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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. Namohysip

    Namohysip Dragon Enthusiast

    Not much for me to say about this chapter in the way of critical issues I had with it. While it was a bit of a classic tale of “beware the outsiders” and so on, with a kid having a close encounter that appeared to be benign, but had somewhat foreboding connotations, it worked well. And I actually thought it was a nice touch that the human wasn’t going to go immediately to capturing Curio, either, and you’re actually showing that, yeah, humans generally are on the cautious or friendly side when working with wild Pokémon. It was... balanced! I liked that.


    The only real issue I think I had is that the chapter largely told me what I already knew from the last chapter, only manifesting it as something else. I think part of it has to do with the fact that the chapter is on the shorter side, so it just covered less ground. I’m still left wondering exactly what Curio’s Dad’s deal is, and I was hoping to get more of that later. Good ending line this time, though. Chronicling Curio’s encounters with humanity, and perhaps how that ended up leading to where she is now…
     
    NebulaDreams likes this.
  2. NebulaDreams

    NebulaDreams A Dense Irritating Miniature Beast of Burden

    Thanks, @Namohysip! I don't have much to say in reply to the review, but at least the ending line was better that time around. While the first two chapters of that arc more or less introduces the idea of how humans are perceived, the next chapters will work towards flipping that premise on its head. Speaking of which, this next chapter will be longer, so expect the next one to come out next week.

    ---

    Chapter 11. Bottoms Up, Bro.

    After that bit of excitement, everything fell into a routine as we hunted Magikarp as normal, we playfighted as normal, we told stories as normal, we slept as normal, repeat and repeat. Although I was satisfied with the answers I got and faced every day as it came, over time, a pit grew in my stomach and I didn’t realise what this hunger was until I saw a bird Pokémon perch itself atop the trees as I walked across the shore. It probably knew there was more out there, and that’s what I felt was missing, the sense of being connected to the rest of the world.

    I sprang towards the forest, climbing to the treetops in no time, where the Pokémon sat a few trees away, preening its feathers. I balanced myself on one of the highest tree branches and jumped from tree to tree in an effort to get close to it. Again, some details are fuzzy, but I believe it was a Wingull. It had the same blue streaks across its body, after all.

    Anyway, it eyed me cautiously, and suddenly, I felt giddy. This was my chance to find out my escape route. Another chance to talk with something else other than Riolu and Lucario.

    “Hey, can you fly me to the mainland?” I said.

    “Whaddo I look like, a Pelipper? I’m not givin’ you a ride with that fat behind.”

    “...Do you know anyone else that can fly me there, then?”

    It took flight and fluttered above me. Then, a white runny liquid hit the top of my head and ran down my face. I don’t need to mention what it was.

    In a panic, I lost my footing and fell off the branch. I got smacked by all sorts of different branches on the day down until a bush broke my fall, not without scratching me with those brambly bits. To say I was sore afterwards was an understatement. Nothing was broken, thank his holy ass, just bruised and battered all over. To add insult to injury, I stank. I had to get the acrid stench off of me as soon as I could, so I limped to the closest stream I could find in the forest running from the lake and dunked my head in it several times to wash it off. Even after I rinsed off the droppings, a whiff of it still lingered.

    Just so you know, if you talk to any unknown Pokémon unannounced, especially flying Pokémon, they probably won’t stick around for the conversation. At best, you’ll get a face full of bird seed.

    I ran my paws through my coat to find all sorts of splinters sticking to it. I tried to pick most of it off but I wasn’t sure if it had gotten in places I couldn’t reach. I had to get them out or they probably would’ve gotten septic, even though I had no idea what ‘septic’ meant at the time. It was something Trunks told me after all.

    Lo and behold, I picked up his aura not too far off, straight from the path of the stream into the lake. Although my legs were sore, I found my way there without trouble. He had already occupied himself, meditating by the lake at the edge of the bank. The tire swing swayed lightly in the breeze far away. Once I stepped into the clearing, he turned around and scoffed.

    “Alright,” he said, “What trouble have you gotten into now?”

    I scratched my back.

    “I got splinters in my butt.”

    “Seriously? Alright, come here then.”

    I sat on the bank beside him, dipping my paws into the water, and Trunks started combing through my fur.

    “You don’t always need to climb so high, you know.”

    “And what’s the problem? I was just takin’ a peek up there.”

    “Yes, but you’re going to break your neck if you keep falling.”

    I winced as he pulled out something brambly behind me.

    “And you could use a long bath too.”

    I sat in silence while he kept checking for splinters.

    “Tell me, why do you want to get off the island?”

    “How’d you know?”

    “Your aura, of course.”

    “Well, why not?” I said, kicking the water, “I wanna see the world out there.”

    “There’s nothing out there but predators and starvation. That’s all.”

    “Aw c’mon, Mama told me you had experience out there before, can’t you tell me more?”

    “No. Trust me when I say you don’t need to know.”

    I pulled myself away from his grasp and turned to him, giving him those little Riolu eyes.

    “Please? I swear I won’t be upset or anythin’. I kinda know the world sucks already, so at least tell me more about that.”

    He brushed a few more shavings off my coat, then leaned in closer to the point where his muzzle touched mine, gazing at my with those familiar blood red eyes. I saw a little bit of Dad in him at that moment.

    “Alright, you want to know how the world out there works? You’re completely on your own, with the threat of death lurking all around you. You must always be on alert, never letting your guard down for a moment, or else...”

    He clapped, snapping me out of my trance.

    “You’re gone.”

    He stared into the lake ahead of us, and up to the hanging tire.

    “There was a family, just like us, who we kept company for a little while. Some of them were just about your age. They still had to look out for themselves, as whenever we rested, we had to cover our own families in shifts to make sure nothing else lurked around. One such Lucario, who was supposed to be on shift for that night, forgot about it and rested with his family. We were woken up by their screams, and when we came to check on them, they...”

    Trunks’ voice trailed off and he rubbed his eyes, taking a deep, ragged breath. I looked on, wanting to get closer to him, but pulled away at the last moment. I didn’t really know how to comfort him in times like that. So I waited for him to pull himself together, and in time, he looked at me once more, resting his paw on mine.

    “Out here, you don’t have to worry about any of that. You have a constant food source. There are no tall creatures with poisonous claws lurking about. There are none of those humans invading our habitats either. Dad worked so hard to get us here, and now here we are, living in peace. You should be grateful towards him.”

    I paused, catching a whiff of something foul about his aura, and it certainly wasn’t the guano. It was like his feelings fought against what he said.

    “Yeah, I am. But, er, sorry if it sounds rude, bro, but you don’t feel the same way, do you?”

    He squeaked in surprise, but he regained his composure and leered at me. “Of course I do. Now please don’t make such things up.”

    “But, your aura...”

    “Enough of that, sis, now please, drop it.”

    I knew I wasn’t going to get any further from that, so I changed the subject.

    “Besides, isn’t every day here kinda the same? Don’t you get bored?”

    “Well,” he hesitated, and I felt a tinge of sadness in his aura if I didn’t already, “I would be lying if I said this isn’t boring, but I’d rather it be that way instead of in some other creature’s stomach.”

    I opened my mouth to say something but decided against it. I knew he was right. From the stories Mom told and all that, I thought of myself in his shoes. Well, you know we don’t wear them, but you know what I mean. I imagined myself on my own, defending myself from creatures much faster, stronger and less caring than me, as I would later find out first hand. Still, there was that itch to find out, like sticking your paw in a Combee’s nest.

    Mercifully, he let me go and patted my back, letting me know it was okay to move on before he got stuck in another one of his rants. He smiled to me.

    “There, it should be fine now. Make sure to clean those wounds or else they’ll get infected.”

    “Okay,” I said, and took a dip in that lake. I closed my eyes and let myself float on the surface, water lapping gently at my face, with Trunks meditating in the background. Another peaceful day, another long period of nothing happening. During that time, the weather got hotter as we often had to cool off by the lake, as living on an island in the summertime got humid after a while.

    One day, me and Stumpy brought our findings to Mom and Trunks from our daily fish hunt. They thanked us and let us run off to wherever, so we visited the lake again where the tire swing awaited. It was one of the island’s curiosities, since you know, tires don’t grow on trees, but this day, I kind of question how Dad managed to bring all the stuff there, but young me didn’t care as it was for swinging on, not pondering on. I went on top and held onto the rope as Stumpy kicked the tire in the air, pushing me up and letting me swing for a bit.

    That brings me back to a simpler time, as it sort of felt like flying. But with the thoughts of escape lingering on, as well as the bird type Pokémon that flew carefree in the air already, it was close to being free, and yet, so far. Wait, I did say it wasn’t for pondering on, didn’t I? Well then, forget what I said.

    Stumpy must’ve noticed a little bit of my aura, just a little as he wasn’t any better than me at reading emotions, so he moved out the way, slowing me down.

    “I didn’t say stop, did I?” I said, spinning around on the tire.

    “Yeah, I know, but why’re you feeling so sad lately?”

    I caught little glimpses of his worried face as I spun around.

    “Aw, it’s nothin’ to lose sleep over.”

    “It’s not that alien from before, is it?”

    “What?” I waited for the right moment to jump, then leapt off to the land where Stumpy stood. “No, not at all. Really, that was the most interestin’ thing I’ve seen in a while.”

    “They’re not interesting, they’re dangerous. Papa doesn’t want you going near them.”

    I groaned. Stumpy often repeated something along the lines of ‘Dad doesn’t want you doing this’, which was fair enough. Hearing it repeated several times over got annoying, and seeing how little brothers generally behave over the years to others, they tend to get under your skin.

    “So what does Papa want you to do?”

    He put his paw on his chin as if he was seriously thinking hard about what I just said. “Um, he wants me to be good, and strong, and stuff.”

    “Would you eat his dung if he told you it tasted nice?”

    “Ew, no!” He laughed.

    “Well then,” I reached down to him, locking him in a hold and knuckled his head. “Don’t do everythin’ he tells you to do.”

    “Stop!” He pulled away, rubbing his head. “You hurt, sis.”

    “Oh, you baby.” I thought back to the conversation we had a while ago. “It’s not like he sees you or anythin’. You said he never plays with you, so why’d you listen to him so much?”

    “He just scares me, sis. His aura’s so, so, so scary.” He got misty-eyed again. “He n-n-never has time for m-me, or big bro, or little bro, or you. What’s he d-doing all d-day?”

    He sniffled, and sensing he was about to throw a wobbler again, I patted his shoulder and pointed to the tire swing that idly spun in place.

    “At least you have us.” I smiled. “Want me to push you?”

    “Yeah.” He wiped away his tears and slowly climbed on top of the rubbery object. “Not too hard, though.”

    And so, it was my turn to do the rounds. I kicked once and watched the tire fly up with Stumpy hanging onto the rope for dear life. He was clearly not meant for big heights as he howled in the air, but he needed a bit more excitement in his life anyway, so I kept going. I stepped back whenever the tire swung towards me, as one wrong move would’ve knocked me on my ass, and continued kicking, sending it further into the air.

    Stumpy must’ve called me to do something, but since he was so far up, I didn’t hear him, so when he came down once more, I kicked again, only for Stumpy to fly off and fall into the lake. Hitting the water with a loud slap. Even I felt that one. I waited for him to swim back, and he did, only to start wailing as he swam to the edge of the bank.

    “I told you to slow down! I’m telling Mama about this!”

    I reached over to calm him down, but he batted my paw away from him and ran, disappearing into the forest. I shrugged and made my own way to the shore. It was best to leave him be during one of his fits, after all. Brothers, eh?

    I wandered through the stony shore again, which must've been the tenth or twentieth time since I met the last human. The summer rays often bored down on the rocks, so it used to burn my paws on the first hundred paces, but it felt nice once I got used to it. Since then, I had been around the island enough times to know where the landmarks were, what little it had, and could've mapped it out if you gave me a pencil and a pad.

    Problem was, it was nice and all knowing where everything was in your head, but being able to make it a physical thing would've helped me understand the terrain more. Another problem was marking and remembering each island that looked the closest, which sounded easy. You could put one finger at the end of your paw on the horizon and flex the end of the other to where the height of the island ended, and whichever flexed the farthest was the closest. But with no way to mark where each island was in relation to this one and what point you had to be on the shore to be the closest to a neighbouring island, it was just guesswork. I trusted my intuition though, as I could’ve swam for hours and not have gotten tired, after all.

    I must've walked a few hours on the edge of the shore, and in the midst of it, I got the sense I was being watched. I didn’t actually see the perp, but I just felt it, like I felt another aura of something a hundred times bigger than my puny Riolu body. It might’ve come from the sea, but it was as silent as always, so I ignored it and went on my way until eventually I saw two human-like shapes. I wasn't even sure of what they were from that distance; they could've passed for a couple of tree branches for all I knew, but once I got within a rock throwing distance of them and saw what they truly were, just a young couple sunbathing on the rocks, I retreated back into the forestry.

    Despite how much I wanted to stick it to my old Mon, his nagging voice telling me to 'run as far as you can' drilled into my head and followed me around like a swarm of Combees. Still, I wanted to see what they were up to, even though my heart pounded. I crept carefully through the forest, tip-toeing behind a tree while I watched my movements. They weren't really doing anything you'd consider interesting, just lying in the sun and talking to one another. Even for our own kind, that was something we naturally did, except we couldn't get a tan. Poor us, I guess.

    So I tried to get close to them, but long story short, the girl screamed when she saw me and ran away, while the guy shouted at me and ran after her. I considered chasing after them to try and calm them down, but I sensed something else that piqued my interest.

    My eyes wandered over to their belongings, which all looked new to me. It was some sort of basket on a blanket with two clear, bowl shaped objects. Of course, not knowing what purpose they had, I couldn't resist picking the shiny clear thing up. The moment I gripped it, it shattered in my paw, leaving shards of light to clatter onto the rocks. They were glasses all along. It's a wonder I didn't cut myself there.

    Next, I dug inside the basket, and when I opened the lid, something warm-smelling wafted from its contents. It was food. I licked my lips and stuck my paw inside it, feeling around for the morsel, and when I touched it, I pulled out a half eaten sandwich. The bread had a spongy feel to it, filled with a yellowy sort of substance, which I had to try for myself. I remembered the taste was quite strong, but in a different way from the fishy taste of the Magikarp we were used to having, but either way, it was delicious, and I practically inhaled the rest. It was disappointing to see there wasn't more of it, but then I noticed something else unusual.

    It was a larger glass bottle, except with actual liquid inside of it. I lifted it off the ground, except it was a bit heavier than I expected, so I held it in both paws and bolted for the forest with the bottle in tow.

    After wandering for a little while, I picked up the aura of all three of my brothers and went to meet them, and Trunks was the first to approach me.

    "What do you think you're doing?" he asked, crossing his arms. "You know you shouldn't have gotten near those aliens."

    "Never mind that," I said, "Look what I found!"

    The rest huddled around me, observing the loot.

    "Whattisit?" Twig asked.

    "Well obviously, it's some sort of drink," I said.

    "It could be dangerous!" Stumpy said, looking better from his dip in the drink.

    "How so? Those hu-- I mean aliens were drinking it."

    "Still, you shouldn't have taken it! What would dad say?"

    "Well.” I wrung my paw around the bottle of the neck. "Only one way to find out!"

    Of course, not knowing how to open it, I struggled with the cap for a bit before it popped and made the two youngest jump. I didn't even hesitate to drink from it, but when I took a swig from it, I immediately spat it back out.

    I might as well tell you it was white wine, and you'll probably find it's not the last time alcohol comes up as a topic of discussion, but we might get to that at some point later.

    Anyway, it tasted horrible. Even when I spat it back out, the sting of it lingered on my tongue. Now I genuinely questioned whether or not it was poison.

    To my surprise, Trunks snatched the bottle and took a big swig out of it, scrunching up his face as he did.

    "Tastes alright to me, don't know what you're spitting it out for." He gave me a big smile, the first time in a while I ever saw him do that.

    Stumpy looked expectantly at the bottle.

    "Can I try?"

    Trunks only clutched the bottle in his paws.

    "Naw, it makes ya do weird things." By then, it started to affect his speech, but that didn't bother him as he took another swig. He laughed, hiccuping all the while.

    "C'mon, whattare y'all looking scared fer? Just join da fun!"

    I can't say I was scared by a lot, but even I backed away when he let go of the bottle and danced in place. It rolled on the ground, spilling some of its contents. Stumpy and Twig joined me, who both held onto my arm.

    "What's happening? Is he okay?" Stumpy said. I just looked on at the scene as Trunks span around, cackling to no one in particular.

    I never thought I'd say it, but thankfully, Dad intervened and stormed into the area, picking up the loot.

    "Who brought this?" he asked in a serious tone. Pipsqueak and runt both pointed at me, even though they still cowered from behind.

    "Hey! That's not fair, you two!"

    "Enough!" Dad shouted. "You idiot, I told you not to go anywhere near them, and you disobeyed me just like that!"

    I just croaked a response, too shocked for words.

    "Never mind, now we've got a bit more trouble on our paws, thanks to you." He held up the half empty bottle. "They'll come looking for this, you know, and they're nothing but trouble. All of you, go hide out with your mother. I'll sort this out myself."

    "Hol' up!" Trunks said, stumbling into Dad. "Ish' no big deal, I shaw you drink it a few timesh! Help yourshelf if you want!"

    "That's enough, pup. Consider this your lesson."

    "Wait!" Trunks glared at him. "Don't call me pup no more, I shaw what'sh out there, I'm big now, I can take care of theshe cubs!"

    Dad ignored him and walked off with the bottle in tow. I looked back at Trunks who struggled to stand, then back to the other two who whimpered nearby a tree. I held my paw up, drawing their attention to me.

    "Mama's close, I can feel it. Follow me!"

    We headed to the base we usually camped out for her story session, and Mom had her paws in some kind of box when I came in, where she looked at us all with her maw hanging open.

    "What's happening now?" she said. Trunks didn't waste any time before he showed off his drunken self, and attempted to cartwheel over to her but ended up falling on his ass. Mom instantly attended to him, lifting him up.

    "Are you alright?"

    "Yesh, yesh I'm fine, mama! I drank a bit of that shtuff Dad used to drink!"

    Her eyes grew wide. While this happened, not knowing what Trunks was going through, my heart sank. It was rare for me to worry about him as he usually carried himself fine, if a bit overbearing, but seeing him like that, I wasn't sure what to expect. I ran up to her, misty-eyed.

    "Oh no, is he gonna die? Please tell me he's alright. Mom? Mom?"

    Out of nowhere, Mom laughed and pulled me up close to her.

    "I know what's going on. He's drunk, that's all!"

    "Drunk?" I asked, wiping the dust from my eyes.

    "Well, it's a bit hard to explain if you weren't with me, but it's what happens when you drink too much of what they call alcohol: your mind gets all fuzzy. It's usually quite toxic to a lot of Pokémon, but we can take it finer than most. How much did he drink?"

    "I dunno, two mouthfuls?"

    Her smile faded, but otherwise, she was still calm about the situation.

    "I see. He won't be used to that much right now, but otherwise, he'll be fine. He'll just have to get it out of his system, that's all."

    "What's that mean?"

    "You'll find out soon enough."

    We crowded around the two, staying close to Trunks in particular, who held his paw to his stomach and started to groan, then curled up on the grassy floor.

    "I don't feel sho hot."

    "Alright, alright," Mom repeated, rubbing his head as he laid down. He looked to me and smiled weakly.

    "Shorry 'bout all thish. I know I'm annoying shometimesh, barking at you all the time not to do shtuff, repeatin’ what Dad shaysh like a Chatot. You musht think I'm boring."

    I never heard him speak as honestly as he did. I knew this wasn't his usual self, but judging by his aura, I knew it was his true self.

    "No, bro. You're great. I know you're just looking out for me, like you do everyone else."

    "Thanksh." He fumbled around before planting his paws on the ground, sitting up, and looked down at his feet.

    "I hate thish. Shtaying here all day, all night, nowhere to go. Shorry Mom, I'm grateful for everything we did to come here, but I can’t shtand much longer here."

    Mom held onto him, hugging him tighter.

    "No need to apologise, you’re not the only one that thinks that here. Don't you prefer it to having to survive out there, though?"

    "Yesh." He paused, then tugged at the appendages at the back of his head. "No. Shure, it'sh miserable. Shure, we losht a lot of friendsh. But we went into the citiesh ash well. We had sho much fun there. We watched a lot of good filmsh. People liked ush as well. What happened to that? Wheresh that in the wild, or on thish rock?"

    Mom only smiled, rubbing him reassuringly. Trunks, in his hazy state, pointed to me.

    "Thish island'sh not big enough for you, shish. There'sh sho much out there you're misshing. No Pokémon deshervesh this. I--." He knelt on the floor far away from us, then blew chunks as Mom nursed him from behind. I looked on, thinking about everything Trunks had said. Even he had my back in this, as hard as it was to make out what he said half the time. My other brothers crept up to me, asking me what he was talking about. I said I didn't know and kept my eyes on getting out of the island as soon as this was over. Even though his slurred speech, it’s like he was giving me the go ahead to try and leave.

    Trunks calmed down long enough to doze off beside Mom, although his breaths were raspy from all the fluid he hacked up. Even if it wasn't severe, there was still a pang of guilt in my gut. She turned to Stumpy.

    "Please get your eldest some water from the lake, and fetch a bucket out of the box. Make sure to take your youngest with you, alright?"

    Stumpy nodded. I'm sure he was just relieved to get out of this situation. He got the wooden object out, which was a round shaped thing with a hole in the middle, and went off with the bucket in one paw and Twig's own paw in the other. I turned back to Mom who smiled at me.

    "So you stole the bottle off those humans, huh?"

    "How did you--"

    "Your thoughts don't lie, dear."

    "Am I in trouble?"

    "Oh, dear, it's no big deal. It's only natural for you to be curious, after all."

    "But I went close to those humans after you told me not to. Everyone else chewed me out for it, so yeah."

    "Well like I said, it's complicated. It's mostly your father who wants nothing to do with them, so I will respect that, but if it wasn't for them, we wouldn't have the sort of stuff we do right now. Why do you think we cook our meals instead of eating them raw?"

    "Because it's better?"

    "Exactly. Plus, that tire swing didn't come from nowhere, we brought it here with us. You see what I mean?"

    I shook my head.

    "Alright, Pokémon don't usually come up with this stuff, you see. As much as your father hates them, we rely on them for these nice things. If only he didn’t act like such a stubborn old Mon sometimes."

    She lifted the lid of the box she toyed around with earlier and drew out a tattered block-shaped object, with bits of paper in it surrounded by a hard leather case.

    “Besides, where do you think I get my ideas for stories from?”

    I looked at it and put two and two together. “From there?”

    “Well spotted, my dear. This is a book written by humans from many different ages, called Sinnohan Myths and Fables. Humans have a lot of talents, and making up all sorts of different stories is one of them. These live on for ages, and get passed on from generation to generation. You could say they transcend time itself.”

    That part lost me, but I was still interested in the rest. She flipped through a few of the pages and while the human writing there was illegible to me, since I couldn’t read, I was interested in the pictures, of course. One picture in particular caught me interest, of His White Badness himself, Arceus. Of course, I didn’t know much of who he was, although Mom hinted at him in her stories. With that divine glow behind him, however, and that otherworldly look of his, he had a very powerful presence, even on a flat surface. She closed the book and put it to one side.

    “But my point is, you shouldn’t take what Dad says to heart. He means well, but he could do with eating a slice of humble pie every once in a while.”

    I cocked my head. “Pie? Is that nice?”

    "Oh it is, especially the Cheri ones, but that’s not the point.” She smiled and patted the top of the box. “Anyway, take a look in there. That thing’s full of human possessions you might like.”

    I pawed through each of the human oddments there. If I remember correctly, it had stuff like bits of paper, various shiny tools and other loose bits of soft and sharp things. I must've pricked my paw on one of those objects since I drew it out of the box only to find out I cut it. I sucked at the wound and continued to look inside, and what drew my attention the most was a notepad. I picked it out of the box out of all the items there and shook it around a little as sheets of paper waved in the air. I closed it and brought it to her as she smiled.

    "You can draw on that, dear."

    "Draw? Like with the stones on the rocks?"

    "Exactly, though you'd tear through the paper if you did it with those. You can use lots of other things to draw on it as well. We actually have crayons if you want to use them; you'll find them in the smaller box, dear."

    She held it for me as I got the crayons out, and I looked at them for a bit. They had all sorts of colours there I had never even seen before, like purple, would you believe I never saw purple before? All of them were so bright and kind of appetizing. Without thinking, I placed one in my mouth before spitting it back out.

    "They're made of wax dear, that's not edible. We don't need another sick Pokémon tonight."

    Again, I never said I was a smart kid, but still, you see something like that and you just want to eat it even though you probably shouldn't. Oh well. Natural selection will weed that out eventually when a dumber Riolu ends up choking on one.

    Anyway, I took out more of the other colours I liked and placed them next to the pad. I didn't know what to do next. Mom threw me a bone and showed me what to do by taking one of the crayons and making a squiggly blue line with it on the paper. It wasn't much, but to my young eyes, it was impressive. I snatched the crayon out of her paw and drew whatever came to mind: a scribbly blue sky that filled the entire page. Seemed simple, but to me at the time, it was like magic. Then she put everything back and handed it over to me.

    "I was saving this for when you were older, but really, you should have something else to do on this island. It's sad seeing you wandering around all day." She let it go in my paws and I must've looked at her as if I saw Arceus' face on a piece of tree bark.

    "Can I keep it?"

    "It's all yours."

    I jumped over to her, dropping everything I had in my paws to hug her. It was a much needed bright spot in the endless stretch of days that went nowhere. She returned it, squeezing me tight, and I made random scribbles as I stayed with her until my other brothers came with their water. The rest of the night passed with ease as I watched my brother come to his senses, albeit groggily. After dinner, some of his energy restored, but after that, we decided to leave storytelling for another night and settled down.

    I slept clutching my new present like a pillow. It was the first thing I had to call my own, really.

    The next day, Trunks woke up with a groan, and felt physically exhausted all day, so we had to do most of the work for him. When asked about last night’s incident, he distanced himself from the subject. Strangely enough, when I saw Dad next, his breath smelled of the same stuff Trunks drank.

    —-

    EDIT: Cut out throwaway line regarding cooking the Wingull.
     
    Last edited: Apr 19, 2019
  3. Namohysip

    Namohysip Dragon Enthusiast

    Another big encounter in this chapter with the humans, this time with alcohol! That’s mostly what stands out here, along with Curio’s growing restlessness. But there are three things that stand out to me in this chapter that I want to actually go over, and two of them are things I hope get a bit more elaboration on. Oh, who am I kidding, I’m sure you have this planned, based on what you’ve told me before.


    First thing! It was literally just one line, but it stood out to me more than any other. Curio is looking at a Wingull and comments that she could ask it for information and possibly a means of exploring the world with humans. Then, without even a pause or a beat or anything, she also comments that she could take it home as dinner. Like, wow! That line just stood out to me as that weird mental dissonance that I’m wondering Shine will eventually comment on, since he seems to be a lot less, well, inclined to that sort of thing, is that brief scene in the interludes is anything to go by.


    The second thing is that there are a few instances—and this is really hard to spot, but it stood out enough that I actually found a sentence that did it—where you have sentences that have a ton of “gravel,” so to speak. That is, a long string of one-syllable words that, if you read it with a voice in your head like I do, can kinda be bumpy and hard to process because of how quickly the words go by. Here’s the example:



    Mostly ones and twos. Actually, all ones and twos, without a comma in sight. I think it could be rewritten to either simplify, break up, or otherwise smooth out to be more like this:


    “Out of all the items there, I picked that one out and shook it around a little, sheets of paper waving in the air.”


    I also got rid of that “as” clause, which is part of the problem. “As” has a tendency to connect two thoughts while weakening both of them because the mind tries to process them both at the same time. I’m not sure if my comma solution has the same problem, but it at least gives me a mental pause when reading.


    The last thing that stood out to me was the way the chapter ended, sort of as a culmination of what I was suspicious of regarding Curio’s father. I’m not completely sure this is what you were going for, but my interpretation of him is that even though he hates humanity and the life he lived, he still has ties to it, and perhaps even can’t resist the temptation of getting little tastes of them regardless? And the alcohol in his breath was the indicator of that. Just a small thing that I thought was really clever, if that’s what the next few chapters are going to either bear fruit or lean on.
     
  4. NebulaDreams

    NebulaDreams A Dense Irritating Miniature Beast of Burden

    Thanks, @Namohysip ! I thought I’d regard all three of your points in order to either clarify or confirm them.

    It’s interesting you brought up that one line as an example of ‘mental dissonance’, particularly what you said in Discord about Pokemon being something that can simultaneously seen as someone to talk to and eat. That one line with the Wingull was supposed to be a throwaway line from Present!Curio, since she mostly just said it as a joke, but there are parts of this arc that go into that matter in further detail, and ties into the rest of the world as well.

    The issue about the ‘gravel’ in those sentences is a recurring issue with my prose, unfortunately. It’s usually hard for me to spot until someone else has pointed out, since sentence structure is something I struggle with making more interesting. ‘As’ is something I overuse as well for connectives, which also ends up weakening certain sentences.

    That was pretty much what I was going for. This chapter was dedicated to smashing a lot of the expectations of human life I had built up throughout the previous scenes in the island arc, and how Curio’s family truly feel about that. That’s what the rest of the chapters will bank off of as well when they react to a certain event happening that ends up changing Curio’s path.

    I’m surprised you focused mostly on Curio’s father, since I thought the rest of the cast (Mom and Trunks especially) were just as important in fleshing out this idea, since it shows they don’t necessarily have the same beliefs Dad does, yet they all incorporate various aspect of human life into their own. Oh well. I think that might be more apparent in the next chapters in this arc to come.
     
  5. NebulaDreams

    NebulaDreams A Dense Irritating Miniature Beast of Burden

    Chapter 12. That Sinking Feeling

    Soon enough, I made my own maps with the paper Mom gave me, so I walked through and started marking any island I saw. I flexed my paws to measure it as I explained before, and moved onto the next one, marking each one as a 2D object on a flat surface without actually knowing any of the concepts. Primitive, sure, but think back to when you were a kid and there was that same magic of discovery. I’d do anything to capture that magic as an adult now, but oh well, I try. I must've been halfway done, occupied in my own little world before Stumpy came out of the forest and threw me off whack.

    "What're you doing?" he asked.

    "Drawin’ this place." I showed him the progress I made.

    "That looks nothing like here."

    "Well duh, I'm drawing it as if it was flat, that's what I decided to do."

    "You're not up to something again, are you?"

    "Of course not." I didn’t want to outright shoo him away, but I didn’t want him following me around here. Not sure what to do, I just walked for a while. I guess he must’ve gotten bored since he disappeared into the trees, so I was left to my own devices again.

    Once the sky turned a dusky red, I was satisfied with my findings and got back to base to quell the beast in my stomach.

    I didn't need to mention what I ate. Hell, I think at that point, I ate so much fish I was ready to grow gills soon. Afterwards, Trunks and Stumpy crowded around me to look at my findings, and I figured it would shut Stumpy up if I went through it with him, so I shared my process.

    "Still doesn't look like an island to me," he said. I just blew a Razzberry at him.

    "Well," Trunks said, tracing his paw over the paper. "It's impressive you managed to do this. I actually saw maps back at the..." He trailed off, looking at Stumpy. I guess he remembered he wasn't supposed to tell anyone else. "You know what."

    "What do you mean by that?" Stumpy asked, never afraid to ask the bleeding obvious.

    "Never mind. Still, keep going at it."

    He handed back the pad with a smile.

    "What else have you drawn?"

    My maw hung open as I stared back at the pad. I had built up quite the gallery since then, but I didn't think to show it to anyone else. It was my secret. Well, not so secret considering I had nowhere else to hide it, but my family hadn't really asked what I did inside it. Trunks was different though, as he generally took more notice of me since that incident. I flicked through the pages and showed him each drawing I made. I don't remember a whole lot of it aside from what I sketched of the sorts of rocks and trees I passed by. None of it was particularly good, even for a Pokémon, and it probably would've had more worth being used as toilet paper, but they were my own trashy drawings to claim and no one else’s. I created them, so that’s what gave them its power.

    Seeing this, Trunks patted me on the back and told me they were all good. Now, lil' me couldn't really tell the difference between a master's painting and a messy clash of colours, but I knew from his aura he was being genuine. Then, what he suggested next took me off guard.

    "Do you think you could draw me?"

    And so the stage was set. Me and Trunks went to our usual hangout spot by the lake, and he sat down in a cross-legged pose by the bank while I sat away from him, crayon in paw. His ability to sit still for hours on end made him the perfect subject. I looked at him and paused. There was going to be a little bit of trouble getting him on a flat surface. Maps were easier to draw as it was abstract, but since I had to draw a living, breathing thing, I had the same problem as I did before translating it onto paper.

    Out of impulse, I held the crayon in front of him, measuring him with the wax stick, and marked two spots on the paper where I started with the ears and end with his bottom. I squinted my eyes, trying to make sense of his form, and drew three circles on the paper: one for the head, one for the body, and one for the bottom. Then I drew a few lines connecting each of them together. When I put it like that, it sounded like I knew what I was doing, but trust me, I didn’t.

    You know when you start out, you draw what you think you see instead of what you actually see? It’s kind of like that. I don’t remember who said that, but anyway, the limbs looked broken, and Trunks ended up looked like he was missing a few chromosomes. I compared my drawing to the actual thing in front of me and frowned.

    “Are you done?” he said. I nodded, and he came over to peek at my disasterpiece.

    “That doesn’t look half bad.”

    “Really?” I said, pointing to all my mistakes. “I made you look kinda goofy.”

    “Well, er...” He nervously smiled. I could tell he wanted to avoid criticising my work.

    “I know it looks pretty bad, bro, you don’t hafta lie to me.”

    He gave a relieved sigh and patted me on the back.

    “Okay, you’re right, it could use some work, but it’s better than anything I could’ve done. I could barely draw a stick figure.”

    I cocked my head, trying to figure out what he was talking about, but shrugged it off.

    “If you keep at it,” he said, “I’m sure you can make something good.”

    “You think so?”

    “It all comes with practice. Think of it like training your aura, when you eventually get to that stage.” Trunks stood on the balls of his feet and made a battle stance. “You exercise your body like you’d exercise your mind when drawing, and when it comes to using it, you channel the world’s energy inside you like the references you’ve collected, like so.” He clapped his paws together and closed his eyes, casting a blue glow onto the ground. “Then, once you feel like you’ve gathered enough energy, or enough of an understanding of what you’re looking at...”

    At last, he presented an aura sphere and shot it at the tree, creating a blast that sent the leaves flying like knives in the air.

    “Of course, mine was only the size of a pebble when I started out, just like yours, so like I said, it all comes with practice. You understand?”

    I set the pad to the side and nodded. Actually, a lot of it flew over my head, as I couldn’t understand what he was trying to relate to. The fundamentals of art are much different than shooting magic spheres out of your hands like some sort of wizard. But I felt the sentiment anyway, so I went close to him and hugged his leg.

    You could say Trunks inspired me since after that, I went on my own to draw again, just doing random scribbles that didn’t mean anything, but nonetheless felt important. When you have nothing else, you tend to use it as an escape, after all. My memories drifted off to the speech Trunks gave me, to the time Mom gave me that pad in the first place on the night I pilfered that wine off those humans. It had been a while since I saw one of them, so I got the idea to draw one completely by memory.

    I remembered they had tiny heads, and clothes, and hair, and all sorts of stuff, but without a visual reference, in the end, they looked more like the aliens Mom talked about in her poem than anything resembling an actual human. I was completely on my own until Dad appeared from behind the trees, and when I saw that hardened, permanently-frowning face, I closed the pad.

    “Hello pup,” he said as he approached. “What are you up to this time?”

    With anyone else, I probably would’ve shown them without hesitation as they would’ve been respectful about it. With Dad however, it always felt like he invaded your privacy, like he was actively seeking out a reason to scold you.

    “Nothin’.”

    His face turned more sour. “You must never lie to a Lucario. Now show me what you’ve been doing.”

    He played that card whenever we hid something from him. I’d find out later that it’s a common saying in the mainland, and a rule even you humans should follow if you don’t want a spike shoved up your rear end. Nevertheless, I clutched the pad, not wanting him to look, but at that point, Dad growled with fury, grabbing me with those meaty paws of his while I struggled in his grasp.

    “Let me go!”

    “I’m having none of that, thank you.” At last, he snatched the pad off me and flicked through it, page by page. He said nothing, ignoring my attempts to snatch it back, then his eyes dilated at one of my drawings. He turned the pad over, presenting that botched drawing.

    “Pup, what is this?”

    “Um...” I stared at the page, figuring out what to say next. “It’s a human. It doesn’t look anythin’ like it, I kinda messed up the body. I—“

    RRR-IP! My heart stopped when Dad tore the page out the pad, crumpled it up in his paws, and casually tossed it away behind him.

    “No more drawing from now on. I’m taking this damn thing away, understood?”

    At that moment, I pounced on him, shouting at him to give it back. He picked me up, and out of nowhere, just tossed me to the ground, head first. I crawled away from him like the kicked Riolu I was. It was probably because of the shock of being thrown to the floor, but I bawled. He approached me with that murderous look in his eyes again. Clearly, I had already ticked him off and there was no way out, so I ran to the shore, wailing into the air.

    So yeah, that went well. Wah-wah. Looking back on it, the whole thing was stupid from both sides. He never needed to go that far with confiscating my stuff, though I didn’t need to react the way I did either, as there were worse things I could’ve cried over than a crumpled up drawing, like nearly losing a loved one to an infected leg, for instance. Again, I wasn’t a smart kid, and kids are generally stupid and emotional, but as a word of advice, if you ever plan on having them, that’s something you shouldn’t do to a kid, punish them when they haven’t done anything wrong because of your own personal issues, or chuck them around like a football.

    Look at me, giving parental advice. Is this what I’ve come to these days?

    But yeah, I ended up running to the shore, sulking in my own self-pity. Dad snatched away the one thing I took pride in doing, so I had nothing to express myself with, no map to find my way out of the island, nothing. I looked to the shore where another island sat further away. Even through my misty eyes, I identified that island was the one I marked as the closest on the map, or maybe the second closest, but I didn’t care, so I stood up anyway.

    With nowhere else to run to, it was sink or swim.

    It probably wouldn't have been the last time I saw them. If I could’ve made it across there, I probably could've gotten back, after all. Still, I put a paw on my chest, feeling each beat and waiting for the right time to leave. Once it slowed down, with calmed nerves, I took the first dive.

    Although I was only told to swim a certain distance, I knew I could’ve endured it for a long time without stopping. I mean, what could I say? I was a bored kid. If circumstances were different and I didn't have this damn arm dragging me down, I'm sure I could swim even longer now.

    I kept a steady pace, going slow enough to keep my breathing in check while fast enough to see some progress. Eventually, the far away islands came into view, and I even saw a few Pokémon travelling through the sea. I knew I wasn't completely isolated then as many other Pokémon were travelling the same way I was. I was getting closer and closer to the other island in front of me, I felt it.

    Something nipped my paws. I didn't stop to check out what it was as it felt like a little nibble at first, then it almost pulled me underwater. I stopped, kicking whatever clutched onto my leg off my feet and continued my venture forward. Then it dragged me into the sea.

    Around my feet, through the eye-burning salt water, a school of Magikarp swarmed around my legs, sucking my skin and swishing their tails in the water to pull me further downward. I couldn't even hold my breath; it took me that much by surprise. I needed to get back to the surface. I punched at them in an attempt to ward them away, and it succeeded as I socked one Magikarp in the face and a few dispersed, although some still stuck onto my legs. That gave me leeway enough to rise above, and I gasped for air. I knew at that point I was screwed. In my panic, I screamed for help, splashing out to make a scene while I could still swim. I didn't know how it would help as I couldn't see anyone or anything around me that could come to my rescue.

    Then even more mouths pulled me downwards, and the only thing I could've done to save a bit of time was hold my breath. What dragged me down was less like a school and more like a university, if that's even an expression you humans use. I struggled to move as they dragged me deeper underwater. I couldn't hold my breath for much longer. I saw a huge shadow from far away, but couldn’t make out what it was. Slowly, I opened my mouth, and eventually my thoughts drifted away as I slept with the fishes.

    You know, I managed to get my paws on a trivia book in GeL once I learned how to read. Apparently, it takes a minute and a half for a small Pokémon, particularly a Riolu like me to drown. Even if you survive by some miracle, you're lucky if brain damage doesn't set in around that time. When I look back at all the close calls I've had in my life, sometimes, I think about that random fact and that feeling still hasn't left me whenever I remember the time I almost drowned there. With no one around to help in the middle of nowhere, I was sure I was dead. Maybe I did die and I could've been a ghost this whole time. Plot twist.

    Oh, that joke didn’t land? Alright then, I'll continue.

    Next thing I knew, I wasn't entirely awake, but something clamped down at my chest and bitter water rose from my throat. It kept punching at that area, although I couldn't piece together why until I coughed up a stream of water. Suddenly, I could breathe again. The fresh air tasted much sweeter after almost losing it forever. It took a while for me to find my bearings as I caught my breath, but once I came to, I opened my eyes and saw two figures in front of me. It was an Azumarill, although I didn't know it yet, and a human. The Azumarill came up to me first and held my paw.

    "Are you alright?" he said.

    I wasn't too sure about what just happened, although I could speak.

    “Yeah, thanks.”

    He just nodded and repeated what I said in the human tongue. Okay, that was odd to say at the least. I let the situation play itself until I understood where I was, and in that time, the human talked back to him, although I could only understand a few sounds, and the Azumarill nodded.

    "He says you're breathing fine anyway. Do you need a paw?"

    "Please," I said. He helped me up to my feet and I got a better understanding of my surroundings. We were on some sort of metal contraption, which I now know as a boat, sitting between two islands. The next thing I noticed was that my teeth were chattering. A gust of wind blew through me and I cuddled myself in an attempt to feel warm. In response, the Azumarill gathered a few towels for me to wrap myself in, which helped a little, although I was still dripping wet.

    "Do you have any cocoa for her?" he said in human tongue, to which, his partner nodded.

    "Cocoa?" I said, confused.

    "Yeah, it's a hot drink. It'll help you keep warm. You'll see."

    I nodded and watched the human prepare something from some sort of flask, while the Azumarill wrapped his paw around me for comfort.

    "Are you lost?" I shook my head and pointed back to home.

    "That's where I live, over there." Then it dawned on me. "Aw, crud. They're probably thinking I drowned or somethin’."

    "Don’t fret, we'll get you back safely. I did wonder what a Riolu was doing in the middle of the ocean." He chuckled and relayed the information back to his trainer. That's when I prodded him in his side, getting his attention back.

    "How are you doing all of this? Mama said it's usually the trainers that order their Pokémon to do stuff, not the other way around."

    He just smiled and flicked one of his ears back.

    "I've been learning to speak the human tongue for years."

    "Can you really do that though? I know Papa could speak a few words, but I didn't know you could speak that well through it."

    "Why of course. It's a skill you can learn like any other."

    "Then how come I can't understand half of what he says?"

    "It's a little complicated, but it takes some getting used to if you haven't lived around them."

    I just mumbled in reply. He looked to the far-away island.

    "It looks like a nice place."

    "Well, kinda. It's pretty boring, to be honest. That's kinda why I swam away, ya know, to see if I could get to the mainland. Plus Papa was kind of a jerk."

    "How so?"

    "Well, he crumpled up my drawing just because it had a human on it."

    "You draw?"

    "Yeah. I suck at it though."

    "Well, no one starts off like a Smeargle."

    I didn't know what that meant, although I gathered it was a compliment, so I nodded. It wasn't long after that the human knelt in front of me and offered me a cup of that cocoa. It was weird for me to look at as it wasn't like anything I had seen before: brown with a bit of white at the top, but I guessed it was safe to drink. It was warm like sunshine in a bottle.

    "Hot,” the human said, loud and plainly. Knowing dumb lil' me, I probably would've chugged it if he hadn't told me in such a clear tone, so I carefully held it to my lips, trying not to drop it as I took a sip. It was unlike anything I tasted before: smooth and sweet. Warmth coursed through my body and I felt up to speed again.

    "Thanks a bunch," I said.

    "You like it?" The Azumarill said.

    "Do I ever!"

    From there, he asked me a bit more about my predicament and I talked about wanting to escape the island and find out what the humans were up to, in between sips of that cocoa, of course. Again, Azumarill went back and forth with his trainer, before he said this:

    "We're actually looking for Pokémon like you. We want to help you learn about these things, like human speech, everything you'd like to know about the world, the whole hog. All you'd need to do is come with us."

    "I..." I itched to say yes. It was my chance to venture the world like I had planned for months, to hang around the humans and see what my brother had seen, but then it struck me. If I took that offer right then and there, then what? It seemed too easy, as if the two had appeared out of thin air to take me out on a silver carriage, or boat as it were. Plus, there was still my family. My father could've gotten stuffed if he didn't agree with me, but what would the rest say? Would it mean not seeing them again? I gulped the last of the drink down, which had turned lukewarm. Azumarill must've seen the hesitation in my face as he frowned.

    "I understand, it's a hefty deal to take on. Well, think on it if you want. We can come back tomorrow to talk about it more."

    "Hold on, how will you know where I am when every island looks the same?"

    "We have our ways. Now," he turned back to his trainer, repeating what I said. "Let's take you home."

    The human took control of the wheel and the engine whirred, making me drop my empty cup.

    "No need to fret," Azumarill said, "That's just what powers this boat you're standing on."

    I nodded, feeling myself flush red.

    "Oh!" he exclaimed, "How rude of me! Ahem." He stood in the middle, ears proudly sticking up in the air. "I'm an Azumarill, but you may call me Azzy, and here's my partner, Mack!"

    Mack, the human, just waved his hand as he steered the boat. Again, names were an odd thing for us Pokémon, and hearing the Azumarill repeat his own name got me thinking about what I would call myself. Nothing came to mind. I couldn't think of anything that would fit me as I was just Riolu. That was what I always was.
     
  6. Namohysip

    Namohysip Dragon Enthusiast

    This is another chapter where I don’t have a whole lot to say, but my general opinion on it is positive. This is more or less an episode that I’d divide into two parts. Part one is her drawing arc and how, in the end, her father took that away from her in an effort to protect her from the humans, misguided as his approach was. Such a draconian approach toward someone as rebellious as Curio isn’t exactly going to turn out well. Usually kids like that run away from—oh.


    And the second part is the swim followed by the near-drown and yet another encounter with friendly humans! Obviously Curio is starting to get a better impression of them at this point and, more importantly, it seems like she’s warming up to the idea of going. I’m curious on what will happen when the humans arrive on the island tomorrow, since that could very well be the turning point. They mentioned looking for Pokémon “like her,” after all. Curious…


    I think the only real concern is, despite the fact that this was a good chapter, it was also somewhat of a repeat. Just an escalation of the last few chapters. We already know that her father doesn’t like humans and doesn’t want Curio involved, and we already had Curio encounter humans and kinda like them. This is just that same thing, but higher. I feel like you won’t really be able to get away with this again, so hopefully chapters with these specific themes will come to a resolution soon!
     
    NebulaDreams likes this.
  7. NebulaDreams

    NebulaDreams A Dense Irritating Miniature Beast of Burden

    Thanks, @Namohysip! I understand the comments about last chapter feeling like a repeat. With this arc, I wanted things to slowly build throughout, such as Dad's increasingly unpleasant and hostile behaviour, Mom gradually swinging more towards Curio's favour, and Trunks's displeasure at being stuck on the island. I felt this all had to be justified in order for the climax of the arc, this next chapter, to make sense, since this marks a major turning point in Curio's life. I hope some of the things this arc has been building up to will finally pay off here.

    On a side note, this is also the part where some of the implied dialogue from the present starts to leak into the past. You'll know it when you see it, but feel free to point out whether or not the formatting works for this sort of thing.

    ---

    Chapter 13. The Reason We're Here, I Guess

    My family waited with bated breath for me to arrive on the shore. My father acted aggressive at first towards the pair on the boat, but when Azzy explained himself, he only nodded and thanked them before telling them to leave. I waved back at them as they set sail, and once everyone was done giving affectionate hugs and kisses, thanking the White God I was safe, Dad grounded me from the shore.

    Of course, that didn’t stop me I had plans later on. You could never keep me in one place for too long after all. Thoughts of the duo stayed with me all day, and over a quiet dinner, I thought about nothing but escaping.

    I had a definite chance that time. I was given the opportunity to eat something else other than fish all day, everyday, to do something else other than lounge about all day, everyday, and possibly meet new people rather than being stuck with my family, all day, everyday. Even without that, the chance to learn the human tongue enticed me. I thought back to my previous encounters and how nice it would've been to speak for myself. Maybe things could've been different with that Prinplup encounter had I explained myself to their trainer and mediated between them and Dad. Maybe I could've understood why that crazy couple was so scared of me. All of that sold me on paper.

    In actuality, though, a weight clamped down on my chest. And no, it wasn't due to almost drowning, but the prospect of never seeing my family again if it meant going away. I didn't have anything against the rest of my siblings or even Dad, but I could've done without them. Trunks and Mom, though, were the only ones that showed me proper support. If I didn't have them around, I wouldn't know who else to turn to.

    I carried those thoughts with me even past dinner and throughout storytime, and as I tried to go to sleep, I tossed and turned in my patch of grass.

    Trunks took the hint something was up since he patted my side, waking me up out of my half-sleep.

    "Do you want to talk about this in our usual spot?"

    The lake it was. At that time, everything was pitch black. We tiptoed through the forestry, listening for the different sounds in the terrain to guide us there, and I guess I must've taken one step forward too many as Trunks held me back from falling in the drink. We sat by the bank as I coursed my paw through the surface of the darkened water.

    "You're thinking about escaping with the couple that brought you back," Trunks said.

    "Nothing gets past you.”

    "You're set to meet them again tomorrow, is that it?"

    "Yeah, and?"

    "And, I want to come with you."

    "Off the island?"

    "No, just with them. I want to see what they have planned for you. Don't you think it sounds a little suspicious?"

    "Maybe. Well, they did save me, after all."

    "True. But, let's say you did get off the island with them and they kept their promise about teaching you whatever it is that needed teaching. You might not have the chance to see us again."

    "I know. I dunno what'll happen a while from now. They didn't really say what this whole thing was about."

    "Well, like I said, we'll find out tomorrow. Maybe we should rest on it for now, okay? I won’t tell Dad."

    He put his paw around me and I returned the favour, nuzzling his coat.

    "Thanks, bro."

    I was able to sleep easily that night, but awoke to the rain the next day. Everyone except for Dad huddled under a tarp roof; another human invention we mostly took for granted. As the air was considerably chillier, the two youngest clutched Mom for warmth, while Trunks stayed by my side, making sure I was comfortable.

    “Mom,” Trunks asked, “Did you get that thing back?”

    “Oh yeah, hold on a sec.” She reached into her curiosity box, and to my surprise, handed me back the sketchpad.

    “But how?” I said. “Didn’t Papa take it away?”

    “Never mind L--, I mean, your father,” she said. Before I had the chance to ask why she hesitated, she continued. “I’m not having any of his attitude. If he does something like that again, just know you have me and your brother’s back, got that?”

    My worries from yesterday lifted, and I went over to hug her, fighting for space alongside those two shivering urchins.

    “Where is he anyway?” Trunks said. “I can’t imagine he’d be comfortable out in the rain like this.”

    “Oh, who knows? He’s probably off brooding in a ditch somewhere. Just let him be, I’d rather not deal with him when he’s like this.”

    “So you were arguing again.” There was sadness in Trunks’ tone.

    “Sorry. I know it’s hard on you, but please, hold on a little while longer. I don’t want things to end badly between me and him.”

    Trunks stayed silent. I didn’t really understand the turmoil surrounding Mom and Dad at that time, but with the strong presence of the aura floating around, I couldn’t help but feel saddened as well. That changed when Trunks patted my back, taking me by surprise. He held out some sort of contraption, presumably from that box, and stood up.

    “Mom, we’re going to the shore. I know she’s grounded, but there’s business to take care of.”

    She winked at the both of us, and from that, I understood she kept her word when she had my back. We weaved through the forest, where the storm pitter-pattered against the treetops, providing us with shelter at first. Once we were out in the open, we would’ve been pelted by the rain if Trunks hadn’t opened that contraption, which expanded to create a barrier from the rain, like the tarp in the base. Of course, it was an umbrella, but I didn’t know that yet. We both sat on the rocks, Trunks holding the umbrella while I doodled the time away. He’d make the occasional grunt of approval here and there at my work, but for the most part, we just soaked in the silence.

    The waves crashed against my paws, shocking me with its sudden iciness. Trunks took my hand and moved me back a few paces. In front of us, the ocean seemed to wobble like jelly, making all sorts of tiny movements until a huge head emerged from the surface. Blue, with a crown-like appendage sticking out of its forehead, and with its body snaking out behind it as large white fins on its back popped out as well. Dozens of Magikarp popped out of the water too, staring daggers at us, if fish daggers were a thing. Images of the drowning incident flashed in my head, and my mind raced to all sorts of conclusions.

    The Magikarp had probably summoned their pack leader, or whatever, and after their failed attempt to get their own back at me for eating their kind, they probably wanted revenge. With this huge, screw-off monster by their side, we wouldn’t have been any match for them. We were doomed. And so, we were all gobbled up in turn, falling into a watery grave.

    Just kidding. Instead, the monster’s red eyes widened, and smiled through its large mouth.

    “Ah, how are you, my boy? I haven’t seen you since you were a Riolu!” he said. In response, Trunks bowed to him, and oddly enough, pinched my side in an effort for me to do the same.

    “I’m doing fine, Cecrops.”

    “Cecrops? What crops? W-what’s going on?”

    “And you, girl.” He poked his head closer to the shore. I would’ve bolted if Trunks hadn’t held me back. “I believe you were still an egg when I last visited. My, you’ve certainly grown. You’re almost the spitting image of your mother, except for both your green eyes!”

    “W-wait!” I turned to Trunks, wanting answers right away. “H-he knows us?”

    “Oh.” Trunks held both of my shoulders. “I should explain. Do you remember the story Mom told you about the sea serpent?”

    It didn’t hit me right away, but when I recited the poem in my head, I squealed in surprise.

    “He is a legend in some way, but that’s beside the point. Long ago, before you hatched, this Gyrados helped carry us over to this island. It was mostly Dad’s decision, but me and Mom wanted to get away from the mainland too, so we hopped on his back, he led us here, and left.” He glanced over to the giant head, which was still jarring to look at. “I thought I’d sensed a fishy aura here.”

    “Indeed, you did. I have been busy, visiting Alola with my students, but I thought I’d pay some of the other island residents a visit as well. All of them are living peacefully.”

    “Wait,” I said, “There’s more of us on those other islands?”

    “Indeed. Not just you Pokemon, but humans too. They really like their remote hideouts.”

    So I hadn’t been far away from them the whole time. If I’d known that before, I would’ve swam over there long ago, but then I took the Magikarp attack into account. I stared at each of his supposed students, who watched us expectantly, and suddenly, my stomach twisted into knots. If they were the same Magikarp we’d feasted on the whole time, then they were probably responsible for swarming over me as well. I fell to my knees, doubling over in guilt.

    “P-please don’t eat me.”

    “Oh, child,” Cecrops said, “Whatever are you talking about?”

    “I, no, we’ve been eating those Magikarp the whole time without a second thought! Isn’t that why you attacked me?”

    His Magikarp school gave each other weird looks.

    “Oh, no, don’t be silly. They weren’t responsible for it. I can assure you, none of my students have ever been close to any of the islands without my say-so. They know the risks if they stray too far. They all have developing minds of their own, even if they can only vocalise underwater.”

    “But what about the rest?”

    “I can explain.” The Gyrados frowned. “There are fish farms owned by humans all over Sinnoh, which are enclosed spaces for the purpose of growing and harvesting livestock. Magikarp are considered one of them. They’re bred in the farms for the purpose of being cooked one day, and being engineered at birth, they’re nothing more than mindless beasts, incapable of thought, just like the livestock bred on the mainland as well. Those that escape swim the seas with no purpose, and don’t listen to my warnings. The ones from there were probably the ones who saw you as a threat and attacked you.”

    “Fish. Farms.” His explanation probably made me more nauseous. My throat tensed, and bro was there to make sure I didn’t heave or anything. It was a lot to take in at once. I couldn’t grasp the scale of those supposed fish farms, or the concept of breeding Pokemon specifically to be eaten. I didn’t want to know any more.

    “Stop, please,” Trunks said. “Sis wouldn’t know a lot about that yet, she’s barely aware of the human world.”

    “Alright, I apologise. Child, I hope you can forgive us for what happened. I would’ve saved you anyway if that Azumarill hadn’t cast that bubble first. If you had drowned, and one of my pupils were responsible, I would be ashamed.”

    After calming myself down, I looked at Cecrops once more, and nodded.

    “It wasn’t your fault. I wanna apologise for eatin’ those Magikarp, too. It can’t be nice, knowing what people are doin’ to them.”

    He gave a hollow chuckle. “I’ve accepted that fact long ago. It’s just the cycle of life, or the great chain of being, if you believe in the White God’s rule. But maybe, that’s a bit too much for you to grasp.” He lowered his forehead to the shore, gesturing me to touch it. I ran my paw through the scales, which were rough, but smooth at the same time, and even in the rain, they glowed like crystals. “You are a kind soul, however. That will get you very far in the right places, even in wild territories. If there’s anything you’d like to ask, child, I will answer.”

    I opened my mouth to speak, but suddenly, Cecrops backed away, and his pupils disappeared underwater.

    “We appear to have more visitors. Well, I will be around Sinnoh, so I will catch up with you again later, Lucario. I wish the best for both you children, and the rest of the family.”

    We waved him goodbye and he disappeared into the water along with his students, leaving us two, the pattering rain on the sea, and the boat from before heading towards us. Somehow, the prospect of two complete strangers visiting our island was even less of a surprise than this huge sea serpent popping up out of nowhere. That blue rabbit was the first to step off the boat as he approached us.

    "Well!” he said, “Imagine seeing that Gyrados again, but hello there! You hungry?"

    I wasn't really. My stomach still felt wobbly from that revelation, but since they brought that cocoa last, and it was cold, I was up for anything on offer, so I nodded. He turned to Trunks next.

    "And you must be her father?"

    "Brother," he said, crossing his arms.

    "Ah, sorry. Are you coming with us then?"

    "Yes, but let me just say this. If you and that human are up to anything that might harm the both of us, or are up to no good, I'll show no mercy. I'll know in an instant."

    "If we were up to anything like that, you would’ve known by now, I can assure you. But anyway hop on board!"

    He led the way to the deck as we stepped off the shore, guiding us to the inner part of the boat, which was protected by the rain, and we gathered around a table where a basket lay with that familiar cocoa flask. My mouth watered already.

    "Are you taking us away from here?" Trunks asked, leering at Azzy.

    "There’s not much reason to. We only just came here to talk.”

    “Then tell that human to power the boat and find a spot in the middle of the sea. There’s someone on the island that might interrupt us if we’re not careful. Can you do that?”

    Azzy nodded and went to the upper deck where Mack commanded over the boat. While he was gone, I steadied myself on the seat, trying not to feel dizzy with how the room rocked back and forth, even more so when it powered up, taking us away from the island. Once I calmed my nerves, I kept staring at the middle of the table. There was clearly food in there with a distinct scent different from the Magikarp, but it hadn’t been opened yet. I almost reached my paw out to reveal its contents when Trunks tapped my wrist. I resisted long enough for the blue rabbit to return, joining us on the table.

    “Now.” He opened the basket to reveal lots of different kinds of foodstuffs. Well, maybe not lots, but lots considering what I usually ate before then. There were sandwiches, rice cakes, different types of berries, Pokepuffs, poffins, wrapped candy, you name it. Maybe more. You could've probably fed a Snorlax with that much food. I drooled, being that starved for variety.

    "Would you like to dig in?"

    "Woah," I said, pointing at every item on display, "Is this all for us?"

    "But of course, there's plenty to go around."

    It didn't take long for me to stuff my face with sandwiches. They tasted different to the ones I had before, except it was a bit meatier, but still, I enjoyed it, and waved a bit of bread to Trunks.

    "Haff some, ith goof."

    "I'll pass," he replied, waving a paw dismissively. I shrugged and continued on my sandwich binge, and Azzy helped himself to a riceball.

    "I take it you like those then?" he said.

    "Love 'em. Much better than the stinking fish we usually have."

    "Oh please," Trunks said, "They’re hardly stinking at all." He put up that tough act, sure, but in truth, he hungrily stared down the feast before us. I knew from his aura he longed for it, but was just waiting for the right moment to join in.

    "Whatever," I said, wolfing down another sandwich.

    “Ahem,” Azzy said. “Is there anything you'd like, mister Lucario? We have chocolate."

    Snap. Like a fire lit up in his head, Trunks threw away his glum self and licked his lips.

    "Where?"

    "Right here." Azzy retrieved a bar and gave it to Trunks. The instant he got his paws on it, he tore through the wrapper and bit off a huge chunk for himself. He looked the happiest since I got him drunk off his ass earlier on. Naturally, I asked for some too. He shook himself out of his choco-coma and broke off a piece for me to try. Need I say more about what I thought of it?

    Oh, and if you’re wondering, a way to a Lucario's heart is through chocolate. It works for both men and us ladies.

    (Sorry to interrupt so out of the blue like this, but that’s a myth. The chocolate is only made to be addictive to your kind in particular because of that whole product placement with Lucario and the Mystery of Mew. Since its appearance in that film, they made a new recipe to appeal to the Lucario crowd with their trainers, then their sales tripled and now that brand owns the monopoly on chocolate manufacturing worldwide. Nothing sells chocolate faster than a dead Lucario, I suppose. Sorry, I get so riled up whenever I think about that.)

    Um, okay. You could’ve just let me have this, Shine, but I guess that’s another perfectly innocent thing ruined for me. Well anyway.

    The boat must've stopped since Mackenzie sat down with us, no longer at the helm. He got himself a sandwich and told Azzy something, although I couldn't hear what, and Trunks kept his guard, albeit with chocolate melting in his paw.

    "So, mister Lucario," Azzy said, "We’re a part of an organisation called Gestalt Learning, and we'd like to offer this Riolu here a special opportunity if you would allow it."

    "Depends," Trunks said.

    "We would like her to come with us, to a place where she can learn the same things humans get to learn and more. Not only will she get to learn the human tongue, she will also learn many other things about this world and be prepared for whatever trials come her way once she graduates."

    "Meaning?"

    Azzy looked down at the notebook I put beside me.

    "She could learn to draw, for instance, and have her work put out for all to see."

    Trunks shook his head. "As much as I’d like her to improve her craft, I'm not letting her come with you just for that, not on Dad’s life."

    I stood up and held a paw up to him.

    "Hey," I said, "Don't I get a say in this?"

    "Not if that's all there is, it's a waste of time."

    "Not only that," Azzy continued, "But she would also be skilled at battle and given the ability to defend herself from anything when she leaves. Or if she ever wants to come with a trainer after she's finished."

    "No.” He gave them the familiar red-eyed stare. "Out of the question. We didn't get away from those bastards just so we could have one take her."

    "Understandable. That's just one of our goals, but there are many other paths she could choose from. She would not only learn the human tongue, she would also learn maths, know about the history of this world, and much more. This means she could go on to teach other Pokémon like us the same set of skills. She could even live in the city by herself if she wanted to."

    Trunks just laughed. It was always worrying when someone as straight-laced as him broke that image.

    "Don't be ridiculous. You think every Pokémon could just waltz into the city and live like every other human, in some cushy house with a boring job? Tell me, I'd love to hear an example, I'm all ears."

    "Of course," Azzy said with a smile. "There's an Infernape named Emma who teaches at one of the top trainer schools in Jubilife City, and she’s able to live by herself. The teacher's union managed to approve her move-in with the help of her former trainer, and she's able to rent an apartment with her pay."

    I didn't really know what they were talking about so I tuned out and looked to my brother, whose mouth went agape. He held a paw to his face, deep in thought.

    "That sounds too good to be true. Surely that can't be the case, not while many other Pokémon are either in the wild or stuck with their trainers."

    Azzy frowned. "Sadly, that is still a problem. But her case is one out of hundreds around the world. The news tells us what we need to know about these kinds of Pokémon, and that only shows it can be done on a wider scale if we put the effort in." Azzy stood up, ears proudly twitching in the air. "Think of what we could do if we were all given this chance. Wouldn't you want her to have the same opportunity?"

    Trunks looked over to me, then stared at his feet.

    "Of course. But what does this mean for her? Where would she even go?"

    "She would stay with us in a building made for her and other Pokémon her age to thrive. She would live peacefully among them while she studies, and be given whatever help she needs to progress. She would have tutors like me to give her advice and to bridge the gap between her and the humans. We would be with her every step of the way."

    "For how long? Would we ever see her again?"

    "Possibly. Keep in mind this is meant to be secret, something we can't tell a lot of humans. We can't give our location away, but we can track yours and give you updates on how she's doing, and this would go on for five years until she's ready to graduate."

    "That's, um, that's a long time."

    Trunks buried his head in his paws. I inched closer to him and embraced him, as I felt a whirlwind of emotions from his aura, all fighting for attention. Azzy came closer to him too and held his paw out.

    "I know this isn't easy for you, as her brother. But if you want to give this bright, young Pokémon the chance to succeed, I need your trust and confidence. What do you say?"

    He was silent for a moment. Being young and not in the loop on things, I couldn't add to much only observing what happened without my say. He clenched his fists again, this time tugging at his head, if only for a short moment. Eventually, Trunks snapped out of it and gazed back at the Azumarill.

    “There’s one more thing I need to know before I make up my mind. If we say no, what’s stopping you from taking her by force, or any other Pokémon that gets involved with you two?”

    “You’re right to be sceptical. If we wanted to kidnap our subjects, we would’ve done so by now, but doing that would go against our mission. If you say no, we’ll just take you back and move on. What’s the point of making Pokémon participate in a program like this if they’re not going to be happy being in it in the first place?”

    Trunks laid back and hummed to himself.

    "Alright, I trust you, but I need my own family's trust as well. When can you come back?"

    "How about this night, at the same spot when it approaches sundown?"

    Trunks gave a rare smile and returned Azzy's long awaited paw-shake.

    "That sounds great."

    The boat purred again and we were on our way back to the island, eating as we pleased as well as downing the leftovers with cocoa. Nothing better on a rainy day, if you ask me. Me and Trunks didn't talk much about what happened, just staring homeward as we slowly approached it, but I knew a lot went through my head at the time even if I didn't understand half of what Azzy talked about. All of it sounded far out of reach, as nothing I knew like that even existed. From my brother's reaction, I guess it scored well with him so I didn't worry about it too much. I just looked forward to flying away from the nest.

    We stopped at the shore and waved to the duo as they left for the second time. It was just us alone again. I reached up to Trunk's back, trying to get his attention, he picked me up with those big paws of his and put me on his shoulders, carrying me as we went back into the forest. It had been a while since anybody had carried me; not even Dad bothered. It was nice, though. That's what I kind of miss about being small, so someone else could give me rides like that, but oh well. Can’t linger on my childhood forever, you know.

    We crossed a stream together, getting his paws wet, and walked through the familiar area of endless woodland with the rain pelting the treetops. Although I longed for my brother’s approval, I still didn’t know what his thoughts on it were, exactly.

    “Bro,” I said, “What do you think I should do?”

    He sighed, but didn’t reply. I decided to read his aura up close, and detected a mixture of emotions in the air. Excitement. Fear. Longing. Those made sense if it turned out I would be going. But then I read jealousy and sadness. That was something I hadn’t anticipated, so I nudged his back.

    “What?” he snapped.

    I didn’t quite know how to phrase it, so I let my gut do the talking. “Are you mad at me?”

    His paws quickened their pace, crunching the twigs underneath. “Let’s not talk about this now, shall we?”

    “No, please. You don’t hafta hide it from me. I can read thoughts to, ya know. What’s that Dad said, never lie to a Lucario, or, erm, maybe a Riolu?”

    He stopped suddenly to let me down. Then, he knelt down to face me, his red eyes moist, and I froze in place.

    “No, I’m not mad at you. I’m sorry if I made you feel that.”

    “Then what’s wrong?”

    “You know when I got drunk?” A chuckle escaped his lips.

    “Yeah.”

    “It’s still a little hazy to me, but I think I talked about going to the city. Dad wouldn’t come with us, but me and Mom went there all the time wherever we travelled. The humans were accepting of us, agreeing to tour some of us around, and whatnot. We also got to look at some of the schools there, which is like a place where humans get to learn about the world. We’d see the students walk sometimes and listen to them chatting together, or having cocoa while discussing the work there. Lots of interesting topics, like that Azumarill mentioned. It all sounded so important.”

    His cheerful expression dropped.

    “I would’ve loved to have experienced that. There was nothing like that out there for us dumb Pokémon to learn anything, yet they came here of all places, handing it over to you like it’s nothing.”

    “Can’t you ask to come with them?”

    “They only spoke about you!” Tears ran down his face. “They obviously picked you for a reason! Besides, I can’t come, I have to look after everyone else, I have to be the bigger, mature Pokémon here since Dad doesn’t pull his weight, I...”

    He closed his eyes and took a series of deep breaths.

    “Sorry, I shouldn’t be showing weakness. What would Dad say if he saw me like this?”

    “Forget Papa!” I placed a paw on his spike, or rather, his heart. “You’re not weak, you take care of me and everyone else too! Why aren’t you proud of that?”

    “I don’t know,” he said, holding his chest as well before standing up. "Let’s put this behind us. We'll talk to Mom about this first, alright?"

    I nodded and got onto his back again.

    Eventually, we reached the main camp where Mom hung out with our younger brothers, still sheltered from the rain. When we stepped in, they all looked at us.

    "Welcome back," she said, "You were out long."

    "Mom," Trunks said, "I've got something important to tell you, without those two if you don't mind."

    "Aw, c’mon bro," Stumpy said, looking like the kicked Riolu he was. "Why am I being left out?"

    "It's not because of you dear." Mom brushed the last bit of Stumpy's coat and patted him on the back. "I can tell he has something worth talking to me about. Run along now, you two, and take your brother’s umbrella. It will shield you two from the weather."

    "No fair." Stumpy stood up and reluctantly dragged Twig away by his paw, snatching the umbrella off Trunk’s paw. Mom went up to us and smiled.

    "Glad to see you two getting along. So what do you want to talk about?"

    "It's about those two visitors from yesterday. They want her."

    "For what?"

    "For some sort of program. It sounds like one of those schools, if you know what I mean."

    Mom quirked an eye at him. "Alright. Go on."

    He basically explained the talk we had with Azzy, which again, mostly went over my head. Given how Mom either said one thing or the other about human matters like this, I didn't know how she would react to it. My heart pounded in anticipation, hoping she would say yes. She didn't say anything at all at first, only nodding occasionally to Trunks' questions about this or that, but after he explained everything, she placed her paws on her hips.

    "Do you trust them, though? Keep in mind, you only just met them yesterday, right?"

    "I know that," Trunks said, "But I read both of their auras, and throughout the whole talk we had, none of them lied, so as far as I can see, they're the real deal."

    Mom lifted me off his shoulders and sat me down, staring at me with those multicoloured eyes of hers once more.

    "Dear, what do you want out of life? Do you want to stay here forever?"

    "I..." I felt like this was a trick question, like the sort parents usually do when they want to test your true self out. I knew in my heart though that wasn't what I wanted, so I shook my head in honesty.

    "Then, what do you want to do once you're there?"

    "Well," I rubbed my head, "I wanna do lots of things! I wanna see the world, I wanna not suck at drawing, I wanna be able to talk to these humans, at least. Dad could speak a little bit to them, can't he?"

    "Yes, that's right. And me as well."

    Another surprise. "Can you?"

    "Of course. You don't hang around these humans for a long time and not learn some of their language."

    "Can you show me?"

    She broke her gaze as she looked to the side, and cleared her throat.

    "H-hello, I-I am ah, ah, Lucario. Well, I'm not as good as he is, but you see what I mean. So you want to learn all of that, right?"

    "Yeah, of course!"

    Mom took a deep breath and puffed it back out. I couldn't help but read her aura, and what do you know, she had a lot of different emotions going on there too. She was not only excited, but happy and fulfilled as well, with a hint of jealousy too, like Trunks did.

    “I know your brother is thinking the same thing,” she said, “But if I was your age, I would’ve taken that chance. Even though I was born and bred in the wild, I was still curious about those humans, and wanted to be a part of their world, as well, but I never could. Not on my own terms, anyway. I got on fine, but this sounds much better.”

    She chuckled, either out of joy or disbelief.

    "You know, this all sounds crazy to me. I don't really know why they would sink so much time into us Pokémon, but then again, it sounds crazy enough to work. So.” She turned to Trunks. "They're coming back tonight, right?"

    Trunks nodded. Mom opened her mouth to say something else, before...

    "YOU THREE!" Dad stormed in, shouting at us the same way he shouted at that trainer. Stumpy and Twig was by his side. He charged over to Trunks and shook him by the shoulders.

    "Pup! I trusted you to keep her safe from the shore and you went behind my back! What were you thinking?"

    Trunks looked down, trying to avoid eye contact with him. "Dad, I--"

    "Not another word out of you. And you!" He stormed over to Mom next, touching the tip of her muzzle. "You're encouraging this sort of behaviour from them? With those humans?"

    She stared him down, looking the most fierce I'd ever seen her before. Dad grunted, and finally turned to me, pinching one of my aura sensors.

    "Ow, Papa!"

    "Quiet! I'm grounding you, girl. You're to stay inside until you think about how silly you're behaving!"

    "What did I do?"

    He yanked on it and pulled me about, knocking me onto the floor and dragging me through the rain-soaked dirt. I didn't even understand what was going on, poor me, so I cried for help. Really, what else would I have done in that situation? They seemed to work, or at least, I hoped it was because of that, as he let me go. I looked back up, only to see he was knocked to the ground by Mom’s fist. I crawled away from them, still sniffling like the confused Riolu I was, and watched the two of them argue as he grovelled on the floor, nursing his nose.

    "LIAM!" Mom said, "Get back up and look at me, for God's sake!"

    That was what I meant by him being a different case. That was his true name, the name given to him by his trainer. Slowly, Liam pulled himself up and tried to grapple Mom as she resisted. There was that murderous look of his again.

    "How dare you call me that, I trusted you never to say that name again!"

    "It's a bit too late for that, look at what you’re doing to our girl!"

    He glanced at me briefly and I shielded my eyes from him. I shut myself in my own world as they continued their spat.

    "Those humans have her possessed! They want to take her away and you're defending them! You know how badly they treated me!"

    "Damn it, Liam, your trainer left you years ago! Move on and grow a pair, mon!"

    "Don't you talk to me like that, you never should've told her about them in the first place! All they've ever done is ruin everything they touch!"

    "Oh, that's rich coming from you. All the stuff you brought back from the mainland, those hunting methods, the tire swing, the notepad, the box, the tarp, oh, and what else, getting absolutely plastered! You would never have thought of that if it wasn't for them. But sure, keep moaning about those humans while you use everything of theirs."

    "That's not--"

    "Go on this really long tantrum all you like, but don't drag us down along with you. Your daughter has the chance to make something of herself out there. We all could've done something about it, and yet you thought this was the best for all of them, shutting them out from the world entirely?"

    "Don't act so high and mighty. You agreed to look out for this island with me in the first place. You wanted the same thing."

    "Yes, I did, and I was stupid. But after such a long time, you start to do some thinking, and now I'm thinking this was a horrible idea. I don’t want to bring down my kids forever, you know, it’s about time some of them left the nest.”

    There was silence again. I opened my eyes and saw the two of them had stopped fighting. They just looked at each other, panting aggressively as a sea of emotions floating in the air around them, so many that there wasn't any way I could've read into them with my limited powers. Dad, or rather, Liam, crossed his arms.

    "Still, my word is final, and if I say this is a bad idea, then you should all follow suit. None of you know what it's like to be close to them only to have it all ripped away from you. I was young once too, you know."

    "Enough, Liam. What happened was out of your control. You told me so yourself, he only had to let you go because he lost his license. He was pleading for you to stay with him while they released you back into the wild against your will. He wasn’t the enemy there, they were! Why can’t you just move on with your life and start enjoying it again?"

    "I'm not talking about it any more and that's that." He turned back to me, no longer looking as angry as he did before, but something about his face made me sick to my stomach. I couldn't see him the same way I used to.

    "Pup, you have no idea what you want. If you go out with them, no matter how kindly they treat you at first, they will make you regret it. Forget all of this happened and live the rest of your life in peace."

    "No, Liam.” I stood up and balled my paws into fists. "That's not fair."

    His eyes twitched.

    "Life isn't fair, pup. Lots of Pokémon I knew had dreams like yours, only to wind up dead. This will turn out no different then they did, believe me."

    "You don't understand! Bro was out there too, he knew what it was like just as much as you, and told me how much the world sucked as well, yet even he said this was okay! Why won’t you listen to us?

    "Because you're both young and inexperienced. Now enough of this silly arguing. Forget about them, come have dinner with us, and sleep, like we've always done."

    Looking back on it, I could understand where he was coming from as well. Once I had that same sort of experience, it sticks with you, you know. There were lots of Pokémon I could think of that ended up the same way as he did, all with broken dreams or worse, one way or another, but point is, they all had goals of their own only to be screwed over because of one bad egg. Or in Liam's case, as I’d learn later, one event gone awry that ended up with his trainer having to give him up, all because of another Pokémon of his that suddenly snapped in the middle of a gym fight and killed the opponent’s Pokémon.

    From what I heard later, his trainer was a nice guy with goals of his own too. He taught him a lot of what Liam brought back to the island, after all, and Liam happened to inherit his cooking skills, which he passed onto Mom. I wouldn’t have blamed Liam if he had some chip on his shoulder because of being separated and left to fend for himself.

    That still doesn't change the fact he acted like a huge asshole about it.

    Something about what he said just set me off. It was the way he said it, like I didn't know a piece of crap from a small rock. Like I said, I wasn't that smart, but I knew when he talked down to me, so I swiped at his face, hard enough to draw blood from his cheek.

    He nursed it. Another moment of silence. My heart leapt from my throat. I heard the swaying of the trees above us. The soft tapping of the rain. The gasps of both Mom and Trunks. I knew what was coming before it happened. He kicked me, sending me flying to a nearby tree, then, there was nothing.
     
  8. Namohysip

    Namohysip Dragon Enthusiast

    Alright, you weren’t kidding about this being the climax chapter, though it still hasn’t gotten to its resolution. But I’m definitely not disappointed! I don’t have a whole lot to say in the line of criticisms so much just commentary on what I thought this chapter did well. My point still stands that the past few chapters were a bit repetitive, but the payoff here was good. This entire arc is exposition, yet you managed to make it feel like the height of the story, and for that I’m definitely impressed!


    I thought you handled Trunks’ psychology pretty well, and the mother, too. There’s a conflict about being stuck in their old ways, perhaps even trapped without any means of knowing how to break free, while Curio is still young and able to break the trend of monotony. It’s a classic tale of a child wanting to go out and be something bigger, at the risk of casting aside everyone they once knew. Basically, moving away, but even more dramatic than the typical standard.


    One thing that stood out to me as a question during all this, though, was how Liam didn’t realize this. You’ve established long ago that Lucario here can read minds very easily, so I’m trying to wrap my head around how Curio’s father isn’t wise to all of this happening—especially since Trunks seems to be privy to it. I’m not quite sure how that works out with the mechanics. I guess that’s the problem with trying to keep secrets in a family of mind readers…


    But that aside, I can’t wait to see how this concludes! At least, I think so. I can only see this going for one or two more chapters before we enter the next arc / off the island. And as a side note, I thought Shine’s interruption was very funny. My only criticism would be to perhaps have a shorter line at first to better imply that Shine’s saying this. Since it’s such a huge block, I legitimately thought it was an author’s note at first. For example…


    (Sorry to interrupt so out of the blue like this, but that’s a myth.)


    Uh, Shine?


    (the chocolate is only made . . . ) and so on.
     
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  9. NebulaDreams

    NebulaDreams A Dense Irritating Miniature Beast of Burden

    Thanks, @Namohysip. Even though there might've been a bit of repetition in the previous chapters, I'm glad this one paid off for you. I thought it was important to build up the little moments with the character interactions in order for the decisions the character make next to make sense. You've raised an interesting point with Liam, but I think there's still an opportunity for him to justify that lack of understanding, or at least, what appears to be a lack of understanding.

    ---

    The Curious and the Shiny Chapter 14. Not The Last Goodbyes, For The Most Part

    Being a human, you probably wouldn't know what it feels like to be trapped inside a ball. I don't really know for sure either, but that's where I ended up when I got knocked out anyway, inside a Pokéball.

    Being unconscious and possibly concussed, my thoughts drifted in and out, playing back random scenes in my head, like that of Azzy and Liam. I can't really describe the feeling of it, but it's like you're there and you're not at the same time. Like you're floating in jelly, or something, At least floating in jelly sounds tasty. In there, it feels like nothing.

    Time passed, and it didn't pass at all. But when I next woke up, the sky was black and speckled white. I didn't stir right away as I was battered and bruised from the previous encounter, but when I next opened my eyes, I saw the blue and white polka dots of Azzy's coat, along with the rest of my family crowding around me, save for Liam. Mom gestured to the duo and Mack pulled out a bottle from a box of his, which he sprayed all over my body. It stung a little, but in little time, I felt my young self again, like I hadn't been kicked against a tree moments before. It's kind of funny how potions work like that, but I guess that's the magic of modern medicine.

    I slowly got to my feet, taking note of my surroundings. I was in the same spot I waited with Trunks before with the boat and felt a pang of excitement when I realised what was going on.

    "Where's Li-, I mean Dad?"

    "Don't you worry about him now, dear,” Mom said, “He trapped you inside a Pokéball, but I took care of it. Now.” She approached and grasped my shoulders, looking at me with that same caring aura. “This is your chance to go with them. No matter what you end up choosing, I won’t think any less of you, dear. You’ve grown quite a bit now, though. It’s time for you to start making your own decisions.”

    I glanced at the duo, who waited patiently beside us, then back to Mom.

    “What about you guys? Will you be fine without me? I’d be so far away.”

    “True,” she said, “But we’ll be able to keep in touch. They have amazing technology we can use, so you won’t be alone. We’ll be with you like they will.”

    I let out a sigh of relief and stood up. Now, my resolve felt stronger than ever.

    "Are you really leaving?" Stumpy said, looking misty eyed.

    "Yeah,” I said. “I've got stuff I need to do."

    And here came the waterworks, but a lot much louder this time. It didn't take long for the runt Twig to start too, as the apple didn’t fall far from the tree. Usually, I would've turned them away, but since I wouldn't be seeing them for a while, I pulled both of them in for a hug.

    "C'mon, you goofballs," I said. "I'll be back someday."

    "I'll miss you though!" Stumpy said, "And, and, that sounds like a really long time to me! Who knows what I'll do without you?"

    "Too long! Too long!" Twig said.

    I patted both of their backs and pulled away from them, leaving the two to comfort each other. I looked to Trunks next and climbed up his legs, and when I got to his head, he grabbed me by my coat and pulled me in for a hug. Well, he almost crushed me, truth be told. Lucario have strong grips, after all.

    "I'll hear from you soon," he said. "Promise me you'll try your best over there."

    "I will, bro."

    Trunks pulled me away and gave me to Mom for her to cradle me in her arms. She touched the tip of my nose.

    "I'm so proud of you, dear." She leaned in for a kiss, only to whisper to me. "Once you get out, go to the top of Jubilife Tower for me." Before I questioned what she said, she pecked my cheek and lifted me back down to the floor, leaving me to board Azzy and Mack's boat. There was still something I wanted to patch up with Trunks though.

    “Wait!” I said to the duo on the boat, “Can I talk to bro quickly?”

    They nodded, and I ran away from the crowd, Trunks following behind me. He knelt down to my level.

    “Be quick or else Dad will come back.”

    “Yeah, I will. So aren’t you coming with us?”

    “Unfortunately, they said they would only be taking in one Pokémon from each area your age. But they said they would try to help me out in the future.”

    “Aw, sorry.”

    “Don’t be.” He smiled. “As long as you’re fine going out and make the most of your studies, that’s enough to make me happy.”

    “But what about Dad though?”

    Trunks blew a Razzberry; another rare thing for him to do. “Whatever, I’m done being his lackey. Just focus on yourself.” He put a paw on my shoulder. “There’s a future for you out there. Chase after it. Oh!” His eyes widened and he ran back to the group. At last, Trunks gave me back the drawing set from before, and gave me one final hug for good measure. He squeezed me extra tightly, and so did I, knowing we’d never be able to do so again for a very long time. I could tell he was holding back tears through his aura, but suppressed the urge to, and released me, letting me get back to the duo.

    Boarding the boat with them, I looked to my family one last time before waving goodbye.

    "I'll talk to you all soon, I swear it! I’ll make you proud!"

    Soon enough, they drove away from the island, and I continued waving back until my family faded into the background. Part of me wondered where Dad was in all of this, but since the spat I had earlier, I shrugged it off. Mack tapped my back and held out a Pokéball. I recognised it as the thing Dad trapped me in, and I took a step back, feeling sick again, but Azzy smiled and took my paw in his.

    "Don't worry, we'll keep you safe here. We'll release you when we get there."

    I eased up a little and let his human partner approach me, holding out the Pokeball like that trainer did before. Something inside me knew that would seal the deal between us, the part where I would finally agree to be taken to GeL. I tapped it and soon enough, I was sealed inside.

    ---

    The Curious and the Shiny Chapter 15. Ambrette's Beach Bum


    "Right," Curio said, holding a paw up, "That's enough for now."

    Tony complied and pressed the record button to stop. There was a moment of silence in the room as Curio stretched her arms, squirming in her seat.

    “Well that was quite long, wasn’t it?” She stuck her tongue out to Shine. “Hope I didn’t make you fall asleep or anything.”

    “No, not at all. I remember things more clearly now,” he said. “I recall you used to talk about them quite a bit.”

    “Good to hear.”

    Curio grabbed her bag and stood up, looking to Tony.

    "We'll carry on tomorrow, alright? For now, I'm gonna buzz off somewhere else."

    "Wouldn't you like to stay the night with Shine, though? I can pull up a bed if you want."

    "No thanks, not in this shithole, and especially not with you."

    Tony was about to respond when Curio made her way towards the door.

    "Hold on," Shine said, "Where will you stay?"

    "The beach, of course. I found the perfect spot earlier, so that'll be my base for now. See ya in the morning." She smiled before she walked out and slammed the door.

    "Well," Tony said, chuckling, "She's quite the character, isn't she?"

    "She's rude, that's what she is. I'm sorry for her behaviour today."

    "Don't mention it. Like I said, I've put up with worse, but that's part and parcel of working in a team."

    He knew one of Tony's co-workers was particularly unpleasant to deal with, not only openly hating Shine but also messing up Tony's paperwork on a few occasions when the workload was busy. He came back one day and told him while he stank of beer.

    "I guess so. I'll tell her to be a bit more patient with you next time."

    "I appreciate the effort." Tony combed his hand through Shine’s fur. "Your coat's all sticky. You weren't slimed on by any chance?"

    "How did you guess?"

    "Got a bit of it in my hair as a kid once, from a trainer who couldn't keep control of his Goomy. Nasty stuff, that is. I think this calls for another bath."

    "You sure? Don't you need to back up the video first?"

    "I can do that later." Tony turned off the lightboxes around him, leaving only the dim ceiling lamp on. "I'll get changed so we can start, shall we?"

    Moments later, Shine sat with Tony in his anti-static gear as he rinsed the gunk out of his coat.

    "So," Tony said, "How did you find her?"

    "Well, I did say it was a long story. I'll confess, I drew out twenty thousand of your money to get there."

    "Hmm." Tony sprayed Shine in the back with his special shampoo. "I did say that was only for emergencies, like if I was out on a trip and you had to pick up groceries on your own."

    "Yes, I guess that wasn't much of an emergency. Still, I had to get there as soon as possible. I don't know how I would've found her if I didn't ride a Dragonite there ASAP."

    "Oh, so that's how you got there. What was it like? Can't say I've ever been on one before."

    "It'll make you sick, but besides that, I'm in debt. What I brought out wasn't enough, so I'm paying it back by teaching some of the dragons the human tongue."

    "Oh really? That's impressive, Shine. Glad to see you're putting your skills to good use again."

    "Thanks."

    Shine squirmed a little as Tony scrubbed where the Goodra slime hit. It was thick, so it must've taken some force to get out, after all.

    "I'm sorry I ran off without much notice, I should've waited until you got home from work."

    "No, it's alright. Ines told you we were swamped, so I couldn't blame you if you were itching to go out. I keep thinking you should be going out more often, to be honest."

    "But you're my trainer, I should tell you these sorts of things."

    "Oh come on, trainer in name only. It’s not like we’re in the league, after all. You're a mature Luxray now, so I wouldn't hold it against you if you went on more trips like these. You've proven yourself to be independent, which is more than I can say for a lot of Pokémon I've met, so own it, for the white god’s sake.”

    It crossed Shine's mind often. He would've liked to have seen Lumiose City, if only to see the Plaza Tower there and the massive library, which was one of the biggest in the world. He didn't meet many Pokémon in Ambrette that shared the same wish as him, not even Bauble, but still, there was nothing stopping him from going out more. When he thought about it though, his mind wandered to what could go wrong on the way, like if he was attacked by a random gang of wild Pokémon, which held him back.

    "I suppose."

    "Well then, something to think about. Say, if you want to make it up for the money you took, I would suggest you to cut the sweet spending for a bit. Deal?”

    “Deal.”

    After the bath, the two made their way to the studio again to pick the camera up, but on the trip there, Shine glanced at the windowsill. He couldn’t help but smile as he saw his collar resting by the open window. He caught up to Tony and sat back on the couch, thinking back to the conversation Curio had with Tony prior to storming off. There were many other bits and pieces she told about her family at GeL that she didn’t reveal in the interview: how Trunks secretly danced when he thought no one was looking, or how her mother sat with her outside at night and talked about the positions of the stars. Of all memories, she chose those ones to represent her family in the interview, but he guessed she only wanted to tell the most relevant bits. Information shared between people in conversations often gets lost in translation onto the silver screen, after all.

    Then he remembered one other thing in the middle of the first year that changed things for the worse. He sprang off the seat.

    "I'll be right back," he said, "I've got to talk to Curio."

    Tony nodded as Shine headed out of the apartment to the beach Curio said she would be at, only a few minutes away. It had turned night, and the moonlight cast the sea aglow, with white streaks highlighting the dark blues of the ocean. There were streetlights on the concrete path that illuminated the shore, and there, Curio sat alone, wrapped up in a tattered sleeping bag with her satchel beside her. When Shine walked closer to her, dampening his electric charge as he traipsed through the sand, he noticed Curio fiddling with something in her paw and hand.

    “What’re you doing there?” he said, making her ears twitch. “Oh, sorry to surprise you.”

    “I’ve got my aura, remember? Sneak attacks do naff all. Come sit with me.”

    He obliged, and he leaned over her side to see her handiwork in full view. She held a pair of pliers on one end and a tiny metal object on the other, which she moulded in the shape of a Pokemon, although what species wasn’t clear yet.

    “See the Lapras over there?” She gestured over to a pod of the Transport Pokemon swimming in the distance. “I’m makin’ it for them.”

    “You seem quite good at that. I recall you sculpted stuff like those back in the facility.”

    “Eh, I’ve made better.” She winced, then stopped to look at Shine. “Go on then, you look like you’ve got a Rattata stuck in your throat. Spit it out.”

    “O-oh, erm...” He was surprised at that turn of phrase, but kept his composure. “Alright, why on earth are you acting like this towards Tony?"

    "I dunno. Just a gut feeling, I guess. Nothing to do with him in particular, he's nice as far as I know. If he wasn’t your trainer, of all things, we’d probably get along better."

    "Like I said, please be more patient with him. The last thing he needs after work is a Pokémon with spikes arguing with him."

    "Alright, alright." Curio held hew paws up in front of her. "I'll ease up on him. I just need time, is all."

    Shine looked Curio in the eye and inched close to her. She must've sensed his emotions as she put a paw around him.

    "You're thinkin’ about my family as well, aren’t you?"

    "Well, I know you talked about it before. So what actually happened to them in the end, will you tell me?"

    "Eh, maybe another time. I’ll blab about it next session, so I’ll save my answers for then."

    “Why not now?” Shine stood in front of her and looked at her pleadingly. “We’re alone here. Besides, I know how much you were shaken up when--”

    “Yeah, yeah, I know.” She held her paw in front of her. “I said I’ll talk about it later.”

    As much as he wanted his answers immediately, he knew he wouldn’t get anywhere with Curio’s stubborn attitude, so he relented.

    "I see. Do you think you’d be up to answer Tony’s questions on GeL next?"

    "Yeah. As much as I hate it, I can't keep avoidin’ the past like Liam, or Dad did. I guess that's what I learned from this experience so far.” Curio chuckled. “God, that sounds cheesy,"

    "It's not, that sounds great."

    Curio hummed as she continued moulding the Lapras, adding a few extra scraps of metal and other bits of junk until she produced a miniature from her paws. The handiwork, or pawdiwork was precise, with what appeared to be recycled blue cans for the body and pieces of foil stuck together for its shell, with little eyes scraped in on the head.

    “That’s stunning.” Shine said. “I couldn’t make something like that even if I wanted to.”

    “Oh, don’t beat yerself up over it. You still have your writing thing, don’t you?”

    Shine squeaked in surprise. “I-I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

    She frowned. “Nevermind.”

    Something about her tone struck him as odd, which put a lump in his throat. Why had she mentioned that of all things, and why did she seem so disappointed? He knew about that part vaguely, but he had abandoned it so long ago, it was hardly worth mentioning any-more. He shook his head. It was no use getting worked up over a silly dream like that.

    In any case, Curio unrolled the blanket and padded towards the edge of the shore, Shine following closely beside her. Kneeling down, Curio placed the miniature on the surface of the water, much to his surprise.

    “What are you doing?” he said.

    “Hold it,” she said, and pushed it along the surface. It floated, bobbing up and down with the motion of the waves, and headed towards the direction of the Lapras pod, where it continue to swim until it was no longer in sight. “Let’s hope they’ll see it.”

    The tide carried it forward for a considerable moment of time, cruising through the moonlit waters at a steady pace, nearly surfing as the waves grew in size and force, then sank underwater.

    “After all that,” Shine said.

    “Oh well,” Curio said, yawning. “Hopefully, that Gyrados geezer will find it.”

    [End of The Island Arc]

    [Proceed to The Growth Arc]
     
  10. Namohysip

    Namohysip Dragon Enthusiast

    Now this was an interesting (albeit short) two chapters. I think it was an appropriate spot to take a break. I don’t have a whole lot to say about these two chapters aside from the fact that I thought it was a somewhat calm denouement to this arc. It looks like we’re going to be going back for interviews in a chapter or two, and I think this is an unorthodox narrative style. I’m wondering more and more how such a big chunk of this story is going to pan out for the rest of the series. Will all of it be these flashbacks? Or will it be interspersed for the whole time? Or will it be lopsided, mostly flashbacks for the first part, but present day for the second? I’m not sure which approach would be best in this case.


    But in any case! I figure this is a good time to give an overall impression of this arc. Compared to the first, this was very different. I mean, obviously it was different because it was largely in first person, but also in terms of the subject matter, tone, and overall goal of the arc, it’s our first real look at Curio, her past, and her upbringing. Almost everything about Curio is unlike Shine except for the fact that they met each other in GeL. I imagine we’ll be looking at that next.


    I think this is part 2 of world building; Shine’s segment showed what it’s like to live in an urban environment as a trainer’s Pokémon, and Curio’s arc here shows what it means to live as a wild Pokémon, to an extent. It’s a lot of world building wrapped up in a coming-of-age story. I thought, repetitive chapters aside, you did that well. As for what’s next…? I’m hoping to finally get to know a bit more about GeL, why it seems to be good, and why that all went wrong.
     
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  11. DeliriousAbsol

    DeliriousAbsol Call me Del

    I've been trying to catch up with this, but I've only read the first three chapters yet...

    Chapter 1

    Having Shine's introduction altered significantly really gives more insight into his character from the get-go. The car crash scene was tragic and worrying, as I wasn't sure at first if it was a flashback or a possible ending to the story where the entire thing that follows looks back at what lead up to that event.

    I already love his relationship with Tony. Despite being a talking Luxray, they still have a pokemon/trainer bond as well as a friendship and that's really sweet.

    This is suitably reflected in how he feels about giving up his collar to Bauble. But that also puts emphasis on his urgency to find Curio. Not knowing much about her and wanting to know more to fill in his memory blanks is a much better drive to go looking for her. Although I will admit that looking for a lost friend he was close to was still a good premise to me. Nevertheless, the change is more engaging as now we also want to know what happened to Shine and Curio!

    It's nice to see nothing much (?) has changed in hiring a dragonite! I did wonder if he'd still be paying his debt in lessons!

    Chapter 2

    I think I'd throw up if I went hurtling across the sky at that speed, too...

    Not much has changed here, and I'm glad the windmill and Leafeon are still included! I did wonder, given Curio's article in the newspaper didn't have her hanging off the windmill. We get a real feel for the town, which is lovely. The introduction of the Thousand Claws problem in the previous chapter's newspaper sparks awareness as to why everyone might be wary of Shine, too, which is nice. Although at this point, I don't believe we know they're cats? I'm just aware of that from the previous write.

    Once again, the character interactions and wild variety of personalities are fantastic!

    Chapter 3

    Luccy's back! =D He's delightfully awkward and nervous, I love it. I do feel bad for him though, but he offers an insight into Curio's character before we've even met her yet. Fantastic.

    I don't know if Shine's run-in with the Thousand Claws was this intense in the previous write as I can't remember, but oh boy was that a tense scene! You could really feel the danger. It was such a relief when they went off to find whatever Curio was offering them. I do wonder though if it's the last we've seen of them?
     
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  12. NebulaDreams

    NebulaDreams A Dense Irritating Miniature Beast of Burden

    Thanks, @Namohysip! I don't have much to say either, but I'm glad you enjoyed this arc despite its narrative shift. It'll be interesting to see what you think once the GeL arc properly starts.

    And welcome back, @DeliriousAbsol! I'm very pleased you found the new opening more solid than the original. It's reassuring to hear you thought the first one held up, but the major change here seems to have paid off immensely. I hope you'll enjoy the changes made to the later chapters as well as reading past chapter 8 where you last left off from.

    ---

    Chapter 16. Interlude - Ambrette's Climbers


    The next day started on an odd note. After Tony said his goodbyes to Shine for work, he came back with a bucket on his head; his suit dripping with water and covered in glitter. Tony had shock written on his face, probably the most surprised Shine had seen him in a long time, and Shine found himself feeling something similar.

    "What on Earth?" Shine said.

    "That's what I want to know!" Ugh!" Tony wrung his shirt dry, although the rest of his face was sparkling pink. "I can't go to the office like this, I need to get changed! Crap, I'm gonna be late at this rate!"

    Tony rushed to the shower to rid himself of the sparkly substance. Shine thought he'd save some time for him by getting him a new change of clothes, all wrapped up beforehand for him, which he picked up with his mouth and laid at the nearest couch. He also thought he'd see who was responsible, if they were still around, so he turned on his golden vision to see through the walls outside. He saw a Lucario hanging around on the opposite side of the floor, although one particular detail about their left arm told Shine everything he needed to know about who the perpetrator was. He clenched his teeth, waiting for Tony to leave so he could tell Curio off.

    Time passed and Tony emerged from the bathroom, scrambling to put his new change of clothes on. As soon as he got dressed, Tony headed for the door, but not before saying this.

    "Crazy kids these days.”

    Shine waited a moment before checking outside, and who else would be waiting for him but Curio, sporting that toothy grin of hers.

    "Yo! Hope you slept well after yesterday!"

    "Why did you do that? After what I told you about being patient with him?"

    "Yeah, I understood that. Doesn't mean I can't twist his arm a little, huh?"

    "Yes, but he might be late for work thanks to you."

    "Oh well, he'll be fine. Now," she rubbed her paws together, "What're we up to today?"

    "Apologise first, and I'll tell you."

    "Alright, fine, sorry."

    "And say you're sorry to Tony when you meet him as well."

    "Yeah, I got it! Now, what're we doing?"

    "Well…” He moved back into the house with Curio, and thought about what the two would do around town since Curio would be the tourist in this situation. There were plenty of places, but where would he start? There was the library, since that was his go to place, but she would probably find that boring, or would she?

    "Yeah," Curio said, stopping his train of thought, "The library sounds dumb. How about I start?"

    "But I didn't say--" He stopped himself. Again, Curio was as omniscient as ever. "Alright, fine. You decide what to do."

    "Okey dokey. How about a house tour?"

    "I thought you said this place was a, um, dunghole."

    "Yeah, I exaggerated a bit. It would be nice to see what you get up to, though."

    "Alright then. Follow me."

    The first place he thought of was his bed, right in the corner of Tony's bedroom, It consisted of a round plush bed with an assortment of cushions, a light stand, and a lengthy bookcase installed near Shine's height at the back. He was quite proud of the little study space Tony pulled together.

    "Cute,” Curio said with a quirked eye, “Is that it, or is your pad the only interestin’ thing in the house?"

    "No," Shine said, looking from left to right to find other points of interest, then it struck him. "Oh, just remembered! Barley should've sent me a friend request."

    "A what now?" Curio said, head cocked. Shine led the way to their computer and turned it on; fans whirring in the background.

    "Oh! I see! Haven't touched those in ages! So it still lets you look anything up and stuff?"

    "Yes," Shine said with a smile, "But you can do much more than that. You can watch videos, talk to friends with a connection, and much more. It's really taken off over the past few years."

    The room was silent for a bit as they stared at the loading screen.

    "This might take a little while," he said.

    "Whatever you say, mon," Curio said, stomach growling. "I'll be right back."

    "Where are you going?" he said, but Curio didn't answer, going into the kitchen without his say-so. He thought of stopping her, as it was customary to ask first before raiding someone else's fridge, but he was sure Tony didn't mind. Besides, Curio wasn't in as comfortable a position as Shine was.

    "Want anythin'?" Curio called from the other room. “There’s, like, a buttload of stuff here.”

    "No thanks.”

    Later, Curio returned to his side, munching on a cucumber as she stared at the start-up screen of the PokeOS.

    "What now?" she said.

    "Oh, I've got it." Shine swung in his seat and put his paw on a trackball, which he used to navigate the screen in lieu of a mouse. The home screen’s wallpaper was of him and Tony together, which Curio snorted at. After waiting for it to fully start, he brought up the web browser and inhaled.

    "Celebi, search, PokeSpeaker's Forum, first result."

    His words brought the home page of the titular forum up, where Shine had a friend invite from 1 user named ‘ChildishAudino’.

    "So what is this site?" Curio asked.

    "Oh, this is a place where human-speaking Pokémon can talk online, or trainers that want to get involved in the community as well. It’s small with around maybe five hundred users, but it has its place."

    "Woah, awesome. I never woulda known this place woulda existed if you hadn't shown me."

    Shine swiveled to her direction.

    "Well, there are lots of places online for little communities like ours. Besides, seeing how you're a teacher yourself, I'm surprised you haven't come across this before."

    "Ya know.” She bit off a huge chunk, "I don't boffer wiff that thort of thuff. I travel a lot, and iff not like I can afford a fanfy computer like that."

    "Really? Have you not been to the library once since you escaped? They do have computers there you can use for free."

    "A few timeth, for filmth and stuff." Curio swallowed. "Never really had the need to be cooped up in a library all day."

    "Well, that's a good place to start. And if you need to find someone to hire you, this site's the place to post. You can set up an account here now if you like."

    "Eh, I'll pass." Then, Curio's face lit up, tapping the monitor.

    "Don't do that, the screen's sensitive."

    "Hold up, I'm trying to think! Ooh, can you search up GeL and see if anything's there?"

    Shine shook his head. "Sadly, I've found nothing."

    "Oh come on!” She leaned into the monitor. “Celebi, Gestalt Learning Facility!

    As predicted, only a few hundred results showed up. When faced with this, Curio overtook the trackball and scrolled through all of them, only to find they were all unrelated to the GeL project, just links leading to Gestalt theory.

    "What the…”

    "Sorry." Shine shifted himself forward, wheeling him back in place. "As far as I know, all of it's been covered up. Me and Tony looked everywhere, even at the old archives in all the libraries we could go to and couldn't find anything. If it's not on the Web, it's not anywhere else."

    Curio gave Shine a hard look, and for a moment, Shine could see that hollowness in her eyes, the same one he saw days before when he first mentioned GeL. Then it disappeared and Curio looked her usual chirpy self again.

    "Oh well," she said, "Worth a shot anyway." Curio popped the last of the cucumber in her mouth, chewing noisily. "Warra go outh noo?"

    "Please talk after you've eaten."

    Curio narrowed her eyes at him and swallowed.

    "I said, wanna go out now?"

    "Right now?" Shine said, leaping off the chair, "Don't you want to see more of this?"

    "Eh, later. My eyes’d go square if I stared at it all day. Besides, you're still my tour guide, ya know."

    "That's true." Shine nodded. "Well, where to next?"

    "The centre, of course! There's always somethin' interesting going on there!"

    "Right, town square it is." Shine went towards the door, then caught a glimpse of the windowsill in the kitchen. "Actually. Can you help me put my collar back on?"

    "Really?" she said, frowning, "You want that stupid thing on?"

    "It’s not stupid, and yes, please. It's in the kitchen, the red thing by the window. You shouldn't miss it."

    "Whatever." Curio went to retrieve it and came up behind Shine, adjusting the collar around his neck. "I thought you would've preferred it without it, being free and all."

    "I don't have to put it on," Shine said, grunting as Curio clipped it around his neck, "It's just a present Tony got, so I'd like him to see it on me."

    Curio mumbled to herself, and looked at Shine with his collar on at last. She put a paw on her hip. "Nah, really doesn't suit you."

    "Oh well," he said, not wanting to dwell on it anymore, "Let's get a move on."

    Shine made his way out of the complex with Curio and walked through the sun-baked streets to the town centre as it started to become more crowded towards noon. Tourists in casual wear came with their Pokémon, carrying various things such as toys, balls and surfboards for the beach as the tide was picking up. To Shine’s sensitive pink nose, there was a faint air of collective body odour coming in from the crowd, but didn’t think to complain about it. It was the summertime, when it was acceptable to walk in nothing but your briefs, after all.

    Deeper into the plazas, the stalls were already out in the very centre of the town, selling bread, berries, ice cream, and other knicknacks every visitor could hope to chance upon. Shine looked over to Curio, who had disappeared near a stall that sold pastries, reaching out towards a scone while the owner tended to his stock at the back. Shine went up to her quickly before she could lay her paw on it, and nudged her leg.

    "What are you doing?" he whispered.

    "What does it look like I'm doing?" Curio replied.

    "Can I help you at all?" the owner chimed in, staring at the one armed Lucario, dumb-struck. He caught Shine and smiled to him. "Oh, hello. Do you want the usual?"

    Shine sniffed at the contents of the stall and leaned towards them, mouth watering at the sweet smells of caramelized apples and cinnamon topped crusts. He only got so far before he shook his head and pulled away. "No thanks, I'm afraid. Tony told me to cut out the sweet spending for now."

    He nodded. "Fair enough. Our turnovers will be waiting for you in the future." Shine bowed to him and shot a glance at Curio to wrangle her out of the scene.

    "Were you about to steal from him?"

    "Yeah," Curio said, "So?"

    "So? I don't want your first day to be spent talking to the city watch."

    "Second day. And I wouldn't've needed to if you hadn't alerted him."

    "Alright, just try not to get into any trouble while you're here, okay?"

    "Fine."

    They wandered around a bit more until Shine caught sight of a familiar bread stall where the Trainer-Bunnelby duo, Hilda and Bobby, waited. Bobby saw Shine first and started to bounce over to him, only to trip halfway through and land on his face. He groaned as he picked himself up.

    "You alright?" Shine said.

    "Yeah," Bobby said, smiling through his bloody nose, "Glad to see you've come back."

    "How did you know I was out?"

    "Tony, of course. But I didn't see you for three days so I had a hunch anyway. Up for some biscuits?"

    "Yes please." Shine went with Bobby to the stall. The Bunnelby sprung up on the table counter, waving his paws in front of him as he almost lost balance, but was able to steady himself in time. The owner Hilda noticed Shine next, giving him a dimpled smile.

    "'Ello!" she said, "Where've you been?"

    "Out on a trip, ma'am," Shine said, "How're the kids?"

    "Oh, same old, same old. They won't stop pesterin' Bobby each time they get off school. Won't let 'im up, not even for one second, I tell you." She guffawed in the air, being her loud self, as usual. Then she turned to Curio and rubbed her hands together.

    "Hello there! You're a pretty girl, aren't you, yes you are, yes you are!" She spoke in a high pitched squeal as she approached Curio, ready to pet her.

    "Are you high or somethin', lady?" she snarled in human tongue. “And how’d you know I’m a girl?”

    "Ooh, why this one has quite the mouth on her, doesn’t she?" Hilda retracted her hands and her eyes grew wide, though nonetheless happy to be looking at a Lucario. "You certainly bring the most interesting Pokémon with you, Shiny-dear."

    "Yes, you could say that," Shine said. "Oh, how rude of me. Curio, meet Hilda. Hilda, meet Curio." He glanced at Curio and prodded her with his tail. If all went well, Curio would let down her guard and be the civilised Pokémon she was meant to be. Thankfully, she smiled, and handed Hilda her paw.

    "Nice meetin' ya. Lay off the baby talk and we can be friends."

    "Will try," Hilda returned the offer and gave her a handshake, "Don't mind me, it's just force of habit, that's all. You close with Shine?"

    "Yeah, I guess."

    "Are you closer than that, perhaps?"

    "Dream on, lady."

    Hilda gave her signature boisterous laugh and walked to the opposite end of her store. "Only just teasin', I love a bit o' gossip. 'Ere."

    She returned with two bags of homemade biscuits, which was tradition for Shine to get whenever they met. Curio beamed at the sight of it.

    "For you and Shiny-dear." She handed one bag to Curio and gestured for Shine to lean up on the counter. He did so and she wrapped the bag around his collar. "'Ave one now if you'd like."

    "Well, gee, thanks." Curio undid the plastic wrap and devoured one of the biscuits. She hummed as she chewed.

    "What do you put in thith, thith is goof!"

    Another dimpled smile. "That's a secret, dearie." She turned to Shine. "Anything planned for t'day?"

    "Why yes, I'm showing Curio around the place, since she's new here."

    "Oh, is she?" Hilda said, "Well, I hope you two ‘ave fun. It's nice seein' you again, and to meet you as well, Curio-dear."

    Shine bowed while Curio smiled back at Hilda. "Keep up the good work, lady," she said, popping another biscuit in her mouth, "Peath."

    They went off to explore more of the stalls, while were made up of some familiar faces that greeted Shine and not-so familiar faces that stared at the two as they passed by. After exploring long enough, they looped back to Hilda’s stall, where they caught a glimpse of Bobby serving a customer, counting with the digits of their paws.

    Nine-ty, please.”

    The customer handed over the change and Bobby carefully navigated through the maze of tupperware to retrieve a bag of caramel shortbread.

    Thanks.”

    Shine smiled, as it always warmed his heart to see his former student putting his work to good use. Curio nudged Shine with her foot.

    “So you taught him, huh? Good for you.”

    He was about to tell her off for reading his mind again, but thought against it.

    “It’s the least I can do for being a part of this town. There isn’t much of a community here when it comes to Pokemon speaking human.”

    “Well then why don’t you make one, like what Barley does?”

    He frowned. Whenever he thought about it, the idea always fell through in his head, as he pictured all sorts of scenarios where he struggled to run a club and got too anxious to continue, overburdened with the responsibility of being on his own. Instead, he answered “I don’t know. Never thought about it.”

    Curio scoffed on one of the cookies. “Whatether. Leth find someplathe elthe.”

    Next, they went closer to the seaside, where the tourist parts of the area usually bustled, and today was no exception. As usual, there were lines of people and Pokémon waiting outside for ice cream vendors, and the occasional screaming toddler that came out of the arcades as well. They walked on the pavement, looking into the views of the amusements as Curio pointed to several of the machines there.

    "Look!" she said.

    "What am I looking at exactly?" Shine said. Curio patted his shoulder and brought him along with her to see a crane game filled with all sorts of Pokémon plushies. She flashed Shine another toothy grin.

    "You reckon I could beat one of these?" she said.

    "Probably not. They're rigged."

    "Yeah, I know it's mostly about luck, but I still have a chance, don't I? And think about it, why do anything if you always think you’re gonna lose?"

    "Can’t say I thought about it that way, but perhaps we should find some tokens first."

    "Yeah, that would help." She looked from her left to her right, then clicked her paw. "X-ray vision!"

    "What?"

    "Yeah, use your x-ray vision to see if there are any of them tokens lying about!"

    Shine chuckled. "You're joking, right?"

    "No, I'm dead serious!"

    "Look, my golden vision can see through walls and buildings to detect people, much like your aura. I'm not some magical coin-seeking fairy."

    "Well," she said, pointing to the area behind her, "Let's look anyway."

    He wondered what the point of all this was as he wandered the arcades along with Curio in her token-seeking escapades. Their results proved fruitless until he caught sight of a few coins hiding under the crevice of another machine, which Curio picked up with glee. They inserted the coins into the machine, which was enough for one play. Curio flexed her arms, preparing to hit GO.

    "Fat chance," Shine said, "Payouts are usually one in a hundred."

    "I reckon I can be that one then. In fact, I'll bet on it. If I lose, I'll go along with whatever you say for the rest of today. If I win, you can go eat an old shoe."

    He opened his maw to protest, but something in his gut told him he was going to have to get used to her impulsive betting.

    "Fine, you're on."

    "Sweet." Curio slammed the button and the game started. She was eyeing a large Ursaring in the corner, which she targeted with her claw. It descended on the teddy bear, dragging the poor inanimate object by its ear as it brushed past all the other trapped plushies. Then it let go, releasing the giant plush into the winning hole, only to be stuck inside. Shine looked on, gobsmacked. Curio grinned widely as she stuck her paw in the slot and squeezed her prize out. She hugged it in her arms as they walked out into the sunlight again.

    "Told ya so. I hope you like the taste of shoe, Shine."

    "There's no way I'm doing that. You've made your point, I'm not playing along with your bet this time."

    "C'mon, a deal's a deal."

    "Not this time."

    "Aw." Curio stopped and stared at her newly won companion in its beady eyes. "Tell me, is Shine a wuss-puss?" She shook its body gently. "Oh, he is?" Curio turned to Shine again and presented the toy in front of him. "See, even he thinks so and his guts are made of wool!"

    "Oh, har har har. You should be good friends with him then, seeing how your brain is full of wool too."

    The two stared daggers at each other for a moment, then laughed as they embraced each other, two Pokémon and one stuffed bear in arms.

    "You ain't half bad, Sunshine," Curio said.

    "And you." Shine said.

    "Who?" A squawky voice called. The two broke away from each other to see Bauble standing on the floor, beak upturned.

    "You come to steal him away from me?" Bauble said, staring Curio down.

    "And you are?"

    "Oh," Shine said, standing beside the Murkrow. "This is Bauble."

    Curio's eyes lit up as she pointed at her. "Oh yeah, you were that friend he was talking about."

    "Yeah," Bauble said, preening her coat, "And what's it to you?"

    "Oh, so you're jealous, huh? Relax, I'm not competing with you, it's not like some friendship measuring contest."

    "You're spending time with him without me," she said, "That's competition enough."

    Curio shrugged and shoved the Ursaring in the bag, fishing through the rest of its contents with her whole arm in it. "Say, is it true what they say about you Murkrow liking glowy things?"

    "Don't know what you're talkin' about. That won't work on--" Bauble stared in awe as Curio pulled out a red looking stone, a ruby by the looks of it, whose innards gleamed in the sunlight. “Ooh! Shiny shiny!”

    "You can have it if you want." Curio laid it on the floor and Bauble immediately flocked to pick it up, keeping it stowed away safely in her mouth. Shine looked at Bauble, who looked as happy as a Clamperl.

    "I promise I'll spend time with you as well." Shine said and bowed to her. “Thanks to you, I was able to find an old friend I haven't seen in a long time. I'm truly thankful."

    Bauble laid the stone back on the pavement and smiled at him. "Well, make it up to me later, will ya? I see you've got your collar back as well."

    "Yes, why did you give it back, though? You seemed happy to have it."

    "I know," she said with a wink, "I was just yankin' your tail. Thanks for the shiny!"

    Bauble picked the ruby back and bobbed her head to them as she took off in the air, disappearing past the buildings.

    "Imagine you,” Curio said, “Hangin’ around with someone like that.”

    “What do you think I’m doing right now?” Shine said with a grin.

    Curio kicked his behind, which they both laughed off. Once they had enough of walking through the beach, they decided to go up a path that led to the cliffside, which gave them a good view of the town from up high. They saw the amusements they passed by moments ago as just a speck beside the blue chunk of sea, and down below the edge, they could see both the aquarium and the marine centre.

    "So," Curio said, "What does Tony actually do? I know he dives and stuff."

    "That's only a small part of the job. A lot of it is just checking out the environment by the seaside, examining the life there and collecting data based off of it. If any Pokémon's in serious danger, his job is to help rescue and rehabilitate them."

    "Sounds exciting."

    "I've heard it can be, but he says it's mostly just dealing with paperwork."

    "Eh, maybe not then."

    Curio stopped, taking a closer look at the building, which was connected to the back of the aquarium and functioned as a backdoor office to it. She squinted her eyes at it, or rather through it, as Shine had seen that look quite a few times whenever she was about to read something's aura. She looked back to Shine and put a paw on her chin quizzically.

    "Say, what do you call those Pokémon that have arms and such, but their lower half is just a fin?"

    "Is this the start of a joke?"

    "Not this time."

    "Ah, well." He hadn't thought of checking what the office was working on the day he heard of the news surrounding Curio. Tony seemed to be busier than usual since he got back, but it didn't occur to him until the aura Pokémon mentioned it. He turned on his golden vision to confirm her description, and true to her word, there was a finned Pokémon that rested in some sort of aquatic chamber. If he remembered correctly, it was...

    "A Primarina."

    "Huh," Curio said, "Strange. How did that get here?"

    "It's not exceedingly rare to have Alolan Pokémon wash up on this shore, but I've never seen something as big as that here before."

    "Oh yeah?" She took a few steps forward. "Well, let's check it out."

    "We can't," Shine said, stopping her. "I'm only really allowed in on the best of days, and that's only because I'm with Tony. Why would they let a random Lucario waltz in?"

    "Well, I could just say I'm his new Pokémon and leave it at that. But why not sneak in?"

    "Absolutely not. If it's resting, it's extremely important that we don't disturb it. We don't know why they're there in the first place."

    "Well, we can try to take a closer peek, can't we?"

    "No," he said flatly. Curio crossed her arms.

    "I don't like your attitude. Who peed in your water bowl this morning, for godssakes?"

    "That's got nothing to do with that. I'm just following his rules, as you should do this time too."

    "Yeah.” She shook her metal fist. "Of course you would, like any good Pokémon tied to its master."

    She stormed off, making her way further down the path as Shine tried to catch up with her. Her paws were dangerously close to the cliff-face.

    "Let's not have this argument now, please! Why does everything have to circle back to me being his Pokémon all the time?"

    "I dunno, why can't you just take a risk for once?"

    "This isn't about that, this is about the other Pokémon there. Try thinking about someone else for once."

    "And who came along with you for this interview, huh?!" Her feet stomped on the rocky floor, still inching closer to the edge.

    "Curio, please, get away from the edge, you're gonna fall!"

    "Stop tellin' me what to do, Shine! I--" A rock broke out from under her left paw. She slipped off the edge.

    Shine gasped, too shocked for words at first. When he gathered himself, he scrambled immediately to where Curio had fallen, heart beating in his throat. He couldn't see her anywhere below, not even in mid air as he could only see the yellow surface of the beach.

    "Curio!” he shouted, "Answer me if you're there, Curio! Curio!"

    "Hey," a distant voice called, "To your right."

    Shine glanced to his side and saw Curio huddled near the cliff, hanging onto the wall with all four paws nestled in the crevices. From far away, she craned her neck to look up to him.

    “Oh, thank goodness you’r—” He yelped when he realized her predicament. “Wait, what am I doing, I need to send for help!"

    "No need! I just have to scale down a bit so I can reach the shore. If I can reach my foot down."

    "I can't just leave you hanging there!"

    "Sure you can, I'll be fine, I just have to..." Curio's voice trailed off. Shine looked down to see she was kicking at the wall to see where she could put her foot. She struggled for a while, then stopped.

    "Bugger. Um, Shine, there isn’t a way down, and I’m not riskin’ the climb up there. I’m gonna do something very stupid. Meet me back down at the shore." Without warning, Curio leapt off the edge.

    "Curio!" he screamed. Shine bolted through the rest of the cliff, kicking gravel into the air along the way, until he ran down the stairs that lead to the beach area. Curio laid down on her left from far away.

    "Curio!” He charged over to her. “Are you alright?"

    She smiled.

    "Yeah, I'll be alright. Can you fetch that bag for me please?" She pointed at it, which was closer to the rock wall on the floor. Shine nodded and brought it to her, which she clutched with her metal arm. "I might have to head to the Pokémon Centre later though."

    Shine cocked his head. "Why?"

    "Well," Curio winced as she raised her right arm, which limped and bent at an odd angle. "That should be reason enough."

    Shine gasped. He stared at the other arm Curio just broke, and a cluster of thoughts rushed in at once.

    "Why, your arm, what are you g-going to do?! I-I mean, how did that happen? How are they going to replace it? Why--"

    "Don't lay an egg over it. It can be fixed up in a matter of hours," Curio said as she knelt up, supporting herself with her metal arm firmly on the ground, "They can fix cuts and broken bones of course. See this bad boy for example?” She traced her hand over the large scar which stretched from her muzzle over to the left side of her face. “Really nasty crap happened to me with that, and I made it out fine.”

    Shine sighed in relief. No, he told himself, it wasn't like the arm where— never mind. Don’t dwell on it. As long as blood cells could be regenerated or bone tissue could be fixed, it wasn't a problem. That much relieved him. But he felt an urge deep in his gut, something that burned within him with the heat of the spiciest herbs Kalos had to offer. He sunk his paws deep into the sand, then, taking one pace back, he tackled Curio, knocking her to the ground.

    "Shine, what the--"

    "Don't scare me like that, dammit!" Shine roared in her face. "You've got to be more careful around these parts, I don't even know what would happen if I lost you here suddenly! What were you thinking?!"

    Curio frowned.

    "I dunno. I do stupid crap sometimes. Sorry."

    Shine sighed and relaxed, taking himself off of Curio's body.

    "Alright. But for next time, please listen to me if I ask you not to do something. Am I clear?"

    Curio smiled, and rubbed Shine's back with her good arm. "Yeah, you're clear. Help me up a sec."

    Shine hooked his claws into the ground, allowing Curio to use his body for support as she got herself up again. She looked around at the rest of the beach where a few people crowded and stared at her.

    Oh, take a picture,” she yelled, “It freaking lasts longer!”

    With that, they went back to their own business, and once they all dispersed, she turned back to Shine.

    "As your last duty for tour guide for today, can you take me to the Pokémon Centre?"

    Shine grumbled and led the way.

    The last leg of the trip passed in silence. Even though the rest of the town was still just as busy as ever, Shine drowned out the noises of the crowd as his thoughts stewed on the events that passed in the past few hours. What was Curio playing at? From what he remembered of the past, she didn't seem that aggressive, but now, he felt like he had to traipse his paws through a path of eggshells to talk with her. If this way how she behaved on a regular day, how would she act when going down to Tony's again, after yesterday's excursion, or today’s prank?

    Then, Curio broke the silence.

    "Sorry I'm being an ass at the moment."

    Shine muttered a reply, not wanting to agree or disagree with her.

    "I've got no excuse for it, it's just the way I am sometimes. I can't easily help it. Once I feel something, I just have to run with it, you know."

    "Right," Shine said, "I just want to know what goes through your head sometimes. It must be nice having aura powers and all."

    "Well yeah, it is, sometimes. But other times, I wish I didn't have it, prying into other people's thoughts and stuff. It ruins the surprise of meeting people when you can instantly know what they're thinking about you, or what their favourite meal is, or what time in the day they usually have to pee."

    "Why not stop?"

    "It's not as simple as that. It's how we usually survive in the wild. It's how I survived when I left. I can't just flick it off like a light-switch, now it's just another impulse. But anyway, I will make it up for you and Tony when I come in today. Somehow."

    "Are you sure you want to continue the interview after taking that fall?"

    Curio nodded vigorously. "Of course! I wanna talk about what happened at GeL, I really wanna pick his brain about it as well! So once I get this sorted, I promise I'll meet you there! I swear it on my tail!"

    "Well," Shine said, staring at the adorned red top of the building in front of him, "We’re here. Can you take yourself in?"

    "Yeah," Curio said, heading towards the entrance of the Pokémon centre. "Well, thanks. See ya."

    She waved as she entered the building, leaving Shine alone once more.
     
  13. Namohysip

    Namohysip Dragon Enthusiast

    Ah yes, another interlude, though it looks like this one is going to be a bit shorter unless something unexpected happens. I’d almost argue these are mini-arcs in and of themselves! But regardless, I’d consider the main point of this chapter is to reiterate (and perhaps remind) for the reader Curio and Shine’s differing views of humans and, more specifically, trainers. This is especially near the end, where Curio unapologetically states that’s just how she is (which, by the way—awful excuse! I hope Shine calls her out on that at some point) toward them.


    One scene that struck me as slightly odd was Shine’s reaction to Curio getting hurt. Shine has already broken his ribs in a mere sparring match and that was treated as something with more or less nonchalance. And I feel like Shine of all Pokémon would be more aware of the extent that Pokémon could be healed up from these sorts of injuries. So why was he so startled when Curio was so dismissive? Was curio actually genuinely badly hurt, or was Shine getting some sort of flashback to seeing Curio hurt in some other way? Maybe making that clearer, or something else to explain or balance out this reaction, might be warranted, because I was a little confused when that scene happened.


    I’m more or less awaiting more of the interview at this point. Last time the interludes were definitely working as setup, but they dragged on a bit long. I’m hoping this interlude provides some extra plot, or otherwise we get to the interview soon, so things can move along; a lot of the interactions here were recapping old ground in a new angle. I enjoyed it, but like before, doing it again may be pushing the backtracking buttons too often.
     
    NebulaDreams likes this.
  14. NebulaDreams

    NebulaDreams A Dense Irritating Miniature Beast of Burden

    Thanks, @Namohysip! I took notice of your second paragraph, and it did lean towards Shine subconsciously reacting to her injury, but perhaps that wasn't very clear in that chapter. I've made an addition to this one that sort of rectifies that issue. As for the backtracking issue, I was a little worried about the pacing of this chapter, since it's 6k words for one thing, and takes place after an arc that's slow and deliberate as opposed to the quicker and more action based Chase Arc. We will get into the interview again soon, though.

    ---
    Chapter 17. Interlude: Ambrette's Diners

    Shine headed back home to the apartment, and cooled himself as he laid down in a shady spot. It had turned quiet without Curio, a silence he could've done with after his argument with her. The breeze came in lightly through the window. The clock ticked in the background. It would’ve been a couple more hours until Tony came back home.

    To pass the time, he thought he'd check the network for any new messages, and he clicked in silence: nothing new from Barley or anyone else. Shine entertained the idea of sending him a message instead, just to say hello, but as he stared at the blank text box, he might as well have been mute as no words could escape his lips. He had a history of making new contacts on that site, only to get too cramped up to reply back.

    He abandoned the idea and went back to his usual pastime, getting a fantasy book out from his makeshift shelf and picking a spot in the indoor shade to continue where he left off. Sometimes, it was nice to escape into a completely different world, after all. Even ones that had entirely different ecosystems from his: ones without Pokemon, or ones that had Pokemon without humans, like the Mystery Dungeon games. Sometimes, he toyed with making his own worlds, but those would never be realized.

    He read on and on. The ticking of the clock grew louder. Shine fidgeted in his spot. All the while, there was that lingering feeling of dread, not from forgetting something, but rather, missing something. He glanced at the clock. Only half an hour had passed. He wondered if the clock was fast or slow. Then he shook his head.

    This wasn't an unusual day for him to be on his own, and sometimes, that's all he wanted, to be alone, but after spending time with Curio for so long, Shine was at a loss for himself. He stopped reading and paced around the room, figuring out what he should do. The treatment of her arm wouldn't be for a few hours or so. He wasn’t particularly worried about her well-being, since again, broken bones could’ve been repaired. Then why had he flipped out at her like that?

    Something tugged at the back of his mind. It was a niggle, but the sensation was there all the same. The vague memory of seeing her, back in there, back in that room, strapped to the...

    Shine shook his head and looked to the front door. If all he was going to do was wait for time to pass, he might as well have done it where there were people, and where he had a purpose to waiting rather than lounging around the house all day. It was decided. He carried the book in his mouth and left through the flap.

    He continued reading once he got to the waiting area of the Pokémon centre. Even though he did basically the same thing as he would’ve in the comfort of his own home, time passed much quicker than in lonely silence. Plus, having people and Pokémon to listen in on every once a while gave him a sense of belonging, even though he came on his own.

    Shine read a few hundred pages of his book before a paw prodded his side. He looked up and there Curio was, holding her paw up to him as if she hadn't broken it moments ago.

    "Is everything alright, now?" Shine said.

    "Yup!" Curio said, "Good as new. Again, sorry about earlier.”

    “That’s fine,” he said with a smile. “Honestly, I’m just glad you’re alright, even though I know you’d be fine.”

    “Uh huh, so now whaddo we do?"

    "Let’s see..." Shine glanced at the big clock in the centre, and stood up. "Tony should be back by now, actually. If you have nowhere else to go, you can have dinner with us."

    "Please. What's on the menu for today?"

    "Steak."

    "Ooh, awesome!" Curio rubbed her paws together.

    "If you're polite, I'm sure Tony will let you have some."

    "I will!"

    Shine picked his book up and headed outside with Curio, as they walked in the light of the orange sky. They got short of entering Tony's apartment again when Shine spat his book out.

    "Can you wait here so I can speak to Tony quickly? I promise I won't be very long."

    "Go right ahead."

    Shine headed through the flap once more, taking the book back first, then joined Tony as he rested on the couch.

    "Hello," Shine said. "Hope you didn't have too much trouble rushing into work."

    "It's fine," Tony said, smiling as he put his arm around Shine, "I got there just in time, but still, I don't know what the hell happened back then. Well, I have a hunch."

    What h...” Shine trailed off and purred. His one weakness was Tony stroking him in that certain sweet spot at his side. Well technically speaking, ground attacks were his main weakness, but as far as weaknesses went, this was one of the better ones to have.

    "How's Curio?" Tony said, taking his hand off.

    "Oh, yes, she's fine. Listen." Shine sat up, looking his trainer in the eye. "Do you mind if she joins us for dinner tonight? I know it might be a bit of a tall order considering, well, you know."

    Tony nodded. "I don't mind. I got an extra steak from shopping so that will save it going to waste. Where is she anyway?"

    "She's waiting outside. Can I let her in now?"

    "Of course."

    Shine leapt off the seat and stood on his hind-legs to pull the door open. There, Curio waited outside, facing the glittering seaside view as her legs poked out of the railing. Her ears perked up and she craned her neck towards Shine.

    "Is it cool to come in now?" she said, to which, Shine nodded. Curio stood up and came in with him to the living room. When she locked eyes with Tony, he smiled at her, but she didn't smile back. A moment passed. The clock still ticked.

    "Ahem," Shine said, "I believe Curio wants to say something to you."

    "Oh, do I?" Curio said, laughing nervously, "Um, what is there to say?"

    Shine nudged her leg, giving her a pointed look.

    "Right." She clasped her paws together. "Tony, I'm sorry for the trouble I caused today. I planted that bucket outside your house. I didn't mean anythin' by it, I just had to get it outta my system, that's all."

    Tony raised an eyebrow.

    "And," Curio continued, "I'm sorry for actin' like an ass last night too. And calling your place a shithole. It's a very nice place, actually."

    To diffuse the tension, Tony smirked and batted a hand at her.

    "It's alright. Everything turned out fine in the end, so no need to worry." He shielded his mouth with his hand. "It's actually kind of funny, looking back on it."

    "So," Curio said, putting a paw on her hip, "You're not mad or anythin'?"

    "Don't see any reason to be now."

    "Oh, come on!" Curio pointed at him. "After all that, you're still not gonna put up a fight? Say something! Anything!"

    "Curio," Shine said, giving her a severe look, "Why are you behaving like this?"

    "I just don't get it! How he's still letting me into his house is beyond me. Like, what part of his brain is missing to make him actually give a damn? Why--"

    Curio stopped. Tony had stood up and was approaching her. She took a step back, putting her metallic hand on her spiked chest, and looked away.

    "Curio," Tony said, "Please look at me."

    She complied. Shine stood beside her, and saw Tony's confident gaze: he wasn't without scorn, but he looked relaxed as well.

    "I will be honest, I wasn't expecting you to react the way you did last night, and you could've handled it a lot better than you did. If this was anybody else, I would've told them to get the hell off of my property."

    "Why keep me here at all then?" she said, pouting.

    "Because I want to help you. You and Shine both went through a lot of trouble to get here, and after being apart from each other for so long, I can see you're conflicted, and probably just want to vent. This doesn't excuse your behaviour, but I understand what you're going through."

    She glowered at him. "No you don't. How could you get anything us Pokémon go through? You never had to go through half the **** I went through to get here, in this comfy house."

    Tony shook his head. "You know, Shine said the same thing at one point, didn't you?"

    Shine nodded.

    "And you're right," Tony continued, "I'm not a Pokémon. I will never know what it means to be one either. But I've helped out quite a few marine Pokémon in my career, and believe me, I've seen how harsh the world is at sea. And, having known Shine all this time, I can relate to what he’s been through, at least. This is why I started this documentary in the first place, to know him better. And I hope I can get to know you better too, someday. So," Tony held out a hand towards her, "Can we forget either of us are human or Pokemon and just get along as people?"

    Curio's mouth opened. She stared at the hand for a moment, the breeze still blowing from the window. Then, she gazed at Tony and smiled.

    "Yeah," she shook his hand, "Sure."

    “Thank you. It’s nice to make your acquaintance at last, Curio.” He released his grip and headed towards the kitchen; the two following behind him. He started to reach inside the cupboards for the dishes.

    "We're having steak, if you're still up for it."

    "Shine told me, yeah. I could murder a Miltank, actually."

    "Good to hear. Can I fix you a drink to go along with it? Some cocoa, maybe?"

    "Hah, you actually noticed. Yeah, I’d love a cuppa."

    "Alright."

    Curio watched him prop the plates on the counter, before prodding his shoulder.

    "Is there anythin' I can do to make it up to you after all this? I’d feel a little shitty if I didn’t do it for him, at least."

    "Well," Tony said, stroking his stubble, "I'm fine at the moment, but if you want to do me a favour, you can clean the dishes after dinner."

    Curio scrunched her nose.

    "Aw, really?"

    "Is that a problem?"

    "No," Curio said, looking down to both hand and paw, "I can do that, but making a Pokémon do this?"

    "I don't see why not. Shine does his share of work around the house wherever possible, don't you?"

    Shine nodded. "I'm able to do the floors, at least."

    "Alright, alright," Curio said, rubbing the back of her head, "I'll do it."

    "Thank you, I appreciate the thought." Tony smiled and gestured to the couch. "You can wait in the living room if you want."

    Curio nodded and sat with Shine together while Tony was busy preparing dinner. The two didn't talk much, only idly about what Curio got up to in the Pokémon centre, but for the most part, they sat silently in each other's embrace, eventually dozing off together as they took up all the space on the couch.

    "Dinner!"

    Tony's voice called from the other room, and the two jumped off the seat to head to the dining area. On the table, there were three plates worth of steaks with cheese topped potatoes, accustomed to each diner's liking. Both Pokémon and trainer ate as quietly as possible, while Curio tore into hers, still using the cutlery but by all means, making somewhat of a mess on the table after she was done. Curio groaned, reclining in her seat while she watched the two still go halfway through theirs.

    "That was the tits," Curio said, "Thanks Tony."

    "You're welcome," he said in the midst of slicing his own steak.

    "So, I was wonderin', since me and Shine went near the place you work at and stuff, what's up with that Primarina?"

    Tony put his cutlery down and stared at the two.

    "Uh, how do you know about that?"

    "My aura," Curio said, pointing to herself, "Duh. Plus, Shine can see through walls and stuff."

    "Yeah, I guess it was bound to come out sooner or later." Tony wrung his hands together. "It was supposed to be kept a secret, though."

    "And why’s that?"

    "Well, we're treating them at the moment, so unless we can get to the bottom of what's wrong with them, it shouldn't be revealed to the public."

    Curio frowned. "Again, why? You're being kinda vague here."

    "Yeah," Tony said, rubbing his head, "Unfortunately, that's for their own protection. If people find out an Alolan Pokémon got washed up here, we'll be hounded with questions from the press, and we don't want that until it's able to make a full recovery. You get me?"

    Curio shrugged and muttered a reply.

    "So," Shine said, "What happened to them?"

    "In the morning on the day you left, they washed by the cove with a hole in its back.” Tony formed a circle with his hand the size of a golf ball. “We hope it’s nothing sinister; it might’ve been just been a small tussle with a wild water Pokemon. In any case, we were surprised they didn't die due to blood loss or hypothermia, but as soon as we saw them, we wheeled them into surgery. They’re fine now, but it's been unconscious ever since."

    Shine eyed his own plate. "I see."

    "But," Tony said, skewering a cutlet with his fork and pointing it at the two, "That's where you lot might come in handy, if you're up for it. Once they wake up, you can relay what happened to us. Perhaps they have a trainer already, as most starters do. It might just be a cut and dry case."

    "Will they mind, since it was supposed to be private?" Shine said, to which, Tony shook his head.

    "It's a bit too late for it now, I think. As long as you don't tell anyone else, they'll be willing to take you on board. Can I trust you both to keep it a secret?"

    The two nodded.

    "Alright then." Tony chomped on his mouthful of beef. "Leth finith up and we can thtarth the intherthiew."

    After the two finished their dinner, Curio took several trips back and forth from the dining area to the kitchen and started work on cleaning as Shine supervised, whilst Tony was setting up the studio again. She glared at the row of unclean dishes, including a pan that had turned black with grease, and turned to Shine.

    "Okay, how do I do this again?"

    "Just fill up the basin with warm soapy water and scrub away."

    She did her duties without much of an issue, although it took some getting used to at first since Curio scrubbed with her paw while her artificial hand held the dishes in place, whose grip probably could've crushed a Geodude if given permission. She ended up breaking one or two plates and a glass on the way, but Shine assured her it was no skin off Tony’s nose. He observed the way she interacted with everything as if it was some alien artefact, staring at the tap for one minute before Shine had to remind her water came from there. He thought she would’ve grown accustomed to domestic life after staying in the facility for so long. Still, Shine smiled throughout, glad that the two had finally patched things up to some extent.

    When she was finished, the two got back to Tony's studio and Curio sat in her usual spot on the interviewee's couch. Like before, Shine sat with Tony as his trainer powered up the camera and prepared his notes.

    "So, all ready?"

    "Hell yeah," Curio said with a smile. Tony counted down and hit the REC button.

    "This is interview B, segment GeL, take one. After you came along with Azzy and Mack, you were taken to the facility Gestalt Learning, or GeL for short. How long did you stay there for?"

    Curio gave him a sour look.

    "Didn’t Shine tell you how long already?"

    "Yes, but just tell me as if I didn't, for the uninformed viewer."

    "But we aren't--" Curio stopped, then shrugged. "Whatever. I stayed there for four years and a bit. I was meant to stay for five, but..." Her voice trailed off and she sighed. "Something happened. I'd rather not talk about that yet."

    "Understandable. So, what was the purpose of the facility?"

    "Well, it was meant to be what school is to you humans. They not only trained us in every way imaginable, they also taught us a lot about the world and best of all, how to speak. We were encouraged to follow our own passions as well, so the lessons were catered to our interests. If everything went as planned, they were gonna take us to this scientific convention thingy, and set us up for whatever jobs we pleased afterwards.”

    "So, what would you say it was like, in general?"

    Curio smiled.

    "To be honest, and this will sound weird, but warts and all, I had a great time there, at first. I got to meet other cool Pokémon, we had fun when we were able to, and I got a lot of support from the staff. Seriously though, I don’t know how I’d stand livin’ as a Pokemon if I didn’t learn all the stuff I did back there."

    "But," Tony said, looking to his right side, "What about your arm?"

    In response, she clutched it and grimaced.

    "Next question."

    "Alright, understandable. So when you arrived, before the lessons started, what was your first day like?"

    "First day, hmm." Curio held up one digit. "Yeah, you know what they say about your first days of school, right? Of course, I can't speak like I'm an expert on it, I mean, look at me, but I've been coached enough about the world and seen enough flicks to guess what it's like.

    "Picture yourself as the snot-nosed kid, for instance, who's just turned old enough to wipe his own ass. His parents send him off to regular school, or trainer school or whatever you humans usually go to, and after they get out of their car and send you off, it feels like you're never gonna see 'em again. But you leave anyway and go into the school building cause you want to see where the day takes you. You're excited to learn, so you think, what's the worst that could happen? Then, as soon as you step into that classroom, that's when it hits you. You've got kids with many different egos and tempers coming together, some that come from the same sheltered background as you, and others that have been through worse and won't take any of your crap. Imagine them coming together in the same room with no one to guide you, and you realise it's the first time you've ever been alone in the world.

    "Think of that the same way here, except those kids were actually monsters that could’ve burnt your face to a crisp.”

    ---
    EDIT: Made quick edit to Shine's weakness in accordance with Namo's comments.
     
    Last edited: Feb 7, 2019
  15. Namohysip

    Namohysip Dragon Enthusiast

    Alright, if that ending is anything to go by, it looks like we’ll be heading right into that next arc! That makes the third, right? Wow, it feels like it’s going by pretty quickly, despite the overall steady pace of this work as a whole. Anyway, I’m going to double this as a brief overall opinion of the interlude following my thoughts on this chapter first.


    It was nice. It was more or less wrapping up a bit of Curio’s prejudice against Tony, but quite resolving it, but it was enough to show that they have some respect toward each other, now. The Primarina feels… like you’re preparing something. At first I thought it was something inconsequential, but now that I’m actually writing about it and reflecting some, it seems like this might actually be important after this arc is over. I’m a little confused on why it’s getting referred to as “they” all the time. Were they unable to determine its identity? Beyond that, I think you accidentally slipped into referring to Primarina as “it” now and then. And, related, an offhand remark was made about Shine being weak to water attacks, but I think you meant Ground. Hm, now that I think about it, Curio and Shine would be in some real trouble if they had to deal with a Ground specialist, wouldn’t they? Better stock up on those Air Balloons…


    So, overall? A short interlude that didn’t dilly-dally too much, but still had time to get into the relation between the main three. Solid breather. And it looks like we’re leading into what I’m getting the feeling is some sort of school arc, which sounds like it could go anywhere from X Men to My Hero Academia. Regardless, if that’s the direction you’re going with “supernatural academy,” I’m hyped.
     
    NebulaDreams likes this.
  16. NebulaDreams

    NebulaDreams A Dense Irritating Miniature Beast of Burden

    Thanks, @Namohysip. I was a little worried considering your reaction to chapter 16 as a standalone, but I'm glad these were solid breather chapters. About the Primarina, I referred to them as 'it' in the first draft and changed over to 'they', so there might've been some remnants from that I overlooked.

    And now, this means I've finally caught up with the old chapters! I'm really excited to start this new arc at last!

    ---


    Chapter 18. First Day's Daze


    Having grown up on the island, especially as spring came in, I saw a lot of colours. Blue, green, yellow, brown, more blue, for my family of course, and all its different mixtures in the sky. Since I saw those same colours for so long, I was startled whenever something unnatural came onto the island, like a metallic boat, for instance.

    Now take that and apply it to an entire room coated in grey, with only bright red lights to illuminate anything. That's where I found myself the first thing after I got out of the Pokeball. A chill ran through my spine all the way to my tail. I span around in a circle, trying to make sense of the room, which was spacious, but felt completely closed off as there were no passages outside as far as I could see. I turned to see Azzy and Mack, which soothed those jitters, but found them coming back when I realised I was still in that darkly lit room.

    "What is this?" I said.

    "We're in the quarantine bay at the moment."

    "Quarantine?"

    "Yeah, just to make sure you're clean of anything that could contaminate the rest."

    I stared at my feet. Being little dumb me, not knowing what 'quarantine' or 'contamination' meant, it didn't put me at ease. Then, Azzy's round paw grabbed mine, and he smiled.

    "It’s not easy for anyone the first time around, so you’re not alone. I'll hold your hand the whole way through, okay?"

    I glanced at Mack briefly, who was in the same chamber as us. My heart still pounded. But if another Pokemon or a human was in the same boat as me, that was reassuring enough. I squeezed his paw tightly and kept close to him. Even when the beeping made me squirm, I still didn't let go. It kept on beeping. Beeping still. Then, gas came in from a series of vents, enveloping the whole room in a fog where it blanketed the towering human's face, and eventually, Azzy's as well, to the point where I couldn't see his paw. I felt it, so that was what mattered. Just a moment later, my breaths got more ragged as I inhaled more of it, and my heart beeped faster. I thought my lungs would collapse or something.

    I clutched his paw in a death grip, so much so that it felt like I was crushing it, but it was either that or end up screaming the place down. After a moment, I could breathe normally and something sucked out all the gas that came in. Eventually, I saw their faces again. I let go of his paw and collapsed. Thankfully, he caught me before I could get acquainted with the ground, and he embraced me, patting me on the back, repeating the fact that I did a good job. If standing around meant doing a good job, I dunno what doing a bad job would entail.

    A gate opened, letting white light into the room. I thought it came from the outdoors. In an attempt to get out of that greyer than grey room, I dashed to the entrance as Azzy and co. ran after me. What I found was another cold looking room. It was white, which was an improvement to the depressing grey, but it wasn't warm like the clouds, but cold like, well, an empty void. It was as featureless as the last room, but more cramped as it was a hallway with people in white suits lined up in a row. Again, there was no exit in sight at the end. I turned to the duo, holding my chest, and Azzy took my paw again.

    "It will be fine, just do as they say and you'll be able to relax afterwards."

    I only nodded. I wasn't in the mood for arguing at that moment.

    Azzy walked ahead of me and approached the first strange face: a woman in an apron. She knelt down to my level and smiled.

    "Come," she said, as plainly as I could understand it. That was when Azzy released me. I turned to him, about to gesture for help when he patted me on the shoulder.

    "It's alright, she'll just be taking you for a wash."

    "But I'm already clean!" I said. I probably wasn't, considering showers were an alien concept to me back then, but I wanted a good excuse not to be taken away from the familiar Pokemon. He just nodded and guided my paw to the woman's hand, who took me down another hallway into a wetroom with a bath in it. Before I had the chance to consider what its purpose was, the woman closed the door behind me. I dunno why, but I panicked. I ran to the door and banged on it, calling for Azzy's help, but of course, I was already there.

    I looked up to the knob. Seeing no other way out, I tried to jump to turn it, but my paw barely scraped it. The woman picked me up from behind, and fearing the worst, I kicked and screamed in her clutches, which of course, didn't work. She had a damn strong grip for a human, I must say. She lowered me into the bath, which I started to splash around in, but as soon as I adjusted to the warm sensation of the water, I stopped and sat still. Even though I was stuck in the unknown, that water had a soothing effect on me, and I forgot about what had happened soon enough.

    Which reminds me, I went to a few hot springs after I got out, and god, that was nice. That sort of stuff, bathing in hot water, is supposed to calm your nerves, after all, although I can't remember why. I'm surprised I haven't seen any bathhouses since I got here in Kalos. Maybe we should look it up one day and find out.

    Anyway, the woman scrubbed me clean of all the grime I had accumulated before. I squirmed as she coursed the brushes through my coat, but unlike before, I didn't kick up a fuss. It was over before it even started, as she picked me back up and stood me up in a drying pod, which felt like G-force in my face. It got the job done quickly, and soon enough, she opened the door and chaperoned me back to the hallway where Azzy and co. waited. He took my paw again and proceeded to the next person in line: a man in a white coat, standing next to a gate.

    "Go," he said in the same plain manner. I looked at the gate in front of me. From what I know now, it must've been one of those scanners that detects broken bones, viruses, imbalances in your body, and anything else you can think of that might need treating. He must've been there to report it in case there was anything wrong with me. Since I had already been rubbed down by a total stranger, I didn't fear much worse, so I took a deep breath and walked through. It beeped once. Azzy joined me not long after, saying everything was clear and that there was nothing to worry about. Again, not much consolation, but an A for effort, I suppose. So he took my paw one more time and walked me over to the last person in line: another woman in a white coat, except she had equipment around her neck, probably a stethoscope or whatever you call it. She gestured to a seat low enough for me to sit on. I looked to Azzy.

    "What does she want now?"

    "Well." Azzy put another paw around me and rubbed my back. "She'll be here to give you some vaccines, to protect yourself from any diseases that might come go around. This means she’ll have to give you some shots from a needle. Now listen.” He knelt down on one knee and embraced me. “You need to be extra calm for this. You might be startled at first, but we need to do this to keep you healthy. Do you understand?”

    I nodded, but was still unsure. “What is it anyway?”

    He glanced at the human, and on queue, she drew out something sharp looking that gleamed in the lamplight. My heart sunk.

    “Oh,” I said. “No no no, wait, you’re not gonna stick that into me, are you?”

    “Alright, alright,” he said, stroking my head, “It’s scary, there’s no sugarcoating that. But we wouldn’t force you to do this if we didn’t believe it’s for your own good. Look.” He stood up and smiled. “Why don’t I demonstrate? It’ll be my first time giving myself up as a lab Rattata. It might be fun.”

    He said a few words in human, and the woman drew out another needle and gestured for him to sit with a bemused expression. He sat, stock still, as she injecting something into him. He grunted as she stuck it in, but only for a second or two. It was pretty much over as soon as it started. She applied the plaster over the wound and he leapt to my side.

    “See? It’s not so bad! You’ll only feel a pinch like I did, so it’ll be okay! Are you ready?”

    I took a deep breath. My heartbeat steadied. After seeing him go through the same thing, the process looked normal, so I knew everything would turn out okay.

    At last, I nodded and climbed up to the chair, where the woman held her hand out to me and smiled. I couldn't help but look up, and her eyes were relaxed, but still had an air of caution to it. I laid my paw out. She caressed it, turning it over to inspect it, then she marked the spot where the injection was supposed to be. She held the needle again, and I squirmed in my seat, but her smile reassured me once more. It would only be a few seconds, I told myself. I closed my eyes, letting my guard down for just those few seconds, and true to his word, I did feel a slight pinch. The woman patted me on the back with a gloved hand to let me know it was alright to go, and handed me some candy in a wrapper.

    “Thanks!” I said, even if she couldn’t understand me. She just smiled and lowered me to the floor where Azzy waited.

    "Alright now?" he said. I just shrugged. It was done, so I wanted to get it out of my head as soon as possible. At least I got a reward out of it.

    To this day, needles still suck. I'd rather sit on a Pawniard's head than do that again.

    As I sucked on the lemony sweet, Azzy led me to the security door where the Machamp stood, whose four arms took me by surprise. He was clearly a Pokemon, yet he wore a uniform like that of a human, with black security clothing and even shoes. How many Pokemon could you say really need shoes, if any clothes at all? My curiosity got the better of me and I tiptoed to try and get eye contact. He leered at me.

    “One of the new subjects, huh?” he said. “Of course, they had to fill their token Riolu quota.”

    I had no idea what he was talking about, but one question still burned on my tongue.

    “Um, why do you need the four arms? Aren’t two enough?”

    “Why do you need just two arms?” he teased in the same tone. A part of me felt insulted, but before I could call him out on it, Azzy groaned.

    “Now, now, Henry. We don’t need you winding up our students.”

    "Whatever, just messin’.” He turned to the human. “How many of 'em are left?" I couldn't understand Mack still, but whatever he said made Henry raise an eyebrow. Not that Machamp had any.

    "Huh. They're bringing somethin' like that here?"

    Mack said something that sounded like 'yes'. Machamp shrugged.

    "Never mind. If there are only a few left, that means I can watch my reruns sooner. Right then." He smiled and fiddled with parts of the door before squeezing the handle. "Welcome aboard."

    He opened the door, bringing the first flashes of colour into the previously bleak insides of the building. The walls were painted all sorts of colours, green, yellow, you name it, with all sorts of bright patterns adorning them. Both humans and Pokemon walked through the corridors, carrying themselves as if they had important business to take care of. Then, Azzy took my paw and walked me in alongside his human partner. The door closed behind us.

    "Well," Azzy said, "This is it. We'll show you around soon enough once you've met everybody."

    I cocked my head. "Everybody?"

    "Yes. It'll be good to know all the Pokemon you'll be staying with, after all. So, are you ready?"

    Butterfree swarmed in my stomach. Truth be told, I wasn't sure if I was ready to meet any more strangers yet. It sounds weird saying that now, considering I barely have a problem with it as a Lucario. Hell, one motto I go by is that a stranger's just a friend you haven't met. Or maybe I stole it from some show. Anyway, considering all I had before then was my family, being dropped in to stay with Pokemon I hadn't met before was new to me. Then, I remembered how desperate I was to get off the island in order to meet new Pokemon, so I took a deep breath and told myself I was excited instead of nervous. I smiled at Azzy.

    "Yeah, let's go."

    Paw in paw, he led me through the various corridors of the place, each drenched in different colours, until I caught a glimpse of leaf green from behind a glass door. The excitement in my stomach worked itself up to my chest as we walked up. It opened for us, bringing a cool breeze into the stuffy building, and revealed a forest like area with many different trees forming a wall around the room. Well, room wasn't quite the right word. It felt so natural that it didn't feel like one at all. Hell, I couldn't even see the ceiling as that looked like the sky as well. I looked down and true to Azzy's word, there were many Pokemon of different shapes and sizes doing various things in one spot. Some of them mingled with one another. Some swam in shallow ponds. There were also a few that were entirely on their own, one on land, sitting by itself, and one perched on a branch. Azzy patted my shoulder and smiled.

    "These are most of the Pokemon you'll get to know. There will be more on the way. After we've got everybody in, we'll show you all around, alright?"

    I nodded, and Azzy bowed before turning his back to me and heading towards the corridor.

    "Wait!" I called for his attention. "Where're you going?"

    "I have to take care of a few things, but I’ll be back soon. Have fun."

    With that, he walked away, and I looked to all the new faces, who stared back at me.

    Okay, this might get a little confusing, so bear with me. There were a lot of Pokemon there I didn't exactly know the names of at the time, so for now, let's call them by their species names. I know Shine probably briefed you on who they were, but this is gonna be a headache for you if I rattle off everybody's life story one by one. We cool?

    Anyway, the group of new Pokemon stared in silence. The forest-like area was strangely silent, only interrupted by the lone Starly that occasionally chirped from atop of the tree. Even the two Pokemon that swam, Buizel and Bidoof, rested their chins on the bank to look at me. I wasn't sure how to break the ice myself, that tingling sensation churning my stomach. Then, mercifully, the Lickitung stepped forward.

    "So you're our new arrival, huh?" he said, and gave me his paw. "It's nice to meet you. I'm a Lickitung, although you can call me Basil."

    Thankful to see another friendly face, I smiled and gave my paw to him as well. A moment passed. Then he gently took the other paw and shook ours together.

    "You're usually supposed to shake it in return." Some of the other Pokemon chuckled in the background. I would've flushed red if I could.

    "Sorry. I can't say I have a name either."

    "It's no biggie," he said, "I'm sure we'll come up with one together at some point. Now, I'm sure everybody would like to get to know you, so why don't you tell us how you got here?"

    "What, now?" I said.

    "If you wouldn't mind."

    Clearly, he had more experience than I did when it came to these situations. I glanced at the other Pokemon for a bit, who waited with anticipation. I didn't know if I should've told them what I was doing there, but I figured I had little else to do, so I might as well have embraced the moment. So I started telling them about my upbringing, to which, Buizel splashed around excitedly in the pond, to the Bidoof's annoyance.

    "Ooh, you lived on an island? Coooool!"

    "Not really," I said, "It was kinda boring."

    "How?" He cocked his head. "You had the sea all around you!"

    I just shrugged and continued, getting to the point where I almost drowned and met Azzy.

    "That was foolish, swimming to your doom," the Abra said, "Was it not?"

    Before I had any sort of reaction, Basil held his paw up. "Now, now, let's keep it friendly, alright?"

    Abra flicked a claw at him like the fopp he was. I have a lot of interesting stuff to say about him later, let’s put it that way.

    Anyway, I continued, up until the point Mom released me from the Pokeball Dad trapped me in and let me come here.

    "Aw," Ponyta said, "Your Mom must've really cared for you."

    "Well," I said, rubbing my head, "Yeah. Wouldn't yours?"

    Ponyta shook her head. "I lost mine."

    Those words hit me like a kick to the nads. Not that I have any, but still, what do you say to something like that? I know now that not all of us, if not most of us Pokemon didn't have the same lucky upbringing as I did, but back then, it was new to me. I wrung my paws together, trying to find something to say to reassure her. All that came out though was a simple "Oh." She didn't reply back.

    "Smooth," Sneasel said. This time, Basil extended his large tongue and licked him across the face. “Ugh, gross!”

    "Anyway,” Basil said, “I'm sure you'll understand that everyone came here due to all sorts of circumstances. Don't feel bad because yours is different from theirs."

    I just nodded. I didn't really feel like talking much after that, so I sat down and stared at my feet. My chest felt hollow. Back home, I could've teased the hell out of my brothers with ease, but here, I was pretty much at the mercy of everyone else. Some seemed to have it worse than others, like Sneasel, who had several scars across his body, so I didn't want to imagine what he could've done to me if I pissed him off, especially with those claws of his. My gaze wandered off to the rest of the room, where I saw another Pokemon sitting by itself, staring off into space away from the rest of the group. They were about as small as me, except they had a smoother body. Since Basil was so welcoming to me before, I figured I'd go up to the lonely Pokemon to give them a helping hand too. I gingerly padded over to them, making sure not to alert them, and stood behind their back.

    "Hey," I said, "You alright?"

    They slowly turned to me. I smiled, only for it to turn upside down when I actually saw his face. I might as well say it was a he since I knew him later. His eyes stared through me, looking so wide, I swore they were about to pop out. Something about his stare in particular could've turned you to stone, probably literally. It was like he had some sort of curse. I caught a glimpse of the various purple splotches around his face before he turned his head back to the scenery.

    My heart raced. I took a few paces back, only to run back to the gang and hug Basil, as I had no one else to latch onto.

    "Hey there," he said, "What's wrong?"

    "Wha-what the heck's with that guy?"

    "Oh." Basil frowned. "I would just leave him be for now. I can tell he's been through a lot."

    "He creeps me out," Sneasel said, "There’s some psycho **** going on, or something like that."

    Basil leered at him at the mention of that word. I didn’t know what it meant yet, but he said it in human. Ignoring that, I glanced at the creature again. "What is he, anyway?"

    Well," Basil said, "He's known as a Cubone. His type usually wears the skulls of their mothers on their head."

    "What?" I said, practically white with shock. "Wha-why would they do that, that's so messed up! If someone wore the skull of Mama like that, I’d be scared to death!"

    "Well, it’s not every mon’s cup of tea, but they usually do it as a memento of those who've passed on." He turned his head to the maskless Cubone from far away. "Why he doesn't have it is a mystery to us."

    "Let's leave it that way," Sneasel said, "He probably pushed that broad down a cliff or some ****."

    “Now, now,” Basil said severely, “That’s not a nice word to say. You want to set an example with the humans, don’t you?”

    “Shaddup,” he said, picking at his ears with a claw, “You’re not my da—”

    Cubone rushed in out of the blue and tackled Sneasel, bashing him over the head with a mini Bone Club. Basil tried to push him away to no avail, while the rest, me included, stared on.

    “Okay, okay, I’m sorry!” Sneasel screamed. “I take it back! Just stop! Please!”

    The Cubone stopped attacking, and he went back to his own spot as if nothing happened. Sneasel was left nursing a few bumps on his head, sulking on the floor. And I just stood there, not knowing what the hell to do. It was my first time seeing a proper fight off the island. Well, as proper as one sided blows to the head could be, but still.

    “Are you alright?” Basil said, offering him a paw. Sneasel just backed away to a tree and stewed in his own self-pity.

    We didn’t say much and decided to drop the issue, so that gave me time to calm my nerves. I even swam in the pond alongside the two other Pokemon, which felt nice and shallow. Not as cold as the ocean was, if anything, it felt warm. Kind of like it was heated from underneath. Anyway, the next two to come were a Happiny and an Aipom, who Basil babysat as well, although they weren't as receptive to tell their stories as I was. They got on well besides that, and it didn't take long for them to settle in and play with each other. I just watched from the pond, still not feeling accustomed to Pokemon etiquette yet, if that was even a thing. Then lastly, a Shinx came along as well.

    This is where you come into the picture, Shine. You know, it's kind of funny looking back at it now. I didn't know you as well as I do now, but my first impression of you wasn't that great to begin with. No offense.

    (None taken.)

    Anyway, I saw you limping your way to Basil, and when he tried to introduce himself to you, you started sobbing and sat in a spot on your own far from everybody else. I don't blame you for how you acted back then, as I'll talk about that at some point later, but when I saw you, crying out of the blue, it kind of reminded me of Stumpy and how he would start wailing sometimes. Part of me felt annoyed, like I usually was around him whenever he had an outburst, but another part of me wanted to come towards you and hold you.

    I was stuck between two boulders of thought and didn't know how to squeeze out, so I just sat and looked at you. You curled up into a ball and bathed in what seemed to be the sunlight. I swore I could've seen you glowing. Nevertheless, I watched until the other mediators came in, all sorts of evolved Pokemon, as well as Azzy, who gestured me to follow him. All of the Pokemon in the room flocked to their own mediators, even the solitary Pokemon like you, the Starly the Sneasel and that Cubone. Then they led us out of the room in single file, with Azzy taking my paw in his.

    "Are we on tour now?" I asked.

    "Yes, we'll walk you through most of the areas on this floor, and after we've had our meeting, we'll call it a day."

    I followed the rest in a line as we were led through the various parts of the facility. Firstly, there were the classrooms, which we only got a small peek of since we wouldn't be needing to use them yet. I guess instead of the usual set up in human schools where you had desks and chairs to sit on, we had bean bags and cute little tables to sit around. It looked more like a place you'd sit all your stuffed toys for a tea party than somewhere you'd learn a bunch of useless trivia. Then there was the gym, filled with all sorts of equipment I didn't know the purpose of. The Machop in our group must've known what they were about since he was jumping for joy in that room. The library was off limits, which the Abra complained about, but nothing else came from that.

    I might as well skim through the rest as it was a lot to take in at once. The Lounge Room, Infirmary, Kitchen and Bathroom was next. You can probably guess what their purposes were. Then there were the offices, which again, were off limits. That's probably gonna sound quite redundant soon. And finally, there was the meeting hall, opened with a set of double doors unlike the rest. You know something's important when it has two doors instead of one, for whatever reason.

    We were led in one line to our seats on one side of the room while the other was occupied. There were these humans in white coats, who looked at us with wide eyed interest. I felt my heart beating again, as their eyes tracked us all the way to our seats. I tried to ignore them, staring at the front while we waited. Everybody else around me chatted amongst themselves. Once everybody settled in, Azzy sat beside me while the Shinx was in front, looking left to right. His mediator, an Manectric, nuzzled close to him, keeping him occupied. A part of me still wanted to reach out to him, but I decided against it. Everyone went silent as one member of staff spoke into the microphone, another mediator by his side.

    "Everyone, may I have your attention please," he said, which I heard through the mediator's Pokemon tongue. "We'd like to thank you all for coming to this facility, man, woman and Pokemon alike, and we hope all of you will make the most of your time here. But I'll let the leader speak for himself, so may I present to you, our Director, Lawrence Cartwright, and Assistant Director, Lucy Labelle."

    The two speakers stepped aside and held out a hand to the right of the stage. An old man propped himself up on his cane, walking slowly, but with determination in his gait. A Gardevoir floated closely behind him, strangely enough, wearing a frilled dress that flowed behind her. You know, for a Pokemon, she totally owned that look. I couldn't even imagine myself in a dress, let alone want to wear one.

    The director's shoes clattered with each step he took on the hard floor, echoing throughout the room. Then, he stood up on top of the podium, his Gardevoir by his side, and a smile emerged from his wrinkled face.

    "Humans and Pokemon alike," they spoke in their respective tongues, in perfect unison, "Welcome to our project, Gestalt Learning. We have brought you all here to take part in this experiment to contribute to a better society." The two of them held their hands up, as if shaping the whole world under their palms. "Imagine it. Human and Pokemon in league with one another. To perform the same tasks as one another. To change the world with one another. To create a better future with one another. We see so much potential with both of you, and sadly, we see that this potential is not being used." Their arms drooped, and they clasped their hands together.

    "For far too long, the trainer system has trapped everyone in this rusting machine that only spins to create wealth for the rich at the expense of everyone else. Trainers go out into the expanding world at an early age only to pursue a hollow dream of gaining a fake Championship title left from the ashes of the Elite Four. Pokemon are bound to these trainers for no other reason other than sustenance and a purpose in life. It could be so much different. Pokemon and humans can truly learn to co-exist with one another, if enough time is spent on their education. That is why all of you are here."

    They pointed at all of us in the room.

    "All of you, humans and Pokemon are full of life and brimming with hope. You will all work with each other as equals, not as master and servant. For you humans, we will ensure you'll work closely with these Pokemon, and reward you dearly for your contributions to the future. You will be renowned all around in your respective fields of science. As for you Pokemon, we will accompany you every step of the way to make sure your talents are cultivated here. You will be able to achieve anything you set your mind to, and after your leave, you'll be able to put those skills into practice to travel the world, build a career, become famous, and anything else you will yourself to do. The choice is yours."

    They put their arms down and joined hands. "For the next five years, we will do everything in our power to ensure your studies are fruitful. You will follow a program that caters to your needs, as well as help you to make the most of your time here. As we are Gestalt Learning, we believe every part plays a fundamental role to your education. For now, however, we shall pass on the torch to our Class Coordinators." They bowed. The humans on the other side were the first to clap, Although I didn't know what use it did, I clapped along anyway, as the Pokemon they were able to did so, while the rest howled in the air.

    Really, they could've said anything and I could've believed it. If they said it was possible to shoot rockets out of our arses, we probably would've tried to do it. Even though I didn't understand what half those words meant at the time, since we all know you're smarter by default if you use big words in place of simpler ones, there was something about the way they said them as well as their tones of voice that sold me on it. After all, I made the choice to go there, and I didn't regret it. For the most part.

    Lucy, the Gardevoir helped the director leave the stage while another human/Pokemon duo entered. They didn't say a lot that was too important to rattle off at the top of my head, but basically, they ran down how the 5 years would be divided up into several syllabuses: a mix of learning the same skills human children would be taught, including how to speak which was my main focus, and fighting, which would teach us how to defend ourselves as well as work with trainers if we chose to. Of course, there was the boring stuff like all the rules they went through. With each word uttered, my head bobbed up and down, struggling to keep my eyes open. They sure took their sweet time on pointless crap. Something squeezed my sides, jolting me awake.

    "What the--"

    The Aipom snickered from behind, who covered his mouth with his tail in an attempt to muffle his laughter.

    "Hey," I whispered, "Keep your paws to yourself."

    "Couldn't help it, sorry," he said, then narrowed his eyes. "Still, he doesn't shut up, does he?"

    I shook my head. Although I didn't agree with his grabby nature, we found something else to share between us. He grinned and held out his paw-like tail to me.

    "You seem cool. We can be friends, right?"

    Other than Basil, he was the only Pokemon that gave me such a gesture that day, so I smiled back to him and offered a paw in return. He snatched it away.

    “Psyche! Too slow!”

    I just shrugged and turned back to the guy's lecture. Something told me I had to get used to his antics.

    Thankfully, the guy shut his trap and we were told to gather up into three groups of six. We would stay each other for the rest of our course there. There were those who came from trainers or lived in domestic areas. There were those who were born in GeL. And then, there was us, the wild urchins. There was me, the Ponyta, the Cubone, the Buizel, and the Aipom. Except someone was missing. When we were sorted, I asked one of the mediators why there were only five of us, only to be told the other member wasn't ready yet. You'll find out about that later.

    After that, Azzy picked me up and we exited the hall in one neat line, going back to the cafeteria to be greeted with many different bowls and plates of food. Sandwiches, berries, meat pellets, you name it. I drooled, as the rest probably did, and if you know anything about how Pokemon eat, provided you haven't been living beneath a bridge for all of your life, it was chaos in there. By the end of it, in the mess we made, we had eaten our fill, and were set to fall into a food coma not long after. After we were all done, we were led into the corridors again only to be broken off into our respective groups. Us wild Pokemon would be staying in the same garden we met everybody else in.

    When we got there, the ceiling was black instead of blue, filled with twinkling stars and a rind of a moon. Our mediators wished us good night and each of us found a spot to sleep in. I myself gathered a pile of leaves and curled up into it. I slowly drifted away, sure to fall into slumber. Then I found myself on the island again, listening to one of Mom's stories with the rest. Trunks was there, listening intently. Stumpy was there, curling up against a tree. Twig was there, chewing on a twig. Figures. And Dad was probably somewhere hidden, listening in private. After her story was over, I went over to hug Mom, only to touch the air. I found myself in the garden again with a bunch of strangers. So that was how the first day ended.

    ---​

    You should've seen my cursive back then, every letter was above the line.
    My Ps and Qs raised their stems, so nothing crossed beneath.
    I'm a little better now.


    You galvanistic young boy, You galvanistic young man
    You galvanistic young inhuman, You understand.


    Art gets what it wants and art gets what it deserves.

    Car Seat Headrest - Nervous Young Inhumans

    The Growth Arc
     
  17. Namohysip

    Namohysip Dragon Enthusiast

    Interesting opening chapter for the Growth Arc. Picking up quite literally right where we left off in the Island Arc, too, since we're waking up with Curio by the time it begins. I thought that going over the whole sterilization and vaccination process, and all this orientation stuff, went on for a bit longer than it was perhaps necessary, but at the same time, it didn't go on for too long. You sprinkled in some character interactions--there were quite a few, so it was a bit hard to keep track at first, though hopefully I'll catch on by the next chapter or two. Those interactions helped tie it all together, I think.

    Just an aside, maybe a mini-rant, but interesting to see Cubone here! Despite all the reading I've done here, this is the first time I can recall seeing one featured prominently of the bodies of work I've looked through. I'm curious if you're going to play the 'dex entries straight. I've ranted about this a lot with others, but despite the appeal of having such an edgy species might have, it's one of the few entries that makes perhaps the least amount of sense when you actually think about it. One mother passing on its skull to the child and then dying... means the species would die off pretty much instantly. Doesn't help that some canon depictions show the mother still alive around the child, including Origins. Not sure where the helmet comes from. Maybe the same place Machoke get their tights. I can understand it if that's just a rumor about them or something, but for it to apply to the whole species for real is... logistically impossible.

    Okay, obligatory Namo Cubone rant over. Related, though, as Curio mentioned, it looks like everyone has a story to tell here, and most of them are probably bad ones in terms of the wild ones that showed up. I'm hoping that during this arc and any arcs related to these characters, what you'll eventually answer (aside from how Curio became how she is today) is what happened with Curio's roommates, basically. And maybe hints toward the others? I dunno, sounds like a lot to cover before getting bloated, considering how long your previous arcs have been.
     
    NebulaDreams likes this.
  18. NebulaDreams

    NebulaDreams A Dense Irritating Miniature Beast of Burden

    Thanks, @Namohysip! I find it interesting that Cubone hasn't really been featured prominently, since I thought they were reasonably popular. Likewise, I think certain aspects of their species make absolutely no sense, especially when you consider how they'd attain the skull in the first place, which is what I plan to analyse later when it comes to Cubone's arc. I do fear it's a lot to cover (I'm having to keep a flowchart to keep up with everyone), but I have a plan in the long run to tie it all together.

    ---

    Chapter 19: First Fight or Flight

    (So, when you started your schedule, what were the first few lessons like? Did you find an early interest in learning human speech?)

    Well, how interesting do you think it is to listen to some blue rabbit repeating the alphabet several times over, then making you do the same thing? Not very. A lot of it was just going into the basic mechanics of pronunciation. How do you make that into a story? Wouldn’t this bomb if this was a film?

    (Yes, but what about the mechanics of Pokemon speech, and how do they relate to you learning about human speech? This would help us understand your difficulties.)

    Oh, so you want to get technical, huh? Well, I can’t really say I’m the best Mon for that sort of thing. Shine is a better teacher than me in that sense. But I can offer my input here, plus what I learned from them.

    When you first speak, as a Pokemon, you don’t really think about the sounds you’re making. Our roars and cries may seem like gibberish to your untrained ears, no offence, but those same roars and cries have many different variations, and with that, many different words and meanings. My best bet is there are over 1,000 ways to roar as a Lucario, each having their own set of meanings. ‘Reror’ might mean something like ‘hello’, while ‘rorora’ might mean something like ‘go away’. If we had more time, I would go through each 1,000 plus of those roars with you, one by one.

    Just kidding. But seriously, if you were to go through every little sound change and figure out what they all meant, you’d sooner gouge your ears with an icepick. Then again, some people, let’s call them linguists, get off to that sort of thing, so anything is possible. That’s why it’s so hard to try and explain it, because it ain’t something you can fully pick apart, it’s something you feel. Just like learning in your language. You start babbling as a baby and then you work your way up to sounding less drunk the older you get as you begin to understand what the adults around you are actually saying. It all comes with experience. The more complex the meaning of the sentence, the more words you start to string along. Unfortunately for us, our speech sounds garbled as each sound that conveys meaning is bunched up together, like atoms in a cell, or some other sciencey crap like that. That’s not something you can translate to human so easily, if at all. Itwouldbelikeifitalkedlikethisallthetime. See what I mean?

    But in any case, the first lessons in speech just covered the basic crap, like sounds and whatnot. All 17 of us were sat around a classroom, huddled close together, while the human students took notes at the back. I tried not to notice them too much, since whenever I turned towards them, they would look the other way, face buried in their notebook. Azzy, formally known as the Language Specialist, held a piece of chalk in front of a board. Whenever he wrote, it often squeaked, making my ears twitch.

    For each sound Azzy broke down, he wrote its letter on the chalkboard, starting with ‘a’, or ‘ae’ as it sounds, and made us repeat it. When he wrote down the first letter, I raised my paw.

    “What’s that?”

    “Oh,” Azzy said, “This is the letter ‘a’, or ‘ah’, as we pronounce it here.”

    “What’s a letter?” A few chuckles came around me. Most noticeably, Abra burst into laughter, bashing his fist against the floor.

    Right now, this probably sounds really stupid, even coming from me. Another thing you have to understand though is that sounds are one thing, but symbols are another. There’s this one guy with this name I can’t pronounce, who had this picture of a Leppa berry with text at the beginning saying ‘This is not a Leppa’. When you first look at it, you wonder what the heck the guy was smoking when he made it, but when you look at it closely, you realise that it’s in fact, not a berry, it’s a picture of a berry. Two completely different things, but easily confused for each other as the meaning is concrete. You can eat berries, after all. When you try to pair a sound with this abstract symbol, though, at first, you can’t see the meaning in that symbol. As such, it just looks like a random squiggle. Not exactly something you can sink your teeth into and taste.

    “You fool,” Abra said, “You don’t even have a clue on what a letter is!”

    In response, Azzy threw his piece of chalk at Abra. It bounced off him with a great thwacking sound, which I cringed at. Even I felt it when Abra nursed at his head.

    “That’s one thing I won’t have in this class. Remember everyone’s experience levels are different. Just because it seems natural for you doesn’t mean everybody thinks the same way, got it?”

    Abra rubbed his yellow dome and sighed.

    “Yes, sir.”

    “Right. That’s actually a good question, young Riolu. Now...”

    He explained what those letters and symbols were, going off on a tangent for a bit. I noticed Abra was levitating, while Aipom harassed the Buneary by pulling on her ears playfully. The others seemed to take a passive interest though, leaning closer to listen. When that was over, I just nodded, not wanting to show my ignorance as I still couldn’t put two and two together. At least, not in front of that yellow bastard again.

    (So, what other lessons did you have?)

    Oh, well, quite a few actually. We had our paws full with activities from that day forward, basically.

    For starters, there were the gym sessions we had, which involved a set of physical exercises to do for a certain period of time, like working on running and endurance in one day, then stretches and aerobics the next. As you can imagine, it doesn't translate that well to the Pokemon who couldn't stand on their hind legs, so I got a kick out of seeing the Bidoof fall on his ass, amongst other things.

    Those sessions were led by a Medicham called Reggie, who clearly looked too enthusiastic for what he was doing. Each time he told us to do a rep of push ups or whatever was the equivalent for the non-bipedal Pokemon, his voice echoed in the closed off gym space and he'd pump his fists in the air all the time. It wasn't my style, honestly, cause it seemed like he was performing something like a magic show for an audience who stared at their phones the entire time, but at least the Machop was into it.

    He'd also cheer us on, saying we did a great job whenever we got through one of the reps, although he ignored some of the other Pokemon, like the Shinx who stayed tucked away in the corner of the room, without fail, for every session. Occasionally, Reggie interrupted his lesson to try and convince him to come along, but that didn't seem to work. Whenever that happened, the rest of the Pokemon would huddle around me and stare at the scene.

    "What's he doing?" Sneasel said.

    "Hmph," the skull-less Cubone huffed, the first syllable I heard from him so far, "How weak."

    "Aw, c'mon," the Pachirisu said, standing up while he combed his tail, "He's been like this for like forever. He's just scared, that's all."

    "Oh yeah?" Sneasel said, raising a claw to him, "What's there to be scared of in this place?"

    "I dunno," Pachirisu said, his tail drooping, "But maybe he'll come ‘round later and tell me."

    After a while, the Medicham just gave up and ran back to us, preparing to give us another jazzercise session or whatever they called it. That's when Aipom waved his tail in the air.

    "Whazzup?" Reggie said. If he fit the bill of anyone resembling a human, he probably would’ve been the beach bum that does a lot of illicit deals in his minivan. Don’t ask me how I know that.

    "Um, I like these lessons, teach," Aipom said, "But when are we gonna learn to fight? Wouldn't that be good for exercise?"

    Honestly, I didn't question that until he brought it up, but from my position, I never needed to fight for my own life. Though I didn't know what everybody's pasts were, since he was part of our wild brat pack, I guessed he must've had a few scrapes in his life so far. Reggie just smiled.

    "It’s cool, dude. When everyone’s fallen into one groove, then we can start fighting, you dig?"

    Aipom jumped up and down, enthusiastic, but not trying to cause a scene. "B-But can't we just do one teensy fight? I feel like I wanna prove myself already!"

    The Medicham stroked his pink head. "Well, it might not be on the schedule, but I don't see the big deal behind it. Who do you want to pick as a partner, though?"

    "You, duh!" he said, pointing his tail at the confused teacher.

    "Woah there, I like your zest, dude, but that’s a little too spicy for me. Why not someone your own size?"

    "Aw." I detected a drop of energy in his aura, but he turned around and grinned at us regardless, waving his tail from side to side as he decided who to pick in the circle.

    "Ooh, ooh, ooh," Buizel said, "Pick me!"

    "Yeah, in your dreams," Sneasel said, "Whaddya gonna do, bubble him to death?"

    "I'm always open," Basil the Lickitung said, "It's not a big deal for me."

    "Nah," Aipom said, "I know you're quite good already, plus that tongue kinda gives me bad vibes. How about I pick..."

    He stopped and pointed his tail at myself, keeping it raised for a few seconds before dumb little me got the hint.

    "Me? Why?"

    "No reason. Well, I kinda heard you didn't do a lotta fighting on that island, so you're gonna be easy for me."

    For whatever reason, I felt a tinge of anger build up inside me. "Um, okay?"

    "Cool, it’s settled!" Reggie said, and told everyone to clear out the way for us two to battle.

    So, I kind of ended up getting in a fight by accident. I don't know how it happened, but it was the first time I ever fought another Pokemon. That means teach droned on, going on about the official match rules: one attack each turn, first one to faint loses, last one standing wins, yadda yadda yadda. In hindsight, I guess it was like a tutorial level in a role playing game, or something, like that series on the handheld thing. You know what I mean, don't you, Tony?

    (Not really.)

    What, did you never play that game before?

    (No, I played outside for most of my childhood. Now I mostly play in an office cubicle.)

    Okay then, sucks to be you, I guess. I only went through a phase of it myself when I stole some random guy's DS that one time. I don't really like it since my paws aren't used to that sort of thing, but it's like having your first encounter with some random Pokemon terrorising the professor in the tall grass, and having to teach your own Pokemon how to fight for the first time.

    So the stage was set for us two. Aipom bounced on the balls of his feet while I stood still, not really sure how to initiate the fight.

    "Go, Aipom!" Buizel said. "Go! Go!"

    "Whatever," Sneasel said, "My money's on this minx."

    "What's money?"

    "Forget it."

    He sprang forward first, paws splayed out preparing to scratch. I gasped and rolled to the side, dodging. He followed, however, and I bounced backwards, avoiding each swipe. I dodged and rolled, but he kept coming at me, unrelenting. My heart pounded. If I didn't make a move then, that probably would've been it. I sensed an opening below where his legs stood unprotected, and swiped down with a kick. It connected, knocking him flat on his tail-end. A mix of cheers followed. I breathed a sigh of relief when I heard that. It was like I was at the centre of the stage, and the rest of the spectating Pokemon were my fans. Yeah, sounds awfully conceited, I know.

    "C'mon, idiot!" Sneasel said, "Kick 'im while he's down!"

    "Not cool, dude!" Reggie said. "This fight must be fair, you dig? Wait for him to get up!"

    "Shaddup!" he said, "What sense does that make? She’d be dead if this was a real battle, you dumbass!"

    "H-hey, don’t talk to me like that!"

    I watched as the two bickered, which went on long enough to distract me from the fight. When I tried to move my leg next, it wouldn’t budge. The Aipom's tail wrapped around my paw, and swung upward. The world around me turned upside down. My arms desperately flailed in the air in an attempt to get ahold of my surroundings. I don't know how far I was off the ground, but I braced myself, preparing for the worst.

    Call it divine intervention or whatever other crap, but when I hit the ground, I rolled forward and broke my fall. The closest thing I can think of that could've explained it were my instincts from falling off the treetops on the island a certain amount of times. I'd call it cat-like reflexes if I were close to being a cat-type, so I'll settle for Riolu-like reflexes for now.

    More cheers followed. With each time that happened, I got more and more into a groove. I sprang back to my feet and focused on the Aipom, who looked confused, but nevertheless guarded for the next attack. Running forward, I tried to look for an opening wherever Aipom was unprotected. His tail acted as a shield for the rest of his body, with his paws raised in front of him for extra protection. The only thing that wasn't covered, however, was his face, so you can imagine I went to town on that. I made a fist with my paws, swiped forward, and bam. There it was. Fighting move against normal type.

    My punch made a satisfying slapping sound which echoed in the air, before Aipom crashed backwards and rolled over a couple of times before stopping. More cheers. I pumped my fist in the air, having my little moment of triumph before I saw what happened to his face. Red all over, basically, like he got splattered with a Tomate. I immediately rushed to his side, shaking him gently, feeling a chill wash over me.

    "Oh jeez!" I said, "Uh, Aipom guy, can you hear me. Hello? Hello!"

    A paw tapped on my shoulder, belonging to Reggie, who looked down and gazed at the scene like he was looking at a piece of bread that popped out of the toaster. If that analogy makes sense.

    "Well, I say you got him. Cool."

    "Cool?" I said, shaking Aipom's body, "I just killed him, there's nothing cool about this! Please get help, help!"

    The onlookers just laughed, to which, I stood up and pointed at all of them.

    "You're all sick! You just watched me kill another Pokemon and you're all laughing! Don't just stand there, help me! Help!"

    Yeah, I might’ve been a bit of a drama queen. Of course, Aipom was still breathing, so I overreacted again. It took me a few seconds before I saw his chest puff up and down, and laid close to him, looking for any sign I didn't hurt him too bad.

    "I'm so sorry, I didn't mean to--"

    "Fine," he croaked, trying to push me away. "Just let me rest. Please."

    I breathed a sigh of relief, and managed to calm down before I heard the other Pokemon talking amongst themselves.

    "What's she thinking?" Sneasel said, "Was she dropped as an egg or something?"

    "The fool," Abra said, "She clearly hasn't been in many fights."

    "She did a good job," Ponyta said, "Isn't that enough?"

    To my mercy, Reggie stepped in and stopped them, calling off the lesson early and letting everybody else leave aside from me, including Aipom who was lifted to safety, where I had to stay behind. The pink clown-looking guy knelt to my level and put his paws on my shoulders. In that gaze of his, I saw the same benevolent gaze Trunks used to give me whenever he gave one of his pep talks.

    "Hey girl," he said, "I get it, you’re not used to this."

    "I don't understand," I said, nearly whispering, "Why did he make me fight him? Why does anyone have to fight anyone?"

    "Why does anyone do anything? Just cuz, I guess. I get he wanted to prove himself though, so there’s your reason."

    "But his face! You must've seen how badly I messed that up. What's gonna happen to him? What if I get in trouble for it?"

    "Us Pokemon heal quickly, you dig?”

    "But why though? I know it happens a lot in the wild and stuff, but I heard a bit about trainers and how we're taught to fight for them. What's the point in that?"

    The Medicham hummed to himself, looking for the right answer, when he shrugged and shot me a smirk.

    “I dunno, I don’t think about that stuff anymore. It’s kinda pointless. Once you’ve fought enough times though, and learn more about the world, you can figure out that answer yourself. Until then, just be chilled. You have us watching your back to stop your from seriously hurting anyone, plus you’ve got restraint, so you’re way ahead a lot of Pokemon already. You get me?”

    I looked to the side at the splotch of blood on the floor. As much as it was painful dealing that sort of damage on another Pokemon, it could've easily been me as well, plus at that point, I trusted teach enough to take stock in his words. Finally, I nodded, and he gave me a pat on the back.

    "Cool. I’d get back to that blue guy now."

    I smiled once more before leaving the gym with Azzy. The day kind of veered off from there. I returned to our garden base and rested for a bit, gazing at what I thought was the sunlight. It definitely felt real anyway, as the rays gently shined on my face. Everyone else was there aside from Aipom, who I presumed was healing up somewhere else. It was like being back home. Almost. Then, something blocked my view, and I opened one eye to see the skull-less Cubone, which made me flinch.

    "Hello," he said in a deep voice.

    "Um, hi?" I said.

    "I watched your fight." He stopped to bow towards me. "I admire your strength."

    "Well, thanks?" I guess it was flattering to hear that, but it rang hollow for me, since it came across like he thanked me just for breathing.

    "You can spar with me later. That way, you will know true strength. Goodbye."

    He wandered off to his usual spot where he gazed at the wall, and I just returned to my nap, ignoring the foreboding aura that came off from him. A few hours must've passed since the sky turned a dark orange, and at last, Aipom came in, looking as soft as the day he came in. When he caught my gaze, he leered at me before jumping atop a tree to sulk. His aura radiated sadness and frustration, and it wasn't hard to see why. I beat him purely by chance, and getting the stuffing beat out of you by an inexperienced runt like me mustn't have been nice. A part of me knew approaching him at this point probably wouldn't end well, but again, Combee's nest.

    I rose and dug my paws into the tree bark, climbing to the top not long after. Truth be told, it was a little anti-climatic, as I was used to the trees being so tall back home, but whatever. I perched onto a branch beside him and waited for him to notice me. A moment passed and nothing happened. You could've cut the tension in that room with a claw. When it became apparent he wasn't in the mood to talk, I made the first move.

    "Um, hi again. I'm sorry about earlier."

    He looked once with a sorrowful expression, like that of a kicked Lillipup, and turned back to the scenery.

    "It was my first fight, I wasn't really expecting to win. It just sorta happened. That punch looked really painful, though, I didn't mean to go that far."

    "Eh," he mumbled, "I've seen worse."

    Knowing he was from the wild as well, I put two and two together.

    "It must've been really rough out there, in the wild, I mean. It sounds so different from how I was brought up, you know. If you wanna talk to me about that, I'd be interested."

    "No you wouldn't," he said. "You'd just think I'm weak, like everybody else does. You proved that today by winning."

    "No I don't. And who's everybody else?"

    "My parents, for starters." His voice dropped, although he spoke more clearly that time. Anger boomed from his aura. "I can't hold my own in a fight. For that, they thought about leaving me to die all the time until these guys came along, then they just offered me up to them. Didn't say goodbye. Doesn't that just scream weak to you?"

    Knowing the rules of nature better now than I did back then, with how unpredictable, harsh and indifferent it can be, I could see why he'd think that. Still, when I heard him talk about himself that way, like the way Trunks did sometimes, I squeezed his paws with mine and leaned in close to the point my muzzle touched his face.

    "Who cares?" I said. "I didn't come here knowin' everything, and that's why I left home, so I could learn somethin'. We've got all the time to get stronger, so what's the point of worrying?"

    "That Cubone over there." He tilted his head towards the meditating brute, who was too far away to listen in on us. "He looks at me all the time like I just peed all over his berries."

    "Ew. Again, who cares? I don't. Just focus on what you wanna do."

    "I want to get stronger."

    "Fine then. Do that, but, don't compare yourself to others, or me, you got it?"

    He hummed to himself, and silence followed as he considered what to say for a moment. It wasn't the awkward silence like before, but a comfortable silence, like the fog cleared up between us. His aura definitely radiated more positive energy anyway. Finally, he turned to me and smiled, shaking my paws, like in the friendly sort of manner Basil drilled me on before.

    "Yeah. I get that. I'll try not to think on it too much."

    We held paws for a little while. And a while longer. Perhaps a little too long. I shook them gently, trying to get out of his grasp, when he grinned widely and shoved at my chest. I went flying off the tree and fell to the floor, tail first. He scurried down soon after and pointed his tail at me.

    "Haha!" he chuckled. "Now we're even!"

    In any other situation, I would've seen malice in it, but I laughed along with him, as I sensed that playful energy, and he helped me up. From there, we started talking about little details of our own pasts, from the sort of Pokemon he met that occasionally gave him solace from his parents, to the sort of pranks he’d play on his siblings, like luring them into a hole in the ground covered with leaves. He got something slung at him as payback; I needn’t mention what. I laughed and cringed at the same time. I didn’t talk much about myself; I just listened and commented along with him. When it came time to go for dinner in the cafeteria, we ate together. When we settled down for the night in that same room, we nuzzled close to each other, feeling each other's warmth and just enjoying our company. He was the first real friend I had there, and he was a cool guy all throughout.

    Still, my ass was a bit sore from that fall, but you win some, you lose some.

    The week pretty much flew by as we had our basic lessons for one portion of the day and exercise in the other. Time didn't really exist there, since even with the garden there, it was pretty much a vacuum in the rest of facility, and not having an actual concept of time at the, um, time, didn't help matters. Having Aipom there to talk to and sometimes cause mischief with made the days pass much quicker. It wasn't a far cry from the times when Stumpy and I used to explore the island together, although he had less of a tendency to cry and moan whenever things didn't go his way. So it was fairly busy for that period, and when we had our day off at the end of it, we were playing in the garden together when another mediator came in holding some sort of device. Without a word, they handed it over and told me to put it to my ear. I waited until I heard a familiar voice from the other side.

    "Hello, miss Riolu!" It was Azzy.

    "Oh, hi! Wait, what're you doing in there? What is this thing anyway? Did you get sucked in?"

    "I'm still here. I'm just on a phone, which allows you to talk through long distances. I’m no Rotom, after all."

    I paused, trying to figure out what he meant by that, but kept on topic. "Why not talk to me here?"

    "Because I have a surprise for you." I heard distant voices from far off, and stood there, wandering what they were until somebody else took over.

    "Can you hear me, dearie?"

    "Mama!" I jumped for joy. "How are you getting this?"

    "This Azumarill visited the island and is with us at the moment. We’re enjoying his company so far. The other kids love him; they keep asking him to blow bubbles their way. But how are you anyway? How have your studies been?"

    "Well, we've only started, mama, so nothing too special, but we've learned what letters are and stuff! We'll be learning how to speak soon!"

    "That sounds great, dearie. They sound like they've got a lot in store for you already." I heard shouting from the other side, one in a whining tone and one in a much younger tone. "Oh, let me pass you onto your brothers."

    "Hey, hey!" Stumpy was on the other side now. "How are things?"

    "Good."

    "I'm missin' you, you know. It ain't the same having this guy pushin' me on that swing."

    "Hiiiiii!" Twig beamed from the other side.

    "Hello, sis," Trunks said. "It's been a while, so it's nice to be with you again."

    "Yeah, of course!"

    "Have you done any more drawing lately?"

    "Um, I dunno." All of that slipped my mind. During my time there so far, I didn't even think about holding a crayon again, since everything else went so fast, but when Trunks brought it up, I found a part of myself yearning to make a mess on the sketchpad again. I hadn't even mentioned it to anyone else yet.

    "Well, I'm sure they've kept you busy so far with other things, but still, keep going at it. I don't want to see you drop it so soon."

    "Sure thing, bro."

    A beat. I half expected Dad, or rather, Liam to be on the other side as well, but no matter how long I listened, I couldn't feel his presence there.

    "Where's, um, Dad?"

    "Oh." Trunks' tone dropped severely. I could tell what he was thinking even through the disembodied voice. "I'll let Mom answer that."

    He said something too far off for me to hear, then I heard Mom's voice again.

    "Alright then," she said. "Things between me and Liam aren't great. We've been apart for quite some time now. We didn't want to see each other, so we split the island in half, so he has his side and my side. We agreed to share the lake, but we know when not to bother each other."

    I remembered the times we had before I left, how Dad would always talk down to us, how he tore up my drawings, and how he basically dragged me by my ears. I didn't forgive him for that yet, but it didn't give me any pleasure to hear about Mom and Dad not being the same. A pang of guilt nestled in my gut.

    "The kids are allowed to talk to them whenever they went, but of course, they hang out with me more. Whenever they get the chance to go, he barely talks at all. I worry about him sometimes, but it's for the best."

    "That sounds really lonely. Mama, is it my fault?"

    "What do you mean?

    "That things turned out so bad between you?"

    "Don't be silly, dearie. You had nothing to do with it. He’s just a grumpy, bitter Mon, that's all."

    Even though my bad experiences with him still lingered on, I longed to hear his voice, just so I could take another piece of my old home back with me.

    "Can I talk to him?"

    "Well, the Azumarill wanted to help, but he tried to approach Liam, he just threw a bit of his aura at him, so I guess he wants to be left alone for now."

    "Oh."

    "But never mind that. It's lovely hearing your voice again, dearie. I'd love to talk with you all day, but I guess you'll have your paws full again soon. I hope you've made friends, at least."

    "Yeah, of course!" I said, looking to Aipom, who hung lazily off a nearby branch, "We're having a lot of fun already!"

    "Great! Are there more Riolu there, or is it just you?"

    "Just me."

    "I see. Well then, it's been wonderful talking to you, dearie, but I think I'll hand you back to this Azumarill for now. We'll talk again soon enough. Everyone, say goodbye for your sister!"

    They all cheered me off to say goodbye, and I did the same, until all sound on the other end cut off completely. The mediator took the phone back, and I was left by myself in the garden grinning like an idiot, at least, until Aipom came along, tilting his head.

    "Do you talk to yourself a lot? Ain’t that a sign of madness?"

    "What?" I wondered what he meant, until it occurred to me he might not have known what a phone was. I mean, I certainly didn't until it happened. "I spoke to my family. They were so happy to talk to me."

    I stared him down for a while as he looked quite glum, when I came up to him and held his paw. "I'm sorry. I know things weren't alright on your end."

    He shook his head. "I won't hafta deal with them again. But whatever, if you're happy, then same goes for me. It's nice for you to have a family that cares, anyway."

    And so, the week ended with me having a good night's sleep, and going off to dream about me and my family together again. Instead of simply longing for them through a distant past, they were happy memories where I felt closer than ever to them than before. I couldn't quite remember each of their faces, but their voices were enough for me to get the picture. I must've slept like a baby, at least until we had to wake up early again to face another day.
     
  19. Chibi Pika

    Chibi Pika Stay positive

    First new chapter in the new thread! Perfect time for me to finally review! So as had probably been obvious, I have been following along with each chapter as it's been posted, I just haven't gotten to review until now! So I'll start off with some general thoughts about the revision and then move on to the latest chapter.

    Overall, this is a massive improvement over the original version, and the most interesting thing is that it's hard to articulate why. Because from a surface glance, it looks very similar, yeah? The same course of events, the same characters, even mostly the same tone--it's not like some revisions that go and completely scrap everything. But the changes are subtle and frequent, and they all add up to a much more polished piece. The opening scene with the escape from GeL introduces us to the mystery in a much more tantalizing way, and contrasting his injury with the healed scar in his now-comfortable life already shows how far he's come since then, but also leads well into the question of what exactly happened back there (as it's a question that the reader will no doubt be having themselves.)

    There were also a lot of subtle tweaks to the whole "recovering Curio" arc that made it feel a lot more solid. Her news article being for causing a scene with the Thousand Claws is much more compelling than just for climbing the windmill, and I also think her crop destruction later leading to her making that deal with the Claws to run them out of town was better foreshadowed as well.

    I think the decision to have Shine lose some of his memories was overall a good one, as it gives him a mystery to solve along with the reader. Although like I've mentioned before, some of the early chapters seemed like they couldn't quite decide how close he was with Curio, and it was a bit distracting. Sometimes, she was simply a means to him figuring out his past, and other times, it was clear that she was much more than that. I think it would feel stronger if it more consistently showed him having this nagging feeling that he already knows she's important, but can't quite put a paw on why--that way the reader has a stronger reason to care about him finding her, but also keeps the sense that they get to learn things along with Shine (as I know you were concerned with readers not having a reason to care about a bond that was forged offscreen.) It would be quite disorienting to have this feeling of caring about someone without knowing what led to it! This would also help reinforce the feeling that if he knows she's important but can't quite remember why, then why did he leave her? That would be a powerful question hanging over him (as we know by now that whatever happened during the escape has made him feel a great deal of shame, which no doubt added to him repressing those memories.)

    But again, this pretty much only affected the early chapters, and quickly stopped being a factor once Curio and Shine actually met up. I also quite like the occasional flashbacks that you've added! Another good way to make use of this new memory subplot.

    The only other minor note of criticism I have to add about the early chapters is that it felt like Shine spent a great deal more time explaining things to the reader with his narration. Filter words like "Shine knew" or "Shine remembered" were exceptionally common, always leading into a paragraph explaining something, and could use some toning down. But again, this only applies to the early chapters, and pretty much disappears after that. And I'm much more keen on seeing new chapters anyway. ;)

    Now then, on to the new chapter!

    As usual, I will never stop loving how Curio's narration can take what would be a boring, by-the-book list of stuff happening into something that never fails to entertain. And it totally makes sense that even the most basic of lessons still rely on knowing what the heck the actual thing that you're about to learn even is! There's a lot of abstract concepts you just take for granted that she would have to learn first, like letters!

    I enjoyed the battle between her and Aipom, and it's kind of funny that she literally has no concept of what a Pokemon battle is, or why someone would have one without a struggle for survival, or being made to fight for a trainer. It makes perfect sense with how the peaceful, carefree (or to use her words 'boring') lifestyle on the island meant that she didn't get exposed to the thing that most other Pokemon are obsessed with! Not gonna lie, it was kind of hilariously adorable when she thought she'd killed him. It's okay, Curio! He's fine!

    All-in-all, looks like things are off to a good start at GeL. Of course, I can only wonder how her meeting with Shine will go...

    ~Chibi~
     
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  20. Namohysip

    Namohysip Dragon Enthusiast


    This is so meta it hurts.


    __


    Ah! So we’re finally entering totally new territory, are we? That’s great! I guess that means soon the upload pace is going to slow down a little, but that’s just fine. The pace was pretty quick to begin with, after all. At some points it was even faster than my catchup schedule!


    Okay, enough rambling about that. This chapter was nice! It definitely has a bit of that “school of superpower” vibe going on, complete with some of the students having a dark past! Cubone in particular stands out to me as someone of interest, if only because of the meta lore surrounding his species, and the personality he is slowly starting to show. A bit ironic that I suspect one route that this arc could go is that Cubone starts coming out of his shell at around the same time he’ll be putting on some sort of makeshift mask that Curio makes—maybe as one of her first little budding-artist tendencies for craft.


    That’s all just crackpot theory crafting at this point. As for the contents of the chapter itself, I’m a little perplexed on why Curio was so surprised at her own strength and the outcome of the battle she had. For some reason I had the impression she had at least some kind of basic fighting skill that was taught by Trunks, at the very least, or maybe she just heard about it or something from him. But that’s mostly just a minor nitpick. Bit of a repeat of “as you know, Pokémon fight” from the first arc as well, even if it makes sense narratively.


    The phone call was an interesting touch. I didn’t expect her to be able to contact them so soon, but it really sets the tone that she can still sorta phone home even when she’s so far away. I suspect there is going to be a lot of strain and perhaps a “will they or won’t they” reconciliation between Curio and her father, too. I think it might be a great idea to capitalize on that going down the road, especially since, as we know from present-day, Curio at least slightly agrees with her father now.
     
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