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

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

  1. Namohysip

    Namohysip Dragon Enthusiast

    Huh. Why not?

    Both: For the next year, you will only be allowed to have the same breakfast, lunch, and dinner every day, without exception. Dessert optional. But if you pick dessert, you have to eat it with the rest. Every day. You can't skip. What will your daily meal be?

    Curio: If you could have any single useless superpower, what would it be?

    Shine: If you could be any other Pokemon of a species that isn't of someone you know well, what would it be?

    Curio: Have you ever considered riding on Shine's back during a double battle?

    Shine: What are some embarrassing stories you've come across by using your x-ray vision?

    Both: As pokemon, you're equipped with powerful techniques for battle. What's the most mundane thing you've ever done using those powerful techniques for day-to-day chores and convenience?
     
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  2. Chibi Pika

    Chibi Pika Stay positive

    Happy 1 year anniversary! Here are some questions:

    Curio: What's the most interesting location you've visited?

    Shine: Any interesting stories to share from the Pokespeaker Forum?

    Both: What's the strangest reaction you've gotten for being a human-speaking Pokemon?
     
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  3. NebulaDreams

    NebulaDreams A Dense Irritating Miniature Beast of Burden

    Thanks for replying, @Namohysip, and here are your answers!

    Curio: Ooh, that’s a toughie. I could easily skip out on the desserts to be honest, but the rest, well, let’s see… Berries, I’m fine with for breakfast, but it ain’t exactly a staple. For lunch, Torchic skewers, and dinner, Miltank steak! I can’t say I’m too picky though. I’ve eaten out of garbage before when things got desperate, so just anything that doesn’t have stuff swarming all over it.

    Shine: Dessert, on top of everything else? I do have a bit of a sweet tooth, so I’ll accept. For breakfast and maybe lunch, cinnamon pancakes. For dinner, like Curio, Miltank steak, I guess. And for dessert, Leppa turnover. Can’t forget about the turnovers. Mind you, it probably isn’t too healthy for me…

    Curio: Stealin’ my thunder, eh?

    Shine: Oh, sorry. I didn’t realise you were the only one allowed to like steak. Sue me.

    Curio: I mean, aura already covers a lot of the bases, but let’s say I could melt myself into water and back like a Vaporeon. Not because I would actually use is to fish, since it means nothing to mean, but just to piss people off and pop out of a puddle to surprise them. It’d be fun to see how they react.

    Shine: Maybe a Sawk or Throh. It would be nice to have oppose-able thumbs and be somewhat strong. I’m lucky to even be able to go on the computer with these mittens of mine.

    Curio: Yeah, totally! Now I think about it, it’d be awesome if I could put him in like a tank outfit and ride on his back like that. All I’d need is a helmet and we’d be a matching set. We’d own it as so many dress up parties!

    Shine: Oh, um, well, let’s see. At one point, I wandered into town and saw these two humans, um, doing like the Buneary would do in their rooms. They dressed up as, well, Pokemon, and pretended to, you know. But enough of that. That’s partly why I try to be careful walking around buildings, since people obviously get up to a lot in the privacy of their homes. I can’t be offended, but at the same time, it’s something I wish I could unsee.

    Curio: I might’ve mentioned this before, but the best thing about aura is being able to sneak up on people and steal whatever comes to mind. Well, it’s a little complicated when other Lucario come into the picture and they’re hired as guards, so sometimes, I had to run away with my tail between my legs or somethin’. Being able to sneak into movie theatres without anyone knowing is awesome. If you know what you're doin', you'd never have to pay for another ticket again.

    And Bone Rush, well, I dunno if you’ve seen this before, but it’s barely even a bone. Ever since I lost my old arm, it hasn’t been the same. Something about drawing energy from your own body, or other. But I just use it to pick bits of food out of my teeth, or stuff outta my ears, or even chew on it if I’m bored. It’s good for your teeth, you know.

    Shine: Well, electricity bills are much less for us, for one, since I’m an Electric type, of course. I hope that wasn’t the reason Tony got me in particular, though I haven’t any reason to doubt him.

    While it’s a little embarrassing to have witnessed what I’ve seen, my X-ray vision has been great for games like hide and seek. Though I guess once they found out, I was banned by default.

    Curio: How do you think it feels to have aura? I guess we’re both too hot for hide and seek.
     
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  4. NebulaDreams

    NebulaDreams A Dense Irritating Miniature Beast of Burden

    Thanks for replying, @Chibi Pika, and here are your answers!

    Curio: Holy crap, that’s a great question! Well, cities are probably the most interesting places you can visit, even though they can be really effing dangerous at times. I’m not too keen on talkin’ about some of my history, but Jubilife’s a great place, for starters. It’s big and there’s so much stuff to do.

    The noodles are the best there, there are lots of great museums you can get into free of charge, and you have so many different Pokemon from all sorts of regions, and so many of them I met were complete oddballs. I met this band who literally had, like, a Torterra metal screaming into a microphone. I think they had a Braixen drummer playing really fast as well. It was intense, and it probably gave me tinnitus for a bit, but it was worth it.

    Aside from that, Canalave, I guess. It was the last place I went in Sinnoh, so I made some good memories there. But there was one thing I did that comes to mind: I went to Newmoon Island.

    Now, since there’s the whole Darkrai legend, I went there out of curiosity. Unlike in the games, you don’t just wake up there; it’s an actual tourist spot where people visit and get money sucked out from them everyday. There’s a gift shop and daily screenings of The Rise of Darkrai in the museum, so you can imagine lots of people and Pokemon go there everyday, sometimes to just stay there, but other times, to go further into the island and try to find Darkrai for themselves. Nobody has actually done that. If you buy into the whole ‘legendaries are asleep’ thing, then you might as well be trying to find a petrified turd in the desert.

    It didn’t stop me from trying, of course. When I went deeper to try and find the lake, I saw nothing at first. I thought I’d take a little dip in it, though. What happened next, I can’t guarantee is true. I really wouldn't trust half the crap that comes out of my mouth. But when I went, I swear, I must’ve dropped down the bottom and dropped into a field on the other side. It was all nice and green, with lots of flowers at my feet.

    In the centre of it all, I saw a shadow pouring from a watering can. Once it noticed my presence, it drifted over to me and said “You’re standing in my flowerbeds.”

    Next thing I knew, a trainer got his Empoleon to splash water on my head to wake me up. I’d been knocked out cold beside the lake. He must’ve asked what just happened, but for whatever reason, I had a splitting headache and couldn’t be bothered to tell him. I just asked if I could walk back with him to the island, and I think me, him and the Empoleon had a good talk about, I dunno, life stuff and what brought us there, I guess. I was still sorta sketch on the whole trainer thing, but at that point, I couldn’t really complain. They seemed happy, so I left it at that.

    So take what you will from that, but either way, go to Newmoon if you can. I have a lot more, but I can’t think of any at the top of my head. That one just sticks out in my mind for whatever reason.

    Shine: I’m pleased you picked up on that. It can be quite useful, but sometimes, there are odd people and Pokemon on that site. There’s one bluetext story that comes to mind.

    >be me
    >be a meowth thats been speaking human for 4-5 years
    >grew up in Castelia, so have the same accent as meowth from that show, but obviously am not the same guy
    >looking pretty much the same as any other meowth doesnt help
    >teaching a group of Pokemon one day
    >one little turd of a kid trainer walks in to pick up their croagunk
    >recognises me and starts screaming about team rocket
    >tells croagunk to start attacking with a sucker punch
    >croagunk openly refuses since they know to speak human
    >turdlet is confused and just walks away, croagunk apologising after them
    >average day as a pokespeaker, lol

    Curio: Well, this is gonna be fun. Most of it’s been positive, but there are a few times where it’s been a bit dodgy and you get people attacking you, spouting something about the white god’s vengeance or somethin’. You’d think since it’s not exactly rare, it wouldn’t be such a problem, but anyhow.

    The strangest one I got was from this massive creep. He was dressed head to toe in something like Lucario cosplay, except with scars and stupid looking clothes slapped on top of them to make them like an original character, or something. So, a con must’ve been going on at the time, and since I was around a group of other guys wearing the same stupid costumes with different Pokemon, they went up to me en masse and started repeating their names like they would on that show. Points for being in character, but still, it didn’t take me long to get sick of it, so I just said buzz off. They dropped the Pokespeak act and started talking as usual, and seemed fine. They were only doing it for fun, so it was harmless. Then that Lucario suit guy came waltzing in and started grabbing me, telling me how cool my costume was. It was really damn uncomfortable, like having someone breathing into your face, but I wasn’t having any of it.

    I kept saying it wasn’t a costume, and that he was out of his mind. Then he started asking about why I had the arm if it wasn’t a costume, and then I got a bit defensive. Just to give him a warning, I shot an aura sphere into the air and threatened him if he kept getting into my personal bubble like that. I **** you not, he took his costume off, made a face like I’d just spat in his eye, and said “W-what, you talk? But, that’s not right, only we’re able to talk!”

    The rest of the group turned to him and led him somewhere else. I don’t have anything else to say about that; it was just so damn weird.

    Shine: Well, it’s hard for me to top such a story like that. But if I were to pick one at the top of my head, there was this boy who kept following me around after I did my rounds for Tony to pick up groceries. He didn’t have a parent on him, so I assumed he was lost.

    I stopped to ask what the problem was, and then, he started patting my face, saying how funny I was speaking, and wanted me to swear, since he would find it funny too. I thought I would humour him, hoping he would go away, but once he did, he started crying and ran to his mother, whining about how the big, one-eyed Luxray swore at him. His mother overreacted and started shouting at me before she left along with the kid, at last. Good riddance. Honestly, if Tony ever thinks of having kids, I'm getting a new trainer.

    Curio: Ooh, savage.
     
    Last edited: Apr 2, 2019
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  5. NebulaDreams

    NebulaDreams A Dense Irritating Miniature Beast of Burden

    Chapter 25: Special Interlude – Found and Lost Part 1

    I’m still trying to process what happened a while ago. When I was still learning how to write, I was often told to log down my troubling thoughts. These helped me in the past when I had to come to terms with Dad’s disappearance. This time, though, I’m not so sure. We’ll see. But maybe I should start from the beginning of that week, now I have the time to write this down.

    -trunks-

    On Monday morning, my Simisear partner, Cavi, stuck his finger in my ear to wake me up. Even though I was half-asleep, I could still see him sneering at me while he munched on a Leppa berry.

    “Really?” I said. “There are better ways to get me out of bed.”

    “Still got yer attention,” he said. “Better than sleepin’ through a human alarm. Now c’mon, we should get started soon.”

    I nodded and pushed the blankets aside. To this day, I still find beds a weird comfort to have, considering I used to sleep on grassy floors all the time, but we had earned it, along with the rest of the house.

    I’m not sure if I’ve described the dojo before. I have a good picture of it in my head, but this time, I think it would be fun to paint a picture with words. Any chance for me to practise my writing skills, after all.

    We slept in the living quarters of a dojo. Alongside the battle rooms fit for training other Pokemon, there was an annex that had its own bedroom, kitchen and living room. The bedroom I stood in had those soft bamboo mats that felt spongy underneath my paws, as well as paper walls that let screens of morning light into the room. It smelled like cooked rice as well. For humans, apparently, the house was traditional and primitive compared to most buildings in Sinnoh. When we first struck a deal with our human helper Eric, the place was disused, so most wouldn’t have even set foot in it. Good thing there were no Gastly lurking about, otherwise, I doubt we would’ve found anywhere else to go.

    Wanting to get to work as soon as possible, I nudged my family members awake. Mom, who called herself Ruti, and my second youngest brother, who Mom named Stumpy a while ago, went to the kitchen without much trouble. My youngest brother, Twig, though, was listening to that player of his, blaring music through the duvets. Once he peeked his head from under the covers, I yanked the headphones out.

    “Nhh,” he said, pulling back the blanket over him. “Was listenin’ to that.”

    “Come on,” I said, “You can listen to it later. For now, we’ve all got our part to play in setting everything up.”

    He feigned snoring, though through his aura, I could tell he was still awake. Just for that, I gave him a playful tug by the ears, which he groaned at. He still wouldn’t budge.

    “I could give that player back to your friends in the city,” I said with a wide grin. “I’m sure they’d find another Mon willing to take it.”

    “Alright, fine, I’m gettin’ up!” Twig got out of bed, at last, and stuck out his tongue at me as he left the room. I put the device to one side, being careful not to break it or anything. It was a wonder I didn’t with my own meaty paws, so how he used it daily was beyond me.

    Anyway, I had to eat breakfast. I went into the kitchen, which had its own set of luxuries as Eric had installed a water supply for us to use. I poured myself a glass and sat on the side, observing Mom as she helped Stumpy make breakfast. Another human appliance we used was the rice cooker, which was enough to accommodate breakfast, lunch and dinner. Stumpy often burned it if left to his own devices, but it gave him a purpose, anyway, so I didn’t mind. Despite her near-sightedness, Mom was good at picking out the mistakes Stumpy made, like leaving the water to boil for too long or not asking Cavi to lend his flames enough. That was another perk of having a fire-type, alongside the fact that it provided a heat source in the primitive house. Not that we were exactly used to having central heating.

    I might be getting sidetracked, but hopefully, it should be enough to go on. Once they finished preparing the eggy rice and berries, we sat on the low-cut table altogether. I dug into my dish straight away. Stumpy kneaded his paws together.

    "Um," he asked, looking shiftily from left to right, "Is it nice?"

    His aura yearned for encouragement.

    "Of course," I said, smiling, "You did a good job."

    "But ma did most of the work, didn't she?" Twig said. I elbowed him in the side for that one, and he took the hint. His aura didn't seem malicious, so I forgave him for that slight.

    "Try being a bit more adventurous next time," Cavi said, wiping rice grains off his face. "Some pancakes would be nice."

    "I think Eric spoils you enough," I said, "He pays for most of your meals anyway, doesn't he?"

    "Well, yeah, when he's around."

    "I could make you some, if you wanted," Mom said, smiling. "I know you Simisear have a sweet tooth."

    "No we don't," he said, digging into a sweet Pecha berry, "That's species profiling, I tell ya."

    "But you're not exactly an exception," I chimed in.

    "Whatever." He shrugged, and spat the Pecha pits out. He drummed his paws on the mats, aura burning with fighting spirit. "I'm waitin' on you to finish, slowpoke."

    I ate as fast as I could without giving myself indigestion, and we went on to carry out our own tasks. Me and Cavi sparred in the dojo part while the rest looked after the annex. It was important to train ourselves everyday in order to keep fit and healthy. We had to set an example for the dojo students, so we couldn't skimp out on the service. Cavi, I might add, was a natural born fighter, with way more experience in training with humans than I had. In any case, our first bases covered dodging each other's fireballs and aura spheres, and then the next bases covered mid-range combat, then close combat, and move theory. By the end of our sparring session, I had to rest for a bit in the garden, but that was a sign I had an excellent partner to work with. It often helped my meditation afterwards, as it gave me the chance to reflect on my own strengths and weaknesses. Stumpy followed suit in this philosophy, as it helped him focus on his own flaws without self-loathing, but it wasn't a virtue Twig seemed to follow. Perhaps that was because he was so easily distracted, but whatever. Maybe I was getting old.

    By the time it turned midday, we were ready for the dojo session. The trainers came in and dropped their Pokemon off in the fighting area. While I was there to mediate between the Pokemon and the humans, Stumpy was there to keep records on which trainers came in and how much money they gave us; all of which would contribute to the dojo's rent. After that was sorted, we'd start by letting the Pokemon show off their moves, then let them train with each other, then guide them as they fought. I won't detail what each part was about, since I go through enough of that daily, but I thought I'd lay the groundwork.

    Each session ended by training them to use the human tongue, as well as a reading from Mom with one of her many storybooks. The Mon seemed to enjoy it, although it wasn’t technically a part of the dojo service, and if we were able to spread our knowledge to them, that would’ve made us happy for a long time.

    Of course, after that, there was dinner, mediation, and the usual family bonding sessions, which I won’t get too much into. But point is, we sat in the living room, perfectly content as we all played a board game together. That was when it happened. There was this presence that entered Sunyshore, which felt like an aura, except not. Auras were usually clear, and even if the person or Pokemon in question was the type to lock thoughts away, you could still see into them like an open book. This was the first time I felt an aura that was completely opaque, one you couldn't see into. Even Dad, way back when, didn't have that sort of aura. Save for Cavi, the rest of my family noticed it too as we were huddled around the blanketed table. We didn't talk about it, but we all exchanged glances.

    "What's goin' on?" Cavi said, sucking a sugar cube. "Is there somethin' on my face again?"

    "No," we said collectively. That satisfied him.

    The rest settled down for the night. While they were able to go to sleep easily, I tossed and turned in my bed. Eventually, I got up, crept through the bamboo floors and meditated in my usual spot outside. That aura still picked and prodded at my head. It had no owner, or at least, didn't seem to, so there was no telling what species it was. For all I knew, it could've been an alien, like the ones Mom used to tell about in her stories back on the island. Then I thought about my sister again, and my heart felt all lumpy.

    I hadn't heard from her for several years, how many exactly, I couldn't tell. I remembered those green eyes, that tuft of fur on her forehead, and her boundless curiosity. I often thought about what she was doing with that learning centre. I'm sure they taught her the skills to do just about anything.

    Even further than that though, I thought about what she would’ve done with her life once she got out, or graduated, even. Maybe she even had a gallery of her own, proudly displaying her drawings. It was wishful thinking, sure, but there were a pawful of Pokemon that managed to break into that world, so why couldn't she? Or maybe she decided to travel the world with a trainer. Years ago, I would’ve cringed at the idea, but as long as she made her own decision to do it, I would’ve been happy. Maybe she was doing something completely different. Whatever it was, I hoped she found her place in the world.

    I didn't move from my spot. After a while, I must’ve stopped meditating and drifted off to sleep in the open.

    ---

    I woke up with the sunlight streaming on my face, and the flying-types making my body into a nest. Two Starly were perched on my lap, and a Swablu somehow found itself falling asleep on my head. It was oddly pleasant to have a flying ball of fluff atop of me, but still, I had to get to work. I gently shooed them away, then woke up my family to get the annex cleaned up. It was Twig's turn to wash the bed linens, and clearly wasn’t happy about it.

    "What's the point?" he said, holding a pile of sheets. "They're still white!"

    "That doesn't mean they shouldn't be washed properly," I said. "What if they turn yellow with sweat?"

    He groaned and went to the stream to clean them. Cavi watched, amused as he chomped into his berry of the day.

    “I swear, this new generation of Mon sure are a handful. Do you think he’d like some cheese with that whine?”

    “I don’t know what you’re talking about,” I said, but in hindsight, that joke flew over my head. “But I’m not much older than him, so you’re kind of insulting me in a way.”

    “I’m kiddin’.” He patted his chest. “Out of the young Mon I’ve met, you’ve really come a long way. Just don’t get too old, like me.”

    I hummed a reply. Truth be told, he certainly didn’t have the mind of a veteran fighter, but still, I didn’t really know how to take that compliment from him. I don’t think I do in general.

    We were in the kitchen cleaning up after breakfast, and me and Cavi were about to go off to spar more, but that faraway aura still nagged at me. He must've seen the look on my face since he put his paw on my shoulder.

    "Something wrong? You got the face of a Grumpig there."

    "I’m not sure I like being compared to swine," I said blankly, "But no. We should practise for the day. If that feeling doesn't go away, I'll let you know.'

    He shrugged, then we went off to hone our usual techniques. Focusing my own aura in battle and keeping myself on my toes distracted me for a bit. Battle was just one of many forms of therapy, after all. But while it made me forget that tension for a bit, once our session was finished and we had time to recover, that sensation lingered over me again. It was like something died in the dojo and its stink had spread across the building; you couldn't have escaped from it no matter how much you tried. But while that whiff was there, it was worth doing a deep clean instead of letting it fester, so to speak. When we headed back to the kitchen, Cavi turned and crossed his arms.

    "Is this gonna get in the way of teachin’ those Pokemon?"

    "Possibly. I'm sorry, but I can’t go on like this. Can you cover for me today?"

    He sighed, but ultimately smiled and flicked his paw away. "Whatever. It's the same batch of students, so I can always ask Stumpy to sort the boring stuff out."

    So that was that. I thanked him before heading off to find the source of that aura. I might as well have killed two fliers with one stone, so Mom gave me a grocery list as well as how much each item would cost.

    After saying goodbye, I went to the treasury room and took out all the money I'd need from Eric's safe. At least he reimbursed us that way. On a side note, however, I should say that my family were the only Pokemon he trusted with that sort of power, as even Cavi didn’t have that sort of autonomy we did. Most Pokemon still don’t, anyway. But I digress. With that, I stepped outside the dojo and set off on my journey.

    I should also explain the dojo is up on the higher parts of Sunyshore. There are a lot of cliffs and hills, since it is a coastal town, but even with that, we were higher up where the grass grew and was partly connected to the forest. While the walk from the dojo down to the inner city was long, one thing that helped was the tram system. Since Sunyshore was a huge network for ports, they needed a good transit system as well, and the trams were always easy to hop on and off. On a good day when it wasn't too busy, I would be allowed on there for free (being a Pokemon has its perks) and gaze out the window, watching the various views speed past me. Not only did I see the various tall buildings whizz past past and the differently shaped Pokemon that roamed outside with their trainers, I also saw the sea in the distance, which shone in the sun. It filled me with a sense of calm, even in the urban chaos. The view even made up for the rocky nature of the trams, as it often felt like a rug was being pulled out from underneath my paws. It took a few minutes before I hopped off to my destination: Sunyshore Market.

    As with any place, it seemed, there was an abundance of trainers there, but with Sunyshore in particular, it made a lot through the Seal and Ribbon shops. I can't say I saw much point in it, but it was none of my business in the end. Let the humans decorate their Pokeballs if they really want to. I worked through each item in the list, filling up my basket with a variety of goods, until I spotted that presence again. It was right in the middle of the food court, not too far away. I knew I was going on a detour, but I needed answers, just to clear my mind for the rest of the day. I walked along the hot sunny pavement, following my nose where the sweet and savoury smells were until I got to the source. In that court was a whole maze of food stalls, cooking meats over open fires. Both humans and Pokemon helped each other in the shift, as they either helped them dish up the plates or even had a paw in the cooking process. It would've been a usual scene in the Market, except for that presence. That strangely familiar presence.

    I'm still having trouble wrapping my thoughts around our first meeting in a long time, but I'll try my best.

    The presence belonged to a Lucario. Not just any Lucario like myself; one with a satchel around their waist, and a bandaged arm. They were surrounded by a few trainers and angry looking Pokemon that snarled at them. I couldn't hear what they said without my aura, so I walked further in. Getting closer, I saw the Lucario carried another paper bag, which presumably had many different foodstuffs in there.

    "Give that back!" one of the vendors said, "Do you know how much trouble you're in?"

    "Yeah," the Lucario responded, in human tongue, of all things, and in a feminine voice as well. "What about me, huh? Can't you spare a skewer for a poor hungry Lucario?"

    "That's not the problem!" another vendor said with his Magmortar fuming by his side. "You've been taking stuff from many different stalls! You do realise how bad that is for business, right?"

    "Tho?" She chomped on one of the Torchic skewers, and spoke while chewing loudly. "Whath am I thuppothed to do?" She swallowed. "It's not like I can get a job like you guys, so why should you care?"

    "It's just not right." One Vaporeon stepped forward, speaking in their own tongue. "There are other ways of finding food here, even if you're a stray."

    "You callin' me a stray?" she said, snorting. "Piss off."

    In response, the Vaporeon spewed a jet of water in her direction, which she dodged. In turn, she charged up an aura sphere in her paws. At that point, I felt the aura of those all around her. They were sympathetic, but they still had to make back the earnings they lost. It was like if we gave our own dojo services for free; we wouldn't have been able to keep a roof over our heads. While it was none of my business, it reflected badly on my kind, so I had to step in.

    "Miss," I said, "Return what you stole, or you'll have to face me."

    "You wanna go, huh?" she said as she turned around. "Fine! I'll kick your a--"

    As soon as we faced each other up close, I recognised those green eyes, which widened, and in turn, I knew she recognised me. She was my sister.

    I didn't know how to process it at first. What was she doing there in Sunyshore, and why did she have that bandaged arm? I wanted to say something, but my jaw hung open, unable to find the right words. She ended up doing the talking for me.

    "Bro?" she said. I nodded. At that moment, time stood still. If I had to capture any memory and put it in a capsule to look at over and over again, it would've been the first time I laid eyes on my sister in 8 or so years. It was only a brief moment, since one of the vendors coughed nervously.

    "What's going on?" they said. That snapped me back to reality. Remembering that my sister was still in trouble, I quickly drew out the savings purse and grabbed a pawful of bills.

    "Excuse me," I said, bowing to the vendors. "Sorry for the trouble, but I want to put this behind us. How much does she owe you?"

    "A few hundred from mine," one said.

    "A grand!" another said.

    "Um," one Aipom said, counting from his tail-hand, "What are two buns worth?"

    I sighed and sorted through my own change. I had 3000 Pokedollars left from shopping. Hopefully, that would've been enough to cover the costs. I handed each of the vendors a 1000PD bill just to be safe.

    "Please," I said, "I hope this should fix things between you and her."

    They put the bills back in their pockets and gave a brief nod before going back to their own stalls. Their Pokemon stared at her for a bit before going back with their trainers. At last, the scene was clear, and it was just us two now. Sis rubbed her bandaged shoulder, clearly looking a little guilty. I smiled, though. She didn't need lecturing from me, of all Pokemon.

    "Sis," I said. I was about to ask how she was doing, but they came out as half-formed words before I stopped. She laughed nervously.

    "Well, crap," she said, "This is really awkward." Another snicker. "What do I say to all of this?"

    I couldn't help but join in her amusement. "I can't say I was expecting to meet you like this. I thought it would've been a bit more, I don't know."

    She snorted. "Did you expect a tearful reunion or somethin'?"

    "No, just..." I trailed off. I looked around, trying to find anywhere we could soak it all in without causing a scene. There was an unoccupied table with two opposite seats.

    "Why don't we sit down?"

    She nodded, and there we sat, while she took another skewer out of her bag.

    "Um," I started. I wasn't usually so slow to speak, I swear. But there was still something I had to get out of the way first. "Do you mind explaining what happened back there?"

    "Shure," she said mid-bite. "This is kinda embarrassing. I usually get away with this sort of stuff, since it's easy to slip away if you use your aura."

    "So you've stolen before?"

    "Lots of times. Like I said, I usually don't get caught, but I must've let my guard down this time." She finished the last of her skewer, then tossed the stick away and frowned. "Sorry you hadda bail me out, bro."

    "That's fine. I can't say we've never been at fault before."

    "We've?" She raised an eye. "Does that mean the gang's here too?"

    "Yes. We've settled near the city." My heart sank a little. On the day we left the island, we knew it would've been tough on her, but we had little choice in the matter. Sympathetically, I placed my paw on hers. "I'm so sorry we left. I really can't stress that enough."

    "Stop that, bro." She pulled her paw away. "I knew you couldn’t have stayed there, not that you really wanted to."

    "Still!" I stood up, raising my voice. A wave of sadness washed over me in that moment. "We should've done more to help you! And after all this, you're stealing in the streets!"

    She pounced on me, and wrapped her arms around my back. That bandaged arm felt alien, to say at the least. Still, after all of that distance, it was comforting to have her back.

    "It's fine, bro," she said. “It was outta your control, so don't be such a drama queen."

    "I know." I squeezed her tightly. "I'm just glad to know you're safe, even if you're not in one piece."

    She pulled away and pointed at her face. "Hey, at least I've got a kickass battle scar to show for it."

    I snorted, not even sure if I should laugh at that. "You seem quite easy-going about it."

    "Well, I'm alive, anyway." She grabbed the bag. "Say, why don't you take me to where your place is? I'd love to see how they're doin'."

    "No," I said. "I was going to tell you to leave Sunyshore and never come back."

    She squinted at me for a bit, before patting my shoulder. "Bro, you kinda suck at sarcasm."

    "I know." I shrugged. Then, my stomach rumbled. I hadn't had a lunchtime snack yet, curse my fast metabolism. "If you want to make it up to me for what happened earlier, you could spare me one of those steamed buns."

    "Fine." She tossed one over to me. From there, we walked through the market centre, going out of the food court and weaving in between all the other stalls. She told me a few bits and pieces about how she ended up in Sunyshore from travelling on the bus for days, and also explained how she had Sunyshore on her Sinnoh bucket list for a while. I mostly listened to her as I sampled that bun. It felt soft and fluffy in my paw, and the taste was even better, with some sort of red bean paste in it. She still had two of those Miltank skewers on standby.

    "You seem quite well travelled," I said.

    "Tell me about it. You could never pin me down to one place, after all."

    Thoughts of her leaving the island for that learning centre were at the back of my mind. I wanted to ask her all about it, but I could tell this wasn't the right moment for it, so instead, I asked her about some of the places she visited, which she rattled off, one by one, She mentioned a recent expedition to Snowpoint City, which caught my attention.

    "Is it still snowy up there? I couldn't imagine it during the summer."

    "Eh," she said, digging into a skewer. "Kind of? It was like, what, one or two months ago I went? They had groups just for hiking and camping up there, and I managed to sneak into one of them, so it was a fun time for all of us. I drank a lot of cocoa there, the trainers and their Pokemon told me all sorts of good stories, it was just nice, y’know." She shook her head rapidly, making a brring sound. "Colder than a Jynx's tit, though."

    I choked on my bun, patting the top of my chest to make it go down. "Where'd you pick up that phrase?"

    "It was tossed 'round a lot by the humans, so it kinda grew on me. I could go on all day about the weird stuff I got from them."

    "I'd love to hear it all at some point." I grinned like an idiot. "I'm so glad you're getting on well by yourself though, aside from, you know."

    "Yeah, well." She shrugged and took another bite. "I do try.”

    She continued talking about that while I just listened. I don't recall all the details. There might’ve been something about riding a Mamoswine or going Houndoom sledding or whatever other adventures she went on, but it was nice all the same. Even though I couldn't feel her aura, from how passionate she sounded about it, I could tell she had found her place in the world, somewhat. That was how I imagined her all that time, and there she was, in the flesh, living in the moment. I couldn’t have been a happier Mon that day.

    [​IMG]
    (Art by me and @Chibi Pika. Drawings and lines by @Chibi Pika. Shading and background details by me)

    I won't bother with writing about the tram ride, so I'll skip to the part where we got home. The walk up the hill usually took quite a bit of time, but we didn't have to stop to catch our breath. I actually found myself having to catch up with her. Maybe I was getting out of practise with hiking. But once we reached the dojo, her jaw dropped.

    "Woah, awesome," she said. "How'd you end up in a place like that?"

    I chuckled. "It's a long story. But we should go in. I can't wait to see how they'll react."

    As if to answer my call, the sliding doors opened, revealing the whole family. Stumpy stared, broom in paw. His aura revealed excitement, but still quite a bit of nervousness. Twig gazed, nonplussed about the whole thing. His aura didn't reflect that much of an emotional response. Mom, however, ran outside and inspected Sis, close enough that she could get a good look at her face, and once it finally hit, she hugged her as she cried tears of joy.

    "My girl," she said in between sobs, "I've missed you so much."

    "And you, mama." Sis started sniffling. "Wow, now you got me chokin' up as well."

    "Sorry. I can't help it." She pulled herself away and reached to grasp her paw, but stopped when she noticed the bandaged arm.

    "What in the world happened to that?"

    "It's fine," Sis said without so much batting an eye. "I just have it for show. It looks cool, don't you think?"

    "Um..." Mom trailed off, glancing over to me before taking Sis' other paw. "Anyway, please, come in!"

    And so, they walked in, paw by paw, as I followed. Sis marvelled at the insides, which were wide and spacious. Cavi was still in the middle of teaching, and the presence of another Lucario there brought the attention of all the students to Sis.

    "Woah," one Riolu said, eyes gleaming. "She replacin' you, teach?"

    "Well," I said, flustered. "No, I--"

    "Yeah, totally," Sis said, flashing a toothy grin. “If he gets too borin’ for ya, give me a shout!”

    Some of the students turned towards her with curiosity.

    “She seems a lot more fun!” one Chimchar said,

    “Yeah!” an Eevee said. “Give us the coolcario!”

    “Coolcario!” another said. “Coolcario!”

    “Alright,” I said, grabbing Sis’s paw. “Let’s not get carried away.” We passed by them and went into the annex along with the rest, where Sis sat in the living room. Mom was in the middle of preparing tea, while we were alone with Stumpy and Twig. Sis gazed at them, undoubtedly fascinated. She hadn't seen them since they were Riolu, after all.

    "My, you lot have grown!" she said. "I never woulda imagined you evolvin' into Lucario!"

    Stumpy mumbled, unsure of how to respond.

    "What?" Curio pointed at herself. "It's not my face is it? Do I need to put a paper bag over it?"

    Stumpy stifled a laugh, while Twig still seemed unaffected by the whole thing. And surely enough, it wasn't long before Stumpy started sniffling, rubbing his eyes.

    "S-s-sorry," he said, "I, I'm a Lucario now, I s-shouldn't act like this."

    "Oh, knock it off." Curio leaned over to hug him, and he embraced her, crying over her shoulder. "Whoever's tellin' you that is givin' you nonsense. Besides, you've got a good excuse."

    "Yeah," he mumbled. "It's just nice to see you, Sis. It was lonely without you, even with everyone else."

    "Well, I'm here for a bit, so we've got plenty to catch up with." She patted him on the back and pulled away. "Now, turn that frown upside down."

    Of course, that cheered up Stumpy a bit. Twig, still, wouldn't be swayed. Before I could ask him about it, Mom came back with teacups for all of us. Sis sipped with delight, and basically told them what she was doing there.

    "Oh, you travel, huh?" Mom said, rubbing her paws enthusiastically. "Wonderful! I always pictured you going out there, seeing the world!”

    She rubbed her head sheepishly. “Heh, you know me too well.”

    “In any case, make yourself at home!” Mom turned to me, expecting a full bag of groceries, only to see half of what I promised. “Where’s the rest?”

    “Ahem.” I cleared my throat, signalling to Sis that she had to confess her stint from earlier. So she did, and while Stumpy seemed worried about it, and Twig didn’t seem to care either way, Mom laughed.

    “So you’re making trouble already here?” she said, “Well, it’d be rich of me to tell you off for it. I’ve done it more times than I can count.”

    “Really?” That got Sis’ attention. “Shocker. I never pegged you as a sort of role model, ma.”

    “I mean, you don’t hang around the city as a stray for a bit without picking up a few tricks, huh?” She saw Sis frown a bit at that, and tapped her paw on the table to reassure her. “Not saying you’re a stray. You seem like a very smart girl.”

    Sis crossed her arms, pouting. “I’m not a girl anymore.”

    “Fine then. A very smart young, um, womon? That’s not a word, is it?” She turned to me to double check, and I just shrugged. I wasn’t going to shove a dictionary in their faces, after all.

    Mom downed the rest of the tea, and her face turned a bit more serious. “That’s fine if you don’t get caught, or are on your own. But if you’re staying with us, you shouldn’t leave a paper trail. We want to keep the dojo’s good image, after all.”

    “Yeah, I know.” Sis tugged at her aura sensors. “But I’m a Pokemon. I just can’t settle like you or the humans can.”

    “Nonsense,” I said, clenching my fists. For some reason, I got a little annoyed at that, but I kept my cool and thought back to that situation earlier. “I know you’re a great human speaker. Of all the time you’ve spent in the cities, haven’t you thought of teaching that once?”

    “Of course I have.” She sipped nervously. “It’s never really appealed to me though. I just hate the sound of working to earn my keep when I can just steal what I want. I don’t even need a home; I just go to parks and settle down in a sleeping bag or a tent or somethin’.”

    I growled. At that point, I was starting to get frustrated. I could see her point, but at the same time, it didn’t suit someone like her. A Pokemon of her intelligence didn’t deserve something like that. I was about to say something, then I glanced at Twig, who stared off into the distance.

    “Twig,” I said with a glare. “Aren’t you going to say hello? You don’t seem very happy to have her around.”

    Out of nowhere, he bashed his fists on the table and stormed off out of the kitchen. We just stared, dumbfounded.

    “What’s got his blue knickers in a twist?” Sis said.

    “Oh, nothing dear,” Mom said, stroking her head. “He’s just mopey in general.”

    I sighed and honed in on his aura from the bedroom. He was in there, sulking as he listened to his music player. He was angry, confused, and saddened all at the same time. Why exactly, I couldn’t tell right away, but I knew it was tearing him apart from the inside. I reasoned I brought it up too suddenly, and took a few deep of breaths. His own frustration bounced off of me, but I wasn’t going to let it get to my head. Just like any young Mon, I had to get down to his level, apologise, and try to reach out to him. I wasn’t going to repeat the same mistakes Dad did.

    “Sis?” I said. I remembered I brought up Twig’s name, but I didn’t know if we were all on the same wavelength. “Do you have a name?”

    “Curio,” she said with a smile.

    “Trunks.” I smiled back. The name Curio really seemed to suit her, and Mom must’ve felt it too, since her aura brightened up a bit as well.

    “Can you come and help me with Twig? I think he owes us an explanation.”

    Curio nodded and went with me to the bedroom. There Twig was, underneath all those blankets, as usual. It was his comfort zone whenever he got into one of those moods. He probably wouldn’t hear us through those speakers, so a gentle approach was the best,

    Although I couldn’t read Curio’s aura, judging from the confident look on her face, she understood what was going on. Without needing to ask, she sat down next to the bed and put a paw on that duvet pile, rubbing it. After a while, the music stopped playing.

    “You’re touchin’ my butt.”

    ****, sorry.”

    I put a paw up to my mouth, surprised at her sudden language. I guessed it was another thing she picked up from the humans. In any case, Curio laid her head next to the mattress, looking like she was about to fall asleep herself. Finally, Twig’s head popped out from under the covers, and he stared at Curio, as if for the first time. Then, it hit me. He had only known her for a year at most, and during an early age. Of course, there was going to be a bit of distance between them.

    “I guess it feels weird, huh?” she said. “I kinda feel the same way as well. Last time I saw you, you were only fresh out the egg, so it’s like lookin’ at you for the first time too.”

    He grumbled. “Your aura’s weird.”

    “Maybe. But I’m still that buttmunch you knew years ago. You know, the one that got Trunks royally plastered?”

    “Sis,” I said, stifling a laugh. “I don’t think you needed to open up that old wound.”

    That finally got through to Twig, as he laughed as well. Then, he turned away from Sis, facing the wall.

    “Sorry, Curio,” he said. “I just don’t feel anythin’ when I look at you. It was too long ago. But I know I should. It’s like sayin’ you’re a complete stranger. Am I a bad Mon for feelin’ that?”

    Curio rubbed her temple, probably just as conflicted as I was at that moment. “Look, Twiggy, it’s more normal than you think. Even when I met Trunks back in that food court, it took some getting used to. But I’m here now, so, why don’t we get to know each other more now I’m back?”

    That seemed to get through to him. Twig turned back round and frowned. At that point, I thought I’d join Curio, and rubbed his head.

    “I’m sorry for bringing that up so suddenly,” I said. “I should’ve known.”

    “Yeah.” Twig sat up, then, hugged us both. “I’m sorry too.” He pulled away, and his face lit up. Finally, he got out of bed and rummaged through a drawer before he pulled out another one of his board games; one of those card games where the player had to pick the worst sounding phrases out of the draw and come up with the funniest responses for all of them. “Ever since I learned to read, the Mon in the city got me to play this, and it’s been my favourite ever since. Humans come up with some weird **** sometimes.”

    “Language,” I scolded.

    “What?! Curio swore!”

    “Both of you, language.”

    Curio laughed at that before brushing it off. “Sorry, I’ll try gettin’ it outta my system. But that sounds like fun, Twiggy. Can’t wait to play it.”

    “We’ll do that after dinner then.” I patted both of them on the shoulder. “So maybe we should get started.”

    After that, the rest of the day went smoothly. Cavi returned from his shift and was surprised at first to see another member of the family come back, but he warmed up to Sis quickly. While me, Mom and Cavi hunted, from what Curio told me, she kept the younger brothers entertained and showed them all sorts of knickknacks she picked up from her travels. Bits and pieces like skyscraper figures from Jubilife and a snowglobe from Snowpoint. To this day, I still don’t know how the humans came up with that technology, or just how much was in Sis’ bag at that time, but in any case, we came back, cooked dinner, which Sis gobbled up quickly, and played that card game, which got all of us to laugh at least once. I think Sis ended up winning with the best card choices. After that, I noticed Twig looked at her in a new light and aura, able to reconnect with her after so long. I think he just appreciated having someone who matched his youthful energy.

    It turned dark, and so, for lack of a better place for her to go, I offered Sis my bed. She was a bit reluctant to do so at first, but I assured her it would be fine, so that was the end of that. As for me, I meditated out in the garden while the rest presumably fell asleep judging from their auras. That presence was still there, though. I would’ve fallen asleep out in the open, but to my surprise, Curio’s opaque aura walked out of the dojo and joined me. My eyes were still closed, but I wanted to let her come up to me herself.

    “Boo,” she said.

    “You can’t surprise a Lucario, even if they’re your own kind,” I said, opening my eyes. I got a punch in the arm for that.

    “Shaddup,” she said, and we laughed it off. Then, Curio tugged at my shoulder. “Hate to bring this up out of the blue, but Dad ain’t here.”

    “No, I’m afraid not.”

    “He screwed off somewhere else then, didn’t he?”

    I immediately turned around to look her in the eyes. They looked calm on the surface, but deep down, I knew they hid a lot of anger as they twitched. I didn’t want her to come back to that, but I might as well have told her the truth.

    “Liam, um, I mean, Dad, wasn’t very emotionally stable once you left the island. It wasn’t your fault, I promise.”

    I told her the rest of the details, stuff I don’t care to recall, but remember vividly nonetheless. The wailing. The massive surges of guilt that radiated from him. The suicidal threats. The wordless goodbye over night. The more I told her, the more rapid Sis’ breaths were, and when I finished, she ran and punched a crater in a nearby tree with her bandaged paw. I sat as still as stone, trying to process how she was capable of doing such a thing. She shouted and cursed in all sorts of sickening human words, not caring who heard her. My belly started churning through the violent power of her voice alone. The rest of the family didn’t stir from this; the only other thing that answered her was the frightened calls of the flying types who were startled out of their nests.

    In that moment, a part of her aura cleared up, showing intense feelings of resentment and betrayal.

    “He,” Curio said in between gasps of air, “He said. He would. Be strong. For me.” She pounded the ground beneath her, sending clumps of mud flying everywhere. “****ing liar.”

    That human swear still cut deep, even though it wasn’t directed at me. Still, I felt her anger. I felt the same when I first struggled through his departure. Her fresh reaction picked at that old scab.

    Curio took a few more deep breaths before gathering herself. Her aura was no longer clear, but its usual impenetrable self. “So, after he left you up ****’s creek, what happened?”

    I sighed, remembering the times we lived on the streets and tried to find any work or training duties that put us out of the stray-filled streets at night. “Long story, but whatever happened was hard. But I pushed through it in the end, for all of us, and got to where I am now.” I held her paw. “Everyone else helped as well, especially Mom. She fought for us as much as I did.”

    “So you became the new Dad.” She squeezed my palm. “What a life, right?”

    “For better or for worse.” I pulled it away and patted her head. “But I’m over it now, so don’t you worry about it. I landed on my feet here.”

    She sighed, looking to the distance. “If ya say so.”

    “Truth be told, if it wasn’t for you going to that learning centre, you wouldn’t have inspired me to do better.”

    Her eyes widened at the mention of it. I didn’t mean to pry, but I felt it was time to ask.

    “If you don’t mind, Curio, can I--”

    “N-no.” She shook her head rapidly, tugging on her remaining aura sensors. “Not now, bro. I can’t. L-leave it for another time, please.”

    Her voice was shaky, and from there, I knew I had to stop. The timing had to be right, after all, so I dropped it. A moment of silence passed. Curio breathed in and out, calming herself, before she asked me this:

    “Bro, you know you were talkin’ about teachin’ other Pokemon the human tongue. Do you really think I should start doin’ that?”

    I nodded. “Without question. I think doing that will open up more doors than you might think.”

    “Yeah, I kind of get sick of stealin’ after a while. It just doesn’t feel earned. Plus, I guess it would be nice just to chat. I could do that for ages.”

    “Then you’ll probably love this.”

    “But where do I start, y’know? I can’t just go up to any rando and ask ‘hey, wanna spend hours just trying to say hello in human?’”

    “I never said it was easy. You’ll need to prove you’re a good teacher, so you need to keep up good impressions around here. Once you get it though, you might never have to steal anything ever again. How does that sound?”

    She paused, deep in thought, before she lied down on the grassy floor and groaned.

    “Ugh, fine, you win. You and your dumb responsibilities, hmph.”

    “Good. We’ll start looking tomorrow. But for now, let’s just enjoy our own company.” I winked at her. “You’re still a part of our family, after all.”

    She smiled and clutched at my waist. “Thanks, bro.”
     
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  6. Namohysip

    Namohysip Dragon Enthusiast

    I feel like you could go without that last sentence.

    --

    Well! It's been quite a while, hasn't it? But I guess with it comes a little special epis--I mean, interlude! I'm kinda curio...us on where you're going to take us with this one, since you're already opening with the big mystery that I hope gets answered in some way soon: Curio's remarkably opaque aura, something so unnatural that Trunks finds it to be completely unheard of and foreign.

    But first, a few quick remarks.

    This is, like, the second or third time you mentioned this, that Twig didn't care either way, and I feel like you can cut out these mentions. I got the picture the first time, and you can probably imply it better with the rest.

    Ahhh but that being said, I loved this little micro-payoff. I was worried that there was going to be a bit more to this, but the way this wrapped up was actually a lot better. Out of everything, I think this little moment was the most heartwarming out of all of it.

    Though I do have a bit of a lingering thought--and I know that you're probably doing this on purpose--that in the present day, Curio is with Shine and without her family. She mentioned not being the sort to settle down, and in general is always on the move, so that could be one reason. Or perhaps something happened to make her not able to stay for long. Certainly makes me wonder how this is going to inevitably conclude.

    But overall, beyond that, I don't have a lot of thoughts here. Most of the world building was similar to the first arc, and while interesting, it didn't provide a lot of new stuff beyond just setting the scene for where Trunks lives and, of course, how Curio is currently living out her life. Looking forward to the next part.
     
    NebulaDreams likes this.
  7. Chibi Pika

    Chibi Pika Stay positive

    Heyy, it's been a while, hasn't it? But I think this was a great way for the fic to make its return, with a cute side story to ease us back in before delving into more plot. It was fun to see through Trunks' eyes for a bit--he's a lot more down-to-earth than Curio and you did a good job making his narration distinct. In particular, I noticed he's willing to point out his own shortcomings without dwelling on them a lot. Also I really liked the scene with Twig. It's a difficult emotion to express--feeling bad about not missing someone you know you're supposed to, but just just didn't know them well enough. I'm glad they'll get the chance to start things over again.

    I think my favorite part was the nighttime scene with Curio, when she learns that Liam abandoned his family, and all the raw emotions she feels. It really highlights how much better the family drama is handled in this version compared to the old thread. It hits especially hard considering that the last we saw of him, he actually had a genuinely nice conversation with her, and at this point in the story, we don't know where he is at present day.

    Of course, like Namo, I'm wondering how Curio wound up in Kalos and whether or not her family is still in Sinnoh. I suppose she could've just moved on, but it's hard not to wonder if something in particular happened.

    Until next time!

    ~Chibi~
     
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  8. NebulaDreams

    NebulaDreams A Dense Irritating Miniature Beast of Burden

    Chapter 26. Interlude – Ambrette’s Flyers

    The next morning, the two returned home a few minutes before the package was due. When it came time, there was a banging at the door. Several bangs, in fact. Curio went to see who it was, and true to Tony's word, there was a Delibird, dressed in his flight gear with a backpack presumably containing the package. He was about as thin as a rake, but clearly well groomed, if his well preened feathers were of any indication.

    "Morning! Deli, reporting for duty! I've got a lens and a tripod here for Tony?"

    "I'm his Pokemon, yes."

    "Great! Can either one of you sign for me?"

    "I can," Curio said, snatching a marker off the Delibird's flippers.

    "Cool!" He dug into his bag to retrieve the parcels.

    "Ain't it kind of hot for Pokemon like you to be out here?"

    "Nope, not in the slightest! I've been doing this for a few months now, so I've gotten used to it." He patted at his slim belly. "Believe it or not, I used to weigh a ton! I was a huge coach potato until I got back into this job."

    "Good to hear, I guess?"

    Deli retrieved both packages and made Curio scribble over a form with the marker. As Shine watched, he remembered hearing Accendare was part of the Postmon service as well.

    "Mister Deli," Shine said, "I don't suppose you've met a Dragonite called Accendare, have you?"

    "I have indeed!" he said, taking back the slip, "She came a few months while I was still burning off all that fat. She's a bit quiet, but she's still nice."

    "So, have you noticed something off about her lately?"

    "I dunno, I haven't seen her for a while. But anyway." Deli fastened the bag, and gave the two one last glance before perching onto the railing. "Thanks a lot!"

    Curio waved him goodbye as he beat his wings and glided into the air, where he flapped and weaved graciously towards the horizon. With that out of the way, the two were left to their own devices, leaning over the railing to gaze at the morning sky. The view was always pleasant to look at, with the sun just barely kissing the horizon, creating an orange glow that cast itself onto the coastal town's equally colourful stone buildings, filling, Shine’s heart with a rare sense of calm. Sure, the town was pretty throughout the day in general, as southern Kalos usually got both the best of the weather, but seeing this reminded him of why Ambrette was the best place for him to live with a trainer. In that time to reflect, Shine remembered what day it was.

    “Huh,” Shine said, “It’s Friday.”

    “Yeah, so?”

    He remembered mentioning the Dragonite, and then thought back to the last lesson at the dragon ranch. Yesterday was supposed to be a day off, and he was still in debt to Adele in the end. When this realization hit him, Shine’s fur pricked up at his spine.

    “Oh, no!” he yelled, “We’re gonna be late!”

    “For what?” Curio asked. In response, Shine pounced on her and pawed at her desperately.

    "We have to go to the ranch again and I was supposed to prepare for the lesson but I haven't done anything and I completely forgot about it and Petri's going to be disappointed and Adele's going to turn my ass into grass and--"

    "Shine, stop!" Curio patted her hand on Shine's back, which jolted him out of his panic. "You're goin' too fast! It'll be fine, I haven't prepared either."

    "But--"

    "No buts, or any butts for that matter. We’ll just wing it today, alright?”

    "There has to be more than that, though! Our lessons need to have structure, we need to plan ahead this time if we want them to do well!"

    "Yeah, I understand, but listen. You can throw a fit about it all you want, but it won't do any good to worry. We've had our paws full with this interview, so of course, we forgot. Like I said, we’ll come up with something on the way, alright?"

    Shine sighed. As much as his mind raced with all the sorts of topics he'd have to go through in his next lesson, he needed rest. Curio still looked as cool as a cucumber, even though a part of her body was mutilated. He could've thrown her boulder at her and she would've brushed it off like it was a thin sheet of paper. He wouldn't put it past her if that had happened before.

    "Alright, I'll calm down, for now." Shine chuckled, though not because of any joke he told himself in his head. "I don't get it. I wish I could be as calm as collected as you are half the time."

    "Really?" Curio pointed to herself. "I don't think I do much different to a lot of people, but thanks. Anyway, if Adele really would turn your ass to grass, we should probably get moving.”

    Shine nodded. They left the package at the flat and made their way through the path to the ranch, where the sun barely peered in through the arches of trees above them. Then, there was that familiar flutter of wings Shine knew too well, and then, Bauble tugged at his mane of fur.

    “Ah, h-hey!” he yelped. “No need to be so rough!”

    “That’s me bein’ gentle, ya know.” Bauble fluttered and stood herself up in front of Shine. “What ya goin’ to the barn place for anyhow? You know I ain’t allowed there.”

    “Yes, I’m afraid not,” he said with a sigh, “But I have business there.”

    “Oh, sounds important!” Bauble fanned at her face with a wing, posing like an elegant Oricorio. “Not too important for me, is it?”

    “Well, we’re late, so we need to get there now.” Shine started walking, but Bauble hopped backwards as he advanced.

    “Don’t you have time for me anymore? Can you make some soon, ple--”

    “No,” he said quietly, but firmly. “Later.”

    Bauble leered at him before letting out one final squawk and flying away.

    “Ouch,” Curio said, picking at her ears with a bone swab. “I kind of felt that from her.”

    “I’m sorry about that,” he said, “I’ll be sure to talk to her later, I don’t want to leave her hanging.”

    “Eh, not my problem, it’s your business.”

    And with that, the two advanced down the path until they were greeted with the sight of flapping wings, large, fire-breathing Pokemon and the familiar red barn that served as a nexus for all the goings-on there. They wandered down the path leading to the house, and on the way, they met Adele, the dragon-riding mastermind behind the operations there, clutching an egg. She smiled at the sight of them.

    "Oh, hi there!" she said, "How're you two doin'?"

    "Fine, ma'am," Shine said, "Sorry I’m late.”

    “Hmm.” She glanced at the sun. “Yeah, I guess you are an hour late. As long as it ain’t a habit, I’ll let it slide.”

    Thanks. So I take it we have a full day today?"

    "Yup! Feel free to take an hour break in between, and for dinner if you're still up for it tonight. I've got a new accordion, so I'd love you to come and listen later."

    "I'm sure we'll enjoy it."

    "Good!" Adele stroked the egg with her gloved hand. "Petri's just by the bog again, but for now, I gotta take this to the incubator, so I'll see you two later."

    The two nodded before Adele headed off to do her own business, and they made their way through the spacious field all the way to where the Goodra nestled in the slimy pit. He waved a goo-coated paw at them as they approached.

    "Hey, Mr. Shine and Ms. Curio!" he said, "What're we up to today?"

    The duo glanced at each other, trying to find the words to deflect their laziness on the matter, but they gave up and sighed.

    "Honestly," Shine said, "We didn't think on it that much, but I'm sure we'll come up with something since there's plenty of time."

    "Alright then." Petri rose out of the muddy water and shook his body, sending flecks of slime flying everywhere. Some of it stuck to Shine's coat, which had only been cleaned two days ago. "Lead the way!"

    The Luxray ignored the fact a whole bath had just been wasted, and led Petri to their usual spot where they sat in a circle in an open patch of grass undisturbed from the rest of the dragons. Shine reminisced on some of the bits and pieces of their facility days from Curio's interview, and remembered how they improved their craft by learning to read and speak the various passages in their exercise sheets. As far as Shine knew, Petri wasn't taught any of that, if his basic lessons were of any indication.

    "Well Petri," he said, "How is your speaking going?"

    "Kind of the same, really." The Goodra frowned. "My other teacher hasn't come back since, and Adele's been trying to chase after him to ask what's going on. But yeah, I'm no quicker at talking than I was days ago. You guys make it seem so easy."

    "I mean, yeah," Curio said, pointing to herself with false modesty, "We're pretty awesome now, but I kind of sucked at it too."

    "But anyway," Shine said, "Would it be helpful to you to practice reading out something?"

    "Reading?" He cocked his head. "Nah, I can't read to save my life. He never went into that either."

    "Wow," Curio said, digging into her bag, "He does suck. Sorry, but Adele got a really bum deal on picking someone to teach you human."

    "It seems that way, but she couldn't find anyone else. She said it took her days to look for someone in the papers, which again, I can't read."

    "It would've only taken her a few hours to make a deal with someone online, through a computer,” Shine said. “There are quite a few of us in Ambrette that speak that can be found there. so why didn't she do that?"

    "Beats me." Petri shrugged. "I haven't used a computer once, or any device at all. I licked a TV once, but that didn't taste nice."

    "Ew." Curio stood up and reached, both arms in, to the wide space within her bag, which laid on the floor. She groaned and grunted, planting her feet firmly on the floor, as if she was engaged in some invisible tug of war, until the bag expanded to three times its size. With great force, Curio eventually pulled a wheelie whiteboard out the size of a wide-screen TV, and once it was out there in the physical world, the bag shrank to its original size.

    She wiped the sweat off her furry head before retrieving a few markers from her cave of curiosities, and wrote out a title at the top of the board labelled ‘Curio and Shine's Kickass Reading Lesson!’, with little doodles of her and the Luxray's face at the edge of the board. She turned to the two, who shared a look of perplexity. Shine himself wondered how she even came across that in the first place, before remembering he was still there to teach. He joined Curio not long after, instructing her to write out the alphabet in order. Like Azzy did in their first year, they pronounced all the sounds with the corresponding letters and made Petri repeat it.

    "You two." Petri held his slimy paw up. "I'm not sure I see what the point of this is. I thought you'd just teach me to speak, although I do appreciate learning something else."

    "I understand that," Shine said, "But the point is understanding which sounds go into each letters, so you can understand how words are structured, then how sentences are constructed. You don't need to learn everything, but you just need to remember these two go paw in paw with each other. Since you want to speak faster, however, we'll work on that. Wipe it away, please."

    "Sure, sir," she said with a toothy grin. "Would you like me to wipe your ass for you too?"

    "Just do it, please."

    "I know, just yankin' your tail."

    From there, they volleyed back and forth in human, working through some of Petri's other problem areas, like connecting syllables together, and in a matter of hours, he spoke more clearly and quickly than before. Their session only blossomed from there, so much so that when the scruffy-haired apprentice came huffing and puffing through the field and collapsing in their space, it came as a surprise to all three of them. Shine was the first to check on him.

    "Are you alright?" he said. Through his exasperated breaths, the boy gave him a thumbs up, and they allowed him to catch his breath before he sat up, glugging down half a bottle of water.

    "Did your boss make you run across the field again?"

    "Yeah," he said in between breaths. "I misplaced some of the picking tools."

    "Sounds like she puts you through a lot of crap," Curio said, sitting down opposite him. "Why'd you deal with it?"

    "Eh, it's no problem. I give her a lot of crap too, but Adele's the best, seriously." He poured the last of the water down his forehead and let it drip. "Oh!” His eyes widened and he outstretched his hand to each of them. “Sorry, manners. I’m Jean.”

    Jean!” Petri repeated.

    Shine and Curio said their names and returned the handshake. Jean looked to Curio’s metal arm with a hint of surprise, but said nothing. Instead, he turned to Petri.

    “Do you want me to hang out with you for a bit?” Jean said.

    Petri cocked his head. “Are-nt you being pun-ished?”

    “Yeah, well, the missus would want me to be with you anyway. If I’m workin’ with the dragons and all, might as well get to know em’, right?”

    He patted his belly, to which, Petri giggled with delight. So he relaxed and propped his head up on Petri's stomach, which looked like a huge pillow, letting himself sink into it. Shine found the image oddly amusing. The apprentice looked so content as well, staring up at the sky while Petri occasionally peered in, covering his face in shadow. The only thing he didn’t quite anticipate was the slime dripping down on his head, and he shivered a little.

    Sorry,” Petri said, “I try to control it.”

    “Nah, nah, it’s, er, fine I guess.” Jean looked as if he tried to choose his words carefully to avoid upsetting the goo-excreting dragon, then smiled and ran the slime through his mop of hair. “S-see? It’s like shampoo!”

    Petri and Curio giggled, while Shine snickered, still finding it a little gross.

    "You seem to get on well with him," Shine said.

    “Yeah, I love these dragons, seriously. Miss always said I had a hunch for flyin’ types, although there’s a lot to learn.”

    He thought back to that botched harness fitting. “I can see.”

    “But, well, I might have to get going in a few minutes, so how about you join me?”

    Shine hesitated, as he didn’t know much about Jean, and had a history with young trainer types before. He turned to Curio, about to ask if they wanted to go off on their own, but she already beat him to it, walking through the fields to rub shoulders with some of the dragon types. Ever the social Butterfree. And yet he was stuck with Jean.

    “You don’t have to if you don’t wanna,” he said. “You seem like you’re on the shy side of things.”

    Oh,” was all Shine could say. He was quite perceptive. At that point, he couldn’t refuse his offer, and so, sat opposite him. “What gave myself away?”

    “I dunno, just the air you had about you. I saw it in Accy as well. She’s hard to warm up to.”

    Shine hummed in reply.

    “Not that’s a bad thing, mind. Some Pokemon, well, people are like that. But if I was in your fur, I’d feel the same way too, fightin’ and all that.”

    He didn’t know what to make of this, and decided to change the subject. “So, Petri, do you feel like you’ve been learning a lot?”

    Yeah!” Petri squealed, “You are good teachers!”

    “Good to hear.” Jean patted his belly again and smiled. “It’d be great if I had something like this back in my training days.” He spoke with the air of someone who had already reached their prime, even though he was still young enough to pass for a wide eyed trainer.

    Do they not teach you to get Pokemon to speak in the academy then?” He already knew the answer, but wanted to hear Jean say it.

    “Hardly. But never mind, that’s in the past.” Out of impulse, he reached his hand towards Shine, but he pulled back, warily looking at Jean.

    Sorry. I shouldn’t be acting like this. I just don’t like being touched that much by, well, I’m not sure what the word for it is.”

    “That’s fine.” Jean still had his hand raised. “I just wanna make sure we’re on the same level, y’know? I feel like we’ll be seein’ each other more.”

    He looked at his hand again, and eventually, Shine relented and let him stroke his mane. While he didn’t fully give himself into it like he did with Tony, that soft hand still felt nice against his rough fur. For the boy's age, he carried himself well, and because of that, Shine much preferred this quiet sort of moment as opposed to the shrieking toddlers from two nights before.

    Something beeped, and slowly, Jean stood up, patting Petri on the belly again.

    “Well, I gotta run. Missus wants me to see the new egg. Have fun, you two.”

    Petri waved him goodbye while Shine nodded, watching him disappear into the fields. In turn, Curio came along with a little patch of singed fur on one of her tufts.

    “What happened?”

    “Got a bit carried away with one of the Charizard. That’ll teach me not to play with fire, I guess.” She winked at Petri. “So, up for part two of our kickass lesson?”

    Petri nodded, and from there, the rest of the afternoon flew by fairly quickly. By then, it had turned cloudy, and not only was there a slight rumble in the sky, far away, there was commotion from an assortment of Dragonite. Shine turned to see saw a crowd of them gathering around something at the other side of the field, nearby the wall of trees. He looked to Curio, whose eyes were fixated on the middle of the scene. Then, she stood up.

    “Wait, we’ve still got our lesson,” Shine said.

    “I know, but follow me,” she said. "You might wanna see this."

    She didn't stop to explain herself and ran into the open fray. Shine joined and tried to catch up, until they were side by side with each other again, heading towards the source of commotion. They were greeted with the backsides of various Dragonite and other dragon types, who formed a wall around something, though they didn’t know what exactly. The dragon’s tails swished through the air, as if entertained by something.

    “What are we looking at?” Shine said.

    “That Dragonite you taught,” Curio said, “She’s gettin’ beat up pretty badly by one of the alphas.”

    Shine’s jaw dropped, and he looked towards the scene, trying to pick out what was going on. He heard growls and cries through the other end, and with the help of his golden vision, filtered out the rest of the crowd to look at the two Dragonite in the middle. There was none other than Accendare, whose slim body was covered from head to paw in various bruises and cuts as they wept on the floor. On the right was one much taller and stockier than her, fists raised in preparation to strike. Shine vaguely remembered him from the day he first went to the ranch, as the smug looking Bally.

    "Geddup!" he said, face contorted with malice, "I wanna see you fight me like the Dragonite you are!"

    Accendare shivered, trying to prop herself up with her front paws, but stumbled and fell to the floor once more.

    "Please," she croaked. "No more. I don't- I don't wanna fight. Just, let me--"

    Bally leapt towards her and pulled her up by her elbows, only to throw a right hook to her face. She fell backwards onto another Dragonite, who pinned her up with his arms. A mixture of blood, saliva and tears flowed down her face.

    "Wrong answer. Try again."

    "E-eenough." Accendare struggled to talk, as her face grew more swollen.

    He threw another hook, making a pounding sound like a mallet tenderising a slab of meat. Shine cringed at the sight of it.

    "Bally, just stop it!" One female Dragonite called out, who Shine remembered as Lyra. "She hasn't done anything!"

    "Shut up!" he spat. "All this mare does is whine and complain, and I'm sick of hearin' it! She doesn't fight for herself, she's scrawnier than scrawny, I don’t think I’ve ever seen her eat! She's just weak!" Bally grabbed Accendare's bloodied face with both his meaty paws. "This'll be a good lesson for you, runt."

    A part of Shine's memories came back to him. Specifically, he flashed back to those facility days when he was still a Shinx, when M was still around, and other memories Shine had repressed, but always served as a reminder for why his eye ended up the way it did. All those times he had to fight to prove himself. All those times he cried alone when no one was there to take his side during detention. All culminating in that moment where…

    He shook his head. That was something he didn’t want to deal with now. He just wanted it to stop. Step by step, he walked towards the horde, but his hindlegs wobbled with fear. What was he doing? He was going against a dragon, but why? He know why, but he was just a Luxray, a lion, and that Dragonite was a hulking mass of horsepower. Everything told him to stop, and yet, he kept walking.

    “Hey, earth to Shine?” Curio said, “What are ya--”

    “Hold on,” Shine said, not turning back, “I want to help.”

    “Wait, hold up!” Curio reached towards him, trying to drag him back, but that only solidified his resolve. He sprang towards the horde, weaving through the those load-bearing tails, and squeezed in through the dragon crowd until he was in the fray, standing in front of the bawling Dragonite. He imagined himself as a father Luxray taking care of one of his frail cubs.

    In turn, Bally towered above Shine and scowled at him, who undoubtedly looked microscopic when viewed from that level.

    "Oh, you’re here," he said, pounding a fist against the flat of his other paw. "Whaddya want?"

    Shine felt his legs turn to lead. However, he swallowed and took a few steps forward anyway, confronting the behemoth.

    "What do you think you're doing to her?" he spoke quietly, but firmly, like Tony often did whenever he put his foot down.

    "Oh, nothing." Bally clasped his paws together. "Just teachin’ this wimp somethin’."

    "That's my student you're dealing with. I'm not having any of it while I'm here."

    "Oh yeah?" He guffawed, and most of the other dragons joined him, save for Lyra. "What are you gonna do about it, talk at me to death? You'd probably make everyone here die of boredom anyway with your speaking lessons! Tell me, whaddo we need to speak like humans for anyway? We're not them, are we?"

    "That's not the point." Shine planted his front paws firmly into the ground, charging up his field for an attack, but in truth, he was doing everything in his power to stop himself pouncing at the monster. He didn't want to lose his head before the main event, figuratively or literally. "Lay another claw on her and I'll make you regret it."

    Bally glanced to his sides, and step by step, advanced towards Shine, leaving huge marks in the earth beneath him. A dark cloud started to form above them. If all went well, Shine would be able to send a warning without damaging anyone.

    “You know, I’d really like to see you try. Let’s see how that goes. When you make the first move, I’ll make sure you know your place, bug.” At that point, raindrops poured down on each of their heads, but Bally only grinned. “So you made it rain. Congrats, I guess. Sucks for you, because it’s my turn now.” He expanded his wings and started stepping back to wind up his attack.

    Lighting struck from far away, making the sky around them flash with a brilliant light. Something crackled in the distance, and lo and behold, the biggest tree came crashing down towards the group. They all dispersed, flying in different directions. Shine made sure to dodge for the oncoming strike, from either Bally or the tree. It was chaos. Dragons cried in different pitches and shrieks, wings flapped haphazardly as far as the eye could see, and as the smouldering bark came crashing down with a thud on the ground, it threw everyone affected into a panic. The moment it happened, Shine instantly regretted it. He ran through the open space, hoping that Bally wasn’t too far away, but soon enough, he no longer felt his feet touching the ground. He screamed when he realised what was happening as the world below him shrank. Shine was in the air, alone with the flying beast.

    “Bad news, buddy!” Bally shouted, “Now you’re gonna be food for the Fletchling!”

    His grip on the Luxray’s stomach released.

    The world spun before Shine, turning completely upside down. He could no longer control his body. He felt cold. Then it hit him that he was in very grave danger. He would hit the ground, probably break all of his bones and send his guts flying everywhere. He couldn’t die there. There was so much he had left to talk about, so much he wanted to experience, so many places he wanted to go with Curio and Tony and all the like. He needed to make up for lost time. All of his dreams and regrets came rushing back to him, much like how the wind rushed against him below.

    That was, until he got caught again, and the world stood still once more. The whiplash, however, was enough to make him spew out the contents of his breakfast. Wings whipped past his head, which he recognised as belonging to another Dragonite, but he couldn’t make out who, either because of his limited view or his nausea. Shine wouldn’t know until they slowly lowered themselves onto the field and lightly dropped Shine down on the soft grass. He toppled on his side, and as he caught his breath, he tried to catch a glimpse of who saved him, but the image in front of him was out of focus. Someone spoke, but he couldn’t make out what they said. In time, his vision gave out, and he fainted.

    —-

    After the familiar hang ups of waking up from an unconscious spell, Shine found himself lying on a bed in a grey room, with a mix of the clinical smells of a Pokemon Centre with the pungency of a barn. He appeared to be in some sort of infirmary, probably where the dragons were being treated, with flashing machines and chambers fixed to the walls for some unknown purpose. In one side of the room, there was a lone Pokeball sitting inside a healing station, who he hoped was Accendare. In another, there was the green egg Adele had towed away in the morning, proudly displayed in the room with an orange glow. Aside from that, the room was otherwise dim.

    Light entered the room as the door opened, and Curio, Adele and Jean walked in, each sharing a look of concern.

    “Are you alright now?” Adele said, “Can you stand?”

    Shine got to his feet and balanced himself on the mattress without much issue. That feeling of mid-flight sickness had long since subsided.

    Um,” Shine said, feeling somewhat responsible for his own plight, “What happened?”

    Basically,” Curio said, “Everything went kinda crazy after you hit that tree, but Adele was there to wrangle everyone back here, I guess.”

    Before he fainted, he remembered seeing two images in front of him, although he couldn’t discern who they belonged to.

    So, who saved me?”

    Adele punched Jean in the shoulder, making him flinch. “You have this guy to thank for that.”

    “Did you have to hit me, boss?” he said, rubbing his bruise. “But yeah, I didn’t even think about getting the harness, I just got on Lyra’s back and chased after that other Dragonite.” He broke into a wide grin. “Didn’t even have any flight experience, it was a bloody miracle!”

    “That’s what we call flyer’s instinct, my boy. If today’s anything to go by, you might just be a natural born rider!”

    “Aw,” Jean ruffled at his scruffy hair, “You’re makin’ me blush. Does this mean I can stop cleaning the latrines?”

    “Well, we’ll see. But for now, you two...” She patted both Jean and Curio on the back. “Why don’t you two go outside for a minute so I can talk to Shine?”

    While Jean obliged, Curio crossed her arms.

    Why? He’s my friend, I wanna talk to him first!”

    “I get that. But I need to discuss something with him in private.”

    Not much point.” She pointed a metallic finger at herself. “I’m a Lucario, remember? There’s nothing stopping me from spyin’ on your talk anyhow.”

    “Yeah,” Adele couldn’t help but smile, “Didn’t think of that. But can you just head outside to give us some space anyway? It’s important.”

    Right, fine.” Before Curio exited the room, she turned to Shine and made a slashing gesture with her own neck and pointed to the perspirating Luxray. When the door shut, it was just the two of them alone in that dark room with all the equipment pulsing in the background. Adele stood at the edge of the bed and propped her hands down on the rails. Her facial expression looked familiar to Shine, from around the time she first told Jean off when they first met.

    “Shine, what were you thinking attacking Bally?”

    Her tone of voice was calm, but that somehow made it even more foreboding for Shine.

    Adele, miss, please,” he said, trying to maintain his composure, “He attacked another Dragonite.”

    “You attacked my prized Dragonite!” She punctuated this by bashing one of her hands on the metal bedframe. “If that tree crushed him, you’d be more than just millions in debt, you’d be put down. You should thank your lucky stars that no one was hurt.”

    He hurt Accy!” At that point, Shine pounced on the duvet, no longer hiding his contempt for Bally. “He beat her senseless, and now she’s being healed up here! Do you think I was just going to watch him go even further than that and kill her?”

    “He wouldn’t have done that. Either me or someone else his size would’ve stepped in. You just went on your own accord.”

    But that still doesn’t make it alright! You can’t just let him get away with this!”

    “Which I’m not. He’s being held in his Pokeball until he’s calmed down a bit. We'll certainly do our best to punish him, but there's not much else we can do to stop the bullying after that. They are Pokemon of nature, after all."

    "I'm a Pokemon, though!" He advanced closer to Adele, at level with her waist, and looked up at her. "You say that as if they can't be reasoned with. After all this about teaching Petri to speak, you're talking about them as if they're mindless beasts! Oh god, not this again!"

    A stinging sensation flashed through Shine's head, and images of the facility came rushing back to him, of all the fights, of all the times they didn't intervene, about everything. The weight of his memories made Shine roll to his side in pain, like his head had just been smashed against a wall. Adele rushed to his side and rubbed his forehead. A moment passed, and after the pain subsided, Shine sat on his hindquarters and tears streamed down his cheeks. The dragon rancher knelt down opposite him and coursed her fingers through his mane.

    "Hey there." She completely dropped the scolding tone from before in favour of something more soothing. "You're really taking this personally, aren't you?"

    "Of course I am," he said, sniffling, "I-I had my fair share of fights, and t-t-that was all well and good, but they didn’t stop.” He looked to the side. “They didn’t stop. And because of that, they left me with scars that will never heal.”

    He blinked his one eye, and Adele covered her mouth with her gloved hand. She must've understood the gesture. "If it wasn't for a certain friend, I would've died, and let me tell you from experience, if you do nothing to stop this from happening, it will escalate. You'll have Accy's blood on your hands."

    Adele sighed and joined Shine on the bed, wrapping an arm around him.

    "I'm sorry to hear that. I can understand how scarring that must've been for you. I do care about Accy, you know. I care about every dragon on this ranch. And I know that you, and Bally, and most, if not all Pokemon, can be intelligent like us. You certainly are." Her grip tightened on the Luxray.

    "But you have to understand, those dragons, especially Bally, they're huge, they're powerful, and the fact they know it is even more terrifying than if they weren't so smart. Most of them came from a wild background, you see. They pride themselves on that strength and wear it like a badge of honour. Accy was born here, and isn't very competitive, you see, and so, that makes her an easy target."

    "I wasn't competitive either."

    "I get that. And I wanna make sure the same thing that happened to you won't happen to her. But she’ll either she'll have to toughen herself up, or we'll have to double her training workload. She can't have Lyra stepping in to bail her out all the time; she goes through enough stress as it is."

    Shine gave a deflated sigh and slumped to the bed. As much as he hated this whole situation, there was little point with arguing any longer. Adele was the boss of her own ranch, with limited time on her hands, and he was just a Luxray, a small, insignificant Pokemon in her debt. It wasn't his place to make suggestions on her behalf. And deep down, he knew she was right. If it wasn’t for those trials and tribulations he went through, he wouldn’t have found the strength to live on and fight for oneself, even if it was tough at times. When he put the past few hours into consideration, and Adele's own views of Bally together, he rose to his feet.

    "Miss, how much is Bally worth, not just for rent?"

    "Well, from a list of potential clients, I'd say about, twelve million Pokedollars?"

    "Twelve mil--" He cut himself off, and tensed his throat. "Oh no, am I fired?"

    Adele burst into laughter, clutching her stomach. "Don't be silly! I'm not lettin' you go that easily! You've still got quite a few lessons ahead of you!"

    "Good," he said, breathing a sigh of relief. "I've started enjoying the time spent with Petri."

    "Exactly what I wanna hear." Adele stood up and gestured to the door. “You're dismissed for now, so I'll see you on Sunday at noon, but Shine, one last warning. If you attack any of my dragons again, I'll send your ass flying off so high in the air, Arceus will be able to see you rise above the clouds before you fall to your death. Understood?"

    "Yes, miss."

    “You can get dinner somewhere else for now. I’m fine with you coming some other time, but not today, okay?”

    Shine nodded and leapt off the bed and stood on his hindpaws to pull open the infirmary door. Down there on a patch of grass, he saw Curio sitting with Jean, close to one another, which seemed a rare sight for him. Rather than step out and interrupt the conversation, he stood there and hoped Curio didn't hear it creak.

    "...so, that's when Dad kicked me out," Jean said.

    "****, man," Curio said. "That kinda sucks. I guess you had a pretty good idea of where you wanted to go, right?"

    "Nope. Didn't have a home for a few days, then, I just happened to hear about this place. Knew next to nothing about training dragons, either."

    "So you pretty much landed on your feet then."

    "Kind of. I just hope after all this time, I made the right choice. Training would've been safer, I guess."

    "Well.” She put her paw on his lap. “I’d like to think you did the right thing. You took that risk and it paid off. That's more than I can say for most, human or Pokemon, I'd say. I know you're listening, Shine."

    The Luxray let out a shrill cry as he headed out the door at last, to the bemusement of the two.

    "Sorry," he said, "I didn't mean to be rude."

    "Well, I'm not one to talk, am I?" Curio flashed her signature toothy grin. "I know Adele gave you a right bollocking, didn't she?"

    "B-bollocking." Shine stumbled on those words. "Is that your human word of the day?"

    "Well, it's a word." Curio rose to her feet and joined Shine. "Jean, it's been nice speakin' to ya. We'll be coming back on Sunday, so we'll probably see you then."

    And thank you so much for saving me.” Shine bowed. “I’m in debt to two people now.”

    "Ha, no sweat. Well, see ya." Jean waved at the two before they made their own way out of the ranch.

    Shine and Curio trekked through the tree-shaded path leading out from the ranch. Despite the previous spurt of thunder, the sky was still clear, drenched in a red haze as it approached night, casting the two’s shadowy faces in faint dots of dappled light. However darkened by shade, the look on the Lucario’s face was more than welcoming to him as she smirked.

    “You seem pleased,” he said.

    As if on queue, she chuckled and nudged Shine’s side with her foot.

    “You brave little idiot, I never would’ve expected you to take on a freakin’ Dragonite.”

    “I didn’t either. I just couldn’t control myself though, not after seeing what he put Accy through.”

    “Couldn’t blame ya, mate.”

    A moment passed in silence as they got closer to entering back into Ambrette. It was during that period that Shine remembered Curio had probably eavesdropped on the whole conversation with him and Adele, and so, he looked back at her, more serious this time.

    “Don’t you think it’s wrong, though? Adele doesn't seem that bothered about stopping it from happening again.”

    “Yeah, I heard, and yeah, it sucks, but there’s not a lot we can do to stop that either. No interfering, remember? I certainly don’t wanna see your ass punted into space.”

    “Then, what, are we just supposed to let it happen in front of us? You never would’ve done that with me years ago.”

    “Yeah, yeah, I know. But that was out of everyone’s control.”

    “No, it wasn’t.” Shine stopped and kicked at the dirt. “They should’ve known what would happen. They should’ve reached out to him before it was too late.”

    “They made mistakes, sure, but hey, for now, we can at least help Accy out by talking to her, just so she knows we’re there to listen. Or threaten that douchey Dragonite. We’ll deal with that next time though. For now--” She patted her stomach. “Let’s get some grub at Tony’s.”

    He took a deep breath, wanting to talk more about what happened, but there was still the interview to worry about. That would give him ample time to vent about GeL, at last, for the first time in ages.
     
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  9. Namohysip

    Namohysip Dragon Enthusiast

    Ah yes, Curio awkwardly dismissing the dialogue for an epilogue to a tie-in from a particularly talkative former main character.

    --

    Well! Took me a bit longer to get to this one than I would have liked, but here I am again. Another interlude, and it was a nice little read! At first, I wasn't really sure what the point of the whole thing was, but I'll get to that later. I eventually understood why, but I will point out here that it meandered a little bit before getting to the point. But at the same time, most of the content didn't really feel like it could be cut. I really liked what you were trying to get at for Petri and Jean in particular, though I'd advise against resting your head on a Goodra belly. Apparently the slime is very, very hard to get out. Perhaps not as hard as gum, but it's up there. I wonder if they have a special solvent to deal with it.

    I mean... well... I guess I shouldn't be surprised.

    Did... did that just happen? I know we've got Palkia-inspired bags of holding, but wow, that was a funny and fully cartoonish image.

    "That means they're dragons here, right?!"

    Wait, I'm a bit confused about this line. I think in previous installments within the same universe, particularly Black Paint, being in a Pokeball is much like losing consciousness or falling asleep. How can one calm down if no time passes for them?

    And here is where I realized the point of this interlude. It took a while, but that was good buildup, especially when it was contrasted with the interactions with Jean, who seems to have a much more, well, equal-footing approach to interacting with Pokemon.

    I feel that the middle line here could have been extended a bit. I feel like there would be more of a pause between the two spoken lines, and that wasn't properly depicted here.

    Anyway, this was a nice interlude, though I am a bit curious why we didn't get more of the previous interlude instead, continuing with what Curio and his brother would be doing. I was expecting more of that. Oh well.
     
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  10. NebulaDreams

    NebulaDreams A Dense Irritating Miniature Beast of Burden

    Huh. I didn't imagine it would've been that sticky, but then again, if Goodra contact is such a big thing, they probably would have stuff to deal with it.

    Curio at it again with her magical bag of tricks. But if you had to pull out something big out of a bag of holding, I thought the bag would've had to expand to be able to get it out of there.

    Yeah, good point. I don't think Adele meant it literally, but I'd change the line to be a bit more consistent, like 'we just needed him to get out of the way'.

    There is a point to the sequencing, but like a lot of things in this fic, time will tell how that unfolds.

    Chapter 27: Finding (M)y Paws

    Curio and Shine made the familiar journey through to Ambrette, where they watched the sun sink down and the last of the Postmon making their rounds to various places, until they arrived at Tony’s apartment where they were greeted with the master of the house lounging on the couch, bare-chested.

    Woah!” Curio said in mock surprise. “Cover your shame, man!”

    Tony smirked as he shifted his body to leave some space for the two. “That’s rich coming from someone that doesn’t even wear clothes.”

    The two joined him, with Curio sitting on the opposite end and Shine sitting in the middle, sandwiched between them.

    “Thanks for getting the delivery sorted,” Tony said, “So how was it today?”

    Shine opened his mouth to say he almost got killed protecting another Dragonite, but decided against it and swallowed his words. “Same as before. Petri’s making progress already.”

    “Good to hear.” His trainer coursed his hand through Shine’s coat and twirled a particularly sticky strand of fur where the slime splattered. “And of course, it didn’t take long for him to get familiar with you.”

    Oh, sorry.”

    “It’s not a big deal, I can always hose you down for a minute of two if need be. Speaking of which, your fur’s looking a little grubby too, Curio. It’d be nice if you went in for a clean at some point.”

    Shine glanced at Curio, and indeed, there were several dark splotches on her blue and yellow coat, smelling faintly of mud.

    Yeah,” she said, rolling her eyes. “Whatever, Dad. So what’s for dinner? I’m effing starving.”

    “Well to be honest, I was banking on you two getting something at Adele’s like last time, but screw it, I’ll just order something.”

    Is that fine, though?” Shine asked. “Wouldn’t that be a bit expensive?”

    “Eh, it’s the weekend anyway, so screw it. How does that sound?”

    Awesome.”

    And so, they browsed through whatever was available on Tony’s phone, and after umming and ahhing about their choices for a few minutes, placed their order and waited until the doorbell rang not long after. A Pidgeot arrived with a bundle of food and waited for them to collect it before zipping away in the air, leaving the group to chow down on a mix of various cuisines in the dining room. For Shine, the air was thick with the smells of succulent meats, spices and sauces, and the tastes matched the scents, if a bit too greasy for his liking. Everything in moderation, he supposed.

    “Sho,” Tony said, chewing on some Miltank ribs, “I’ve got shome great newsh.”

    Well,” Curio said, pointing at him with a Farfetch’d leg, “Say it, don’t spray it.”

    Tony swallowed before he continued. “The Primarina’s awake and has recovered from the decompression chamber, but she’s still being taken care of in the surgery unit. However, now this means you two can go in and ask whatever questions you like, since I know you’ve been curious all this time.”

    Could we do that tomorrow?” Shine said. “Plus, Curio’s been itching to see the aquarium, so could we go there on the way as well?”

    I woulthth shay ithing, buth...” Curio said with a mouthful.

    “Yeah, that’s fine,” Tony said. “In fact, I was thinking we could make a day out of it. We could prepare something for lunch and have a nice picnic!”

    Heh.” Curio picked something out of her teeth with a claw. “What, are we gonna play dress up as well or somethin’?”

    “I wouldn’t tempt fate,” Tony said with a grin. “But that way, we can record some footage of you two together for some B-reel shots while we’re there. Of course, I’ll need paperwork from the both of you, confirming you can keep this matter private.”

    Unhh. Boring.”

    “I know, but it’s important for me to be able to trust both of you, please. You only need to read the slips and sign, that’s all I ask, and then you can fire away. Deal?”

    Deal.” The two said in unison. Tony smiled as he took another bite.

    “Now leth enjoy thith.”

    They finished dinner and left the messy kitchen behind to go back to the studio, where Tony did all the lighting preparations from before, alongside setting up his newly arrived equipment, before they started recording away for the third day with Curio on the couch.

    “Continuing interview B, segment GeL, part two, take one. So, after the first year, I know the events of the second year were a little tough on all the subjects.”

    Yeah,” Curio said, frowning, “It was, something me and Shine know all too well.”

    “What did the second year entail in particular?”

    Well, the usual stuff. Like that old man said before, we had quite a lot of freedom this time around. I could finally focus on my art, which was great for me, and everyone else was encouraged to do their own thing and find out what sort of life they wanted to live. Some knew what they wanted to do right away, like Basil, and some were still finding their feet, like Shine. This would decide what we would focus on for the rest of the years there. So, on paper, that doesn’t sound too bad. But...”

    Curio paused, letting the echo-chamber of the room punctuate the silence. She waved a paw to Tony, gesturing him to respond.

    “But,” he continued, “what happened?”

    Something awful. Something truly awful.”

    “What is it?” Tony asked in a grave tone. Curio waited for a few seconds, then smiled.

    Puberty.” She snickered, stifling herself with her paw, which Shine rolled his eyes at. “You know how much drama there is in some place like high school, or at least, from what I’ve seen in flicks and all that. It was kind of like that. Everyone’s hormones start going crazy, and next thing you know, there’s a psychic throwing chairs everywhere in the cafeteria. Good times.” She crossed her arms and straightened her face. “Seriously though, it got hard in a few places. And unfortunately, not every student was really fit to be there, to be honest. But you’ll put two and two together once you hear the rest of it. And Shine—” Curio glanced at the Luxray, who sat up, “I hope you’re ready to talk about some stuff that happened to you, if you haven’t already.”

    Shine nodded wordlessly, not wanting to say much until the timing was right.

    For now though, Tony, fire away on something less depressing.”



    (So after Cartwright’s speech, I take it you did a lot with these newfound freedoms. What did you do in particular, and how does that tie into what decisions you made throughout the year?)

    Hmm. Well, to start with, we were finally allowed to visit each other’s bases in our own time, or even stay in them or switch around. Since they were no longer concerned about the wild grouping thing, they pretty much let us go wherever we wanted. Hell, this was apparent on the first day, when pretty much everyone in the domestic base moved into ours at once and set up camp. Basil mingled with the other wild Pokemon in our group while Pecha fawned over the cuter looking ones. Bran the Machoke sat under the shade, looking like he was about to doze off against one of the trees, the Roselia Lorelei started studying all the flowers with a magnifying glass, while P.Z. had his paws stuck on a handheld gaming thing with two screens. The only guy missing was that yellow devil. This came as a surprise to all of us, particularly me, as I went to Basil first.

    “Um, hi,” I said. “Are you moving in here now?”

    “Well, maybe not,” Basil said, “we’ll see. If we’re not wanted here, we’ll move back.”

    “But,” Floatsam said, in the middle of being pet by the Chansey, “I like you guys!”

    Basil smiled. “I like you too. But, we’re having some problems in our own base at the moment.” He nervously tugged at his large tongue. “Um, it’s about, erm--”

    “Abraxas, ‘kay?” P.Z. said, mashing the buttons. “He’s bein’ an ass again.”

    I groaned. “Isn’t he always?”

    “Even more of an ass. He won’t pick his crap up, leaving notes everywhere and stuff, and keeps takin’ up everyone’s space.” He stuck his tongue out. “That, and the way he talks just makes me wanna punch the MFer.”

    “Well,” Basil said, still tugging, “I wouldn’t go that far. He has his, um, redeeming qualities. He can be quite helpful whenever I’m stuck on one subject. Even though he insults me for it.”

    “Pretty sure that ain’t helpin’,” P.Z.chimed in. “Just stickin’ his snout where it don’t belong.”

    “Perhaps.” Basil sighed, looking defeated. “But anyway, we all agreed to give him some room. Maybe we aren’t enough for his dizzying intellect.”

    “Hmm,” Bran said, sitting up, “I think you are too kind to him, Basil. You shouldn’t let him take advantage of that.”

    “Ah well, I like to give every Mon a second chance.”

    “What works best for you.” Bran put his arms behind his back and closed his eyes, making himself at home already. Anyway, I sort of felt happy that I’d be mingling with my friends from the other base, even if Pecha had a habit of tugging on my aura sensors and calling me cute. Okay, granted, I was, but still, a sense of personal space never hurt anybody.

    I wouldn’t have really mentioned this if it wasn’t for M. Well, M wasn’t there at the base at first, but when everybody else came in, he suddenly appeared with that Manectric leading him into the base. Aside from Shine and Patches, Bolt was also M’s tutor, though I didn’t know why at the time. What struck me as odd at first was how Bolt looked at M with concern, something even Liam would’ve done whenever he caught me and my brothers in the aftermath of a nasty scrape. And he had a right to be concerned, as I felt it too when I saw M’s marks. Faded scratch marks and bruises covers his face and torso. I say faded because they must’ve been treated as soon as they found him in that state, but the fact those scars appeared on his body in the only places he could’ve reached with his own paws rubbed me the wrong way. With a wordless sigh, Bolt led him to his usual sitting spot, eyed me once, and left the room. We stared at M curiously, wanting to ask about those weird marks, but not plucking up the courage, knowing his behaviour. At least, not until Pecha stepped in, offering a paw.

    “Aw, do you need some help? There, I’m gonna make it feel all—”

    Before it even happened, Basil pulled her out of the way, saving her from being bopped on the head with a sudden bone club.

    “Alright!” Basil said in shock, “Settle down!”

    He didn’t respond to that and stood in his battle stance, eyeing the two. M was about to swipe at them again when I yanked on his paw, drawing his attention towards me. His eyes were hollow and deep, like a part of him wasn’t there anymore. I wanted him to come to his senses, and so, trying anything to see what would work, I slapped him across the face. To my relief, his eyes looked normal again, and he seemed aware of what he did as he dropped the bone club. Basil and Pecha, though, still looked cautious.

    “Maybe we should give him some space, Pecha, shouldn’t we?” Basil said.

    “But he looked so hurt…”

    “Yes, I know, but there’s not much we can do. I would just keep your distance from now on, alright?”

    She looked at M once more before nodding. While she wasn’t really satisfied about it, Basil did a good enough job at convincing her that she forgot M’s presence and moved onto petting Fernes behind the ears. I turned to M, leading him to a corner of the room, and glared at him.

    “What’s wrong with you, huh?” I said. “Why’d you try and hurt my friends?”

    He stared down at his feet, aura still as opaque as ever, but still clearly guilty. “Sorry. Got startled.”

    I didn’t want to prattle on about it, any more, so I just brushed it aside and said okay, letting him go back to his own spot. I didn’t bother to ask him about those injuries either, though I know I should’ve in hindsight.

    (I see. And the director mentioned that you’d be able to pick your own topics to study as well. What did that entail?)

    Well, there was the selection day that decided all of that, for starters. I’m sure you went through something like that at some point in whatever school you went to. But anyways, we were called into the battle arena, which was arranged so that some of the staff Pokemon had their own desks where they could work, and would wait for us to hand in our interest sheets so we could have an in-depth chat on what to do. We were told to write down what we had in mind for our future paths, and most of us got on fine since most of us learnt how to read without fail and could write to a certain extent; even the ones that weren’t bipedal used their freaking mouths to write. I couldn’t imagine doing that myself to be honest, although these flesh mittens aren’t really the best to write with anyway. I knew what I wanted to do at the beginning, so I was confident I could follow a certain path and stick with it.

    The others, not so much. We were gathered in groups while we waited to be called by the staff, so I got a chance to see what everyone else was doing. From my base, Hans kept staring at the sheet, scribbling and rubbing things out with the pencil as he gripped it with one of his tails. He had stuff written down from drumming to volleyball, but nothing very concrete and focused. I glanced at the other subjects in my base. The rest seemed to do fine, and by the rest, I meant Floatsam and Fernes, who chose firefighting and history respectively. The other two, well, Gastly wasn’t there for obvious reasons. It’s not like a spooky ball of terror really has plans other than to, you know, spook stuff. Most surprisingly, or not surprisingly depending on how you look at it, M was there, but he didn’t even have a sheet on him. He just stared at the turf, looking like quite the sorry Marowak there. His aura was tense, though with it being so hard to look into, I couldn’t pin down why. Before I could make out more of it, Shine rubbed against me, holding the sheet in his maw.

    “Oh hey,” I said, rubbing his head. “What’s up?”

    He spat it out and looked rather downcast as well.

    “Oh, nothing. I’m just a bit worried.”

    “You’re always worried,” I said. “Loosen up a bit.”

    “Yeah, I know, but—” His mouth trembled. “Oh, I don’t know what I’m going to do. All I put down was reading and learning about stories. How is that going to be of any use?”

    His aura was filled with concern, and that sort of rubbed off on me, but I tried to smile and deflect that tense energy.

    “Did you wanna pick that?” I said.

    “Yes, of course. It’s just, everyone else is doing something important, like scouting for injured Pokemon, or doing flower science, or cooking, and look what I’m doing!”

    “Well, I just picked art, and that’s not really important. Least I don’t think so.”

    “You always seem so sure of yourself,” he said, then scratched at his little mane. “Oh, why can’t I just be like that too? Each time I talk, I always screw something up!”

    “Oh, quit beating yourself up.” I rubbed at his head. “Keep talking like that and I’ll end up shocking you like Patches as well.”

    “But, you can’t even learn Electric moves!”

    “Yeah, I know. It’s called a joke.”

    “Oh.” He faced away from me and kept silent after that. Even without my aura, I could tell he wanted to get away from that situation. Part of me felt guilty for that little comment, but I didn’t dwell on it and zoned out for a little bit, until…

    “Next, Curio!”

    My tail jolted in excitement and I sprang towards the selection desk, where I had to be lifted onto the chair to even be able to talk face to face with the Assistant Director, who was of course, Lucy the Gardevoir. There was a sharp sense to her aura and a confident smile as well. Confident as she was, I couldn’t imagine that frilly dress being very comfortable to wear for her type, especially with that chest spike of her own. What is it with us two legged Pokemon and spikes?

    “Well, hello again,” she said. “I hope you’re doing well, Curio. I know things might’ve been a bit difficult without your family around.”

    “Uh huh.” That kind of opened up an old wound, though I didn’t want to call her out on it since she was the one that had to break the news. “It’s kinda better now though. Thanks for asking.”

    “Of course. I was the one who nominated you for the awards in the recent ceremony for your troubles, by the way.”

    “Okay,” was all I could say. Wow, I really had a lot of interesting stuff to say then, didn’t I? Still, it was a little awkward, and that ceremony wasn’t exactly the Combee’s knees, but I knew I was there to hand in my stuff so I could talk about my interests. I placed the sheet and sketchbook on the table, which she took in her leafy hand and examined with an intense focus, flicking through the pages. My work wasn’t really a masterpiece, so I didn’t have very high hopes for what she’d think, but I knew I was there to learn and would take anything she had to say on the chin. And once she was done, she closed the sketchbook and gazed back at me.

    “You said you wanted to draw, hmm. I know you’ve been doing a lot of that in the first year, and I’m pleased you’ve gone this far with your hobby. We wouldn’t have ordered more sketchbooks if that wasn’t the case. But, these drawings have lots of room for improvement, unfortunately.”

    I read between the lines and took the hint that my drawings were still pretty bad, but no matter, I wasn’t expecting to be showered with praise. “I know.” I showed my paws to her. “There ain’t a lot I can do with these. But I know I wanna do it anyway, cuz it feels good.”

    “Understandable. I’m sure your writing classes must’ve helped, however, art theory is another thing aside from penmanship. Still, we can teach you, so you can work within your limits. But what is your goal? Do you want to just be good, or do you want to aim for the stars?”

    “I dunno. I’m just a Pokemon, so it’s not like I can do cool things like, I dunno, be a famous drawer or painter or whatever.”

    “Don’t be silly, girl.” She leaned forward and smacked her leaf-like paws on the table. “You’re in Gestalt Learning, we have the means to make you into what you wish. If I gave up when I first started as a Ralts, I wouldn’t be here right now. Think bigger than that and go even further. If you wanted to be a painter, there are some Pokemon like you who’ve had their works put up in galleries already, so why not aim for that?”

    I was left speechless. Truth be told, that was a bit of a morale booster, especially after all the uncertainty surrounding my mates, but being encouraged to do something that big, surprisingly enough, made me feel small. She must’ve seen I was nervous, so she backed away and her expression softened, looking less like she wanted to tear out my heart and eat it.

    “Ahem. Your human partner is Lexy, isn’t he?”

    “Um, I think so?” We were often assigned whenever I had a review session, where I’d test my language skills and chew the fat about whatever we wanted, but it hadn’t been made official.

    “Mmm, hmm.” She grabbed a pen and scribbled in notes, focusing hard on the paper as if she was trying to read its mind. “I’ll see if I can arrange a trip with you and him. You’ll be able to go into the outside world, see for yourself what’s possible, and also discuss it with someone who’s had his fingers in a few pies, so to speak.”

    My jaw dropped when she mentioned the outside world. Ever since I got the photo album back from Mom, I often dreamed about going to the places they visited and walking the streets like we were tourists on vacation. We hadn’t set foot or paw out of the facility ever, so being given the chance to like that was like getting a brand new games console for Yuletide, if that’s what humans usually get.

    “Really?” I stood up on the seat and wagged my tail in excitement. “I’m gonna go out, like, out out so soon?”

    “Yes. On two conditions. One.” She held out one finger. “Stick with Lexy at all times and be on your best behaviour. No straying away or, his whiteness forbid, pee on anything that isn’t yours. If you’re to be like a human, you have to set an example. And two.” She held out the other finger. “Don’t talk about Gestalt Learning in public, not to your partner or to random strangers. Nobody here is allowed to reveal their ties to this project for any reason whatsoever.”

    “Why?”

    Her intense gaze returned, as well as that sense of unease from when I first met her. “Let’s not get into that right now. I don’t want to worry you too much, but trust us, it’s very important that you be careful of what you say in the outside world. Can I trust you to follow these conditions?”

    I was about to say something else, but in the end, I just nodded, sensing I had to change the subject. Not that the thought left me, just that it was hard to press her on it when she had more power over me. Still, she relaxed and smiled in turn, letting me know that I was in the clear.

    “Your tutor will let you know when you can go, but in the mean time, think about what you’d like to do. I’ll see you around.”

    I leapt out of my seat and dashed through the hallway. I skipped as I ran, and would’ve shouted my lungs out if I felt like it, just to express my excitement. I didn’t care where I went, as we were allowed to roam the hallways as we pleased for our second year, so I got that out of my system before I slowed down to a brisk pace and walked back to my own base.

    Aside from that, the next few days were uneventful until I was called by one of the mediators to go to the security doors. There, that Machamp Henry stood guard as Lexy waited there, greeting me along the way.

    Right,” Henry said, crossing his four arms. “You’re headin’ to a public place, so I gots words for both of you.” He turned to Lexy first. “Keep a close eye on her, you hear? Might be her first time, so if anythin’ happens while she’s out, it’s your funeral.”

    Lexy nodded, nonplussed. The Machamp turned to me next. “And you, no runnin’ around wherever you wanna. You’ll be walkin’ with lots of humans, but you’ll be indoors, so you’ll be safe. If you goes wanderin’ off on your own, though, I don’t think Miss Gardy’ll be pleased. Got that?”


    “R-right!” I mean, how else would I have reacted to a four armed behemoth like him? He probably could’ve snapped my limbs off like Miltank Jerky if I got on his bad side again. I took his word though, and when he sensed we were both clear on the risks involved, he smiled and drew out a Pokeball.

    You know, it’ll be a blast goin’ with you. They have a thing on famous Machamp pants and belts, don’t they?”

    Lexy nodded. I internally scoffed at the idea, although I wasn’t entirely sure how to picture an exhibit on those thing, especially if that thing about their pants being skin is true. Oh yeah, everybody come and check out the skin exhibit. Sounds like a great way to bring the kids and Pokemon together. But whatever. Machamp presented the ball to me, and once I touched it, I got sucked in, staying in that void for what felt like an eternity before I got taken out.

    Once I emerged from the white light, I was presented with the insides of a fancy looking building. That’s the only thing I could’ve called it at the time, but thinking closely, it was wide and spacious, with all sorts of marble pillars holding it up, as well as staircases and pathways leading to different rooms. In the middle of it all was a sign that read ‘Veilstone Museum of Natural History and Pokemon Curiosities’, and below that, the skeleton of an Aerodactyl, which creeped me out at first. It was a bit unnerving looking at something that used to have eyes and a face, now reduced to bone. But I got used to it, and I was given enough time to adjust to my surroundings until our quad-armed tour guide cleared his throat.

    "Alright, you’re free to tell me where to go and whatever floats your Gogoat, but otherwise, the both of you need to stick with me. If anyone gets lost, it'll be my neck on the line too. Is that clear?"

    We both nodded and facedd the main hall. My heart was pounding. There were a few humans, walking in and out, some who glanced at our direction. I’m not sure whether or not it was the Machamp talking, or the sight of us three, but it must’ve attracted some attention. I might’ve peed my pants if I had any to begin with. But Lexy must’ve seen the look on my face, so he leaned in and gently squeezed my paw.

    “You’ll be fine; it’s a hella nice place. See anything you like and we’ll check it out, okay?”

    I just nodded. At that point, I had learnt enough to hold my own in a conversation, but seeing how things were, I thought I’d soak in the atmosphere and get used to everybody’s auras before mustering up the confidence to talk. He started walking, and I followed after him into the first room, which had a lot of cool things like exhibits of small Pokemon skeletons, photos of different Pokemon in the wild, clips of them in their natural habitat projected on the walls, and the like. The skeleton in the hall gave me a taste for what was to come, so I was a little less nervous going into the rest. Still, I wouldn’t have blamed Lexy if he was a little concerned.

    “To be honest, this part gives me the creeps. If you want, we can go some place else.”

    It’s good, that’s inside me!” I said, patting my chest. “I’m all bone!”

    He chuckled, and we continued staring at dead bodies from there. Out of context, that’d probably sound weird, but oh well. We wandered around some more, navigating the different rooms, where we got to see how the earth was formed, big whoop, but while we walked, I kept thinking of why I was there in the first place, looking at things that probably would never come into play in my own life, or why people paid money to visit such a place.

    Okay, they were all stupid questions, none of which I had answers to at the time, but think about it. They all added up to record some part of history, which was important to look back on, but of all the things I saw up until that point, pretty much all of it was written and achieved by humans or done by natural events. Pokemon affected the world in all sorts of weird ways, from sometimes causing earthquakes and tsunamis, but if anything, all that showed to me was that we were still dumb animals that didn’t know what we were doing. There was nothing about us making big decisions like running towns or regions of our own or coming up with war strategies or whatever.

    What was the point of me, a Pokemon, coming to visit if I couldn’t make a mark myself? History was written by the winners, after all, and we never really won anything aside from battles started to settle disputes or to progress wars for other causes that weren’t our own. Not a lot of us could even write to begin with.

    My first burst of confidence in that museum was seeing a vaguely spiked statue in one of the corridors. I recognised that shape immediately and tugged on Lexy’s shirt.

    “Oh, you wanna see that? Sure, lead the way.”

    I glanced at him, unsure of leading my human partner forward instead of it being the other way around, but I walked through the cold, smooth floor, until I was face to face with a bronze Lucario statue. They posed just like Trunks did whenever he charged up his aura, and gleamed in the lamplights above. At the bottom, there was a plaque, which Lexy read out to me.

    “This is based off of the Tower of Mastery statue in Shalour City, Kalos, currently the world-record holder for the biggest Lucario statue at 100m high. The original statue was commissioned by Elite Four member Fabienne Durand in 1942, back in the long-done days when members of the Elite influenced the political sphere. Made in honour of his Lucario, who served under him for 43 years before sadly passing away. In order to preserve his loyal Pokemon’s memory, 120 different artists were hired to build the statue in a matter of 12 years, and the rest is history. To this day, the Tower of Mastery remains a popular tourist spot, as well as a source of inspiration for trainers and their Pokemon.”

    I didn’t really pay that much attention to what he said, since I was just so entranced by the actual statue itself. I wanted to know how it was made, and how to make it. It seemed bigger and more tactile than drawing, and when I thought about how I would create it, the process seemed more satisfying than being confined to a flat surface. Of course, I knew jack all about sculpting, but if I was in a place where I could’ve learnt about it, why not own it?

    Lexy must’ve noticed how my face glowed, so he knelt down and patted my shoulder.

    “You like him, huh?” he said. “Seems like the sort of strong Pokemon you’d look up to.”

    Kinda! I wanna make that statue!”

    He seemed puzzled at first. The idea of a Pokemon learning to sculpt must’ve been new to him, but I didn’t know whether he was enthusiastic or sceptical. Judging by his aura, he seemed optimistic, but I wasn’t so sure.

    Can I make that?” I nervously rubbed my paws together. “Can Pokemon make that?”

    Sure you can, kiddo,” Henry said. He gave Lexy a gentle nudge with his elbow, which got him out of his stupor.

    “Okay, it’s possible, I guess. Hold on, let me find something...” He paused and unfolded a pamphlet. “There’s one place upstairs that shows stuff like Pokemon Outsider Art. Huh, now this has got me curious, too. Curio. Curious? See what I did there?”

    Bad joke,” I said with a glare. “Sounds cool, though. Can you take me?”

    He nodded and led the way up to an elevator. Once the double doors opened, Lexy navigated through the corridors with his map, until we entered a small room where the exhibit supposedly was. The space was cramped with many different oddments scattered about, but once I got used to it, I looked at each item with enthusiasm: An abstract painting with many different odd colours and strokes. A realistic painting of various Pokemon in a wild habitat. Odd curios made from different pieces of collected junk. And even a poem, which I can’t recall at the top of my head, but remembered how nicely it flowed and how it reminded me of Mom’s old stories.

    All of them were made by Pokemon of different species and walks of life. Some were actually a bit old, but most were fairly recent. There was even a poster talking about the Smeargle Palette outside the Ruins of Alph, but I shouldn’t get sidetracked about that yet.

    Point is, I took notice of everything there and it got me inspired. Even though it was a small selection, out of many yet to be discovered, I wanted to be a part of that world. If there was any way I could make my mark on history and be the kind of Pokemon that stood out from the crowd, I would make something that was worthy of being gawked at by random strangers. You could say I sold out already, and that I just wanted attention, but what else was there for me to do aside from serve a trainer for the rest of my life? From there, I had a goal, and I would do whatever it took to fulfil it.

    Lexy stretched his arms. “I could do with some coffee. You wanna stop by for a break? I can treat you to some cocoa there.”

    Ah no,” Henry said, pulling out his own wallet. “Don’t waste your money on her. Whatever she wants, we’ll pay from our own pockets. You’ll still pay up for yours though.

    Money was still pretty alien to me, and admittedly, it was odd to see another Pokemon with a wallet, but whatever. It wasn’t completely farfetched from what we were taught, and Lexy shrugged it off. Anyway, we all sat at a cafe with everything ordered, and I guess there wasn’t too much to talk about the room itself except that a few Pokemon were already out with their own trainers, happily munching on whatever their trainers bought them or in their own corner of the room with climbing frames of their own, not unlike the GeL base. I almost leapt off the seat to join them when Henry firmly gripped my shoulder, stopping me.

    “Sorry, kiddo,” he said, “We oughta keep talkin’ to outsiders at a minimum.”

    I was still a bit sceptical about it, but again, the four armed monster had the final word over a scrawny token Riolu. For now, I just enjoyed their company while I helped myself to some of that smooth chocolaty bliss.

    “So,” Lexy said, “I saw you liked that thing we just visited.”

    Yeah!” I said, wiping the chocolate flakes off my face, “I wanna do what they did! I’ll have my stuff up there soon!”

    He smiled with an aura that felt genuine and not patronising. Then, a question whizzed past me, so I gulped down my cocoa and planted my paw on the table.

    What do you do?”

    He cocked his head. While my speech skills were good at the end of the first year, I still had some issues with expressing what I truly meant. I guess I was kind of like Fernes, in a way.

    Oh, I mean, you’re a student too! What do you do?”

    “Ah, I see. Well, at the moment, I’m in Veilstone University, which is kind of like a school, except bigger. Stop me if you want me to explain anything.”

    I nodded.

    “I’m studying for a doctorate in Pokemon Behavioural Studies--”

    I raised my paw.

    Doctorate? Like you’re cutting Pokemon open? Don’t dissect me!”

    “Oh jeez, no! I’m not a doctor, I meant, doctorate. It’s like an advanced course where you get to work in whatever job you want to at the end of it. It’s really hard, but it’s also really rewarding. To be honest, I’ve wanted to do something like this for ages. The thing that director’s doing hasn’t really been done anywhere else. He’s got big dreams, you know, and he’s a great contact. Apparently, he—”

    Shut it,” Henry said, pointing at him with his protein bar. “Remember, we can’t talk about it here.”

    I groaned, still a little frustrated that Henry was being so hush-hush about it, but still, no use arguing.

    “Oh, right, sorry. Maybe later. Still, we’re working with lots of prestigious professionals. They’re making lots of good contributions to—”

    Don’t use big words!” I pulled away from him. “You’re confusing me!”

    “Right, right, sorry.” He sighed and drummed his fingers on the table. “I kind of forget you’re a Pokemon sometimes. You’ve already got this conversation thing down pat, you know. You should be proud.”

    I am. It’s how Mama and Bro would’ve liked!”

    “Right.” He frowned, and swirled some sugar into his coffee. “Do you still miss them?”

    I cocked my head. “Sometimes. I think I have a new family now. That’s enough for me.”

    “Yeah, sounds good.” He frowned. “I get a lil’ homesick myself, you know. I like what I’m doing, but they’re back in Eterna, doing what they wanna do, while I’m probably the only guy from our clique who’s coming out here every day.”

    Have friends here?”

    “Hmm, I’ve made a few with the other students. We study together and all that. But it’s just not the same, y’know?”

    I paused, digesting what he said. I pointed to myself.

    Am I a friend?”

    His eyes widened. “Well, yeah, I guess. I enjoy the time we spend together, after all.”

    So, you’re not alone!”

    Lexy scoffed, and stifled a laugh with his fist. He held my paw with the other hand, and I felt something spark inside of me. While my thoughts of humans had been a bit discoloured from Liam’s ramblings, that one seemed just fine. He listened to me and seemed to support me without being overbearing. That aura seemed friendly as well. I didn’t care whether or not it was instinct; something told me it was worth sticking with him, and possibly, be friends with him as well. Right there, a door opened within me.

    That’s when white light flashed around me. Sort of like I was being put inside that Pokeball again, except not. My form grew and expanded in places I wouldn’t have expected. My tail grew in size. Spikes stuck out of my paws and chest. My head got bigger, as well as my aura sensors. None of it hurt, but it still felt weird, like my soul was being molded and sculpted to fit the image of some higher power. Once my sight returned to normal, I noticed I stood taller than Lexy. Just to confirm what happened, I also looked down at my paws, which were properly spiked this time.

    I had grown. I had changed. I had evolved into a Lucario.

    So, with that in mind, pop quiz. What do you think happens to a Lucario getting used to their powers in a room with lots of other people’s auras?

    (I can imagine it would be hard to adjust to.)

    Yup, a gold star for you. When I first felt it, lots of other people’s thoughts flooded into mine. This is just a sample of what was on the spiritual menu:

    Oh, that Riolu just evolved.

    Damnit, where did my kids run off to?

    How am I going to pay this month’s rent when I’ve lost three matches in a row?

    Why did I decide to become a trainer?

    I need to be strong for my team.

    Why can’t my trainer listen to me?


    None of those thoughts were very delicious. They were all screaming for equal attention, and so, when it came flooding back to me, I didn’t know what the hell to do. I backed away, but my paws wobbled and I must’ve fell since that Machamp caught me in two of those chiselled arms of his.

    “Alright, alright,” he said, rubbing my head with one of his other arms. Admittedly, that felt weird knowing someone petted me with a third hand, but at least it distracted me from the aural chaos in the room. “Congrats for evolving and all, but I knew this would’ve happened.Your mind’s all muddled, ain’t it?”

    Not sure how to react, I just nodded.

    “Thought so.” He gently lowered me to the floor and pulled the Pokeball out, much to my dismay. “Sorry, but I’m gonna have to call it here.” He turned to the human. “I think your schedule’s clear, so you’re free to go.”

    “Uh, right, but—” Lexy approached me with an aura of concern. Well, that set me off again. He had a lot of concerns really, but I’ll get to that later. “Can I help, or something?”

    Not unless you fancy a trip all the way back there.”

    “Well, maybe not. But I guess I can count this as an early day off.” Before he went, he crouched to my level and smiled. “If you wanna, you can come talk to me anytime, even outside the lessons if I’m around. How’s that sound?”

    I distracted myself from everyone’s thoughts long enough to coax some sort of reply. “Good.”

    “Alright, take it easy.” Hearing that from him again was kind of calming, but then he left, and I was on my own with the hulking mass. He helped me up again, I must mention, with those muscley arms, and held out the Pokeball within my reach.

    “I don’t wanna force ya in here. Only when you’re ready.”

    I took one final look at the rest of the museum, still unable to block out the thoughts of the humans and mon around me, and tapped the Pokeball.
     
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  11. canisaries

    canisaries sometimes i get a deadache, yeah

    Alright, so this was a long time coming. I apologize that it’s taken so long for me to read and review these chapters like I promise. Anyway, here are my comments on chapters 2-6 and then some on the fic as a whole so far.

    Chapter 2

    I think I already pointed out in the review of the first chapter that some sentences got pretty wordy, but I feel like there’s a couple of spots in this one where it’s even harder to ignore. Especially here:

    There’s some great vivid description in here, but as some of these sentences can string together up to five clauses, it’s tiring for the reader. One or two longer sentences are okay in my opinion, but here there’s a hub of so many that it’s very noticeable and becomes kind of a feat of endurance.

    that’s what she uses to mark her victims……

    thought you could sneak that by me huh

    “The” should be uncapitalized here.

    The pronouns for Barley and his trainer keep changing between (singular) they and he in this part.

    You want *bear, bare as a verb means to expose part of one’s body (owo?)

    Ooh, clever way around the lack of a knight pokemon. It also works as a kind of professional lingo that could exist in the pokéworld.

    Chapter 3

    Missing period here.

    Whose paws? Shine is closer to the end of the sentence which that pronoun should refer to, but Luccy seems like a more likely option based on context (and anatomy).

    Curio harassing Luccy and making fun his stutter honestly strikes me as really mean, and I was expecting/hoping there to be some elaboration later on where Curio would refute the claim or justify it somehow, but that never came. The only time Curio has acknowledged Luccy since is chapter 6 where she simply calls him a milksop, so I’m left thinking that Curio is just someone who makes fun of disabilities in her spare time and Shine doesn’t have any problem with this, which would be pretty unlikable of them both. Curio really doesn’t seem as mean later on or before, though, so in the end it just ends up seeming like an odd out-of-character moment that’s never addressed again.

    Missing space after the second comma. Also, when a sentence is continued after a dialogue tag in the middle like that, the first word should be uncapitalized. I noticed the same in other similar spots as well.

    Hey, you, you’re finally awake...

    hehe nice

    Chapter 4

    That’s the corniest thing I’ve ever heard. But I suppose it’s basically a folk tale, so it gets a pass.

    The they-pronoun for the Sudowoodo kind of makes sense because gender for a rock creature is strange to begin with, but I’d argue against using it for the chief. If this is a folk tale gathered into this book or at least a story supposed to sound like a folk tale, those usually have set and known genders as there’s really no reason the genders wouldn’t be known when other specific details in the story are, like that the Houndoom really were Houndoom and not some other species and that the guardians aired out the cabin for correct humidity for the Sudowoodo. Unless, then, this actually was a nonbinary person, which is a strange choice on whoever came up with the story (I refuse to believe it’s real with that “love” line). Or maybe this was directly translated from a language without gendered pronouns, I dunno.

    well no they actually said AAAAAAAAHHHHH OH GOD IT BURNS AAAAAAHHHHHHHH

    I… kind of understand what this means? But I couldn’t find a definition of “roam” that would mean to chase something else, if that’s what you were going for.

    it was Nurse Boy HAHA

    glomps you xD rawr

    Something went wrong with that last clause?

    Chapter 5

    Who this "he" refers to is ambiguous, because both the last "he" and spoken name were Shine.

    Well, that means you do care, but this error could just be part of her speech.

    Very minor, but it might be better to move that upper line into the lower line's paragraph.

    she was gonna beat his ass with a f*ckin bat what the hell

    This person was referred to as "referee" multiple times before, so it kind of threw me off that it switched to "announcer" halfway like this?

    Something I noticed: how Pokémon Centre is written has been inconsistent so far. The other two instances leave out the accent mark, and one of them has Centre capitalized.

    Extra word here?

    It's not clear at first who says this line - background information and context does clue the reader in, but it'd still be nice to have a dialogue tag for certainty and to better set up the back-and-forth.

    *run, but again, may be part of speech.

    Only on the second reading of these chapters for this review did I realize that the curse words being italicized meant that they were spoken aloud in human tongue and not simply emphasized. I was happy to know that because it came off pretty try-hardy in places with that former assumption, but I think it should definitely be established early on that they’re indeed human tongue. When Curio said that she’d use the human word when she said what Shine did was shitty, I thought that was the only occurrence and that’s exactly why she pointed it out. The first occurrence of a curse spoken in human tongue by a mon seems to be “By his white ass, no!” by Barley in chapter 2, so that’d be a good place to add an establishing line.

    Shine's back? Or her arm? It feels like Curio's metal arm would be cold, but the prose suggest it's Shine's back.

    Chapter 6

    He did? I don't remember anything giving me the idea that Shine was particularly proud before this, so this feels kind of out of left field.

    Double period.

    ---

    General Comments

    So I’ve talked a lot to you on Discord about Shine’s character recently, and I tried to focus on it more during my reread for this review. And like I told you, I noticed there really wasn’t as much of an issue as I previously remembered.

    For the others reading, it was about Shine feeling unengaging as a protagonist due to his faint personality, especially since almost every other character seemed to have a stronger, more visible one. Revisiting the first chapters, I could pick up on the personality better and extrapolate it onto the latter chapters so the issue was nearly gone, though I still think the latter chapters could have more description of Shine’s reactions to prevent the need for the reader to try and build them up themselves.

    This is especially important once you consider that the latter chapters revolve around Curio who has a very colorful personality. When Curio leaves the stage and has all this intrigue about her, you want to see even more of her, but the narration sticks to Shine whose nuances are a lot harder to pick up on and therefore he ends up feeling boring. And when a character is boring, the conflicts they face don’t matter as much, and when nearly the whole story is about that conflict, it’s not good news for the story.

    That’s my best theory on why I started feeling unengaged during the later chapters, anyway. But it’s also possible the story just wasn’t my cup of tea and so wasn’t due to any real or perceived issue after all. I did realize something additional that may be affecting the story negatively, though.

    This story seems to have two main elements to it - the main duo’s relationship and the mystery of GeL. This first arc (and the interlude chapter) focus heavily on the first, and I think it does a good job at it despite my critique on Shine. The GeL stuff is a bit on the side, though still the driving force behind the story, so it shows up in a considerable way.

    However, I don’t currently feel intrigued about GeL itself. That doesn’t have to be a problem, as a mystery can be engaging because of how the characters work to solve it and how it affects them. It doesn’t always need to be an interesting mystery all on its own, but I feel like that’s an opportunity this story could be drawing from more than it currently does.

    At this point in the story, what I know about GeL is that it’s some kind of laboratory institution that holds Pokémon captive and does some weird things to them (such as applying metal arms), causing mental trauma so awful that memories have to be repressed. The problem is, though, that the trope of an evil laboratory that does horrible experiments to their subject is used so much that I feel like I already know the gist of it. What makes something cliche still interesting in other works, though? Execution, naturally. What sets this facility apart from the archetype of a white-walled claustrophobic interior, invisibility to the public and immoral, unfeeling staff? What about it is unique, what details does it have to flesh it out? Naturally the characters can’t remember everything, but could they remember some little things with color and personality, like a certain routine, a logo, something made of wood or rock instead of everything being completely sterile and featureless? If the reader comes across an unexpected detail, they realize there’s more to the picture they don’t know, something else they can’t predict. They want explanations for things they don’t understand and can’t make a good enough guess for by themselves. That’s how you hook someone into a mystery.

    Enough with all the negative stuff, though. I also want to say that this definitely does have the same character and banter that Black Paint did and made it so fun. This one also goes deeper into the worldbuilding, showcasing the odd niche that Pokémon occupy in this world as anything between animals and second class citizens. It does make one wonder why these superpowered monsters haven’t Risen Up and overthrown these annoying hairless apes, but with how well things are put into place, it feels like the answer is there but simply didn’t show up in this small portion yet.

    I also want to repeat what I told you over at Discord and say that Curio’s managed to hit that sweet spot where she’s actually badass, funny and entertaining instead of the annoying arrogant b*tch type that female characters of this concept all too often lapse into being.

    Whew, I think I’m finally finished with this review. Glad to finally have it done. I don’t know right if I’ll be continuing on with this fic since as I said, it just doesn’t seem to be my cup of tea, but I don’t know how things will turn out once I’ve had a sufficient break. Either way, I wish you luck with future chapters and revisions, and I hope this reply will be at least of some help with the story. Goodbye for now!
     
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