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Pokémon [COMPLETE] The Origin of Storms

Chapter 1

Sike Saner

Peace to the Mountain
*aurorus noise*
Hi there. :D What follows is a fairly old fic, first started in '03 and originally finished a year after that. It's been poked and prodded at here and there over the years, but at its core, it's the same story it ever was.

Content advisory: This fic contains strong violence, blood, gore, and depictions of sexual harrassment. There's also infrequent, mild swearing.

He lay down upon a cold, wet patch of grass, though it may as well have been a bed fit for a queen. It was soft and enveloping, like the sudden drowse that was pleasantly consuming him. He yawned, covering his mouth with his hand—her hand, pale-skinned and branching out into five separate fingers.

This was not his hand. This was not his point of view.

Something sky-blue appeared over the pale hand—his own, much simpler, fused hand, surrounded by a soft, multicolored glow. He looked into her eyes, though he knew he didn’t need to. He knew they were closed, knew that their owner slept. On some level, so did he, yet he remained awake. After all, it was only
her sleep, which he happened to be experiencing vicariously. A second-hand sensation.

Her last.

He recoiled from the sudden, stark vacuum where her lifeforce had been. Part of his own went with it, and the torn edges burned white-hot with pain. Disarray exploded in his mind—his cumbersome nervous system hadn’t unsynched in time, and now he couldn’t tell for certain whether he was living or dead, whether he was himself or the lifeless figure lying before him. Overwhelmed, he staggered backward until something caught under one of his pods and nearly tripped him.

His perception, all of his many senses, abruptly froze. For a moment, reality returned. Then he saw the object he’d just stepped on—red, white, and round—and the distinction between himself and the friend he’d just lost blurred even further. This poké ball was his—but also

The poké ball rattled as he lifted it in his shaking hands. The vestigial joints at his knuckles constricted around it, and with a final, caterwauling scream tearing its way through his throat, both the poké ball and his psyche broke into shards…

* * *​

The crack of the poké ball’s implosion blasted him out of the dream, just as it had every time before. He groaned feebly, wishing it had done so sooner. An ordinary nightmare was bad enough. He didn’t need to suffer it from two different perspectives at the same time.

But now, at least, the dreams really were only dreams, no matter how twisted. The pain wasn’t really present; it was only a shadow of the feeling, somewhere between remembered and imagined, and it was finally confined to those nightmares. For too long, it had followed him into his waking life, too.

Peace had been hard-won through the efforts of many over years in the Haven. Lazily, still yet to fully awaken, he opened his eyes and let their inner membranes slide back for one last view of his room there. It was a simple, small space, shut away from the outside world and its rude sun, perpetually shadowed in his preferred darkness.

He flexed his spine and his limbs, detaching his jaws in a massive yawn. There was a series of faint snaps as his joints relocated, followed by another sound: the trilling of the door alarm.

As he got to his feet, the lights came on slowly, gently, a feature for which he was quite grateful. It allowed eyes like his, accustomed to near-total darkness, to more gracefully adjust to the brightness on the other side of the door, which would only open once the light-adjustment process was finished.

He’d have personally preferred for the lights to not come on at all, but most of the Haven’s staff were chansey. Their kind had nothing like the night-vision of his own; they required light to be active and able to perform their sometimes critical work. He’d often wondered why they didn’t just employ some nocturnal species to tend to the dark-sighted, but he’d always let the matter slide.

At any rate, he could tolerate light rather well for one of his kind, for he was used to it. Living with humans (and the hours those humans kept) for part of his life had caused him to develop diurnal habits. He suspected that he’d probably end up half-blind before his first century and wholly so halfway through his second, but it would be worth it. He’d loved those years he’d spent with the humans, and outside of the occasional nightmare, he could now recall them with more joy than sorrow.

The door slid open, and in stepped a chansey, beaming proudly. A nametag clipped to her fur identified her as Teresa. She carried a form attached to a clipboard; somewhat awkwardly, she turned it around so that the paper faced him.

Wobbuffet, male, the form read in unown-script. Designation: Esaax Evergray. He’d been denying that name and the history that came with it ever since his new life among the humans had begun. But now, in his “second new life”, he embraced it once more.

After all, once one gets over a thing like a spontaneous extinction, a little adolescent heartbreak is nothing…

He shook his head clear of such thoughts, determined to stay in the present, and returned his attention to the form. His eyes scanned its surface quickly, skimming over several more lines of personal data until he found he was looking for: 4/15/14…

“Well, this is it!” Teresa said cheerfully, matching Esaax’s thoughts at the moment almost word-for-word. Today, he would leave. Today, at last, he could. “Are you ready for your final tests?” the chansey asked.

“Yes, ma’am,” Esaax answered, careful as always to prevent the automatic door from closing on his tail as he followed the chansey out of the room.

“Now, you do realize this means you’ll have to go see Adn just one last time.”

“I’m not scared of Adn,” the wobbuffet said, and for the most part he wasn’t. A measure of dread snuck into his voice all the same.

“Never said you were, but still, I know his method isn’t the most comfortable…”

“…But it’s what it takes and you’re gonna do it anyway, so…” Esaax shrugged in mock surrender.

“Right. Anyway,” Teresa said as she led Esaax down the hall, “we’ll be saving him for last, which is fine since we have other things to take care of anyway. We’ll just get you in when he’s finished; he’s with another patient at the moment.”

Another door opened to admit the two of them. Therein were all the necessary resources for a basic physical exam, including a living resource: a pokémon who served as Teresa’s assistant—or, more precisely, as her hands. Specifically, this was a mr. mime by the name of Madeline. Her large and agile hands were well-suited for tools and equipment made for the very similar hands of humans, the sort of things for which the tiny, nearly-featureless paws of a chansey tended to be inadequate.

“Why, look at you!” Madeline said. “We don’t really need to look him over, do we, Terry? He’s the very incarnation of health right here, I’d say.”

She came up to stand before him and studied him with an eyebrow raised and a finger resting on her lips in a way that one might gaze at a work of art. Then she smiled and said, “Still working out, I see. Bet we’ll fill this place twice over after you get out with all the women you’ll drive crazy, you handsome blue devil.”

Esaax averted his gaze. Flirting and teasing from Madeline wasn’t exactly anything new, but it put an unpleasant taste in his mouth regardless. He sincerely hoped she was just joking around, but if she wasn’t… Esaax tried very, very hard not to think about that possibility.

At any rate, her observation was correct—or the part about him working out was, anyway. Esaax had indeed been on a devout physical training regimen for quite some time now. Though Madeline liked to make him out to be some kind of beefcake, such wasn’t the case at all. The effects of his training, though visible, weren’t dramatic. Esaax was no bodybuilder; the point of his training was simply to help him harness and become aware of the strength that he already possessed.

The idea to start him on such a program had originally arisen from the poké ball incident that had inspired so many nightmares. As was common among his kind, Esaax hadn’t known the full magnitude of his own physical strength on account of being unable to use it against another living creature. As such, Esaax had been told that it might do him some good to become conscious of his “idle power”, lest anything else fall victim to it.

He’d agreed to this instantly. All his life, he’d broken things by accident; the chance to learn how to leave his klutzy side in the past was irresistible. On top of that, he’d soon discovered that the workouts also had the benefit of keeping his mind as busy and strong as the rest of him.

While he no longer needed the exercise in the therapeutic sense, he still enjoyed it as a hobby. He’d often wondered where he might train once he was released and had ultimately decided on the old human gym down the street, which fighting-types frequented.

He imagined that if he did go there, some machamp or maybe a hitmon of some kind might pick a fight with him—he figured they’d be unable to resist the allure of a psychic they could whale on without fear of eating psybeam. One or another of them would just let loose with the mega punches and seismic tosses, only to have those attacks thrown right back in their face, doubled in power…

The thought of such a thing was just too funny. Esaax started chuckling aloud, but stopped when something cold pressed itself against his chest. He looked down at the stethoscope for a moment, then met the gaze of the mr. mime who’d put it there.

“Uh… Teresa? Are you okay?” Esaax asked. “You’ve never had to have her do this part before.”

“She insisted,” said the chansey.

Madeline just stood there with a smile suggesting that she had more on her mind than anything Esaax’s heart was doing.

“In fact,” Teresa went on, “Madeline asked if she could handle the entire examination herself. And I told her she could.”

Esaax’s mouth opened to protest, but something made his voice die in his throat. All he managed was a sigh. Just get it over with…

* * *​

Minutes later, Esaax left the room alongside Teresa, trying not to think about what had just transpired. More than ever, he was grateful that his time at the Haven was nearing an end.

“…So now what?” he asked, hoping the answer was something other than just waiting around. A distraction sounded like a very good idea right about now.

“Well, you could have your RE test now, or would you rather have something to eat first?”

An easy question. “I think you know.”

“I do,” Teresa said with a chuckle.

The two stopped in their tracks as another chansey stepped into their path from around the corner. “He’s here,” the newcomer said.

“Oh good,” Teresa responded. “Tell him to wait in the cafeteria, okay?” She turned to Esaax. “I forgot to tell you, Esaax. A friend of yours has come to pick you up. You can chat with him over breakfast.”

The news took a second to click. “Wait, really? Who?”

“Go and find out for yourself! I’m going to check up on Adn again and see if he’s anywhere near ready. See you later!”

Esaax watched Teresa waddle off, then made his way to the cafeteria, feeling awfully puzzled for someone who was supposed to have achieved clarity at last.
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Pokémon Trainer
Yo! I’ve been meaning to check out your work for a while, although with such a big backlog to go through, I wasn’t sure where to start at first. Seeing how this forum started not too long ago, I thought this was a good opportunity to start checking out your work.

I like where this is going so far. I thought the description was really good at getting into the head of Esaax, and through the internal narration, we’re starting to get bits and pieces about the world, which is shaping up to be unique for a Pokemon fic. It appears to take place post-human-extinction, that Esaax had outlived them somehow, and that the world just seems to be picking up the pieces after the humans left.

There are a few things that hold this back from being a really great opening chapter, as well written as the prose is. At the moment, I don’t get a good sense of what Esaax’s motivations are or where the story is going in the grand scheme of things. I say this keeping in mind this is the opening chapter of the first fic in an established series, so I know things will be made clearer further down the line. Once we start seeing more of the world and what role Esaax plays in it, I’m sure it will pick up momentum over time.

Still, you’ve got my attention, and I will be checking out the later chapters to see which direction this goes.

Sike Saner

Peace to the Mountain
*aurorus noise*
NebulaDreams: Picking up the pieces indeed! That's one of the things about dealing with an apocalyptic/tragic/what have you situation: you can go into detail about what happens to the victims, but you can also go into detail about what the survivors are going through--two types of potential gut-punches for the price of one. It can be pretty fun to work with. 8D

Yeah, Esaax is going to have more in the way of actual motivators once he gets to actually interface with the outside world again. At the moment, he's mostly just got his mind on getting through the last steps between here and there.

Thanks lots for the read 'n' reply! :D
Chapter 2

Sike Saner

Peace to the Mountain
*aurorus noise*
Chapter 2 – Just a Little Favor

With a large amount of food in tow, Esaax scanned the cafeteria for the mystery visitor but found no sign of him. So he opted to stop at a table, set his tray down, and let this friend—whoever he wascome to him.

Before long, he spotted an arbok entering the room, at which his mouth fell open in surprise. Is that… he wonderedonly to realize just as quickly that yes, his visitor was exactly who he appeared to be. For the first time that day, Esaax smiled.

The arbok had noticed Esaax in the same instant and rushed to greet him without hesitation, failing to notice both the skiploom he ran over in the process and the sound of her squeaky voice cursing him out immediately afterward.

“Syr? What in the world are you doing way out here?” Esaax rose and gave his old friend a massive hug as the arbok came to a stop beside the table. A bowl of oatmeal seemed to fall out of thin air, spilling all over Syr’s chest. Esaax had been balancing it on his head and had forgotten about it. “Oops…”

“That’s okay,” Syr said through gritted teeth, shaking off the hot oatmeal (which thankfully didn’t land on anyone else).

“Man, I haven’t seen you in years,” Esaax said before taking his seat once more and devouring an entire watmel berry in one bite. “Thought I’d never see you again—what are you even doing all the way out here?” he asked again.

“I live here now,” the arbok replied. “I found a pretty decent place. In fact, you can stay there for a while if you’d like. Would you?”

“Don’t really have anywhere else to go, so yeah, sure. Hey, I’ll even move in with you. Wouldn’t want you to be all alone, after all…”

“But I’m not alone. I adopted a son.”

Somehow Esaax hadn’t seen that one coming. He nearly choked on a brownie. “Okay… so I’m gonna be sharing a house with a giant, venomous serpent and his bitey little snakeling?” he joked.

Syr gave him an odd look. “He’s not a snakeling, he’s a snorunt. His name is Jeneth, but we just call him Jen. And yes, he knows bite, but he doesn’t just randomly use that on people.”

“Snorunt? This is the wrong climate for those.”

“Tell his kind that. Supposedly, a bunch of glalie decided to settle in these parts, though I can’t imagine why they would’ve wanted to, and most of the people I know say that they’ve seen at least one around, too.” He shuddered. “Brrr. I get the creeps just thinking about them…”

“Huh. So where is he?”

“Waiting in the car.”

“You left a baby outside in a car?”

“He’s not a baby. He’s a young man,” Syr said.

“Whatever. You still shouldn’t have left an ice-type out there under the sun.”

“He’s in the shade, Esaax. It’s his car; he drives it, and he gets to decide where to park it.”

A snorunt driving a car. No, nothing funny about that image… With a faint snicker, Esaax turned away from the topic of Jen and back to his gluttony.

“You still haven’t explained how someone your size could possibly need to eat a third of his own weight every day,” Syr teased.

“You still haven’t explained how someone your size can only need to eat once a month,” Esaax retorted. “But who cares? What I really wanna know about is—” Esaax saw Teresa heading their way. “Whoops, looks like we’ll have to talk about it later.” He shoved the remainder of his breakfast down his throat at once and waved at the chansey.

“What’s going on?” Syr asked.

“RE test. It’s just this exercise to make sure that some of my more… uh, complicated systems are working all right. They might let you watch if you want.”

“You can do more than just watch,” said a voice from beside Syr.

Syr hadn’t bothered to look and see whom Esaax had waved at; as such, Teresa’s unexpected voice nearly scared him right out of his skin. “Waaugh!” he shouted.

“Daria could seriously use a break,” Teresa told Esaax, unfazed by the arbok’s outburst. “You could participate in her place,” she then added to Syr.

Syr gained a somewhat worried expression, still unsure what the chansey and wobbuffet were actually talking about, let alone if it was anything he should want to have any part of.

“It’s pretty easy,” Esaax said. “And it doesn’t take long.” He hoped Syr would agree to help out. Otherwise there was no telling who might end up substituting for Daria instead.

If there was any chance Madeline might get called in…

Syr sighed. “Well…”

* * *​

Next thing Syr knew, they’d brought him into a very large and entirely empty room. It didn’t look at all equipped for any sort of medical testing. “I still don’t get it,” he admitted to Teresa. “What are we going to be doing here, exactly?”

“We need to make sure his retaliatory abilities are in good shape. To do this, they must be triggered. That’s where you’ll come in,” the chansey said.

Syr blinked nervously, nearly certain now that he knew what was being asked of him and hoping he was wrong. Reluctantly, he reached for confirmation. “Esaax, what do I have to do to trigger these… abilities?”

“Attack me.”

“Oh no.” The arbok looked to Teresa with a hint of desperation in his eyes. “…Are sure there’s no one else who could do this?”

Teresa sighed. “I’m afraid not,” she told him. She then ushered Syr aside, motioning for him to lean in toward her. “It will smart, yes,” she said, her voice lowered. “But it’s crucial that we do this. It’s to make sure his tail’s all right. He’s sustained some kind of trauma to it before, and very serious complications can arise from a tail injury in his species—and already have, in his case. We do not want him going into crisis again… do you know what that is?”

Syr shook his head.

“Autoempathic crisis is a vicious cycle caused by damage to a wobbuffet’s tail—or more specifically, to the pseudobrain in the tail, which is the source of their ability to use retaliatory attacks,” Teresa began to explain. “In crisis, the pseudobrain fails to distinguish pain with an internal cause from pain caused by an attacking enemy. It retaliates, involuntarily, by inflicting twice the pain on its source as usual—but with the source being the wobbuffet itself, it only creates a new, greater pain that it must also counter. The cycle continues repeating, doubling the pain again and again, until the agony reaches a level that the wobbuffet’s body just can’t bear any longer.

“I was there when he suffered his last crisis—it was awful. The convulsions, the screaming… God, how he screamed…” she whispered, sounding lost in the memory for a moment. “He was almost too far gone by the time we managed to stabilize him, and the dosage of painkillers it took to break the cycle nearly killed him in and of itself.”

“My God…” Syr said almost voicelessly, both amazed and alarmed. “You know… just for the record, I think the ‘trauma’ to his tail you mentioned was someone stepping on it,” he said, not naming that someone out of respect for the dearly departed. “More than once. Accidentally,” he added quickly.

“Yikes,” Teresa said, grimacing. “Well, anyway… the damage to his RE centers can never be fully repaired. He’ll never be entirely out of the woods. We may be forced to… well, to remove his tail if it gets out of hand again. So hopefully you see why it’s important that we’re made aware of any continuing problems he might have—we need to be able to take care of them before they get a chance to blow up in his face again. Will you help us?”

“Of course,” Syr said. “Still, I don’t really want to hurt him too much…”

“Just one acid and one bite,” Teresa said. “One special attack and one physical attack so we can gauge both responses.”

“You’re not testing his destiny bond?”

“Luckily for both of you, no.”

“Okay… okay, I can do that.” Syr turned toward Esaax and slithered somewhat closer to him, still nervous but knowing that he had to go through with this for Esaax’s sake. He called upon his acid technique, trying to keep it relatively weak so as not to hurt his friend—and by extension, himself—more than was necessary. The acid swiftly filled his mouth, and he spat it in a forceful spray toward Esaax.

Esaax was ready. His tail rose, its oculons collecting a broad spectrum of data about his opponent and any incoming attacks. Focusing hard, he opened the pathways to his retaliatory empathy centers. Doing this so consciously and deliberately was difficult for any wobbuffet, but years of practice had finally allowed him to master this ability. A bright pink aura flared around him as the acid hit its mark and seared the skin of his left arm, sending an amplified echo of the pain that the poison-type attack had caused back unto the arbok.

Syr shouted in pain and recoiled, surprised by the force of Esaax’s mirror coat—it seemed he hadn’t weakened his acid attack as much as he’d intended. “Sorry…” he said, at which Esaax made a dismissive gesture despite the pain in his expression.

“Very good,” Teresa said to Esaax. “Now this time, try to suppress it. Hit him a little harder, Syr,” she added, earning a rather uneasy look from the arbok.

This time, Esaax braced himself. His efforts to develop his abilities had enhanced them to a point where it took very little to set them off. As he took Syr’s second acid attack in the other arm, he had to fight hard to suppress his body’s urge to retaliate. Luckily for Syr, Esaax succeeded.

“Excellent! Syr, change attacks,” Teresa commanded.

Syr lunged forward in a bite attack, his fangs taking on the violet-black glow of dark-type energy as they connected with Esaax’s side—but he made a very conscious effort not to let them sink in too deeply. An orange flash heralded what was nonetheless a very strong counter attack, and the arbok was sent reeling back with a cry.

“What the…” Syr’s voice faltered as he struggled somewhat to pick himself back up off of the ground, panting slightly. “I’m holding back. I swear I’m holding back.”

“I’m sure you are, but you’re still hittting a psychic pokémon with a dark attack,” Teresa said. “Now bite him again.”

Syr opened his mouth… but then closed it. His brows were drawn together with worry.

“He’ll suppress it this time. You ought to be fine,” Teresa assured him.

Syr hesitated for another moment, then gave a quick nod and approached the wobbuffet again. He stopped in front of him, then gave one of his hands a very weak little nibble, with a negligible amount of dark energy accompanying the attack.

“You’ll have to do better than that,” Esaax said.

Syr bit him harder. Barely harder.

“That one didn’t really count, either.”

“Do it, Syr,” Teresa said rather sternly.

“Okay, okay!” In his haste, Syr’s jaws snapped shut on their target with full force. Esaax cried out, and the sound echoed in the room for several seconds. The arbok quickly let go of him and cringed, but there was no orange flash and no painful retaliation.

There was, however, an irregular semicircle of deep punctures around Esaax’s chest and left shoulder. The wobbuffet panted as he stared, quite astonished, at the wounds. Syr stared at the damage as well, looking equally surprised and deeply apologetic.

Teresa managed a proud smile at Esaax. “Congratulations,” she said. “If your tail can resist that, it can probably resist anything.” Her frown swiftly returned as she watched the rivulets of cobalt-colored blood now seeping from Esaax’s wounds. “Looks like your prize for passing the test is going to be a healthy dose of hyper potion…”
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Chapter 3

Sike Saner

Peace to the Mountain
*aurorus noise*
Chapter 3 – In Review

Esaax’s wounds were cleaned and repaired, leaving only a faint series of scars where the stronger bite had connected and nothing at all of his lesser injuries. Soon afterward, Teresa informed him that Adn was ready for him. Esaax told Syr to find somewhere comfortable to wait, then headed for Adn’s office. With a deep, steadying breath, he walked in of his own accord where once he’d have had to be pushed.

Behind that door stood a blue-haired gardevoir, who served as the Haven’s psychic regression therapist. His method was to make patients relive various moments in their pasts and gauge their present states of mind by their conscious and subconscious emotional reactions to their induced recollections. Despite the marathon session that he was reported to have just endured, he still looked as far from exhaustion as one could possibly be.

As always, not a word was spoken and no signal was made as Adn and his patient took their places. The scene of the office blurred and warped, swiftly replaced by very different surroundings. Once again, Esaax found himself thrust into a perfectly vivid replica of a scene from his memory. Now standing in this bygone time and place like a tourist in his own past, his regression began…

* * *​

Esaax was born fifty-four years ago to the Evergray clan of the caves south of Blackthorn. His childhood was quiet and uneventful; not much changed from night to night until Esaax reached his mid-thirties. It was there and then, at the dawn of his adult life, that one evening brought something new—something that would alter the course of his life forever.

From faraway Hoenn, a nomadic branch of a clan called the Fade somehow journeyed across the sea and into Evergray territory. The foreigners were readily welcomed and allowed to stay as honorary members of the community while in the area.

Among the visitors was a wobbuffet by the name of Ntairow. She and Esaax began spending time together and soon bonded, first as friends, then as lovers.

Then, only a few months after arriving, the Fade moved on. Though Ntairow demanded to stay, and Esaax offered up his own pleas for her to remain with the Evergray clan, the elders of the Fade wouldn’t allow it. Ntairow was forced to depart with the rest of her clan, held and carried away in the arms of her people, leaving Esaax behind.

Esaax refused to accept this. He left the caves and tried to follow the Fade through the mountains, but he failed to catch up with them. The nomads were relatively swift, hardy, and used to traveling, whereas Esaax was out of shape. He collapsed there on the mountain trail under his very first sunrise.

He lay there for hours, breathless, heartsick, hungry, sunburned, and alone. Then some peculiar creatures came up the mountain trail and discovered him. They were humans, and they’d come in search of unusual and uncommon pokémon to give away as prizes at the Goldenrod Game Corner. Drained as he was, Esaax could do nothing to resist the red beam that pulled him into a very strange state of not-quite-being.

Week after week went by, spent largely in the confines of what the humans called a “poké ball”. He was let out only to be fed, and the portions given to him were much too small and too infrequent for his liking. As time passed, he began to lose hope of ever finding Ntairow again. Learning that he was the first and only wobbuffet acquired thus far by the Game Corner, with a price in game tokens no one was likely to win, made him all the more certain he wouldn’t.

Then one day, quite literally against the odds, a man from Palmpona cashed in enough tokens to take him home. Esaax was more than a little surprised to materialize not in the Game Corner’s back room but rather in the midst of a birthday party as a present for the man’s son, Benny.

Now in the hands of different humans, Esaax lived a very different life. Benny liked his new pokémon a great deal, and a strong friendship between the two formed quickly. Wherever the human boy went, Esaax went with him, and Esaax never had to go back into the poké ball once he’d made it clear that he disliked it.

Esaax lived this way for three years, and he loved it. He would’ve liked things to remain just as they were forever. But in Palmpona, it was inevitable for every pokémon to ultimately become fodder for the town’s trading obsession. Though Esaax didn’t understand Benny’s desire to trade him, he agreed to respect the young human’s wishes, allowing himself to be put up for trade out of gratitude for the kindness Benny had shown him.

As it so happened, the year Esaax was involved in the trade expo was the first year in its history in which things went awry. Thus it was that he accidentally became a member of Team Rocket. His partners consisted of two humans and four pokémon, one of the latter of which was able to speak the humans’ language. Though the Team Rocket way of existence was riddled with misadventures, Esaax came to find it amusing in a strange way. Fun, even.

Esaax’s new owner, Jessie, didn’t really understand much of anything about him, though—not his language, his needs, or his proper use in battle. She also failed to understand his feelings about being kept in a poké ball, but by that time he’d learned how to break out of one, much to her vexation.

While in her possession, the problems with his tail first began to rear their heads. One day found him going into autoempathic crisis and very nearly dying from it. Nearly losing him awakened a much greater appreciation for him in Jessie, and she soon became the best human friend that he’d ever had.

Unfortunately, not long after they’d finally connected in earnest, the world changed for pokémon—and ended for humans. A plague of fatal sleep mysteriously struck the entire human population all over the globe, bringing extinction to the species in just a matter of hours.

With Jessie gone and something of himself lost with her, Esaax fled the scene of her demise and wandered for days in shock. Sometime later, once his spirit had begun to mend itself, he began seeking out old friends, hoping they’d provide a foundation on which to rebuild his life. In particular, he sought his pokémon partners from Team Rocket. Ultimately, his quest yielded six no-shows, one rejection, and one successful reunion. That reunion was very promising in the beginning, but ultimately led to tragedy.

That was the last straw—Esaax’s stability was dealt the killing blow. Once again, he tried to run from his sorrow. Eventually, he found himself in the city of Convergence. It had once been a fully-integrated community, in which pokémon had lived, worked, and learned in many of the same ways the humans did. Following the Extinction, many of the pokémon there continued to live the lifestyles the humans had taught them, perhaps as an act of remembrance.

But Esaax had no more luck in finding serenity there than he’d had in any of the other places he’d searched. He fell into a spiral of sickness and despair that finally culminated with him trying to provoke a houndoom into killing him. She instead took pity on Esaax, delivering him to the Haven and thus to salvation…

* * *​

With a quick yet gentle severing of mental connections, the session ended. It was still hard to believe that over half of a century could be compressed into less than five minutes. As far as Esaax was concerned, though, how it was possible wasn’t important. It was what it determined that mattered.

Usually, Adn would dismiss Esaax with a simple, psychic signal, not saying a single word. This time, much to Esaax’s surprise, was different.

“I see that the sorrows of your past can still evoke pain in you, Esaax,” the gardevoir said.

Esaax pondered that for a moment. Then he wilted. “You mean I failed the test?”

Adn burst into laughter so suddenly and unexpectedly that Esaax flinched. “No, no!” the gardevoir said warmly. “You’ve passed! If the memories of your grief and despair hadn’t hurt, then you would have failed. You ache where it is appropriate, and you rejoice where that is appropriate. For you, that’s what’s healthy. Numbness is not.”

“…So I can go, then?”

“Yes, you certainly may,” the gardevoir said, smiling proudly. “Farewell, and good luck to you!”

* * *​

The time to return to the world at large had finally come. As Esaax stood before the exit next to Syr, he bade farewell to the people who’d taken such good care of him. Teresa made him smile, Madeline made him feel slightly ill, and a skiploom he didn’t even know just baffled him by doing something very rude with her tiny arms (which Esaax didn’t realize wasn’t intended for him). Adn was absent, apparently already engrossed in another session, but he sent his kind regards with Teresa.

On the verge of tears, yet beaming like the sun, Esaax thanked everyone for their support and waved one last goodbye. Then he passed through the doors as they opened, emerging into the outside world for what felt like the first time in eons.


Rise Toward Descent
It's always fun to come back to stories like this; you find something new each time. And it's wild to think of how long it's been since I first encountered this fic! Still remember the old banner on Serebii--done by Saffire Persian, I think? Or maybe it was Scrap. Good memories, eh? :)

In any case, coming back to this story again what probably strikes me the most about it is how very different it is from the majority of fanfic. I don't think I've ever seen another fanfic about a mental hospital for pokemon, for example, even putting aside everything about the human extinction, fakemon, and so on in this fic. How many stories really get into the psychology of pokemon one way or another? And your careful consideration of pokemon anatomy and physiology is as excellent as ever. The opening scene where Esaax is experiencing another point of view secondhand is great and, again, something so rare to see in fanfic: somebody doing weird and fun things with pokemon perception that wouldn't make sense for a human. All in all this is a story that does a ton of novel things, and it continues to stand out as a result. This is definitely a fic (and series of fics) that only one person could have written, and that makes them especially memorable. As always, thanks for sharing them with all of us.

Another great thing to come back to is the humor in the story. Even despite the darkness, your stories reliably put a smile on my face. And you have a great sense of comedic timing and how to build a joke over time. Syr's little skiploom "friend" is probably my favorite humor bit in these early chapters, for example, and the fact that you bring the joke back for a stinger in Chapter 3 is great and a fine example of your strong sense of comedy.

The end of Chapter 3 is so upbeat and optimistic! Ahaha... oh dear. Now that we've gotten a bit of backstory and scene-setting out of the way, we can get on to the real good stuff, am I right? ;)

Sike Saner

Peace to the Mountain
*aurorus noise*
Negrek: This fic really is a dinosaur, isn't it. :B Not sure what kind, though. I kind of want to say carnotaurus because those things are hilarious. And yep, I remember the banners, too. I've saved every single one over the years.

Thinking back, I can't for the life of me remember actually coming up with the skiploom; she just sort of Happened, I guess. I think most if not all of the gags were that way (which in turn makes most if not all of the bricks only semi-intentional, I suppose?). So were a lot of the one-off characters, for that matter.

But of course the chapter ends on an optimistic note; this is a Cheerful, Happy story wherein nothing bad happens, nothing whatsoever!

Why no, no I couldn't type that with a straight face. :B

Thanks lots for the read 'n' reply! :D
Chapter 4

Sike Saner

Peace to the Mountain
*aurorus noise*
Chapter 4 – The Messenger

The nearest place to park in the shade was five blocks away from the Haven. Five blocks to walk under the harsh midday sun, which Esaax hadn’t been under for years. He certainly wasn’t enjoying it, and he continued to wonder how in the world a snorunt could tolerate it at all, shade or no shade. He still halfway expected to find a little gray-and-yellow corpse sitting behind the wheel—or perhaps just a puddle…

Breaking away from that train of thought and the rather morbid turn it had decided to take, Esaax tried to distract himself from the light and the heat. “Hey Syr. Think Jan’d let me drive? It’s been a while.”

“It’s ‘Jen’, Esaax, not ‘Jon’,” Syr corrected.

“I said ‘Jan’.”

“Well, whatever you said, it was wrong. Anyway, no, you can’t drive this car.”

“Yes I can,” Esaax said a bit crossly. “Just tell him to point the way.”

“I’m sorry, but it’s just not gonna happen. Besides which… well… I haven’t forgotten your record with vehicles. Every time you tried to drive something, anything, you’d break it or wreck it, or else you’d just—”

“But they fixed that at the Haven,” Esaax interrupted. “They made me stronger so I can be more careful and less likely to break things.”

The arbok at his side raised a scaly eyebrow at him. “…Somehow that doesn’t sound quite right.”

“I’m not gonna wreck it! Just let me drive the stupid thing!”

“I’ll only say this one more time. Listen very carefully. You can’t drive this car,” Syr said.

Esaax was about to argue some more, but then he actually saw the car—a copper convertible—for himself and knew at first sight that Syr was absolutely right. The wobbuffet couldn’t drive it, no matter how much he wanted to or how carefully he thought he could. The driver’s seat had been modified, reshaped expressly for small species to put everything within their reach. The space was so small and everything in it crammed so closely together that it would have been awkward to the point of impossibility for someone Esaax’s size to occupy and use.

And there was indeed a snorunt behind the wheel. Despite Esaax’s concerns, the ice-type was very much alive and well. Jen scrutinized Esaax through beady little eyes, nibbling every few seconds at a tropical snow cone as he stared. “That’s him?” he asked.

“Yes, this is Esaax. Esaax, this is my son, Jen,” Syr said.

“Uh… hi,” Esaax greeted him with an awkward little wave.

“Hi,” Jen responded, continuing to stare at Esaax. Then he smiled at the wobbuffet, further baring teeth that looked more than capable of taking off an arm. “I’m very happy to meet you, Esaax. You can ride up front with me if you want.”

Esaax shivered, finding that smile more than a little unnerving. But it looked as though he didn’t really have much choice with regards to the seating arrangements; Syr was really too big to ride anywhere but in the back, and it’d be more than a little cramped if Esaax joined him. Most of his body could handle the compression just fine, but his tail gave him pause.

So Esaax took his place next to the snorunt, albeit reluctantly. The arbok got in after him, coiling loosely across the back seats, and within seconds they were all on their way.

“So uh…” Esaax said to Jen shortly after they’d headed off, chatting more out of nervousness than actual interest, “how do you plan on driving this thing once you evolve and don’t have hands anymore?”

“He’s not evolving,” Syr said.

“Now that’s not fair,” said Esaax. “You can’t forbid him to evolve just because you’re scared of—”

“No, it’s all right,” Jen assured him. “I don’t want to become a glalie. If he said ‘do it’, I wouldn’t. I wouldn’t do it for anyone.”

“Huh. I always thought it’d be kind of neat to evolve,” Esaax said.

“You never have?” Jen asked.

“Well, yeah, I have, before I was born. But that doesn’t really count.”

“Huh… Anyway, it isn’t just ‘kind of neat’. It’s major. It’s not just your shape that changes—your whole life changes. Especially when it comes to changing into a glalie…”

Jen gave a small shudder and went dead silent, apparently not wanting to proceed any further with that topic. Luckily they arrived at their destination just then, preventing things from getting much more awkward.

The three of them entered the house, and the interior caught Esaax by surprise. This had once been a home for humans, and outwardly it still looked like one. But on the inside, only a scattered few furnishings, such as a television and a large, gray sofa, still spoke of its former residents. In the place of human décor, the home had largely taken on a more natural appearance, fashioned into a curious amalgam of a woodland burrow and a cave.

Esaax tossed himself onto the sofa like a bean bag and stared up at the ceiling and the artificial stalactites that hung there. Their points hung a lot closer to the ground than the ones he remembered from Evergray territory; he had to shoo away an sudden, unbidden mental image of one of them breaking off and falling on him. “How long did it take to put all this together?” he asked as he turned his gaze back toward the arbok, indicating his surroundings with a wave of his hand.

“Couple of months,” Syr answered. “We started right after I got Jen. We actually had a pretty small team working together on it; I’m surprised the work went by so fast.”

“I think it’s cool,” Esaax said. “You guys did a good job.”

“Nomel cookie?”

That wasn’t Syr. Esaax looked over to his right and found Jen offering him some dainty-looking little cookies on a tray. There was that disturbing smile again—was that a smile? Man, that kid’s creepy, Esaax thought. He took two of the cookies and thanked Jen so as not to risk offending the snorunt’s feelings—he didn’t want to find out the hard way just what those teeth could do.

Esaax popped a couple of the cookies into his mouth, but a weird twinge prickling across the back of his mind in the next moment distracted him from their flavor at once. Someone, and something, were coming his way. He had no time at all to figure out how or why he knew this; just as soon as the notion had hit him, that someone was knocking at the door.

“I’ll get it,” Syr said as he went to answer the door. He opened it and found a xatu standing on the other side.

“Misters Esaax Evergray and Syr. Someone wishes to speak with you,” the xatu said.

“How’d you find us?” asked Esaax as he rose to join Syr.

“And who wants to speak with us?” Syr added.

“I foresaw myself arriving at this destination prior to leaving,” the xatu said in response to the first question. To the latter, “You are summoned by one Faurur ursh Nanku.”

Both Esaax’s and Syr’s eyes widened dramatically at this. Syr’s mouth fell slightly open, but he remained silent.

“I shall wait for you outside until you’re ready to leave.” Without even touching it, the xatu closed the door on the bewildered recipients of his message.

Esaax and Syr looked at each other for a few moments, neither saying a word. Finally, “Jen?” Syr spoke up, turning toward where Jen still stood with his cookie tray. “Esaax and I need to have a talk in private,” the arbok said. Jen nodded and planted himself on the sofa while the others left the room.

Syr led Esaax into the bathroom and shut the door. Esaax noticed that unlike the other rooms he’d seen, the bathroom was almost completely human-style. All the fixtures were still intact—including the toilet. Unbidden curiosities made it to the surface of his mind, even in spite of the much heavier thoughts already there.

Fortunately, Syr brought Esaax back into focus before he couldn’t help asking as well as wondering. “I’m not so sure about this,” the arbok said. “You’re the psychic. Tell me: can we really believe this guy?”

“I’m psychic, but I’m no mind-reader. Still, I’m pretty sure he’s for real. I got this… this feeling about him just before he showed up. I knew he was coming and that his arrival was very important somehow.”

“A premonition?”

“I guess so. I can still feel the weight of that, plus… something else. I’ve just got this instinct about him, and it just feels really, really… big.” He shrugged. “It’s enough for me to vouch for him, anyway.”

The wobbuffet noticed that he was pacing and realized he’d been doing so ever since he’d entered the bathroom. He’d overestimated his nerves yet again. He managed to get his legs to stop moving, but his tail kept on anxiously switching back and forth. Though he tried, he couldn’t calm it.

Sighing in surrender to his unrest, Esaax said, “You know, that’s actually what I wanted to discuss with you back at the Haven—not the xatu, obviously. I mean, you know, what all you two did after you left T—” He felt his voice catch in his throat. “What you guys did after you left us, and how Faurur’s been lately…”

“I actually haven’t talked with him in a long time,” Syr said, sounding a bit troubled.

“Her,” Esaax corrected.


“You really haven’t seen Faurur in a long time…” Esaax remarked. “What’s been keeping you guys out of touch? I always thought you were like the ultimate best friends and all…”

“Hey, it’s not like it was my fault!” Syr blurted out. His outburst surprised even himself. He took a moment to stop and breathe; then, “Sorry… sorry, it’s not like it was really Faurur’s fault, either. Something happened—something really strange. It was almost right after Faurur and I parted ways with you. These strange lights appeared and moved across the sky one night. The next day, the koffing were all saying that their ‘gods’ had arrived. They demanded that my people swear loyalty to these gods, too.

“We had no clue what they were talking about, and we weren’t about to just give ourselves and our faith to total strangers. So the koffing drove us all away—you wouldn’t believe how strong they can be in a group…” He shook his head. “Anyway… since you’ve seen her more recently than I have… how was she?”

Esaax hesitated. He didn’t really want to go on about what had happened between himself and Faurur; the memory still pained him to no small degree. But at the same time, he couldn’t help feeling like he owed it to Syr, seeing as the arbok and weezing had known each other and been close friends long before he’d come into the picture.

As Esaax began to tell his story, his voice underwent a marked transformation. His words were strained; it was all too clear that he was forcing them out.

“After the Extinction,” Esaax began, “I tried to get back together with some of the old crew. No luck finding anybody other than Basath, but… well, she kind of hates me… You never got to meet her, though, did you?”

“No, I didn’t,” Syr confirmed.

Relief washed over Esaax’s features; maybe he could put off discussing that incident, then. Deciding he needed to get back on topic as quickly as he could, “Eventually, I managed to find Faurur,” he said. “Now, as for these ‘gods’ you were talking about, she didn’t mention any such thing. And when I asked her where you were, the answer she gave me was really ambiguous. She told me that you and the ekans just decided to go off on your own somewhere, and that you gave no explanation as to why.

“What she said didn’t seem suspicious at the time. I don’t remember that anything about the situation did. But now that I think about it, I’m not surprised that I missed the signs. I was… kind of in another mind at the time…

“Anyway…” Esaax’s voice started to tremble and crack. “…Anyway, something went wrong—nothing to do with gods or sky-lights or any such crap. Faurur wanted to know, of course, what had become of her poor, precious ‘Master’. She actually, honestly didn’t know; that’s how far-removed her life had become. I had to break that news to her. I had to deliver that message—it was awful.

“You can just imagine her reaction, right?” But before Syr could answer, “Wrong. You have no idea. I mean, the level of adoration she had for him… it was much greater than we ever thought. I told her, and it was like I’d just ripped her right open…”

Once again, Esaax caught himself pacing and stopped himself, albeit with difficulty. But this time, rather than standing, he sank to the floor, sliding down the wall until his spine bent at a sharp angle.

“It was awful,” he repeated. “I just felt like a monster for making her feel that way. And so I swore that, no matter what, I would do anything to help her. I gave her that pain, so I had to be the one to take it away. I had to be there for her so she could recover.”

His voice changed yet again; it was now barely more than an exhalation. “We became very, very close…”

Syr’d had his head lowered in the somberness his friend was casting over the room. He finally looked back up at Esaax and found the wobbuffet staring at nothing.

“We became very close,” Esaax said, “and then… and then we…” He swallowed very hard. “We had an egg.”

For a moment, Syr was too surprised to say anything. Even once he found his voice and his wits again, “Oh… oh wow…” was all he managed.

“We had a little girl,” the wobbuffet continued. “A koffing, of course, but a little more blue than purple because of me. When she hatched, she was so tiny I could hold her in one hand…” He gave a wistful and very shaky smile. “She was named Drasigon, and I really liked that name. Faurur told me that it means ‘never ignored’, and I agreed on it instantly.”

Startlingly, his gaze locked back into focus in a single moment. With a stare like a homing missile straight into Syr’s eyes, Esaax said, “Guess how long she lasted.”


“Come on, guess.”

What kind of a thing is that to say? Syr wondered. “…How long?” he finally asked.

There was no response.

“How long?” Syr asked again, more gingerly this time.

Four days,” Esaax answered abruptly, harshly. “Four days. That’s all. Four days, and then she just burst into flames. And then she was gone, Syr, like some evil magic hit her. For no reason!”

Esaax was shaking so hard at this point that it looked like he could just fall apart. His eyes closed, overflowing with tears. As Syr stared at him in shock and sorrow, feeling tears gathering at the corners of his eyes, he thought that he saw something strange, something troubling: for just a second, there seemed to be a faint, multicolored aura around Esaax.

“And Faurur was there when it happened, too,” Esaax went on. “We were just frozen there for a little while. I looked her right in the eyes, and… and I just didn’t know what to do, so I… so I just ran…”

Silently weeping, Syr gathered up the wobbuffet in his coils and embraced him tightly as if trying to hold him together. Though Syr certainly wanted to reunite with Faurur, he wasn’t sure it was such a good idea for Esaax to revisit that aspect of his past face-to-faces, regardless of whether or not the wobbuffet wished to do so. In fact, Syr began to wonder if maybe the only place Esaax ought to be going was right back to the Haven…

Before he could say anything to that effect, however, Esaax took a very deep breath, stood once more, and then effortlessly removed himself from the arbok’s coils. “I have to go back to her,” the wobbuffet said. “Right now.”

“Are… are you sure that’s such a good idea?” Syr asked quietly.

“She needs us,” Esaax responded, wiping the tears from his face as well as he could. “Both of us. She wouldn’t have called for us both if she didn’t. If something happened to her because I couldn’t be there for her…” He swallowed hard again. “…I don’t think I could forgive myself, Syr.”

Syr frowned at Esaax for a moment, still unsure about the situation. Esaax lowered his gaze, then turned toward the door. Sighing, Syr followed him out of the room and back to where the xatu was waiting, hoping that this was indeed the safer course of action for his friend to take.
Chapter 5

Sike Saner

Peace to the Mountain
*aurorus noise*
Chapter 5 – The Fire and the Air

A golden light swelled around Syr, Esaax, and the xatu. When it faded, the xatu bowed and bade them farewell, saying that he knew when to return for them. With that, he teleported away, leaving Esaax and Syr alone and somewhat confused.

Where the bird had brought them was not where either had expected to go. They were in a very long and narrow alleyway. Two tall, rather plain buildings loomed up on either side, and a huge cement wall created a dead end. The structures cast dreary, gray shadows into the alley that made it seem later in the day than it actually was.

“Look at this place,” Esaax said. “This could be any city… there’s no telling where we are.” He kicked at an old, dented soda can. “You know… I think it’s kinda strange that Faurur had us brought to meet her here when she could have had that xatu bring her to us.”

“I’m not surprised, actually,” Syr said, then shook his head as if trying to clear something out of it. “Poison-folk don’t tolerate being exposed to psychic energy very well. I know I didn’t particularly enjoy the trip, but I don’t think we really went very far. Otherwise, I’d really be feeling it. Faurur, however, doesn’t live anywhere near Convergence. Or didn’t the last time I saw her, anyway. It wouldn’t have been good for her to teleport that whole distance,” Syr explained.

“Right, of course… That makes sense.”

Syr nodded. “So where is she?”

“She’s here. I can totally feel it.”

“Oh, I know. I’m aware of her, too; she’s got to be nearby,” Syr said. “I’ll just keep looking over here, and you—” He fell silent.


“Esaax, come here,” the arbok said softly.

Esaax heeded the arbok, feeling an awful, compelling sort of dread about what he was going to see. What did he find? he wondered. Dear Night… she’s not dead, is she?

It turned out she wasn’t, but her current state suggested that might not be the case for much longer. She was reduced to lying deflated on the asphalt, pale and shapeless.

Esaax leaned forward as close to her as he could, but he couldn’t have reached eye level with her at this point without melting into the earth. Tears stung his eyes as he took in the sight before him. He could barely breathe, feeling as though he could just cave in on himself at any moment, just like she had.

But why had she? What had happened to her? Esaax had only seen Faurur this way once before: one time (out of countless many), when their meowth-head balloon had been shot down by that particular pikachu, she’d landed very ungracefully upon the rocks below. Her mantle had torn, leaving her deflated and unable to get up off the ground until she was given the necessary medical attention.

Esaax could see no sign of a breach this time, but still… “What did this to you?” he asked hoarsely.

“Nothing,” Faurur replied, her twin voices sounding very weak. “Nothing but the seasons. One hundred and thirteen seasons… too many…”

“What? Oh no, that’s right…” Esaax said as he remembered. It was a statistic that Faurur had mentioned to him while they’d been waiting for their egg to hatch. About a hundred seasons, or twenty-five years, was generally as long as any weezing could expect to live. Most didn’t make it anywhere near that far, and yet Faurur had managed to surpass that mark.

Thus Faurur was very, very old. Esaax explained these details to Syr while Faurur silently gathered her strength for more crucial words. The two gazed upon her with immense sorrow as the apparent truth sunk in: she hadn’t called them there to help her. She’d called them to say goodbye.

“Listen,” Faurur spoke up again. “I came here to warn you. Beware the strangers from the sky!”

“From the sky…” Syr’s mind, reluctant to process this situation further, didn’t know what to do with Faurur’s unexpected warning at first. “…Do you mean the sky-lights? I thought those were your gods,” Syr said.

Faurur emitted a sound of loathing, a deep groan that was alarmingly loud given her condition. “Gods?” she scoffed. “Deranics aren’t gods. Worms, maybe. But not gods. They tricked us. They promised us happiness. But they brought only slavery. My whole colony—my family, all of them, never to be free again. And after we fought so hard for them!” She stared up at Syr with anguish in all four of her eyes.

“I know,” the arbok said, his voice constrained. “It’s okay. Your people didn’t really mean to drive mine away, did they?”

“No. The deranics controlled us with their lies. But listen, they won’t stop with us. More will come and spread their worm-lies through all lands. They’ll seem so nice at first, but don’t trust them—that’s how they started with us. Then they said, ‘Obey us or die.’ And someday they’ll say this to everyone if they can.”

Faurur lowered her voices even more then, as if afraid of someone overhearing. “This is very important. Pay attention and never forget: Their plan to control has already begun. Already something huge has been done to the world by them. I know because I heard it from them myself. They think we’re too stupid to remember what they say… Anyway, they call it…”

She had to stop to catch her breath, but she was also working through a minor frustration. Finally, she forced herself to continue. “They call it ‘Seterhath Zulo-Denvenda’.” And then she literally spat, the sludge arcing weakly and splattering on the ground before her. “Filthy worm-language! We all know some of their words, but these…”

Faurur winced, revealing her pain for the first time. “I have no time,” she said, half-panting. “You must figure it out. Don’t forget: beware the deranics. And don’t forget ‘Seterhath Zulo-Denvenda’. Figure it out and warn the world, please!”

“We will,” Syr said, his voice shaking. “We will. Don’t worry.” Esaax nodded in agreement.

Faurur smiled at them. But then she cried out in agony.

Esaax cringed at the horrid noise—and just as it erupted from the dying weezing, a shard of burning pain sliced deep into his chest. In that moment, suspicions he’d had about himself for a long time grew stronger than ever before.

“Faurur… I think I can help you,” he said then, his voice sounding very fragile. He leaned forward and laid his hand upon her as he spoke—just as he’d done once before, with someone else…

Her body was still save for the vague fluttering of her mantle as she breathed. Esaax, meanwhile, was shaking so hard that he could barely stand as he struggled to accomplish something he still only suspected he could actually do. Even as the first hints of a multicolored aura began to blink into existence around him, he feared his efforts would prove to be in vain. Still, he kept trying. He owed her greatly, and for reasons beyond the fact that she’d been his friend and lover.

“I’m so sorry,” he managed in barely more than a whisper.

Faurur no longer howled or screamed. She seemed to have moved beyond pain at this point. She only made a small, puzzled noise at Esaax, as if she didn’t understand what he was saying.

“For running away,” Esaax elaborated. “For abandoning you all those years ago. First… first, Drasigon left you, and then I…”

Faurur actually gave a little chuckle of surprise. “Is that all? It’s fine! Don’t cry, I’m not angry at you. You just didn’t understand. Drasigon never left. She just changed into the air. You see? You just didn’t understand then, so you ran away. But now maybe you do understand.”

She must be delirious… Esaax thought. “I still shouldn’t have just taken off on you like that.”

It’s fine,” Faurur repeated. “Why do you fret? You’re here now, right? And Drasigon…” Both of her mouths curved into weak but earnest smiles. “Drasigon is here, too, in the air. Can’t you feel her?”

So that’s what she’s saying. Esaax kept his hand upon Faurur despite how unnervingly warm she suddenly became. “I was always told that we become part of the earth after… you know.”

“Maybe,” Faurur said softly. “All I know is the fire and the air…”

And then, as if on cue, flames blossomed from within her. She gazed up at Esaax and Syr, her expression showing nothing but pure and serene adoration even as the fire raged. Within mere seconds, the flames had consumed her completely.

Esaax had involuntarily pulled his hand away just in time, but how close he’d come to being burned couldn’t have been further from his mind. He hadn’t had enough time to completely form the psychic link by which he’d hoped to help Faurur. A sense of failure grew within him, and it felt as if it were hollowing him out inside.

As Esaax watched Faurur’s ashes and embers float away, he felt Syr gently lay his tail-tip upon his shoulder.

“Esaax… I think there’s someplace you really need to be right now,” the arbok said very quietly.

Then, just as the xatu had promised, the golden light of teleportation bloomed once more to bring them home.
Chapter 6

Sike Saner

Peace to the Mountain
*aurorus noise*
Chapter 6 – Hope

Jen opened the door for Syr and Esaax upon their arrival. The arbok slithered into the house with all the liveliness of a zombie, practically carrying Esaax.

Syr placed the listless wobbuffet on the sofa and made his way into the kitchen, realizing a beat later that Jen had followed him. Without turning, he said, “I’m about to need you and your car again. Esaax is going right back to the Haven.”

“Going back?” There was a constant clicking as Jen’s tiny, gray feet hopped and skittered across the linoleum. He was apparently having a very hard time holding still.

Syr sighed heavily. “We’ve just experienced… something difficult. I’m worried that Esaax might not be well enough to handle it.”

Syr told Jen about what had happened in the alley with Faurur. He also told him about the strange aura that had appeared around Esaax before they’d gone to see her.

“They must have made some kind of mistake at the Haven. I think he’s still suffering from some kind of psychic disturbance,” he said.

Jen remained silent for a few moments after Syr had finished speaking. “…I think I might have an idea,” he then said.

The snorunt was still pacing, meanwhile. His eyelight was unsteady. Something was clearly gnawing at him. “Are you all right?” Syr asked.

Jen gave Syr a quick glance with preoccupied eyes and swallowed hard. “I’m fine,” he answered. “I think I am, anyway.”

“I hope you are; I’d hate for you to get sick, too.” Something else Jen had said finally clicked. “ You said you had an idea?”

“About Esaax? I was thinking it might be a good idea for him to come to Hope with me tonight. I mean, that place was originally established to help people handle loss,” Jen said. “Maybe the Haven alone just isn’t enough.”

It made sense, Syr thought. At the very least, it seemed like it was worth a try. “I think you might be on to something,” he said.

Jen nodded, insofar as he could. “Maybe you should go, too. I couldn’t help noticing the tears…”

Syr hadn’t noticed them. He quickly turned his head. “I’d… really rather not.” He forced himself to meet Jen’s gaze once more. “But don’t worry. I think all I need is some quiet time alone to remember. Then I’ll be fine.”

“Okay. I’m going to try and talk to him, if that’s all right.”

“Of course it is. Go ahead.”

Jen fetched the nomel cookies and a cup of water and carried them to the living room and the spiritless wobbuffet therein.

Esaax was still lying on the sofa. Mentally, he couldn’t have been further away. He didn’t seem to notice or care that his head and arms had come to dangle over the armrest, his face steadily turning a much deeper shade of blue.

Jen placed the cookies and water on the little coffee table in front of Esaax. Esaax paid no mind.

“I brought you some refreshments,” the snorunt said, but he may as well have spoken to a big, blue brick. He frowned concernedly at the wobbuffet. “You probably shouldn’t be hanging upside-down like that. You might get a head rush.”

He tried pushing Esaax’s head back up over the armrest, but it was too large and heavy for him to hoist up. So Jen decided to take a different approach. He hopped up onto the other end of the sofa and grabbed Esaax by the pods. With a tremendous effort, Jen managed to pull the wobbuffet back up into a more proper resting position.

Jen sat down on the armrest opposite Esaax, panting as he did so. Once he caught his breath, “I heard about what happened today,” he said. “I’m really sorry. I wish there was more I could do, but…”

If Esaax was listening, if he was even hearing Jen’s words, he gave no indication of it.

Jen’s frown deepened, but he carried on regardless. “Anyway… I was wondering if you’d like to come to the Hope Institute with me later on. The people there are very knowledgeable about the kinds of things you’ve been through. If you want to talk about it with them, you can. If you don’t want to talk about it, that’s fine, too. I think even just being there might help. I know it’s helped me. So… do you want to come along with me tonight?”

The snorunt might as well have said nothing at all. Esaax just continued his zombielike stare into nothingness with glazed eyes and sagging lips, completely unresponsive.

Jen sighed. How in the world can I get through to him? he wondered. He stared like a bird of prey at the untouched cup of water as he mulled over this problem. As he did, the liquid began a curious transformation. It shimmered and gave a slight quiver, and then with a tiny crack, it instantly froze solid. It then began sprouting up and out of the cup, spreading out into intricate, crystalline branches as it rose.

Strangely, this tree made of ice seemed to be just what it took to coax Esaax back into the present. The moment it caught his eye, he was enthralled by it; the shapes the enchanted ice was forming were soothing and mesmerizing in an odd way.

Esaax noticed the snorunt out of the corner of his eye. Is he doing this? he wondered. Wait… is he glowing? Esaax turned his sights fully toward Jen… but it seemed that there was no glow about him after all.

Huh. Must’ve imagined that, Esaax thought idly. Back to the tree… pretty… Still spellbound by the moving ice, “Where’d you say this was?” he asked in a voice that was devoid of inflection.

The wobbuffet’s voice snapped Jen out of his own altered state. Only then did he notice the ice tree, and he gasped in shock as he realized what had been happening. I almost let it go that time… It was getting harder and harder for him to resist the urges of a body that desperately wanted to evolve.

“Oh, um, it’s called the Hope Institute. It’s just on the other side of town,” he said. “Are you saying you want to go?”

Esaax was wearing a smile that looked both contented and intoxicated. “Yeah,” he answered, “sure…”

“All right,” Jen said. “I'll go tell my dad, then.” He hopped off the sofa and left the room, leaving Esaax to stare at his accidental creation. Jen wasn’t so fond of that tree, given what it signified, but at least some good seemed to be coming out of it. If anyone needed a nice distraction, it was certainly Esaax.

* * *​

Mid-evening, Jen’s convertible pulled up to the curb across the street from the sprawling, single-story structure that was the Hope Institute. It had no identifying characteristics other than a simple wooden sign on which the word “HOPE” was painted in black unown-characters. The sign was crudely lit from beneath with a single lightbulb.

As Jen led Esaax (who was once again independently mobile, albeit still seeming a bit distracted) through the entrance, a sceptile at the door stopped and bowed in front of them.

“Blessings,” she said, her tone very warm and inviting.

“Blessings to you, too,” Jen replied, bowing in turn.

“Is the wobbuffet new here?” the sceptile asked.

“Yes, ma’am. He’ll be welcomed, right?”

“Of course.” The sceptile turned to Esaax. “Blessings,” she repeated, bowing to him and offering her clawed hands, which Esaax took as he returned what seemed to be the ritual greeting in this place.

“May your spirit be ever light,” the sceptile said in farewell, as Jen and Esaax left her behind and headed indoors.

Esaax followed Jen into an assembly space of some sort: a large, well-lit room whose walls were plastered with posters bearing various uplifting slogans in unown-script. Looking around, he saw a diverse collection of pokémon species gathering in this place. A few of the attendees were milling about, while others were conversing with one another in small cliques. Most of them, however, were already forming a nice and orderly audience. Standing, sitting, coiled, grounded, or perched in semi-loose rows, they all had their eyes or equivalent sensory organs trained straight forward at a presently unoccupied, scarlet-curtained stage.

Clearly something was about to take place there, and so Esaax turned his attention forward, too. It wasn’t long before the stage was no longer empty.

A hitmonlee stepped out from behind the curtain, carrying a microphone and a clipboard. He scanned the audience briefly, and for a moment he looked like he was ready to speak. But then he glanced at his clipboard and gave the mouthless equivalent of a frown.

The hitmonlee turned and shouted something to someone offstage, though Esaax was too far away to hear exactly what was said. At the hitmonlee’s call, an especially large glalie drifted across the stage toward him.

“Hey, Jen,” Esaax said, continuing to sound only partially present. “That glalie up there… is that someone you know?”

“No,” Jen said, and he sounded distinctly uneasy. “No, I don’t.”

“You’re sure you don’t? Cause he’s acting like he knows you. He’s looking this way right now.”

Indeed he was. He’d apparently become fixated on Jen and Esaax’s general location.

“…Why is he staring at us like that?” Esaax asked, nervousness beginning to break through his previously dazed tone.

The glalie hesitantly broke eye contact with Esaax and Jen as he finished his conversation with the hitmonlee. Then he went right back to giving the two of them the laser-eye. With his stare unbreaking, the glalie descended from the stage and started making his way into the audience.

“Why is he coming this way?” Esaax asked in a small, slightly panicked voice.

Jen didn’t answer. He only watched the glalie approach, standing stock still all the while.

The glalie came to a halt before the two of them. “Blessings,” he said.

“Blessings,” Esaax and Jen returned in unison. If Jen was still uneasy around the glalie, he did an admirable job concealing it.

The glalie’s gaze shifted more toward Esaax. “Pardon me,” he said, “but could you come with me, please?”

“…What for?” Esaax asked uneasily. He found himself starting to shiver and wished he could stop, but his steadily building unease wouldn’t let him. He was beginning to realize in earnest that he didn’t really have any idea what was going on here, and the current face of his uncertainty was just too large and too close for comfort.

“I’m sorry, but this is the youth assembly,” the glalie answered. “You’ll want our adult group.”

Esaax took another look around and finally recognized that the audience was indeed comprised entirely of children and adolescents. He looked to Jen, but the snorunt made no move to contradict the glalie.

With a nod and a vaguely affirmative noise, Esaax agreed to follow the glalie to this “adult group”. But just as they were about to leave, the glalie hesitated and turned back around. He was staring again, but only at Jen this time, and the glalie looked distinctly conflicted as he did so.

However, the action terminated without explanation, the same way it had begun. The glalie abandoned whatever that pause might have led to in something of a hurry, leaving Esaax scrambling to catch up.

Esaax followed behind the glalie through corridor after corridor. He might have been more fascinated by how swiftly such a creature was able to move in spite of having no legs and looking to be very heavy if it weren’t for the fact that he was growing more confused and anxious by the second.

What is this place… and why did I come here? He honestly couldn’t remember. His mind offered only blankness whenever he tried to present it with those questions.

He had other questions, too: Where are we going, exactly? How big is this place, anyway? The youth assembly looked like it was about to start when we left; wouldn’t the adult meeting have started by now, too? Shouldn’t we already be there?

Unless that’s not really where we’re going…
That thought was truly unsettling. What if I really am in some kind of trouble… Oh crap, am I?

Esaax almost tried seeing if the glalie would shed some light on things, but he found that asking questions to his back wasn’t much easier than asking them to his face. He couldn’t just stay quiet, though; as it ever did, his nervousness forbade it. Esaax finally opted to start out with small talk, hoping it would help him to bring out the more important questions and their answers more easily.

“Excuse me, uh, sir?” Esaax began tentatively.


“What’s your name?” Esaax asked.

“Solonn,” the glalie answered, “and you?”

“I’m Esaax.”

“Ah, all right, then. Pleasure to meet you, Esaax,” Solonn said.

The glalie’s last few words didn’t quite reach Esaax. Whatever the ice tree had done to the wobbuffet’s mind was continuing to dissolve at an increasing rate, replaced just as quickly by a growing, unrelenting feeling that he’d forgotten something crucially important, the sort of thing that should be utterly impossible to forget.

“I’m afraid we’re already a little late,” Solonn then said, “but the good news is that I know a shortcut through the building that’ll keep you from missing too much more of the assembly. We’ll just go right around here, and—”

Solonn halted all of a sudden, neither executing his turn nor finishing his sentence. A pair of doors to his right had just slid open unexpectedly. A second later, there emerged the most peculiar creature…


Pokémon Trainer
Review of Chapters 2-5

Alright, I think this is a good time to do a more general review, since the main plot thread has more or less been established by now. The Deranics seem to be the big bads of the world, which Essax and company has to presumably put a stop to. So after the initial goal of Essax’s recovery, which had some very intriguing concepts, such as the autoempathic crisis stuff, it was nice to see a bigger scale one already set in motion.

In general, this is really bloody interesting. The way you’ve set up the world, in both its description and its backstory, feels rich, in a way that we’ve only scratched the surface of what the post apocalpyse is like. I do enjoy the chemistry between the characters, particularly Syr and Essax, as they feel like good friends, as well as that Snorunt Jen. I do sort of wonder how a walking candy corn could learn how to drive, but I’m just rolling with it for now.

Speaking of description, I feel like this is part of what brings the setting to life. The house, for instance, is dripping with this, like with the description of the natural world taking over the manmade rooms, along with the artificial stalactites.

While I will be checking the rest out based on how intriguing the settings and story seeds have been, there's one big problem that gets in the way of me being fully invested in the characters, which is the way the exposition has been doled out so far.

At the moment, I think it suffers from a mix of under and over exposition in regards to the story and world, as interesting and unique as it is. With under exposition, I feel like for a majority of it, we're just dropped into certain situations with the characters without getting time to be invested in them or establishing them in a manner appropriate for the start of the story. Take the Essax/Faurur scene for instance. This should be a very big scene on paper, but since I didn't get the chance to know either of them during the time they were most active in their relationship, or how the story developed while they were still around, there's a lot that feels missing. Since Essax's memories are intact as well, there's a bit of an emotional disconnect between what he'd be feeling and what I feel as a reader, since he has a lot more knowledge than the reader can grasp.

Chapter 3, I think, was a bit of a necessary evil, since it cleared up a lot of things such as the nature of the apocalypse and what Essax was like before it struck. However, it also felt like it rushed by development that could've been great to see first hand, or at least, sprinkled out more evenly throughout the story (especially with the sort of bond between the various trainers that had a role in his life).

But in any case, I will be reading more of this at some point, since I’d love to see how this world develops and what the characters do from here.

Sike Saner

Peace to the Mountain
*aurorus noise*
NebulaDreams: WALKING CANDY CORN. :D I love that. I wouldn't have guessed it was possible for anything to make me like snorunt more than I already did, but here we are.

I think the trouble with the Faurur matter is that I kind of took familiarity of/investment in the anime on the audience's part for granted. Which is especially troublesome since it's not even expressly stated that this is a (mostly) anime-based fic until Adn's Infodump Extravaganza.

Why no, no I will probably never stop making self-deprecating fun of Chapter 3. :B

Thanks lots for the read 'n' reply! :D
Chapter 7

Sike Saner

Peace to the Mountain
*aurorus noise*
Chapter 7 – One on One

Esaax stared at the creature who’d just stepped out into the corridor. The newcomer stood on two legs and had chin-length, reddish-brown hair. He wore human clothing, which in and of itself wasn’t terribly remarkable; Esaax had seen the occasional pokémon wear human-style clothing before, both before and after the Extinction. He’d even worn some himself. What had taken such a strong hold of Esaax’s attention was the fact that it really looked as though this wasn’t just another pokémon dressing like a human…

Esaax shook his head, dismissing that possibility as well as he could. There’s no way, he told himself silently. It has to be a trick of some kind. Like a disguise or something…

“Sir… don’t you have a client to tend to at the moment?” Solonn asked of the newcomer.

“He didn’t show,” DeLeo responded. “And I suspect he’s not gonna. He was doing an awful lot of sniffling last time. So I thought I’d take it easy and grab a bite to eat instead,” the newcomer replied. There was something strange about his voice; it almost sounded as though he were performing a less-than-perfect impression of another person.

It was then that he noticed Esaax. His eyes widened, and he smiled broadly. “Hey, there! Haven’t seen you around here before!” He offered his hand to the wobbuffet; Esaax took it after a moment’s hesitation, and was given a vigorous handshake with a surprisingly strong grip. “The name’s Sylvester DeLeo, and I’m the president and founder of this fine establishment. And you are…?”

“…Esaax” the wobbuffet replied.

“Glad to make your acquaintance, Esaax,” DeLeo said, still smiling. “Say… do you mind if I ask you a quick question?”

“Uh… No, I guess not,” Esaax responded.

“Okay, then. Tell me, what clan are you from?” DeLeo asked.

“Evergray,” Esaax answered, vaguely wondering why DeLeo wanted to know such a thing.

“Ah.” DeLeo straightened his posture. “All right, Esaax, if you’ll just follow me, I’ll take you to my private counseling office,” he said, gesturing toward the room he’d just left.

Esaax stared at the doors in uncertainty for a moment. He looked toward where Solonn had been hovering and found that the glalie had excused himself, taking his knowledge of how to get to the adult assembly with him. “Could I still go to the assembly?” he asked of DeLeo.

“Well, you could,” DeLeo said, “but you’ve already missed a good chunk of it. If you come with me we can take it from the top. Not only that, but your concerns—what you need—could be addressed more directly this way. Seeing as how you’re a first-timer here, I think you’d definitely benefit more from that than from walking in on a meeting that’s not only half-over but is also really geared more toward helping people out with more generalized problems.”

That seemed to make enough sense, at least as far as Esaax was concerned. The idea of going to a meeting and possibly not being able to understand what in the world the people there were talking about didn’t appeal to him at all; he was dealing with enough confusion as it was. “Okay,” Esaax said, allowing DeLeo to lead him into the private counseling office.

DeLeo took a seat behind a desk at the far end of the rather small room, then gestured toward a trio of chairs in differing styles and sizes that were lined up against the wall to Esaax’s right. Esaax regarded them for a couple of moments but then shook his head, indicating that he’d rather just stand.

Esaax had now fully emerged from the tranquilizing haze that had enveloped him, but his amnesia still remained. He was so preoccupied in his search for his missing memories that it was hard to pay unbroken attention to anything going on externally; as such, he didn’t notice right away when the office became significantly darker. He cast a glance up at the dim lights above him, then turned his sights back toward DeLeo.

“Thought you’d be a bit more comfortable this way,” DeLeo explained. “I know wobbuffet aren’t too keen on bright light.” He folded his hands on the desk before him. “So. Before we begin, I’m curious: how’d you discover us, Esaax?” he asked. “Did a friend tell you about us?”

A friend? Esaax didn’t know Jen particularly well, but he nonetheless responded with, “Yeah.”

“Well, I’m glad you took your friend’s advice. You did the right thing coming here, Esaax. I promise you: we’re gonna help you out, no matter what it takes, okay? Now, the first thing you’ve gotta do, though, is you need to tell me exactly what’s wrong.”

That’s what I wanna know! Esaax thought desperately, still struggling to regain his memory and perhaps thereby figure out what he was even doing in this strange place. He remained silent, staring at DeLeo with a very troubled look.

“It’s okay, Esaax,” DeLeo assured him. “You can trust me. Anything you tell me will remain strictly confidential. So you can just go right on ahead and let me know what’s troubling you.”

Esaax would have gladly let it all out if only he’d known what “it” was. Once again, he strained his mind for the answer, doubting his efforts would yield any success.

But then DeLeo provided the answer for him: “You’ve lost someone who meant a lot to you, haven’t you?”

Esaax felt his heart seem to stop for a moment, his breath catching halfway up his throat, as the last remnants of his trance shattered. His full memory returned suddenly, brutally, the sorrows that it carried revealed anew. Such stark lucidity following such a thick mental fog was painful, and he couldn’t help crying out.

“That’s right,” DeLeo said soothingly. “Just let it all out.” He noticed that Esaax was beginning to pitch and sway on the spot as if his spine were turning to rubber. DeLeo stood and managed to pull up a chair for Esaax just in time for the wobbuffet to collapse into it.

DeLeo then returned to his seat. “You’ve got something in common with just about everyone who’s come here, you know. Just like you, they’re also mourning people they loved—particularly their lost human friends. I know you’re gonna have no problem finding people here who can relate to your suffering.”

“No one can do that,” Esaax croaked, his eyes suddenly overflowing with tears. “They can’t possibly understand how I let her—how I let both of them down. How I failed them.” He turned away in shame. “They died because of me,” he whispered.

“Oh, Esaax, no. You know better than that,” DeLeo tried to console him. “It wasn’t your fault that—”

“But maybe it was!” Esaax interrupted. “I… I don’t know. Look, there’s something you don’t know about me. I know it’s gonna sound crazy, but… there’s something strange inside me. I don’t know what it is, but… it can heal people. I just know it can. It could even stop them from dying, but I just don’t understand it enough to know how…”

As Esaax spoke, he stared into the “eyes” of his own tail, gazing into their reddish-black blankness as if he could find the long-sought understanding of his own internal mysteries there. He finally closed both his eyes and his oculons in despair.

“Both times, I didn’t really think very much about doing it, if at all,” Esaax said in a low, cracking voice. “I just tried, and I failed. First Jessie, all those years ago. And then Faurur, just today! If I’m still not good enough to save the people I care about after all this time, then I never will be…”

Esaax fell silent then, but DeLeo gave no immediate response to what he’d said. DeLeo’s face had taken on a somewhat somber expression, his gaze cast downward.

“You know,” DeLeo said quietly after a couple of moments, meeting Esaax’s gaze once more, “you really shouldn’t give up on your talents just yet. And that’s not the only thing you shouldn’t give up on, either. You probably believe, like most people do, that humans are totally extinct. Just gone from the world forever. But what if I were to tell you—” He leaned over the desk toward Esaax for effect. “—that we’re not?”

“…‘We’?” The voice of one of the Evergray elders, reciting one of her favorite sayings, rang out in his memory: “A fool fears he is wrong—a wise man fears he is right.” Esaax had been skeptical about what his eyes had been telling him about DeLeo, but now all those doubts were falling away. DeLeo’s last three words had been spoken in a human language.

Pointing a shaking hand at DeLeo and sounding much more accusatory than he’d intended, he blurted, “You’re—”

“Human,” DeLeo finished, continuing to use that human language. “Yep, that’s right. One hundred percent, honest-to-goodness human. But I’ll bet you suspected it right from the start, though, didn’t you?”

Esaax was almost completely overwhelmed by what the situation was giving him. There had to be some flaw about this creature, Esaax’s mind insisted, something to prove that he wasn’t human, because he couldn’t be—especially not when certain other humans hadn’t been allowed to survive…

When Esaax managed to come up with potential evidence that DeLeo wasn’t what he claimed, he pursued it right away. “You can understand me,” he said. “And the glalie. Humans can’t do that.” Something else dawned on him, as well. “And you’ve been speaking our languages!” He wondered how in the world he hadn’t realized it sooner. “How? You can’t…” he spluttered.

“It’s true,” DeLeo said. “All my life, I’ve been able to talk to pokémon just like they do amongst themselves. Now I’m using that gift to help pokémon deal with their loss.” Even now, speaking in the language of his own kind, there was a definite, unplaceable strangeness about DeLeo’s voice. “I think that might just be the reason why I was spared,” he said solemnly, “though I still don’t have any idea as to how I was spared. Still… the fact that I was gives me hope—hope that I’m not the only one and that maybe… well, maybe those who were lost don’t have to stay lost.”

DeLeo opened a drawer in his desk then, and he began rummaging through its contents. “That’s the real reason why I founded the Hope Institute,” he said. “Not just for the pokémon who were left behind by the plague but for the humans, too. We’re trying to find other survivors so we can help protect them and any future generations of humanity… and we’re also trying to find ways to bring back the ones who didn’t survive.

“And that’s why I’m offering you this.” DeLeo pulled a small, white box out from the drawer. From within it, he brought out a syringe, which he proceeded to fill with a pale blue fluid.

Esaax swallowed against the anxiety that built up in his throat at the sight of the needle. “What’s that?” he asked nervously.

“It’s a serum we’ve developed for pokémon who have abilities or powers that have been compromised or are just plain missing altogether due to birth defects, illness, elemental disruption, or any of a whole slew of other causes. It restores those abilities and powers.”

Esaax’s eyes widened. “Then… you mean, it could strengthen me… and my power… so that it’s not too weak anymore? So that it could be there for me when I need it, and… and I could finally, really help people? And never let anyone down again?”

“Maybe,” DeLeo responded. “I’ve gotta warn you, though: the serum is untested…”

“Then you can test it on me,” Esaax said hoarsely but firmly.

DeLeo nodded and took Esaax’s arm. Seconds later, the serum was coursing through Esaax’s veins, while a single, silent vow repeated again and again behind the wobbuffet’s eyes: Never let anyone down again…
I can’t pretend to be anything but below average, but the GPS ankle bracelet is beeping again, so it’s time to review. Review being replete with air quotes because I can’t claim to know otherwise.

There’s something special about fanfiction of the recent past, not to imply anything in particular. It’s a sort of je nais se quoi that I suppose is derived from the fact that the creators are tangible people who type on the computer just like us and don’t own a neo-gothic house where they order fillet mignon for breakfast and use a typewriter for the aesthetic. I don’t have anything against contemporary writers to be sure, self-publishing only needs money. But fanfiction just has a special quality, kind of like home grown vegetables.

You might note that the humanities forum-esque considerations above have nothing to do with a review. That was totally intended, yes. It’s part of a secret format structure intended to encase this review in a sandwich of posturing that makes me look like less of an idiot than I usually am. In any case, pokemon!

Today we’ll operate off the assumption the ‘Origin’ of storms is a rhetorical question. I lack any verifiable meteorological training, so maybe I’m wrong.
Regardless, we begin with an end. Poetic as it seems, but somewhat tempered by the fact that it’s **the** end. The big end, the one everyone gets so riled up over. For a dream, it eloquently captures the sort of out-of-body feeling one might expect, the narration even says so itself. That said, for a recurring dream that’s a particularly bad stroke of luck.

Essax! The depth of his experience is apparent, he’s had a rough time at it, but he’s getting better! Albeit, he’s essentially in rehab I guess? Controlled lighting and chansey employees sounds like the first steps to being hermetically sealed in a box. For a good cause of course.

Having completed the full ride detox course, he just has to prove his worth in the arena of combat. Or just take a physical, the two tend to be interchangeable. He does have to prove his worth though, and to that end it’s noble of him to be so thoughtful about himself. The secret power of Wobbuffet is forthcoming, but a cursory glance into the situation at hand we have indeed.

Next time on the weather channel, friends, not including Ross.
The second chapter--+

When I was but a youth, I ate often at a place called K&W cafeteria. There were many old people. The logistics of a pokemon cafeteria sound onerous, there’s no such thing as equality of form, and everyone just be different.

Essax finally meets friend (I’m exaggerating, it’s been exactly 102 words since he acknowledged this fact in the first chapter and about 5 minutes of time in between me reading the first and second chapters) and it is snake. Arbok is a great pokemon, Essax realizes this fact which justifies his violence against a passerby. Syr, a name which any normal person would immediately assume is an abbreviation of syrup, is a parent and that’s about all I can say about that. For some reason, their meeting comes off like the opening of a comedy movie (not in a bad way I swear). Like, I’m being reminded of Christmas with the Kranks over here, what a trip to take on a sunday afternoon. Food jokes and hot cars later, Essax is finally going to be judged worthy to leave the vault. Or something.

Tail physics. The last time I took biology was probably 4 years ago, so I trust Teresa on this one. I stand by my earlier statement that Essax is getting better, because he is getting better! Syr bites him a few times, and we’re out of the woods for now.

What’s an apocalypse in post made of? We seem to be far enough past the bad times that the world is back on the up and up. That being said, the details are really out to give us a weird one. There’s a gym still around, and electric mechanica all over. But that’s good. Can’t speak for 2003, but there’s definitely more than enough of the brown, grey and bloody post-apocalypse today. So it’s fun to just be in a world where the end of such is more a historical event than the letter of the day.

Sorry for fooling around. I lack groove, but I’ll try again with the next few chapters later. Not every day you get to enjoy the old guard, so to speak.

Sike Saner

Peace to the Mountain
*aurorus noise*
Raggy: That has got to be one of the single most fun reviews I have ever got to read, I hope you know. :D I think I narrowly avoided choking on my lunch at the syrup bit. I almost want to retroactively say that yes, that's exactly where it came from, except I'm pretty sure Syr's parents never knew syrup from their own tails.

No need to apologize; I thoroughly enjoyed the fooling around. Thanks lots for the read 'n' reply! :D
I did something right huh... Well, no time to waste dwelling on the upticks, because there’s bound to be an equal and opposite reaction. In this case it probably means lunch will be really disgusting tomorrow. Don’t worry about me, it’s not worth your time.

Last time (read: like a day ago) on the Epicenter of Systems of High Winds, Esaax was attacked by his friend. Consensually of course, it was all in service of ensuring his tail worked right. Good thing too, given that we are now informed he’s 54, the warranty on it has long since expired. Alas, I just realized this whole time I was spelling Esaax with two S’ and one A’, so it appears I don’t really know as much as I thought. A new layer of mystery! (idiocy)

Adn is a psychotherapist of the magical Wachowski Sisters Matrix variety. The full brunt of the Relicanth joke is brought to fruition, leaving us with a truly tragic character of little words. Straight to business however, a good quality. Lucky for us, Esaax’s memory comes with narration, so for the duration of this scene, I will envsion it as a black and white movie. Just before our hero is set for a mid-life crisis, the ‘Evergray’ family crosses paths with the ‘Fade’ clan, no relation to the Faze clan of Call of Duty fame. Love blooms and dies in tragedy, and this chapter of his life ends with a particularly dramatic fade to black when he collapses, presumably cursing the universe. There’s no specifics on this (not something I’m making light of), so I’m left to assume this particular region plays host to roving bands of Wobbuffet, which is great.

Transition ala carte. Esaax is processed through the gambling circuit, unfortunately his list price is so high that most just settle for the sticky hands instead. But luck strikes in the form of a Palmponian (for it is always Palmponan or some other rich country of invention) businessman, who bought enough tokens from the attendant to win. PS: I refuse to believe otherwise, the mark of a gambler is a pronounced lack of social grace, if he seriously won this for his son, then this isn’t a fan fiction, rather a Hallmark film. On that note too, we in the real world suffer from a disease known as pokemon don’t actually exist. In the pokemon world... pokemon do exist, and if there’s anything to be presupposed about young children, who in the hell would want a Wobbuffet.

Gonna take a step back here to consider the variables. The head of the issue is in thus, did Benny really want a Wobbuffet? Maybe he did, maybe not. For one, if he really did want some other pokemon of repute or acclaim, a father who was capable of gambling for their child would just as surely have buying power. Did he want a surprise? If so, then the father in this case wasn’t very on point if Esaax took the trading challenge after three years. My argument is thus, Benny exists for all three paragraphs and is only characterized as ‘young’. Youth is fairly subjective, so for all intents and purposes, this man got a Wobbuffet for his 20 year old son, the intended message being, leave the house or the gifts are going to get worse.

Alright, I’ve had my fun. The time for being a tumblr user has passed, there’s still a story over here. Next up, a direct connection to the anime! Wacky, I haven’t watched it in a decade, so I’ll let it stand for itself. Maybe a product of its time, doesn’t matter. Our apocalypse then is sleep paralysis, remarkably tame all things considered, but essentially the same effect as the Left Behind novels, minus the Christianity. This is the bad time, when Esaax went down the path of darkness.

Hold up. Was this session a convenient excuse for backstory? A classic framing narrative I guess, but it gets the job done. I ain’t complaining. With this Esaax is finally ready to become a productive member of society, because apparently failing the test means you’ve become a sociopath instead and are ready to become a hitman.

There he goes into the sun. Queue up the Morricone soundtrack.

The fourth chapter - The tutorials over, time for the real story.

Goodness, that really was rehab. No sunlight for years? That Haven is a fallout shelter. Maybe I just missed the details (I swear I went back and looked). But now that the humans are gone, it’s time to trick out their cars and wreck and kill everyone. That said, the last part will have to wait, Jen is our chauffeur today. He doesn’t want to evolve, and he has a damn good reason for it. If you were Phoenix Wright, you’d see a few psyche locks right about now. Awkward car silence ensues, gee this is a sitcom.

A bit of here and there as they settle into life as a married couple, but happy days are not to be, because it’s high time the plot came calling. Dramatic bathroom conversations. Esaax apparently used to be a real player, but tough luck on the family front. Good thing he didn’t have to remember that part in last chapter’s flashback o’clock. Certainly wouldn’t have been as dramatic.

Not much to say about chapter the fourth. We’re loud and clear now that a lot of our crew are the former rank and file of the erstwhile anime gadabouts, and to an extent maybe that’s where the driving force of the ideas behind this story came from. Since I didn’t have much here, let’s go for one more.

Five chapter - September minus the water.

Straight to the chase, Esaax and Syr-kun have teleported straight into the heart of concrete valley. High time to leave the almost earthbound-esque Convergence as it was, I mean, a town named that is begging to be a hub of trade if not a low level rpg zone.

And here’s our real call to action. A galvanizing death in the family and a warning of things to come. I just happened to be listening to a sad song at the moment, so the effect went over well.
This makes Esaax sus’ unfortunately. 54 and 25? What a playboy.

Deranics sounds like ceramics. The word association has set in and until I see these alien folk proper, they are represented by pots in my narrative framework. A bit of spirituality to boot, and we’re outta here, another one communed with earth.

Ah fuck. I didn’t have much to say here either, I’m losing it. Oh well, time for a retrospective.

For all his words, maybe Esaax wasn’t all right. A real doozy that the end of his voluntary incarceration should coincide with the death of his past. Imagine if Adn was more discerning. The cards say more pain in the future, but that’s the future. Or technically the past I guess, the story is already over, I’m just a third generation envoy. But he’s got Syr with him to share the pain, so it’s all set.

That’s all I got for now. I’ll do more later. Can’t promise it’ll make sense though.

Sike Saner

Peace to the Mountain
*aurorus noise*
Raggy: You know what, headcanon accepted re: the dude just straight-up buying Esaax. As for Benny, he's actually a single-episode (as far as I'm aware) anime character. As for why he wanted a wobbuffet (or why whoever gave him one thought he would), I don't know. Whether or not your average kid would actually want to have wobbuffet is also a mystery, although judging by the fact that plushes and figures of the things just Do Not Seem to Sell in the stores around here, it's possible they really wouldn't. :( Poor Wobby.

I don't recall everything about my thought processes back when I was originally writing this story, but I think there's about a 90% chance that yeah, the session was absolutely an excuse for backstory. :B

Anyhoo, about character ages! Pokémon species here age at varying rates, sometimes wildly varying. Esaax at 54 is more or less comparable to a thirtysomething human. Faurur in her late 20s is roughly comparable to a human in their 90s. They were both young adults when they were together.

Also, I will probably be laughing like a dork at the image of the deranics as pots for the rest of the evening. Warn the world, Esaax and Syr. Warn the world about Beet Poot.

Today has been a pretty great day, and finding this review here was icing on the cake. :D Thanks lots for the read 'n' reply!
The fact that chapter 6 was named Hope but chapter 7 wasn’t named Despair sent me into hysterics for a few hours. I’m better now though, and this time I won’t make any sense. Like at all. Without looking, I’m going to summarize the gist for my own benefit.
On second thought, Eiffel 65’s “I’m Blue” is an apt summary. Plus it’s catchy!

Today on Days of our Lives, everything we’ve worked for for the past five chapters has fallen apart. Esaax has relapsed into juul and must be sent back to the gulag. That would be counterproductive to the story (at least in 21st century writing sensibility), so it’s Jen to the rescue, providing both a chance for a solution and the unabashedly comedic following scene. Something about the scenario of catatonia in response to tragedy just feels like something you’d see often in the webcomics of the early 2000’s (despite the fact that I saw an instance of this in a currently updating anime). But I guess it’s a response, Syr’s coping in comparison is the abject kind of someone who’s trying to be tough but will fall apart if you poke them.

The problem is solved through one of those fancy two birds scenarios. Essax gets to appreciate modern art, and we get to learn Jen hates Glalie. I don’t blame him, Glalie was one of the first pokemon I ever got to level 100 back in emerald and I still can’t get rid of him. He’s followed me all the way to ultra sun (contact the authorities). But there you have it. Child of the corn or not, Jen is ultimately a ‘good pokemon tm’. He doesn’t want to evolve for reasons unknown to only me because I’m late as usual to these sort of things (16 years? That’s a record).

The Hope Institute is of the religious variety, perhaps to little surprise. Esaax makes the mistake of going to sunday school instead of bible study and is escorted out by the bouncer (that’s the guy from your other story I’m fairly thought. Guess I’ll have to eat that cake by association, not that I mind). We end on a mysterious figure, I think this one is number fifty seven in the list of chapter hooks. Nice!

Chapter seven - I’m ranting and raving over here, no filming pls

It’s a dude lol.

Makes sense that at least some losers wouldn’t take the room temperature challenge. Pretty forward of him to offer Esaax his services. Guess he’s nice. Just in time too, the ice finishes melting from his brain and we’re back to depression mode.
Not for long though. Time for more mystique. DeLeo can talk the talk, and he proves by existing that he can walk the walk, but what does it mean? Synthetic injections apparently.

Lots of talking, which is nice. The apocalypse isn’t as clear cut as it was made out to be, and now a crossroads is reached. Esaax will become strong or something to be the best friend ever, because there’s no pressing conflict yet to demand otherwise. So maybe things can really start to look up for once.

An institute for hope is about as post-apocalyptic as it gets. DeLeo passes a character introduction vibe check, so he’s either playing the long con, or he’s the good son. For dealing drugs, the meter errs to the former, so he gets the evil eye. Also just blessing each other. Tacky, but effective maybe. Geez, whose blessings are getting conferred on each other? Then again, does it matter? The divine and the prophetic are very kind when it comes to loss, but none are really so truly moving as an ear that’s not your own. Most of the time at least. I don’t suppose the Haven had weekly services either, so a logical progression if anything.

Guess I’ll come back when there’s more. Can’t stop now, Esaax just got his groove back.
Thanks for tolerating me as usual.

Sike Saner

Peace to the Mountain
*aurorus noise*
Raggy: Syr 's absolutely trying to put on a brave face. He's worried about making other people vicariously sad. Poor guy.

Fun fact: one of my first lv. 100s was also a glalie, and I've still got him, as well. I don't think I've inflicted him on 7th-gen, though. He's just hanging around in the bank at the moment.

And yep, Solonn's in the other chapterfic, as well. (In fact, he was also in the third, as-yet unposted-here one, but those scenes ultimately didn't make the cut.)

Thanks lots for the read 'n' reply! :D
Chapter 8

Sike Saner

Peace to the Mountain
*aurorus noise*
Chapter 8 – Phasing Forward, Looking Back

The doors to DeLeo’s office opened, and Esaax let the human usher him out. The wobbuffet found it slightly harder to move than he was used to. His muscles were oddly tense, his tail flicking about restlessly, but his bones almost felt as if they could just melt away. Ah crap, don’t tell me I’m getting sick…


The voice from down the corridor drew Esaax’s attention. He looked and found Jen skittering his way.

“It’s time to go,” Jen said once he came to a stop. His eyes widened. “Wait… did you get to talk to Mr. DeLeo in private?”

Esaax was too distracted by his increasing unwellness to respond at first. “Oh .Yeah,” he finally managed.

DeLeo smiled down at the snorunt. “It was great to meet your friend, Jen. And I think I managed to make a real breakthrough for his benefit. Thanks very much for bringing him.”

“Oh, uh, no problem,” Jen said, still sounding slightly bewildered. “Thanks for helping him,” he added. He then bade DeLeo farewell and led an increasingly pale Esaax away.

DeLeo watched them leave, working his tie between his fingers with something of a faraway look in his mahogany eyes. It’s gonna be all right, Esaax, he thought. Soon you’ll have your old life back. Both of us will…

* * *​

Esaax was riding back to Syr’s house with Jen, and he was now genuinely sick. It felt like someone was rearranging his insides, and clumsily at that.

Jen noticed Esaax’s condition at the next red light. “You don’t look so good,” he said.

“Nnnnrrrrrrr…” was Esaax’s reply, and it was the last thing out of his mouth until he and Jen were a block away from Syr’s house, when Esaax threw up over the side of the car.

“Oh…” Jen said as he pulled into the driveway, then stepped out to inspect the mess. “Guess you’ll need to have that checked out… ewww…”

“Haven…” Esaax managed to croak out, “now…” He’d hoped to never return there, but he couldn’t think of anywhere else to turn to. Something was very, very wrong with him; he wasn’t sure any other place had the resources to help him.

“Okay, okay, don’t worry…” Jen said. He was about to get back into the car when the front door of the house opened. Syr slithered out and looked about ready to say something, but before the arbok could say a word, Esaax was violently sick again.

Syr shot a distressed look at the wobbuffet, and then at Jen. “What… what’s going on? When’d he get so sick?”

“Just a few minutes ago,” the snorunt answered. “It just hit him out of nowhere.”

“Haven…” Esaax groaned again.

Syr nodded. “Don’t worry,” he said, as much for his own benefit as for Esaax’s, “we’ll get you there right away.” He leapt into the backseat, while Jen got back behind the wheel. “Hurry!” Syr said.

The three of them made a beeline for the Haven, with Esaax vomiting twice more and developing tremors along the way.

* * *​

Forty-five minutes had passed since arriving at the Haven. Syr was coiled up in a waiting room, anxiously awaiting an update on Esaax’s condition.

He heard footsteps and steeled himself for whatever news might be coming his way, but it was only Jen approaching, having just returned from getting the car washed.

“Is he going to be all right?” the snorunt asked.

“I don’t know yet,” Syr answered. “I’m still waiting for the nurse to come back.” The end of his tail curled and flexed fretfully.

At last, Teresa entered the waiting room, and Syr met her gaze in a near-instant with hope and dread surging through him all at once. “How is he?” he asked, struggling a bit to keep his voice from cracking.

“He’s stable, for now,” Teresa responded. “He actually came right out of that fit almost as soon as we’d gotten a hold of him. He might still relapse, though; we’ll need to keep him here until we can be sure of exactly what he’s experiencing. He’s in no hurry to leave anyway, trust me. He’s almost too weak to move at all.”

“So… you still don’t know what’s wrong with him?” Syr asked.

“I’m afraid not,” Teresa replied. “We still have some tests to run through, the results of which will hopefully give us the answers we’re looking for. Unfortunately, that will take time.”

Syr’s head lowered, his hope extinguished. The wait for answers wasn’t over after all. “Maybe it really was too soon to let him out,” he said. “That psychic sickness, the one he was in here for to begin with… I think it’s still there. I saw this strange, multicolored aura around him just hours ago, and he’s been like the living dead ever since…”

Teresa’s expression turned troubled. “No such aura ever appeared while he was here, not even once. Adn’s methods should have triggered it if it were still possible for it to be triggered.”

“Is Adn here?” Syr asked. His eyes and his tone begged for the answer to be yes.

“Not at the moment, I’m afraid,” Teresa said, and she sounded genuinely sorry about it. “But I’ll speak with him as soon as he gets back, all right?”

There was a moment’s delay, but then Syr sighed. “Okay,” he said, sounding defeated. “Just… please, take care of him. Please,” he said, looking imploringly into Teresa’s eyes.

“We’ll do everything we can,” Teresa tried to assure him, then turned and left.

As Syr watched her go, he dearly hoped that everything that the Haven’s staff could do would be enough.

* * *​

Esaax lay in bed with his eyes closed, still suffering the aches and nausea of his mystery illness. Though miserable, he was about to fall asleep out of sheer exhaustion.

As such, he almost failed to notice the presence that entered his midst then, emerging from the wall just above his bed. A dark bluish-gray gengar now hovered over him, clutching a flat, black stone whose edges had a silvery sheen.

By the time Esaax’s presently-compromised psychic senses realized there was a potentially dangerous, partly ghost-type creature nearby, the gengar had already vanished from the scene. The stone, however, had not—Esaax opened his eyes in a delayed and imperfect state of primal alarm just in time to see it drop from the air and land right on his face.

He would have shouted in pain and surprise, but the moment the stone made contact with his skin, a massive jolt fired through his body that took his breath away. An instant later, it was gone and replaced by an especially unpleasant feeling in his bones—a stretching feeling, as if someone had seized each one of his limbs and both ends of his spine and were pulling on them as hard as they could. It genuinely felt as though every part of him were being stretched out of shape, as if his entire body were being forcibly and dramatically elongated.

There came a second shock, much greater than the first, when Esaax realized that it was.

* * *​

Not far away, in a large puddle of recent rain, the reflection of a long, blue face gazed up at its owner: none other than Ntairow Fade, who was finally near the end of a very long search.

She’d been forced by her clan’s leadership to leave Esaax behind with the rest of the Evergray, but she’d never truly accepted the choice they’d made for her. Ultimately, she’d broken free from her clan, aided by a few fellow Fade she’d successfully convinced of the injustice that she’d been dealt.

Soon after she’d escaped, something new came into the picture. Something that had made her all the more glad that she was free to return to the Evergray and reunite with Esaax. That something appeared at her side now, another blue reflection in the water, resting on his long arms as he peered into the puddle with a large, perpetual smile.

“They’re ready, Mother,” the wynaut said.

He was her son, named Zerzekai. Tonight he was going to take part in the ritual of evolution—for about the fortieth time. Zerzekai seemed to fear evolving despite how earnestly he wanted to evolve; as such, every single one of his “transforming” battles thus far had ended the same way: cold feet and only two of them.

“The question is, are you ready?” Ntairow asked.

“Of course I’m ready! I know you’re gonna be proud of me if I do this, and I bet Father will be, too!”

“We’ll be proud of you no matter what,” Ntairow assured him. “And your father’s going to be absolutely delighted to finally meet you, no matter what form you’re in.”

When she’d made it back to Evergray territory, she’d been told that Esaax had left and was nowhere to be found. Upon learning this, she’d set out with her child in order to find him and bring him back to what she’d thought of as her new clan ever since she’d first spent time with them.

“But we already met! …Oh. No, we didn’t. Not really…” Zerzekai reminded himself, sounding crestfallen.

The wynaut and his mother had made numerous return trips to the Blackthorn area in search of Esaax. On one occasion, while exploring and playing alone, Zerzekai had actually found him. He’d realized almost as soon as he’d laid eyes and oculon upon Esaax that he was looking at his father, but he’d lost track of Esaax after running to tell Ntairow about his discovery.

“He should have recognized me,” Zerzekai said, and not for the first time.

Ntairow shook her head. “Different people’s senses don’t always work in the same ways. You know that.”

Differences in the way senses worked was a subject Ntairow’d had a very personal sort of experience with herself. Having already experienced a change in her own, she’d chosen to subject them to another set of enhancing alterations in order to ultimately track Esaax down. She remembered that at the time, she’d found it oddly funny that she’d managed to find the fairly obscure thing that was required to provoke those changes so much faster and easier than she’d found Esaax, and she wondered if he would find that similarly amusing.

She also wondered how much it was going to take to convince him that she was indeed the same person he’d known and loved before. Ntairow wanted to believe it would be easy enough, but…

She loved the Evergray. She really did. Their laws were nowhere near as strict as those of the Fade. But there was a lot about not only the world outside their caverns but also about the secrets of their own kind that they had yet to learn. If, in his time outside of Evergray territory, Esaax hadn’t learned that the course of action she’d taken in order to find him was even an option, she would have to enlighten him about it.

“We’re ready whenever you are!” a voice called out from not too far away then. Its source was a linoone, with a zigzagoon standing at her side.

“Go on, then, if you’re ready,” Ntairow told Zerzekai. “And remember: no matter how this turns out, we will both be proud of you.”

With a smile that was huge, even for a wynaut, Zerzekai rushed over to the linoone and zigzagoon and followed them to a larger clearing. The latter would be the one whom Zerzekai would fight (and defeat—the two normal-types had agreed to Ntairow’s request for the zigzagoon to throw the fight after having been paid handsomely in berries).

And after the battle, regardless of the outcome, they would go to reunite with Esaax. As a shout from the linoone signaled the start of the match, Ntairow found herself reminiscing about the last night she’d spent with him…


Ntairow’s reverie was abruptly shattered by something that seemed to explode inside her head, something that tore through the image of Esaax that she held within her mind and caused that picture to warp and twist.

Ntairow’s heart froze. “No… it’s not possible,” she whispered.

A horrid scream stabbed into her mind then—a psychic scream. It rose up, but then faltered and changed, distorted and corrupted in a way that could only have been achieved by…

“Dear Night, no!” Ntairow stood, reeling as she fought against the harsh brain-noise of the psybane that had suddenly and impossibly blossomed into being. “Don’t follow!” she called out to Zerzekai. But she could only hope and pray that her son had heard her and would obey, for she was already running full tilt toward Esaax and the horror that was befalling him. She suffered all the while as she ran, trying but failing to bite back cries of pain and clutching her head in her hands—in all four of them.
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