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[Yuletide] Fourfold

Discussion in 'Fan Fiction' started by Negrek, Dec 25, 2017.

  1. Negrek

    Negrek Lost but Seeking

    This is the story I wrote for Chibi Pika in this year's Yuletide. Happy Yuletide, Chibi!I figured I'd mix in some many worlds/timey-wimey stuff, since a little bird told me you have a fondness for that kind of thing. The length ran away with me a bit, but I hope you enjoy it.

    For other readers who might be curious about the prompt I was using, here you go:

    [spoil]
    Poke-POV. Should include at least one or more of the following: Lucario, Charizard, Tyranitar, Chesnaught, Togekiss, Whimsicott, or any of their pre-evos. Don’t feel compelled to include all of them though. I’d also like to see what other Pokémon you want to include. If you have a Poke-POV story of your own, feel free to cameo OCs from your fic, however, they should not be the main characters.
    Prompt:
    1. For some reason, a Legendary Pokémon has nowhere/no one to spend the holiday season with. Stumbles upon a group of mortal Pokémon in the middle of their celebration. What happens next??

    2. I wanna see how you think Pokémon celebrate the holiday season. Should have as little in common with human celebrations as possible.

    3. The more characters, the better. I just wanna read a lot of fun character interactions. :p
    [/spoil]

    Fourfold

    It's always Christmas somewhen. Or All Hallow's, or Midsummer, or even the Millennium Festival. All times exist simultaneously; pull the moments together, shuffle them in the right way, and you can lay one celebration atop another, look back through the ages at each iteration, each one eternally happening, even the ones that haven't come yet, for some value of haven't come.

    Dialga hates it when I do that, but after all it's their job to make sure time runs free and easy through its many-branching channels. It's nothing but headache for them to untangle the streams after I've been at them. But I'm not a guardian, I'm a traveler: my concern is history, and history is all splicing together and considering out of order and bringing distant points together, not following every mundane moment from beginning to end.

    What I'm getting at is I don't much believe in holidays. More than anyone I know that no day is unique, and no day is special, and after all I can have any day I want, for exactly as long as I want, whenever it is that I please. I'll show up for celebrations that honor me, of course, it's only polite, but even then I'm only skipping from one to another for as long as I can stand. I celebrate until I grow tired of it, then leave, and another thousand of what you might call years go past before I'm feeling up to it again.

    After a while, holidays just get boring, you know? How many variations can you see on the happy family gathering, how many ways can you watch it go wrong, before it stops being interesting? How many times do you think the same scene's played out, with only the tiniest variations, across each and every one of Palkia's innumerable worlds? For those who experience one little molecule-thin trickle of time's infinite stream, one life forever isolated in its own continuity, then sure, I guess they're fun, novel. But for me? Boring.

    Except when they aren't.

    Let me tell you a story. A personal history, if you like. It begins like this: once upon a time, there was a snowstorm. And in another time, the same snowstorm: a billion billion snowflakes with different shapes, different wind-blown paths, but adding up to the same snowstorm nonetheless. There was a third storm and a fourth, siblings, different and yet the same. And in each of them there was a Traveler.

    Let's say for sake of argument that I'm something fiery, two wings, one tail, tiny stubby arms. I know it doesn't make much sense, but go with me on this for a minute. Sometimes you have to trust your storyteller knows what they're doing, don't you?

    Anyway, I'm a charizard, and I'm thinking about the solstice, the shortest day of the year. It's a big deal for humans around here, when the days stop shrinking and summer, far-off summer, starts to grow again in their thoughts. And me, the charizard that's me, I'm thinking of fireworks and music, greasy street food and colorful lights. Goldenrod is where you want to be on the solstice, and Violet more or less the opposite: the straight-laced monks don't celebrate, and other people are too afraid of offending them to really go all-out.

    On a good day the flight to Goldenrod takes half an hour, forty-five minutes tops. It's not a good day, heavy snowfall smothering most of eastern Johto. There's high winds and low visibility, and only a delibird would enjoy sharing the skies with that much ice. Walking won't be much more fun, but it beats potentially crashing from 600 feet.

    More reasonably, I would have stayed home and enjoyed the celebrations there, especially considering that, shortly after leaving, I'm stopped by a sudden frisson of fear. A moment of vertiginous panic freezes me in the street, afraid now of crashing even standing on my own two feet. I probably should have turned back then, not tangled with whatever that was.

    But we're talking about the biggest party in the region, on the darkest day of the year. After two months of cold and wet and early sunset, I need this. I need a night out. So I keep going. It's midday, fallen snow glinting where the sun peeks through a gap in the clouds. The wind's subsided, too, although I'm not fool enough to take to the air--I'm sure the very second I did that a gust would up and smash me face-first back into the ground. That's just how these things go.

    It's a pleasant walk, with the prospect of an even pleasanter evening at its end. No need to worry about where to stay in Goldenrod--I'll be up all night, enjoying life for as long as possible before the sunrise and the hangover arrive. And then the roads will be clear and I can cram myself into a taxi for the trip back, and that will be that. Another winter solstice come and gone.

    There's a moment when I suddenly felt heavy, plodding, somehow too large for my flight-boned frame. I shake my head, snort up a couple of embers from the back of my throat, and the sensation passes.

    I really need a break, don't I? Work's literally driving me crazy. Winter is literally driving me crazy. Time for lights and warmth and easy hospitality. I've been trying to do too much, as of late.

    Leaving the road is a mistake. Sure, the trees look inviting, the evergreens lovely emerald against the white of new-fallen snow. I won't get lost, with the road running right beside me and the ability to hop into the air and get my bearings if I need. But the snow's deeper in the shadows of the trees, and I have to push through all the hidden brush and obstacles lying just under the snow. Not worth it for the atmosphere.

    That's where I end up anyway, crunching and crackling my way along, watching my breath steam off in huge white clouds. The road runs along to my right, keeping me on track, and there are so few people out and about today that I can pretend it's just me with the whole glittering woods to myself. It's great fun until the storm comes down again, with real fury this time, and suddenly it's dark and bracing cold, and I'm using my wings to shield my face against the wind.

    And of course, I'm lost.

    The road's gone, somehow, and I've got no hope of flying, not with the wind slapping me around fit to blow me into a tree even with my feet still on the ground. I fight through it towards what I think is west, but the snow's nearly up to my knees and coming down furious, so every step is a trial.

    It doesn't help, when panic grips me--I wasn't doing so great in the fear department, to be honest, but this is serious panic. I'm breathless and paralyzed, can't even think over the pounding of my heart and the nonsense drone of terror in my head. And then, for no reason, I think: Demons!

    A voice behind me says: "The Traveler!"

    I turn, sluggish and heavy and fearful. But my mind is my own again, and it's no demon looking back at me, just a natu. He clings precariously to a skeletal old birch, blown crazily by the wind but always keeping his wide, bright eyes on me.

    "Hello!" you yell up to him. "I'm lost! Can you tell me how to get to Goldenrod? Or just back to the road?"

    "The Traveler!" the natu chirps again. "The Traveler! The Traveler!"

    All of a sudden the trees are heavy with round green bodies. Fresh snow tumbles from bending boughs as the flock jostles and crowds onto ever-lower branches, expressions avid, competing to get the best view of me. "The Traveler!" they chirp, hopping back and forth in giddy excitement. "The Traveler! The Traveler!"

    The first bird, the one who raised the alarm, sidles out along his branch, too far, to where it's so thin it snaps beneath his weight and sends him tumbling to the snow.

    Now, here's where it gets complicated, so listen well. Because at the same time I'm standing there, staring in wonder at the natu hopping and chirping in a halo around me, I am also in another forest, identical in every way save that the footprints behind me are three-toed and round and the scene is lit by strobing blue.

    I shake off the last of the strange warm feeling, the momentary illusion of wings, and my anger rises again, barely cresting the sick feeling of panic and betrayal. "Stay back!" I yell. "Last warning. Stay out of my way, or I'll make you move!" The aura sphere between my paws hums and sparkles, but its tingling thrumming is nothing like the odd burning sensation that distracted me a moment before.

    "The Traveler! The Traveler!" the natu coo from their trees, eyes gleaming in the aura sphere's light.

    "Come with us, Traveler," chirps one. "Come celebrate!"

    "Do you think I don't know what you are?" I roar. "Demons! You'll not tempt me from the path!" I release the aura sphere, and natu scatter in all directions. The aura sphere swerves sideways and knocks one bird out of the air, sends him tumbling to the snow.

    But at the same time I'm there, brimming with righteous anger, I'm also standing solidly against the storm, my armor grown heavy under a layer of fresh-fallen snow. The sharp sent of evergreen fills my nostrils, spiky boughs filling my arms, and I can smell another lovely pine so close by, the sap rising in its trunk. It would be perfect to take a branch from, but unfortunately the tree is full of natu. So are the ones flanking it, and as I shake off a strange moment of desperate rage, they fill my ears with constant excited yammering.

    "Come with us!" they chorus. "Come with us, Traveler! Come celebrate!"

    I turn and turn and see only more natu-laden trees, birds packing their branches and staring down with an avidity too much like hunger. Here and there scuffles breaks out over the best spots, and here one natu loses and is shoved from the branch entirely, claws clutching uselessly at the air. Without thinking I shift my burden to one arm and reach out with the other, catch him before he can hit the ground. I tuck him up under my arm, a squirming feathery ball of warmth.

    "What's this, now?" I ask. "What's this we're supposed to be celebrating?"

    "The Traveler!" the natu chirp in their eerie overlapping voices. "The Traveler! The Traveler arrives!"

    I sigh. The pine tree beckons, so close, so unfortunately full of natu. "Well, I can see you're very excited, but I'm afraid I can't stay. I have to get these boughs back home. Now, if you'll excuse me..."

    "No!" one natu cries. "No, you must come! The Traveler must come with us!"

    That sets the lot of them off again, and I set my jaw and tighten my grip on the greenwood as the air fills with more choruses of, "The Traveler!" The boughs are for sweeping away last year's sins, but I entertain thoughts of sweeping all the natu away with it, too.

    "You lot could learn a thing or two about how to give an invitation," I say to the natu under my arm.

    "It's important," he says, somewhat muffled. "Please come!"

    I rumble a growl, watching the natu hop and yell around me in creepily synchronized distress. "Just how long will this take?" I ask reluctantly.

    In another story another me, flaming tail and wings tucked in tight against the wind, suddenly perks up. "Did you say there would be food?"

    And another, still me but a lucario this time, bares teeth and draws energy for another attack. "Never!" I howl. "Never, I'll never go with you!" The aura sphere explodes against the side of a tree, scattering chips of bark and sending natu tumbling. "Come on, all of you!" I yell with vicious abandon. "All of you!" The blood hammers loud in my ears.

    The natu finally turn silent. They settle dark and watchful on their respective boughs, and I summon another aura sphere between my paws,

    But then one natu's eyes glow, and another and another, until a full glowing ring forms in the trees overhead. I loose the aura sphere, but my legs are starting to shake, a horrible pressure building behind my eyes. I growl and charge, not even thinking of what I'll do when I reach the natu, but don't go more than four steps before darkness snatches me and pulls me down into unfeeling.

    And there's something else, too. Because in another time, not so far from this one, the natu gather and mill in the trees, huddle together and gossip against the wind, make forays out in ones and twos to search the forest. What they find is nothing, no Traveler at all.

    But back to the charizard--me and also not. Because I'm looking in at her, aren't I, staying always out of sight? This is what I do. I observe, I catalogue, I evaluate. I see moments as scenes and weave them together into narrative. From raw time, history. But now, right now, I'm the charizard, too.

    I know. But we're getting to it, I promise.

    I'm the charizard and I'm watching the bowl in front of me fill with tea. It's a stone bowl, carved out of the same rock I'm sitting on, which has been shaped into a kind of long, low bench. There are more bowls dotted around the room, some up high, some sprouting right out of the floor. They're made for different kinds of pokémon, I suppose, and all different sizes. Currently most of the bowls have at least one natu perched on the rim, the birds shuffling back and forth in excitement, leaning far out to watch the liquid rise up from below.

    It must have been humans who built this place, this room, because it's not a cave, shaped from the square blocks humans build with. And even if natu could somehow carve bowls like these, they couldn't have rigged up whatever ingenious mechanism that, behind the scenes, fills the bowls all up with tea with the pull of a lever. What this place is and how it got filled up with natu, I have no idea. I can't even think about it right now.

    Goldenrod. I have to get to Goldenrod before the night's out.

    "So," I say, as casually as I can. "What's this whole traveler thing supposed to be about? What do I have to do? Do we just, uh, kind of get together and have dinner, and then I can get going?"

    I can't fault the tea--it looks lovely after dragging my tail-flame through that storm, and I stick my snout right in. It's scalding-hot and perfect. I can't pretend I'd rather be outside, swatting away snowflakes. But still. I can't stay.

    "Tonight is the longest night," intones a new voice, reedy but deeper than any of the natu's. It's an old xatu over in one corner--I'd thought for sure he was asleep. But his golden eyes are open now, and scrutinizing me. "What do you know of other worlds?"

    "Umm, nothing? What other worlds?"

    The xatu sweeps one wing out in a broad arc. "All lives contain choices. What to eat for dinner, which road to choose. Whether to sleep or stay up another hour. Imagine that, when you make a choice, you do not leave the other possibility behind. There is one of you that chooses one way, and another who picks the other. Two lives, two stories. Once identical, now slightly different. These are our many worlds: one for each different set of circumstances, a billion billion billion of them, each as true as any other."

    "Okay, I guess I've heard of things like that before," I say. "So tonight you're celebrating... other worlds?"

    "Other times. Other stories. There are a billion billion of me, and a billion billion of you, each of us individual and yet the same. We live our lives a hair's breadth from each other, never touching, unaware. Except for one night. The longest night of the year."

    I'm momentarily distracted by a sharp, piney scent, like somebody's broken a fir branch under my nose. Did I accidentally trample a sapling or something on my way over here? I try to twist surreptitiously, sniff myself without being noticed. Did I get sap on me somehow? Ugh, who wants to get caught smelling like a plant? How embarrassing.

    The xatu hasn't noticed anything amiss. "In the deep of night, the walls between realities thin. Timelines lying side by side brush against each other. And on this night, the night of deepest dark, the walls between worlds are thinner yet. Times blur and merge, if only for a little while."

    (I should interject here and say that Dialga would consider all of this nonsense. Time's threads are separate entities, whole and solid and self-contained. They may wrap around one another, knot and tangle outrageously, but merge? Hardly.)

    "Okay, so something strange is going to happen," I say, chesnaught now, my evergreen boughs piled neatly against the wall behind me. The cup the natu gave me for scooping up the tea is comically small, easily held between thumb and forefinger. "What does that have to do with me? With the whole idea of this 'Traveler?'"

    This set off a wave of, "The Traveler! The Traveler!" from the natu, albeit a more muted one than what they'd serenaded me with back in the forest. They're distracted by the refreshment, taking eager sips of tea, tipping their bodies all the way back to swallow. They probably felt the cold worse than I, since they're hardly more than feathery fluff.

    "There is always a Traveler," the xatu says.

    "Okay," I say when he doesn't elaborate. "What makes you think it's me?"

    He looks at me with unfathomable eyes. It's so hard to tell expressions on bird pokémon. "Have you been feeling strange recently?" he asks.

    While those two of me are enjoying their tea, another is recently awakened, with a splitting headache that's done nothing to soothe her temper. Neither has the psychic barrier standing between her and the exit to the cave, behind which the natu hide. It protects the xatu, too, who sits maddeningly serene while I pepper the barrier with energy blasts.

    "Let me go!" I roar. "I need to find my trainer! She's lost. She needs me! I have to find her!"

    "The only thing you'll find out there is frostbite," the xatu says. "Stay. Rest. Wait out the storm. This opportunity arises only once in a lifetime."

    "Ha! Wait out Darkest Night? The night we must face temptation? You're exactly what the stories warn of, pretender!" I lunge at the birds, sending a few of the more nervous natu scattering, and slam into the barrier with as much force as I can. Kicks and punches crack off the wall of psychic energy while the remaining natu struggle to keep it in place, the glow of power in their eyes flickering.

    "Elder, don't provoke her!" one natu says in a highly audible whisper.

    "I don't know your stories," the xatu says calmly. "Why don't you tell me one of them?"

    "No!" I snarl. "I need to find my trainer!" And I throw myself forward again, or start to. But another of those curious flashes comes over me, and suddenly I'm too large for my body, nursing what feels like a burned tongue with something small and delicate held in one hand.

    I come back to myself standing slumped and awkward, and I'm probably lucky I didn't end up on the floor. I'm trapped here, alone, on this most dangerous of days, and on top of everything I'm apparently going mad. I think of my trainer. She must be out searching for me, calling my name into the shearing wind, and I throw another bracing punch at the wall, even though I know it's pointless. I can't give up, never--not on her.

    There's one more reality, of course, and it remains empty, the natu's party attended by none besides themselves.

    "But Elder! There has to be a Traveler, doesn't there?" one natu asks desperately. The bowls of tea are full, the cakes out on their silver trays--pilfered human things as well, though far less ancient than the room itself. None of the birds seem terribly interested, though, picking listlessly at one thing or the other, taking uninspired, thoughtless sips of tea.

    "How will we get to meet the others?" another pipes up. "How will we get to ask our questions?"

    "There is always a Traveler," the xatu says, as serene as any of his other incarnations. "Come, eat, drink. Make the Traveler feel welcome!"

    The natu huddle down obediently, but pass brief exasperated glances between each other. They're no doubt used to their elder's opaque statements and frustratingly calm demeanor, but they can't be much comfort to natu who see their holiday ruined. It's no fun playing host to a guest who never showed.

    (I'm there, of course, and watching. But they can't see me standing here, waiting outside of time.)

    But in at least one of these stories, I'm enjoying myself more than I care to admit. "These are actually really good," I say around a mouthful of cake. "Thank you!" The natu holding the tray in her beak fluffs with obvious pleasure. I feel a faint twinge of regret as I take the last proffered pastry. There are more, of course, on other trays, but they're all being attacked by natu, who squabble especially over the seeds decorating their tops. The xatu has a couple of his own, but he's shown no interest in them. Perhaps he might be persuaded to share.

    Or--no. They're delicious, for sure, but I have somewhere else to be. Weird mystic time ritual or not, I need to be on my way. "So, this is great and all, but when's it supposed to happen, this whole, uh, time convergence thing?"

    "Not long before midnight. You can feel it drawing closer, can't you?"

    If he means that creepy feeling of not properly being here, of being too large, or too small, for my body, those quick flashes of things that aren't actually happening, then sure, I feel it. I don't think that's a sign that there's actually some weird temporal event coming on, though, but rather a sign that I need to get away from all these psychics who are clearly messing with my head. Or--no. I hadn't thought about it, but surely they wouldn't put anything weird in the food? But all these old pokémon rituals involve drugs one way or another, don't they? This is why you don't accept dinner invitations from creepy strangers.

    Suddenly the urge to get to Goldenrod is irresistible. I surge to my feet, and then, forgetting the potential for serious hallucinogens disguised by a delicious fruity taste, cram the rest of the last cake in my mouth.

    "I have to get to Goldenrod," I say, trying to ignore the pitiful peeping of the natu, who mill around underfoot, begging plaintively for me to stay. Outside the wind howls worse than ever, and now it's full dark, and the cold feels even colder after I've been sitting awhile in the warmth. I can't let myself think of the long road ahead. Instead I think of fireworks, and of music drifting through the streets, the smells of all the street foods mingling--and the taste of them of course.

    I'm feeling almost cheerful despite coming dangerously close to stepping on a natu when I fall clear out of my body. I am a lucario, I have always been a lucario, ever since I was a riolu, the same riolu that on hatching looked up into the face of the human that would be her trainer.

    The same human that looks at me now, eye to eye now that I'm fully grown, and says, "I've been thinking, Lucario. Do you really want me to be your trainer?"

    And then I'm a charizard again, listing against the wall, groaning, claws digging thin furrows across stone. The natu bounce around in even more agitation than before, which completely fails to help.

    "It's dangerous to go out by yourself, this close to the convergence," the xatu says. "What if you started to merge in the middle of that snowstorm? Stay. Please. We will help you. This is an incredible opportunity. How many go through life never knowing of their fellow-travelers, and of those who do, how many ever get to speak with them?"

    "I didn't ask for an incredible opportunity!" I roar, and despite my best efforts it comes out petulant and laced with fire. "I wanted to have a good time at a party! Can't you pick somebody else for your stupid traveler thing?"

    "We do not choose," the xatu says. "We merely wait. We know the Traveler will come. And when they do, we are there to help them."

    "I don't buy that," Chesnaught-me says, and she too is standing now, clutching at her head. "You were the ones who showed up and started in on all that 'Traveler' nonsense. You picked me, and now you're giving me hallucinations. Maybe you're not even doing it on purpose. Maybe it's some side effect of whatever ritual you think you have to do for this whole weird holiday. It doesn't matter. I don't buy any of this."

    "We do not choose," the xatu says, and it's the lucario who answers him, in another time entirely.

    "I'm sure," I growl. My aura spheres and desperate blows have both been spent, but I bristle even now, aura sensors standing straight out and vibrating as I try to sieve through conflicting waves of sensory information that come on ever faster. "You saw me at my lowest and didn't think me a perfect target. You didn't consider my weakness an opportunity. It's pure chance that I ended up here. It all makes so much sense!"

    A desperate wave of fighting energy ripples out to fizz and disperse against the barrier. I'm tired, after all, alone in the face of all the natu's psychic efforts. It doesn't help that I'm dragged down into some other life again when the xatu repeats, "We do not choose."

    In another reality, the natu turn and look at one another, nervous, not sure who he's talking to. Even here, in a room that rings with absence, the natu are starting to feel it. They aren't blurring into pokémon of entirely different species, but now and again they'll blink and find themselves turned just a hair too far to the left or right, or catch a thought that doesn't feel quite theirs. They've been told what to expect, they're far more excited than afraid. But even so, it is strange.

    Back in the charizard's reality, I've given up on arguing and rested my head against the wall. The real pressure against my skull makes it a little less confusing to feel my claws clutching at my head, when after all my arms are far too short to do that.

    "Who are you?" I growl when I find myself fretting over how much the evergreen I've collected will dry out if it's left on the floor while I'm preoccupied by some cosmic event.

    "I could ask you the same thing," I say as the teeth-gritted chesnaught, pressed so close to the wall that my spines dig mortar out from between the bricks.

    In another timeline I, the lucario, am also slumped against the wall, at the extreme opposite end of the room from the natu and their barrier.

    They can't see each other, those three aspects of me, but I, watching from without, am struck by how they've all made their way to the same spot in the room, how even the angles of their limbs are eerily similar, despite their different anatomies. Time always echoes itself. The three of them blur, edges beginning to run as their timelines draw closer together. Intriguing--and impossible. It ought to be impossible.

    Inside the tangle of converging timelines, I, the charizard, try to tamp down the rising panic of my other selves, deny my own fear in annoyance at their antics. For all her apparent stoicism, it's the chesnaught who's bawling loudest, filling my head with worry for her children. Perhaps it's just because the lucario's exhausted, though; her worry still runs through everything, a constant enervating undercurrent.

    "Could the two of you shut up for a second?" I say aloud to no one, one claw swiping at the wall, as if to drag me back to my feet. It misses completely. The lucario and chesnaught mirror the motion unconsciously. Charizard and chesnaught are surrounded by tutting, muttering natu who try to nudge them to more comfortable positions, fan them with their stubby wings, bring water and food that the disoriented pokémon don't even notice. In the lucario's story, on the other hand, the birds remain clustered far away, unwilling to leave the safety of their shield. The inconsistency grates, producing a discordant hum not heard but felt. Several of the natu grow dizzy, feeling like they're seesawing between one place and another.

    The effect is worse for the Travelers themselves--ourselves. We will always be discordant, four different people who happened to reach the same point, the same role our stories. The universe tries to smooth this over, to blend us into one, pressing us against each other in a horribly intimate way.

    The charizard sees the world briefly in leylines of glowing aura, feels heavy, weighed down by armor she doesn't have and memories, regrets that don't belong to her. She shudders and gasps as though drowning, dragged under by the weight of her other lives.

    It's as Chesnaught that I feel like I've grown wings. I close my eyes (but they remain open, in two other realities, open and dutifully reporting back) and try not to think about it, but it's a part of me now: memories of spinning and rolling through the air with a delight that horrifies my steadfastly ground-bound, afraid-of-heights self. I'm filled up with the same blighting fire that wakes visceral fear in the heart of any grass-type.

    As lucario I try to fight, always to fight. I try to meditate, to clear my mind, to move enough to take on a proper meditative pose. I pray for guidance, for something to show me a way through this darkest night, but prayer can't banish thoughts of long and lonely nights working in Violet Gym, fire and wind at my command, or of children that both are and aren't my own. I struggle once again to right myself, but the other two of me refuse to move.

    (And still there is that empty timeline, where the natu cluster not around a convalescent Traveler but a conspicuous empty space.)

    "I thought this was supposed to be some once-in-a-lifetime experience," the chesnaught growls. "Mostly it just feels like the worst headache I've ever had."

    "The convergence is not complete. We await another Traveler," the xatu says in every reality, speaking directly into my minds. He hangs like a vision before our mental eyes even as his physical body remains perfectly still on its dais, eyes closed.

    "Oh, great. That guy's here, too?" the charizard part of myself asks.

    "What, there's someone else I'm going to have to tell to get out of my head?" the chesnaught groans. "Can't we sort this mess out first?"

    "Not without the last Traveler. They will bring the timelines into full alignment. When the merge is complete, you will be able to speak to one another properly. Not for long, but even so. And after that, you all will travel apart again, and you can go your separate ways."

    "Sounds great. How long are we supposed to be waiting for this mysterious other traveler to show up, then? Because I personally would appreciate it if they hurried it up."

    "That is up to them," the xatu says in his most mysterious, unhelpful voice. "Or, I should say, up to you."

    Then he looks at me. Not any of the mes already there who're bellyaching about nausea and disorientation while their universes try to overlap and ruck up uncomfortably around the imperfect fit. The xatu looks at me, the me watching from the outside, and that's another thing that shouldn't even be possible.

    I admit it: I run. I feel his eyes on me, finding me in the one place I should be safe, and I flee into another time entirely, one far-distant and familiar. It's an old favorite from a long, long ways back, far before there were either humans or pokémon to cause trouble. Mostly there's forest stretching on and on across new-forged land, with the occasional slippery sea-thing making an illicit run up onto shore, reveling, maybe, in its transgression. This time is vast and empty and peaceful and excellent for stop to think things through.

    Xatu can see beyond their own time. They're well-known for it, though it doesn't give them the wisdom they often claim. Occasionally they happen to see me, whether I've manifested within a timeline or am in transit between them. But these are only glimpses, and they happen by chance. This xatu turned and looked at me, and it was not brief, and it was no accident.

    It rattled me. I sit and think a while, then head off, resolved not to return to that unsettling little pocket of time. All realities, all times in their infinite permutations are open to me: it's not like I'm going to run out of other places to go. And if I ever do want to go back there, I can simply jump back to the exact moment I left. The problem can wait--will wait, indefinitely, and spending a little while to consider my options can't hurt.

    So I wander, scouring all time for its stories, weaving history out of fact. For how long? The irony is that time's caretakers are themselves timeless. It was long enough to weave centuries out of small, stolen moments, places where I popped into existence, watching, evaluating. But I busying myself about my usual work my mind keeps going back to that cold winter night, the night that shouldn't be possible.

    Of course, there's no way I could stay away forever. I fight it. I distract myself. But I wind up where anyone could have predicted I would from the start: right back in that moment where the xatu looked at me. The threads of time are twisting, beginning to converge, but they're snagged on a ragged hole in one of them. The other three Travelers, pokémon who by chance had wandered through a certain snowy wood, are left reeling and incomplete.

    Enough waiting and watching from outside time. The only way to fix is to go in myself and let what happens happen.

    Diving in is as easy as stepping through an open doorway, but after come all those inconvenient facts of life: a heart to start beating, a brain to house millennia of experiences, lungs to draw in air. My vision goes inside-out as my awareness of glittering, filamentous timelines recedes and mortal sights roar to the fore in painful color and clarity.

    It's worse here, where the timelines strain to align, to fit me into the shape of the mortal lives that mirror mine. I can hear the time-threads with my new, actual ears, twanging and buzzing with tension as they strain against each other. There's a second where I get the impression of around two dozen shocked natu who might think they're hallucinating my sudden appearance, and then I deal with the noise, yanking the timelines into place myself.
     
  2. Negrek

    Negrek Lost but Seeking

    Then there aren't four Travelers, but only the one, lucario and charizard and chesnaught and celebi all at once. I am them, and they are me, even if only for a moment, memories and scraps of thought whirling through our shared consciousness.

    I watch Falkner's birds from near the bleachers, the lot of them laughing and chatting with each other after their training session. Most of them have lived here in Violet since they hatched--most hatched in this very gym, as did their parents, and their parents before them.

    I dip my toes into the ocean south of Goldenrod, stewing over another loss. It's not that we're not strong--that I'm not strong. Why can't we win? Why did we have to come to Johto in the first place?

    I set Juniper down and reach for Bower, but she evades me, clambering into the spines near the center of my armor and out of reach. "No!" she giggles. "Wanna be up high!" I sigh and roll my shoulders enough to make my shell shift, so Bower laughs harder and hangs on tight. I look around at what is literally a hole in the ground, a burrow dug out of a root-bound hillside. "What do you think? It may not look like much now, but we could learn to get along here, couldn't we?"

    I hop from one moment to another, peering into timeline after timeline with disinterest. Drama, drama, always drama with these mortals. They rush together, break apart again, clash and retreat and start over with the same old thing. Don't they ever get tired of it? I certainly do. I just want to find somewhere quiet to relax, away from all their nonsense.

    "Wait," someone says. Or thinks. It might be me. "Can we... Can we just try for a minute...?"

    "I mean, I have friends," I say to the blaziken behind the counter, who's looking at me like I'm all her problems condensed into a single individual. "I'm not like lonely or anything. It's just kind of weird, you know? You've got all these people who've been sticking their nose in each others' business since four generations back when their family started out here. But, oh, why am I even talking to you about this? Sorry, how much did you say it was for the mocha again?"

    "What do you mean, am I sure if I really want you to be my trainer?" I say to her. She won't look me full in the face, staring out at the ocean instead. The wind whips her hair around in a snarly halo, making it even harder to see her expression. "You've always been my trainer. You'll always be my trainer. Of course I want that. Why wouldn't I? What are you saying?"

    "That's very kind of you, but I'm afraid I have to get home," I say to the gaggle of smiling pokémon with shopping in their arms. "You know how it is with young pokémon. I'll be lucky if they haven't collapsed the entire burrow by the time I get back." I turn away and try not to walk any faster than normal as I head for the woods. I shove at my bag of groceries, trying to get the strap to sit more comfortably on my shoulder. It's too bad Violet only has the one market. I'm probably going to have to see that lot again, aren't I?

    "I can't help it if your legendary council things are boring," I say to Arceus, who has all the gravity of a small star system and the humor of a very unexpressive brick. Right now it's looking at me solemnly, which I think is the only facial expression it has besides 'furious.' "I mean, I'll show up, sure, I've got all the time I want. But it would be nice if you could talk about something other than the mortal world for once. I don't really care about what's going on with that, you know? I'm the one who catalogues, not the one who makes it happen. That's all your guys' job."

    "Here, if we can just think--think of who you are! You know which memories are yours, don't you? Focus on those! Shut the other ones out! We aren't going to get anywhere if we're lost in each other's thoughts!"

    Flying... It's so peaceful, out here all by myself. And the mountains in Johto are beautiful. It's somewhere I feel like I should love--I do love. I do love it.

    I like the snow. Liked it. But now when I look at it I remember playing with her when we were small, making snow forts and sledding and coming inside afterwards all cold and dripping, to enjoy hot cocoa and a board game in front of the fire. Looking at it now makes my stomach grow hot and acid, and I run even faster, like the cold air on my skin can extinguish the hurt inside.

    Juniper and Bower exclaim over the snow at top volume, dashing out a few yards and then racing back in giddy, terrified excitement, the cold of the snow being so dangerously close to the ice element we all fear. They climb up into my spines until the sun dries them, then go racing out again, as far as they dare. This right here is all I need. We're a family, the three of us. It doesn't matter that it's small. As long as we have each other, we don't need anyone else.

    Sometimes you see a timeline that stops. They're threads, after all. They have to have ends as well as beginnings. I don't visit them when they cut out like that, though. Who wants to tell a story about a bunch of people who are all about to end? It would be boring.

    Which of those are mine? It's hard, sorting through thoughts of flying and of flame, of aura, of family and duty and sacrifice, of time and that which lies outside. Who am I? What do I remember?

    Well, that's easy. I'm the most interesting and powerful of the bunch, of course, so my memories must be likewise.

    I focus hard, bring timescapes and whirlwind dashes through history to the forefront of my mind. The others must be doing the same, because the rush of memories slows and begins to fragment, until most of what I feel, I think, belongs to me. I focus on seeing instead of experiencing, and now I can see: there are four of us here, sharing our mental space for the moment but still distinct.

    I wonder what the others see, if anything at all. They aren't psychics, so they aren't used to this kind of visualization. The avatars my mind's constructed for them are in various states of distress, faces screwed up in concentration or pain while they battle their way through the disorienting flood of memory.

    I've barely settled into my visualization before I'm dragged down by another wave of emotion, memories that have become my own.

    The wind rakes through my fur, howls in my numbing ears. I can't feel anything with my aura sensors, either. They're worse than useless in freezing temperatures, and I can't spare a second to warm them. Of course this would happen today. This, the shortest of days. The most evil.

    "Lucario, please stop broadcasting your memories like that," the Chesnaught-vision says, opening one eye to a pained squint. "Think about being here and now, not then."

    Where am I? Why am I running? I can hardly even remember what my trainer said. All I know is that I had to get away. I had to leave, and now I'm... wherever I am. I'm cold, and lost, and alone. I have to find her. However bad I feel, she must feel even worse.

    "Lucario."

    The snow grows deeper. The trees grow thicker. But this is how it always is, isn't it? We are tested. Eron was tested. And by staying to the path, he was redeemed. My path leads me to find my trainer. I will succeed.

    "Lucario!"

    I have to find her. I have to make her understand. There's been some kind of mistake. And maybe I was unhappy--maybe even because of something to do with her. But that doesn't mean I don't want her to be my trainer. It was my fault, making her think that. I have to find her.

    "LUCARIO!"

    She looks up with teeth bared, eyes wide and muzzle tear-streaked. "Begone! Haven't you tormented me enough?"

    "Don't think so. We just met," the Charizard avatar says.

    Chesnaught shoots her a reproachful look and says, "It's all right. You can see our memories, can't you? You know we're just normal people, not demons."

    Lucario turns away, both paws clamped tight on her skull. "No, I mean, everything--this whole thing is some kind of trick. It's an illusion. This isn't real, none of this is real. I need to find my trainer. That's all I want."

    "I know. And I think you do need to find her. You two obviously have things you need to work out. But you know it's okay now, right? I'm sure she's fine. You don't have to run out in the snow and look for her."

    "She couldn't. She couldn't. She's always been my trainer. She can't have just abandoned me. She can't--she can't have decided she doesn't want me."

    Charizard swings her tail slightly back and forth, blowing smoke rings and pretending to ignore the two of them completely. For my part, I'm simply fascinated. Mortal pokémon and trainers are fascinating. Imagine becoming so attached to another mortal, something so fragile it could break at any time. It's strange enough that I've considered looking for a trainer myself, just to see what it's like.

    Considered. I'm not fool enough to go through with something like that.

    "Sometimes people grow apart," Chesnaught says gently. "It's a part of life. It's hard to deal with sometimes, but--"

    "We didn't grow apart," Lucario snarls, her aura sensors wavering higher, like she's preparing for an attack. Can she even attack other parts of herself? I have no idea. I'll give the xatu this: it's a lot more fun to be caught in the middle of this than it would be to simply watch. "You don't understand. Something must have happened, there must be something wrong with her. Otherwise she would never... She would never say something crazy like that. Never."

    "We know what happened," Chesnaught says. "And you do too, don't you? I know it hurts, but running yourself ragged like this isn't going to help anything."

    Lucario shakes her head, her fierceness collapsed into a slack, lost expression. She doesn't have to actually say that we all don't understand; we can feel it easily enough, as much a part of our thoughts as her own.

    "That's right, we can only see everything that happened between you and your trainer thanks to this whole time-linked thing," Charizard says, "but we totally don't get it."

    "There's no need to be like that," Chesnaught snaps.

    "Sorry, I just get a little ticked when people try to make their problems my problem," Charizard says. "I'm missing a pretty big party for this, as you all know."

    "I'm sure we all have other places we'd rather be right now, but you don't see the rest of us complaining, do you?" Chesnaught asks. "And we all have our own things to work out. Perhaps that's some of why we're here."

    "Right, yeah, all my gigantic problems that need solving."

    "I'm sure we could find a thing or two if we went looking," Chesnaught says, folding her arms.

    "Who died and left you in charge of this whole thing? Maybe I don't want to spend the holiday listening to other people's sob stories. Let's do something else."

    That's a good point. "Actually, I suppose I ought to be the one in charge. I imagine I'm here to make sure you mortals don't get overwhelmed. Don't worry, it's under control, and I'll make sure time goes back to normal just as soon as it's ready to."

    "Who the hell is that, anyway?" charizard-me grumbles.

    "Don't you know anything about Johto?" the chesnaught hisses. "That's the voice of the forest! Celebi!"

    "Looks kind of like an onion to me," the charizard says. "Don't think I could seriously pray to anything that reminded me that much of salad."

    "It's the guardian of time!"

    "Technically, that would be Dialga," I have to say. People keep getting that wrong, somehow. "I'm more like the guardian of history, which might sound like the same thing, but actually--"

    "It does look a little like an onion," Lucario offers, a bit shakily.

    Charizard bursts out laughing, and Chesnaught tugs at her beard to try and keep herself from smiling. I smile myself, my mental projection somersaulting upside-down for a second. I mean, I could be offended, but why deny it? Some of us are just cursed to resemble root vegetables.

    "Okay, okay, that's pretty good," the charizard chuckles. "But look. Chesnaught. You could unclench, maybe just a tiny bit."

    "What do you mean?"

    "I mean this whole above-it-all dispenser of wisdom thing you've got going on, like you know better than anybody here. Like we can't see you've got your own glaring issues there, you know?"

    "While you're over there denying that there's anything wrong in your life?"

    "There isn't anything wrong in my life. The point is I'm not standing around acting like I have all the answers because of it."

    "So that's why you're hauling your tail all the way to Goldenrod by yourself to see some fireworks instead of celebrating with your friends in Violet."

    "Or maybe I just like fireworks? Did that ever occur to you? Maybe I just wanted to go and see some fireworks."

    "I mean, it's certainly possible, but you can't pretend that's what's actually going on when you spend as much time as you do agonizing over whether anybody likes you..."

    "Stay out of my memories!"

    "I can't, really. You know that. They're mine now as much as yours."

    "Okay, fine. I'm desperately lonely and have no self-esteem or whatever. Totally unlike you, with your precious kids and literally nobody else!"

    "I don't understand. You're right, I love my family. You're saying that's a bad thing?"

    "That's not a problem. The problem is you're scared of even trying to reach out beyond them."

    "Are you just going to let them argue?" Lucario whispers to me, though of course the others hear it; her words belong to all of us, now. But Charizard and Chesnaught are too absorbed in their argument to care.

    And, right. I am the legend here, aren't I? I should probably impart some wisdom, or something. Whoops. I have to admit that Dialga's better at that kind of thing than I am. "Okay, you two. Stop fighting. This is the only chance you'll have to talk to each other in your entire lives. Don't you want to be friends?"

    The chesnaught stands with paws bunched into fists. "What are you talking about?" she asks Charizard.

    "Yeah, okay, you have a home, you have a family, that's great. But you use it as an excuse to hide from the world," Charizard says. "What's that saying to the kids, huh? How are they supposed to grow up when you keep them hidden away from everything? Not that you'd make a ton of friends out there anyway, with that attitude of yours."

    "How dare you--"

    "Which I can see right through, by the way. Cynical about the whole world, are you? More like frightened."

    The chesnaught stands with jaw clenched, alternately relaxing and tightening her claws into a fist. But then she simply crosses her arms and turns half away from the charizard. "Oh, very well. If you say I'm frightened, then I'm frightened."

    Somehow that doesn't satisfy Charizard. "Yeah, yeah, play it off all cool like. Come on. I know what I know."

    "Please, you two!" Lucario says, and they both turn to her, Charizard's wings flaring slightly in surprise. "This isn't helping, and"--she looks suddenly terrified, gaze flicking back and forth between the two of them--"and you both need help. You know it. Fighting about it like this isn't doing you any good. Please... please try a moment. Don't fight."

    A brief silence falls over the group, and neither Charizard nor Chesnaught will meet Lucario's eyes.

    "I know I'm not one to talk," she says. "But both of you, you know you aren't happy. And it's okay. It's okay to be lonely and not know what to do about it. But getting mad at each other isn't going to help anything."

    "Whoah, now," Charizard starts, but Lucario's imploring look cuts her off. Charizard tips her head back, letting out an irritated plume of smoke, but doesn't go on.

    In the resulting lull, Lucario looks around the group, a bit plaintive. "This is all the time we have. We should try to do something good with it."

    "That's right!" To be honest, I'm a bit tired of all this heart to heart stuff. It would be nice if once in a while a mortal invoked me just to just to chat or something, instead of because they want something out of me. But no, it's always, "I need this, please let me have that..." Like I've got nothing better to do than manage their lives for them.

    There was a pause. "So, well, what do we do? With all this precious time we've got left, I mean," Charizard says.

    "I don't know," Chesnaught says. We rest together in silence for a moment, and I get the sense of memories being shuffled, a little furtive peeking into one another's pasts. Chesnaught goes on, "I admit, as strange as it is to have somebody else's memories downloaded to my brain, it's kind of comforting how mundane yours are, Celebi."

    "Oh, truth. And I'm going to cherish every time you accidentally time it time-hopped directly into a wall. I'll bet they don't talk about that in the scriptures or whatever."

    "Is that jealousy I hear? You sound jealous. I'm resplendent," I say. Even Lucario smiles a little at that.

    "Ha. It's too bad we're all stuck in each other's heads or whatever," Charizard says. "I'd love to have a battle with you. Test my strength against a legend, you know? Maybe I'd even win. I'm good after all. You all can see how I got picked to train at Falkner's gym, can't you?"

    "I can. And I'd like to battle, too. I'm not bad, either." Lucario's smile is still tentative, but it's an improvement.

    "Ugh, violence," Chesnaught says, but you can tell that this time her scorn is affected. "I have a better idea. Why don't you two young 'uns settle down and listen to the wisdom of your elders? Back in my day..."

    And they're off. I hover at the edge of the conversation, watching, listening. That's what I do, after all.

    Until Lucario turns to me. "What do you think, Celebi? That's a lot of bragging for us puny mortals, isn't it? You can top us three, can't you?"

    I know flattery when I see it--but that doesn't mean I don't appreciate it. "Well, I was going to let you three have your fun. But if you want my opinion..." And before I know I'm in the middle of it, laughing and boasting with the rest of them.

    How much time passes? Hard to say. Time barely matters when you're communicating at the speed of thought. But the confluence of timelines can't last forever. A tremor passes through my mental landscape, setting the others' mental projections wavering and swimming like the mirages they are.

    "What was that?" Lucario asks, and in a moment she's in a warrior's stance, staring around at the void for something she can punch.

    "The timelines are starting to pull apart," I say.

    "We have to leave already?" Lucario asks.

    "Indeed." A new voice, but a familiar one. The image of a xatu, green-shining and solemn, appears near Chesnaught, accompanied by another world-shaking tremor. "Your time is limited, Travelers. Have you said all that must be said?"

    "No," Charizard huffs. "How could you possibly expect us to get through all that in, what, a few minutes?"

    "It's been good, though, hasn't it?" Chesnaught says. "I mean, after all the hype I wasn't exactly expecting therapy, but other than that, it was fun."

    "Huh, speak for yourself," Charizard says, but she's smiling.

    "I'm glad I got the chance to meet you all," the lucario says quietly.

    "And I you," the chesnaught replies, and reaches out to take the lucario's paw.

    "Yeah. I guess we all ended up here by total coincidence, but you turned out to be pretty cool," says the charizard.

    "Destiny," croons the xatu.

    "Sure. Whatever."

    They're all looking at me now, hand in hand. Another shiver passes through our shared timeline, fuzzing and blurring them, and only then do I realize they're waiting for me to join their circle. I float forward and take Charizard and Chesnaught's hands, trying not to flinch when the Chesnaught abruptly squeezes my fingers.

    "Best of luck to you," Chesnaught says, the last word cracking and buzzing weirdly with distortion.

    "I wish we could stay longer," Lucario says.

    "You'll be right next to each other the whole time," I say, then realize that might have come out a little impatient. "I mean, I know you won't be able to see each other or anything, but you'll still be there. And who knows? Maybe you'll see each other again someday."

    "You are never alone," Xatu says. "There are a million, a billion others like you, all of them facing the same trials. Remember." He spreads his wings. "Remember that you are all connected. All of you are striving. Take heart!"

    "Thanks, mystic xatu guy," Charizard says, then flickers and cracks so badly you think for a second she's broken away from the rest of you.

    "I'll do my best," says Lucario.

    "As will I." Chesnaught.

    Mortals. Learning. Heartwarming, isn't it? They have so little time to work with, and yet they can come to know so much. More than they can even appreciate.

    "And those of great power have a role to play as well," the xatu says, apropos of absolutely nothing. "They more than any others have the ability to bring people. What greater pleasure than to facilitate the joy of others, and in doing so bring joy to yourself as well?"

    "Dialga, is that you? Are you messing with me?"

    The xatu gave the only sort of smile a xatu can, crest up and eyes sparkling even in the lightless realm of thought. "Be well," he says, and then the connection breaks.

    In one story a charizard rears and snorts and spouts reflexive flame, sending a too-inquisitive natu hopping off in singed dismay. In another, the natu cringes when Lucario stirs, but she only raises her head, makes no attempt to throw herself against the barrier. "I'm sorry," she says. "You don't need to be afraid."

    It's the chesnaught's natu who needs to watch out. She sweeps him up into another undignified one-armed embrace.

    One more natu watches empty air, only to catch sight of a god for no more than a moment before it somersaults backwards and disappears in a flash of thought. "Didn't even say goodbye," the natu huffs.

    The other times are thick with goodbyes or good nights, Charizard and Lucario settling in to wait out the storm. Chesnaught lumbers out into the snow, but even she doesn't leave without oblique comments about visiting again someday. It's not like she lives far away.

    And that's the end, isn't it? Separate lives, separate timelines once again. Of course I've looked in on them once or twice, followed the shining threads of their lives out into their respective futures. But I think we'll leave them here. I'm a storyteller, the storyteller, and that means I have a true artist's sense for when to stop talking.

    Me? I'm the same as ever, of course. We immortals, we unchanging. But maybe I keep watch, now, for snowy, deep-dark evenings. Now and again perhaps I tweak things, just a little. Bring a couple of timelines a little closer, maybe let them bleed together just a tiny bit. Dialga would kill me, in a purely metaphorical sense of course. But what's the point of all this god-like power if you aren't going to use it now and again, you know?

    So, holidays. I suppose they aren't all bad. Maybe I'll make my own. No creepy chanting natu, though. Maybe... onions? Or maybe not. At least, one way or another, I know who I'll be inviting to celebrate.
     
    Last edited: Dec 26, 2017
  3. Ambyssin

    Ambyssin Winter can't come soon enough

    Okay, I don't feel so bad about the length of my gift after seeing this XP

    I'm-a wager a guess that, despite the subtlety in this introduction, we're going with Celebi's POV for this. And I say that because, though I've limited experience with stories involving Celebi, it's really a fascinating take. Usually, Celebi seems pretty happy and cheerful. So, the idea that it's actually really bored because it can go anywhere it wants in history at any time is really never something I've thought about.

    Now I'm imagining a Charizard sitting on a barstool, leaning on one of its arms, and mumbling, "I need a frigging drink."

    Okay, I see where the timey-wimey shenanigans are coming into play. I know I've seen forms of media where the character's kind of phasing through time sporadically. Surprisingly, the first thing that came to mind is this old as the Dinosaurs sprite comic, Bob & George.

    String theory, as told by a Xatu. )")b

    I also like the personalities of the three Pokémon, as they kind of reflect their Dex entry characterizations a bit. The Charizard is rather hotheaded and determined (though a bit easily distracted). Lucario has that fierce, tenacious loyalty its species is supposedly known for. And Chestnaught's just a big goofball. I swear it also feels like aspects of one another's personalities kind of seem into each other at the moments when there are transitions. Like, maybe Lucario's aggression is actually Charizard showing through?

    But then we get to the part where all this convergence stuff happens and it is really, really mindscrewy. Like, it feels as though there are some migraine aspects incorporated into it. But at the same time it made me think strongly of seizures, and of the events that precede them. My fault; being that I work in a hospital. XP

    I think the way Celebi is weaved into it is pretty fun, too. Like, all its life its used to being an observer. Never taking part, always watching. And now it's taking part... by watching. Ironic, yes. And super trippy when all these memories are blurring together. I was able to realize they were cycling in a pattern, so it didn't get too tricky to figure out who was what. And, nuuuu, poor Lucario! *sniffle*

    No Celebi fic is complete with an obligatory onion fairy joke. I approve. ^.^b

    Really, their little therapy conversation there is quite cute. Like, it was getting pretty contentious and dour there, but to see them descend into such lighthearted fare was uplifting, especially since this ultimately ends up with everyone going back to their respective timelines, so to speak. All in all, very surreal. But you still found a way to make it heartwarming in the end.
     
  4. Negrek

    Negrek Lost but Seeking

    Ahahaha, aha, aha... *sobs*

    I can't remember the last time I read a 'fic about Celebi, actually! Mew, Arceus, Xerneas/Yveltal, Ho-Oh/Lugia... there are a lot of legends that seem to get more love than Celebi. So I was pretty much taking a blank-slate approach with its personality.

    Haha, I'm afraid you've probably thought that one through more than I have. ^^; My characters generally grow into their personalities without any particular planning on my part, so if there's any sort of parallel or connection between them, I'm afraid it's just coincidence.

    I'm glad you didn't find the switching POVs too confusing; I was definitely worried about that, and hoped the consistent ordering would help. But I definitely wanted the timeline merge to come off as disorienting and unpleasant for the characters themselves!

    It had to happen!

    Thanks! I would have liked to spend a bit longer on this part, ngl, but the length was ridiculous as it was. I was hoping for something heartwarming, so I'm glad it hit the mark there!

    Thanks for taking a look at this even though it wasn't your gift! I'm glad you enjoyed it.
     
    Last edited: Jan 2, 2018
  5. Ok so I know that this piece wasn’t for me but I wanted to check it out since the name and prompt intrigued me... and damn I’m happy I did.

    So so I’ll just get this straight in that I love the concept of parallel universes - they can sometimes act as a cop-out in stories, but if the idea is executed properly then it can act as one of the coolest plot devices in the history of fictional tropes. And this is a case of the latter, where the mind-frying POV switches and tension-gathering character interactions work to make an intense, heartwarming and simply magical story.

    Just putting this out there - I love your writing style in this piece. It gives this mysterious atmosphere where you don’t quite know what is going to happen next, while making the forest and the Natu/Xatu’s cave sound all mystical. I’d also like to point out that you made Celebi sound like how I’d completely expect an extremely bored, immortal onion fairy to sound - tired of everything, but still interested in participating. Also, I gotta note that the onion line in the fic made me laugh a bit. Oh Celebi, how unfortunate you are! :p

    Onto the highlight here, our three other Pokemon protagonists. Starting with Charizard, I really like how you portray him - a little brash, but kind when he feels he should be, and a little bit self deprecating towards himself. He feels like what you’d expect a Charizard to act like (minus the self deprecating, which only adds to his character more and makes him stand out a little), and I think that works to ground him as just your average ‘mon, thus making the wibbly-wobbly-timely-wimey stuff even more magical to happen to a guy so normal.

    Next with Lucario, she’s kinda like Charizard in that you can tell that she’s just your typical Lucario on quite the adventure, and it still works really well. And while I don’t quite know what her trainer did (was it releasing her? I couldn’t quite tell), I still really feel for her since you can see how her trainer’s decision has hurt her in many ways. Also anything with a badass Lucario being badass is of course badass.

    And with Chesnaught, I feel for her too. I’m nowhere near a time where I could even consider starting a family, but I can see where her struggles come from and theyre portrayed in a really realistic way, and I love that. From the lack of a mention of a father (unless I missed it) I’m assuming she may be a single mum, which makes me support her in every way since my mum is single and she works so hard for me and my siblings, so I get her really well.

    And then onto those three and their interactions, they just feel so genuine, ya know? Like I can get that they’d be touchy around each other at first due to the stress their under, which makes me appreciate that you did that instead of having them all be giving each other hugs off the bat or something. And I also love that they eventually get along, of course, since I love fluffy character interaction.

    I will give a small criticism in that sometimes I felt like my brain was hurting with how fast the character POV switches were, but that might just be my tiny confused brain so yeah.

    Overall I love this to pieces!
     
  6. The Teller

    The Teller King of Half-Truths

    First of all, I only read this because of the promise of weird Natu cults worshiping some mysterious force, and boy did you deliver! They somehow sounded exactly as I thought they would sound when translated to English, though Xatu's perfect English threw me off some at first. Celebi being this bored immortal secretary ("Yes, I file away time for a living. How about you?") made a lot of sense, and I thought the idea of it just not giving a f*** about attending God's meetings because it was so bored was really funny.

    And the picture of Dialga trolling Celebi just for kicks or to teach it some lesson in a way only quirky kung-fu masters can made me chuckle as I read this line. I appreciated the fact that the mind skips were in a certain order so that the reader wouldn't become confused as to who and when a mind skip came to, though the characters were distinct enough that I could tell who was thinking what even without the order. Everyone had a distinct voice, which helped a lot in a fic such as this. The fact that everyone's problems weren't magically fixed in a span of ten minutes was appreciated, and the thought of Celebi now interfering with time to make more heartfelt connections happen was really sweet. Overall, it was a really great read. Thanks!
     
  7. Negrek

    Negrek Lost but Seeking

    Nerdy McNerdface

    Well, I'll have to credit Chibi for an excellent prompt that makes people want to read the story, heh.

    Thank you! Especially with regards to Celebi's voice; that was something that just kind of happened while I was writing, so it's great to hear that people enjoyed the end result. And I'm glad people liked the little onion fairy bit, heh. I just couldn't resist with that one.

    I left the exact situation with Lucario and her trainer ambiguous, but essentially her trainer was talking about releasing her; never got quite as far as actually doing so. Lucario freaked out and took off before that conversation could actually come to a close, then when she realizes she's lost she really starts to panic. She's never really had any conception of herself outside of being that trainer's pokémon, so she's really not prepared to even think of herself as anything but that at this point.

    Yes, I also left it totally ambiguous what happened to Chesnaught's mate, but she is a single mother. I'm glad you found her relatable, since that isn't a situation I've experienced myself, either, and I don't write a lot about parents with kids.

    I'm glad you thought the character interaction worked out well. I felt like I kind of had to rush through it to keep the already rather absurd wordcount from getting super out there, so it's nice to hear it was effective. And yes, I thought it would make sense for them to be a bit combative at first. None of them really want to be there, after all, and they didn't exactly ask for these other strangers to get plunged into their lives!

    Ah, dang. I know that would be a danger with this story, but I was hoping doing the switches in the same order every time would help. Unfortunately I'm not sure how I could do better without actually labelling the transitions, which feels like it would get excessive...

    But I'm glad you liked this despite it being confusing at times! Thanks a ton for reviewing, and also for nominating this story in the awards. I'm blown away you liked it enough to put it up for "Best One-Shot!"

    The Teller

    I'm glad you found the summary intriguing! And I'm also glad you thought the story lived up to it, heh.

    Thanks! It's an interpretation that kind of evolved while I was writing the story, but in the end I think I like it.

    Thanks, I like that bit myself, heh.

    Excellent. I hoped the consistent order would make things easier to get through, but I'm glad you also thought the character voices were distinct enough to recognize on their own.

    Yeah, I thought it would be unrealistic for everybody to have all of their problems solved after a few minutes of feelingsjam. What I was going for was more a sort of hopeful look towards a new start, a new perspective on things, that might help the characters grow in the future, and it sounds like you thought that approach worked.

    Thanks so much for the review! I'm glad you enjoyed the story.
     
  8. Chibi Pika

    Chibi Pika Stay positive

    WOW LOOK WHO'S LATE TO THE PARTY (me)

    I have to admit, my jaw fell open when I saw that you'd been assigned as my santa, and then I took one look at the summary and went, "Ohhhhhhh man, I'm in for a treat." Especially considering how dorky my prompt was! I am also incredibly glad I did not specify any particular Legendary Pokemon (I briefly considered it, but then decided against it) because Celebi is a Pokemon that I basically never pay any attention to, but it's perfect here. On top of that, I was actually considering including the caveat that the first half of the story should involve bad feels and the second half good feels, but I decided that was too limiting. And then you wrote that way anyway and aaaaaaaaaaaaaaa.

    Man, I just love how you handled the characters in this (and not just cause they’re my favorite Pokémon.) And I like how Lucario is the most obviously troubled at first, but then the others turn out to have their own problems that are revealed later on. I love how Charizard is pretty uninterested and really just wants to get to her party but is also hiding from how awkward she is around the others at the gym (I’ve always liked the idea of Falkner’s gym allowing non-bird flying types to train there!) And I really liked Chesnaught being the calm and mature one who also has a hard time opening up outside her family. And you got me really wanting to know more about what happened between Lucario and her trainer! D:

    I love the little hints regarding their own holiday celebrations, like Chesnaught’s cleansing boughs, and I was really intrigued by Lucario’s lore involving the longest night being a dark time filled with temptation. And the Natus were adorable and expressive, and that’s another Pokémon that I never really payed much mind to before, but I love them.

    And then of course there’s the timelines crossing, which is just all of my yes. <3 The descriptions of the sensations they all felt as their perceptions crossed with each other and their bodies didn’t quite feel right was amazing. Celebi’s perspective throughout all of this was especially fascinating, how it can’t help but admit that it’s curious about the ritual and how it flees when the Xatu sees it (to the Devonian of all times!) but then reappears at the exact moment it left to see the rest of it through, and then realizes that the other three’s perspectives aren’t nearly as boring as it thought, not when it’s given the chance to experience them firsthand.

    UM. How dare you use the exact same wording I use when explaining the threads. (I am, of course, delighted by this.)

    Ok this is just hilarious.

    I’m really just blown away by how all-out you went on this and how many fantastic details there are and how many of my Favorite Things are in it. Thank you so much! :D

    ~Chibi~;249;;448;
     
  9. gofishyfish

    gofishyfish ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

    Woah, this was a fun adventure that spawned from a really neat prompt. I loved your own invention of a holiday to give rise to this whole timeline crossing thing. It was really unique and well thought out. The natu were really cute and made me laugh the first time they all shouted "The Traveler, the Traveler." The mental image of them popping out of nowhere and in the snow made me kinda giggle.

    Also, you do a really good job of showing the personality of the three (and four once you add in Celebi) using mostly their dialogue. I envy your skill when it comes to that. It got a bit confusing when the fading between timelines started happening, but nothing that a reader couldn't take. Plus, time stuff is confusing in general, so you handled it really well.

    Also, obligatory onion fairy joke made me chuckle. All hail the onion fairy ;251;
     
  10. Negrek

    Negrek Lost but Seeking

    Chibi Pika

    And I got a huge grin when I saw you were my recipient! Your prompt was awesome, and it was a lot of fun to write for you.

    I'm glad you enjoyed these guys. They ended up being a fun cast to work with, and who knows, maybe I'll write more about them in the future. Maybe not Charizard, I have way too many fics involving charizard going on. But I think this is only the second time I've written anything at all about a lucario.

    I had fun trying to think of different holidays for the pokémon. Would have loved to go into more detail about them, but the story was way too long already, oops. Lucario's in particular was fun; I've always found it kinda weird how winter solstice celebrations tend to be pretty upbeat, celebratory sorts of occasions, when in the northern hemisphere it's kind of super cold and by definition the darkest day of the year.

    Thanks, trying to describe alien and disorienting experiences is something I want to improve on, so I'm glad you thought it was done well here. I realize now that I should probably have had Celebi pop back to hang out with some floofy prehistoric pokes instead, but ah, well.

    Yeah? Well, I'll definitely look forward to the part where we get to learn about time-threads in LC!

    :D I was unsure about including this gag, but I'm glad I did because it seems like it made a lot of people smile.

    I'm really glad you enjoyed this story! Thanks for a great prompt and all your lovely comments! Happy (uh, late, at this point) Yuletide, and may 2018 be filled with many more stories containing your Favorite Things!

    gofishyfish

    Thank you! I had a lot of fun with the natu, and I'm glad you liked their weird timey-wimey holiday. I was trying to come up with a lot of different kinds of celebrations for the prompt.

    Awesome, glad that worked well for you. Trying to characterize through dialogue is something I'm always trying to improve on, and there was definitely a lot of it going on here!

    I couldn't resist, heh.

    Thanks for reviewing! I'm glad you enjoyed the story.
     

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