dig up the past?”

    “Absolutely not!” Shine protested. “I couldn’t believe my eye when I saw you alive. After everything that happened, all I wanted to know was how you were doing all this time.”

    “Oh really? Do you even remember the time we spent there, all the times I looked after your scrawny ass, and the times you read to me in the library, and all that other stuff?”

    “Why, I- I..” He faltered to find the right words. What Curio talked about did happen, but he only remembered those crucial moments in broad strokes, except for reading that book that previously belonged to her mother. “Some parts. My trainer--”

    “Yeah yeah, I guess your trainer told you to come here and drag me over to him, huh? Just like any good Pokémon following its orders.”

    “I, um...” Shine’s maw hung open. He knew Curio would be a little apprehensive to revisit her past, but this came out of nowhere.

    “Shine, I need a moment alone. Meet me at that park later. Don’t follow me.”

    “Wait!”

    Curio stepped into the road, passing through two lanes of cars that stopped suddenly in a cacophony of honks, with drivers shouting obscenities at her from open windows as she yelled equally vulgar insults at them in their tongue. Shine was about to run after her when the traffic continued, leaving him at that side of the road while Curio disappeared down the other. He was alone again.

    For the next hour or so, he wandered aimlessly through the streets in the hopes he’d eventually stumble across Curio, but like yesterday, the streets were sparsely populated, and the townsfolk and their Pokémon drifted in and out with indifference. His thoughts bubbled, thoughts of what he should have said, what he shouldn't have said, the way he said them, all stewing in a cauldron of blame and self pity. His movements slowed and at a certain point, he stopped, ignoring the passers-by.

    What stung the most was how suddenly it all happened, from Curio's transformation to her disappearing in seconds. He didn't know how the years changed her or how she moved on GeL, but he didn't expect for her to immediately reject his idea. He replayed the conversation back in his head, going back to the moment before Curio took off, then his eye widened. She not only said that, she also referred to Tony as ‘him’. Shine continued walking, not paying attention to whoever was beside him. Why would Curio assume his trainer was indeed a he if Shine himself never said anything of the sort? There were three explanations. It was either coincidence, the power of her aura, or even worse, she had somehow met Tony before. How?

    A weight dropped on Shine’s back. He grunted, fumbling around for a bit before regaining his balance, and something tugged on the tufts of his back.

    “Hey eye-guy!” It was the Quilladin from last night.

    “Hello,” Shine said, shaking his shoulders, “Would you mind getting off of me?”

    “Mush, eye-guy, mush!” He pulled on his fur, making Shine thrash around in an attempt to shake him off. Before him, the familiar barbed tail swished in the air, meaning Barley had come along too, perched on the shoulders of his trainer, who stared at his phone.

    “You don’t want to be zapped, do you?” Barley said with a wink. The weight lifted off of Shine’s back and Quilladin scurried away beside the trainer’s legs.

    “What are you all doing here?” Shine said, in human tongue in case the trainer had something of note to say.

    “Curio told us there was someone playing at the park soon,” Barley said, “We weren’t that busy so we thought, why not?”

    “I don’t suppose she said anything else, did she?”

    Barley shook his head. “She left. Again, she goes where the wind takes her. So I take it you managed to find her?”

    “Yes, last night. She won’t talk to me now, though. I must’ve upset her somehow.”

    “Well,” Quilladin chimed in, “You better come along with us and give us the spicy details!”

    Shine blinked. He was heading to the same place as them, and at that point, his legs were somewhat tired from dashing from place to place in vain.

    “I suppose.”

    He joined the group, following behind Barley and his trainer along with Quilladin who walked by his side. The two partners chatted to each other in human tongue, mostly about club matters, managing donations and partly about the local events the trainer found on the news. Although Shine couldn’t tell how Barley came to learn to speak human, he was fairly fluent at it, although it was hard to tell what they were saying sometimes as they used a lot of lingo such as ‘homie’ to address each other. If he had to guess, his trainer probably taught him himself, though he wasn’t certain.

    “Hey,” Quilladin said, turning Shine’s attention away from the two. “So what’s troubling ya?”

    Shine moaned, thinking about how to phrase what happened. Even though GeL was the part that triggered Curio, he didn’t want to tell anyone else about its existence yet. Again, he had to settle for a convenient half-truth.

    “I asked her if she wanted to come back to Ambrette with me and my trainer, but she seemed really upset about the fact I was with one in the first place.”

    “Eh, chicks,” Quilladin said, “To be fair, she wasn’t too friendly with Barley’s trainer either. The vibe of the room got really awkward when those two first talked, but they’re fine now, so I dunno.”

    Shine hummed to himself. It wasn’t surprising for her to be apprehensive towards humans, as he did when he first left. He looked in front of him and noticed the absence of a certain stick in the tail.

    “Where’s your friend?”

    “Whaddya mean?”

    “The Delphox.”

    “Bleh.” Quilladin squinted his eyes, baring his chipped fangs. “We’re not friends anymore. He thinks he’s all fire just because he can win a human’s game.”

    “Ah, that’s unfortunate to hear.” It would’ve been more accurate to call Quilladin a sore loser, if that flipped table was of any indication, but Shine thought of saying otherwise.

    They reached the park which had a full crowd this time with a mix of mostly young trainers and Pokémon sitting beside each other on the grass, and the stage had musical equipment set up, although the band members weren’t present yet. When Shine went to sit with his group, he was surprised to see both the Pikachu and Leafeon together. He called over to them and the two scurried over to him, with Pikachu in particular pouncing on him, and licking his face, who couldn’t help but laugh.

    “You’re tickling me, stop!”

    Pikachu complied and Shine stood up again, looking at the two Pokémon. He questioned whether or not it was habit in Dendemille for Pokemon to pounce onto each other.

    “I guess Curio told you to come here as well.”

    “Bingo,” Leafeon said, then cocked her head. “As well?”

    Shine turned his head to the other group, who were stood up. Pikachu looked up and beamed at the sight of Barley, who glided off his trainer’s shoulder and joined claws with the electric rodent as the rest sat down.

    After that, the group talked idly for what seemed like ages during the waiting period. Leafeon talked mostly about her situation with the caretaker, Pikachu talked about Curio’s lesson with Barley, who relayed it back to his trainer, while Quilladin revealed his situation to Shine: his trainer was taking care of family matters out of town, whereas he chose to stay with Barley for a little bit while the dust settled. Plus, a little bit of unsuccessful flirting from Quilladin to Leafeon. Although Shine talked little about himself, listening to the others distracted him from his own head space and softened the blow of Curio’s sudden leave.

    The band counted in and the music started with a strong drum beat. It was nothing special as it was just generic rock, not even something he’d consider putting on the radio, but it was quiet enough to talk over, yet loud enough to enjoy. In the middle of the first song, Curio appeared from behind the bushes.

    She made her way to the crowd, who swayed back and forth to the music, and started jumping in place, which eventually broke out into a dance. The crowd steered clear of her, obviously not wanting to get accidentally impaled, forming a circle around her. She didn't pay attention to the onlookers, or the little Pokémon that joined her jig by her feet, as she was occupied in her own world.

    Seeing this play out in front of him, Shine forgot his present worries for the moment and couldn't help but smile. Curio was enjoying herself and didn't care what others thought of her. Shine felt a tinge of envy at this, as he wouldn’t have drawn attention to himself that way, and couldn't have danced even if he wanted to since he wasn’t bipedal.

    He shook his head. Shine had more pressing issues to take care of. He needed to find out why Curio left him behind earlier and why she brought all the Pokémon to the park.

    "She's got some moves, hasn't she?" Leafeon said.

    "Er, yeah, sure," Shine said as he stood up. "I need to talk to her, I'll be back."

    "I'll come with," Quilladin said.

    "Me too!" Pikachu said.

    The three joined the crowd and pushed past their legs to where Curio was. When they arrived, Quilladin joined inside the circle and mingled with the other Pokémon while Pikachu danced in place.

    “Hey!” Shine called out to Curio as she spun in place. She didn’t stop.

    “Curio!” he shouted. She spun around and smiled.

    “Oh Shine!” she said. “C’mon, dance!”

    “But-”

    Curio picked him up by his forepaws and jumped around. His movements were unsteady, barely keeping himself balanced on the pads of his paws as Curio jerked him up and down.

    “Why’d you bring us here?” he said.

    “What?”

    “I said, why’d you bring us here?!”

    “Sorry!” Curio said with a grin, “Still can’t hear ya!”

    “Dammit Curio!” he shouted, “I know you can read my thoughts, just tell me what’s going on!”

    The song ended. Curio stopped her dance, letting go of Shine, and frowned.

    “Jeez, you’re a downer today. Alrighty, lead the way.”

    Shine ran back to his earlier spot and the rest followed behind him as the concert continued in the background. Everyone was seated around Curio.

    “That was amazing!” Pikachu said, who could barely sit down. “Can we do that again?”

    Curio patted his head.

    “After we deal with this guy.” Curio turned to Shine, stone faced and serious.

    “Fight me.”

    “E-excuse me?”

    “You heard me. Fight me. If you win, I’ll come along with you and do your stupid interview.”

    “It’s not stu--”

    Curio raised her paw to stop him.

    “If I win, I get to stay here. You got that?”

    It took him a few seconds to realise what this meant, and when he did, it felt as if something hard had smacked Shine across the face.

    “But, but that means I might never see you again!”

    “Sure you will. I might get into a scrape or two after that and be in the news again. Who knows, I might make it on the front page someday! You’ll find me that way!”

    “That’s not the point! I didn’t come here to see you for the first time in ages only to have you disappear!”

    Curio revealed her fangs. She narrowed her eyes, her left twitching as if it had a mind of its own.

    “Yeah, now you know what it feels like, Shine! It sucks, doesn’t it?”

    “Ooooh!” Quilladin exclaimed.

    He was at a loss for words. He could tell Curio was furious at him, but he couldn’t pinpoint the reason why, as the memories of his escape were still fuzzy, except for the aftermath.

    “Hey Pikachu, what’s your face?” Quilladin chimed in. “Can you go get us some popcorn? I’m enjoying this lover’s quarrel.”

    “In your dreams!” Both Curio and Shine said in unison. She laughed, and her expression lightened up a bit.

    “That’s my only offer, Shine. Besides, there’s a battle park right by us. I’ve already got a spot for us to fight in when the third bell strikes.”

    “You have?”

    “Lots of people will be watchin’ too. I practically asked the whole town.” She turned to the spectators who sat in stunned silence, especially Barley’s trainer. “So basically, if you haven’t been clued in, we’re fightin’ in that park, and you and every Pokemon are coming along to watch, kay?”

    “We are?” all of them said.

    “Yup, just so you can pick sides. Any one of you can be Team Curio or Team Shine. Preferably Team Curio.”

    “This is silly,” Shine said. “What is this supposed to prove?”

    “Nothin’. But you can always run with your tail between your legs if you don’t want to face me. What’s it going to be, Shine?”

    Shine gazed at her with a wide eye. There wasn’t once lick of irony in her tone or expression; she was really prepared to take every measure to put him in a difficult spot.

    He gave himself a moment to process what he was about to do. He was about to enter in a fight with an old friend of his, with little explanation as to how or why she organised it, all in order for her to agree to his bargain. There was no way he would go back home empty handed, as his journey would’ve been for nothing. A part of him questioned how he would take her on considering she could read him like an open book, but when he decided what he would do, Shine presented his paw to Curio with a smile.

    “I’m in,” he said. Curio took his paw in hers and shook it firmly.

    “Awesome.” She let go. “Be there or be square.”

    Before Shine could ask her anything else, Curio left him and the rest of the gang behind, and Pikachu joined her to meet the crowd near the stage. When she started her dance again, Shine sighed and slumped to the ground.

    He felt there was a deeper motive behind her carefree attitude. The way she was so dismissive of Shine told him she was actively dodging the question, either not wanting to deal with the GeL situation or was vengeful against him for some unknown reason. There was so much he needed to know he didn’t get the chance to ask; how she got to Kalos was still a total mystery. However, if he wanted another chance to resolve those burning questions, he would have to defeat her in a fight, or lose his chance to recapture his past indefinitely. Shine took a deep breath. What had he gotten himself into?
     
    Last edited: Dec 24, 2018
  8. Namohysip

    Namohysip Dragon Enthusiast

    Alright, let’s take a look at chapter 4, shall we? This was an interesting one in that it felt like a it happened, yet there wasn’t a whole lot of actual action happening. This was a talking and chatting chapter—and it worked very well! I thought that the opening with the legend of the Sudowoodo was… well, I’m not sure what the right word is. I can’t exactly say foreshadowing, and I can’t exactly say lore, because it comes off like an exaggerated creation story. The truth of the story must have been warped into a mythos of some kind (after all, pretty sure you can’t burn rocks into ash.) But it did make for a nice tie-in to what Curio and Shine discussed later in the chapter.


    Which leads me to what stands out the most out of this whole thing—Curio. This is the first full chapter where we actually get a good look at her. We get a glimpse in chapter 3, but this is the first chapter where it feels like she’s taking center stage, despite not actually being present for most of it. Her personality is definitely not what I’d expect from a stereotypical Lucario (and that’s something I can certainly appreciate) and the talk about GeL. It’s clear that Curio remembers what happened to an extent greater than Shine does here, and that disconnect added an interesting bit of drama that I imagine really changed around the interactions here compared to the old version.


    One thing that I noticed (and it could very easily be due to my bias as a PMD writer) is that the human characters are very forgettable. Quilladin’s trainer was more or less just there. It seemed odd to have them present but not… “present” for the most part, but I guess that’s what it means to be Pokémon-centric, eh? For a little while this started feeling like an urban PMD fic and not something in the mainline.


    Also, I’m noticing that some of your prose can get unnecessarily sprawling. There are a few examples, but here’s one that stands out immediately:

    This is all just one sentence, but it covers so much that it can give the reader a hard time digesting it all. It feels like a stream of consciousness description, and this is something that I myself have to be careful of. Splitting up complex description sentences like these ones, covering multiple angles and many subjects, can help to better digest the scene. For example, something like…

    “They reached the park. This time, it was filled with a crowd of mostly young trainers and Pokémon sitting beside each other on the grass. The stage had musical equipment se up, although the band members themselves were not present yet.”

    They’re still fairly complex, but still not nearly as complex as the original sentence, and much easier to digest, each subject having their own portion to be properly expressed in their own sentence. The park, the crowd, the instruments. You could probably combine the first two sentences in the new version and be just fine as well—that’s just my preference for shorter prose when possible, now that I’m more aware of how sprawling stream of consciousness writing can get when unchecked.


    Speaking of the park, I thought Curio’s behavior was interesting here. She’s moody when Shine brings up GeL, but then she goes off and, all day, starts inviting all her friends over to come along. And while I don’t think it was brought up for very long, I thought that was something that Shine should have considered when trying to get her to come back with him—she has a life here, doesn’t she? Or is there something that makes her feel unsatisfied about it all? Because as far as I can tell, Curio has a lot of friends and a whole network of support here. Would it be selfish of Shine, with as little information that he possesses right now, to coerce Curio into coming with him? That feels like something that I hope gets addressed more thoroughly in the coming chapter.


    But regardless, I’m looking forward to how this fight might turn out. Already a brawl between the two titular characters, hm? Well, I suppose it wouldn’t be a Pokémon-centric work without a few sparring matches. See you then!
     
    NebulaDreams likes this.
  9. NebulaDreams

    NebulaDreams A Dense Irritating Miniature Beast of Burden

    Thanks for reviewing, @Namohysip! I won't parrot too much of what I said in Discord, but I'm glad I've maintained your interest so far. Your last point about Shine and Curio's interaction at the end is fair, as that wasn't something that was emphasised too much in this chapter, but I guarantee will be addressed in this one:

    ---

    Chapter 5. Dendemille's Brawlers
    The band played the rest of their set, and while Curio and Pikachu still carelessly danced in the background, Shine had long since tuned out. He buried his head in his paws, deep in thought as he went over his potential battle strategy.

    In terms of movesets, the two would be equally matched, as their types weren’t stronger than the other. If it was just a battle of rock paper scissors, he would have no issue, however, he was up against a Lucario. He was already handicapped from the start as he couldn’t wield the power of aura, and his golden vision was useless against a Pokémon that could read his mind.

    Most importantly, he wasn’t up against just any Lucario, Shine was up against Curio, and although he only remembered bits and pieces about their matches in GeL, she always had the upper paw somehow, even before that metal arm of hers. No matter what strategy he could devise beforehand, that would surely be overturned in an instant, but then again, if this was life or death, she probably would’ve ended it there by impaling the opponent with her spikes. He would just have to see for himself what the odds were when the fight actually started.

    His stomach tied itself together into knots. This was going to be one long day.

    After the crowd applauded for what seemed like minutes, the band exited the stage, and the rest dispersed leaving only a few remaining, including Curio who conversed with Pikachu. Shine tilted his head to try and listen in, but before he could make out what they were saying, Curio stood up, gestured to Pikachu and left through the forestry. Shine stood too, and sighed. Going after them was a waste of time; he wouldn’t be able to negotiate with Curio even if he chased after her. He was going to have to wait until the match to meet her again.

    Shine turned to his group, who all looked at him expectantly.

    “Is everyone going then?" he said.

    "Do we have the time for it?" he asked, to which the trainer nodded.

    "I guess it's only a quick match. We're in."

    "Well," Quilladin added in his own tongue, "It would be nice to see which ass ends up getting kicked. Count me in too."

    "I could care less," Leafeon said, "But if it gets me away from that reeking farm, I'll shoot."

    It was settled. The group made their way out of the venue and led Shine on the way to the battle park, talking little as they did so. They strolled through the same path Shine did before, which still had the scent of vanilla in the air, then took the familiar route to the town square, and ventured further into the city depths through a road which branched off into several junctions. Finally, they took the second one on their left, which led to the battle park.

    Usually, the battle park consisted of dozens of spaces in the big cities where there were gyms and only one dozen in the towns. Dendemille was just as small, even smaller than that as there were only eight spaces. It was still huge however; a small battle park could’ve easily covered the size of a large stadium with many other facilities included other than the arenas. Although the population of a small park could easily reach the hundreds in their peak, when it approached evening, the numbers usually dwindled as a lot of arenas were left empty.

    However, out of the eight, it was easy for Shine to pick out which one was his, and what he saw further tangled the knots in his stomach.

    Dozens of people sat in the auditorium circling the arena. When Curio mentioned lots of people would be there, Shine could scarcely believe it, but when he saw it for himself, he realized how determined she was to pursue this battle. With each step he took, the crowd grew louder, and he was eventually faced off with the long, straight path that led to the arena. Who else would be there but Curio, doing various warmup stretches in the centre of the stage? Pikachu sat at the front row behind a fence, alongside several other Pokémon of various sizes he hadn’t seen before. He even saw Luccy staring intensely at the stage with his trainer, sharing a bucket of popcorn between them. The referee stood beside Curio, standing in for the other contestant to come in.

    Shine’s heart pounded against his chest. Once he stepped into the arena, there would be no going back with so many people watching their match. He turned to his group who were all heading the other way to their seats, except for Barley who walked towards him.

    “Well,” he said, “Me and my trainer wish you good luck. You’re certainly gonna need it.”

    Shine couldn’t help but chuckle, releasing some of his pre-battle tension. “I guess so.”

    Soon enough, they were gone too. Shine took a deep breath, and padded over to Curio as the audience watched him enter from afar. Try as he might have, Shine couldn’t ignore the presence of the crowd Curio gathered. The knots pulled taut. When he approached Curio, she didn’t look him in the eye, only staring at the referee, who looked back and forth between the two.

    “Are your trainers with you?” he asked.

    “Who said I needed to bring a trainer with me?” Curio said.

    “Ah, you talk," he said, stone-faced. "And what about this Luxray?”

    “Um, I left him at home.” The referee scratched his head before shrugging it off and turning on his speaker mic, making feedback echo in the arena.

    “Trainers of all ages, we have a very unique match lined up for this slot. This is a one versus one match, but neither of these Pokémon are present with their trainers here. This isn’t the first time it’s happened in this park, so I’ve heard, but it’s been a while since we’ve gotten something like this.” He presented a slip of paper from his pocket.

    “Going by an educated guess, this Lucario over here is named Curio, and this Luxray over here is named Shine. Since this is a special case, we might as well go over the rules.

    “Since there is no way to calculate which moves you’ll be using, as you won’t be given commands, there is no limit to your moveset, assuming you have more than four. You two seem evenly matched, so I will deem this a fair fight scenario. First and most importantly, lethal hits are strictly forbidden.” Without taking an eye off the crowd, he gestured his arm to Curio’s side. “In your case, if you—”

    “Yeah yeah, no using my spikes, don’t waste your breath, you robot!” Curio shouted, making her voice known to the audience. There was a little bit of commotion in the crowd as a variety of different voices reacted to her outburst.

    “Did that Lucario just insult him?”

    “The nerve of that thing! A trainer oughta come down there and teach it some manners!”

    “Yeah, Curio," Quilladin said, who had joined the front row along with the rest of the group, "You show that robot who’s boss!”

    The announcer cleared his throat and continued.

    “Secondly, this match will operate under a five minute time limit. Seeing how it’s one versus one, the fight should be fairly short anyway.”

    The announcer paused. No quarrel came from Curio that time.

    “Thirdly, no items are allowed to be used to heal yourself, act as a weapon or distract the opponents in any way. With that said,” again, he gestured to Curio, “Your bag counts as an item, and that alongside anything else in it will be confiscated during the match, so please put it to one side.”

    Upon hearing this, Curio stomped over to where the announcer stood, shaking her fist at him.

    “You gotta be kiddin’ me!”

    “I’m afraid not. These rules are what separate a battle from a bloodsport, after all.”

    “But listen!” Curio reached into her bag, pulling out a crooked wooden bat, and pointed at him with it. “Without this, my range is gonna be crap!”

    “You are able to use Bone Rush, aren’t you?”

    “Nuh uh, now look!” A shaft of light came from Curio’s paw, and instead of the twin headed staff that usually materialised from a Pokémon in the form of a bone, all that came out was something the size of a cotton swab, which she shook at him. “This is all I can summon! All this is useful for is picking the wax outta my ears!”

    The announcer squinted at it, but gave no other reaction.

    “Doesn’t matter,” he said, “No weapons, you play by the rules or not at all.”

    “Ugh, fine!” With that, Curio withdrew the bag and tossed the bag into the man’s face, going back to her spot in a huff. The man caught it before it could hit his head, and headed to the podium off the stage, grabbing his whistle.

    “Now, the match will end when the first opponent faints and I announce it. If the timer runs out, the opponent with the least amount of damage will win and the next set of trainers waiting to play afterwards will be called in. Now, if you two could take five paces back--”

    “Excuse me,” Shine called, raising his voice a little, “Can I have a word with Curio before the match starts?”

    “As long as you’re quick.“ With that, Shine approached Curio, who glared at him.

    “Do we really have to resolve things this way?”

    “There’s nothing else I wanna say to you right now. If you don’t like it, get bent.”

    “Why, I’m, I’m—”

    Curio raised a paw in the air, motioning over to the announcer, and she took her five paces back. Defeatedly, Shine followed suit, the words of Curio still stewing in his mind.

    “Pokémon, ready.”

    This was it. No matter what Shine tried to say to allay the situation, there was no way Curio would back down in this fight. A lump grew in Shine’s throat. He exhaled, then took a deep breath, readying himself by standing on the tips of his hindpaws. If Curio showed this much resistance, he needed to push back just as hard with all he had, if he was to get back to Ambrette with her and get a grip on his past. After everything Curio put him through so far, however, Shine briefly considered if all of his efforts were worth it.

    Before he dwelt on those thoughts any longer, the whistle blew.

    Curio immediately lunged at him with her arm. Just short of being grazed, Shine leapt backwards, avoiding the first swipe. Then the second followed. He barely dodged by ducking his head. Then the third. He had barely enough time to dodge as he rolled to his side. The hand pounded the ground, sending dust flying everywhere.

    Without looking to see what happened, Shine ran from Curio’s range, running as fast as his legs could carry him to the other side of the arena. When the dust cleared, Curio was far away from him, but charged forward as soon as she recovered. Shine kept running, close along the fence, but the rushing of Curio’s paws became louder behind him. He couldn’t keep outrunning her. He had to make the first attack.

    Shine made a detour to his left. He swished his tail around, charging up his static field, and the more he ran, the more his fur prickled. His electricity buzzed around him, acting like invisible armour, and at that point, he had stored enough potential to pull off a Volt Tackle. Shine turned and ran towards Curio, who stopped suddenly. She held her paw in front of her, firing a flurry of aura spheres at him. Most of them bounced off his field, but once he was close enough to her, all she could do was shield herself with her arm. Shine tackled her lower body, head first.

    Bash. Curio flew across the arena, stopping short of hitting the partition that divided the crowd. The reaction was a mix of gasps and cheers.

    Shine’s whole body shuddered with the recoiling force of his attack. At that point, however, the two were a fair distance away from each other. If he could land another hit with a thunderbolt close to Curio’s stomach, he could stagger her, taking her out of the match. He shook his head and started charging his static field again.

    Curio rose to her feet. In no time, she lunged towards Shine again. He did not flinch. He focused his mind on where he would hit Curio, just below her spike. Just as his charge reached its limit…

    “Come on, you coward, hit me with all you got! Don’t run out on me like last time!”

    Curio’s sudden shrill scream rang in his ears. In his haste, he shot a thunderbolt, only for it to divert away from Curio’s body, and the ground absorbed the shock. He focused again, but Curio was already in arm’s reach, and by then, it was too late. With one well placed metal uppercut to his chest, it was a direct hit. It sent him flying in the air above the fence, and when he landed, he broke through an unoccupied bench far away from where the rest of the crowd was.

    It hurt to breathe. Her hit must have broken at least a few ribs. All sound faded. All the charge he built up had released. His vision started to fade as well. Was he able to move at all? He twitched his legs. They were still mobile. One paw after another, he got to his feet. Although he could barely see, the yellow coat stood out in the background. He tried to hobble towards her from the other side. Then his legs gave away as well. What would happen next? He didn’t know. He succumbed to his weakened state and sank into the void of slumber.

    ---

    C’mon, we’re almost there! We can do this, we can make it! Don’t stop for a second!”

    I know, I can see it, I can see the door, I can-- Argh!”

    Shine? Shine! You bastards, stop chasin’ us and leave us be! You won, you took everythin’ from us and crushed all our dreams already, just stop!”

    Curio. There’s too many of them. I can’t, I can’t stay here.”

    Shut up! I don’t wanna hear it, we’ll make it outta here, both of us, we’ll take them all on! Don’t give up!”

    I’m sorry. I, I, I...”

    Wait, Shine! Come back here! You said! Shine!”

    –-

    Shine wasn’t fully awake yet, but he knew he was back at the Pokemon centre if that springy bed and disinfectant smell was of any indication. A paw scratched his ear, making him purr, and the sensation he felt made him more content to go back to sleep. Suddenly, it tugged at him, and he opened his eye to the sight of Curio yanking at his head. It was nice to see that face when she wasn’t trying to attack him, but the relief faded when one memory from the day of the escape unlocked from his internal vault.

    He remembered how much she cared for him, and stuck with him through thick and thin, even when he was a Shinx, even when he was taken advantage of, and even when he lost his other eye, and vice versa, when she struggled with making her sculptures, when she wanted something read to her, and when she went through personal troubles of her own. Even though it was in broad strokes, he felt the sentiment all the way to the present. All of that, and in the end, he left her behind. No wonder she was so upset at him. After all that searching, his journey led him to this path, where he carried the full weight of his actions for the first time in five years. This realisation brought mist to his remaining eye.

    “I-I’m sorry Curio. I’m sorry I escaped without you back then; I don’t even realise how it happened, I only just remembered it now.”

    “Shine,” she said.

    “And I’m sorry for whatever else I did as well to anger you. And, and, I’m sorry I wasn’t strong enough to win in battle, and, and--”

    Shine broke down. His cries echoed in the room, blubbering and choking on his own words.

    “Oh, why am I being s-so s-s-stupid?” he stuttered in between sobs, “I shouldn’t be crying like s-some weak S-S-Shinx, but here I am!”

    “Shine,” she said, scowling.

    “No, it, it’s fine, you fought hard for your freedom. You shouldn’t let s-s-some other stupid Pokémon tie you down. Even if I f-f-followed you, I wouldn’t survive, I’m th-that weak, I’m—”

    Curio smacked Shine across the face, snapping him out of his ramble, and grabbed his paw firmly.

    “Jeez, Shine, the match was a dud! It didn’t even matter if you won or lost, so get a hold of yourself, mon!”

    Shine stopped sobbing, still feeling the stream of tears pouring down his cheek.

    “W-what? Then what was the point of this?”

    “I dunno,” she said with a shrug, “I just wanted to let off some steam. I feel better now we’ve fought.”

    “What now?”

    “Nothing yet, we’ll see where the evening takes us.”

    “Right.” Shine tried to jerk his paw away from Curio’s grasp, but she her grip pinned him down. Slowly, Curio picked him up, sitting him on his hindquarters so he could see the whole of the room he was in at last; a very small rehab room only meant for Pokémon to sleep and be checked up on occasionally by the nurse. Then, Curio sniffled, rubbing away a few tears of her own and wrapped herself around him, close enough for her spike to touch his chest again.

    “Oh sunshine, it hurts seein’ you like this, callin’ yourself weak and junk. You always acted like that.”

    “But, I am—”

    “Stop that, I’m not having it. You travelled half this damn region to see me, that takes balls.”

    “But—”

    “I know you’re thinkin’ it’s a small feat for us Pokémon, but it’s not. It’s no small feat we survived this long to see each other again. It’s no small feat we’ve been given these skills in the first place when many Pokémon don’t get the same chances. It’s no small feat you came without your trainer to see me alone. I shouldn’t hafta say it at this point, but all of those things make you worth more than just your fighting ability alone, so you better freakin’ own it.” Curio pulled away from Shine and gave a half smile. “Although if I’m being honest, you kinda sucked ass back there.”

    Even if it was less than flattering, Shine snickered at the comment. “Thanks, I guess.”

    “You’re welcome. Now c’mon.” She stood up. “We’ve got a lot to catch up with and I’m not doing it in this stinkin’ room. See if you can get outta bed.”

    Shine stretched his legs. When he leapt off the bed, a constricting pain grew in his chest and he groaned. Although everything had healed up, the part where Curio hit him still ached.

    “Should I even be standing up?”

    “The nurse said it’s fine. I know it’s painful now, but you won’t even notice it once you’ve gotten some rest later. C’mon, we haven’t got all night.”

    Shine wordlessly agreed and followed her out of the room, out of the treatment bay, out to the exit and into the town square once more. Curio gestured to a patch of grass amongst a park-like area and the two sat next to each other, watching the various passers by. Shine alternated between the sight of the town nightlife and Curio’s face. Again, he was at a loss for what to say. With all the things that came back to him, where would he even start? Would he wait for Curio or start the conversation himself? Would he apologise first?

    “If you want to start with that,” she said, nudging his side, “We might as well get apologies out the way.”

    “I didn’t say anythi—” He stopped himself. Sometimes, it was easy to forget his friend could read his mind. Shine cleared his throat and made eye contact with Curio, seeing his own reflection in her green irises.

    “I’m really sorry everything turned out the way it did. You have the right to be angry, and I should’ve stuck with you even when we ended up in a tough spot back then. I understand if you don’t forgive me after what happened.”

    Curio rubbed her metallic arm with her paw and sighed.

    “I won’t beat around the bush here, and I’ll use a human word to describe this, but what you did was shitty. I thought you said you wouldn’t have abandoned me, and that’s what ended up happening anyway.” Curio smiled and patted Shine’s shoulder. “But there’s nothing you could’ve done. Hell, you would’ve been stupid not to escape without me. I don’t even remember how many grunts showed up out of the blue at that moment. So I’ve made my peace with that.” Curio took her paw back and inhaled deeply, as if collecting her thoughts.

    “I saw you back in Sinnoh, you know.”

    “What?”

    “You heard me. Jubilife City, to be exact. From far away, I noticed your aura and I must’ve ran like crazy to get to you, but when I finally saw you, you were already on the train with some—” Curio broke eye contact and clutched her arm. “Trainer. The one with curly hair and those nerdy glasses?”

    “Tony.”

    “Whatever. I wasn’t ready to let you go, so I hopped on the next train to chase you. I didn’t even know where to look, I travelled for days to try and find you, but I couldn’t pick up your aura anywhere. After a while, I just gave up, I guess.” She looked back at him with drooping eyes. “Where were you all this time? I got on without you just fine, you know, but suddenly, you pop out of nowhere and fall right into my paws. That’s gotta be some divine intervention crap right there.”

    Shine didn’t respond immediately. He thought back to the conversation he had with her at noon before she left and remembered the odd feeling he got from Curio’s sudden outburst, and rested his head on his paws.

    “I don’t know how to take this. If I had known you were there, I would’ve come rushing after you.”

    Curio smiled weakly.

    “I know. It still stinks though, like having something precious of yours ripped away from you and torn to pieces in front of you. Especially for you to go back on your word and become some trainer’s pet.”

    Shine rose at the mention of the word ‘pet’, and when he processed exactly what Curio said, he glared at her.

    “Is that what you think of me, then?”

    “No, that’s not what I meant.” She threw her paw up in defence. “Like, I thought you said you were gonna become this amazing scholar once you got out, or something like that. You had the drive for it. I just never pegged you as the type to follow some trainer around on his stupid quest to gain a bunch of trinkets.”

    “You know nothing about what Tony’s done for me!” he shouted. That was the loudest he heard himself speak for a while, and it had its effect on Curio as she grew wide eyed. He could even feel his own heart quicken at his own words. “You know what happened when I escaped? I almost got killed. I’ve got my scar to thank for that, and after they healed me up, all I did was wait to die. Until he came, all I’d do was read in the library all day, dig through trash in the streets at night and sleep on the curb. I didn’t want to think about GeL, or even think at all, so all I did was waste away for about a year, until Tony came along, and even then, nobody forced me to be with him. Let’s just say I wouldn’t be standing here if it wasn’t for him, so Curio, please think twice before you throw him under the bus!”

    Curio’s mouth went agape, seeming to reach some sort of understanding.

    “I’m sorry,” Curio said in a flat voice. Then, silence. Shine continued to look at her, expecting her to say something back, but she turned away from him, lost in her own world yet again.

    “It’s not easy making it on your own, especially not after what happened to us in particular. Tony supported me and pulled me out of that hole I dug myself into. Even with GeL, he’s the only person I actually talked about it with, and that was after years of knowing him. I thought you would’ve understood of all Pokémon.”

    “No,” Curio said, turning back to Shine, rubbing away the dust in her eyes. “I know what you mean. At the beginning, I had to lock those memories away too in order to survive. Even so, I had nothing else to live for until a lot of trial and error. I won’t lie, I saw a lot of terrible things on my way here, the kind of stuff that would churn your stomach, and I sorta became numb to that after a while.” She smiled.

    “But I saw a lot of amazing things on the way as well and met a lot of fantastic Pokémon, especially in Jubilife. I knew a Smeargle that had his works put up in a gallery back in Johto, like, you should’ve seen his paintings before he moved to graffiti, they’re amazing. He went through a lot of crap, but he pulled himself out of that hole eventually. Some made their own radio station, and I even met a few Pokemon that started their own band and played to other people. I’ll tell you that city is an effing hive, but I’d be lying if I said there weren’t some talented peeps like us lurking in the shadows. Of course, there’s Barley as well, but you know him already.” She outstretched her metal arm and reflexively twitched its fingers.

    “Either way, it’s not nice, you know, seeing other Pokemon stuck with trainers or in the wild all the time when they could be doing something bigger. You live long enough and you see the same sort of patterns. Even so, I hate the idea of giving myself up to someone else for the rest of my life, even if they are nice.” She clenched her fist.

    “I’m never gonna be a part of that world or tie myself down to a trainer or anyone else. I don’t care if I’m just a Pokemon; my life’s my own to live, and if anyone of any species tries to say otherwise, well, they can suck it.”

    “Well,” Shine said, patting Curio’s lap, “If you’re worried about Tony, I can assure you I’m not being mistreated at all. He practically lets me do anything I want while he’s out at work, and makes sure I’m well provided for when he’s back home, even after long hours. He doesn’t tie me down at all, so I’m sure even you would like him.”

    Curio smiled and snaked her arm through Shine’s back, which was cold to the touch.

    “I guess I would. I mean, I still think you could be doing better, but as long as you’re happy, that’s fine.”

    Shine sat still for a moment, not knowing how to respond. Then Curio sighed.

    “I guess I’ve been kind of an ass today, haven’t I? Sorry for ignoring you all this time and making you go through that dumb fight.”

    “No, no. It’s fine, seeing how I know why you felt that way. So, what do we do now?”

    Curio pulled away from him, frowning.

    “I dunno yet. I mean, it’s kinda like we’re meeting for the first time again after so long, ya know. You don’t even remember much about me, do you? I only recall bits and pieces myself, so I ain’t sure if what you have planned for me will be worth it.”

    “Then why don’t we catch up? I still know how good it felt hanging out with you, all those times we’d sit together in the library, picking up different books for each other to read. I think you wanted me to read Sinnohan Myths and Fables at one point, that much I remember.”

    “Like that story with the Sudowoodo? Ah, that brings me back. Well, there’s that, but besides, I don’t even know what this interview thing is for anyway. Is it like an interrogation where someone boxes me into a room and won’t let me leave until I answer all their questions?”

    Shine shook his head. He then went on to explain the purpose behind the interview and what it would require from Curio, to talk about as much as Curio was comfortable to discuss or was able to remember, as well as the process of shooting the documentary as well, which would all be done in a casual environment in Tony’s studio space.

    “I guess that doesn’t sound too bad.”

    Before Shine could say anything else, Curio lay down and faced the sky with her back to the ground.

    “Come sit on my lap, and watch the spike. I don’t wanna end up shishkebabing someone’s head like last time.”

    “Like last time? That’s not very reassuring.”

    “Eh, they were fine after so it was nothing serious. So will ya join me?”

    He steadied himself and lied down so his head was on her chest, just short of being impaled. His mane made it a little difficult to budge, but eventually, he was lying down and staring at the night sky full of stars with Curio. He purred slightly as she stroked his belly where the tender, pink scar was.

    “You said you lived in Ambrette Town if I remember. Funny. I bluffed my way into travelling from Canalave to Cyllage, which I’m sure was close, but I must’ve missed it, so I’ve never been there before. What’s it like?”

    “Er, it’s only your regular coastal town.”

    “Yeah, I know that much, but what is there to see?”

    “Well, there’s the arcade, I guess, but families mostly visit it during the summer when it’s warm.”

    “Yeah, and...”

    “There are lots of galleries as well. I sort of remember you liked watching those films, so there’s the cinema as well. With your aura and all, I imagine you’d be able to sneak in without paying quite easily.”

    “Which I have, lots of times, but it ain’t exactly unique. What else?”

    “Well, there’s also the aquarium that’s free of charge right next to where my trainer works.”

    “Alright, I’m coming with you.”

    Shine got up and stared at Curio, who still laid on her back.

    “You will? All because of an aquarium? You know what that is, don’t you?”

    “Hey, course I do, but I’ve never been to one. And no, it’s not just because of that. It sounds like there’s enough new stuff for me to enjoy and see.”

    “But what about your life here? I thought you had settled already.”

    “Oh please, I’ve only been here two weeks tops, and I was starting to get sick of this place anyway. Not much here except for farmers and gangs that are dumber than a bag of rocks.”

    “What about the other Pokémon I saw cheering you on? And what about Barley and the Pikachu you’re teaching? I’m sure they’ll miss you.”

    “They’re just randos I met in the street one day. And both of them knew I was bound to leave some day. I don’t like to stay in one place forever if there’s more to discover somewhere else, especially not a hick town like this. Plus, the sea sounds nicer anyway.”

    “So, forgive me if I’m being selfish, but is that a yes to the interview?”

    “I’m not really sure, but if that’s what it takes to catch up with you, then I’ll go through whatever crap your trainer puts me through. Wait a minute.” Curio tapped Shine’s side, giving him a puzzled look.

    “How the hell are we gonna get back from here? Are we gonna have to walk or something?”

    Shine also explained how he got to Dendemille in his first place and the situation he would be in immediately after he returned to Ambrette. When she heard that, Curio broke off into laughter, suddenly slapping Shine’s back.

    “Look at you, getting in debt! When you said your trainer let you do whatever you wanted, I didn’t think he was that freewheeling!”

    As if on cue, the two’s stomachs collectively growled.

    “Oh mon, I guess it’s gotten pretty late, huh?”

    “What are we going to eat?”

    “Well,” Curio shifted from her seat and stood, offering a paw to him. “I better make my goodbyes now if I’m coming with you tomorrow. If Barley’s still at the Vine, I’m sure he’ll lend us a claw or two. Saves us having to hunt or steal.”

    “They do dinner as well?”

    “Sure they do. Now c’mon, are you with me?”

    Shine smiled and returned Curio’s pawshake.

    –-

    It was the first time the two had entered the Pokeroom together, and their presence was delighted by those across the room from Quilladin to Delphox, including Barley, who glided away from his trainer to meet face to face with Shine.

    “Are you alright?” he asked. Shine nodded in reply and Barley perched on the game table, making eye contact with Curio.

    “So what was that all about, huh? You kinda dropped us into the middle of this spat.”

    “Yeah,” Quilladin chimed in, “You made total mincemeat out of him!”

    Shine grimaced at his comment, but kept silent.

    “Just a little something between us,” she said with a shrug. “We’ve made up now. Say, can you do both me and Shine a huge, huge favour? Can you order something for both of us to eat if the kitchen’s still open?”

    “I dunno about that,” Barley said, “That’s gonna have to come out of my trainer’s wallet. If you put in more work tomorrow, I’d be able to convince him to make it up for today.”

    “Actually, we won’t be here for long, since I’m movin’ away to Shine’s home-town tomorrow afternoon.”

    Barley’s mouth made an O shape, and also stopped the two starter Pokémon in the midst of their game as they turned to face her. Then, he curled his lips into a grin and nodded.

    “I can sort out something for you two as long as you come in to see the Pikachu for one last lesson. Does that sound fair?”

    Curio smiled back, giving a thumbs up the best she could with her paw. Shine nodded in approval along with her, and Barley glided over to his trainer’s shoulder to exit the room together, leaving them and the rest of the group alone. Quilladin sat on the edge of the table, staring at his hanging feet.

    “Aw nuts, seems like everyone’s going away lately.”

    “Everyone?” Curio asked, “What makes you say that?”

    “Eh, Delphox’s gotta go out tomorrow, too. His trainer got the call to go to Lumiose for a performance.”

    Delphox brushed a bit of dust off his ears.

    “It can’t be helped, I suppose, but I’m glad to finally get out of this place. Still, it was fun passing the time with you, sapling.”

    “Yeah, I guess so.”

    Shine thought back to the apparent squabble the two had earlier after he left the night before, and while the two didn’t acknowledge it, they seemed to have made up since then, and were playing a much less complex game than chess that time around.

    “Well,” Curio said, patting Quilladin’s back, “If it makes you feel any better, I’ve met a lot of peeps that’ve come and gone, so I can relate.”

    Quilladin looked up at Curio with a snaggletoothed grin.

    “Easy for you to say with those aura powers and all, ya cheater. And hey, you owe me a few games after bailing last night, ya know. Oh!” He scurried excitedly to the other side of the table where a wooden crate sat and pointed to the box at the top. “If you two don’t have much else going on, we can all play this together!”

    “Hmm,” Delphox hummed, “I doubt you’ll want to play that game if you couldn’t handle chess.”

    “Even so, I’ll be patient this time. I won’t flip the table over like I did before.” He shook the box at the two. “Well?”

    “Sure, we’ve got time, plus it’ll be nice to thrash your ass in this new game.” Curio pulled up a chair, gesturing Shine to sit next to her, who joined her without a second thought.

    The rest of the night passed with ease. Shine joined in with Curio’s game, letting her move his piece for him as he couldn’t reach without smashing everything. A part of the staff came in later with two plates and laid them beside the two companions, with mashed potatoes and a Magikarp fillet for them each. Although he found the taste bland, it filled his belly. Barley eventually joined in to watch them play, and they were all able to chat casually with one another and exchange some light-hearted banter.

    This proved to be a calm in the storm for Shine. He knew deep down that once the interview started, he would have to confront his past in full along with Curio, revisiting old memories they thought they would never have to confront again. Even so, for now, he forgot about his worries and stayed close to his spiky friend, making for the most enjoyment they had together since their reunion. He didn’t mind whether he won or lost, but chose to enjoy the journey rather than the destination.

    What if we can't make it but we say that we can?
    Shaking the habitual, relate it to time.
    We're laughing at the future and we cry 'bout the past.
    I'm holding on forever but how long will forever last?

    The Knife - Without You My Life Would Be Boring

    [End of The Chase Arc]
    [Proceed to The Island Arc]
     
    Last edited: Dec 27, 2018
  10. Namohysip

    Namohysip Dragon Enthusiast

    I wasn’t really sure who would win in a fight between Curio and Shine, but I was particularly surprised that the result was not only one-sided, but quick and decisive right from the start. Not a good look on you, Shine! I also was a bit surprised that it was also just a big bluff from Curio, since she seemed so adamant about the wager. Maybe she just wanted to get Shine to attack at his strongest? Clearly it wasn’t enough.


    Additionally, I feel like that brief little banter about Curio’s toothpick of a Bone Rush is some sort of foreshadowing. It seems silly but the detail is too specific for me to leave alone. I’m going to keep it on the backburner while the next arcs play out.


    Another thought I had was that indeed, you addressed Curio having so many friends and ties to this city. And the answer is… she didn’t! It seemed she was just fascinating enough to make fast friends, though having only been there for a few weeks does make it a little hard to believe. She had a full-on reputation, “sayings” about her like “You don’t find Curio, she finds you,” and so on. I find it hard to believe that she’d build up something like that in a matter of weeks. But regardless, it is a convenient explanation, and it gives way to some things that I’d argue you could read between the lines.


    Curio says she likes to explore and see everything the world has to offer, but what does that mean once she grows bored of where Shine will take her? Will she leave on her way again, even if it means leaving Shine behind? Why does she travel so much? Is it really just to see the world? Is it to make up for lost time after being holed up in GeL? Or is it because she’s afraid of making bonds only to be abandoned like what happened with Shine, so she abandons them first? There are so many angles that you can go into this, and while some may not be true, it’s certainly what I’m considering for Curio’s psyche.


    And so marks the end of the first arc. Overall, I’d say this was three quarters interesting, one quarter rocky. I already went over how things are interesting and I’m definitely going to be looking for more details about their past, but I want to briefly outline some of the rockier elements. Most of these stem from two source points. The first issue is that I can still see some remnants of the old draft here. Shine’s behavior feels inconsistent at times to his memory—and due to the stuff I write, memories and behavior are something I’m very tuned to.


    I’d expect Shine to be more confused or lost, following gut feelings, if his memories are still fragmented, rather than acting with such certainty at times with Curio. Actually, I’d’ve been more invested if it wasn’t Shine urging Curio to come with her only, but also Curio trying to get Shine to remember before she’d come with him. You know, like a glimmer of hope that he wasn’t lost, or that she wasn’t going to lose him again. This doesn’t go for just this chapter, but the arc as a whole. Still, you have ample time to take a look at this angle in the next arc, I imagine.


    The second issue is that I’m starting to get the odd feeling that I’m reading an epilogue. Everything that they’re talking about—all the action and the fighting and the struggle—took place in the past. There’s an interview coming up, talking about something that had happened in the past. But why are we not just doing that story there? Why start after the action, when all the interesting stuff was back then?


    I have faith in you as an author that you’ll be able to answer those questions in the next arc. Perhaps we’re in the middle, and there’s still more of GeL to take care of. It feels like things are still unresolved for them, and they need to figure out how to fix whatever that… unresolved something is. That’s the absolute biggest uncertainty I have with this, now that I’m finishing the first arc. Where is this going? Why are we reading this story after their escape? What’s there to see after that we couldn’t have seen before?


    So I hope this is where things are going, one way or the other. But until then, I await the next chapter~
     
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  11. NebulaDreams

    NebulaDreams A Dense Irritating Miniature Beast of Burden

    Thanks for reviewing, @Namohysip, and I'm glad you enjoyed The Chase Arc, despite the occasionally rocky nature of the memory aspect of it, but it's something I will consider for the later chapter edits. About the point you raised about it taking place in medias res, this arc will set up that part of the narrative, but I guarantee there is a reason it takes place here rather than the chronological beginning of the story.

    Chapter 6. Interlude: Dendemille’s Riders

    Once Delphox said his goodbyes as his trainer came to pick him up, the excitement of the party dwindled from there and everyone agreed to call it a night. Shine in particular let out a long yawn that echoed in the room, and when he stretched, he felt the ache of his body that lingered from his fight.

    Save for himself and Curio, the rest of the group said goodnight and went upstairs to the upper floor of the bar where they had a room, while the duo stayed in the Pokéroom with the lights off and went to rest on the pile of cushions. They talked very little, and eventually, they stopped talking altogether and nuzzled close to each other, feeling each other’s warmth as they drifted off to sleep. No memories resurfaced in his dreams that time.

    Shine next awoke to see Curio already active, extending and contracting her metal arm, which squeaked. Grunting, she drew an oil can outside her bag and squirted around its crevices.

    “That fight did a number on this arm, you know. Gotta watch what I do for a little while.”

    Shine stood up, kicking at the air to stretch himself too, feeling less stiff than before.

    “Right. Um, how does it feel living with a metal arm?”

    “Well, it ain’t really all it’s cracked up to be. It’s not much different from using my paws, so if you notice the way I move my fingers...” She trailed off and wiggled the pinkie and ring finger together, then the middle, then the index and thumb together. “I have the same sort of nerves as I would with my paw, so I can’t move each individual finger like a human can. Sucks, wish I could play guitar with it, but at least I can do this.”

    She closed it into a fist and mimed cranking it with her paw, gradually raising a middle finger.

    “See! Isn’t that cool?”

    “Um,” he said in a flat tone, “I guess so.”

    “Eh, whatever. But it can be a pain in the ass sometimes. Now, it’s fine, but sometimes, it refuses to work at all, and I ain’t had any success finding anyone to fix it. Not everyday you get a Lucario wonderin’ around with an arm like this, you know.”

    “If you want, I could help you find a mechanic in Ambrette.”

    “Yeah, don’t suppose your trainer will let you sponge off his money again, do you?”

    “I can convince him to help, and if you’re lucky given your circumstances, they could do it for free.”

    “Yeah, we’ll see about that.”

    There was a knock at the door, and Barley greeted them along with his trainer to head out to the cafe. When they entered, however, instead of the pudgy owner being at his usual spot behind the counter, that time, a much thinner man operated the till in his place. Barley shot a glance at his trainer, and the substitute looked just as confused.

    “Uh, hi there?”

    “Hey,” Barley said, “Isn’t the owner in today?”

    “Huh?” He narrowed his eyes, then gave a squeal of surprise. “Right, right, you’re the, uh, Gligar he told me about! Yeah, unfortunately, he had to call me in to cover for him. There was a sudden meeting at his daughter’s training school.”

    “So Pikachu isn’t here either?”

    “Sorry, I know he said you two called him in last night. But bear with me for a bit, I have something for the Lucario.”

    Before she asked why, the clerk disappeared into the kitchen, only to come out again with a wicker basket full of various fruits. Her eyes beamed at the sight of it, although Shine couldn’t see its contents.

    “He told me to prepare this for you,” He handed the basket over to Curio. “It’s on the house.”

    “Thanks a bunch!” she said, gripping the handle in her paw. “Well, I think this is too much to tackle on my own. You all wanna help me out?”

    Shine nodded in reply, since he worked up a sizeable appetite after last night’s events. The group all gathered around the table and Shine climbed up to stand on the chair, giving him a full view of the fruits basket. A cornucopia of colourful berries adorned the insides: Oran, Pecha, Grepa, even Kee and Maranga berries amongst others Shine didn’t immediately recognise, but what stuck out to him was the white slip of paper attached to the handle.

    “What about the note?” Shine said before Curio could dip her paw into her breakfast. She narrowed her eyes before noticing it, then pried the piece of paper off and unfolded it on the table for all to see. It appeared to be a handwritten letter, which Barley pointed at with his barb.

    “Oh, I recognise the owner’s handwriting! Go on, read it!”

    Curio grunted and snatched the sheet, holding it up close to her face.

    “Fine. I might be a bit rusty, though.”

    She cleared her throat.

    To Curio,
    I only heard the news about your leave recently so you’ve left me unprepared for this letter, but I want to thank you for carrying on Pikachu’s lessons from where the other teacher left off. Although there’s much I have to learn about you and what Pokémon are like in general, even without Pikachu having to speak, I can tell he was happy being around you. It’s given my girl some hope as well for when she eventually leaves.


    Although I did not know you all that well during your time here, it was a pleasure having you around as well. You were a good listener as I told you my worries about her, and even though you were apprehensive about my daughter’s trainership, you were respectful and gave me some good advice. If worst comes to worst, I will welcome her with open arms and won’t judge her if she decides to quit.

    Consider this basket a parting gift. I don’t know if it’s a tradition with Pokémon, but in any case, best of luck to all your future travels.

    P.S. I’ve never had to write a letter for a Pokémon before either. This must be a new milestone for my business.”


    Curio put the letter to one side and smiled.

    “Well good for him,” she said, then plucked an Oran berry out the pile. “Now let’s eat before I starve to death.”

    Everyone silently agreed as they dipped their hands and paws into the hamper, except for Shine. Although he tried to grab a piece of fruit, it was slightly out of reach and he retracted his paw, being cautious not to climb on the table and accidentally flip it over.

    “Whoops, force of habit, I guess.” Curio laid a berry of each kind at Shine’s level, finally allowing him to dig in. They were tender and cold, nourishing Shine as he savoured ts sweet juices.

    "Sho," Curio said, halfway between a bite, "What'sh nexsht now the Pikachu'sh out?"

    "That's it, I think," Barley said, "We've got no one else available for you to teach since you're going so soon."

    "What about lastsh night?" She swallowed.

    "I'll let it slide. What do you think?" His trainer shrugged. "Then that works for me."

    "Awesome."

    “Besides,” he smiled widely, “It’s been great having you here. If you ever come to the Vine again, our doors are open for you.”

    Curio batted a paw in the air at him. “Aw, you’re makin’ me blush, if I could anyway.”

    Barley turned to Shine.

    “Let me know how it goes in Ambrette. We’d like to hear about what the Pokéstops are like there if there are any, so please keep in contact. Us speakers should stick together, after all.”

    Shine hummed to himself. He hadn’t really checked to see if there were any, or at least showed much interest in finding one. He mostly kept to himself, either going to the library, reading to Bauble or staying at home during the day to read more. If Barley was interested in this case, that would be reason enough to finally go to one, but regardless, Shine smiled and offered his front paw to him, which he shook in return.

    When Shine tended to his breakfast, he glanced at Curio and saw her previously cheerful expression dropped. He wasn’t sure why, but as quickly as he saw it, it was gone, as Curio shook her head and chomped on a Pecha berry.

    Once the group emptied the basket, they decided to go their separate ways. Shine and Curio would venture outside until their eventual leave, and Barley and his trainer offered to stay behind to discuss business matters with the co-owner. Before the duo left, however, Barley glided up to Curio’s shoulder and licked her across the face with his big tongue, which she laughed and waved them goodbye as they exited the cafe.

    “So.” She nudged his side. “Who’s this Bauble, anyway?”

    Shine stumbled on his own words before she cut him off.

    “Relax, I didn’t ask you if you two were dating or anything, just wonderin’.”

    So Curio used her aura again. He exhaled and his heartbeat steadied.

    “She’s just a friend that tags along with me whenever she’s bored. Nothing more.”

    “Alrighty then.”

    “Curio,” he said, changing his tone, “I hate to sound rude, but would it be possible for you to not keep reading my thoughts like that? I don’t remember much of you using it on me back then, but here, it’s a little invasive.”

    “I can’t help myself, it’s in my nature to nose around like that. And you saying it’s invasive, I mean, you can see through walls and stuff. How many people have you seen naked in their homes?”

    Shine flustered, trying to think of a proper response. “Well, I--”

    “Don’t answer that.”

    She had a point, even if it was completely missing the point of his request in the first place.

    “Still, can you keep my thoughts to yourself? Unless I’m lying, of course. You can call me out on it whenever that happens.”

    “Of course I will. You never lie to a Lucario, after all.”

    That much was common knowledge.

    “Say, we’ve got plenty of time before we head out, right? Wanna do something fun?”

    It was still early, but it would’ve been convenient to know exactly how long he had left.

    “Oh!” Curio exclaimed, “Look, I’ll try to stop sticking my nose into your business, but if you wanna know what the time is...” As she walked, she fished inside one of the many pockets in her bag to pull out a watch, who held it close to her twitching.

    “Yup, still works. When do we need to meet them by?”

    Curio presented the clock-face to Shine. He forgot about the fact she just read his thoughts again and stared at the watch, which was encrusted with various stones as they glittered in the sunlight. If he knew anything about jewellery, he would’ve said it must’ve been fairly expensive, but before he dwelt on it any longer, Curio coughed pointedly.

    “We’ve got two hours until we need to be at the park.”

    “Sweet.” She withdrew the watch. “Tell ya what, I’ve got a surprise waiting for ya. Run up to the top of that hill before the mill and I’ll be there with ya in a bit, okay?”

    Before Shine mustered a reply, Curio started running the other way.

    “Hold on, Curio!” he shouted. That time, she stopped. “Is this going to be like last time?”

    “Course not, I’ve gotten over that now, so I’m definitely coming with ya.”

    “You swear it on your tail?”

    “Swear it on my tail.” She made a point of her tail-swear by flicking it, then left Shine to his own devices.

    So, he trekked up the hill again and waited until his companion popped out from the road, lugging a big shopping cart uphill. He blinked a few times before realising the nature of the surprise.

    “You can’t be serious.”

    “Course I am! I’ve done this a few times before with Quilladin and we both turned out fine!”

    Shine narrowed his eye at her. “Where did you get that from anyway? You’re not supposed to take them!”

    Curio blew a Razzberry at him. “Who cares? Everyone takes them anyway, what harm will another do?”

    Shine grunted and looked to where the hill headed down a steep incline.

    “C’mon! Don’t be a wuss, I just wanna do this once before I go.” She teased him with a toothy grin. “You don’t wanna be like that milksop Luccy, do ya?”

    Nothing worked quite like peer pressure. There was nothing at stake this time, but of all things, Shine hated nothing more than wounded pride.

    “Alright, you’re on.”

    “That’s more like it.”

    Shine stumbled into the basket and landed on his back, fumbling around in it until he sat up, with his tail poking through the metal mesh below. He looked at the slope once more. This was going to be a steep ride at the very least, if there wasn’t anybody else in the way. His pulse quickened, regretting it already, but before he could protest, Curio pushed the cart downhill. In his reflex, Shine grappled onto the rim of the basket, holding on for what felt like dear life.

    “I didn’t even say I was ready!” he shouted.

    “Didn’t need to! Hold on!” Curio dumped her bag behind Shine and stepped onto the rail. The cart felt weightless, as it went at a steady speed on the straight path at first. Once they reached the slope, however, they shot downhill. Both of them screamed. Curio sounded joyful. Shine didn’t. In fact, the speed reminded him all too well of Adele’s dragon riding, not helped by the bumpy wheels which sent vibrations ringing through his body.

    They were about to approach a dead end, where their only salvation was a sharp turn on the left.

    “Get ready for this!” Curio shouted.

    “Wait wait wait wait wait wait!”

    Curio shifted her weight to her right, crashing Shine against one of the mesh wells. It still looked certain they were about to crash, but just in time Curio gripped the handle with her metal arm, making the cart turn a full 90 degrees.

    He couldn’t believe what he experienced. After that turn, anything she would do next would be mundane in comparison. In any case, as they headed down the straight downhill slope again, Curio howled in the air, and in turn, Shine roared alongside her too.

    The rest were smooth sailings, save for the two occasional bystanders that had to avoid getting run over. Once they reached the plateau at the end, Curio skidded her paws on the ground, acting as brakes, and slowed down the cart, which eventually stopped. Shine slunk down to the bottom of the basket and lied there, catching his breath. Curio stood above him, appearing upside down.

    “Now you can be mad at me,” she said.

    “That was fantastic, actually,” he said with a smile. “I’d never want to do that again, though.”

    Curio chuckled, then reached down to let Shine out of the cart. He dropped down to the floor beside and as she joined him, he glanced at the scuffed bottoms of her paws.

    “You used those to brake, correct?”

    She nodded.

    “How were they not torn up at that speed?”

    “Let’s just say I’ve had plenty of exercise.” Curio tapped the sole of her foot with a claw. “See? Tough as leather.”

    “Hello, you two.” Leafeon popped out from behind them. “I saw your downhill race. I’d give it full points if this were a contest.” She winked at Shine. “I see you’ve made it in one piece.”

    “Just barely,” Curio said before he could speak for himself. “How’s it going?”

    “Actually, I need to warn you about something. The master hasn’t forgotten about what you did a few days back.”

    “Yeah, so?”

    “So, he’s looking to press charges.”

    “Excuse me?” She scowled.

    “He told one of his other workers. Trespassing, destruction of property, plus he suspects you actually came there to steal, and were a part of that gang all along.”

    “Seriously?” Curio wagged a paw at her. “It was for a good cause, I swear! You can back me up on this, right, Shine?”

    “Absolutely. She saved my hide from those Claws. Plus, I saw her drive them away from town and I don’t think I’ve seen anybody mention it since, so her being a part of their group is just a rumour.”

    Leafeon’s lips straightened into a line.

    “I’ll believe it when I see it, but whatever. Point is, it’ll cost him a lot.”

    “How much exactly?” Shine asked, to which, Leafeon shrugged.

    “I suck at money and numbers so I can’t say for sure, but it had a lot of zeroes, for sure.”

    “Well,” Curio scoffed, “Screw that. We’re going out of town soon anyway and nobody can stop us, unless you came here to fight.”

    Leafeon cocked her head with a thoughtful expression, then shook it.

    “Eh. I’ll give you the benefit of a doubt. Besides, I’m no snitch. Not that I can really say much to change this situation, but hey.”

    “Good.” Curio smiled, then shook paws with her before Leafeon turned away.

    “It was nice knowing you freaks anyway. See you.”

    With that, she disappeared up the hill, leaving the two on their own.. Curio dumped the shopping cart beside the road and although Shine thought she should’ve returned it at least, he didn’t think to comment, and so, walked with her to the rendezvous point. They settled in an unoccupied spot of the park and sat close to each other in the shade, talking very little during their rest. Curio made passing comments on whichever funny-looking Pokémon she saw in the fields, but Shine kept mostly to himself. It was so quiet, he could hear the wind brush past the leaves. It calmed him after the trip he had downhill. Eventually, the two dozed off close together, using Curio’s bag to support both of their heads.

    The trees rustled with a light breeze, then nearly stripped with the force of the howling wind, jolting Curio and Shine awake. Passers by made way as they stepped to one side, steering clear for a certain duo to land. It was Adele and her Dragonite Accendare. With each landing wing flap, the breeze brushed the two’s faces until Accendare jerked down with an ungraceful thump. Shine approached them with Curio following behind.

    “Hello,” Shine said.

    “Nice to see you’re early!” Adele said, “Ready for another ride on the puke plane?”

    “Ready as I’ll ever be.”

    “And I see this is the Lucario you were talking about!” Adele jumped off the harness, ready to give Curio a handshake when she quirked an eyebrow at the metal arm.

    “Yeah, that’s the first thing folks usually notice. Makes for a good icebreaker, I’d say.” To make a point of this, she fistbumped Adele with her metal knuckles, and the rider broke into a fit of laughter.

    “Oh man! This gets more interesting with each passing day! Alright, hop on!”

    She climbed onto Accendare’s back and helped the two get on.

    “Are you still joining our lesson?” Shine asked Accendare.

    “Of course,” she said.

    With that, Adele signalled the Dragonite to take flight, and they were in the air within a minute, heading towards Ambrette.
     
  12. Namohysip

    Namohysip Dragon Enthusiast

    This interlude was a joy to read. Yes, it was a bit inconsequential, more or less tying up loose ends that were largely things that could have been summarized as a paragraph or two, but you know what? I don’t even care! We get some payoff of Shine and Curio having some fun together, and this interlude in particular made me finally realize what it was about this work that made it feel so different from my usual Mystery Dungeon tastes.


    It feels urban. Riding down a hill in a shopping cart? How in the world can it get any more urban than that sort of simple joy? I don’t even like cities and I thought that seemed like fun to read.


    I don’t really have much else to say on this one. It was a largely inconsequential chapter—an interlude, yep. While it probably wasn’t necessary from a plot perspective—any plot-relevant details could’ve just been sprinkled in past or future chapters—getting a “breather episode” between Curio and Shine more than made up for it.
     
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  13. NebulaDreams

    NebulaDreams A Dense Irritating Miniature Beast of Burden

    Thanks, @Namohysip! I'm glad you enjoyed that brief interlude. I had a lot of fun writing that particular scene between the two.

    Chapter 7: Interlude – Ambrette’s Teachers

    When they arrived at the ranch, the two had to rest. Although Shine didn’t vomit like last time, the nausea still caught up with him and wouldn’t let go any time soon. Oddly enough, to him at least, Curio didn’t seem affected by it, only resting to catch her breath as one normally would after being exposed to the elements. She recovered once she adjusted to ground level again, and stood over Shine, blocking his view of the sky.

    “C’mon, you big furball. Do I have to drag you up to your feet?”

    “You don’t have to stay if you don’t want to wait, this is my business.”

    “I know, but I can help out too. Just don’t leave me hangin’.”

    Shine staggered to his paws, still dizzy from the ride, but shook his head, getting a grip on the world again. The rider undid Accendare’s equipment and handed them to the assistants who took it to the barn.

    “So,” Shine started, “What level would you say Petri’s at?”

    “Well, we’ve been teaching him throughout the spring all the way up to here so far. He can do short sentences, and his pronunciation’s alright, but he has to break most words down bit by bit to be able to say them, which makes him sound kind of flat. His grammar’s fine, though, so on the whole, I’d say he’s reaching into an intermediate level.”

    “What about his teacher?”

    “Unfortunately, he and Petri don’t get along well, but I’ll let him speak for himself.”

    “And is it alright if Accendare joins us?”

    “What, is she interested as well?”

    The Dragonite nodded.

    “Well, you can as long as you can do some extra work tomorrow for the Postmon service.” Adele gave her an appreciative pat on the side. “Well, I don’t see anything else I should say, just feel free to report to the house beside the barn when it becomes sunset. You’ll see Petri over at the muddy pond. Oh, and feel free to take a break when you should, just so those two can get some exercise.”

    “Alright, thank you.”

    “Gotcha.”

    With that, the two headed over to the bog where Petri, another Goodra and a pair of Goomy swam. When he spotted the duo, he leaned out of the pond and waved over to the group.

    “Hey Shine! Are we starting now?”

    “We can if you want. I doubt Accendare will want to wait.”

    “Who?” He cocked his head.

    “Um.” She fumbled with her claws. “We’ve met before, Petri. At the—”

    “Oh yeah. Sorry, I have a hard time telling the rest of you Dragonite apart.”

    She muttered something that vaguely sounded like “Says you”.

    “Oh, and Curio will be helping out as well. She is—”

    “Very pleased to meet ya!” she said, waving a paw. “I’ll be takin’ over just in case Shine makes you fall asleep!”

    “I was about to say she is my friend, but that works too.” He gestured to a flat patch of grass. “Shall we sit over there?”

    Petri nodded and the two dragons followed behind Shine and Curio to sit down opposite them. Accendare sat away from where Petri dripped goo into a puddle around him.

    “Well,” Shine started, “Let’s start by finding out more about this situation. Adele told me you’re being taught by a human at the moment.”

    He nodded.

    “And she also tells me you two don’t get along very well.”

    “Yes, well,” Petri paused, looking glumly to his side. “He isn’t the most agreeable human on the earth. He shouts at me a lot, only just because I talk the way I do. I don’t think he gets that we aren’t used to speaking in growls and cries.”

    “Well screw him,” Curio said. “Why didn’t you just tell that rancher he was being an asshole?”

    “I wouldn’t use that language to describe him. I wanted a better teacher, sure, but I didn’t want her to make a big deal out of it. She has enough work as it is maintaining all of us. Going through the extra effort to find a Pokémon to replace him instead would be a waste.”

    “Alright.” Shine took a deep breath. “Let’s step back a bit. It sounds like you’ve been learning long enough for you to get past simple sentences, even from human to Pokémon. How has he been teaching you so far? Do you at least know which sounds go into each words?”

    “Well, nothing advanced like that, I just play it by ear. All he does is read aloud from a book aimed at human children learning to talk and tells me to go through each exercise. It gets the job done, I guess, although it’s a little degrading.”

    "Ah, I see what the issue is now. You have a bad teacher."

    "I do?"

    "He doesn't explain the basics and expects you to skip to sentences already. It's not just bad, it's inefficient. Me and Curio learned how to do simple sentences without stopping in just a month. Does he even know how our own language system works?"

    "He never said anything about it, he just told me it didn't need explanation."

    "It depends, but it helps to understand how to properly transition from Pokémon to human speech. But, let's backtrack here. Have you ever stopping to think about how say we say words, and how humans say theirs?”

    "Well, kind of. The more I think about it, the more it confuses me."

    "You see, our language system is quite similar to theirs. Same modes of address, same tenses, same manners of speech, all of these get passed down from one generation of Pokémon to the next as they communicate with each other, but we don’t start off immediately understanding human language. However, we’re able to pick up on it fast with enough exposure, but how exactly we're able to do it is still a mystery. Some even say language is like a virus from outer space.”

    “And what’s that supposed to mean?”

    “Never mind. What separates us from humans are the sounds we use. Really stop to think about what sounds you're making when you say a word like 'hello' in your own tongue, then what sounds are used when you say the same thing in human. Listen to me, for instance.”

    Shine let out a friendly snarl, which was what it sounded like to the untrained human ear.

    "What did that sound like?"

    "Oo-arr-or."

    "And in human."

    Shine greeted Petri in the same tone of voice, except in human tongue.

    "Now, what did that sound like?"

    "Hell-oh!"

    "That's right, but there's one other thing your teacher neglected to mention. Since you learned to say that by ear, you're picking apart the sounds by syllables, which means you're doing it by the breaks of the words. But sound is a lot more complicated than that, which boils down to the vibrations your tongue makes when speaking. These are what we call phonemes, the little sounds that make up each word. Hello is more than just those two syllables. If we break it down by its proper sounds, what you have is 'ha', 'ell' and 'oh'. These are similar to the sounds you heard in our own tongue."

    "That sounds a lot more complicated than I'm used to."

    "Don't worry, it was complicated for me at first, and at one point, I found it easier just to break it down into syllables, but once I knew how much work went into it and how to pronounce it phonetically, it sounded natural to me. I'll promise not to make it boring for you, but if you do, we can take a break. How does that sound?"

    "I'm still a little confused, but I can manage. To be honest, you sound like you know what you're doing more than that human."

    Shine gave a hard look at Curio, who had fallen asleep with her bag tucked under her head like a pillow, but brushed aside her sloth and continued with Petri.

    "I'll have to see that for myself. The important thing is that you're learning faster already. This will be good for you too, Accendare, since this is the sort of thing I started out with as well. Now, let's put that into practice, shall we?"

    For the next couple of hours, Shine broke down the fundamentals of speech and gave Petri and Accendare brief definitions of linguistics, and worked through some of Petri’s problem areas such as his monotonous speech patterns. Petri was the most engaged over Accendare who listened attentively but only contributed to the conversation occasionally. If anything, Shine got the feeling she was bothered by something given how silent she was.

    Curio, on the other hand, snored through the entire session, so loudly and conveniently placed whenever Shine talked that he suspected she was doing it on purpose. When Petri suggested to take a break, Curio woke up herself without any help.

    “What’re we doing?” she said, stretching her paws.

    “Petri wants to go on break.”

    “Yeah, um,” Petri said, “How long is long enough, would you say? I’m no good with minutes.”

    “Depends on what you want to do.”

    “Okay, how about a few games of Dodge?”

    This was a simple and efficient game to play as a Pokémon, as it involved dodging whichever projectiles came somebody’s way with whatever elements each Pokémon type had at their disposal. Curio obliged but Shine opted out and stayed with Accendare, simply watching the two trade blows with each other as Curio threw aura spheres the size of tennis balls at Petri, and he threw globs of slime at her in return. Both were light on their feet, even Petri who was twice the Lucario’s size.

    Accendare started picking daisies with her claws, and Shine inched closer to her, shifting his attention back and forth between the game and the delicate Dragonite.

    “Is it alright if I call you Accy?”

    She shrugged, whilst she tried to put together a daisy chain with her tiny claws.

    “Well Accy, I just want to make sure everything’s alright. You’ve been mostly quiet, after all.”

    She nodded with a faint frown.

    “I was curious, why did you decide to join us? You must’ve had something good in mind when you thought about learning human.”

    “Of course. I want to be able to talk to Adele.”

    “Sounds fair enough.” He laid down on the grass. “Was there anything you wanted me to relay to her, though?”

    After fumbling around with the chain to little success, Accy broke it apart.

    “No, it’s something I have to do myself. I’m not sure you’d understand.”

    She stayed silent afterwards, staring off into the distance, deep in thought. Shine wanted to find out what exactly he wouldn’t understand, as something clearly bothered her, but her tone suggested it was an issue she wanted to keep to herself. It was at times like these that he wished he had Curio’s aura capabilities. Sometimes, the embrace of a fuzzy Pokemon was just as good as a mind-reader though, and so, he leaned towards her belly.

    “Listen, I know as well as any Pokemon you’re entitled to your secrets, but if there’s anything you feel you can tell me, please do. I would be all ears.”

    She clasped both her paws together and nodded. Then splat. All of a sudden, a glob of slime hit Shine in the face, coating him with the gooey substance. It didn’t hurt, but his heart rate quickened when it hit him, and jerked his body to the play area to see who was responsible. It wasn’t Petri who did it, but rather Curio who waved a dripping paw in the air.

    “C’mon!” she said with a toothy grin. “Join us!”

    He laughed, as he would probably need a bath to clean the goo off, but he might as well have milked his uncleanliness for all it was worth, so he started to walk over to them when he noticed Accendare still didn’t move.

    “Would you like to join us?” he said. She shook her head and waved a paw in their direction. From then on, Shine had a few rounds of Dodge, using weak jolts of electricity as his choice of weapon and placed last twice, falling victim to Curio’s aura once and to another goo glob from Petri. He would’ve needed an extra long bath to get rid of it all at that stage.

    Without needing to lift a paw himself, Curio declared it was time to start the second half of their lesson. They returned to their circle, but Curio spoke first.

    “I wanna try something different, with none of the theory crap this time.”

    Shine was about to say something in reply, but closed his mouth again. It was pointless trying to argue.

    “So, speak as well as you can without stopping, and don’t worry if you get a few things wrong on the way. Tell me what you dragons get up to in this place.”

    “Oh.” Petri rubbed a wad of goo together with his paws.

    “We train, like a-ny Pokémon, but we have diff-er-ent skills. I can not fly, but I can fight. We pre-pare for a long time. When we are rea-dy, we are for sa-le for a trai-ner.”

    “Doesn’t that kinda suck, though? She frowned. “Any random jerkwad could buy you and treat you like dirt.”

    “Our ca-rers do not let them. They need a good re-cord.”

    “Still, you didn’t ask for this, did you? You must have something you want to do for yourself.”

    “Good trai-ners have in-ter-est in me. They are kind to me. The peo-ple here are kind to me.”

    “Not that teacher.”

    “He is not from here. If I can find a trai-ner who can buy me and be kind, I want to help them. That is e-nough for me.”

    Curio leaned in closer to Petri, observing him. As far as Shine could tell, Petri was relaxed, and his smooth body was clean, so he guessed he was treated well. Petri's smile grew wider when Curio peered into his eyes.

    “I tell the truth.”

    She nodded and pulled back.

    “You’re honest, I’ll give you that. I’ve just met a lot of Pokémon before who’ve lied to themselves about this sort of thing.”

    “I know the say-ing of your kind.”

    The following conversations were more cheerful as Curio mostly asked about Petri’s other activities in the ranch and his friends, and only mentioned vague details about herself when Petri asked her questions of his own, as she mentioned hearing about a few dragon ranches in Sinnoh. Shine sat in the background, but let Curio go on as he could see she was encouraging Petri to speak. To occupy his thoughts, he considered what he would do next time to help Petri progress further, like bringing a chart to write on, for instance.

    Eventually, the sky became a blood orange with a pale ball of fire sinking into the horizon. That was time enough to end their shift. The ranch followed suit as the majority of the Pokémon in the fields joined an organised line, which he tried to piece together. A slimy paw tapped his shoulder which drew him out of the scene.

    “Feeding time’s about to begin soon, so I think that’s all for now. Thanks, Mr. Shine and Ms. Curio.”

    He would’ve blushed if he could. It was the first time in a while somebody addressed him so formally, let alone a Pokémon.

    “You’re welcome.” Shine bowed. “I hope to see you again soon.”

    “Me too!” Petri winked before charging into the open field to join the rest of the Pokémon. Another set of heavy steps plodded behind uneasily, belonging to Accendare who hadn’t joined the rest of the group yet.

    “What’s wrong?” Shine said.

    Accendare’s eyes signalled over to the barn, lips creased into a frown.

    “Um, you two might want to head to the house soon. Feeding time gets a little, um, violent.”

    The duo’s expressions didn’t change, although there was a mutual understanding of what the situation was.

    “Um, thanks, you two. I think I, um, learned a lot.”

    “You’re welcome too. Feel free to join us any time you like.”

    She nodded and sat down, staring at her feet. Something in his gut told him this was a situation he would have to see unfold through his own eye, so he dismissed himself and nodded to Curio, who caught up with him and padded through the open area on the way to the farmhouse’s path. While they walked, Curio absent-mindedly picked at her ears with a tiny piece of Bone Rush.

    “Did you notice something odd about Accendare?” Shine said.

    “Nope.” She tossed the waxy swab aside. “Nothin’ at all.”

    A part of him wasn’t convinced by Curio’s tone, but felt no need to press further.

    “Must be my imagination.”

    When they arrived, they faced the back of the barn, which forked into two paths at each side leading to the house. They chose the one on the right and on the way there, they passed by two members of staff who lugged around two wheelbarrows full of Pokéballs. Shine couldn’t take his eye off it until they were out of his sight, knowing full well what purpose it had, but Curio didn’t bat an eye.

    Once they were in the house area, which was connected to the back of the barn, Shine caught a pleasant symphony of various cooked meats calling in the air and his stomach responded with a tune of its own. Despite the carnage about to unfold outside, he put those morbid thoughts to rest in favour of finding out where the scene came from. Up a small flight of stairs beside them, a door stood ajar leading into the kitchen where various aproned staff worked. Shine’s paws moved on their own, but he controlled himself as any sane person wouldn’t have let any Pokémon waltz into their food storage. Curio, however, didn’t hesitate to make her presence known as she took the first step up.

    “We can’t just walk in there!” Shine called.

    “It’ll be fine, just follow your nose!”

    She strutted into the house as he followed, desperate to convince her to come back outside. When he came in, he was surprised to see the staff hadn’t sicced their Pokémon on them or raised their knives in self defence, but rather, they continued working quietly, dicing up steaks and adding them to the stew pot on a flame-fueled stove. Only one person faced them and even he seemed pleased to see the two.

    “You the two new teachers everybody’s raving about?”

    Shine nodded in reply and the man smiled, pointing to the door on his right.

    “Dining room’s past there. The missus will be down in a jiffy; she just asked to see you two fed for your work today.”

    Curio cast a smug look that said ‘told you so’.

    “Oh, thank you sir.”

    “No need to be so formal. Go on, what’re you waiting for?”

    The two headed to the dining room, and once they opened the door, it revealed a chaotic gathering of various people of different ages, including the two assistants from before, all seated around one long table. Oddly enough, it didn’t fit the entire length of the room as there was still a bit of space left after the table ended, after which an unused smaller table sat perpendicular at the end of the room. When their presence became known among the group, an elderly man shakily raised his hand.

    “Come here, you two.” He spoke with the pleasant weariness of old age, and the duo stood beside his wheelchair at the far end of the table.

    “Yes.” He peered at them with sunken eyes. “Such an interesting couple you make. Adele told me you two fit each other.”

    “And you are?” Curio asked.

    The elderly man leaned in closer, cupping his ear. “Terribly sorry. Can you repeat that?”

    “I said, what’s your name?”

    “Sorry, one more time?”

    “Who are ya, ya old fart?” she shouted, and at last, the man leaned back, taking in Curio’s comment. Shine shot a severe look and nudged her, but as revenge, she punched his side.

    “Ow! Forgive my friend’s manners, sir.”

    Cutting the tension short, the old man heartily laughed, only to devolve into a cough.

    “Not to worry. I know I’ve become a bag of bones as of late. Strange. A Pokémon comes up to speak to me in a language I understand and I have to tell them to repeat it. My ears must be cursed.”

    “You don’t seem terribly surprised you have two speaking Pokémon before you.”

    “No, no, I’ve seen a few speaking Pokémon during my career as a rancher. For some jobs, it’s a necessary skill for dragons to possess if team communication is important with their trainers, something not many people value even to this day, sadly. My daughter will tell you as much.”

    “So you’re Adele’s father?”

    “Indeed. You can call me Remy.” He smiled at something behind them. “Here come the tots.”

    Three children came towards them, and one boy no older than ten pointed at the flustered Luxray.

    “Ooh, ooh! Can you say hello?”

    “Um, hello?” Shine said. The children squeed and Shine suddenly found himself bombarded with hugging arms and grabbing hands that were too eager to pet his coat, which was worse than what he expected.

    “He said it!”

    “Aw,” a girl said, “I wanna take him home with me!”

    “Hey,” another boy said, “Don’t keep him to yourself, I wanna pet him too you know!”

    Shine sat still as they patted at him in all sorts of ways, not wanting to offend any of them but was trying to find a way to get them to kindly get lost. All things considered, Shine was glad Tony didn’t have plans to have kids yet, or that a younger trainer took Tony’s place instead. Curio, however, opened her arms, welcoming them with a toothy grin.

    “C’mere” she said, “You can’t let that stick in the mud have all the fun.”

    Mercifully, the children stopped grabbing at Shine and gave Curio the attention she craved, crowding around her. One reached out to stroke underneath her chin, when she lowered herself to let them as the rest joined in, and in the midst of it all, Curio closed her eyes and panted, seemingly throwing all caution to the wind. That was a first for Shine. It was odd to see Curio act like, well, a Pokémon, after all she said to suggest the opposite. One of them stepped back and pointed at the arm.

    “That looks interesting.”

    Despite its history, Curio nodded in agreement.

    “It sure is! I bet I could lift you all up with it.”

    “Can you?” all three asked in unison. She stepped back, crouched and outstretched it for all to grab a hold of. She stood up and soon enough, the children were swept off their feet, dangling in the air. Although Shine thought of this as another display of show-boating, he couldn’t help but enjoy the spectacle.

    Another door swung open and out came Adele, dressed out of her ranching gear, revealing her long flowing hair as it swayed behind her dress. She entered, holding what appeared to be an instrument case and smiled at the scene before her.

    “Right, you lil’ monsters. We’re starting dinner in a minute so you better get seated.”

    They collectively groaned and let go of Curio’s arm, rushing back to their seats. Adele stood in the centre at the edge of the table.

    “Everyone,” she called, getting the room’s undivided attention on cue, “Can we please have a moment of silence for our old pal here?”

    She held out the case in front of her for all to see and opened it, revealing an accordion with both of the keyboards split apart. There was a look of disappointment shared by everyone in the room.

    “But how?” the scruffy apprentice asked.

    “I was just practising on it and the bloody thing broke on me. I thought I was being careful, but oh well. It’ll probably be fixed or replaced by tomorrow. Sadly it looks like I can’t play for y’all tonight.” Adele closed the case and sat beside her father, setting it down on the table, and frowned.

    “Sorry Pa, I know how long you’ve had this passed around for.”

    He shook his head. “Don’t apologise. It’s just an accordion, they’re replaceable. Doesn’t matter when we bought it.”

    “I guess so.” She turned to the duo, flushing away the grief on her face.

    “So, how’d you two get on?”

    “Rather splendidly, I think,” Shine said. “Petri seems very thankful to have me as a teacher. Accendare’s finding my teaching interesting too.”

    “That’s swell to hear. It looks like you did a great job, so I thought I’d have the boys do you some grub in return.”

    “I’m very thankful.” He bowed. “It really wasn’t necessary, I’m the one in your debt after all.”

    Curio punched him in the side again.

    “Don’t mind him, he’s always lookin’ a gift Ponyta in the mouth.”

    “He’s just polite, that’s all. But to tell you the truth, we usually make a ton of food during dinner, so what’s left over gets chucked into the field for the dragons to have as a snack before settling down. Not that they don’t get plenty of food as is, mind you.”

    He thought back to the stash of Pokéballs being wheeled to the farm and winced. Part of him wanted to ask what sort of Pokémon were being fed to the dragons there, but that went without saying. Instead, he looked over at the case still on the table and changed the subject.

    “Do you play accordion?”

    “No, Shine,” Curio scoffed. “She uses it to beat people to death.”

    Adele laughed, tracing her hand over the case.

    “Well, there are definitely a few people I’d like to use that on, but yeah, I’ve been practising ever since I learned to walk. Maybe not that long back, but you get the picture. Course, I don’t find as much time for it now as I did back then, but a couple of hours a night does me good.”

    “You should visit her some time in town if you ever get the chance to see her play,” Remy said. “She’s usually at The Krabby and Co. on off days.”

    The cooks entered the room wheeling in trolleys of trays containing everyone’s meals, serving the humans at the tables first complete with tankards of beer and afterwards, tended to Shine and Curio as they laid two trays on the floor. Both of them consisted of a bowl of cassoulet with a few slices of baguette and a water bowl for them each, except only Curio’s contained cutlery. Shine bowed to them and sampled the ingredients of the stew, filled with beans, slices of skin and tender meat that had a tangy taste to it. If Shine had to guess, it belonged to a Flaaffy, which was probably being served raw and alive outside.

    He shrugged it off and ate quietly, while Curio shoved spoonful after spoonful in her maw and chewed rather noisily. By the time she finished, Shine wasn’t even halfway through his.

    After they were done, they briefly mingled with the other guests that took an interest in them, a lot of which were a part of Adele’s extended family and others simply being her staff. While Curio attracted most of the attention in part due to her arm, Shine was mostly in the background of the conversation, which he didn’t mind.

    Once the two had enough, they decided to head home to meet Tony, but before they left, Adele told Shine of his next expected lesson, which would be in the morning two days later. When they left the house, Shine looked to the field separated by the fence. The chaos he imagined had died down as every Pokémon there had eaten and were dozing off as far as he could see. It was night, so it was hard to see any of the aftermath, and he thought of looking with his golden vision to see if anything had been left behind, but stopped as Curio smacked his back.

    “Jeez, you’ve been thinkin’ about those damn livestock all night. It’s normal, and there’s nothin’ we can do about it, so don’t pay attention to it.”

    “I know I shouldn’t, it’s just something I’ll never get used to.” He sighed. “Let’s go, then.”
     
  14. Namohysip

    Namohysip Dragon Enthusiast

    Oh! Another interlude? Huh. For some reason I was under the impression there would only be one before entering the next arc. Oh well.

    So! This chapter, I’d say, wasn’t quite as strong as the previous one, but it still kept my interest and I definitely liked the focus on some of the characters here. Definitely not because of my bias toward Dragon Pokémon.

    I can tell that you’re adding in small tidbits of theme foreshadowing in this chapter. Language barriers, human-Pokémon tensions despite efforts for being polite, carnivore guilt, and perhaps even a character arc with our lovely Dragonite. And while that’s all well and good, I feel like some parts of this chapter—particularly the first bits—could have been trimmed down some. Well, no. Most of it felt fine, but one very standout “why is this here, exactly?” moment was the ultra-detailed analysis on language, the difference between the way Pokémon speak and the way humans speak, and so on. I feel like it was too specific for the purposes of this work, and while it was good for world building, I think the same amount of useful information could have been conveyed in a few summary sentences.

    That aside, though, this was another nice breather chapter. I think what separates this interlude from the previous interlude chapter is the difference between “Wrapping things up” scenes and “here comes the next arc” scenes. Hopefully that means we’ll actually be getting into the next arc next time, hah!
     
    NebulaDreams likes this.
  15. NebulaDreams

    NebulaDreams A Dense Irritating Miniature Beast of Burden

    Thanks for reviewing, @Namohysip! I'll echo what I said in Discord in that I thought the explanation behind the Pokespeak was necessary to add believability to the idea the fic runs on, and would also serve as a template for other scenes that involve the same thing so I can skim over details the reader would most likely know from Shine and Petri's conversation. It might be a case that I do need to cut it down, but I don't see it as a big issue at the moment. I will keep what you said in mind to make sure every other scene is purposeful.

    ---

    Chapter 8. Interlude: Ambrette's Subjects

    With food in their bellies and a half day of work behind them, the two headed back to Tony’s apartment. Although Shine wasn’t entirely sure how to retrace his steps from when Bauble dropped him off two days back, his golden vision helped guide him back to civilization, and once he got back to the city, the walk home was easy, and the fading light of the sky cleared his mind.

    He led the way to the second floor of the apartment complex, leading to a balcony area connecting to the entrances of each apartment, and stopped after reaching Tony’s which bore the door with the flap at the bottom. Dread washed over Shine as it was the first time he had ventured alone on such short notice, and didn’t know how Tony would react to his departure.

    “Wait here,” Shine said, “I’ll have to get him to unlock it from the inside.”

    “Do what you gotta do.”

    Shine took a deep breath and entered through the flap. He could tell Tony was back since the smell of oil drifted through the air, so he padded over to the kitchen and there he was, hunched over the grill.

    “Er, hello,” he said. Even though his trainer wasn’t looking, he bowed out of courtesy. “Sorry.”

    “That’s alright,” Tony said, “I’m not going to scold you for going out. Sure, I could’ve done with a bit more notice, but I’m glad you’re back.”

    Shine sighed with relief. Hearing Tony’s reassuring voice again took a bit of pressure off of the past few days, and he curled up beside his trainer’s legs, purring affectionately.

    “How come you’re back so late?”

    “It’s a long story, but for now, somebody’s waiting for you outside.”

    “Oh yeah. Who?”

    One of my old friends, Curio.”

    When he heard that, Tony stopped, put the frying pan to one side and turned to Shine, wide eyed.

    “Oh wow, that’s great news! How did you find her?”

    "Never mind that. She wants to tell her own story, but for now, she’s waiting for you outside.”

    “Right, right.” He jerked his head from one place to another. “Where’s my kit?”

    “It’s still in your studio.”

    Tony rushed to the other side of the apartment and came back towing his camera case. He shakily opened it and assembled it in front of Shine, putting the camcorder and the zoom mic together. “I saw the paper Ines gave me, but what did you end up doing?”

    It wasn’t something Shine wanted to worry Tony about since he had been inches away from needing a seeing eye Pokémon to follow him around.

    “Long story.” Shine glanced at the front door. “Can I let her in already?”

    “Can I get this ready first? I want to meet her as I’m taking the shot, if you don’t mind.”

    Curio probably wouldn’t have been happy being made to wait, but if it was necessary for Tony to film her reaction, then she could’ve beared another minute alone. Shine nodded, allowing Tony to assemble the equipment and finally turned it on, walking towards the door with the REC button pressed.

    “Can you open this for me?”

    Shine nodded and stood on his hindpaws to pull on the handle, which opened to reveal nothing. Upon seeing this, Shine rushed out to see where she was, before giving his trainer an exasperated look.

    "I can explain."

    "I believe you."

    Shine turned on his golden vision and realised Curio had wandered off to another side of the floor for whatever reason. To catch her attention, he roared and she took the hint, appearing not long after.

    “Didn’t realise how nice the view was from up here,” Curio said, expression dropping. “So, you’re Shine’s trainer, huh? Took you long enough.”

    “Yes, sorry about that. I’m Tony.” With his other arm free from the camcorder, he outstretched it for a handshake. “It’s wonderful to meet one of Shine’s friends at last. He’s been--”

    “Are you recording me already?” She pulled back, baring her fangs.

    “Yes. I thought it would be a good shot to—”

    “I don’t care! You can’t just film me like some safari Pokémon, shut it off!”

    Tony did as she said, pointing the camera away from her.

    “Sorry, I didn’t mean any harm.”

    “Whatever, can I come in now?”

    “Absolutely.” He backed away and she stormed through the hallway.

    “Did I upset her somehow?” he said, pointing a finger at himself.


    “Not as far as I know, I didn’t think it would provoke her that much.” He saw Curio occupying herself in the living room. “I’ll deal with her while you finish cooking.”

    Shine padded over to where the curious Lucario was, poking at the various oddments on Tony’s desk. One particular object caught her interest as she held it up in front of her: a framed picture of Tony and Shine together with various other people and Pokémon she hadn’t met yet. Shine patted her leg, turning her away from the photo, and she frowned.

    “Sorry about that,” he said. “I should’ve asked you if it was alright for him to film.”

    “As you should. C’mere.” She collapsed onto the couch, putting her feet up on the table as she motioned Shine to join her, pointing at the glass.

    “Who’s they?”

    “Some of his friends from where he works.”

    “Eh.” She casually tossed the frame onto the table which clattered.

    “Careful!” Shine could’ve turned white; it was a miracle the glass hadn’t broken.

    “Sorry, I guess.” She jerked her head to both directions. “This is where you live?”

    “Don’t you like it? Sorry if you think it’s a bit of a mess.”

    “You kiddin’? This is cleaner than most places I’ve been to, too clean if you ask me. You know, I’d be happy to mess this place up for you if you want.”

    “Look.” Shine glared at her. “I get that you don’t approve of Tony, but can you try to be civil here? I don’t want him to feel like an intruder in his own home.”

    “Civil? We’re Pokémon. Besides, I’m not here to sip tea with your trainer or whatever it is he gets up to, I just want to get this thing over with.”

    “Well, can you at least be patient with him when he talks to you? You only need to deal with him until he goes back to work tomorrow, then we practically have the whole day to ourselves.”

    “I won’t promise anything.”

    Shine stared at her for a moment, but he took the hint she wasn’t going to be swayed and shrugged it off. A minute later, Tony came in with a plate full of stir fry, sitting beside Shine, and jabbed a fork into the mess of noodles. Curio wrinkled her nose and distanced herself from the two, sitting on the floor.

    “Alright,” Curio said, “Whaddya need me to do? I didn’t come here to watch your stuff your face, you know.”

    “I like your attitude. Well, I didn’t mean to drag you here and expect you to fire away immediately. I just thought we’d get to know each other first.”

    And...” She trailed off, only to start scratching her ear with her paw. “Why would I wanna get to know you? This is hardly your story. What, you think I came here just to answer your stupid questions so you can get rich off of my suffering?”

    Curio!” Shine said, rising from his seat. “That’s enough! You’ve hardly met him and you’re already accusing him of stuff he’d never do! Why are you acting so hostile?”

    I ain’t actin’ hostile, I’m just bein’ honest. If I’m gonna be spilling the beans about my own history, I might as well spew out whatever I wanna say about him. Two for two.”

    “Alright, I understand.” Tony put his plate to the side and clasped his hands together. Despite Curio’s glass-shattering gaze, he wasn’t intimidated, but confronted her with a confident gaze of his own. “You want to get to the point already. When shall we start?”

    Tonight, in an hour.” She stood up and prodded two of her metal fingers at his chest. “But I just wanna make one thing crystal clear if I haven’t already. I wanna help Shine get some of his memories back and get him out of the rut he’s in. I ain’t doin’ this for me; I don’t really wanna remember half the stuff I experienced back there, and I certainly ain’t doin’ it for you. I’ll grin and bear whatever crap you throw my way, but in between then, I don’t wanna see your face. Got that?”

    “Right.”

    Before I go, tell me where you wanna start.”

    “Well, from the start. I know Shine mentioned you had a family before GeL, so why not talk about that? It would give you time to prepare."

    Deal. And eat a mint or something before then, those noodles really stink up your breath.” Curio glanced at Shine and softened her expression. “I’ll be back, I just need to be alone for a bit.”

    She stormed off towards the front door and slammed it upon leaving. Shine and Tony stared at each other for a moment as the clock silently ticked in the background.Finally, Shine broke the silence.

    Are you alright?” He asked, rushing to his side. “I’m terribly sorry about that; I really didn’t think she’d blow up that way.”

    “No, no, it’s perfectly fine,” Tony said, adjusting his glasses. “I had a feeling this was going to happen. You always have to prepare for rejection if you’re trying to interview someone else.”

    But it’s still not right, coming from her. I thought she was going to kill you.”

    “Eh, I’ve dealt with worse at work. At least I’m doing this of my own accord and not silently tolerating it. What’s more important is that you have a friend that can help you confront your past.”

    Alright. Fair enough.”

    After Tony finished his dinner, he was in the middle of assembling the lighting set up in his studio: a small room that was essentially an extension of the living room with a couch of its own, except with no windows and various cabinets full of equipment. Shine sat in one corner on a cushion, preparing himself for the inevitable, when...

    “Boo.”

    Curio stepped in and Shine jumped from his seat.

    “You could’ve knocked before coming in.”

    “Well,” Curio said, “Your trainer didn’t mention anything about not coming in, so there’s that.”

    “Point. Still, it’s common practice to. Have you calmed down now?”

    “A little. Don’t get the wrong idea and think I’ve got the warm fuzzies for your trainer yet, though.” Curio wandered off to where Tony was, adjusting the light settings on one of the stands. “What’re these for?”

    “We’re indoors, so we need the light to be as bright as possible.”

    “Huh.” She raised a paw in front of a light, casting a shadow onto the walls and making a snapping motion with it like a Croconaw puppet. “Oh, I see! Like the ones in the back of those sets.”

    She threw her bag onto one of the couch cushions before jumping on the seat, and shielded her eyes from the light.

    “I’ll turn it down just a bit.” The light in the room dimmed and Tony sat down next to the camera as Shine followed, sitting beside his legs.

    “This is feeling kinda weird already,” Curio said, crossing her arms. “So how does this work? Do I just talk into a camera, is that all I do? Doesn’t make for a very good flick if it just has a Lucario staring into a screen. Maybe if this was an art house film or something, like that one shot of Jubilife Tower that went on for eight hours.”

    “I’m surprised you know about that, but I can assure you it’s nothing like that. We’ll be shooting some B-roll footage and other clips to go along with the shots, plus we can always edit what we need to so there’s more variety.”

    “If it helps,” Shine said, “Treat the camera as if it’s not there and just look at me when you’re talking. See if that works, and tell us when you’re ready.”

    “I guess.” She fidgeted in her seat, trying to find the most comfortable position where she wasn’t squashing her tail, and relaxed. At last, she took a deep breath and smiled. “I’m ready.”

    Tony nodded and held up three of his fingers in one hand with his other on the REC button. Silently, he counted down, and the camera beeped.

    “This is interview B, first few questions, take one. Who are you?”

    “Well, my name is Curio, and I’m a Lucario, I guess.”

    “And what do you do?”

    “What do I do? Well, what do Pokémon usually do? I don’t think lots of people ask that about me. I travel a lot, meet a lot of people and Pokémon in between, teach a few Pokemon how to speak if I need some grub, watch a lot of movies and make stuff sometimes.”

    “What sort of stuff?”

    “Hah, well it’s kinda dorky, but I guess I can show you somethin’.” She reached into her bag and pulled out a model of a Noctowl, similar to the Magikarp she gave to Leafeon, except in full scale. She turned it around in her paw.

    “I was sleeping rough in Hearthome after I escaped, and one of the things I did during the day was visit the local scrapheap for anything I could find. You find lots of interesting things humans just dump there, you know, like whole bits of furniture and all sorts of valuable scraps. I made friends with this wild Noctowl that browsed through the trash there, and I wanted to make this for him using the stuff I found there.

    I think it took me a few days, but when I finished it, he only looked at it once and said his farewells, so I just kept it, I guess. That was around the time I found this bag, so I’ve been piling a lot of stuff on over the years. It’s been a godsend, let me tell you.”

    “That looks good,” Tony said, to which, Curio frowned.

    “Yeah, for a Pokémon, you mean.”

    “No, I’m actually impressed. I might not look it, but that’s how I feel. It’s just nice meeting someone creative, that’s all.”

    Curio paused, glaring at him, and by then, Shine had seen that look often enough that he knew she was trying to read into Tony’s thoughts.

    “Alright, I believe you.”

    He nodded and stopped recording. Curio shoved the curio back into the bag, which despite looking as big as the bag itself, fit perfectly into it.

    “That was it?”

    “No,” Tony said, “I’m just separating each question per video. It saves me a lot of time by doing that instead of going at it all at once.”

    “Shouldn’t we try that again though? I screwed up near the end.”

    “It’s fine. Edit it in post, as they say.”

    “Yeah, whatever.” She shrugged it off and reclined back into her seat, shooting Shine a smirk. “That wasn’t half bad, actually.”

    Shine returned the smile.

    “Alright, tell me when you’re ready and I’ll ask the next question.”

    “Ready.”

    Tony clicked the REC button again and announced the second shot to the camera.

    “Now, what was your life like before you were brought to GeL?”

    “Well, nothing too spectacular, that’s kinda what brought me there in the first place. My parents made whoopee, I got squeezed out, and I hatched from an egg onto a little island only me and my family inhabited. The end. Nah, I’m just kidding. There’s a lot more to it than that.

    Where I want to start is how my interest in humans began. You’re all such weird creatures. You can grow facial hair, you can walk on two legs, and you have completely different rules to what Pokémon have. No Pokémon could’ve come up with a society where they make us lesser beings fight, after all. Probably, don’t quote me on that. But that’s what I found so delightful about you humans; the way you moved, the way you acted, it was all strange, and I wanted to see how it all worked. That’s what’s led me to where I am now.

    You could say its my own fault I ended up this way, and you’d be right. But, that’s life, I guess. And if this is going to be the story about my life, I should probably tell you about Mom first."

    ---

    (Edit to ending lines made to fit with Namo's comments)
     
    Last edited: Jan 8, 2019
  16. Namohysip

    Namohysip Dragon Enthusiast

    You know, it’s labeled as an interlude, but I don’t think it is at all! It’s a bit puzzling, because it felt like I was already reaching what I believe is going to be the “interview” arc, which in itself seems to be the moment we look into the past for what led Curio and Shine to the point where they are now. Overall, we get a better look at Curio’s less friendly side, particularly her attitude toward trainers. I can really feel for Shine in this chapter in particular, because Curio is being quite cold toward Tony despite the fact that, well, Shine holds him in great regard.


    I like the general feel of them just taking a moment to relax on the couch while Tony gets set up, and I have to admire Tony’s professional patience here considering Curio’s abrasive attitude. And then we actually get to the interview portion, which feels like a prelude to the real interview arc. And if there’s anything that I’d like to critique about this chapter, it would have to be the strange, awkward spot that it ended, and the way the interview went. I felt like there weren’t a lot of pauses during Curio’s monologuing. Or, well, any, when she’s answering a question more thoroughly. Something to give more of a feel to the way she’s speaking might help.


    But the way the chapter ended is my biggest gripe. Perhaps due in part to the lack of pauses or it just being a ramble, it ended off on a very weak, trailing-off note. I think ending off as a direct lead-in to the next chapter in this way may have worked better, if you just rephrased a few sentences and then ended earlier.

    “You could say it’s my own fault I ended up this way. And you’d be right. But, that’s life, I guess. And if this is going to be the story about my life… I should probably tell you about Mom, first.” Boom, end. Or something like that. Sometimes, less is more, especially for ending a scene.


    Anyway, that being said, I’m curious what this peek into the past is gonna be.
     
    NebulaDreams likes this.
  17. NebulaDreams

    NebulaDreams A Dense Irritating Miniature Beast of Burden

    Thanks for commenting, @Namohysip! I thought I'd reply back a bit more in depth than I did with Discord. The interludes are labelled as such because at that point, Curio's narration starts to take precedent in the story. With your point about the monologuing, I'd chalk that up to Curio's rambly tone of voice in dialogue, but that gets toned down a little in the actual interview parts. That being said, I do wonder how you'll react to these chapters, since these mark a significant change in the voice/POV the story follows.

    ---

    [​IMG]

    'I call my name aloud, looking for what I remember. My name I know, I love going to the movies.
    I turn and see my childhood home, on this new beach where strange birds fly. These birds swoop right over, looking out for me.


    "Who is she?"
    "Where does she come from?"
    The birds sang so loud.'


    Julia Holter – Lucette Stranded on the Island

    The Island Arc

    Chapter 9. Oh Wait, We're Recording?

    I owe a lot to Mom for leading me to this path. Of course, said path was formed with my blood, sweat and tears, but if it wasn’t for her, or my brother, I probably wouldn’t have gone to GeL or had any interest in human life for that matter. For one thing, Mom was both a good friend of mine and a great storyteller.

    So in that way, why not start it off with a story she told me? She was the sort of Pokemon who could speak for hours on end and you’d never get bored, but it took a while for her to hit her stride. Before, she would either keep you up all night with stories of hunts gone awry, tales of bloodshed and other sob stories, or lull you to sleep with those about compassion between strangers, unexpected comforts in the wild and all that other sweet crap. There was either too much or too little misery involved, but the ones I remember the most had the best of both. You could say the same about any good story, couldn’t you?

    That’s probably why I remember what she said, word for word, as she told it many times to me and my three brothers. We would sit around a campfire in the middle of our island huddled in one spot deep inside the forest, casting an orange glow everywhere. You couldn’t get any more comfy than that.

    Out of respect, I guess I better give all my relatives names. Unlike humans, for us Pokemon, names have little importance as they’re abstract, not something you can smell or hunt. My family deserves more than that though. The two youngest were Twig and Stumpy, who were both Riolu. The eldest was Trunks, a Lucario. Then there were my parents, who were both Lucario as well. Go figure. Mom didn’t have a name, but if any name was fitting for her, it would be Ruti, but she’ll still be Mom for now. Dad though was another case, but I’ll get to that later.

    Okay, maybe I ran out of ideas for tree related names. Cut me a break, I just came up with them on the fly.

    Anyway, that night, she went through her usual rota of stories, and while some of them were fairly new and kept our tails on the ground, we tuned out whenever she went through something we heard one too many times, except for Twig. The runt was entertained regardless of what you told him.

    Before that though, none of her stories had names as a lot of them were interchangeable. Maybe she didn’t feel as if they deserved them. That all changed when she announced this particular story would be called ‘Wild Brides and Shifting Tides’, the first to have a proper name. As she did so, the light of the fire reflected in both her red and green eyes and immediately captivated us. Keep in mind that some of the stuff she said translates poorly to the human tongue, so think of this as my version. Creative liberties and all.

    Firstly, there was a wild bride,
    who bore multi-coloured eyes and an unkempt hide.
    She would venture into alien territories
    and listen to those smooth-skinned beings’ stories,
    Of those who wished to be the best and most wealthy,
    those who wanted to travel and those who wished to be healthy.
    She would listen for days, enthralled by their song,
    and wishing deep down that she could become one.

    Secondly, there was the melancholic groom
    whose eyes were a dull red, but fur fine as a bundled broom.
    He had lived amongst those alien creatures
    who once acted as his guardians and teachers,
    only to be released into the wild yonder,
    and with no one to care for him, he left to aimlessly wander.
    He would hunt alone with a void growing in his heart,
    and wished to find someone to bond with, to make a new start.

    One day, the bride met one such alien up close,
    face furious and frightening, and clad in dark clothes,
    he summoned a beast, one devoid of compassion,
    as it clawed at the poor bride in such a ruthless fashion.
    It overpowered her and left her in a state of rapture,
    wracked with bruises and cuts, she was doomed for capture,
    then the wanderer heard her cries,
    and dashed to her as swiftly as a Wingull to the skies.
    He stood between the bride and the beast,
    warding it and the alien off, at last she was at peace.

    When she next awoke, her body felt anew,
    as if a spell had been cast on her, it ended all so soon,
    the wanderer stood before her, offering his paw,
    and for the rest of their days, they ventured together forevermore.


    We were stunned. While most of us processed what we heard, Stumpy of course sobbed, which ruined the mood a little, and Trunks tried comforting him by rubbing his back. It worked, and eventually Stumpy worked his way down to sniffling every once in a while, which was a minor improvement. Regardless, when Mom asked us if we enjoyed it, we all said it was the best she ever told. Even though Twig was easy to please, he had to ask what it all meant, but any Riolu with half a brain could’ve put two and two together and figured out who the characters of the story were.

    Although most of my siblings didn’t question the meaning of the story as far as I knew, I was curious about the aliens she talked about. I could tell she meant the alien wasn’t a Pokemon, but if that was the case, what was it? The sort of things she talked about like the smooth skin and the clothes were new to me, so naturally, I was curious.

    When it came time to sleep, me and my siblings settled down for the night, and I closed my eyes, yet I stayed awake. That was a first. No matter what I did to try and lull myself back to sleep, repeating one of the other stories Mom told me about a Skitty who ate that rare berry once and had the best dream in its short lifespan afterwards, probably before they got devoured by something bigger, her story kept coming back to me. If the lines didn’t have so much rhythm and flow, I probably wouldn’t have obsessed over it so much. I tossed and turned for what must’ve been an hour before I decided I had enough.

    I opened my eyes again, staring at the swaying leaves that blocked the sky, then stood up, slinking past my sleeping siblings and taking care not to trip over their tails. I went looking for answers from Mom.

    Usually, during the day, Mom basically wore the blue pants of the family, with Trunks helping her. Dad mostly kept to himself, although he’d talk to both of them whenever we weren’t looking and instructed them on what to do. Mom taught us how to sustain ourselves on the island when she and Dad eventually passed away, played with us on the treetops or by the sea, or helped us fish for food for the day.

    Just to digress a bit, there weren’t a lot of food choices on the island. Nothing inhabited it beside us, so there was little to hunt. I mean, we tried to grow our own food, of course. On the rare chance Dad popped up to meet us that one time, he tried to teach all of us a bit about farming after he planted some seeds he gathered from the mainland. He told us to wait for it to grow while remembering to give it water from the lake from time to time, but no matter how long he waited, the results weren’t fruitful, so in the end, he just kicked at it and abandoned the patch. I didn’t really understand why he bothered if he just rage quitted anway, but I went about my day as usual after that and didn’t question him about it.

    I could end the story here and say my family starved to death and I survived by eating them, but thankfully, there were always Magikarp for us to gather.

    They swam close to the shoreline and because of that, we didn’t have to hold our breaths to catch them. We’d grab them with our paws and bite down on their necks so they wouldn’t flail around. It wasn’t particularly enjoyable, but we did what we did to survive, and afterwards, Mom took our findings and de-boned them. It was extra effort as we could’ve just as easily eaten them raw, but she preferred to make dishes out of them, particularly skewers and steaks, which they cooked over the fire. If we were particularly lucky, we’d find an Octillery, gang up on it and make a meal out of that. Those tasted even better. Now I mention it, I could murder an Octillery right now.

    Wait, that came out wrong, didn’t it? Kind of makes me sound like a bloodthirsty killer, but whatever, I’m getting sidetracked.

    In any case, I searched for my parents on the outer rim, which didn’t take very long. Even though I couldn’t quite read thoughts yet, the aura still connected me with everyone on the island as we shared a link together. We were never too far away as the island wasn’t particularly big; you could’ve hiked around its perimeter in the morning and there would still be plenty of sun left after you were finished.

    I ran towards their wavelengths then crept behind a tree as the two rough-housed on a rocky stage. It was rare to see Dad when he wasn’t on his lonesome, and yet, I was excited to see him once again, so I rushed into the fray, climbing on top of Dad’s head as he charged up an aura sphere.

    “Hey, hey, hey!” he shouted, grasping at his head to catch me. He picked me up by the skin of my neck like some ragdoll. “What are you doing here so late?”

    “Well,” I said, “Ya looked like you were having fun, so I thought I’d join ya!”

    Dad shook his head, turning me over to meet my mother’s gaze.

    “How should we punish her then?”

    Mom, always the one to come up with stuff on the fly, flashed that toothy grin of hers.

    “Throw her in the ocean and have her sleep with the fishes?”

    “No please!” I pleaded in mock horror, “Anythin’ but that!”

    Dad let me go without warning and I fell on my ass. While I nursed my tail, the two stood before me, arms crossed.

    “Seriously, pup, you shouldn’t be here at this time of night. Why are you up?”

    “Well, I can’t stop thinkin’ about the story Mama told me.”

    “That’s it? If I knew it would give you nightmares, I wouldn’t’ve let her tell it.”

    I stood up, waving my paws in the air.

    “No, no! It wasn’t scary or anythin’, I loved it! I can’t stop thinkin’ about the lines and I can’t rest cause of that, and it won’t let up ‘til I find out what they’re about and—“

    “Okay.” Mom stopped me. “I see what you mean. What did you want to ask?”

    “The aliens and such. I know the rest actually happened to you two, but it hurts my head to think about what they’re supposed to be.”

    At that moment, a sharp change of emotions emanated from Dad’s aura. He usually radiated a negative energy, the kind of thing that comes with unpleasant memories, but that time, it was even more potent than before. It showed an awful mix of fear and sadness, although his face didn’t change. What he actually thought about, I had no idea, at least at the time anyway.

    Mom picked me up and stroked my ears.

    “Honey, I’d like to talk with her alone for a bit.”

    He gestured a paw for her to come closer to him, and whispered. I tried to lean in to listen, but they pulled away before anything could reach me, then Mom carried me over towards the sea away from Dad, sitting on a rocky area, and looked at me with a caring aura.

    “How much do you know about both our pasts?”

    “Well, not a lot, you never chatted to me about it, but there’s a lot about ‘em in the stories. I know there’s more out there, with all kindsa Pokemon with different looks from ours, not just on this rock. Those Magikarp had to come from somewhere.”

    “Well spotted, dear.” She faced the ocean, waves illuminated by the moonlight. “We’re in a series of islands known as, well, it’s not easily explained.” She meant an archipelago. “Even bigger than that, we’re in the region known as Sinnoh, a large cluster of land. That’s where the aliens live.” She faced me again. “Well, that’s a little bit of a lie.”

    “Aw, why?” I eyed her with scorn, as lying was something Dad told us to never do. You know how the saying goes.

    “It’s mostly to do with Dad. He has some memories he doesn’t want to dig up. But let’s say aliens aren’t the correct word for them. Rather, they’re humans.”

    I won’t go through every detail of what she said as it’s common sense to any Pokemon who hasn’t been living under a rock, but she explained what they were like: Smooth skinned, wore clothes, grew facial hair, could mostly walk on two legs, yadda yadda yadda. Then she went on to explain how the world worked and what Pokemon were to them.

    “Why do they want to capture us?” I said.

    “So they can train us and take us along with them on their quest to be the best, whatever that’s supposed to mean.”

    “Doesn’t sound fun.”

    To that, Mom laughed, pulling me closer to her.

    “I never thought it would be much fun either, and I’m glad I never took that route. Your father, however, was born into it, so he didn’t really have much choice.”

    At that point, a light switch went off in my head, or whatever the equivalent of that was back then. I thought back to the story and the info she gave me on the true nature of those aliens, or rather, humans, and she must’ve read my thoughts since she squeezed me tightly.

    “So I shouldn’t trust them?”

    “It’s complicated. Maybe if things were different, but let’s just say you should avoid them for now. They shouldn’t come anywhere close to this island, and if they do, your father will chase them off, you hear? He works hard to protect this place when he’s alone.”

    I hummed in reply and rubbed my head. It was a lot to take in. But something about her aura felt wrong, like it didn’t match what she actually said, but her true thoughts were tucked away behind a lock, not allowing me to reach out to them. Before I questioned her, Mom pulled me away and put both paws on my shoulders, locking me in her gaze.

    “I can see you’re confused so I’ll leave it there for now. If you’re curious to find out more, let me know and we can talk some more at night, or even with your eldest brother if you wanted as he’s had his share of experience. But...” She held my head. “Please don’t talk about this with anyone else, especially not your father. The others don’t need to know yet and he doesn’t want to relive those memories. Keep thinking back to that story and what I told you if you have trouble understanding. Am I clear?”

    I was speechless. My gut still told me to ask more, but I took the hint, so I nodded, if it gave me any excuse for her to stop leering at me.

    “Good,” she said, “Now, go get some sleep.”

    Before I went, she pulled me in again for a kiss then let me go for me to make my own way back to our den. Thankfully, no one else was awake to ask me what I was doing up so late, so I curled up back into my spot and rehearsed the story again in my head. After a few repeats, a pang of anger welled inside me. Was that really what life was like outside that island? What would happen if one of those humans came down to our island? Or worse, what would happen if they met me? Over time, I got more tired as the questions faded into the background, and I went to sleep not long after.
     
    Last edited: Mar 3, 2019
  18. Namohysip

    Namohysip Dragon Enthusiast

    Huh. I have some Msyery Dungeon vibes from this first chapter, at least some pieces I’ve read on the matter, where humans are known and disliked. If you’ve ever read Blazing Aura or Fractured Elements, kinda like that. But that aside, we finally have a look at her past! Starting from the beginning. To be honest, this reads like an entirely new story, so I see why you wanted to have those interludes at first.


    The actual content seemed pretty standard expository writing for the most part, though it still kept me interested. She lived on a remote island devoid of much life. They ate fish and berries for the most part, didn’t seem to have very hard of a life, and the father used to be a trainer’s Pokémon—though his experience on the matter was colored in a dark light. That definitely foreshadows (…retroshadows?) Curio’s opinions, in a way, though I’m curious why she eventually got involved with them anyway. For the next chapters, I suppose.


    Beyond that, there isn’t a lot for me to comment on with the chapter content itself. I didn’t see anything that particularly stood out to me that I wasn’t really expecting beyond what I said above. Instead, I want to focus on something that happened again this chapter—the ending. It could’ve ended a sentence earlier again. I think I’m able to actually narrow it down this time, too. Your final sentences are always defusing the prior one, which ultimately weaken the impact of the whole scene. Here’s how it was originally:



    Okay, so, that was a good sense of doubt to leave it out on, especially sine, as a foregone conclusion, she eventually does wind up in human hands one way or the other. But the final sentence. “Over time,” “not long after,” – for some reason, these filler words and filter phrases soften the blow of these worries too much. If you flipped them, I think you could have made the impact a bit stronger. For example:


    “After a few repeats, a pang of anger welled inside me. Over time, I got more tired, the questions in my mind fading into the background, ever-present as I drifted to sleep. Was that really what life was like outside that island? What would happen if those humans came here?


    What would happen if they met me?”


    This is just with a bit of phrase-changing and changing sentence order, and it can definite improve further, but that semifinal sentence had much more of an impact on me than the last one. I even wanted to emphasize it as its own paragraph. But anyway, the ordering aside, the question is absolutely a lead-in to the next chapter. I see what you’re going for~ Can’t wait.
     
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  19. VRainbow

    VRainbow Member

    I've been reading this fic over the past week, and I've decided to write my first review, though I'm not very good at it.
    Every chapter thus far has been fun to read. I was invested in the mystery in the earlier chapters, and am happy to see questions being answered, though the big question still remains: What is GeL? There's not a single character I don't like, and I find the story rather well paced. There are plenty of slower moments that allow us to see more of their character traits.
    The universe is fleshed out nicely, and while I'm not usually a fan of commonplace Pokemon being as intelligent as humans, I find this story more believable in that regard than most, though it does lead to the question of why and how humans created the concept of training sentient species.
    All in all, I can't wait to see more!
     
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  20. NebulaDreams

    NebulaDreams A Dense Irritating Miniature Beast of Burden

    Thanks, @Namohysip! I agree a lot with your critique about the closing lines, and while I won't change it since I can't be asked to do another edit for it, I will use your example as a template for how to add closing hooks as well. That's not a mistake I want to repeat for future chapters.

    And thanks for following this story, @VRainbow! I'm glad you've found the chapters fun to read, and even if this sort of setting is your usual cup of tea, I'm also glad you found it believable enough to maintain your interest. With your question about how humans created the trainer system, that also comes up later and ties into one of the main conflicts of the story later on, so I hope to address that point about the world.

    ---

    Chapter 10. My First Weird Encounter

    I guess the other big reason my interest in humans grew was Trunks, my big brother. If Mom wore our blue pants, then he was the butt that held those pants in place, if that makes sense. He was usually the one looking after me and my brothers, making sure to play with us if Mom wasn’t around and attending to our needs if we ever got injured or needed his advice.

    If there’s one memory that stuck out to me around that time, it was one morning when he gathered us little monsters together for a training session on the rocky shore. I remember it was a particularly nice day where the skies were a true blue, yet the wind was strong, with leaves flying everywhere and the taste of sea salt wafting in the air. Trunks was in the middle of all of this, standing atop a rock where the leaves flittered around him, making him the centre of attention. Young me thought he looked awesome, so I was eager to please him.

    “You three,” he said, “Today is an aura training day, so you should follow my movements and try to imitate me as best as you can.” He stood on the balls of his feet and balanced himself on one leg in a stance. He cupped his paws in the shape of a ball around his belly, and told us to copy his moves. So, it was basically glorified yoga with glowing energy balls involved. I got on fine, as I was good at balancing myself atop of tree branches, but Stumpy, wobbled as he tried to stand on the tips of his paws, and Twig, well, he just did what Twig did and struck a random pose. He was a hatchling, after all.

    “Good work, sis.” Trunks said. “You two, focus.”

    “I-I’m trying!” Stumpy said, “Can’t we just stand on both legs?”

    “Stand on both legs! Stand on both legs!” Twig said.

    Trunks didn’t break from his position, but still stared at the two.

    “We could, but the point is to copy what I do so you can imitate how I channel my aura.”

    “Aw, why?” Stumpy said, breaking from his position. “It’s not like we fight anything anyway!”

    “No, but you should still train anyway. Dad wants you to be strong, so you can be like him one day and take over for him after time has passed.”

    That struck me as odd. I had to break away from my own perfectly matched pose to express this.

    “Hey, bro,” I said. “You’re strong as well. Why can’t we be like you?”

    He smiled, probably humbled by my comment, but still kept his pose.

    “You can do that too. But I mostly do as he asks by looking after you along with Mum, so, you should follow his example.”

    “But Papa rarely sees us. Why can’t he just, ya know, come out and teach us himself?”

    Trunks took a deep breath and slowly got back to his normal stance. He sat down on the rock, gesturing us to come close to him as he radiated an unsure aura.

    “Listen, you three. You should know Dad cares about you a lot. He just prefers to be on his own, that’s all. He went through so much to get us here, and needs his time alone to meditate on what happened. Besides, in case anything does come to this island suddenly and attacks us, he wants to be there to protect you.”

    He either could’ve referred to a Pokemon or a human, but in any case, we all nodded, not really wanting to argue with him. Though Stumpy looked tearful, as he usually did.

    “I miss Daddy sometimes. We live together, so why can’t he ever play with us?”

    “Play with us! Play with us!” Twig mimicked.

    “Yes, I know.” Trunks patted him on the shoulder, giving a weak smile, though there was a bit of sadness mixed into his aura. “But you have me and Mom, and your sister to keep you company.”

    “Me too! Me too!”

    “Yes, I didn't mean to forget about you, hatchling. But for now, we should get back to practising.” He stood up and re-entered that weird pose of his, with all of us following suit. The rest got on fine, and once we passed that stage, Trunks took a deep breath and honed his aura energy into his paws. He told us to do the same, and so, I drew in my own energy as well, feeling a hot glow emanate from inside my body and manifest into something physical.

    It would’ve been magical if that bit of aura I drew out wasn’t the size of a pea. Still, the rest hadn’t even gotten to that stage, so in my case, that was considered a breakthrough, which he applauded. In the end, Trunks shot his sphere into the air while I shot my pea, and all was well.

    I should really stop saying pea. That sounds wrong when I say it in this scenario.

    We trained until the afternoon, and after we were left to my own devices, I went on my lonesome and skipped through the woods, navigating through the many twisting roots and broken branches and all the like. Trunks’ sessions usually energised me, which often left me with a pang of energy afterwards, so I skipped for a while, unaware of where I headed.

    When I finally came out of the forestry into the shore, that’s when I saw a human for the very first time with my own eyes.

    I froze at the sight of the girl and her Prinplup. Again, I didn’t know at the time what species it was exactly, but with that beak and that deep blue body, it does kind of narrow it down. But yeah. I don’t know what I expected humans to look like, even when Mom gave me an idea of their appearance, but she made it sound like they were monsters, though to me, they just seemed like another species, like a Pokémon. Although I didn’t know it yet, she was a trainer, and just like Mom said: she grew hair, wore clothes and had smooth skin. She dripped wet for whatever reason and didn’t have a lot of clothes covering her.

    For that moment, time stood still. When she saw me, she whispered something to that blue Pokémon of hers and they stood in front of her in a battle stance.

    I realised the kind of situation I was in rather quickly. I was about to get into a fight and I stood there, dumbstruck. At the same time though, there was a chance they only looked to defend themselves from a wild Pokémon and only acted out of survival instinct. I had questions as well, and being attacked was the last thing I wanted to happen. A friendly approach seemed better than a pointless fight after all. I snapped out of my headspace and called out to them, waving a paw in the air. The Prinplup eased their stance a little and I slowly approached them, but the girl’s expression was still a little unsure.

    “I’m not gonna harm y’all,” I said, “I just wanna talk, okay?”

    The Prinplup held their paw out to the trainer. It could’ve been a ceasefire or a command to attack, but thankfully, she smiled, letting me know we were at peace with each other. She crouched so she could be at my level.

    Her mouth moved, but I couldn’t understand a word of what she said, but either way, her voice was reassuring and warm in a way you wouldn’t get from a Riolu or Lucario, which mostly sounds like we’re hacking up hairballs. She chuckled and petted my head. Those hands. Wow, they were smooth. Joy overtook reason and I growled the same way I would've with Mom. Then that squawky voice had to ruin the moment.

    "Ugh, I'm going to vomit."

    I couldn't hear what the human said, but the way they went back and forth with each other as if they understood each other seemed strange to me.

    "Wait," I said, "Can you understand her?"

    "Yeah, duh."

    "No duh! Can she understand you though?"

    "Nope. She just has a good ear for disapproval."

    That was a let down. Even if Mom told me beforehand, I wasn't used to being ignored like that. Still, that wouldn't stop me from getting my way if the Prinplup relayed what I said back to her, who continued petting me.

    "How'd you get here?" I asked.

    "Surfed here."

    "Surfed? Nevermind. Say, what’s the world like out there? Is it nice?”

    He shrugged. “Nice as in you see a lot of interesting things. Nice as in I get to mooch off of my trainer for food, and sometimes, watch the sort of shows she likes together. Human programming is weird.”

    I didn’t know what he meant by that, but that’s beside the point. Sure, I thought about what the world was like outside for some time, but having someone there who actually experienced it, with a human no less, enticed me to check it out myself. Before then, I wasn’t really desperate, but at that moment, flashing through my days spent on the island, something inside me flicked on, like a light switch. Now, my vague interest turned into a burning resolve.

    “Can you take me with you for a bit? Just for a little, tiny bit. I wanna come back here though."

    The Prinplup put his flipper on the girl's shoulder and pointed to her belt, then back to me. I looked up to see several shiny balls coloured red and white. No points for guessing what their purpose was. I didn't know at the time so I just stared at them until the trainer pulled away from me and smiled, saying something else in that same warm tone, then pulled out on of those balls and held it in front of me. She looked at me expectantly, pointing to the Pokéball she held up, and I raised my paw to it.

    I wonder what would've happened had I touched that Pokéball and went with her. She seemed nice, after all, and I probably would've avoided all the stuff that happened at GeL beforehand. At the same time, I probably would’ve lived a mediocre life for a Pokemon if I had, and even with the horrors I went through, I wouldn’t trade it for something safer now.

    "GET AWAY!" Dad's voice resounded through the air. The trainer broke off from me and in turn, he dashed towards the two. Not knowing what else to do, I ran away from them, getting as far as I could from the ensuing battle.

    Without prompt, Dad threw an aura sphere at the Prinplup's head, which he blocked with a flipper, knocking him back several places. The trainer ran to his place and pointed at Dad, shouting a command of some sort, and he spouted a stream of water from his mouth. It was quick, but Dad was quicker, dodging to the side as he threw a punch at his face, which connected. Even when the Prinplup fell to the floor, Dad still didn't stop. Punch after punch, the Prinplup could only shield himself from the onslaught. Then, the girl stood between them.

    I saw how fearful she was through her pained expression and her aura. When you're faced with a creature that has freaking spikes in their paws, you're pretty much at their mercy. Nevertheless, she spoke in a calm voice to him, although I wasn't sure how much good it did. Would he even understand her?

    "Get out," he said in human tongue. Those were the first words I understood in human. He said it so plainly, yet from his aura, I knew he hid a massive amount of anger, so it left an impact on me.

    She helped the Prinplup to his feet and departed not long after, setting sail on its back to surf across the sea.

    I stood in silence. I hadn't seen Dad act like that before, if I ever did, not even when he told us off. Then, he walked towards me, still having that raging look on his face, and my heart quickened a bit as he approached. Would he have shouted at me again, like he did whenever I broke one of his rules? My fears melted away though as he picked me up, cradling me in his paws.

    "Are you alright, pup?"

    "Yeah, I guess."

    "Good." He gently lifted me down to the rocky floor and I saw his expression relaxed, although those red eyes still stared into my soul. "In the future, if you're ever to meet one of those things again, run as far as you can. Don't go up to them. If they let them capture you, they will make your life a living hell, do you understand?"

    I didn't know what to say at the time so I nodded and went along with it. My family came not long after, giving me lots of relieved hugs, and we had a big serving of Grilled Magikarp. Once we finished, Mom took us over to that story spot once more and told us a new poem she had been sitting on for some time. It was a little more free verse than her other stuff, and I didn’t really know what to think of it at the time, but I still accepted it like any other, so I thought I’d share it here. Again, it’s not exactly a direct translation, so take it with a grain of salt.

    So sings the sea serpent,
    Can’t you hear his song?
    His children, a choir,
    harmonise in the deep blue.


    The entire ocean is his school,
    and the fish that swim there
    are all his pupils, navigating the sea beds
    dancing with the Mantine and brushing against the Corsola.


    So sings the sea serpent:
    I’ve lived for thousands of years!
    My blue crown stands tall!
    My verse lives through millions of Magikarp!
    I split the skies with my Hyper Beams!”


    He lurks beneath the surface,
    Warning his students not to stray too far,
    Lest they be caught by bigger predators in singles,
    Or captured by aliens in hundreds.


    So sings the sea serpent.

    After giving her a round of applause, we settled down for the night and all was well again. Well, sort of. Despite what Dad told me, meeting a human for the first time wasn't even a bad experience, a far cry from what Mom made it out to be, and aside from that, my thirst to see the world hadn’t been quenched yet. That itch inside still nagged at me, and it was something that could’ve only been scratched by meeting another human again.
     

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