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Pokémon Broken Things

Normal 1.1

Persephone

Ace Trainer
Pronouns
her/hers
Partners
  1. mawile
  2. vulpix-alola
An image of the Grand Hano resort. The bottom half is made up of layered waves. Broken Things is written on the bottom half.

Cover Art by SparklingEspeon

This is a story about not being okay. There will be attempts to recreate the language of downward spirals, suicidal ideation, eating disorders, , anxiety, and possibly other things. I will do my best to provide chapter warnings for chapters dealing explicitly with suicidal ideation. If there are other notices you would like me to add, feel free to ask. Later chapters deal heavily with homophibia and transphobia.

Note on Representation
This story deals with analogues to real world groups, albeit through an alternate universe lens. I have personal experience with some, but definitely not all of the things this story deals with. I have tried to read enough to not make big mistakes in my knowledge gaps, but I'll probably screw up. Feel absolutely free to point out any portrayals that don't sit well or quite work. As a minor disclaimer, not all POV characters are terribly knowledgeable about things. There are some "mistakes" made that I know full well are mistakes. And also the usual "no character could possibly encompass all aspects of an identity" thing.

Character Art by OldSchool Johto
A tan girl with light green hair and cataracts looks out at the viewer. The border of the image is made up of blue and red symbols from Mexica mythology. An Alolan vulpix pokes up over the bottom segment of the border.
Kekoa and his starter. Kekoa is wearing a dinosaur themed hoodie. The ocean at sunset is in the background.
Genesis and her Poliwag on a stained glass-inspired background. Genesis is wearing an X shaped necklace.
Character Art by Venonat / Surskitty
Cuicatl cradles Reshiram's face in her hands.
Character Art by Pen
An image of a beldum with a glowing red eye. The following words are written on it: VISUAL ACCESS IMPAIRED. MOVEMENT DETECTED. THREAT LEVEL ???? [ ] INITIATE RAMMING? [X] INITIATE RAMMING
Discord link: https://discord.gg/Sr8rSHmg4T

Arc One: Normal

"Times of transition are strenuous, but I love them. They are an opportunity to purge, rethink priorities, and be intentional about new habits. We can make our new normal any way we want."
-Kristin Armstrong




Normal 1.1: Prologue

Rachel

8/1/2019
It’s always fascinating watching your espeon eat, even after seventeen years. He nudges a treat into place with the tip of his claw, steps back, and lifts the treat just a little bit into the air. Then he pulls back his whiskers and brings his mouth around it before swallowing it whole. No crumbs ever touch his fur.

With his food eaten, Espy levitates the crumbs off the desk and into the wastebasket. Then he stretches out, walks in a circle, and gracefully sits down with his tail outstretched and a paw on your hand.

{You’re tired.} he says.

“I could use a nap.”

{Mind tired.}

You pull up your schedule instead of giving him an answer.

Interview with The Battler at ten. That one shouldn’t be too much trouble; just gauge if they’re planning to play hardball are not, and if they aren’t send them up to Chris.

New journey group initiation today. You should stop by that, scan for potential problems before they blow up in your face.

The governor’s having a fundraiser tonight and you’ll be there. He’s a nice man. Genuinely likes you. Has a tendency to talk a little too much when he’s lonely and just a little bit tipsy and thinks he can trust someone. And given the way that things seem to be going at home and in the polls, well, he’s very lonely and probably drinking a little more than he should. And it’s your job to be likeable and trustworthy. When the public thinks of your company, they should think of their beloved sports star and hero. When the investors, reporters and politicians do, they should think of the pretty blond girl who either kind-of-flirted with them in just the way they liked or who gave them the kind of compliments they needed. Put a pretty face on your operation so no one ever wants to peel off the surface and look beneath.

Between the meetings? Email. Hours of email. And maybe a quick nap, if you’re lucky.

*​

Your intercom rings.

“Miss Bell? Mr. Sanchez is here.”

“Send him in, Sheryl.”

The door opens and a tall, tanned man in an ill-fitting suit walks in. His eyes briefly glance around the office. You take note of what he pays attention to—the bed where Espy is sleeping, the bag of expensive food underneath, and the map of Alola with nearly three dozen pins in it—and to what he doesn’t: your framed degrees, the busy-but-not-sloppy amount of clutter on your desk, and the half-hidden cot in the back corner. A battler through and through. Probably disappointed that you don’t have trophies or a framed badge case.

“Hey. Manuel Sanchez. With The Battler.”

You stand up and shake his hand. His grip is a little too firm, but you’re just mature enough not to crush him back. As soon as you make eye contact a feeling flashes in the back of your mind and you know that he’s cheating on his pregnant wife.

Eh. Could be worse.

“Rachel Bell. Vice President of VStar.”

You both sit and he flicks out a notepad and a recorder. He turns the latter on without asking permission.

“Alright, so VStar.”

You smile, a little too wide, and tilt your head. “VStar,” you repeat in a high pitch. He’s a cheating bastard who doesn’t really care about the professional world. You can spin that to your advantage easily enough.

“So, uh, Rachel—can I call you Rachel?”

“Yup.”

“Right. What does VStar do? Just to make sure that I’m on base.”

“Of course.” You never stop smiling. “VStar helps fund trainers who might not have the means to complete an island challenge, or trainers who just finished an island challenge but can’t afford to keep all of their partners. We help them get rid of excess pokémon and give them to people who want them but can’t get one. Busy professionals and parents, the disabled, or just people who don’t have a team strong enough to go into the species’ natural habitat. Everyone wins.”

“Right, right. And how many users do you have?”

Not even bothering to follow up on that. Less diligent than even you were expecting.

“Depends on how you define ‘users,’ Manuel. Right now we have 166 trainers currently on their journey with the app. Not all of them are active users. Several hundred trainers traded their pokémon in last year, a few thousand purchased a pokémon through the app.”

“Okay.”

More notes. He doesn’t press into what your vague numbers mean. He’s not normally on the business beat, usually just does puff pieces on trainers in the Americas. Whatever excuse he has, he’s making this almost embarrassingly easy for you.

“So, Rachel, are you a trainer?”

“Espy,” you call.

Your espeon gently rises to his paws before moving from his climbing structure in the corner to your desk in a single, elegant leap. He walks over to you and nuzzles your hand.

“I know the name’s basic, but come on, I was ten.”

Manuel laughs in a way that might be flirtatious appeasement or genuine amusement. Just on the border of being genuine. “I named my growlithe ‘Fuego’ back in the day, so I can’t really talk.”

{Espy, can you pay attention to him?} you ask telepathically.

{Treat?} he shoots back, mentally.

{Later. You just had one.}

Satisfied, Espy walks across the desk and looks at Manuel expectantly. He starts to rub Espy’s ears without asking permission. Espy recoils slightly and his tail flicks in disgust. Espeon aren’t that fragile, but they’re masters at feigning injury if it gets them more treats.

“You bring your pokémon to the office?”

“Of course. We are a pokémon company, after all.”

Espy starts to turn away. Manuel rubs a hand over the pokémon’s back as he leaves.

{Two treats,} you signal.

Espy turns back around.

“How long have you had her?” he asks.

You don’t bother to correct the gender. Espy doesn’t really care, and most people think of all espeon as female. “Since I was ten.”

“I meant how many years?”

You crack your smile a little wider. “Since I was ten.”

It takes him a half second, but he starts to laugh and you join. You’re pretty sure he’s more interested in you and your body than the company right now.

“Is she your only pokémon?”

You shake your head. “I also raise an alakazam. But he’s moving up in the years and doesn’t really like coming to the office.”

His eyes widen. Any half decent pokémon journalist know what alakazam ownership means. It’s why you aren’t going to replace Allen when he dies.

“So, you’re psychic?”

You nod. “Yeah.”

“You in my mind right now?” he asks with a raised eyebrow.

“I’m not that kind of psychic,” you say. Even though you essentially are that kind of psychic. But you really don’t think he’d appreciate it if you went into the details of the SIPAA, General and Specific Forms.

He relaxes. A lot. So much that he consciously corrects it by stiffening a little.

“What kind of psychic are you?” he asks.

You really doubt this is returning to the company, which is probably for the best. He clearly doesn’t have an interest in it anyway.

“Precognition. Get about a half second warning before I get physically hurt.”

“Huh. Take it you’ve never been in a car crash?”

You raise an eyebrow as if telling him off. “No, but that’s because I’m an excellent driver. Not because I’m a psychic. Really just means that I never stub my toe.”

“Oh.” He half-frowns. The kind that’s more unconscious than not. “Thought it’d be more useful.”

“It lets me train my alakazam,” you suggest.

“Yeah. I guess. You battle with them?”

“On the weekends. Chris likes his lieutenants to be halfway decent in a fight.”

He perks up at the casual mention of your boss. Because of course he does. You’re a pretty girl with a brain quirk and an espeon. Chris Foster? He’s the eight-time-running United States champion, highest ranked trainer in the world, tamer of Victini, and at least the third biggest pain in the ass in Alola.

Yeah. Seeing that light in his eyes, you doubt Chris can mess things up too much. Maybe Manuel would even be impressed by the man behind the curtain.

“You know, I think I can set up an interview with him.”

“Really? I had been told that he’s too busy.”

“Of course, but you’re The Battler. I’m sure he can find the time.”

You don’t doubt that. Journalists build up the trainers into semi-divine heroes in the public eye and then revel in the attention they get from the celebrities they created. No one benefits from the cycle breaking. You still have to screen these interviews, just in case hell freezes over and The Battler decides to blaspheme their gods.

You’re still reeling from a Hau’oli Tribune letter to the editor last month calling VStar “Evil Incorporated.” It had taken you two hours on the phone with Chris to talk him down from making that the official name of the company.

*​

It’s an hour into orientation. Sometimes you’ll stay to watch the full thing, make sure that you know what’s being taught and how. Saves you time when the wrong person leaks the wrong thing (that they remembered wrong) and you have to figure out what really happened before you can tell the press what pretty much happened.

First few hours are nothing important, anyway. Here’s a little about Alola and the island challenge. What are tents and why should you use one. Like your food? Try not to get it stolen. Budgeting could maybe be helpful. This predator lives in these places and here is how you avoid it. The basics of life on the trail, with or without VStar.

The sensitive stuff—payment methods and tables, how to stay within the letter of capture limit laws, corporate facilities and affiliates, mortality rates, advancement paths, mission assignments, legal duties to the company—that all gets crammed in at the end.

The room’s emptier than usual. Only eight initiates, most mid- to late-teens. It’s to be expected. October is a garbage month for starting a journey since it’s in the middle of a semester and right at the start of the rainy season. Most of your new trainers come to the April, May, and June sessions. The people who come in October are the over-eager ten-year-olds who can’t wait to get on the trail or teenagers who can’t stay in their home a second longer.

Group isn’t bored yet. Doesn’t pay you too much mind when you sit down in a corner chair. Half of them look at you for a moment before glancing back to the presentation. One girl’s eyes linger for a little until she makes eye contact and immediately turns away.

Okay. Time to start scanning.

A lot of telepaths just read minds like a book. Or as a monitor with code shifting faster than you could ever hope to read. Your talent doesn’t work that way. It’s more akin to sonar. Send out a wave, wait to see what image you get back. It usually just dredges up a secret or two: the thing that there’s the most resistance to you knowing. If you really focus you can get a basic overview of their personality.

Theoretically you could have your scan bring everything back, but it’d probably take you a week to process and land you in a hospital bed for a few months. If you were lucky. If you weren’t lucky it would land you in a coffin.

The first two are boring. A ten-year-old kid whose biggest secret is that his parents wanted him to wait, a teenager who got a girl pregnant and is running from the consequences.

Third kid. White girl, mid-teens, dressed a little too formally for this sort of meeting. Why is she even here? VStar gives structure, but it’s not the most efficient way to go on a journey. And the money can’t possibly matter to her unless she’s a runaway. A quick scan gives you the start of a headache, and not from the strain of your powers: her family is really, really rich. Big Six Families rich. Again, why is she here? She must’ve been cut off from her money, somehow. Was she exiled or did she run away?

Exile is unproblematic, although it’s the type of gossip you’d like to be aware of. You would have already heard about it if the girl did something bad enough that her family would bring hell down upon you for sheltering her. If she’s a runaway her family might give you endless PR and legal hell until you give their daughter back.

Supplemental scan doesn’t dig up much. Kid’s kind of flighty, kind of lonely. Kind at her core. Very recent trauma with a trail of shame trailing after it. And maybe something buried. Supports either theory, but her temperament makes you think she’s not a runaway. Minds like hers are allergic to rebellion.

Fourth and fifth are an addict and a kleptomaniac. You’ll consider kicking them out before the sensitive part of the meeting.

Sixth. Young girl. Probably ten, maybe eleven. Abuse. You’d bet she’s getting away from it as soon as possible. Smart kid. You’ll look the parents up so you have blackmail at the ready if they try and take their kid back. Low security risk.

Seventh is… familiar? You try to never forget a face, but it still just eludes you. By the second minute of staring he’s (she’s?) definitely noticed and you avert your gaze. Secret dredging time, then. See what you missed… Trans. Your power doesn’t tell you if they’re female, male, or non-binary, but it explains the just-unfamiliar face: you probably knew them before, but hormones or style changes are throwing you off your game.

The eighth is in her mid-teens? Early teens? Very short and still rather thin, but her features make her look a little older. Deep set eyes, angular face. Native if you had to guess. Jade green hair. If it’s natural, it’s rare but not unheard of. If it’s dyed then you need to ask her where she got it done. Kind of weird colorful dress. Probably wool. Might be handmade. Big thing? She’s blind. Clouded eyes, white cane, whole deal. Can she really do this? You aren’t going to send a kid out into the woods knowing that she’ll get killed by the first predator she can’t see coming.

Still, in case you don’t rule her out, a secret scan can’t hurt.

A moment later alarm bells of panic and despair and random memories and pain rock your mind. The thoughts came back to you after the scan but it’s like they were cut up in a blender, sharpened into daggers and then launched straight back into your brain. An attack? How? She’s…

Your eyes open wider as it dawns on you. She’s psychic. Probably another telepath. Strong. And not trained in any style you’re familiar with. This definitely shouldn’t be the first you’ve heard of her. You like to think that you’ve met every other psychic in the commonwealth and not a one has ever brought her up.

You got her attention. She’s slowly rotating her head to survey the room with either sound or some remaining vision, her foot tapping nervously the whole time.

How do you salvage this? It’s literally never happened before, and that’s not something you can say very often these days. Thought process isn’t helped by the thrum of pain in your head, alternating sharp and dull so you never quite get used to it. You breathe deeply and make your way to the door. You’ll have someone pull her aside later and direct her to your office. Gives you time to figure out how you’re going to approach this.

*​

Your alarm goes off at 3:00 P.M. and you swear at the ceiling before awkwardly rolling over in cot and turning it off. You still feel miserable after a ninety-minute nap. How does that work?

Well… part of that’s the mental bruising. A cold and empty memory that keeps resurfacing, feelings of panic when looking at random objects, a slight fog over everything, and random sights and sounds getting turned into metal walls and tinny echoes. And then there’s the absolutely brutal headache. You make a point of taking an aspirin, knowing that it won’t really help but hoping the placebo effect does enough to make you comfortable. Which might negate the placebo effect. Is there a placebo effect where you know what the placebo effect is, so you expect the placebo to make you feel better, which means that it does make you feel better? A placebo placebo effect.

The line of thought definitely isn’t making your headache any better.

First things first. You text the instructor to make sure that the possible Skull defectors gets kicked out before the mortality tables come up. VStar’s mortality rates are lower than the general journey-goer rates, but dead kids are dead kids and it never feels like there’s anything to say, much less anything good. At the end you add a note to send the blind girl up to your office when orientation is over. The room is cold and clean and empty. Deep breaths. The third ceiling tile diagonal from the corner does not want to kill you. You’re in your office, the year is 2019, and are texting. The metal—not metal—walls have light blue wallpaper.

Second: the daughter of Ernest Gage, the spider silk magnate. That one you might have to deal with in person, or at least at the fundraiser tonight. He and his wife will probably be there. It would be rude to get the information directly on such a sensitive subject, but there will be other attendees who love nothing more than swapping secrets. The room is cold and clean and

Third: You pull up the new trainer’s files. Abused girl is Aiko Katou. Mother is a barber, dad is a plumber. Good news is that they can’t really go after the company—the men will never believe you—Bad news is that if the family’s got nothing, they’ve got nothing to lose. Blackmail won’t do much. It might only succeed in letting them know where their daughter went. Still might try and get your hands on Why does the ceiling have teeth? By the kings this headache sucks.

Fourth: Blind girl is Cuicatl Ichtaca. From Anahuac. Fifteen years old. Here on a challenge visa. Explains how you’ve never heard of her. Didn’t report any pokémon at customs. You’ll need to start her off slow or put her with some strong teammates for her protection, but if she’s psychic then she might be worth keeping around. If your interview checks out. Moles can be annoying; a telepathic mole could be a catastrophe of the highest order. The room is cold and. Stop. Breathe. You can’t find anything online about her and it will take you a few days to get anything to leak from immigration services, so that’s the end of that investigation. For now.

Fifth—something brushes against your leg. You look down to see Espy looking up at you, holding his leash in his mouth.

Fifth: Go outside. Take your friend on a walk. Stop thinking about work for a minute. Make new memories. Be calm. Outside is warm and dirty and open.

*​

You pull two water bottles and two packets from the refrigerator and place them on the table. “Water, if you’re thirsty. I know those meetings last a while. And I put some gummies there, too. Good to eat every two hours or so. Good for your brain.”

Her hand freezes in midair right before taking the water. It’s only for a moment, and she proceeds on like nothing had happened.

“Hey, it’s fine. You can’t be responsible for things you didn’t know to do.”

She doesn’t answer that. Natural shyness? Nervousness? Poor English? You never realize how much your scans are a crutch until you find yourself without them.

“Who are you?” she asks.

You smile. Uselessly. Doesn’t matter either way.

“Right. I’m Rachel Bell. I’m one of the Vice Presidents for VStar. I handle new recruits, among other things.”

“…and I’m not in trouble?”

“No. No, not at all. Just don’t get many psychics passing through. I try to meet with them individually.”

“I meant for the, um. Did I hurt you?”

Yes. Yes, you did.

“Not very much,” you lie, bringing a smile into your voice. “Napped, took a walk, cleared my head. It’s fine now.” And it mostly is. Espy could help you out a little once he had some sunlight to power him up.

Her head dips a little. Shame, probably. “Okay. I’m sorry.”

“No, no. Don’t worry about it. I’m the one who…” Yoo take a drink of water and figure out how to finish that sentence without coming off wrong. “…reached out to your mind first. Should have asked. Standard for new psychics.” What’s a polite way to ask her about her English skills? Because you don’t actually have a Nahuatl speaker in the building. That you know of. Might be a good idea to check. “You don’t have much training with your powers, do you?”

She gently shakes her head. “No. My mom’s reuniclus taught me a little. I figured some of the rest out. Never met a psychic but my brother.”

“You grew up around pokémon, then?”

Her lips curl into a smile and she makes (near) eye contact as a hundred tiny things change in her expression. She goes from sullen and afraid to absolutely adorable in the blink of an eye.

“Yes. My mom’s team lived near the house. I took care of them. She had a reuniclus, a heatmor, a swanna, a ferrothorn, a conkeldurr,” she really is infectiously cute when she’s excited, with her high-pitched voice and its rapid pace, “and a hydreigon.”

Your heart skips a beat. Her face is the exact same, but all of the cuteness gone.

“A hydreigon?”

“Yes! Her names are Alice, Dorothy, and Ilsa. Alice was first and is in the center so that’s her one name. But she prefers her three names.”

A wild hydreigon flew within twenty miles of the academy once and they shut down classes for three days. Parents accused them of underreacting.

“Uh huh. And, um, you took care of her? Them?”

“She likes ‘ellas.’ She doesn’t know that there’s more than one language and they have different words,” she says. As if this is just a normal thing.

“I see.”

You are very, very glad that she can’t see the color of your face right now. You know full well that your alakazam is a telepathic monster that can fry a man’s mind in seconds, but you will never, ever be comfortable with dragons. And why should you? You’ve seen footage of one shredding a tank without breaking a sweat. Do dragons sweat? You have no desire to look that up.

Focus. You need to change the subject a little. Useful information in those statements? She has a brother, but he’s presumably not here. If Cuicatl cared for her mom’s hydreigon, her mom also can’t be in the picture anymore. Or she was horribly irresponsible. Either way? Dangerous topic. She speaks Spanish and seems to have a decent grasp on English. Cuicatl said she doesn’t have any pokémon on the form. How did that happen? Did it happen? She wouldn’t be the first kid to tell a lie on their paperwork. Okay. Alice. Ellas. How did she find out that Alice liked ellas?

“Can you speak to pokémon?”

“Sometimes. Not with Alice. In her mind, at least. But we understand each other.”

“I see. What all can you do with your mind? I can tell secrets and foresee pain.”

“…secrets?”

She runs a shade paler and you can hear her foot tap against the side of the chair. Nervous tic that you share.

“Not yours. Your shielding is very good. Not trained, but effective.”

“Thank you. Renfield—reuniclus taught me that.”

That wasn’t an answer. But it does explain why it felt so much like the headaches Espy can give you when he’s really, really angry.

“Talking to pokémon is usually telepathy, then. Projecting and reading thoughts. Empathy is sensing emotions. There’s usually some overlap, but not always.”

She frowns. “I think I just have telepathy. Do people usually only have one thing?”

You shake your head. Right. She can’t see that. “Sometimes. You don’t see things before they happen? See things you shouldn’t? Move things with your mind?”

“I don’t see anything.”

Poor wording. Anne would’ve torn you a new one if she’d heard. But Cuicatl doesn’t look too offended. She’s even smiling, just a little. But not nearly as brightly as before.

“But you can’t do any of those things?”

“Right.”

You give her a chance to follow up. She doesn’t. Just shifts in her seat and idly taps a foot on the floor, soft enough that she probably doesn’t even know she’s doing it. Whatever rapport you built talking about her pokémon, it’s gone now. Time for another subject change.

“What brings you to Alola, then?”

“I wanted, um, to go on a journey? And Unova didn’t want to take me. I don’t have much money so a girl in the Pokémon Center said I should come here.”

There’s a shred of truth in there, but she’s an awful liar. Don’t even need your telepathy to see through that. New topic options: SIPAA scoring seems a little too close to the last question and she doesn’t want to talk about why she’s here so… old pokémon.”

“Did you bring any of your mom’s team with you?”

She freezes up. Full deerling in headlights. Shit shit shit shit abort abort abort.

“Hey it’s—”

“No, I didn’t.” Speech is off. Breathing is erratic. Approach and escalate? Keep quiet and seem callous? Response depends on the type of breakdown you’re seeing.

…the kid has to be alone here. Half an ocean from home, at least one parent out of the picture, apart from her pokémon for maybe the first time…

She shouldn’t have to have panic attacks alone.

You get up from your seat and move around the desk to kneel beside her. Then you put a hand on her shoulder and press down a little bit. “It’s alright,” you whisper, “we can get you new friends and a new pokémon.”

The waterworks open in full. Before you can decide if you should hug or not, Espy jumps into her lap. Kid didn’t mention owning a dog, fox, or cat, but she’s still a gentle petter. Holds out her hand for a second for Espy to sniff. Then gently pets the ears and runs her hand back in slow, light strokes.

You take the moment to think as Cuicatl’s breaths get steadier. You remove your hand from her shoulder to avoid smothering her. Homesickness? Trauma? Other mental illness? Kid needs emotional support in any case. Ideally something intelligent enough for her to talk to, social enough to cuddle, and fluffy enough to pet. Difficulty of care and bonding shouldn’t be problems if she kept herself and a hydreigon alive. Maybe something a little difficult to distract her. Eevee would work. Not big enough to be a good guide, though, even when fully evolved.



There is a pokémon that fits all of those criteria, but she’s trouble. She’d either be a silver bullet for Cuicatl’s problems or a lead bullet straight to her heart.

You put your hand back on Cuicatl’s shoulder and she flinches from the touch.
 
Last edited:

Negrek

Whole of the Moon
Staff
Great to see this posted at last! And clearly a VERY different story than the previous version, wow. Interesting to see what's stayed the same versus what has changed... the idea of a trainer challenge and the Alolan setting, of course, and some of the characters as well. Let's go!

“He’s my father.”
This strikes me as weirdly formal, especially because we haven't heard Rachel refer to him as anything but "Dad."

...or just people who don’t have a team strong enough to go into the species natural habitat.
* species'

Haha, listening to Rachel's explanation of VStar I'm already going "oh NO giving trained battling pokémon to trainers just starting out, oh NO." Neat concept, though, kind of like Uber for pokémon? Or I guess it's more like buy/sell rather than just loan out for a while, hmm.

Espy starts to turn away from Manuela and he rubs a hand over his back as the espeon leaves.
I think this sentence would be clearer if you swapped Espy's name for "his," so it's "Espy's back." There should also be a comma after "Manuela."

He relaxes. A lot. So much that he consciously corrects it by stiffening a little.
That's a neat detail of body language.

You’re still reeling from a Hau’oli Tribune column last month calling VStar “Evil Incorporated.” It had taken you two hours on the phone with Chris to talk him down from making that the official name of the company.
Hmm, curious what the controversy is over VStar. There's not much from Rachel's POV to indicate why it might warrant the "Evil Incorporated" label, though of course you kind of wouldn't expect that. Perhaps there might be some perception that VStar's taking advantage of vulnerable people by offering them this lucrative-but-dangerous opportunity? Rachel claims mortality statistics are better than the League's, but she could be lying to herself about that, or maybe it's more something like VStar tends to trap its trainers in unmanageable debt or something. Or something to do with the app, something to do with people selling off their excess pokémon, like it's a violation of the supposedly-important bond between trainer and pokémon?

Also, I think I like Chris already.

Then he pulls back his whispers and brings his mouth around it before swallowing it whole.
Did you mean... whiskers?

That is indeed an amusing way to eat treats, though. And sweeping the crumbs into the wastebasket! So tidy!

Your main question is why she’s even her.
* here

Third: Ernest Gage’s daughter.
From having read the previous story I know you're talking about the rich runaway here, but in this version this is the first time Gage's name is mentioned. Not sure if the intended effect was that the reader wasn't quite sure who was being talked about here, but if not you might want to have Rachel explicitly identify Gage's daughter during the initial scan.

Fourth: …nah, Chris can’t screw up the interview that badly.
Why do I have the feeling he's going to prove Rachel wrong?

Then gently pets the ears and runs her hand back in slow, light strokes.
Missing a few words in here, I think. Assuming Cuicatl was here petting Espy's back.

Mixed feelings about starting with Rachel's perspective rather than Pixie's as you did in the old version. On the one hand, you're getting right into the plot here with the introduction of the VStar program and the trainers, some of whom we're going to be following throughout the rest of the story. In the previous version it took us a couple of chapters to learn about the reality show and meet the majority of the main cast. Here you make the premise clear up front and also work in a few hooks in terms of what VStar's deal *really* is and what may have happened after Rachel's police interview.

On the other hand, this chapter struck me as a little info dump-y. There's quite a lot going on here, which isn't a bad thing, but I think getting all of the information across may have strained your style a bit. The character introductions in particular felt a bit flat to me; having Rachel scan everyone and get a brief snapshot of their life is good and efficient and shows off Rachel's abilities, but is less interesting than getting to learn about the characters by actually interacting with them and was a bit much for me to keep track of in one big sequence like that. It's also undoubtedly a lot more sylistically conventional than the previous opening (albeit second person), which does make it easier to understand everything that's going on, but a lot of the fun for me was seeing you get into the pokémon POV, so personal preference, I did like that approach better.

For her part Rachel is a solid character thus far, kind of a low-key personality and not at all dwelling on her past trauma, but obviously with loads to unpack there. Her kindness towards Cuicatl at the end (err, ignoring the fact that she's going to offer her Pixie as a starter) is a refreshing change, both because it seems to me that you so rarely see genuine niceness like that, even in characters where it's supposed to be a major trait, and also because it's something Cuicatl really needs in that moment and probably hasn't seen enough of. Super heartwarming moment. The discussion at the end was probably my favorite part of the chapter; Cuicatl gushing about Alice while Rachel was mentally freaking out about it was great. iirc you mentioned there would be five POV characters, yes? Which I think would be Rachel and four young trainers. I'm curious to see how their stories will play off one another, since Rachel presumably won't be journeying herself.

There's a lot of interesting stuff going on here already, and we haven't even gotten to first pokémon yet! And of course, once Pixie meets her new trainer things are going to get a *lot* more interesting, heh. You've already established some intriguing details about the world (I guess journeys here are a bit too dangerous to use for reality TV, eh?) and characters, and I'm curious ot see how the POV switching is going to work out for this story. Happy to know you have a buffer, so the next chapter will presumably be coming at the expected time. Looking forward to it!
 
Normal 1.2

Persephone

Ace Trainer
Pronouns
her/hers
Partners
  1. mawile
  2. vulpix-alola
Normal 1.2: Firemane
Pixie

They’re talking about you again.

You don’t understand many of the words, but you know the tone. Talking more in breath than sound, trying to sound quieter than they really are. The same fake concern they take on the moment they turn away from your table, like you aren’t still in the room.

But you don’t care. You don’t really care about anything anymore, except maybe for Avalanche. You wonder if she’s thought of you in the last few… days? Weeks? Months? Between the ball and the trailer you haven’t had many chances to be outside and count the changing skies and you aren’t sure how often the humans leave and make it dark.

No, as much as you’d like to believe it you can’t imagine Avalanche cares about you anymore. The nine-tails only keep two vulpix to train. It lets them keep the territories intact. When the unchosen become three-tails they set off on their own. Your body and mind and comfort are your problems now, not hers.

And, because you don’t care, those things are now the problems of the people in white falsefur.

They keep you alive. They try to coax you into eating things that help with the bruises and scars. You won’t because it’s your mouth and you eat what you want. Which is nothing. They took a ball out once and you bit them. They let you sleep on the table instead of in a cage like the others, and you’ve learned to sleep in the dark while the humans are away and rest on the table in daylight, keeping an eye open for more balls.

There’s a new human today. Young and female. Like you. You catch a glimpse of her mane when she walks in. Thick, curly and went a little past her shoulder-blades. Light-yellowish, like the fire-tails in the stories Avalanche told you. It has leaves in it, some dirt. Even from a distance it smells unclean, although humans seemed to have a higher tolerance for that. It would be pretty if cared for and you want to run your paws and tongue through it to clean it up like you would for your own coat. Like Avalanche did for you.

You suppose you still care that you look like a fox should. But presentation is sort of like breathing, so you aren’t sure that counts.

New human approaches you again, with the other humans behind her. She walks up to your table, looking away like this isn’t premeditated, and stops at the edge. You cast her the sort of wary, frigid look that only an ice-type can manage.

“Hey,” she says. “Can I pet you?”

You don’t understand the words, but she offers her paw, keeping it head-length away from your snout. She doesn’t smell nervous. Is this how humans offer scent exchange? You hadn’t thought they marked each other at all.

It takes you a few seconds to decide, but you eventually do move to push your face against their paw, rubbing your scent glands against it. Her paw is warm, but not unpleasantly so. You sneeze and a burst of cold air radiates from your body. The human pulls away for a second, probably on reflex, but puts her paw back up to your head when you look at her expectantly.

*​

She’s back the next day.

This time she opens up the door and looks at you.

“You want to go outside?”

The words are mostly unfamiliar, but you think you know the meaning. Yes, you decide, wind and flower smell would be nice. Rising on your paws is painful as you feel the muscles and skin ripple around your scars and bruises, but nothing tears. One of the humans picks you up gently and cradles you in his arms, like Avalanche would in her jaws when you were a kit. Insulting. The humans are not nine-tails. They have no right to handle you like that.

They set you down in the grass outside. The sun and air are much warmer near the sea, but your body quickly begins cooling itself to adjust. You can still feel the sunlight striking your fur. And you can smell the plants. There are different flowers here than you have on the mountain and there are far more of them. You absent-mindedly walk up to one and wrap your jaws around it to get a better feel for its taste and texture. The young human pulls you away.

“If you want food, they have more vulpix-friendly stuff in there.”

Her tone is cheerful, but you recognize the pleading edge and the ‘food’ sound. You turn away and walk closer to the big black human-trail, puffing up your tails behind you in a show of defiance. Before you reach it, a much larger pokemon cuts you off. He’s quadrupedal, red-and-black-colored and you can feel radiated heat enter your personal blizzard. Fire-type. Big fire-type.

He notes your reaction and adjusts quickly, holding his tail still and lowering himself to the ground before rolling on to his side.

“Didn’t mean to scare you. Just want to play.”

It’s a feline dialect. Close enough to your native vulpine to understand, even if you aren’t sure you got all the meaning.

You tilt your head. “Play?”

“Yes. Chase each other around or—” He stops short and rises to his paws before slowly walking towards you, head down. You allow him to brush his face against yours. “You’re sick?” He asks. “You should get that fixed.”

You slowly lay down and show him your stomach. “How do you heal this?”

His eyes narrow. “Do you have a ball? Or have they tried potions? Those look old and improperly healed. You’ll need to get those looked at before we can play. And eat. You look underfed. Are they feeding you?”

You tuck your tails between your legs, turn around and head back inside. You don’t want to talk about it. What happened. What happened after. Why you don’t care. He seems well-meaning, and he shouts after you that he’ll be back to play later, but there are things that a healthy fire cat with a gentle human mother can’t understand.

Still. The human seems to like you, and she at least takes care of her cat. She’s not like… like they were. You wonder why she came back, why she cares about you, and you realize that maybe she wants to put you on your team. You’d leave the room. She’d stuff you in a ball, sometimes.

But it’s something to hope for. And you’ll take it.

*

October 2nd, 2020​

You wake up to the sound of your kennel being unlocked. Odd. You’re usually awake by walk time. Without opening your eyes you stretch out and fluff up your six-and-a-half tails. When you look up you reflexively freeze the air around you. The woman staring at you is the matriarch of the facility, the one that all of the other humans submit to. She almost never comes down. Why is she here? Why is she here for you?

Matriarch steps back and waves her paw. “Come on, Pixie. We have things to discuss.”

You gracefully leap from the kennel to the ground and trail after her as she walks. She opens the door to the visiting room and you follow, leaping onto the table as she sits down.

You immediately puff your fur up and hiss. There’s another fox here. A short-furred, hideous pink fox with one good tail and a pathetic growth of a second. Eevee. You don’t know what gimmick this one has, but they’re all just eevee to you.

“Pixie, play nice,” Matriarch scolds. Even though that disgraceful asshole is on your table.

You generously let it go with a single huff and look back at Matriarch.

“Good, now that you’re paying attention, let me be brief. I’m giving you your sixth and final second chance with a trainer. Are we clear?”

You blink. She’s threatening you. Can you growl at her? Or should you submit? You don’t want to submit in front of the imposter fox. Or to someone threatening you.

“I’ll take that as a no. What I’m saying is, your shit stops now. No more peeing on pillows, hiding pokéballs in the woods, freezing the ground your trainer is about to step on, letting all hell break loose when you see another eevee, or trying to hurt teammates. Again, are we clear?”

That is a very unfair assessment. You only did the first three things because your trainer was already going to abandon you and your window for revenge was very limited. And every eevee deserves it, with their tangled manes and their insufferable pleading eyes and their “look at me, I can pretend to be a guardian of the peaks or a firetails or a fish or anything I want” nonsense like that makes them better than you. It doesn’t. And you obviously weren’t trying to hurt that rabbit: you were trying to kill it.

Matriarch sighs and cradles her head in her forepaws. “Pixie. I like this one. I think you can help her and she can help you. She’s probably the best trainer you’re going to get. If you’re just incompatible, fine. I’ll sell you off to a zoo on the mainland. But if you hurt her I will personally haul you back to Mt. Lanakila and see how long it takes for the vanilluxe get you.” With that she stands up and walks towards the exit, her eevee trailing behind her. “I’ll be back in a few minutes. You had best prepare yourself to make a good impression.”

Then she shuts the door and leaves you alone. The gall she has. You never even did anything to her and she’s acting like you already killed her kit. Fine. If this goes downhill, she’s given you no incentive to hold back. She wants a fight, you’ll give her one.

When Matriarch reenters her foreleg is gently wrapped around another human’s. Other human has a strange white stick. A weapon? It wouldn’t be very effective against you. Foolish to even try. Matriarch walks the smaller human to a seat and gently helps her down before shooting you a wicked glare. She leaves you alone with your last-chance-trainer.

She’s very small. Her whole frame is delicate. Her skin is a little too in the middle. Humans are least hideous when they are very pale or very dark. She’s on the darker end, but not quite far enough to be visually pleasant. Her mane is green, which is a strange and somewhat disturbing color, but it is very shiny and well cared for. Her falsefur is white, which is the best color. Then her eyes… they’re only half moving. And something is off in them. Shimmers over the surface like a barely frozen pond.

The care that Matriarch took, the eye shimmers: she’s blind. What a cruel joke. Sticking you with a tiny, frail human who cannot even appreciate your majesty.

“Hello, Pixie,” she says. Her voice soft and kind of high pitched and it flows well. Like the sound of slow winds running along the mountain rocks. Except more human. Still not enough to make you like her. She extends a paw out for you to smell or rub or whatever but you don’t stand up to go to it and she eventually sticks it down flat on the table. “My name is Cuicatl Ichtaca. I’m from Anachuac. I hope you will be friends with me.”

Nope. You will not give Matriarch the satisfaction. Human does not get the obvious hint and keeps talking.

“I’ve never met an ice-type before. My home was very warm. There were mountains nearby with snow on top, but they were very dangerous so my father never let me go. One of my friends could fly up but never did because ellas didn’t like the cold.”

She keeps bad friends. And if she is too weak to climb mountains you do not want to associate with her.

“I read about vulpix once. It was a long time ago so I forget some things. You’re nocturnal, right?”

Obviously. What creature would ever want to go outside in the sunlight?

“If you are, then you probably won’t want to be outside in the day when I go places. I am okay with that. I can get around well enough with my cane. We can play and train around dusk and dawn. But I usually try to sleep at night, so not then.”

It is a better offer than most trainers make. But no. Not for the blind kit of an eevee trainer.

“I don’t know what your other trainers taught you. But I have ideas for battle. You could be a really good arena controller and zoner. Using hail and frozen patches to make it harder to get to you, and then hit them with from far away. Or just put them to sleep or trap them and then set up. You’re probably fast enough to be a sweeper. Or will be fast enough when you evolve.”

You are fast enough now to ‘sweep’ anything, whatever that means.

“Do you know roar?” she asks.

You do, just to show her how good your roaring is and maybe make her run away. She smiles, which is not the proper reaction. The proper reaction is terror and awe. Worse, she giggles.

“Sorry. I’m not laughing at you. You’re just really cute.”

You bark to scold her. It’s very annoying that she can’t just understand your glares and know when to shut up and fall in line. The bark does silence her and she stops baring her teeth for just a second. Good.

“Oh. I’m sorry if I hurt your feelings.” You fluff up your tails. Her? Hurt you? Impossible. The most she could do is annoy you. “I think that I went at this wrong. Can we start over?”

…what?

“Hello, Pixie. My name is Cuicatl Ichtaca. I want you to be my friend. If you don’t want to, that’s fine. You can stay here. But if there’s anything I can help you with…”

You hiss and sit down. What could she possibly help you with?

“I don’t know, Pixie. I was hoping you could tell me.” What? “I want friends. And money. And I thought you could help. But if there’s nothing I can do for you, then you should stay here. Maybe someone else will be able to help you later.”

You growl softly and menacingly and the human’s half-smile is just her baring her teeth because she is very afraid of your wrath. You aren’t actually sure about everything Matriarch said with her nonsense “zoo,” but it was still clearly a threat. No one will help you later and she knows that. So now this human is also threatening you.

“Oh. A zoo is a place where you’d have a big outdoor cage and humans would come to look at you.”

Your tails flex out reflexively in shock—in a temporary blip in your perfect composure. You bark-hiss, “you understand me?”

“Yes, but it’s much easier if you vocalize somehow.” As you think about that, she continues, “Why did she threaten to send you to one?”

You flick a tail down and growl, “No reason at all. I am a very good fox. She is a very bad human with a worse fox.”

She bares a little more of her teeth at the injustice. “The horror.”

“Exactly!” This one may be much smarter than the average human.

“I can take you if you want. And then either keep you, give you to another trainer, or release you to the wild. Whatever you want. Or I can leave you to the zoo.”

You flick a tail down on the table. This was not a set of options you were expecting. You weren’t really expecting options at all.

“What do you want, Pixie? What kinds of things make you happy?”

“Cold. Prey. Grooming. Toys. Proper respect.”

“Hmm. The wild would probably have cold and prey. No one else would groom you and there wouldn’t be toys. Don’t know about respect. The zoo would have grooming and toys. Maybe cold. No prey, definitely not respect. I could give you grooming and toys. I’d try to give you respect and you can tell me if I’m not. No cold, though, sorry. Other trainers couldn’t talk to you but if you don’t like me they could give you the toys and grooming.”

Many words. Good breakdown of options. You were going to just pick the one that sounded best, and probably will, but she is good at thinking. Rare in her species.

“What do you mean by respect, anyway?”

This is not an easy concept to express. It’s just respect. Every vulpix understands it. You aren’t even sure how much she understands of your language, but you try to express it.

“I am prettier and stronger and smarter than everyone else and they should recognize it and submit to me.”

“I’m sure you’re very pretty, strong, and smart,” she correctly says. “I would try to help you. Give you food and love and try to make you even stronger. But I can’t promise I’ll do everything you say. You would have to help me sometimes. And sometimes that help would be taking ‘no’ for an answer.”

“I do not need help,” you say.

“Then you’re best off alone.”

Alone.

A shiver wracks your body.

You are not afraid of alone.

The human sighs. “Do you want love?”

You bark, yes, of course, you deserve love.

“I can give you that.” You stare into her awful, foggy eyes. There’s brown somewhere in them. The dullest, worst color. “Do you want me to hold you?”

Your legs rise up and move towards her and you hate your limbs for it. She extends her forelegs, slowly at first, and then she flips you over and moves you towards her chest all at once. It’s not unpleasant, just unexpected. You yip in surprise and she whispers an apology. Then you’re cradled in her forelegs, pressed against her body. She’s warm. Not too warm, though. And it’s nice to feel a heartbeat.

She is a trickster with clever words and whatever she says, someday, maybe even today, she will hate you and leave you like Firemane and all the others.

But for now, Skysong is yours.
 
Last edited:

Negrek

Whole of the Moon
Staff
Ahhh, yes, this is familiar. The best fox! I'm glad to see her return.

Only a couple small notes:

You cast him the sort of wary, frigid look that only an ice-type can manage in response.
Should be "her," not "him?"

You wonder why she came back, why she cares about you, and you realize that maybe she wants to put you on your team.
* her team, I think

She bares a little more of her teeth at the injustice. “The horror.”
Loved this.

I enjoyed the opening scenes before, and I enjoyed them again now. There are a couple of details that may or may not have been in the previous version, but I didn't remember them, so if they're returning I guess I just get to appreciate them all over again. :P Pixie mentioning that she's heard stories about non-Alolan ninetales was cool, and of course makes sense. I wonder what kind of stories A-ninetales tell about non-A-ninetales, besides the fact that they're fiery and inferior, of course. Are A-ninetales also known for cursing people?

I also thought you were more explicit about the kind of violence Pixie had been exposed to in than you were in the previous version, but if anything that's probably what I'm misremembering. In any case I like how you manage to get it across clearly but without belaboring the point; makes it more clear how complicated Pixie's relationship with humans is and just how many abandonments she's suffered.

And of course the scene at the end was all new! Is espeon the best of the terrible eevee because it's at least *trying* to grow more than one tail? Discuss. I think this is a good way to introduce Pixie and Cuicatl, and does highlight the differences in Cuicatl's character this time around--although I think my impression of her might change when we get to see her POV. (Next chapter? I'm curious!) I love how easily Cuicatl reads Pixie and how much Pixie doesn't get it. And Cuicatl's enthusiastic appreciation for comp battling, very interesting.

I'm amused to think that if Pixie hadn't been distracted by other things she might have thought that the zoo deal actually didn't sound too bad. Cages are no fun, but she's stuck in a kennel as it is, and if it means people will come to admire her...

"Love is help," hmm, an interesting take. Not sure I totally agree! These two are still great together, though, and I know I'm going to enjoy following their journey. Onward!
 
Normal 1.3

Persephone

Ace Trainer
Pronouns
her/hers
Partners
  1. mawile
  2. vulpix-alola
Normal 1.3: Almost Natural
Genesis

9/27/2019

It’s raining.

That means it’s good weather for catching poliwag. You said that you’d wanted a water-type because you were in shock and don’t even remember why and Father strictly forbade you from getting a popplio. That leaves poliwag and the rain. Even if you sort of asked for this, you wish it wasn’t raining. The day is more than miserable enough.

Stefan stands to the side under an umbrella, watching as you cast the lure again and again. Sometimes he critiques your form. Mostly he doesn’t bother. The first few bites are magikarp. He does come forward and help you take those of the line before throwing them back. Then he steps away and takes the umbrella with him, leaving you out in the rain.

You finally reel in a blur of blue sticking to the top of the pond. It doesn’t struggle to much on the line or in its lure ball. And then it’s yours. Stefan walks back to the car before you can let the frog out for bonding time. It’s okay. You’ll have time for that later. When you’re alone. You grab a stick on the way back to the car. Stefan gives you a funny look, but it’s important. You just don’t want to explain right now.

It’s a quiet ride into the city, only the sound of rain on the windshield and the occasional car sloshing by to distract you. That’s fine: you don’t feel like talking, anyway. You’ve already reasoned, begged, prayed, and cried to no effect. Father won’t be moved, and Stefan is on Father’s payroll. There will be no moving him.

The car comes to a stop outside the Pokémon Center. Stefan walks around to open your door.

“You can register in there,” he says. “Then I’d take a ferry to Hau’oli. VStar is having orientation in a few days, and they can help you get money.”

Implying that you could be away for long enough that you’ll need to make money of your own. You stare straight at the door and nod. He leaves without either of you saying goodbye.

*​

The nurse says that the poliwag is a boy. She politely doesn’t mention the damp stick you’re carrying, even when you take the multiple choice test on the computer so you can be a trainer. It’s all really basic stuff. She told you all of this many, many times over and you remembered enough to ace the thing.

When the rain clears up you go around to the pools out back and let the poliwag out. He looks up at you unblinking and ribbits. You kneel down and brandish the stick. He runs. “Wait! Come back!” Too late. He’s already in the middle of the pool, glancing at you from the surface of the water. Fine. You can break your plans. You very visibly throw the stick into the trash before walking back, hands raised in surrender. “I, um, dub thee Sir Bubbles? I had a whole ceremony planned, but…”

He dives underwater.

Looks like you dragged the stick here for nothing.

*​

10/01/2019

The sanctuary is dead silent when you enter. You step through the rows of pews, descending towards the altar. The head of Xerneas greets you at the far wall, shifting rainbow antlers illuminating lifeless wooden eyes. Probably for the best. It can already be unsettling, having your creator and god staring down at you. If it blinked… that would be too far.

You needed to come here. Today is a big day, after all, and Xerneas is one of the few beings left that will listen to you. Maybe the only one who knows you aren’t lying. But it takes you ages to think of something to say.

“Lord Xerneas, my creator…”

Always a good start. Now more stuff.

“Thank you for giving me life. And please help Mother and Father understand what happened. And… maybe luck is too much to ask, but I would like to keep living and… I’m very thankful for everything.”

The eyes stare back, unblinking, as the rainbow lights shimmer above them.

“May my words and deeds bring honor to thy name.”

*​

You should pay attention to orientation.

You want to pay attention to orientation.

You are not paying attention to orientation.

Partially because she already told you most of this and you remember some of it, despite you being you. You’re thinking about things that don’t matter. You’ve already read every scrap of writing in this room a bunch of times. There’s not much to read, anyway. Just a few notices and inspirational quotes. Orientation’s room is like a somewhat sparse school room. Even the chairs are similar, as you’re painfully reminded every time someone drags their chair forward or back.

And there’s a girl in front of you, just at the edge of her peripheral vision. She has nice hair. It falls down to her back in a lot of loose, shiny spirals. Green but not the bright, ugly, obviously dyed green. Almost natural. Maybe it is. Not the weirdest thing about her. That’s the colorful, maybe home-made dress. Might be a thing in her culture. Whatever that is. She has dark skin. You didn’t get a good look at her eyes since, well, they’re milky white. That was a lot bit distracting. Like staring into the dead eyes of Xerneas with color swirling throughout.

The intimidation is a little undercut by her height. Her feet don’t even reach the ground when she’s seated. At first glance you thought that she was a preteen kid eager to rush onto her island challenge, but her face—the parts you remember apart from the eyes and hair—seemed older. Nice cheekbones. And there’s some muscle on her arms that you wouldn’t expect from a little kid. Between her size and blindness, she’s still delicate. Maybe too delicate to go into the wild.

You wonder if she’s in the same boat as you, going along with the least bad option.

A woman in a very nice suit walks in midway through. Odd. Everyone else you’ve dealt with here was dressed in business casual or casual casual. Her eyes wander around the room, settling on each person in turn. You squirm and go back to looking at the series of stars and triangles you’ve wrote down in your notebook. Just one look from her makes you deeply uncomfortable. It feels like she’s staring right into your soul and judging you based on what she sees.

You can feel it when she moves on. You glance up in time to see the woman recoil as if in pain and bring a hand to head. What? What happened. The girl in front of you must feel it, too, because she’s looking around now. The woman quickly exits the room and the girl eventually goes back to resting her head on an arm and staring forward.

The girl probably doesn’t see the point of taking notes. Maybe you should for her. It would get you to pay attention, maybe. You can at least try it.

*​

There’s a breakout session at the end where you finally get to meet your traveling companions. Girls, probably. It would be inappropriate to put you with boys.

You’re the first to arrive at the meeting room because you finished your lunch quickly, without talking to anyone. You don’t know any of them and what are you even supposed to say? Best to stay quiet and not ruin things. Although now that you’re in a room with nothing but you and a ticking clock you’re starting to wonder if you should have stayed. Was that expected? Were you being rude?

You glance at the clock. No, you’re a little early to the meeting but still on time.

The door opens and a boy enters. (A boy! Why are they letting you travel with a boy?) He lets the door slam shut behind him with a loud noise somewhere between a click and a clack.

“’sup,” he ‘sups. Then he plops down into one of the firmer chairs, letting his back sink in and his legs sprawl out.

You squirm in your seat. What was his name? He was a few rows over, but you didn’t think you would be with him because he’s a boy and you’re a girl and this is really inappropriate. Should you offer to share your name? That seems like a good idea. And he’s been quiet long enough that it’s awkward.

“I’m Genesis.”

He glances at you before rolling his shoulders back and somehow sinking even deeper into his chair. “Kekoa. Nice to meet you, Jennifer.”

“Genesis, actually—”

“Jennifer.”

He stares at you as if daring you to challenge him again. You break eye contact first. Fine. Guess you’re stuck with him. That’s just how your month has been going.

“We’re supposed to have a third person, right?”

“That’s what they said.”

The clock keeps ticking.

“You have a pokéball on your belt…”

“A pikipek.”

“Ah.” Tick. Tick. Tick. Tick. Tick. “I have a poliwag.”

“Cool.” It does not sound like he thinks it’s cool.

“So why are you here?”

“Why are you?”

You don’t want to answer that, so you don’t. And he doesn’t want to talk, so that’s that. He goes back to looking at an old flip phone.

There are footsteps outside and a strange grating noise. The door opens and the blind girl walks in, the woman in the suit behind her. “See you tomorrow,” the woman says before walking away. The girl just stands in the doorway. There’s something almost sad about her expression, but she shakes her head and starts to smile. Maybe you just imagined the earlier look: you’ve never been great at reading emotions.

“Is there a chair somewhere?” she asks.

You give her directions.

It turns out that you are not very good at giving her directions, but she does eventually sit down.

“Hello. I’m Cuicatl Ichtaca.”

“Hi! I’m Genesis.”

“Kekoa,” the boy says. You finally realize that you never got his name before. “Good to meet you, Kiwi.”

Her smile falters before coming back stronger than before. “That’s not even close and you know it.”

“Don’t give a shit.”

You think Cuicatl rolls her eyes but it’s… unsettling to look at. She won’t know if you’re making eye contact or not, so you look away from her face. “She like this to you, Genesis?” she asks.

“He, thank you very much.”

“Oh. Sorry. You just have such a girly voice, you know?”

His voice is a little high. The rest of his body is maybe just on the masculine side of androgynous. Normal enough for a guy your age. Ditto for his face. Still chubby but not unusually so. Maybe with longer hair and different clothes he could pass for a girl.

“Fuck off.”

You flinch at the profanity. He didn’t sound serious, almost joking, but the words themselves paint a different story.

“Where are you from?” you ask Cuicatl. Crap that was probably not the right question. She’s going to think you’re some kind of a racist, which you’re not—

“Anahuac.”

“Oh. I know about it. A lot of your people come here. Not here specifically, I actually haven’t met many, but on the mainland. Um.” You stop before you can dig deeper.

She puffs up a little. Which is bad. She’s angry. But it’s also kind of cute.

“My mom was Unovan,” Cuicatl interjects.

Oh. Definitely here legally. That’s good.

“Then you’re a citizen?”.

“…no. Here on challenge visa.”

Maybe not legally. You’ll have to do the talking if any cops show up. Which they shouldn’t, because you aren’t going to do any crimes. Except for the crime she already did.

*​

VStar gave you an advance to buy boots and you know just the place to go.

Princess Square Mall is easily the best place to shop in the entire commonwealth. It’s got everything from the Gracidea flagship to the usual big box stores, plus actual miles of halls lined with their own quirky shops. You make… made a point of coming here most weekends to try and look through at least three new stores knowing full well that by the time you visited them all some would’ve closed and others opened in their place and you’d have to do it again. You got some good stuff out of it, though, like a stuffed altitlama made with real altitlama wool and a blue snow globe with a faintly glowing horseshoe on the side. No idea why the latter cost as much as it did.

Kekoa powerwalks ahead and ordinarily you’d match him but you have to stay back and help Cuicatl along. He sometimes glances back and slows down a little bit, which clashes with his aloof meanie vibe. Eventually you get to Shaft’s Outdoor Supplies and Kekoa finally stops to turn towards you.

“I’m just going to go ahead and get this done on my own. Leave you girls to do your shoe shopping.”

“Then why are you going alone?” Cuicatl asks.

“Letting you two have your estrogen party in peace.”

“So why aren’t you coming with us?” Cuicatl asks. “If it’s a girls thing…”

Kekoa shoots her an absolutely murderous glare. “I’m flipping you off,” he says before turning around and storming off. He is not actually flipping her off. Cuicatl just has a cute, dumb smile plastered on her face.

“Asshole,” she says.

You shouldn’t giggle but you do.

“So, um, what are you looking for? In boots? I can look for you.”

She doesn’t even take a full second to think it over. “Waterproof, well-fitting, don’t make me look too stupid.”

Okay. You can work with that.

“Do you have a personal style? What clothes do you ordinarily wear?”

It occurs to you too late that she might not know that. Thankfully, she does.

“I guess you would call them dresses, like what I’m wearing now. Sometimes more athletic clothing. Pick whatever colors you want.” Hmm. She has long hair that’s clearly well cared for. Isn’t wearing much makeup, but that might just be because she can’t apply it. In any case, definitely not a tomboy. Some outdoorsy-but-still-femme look, then. Hiking boots and whatever she’ll be wearing on the trail probably satisfies the outdoorsy bit, so you’re mostly concerned with the femme half. Ideally you’d get something dark green or very dark blue to go with her hair, but a quick talk with an employee (a talk that Cuicatl seems oddly despondent during) reveals that you’re really color and style limited at her size in the kids section. You settle on a pink pair without laces so that she doesn’t have to fumble around to tie them.

“They sound nice,” she says when you tell her the description. Her face is guarded so it’s hard to tell if it really does sound nice. Or if she cares about style at all. She rises up on the balls of her feet and then settles down and tilts her shoes to the sides. “Fit well enough. Should be fine after a little breaking in.”

And that’s that. Even before the two-thirds discount new trainers get on supplies, hers are just barely over fifty dollars. Yours are about twice as much, but after the discount they still fit within budget with some money left over. Black, kind of shiny, waterproof because Cuicatl thought that was a big deal. A size up from your old shoes, too. Apparently you’ve grown. You’d be comfortable wearing your boots in a city, which is kind of a must because you’re going to have to break them in before going out on the trail. Orientation made a very, very big deal about that, up to showing some blister photos that look like they came right out of a presentation on a disease that requires genital amputation.

*​

You decide to have a movie night for your first night sharing a Pokémon Center room. You’re doing your best to ignore that you’re sharing a bedroom and bathroom with a boy but at least Cuicatl’s here so he’s outnumbered.

Kekoa fiddles with the screen of your phone for a second before putting it on the pile of stuff he haphazardly threw together. Then the movie starts to play on the small screen. Not really big enough for three people to crowd around, but Cuicatl’s sitting a little farther away since she he doesn’t really need to watch.

“You have your own account?” you ask to kill time as the company logos roll.

He snorts. “Yeah, no. I’m sure someone pays for this, but I don’t know them and no one I know knows them.”

That’s kind of theft, isn’t it? At least, not using it as intended. Are you doing something wrong by watching.

The logos stop and the screen shifts to a cage being moved in the rain by a bunch of men with guns. Then something goes wrong and the thing in the cage kills some of the men with guns before getting shot itself. What. This is violent. You definitely aren’t supposed to be watching it.

“What kind of movie is this?” you ask.

“A damn good one,” he answers.

Again with the vulgarity.

“Seconding,” she adds.

You frown. “Your parents let you watch this kind of thing?”

He looks at you like you’d just asked whether water was wet. “No. My brother let me watch it once while my parents were out since I was going through a dinosaur phase. Now, I, uh, kind of watch what I want now.”

“People don’t really care about sex and violence in movies in Anahuac? They’re a part of life. No reason to keep kids from knowing real things exist. And do you want to talk about the dinosaur phase?” She’s absolutely beaming now. “Because I had a dinosaur phase. Never really left it either.”

Kekoa snorts. “You would, dragon girl.”

They’d talked about trainers at dinner. You didn’t have much to say, but they got into a long argument about what type was most reliable on the battlefield. Cuicatl had gone all in for dragons. You’d mentioned water-types because she had thought they were the best. You couldn’t really defend the point, though, when Cuicatl started arguing with you. When she realized that she’d gone back to arguing with Kekoa.

“Hey,” Cuicatl answers Kekoa. “it’s not my fault that we used to have birds that were four meters tall, then we didn’t, then we brought them back, and now no one seems to care that we have four-meter-tall birds again! Oh, Genesis, the dinosaurs in this movie shouldn’t have as many scales as they do. Except the aurorus, which should have spines and frills. But the dilatosaur shouldn’t have frills. Or venom. They were grass-types. And the pyroclaptors should be half the size. And none of them are actually from the Jurassic. Other than that, perfect film.”

Kekoa leans forward and makes a show of turning the volume up, even though it’s already as high as it goes.

“Fucking nerd.”

“Please watch your language.”

He flips you off. Cuicatl just ignores you. Okay, then.

She folds her arms and leans back into the wall. “I don’t see what the problem is with liking things. Especially cool things.”

“Well, you missed the flaw that actually matters: tyrantrum were scavengers.”

“You shut up!” Cuicatl practically screams. “That is one scientist’s theory based on snorlax of all things. Sure, tyrantrum could have scared off smaller predators, but then why would they need the neck muscles if they weren’t going to hunt? And what was killing all the prey they ate? Claptors weren’t big enough in most of their home range and the crocodiles would’ve just dragged the food into the water. Maybe other tyrannosaurs, but if smaller tyrannosaurs were killing giant armored herbivores then why couldn’t tyrantrum do it?” She huffs and crosses her legs before glaring in Kekoa’s general direction. “Such bullshit.”

They continue like that for hour, with Kekoa asking short dumb questions and setting Cuicatl off on adorably angry tirades about tyrantrum’s typing (maybe a dragon-type, but definitely not a dragon), tyrantrum-pyroclaptor nest arrangements (the raptors didn’t eat the tyrantrum eggs, they ate the mammals that came for the eggs, duh), and whether blaziken would beat a pyroclaptor in a fight (blaziken one-on-one, but a pyroclaptor would never fight alone so that doesn’t matter). He immediately changes the subject whenever she gives a substantive answer, so he’s always winning the conversation with very little effort. Like Mom. Except Cuicatl doesn’t seem to hate it?

You stopped paying attention to the actual movie almost immediately. It would be rude to leave the room, but that doesn’t mean you should watch something like it. At some point you fell asleep entirely. You don’t know if your new partners ever stopped their bickering.
 
Last edited:

NebulaDreams

Ace Trainer
Partners
  1. luxray
  2. hypno
Hello! I've been aware of your content before, as I knew this back when it was called Guidance, and also read some of the Alola Dex entries, which I liked, and was curious to see how much the worldbuilding of that carried into your story. To give my truncated thoughts on it, I'm really liking it so far, not only being a very unique beast of a Pokemon fic, but also showcasing a lot of talent for worldbuilding.

The thing that grabbed my attention right away was the use of 2nd person prose. Admittedly, I was a bit wary going into it because of the nature of the format, but that changed when I started reading it. While it is a little weird from the standpoint of reading about characters with defined personalities and pasts (when this type of narration is usually reserved for reader proxies), and can make it a bit harder to keep track of names of the POVs we're reading about, it does a very good job at getting into the heads of the characters through how it uses stream of consciousness to tell its story. It's very immersive because of how the senses are engaged throughout and how you get a feel for how all of the characters work through their thoughts and processes. It also works well for the psychic segments, as it also gives a good idea of how much of a headfuck wielding those powers are. It's very fascinating to read about, with all the talk about connections and pings and whatnot.

If the prose grabbed my attention at first, the characters kept me invested. While it is a little slow paced at the moment, with chapter 1 in particular having quite a bit of exposition about the world telegraphed through an interview (although it didn't bother me that much), I felt for the characters (particularly Rachel at the beginning, poor girl) and the relationships they end up forging throughout the story. Her scene with Espy was nice and humorous (while also giving insight into how typical Pokemon-human interactions work), and it was nice of her to reach out to Cuicatl given her general prickliness.

The obvious showstealer here is Pixie the Vulpix. Good god, what a great and interesting character (and I'm not just saying that because she's threatening to scream at me through Discord if I say otherwise). She's very lovable as a small, but egocentric and territorial Vulpix, but also has a lot of baggage dealing with implied abuse which adds some good drama to the mix. She does have a reason to be sceptical towards most humans (even though we've only been given a few details about her past to glean from), so having Cuicatl reach out to her with her psychic powers was rewarding while also being really dang cute. The fact that she's intelligent to some extent and is able to reason, but still acts on instinct and can't get past the language barrier feels like a much more nuanced take on the Pokemon protagonist in Pokecentric works, since a lot of them tend to feature Pokemon that have intelligence on par with humans, so this one feels a bit more believable. I am a hypocrite for saying that, of course, but on the whole, I love how your world tends to be more varied in terms of Pokemon intelligence depending on type, upbringing and evolution. At least, that's the impression I got from the Alola Dex companion as well, since different Pokemon can range from very low to very high intelligence.

While the character interactions are generally great and the dialogue is snappy all throughout, I felt chapter 3 was a bit less solid in that regard. I think you said it did verge on filler, and unfortunately, that was the impression I got from it. It was nice learning more about the characters and seeing them bounce off of each other (also giving us our first proper Pokemon fight, as well as introducing another cutie in the form of Sir Bubbles), but it felt like it was stalling the potential for story growth, especially this early on when we're just getting to know the characters as well as the grand scheme of how the plot will play out. This could be a 'calm before the storm' type of deal, which I'm fine with, but I think this would've felt a bit more earned later on since the pacing is already quite steady.

In any case, I'm really enjoying this fic and look forward to seeing how it progresses.
 

Negrek

Whole of the Moon
Staff
I AM going to get a review in before you post the next chapter, aaaa

Now you just need the clock. 9:58. Your meeting was scheduled for 10:00 A.M. and you don’t want to walk in that door early or late. Former makes you look like you’ve got nowhere else to be (which is true), latter makes it look like you don’t care. Besides, 10:00 means 10:00.
Oh man, getting to places at the RIGHT TIME, as in not necessarily (but sometimes!) the supposed appointment time. Causes me all kinds of grief, especially because where I grew up fifteen minutes early is already late, whereas most of the other places I've lived, that's heinously early and people will not be prepared for you to arrive at that time, haha.

Basically what I'm saying is this is super #relatable right here.

You know that some people have that shade, but it’s like a one in a million sort of thing.
Oooh, people sometimes get born with anime hair? I wonder if N's one of them, if N exists in this world.

Actually, Cuicatl's from Unova as well, hmmm... Some connection there?

She puffs up a little. Which is bad. She’s angry. But it’s also kind of cute. She’s very small. Although she has some nice muscles for her age and gender and her face and chest are a little older, which undercuts the cuteness just a bit but helps it in other ways. If that makes any sense. How old is she, anyway?
Not sure if this is supposed to be creepy or just Genesis being awkward, but this fell a little too close to "lecherous old man wondering if this is jailbait" for my comfort. Not sure that there would be any way to change that except altering the internal monologue in ways that wouldn't be consistent with the character, though. It's the focus on how small Cuicatl is and what her age might be that makes it read creepy to me.

The door opens again and your other traveling partner enters.

He lazily throws the door open and walks through, letting it shut behind him with a loud noise somewhere between a click and a clack.
Strikes me as kind of odd to mention the door opening and Kekoa coming through, then have Kekoa open it explicitly and come through in the next paragraph. Maybe combine them into something like "Your other traveling partner lazily throws the door open..."

“’sup,” he ‘sups.
Okay, I laughed.

Then an absolutely stunningly adorable holy vulpix walks around Cuicatl’s chair with a tiny little frown on its cute face.
"Holy" vulpix, huh? Interesting. 100% appropriate reaction to Pixie showing up, though.

Kekoa does something between a snort, a laugh, and a ‘heh.’ “You’re a dragon fangirl, then?”
Haha, Kekoa would probably lose his shit if he knew about Cuicatl's hydreigon friend, I think. He'd do his best to hide it, I'm sure, but I have to imagine he'd be impressed.

For me it read a bit odd that Genesis broke into internet slang during her battle, with all the "bois" and "doggos" and so on getting thrown around. Not sure why it showed up in that section and not the others--perhaps you wanted to show Genesis getting really excited about the battle?

idk if I thought about it before, but I wonder how Cuicatl would do if she couldn't hear her opponents' commands; something like hypnosis seems like it would be basically silent and would take a ton of experience to know what was going on. Perhaps her psychic abilities could help with that?

You got some good stuff out of it, though, like a stuffed altitlama made with real altitlama wool and a blue snow globe with a faintly glowing horseshoe on the side.
Woo, cool fakemon mention in passing? Also, guessing the Blue Orb thing is just a joke, but it would be funny if you sneakily tucked the ENTIRE PLOT into this sentence.

First world ambassador first class as your service.
*at your service, I'm guessing

Now, I, uh, kind of watch what I want now.
You don't need the second "now" unless you meant for this dialogue to come out a little odd.

A big character introduction chapter here! A bit quieter than the others so far without any trauma or psychic powers or anything going on. Of course you do a great job of making Genesis' narration distinct, and her social awkwardness and uncertainty come through wonderfully. It's kind of painful to watch Genesis pay careful attention to everything going on and second-guess herself at every turn and try really hard to manage Kekoa and Cuicatl's relationship because they're a team and they can't fight omg. Meanwhile Cuicatl and Kekoa kind of fall into this comfortable pattern of needling each other and seem far more relaxed while Genesis is chewing herself up in her head. You can already see some gross stuff lurking in her internal narration, but at the same time it's hard not to feel bad for her because she really is trying and she's so, so bad at this.

I might have liked to see a little more direction out of this chapter--like, we're obviously going to be setting off on a journey soon, but at this point I'm not really sure how soon or how many milestones we might need to clear before we get on the road. If anything this chapter went on a little long for me--it was fun seeing the group discuss their favorite (or unfavorite) pro trainers and get to know each other a bit, but for me it was a bit too much. The bit at the end with Cuicatl and Kekoa arguing about dinosaurs (while Genesis continues to sit on the edge of the group and worry) was probably my favorite part. Kekoa and Cuicatl already have a much better rapport with each other than Genesis does with either of them--poor Genesis. And they were predators, Kekoa, get over it.

Kekoa seems largely unchanged from his portrayal in the last story, but iirc we saw the least out of him, or at least I didn't get as good a read on him as the others. Pikipek instead of rockruff this time, eh? Or maybe he had one of those in the last version as well and I simply forgot, heh.

Like I said, it's a little hard to tell, but I think we'll be hitting the road soon! Super exciting. I'm definitely interested in seeing this "team" try to grapple with the wild...
 
Normal 1.4

Persephone

Ace Trainer
Pronouns
her/hers
Partners
  1. mawile
  2. vulpix-alola
Normal 1.4: Period
Kekoa

October 2

“Go, Whiskers!”

You don’t say anything as you send Hekili onto the field. What’s the point? She knows her name and what’s about to happen.

“Now, Fake Out!” Just as you see what Whiskers is doing, a shockwave ripples across the field and smacks Hekili head-on. “Great! Get in close and bite the wing!”

“Retreating peck,” you calmly answer.

The meowth rushes across the field but it’s too slow. By the time that he reaches your pikipek she’s already ascending and gives the cat a nasty peck on the head for its trouble. A few wingbeats later she’s up in the air circling the field.

Perfect.

“Echoed voice.”

The air around you ripples, first towards Hekili and then away. It’s barely noticeable but you know that’ll change soon enough.

“Hey! No fair, that’s cheating!”

You glare at the kid. Some young haole brat. He ever heard “no” before? What does “fair” mean to him? The deck stacked in his favor, but subtly enough that he can deny it? Even odds must feel so unbearably unfair. And to top it all off you definitely aren’t cheating. It’s a perfectly valid, very common strategy that if he’d ever watched a damn match he would know he needed a counter for. But, nope, he’s entitled to win, however little work he puts in.

“Louder,” you respond. And Hekili answers with a cacophony of sound and a blast of wind. You definitely felt that one and from the meowth’s disheveled fur you’re guessing it felt it as well. “And keep it up.”

“UGH!” The kid actually stomps his foot like it’ll get you to roll over and give you what he wants. “Jump up and use scratch!”

The cat’s legs bend down and it pounces in one fluid motion. Before you can even order a spiking peck, Hekeli lifts up and the claws only hit feathers. She knows what “up” means, even when other people say it. Clever girl.

Unless the kid’s pulling a spectacular con on you, that’s about as much thought as you’re going to have to put into this. Meowth are frail and devastating up close, but it can’t get a hit in and will go down to echoed voice soon. Battle’s over even if he doesn’t want to admit it yet. And you hope he doesn’t concede until the bitter end. You want to see him crushed until he cries for his mommy. Keep people off the trails who don’t need to be there.

“Fake Out!”

“Steady.”

Meowth sends off another shockwave, but by now the echoed voices are hitting it five times harder than anything it could use. The blast wasn’t even powerful enough to disrupt Hekili. You look up in admiration. Your starter’s getting pretty big now. Almost the meowth’s size. And her echoed voice has more sounds in it, more little ripples that draw a little more power in than the last and send a little more out. Not quite ready to evolve but she’s made progress.

“Work up! We can do this!”

Hmm. The meowth is gathering a little double helix of rising energy around itself. Give it a minute or two and it’ll probably be strong and fast enough to get hits in on Hekili. It won’t last that long. Probably. Persian are glass cannons so you imagine meowth are, too. You could rush in with a rock smash, disrupt the charging, and maybe score a knockout at the same time. But if you fail, you’re in close quarters. Exactly where you shouldn’t be.

You’ll give it a little bit. Then go in for the kill.

In the meantime, you take a quick glance at the adjacent battlefield to see how Kiwi’s doing. Her vulpix against a pyukumuku. The fox is firing off ice shards but the water-type barely even seems to notice. Weak, resisted ice attacks against a bulky ‘mon? It won’t be nearly enough.

“Rock smash,” you call without even bothering to look back at the field.

“Now’s our chance! Whiskers, use—”

There’s a crack sound as Hekeli’s beak collides right with the meowth’s face and the cat is flung back onto its ass. You almost feel bad for it. Not its fault that its trainer gives pep talks in a do or die situation. A flash of light washes over the field. You compliment it with your own withdrawal. Hekeli can be thanked later; for now you have an image to project.

“You owe me six bucks.”

“Yeah, yeah, I know,” the kid huffs as he crosses the field. You hold out your hand and he slaps the bills into it. “Someday, I’m going to fight you again and I’m going to win.” He looks at you with an intense gleaming in his eyes, like he not only believes his words are true but knows they are.

You turn away from him and walk towards Kiwi’s battlefield. “I’ll take more of your money any time you want.”

Your match was a one-sided slugfest. Kiwi’s is decidedly more stallish. Her keokeo has the faint purple aura of toxic poisoning around it, which means that Kiwi’s opponent bought or borrowed the TM at some point. The fox is panting from poison and heat. The pyukumuku has some shallow cuts from the ice shards but nothing managed to get past the outer layers. Not surprising. Those things are damn hard to hurt.

You get your first glance at the pyukumuku’s trainer. She’s female. Asian. Her dress looks expensive, she’s wearing shades that obviously aren’t the cheap kind, and you think she’s got a designer purse. Not that you’d be able to tell the brand or anything, but it looks like something you’d see on TV. Add in the TM and, well, honestly you’re just shocked that a rich bitch uses a pyukumuku of all things. Good taste in pokémon in spite of everything. Rather have her along than Jennifer.

“Ice shard,” Kiwi calls just a little too loudly. You don’t think she’s deaf and her fox has good hearing. No need to signal things like that. Not that you’re going to tell her that. If she’s smart she’ll figure it out on her own.

Ice rises up around the keokeo and flies towards her opponent. The pyukumuku takes it like a champ and its trainer’s smirk deepens. Fuck her. She’s an asshole like you, but she’s not actually justified in her assholery.

“Spite,” she says. In the same calm “I already know I’m going to win” voice you’d been using three minutes ago.

“Now,” Kiwi commands with the exact same tone as her opponent.

Once the ice shards land, pyukumuku’s mouth opens and its tongue comes out to flip the fox off. Just when its innards are out a dozen sharp ice crystals come out of nowhere to impale themselves in its tongue. The water-type bloats up for a second, its entire body growing a little bit bigger before it hastily pulls everything back inside.

It was a good play. Doesn’t matter. So long as the pyukumuku never inverts itself again there’s nothing Kiwi can do. Eventually her pokémon will go down to poison or spite, which you didn’t even know pyukumuku could learn. And it was a ‘mon you were hoping to pick up later on, so you’d think you’d know what it can and can’t do.

“Kiwi, you might want to spare your fox some pain,” you tell her. She recoils, either from hearing your voice unexpectedly or the weight of your words. But she slowly nods her head in agreement.

“Good job, Pixie.” Two flashes of red cross the battlefield. The pyukumuku’s trainer crosses the field, smirking the whole time.

“And that’ll be six dollars, if you’d be so kind,” she says with the kind of over-affected false innocence you’d never been able to get away with. Kiwi doesn’t react, just pulling the money out (how does she know which bills are which?) and handing it over. “Thank you kindly, miss,” the girl says before sauntering off.

You’re about to call after her to ask for a battle of your own when you feel something shift, bringing your mood plummeting down with it.

“Let’s go,” you say through gritted teeth.

*​

“How’d it go?” Jennifer asks as the door opens and Kiwi shuffles in. Jenny’s still in her pajamas and rubbing sleep out of her eyes. Probably a good thing because otherwise she’d probably be chipper.

“Fine,” you grunt. Kiwi just slides into her bed before spreading out on top of the sheets.

“Okay, well, um, if you don’t need it, I’m going to get ready in the bathroom?”

Neither of you answers so she rummages through her bag and picks out some things before stopping by the closet to take a top out. She closes the washroom door behind her.

It’s not too bad yet. Soon you’ll need to lie down for at least a day but for now you can awkwardly stand in the middle of the room. You glance at Kiwi. Worth talking? Nah. You can wait a few minutes and call someone you actually like. Not that she’s that bad. Maybe someday you’ll like her. But that day wasn’t yesterday and it sure as shit isn’t today.

By the grace of the tapus Jennifer doesn’t take a shower. She shuffles out after a time that feels both too long and too short, makeup and hair immaculate and sleep either gone or hidden. Her t-shirt and jeans look like they cost more than everything in your bag combined.

“Alright. You ready to go?”

Kiwi rises and picks up her cane without a word.

“I’m staying,” you say.

“Tutor’s free,” Kiwi says.

“And I don’t need it.”

Jennifer looks at you funny before you dismissively wave her away. Less than a minute later you’re blissfully, finally, totally alone.

You go into the bathroom and let your pants drop before looking down. No stains. Pad’s still holding. You’d wondered if it wasn’t coming even though deep down you knew damn well it was gearing up. So you hoped for the best, planned for the worst. And the worst came. You don’t know how long you stand there staring down at your too-flat boxers before your gaze lifts to the mirror.

Turn around. You don’t. You should but fuck you you’re a hormonal bitch and you keep looking. There’s a curve under your shirt. You love your binder more than any other thing you own but you’re big and there’s only so much a piece of fabric can do. Below that, well, your torso curves in before your hips flare out and none of it makes you any less of a man but damn it some part of you feels ridiculous even asserting that you could ever be male with your body as it is. And you know your voice is still higher than Mina on 4/20. Kiwi said as much. Her world is sound and people are voices and your voice is female so you are too. And. She. Just. Can. Not. Stop. Rubbing. It. In. Your. Cute. Rounded. Face.

You turn around without thinking and leave the bathroom. Then you slide into bed and fold half of a messed up sheet over your body. You can still see your fucking tiny toes so you have to actually push yourself up a little to get everything covered up by a blanket. Except for the little bulge on your chest that still perks the fabric up, reminding you that it’s there and will be until you’re eighteen and have real money in your wallet. There’s a phantom pain in your arms and legs like something under your skin is trying to press itself out. You can massage it or hit it or scream or cry or try to ignore it but the feeling will never, ever go away.

It gets better. It’s getting better. In three days there’s another shot and then another a week after that and on and on forever. This could be your last period. And your voice is going to change and you’ll have hair and smell different and have almost everything you need to be you. But there’s nothing you can do about that right now. Just lie here and pray that your body turns out okay. It feels like you should be doing something even if you know there’s nothing to be done.

You reach for your phone and unlock it without looking. Best to not stare into the black screen for a second because that second seldom stays as just a second. You raise up the phone and move it to your contacts; your finger hovers over the button before you will it to press down.

It rings twice. You take the time to put it on speaker and let it fall back down beside you.

“Mohn Ciel Memorial Home. How may I assist you today?”

“Alola,” you say. “It’s…”

“Allana! Didn’t expect to hear from you so soon!”

You swallow. Do you have the energy to spare today?

No. No you don’t.

“Had a moment. Thought I’d drop in on Manollo.”

“Of course, of course. He’s probably still asleep. I’ll have to go wake him up. Oh! And before I go, can I let people call you at this number?”

“Yeah, sure.”

“Okay, one sec.”

You half-smile in spite of everything. There’s no way in hell Manollo is up at this time on a Saturday morning and it feels a little good to force him up. You bet no one does that to him anymore. It would be a shame if he forgot what it felt like.

A few minutes later, there’s a shuffling sound on the other end.

“Fuck you, asshole.”

You smirk. Hard to say that was unexpected. “Isn’t Elizabeth right there?”

“Yeah. It’s why…” He yawns. Loudly. “It’s why I toned that down from what I wanted to say.” He yawns again. “Two weeks and you’re already giving up, huh?”

“You wish.”

“Yeah, guess I do. It’s boring without you around.”

“Take it my replacement is no match for the real deal?”

He scoffs. “Dude, she’s some ten-year-old girl. Barely spoken to anyone since she came here. Just sits in the library and reads.”

“Oh, you poor soul. Fifteen whole days with no one kicking your ass at Double Dash.”

He laughs. “Yeah, well, think I’ll live. Enough about me; you’re the one on a journey. Details, now.”

“Fine, sure, whatever. I caught a pikipek. She’s pretty strong, starting to talk more. Maybe a month or two from evolution. Don’t know what the first trial is yet. I’ll let you know when I know. Have two teammates. Both girls, about my age.”

“That a gender thing?” Manollo asks. “Sticking you with other ‘girls’?”

You pause. That hadn’t actually occurred to you. Neither knew your dead name so VStar isn’t too incompetent. But is that why Kiwi thinks you’re a girl? Does she know exactly what she’s doing? Maybe. Maybe not. Probably not.

You hope not.

“Hey, my man, you still there?”

You cough. A high-pitched cough. Shit time to plow on.

“Most of the people at orientation were female. Probably just luck of the draw. Neither’s Kanaka maoli. One’s Aztec. Name’s ‘Kwee-cah-tle’ or something. She’s smart enough, into battling, probably not a total bitch. But she keeps misgendering me every chance she gets.”

“Kick her ass,” he says, dead serious. “That’ll shut her up.”

“Manollo, she’s blind and only comes up to my chin. I’d feel bad about it.”

“You shouldn’t. She hurts you, you hurt her harder and she’ll stop. Law of the jungle.”

You don’t answer. For a few seconds you only hear your heart beating. Then the cramps flare up and you need to get distraction words out.

“I’ll think about it. Other girl is haole. Probably rich as fuck. Guess? She’s some free spirit out to pursue her passions but her mean daddy thinks she should do something practical so he cut her the fuck off. And now she’s convinced she’s suffering every injustice in the world. I’m trying not to piss her off too badly because we’re going to be stuck together but at some point she’s going to say the wrong thing and I’m going to snap at her and she’ll snap at me and that’ll be it. Good riddance.”

Manollo snickers. “Sounds like you’ve got your whole plan worked out. Still set on your final team?”

“Hmm. Reconsidering. The Aztec bitch has a keokeo and I don’t want to double up.”

“Holy shit.” There’s the sound of movement on the other side as the phone shifts. “How’d she get that?”

“Rich haole running the place gave it to her. Probably a pity thing since, y’know, blind. Still doesn’t feel right.”

“Yeah,” he says. “It doesn’t.”

Keokeo are the watchful guardians of Lanakila and the guides of the dead and dying. They were worshipped as gods in their own right for centuries. Still are by some people. Probably just another dog breed to her.

“Toucannon, vikavolt, and tauros are givens. At least one dark-type for maximum bat slaying. Still not sure which one I’ll go with. Rethinking the rest.”

The conversation flows on its own accord through a thousand subjects, each further off topic than the last. For a moment you feel like you’re back at the closest thing to home you’ve had since elementary school. But a pit digs in your stomach every time your voices echoes on the other end and you hear just what you sound like to everyone else. That brings the phantom pain to your throat and head until eventually everything is throbbing and you want to cry but you know that would just make you sound like a scared little girl. Eventually your phone alarm goes off to tell you that your pad needs changed. All the positive feelings wash away in an instant.

You hang up with a mixture of relief and sadness with one thought rising above both: this had better be the last time you have to deal with this shit.

*​

October 5

“You may begin.”

The sound of rustling papers fills the room before abruptly dying out.

Class III Exam. Let’s see if this is more of a challenge than Class II or Class I.

“Rank the following ten pokéballs based on the quality of life they would give a misdreavus.” Awkward wording aside, that’s dusk at the top and dive at the bottom. Wonder if some poor kid believes that luxury balls are always the answer. Or gets caught up in wondering if misdreavus are made of water (they aren’t… right… no, not second guessing yourself).

“Briefly describe the laws around vikavolt capture and sale.” That’s easy enough. Buggers are nearly extinct in the wild due to overcapture so they let trainers capture one but only sell it if they actually complete the entire challenge.

“Which of the following are True Psychics?” Hypno and mr. mime. Alakazam is the trick answer.

On and on. “How do you treat hyperthermia in ice-types? What islands do tsareena live on? What happens if a z-move hits a mega evolved pokémon? Briefly explain how oricorio form changes work. Which of the following are invasive? How do you get a pokémon registered as a ride pokémon?” Some of it’s practical, most of it isn’t. Just meant to make sure you know a few things about a lot of pokémon. That you actually care about this shit.

You’re the first to finish. Out of the 100 questions there are maybe six you’re uncertain on. You can miss twenty and still pass.

All in all? Good day.

You step outside and see Kiwi on the bench. Why did she show up? Special needs tests aren’t until tomorrow. You consider just slipping past her and being on your way since you really aren’t in the mood to get misgendered now. Not when you’re coming down from the high of probably victory.

She stretches and stands up. Her keokeo stirs beside her. “This Room 202?” she asks.

Shit. No dodging this one. “Yes, Kiwi.”

A frown flashes across her face before quickly fading. “Well, how’d it go?”

“Fine.” You start walking down the hall. She follows.

“I went back to Lilypad Square today. I won.”

You glance down at her. She seems very proud of that. Is that her first win ever? “Against what?” you ask.

“Rattata.”

You snort. “Wait, was it held by some preschooler or something?”

She purses her lips and looks away as her footsteps slow down for a moment. You keep plowing on.

“She sounded young. I don’t know how young. Ten to twelve?”

Holy shit. You have to try really hard not to laugh. Girl beats up some kid’s pet mouse and feels on top of the fucking world.

She doesn’t say anything else to you on the way back to the Center.

*​

“We should celebrate,” Jennifer says.

“No money,” you answer.

She honest to gods puts her hands on her hips and pouts. “Don’t need money to go to the beach.”

“No swimsuit,” Kiwi answers.

“Same.”

You do have one. But other people seeing your body is blech. Even if you weren’t trying (and failing) to go stealth.

“Well, what else are you going to do?”

“Movies. Inside. Where it’s not hot as shit.”

“Chirlov’s battling. There will be a radio broadcast. In Galarian.”

“Oh, come on!” Jennifer huffs. “It doesn’t feel like we’ve even done anything fun together. Can’t we just do one thing?”

Ugh. Fine. Maybe this will get her off your back.

“I’ll go, but I’m not getting in the water.”

“Great! Cuicatl?”

She groans. “I’m staying on land with Kekoa.”

Jennifer claps her hands and you see Kiwi flinch in your peripheral vision.

*​

“You sure you don’t want to come in with me?” Kiwi shakes her head. You don’t respond at all. “Come on, Kekoa, you’re just wearing shorts and a t-shirt. Nothing that can’t get wet.”

Also wearing a binder. And you’d really prefer not to have your clothing vacuum-sealed and showing all your curves to the world.

“I’ll pass.”

“Hmph. Whatever.” Jennifer turns around and slips her shorts and shirt off, leaving her surprisingly modest swimsuit behind. She turns around and kicks the shorts towards the bench you’re sharing with Kiwi.

For a moment you’re facing her head on and, ah shit she’s hot. Like you kind of always knew that from the legs and general face but seeing her exposed makes all the things click. She throws the t-shirt at you, although it flies a little bit to the side. “Don’t be gross.” With that she pivots and walks towards the surf.

Kiwi leans back into the bench and crosses her legs. “What’s she like, scale of one to ten?”

“Eight.”

She snorts. “Can’t tell if she’d be more insulted that you answered or that you ranked her so low.”

“I have very high standards,” you respond. As deadpan as possible. You like some substance under the surface.

That just earns a wicked smirk. “Really, then? So what am I on your scale?”

She’s not ugly. Her hair is nice. The rest is uh. Too short to pull off anything other than cute, and some of her features aren’t really cute enough for cute-cute or ugly enough for ugly-cute. A couple lighter lines on her skin from old scars, eyebrows that are a little too heavy, a gauntness over everything that brings her muscles into contrast but makes her face look really sharp.

“Four.”

She very lightly punches you. Probably aiming for the shoulder, hits near your elbow instead.

“Well, my voice is a ten and that’s all that matters.”

“Really? Well, what’s my voice?”

“Hmm. Three. Too manly for a girl.”

That sends a stone straight into the center of your feelings. The emotions ripple to the edge of your heart and rebound in and pretty soon there are ripples clashing with ripples as the whole thing threatens to spill over into… into what you don’t know. A lot of something.

She moves on before you can find out. “Very windy today.”

You grunt to test the waters. No emotion bleeds through. It’s safe to speak.

“That’s just the sea breeze.”

“Hmm?”

You sigh. Is this a cultural thing or no? And should you tell her if it is? Ah, fuck it. She could figure it out online in a minute.

“Wind rushes onshore in the day, offshore at night.”

“Huh.”

There’s silence aside from the wind. Jennifer is out there somewhere but you can’t really pick her out in the offshore crowd. As your eyes scan they settle on something else down the beach. A metal framework with the first bits of a proper building being grafted on. Another resort to bring more tourists and take your kingdom just a little bit further away.

“Didn’t grow up near the sea, I take it.”

“No. Foothills of the mountains. Never been to the ocean until last week.”

Oh. That’s depressing. Although her people are more desert and lake dwellers so maybe being cut off from the sea didn’t even matter to her.

She doesn’t talk for long enough that you suspect that she’s probably drifted off. Not a bad place to do it, on the beach with the tropical sun beating down. You’re thinking about dozing off yourself. And then out of the blue: “We’ve never battled.”

You glance over at her. She’s sort of half-lying on her side, facing you.

“Because you have type advantage. Wouldn’t be fair.”

“Yeah, well, you don’t suck at this. So maybe it would be.”

You think about correcting her. But fuck it you aren’t going to pump up her ego for her. She can beat up rattata if she needs the boost. You press yourself up and put your hands in your pockets.

“Okay. You’re on. There’s a battlefield near the surf, looks like that match is about to finish up.”

*​

“The one-on-one battle between Kekoa of Ak/ala,” the kid you roped into announcing has an awful voice break and stands looking stunned for a second before he decides to power through, “and Kiwi of Anahuac is about to begin. You can, um, I don’t really… send out now?”

Someone’s going to need to teach this kid confidence but it’s not going to be you.

Kiwi actually has to release her keokeo from its pokéball since it’s not out with her. Guess the beach is too hot for an ice-type.

“Pixie, battle time!”

The fox growls as soon as she materializes, ears slicked back and tails pressed down. Does she do that every time she comes out? You’ve barely seen her use the ball.

You toss your ball into the air and catch it. When you release this is all going to go to hell and you need a moment to think. Toss. Catch. No time to set up echoed voice. You’d just get knocked out of the sky by ice shards. Toss. Catch. She doesn’t seem to have anything to hit up close. Just roar for zoning. Toss. Catch. Hekeli’s fast enough that roar doesn’t matter. No reason not to get in close and never let up. Toss. Catc—shit. The ball slips right off the edge of your finger and crashes into the sand. Kiwi smiles. “You going to keep me waiting?”

No. You reach down, flick the ball into the air and catch it before releasing. Need to practice that more. Hekeli materializes and seems to get what’s going on pretty quickly. You glance at the referee and glare to wipe the smile off his face.

“And, uh, begin.”

“Up,” you command. Hekili rises higher as a blast of ice crystals flies right beneath her.

Kiwi’s face is inscrutable. Maybe she doesn’t even know if that hit or missed. “Baby-doll eyes.”

Weird choice but Holy shit that is the cutest fucking fox you’ve ever seen. Were her eyes always that big? Like, does she physically make her eyes bigger or is

Shit closing window of attack.

“HEKILI, ROCK SMASH!” you shout. The pikipek quickly snaps out of the trance she was in before cawing and diving straight down. Kiwi starts to speak and a small flurry of ice rises around vulpix in the fraction of a second Hekili needs to descend. It doesn’t matter. There’s a crack in the air for a moment before a very cute fox with very big eyes is flung up herself.

You whistle and Hekili moves. When the vulpix finally comes to earth and stops rolling through the sand it gets another nasty peck on its side. There are shouted orders and little glimmers of ice digging into Hekeli’s side. It doesn’t matter. Too much damage too quickly for the vulpix to cope with.

Kiwi had the better part a week and she hasn’t even figured out how to counter your pikipek? What a loser.

A red flash shines on your smirk. After it fades Kiwi just stands still as a wave crashes into the beach. And another. And another. Then she starts walking across the field towards you as her hand slips into her purse. She drops two bills as she walks by you without stopping. You watch her walk up the beach without any words spoken.

For a moment you want to follow, tell her that it’s alright and she’s a special snowflake just like everyone else. Then there’s anger. She’s just doing this for pity points, to make you feel bad that you won. Fuck her. Manipulative bitch. Using her size and disability to take away your win from you and make you give her what she wants. Well, she’s going to learn right here and now that emotionally abusive bullshit will get her nowhere. She wants a win? She can take it from you over Hekili’s unconscious body.

You reach down to pick up the money before it blows away.
 
Last edited:

Negrek

Whole of the Moon
Staff
Annnd a proper review, then!

The meowth rushes across the field, but its too slow.
*it's

Haha, I love the pyukumuku's spite being it flipping the opponent off with its guts.

Mohn Ciel Memorial Home.
Meanwhile Mohn's faffing around having a great time in the Magic Bean Dimension.

“Kick her ass,” he says, dead serious. “That’ll shut her up.”

“Manollo, she’s blind and only comes up to my chin. I’d feel bad about it.”
I laughed.

Guess? She’s some free spirit out to pursue her passions but her mean daddy thinks she should do something practical so he cut her the fuck off.
I am really curious to know what exactly what Genesis' deal there is. I'm guessing it's a bit more severe than Kekoa's guess here...

And the other, well, that builds every time your voices echoes on the other end and you hear just what you send like to everyone else.
*sound

“Toucannon and hariyama are givens. Then pyukumuku, vikavolt, and marowak for an elec-fire-water core. Last slot should be a dark-type for maximum bat slaying. Still not sure which one I’ll go with.”
It's weird to me to see trainers in a fanfic discussing their final team builds... just feels like such a game-y thing to do. Although your story definitely is more game-y than most fanfic interpretations. I'm curious why Kekoa's talking about getting a dark-type for bat slaying, though. Wouldn't seem to be any advantage against the zubat line, wouldn't expect woo/swoobat to be a big problem in Alola, but... he can't be expecting to fight LUNALA, can he???

I thought you did a real nice job with the trainer test. People tend to make those so drop dead easy in fanfic, like come on, I memorized the type chart after a couple of months when I was ten, there is no way anyone would have to take an entire class on that shit. But you get across that there's a lot more subtlety and complexity here and that the games are a highly simplified view of things, so there's stuff you'd actually have to study about pokemon in this world. I also like the implication that different pokeballs have different interior environments, so they have pros/cons for the pokemon captured in them beyond the initial how difficult it is for the mon to break out.

This section did strike me as a little out of place, though. It was quite short, and while the other scenes do lead up to/out of it, overall it feels like something that could easily have been handled offscreen to me.

But other people seeing your body is bleck.
I've only ever seen it as "blech."

“Hmm. Four. Too manly for a girl.”
Ouch. :(

I like how Pixie's baby-doll eyes distract the opposing trainer as well as their pokémon, heh.

I wonder what Cuicatl was hoping for out of their battle at the end, there. Assumed she was going to win, I guess? Or at least assumed that Kekoa would make it more of a friendly battle, whereas it sounded pretty brutal. I suppose losing with a type advantage isn't great for anybody's ego... curious to see whether this is going anywhere larger.

I enjoyed Kekoa's POV here a lot. Like I mentioned, you do a great job of getting across how desperate Kekoa is clinging to his asshole act and driving people off before they can hurt him, and also kind of reinforcing to himself that he doesn't deserve to have people like him anyway (not that he cares!) because after all he's totally an asshole and that's how he likes it, definitely. Just so frightened of being vulnerable and getting hurt that he has to convince himself that he's totally fine being a dick with virtually no friends, it's not like he wants friends anyway, other people suck. It's so tragic to watch him immediately write people off and pretty much immediately start deciding all of the ways that they don't matter and he doesn't like them, so he doesn't have to feel bad about them not liking him back.

Which isn't to say that Kekoa's assessment of other people's flaws tends to be inaccurate... Like, Genesis is inevitably going to find out about the gender thing, and when she does there's no possible way she isn't going to be shitty about it. It's hard to say he should give them a chance when he's kind of right about some of those things, but in other cases he's obviously making reaches and assuming the worst just to preemptively convince himself of how terrible they are, so he isn't disappointed when they of course turn out to be terrible, because people are terrible, right? Someone get this kid some hugs and some friends, STAT. They're going to end up becoming friends, right, Persephone? RIGHT???

And then at the end there he's getting all mad because crushing Cuicatl in that fight made him feel kind of guilty, which is clearly a result of her emotionally manipulating him and anyhow she shouldn't have challenged him in the first place if she didn't want to lose, it's not like he actually cares what she feels, he's an asshole and the sooner Cuicatl realizes that, the better. Aww, Kekoa!

All in all this was a fun chapter for me. I think we've seen all the different POVs we're going to see now, right? Curious to see how things will go now that we're not going to be introducing more new ones.
 

GrayGriffin

Bug Catcher
Pronouns
any
Man, Negrek is a lot more charitable towards Kekoa than I am, huh. While I recognize why he's hurting and kind of understand why he's being more of a jerk towards Cuicatl, honestly this chapter reads a lot more as him being a legitimate jerkass than pretending to be to me. I mean, he's the one who first did the whole racist "I can't pronounce your name so I'm going to give you a nickname and ignore your protests" thing to Cuicatl, and he seems to be completely ignoring that fact here. Like seriously, Cuicatl is basically just doing the same thing he is-finding something that hurts and poking at it. Not to mention he's still using the nickname in his internal monologue, which comes across as a pretty shitty thing to do and makes it look much less like an "act" like Negrek describes. Maybe I'm just more sensitive to stuff like that.
 
Normal 1.5

Persephone

Ace Trainer
Pronouns
her/hers
Partners
  1. mawile
  2. vulpix-alola
The chapter below deals with contemplation of suicide from a stream of consciousness perspective, with a second person narrator acting as the kind of thoughts that spur it on. I understand very, very much if you don’t want to read it.

I will post a summary of this chapter at the start of the next one. I promise that after the relative brutality of 1.4 and 1.5, 1.6 is fairly happy. It contains a scene where a snow fox eats ice cream. Promise.

Additional content notices for discussion of an eating disorder and internalized ableism. And strong language, but that feels like an afterthought given everything else.



Normal 1.5: Until The World Moves On
Cuicatl

May 2019

Achcauhtli dismisses his friends and walks up to you.

{Hi.}

He sits down and you lean against him, letting your mind fully intertwine with his.

{Hi.}

There’s more kept in his personal sphere than usual. Typically he lets you see about 70% of it, and you let him see almost 90% of yours (pretty much everything except for the feminine and romantic stuff that grosses him out a little). Now you can see maybe 40%.

{Something wrong?}

He groans, physically and mentally.

{Headache. Like yours.}

{Share?} you reply.

{No.}

You get to your feet and give him telepathic and physical kicks.

{You always take mine.}

{I always take one-third of yours. This is my first, so I will keep all of it. Owe you that much. And more.}

You roll your eyes. It took you forever to get the eye roll just right. You send him a quick, compressed guide to migraine survival. He already knows all of it, of course. He’s had one-third of a lot of migraines. It’s more of a passive aggressive thing. You pain share, so can he.

He stands up and takes your elbow to guide you. You immediately recoil.

{You’re really hot.}

{Am I?}

{Yes. Let me share.}

{No.}

You could force it. You’re the stronger sibling by far because all that brain mass he wasted on vision went straight to your third eye. But you don’t. It makes him really upset whenever you do and then the connection makes you really upset and then it takes months for everything to get back to normal.

Also it’s wrong and stuff.

{I’ll tell Dad you’re sick.}

He actually, physically snorts.

{I just have a fever and a headache. What’s he going to do?}

Nothing. Nothing is what he’ll do. So you shut up for a little bit, making sure that some of your displeasure bleeds into his mind for the rest of the walk.

You know you’re almost at the house long before he tells you. But you let him chivalrously say that it’s approaching and then let you in the door. He does it partially because of his annoying masculinity, partially to keep appearances, partially to ease his anxiety from that one time that you took his sight away for two weeks to teach him a lesson. Gods, he was so adorably helpless.

“We’re home,” you call to the house so that he doesn’t have to. Neck and jaw movements can sometimes be a pain during migraines.

There’s a fairly long pause.

“Cuicatl, are you still going out tonight?”

You turn towards your stubborn brother.

{Am I?}

{I’m fine. You can go.}

{Do you want me to stay?}

{I’m not going to pain share and I won’t be good company.}

{We can talk. I can distract you.}

{You know I won’t be in a talking mood.}

{But I will be.}

He gives you a mental shove. “She is.”

“Okay. I have a box for heatmor by the door. Can you bring it out to her?”

“Of course,” you say.

A few seconds later you realize that’s all you’re going to get from Dad so you generously let your brother guide you to your shared room. He leaves you standing in the doorway, then stumbles forward and loudly crashes into his bed. Which probably doesn’t help the headache.

He grumbles something incoherent aloud and you smile in spite of everything. On your way out the door you slip your mind out of his. With one final gesture you point towards your love for him and he belatedly points you towards his for you. Then you shut the door and walk back through the house. You find Searah’s box easily enough by shuffling around near the doorway. You bend down and—mokuitl this is heavy—immediately set it back down. You take a few steps and open the door. Then you bend down again, properly brace yourself, and haul it up, ignoring the burning in your arms. Next it’s a few awkward waddling steps out the door where the arm pain starts to nestle into your back. You’re strong but you’re small and even Dad might struggle with this one. At long last you can feel the sunlight on all of your body. You bend down and let the box go. Maybe ten centimeters higher than you should’ve given the crash. Oops.

“Alice! Dorothy! Ilsa!” you call. There’s a familiar wingbeat and then warm, dry air rustles your smiling face. Ilsa cries out her greetings and you take a few steps forward for a hug. Ellas dutifully complies. Ellas is warm which reminds you of your annoying overly macho twin brother. “I know girls, it’s been too long.”

Ten days, actually, which really isn’t bad. Alice’s territory is almost four hundred square kilometers so she can be gone for a while if food is scarce or she has a boundary dispute to attend to.

Alice grunts her agreement. You slowly step back, making sure to stroke each head in the process. You point in the general direction of the package. “Mind carrying that for—”

There’s a giant rush of wind that almost knocks you off your feet. A moment later you feel Alice’s breathing beside you where the package should be. Ellas barks out a “yes.”

“Good girls,” you whisper as you extend a hand. One of the minor heads reaches out to nuzzle it. As you scratch the cheek you run your fingers across a ridge where the scales don’t quite mesh right. Dorothy. “Now let’s go out back to see your friends.”

You gently wrap your hand around the base of Dorothy’s head and start walking towards the gate to the back lot. Alice glides along, subtly pulling you away from a rock (that you knew was there). Then you get to the rusty old gate, open it up with an awful screech, and slip inside. Alice just slides out of your grip and floats over the fence. Her wings beat and stir the wind less often and with less power than you’d expect. However ellas stays airborne, mechanical flight is only a small part of it. You’ve never been able to find out how that works in all of your reading and you’ve read everything the library could find on hydreigon so you’re pretty sure if there was an answer you would’ve found it.

You close the gate and walk deeper into the lot. “Anyone here?”

Searah squeals and you hear her light, rapid footsteps as she races over. You brace yourself before she practically flings herself on you, standing on her hindlegs as her long clawed hands rest on your shoulders and her snout presses against your neck. “Hey girl,” you say, before returning the hug. If Alice is warm, Searah is almost uncomfortably so. Comes with her typing. More importantly, she has a wonderful layer of thick fur just long enough to submerge your fingers in. “Brought you a toy.”

She squeaks again, much closer this time, and the meaning flashes into your head. “Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!” Searah lowers herself to the ground and shuffles towards the box, a steadily quieter string of thanks echoing in your head. Then you hear her shred the cardboard followed by the faint sound of her tongue licking her food. Probably a durant carcass given the weight. There aren’t any down here and heatmor are literally built to eat them. Naturally they’re her favorite treat.

{Hello, child.}

This voice appears directly and exclusively in your mind. It’s distinctly male and very deep and almost echoey. Not threatening just… comforting. Like a warm blanket of words. You could easily fall asleep listening to him. You have several times.

{Hello, Renfield.}

He doesn’t physically embrace you. His body is weird. Squishy. He doesn’t like being squished. Not that it hurts him. You’re pretty sure that even Searah would struggle to burst him open. Alice, well, all bets are off there.

{Is your brother not here today?} he asks, even though he could easily just get that information from your mind. He taught you all of your tricks and he’s way stronger than you are.

“Achcauhtli’s sick,” you respond. Aloud. So that Searah can hear as well. Not that she reacts. Her tongue is probably three feet deep in a giant ant right now.

{Unfortunate.}

Alice growls. Quiet and high, descending in volume and pitch at the end. Jealousy. She’s the only one who doesn’t instantly understand what you say, language barrier be damned. It takes you a second to come up with the words, though. Words that she’d understand. Sickness isn’t really a thing that hydreigon deal with. Their only concept of it is in reference to prey. The same growl can mean very old, very young, sick, reckless, or disabled. Anything easy to kill. You replicate the growl (a little bit too high pitch but you can’t really rumble like ellas can), followed up with your brother’s name in human tongue.

She growls again. This time with a whine at the end from both minor heads.

“No, not like Danielle.”

Alice snorts. Skepticism. Or a request for clarification. Or both.

“Not…” you gesture towards your tummy as you perform the hiss for child. Not pregnant, you mean. Not about to die and be replaced by two helpless infants.

She chuffs understanding.

{Did I do that right?} you ask Renfield.

{You would know better than I.}

{Okay.}

“Anyone else here?” you ask. There’s a faint shifting in the dirt a few meters away followed by a metallic clang. The closest thing to a greeting that he ever does. And even that’s unusually social for a ferrothorn. “Good to see you too, Spike.” No answer. You weren’t really expecting one.

{Charles and ‘chovsky here?}

{No.}

Also not surprising. They stayed nearby after Mom died out of loyalty or convenience, but they don’t make a habit of being out back when you get home from school. You’re a curiosity because you can talk to them like Mom did, but you aren’t their trainer and never will be.

{Well, greet them for me.}

{I will do so.}

You take a step towards Alice and ellas swoops up to meet you. When you stand up on your tiptoes ellas presses right up against you and you can feel her low, constant growl of affection through the wall of her belly.

“Ready to go?” you ask.

She responds by yanking you up into the air and soaring off.

*​

October 2019

The nurse is quiet for way longer than they usually are. Fuck.

“Fought a pikipek, did you?” she finally asks.

“Yes.”

“Did you catch the trainer’s name? Or did you exchange bets electronically?”

“I… yeah. He’s my traveling partner. How bad is it?”

She sighs. “She’ll make a full recovery within twenty-four hours. Could’ve been much worse. Pikipek have a hard time controlling their attacks and I want to talk to the trainer before he gets an excessive force ticket.”

You half-smile in spite of everything. Full recovery. You’re a bad trainer, but you didn’t break anyone forever. Not this time.

“Can I have his name, please? Again, he’s not going to get punished. Just talked to.”

Heh. No need to worry. He wants people to rise and fall by their own hand, fine. He can take his own falls.

“Kekoa Mahi’ai. I don’t remember his last name. He’s about sixteen.”

“Has he gone by this center?”

You nod. “He’s staying here. Same room as me.”

The nurse makes a few clicks and keystrokes.

“Okay. I’ll talk with him tomorrow.”

You lower your head and feel one of your shoes pressing hard enough into the back of your leg that there will be a print for a few hours. Weird. Didn’t even notice that you’d started. You press the shoe in a little harder and sigh.

“Take good care of her, please.”

“I will,” she says in a way that sounds like a smile. “I’ll see you tomorrow.”

You can’t bring yourself to answer that. Only nod and turn around.

Hau’oli is a really friendly city for the blind. Much better than Tenochtitlan was. Every curb has the bumpy pavement to tell you to stop and all the crossing buttons have a voice telling you to wait or go.

You ignore it all. There’s a wind on your face and you’re going to walk towards it until you hit the ocean. If someone hits you, well, fuck it. At least your Dad gets some more money to piss away. And you do get honked at a few times or feel a rush of wind uncomfortably close to your body. At the busiest intersections you even stop until the nice robovoice tells you to go. If you get hit by chance, then that’s fate. You’re fine leaving yourself to fate, to the gods. But you can’t just walk into a car and let the gawkers see your limp body flung across the street. That’s not fate, that’s a choice. And there’s no dignity in it.

Everything’s numb. No, not numb. The opposite. You’re feeling everything at once and your feelings haven’t quite decided what to tell your brain. But there’s definitely shame. Maybe anger. Fear? No, not fear. Not much anyway. Hunger, of course, because there’s almost always hunger clawing at your insides and tempting you to give in, to break and stuff yourself and become even fatter and less loveable. But it’s a numb pain right now, the kind that settles in after a couple hours.

By the time you can hear the waves over the cars, you’ve settled on a single thought.

This wasn’t how things were supposed to go.

Your mom was a professional battler. You spent hundreds of hours listening to battles on the radio and hundreds more ignoring lectures and daydreaming about teams and routes and strategies. Hundreds more practicing knots and fire and first aid with your brother. You were never popular, sure, but you cuddled with a dragon. Someday you’d leave town and be someone. Everything was looking up until it wasn’t.

Your dad never blamed you in words, but you’re a telepath and you hear when people think about you like you hear people saying your name from the other end of the room. You should’ve known, should’ve pressed, should’ve stayed, should’ve told him.

You should’ve been enough.

Or at least, it should’ve been you that went instead. He had eyes, a future. He never put his hands on his hips and pouted in a way that reminded him far too much of a long-buried woman, never had stupid unobtainable dreams, never got held back because he couldn’t read the books.

You should’ve been enough. But you weren’t when your brother needed it, which shouldn’t have been a surprise because you’d never been enough before.

There’s another feeling now. Concern, apprehension. A quiet, trembling voice asking, Where’s this going? even though it already knows the answer. Because it’s your voice. The one you use when someone’s yelling at you. Which, yeah, you’re yelling at yourself now.

You don’t know when the tears started. Crying in public again. Other people, the ones with eyes, can see you.

…not that you care about the eyes…

You take a deep, steady breath to beat down the ugly sobs. Keep some dignity, at least.

The ocean’s below you. Three to five meters, probably. What would happen if you fell? Probably nothing. Unless there were rocks. It’d just be one of those tall diving boards you’ve heard about on television. If there were rocks, if you fell the right way, maybe there’d be nothing at all. Just the feel of the wind and then silence forever. Or maybe you’d screw it up like everything else and wind up a damn cripple too. Then you’d deal with three times the pity. One for the jump, one for the eyes, one for the wheelchair. Like you’re not even human. Just some poor sick infant everyone else is supposed to accommodate. And maybe you are.

The only battles you’ve won are the ones you felt bad about winning. Baby humans with baby pokémon. You lost to your companion when she was screaming puppers and bois at the top of her mind. You lost to your partner who you had a type advantage against. If you ever thought you were going to be a good battler you’re definitely don’t anymore. What else are you good for? Emotional support? You shared a damn mind with someone and then left them alone to die of meningitis.



Please don’t do this.



What if you did?



You don’t want to die. You just want things to get better.



Well, when’s that going to happen?



How long will it be until someone thinks about you for the last time? Your dad's probably already written you off as an idiot child who decided to throw herself to the dogs. Kekoa won't give a shit. Might even be glad. Genesis will be sad for like three days until she realizes that she's much better off with whoever replaces you. Pixie will be upset until she finds some new trainer to disappoint her. Rachel might show up to the funeral (if anyone even bothers to hold one), but she's a busy woman and you give her two weeks before she realizes how much of a waste of time you were.

Alice, Renfield, and Searah would care.

No. They’ve already found new homes and trainers who won't fail them when it matters most. Maybe they'll think about you in pity or scorn a little bit in the upcoming years, but less and less until not at all.

Three years. You give it three years until the world moves on entirely like you were never here at all.



That narrative demands to continue, to be finished. But everything around it is screaming in fear and concern and… and… the narrative isn’t you. Not all of you. You sit down and the anger breaks and the narrative isn’t the loudest voice anymore.

You sob and choke up and make a scene and don’t care.

People would miss you. The whole town came to… to his service. People you don’t think your brother ever thought much of. And their minds were broken by it, scarred in a way that you’d never seen before. If you could see your own mind…

Well, you weren’t like this before.

You miss before. You miss Achcauhtli. You miss sitting next to him on the hill behind the house as the sun went down and watching his terrible telenovelas while teasing him in your minds. You miss having someone in your head who loved you more than you ever loved yourself. Someone who could take the narrative, shred it, and banish it away.



Minds are fragile and you’ve seen scars that cut right down to the core and turn normal, happy people into people like you. Oh gods above it hurts. It hurts and you want it to stop and you don’t know how to make it go away and maybe it never will.

Footsteps approach and you don’t care because there’s a void inside you pulling everything into it that it can and it will never be satisfied.

Someone bends down beside you. “Hey,” she says. It’s quiet and soft and resolute. Like Mom in the memories that Renfield showed you. “I’m Rachel, if you don’t remember,” the voice says.

And then it doesn’t say anything else. But you can still feel her presence. The vague touch of her mind on yours, shying away from the turmoil just inside the surface. It’s… it’s a lot. After what you did to her.

You stick out a hand and she holds it and you keep sobbing but it doesn’t even matter.

*​

She keeps reading through the menu like you care. A dish name, a description, no price. It’s drowned out by the dozens of conversations and the sounds of the wind and waves and the wingull fighting on the shore and the little whispers of thoughts all around you.

Eventually she stops talking and gently but audibly sets the menu down.

“Anything sound good?”

You should respond. Make small talk. Or just give a one word answer. But it feels like you’re lying down half asleep at the bottom of a pit and the answer is so high above you and you can’t make yourself get up and reach it.

“Okay. Mind if I pick?”



Do you?



“Allergies? Dietary restrictions? Things you just don’t like?”



That’s very considerate of her to ask. It’s very inconsiderate of you to just drown in your despair like no one else is hurting. Just give her an answer.



Now.



You worthless piece of shit.



“I’ll take that as a ‘no.’ You eat much for breakfast?”



You ate half a muffin before it became a ball of mush in your mouth that just got bigger with every bite so you spit it out into a napkin and threw it all away like a toddler.



“Hmm. Fried magikarp sandwich fine? It comes with stuff on the side that you can put on if you want it, but otherwise it’s just fish. Natural fish, probably. Not lab.”

“Yeah, sounds good.”

Rachel shifts her arms. “Perfect. Congratulations on your Class III, by the way.” She sounds like she actually cares.

“Thanks.”

You pick up on more of the whispers and sounds from the minds around you as you slowly pull yourself out of the pit. It takes you a few seconds to banish them again.

“How’s Pixie?”

“Unconscious. In the Pokémon Center. For the fifth time this week.”

Well. It’s out there now and you’re only crying a little bit.

The waitress comes back and sets down a bowl and says some kind but meaningless words and takes Rachel’s orders before walking away. It doesn’t reach her voice, but her mind has words of confusion and concern and pity bubbling up near the surface.

Rachel pushes the bowl closer to you and then slides some small objects across the table.

“Plastic knife. Rawst butter. Little balls of fried dough in the basket. Best if you cut them in half and put the butter in.”

Your arms are heavy. Your mouth is free from he pit but your body hasn’t quite been dragged out yet. Takes a few seconds just to convince your body that, no, really we’re being alive again. You have to very deliberately take control of your arm and take it off autopilot. Then lift it up even though it just wants to stop and rest. Next step: pick up a ball. It’s rough, none of the crumbs really come off, even if you rub a finger along it). Set the ball down. Steel yourself and lift the arm, fingertips reaching down almost to the tablecloth. Find the butter packet and cut some bread in half. By the time you’ve buttered it you feel like you’ve just done twenty pull ups.

Look at you. Eating food. So accomplished.



The food is good though. The butter has the taste of preserved fruit. Deeper and richer and almost bitter. Not the vaguely sweet water of fresh fruit. Or the fruit snacks she gave you that tasted like how soft plastic feels. The bread is probably too dry in the way that fried dough usually is if it’s not fluffy. The hint of food turns the hunger from a quiet ache in the background to a ravenous beast that will not be ignored.

Whatever. You reach for another one.

You can just skip dinner. Fake being sick. But then Genesis would bring you food, because she’s like that. Nevermind. Go on a walk alone at dinner time. Sit on a bench for a few hours. Come back, say that you got food on your way back.

Rachel doesn’t say anything for a while. You don’t think she’s eating, either. Just watching you. Weird.

“Do you want to talk about it?” she asks.

It takes you an awkwardly long time to finish chewing and swallow and speak. “No.”

“Okay.” You reach for a third before she can follow up. She does anyway. “You know where you’re starting your journey at?”

You shake your head.

“Oh. Akala. You’ll get the full details at the briefing tomorrow. While you’re there, there’s someone I think you should meet.”

You reach your hand in the basket but there’s nothing left. Did you really eat all of that? How many? At least five balls three centimeters across. That’s maybe a full centimeter of fat spread across your stomach. Your skin will swell in size as the blubber grows, becomes obvious and hideous and unable to just hide beneath your shirt like it should. They’ll laugh. Leave you. They should.

“I can ask for more if you—”

“No.”

“Probably a good idea. Your sandwich should be here soon. Anyway, Akala. There’s a woman there. She’s sort of the boss of people like us on the islands, even if she likes to say that she’s less of a boss and more of a preschool teacher trying to get the entire class through the day without anyone sticking their finger in a socket.”

You give a “heh” because it sounds like a joke and you don’t have a laugh in you right now. Your mind is still whizzing away in the background, revising your earlier plan from a walk and sitting on a bench to a run. And then figuring out the logistics of going for a run without Pixie in unfamiliar territory. Maybe go to another center and use a treadmill?

“It’s sort of a formality. Meeting her. But we don’t have a school on the island and she’s in the best position to talk about options and…” She sighs. “I don’t know everything that you’re going through, but I think it might be good for you to wait a few months and get some training before you start out.”

You frown. Response. Response that needs thought. “Can’t. Time limit.”

“Visa time limit? Because she could get you transferred to the mainland with an educational visa in hand within a day.”

“It’s not the visa.”

“Mission from god? World to save?”

You don’t like the tone. It’s closer to mocking than anything she’s ever taken. Like she saw what you just did with the bread. And you don’t want to explain why there’s a time limit. Not now. Not here. Not when both the hunger and the narrative are feeding off of each other. Not when you feel like this.

The waitress comes back and sets down your food. Words are said. You don’t really pay attention.

“I’m sorry. That was rude. I know the last thing you want right now is probably more school, but trust me: it helps. I wasn’t doing too well before I went. Life sucked, didn’t understand who I was. A few years at the academy turned me around. I like to imagine I’m doing pretty well right now.”

“I’m glad it helped you.”

There’s a sandwich in front of you. It would be awkward to explain why you’re not eating this and she was very, very nice to buy it for you. You take a bite. It’s actually pretty damn good. Perks of being on the sea. The magikarp was probably swimming this morning. It’s still fried and you can imagine the shape of the fish stuck on top of your stomach. Doesn’t sound like Rachel’s moved to touch her food, though.

“Look. I know that you don’t want to talk about it but—”

{If we’re going to do this, and I’d really rather not, let’s not do it where people can hear.}

She sighs, aloud. “I’m not as good at that as you are, but I’ll try.” {You’re not doing well. Second time this week. At least. Can get help before leave. Therapy. Training. Battle practice. Friends. Scared to send you into wild now.}

You take another bite to hide your scowl.

{You going to stop me?}

“Cuicatl, I am worried. Am I wrong to be?”

That is patently unfair. What are you supposed to say to that? Say yes and you’re saying she’s crazy. No and you’re admitting she’s right.

“Worried about what?”

You hear her eat a little of her sandwich. Probably buying some time.

“It’s lonely out there. I know. I lasted for all of three weeks in the woods before I decided it wasn’t for me. If you don’t have a support network and aren’t in a good place going in, you’re not going to be able to handle bad feelings well when they come. And they will come.”

‘Will come.’ Like they’re not here. Like they haven’t been here. Like they aren’t the core of who you are.

“I have Pixie.”

She groans. “So your entire emotional support system is a narcissistic fox? That’s your argument?”

And her. And kind of Kekoa when he isn’t being a dick. Not that you can blame him. Pixie started panicking about a male human bleeding from the crotch and now you understand that the dick was you all along. No wonder he hates you.

Rachel has a point. In a better, fairer world you’d even agree with her. But in this one you can’t.

“Compromise: I meet with your friend at the end of the first island. When I know what I’m in for.”

Your phone buzzes in your pocket.

“Deal. Just sent you my number. Feel free to message me when you have signal if you need to talk.”

You start to pick at your fries. They’re decent. Not as good as the bread or fish. And you aren’t obligated to eat them. But your traitorous fingers start wandering and looking for something to do. You’re quiet for long enough that your phone buzzes again, a reminder that you’ve ignored the message for two minutes.

“Why are you doing this?”

“Doing what?”

That takes a second. What is she doing, in normal people words?

“Food. Talking. You’re busy, you don’t have to—”

“Of course I don’t.” If she was condescending before, now she’s biting. Like she wants you to shut up and go away even if her words say the opposite. “If I didn’t want to do this I could just put it at the bottom of my long, long to-do list. But this is important to me. You’re important to me.”

You only really hear ‘long, long to-do list’ as a spear of guilt impales you right through your overstuffed guts. Right. You’re not only wasting someone’s time, you’re wasting the time of someone important.

You stand up and pull out your cane. She rises to meet you can hear the faint sound bills landing on the table. “Thank you, then. I’ll be on my way.”

You start to walk and she keeps pace. “Where are you going?”

“Pokémon Center.” Probably not a lie. Unless you decide to go somewhere else.

“Good, it’s on my way. Let me come with you.”

How do you say no? How do you say no so that she’ll let you just walk away and give fate a few more chances to take you away? You don’t think you can. She’s perceptive and oddly committed. So you let her guide you and obey all the traffic laws in silence. Because there’s nothing you can say that will get you what you want. That will get her to leave you alone.

You take the time to put your happy face back on. Physical things. Rolling your shoulders back. Smiling as much as you can manage. Trying to take lighter steps even though your legs still feel like lead. Singing a nursery rhyme in your head and then quietly humming it, even though Rachel might notice. Trying to spread the smile throughout your whole body. Breathing different. You’ve had practice. Years of it.

Your happy face likes things. Dreams about things. Laughs spontaneously. Thinks she’ll survive the New Fire. Hopes she’ll survive the New Fire. She has friends. Used to have family, but she honestly doesn’t dwell on that. Crushes a little too hard on people she shouldn’t. Likes her showers as cold as she can stand them. Cuddles dragons. Sometimes she even thinks people like her.

She isn’t a fat, useless atlikauitl one day away from killing herself.

You don’t know if she’s real. You read once that “we are what we pretend to be.” You’d like to think that’s true. Because you like her. She’s what you should have been. Someday you might even be her. But, no, you think the quote was wrong. There’s what we pretend to be and what we are.

The doors open in front of you and you walk in. Rachel’s footsteps don’t follow. You turn your head just enough that the woman will know she’s being acknowledged.

“You going to be alright?”

“Yes,” you say.

You almost mean it.
 
Last edited:

GrayGriffin

Bug Catcher
Pronouns
any
Well, I did wonder if Cuicatl had actually picked up on the gender thing with her powers, but turns out she was legitimately ignorant. Though I'm pretty sure Kekoa will assume she was doing that if he learns that she's psychic and I wouldn't 100% blame him.

And ow, this chapter hurts. We get a happy adorable flashback and then learn that it all got destroyed. Please let these kids be okay. Though is it bad I'm kind of looking forward to Kekoa getting lectured by the Pokemon center?
 
Normal 1.6

Persephone

Ace Trainer
Pronouns
her/hers
Partners
  1. mawile
  2. vulpix-alola
As promised, here’s a summary of 1.5:

The chapter opens with an extended scene of Cuicatl interacting with her brother, Achcauhtli, after school one day. He complains about a headache similar to the migraines his sister gets. After offering to stay and taking care of some chores, she flies away on Alice the hydreigon for a weekend trip in the mountains.

When she returns, she finds out that her brother died of meningitis while she was gone.

The story skips to the present, where Cuicatl drops off Pixie after her bout with Kekoa. The nurse says that Pixie will be fine within 24 hours, but Kekoa will need a talk about excessive force before he slips up and gets into real trouble.

Cuicatl wanders the streets of Hau’oli alone and in a depressive haze until she comes to the waterfront. There she breaks down over her chronic depression that predated Achcauhtli’s death, her guilt over losing him, and her loneliness with her mother’s pokémon and her brother gone. She ultimately decides that she does not want to die.

Rachel finds her shortly after. They go to lunch, where Cuicatl struggles with her eating disorder before ultimately managing to get a full meal down. Rachel reassures her that early losses are nothing to worry about. Temporarily bolstered by food, kindness, and catharsis, Cuicatl returns to the pokémon center and tells Kekoa that he had nothing to apologize for.



Normal 1.6: Through the City of Fire
Pixie

October 7th, 2019

You hear one of the humans talking to everyone and no one. She turns towards your cage and unlocks it before reaching in to pull you out. After she runs a forepaw along your side she seems to decide that you’re okay. Reality disappears in a flash of red.

What is this?



Is this place a place or not?



How would you know?



Who is you?



There were just thoughts.



What are thoughts?



This.



There was something before.



What is ‘befor

Reality reappears. You shake yourself off and breathe before pulling yourself in.

This is.

You are.

Skysong moves to pick you up and you let her. Her grip misses the mark a little bit before you correct it and it feels like it could slip at any moment, but it’s warm and pleasant while it lasts.

“Hey, Pix,” she says. The words come from her chest beside you and her mouth above you at about the same time.

She doesn’t sound angry. She smells like almost all of the feelings at once, but anger is not the main one.

You don’t quite know why, but it doesn’t seem like she hates you.

“They feed you yet today?”

Did they? You aren’t sure. That depends on how long you weren’t.

“Not hungry,” you answer.

Skysong hums and the noise reverberates through her and into you. “Alright. I’m going to eat some toast or something. Then I’ve got a meeting at the VStar building. We’re getting our first assignment today. Should be on the trail in three, maybe four more days.” She resumes humming. You aren’t sure if you’re supposed to speak over it or not. “I was thinking, maybe instead of battling we could take a few days to teach you to be a better guide fox. You don’t have to if you don’t want to, of course.”

“Want to,” you yip.

“Good,” she says. Then she bends down slowly before relaxing her grip. You take the hint and jump to the ground. “We’ll start on the way back from the meeting.”

*​

“Toast,” Skysong explains between bites, is the result of humans grinding up strange berries that are always dry, tossing small sick animals in, throwing it all in a fire, taking it out and letting it cool, and then throwing it all in a fire again. It seems like far too much effort for something that doesn’t look or smell good. But then she puts on a paste that comes out of milk when you attack it. It is odd that even adult humans keep drinking milk. Then again, they are very weak and probably need all of the help they can get. And the paste smells good, too. Even if you are too strong and adult to want any.

*​

Reality resumes in the blessed cold of inside. You could have walked with Skysong through the metal forest with burning air and hard black rivers, but she wants help later and you can’t do any good if you are literally melted.

The other two humans in her pack are present, the still-wounded Bloodrage and the annoying frog owner Growlsleeper. There is also a new and as-yet-nameless adult male human. Before you can crawl up on the big flat climbing structure to get a good look at Nameless, Skysong pulls you back towards her and starts petting you. Her heart doesn’t sound like Nameless is a threat, so you can put off your exploration until after the petting stops.

“Looks like you’ve had a busy week. Kekoa and Cuicatl, congrats on your Class III. Most trainers stop there, but if you want to go higher, we’ll gladly help you,” Nameless says in a way that makes it sound like teeth are bared. Not in the “threat” or “happy” sense, but in the “I want to make you think I am not a threat” one humans sometimes use. The scent is always the giveaway. It is strange that humans express so much through their glands but then are not able to smell it. Like they were designed to not understand each other.

Humans must be very lonely.

“Genesis, good job on the Class II. Enjoy your time off from studying, but I would try to get the Class III when you’re back. It will let you take better paying missions later on.”

“I, um, okay,” Growlsleeper stammers out. “Thank you?”

Sometimes you think Growlsleeper is almost smart enough to not understand human communications. Like Skysong! She told you that humans make no sense and she can’t explain them to you because she just cheats and uses her mind. She’s nice so she did try to answer a few questions before she finally had to give up.

“No problemo,” Nameless responds before clapping his hands together to create a weak shockwave attack. Your ears flick back and Skysong flinches under you. She should work on that. It makes her very easy to take out at the start of a fight. You will help her fix this problem. Maybe roar in her ear at random times until she stops reacting. “Now! I have an important announcement to make, drumroll please,” he starts banging his forepaws on the board really quickly. You glance up to Skysong and inquiry growl. Is the climbing structure a threat? You know some wood that smells dead is actually alive and moves and should be killed so that it is dead for real.

{Not a threat.}

Oh. Just another inexplicable human thing.

“At the break of dawn Wednesday we’ll pick you up and take you to a secret journey starting ritual—”

“Mantine ride.” Bloodrage yawns and makes no effort to slow or quiet it. “It’s a mantine ride. All over the forums.”

“Well. We’ll see on Wednesday—”

“That’s actually the problem,” Bloodrage interjects. “Because one of us won’t be seeing anything and I want to make sure that you’ve at least thought about that before dawn Wednesday.”

Skysong’s hand stops and she moves to cross her legs under you, forcing you to move to the edge of the seat before she abruptly stops. {Sorry.} Then she moves her legs back to how they were. You take a second to make sure that everything has settled again before you quietly yawn an apology and curl back up. She resumes petting you. As she should.

“…I will look into it. If there is a problem with our secret journey starter we’ll find something else for her to do.”

Your trainer’s paw lifts just a bit, one claw curled back and pointed down like a snake about to strike down. “Thank you,” she says, and her claw falls back in line with the rest and ruffles your headfur.

“No problem. We’re going to drop you off in Heahea around noon. Pick you up thirty-five days later at North Shores. We’ll text you more info on that when the date comes closer.”

Bloodrage leans forward and you can hear his hands pressing down on the table, causing the whole thing to creak and shift. “Anything else we need to here or could this have just been a five line email?”

“You want to know what you’ll be catching, right?”

“Of course!” Growlsleeper says.

“Your main goal is paras. They can be caught in Brooklet Hill and Alolan Rainforests NPP after you’ve beaten the trial there. Invasive little buggers, but they’re useful in medicine. Catch limit is five a trainer and you should each be able to catch five. You can sell them to us at twenty each.”

“Not as much money as orientation implied,” Bloodrage says.

“Well, that brings me to your secondary mission: castform. There are a few in the Alolan Rainforests preserve and the season on them just opened up. We’ll buy them from you for $1000. Limit’s one a trainer but don’t be too worried if you can’t reach that. I’d be impressed if you got one between you.”

“Now we’re talking.”

“Glad to hear it. Between the two, you can either go straight north and take on the normal trial in Kuahiwi or loop east and try to take on the fire trial and grass trials as well, maybe even face off with the Kahuna at the end. It’s ambitious, but it’s been done before.”

They say more words. It’s boring. You decide to ask Skysong a question you thought of earlier. “What’s a mantine?”.

“Pixie,” Skysong hisses. Her heart is beating faster. Threat? Is the mantine a threat?

“There a problem, miss?” Nameless asks.

“No, sir. Pixie just got a little excited. Can I go into the hall to calm her down?”

“A-OK with me. I’m sure Kekoa or Genesis can fill you in later.”

“I will!” Growlsleeper chimes in.

Skysong bares her teeth and nods. “Thank you.” She starts to stand so you jump up and follow her out.

“What’s a mantine?” you bark again as soon as the door is closed.

Skysong sighs. “After we finish guide training, we’re going to work harder on telepathy.”

You hop up into her lap as she sits down on a long climbing structure that’s only a little bit taller than you are.

“Why?”

“Because people don’t like it when pokémon are loud when people—when humans are talking. And if you’re wearing a guide harness it’s really important that you’re quiet when humans are talking.”

You swat your tails at her. “Humans are boring.”

“I know.” She ruffles your headfur before really scratching your cheek and you lean into the wonderful petting. “Humans also have good things that we both want. We have to be nice to them.”

“I can hunt,” you offer.

Skysong laughs in her high pitch windy way. “Great. Now, can you make blankets?”

“I’m better than blankets.”

“Clothing?”

You stretch out before curling into a ball on her lap. She’s clearly trying to drag this out, so you can afford to get comfortable.

“Falsefur is unnecessary. Sea level is already hot.”

She stops petting you, leaving her forepaw awkwardly hovering above your neck, a finger in striking position again.

“I’m thinking that… well, you might be getting some teammates on Akala. But only for maybe two weeks! Then I’ll let them go and you can be my only pokémon again.”

You lift your head and make eye contact. Challenging her. Even if she can’t see it. “Why?”

She leans back onto her forelegs and her head droops until her chin brushes against the base of her neck.

“I have to catch the paras anyway. I could immediately hand them over to VStar, but I think they might be useful in the trial. Assuming we go straight north. I can’t see why we wouldn’t. If we go the long way then, uh, how do you feel about getting lit on fire?”

You huff, “I’d like to see someone try.”

She bares her teeth in either absolute fear or joyous recognition of your power. “Right. I, um, it would make me feel better if we got a water-type friend for that one.”

“No,” you whine. “Fire turns ice into water and then water hurts fire. I win.”

Why is she already trying to replace you? You’ve been a good fox! She’s not going to leave you. She can’t. You’re being nice and everything! Ice foxes are better than fish (they can’t even breathe on land, much less fight there!) and she’s smart for a human so she has to know that, right? Why is she acting like she doesn’t get it. Like she doesn’t love you.

“Just think about it, okay? I will pick up pokémon for two, three weeks at a time if I need them. If you treat them well, I’ll let you veto any permanent teammates you want.” She starts to get up before you can figure out a response. “And you know what bats are, right?”

Yes. You used to sit at the edge of a hole in the mountain and wait for thinwings to fly out in a giant swarm and then you would fire up sharp icicles and sometimes you’d knock one down and eat it.

“Well, mantine are like giant bats that live in the water. Since you wanted to know.”

*​

You still aren’t entirely sure if Skysong is going to abandon you for a fish, but she has started treating you properly. First, she took you to a store that smelled like many, many other pokémon and got you a harness. You didn’t think you wanted falsefur, but the harness is sky blue with white curvy lettering and it matches your eyes and fur and it is perfect. You will wear it until it breaks and then scream until you are given one that is even better.

Then there was practice inside of a giant building with lots of humans that was thankfully kept cool. And then more practice on a road that was not cool. It took you some time to catch on, but now you are an almost perfect guide fox pretty much all of the time. Even if Skysong did reprimand you when there was this big black moon ring eevee and you had to protect your trainer. Apparently, you are not supposed to protect her when you are wearing the harness. Even from eevee. And you are not supposed to roar at the giant metal boxes humans send down the hard black rivers, even if they are going very fast and being very loud near your very vulnerable human. And one time people were walking very close to your trainer and you almost got stepped on so you jumped in front of Skysong and then she kicked you. She apologized. You weren’t hurt: no human could hurt you. It was fine.

Now you are being rewarded for the excellent job that you did!

Rewarded outside. Which is bad. But there is at least something to hide from the sun under, even if for some utterly unknowable reason Skysong is only keeping her legs in the shade.

Growlsleeper walks back up to you and sets some things down on the structure you’re resting under. “That’s your chocolate, my leppa and,” she bends down under the table and places a small cup down beside you. “Pixie’s vanilla.”

Growsleeper sits down, also only putting her legs in the shade. You approach the cup and sniff it. It feels cold. Smells strange. A little like the paste on Skysong’s toast. Food?

{Yes, food.} Skysong messages. You hadn’t even meant to ask her.

Okay. Food. You stick your tongue out and let the very tip of it sink into the paste. It doesn’t taste like snow. Thicker. A little more solid. It’s familiar, like—oh like the strange floating icicles that showed up right before Thirdborn and Fifthborn got lost. The icicles tasted very good. They were very mean but pretty weak. You start taking very big licks out of the icicle corpse in front of you before it starts melting in the unbearable heat. Pretty soon there is nothing left to lick up and you sit down, your mouth and throat and belly suitably cold. Skysong loves you! Probably.

“Leppa?” Skysong asks. It takes you a second to realize that she isn’t talking to you.

“Oh, yeah, they’re these really sweet berries. Kind of small—”

“I know what leppa berries are. Never heard of them on ice cream.”

There’s a moment of silence above you. Growsleeper crosses her legs and you have to duck to avoid getting hit by her paw.

“Right. It’s actually super common? Like, leppa, chocolate, and vanilla. Except no one actually gets leppa…”

“Hmm.” Skysong scrapes her hollowed-out-claw against the edge of the wood pulp. “Only one place in the village that had ice cream. Owner made it from scratch. Don’t think she sold leppa, but I could’ve just missed it. Never liked the berries’ taste, anyway.”

“Chocolate?” Growlsleeper asks.

“Hmm?”

“Sorry. Just. You led by stating my flavor as a question and uh. Yeah. Kinda thought that. Nevermind.”

Skysong laughs. Was there something funny? A threat? Humans are very strange.

“It’s fine. Honestly just wanted to see how American chocolate holds up.” Growlsleeper’s legs uncross and again you have to dodge a paw.

“How does it?”

Skysong laughs again. Shorter this time. “It doesn’t. As for the vanilla, I read online that vulpix like white foods and I also wasn’t sure what flavors she can and can’t eat. Dog stomach, you know?”

You are not a dog. You do not have a “dog stomach.” You have a fox stomach. But you are wearing the collar so you should not point this out now. No. You will wait and then make your grievances known. Probably by hiding her white stick while she’s asleep. She hates it when you do that.

“How did you know that vanilla ice cream is white?” Growlsleeper asks? Accuses? Both?

“You know most blind people weren’t born blind, right?”

Another swinging kick from Growlsleeper! How dare she?

“I didn’t know that.”

There are a few more desperate scrapings of a claw on wood pulp above you before something gets pushed across the structure.

“I was, though. It’s not the cataracts. I just leave those because my brother said they make me look like a wizard.”

Growlsleeper giggles. Skysong joins in. It’s short but you’re not sure if they’re arguing or not anymore.

“Anyway. Colors. I don’t see them, but other people think they’re important. That means that they’re important for me to know.”

“Okay. But how do you figure out what color things are?”

“I ask people. Or read it in books.”

“Oh.” You think about asking what books are. But then you remember earlier and how Skysong doesn’t like you interrupting so you don’t. Like a very good fox she should love. “I can tell you what color clothes are, if you need help now.”

Skysong’s legs start to shift and you stand up to get out of the way. She abruptly pauses. {Crossing legs.} And then she finishes, legs crossed just above the paws. Nice gesture but it would be better if it came earlier. {It’s reflex. Sorry. Don’t think about it in advance.}

“Thank you. I don’t think I will be buying clothes for a while, though.”

It is very, very warm in the shade. You puff out air and shake yourself off, sending shards of ice clattering to the ground. You get down and roll in them, relieved to feel cold outside of your body.

“Oh. Yeah. I, uh, I meant when clothes break.”

“Break?”

“Y’know? Tears and stains and stuff.”

“I can sew small ones back together.”

Your gorgeous fur is a prison of fire. But you are a good fox wearing a beautiful harness. You will not misbehave until the harness comes off.

“You can sew?”

“You can’t?”

This is boring. What even is sewing? And your ice shards are almost all melted. Now you’re hot and wet and this is maybe the worst thing to ever happen to you.

“You really can’t sew? No one ever taught you?”

“No. That’s not … okay I guess there are a lot of girls who know how, but it’s not really expected or anything?”

“Huh.” There’s a long-bodied mammal at the edge of the clearing. Yungoos! That’s what Grasseyes called it. Should you tell Skysong about it? You will if it gets closer. They’re known to steal food from the bowls of very good foxes. “It’s one of the first things girls are taught in Anahuac. I just assumed…”

Growlsleeper’s voice gets quiet. “Bad for girls over there?”

“Sort of. Girls have options.” You see Skysong’s leg twitch at the edge of your vision, but she stops herself before it moves. “But boys have better ones.”

Interesting. Humans are patriarchal. That makes Bloodrage the leader of the pack. Does that mean you have to take orders from him? You hope not.

“That’s sort of how it works here. Well, same opportunities. But boys get the best ones because xerneas made them stronger and smarter than us.”

The heat has almost fully evaporated the water on you. Now you are only very, very hot. You accidentally flick a tail against Skysong. She ignores it.

“Kekoa’s smarter than me?”

You flick another tail on accident.

{Yes?}

You whimper in heat-related pain and Skysong seems to get your meaning. She fiddles with her belt and takes your pokéball out.

“I didn’t say—”

“Yeah. You did. If boys are all smarter than girls.”

Growlsleeper doesn’t respond as Skysong leans down and reaches out to you. She runs her hands through your fur more than is probably needed to take the harness off. Not that you’re complaining.

“I like to think I’m smart. Smarter than him.” She finishes unhooking the last strap and pulls the harness off in one motion. Maybe a little too roughly. Then she reaches for the sweet nothingness of your pokéball. “But everyone keeps telling me I’m not. Maybe I’m wrong.”

{You can tell me aloud if you’re hot. Even in your harness.}

You bristle and start to growl right before you un-become.

Now she tells you.

*​

You reform on Skysong’s bed. A quick sniff and glance confirms that both of the other pack members are present, but neither of their pokémon are. Interesting scent though. You turn towards it and take a few small steps forward, nose to the ground. There it is! On Skysong’s pillow. It’s… salt? Like the ocean? Why did she throw her pillow into the sea? Even by human standards that is very strange.

Bloodrage makes harsh throat air. “Well, now that you girls are done with your shopping spree, can we get back to business?”

“Just bought a harness…” Growlsleeper mumbles.

Bloodrage ignores her and Skysong doesn’t say anything at all. “Any objections to just heading up Routes 4 and 5 to North Point? Sure, we could go a little out of the way to Royale Avenue but then we’d be cutting it close for castform catching.”

“I’m fine going straight north,” Skysong says before baring her teeth and tilting her head. Uh oh. “How was your excessive force lecture, by the way?”

Bloodrage glares. “Next time you want to be a sore loser, please don’t drag me into it.”

“Or what? You’ll beat me up. And get another talk? Almost worth it.”

“You’re right.” Bloodrage puts his paws together and there’s a sharp breaking sound. “It almost would be.”

There’s a fit of coughing from right above you. Growlsleeper.

“I’m also fine going north. We want to talk about tents and stuff tonight?”

Bloodrage lifts his glare a little bit and crosses his arms. Skysong frowns. Did she want to challenge him? Even though she is female and would lose, since male humans are smarter and stronger? The stalemate breaks. Bloodrage kicks his hindlegs up into his bed and lies down in it, staring at the platform above him.

“Still more road shit to discuss. One night in Heahea. Anyone insist on staying longer?”

“I’m fine,” Growlsleeper says quickly enough that the words blend into each other.

Skysong shrugs. You flick a tail at her to remind her that she is within petting distance of you and is not petting you. She reacts incorrectly by reaching into the harness bag.

“Okay. With that settled, three nights on Route 4.”

“Why,” Skysong asks as she rummages around the bag. “We could do it in one day and not sleep on the trail at all.”

She finally finds what she’s looking for and pulls out—a brush! Not a human one but one for very beautiful fur. Like yours! You hop up on her lap and she takes a second to feel where you are before she starts brushing.

“Says the—” Bloodrage sighs and says nothing as Skysong brushes your mane. “I want to know if the gear works. It’s also a chance to train and maybe capture some pokémon before the trial gets too close. I’ve thought this through. Trust me.”

You press your cheek into the bristles and feel them slide past you and down your neck and side. You immediately turn around and press your other cheek against the brush before she has a chance to take it away.

“Is there still enough time if we do that?”

Bloodrage shifts onto his side to look at your trainer. “Yeah. Thirty-five nights. One in Heahea. Three on Route 4. Three in Paniola. Four on the lower part of Route 5. Three at Brooklet Hill. Six on the upper part of Route 5. Up to fourteen for training, trial, and castform catching. Whatever’s left at North Shores.”

Skysong sets the brush down and you reflexively rush towards her hand and snap your teeth down a hair away from her skin. The betrayal! She looks at you like she’s annoyed and. Oh no. Maybe she thinks you’re going to bite and kill her and now she hates you and is going to get rid of you as soon as she can.

Your trainer sighs and stands up. “More brushing later, Pix. And Kekoa? Your plan’s good enough for now. We can talk more after my shower.”

*​

When humans lick themselves clean they insist on being surrounded by very hot water that makes all the air around the grooming site get very hot as well. You’ve learned to keep your distance and wait on Skysong’s soft bed for her return. She vocalizes under the water. Something about a “witch” and a sky snake. You could easily kill sky snakes. Snakes hate cold. Birds hate cold. They would run the second they saw you but they wouldn’t because you would sneak up on them so stealthily that they wouldn’t see you so they’d die and you would eat them.

She comes out a little bit later hair damp and her body smelling odd (humans apparently lick something with a very strong scent before licking themselves clean). When she sits down you note that she’s cold. Not embraced by lingering heat. Very strange.

“Now,” Skysong says. “Logistics. Let’s start with food.”

“I have a list,” Bloodrage responds. “Mostly freeze-dried and canned stuff that lasts a long time and can be cooked on a camp stove. Ideally it wouldn’t require cooking at all.”

Skysong shakes her head. “No. Too expensive.”

“Two-thirds discount on camping gear for the first month. Applies to most camping food.”

Skysong leans back and folds her arms. “And the discount gets cut in half later. Besides, preservation isn’t an issue.”

Bloodrage rolls his eyes. “Now, if you don’t remember you agreed to a seven-day segment on the trail. No refrigerators there.”

“Depends on your definition of refrigerator.” You get pulled up rather aggressively onto your trainer’s lap.

Yes. You are a refrigerator. The cutest refrigerator. Also, hiding inside of refrigerators is very fun.

Bloodrage crosses his arms to match Skysong. “By the time you get to the end of a day of hiking you won’t want to cook.”

“All I’d have to do is warm stuff up. Not very hard.”

“Like?”

“Beans, cheese, and vegetables on a tortilla. Cooked in advance and warmed up when needed.”

“Can I jump in?” Growlsleeper asks.

“Go ahead.”

“I think I vote for Kekoa’s plan? I don’t want to eat the same thing everyday. And backpacking food sounds exciting.”

Skysong practically hisses as she exhales air. “Fine. See if I care.”

*​

“What are the stars like?”

You look up at Skysong.

“What?”

“My—my brother used to tell me what stars were out, and what he’d learned about them in school. Then I’d share any songs I’d learned about the stars and their stories and we’d just sit there for a while. Sometimes talking about life. Sometimes not. I was hoping… forget it.”

You don’t understand. But you’ll do it if it will make her love you.

“Not many stars. Human lights are too bright.”

“Oh.” She sounds disappointed.

“There are lots and lots of stars on the mountain.”

She lowers a hand and you press your muzzle into it. “Do you have stories about the stars?”

“When the ninetales were stolen by the moon, the rainbow kept sending stars to win us back. And then the moon added some of her own… now there are a lot of them.”

Another hand drops down and she presses both against you, one on each side of your face. A finger from each rubs against your ears. “Do the individual stars have stories? Or the groups of them?”

“Yes.”

“When we get away from the city, can you tell me some of them? I’d love that.”

Love!

“Yes!”
 
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GrayGriffin

Bug Catcher
Pronouns
any
Man, I love the various little details that can come out in random conversations, like Genesis' religious beliefs. And Pixie continues to be the best and I hope that she can make her peace with having other team members.

The "ice turns into water" bit especially made me giggle. She's trying so hard and I love her.
 

Negrek

Whole of the Moon
Staff
Oops, yup, I should have remembered that we hadn't had a Cuicatl POV yet. >>;

You’re the stronger sibling by far because all that brain mass he wasted on vision went straight to your third eye.
Whether that's how it actually works or not, I love that this is how Cuicatl interprets things.

Sickness isn’t really a thing that hydreigon deal with. Their only concept of it is in reference to prey. The same growl can mean very old, very young, sick, reckless, or disabled. Anything easy to kill.
Ooh, I love this little detail.

Twelve battles and you’ve lost them all…
Huh. Damn, that's rough. And kind of surprising? Like Kekoa mentioned, she's had bad luck with opponents, but damn. Maybe she needs to, like, find somebody with a pikipek who isn't Kekoa. Definitely explains why she was so put out last chapter...

Your mouth is free from of the pit but your body hasn’t quite been dragged out yet.
You probably want just one of "from" or "of" there.

even if you rub a finger along it).
It looks like you're missing the opening bracket for this closing one. Or maybe it's a typo itself, heh.

She rises to meet you can hear the faint sound bills landing on the table.
Missing a couple words in there.

Hoo boy, Cuicatl might be our most depressing POV thus far. I found the anorexia on top of everything else especially sad, and I wonder how long she'll be able to conceal that from her teammates, much less her own pokémon. Rachel's right, the wilderness is going to be really tough on her. Once again, I think you made Cuicatl's internal monologue convincing as well as tragic. You can really get the sense of how she could develop such toxic thought patterns and coping mechanisms. Also feel really bad for her about the training problems thing... It's clear just how much being a good battler meant to her. tbh I kind of wish we'd got to see her fight more? We got to look at a couple of her battles last chapter, of course, but... how is she managing to lose so badly all the time? She did quite well against Kekoa, so I'm guessing it's not that she's undermining herself or anything, but perhaps her POV would shed some light on what was happening there.

The time we got with her brother and mom's pokémon were super cute, of course! Extra tragic to see how she's developed from such a relatively happy kid to such intense self-loathing.

And then... another Pixie chapter! The disembodied thoughts while in the pokéball were neat.

Toast, Skysong explains between bites, is the result of humans grinding up strange berries that are always dry, adding small sickness-causing animals, throwing it all in a fire, taking it out and letting it cool, and then throwing it all in a fire again.
Haha, nice explanation, Cuicatl! I'm guessing that's her having to try to put things in terms that a vulpix would understand.

You will help her fix this problem at a later date. Maybe roar in her ear at random times until she stops reacting.
Great plan, Pixie! You should try it.

“Because one of us won’t be seeing anything and I stillswant to make sure that you’ve at least thought about that before dawn Wednesday.”
wordsmush

Skysong’s hand and she moves to cross her legs under you,
Think you're missing a word after "hand."

Your trainer’s lifts just a bit, one claw curled back and pointed down like a snake about to strike down.
Think you wanted "finger" after "trainer's."

You didn’t think you wanted falsefur, but the harness is sky blue with white curvy lettering and it matches your eyes and fur and it is perfect. You will wear it until it breaks and then scream until you are given one that is just as good.
Love it, omg.

Cute(?) that Pixie associates ice cream with the vanillite family. Makes sense, of course.

On Skysong’s pillow. It’s… salt? Like the ocean? Why did she throw her pillow into the sea?
:(

Skysong shrugs. You flick a tail at her to remind her that she is within petting distance of you and is not petting you. She reacts incorrectly by reaching into the harness bag.
omg, Cuicatl. Pixie has been trying so hard to train you, and you just aren't getting it!

Pixie chapters are always fun (you're going to make me eat my words later, aren't you?), and this one is no exception. Once again, I love how you have Pixie try to map the human world onto what she understands as a vulpix. And her many plans for teaching Cuicatl how to behave properly are great. I also like Cuicatl's plan for trying to build a team while also appeasing Pixie. Sort of an N approach to things. I have a feeling it's not going to work out that well in practice, but Cuicatl's really trying to work with Pixie's issues and find something that can accommodate them both. Looking forward to when they do get a teammate and the sparks start to fly, heh. Those little reminders of how desperate Pixie is to be loved and wanted are real stingers whenever they show up.

I'm wondering whether Nameless was VStar's CEO. The personality seems right, but it also seems weird that he'd bother to come down in person just for another trainer group getting its first missions. Said missions sound remarkably non-dangerous or ridiculous. I wonder how long that's going to last. :P

It's nice to move on to that next stage of the plot, too. It's rough to juggle so many POV characters, but the intro has gone on a little long for my tastes. You're a good writer, and you make getting into these characters' heads intreesting regardless, but it doesn't feel like there's been a ton of movement. Like, again, it's hard, since you're just establishing the characters and it's therefore difficult to include much advancement of character arcs either, at this stage. But it's felt like quite a lot of character introduction, and I'm ready to see these characters get out, get doing stuff, and really start bouncing off each other! It looks like that's coming up soon, and I'm excited!
 

NebulaDreams

Ace Trainer
Partners
  1. luxray
  2. hypno
Chapters 4-6

Alright, it was nice to catch up with what's been written so far, even though there's more on the way, and I really enjoyed what I read. Well, maybe enjoyed isn't the right word for certain parts of the story, since it can be very harrowing at times, but it's definitely a good thing. I do have some gripes, but I'll get to that once I've talked more about some of these characters.

My favourite characters are still Cuicatl and Pixie, especially Pixie, and this part in particular not only developed their relationship, but also delved deeper into Cuicatl's psychology and what she's going through. At this point, I might as well address some of her characteristics, with her suicidal thoughts, self loathing and possible eating disorder. This was pretty hard to read, in a good way. From what we saw of Cuicatl before, she was generally cold towards other people, but to see her that vulnerable, especially with the immersive nature of the narration, hit close to home for me. Admittedly, it did feel like a bit too much this early on in the story (because fuck, if we haven't hit the emotional nadir yet, how far is BT going to fall down the slippery slope when the journey starts for real?), but this also brings a lot of depth to her character. Many lesser stories would've glossed this over, but in just the opening chapters, you've already given more complexity to your characters than most fics do in their runtime.

Thank Arceus for Pixie since she adds some much needed relief for Cuicatl's episodes, both in the proper narrative and the metanarrative sense. Being able to see the world through her eyes adds a lot of humour to the situation, and also a nice change of pace from everything else. I can see why you put more emphasis on the other trainers though, as much as I like Pokecentric works. With Pixie's current intelligence (there could be potential for her to gain a human-level understanding later on), she doesn't have a lot of agency, which would make for a really passive and unengaging character anywhere else, but works perfectly here. There were so many little details and interactions I loved, such as her calling Kekoa 'Bloodrage' and Cuicatl informing her on what Mantine are. This is only just a small portion of it, but this sort of thing is why the Pixie chapters are my favourites so far.

Speaking of Bloodrage, Kekoa is also really interesting, even if he isn't the most immediately likeable character of the bunch. The first thing we see him do in his spotlight chapter is wipe the floor with a youngster, almost like how a cat would play with their prey, which is also repeated in his fight with Cuicatl at the end. But again, you have a way of giving your characters a lot of depth, and 1.4 puts into perspective just how vulnerable they are as well beneath the surface. While I haven't struggled with gender dysphoria personally, this really put me into the shoes of someone that does, and all the pain and humiliation that comes with it (the phantom limb stuff, for instance) without other people like Cuicatl realising it. It also serves as an interesting and unique character motivation, especially for the trainer, since the narration sort of implies that they're going on their journey to be able to fund their transition. Again, that doesn't make them immediately likeable, and I could see this causing a lot of friction further down the line when the three are essentially stuck together as journey buddies. It'll be interesting to see how he develops further down the line.

The 2nd person narration continues to add a lot of depth to the fic that wouldn't be possible in any other narration mode. As I said before, Cuicatl's inner monologue wouldn't have as much impact if it wasn't for the fact the voices inside her are tied into the narrator's presence. However, while this comes with a lot of benefits, it also sacrifices the clarity of a few scenes and makes certain interactions really hard to follow, especially where Cuicatl's different Pokemon are concerned in the flashback. This makes sense from a narration standpoint, since exposition like that in this stream of consciousness format would feel out of place, and they were given reminders before, but more reminders/epithets of what their species are, and more reminders of the characters traits in general would give the scenes a bit more flow. I think you should aim for a balance of clarity and immersion.

But anyway, really enjoyed this as usual, and I hope I can catch up with more of the upcoming chapters.
 
Normal 1.7

Persephone

Ace Trainer
Pronouns
her/hers
Partners
  1. mawile
  2. vulpix-alola
Normal 1.7: A White Muk

Genesis

You aren’t sure what you were expecting to feel. But calm? That never occurred to you.

There’s wind in your hair and you know that your locks are only held in place by the weight of the water in them. You closed your eyes a long time ago because water droplets kept flying into them. And you’re standing up on the back of a pokémon on the high seas with giant waves beside you and you feel nothing at all. You almost want to laugh but that would break the moment. So you’re just grinning like a madwoman as water rushes by beneath you and wind beside you. Hours in the temple every week of your life and somehow? Somehow this is the closest you’ve ever been to Xerneas.

“FUCK!”

The peace shatters. You turn around and the mantine beneath you groans. “Oh. No! Not a command. Stay forward.” The mantine purrs again and you keep moving at a noticeably slower pace. You glance back over your shoulder without shifting your weight and accidentally giving an order. Kekoa’s in the water, a receding splotch of orange with his mantine and the guide beside him. The guide looks at you and whistles; your mantine swerves away from the biggest waves and comes to a stop.

Kekoa struggles to get back on his pokémon and then slips off again while trying to get into the harness. It’s mean but you giggle. He can’t hear you anyway. A thought comes to you, a meaner one, and your smile starts to strain your muscles. You practice the line in your head, refining it and thinking of all the variations for when he finally gets on his mantine and comes over towards you with the guide.

He stops right beside you, the guide drifting in somewhere behind. Kekoa frowns. “What are you so happy about?”

“I just love this time of year, y’know?”

He glances up at you. While he’s really hooked up to the harness and you’re standing you absolutely tower above him. More than usual, anyway. “Really?”

“Yeah. I like watching the fall.”

Kekoa just stares at you. For long enough that your mantine gets a little restless and raises a flipper up before splashing it down. The impact sends water straight into his face. He blinks and reaches up to wipe the seaspray off.

“At least I’m trying to do tricks. You’re just gliding along like an idiot.”

Something wells up in you. Something so foreign you don’t quite have a word for it. “Oh yeah?” You get down and start pulling the straps onto your legs until you match his position. “I was just warming up.” This is dangerous. You know it’s dangerous. And yet you’re too calm, too… something to care.

Kekoa taps twice on the harness and his mantine takes off. You follow suit and then go back to gripping the harness’s handlebars for dear life as you quickly reach your comfortable speed. Kekoa’s going much faster ahead of you and starting to head up the slopes. Two more knocks on the pokémon’s back; your hand flies back to the grips right before you go faster than you’ve gone before. Kekoa does a short jump off the slope in front of you and starts rushing back down. Can you do better? Another two knocks says yes. A slap of water in your face makes you realize that you totally forgot to close your eyes. Your hand rises and you almost knock once—slow down—but it quickly flies back to the grip. No. No slowing down. You don’t want to accelerate like that again. You blink rapidly, holding your head down and letting your hair fall in front of it in like a solid wet curtain in a vain attempt to keep more water from coming in. It works okay. You’re probably good to go.

The speed is really something. Every time there’s a crease on the surface your body lifts up and then comes crashing down. Your hands are already getting tired and you haven’t even tried to jump yet. You smile. If you’re going to do this, you’d better do it soon. A hard lean to the side sends you sailing right onto the face of the wave. It takes you most of the way there to realize that you’re screaming out some sort of primal war cry. Right as you start to process that there’s a moment of stillness and you realize that you’re entirely out of the water.

You come crashing back down a second later, another jolt coursing through your body. But you hold on even though you can barely feel your hands anymore, just some generalized pain at the end of your arms. You lean left and mantine follows. A tilt right sends you back up the slope—and you tilt left. No. time to push your limits. You take a deep breath. And then another one. Then you lean right for a fraction of a second, long enough for the mantine to react. Then you shut your eyes and start yelling, yelling to scare the sea or Kekoa or your fears. You feel weightless for a little longer this time before gravity reasserts itself.

Your reaction is faster. One down. One up. One down. One up. One down. One up, roaring again to make sure the wave knows who conquers it. This time you keep your eyes open. It seems you went higher this time. Whether that’s real or it just looks higher because you saw it, who knows? Does it matter?

You can feel the bones in your hand and their lock on the grip. You think your feet are slipping in the harness’s boots. Your knees have taken far more impacts than they’re used too. It doesn’t matter. You lean left and ride on.

*​

Everything is sore, your hands most of all. Yet for some utterly baffling reason you’re still smiling like a kid at a candy store by the time you get to land. It almost feels bad to take the ugly and awkward-fitting life jacket off, and not just because your fingers struggle with the buckles way more than they did a few hours ago.

Kekoa takes his off rather quickly and gets his phone and sandals from the waterproof bag. Without talking to you. Probably still mad that he fell five times and you only fell once (and honestly it was kind of fun once the shock wore off). You stagger back towards the guide’s mantine to return the life jacket and pick up your stuff. He hasn’t actually taken his jacket off yet. And he’s watching you as you approach. Which. Attention. Why? Why attention? Can he not?

“Hey, um, just dropping this off.” Which he knows. Of course.

He takes it as a cue to start talking. “You were pretty great out there.”

“I. What? I just did a flip and fell off.”

The guide laughs. “Okay, maybe not great. But it looked like you were having fun. Sounded like it too.”

You glance aside. Kekoa’s face is buried in his phone. No help. Or hurt. What should you do?

Your choice is made for you: “We could give you a job if you wanted it.” What. “Twelve bucks an hour. On the surf almost every day. Could be way worse.”

You have to consciously close your mouth. Your toes shift in the sand and you don’t bother to stop that. “But I’m not good at it.” Wait should you be arguing against it? Would it be lying if you didn’t point it out or.

“Oh, we can teach you how to do it. Can’t teach you how to love it. We can give you a stipend as you learn if money’s a problem right now.”

You almost keep arguing. But you don’t. If it takes Mom time to come around a job could be good. And it’s fun. But maybe you shouldn’t drop out of your journey without thinking about it?

“Hey, it’s fine if you can’t take it now. Just give us a call if you want it. Tell them Eric rec’d you.”

“Thanks,” you tell Eric. Because you don’t know what else to say. You pick up your phone and flip flops and drop the jacket before heading to Kekoa.

He glances up at you and then goes back to his phone. “Kiwi’s already at the Pokémon Center. Let’s get lunch there and then split up for the afternoon.

Under the tight shirt his pecs are way bigger than you were expecting. He’s not that buff anywhere else; his arms are actually kind of skinny. Kekoa looks up and glares at you. Oh. Yeah. You kind of are being gross. “Yeah, sure, sounds good.”

There’s a bit of silence. Right up until the concrete stairs rising out of the sand. “You taking the job?” Kekoa asks.

The streets are pretty enough. Cobblestone roads with clean concrete sidewalks. A mix of upscale boutiques and smaller touristy stores with surfboards and leis and inflatable sharpedo in the windows. You know he asked you a question but you still take a moment to look at the world before you answer.

“I don’t know. Maybe?”

You come to a stop at a crosswalk. The red hand is up but there’s not traffic. Kekoa looks at you with an unreadable face and then keeps walking into the street.

*​

You peed an hour ago but you’re still staring at the ceiling. The phone clock says it’s only 1:47. You’ve barely had three hours of sleep and you should get more because tomorrow is going to be a long, long day and you’re tired now.

Not that the tiredness is helping you actually get rest. You’ve snuggled up under the covers, counted 120 wooloo rolling down the hill, closed your eyes and focused on the darkness, said the Resurrection Plea fifty times… nothing’s worked. And now you’re getting worked up because nothing’s worked.

Maybe you need fresh air? Is it safe, though? You know you’re near the beach, near Tidesong, but this isn’t your side of town. You really only came over this far to visit Diana and you never walked here. Or never went too far outside at night. Was that because it was unsafe? Or because you just didn’t want to?

Well. You also didn’t have a pokémon then. Maybe you should take Sir Bubbles out on a walk. He is nocturnal after all. Yeah. Yeah, you’ll do that. Just for a little bit. Then it’s right back to sleep for you and right back to the pool for Sir Bubbles. You slowly roll out, wincing at the creaking noises the bed makes. Right above Cuicatl. And she’s probably really sensitive to that. Your feet hit the ground with a thud after you leave the ladder a step early you glance at her in a panic. She’s somehow still asleep. But her vulpix is very much awake and looking at you like you just killed her entire family. “Sorry,” you whisper.

Thankfully you’re already in a t-shirt, skirt, and leggings since you’re sleeping near a boy. You really just have to grab your purse on the way out the door. And of course you manage to make the door shutting into a whole loud ‘boom’ thing. Of course.

*​

The streets are as dead as the halls and pool were. There’s one restaurant—a bar maybe—two blocks down with lights shining from it and a few people milling outside. Nobody between you and the water. You pull Sir Bubbles a little tighter to your chest and start walking to the coast. There’s a faint breeze, enough to make you a little bit cold. You glance up: the skies are cloudy and you can’t see any stars. Oh. Not great weather for a night walk. At least it’s not rain—you aren’t going to finish that thought. No wood to knock on.

Alright. Quick walk. Just the couple blocks to the edge of the beach. The same shops look almost ominous when the light only reaches into the display shelves with rope necklaces and tombstones and shark silhouettes in the place of leis and surfboards and pool toys. You find yourself picking up the pace reflexively. It’s still fine. One car rolls past and turns on to a side street in front of you. It keeps moving so you relax. It’s too quiet. There should be birdsong or people or something beyond the rolling of the waves.

By the time you’ve worked yourself up enough that you don’t feel even a little bit tired you’ve made it to the plaza by the beach. There’s a short concrete wall to lean on and it’s wide enough to set Sir Bubbles down on. Let him look at the water. Not fresh water but he might not know that. And you can always withdraw him if he does make a run for it.

He doesn’t. He does look at you with his wide, expressive eyes for a fraction of a second before turning back to the ocean. After a second he wiggles and deflates a little bit as he lowers himself down to the railing. You giggle to yourself. He’s so cute. Wouldn’t have thought a frog could be but here you are.

Here. You. Are.

The thought isn’t depressing. Calming, maybe. Takes the anxiety and giddiness away in an instant.

Here you are halfway across town and a world away from where you were a month ago. For now. Mom is moody but she loves you. She’ll realize it was all a misunderstanding and come around. If she can find it in herself to visit Exodus once a month she can find it in herself to forgive you. Still. Being with Sir Bubbles. The mantine riding. The job offer. You giggle again. It’s hard to imagine telling Mom that you’re going to be a surfer girl from now on. Would she even know what to say?

No. You couldn’t accept it. They’d spend all that time training you and then you’d just go back to the other side of town. But it was fun. Might be worth trying to get lessons once everything goes back to normal. It is exercise. At least your body feels like it was exercise. And it’s not manly like basketball or corrupting like cheerleading so Mom shouldn’t have a problem with it.

The wind picks up enough that you can hear it. Nope nope nope. Time to go back to your warm bed. After dropping Sir Bubbles off in the–is it a heated pool? Should it be? You didn’t catch him in a heated pond. Huh. You should do some more reading. Probably need to know it for your Class III anyway.

Oh. Right. Your Class III. That test that Cuicatl spent almost a week studying for. You should probably research for that on the trail but. You didn’t bring a guidebook. Were you supposed to? Can Cuicatl and Kekoa just fill you in on the important stuff? Is that cheating?

No. Not now. These are tomorrow thoughts. Or at least bed thoughts. You scoop Sir Bubbles back into your arms and turn around. You immediately realize that you aren’t as alone as you were when you arrived. There are two people in the street. Approaching you. It would be innocent but they’ve got the exaggerated thug walk and. Oh no. This is.

Right on cue one of the thugs drops a boombox and hits a button. Yeaaaaaaah. Team Skull. They step over the boombox and keep walking towards you, their arms joining the exaggerated swinging of their hips. All in time with the beat. Did they practice?

“Did you practice that?”

No. No no no no no no no. Bad Genesis. Get a filter. At least around Skull.

One of the gangsters just laughs. “No practice. We’re just born with the beat in our bones.”

The other looks at him. “Shit, homie, of course we practiced. Drills for days. Making sure we’re bone hard enough to roll with the hardest crew in this whole joint.”

“It’s more intimidating if you don’t mention that,” Skull 1 hisses. Under his breath. So you don’t hear it. You pretend not to, partially out of politeness, partially out of confusion, partially out of fear.

“I ain’t busting my tailbone for a week and not taking credit for it. Shit’s impressive.” He turns towards you. “It is impressive, right?”

“I. Um. Yes?”

“Heh. See? Girl knows we’re professionals to the bone. She’s shaking from her skull to her metatarsals.”

“Metatarsals?” you ask. Your hands immediately fly to your mouth and you kind of accidentally drop Sir Bubbles. He squeaks when he hits the ground. A downward glance shows that he’s very annoyed at you but otherwise unharmed.

The Skulls are nice enough to ignore your mishap. “Toe bones? You been to school right?”

“Yes.” Although you are a high school dropout. Huh. Hadn’t seen that one coming. “And, uh, you?”

“’course I’ve been to school. Dropped out to be a straight up gangsta, no bones about it, but I still got knowledge in my cranium, yo. Now.” Both skulls hold out their elbows and angle their hands in. “Now we’re gonna get bone—”

Light. There’s light in your eyes until it fades into white spots. There’s a crack like a whip and then screaming in front of you. Rapid blinks do no good. What’s going on? What—there’s a pitter patter of feet on the sand behind you. Sir Bubbles. Running to the water. To the salt water. You reach down and fumble with your purse until you feel a plastic orb. Some color has filtered back into the bright white spots. You run your finger along the pokéball—is this how Cuicatl sees everything?—and find the button. You turn around, hold it out, and with no idea whatsoever if you’re pointed in the right direction you click the button. Red light joins the white in the parts of your vision that are more or less back. You think that worked? Would there be a red flash if it didn’t?

There’s another crack and a flash of light behind you that illuminates the beach. You clench yourself together and stand dead still for one second. Ten seconds. Twenty seconds. Most of your vision is back, but when you blink you can still see the white and when you open your eyes you can see the same pattern in faint green.

You slowly turn around. Both of the Skull thugs are on the ground, sprawled out. It smells like burned food. No, burned hair. Like the litten Emily’s sister—uh, what’s her name?—had. There’s a man and a pokemon standing over them. The man’s tall, a little wide, his hair’s a little too long. No uniform or anything. Just a t-shirt and shorts. His pokémon’s just a little bit shorter. Glowing yellow stripes mixed in with black strips of darkness. Electa-something. Vire? No, they’re bulkier, right? Electa… buzz then?

You step back reflexively. Even though it’s fine and they just saved you and. Deep breath. Smile. People etiquette. “Thank you.”

“No need, miss. Just doing my civic duty.” He keeps looking at you with a sort of wicked smile. Like he’s laughing inside, but it might be at your expense. “They hurt you?”

You shake your head and mouth “no.” You meant to say it but it just kind of didn’t happen and it’s best to make it look like you meant to do that.

Your rescuer snorts. “Good. Now, you want a walk home?”

You glance between the man and the ‘mon. It’s just a short walk back. And he’s perfectly trustworthy but your heart rate’s still up and everything still feels like danger. “No thank you.”

He shrugs and steps aside. “Suit yourself, then.”

You mouth and whisper something else, honestly you’re not sure what, and step past him. You get two blocks away in silence. You’d have thought that everyone would be in the streets after two lightning bolts went off but apparently not. Maybe that’s just normal in this part of the city. Or they thought it was just really late fireworks or something.

Yeaaaaaaah. Team Skull.

You whip around and. There’s no one there. No, you can sort of see the two Skulls lying down by the beach. But no one else. The music picks up—the music. By. The. Tree. No one turned the boombox off. No one turned the boombox off.

It starts as a giggle. Then it becomes a laugh. Then it gets louder as it reaches your throat and then your chest. At some point you’re laughing so loud that you’re coughing and crying but laughing nonetheless. No one turned the boombox off. It’s probably not funny but it’s two in the morning and your brain is still locked up and seeing white and no one turned the boombox off.

At some point the wind picks up and the euphoria fades into a faint warmth beneath your skin. There was Skull. And you bantered with them. Then walked away. You got a job offer and survived Skull and the music is still playing and your journey hasn’t even really begun yet.

Yeah. It’s not how you thought it would go. But you’ll take it.

Time to get whatever sleep you can.

*​

“You been in it?”

You do your best to blink the sleep out of your eyes before turning to Kekoa. Why did you agree to leave before dawn? “Hmm?”

“The hotel? You been in it?”

Oh. Right. The Tidesong. Big white building made of limestone or marble or whatever. Even the pavement’s made of something similar. It’s right in front of you, can’t miss it. Unless you’re asleep.

“Yes.”

“And is it just as pretty on the inside?”

It is. The lobby is six or seven stories high and has a series of beautiful waterfall-type fountains curving around it with canals and bridges on the floor. Always some lovely music echoing through it too. Grand Hano’s bigger but Tidesong’s probably prettier. Even if you’d never say that to Dad’s face.

You turn around and see Cuicatl’s vulpix staring ahead. She’s about five feet in front of her trainer facing the big white building with her tails drooping.

It probably reminds her of home.

*​

It’s not that much farther to the gate of Route 4. And it is a very literal gate, ten feet tall and made of sticks and rope with a wooden sign dangling from the top. Is this how all routes start?

Kekoa just keeps walking through with no fanfare. You say a silent prayer for luck as you pass through. You might need it.

The start of the route is classic Alola with palm trees and broad-leaf rainforest plants. Then once you’re… five minutes? Ten minutes? A half hour? Honestly you’re too tired to think about much more than putting one foot in front of the other. Anyway. Once you’re some ways in the plants just die. There’s grass on the forest floor, a few shrubs, even a small fern tree or two. But the tall trees bigger around than you are dead, their bark coated in black, charred ruin.

It’s quieter than you thought a forest would be. Or a route. And in the first however long it is until Kekoa steps off the path to take a break you only see a couple hoot-hoot flying home for the day and a few rattata scurrying along the path. It’s light now so maybe that will wake more stuff up?

*​

Daylight does not wake much more stuff up. A few pikipek, especially around dawn. But as the day wears on and your eyelids get heavier there just isn’t that much going on around you. Cuicatl’s going kind of slow but she’s blind and you don’t really want to go fast so it’s all fine with you.

“What’s it like around us?” she asks from up front.

“Burnt as shit.”

“Controlled burn? Forest fire?”

“Blacephalon attack six weeks ago,” he answers.

You hear Cuicatl almost trip over something—again—before she steadies herself and moves on. “What’s a blacephalon?”

Kekoa sighs. In the dramatic way. “Oh, where to start… so three years back this billionaire chick broke a hole in reality and a bunch of monsters came through. And kept coming through. The bitch is safe in Japan, if you’re wondering. Never going to get at trial. Thousands of deaths and she gets off with less punishment than I’d get for walking past her house.”

You’re pretty sure it hasn’t been thousands. High hundreds maybe. But that’s a bad fight to pick. “Lusamine was sick,” you say instead. “Maybe even possessed.”

Kekoa whirls around to face you. Cuicatl keeps walking for a few seconds before she realizes that the footsteps have stopped. “Who says that? The psychologists she hired?” A step forward. “The politicians she bribed?” A step forward. “Grow up.” He’s staring up at you now, close enough that you can see the sweat rivers on his face and feel his breath. “She was no more fucked in the head than any other asshole with a billion dollars and no real work to do.”

You never met Lusamine. Or her kids (although they’re supposedly nice). His tone still stirs something inside of you. Like you’re the one being attacked. “I choose to see the best in people.”

He actually laughs. Not real laughter. A quick, mocking “hah!”

“Oh man, must be nice being the kid of millionaires, huh?”

Billionaire, actually. Again, not the fight to pick.

“You don’t know me.” Your voice is flat. And… colder than you knew you could make it. You should stop. Draw in someone else to tell Kekoa he’s being rude again. “Cuicatl, you have anything to add?”

“I don’t know the details but I will side with Kekoa here.”

“Eyy, high five—uh, I mean… can I just touch your hand?” Cuicatl holds her hand out and Kekoa slaps it. You’re still registering that she’s on his side? Why? You thought she disliked him?

“I’ve never understood why you let your merchants get away with so much,” Cuicatl answers your unspoken question. “We have businessmen in Anahuac. No billionaires. If someone did that well they’d give the money to the community or the priests or the treasury. The rich serve the people. Not the other way around.” She sounds very proud. Like she built the system herself.

“Yeah, well, that’s why you don’t have any food.”

Crap. Shouldn’t have said that. Couldn’t have. You. You wouldn’t. You’re a good person. And you’re not a racist!

Kekoa stares at you, mouth hanging open a little. Crap. You were mean enough that he’s shocked. Eventually Cuicatl kicks one foot behind the other and spins around in one fluid motion before she starts walking down the trail in silence.

*​

“You’ve got to be kidding me.”

Kekoa grins. “Hey, don’t worry. Kiwi won’t peek.”

“What’s going on?” Kiw—Cuicatl asks.

“Oh, the only toilet in camp is just a seat on the hillside. No outhouse or anything. Hell, not even a back.”

You make eye contact with him for a second before glancing away. “You sound way too happy about this.”

He sticks out his hand. “Hey, you don’t look at mine, I don’t look at yours. Deal?”

“Deal—” he pulls his hand away right before you can shake it.

“Psyche.”

“Girls,” Cuicatl says, “I know you love each other but if you can keep your hands to yourselves while I’m around—”

Kekoa crosses his arms and takes a step back so he can properly glare at. Glare at the blind girl. He turns on you. “What are you giggling about?”

“Nothing,” you answer. Right before an idea hits you! You start walking up the hill to the toilet, letting Sir Bubbles out as you walk. “Sir Bubbles! Use hypnosis on anyone who looks this way!” He croaks, which honestly could mean anything, and you keep on moving, basking in your brilliance.

*​

There’s a row of stumps arranged around a weird metal ring half-buried in the ground. Cuicatl and Kekoa are sitting on two of them when you arrive so you sit on a third that forms a roughly equidistant triangle for optimal socialization. That is how you’re supposed to sit, right? Or were you supposed to sit between them?

Kekoa tosses you a white bag. You aren’t good at catching things so it sails right past you. You stand up, pick up the bag, and sit back down. Thankfully he doesn’t throw anything else at you.

“Freeze-dried potato salad. Just pour in some water, shake and, voila, instant haole food.”

You follow his lead. Pour in about a third—about half of your water bottle and shake it for about thirty seconds. Then you pull out the spoon in your mess kit. The smell hits you before you even see it. It’s not rotten. Just… it’s hard to describe. And the looks. A few clumps of white powder in a soupy liquid. You take another thirty seconds to shake that out and at the end it’s better, but not good. The smell only got worse. You take a moment to look at the other two. Kekoa has a look on his face that you’ve never seen before. Cuicatl is negotiating with her vulpix; the fox has her fur fluffed up in alarm and her eyes are wide open in shock.

“It’s okay,” Cuicatl whispers. “You don’t have to do it.” She stands up and starts walking to you before dropping her sealed white bag in your lap. “Here. Wouldn’t want you to starve or anything.”

“You know,” Kekoa follows up a bit too loudly, “we have to pack out what we don’t eat. If you don’t want that to explode all over the inside of your backpack…”

You look down at the bag. The bags. This is fine. You can do this. You put a spoon in and take it out with your eyes closed. It goes into your mouth and. The taste is bad. Like chugging a white muk. Not that you’ve done that. You can still guess how it would taste since smell and taste are linked. It is those two, right? Might be touch and taste. And if the taste is bad the texture is somehow worse. Grains of sand in a watery goop.

You swallow it down and vow to never do a racism again.
 
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GrayGriffin

Bug Catcher
Pronouns
any
Ooof. Seeing some of Genesis' harsher side here. Curious as to what Cuicatl got to do while the other two rode Mantine-honestly I feel with proper harnessing she could have enjoyed it too, the physical stimulation is just as much part of enjoying that kind of thing as the visuals. Maybe she just didn't feel like it, I guess. Hopefully her perspective clears that up a bit more.

And wow, lots of little jabs here, huh. Guessing that Cuicatl gave her food to Genesis to punish herself for misgendering Kekoa again?
 

Negrek

Whole of the Moon
Staff
Eyy, we're starting on the journey. I've been waiting for this, and I enjoyed this chapter quite a bit!

It’s mean but you giggle.
It's mean, but I'm also giggling. :P Ah, Kekoa, interrupting Genesis' religious experience with a giant "FUCK!"...

Your knees have taken more impacts than they’re useful.
*used to, maybe?

“Kiwi’s already at the Pokémon Center. Let’s get lunch there and then split up for the afternoon.
Just missing the closing quotes.

But her pupper is very much awake and looking at you like you just killed her entire family.
Ahaha. Pixie objects to humans being so damn LOUD.

This is a fun chapter--rather lighter than most of what we've been seeing, especially towards the beginning. I really like the sense of Genesis relishing in her freedom and having all these experiences that are just outside the realm of what she's encountered before--the mantine surfing, the job offer, her nighttime walk and encounter with Team Skull. That's really what the journey is about, after all, getting out of your comfort zone and trying new things. The mantine surf scene in particular is just so much fun, and you did a great job of capturing the feeling of exhilaration mingled with nerves. Really evocative, exhilarating scene to start off.

And OF COURSE I'm here for Team Skull! They're a delight, as always, and I look forward to seeing more of them later. I imagine they'll have slightly more teeth in this story than they do in canon, but there's still plenty of that tryhard gangsterism going on, they're not much of a threat yet, and they are, as always, hilarious. Liking the hints we're getting about Lusamine and the ultra beast plot as well. No surprise that Genesis favors the theory that Lusamine is a nice lady who unfortunately got possessed by an alien and went kinda nuts, sigh. I do enjoy how you've integrated the whole ultra beast plotline into the narrative, what I've seen of it so far. It's so bananas, but so far you've been making it work well in the more realistic setting.

I also like the little hints we're getting about Genesis' background here as well. It's weird, because I actually feel like we know the least about her. Obviously we know she's rich, she's the pokémon equivalent of evangelical Christian, and she ran away from home for some reason, but I like the little details that crept in with this chapter, about her dad owning one of the hotels on the island and how she's still really hoping to get back into her mother's good graces once things calm down. Also, I'm kind of hoping that Exodus turns out to have run away from her oppressive upbringing because best naming decision ever. It's always sad, too, to get details like Genesis being extra upbeat about surfing because her mother isn't going to be able to paint it as too masculine or sinful, like her life is so restricted and she doesn't even recognize it or realize that it's not normal. And then she goes and says something super insensitive again. :X

A very appropriate chapter to start off the more journeyish phase of the story. It's a shakeup from what's come before, and it really feels like the beginning of something new. Super excited to see where the story will go from here!
 

NebulaDreams

Ace Trainer
Partners
  1. luxray
  2. hypno
So, this was a pretty funny chapter, and I think it was well earned, even after the Pixie chapter last time. Although it was a bit lighter on story/action and character progression, for the most part it worked well. The scenes we got with the Mantine, the banter between the three main leads, and especially Team Skull were really entertaining in particular, while also contributing a bit more to the worldbuilding. Although admittedly, I haven't played USUM, it's interesting to see how this fic sort of continues on from that plotline while still being its own thing.

So, Genesis, huh. We've had a chapter with her before, and here, we get to see a bit more of her past, such as the implications about her family, however slight. And while these are good, and it's obvious that Genesis is going to have more development later on, to be honest, she's the character I relate to the least out of the bunch. She does have character, being somewhat cheerful on the surface but still having her bitchy moments (I mean, ouch, she went hard towards the other two with that food line), and is given a slice of humble pie every once in a while. That Muk thing kind of had me cringing, in a good way. At the moment, though, I get the feeling we're not being given the same amount of depth as her other characters have gotten already. Either that, or stuff hasn't really gone south for her yet, considering her lucky streak throughout the chapter. Since the details are pretty vague at the moment, I'm just waiting for the other shoe to drop from her POV.

Anyway, it's exciting to see the journey's about to begin, and I guess we've got another Cuicatl chapter coming soon, so I'm hyped for that.
 
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