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Chibi Pika

Stay positive
Staff
Location
somewhere in spacetime
Pronouns
they/them
Partners
  1. custom/pikachu-chibi
  2. lugia
This was written for the 2018 Serebii Gift Fic Exchange! Enjoy!

Summary:
Wes opens the door to his Pokémon’s heart.
Rating: PG for some language and mild violence


Damaged Goods


Wes didn’t know why he bothered.

He knew better than most people what these Pokémon were like. Other people had seen them from time to time, of course, carried around by thugs that roamed the streets of all of Orre’s major cities. That or they’d heard the rumors of vicious, unruly Pokémon beating the snot out of anyone who so much as looked at them funny. But they hadn’t seen what actually happened to the hordes of stolen Pokémon that got shipped off to Cipher’s labs. They hadn’t seen all the tests done on the first successful shadow Pokémon given to Team Snagem, when they made sure that those things had really become nothing but mindless fighting machines.

Wes knew exactly all the reasons why what he was about to do was totally pointless. But something compelled him to do it anyway.

A burst of white light hit the dusty ground in front of him, forming into a long, furry body. At first glance, the Quilava looked exactly like any other. Same cream-colored belly, same tiny paws, same fire spots on its head and rear. You’d expect something like murderous red, glowing eyes, right? Or huge, bloodstained claws and fangs. But no, Rui was the only one who could actually see the difference. A twisted up black and violet pulsing aura—she’d described it as if the Pokémon’s soul had rotted. Wes had never even been sure he believed in auras before meeting her, but her word was the only thing he had to go off right now. And she hadn’t exactly been wrong at identifying one of them yet.

Still, even if there weren’t any visual differences, there were… other differences.

The Quilava’s eyes darted around, frantically taking in the barren, dusty setting. He’d let it out here on purpose. Nothing else for it to focus on. It let out a low groan, arm twitching like it was ready to swat at something. But there were no opponents. Nothing to fight. Its brain probably couldn’t handle that. What’s a fighting machine supposed to do with nothing to fight?

“Hey.”

His voice broke the silence. The Quilava snapped its head toward him suddenly, its eyes wide and manic. It held its attention on him for several seconds, then jerked it away, paws twitching as it glanced in every direction, unable to find something to attack.

While shadow Pokémon didn’t have any aversion to attacking humans, they weren’t designed to do so unprovoked. Harder to control them that way. It was convenient for him, at least.

Wes reached into his coat pocket and retrieved a bag of Pokémon food. It was the same stuff he fed his other two team members, but he hadn’t had the chance to buy anything specialized. The Quilava probably wouldn’t have noticed if he did, anyway. He opened the bag and fished through it before holding out a small handful.

That got its attention back on him. The ferret lunged forward. Tiny fangs dug into his hand through his gloves. Wes swore loudly, jerking his hand back, but the fire-type held fast, eyes still wide and staring, like it didn’t even know what it was doing.

Barely fighting back the urge to slam it into the dirt, Wes stared it dead in the eyes and snarled, “Let go!”

Like lightning, the ferret snapped its jaws open, releasing him. But then it saw where he’d dropped the food and dove at it, gulping it down like it hadn’t eaten anything in weeks, hardly bothering to chew.

Wes stared, still struggling to process what had just happened. It had listened. It recognized him as a master. He wasn’t sure if that was a good thing or not. And he really shouldn’t have been surprised. A lot of time and effort had gone into making sure that shadow Pokémon would obey orders. After all, what good was a fighting machine that wouldn’t listen?

So he could use it in battle at least. That was… something. He wasn’t sure what.

The higher-ups had always had… concerns that the shadowfication process wasn’t totally permanent. Some of the scientists had been working to correct whatever those “imperfections” were that could supposedly reverse the process.

He could only hope they were right. It was all he had to go on.

~~~~~​

Wes didn’t release Quilava again until the next day. This time, he let out Espeon and Umbreon first.

He’d never get the shadow Pokémon to the point where it was safe to be around others if he only let it out one-on-one. And… maybe it’d learn how to be a Pokémon again if it got to be around other Pokémon? (The idea sounded stupid even in his head, but he was making this up as he went along.)

The pair of foxes materialized on the ground in front of him. He knelt down so he could talk to them directly.

“Alright guys,” he said to the two. “I, uh… though it’d be good to introduce you to your new teammate. Since you’ll have to battle together.” No one really did single battles around here, after all.

Umbreon gave one of her disapproving stares that she liked to give most new and unfamiliar situations. Espeon cocked his head, looking intrigued. Wes didn’t really want to go through with this, but he couldn’t put it off any longer. He pulled out a third Pokéball and let out Quilava.

Espeon and Umbreon tensed up the instant the fire ferret took shape in front of them. Even if they hadn’t already fought it during the battle where he’d stolen it from Rosso, it was obvious they could immediately tell there was something wrong with this Pokémon.

“Hey, it’s okay, it’s okay,” he told them, not entirely believing it himself. Umbreon in particular gave him a skeptical glance as if to say, “Are you crazy?”

Yes. He probably was.

Quilava’s eyes darted between the two, finally setting on Espeon for a second too long. Then it lunged at him. Espeon hissed, his eyes flaring up with psychic energy. Umbreon darted in between them at the last second, taking its headbutt to her side, barely looking fazed. She glared daggers at the fire-type, as though daring it to try putting a dent in her.

“Hey, hey, it’s alright, let’s all just calm down.”

But exactly none of them had any intention of calming down. Quilava drew itself back and rammed into Umbreon a second time, looking distressed when its attacks barely even hurt her. Espeon leaped out from behind her and fired a small burst of psychic energy at the ferret, and it recoiled backward, scratching at its own head.

“Hey, knock it off!” he shouted.

Espeon and Umbreon both flashed incredulous glares at him. But what really surprised him was that Quilava froze, staring at him intently. Its eyes still darted over to the other two, and its whole body twitched as it held itself in place. But its attention was firmly on Wes, awaiting the next order.

Obedient to a fault. That was the true genius of shadow Pokémon. If he really wanted to, he could just command it not to act out. He didn’t actually need to get through to it.

Wes shook his head. How easy it was to slip back into that mindset. Even when he’d told himself he was past thinking like that. Taking advantage of the shadow Pokémon’s obedience would help him take down Cipher, but… It wouldn’t do him any good in undoing the damage they’d done.

Espeon was still staring at him like he’d gone insane while Umbreon kept her eyes firmly on Quilava, not trusting it not to make a move on them. Quilava, meanwhile, was still twitching, letting out a weird, disjointed groan. After having been ordered not to attack the obvious targets, it was clearly having a hard time figuring out what to do with itself, and had resorted to biting its own paws, drooling heavily.

Wes sighed. He still didn’t even know if breaking a shadow Pokémon out of its programming was even possible. But what good was stealing them if he couldn’t fix them?

~~~~~​

Shadow Pokémon were made for battling. Naturally, battling was the only thing the Quilava could be said to “enjoy” by any stretch of the imagination. More like it had the least trouble with battling. Everything else made it jerk and twitch and whine like it couldn’t figure out what was going on or what it should be doing, lashing out at random moments. But in a battle, it could actually cut loose and do what it was designed to do.

And it was good at it.

Dust whipped into a frenzy as Espeon ran circles around the opponent’s Machoke, firing pulses of psychic energy at it all the while. That left Quilava free to focus solely on the Nuzleaf in front of it.

“Shadow Rush!” Wes called out.

The fire-type dug its paws into the dirt as its aura flared to such intensity that even he could see it. Then it lunged forward, crashing into the grass-type with explosive power. It hadn’t figured out how to use its flames, but it almost didn’t even need them. He had to stop himself from admiring the way it fought. There was no denying its effectiveness. They’d been plowing through thugs with just that one move all day. It was no wonder that having a shadow Pokémon was a status symbol in this place.

Nuzleaf staggered backward, exhaustion covering its features. It stumbled once, twice, then collapsed onto its back, out cold. But Quilava didn’t take that as a sign that the fight was over. It lunged again, knocking the fallen Nuzleaf around like a ragdoll.

“The hell is it doing?” the opposing trainer asked.

Wes grit his teeth. Quilava had done this a few times before. It hadn’t figured out how not to battle. He pulled out its Pokéball and pressed the button to recall it. But it was learning. It dodged the recall beam and dove at the Nuzleaf, biting and clawing at its belly.

“Make it stop!” the trainer yelled, now frantic.

Wes clenched his fists. “Quilava! Get back here!” he snarled.

Its ears twitched in his direction. It had noticed the order, but it was too overtaken with rage to stop. But now it was distracted. He pointed the Pokéball again, and this time the recall beam found its mark, dissolving the ferret into red energy and pulling it into the ball. Wes stared at the Pokéball in his hand, only just now noticing how heavily he was breathing.

“The hell was that about?” his opponent demanded.

“Like you’ve never done the same,” Wes snapped, turning around and walking off.

He had to tell himself that all the thugs around here were the sort to beat up a fallen opponent, shadow Pokémon or no. It was the only way he felt okay using a shadow Pokémon against them to begin with.

He was doing it to save Orre, right?

For the millionth time, Wes was struck by the thought that he wasn’t the right person for this.

~~~~~​

Wes felt like an idiot.

That was the only way to describe how he felt as he walked away from the shop, arms loaded with glass bottles full of multicolored liquids. He had to find a table to set them all down and sort through, and came close to dropping a few of them.

He sent out Quilava first. It did the usual frantic search for an opponent, but when it didn’t find one, its gaze snapped back to him, and it waited.

“Pokémon are s’posed to like this stuff. So here,” he said, opening one of the bottles. A powerful scent assaulted his nostrils, and he almost coughed. These scents were supposedly soothing to Pokémon, although he had a hard time believing that now.

He knelt down and held the bottle out for Quilava to inspect. The ferret stepped forward to investigate the strange new object, growling softly, movements still tense and jerky. But at the same time, it did seem interested. It sniffed at the strange and unfamiliar scent. Its pupils dilated.

And then it promptly knocked the bottle out of his hand, causing it to shatter on the concrete.

Really?” Wes asked. But then he blinked. Quilava was pawing at the puddle of liquid and rubbing its face in it with an odd snuffling, snorting sound. And then, to his immense surprise, it dropped to the ground and began rolling around in the stuff, to the point that he had to brush the broken glass away or it would have rolled into it.

It was… sort of enjoying it? Maybe?

Well, at least it was distracted. He took that opportunity to let out Espeon and Umbreon, and for once Quilava didn’t even notice them.

“Alright you guys, ready for a scent massage?” he asked, feeling only slightly stupid about it.

Umbreon gave a disapproving snort, but Espeon seemed interested at least. At least the two of them were willing to sit still while he rubbed the liquid into their pelt. Umbreon turned up her nose at first, but after a little while, she closed her eyes with a contented purr.

Eventually, Quilava seemed to grow bored with the scent puddle and plodded over to the others. Wes tensed up, ready to break up yet another fight. But it didn’t attack them. It jerked its head from side to side, sniffing the fox pair practically nonstop. And it pawed at them in confusion, apparently trying to figure out why they shared the same scent. But it didn’t attack.

Umbreon closed her eyes in annoyance, but she didn’t bat the ferret away. Espeon blinked, not sure what to do with the attention he was receiving, but not unhappy with it either.

Well. That was one way to get it to stop attacking the rest of his party.

~~~~~​

This was wrong. It hadn’t acted like this before.

He’d gotten pretty used to Quilava’s vicious battling style by now, and had little trouble with cutting battles short when he needed to. But this? This was new.

The dark aura that flared up when it attacked—it hadn’t gone down. It had stayed up between the last two attacks, flaring even brighter when the fire-type was struck by the opponent’s moves. And then something inside it just snapped. It spun in circles, oblivious to the enemy, biting, clawing, scratching at itself. Blood dripped down its face as it snarled at nothing, eyes wide with fury.

Wes clenched his teeth, feeling his chest tighten. He didn’t like this one bit. But… he could just order it to stop, couldn’t he?

“Quilava, focus!” he ordered.

The fire-type snapped its attention to him with murder in its eyes, and he froze. Then, without warning, it shot right at him, body still cloaked in the raging shadow aura, now burning a feverish red. It was only seconds away from reaching him when he snapped out of his shock and recalled it. He stared at its Pokéball, hand trembling.

“What the hell was that?” his opponent asked.

“I forfeit,” Wes muttered, shoving a fistful of Pokédollars at the trainer before running off.

~~~~~​

Wes had been to Agate Village a few times and heard the rumors. They said that the overflowing greenery was thanks to Celebi’s blessing. That it had purified the dead and lifeless land, so to speak. The way they talked about Celebi, you’d think it could cleanse practically anything of its impurities. And now, with the crisis slowly spreading throughout the entire Orre region, they were saying that Celebi’s blessing could even cleanse the darkness from shadow Pokémon.

Of course, no one actually knew if it would really work or not. No one had shadow Pokémon to try it on. It’s not like someone would just waltz into a peaceful place like this carrying a murder machine, asking to pay a visit to the local deity.

First time for everything, Wes supposed.

Everyone in town knew where the shrine was, but no one could really point him in the right direction without him managing to get lost anyway. After a while he just gave up and let himself wander aimlessly. Part of him didn’t mind. He couldn’t help staring at all the lush greenery, all around, everywhere. Huge trees around every corner with branches stretching out endlessly. Vines draped over every building. Moss covering practically every inch of stone except for the parts of the road where people commonly walked. But what really got to him was how this place smelled alive. He was so used to air being dry, dusty, and lifeless that the idea of it being anything else was just alien. He’d spent his whole life in the desert. Sure, there were small patches of green here and there, but nothing like this. It didn’t matter if he came here ten, twenty, a hundred more times, he didn’t think it would ever be any less striking.

Eventually, he stumbled his way into the thicker part of the forest. There was still a path of sorts, but it was more overgrown than it had been back in the village. And the air felt… heavier here. Like some kind of pressure coming in from all sides, growing stronger the deeper he travelled into the heart of the forest.

And then he set foot into a circular clearing with a carved stone pillar at the center of the clearing. His breath caught in his chest. This was it. This was how they’d described it. The Relic Stone. The place where Celebi had once appeared.

Part of him still wasn’t sure he should be doing this. But he’d come too far to back down now.

He let out Quilava. Its head snapped in every direction the moment it materialized, as it found itself completely surrounded by strange new sights and sounds. The ferret zeroed in on the Relic Stone immediately, clawing at its base for a bit. Then when the stone didn’t react in any way, the fire-type dashed across the clearing and set to work tearing leaves from the bushes, whining uncomfortably the entire time.

Wes closed his eyes. “Celebi?” he said out loud, already feeling like an idiot. “Are you… there?”

No response. Really, why would there be? Did it want him to grovel? Fine, he’d do it. No one else could see him anyway.

Wes got down on his knees. Quilava glanced his way, but then quickly went back to darting around the clearing, growling at everything it laid eyes on. Somewhere out in the trees, a bird chirped, and the fire-type went into a frenzy trying to find the unseen foe.

“I need your help,” Wes said, fighting himself on every word. “I’m trying to help this one here. But I can’t do it by myself.”

He didn’t expect Celebi to appear immediately. So he waited. He kept his eyes closed, even as his ears caught the sounds of Quilava scratching at the moss on the stone floor and lunging at the bushes every time the wind dared to rustle their leaves.

And he kept waiting. But at the minutes dragged on, the cold realization dawned on him that Celebi wasn’t coming, and he’d been an idiot to think otherwise.

Wes exhaled slowly through his nose before standing up sharply. “Fine. Guess I’m not worthy.” He recalled Quilava back into and turning to leave.

Celebi probably only appeared to the pure of heart, the kind of people that wouldn’t have gone off and joined a criminal organization to begin with. Wes had no idea if that was really how the legend went, but… even if it wouldn’t appear for him, then it should have at least appeared for Quilava’s sake. Maybe it thought they both were too far gone.

He should’ve known better than to expect a fairy tale to fix everything for him.

~~~~~​

It’d be wrong to say that the noises woke him up. No, what actually woke him up was the paws batting at his face nonstop for who knows how long. This was after feeling heavier paws walking all over his torso, but those he was used to, as Espeon and Umbreon made a habit of walking all over him while he slept.

“What is it?” he grumbled, sitting up. Umbreon was sitting on his chest, fixing him with a disapproving stare. Espeon pointed at the floor, his cries sounding almost offended. And there he saw the source of the disturbance. Quilava, darting around the motel room in a frenzy. It apparently had broken out of its Pokéball, and had then knocked down chairs, torn apart cushions, scratched up the walls, and practically shredded the carpet. Ugh. He’d have to pay for this in the morning, wouldn’t he? Course, he could probably just strongarm the owner into looking past it and…

No. None of that. That wasn’t supposed to be him anymore.

It was a shitty motel room anyway.

He could probably stop Quilava from breaking out with a stronger Pokéball. He’d snagged it in a regular Pokéball—he hadn’t really been thinking about what to do with it long-term. Hell, it wasn’t until he’d met Rui that they’d set off on this crazy quest to steal back all the shadow Pokémon. Plus… just hiding the thing away in a stronger Pokéball… didn’t really feel right. Wouldn’t fix anything, at any rate.

“All right you two, back in your balls,” Wes said.

Immediate protest. Espeon and Umbreon put their paws against his chest, whining nonstop.

“Come on, I gotta deal with this. No complaining,” he said, and he recalled them.

Wes threw the sheets off himself and dropped to the floor, putting himself closer to eye level with the shadow Pokémon currently running amok in his room. Quilava barely seemed to notice him. In the past, he’d have been grateful that it didn’t see him as a target, but now it just bothered him.

“Hey,” he said.

Its ears twitched in his direction, and it paused. But then it just as soon resumed darting across the floor, snarling at nothing. Hunting for some invisible enemy like its life depended on it. Wes took a deep breath to brace himself, then reached out the moment it brushed his side, snatching it up and holding it tightly against his chest. The ferret immediately took issue with this, as he knew it would, biting and clawing at his arm. But he’d gotten used to that, and it barely fazed him anymore.

“Shh. Come on. It’s okay,” he said in his best attempt at a comforting voice.

Quilava paused, claws still digging into his arm. Its whole body shook with the force of its breathing, and the thing wouldn’t stop trembling all over. And for the first time, Wes realized that it felt utterly terrified. Was that the instinct that made shadow Pokémon fight anything that moved? Were they just… constantly afraid for their life? Was that what pushed them to fight so ruthlessly?

“You’re gonna be alright,” he said, stroking its fur gently, equally trying to convince it as well as himself. He could actually feel its heart rate going down. Its breathing slowly grew more controlled, and the trembling lessened. And in that moment, for whatever reason, he was struck by the obvious fact that it was alive. A living, breathing thing. Maybe in a way he’d still been thinking of it as nothing more than a fighting machine that he had to deal with, rather than something that was suffering in its own right.

“I’m gonna… I’m gonna find a way to fix this.” Was he sure of that? Was it really right for him to promise that when he had no idea what he was doing? Wasn’t this the sort of thing that someone who actually knew how to take proper care of Pokémon should be doing?

But it wasn’t right to force this work on anyone else. He’d helped cause this mess. He had to be the one to fix it. No one else deserved that.

~~~~~​

Rui was worried about him. She’d noticed how little sleep he’d been getting. He’d snapped at her when she’d asked. And he regretted it immediately afterward, but it was too late to take it back now.

So he distracted himself with more fighting. It was something he was good at, at least. And as much as he hated to admit it, it made him feel good. That rush of satisfaction from beating down assholes. The problem was that it wasn’t doing Quilava any good. That godawful red aura had flared up again, and it wasn’t showing any signs of stopping.

Wes took a step backward, swallowing hard. ‘She’s not mad,’ he told himself. ‘She’s just scared.’ He wasn’t sure if he fully believed that, but it was all he had to go on. He couldn’t just order her to stop. He had to try something else.

“Quilava! It’s okay, I’m here!” he yelled.

She jerked her head toward him like she always did. And he braced himself for her to lunge at him like before. But she didn’t. She just stared at him, eyes wide and anxious, but utterly devoid of that murderous glare that they’d had last time.

“It’s okay, Quilava! You’re gonna be alright!”

She took a few steps back, head twitching. She rubbed her face furiously into the dirt, pawing at herself, aura whipping into a frenzy. And then, just as suddenly, it was gone. The red aura had died down. Wes’s breath caught in his chest. He hardly dared to believe it.

She was back to normal. Well, whatever “normal” was for a shadow Pokémon, anyhow. But the red aura was gone.

He’d done it.

~~~~~​

And then it kept happening.

At first, he’d though he could deal with it now that he’d actually figured out how to snap her out of those moments. And at first, it was only happening once every few battles. But then it was every other battle. Then every battle. Until finally it was happening multiple times per battle, and he knew that it was never going to get any better on its own. He’d considered not using her in battle anymore. But then what else could he do? He needed her strength if her was going to keep fighting Cipher.

No. He told himself that was the reason, but the truth was that he couldn’t stand seeing her suffer like that anymore. Every time it happened felt like his heart was being ripped out.

So Wes found himself back at the shrine. That stupid shrine where Celebi had ignored him and made him feel like an idiot. But what other choice did he have? Nothing else was working, and… much as he hated to admit it, he was getting desperate.

So he let out Quilava in the same stone clearing as before. Almost immediately, the red aura flared up, but she was too exhausted to do anything with it and collapsed right away. He hadn’t healed her after the last battle. He felt awful about it, but the more energy she had, the more likely she was to hurt herself with it. At least, that’s what he told himself. There weren’t even any opponents to fight here, but Quilava still struggled to drag herself across the stone, trying to find one.

Wes grit his teeth and glanced away. Couldn’t focus on that right now. He turned his attention back to the stone pillar and called out, “I’ve tried everything but it’s not enough! I don’t know what to do. I need your help.”

The wind rustled through the trees just as it always did. He closed his eyes, feeling it sweep over him, desperately trying to read something into it. But it was the same wind as always, and he knew it. There was no reason for him to expect anything different.

“Look I know I’m not worthy,” he said quietly, voice trembling. “I know that. I’m not asking you to appear for me. But can’t you do it for her sake? She needs help, and I’m not good enough to help her!”

Wes collapsed to his knees, slamming a fist against the stone. It hurt. Not as much as it should have, though.

“I can’t do it,” he whispered.

Who was he trying to kid? Did he really think he could make up for the things he’d done? Was it really that easy? All the Pokémon he’d stolen for Snagem and delivered to Cipher—did he ever really think he could undo all of that? No. Part of him had just hoped. And now that part had to accept the cold, hard reality that he could never really make up for it.

At some point Quilava dragged herself over to him, resting her head against his knee, too tired to move any more. Slowly, he reached out and lifted her from the stone floor, holding her tightly to his chest.

“I’m sorry,” Wes whispered, tears dripping down his face and landing on her fur.

He wasn’t sure how long he sat like that. It might as well have been forever for all the difference it made. He never wanted to move from that spot.

But then, through closed eyes, he sensed the slightest shift in light.

His eyes snapped open. He hadn’t imagined it. The Relic Stone was glowing. Small beads of green light drifted up from its base, sparkling as they hit the sunlight. Wes stared stupidly at it, unable to process what he was seeing. And then, without warning, the light flashed outward, catching both him and Quilava in a swirling vortex of green and gold. He screwed his eyes shut, hugging the fire-type closer to himself. The wind whipped into a frenzy, and for an instant, everything felt impossibly, otherworldly clear.

Then, just as suddenly, it was gone. Wes sat there shaking, eyes wide and unblinking. The clearing looked the same as it ever had. Nothing had changed.

Then he glanced down. Quilava slowly opened her eyes and looked back at him, and his breath caught in his chest. No way. It couldn’t be. He blinked repeatedly, hardly daring to believe what he was seeing. He couldn’t describe it. She didn’t actually look any different, and yet. For the first time, there was actually something there. In her eyes. That blank, soulless stare was gone, and in its place was… recognition? Like she could actually see him and know it was him, and feel something from it.

It couldn’t be real. His sleep-deprived mind had to be playing a cruel trick on him. But the longer he stared, the further it dawned on him that this was real, no matter how ridiculous or impossible it seemed.

“Quilava?” he said slowly, voice trembling.

For several seconds, she didn’t respond. She just stared back at him, blinking slowly. But then the corners of her mouth turned up slightly, and she slowly leaned forward to nuzzle her face against his arm.

Wes let out a breath that he didn’t know he’d been holding as the weight of what had just happened crashed over him like a rolling wave. Then he hugged the fire-type tightly to his chest, blinking back tears.

He’d done it. It still didn’t feel real, but he’d done it.
 

NebulaDreams

Ace Trainer
Partners
  1. luxray
Yo! I’ve been familiar with your progress on your fic projects for now, but I never had the chance to check them out until now. I saw this one-shot used Orre as a setting, and that brought back some memories for me as I used to play Coliseum back when it first came out, so that enticed me to read this.

This worked really well as a one-shot. I’m not used to reading more traditional fics featuring trainers, but of the ones I enjoy, they do a great job of making the trainers and Pokemon properly interact, even if it’s on a non-verbal level, and I definitely got that with the Umbreon and Espeon.

Although I don’t remember the specifics of Wes’ character (if he’s supposed to be the player protag), I like how you portrayed him here along with the prose. He’s a bit of an anti-hero, and his inner thoughts clearly show that he’s trying to edge away from that former life with Cipher, but the bond he has with his team as well as how he grows to care for the Shadow Quilava fleshes out his character quite nicely.

Even in a short time-span, there was a great sense of progression as we get to see the Quilava come back to her senses throughout the course of the story. While I thought the ending was a bit convenient with how the Quilava grows out of her violent tendencies, it was still emotionally charged, and I think the story would’ve dragged for a bit if it wasn’t for that. Whatever. I’m just glad the two got somewhat of a happy ending, even if it doesn’t wash away Wes’ past actions.

So yeah, I really, really liked this one-shot. This got me even more curious to check out LC at some point, although when I get round to it with current deadlines in the way, I’m not sure yet. Nice work.
 

Negrek

Only the Lonely
Staff
I've been looking forward to reading this! Always here for Orre-fic. There's just something about the region that really works for me... or maybe it's how little it's fleshed out, even compared to other regions, and how much room there is to explore.

Some small nitpicks:

The ferret lunged forward.
Got briefly confused here, like, "Wait, what furret?" Haha, I guess quilava is ferret-y, but it took me a moment to catch up here.

Wes grit his teeth.
*gritted

“Make it stop!” the trainer yelled, now frantic.
Could the other trainer not recall the nuzleaf for some reason?

At least the two of them were willing to sit still while he rubbed the liquid into their pelt.
*pelts

Moss covering practically every inch of stone except for the parts of the road where people commonly walked.
*covered

And then he set foot into a circular clearing with a carved stone pillar at the center of the clearing.
You could end this at "center" and I think it would work better.

He recalled Quilava back into and turning to leave.
This sentence is a bit wonky. Missing at least a couple words.


Wes grit his teeth and glanced away.
*gritted

With that out of the way, I thought this was really well done. I like how you portrayed the purification process as Wes kind of just experimenting with things and learning as he goes along. You made some of the weirder Orre bits (scents!) feel reasonable, and you can kind of see how they might actually help the pokemon. I especially liked how you implemented the "call their name" mechanic.

Probably what stood out the most for me was how you portrayed the actual pokemon's behavior, though, which I thought was great. More animalistic than in your main story, and very well-observed. I particularly liked how the quilava reacted to the scent Wes bought and the bit where she starts chewing on herself when there's no one left to fight. Also, Espeon and Umbreon stepping all over Wes to wake him up (or just because they're assholes and they do that) was great and honestly just too real, haha. The focus on the pokemon's behavior really helped convey the sense of what was wrong with the quilava and made it feel like we were kind of right there along with Wes, trying to interpret what's going on with her based on these nonverbal clues. All the details and quirks help to make the characters come alive as, well, exactly what Wes eventually saw quilava as, actual living creatures.

If anything, I think I would have liked to see a little more of Wes himself in this story! Specifically, a little more on why he's working so hard to purify this quilava. Sure, he wants to help, but what's keeping him going through all the frustration and everything that doesn't seem to be helping? How is the quilava's behavior affecting him emotionally? Towards the end you get more into how he's invested in the idea that by purifying this quilava maybe he can make up for all his past misdeeds, which is great, but I would have liked to see it come through a little more strongly earlier on. Particularly because it probably means Wes has some . He's not the type to get overtly emotional about things, but since we're inside his head I think we could have seen a little more of what he was feeling.

It was also kind of weird for Wes to reference Rui now and again when we literally never see her. Wes even states that they're on the same quest, so... Where is she?

I have to say, I love the observation that it's fear driving the quilava to lash out and attack everything around her. This, again, lined up really well with her body language, and it both makes sense and is kind of an unusual interpretation of the shadow state. Usually I see "totally reprogrammed to be a fighting machine" or "so traumatized they're simply blank and unresponsive," but the twitchy, hyperalert, jumping-at-anything-that-moves makes sense both for what we can assume is a response to some serious trauma and as an explanation of the behavior we see from shadow pokemon in the games.

All in all this was a really nice one-shot. Great use of the Orre settings and themes, good narrative arc and my favorite, of course, well-drawn pokemon and realistic interactions with their trainer. Nice work!
 

kintsugi

golden scars
Location
waiting for the fog to roll out
Pronouns
she/her
Partners
  1. silvally-grass
  2. lapras
  3. golurk
ORRE? QUILAVA? CELEBI AS A MAJOR PLAYER?
sign me the heck up tyvm

I like the shift in Wes seeing Quilava as "it" to "her" as he gets to know her better. It's something that I feel like people don't capitalize enough on -- the games always use "it" for things like confusion, and that feels so impersonal.

Your prose is also really pretty in this. Getting stuck in Jade's head means that we don't always get the simple lines that you're able to use here -- "what's a fighting machine supposed to do with nothing to fight" indeed.

I do wish that we got to see more of the progression here. I would say the first 60% or so (pretty much everything up to the last scene, which is pretty long) is establishing how things are pretty bad with Quilava and how Wes doesn't feel equipped to help her -- and that's a really powerful narrative that I wish we could delve more into. In all honesty this fic is more about opening the door to Wes's heart than Quilava's, and proving that Wes is actually worthy of redemption via making up for his mistakes. For me the transition from all being hopeless to the shrine suddenly responding is a bit abrupt; there's a lot of telling that Quilava and Wes have grown, but ultimately it almost doesn't feel like the lesson is learned. Wes is still hopeless and is honestly on the verge of giving up when the divine intervention happens, and most of the interactions he has during the fic with other people are as self-deprecating/hating throughout.

I think there are two things that might help: first, spreading out the character growth more evenly throughout the story. You spend the first two thirds of the story fleshing out how deep in shit these guys are, and then both Wes and Quilava have huge changes at the end (Wes is deemed worthy; Quilava is purified) over the course of a few paragraphs. I liked when you described Quilava getting some of its attacks back, and I think more moments like that could help make the setup/payoff ratio feel a little more balanced.

And second, changing the scenes where Wes approaches the Relic Stone so that they feel more different from one another. In both cases Wes goes because he feels like he's not good enough and he doesn't really believe in fairytales but it's not like he's going to try anything else, and ultimately it's because he needs help -- he asks the same questions both times. For me these two scenes feel largely the same and Wes is largely the same character as he enters them, except the second time things work out. I think if you could better highlight the changes in both Wes and Quilava between the time that this works and the time that it doesn't, that would make the ending feel more earned, and really drive home the character developments in both of them that lets this happen.

But at the minutes dragged on
oop

And ultimately I think it's up to you which way you want to take this. Purifying shadow Pokemon is laughably easy in Colo, and it ultimately does end up happening in exactly the format you described, so it's up to you how far you want to weave narrative/character growth into the mechanics.

All in all I think the concept and execution here was really great, and it's overall a really sweet fic that involves best region and best Pokemon, so yeah, I definitely enjoyed it! Great stuff here.
 

zion of arcadia

too much of my own quietness is with me
Pronouns
she/her
Partners
  1. marowak-alola
This was good. I've always had a soft spot for Orre and the way it presents a kid-friendly, fantasy version of the wild west. Wes is the prototypical cowboy; a laconic, maiden-saving figure who swaggers through grimy, broken down locales with a grace that can only be described as badass. I like the way you tap into that aspect of Wes while constantly peeling back the layers, revealing his insecurities and vulnerabilities. You also do a great job paralleling his struggles with Quilava's own slow path to recovery.

An example:

What’s a fighting machine supposed to do with nothing to fight?

This question could just as easily apply to Wes. Quilava and Wes are on a journey of healing together, trying to break free of the purpose forced upon them by Team Cipher/Snagem. The moments where they interact with each other are my favorite parts of the short story. The stand out scene was probably when Wes first introduces Quilava to his two pokémon.

There's a lot of interplay and moving parts to this scene. You quickly establish both Umbreon and Espeon while managing Quilava's outburst and Wes's reaction to it all. Little details like Quilava gnawing at her own paws also paint a vivid picture as to just how much this poor pokémon is suffering. Wes, in contrast, is characterized less by physical reactions and more by internal introspection. Moments like him refraining from slamming Quilava into the ground after she bites him says a lot in the span of a single sentence. He's violent, too, he's just better at hiding it.

The prose is straightforward and doesn't bullshit around. I appreciate that quite a bit. Scenes depicting the sheer inhumanity Cipher inflicted upon Quilava unfold with a harsh bluntness--I winced multiple times while reading depictions of her breakdown. Although you offset it with moments of kindness and gentleness, such as when Wes gives Quilava the scents, or when he holds her to help her calm down. I also appreciated the subtle shift from using 'it' to 'her'. Nice touch.

Because the events of the story take place over an unknown period of time, a lot of synopsizing seems to happen to get Wes and Quilava from point A to point B. A one-shot is usually most effective when it's a snapshot of a moment for this reason. The story shines best when you can slow down and detail specific interactions between them as opposed to moments such as the near end, where we quickly recount how Quilava's condition is worsening. It turns a lot of moments that could've been shown into moments that are instead told.

I can't believe I'm about to say this, but I also think we needed more exploration of Wes's past. Or, maybe that's not the right way to think about it. We needed more concrete details pertaining to Wes's past. There's a lot of vague gripping about all the horrible things he did without expanding upon them in more detail. One possibility would be to have Wes watch a pokémon he snagged turn into a shadow (perhaps as a 'reward' for his good work). He can think back on that experience from time to time while also helping Quilava. When he talks about being unable to save Quilava, we use this theoretical past pokémon he failed as a point of reference that contextualizes his determination to stop the villain team without stooping back down to their level again.

They hadn’t seen all the tests done on the first successful shadow Pokémon given to Team Snagem, when they made sure that those things had really become nothing but mindless fighting machines.

This is what I mean. Wes might have seen these tests, but we haven't. So tell us about them!

Rui was also curiously absent from most of the story. So many times Wes was on his own, and I find myself wondering how the dynamic would change if Rui had been there with him, assisting him in helping Quilava. I get juggling a third character like that can make a scene crowded, but it would've been worth considering for the thematic implications alone. Rui can be to Wes as Wes is to Quilava--someone who values him as a person instead of as a commodity. I'd have found that dynamic a lot more interesting than Wes and Quilava interacting with generic NPC characters.

The climax also fell a little flat. Celebi being the one to ultimately purify Quilava takes a lot of the wind out of the sails of Wes and Quilava's relationship. The bit about Wes not believing in fairytales is a punchy line, but I'm not sure how it's thematically relevant to what the rest of the story is about, or how the fairy tale 'coming true' synergizes with everything else. I'm not sure if this is just adherence to gameplay mechanics or what but it needed a subtle tweak in my opinion.

It also doesn't feel like there's much difference between Wes asking for help the first time and Wes asking for help the second time. Maybe the first time he's too proud to actually ask, and just leaves after a few minutes? It would've given the second time around more emotional impact.

Thanks for the enjoyable read. Have a nice day!
 
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Umbramatic

The Ghost Lord
Location
The Yangverse
Pronouns
Any
Partners
  1. reshiram
Orre fiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiic

I like the way you write Wes in this. It's easy to make him this stone cold badass but here he has feelings and emotions and vulnerabilities and hnnng

Also. Espeon and Umbreon are very cat. Especially in the scene in the hotel room.

SPEAKING OF! Shadow Quilava's mannerisms are a delight. Its twitching, anxiety-driven reaction to anything that isn't murder, its aura flareups, its animalistic reactions to everything except what it's programmed to do - top notch portrayal of a Shadow Pokemon. And Wes' sheer desparation to cure the poor thing is great, and has excellent payoff.

The portrayal of the stuff with Celebi is intresting too - Celebi doesn't actually show up and yet it has a Presence and I think that's cool.

I always have kind of wanted to see what happens when you diverge from LC and now I see you have and it's actually great? I hope you do more stuff like this.
 

Namohysip

Dragon Enthusiast
Staff
Partners
  1. charizard
AAAAAH! Orre! Orre! ORRE!

Okay, excitement over, let’s actually take a look at what we’re doing here. So, Wes, Shadow Quilava, I think it was a good choice to just quietly ignore that Makuhita for the time being since Quilava has more symbolism as, you know a starter Pokémon.

I also really, really like the fact that you’re delving into the fact that Wes used to be a criminal, and that’s something that the first Orre came in particular had SEVERELY underutilized, largely because they made the mistake of going for yet another silent protagonist. C’mon, guys, you actually gave him a backstory this time! USE IT!

I liked that you sort of emulated the gameplay of all the methods that you could use to lower a Shadow Pokémon’s darkness before trying to properly unlock their heart. You even included the scents! Though if you wanted to be more realistic, you’d have spent the entire fic there after the crisis was over, and Wes spent all his excess funds from running the terrorist organization dry with his victories on purification.

One thing that I’m noticing about all these quick scenes was that it was definitely something that I feel could have been expanded upon more. The first scene in the forest, in particular, felt like it could have gone on for a lot longer for extra emotional investment, but I guess due to length and time constraints, it had to be, for lack of a better term, abridged.

The final scene was another example that really could have been expanded, but for what it’s worth, I think you captured the essence of it all really well. It really, really makes me wish that Orre delved even more into Wes’ potential conflict as a former Snagem member, among other things.

I don’t have much in the way to say that other reviewers hadn’t already covered, so I guess the only thing I could say that could help with expansion if that ever happens—I know it’s just a one-shot, so I doubt it will—would be if Rui had a bit more of a prominent role than just being mentioned and summarized. I feel like she would have a lot to say about the twisted auras that she sees, after all.

But otherwise, it was short and sweet. Kudos for tackling a long-underappreciated side series!
 

StellarWind

Biomechanical Abomination
Definitely nice to see Orre getting more love - As a region Orre has a frell of a lot of potential and Colosseum/XD had very good stories to tell which were kind of not tapped into enough in the actual games due to being sort of an afterthought to a Stadium spin-off with horrendously grindy mechanics - and that was always a bit of a shame.

It's interesting to see different takes on the Shadow Process. Its interpretation as locking a Pokémon in some kind of permanent fight-or-flight haze was excellent for the kind of story you were telling here - I've always pictured it as something that suppresses emotion-related pathways and things such as pain response instead (but then, these could be two different pathways/approaches to the same result?). I love the fact that while the mechanics of healing here were very much like those of the games, the story elaborated on them in such a manner that it made them feel real and having actual stakes rather than some tedious and detached game mechanic that you had to grind through.

It was also really cool to watch Wes' progression as a character throughout the story and his struggles with his quest at large and this particular part of it on a smaller scale - and the way he comes to actually care about, and care for, the Quilava. The shift in how he refers to this Quilava and thinks about it and the narrative voice shifts from focusing on its erratic, unreasonable behaviour and more on the pain and anxiety it's likely to be feeling - the transition from an impersonal 'it' to the more personal 'she' as he starts focusing more on the Quilava being another living creature than being a battling Pokémon - and from 'something that needs to be cured as part of this mission that I might not be the right person for' to 'someone who needs saving because they're suffering and I have to try' are very telling, and the nods to the things Wes may have done in the past make the story feel like a redemption arc, of sorts, not only for this poor brainfscked Quilava but also for Wes himself. I deeply enjoyed Wes' characterization here (and that of the various Pokémon as well) and the flow of each of the story beats, all the way to the conclusion - and to what made the stone finally respond.

I know this is a one-shot and intended as one - but there's a part of me that definitely wants to see where Wes and that Quilava are going to go from there - and I feel that if I were to read a novelization of Colosseum in this style and with these interpretations of the characters (and maybe with Rui turned into an actual person rather than a cardboard-cutout macguffin) I'd be able to keep up with it and enjoy it a lot more than I did with the game itself. And that is always a good thing. ^^
 

Adamhuarts

Mew specialist
Partners
  1. custom/mew-adam
  2. custom/celebi-shiny
It's been a while since I read a fic from you, Chibi, so I decided to come check out this oneshot you've posted. I will admit I've never played any of the XD line of spin off games, so I don't have any prior emotional attachments to these characters. However, I will say that over the course of this oneshot, you've managed to make me care about Wes and his struggle to purify his Quilava.

Given the length of this oneshot, I would say it's pretty commendable you were able to achieve that, as it can be difficult in just a oneshot if one doesn't already know the characters. The chapter was also pretty well written and smooth to read as expected, and it was overall great. I look forward to seeing more stuff from you!
 

Pen

the cat is mightier than the pen
Staff
Partners
  1. dratini
Nice to get a chance to read a oneshot by you, since I'm kind of intimidated by the epic length fics. I started this fic thinking 'uh oh, time for another round of Pen knows nothing about Orre' but you did a good job introducing the character and world organically, and I never felt lost despite not being familiar with the setting.

This was a really sweet little oneshot! I appreciated how you depicted the shadow quilava in a concrete, animalistic way. You captured the sense of someone trying to tame a feral animal who doesn't have the skill to do so, and how difficult and heartbreaking that can be. I also liked how it slowly becomes clear that this task of trying to heal quilava is Wes' attempt to work through his own issues: an attempt at redemption. I liked the initial failure at the Celebi shrine and the subtle difference in what makes the second attempt succeed: instead of angsting about not being worthy, he apologizes--he takes responsibility for his actions. It made the ending feel satisfying and earned. I'm kind of a sucker for stories of healing, so this was an enjoyable read for me.

Not going to do line-by-line critique since you mentioned this is an old gift fic you're not planning to revise. As a general note, the prose felt stronger in the second half--the beginning felt a little clumsier, but I felt like you hit stride midway through and had a nice flow through the end. I might also keep an eye on the phrase "breath caught in his chest" though.

After having been ordered not to attack the obvious targets, it was clearly having a hard time figuring out what to do with itself, and had resorted to biting its own paws, drooling heavily.
Oh no! Poor baby.

He had to tell himself that all the thugs around here were the sort to beat up a fallen opponent, shadow Pokémon or no. It was the only way he felt okay using a shadow Pokémon against them to begin with.
This was the one place the worldbuilding confused me. he used to be a "thug" himself, right? So it seems like he'd have a sense of whether that's the case. And it might have been a nice lead-into more about his internal struggles.

But then he blinked. Quilava was pawing at the puddle of liquid and rubbing its face in it with an odd snuffling, snorting sound. And then, to his immense surprise, it dropped to the ground and began rolling around in the stuff, to the point that he had to brush the broken glass away or it would have rolled into it.
Catnip!!

It jerked its head from side to side, sniffing the fox pair practically nonstop. And it pawed at them in confusion, apparently trying to figure out why they shared the same scent. But it didn’t attack.
Awww

It’s not like someone would just waltz into a peaceful place like this carrying a murder machine, asking to pay a visit to the local deity.

First time for everything, Wes supposed.
Nice bit of humor

He recalled Quilava back into and turning to leave.
Typo (just in case you want to fix it.)

Celebi probably only appeared to the pure of heart, the kind of people that wouldn’t have gone off and joined a criminal organization to begin with. Wes had no idea if that was really how the legend went, but… even if it wouldn’t appear for him, then it should have at least appeared for Quilava’s sake. Maybe it thought they both were too far gone.

He should’ve known better than to expect a fairy tale to fix everything for him.
Mmm, I liked the failure here and how he interprets it as a referendum on his moral character and own potential for redemption. This was where I felt the beginning of the shift into this not just being a question of whether the quilava can be saved, but whether he can.

This was after feeling heavier paws walking all over his torso, but those he was used to, as Espeon and Umbreon made a habit of walking all over him while he slept.
Such a cat mood!

Ugh. He’d have to pay for this in the morning, wouldn’t he? Course, he could probably just strongarm the owner into looking past it and…

No. None of that. That wasn’t supposed to be him anymore.
Liked the train of thought he goes down here and the backtracking.

Quilava paused, claws still digging into his arm. Its whole body shook with the force of its breathing, and the thing wouldn’t stop trembling all over. And for the first time, Wes realized that it felt utterly terrified.
This was a really nice moment. You do a great job portraying the quilava as a living being.

He needed her strength if her was going to keep fighting Cipher.
Typo (just in case you want to fix it.)

“I’m sorry,” Wes whispered, tears dripping down his face and landing on her fur.

He wasn’t sure how long he sat like that. It might as well have been forever for all the difference it made. He never wanted to move from that spot.

But then, through closed eyes, he sensed the slightest shift in light.
The hardest word :)

he wind whipped into a frenzy, and for an instant, everything felt impossibly, otherworldly clear.
The moment where Celebi intervenes felt appropriately other-worldly here.
 

WildBoots

Don’t underestimate seeds.
Pronouns
She/Her
Partners
  1. custom/moka-mark
  2. solrock
I didn’t realize you had any one-shots! A nice surprise.

Overall, I thought this was sweet. As others have noted, the animalistic body language is especially good, and I love how the redemption of this quilava is clearly bound up in Wes’s own redemption. I might be hampered by not knowing very much about Orre, not having played those games, but I did find the ending a little abrupt and deus ex machina. I wanted a little more of Wes’s inner life to come out in the story, and I think that would’ve helped me with the ending.

Other people had seen them from time to time, of course, carried around by thugs that roamed the streets of all of Orre’s major cities.
Throughout, I was uncertain what Wes’s familiarity with shadow pokémon was and how often others see them. This sentence in particular I thought could’ve been strengthened with more specifics.

she’d described it as if the Pokémon’s soul had rotted.
Ooh good line.

But no, Rui was the only one who could actually see the difference.
I thought this sentence could be adjust to getter flow from the previous ones. Maybe something like“A monster should look monstrous, but there were few clues from appearance alone that a Pokémon had been changed. Rui was the only person Wes knew who could spot the difference at a glance.”

And she hadn’t exactly been wrong at identifying one of them yet.
I don’t think you need “exactly” here—it would read stronger without it.

It let out a low groan, arm twitching like it was ready to swat at something.
Ooh I like this image. I’d swap arm for foreleg though.

It held its attention on him for several seconds, then jerked it away, paws twitching as it glanced in every direction, unable to find something to attack.
This would’ve been a good moment to explore Wes’s uncertainty and fear! At this point, it doesn’t seem like he has much experience with shadow pokémon, so in theory he doesn’t think it will attack him ... but he doesn’t know for sure until it doesn’t.

The ferret lunged forward.
I don’t think of quilava as a ferret, so this epithet threw me off.

He’d never get the shadow Pokémon to the point where it was safe to be around others if he only let it out one-on-one.
Suggestion: If he only let it out to be alone with him, the shadow quilava would never learn how to behave around others and would always be dangerous.

Umbreon gave one of her disapproving stares that she liked to give most new and unfamiliar situations. Espeon cocked his head, looking intrigued
The first sentence I think you could cut after “stares.” But I like this quick, simple way of injecting personality into both of them.

and had resorted to biting its own paws, drooling heavily.
OOOF. This is a really striking image.

More like it had the least trouble with battling. Everything else made it jerk and twitch and whine like it couldn’t figure out what was going on or what it should be doing, lashing out at random moments.
I like the images here! Again, I do think it could flow better: “Or, at least, battling didn’t confuse it. Without an opponent, the quilava was left jerking and twitching ...” Part of the problem is that I’m not totally sure what “everything else” entails. What other kinds of activities is he trying to get it to partake in?

exhaustion covering its features.
Not sure about “covering” here.

It had noticed the order, but it was too overtaken with rage to stop.
I was uncertain why this happened here, when in other places his commands are enough to make it come to a complete stop. “Obedient to a fault” doesn’t quite seem to be playing out, especially the “to a fault” part.

Like you’ve never done the same,” Wes snapped, turning around and walking off.
It sounded like maybe he hadn’t? I wasn’t sure if the nuzleaf was a shadow pokémon or not.

These scents were supposedly soothing to Pokémon, although he had a hard time believing that now.
Well probably because you’re sniffing right from the bottle, you goof, Wes. Too strong a dose!

Moss covering practically every inch of stone except for the parts of the road where people commonly walked
I liked this!

It’d be wrong to say that the noises woke him up. No, what actually woke him up was the paws batting at his face nonstop for who knows how long.
Suggestion: It wasn’t the noise that woke him but the paw prodding his face.

It apparently had broken out of its Pokéball,
That’s a scary possibility since it doesn’t always listen to him!

No. None of that. That wasn’t supposed to be him anymore.

It was a shitty motel room anyway.
That final line for me undercuts his insistence that he’s grown. It seems to imply “whatever, who cares,” but he’s grown because ... he’s not going to use force to get out of it? Eek.

He hadn’t healed her after the last battle. He felt awful about it, but the more energy she had, the more likely she was to hurt herself with it. At least, that’s what he told himself.
Oof. This was another hard one where it was hard for me to say whether he’s actually grown.

No way. It couldn’t be. He blinked repeatedly, hardly daring to believe what he was seeing. He couldn’t describe it. She didn’t actually look any different, and yet.
We get three sentences of disbelief before we get an actual description of what’s happening, and it felt over the top for me.

I was also torn about the moment where he calls out “it’s gonna be okay!” (etc) to the quilava while she’s battling. It’s sweet and shows he learned something from the motel scene ... but it was jarring to me because 1) well, she’s in a fight. It’s only going to be okay after she gets hurt a bit first. 🙃 2) it seems like it would be distracting from the fight?

My favorite moment was the motel scene. I was unsure about the jumó from being upset about the destruction to “I’m going to hug you even if it hurts me!” But! It was a sweet moment, and I loved watching him recognize that she’s not just an object.

Fun read!
 

Cresselia92

Ace Trainer
Pronouns
She/Her/Hers
Yoh, pal! I'm here after the roulette picked your story. I'm all for some Orre fic, so let's dive into the review with the parts that picked my interest. :3

They hadn’t seen all the tests done on the first successful shadow Pokémon given to Team Snagem, when they made sure that those things had really become nothing but mindless fighting machines.

And we don't get to see those tests, either. Which is a pity, I would have liked to see your interpretation of the process, which is something that is barely tackled in-game and out-of-game. Like, is it brainwashing? Torture? Heart Virus? Or something else?

You’d expect something like murderous red, glowing eyes, right? Or huge, bloodstained claws and fangs.

Okay, I find it odd how the narrator suddenly talks to the reader like that. It's quite the shift from a formal tone to a more informal POV.

I think it would have been better if this was described from Wes's point of view, like "He would have expected something like murderous red, glowing eyes. Maybe even huge, bloodstained claws and fangs. Shadow Pokémon didn't look like those hideous monsters from movies, and he wasn't sure whether that was for the best or not -- it was very easy to lower the guard while around those normal-looking Pokémon."

Like, lemme see more of Wes's impressions and thoughts. He's the protagonist of this story, after all.

What’s a fighting machine supposed to do with nothing to fight?

This part reminds me a lot a quote from Lilo & Stitch…

Jumba: 626 was designed to be a monster, but now he has nothing to destroy. You see, I never gave him a greater purpose. What must it be like to have nothing, not even memories to look back on in the middle of the night?

In a sense, Shadow Pokémon are very similar to Jumba’s experiments: powerful creatures of a scientist who can become good (once more), if you show them love. Hmm... I had never drawn this parallelism, until now.

That got its attention back on him. The ferret lunged forward. Tiny fangs dug into his hand through his gloves. Wes swore loudly, jerking his hand back, but the fire-type held fast, eyes still wide and staring, like it didn’t even know what it was doing.

Yikes! That makes me wonder how other people handle Shadow Pokémon. It must be like trying to feed a shark.

“Alright guys,” he said to the two. “I, uh… though it’d be good to introduce you to your new teammate. Since you’ll have to battle together.” No one really did single battles around here, after all.

That raises a good question: "Why do people prefer Double Battles in Orre?"

Umbreon gave one of her disapproving stares that she liked to give most new and unfamiliar situations.

Non-canon alert! Non-canon alert! Quick, to the panic room!

(To better illustrate: Espeon and Umbreon are hard-coded to be always male in Pokémon Colosseum, iirc. I don't mind the gender swap, though.)

Quilava’s eyes darted between the two, finally setting on Espeon for a second too long. Then it lunged at him. Espeon hissed, his eyes flaring up with psychic energy. Umbreon darted in between them at the last second, taking its headbutt to her side, barely looking fazed. She glared daggers at the fire-type, as though daring it to try putting a dent in her.

Umbreon showing off why she is the wall of the team, I see.

Wes shook his head. How easy it was to slip back into that mindset. Even when he’d told himself he was past thinking like that. Taking advantage of the shadow Pokémon’s obedience would help him take down Cipher, but… It wouldn’t do him any good in undoing the damage they’d done.

Besides, I very much doubt that one single Shadow Pokémon can take down a whole army of Shadow Pokémon. Be grateful that Quilava isn't a Shadow Pokémon Mk.2, at least.

Quilava, meanwhile, was still twitching, letting out a weird, disjointed groan. After having been ordered not to attack the obvious targets, it was clearly having a hard time figuring out what to do with itself, and had resorted to biting its own paws, drooling heavily.

Gosh, the poor thing. :c

Wes sighed. He still didn’t even know if breaking a shadow Pokémon out of its programming was even possible. But what good was stealing them if he couldn’t fix them?

To make sure that others won't use them, at the very least?

Nuzleaf staggered backward, exhaustion covering its features. It stumbled once, twice, then collapsed onto its back, out cold. But Quilava didn’t take that as a sign that the fight was over. It lunged again, knocking the fallen Nuzleaf around like a ragdoll.

Careful, you're almost going into Nuzlocke territory.

“The hell was that about?” his opponent demanded.

“Like you’ve never done the same,” Wes snapped, turning around and walking off.

He had to tell himself that all the thugs around here were the sort to beat up a fallen opponent, shadow Pokémon or no. It was the only way he felt okay using a shadow Pokémon against them to begin with.

Well, I mean, there is a good chance that non-trained, wild Pokémon would do something like this, especially if driven by predatory instincts. So, it could have been easily assumed that Quilava was a recently-caught wild Pokémon. But then, wild Pokémon don't exist anymore in Orre...? 🤔

Yeah, I guess it's just thugs doing thugs things, in that case.

Really?” Wes asked. But then he blinked. Quilava was pawing at the puddle of liquid and rubbing its face in it with an odd snuffling, snorting sound. And then, to his immense surprise, it dropped to the ground and began rolling around in the stuff, to the point that he had to brush the broken glass away or it would have rolled into it.

It was… sort of enjoying it? Maybe?

Wait... is that a drugs allegory? Because it sounds a lot like Quilava's going into an acid trip here. :p

Umbreon gave a disapproving snort, but Espeon seemed interested at least. At least the two of them were willing to sit still while he rubbed the liquid into their pelt. Umbreon turned up her nose at first, but after a little while, she closed her eyes with a contented purr.

*coughs* Huuuh... as far as I know, foxes don't quite purr. They make some growly cries to express joy, iirc.

Well. That was one way to get it to stop attacking the rest of his party.

Yeah, cover them in drug-like liquid! XP But hey, at least he can use that stuff to stop Quilava from attacking other trainers' Pokémon, too: just throw a bottle of scent and you're fine.

The fire-type snapped its attention to him with murder in its eyes, and he froze. Then, without warning, it shot right at him, body still cloaked in the raging shadow aura, now burning a feverish red. It was only seconds away from reaching him when he snapped out of his shock and recalled it. He stared at its Pokéball, hand trembling.

Ah, yes. I remember one time that a Shadow Pokémon attacked my character. Pity that it was just a wasted turn -- it would have been interesting to get something like an alternate Game Over, rather than just a skip.

Everyone in town knew where the shrine was, but no one could really point him in the right direction without him managing to get lost anyway. After a while he just gave up and let himself wander aimlessly. Part of him didn’t mind. He couldn’t help staring at all the lush greenery, all around, everywhere. Huge trees around every corner with branches stretching out endlessly. Vines draped over every building. Moss covering practically every inch of stone except for the parts of the road where people commonly walked. But what really got to him was how this place smelled alive. He was so used to air being dry, dusty, and lifeless that the idea of it being anything else was just alien. He’d spent his whole life in the desert. Sure, there were small patches of green here and there, but nothing like this. It didn’t matter if he came here ten, twenty, a hundred more times, he didn’t think it would ever be any less striking.

That was a really lovely description to show the contrast between the desert setting and the village. I really like that. :3

Quilava paused, claws still digging into his arm. Its whole body shook with the force of its breathing, and the thing wouldn’t stop trembling all over. And for the first time, Wes realized that it felt utterly terrified. Was that the instinct that made shadow Pokémon fight anything that moved? Were they just… constantly afraid for their life? Was that what pushed them to fight so ruthlessly?

“You’re gonna be alright,” he said, stroking its fur gently, equally trying to convince it as well as himself. He could actually feel its heart rate going down. Its breathing slowly grew more controlled, and the trembling lessened. And in that moment, for whatever reason, he was struck by the obvious fact that it was alive. A living, breathing thing. Maybe in a way he’d still been thinking of it as nothing more than a fighting machine that he had to deal with, rather than something that was suffering in its own right.

“I’m gonna… I’m gonna find a way to fix this.” Was he sure of that? Was it really right for him to promise that when he had no idea what he was doing? Wasn’t this the sort of thing that someone who actually knew how to take proper care of Pokémon should be doing?

Now this part is interesting and hints at what drives Shadow Pokémon to attack. It's also a very nice Character Development for Wes, who seemed to show more contempt toward Quilava than anything.

Really nice passage!

Rui was worried about him. She’d noticed how little sleep he’d been getting. He’d snapped at her when she’d asked. And he regretted it immediately afterward, but it was too late to take it back now.

Ah, now we're seeing things from Rui's perspective? Though, I kinda wish we got to see more of her. Like, why isn't she trying to help Wes, aside from telling him about Quilava's aura? It would have been cool to see them both brainstorming ideas to help the lost soul. As a psychic, it would have been fitting for her to work on that, imo.

She took a few steps back, head twitching. She rubbed her face furiously into the dirt, pawing at herself, aura whipping into a frenzy. And then, just as suddenly, it was gone. The red aura had died down. Wes’s breath caught in his chest. He hardly dared to believe it.

She was back to normal. Well, whatever “normal” was for a shadow Pokémon, anyhow. But the red aura was gone.

He’d done it.

The Power of Love! ...Or maybe Friendship?

Who was he trying to kid? Did he really think he could make up for the things he’d done? Was it really that easy? All the Pokémon he’d stolen for Snagem and delivered to Cipher—did he ever really think he could undo all of that? No. Part of him had just hoped. And now that part had to accept the cold, hard reality that he could never really make up for it.

Yes! Yes! Finally, some more exploration of Wes's mind! More, please!

...Wait, what do you mean the story is almost over?

Then he glanced down. Quilava slowly opened her eyes and looked back at him, and his breath caught in his chest. No way. It couldn’t be. He blinked repeatedly, hardly daring to believe what he was seeing. He couldn’t describe it. She didn’t actually look any different, and yet. For the first time, there was actually something there. In her eyes. That blank, soulless stare was gone, and in its place was… recognition? Like she could actually see him and know it was him, and feel something from it.

Yep, gotta put down more chips on the "She was brainwashed!" theory.

Wes let out a breath that he didn’t know he’d been holding as the weight of what had just happened crashed over him like a rolling wave. Then he hugged the fire-type tightly to his chest, blinking back tears.

He’d done it. It still didn’t feel real, but he’d done it.

A "breath that he was holding"... but who cares, this part is so cute!

---

So, I really liked this oneshot! This being set in Orre and having Wes as protagonist are major selling points.

I'll have to say that the story truly became engaging after the motel scene. Not that it wasn't enjoyable before that, mind you, but I feel like the motel is where the story truly found its footing and delved into the potential issues that there could be by trying to purify a Pokémon. Also, it was that point that there was true development for both Wes and Quilava, two lost souls that are trying to find their ways.

The thing that disappointed me the most was that there was very little involvement from Rui's part. Like, she was the one who convinced Wes to lend a hand in rescuing the Shadow Pokémon, and not seeing her being involved in trying to figure out how to purify Pokémon seems a pretty big missed opportunity to me.

Regardless, this was a really engaging story that explores the more gritty side of purification in the Orre games. Nice job! ^^
 
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