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The Worldslayers

Discussion in 'Fan Fiction' started by Sike Saner, May 22, 2017.

  1. Sike Saner

    Sike Saner *aromatisse noise*

    Cutlerine: Deranics in action. Deraction, if you will. :B

    Also "deliciously bleak" is a wonderful phrase and I'm positively tickled to see it apply to anything I've done. :D

    Here I'd been prepared to stroll on over to the park on which the one in-chapter is partially based and snap a photo of the tire there... only to find it's not there anymore. D'oh!

    Image searches for such a thing have only turned up tires that seem to actually be made of rubber, which the local playground tire wasn't. I don't think I ever figured out exactly what it was made of. Possibly something ridiculously toxic. Maybe that's why it got taken out. XD;

    Anyhoo, it was a not-rubber tire, big enough for a couple of people to sit in, and it lay flat on the ground. I wonder if there are any other parks in the area that still have one. I'll keep you posted. In the meantime, thanks lots for the read 'n' reply! :D
     
  2. Sike Saner

    Sike Saner *aromatisse noise*

    Chapter 7 – Verdanturf


    It was close to midnight before the three of them left Mauville behind. The path to Verdanturf would be rather shorter than the road to Mauville had been, and what awaited them at its end remained a mystery. Basath and the arbok hadn’t seen the inhabitants of Verdanturf for themselves. All they’d had to go by was a rumor, one that had meant potential danger for the serpents at the time but potential hope for everyone now.

    The tethers were back in the pack for this leg of the journey. They weren’t needed—the route connecting Mauville and its neighbor to the west was almost as well-lit as the city behind them, at least for the time being. Local volbeat and illumise had apparently chosen that night for a get-together; their lights, though flickering, were enough for the entire party to see by.

    Syr and Acheron immediately tried to flag them down for information about the rumored psychic presence ahead, but not a single one paid them any mind, no matter how much noise they made. Acheron plucked a volbeat right out of the air and the bug-type simply kept beating his wings, apparently unaware that he wasn’t actually moving.

    The kwazai shook his head. “They’re dead to the world,” he determined as he let the volbeat go. “The air’s too thick with their pheromones. If we were all volbeat and illumise, we might be able to grab their attention for more than a split-second, but as it stands…”

    Syr glanced at the disused daycare center as they passed it by, presently covered in ivy and flashing insects. For just a moment, he wondered what the buildings of Verdanturf would look like. Then it was right back to contemplating its inhabitants.

    “They might not be psychics,” he thought aloud.

    “No, they might not,” Acheron agreed. Ren nodded in concurrence.

    “They could be ghosts,” Syr went on, with a frown toward the part of him that perked up in hope at the possibility. Psychics can deal a bigger blow against the koffing. You know that.

    “Ghost, dark, fairy,” Acheron said, counting each type off on his fingers. “Possibly fighting, or even dragon. And those are just the likeliest suspects after psychics.

    “We can probably handle them, though, whatever they are,” he added. “And that’s if they decide to give us a hard time. Maybe they—”

    Another volbeat practically divebombed the party, whooping and shouting and clearly oblivious to the presence of anyone outside his own kind. “Watch it!” Acheron snapped. He shook his head and sighed as the bug arced back into the air above.

    Eventually, the flashing light of the swarming bug-types fell behind the three of them, replaced by the lights of the town as they closed the remaining distance. Verdanturf, it seemed, still had some electricity to its name, too, albeit markedly less than Mauville boasted. As they drew nearer, Syr could make out scattered functioning streetlamps, casting less light than was ideal but probably—hopefully—enough to keep the tethers packed away. Being able to move about freely—to dodge, to flee, as shameful as the latter notion felt—seemed like a very good idea under these circumstances.

    There were no volbeat or illumise gathered on the rooftops here, but apart from that Verdanturf was highly reminiscent of the daycare he’d seen earlier, and then some. More leaves and vines covered these walls than any others he’d seen; he suspected that grass-types, first and foremost, had inherited this town.

    Which could mean good news about the psychics—if that’s what they were. Most of the grass-types he could name were also poison-types. If they wanted anything to do with this place, surely they weren’t getting a hard time from their psychic neighbors.

    That was the best-case scenario: psychics he could tolerate, like the twins.

    Like Esaax.

    Syr didn’t have to battle the thoughts that brought on for long. Something dark caught his eye from a couple of blocks down the street, something bobbing in midair. A very familiar scent reached him, burning his nose and tongue, and alarms went off inside his head.

    “Koffing!” he shouted. “There’s a—”

    No. Not one koffing, he realized in horror. Dozens of them, filtering in from around the vine-covered houses. He only had a moment’s glimpse of them before the smoke and smog they emitted blotted them from view.

    They’ve found us. They’ve already found us!

    Syr’s mind raced, threatening to distract him. His eyes stinging badly, he drew himself into a coil, flexing his jaws and letting his fangs swing forward, ready to strike. One of them could burst out of the smokescreen at any moment…

    “Acheron?” he called out. He couldn’t see or smell either of the others through the pollution. He couldn’t even feel their movements through the ground. There was no way of telling where they were or if they were all right. “Acheron! Ren!” He broke into a momentary coughing fit, feeling his eyes flood with tears. “Anyone!”

    With his vision blurred, he could only just make out a disturbance in the smoke in front of him. Something big, at least compared to the koffing. There was a moment’s hope that it was one of his allies… but the shape that emerged from the dark clouds was unmistakably a weezing’s.

    “Syr…”

    He could have sworn his heart stopped dead, right then and there. He knew that pair of voices.

    “Don’t make me hurt you. Please.”

    No… This wasn’t possible. Faurur had burnt down to smoke and cinders right before his eyes. “You’re… you’re not real…” he managed, his chest tightening painfully. “You’re not real!”

    With his eyes screwed tightly shut, Syr lunged. His jaws snapped shut on empty air—

    —and just like that, the smoke was gone.

    But so was Verdanturf.

    His surroundings were far more artificial now. The plantlife blanketing the walls was replaced by flashing readouts over illuminated keyboards, and there was still no sign whatsoever of the others. His hands were shaking in front of—Hands? He stared at them in utter disbelief. A kwazai’s hands. A kwazai’s body. His now.

    Syr saw his skin turn pitch black… and then it wasn’t his skin anymore. The kwazai collapsed as Syr rose above him—and then Syr was flying, shooting through the room like a bolt of lightning amid showers of sparks and ice beams lancing past—

    A dead, sudden stop.

    It was brighter now. The walls were partly crystalline. He was lying on his back, on something cool and soft… he had a body again. But it still wasn’t his own. He had legs again. Shuddering, he tried to raise his head and look at himself… but he was too weak to do anything but lie there and shake.

    He felt something approach at the head of his bed, or whatever it was. Sensed it, in a way he couldn’t even name. A red hand moved into view, descending toward his chest—

    —He was upright again. Surrounded by glalie. Terror struck deep, and he tried to scream, but no sound came out. He couldn’t even open his mouth to strike as the glalie rushed around him, hissing and snapping their guillotine teeth, their eyes burning blue…

    A tremor started somewhere deep inside him. It intensified rapidly. Painfully. He still couldn’t scream.

    There was a blinding glow, and a deafening noise, and a fleeting sense of being ripped apart from the inside—

    —and just like that, reality returned, so hard and so fast that he didn’t dare believe it at first. But as his heart slowed, his breaths no longer stinging, he finally trusted his eyes, his nose, everything else. He was back in Verdanturf. Back in his own, limbless body.

    And he was no longer alone.

    There was Ren, visibly shaken. There were also a number of unfamiliar shapes scattered about—misdreavus, Syr realized a beat later, all lying unconscious on the cracked pavement. There was a mismagius, as well. He lay almost motionless at Acheron’s feet, glaring weakly but balefully up at the kwazai.

    Ffffeh. You are no fun whatsoever,” the ghost croaked, before Acheron silenced him with a reflux attack. The kwazai stepped back from the mismagius, his shoulders heaving as he panted. He took a moment to spit on the ghost, then went back to grimacing in pain as he strode over to his trainer’s side.

    “That had better be the last of them,” Acheron said, sounding winded, before his legs crumpled underneath him.

    Meanwhile Ren had managed to open his pack despite how unsteady his hands were. One of them emerged clutching a bottle of max potion. He set about treating Acheron, all while trying to calm his own breathing.

    With something of an effort, Syr joined the two of them. “I think… that might have been them,” he said, lowering his head in dismay. “I think they were the ones Basath and the arbok heard about.”

    Ren nodded, but he looked distracted. His hands were under his hood, massaging his temples. “It felt so real,” he murmured. “Too real.”

    “Some of those weren’t even our memories,” Acheron said. “I saw you through my sister’s eyes. I had her hands.”

    “They put me through one of Karo’s memories.” There was no doubt about it. That had been the glalie they’d faced in the Hope Institute, her and all her double team clones. That had been the explosion that had finally banished her illusions, experienced from a first-person perspective. If he hadn’t already hoped that Karo wouldn’t need to explode again, that would’ve done it.

    As for the other foreign memories… those, he couldn’t even begin to identify.

    Ren took another deep breath, then another, and then motioned for Acheron to help him up. “We should get moving,” he said, “before the ghosts wake up.”

    No one argued with that. As soon as everyone was back upright, they were off down the street once more. Half expecting another ambush, another reality shift, Syr’s gaze swept back and forth over the silent, green city, staring as deep into the darkness as he could. His tongue flicked in and out rapidly, again and again and again, tasting the air for smoke or anything else out of the ordinary.

    But nothing of the sort came. None of his senses reported anyone around, indoors or out. The kwazai gave no indication that he sensed anything, either. Not a single soul crossed their path, ghost-type or psychic-type or any other, and before Syr knew it, the sky was beginning to lighten and the entrance to the tunnel out of town was right there in front of them.

    There’s still hope, he told himself. Maybe they’re in the tunnel.

    The tethers came back out. Acheron took the leading end this time, and the three of them proceeded into the tunnel.

    It smelled like it always had, as far as Syr could remember: cold, damp, and populated by whismur. Maybe a loudred or two. Nothing stood out.

    He could hear hushed conversation coming from the shadows. The locals knew they had company. The rational part of Syr’s mind knew that he and his companions could certainly take on a bunch of whismur, loudred… probably even exploud, if it came to that. The rest’d had quite enough action for one night.

    Faurur’s faces flashed across his mind. An image of Esaax followed, from the same top-down perspective as the time before. A shudder ran from his head to his tail, and a tug at his chest told him he’d stopped in his tracks.

    He’d had quite enough action for a long, long time. But he had to keep going.

    Thankfully, the tunnel’s inhabitants kept to themselves. The light at its end grew closer, brighter, until finally Syr and the others were standing under a clear morning sky.

    Not far ahead, there was a small building with relatively dark and broken windows. A break room for people who’d worked in the tunnel, if Syr remembered right. Now… well. Now it could be serving any purpose.

    Ren let go of Acheron’s hand and waved the kwazai forward. As quietly as he could, Acheron approached the house, peering through the windows with eyes and tail alike. Moments later, he turned to face the others, giving a thumbs-up.

    Ren murmured something that sounded more or less like, “Good.” He made his tired way to the door, which Acheron was holding open for the two of them.

    Syr followed the human into the dimly lit space beyond. The smell of dust was thick in the air; it drifted in the sunbeams, and Syr could feel himself carving a path at least a quarter-inch deep in the layer that covered the floor. A wooden table, minus one leg, sat slightly off-center in the room, surrounded by a few dirty cushions. In the corner behind it, there was an open refrigerator, and Ren was staring at it.

    “Acheron? The fridge.”

    Acheron strode past, stepping over the table. With a grunt, he pulled the refrigerator from its corner, cords trailing behind it, and dragged it outside.

    “Those cabinets, too,” Ren added.

    Bowing his head, the kwazai re-entered and removed more of the offending furniture; the reason why finally registered in Syr’s brain as he watched Acheron work. This was being done for Karo’s sake.

    “What about the sink, though?” Acheron asked on his second return trip.

    “That…” Ren sighed. “Well, I know where I’ll be sleeping.”

    Acheron merely shrugged at that, then nodded toward his dusk ball. In went the kwazai, and out came the nosepass.

    The moment he materialized, Karo made an odd, lunging motion toward the metal sink as if pulled by an invisible hand. He forced himself still with a shudder. “Uh… Ren?”

    “I know,” Ren said. “Don’t worry about fighting it this time. I’ll bring this over.” He stooped and grabbed a cushion. “Just focus on the block.”

    The nosepass made a contented sort of humming sound. “That is such a relief. You have no idea.” With that, he waddled over to the side of the room. He turned to the left—involuntarily, from the looks of it—and the right side of his nose plastered itself to the sink with a clang that made both Ren and Syr wince.

    “Wow. That was loud,” Karo remarked, then snorted. “Heh, don’t worry, though. I’ll keep the whismur and whatnot at bay.”

    Ren nodded silently. He sat down next to Karo, laying the dusty cushion on the floor.

    “…Wait.” Syr circled the table and carefully grabbed the cushion with his lips, careful not to let his fangs pierce it. His snout scrunched up around it—it tasted nasty—but he resisted the urge to spit it back out just yet. He bashed it against the wall, again and again and again, a gray cloud bursting from it each time. Once it seemed as clean as it was going to get, he gave it back to Ren.

    The human murmured something else, presumably thanking him. He lay down and seemed to pass right out the instant his head hit that cushion.

    Unable to fend off his own exhaustion anymore, Syr collapsed into a heap… but his mind kept going. He silently begged it to shut down, even though he doubted his dreams would be any better than the memories of Verdanturf replaying unbidden again and again.

    By and large, they weren’t.
     
    Last edited: Sep 12, 2018 at 9:45 PM
  3. Cutlerine

    Cutlerine a lonesome harp guitar

    Huh, interesting. I've seen things like that in other playgrounds, but they were all actually-rubber tyres, so that's probably where my confusion came from. I thought maybe it was like a tyre that was somehow made not a tyre by being placed in a weird context, but that seemed a strange thing to be described as fake, so I wasn't sure.

    The work you started in the last chapter continues, I see! The further the party goes, the more returns from the past, and the more insistently. So much in this world has been consigned to history, and yet history refuses to die, just as long as there are people around who remember. That sense that everything ended before this story even began is part of what makes it so bleak, of course, but the more you develop the theme, the more clearly I can see the undercurrent of hope. Nothing stays buried. That's painful, yes, but it also kinda hints that things don't have to be gone forever.

    At the same time, you've got the party growing closer to each other, with little gestures like Syr bashing the dust out of the cushion – in a way that caused him no small personal inconvenience – for Ren's sake. I love how you connect that up with the whole things-coming-back-out-of-the-past stuff, by the way; like, part of what draws them together is that they're travelling together through difficult times and creating shared memories, but in the ghost attack scene they literally share memories. It's all so nicely put together!

    That's probably all I've got this time around. As always, I'm looking forward to what comes next!
     
  4. Sike Saner

    Sike Saner *aromatisse noise*

    Cutlerine: "And yet history refuses to die". God damn, that's a cool thing to say, and I love the notion that it could apply to anything I'm cobbling together to so many little bits.

    Also super happy to hear that all the thises and thats and thens and nows are apparently meshing coherently enough. That they're actually like... harmonizing, building off each other, and not getting in the way of each other as much as I'd feared. ;w; Oftentimes when I'm writing something it just feels like surely I must be making something incredibly cluttered, or something that's just not assembled well. Good to know that it doesn't necessarily turn out that way, in the end.

    Thanks for the read 'n' reply! :D
     
  5. Negrek

    Negrek Lost but Seeking

    It was interesting to contrast Mauville and Verdanturf between these two chapters. My impression of Mauville was of a fairly bustling place, where a great deal of care has been taken to preserve the human elements of the past, especially--in particular the bit about the washing machines still working stood out. Are they maintained mainly because some pokémon are just that dedicated to preserving human tech, or because there are so many pokémon that want to use clothing as a memento/because they get comfort from dressing up as humans/etc.? Meanwhile, Verdanturf is apparently deserted and being reclaimed by wilderness.

    I would have loved to see a little more of those towns, come to that! Mauville in particular sounds like a really interesting place, and I honestly expected us to spend a bit longer there. You do nice atmospheric descriptions and have cool ideas about how pokémon have adapted (or not) human technology, so I personally would enjoy a little more of that, although obviously you're moving the party across the region at a pretty brisk pace.

    For some reason I get the impression that Karo eats basically by inhaling things through his nose... can't remember if that's something that was stated earlier or if it's just something I completely made up, but if he does that's horrifying and hilarious, A+.

    I know this story was developed long before X/Y, and my impression is the deranics are supposed to be completely alien, like from a totally different world, but man, this makes me think of AZ's ultimate weapon! It was even something that could supposedly wipe out an entire species/race...

    The arbok pretty much immediately identify Ren as a real human based on scent... Does that mean he's basically screwed whenever he comes across a pokémon that relies heavily on scent, or would a transformed ditto also normally acquire the scent of whatever it turned into? Or was it just that Syr totally didn't deny that Ren was human that made the arbok so confident that they knew the score? If pokémon can normally smell the human-ness of Ren, I'd kind of have expected him to have gotten in hot water with all the Elektrike/Manectric running arond Verdanturf.

    Ooh, it was cool to see Basath. She doesn't look like she's going to have anything major to do with the story, but the unexpected little bits of connection to the anime are always fun for me when they pop up. I can't remember if anything was ever said about what happened to James' pokémon besides Faurur, but if their statues are unknown, I wonder if they'll pop up at some point, too...

    Is that supposed to be Vela mispronouncing Faurur's name, or is it a typo?

    I love the baby ekans. Super cute!

    The Verdanturf chapter felt a little short to me... You've been going with pretty short chapters for this story, so I don't know whether it actually was short, relatively speaking, or if that was just my impression based on the content. After the brief hope spot about psychic types, it was too bad it turned out that Verdanturf only held more difficulties for the party. I really should read OoS at some point, because I feel like I missed a couple references in the memories the misdreavus'/mismagius' attack--not totally sure which are scenes we've already seen and which might be coming up later.

    I keep waiting for things to go really off the badness deep end here, and it just hasn't happened yet! Which isn't a bad thing, there's plenty of angst to go around as it is! I continue to look forward to getting to see the deranics, and I feel like we might be drawing closer to that point...
     
  6. Sike Saner

    Sike Saner *aromatisse noise*

    Negrek:
    Both of the above, along with a few who just think clothes and/or appliances are neat.

    This is exactly how he does that, and how nosepass/probopass do that in general. He furthermore actually kind of has awful table manners by nosepass standards, so he's grosser/louder/more obnoxious about it than he actually needs to be.

    Now consider that in the wild, he was mostly doing that sort of thing to cute little aron. Cute little 130+ lb. aron. Pleasant dreams!

    Transformed ditto generally smell like what they become. Usually, whether or not a pokémon who picks up on and recognizes the scent jumps to "it's a real live human holy pants" or "it's only a ditto" or "wow something or another sure has done a good job holding onto that smell for the past decade and a half" mostly has to do with whether or not they already believe that humans still exist/could come back.

    The former. Vela's only heard that name a couple of times, and she dislikes Faurur enough to probably not care all that much if she gets the name right or not.

    Thanks for the read 'n' reply! :D
     
  7. Sike Saner

    Sike Saner *aromatisse noise*

    Chapter 8 – Systems Online


    They stood by, their consoles arranged in a ring around a modestly-sized stage. Their eyes were trained on maps, on readouts, on the thing that sat like an oversized seedpod in the center of the room. Faces looked back from a few of the pits dotting its surface: some adoring, some puzzled.

    Four-pronged tongues, dark and prehensile, jabbed at keys and flicked at switches. Something creaked overhead. Lights powered on around the metal iris that was the ceiling before it cycled open.

    The seedpod hummed to life, rising slowly. A pale green glow surrounded each of its occupants, who murmured to themselves and one another in excitement.

    Less than two hours remained.

    * * *​

    “Jen! Holy crap, get in here; you have to see this!”

    The voice over the intercom didn’t sound worried. On the contrary, Babs sounded positively elated. Figuring she must’ve made some major breakthrough with regards to the tube, Jen hurried to the elevator. Once in the lab, he navigated the off-white corridors with relative ease, fairly familiar with the layout at this point… but even if he hadn’t been, he would’ve guessed that the peculiar light coming from down the hall marked his destination.

    The room with the tube was much more than large enough to contain him. All the same, he hung in the doorway as if frozen there, eyes and mouth wide open. As far as he could tell, the tube had vanished entirely. There was a column of soft light in its place, seafoam green and gently rippling.

    “Hahaha, yes! In your face, tube!” Babs crowed, jabbing a finger toward the light. She turned to face Jen, and he suspected she was grinning her face off behind that tongue. “Told you I’d get this thing up and running again.”

    “So… what is it, anyway?” Jen finally slithered into the room, scraping his claws together all the while. “Have you ever seen anything like this?”

    “No. Well… actually yeah, kind of. It reminds me a little of—”

    The column of light brightened dramatically; Jen reflexively shut his eyes and shouted, as much in surprise as in pain. His eyelids couldn’t even block it all out. Hissing, he tried to shield his face with his hands… but they were gone. Everything was gone: the light, the floor underneath him, his own body

    —but only for a moment.

    “Jen? Jen? Oh. Oh thank God, you’re all right…”

    Babs. The last he’d seen of her was before everything had exploded into blazing light. After a moment’s hesitation, he finally dared to open his eyes.

    At first, he saw little more than pink static, with the vague outline of a greninja right in front of him. Once that abated, he had just enough time to see that Babs seemed unharmed before the rest of his current circumstances seized his attention.

    They were no longer in the lab. Where they were, he couldn’t even begin to guess. The room was roughly the size of the one they’d left and more or less ovoid, the curved surfaces a faintly metallic gray. There was a round lamp set into the ceiling, filling the space with whitish light that was thankfully much softer than the light that had brought them here.

    As far as he could tell, there were no doors.

    “Babs… where are we? And how are we gonna get out of here?”

    “I don’t know,” she said, but was quick to add, “But I will find out; I promise you. And I will figure out what the hell is going on here. Ren wanted answers, not more questions.”

    “You said the light kind of reminded you of something,” Jen remembered aloud. “What was it?”

    Babs folded her arms. “A transport device. Meaning Ren might’ve spent the past fourteen-odd years somewhere other than dreamland, yet he doesn’t even remember this place. Or the fact that the tube apparently led here.”

    Missing memories… Jen certainly had some experience in that department. “Maybe someone tampered w—”

    He didn’t finish the sentence, his train of thought derailed by what he’d just seen. The wall to his left had just shuddered, as if alive. He stared, dumbfounded, as its seamless surface began parting down the middle like a set of curtains and an unfamiliar creature entered through the opening.

    The newcomer had no visible face to their name, apart from their eyes. But Jen and Babs alike got the distinct impression that the stranger was genuinely surprised to see them.

    * * *​

    The door opened, raising fresh swirls of dust from the floor. Demi and Acheron filed in, finished with their hunting. Deranic territory wasn’t much further now; Ren wanted both kwazai’s senses on the case.

    The human had finished his own breakfast, as well, his mind clearly elsewhere all the while. He hadn’t said a word to Syr or Karo all day, and he’d only made a wordless, acknowledging noise when the twins had announced they were stepping out.

    Syr couldn’t blame him. He’d had too much on his own mind for conversation, as well. They were getting close to their destination, to the last place he’d seen Faurur and her charges—the latter of whom might number in the dozens now, or more. He could only guess what “breeding out of control” entailed. At any rate, odds were very good they’d be engaging the deranics’ forces even sooner than they’d bargained for. He cast another glance out the broken window to his side as if he expected the smog to come rolling in at any moment.

    Ren stood, stretching his arms and legs, and excused himself for a short time. Upon returning, “Does anyone else have any reason to hang around here any longer?”

    No. No, Syr acknowledged, they really didn’t.

    When no one answered in the affirmative, Ren nodded and made for the door. Three pokémon followed him out under the setting sun; Karo was currently in the ball to allow the party to move faster, while the nullshade was shut away for the same reasons as always.

    The nullshade’s ball was out of the pack now, secured to the human’s belt. Ideally, it would stay there. Its contents were a last resort, a weapon for the most desperate circumstances only. A weapon they might not be able to control.

    A reason, among all the others, why Syr was so deeply grateful that Jen hadn’t come along, no matter how much he missed him.

    Rustboro was just visible off to the right, but that wasn’t their destination. They’d be heading into the woods again, albeit a different forest this time. It was the last thing standing between them and the place where he and his trainer had parted ways, and if it was anything like the previous forest, it wouldn’t be empty.

    “What if the psychics are in there?” he mused aloud. “Maybe the ghosts just ran them out of town.”

    “Too bad they didn’t run our way,” Acheron said.

    “If they even existed,” Ren pointed out. He unzipped his jacket—this evening was rather warmer than the past few, and the sky was still clear—but insisted on keeping his hood up for the time being. “But suppose they did exist. Now suppose they were teleporters. They could’ve gone anywhere.” He stopped watching the ground in front of himself for a moment, looking straight ahead. “Including where we’re going.”

    “We can certainly hope so,” Demi said.

    And then stopped dead in her tracks. The next second, Acheron did likewise. Syr bumped right into the latter, whose tail lashed reflexively.

    “Sorry, sorry…” Syr moved out in front of the two kwazai. “What’s going on?”

    Neither of them answered at first. The two of them just stared ahead, at some unseen point past the trees. They trembled on the spot, their jaws parted. All eight of their oculons were locked in the same direction.

    Finally, “Deaths,” Acheron said, much softer than he usually spoke. “Sudden. Dozens of them.”

    “And a burst of poison-type energy,” Demi added. Her tail still flicked in agitation. “That… that can’t be natural. It’s too pure. There’s too much of it.”

    “It’s not natural.” Ren stepped forward and lay a hand on one of each of the kwazai’s arms. His own were shaking so much that it was a wonder he could direct them. “It’s them. It’s their weapon. It has to be.”

    “Oh… oh God…” Syr felt his mouth and throat go dry. It made all too much sense. That was why the deranics had needed the koffing. Seterhath Zulo-Denvenda was powered by their elemental energy.

    Ren drew a shaking breath, his hooded head bowed for a moment. “Okay,” he said quietly. “You can handle this. I promise you can.” He was trying to sound composed, but his voice was too brittle. “Stay with it. We need to know if it’s spreading.”

    Still staring into the distance, “…Spreading?” Acheron responded. “No. No, it’s already over. The pulse, I mean. No more casualties… for now.”

    “That might’ve been a test run,” Demi guessed aloud. “The next one could be bigger.”

    Bigger. Morbid images immediately filled Syr’s mind, echoes of the past that suddenly felt like the future. Bodies dropping everywhere, seizing up and gasping for air just like his own prey. Pyres burning into the night. Entire cities wracked with grief and fear. Rustboro could be next.

    Convergence could be next.

    That was the thought that broke him. With a strangled cry, Syr doubled back and surged toward the tunnel, sparing no attention for the rocks that bit into his flesh. All that mattered now was his son. All that mattered was being there for him, if he couldn’t save him…

    Voices shouted from behind. Long, loping steps swiftly approached, and soon there were arms around his chest, holding him back.

    “Let me go!” he said between sobs. “Let me go, please; I have to get to him…”

    “It’s too far,” Acheron said. “Too far to run. You’d kill yourself trying.”

    “We’re gonna die anyway!” Though the kwazai was only holding him tightly enough to keep him in place, he could feel his breaths growing short. His heart was hammering too fast, too hard.

    “Syr… you can’t see him anytime soon,” Demi said as she circled around Syr and Acheron. “It’ll be at least a few more days unless we find a teleporter.”

    “And your son’s a poison-type,” Acheron reminded Syr. “It’s an elemental weapon. Depending on how it works… he might be immune. Or at least resistant.”

    It took a moment for the words to sink in properly. Poison. His own element. He knew how it worked. And yes… yes, no matter how hard it was to believe, his son was a fellow poison-type now. He’s not a snorunt anymore.

    Syr’s heart slowed, if only somewhat. The lights stopped popping in the back of his eyes. He could breathe again… but he couldn’t completely trust that Jen was out of the woods. Neither was he, for that matter. It was, after all, possible to kill someone of his element with poison. Very, very difficult, but possible all the same.

    Still, he relaxed just enough for Acheron to apparently trust that he wouldn’t bolt now, and indeed he stayed put once the kwazai let go. Stayed put, but kept eying that tunnel back to Verdanturf.

    “We have to keep moving…” Ren said, somewhat out of breath; Syr, unaware that the human had caught up, jolted in surprise. “We’ve gotta keep moving on.”

    Moving on. The words prickled along Syr’s spine. Moving forward, when no small part of him wanted to rush back the way he’d come. Pressing on, when some might expect him to give up.

    When others had been promised that he’d press on.

    “We have to keep moving,” he echoed hoarsely.

    “Right,” Ren said. “Right.” With that, he pulled another max potion out of the pack and motioned for Syr to roll over.

    The arbok didn’t follow at first. Then he finally, truly acknowledged the taste of blood on the air and realized its origin. He complied, wincing as Ren healed the cuts and scrapes that marred his belly. “Thanks,” he said once he’d righted himself once more.

    Ren only responded with a quick nod. He then looked to each of the twins in turn and gestured southward.

    “Good idea,” Demi said. Then she hoisted Syr up off the ground in all four arms.

    “Wh—” Syr didn’t have time to question her actions beyond that. In the next moment, he no longer needed to. She was already running back toward the forest, much faster than Syr could’ve gone under his own power. Acheron was galloping alongside her, carrying Ren.

    There was no telling how long it would be before the next pulse. There was no telling where it would hit—or if anywhere would be safe. He and the others had to move.
     
    Last edited: Feb 13, 2018
  8. Cutlerine

    Cutlerine a lonesome harp guitar

    Well! We sure have found the plot now, huh. Our picture of the deranics is starting to fill out a bit; I don't think it's necessarily surprising that they're stooping to this kind of thing, given the probable connection between them and everything else, but it's still quite something, after all the waiting, to have it brought out into the open. And poor Syr! I was kind of waiting for the break, and here was a pretty great place for it, I think. He's been bottling a lot of his emotions, and they had to show sometime – this of all chapters, at the same moment as Jen is walking (slithering?) into even more danger than Syr knows, is a particularly good time.

    Speaking of which! The other plotline is swinging into motion again, interestingly. Difficult to comment on what exactly is going on with Babs and Jen just yet, but I foresee a climactic everyone-converging-on-one-point-in-the-end thing coming up here, and I'm always a sucker for those. It is interesting that Ren's teleport led here, though. I don't know what it means yet, but it's definitely interesting. I'll be waiting to see what comes out of all this with interest. Which, uh, marks the third time I used that word in like thirty words, but okay, I never said I was original.
     
  9. Sike Saner

    Sike Saner *aromatisse noise*

    Cutlerine: This chapter was fun as hell to write, and I think that's precisely because those plot bombs have begun dropping in earnest and the deranics are slowly becoming something more than a name. I'm glad these things are going over well. :D

    I'm especially happy that Syr's breakdown went over as well as it did--that was absolutely the part I was most concerned about getting right. In particular I was hoping it wouldn't seem too out of the blue--that he wasn't just snapping because I felt like injecting some added drama, heh. I think several years ago I might have chickened out and not let it happen, but that was then. Nowadays, or I guess more accurately several-months-ago-days, I look at the situation and the prevalent thought I have is he would do this and that's that. Syr was bound to crack at some point, and then and there just seemed like a time and place where he would. Where a lot of people probably would, I suspect.

    And gosh, yeah, if he only knew what his kid's dealing with right now. That's a fun little what-if to contemplate. 8D

    As for how (and if) the plotlines will converge... we shall see. ;)

    Thanks lots for the read 'n' reply! :D
     
  10. Ambyssin

    Ambyssin Definitely a winter

    Echoing what pretty much everyone else has said so far. This isn't some sort of crazy story where tons of things are happening at once. It's slow, but methodical. The substance is in every character's attempts and dealing with the current reality, and the traumatic thoughts it's brought with it. There's hesitancy to pretty much every conversation. The exception possibly being in some of Ren's Pokémon. Demi and Acheron don't seem to have lost any steps from their gym days. And Karo is so mentally a space cadet that half the time I'm not entirely sure he's all that grounded in reality (I mean, ground is a big weakness of his, but yeah). A large portion of this is dialogue. And I'm fine with that. Because everyone has their own face, and says what they need to say in a way that makes things engaging and captivating.

    Ch 1
    So, a few paragraphs in and I see a plot point from Ch 5(?) of The Origin of Storms is bubbling up to the surface. I had (admittedly) forgotten about it in the midst of everything else that happens there. Likewise, Jen’s apparently involved into another fakemon, I think? I’m still curious what it is about Glalies that creeps both Jen and Syr out. Maybe I missed something that explains that? (I totally missed something, it’s in Communication, which I ended up reading after this chapter.) And speaking of lots of stuff happening and following up on things, Ren’s alive? Karo wasn’t being delusional? And these deranics were behind the whole human extinction tidbit? Well, admittedly I’d been thinking that the entire time. But still, oh my goodness! I’m glad I didn’t see this first, I think it might’ve skewed my perspective on The Origin of Storms. Overall, it kind of reads as a terse summary of events from both The Origin of Storms and Communication, serving as a reintroduction of sorts to all of the characters. That said, there’s somehow this levity to the atmosphere despite the daunting task facing the group and I think it speaks to a certain level of narrative maturity that you can evoke such a feeling. No idea if that actually makes sense.

    Ch 2
    Okay. I did take a detour to read Communication first before returning to this. I thought it was a good idea.

    Uh, should this be Demi?

    Not to steal words from others here, but you can definitely feel Syr's perpetual nervousness in the narration. This guy has no confidence in himself whatsoever (though after what's happened to him, I don't blame him) and feels like he's got a bit of a PTSD situation going on. Every little tidbit about this dark forest seems to trigger some sort of unpleasant memory for the guy, so he's pretty much just on edge and teetering on the verge of a mental breakdown. Poor snek. ;~;

    Also, it doesn't seem like it was all that significant, but discovering that random room felt super creepy to me. Like wandering into an abandoned building in a horror movie. Is it supposed to be a secret base, then? I know the next chapter brings them up.

    Ch 3
    I remember that part of what makes the other two pieces tying into this one so interesting is that you can put in these somewhat light-hearted moments and it never feels like a heavy dose of mood whiplash. Maybe because the situations are usually kind of awkward or the characters' personalities just make it work? Point I'm trying to make is that, despite the depressing stuff about sleep at the start, that scene with Kecleon made me laugh. Especially the "Because I bathe!" bit and the part with the consolation prize (I have a soft spot for game show jokes, don't judge). If anything, it feels even more well done than similar moments in this story's predecessors.

    Again, it's made pretty clear just how frightened Syr is of kwazai (not blaming him, just observing). As someone who's not the greatest with heights, the bridge part gave me goosebumps, and not the good kind either. Which gets worse with their little makeshift cave thing they end up in. It sounds very claustrophobic. Or at least, that's how I interpreted it. Evidently, I would do about as well as Syr (probably worse) in that situation.

    Ch 4
    Solonn/Jen interlude! Following up a bit on the end of Communication and like father/like son comes into play. Syr's spooked about kwazai's, Jen's got Glalie and nullshade issues. And Solonn's still not the happiest camper around, though who could blame him, really. Meanwhile, I like seeing that Ren's making an attempt at tryint to ease Syr's fears, though it's pretty clear that it's not working, just because the damage has been done and it's not really going to go away any time soon. There's a bit of a skirmish, though it's over with quickly. The interrogation part's more interesting since, well, it's in the chapter title. Someone put two and two together and of course it wound up being the Kecleon from earlier. The part with the snakes makes me think there are bad times on the horizon for everyone, and that's no good. D:

    Ch 5
    Ah, okay. It's nice to have a bit more context to Syr and Ekans tribe. My memory's failed me and I don't remember exactly where The Origin of Storms started, but I'm pretty sure this stuff is new and helps to give a bit more of an understanding as to the context behind how Syr ended up where he did by the time of that story. And I appreciate that. Also, a new city location! I liked the quiet forest chapters, but was hoping to see another one of these locales popping up. Unlikke in the forest, Ren's able to make his Ditto routine work, from what it looks like. But putting them all in a Pokémon Center clearly seems to put the group in a sense of unease. Which is strange, since you'd think it's the safest place they've been this whole story, but circumstances serve to make it just unusual for all of them.

    Ch 6
    Snakes? SNAKES?! SNAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAKES!

    Nah, but seriously, Syr's reaction to seeing this Iph character is raw, for lack of a better descriptor. The previous chapter didn't make it seem like he had the fondest memories of the Ekans, though it was clear he felt guilty about leaving them. So, I guess this encounter reflects that guilt he'd been letting get all balled up inside of him. Especially with the revelation of how few wound up surviving. At least now we have serious confirmation that the deranics are playing for keeps in this crazy endeavor. And speaking of crazy, hey, it's Jessie's Seviper! I figured that who it was as soon as Seviper popped up in the narration but still, crazy to see them actually meeting in this bleak, bleak context. And she's initially quite suspicious of Syr & co.'s motives, and skeptical they can even succeed. But at least we're given a small morsel of hope with the prospect of psychics in Verdanturf that could help tip the scales against the deranics. And a little hope goes a long way at this point.

    Ch 7
    Oh wait, we're getting to Verdanturf already? That's surprising. And speaking of surprising, the ghosts playing mind games with everyone. Boy was that painful. You dredged up these guys' fears and worst memories and put them into slideshow mode for all of them to suffer through. Syr seemed to have gotten the worst of it, though. I'm not sure how realistic you're attempting to be here, in the sense that, since Syr hasn't sought out any sort of counseling or anything (not that he really could) he's basically stuck in a scenario where, no he's not allowed to forget anything and, yes, these memories are going to keep getting dragged up into the front of his mind as long as this stuff continues. And that's just pretty heartbreaking.

    Ch 8
    I was not really expecting the introductory tidbit here. I'm just not sure what to make of it, because it feels like Babs and Jen are now in some sort of pocket dimension, and I don't know what to make of their visitor. Friend? Foe? Deranic? I can't really make an accurate prediction based on the information I've been given here, and that's okay!

    Equally as startling (in the more jarring fashion) is what they stumble on in the forest. Syr's pretty much losing it at this point and you can feel that with how wild-eyes and desperate he's gotten. He's willing to completely give up on what's happened the last seven chapters to go running back to his son, and now he firmly believes their chances against the deranics are hovering right around zero. I don't know what you're aiming for length-wise with this one (pretty big size different between Origin of Storms and Communication), but it doesn't really seem like Syr can slip much lower. I'd want to say it's uphill for him from here but, let's face it, that's not how things tend to work in this universe.

    So, overall, it's a great follow up(?) so far. ^^
     
  11. Sike Saner

    Sike Saner *aromatisse noise*

    Ambyssin:

    Good to hear! :D I certainly don't want my characters to be carbon copies of one another--it's comforting to find out that I might very well have avoided that pitfall.

    Yep, Jen's a fakemon now. :D Here's a link to what data I've got about that and the rest of my dorkmonsters thus far. No learnsets or base stats and whatnot, but hey, maybe someday there will be. We shall see!

    Either that or it speaks to the fact that I am silly af when it all comes down to it and so inevitably that's liable to seep into the text to some degree or another from time to time. :B Could be both, though. At any rate, glad that lighter elements are going over well/aren't too clashy.

    Fixed the Ch. 2 blooper. Ntairow, you are not Demi's understudy. Get outta there. XP

    Yep, random room was indeed a secret base. This one was empty, but there are of course others scattered all over Hoenn. Some still contain their owners. Pleasant dreams! 8D

    "Because I bathe!" is one of those lines I'm disproportionally proud of. :D

    I definitely wanted to get into the whole Syr + ekans from "A Poached Ego" backstory, partly because it was a loose end (I've come to suspect I put those in as presents to myself that I can enjoy opening further down the line :p) but mainly because it was a loose end I imagined I'd have fun playing with. Which I did. :D And this being a Syr-centric story, it just seemed like It Was Time.

    I am so glad I decided to write about arbok (and seviper, and a few other serpenty things) for a number of reasons, and one of them is absolutely that it makes magic like that happen. :D

    Thanks lots for the read 'n' reply! :D
     
  12. Sike Saner

    Sike Saner *aromatisse noise*

    Chapter 9 – Light and Smoke


    The ovoid room opened into a winding tunnel. The walls were the same, shimmery gray here, with green and red cables snaking along the length of the hall like veins.

    Gliding effortlessly ahead of them was the creature who’d opened the door: bipedal, with two pairs of of tentacles trailing back from their sides—most of the time. Every so often one pair would retract, and much of the creature’s reddish armor would go with it.

    Babs had harbored a hunch about the being’s identity from the moment she’d laid eyes on them, and their fluttering between forms only bolstered her certainty. She only knew their kind from pictures and articles, but she knew enough to give her a nasty suspicion about what had happened to Ren.

    Jen was right, assuming he’d been thinking what it had sounded like he’d been thinking. Babs had arrived at the same conclusion herself soon after she’d materialized in this place: someone or another had messed with Ren’s head. And these beings, these deoxys, these psychics, were looking like awfully likely candidates.

    “We want answers,” she’d demanded just before they’d left the room. “And we want out.”

    The deoxys at the door had said nothing at all in response. The psychic-type had jolted at her voice, their tentacles fretfully writhing. From the looks of it, the deoxys had been afraid of her.

    Good, she’d thought, and had whipped her tongue in the creature’s general direction. Paralytic toxins and a touch of faintly glowing ectoplasm had splattered against the floor just in front of the deoxys’s dainty, pointed feet. The spot she’d licked had quivered, as if in revulsion.

    Meanwhile, despite hovering a couple of inches off the floor, the deoxys had reeled back in alarm. Then they’d turned toward the tunnel beyond and made beckoning motions with their left tentacles. Seeing as there’d only been one confirmed exit from that initial room, Babs had followed; after a brief hesitation, so had Jen.

    Eventually their guide stopped, brushing tentacles against the wall to their right. Again the wall rippled and split, and the deoxys led the two of them through it. Like the previous entryway, its edges felt curiously soft as Babs brushed past them. And, just as before, she turned back toward it once she’d passed through to find it seamless once more. She pressed a hand against it—it was as firm as stone now.

    The three of them had entered another rounded, graphite-gray room, much larger than the one they’d left behind. A couple dozen of those simple, round lights she’d seen before were embedded high above. The walls and ceiling alike were covered with more green and red cables, many more, which formed an impenetrable thicket at the far end of the room.

    The mass of cables shifted, writhing in place with an odd whispering noise. Something bulged forward from its center. The cables unfurled from around it as it slowly emerged, until finally they revealed another deoxys.

    This one was legless and considerably larger than the first, perhaps ten feet tall from the tips of their five horns to the end of their short tail. Their core took up their entire chest, an enormous purple sphere easily four times the size of their head. They drifted out to the center of the room, hovering some seven feet off the floor with all those countless cables—those tentacles, Babs realized—sprouting from their sides and tethering them to the wall behind them.

    Babs heard Jen slowly approach her side. His claws clicked and rasped against each other all the while. “Babs… this doesn’t seem safe,” he said under his breath. “At all.”

    “Don’t worry about it,” she assured him. “I’ve got this.” To the larger deoxys, “All right. I take it you’re the boss around here?”

    The voice that responded filled the room. Metallic droning and hissing sibilants and sounds she had no name for resonated from every direction at once.

    Jen cried out at its volume. Babs winced, biting what little of her tongue she kept inside her mouth. “Yeah, no, didn’t catch that,” she said once the echoing died down. “Whatever that is, I don’t speak it.”

    There was another, much quieter burst of the indecipherable language. The first deoxys moved forward and floated up to the other’s eye level. The two psychic-types conversed among themselves for a moment, forcing both their guests to cover their ears.

    Finally, the guide turned to face Babs and Jen once more, then left the room in something of a hurry. The wall sealed shut behind them, trapping the greninja and cryonide alone with the huge deoxys.

    “Hey!” Babs put herself squarely in front of Jen. “You can’t keep us locked up here forever!”

    “Yes. I can.”

    The voice wasn’t the deoxys’s own. It was Jen’s, albeit distorted and emotionless. Babs turned about in an instant and saw the cryonide surrounded by a pale blue aura. His eyes burned with the same color, and brilliantly at that; his pupils were washed right out of sight by the piercing glow.

    “But I won’t,” Jen went on; the words weren’t his own, Babs recognized. “We mean you no harm. And no. No, I am not in charge. I am only the curator of our collected knowledge.”

    “No harm…” Babs scoffed, turning to face the deoxys once more. Their body, including their countless tentacles, was surrounded by the same blue glow as the pokémon they’d taken over. “You’re psychically manipulating a poison-type. You know that’s a bad idea. You know you could kill him.”

    Puppeted by the deoxys, Jen slithered out from behind her. He came to rest on his coiled tail just below the hovering psychic-type, his arms hanging slack at his sides. “At this moment, he is an extension of my body. I can extend my regenerative power to his flesh as if it were my own. He will survive, uninjured.”

    Babs was about to express her doubt, but the words died in her throat when the cryonide lifted a hand and raked his long, deadly claws across his own stomach. The deoxys’s unearthly voice rang out once more.

    She swore sharply and launched into the air, straight toward the curator’s face. Her night slash connected; she heard the creature cry out again, felt their carapace splinter under her conjured dark-type blades. Tiny fragments of it fell with her as she dropped back to the floor. She sprang backward from her landing, looking up to assess the damage…

    …Which was disappearing right before her eyes.

    Her gaze fell upon Jen. His wounds were vanishing, as well… including a gash across his face that mirrored the one she’d inflicted upon the deoxys. Aghast, she looked up once more; sure enough, a set of deep scratches was closing up on the deoxys’s abdomen, just below their core.

    “We mean you no harm,” Jen repeated.

    Babs swore again, hands clenching into fists. Jen wasn’t just an interpreter in all this. He was a hostage.

    She locked eyes with the deoxys again, tense as a coiled spring, and stared at them in furious silence for a moment. “I’ll hold you to that,” she finally warned them. “You and everyone else in this place. I know you can’t recover forever.” Especially not when so much of that power was going toward keeping Jen intact despite direct psychic manipulation. “You’d better let him go before you hurt him in ways you can’t fix.”

    “I will,” Jen said; then, “You should hesitate no longer in asking your questions.”

    “Fine. What the hell did you do to my trainer?”

    “Nothing. We have no previous knowledge of you or anyone you know.”

    Babs shook her head. “Not buying it. He entered that device without even knowing what it was. A device that would’ve brought him here if it hadn’t gone on the fritz and spit him out beforehand.”

    “Your device was transmitting a distress beacon matching the psychic signature of our kind. That’s the only reason we brought its contents aboard. We had expected other deoxys.”

    “Which Ren isn’t! Something made him go into that thing against his will. And something made him build it in the first place. Yeah, he has no memory of that, either. It’s the one thing, the one part of his lab he can’t explain. So here we have a human being, unwittingly constructing some kind of transport pod that transmits deoxys signals, and I’m supposed to believe you had nothing whatsoever to do with it?”

    “No one aboard this vessel had any knowledge of your world prior to receiving your beacon.”

    Babs maintained her suspicious stare into the curator’s eyes. Even if the deoxys was telling the truth… The gap in Ren’s memory, the period of time he’d apparently slept right through, had begun roughly fourteen years ago—just prior to the Extinction. If the tube had begun transmitting its signal as soon as he’d gone inside…

    Her lips curled in a snarl behind her tongue. “Billions of people,” she said, shaking in anger where she stood, “were killed by a plague of unknown origin. We still don’t know where the hell it came from. But we know when it came, deoxys: right after Ren built that thing. He unwittingly built a beacon to summon you—and then an entire species bites the dust.”

    Dark-type energy bloomed about her arms, longing to coalesce into blades again. She indulged it, casting her own face in deep violet light, wishing dearly that she could put her elemental weapons to use without endangering Jen. “Tell me, deoxys: what the hell do you expect me to believe?”

    The curator said nothing at first. Then they emitted another burst of indecipherable noise, even louder than any that had preceded it. Jen trembled in their telekinetic grasp, the light surrounding him going unsteady. With a final flicker, it went out entirely, and the cryonide collapsed in a thorny heap.

    Babs leapt to his side automatically. He didn’t look hurt, not on the outside… but there was no telling if things were all right inside his skull. He still breathed, but God only knew for how long. With a scream, she flung herself at the deoxys again, her conjured night slash flaring bright and trained right on the deoxys’s core—

    —but never connecting. Something seized her from below, pulling hard; her gaze snapped downward and found thick, flattened tentacles pulling her back to the floor, away from her target. She slashed at them instead, again and again, but they wouldn’t break, wouldn’t let go. The wounds she inflicted healed just as quickly as she could deal them.

    More tentacles surged up to bind her, successfully pinning her arms to her sides and her tongue to her shoulders. She let a lick attack ripple along its length, and the red and green flesh shuddered, but it still refused to release her.

    Jen, still insensible, was wrapped up in a snarl of tentacles as well. Babs saw a quartet of bulky, dome-headed deoxys emerge from the floor as if it were liquid; slithering sounds behind her told that something similar was happening on her end. She screamed in rage, muffled and wordless in the deoxys’ grasp until their grip tightened further—suddenly she couldn’t breathe.

    She had a fleeting sense of being dragged away before everything went dark.

    * * *​

    The forest was blowing apart.

    With a shout that was smothered in mud a split second later, Syr dove ungracefully into the soft earth just as a nearby tree went to splinters. A couple managed to stick in his flesh despite his efforts; they snagged painfully as he pulled the rest of himself underground.

    He swallowed the screaming and spitting he’d have let loose on the surface, intent on holding his breath. It was hard enough with his hood compressed against his sides. Sooner than he’d wanted to, he was forced to erupt from the forest floor in a burst of mud charged with ground-type energy. He rolled clumsily out of the way when it came raining back down, falling short of the bellies of the koffing overhead as if repelled by an invisible field.

    Hissing, Syr rolled into a nearby trench and huddled under the dead log spanning it. He folded in on himself and pulled one of the splinters from his belly—and cursed in immediate regret. All that had done was let the wound bleed more freely.

    “Demi!” he cried out hoarsely, hoping as he dissolved into a coughing fit that she could pinpoint his location by sound alone. The smokescreen above was growing thicker by the moment, blotting out any moonlight that might have reached them otherwise. The kwazai didn’t need their eyes to detect their allies and enemies, but their higher senses would struggle to focus if it got too hard for them to breathe. He tried to shout her name again, but another explosion somewhere out of reach drowned it out completely.

    Something heavy landed on two feet right in front of him. The rest of the creature hit the ground a moment later, smelling distinctly of kwazai. Demi!

    A koffing burst through the smoke in front of the two, already blazing with the telltale glow of an imminent explosion—only to lose hold of it when Demi lunged and dragged him down to the rain-soaked leaf litter. The koffing bellowed and writhed underneath her, swelling menacingly. Pulsing pink-and-gold light surrounded the two of them… and the koffing stopped struggling, deflating as fresh tears opened up in his mantle. Demi’s wounds, meanwhile, were rapidly closing.

    The branches of her tail rippled, their oculons briefly meeting Syr’s gaze in the fading light. Demi immediately turned to face him and called upon another pain split, partially healing his wounds at the cost of inflicting weaker versions of them upon herself.

    “Thanks,” Syr said automatically as he felt new strength welling up inside him, but he was hardly relieved. Demi only had so much of her own vitality to give. Eventually there wouldn’t be enough conscious bodies around to replenish it. Another blast rang out, hurtling more wooden shrapnel through the smokescreen above. Another drainable target lost.

    Without a word, Demi sprang out of the trench. Syr turned blindly in the direction she’d gone, steeling himself to jump back into the fray, filling his lungs with relatively clean air while he could. His fangs glowed a deep violet, ready to puncture the hide of one of their attackers—and then the light abruptly cut out, its maker startled into losing the charge as an enormous set of jaws closed over his head.

    He screamed into the cavernous, reeking mouth as its owner began slowly lifting him off the ground. His own mouth lit up with dark-type energy once more as he plunged his fangs into the oily tongue attempting to smother his face. The attack drew a muffled, pained roar from two voices at once—a weezing.

    His blood ran cold. With an effort that wasn’t entirely physical, he flung the rest of his body over the floating creature, wrapping tight around the junctures between their body sections. He squeezed desperately, but to little effect. His oxygen supply was rapidly dwindling, taking his strength along with it…

    Then there was a deafening noise and an explosion of light behind his eyes, and the next thing Syr knew, he was free.

    If he hadn’t seen the weezing dropping out of the air alongside him, he wouldn’t even have known he was falling. He couldn’t feel the air as it rushed past, couldn’t feel the impact when he hit the ground. He realized with a delay that he was breathing properly again, hearing and then tasting the breaths passing over his tongue. Another beat later, he figured out that he couldn’t move.

    A strangled cry escaped him, but his mouth refused to form words. Slowly, horribly slowly, his gaze panned across the inverted and dimly-lit scene before him… and landed upon a nosepass several yards away. Ren was crouching next to him, and there was a faint glow about Karo’s nose that was only just fading out. Zap cannon. Karo had been the one to take down that weezing. Syr had just had the misfortune of being in the line of fire.

    “Syr! Hang in there, buddy!” the nosepass called out to him. Syr heard Ren grab something out of his pack as the two hurried to pull the arbok into the safety of Karo’s block field.

    Relief spread through Syr as they closed the gap. He didn’t feel the force field envelop him this time, but he was sure it had; Ren was now moving freely at his side, in space he wouldn’t have dared to occupy if it weren’t safe.

    “Man,” said Karo, sounding more than a little tired, “am I ever grateful to see you again.”

    “Lll… likewise,” Syr managed, still slightly mushmouthed; the medicine Ren was administering was only just taking effect. The party had gotten separated very early in the attack; Syr had gone to ground as a reflex, and by the time he’d first emerged the smokescreen had gone up, thick and nearly impenetrable.

    “Try not to dig again, all right?” Karo advised him. “I can only extend the block so far.”

    Syr nodded in response as soon as he could lift his head again. He gazed out beyond the invisible barrier, taking in a moonlit view of shattered trunks and fallen bodies. Some of the latter belonged to koffing—none of which had gone to cinders, as far as he could tell. That… that’s good, at least. It meant those koffing were still alive. There was still a chance they could be free, if all went well enough.

    The same… could not be said of most of the non-koffing lying in the moonlight.

    He’d known to expect the dead. He’d anticipated coming across them under much calmer circumstances, but he’d known they were headed for a grim scene all the same. That made it no easier to look upon the victims now. Most of them appeared uninjured, but their bodies were contorted in a way that told him they’d probably spent their last moments writhing in pain. Syr helplessly wondered if that’s how his human friends had looked at the end; at that thought, he immediately wrenched his gaze from the fallen.

    His attention shifted back toward Karo. “Are you all right?” he managed, at which Karo grunted inconclusively. That… wasn’t comforting. Syr couldn’t see any damage to the nosepass’s person, but…

    The kwazai. Something turned to ice inside him. “Where are the twins?” he asked, panic rising in his voice. “Where are they?”

    “Don’t know, buddy,” Karo said. “But they’ve gotta be all right.. They’re not pushovers. They’ve never been…”

    Ren, meanwhile, was silently, shakily rising to his feet. He took a step forward, toward the boundary of the block field; noticing this, Karo and Syr moved with him.

    The arbok followed the human’s line of sight and picked out the deflated form of the weezing, still lying helplessly in the leaves and scattered debris. The poison-type groaned very quietly as the three of them approached. Another pair of voices, just as weak, echoed in Syr’s memory, and he swallowed hard against a lump in his throat.

    Wordlessly, Ren knelt before the weezing. There was a poké ball in his hand—the one from Mauville, Syr realized. Not taking his eyes off his target for even a second, Ren swept his free hand downward, at which Karo made an acknowledging noise but nothing else appeared to happen. The human adjusted his grip on the ball, cocked his arm back—

    And dissolved into a shapeless blob of red light.

    Syr recoiled in alarm, falling backward; the shield was down. Karo gave a shout as the ball clattered awkwardly to the ground, still partially open and trailing light. The light quivered and then withdrew sharply into the capture device, which promptly snapped shut. The nosepass and arbok could only stare at it, both at a loss for words. Then the energy surged back out and snapped into the shape of a human body with a horrible, distorted noise.

    Ren stood there among the leaves and the dead, panting and sweating and trembling so hard that it looked as though he could fall apart at any second. His hood fell back over his shoulders as he shook.

    Somewhat gingerly, Karo reached up to prod at the human’s side. “Hey… hey Ren?” he spoke up. “Are you—”

    Ren’s mouth worked silently for a moment. Then he crumpled to the ground.
     
    Last edited: Sep 12, 2018 at 9:45 PM
  13. Cutlerine

    Cutlerine a lonesome harp guitar

    WELL. Things are definitely getting interesting now, huh? Ren in a ball – and like I don't even know how poké balls work in your universe, given that they're mostly a really peripheral part of the new post-human world; it might be that humans can be affected by balls, or it might be that he isn't the last human after all but a ditto or something, or maybe there's something else entirely going on – and some super cool deoxys. You've drawn really heavily on the kinda … organic gloopiness of the original concept, to coin a phrase; they're all squidgy and shape-shifty and psychically invasive with their weird DNA strand tentacles. It's great when an alien is really alien, you know? And these are so alien to everything else in the story. I really like the variety of deoxys formes on display, and the way that it seems to indicate a kind of biological caste system, where there are these mobile deoxys that do the everyday task and big rooted kinds with massively overdeveloped brain-crystals that serve as a combination of community elder and stationary supercomputer. Excellent stuff, as usual. Very much looking forward to seeing what happens next – because there are a whole bunch of puzzle pieces that have been thrown on the table now, and I'm really darn curious to see how exactly you're going to start fitting them together.
     
  14. Ambyssin

    Ambyssin Definitely a winter

    Okay, so, in retrospect, maybe in a weird story where people can just drop dead and Koffings and Weezings can go totally crazy, I should've expected something like Deoxys popping up. But I didn't. They are definitely alien in all the right ways. No boundaries or personal space. Wriggling limbs that don't really seem to be solid matter. An abnormal method of communication. And, given that their origins are supposed to have something to do with mutated viral DNA, there's this slight possibility that maybe they have a strong relationship to all the bad stuff that's going on right now. Which is terrifying, because Deoxys are just incredibly creepy. Would probably go really nicely with Ultra Beasts, thinking about it.

    Then we have the second half of the chapter which is a lot of desperate fighting. Though Syr really doesn't get all that much off in the way of solid attacks. He's really just in a desperate survival struggle, and none of this helped by a Weezing popping up to give up those unpleasant memories. Poor guy just needs a hug, me thinks. But, naturally, you've got to leave us hanging with some incredibly juice stuff at the last second. And, well, Ren in/with a ball is just... I mean I've got a lot of questions about it, that's for sure. Maybe his time in that stasis machine thingy had an impact on this? Or maybe he's not actually Ren? Or maybe his DNA is mutated with Deoxys code? I have no idea and I look forward to seeing exactly where it goes. ^^
     
  15. Sike Saner

    Sike Saner *aromatisse noise*

    Cutlerine: I'm super glad the deoxys went over well, especially the fanformes. Fun stuff to think about, and of course I just really wanted to do the species justice in general because good grief they're just so frickin' cool to begin with. <3

    Ambyssin: Suddenly Salad aliens! :D Well, more aliens, I guess. I'd been looking forward to the day when it'd be time to introduce the deoxys element, though also maybe a tad nervous that they'd come across as too out of left field?? Again, definitely glad the viral noodle people went over well. :D

    Thanks to you both for the read 'n' reply. :D
     
  16. Negrek

    Negrek Lost but Seeking

    ffffff I thought I was caught up with thiiiiiisssss

    But things are definitely heating up now! I'm wondering whether this is going to work out to be a shorter story, more in line with Origin of Storms than Communication... it feels like we're practically on the threshold of the big bads' lair already! Of course, the situation could turn out to be a lot more complicated and lead to all kinds of twists and turns and questiness, but there's a real feeling of finality about Ren's mission, like it's come down to this, and ther may not be anything after...

    Hmmm, I'm guessing Babs getting cut off there means we missed out on some pretty significant information.

    Oop, well, I guess we end up getting an explanation pretty shortly. :p And man, memory modification/lost memory continues to be a heavy theme in this 'verse. It's cool that we may get answers to what happened during that break in Ren's memory soon.

    I take it it was the koffing we saw in the opening scene of this chapter, then. But the weapon hasn't actually been fired yet, right? I'm a little confused, though; from this paragraphs my interpretation was the koffing had died in order to get energy to use the weapon at a later time, not that the weapon had been fired and people had died because of it. At the end of the chapter, though, Syr wonders about another pulse and the potential for more people to die from it, which makes it sound like they are actually attacking people with the weapon, so the deaths felt may have been from that rather than sacrifices to the machine. Just not quite clear on the sequence of events here.

    Awww. It was bound to happen sometime, and after all the slow, grinding sadness and worry Syr's had to deal with on The Worst Roadtrip, it's no surprise that he finally gave in. The poor guy just isn't the adventuring sort.

    Haha, I love gross living buildings/spaceships.

    Well, that's a pretty direct way of showing off your powers! Deoxys may not want to harm them, but it's got some pretty crappy manners. :p

    The scene with the deoxys is probably my favorite in the story so far. They feel legitimately alien and incomprehensible, even compared to the general weirdness of pokémon, and appropriately terrifying. All those tentacles and weird squishy corridors give a great classic sci-fi feel. The scene itself was well done, too, nice and tense and leaving things off on a great cliffhanger.

    And hmmm, I was originally thinking the deoxys might be the Deranics themselves, but it seems not. Clearly the two have something to do with each other, though, and the fact that deoxys is a space virus definitely points some accusatory fingers at them, given that they showed up conveniently around the time of the human extinction.

    Things are really picking up! Like I said, it almost feels like we're coming up on the big battle here, but if not, it's definitely making for a nice mini-climax. Nice work! I'm eager to see some of these big mysteries finally getting unravelled.
     
  17. Sike Saner

    Sike Saner *aromatisse noise*

    Negrek: It'll definitely be shorter than Communication. Whether or not it winds up as short as (or shorter) than TOoS remains TBD.

    The device has fired, albeit on a relatively wimpy setting (koffing in only some of its pits, lending only some of their poison-elemental power to the device, ultimately affecting only an isolated little area). The koffing in the seedpod weren't killed in the process. Now, if they'd had to give ALL their elemental power, such as would affect things on a vastly greater scale...

    Things being alive that ordinarily aren't are just such a delight to work with. So are questionable manners. :D I like the idea of these guys, being aliens and all, not always aligning with the sort of ethics and morality one might expect.

    "Legitimately alien" is absolutely what I hoped to accomplish with the deoxys. I think I'll always be hells of happy to see it's working. ;w;

    Thanks for the read 'n' reply!


    Meanwhile! The next chapter only needs that last little bit of touching up, so don't be surprised if that drops tonight. :D
     
  18. Sike Saner

    Sike Saner *aromatisse noise*

    Chapter 10 – Belief​


    The kwazai came thundering in, heedless of any bodies in their path until they arrived at their trainer’s side. Both dropped to the filthy ground next to him as swiftly as their oddly-jointed legs allowed. Both their tails were lashing, and Demi was uttering a stream of prayers and profanity under her breath. Being the faster of the two, she was the one to gather Ren up in her free arms, though both kwazai grabbed for him.

    Syr coiled frozen before the siblings, all but biting his tongue in worried anticipation. He couldn’t tell whether or not Ren was even alive. He hadn’t had the wits to see if the man was breathing before the kwazai had shown up, and now Demi’s arms blocked the view. He’d have to get the verdict from her or her brother secondhand.

    His jaws parted to ask. But before he could get a breath out, “He’s still with us,” Karo spoke up. “…Right?”

    “Right.” Acheron certainly felt some relief at that fact, but there was none of that in his voice. His tail had snaked around his waist to inspect the human and continued to do so; Demi’s was doing likewise, two branches over each shoulder.

    “What happened?” Demi demanded, half-hissing. Her sharp teeth were bared. “What the hell happened to him?”

    Once again, Syr made to speak. Once again, Karo beat him to the punch. “He caught himself,” he said, and he sounded… excited, almost. “That’s what happened.”

    Acheron made a noise that might’ve become a word if something hadn’t plainly caught his attention then. “There,” he said in the next moment, meeting Syr’s gaze and pointing a short distance to the arbok’s right.

    Syr glanced in that direction and thought he saw something reflecting a fleck of moonlight. Closer inspection revealed the ball, or what was left of it. It had been blown open, from the looks of it, its hinge bent backward so that the two halves touched. He scooped it up in his jaws but promptly spat it back out; it tasted burnt, and there were other, worse flavors to it that he feared to contemplate.

    “It’s fried,” he said. “I guess this means he definitely won’t be catching that weezing.” Another rightward look told him the pokémon in question was still down. Alive, but possibly unconscious and therefore immune to a fresh ball anyhow. But they could’ve waited. Now they had no such option.

    “Nnnn…” came a small voice from in front of him. Ren’s voice. The human wriggled feebly in Demi’s hold, lifting his hairless head. “Where…” Apparently that was as much of a sentence as he could manage at the moment.

    “Still in the forest,” Acheron answered. “The fight’s over.”

    Ren made a faint, disagreeable noise and shook his head. “Somewhere else… Now…”

    “Yes,” Syr agreed at once, almost automatically. The koffing could start waking up at any time, and here was Ren, at his most vulnerable thus far. But there were additional reasons to get out of there, and Syr suspected the human had at least some of them on his mind.

    Maybe Ren had been able to brave the sight of this place before. But in the wake of his impossible capture, there was no telling what he could handle.

    Demi took Karo’s capture ball and recalled the nosepass, then passed her trainer to her brother and gathered Syr into her many arms once more. The two kwazai took off, leaving the clearing and the carnage behind and weaving their way into a part of the forest that hadn’t been withered or blasted away.

    But as darkness fell over them once more, the fear of unseen dangers rose anew. It didn’t help that Syr could still smell the smoke and the koffing still lingering back in the clearing. The odors clung to him, furthermore, and to the rest of the party. It made it all the harder to be sure they’d really shaken them off for the time being.

    “Water,” he thought aloud. “We need to find water.” Even if it couldn’t mask the smell entirely, it’d weaken it. His nerves would be grateful. His throat would be, too, after all the smoke and exertion.

    “We will…” Demi muttered. Her mind was plainly on other things.

    Syr realized then that he hadn’t heard a single sound out of Ren since the clearing. He almost asked about him, but no. That wasn’t necessary. If his condition worsened, the two empaths in their midst would give it away.

    The sound of running water eventually caught his attention. “There’s a creek up ahead,” Acheron announced soon after. The taste of fresh water on the air arrived soon after, followed by the sight of moonlight sparkling off the water’s surface.

    Demi stopped, setting Syr down alongside the creek. The arbok dipped his snout in for a drink, then let himself slip entirely underwater for a moment. When he raised his head above the surface to breathe, he saw a burst of light in the shape of a nosepass. Syr rippled his way through the shallow water, crawling over the stones until he reached the bank once more.

    “Shield, right?” Karo asked. Nobody answered aloud, but someone must’ve nodded; there was that brief, full-body pressure again. “You awake, buddy?” he then asked.

    “…Yeah.” Ren’s voice suggested an unspoken “barely”. He inhaled audibly; then, “The ball… it pulled me in. How…?”

    “We don’t know,” Syr told him, wishing he had an answer. It only occurred to him after the fact that he could really only speak for himself on the matter.

    “Oh, I think I know,” Karo said. There was that odd, giddy sort of tone again. Heavy footsteps reverberated through the rocks as the nosepass moved in closer to his trainer. “Congrats,” Karo said. “You’re officially one of us.”

    “Not in that sense,” Acheron said. “You’re still human, Ren.”

    “And yet the ball got him,” Karo pressed on. “I mean, yeah, it couldn’t hold onto him, but.” Stone scraped against stone, the familiar sound of arms swiveled into a shrug. “So what? Sometimes we break ‘em. Doesn’t mean a thing.”

    “It could have been modified to catch humans,” Acheron said.

    That hadn’t even crossed Syr’s mind as a possibility. Now that he thought about it, “There’d be people who’d try it. People with an anti-human agenda.”

    “Or people with a pro-human agenda,” Demi offered, “wanting to capture them and lock them away for their own safety. Or people just curious as to whether or not it could be done.”

    “Guys. Guys. Please. Do you not hear yourselves right now?” Karo was actually starting to sound a little agitated at this point. “Why are you jumping through hoops like this when there’s a much simpler answer right in front of you?”

    “Because,” Demi said quietly, “if he were anything other than human, we’d know. We’d feel it. I know you know this.”

    Karo didn’t respond at first. Then he averted his gaze with a small sort of huffing sound. “…How can you be cool with that?” he asked. “How am I supposed to be cool with this, when for all we know that virus or poison or whatever could still be floating around? I mean…” There was a moment’s silence, and then another’s. “We just got him back.”

    Oh. Syr felt a sudden weight in the vicinty of his heart. Karo really couldn’t accept that a human could’ve survived the plague. Convincing himself that Ren was a pokémon was apparently the only way to stave off fears that it would come for his trainer after all.

    Wordlessly, Syr emerged from the water and gently wrapped himself around Karo in an embrace of sorts. It occurred to him in nearly the same moment that he was sopping wet; he let go immediately, though he wished he hadn’t had to.

    Meanwhile Ren squirmed in Acheron’s arms. “Let me go,” he said, but not harshly. He sounded as though he’d got a bit more of his strength back.

    Acheron hesitated for a moment, then set him down on his feet. Ren immediately hugged the nosepass, and both kwazai embraced the two of them in turn.

    Syr gave a faint, grateful smile. Now he won’t get wet, he reckoned, and encircled the rest of his friends.

    “Can’t lose him again,” Karo murmured to himself in the middle of it all.

    Part of Syr wanted to assure Karo that no, he wouldn’t lose Ren anytime soon. The rest… couldn’t bear to lie to him. He wasn’t sure Ren would be all right. Even if there was no trace of the plague anywhere now, even if Ren was entirely immune to it anyway, there were still innumerable things that could go wrong during this mission. They were facing a relatively unknown and uncounted enemy. There was no way of knowing exactly what sort of danger they were in.

    This was, after all, quite possibly a one-way trip. But Syr had the sinking feeling that somewhere along the way, Karo had taken to refusing—and continued refusing—to truly acknowledge that.

    “We know you’re worried,” Demi said. Acheron nodded in assent.

    “We all know,” Ren put in. “I’m worried, too. Of course I wonder if… if maybe I’m living on borrowed time. I hope I’m not. I don’t wanna leave you, either. But…” Here he raised his head, looking over one shoulder and then the other, meeting the gaze of each of his pokémon in turn. “…whatever happens, I think you’ll be all right. You’re all strong. All of you.” He nodded toward Syr. “That includes you.”

    Syr took on a funny sort of surprised expression for a moment before a hint of guilt settled into it. It was nice of Ren to say such a thing, but believing it… wasn’t so easy. “I don’t know about that,” he admitted.

    The human kept one arm around Karo but turned to face Syr, or tried to; recognizing this, the pokémon surrounding him loosened their grip and backed up a bit. “You’ve already been through a lot,” Ren told Syr. “And a lot of it was recent, very recent. Anyone—anyone with half a heart—would’ve understood if you’d needed some time before taking this on. I would’ve. Your old friend probably would’ve. And yet…” He spread his free arm as far as he could. “Here you are.”

    Syr’s gaze drifted groundward as he absorbed that. He still wasn’t altogether sure he agreed with the human’s words. In the end, all he could think to do with the information was to try and prove Ren right. Maybe, he supposed, he’d convince himself in the process.

    At this point, Ren got around to healing the twins. Syr watched him hand out bottles of medicine to each of them, wondering for a moment how many they had left. He tried to take stock of the kwazai’s conditions in the moments before their injuries vanished, but it was difficult in a number of ways, what with so much blood and filth smeared over their bodies.

    “Okay,” Ren said. “Time to get moving again. We’ll detour west a bit, just enough to put more space between us and the koffing.” He reached for one of his capture balls then, only to find an empty space.

    “Oh whoops, here,” Demi said as she handed him Karo’s ball.

    “Ready?” Ren asked Karo, pointing the lens at him.

    “…Yeah,” Karo said. “But hey. Be careful, all right? We still haven’t had that party.”

    “I will be,” Ren assured him with something of a smile, then recalled him and nodded up at the kwazai. They scooped up the slower members of their party and set off, splashing through the creek and disappearing into the dark woods beyond.
     
    Last edited: Sep 12, 2018 at 9:46 PM
  19. Cutlerine

    Cutlerine a lonesome harp guitar

    No answers as of yet, huh? I guess I wasn't expecting any to come right away; no point establishing a mystery if you're just going to solve it one chapter later. Still, it's good to see Ren back on his feet after all that – and good in a different way to see Karo's anxieties in action; it's a real big thing for the most laid-back nosepass in Hoenn to betray a hint of inner turmoil like that. He's always been a great character, but giving him some inner life like that helps to round him out and make him better still.

    I'm also delighted to see Syr's courage and dedication recognised; I hope he comes to figure out that he does possess those qualities, in time. Bravery is of course the skill of mastering fear, pushing through it to get the scary thing done anyway, and Syr has demonstrated that time and time again. But of course that's something that someone as anxious as him struggles to recognise.

    If I had a complaint, it would be as usual that I wanted more – kind of par for the course with short chapters, I guess! You certainly always leave me looking forward to the next chapter.
     
    Sike Saner likes this.
  20. Negrek

    Negrek Lost but Seeking

    Well, here's a little hope spot of a chapter after a whole lot of trauma. In fact this is... probably the happiest chapter of the story so far? Heh. Everybody needed a hug, and you gave them that hug, dammit, and it was great. It was also nice for Syr to get some reassurance that he's doing a hard thing and he really is strong, even if he didn't exactly believe it. Naturally, now that they've all come together and had a life-affirming moment, something dreadful's probably about to happen, but at least for a little while we can forget about it, no?

    And, of course, the implications of Ren's capture continue to intrigue. I wouldn't be surprised if he'd been somehow modified to have at least some pokémon characteristics; it would certainly be an easy answer for why he isn't worm food like every other human. Given that we already know there's memory ****ery about, of course, there's nothing to say that he couldn't be something else entirely that only thinks it's human, courtesy of a personality transplant. At a guess, though, I'd say Ren is more or less human. At least, he's definitely Ren in all the ways it really matters to his friends.

    Looking forward to the next chapter! Hoping we'll get some resolution to the cliffhanger with Babs soon.
     
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