• Hi all
    Just a notice, we recently discovered that someone got into a moderator account and started hard deleting a load of key and legacy threads...around 150 threads have been lost dating back to 2007 and some weeks ago so we can't roll the forums back.
    Luckily no personal data could be accessed by this moderator, and we've altered the permissions so hard deleting isn't possible in the future
    Sorry for any inconvenience with this and sorry for any lost posts.
  • Hi all. We had a couple of reports of people's signatures getting edited etc. in a bad way. You can rest assured this wasn't done by staff and nobody has compromised any of our databases.

    However, remember to keep your passwords secure. If you use similar passwords to elsewhere which has been accessed, people and even bots may be able to access your account.

    We always recommend using unique passwords, and two-factor authentication if you are able. Make sure you're as secure as possible
  • Be sure to join the discussion on our discord at: Discord.gg/serebii
  • If you're still waiting for the e-mail, be sure to check your junk/spam e-mail folders

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


A Dense Irritating Miniature Beast of Burden
Chapter 31: (M)eeting

Tony stopped recording again and ran his hands over his face. Shine in turn rose up, staring attentively at his trainer.

“Oh, dear, Shine. I’m sorry to hear about this.”

Shine cocked his head. “Whatever do you mean?”

“I mean, Bolt, of course.”

“Well, this isn’t your first time hearing about this. You knew how he treated me before then.”

“Yes, I know, at least in general terms. Here, though, it’s… never mind.” He sighed. “No wonder you feel the way you do.”

Shine took a moment to consider this. How did he feel? A part of his heart ached at the very thought of Bolt, sure. But that was his own doing entirely. For being so difficult to his tutor. For being weak when everyone else was strong. He rather he didn’t draw attention to it.

“That was in the past.” He stared at the floor. “Besides, there were much worse things that happened to the both of us. This is nothing.”

“That doesn’t make your feelings any less valid.”

Shine said nothing. His feelings were true, but what would the world see of him? Of this Pokemon that should not have been?

“Okay, look.” Tony got out of his chair and hugged Shine, holding him tight. He didn’t even seem to notice his own hair spiking up. “It’s not healthy to bottle up your emotions like that. Bolt wasn’t there for you, and he didn’t understand the sort of Pokemon you were. I know he wasn’t your real father, but he should’ve acted like one while you still needed it. That would have an effect on anyone.”

“Preach,” Curio said, standing on the sidelines. “Seriously, screw Bolt. He really didn’t do you any favours.”

“I know. B-but...” Shine trailed off, trying to process this moment. It was hard to deny the impact Bolt had on him, but at the same time, he felt very little in retrospect. Or at least, he told himself that he felt very little, even though his heart was still in his throat. Finally, he shook his head and sat up, trying to budge away form his trainer’s grasp. “Let’s get a move on.”

“Are you sure?”


Tony held him for one last moment before patting his back. From there, it was back to work.

(What happened on the first night in?)

Well, nothing. Bolt told us to eat, then turn in for the night for an early start the next day. That meant being alone in the room with M, the Marowak that always set me on edge. There was something about the way he sat and stared at others as if he was about to descend on his prey. That much was true when Bolt chucked him a glob of raw meat, which he immediately tore into with his sharp teeth. Bolt laid down my bowl in front of me, which was filled with kibble, prepackaged meat and other morsels fit for my kind. That would’ve been it, and we would’ve been expected to settle down not long after, but before Bolt let us be, he licked the blood off of M’s face. M closed his eyes, gently grunting as if he was being pet. It was surreal to see M look so pacified for the first time, but eventually, our tutor left for real, leaving me to eat my dinner in silence. Awkward silence.

The sounds around me were as clear as day. Water faintly rushed through the pipes, and footsteps, both soft and hard, pitter pattered through the floors outside. At that point, you could’ve cut the atmosphere in the room with a claw. Even more so as M stared at me the whole time I ate. That way, I got a good look at his maskless face. He had a bit of a stubby snout and broken horns at the top of his head, not to mention the splotches he bore as a Cubone. From what I saw in the Pokedex, if he was a usual Marowak, it would’ve looked like the skull and his face had merged into one. That was certainly an unpleasant image. But for M, even without it, he still got under my skin. Those orange eyes stared into mine with a great intensity, as if he was judging me, right then and there on the spot. If it wasn’t for the fact he had just eaten, he probably would’ve confused me for fresh meat. That Teddiursa doll on the side offset things somewhat, but regardless, it’s not something I like to remember that much.

Thankfully, he must’ve gotten bored and curled up in the corner of the room, falling asleep with his teddy bear in tow. So I finished my dinner in peace, a little grateful I didn’t have to gaze at him any longer.

(I do have to wonder why the Pokedex commonly associates the Cubone line with the skull, if you don’t mind me interrupting.)

That’s fine, Tony.

(Okay then. So, tangent time. The Pokedex entries in general are complete Taur. They don’t have much of a basis in reality, and it’s only used to boil down the proper encyclopedic entries to their barest essentials. So nobody in my field even takes them seriously. Even so, that entry’s theory about the Cubone always wearing their mother’s skull on their heads is complete bunk. My professors bitched about it enough in the biology classes we took, and it just doesn’t make sense for every Cubone to wear their dead relative’s bones from a logistical standpoint.

Think about it. If every mother of a Cubone is supposed to be dead, then that means nothing else is replacing their species. They’re gradually losing more numbers, and since that would mean the only one that can reproduce ends up commonly dying, their species would go extinct quickly. But what’s a regular Cubone supposed to be without the skull, according to the Pokedex? How do they get the skull in the first place if the mother dies? Do they wait for it to decompose?

None of this seems likely. Again, the Pokedex is meant to just be there as a basic guideline, but it kind of insults the intelligence of all the trainers involved. If they wanted to lie about it, then they should’ve at least come up with a convincing one and not have caused so many misconceptions about Pokemon everywhere.

Okay, tangent over. Sorry about that, but that drives me insane. I guess we’re too alike.)

I don’t mind your interruptions, so that’s fine. Besides, I always found it a bit farfetched.

(Jeez, you guys are a bunch of dorks.)

Look at the Sneasel calling the Scraggy a dark type. But in any case, the following morning, I woke up after M, so we had a bit of time alone together. Not that I exactly yearned for it, but still. He sat away from me, holding his bone club in his paws as he turned it around, running his claw over the marrow like he was studying it. Once he noticed I was awake, he approached me, getting so close that I could even smell his breath. The stench of the meat he ate last night lingered, so I recoiled, wanting to get away from it. Hopefully, the staff at GeL would come soon and brush his teeth, like they did with us every morning. Then M sniffed me down from head to paw. I thought he was doing it as a joke at first, so I chuckled, however half-heartedly, but he didn’t find any of it amusing. He growled, making me flinch and curl up into a ball. Then he poked at me with his bone club, while I did nothing but wallowed in my own fear. Then he stopped after a while. When I came out of my personal bubble, he sat there, eyes wide, as he observed me. From there, I sat up straight, staring at him as well. There was a hint of loneliness in his eyes. Not only that, but curiosity as well, as if he didn’t know what he was looking at. I think my behaviour threw him off a bit; if he was used to being in the wild and learning instinctual cues instead of language, then I must’ve been a bit of a freak.

After a while, his gaze softened, making him look sorrowful. Even though I was still scared of him, I couldn’t help but feel for M, and my own curiosity got the better of me.

“Um, M?” I asked, ignoring the shaky feeling in my paws. “W-what was it like, in the wild?”

He grunted and took a deep breath. “Don’t want to say.”

At least I got something from him. Then, there was another question that danced on the tip of my tongue. “Um, d-different question. I-is it true? D-do most Cubone wear their mom’s skull?”

His eyes widened and he raised his club. That wasn’t the response I was hoping for. I thought he was going to take that start beating me up with it. Instead, he struck himself. I stood up, trying to get him to stop, but he pointed the club to me, stopping me in my tracks. He beat a second time, and then the third time. Even though it rang through the room with a resounding knock knock knock, he didn’t flinch, or seem to feel pain. It wasn’t the first time I saw him do that, but it unnerved me every time I caught him in the act.

Finally, after all that, his eyes dilated and he shook his head.

“Ah,” I said. “S-so, the Pokedex lies, then?”

He didn’t respond to that. I repeated the phrase, then when that didn’t get a reaction, I said the word ‘Pokedex’ over and over again, trying to get him to remember. We went over that in our classes several times, so the thought of that going over his head just baffled me. Finally, I asked:

“Do you know what a Pokedex is?”

Another tap and a shake. “Confuses me.”

I shrugged it off, not thinking much of it, and went back to the other question. “W-why don’t they wear skulls?”

M snorted. “Some do. Take the skulls of our prey and wear them. Sign of power. Power is hurting. But not all. Have to wait for head to become bones.”

My stomach lurched as the image of a decomposing Pokemon flashed in my head.

“I-I guess it wouldn’t smell nice either.”

M chuckled. I couldn’t believe I actually got him to laugh at first, but he just kept chuckling until it became a hollow laugh. “Doesn’t.”

Before I could linger on that any longer, he stood up and pointed the club at me again. “Let’s spar.”

As he swung, I dodged just in time as it whooshed past my nose.

“H-h-hey!” I said, “t-training hasn’t started yet!”

He lunged and swung again, this time, clocking me on the forehead. As you can imagine, I hit the floor, crying out in pain. My head felt like a slab of ice.

“Get up. Spar. Will heal after finish.”

Tears started welling up, but I didn’t cry that time. The whole thing was embarrassing, not only for myself, but for him as well, and everyone else. I hated that. Instead of crying as usual, I roared; the loudest I had heard myself roar up until that point. I stood up, charging my static field, until it surged through my whole body. It was a new move of mine: a Volt Tackle. Even though I knew my attacks would be weak against his, I didn’t care, and just sprinted towards him, screaming through the pain. I managed to slam into him, tackling his belly with my head, but he didn’t even flinch. As soon as he saw that opportunity, he took it, grabbing my ears and punching my face. That knocked me on my back that time. I tried to move, but then, he pinned me down to the ground, pummelling me, one fist after the other. His face looked the same when he punched that Munchlax’s lights out ages ago. After taking so much punishment at once, my face just felt numb. I wondered if I was going to die there.

Then, it happened.

M shrieked in pain as my fangs dug into his flesh, not unlike how I did with Tom, but this time, I didn’t stop. I clamped hard, pressing my maw down further. I would get him to stop hitting me that time. I had that power. I wasn’t going to take it.

“You two, enough.”

We both stopped. I opened my eyes soon after. Through the tears, I saw M walking towards Bolt, dragging the club across the floor like a rattle while his bleeding arm limply dangled.

“I’d rather you wait until we started our sessions to fight. Do you understand?”

M looked at me, then back to his tutor, but he didn’t nod back.

“In any case, come, Shine. After we heal you up, we can wash you and give you your breakfast. Then, we can start training today.”

I didn’t even know if I could’ve in my state, but I tried anyway. Despite wobbling to my hindpaws, I managed to stand up. My face stung like a Beedrill, but at least I could walk. I got closer to my tutor and looked at what he was doing. Not that I wanted to look him in the eye; in fact, whenever I saw that yellow glow of his in them, my gut churned. But he was licking M’s face, like one would do to their Electrike cub, and the Marowak growled affectionately as if Bolt was his parent. Part of me wanted to take M’s place, but I knew that would never happen. But Bolt took me in regardless and went through our morning routine together. He didn’t speak to us, even as he watched the staff bathe me and M. Nor did he speak to us when we shared our berry bunch with each other. But once we had finished, the first detention session started for real, in a more organised fight this time with Bolt watching over us. M ran towards me, swiping with his bone club, and I ran and dodged to no avail, while M’s more aggressive attitude always gave him the advantage.

“Come on!” Bolt shouted. “Don’t back away when he’s exposed!”

“But! But!” I shrieked, in between thrusts and strikes from M, “he’s too fast!”

“Look for one, for the white god’s sake! Find a spot where he isn’t protected, and strike it!”

So I looked, while M ran towards me with that bone club of his. I wasn’t so much focused on attacking as I was dodging a possible blow to my weak little head. I kept on doing it, and managed to continuously shake him off, but every time, he’d keep swiping, not running out of energy at all. The more and more he advanced, the angrier and angrier I got, to the point I started growling; not that it did much good for someone like him. Then, he raised his club, exposing that soft belly of his. So that was the opening. I dove in at the first opportunity and chomped down at his tummy, hard. My teeth were regularly brushed by GeL’s staff and were well looked after, so keep that in mind. M screamed, toppling to the floor as I tore into him, and for the first time in a battle ever, I actually had the upper hand, or paw. That moment of victory was short lived. He hit back just as hard with his club, launching me against a nearby wall, head first.

Needless to say, the battle didn’t end in my favour. But something did happen. Once the staff healed me up in the infirmary, Bolt came to visit with M, though I dreaded it at first, especially with the way I hurt that poor Marowak. The teeth marks still looked fresh on his body as the nurse tried to apply the potion.

“Em-M,” I said, struggling to keep my cool in front of them. “I’m sorry. I-I didn’t mean to—”

“Quiet, Shine,” Bolt said. To my surprise though, he smiled at me, the first time I ever saw him do it out of generosity. “But you did well out there. You’re starting to defend yourself more, although you still need practise.”

“B-but,” I asked, “w-what if I really hurt someone?”

“Like what M’s been doing to you? That’s the point of a battle; to fight until one side can’t stand anymore. That’s how it is in the League, and that’s how it is training as a Pokemon. But we’re strong. We can take on a lot of punishment humans can’t. I went through the same trials and tribulations, and even more. Don’t forget that when you think back to what your ancestors went through.”

I didn’t say anything else, but I couldn’t exactly argue with him.

“But, if you want your chance to shine in the spotlight in some other way, you’ll have the chance to do so soon.” He glanced at M, who struggled in the human nurse’s grasp.

“Please, hold still,” she said while M thrashed about. “It’s alright, just relax. Think about a fun thing you did in the past, or a good memory or something. That’s what I tell the other students here, anyway.”

Her words fell on deaf ears, since M still squirmed in her grasp.

“That’s pointless, I’m afraid,” Bolt said. “The only way you’ll calm him down is if you heal him in the charging station.”

“Right,” she said, nonplussed by the talking Manectric beside her. “I’ll get the Pokeball.”

I turned to Bolt, puzzled by the whole scene.

“Um, s-sorry if this is a stupid question, but does M not understand humans?”

Bolt grunted and looked back at me. “Not when he’s in fight or flight mode. When he’s cooled off, well, you’ll see. Azzy will tell you more about it when he gives you your briefing, I expect.”

“B-briefing?” My eyes shot up. “What do you mean?”

“Just as you have something to learn from M, M has something to learn from you. Again, you’ll see.”

I took his word for it. I looked at him again, expecting him to do something next, like embrace me or give me a bit more of a pep talk. But I backed away, knowing better than to expect anything else from him.


We were in the detention room again, except this time, the blue rabbit came with a few toys in a wheelie tray.

“Oh, hello Shine,” he said with a sad smile. “Are you hanging in there?”

“J-just barely,” I admitted.

“Ah, well.” He leaned in to whisper in my ear. “I’ll give you your briefing later, but I just want you to watch this first.”

Standing on the sidelines, I observed as M played about with one of those wooden ‘connect the shapes’ toys. I don’t know what I expected, but he fit all of them in. When he was given more complex toys to play with, like a sorting puzzle with many tiny blocks, he managed to do all of that without skipping a beat. The last thing he was given was a crayon and a piece of paper to draw on. Curio had set the bar rather high, relatively speaking for a Pokemon anyway, so how would M handle it?

He just sat and stared at the paper, unsure of what to do with it. Eventually, the Marowak just crumpled up the paper and tore it into pieces with his teeth, growling as he did so.

“Well done, M,” he said. “You did your best.”

He blinked, then continued to rip up the paper and scatter them over the floor like snowflakes. After he was satisfied, he turned to his familiar Teddiursa doll and mumbled into it. Its head hung upside down, with the stitches barely holding it together.

“U-um, why does he do that?” I asked.

“That’s what we’re trying to figure out,” Azzy said. “Now, I want you to start teaching him.”

“B-but,” I said, “I’ve never taught before.”

“Just ask him what he knows about the human tongue for now. It doesn’t have to be complicated, it can just be on the spot.”

“But what if he—”

“If he tries to hit you, I’ll step in.” He winked. “I’m not Bolt, after all.”

That gave me enough encouragement to walk over to the mobile paper shredder. There isn’t much to say about the teaching session. I mumbled and stuttered my way through it, but even if I spoke confidently, I don’t think that would’ve made a difference. M was a strange case, or perhaps not so strange, as you’ll see soon enough. He didn’t recognise most of the human vocalisations I made, except for a few select words such as ‘hello’ and very common phrases. There was some understanding, but not enough for him to be caught up with anyone in the wild group, or anyone else. Pressing him to try harder didn’t work either, as he growled and threatened to strike me with his bone club. True to his word, Azzy pulled me away before it could escalate.

“Shine,” he whispered as he led me to a corner, “you must’ve picked up on his learning difficulties by now.”

“Yes,” I said.

“You see—” he glanced at M far away as he stared off into space again-- “he’s an example of a pure feral. A Pokemon so attached to the wild, that’s permanently impacted their development.”

My mouth hung agape. That brought a lot of questions to mind, some of which I expressed to Azzy. “Why is he here then?”

He looked to the floor, expression shifting from concerned to saddened. “I don’t know. To be honest, I think GeL made a mistake bringing him to this place. He is smart in places like visual processing and battling, but he simply doesn’t retain most, if any of the information he gets.”

“So none of the classes he’s been taking has had any impact on him?”

“Well, barely. He can learn certain things with repetition, but that only shows from his feral background.”

Aside from the occasional chattering from M into his doll, the room was silent. The Marowak’s vacant stare and tensed up body language said it all. Then, out of nowhere, Azzy hugged me, pulling my electric body towards his.

“I’m sorry about all of this. If what Patches said is true, the way Bolt has treated you is disgusting.”

I didn’t expect that from another member of staff, of all people. Before I could answer back or linger in the moment any more, Azzy pulled away. Probably a blessing too as his fur stuck up from the static, even more so from being a water type.

“I’m going to make a formal complaint to the higher ups. Whether or not they’ll listen to me is up in the air, but this can’t go on. Not with you or M. It won’t happen right away, but just know that you’re not alone in this.”

For lack of anything better to say, I nodded in gratitude. After that, the tutor picked up all of the spare toys lying on the floor and carted them back outside. M looked on, unfazed by the whole thing.


The rest of the day went on in a similar fashion. We sparred. We healed up. Sparred. Healed up. Rinse and repeat. While I still hated it all, gradually, I got used to M’s moveset and started defending myself more. I still got hurt a lot, but with the hope that Azzy was trying to sort this out, as well as the sense that I was learning from this, I got more immersed in each subsequent fight.

Then, I thought about what Curio was doing up there, and how she was managing with her lessons. But I also thought back to that argument we had before. I had it blocked out of my mind for quite a while, but right before dinner, that moment had come back to me. I accused her of being a pushover when she wasn’t. I took out my own frustrations about my lack of progress on her. I was solely the one at fault.

When my meal came, I didn’t have the energy to eat. The food was still as good as ever, yet, I felt like I didn’t deserved it. I just wanted to be alone, so I buried myself in one of the beds, hoping not to be bothered by anyone. I’d probably be in trouble anyway for skipping out on a meal, but I doubt they would’ve cared. I didn’t think anybody cared about me at all in that state.

M entered though, noticing my presence immediately and lifting the beanbags off of me. I was completely exposed then. I thought he was going to fight me again, so I curled up in my safe little zone, hoping he would go away. But he patted my side, drawing my attention to him, and there, he handed me a chuck of red meat.

“Eat,” he said, holding his blood-stained paw out.

I didn’t know what to make of it at first, just staring blankly at the glob of what used to be a Miltank. He nudged it towards me, and kept doing so until I backed down and took the morsel straight from his paw. It was tough and bland, but it was filling, and I didn’t mind how it wasn’t cooked. They made sure to feed it to us semi-regularly anyway so our stomachs could get used to digesting it easily. The same couldn’t be said for the more human-like Pokemon, so it only applied to us wild descendants.

Even after I ate, M was still there, staring off into space, but I got the impression he was waiting for something. I got to my feet, meeting his gaze.

“Why did you come after me? I thought you didn’t like me.”

He shook his head.

“You’re weak.”

“I know.” I looked to the side. “Sorry.”

“Sorry is a sign of weakness too.”


He grunted and tapped my shoulder.

“I can make you stronger.”

“Yes, I know you can. You’re fast and fierce and, well, everything I’m not. I wasn’t raised like you were.”

He squeezed my shoulder, then threw a fist at my face. That time, I reacted and jolted awake, cancelling his punch with a claw swipe.

“E-enough!” I stood on all fours, teeth bared. “You can’t keep doing that!”

“Won’t. Do not talk about past. Talk about present.”

“Alright, I won’t.” I relaxed my posture, but still kept my guard up in case he struck again. I didn’t want to leave it like that, so to show my gratitude, I bowed to him. In turn, he went up and patted my head.

“Mate will come.”

That threw me off guard. “M-mate? What do you mean?”

“Lucario. Mate.”

“O-oh!” I squeaked in surprise. “Y-you mean…”

What M meant went without saying.

(Well, he wasn’t wrong, yanno.)

Um, excuse me, Curio?

(Just kiddin’.)

Ah, well then. Still, when he said that, that got me thinking. Curio, or rather, you, were the closest person I got to know aside from Patches. I confided in you when I needed it, and you did the same when you went through certain hardships of your own. I wanted to know whatever you were drawing, and you wanted to know whatever I was reading. So it wasn’t a stretch of imagination for others to see us that way.

From there, that steeled my resolve. The next time I would see her, I would apologise and admit my own mistakes. My appetite came back to me and I wolfed down the rest of my meal in no time.


A few days passed. I bled. I cried. I tried my hardest to get through to M. But while progress was slow, and the endless strings of fights were daunting, I improved over time. I was able to dodge most of M’s moves. And when I couldn’t dodge, I didn’t cower like a hatchling, but instead, braced myself, withstanding more of his attacks. Even though I was greatly outmatched by his move typing, once I picked out his weaknesses in other places, such as how he’d forget to shield his stomach sometimes, I learned to compensate for that.

Bolt watched, but instead of silently eyeing me with scorn, he looked with interest. Of course, whenever I made a mistake, he was quick to point it out, but whenever I learned from said mistake, he did the same as well. Each bit of praise from him was like a drop of water in a desert of sincerity, meaning I savoured every positive comment he made.

This all culminated in one battle where I changed for the first time. It started in a typical fashion where M mercilessly rushed forward. However, when I saw an opening, I bit down on the club, pulling away with so much force that I flung it across the room out of his reach.

“Good, Shine!” Bolt called. “Keep going!”

I didn’t have time to digest that bit of praise before M lunged forward with his fists. I didn’t have time to dodge that one, but I braced myself. The pain was dull, but nothing I couldn’t recover from. When I heard footsteps rushing away from me, I knew to run after him, pouncing on him before he even had the chance to get his bone club back. He flailed and screamed, but I wasn’t deterred. I bit into his side, soft enough to not make any lasting wounds, but hard enough for it to have some sort of impact.

He escaped, but not long after, we were neck and neck, trading blows and claw swipes. There, we fought each other as equals now instead of student and master. After a while, we had to catch our breath. We were exhausted, but not overwhelmed. For the first time ever, I was glad to actually hold my own in a fight.

White light enveloped me. I can’t quite describe the sensation, but similar to what Curio said, it was like someone moulding your body from clay. Something grew around my head. My tail got bigger. The muscles in my arms felt stronger. My claws felt sharper. And when the light disappeared and the two in the detention room stared in fascination, I realised what I had finally become: a Luxio.

“Well, congratulations, Shine,” Bolt said, sounding pleased this time. “How do you feel?”

“Certainly different.” That time, I felt confident to speak.

“Excellent. You’ve made good progress lately.” He grinned. “I expect you’ll be a fine and noble Luxray in no time.”

I mumbled a word of thanks, not knowing how to feel about the compliment.

He then sniffed loudly at the air, purposely hinting at something going on somewhere else. “I smell Basil’s cooking. I will let you off the hook for now, so you two are free to enjoy whatever he’s offering for today. Still, I expect you to come back after he’s finished. Have fun.”

Before he left to god knows where,he playfully licked my face. I held my paw to my chin, which dripped with saliva. He actually did that. Him. I thought I was supposed to be happy when that happened. I finally gained his approval. I finally got some positive attention. But it didn’t conjure up anything inside me. Thinking about that made me forget the presence of M in the room until he prodded at me with the club again.

“You’re stronger,” he said.

“Thank you.” I approached M, not afraid to be near him after that scuffle, and licked at his wounds. “Sorry again for that.”

He grunted. “Sorry is a sign of weakness.”

“I know, I can’t help it. I guess you’re going to have to get used to that.” I sniffed at the air, and indeed, the pleasant aroma of the cafeteria wafted through the air. I started walking towards the door, expecting M to follow me, but he just stood there, still unmoving. Before, I would’ve just left him to it, but here, I felt I had to reach out to him. So I went back to his side and turned him around.

“C’mon,” I said, “aren’t you looking forward to it? Don’t worry, I’ve heard Basil’s a good cook from what Tom told me. He hasn’t poisoned him yet, so…” I trailed off, expecting M to put two and two together, but still, he stood there, unsure of what to do.

“What’s wrong?”

“Not hungry,” he said, looking at his paw. “We hunt only when needed. Why eat when not hungry?”

“I—” I was about to call him out on it, but then I realised he might not’ve understood the social situation. “You know Basil, the Lickitung, right?”

He nodded.

“And you know he’s been training to cook all this time? He wants us all to try it for him. Since he started his focus, he needs people to judge his cooking.”

“Pokemon…” He paused. “Pokemon cook? Not out there.”

“Well, they do here!” I raised my voice, getting a little frustrated, when M’s eyes widened again. He must’ve been shocked by that outburst. I was about to apologise again, then remembered it wouldn’t have done any good, and simply tugged at his paw with my maw. “C’mon, M, it’ll be fun. Trust me.”

He opened his mouth, trying to say something else, but stopped. Then, he turned to his bed where the doll was and picked it up, cupping the Teddiursa in his paws. He nuzzled his cheek against it, then said: “Be back.”
Last edited:


Dragon Enthusiast
I think the pacing of this chapter might have gone a bit too quickly when it comes to the fighting part. Well, no, that’s not entirely correct—the fights were paced very well, but I think you forgot to switch to a slower pace for the immediate aftermath. The slowdown was delayed, leading to what felt like a fast-paced cooldown.

That aside, though, I’m really enjoying this more in-depth look at M, and I’m almost inclined to contest the choice of chapter title. It seems like M is trying, and even though he has feral instincts, he’s putting a real effort into trying to understand the rest of the world. I’m a bit worried about his “morality companion,” though, in the form of that stuffed doll. I suspect that he might lose it when its head finally pops off.

Those were my two general thoughts here. I think you’re doing a good job at showing M (and to an extent, Bolt) in a more nuanced way, where it’s not totally black and white. But in any case, onto quotes…

Tony got out of his chair and hugged Shine, holding him tight. He didn’t even seem to notice his own hair spiking up.

Something about this moment is really touching.

trying to budge away form his trainer’s grasp.


(I do have to wonder why the Pokedex commonly associates the Cubone line with the skull, if you don’t mind me interrupting.)

Oh god, here it is. I'm glad you included it.

“Mate will come.”

That threw me off guard. “M-mate? What do you mean?”

“Lucario. Mate.”

I also love this, too. Very familiar to me, in a way.


A Dense Irritating Miniature Beast of Burden
Chapter 32: Just Desserts

Tony stopped recording, gesturing Shine to get off the couch, and when he did, his trainer scratched his ears.

“You’ve come a long way,” he said, “It sounded tough, but I’m glad you were able to stick it through then.”

“Indeed,” Shine said with a sigh. “It wasn’t all pleasant. And again, worse things happened later. But if it wasn’t for that extra push, it would’ve taken me a lot longer to evolve.”

“Well, there you go.” Tony glanced at Curio. “What about you though? How were you getting on with your human classmates after that?”

She shrugged. “Better.”

“If you don’t mind taking up the seat this time, I’d be happy to hear it.”’

“Yeah, yeah, I gotcha.” She cosied into the couch and adjusted herself for Tony’s camera as he was about to press record.


(Leading up to your meeting with Shine’s new form, what did you do in the meantime?)

Well, since that first lesson, we worked our way through various assignments. You know, making basic shapes with clay, then putting those together to make figures. That was the first thing I learnt to do, so I felt pretty confident at the start, then the next assignments came, where we had to put together more complex shapes, like actual Pokemon. It was fun making a Metapod actually, though it kind of looked like a petrified turd. Or a you-know-what.


What? It did! Anyways, after I had that spat with Shine, things kinds of went downhill from there. I didn’t really feel like drawing or making anything at all, even though I tried. I stared at the sketchbook, only to not make a mark, even after an hour of consideration. So when the next focus session came, I was kind of lost. But let me set the scene a little.

Okay, so first things first, that was my next meeting with the human Ellie. When she entered the room, she said ‘hi’, but I didn’t really bother saying it back. I dunno. One look at her stirred up that last chat at the bench that didn’t go so well. Not that it was her fault, but even then, I didn’t want to dig it back up. But no matter. We had to make a clay vase, side by side, with her as an example while I tried to copy what she did. The start wasn’t too bad; I basically threw down a chunk of clay and molded it into a ball. Then it spun on the wheel, making a whirring sound which surprised me at first. Then, I watched it spin around for a moment, mesmerised by its cycle. It was one of those things I could’ve watched for ages. Or maybe it was just a way for me to take my mind off of things.

“Uh, Curio?” Ellie said, splashing water onto the clay. That got me out of my trance and I followed suit.

So it didn’t seem that hard at first. Then I had to hold it by the sides and wait for the clay to gradually build up. I squeezed too hard and then, flop, it fell apart. I grumbled and rubbed my clay-caked paws together. But no biggie. We started again and got to the same stage, and this time, I got it to a reasonable height. Then we had to hold the outside together while making a well on the inside. Easy for Ellie and her opposable thumbs, but not so easy for me, so out of a lack of care, it fell apart again. And again. And so, the more it broke down, the more frustrated I got. Ellie and the teacher looked over at me, concerned.

“It’s alright if you’re having trouble, Curio,” the teacher said.

Fine, can do it myself,” I grumbled. I just didn’t want them to think any less of me, or think I was struggling just because I was a Pokemon. But when it happened again, well, I kind of lost it. I punched the ball of clay on the wheel, splattering it everywhere. All over Ellie’s apron, all over the workshop, and it even got to bits of my fur even though I had an apron on too. They both looked to me, at a loss for words. Their aura pretty much confirmed the same. So it was just me there, about to bubble over like an overfilled kettle. Like, what the hell was I doing there, and why was I trying to convince myself I could do a human’s job? It was all getting to me, combined with the stuff already on my plate.

Thankfully, Ellie was there to step up, picking up the bits of clay that’d fallen by her feet. Forgetting myself for that moment, I took a deep breath and knelt down to help, half-tempted to look away from her.

Sorry,” I said.

“Don’t worry about it,” she replied with a smile. “But, hey, do you wanna stop to talk for a bit? I’m all ears.”

No you’re not. You’ve got eyes and hair and—”

“That means I’ll listen.”

Crap. So that was one human expression I had slept on. But no matter. Once we were done, Ellie took me to a corner of the room while the teacher restocked the material.

“Hey,” Ellie said, holding her muddy hands together, “what’s on your mind?”

I grunted. “Nothing.”

“Aw, c’mon.” She frowned. “It doesn’t take someone with aura to know you’re feeling down.”


“Yeah.” Ellie sighed, making a squelching sound with her palms, then looked straight at me. “Alright, I’ll just say it. I’m sorry about that flat thing a while ago. It wasn’t really fair on you.”

I shrugged at that. “Read his aura. I know he wants you.”

“Well, no duh. Even without that, I’ve seen the signs. He’s the guy I mostly hang out with here, so…” She nervously twiddled her fingers. “But, it’s not that easy.”

Why? Tell him how you feel.”

“It’s a bit more messy than that. I know how he feels, and I kinda like him too, but we aren’t that close yet, so, eh? If he wants me, he needs to put up a fight.”

Like—” I threw a punch at the air, “this?”

“Well, in the mind, really. He needs to try and let me know on his own. It’s not a girl’s place to ask guys out, you know.”

Why? What’s so different?”

She shrugged. “It’s just the way it’s always been.”


“I dunno.”

Sounds stupid.”

She chuckled at that. “Maybe it is. But what I’m getting at, is, he needs to ask if he wants to take the next step. And if that means leaving you out, then I don’t wanna be a part of that. I didn’t end up going with him that night, since I knew you were kind of upset.”

You… did that for me?” That got me to smile, at last. “Thanks.”

“Anytime.” Ellie picked some of the clay off her apron. “But with that out of the way, what’s bothering you?”

That last argument still kind of burned. “A friend. He’s bein’ dumb, but it’ll be fine.”

“Don’t I know it. But if you say it’s fine, then, I guess you should give it time and wait it to blow over a little, huh?”

I rubbed my aura sensors, only for my paw to stick to it. Me and my dumb reflexes. I did my best to rub the dirt off before continuing.“Dunno.”

“Just focus on something else for now.”

How? I tried drawing again, but… I couldn’t do it. Everything was bugging me.”

Ellie looked to the teacher, who was setting up the two wheels again. “C’mon, I’ll give you a hand and tell you.”

We did the same thing we did before, but when I got to that tricky stage, Ellie stepped in to hold the clay in place while I moulded it in my image. Well, not literally, but putting little bumps and curves in it was a way of injecting myself into it. Any excess clay at the bottom, I shaved off with my paw spike.

“Heh,” she said, “that’s one use for that spike, I guess.”

You think? I wonder why we have these anyway?”

“So it’s easier to hunt? But what’s the chest spike for?”

I shrugged, putting more bumps into the mould.

“But anyways, it seems like you’re enjoying this, though you had to ease yourself into it, didn’t you?”

I nodded, not taking my eyes off the task.

“Art’s a strange thing, y’know. Sometimes, I get days where I can’t make or draw anything, but that’s okay. It takes time. So be kind to yourself.”

She had a point. Before, I guess I was trying to force myself to do something, even when I wasn’t in the mood for it.

In any case, although I was a bit shaky about a human helping me out when it should’ve been my own learning experience, having another hand helped out a lot. Unlike before, Ellie didn’t try to sugarcoat things or talk down to me, so that set me at ease. But after a while, the session drifted by, and I came out of it inspired and ready to create again, and with a vase waiting to be cast as well! I was totally gonna paint that later. There wasn’t much I could’ve done about the Bolt situation, so I just decided to wait it out and unwind.


(Did anything else happen in between?)

Er, no, there wasn’t that much else to that week. On the day I saw Shine’s new evolution, I was just chilling in the base, doodling away, when the door opened and a faint aroma wafted in. Tom the Munchlax was outside, with crumbs stuck in his face.

“Hey,” Tom said.”Basil’s making his first meal for all of us, so come along!”

Everyone turned to face him, with lots of ears perking up and noses sniffing the air. Anything the other guys were doing, like Fernes reading through all those tomes or Floatsam lazing in the water were all thrown to the wind as they ran out of the base.

“H-hey, wait for me!” I said, tossing my sketchbook aside to join them. True to Tom’s word, there was cooking going on, which filled the hallways with a thick air of savoury smells. I was drooling for real, panting all the while as I ran through the corridors. It was Basil’s awaited day where he would show off his cooking talents and be judged by us. Of the stuff he cooked, we were only told to eat in moderation, but oh well. The staff already gave us a good diet, so that was one luxury we could afford.

Finally, we went inside the cafeteria, where the smell of oil was even more noticeable, and quite a few of the subjects were already there, waiting on the promise of Basil’s goods. Even that Gastly was there, though I couldn’t really gather how it could enjoy anything for the taste. Of course, Ab had to be there too, but I did my best to ignore him, or else pound his face into pizza dough.

In turn, Tom headed out, fetching more of the subjects. Everyone else was excited. Hans had to be reigned in by Fernes to stop him from raiding the kitchen. But even though that was all going on, the one thing that crossed my mind was Shine. It had been a while, and I had seen some of his progress by peeking in with my aura, so what would happen here? Surely, Bolt would have some sort of conscience and let him enjoy this meetup; detention couldn’t have been that strict, could it?

Speak of the devil, that was the moment Shine and M entered. Shine wasn’t just a Shinx anymore; he was a properly evolved Luxio, with a mane, beefier muscles, and all that other stuff. He had been through some wear and tear though, with bags under his eyes and a few scratch marks, so I take it they had just battled. He must’ve looked as shocked as I was, but nevertheless, he walked over to me, trying to keep an eye on that Marowak.

“Hello, Curio,” he said. “Good to see you again.”

“Hey,” I said, “you look like crap.”

“Well, thanks. I guess my battle scars are starting to show.”

“Yeah, about that—” I glanced at M— “what’s he doing to you?”

“Nothing. We’ve just been battling, like we usually would in the tests. He’s been helping me out.”

“Alright.” I reached out to try and pet him, then suddenly pulled back, looking to the side. I hadn’t exactly forgotten about that quarrel.

“I’m sorry,” he said, sitting up straight with a confident gaze. “I said some hurtful things to you. You’ve been there for me the whole time and I was too bitter about my own failures to realise it then. I hope you’ll forgive me, Curio.”

I smiled, then finally let my paw down to pat his head.

“Yeah, water under the bridge, as the humans say.”

And that was that. Soon enough, an assortment of covered plates came in on a wheelie tray, and Basil followed not long after.

“Pardon the wait, but it’s nice to see you all here!” He spun around to look at all of us. “Since this is my first group meal, I’d like you all to tell me what you think of everything! Don’t worry about offending me if you think it’s garbage.” He patted his stomach. “I have a thick skin, after all, and if you’re worried about wasting food, Tom here will gobble it all down. Or store it in his fur and forget until it goes moldy.”

“H-hey!” Tom said, brushing his coat, “that only happened once. Once!”

“Right, sorry. But anyway, as they say in Kalos: bon appetit!

His human helper set down all of the dishes and lifted the covers off, revealing the whole hog for us to chow down on. Well, maybe not a hog, more like a piglet, if that makes sense. Between all of us, the portions were very tiny, so there were only a few things we could put down on our plates, but that didn’t matter as much as the variety of stuff on there.

Creamy mushroom sauce drizzled over (apparently gluten-free) pasta, with lots of veggies heaped on top. Fried Octillery with tartar sauce on the side. Torchic n’Rice balls. Gooey cinnamon and raisin cookies. A yoghurt and Nanab parfait. All the works. There were probably more I can't recall off the top of my head, but they were the ones that stuck out the most to me. He thought about everything, from starters to dessert, all garnished and seasoned and all that. If my face wasn’t a fountain of drool back there, then it certainly was then.

God, if it wasn’t for the fact we just had a takeaway, I’d be having a serious case of the munchies for all of those.

Once they handed us the plates, I sampled each course, and aside from a bit of lumpy bread, everything else was delish. Everyone else’s reactions pretty much said the same thing; even Ab’s, and he was rarely pleased with anything. M, however, stared at the plate, and from what I sensed in his aura, he was having trouble figuring out what to do with it. Before Shine even tended to his own meal, he went to M’s side.

“Don’t worry, it’s safe,” he said. “Basil wouldn’t have cooked it if he didn’t think we could eat it.”

M grumbled his signature grumble. Then, he picked up one of the rice balls and bit into a small portion of it, slowly chewing as if to savour it. I stared attentively, watching out for anything sudden he might’ve done. Then, he swallowed.

“This is...” He struggled to find the words for it, until he chomped the rest of it down in one go.

“Glad you enjoy it.” Shine said, “Now, I’ve got to eat my own—”

“Why?” Tears pooled in M’s eyes, turning them from blank to soulful. Now that was a first. M looked to Basil, who was busy discussing the meal reception with his human partner, and tugged at his paw.

“Yes?” Basil tilted his head.

“Why…” That Marowak trailed off, at a complete loss for what to say. “Why cook for me, after...” He tried to speak, but all that came out were groans. I could tell he was really struggling to put his thoughts to words, however muddled they were.

To that, Basil shrugged. “No reason, really. I wanted everyone to judge my food, yes, but at the same time, it’s nice to see everyone enjoying themselves.” He smiled widely, showing off his big tongue. “I just want everyone to feel at home here. We deserve that much.”

“H-home…” M’s voice wobbled, then, he burst into tears. Now THAT was a first. Not only that, his aura was starting to pull itself apart, struggling to stay wound up in that tangled web of repressed emotions and memories. Then, he freaking bolted it out of the cafeteria, not even stopping to say goodbye. I looked on, speechless, as did the rest of the subjects around the table as well. Basil at the centre of it all laughed nervously.

“Oh dear. I guess I can call this meal a success. Maybe it worked a little too well.”

“Sure, it’s delish,” Hans said, cupping a half eaten ball in his paws, “but I don’t think I’d be crying over it.” He chomped down the rest, and I thought that would’ve been the end of it. Then it hit me. M’s feelings rushed into mine, and I put a paw over my mouth.

“He—” I said, muffled, before I put my paw down and sighed. “His aura. I’ve never felt anything like it.”

“Like whaff?” Hans said in the middle of his mouthful.

“Just… happy, but also really sad. It was really strong.” As the emotions trickled out of me, my mind felt exhausted, and I sat down on the floor. “Ouch,” I said, rubbing my head. “Is there such thing as an aura ache?”

“Dunno,” Hans said back, swallowing. “Don’t ask me.”

“Um,” Shine started, “do you think I should go after him?”

“Hmph,” Ab said, dabbing at his face with some tissues. “You shouldn’t concern yourself with the mind of a wildling. I pity your stay in detention with him.”

There it was. He literally could not last a minute without running his trap. Everyone else turned to him at that point, all with some grouchy look on their face. We all waited for someone to speak up at first, until Basil stepped in and crossed his arms. “Ab, please. I don’t want this to be another wild discussion.”

“Well, why not? These creatures clearly don’t belong here.”

I turned away, not wanting a part in any of this at first, yet, another part of me wanted to see where the conversation went. Basil’s aura spiked up, radiating an intense heat, but his face didn’t show it at all. I shovelled more food in my mouth as I kept watching.

“I invited everyone here. Not just for the Mon in my base, but all the other ones as well. They’re really enjoying it. Why would you wanna take that away from them?”

“Because again, they do not belong here, they are—”

“Abraxas!” Basil bashed his fists on the table, making an awful clattering noise that made everyone go silent. Even Tom stopped chewing, as his cheeks puffed up like a Pachirisu’s on full charge. For a brief flicker, that Lickilicky’s face scrunched up, but as soon as he realised everyone else around him, he closed his eyes and exhaled. “Ab,” he said in a grave tone, “they’re here to have fun. I’m here to learn from my cooking experience. For once in your life, try not to make this about you, and by the white god's ass, eat the damn food.”

Ab’s eyes widened. For a second, there was a small break in his aura that wasn’t protected by his psychic field, and for once, I detected a bit of guilt. That didn’t last long, but it still reflected in his gaze. The room went silent after that. Some of the subjects pretended it didn’t happen, munching on what was left of their plates, and others whispered to themselves. Basil’s human helper was completely lost on the whole thing, the poor sod. Everyone else in my group stared daggers at Ab, especially Fernes, whose nostrils flared, literally. In fact, she was the first to step up to him and stand face-to-face.

“Abraxas,” she said. “I heard from Curio that you used to be in the wild, is that true?”

“You—” Abraxas sharply turned before Fernes blew smoke in his direction.

“Talk to me, not her. If we’re to learn under the same roof, we should also learn to get along with one another. If you’re really that disgusted with us every time we enter your train of thought, well, honestly, I feel sorry for you.”

“I do not need your pity.”

“In that case, think of it like this.” She huffed and butted into him. “If you keep turning on your own kind, then pity is the best you deserve.”

“Yeah!” Floatsam said, pumping his flipper in the air. “Er, what she said!”

“Well then…” He chuckled and held out his arms like he was giving a speech at a gala or something. “I can live with that. I have lived with all kinds of hardships. You will never know the depths of my knowledge, or my struggle, or—”

I couldn’t stand listening to that guy anymore to be honest, so I just tuned out. Just the way he talked and just the way he acted was something, but this was the last straw, and now he wanted us to feel sorry for him. I balled my paw into a fist, gathering up some aura, then stopped myself. Surely, he would realise he was being an ass and wave the white flag soon, right?

“And you, especially, Curio,” Abraxas said, pointing at me, “you are a blight upon this world.”

Okay, maybe not.

“Yo.” Hans whispered as he handed me a juicy-looking Pecha berry. “Paint that yellow guy pink for me.”

I didn’t even question where he got it from, but I squeezed the berry in my paw, then threw it at Abraxas’ yellow dome. Splat. It exploded all over his face, covering him with juice. Another moment of dead air. Then, he braced himself, claws shaking with fury.

“Why,” he said, “you sullied me! Lowly animal!”

He raised one of his spoons, and hey presto, flung his plate across the room without so much as touching it. I dodged just in time, narrowly avoiding getting beaned in the face with it, only for it to hit another subject beside us. The bowl broke. Shine fell to the floor, covered in a mess of condiments and ceramics. That was it. I vaulted over the table and sprinted towards that yellow bastard. I jumped, and kicked his head, socking him in the jaw. With any other Pokemon, it probably would’ve succeeded, but he happened to be a Psychic type, of all things. It only managed to knock him back a few paces.

“You think a lowly fighting type could best me?” he taunted, wagging one of his claws.

“Shaddup!” I shouted, and charged up an aura sphere. I had learnt to control it, so surely that would’ve knocked the wind out of him regardless of the attack type. Big mistake. He aimed his spoon at the centre table, covering it in a pink light, before it levitated off the ground. My perfectly fine aura sphere vanished. I had to move out of the way. My paws sprang in one direction, only for the desk to come hurtling towards my chest. It hit, knocking me back to the other side of the cafeteria. By that point, the human helper knew the fight had escalated and ran into the kitchen with Basil by his side. It was just us and the other subjects, left on our own.

I got to my feet, recovering from the hit, only to roll away from a chair that hurtled towards me. It collided with the wall instead, breaking into pieces. That was close. What else did he have up his imaginary sleeve? He stood in the middle of the room, about to sprint towards me when he was distracted by something at his side. The rest of the room was pretty much thrown into chaos at that point. Hans took advantage of the situation and playfully threw leftovers and such at the other poor subjects. The Munchlax, Tom, deliberately got in the way just to catch bits of the thrown food in his maw. The others either hid or ran, trying to avoid the wrath of Hans’ food flinging.

Right, Abraxas, he was still there. I got up and stood in a stance, trying to prepare a bone rush, made up of the energy within my body to materialise an object out of thin air. I managed to create a femur-looking bone club before Abraxas took notice. I charged towards him, only for him to disappear. Damn, he had teleported. Where to? I picked up his aura from behind me, and turned towards him, only to get blasted with a Psybeam.

If you’re not caught up on how our weaknesses work, if you’re a fighting type that gets hit with a psychic attack, it’s usually game over for you. In the case of a Psybeam, as soon as it hit me, it threw off all my senses. I smelled the colours of the cafeteria: bright pink and orange. I touched what I heard: the shouts felt like blades of grass. My sense of gravity and weight was completed thrown off, so I collapsed to the floor. I tried to get a sense of what I witnessed: which parts were real and which parts were all illusion. I still sensed Abraxas’ aura looming above me, preparing to make the next move, though. That was enough for me to latch onto. As long as I could stand up and get a hit on my attacker, confused or not, I’d still be able to bounce back from that handicap. If it meant I could’ve kicked that pompous asshole’s teeth in, I would’ve done it even if I had no legs to carry myself with.

I shambled to my feet, grabbing at the aura’s source. It must’ve taken him by surprise, since I managed to pin him to the floor. He tried to charge up another psychic attack, but cancelled it out as soon as I started pounding his face with the bone club. He held his claws up in front of him to shield himself from the attack. Eventually, he started fighting back by scratching at me, knocking the club out of reach. I countered by punching him even more. When my senses came back and I clearly saw what we were both doing, the whole thing had devolved into a glorified slap fight. We batted our hands at each other, stuck in a battle loop.

It was the first time I experienced that sort of fight, where you truly had a reason to fight the other opponent and could hold your own in battle. We weren’t training that time, or sparring: it was a proper one on one duel. Was this what it felt like to be a Pokemon in the heat of a battle? If it was, then I didn’t know what to think of it. I just enjoyed the thrill of bashing that idiot’s face in after all that teasing.

Kinda makes me sound like a blood thirsty psychopath, but surely, you must’ve thought something similar if you’ve ever been a part of school drama.

(Yes, I know the feeling, except with less psychic powers, of course.)

Alright, good. We’re on the same page. Just regular blood thirsty teens, then.

The fight might’ve lasted forever if it hadn’t suddenly stopped. It didn’t result in either of us winning or anything flashy like that. I got sucked into that Pokeball, and didn’t see the light of day for quite a while. Or maybe a little while. Again, it was hard to tell how much time passed inside that ball when your mind’s basically frozen. Once I came to, I was back in that tutorial room, sat in one of the seats with Lucy and Azzy glaring at us. Rhode was there too, but he only smirked, putting his feet up on the table.

“Ahem,” Lucy said, “I hope you understand why you’re both here in this room.”

“Both?” I said, then realised Abraxas was right next to me. I leapt out of my seat, trying to get away from him. “Oh no, I’m not sitting with that assclown! You can’t make me—”

“SIT DOWN!” Azzy boomed. It was the first time I heard him shout like that, even when he scolded some of his other students in class. Startled by the sudden outburst, I got back to my seat with my tail between my legs.

“You two,” Lucy started, crossing her arms. “What you did was unacceptable. You should never start any sort of fight unprovoked, especially when the human assistants are around, minding their own business.”

“But, but!” I pleaded, only to bear the brunt of one of Azzy’s chalk bullets. Let’s hope you’ve never had chalk thrown at you in school, because man, that hurts like hell.

(Not at all. We had the naughty step, but that was as far as they ever got.)

Heh. Pussies.

“Let me finish before you’re allowed to speak. Is that clear?”

Both of us nodded.

“We told you time and time again to set an example, and only use your fighting skills for good and not to set each other apart. You can air out your frustrations in the battle arena, not a place where perfectly innocent bystanders are eating. Mind you, nobody got hurt, but with both of your powers, it was a wonder nothing serious happened. There are janitors that have to pick up the pieces after you lot every day. Don’t make more work for them than necessary.”

It was kind of hard hearing that from another Pokemon, of all people, but it still had its effect, and I hung my head up in shame.

“Now, I’ll let both of you make your cases. Abraxas, you first. Stand up.”

He did exactly that, although he wasn’t much taller than the table, and he straightened his back. Even when he was being told off, it looked as if he owned the place. Asshole.

“This plebian here provoked me while I minded my own business, and it threw a Pecha berry at my face. I only chose to escalate the matter and protect my wounded pride.”

“Do you really have to address them as it?”

“Of course. They are nothing but--”

“Shaddup an’ sit back down,” Rhode said.

I looked to him, trying not to leap from my seat to strangle that cocky Kadabra. Azzy’s glare was enough to keep me at bay.

“Next, Curio. Stand up.”

I stood, looking at the three tutors, and took a deep breath. I had to keep my cool and forget about his presence for the moment.

“He kept making fun of the other wild guys, and they’re my friends. Even Basil got sick of him. Ab called me out in front of everyone, so I only thought it was fair to throw something at him. He flung the plate and hit one of my friends, Shine. I didn’t mean for it to go that far, and wouldn’t have fought him first. I stopped myself from flinging aura at him before I even threw that berry, yet he threw a freaking table at me. I couldn’t let him get away with that. Is that enough?”

“Yes,” Lucy said. “Sit down.”

I did exactly that, and sighed. My heart pounded. My fists shook. I wanted nothing more than to get out of that room and forget the whole thing happened. Yet there was still the one other subject that got caught in the crossfire. Even though I knew I would be speaking out of turn, I asked: “Is Shine fine?”

“I told you, you may only speak when spoken to. I will say, he was surprised, but not harmed or upset. Now please, sit quietly for a moment while we decide what to do with you.”

The three huddled together and whispered. I tried to peek into their conversation with their aura when Rhode winked at me. I took the hint and stopped. The wait for them to make their mind up was agonizing. With that psychic type right next to me, probably egging me on even from his thoughts, and the tense air in the room, it was just suffocating. Any longer, and I probably would’ve snapped. Thankfully, Lucy broke the silence when she slapped Rhode across the face.

“A-ah!” He nursed his cheek. “What’d you do that for?”

“You egged Curio on! It’s one thing to let slip about Abraxas’ past when student confidentiality is respected, but it’s another thing to encourage her to fight one of the other subjects!”

“You did what, sir?” Abraxas stood up, clearly offended by Rhode’s off-paw comment.

“Yeh, I told her. But guess what?” Rhode leaned forward and nudged the Kadabra’s chest with his foot, pushing him back to his seat. “It’s about time ya faced the music. You’ve been gettin’ on everyone’s nerves ‘round here, not just Curio’s. I know what goes on in your base. Everybody tries to avoid ya when you talk because you shove how smart you are in their faces. Nobody cares. I ain’t gonna mince words here like these other guys.”

“That’s enough, Rhode.” Lucy intervened. She didn’t even sound angry at that point, but disappointed. Nevertheless, she cleared her throat and glared at us both.

“Alright, after discussing the course of events, me, Rhode and Azzy have decided to side with Curio in this situation.”

I smiled, while Abraxas rose from his seat.

“That’s preposterous!”

“Ah, ah, ah!” Rhode chimed in. “It en’t over ‘til the green lady sings.”

“Abraxas. You have a history of teasing other students for their perceived lack of knowledge, so much so that it crosses over into bullying at times. Cartwright took notice of your little speech as well as your previous battle with you and Curio at the end of your first year, and made sure to flag anything up in case it happened again. You drove the other subjects away from the domestic base. Your provocation resulted in the student cafeteria being left in shambles. While Curio was complicit in this as well, you intentionally aggravated her to provoke a fight between you two, and for that, I’ll have to punish you. You’ll be banned from the library and the computers for three months, and be given regular tutoring by another mediator who will work through some of your issues.”

Abraxas’ face contorted in panic. “But, but, Miss, please! I need to use the library to conduct my research! I have so much I need to look up; a whole season without any progress is unbearable!”

“Then you’d do well to make sure it doesn’t happen again after your probation period is up.”

“W-what about detention?”

“Detention would be too good for you. That would isolate you from the other students. With the other subjects, you’ll be able to face the consequences of your actions and realise that your words have an effect on those around you. Perhaps the experience will give you a better sense of humility.”

“Yeah!” I chimed in, remembering Mom’s words. “Chew on that slice of humble pie!”

Abraxas turned, leering at me. “And I hope you choke on your own excrement and die, animal.”

“Oh, please stop it!” Lucy shouted, losing her cool for just a moment before she returned to that poker face. “Do you see what I mean, Abraxas? This behaviour isn’t acceptable!” She cleared her throat. “In any case, you’re dismissed for now. Let’s hope your attitude changes once you’ve stepped away from your studies for a bit.”

Abraxas quietly nodded and slunk out of the room. It was just us four at that point. Lucy rose from her seat as well, even though it was pretty redundant since Gardevoir don’t have legs.

“Curio. You’ll be given one night of detention to cool off.”

“O-oh,” I said, rubbing my head. “That doesn’t seem too bad.”

“Consider this a friendly warning, but I must remind you that you’re not a Riolu anymore. You’re growing into a more mature Pokemon. I expect you to act like one, so please, pick your own battles next time and be the bigger Mon when someone beneath you tries to start up needless conflict. Is that clear?”

I opened my mouth to protest, but decided against it. She was right. Even though I should’ve known not to play that game with others, with Abraxas, it was completely different. His entire existence just really bugged me, especially the way he carried himself above every other Pokemon, as if he was this high ranking human. Yet me and him were both Pokemon at our core, who ended up fighting each other regardless of what was said before. What would’ve Trunks done? Certainly, he wouldn’t have lost his head in such a way. Even if he was away, I still had to make him proud and follow his example. So I nodded and quietly apologized, admitting defeat. Besides, I had a headache. After that was done, I just wanted to rest, even if it was in that dingy detention room.

“Good. And you, Rhode.” She stared daggers at him as he picked at his ears. “I expected much better from you. I’ll be talking to Cartwright about this.”

“Yeh, go on, tell ‘im. I don’t care.” He flicked a bit of wax across the room. “You’ve gotta admit though, you were waiting to give Ab a taste of his own medicine, weren’t you?”

“Perhaps.” It looked as if she blushed, but as quickly as it appeared, she shook it off and returned to her cold stare. “But I still can’t excuse this behaviour from you. In any case, good day, Curio.”

A wink from her broke that icy glare. I had no idea what that hinted at, so wearily, I made my way through the hallways, down the elevator and into the boiler hall. I knew who would be down there already, M and Shine, but what I sensed was something I wasn’t expecting. First, I heard heavy breathing and a clunking sound, so hard that it echoed through the corridor. Then, Shine screaming “Stop!” I freaking bolted it to the other side of the hall and threw open the door, ready to jump to Shine’s defense. What I saw next, well...

M sat with his back to the wall, bashing himself over the head with his bone club. Each hit resounded through the air with a clunk clunk, clearly hitting him hard, and yet, he continued. He didn’t even notice me until the door shut, and when he did, M stood up and faced us, with blood trickling down his face. My gut reaction was to step in and stop him, no matter how much he would’ve resisted, but when Shine bit the club and threw it aside, there was no reaction at all. Tears fell down that Marowak’s face, mixing in with the dripping red, and he fell to his knees, sobbing.

“Don’t—” he said, “don’t deserve this. Don’t deserve kindness. Don’t deserve love. Don’t deserve anything.”

I didn’t know what to say to that, or how to even act. Would he have calmed down if I stepped up, or would he just have lashed out again? Ashamed as I am to admit, I stood and did nothing. But over time, M mellowed out, if only because he was bleeding from the head and getting weaker. He looked at a toy behind him, that Teddiursa whose head just hung by a thread at that point. Then, before he fainted, he said this:



A Dense Irritating Miniature Beast of Burden
Warning for this chapter: Blood, trauma, and implied abuse.

Chapter 33: (M)onster Part 1

Shine took the hot seat that time as him and Curio swapped places. Although it was following up from before, his heart still pounded. He would have to talk about that day when it happened. He sighed, drawing his trainer’s attention to him.

“Are you sure you want to do this right away?” Tony said. “I think I remember this part being the--”

Yes, I’m fine,” Shine snapped. Oh dear. He locked eyes with Tony, instantly apologetic. “Sorry. I didn’t mean to lash out. I just know what you mean.”

“Alright, no worries,” he said with a reassuring smile, holding the camera. “On the count of three…”


When M fainted, Curio took him in her arms and ran for the door. I followed behind her, catching sight of a puddle of puke in the corner of the room that had the Torchic ball in its remains. As we dashed through the hallway of the lower floor, footsteps rushed down, belonging to Rhode, Azzy and Bolt.

“What are you two doing out?!” Bolt yelled. “Don’t you know the meaning of deten—”

“Shut up!” she said, holding out the bleeding Marowak for all of them to see. “He’s hurt! Get some help!”

Bolt, immediately changing his tune, nodded and rushed over to Curio’s feet. “Put him on my back. I’ll take him in.”

So she did, and Bolt carried M all the way to the elevator, where they advanced to the upper floor. Then, there was Rhode and Azzy, who both looked concerned.

“U-um,” I said, shaking, “s-sorry I broke detention rules. I—”

“Och, enough, pussycat,” Rhode said, “I think we can bend ‘em a bit.”

“Besides,” Azzy said, fiddling with his long ears, “we wanted to talk to you two about M anyway. He’s been a bit of a concern of ours for a while. But maybe we can fill you in over some tea.”

“Tea, coffee, cocoa, whatever,” Rhode said, “tea’s borin’ anyway.”

While we weren’t sure where this was going, we didn’t seem to be in any trouble, so it was best to go along with it. We entered the elevator after them, and they led us up to the staff room next, where Lucy and Patches were talking with one another over stitching patterns. While we had seen each other in the cafeteria, I didn’t have the chance to properly talk to him about my experiences. As soon as he saw me though, he rushed over to glomp me.

“Shine!” he said, nuzzling against my cheek, “you’ve changed, mon!”

I hadn’t looked at myself in the mirror lately, but judging by my recent evolution, I must’ve looked a bit more mature than before. “Yes, I guess so.”

With that, the staff joined around the table and offered Curio a seat, which she was now tall enough to properly sit in, but me and Patches were carried up to the table where we had our own bowls of tea to sip.

“So,” Azzy said, kneading one of his ears, “you might’ve noticed that M isn’t a high performing student. I’m saying this more as a summary than to fill you in, but we’ve been discussing this all around the board. Since we’ve concluded that M is a pure feral, and that he wouldn’t benefit from it, we’re thinking of sending him away.”

That came as a surprise. Of course, M stuck out like a sore paw, but he had still been a part of the group for over a year. Curio frowned, even though she wasn’t too familiar with him except on a surface level. For someone like me, who experienced that first hand, that was a little more of a blow than I was expecting.

“So, where’s he goin’?” Patches asked, tail swishing behind him. Even he seemed curious about it.

“I don’t know, but it’s not up to me. It lies more in what Rhode, Lucy and the rest do.”

“Yeah, about that, rabbit,” Rhode said, crossing his arms, “it kinda feels like we’ve given up on ‘im early. C girl.” Curio’s ears perked up at that one. “Tell me what he said to you.”

She repeated M’s spiel about the ‘kindness’ stuff almost word for word, which Rhode nodded at.

“Doesn’t deserve love or kindness. He understands those things, more than I can say for most wilds. Don’t you think we’re on the verge of a breakthrough here?”

“Well, yes, but I still think he’d be better off some place else. We don’t have enough to go on to make a case for him.”

“But what if we took a bit longer, then we could squeeze it out of ‘im! After all that time, d’you think we’re gonna forget about him?” Rhode stood up, grabbing the edge of the table. “Is that what we ought’a do for all difficult wilds?”

“Are you seriously suggesting I—” Azzy stood up, pointing to Curio. “How come I took her in, then? I saw she already had potential, as did the rest of the wild subjects, but they all had forms of human contact. M though? There’s been no evidence he had ever met another human before he came here. If he was already two years old, being cut off from civilization, then he isn’t going to develop past that. There are points where it’s impossible for a Pokemon to reach such cognition. Do you GeL people really not understand that?”

“O’ course.” He stared Azzy down. “I’m just sayin’, what if there’s somethin’ else, like trauma and whatnot? Why d’you think he has that doll he called sis?”

The Azumarill grunted, holding his chin in his paw. “Yes, but we’re not psychoanalysts. We can’t remove a Pokemon’s trauma like that.”

“Then why not bring someone in? Did we hire you to decide how that ‘appens?”

“Enough, Rhode,” Lucy said, fluttering in with a teapot, “respect our staff members.”

“Och, so you’re on his side now?”

“Oh, by the gods, Rhode! It’s either all or nothing with you! Now sit down, before I make you.”

“He has to do it too.”

“And you, Azzy.”

“Alright,” he said, doing exactly that. “Sorry, miss.”

“Good.” She poured herself a cup, sipped, and exhaled. “I wanted to give M a chance. I believed we could’ve gotten through to him if we tried hard enough.” Rhode shot Azzy a smug grin before she continued. “But we can’t pour our time and resources into a subject that doesn’t benefit from being here. That would defeat the point of our goal.”

“So, what, do we send him away?” Rhode snorted. “You can’t send ‘im back to the wild after we found him near-death.”

“Well, no, but we are planning on giving him up. We know it will happen eventually; it’s just a matter of when. We would still look after his wellbeing up until that point, but we need to find somewhere that would help rehabilitate him, and we can’t do that here.” Another sip. “Still, before we come to any decision, we must consult all of the staff associated with him, then carry this up to Cartwright. His word ultimately goes on what happens. But I will arrange a meeting shortly after this one.” She downed the whole cup and finished with a smile. “All agreed?”

Despite everything, the two nodded, bringing the issue to a close, it seemed. Yet, there was a certain aching in my heart. I knew M tried, and that last confrontation threw everything else into question for me, but this really wasn’t his kind of place. Lucy then turned to me next.

“Well, you’ve certainly grown, Shine,” she said. “I’m sure you’ll become a Luxray in no time now.”

“I hope so,” I said, rather flattered.

“Now, about Bolt.” She frowned. “I listened to what Azzy and Patches had to say, and I want to apologise for everything. If I’d known your tutor had such little understanding of your needs from the start, I would’ve chosen someone different.”

I turned away, trying to process my thoughts. I had been so focused on getting better and tending to M that all of the baggage between us slipped my mind.

“Be honest. What are your thoughts about him? What you say in this room stays in this room.”

“I…” I didn’t know what to say. Curio and Patches all had their eyes on me, and I could tell they wanted me to stand up for myself. When all was said and done, he drove me to get better so I could overcome my weaknesses and evolve. In my head, I tried to rationalise why he did it and sifted through all the memories to justify his cold treatment. The only thing that came to mind was the first few months after I was born, and then, nothing. I just felt so hollow for such a long time before the other subjects came in. With all this in mind, I took a deep breath and continued.

“I don’t feel like he was there for me at all. I might’ve been a little harder to understand that the others, but I’m sure he could’ve helped me get past that if he tried.” My throat tensed up the more I spoke. “I just don’t want to feel like a disappointment to him anymore.”

I stopped, not really wanting to talk more about it, but they all seemed to take the hint. Curio pulled me closer to her and stroked me, while Patches joined my side, nuzzling me with those static cheeks of his again. Azzy spoke in Lucy’s ear, and with a nod, she stood up and collected all of the empty dishes with her psychokinesis, levitating them across the room.

“Thank you for telling us, Shine,” she said as she put the last of the tea bowls in the wash basin. “We’ll talk to Bolt about this, and decide how to escalate matters.” She rubbed her chin thoughtfully. “Except M might still be a problem.”

“What do you mean, miss?”

“I just think the two are better suited together, but oh well, we’ll think of what to do soon.” She turned and offered me a paw. “You may still be in detention, and M’s situation won’t change that, but we will offer you a deal. If you place well in the next Triple Battle fight test, we’ll let you get back to your studies.”

“Really?” Curio said, wiping the rest of the cocoa off her fur. “After all that about Bolt, you’re still givin’ Shine crap for the battle stuff? Why not just call it off?”

“I know, but we still need to make sure our students are in top form with battle.” Lucy brought her hands together. “But I am not Bolt. The fight tests aren’t a reflection on any subject’s worth as Pokemon, which he failed to realise.” She smiled at me. “Even with the fight tests, I still think you’re a very bright individual.”

“Well,” I said, tilting my head, “thank you.”

“Yeah, I guess that makes sense,” Curio admitted. “So, who’s he facing next?”

“He’ll be paired up with you and Fernes next, going against Bang, Abraxas and Bran tomorrow. For now, I expect you two to go back downstairs.”

“After all that…”

“Well, yes. We still mean to discipline you for that fight in the cafeteria, but consider this a good chance to catch up with Shine.”

I was taken aback by that. I looked to Curio, waiting for an explanation, before she took the hint and grinned.

“Hehe, long story.”


So, we went back to the detention room and Curio told me more about her stint with Abraxas after the fight.

“Good for you,” I said. “I don’t mean to badmouth anyone, but that Kadabra is, well, I guess the best way I can describe him is intense.”

“Yeah, right. That’s bein’ a bit generous, I think.” She laid her head back and sighed. “I dunno why he has a stick up his ass all the time.”

I hummed in reply, joining her on the pillow pile. Then, she put her paw on my soft belly and stroked it.

“Oh, Sunshine, sorry about what they did to you and all that.”

“It’s fine. I—” I stopped when Curio hit a certain sweet spot under my arms, making me purr. “I’m evolved now, so that’s one good way to look at this situation.”

“Yeah, I know but...” She drew her hand away. “Just hearin’ you say that about Bolt and all that, well, it’s like, what was GeL doin’?”

“My tutor should’ve been responsible. It couldn’t have been helped.”

“Well, no, but what about your Mom out there? Why couldn’t they have brought her here, so you at least had that kind of contact, huh?”

“The other subjects didn’t have special treatment and they turned out okay. I’m the black Wooloo of the group here. Besides, my Mom is more of a feral, so we wouldn’t have that same sort of connection.”

“Kind of like M, then. Okay, I guess you’re right on that part.” She grunted and crossed her arms. “I still think it sucks, though.”

I sat up and leaned into her side, silently agreeing with her.

The rest of the day passed quite quickly, considering we were confined to one room. Curio was actually allowed to bring her sketchpad and charcoal with her, so we both had something to do, as I offered to pose in various positions while she drew away. I almost lost balance, holding certain poses for that long, but aside from that, we had fun with it, and it was nice to see the results of her work. It was messy, as her paws were caked with charcoal dust and the paper was very smudged, but her drawings had energy to it, even if it didn’t always look right. It was a bit of an improvement on her old crayon work, so she was learning from her studies even if sculpture was a different soft of medium.

(Well, not really. You still need that know-how to make a figure look decent; you’re just working on a bigger scale. Wow, there I go sounding nerdy again.)

It’s fine. I like hearing you being nerdy. But anyway, dinner came along, and we talked more as we ate.

“Sho,” Curio said, in the middle of tearing through a skewer, “howsh the writhing?”

I tilted my head before realising what she meant. “Oh, the writing. They’ve put that on hold until I can catch up with the rest in the fight tests.”

She swallowed. “That’s kinda lame.”

“To be honest, I hadn’t thought of it that much recently. But now you mention it, I would like to get back into it. My story’s just been collecting dust.”

“About the knight? Yeah, I’d love to see how that turns out.”

Before I could finish my own meal, she patted my back.

“Oh! I have an idea! I dunno if you have any other stories in mind, but I’m just wondering, what would you think if we worked on something together?”

“What do you mean?”

“You know, you write something, and I draw it, or make something from it, or whatever.”

I hummed. “What would that entail? Like a cartoon or a comic?”

“Somethin’ like that, yeah. Not that I know crap about making either of ‘em.”

“Yes, I imagine that would take a lot of work as well as time. What gave you the idea?”

“Oh, I dunno.” She yawned and stretched her legs. “I was thinkin’ though, after I went to the museum, I read up on the Smeargle, and they’re known for being artsy Mon, aren’t they?”

“I believe so, yes.”

“Well then. I found out about some of these Smeargle through a show. I’ve been watching dvds from the library like crazy, and there was this guy that went to film one of their habitats, cause the humans livin’ next to them in Violet City had a sort of good history with ‘em. Those Smeargle, hangin’ out the Alph ruins, formed a sort of group of their own, like a commune or somethin’. They picked up a lot of knowledge from the humans and started making art of their own.”

“Would wild Pokemon be able to do that, if someone like M can’t?”

“Not usually, no, but from what I gathered, these Smeargle had spent some time with humans, so they had elders and all that passin’ what they learned to their descendants, so kinda like how my Mom passed her stuff down to me and my bros.”

“Makes sense.”

“But that’s not all. These Smeargle would work in teams or in pairs and make all sorts of art projects together. At the end of it, you’d either have lots of drawings of different kinds, or just a huge, fun mess on the canvas they worked on. So it was like a whole group effort!” She clapped her paws together. “We could totally do something cool like that together!”

I only muttered in agreement. I could see where she was coming from, but it was a lot to take in, and I wasn’t exactly confident in my abilities yet. Still, I said it was a good idea, and to cap it off, she made me pinky swear. Well, we didn’t have any little fingers to swear with, let alone opposable thumbs, so we shook paws, promising that we’d work as a team one day to make something everyone in GeL would enjoy. Not that day. But perhaps somewhere in the near future.

(Did that end up happening?)

You’ll see, Tony. But perhaps I should get back to the fight test.


I didn’t see M come back to the detention room in the morning, so I assumed he was still being treated. Nevertheless, we were up bright and early, all limbered up and ready to prove ourselves. That Medicham came in to guide us both to the battle arena along with Fernes, and when we entered, the other three were already there: the Machoke, the Bibarel, and the Kadabra. My heart skipped a beat at that, especially with Abraxas’ presence there. At least Bran was courteous enough to wave at us as we approached, and was the first to come and strike up the conversation before battle.

“Hello,” he said. “Are you nervous?”

“Well,” I said, wary of the other Pokemon. I didn’t want to show my weakness, but I didn’t want to lie either. “Perhaps.”

“It is a natural feeling.” He winked at me. “Remember, mask of confidence. That will get you far.”

Abraxas cleared his throat in a deliberate way. “Do you wish to speak to our enemy and give them the advantage?”

“I don’t see the issue, Ab,” Bran said with a frown. “This is just a test.”

I expected Abraxas to protest to this, but he stayed silent, eyeing my wild teammates with scorn.

“Hey, mon,” Reggie said, patting down those pink pants of his, “we should get into place soon, yeah?”

We collectively nodded and grouped up in our respective spots on each end of the field.

“Right, mon. You’re all up for a Triple Battle, yeah, and three on three is never an easy thing, you dig?”

Another nod.

“Then here’s one other condition, yeah?” He gestured to the area around him, where there was a bright, blue line dividing the turf from the rest of the arena. “If you knock anyone out of this line, they’re out of the match, got that?”

Yet another nod. “So take five to talk it out, yeah? That way, you’ll come in with a good strategy, mon. I’ll let y’all know when you’re ready.”

So me, Curio and Fernes huddled together in a triangle formation away from the other group. I glanced at Abraxas, who all stared at us intently, so I took it as a sign he was trying to listen in.

“We should stay quiet,” I whispered, to which, they nodded. “But wait, what if he’s using telepathy?”

“He can’t read our minds as far as I know,” Curio whispered, “and I can’t read his aura either. It’s all blocked up by that force of his.”

“Maybe his head is full of blocks,” Fernes whispered. “It would explain his attitude.”

We tittered at that, still wary of the other team’s presence.

“But uh…” Curio trailed off and rubbed her head. “Well, I’m neutral against Psychic, but...”

“Fighting is strong against Steel on Bran’s end.”

“But I’m a Fighting type too, how the hell does that work?” Curio raised her voice as much as she could without being heard in the other team’s range. “Okay, but Bang’s weak against Fighting too, so I can go after him.” She frowned. “Damn it. I wanted the chance to put that piss stain in his place.”

“I don’t disagree with you, but I feel as if you’d made your point already yesterday.”

“So, who’s taking him on?”

“It’ll be important to make sure you don’t faint mid-battle, and Ab will most likely go after you once the test begins. So, me and Shine will try to knock him out of the match first, if that’s fine.”

I nodded, then something crossed my mind. “What about afterwards?”

“We’ll think on our feet when that moment comes. At first, however, our priority is taking down the strongest opponent first.” She looked at the Kadabra and clenched her teeth. “Besides, I want to prove his views on us wild beasts wrong myself.”

“Ditto to that.” Curio held out her fist to Fernes, expecting her to do something, and once Fernes took the hint, she bumped her hoof against Curio’s. Not wanting to be left out, I joined in, putting all of our paws together. My heart felt lighter for it, and the oncoming fight didn’t seem as daunting any more.

“Ready?” Reggie called. We dispersed and stood in formation, facing off the other team as they finalised their plan as well. As they stood away from one another, Bran crossed his arms, tapping his feet on the floor, while Bang chittered to himself, muttering what sounded like ‘Abrax-ass’ under his breath. I doubt they enjoyed discussing the strategy at all.

(Yeah, they freaking hated it. The spike of anger in both their auras was insane.)

I would imagine so. But anyway, the other three entered their battle stances, waiting for Reggie’s call, until…


Before we had a chance to strike, Abraxas held up his spoon and shot a burst of energy to my left side where Curio was. I watched as she swayed in place, trying to get her bearings back on her surroundings. There was no time to dwell on it as Bran and Bang rushed towards us, holding their arms out, ready to strike. I had to run away, and was so focused on myself that I didn’t see Fernes in full, only as a bright fiery blur. From my line of sight, orange crashed against yellow, making the other team stop in their tracks. Fernes stomped against Abraxas, pinning him to the floor as she pounded him with hoof after hoof.

That was when Bang ran into the fray, and with his great big incisors, bit down on Fernes’ tender leg, making her recoil in pain. Bran just ran towards Curio as she summoned a Bone Club, keeping him at bay. She would hold her own, but Fernes was in trouble. So, I didn’t cower away that time, like I usually did, I charged up my static field, and shot a spark at Bang. A lot more powerful this time as a Luxio, with a bolt that whizzed through the air.

It was a direct hit. He let go of Fernes and flopped onto the floor, convulsing with the force of the electric current. He lay there, breathing, but down for the count. Fernes had to fall back, limping as she re-entered the defensive part of our side. That meant Curio was left to deal with Bran. The two were locked in a cycle of trying to make the next move, with Curio charging up her aura in one paw and holding the bone in the other, keeping Bran at a distance. However, he stepped back, calling Abraxas over to him instead, and they switched places. Now he had recovered, Abraxas aimed his spoon at Curio as she tried to move out of the way. She rolled to the side, avoiding his psybeam, which was a win, but then, he gathered a huge ball full of energy, and shifted it towards Curio, covering her whole body in a psychic force. I tried to step in, but Fernes tugged my tail back, stopping me in my tracks.

“Hey,” she whispered, “I can’t move, but I can still fire, and I need your help.”

“But Curio—”

“I know, so I want you to do it quickly. Move out of the way, and at the same time I fire, you fire your own spark in my direction as well.” She winked. “You’ll see.”

I nodded and did as I was told. Abraxas lifted Curio up with his psychic force, levitating her in the air with the spoon’s movement. I realised he was trying to throw her out of the arena, but I didn’t have time to dwell as I charged up my own spark, at the same time Fernes stood up and her flames spun around her, furiously burning. The air felt hot, and it was getting hard to focus. Still, I honed my mind in on completing the one charge, so I could shoot a successful spark.


I fired metres behind Abraxas at the same time Fernes shot a blast of heat in the air. The two forces collided and combined, creating an explosion that blasted Abraxas metres from the pitch as he rolled across the arena. It whipped through the air, making my ears ring, but I managed to steel myself long enough to see Curio regain her footing, taking a breather from the psychic force. Now she was out of it, she gave us a thumbs up before returning to the fray, then, it was all three of us versus Bran.

Need I mention how it ended? I think you get the point by now, but while Fernes was mostly out, me and Curio dealt with Bran ourselves. Although he lost, he was courteous about the whole thing, and wished me well done for all my struggles. So, all of them healed up after Reggie declared the fight over, and Abraxas stormed to Curio, looking her down.

“You keep embarrassing me, vermin. Do you know who I am?”

Curio stared back at him for a moment, then shrugged it off to return to her own group. Ab didn’t follow after us that time.


And that was all she wrote, as they say. The detention was lifted, I was back in class, and for the first time in the while, I rejoined my whole team and got to mingle with them. They all were excited to see that Luxio form, and Milly, that Buneary, still found me cute even with all the battle scars.

(Speak for yourself.)

Oh come on, I had the right to feel a bit full of myself every once in a while. But anyway, to see the people in my group cheering for me and congratulating me for completing the fight test lifted that weight off my shoulders. In short, to see them happy made me happy as well. I finally had my own place in GeL.

That moment of respite didn’t last long as Bolt stepped into the cafeteria. No one noticed him at first, but when he joined our table, everyone went silent.

“Ahem, Shine,” he said, “I’m pleased to see you’ve completed the test, but I need you to come with me.”

I stared him down. I didn’t know what he wanted, but after all he put me through, I’m not sure I wanted to know. Thankfully, Curio stepped to my defense, standing in front of me.

“Beat it, you old fart,” she said. “Let him catch a break for once.”

He only snorted, shaking off her comment. “This concerns M, so I need Shine to help talk to him, seeing as he spent longer getting to know him.” He sighed. “I do not wish to cut your victory short, but this is important to him. He wants you.”

I could see where he was getting at. The last meeting wasn’t exactly pleasant, but deep down, I wanted to know how he became that way and what I could do to help him. Admittedly, I didn’t want him to leave GeL. I didn’t want anyone to, even Abraxas, as he had his place there. Plus, I had to thank M in some capacity for training me to the extent he did. So I jumped out of my seat and joined Bolt.

“Sunshine,” Curio said, frowning, “really?”

“I’m sorry,” I said, “I’ll be back, won’t I, Bolt?”

“Yes. I promise it won’t take too long.”

“Alright.” She crossed her arms and sat back down. “If ya say so.”

He bowed and led me through the familiar hallways. That gave me long enough to get a good look at Bolt, and the way he carried himself that time. His movements were slow and he seemed more lost in his own thoughts rather than preoccupied with holding a standard. At first, I didn’t want to talk to him at all, seeing how he gave me little reason to, but I had to ask about M. I took a deep breath and puffed it back out, ready to speak.

“Bolt,” I said, “you seem worried.”

“I am,” he said, dropping his usual strict tone. “I have to be there for M; I’m the only one he’ll rely on.”

“And why is that?”

“Because, well…” He trailed off and stopped, standing just before reaching the elevator doors. “I might as well tell you, I was the one who found him. Me and the other mediators scouted in the wild, looking for more subjects.”

“Like Curio?”

“Yes. We had to be careful though.” He changed his tone. “The forests are dangerous. It’s easy to lose your head if you don’t watch which habitat you step into. And they are often filled with feral Pokemon, who have become so ingrained to the wild that it’s impossible for them to become like us. That’s putting it simply. So, we only watched out for Pokemon who had that certain willpower, so, we only took them in if we had their permission. We never would’ve taken any subject in by force.”

“Then, where does M come in?”

Bolt sighed. “I found him lying on the grass, barely breathing, as a Starly picked at his wounds. He hadn’t eaten for several days, and you could see his ribs poking through his chest. Now, I used to be in the wild as well, so I knew this all too well: a cub had separated from their parents, one way or another, and was on the verge of death. I thought I had moved past that, but I didn’t. I saw too many Pokemon who ended up like that and didn’t want him to be the same. The usual thing to do was heal up any Pokemon we saw and let them be on their way. Not to interfere. But I stepped in and begged that they take him in. And the rest is history.”

Bolt sat down, looking at the buttons with an unspoken air of dread. “I just think, if they send him away after all I’ve done to try and get through to him, my efforts would’ve all gone to waste. I tried to get him to speak up about his past. I tried to stop his violent impulses. But how he ended up the way he did is still a mystery to us.” He looked down at the floor, scratching the surface with his claws. “Not even Rhode’s aura could break through to him.”

That was the same kind of sensation Curio got from reading M. I took this all in and sorted through them one by one. Rather than worrying about what I left unsaid, I decided to speak my mind. “So, you took care of him as your own?”

“Well, n—” He cut himself off— “yes, in a way.”

I sighed. I knew that answer anyway, but hearing him say that put things into perspective for me. It was a bitter pill to swallow nonetheless. There, I had to say something. Even if it was petty, or spoilt, I just had to let it out. “Then, why didn’t you do the same for me?”

He stood up and pressed the down button, calling the doors open with a ding. “Let’s not get into this now. I don’t want you to start another argument.”

A rage boiled inside me. “No, Bolt.” I stood in front of the elevator, blocking him from entering. “I’m sick of this. I need answers now.”

“You’re being silly, Shine. Now get out of the way, or I’ll force you—”

For that, I tackled him, pinning him to the ground. I shouldn’t have been able to overpower him, but an invisible force in my body pressed down, locking him in a death grip.

“Tell me!” I shouted. “Why wasn’t I enough for you?! All the days I spent worrying, wanting you to help, but you never did!” I took a few deep breaths. He just laid there, not moving, waiting for me to let the rest out. But, the rest never came. Everything simmered down, and from there, I released his grip on him. I dug my paws into the ground instead and clawed at the floor. “I was so alone.” That was all I could muster. Slowly, Bolt got up and I stood upright, expecting him to dish something out against me. No matter. I wasn’t going to back down at that stage. To my surprise, he just sighed and sat opposite me.

“Can I be honest?” Bolt said. I looked to the side, avoiding his stern gaze, but when I came to my senses, I looked back and nodded. “I didn’t understand you at all, at least, not when I brought you up. You had problems. Every Mon has problems, especially at an early age, but they’re usually something I can grasp. Something physical, like wanting to be stronger, or anything like that. You were different.”

“Different how?” I firmly asked.

“It’s like you were stuck in the flight mode of fight or flight all the time. I didn’t get it. You were treated well. You didn’t have to fend for yourself alone with lots of dangerous predators looming over you. Anyone could’ve been happy with that. But you didn’t talk to me. You were just empty.”

“And that’s my fault?” It wasn’t really a question. “Mom was a feral that never saw me. I never had that feeling everyone else had.”

“I know.” He sighed. “But there I was, convinced that you were out to get me. Like you were punishing me for something I didn’t understand. But, now this situation has come to a head, I think I do.” Unexpectedly, Bolt bowed, touching the floor with his forehead. “I’m sorry.”

I didn’t say anything, so I looked away. There wasn’t anything left to talk about, not that I wanted to anyway. We had our spat and that was that. The doors whirred behind me, about to shut, but I pressed the button before then, reopening them. From there I entered, Bolt joined not long after, and with a final click, the double doors shut, taking us to the lower level. The descent to that floor must’ve only taken ten seconds, but it felt like a minute with Bolt in there. At first, we both kept our distance from one another, even though the space was cramped, so we were on opposite ends. Again, to my surprise, Bolt inched closer towards me, closer and closer until he embraced me, nuzzling the top of my head, and licked my face. I didn’t move, so I purred, just losing myself in the moment. If things were like the beginning, like they always were, I’m sure I would’ve felt better.

Eventually, the doors opened, and reluctantly, Bolt led the way out to the detention room. I followed, keeping myself focused again, and mentally prepared myself for my next meeting with M. Bolt must’ve felt the same way as he stopped, just before opening the door and mumbled something. I didn’t hear it, but it didn’t have the most positive tone to it. Despite what had happened between us, I could tell he cared about him. Slowly, but surely, he turned the handle.

M slept on one of the plush cushions in a corner of the room, clutching his plush. Once we were within a tail’s range, I got a good look at his snoozing form. A bandage covered his forehead, including his little horns, since the damage he had dealt to himself still seemed fresh. Yet, despite that, he looked peaceful, sleeping like a baby, especially with that kid’s toy of his. I had never seen M at such ease with himself. Bolt embraced him, burying him in his blue coat of fur, and from there, I could see his fatherly instincts for that Marowak. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t jealous, even after Bolt embraced me back there, but I’m not proud to admit it now. Slowly, but surely, M opened his eyes, and sat up, nudging himself away from Bolt. He stared at me, not glaringly, but longingly.

“Now, go on,” Bolt said. “Tell him what you want to say.”

M looked away, scratching at the bandaged spot on his head.

“Don’t do that,” Bolt said. “You’ll hurt yourself again.”

M pulled his paw away. For lack of something to fidget with, he clutched the Teddiursa harder, wringing it.

“You,” M said. “Do… you think…” He trailed off and looked to the side again. I could tell he was struggling to put it into words. “Think, think, think, think.” He gently placed the doll on the cushion and patted his chest. “Not there. Something. Not there. Don’t know what it is. But it’s missing.”

I didn’t know what he meant by that, but I got the gist of it. All that time, he had been as empty as I was. He probably went through a lot more trauma than I did to get to GeL, given what Bolt said, but whether we were from the wild or born in here, we were under the same roof.

“Do you mean your heart?”

He shook his head. “Not my heart. Wouldn’t live without my heart. But…” He was lost deep in thought again.

“Oh, I know,” I said, approaching him. “You feel hollow. Like you don’t know how to act or what to do, but you know you should. That’s why people say it’s like your heart. Like your instinct.”

“Like prey or escape or mate?”

“Sort of. I mean, something else, like a gut feeling. Like the soul you have.”

“Soul. Soul soul soul.” He repeated those words to himself, muttering under his breath. “Don’t understand.”

“I do, though. It’s not easy to put into words, I’m afraid.”

He pondered on this for a moment, summoning a bone club as he fiddled with it. The way that Marowak looked at certain things with deep concentration in his orange eyes was noticeable. Then, he groaned, rubbing his head.

“Something is missing here too.”

I didn’t know how to respond to that. Rather than try to damn him with faint praise or agree with him, I let him continue.

“Other Pokemon are strange. Much smarter. I’m just like them, but I’m not. But I try.” M looked down at his feet, moisture in his eyes. “I-I’m trying.”

“I know.” There was a certain pang of guilt at all of that. I came closer to him, wanting to embrace him, to let him know it was alright, when he pulled away. He raised his club at the air, but I didn’t flinch. So, he stopped midway and stared at his weapon, still held out in front of him.

“M,” Bolt said, coming in between us, “can we talk alone for a little bit? I need to tell you something very important.”

M got into a stance, readying his bone club once more. “Not good.”

“No, I’m afraid to say it isn’t good news. It’ll be alright though, I promise.” Bolt took him to a corner of the room, however reluctant M was to follow him, and Bolt embraced him, holding him tightly. Again, I could see the paternal instinct there, but there was a new sense of desperation to his eyes. He whispered in his ears, occasionally nuzzling his head as usual. I didn’t catch what they said, but, well. They talked about… M… M…

(Are you alright, Sunshine?)

Yes. I’m sure I can handle this. Okay. Again, while I didn’t hear what he said, the moment M’s eyes widened, I knew. M breathed in and out, in what I assumed was an attempt to calm himself down. When Bolt tried to whisper to him again, M shrieked and freed himself of his tutor’s grasp, scrambling to the opposite corner with his bone club in tow.

“M,” Bolt said, standing up. “Please. There’s—”

“Can’t go back!” M shouted, flailing his club wildly. “Not out there!”

“No!” Bolt ran towards him. “I wasn’t finished. Please, M, I need you to stay calm.”

“Stop. Stop. Stop,” M said in short bursts. “Not out there, not out there, not out there…” M kept repeating himself under his breath. With a few swift motions, he tossed the club aside, dashed towards his bed and grabbed the plush, clutching it tighter in his paws. “Don’t leave, don’t leave, don’t leave…” He rocked his body back and forth as he wrung the doll tighter and tighter, squeezing its neck. “Don’t leave, don’t leave, don’t lea—”

The Teddiursa’s head fell. With a faint bounce, it rolled on the floor, exposing its stuffing at the base of its neck. All M held was a headless doll.

At that point, the room’s atmosphere had completely changed. The tension in it was suffocating, filling the air with a thick fog of dread. Eventually, he went back to inhaling and exhaling, but he was faster, to the point of hyperventilating. I had to get closer to him. There was nothing but terror in his eyes. The only way I could describe that sense of fear was primal. Like how he looked whenever he attacked one of the subjects during his fight or flight mode, except a lot more striking. The old M was gone; this was someone else.

I turned to Bolt, about to tell him to run, when he tried approaching M. His footsteps were slow, but purposeful. His maw hung open, about to say something, but closing at the last minute. Instead, he got closer to M, trying to nuzzle the top of his head like he usually did.

M headbutted Bolt from beneath, horns first. Bolt yelped, pouncing backwards in an effort to maintain his distance. Nonetheless, M dashed, grabbing the bone club in his frenzy, and struck the top of the Manectric’s head. The impact was spot-on, as something cracked; in fact, the bone club splintered off, resembling more of a shiv than a legbone. With fragments of marrow around him, Bolt staggered to the floor, still wide awake, but greatly weakened. I stared at his body. Then I looked to M. He stood still, observing the damage for a tiny moment, until he spotted me. The fear in his eyes was replaced with pure rage. He raised the shiv. That was when I ran.

I screamed, running down the halls as fast as I could. M followed at an even paster pace; his footsteps pounding at the hard floor beneath us. Yet I still ran. The elevator was right in front of me, but I couldn’t have stopped there. There were stairs just on the right. So I charged through the door and sprinted up, trying to get to higher ground. As long as I made it to the upper floor, I could’ve escaped.

Then, something slashed at my backside. I fell down mid-way up one of the staircases. Of course, it hurt. But straight after the initial shock of pain, the exact severity of the situation struck me. M had me in his clutches. I spun around, getting back up when M lunged at me with his shiv. It struck again, piercing through my torso. I screamed much louder than before, echoing in the room. Surely, someone would’ve noticed. Then another stab. Something hot spread in my chest. I couldn’t get up, much less attack. I saw this all happening before me as I fell to the floor on all fours splayed out. All I could see was M above me. He raised his broken club. He aimed for the top of my head. I panicked, and with the last surge of energy within me, pounced backwards. Yet there was nothing to pounce back on, so…

I, er, oh god.

It... What I felt, er… The pain was… It was… It was…
Last edited:


A Dense Irritating Miniature Beast of Burden
Same warning applies here: Blood, trauma, and implied abuse.

Chapter 34: (M)onster, Part 2

Shine stopped and burst into tears, all streaming down from his single eye. Right then, Tony stopped recording and wrapped his arms around the Luxray. Curio joined them not long after, putting them in a group hug. They didn’t say anything as Shine sobbed, letting it all out. Although his other missing eye throbbed, with a slight pain that shouldn’t have been there, it wasn’t so much the current pain that hit him as the one he felt way back when. How would he have even begun to describe it? Excruciating? Soul-crushing? There were many words for that, but he had exhausted them all. His encounter with that Marowak, though, was another matter entirely. Him being the cause of all that pain didn’t feel real.

And all of his buried feelings about Bolt came out too, the ones he had to suppress in front of Tony. He tried to convince himself of the emptiness towards Bolt, but that hunger was still there. Why? Why did he long for the comfort of something that was absent to begin with? Why was he so nervous admitting to Tony how he truly felt?

Shine knew he’d have to talk about this again at some point, and he deeply dreaded it. But after the memory bank overflowed, he needed some rest. A moment passed. Shine eventually gathered himself as he pulled away from the two, rubbing the spot where his other eye should’ve been.

I, er—” He sniffled. “My head hurts.”

“Okay, Shine, okay,” Tony said, embracing him once more. “Do you need some medicine or anything?”

I’m fine, thanks. I, er, just want to be alone.”

Tony waited for him to say something else, but Shine forced himself out of his embrace and made his way out of the studio. He couldn’t stand to be in there any longer, not when he had opened up such a deep wound. Eventually, he found his way to the living room, spotting the plush bed, and from there, Shine curled up inside it. It was something comfortable. It was something familiar. Or at least, he thought it would’ve been. That throbbing feeling wouldn’t go away, and he was getting restless again, so he buried himself deeper in his bed. If he could’ve blocked it all out, everything would’ve been okay. What he didn’t expect, however, was Curio coming into the room as well. She joined Shine, kneeling down to his level.

“Hey,” she said, “are you, er, are you alright?”

“Yes,” he said, his voice slightly muffled. “No. Look, I-I can’t right now. I’ll join you later.”

He covered his face. All it reminded him of was the part of his body that should’ve been there, but wasn’t anymore. He felt like a freak, no, he was a freak. Just a Pokemon speaking when it shouldn’t have, acting how it shouldn’t have, and looking how it shouldn’t have. He was—

“Shine,” Curio said, in a deep tone. “If you’re gonna sit out, that’s fine. But don’t beat yourself up when there’s no reason for it.”

Shine sat up and sniffled, rubbing his eye. “I-I don’t know.” He breathed in and out, in and out, just like Tony said to do. He was so helpful. Then why did he feel like such a stranger in his own home? Even with all of these luxuries, his bed, the computer, he didn’t feel safe there. Thoughts of M still drifted around him, like a sharpened bone club hanging over his head. Over his eye.

He couldn’t take this any more. Shine stood and charged towards the front door.

“Where are you going?” Curio yelled.

“Out. I’ll, um, I need some fresh air. Tell Tony I’ll be back.”

“Shine!” she shouted. That got his attention. Curio held both her paw and hand out. “Look, I know what it feels like losing a part of you. No ****, it hurts. Not just on the outside, but deep down as well. So don’t feel like you have to face that alone, y’hear?”

Shine didn’t move, still looking towards the door. That was the moment Tony entered too, rushing over to the living room with a look of desperation on his face.

“Shine,” he said, in the midst of catching his breath. “Please, we can stop, if you want. We can come back to it another day. I honestly don’t want you going out there if you’re having another episode, at least, not alone. I need to know you’re going to be okay.”


“Please, tell me.” Tony approached him with a stern, but caring expression. “I don’t wanna stop you from doing anything; you’re a free mon, you can do what you want. Just, take a moment to think and breathe. Why don’t you want to stay here?”

I-I dunno. Just...” Shine sat down on his haunches, scratching his head. “I don’t want to be alone, but not in the same room.” He rubbed his nose, sniffling. “When I let out the part about M, about him going berserk…” He trailed off and sighed. “I don’t want to go through that again. I’ve said what I need to say, I don’t need to hear Curio’s side of it.”

I mean, I don’t hafta say anythin’, we could just skip--”

That’s not the point. Tony will want to hear how it all happened, won’t you?”

Reluctantly, Tony nodded, adjusting his glasses. “I just need to understand why M hurt you. I don’t want to prolong your suffering, Shine, but I need some closure.”

I understand that.”

“Okay, so, what can we do to help? What will calm your nerves for the moment?”

Shine straightened his back, looking at them both. They were there for him, so at least it was something to come back to. And if he did head out, where would he have gone at this time of night? All he wanted was to talk it out with someone who wasn’t Tony or Curio, at least, for now. Someone who could possibly relate to him, or would want to hear his story. Wait, what about through the forums, or through Diancord? That was a start, and he had a vague idea of who to contact. “Tony, can I borrow your computer, that is, if you’re going to continue? There’s something I need to do on there. That will help.”

“Of course. Are you sure you want us to carry on?”


“Alright.” Tony relaxed his stance, letting his shoulders drop. “Just call us if you need anything.”

Fine.” Shine stood up again, heading to Tony, and he nuzzled the side of his leg. “Thanks for everything.” He did the same with Curio. “And you too.”

“You’re welcome.”


And with that, Shine saw them off as they went into the studio, closing the door behind them. He took a deep breath, thinking this over again. His head still hurt with that phantom pain, but he could’ve dealt with it for now. Hopefully, it wouldn’t have prevented him from using the computer. With the desk to his own, Shine sat on the chair and called for the PokeOS to log onto his own profile. Now, to get to the meat of the matter: contacting Barley. If he remembered correctly, he was not only up on the forums, but also on the Diancord server for Pokespeakers as well. He hadn’t been on there for a while, but it was worth a try again. With the app booted up, to his surprise, there was one new message from ChildishAudino.

ChildishAudino: Hey! I don’t know whether transcription or voice chat works best for you, but whatever you decide, feel free to chase me up here! That’s where I’m the most active. Forums have been kind of dead lately anyway.

It had been sent a few days ago, but he was online right now. Despite everything, Shine coaxed a smile, dragging the cursor over to the call button.


(Recording now. Well, I’m sorry to put you through this, Curio.)

Nah, it’s fine. Look, there’s something I wanna say before we start. I’m sorry.

(For what?)

Well, for misjudging you, of all people. And for saying all that stuff before. It was uncalled for. Seeing how you handled Shine back there, and you know, just the way you treat him in general, I kind of respect that.

(Ah, no need to mention it. I’m always there for Shine.)

But, here’s something I’m wondering. I’ve been looking at your aura, sue me, and, there’s something I sense at the very back of it. You find it difficult sometimes, don’t you?

(Well, to be honest, I’d rather not get into that right now. Maybe when Shine joins us, we can talk about it. But no matter how I feel, no matter how hard it is, I’ll do what I can to help him. Does that reassure you?)

Yeah, sure. Well, I’m ready now, so fire away.

(Alright then. The most pressing issue is how they got M to stop. It’s no surprise Shine made it out alive, since, well, he wouldn’t be with me if he didn’t. But he was in big trouble with that Marowak, so I can imagine everyone had to be pretty quick.)

We were, and good riddance. That whole situation was pretty freaking surreal.

(So, what happened next?)

It was kind of a blur, but I’ll try to remember the best I can. Okay. So, I waited in the cafeteria, just mingling with everyone else as we were done with our fight test for the day. I still waited for Shine, since I wanted to celebrate his success more, but oh well. We were in no big rush and there was nothing else to do. In the meantime, I grabbed a drink from the food counter and idly sipped at it. There was still everyone else there: the teammates and enemies, save for Abraxas, and Basil and Pecha together as well. This time, that Chansey had her first aid kit with her, since she came out from her own focus session. I was curious to find out what it was, since I had never touched base with her on it, so I called her and she immediately had her eyes on me.

“Hello!” Pecha was about to tug on my cheeks again when I tapped her wrist.

“Can you not?” I said. “Anyway, was sort of focus were you doing again? I take it it’s got something to do with nursing.”

“Oh, I, um—” She wrung her hands together, embarrassed. “Ah, w-would it be weird if I said I hate being lumped in like that?”

I shrugged.

“Ah, well, it’s not like what I’m doing is very different, you know, I mean, nursing, doctoring, it’s kind of splitting hairs, in a sense. Or would it be splitting furs?”

My ears perked up at the mention of the second focus. “Doctoring?”

“Yes. It’s like nursing, except way better, and more complicated.” She shook her head, embarrassed again. “No no no, nursing has its role to play in treatment as well, what am I saying? I mean—”

You get the point. She just kept yammering on, and I tuned out, trying to find some sort of opening before I could ask what the deal was. Eventually, she got so frazzled that Basil had to pat her back, wrangling her in.

“It’s fine. Take a deep breath.”

So she did, and returned to her cheery self. “But yes. I want to be a doctor. Specifically, a paramedic.”

“Paramedic?” I cocked my head. “So you parachute in and treat people?”

She let out a hearty laugh; a bit too high pitched for my tastes, but whatever. “No, it means I respond to emergencies. If a Pokemon’s seriously hurt, then I’d be the first to treat them before they get sent to a Pokemon centre to heal up. It takes more than a heal pulse or an egg for them to be fine; I need to know how to treat something properly and fast. So the difference is that the nurses deal with care while the doctors and medics deal with more of the life-threatening injuries.”

“Like… what?”

“Well, let’s say a Pokemon’s about to die because they have a bunch of poisonous spikes sticking out of them. What if there’s no one else to take care of that? That means a lot I have to learn.” She tugged at her head growths. “Kind of makes my brain swim just thinking about what’s ahead of me.”

“Oh,” I said, pointing to her. “Now that makes sense.” I hummed to myself, thinking back to all the Chansey I saw in the anime. They were often helping out the Nurse Joys of the world, and I say multiple Nurse Joys, since they must’ve been clones or something. From what I heard, the Chansey even had their own nursing school in the show. But I never knew them to do stuff on the same level Pecha did. I was about to ask her, but she beat me to it.

“I know our kind’s not expected to save people or Pokemon like that. We’re still very important, you know, and we should be proud of ourselves.” Pecha took the egg out of her pouch and stroked it. “But we can only do so much when we’re only assisting nurses. People trust us a lot less than humans, so they usually make the decisions for us. We just carry it out.” She put the egg back and patted her belly. “I want to be my own Mon and change that.”

I tugged my aura sensors not really knowing what else to say to that. “Well, it sounds like you’ve got a plan already.”

“Oh, yes.” She shook her head. “Oh my, I said a lot of depressing stuff there. I didn’t mean to be a downer. See!” She tugged at her lips, creasing it into her familiar smile. “Now I’m back!”

I think I got the most out of that conversation. I was curious to know more, but I remembered what I was there for. I was still waiting on Shine to come back up. Using my aura, I floated through the hallways in my mind, trying to find my way to the lower floor. I floated down the staircase, through the hallways with all its pipes, and back into the room where Shine would’ve been. Except he was running out of it, screaming for help as M chased him with a sharpened piece of bone. Bolt was there as well, bleeding from the head.

My gut told me to run like hell. I jumped out of my seat and sprinted out of the cafeteria, when Pecha caught up to me with her kit in tow. Damn, she was fast.

“What’s wrong?!” she shouted.

“I-It’s Shine! He’s in trouble!”

I didn’t say any more and just bolted it through the hallways. Everyone we passed by was stunned as I shoved through them. Considering my spikes, it was a wonder no one got hurt on the way. But we knew where we were going. All we had to do was find the elevator, then zip to the right where the stairs were. But by the time we got there, we found M and Shine on the middle platform.

Ugh, it’s hard to talk about this. Just thinking back to what I saw gives me chills.

(It’s alright. Take your time. Just don’t get too graphic.)

Okay then. Shine screamed as blood ran down his face. M was right above him, holding his shiv out, about to strike. I had to act fast, and act fast I did, as I shot an aura sphere at him, knocking him backwards. In turn, M ran back down the stairs and charged through the door to the lower floor.

It didn’t hit me at first, but after that initial rush, the shock settled in. There he was. My sunshine. With an eye missing. Stab wounds in his chest. Choking on his own—

(I get the idea, Curio. P-please, no more.)

Okay, fine. I was getting a bit carried away, but that’s what I took in back then. It’s important to remember that I hadn’t seen that much violence play out in front of me. Of course, Liam would’ve droned on about all the stuff he went through, that bastard. I also heard stories about the wild from what my other mates from the base told me. Sometimes, Hans would confide in me about what he saw, and others, like Floatsam, just took it in their stride, since they had already accepted the dangers of that world. I may have been sheltered, but I wasn’t naive.

Seeing all of that in front of me, though, I didn’t know how to react to it at all. What the hell happened? Why did M flip out at Shine in particular? What was going on? Was any of this real? And that smell of iron. I’ll never forget that.

Pecha was the first to react, running over to Shine as she dug out some equipment.

“Curio!” she yelled. “Call for help! I need—”

“What’s going on?” Azzy walked in, along with a bunch of other staff. When he saw Shine, just like I did, he covered his mouth, whimpering.


Anyone!” Pecha shouted. “I need an assistant!”

“H-here!” a nurse said, popping out from the crowd.

He’s bleeding out. I need you to hand me my tools while I stabilise Shine. Then we need to get him to the treatment bay safely. Do you understand?”

She nodded and went to Pecha’s aid. I went to check out Shine on my own, kneeling down to his level as the others treated him. He shivered as blood pooled underneath him. Again, I wasn’t sure how to react; I was so completely numb to it. I tried to say something, wanting to reassure him that everything was alright, until—

“Curio.” Rhode pulled me back to reality by grabbing my shoulders. “M’s still down there, en’t he?”

I croaked a response, which sounded sort of like a ‘yes’.

“I need to go after ‘im before he causes any more trouble, aye? This is our mess; we should deal with it o’erselves. You lot, can you get his Pokeball too, just to get ‘im under wraps?”

He was going to go down there alone with a murderous beast on the prowl. My aura tutor. Even if we weren’t too close, it didn’t take much to know that throwing himself into the fray on his own was madness. So hearing that was enough to get me up to speed. Not quite to snap me out of that shocked state, but enough to make me get to my feet.

“W-wait,” I said, “I’ll help.”

“C girl, no. I can’t ask you to risk your life ‘ere.”

“W-what about you?!” I yelled. “If Bolt couldn’t deal with it on his own, then neither can you!”

“I’ve got aura.”

“Yeah, and I do too!” I took Rhode’s paw, shaking it out of desperation. “C-c’mon, I need to get my own back for what he did to Shine! I’m not letting him get away with it!”

Rhode seemed taken aback with this at first, then he smiled, cupping my paw in his own. “You’re ballsy, you know that?”

“Yes, now c’mon!” Before I went, I looked to Pecha, who was trying to staunch the bleeding on the Luxio’s wounds. “Shine, is he--”

“He’ll be fine,” Pecha said. “You have my word.”

Once I was reassured, we made our way down the stairs. We didn’t have any time to dwell on what happened or why; just laser focused on getting that goddamned Marowak under control. There was a trail of bloody pawprints in the hallway, which we would’ve followed, except they went into multiple doors. There was no way we could’ve checked every one of them in case it was a trap. But there was that aura: that unseeable aura. Except this time, it was going completely crazy.

Lots of emotions argued with each other and clashed. Some subtle. Some intense. All of this stuck together and formed a jungle of aura, obscured by mist and tall grass. We were in M’s domain at that point. It was too much for me to read all at once, so I pulled away before I could let it get to me. Rhode, however, was on the lookout, sifting through the torrent of thoughts. He waited a moment, then widened his eyes when he found what he was looking for.

“Hold on,” he whispered. “I know he senses us. He knows where we are. If we rush in, he’ll have the upper hand o’er us.”

“Then what?” I whispered back.

“I’ll go. Cover me.”

I nodded, and slowly, he walked to one of the doors and turned the door handle.

He stepped back as soon as he opened it, as lots of cleaning equipment came crashing down, and M lunged from below. Though Rhode tried to dodge, M slashed, cutting Rhode’s leg open. He twisted around in pain as M jumped forward. ****, he was gonna get him too. What was I supposed to do?

“Lil’ bastard!” With one well placed kick of his good leg, Rhode punted M across the halls, knocking him to the floor. As soon as he landed, though, M got back up, charging towards Rhode again. I stepped in, throwing an aura sphere at him. He dodged. Then Rhode chipped in, and we sent a flurry of aura spheres together. M flipped back and forth, dodging our every move. Eventually, we ran out of energy, as each sphere shrunk in size. We were no match for his speed.

“M!” I shouted in between breaths. “Please! Stop!”

He didn’t listen. He just growled and lunged forward again, this time, aiming that shiv at my belly. ****. Now I was in for it. The pointy end got so close to skewering me, and yet, I caught it in my paws. Now we were in a power struggle. Neck and neck, with him pushing forward, and me trying to wrench his weapon away from him. Back and forward, back and forward. Yet, I was still tired from overshooting my aura. He got closer and closer, until the tip of his shiv touched my stomach. If he got any closer, that wouldn’t have been pleasant.

I considered just ending it there by punching him with the end of my spike. That would’ve been a decisive blow. But that thought horrified me as much as it did dying. With Rhode’s leg injured, he wouldn’t have had the strength to fight back. I thought I was gone for.

Yet, by the time M drew a little bit of blood, Rhode had crawled all the way behind him. With one swift movement of his arms, Rhode locked M in a choke hold, lifting him off his feet. M struggled. His legs kicked in the air, and he bit down hard into Rhode’s arms, tearing into the flesh. He clenched his teeth, withstanding the pain while trying as hard as he could to keep M in his grasp. It was working, though. M’s movements got slower, and he lifted his jaws from Rhode’s arm, still squirming to get out. His eyes changed, though. They turned from clear grey to a soulful orange. Then, tears streamed down his face.

“S-sis?” He croaked, no longer struggling. Rhode’s grip relaxed, though he still had M in his reach. “What took you so long?”

My mouth hung open. It was clear M changed back again, but to what?

“M-Mama told you not to go alone. Danger in the woods. She’ll punish you. Again.”

There was a sharp change in his aura. He had let his defences down, letting me peek into it for once. The emotions were still strong, but for once, they radiated joy. Fear and sadness, but also joy. He only had his sister on his mind. But why did he see that in me?

I opened my mouth in an attempt through to him. “I-I—”


Rhode released his grip on him, allowing M to get close to me. I flinched, expecting him to go berserk again, but M only purred, rubbing his head against my paw.

“Fine. Fine. She won’t hurt you. I’ll protect you. I’ll help you. I forgive you.”

Out of instinct, I stroked him back, and he growled happily in my embrace. It was strangely comforting. That moment went as soon as it came though. M violently jerked back, on the defensive again. We prepared ourselves for the worst, yet again, except, M didn’t do anything. He fell to the floor, flat on his backside, whimpered a few times, and finally, started wailing. He kicked at the floor. He bashed his fists against his head. He looked just like a hatchling crying for his mom, except, well. Maybe not in hindsight.

Neither of us knew what the hell to do. We just stayed in place, not wanting to flee, but not wanting to approach him either. All we could do was wait it out. Finally, M stopped sniffling, after what felt like an eternity, and stood up. He looked at me once. An immense guilt washed over his aura. Then, he reached for the shiv again, while we tried to stop him. I pounced forward, but he dodged, making me hit the floor face first. When I looked up, though, expecting an attack, he had the shiv pointed to himself. I reached my paw out as he screamed, thrusting the bone against his neck, hitting the tip. And that would’ve been the end of it.

A Pokeball hurtled towards him, turning his whole body into white light, which flashed, then faded as the sphere consumed him. Thankfully, he had been captured, leaving the sharpened bone club on the floor beside him.

Goddamn it all.


“Shine,” Barley said, or at least, his voice said through the microphone on the other end, “I-I never would’ve known if you hadn’t told me.”

“I know,” Shine said, kneading at the material on the chair. At this point, he didn’t have the energy to cry. “I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to be a downer.”

“No, no, it’s good. It’s healthy, y’know. Bottling stuff up just makes it worse.”

“But, how do you learn not to do that? For the most part, I just felt guilty for admitting I had problems. I hate being stuck in my trainer’s house all day; it just makes me feel worthless.”

“Well, however long it takes to heal is fine. And you have a trainer who’s willing to look after you, even when stuff is rough. I wouldn’t feel bad about that.”

“Even if he finds it rough sometimes? I’m not an idiot; I know this stuff is taking a toll on him.”

“Yeah, duh. Being a trainer is hard, even when you’re not actively battling. My own trainer’s gotta put a lot aside for our work, but we have each other to deal with it. But, well, to take a page from the anime, that bond between Pokemon and trainer is precious. It can move mountains, and stuff.”

Shine laughed at that, remembering that repeated phrase all too well. “So you watch the show too?”

“Eh, not since that Greninja lost. Can’t be bothered; I have better things to do with my time. But I still stick around for the movies.”

Shine smiled, feeling a little lighter for their conversation. He didn’t know why he didn’t do chats on Diancord more often. The servers were still there for him to go on, and since he knew the human tongue, he would’ve had no problems talking to strangers. That was, except for the fact he was a Luxray who hadn’t revealed themselves to everyone else yet. Still, talking with Barley made him forget everything else that was going on.

That was, until Curio stormed out of the room, with Tony following her.

“Er, I’ll talk to you later,” Shine said, “but I definitely feel better now.”

“Any time!” Barley said.

And that was that. Shine ended the call and jumped down from his chair to see what the hubbub was about. He assumed Curio was done re-telling her side of the story. But from the way she jumped on the couch and pawed at her face, it took more of a toll than he was expecting. Tony looked on, trying to hold it together with his hands in his pockets. They were completely still, for a moment, anyway. Shine stood between them.

Are you alright, you two?” Shine said. He was starting to regret leaving them on their own at that point.

Yeah, sure,” Curio said, sighing.

“Yes,” Tony said, “it was just a bit of a shock, that’s all.” He looked to his Pokemon next. “How are you holding up? I noticed you called someone.”

Ah, yes, a new friend I met the other day.” He wasn’t sure if he should’ve smiled in this situation. “I’ve calmed down now.”

“Good to hear.” Tony took a deep breath, placing a finger on his temple. “So, what do you guys want to do now? It could be a good time to stop now--”

No, we’re not stopping.” She pointed a metal finger at Tony. “Not when there’s so many loose ends right now.”

“But, Curio,” Tony said, crossing his arms, “I can tell you’re struggling.”

Yeah, and it’ll be fine. But I got a favour to ask. Is there any beer left in the fridge?”

Shine rose at that question, and Tony himself was taken aback by it.

“E-excuse me?” Tony said.

You heard me. I know it’s weird, but I just need something to get me through this. A can or a glass or anything.”

B-but,” Shine said, facing her opposite, “you can’t drink, you’re a Pokemon.”

I know, and I don’t care.” She balled her metal hand into a fist. “Look, I’m an adult Lucario without a trainer to hold me back. I can make my own decisions. I’m pretty tolerant to this stuff. I know it ain’t normal, and it might make me sick, but I just need it.”

“Again, we could just call it a night if you want,” Tony said. “And I’d prefer it if you weren’t drunk for it.”

Yeah, yeah.” Curio waved her paw at him. “I know how to pace myself, so I won’t get plastered on your account. I just wanna get through this M stuff now. If not, I won’t be able to sleep tonight.” She glanced at Shine. “Besides, he probably wants to put this behind him for good as well.”

I can cope with it,” he said.

Yeah, okay, but still, I wanna do this for myself.” She looked back at Tony with a pleading expression. “Can you do that for me, please?”

Tony sighed and looked to the kitchen.

“If anyone saw me giving you this, I’d be in huge trouble.”

Well, yeah, they can go and eat ****. Nobody else is watching.”

“Alright, alright, I get it, just this once.” Before he made his way to the kitchen, Tony ruffled Shine’s mane. Then, it was just the two of them alone. Shine’s headache had subsided a bit since then, so he was in a good enough state to get up and talk. Mentally, though, the M situation still weighed on his mind. So, he joined Curio on the couch and nuzzled her side.

“Are you alright, Curio?”

“Oh come on, Sunshine, I’m fine,” she said, wrapping her paw around him. “You’re the one with the screwed up eye.”

“Point taken. It’s just, I know you struggled to talk about that. I forgot how painful that was for you back then.”

“Well, what’s said is said.” She patted his belly. “The worst is almost over now. Well, until, you know.”

He grimaced, thinking about what he’d have to talk about later. But that might not be for a while. To his surprise, though, Curio tilted Shine’s head around to face her, and she smirked.

“I just thought of something. If it makes you feel any better about you know what, we could give you an eyepatch so you can pretend to be a pirate.”

Shine snorted, then let out a gutteral laugh; the loudest he had heard himself do so in a while. “Only if I get to wear a galleon hat.”

“Well, I didn’t say I had a hat collection for nothin’.” She pulled him in for a hug. “But maybe later, once Tony’s finished. Except you don’t have to join in this time.”

He paused, thinking back to how he had reacted earlier. Sure, finding out about M and his struggles was certainly heart-rending at the time, on top of having to deal with the lack of depth perception. When all was said and done though, he had gone through the worst on the M subject already. He hadn’t noticed the headache was gone until he was with Curio again.

“I will this time,” he said. “Now I remember it, I think it would make me feel better if I saw how you dealt with him through your own eyes. While he was still in rehab before he got sent off.”

“Ah, yeah, well that was the part I was dreading myself.” She tightened her grip around Shine, surprising him. “God, that just, ugh.” Thankfully, she relaxed it, giving Shine some space. “But I think Tony will be glad to have you listenin’ in this time. Speak of the devil...”

She pulled herself away as Tony walked in with two bottles in tow. As soon he was in Curio’s reach, she tried to grab both of the bottles when he snatched them back.

“Ah, no, you’re only getting one.”


When Tony handed her the other one, she twisted off the cap with her teeth, then took a swig.

Ah, this is the good stuff.” She cocked her head. “Then who’s the other one for?”

Tony pried the cap off with a bottle opener and took a swig of his own. “After hearing that, I needed something as well.”

Well, hold onto that beer.” She pointed the glass at him. “You’ll need it for what I’m about to say later.”

“In that case—” he held the bottle to hers— “let’s drink to the memories we’d rather forget.”

She glared at him, before finally shrugging and clinking the bottom of the glass against his. “To memories we’d rather forget.”


A Dense Irritating Miniature Beast of Burden
Chapter 35: Slipping off the (M)ask

(With M successfully captured, what happened afterwards?)

What do you think? I really don’t want to harp on about it any more than I have already. Bolt was found back in the detention room, knocked out, but safe in the sick bay. Shine was being treated as well, though he was being healed up in a Pokeball until they were ready to get him up to speed. Sadly, I wasn’t allowed to see him, so it wasn’t exactly a comfort. Pecha was there after the initial incident though, staying in that same room the whole time until she had another lesson. Basil accompanied her as well, so they both sat on the floor together. I approached them, wanting to say something to Pecha in particular.

“Hey,” Basil said, eyes drooping. “I’m so sorry, Curio.”

“What for?” I said. After pondering it for a while, Basil shrugged and smiled sadly.

“Don’t know. Just, I’m not sure what to say about all of this.”

I didn’t know how to take that and just turned to Pecha. “Thanks a ton. Sorry everything kind of went so fast.”

She shook her head and smiled, looking happy unlike Basil. “Glad to help. That’s what our kind’s for, isn’t it?”

“But seriously, it’s like you knew what to do just like that.”

“Y-yes.” She laughed nervously, tugging at her nubs again. “That was my first time. Scary, huh, Bas?”

“Yeah, Pec.” Basil hugged her, and in turn, Pecha gave him a peck on his pink cheek. I guess it was reassuring to see those two like that, though that sort of connection was missing for me.

That relief didn’t last long. GeL didn’t have the same atmosphere as it did before, at least not for the first couple of days.

The odd thing was that the students had no reaction to it. They didn’t seem to know that the M incident happened, or what happened to Shine either. So that was a little puzzling.

However, the staff was a lot more anxious, and my aura was heightened during that time. The Pokemon mediators in particular were quite shaken up. Bolt, of course, wasn’t the same either. He recovered relatively quickly, but I rarely saw him. When I did though, he looked completely shattered. His aura reflected that too. Even though there was a bit of baggage between us, I didn’t want to nag him at that point. Maybe at another time when the dust had settled.

This reflected in my own lessons as well. I paid much less attention to what was being said by the teachers. I didn’t even have the energy to continue the assignment for the vase making lesson. There was a tense air between all of us, even my other classmates, as they all knew about M’s outburst. Hans didn’t feel like making jokes in class any more. That smug shithead Ab didn’t even talk, which was a first. So yeah, in general, we were all a bit fed up.

That all culminated on the third day that changed everything. It was Azzy’s turn to teach us that day, and we were enjoying his classes. Once we had gotten a handle on his language exams and could properly improve our conversational skills, we felt pretty confident in our abilities to speak the human tongue. Having human students to interact with this time, now we fully understood them, made it better. This one would’ve been a simple prep lesson, and despite everything, we were looking forward to this one.

Key word being ‘were’. As soon as Azzy walked in, slamming the door behind him, the atmosphere in the room changed. He scowled at the chalkboard in front of him, then turned to a blank space where M usually would’ve sat. That Marowak liked the pink beanbag for whatever reason, but that was absent from the room. Finally, he crushed a chunk of chalk in his paw, letting the white dust fall to the floor. His expression softened, then he sighed.

I quit,” Azzy said. There was a long pause in the room, broken by whispers from my side and from the humans as well. “If you can get a replacement for this one lesson, then that would be much appreciated. You’ll find the papers on the desk.” He turned to the door, clenching his paw, then finally left.

Okay, I didn’t know what the hell happened there. None of us did. We were too shocked to say anything else. The human students started discussing on their own, debating who should’ve been the substitute teacher for this, but that wasn’t even on my mind then and there. It was still on that blue rabbit.

He was the one that sent me here, and he was quitting. Where would he go? It shouldn’t have gotten to me so much since we weren’t even blood related, but he was my tutor too, and my heart ached for that all the same. Again, I was losing someone that helped shape my childhood, and not only that, someone who was with my family before they moved away from the island. Right, the island. They left it behind to survive, yet before that, they were still in contact. What happened? Why didn’t he do anything? Wait, he did. He wouldn’t have cried if it wasn’t for that.

One of the humans stood up, sifting through the notes Azzy left behind. It seemed like he was about to pick up from where the teacher left off, but that could’ve waited. I needed answers, and fast. I rushed out of there, not even bothering to check with the other student as I power walked through the halls. Heh. Maybe the others thought they could’ve given him the slip with one student already leaving. But I wouldn’t have found Azzy by going in blindly. So, I stopped and tuned into my aura, expecting to see him in the office, but as it turned out, he was in the battle room. It was completely unoccupied by anyone else, so that was the perfect place to ask him. I didn’t waste any time.

Droplets of water sprayed my face as I entered. Azzy yelped as he shot another water jet at a wall. He shot a few more from his mouth, then, finished with a Hydro Pump, unleashing a torrent at the edge of the arena that splashed everywhere, forming a large puddle at his feet. After that, he stopped to catch his breath, blowing out huge gasps of air. I just stood there, trying to figure out what to say to get him out of that state. The only thing his aura said was a constant string of thoughts that screamed DAMN IT DAMN IT DAMN IT. So that made me step in for real. Screw waiting around patiently.

“Teach,” I said. That didn’t get much of a reaction out of him. “Hey, teach!” I raised my voice, trying to get his attention that time. He still didn’t turn, but he grimaced then. That was something, at least.

“C-Curio,” he said. “You should be back in class.”

“What’s goin’ on?” I approached, stepping into the cool water. Even though I was a bit taller than him, he still had that commanding air about him. I waited that time, letting him get it out at his own pace. He didn’t answer. So, I pressed again. “Why’re you quitting?”

He sighed. “I-I just can’t stay here. Not what after happened to Shine and M. I just wanted to teach, not get wrapped up in this. After everything that’s been going on, I don’t know if—” he cut himself off and cleared his throat, sloshing through the water with his paw. “GeL’s heart is in the right place. I know, but they screwed up here. This wasn’t ethical.”

I thought it was Bolt who was mostly responsible, but with what they said about M not belonging here, I couldn’t brush that aside either. If I was taken somewhere I wasn’t supposed to be, then I would’ve been pretty confused too. But I came here of my own free will. They offered me the choice. They couldn’t have been that bad. I wanted to check his aura just to make sure. Not here, not now, have to keep it inside.

“Now, if you’ll excuse me, I need to talk to my partner Mack. Didn’t mean to get you all soaked.”

Azzy stepped out of the puddle, leaving wet pawprints in his tracks. Yet, I stayed. “Teach, stop. There’s somethin’ else, isn’t there?”

He took a few deep breaths, in and out, in and out. She doesn’t need to know. “Nothing.”

“Don’t lie to me!” I stomped a paw, splashing a bit of water nearby. “She doesn’t need to know, what the hell does that mean?! Tell me!”

“W-what?” He held a paw to his mouth. “Was I really—?”

“Too late.” I stomped on over to him, peering above him. “Teach, I hate seeing you like this. Tell me now.”

His lip quivered for a little bit, then firmed up. He sniffed once, then fell to his knees, holding back tears.

“They lied to you.”


“Yes!” he shouted, tugging at his long ears. “Back then, what I’ve been meaning to say all this time—” he shook his head— “they could’ve done something about your family!”

I said nothing and let him continue.

“They could’ve done anything! They knew winter would’ve struck, so they could’ve stepped in! Given their phone number for them to call! Your family’s smart, they could’ve called that themselves if they moved into the city! We had the means of transport as well! We could’ve taken them to you, to visit or to live with you! I’m sure they would’ve loved that, but-but—”

He grit his teeth and punched the floor, the force of which echoed in that big hall. That made me jump. Then, after that, silence. That threw me for a loop. It was like, what? What the hell? I tried to convince myself he heard differently, that he was wrong about that. Yet my hopes were dashed with this:

“They said, ‘oh, we shouldn’t meddle’, but look what happened to M! What in god’s name was he doing here?! If they got involved there, why didn’t they do the same for you? Why’d they put you through that much stress? I just, I just— I-I do understand, but—” he scratched his head. “Dammit all!”

Now would’ve been a good time to say what the hell. Or what the ****, even. What. The. ****.

(Wait, so they did lie about that?)

No duh, genius. Look, I don’t wanna dwell on this that much. Whatever I think of ‘em for doing that now doesn’t matter. Let’s put that aside and just focus on how I felt back then.

This wasn’t happening. Again, it was nothing to do with them dying or anything too catastrophic. That’s what I tried to tell myself. Then, why the hell was my chest so tight? My throat so dry? My paws shaking so much? My heart didn’t lie. So, then what? Just tell them what I found out? What would happen if I did? Would they threaten me? Was this the point where they’d drop the facade? I didn’t want that. I had my safe zone, the place where I got to chat with my classmates and sculpt stuff. Right, sculpt stuff. I needed something, anything to take my mind off things. I walked on my own, almost like sleepwalking, oblivious to what Azzy said. I think he was trying to get me back, and even heard him follow after me. I didn’t see anything. It was a bit of a blur, the walk from the arena to the workshop.

There were all those tools they bought. All the clay they ordered. And in the middle of it all was my attempted recreation of Ellie’s vase. It was jagged, but at least it resembled something of that shape. Azzy tugged my paw.

“Curio…” He said nothing else. I didn’t either. After a short moment, he bolted out of the room, leaving in a panic. I didn’t care. I stared at the hardened lump of clay. Or rather, stone, since the clay was cast into a different form. I made that. GeL allowed me to make that. They valued my freedom and let me explore what I probably never would’ve out there. I didn’t feel like it was right for me though. All the work building up to it and I didn’t find it expressive at all. I couldn’t communicate what I could’ve done on a sketchbook like before. That was what they expected of me though, to be a Pokemon with skills other than battling. Could I even live up to that if what I was making was crap I didn’t care about?

Dammit, I’m rambling. Sorry, I need another swig.

(That’s fine.)

Okay then, back to earlier. Why was I thinking about that? No, I was trying to distract myself from what Azzy said, anything to try and make sense of what he told me. They cut me off from my family. The staff. That meant that Gardevoir. That meant that human director. And that meant Rhode, my other tutor. I could’ve trusted him before, and yet, he must’ve known about my family. Why would they stop me from being with them? Even though it wasn’t exactly happy back there, I was still with them. They took that away from me.

They took it all.

I wasn’t the same Pokemon as I was when I left the island. Everything I had back there was gone, and with Azzy going as well, it was all crumbling before me. Something built up inside me, though I wasn’t sure what it was, like complete darkness oozing through my veins. My paws shook violently then. I wanted to smash something.

That’s when she entered: that Gardevoir Lucy. She stood by the doorframe, eyes widened. She was there. She was the cause of all of this. M snapping. Shine getting mistreated. Me getting torn apart from my family. I just stared at her, holding my spiked paws behind my back. If I didn’t stop myself, I was sure I was going to snap too.

“Curio, Azzy sai—”

“Shut up.” I knew I was gonna get in trouble for that, but I was so totally done at that point. “Yeah, Azzy told me. He knew my family had to move away somehow. Yet you did nothing.” I took a deep breath, tightening my fists. “So, you were lyin’ to me all this time?”

Lucy bit her lip, tugging at one of the seams on her dress. She kept her eyes on me, but I sensed she wanted to look away. “I-I’m sorry.”

“Sorry? You’re sorry, huh?” Then, snap. I grabbed the vase and threw it at the wall, shattering into pieces. That crashing sound filled the room. “Sorry ain’t enough! I still coulda been with my family if it wasn’t for you! You think I’m gonna forgive you after that?!”

“No, I-I understand, but—“

“What about my friend Shine, huh? You coulda done something about M, but you let him get away with it til the end! You think I wanna stay here after all this? No!” I rushed to the door as Lucy stood still, blocking the exit. She was calm and collected once more.

“Get out of the way,” I said.

“Curio, please, listen to—”

“Get out!” I threw a punch at her, which she dodged, levitating to the side. It was unblocked now. There was nothing stopping me. I ran through the halls, ignoring everyone else. Something whooshed behind me.

“Please, hear me out, please—”

I ran faster, heading for the stairwell. One by one, I ascended each floor. Second. First. Ground floor. I stopped to catch my breath, listening out for what was below me. Footsteps echoed beneath. Crap, I had to run, not even thinking about who it was. I reached for the doorknob, pressing it down with all my force. It wouldn’t budge.

Footsteps were getting louder. No, this wasn’t happening, why couldn’t I get out? I spotted something like a card reader on the left and recognised it from all the shows I watched. I was locked in. But I had to get out anyway. So I pounded at the door with my metal fists. It still wouldn’t budge, and the door itself was pure metal.

Louder and louder still. There had to be a way to warp it, right? Find some chink in the armour that would lead to my escape, right? Wait, what about aura? Was there any way to create a blast, or anything, that could force it open? I placed my paws on the hinge and focused, channelling all of my energy into that.

“Hey, lass.”

Rhode snapped me out of my deep focus, but with the aura still coursing through me, I turned to him, aiming a charged paw at his head. There was plenty I could’ve said then. I could’ve shouted at him, I could’ve swore at him, I could’ve said anything to express how bad the whole thing felt. Yet, I couldn’t even bring myself to do that right away, but I still had to be on my best guard. He was the teacher, if I could’ve even called him that any more, who had the upper hand here. And he was in front of the stairs too, blocking my way back. Any inch I gave him would’ve meant the end for me.

“Stay away.”

“Okay, okay.” He held his paws up, relenting. That still wasn’t enough to convince me. “Listen, Curio, we need to talk. Just you and me.”

“Not in the mood. Get me out.”

“Please…” His eyes were wide, practically begging at that point. “Look, lass, we’re sorry. We really are. And I know the pain yer goin’ through.”

“Then why?!” That got me to shout at last as I bashed my other paw against the metal frame. “You must’a known they weren’t gonna call my family anymore. B-but, you’re a Lucario too! Why didn’t you stop them?!”

“I—” He clenched his teeth. It didn’t take someone with aura to know he was struggling too. “We—” he sighed— “it wasn’t an easy choice. We tried. Anythin’. We argued about it for days on end. We know it would’ve been tricky for you if something had ‘appened.”

“B-but, you chose, didn’t you? You went along with it anyway!”

“Y-yeh, but—”

“SHUT UP!” I was full-on fuming at that point. “I-I can’t trust you! Can’t, can’t breathe... Just let me out!”

“Curio…” He stepped forward, outstretching his arms. That was it. I blasted my aura at his belly, and this time, it was a big one. All of my stored energy burst in front of us, knocking me back to the wall, and knocking him elsewhere. My head spun for a bit. Not exactly what I expected to happened, not that I cared. When I came to my senses, though, Rhode was struggling to pick himself up, having been blasted down a flight of stairs. He spat once, then stood up and ran.

Round two. I tried to charge a sphere again, but this time, he succeeded, grabbing me gently. I have to stress the gently part. But in my state, I couldn’t tell the difference between that and him overpowering me, so I thrashed about, desperate for him to stop. He just held me tighter. At that point, I was just bashing my fists against him, not caring where I hit, just how I hit.

“H-hey, calm dow—”

Shk. My spike planted itself into something rough, like a pair of scissors poking through a sheet of card. He groaned. It smelled of iron. I looked down. It was in Rhode’s side.

The spike was in his side. Not deep enough to create a huge hole in him, but it had pierced through the t-shirt and his skin, drawing blood as it spread across the fabric. Quite a bit of it. When I drew it back in shock, some of it spurted out.

What emotion was I going through at the time? I don’t know. I was too caught up in everything else to soak it in at first. But what would Rhode, my tutor, do next? Fight back? Kill me? He could’ve retaliated and that would’ve been the end of it. I probably had it coming too. But no.

He pulled me in closer and hugged me. You know, wrapping his arms around me, softly patting my back. He whispered: “Alright, alright, lass.” Several times, in fact, like a lullaby. I breathed in and out, in and out, trying to hold it together. No, I couldn’t have given myself up to him. But that hug; it had been so long since I felt it from my own kind. That was what broke me in the end.

I fell to my knees, sobbing, while he joined me with tears of his own. There were lots of explanations that were long overdue. No chance of letting all of that slide by and just pretending it never happened. But then, what were GeL doing? Why would they even care about me at all if they wanted to put me through this trouble? That still went unanswered as well. It was terrifying, to be honest. There were the cause of all of it. Yet Rhode was still there for me.

“I-I’m sorry…” I cooed. “Sorry. Sorry. Sorry.”

“Nah, don’t worry. En’t a significant wound.” There was no ill-will in his voice at all. It would’ve been a comfort if that guilt still didn’t linger on.

More footsteps came. Softer, this time, with what sounded like two pairs coming up. I didn’t even care if they took me away at that point; I was that mentally exhausted. I glanced away from my tutor to see Henry, Reggie and Lucy, the Machamp, Medicham and Gardevoir, in front of us. They looked just as apologetic as Rhode did.

“H-hey, listen,” Rhode croaked as he turned around, “don’t get her into trouble, ‘ere. She’s overwhelmed enough as it is.”

Lucy covered her mouth, clearly surprised by the wound in his stomach. “R-Reggie? Can you take—”

“No need.” Rhode waved his paw. “We can do that later. Just get some bandages for now, or anything. I’ll be fine.”

Reggie sighed. “Alright, mon. Don’t get hurt no more, y’hear?”

While he went off on his own, Henry and Lucy lowered themselves, letting Rhode fall back in their arms. They both glanced at me, still maintaining their soft composure. Lucy started first, about to say something, but stopping herself at the last minute. She took another look at me, and I sniffled, rubbing the tears away.

“I’ll be straight with you,” she said, “I won’t try to force you into anything, Curio. If you don’t find GeL’s the place for you any more and want to leave, that’s fine. We’ll do everything we can to try and find somewhere more fitting.”

“B-but, I don’t get it!” I yelled, not even out of anger any more. “I, you, you don’t seem bad, but, but…”

Lucy took a deep breath, rubbing her temple. “Anyone’s capable of making terrible decisions, good or bad, including us.” She touched the red growth on her chest next. “Taking responsibility for that and making sure we fix it is what matters next.”

I just stared at her. So she admitted it, but that didn’t make it any better.

“But in any case, if you wish to leave GeL, the option is there. Isn’t that right, you two?”

“Yeah,” Rhode said, holding his wound, “no point in makin’ you suffer ‘ere.”

“Mmm hmm,” Henry said, “same goes for everyone else here.”

I sniffled again and took a deep breath, weighing my options. Yes, I would’ve left if it wasn’t for that door, but I had calmed down since then. What did I want? I felt betrayed and needed answers, fast, otherwise it would just be back to square one again.

“We can tell you if you wanna know,” Rhode said. “I bet we owe ya a few things, ‘specially what our deal is.”

“Yes!” I said, ignoring the fact he just read my mind. “I wanna know everything!”

“Then,” Lucy said, “we’ll let you talk to Cartwright. You know, the director here?”

From what little humour I found in this situation, I couldn’t help but stick my tongue out. “Duh.”

“Okay,” she said with a smirk, “but now you’ve matured a little and have improved your human speech, I feel you’re ready. Again, if you want to back out, then just say the word and we’ll stop it. However, we would at least like you to lend an ear and let us explain. How does that sound?”

She extended her leafy hand, which I stared at for a while. They were being civil, at least, though a pawshake still wouldn’t have resolved things. I stood up, but decided not to shake it.

Before we made our way there, Reggie applied the bandages to Rhode as promised, and he seemed back to speed, even if it didn’t look fully patched up. There was a slight shade of red staining the white gauze. I couldn’t stop staring at the wound and my own paw, which still had blood on it.

“H-hey, teach,” I said. “Still sorry about, er, about… you know what.”

“Don’t stress your wee head about it,” he said with a chuckle. “Think of it as my own punishment. Just be more careful from now on, won’t you?”

I slowly nodded in reply.

“I’ll clean that up, yeah?” Reggie said, pointing to my bloodied paw with some wipes. That was taken care of, at least. The rest from there, well, I went downstairs with the rest of the group, silently taking it all in. The first floor, then the second floor, then through the door that led to the research department. At least, that’s what they called it upon entering. All it really led to was another corridor with a few rooms. Unlike the downstairs parts, which had all sorts of flowery and colourful designs, this one was pretty much pure white walls, with lots of notice boards and papers pinned onto them Very riveting. But that’s not what I focused on; I honed my aura in on the people inside of it. Now, I can only really guess what the other people there were doing, since I only saw their activities from the outside.

The researchers were hunched over their desks, typing away on the computers, talking to each other, and otherwise, goofing off. One threw a paper plane across the room. Another one was petting their own Pokemon: an unremarkable Eevee, because of course, they were popular. While I heard something about this upper level during my studies at some point, it was the first time seeing it in person. Though I was about to ask why they brought other Pokemon with them that weren’t a part of GeL, that thought didn’t linger on as Lucy pointed me to the very end of the corridor: a wooden door leading to what I detected was Cartwright’s room.

I stopped walking as my heart skipped a beat. Yeah, this sounds silly. I met the guy before, right? Yet, I’d never actually talked to him before, and since I didn’t know what his intentions were, that made it all the more nerve-racking when I was finally given the choice.

“Hey,” Rhode said, tapping my shoulder. He looked to the side first, scratching his chin, then turned back. “Whatever choices we made, we all ‘ad to run through him first. I dun’t want to say anythin’ against him, but if ya must… If you need to talk to ‘im about your family--”

“I get it,” I said. We left it at that, since we’d soon find out what to make of this all later. So, we stepped through the corridors, with my heart beating all the way through. No, I had to be real with myself. I wasn’t in danger. Or at least, I thought I wasn’t. Then why weren’t they attacking now? Still, I had to block out those other thoughts, or else I wouldn’t have found out anything. Lucy hovered in front and opened the door, letting us all in one by one. Rhode. Reggie. Henry. And finally, me.

Well, I didn’t know what I expected a chairman’s office, from what I saw of the wider world in those shows. Maybe something extravagant, like a study with polished wooden bookcases, lush furniture, regal colours and all that. Maybe the head honcho in the middle was petting a Persian like in that show, surrounded by all sorts of luxuries. But nope, the rest of it pretty much looked like a manager’s office, though there were plaques on the walls with certain awards. One read ‘Excellence in Pharmacology’. There were also pictures of a younger him with the staffed Pokemon in their previous forms, even down to a Riolu wearing a top that was clearly oversized. But anyway, that’s not the point. The man himself stood out the most. His grey, balding hair. His wrinkles that made his face look like a raisin. The rest of his rather frail frame. Once we all entered the room, closing the door behind us, the director looked up from the paperwork and a smile spread across his dry lips.

“Why hello, Curio,” he said, shakily raised his hand up. “It’s nice to be able to chat together at last.”

I said nothing, still forming my own opinions of the guy. So he was the director behind this project, along with the four main staff members, from what I gathered. Then, what was his connection with them? Well, Cartwright noticed Rhode’s wound not long after and frowned.

“Reggie told me you had an accident,” he said.

Yeh.” Rhode rubbed his head. “En’t nothin’, Wrighty.”

“Well, please take care of yourself, my boy.” A slight chuckle escaped his lips. “Wouldn’t want you to bite the dust after coming all this way, now would we?”

Shaddup, yeh old stinker.” Rhode returned a chuckle of his own, and everyone else smiled. Something about the way they talked, well, I put two and two together and applied it to the rest. That was the first time I stepped up, standing alongside the rest as we were on the other end of his desk.

Are you…” I struggled to find the right words for it at first, then just went with my gut. “Are you all his Pokemon?”

Uh huh,” Henry said, crossing both pairs of arms. “Not that it changes who we are that much.”

We all came from many different backgrounds throughout Wright’s life,” Lucy said, “but here we are together.

Sorry, I’m not—” I didn’t want to say I didn’t care, but I had to get my raw thoughts out of the way now I had the power to talk about it. I stepped forward, going to Cartwright, face to face. “I feel let down, mister, er, what to call you?”

“Wright is fine; no need to be so formal.” He sighed, rubbing his pruned hands. “And yes, I imagine you would have a bone to pick with me. Or a few bones.”

That didn’t make anything better or worse. “So, you knew? About my family? About M? About Shine?”

“Well, yes and no.” He tented his fingers. “Of what we did know, we had to make extremely difficult choices. Of what we didn’t, well…” He frowned. “I regret not solving the problem sooner. I have nothing but sympathy for Shine and M. But I don’t want to make excuses, that wouldn’t be fair to you or the rest of my team here.” He straightened his back and returned to a confident gaze. “If there’s anything you want to know, we’ll try to answer the best we can here. I just ask that you take a seat there.”

So he didn’t want to fight and seemed to be open about the whole thing. Well, fight as in, you know, argue. I wouldn’t have just beaten up an old geezer like that. The couch looked comfy, at least. So, I sat down, a bit further away from the director, but still in spitting distance. For lack of anything better to do, I made myself comfortable.

Cup of tea, Curio? Wright?” Lucy asked, looking to the portable kettle. I just nodded in reply.

“Yes please,” Wright said. So, the stage was set. The rest of the staff sat beside me, save for Lucy, who floated beside her master. Something about this seemed weird; a bit too relaxed, to be honest. I sipped the hot Pecha tea, which soothed my hoarse throat.

“What’s on your mind first?” he asked. I took a deep breath, sifting through all the problems at the moment and breaking them down to the most pressing issues.

Why… my family?” The words burned like hot coals on my tongue. “You… knew what they meant to me. They got me here. I was happy, calling them. You didn’t let them see me. You didn’t help them. Why?”

Cartwright took a sip of his own mug and sighed. “Again, that was a tough decision all of us made. None of us truly wanted to drive you away from them, but, well, let me explain. Do you recall what Azzy most likely told your family, that we can’t give away their location, but can visit theirs?”

Yeah, kinda.”

“Well, that was the biggest reason why we didn’t chase them up.” Another sigh. “Every person here, including us, is barred from revealing GeL to the public. We had to hide our tracks to get Azzy to your family in the first place. We made sure any calls coming in would be untraceable, and come from our own network, instead of an outside source. That was why we couldn’t give them our phone numbers, so they wouldn’t call from something that could be monitored.”

Meaning? I don’t understand a few words, or network stuff.”

“Alright, I apologise. To put it simply, every phone call made gets heard by Sinnoh’s government, or the people that look after this region, because of a rule. We had to make our own program, so we could hide any information we talk about over the phone without being heard.”

Like the programs P.Z. talks about?”

Yeah,” Henry said with a yawn, “well, I told him, since he’s dealin’ with computers and such.”

W-wait—” I put the mug down on the floor— “how much does everyone else know?”

Well, the human students and researchers all know,” Lucy said, “and we told all of the domestic Pokemon about it since they would’ve learnt enough about the world beforehand.”

You left me and my family out then.” I held my paws together, growing more on-edge by the minute.

Not quite. We discussed this with your family over our phone network, and they knew the risks involved.”

What risks?!” I stood up, bashing my paws on Wright’s table. “That doesn’t make sense! This place is a school, ain’t it? What’s there to hide if you aren’t doing something bad?”

“That’s what I’ve been asking for many years.” Cartwright wrung his hands over his face, rubbing that soft skin of his. “I tried to make a difference out there. I wanted people to realise there was more to sticking Pokemon in the wild or pairing them with trainers for the rest of their life. And they made enemies out of me.” Yet another sigh. “This world is full of idiots.”

I quietly sat back down, letting it digest. Now, that brought about even more questions, more than I was hoping for. My head hurt; I just hoped we’d get this over and done with soon.

What idiots?”

Cartwright sighed, leafing through some of the documents on his desk. “I wouldn’t want to bore you with too many details, but you’ve learnt enough in class to know why the trainer system was put into effect. To control Pokemon and stop them from going berserk with their powers. They didn’t have the intelligence back then, unlike you all. They were considered little more than animals.”

That, we learnt bits and pieces about too. I don’t think it needs explaining.

“Then, things changed. You Pokemon changed along with the humans. The museum you visited not too long ago is proof enough of that, if you remember.”

I nodded.

“Why Pokemon are adapting so fast, we don’t know. It’s still a known unknown. But despite this change in recent years, with evidence to prove it, it still isn’t common knowledge. And one root cause of that is those idiots here.”

Finally, he tossed a newspaper clipping to my side of the table, with the headline: ‘Trainer Foundation, 200 Years Strong.’ The picture featured a bunch of suits lined up in a meeting hall, looking very important. The director pointed to the figure in the middle: a bearded man who looked just as old as Cartwright was, except with more hair, and waved his hand at the camera, smiling.

“This is Heathcliffe Brooks, Prime Minister of Sinnoh, and one that controls all efforts towards trainer relief, facilities, gyms, and funding the current programme responsible for this generation of trainers. His family has done the same for many generations.”

Feh,” Rhode said, picking his ears, “is this gonna be another one of your rants about him?”

“I will curb my tongue for now, though I do have select words for him.”

Uh...” I found this a lot to take in, though again, I had a vague idea of what those suits were supposed to be doing to run the country. “What’s so bad about him? I mean, he cares about trainers… and stuff.”

“Don’t be mistaken; the trainer system on its own isn’t bad. With the right tools, it can help certain Pokemon reach that potential as well. But there needs to be a middle ground. No matter what the man’s motives are, he’s one of the reasons why this region hasn’t progressed.” He smacked his palm on the spot where Heathcliffe’s frame was. “He’s run campaigns to shut down the opposition: the Pokemon Coalition. They’re the ones that try to improve the welfare of Pokemon. The media’s under his thumb in Sinnoh, and that extends to other regions: Kanto, Johto, Hoenn, all part of the same package. Anyone that tries to prove that Pokemon are different to what his reality of the trainer system is like, he twists the narrative around and makes up his own version of the events.” To make a point of this, he scrunched up the newspaper in his hands, crumpling it into a ball. “And he has the support to back it up, mostly from the old blood of the trainer system descended from generations of forefathers.”

He’d ruin us,” Rhode snarled, gritting his teeth. “He’d shut us down and destroy our research.”

“Yes.” Wright turned his hand upside down and let the ball of paper fall onto the desk. “And that ruthlessness is why he’s won every election in his reign thus far.”

To be honest, a lot of this was going over my head. Some of it still does. Still, I got the gist of what he was saying, so the root of it all came back to why he opened up GeL to begin with.

Is this all you want? To teach us?”

“Yes, that’s all I wanted.” Wright took another sip before continuing. “The government, not just in Sinnoh, but worldwide, forbids any unauthorized educational institute to be run. Because this is a school for you Pokemon, this doesn’t fall within their ruleset. They wouldn’t pay for us to run it since they consider it a waste of time and resources, so we had to finance it ourselves and keep it unregistered, which breaks the law. Therefore, we can’t reveal anything that goes on here, else they’ll stop us.”

Even though we’re smart enough to learn stuff like that?”


Well, that sucks.” I held my chin in my paws. “...and what would happen to us Pokemon if we got caught?”

“Nothing, I’d make sure of that.” Wright uncrumpled the newspaper and peered at the photo with a wistfulness to his eyes. “For everything he’s done, Heathcliffe is not evil. He wouldn’t harm anyone, at least, not physically.”

How do you know?”

“I just do. I know… him.” He took a deep breath before putting the newspaper back on his pile. “But that’s for another time.” A warm smile spread across his features. “No matter what, I will fight for your right to learn and your safety to the bitter end. Even if what we’re doing is against the law, you Pokemon deserve a chance to thrive here.”

But Shine and M and—”

“We’re still finding out about those two. But if it will put your worries to rest, we’re firing Bolt, and sending him off with M, who will be put in a better place for his kind. There are wild rehabilitation centres with rangers and trainers who are more qualified for dealing with him. As for our mistake, all we wanted was to give him the same chances as everyone else.” He grumbled. “We either didn’t try hard enough or realised too late that this wouldn’t help him. He—”

Alright, alright, time out.” I grabbed the mug and took a swig of the lukewarm tea. Bleh. I put it to the side, never to drink it again, but that calmed my nerves at least. I held my head in my paws; I needed to go through everything I found out, or else lose my mind. I wasn’t even that crazy about the M stuff at this point; he just seemed to snap, and Shine was in the wrong place at the wrong time. So that, I could deal with later, but I couldn’t have let the other parts slide.

So, GeL, Gestalt Learning, had to hide themselves away, and because of that, they couldn’t have kept in contact with my family after they left. My own blood knew this, apparently, though that was news to me. Why didn’t they say anything at the time, to me or on the tape? It all seemed to be for a good reason, but then, why was Azzy so mad? How much did everyone else know? And how did they hide themselves anyway, if it was apparently so secret?

Don’t you think we should take Curio to security, aye?” Rhode said, standing up and stretching his arms. “She can see what we’re talkin’ about, then.”

“Absolutely.” Wright reached out for his cane and slowly got to his feet. “Would you mind, Curio?”

Again, if it’s too much, just say the word,” Lucy said.

N-nah. I’m fine. J-just confused, is all. I’ll go.

“Alright, thank you. Now, I’m afraid I’m a slow walker.” Wright hummed to himself. “Unless, Henry…”

Say no more, mate.” Okay, so Henry picked him up, balancing him on all four arms like he had formed a seat, and headed for the door. That happened. Aside from everything else that was going on at the time, I wasn’t expecting a Machamp to just pick him up like he was carrying a box or something, but there we had it. I can’t say the trip to the security room was much to write home about, though seeing Henry carrying the director up the staircase was fun. It brought us to yet another corridor, but the other rooms were apparently for computer suites, offices for the maintenance staff, and such. The control room itself was also filled with computers, except it had a big wall of monitors in the middle, and two chairs where another human sat. Henry put his boss down and joined the human, who fist-bumped him.

Found anythin’ since I left?” Henry asked, while the other human scratched his head.

“Aside from a few wild Geodude, nada. Same crap, different day.”

“That doesn’t make your jobs any less important, you two.” Wright pointed at them with his cane. “Now, do you mind pointing this young lady to the cameras so she can see what’s going on?”

Y-young lady?” I whispered, a bit confused. I don’t think anyone had ever called me that before, up until that point. Not that I knew what a young lady would be in Pokemon years, but we’re getting off track. I did what they said and looked at the dang monitors. Well, I didn’t right away, since I peeked at Henry’s desk. He had a laptop of his own, some spare computer parts scattered about the surface, as well as a stack of wrestling DVDs and a Hawlucha mask. Huh, so that must’ve been what Bran was talking about. But they certainly gave their staff a lot of freedom, or at least something to do.

Take a look, then,” Henry prodded. So I focused on the task at hand and looked to where he was pointing to. There seemed to be nothing but rocky terrain, at first, with a dull orange tinting the screen. Once I took a good look at it, though, I saw a small building, like a hallway, camouflaged by its surroundings. I thought the facility was supposed to be massive, but then, what was this doing here?

That’s only the entrance. The rest is underground, y’see?”

All I could say to that was ‘huh’. Then he clicked a few more times, panning the camera to a few other spots of the facility. There was a stack of chimneys, which he explained was coming from the kitchen and the boiler. Then there was a set of windows, circling around something.

And that’s what leads into the arena.”


Yeah, really.” Henry swivelled around, smirking at his trainer. “What did we build this facility from again?”

“An old Pokeball factory. Everything was cleaned out by the time we found it, however. It—”

Okay, I get it,” I said. I didn’t really need convincing from there. Well, I kind of did. The fact they hid that stuff from me was still a red flag. But from there, I only had one burning question, all of which pinned everything together. I looked Wright straight in his sunken eyes and took a deep breath. “What are you planning with all of this? I know you want to teach us Pokemon in the end, but why go this far? What’s Lexy doing here?”

Cartwright wrung his hands around his cane, softening his gaze at me. “All I want is to show the world there’s another way to training, or at least, help them see like that. Like I’ve said, you’re getting smarter. You’re gaining control of your own lives.” He smiled. “And that’s a wonderful thing.” Then, his smile curdled into a frown. “But, the people who run this region, especially Heathcliffe, try to pretend it’s not happening. I don’t know whether they want to line their pockets from the training industry or are genuinely against Pokemon evolving by principle, but either way, it’s much safer to train. It’s much easier to raise a Pokemon and teach them nothing of the outside world, rather than give them a chance to carve out their own fates.”

He then waved his cane at the whole of the room, moving it like he was tracing a wide circle in the sand. “That’s something I’ve been trying to change. I sacrificed everything for this. I had to sell my pharmaceutical company, cut ties with all my relatives, and drag my own name through the mud, in order to start this project. Lucy, Reggie, Henry and Rhode are just a few Pokemon that’ve helped me make this a reality. This is a massive risk, but if it pays off, we could show the suits that Pokemon are worth educating.”

Rhode nodded. “This world’s a mess. En’t any point in us makin’ it worse by waterboarding you guys.”

I would’ve asked him what waterboarding meant, but decided against it.

Yeah, mon,” Reggie said, “We’ll always look out for you, ya dig?”

I ain’t bustin’ my ass every day on security for nothing,” Henry said.

And I wouldn’t help organise the lessons and direct everyone here if I didn’t believe in it.” Lucy said.

“Well said, everyone. And the human students here too make this a reality. Lexy’s scholarship here, along with the other students, and the research the rest of my staff are doing, will all contribute to this field. They’ll be shared with the social scientists that shape the region’s history, making signs of progress inalienable. Better than what they try to push in mainstream academia. So everyone here, including you, contributes to make the world a better place.”

Cartwright shambled towards me, doing his best to walk by himself on that cane of his. When Lucy offered to help, he held his hand out and trotted the rest of the way, eventually dropping to his knees in front of me. There, I got a good look at him for the first time. His wrinkled face was marked with age, but smooth and friendly as well. That smile radiated positive energy as well. Even his balding head had that old fart charm about him. He didn’t seem like the kind to drown Riolu in sinks or something.

“Please, Curio. If you consider me a threat, then tell me. Rhode reads my aura regularly, but some auras can be biased. If you read into mine, right here and now, then you will find out for certain. If you still wish to leave after that, we will do everything in our power to ease you back into the outside world. But please, do this for me, so you and I can have some peace of mind.”

I closed my eyes, honing in on his aura, which was fully transparent. He kept his secrets of GeL from the outside world kept in little boxes, sure, but his memories and his thoughts were all out in the open for me to peek into. They swirled with some of the lingering thoughts of his past, which I only got little glimpses into, but were enough to glean something from. Several names appeared of the Pokemon that left or passed away for one reason or another, and he cared for all of them, never forgetting them even in his old age.

The main big thought was his concern for me as well as all the other Pokemon in the facility. He always thought about how they were getting on and what he would do to try and meet their wishes. He was also concerned about whether or not the humans found the studies fruitful, but all around, his biggest concern was for the future, and whether or not his actions would pay off in the end. And on top of that, there was a great underpinning of longing. He missed his old university chums. He missed his siblings. He missed his coworkers at the company he used to run. He missed his wife, who had passed away a few years before he started the GeL project. As well as that, a pang of guilt stabbed at his heart from having to leave them all behind, as well as feeling responsible for my struggles as well as M’s and Shine’s.

While I was still reeling from the fight for Shine’s life as well as Azzy’s outburst, I understood he really wanted the best for all of us, really. And from a quick glimpse into everyone else’s auras, they wanted the same as well. So, I nodded, and, either out of comfort or just wanting to ease him up a little, hugged him. He patted my back, which felt strangely father-like for whatever reason. I guess you could’ve called him the patriarch of the facility, but whatever. I could’ve stayed in that embrace forever, but there were certain ends I needed to tie up. I pulled away to make eye contact.

Um, Wright?”

“Yes,” he said.

If my family knew about all of this, then why didn’t they tell me?”

“Again, I apologise. Lucy?” Wright glanced to his Gardevoir, who joined his side.

I visited them personally along with Azzy, once.” Lucy frowned, wringing her leaf-green hands. “It was hard, telling them they couldn’t stay with you at the facility, or even visit. And we tried to go into every reason why we couldn’t, including the information leakage issue. But, well, they said they didn’t mind. They said they didn’t want you to feel tethered to them, and that you were smart enough to make it on your own. And after you went, they wanted to find their own way.”

I took a deep breath, digesting that particular bit of info. Hearing that was a bit tough, to be honest. In a way, it was like being told that your family willingly abandoned you.

Though, if I may be so bold, we tried to help them out in other ways. Your brother seemed to be interested in teaching, so we gave him a few guides on how to approach it. When he learns how to read, I hope that will be a massive help to him.”

Despite that, in my family’s way, I knew the thought of leaving me behind far from the truth. I listened back to that tape until it wore out, so I had memorised it in my head long before. Trunks was inspired by me. If it wasn’t for me going, they probably never would’ve had the courage to leave the island or break free from Liam’s influence. Just for good measure, I checked Lucy’s aura, though she wasn’t lying. Her heartbeat was steady and her thoughts were as clear as crystal, even with the psychic blockage.

So really, from that, I guess my family didn’t want me worrying about them and just get on with what I was doing. But what was I doing, copying some human at making pottery? What good was that adding to the world?

Frankly, after all of that, my head was spinning. All the stuff about the politics of Sinnoh, as well as how GeL and us fit into the bigger picture, was an awful lot to take in. It’s like all of a sudden, I had to carry the weight of the world on my shoulders. And with that, I just felt so… I don’t know, insignificant. The world around me spun for a moment. I was phasing out.

Thankfully, Rhode caught me just before I hit the cold floor. I wasn’t out for the count, just overwhelmed with everything. What I had heard. What I sensed with my aura. That time, I didn’t struggle as Rhode lifted me up, supporting my body with his arms.

“You alright, lass?”

The room went back to normal and everything was still again. So great, I had almost fainted, on top of everything else that was happening. Still, I gathered myself long enough to give him some sort of reply.

“Yeah. S-sorry.” I looked to the rest of the staff that time, including Cartwright the human. “G-guys, I feel kind of crappy.”

Of course,” Lucy said with a curt nod. “Do you want to go back to the base? We’ll help you over there.”

N-no.” I pulled away from Rhode’s grasp, standing on my own two paws again. My knees felt wobbly, but I could still walk. “I dunno. I do wanna go back for now, but, y’know, all of you, I really dunno what to say. You still could’ve eased me into it instead of lettin’ it build up.”

We understand,” Lucy said.

This is insane,” I said, lowering my voice. “Not you guys. Just. I need some space for a bit. Time to think.”

Yeh, o’ course.” Rhode fiddled with one of his bandages. “Sorry, lass. Din’t mean to drag you into all this.”

Not your fault, I don’t think.”

We might need you to talk to M in your own time,” Lucy said, “but just so you can recuperate from this, I will postpone your studies for the time being until you feel ready. You deserve a break after the hard work you’ve been doing.”

I grunted. “Maybe. But has it been that hard of work to do? Just makin’ stuff? I don’t know what the point of it is any more.”

It might come back,” Lucy said with a bow. “But again, the option to opt out is always there.”

“Before you go, Curio,” Cartwright said, cane in hand, “if you do decide to leave, I would like you to ask yourself this: have you enjoyed the time you spent here, and have you learnt something from it? You don’t have to come up with an answer right away, just in your own time. It would be something to think about, in any case.”

It went without saying that I returned to the base, though the events were still a blur. All of that time talking and pouring my heart out was exhausting. Being in that area again, even though the sunlight was the fake and the grass had that weird texture to it, it was still comforting. They really did go all out to make this area accommodating for us wild types. And better yet, that gave me the chance to sit and think.

Needless to say, talking to GeL gave me a new perspective about everything. Almost like I saw into something I shouldn’t have, like peeping through a keyhole, but didn’t think of it as a negative experience. My gut feeling was telling me to go some place else, still in a little state of fight or flight, but my mind was telling me to stay. Where would I go to? Would I trade in this current life for any other? It was too early to decide for sure at that point, especially when my preconceptions about GeL had been blown out of the water.

What would this mean for my future there? One with me and Shine together? One with me and the rest just enjoying those days spent in what should’ve been paradise?

I wasn’t sure things were going to be the same after this. But I also knew for sure that without them, I wouldn’t have had the tools to question them in the first place, and GeL encouraged me to use them. And that was a good thing. I hoped.


Dragon Enthusiast
So, I gave you my commentary for the previous few chapters privately, and for this one, I don’t have a TON that I want to look into for the most part in terms of specifics. Instead, I want to comment briefly that I hope we can revisit M soon, because right now that’s on the forefront of my interests. That might be clouded by the fact that I know what’s going on there as your semi-idea-beta, but I want to see what you do with him. That aside, let’s focus on the main attraction…

Cartwright. The revelation finally comes out, and I know what you were trying to go for here, so I’ll zero in on that. I think you handled most of this spectacularly—the un-reveal that Cartwright really is a good guy, who, like many, missteps in his grand schemes because people and Pokémon are complicated, and not everything can happen so cleanly. That goes double when there are entire organizations out to stop you.

I think the idea that “GeL isn’t this horrible place in secret” was handled very well if you’re worried about disappointing readers. You switched gears very smoothly, with very little dead space where I would have been thinking, “Okay, so what exactly is the point of all that happened, then?” Because now, we have what I think is the first hint at your actual story, and where I think you’re going to be trying to take this going forward: Social revolution!

This is the first time in the story that I can see all of the little bits of information you have sprinkled throughout culminate into what I think is the “true story” you’re trying to tell—one where Pokémon have evolved beyond what they used to be as animals, and are rapidly become more and more ‘human,’ for lack of a better term. And society’s laws have yet to catch up to this dramatic shift in social order. This is a hefty, fantastical idea to play with, and that’s what has me so curious where you’ll take it.

More importantly, though, I feel that within the story’s narrative itself, having Curio be the one to depict or talk about this played against you a little. You fell back on Curio saying she couldn’t wrap her mind around it, which was perfectly understandable… but unfortunately, that very same thing made the impact of this reveal—probably the biggest culmination of all the information up to this point—seem… lesser than it really is. And I don’t think you’ll be able to get the same shocking spark for this reveal again, because the information is already out there. I’m hoping you can find a way to give whatever next big reveal you have the punch it deserves.

Until then, though, I’m glad to see it’s finally out there. Now to see what M has in store, eh?

Chibi Pika

Stay positive
Okay, so this is the chapter where **** gets real. So since this is my last chance, I’m dumping all my thoughts here before I start reading.

So, GeL. It’s been pretty obvious from the start that you’re not doing the typical sinister organization thing here. That said, something bad did happen, as seen in the prologue and, well, the ongoing trauma narrative. I do believe that the stated goal of trying to empower Pokémon in modern society is genuine. And I’m sure that all the staff we’ve seen so far believe in that goal as well, as it’d be really weird and unsatisfying to pull a “psyche, actually we never wanted to help Pokémon!”

But then we’ve got the hints from Black Paint and everything related to Ess, and it seems that the world might be headed toward a Pokémon revolution. An entire facility full of educated Pokémon would be very useful to that end. Now, whether they’re intended to be used in that revolution or whether the facility gets co-opted toward that goal… that remains to be seen.

Incidentally, when Shine first started having trouble with battling class, I was weirded out by the fact that battling class was even required. This is a learning facility, why on earth do they care so much about battling that they’re willing to hold a student in detention for being bad at it? Sure, self-defense is important, but you don’t see martial arts as a required gen ed in human schools. And this was actually something that I was going to complain about… until I realized it might be a clue. Someone sure is interested in seeing that all these capable and intelligent Pokémon are also battle-ready, huh.

So, I think that’s everything that’s jumped out at me plot-wise. Time to get some answers, eh?

I quit,” Azzy said. There was a long pause in the room, broken by whispers from my side and from the humans as well. “If you can get a replacement for this one lesson, then that would be much appreciated. You’ll find the papers on the desk.” He turned to the door, clenching his paw, then finally left.
Hoo boy, so the staff aren’t happy with how things are going, huh. Seeing Azzy this pissed really says something.

“They could’ve done anything! They knew winter would’ve struck, so they could’ve stepped in! Given their phone number for them to call! Your family’s smart, they could’ve called that themselves if they moved into the city! We had the means of transport as well! We could’ve taken them to you, to visit or to live with you! I’m sure they would’ve loved that, but-but—”
Isolating, cutting previous ties, sure would make it easier to redirect them toward a cause, wouldn't it? Again, still not sure if that's specifically what the higher-ups are aiming for, but man, it sure will be convenient for someone later on...

“Yes, that’s all I wanted.” Wright took another sip before continuing. “The government, not just in Sinnoh, but worldwide, forbids any unauthorized educational institute to be run. Because this is a school for you Pokemon, this doesn’t fall within their ruleset. They wouldn’t pay for us to run it since they consider it a waste of time and resources, so we had to finance it ourselves and keep it unregistered, which breaks the law. Therefore, we can’t reveal anything that goes on here, else they’ll stop us.”
See, everything about this sounds fine. It’s understandable that they have to stay off the grid, in their kind of situation, so I can't really fault them for that.

Cartwright wrung his hands around his cane, softening his gaze at me. “All I want is to show the world there’s another way to training, or at least, help them see like that. Like I’ve said, you’re getting smarter. You’re gaining control of your own lives.” He smiled. “And that’s a wonderful thing.” Then, his smile curdled into a frown. “But, the people who run this region, especially Heathcliffe, try to pretend it’s not happening. I don’t know whether they want to line their pockets from the training industry or are genuinely against Pokemon evolving by principle, but either way, it’s much safer to train. It’s much easier to raise a Pokemon and teach them nothing of the outside world, rather than give them a chance to carve out their own fates.”
This all… sounds good. So then… hmm. I guess the facility wasn't intended to be used for a Pokemon revolution after all. I suppose it could still go south by being co-opted for some reason or another. Or discovered by the league and shut down. Re-reading the prologue, you mentioned "grunts." That... definitely seems to lean toward the "facility takeover" angle.

Side note, but I actually think my favorite part of the chapter was when Curio stabbed Rhode and he responded by hugging her. ;-;

So, a lot of places things can go from here. I imagine it will probably be some time before things really go sour, but I'm still interested to see how things will change in the meantime. Especially when Curio sees Shine for the first time after the incident with M! (Who, I should reiterate, is a victim in all of this and I will hear nothing bad about him.)



A Dense Irritating Miniature Beast of Burden
This is the first time in the story that I can see all of the little bits of information you have sprinkled throughout culminate into what I think is the “true story” you’re trying to tell—one where Pokémon have evolved beyond what they used to be as animals, and are rapidly become more and more ‘human,’ for lack of a better term. And society’s laws have yet to catch up to this dramatic shift in social order. This is a hefty, fantastical idea to play with, and that’s what has me so curious where you’ll take it.

Yes, that's what I've been so excited about, building up to this eventual revelation! While I won't spoil too much about the specific routes it will take, that is the general idea I want to lead into.

More importantly, though, I feel that within the story’s narrative itself, having Curio be the one to depict or talk about this played against you a little. You fell back on Curio saying she couldn’t wrap her mind around it, which was perfectly understandable… but unfortunately, that very same thing made the impact of this reveal—probably the biggest culmination of all the information up to this point—seem… lesser than it really is. And I don’t think you’ll be able to get the same shocking spark for this reveal again, because the information is already out there. I’m hoping you can find a way to give whatever next big reveal you have the punch it deserves.

Hmm, again, as we discussed through Discord, it's tricky to think of any other way I could've presented that information, especially since it was a bit of a deliberate anti-climax which would've left the protagonist feeling very unsure about her situation. Still, with the next big reveal, it will be a bit more involved with her, so I hope I can deliver next time.

So, GeL. It’s been pretty obvious from the start that you’re not doing the typical sinister organization thing here. That said, something bad did happen, as seen in the prologue and, well, the ongoing trauma narrative. I do believe that the stated goal of trying to empower Pokémon in modern society is genuine. And I’m sure that all the staff we’ve seen so far believe in that goal as well, as it’d be really weird and unsatisfying to pull a “psyche, actually we never wanted to help Pokémon!”

Yes, it would've been unsatisfying if I went that direction. With the sinister organization stuff, with everything the fic was building up to, there wouldn't have been any pathos if they were the evil ones all along. What's more tragic, dooming innocent Pokemon to an evil lab to be experimented on, or having that organization be genuine in their goals, only for it to all go downhill later on? Again, I won't spoil the specifics, but a lot of this has been about putting certain pieces of the puzzle into place.

Side note, but I actually think my favorite part of the chapter was when Curio stabbed Rhode and he responded by hugging her. ;-;

"This is like one of my Japanese animes!"


A Dense Irritating Miniature Beast of Burden
Chapter 36: Flowers for Ca(m)ellia

Content Warning: References to suicide, depictions of abuse, death and trauma.


Curio stopped, taking another swig of a half-empty bottle. Tony clicked the camera off for now, getting up to stretch his legs, and of course, pet Shine. While his ears were being scratched, Shine considered what Curio said, confirming it in his head. He had always known GeL were on the level, but then, how did that explain everything else? Surely, that alone couldn’t have been enough to block his memories?

“You know,” Tony said, turning to Curio, “when you said you enjoyed your time there, I was a little sceptical. But now I’ve heard what you did there, and know what GeL set out to do for certain, I believe you now.”

“Eshhic!” She made a noise somewhere halfway between a hiccup and a sneeze before continuing. “Yeah, wasn’t trying to screw with you or anythin’. I meant what I said.”

“You still didn’t seem fully convinced there.”

Sure I wasn’t. And I’m sure other peeps wouldn’t be either. But really, I never said it was all black and white. Not like the games, if you know what I mean.” She sighed, drumming her metallic fingers on her lap. “You expect everythin’ to be about good guys or bad guys as a kid. But people are people, really, is what I’ve learned becoming an adult mon. They can be both, or neither, I dunno. It’s all a confusing mess, but I guess that’s what life is.”

“Of course.”

But, eh—“ she glanced at Shine— “I ain’t got all day, so we might as well wrap up that screwed up year.” She hiccuped again, putting a paw to her mouth. “Sorry, I’m not drunk. I will be if I wanna get through this next part, though, trust me.” A sip that time. “So I bet you wanna know what happened to M after all that. Nearly killing someone isn’t exactly something you can bounce back from.”

Tony grimaced, looking to Shine. “Of course not.”

But, well, if you stick around for his story… eh, whatever, you’ll make up your mind once you hear it.”

(Yes, what became of M?)

Okay, so where was I the day he was sent away for good? No, actually, where was he? I was the one who went to visit him in the end. But let me set the scene again.

Since what happened with GeL and all that, I had taken a few days off to find my bearings again. For once, it was nice to kick back and relax in the midst of my studies, but that meant everyone else who would’ve been present in the base were in the middle of their own lessons. So there was pretty much nobody in my own area during the daytime, which left me alone with my thoughts. Thoughts about the rest of the world. Thoughts about GeL and their mission. Thoughts of what I learned. Thoughts of M stabbing…

Oh, screw this. While I wasn’t ready to get back to work, doing nothing as those ideas swirled in my head started to weigh down on me. So, what to do? Talking to someone else was my first thought, but who? All of the other Pokemon were probably busy with their own lessons, and not just that, but the humans were probably doing their own thing too. Who knows where Azzy and Mack were, if they hadn’t left already. Then how else could I have occupied my time while I waited for Shine?

The library. Me and him had spent a few times browsing the archives there, mostly for books on our own subjects, but I remembered there were also films listed in its own section on the screen. I had wanted to check them out for a while, since I loved watching the Pokemon anime in our lessons and wanted more of it, but didn’t have the time to really look through it. Now I did, I needed an excuse to start.

It just started with looking for the Pokemon series, and then, seeing recommendations on the screen for lots of other stuff, including other animated films. Those were the ones I liked the look of the most, since they had a different style, not like the big-eyed ones I usually saw in the anime. The first one I rented was actually a stop-motion feature about a family of walking Hippopotas trying to stop Deoxys’ meteorite from destroying their house. They had booths in the library I could watch stuff on, so I sat there, watching as I saw the figurines come to life. There was something about the way they moved as well as the world built around the sets that I really liked, and they felt real to me even though they obviously weren’t. So I kept watching, looking for DVDs like that, and there were a lot of things that caught my eye. Something about a Rotom trapped in a TV that wanted to become real. Not much I remembered about the story, but just the way it moved got those gears spinning.

Okay, you get the point. As much as I could talk about this for ages, I have to stop somewhere. Basically, it didn’t take long for me to become a reel junkie, so much so, after I had dinner, I went back to the library to watch some more, and I spent the next couple days just picking out different movies to watch and cycling through them in the booths. I took stacks of DVDs in at once. I had wasted a lot of time, but it was time I enjoyed wasting, and for the first time in a while, I forgot about everything else that was going on in GeL.

One night. I actually fell asleep there, zoning out to that Hippopotas movie on rewatch. I dunno, something about sitting on that cozy cushioned seat and watching something that soothing put me in a lull. The next morning, I woke up to a spiked paw tapping my shoulder through the booth’s curtain. That was a bit of a surprise, but as soon as I processed it, I knew who it was.

“Ugh, Rhode, lemme… sleep.”

He pulled the curtain, letting some of the light in. Half awake, I saw Rhode in full, except this time, he didn’t have a t-shirt on at all. Not that it made much difference, being half naked from down below was still being naked, but at least his wound was fully patched up. He glanced at the stack of DVD cases and grinned.

“So, you went on a bit of a binge-watch there, lass?”

“Binge… watch?” I said, rubbing my eyes. “Is that what they call it?” So it meant I had watched a lot, and with that, realised that I had stayed in the library longer than I planned to. “Crap, I was meant to get back to the base, wasn’t I?”

“Eh, don’t matter. Some students stay in ‘ere over night anyway. Besides, you seemed peaceful.”

Nothing got past him. Well, maybe at the time, but my worries were still in the background. “Yeah, I feel better.” I mustered up a smile even though I wasn’t fully into it.

“Alright.” Rhode must’ve seen through that, but let it slide anyway. “Do you mind if I sit down? That’s if you wanna talk after the other day.”

Since those binge-watching days gave me some space, it was enough time to be on speaking terms with my tutor again. So, I scooched over to the end of the booth and grabbed my tail to avoid it being sat on as Rhode made himself comfortable. He rubbed his paws, pausing for a moment. It seemed the other day was still on his mind.

“Sorry ‘bout what happened,” he said with a sigh. “I still wish we could’ve done something different.”

“Fine.” I wasn’t really, but I knew they had no other choice on their part.

“So…” He clicked his tongue and crossed his legs. “Have you thought any more ‘bout whether or not you’re staying?”

“No, not yet.” That came across as more blunt than it should’ve been.

“Ah, lass--” he held his paw up in defense-- “Didnae mean to urge you or anythin’. I just--”

“I know.” I was tempted to storm out then, though Rhode’s aura eased me back in. “Look, teach, I know you’re sticking your neck out for me, so thanks.” I ran my paws through my tail, smoothing it out. “I still need time to decide.”

“Right.” Rhode frowned. “I was mainly thinking because of M, if he’s being sent out soon. But…” Another tongue click. “Well, I might as well say it, we’ve been havin’ problems with ‘im lately.”

The mention of that Marowak would’ve put a spike in my chest if there wasn’t already a spike there. “O-oh. What’s he done this time?”

“Nothin’.” Rhode sighed again as he fiddled with the fabric of the curtain. “He just en’t really in the best of states. Can’t blame the poor sod. Afraid to say we ‘ad to restrain him outside his Pokeball. I know it ain’t humane, but it’s the best we can do to stop him killin’ himself.”

“Killing…” That was an alien concept to me, the act of suicide. Not so alien once I grew up, of course, but back then, that was one thing I had no idea could happen, even though I knew death was the great equaliser out there. A Riolu dies in the wild? Who cares, there are three more hatching someplace else. But if everything was about survival, then offing myself would’ve been the last thing on my mind.

“He won’t talk to me; he’s locked his aura up again,” Rhode said as he patted my lap. “But I’m hoping he would listen to you. He’s worried sick about Shine, though he’s still being treated.”

That was definitely a shocker. “H-he is? He attacked--”

“Yeh, I know, but he does feel bad about it.” He might’ve sensed I was put off by the whole thing, so he inched away from me, sitting on the edge of the seat. “You don’t have to though, it won’t make a difference since they’re still sending ‘im out. It’s up to you.”

Okay, well I just said no and continued watching those movi— of course, I said yes. I wasn’t just going to sit with my spike up my butt while they were trying to help him.


Yeah, charming, I know, hardy har. But in all seriousness, I needed to know. I still had loose ends to tie up, and if I didn’t try to solve M’s puzzle, I’d probably never have the chance to do it again. So I agreed in the end, and me and Rhode were on our not-so-merry way to the infirmary where he was being held. What M did though still lingered in my mind, the way he drove that club towards himself and, well, tried to self-harm in general. I wasn’t sure if the two were related.

“Rhode?” I asked.


“Why do people try to kill themselves?”

“Oh.” He chuckled to himself, though there wasn’t any humour in it. Maybe it was the lack of humour that drove him to laugh it out. “It’s complicated. I guess I owe it to talk to you about these things, now you’re more grown up. I dunno if Azzy ever did.”

I shook my head.

“Well, it ‘appens a lot in humans. It’s hard to pin down, but eh, the simplest way I can put it is that they can be so overwhelmed or put into despair that, in their eyes, dying is better than staying alive. It ain’t really natural, but it ‘appens. It’s like your mind’s cavin’ in on itself.”

I didn’t know how to take that, but I got the gist of it that time. A year ago, I probably wouldn’t have. “So… what about Pokemon? You said it’s not natural.”

“Aye,” Rhode said, taking a deep breath. “When the main thing wilds want to do is survive, dying is natural. One has to kill the other in order to get their next meal. Killing themselves, now, isn’t normal. I mean, for a while, humans thought that suicide was somethin’ unique to them. Somethin’ only they can do. Since they ‘ave a sense of self, only they can self-destruct.” He spat at the floor. “That’s’ a lot o’ tosh. Anythin’ with a living, growing brain ain’t immune to those thoughts. It’s like if I said humans were only capable of cruelty. Well, they are, and I dunno of any Pokemon to start wars, but it’s nature.”

“So you’re saying nature’s cruel?” I tugged at my aura sensors. “I wouldn’t wanna live in the wild-wild like M did then.”

“Nah, nature’s just indifferent. Pokemon hunt prey because they ‘ave to take care o’ themselves. Those are their own needs; there ain’t any morality involved there. But, if we were to form a region of our own, and saw somethin’ another region did that we didn’t like, or wanted to take for ourselves, well, we’d go to war. We’d only evolve, just like humans ‘ave all these years.” He chuckled again, putting his arms behind his head. “Maybe I’m gettin’ off topic.”

“No, I understand, kinda. So, why did M try to kill himself? That was the moment he snapped out of it, wasn’t it?”

“Yeh. Well, we’re here, so…” He stopped, just short of opening the pristine, white door. “You can ask him then. It’s too early to say at this rate but…” He trailed off, a frown emerging on his jagged features. “Look, whatever ‘appened to him, it wasn’t pleasant. I…” He grit his teeth next. “I sense it might have something to do with his family, if what you told us is true.”

I had to stop him before he opened the door handle. “Will he try to harm anyone while I’m in there?”

“Nah, again, we’ve restrained him. There’s literally nothin’ he can do to anyone or himself.” Before we entered, Rhode put his paw on my shoulder. “Whatever you see in there might not pretty. I’m sorry in advan—”

“Let’s just get this over with,” I said. And so, when we came in, M was tied down to a medical chair. There were restraints around his arms, I guessed to prevent him from scratching himself, and straps from the back cushion to hold him in place. He didn’t struggle, even when he saw me come in. And when I made eye contact with him, well.


He had a blank stare, not unlike what he used to pull whenever he was on his own at the base. Again, he would just sit and stare for hours. But this time, he was paying attention to me. His eyes tracked my movements, sure, but the reason for his blank stare, well, it was like he had lost the will to live. Like his mind had given up and his body was just a shell.

Of course, he wasn’t the same as he was when he snapped, but that memory was still fresh. That eye. The blood. The club. None of that was going to go away any time soon. To avoid lashing out or doing something else, I looked away, turning my attention to the rest of the room.

Shine’s Pokeball was still there, tucked into a healing shelf where M couldn’t reach. There was a nurse by the Marowak’s side, as well as a female ranger, who I had never seen before in the facility. She had her fair share of scars as well, not unlike M, but she seemed like she had all her marbles in one box. So Rhode went to the ranger first.

Anythin’ happen while I was away?” he said.

“Nope,” the ranger replied. “Safe and sound.” The human looked to me next. “You’re that other student of his, right?”

Um, yeah!” I blurted out, a bit surprised by how she broke the ice to another Pokemon like that. While her free hand stroked M’s head, she held the other gloved hand out to me.

“I hope you can give us some info. You seem smart, so I trust you’ll help us out.”

Well, thanks, anythin’ to figure this mess out, I guess,” I said, returning the handshake. Then something else came to mind. “You’re a ranger, right? What’s it like out there?”

“Hard, but rewarding.” She smirked. “I don’t usually get to work with human-speakers, so this is a nice change of pace. Saves me going crazy out in the sticks.”

Just don’t blab anythin’ about this to the outside,” Rhode said. “You’re under contract, aye?”

“Yep, sure, I know. What happens in this room stays in this ro—” she drew her hand away as M tried to bite at her fingers. “I think he’s getting tired of me yammering on.” She crossed her arms. “To be honest, I’m not that optimistic, really. I deal with pure ferals every day, and I don’t think there’s much to gain by questioning this poor creature.”

That’s what we want your professional opinion on, lass.

“Yes, of course.” She patted my shoulder. “Still, we should get started.”

Everything was set. The nurse poured me a glass of water in case I needed to calm myself down, the ranger was there in case things got hairy, and Rhode was there to translate what we said for the ranger. So I sat on a chair opposite M, and we were both face to face. Pokemon to Pokemon. Both our hearts were beating; I felt his pulse through my aura. Whatever he was going through, well, you can put two and two together, but for me to be nervous was a bit of a surprise. I wasn’t in danger. But I felt I was on the brink of discovering something truly terrible there.

M’s eyes drooped. He whined, making a soft rumbling sound. Everyone else was silent, save for the pulse of the healing stations beside us. I was about to say something to break the tension, anything to get started, but decided against it, at first. It always seemed like walking on hot coals with M before. But what else did I have to say at that point? All I wanted was the truth, so in the end, I just went with my gut.

“M?” I asked. “Um, do you know what you’re doing here?”

I waited for a response, but even when he blinked, there was no reaction. Call it intuition, though, I assumed he already knew and didn’t want to repeat anything. So I just cut to the chase, not that I was comfortable bringing it up at all.

“I thought about what you told me back there. You called me Sis.”

That got a reaction out of him, as his eyes shot up. It didn’t really seem in good taste to ask about a dead sibling right away, so something else came to mind.

“Y’know, I’ve got three brothers back home. I dunno where they are now, but they’re doing fine, last I heard. But I never knew what it was like to have a sister. Being a sister, I kind of felt like I got on everyone’s nerves. Can’t count how many times I pushed my little bro into the lake.”

I hoped he got the hint. In case it wasn’t clear, I sighed and crossed my legs, showing I was deep in thought about it. Again, no response. At least, none spoken. There was another pulse, aside from M’s heartbeat, that I sensed. This time, it came from his head, and I knew from there that I had something. Rhode picked up on it too as he went to my side.

“Just focus on him and nothing else. If you need to get out of it, squeeze my paw.”

I grabbed onto him for comfort, and with that out of the way, dove into M’s mind, no longer a dense jungle, but a clearing in an ocean of trees. Now, how can I describe this? What M saw wasn’t what I saw, just the way he remembered it, so keep that in mind when I talk about it here.

What I saw with my powers was more like an impression than an accurate depiction of a memory. It was like a crayon sketch, as the whole thing was drawn in broad strokes on a flat plane. Not too vivid, but just enough colour that you could tell what each mark meant. In the middle of all of this green, both the bluer and the yellower shades of it, were two orange lines for two Cubone. The bigger line stood behind another, or to the left of it, since there wasn’t anything that indicated a sense of space. The smaller line on the right was surrounded by pink, with what I assumed to be flowers. So, putting that together, I could only conclude that the bigger line was M, and the smaller one was his sister. So she must’ve been the younger one of the bunch.

With a squeeze of my tutor’s paw, that brought me back to that sterile room again. M looked pleadingly at me, like he wanted to speak up. I took a sip of water, gathering my thoughts before I continued.

“So, let me guess, she was picking flowers?”

“Y-yes.” Finally, I got a peep out of him. As comfortably as he could’ve done in those restraints, M shifted his body, ready to speak. “Flower. Field. She… wanted the flower name. Told her not to go too far. Mom was worried. Flower… on head.” He smiled. An actual, genuine smile, and in that moment there, M no longer looked like a ticking time bomb, but a happy Marowak. “Sister, had flower on head, no skull. No skull, just like me. Saw whole soft face. Her eyes were red, not like mine. I know colours. Pink flower. She looked… wonderful with that on.”

So I definitely could tell she was important to him. Was. Damn it.

(Do you need a break?)

Nah, let’s carry on. Anyway, that was something to go on. Rhode relayed it to the ranger, though she had no reaction to speak of yet. So I kept on asking.

“Was she your lil’ sis?”


“I thought she was smaller.”

“Small...” His eyes widened again. “How… you know?”

I covered my mouth, regretting what I said instantly. I didn’t want to overwhelm him with the aura reading, after all.

“I just guessed,” I fibbed.

“No. Smaller… knelt down. Leg bad. Took… extra good care of her.”

I didn’t want to ask how that happened right away. It seemed like a touchy subject, so, well, I just changed it.

“It seemed like you loved her a lot, didn’t you?”

“Yes.” His eyes drooped again. “I… she… uhhhhhh….” He itched to say something, on the tip of his tongue, but just outside of his reach. Maybe he didn’t know how to put it into words. That was another chance to look into his aura.


There were a few pictures, the first one being a pretty, but very messy watercolour painting. You could just barely tell each of the colours apart and what they were supposed to mean, since they were all blended together like several ink washes thrown together on the same page. There were a bunch of trees though and a sky, with a brown box in the middle of all the grassland, so that was one landmark I could’ve pinned my bearings down to.

Then another painting, this time, from M’s perspective as he walked towards this box. The paint started shifting around like oil on glass, creating a lot more details than what I saw before. I saw how many leaves were on a nearby tree. I saw pawprints in the mud, trailing over to the brown box. And in the centre of the image was that brown box, except the shapes were more fleshed out, so it created a roof, windows and a door. This appeared to be a cabin.

The next painting was just the same, except the frame was getting closer to the shack. Then the paintings started getting faster and faster until it moved just like an animated film, sequenced together at 24 frames a second. It was no longer just a series of still images.

M entered, and there was a Cubone sitting in the middle of the floor, crying alone. I gathered she was still M’s sister. Unlike before, I got a good look at the rest of her: one of her legs was missing. Whatever was left of it was only a stump, though the rest of her limbs were intact. So she probably couldn’t have walked that well, but I guess she still ran. She must’ve gotten to the hide somehow.

Around the cabin, there were books and papers that had been scattered across the wooden floor. There was a set of paints lying about, which I guessed came from an open toolbox. There were even paintings hanging up on the wooden walls, ones that actually looked pretty decent, filled with landscapes as well as studies of random figures and Pokemon. But on the other end of the cabin, there were also traps, like a mesh net, a few knives of different shapes and sizes, and even a gun with darts displayed in a glass case. If I had to make one guess, a hunter must’ve lived there before.

M stepped forward as he reached his hand out to his sibling Cubone. His sister still had tears in her eyes, and she looked away from M with a guilty look on her face. Guilty? What for? That I couldn’t quite place, so I held onto that thought for another time.

After that, they looked around. Sis looked at one of the pictures on the floor, admiring its handiwork. Then she picked out the set of paints, not fully knowing what to do with it, but excited to experiment nonetheless. All the paint tubes fell on the floor, and with one step of her paw on a certain paint squeezer, purple squirted out: a colour she had never seen before. She laughed, and stepped on the other ones, trying to see all its different colours and textures. M joined in too, stomping on the floor with delight. They tried to pick it up, but they got their paws all caked with various pigments. Then they saw the pieces of scrap paper. They smeared it all over that, creating the various shapes that emerged in their minds. M painted the sun, with one imperfect yellow circle in the middle of the white space. His sister had mixed white and red together, creating a pink circle, except with alternating strokes in the middle, looking like flower petals. By that point, the siblings had been covered in the stuff, though from the looks of Sis as she smiled, and the actions of M as he played along, they were both happy.

There was a book by Sis’ feet, with an illustration of a bunch of flowers at the centre, and black text describing it, though the words were illegible like smudged ink. Sis sat back down and had M help her flip through the book, which all contained illustrations of different plants with accompanying text. Then, there was one that stood out: the pink flower she had picked out in the other memory. She stared at it and her mouth was open. I guess the two were talking, though the words weren’t there. This whole time, it had been like watching a silent film.

Then the film stopped, like someone had hit the pause button. Then came the next painting. The door opened, and a Marowak was there, its red eyes flashing with rage through the skull. The painting’s hue shifted as everything went from a natural, earthy palette to a kaleidoscope of clashing colours. From green, brown and blue to red, black, purple and yellow.

Another painting. The Marowak took one step forward. Everything around the room was being ripped apart, like the universe was a canvas and the rips in it tore the fabric of reality to shreds.

Yet another step; there was only the Marowak, as it raised a fist at M.

Then, complete darkness. Something hit my face. What was this? Pain? I shouldn’t have felt that. Damn it. Go back, I told myself, go back. No. No. No.


I squeezed his paw again, actually digging into it that time, and Rhode’s yelp drew me back into the room. I had to shield my eyes since everything seemed so bright after that. Rhode wasn’t hurt, though he purposefully waved his paw as if he had touched something hot.

“Sorry,” I said, “got a bit too into it.”

“That’s fine, lass,” he said. “Take a breathe if you need ta’.”

A few sips of water later, and I was up to speed again. While it felt like I had left my body completely and came back a new Mon, M’s slack-jawed expression hadn’t changed. He was still paying attention; just waiting for me to pick it up from last time again. A part of me sensed he knew about my aura and was just playing along, but I still needed to get on with it.

“Your sister seemed like a good painter. She really liked that pink flower, didn’t she?”

“Yes.” M mumbled to himself again, then took a deep breath. His eyes were in focus again: confident and alert. “I—I remember. My sister found it beautiful. Liked its colour and shape. Wanted to find out the name of it. I thought it was silly; we didn’t have our own names, so why did a flower need one? Didn’t need names in the wild.”

That struck me as a lot more fluent. I had never heard him choose his words like that before, even in our own tongue, but he was thinking about difficult concepts to grasp for most Pokemon.

“Why did you name yourself M then?”

He grunted, sounding like an ‘em’. I took the hint and moved on.

“What was she trying to find in that book?”

“The same flower. Didn’t know it was a book then, but she looked anyway. She found it and tried to read, but couldn’t. Couldn’t understand human words. Nonsense. She wanted to learn. Didn’t know how, but wanted to understand it. Wanted to understand this world. I wanted to help her find out. Didn’t… have purpose before that. To survive. To hunt. As Pokemon. That gave us something.”

I really wanted to ask if he found GeL useful and if he learned anything at all, but that ship had already sailed. It would’ve been an insult to him now he was going away. The next thing on my mind, I felt as bad, if not worse, for asking, but had to anyway. There was no easy way to say it.

“I, er, I saw that Marowak, was it your mothe—”

“DON’T!” he screamed, thrashing against the bindings. That made me jump, and got the ranger’s attention as she stared at him, ready to suppress him if the restraints ever broke. He stopped not long after, relaxing into the chair, though his expression had changed entirely, looking more like his old feral self than before. “Bad! Bad! No name! Doesn’t deserve it! Doesn’t! Doesn’t! Doesn’t!” At that point, he had descended into snarling and drooling, as if he had smelled blood.

I had finally stumbled upon She Who Must Not Be Named. So, it didn’t take a genius with a mind-reading degree to get that she had beaten M up. But what for? What happened after that? And why was his sister crying?

As if to answer my question, M wiped his maw free of drool and cleared his throat. “Sis ran away. Was crying. That… that… Bad threatened her. Said she would feed her to Houndoom if she growled at her. Respect elders. Don’t stray away. Don’t run away. Don’t run away from me. You are my children and my children alone. Nothing else can have you. Nothing else will take—” M cut himself off, gritting his teeth before he sighed and continued. “Why do I remember that? What she said? I don’t want those memories. Memories. Memories. Me—”

“M?” I said, snapping him out of his ramble. Though what I did was a little crazy, I pulled my chair closer to him, close enough that I could’ve petted him if I felt the need to. The rest kept their distance, though of course, still within good reach in case everything went to hell in a handbasket. I was about to say something else, wanting to ask about his mom, but it would’ve felt like rubbing salt in the wound. Instead, I reached out to him slowly. He stared at my paw as if it was something dangerous, and sensing that, I stopped, letting him get used to it. After a while, he lowered his head, letting me stroke it. The textures of his skin, the scales atop his head, and the top of his broken horns were all rough. Despite this, he let out a low rumble, somewhat like a purr. That seemed to soothe him.

I still felt awful for bringing it up. While my own experiences with my parents weren’t always positive, at least my Mom treated me fairly. I couldn’t have even imagined her harming her own cubs.

And speak of the devil, that’s when M raised his head, nudging my paw away to speak.

“Was better.”


“I remember her being… better before. Looked after us. Looked after me. Before… sis, she…” He took a deep breath before continuing. “She’d sing me to sleep. Sounded different through the mask. No words, but it sounded nice. While I grew, she let me play while looking after me. We bathed in the water. We climbed trees together. Still had to hunt, which was stressful for her, but she did it for me. If I saw anything bad, she’d cuddle me.”

I just gave him a small pat on the shoulder, letting him carry on.

“Then Sis hatched; still had her leg. Taking care of both of us was hard. More hunting. More crying. But we carried on. Harder to take care of Sis; she wandered off, asking random Pokemon, or birds, about flying. Bad… not bad… Good kept her close. Sometimes, shout, but not hurt. Sometimes, Good cried alone. Asked why. Snapped at us, saying crying was weak of her and weak of us.”

M squinted, getting misty eyed. “Am I weak? Why do I cry?”

“No,” I said. “You saw me crying before, and you didn’t call me weak. You hugged me, remember?”

All he gave in reply was another grunt. Mmm. I dried his eyes for him, which he bowed his head at.

“Good, so afraid she’d lose us. Lose me. Lose Sis. One not-sun, we sat together, resting in the ground. Dug a pit. Good would watch after us while we slept. Then… then…”

He whined again, trying to clutch at his head, but not having the mobility to do so with his restraints. Another pulse. On the verge of another memory, I dove into his aura again, expecting the worst.

It was a crayon sketch again, with the same simplistic style as before, except… Well, in the middle, there was a crying Cubone, with blue smudged dots for tears. All around her were blue and yellow blobs with star-like tails. One of the blobs had red all over it. And Sis’ leg, well, it was all covered with scratch marks in the canvas, again, like a tear in the universe.

Squeeze. I didn’t even need to see that much to know when to call it quits. My head was starting to hurt with everything I was diving into, so I took another sip, hoping it would clear my mind. Well, it wasn’t so much the constant aura reading, but what I saw in it that was starting to wear on me. Those blue and yellow blobs looked oddly familiar to a certain Luxio I knew. My heart sank at that. So, was that why M attacked Shine in particular? And what happened to his sister after that?

“The pack of Luxio attacked,” M said, eyes in a deep, orange focus. “They targeted Sis while we slept, but it was… Good’s turn to look after us that night, but she was asleep too. Luxio grabbed leg by the teeth, tearing it off. Sis screamed. I tried to defend her, but was attacked back. I couldn’t do anything. Too weak. Good targeted the biting Luxio—” M bashed against the restraints, making me jump back in my seat. The other guys in the infirmary looked with caution. “Good bashed its head with the bone club. Again. Again. Again. Clunk. Clunk. Clunk. Smash. Drip. Then, it stopped. The rest ran. Good was alone, with Sis screaming.”

M sighed, sniffling.

“Good screamed too, wailing ‘all my fault, all my fault’ into the night. I tried to help Sis up, finding leaves to cover the wounds. I thought she was going to die.” Another sigh. “Then, Good turned to Bad. Bad. Bad. Bad turned around, shouting ‘all your fault, all your fault’ at me, then punched. Punch. Punch. Punch. Then scratched. Scratch. Scratch. Scratch.” He tilted his head from left to right, revealing all the splotches on his face where the bruises and scars were. “Not Good.”

Rhode translated all of this for the ranger, who huffed, then went to the side of the room with a sigh.

“Alright, time out.” Rhode stepped in, squeezing my paw as he lifted me up. M looked at us, pleading again without words, and Rhode shot him a glance of sympathy before going off to the corner of the infirmary where the ranger was. From the look on her face, she didn’t seem to be taking this well.

You heard all that, didn’t you?” Rhode said. “I can already guess where this is going.”

“Y-yes, I know. Listen.” The ranger regained her composure and crossed her arms. “This happens in the wild a lot of the time. Sometimes, parents lash out at their cubs as a response to stress or as a form of keeping them distant. It’s important for the cubs, because in this scenario, it could either be life or death if they don’t behave.”

Ain’t that not abuse? You ‘eard all of that, and think it’s normal for wilds? Listen, M self harms. I’ve seen it ‘appen. And I know he does it out of stress or guilt. And what he said about not deserving kindness before, that’s more than your typical strict parent case out there. Imagine if he was a human kid.”

“You’re comparing Leppas to Orans. Of course, that would be abuse in the human world. But you can’t compare the two as if they’re one and the same.”

Rhode snickered, thumbing his nose. “D’you forget who you’re talkin’ to, ey?”

“No. I don’t mean in your case, or hers.” She shot me a quick glance. “But—”

You know what, forget it.” Rhode rubbed at his forehead. “We’re never gonna get anywhere like this. Let’s just carry on.”

“My thoughts exactly,” the ranger said.

Ready to step back in, C?”

I nodded, and went back to my seat opposite M. He leered at me that time, obviously not pleased, if his spike in anger was anything to go by.

“Not a beast,” he said. “Don’t talk about me like I am.”

That was new. Mind you, I didn’t think talking in plain sight was a very good idea to begin with, but even then, I didn’t expect M’s reaction. Still, there was something about what he said that rubbed me the wrong way. Why did he attack Shine? A part of my own aura flared up, but it quickly died down as I breathed in. Right, I wasn’t going to get anywhere if I shifted the blame to him.

“Sorry,” I said. “Then, that place in the woods, was that the same thing that happened when Mo— um, Bad found you?”

“Yes.” He closed his eyes, thinking for a moment, then opened them again. “One, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight times it happened since the first. It hurt. Didn’t cry. Couldn’t cry.”

That was the first time I heard M count. So he really was taking those lessons to heart. “I’m sorry to hear that.” I grasped at my lap, tugging at its fur. “How… horrible.”

“Yes. Horrible. Bad.”

He paused, relaxing in his chair again. Seconds passed. Then, a minute. Then, well, I don’t know. He stayed still, not talking at all, while I tried to continue the conversation. But what else was there to say without setting him off again? Yet, I could tell there was more to it. There was something missing.

“Look,” the ranger said, “if we can’t find anything else, we should stop. We’ve heard enough.”

No!” I shouted. That must’ve been a bit of a surprise for her. “No. Hold on. I’m…”

Another pulse. I looked to M, who blankly stared off to the side of the room, mumbling to himself, repeating ‘Sis’ over and over again. That was the golden opportunity I needed to read his aura. So I dove in, hopefully, for the last time.


It was another set of watercolour paintings, starting off with M looking at himself in a puddle while his family slept by a tree not too far away. The tips of his little horns were broken, and there were purple splotches on his face, most notably, one blackened eye with swollen bumps around it. Then another painting, messy, this time, with M’s paw splashing the water, covering the canvas in a blue wash.

Next painting, his sister woke up, limping over to his side. She didn’t have the leg anymore. The two were talking. She was crying again, punching herself in the face. M grabbed her arm, and she looked shocked. Maybe M was consoling her. In any case, she calmed down and smiled as M nursed her head. The image became an orange blur, which I guessed was because he was nuzzling her at the time.

Sis pointed at a fluttering silhouette, which danced from treetop to treetop. She asked M something, not known to my ears, but to him anyway. She frowned. Doubt? Then, a slight smile, with a twinkle in her eyes. There was hope. Hope. An abstract concept, hope. You can’t really catch hope in a net and eat it, but there it was.

Despite her limited movement, she hooked her claws into one of the trees, climbing up the bark with ease. M joined her as she helped him up on the branch. Then, they helped each other jump from treetop to treetop, with M guiding her through the maze of forestry to follow the winged figure. They ended up straying further away from Bad, but they didn’t care.

Finally, they caught sight of the bird, perched atop a tree much higher up than any of the others they had climbed. Sis didn’t waver, leaping towards one branch and clawing her way up to the top. M reluctantly followed, ready to catch his sister if anything happened. Finally, the two joined each other, in awe of this bird, who had a blue plumage and broad wings, roosting atop. It appeared to be a Honchkrow. There was a nest with large eggs, which the flying Pokemon roosted over. Naturally, it didn’t react well to the two, expanding its wings and readying its talons to take action.

Sis spoke, though no words came through on my end at first. The sequenced paintings were becoming more vivid. Sis’ face was carved out in much more detail, capturing all her contours, sharp points and smooth edges. For Cubone standards, she truly did look wonderful. This time, her mouth made sounds.

“We don’t wanna hurt,” she said. “I hope your babies grow to be strong.”

The Honchkrow’s words were silent.

“But, please. I wanna talk to you about something. Have you seen what’s outside of here? There was something not made by us back there; we saw it ourselves.”

There was spoken silence again.

“Humans? They made that. We didn’t know what they were, but we had fun. I want to know more about them.”

“What do you mean they’re dangerous?”

“They… hunt us?”

“Yes, but we hunt each other too! What’s the difference?”

“Can’t you show us? I still wanna know! You can take us on your back, right? Aren’t you big enough?”

The bird cawed, slapping them in the face with a strong gust. It wasn’t strong enough to knock them to their deaths, as they maintained their balance, but that was enough for them to take the hint and leave. The two climbed down, descending onto a lower branch as they weighed their options.

“What should I do? W-we can’t go back to her, she’ll kill us both! E-er, let’s go find some place else! We can find another flying type who’s friendly can’t we?” She tilted her head, then took M’s arms, shaking them. “Please! We can’t stay here, we have to keep going!”

A growl from below. No, several. It rang through the soundless forest, as the leaves rustled and various fliers swooshed in the air, escaping the scene. There was a pack of Luxio and one Luxray at the bottom, staring them down from a distance. Sis leaned over, worry washed over by a much more intense sense of fear.

“T-that’s them! Run!”

In her rush, Sis leapt off the branch to another tree, but didn’t quite stick the landing. She was hanging off of it, and even though she tried to pull herself up, she struggled to reach her one leg to climb back up. That’s when M stepped into action, reaching out to help her.

“This is for my cub!” the Luxray yelled. Electricity crackled, and then, a bolt of lightning shot up in the air, targeting the branch Sis held onto. It reached closer. M reached closer. Both of them reached at the same time, one hand grabbing her towards life, and the other towards death. Except the other hand was faster. The wood burned, then, SNAP--


“STOP!” M screamed, thrashing against the restraints. “My memories are mine to keep! Stay out of there! Stop digging them back up! No! No, no, no, no, nonononononononononononononono no. No. No. No…”

Everyone was on guard at that point. The ranger, Rhode, and myself as well, as I stood up, backing away. M continued mumbling, until eventually, it became all out screeching. Beyond human, beyond Pokemon, it sounded like his soul was being sucked out by Yveltal. It became the only thing left in the room; everything else was eclipsed by that screech. That goddamn screech.

I can still hear it in my head.

It died down into incoherent noises, a mix between shouting and rambling, but he was no longer struggling. Eventually, those noises died out too, descending into M quietly sobbing. His whole face was scrunched up in sorrow, a mix of tears, drool and snot, and his aura, well, it was no longer blank. It radiated the emotions you’d expect from it, with no filter and nothing blocking it this time. I joined in with M, crying as well as his feelings flooded into mine. Rhode still kept it together, though he was misty eyed as well. The ranger turned away from us, though through osmosis, I guessed she felt it too.

“I…” M spoke up, at last. His throat was hoarse, so it came out as a croak. “Why… was I born? Why… live just to hunt? To fight? To survive? My life… no… purpose… no… point…”

That was yet another surprise. Was that what pushed him over the edge, that feeling of everything crashing down on him all at once? I thought back to what Rhode said, about why people killed themselves, and remembered how some did it when everything felt hopeless. But to me, even with all he had done, M’s life had value. Besides, I didn’t want to kick him while he was down.

“N-no,” I said, sniffling, “you—”

“Stop.” M tried to look at me, but couldn’t see through all the fluid on his face. That must’ve stung. “P-please, someone, help. I’m, I’m all alone. Help. Help. Help.” He trembled, shaking, with a new intense aura of fear spreading throughout the room like a thick fog.

For god’s sake,” Rhode said, “I can’t take this any more.” He approached the chair that held the Marowak, trying to undo the restraints, when the ranger stepped forward, blocking his way.

“He’s flipping out,” the ranger said. “You’re going to do more harm than good by releasing him.”

Can’t you see he’s sufferin’, though?” Rhode tried to move side to side, reaching out towards the chair, but the ranger gripped his arm, squeezing his wrist.

“He’s unstable. We can’t let him escape. What are you going to do, remove me by force? You Lucario could kill me in a blink, you know.” She held up the Pokeball. “If you lay a paw on me, my own Pokemon will have a word or two with you. I’ll tell what happened to the world.”

You wouldn’t,” Rhode snarled.

“Then keep this Marowak under control.” She walked Rhode over to another side of the room, still going back and forth about the ‘release him or don’t release him’ thing. But then, that left me and M alone. That snivelling, shivering wreck of a Marowak.

I couldn’t just sit by and do nothing; I had to take action. I pounced over to the chair and undid the velcro around M’s wrists, as well as the straps at the back. It didn’t take a lot of steps at all, but the main thing was to keep M from realising that and lashing out. Except he didn’t resist at all back there.

M was free at last from the bindings. Whatever he did next, I just hoped to god that he didn’t snap again, that I was right to trust him. And if he did, I would just move away from him, and he would be in his Pokeball again. Simple as that. He stood there, and we saw eye to eye as I knelt down to his level. Finally, I dove into his immediate thoughts without fearing any backlash.

Please, help me.

That was all I needed to reach out and embrace him, without hesitation. He felt warm, with all the blood pumping through his body. His cries were muffled against my belly. In that moment, I saw him for what he was: not a monster, not a beast, not some heartless feral, but a Pokemon, just like me. We were both young and confused and afraid for the future. Both hatchlings at heart. At that moment, though, I had to push it aside, taking on the role of an older sister, like with Stumpy. I had to. For him.

“I— I—” M stuttered as he spluttered. “I’m sorry. I’m so, so, so, so, s-s-sorry.”

Nothing I said would’ve cut it, so I just stroked the back of his head, letting him vent all he needed to. There was nothing else in the room aside from me and him then.

“C-Curio,” he said, looking up at me with his reddened eyes, “what am I supposed to do? My sister… she’s gone. It’s all my fault.”

“No, I saw what happened, believe me.” I gave him another pat from behind. “You were all in the wrong place at the wrong time.”

“T-then—” he backed away from my arms, clapping his paws together— “I’ll say sorry to Shine!” He wiped the tears away, glancing at the Pokeball. “I-er, he did nothing wrong. I don’t know why, just, everything was tough, and I saw him as those Luxio, and I was dumb, and…” He trailed off, punching at his head again. It seemed like he was doing that as a punishment response. I wasn’t having any of it, so I grabbed his arms.

“It’s okay, you panicked.” No, wait, what was I saying? M seemed smart, so he could’ve taken a bit of flak at that time. “Well, he’d appreciate you saying sorry. That’s the least you can do for him.” M shook his arms again, though I kept a firm grip. “If I let go, will your stop hurting yourself?”

He sniffled. “I-I’ll try.”

I smiled and softened my hold on him, letting him rub his paws. Once he gathered himself, he fell to his knees, clutching his body. “Still, what do I do?” He sighed. “I don’t know what I’m doing here. Everyone else came to learn and I… I… I’ve wasted these two years.”

“You said two years; that means you can count and tell time. So you did learn something.”

“I-I mean, in the future. Everyone has something to do. I have nothing. So where do I go? I don’t wanna be with a trainer if it means fighting again. No more. No more hurting.”

That seemed like a crucial moment. If he was lost and looking for a reason to live after all that happened, well, it was like having to save him all over again. So I cycled through those memories quickly, finding anything I could’ve latched on to. Sis. What did she like? She liked the pink flower, of course, and she wanted to learn the name of it, so, how could we have found out? Through books, of course. But what book? Would GeL have botanical books in their library, and who would use it? There was a Roselia from the domestic group. Of course.

I didn’t think that would’ve cut it, of course, but again, something to go on. If he found out about her, that would’ve sparked some sort of drive within him.

“M,” I said. “Your sis wanted to know about that flower, right?”

He nodded.

“I think there’s someone we can ask. I want to see if it will help you find some peace.”

With that out of the way, the room re-emerged around me, with Rhode and the ranger staring at us, analysing our every move. I held onto M’s paw in case he felt uneasy, and turned my head to the two. “Is that Roselia around? I forgot her name, but we need to talk to her, with M. And get her to bring that book of hers.”

The two looked at each other, then Rhode sighed, flicking one of his dreads. “Och, I’ll go. Can’t let ‘im go off on his own yet. But I’ll be quick, just gotta drag Lorelei here.” He winked at me. “I feel I know exactly what yer talkin’ about, C.”

“Do it,” I said with a smirk.

I held the line while Rhode went off on his own. I sensed his aura for a bit as he rushed through the halls, though I still held onto M. I did that for so long, I forgot the ranger was even in the room. Right, her. I didn’t know what to think about her, with what she said about M and him being just a feral. Telling her off would’ve been in order if it wasn’t for her expression. She was still deep in thought, but what she was actually thinking, though, she was reflecting on what Rhode told her and how she viewed us two.

“I can tell you’re using your aura,” she said. “I know that look.”

O-oh, sorry,” I said, “invasion of privacy.”

“Don’t sweat it, kid.” She crossed her arms and smiled. “For what it’s worth, though, you did change my mind about this case.”

I looked to M, who seemed unfazed. I still didn’t know if he understood human speech, though he was calm for now. “Uh, thanks?”

“I mean, I’m still being cautious.” She leaned against the wall. “You can’t let your guard down with this sort of thing. But, well, you’ve got me more interested in M now.”

I clutched him for comfort. “He’s been through enough.”

“No, I mean, forget it.” She sighed. “I just haven’t seen a case like this, is all. He’s, well, from the way he acts and from what Rhode told me, he needs a lot of help, more than I was expecting. And if he finds it, then it can’t just be the standard re-wilding or trainer procedure. If what the higher ups told me was true, and with my own experience, he needs to be somewhere in the middle of all of this. Not like a zoo, a battle arena or a school, but, well, some place.”

There was one question burning in my head. I never got to ask an outsider what they thought GeL was like. After that scuffle a day or two before with the staff, that desire to know intensified.

What do you think of this place? About them teaching Pokemon like us?”

“Honestly,” she said with a laugh, “I’m all rooting for you.”

That was the moment Rhode entered, with Lorelei, the Roselia, walking in by his feet. Lorelei, well, I never got the chance to talk to her that much, but I often saw her inspecting the flowers in the wild base. While they were real, the garden itself obviously wasn’t, but that gave her enough to work with. They even planted more flowers in there just for her sake. Still, with her rose-like hands, it didn’t give her much of a sleight of hand, or paw, or leaf. So, the much more able-bodied Lucario held the book for her.

“Here.” He held up the cover for all to see, and like in the painting I saw, that illustration featured the same bunch of flowers arranged neatly in front of an abstract background. M even recognised this as well, and budging out of my grip, ran to reach out for the book. Rhode dropped it on the floor, letting him flick through the pages, one by one. Lorelei looked on, a bit unnerved by M’s presence, but nonetheless intrigued by what she saw.

“Oh my, stop on any page you want me to, and I’ll explain it for you.”

M nodded, swiping and flicking, until he found that one. That pink flower. Same arrangements of petals, same spiralling patterns, kind of like a rose, but not quite. He stared at it for a moment, then, traced his claw along the page where the text was. Even if M might not’ve understood what that text said, Lorelei confirmed it for him in words.

“This is a Camellia, my love. It can come in red, white, pink, and grows in shrubs. It does look pretty when viewed up close, doesn’t it?”

“Ca…” M said. “Me… lli… a… Camellia.” His eyes shot up and he stood, stomping up and down the floor. “Camellia! Camellia! Camellia!” M raised his paws, spinning in place as he held his arms towards the bright ceiling. A wide smile broke out on his face, lost in the simple pleasure of finding something long lost. I’ll admit, that sort of energy spread to me, despite everything, and every other Pokemon in the room felt the same.

That didn’t last long as M stopped and fell to his knees again. “You didn’t have a name. I didn’t believe we needed one. But now, I want to remember you by something. Not just a memory, but as something I can say in one word.” He stood up again, and despite the sniffles, pointed to Rhode. “I wanna bury Sis. Never found her body, but there’s a Teddiursa doll where I used to be. Can we go to the forest?”

Without hesitation, Rhode nodded, patting the ranger’s shoulder. “Lad wants to go to the wild base and have a mock burial. Please, we ‘ave to let him do this.”

“As long as you all keep an eye on him. If we hit a trigger again, then that’s going to be a problem.”

O’ course. We’ll make sure that doesn’t ‘appen. Right, C?”


At the request of Rhode, everyone already in the wild base cleared up, taking their stuff somewhere else. It was just me, M, Rhode and the ranger in the garden, basking in the solar light and feeling the fake grass between our paws. The topsoil was deep enough to be dug up, since Hans the Ambipom often hid his own rubbish in the turf so he could eat it later, or throw it at someone. Both were just as gross, but that wasn’t the point. M cradled the Teddiursa doll, whose head was taped back on just for the purpose of this. He nuzzled her, then gently laid the doll on the floor. From there, he got to work.

He clawed at the soil, digging clumps of it out of the floor. He dug, dug, dug his way down until he could dig no more, making the hole wide enough for someone the size of a Cubone. Or in this case, the doll. With that done, he picked up the Teddiursa and moved her to the crevice at the bottom. Then, he put the clumps back into place, covering the body from the neck down until it was no longer visible. All there was left was the head. The Teddiursa’s button eyes stared up at the sky, with an artificial sun shining above it. M took one last look at her face, growing misty eyed again, but just barely holding himself together. He filled out the rest of the turf, and finally, buried the entirety of the doll under the garden floor.

I held a bundle of flowers in my paws, picked out by the Roselia. I didn’t know the names of them exactly, but apparently, they stood for remembrance. A lot of them were white. Gently, I placed it just behind the dug up spot. Apparently, Rhode would tell the staff to order a plaque later, so everyone knew what it was there for. After that was done, silence. I didn’t know what to say. I expected Rhode to come up with something, but he just stood, observing M with intense concentration. Lorelei and the ranger were pretty much the same, just closing their eyes in quiet contemplation.

Damnit, what do you want me to say in this situation? Retelling this is bad enough, but thinking back to that silence, that awful, awful silence, it really drove in how whacked the whole thing was. Who would’ve given a speech for this? What was there to say? Nothing. That lasted for a long time, save for the ambient noises of birdsong and rustling leaves the speakers played.

Then, M sang. Just like what his memory suggested, it was a nameless song, one without lyrics, without melody, without anything to speak of. They were just sounds. Sounds that were soothing. Sounds that came from the heart, the soul. Sounds only a Marowak to his sister, or a Marowak mother to their cub, could’ve sung. Not in human tongue, not in Pokemon tongue, but a language only he would have known.

Who knows how long that song lasted for? It could’ve been a minute. It could’ve been an hour. But once it ended, M bowed before the grave and capped it off with this:

“Bye, Camellia.”
Last edited:


Active Member
This story is really great and I definitely see why it won the Best Pokecentric Fic last year. In my opinion, the reason it won is that you made sure it is equal parts heartbreaking and heartwarming. Too many stories about trauma (fanfiction and otherwise) just beat down their characters, putting them through absolute horrors without end. Sometimes this works, like in The Bluest Eye or 1984, because the message of the story is a cautionary tale about what society needs to change. Most of the time though, it is just an author making up the most disgusting tortures they can because that is the only way they can elicit any emotional reaction from the reader.

You, on the other hand, actually give characters the support they need to get through the traumas they experience. You never just make something bad happen and then move on. There is always someone there with a hug and/or hot cocoa to help the victim through. For example, Curio freaks out after learning that her family has left the island, but then you have all of her friends comfort her. Every time something heartbreaking happens, something heartwarming follows. Even the story's very structure reflects this. We learn about how Shine and Curio became scarred at GeL in parallel to them living beyond those events. This is not just a story about people going through trauma; it's about people recovering from trauma.

My biggest suggestion is that you should focus more on the chapter that happen in the present. Right now they function mostly as a way to lighten the tone and do not really have that much narrative importance. Shine's relationship with Bauble has had no development at all, and the mysteriously injured Primarina was last mentioned in chapter 27. On top of that, you could use these chapters to show just how badly Shine and Curio were scarred by the events at GeL, but you are not even trying. Imagine if Shine had to keep missing lessons on the ranch because he kept having panic attacks caused by some seemingly insignificant detail, like some bird with a squeaky call living halfway between the ranch and the city. That would not only foreshadow that something making a squeaky sound at GeL traumatized Shine, but would put Shine in conflict with Adele, who would think Shine was making a lame excuse for being lazy since a bird is an easy for most people to ignore. The flashbacks dominate the story so much that there is no way you can do anything like this well.

Again, I really do like your story and I think it is absolutely phenomenal. I just think you are letting a wonderful opportunity go to waste by focusing on the past so much.


A Dense Irritating Miniature Beast of Burden
AN: And I'm back with one/two new chapters before I go on hiatus. More details will be available in a separate post from this chapter because of the word count, but for now, here's the conclusion to Part 1 of TCATS!

Chapter 37: To The (M)oon

The whole room was silent. Tony stopped recording for a moment and stood up, stretching his arms. Curio occupied herself by downing the rest of the beer bottle until there was no more left. Well, she tapped the bottom of the glass, trying to get a few last droplets out of it. Shine went to his trainer for comfort, letting Tony stroke his head as he thought about Curio’s interview.

He knew a part of it already from what she told him at his bedside, but hearing her confrontation with M first hand put the rest of it into perspective. He knew everything of that event that was previously repressed: M’s run in with the Luxio pack, his sister, the grave in the wild base. It would still take a while for Shine to fully process as the spot ached where the missing eye was, but the fog in his mind lightened up at least. For Curio to bear the brunt of that and be the dominant storyteller there, surely that must’ve taken a toll on her too.

“Do we still want to continue?” Tony asked, slumping onto the chair. “Your choice, you two.”

Both Shine and Curio nodded in reply.

I’ve gotta wrap up something,” Curio said. “The worst is over for now, so I might as well cap this off with what happened. I think you get the picture though about M.”

“Yes.” Tony frowned, looking to Shine. “I, er, still don’t know what to think about that Marowak, though I want to be impartial for this interview.”

Think what you want; I don’t care.” Curio took a deep breath, tilting the bottle in her metal arm. She looked at it as if she was inspecting the label on the glass. “Random question: what are your parents like, Tony?”

That came out of nowhere. Where was she going with this?

“I’m sorry?” he said.

Ah, you don’t hafta answer if you don’t wanna. I just wanna know if they treated you right.”

“Ah.” Tony placed his hands on his lap, drumming his fingers on them. “Well, yes. They were tough times. We weren’t exactly well off, after all, but we pulled through together. And I still talk to them, even though they’re in Alola, so that says something about our bond, at least.”

I liked them when they came down here,” Shine said in the midst of his head pats. “They seemed more like friends with Tony than, you know.”

Tony chuckled, ruffling Shine’s mane. “You’re not the only one who says that.”

Well, not everyone can say they go on pub crawls with their parents, I don’t think.”

Sounds like the dream, there, going out with your parents and such.” Curio sighed, gripping the bottle tighter in her metal fist. “I asked because of this M thing. His mother, and you know, the thing with my Dad and Bolt and whatnot. You know what, **** those three. **** the lot of ‘em.”

The mood of the room changed. Shine straightened his back, fixing his gaze on the subject on the couch.

You know, if I were in their shoes, I wouldn’t have done that, no matter how hard it was. Whatever you’re goin’ through, you don’t take that **** out on your own kids.”

She sighed, closing in her metal fist on the glass.

I, just, I just don’t understand why they had to be such horrible people. Why do--”

The bottle shattered in her hand, fragments falling into her lap. Curio immediately sprang up, wiping the glass off of her and onto the couch as she muttered various swears under her breath. Shine also sprang for the dustpan and brush, grabbing it with his mouth and dropping it by Curio’s side.

Sorryic!” Curio hiccuped. “Sorry, didn’t mean to make a mess.”

“No, that’s fine, Curio.” Tony downed the rest of his bottle. “But I know what you mean. It’s hard being a parent. I just consider myself lucky I was raised by the right people.” He hummed to himself. “I can’t say I’ve experienced something like that in my childhood.”

Yeah, well, good.” She was done picking all of the bits up as she placed the dustpan in the corner of the room. For good measure, she patted herself down before sitting back on the hot seat. A moment passed. And then, Curio laughed, stifling herself with her paw. Shine looked on, unnerved by all of this. He didn’t want to go as far as to say that about Bolt, even though the heartache was real. But was that the right reaction for him to have?

Oh, sorry, I don’t find any of this funny, just, aw man.” She clutched her chest, still snickering. “Okay, I’m good. Might just be the booze talkin’.”

“You sure?”

Yup. Homestretch, baby. Nowhere else to go from here but up. Yaaaaaaaay.”

(Okay, so. Sorry, I don’t have a good question for all of this. My head’s a little overstuffed at the moment.)

It’s fine. I said you needed a drink for that.

(True. So, what happened? With Shine? With M? And after all of that with GeL?)

Well, lots of things. But let’s just get to the part where GeL finally went ‘don’t let the door hit your tail on the way out’ to M. Not that we wanted to, but whatever.

For his last day, M returned to the wild base with us, and naturally, everyone there was on guard. When your school is basically your dorm as well, word spreads fast. Since it was his last day, I tmade sure nobody turned on him while I was around. The first thing he did was check out the plaque by his sister’s grave. Indeed, it read ‘Camellia (for M)’, with a new bundle of fresh flowers. That Marowak stared at it for a while.

“Ca… aa… mmmmmmm…” M traced his claw over the inscribed letters, repeating them in order. “Ca…me-lee-ah. F-o-r M…” He pointed to himself, a smile spreading across his face. “That’s my name!”

“You read that?” I asked, perplexed.

“Y-yes, I think.” M sat back, bringing his paws to his lap. “I tried to learn what they taught me. It didn’t work. But now, I…”

“Again, you learnt something. You know what numbers and letters are. You’re aware of yourself. You should be proud of those things.”

“Maybe. Maybe I’d like to learn later. But I don’t belong here. Not smart enough.”

“That’s nonsense.” I sat back with my paws behind my head, staring up at the fake sky. Even though it wasn’t real, it was still nice to look at every once in a while with all those blues and whites. I took a deep breath, imagining I smelled cut grass around me, if I knew what scent that was. “Smarts don’t matter. I’m not smart. And I know you tried as well, so you weren’t just goofing off. They said it wasn’t your fault.”

“I know.” He stood up, appearing above me. “I like it here. The Pokemon are nice. The staff are nice.” His eyes drooped. “I’m not nice. I’ve hurt people here; I can’t change that. And I don’t want to be enemies to everyone here.” He sat back down in front of me, cradling himself. “Will… will Shine see me? I want to say I’m sorry before I go.”

I saw Shine in the infirmary a few times, since I was allowed to now, and for the first day or so, he took it really hard.

(It was like my brain was being poked by a skewer non-stop with my eye missing, even when I was hooked up to the charging station.)

Yeah, basically that until he took the painkillers. He was a bit slower on the uptake since he was constantly tired, but at least he could’ve talked that way. So in short, I relayed what I had learnt about M through that aura-digging session, and from there, he asked specifically if he could see M at some point, only if he wanted to, which was a no brainer.

“He’s up,” I said, looking to the door. “And yeah, he should be fine with that, but it might be a bit of a shock when you see him.”

However reluctant he was, I knew he wanted to power through it regardless. So, M tilted his head up, determined. “Alright, let’s go.”

So, infirmary time again. I stopped outside the door to take a breather, holding onto M’s paw just so he could be seen with a guardian. While I was allowed on certain grounds, I didn’t just want to barge in, so I tapped at the door with my spike.

“Yes?” The nurse peered out, eyeing me first. “Oh, Curio, of course! And…” Who else did it lead to but M? Her face took on a more sour expression then, as if M had just guffed in the halls.

It’s fine,” I said. “Shine wants to see him, and there’s no… wait a sec.” Never mind where I put the dang thing, but I pulled out a note from Cartwright saying M was under my supervision.

“Do you mind if I stay in the room then?” She crossed her arms, still not pleased by the whole thing, and who could blame her? “I was still in the middle of doing a check up on Shine, and, well, you know. But I trust you.”

She stepped back, allowing me and M to enter. You know what the infirmary looks like by now, so just focus on Shine for now. His wounds were all patched up, and even though that bed was hideously oversized for a Luxio, it looked comfortable. It didn’t change the fact that his eye was missing. Still no chance of bringing that back. But when he saw me, Shine smiled and tried to adjust himself in bed so he could sit up. He only had the energy to move his paw.

“Curio,” Shine croaked, “you… brought…” That was when he caught M. His lips creased into a frown, though on closer inspection, I didn’t see any anger inside it, just trepidation. I didn’t even need to look into his aura that time; if he was outright scared, he would’ve curled up into a ball there. Still, when M saw Shine again, I had to reassure him that everything was fine since he squeezed my paw.

“He won’t lash out at you,” I whispered, kneeling over to him, “just relax.”

M muttered, trying to form the words under his breath. “Okay.” He sighed and looked to Shine. “S-Shine. I’m… sorry.”

Silence. Dead silence. I could tell he had more to say, but again, had trouble putting it into exact words. Kind of like me when I started learning the human tongue. Shine seemed rather perplexed, as much as he could’ve reacted in that drug-fueled haze. I knew the meat of it though, so I wanted to throw him a bone. “Do you want me to help?”

He shook his head. “Won’t count if I don’t do it myself. I…” M continued, glancing at the spot where Shine’s right eye used to be. “I… wasn’t thinking. You… not your fault. All mine. All mine. I…”

M pulled himself away from my paw and ran to the corner of the room, taking deep breaths. The nurse was still wary of him, and I suspected she would’ve taken action if he was left to his own devices, so I stepped in, joining M.

“I…” he said, “can’t do it. Can’t. He’ll never forgive me.”

“Hey,” I whispered, stroking the back of his head, “Shine’s nice. I’m sure he’ll understand, and besides, you did say you were sorry right there. So…”

I hoped Shine would respond, and fortunately, he had his paw up, wanting to speak. So I tried to wrangle M back there. “Let’s hear what he has to say. It’ll be fine.”

His breathing slowed, and in time, he took my paw again as we walked to the side of the bed. Shine gained a little bit more strength and turned to his side to look straight at the Marowak.

“You… went through a lot… I’m sorry… you…”

“No, no, no.” M shook his head violently. “Why are you sorry? You did nothing.”

“Those… never mind. Curio told me.”

I’m not sure if M was pleased to hear that, but who else would’ve let Shine know about what happened?

“I-I’m still scared,” he said, a little more lucid this time. “I can’t forget about that day, that moment when you chased me up the stairs. I thought I was going to die. Do you know what that feels like?”

M went stiff. “You… Yes. Like… everything goes slow.”

“Yes, that.”

More silence. It was starting to become deafening at that point, and wanting to break it, I just dropped into the conversation. “…and?”

“Sorry.” Shine forced a laboured chuckle. “I… know what to say, but have a hard time saying it.” He pondered for a moment, then at last, back to M with a slight smile. “I think I understand. You…um… you must’ve been just as scared as me, I guess. So… I…” One peek into him said forgive, but for whatever reason, he couldn’t bring himself to say it out loud. I knew he wanted to, though.

Before he could complete that thought, the door opened. Bolt stepped in, that Manectric I knew all too well. I watched as he entered, suppressing the urge to lash out at him, especially since he was in the same room as Shine. He went to the nurse first, asking her if he could see Shine as well, which she accepted. Then it was his turn to stand next to Shine. I half expected Bolt to lecture him again about being weak, but to my surprise, he licked his face, getting a chuckle out of Shine.

“Tickles,” he said.

“I guess so,” Bolt grumbled, looking to M next. He licked him across the face as well, which seemed to snap the tension between them. “Oh, M, you look a lot better than you did before.”

“S-sorry,” he said. “For knocking you out, and for Shine. I dunno if he—”

“I know what you’re thinking. Sorry if I interrupted you two. We’re going to leave soon.” He stepped back, clearing his throat. “But first, I wanted to apologise for the trouble I caused you three.”

That came as a surprise. “You did?” I blurted out, regretting it. Bolt just grunted in response, brushing it to the side.

“If I had been more aware of both your troubles, Shine, M, this wouldn’t have happened.” He looked to Shine first. “I… should have listened to you before when you were trying to talk about your problems.”

“Yes,” Shine said, frowning. “S-sorry, but I can’t forget that either.”

“That’s fair. And M,” to the Marowak next, “well, you’ll see. I’ll tell you more about it later, okay?”

He hummed to himself, looking to Shine once more, since this probably would’ve been the last opportunity to say anything. Slowly, he approached that bedridden Luxio, cautiously raising his paw to touch his. I kept my guard up in case anything else happened. Thankfully, nothing did, as Shine grasped at his paw, holding it there and looking into each other’s eyes. They lingered on that moment for a long time as Bolt patiently waited beside the bed. Both their thoughts were in tune with one another, saying what words couldn’t have expressed. Finally, M released his grip and joined Bolt as he headed for the door.

I followed, and in the hallway, there was the ranger, Lucy the co-director, Azzy the teacher and his human partner Mack.

“Thank you, Curio,” Lucy said with a reluctant bow as M and Bolt joined the group. “We’ll take it from here.”

As relieved as I was to have M off my paws, it seemed like things were whizzing by too suddenly. Already, we were about to say our last goodbyes before seeing each other off.

Um,” I started in human, “where is he going?”

M cocked his head, trying to listen into my speech, though whether or not he understood it was up in the air. Putting that aside, Lucy stepped forward, about to explain.

He’ll be under Bolt and the ranger’s supervision. Part of the ranger’s duty is rehabilitating wild Pokemon, but this isn’t an ordinary case, is it?”

“No.” The ranger took her gloves off and rubbed her bare hands. “GeL’s contacted a professor, someone who can give M more of a closer look, but for now, he’ll be under my wing.”

And, well…” Bolt sighed as static bristled across his fur. “I’m out of a job anyway.” Before Lucy could respond to that, he chuckled. “But they said I’d be better off looking after M and helping out the ranger. They need more Pokemon like me, apparently.”

“I mean, takes a wild mon to know a wild mon, doesn’t it? Bonus points if they can talk.”

Indeed. Well, we still don’t really know what to do with him. The poor guy’s still undecided, but—”

“I want to help as well,” M said, turning back to his tutor. You should’ve seen Bolt’s expression; anything other than resting ***** face was an odd look on him. “If… um, if there are other wild Pokemon that are struggling out there, then I want to find them.” M touched one of his scars, running his paw across his face. “They don’t deserve to go through what I went through.”

We were taken aback by that. Of course, I was happy to hear that after all he said, but it still didn’t erase his past. Bolt smiled though, and relayed what he said in the human tongue. Finally, the ranger knelt down to pet M without fear, and he lowered his head to allow her to run her fingers through his scales. Better than him almost chomping her hand off.

While they were doing their own thing, I looked to Azzy and Mack, who both had bags slung across their backs, since I guessed they were clearing house.

What about you guys?” I asked, still a bit saddened that they quit, well, more for Azzy. I had talked to Mack occasionally, but there was nothing too special between us, so I barely mentioned him for a lot of this interview to be honest. “Did you talk things out with GeL?”

Yes,” that blue rabbit said, “we’ve mostly patched things up, but me and my partner decided it was better for the both of us to leave anyway.”

“I was kind of piddled off with how they handled your family stuff myself, for what it’s worth,” Mack said.

I-it’s fine,” I said, still unsure. “I understand why they did it.”

Yes, we respect that.” Azzy frowned. “After everything else that happened, we just couldn’t. So, me and Mack are going to go back to do what we did before this project.”

He talked about it a few times, but basically, before GeL approached the two, they had travelled through a lot of different regions to pass on their skills to Pokemon, hired by quite a few clients who were interested in teaching their Pokemon the human tongue amongst other things. What they were doing wasn’t really illegal since they were just doing it privately, not as a whole schooling thing like GeL were doing. And they were getting a bit of bank from it as well, depending on who hired them.

That sounds nice.” I hummed, trying to process my thoughts on the whole thing. “Still sucks to see you go like that, teach.”

I know.” Azzy took my paw. “It’s a shame to leave everyone here behind after teaching them for so long. But I’ve made my goodbyes and they seem to be doing fine, so I wish them all the best. And you especially…” He leaned in for a hug and I returned it carefully with my chest spike still there. “I hope you’ll find your place here.”

My place, huh? Since everything went Aspear-shaped, I hadn’t decided what my place was or even if I’d continue what I did before in the focus sessions. Even when Azzy pulled away from me, I still couldn’t think of a reply to that. And yet…

Well, to cut the crap, I decided to stay in the end. You know as much already. At that moment, Lucy still asked if I wanted to come with them or discuss further to find somewhere else, but I had already decided. Really, I had nowhere else to go, but even if I had, I’d be missing all my friends, I’d be missing all the memories I made there, and I’d be missing out on my studies. Even if I wasn’t sure where I wanted to take my art, after thinking about it and watching all those films, ideas sprouted like seeds in my head. I wanted to try my paws at a few of the things, including making those mini figurines I saw in that film. If I found a niche there, then that would carry me through to the rest of my studies. If I was being somewhat selfish, hearing M’s experiences made me decide that it was better for me here.

In any case, the rest were glad to hear it, though that didn’t make our last goodbyes any less bittersweet. Azzy, M, even Bolt, would be going back to the outside world while I’d be back here. Before I saw them off for good, I wanted to speak to M again, alone this time, so we did exactly that, huddled next to a wall away from the group.

By the relaxed expression in his eyes and the way he carried himself in general, he had changed somewhat. Still, I had to make sure he was alright after all that.

“M,” I whispered, “you seem a lot better since… you know.”

He mumbled, scratching the bottom of his chin. “I’m not sure… It’s… scary, thinking about everything. I still think about Camellia. I don’t think that will go away.”

I wasn’t sure how to respond to that, not knowing that same sort of grief myself, so I just nodded.

“Things will be hard. I still get angry or sad sometimes.” He smiled ever so slightly. “But… things will get better. I’m sure.”

It’s sounding a bit redundant at this point, but we also hugged it out before he left, except for longer than ever this time. After a while, his thoughts flooded into mine, and I saw one last memory there, of him and Camellia holding each other as they watched the sunset together. She still had the leg that time. The canvas of his mind was awash with reds, yellows, oranges and purples, with everything drenched in a warm haze. Eventually, his mother joined, wordlessly watching the two with sadness in her eyes, but she shrugged it off and joined them too, pulling them into her embrace.

And that’s all she wrote.


(That’s all for the second year?)

Eh, there is something else I wanna get to. But after everything with M went down, our studies continued as normal. Lucy became the new language teacher, and there weren’t any problems with the gap in the staff there. Rhode stood in as my tutor from then on, who I’ll get to in a bit. But with no one left to tutor Shine after he recovered, wait, who stepped in?

(Allister, the writing tutor.)

Alright, got it. So there was still a little bit of ‘oh, where the hell do we go from here’ after M left. But I ain’t gonna talk about that. The aftermath. GeL apologising to everyone and all that. The slow build up to stuff being normal again. I will say, things got better once we put that aside. I got on with my focus and found my love for miniature sculpting instead. Once I got my paws around it, things fell into place. Others struggled, since Hans, that Ambipom, wasn’t sure of where he wanted to go outside of training, except he was learning different things outside of battle that would’ve put him on par with a trainer. At least he was as full of piss and vinegar as ever. PZ, who had evolved into a Weavile, stopped making games, though he still wanted to code. How he did that was beyond me. Bran the Machoke kept changing subjects. I think the Gastly must’ve evolved into a Haunter.

Actually, her name was Poof, and I might have an interesting story to tell about her journey later. But I don’t have enough time to go through her lot, so let’s just focus on the bigger picture for now.

Abraxas, well, I didn’t really bother. I wouldn’t have peed on him if a Charmander lit him on fire. However, I didn’t hear anyone else complaining about him since he got that detention, and when I passed by one of the rooms one day, I took a peek at his aura and saw him practising the cello. It sounded awful, but at least he had his energy focused on something else other than bitching for once.

There was a lot more that happened on a day to day basis, but there’s literally no way I’m gonna be able to cover everything though. I’d be here until next morning yapping about it, so I’m gonna shut up and stick to one night. Do you remember what I said about Lexy playing the guitar and making a band and all that?


Well, he and his friends put out a mini-album, from what I remember. I don’t know what you really call those things—-

(An EP.)

Yeah, whatever, dweeb. Point is, he actually had a few songs they made up on their own, so he was performing as an opening act for another band in Veilstone and wanted people from the facility to come along, including Ellie, and, well, you guessed it, me.

(I didn’t guess. Last time you talked about Lexy, you didn’t seem on good terms with him.)

Yeah, well, we patched things up since then. He said he was sorry for excluding me before, so we moved on. Besides, I was his partner for the sake of his studies, so I couldn’t have burned the bridge there. In any case, GeL approved my visit to the place on the condition that Rhode looked after me throughout the trip. That, and I think he needed an excuse to get out of GeL for a bit as well. But as a precaution, he gave me cozies to wear for my spikes in case I bumped into anyone, which he wore himself. They were a bit tight, but I felt a bit safer going out in the knowledge that no one would be shishkebobbed on accident.

So that marked the second time I ventured outside GeL. I’ll skip the long, boring bus trip and just get to the part where we stepped out into Veilstone City. Rhode thanked the driver as he guided me down the steps. It wasn’t the first time I stepped foot into that city, but it was the first time I saw the outside other than the museum. So when I stepped off, I was in some sort of... thing. It was dark and had lots of other buses, all lit up by the streetlamps. Already, there was so much aura around me, I didn’t know how I’d react at first. But it was fine. I remembered Rhode’s breathing exercises whenever I felt overwhelmed, and I had him by my side. So he led the way.

Going through traffic was a weird experience as a Pokemon. Having to wait by the stop lights for the first time was a bit unnerving, especially with all the honking going on. I thought the cars were gonna swerve into the pavement and hit us. But once their lights turned red and ours turned green, Rhode took my paw and guided me through the road. So we were on the other side, safe and sound. Now we were out into the actual city area, and seeing the streets in all their glory, I had to stop and take in my surroundings.

It was nice to feel the breeze on my fur for once, the sight of real trees as well as the feel of the cool concrete underneath my paws. This was smack dab in the middle of a series of buildings which shot up several stories into the sky, all with humans and Pokemon hanging around and with lights glowing through the windows, giving me a view of the people inside. Just like the windows into their rooms, their aura gave me a window into their lives. Some were just chilling and watching TV. Some were playing beer pong with their Pokemon helping out. I even saw someone’s Infernape hanging upside down on one of the balconies by their tail, casually eating a berry while their trainer smoked outside. It was night, but it was a warm sort of night, and the sky was clear, filled with stars. I was in awe of the whole thing. There was so much life everywhere.

“Quite the sight, en’t it, lass?” Rhode said.

“You could say that.” Not that there was much to say.

The more we walked, the more the town came to life before me. Some kids were having a battle with a Piplup and Chimchar in one of the neighbourhood roads we walked through. I thought of Dawn and Ash for some reason; we still watched that show, after all. Once we got further into the city, we passed by a few entertainment centres as well, where other trainers pulled levers down on machines with blinking lights while their Pokemon watched with bated breath. That must’ve been a casino or something. Even further than that, a pair of Glameow brushed past my legs, which got my attention. They seemed to be strays with their fur all frayed and their coat having some sort of slimy sheen to it. They stopped to stare at us two for a bit, then went on their way as they strutted through the streets, long tails intertwined with one another.

Sue me, I saw into their auras. They had seen a lot. Territory fights that ended in deaths. Motherless cubs roaming the streets. They also saw figures completely clad in black clothing, which was a complete mystery to me. But at least they had each other. The times they’d spent curled up beside air vents on the rooftops, keeping away from the cold night. The times they’d work together to catch their prey. The times they thought of having a litter together. Those thoughts and fleeting comforts would’ve been enough to last them through even the harshest winters.

“What you thinkin’ about?” Rhode asked, patting my shoulder. Right, back to reality. Well, honestly, I was still in a lovestruck haze, but I didn’t want to admit that to my tutor.

“Nothin’.” I glanced to where the feline duo disappeared. “C’mon, let’s go.”

It would’ve only been a few more minutes until we reached our destination, according to Rhode. But during that walk, that gave me time to think, time to look back at that couple. I guess I hadn’t really thought about those sorts of feelings before. There wasn’t anyone that really interested me, not yet, but still, there was that growing hunger. Like something you didn’t know you wanted yet, but felt was right anyway.

“You’ve got plenty o’ time there, lass,” Rhode blurted out. That was random. Or… wait, I connected the dots and snorted.

“None of your business!” I yelled. “Jeez, invasion of privacy, much?”

“You’re one ta’ talk, how many times’ve you peeked in my mind?”

“That’s different! And hey, we all know you have the hots for Lucy!”

“I—” That must’ve touched a nerve. “I walked right into that one. Well, we have a… let’s say, professional relationship.”

“Excuses.” I stuck my tongue out.

“Do that again and I’ll yank it off.” He gave me a wide smille. “But nah, don’t feel like you hafta find a partner yet, lass. And when you do, well, keep that between yourselves, but just know it’s a healthy thing to explore while you’re in you-know-what. Oh!” He stopped, putting his paw in front of me. “I will let you know somethin’ else. That place that must not be named, well, in time, once you’re a bit older, you can start going out on yer own trips.”


“Yeah. That won’t be for some time though. Until then, come next year, we’ll be doin’ something like group trips as well. How’d you like that?”

Those all sounded exciting back then, even more so later on when we’d go on them for real. But that’s for another time. We still had a gig to attend. So, a few minutes later, we reached our destination, going into an alleyway to where the club was. In my head, I expected it to be much bigger from the outside, but amongst the other shops that were closed, the doors to the venue were open where a few humans waited outside with kits, some of them smoking. All of them were clad in some sort of makeup or ridiculous hairstyle, but amongst those, I picked out the one with the green mohawk as Lexy. Ellie was by his side, wearing shoes this time, thank god. Lexy picked us two out and waved at us.

“Hey!” he called, “glad you could come!”

I wouldn’t ‘ave missed it for the world!” Rhode said as he approached, attracting the attention of Lexy’s other groupies. I came in too, though I took a step back when I got a bit too close to the cigarette stink.

“Duuude,” one of the younger members said, “did he just…”

“And his t-shirt, holy crap!” Another member pointed at Rhode’s chest, which had a pattern of 4 black bars with some bold text to go along with it. “Didn’t know Pokemon listened to Obb Stag!”

He just shrugged. “Didn’t know there was a rule that Pokemon couldn’t. I’m a patron o’ the arts all the same!”

“Damn straight.” Lexy said. “Oh! I didn’t tell you about them, did I? These are my friends, Rhode and Curio!”

Rhode just smiled while I awkwardly waved. Friends was a bit of a stretch since we were mostly classmates, but it was nice to be called that.

“What do they do?” the older member said.

“Can he speak too?” the young guy said, pointing to me. Okay, what?

She,” I corrected. “Do I really look like a guy?”

I think you got your answer there, mate,” Ellie said, trying to hold back her laughter. The younger member slunk behind the group in response to that.

I mean,” Rhode chimed in, “in all fairness, it ain’t obvious, is it? We kinda look the same, like a lot of Pokemon. But let’s say I was a girl. What am I supposed ta’ do, put on makeup?”

“Okay, okay, whatever.” Lexy put his hand up, reigning it in. “But yeah, Rhode, well, it’s a bit hard to explain, but Curio here’s an artist!”

I put my paws behind my back. “Eh, I’m still learnin’…”

“You’re too humble, Curio!” Ellie said, patting my arm. “I mean, with all the lessons we’ve had together, I think you’ve come a long way!”

“So your girl’s worked with her before?” the older member asked Lexy. He nodded in reply. “Huh, well colour me curious.”

Before I could respond to any of that, Rhode pulled something out of his own backpack: a miniature model of a Riolu sat atop a tree. That took weeks of work, with me just figuring stuff out on the fly, like how to cobble the right materials together and learning how to paint it. It was still pretty basic and I didn’t really want massive amounts of praise for it. The older member thankfully hummed and said “not bad.”

Again, still learnin’.” I smiled, seeing how interested the others were. “I wanna make better stuff than this, so I’ve been practisin’ a lot.”

“Fair play,” the older member said. “Keep at it.”

Rhode put it back in his bag; any longer and I probably would’ve begged him to stop showing it off, then Lexy gestured to his group.

“We should be ready for the sound check soon, so we better go in. See ya, Els.”

She smiled as they went in with their instrument cases, but not before they waved at us too. My insides felt like Butterfree were fluttering in them, but still came away from that conversation pleased. So anyway, we came in after them, going down the steps to some sort of underground club.

Humans crowded around the bar and stage areas with no Pokemon in sight at all; the odour of sweat and beer surrounding us. The floor was sticky as well, which I groaned at. Already, I felt out of place there, and that wasn’t even getting into how damn noisy the place was. There was chatter all around, and even though I suppressed my aura, with that many people smooshed together, it felt crowded in there. Music blared from the speakers as well, which was not only loud, but aggressive, with lots of drums, distorted guitars and growlly vocals. Seeing this, Rhode handed me a set of earplugs, which wasn’t really designed for my canine ears, but did the job well enough that it stopped being so overwhelming.

“Nervous?” he asked, which I nodded to. “It’s natural.”

“Don’t other Pokemon come to this place at all?”

“Nah, lass. It’s not really meant for them in mind, though I’m sure there’s some that come in here. It’s not like we’re banned or anythin’.”

“True.” I glanced at a few of the patrons, some old, some new, that stared at us.

Hey, listen,” Rhode said to me in the human tongue, I guess for their benefit. “Don’t worry about the looks we’re gettin’. I’m sure they don’t mind us here, and that they’re just interested, is all.”

But what if someone doesn’t want me here and—”

Ah, bollocks to that. You know what, if anyone tries to pee on your parade, tell ‘em to get stuffed. It’s not their problem and they shouldn’t be yours, understand?”

The bystanders turned away from us. I took it they got the picture, but I still wasn’t sure. I didn’t want them to feel awkward around us, and from what I read with their aura, that was definitely the case. Not antagonistic, just not sure how to react with me around. There it was again, that feeling of being singled out. I turned towards the front door and would’ve walked if it wasn’t for Rhode’s paw brushing against mine.

“Hey. Y’want a drink? Nothing stiff, just something that might ease you in a bit.”

Despite my fears about how this would all go down, I couldn’t say no to free stuff. Hooray for mooching off of people, I guess. I won’t go through the whole process of ordering, though it was my first time actually giving money to a human in person. Rhode let me handle the remaining change, and when the person behind the bar asked for the money, I counted it up and gave it to him, trying not to notice how slow I was going with the line behind me. But anyway, I passed that stage, and we both had a pint of cola to drink from, so we sat in a quieter place of the club where there was a free couch for us to sit on. At last, time to relax. I took a sip of my drink; the first time I had anything fizzy like that, mind you, and hiccuped. Well that was something, but it tasted nice anyway, and I took another cautious sip.

“Yeah, not the healthiest thing, mind,” Rhode said, taking a swig of his own, “lots o’ sugar. But think of it as a treat.”

“Thanks a lot, teach.” I swirled the pint glass in my paw and sighed, glancing at the walls. Guitars, punk posters and records were mounted on there, giving it a retro vibe, not that I was cultured enough to understand that. Still, it gave the place a nice atmosphere, or it would’ve been if it weren’t for the presence of the other humans. “Does it… get easier?”

“Huh—hic!” Even Rhode found the drink a bit too much for his taste buds. “Huh?”

“I mean, talkin’ to humans, or at least bein’ with them. When I’m on my own with ‘em, I’m fine, but in a place like this… I still dunno. Just so many people in one small place.”

“Yeh, I get what you mean.” He patted me on the back and smiled. “I do think you’ve come far though. And that’s somethin’ we’ll work on building your confidence with next year. Once we start goin’ out more, we can give you more freedom there. Just take it in little steps.”

“Yeah, I guess so.”

He hummed, taking another swig.

“I put you on the spot earlier with that figure thing, didn’t I?”

“Oh, n-no, just not what I expected.” Another awkward sip. “It’s not like I—” Another poorly timed hiccup. “Not like I’m like a pro or anythin’.”

“Still, no shame in showin’ it off. And who’s to say you won’t be?”

I sank further in my seat, still feeling under pressure. Again, I enjoyed making art, but whether I could make something of myself doing just that, I didn’t know. And those were big shoes to fill, even though it was impossible for me to wear them. At least it seemed to be.

“Okay, okay, I don’t wanna heap too much on you, lass.” He leaned back. “But you have plenty of time. These clowns here—” he gestured to the row of humans lining up— “they’ve had lots of time to go through life an’ fail. Twenty years, thirty years, even more. You’re barely even four years old, a teenager in human years, if I recall. Plenty of time left for you to just explore stuff, huh?”

He gently nudged my arm with his elbow.

“I mean, yeah, there’s lots of stuff I wanna do. But what if I do… just okay? What if I don’t end up havin’ my stuff up on display or somethin’? Would that still be enough?”

“That’s not the point.” Rhode put his glass down on the table. “We’re not expectin’ you to change the world or make lots of money or become famous or whatever. You don’t need to impress anyone, really.” He turned to me with a warm smile. “Just do what makes you happy.”

That got me to smile as well.

“Anyways…” Rhode took his glass once more. “The world’s your Cloyster. Don’t mean to be schmaltzy or whatever, but I believe in you lot, no matter what you guys do. Let’s just make the most of it, huh?” He raised his glass between us, tipping the bottom forward. “Cheers to another three years!”

I saw that glass-clinking move before in a movie and wanted to do the same. In my excitement, I raised my glass too and nudged it against his. He glugged his and I did the same with mine, swigging it down in one big mouthful. It might’ve turned into a bit of a belching contest after, but I’ll spare you the details.

So, time passed, and eventually, Rhode guided me to the pit in the middle. It was cramped in there, and I was worried my spikes would catch someone when I remembered I had those protective covers on. Still, I had never been in such a crowd before. That Butterfree feeling rose up again, and it wasn’t just the fizzy stuff in my system. Then, Lexy and his band came along to a quiet mix of cheers, instruments all in hand.

No fancy intro, no bells and whistles. Lexy strummed the first distorted notes of his guitar and the band joined in, crashing drums cymbals, slapping bass strings, and the young member in the front yelling into the mic. This was a far cry from the stuff Lexy played during our check up sessions together. For the first minute, it just seemed like noise, and I just stood there, taking it all in while the rest in front bobbed their heads in rhythm. Was I not getting it at all? I thought about turning away when Rhode joined in, doing some sort of a jig. The way he stepped in tune and moved like he didn’t have a care in the world; that was a new look on him. I tapped my feet along with the song, finding a groove there, and then, just danced.

I lost myself in the rhythm. I became yet another figure in the crowd, stepping in time and stomping my paws to the pounding amps. There was no other feeling like it, not even watching films, making art, or battling, it was something completely different. It was great and fun and tiring, but really awesome and…

Okay, I’m gonna shut up now.


Chapter 38: Ambrette’s Sleepover

Curio shifted her weight, lying down on the couch with a great big yawn. “I’m so totally done with tonight, I swear to god.”

“Ditto to that,” Tony said, stretching in his chair. “Thanks for sticking with it, everyone. You both did a great job. Jeez.” Tony sighed and took his glasses off, wiping his eyes. They looked a lot smaller when uncovered by that lens. “Yeah, I’m spent for tonight too. What time is it?” He squinted at his phone, then in the same breath, his eyes widened. “Past midnight?”

Woah,” Curio said, “I think we hit a new record there.” She started laughing out of nowhere, which slowly dwindled into a sigh. “Okay then, now what? I feel like there’s a lot more I wanna say, but—” that broke off into another yawn— “you know what, this couch is really nice. Forget it.”

Tony smiled, standing up as he removed the camera from its tripod and scrolled through the screen. “Glad I got a good deal on that one.”

Speaking of deals…” Curio laid on her side, looking to both Shine and Tony. “I gave you a really bum deal before, Tony. Sorry again.”

That was news to Shine. Again? So she apologised before? Never mind, they had buried the hatchet a day ago, so he put that at the back of his mind, but Shine sat still, taking in where the rest of the conversation would go.

“Well, I appreciate that you stepped forward to apologise. I know that’s hard, given your stance on humans. I—”

No, that’s not why I was so pissed.” She took a deep breath and stared at the ceiling, putting her metal hand behind her head. “I don’t hate humans at all; I freaking love ‘em. All the stuff they do, you know, it’s inspiring. There are a few dipshits here and there, but there are also a lot of dipshits in the Pokemon kingdom. And the humans I meet I do get to talk to, well, whenever I have long, interestin’ conversations with ‘em, I forget I’m a Pokemon.”

It’s the trainers she specifically doesn’t get along with,” Shine chimed in with a flat tone, repeating it for Tony’s benefit.

“Ah…” He scratched his head. “Well… I can’t exactly help being Shine’s trainer. And we haven’t even had one single battle since I got the license, so he had no obligation to do anything a typical trainer would expect him to do, really. Is that what you thought at first?”

Yeah, exactly.” Another sigh from her. “I thought you pulled him away from the stuff he wanted to do, like writing. That’s why I planted the bucket on the roof.”

“Huh, that’s… interesting.” Tony snapped the camera screen back into place, turning it over in his hands. “I thought that was just directed at me in general.”

Nope.” Yet another sigh, then Curio sat back up with a newfound rage in her eyes. “Look, as a Pokemon, you really don’t know what you have until you get it taken away from you. My time with a trainer back then was hell. No sculpting. No drawing. Just fighting. Each day I wasted with that *****, bits of myself just slipped away.” She grit her teeth. “I wasn’t gonna let that happen again with Shine and his dreams.”

My dreams?” Shine said, rising up. “You don’t know what my dreams are now.”

Yeah, you’re right, I don’t.” She crossed her arms. “And I was stupid. But you guys know what I mean, right?”

Shine did, despite everything hurtful she said before. Tony laid the camera down on the seat and took a deep breath.

“Um, Curio, I think there was a bit of a misunderstanding. I never stopped Shine from doing anything. Hell, if I knew he was into writing, then I would’ve found groups for him.” His tone was a bit more desperate there while still being quiet, waving one hand around to make his point. “I already try to encourage him to do the things he enjoys doing. So, I dunno what to say to that.” He stomped one foot on the floor, trying to hold himself together.

Tony,” Shine said with a lump in his throat, “you wouldn’t have known unless I told you. Besides…” he trailed off, thinking back to all those fractured memories, those broken dreams, and how they festered in him for ages. “I made the choice to stop doing it. I just couldn’t start again after what happened.” Even thinking about it set him on edge, but Shine put it to the side for now. “If I wanted to, I could’ve looked for groups myself, or continued my works in progress. I just lost the spark for it though, and I don’t think I want to try it again.”

Another bout of silence. Tick, tock. A few sighs there. All the while, Shine felt the eyes of the two most important people in his life boring into him, both sorrowful.

So…” Shine said with a nervous smile. “I think that answers your question, Curio?”

Yeah, yeah, it does.” She relaxed her gaze, then yawned again, lying down on the couch in the most comfortable position she could with her tail tucked away. “You know what, both of you are awesome. Both of you…” Another stretched-out yawn. “Are doing great…” She closed her eyes, breathing in and out as she tried to fall asleep.

Shine and Tony were left on their own with the silence again.

“I’m gonna get another drink and back this up.” Tony turned towards the door, taking the camera with him. “I want to talk to you for a bit, if you’re not too tired.”

His tone didn’t suggest he was telling him off. While Shine was a bit groggy and stiff from sitting for so long, there were still some loose ends he wanted to tie up with his trainer. So, he agreed and went along with him to the kitchen where Tony opened another beer, then to the computer desk where he connected the memory card to the desktop. While the backing up process was going on, Tony turned around in his chair and took a big swig from his bottle. Shine couldn’t say he was pleased to see his trainer drinking, but it wasn’t his place to judge.

“Well, I’m thinking about what Curio said about your writing and what you mentioned you were doing once the second year calmed down. Did you want to tell me this now or on the record?”

Shine paused, humming to himself as he looked at his bookcase-bed combo in the corner of the room. He read a lot, and frequently got inspiration for what he’d pursue in his own worlds, just like the fantasy authors he revered so much. Being online was also a good chance for him to pretend to be someone he wasn’t, but… was it worth it? All that time he spent at GeL, and did he manage to do something with it in the end? Now wasn’t the time to think about that; Tony was still looking at him expectantly.

Um, off the record.” He sat on his haunches, maintaining eye contact with Tony. “I think…. Allister let me go to one of his writing classes with the other students, and over time, I got to share my work with everyone else and also talk to the human classmates about what they were working on.”

“Was that just one session?”

No, a few. We workshopped quite a bit, so we got to make our own stories in a group under a time limit, well, I helped as I brainstormed ideas since I couldn’t write that well, but when I brought my own stories in, I got a lot of good advice there. So that was nice.”

“What stories?”

Shine grumbled, looking down at his feet. “I’m… sorry. I don’t remember that bit that well. Like Curio, I did quite a bit, but unlike her, the exact details of each project I worked on are hazy. Besides, I wouldn’t want to bore you with that.”

Tony sighed. “Look, I wouldn’t have asked if I wasn’t interested.” That struck him as a bit too severe, but his trainer relented, taking another swig. “Sorry, just, it’s great to hear you worked on something like that. And a shame that you stopped. That sort of creative hobby might’ve been another good outlet for you too.”

I know.” Shine stood up and approached Tony, getting a closer look at his face. He wore a poker face, but through his uncovered eyes, there was a lot of turmoil going on in them.

“I, um…” Tony held up his glasses, absent-mindedly polishing them. “Do you think I could’ve done more to help? When Curio mentioned that and what happened with her trainer, you know, I felt kind of bad.” He gripped his glasses tightly. “I should’ve known since you were so interested in your books and all that.”

That’s not your fault.” Shine’s lip trembled, trying to avoid those stirring emotions within him, but he suppressed it and put his big paws on Tony’s lap. “You do more than enough for me without overriding your life. And I know things are hard for you already, I can take the hint.”

Tony blanched at that, putting his frames to the side. “I—”

You don’t need to put on a show about it either. If you’re struggling, then I want to know as well.” His grip tightened, lightly digging his claws into the fabric of Tony’s shorts. “We’re in this together. If you want to get something off your chest, just say it.”

Tony held Shine’s paws, stroking them with his thumb, and looked to the hi-fi set of the living-room wall. “The video can wait. Do you mind if we sit over there and talk over some TV?”

So that was that. The screen switched on as Tony sat down with his legs on the cushion, with a remote in one hand and beer in the other. Shine sat next to him, curled up close as best as a Luxray could’ve done on a couch meant for humans. Finally, Tony settled on one channel which played late night reruns of that cop show he seemed to enjoy: featuring a drug-busting police officer and her Arcanine going on adventures with various capers on their hands and paws. Shine liked to watch it himself sometimes when he needed to turn his brain off, and while Tony warmed himself up by taking sips from his bottle, face redder with each passing minute, the show eventually faded into the background as it was just them.

“So,” Tony started, “well, I won’t lie, this has been on my mind for some time lately. Especially with the interviews we’ve had.”

About… me?” Shine asked.

“Well, sort of, but also about my own life these past few years, ever since we met.”

Shine grumbled, thinking back to those days out in the streets, the slow bond Tony developed with Shine, and everything that followed after. He remembered being very sick at one point, and that was all he wanted to remember for that moment. Tony already interviewed him about it before he started the GeL work in progress, so that was one chapter of his life he could put behind him. His trainer poured all that energy into working towards a full license, and not only that, caring for Shine in general. Moving out of Sinnoh and finding a new work placement here. Moving into an apartment of his own and getting everything settled.

Those years were a blur at the moment with everything else going on, but it worked out for the best for both of them. Then, what was Tony thinking? If he wasn’t pleased with the way things were going, then he would’ve understood. And so, Shine finally mustered up the courage for one simple question.

Yes, then what?”

“Well, I’m not sure what next.” He sighed. “Lately, I feel like I’m not getting anywhere. I mean, I like my job and all. I feel great in that area, even with the office politics that goes on. But, well, between this and the interview, I haven’t focused that much on my own life.”

Shine was afraid he’d say that, though he also expected it. “I… well, I understand.”

“I mean, it’s no one’s fault. Especially not yours.” He brought his hand up to Shine’s chin, scratching lightly underneath there. “In fact, back then, when I was nobody but an intern, you were the best thing that happened to me.”

O-oh.” He wasn’t quite sure how to take that. “Well, thank you.”

“And I really do mean that, Shine. You were a good friend when I was on my own, and still are.”

There was a pause. Shine lost himself in that moment, being pet by the person he trusted the most. He awaited a response though, but Tony found none, instead, focusing on the TV. A scene played at the end of the cop show where, after solving a long case, the officer enjoyed a bit of banter with a fellow police man as they had coffee and donuts at their house. They exchanged biting remarks, but clearly had a connection with one another from the way that they spoke, in the teasing but not mean-spirited sort of way. That was reflected by their own Pokemon as well, as the male Arcanine playfully chased the female Houndoom. How long did they tease at that ship for?

“You know what, I’m just going to say it: I want to ask Ines out.”

Shine rose at that and sat up. Now, that was a surprise. She went with Tony on quite a few trips, especially with their marine excursions outside of work, but nothing suggested they were too close. Then again, he didn’t know what their working relationship was like exactly. Well, she shared lunch with Tony at breaktime, and outside of work, also gave Tony pointers on how to edit his own videos and put them out on the web when he was still learning. Aside from that, Shine didn’t pry into it too much.

You do? Since when?”

“It’s been a slow burn, I admit.” Tony took another swig, his face turning beetroot at this point. “Heck—hic!” His first hiccup. Was he about to go down for the count as well? “I don’t think I told you much, y’know.” His voice was slipping a little. “Whenever we work together, in the office or with some help on my own videos, I feel something there though.” He frowned, putting the half-empty bottle to the side. “Since I’ve had my hands full with this project though, and I haven’t talked about it with anyone else aside from you, well…” His hands interlocked together. “That means I’ve been seeing her less.”

That made sense, so he wasn’t disappointed to find that out. Shine sat back down, nestling against Tony’s side. “Take some time out to do that, then. I’ll be fine.”

“You’d do that?” Tony pulled his hands away. “I mean, I didn’t want to suggest it was your fault. And if you’re still recovering from learning about M again, then—”

Oh, I’m fine.” Shine lightly butted his head against his trainer’s body. “You know, when Curio retold that story about him, about that second year…” He smiled. “I felt… relieved. And now I want to continue riding that high. You know, you keep saying I should go out more, but I actually want to do it this time. And talk to more people as well!”

“Well,” Tony said, “don’t feel you have to do everything at once.”

Of course. But I want to try doing what I can.” Shine leaned closer into Tony. “And I want you to do the same with Ines. Now that I think about it, me and Curio could give you time alone to get your feelings out there. Maybe we could travel together, if she wants.”

“Oh? Would you be fine after, you know, you had that episode earlier?”

Y-yes.” He wasn’t sure himself, but he pulled his way out of it there. He just needed to remember what happened in case it happened again. He talked it out with Barley last time and pulled through. He had a friend there. And if he was together with Curio, then he would do the same with her if he was in a bind, and vice versa. “I can handle it.”

“Alright. It won’t happen right away, and we’ve still got that thing tomorrow, so I might ask her then. She still might be busy, though.”

Of course.”

At that moment, Tony pulled him in for a hug, stroking his coat in all the right places. “You’ve come a long way though, Shine. I’m really proud of you.”

Again, he didn’t know how to take that compliment. Still, even though the worst was far from over, even though there still would’ve been days when they struggled together, he was more hopeful than ever. If they kept it up, if Shine kept pushing himself and continuing on with the lessons and his budding social life, then there was the possibility that he would change for the better.

Tony’s eyes relaxed and his grip on the Luxray loosened, though those two stayed in that embrace for a little longer. Shine let out a big yawn, and the two very nearly fell asleep on the same couch together. Through Shine’s blurry vision, ads played on the TV, which, like the show, were just background noise. Except for one. A quick ad for 'Lucarios™' cereal played: a mess of oats and chocolate chunks, because of course. Why was Curio on the TV now? Wait, no she wasn’t, that was just a generic cartoon of her species. That’s right, Curio.

There was one other thing Shine wanted to do before turning in for the night. Curio was still in the studio. Hopefully, she hadn’t thrown up in there and was just sleeping soundly, but he wanted to check up on her anyway in case the alcohol took a toll on her. He slunk out of Tony’s embrace and padded through the apartment into his room, taking a blanket from the storage closet. From there, he crept into the photo room. She was still asleep, turned on her side and facing towards Shine. It was the first time he saw her like that. Come to think of it, even when they slept at the PokeRoom and by the beach, he was the one that always fell asleep first.

He approached her, heart beating faster with each step forward. Curio lightly snored underneath her breath, fast asleep. With the blanket in his teeth, Shine stood on his hindlegs, being careful to not accidentally wake her up, and draped the cover over her with his mouth. He took extra care to leave the face uncovered. With the job done, Shine sat back down, pleased that Curio was a lot more comfortable, at least to his eye. He would take one last look at her before leaving for Tony’s couch.

She shifted slightly and stopped snoring, grunting instead. Time stood still with each breath her and Shine took, one asleep, the other awake. Then, Curio sniffled. Tears fell down her face in one unbroken stream like rivers bursting through dams. She was still asleep throughout all of it.

Shine sighed and sat at the edge of the couch, below where Curio sat. Still a few sniffles here and there, but they were soft cries at the most. It must’ve been a condition of some sort, but how did it start? When did it start?

Perhaps it was best to ask her in the morning. For now, Shine lay down, making himself comfortable on the studio floor in case Curio woke up. If she needed someone to talk to as well, he’d be there. Crazy to think their reunion was nearly a week ago.

It was a nice week.

[End of Part 1: Fractured Memories]


A Dense Irritating Miniature Beast of Burden
ANNOUNCEMENT: And that’s it for Part 1 of The Curious and the Shiny! Not the end of the story, period, since there’s still a Part 2, but I think this is a good place to put a checkpoint on TCATS since we’ve reached the point where the premise of the fic has been flipped on its head. This was one of the main moments I was building up to, and from here, I might as well drop the GeL pretense, since, well, you’ve seen it for yourselves. There will be a couple more interlude chapters before the proper 2nd part starts, but I will probably be doing them at a later date.

For more information, since this fic has been so long so far, I’m splitting it up into two parts. Everything before this point will retroactively be called Part 1: Fractured Memories, while the next one will be called Part 2: Broken Dreams, continuing on from The Growth Arc. But anyways...

This has been a wild ride so far. I really wasn’t expecting to write this much of TCATS going into it. Considering its length so far at over 200k words throughout the course of two years, I’m surprised I kept it going for so long.

The reason I’ve decided to split this up into parts is because I want to take a hiatus from writing fanfiction for a little while. At least, until the next NaNoWriMo event, or maybe before that. The reason for this is that I want to focus on original writing and experiment more with new concepts, as well as extend some of the themes seen in TCATS. As much as I love writing this story, not being able to show it to many people outside the fanfic community does distance me a bit from the writing community, when it’s something I want to network with and get a foot into the industry with.

That’s not to say I’ll be cutting myself out of the fanfiction community entirely. I might pitch in with some one shots in between then, and I have another surprise in store for y’all that aren’t as caught up. Since I’ve revised everything up until the start of The Growth Arc, I’ll soon be updating chapters 1-17 with new revisions. They include minor changes to the events within the story with nothing too substantial, but there’s a lot more focus on expanding the characterisation this time around, especially in regards to the flawed first arc. So changes more for the benefit of first time readers or readers that dropped the story around that point before. That will be my last outing before I shift focus away from TCATS.

In any case, I want to thank everyone who stuck through this story, even though it might’ve been a bit slow paced at times, and I hope you’ll stick around for more of this fic and my future works as well! See you around!


Dragon Enthusiast
Well. What an incredible, emotional, and simultaneously down-to-earth, yet artsy story. Consider this a general, broad, overall review of Part One as it stands.

First things first, full disclosure, you had to have done at least one thing right for me to get a favorite out on FFN for something, since I'm very selective about those things. The moment that got me was when Curio was blasting the false sky after realizing that she wasn't going to be able to see her parents so suddenly. And even if that hadn't been enough, the wrap-up and finale with M absolutely would have done that for me--M is by far my favorite character, and I do hope we can eventually hear about him helping out with the Rangers after significant rehab.

This final arc of Part One was definitely a lot longer than the others, and I think that leads me to believe you might have underestimated the length of some of these plot beats. If this story was written out if simple chapters without any Part dividers, I don't think I would have noticed, but as it stands, I am perplexed why this arc in particular is so gargantuan. I wonder if it could have gone for some splits, but really, that's an arbitrary thing to get hung up on in the end. Mother 3 had a chapter that was just walking to the left for a few minutes.

I liked the arc with Shine trying to find Curio for its establishment of the world. In hindsight, I think a few things may have been needless, but their secondary purpose of building up the world was what made up for it. The island arc helped for Curio's side of things, building up her past and eventual upbringing into GeL. And the Growth arc--the meat of this fic--tied it all together, and still has me hungry for more answers.

As an aside, the final chapter of Part One is a little perplexing for most of it. It's acknowledged in-universe as a cooldown, but I do wonder how much of it was necessary, beyond the very end, which was a clear setup for Part Two. I suppose all I can really say is--good work, and I can't wait to see what you have in store next. Take it easy on your hiatus, and I hope to see you when you're ready to hop back in!


A Dense Irritating Miniature Beast of Burden
Celebrating The Curious and the Shiny's 2nd Anniversary, with Spoiler Q&A!
Woah, so second year already? Well then. Still wasn't expecting to get this far even when I did the first Q&A, but it's been a great journey so far. Thanks to all the people who read this story; your support has made this a great experience.

As usual, ask any question that comes to mind. You can ask any of the characters random questions, request them to do stuff, or you can ask me a question about certain trivia in the world or about the fic I didn't have time to address. Anything that tickles your fancy, really.

The draw of this one is that, for those who have read all of Part 1, feel free to ask spoiler-related questions about what happened. Not only that, if you have any questions about forthcoming events happening in Part 2, or what the characters anticipate about what will happen, then feel free to do so! I'm willing to drop a few hints regarding that.

Again, as usual, keep it safe for work. But anything else is fair game. So go ahead and ask Curio, Shine, or anyone else in the cast anything you want, really. Or anything you want me to address outside of that.

Thanks, and I shall await your questions.


Dragon Enthusiast
A mysterious letter falls by the doorway...

Greetings. I have been informed of a strange, special occasion across the realms, and am here to fulfill my cosmic duty. As part of those duties, I have informed others in my assigned realm of your lives, and have come in return with the information requested. The following queries are from various individuals who wish to know more about you. Answer as you may.


"Curio, how do you feel about Tony now that you've spent a few more days with him? How is he compared to your old trainer?" -Owen

"Shine, M did a lot to you, but after what you've learned, what do you think you'll do if you ever see him again?" -Eon

"Shine, you ever gonna beat Curio in a fight?" -Gahi

"Tony, do you think you need to earn Curio's respect more, or is it more a matter of time?" -Rhys

"Tony, is that Primarina doing okay?" -Demitri

"Abraxas, do you think ferals are still inferior?" -Enet (with assistance)

"Cartwright... Do you think you'll succeed?" -Mispy

"Petri! Do you prefer your native tongue or human?" -Anam
Last edited:


A Dense Irritating Miniature Beast of Burden
A mysterious letter falls by the doorway...

"Huh," Tony said, skimming through the contents of the strange letter. "New friends of yours?"

"Um," Shine said, "it's a long story."

"Like, a loooooong story," Curio said. "Kind of flattered they sent it all the way to here, but how the hell are we supposed to respond?"

"Well, if they say it's a cosmic duty, I guess it'll be sent back to where it came the same way." Tony started rummaging through his office supplies. "I better get a pen and pad..."


"Curio, how do you feel about Tony now that you've spent a few more days with him? How is he compared to your old trainer?" -Owen

Curio: Well, honestly, he's much more chill, that and I'm not forced to be with him or anythin'. I pretty much made my own bed there with my trainer, but that doesn't mean what happened was wholly my fault. Totally.

Okay, I guess to be more specific, Tony is a lot more understanding. He's a lot older, can deal with his own ****, and know how to act around Pokemon like me. He doesn't try to talk down to me and I really freaking respect that. I can't count how many times humans have said something really ****y to me, even though they meant well.

My old trainer was a lot younger and didn't have much experience outside of catching wild Pokemon, so again, made my own bed there. It's not something I'm too proud to talk about, but think about it: when a screw-up like me ends up saddled with a kid that only knows how to act around Pokemon from what she was taught (the trainer education in Sinnoh sucks, by the way) and has bigger boots to fill than she can fit, then it's a recipe for disaster.

"Shine, M did a lot to you, but after what you've learned, what do you think you'll do if you ever see him again?" -Eon

Shine: Well... I can't say I'm sure about what to feel yet. I've made my peace with him already, I assume he's doing well wherever he's at, so I don't particularly need to see him again. But thinking about that accident doesn't hurt as much as it used to, so I'd say I wouldn't mind catching up with him, just to see how he's getting on with the ranger. Then again, I'm not sure he'd like to see me after what he did either. Still, it might be nice to find a way if I can find the ranger's place on the web.

"Shine, you ever gonna beat Curio in a fight?" -Gahi

Shine: What kind of question is that? I don't want to fight a friend since we're on good terms again, plus she already made her point days ago, so...

Now that I think about it, why did she challenge me to a fight when she knew how badly Bolt treated me? I know after what I did to her, I deserved it, but there must've been another way.

I must admit though, Gahi, my combat skills are rather stiff. It would take a month of practise to get me back to speed, and even then, I'm not so sure. I would do it again just to prove to her I can fight, even if she has an unfair advantage with that arm. I can't just give up like last time.

"Tony, do you think you need to earn Curio's respect more, or is it more a matter of time?" -Rhys

Tony: So, from what Shine told me, Rhys is another Lucario, so this question checks out. If I'm being honest, I think I've done what I can to show her I mean well. She is rather difficult, but sometimes, you just have to be the bigger man and be the sounding board for someone else. Just like dealing with an irate customer. Still, I hope that tomorrow, we can have a bit more time to bond now I'm off work for the weekend. Bond. Now that's a trainer buzzword I was grilled with a lot during my lessons. I dunno, I see myself as more of a dad than a trainer, in a good way.

"Tony, is that Primarina doing okay?" -Demitri

Tony: Ahem, yes, but that's strictly confidential. I can't give out too much away about her identity.

Well, if you're from another world, I guess it doesn't matter anyway, so screw it, might as well let slip.

This Primarina is actually an idol in her home region. I know it because I used to listen to her all the time back at home in Alola, and I can tell it's her because of her appearance. She wears her hair out rather than pinning it in a ponytail, and she has a Spheal-shaped birthmark. I'm curious as all hell to talk to her once she wakes up (I mean, who wouldn't want to speak to THE Ingrid Dolce?), but I still have to be professional throughout this and not reveal anything to the outside. We've been instructed to keep it a secret for a reason, since we suspect foul play, though we're fighting tooth and nail to keep this from her agent.

"Abraxas, do you think ferals are still inferior?" -Enet (with assistance)

Abraxas: I have given myself adequate time to reflect on this, given my suspension and my tarnished reputation. Perhaps I shouldn't say tarnished if it was already quite dire to begin with. I have been changing my attitude about a lot of things, and since I have more of an outlet with my cello performances, I can channel that frustration into something else for once.

It would not be fair to call ferals inferior since I truly was one myself, as an Abra. I was desperate to find any human to get me out of there though, since I had learned that spending too long in the wild would permanently make me a feral. Once I ended up with a human, however...

Best not to talk about that, so I will leave the rest to your imagination for now. So, I will say that seeing the progress the wildlings in the base have made, I can say they're different rather than inferior.

"Cartwright... Do you think you'll succeed?" -Mispy

Cartwright: What an excellent question, young Chikorita. If I can confess, I have my doubts every day. I fear the laws of Sinnoh are getting stricter every day under Heathcliffe's reign, and that's not even getting into the budget concerns I have for this project. It's bleeding out my savings (I guess since I'm breaking the law anyway, I'm not paying tax either), and with three more years to go, considering how unpredictable the second year has been, I wonder what the rest will entail.

I still get the gnawing feeling that something terrible is going to happen, and it probably will, but I have a couple of backups. If we suspect they'll make a move on us, we'll either relocate and take the project somewhere else, or give our findings so far to another organisation that will pass the torch. Moving it out of Sinnoh, however, will be extra-ordinarily tricky since I'm already in hiding.

In times like this, I cannot give up hope. I am invested in the lives of every single Pokemon here and I want to see them through to the bitter end.

"Petri! Do you prefer your native tongue or human?" -Anam

Petri: Oh, another Goodra! Sorry I'm sliming all over your letter, but you know how we are. But yeah, I think I prefer speaking in human. There are a lot more rules and sometimes, it's frustrating, but being able to talk to Adele after so long has been so rewarding. I hope I can keep learning more with Shine!