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

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

  1. NebulaDreams

    NebulaDreams A Dense Irritating Miniature Beast of Burden

    Thanks a lot, @Chibi Pika, for following the updates so closely. Even though I know you liked the old version, it’s satisfying to hear this one is a vast improvement. I did go through every chapter to tweak the dialogue and some of the description, so that some of the details are more consistent and properly explained, like the Venusaur in the bar or how the law system works. So as well as the big changes to Shine’s memories and how that effects his motivation, as well as some sections being rearranged, a lot of the little improvements are contextual in nature, I think.

    As for your criticisms concerning Shine’s memory at times, I agree. After they meet up, it’s perfectly clear that Shine views her as important, but can’t quite place why, but it did come across like she was a means to an end at times. Namo pointed this out as well.

    I think the reason this happened was because of the criticism of the old version with us expecting to care about Curio without knowing her properly. I didn’t quite know how to execute that with Shine repressing some of his memories, but still caring about her regardless, as I didn’t know how that would come across to the reader either. Now, I see it would’ve made for a bit more engaging drama.

    If I were to make another revision, I would make the change to that first arc just so their relationship is a little more clear, along with the narrative filtering you mentioned. I have a bad habit of that with writing and psychic distance. I wonder if it would be fine to stealthily edit them…

    Thanks for reviewing the new chapter as well. I think there’s a lot a Pokemon would need to learn that humans would take for granted. It would be easier for some who grew up around that human environment, but it would go over the heads of other Pokemon who didn’t.

    ---

    And thanks, @Namohysip as well!

    Oh, my sweet summer child, just wait until the next chapter, and other moments after that...

    That's an interesting prediction, and something I could see young Curio doing. My lips are sealed for now, however.
     
    Chibi Pika likes this.
  2. NebulaDreams

    NebulaDreams A Dense Irritating Miniature Beast of Burden

    Chapter 20. Showtime, in More Ways Than One

    (So, when did you start properly learning to speak the human tongue?)

    Actually, we made a bit of progress on it not long after the first week ended. That was around the time we started to learn to fight as well, and learn other things such as how to tell the time and how to add numbers up together, although I kind of bombed at both of them at first. It's quite a lot to talk about at once though, so what do you wanna know?

    (The speaking lessons, please.)

    Alright then, more of that. I mean, we basically touched on more of what I talked about before, like how human sounds are different in meaning to what we say in our own language. The week before with Azzy was just finding out what all the possible sounds were and how to connect them to letters. After a while, I learned how to connect the two together, but when Azzy started his next round of lessons, he started talking about words. He'd write them out on that cringe-inducing chalkboard again, would break down each of the sounds used in it, and tell us to repeat it.

    I had a bit of trouble with that at first, since words felt like a mouthful compared to the single sounds I was used to doing, but take my word for it, I got better. I don’t care to go through it in huge length since Shine could probably do that. I think I’d just bore myself to tears talking about it too much.

    One thing that really helped though, believe it or not, was watching the actual Pokemon show, which they found a way to tie into our lessons. Aw, this takes me back. I know you never played the games, but did you watch the series, at least?

    (When I was 7, I think. That was when it first started, with Ash in Kanto.)

    Yeah, now you're on my level. So, it's been a while since I've seen it, and now I remember it, it's nothing special. I wouldn't really go out of my way to watch it again. But parts of it are embedded into my brain from when I'd watch those episodes as a Riolu, sitting with Aipom and all that and becoming entranced by that big, black box, which I'd later learn was a TV. I mention this because it served as a way for us to get better at understanding humans, but I should probably set the scene a little.

    So, it might've been in the third week or so. I didn't know since again, time didn't exist, but sometimes, Azzy would walk us over to a room with all sorts of electronic devices, or the AV room, and sit us all in comfy beanbags around the TV. A human would operate the remote and flick through several channels before tuning into Pokemon: Diamond and Pearl. Soon enough, I was hooked. I loved the bright colours and I loved the art, except they were moving pictures. When I think about it now, the time it must've taken to do that must've been insane.

    I say moving pictures like I'm a caveman or something, but they're what they are. Not to get too nerdy, unlike one Pokemon I know sitting in this room right now, but that's basically what film or animation is, just a series of frames cobbled together, 24 times a second, with voices and music to bind it all into one package. And the music as well. I sat through the opening theme, and even though I couldn't understand it all that well as we weren't used to the human tongue, I found myself humming the tune, as did some of the other Pokemon watching it. Even Shinx paid attention and wasn't sulking in a corner like usual.

    But yeah, I think we must've watched the first episode where Dawn, that girl trainer or something, tried to find her way to the professor's lab and ended up bumping into the wrong places. Again, we couldn't understand her fully yet, but we got the gist of what was happening, which was enough. Then Ash came on screen on a boat with the Pikachu, and I was waiting for that yellow sparkster to speak, but he never did. Instead, he repeated his name over and over again, and so, it sounded like complete gibberish. It felt really weird to me at the time, so I raised my hand up when it happened in an attempt to find out why, but the show kept going and wouldn't stop. I gave up after a while, plus the subjects behind me were starting to give weird looks, so I sat through the rest of the episode with my mouth zipped shut.

    There were some battles along the way with other Pokemon, which got me excited, and as it ran, I found myself understanding more and more of what they said. Only certain words and phrases since not all of it was familiar, but the phrase we got familiar with was "I choose you!" since it repeated enough to get stuck in my head. But after the big fight, Ash, Pikachu and Dawn eventually banded together, plus that pervy guy as well, but anyway, the episode ended and the credits rolled, so they turned off the TV soon after. We all clapped and asked for more, but that was it for now, and so we were chaperoned back to our bases. I caught Azzy's attention before he left the garden again.

    "Yes, miss Riolu. I saw you wanted to ask something during the show."

    "Yeah. Pikachu's really weird. And the other Pokemon. They keep saying their names all the time and I can't understand it. Is it just me or something?"

    He shook his head.

    "It's something the series does. While the human characters are voiced by humans, for whatever reason, the Pokemon are voiced by humans too."

    "But why? Wouldn't it be better to have Pokemon talking like Pokemon so we could all understand it?"

    He patted his ears, and I noticed through his aura he was quite nervous. I take it he didn't want to answer that.

    "Well, the show is aimed for humans for all ages, but you still understood what was going on, didn't you?"

    I nodded. "I'm starting to understand humans better now."

    "That's good then. Well, have a good day."

    He just left, and it was me in that garden again, feeling more questions rise up than I had before. Mostly about why they didn't hire Pokemon to voice their own characters, but I never got the answer to that, but knowing more about the world now, I can guess. There aren't many Pokemon actors, and while you see them in a lot of films shot on camera, for a show like that which is all drawn, it's not needed at all. A lot of shows or movies aren't made for Pokemon in mind, just for humans who actually have time for art and can talk with their wallets, apparently. What money is there to be had in that industry with us dumb Pokemon in there?

    (People did kick up a fuss about the Pokemon not voicing their own roles after enough time. Oh, sorry, can I intervene again?)

    As long as it’s not about Lucario dying because of a tree again.

    (Thanks. Trainers and their Pokemon actors formed a union and started pestering the team for requests, and eventually, they hired Pokemon actors to speak for the Origins and Generations specials, which I guess is a step in the right direction. It added a bit more depth to their character, but of course, the humans couldn’t understand it, so it was lost on them without any subtitles. Again, sorry for interrupting.)

    No, it's fine. See, this guy knows. Anyway, I'm getting off topic. I could literally talk about it for ages, but I think you get the idea. It was a slow learning process, where we alternated between learning more about how to speak like humans and listen to humans. In time, in a few weeks, we could understand entire sentences, and once we digested that information, we could understand what the humans around us were saying all along. Even though the show didn't fill that void for my own kind, thanks to it, I was able to understand humans fully. Speaking it is another matter, but I didn't have problems with that.

    (You mentioned bombing other lessons. What did you learn?)

    Eh, just maths and basic stuff. Honestly, not all of it is very interesting. If you ever went through grade school, you’d know it’s something along the lines of that, so there’s not much to say. My biggest crime was not paying attention, so there’s that. Before I forget though, after I saw that show, and seeing all the great art off of it, that sort of inspired me to pick up my set of crayons again and draw. So I got my belongings out from the locker and remembered all the characters I saw from it. Humans like Ash were a bit too complicated for me to draw, but Pokemon like Pikachu had simpler shapes, so I sat with my back rested by a tree trunk and ended up drawing that guy, starting with the head and drawing the rest of the body from there.

    Again, it wasn't very good, as the first result literally looked like a lump of garbage with eyes, but that didn't stop me, as I drew him again and again, until I got a feel for how to draw him correctly. Since my paws weren't really used to making such tiny movements, the lines all looked wobbly, but at least it resembled something like a living thing. I didn't stop there though, and kept doodling, until I saw Aipom coming into view, poking his head in upside down.

    "Whatcha doing?'

    I gasped and clutched the sketchpad for protection. A part of my memory flashed back to the time Dad took my drawings away from me, and in response, I hid the paper behind my back.

    "N-nothing."

    "That's not nothing! I saw what you were drawing!"

    "Oh," I said, shrinking up into a little ball, "It sucks, doesn't it?"

    "Are you kidding?" he said, and leapt off the tree, "That's awesome! I could never do something like that!"

    I sat up a bit, breathing a sigh of relief, and flipped back to the page I last drew on.

    "Thanks. I wish I could draw better, though."

    "Still looks awesome! I don't know why you'd hide it!"

    "Well," I said, "Papa didn't like me drawing. He was kind of a jerk about it."

    "I thought you said your family was alright."

    "Papa is alright. He just had a lot to deal with. His trainer left him, so he's still kinda upset about that."

    "Kind of like my Dad was." He joined me by the tree trunk and sat down, watching me guide the yellow marker to draw another piece de resistance, if you could call it that. "He'd never shut up about it, either, talking about how he won this battle or fought this big Pokemon, and I was always like, just cram it, old man."

    "Wish I said that to my own old man.”

    "Yeah. Keep doing your thing, though. I like watching you."

    So we just hung out together, with Aipom acting as my second pair of eyes while I drew more faces. He wouldn't say much, but I forgot my current troubles with the lessons at that time and felt at ease with him around. It was nice to have someone by your side who wouldn't judge you, although I yearned for someone to correct my mistakes and help improve my craft. At one point, that Cubone passed us by and glanced at our work, before scoffing under his breath.

    "What a waste of time."

    I stopped to regard him as he sat back down in his spot. Aipom must've noticed me since he looked at me with concern, and he leaned in closer to whisper into my ear.

    "He's always judging me and everyone else. Forget about that guy."

    Despite that, I kept on going, throwing all sense of time to the wind until the bells chimed again and had our daily meal together. On the way, I locked my sketchbook away again, still wanting it to be my secret, but at least I had someone else to share it with.

    I got another call some time after, and honestly, there wasn’t much to say. It was just the usual conversation we had last time, since they were still happy to hear me and Dad was still off somewhere else, but oh well. Then Trunks came into the picture:

    “Hello, sis,” he said, “Have you been keeping with your studies recently?”

    I gulped. I didn't want to have to tell him I wasn't paying attention in class, so I thought of telling him otherwise. "Yeah, I've been learning a lot!"

    "Such as?"

    "Well, things like adding other things together, and stuff?"

    "Really?" I could sense his scepticism already. "Two plus five equals what?"

    "Wait, what?"

    "Answer me, two plus five equals?"

    My mind drew a blank. Trust me, this sounds really stupid now, but from my view, numbers were much more foreign to me than letters. I tried to come up with answers in my head, but no matter what, I couldn't put two and two together, or two and five in this case. When it became clear the answer wasn't going to pop up anytime soon, I gave up and sighed.

    "Sorry bro," I said, lowering my voice, "I wanna learn about it, but I can't wrap my head around it. It's not like letters, you know."

    He took a deep breath, making the receiver crackle a bit. "That's fine. There's still time to learn, plus things are a bit trickier with us than it is with humans. I'm really sorry if I come across as annoyed, still, I just want you to do well."

    I knew he was a bit disappointed from his tone, but I gulped down my guilt and said: "I know. You still look out for me, bro, even when you're so far away, so thanks."

    "You're welcome. Just keep attacking it and eventually you'll understand. Shall I pass you back to Mom?”

    “Yeah!”

    So that was that. I didn’t want to disappoint him the next time, so after the call ended, I wanted to attend the classes with a new found focus. I would learn all I could and make his efforts pay off in a month.

    (You mentioned you started battling around the same time you started learning basic literacy and numeracy skills. What did those entail?)

    Well, it was alright at first, at least when we were still learning. We were in the battle arena for the first time, separate from the gym, so when I entered, I stood by the door, mouth agape at the sheer size of it. How practical it all was, I couldn't say. But from surface to ceiling, it was spacious, and you could see an indented dome in the roof where the windows were, with light radiating through the glass and giving the room a heavenly ambience.

    It did make me wonder where the hell we actually were, since the building must've stuck out like a sore thumb outside with something this huge, and for something apparently so secret. There were separate arenas in the room, set up like stages for each of us to practice in, and the layouts in some of them were different, not unlike the battle coliseums I'd see in that show. Far off, there was a long strip of glass with several people sitting behind them, watching us intently. I didn't think much of it at the time, so I just entered with everybody else when urged to and went along with it.

    They didn't stress the technical stuff at first and let us duke it out in pairs. The guys that grew up in the cities or around humans more or less did their own thing, and it showed. We were taught to watch their battles at first, since they had more experience, so that gave us an idea of what to look out for. So me, the rest of our wild group and the others watched as pairs in the domestic group took turns battling one on one. There wasn't much to say about it, but in time, they sorted our groups into two rows, grouped into those from the wild and those born in GeL, and were told to pick our partner from the opposite side, though of course, one person was still missing from our group, so they got a Budew from the domestic group to stand in for us instead. Aipom frowned.

    "Aw, I was hopin' to go with you again," he said.

    "Can't be helped, I guess."

    Pachirisu was my first choice as he was the only other Pokemon from the other group I kind of knew, and he seemed like a cool guy. He chatted with the moist-eyed Shinx, nuzzling close to him, and from what I can imagine, whispering reassuring compliments into his ear. Unfortunately, when he turned to us, he made the first move and went to Ponyta as a partner. I didn't really know what to do after that, so I thought I'd pick the luck of the draw. I watched everybody else pick their own partners. Aipom ended up going with Buneary, the girl he'd often tease in class, so that was off the table. By the end of it, there was only me and the blue guy left. I approached him, and before I could raise my paw up to say hi, he flinched and buried his head in his paws, whimpering. Again, that gave my a familiar vibe to my sulking brother. Part of me wanted to tell him to shut up, but another part of me wanted to hug him.

    Since this wasn't going anywhere anytime soon, plus Reggie was giving me stern looks, I slowly went to embrace him. He stopped shaking underneath my paw, so that gave me reason to start petting him, and eventually, he bloomed from his shrivelled up ball of fur and looked at me, wide-eyed, tears streaming down his face. When my aura honed in on his feelings, they radiated, to my surprise, nothing. Just emptiness inside. It wasn't deeply sorrowful or afraid, or anything. All it gave off was the loneliest feeling I'd ever experienced so far. How to describe it? It was like he never had anyone in the world before to care for him up until that moment, and as it turned out, it wouldn't be too far off. I found myself lost in his bewildered gaze.

    "Don't mean to rush you," Reggie said," But we'll be sparring soon, got me?"

    I let go and gestured Shinx to join me in an open spot in the wide room. We stood a few paces apart, ready to start, but he sat down, looking his deflated self. I approached him again, trying to reassure him with more ear scritches.

    "Are you alright?" I said, "Don't you wanna fight?"

    No response. He looked at me sadly, and I sighed, trying my best to hide my frustration with a friendly smile.

    "Look, I'm not really used to this that much either. My family didn't make me do that much fighting, unless you count playfights, but you know, you and me are kinda the same here. I dunno what you're going through exactly, but I feel outta place looking at all these Pokemon and their fiery attacks and fancy spells and whatnot. I kinda suck at channelling my aura to attack at the moment. But I socked that Aipom in the jaw, so that balances out, I guess."

    Still no response. He looked less miserable, so I guessed that was a step in the right direction. I stepped back and knelt down to him, gently caressing his face.

    "You don't have to say much, that's fine. To be honest, I'm getting a little sick of that Abra yammering on all the time, so I could take a break from that. But we're still supposed to spar, so we should get started soon. Can you do that for me?"

    Shinx looked to the other Pokemon in the right side of the room duking it out. They were all doing their own thing while we were still fence-sitting. I shook him gently, not wanting to urge him too suddenly to join the fight.

    "Well?"

    Finally, he looked back and nodded. I dried his eyes and assumed a battle stance not too far away. He followed suit and stood on all fours. At last, Shinx looked like the fierce lion cub he was born to be. Still, my pity extended into the fight, and I pointed at him.

    "You know, I haven't actually seen what you can do yet. You can make the first move."

    Shinx took a deep breath and started charging up something, making the light dance around his head like a halo. I braced myself for what was to come. I mean, it didn't seem like he had much up his sleeve, so I was sure whatever he'd throw at me would be nothing more than a light flick on the head. Big mistake. Instead, he shot a jolt of electricity at my belly, sending me backward. I lay on the floor in a trance, jerking my body up and down like I was possessed. It stopped after a few seconds, but as I rose to my knees, the air around me felt a little different, somehow. I put a paw on my chest, catching my breath.

    "W-wow," I said, "That'll teach me to underestimate you, huh?"

    There were few laughs from behind me. Pachirisu and Aipom stopped their match while they pointed at something above. When I looked up, I saw nothing there, yet.

    "Come on guys," I said, "What's so funny about this?"

    They said nothing and just snickered like idiots. As a last resort, I felt around for anything that might've landed on my head, when in fact, it wasn't on my head, but came from my head instead. My fur stuck out in the air like a mane of puffed up hair. Looking back, I wish I could've seen that. I'd give away my hat collection just to see that ridiculous ball of fluff.

    (You have a hat collection?)

    Yeah. Sometimes, I put it on just for fun, or when I want to surprise someone.

    (Surprise someone? Like a disguise?)

    Whatever, we're getting off track. So after that initial shock, har har, we had a bit of a song and dance, which involved me playfully slapping him across the face, since punching didn't seem in good taste, and he'd shoot more bolts of electricity my way, which I'd try to dodge. Most attempts weren't successful, so I ended up flopping around like a Magikarp half the time, but at least it was harmless. The one time I managed to dodge must've been completely by accident. Either that or he missed and hit another poor sod in the background, but I dunno. But after a while, we were both tuckered out, so we sat out together to take a breather. All things considered, Shinx warmed up quickly to me, nuzzling close to me while I watched the rest battle. He was still as silent as death, but we didn't really need to speak. It was just nice to feel I was there for him after that much heartache on his end.

    That moment of peace was all cut short when we heard screams on one of the stages. We saw from before Cubone had paired up with the Munchlax, but we paid little attention to them until that moment when Cubone started beating him over and over with Bone Rush. It wasn't the sort of friendly match we were told to follow, I mean, the guy really went at it. He pinned the Munchlax to the floor and just whacked him on the head, over and over, while he begged him to stop, all with this look in his eyes. Even though were we quite far away, they were vengeful and gave the same impression my Dad gave off sometimes, except more blank rather than angry. There were little splotches of blood on the floor around Munchlax's head. We hugged each other for comfort, feeling Shinx’s static course through me.

    Thankfully, Reggie stepped in before there could be any more carnage and separated the two by picking up Cubone by his tail. It didn't stop there since he flailed in his grasp, but couldn't get free.

    "Hey, chill out, mon! This isn't the wild, you don't need to go that far!"

    Cubone continued on, whose screeches echoed in the spacious room. Reggie closed his eyes and emitted a purple energy which pulsed through his paw. Eventually, Cubone stopped struggling altogether and gradually fell asleep. The Medicham lifted him up and cradled him in his arms, looking at him with a sorrowful expression until he attended to Munchlax, whose bloodied head had several nasty egg-sized bumps.

    "Just lay there, mon. It's all chill now. You'll be healed up soon, yeah?"

    Munchlax nodded before slumping to the floor, officially knocked out cold.

    So, that went well. After that, Reggie called the lesson quits and me and Shinx went our separate ways for that day, returning to our own rooms. It was me and Aipom in the garden again, where we sat by the pond with Buizel in there and Ponyta resting by the bank to collect our thoughts. Of course, Cubone was absent.

    "What the heck was that?" Aipom asked, "I thought there was something wrong with him, but not like that!"

    "Yeah," Buizel said, "He was so scary!"

    "Such a shame," Ponyta said, "I would have liked to see that happen."

    We all shot her questioning looks.

    "You wanted to see that?" Aipom said, "Why, did you want a fight to break out between them?"

    "Oh, sorry," she said, frowning, "I meant, I wish I saw what was wrong between them before the fight."

    "Ah, okay, that's slightly less creepy. I mean, I knew that guy was gonna tick at some point."

    I hummed to myself, considering the fight again, and felt a chill wash over me when I realised something.

    "He's gonna come back here, right?" I said, "What happens then?"

    "I dunno," Aipom said, "We'll avoid him as usual, but this time, we'll make sure to stay out of trouble. And if decides to start a fight, we'll all look out for each other, won't we?"

    A collective nod.

    "If he comes anywhere near me," Buizel said, splashing the water with a punch, "I'll make him eat my bubbles!"

    "No offense," Aipom said, "But I don't think those little pockets of air will help very much."

    "Then I'll punch him in the face!"

    "That's kinda better."

    So that was the highlight of that day, if you could call a Munchlax getting the stuffing beaten out of him a highlight. A few days later, Cubone returned to his spot in the garden and just kept to himself. We all made sure to stay as far away from him as possible in that room, which I kind of regret now, but you'll find out why later. So anyway, weeks passed without much excitement, and were either spent with me sparring with Shinx, who still never uttered any words, or keeping my head raised to pay attention to the numerous classes on addition and subtraction when we weren’t learning the human tongue. Then for the third time, I got the family call.

    "Hello, dearie," Mom said. I heard shuddering and sniffling on the other end, as well as the sound of crackling, bringing both cold and warmth to the call.

    “Hey, mama. Is, um, everything fine?”

    “Oh, yeah, of course! It’s gotten chilly all of a sudden. Your brothers are just huddled around the campfire. It is late autumn, so it is to be expected. We’ll be fine.”

    We did spend one winter on the island before, and although that was cold, it hadn’t snowed, so the food supply wasn’t exactly short.

    "Anyway,” she said, “How have you been?"

    "Well, things kinda went crazy. There's this Cubone in our group who isn't friendly at all, so we've been dealing with him, but other than that, things are kinda the same."

    "Unfriendly in what way?"

    "He almost killed a Munchlax not too long ago."

    "Well then, that's not good, is it? I hope you're alright after that!"

    "Yeah, I'm fine. I'm helping a Shinx with his battles. He always seems lonely in class and never talks, so I wanna be there for him whenever I can."

    "Good to hear, dearie." I sensed her motherly smile through the receiver, if that makes sense. She passed me onto my younger brothers, who were always excited to say hello over the phone, even as Stumpy apparently had a cold, and then to Trunks.

    "Hello sis," he said, "I hope you've kept up with your studies this time around."

    “Well, yeah!” I said. “I ain’t gonna fall asleep in class again after last time!”

    “Sounds good. Then, what’s four plus nine?”

    “Thirteen!”

    “Very good. Have you learned multiplication and division yet?”

    “Eh, no. I don’t think we’ve gotten that far. Sorry, bro.”

    “No, no, that’s great. I wouldn’t expect them to go to that yet, from what I know about the school system. I’m glad the last call influenced you in some way.”

    I smiled. It was really gratifying to hear I’ve improved, coming from his words. We talked idly some more, but then, we stopped as two people started shouting far away on the other end, voices I recognised as Mom and Dad. It was hard to make out what they were ranting about, but it was the first time in a while I heard his voice, which was slightly reassuring, however angry he sounded. Eventually, their argument devolved into simple yelling, and the sound bumped and crackled with a series of random noises, which I took as a sign it was being passed around. I could hear Dad's voice no longer.

    "Dearie," Mom said, voice lowered, "Lia- I mean, Dad wants to talk to you. Is that alright?"

    My heart stopped. After all that song and dance about keeping me away, he finally wanted to talk. Although a sense of dread nestled in my gut, I wanted to catch up with him, and hoped for the best he wouldn't confront me about leaving the island.

    "Yeah. Please."

    "Alright," she took another deep breath. "Well, I'll hand you back to Azzy for now. I'll probably speak to you soon, and as usual, I love you. Bye."

    "I love you too." The phone went dead on the other end. I understood there would be another call soon after, so I sat and waited, breathing in and out, in and out.

    I guess words can't easily describe the awkwardness of that situation. If I can compare it to a human situation right now, it would probably be like going out with a day trip with your separated dad to go for drinks, only for him to dump you at the corner of the bar while he was off talking to his group of friends at a far-off table, and whatnot. I think I saw that in a movie, but don't remember which one, but anyway. It's the sort of awkwardness that only comes from long silences and broken families. Waiting in that garden while everyone stayed silent as well only added to it, a presence I tried to ignore.

    To my mercy and my surprise, the phone rang again and I held it to my ear once more.

    "Um, hello," he said. His voice was hoarse; deeper than before.

    "Hi." I waited for his turn, but there was a long pause in between then. It would've been the perfect moment for Cricketune to start chirping.

    "How are things?"

    "Uh, oh yeah, they're good."

    Another pause. And then, aside from more deep breaths on the other end, long, drawn out silence. He'd never been good at talking, even on the island, so this wasn't unexpected, but having lived through the situation before it, it was getting nigh unbearable. That gave me time to really sit and digest what he did, and how he acted in general, and how emotionally constipated he was most of the time when he wasn't angry. If only aura could've reached through phone signals, that would've helped. Maybe there's an app for that now. But in any case, these thoughts, along with the growing silence was the perfect catalyst to brew up a storm within me. I clutched the phone and took a deep breath.

    "Dad. You wanted to talk to me, so just spit it out. I'm sick of you shutting me out all the time. You always did, even when I was back home. You wouldn't listen, you'd rarely make sure we were ever okay, you almost never spent time with any of us, it was just Mama doing it all. Why? What did I do to deserve any of it, or bro, or anyone else? Just say something, please!"

    Rage boiled inside me, to the point I had to restrain myself from pitching the phone across the room by pacing through the grass. They brought out emotions I never knew, and never would've expressed in front of Dad, but when he became a disembodied voice, that gave me the push to let everything out I'd crammed in up until that point. So I held my breath and waited, and waited until he sighed on the other end.

    "I apologise, pup. I never should have treated you the way I did. Being alone has given me time to think, and looking back, there were many things I wish I could have done in a different way."

    "Like what? Say it in front of me."

    "Like, tearing up your drawings. I knew those were important to you. I just let my emotions get in the way. And for not listening to you. I should not have made you feel powerless to talk."

    "And bro, as well. He'd talk about you a lot, you know, he wanted to be like you, and you treated him pretty much the same way."

    "I know I did. I just wanted him to be strong, for all of you, like I never..." His voice trailed off. "Anyway, that's not the point."

    "What is the point then, huh?"

    "Point is, he, well." He lowered his voice, "I am paying the price for that. He doesn't look at me like I used to. Those eyes are always looking somewhere else whenever he comes with the rest to speak to me. That means I failed."

    Another silence. I breathed in and out, calmer now I managed to squeeze that info out of him, but some things still felt unresolved between us. The fact I still left the island was the big Donphan in the room. And then another question arose from within.

    “You know we have the power of aura and all?” I said. “You could’ve listened to what we were thinking, right? That’s what happens when you grow up to be a Lucario, isn’t it? Then why didn’t you listen to us?”

    Another sigh. “I shut them out. They were there, but I pushed them away. That’s why I spent so long being so distant from all of you. I’m especially sorry for that. I could’ve been there for you.”

    I took another deep breath. That brought some more closure, at least.

    "So," he said, sounding brighter, "How is it over there? Are you safe? Are you keeping strong?"

    "Yeah, of course. They're looking after me a lot. I'm training my body all the time, so I'm always on the go, and I've made a few friends already. I hope that's what you wanted to hear."

    "Yes it is. I'm glad you made the decision to go there. I still wouldn't have allowed it, but it's a bit too late to complain now. You seem in good hands."

    "Thank you. Is that all?" To be honest, as nice as it was talking to him and airing out our dirty coats, I wanted to get off the phone as soon as possible, so I could sit and decide whether or not to forgive him. Not just for me, but for the rest of my family as well. I waited again for his reply.

    "Really, I just wanted to say," he said, exhaling, "I love you."

    Another uncomfortable break followed. Then, he started sobbing.

    "I never got to say that while you were still here."

    More weeps followed, and the phone went dead quiet. That final silence lasted for a long time, even after I handed the phone back. I sat there, carrying his confessions and his sudden emotional outburst with me all throughout the rest of the day, and into the night, where I dreamed of him pushing me up in the air on that tire swing.

    That ended up being the last time I ever talked to him.
     
    Last edited: Feb 20, 2019
    Chibi Pika likes this.
  3. Chibi Pika

    Chibi Pika Stay positive

    Heyy, we've get our first meeting between Curio and Shine! And Shine is just... the most precious cinnamon roll who deserves all the snuggles. I'm actually really impressed at how well Curio handled talking to him in a way that didn't scare him, and even got him to spar with her! Looking forward to learning more about what his past was like and what led to him being like that.

    I'm glad you decided to add the phone calls with Curio's family (or at least, I think you'd been planning those all along, but I know you made some changes to how they've played out, which I approve of.) Plus we've got a bit of forshadowing for how that's going to go down. I gotta admit, I really didn't expect Liam to apologize like that. I mean, of course it's not as though that absolves him of everything he's done, but it was still a powerful moment, seeing him so vulnerable like that.

    But then... that was a hell of a line to end it on. Wow.

    ~Chibi~
     
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  4. Namohysip

    Namohysip Dragon Enthusiast

    I don’t… have anything major to criticize about this chapter. The three segments of it are just… really good. So this is going to be a chapter of me explaining why so I can see more of that in the future. This is less “here’s what you can fix” and a lot more of “hey so can I see more of this.”

    First thing – Part 1, with you basically elaborating on the “Pokémon anime” and how it applies to this story. While meta, and while I thought it was a joke at first, the way you interpreted it and then used that meta concept for your own narrative was brilliant. I was smiling the whole way, really liked how you handled this and what it really meant.

    Part 2 with the fight in Cubone and Munchlax was interesting, but a bit overshadowed by everything else that happened in this chapter. Not to say it was bad. I just have more to say here. I thought you handled Shine and Curio’s first prolonged interaction very well, too—a real empty, lonely Shinx. To be honest, I wish we could see a bit of Shine’s perspective during this, because I feel like he’d be having a reaction at around this point, maybe even some self-reflection about it. Doubt he remembers that.

    Part 3 was basically what made this chapter one of your strongest chapters yet, or perhaps just the strongest so far. Emotionally charged and yet sorta pent up at the same time. Honestly it would have been stronger if Curio didn’t quite have her outburst, maybe she was more subdued, but I don’t really mind.

    And then you did the thing that I told you about a number of chapters back. Your issue with having weak chapter endings because you drone on and stuff? Not here, not this time! That was probably your most packed, yet concise ending line to a chapter yet. Solid. Very, very solid chapter. Basically this response is just my short essay on why I’m adding it to my favorites list on FFN.
     
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  5. NebulaDreams

    NebulaDreams A Dense Irritating Miniature Beast of Burden

    Thanks for reviewing, @Chibi Pika and @Namohysip! I had been planning the phone calls beforehand, so they were still an important part of the story, but it's true that the events play out differently from the Nanowrimo draft.

    I'm really glad you enjoyed that part. I was a bit worried about how it would be received, because breaking the fourth wall (or at least leaning on it) can be a bit tricky for a story to pull off. Making the show an in-universe thing and as an actual plot point means I can add to the worldbuilding while still having that sort of meta-humour. It seemed logical that the Pokemon world would have a series of its own, as well as tie into our own world, which becomes important later. I know Pika also liked it from the Discord chats we had.

    Yeah, that was something I overlooked going back into it. Since Shine has already told part of the story to Tony (although to what extent, we don't really know that much about), I thought his reaction wasn't necessary, but he would still probably think back on it. I plan to address this a little in the next chapter.

    Perhaps I could've built up more of her emotions for the phone call, but I didn't want to let it drag on for too long. Still, it would've been interesting to pursue. But anyway, I'm glad you both considered this a powerful moment. It doesn't excuse him of acting like a cold-hearted jackass before, but I still wanted that moment where parts of his conscience start slipping through the stoic cracks.

    Thanks. It's really satisfying to hear I've captured your heart (or at least, your favourites list on FFN). And it's also satisfying to hear I've improved my ending hooks. If it wasn't for you, I probably wouldn't have realised how important it was. I just hope I can continue topping that for later chapters.
     
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  6. NebulaDreams

    NebulaDreams A Dense Irritating Miniature Beast of Burden

    Chapter 21. How Shine Got His Groove

    “Excuse me.” Tony pressed the record button and looked between the two. Curio crossed her arms, while Shine stared longingly at her, with a certain heaviness in his heart. He remembered what she was talking about.

    Um, why’d you stop? We’re still rolling, aren’t we?”

    “I’m terribly sorry. You just brought it up suddenly, so I felt like we needed to take a moment.” Tony sighed. “If you don’t mind me asking, what happened to your father?”

    Hold on a sec.” Curio leaned back in her seat and yawned, stretching her legs. “I’ll get there soon enough. It’s nothing that sinister, if that’s what you’re thinking.”

    “Then why does Shine--”

    It’s fine, Tony.” Shine shook his head and sat upright. “Let her get on with it. I see where this is going.”

    “Alright, if you wish.” Tony pressed the REC button again.

    ---

    (Before that happened, Shine told me a little bit about how he got his name. He said it came from you, but he doesn’t remember the exact details.)

    Oh, yeah. We had quite a bit of fun coming up with that.

    (But this naming part interests me a lot, as you've only named the other subjects by their species, except for Basil. I remember you saying a while back that for most Pokemon, names have little importance, so the fact that the staff would make you name yourselves stands out to me. How did that come to be?)

    Huh. Yeah, I guess I could talk about that. At that point, we'd grown fully used to hearing human speech. There were still certain long words we couldn't understand, but since we'd mastered listening to them, it wasn't long before we started actually speaking it for real, which was the focus of the lessons for that period, for the most part. At the end of our class, Azzy presented us with this:

    "Alright, students. I'm pleased to announce you'll have homework for the rest of this month!"

    While I didn't fully understand the concept of homework, from the groaning reactions of those in the domestic group, it didn’t seem to be very pleasant.

    "Aw, really teach?" Sneasel said. "Are you gonna make us read a book or somethin'? Do you wanna bore us to death?"

    "No, no," Azzy said, "Nothing like that. In fact, you can do this in your own time. I want you all to think of names for yourselves. You can ask a friend of yours to come up with suggestions, or do it completely on your own terms, just as long as it's something you're comfortable using for the rest of your time here. Take my name for example."

    He spelled out his own name on the chalkboard and broke it down into each of the sounds used in that word.

    "Azzy is a nickname my own partner, Mackenzie, used to call me. I like it because it's informal and easy-going, so it stuck with me, and now, it's my official name."

    "Excuse me, professor," Abra said, "But I see little point in this exercise. Names are human constructs, so why should we stick with those conventions?"

    "Good question. Yes, names are largely something humans came up with in their own language system. We take a lot of things we see at face value, rather than what it might mean. I remember the time when I was a little ball of blue energy, and..."

    Yeah, you get the picture. He prattled on about his old self, and I almost let my snout hit the floor, until he finally got back to the point of the topic.

    "But anyway, my name gives me a sense of belonging. It lets me know my life has meaning, and that I'm my own Pokemon rather than a faceless Azumarill among many others. It's around this time many of you are starting to develop your own interests, and so, naming yourselves will help you carve out your own paths from here. When you've decided on a name, please let me know and I'll write it down. It would be better to come up with a unique name, so choose wisely. Any questions?"

    I looked to Basil, the Lickitung, who seemed settled on a name long before he came here, so I raised my paw.

    "Yes, miss Riolu?"

    "Yeah," I said, "Why is Basil the only one with a name – why not anybody else?"

    "Hmm, another good question. In that case, Basil, would you like to tell everybody how your name came to be?"

    "Sure thing," he said, and went to the front of the class. He took the chalk in his own paw and wrote his name down with ease.

    "It's kind of a funny story, this one," he said with a wide grin that showed even through his large tongue. "Back when I was with my trainer, she was into cooking. Even when we rested at a campsite on one of our journeys, she'd haul out all her cooking equipment and ingredients and whatnot, and of course, it wasn't before long I got into it as well. She'd walk it through with me, so I trained my paws to hold all sorts of utensils and learnt all the cooking processes, from boiling to baking. At first, my food would come out really bland, yet her meals tasted wonderful, so I wondered how she did it.

    Of course, I couldn't ask, which is partly why I came here to learn how to speak, but I could guess. Anyway, while I cooked some pasta, I dug into her bag of goodies while her back was turned and pulled out a bottle of basil leaves to spice things up a bit. While basil can be used for pasta, spices are only good in moderation. So, while it still boiled, I ended up emptying the whole bottle in there, thinking it would taste as good as her cooking. Not a good idea.

    When me and her tried it together, we immediately spat it back out. She said I used enough basil to turn the whole thing green. That stuck with her, and since she hadn't decided on a name before, she started calling me Basil, and it stuck with me. So that's my story."

    "Heh," Sneasel snickered, "So because you did something dumb, your trainer ended up calling you something dumb as well. Shithead would've been a better name."

    There were a few laughs behind us coming from the human students that watched. That was the first time we heard a swear. He said it in the human tongue as well, as it’s untranslatable in our own language, and even though we didn't know how harsh it was, it sounded cutting, like he just ripped Basil a new hole just by saying that one word. Azzy frowned and walked up to snatch the chalk off of Basil's paw, probably to fire another one of his trusty chalk bullets, when he pulled it away. Even when faced off with someone like Sneasel, the Lickitung kept that friendly smile.

    "Yeah, that was pretty stupid, looking back at it. I truly was a shithead then, as you call it. Even if my trainer called me that instead of Basil, I still would’ve worn it honourably.”

    Sneasel crossed his arms, looking rather deflated. I don't think he got the reaction he wanted.

    “Never mind the fact that titling Pokemon after obscenities is illegal under Sinnohan naming laws,” Azzy said, “but congratulations, Sneasel. You’ve just earned an extra hour with me after class.”

    “Aww. Wait, so that means you can’t name a Metapod Pe--”

    “Two hours.”

    I mean, don’t act like you’d never consider it if you had a Metapod. They can use harden, after all.

    (Um, I believe we’re getting off track.)

    Alright, I’ll shut up. So after that, I thought about everything I'd experienced so far, and started coming up with a list of names in my head. Dawn was the first choice, since I liked the character from that show, but I didn't really feel like Dawn, or a rising sun in an early morning. I thought back to my art, and thought about naming myself Crayon, then realised what a goddamned stupid name that was and went back to square one. So for a while, I brainstormed and got nowhere, even when I asked my group about what name they thought suited me.

    "Beats me," Aipom said, "What about Rio? That sounds catchy."

    "Nah," I said, "Kind of seems a bit easy. don't you think? It's like if I named Ponyta Pony."

    "I don't mind being called Pony," she said, "If you want to call me that."

    "Nah, trust me," Aipom said, "You're better off with something a bit less tacky."

    "Ooh, ooh!" Buizel said, rising out of the water, "Whaddya think I should be?"

    "Spitz, maybe?" Aipom said. "That's how you attack isn't it?"

    "Aw, come on. That name sucks."

    "Well I dunno, I’m tryin’ my best here!"

    "Hey," I said, "I'm sure we'll come up with them somehow. We've got time, right?"

    That was something they could all agree on. So days must have passed until we got our first session where we interacted with the human students. They were older than a lot of trainers that started out, I'd guess, but still quite young, maybe approaching their 20s. Though I didn't know how involved they were at the time, they all studied something similar at many different universities.

    The things they choose to study there are kinda funny, now I think about it. Pokemon Studies, as I'd later find out, is an actual course that you have to pay millions for, just like Film Studies or Politics or whatever other thing that probably pays very little. Then again, look at me. It ain't my place to judge what these humans do, I guess.

    Anyway, our first session was held in a lounge room which had scratching posts and couches and chairs and whatnot, where everybody had a seat interacting with their chosen Pokemon. The goal was to find out more about each other and just chew the fat in general. We were taught to respond with yes or no questions, since we weren't quite at speaking level yet, so I just listened for the most part as I was buddied up with this punk-dude named Lexy with black hair that stuck up like a spike. Despite his edgy appearance, he looked nice, and that smile probably could've melted even a Glalie's heart. The fact his aura radiated a positive vibe in general meant I warmed up to him rather quickly. He introduced himself, and I repeated it, breaking it down into its basic sounds.

    "Yeah, that's right!" he said. Lexy brought a hand to my face before pulling it away, looking shiftily from side to side. "Sorry, I probably should've asked first. I try to be mindful of everyone else’s personal space. So, do you mind being petted?"

    I remembered how nice it felt when the first human came to our island, so I nodded, and let him scratch my chin, panting as he worked his magic. Nowadays, I don't really let my guard down so easily with strangers. Kids, maybe. They almost always have that sense of positivity for Pokemon, but with most people, I have to know them well enough to let them get to that level. If you can take the hint, Tony, this means you’re almost at that level, but not quite. No offense.

    (That’s fine.)

    But yeah, he went through a series of random topics; just the usual icebreaking stuff like whether or not I liked it there, or whether or not I felt smarter for being there. I shook my head to that second one, but he just gave me a reassuring tap on the chin.

    "I'm sure your time will come soon. From what I've been told, they have a lot of great things planned for you."

    I just hummed to myself, when I noticed the bag beside him and pawed out for it. His eyes dilated as he noticed what I was doing, and he clutched his belongings for safety.

    "Woah there. You're nice and all, but I've got a lot of stuff there I need to keep safe, like all my notes and papers. Plus, it's not really polite to go through someone else's things."

    That was kind of a blow for me. I wanted to look like I knew what I was doing in front of those humans, so to have one to show resistance like that sort of killed the mood. His reaction was really sudden and jarring as well, which made my heart skip a beat. He must've seen the sorry look on my face, since he frowned and rifled through his bag.

    "Sorry, I know you're just curious, that's all. I’ll try to find something you might like."

    I know what you're thinking, and no, that's not where my name comes from. Not yet, anyway. So he looked through his bag for a while, which must've been bottomless, since it took a while, until he scrunched up his face at something inside of it.

    "What the hell's this doing in there?"

    He pulled it out to reveal some sort of contraption, which had many moving parts with gears at the bottom in a box-shaped container. He held it close to me and let me inspect it. That piece of junk was interesting to look at, as it had all sorts of pieces like pins, scraps of metal and porcelain doll parts cobbled together, and in all sorts of colours. What purpose it had though, I couldn't say. I looked at the bottom and saw it had a button, so I pressed it and it moved, which made my heart race, so I dropped it by accident. Luckily, it didn't smash, and just kept moving on its own, vibrating against the floor like some sort of motor went haywire in that mess of parts. Lexy knelt down to pick it up and narrowed his eyes at the strange machine.

    "You know, I think I actually paid money for this. Must've been the worst purchase I made. I went looking in an antique shop for some old electric guitars, and found this thing, which I thought would look good on my desk while I worked, but never did anything with it. I don't even know what to call it. It's just some sort of curio, I suppose."

    I also know what you’re thinking there, and no, it’s not quite that either. It didn’t click immediately at first, but I liked the way it sounded, so I recited it several times in front of him. It just rolled off the tongue very easily.

    “Yeah, that’s right, it’s a curio, or a doodad, or a thingamajig. Anything you’d like to call it. Honestly, I don’t think I have any use for it.” He tapped the top of the doll head. “If you want, you can have it. I know it ain’t much, but maybe you could show it to your friends.”

    Than’-kyu!” I said, slowly. I dunno. K sounds in between words and phrases usually tripped me up, but it was still a learning process.

    After the session was over, I took it back to the garden, turning the object over in my paws over and over again. I couldn’t quite put my finger on it, but there was something about the way it was constructed that entranced me, even though it was practically useless. Just the fact that someone can take these random objects and make something different from them. But I’d rather not waffle on about it too much. There’s still the matter of how we came up with our names.

    One day at the end of a particular week, we pretty much had the whole day to ourselves, so I lazed about in the garden, as usual, but couldn't drum up the energy to do much else. Everybody else slept behind a tree save for Cubone, who stared off into space as usual, and so, there wasn't much point in bothering any of them. Let sleeping mons lie, after all. But my paws itched to explore more of the facility, since I figured I'd only seen a fraction of how big it truly was, and so I paced around for a bit by the door, deciding what I wanted to do. I wanted to see Shine and show him this gifted curio.

    The thing was, at least at the beginning, we were told not to mingle with the other subjects for whatever reason. I guess it made sense in the long run, as I'd find out later the purpose of it was to make sure each subject interacted with other Pokemon of their own background for a while before being allowed to socialise with them, which made it easier for the bigwigs to do research on. Of course, most of it flew over my head at the time, but the 'keep to your own pack' part I understood. But we were allowed to mingle with the other Pokemon anyway in class, for better or for worse, so I didn't see much point in enforcing that. I had a rough idea of where each of their rooms were, so I ventured through the corridors, doodad in hand, and tried my best to look natural in front of the wandering staff.

    Oh yeah, the corridors. They weren't easy to navigate at all. They were pretty to look at as they were decorated with all sorts of patterns and decals, most likely painted to add colour to the grey background walls, but there were a lot of them with not enough landmarks to make each area distinct. After wandering around for what felt like forever, I stumbled across a corridor leading to a door that had paintings of skyscrapers and gym buildings adorning the walls, like the ones I'd see on that show. I checked both sides to make sure none of the staff had snooped behind me, and the two opposite hallways were both empty. With that, I padded gingerly to the domestic room.

    Gingerly. Now that's a nice word if I've ever heard one. Shame you don't really hear that many people say it in a real conversation.

    I nudged the door open and had to adjust my eyes to the many weird things inside that room. There were many contraptions and possessions inside it that I didn't know the purpose of at the time, but can remember clearly now. Little sandbags for the subjects to train with, a small TV with some sort of purple cube connected to it, a dusty bookshelf filled with old tomes, and other gizmos and gadgets aplenty. I wanted to find out what purpose they all had, so it didn't take me long to sneak into the room, only for Abra to teleport in front of me and stop me in my tracks.

    "Oh, it is you," he said. "What in all blazes are you doing here?"

    "Well, I--"

    "Do not answer that." He raised his paw and pulled me back with an invisible force. "You are not allowed here, animal. Go back to urinating all over your trees and rocks."

    "Wait a moment! I didn't wanna disturb you guys, I just wanted to--"

    Before I could finish my sentence, he pushed me outside and slammed the door on my muzzle. My body could move itself again, and with that freedom, I found myself reluctantly walking out of the corridor, trying to keep myself from going back to kick the door down. That Abra had always made little slights whenever we were in class together, mostly to do with my lack of book smarts, but that time, he looked down at me as if I wasn't even a Pokemon, but like some bottom feeder. But he was a Pokemon too, so that just left me confused and enraged.

    So, as if I haven't stressed this enough, Abra was a massive dick. At least at the beginning, but whatever.

    Since I was so far away from my base already, I thought I might as well've gone the extra mile and visit the last group. Now, it was a weird case with them, as I'd soon find out. I went looking for a corridor with its walls painted like the other two bases, but with the similar looking hallways, it was hard to find one that stood out. The more I trekked through each passage, the more I noticed my presence, as I started getting weird looks from the mediators walking by. My pacing slowed, making sure to look as natural as natural can be, then, to my surprise and disappointment, I saw Azzy peeking out of one of the passages further down. Since I didn't want to give up the search just yet, I disappeared into the nearest corridor I could find, regardless of where I was actually headed.

    The walls were painted with all sorts of coloured checkerboards, with a door at the end. It wasn't like the other two bases in design, so I really didn't know what to expect from this. But I advanced through there anyway, and when I opened the door, there was that same sort of gaudiness in the room. The floor was covered in cushions and stuffed toys, some of which the Pokemon, particularly Buneary, played with in one corner. The Munchlax was there too, with his chunky body lazing on a pile of cushions. And there was Shinx, lying down underneath the lamplight with a few books at his side, and a fluffy white tail poking out underneath the bed of pillows.

    He looked so peaceful, so content in that moment, whilst every other time I saw him, he either cried or looked afraid in some other way. There was that glow of his as well, like a field around him that sparkled, as light shined directly above him from the lamp. It was like a halo, or something like that. I stood there, not bothering anyone until Buneary came up to me, clutching some sort of doll.

    "Hi hi!" she said, ears twitching, "Are you a friend?"

    "Yeah, I guess." She didn't seem to mind me being there, unlike that yellow asshat.

    "Yay! Yay! Meet my other friend!" She presented the doll to me, which looked just like the spitting image of a Buneary, except it was white and wore all sorts of tiny clothes, all pastel coloured and the like. It wasn't really to my taste. "She's called Milly! I'm Milly! We're both Milly!"

    I chuckled, really at a loss for what to say. "Well, good for you, I guess. For now, I’m, er, just Riolu."

    "Just Riolu! Just Riolu! Love that name!"

    “No, that’s not what I--”

    “Shall we play, Just Riolu?”

    That took me off guard. I glanced over to where she was before, which had all sorts of dolls seated around a table looking thing. I wasn't exactly in the mood for a pretend tea party or whatever. In fact, I found the whole thing kinda creepy. Milly seemed like she was in her own world, far removed from the presence of others beside the room, but from what I read from her aura, she was perfectly harmless. Just an innocent Pokemon, protected from all the world's horrors, raised in a place perfect for those of her kind.

    I just shrugged and went along with whatever she planned for me, so she squealed with glee and dragged me over to that table so she could introduce me to her other friends. There were inanimate objects, just like her own named doll, and yet they all had personalities of their own, each having their own favourite sort of sweets, their own favourite colour, and blah, blah, blah. It was all playing pretend, which I just accepted as I wanted to please her. It was fine back then, but now, I get a diabetic shock just thinking about it. Why does anybody, particularly girls, enjoy playing dress up with toys?

    (Why do you enjoy making figurines?)

    Eh, point taken.

    So an hour of menial cuteness passed, and thankfully, the Munchlax woke up and took over for me, as he enjoyed playing with the Buneary much more than I did. I eventually rose from my cushioned seat but not before saying goodbye to Milly. She was already occupied with Munchlax, stuck in her own bubble once more. By that time, Shinx had woken up, so I went up to him and scritched behind his ears again.

    "So," I said, "This seems kinda nice. The Pokemon here look friendly, at least."

    No response. No matter what I said, the aura of emptiness still emanated from him. Something about this base was off somehow, but I didn't think to press about it yet, so I changed the subject.

    "They've asked us to come up with names. I haven’t really decided on mine, but I have a few ideas. What about you?"

    No response, still. I kept trying to break the ice.

    "So nobody's come to help, yet, or are you still undecided?"

    No response, yet again. I sighed, trying to hold back my growing impatience. He was a quiet guy, sure. That was fine. But at a certain point, after many weeks of hanging around with him and class, yet not knowing anything about him at all, I started to get desperate. He was one tough nut to crack.

    You want to weigh in on the situation there, Shine? You’ve been quiet whenever I mentioned you.

    (I’m good, thanks.)

    Alright, but remember, this is your story as much as it is mine. Well anyway, I was about to sit next to him when the Pachirisu woke up, emerged out of the cushions and scurried in front of him, knitting his imaginary eyebrows.

    “Whaddya want with him?” he screeched. His sudden entry made me jump a little, but I kept my ground.

    “I just wanna talk with him, that’s all.”

    “Yeah, well, he doesn’t talk, really. I haven’t heard one peep from him since we both hatched. Listen, he’s not like you and me. All he wants is to be left alone, and in your case, it’s best to leave it that way.”

    “Now wait a sec!” I pointed at the tiny rodent. “That’s not fair. I’ve been trying to help him all this time, and now, you’re telling me to just walk away? Why don’t you let him decide for himself?”

    Now that set him off. Sparks started flying from his cheeks. “Because he can’t think for himself! He needs someone that knows him well to get him through the day, and you’re just getting in the way!”

    “That’s not true!” Shinx shouted, leaving us two in shock. “S-s-she’s been a massive help to me!”

    Pachirisu was especially wide-eyed. Surprise. Happiness. Guilt. All those emotions flooded through him. And with Shinx, sadness, yet determination; a far cry from the emptiness in his heart before. The electric rodent skittered over to him, dragging his tail on the ground.

    “Sorry about that. I just don’t know what your deal is, since you’re so hush-hush.”

    Shinx sighed and glanced at the wall to his left. “S-s-sorry. I don’t know how to express myself with words.” He looked back to me with that same quiet anxiety. “You can s-s-sit with me. It’s not much. I’m s-sorry.”

    I took a deep breath and joined him and Pachirisu on the cushioned floor. It felt nice and plush with a different texture to the soft grass, though it was still man-made. Shinx took an interest in the object I held in my paw. “Yeah, it’s a bit weird, isn’t it? This human gave it to me, since he mentioned something about not needing it anymore. I dunno what it does, but I kinda like the look of it. He said it was a curio, or somethin’.”

    He cocked his head at that phrase. I laid the object on the floor and glanced at his stack of books by his side, the top of which had a flashy cover with a robed Pokemon, similar looking to the Gardevoir, featured in the centre.

    “Whatcha readin’?”

    “Oh, nothing much. It’s kind of s-s-silly.”

    “Silly?” Pachirisu intervened. “That’s awesome. You’ve got a Gallade taking down an evil empire and stuff, how is that silly?!”

    “Don’t know. It’s n-n-nerdy. That’s what the others say.”

    “Never mind the others,” Curio said, patting his head, “You can read, that’s great! I don’t really get it, but Mama used to read to me and I loved it!”

    Shinx frowned. That might’ve struck a nerve, or something. I pulled my paw away from him, trying to gauge his aura. There was that same sense of emptiness again.

    “It must be nice, to have a family,” he said in a low tone. “I wonder what that’s like. I heard you get calls from them, is that right?”

    “Yeah.” I crossed my arms, thinking back to the last conversation I had. “Sometimes, it’s hard. There’s a lot of baggage, y’know. But I love them all the same. I feel so lucky, being able to talk to them from so far away.” I sighed, putting two and two together, and tried to think of the right way to approach Shinx’s dilemma. “Sorry. Did something happen to them?”

    Shinx didn’t answer, but Pachirisu poked his head between us and stroked the other’s head.

    “We were born here, y’know. The guys asked for eggs from the great outdoors and raised us here.”

    “Oh.” I tried to wrap my head around the concept, until I came to a realization and sympathetically leaned into both of them. The static didn’t bother me. “So, none of you have parents?”

    “It ain’t that. As far as we know, they’re doin’ fine. Either out in the wild or at breedin’ centres, apparently. That’s what we were told. We got fair treatment here, so it’s fine, I guess. No skin off my nose.”

    “Then why does Shinx feel so empty? I get this, you know, aching from inside him and it’s been bothering me all this time!” My heart started aching as well. I couldn’t fathom not having parents or having anyone of your blood to imprint on at birth.

    “I dunno. My tutor fills the gap just fine. He’s the same type as us, a Manectric. He’s pretty cool, I guess.”

    “B-b-but, he’s--” Shinx broke away from us and started tearing up again. “He doesn’t treat me the s-same way as you! He respects you! I’m just, just weak!”

    There it was again; that same self hatred I saw in Aipom. That emptiness was replaced with a potent sadness once more. I got to my knees and bashed my fists on the floor. “Enough! I’ve had it with everyone callin’ themselves weak! I don’t care about that; you’re just fine as you are!”

    Shinx sniffled and retreated to the corner. That sadness still didn’t subside.

    “I d-don’t get it, w-w-why do you care about me s-so much? I can’t hold my own in battle, I can’t get along with others like everyone else can, it’s just, just...”

    Before he could say any more, I crawled over and cuddled him.

    “C’mon, don’t be silly. Everyone came here from different places; that’s what Basil said. You know him?”

    “Y-yes. He seems nice.”

    “Well, listen to what he says. Don’t beat yourself up for it, just do you, you know?”

    “O-okay.” I pulled away from him, and he wiped his face. “S-s-sorry.”

    “Now stop saying that,” I said, frowning, “Nothin’ to be sorry about.”

    “Sorry.”

    I laughed and flicked his head playfully. “Aw c’mon, now you’re diggin’ yourself a deeper hole, Shine.”

    “Shine?” He cocked his head. “I-I’m a Shinx.”

    I paused. I didn’t mean to say that; it just sort of came out. Then I remembered Azzy’s homework. “You still lookin’ for a name?”

    He nodded.

    “Well, why not choose Shine? I saw you shinin’ earlier. And, and--” I rubbed my head excitedly. “And that means ‘do well’ as well, that’s what teach said! So how about it?”

    His mouth made an O shape. He turned around, repeating the word to himself over and over, before he looked back and smiled, for the first time ever.

    “Yes. I’d love that. And how about you? Aren’t you decided, yet?”

    I shrugged. To my surprise, he jolted out of his place and sorted through the stack of books until he found one marked ‘DICTIONARY’. He flicked through the pages until he put a paw on one word in the ‘C’ category: ‘curio.’

    “It’s supposed to mean a rare, unusual, and intriguing object, like what you brought as well, and is rooted from the word curiosity as well, which means a strong desire to learn something.” He eyed me up and down and smiled wide, revealing a cute set of fangs. “That really suits you!”

    I recited it as well, thinking back to the session with Lexy, and then it finally clicked with me. I’d call myself Curio from then on. I howled that name in the room, and Shine joined in as well, until we fell on our backs, laughing. We got a few weird looks from the others that watched, but we didn’t care. We were just happy to name ourselves at last.

    To this day, even after all I went through to get here, I still wear that name like a badge of honour. Throughout my life, it ended up gaining more meaning as I went through each day and survived each hardship, from describing the sort of stuff I'd go on to create to the many questions of the world I wanted answers to, I never lost my sense of curiosity. Most Pokemon like me would be too jaded to care anymore, but I held onto that feeling of wanderlust and never let go.

    I hope you do as well, Shine. Thanks a lot for naming me. It might seem silly now, but seriously, props to you, mon, it meant a lot to me.

    (You’re welcome. And I’m glad you made me remember how I earned my name. Thank you.)

    Of course, someone had to do a Rain Dance on our parade. Azzy let himself into the room, probably startled by the commotion, and gave me a stern look. When I realised he was probably looking all over for me, I stood up and went to leave. Before I went through the door, I saw Shine maintained that goofy smile, and I was pleased to have finally turned that frown upside down. Pachirisu waved back at us.

    “I owe you one, mon,” he said, “Thanks for cheering this sourpuss up.”

    “Wait!” Shine exclaimed. “I’m not a s-sourpuss!”

    At last, I made my way down the hallway with that blue rabbit.

    "Am I in trouble?" I said.

    "Well, normally you would be, but I'll let it slide for now. Don't go sticking your snout into the other bases from now on, alright?"

    "Yeah, but I don't understand. Why aren't we allowed to go there when we talk to them anyway in our lessons?"

    "I shouldn't say, but it won't be forever. At some point, you'll be able to talk with them freely, but for now, just stay in your own base."

    I opened my mouth to say something else, but couldn't find the right words for it, so I gave up. Again, they wanted pure data from the groups in the first year or so, and although I didn't know that part, I reckoned they probably were doing it for something important, so I didn't press further.

    “That Shinx named me, you know. I’m settling on Curio. How do you think that sounds?”

    He smiled. “I couldn’t think of anything better suited for a mon of your kind.”

    So there you have Shine's origin story, now. Not that he didn't already tell you bits and pieces, I imagine, but still, that's something I like to think back on every now and then.

    (I see. So, do you feel like talking about your father now?)

    Well, it ties into the rest of my family as well, so I sort of hoped I wouldn't get into that, but oh well. We're already this far, plus I kind of left you with cold feet with that before, so I guess I owe it now to tell you. But let me set the scene.

    So I continued my lessons with a new-found energy after being named. Me and Shine hung out a lot more in class, and we’d often participate together whenever we were assigned to a task. We weren’t allowed to go to each other’s base, but I heard stories from him about how the Pachirisu took an interest in Milly’s doll clothes, and how the Bidoof would often start fights with the Munchlax over which cushion they decided to keep. I think the Starly took interest in Shine’s books as well, which I was pleased with.

    So a month passed since the last conversation, and I waited for the call in the garden, picking out blades of grass as I waited. It just felt right, after so much that happened, since I’d be able to tell my family I named myself as well as the fact I made a new friend. But the usual mediator that brought the cell phone never came. At that point, I started to feel pent up, but kept waiting. There was still time. By the point it reached dinner though, my anticipation curdled into anxiety. That couldn’t have been normal.

    As the bell outside chimed and the others started lining up to exit the garden, someone swooped in. It was Lucy, the Gardevoir, floating into the area with a pained look on her face. The frills in her dress swayed behind her as she rushed over to me. Her aura was that of dread and fear. My blood turned to ice. This couldn’t have been good news.

    “Curio,” Lucy said, “I apologize, but please, come with me quickly. I need to tell you something important.”
     
    Last edited: Sep 30, 2019
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  7. Namohysip

    Namohysip Dragon Enthusiast

    You actually did it.

    __

    This was a nice breather chapter for the most part. I didn't really find myself getting too involved with it compared to last chapter, but I don't think that's necessarily a bad thing. If you were at that level the whole time, I'd honestly start getting a bit fatigued. Instead, this breather helped me take a step back to look at the daily life of this arc again.

    The highlight, of course, is what Curio had been building up toward for the duration of the chapter--very good theme, by the way, basically encapsulating something that had been foreshadowed to this whole time. Names! How Curio and Shine got it. The way Shine got his felt just a bit convenient, but hey, that's how things happen sometimes. Curio's was nice, and I thought it was a bit funny that Curio was aware of her own fake outs.

    Shine finally speaking up, and actually smiling and befriending Curio, had a very well choreographed payoff. It was sudden, and then there was a time to react, and then it sorta slid down into a cozy familiarity. It was good. But that being said, well... we don't really have that breather for long. I think you did well to (intentionally or otherwise) address a concern I usually have with these breather chapters: Will the next one also be a breather?

    No. It will not.
     
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  8. canisaries

    canisaries sometimes i get a deadache, yeah

    Alright! Here to look at the first chapter like I've been meaning to do for a while, and also taking the Review Game request, as you agreed to accept a review on this rather than Black Paint Part 5, which I'd already reviewed. Let's get straight to it.

    As you remember, I mentioned some time ago that I tried out the old version's first chapter, but lost steam before I got very far. The reason, if I remember right, was lack of engagement. This start is definitely stronger and leaves much more of an impression as well as raises questions for the reader to be invested in.

    You may have heard this before, but I think it's considered correct to separate addressing words/names from the rest of the sentence with a comma. To avoid, you know, technically saying someone should come on Shine. ( ͡° ͜ʖ ͡°)

    I see that the mon-talking mechanics and italics for human speech are shared with BP, which naturally makes sense as the universe (and presumably timeline) is shared. I still consider the italicization a great way to communicate clearly yet non-intrusively to the reader which language is being spoken. Humans do drop the italics, yes, but that's actually even better, as it shows how it's natural for them but needs great effort from mon.

    Always a sucker for worldbuilding details such as these.

    Five years of depression, damn. That really sucks.

    Um, I do hope it has some kind of security system, as a Luxray-sized hole in the door seems like a great charm for human burgles. Not to mention random wild mon wandering in and raiding the fridge.

    *that meme image of the woman with complex calculations around her head*

    species profiling smh

    By the way, this seems to be the only instance where Pokemon is spelled with a é in the chapter. I figured it may have been because newspapers had stricter spelling rules, but later on in the article featuring Curio, Pokemon is spelled without an accent. So... assuming this one is accidental?

    "Yeah, let me just use my giant lion mittens to edit on the computer for 50 hours! Jackass."

    way more goat crap though

    I don't know if "paw" can be used to also mean an individual toe of a paw, but my quick Google search tells me no, so pointing this out in case it's a mistake.

    You think that's close enough for Goodra Anam to sue? Nah, we both know he wouldn't be the suing type anyway.

    Oh, so this garden was inside or behind the library. Assumed the first time around it was in the front and got confused here for a bit.

    This is a pretty long sentence and given its structure, hard to read. It may be better to split this in two and give the commas another look. Maybe the entire thing, in a general fashion, as I'm still not perfectly sure what the motion described was exactly like.

    Stray quote at the end of this sentence.


    dude weed lmao
    but no I actually have to ask for clarification on what "tasting the burn of the seaweed" means. I'm no stranger to creative verb usages, but this got me scratching my head somewhat. Is the seaweed smelly and he's breathing the stench in? Does something in the seaweed sting his paws as he touches them? Does he go up to the seaweed and lick it like an exotic toad for a trip? Help me out.

    A few more sentences with rather many clauses. Could do with some breaking up to make the flow easier to follow. One option is also to separate one of the clauses with dashes - like this - to help the reader segment what they're reading.

    ---

    Overall, this is a solid opening chapter. We've got a clear goal in front of us, but also clear obstacles in the way. It's a bit early to say much about the characters yet, other than that they're likable. Except for Bauble - no, not the likable thing, she does have her charm - she has a strong persona, which you showcase nicely with colorful dialogue and mannerisms. Her low attention span, affinity for shinies and lack of understanding/interest for more complicated concepts (employment, politics, even other people's motives and feelings to an extent) fit well for not only a bird, but a general creature below human intelligence, too. Crows are considered to be among the smartest animals, but they're still animals in the end.

    I liked the dragon farm scene especially as it showed more of how this world works and how mon interact with and contribute to it. And yes, also because it had dragons, sue me.

    I'll be continuing with this fic, but don't expect it to happen extremely fast as I've got a lot of things on my plate and would like to pace myself in general. For now, see ya, whether it's on here or the 'cord.
     
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  9. Chibi Pika

    Chibi Pika Stay positive

    A chapter all about names! It's great that you took the time to explore this concept and what it means to everyone. The story about Basil and his trainer was cute. I also quite like the fact that since wild Pokemon don't typically have names, they really had to think hard about what 'fits' them and what sums themselves up best. Speaking from experience, picking a new name is hard! There's a lot of pressure to come up with something that will fit well forever! (And I didn't even take meaning into account, I was just trying to pick something that sounded good.)

    Also, I know Curio already said it but hooooly hellll that Abra is a dick. Jeez, I dunno if he missed the memo that he's a Pokemon too and that fact that he's (probably) never lived in the wild doesn't make him hot sh*t.

    Of course, the standout moment was Shine finally speaking! And Curio continuing to stand up for him! I really like how they both played a part in each others' names. It kind of means that their identities are tied together, if that makes sense.

    Accidentally slipped into 3rd person here.

    Another great ending line, btw. Sounds like what's coming next is gonna be something that shakes up the status quo for Curio, hard. After all, thus far the support of her family has played a big role in motivating her.

    ~Chibi~
     
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  10. NebulaDreams

    NebulaDreams A Dense Irritating Miniature Beast of Burden

    Thanks, @Namohysip, @canisaries and @Chibi Pika! I'll get to your comments one by one, and I also have a quick announcement to make about the upcoming Chapter 22 as well.

    It's funny how that worked out. I think it's because the last big breather chapter came after a pretty slow arc, so it felt less earned. But as I get more feedback, I'm getting a better feel for how I should pace these breather chapters with more emotionally heavy/action based ones.

    Yup. That's only just the start. We'll get to see more of his dickishness as the story goes on, while also developing as a character of his own as he has more screen-time in the next two acts of this arc. Also, if you've ever read the r/iamverysmart posts, that should give you a good idea of what to expect of his character later.

    That was a feature of the old version, where I used to go back and add accents to every Pokemon word. I thought it was impractical to do now, so I didn't include them in the new version for the most part, but its use should be a bit more consistent.

    I wonder if civil cases carry over through different universes...

    That's a consistent flaw with my writing style, and something I hope to iron out if I ever go back to editing these chapters again. I've been taking it into account more with the new chapters, but the sentences can get pretty sprawling in the earlier parts.

    I should've just said 'the saltiness of the seaweed wafting in the air', or something. Though I do wonder what would happen if he did lick it. It'd probably make for a much different first chapter.

    Flaws aside, I'm really glad you liked this first chapter after the old version. If I were to go back to these chapters, I would take your comments into account and edit out the weird verb choices and overly long sentences. Take your time with this fic, but I'll be awaiting your comments on the subsequent chapters. ;)

    --

    And now for the announcement. I have some bad news, but Chapter 22 will be delayed by another week. Sorry about this. I know it's already a week late, but a lot of stuff has popped up recently, so I thought I'd explain myself.

    Firstly, since this new chapter 22 changes a lot of events from the old draft, I've had to basically rewrite most of it. Secondly, I lost 2,000 worth of progress thanks to a software screw-up. And now, I've had to juggle an assortment of extra-curricular assignments, such as working on the design of a student-released anthology book, as well as working on an article and finishing an application for a student newspaper. On top of that, I'll be going on a trip on Saturday and won't be able to bring my laptop or iPad, so I probably won't be able to upload anything for a week. So in total, that will be at least three weeks of a delay.

    Again, I'm sorry about this, since I've been uploading so consistently these past few months. Once I get back, I'm determined to update the fic as soon as possible. I might get some time to write on the airplane, since I've got two eight-hour flights to sit through.
     
  11. NebulaDreams

    NebulaDreams A Dense Irritating Miniature Beast of Burden

    At long last, here's chapter 22 after 3 weeks delay! Terribly sorry about that. A lot of stuff sort of happened at once, and this trip also got in the way as well, but I'm back, and I'll try to update the rest of the backlog as regularly as possible from here on out.

    Chapter 22. Pieces of Home

    So there I sat in Lucy’s office. It was a pretty nice place, all things considered, with plush furniture, walls decorated with cute Pokemon paintings, and a clothing rail specifically for her long line of pastel-coloured dresses. It even smelled of roses for whatever reason. I would’ve appreciated it more if my mind wasn’t racing with all sorts of ideas. It must’ve had something to do with my family. But what happened? Was everything alright? What if…

    I slapped myself across the face. I didn’t want to acknowledge that yet. Lucy was in the corner, tending to something while the kettle boiled. My heart pounded with dread, until she came around with two mugs of cocoa.

    “Here,” she said, handing it over. “I know it isn’t much, but I’m sure you’ll like it.”

    “Um, thanks,” I said, looking at my own reflection in the brown beverage. “But, um, why?”

    “It’s better this way.” She sat back down. “It’ll help calm your nerves.”

    I gulped. She couldn’t have had good news in store for me, but one sniff of that cocoa made me forget, at least for the moment, and I sipped it. It was warm and rich, like the one I had on the boat. My heart steadied, although there was still that lingering whiff of uneasiness in the air.

    “Is it nice?”

    I nodded.

    “Good,” she smiled, taking a sip. “Well, perhaps it’s as good as store brand powder gets, but never mind.”

    I took another sip. She frowned.

    “I apologise for all of this. I know it’s awfully abrupt, but we have some news for you about your family.”

    Another sip. There was a moment of silence, and then, she continued.

    “Azzy and his partner went to visit them as usual this month. It takes about a day to get there, since it’s quite far away, but they usually get there without much trouble. When they went out there though, they said a storm froze everything over.”

    Yet another sip. At that point, I could see where it was going. My family said it was getting colder, so that didn’t really do much to help my anxiety. Still, I kept listening.

    “They couldn’t get there on boat, and so, settled for taking a flying-type to the island. They arrived, but when they got there, the island was frozen over too. Your family wasn’t there.”

    I dropped the mug, spilling its contents all over the table.

    “W-what?”

    “Yes, unfortunately. Azzy called me this afternoon to say.”

    It felt like my chest would burst. I didn’t want to say it, but at the same time, I couldn’t delay that thought any longer.

    “A-are they, are they dead?”

    “No.” Lucy sighed. “Bless your fluffy little tail, no. Azzy found a box on the island with a note handwritten by your mother. He said it was hard to read, but apparently, they had left the island before the storm with a Gyrados. They left the box just for you to keep. He’s coming back here as soon as possible to get it back to you.”

    I let out what would’ve been a sigh of relief if the news had actually been relieving at all. I mean, what do you say to that? Oh yeah, this bad thing might not’ve been as terrible as you thought it would be, but it still feels like a punch to the solar plexus. I tried to process what Lucy said, but I just couldn’t.

    I leapt out of the chair of my own accord, and headed for the door, or at least tried. My legs wobbled all the way, and my head swam. I needed some fresh air as soon as possible.

    “Curio,” Lucy called, hovering over to me. “Please.” She extended her arms towards me. “I know it’s a lot to take in. I’m so sorry to be the one to break the news to you. But if it will ease your pain, you can come here for a cuddle. Or some more cocoa. Anything until Azzy gets back.”

    I stayed stock still. It probably would’ve been what I needed, sure, but I couldn’t accept her offer. Not yet.

    “I want to be alone.”

    She brought her hands back, touching the tip of her chest. “I understand. But please. Make sure you eat. It is dinnertime, after all.”

    My stomach was rumbling, so she had a point there. I nodded and opened the door to those hallways. After that rosy stink, the lukewarm air of the rest of the facility was comforting, as well as the hot aromas coming in from the cafeteria. I tried to walk, but ended up hugging the wall instead. Thankfully, Lucy saw me struggling, and lowered herself to my level to support me as I walked. That was sort of nice, although I couldn’t really thank her since my mind was still a mess.

    Once we reached the dinner hall, she sat me down on my base’s table, sandwiched between Aipom, who was now known as Hans, and Buizel, who was now known as Floatsam. I was too zonked out to notice what she asked them, but when she left, Hans got out of his seat and came back to give me my dinner tray. He put his paw on my shoulder.

    “You alright?” he said.

    I just nodded in reply.

    “You sure? Cuz you look like you’ve seen a ghost. You know, they say if you sneak in the halls after curfew…”

    He kept talking, but I didn’t pay attention, and focused on the plate. It was topped with all sorts of delicious foods. I slowly took mouthful after mouthful, although my stomach got fuller with each bite. Even though the plate wasn’t exactly loaded, it still felt like a mountain of food I had to climb up on. Try as I might to finish it, I couldn’t even make it halfway through. I just stared off into space after the tenth or so bite.

    “Aren’t you gonna eat that?” Hans said. “Because if not, then I’ll have it.”

    I shook my head, letting him grab the tray.

    “Ooh, ooh!” Floatsam said, pawing at the dish. “Dibs on the Magikarp!”

    Thankfully, the two made sure the food didn’t go to waste. Yet I continued to sit and stare at absolutely nothing. I wanted to get up and leave, or just do anything else to get my mind flowing again, but I was stuck. For a while, that stillness stayed, until something rushed past my legs, jolting me awake. Shine popped out from underneath the table. At that point, the other two were staring at him.

    “U-um,” he said, shrivelling up in the presence of the two. “U-um, I’m, uh, S-S-Shine from the G-GeL base.”

    “Yeah, we know,” Hans said, not batting an eye.

    “Oh. S-s-orry to bother you. B-but…” He gulped down his fear before continuing to speak. “Curio. What’s wrong?”

    I glanced to the side. “N-nothing.” I know that seemed cold, but bear with me, I was doing everything in my power to push those negative thoughts away.

    “B-but, I saw you from over there. You s-seemed so unhappy.”

    “No, I’m fine.”

    “That’s not true.” His tone was a lot more serious that time. “Something happened, didn’t it?”

    That got my attention. We exchanged glances, and then, SNAP. The air in the room felt a lot heavier than before. I leapt out of the seat, paws shaking with anger.

    “You’re wrong!” I shouted. “Everything’s normal!”

    “But, but please, Curio! Tell me what’s going on!”

    “Nothing! Just leave me alone!”

    At that point, almost everyone stared at us, clearly startled by that sudden outburst. I took one last look at Shine, who whimpered and sniffled, before I stormed off all the way back to the base. It was somewhat calming at first, with all its greens and its blues, but something was off. The sun still shone. The trees still bloomed. Yet it was winter outside.

    It doesn’t take a genius to figure out that room was all fake. How they had the money to do that, I will never know, but that’s not the point. When I saw that and thought back to what Lucy said, then, SNAP again. I screamed, scrambled for the nearest rock I could find and tossed it at the sky in a wide arc. Crack. Part of the sky fizzled, then turned black. A huge blanket of grey covered a nearby patch of grass. All it took was one broken panel for the illusion to completely fall apart.

    I punched the ground next, pounding a hole into the topsoil. Then I punched at the trees. I punched anywhere I could, just to get it out of my system. I needed that rush, that little something to make me feel alive, but no matter what I did, I couldn't quell that feeling inside me. After enough time, I collapsed to the floor, panting heavily. My paws twitched, stinging from the hits I doled out. It wasn't enough. It felt like my soul was trying to claw its way out of my body.

    Then another thought popped into my head: I needed to draw.

    Once I regained my strength, I drew out the sketching kit from the locker and took it back. It was still deathly quiet at the base. I sat by the tree and stared at the blank page, crayon in paw. I knew I needed to draw something, but what exactly, I didn't know. All this power at my paws, and yet I couldn't do jack with it. I'd only filled out half the sketchbook since I got there. Wouldn't bro have wanted me to do as much as I could with it?

    That was it. A flash flood of memories washed in from the island. Those got the creative juices flowing. I started drawing a picture of myself on the island, with the trees and the sea all around me. I looked happy, or at least, as happy as you could make a deformed Riolu with two dots and a line for a face. Then I drew my family, side by side together. Even Dad. I drew him playing with the whole family as well, and pushing us on the tire swing, and many other things as well.

    In my drawings, I could pretty much do whatever the hell I wanted. If I could've created a world where Dad wasn't so emotionally constipated, I would've. I drew me and Trunks training together. I drew myself comforting Stumpy after a fall. I drew myself listening to one of Mom's stories. These were all on separate pages, by the way.

    Again, these drawings weren't very good, but I was putting them out as fast as my memories rushed back in. It was just nice to draw my own worlds, smudge the crayons on the page and try a whole bunch of different textures I hadn't achieved before.

    Then, I reached the last page. It only seemed fitting to draw the entire island on its side, as if you were looking at it from the view of a boat. The blues and greens were all encompassing. I did as much as I could on that page, making sure to fill all of it out before I stopped. When I finished it, I closed the sketchbook and clutched it in my arms. I'd finished Mom's sketchbook at last. But that was one of the only pieces I had left of the island aside from the crayons. No photos of them. No chance to say goodbye. Nothing. It all hit me at once.

    I burst into tears. Like Stumpy, I wailed in the air, not caring about who would've listened, if anyone was in the base.

    It finally sunk in that my family was gone. They weren't dead or anything, and thank his white ass they weren’t, otherwise I don't think I would've coped at all. It still felt like death in a way, since I'd probably never see them again. They were the reason I came to GeL, for better or for worse, and they drove me to learn more than most Pokemon would, and grow into a smart, strong Lucario. And they were gone. What would be the point after that?

    I didn't even notice that Shine came in until he bunched up close to me. I didn't even know it was him; I just cried into his coat, tears, snot and all. Tiny shocks pricked at my face, but I didn't care. Having someone to comfort me was enough.

    "Curio," Shine said, "I'm sorry."

    I pulled away from him, catching a glimpse of his sullen face. I tried to talk, but all that came out was basically babble. Someone else's tail wrapped around my back.

    "Yo, Curio," Hans said, "It's alright. You got us."

    I sniffled, and rubbed my face clean. Another set of paws wrapped around my body. Of all Pokemon, it was the Cubone, or M, as he called himself. The way he looked at me was something I never saw in him before. His eyes radiated a deep, longing sadness. Why exactly: I had no clue at the time. It was clear, though, he must've gone through some of that familial pain himself. Finally, I pulled all of them in for a hug, forming whatever words I could.

    "Thank... you..."

    By that time, everyone had come into the base: not just the domestic and GeLborn subjects, but some of the mediators as well. Lucy was back as well, and watched from far away, waiting for the appropriate time to speak.

    Shine, Hans and M pulled away, giving me some space to gather myself. Once I dried my eyes and sorted out that inner muddle, I sat up. It was there that Lucy hovered to the centre of the base, and outstretched her leafy green arms.

    "Everyone," she said, "As I explained, Curio is going through a major hardship in her life. If you have anything you want to say to comfort her, choose your words carefully, and make sure it comes from the right place. I won't keep you here if you don't have anything to add, but please, it would be a massive help to her, at least until Azzy comes back from the island. I'll be here to

    mediate the situation in case anything gets out of hand. Now, decide what you want to do."

    A few of the other mediators and subjects left, including that Abra, who had named himself Abraxas. It was for the best. If I saw his face for any longer, I probably would've flipped. The rest stayed, and the Ponyta, who had named herself Fernes, was the first to come forward.

    "I'm sorry," she said, tilting her head. "I can imagine your pain."

    "But," I said, standing up, "Didn't you say you lost your Mama?"

    "Well, yes. I got separated. That means I lost them. That doesn’t mean they died."

    I opened my mouth to speak, but made no comment. Hans took the words out of my mouth and cackled, rolling on his back. Lucy was about to interrupt, staring daggers at him, when he pulled himself together and honked Fernes’ snout.

    "Oh mon," he said, "That woulda been nice to know before! We didn't say nothin' all this time cause we thought you'd--"

    "Yes, I'm sorry!" she snapped. "Sometimes, I don't say what I mean."

    "You can say that again."

    "Let me catch a break for once, honestly." She looked back to me and bowed. "But I know how it feels to be separated from the ones you love. It feels like there's a hole in your heart. Do you feel the same way?"

    I touched the tip of my chest and nodded. Well, it ached because of all the time I spent crying, but same difference. I saw Fernes in a new light after that, then thought back to whenever I saw her focused during class. She would always pay attention and read with a lot of patience, while I'd usually get bored within five minutes and do something else. Making my family proud was one motivating thought, but they were gone. Then how would I manage?

    "Ferny," I said, then covered my mouth. "Sorry. Mind if I call you Ferny?"

    She nodded.

    "Yeah, so, all this time, you had the feelin' your family was still alive, but never had to see them again. Yet you came here and you own each lesson. How'd you do it?"

    She hummed to herself, then snorted as smoke came out her nose. "I just knew I had a future here. It was either that or starve on my own, so you have my tutor to thank for that. Wherever they are, I'd like to think they're proud of me. They don't have to be there for me to think that way."

    "That's..." I sniffled again. "That's awesome."

    Basil came forward next, and gently licked my face. While it was still kinda gross, I laughed, so he knew what he was doing.

    "If you're ever feeling homesick, come to me. There's plenty there you'd like. And just pretend Abraxas isn't in the room."

    I smiled and nodded.

    "Seriously, screw that guy." The Sneasel, who had named himself PZ, flashed his sharp teeth. "But yeah, give the GameCube a shot whenever you're around. I can't wait to thrash your ass at Melee."

    I didn't know what he meant by that, but I took it on the chin. Shine and the Pachirisu, who had called himself Patches, bunched up closer and hugged me. It made my fur stick on its end, but it was worth it.

    "Please," Shine said, "If you ever want to talk, I'm here for you."

    "Don't forget me!" Patches said.

    "And us!" Hans and Floatsam said together. They were right. I had friends there in GeL already. If they were willing to show that much support, then it would help fill the void left behind by my family's departure. Not completely, but it would make it a bit less painful. I smiled through my tears and pulled all of them in for a hug.

    "Y-you guys. Thanks a bunch..."

    The rest sort of dispersed from there. and everyone went back to their own bases, except for Shine. The rest huddled around me as I showed them some of the drawings I did, just to pass the time. They all seemed interested. Even M, who called it a waste of time before. He changed his tune pretty quickly, it seemed. Lucy still watched from afar. That was, until Azzy rushed in with a box in his paws. He laid it at the centre, which left me confused until he embraced me and started crying. Now that was a first.

    "Curio!" he said. "I-I'm so sorry! If I'd-- If I had-- Oh, dammit, it's all my fault! If I'd come sooner, I'd, I'd--"

    "That's enough." Lucy pulled him away from me, grabbing him by his shoulders. "It was out of your control, Azzy, now please, collect yourself."

    "But, but, we could've--"

    "I said, enough. We'll talk about this later. Tell her what you found, then go back to the staff room. Then, we'll discuss what needs to be done. Is that clear?"

    His tears formed a puddle at his feet. Now damn, water types certainly could cry. He gathered himself after enough time, and turned around, bowing as if nothing happened.

    "Ms. Riolu," he said, "Right there is a box with your family's possessions inside them. They wanted to give this to you before they left, so everything that was theirs is now yours. Do what you want with it. If you'll excuse me."

    Lucy nodded, and she led him out of the room. I sat still for a moment. I didn't exactly know how to take that. At least then, I had more pieces of home to keep with me at GeL. But what, exactly? From what I remembered of that paw-patterned box, it just had lots of trinkets and shinies in it.

    The others stared curiously at the box, until I did the honour of lifting the lid. To my surprise, there was more in it than I remembered.

    The first things that caught my eye, of course, were two books. The first, I immediately recognised from the black cover, and the writing, now legible to me, named Sinnohan Myths and Fables. The other was much more scrappy looking with bits of paper sticking out of them.

    I opened that one first, which revealed lots of different photos of Mom and Trunks together embedded into the sheets, which finally gave me a glimpse of their travels together. They stood in front of tall buildings, they posed with different humans who were delighted to take pictures with them, as well as shots of all the different dishes they tried. Now, it's kind of funny to think of how they posed for some of those shots, either by rushing into the frame or asking a human to take it for them, somehow, but whatever.

    One final picture caught me eye in particular, which was of a forest with the view of the city in the horizon, where Mom, Trunks, and even Dad were there, smiling together. He actually seemed happy in that photo, for once, which was something I rarely saw. That was how I liked to imagine him, without all the shouting and dirty laundry he left piled up and unaired.

    The other new thing in the box was a picture frame of the family together on the island, even Liam, smiling as well, with a note on the back which signed 'AZZY'. I guess he must've had it waiting for me as a present.

    Finally, there was this black box with buttons on it, or otherwise, a cassette player, and a pair of earphones attached, with another note that said 'LISTEN', with the play symbol drawn on it. I wanna say something about how hard it is to listen to something through headphones with ears like mine, but I shouldn't get too distracted. This is important after all. I pressed play, and I heard the voice of Mama coming through those tiny speakers.

    "Hello, Riolu dearie," Mom said. I heard the shuffling of several things at the back. "I don't know how to express this, but if you're listening to this, it means we've headed out of the island. I'm so, terribly sorry about this. I know it's sudden. Really sudden. If there was a better option, I would've waited it out until Azzy came back here, but it's getting desperately cold over here, so we'd rather not take any chances.

    "I know you met Cecrops back when you were still here, but he warns us that the ocean's going to be frozen over, so we're going with him before he and his school of Magikarp migrate to warmer waters. We'll probably be heading for Canalave City, but we'll most likely be travelling further, so if you ever get out of there, I can't guarantee we'll be in any place you're looking for. We definitely won’t be back at the island ever again. But at least I can say, if you're worried about our safety, you can put those thoughts to rest. We're a hardy bunch; we'll find our way somehow.

    "I can't imagine how you must be feeling without us. I expect it'll be very tough where you are, and with our departure, it'll be even tougher. But you're not alone. You'll probably have friends there as well to help you. But no matter what happens, you must stay strong and get on with your studies. If you get this message and take my words to heart, that's enough to make me proud for the rest of my days. In the box, I've given you our photo album, and a book containing a lot of different stories. Even though I wasn't the best at reading, it helped me come up with my own tales, so if you ever want to make your own one day to tell around the campfire, or with your friends, learn to read those. Oh, I can hear your younger brothers whinging again, so I should probably pass you over to them."

    She shuffled the recorder around until it landed in the paws of Stumpy, who sobbed into the microphone.

    "I-I-I'll miss you so much, sis! I thought it was hard without you here before, but, but!"

    He was full on wailing, as well as Twig. Even in that situation, I had to laugh. Sounds odd, I know. But I guess it was a comfort to hear they hadn't changed. The recorder shuffled again.

    "Hello, sis." It was Trunks. His tone was flat, but he kept his composure. "I'm sorry about this. I would've loved to hear how you were doing back there. But I'll know you'll make the best out of your time there. I have no doubt in my mind Azzy will lead you to the path you want to take. If it's of any comfort, I'm glad to leave the island at last. I know the human world wasn't made for us in mind, but I'll try my best to do what I can over there." Suddenly, he let out a hearty laugh, which was rare for him. "I guess I can say you inspired me in a way."

    He gasped, and I recognised the gruff breathing in the background. "Dad. Do you want to use the recorder as well?"

    Liam grunted, and the recorder shuffled once more.

    "Hello, cub. Oh, sorry. It doesn't feel right calling you that anymore. You've grown a lot since I last saw you at the island. Your older brother and the rest as well. You've really had an impact on them." He aimed it at Stumpy and Twigs, who were still blubbering. "Although they might still have a few things to learn. But you must know that right now, I couldn't be happier for you. And your mother as well. If you were worried about us before, you'll be pleased to know we're getting on well with one another. No matter what happens, we'll stick with each other through thick and thin. I'll try to be stronger and a better Mon for you and our family."

    From there, he passed it onto Mom, who wished me hugs and kisses, as did the rest of my family before they returned the recorder back to the box. After the tape stopped, I sniffled, but smiled, turning to Shine for comfort. I squeezed him tightly, and he stood still, being the sponge for my emotional outpour. I cried again, but this time, the heaviness in my heart had been lifted.

    I knew I wasn't going to get over it immediately, but at least I'd be safe in the knowledge that my family from the outside, and my friends in the facility watched over me.
     
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  12. Namohysip

    Namohysip Dragon Enthusiast


    *Gyarados


    --


    So, wow. This was a really intense chapter despite so little happening. Curio got the news, and… that’s pretty much it, really! Everything else that followed was just a reaction to it, and I’d say that despite this, the least and simultaneously most happened in this one chapter compared to all the others. It did feel a bit odd, tonally, at how mournful Curio got as if her family had actually died, but at the same time, I think it was justified pretty well. Without the technology necessary to communicate with them, it isn’t exactly easy to find them again.


    As an aside, introducing the names to everyone and making them vaguely akin to their species was probably a good move, otherwise I’d struggle with actually keeping up with them all so fast.



    Okay, so here’s the line. I sorta didn’t realize it until I took a mental step back, but you made the prose here very frantic and short and terse, and that was amazingly effective at subtly getting into the head of Curio. Actually managed to get me a little worked up while reading along with her during her actual outburst, slamming a rock into the false sky. Very, very good job with this scene, in my opinion.



    Accidental line break?



    So, I’m actually a little disappointed that this wasn’t elaborated upon a bit more. I noticed in this scene in particular that Shine was actually speaking out more, and was actually trying to go to Curio to comfort her. And that was an almost complete reversal from how he was not a few chapters ago! Yes, it’s perfectly in character and I know exactly why, but I sorta wish there was more of a pause from Curio or the others about this night-and-day change to the guy. Especially since this is a total reversal of the scene before with Curio and Shine, where it was Curio comforting him. I guess only a few lines would have been nice, like commentary from Curio, but… hm. Subtlety works as well, but I’m mostly surprised that the others didn’t seem to have as big or as acknowledged a reaction as I would have expected.


    Still, overall, solid chapter once again. I’m not really sure where this arc is supposed to end, but this feels like the emotional climax of it, or at least one of them. Looking forward to the next~
     
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  13. Chibi Pika

    Chibi Pika Stay positive

    One of the things I like best about how you set up the revelation in this chapter, and it was easy to take for granted before, was just how much the support of her family meant to Curio. Even though she was determined to get off the island and see the world, their support still meant the world to her, and you showed it with things like her trying harder in her studies for Trunks' sake. It also made for a contrast with a lot of her classmates, who didn't have that kind of support.

    I do agree with Namo that maybe her initial reaction was perhaps a tad too mournful as if they actually had died. I think it might work better if the negative feels built up a bit more slowly, starting from fear, dipping into to relief, but then sinking into the crushing realization that she'd just lost her only means of contacting her family and is now basically on her own in the world. I really liked the bit after she ran off and went punching things and drawing all her memories from the island, though, that scene was great. I also liked how her friends came together to comfort her (even the Cubone!) I can see this marking a shift in Curio's life, as now her family and her childhood on the island are well and truly in the past, and she has no choice but to move forward.

    ~Chibi~
     
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  14. NebulaDreams

    NebulaDreams A Dense Irritating Miniature Beast of Burden

    Thanks for commenting, @Namohysip and @Chibi Pika! I did sort of agonise over this chapter, since I wasn't sure about how I was going to pull this off originally. Of course, it would've been a very emotional point in young Curio's life, but her reaction to it was the one I was stuck on the most. I'm glad it packed some sort of emotional punch with the scenes after her initial reaction, but what Chibi described sounds better. The idea wasn't exactly Curio mourning over her family, but not knowing how to react to the news she got on whether it was good or bad. If it'd built up more over time instead of her shutting down at once, then it probably would've felt more realistic.

    I hadn't considered that either, Namo. I did sort of wonder where I'd fit their reactions in the midst of Curio's emotional episode, but I took that into account in the next chapter anyway.

    ---

    Chapter 23. Missing Home
    (Well, I’m sorry to hear that happened, but I’m glad you were able to pull through in the end. To be honest, I was a bit anxious about how that would turn out, although I think I heard hints of it from Shine, if I recall.)

    How much?

    (I might’ve told him bits and pieces, but still only vague memories.)

    Okay.

    (So, what happened after that?)

    Well, that was pretty much the highlight of the first year, to be honest. There's not really much to say. I took my studies a lot more seriously, and just got along with everyone else in my clique, so there wasn’t much drama aside from that yellow guy.

    Okay, it wasn’t all sunshine and rainbows. As much as I kind of overreacted at first to the news before, the fact my family moved away still stung; sometimes, coming in the form of nightmares. I’d sort of make up stories about them dying out there and their ghosts revisiting me, or think about them settling in a new fancy place and saying how glad they were to abandon me while I watched from outside their windows. Whenever that happened, I’d wake up in the middle of the night and stare up at the fake sky until it was morning, which sometimes screwed up my studies for the rest of the day.

    As well as that, sometimes, the homesickness got to me as well. Not too long after I got the news, on one day off, I guess I got a bit sentimental and started sifting through the photo-book again. I’d already done that a few times before, but no matter how many times I looked at the same photos of my family smiling together, it wasn’t enough to bring them close to me.

    That hollow feeling grew in my stomach again. I thought I was about to burst again, then remembered Basil’s words from before. So I decided to venture out of the wild base and creep my way into the domestic base with all its gadgets and such. Everyone was there, even Abraxas, who stared at me when I entered, holding a book in one claw. I could tell he was about to make yet another snide comment about my size or my brains, but before he could, Basil stepped in and took my paw, leading me to an area with cushions where we sat on opposite sides.

    “You alright?” he asked.

    I nodded slowly, although by the look of his face and his aura, it seemed he knew what I was going through.

    “Missing home again?”

    “Yeah. I know I shouldn’t dwell on it, but it still kind of stinks.”

    “There, there.” He patted my shoulder. Suddenly, though, a set of paws glomped over me.

    “Awww!” a femme voice said, “You poor thing, you! There, there, I’m gonna make it all better!”

    I nudged whoever it was out of the way, and there, I saw the Chansey, or rather, Pecha. We never really talked in class before, so I didn’t know what to expect from her, but she kept on fawning over me as if I was some wounded Eevee. She reached out to my cheeks and started pulling on it.

    “Um, stop, please?” I said.

    “But you’re so cute! I wanna put you in my pouch and take you home with me!”

    “Now, now, Pecha,” Basil said, pulling her away. “There is such a thing as personal space. If you want to tug on another Mon’s face, do it to someone who’s a bit more willing.”

    “Okay!” She started pulling on Basil’s face instead, kneading it as if it was a wad of bubblegum. Basil glanced over to me as Pecha worked her magic. “Sorry, she gets a little touchy sometimes.”

    “It’s fine,” I said with a smile. Even if she did come off a bit too strong, it made me smile anyway, so my mood improved a bit. Once Pecha was done and returned to the corner where she played with a Roselia, Basil’s face lit up.

    “Oh, I know just the thing!” he said. After waddling to one corner, he came back with a box of colourful, round thingies. “Go ahead, try one!”

    I pawed a pink one for a bit, feeling weirded out by the spongy texture, until I took a bite for myself. Of course, it was delish.

    “Thith if nithe!” I said mid-bite, then remembered my manners and swallowed. “Sorry, they kept saying I shouldn’t talk with my mouth full.”

    “I won’t judge,” he said, grinning, “But I’m glad you like it anyway.”

    “Yeah, so what is it?”

    “Oh, they’re Pokepuffs my trainer sent me, although you could easily call them macaroons. Macarons? Hey, Abraxas!”

    I cringed when he called that name out. Nevertheless, it got the yellow devil’s attention.

    “What’s the difference between macaroons and macarons?”

    “Hmph,” he scoffed as he flipped through the dictionary. “Macaroons are delectable almond biscuits, while macarons are sumptuous meringue confectioneries. I thought you’d know the difference, seeing how you’re not some wildling.”

    “Alright, alright.” He growled at him before turning back to me. “Macarons it is, then. The human language is weird.”

    “You’re telling me.” I shrugged off Abraxas’ comment and continued. “But anyway, your trainer sent these? So you’re still with her?”

    “Why, yes, I get calls from her every month.” He frowned. “Sorry, I didn’t mean to bring it up like that, since, you know.”

    “No worries,” I said, “So what’s she like?”

    “Well…” His face brightened up, if you could imagine a shade of pink brighter than pink itself. “She’s very supportive, and always knows what to say whenever we speak over the phone. We still got along when we were together, but now I actually have time to learn to speak her language, we’ve gotten so much closer. I can’t wait to meet her again once I’ve finished my studies here.”

    “So, if you already had a trainer, why’d you come here?”

    “To learn, of course. I don’t just want to help my trainer cook, I want to become a chef as well as master the human tongue. As much as I love my trainer, she has to battle to stay afloat, and that takes time. The rest of my team is fine with that, but with me, I’d like to explore my own passions, which doesn’t really mesh well with the trainer lifestyle, not unless you have a lot saved up.”

    I cocked my head. “I don’t get it, sorry. Why’d you need to save up?”

    “Alright, I understand. Money is a bit hard to wrap even my head around. But, um...” He looked from left to right, before he spotted something in one of his corners. “Why don’t I show you an example?”

    Basil went to one part of the room to gather a photo of his, which he showed of himself and his trainer, posing for some sort of prize as they held up a ribbon. That trainer kind of reminded me of the girl I saw on the island as she radiated that same friendly look.

    “Here,” Basil said, “We won first place for best presentation at a Pokemon contest, which they held in all the cities we visited. We put all our food on display, which I helped make, and that scored well with the judges, so we ended up coming home with the big prize. She was so happy after all the work we put into it together.”

    He put the frame down and rubbed his paws nervously. “That took a lot of prep, though. We had to save up a lot of earnings beforehand from battling other trainers to enter the competition and make all that food. Even after we won the prize of a hundred thousand Pokedollars, that money doesn’t last forever. It goes quickly on more food, medicine, camping equipment, battle equipment, transport, entry fees…”

    Basil kept going on and on. I chomped on what was left of the puff as a distraction. I imagine I went cross-eyed at all the new concepts he flung my way, as I still didn’t have a good grasp on what it meant to be a trainer’s Pokemon, but I got the point anyway. In dumb man’s terms, training is expensive business. Thankfully, he stopped after enough time.

    “But anyway, one of the staff members here came by chance and we discussed it together. She knew I wanted more out of this, so when they mentioned cooking, she was ecstatic. After going through all the paperwork, they took me in.”

    I hummed. It was still a lot to take in, but I got a better idea of what the Lickitung was doing there.

    “You sound like you’ve got your whole life planned, you know.” I smiled sadly. “I dunno what the heck I’m doing. Before, doing what bro said was fine, but now, it’s just, eh.”

    “Don’t say that. You draw, don’t you?”

    I nodded.

    “Well, when you think about it, cooking is a form of art in a way. You take inspiration from the world around you, craft it with your paws and turn it into something viewable or edible. That feeling when you can just bring something to life like that is magical to me, more than just psychic powers.”

    “I heard that!” Abraxas interrupted. Basil just blew a large-tongued razzberry at him. Served him right. What took me off guard though was how the Lickitung leaned in and grabbed my shoulders, gently, but firmly.

    “We’re very lucky here. Most Pokemon wouldn’t feel the same way about creating the sort of stuff we do. It’s a tough world out there, after all. But once you have that drive and stick with it all the way through until the bitter end, it’ll give your life so much more meaning than you might realise. Got that?”

    That took me off guard. I don’t know whether he read my mind or not at the time, and no, Lickitung can’t as far as I know, but what he said sounded like the sort of advice Trunks used to give me, which I saw a lot of truth in. Hearing that finally inspired to get back to drawing again after a long period of silence, and took my mind off the lurking feeling of dread following my family’s departure. Not completely, mind you, but it gave me less time to sit and ponder the what ifs and could’ve beens. Is beens even a word?

    (Not really.)

    Then, out of nowhere, something icy pricked my back. I yelped and jumped out of my cushion. Someone snickered nearby.

    “Gotcha,” PZ said. “That’s yer initiation into our lil’ club!”

    “What club?” Basil asked. “The scare-friendly-mon-away-with-your-ice-powers club?”

    “Nope!” He grinned. “I haven’t come up with a name, but it’s somethin’. Anyway, c’mere.” He put his claw on my shoulder. “I got somethin’ to show ya.”

    Before I could say anything, he pulled me away from Basil, and sat me in front of that TV while he fiddled around that purple cube.

    “Um,” I said, “What’s this about?”

    “Here.” He shoved a case in my paws, and on the front was a flashy cover filled with all sorts of colourful characters, including Pokemon. “It’s that Melee game I was talkin’ about on that GameCube.”

    “Game?” I cocked my head. Yeah, believe it or not, I hadn’t come across a game’s console before, or known what it was. “Don’t you usually play that outside?”

    “Yeah, well, you’ll get it soon.” He sat down beside me and handed me a weird looking device of some sort, or a controller. Come to think of it, GameCube controllers are really weird when you compare it to everything else. I got you were supposed to press buttons, like the remote control for the TV Azzy used, but still, it didn’t feel natural in my paws. It clearly wasn’t designed for someone without five human fingers, but if that was the case, then how the hell did a Sneasel manage it just fine with two claws? I guessed it was something I had to get used to, just like drawing.

    PZ clicked his teeth and went through the various menus before pointing at the screen. “Use that stick thingy and choose a character.”

    There were quite a few to choose from, though I didn’t know what the hell any of them were aside from the actual Pokemon to choose from. There was this green dino guy that kept repeating his name like everyone else, but he clearly wasn’t a Pokemon. Out of the ones to choose from, there was Pikachu, Pichu and Jigglypuff, which all seemed familiar, but then, there was Mewtwo. It sounded and looked vaguely like Mew, which I heard about in the series, but as far as I knew, Mewtwo was nowhere in the real Pokedex, as that was something our teacher went through. I just picked Pikachu. Yeah, I know, obvious choice, sue me. It’s not as if I’m the one to talk, being a Lucario, though I think they only introduced my kind in Brawl later.

    (Sorry, Curio. I won’t stop you from talking, but where are you going with this?)

    Eh, you’ll find out soon enough.

    “Hey,” I said, “Might be a stupid question, but what is Mewtwo? Are they even real?”

    “Nope, just something they made for the games,” he said, with a hint of sadness. “Would be awesome, though. He’s got a kickass backstory. Was made by scientists in an experimental lab or somethin’, then wrecked their **** and flew away! It’d rock if I were like him.”

    There was that human cuss again. He liked to use it a lot, believe me. I didn’t really know how to take that and just mumbled a reply. Still, it would’ve been awesome if someone like Mewtwo existed. He always struck me as cool, you know.

    PZ picked Mewtwo, and in a matter of seconds, we were pitted in an arena against each other. Before I even knew what I was doing, he started attacking me, using a variety of techniques, not unlike a Pokemon fight, except not real, of course. I frantically mashed the buttons, hoping I would get a hit, but whenever I did, a red sphere emerged, and he blocked my attack. From what I could read, the percentage on my character was getting higher until it got red, until he launched one last attack, sending me careening off the screen. I had lost a life.

    “Oh, come on!” I stood up, gathering up pangs of anger. “Lemme attack!”

    “You’d be dead if this was a real fight. Get good.”

    I tried to move my character out of the way and managed to evade a few attacks. I still needed to get a hit on him, so again, I mashed the buttons, and managed to shoot a jolt of electricity at him, but this victory was short lived. He dodged, rolled, kicked my ass and sent me flying again. One life left. I don’t know why, but it was a lot more frustrating than dealing with an actual fight, probably because you’re not concerned with saving your own bacon.

    “Ugh, ****!” I swore for the first time, out of many times to come in the future.

    “Yeah, that’s it!” he said. “Feels good to swear, doesn’t it?!”

    “Shut up!” I deflected his comment while I tried to deflect another barrage of attacks. That time, I actually saw what I was doing to my own character and figured out they did different attacks depending on what button you pressed along with the direction of your movement. “Hey, why didn’t you tell me I could do that?”

    “Noobs should learn to fight on their own!”

    Once I figured that out, I actually got a few more hits on him before he got the edge on me. Then a few more hits. I must’ve accidentally hit one button since that sent him flying off too, making him lose a life, at long last.

    “Oh no, you didn’t!”

    That victory was short lived. Since I was in the red, after he came back, it only took one more hit for me to lose the match, taking us back to the character select screen.

    “That wasn’t fair!” I said, crossing my arms, “I didn’t even know what a game was ‘til now, and you wanted me to beat you?”

    “Life ain’t fair,” he said, touching my chest with his claw. “I know cuz’ I’ve been there.”

    I stopped to stare at his various scars, some of which covered his belly. “What happened?”

    “Eh.” He crossed his legs. “I ain’t gonna tell you some tragic backstory or anythin’, but I got thrown into the deep end pretty early on, you know. It’s a lot different in the cities than in the wild, ya know. Strays can be pretty effing vicious. I know, since I was one of them.”

    “Oh.” I didn’t know how to take that, or if I could’ve even trusted PZ at that point. He must’ve seen my face since he chuckled.

    “Don’t worry, I don’t bite. I ain’t never been much of a fighter, so if I wanna kick your ass, I can just get you to play this game.” He turned back to the screen. “When I thought I had nothin’, games helped me get through those tough times. Like real life, I got good on my own, ya know.”

    “Then why’d you come here?”

    “Eh, maybe I could make these games too at some point. Might just be wishful thinkin’ for a dumb Mon like me, but screw it. I’ll take one chance over none.”

    “Well said, PZ,” Basil said, joining us, “But if you want to keep a playmate, you should at least teach her how to do it so she has a fighting chance.”

    “Alright, alright.” He flicked a claw at him. “We can go into training mode, then have a rematch. How’s that sound?”

    “Great!” I pumped my fist in the air. “I’m gonna wreck your ****!

    So we ended up playing until dinner calls came around, and although I got scolded for breaking into another base, it was worth it in the end.

    (So, what was the point of that again?)

    Well, Shine would have kind of a good idea, wouldn’t you? You know what he did, right?

    (Vaguely.)

    Well then. There’s that. But some time passed after that. We got some lessons in evolution from the Medicham, who told us we’d only have to evolve when we want to, and could, in theory, stay a Riolu or a Shinx forever if we wanted to, ya dig? Sorry, couldn’t resist. I liked the way he talked. But after that, some of them started evolving, including Abraxas, who became a Kadabra, at double the height and double the pissant he was. I think the Munchlax was a bit worried about turning into a Snorlax, and I could see why. If that happened indoors, he’d probably find it really hard to get through doors without breaking a new hole through the frame.

    Even more time passed. I won’t prattle on much more, since most of the year after that family drama was just growing up in the facility, but I should probably mention something else before we jump ahead a bit. Even after that pep talk from Basil, that didn’t really stop the nightmares. I had a particularly bad one about, er, something. I don’t remember this time. I think I was trying to listen to another one of Mom’s stories, but the words were all wrong and her voice was all distorted. That one in particular got me a bit teary-eyed, and yet, it was in the middle of the night where the fake sky was turned off to save power.

    Everyone else was fast asleep. Yet no matter how much I tried, I couldn’t lull myself back to that. My heart felt heavy and my throat felt sore. Then an idea popped in my head. Not a very good idea, since that meant sneaking through the hallways after curfew, but I needed to be a bit selfish for once. I wanted Shine to read to me, just to bring back that little, innocent moment earlier in my childhood.

    I picked up the myth book from my stash and ventured into the deep, dark corridors. Except they weren't really dark. For that matter, there were dim lights everywhere, not so bright that it overpowered the insides, but enough that you could see where you were going even without the see-in-the-dark vision I had. Since my presence was still there I listened out for anyone that might've been on the watch: footsteps, pawpads, anything that gave me a hint that there were staff walking around. Zilch. Must’ve been a slow day for them.

    The hallways pulsed with the hum of electricity coming from the lights. It didn't steady the beating of my heart from my nightmares, but I crept through the corridors in any case, searching for those checkerboard walls, through one corridor and another. I padded through the hallway, and on the next turn, there was another corridor, with a sign that pointed to the checkered hallway and said ‘GeLborn Nursery’. I grinned. All that time spent, trying not to fall asleep in those human language classes suddenly paid off.

    I padded through the last corridor, and after that, I’d be able to meet Shine again, even if it meant waking him up. All I needed to do was walk through the hallway to the left. But suddenly, straight ahead of me, a bright, purple ball of energy popped out from one of the walls. What I saw made my heart stop.

    Can I get a drum roll, please? No? Alright then, feel free to cut this part out. It was a Gastly.

    My body froze. I'd never seen a ghost type before; maybe in that show, but not for real. It looked at me once, then flashed a Scary Face, like something from one of my nightmares. Even after all the crap I've been through to get here in this room, I never forgot the first time I saw that tortured look on its face, eyes bulging, like it'd seen a ghost, or a ghost's ghost, if you'd like.

    I freaking bricked it. I didn’t care if anybody heard me, I just ran as fast as I could until I charged through the GeLborn door and slammed it shut behind me. By then, everybody else was awake, including Shine.

    “Huh?” he muttered, half-awake, “W-what’s—”

    “Guys! Guys!” I yelled, trying to explain what I just saw, “There was this purple thing that came out of the walls and I dunno what it is but it looks scary and I thought it was gonna kill me and—”

    “Shut up!” the Bidoof named Bang yelled, burying himself in the pillows, “I’m trying to sleep here!”

    “B-b—but… I-I’m—” Why that encounter almost made me crap my pants of all things, I have no clue, but I bit back my fear and bundled up close to Shine. He turned to me and yawned, with those glowy eyes of his shining in the dark.

    “Shine?” I whispered. “Help.”

    “Um,” he muttered, “W-what’s wrong?”

    “I can’t sleep. I had another bad dream.”

    “Oh, um, sorry to hear that.”

    There was a pause between us.

    “Sorry,” I said, “Didn’t mean to wake everyone up, ya know. It’s just, I couldn’t help it this time.”

    “T-that’s fine. Um, sometimes, I get these weird dreams too. Poor Patches has to deal with my sorry behind whenever that happens, don’t you?”

    “Mmm-hmm,” the Pachirisu muttered in his ball of fluff. “This guy’s a pawful, alright. Though give yerself a lil’ credit, you’ve come a long way.”

    “Mmm!” Milly said. “You’re actually fun this time!”

    “Oh.” Shine let out a nervous laugh. “Um, thanks.”

    (Just to interrupt, Milly usually hassled me to play with her dolls, and I’d just usually play along. It was actually kind of fun, roleplaying as someone else in whatever little stories she came up with. I still roleplay every now and then, at least online.)

    Roleplaying? Isn’t that for nerds?

    (And can you say much, considering how much you talk about films and figurines?)

    Eh, point taken.

    He shook that comment off and glanced at the storybook. “That’s your mother’s book, isn’t it?”

    “Yeah.” I held it to my chest and squeezed it tightly. “I miss mama’s stories sometimes, ya know. If it ain’t too much to ask, but, er, can you read to me?”

    He cocked his head.

    “Yeah, I know it sounds weird, but I kinda need it. I can read a little bit on my own now, but it just ain’t the same without someone else.”

    Even in the dark, his face visibly brightened, and the doodad on the end of his tail swished back and forth. “Yes, I’d love to. We’d need to turn the light on, though.”

    “Put that ceiling light on and you’re dead meat,” Bang said, “That one’s way too bright.”

    “Oh, I got it.” Patches grunted, and the back of his fur bristled with all sorts of sparks, until a glowing fur ball suddenly popped out from his coat. It brought a little light into the room, which would be enough for him to read from.

    “Wish I could do that,” Shine said.

    “You’ll get there in time,” Patches said, “Though I think I’d find one of your glowing hairballs kinda gross.”

    Shine grumbled, but gestured for me to lie down on the pillows while he flicked through the pages. When I got comfortable, I opened one eye and saw him focused on the text. He seemed so confident right then and there.

    “Shine?” I said.

    “Yes?”

    “Um, thanks for everything.”

    He smiled and stopped on one page. Now, I don’t exactly remember the story off by heart, since I fell asleep halfway through, and in all fairness, young me would’ve been bored to sleep by the story anyway if I got past the Arceus part. If you have the book lying about somewhere though, Shine, please read it out.

    (Oh, right, I do! I’ll get it quickly, and… there. Ahem, the story is called Foreword: Excerpt from 6,000,000,000,000 Years Before the First.

    Consider the following.

    In a place without form or void, an egg hatched, and evolved into a being later known as Arceus. From both its divine light and shadow painted tendrils, it created Dialga and Palkia, time and space, and focused on one fixed point in the universe to form what would later be known as Earth. For life to exist, there must first be a host, after all. For life to exist, there must be a measurement where all can be birthed, live for one cycle, then decompose. For life to exist, there must be the chemicals that allow the elements to mix, and become material objects and beings. All tangible concepts, yet made from something so intangible.

    Again, with its thousand hands, Arceus shaped the Earth through a series of natural phenomena. The earthquakes shaped the land. The atmospheres made the skies. The precipitation from the skies made the seas. Even before life as we know it existed by Mew's creation, Arceus created Azelf, Uxie and Mespirit, the three of which symbolise willpower, knowledge and emotion. All abstract concepts, yet capable of making the intangible tangible.

    It is said they retreated to the respected lakes Valor, Acuity and Verity. At one point, Heatran was also formed as well. With all the necessary components for life to exist and inhabit its host, Arceus retreated into the aether, and the Legendaries slept along with them.

    This is the most common interpretation of how the world was formed. However, I must address you, reader, and ask you to read between the lines.

    To imagine a place without form or void, and for life to eventually come into being out of nothing, is incomprehensible. It is like writing words onto a set of parchment, but without the ink, the pen or the paper to make such a thing possible. For any creation to exist without a creator itself is also unimaginable. It is like trying to create a word without any of the oral history that came before it, or even a voice to express it.

    For Dialga and Palkia to manipulate time and space respectively, they must be physical concepts. But time and space are both abstractions of different natures. Time is an illusion, created to define its passage from day to night, to moon and earth cycles at a fixed point. Space is a mathematical construct, created after aeons of years of research into physical distance. None can truly be grasped.

    Even more confusing is the myth of Giratina, the Pokemon banished to the distortion world, that represents antimatter, and therefore has the ability to travel between dimensions. To grasp just one universe is enough of a herculean task by itself; to grasp an infinite amount of universes afterwards, and to split apart the fabric of reality to transit between others, is impossible.

    And if, for the sake of argument, such a thing was possible, what would be on the other end of the wormhole? A different version of Earth, perhaps? A completely different planet with a completely different species with no humans or Pokemon inhabiting it? Or just humans with animals stripped of their powers? Perhaps Pokemon on their own?

    In the end, this is all speculation. But for the sake of argument, let us propose an alternative myth.

    Before the world was split into many different pieces, there was only one continent, known as the Nameless Locus. Arceus still existed, but in a much different form, more akin to a giant, white stalked pyre than a four legged beast. Before humans and Pokemon as we know them today, there were three species that each bore two halves and four sets of legs and arms or forepaws and hindpaws. The first had both human halves, with limbs on each side, front to back, that could either walk forwards or backwards, and formed civilisations of their own. The second had both Pokemon halves, and crawled through the lands like Spinarak with their back halves facing the sky, stalking the wild to hunt their prey. The third and last one, which is now extinct, had one human half and one Pokemon half, capable of both running through the terrain at tremendous speeds and forging materials with their hands. This third species was gifted with both the ferocity of a feral and the cunning of a human.

    Arceus, one day, grew to hate their own creation, against the will of the other Legendaries who argued otherwise. Uxie, Azelf and Mespirit, all representing willpower, knowledge and emotion, argued with the white god, that their actions would undo aeons of years of progress. The lake trio fought to undo this decision, but once Arceus retaliated, they were overpowered, and banished to a dormant sleep in Valor, Acuity and Verity. With the assistance of Zapdos' lightning and Arceus' divine judgement, all of the halves were split into two, with the human and Pokemon halves separated forever. Not long after, the continents were split into the regions you see today, and after that, Arceus and their Legendaries left this realm behind.

    It is said that the split halves are soulmates, and that the process of finding a mate is to rekindle that bond, and become whole once again. Humans married other humans and settled into jobs. Pokemon mated with other Pokemon and marked their territories. But what happened to the Pokemon who belonged to human halves, and vice versa? There are humans who feel out of place in their own bodies and wish to roam free in the wild, while there are Pokemon who feel trapped by their own design and wish to shoulder the burdens the humans have. Permanently displaced, not belonging to either civil or feral worlds, they roam the earth, looking for a soulmate or a reason for their own existence, but never find it in the end. For it was never by Arceus' design for the two to become one. Or so they thought.

    But even this can be held under scrutiny, as the body is made of bones, organs and muscles, while the soul is another fiction. But then, how does aura or ghost types exist?

    With that in mind, if the myths of the creators can be disproved, then what can be taken away from this foreword?


    That there is no definite truth. The only common thread between all of these myths is that in the end, the Gods will sleep, and man and Pokemon will be left to develop on their own in time. For no one has seen trace of, or seen physical evidence of a Legendary since even before the first history books or the first Unown hieroglyphs were written in dead languages. For one cannot document the truth if they existed after the creators vanished with no trace of their whereabouts. It cannot be universal.

    However, even if it is not universal, it does not make it devoid of meaning. The idea of a creator, or the concept of a story has inspired entire civilisations to create their own philosophies, and pass them from generation to generation. Of course, with each telling, the story becomes more warped, until it becomes divorced from its original meaning. The illustration you see before you of Arceus, is a human representation of what the creator was supposed to have looked like, after thousands of designs were thrown out and retooled.

    Even this very book you’re reading is a product of many fictions collated together, as well as many different folk tales, historical documents and anecdotes stitched to create a story with arcs, morals and characters representing ideals in man and Pokemon. They do not reflect an absolute truth, or hint at a real person or Pokemon’s events, but they do reflect emotional truths nonetheless.

    To you, dear reader, who chances upon this book, I request of you to draw your own conclusions and seek your own truths from these following tales. Question whose stories you listen to. Question the history books you read. Question the gospel of those who might challenge your world view. It is the reason humanity has progressed to the point it has. Pokemon, however, have yet to climb as high as human civilizations as of this writing.

    But to those Pokemon who are capable of reading, or listening to someone who reads the words you hear, question the words of your human superiors. Bite the hands that feed you. Strive to create your own societies, cultures and art forms, and defy those who try to define you as mere beasts.

    For anything is possible in this world of worlds: The Manifold Curiosity


    Foreword and Sinnohan Myths and Fables by Delray X. Phoebus.)

    ---

    Edit: Added in an additional creation myth at the end.
     
    Last edited: Aug 21, 2019
    Chibi Pika likes this.
  15. Namohysip

    Namohysip Dragon Enthusiast


    As a fellow programmer, look at mods first, my man. It’s like the fanfiction of the programming world, where you have the crutch of someone else’s foundation.



    Oh… okay…



    Wait hold up, antimatter and interdimensional travel aren’t even remotely related! If anything, antimatter was something attributed to Giratina and the distortion world as meant to be a sort of “mirror” to reality, which plays into the whole ‘anti’ theme, not actual dimension trav—bah whatever, it’s just some guy’s writing anyway. I’ll take his advice and question his words and bite his hands. Speaking of which…



    Them’s fighting words. The first part, at least. The second part seems a lot more constructive than the first, which, tonally speaking, seems almost out of place compared to the rest of the passage.


    In any case, overall, this felt like the first real break of a chapter in what felt like a while—or maybe that’s just because now that you’re caught up to the older version, the uploads have become slower. But regardless, I thought it was warranted, even though not a whole lot really happened this time around. The lore was an interesting touch, though, and given how much page space was dedicated to it, I’m wondering just how much is important going forward.
     
  16. NebulaDreams

    NebulaDreams A Dense Irritating Miniature Beast of Burden

    Huh, never thought of it that way. Maybe I should bring that up in universe.

    Hmm, maybe. I do have plans for the author of this myth collection, so the one thing I'm keeping in mind is that all of the entries in that book are written by a biased storyteller. The way I look at the myth entries is that what's written isn't 100% true for the lore of that world, but does contain some truths that allow the reader to draw their own conclusions about how everything fits together.

    But yeah, thanks for reviewing as usual, @Namohysip!

    ---

    Chapter 24. Blue and Yellow//Ambrette’s Interruption

    So a lot of time passed and not much happened. I got better at the human tongue, found more time for drawing, and got along well with my friends without much drama. That was pretty much it. I’ve waffled on enough, so let’s jump to a week or so before the second year began.

    Azzy told us what to expect from the next bout of lessons, where we would have more freedom to explore our own interests and choose the sort of lessons we wanted to pick, and when left to our own devices in the class, there was a lot of excited discussion from every subject in our group. Out of our wild pack, I was the only one that roughly knew what we wanted to do, which was to learn art. Hans cheered me on, and even M, who had evolved into an Ambipom and Marowak respectively, seemed accepting of the idea. From the other side of the room, I saw Shine and Patches talking amongst themselves, so I approached them.

    “Do you guys know what you wanna do?”

    “Well, yeah, but it’s a secret,” Patches said with a wink, “It’s kinda weird, take my word for it. This guy, on the other paw…”

    Shine sighed and laid on the floor. “My head hurts just thinking about it. Everyone sounds like they have so many interests like you do, Curio, yet I’m stuck without any idea about where to start. What am I going to do when the next year comes and I haven’t thought about anything? What if I disappoint Azzy? Am I going to fail, or be kicked out, or--”

    “Hey,” I said, patting his increasingly-frazzled head. “You’re thinkin’ about this way too much, just relax.”

    “I can’t relax, I don’t have anything about me that sticks out! I’m completely boring!”

    “So? That doesn’t matter, the rest of my team don’t know what they’re doin’ either. What’re you good at, anyway?”

    “Nothing.”

    “Keep that up,” Patches said, tugging at his ear, “And I’ll zap ya! I thought we went past this, already. You can read better than most of the Pokemon here already, why aren’t you proud of that?”

    “Ow!” Shine said, pulling away from that blue imp, “Alright, alright, I can read well, please let go!”

    Patches did as told and Shine got to his feet, although he still looked sad with those drooping eyes of his, and his aura was full of turmoil again. I just gave him a head pat at this point. He seemed to like those.

    “See? There you go. You can stop worrying now, you doof.”

    “Doof? I’m not a doof.”

    “You are, in a good way.” I pulled away. “Look, I love it when you read. Your stories are always interestin’. Besides, I think they’re gonna talk with us to find out what we want, so I think none of us will be left out. And if you are, I’ll come join ya. We’ll be misfits together, won’t we?”

    Rarely for him, he actually smiled at the suggestion, and a part of that dampening feeling went away, like a curse had been lifted. True, it slipped my mind not long after, since I got carried away by the excitement of the year ending. For our first big celebration, I guess, we were all ordered to go into one large room where a photo guy told us to stand still for him to take a group picture of us. With all the different varieties of Pokemon there of varying egos and sizes, you could imagine it was hard getting us all in one shot.

    I stood still, smiling plainly at the camera. Some like Hans made a series of silly faces even though they hadn’t taken the shot yet. Some like M refused to cooperate at first, stepping outside the frame before being ordered back. Patches had to get Shine to look up to the guy as he was still lost in thought. Then, there was this weird old biddy and her Mismagius that stood to one side, waiting for the shot, which I stared curiously at. Then, she drew a Pokeball out and out came that Gastly. It was so sudden, I almost lost balance and toppled to the floor, though I had Hans to support me with that tail of his, as if on instinct. It took minutes for her to get the Gastly to float in one place and not smoke everybody out, including me, and I tried my best to ignore it as I made my best pose for the shot.

    All things considered, we had a good time that day, as it was nice seeing everybody bunched up into one place. They arranged a little party for us with lots of treats and stuff, so that was a bonus. I wish I actually saw the photo or got to take it with us, but we never did. Either that or it was brought up so casually that none of us remembered it.

    But yeah, that leads into when the second year actually started. We were summoned to the lecture room again, where everyone was: the mediators, the students, even the old guy Cartwright and that Gardevoir Lucy. That was the first time I saw them in ages, and they looked pretty much the same as before, except Lucy had a new dress this time. Where she got all of them from, I wasn’t sure, but just don’t ask me about fashion advice. She hovered and helped the old man to the podium, where they both presented themselves to speak.

    “"Humans and Pokémon alike," they spoke in their respective tongues again, “You have all done an excellent job so far, and for that, we thank you as we head towards our second year.”

    They gestured to the row of humans.

    “All of you studying here have produced fantastic work. Not only have some of you worked closely with our beloved Pokemon, listening to them and guiding them through tough times, you have also given insightful observations and papers on the research gathered so far, and we sincerely hope you can keep this up in the future. And then you subjects in question...”

    They moved their hands to our row.

    “You have also done exceptionally well. It is a huge step for Pokemon to conquer their own limits, learning what some human children might learn in a matter of two years. So far, you have proven the rest of the world wrong by coming here to learn so much about ours. To speak like humans, to learn like humans, and to read like humans, is all extraordinary, and for the second year, we have so much planned ahead for you.

    Not only will you be able to access the library and gym in your spare time now, you shall also start choosing the subjects you’re most interested in, and will use that to direct your studies for the rest of your time here.”

    “As we should have done before,” Abraxas said.

    “About freakin’ time,” PZ said.

    “Whatever field you are interested in: training, medicine, history, art, building, science, accounting, and much more, we shall provide the means for you to practice it, as you’ll each be assigned personal teachers aside from your own tutors to help you. You will have your own designated rooms with equipment to practice your work, and be given assignments, much like the ones you’ve had before. This is an exciting opportunity for all of you, and will lead to you achieving many great feats in the future.

    Now, for those we’d like to mention who did particularly well in their studies, first, we would like to mention this Pachirisu, Patches, over there.”

    They pointed to his spot, which I imagine was hard to tell apart from all the other furry subjects, big and small. I remember seeing the confused looks of the humans on the other side of the room, since they probably couldn’t see where the hell the old man was pointing to. You couldn’t exactly tell them to stand up as it didn’t make much difference standing up or sitting down for a Pachirisu.

    “Not only have you been a great source of support for the subjects in your group, you’ve also done well in your studies, especially with your interest in human affairs and stitching so far. We hope you’ll be able to continue this good work in the future.”

    Everyone else in his team cheered him on, although I was the only one outside of the group that clapped, since they probably didn’t know him well.

    “And next, we would like to mention this Riolu, Curio, here.”

    As you could imagine, it was surprising to be called out in front of so many people. I didn’t know how to react at first, so I just stood up, soaking in the attention from the Pokemon in the rest of my group and the human students staring at me. I saw Lexy and Mack in the crowd, who seemed to be gunning for me.

    “You have also been a great source of support for the other subjects, and during this year, you persevered through difficult times to make the most of your studies. We wish the best of luck to you in the future as well.”

    Everyone in my team clapped, including Basil, PZ and Patches in the other teams, while Shine just smiled, not being able to clap himself, I expect. Again, not knowing how to deal with that sudden appraisal, I bowed my head awkwardly and sat back down, tugging at my aura sensors. Way to go, me, I guess. At that point, I just wanted to get out of the room and back to my nook in the garden to draw. That makes me sound like some shut in, but you must’ve had that feeling before, I expect, Tony.

    (More than you’d think.)

    “And last, but certainly not least, is this Kadabra, Abraxas. You’ve made exceptional progress so far, learning subjects ahead of the other students. Not only is your grasp of the human language excellent, you are also an adept reader and show interest in a variety of studies. Your fighting skills are also unmatched, and show a lot of promise in your psychic abilities. For this, we would like to invite you on this stage, and if you would like to say anything, we would be happy to give you a platform to speak.”

    Abraxas got to his feet and strutted through the lecture hall as if he owned the place. Knowing his own powers, he probably could’ve, but anyway, the duo stepped aside for him to stand in the centre of the hall, as he was just the perfect height for the podium. He adjusted the microphone with his claw and leaned into it.

    Well, well,” he spoke in human, which already set him apart. “I’m pleased to speak in front of you all right now, and now, you shall see me for the excellence that I am.”

    Welp, here we go. Even when I’m thinking back to this, a part of me just wants to reach into this memory and scream bloody murder at him.

    I have worked exceptionally hard to get into this domicile, and now, I shall make the most of my time here, more than you lowly commoners will.”

    He raised one claw to our group, or rather, he raised it towards me, I imagine.

    I shall not bow down to you. I will only speak to you the way I view you, as a collection of worthless, wild individuals who have no idea how to direct themselves. It is a wonder you all...”

    You get the idea. He just ranted about the other Pokemon, particularly us in the wild pack for ages, and the whole time I had my paws balled into fists. I waited for any of the higher-ups to stop him from yammering on any further, but that moment never came until he bashed his paw on the wooden podium, making a resounding echo through the tightly packed room.

    I shall exceed every possible subject and outrun all of you scum. And with that, I shall take my leave. Thank you.”

    He strutted back to his own spot. Cartwright took up his place on the speaker, looking flushed red, which showed all of his wrinkles even from far away.

    “Ahem, thank you, Abraxas. That, um, wasn’t necessary at all, but I’m glad you’re, er, enthusiastic.” His tone was less than pleased. Good on him, but I still didn’t know why he just let him speak like that. “In any case, thank you all for coming, and I wish you all the best for the rest of your time here.”

    A burst of claps followed, drowning out the awkward silence Abraxas’ speech left in the room. However, even as everybody broke for it and we were supposed to make our own way back to our respective bases, I wasn’t going to let it go. Not while he strutted about as if Arceus dipped themselves in yellow body paint and started walking on their hindlegs. I strayed away from my own team, even as Azzy tried to call me back, and joined the line of the domestic subjects where Abraxas walked.

    “Hey, Abraxas!” I yelled, trying to get his attention as I stormed over to him. He didn’t turn back. I thought back to PZ’s phrasebook and remembered that one human swear he liked to use on others. “Hey, you shithead! What’s your problem, huh?”

    “Sir Abraxas, please.” The Kadabra stopped in his tracks and crossed his arms. “What do you want, puny urchin?”

    “P-puny?” I was taken aback by the comment, but I brushed it off and pointed at him. “Never mind, I've had just about enough of this! All you've done is talk about how amazing you are and how stupid everyone else is, and I'm sick of it! What makes you think you're better than me, huh?"

    He gave me that ****-eating grin of his.

    "I've mastered most of the subjects taught in class, and I've gone beyond that. I've read all of the books in our room, I've honed in on my psychic abilities. I could fling you across this very hallway without lifting a claw."

    "You wanna try me, huh?"

    "With that puny Riolu form of yours? Go ahead. It will be entertaining to see you crash and burn."

    "Yeah, let's go, let's go now!"

    And so, we both got in our battle positions, his spoons raised towards me, and my paws burning with anticipation. We didn't care if the staff stopped us or not. I sprang towards him, claws ready to scratch, making the first move. He raised his spoon and--"

    —-

    All of a sudden, the tripod holding the camera toppled over, sending the equipment crashing to the floor. It hit the ground with a great thud, and soon after, something shattered. Everyone in the room looked at it with shock written on their faces. Nobody said anything for a while, as the electric energy in the room pulsed in the background. Tony rushed to examine what had happened, starting with the camera first, and gave an exasperated sigh.

    "Aw, bugger." He turned the camera around, revealing the lens, where a significant portion of the glass had cracked off and scattered into pieces on the floor.

    "What happened?" Shine said, examining the casualty.

    "Damn wheel broke off the tripod," Tony said. "It wouldn't have been a big deal if the camera wasn't so heavy."

    "Oh dear." Shine looked at Curio with concern. "Is all the footage of her going to be fine?"

    "Don't ask me,” she said, crossing her arms. “I don't know **** about cameras, do I?"

    "No, I mean..."

    "I know, Shine, I'm just messin' with you." Curio shot a smirk at Tony, who fiddled around with all the different buttons. "I hope I won't have to do all that talking again."

    "No, it's all fine." Tony showed the screen to the two, which replayed the footage from Curio's interview. "It's just the lens that’s screwed up. That'll be another few ten thousand down the drain."

    "Don't you have other lenses you can use?" Shine said.

    "Well, yes, but they're not any good for close up shots like this. The aperture's important for studio settings like this, after all. Without that, the shots won't look as good."

    "Does it really matter?" Curio said, cocking her head.

    "Yes, if I want this to look the best it can be." Tony stretched his arms. "But it's been a solid two hours, so let's call it a day for now. I'm gonna go transfer the footage over. Curio, can you pick up all the glass for me while I do that, please? There's a dustpan in the kitchen."

    "What am I, your maid?"

    "Well, you can nab something from the fridge if you do that for me, deal?"

    "Deal."

    They waited for Tony to exit the room before Shine jumped on the couch to cuddle next to Curio. She stroked his mane in return.

    "How did you find that?” he said.

    “Good!” She grinned. “I was really starting to get into the flow of things, but oh well, we have all the time in the world, I guess. How much do you remember now?”

    He hummed to himself. Through Curio's speeches, that brought back bits and pieces of his experiences back. He only remembered it in broad strokes still, but he didn't talk about his first year in such detail to Tony, only that he often sulked and talked very little. Having someone else's view on him put into perspective how damaged he was at the beginning. He was well off, sure, but being born in such an environment without much guidance was enough to make any young Pokemon feel unwanted.

    Little bits and pieces came back to him, about how he’d train his electricity harnessing skills with Patches, or how the Munchlax named Tom would bring him snacks back from the cafeteria if he was too depressed to go to the cafeteria and eat.

    "Yes.” Shine smiled, then purred as she hit that sweet spot. “Now I remember all the good times I had, and half of those, I wouldn’t have experienced if it wasn’t for you.”

    “Aw, ho ho!” Curio pulled him in for a hug, nuzzling his forehead. “You don’t know how proud that makes me feel. It was kinda sad seein’ you like that before. But oh well.” She brushed him away and got to her feet, examining the pile of broken glass. "We should probably get a move on. Besides, I could do with a little snack."

    And so, Curio picked up the glass without much effort, threw it away, and fished two Oran berries out of the fridge for her and Shine. They padded over to Tony's side, who hunched over the desk, clicking and dragging several files into one folder. He smiled as he put his arms around both Pokemon.

    "This is looking really exciting, you guys. Thanks for helping me through this."

    "Werlcolme!" Curio said in the middle of a bite.

    "Thanks," Shine said, "But I didn't do much. I just sat there."

    "Yes," Tony said, "But you contributed as well, plus I learned quite a bit I wouldn't have before if it wasn't for your comments."

    "I suppose."

    Tony rotated his chair and swivelled to Curio's direction.

    "So, who won the fight in the end?"

    "Me, of course!"

    "No you didn't!" Shine said, "It was Abraxas! He won when he made you punch yourself!"

    "Aw, c'mon Shine, I've got an image to hold up here! So who do you believe, Ant?"

    "Ant?" Tony said, then his eyes widened. "Oh, Anthony. Well, you were a Riolu, and you didn't have your aura abilities mastered yet, so I'm more inclined to believe Shine here."

    "Ugh, whatever. That's totally not biased. But anyways, I gotta go. I wanna set up camp soon."

    "Fair enough." Tony gave her a friendly smile. "If you want to stay here, my offer's still up, if you don't find it a shithole anymore."

    "Thanks," Curio said, smiling back, "I get that, but I need my own space. Maybe some other time, depends on how I feel, you know. Well, laters Shine."

    "See you later." Shine went with Curio to see her out the door, where she ruffled his mane once more before leaving the two alone. He sighed, and padded over to the couch, sinking into its comfy leather cushioning. It was weird, hearing the apartment go silent once more with the exception of Tony's clicking. He needed that moment of silence, but it also made him zero in on his own thoughts from after the interview.

    Aside from the leftover memories, there was the thought of Curio’s family that tugged at the back of his mind. They were fine, but what about Liam? How was that the last time Curio spoke to him? And why just Liam? What about the rest of the family?

    He looked to Tony, who kept himself occupied on the computer. Curio still never answered his question of how that came to be. Either there wasn’t enough time for her to answer, or it completely slipped her mind and needed a nudge in the right direction. And so, Shine leapt off the seat and headed towards the front door.

    “Going after her?” Tony called.

    Yes,” he said, “If I’m not back, I’ll probably still be with her for the rest of the night.”

    “Just remember to come back to pick up the package tomorrow morning. Deli the Delibird should be coming to drop it off at ten, got it?”

    He almost wanted Tony to repeat that to make sure his ears didn’t need scrubbing. Delibird delivered in the summertime now? Shine brushed that thought aside though and muttered a reply as he made his way to Curio. He ventured out of the door flap, trotted down the complex's winding stairs and padded into the coast-side, where Curio was in her usual spot, tinkering away.

    “Yo,” she said without needing to look back. “Glad you came.”

    Shine nodded and lay down close to her, putting his head on her lap. “You didn’t talk about your family.”

    Curio sighed and put the figure away. “No, I guess I didn’t.” Her tone wasn’t apologetic. “But if you wanna know anything, shoot.”

    “Well, what I mostly want to know is what happened to Trunks and Ruti and everyone else. Did you ever meet them again?”

    “Yeah, actually.”

    Shine sat up and gazed at the Lucario. Her green eyes seemed to be glinting in the night sky again. “What, really?”

    “Yeah, and most of ‘em are doing great!” She put her paws on his shoulders, showing her enthusiasm. “They ended up setting up camp in Sunyshore, of all places. I saw Twig and Stumpy, and you know what, it’s really surreal seeing them grow into Lucario after all this time!”

    “I bet it is.”

    “Yeah. Mom’s still as much of a storyteller as she was back then, though her eyesight’s gotten a bit funny as of late. And Trunks’ pretty much become the breadwinner, and you know what else, he teaches all the local Pokemon stuff!”

    “Oh, Curio,” Shine smiled wide, showing his fangs, “That’s wonderful!”

    “Yeah, they’re all doing great after all this time.” She frowned and stared off into the ocean, fiddling with a rock. “Liam, as far as I know from what happened, can go and get ****ed.”

    Shine squeaked at the sudden use of that word. “Curio, that’s—”

    “Yeah, I know. Pardon my Kalosan and all, but I’m not mincing words with that guy.” She tossed the stone into the sea, making it skip several steps before it sank underwater. “Look, I’ll tell you what actually happened.” She gritted her teeth. “You know he said he’d try to be a better and stronger Mon for us? That turned out to be a goddamned lie. When he was on that island in autumn, he tried to kill himself.”

    “W-what?”

    “Yeah, you heard me right, he tried to freeze his ass to death on the island. Mom told me when I met her and the rest. He was a bloody wreck. After that phone call I had on the third month, he tried to starve himself first. He kept saying he was worthless and didn't find any reason to go on. Mom had to hunt for him and force him to eat; he was that much of a mess.”

    “Oh, dear.”

    “And that’s not all! That went on until the end of winter. When Cecrops came and offered to take them back, he wanted to stay. Even if the ocean would've frozen over, all he wanted to do was waste away there. Then Mom had a right go at him. She kept saying she'd kick his ass in the afterlife if he ever did such a thing; especially for the sake of such a young Riolu like me far away from home. After much convincing, he finally backed down and went with them. But after Cecrops took them back, he disappeared. He completely ran off from my family, leaving Trunks to pick up the pieces and essentially take over as the Dad of the family.”

    Shine growled. “After all that time...”

    “Yeah, so there, I don’t take back what I said about him; that guy can go eat a Groudon dick for all I care.” She made a metal fist. “If I meet him in person ever again, I’ll punch his teeth out with this hand.”

    Shine stared off into the sea along with her, trying to process what she said.

    “Why didn’t you mention this in the interview?”

    “Why does it matter?” Curio laid down on the sand and stared up at the sky. “I wanted to keep it between you and me. I didn’t wanna load all my dirty laundry on Tony, and besides, why not leave it to the imagination of whoever’s watching? That way, they can think he redeemed himself or some crap like that in the end. At least, that’s what I wanna believe.”

    Shine said nothing at first. He sighed and laid down with Curio, sympathetically inching close to her.

    “I think they’d like to know what happened to the rest of your family though,” he said. “I know I would. After what you told me about them here, and in GeL, I’d love to meet them in person.”

    “I still keep tabs on them, sometimes, since they have a number I can ring. Maybe in another universe, I woulda settled with them, but if that was the case, then I wouldn’t have met you again.”

    He purred into her side. They didn’t say anything after that, and confided in each other’s company. As much as the sand stuck to his fur and dampened his static charge, that moment in time felt perfect. Shine closed his eyes, and before he drifted off to sleep, something gently pecked his head.
     
    Last edited: Mar 29, 2019
    Chibi Pika likes this.
  17. Chibi Pika

    Chibi Pika Stay positive

    A lot of fun details in these past few chapters! I really like the way you have these cute scenes serve multiple purposes. Like Basil receiving macarons leading into him explaining how he wants to become a chef but couldn't do that with his trainer because of how strenuous the trainer life is. And how the bit with PZ beating Curio at Melee leads into a small bit of backstory for him, and a hint of what his passion is. Stuff like that. Oh, and Shine being good at reading, leading into that creation mythology, which itself seems to be teasing at some of the core themes of the fic related to the relationship between human and Pokemon, and how GeL is trying to change the role that Pokemon play in society.

    It's pretty great that Curio got recognition for her studies! But then ohhhhh my gooooodd Abraxas... I... if anyone needs to eat a Groudon dick, it's him. Anyway, not a bad spot to jump back to the present, as we've just finished up the first year of studies and prepared to go into the second year. Plus it gave Curio the chance to share what happened to her family in the end, and I kind of like that it got to stay between her and Shine, rather than being in the interview. That entire scene was just cute, period.

    Until next time~

    ~Chibi~
     
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  18. Namohysip

    Namohysip Dragon Enthusiast

    So, this is a minor nitpick, but I'm a little curious as to why it wasn't mentioned exactly what M looks like now. So, does he have a helmet... skull thing now? Or--I mean, I more or less was hoping Curio would remark about that or something, since he was maskless until now.

    Oh good, Shine is wondering the same things I was. Good job being the reader surrogate, Luxray!

    --

    So, overall, this was an interesting cooldown chapter, in a way. I mean, it was an interruption at the same time, but boy, I wonder if Curio's throat is dry at this point or something. I don't have a whole lot to comment on overall, since I thought the exchange went pretty well, except I'd obviously like to set some time aside from our Kadabra. Holy crap, what an ego! I was honestly a little surprised at how sudden this came along. Like, I know there was commentary about him having a superiority complex, but not to this level. Really drove it home, I guess.

    I thought that the "epilogue" story about Curio's father and the rest of her family was pretty interesting, too. The fact that Liam had run off and abandoned them, and then Curio's response to that, definitely shows that there wasn't much of a resolution at all between them despite everything she suggested to the interview. It was a clever allusion to how a narrative can be twisted in certain ways by simply omitting details, and how it is in reality versus "reality." For the most part, Liam made that bed himself for how he had reacted to Curio's... everything, though. So I'm not really surprised at Curio's reaction, but on the other hand, Liam's guilt makes me wonder if there had actually been potential to reconcile if Curio ever found him, or if he had slipped into his old ways, or if he simply died by now. If Curio's mother is getting on in the years, then there's no telling with Liam.

    Anyway, that's all I've got here. Nice chapter, but it's really making me realize how long this arc is!
     
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  19. NebulaDreams

    NebulaDreams A Dense Irritating Miniature Beast of Burden

    Thanks, @Namohysip and @Chibi Pika! This was a fun set of chapters to write, particularly in regards to Abraxas the Kadabra. I'm glad you both hate him, and can't wait to see how you react to him later on.

    This was one of my favourite aspects of editing this backlog chapter. Obviously, I couldn't reveal everything about what happened at the beginning, unlike the old edit, but I could at least hint at it. I thought it was a bit more open ended than him dying offscreen in the old version, as this one does open up more possibilities to how he gets used later. Where it will go, time will tell.

    Just a head up, it will probably be the longest arc, since it's the main build-up part of the story. Since it is told in flashback though, and because of Curio's narration, I can skip certain parts if they're not relevant to the story. Not every year will be covered in as much detail, but there will also be interludes like the next chapter to provide a change of pace for the setting.
     
  20. NebulaDreams

    NebulaDreams A Dense Irritating Miniature Beast of Burden

    Celebrating The Curious and the Shiny's 1st Anniversary, plus Q&A!

    [​IMG]

    Hello dear readers, and today, I feel, is a special day. Including its old version, it's been a year since The Curious and the Shiny was first released. It's been such a pleasure working on this project, as it's not only improved my own writing style, but it's also given me other talented peeps to connect with, and it's been a massive joy reading your reactions and also following your other works. Your continued support has meant the world to me, and I wish you the best of luck with your own projects.

    And so, I thought it would be nice to celebrate this project by opening a Q&A session with you guys. I want you guys to go full ham with this. Ask any question that comes to mind. You can ask any of the characters random questions, request them to do stuff, or you can ask me a question about certain trivia in the world or about the fic I didn't have time to address. Anything that tickles your fancy, really. Who knows? I might even sketch out the characters responding to some of your best questions.

    The only guidelines are a) to keep it safe for work, and b) questions that hint at fic spoilers might not be picked. But anything else is fair game. So go ahead, and ask Curio (Lucario), Shine (Luxray), or anyone else in the cast anything you want, really. Or anything you want me to address outside of that.

    Thanks, and I shall await your questions.
     
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