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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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  12. Namohysip

    Namohysip Dragon Enthusiast

    M continues to be one of the most interesting side characters, since he's very clearly a self-harming and generally damaged former-feral, or perhaps still a bit feral? That's a tough call, but he's definitely one of the most complex characters, despite having the fewest lines.

    There are a few ties when I feel like Curio's aura sense is working against you from a narrative standpoint, particularly when she's talking to Shine. With M, it makes some sense, mostly because the commentary on his opaque aura helps because Curio doesn't know everything. But with Shine, he's a lot easier to read, and that sort of makes you fall into the pitfall of 'telling' his emotions instead of showing it, when it might not even be necessary. Just one of those times when removing some of those 'tell' lines might actually play to your favor.

    This was a nice bit of world building to just throw in randomly again. I liked it, especially since it's more or less bite squad but for Pokemon.

    --

    Anyway, the museum segment was nice! It showed a bit more world building, and also just in general how Pokemon can handle themselves, among other things, and the whole theme of them being independent compared to how humans would normally think of them. I think the casual nature of the way Curio talks might have put a slight damper on the overwhelming feeling of all the thoughts she heard upon evolving, since it kind of took away from how dramatic it felt. It's perfectly in character for Curio to downplay it, but it definitely went against how dramatic it could have been, or perhaps how it actually was, from her perspective. That was sort of a tricky scene, I guess.

    Still, it was a milestone. Curio has become a Lucario! I figure the next chapter is going to be of her trying to come to terms with that.
     
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  13. NebulaDreams

    NebulaDreams A Dense Irritating Miniature Beast of Burden

    I'll respond to the reviews later in more detail, but anyhoo! I wrote a bonus chapter! Think of this as an omake that's strictly non-canon, although I've tried my best to stick to the canon of both worlds, and even expand on stuff I haven't revealed yet about certain characters in TCATS. Even so, certain characters might be written differently or slightly more exaggerated/downplayed than they are in canon.

    As the chapter title implies, this is a crossover between @Rediamond's Broken Things and this fic. I made this based on a random prompt they suggested, word for word: 'curio and shine babysit pixie.' I liked this idea so much, especially since Pixie is my favourite character from Broken Things so far, that I decided to write it out. I wanted to go the extra mile with this though and try to emulate their unique second person POV style, since it does a great job of getting into the heads of the characters. It was not only a challenge getting their style down pat, it was also a challenge staying true to characters that aren't my own. Then again, what would we be as fanfic writers if we didn't rip off someone else's hard work by using their characters?

    Chronologically, you can think of this as an alternate version of chapter 16 where Curio and Shine are on their own while Tony is out for work.


    Bonus Chapter - Broken Shinies

    Cuicatl Ichtaca

    You’re in a foreign land with a screaming fox. Of all the regions, Kalos seems the most detached to your native region, and your understanding of it is vague at best. Of course, Achcauhtli read to you about it, and you know its trainer system is not unlike those in Sinnoh or Kanto, but everything else seems unmemorable. You have no basis for Ambrette Town in particular, although it’s a coastal town if the crashing of the waves and the burbles of the various water Pokemon are anything to go by. Maybe like that Poliwag. But everything else is uncharted territory.

    If everything is unfamiliar, though, then why are you here?

    Simple answer: you don’t know. Just that everything is hot, the reflected sunlight on the tarmac is eating at your legs, and your snow fox is barking for your attention.

    “It’s hot!” Pixie shouts, or rather, what you interpret her shouting. You’re able to parse her speech as you’re used to psychic reading, but she can only truly speak in growls and cries.

    “I know,” you say, trying to find a way to resolve this.

    “I’ll melt!” she screeches.

    “I’ll do everything to make sure you don’t,” you reassure her. Though at this rate, she probably will. Are Kalosan summers always this hot? Anyway, you instinctively dig into your pocket out of listlessness and fumble around until you feel a slip of paper run between your fingers. There are bumps on the sheet. Whoever put you on this rock was kind enough to give you something to read, at least.

    ‘You’re in another world,’ the bumps read, ‘Quite like your own, but different. There are several instructions on this slip of paper that will help you get back, but the biggest priority is getting your Alolan Vulpix taken care of. Unfortunately, you don’t have your Pokeball, and you can’t buy another one to use it, so you’re stuck with her in her real form.’

    You mutter ‘****’ underneath your breath before you continue reading.

    ‘But you will find somewhere willing to take her in at the following address. After that, the rest will follow.’

    The address means nothing to you, but it’s one thing to take care of first. But that only brings in more questions. Why are you here? Who put you in this other world? Hold on, there are other worlds?

    This realisation hits you hard enough to make your knees wobble. Pixie seems to notice as she growls, but you’re stuck in your own head space. You don’t belong here. Do you belong anywhere, except from home, which you can’t come back to? Your prized Pokemon are all off somewhere else, your mom and brother is, well, you can’t bring yourself to think about that, and you took on the trainer’s journey to forget about that. Yet you brought the baggage with you, and you can’t escape that.

    You aren’t here of your own free will. You aren’t in control. Since when did you have any sway over your own actions anyway? You can’t even keep control of your own mouth to get it to eat food. But you ventured out on your own anyway. That was a choice. This is just a railroad you’re being guided through, and for what purpose? To satisfy Tezcatlipoca, or whoever stuck you here? So you’re just a cosmic plaything for the gods, great. You--

    Pixie’s clawing at your leg and screaming. To stop her from making your leg into shredded kebab, you take her in your hands and pet her. She’s cool to the touch, like an icy water bottle, but it should be even colder. This isn’t normal, and unless you do something about it, she’ll run away for good. Time to stop feeling sorry for yourself and move onto feeling sorry for someone else. But how to calm her down?

    “Vanilluxe!” she yelps. “Over there!”

    You gauge what she’s crying at from where she directs her cries. You bump into someone and they curse at you, you bite the urge to curse back, and hear someone at the front asking for a double scoop. Ice cream. That will keep her calm for now, or so you hope. Only a single scoop for her, though. Quetzalcoatl knows you can’t afford to splurge for yourself, not that you’d want to.



    You ask for directions as the slip of paper says, and one old woman with her Bunnelby is kind enough to give you the directions. She says she knows the owner, and the Bunnelby repeats it in the human tongue. Odd. Did Bunnelby have the vocal cords to speak that in this world? And if so, why doesn’t it seem to be commonplace? Then again, if that was the case, assuming every Pokemon had a human intellect, they would’ve overtaken the government by now. You don’t know whether or not this is a good thing, though. But back to the woman.

    She is nice enough to take the cane off you and guide you by the hand through the apparent town square. She also doesn’t ask many questions about what your predicament is. You’re slightly grateful for that, since your best explanation would sound too far fetched for any sane human’s ears, although you wished she would stop talking to herself and guffawing like some loud bird. Pixie is content eating from the scoop you’ve provided in your hand, enough that she doesn’t notice the Bunnelby clumsily hopping close to the woman’s leg. All for the better as her type would most likely be the kind to hunt Bunnelby for breakfast.

    Eventually, she guides you up a staircase, step by step for your pace, and politely taps you on the shoulder when she reaches a particular spot. One light tap ahead of you, and the hollow knocking sound it emits tells you it’s a door. Then, the old lady thanks you before attending to her duties with her Bunnelby. You sigh, not exactly proud of being guided by a complete stranger. It’s not like you deserve help. If they were so accommodating though, then why didn’t the slip of paper mention her existence? No matter. Besides, foxes don’t mix well with rabbits.

    Like a puppet, you knock at the door and expect the owner to come take Pixie away from you for a bit. Here, of all places. Because you can’t provide for her yourself in this situation.

    Okay, let’s not. You have a job to do. So the door opens, and instead of sensing another person in front of you, Pixie’s growls tell you that a Pokemon is by your feet. You also hear a jingle at the bottom, possibly hanging by said Pokemon’s collar. So the master of the house isn’t home. How is this going to help? No matter. You kneel down and try to get through their mind, untangling the knots in your psychic links as best as possible, in the hopes of asking them where their master is. But his knots aren’t a web of impulses and emotions at all; they’re a goddamned labyrinth.

    What is this? You only saw this in the most impenetrable of minds, your brother included, but what business did a non-psychic Pokemon have with that sort of head space? With your sort of experience, it would take you ages to get through all the passages in their mind, though it was doable. It was too much effort and not worth the risk of getting lost in there, though. You recall your training with Renfield and find your way back out into the real world. Oh, there’s still a bit of lag you didn’t account for, and now your body feels weightless.

    Hey!” A girl shouts. It’s noticeably inhuman sounding, but before you know it, you’re in the arms of a furred Pokemon and Pixie is somewhere else. She isn’t in your grasp, but she’s clinging to your leg. Since when was she ever this loyal? But never mind, you’re back in the real world. Instinctively, you reach out to whoever’s holding you, and end up bumping it against a round spike on a chest-like area.

    Okay, that’s kinda weird,” the girl says.“D’you usually grope Lucario in public?”

    So she’s a Lucario, and she spoke in human tongue. A very sailor-mouthed tongue at that. But maybe you should try to salvage this situation first before passing judgements.

    “Sorry,” you say, “I couldn’t see.”

    Yeah, yeah, I’m just pullin’ your leg. Can you stand now?”

    You straighten yourself and manage to stand up with the help of that cane. The Lucario pats your back, and says something in her own tongue to the other Pokemon, although you understand that it’s a command of some sort.

    Oh, how rude of me,” the other Pokemon says, sounding male. “Miss, who are you?”

    Pixie starts growling at him again.

    “That thing is weird!”

    She probably isn’t used to Pokemon speaking the human language.

    “What are you?” you ask.

    Oh, pardon me, a Luxray. I suppose we aren’t very common outside of Sinnoh.”

    So a Luxray can speak too. At this rate, it’s safe to assume every bleeding Pokemon in this world has the biology to speak your language. Then again, he could be one of those Gestalt Luxray you read about in the Alola Dex.

    I don’t mean to be rude, but again, who are you?”

    It isn’t like you to apologise so much, but you bow reflexively since you’re in a vulnerable position here. “Sorry. I’m Cuicatl Ichtaca. I’m not from around here.”

    I can tell.”

    “But, I--” You stop yourself from running your dumbass mouth. Again, you can’t say a slip of paper brought you here, so you might as well tell a white lie here. A white lie involving a white fox. “In truth, I was told to come here by Hilda, the old merchant you seem to know.”

    Oh, her. But for what?”

    “I was told you could babysit for Pixie here.” Despite Pixie’s protests, you continue. “I can’t keep her with me, as I have some business to attend to. Sorry, but that’s all I can say.”

    “No,” she yowls. “Don’t leave me!”

    “I’m sorry,” you say, kneeling down to her level. You try to stroke her, half-fearing she’ll nip your fingers off, but she gives in and you course your hand through her icy coat. “You would be in better company with fellow Pokemon.”

    “I’m better than those Pokemon.”

    The Luxray growls, but before Pixie can growl back, you pat her head. “Of course you are. But with the way things are, I’d be better off keeping you safe.”

    “I’m strong! I can take anything on, so don’t leave me!”

    You frown. As bratty as she’s being, you understand her mindset. “I’ll get you another ice cream after I’m done sorting this out.”

    “And a new harness!”

    “Yes, a new harness.” You turn to the direction of the door where the other two are. “So can you look after her, please? I’ll promise not to be too long.”

    The Luxray mutters to himself, somewhere between a mewl and a whisper, but you don’t catch the words. “I-I’m sorry,” he stutters, “b-but I think you should find somewhere else.”

    “I can’t.” You probably can, but this is the closest thing you’ve got to solving one problem right away. “They said I could trust you.” That’s complete Taur, but you bite through it anyway.

    U-um, can you help me out here...” He chats with the Lucario in his own tongue, still inaccessible to your own telepathy. Pixie is trying to pull herself away from your hand into a different direction. She’s trying to get away. You have to keep her at bay, by whatever means necessary. You may be weak and unable to see, but you decide to use that to your advantage and purposely drop the cane you’re holding. You know where you dropped it but you fumble around for it as if you didn’t. If the message isn’t clear to even a Slowpoke that you’re blind and helpless, then what else is supposed to work?

    Oh, for ****’s sake, here.” The Lucario hands you the cane and you accept it. She certainly has a mouth on her. You briefly wonder if there are swears in the general Pokemon language, or even draconic, then note that the concept would be alien to most of them and move on.

    Um, s-sorry, I didn’t know,” the Luxray says, sounding like he’s about to crack. “Oh, god, I’m terrible.”

    “No, no, that’s fine,” you say, even though that was the intended reaction. You’re about to ask him again, but then realise that would be too on the nose and let them decide.

    We’ll take, um, this Alolan Vulpix in. I’m sure we can help.”

    “Thank you.” You’re about to get to your feet when Pixie gives you one pitiful nudge.

    “A Vanilluxe, new harness and treat after,” she demands.

    “The ice cream would be the treat.”

    “Then something else.”

    You shrug it off for now and give her one last head pat before standing up. “I didn’t want to load this onto you, but this does help a lot.”

    Don’t mention it,” the Lucario says. You can hear the grin in her tone. “It’s gonna be fun watching her mess up the place.”

    Wait, w-what?” Luxray says, exasperated. “S-she wouldn’t!”

    “She’s a fox,” I tell him. “Make of that what you will.”

    O-oh no! I hope Tony’s okay with this!”

    Tony schmoney,” Lucario says. “Now are you gonna let her in or what?”

    While you can’t see her, you imagine Pixie leering at you like you just stepped on her multiple tails. Which you might’ve done before on accident, however apologetically. “It’s alright, I’ll be back, with the treats as promised.”

    “Good.” She gives one final huff before entering the apartment with the two other Pokemon, and the door closes. Strangely enough, you feel a draft blowing through you, even though it’s still hot. You feel somewhat naked without your helping Pokemon with you. But you will look at the paper again in time, ignoring the familiar sensation that this narrative is not about you.

    Pixie

    You’re alone, and with two others much bigger than you. One has a mane and is leering at you with his one eye. The other has spikes, dangerous spikes that could kill you, and she’s sneering. The black arm catches you off guard, and you freeze up. You hadn’t met a Lucario before, but something tells you this is not normal for them. But you hear Skysong’s footsteps clattering outside, and you turn towards the door, listening out for her, hoping she’ll come back. But she left you here. She’s leaving you behind, but there’s the promise of hunting a Vanilluxe later and getting a new harness. If not, you’ll scream at Skysong until she gets you what you deserve for being a good fox.

    Back to these Pokemon in front of you. They spoke human, stuff you can understand to a certain extent, but can’t quite process, especially not from other Pokemon. They smell like Pokemon anyway, although the supposed Luxray stinks of soap and Rawst berries, but their mannerisms are odd. They don’t move with the air of a Pokemon like you, and they don’t carry themselves with the same air as those who function in a pack. Not fit for hunting at all, but they both have scars of their own. No matter. You will bark orders at them and train them until they become good pack mates. So you make your tails stand up on edge and straighten your back, ready to--

    The Luxray pads away from you, leaving the Lucario on her own. Wait, where is he going? You were going to teach him a lesson.

    “Hey,” the Lucario says, calling to him. “You gonna give me a hand here?”

    “Fine,” he says, padding back to your direction. You huff and flick your tails down.

    “Don’t need help,” you say.

    “Well, okay, maybe not,” she says, “but we might as well get to know each other while we’re here, right?” She kneels down to your level. “It’s Pixie, right?”

    “Only Skysong calls me that.”

    “Sky--” she starts before stopping. It’s annoying when Pokemon are indecisive in how they talk. “Right. Can we just call you that for now?”

    “Yes.”

    “Okay, Pixie, pleased to meet ya.” She brings a spiked paw to your head without asking, and you instinctively back away, tails raised up.

    “You’ll kill me,” you say. “I’ll freeze you.”

    “Oh, because of this?” She holds up her sharp paw. “Okay, how about the other hand then?” She extends her black arm towards you that time, one with a human hand, and places that on your head. It’s cold to the touch, and it reacts well with your icy temperament. So she’s the same type as you. Just like the Nine-tails. You can’t help but purr, even though you curse yourself from the inside for letting your guard down.

    “Huh,” she says. “I didn’t know other Pokemon liked that sort of thing. Everyone’s usually weirded out by it.”

    It is weird, though you don’t let her know since you’re too lost in the moment. That is, until she brings her hand back.

    “Well, I dunno what’s up with your trainer, but I hope you find it nice here, even though it’s not my place.” As she says that, the maned Pokemon beside her grunts. “Okay, so my name’s C--”

    “No,” you say. “You are Spikemom.”

    Spikemom cocks her head. “Huh, well that’s a first. Then who’s he?”

    The maned Pokemon tries to speak up, but you stomp the ground, freezing a part of the carpet. “You are Grumpcry.”

    Spikemom’s laughter catches you off guard, briefly flashing you back to that laughing human, but you ignore that as Spikemom tries to catch her breath, like she’s sick. “Oh man, Grumpcry!” She saves herself from dying and pats Grumpcry’s head. “Sorry, but that’s your name from now on.”

    “Yeah,” Grumpcry grumpily cries. “Right.”

    He doesn’t seem to show a lot of dominance, especially not for a male Pokemon. Your only other superior here is Spikemom, and you may do as she says if she wills it, but with Grumpcry, you will show no such authority. He is yours to boss around until Skysong comes along and gives you what you deserve.

    “Spikemom,” you say, “What can I do here?”

    “Well, hmm, I just mooch off this place so I can’t really give you a house tour. So Grumpcry--” she nudges him with her paw, “why don’t you do the honours?”

    He huffs, flicking his tail indignantly. “I’m never going to live that name down, aren’t I?”

    “Nope! Well then, get to work.”

    “Fine.” He turns to you and walks, expecting you to follow him, but you will only do so since Spikemom said to. And you need something cool, fast. Human apartments usually have something for that, didn’t they?

    He first leads you through a room with plush furniture and black boxes. You’re familiar with what the boxes show but you always find the shows boring and mostly for human eyes. The Vulpix nature shows are passable, but you’d find yourself screaming at the screen telling them to find their stupid prey already. Grumpcry doesn’t talk about it.

    Then there’s the kitchen, where a few odd smells waft across the room. A few bad ones from the bin, and some other odd ones from the counters. In any case, you know there’s food here, and that there’s something cool waiting for you to eat, although you’ve already had your fill from the Vanilluxe. Even so, it’s too warm in here for comfort. Grumpcry still isn’t very talkative. He’s either the lone wolf or the omega of the bunch.

    “Wow, some tour guide you are,” Spikemom tells the Luxray.

    “Well,” he says, “What am I supposed to say to that thing?”

    “That thing?” you say, detecting Grumpcry’s dismissive tone. “I’m Pixie! You are below me and you will respect me!”

    “I only just met you.” Grumpcry turns around and frowns, showing weakness. “I’m trying the best I can.”

    “Not good enough,” you say. “Need respect!”

    “Now listen here,” he growls, walking towards you. He’s taller than you but you aren’t afraid. You have the upper hand, for foxes are better than lions.

    “Hey guys,” Spikemom says, “I’m gettin’ somethin’ from the fridge. Now Tony’s out, well, we can have some fun here.” She snickers as she opens the cooling portal and grabs a can of something. You’re not sure what it is, but when she flicks the cap, it makes a fizzing sound, making your fur bristle up in surprise.

    “I doubt Tony’s going to be pleased to hear you raiding his stash,” Grumpcry says.

    “Oh can it, sourpuss.” She takes a swig and snickers again, this time with a bit more energy to her tone. “Ah, this is the good **** right here.”

    There it is again: that human word. You’ve heard it describe excrement before, but you’ve also heard it whenever the humans lose something and/or get angry. There wasn’t an equivalent in your language in terms of growls and cries, but while you understand the word, you don’t know what Spikemom means. Can excrement be good? And does drinking it improve your mood?

    “Can I drink?” you say, even though it smells like rotten wheat from a distance.

    “Nah, you’d die. I’m a big girl, I can handle this.”

    So according to her, you’re not a big girl. You straighten your back again and prepare to tell Spikemom off, even if she is your alpha.

    “But hold up,” she says, digging into the cold void again, “there’s more stuff here if you want it. Ooh!” She digs a plate out with some sort of half-eaten pastry on top. “You can have this turnover, for starters.”

    “No, that’s mine,” Grumpcry says, standing up on his hindlegs. “Besides, I doubt she’ll want to eat something I’ve already bitten out of.”

    You don’t care about sharing germs, as it seems trivial for your excellent immune system, but you aren’t hungry either. You’ve already stopped taking interest in the cold portal and turn to the big humming box by your side. Then Grumpcry steps up and stands on his legs again, opening the door to reveal a misty portal, much colder than the other one.

    “That’s the freezer,” Grumpcry says, looking at you with concern. Finally, he knew his place. “I can see you’re Alolan, and you’re probably very warm in this weather and I don’t think the AC is on. Did Tony get that fixed or...”

    You tune out and start tapping the floor, getting sick of his prattle.

    “Point is that you can have something from there if it’ll help you cool down,” Spikemom said.

    “Open it,” you say, hoping they’d show off the goods. Spikemom pulls upon the bottom-most drawer, which has nothing but ice-bags in it, but you take one look at it and it reminds you of home, even down to the pictures of the mountains on the wrappers. Like a typical fox diving into the snow to hunt their prey, you dive into the drawer and feel the cold seep back into you. You missed this. You missed how the blizzards felt and how the snow tingled your whiskers, even if most of that snow is freezer buildup.

    “Glad you like it,” Spikemom says with a grin. “Though what’s he doing with so much ice?”

    “Shaved ice,” Grumpcry says. “It’s something from his hometown he brought over here.”

    “Huh.”

    “Um, do you think we should just leave her in the freezer for now?”

    You stand up and shriek at Grumpcry. You might’ve been a snow fox, but you still needed air, and if you were locked in the freezer, you would die because of a lack of it. So for that little slight, and as something to put him in his place, you shoot a bit of powdered snow at his face. It was a full hit. Although it doesn’t do much, it’s enough for him to shield his face and rub his nose.

    “What was that for?”

    “You want to trap me in here and kill me.”

    “No I don’t, I never said--”

    “Okay,” Spikemom says, patting your head. “I think he just wanted you to keep cool. He’s not that kind of Pokemon.”

    “Exactly.” Grumpcry blinks and sneezes. Good. He’s learnt his lesson.

    “Maybe we should just take the whole tub, so we can still take you around.” Spikemom smiles. “How does that sound?”

    Her voice is a bit rough, but nevertheless comforting to your sensitive ears. You agree to go along with her for now as she picks up the drawer, letting you rest with the ice bags. Finally, she takes you to the living room and sets you on the furniture as she’s by your side. Grumpcry sits far away from you, but next to her. The two seem to be close, as Spikemom has her regular arm around him, though you don’t understand why. Spikemom clearly wears the blue pants in this relationship.

    “Now, how about some TV?” she says.

    You say nothing and just watch her press the buttons. The black box turns white first, like the snowstorms of the mountains, but it quickly turns into images. It flicks back and forth between many different scenes so fast, you can’t keep up with it. Finally, they settle on a set of moving drawings with sounds, which is boring, because it’s not real. Spikemom takes another swig.

    “This brings back a lotta memories,” she says. “You still watch this stuff?”

    You sit up, preparing to answer (although you don’t know what’s going on) when Grumpcry takes over.

    “Well, yes, actually. It might be a little childish, but I still tune in every now and then.”

    “Eh, I ain’t knocking it. Sometimes, I sneak into the movies to watch their latest flick, so it’s a bit of dumb fun.”

    “I can imagine your aura helps a lot with that.”

    “Yeah.” Another swig. “They don’t care. But hey--” She takes a newfound interest in what’s on screen. There’s a drawing of a boy with a cap. “Is he still ten after all this time?”

    “Who knows? Anime logic. That’s not even the weirdest part. Every time they start a new series, he keeps losing, and even when he tries his best in the league, he still messes up.”

    “Didn’t some people get really pissed off at X and Y?”

    “Yes, when his Greninja lost to a Charizard, of all things.”

    Taurshit!” She waves her can at the air, spilling some on the floor. “It’s like, what’s the point? You could do a much better job than these hacks and you’re a freakin’ Pokemon!”

    “No I couldn’t.”

    “Oh c’mon, you used to do that stuff all the time, don’t you remember?”

    “Not really.” Grumpcry frowns. “My memory is still spotty.”

    “Ha. Sorry.” She pats his head. “We’ll get there soon, I promise.”

    He smiles for once at that, but you aren’t really engaged in the conversation. They keep talking about what they’re watching while a lot of it goes over your head. Spikemom should be paying attention to you and Grumpcry should be learning from you, but they don’t even notice you’re there. Instead, they talk about boring stuff. You growl to try and get their attention.

    “Hey,” Spikemom says, patting your head. “What’s up?”

    “Bored.”

    “Yeah, we’re just talking over this stupid show at this point. What do you wanna watch?”

    “Don’t want to watch. Want to play.”

    “Hmm,” Grumpcry mutters. “Tony keeps a few board games in his room that we sometimes play. I could get those out.”

    “No!” you say, standing up from your freezer bed. Not that you know what a board game is, but with board in the name, you know you don’t like it already.

    “I don’t think that sort of stuff’s for her,” Spikemom says. She rubs her paws together. “I think she’s more into the playfight sort of thing.”

    “Yes!” You turn to Grumpcry. “You will see who’s the best!”

    “W-wait, nobody said we’re fighting here yet!” Grumpcry sits up. “Besides, we can’t do it in his apartment!”

    It doesn’t matter whether it’s indoors or outdoors. The outdoors are too hot. This is the perfect environment.

    “Spikemom,” you say, widening your eyes just like you would in a usual battle to lower the opponent’s guard. She wouldn’t say no to a cute fox, right?

    “Those Baby Doll Eyes won’t work on me, Pixie,” she says. You’re about to growl when she grins. “But go nuts. Grumpcry, Pixie, you two go in the kitchen.”

    “You can’t be serious,” he says, but you’ve already made your mind up. You leap out of the ice box and strut to the room of edibles to face the Luxray. You straighten your back to prepare for battle, except there’s one thing missing: your trainer. There is no one to guide you in battle this time. No matter. You are the best fox in this world, and you will show that as you best this lion.

    Even though you only know three moves.

    “This is pointless,” Grumpcry says as he enters the battlefield. “She’s only a Vulpix.”

    You puff your cheeks. Yes, you are a Vulpix, but you’re the best Vulpix around.

    “Yeah, but we are babysitting her,” Spikemom says with a grin. “She’s a guest of honour, y’know.”

    “But this is my house!”

    “Your trainer’s house, so it ain’t your problem. Besides, I’d love to trash that stupid trainer’s place for once.” Spikemom holds out the icebox and turns it upside down, dropping the ice cubes all over the floor. The previously cool kitchen turns into a glacial fortress, much like the one back on the mountains.

    “Why are you encouraging her?!” Grumpcry yells, pawing at Spikemom’s leg. “It’s my neck on the line if Tony comes back to this place in ruins!”

    “Fight me!” you say, planting your paws firmly on the slippery ground. “I will show you what it means to be an alpha!”

    Grumpcry grumbled. “What did you just say?”

    “You’re an omega!”

    At that moment, Grumpcry charges towards you with a Volt Tackle, but he slips and slides across the kitchen floor. You are already acclimated to ice, so you dodge to the side with ease. Grumpcry, however, slides into a shelf, sending lots of plates falling to the floor. It shatters before you like hard snow.

    “Oh...” Grumpcry groans. “O-oh no...”

    “Well damn,” Spikemom says, crossing her arms. “I didn’t expect that. You alright, Grumpcry?”

    “Y-yes,” he says, getting to his paws. “I think.”

    It’s your turn. As soon as he stands up, you open your mouth and summon the glacial energy within you to shoot an ice shard at him. It hits him square on the head, bouncing off of him with a THWACK.

    “Oof,” he groans, falling to his side. “Why did I agree to this again?”

    “Get up, Grumpcry!” Spikemom says, pumping her metal fist in the air. “Show her your mettle!”

    “Metal? You’re the Steel type, what’s metal got to do with--”

    You roar, which would usually scare lesser opponents, but it comes out as a tiny squeak. Spikemom tries not to laugh, and you almost growl at her, but Grumpcry gets up to his feet and roars back. It’s much louder and it rings through your ears, dazing you. You lose your footing and slip on the floor, flat on your belly.

    “This is your last warning!” Grumpcry says. “I don’t want to hurt you, but you’re pushing my buttons!”

    You get up and shake the fear off your coat. “You don’t have buttons. You have fur.”

    “I know, but--” He shakes his head. “Never mind. Let’s end this.” Sparks fly from his fur, making yours stand up on end. He fills the whole room with electrical energy, so much so, the light at the top fizzles out. Somehow, you don’t feel weakened by this, even as he’s about to attack, but you feel energised. In fact, something bursts from within you, like some sort of hidden power. You open your mouth and a wind starts howling.

    Snow spews out of your maw like an avalanche, covering the whole room in ice. Grumpcry tries to dodge out of the way, but is caught in the blast and his fur freezes up, getting him stuck to the ground. The plates fly everywhere, even out of the room and out the windows.

    “Oh shi--” Spikemom dodges out of the way of a plate, which shatters where she once stood. You want to stop, and so you close your mouth, but you can’t. It’s like snow vomit, or whatever people call it. You don’t know how long it lasts, but eventually, the storm within you subsides and you fall to the floor. You would be knocked out cold if your body wasn’t already like a walking bag of ice to begin with.

    The room around you is covered in ice. The Luxray is completely still, encased in the same stuff as well, but his eye is still moving anyway. He’ll thaw out eventually. You don’t know where Spikemom is, but you’re too tired to think about that. Having satisfied yourself on a good fight after a surge of power, you close your eyes and drift off to sleep.



    You wake up when something knocks from far away. Despite all of the mess around the two, Spikemom goes to investigate on her own, leaving you curled up in the middle of Grumpcry’s bed. Something creaks, and you hear voices from far away.

    “Oh, hey.” It’s Skysong. You get out of bed immediately and run towards her, pawing at her leg.

    “It took you ages!” you say.

    “It only took me a few hours.” She kneels down and pets you like the good fox you are. “But I found out a way to get home.” She picks you up and turns to Spikemom “Thanks for taking care of her. I think I can carry her with me safely from now on since it’s cooler.”

    Hehe, thanks,” Spikemom says. “It was fun havin’ her here.”

    “Well, I appreciate it,” Skysong says. “C’mon, Pixie. I’ll need you to lead the way.”

    She puts you back on your feet, and you watch as Skysong waves goodbye. Spikemom winks at you and does the same, before the door closes and you’re left alone with your trainer once more. You walk her through the maze of concrete, yipping so she doesn’t lose her way. You are a good fox, and you will help Skysong in return for giving you what you truly deserve: cuddles and a new harness. But mostly a new harness.

    Tony Lefevre

    Having signed out of the conservation centre, you start heading home. It isn’t a long way and the night breeze is nice; not too cold for your summer uniform. There’s still a lot of bustle in Ambrette, as the Mantine handlers by the coast are hollering in the air as they’re riding their Pokemon through the seas, and there are a few tourists coming out from the various pubs in town. Generally though, there is that sense of unquietness that follows you around until your thoughts stop to ruminate on the past events.

    You have a Luxray named Shine. You know this, but you scarcely think of the Luxray as your Pokemon, but rather, your… Well, friend isn’t quite the right word. You don’t go out with him very often, as you’re mostly at work, and when you’re home, you mostly provide for him and try to lift him up. Shine isn’t the sort of Pokemon to socialise much, but somehow, you sense he’ll get better over time. The Lucario coming back into his life will help at least, even though she seems wary of your responsibilities over him as a trainer. You can’t help that, and besides, you’re just a trainer in name only. You went through the same exams a trainer had to go through to get their license, which cost a lot, but you’ve never had a single battle with him around. It’s a far cry from the rose-tinted fantasy the games and anime portrayed, taken over by something a lot more mundane.

    Are you disappointed? Not really. If you wanted to take on that lifestyle, you would’ve done so as a kid. Your parents wouldn’t have thought any less of you, and to this day, after the struggles you went through to get to your position, they still don’t. They still call you, and even though they’re back in their homeland on Alola, they’re proud of you, and you feel the same towards them. You don’t feel so alone. In the temporary moments where you get Shine to come out of his shell for a little bit, you don’t feel that alone either.

    But the sensation that something’s missing nags at you. It follows you around like a thundercloud and doesn’t leave you.

    Deep down, you are alone. You give more than you take with Shine, and since he broke down and started telling his story, this documentary business has consumed you. Most waking moments outside the centre, you spend interviewing, researching and editing for the footage, over one or two years, and it’s still not close to being done. He’s too blocked up to give the full picture about GeL, other than occasionally breaking down and revealing a certain tidbit he had previously repressed. Then, was all of this effort for nothing? What can Curio provide for him that you can’t, since you’ve known him for a latter part of his life? She’s a part of his history, but you are too. He should be able to open up to you by now.

    And so, you spend so much time trying to tie up loose ends that you end up spending less time with your human friends. Especially Ines. You know she likes you. She shares her lunch with you sometimes and has a hand in distributing some of your marine videos. She doesn’t need to do that, and yet she wants to. But you haven’t had a night out with her in ages, not even for a little drink. So you just drink at home and forget the what-ifs and could’ve beens.

    You stop to gaze at the last of the setting sun and take a deep breath. You’re stressing out too much. This isn’t like you. Then, you suddenly entertain the thought that Shine’s doing this on purpose, so you can baby him for however long he pleases.

    Look at you, blaming the victim. How pathetic. No, you will be the adult and suck it up. It’s not his fault, and you should be there for him. You have a responsibility to take care of your Pokemon. Not just your Pokemon, but possibly, the one you care for the most above everyone else, for better or for worse. You want to see him smile more. You want him to move on with his life and see that the grass is greener. He knows it deep down, as you’ve seen him do good work for Ambrette’s community. You just need to be patient and let him know Shine has his place in the world, even as a misfit Pokemon.

    Deep breaths. This hill is always really steep, isn’t it? At least it gives you enough exercise outside of your rescue dives. But home is not far from here. You forget about the baggage you had before and make the way back to the apartment complex, up the familiar series of steps and up to the second floor. You fiddle with the keys until you pick the right one, and open the door to the familiar comforts of your house.

    Your house that has bits of ice and porcelain everywhere.

    Somehow, you don’t even react to it, even though your property is in shambles. There’s something whirring in the distance, and you go to investigate, treading carefully in your flip flops through the road of broken plateware. It’s coming from the kitchen. You reach the source of the noise to find Curio thawing Shine out with a blowdryer, being powered by Shine’s tail. Your Luxray is stuck to the floor. Repeat, your Luxray is stuck to the floor. Shine’s eye widens, even though most of his face, save for his mouth, is encased in ice.

    “Oh. Hello,” Shine says blankly.

    Curio turns around, completely nonplussed. “Yo.”

    Your apartment is a mess, your Pokemon has literally been iced, and your windows are broken. You take a deep breath and break this down, bit by bit, as you try not to crack. Slowly, you reach out to the fridge, budge open the frosted door, take a can of ice-cold beer out and down it in one gulp. With a hiccup, you place it on the slippery counter and rub your head.

    “You two. We’re going to have a very long talk.”
     
    Last edited: Sep 3, 2019
    Rediamond likes this.
  14. Rediamond

    Rediamond Middle of nowhere

    AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH

    I can't believe you actually did this. I've given some general style notes and feedback throughout but I've tried to keep my feedback limited to minor style details here just to see what it would end up like. And you did really well for your first time with second person! It's a hard jump to make and even I sometimes forget and have to put everything back in the right form. But you did it pretty well, especially for only having the minor spoiler notes I gave you and having never wrote the characters before.

    Pixie is precious and not a little ****, as she always is. Especially loved her interactions with Shine and Curio's general willingness to egg it on.

    tl;dr thank you so much!
     
    NebulaDreams likes this.
  15. NebulaDreams

    NebulaDreams A Dense Irritating Miniature Beast of Burden

    Chapter 28: On the Inside Listening Out

    After that incident, I emerged from that ball into the facility again, and Henry took my paw to lead me through the quarantine room to the halls, firmly, but gently. I looked to the other security staff, who were all thinking different things. One hoped their Glameow didn’t claw up the furniture. Another hoped they got back home in time to see their kids away from the facility. One just hoped they could treat themselves to a hot bath once they got to their apartment. So many different thoughts of strangers trickled in, I didn’t know what to do with them all. I wanted to talk with them proper to find out, but the Machamp led me back into the familiar, florally-painted corridors before I could stop to ask. Even more random thoughts from the mediators, both human and Pokemon. Oh, that’s a new look for her. Oh, what trouble has she gotten into now? Before I could process them, I was dropped into one of the tutorial rooms.

    It had a round table with a few chairs around them, and there, Azzy, Lucy, and a T-shirt wearing Lucario sat at the front. While I had seen the Lucario in a few places, I never really got introduced to him, though I was always curious to get to know him. His features were different from what I expected, since they were quite jagged and scruffy even for our kind. While they all sat at appropriate heights, Azzy just stood on the table. All of their gazes were inviting, but their thoughts said otherwise, as if they were going through the motions of breaking another freshly-evolved mind reader in. Crap, I did it again. I didn’t even move until Henry tapped my back; I was that lost in my own head space.

    “Please,” Lucy said, “sit down.”

    They all nodded, and warily, I sat down on the hard metal chair, finally able to after being so small before. I guess it felt like a milestone in a way.

    “So,” the Lucario said, grinning, “How’s it feel to be one o’ us? I know the answer, but go ahead.”

    “Feels,” I started, then paused, bringing my paw to my face. “Scary. Who are you?”

    The jagged Lucario stood proudly and did a playful little curtsy. “Rhode’s the name. Aura’s me game. Don’t wear it out.”

    “Oh please,” Lucy said. “Save it until after the meeting to act like that.”

    “A’ight, whatever.” He sat back down and straightened himself. I couldn’t help but read into his emotions again. His heart rose whenever Lucy spoke to him for whatever reason. I would’ve read further into it but he shot me a sly grin. “You’re doin’ it again.”

    “Sorry!” I squealed. “I’m not used to it!”

    “Nah, I’m just pullin’ yer leg. Seriously, though, you can read thoughts!” He waved his paws up. “Innit great?”

    “No! Back there, it just felt too much, like I had no control over my own thoughts, and now, it still feels weird! That’s not my fault, is it?”

    “O’ course not. Why d’you think I’m here then? To try an’ help you. From now on, I’ll be takin’ over that blue stuffed bunny as yer tutor, where aura’s concerned anyway.”

    “I prefer Azumarill, thank you very much,” Azzy said, fiddling with the chalk in his paw, ready to fire. “Of course, Curio, you can come to me or Mack at any time if you need help with personal issues out of lessons.”

    “And what about my focus?”

    “All taken care of,” Rhode said. “Right, Lulu?”

    “Don’t call me Lulu,” she said with a glare. “In any case, if you’re still fine with the idea of sculpting, from what Henry told us, then you’ll be taken into the soft-room with Rhode to try and sort out your mind-reading issues. You’ll be given a schedule in a week. Feel free to visit the library for anything on the topic. Preferably DVDs or manuals.”

    I nodded, satisfied with my options. Before I could question anything else, Rhode rose from his seat and took my paw, leading me through the winding corridors past the other mediators. I tuned out their thoughts in favour of trying to read into his. I got a little scrap of info: something about Cartwright’s inability to walk in his old age, but his aura was surprisingly resistant, like he had been training it for ages.

    “Hey, invasion o’ privacy,” he said.

    “Sorry, sorry. I can’t help it. Please don’t be mad.”

    “And why’s that? Your only crime is bein’ curious. Curio. Curious. You’re pro’ly gonna get that a lot, aren’t you?”

    I nodded, thinking back to Lexy’s comment.

    “Still, I ain’t gonna bust yer balls over somethin’ like that. I’m not like ‘em, after all. Think o’ me as the cool teacher.”

    “Right.” Not that I had any balls, but still.

    He took me into a room with all sorts of padded equipment: vaults, sponge mats, training dummies, and all the like. I had been in there a few times during one of Reggie’s classes, but not in this situation, and thankfully alone with my new Lucario tutor that time. He brought a rubber Hitmonlee to the middle of the room and patted its soft head.

    “Now, the fun part o’ this exercise is ta just let your instincts run free. Which amounts to beatin’ the tar outta this thing with yer aura. Since it’s yer first time, I’ll walk it through ye, okay? Try enterin’ something you feel comf’table with.”

    I remembered Trunks’ training and stood on one paw with one spiked hand raised to the dummy.

    “Now, draw from yer own body, like so.” He brought his hands to his belly, and charged up a tiny blue sphere before it went poof. I did exactly the same, except it was much bigger, just about the size of a medicine ball.

    “Fire!” Which I did. The sphere exploded against the dummy, flinging it to the other side of the room with a satisfying crash. A part of me felt at ease; beating up crap felt good every once in a while.

    “Not bad! Now, that was a bit big, so much so I’d say you’re compensatin’ for something, but that’s a good first step.”

    I nodded, feeling gratified I had my aura powers to fight with, at least. When I was a Riolu, it was about as scrawny as I was, so now I could’ve turned it into something useful at last, that was a bit of a relief. Still, the big aura thing was something I clearly had to iron out.

    “Now, let’s try that a few more times.” He reached over to me and changed parts of my stance to something of his making, something that wasn’t as flashy as Trunks’ stance but something that could still be used in a fighting situation. Then, he told me to do a few more aura reps, and so, I kept shooting at the Hitmonlee. With each hit of those big aura spheres, it wobbled back and forth on a spring, but still stayed put, taking whatever punishment I doled out. After a while, I kind of felt sorry for the poor sod, but then realised how stupid it was to feel for a dummy, and just kept doing as Rhode said. With each rep, my body felt more and more drained, until I ran out of breath and had to sit by the side.

    “Hmm,” Rhode said, “it’s really doing a number on ye, ain’t it?”

    “Yeah--” I said in between gasps of air, “I dunno-- what to do.”

    “Eh, you’ll figure it out. ‘ere, catch.”

    Without warning, he threw a Leppa berry at me, but I caught it just before it hit my nose. That was lucky, since Leppas are hard. If I didn’t have my aura senses, I would’ve needed a rhinoplasty or something to fix my nose.

    (Or heal it at the Pokemon centre like you did with your arm.)

    Yeah, that too, but surgery sounds funnier. Anyway, I chomped down on it, and in time, I came back to speed again. Just to test it out, I threw another sphere at the dummy, but again, it was still large and drawing out more energy from my body than usual.

    “Okay, okay, let’s try somethin’ different,” Rhode said, picking at his ears. “We’ve got plenty of time to work on that, but I guess you wanna know how to control yer aura ‘round others, don’t you?”

    I remembered how I felt being in a crowded place, and I nodded.

    “A’ight then.” He approached me and put his paw on my shoulder, grinning widely. “I wanna do a lil’ experiment.”

    I thought back to what P.Z. said about the Mewtwo being born from an experiment and cringed. I didn’t even need to say anything for him to pick up on it.

    “Don’t worry, not that kind of experiment. A social experiment. We won’t be locking ye in liquid pods or whatever.”

    I crossed my arms. “Invasion of privacy,” I repeated.

    “Yeah, and I’m yer teacher, so bite me.” He chuckled as he ruffled my spiky hair. “Just kiddin’. Now, come along, I got a surprise for ye.”

    So, the surprise didn’t end up being a cake or anything like that, but a woman in her 20s, who had glasses and her hair pinned back, so you could tell she meant business. We met up in one of the study rooms where she stared at a stack of library books, until Rhode came along and tapped her back. She turned around, surprised at first by us two Lucario, until she adjusted her glasses and recognised the T-shirt wearing quack.

    “Oh, it’s you,” she said. It surprised me at first that he seemed to be well-known with the humans, but that thought didn’t linger long as Rhode tapped my back in turn.

    Congrats, er, whatsyourface, you’ve been chosen for me raffle.”

    “What raffle?”

    “One I just made up, but anyway, ‘ere’s Curio! You might know ‘er from before as a Riolu, an’ now a freshly evolved Lucario.”

    I didn’t know what to say until he elbowed my shoulder. “Um, hi.”

    The young woman stared back at Rhode. “Uh, is this going to take long? I need to start revising for one of the lectures.”

    Nah, it won’t. Just talk to ‘er for a bit and see what ‘appens.”

    “Alright, fine.” She closed one of the books and looked back to me, putting on a fake smile even though her mind was somewhere else. “So, Curio? I don’t really know much about you, but I’ve seen you doodle in class a lot.”

    With the blue rabbit?”

    “Yes, the language assistant.” She gave another false smile. “I bet you think of yourself as quite the artist, don’t you?”

    She tried to sound sincere, but through her words and her aura, something about her was quite different. She was hiding a bit, and didn’t seem to say that because she was interested, like Lexy was, but only said it to tell me what I wanted to hear. So, I shrugged it off.

    Nah, not really. You’re just saying that. I know your aura.”

    She coughed and tried to change the subject. “Whatever. I’m just trying to find something to talk about, since he clearly wants me to. I honestly just want to get a move on with my assignment.

    I glanced at him while he smirked, still trying to egg us on. In turn, I tried to find something of interest to her as well by zooming into her thoughts. Some of it wasn’t clear, as she still tried to hide herself through a mask of sincerity, but beyond the worries about classes and assignments, I saw, well, an actual face mask. There was a scene of her looking at a mirror in the shower, nervously tugging at the lip part on her face with something waxy. So seeing that, galaxy-brain me blurted this out:

    What wax do you use for your mustache?"

    She covered her mouth reflexively. It didn’t really sink in, but when it did, her face turned bright red, like her inner fire-type awakened itself. I heard snickering from behind as Rhode stifled himself with his paw. Then, I got the feeling I said something I shouldn’t have.

    Um, sorry,” I said, “did I—”

    “Excuse me,” the student said, wringing her hands around a thick book. “Maybe you two should get out, or else I’m telling Lucy you tried to distract me from my work.”

    Will do,” he replied with a wide smile, “an’ thanks for bein’ my lab Rattata.”

    “You’re such an ass, Rhode.”

    So, Rhode grabbed my paw and led back into the hallway. I was speechless, and building up steam inside me. I didn’t know what I did wrong, but I clearly saw something there I shouldn’t have, and knew exactly who pushed me into it. Rhode just stood there with that ****-eating grin, trying his best not to burst into laughter. I couldn’t stand that, so I shoved him away.

    “Woah-ho, steady there!” he said in that same mocking tone. “C’mon, you ‘ad to admit that was funny.”

    “No it wasn’t!” I shouted, drawing the attention of some of the passing subjects. “She was upset, and you knew this whole time, all because of this stupid aura thing!”

    “Well, okay.” He shrugged. “Maybe I went a bit too far. But what’s the takeaway from that?”

    “Takeaway from what, looking like a shithead in front of the humans?”

    Rhode approached me again, and I was ready to fight him again, but instead, he tapped my forehead.

    “Yer aura training. Doesn’t take a genius to figure out what this is for. So whaddo you think ‘appens when you look into other people’s thoughts without asking, or knowin’ what you’re getting into?”

    I thought back to the things I saw in her mind and how she reacted when I brought up the truth. It clearly wasn’t meant for other people’s eyes, and yet, I did the exact thing I wouldn’t have wanted another Lucario to do: to read out my unwanted thoughts. So, I tugged on my aura sensors, which flopped behind my head instead of on the side as a Riolu.

    “People would get mad. And I’d get mad.”

    “Yeah, but you also ‘ave a choice over yer own aura. You can choose how big you want yer spheres to be, or how deep you want to go into someone’s filthy, smelly noggin. ‘specially with humans. The stuff they come up with is something else, though, ech, you were lucky with ‘er—” he elbowed me again, “but don’t put that past me if you ever read into my mind.”

    “Yeah, I ain’t doing that.”

    “There, you see?” He patted me on the back, giving a proud smile for once instead of a mirror-breaking one. “It’s about self control, y’know. And this year, you’ll ‘ave to make plenty more choices than what you’re used to, but that’s something great, innit?” He tugged at his own shirt. “I can choose to wear this thing, even though it ain’t the best for me kind, but I just wanna. It’s great to ‘ave something that says you’re you, right?”

    “Like my drawings, or this thing.” I ran my paw through the tuft of fur at the top of my head.

    “Yeah, somethin’ a lot of us Pokemon don’t have. But enough ramblin’.” He took my paw. “I guess I should treat you to somethin’. It’s the least I can do for embarrassin’ you out there, a’ight?”

    I looked back to the study room, wanting to read into the aura of that student, but chose not to. I had control over my own powers after all. And for the first time since I came back, I managed to block out the thoughts of all the other students in the facility and just focused on my own. It was like opening a window and airing out a room of all its bad smells, though having said that, there weren’t really any windows in GeL; just vents. But anyway, despite everything, I saw Rhode in a new light as he led me through the facility. Though Trunks’ face was smoother, I imagined him as a brother, even though I had plenty of those. I wonder what it would’ve been liked if I had another sister as well.

    (She’d probably push you off a tree.)

    Yeah, guess I never had that sort of sibling rivalry. But anyway, Rhode led me to the staff room to talk over cookies and cocoa, and that was all great. Except, on the way there, we passed by a certain yellow devil, levitating a stack of door-stopping books behind his head. He sneered at my newly evolved form.

    “Ah, I see you have changed,” Abraxas said. “Though still as puny as ever, I see.”

    I looked to Rhode, who just stood on the sidelines while I was in the fray. I guess he wanted to see how I dealt with the Kadabra, though he still could’ve stepped in to help. I tried to get the edge over him by scanning his aura, but his psychic field blocked me from doing anything. So I just settled for the best comeback I could muster.

    “And still as much of a shithead as ever,” I said. Okay, not a bad try, but not exactly great either.

    “Only fools resort to such vulgar human language.” He got closer to me, so much so, I felt his psychic field. I instinctively backed away, though he still tried to close in on me. “You and that stray mongrel, P.Z.”

    “Leave him out of this,” I said, aura swirling from within me. “He’s cool.”

    “Cool does not matter. You are either civil or a wildling.” He turned his nose up at me, looking even more smug. “And either way, you will still be a fool. Only fools go for the arts and not the refined sciences. Humans choose those subjects and end up working in cafes for the rest of their meagre lives. They are like you wildlings in a way, just wasting space.”

    “W-well,” I stammered, trying to regain my footing, “I bet you don’t even have an artsy bone in your body. I’d rather have those than be a really boring ass like you!”

    “Oh-ho, boring? I beg to differ. I came her for an important purpose, so I can hardly say I’m boring. You, however, have no business being here. Run off to your own wild family. Oh, wait, you can’t!” He guffawed, bashing his fist on the floor while he kept his books in the air. “I—” He tried to say in between bursts of laughter, “I bet they’re dead already!”

    (Woah, low blow.)

    Yeah, right? God, what a complete douchenozzle! I should’ve been upset, but that just got me into the fighting spirit. I entered a battle stance, and Ab did the same, dropping his books. I might as well call him Ab since Abraxas’ getting a tad long, but whatever. Anyway, Rhode stepped between us, holding both his arms out for us to stop. “’ey! I ain’t ‘aving this ‘ere!”

    “But-but--” I stuttered, trying to wrap my head around the situation. “He—”

    “A’ight, just calm yer tatas, I’ll deal with this.”

    I didn’t have any, of course, but that distracted me enough for me to get out of my battle position. So I watched the way Rhode approached Ab and to my surprise, he grabbed his arm, twisting it.

    “Ah, ah!” Ab yelped in pain. Even though I still reeled from that verbal smack-down, I still got a kick out of watching him squirm.

    “You got some balls talkin’ to her like that,” Rhode said. “You think you’re hot ****, don’t ya?”

    “T-teacher! You can’t—”

    “Yeah, I know I ain’t allowed, and I don’t care. ‘sides, you try to use Psychic against me here and it’s a one way ticket back to whatever heap you came from.”

    “No, I won’t! I want to stay here!”

    “Good.” He let go of Ab’s arm, which he nursed. “And about the wildling stuff, you came from the woods as well, didn’t you? You know what they say, those who live in glass ‘ouses—”

    “I get your point!” Ab scrambled on the floor to pick up his books and teleported out of the hallways. I just stood there, at a loss for words again. When Rhode clapped his paws together and faced me, that snapped me out of it.

    “Thanks, teach!” I said. “What’s his problem, anyway?”

    “Well, he’s got a lot on his plate.” He winked at me. “But if he ever teases you with that wildling stuff again, just use the same ammunition I gave you here. He’ll be stuck like a Slaking bathin’ in molasses.”

    After that, the rest of the week flew by without much trouble. Ab didn’t bother me for the most part, but he must’ve felt a little bit vengeful since he teleported some of my sketchbooks and stuff out of the wild base. It turned up somewhere else eventually so I didn’t think to butt in at that time. With that said, it was time for my focus sessions not long after.

    (So, what did these sessions entail?)

    Okay, so the focus days ran alongside the regular lessons. We still learnt the human tongue, maths, and other basic skills and trivia crap, but these were the most fun to me. So, this will be covering, like, weeks, maybe months worth of classes, but bear with me here.

    So, Azzy took me to this room, which was small, had many tools either lying about or propped up on walls, as well as various odd materials like wires and bits of paper sticking out of the boxes. While he was there to accompany me, the oddest thing was that there were two humans there: one youngish girl who was probably in her 20s, like Lexy, and one older woman. They looked at us with surprise first, and then enthusiasm. The girl stood up, barefoot in dungarees for some reason, and went up to greet me.

    “Oh, you’re the Lucario I’ll be working with?”

    I looked to Azzy, who gave a faint nod, then back to her.

    Um, yeah?”

    “Great!” She held out her hand and smiled. “I’m Ellie! It’ll be nice to be friends with you!”

    Before I shook it, I scanned her aura, since I still wasn’t used to human interaction on that level. Still, like Lexy, she seemed genuine, so I shook her hand in turn.

    “Alright,” the woman said, gesturing to the chairs. “You two best get seated. I’ll run you through what we’re doing, first of all.”

    The teacher introduced herself as a sculptor at Veilstone University, though her life story wasn’t really much to write home about. After that, she basically gave us an ice-breaking exercise where she gave us a huge wad of claw to play about with, in the hopes of moulding out each others faces. I pawed at the material. It felt weird with my grubby mitts, and obviously, it wasn’t natural for me to be using it at all. Ellie gave me a thumbs up though, seeing how nervous I was.

    “It’ll be fine!”

    I nodded. If I could’ve help a pencil just fine, I probably could’ve sculpted the same way as well. So I focused on pinning down Ellie’s features. They were soft, well rounded, and still looked sort of kiddy despite being a bit older. The face worked well for me in that regard. But then there was the hair, which looked messy, and some of it covered her eyes, so occasionally, she had to brush it away. It was hard for me to work with at first, but I knew how to break down a head into shapes after all that time I spent drawing. I got bored a lot and liked my own company, so that meant I learnt a lot just by doing it. I just starting kneading the clay like kneading a bit of dough into bread, if I even knew what that felt like.

    Ellie didn’t seem to have much problem copying my head. She’d hold up two of her fingers to get some of my features down, like I would whenever I drew the other subjects, so I did the same with her. That helped round out some of the features a bit more. But there was one point where she asked something odd.

    “Can you turn your head up for me a sec?”

    I shrugged and did exactly that.

    “So, I always thought Lucario had like a big jaw as well, but now, I see it’s just the nose that’s big. How odd!”

    I tilted my head down and grunted.

    My nose is fine.”

    “Yeah, I know!” Ellie said, shaping a nose out of her own material. “But I think it makes you look cool! It’s different! Unique! Expressive!”

    All Lucario have this.”

    “But, hmm.” She chewed on a loose strand of hair. “I dunno. You seem different somehow, like with your green eyes! They’re sparking with life right now, like some kind of gem, or something!”

    That, I felt a bit flattered by. I smiled.

    They’re mama’s. She had one green and one red eye.”

    “So, they’re your mom’s eyes? Wonderful!” She kept chewing on her hair. It bugged me for whatever reason, but whatever.

    I shrugged and focused on making the model. Ellie hummed a tune to herself, loudly. I didn’t know whether I was annoyed or found her energy contagious. I worked faster and didn’t talk much after that, but once the teacher told us to stop, we presented our work to each other.

    Ellie’s work was a bit rough, but she got the face, the nose and the ears right. The eyes, especially, looked alive even though it was made out of something inanimate. When I looked at mine, however, I felt a bit deflated. All of the features were lopsided, and the shapes were all wrong, despite how much work it took my paws to try and mould them that way. Reluctantly, I presented my work to everyone else.

    Um, how bad is it?” I asked.

    “No, no, it’s not bad at all!” Ellie said. “For a Pokemon, it’s fantastic!”

    I growled at her, making her flinch. Her aura didn’t seem malicious, so her heart was probably in the right place, but I knew I was being damned with faint praise.

    But for a human, it’s crap? That’s what you’re sayin’?”

    “No.” She touched her cheek, which flushed red. “That’s not what I meant.”

    I sighed. I wasn’t going to get anywhere by dwelling on it, so I laid the clay face down.

    “Right, then.” The teacher observed the two sculptures. “That’s what separates a human’s work from a Pokemon’s work. We can’t treat them as one of the same.”

    Why am I here, then?” I asked with a pang of anger. “I came here to learn to be like you.”

    “Let me finish.” She held her hand up. “It’s unfair to expect you to create work like us immediately. Can you lend me your paws, please?”

    I didn’t know whether she meant that figuratively or literally, though the literal one probably would’ve been really bloody, but I held them up, allowing her to massage it with her hands. It felt weird, like having a tiny Joltik crawl on them, yet that human touch always felt strangely comforting.

    “Yes, these would be very hard to control. How did it feel when you first tried to model something with them?”

    Couldn’t get a grip,” I said. “Didn’t feel like there was much I could do with them.”

    “I see.” She gently let go and went over to the whiteboard to write down a plan. “Right, then the first thing we’ll teach you is how to make the most out of your abilities. If you can hold a pencil, you can hold sculpting tools as well, as they will do a lot of the work for you. A large part of these will be learning to work within your limits, so you can eventually work like a human. Does that sound clear?”

    I nodded. I didn’t know what her deal was, but she seemed to have a lot of experience with that sort of thing. I looked to Ellie, who chewed on a braid nervously.

    “Sorry," she said. "I shouldn't have said that, really. I know the feeling when people are trying to avoid saying something bad about your work."

    I grunted a reply. She held out her hand.

    "I don't wanna start on a bad note, y'know. So, why don't we start over and work together from now on?"

    It seemed genuine, and I didn't want to dwell on it any longer, so I returned the handshake.

    But you get the gist of it. I got a handle on some of those tools in the first week, like clay knives and such, and learned how to mould basic shapes from there. The next month or so was just learning about all the different processes and the workflows and all that. I don't remember much of it now, to be honest, and good riddance, because it would probably be boring to you. But I knew I cherished those sessions, since they only came once a week, and would look forward to the next one.

    So, over time, I got more used to talking to humans. Sure, I could already speak their language pretty decently, but I was also getting used to what their world was like and how I fit into the picture. So, that Ellie girl. This one time, during break, I had lunch in the cafeteria along with the rest of my group. It was pretty much a melting pot of all the most sociable subjects coming together, with most of my team hanging out with the domestic base, but with a few outcasts. Ab, M and that Gastly were all on their own. M was the only one I didn't exactly want to leave out, so I thought about talking to him again, but that changed when the conversation on our own table picked up.

    "So," Floatsam said, excitedly banging his paw on the table, "we did this obstacle course thingy and we were all supposed to put out this fake fire, yeah, but I couldn't make it in time and the dummy ended up dying in the end, but it was really cool other than that, and--"

    "Yo," Hans said, patting his back with his tail. "You're goin' too fast. Did you drink some of the human coffee again?"

    "Bleh." The Floatzel stuck their tongue out. "Too bitter! Why would I do that?”

    "Never mind." He shrugged and looked over to me. "So, create any masterpieces, lately?"

    "Nope," I said, stabbing some of my food. "Still got a long way's to go."

    "I bet you'll come out on top." He glanced to the Ponyta. "Hey, Ferny! Whatcha doin'?"

    "History. We're reading about people killing each other. It's really interesting."

    "Right." He grimaced and turned away. "Forget I asked."

    "What people?" I asked, out of impulse.

    "Sorry, I mean, we're reading about wars. I should've mentioned there's a lot more to it than just death."

    "Try starting with that instead of the 'killing each other' thing next time," Hans said.

    "I'm working on that," she said, blowing smoke out her nostrils.

    “U-um,” Shine said, struggling to get a word in, “what s-s-sort of war?”

    “The Razzberry War was the last one. I’ll tell you more about it later, if you wish.”

    Shine nodded. “I-It’d be v-very interesting to know about.”

    From the corner of my eye, I saw Ellie putting down her tray on one of the human tables, still not wearing shoes. She got a lot of weird looks for doing that, and from myself as well. I would’ve ignored her had it not been for Lexy, who sat opposite her. So, there they were: two of the humans I connected with the most. Since it had been a while since I talked to Lexy, I wanted to see what Ellie was up to. So I stood up.

    “Hey,” Hans said, “Where’re you going?”

    I looked towards the humans and winked at Hans.

    “Um, okay.” He grinned. “Guess you found a new boyfriend over there with that spiky-haired guy.”

    “What, no!” I said, trying to shake the mental image out of my head. “That’s gross!” I quickly took my tray and walked towards the two humans, not wanting any more of Hans’ Taurcrap. They looked at me, surprised. “Can I join?”

    They cast glances at one another before shrugging.

    “Of course,” Lexy said. “Don’t see why not.”

    I sat next to Ellie. I tried to get a peek into Lexy’s aura, then I thought about that last encounter with the other student and stopped. Thankfully, he didn’t seem to notice.

    “So, I know we might’ve talked about this before, but how’re you doing with your aura and stuff?”

    Better,” I said with a smile. “Rhode helps me if I dunno how to use it properly.”

    “Oh yeah,” he said, stabbing his salad, “that Lucario. He seems pretty cool, though some people don’t seem to like him.”

    I thought of plenty of reasons why from the perspective of that human, but decided to press further. “What does he do?”

    “Well, to be honest, I dunno.” He took a mouthful of some lettuce and crunched down. “Heth a mythery. Juth hangth around.”

    I couldn’t 100% tell what he said, but I got the gist of it and poked at the Magikarp fillet. The conversation went at a standstill from there, while I just ate my fill on some fish. Weirdly with Pokemon, I knew what to talk about next, but with another human, whose world was different from mine, I didn’t know what to say. Then I got the urge to peek into his aura again, but this time, I acted on it while still keeping an eye out for any sudden thoughts. I sifted through the immediate ones, like ‘I wanna know more about Ellie’, then got to the deeper ones, like what he did in his home at Veilstone, and then how his old friends kept calling him to reform their band. That was news to me. I knew he played the guitar, and sometimes, he’d bring that in to play at the bonding sessions in the first year, but I didn’t know he was on that level.

    Sorry,” I said, pre-emptively, “but do you have a band?”

    Lexy dropped his forkful of tomatoes, raising an eyebrow. “I wanted that to be a secret.”

    “Wait, what?” Ellie said, smiling. “No way, that’s awesome!”

    “Well...” He nervously took a sip from his water. “Look, it’s not supposed to be this big thing. I don’t wanna blab about it to anyone ‘til we get it off the ground again.”

    Why not?” I asked, dumbfounded.

    “Because it was supposed to be our thing, our pet project.” His tone was a bit more severe, though he stopped himself before he could show it in his face. “Sorry. I just think if I say it’s official before it’s even started, that’ll ruin the whole idea, if that makes sense. It’s hard to put into words.”

    It didn’t to me, but I could tell I dug up something he didn’t want bringing to the table, even if it was innocent. So I slumped in my seat, unsure of what to say.

    “Besides, I dunno if we’ll do it for real. Since this whole GeL thing, everything’s taken a back-seat to actually rehearsing and all that. I’m still getting into the flow of when my off-days are.”

    “Aw,” Ellie said. “Shame. It’s great you’re doing that on the side, though. What do you play?”

    “Guitar.” He stabbed at his own salad and took a mouthful. “Though at least I get to practise when I’m in with Curio, since she likes that.”

    I opened my mouth to try and speak up, but Ellie spoke before I had the chance to.

    “Awesome!” She patted the table. “Ooh, it’d be nice to catch you doing that here! I dunno how often you’re in the facility.”

    “Every other day, so quite often. I’m doing the scholarship here, after all. Yourself?”

    You get the idea. They talked about their availability, what they were doing at Veilstone, and what they were doing on the side as well. I think Ellie mentioned she worked part time at a cafe, but that went over my head. To me, that was a whole lot of human-related business, which I was cut out of for the most part. Even though I went to join in, any time I tried to speak, I’d usually be cut off, so I was the one playing third wheel in the end. Since my aura kind of flopped, I didn’t want to use it to my advantage either. So I took my tray and went back to my own table, finishing off my lunch before the next session.

    There was a certain longing in my heart for something. I had my Pokemon friends around me, sure, and talking with them was fine, but I felt completely out of my element when it meant talking on an equal level with humans. I wanted to get closer to them, but didn’t know how. Throughout the next half of the focus session, when it came to making more clay models, I felt even more dis-attached from Ellie. She seemed confident, and yet, completely in her own world, but there I was: a Pokemon in a human’s world. I just went through the motions of that session before I rested in the wild base. I didn’t really want to talk about anyone else about it, since they’d probably find the human thing weird. It wasn’t like I wanted to be guided by them; I wanted to be like them as well. But I kept trying, anyway, just to try and get on their level.

    I met Lexy a few times after that with the usual sessions, apologised about reading his aura, and we seemed to get along just fine after that. So, another month passed. The human students were eating dinner for the last time before, as far as I knew, taking the private bus back to their own place. I never saw GeL from the outside, so I didn’t know how that figured into anything.

    But anyway, Lexy and Ellie were there again, and in that one month gap, I noticed a change in their auras. Ellie’s was always bold and outgoing, while Lexy was a bit more guarded, but since then, he had opened his heart more. I heard more positive thoughts, such as ‘when will I see her again?’, and that felt more welcoming than the mask he put on. Once again, I took my tray over to their space, where they waved at me that time.

    “Hey, Curio!” Ellie said. “Nice to see ya again!”

    I smiled as I sat next to them. She looked at Lexy, who poked around his plate, and brushed past his leg with her bare feet.

    “Hey, what’re you—”

    “Ahem.”

    She winked at him, and finally, he took the hint and looked over to me.

    “Oh, yeah. Sorry. Ellie says you have a tough time getting involved mid convo.”

    Fine,” I said, crossing my arms. “What are you doing?”

    “Just having dinner before I head home.” He yawned. “Can’t be bothered to cook, since it’s like two hours away there.”

    “Ditto,” Ellie said, twirling her spaghetti. “We’re gonna go together though, aren’t we?”

    She brushed past his leg again.

    “That feels really weird,” he said, pulling himself back. “But yeah, we’re just chilling at my flat, since she’s close by.”

    Oh?” I said, cocking my head. “What’s a flat?”

    “Um, like an apartment: a small place you get to live in with others.”

    Just like here?”

    “Yeah, you could say that.”

    The conversation ended from there. I sat back, poking at the rest of my food while they ate theirs. That flat sounded interesting, but I didn’t know how I’d find out what it was like for myself. I couldn’t have just snuck out of the facility at any time and went to some random guy’s place, could I? But it was worth a try.

    Hey,” I asked, drawing their attention, “can I come with?”

    Lexy almost choked on his cutlet mid-bite, but managed to pull himself together. “W-why?”

    Dunno. Wanna see what you guys get up to. I only see you in the facility.”

    “Right, I get that.” He tensed up his shoulders. “But you know you can’t just jump into it like that; they probably wanna keep a close eye on what you’re doing.”

    Yeah, I know. But I really wanna hang with you guys. I…” I trailed off, getting a bit flustered at what I was about to say. “Just wanna feel like a human, y’know.”

    Lexy sighed and dug into his cutlet again. I could tell he was thinking about something, but I didn’t know what, so I honed in my aura. He thought: ‘Well, this is awkward. I just wanted to be alone with Ellie. I don’t really want a Pokemon to be involved.’ Right then, I kind of wish I hadn’t read into it. I was about to say something when I looked to the girl, who smiled. If he wanted to hook up with her, then me parroting his thoughts over to Ellie wouldn’t have done him any favours. As much as I wanted to be with them, I didn’t just want to be a burden either.

    Forget it,” I said, about to take my tray to my base’s table. “Just a stupid idea.”

    “Hey, wait--” Lexy started, but I wasn’t having any of it. From there, I just wanted to be back with my own kind and not have to worry about the same things humans did. The Ambipom was the only one there, as everyone else had finished up. Hans snickered from across the table, with berry juice all over his face.

    “Aw, that fling didn’t last long, did he?”

    For that, I threw the last of my fillet at his head. “Shut up, fish face.”

    “Hehe, thanks for the free food.” He happily munched on the Magikarp scrap. “Still, you’re spendin’ a lot of time with ‘em.”

    “Well, duh.” I rubbed my paws over my face, sighing. “I dunno. They think a bit too fast for me.”

    “Yeah, same. I ain’t really used to talkin’ to humans. Training might make things easier, I dunno.”

    I felt a bit disheartened that he’d chosen training out of all the other choices, but I didn’t think to judge. I mostly just stewed in my own self pity from there and watched the two humans leave, running out of the cafeteria for the last bus. Seeing them go made my heart sink, but I just reminded myself that it was probably for the best. I didn’t want to drag them down.

    What brought me back to reality was Bolt, the Manectric tutor, entering the room. It was just him, at first, looking stern as ever. Then Shine joined him, bloody, bruised and in tears.
     
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  16. Namohysip

    Namohysip Dragon Enthusiast

    Alright! This was a bit of a calm chapter compared to the milestone of the last one, but I like that you still made some progress on Curio’s little story arc here. In particular, I thought that it was interesting to see her getting a bit more in depth with her species/identity crisis. There are some subtle flavors that I’m wondering if you’re putting there intentionally or not.

    And right here is the quote that I think summarizes this chapter. This one stood out to me more than any of the others because it seems like a one-line symbol for Cruio’s struggle. “Being human” is out of her element and generally disadvantageous, but despite that, she sees it as her desired identity. I thought you captured this pretty well with this conversation, and I’m pretty sure you intended this conversation to be here for that purpose. Anyway, that’s my main takeaway from this chapter in particular. The rest was a bit less notable / redundant, I think. Curio reading minds went on for a while.

    Oh no, you confirmed it.

    Oh, oh my. That’s an interesting cliffhanger to leave off on, especially after how it doesn’t fit with anything else that had happened prior! Though, I think that worked in your favor in this case. This chapter was a bit more on the calm side, all things considered, so having this as a quick hook into the next one is probably to your benefit.
     
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  17. NebulaDreams

    NebulaDreams A Dense Irritating Miniature Beast of Burden

    Chapter 29: Where the Sunbea(m)s End…

    Shine sighed and glanced at the corner of the room. This was inevitable. He knew he was going to have to talk about himself in more detail, and not just in the basics this time. Before, even though Tony tried to coax more information out of him, Shine only gave the essentials and not the full picture. With Curio here, he had no choice. It was time to talk about his past. Time to talk about the struggles he endured in the 2nd year. And time to talk about M.

    With the click of a button, Tony stopped recording and knelt down to Shine, patting his head.

    “Are you feeling alright?” he said.

    Y-yes,” Shine stammered. Dammit, there was no point in being shaken up, but he couldn’t help himself. “It’s just hard, thinking about it.”

    “Okay, okay.” Tony brought him in closer and cuddled him. “I don’t want to force you to continue if you don’t want to. I’m sure Curio will tell me the rest.”

    Ditto to that,” she said, standing up. “I can keep going; it’s no sweat.”

    All of that soothed the burning sensation in his head. They were all trying to support him, and to know he wasn’t alone in this was a great comfort to him. But he wasn’t going to get anywhere if he kept running away from it, so he had to face the first big hurdle in his past eventually. Shine burrowed himself out of Tony’s embrace and strutted towards the couch, confident in his stride.

    “Are you sure?” Tony said.

    Yes,” Shine said, jumping up to the interviewee’s seat. “I can at least try.”

    “Alright.” He smiled. “Well, if you can get outside the shot, Curio, that means I can get started.”

    Curio nodded and sat facing Shine, though she was a few paces away from Tony’s directorial chair.

    So, now it’s time for Shine to, er, Shine, how’s it feel to be on that couch?” Curio said.

    Shine sighed.“Admittedly, I’m a little nervous.”

    “Don’t be,” Tony said. “Just remember what I told you.”

    Yeah,” Curio said. “Talk to the guy and not the camera and stuff.”

    Of course, I will. Thanks, you two.” Shine smiled.

    Tony put his hand on the control pad, ready to hit record, when his eyes lit up. “Hmm, I might have asked this before, but what was your focus, Shine?”

    Shine would’ve turned red if he could. “Well, er, I—”

    Writing,” Curio chimed in. “He wanted to make stories of his own.”

    “Oh.” Tony took his hand off the camera and leered at Curio. She budged from her sitting position, clearly confused by his expression, but kept her back upright.

    “That’s not what Shine told me. He didn’t say anything about studying writing. He just told me he continued learning through his lectures.”

    Curio frowned and crossed her arms. “Okay, what have you been smoking? He definitely took an interest in writing, and he spent most of his time at GeL doing it. He didn’t have his tail up his butt the whole time.”

    “I never said that, but I just didn’t know.” His tone was hushed. Though there was a new hint of coldness to his mask, he shook it off and returned to his usual relaxed self. “Shine, how much do you remember about it now?”

    Shine’s heart beat twofold. He had always known at the back of his mind that he had chosen writing as a focus, so why didn’t he mention it? He gulped, knowing what Tony’s reaction might’ve been.

    I-I don’t know. Parts of it are coming back to me now, but I knew I did it before.” He rested his chin on the edge of the seat, looking up at Tony with a pleading eye. “Sorry, I haven’t been completely honest.”

    Tony tapped his chin, his expression halfway between doubt and excitement, but again, shrugged it off and returned to the camera. “In any case, let’s put that behind us and just tell me what you can for now. Are you ready?”

    Although a tinge of guilt still nestled in his gut, Shine had to continue. He sat up, looking at the camera, and nodded.

    “Okay, three, two, one.”



    (I’d love to touch base on what you did during your writing escapades, but I’m also curious to know what your relationship with Bolt was. I know you two weren’t exactly on the best of terms, but like a lot of things, you told me about him in broad strokes. If you remember now, how did this start between you two?)

    Well, I’d have to go back to my hatchling days. As soon as you’re born, you tend to imprint on the first thing you see, though you might grow out of it. In any case, the earliest memory I had was a pleasant one. I was even more weak as a newborn Shinx, barely able to walk on my own, and needing the staff to provide for a lot of my needs, so Bolt was there.

    The first thing I saw was his bright blue fur sticking out, and although I could barely make out the world around me, I could see his face, at least. It was comforting, and had some sort of compassion in them still. As any parent would do to their own cubs, he nuzzled me, cleaned me with his tongue, and slept next to me whenever I needed to. I recognised him as my own parent, and bonded with him, as far as a newborn could understand what bonds were beyond instinct.

    For a little while, I also saw my own biological mother outside the facility. A young Shinx still needed milk before going to solids, so the staff made sure to keep me close to her too on their trips out to the daycare. But she acted different from my tutor. Bolt carried himself with a human air, walking from place to place as if he had business to do, talking with the humans as equals, from what little I understood about human speech at that time.

    However, she acted on her own instincts, had nothing to attend to, and could only speak to the humans through Bolt, and even then, she spoke in very short bursts. Ferals only need to utter a few things to communicate. Even though she was familiar as a Luxray, I couldn’t recognise her face either. It’s a complete blur to me now, and I’m sure she wouldn’t recognise me if I came up to her today either. She only let me have her mother’s milk because she was told to, not out of maternal instinct, and more obligation.

    One day, she got too possessive and bit me while I tried to feed on her. That was the straw that broke the Numel’s back, as they decided to wean me off her for good. Then they moved me back to the facility to bond with the GeL subjects. They made sure I was on the right track, wasn’t getting myself into danger, and gave me a nutritious diet as well. I had everything a healthy Pokemon needed. And yet, I still didn’t talk.

    Bolt would usually nuzzle me, trying to get me to respond, but I just wasn’t able to speak to him. I understood what he said, and could communicate non-verbally, but no words ever escaped my maw. I just hadn’t built up the confidence to talk while I was trying to figure out my own upbringing. All it left me with was a hollow feeling, and it hurt like an empty stomach. Still, he nudged me towards Patches’ direction, and even though that Pachirisu was just as young as me, he seemed more bold and willing to speak with others.

    So, I reluctantly approached him, and when he asked how I was doing, I just shrugged the best way a Shinx could. But he understood me. We were both kind of displaced as electric Pokemon, and even with our tutor or surrogate there, we knew we had to grow up in an unfamiliar environment. And even then, after I settled, Bolt would rarely appear, basically leaving me without a parent. But I developed all the same, just in a different way.

    Patches observed the clothes of all the humans that tended to him, while I was fascinated with the written word, especially the books. Just the way the words flowed on the page, and the way each sentenced had to be carefully constructed to make something unreal feel true resonated with me. They offered me glimpses into the outside world, which I had little chance to see, so with the library at the tips of my paws, I took out whatever books interested me. Throughout the formative years before the proper lessons started, ideas kept spinning in my head, and the more I thought about it, the more I realised I wanted to map them down. I wanted to create my own worlds, ones where I didn’t feel so empty and afraid, and ones where I could live out my fantasies like I saw in tales of the knightly Gallade or the seafaring Cranidos or the dragon-obsessed Eevee.

    Yet, it seemed like the books were raising me more than Bolt did.

    --

    (Hmm, that makes sense. I know you take a lot of solace in that, which is fine, but hearing this makes me understand you a bit more. So, what did the first focus session entail?)

    Alright, so it happened at around the same time as Curio had hers. Naturally, I was kind of anxious, especially since most of the other Pokemon in our base seemed so sure of what they were doing. I tried reading The Writer’s Pokedex, a guide to writing and outlining in fantasy and sci-fi worlds, to get my mind off things while I waited, but when that wasn’t enough, I started pacing about the room. Patches must’ve noticed since he started pacing about with me too.

    “Why are you doing that?” I said.

    “I dunno,” he said, sticking his tongue out. “Why are you walking around like that, sourpuss?”

    I grunted. “Oh, it’s that noticeable, is it? Sorry. My mind keeps racing whenever I’m waiting around like this. I can’t snap out of it.”

    For that, he gave me a playful zap on the forehead, and even if I was resistant to electricity, of course, my head tingled a little bit. “Does that work?”

    I was about to call him out on it, but decided against it. Weirdly enough, that gut feeling of dread faded, and true to his word, that took my mind off things. “Yeah, thanks.”

    (So… he gave you electro-shock therapy like a mental patient, huh?)

    I’d rather you didn’t use that phrase, Curio, but yes, it usually did the trick on me. So, I sat with Patches, discussing what we’d get up to, and listening to him talk about the differences between single and cross-stitches, which mostly went over my head. Still, I enjoyed the company. Eventually, all the tutors took everyone out of the room, including my own tutor, Bolt, who wordlessly led me down the painted hallways. He didn’t ask me how I was getting on, and he rarely did in general, even during the first year. I had gotten used to it, but it was still disappointing.

    Eventually, he dropped me off to a familiar classroom where Azzy usually was, except in place of him was a human. In particular, he was a rather scruffy person who appeared as if he only got out of bed, from the way his hair jolted up like he’d been shocked. He sat, slumped over on one of the beanbags, rubbing his head. Before I could ask if I had the right place, Bolt shut the door behind me. I looked back to the human, who grumbled as he straightened his back.

    “You’re Shine, right? Sorry, I hit the sauce again last night,” he said.

    (Nice, you ended up with a drunk.)

    Let me finish. I didn’t know what that meant at the time, but now I do, I wonder how I even ended up with him as a teacher. In any case, he didn’t even bother going up to the whiteboard and started bouncing on the beanbags.

    “Ah, this is so nice. Come, join me.”

    He slumped down on the makeshift bed and gestured for me to come close. I wasn’t sure if I was comfortable with this, to be honest. I had gotten on well with the humans before, as they treated me with care and was there for me sometimes when Bolt wasn’t, but this was supposed to be my teacher, someone I had to answer to and obey. I thought I was going to learn the tools of the trade, not laze around with some random layabout. After a moment, he sat back up and cocked his head.

    “Do you even understand me?”

    O-of c-c-course I do,” I said. Even in the human tongue, I still couldn’t get over my speech impediment.

    “Okay, got you.” He groaned and rubbed his head. “Well, geez, I gotta get through a full day of this…”

    I assumed it was my fault and shrivelled up in a ball, unsure of what to do from there. It seemed like my fears for the first day started collapsing in on me. “S-s-sorry. I’m s-sorry. I-I-I know I’m a-a disappointment.”

    “What’re you apologising for?” Footsteps echoed towards me. “I’m the one with a hangover, so it’s my problem, not yours.”

    Another pause. I was still trying to shut myself in my world, and the rest of my body reflected that, as static bristled through my fur.

    “Hey, there.” His hand gently brushed against my coat, then he yelped, pulling it away. “Oh, right, you’re an electric type.”

    Y-yes. Sorry.”

    “Like I said, no need to apologise.” Another pause, and then, a sigh. “I’ll be honest, I’m not used to this. I usually teach kids about the written word, but I don’t think I’ve ever taught a Pokemon before. When those guys asked me to come on board, the pay seemed worth it, but coming here, I’m still figuring out how to schedule something for someone of your kind.”

    That jolted me out of my sulking session. I finally looked at him, and his gaze was soft and friendly. “So, why don’t we talk, so I can figure out what you’re like, huh? Then, we can work out what to do from there. If I need to puke, I’ll let you know beforehand.”

    (Wow, T-M-I)

    Yes, I agree. Aside from that one blip, my heart felt more at ease, and the static on my coat subsided a bit. Reluctantly, the teacher brought his hand to my back and stroked again, this time, avoiding the shock. That felt comforting, especially from a human touch. Paws were usually nice, but there was something about human skin that felt so soft and soothing. Against all odds, he managed to calm me down and he brought me over to the beanbags to talk in peace.

    To be honest, calling it a lesson was a bit of a stretch, at least for the first half. He told me his name, which was Allister, and what he did. He was a language professor as well as an author on the side, but had to use teaching in order to supplement his dreams. In turn, I told him about what I had done there so far, as best as I could through my stuttering and imperfect human tongue, as well as my growing passion for writing. We exchanged info about the books we were reading at the moment, and he even gave me a few recommendations for me to check out in the library later, so we hit our stride. Even after the lunch break intermission, our conversations continued as he started asking what I’d like to see in my own book. I think I remember some of those elements, but don’t really think it would be that interesting now.

    (No, go on. It’s the first time I’ve heard about your interest in writing, so it would be nice to hear about it.)

    Alright, Tony. There were a few books I was inspired by, like the Gallade one, and how a story of an underdog Pokemon overthrowing a tyrannical empire of corrupt Pokemon conjured up hope in my situation. He was strong, but he was also vulnerable. He was facing off a world that had already been overtaken by malevolent forces, and he grappled with his own doubts and fears from time to time. But he also had lots of people to help him on his mission, so he wasn’t alone, and when things got dark, I often escaped into that book to remind myself that I wasn’t alone either.

    It wasn’t just one book, but a series of books, all giving unique takes on the protagonist’s journey. The Gallade grew as I grew, seeing parts of the world I didn’t, and learning with each battle he survived and each friend that joined him in his quest. It was interesting to see how all the Pokemon used their powers, like how the Gallade would use his prediction powers to tell what one of the fat cats were going to plot next. Even the little things, like using his arm blades to cut up vegetables, sparked joy in me. The world just felt so rich. And not only that, the villains seemed very rich as well, as they all had their own reasons for ruling and had lives of their own, which made them feel real, even if it was for the wrong reasons.

    Allister took this all in and encouraged lots of other little ideas from there. But before I knew it, the dinner bell struck, and class was over. Before he left, he wrote something down on a piece of paper and handed it over to me. It read: ‘HOMEWORK: Make an outline for a short story and present that to me next week.’

    My mind hit a blank there. I was used to my teachers and everyone else giving me work to follow, not coming up with work on my own. When he asked that from me, I raised my paw.

    “Yeah?” he said.

    U-um, don’t know how to. W-what if it isn’t good?”

    “Shine, I wouldn’t worry too much at this stage. You’re just starting out. And besides, I say no idea isn’t worth pursuing, and every story seed has some value to it.”

    But, but, I’ve never done that before! It has to be good, like those book stories!”

    “Look, nobody writes a good story out of the womb, or out of the egg, whatever it is for your kind. But we’ve all got to start somewhere. Just take whatever you like the best from your favourite books and you’ll naturally come up with something.” He smiled. “I’m sure you’ll do just fine; you seem like a very smart Pokemon already.”

    He left, groaning as he was glad to get home from his hangover, and I returned to have dinner. Even though I ate with my table, who all noisily talked, I still focused on my own thoughts and started daydreaming about what I’d do if I ever pursued this writing focus to the fullest extent. Maybe I’d publish a book and be a bestseller. Maybe I’d sign other people’s books with inked pawprints. Maybe I’d meet up with a lot of other human authors and start being recognised not just as a Pokemon, but as an equal as well.

    --

    (So, after he gave you the assignment, how did your writing escapades fare?)

    Well, I still struggled to come up with concrete ideas. I would usually pace about my own base, trying to form them by brute force, but nothing came up. At that time, Patches seemed to be busy with Lucy, since she invited him into her own room, so I was left with no one to talk to. Tom was asleep, having gorged himself on Basil’s cooking. Milly was still in her own little world. That Staraptor liked the other base more because she got to see the fake stars at night. That Bibarel was out too. Then, I remembered Fernes’ talk about the Razzberry War at lunchtime. I didn’t think to follow her up on it, but when I realised she was what I needed to get the creative juices flowing, I shook myself out of my self-pity and went to the wild base.

    It was still packed with Pokemon since the Abraxas fiasco, so it bustled with activity. There were playfights going on. There were all sorts of subjects doing different things, like mixing chemicals and plants in flasks in the case of the Roselia, and more I don’t recall at the top of my head, and yet, the Rapidash wasn’t there. After asking around, that led me to the gym, where Fernes raced on a treadmill as her flames proudly lit around her. Her hooves pounded on there, echoing on the spacious walls. She seemed completely in her element. But when I went up to her to try and get her attention, I must’ve surprised her, so she tripped and ended up falling off the conveyor. I went up to her immediately.

    “Oh god, I-I’m sorry, I’m sorry.”

    “It’s fine,” she said, shaking her head. Fernes seemed quite strong though, so she got up immediately and turned off the whirring equipment with her nose. “Did you want something?”

    “Um, y-yeah, I would like to know more about that war you talked about.”

    “Oh, yes, right.” She smiled. “I’d be happy to tell you about it. The books are in the library though, so you’ll have to follow me.”

    I nodded and trailed behind her, trying to keep my distance. The more I looked at those flames, the more I wondered how she was able to go through the facility without being a walking fire hazard. We did have safety drills in case that happened though. I was about to ask her myself, but when she reached the library’s doors, her flames subsided, and so, my questions were answered as she entered.

    I might as well go into a little more detail about it. We were greeted with the sight of both humans and Pokemon alike, reading in a variety of different spaces. It was only one floor, so it wasn’t very tall, but it was wide, meaning that most of the room consisted of spaces to sit. The insides, like the hallways, were very colourful though with lots of painted designs, so that always made me feel welcome. There weren’t any bookshelves, but instead, there was a screen with a slot at the bottom, which looked somewhat like a fireplace, except you had to touch and speak into it, and it would give you a virtual catalogue of stuff to go through. Once you knew what you wanted, like a book on molding with plasteicine, then there it was. The book would materialise from the compartment, as if from thin air, and there it was for you to sift through. Apparently, it has the same technology as the bag Curio uses, but please don’t take that as gospel.

    Admittedly, a Rapidash looked out of place amongst the humans in the library, but then again, a Shinx did too, so I didn’t dwell on it. She spoke into the screen and from there, a few books materialised on the matter, which she took with her maw and laid them in a corner for me to join her.

    “You were saying you wanted to write a story about it?”

    “U-um, yes.” I was still a little unsure if a Pokemon writing a book was heard of before. “D-do you know if Pokemon can write?”

    “Yes, of course. I don’t doubt it at all, although there apparently aren’t any books published by them, at least from what my tutor says.”

    I groaned, feeling some of my hopes dash. Still, I was optimistic, and wanted to hear about this war.

    “So, what were the Razzberry Wars?”

    “Well, I’m still finding out what it’s about, but from what I’ve read so far, it was supposed to be a war between Kalos and Sinnoh. It’s hard to wrap my head around, but it sounded like a war on language.”

    “L-language?” I cocked my head. “I-isn’t there only one?”

    “I don’t think so.” She rubbed at her head with a hoof. “From what Azzy told me, there were also languages that existed long ago that aren’t used now. And this Razzberry War was what killed a lot of those languages off.”

    “I don’t follow. How can language die out?”

    “Think about it. Some of the words we use, and a lot of the namesakes in Kalos, were passed down from older languages. The ones human speak now is just called a universal language, but before then, it was Honnohan, a combination of the languages from Kanto, Johto, Hoenn and Sinnoh. They all communicated equally across the different regions. At least, until four hundred years ago.”

    “A-and then what?”

    “There was unrest in Sinnoh. A territorial dispute between the Elite, who had formed for 50 years before then, and the previously ruling kingdom, who were trying to maintain their power when the League was first established. This was before parliament was introduced and made the League redundant anyway, but I digress.

    “In particular, it was a dispute between the royal family, who were happy to sicc their Pokemon on anything they didn’t like, and the Brooks lineage: a family of Pokemon masters who gained influence for their abilities to tame Pokemon as well as their battle prowess. They were responsible for the foundations of the trainer system to begin with. You had two parties with different kinds of power clashing against each other. Recipe for disaster.

    “Then, those from Kalos heard what was happening and tried to move there to protest against it. Because of the language barrier, as the protestors spoke, well, Kalosan, the Sinnohans thought they were trying to invade. Well, it’s most complicated than that, but those are the basics, long story short.”

    Fernes frowned, blowing steam out of her nostrils.

    “Some of what I read was horrible. I don’t want to get too much into it, and there’s still so much I have to learn, but at least I know what war is like in general now.”

    “Like?” I asked. I knew about war from the books I read, but again, they were mostly about fantasy and usually didn’t go into the real horrors of fighting in that sort of conflict. Then, what about the Pokemon involved? I knew some of us were used along police forces, but…

    “Well, war is war. It’s a cycle of death until one party gets what they want. In this case, the Sinnohans won after hundreds and thousands of deaths, all because of some silly miscommunication. Now, they agreed for everyone to speak a common language to avoid this, even though it isn’t really needed now. We still have our own language, but that’s more down to feral communication. You’d think they’d make us learn it if it was so important to the humans, but we didn’t start becoming more intelligent til’ later down the line.”

    “But, what were we treated like?”

    “Well, just like we seem to be tools for trainers, we were soldiers for the armies as well. Once they found a Pokemon suited for their needs, they captured them, trained them and drafted them into the army, choice or not. Despite that, from all these journals I read, they valued these Pokemon very highly. Like your kind.”

    “Really?”

    “Yes! Luxray were used as scouting Pokemon, able to defend themselves with their electric powers, while alerting their teammates where the next base was with their x-ray vision. They were trained to give signals to humans as well. These were often shared by Lucario as well, as you and them were sort of close friends in a way.”

    “Just like... oh, nothing.”

    “Well, you were Pokemon of honour, alongside lots of other species like Pawniard, or even, dare I say it Rapidash.” Her face burned a hot red. “A-anyway. You would even be given medals based on your service, and have a place in the annals of history. Nowadays, from what I’ve seen, it’s rare to make your mark on anything. But you get the idea.”

    She paused, allowing me to soak up all the information. There was something in me that sparked, since it felt strangely gratifying to hear we were treated as important members of society at one point. But I was so little, and still so very weak. It was too much to become a Luxray in shining armour, but at least, I could imagine myself as that.

    “So, what would you like to do? I-I know it’s a little early, but…”

    “Oh, I know.” She closed the book and stood, looking confident. “I’d like to have children of my own someday and tell them all about what happened. I would talk with the humans as well and research all about the history of this world, and help them with expeditions. I know it’s a long way away, but I want to use my time wisely. Us Rapidash do not have as long a lifespan as humans, so that means I should live it to the fullest.”

    I felt some of her enthusiasm then and there. We hadn’t talked much, but from what I could tell, her decision to come to GeL was probably the best for her. So that was that. I stayed in the library for a bit, thinking about that knightly Luxray, and then, I thought about what it’d be like if I was that same Luxray, fighting for the region. If any water types came my way, I would’ve zapped them. If any Scyther threatened to chop my leader’s heads off, I would’ve bitten their necks first. Well, perhaps not as graphic as that, but you can imagine the types of situations they could get into. That one idea turned into many. And from there, it grew into many other different scenes, so much so, I made up characters in my head as well as started developing a better version of myself: Sir Luxius the Third.

    His fur shone proudly, as his masters groomed him well. His metal plating around his body protected him from anything, even if such a thing wasn’t usual for someone of his kind. His name was echoed throughout the barracks and the battlements, as the proud and fierce Luxray of one of the generals in the Sinnoh Arms. If anything were to get in the way of him and his master, or his home region, he would’ve proudly charged into no man’s land to defend what he believed in.

    (Eh, seems a bit self-serving, doesn’t it? Isn’t that what they call a self-insert?)

    Well, yes, but you can’t expect much from me, Curio, I was still a Shinx. Anyway, I’m getting a bit ahead of myself. I don’t want to spend all day talking about this, so perhaps, I should move onto more pressing matters.

    (You sound as if you’re not proud of what you did.)

    It’s hard to be when it was that long ago, Tony.

    (But it also sounds like you love talking about it. I can hear the passion in your voice when you describe the books you read and the characters you made.)

    Perhaps I did. I will say, once I solidified my idea in my head and presented it to Allister, that gave me the courage to actually start writing it for the following month’s assignment. I already had read enough from the Writer’s Pokedex, as well as the vast library of books available at GeL, to get an idea of how to structure and write a story in my head, where Luxius would try to defend his land from an invading army of water-types.

    I can’t say for certain what I wrote was good or not, and it probably wasn’t, especially not for the first time. Even as I wrote with my mouth, which took me ages, it was exhilarating to get my thoughts onto paper and create worlds with my pen. The hours flew by once I got into the flow of it, and when it did, I forgot about all my present worries as well as my future concerns. That was what gave me solace during the first part of the second year.

    Then the fight tests took over.
     
    Last edited: Sep 15, 2019
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  18. Namohysip

    Namohysip Dragon Enthusiast

    This was a bit of a tricky chapter to think about, because most of the things revealed... I felt had already been alluded to somewhat in prior chapters, in a way. At least, I think I remember it being mentioned, so I'm wondering if it was necessary to dedicate an entire chapter to this. The last chapter ended off at a pretty big cliffhanger, and then we go into this chapter where we don't really pick up on that, and instead we sort of flash back to Shine's perspective.

    It sort of works because this is all a big recollection, but I'm still not sure about the choice to go down that route. Still, it was cute to see Shine's first drabbles and ideas for his stories basically being a self-insert or some kind of wish-fulfillment fantasy. I imagine a lot of writers start off with their dreamlands. I thought it was a bit funny that Shine, who had been so soft-spoken and gentle, idolized being a warrior or a participant in war. I guess back then he wasn't really that familiar with what it really meant, in a way.

    I don't have a whole lot else to comment on with this chapter beyond that. Like I said, I'm not sure how necessary the chapter as a whole was, or if what was revealed here could have been interspersed in future chapters. But it's here now, and it was at least nice, though I hope we can get back to the old cliffhanger soon.
     
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  19. NebulaDreams

    NebulaDreams A Dense Irritating Miniature Beast of Burden

    Chapter 30: …And the Starlights Begin

    (Oh yes, the fight tests. Refresh my memory please, Shine.)

    Alright. I think at this point, people would be asking why GeL would make us learn how to fight if we weren’t in the field. Of course, it’s because we needed to be strong in order to protect ourselves. Even if we managed to land a human’s job out there, we still needed to be on par with the average battling Pokemon. Either to stop us from being taken advantage of by humans or ambushed by a powerful feral type out of nowhere. In that sense, the fights were structured more like exams than trainer battles. Some picked up on it naturally. Others, like me, weren’t so well off. Case in point, my first fight with Floatsam.

    Curio and Bran, me and Floatsam were paired into two groups with Azzy. As the language specialist, it was odd to think of him training us in a real battle situation, but that changed once we got stuck into the lesson.

    He started with the other two and their session went quite smoothly. They traded teasing remarks with one another, then began the battle, throwing Focus Punches here and Aura Spheres there. Bran tried to close in on her, but she kept him on his toes with her projectiles. That didn’t last long as Bran boosted his defences by bulking up, deflecting her attacks, and put her in a choke hold. I watched with bated breath, hoping she would find a way out of this situation, and then, blue energy pulsed around her head. She faced forward, then with a crunch, headbutted Bran square on the nose with an aura-boosted strike. He toppled to the ground, nursing his crooked snout, when Azzy stepped in with two potions.

    “Alright, stop, stop,” he said. “I would say that’s a draw, but …” He trailed off, only continuing once he handed Curio her healing drink. “Curio, what you used there is an illegal move.”

    “Oh, c’mon.“ She groaned. “Really?”

    “Yes, that’s not officially recognised in the move table. That’s an example of a hybrid move, something any Pokemon can use within their skillset, but gives Pokemon an unfair advantage in league situations.”

    Curio sipped on her energy carton and sat up. “Look, if I used a regular headbutt, he wouldn’t have even flinched. He bulked up, didn’t he? Plus, you wanted us to think on our feet, so what gives?”

    “Ah, well, this won’t really be going anywhere. As an extra bit of constructive criticism, you could’ve used Quick Guard with Bran’s first headbutt.” Azzy gave Bran his own potion, letting him recover on his own as he joined the rest of our group. “In any case, both of you did good. You were able to improvise and you exploited both your opponent’s weaknesses. Both of you passed.”

    They both sighed in relief and Curio regrouped with Bran. Despite the injuries during the fight, they took it in good jest and chatted with one another as if nothing happened. Her energy would’ve bounced over to me if it wasn’t for the fact my turn was next. I wished it was Curio I faced off against, someone I trusted and knew would be there to support me throughout. Floatsam was similarly cheerful but he didn’t understand me on the same wavelength as his other wild companions. I told myself I’d be facing off against a water type however, which I had the advantage over, so that boosted my morale, if only by a little bit.

    “Alright, Shine and Floatsam,” Azzy said, “I want you to fight each other next. Remember your move set, try to act on your own, but if you get stuck, I’ll be there to command you. Got that?”

    We faced each other on opposite ends of the arena.

    “U-um,” I called to the Buizel, “l-let’s do our best!”

    “Yeah, let’s!” he shouted back, happily bouncing on his paws.

    “Alright, you two, ready!” Azzy said. I stood stock still, awaiting the final call with dread. “First move goes to you, Floatsam. Go!”

    Floatsam dashed forward while I swayed to and fro, not knowing which direction he would’ve struck first. Then, he stopped, puffed up his cheeks and spat a torrent of water towards me. Thankfully, I saw that one coming and dodged to the right. In response to that, I charged up my electric field and shot a spark, but Floatsam darted forward with a water jet and slammed into me, throwing my tiny body across the arena.

    My sides ached. I tried to get up to make the next move, but my legs kept wobbling. I was terrified, to be honest. It suddenly hit me that this was a real battle, where we’d be tested based on our fighting prowess and evaluated. I couldn’t have messed up, but at the same time, everything was going too fast. What if I made the wrong move? What if I suddenly tripped over my own feet? It wasn’t quite rational, but to my young Shinx mind, who had never set foot out of the facility before on their own, it was too much for me. You could’ve said it was a case of analysis paralysis.

    (Hehe, paralysis.)

    Yes, Curio, paralysis, elemental pun not intended.

    “Hey!” Azzy shouted, dragging me back into reality. “Close in on him with Thunder Fang! That will do it!”

    For the moment, that snapped me out of it, pushing my nerves to the back of my mind, ready to strike. At least, that’s what I thought. When I dashed towards Floatsam, he flashed from side to side, becoming an orange blur with his Agility skill. That threw me completely off balance. I looked to Azzy, wondering what to do next.

    “Come on!” he yelled. “Charge into there with your static field and slam into him first!”

    “B-but, what if I miss? W-why can’t he slow—”

    Floatsam struck my head with a decisive tail swipe, crashing me through the arena. It took a while for me to get my bearings again, but when I did, my whole body was shaking. I was para-- no, frozen with shock.

    “Shine,” he said, “remember your charge and spark. Quickly, he’s coming again!”

    I shrieked as Floatsam charged forward, water guns blazing. Each moment spent looking for an opening was a moment lost. I was just a scared little cub again like I was in the first year and I couldn’t have done anything about it. Surrendering, I curled up into a ball.

    “P-please,” I whimpered, “d-don’t hurt me. D-dont…”

    “U-um,” Floatsam said, “this isn’t fun any more, teach.”

    “Alright, stop it right there,” Azzy called. “Floatsam, you did well, so you passed.” I expected to get told off by Azzy for what happened, but he stroked my head, which reassured me a little. “Come on out, I’m not going to yell at you. I know Bolt isn’t exactly kind to you in that regard.”

    The mention of Bolt dredged up something inside of me. That was enough for me to stand up and look at my teacher directly, even if my body trembled from the fight. “A-aren’t you? I failed.”

    “Well, yes, you haven’t passed this test. But it would be unrealistic to expect everyone to perform at the same level.”

    “H-he’s a water type though. I’m electric. I-I should’ve—”

    “Shine, that mindset will get you nowhere in and out of battle.” He leaned in to hug me. Despite the shocks I emitted, he took it in his stride. “You must learn to have faith in yourself if you want to succeed in life. Now, brace yourself.” I winced as he applied the potion over my wounds, but as the healing properties worked its magic, my strength returned bit by bit. Eventually I could walk on my own and he patted my back, letting me know it was okay to regroup.

    “Oh, but Shine,” Azzy said, getting my attention again. “You will be expected to pass one of the fight tests eventually. If you don’t learn to hold your own in a battle, you’ll be put in fast track until you prove yourself again.”

    I gulped when I heard that.

    (Fast track?)

    His polite way of saying detention. Mind you, it was nothing sinister on paper, as that only meant I would be under extra supervision in an intensive environment. Nothing that warranted too much of a scare. Still, it was embarrassing to think I was in danger of falling behind.

    “So until then,” he continued, “take note of what your mistakes were in this battle and learn from them later on. We’ll give you some papers to help you understand. Is that clear?”

    Wearily, I nodded and returned to my group on the sidelines. Floatsam looked away from me with annoyance. So even he considered me a let down. Curio must’ve seen the shame on my face since she knelt down to stroke my ears.

    “Don’t worry, Shine. Your time will come soon.”

    “I-I hope so,” I said. “O-oh god, how humiliating. Everyone p-probably hates me now.”

    “Pfft,” she said, “they don’t care, and who gives a Rattata’s ass what they think?”

    “I agree,” Bran said with a slight smile. “You should fight for yourself and not for others.”

    “A-aren’t you a fighting type, though?”

    “Well, yes. But I would not fight needlessly or for pride.”

    “Ain’t that engrained in your kind, though?” Curio said.

    “Hmm.” Bran crossed his arms. “I would not book a judge by his covers. Personally, I like fighting, but with these hands”--he held out his palm--“I could do anything a human do. I could build boats. I could play the guitar. I could ride motorbikes. I see humans do all sorts of interesting things. Yet, I do not see ours doing much. Maybe somewhere out there. Not with my own experience.”

    “Um, cool story bro,” Curio said, playfully tapping him on the shoulder, “but where are you going with this?”

    “Well, I think of it like a fight is a performance, and I am putting on a mask, like the Hawluchador wrestlers Henry tells me about.” He traced his hand over his face. “With this, I can be anything I want in the arena. It would be like my own performance.” He pointed to me. “Think of it like that. You can be confident in yourself when you put on a mask for others.”

    I got the gist of what he meant, like projecting a fake version of yourself to those around you, but at the time, I didn’t know how that helped in a battle situation. His talk did make me feel a little better inside though. From there, I was able to eat peacefully with my friends, and looking forward to completing my writing assignment without any interruptions. Or so I thought.

    --

    The following fight tests in the next few weeks weren’t so kind on me. No matter what I tried to take away from the last one, each opponent I faced on my level would still beat me. Each failed test stripped away what little pride I had left. After one more disastrous fight test, I was dismissed and sent back to my base. For that moment, I just wanted to escape into the story I started to write. But as I was about to grab a pen and pad, Bolt entered the base.

    “Shine,” he said in a hollow tone, “I need to speak with you.”

    I gulped as he approached, leering at me.

    “Hmph.” He flared his nostrils, “Shine, this is your last warning. You have disappointed me again and again in these fight tests. If you fail the next one, you’ll be put into detention.”

    I was speechless. I didn’t know how to react, but I quivered in fear as my tutor kept staring through me.

    “I should expect you to train harder for the next match. But in all seriousness, considering your track record, I don’t have high hopes for you.”

    Now that, I couldn’t take in silence. I stood upright, staring back at him defiantly. “N-no. I’ll, um, I’ll prove you wrong!”

    “Hmph, that isn’t very likely. You’ve outworn your chances for now.”

    “B-but wait!” I scratched at the smooth flaw underneath my feet. “You’ve never even given me a chance! From the first day, you’ve never had any respect for me! Why? Why would you—”

    “Do not talk to me like that, you pampered little cub.” Bolt turned back, whipping me with his tail, and padded towards the door. My anger curdled into fear. “If you want respect, then you’ll have to earn it in battle tomorrow. If not, then you will have to make up for that in your own time, and there will be no more writing until you’ve proven yourself. Bye.”

    And with that, he left the base. I spent the night, curled up in bed, not knowing what to do. I wanted to train, but I couldn’t bring my body to do it; I was that paralysed with dread. And if I tried, I thought I’d end up disappointing everyone anyway, even when I remembered my training. I’m not proud to admit that now, but that was my frame of mind back then.

    (I understand. I guess if I were in your shoes, I would be a little frightened as well. It isn’t exactly the same as trainer school, though I’ve never been, unless you count the exam to get the license, so I can’t say for certain. But fighting anyone to pass your lessons would be a bit intimidating.)

    Indeed. I procrastinated until the next day where it finally sunk in that I needed to practise. So, I tried to train myself in the gym before the test started. There were treadmills as well as climbing posts, dummies, boards to zap our elemental powers at, and anything else a Pokemon might need to boost their fighting skills. Naturally, I failed to use all of them properly. The treadmill ended up being too fast for my little Shinx legs, so I faceplanted as soon as I stepped onto the conveyor. Despite my kind having feline reflexes, I was clumsy at best, so I ended up falling a lot. Any attempt to slam into a dummy got redirected at me, knocking me back with a blow to the face.

    I felt like crying again, but I suppressed that urge and focused my electric energy on the padded wall. That was one thing I was somewhat good at. Every time I charged up some static, my coat felt strange, but once I knew what I was aiming for and discharged, it felt normal again. That being said, I was way off the mark from the pad’s target. Maybe I had gotten rusty. If I was going to strike effectively in battle, I knew I had to train my sight. So I kept shooting until the bell rang. To borrow from Curio’s expression, oh crap.

    (Language, Shine.)

    Like you’re one to talk. But no, I didn’t feel prepared for anything at all. The world was crashing down around me and everything felt terrible. Yet, slowly but surely, I made my way to the battle arena. Of course, Bolt was there. With dread nestled in my gut, I joined the team.

    “Well,” Bolt said, “you decided to join us. Alright then, you four.” He looked to me, PZ, Patches and Tom. “You’ll be pitted in teams of two to do a Double Battle. Since you lot haven’t evolved yet, consider this a good exercise to train your way into the next stage, as well as build your ability to work in a group, should it ever come to that.”

    He paced back and forth, eyeing us with an omniscient gaze. “Some of you have already proven yourselves and will be leading the charge. Others, though…” He trailed off and made a point of glaring down at my tiny Shinx form. “You’ll most likely be carried by your betters.”

    I looked away, trying to ignore his indirect stab at me.

    “But no matter.” He stood back, eyeing us all. “Whether you win or lose is trivial, although the former is preferable. But you shall be graded on your efforts and not your results, so you must try, no, do your best.”

    I tuned out as he went on to group Tom and Patches together. I breathed in and out, trying to suppress my anger. I never felt anything like it towards anyone else, but Bolt was... Ugh. Putting up a front about winning or losing being trivial, while I was being threatened into detention. I wanted to sew his lips shut, to be honest.

    I would’ve just been stewing in my rage until PZ leaned into whisper in my ear. “Wow, is he this much of a hardass as your Dad like he is here?”

    It was weird to think of him as my father since we weren’t tied by blood, but I guess he was in type and spirit. “Yes.”

    “That sucks. But hey”--he patted me on the back--”you gotta try here too. Stick it to your old Mon.”

    Even if it didn’t resolve my trepidation, I stood up at last, motivated to win this battle. It wasn’t long before me and PZ were paired up and briefed on the rules, which was standard for the league, except with more freedom to plan before the match since team communication was important. So while the other duo hatched plans of their own, PZ drew me in again.

    “So, yer pretty close with that sewing guy, right?” he whispered, which I hummed a reply to. “Okay, so, I figure he’d go a bit easier on ya since you’re his bud. If ya use those Baby Doll Eyes of yours, you can distract him, and I can use these ice powers of mine to dampen his electric stuff. After that, just wail on that Munchlax and I’ll take care of Patches. Sound good?”

    Though I didn’t exactly like battling my friends, I gave another approving hum, letting him know we were good to go. Once the opposing team was done, they faced us, and Patches winked at me.

    “Best of luck, Shine,” he said.

    “And you,” I replied.

    “Just you wait,” PZ said, pointing at the two, “I’ll open up a can of whoopass on you!”

    Everyone stood in stunned silence, including me. PZ nervously tittered, getting back into position. “Ya know, that sounded cooler in my head than it does when I say it for real.”

    “Enough of this,” Bolt said, planting his paw into the turf. “You four, starting with Shine and PZ, begin.”

    We set our plan into motion. I went up to Patches and tried my best to channel my inner hatchling and put on the cutest face I could muster. I widened my eyes and pouted, like that of a kicked kitten, and hoped it looked convincing enough to get through to him.

    “Dammit,” Patches said, unimpressed, “I know what you’re tryin’ to do, Shine, but…” He trailed off, looking to the Manectric. “Do I hafta beat up my friend?”

    Bolt huffed and scratched the turf with his paw, signalling Patches to follow suit. Before he could, however—

    “Now!”

    I stepped back as PZ threw a paw full of icy dust at Patches, coating him in a frosty sheen. That took him aback, though in retaliation, Tom sprang forward, launching his whole body towards my teammate. It was enough to throw him off balance, but PZ swiped at the same time, cancelling the impact. So the two stood point blank, grappling each other, waiting to find a weak spot to take advantage of. So it was my turn to strike while I could still move, and so, charging up all the static in my body, I shot a spark of electricity at Tom, hoping I’d hit my mark. It struck his plump side perfectly, knocking him to the floor as his whole body shook.

    I had to admit, I felt a little spark inside myself. I couldn’t believe I’d finally gotten the edge over my opponent, and it was exciting. That didn’t last long, however, as PZ charged through the field, bumping into my shoulder.

    “Finish him already! Thunder Fang!”

    He charged for Patches next, wailing on him with a set of Fury Swipes as he curled up in a ball. It wasn’t out of fear though, rather, he was taking it all on purpose. I didn’t have long to react as that blue ball of fur was still shaking on the floor, trying to regain control of his body. There was a little tinge of guilt at that, but I knew I had to make the next move. So I sprinted, teeth bared, ready to strike, and pounced on him, pinning him under my sturdy paws. Try as he might’ve to shake himself away, I plunged into his belly with my fangs, discharging the energy stored up in there to shock him even more. I tasted iron, and that was the moment I felt the rush of battle the most in my Shinx form. Strange to think I had been afraid for so long, when I had the power within me to hold my own all along.

    But that was short lived. An ear splitting screech rang through my head, bouncing in my skull and through the rest of my body. It came from Tom, who screamed in agony as he still reeled from the bite, where two sets of teeth marks had burrowed in his belly and left red marks. I drew blood. Only a little, but I did that to my friend, who fed me when I had no energy to eat and lifted me up when I felt down at times. Even in a mock battle, this didn’t feel right. I backed away, shaking from head to toe, then stopped completely. I couldn’t move. My body still told me to fight but my mind shut down, stuck in a feedback loop. I could do nothing but watch as the fight played itself out without me.

    PZ swiped and clawed at my friend, drawing blood as well, but Patches wasn’t bothered by this at all He was waiting for the right moment. And, just as my teammate glared at me, Patches flashed with a white energy and headbutted him in the stomach. That black blur whizzed from across the arena and landed close to me. PZ got up quickly, but held his own belly, as he reeled from the hit, and tried to get close to me.

    “H-hey, whaddya think you’re doin—”

    Tom threw himself at my teammate again.

    “No, you don’t!”

    PZ rolled to the side, avoiding Tom’s Body Slam. In turn though, that Munchlax ended up crashing into me anyway, launching me to the edge of the arena borders. From there, I don’t entirely know what happened next. My mind not only felt weak, my body felt weak as well, having the wind knocked out of me from Tom’s attack. If I willed it, I probably could’ve gotten up, but I just didn’t. Not couldn’t. Didn’t. I thought it would be better to not get involved anyway.

    Blue, black and white blurs bounced off of each other, in harmony with one another, in the groove of the battle, which I was locked out of. A zap here. A body slam there. Then, the Pokemon I recognised as PZ fell, down for the count. Yet the battle was still going. Those two bodies approached me. I needed to get up, I needed to fight. My vision unblurred, and wearily, I got to my feet, but as soon as it hit me what they were about to do, I curled up into my usual defensive stance. So that was it.

    “Finish the match,” Bolt said. “He can still get up and fight.”

    “Hey, teach,” Patches said, “this ain’t right. You can see he doesn’t wanna do it.”

    “Yeah,” Tom said, “I don’t wanna keep hurting my friend.”

    “You two will finish the match,” Bolt snarled. “This cub needs to learn to react properly in battle. This can’t go on.”

    “Look though!” Patches yelled. I peeked from one of my paws to see him pleading with our Manectric tutor. “You know Shine’s always had trouble with fightin’! This is pointless! It ain’t fun scaring him even more than this!”

    “You’re coddling him.”

    “At least I was tryin’ to get through to him, and he came outta his shell in the end. You gave up on him just because you couldn’t do the same! This ain’t about the test, it’s about you!”

    “Enough of this.” Bolt turned to his side, dismissing Patches’ attempts to get through to him. “The match is over, so there will be no more fighting.” He dug into a nearby bag with his teeth, drawing out potions for all of us to use on each other. One. Two. Three. Where was mine? “Heal yourselves up. You, Tom, and PZ have passed, although you might not’ve won the match. PZ in particular, you are ready to evolve. Collect your fang in the night at any time.”

    “Got it, teach,” PZ groaned.

    “What does that mean for Shine, then?” Patches asked.

    “He’ll be put into detention until he can learn to defend himself.”

    That was the moment it hit me. I had failed. Had I let everyone down. I sniffled, feeling the urge to cry deep in my gut.

    “H-hey,” he said, skittering towards me, “can I just talk to him—”

    “No,” Bolt said firmly. “You are dismissed. You’ll see him briefly at the cafeteria, but you won’t be seeing much of him after that for a little while.”

    Patches stared at me longingly. I knew he wanted to be by my side, but with Bolt’s presence there, he couldn’t. So in time, he exited the arena along with everyone else. It was just me and my tutor, alone in that spacious room. Bolt silently walked towards me. I shrivelled up in my ball again, not wanting to face him, but he leaned in to whisper in my ear anyway.

    “You’ll heal up over time. Those aren’t serious wounds.”

    “I-I-I’m sorry,” I stuttered, “I’m, I’m s-s-s-o weak, I’m s-s-s—”

    “Enough whining. This is ridiculous. Now, come on. We’ll go get your meal, and then, you’ll be taken down to your new room for the duration of your detention.”

    I let out tiny sobs, about to burst.

    “Stop crying like a hatchling and come with me, otherwise I’ll drag you by your ears with my teeth.”

    That jolted me out of my episode. I unfurled from my defensive stance and dried my eyes, then, he led me to the feeding room. The walk was long and slow. It felt even longer with my wounds, as it ached to even walk. I knew people stared at us with concern as he walked me through the hallway, but I ignored it. I just wanted the day to end at that point, but my stomach roared, telling me I had to eat. So I reluctantly entered, and the first thing I saw was Curio, sitting next to Hans in shock at my appearance. Bolt nudged me, gesturing to go talk to them while he fetched my food for me. Perhaps that was one small mercy he allowed me.

    (Not really, I’m kind of getting sick of hearing about him to be honest.)

    Yes. I don’t really like recalling what happened, but if I don’t talk about him properly, I never will. Curio put her cutlery down and rushed to my side.

    “Jeez, Shine! What happened to you?”

    I just hung my head in shame. The other students whispered to themselves, calling my name a few times along with some unpleasant nicknames being traded about like ‘****shine’. Patches eventually came forward and relayed the info to her, and she pulled me closer to her in an attempt to hug it out. It was of little comfort, and I didn’t even feel like I deserved it. Thankfully, she let go, but she also eyed Bolt as he talked over the table to one of the lunch ladies. Her aura flared up, casting her paws aglow.

    “That bastard,” she muttered under her breath, “who does he think he is?”

    “Hey,” Patches said, “I just wanna know why GeL’s letting him get away with it. I know fightin’s important and all that, but—”

    “Yeah, but, ugh!” She bashed her fist on the floor. “He can’t do this! He’s just gonna waste his time trying to get Shine to do anything anyway!”

    Although this certainly wasn’t my proudest moment, that struck a nerve with me. “What do you mean by that?”

    “Oh, um—”

    “Or do you mean I can’t do anything, because I’m weak and sad and useless, is that it?”

    “No, Shine, that’s not what—”

    “Go on, admit it, from day one, you just took pity on me. Why else would you hang out with a loser like me?”

    “For god’s sake.” Curio rubbed her forehead. “If I thought you were a loser, I would’ve just told you.”

    “Yeah,” Patches said, joining her side, “and I wouldn’t have stuck with you all this time.”

    “I’m just sick of embarrassing myself in front of everyone all the time!” I leered up at Curio. “You just babied me all this time!”

    I regretted it as soon as I said it. I knew that wasn’t true, but at that stage, my temper had reached a boiling point.

    “Okay.” Curio’s eyes narrowed. “And who tried to get you to fight in the first place, huh?”

    “C’mon, Shine,” Patches chimed in, “don’t take this out on her.”

    “And I know you don’t mean that. My aura says so.”

    I recoiled at the mention of the word aura. She read my thoughts without asking first. I knew she was just trying to help, but still, when I realised that, I backed away.

    “Stop reading my mind, dammit!” I roared. “Just go away!”

    I didn’t wait for her to respond before I turned my back to leave, injuries be damned. I had nowhere to go except down, and the thought of that filled me with dread, but I just didn’t want to be a burden to anyone else in that room anymore.

    The hallway greeted me with those same floral patterns and colourful doodles, and that calmed me down somewhat as I huffed and puffed my frustrations out. In time, Bolt caught up with me and led me down the elevator path with my food bowl. The ride was spent in silence, and the same went for when we walked through the hissing insides of the lower floor. Maybe it was for the best, since talking would’ve only wound me up more, especially with Bolt. The bottom room was essentially a hub for the facility’s behind the scenes functions, such as the janitor room, the laundry room for those permanently staffed there, and everything else. Compared to the layout of the rest of the facility though, this was very linear, with only one long hallway that had doors on the right and left hand sides. The one on the end at the centre, however, was where I stayed for the duration of my detention.

    With a weary sigh, Bolt opened the detention door before me. Originally, it functioned as a spare room, so it didn’t serve much of a purpose on its own. Yet, it was inhabited, with temporary bedding, waste deposits and toys scattered haphazardly on the floor. It looked and smelled like a tip.

    Sitting in the middle of it all was M, the maskless Marowak, whose dull eyes stared into space a thousand yards away. Everything about him was still, except for his paws, which stroked the ears of a small Teddiursa plush. The stuffing at the side of its neck was ripped open.
     
  20. Namohysip

    Namohysip Dragon Enthusiast

    Alright, so here's the chapter that I was hoping to have seen after the end of the chapter before the last one. Shine getting into battles! It's definitely a different side of him, and definitely the part that he was the least certain of. There was a lot of combat, and I think the key moment that stood out to me was the fact that he was doing somewhat well at the actual act of fighting, but his mentality behind trying to get the fighting done didn't work out well.

    In other words, he had the body to fight--I imagine most Pokemon do--but not the mind for it. This is doubly interesting because he had a feral mother, but nurture seems to be a lot stronger than nature for Shine. I think it's also interesting how there was such a huge contrast between how Bolt is now to how he used to be, at least from Shine's perspective. It's kind of a shame that we didn't get to see that transition over time, since it was largely summarized here, but I guess that's sort of how it goes when doing a recollection story.

    Anyway, some quick quotes to top off my general thoughts...

    This was interesting. As mentioned above, Shine has the heat of battle in him, but he can't quite get into the groove. It's in his nature, yet it's not in his other nature -- I wonder if this is going to become a source of internal conflict for him down the line?

    I'm not sure who said this.

    Ahhh and now we get to go into a big mystery of this arc, I imagine. What's with M? Guess the next few chapters will give us some insight there...
     
    NebulaDreams likes this.

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