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canisaries

you should've known the price of evil
Location
Stovokor
Pronouns
she/her
Partners
  1. custom/inkay-shirlee
  2. custom/houndoom-elliot
  3. custom/yamask-joanna
Got in the catch-up-with-stuff-you-should spirit of Blitz and read chapters 3 and 4!

Chapter 3 Quotes

Dusk burst into laughter at that; a full, eyes-closed, wheezing laugh.
and then she said "encyclopedia", funniest shit ive ever heard

Dusk leaned back in her seat and nodded at the starkly-coloured bird
I understood "starkly-coloured" as meaning many strong colors rather than the... black? that Veracity is.

"That one there is Eliza. No, not the one with scales. The one who looks most human? Dark green hair, very pale skin? She is a gallade. She thinks she was almost human even before the Change and she is always trying to make a proof of it. Like it matters."
you see i took shits in the toilet and wiped my ass!

Non joke comment: I remember Dusk calling it the Shift previously? Is this on purpose or is there an inconsistency?

"Come on, Salem. Class is about to start. You're not even scheduled to join just yet, you've not had time to properly acclimatise."
cmon man dont say words like acclimatise like shes gonna know what they mean (read: like im gonna know what they mean)

Their plumage was a striking red and cream and iridescent green, and a bifurcated scarlet wattle hung from their head... A male blaziken, then?
the entire beginning of this chapter is just this gif on repeat
leonardo-dicaprio-rick-dalton.gif


There was one morph, cross-legged on the floor, quietly reading a book Salem knew this one's species for sure: mienshao.
Is there a period missing? I couldn't parse this as a single sentence.

The meatballs were warm.

"Not bad, right?"

She nodded, barely looking up from her food. It was not bad at all.
surprised to find that salem likes balls in her mouth ehuehueheeuehue

Her voice was strained, almost a croak, and put Salem in mind of Laura's cautious footsteps around the creaky patch of the landing floor when sneaking downstairs late at night.
Liked this line.

Dusk had saved the 'Colosseum' for later in the tour, it seemed.
genuinely imagining a place with those gamecube stands where they can play colosseum

Dusk led her onto a mezzanine that overlooked the arena. The platform was clear glass,
geez none of the dog morphs better start scooting

So far she'd caught her reflection only faintly in poorly reflective surfaces.
Really? I had to question this line. If I remember right, Salem had been a complete morph for at least two weeks with things like speech therapy and such. I find it hard to believe that she wouldn't have asked for a clear mirror at any point or that she would have been denied a look into one.

She leaned over the sink to examine her eyes up close. The same, as far as she could tell;
what the FUCK ??!?!?? THE TITLE LIED ?!?!??!

Chapter 4 Quotes

It didn't feature any purrloin, but there was a torracat with gorgeous fur sheen and really excellent pokésign at one point, which was something. Salem liked her.
theyre putting chemicals in the water that are turning the FREAKIN CATS GAY

That part was the only part that unnerved Salem – she didn't like to think of separating from her own human friend.
salem is going to get OWNED

There was a lot Laura would find out one day. Such things included the existence of Mewtwo, corruption watchdog organisations not holding the League accountable for doping, and live pokémon experimentation by Macro Cosmos.
'cause you're a brand new species, big cat

---

General Comments

I found myself kind of unengaged in chapter 3 before Salem's confrontation with Veracity and I wondered a lot why that was, but I think in the end it boiled down to the amount of exposition and my lack of attachment to the characters after such a long pause in reading. After (and during) the Veracity confrontation, though, no problems - I think it made me care much more about Salem and Dusk again, seeing them face adversity.

I liked Salem and Dusk's heart to heart in the dormitory, though I was expecting Salem to still mention some kind of resolution on the Laura issue before going into processing the day's events since she seemed pretty hung up on it. Just some kind of baton pass between the topics.

Chapter 4 content-wise was pretty familiar to me as expected, but there were definitely notable improvements. Salem doesn't go "oh I will leave this house immediately and never come back" at Laura asking her to leave her alone - instead, it's an omen of what's to come. Salem's reason for leaving the house has been separated from the "leave me alone" comment and replaced with a much more sensible experience of being trapped in a house with only uncaring people.

Some remaining short notes I can't form coherent paragraphs from:
  • The argument with the parents feels true to life, and we feel Laura's helplessness.
  • I want to watch Replica Heart.
  • I'm glad we get Laura's situation explained to us through her talking to Salem since having readers just try to piece things together from the argument and assumptions about how the pokécanon is adapted would easily run the risk of misinterpretation.
I think that's it for my thoughts! Hopefully I'll get to chapter 5 faster than I got to these after it comes out.
 

love

Memento mori
Pronouns
he/him/it
Partners
  1. leafeon
Review for chapter 3
"Encyclopedia," said Salem, without thinking.

That was pretty funny

a peach-and-rose tabby with a pincushion tail

(I want to see art of the skitty morph, that sounds adorable)

At one point, Dusk simply flowed through a description of her favourite battle she'd spectated, with Salem listening, ears perked, the whole time. Dusk's eyes were bright and her feather quivering as she described the attacks involved with illustrative gestures and a few sound effects. Eventually she noticed Salem staring.

Aww

"Oh," said Dusk. "Okay, then." She had a different kind of grin, now. Something about the eyes. Brighter.

They sure are getting along well

I do not believe she meant to let me down.

Kind of reminds me of some of the stuff I said for chapter 4. Since Laura cared about Salem, it makes sense to believe that her reasons for leaving were more than just lazy excuses, but without a better understanding of the world, that is hard to prove, especially to others.

I imagine Veracity may have once been too attached to an abusive or neglectful trainer and is projecting that onto Salem—just a guess.

Sat at the foot of the stands, Salem could see the battle below at a perfect vantage through the clear platform. Two morphs were battling each other in what amounted to a small forest

"Battle" is kind of repeated

…It would make quite the hiding place for pilfered treasures.

Very catlike.

I feel that Salem's awkwardness is conveyed very well, and it's clear that even Dusk isn't an expert at articulating herself. It's also nice to see Dusk comforting Salem when she feels sad. Good job, Dusk. Yay.

This chapter also hammers home how much effort Perihelion has put into this morph facility—they have the surely expensive arena with changing terrain, for example, and even small stuff like the shower and shampoo is tailored for morphs. It makes sense they would want the morphs to feel content, and it almost makes one forget they're not the good guys. I still worry they have equally sophisticated measures to quell resistance or prevent escape, when the time comes for conflict...

Review for Chapter 4

But not every day. Not enough to stop Salem pacing and grooming and scratching until her paws hurt for days on days on days. She thought of how hard it was each day just to wait for Laura to come home. Weeks on end without Laura, without any kind of stimulation… She was going to go half-mad.

This is pretty scary, and I don't doubt that many pets in real life experience a similar reality. I tend to think about animal welfare a lot, and this chapter hits on that. Although a normal dog or cat is not as smart as Salem, it's still terrible to be subjected to constant monotony and to lose a lifelong companion for reasons you can't understand. I wouldn't argue that captivity is generally worse than being wild, but you'd think humans would do better.

The ways in which the house seemed to close in on her grew with each night.

I think this could just as well be simplified to "The house seemed to close in on her with each night."

If only she were human, she'd be with Laura.

It is interesting that Salem believes this even though we see that Laura, despite being a human, doesn't have much agency. I think this is part of why Salem tells herself that Laura must have wanted to leave—she doesn't want to admit to herself that humans can be powerless and unhappy too. Becoming human is kind of her biggest hope. The thing is, if Laura were "happy to leave" Salem, then the natural response would be resentment or at least some sense of betrayal, but I don't think Salem can bring herself to feel those things for Laura. There's some cognitive dissonance that I don't think she can or wants to investigate too closely.

I imagine that at some point, she'll realize that she doesn't have much agency as a human, either, at least not now. She's under Perihelion's thumb.

Was she thinking of Salem, as Salem was thinking of her?

This short scene felt effective—these three paragraphs encapsulate weeks. There is nothing for her to do but ponder these questions endlessly.

Sooner or later she would walk through that door and face whatever consequence awaited, or she would give up on ever walking in and eventually meet an unambiguously grim fate.

I think this is better without "unambiguously"

I understand Salem better after this chapter; I think her backstory explains her desire to become human. And despite what I said about humans sometimes lacking agency, she is at least basically still correct that things will probably suck less as a human (this remark may or may not age terribly). At least modern humans usually don't have to worry about immediate access to food, shelter, etc. and usually aren't left alone in a small space for long periods of time.
 
Chapter 5: What You Don't Know

unrepentantAuthor

A cat that writes stories.
Location
UK
Pronouns
they/she
Partners
  1. custom/purrloin-salem
  2. custom/sneasel-dusk
  3. custom/luz-companion
  4. custom/brisa-companion
  5. custom/meowth-laura
  6. custom/delphox-jesse
Author's Note:

Delicious. Finally some good fucking plot.

This was another tricky one to write by virtue of being yet another frankendraft. My thanks to my friends and beta readers for helping me workshop the damn thing. The next chapter is practically already drafted and the chapter art's been just about done for ages, thank goodness! Expect it soon. Chapter art for this chapter isn't done yet, I'll get round to it.

Chapter-specific CWs:

Implied blood.

Chapter Changelog:

Expect a number of improvements to the prose in a week or so when I've had a chance to implement feedback from folks! And the chapter art... eventually.


Chapter 5

What You Don't Know

"Get the fuck up, everyone! It's another wonderful training day!"

Salem wailed softly into her pillow. Human sleep schedules were an insult to good sense, and her hybrid brain did not seem to have picked up their predilection for diurnal living. Crepuscular, crepuscular, that's what she was. She rolled the word around in her mouth. Yes, she was a creature of long sleeps and twilight hours.

"Salem, I'm going to kick your ass. You get to choose whether I do it in here, or in the gym!"

Salem turned her head to levy a weary glare at her friend. "I don't care about training. Want to find Laura."

The sneasel hybrid shrugged expansively. "We're gonna talk to Alisha about that just as soon as she's back from her trip. Remember you said she was the only human you wanted to ask? Come on, it's training time!"

"Why does this matter, tell me again?"

Dusk laughed. "Pokémon love to fight! Didn't you want to be a League fighter with your Laura? Don't you want to see what morphs are capable of in a battle?"

"No," lied Salem. "I want to only sleep."

"I'll give you my croissants if you come to training with me."

That, tragically, was too powerful an incentive.

Salem rolled out of bed and hissed half-heartedly at Dusk, who beamed at her cheerfully and threw a lazy salute. How was she already dressed? Her other roommate, the gallade-morph called Eliza, wasn't even dressed yet and she was all serious looks and hard work. Did Dusk even sleep?

As was becoming routine, Salem blasted herself in the shower, wriggled into her uniform, and skulked out of the dorm after Dusk, Eliza having gone ahead already without fanfare. The sneasel did her morning ritual of thumping the corridor wall a few paces along with her fist. The morphs in the neighbouring dorm cried out in protest as always, and Dusk snickered quietly to herself as they headed to the battle grounds.

They passed by the canteen on their way to training, and while she could go eat, it would mean missing out on early morning combat instruction, and therefore missing out on doing it with Dusk (and also disappointing Dusk) who insisted that food before a fight put you at risk of cramps. So instead she just inhaled the smells coming from the hall as they passed, shuddered a little with anticipation, and rolled her eyes back in her head as she imagined eating something hot and buttery after training. And seconds. Yes please.

The coliseum's gymnasium configuration was a wide open space, making use of the largest indoor area in the facility to host everything a morph could need to physically or mentally train for fitness and for combat. Chalk lines indicated battle spaces, scuffed by repeated use and scorched by fire and lightning from previous combatants. Mundane exercise equipment stood ready for building a stronger physique. Dummies stood by for target practice. A racing track encircled the room, around which some morph or group of morphs was often running at any time of day. Salem waved hesitantly to Eliza, breaking a sweat on a pull-up bar, and received a terse nod in reply. Dusk, as always, waited for Salem with that sharp grin.

Class proper would begin shortly. For now, though, Dusk would play teacher.

"What are we trying today?" she asked, sing-song.

Salem had an answer prepared this time.

"Teach me how to fight," she said, eyes dilating. Her first few days of training had been heavy on stretches, exercises, and obstacle courses. Her only literal 'fight' since stepping in her tank had been the snowball fight a few days back. But dummies that never fought back were boring; she felt ready for more.

The grin showed every one of Dusk's carnivore teeth.

"Okay, Southpaw."

Another nickname, a reference to Salem's dominant left hand. She wondered if every morph collected nicknames like she did.

Dusk taught her a new stance first, for defence. Then, a handful of punches, swipes, kicks and blocks. The sneasel was confident in every one of them, as if she had learnt them years ago, rather than days. The rapid learning effect was still in play, it seemed.

"Ready?"

"I think so."

"Then show me!"

Dusk waited for Salem to approach with a strike, then just as she wound back an arm, Dusk jabbed her in the side with curled knuckles. Painful! But better than claws.

Salem spat, and went in again, this time with a lunge. The moment she did, Dusk was on her left, landing a blow on her back. Hiss!

Wild strikes, fast and plentiful – Dusk ducked and dodged, then kicked her in the shins when she ran out of momentum.

"Is this really training?" Salem yowled, bitterly.

"No talking during training!" said Dusk, all teeth and glee.

Dusk's jabs, scratches, and smacks all stung, but Salem wasn't tired out yet. Within a few more good blows she became used to it, her anger wore off, and she could keep her mind on the fight.

Breathing hard and dodging strikes, Salem realised that this wasn't a matter of effort, like in physical training. Nor was it like the fights she'd had as a purrloin. This was more of a puzzle. She could fight and think simultaneously. It was almost like being her own pokémon trainer. She could make a plan.

"Don't slow down, hit me!" cried Dusk.

Salem tried a few more jabs, not really expecting them to land, and looked for what Dusk did in response.

'Southpaw,' Dusk had called her at the start. Her opponent was always moving to her left, Salem realised. That way, Dusk kept making it harder for Salem to swing with any force with her stronger left paw. It was obvious. Anger flooded into her head. Stupid! She'd missed it! But she could use this.

Salem went in for a jab: a feint! And swung hard with her right fist.

There was a dull crack, sharp pain in her fingers, two cries of surprise – her own and Dusk's.

"Are you okay?" she yelped.

But the grin was bigger than ever.

"Nice! Good! Yes!" shouted Dusk, eyes wild. "That's what I want! Do it again!"

She got to her feet without help and came at Salem. On the defence now, Salem put up her arms as she'd been taught. Block, block – it was painful, but it saved her face… And it let her hit back.

Dusk's wild energy was infectious, and Salem took on the same furious aspect. Block, block, strike, strike, strike. Nothing else. Not even the pain.

Salem learnt fast, even for a morph. Dusk's attacks weren't terrifying threats now – block, strike, block – they were rote. Easy. She was even faster than she needed to be. She was weightless, tireless, limitless!

She knocked a jabbing arm to the side and caught Dusk on the throat.

Dusk's eyes flashed, then her claws. Her next attack was instantaneous, powerful, and impossible to block.

Someone – herself? Salem wasn't sure – cried out. She staggered back, clutching at her own neck.

"Salem! I didn't mean—"

A tumble backward; a flinch as her head hit floor. The ceiling and its many bright lights. There were so few shadows in the gym. There was metal-scent in the air, and wetness on her fur. Her head rang.

She mumbled something unclear. She didn't feel much of anything, not yet, but she had the vague notion that very soon she would be in a great deal of pain.

Someone was tending to her.

Had she made a mistake?

Maybe she'd got something wrong.

XxX​

"It's a good thing hybrids are almost as tough as pokémon," someone was saying, in a voice that sounded almost human but for a soft, insistent reverberation, like an echo in the skull.

"Eliza?" muttered Salem. She blinked away the stars in her eyes and saw the gallade girl, eyes fixed on Salem's head. Up close, Eliza looked more human than any morph, but for her porcelain-white skin and slate-grey head crest.

"Yes. You'll be alright in a moment; you haven't sustained a concussion or serious blood loss. Just a knockout and a light wound. I've applied a potion. You ought to be fine by this afternoon."

Eliza raised a brow at Dusk, who was looking sheepish on the other side of Salem, and stood to leave. Dusk looked down at Salem and offered her a hand up. She took it.

"Feeling okay?" asked the sneasel.

Salem wet her lips, and touched the scab on her neck, then the bruise on her head. They weren't so bad.

"Yes. I have been hurt more badly than this. Before."

"Uh, okay. I'm glad you're okay. You did good. Really good! Just… Maybe don't go for the neck next time. We don't do that. Not unless— You don't do that."

Salem nodded, swallowed, and tried to focus on 'you did good.'

Dusk beckoned her over, and Salem followed her to the benches to the side of the sparring court. More of their classmates were present – including Veracity, to her chagrin – as was the absol-morph instructor, Whiskey. He nodded to her and gave a quick [well done] gesture to Eliza.

"Is anyone not ready?" he growled, once everyone had taken a seat. "Any problems?" No-one spoke. He grunted in approval. "Good. Let's begin."

Whiskey inclined his head and tapped the curved, bladed horn that crowned one side of his scalp. His claw made a sharp knocking sound as he tapped.

"Many of you have been staring at this thing," he began, without scorn in his tone. "I expect you've been thinking to yourselves that it must be quite a weapon. For a natural absol, it can be used on its own as a slashing implement, or serve as a focus for such attacks as megahorn. I could do the same. But – and pay attention, Sriracha – it is not the most important combat tool available to me by any means. Any guesses?"

Eliza's hand shot up. Whiskey waved at her to speak up while hardly looking at her.

"Your brain, sir?"

Whiskey chuckled just once, sharply. "Good answer. It wasn't a trick question, I'm looking for a physical weapon, but full credit for creative thinking."

"Claws?" called out Sriracha.

Whiskey squinted wearily at the blaziken. "Claws? What? No. Bad answer. Come on, third time's the charm, they say. Anyone? You, new morph. Take a guess."

Salem froze, the absol's scrutiny already enough to make her tail puff up.

"Uh."

The absol shook his head, and reached down for Salem's forearm. He took it and raised it up, shifting his grip up past her wrist as he did so.

"What is this?" snapped Whiskey. He gripped her paw in his such that he was pressing his thumb into the part of her palm nearest her fingers. The pressure made her splay her fingers and extend her claws. For a moment her hackles went up, but then she felt Dusk's lower leg against hers, and knew there was no danger. Her fur flattened a little.

"…What?"

"What is this thing I am holding?" he repeated.

"It's my paw?" she blurted, looking right up at him with her eyes dilated.

"What's it for?"

"I don't—"

"Your 'paw'," he demanded. "What is your paw for? What do you do with it?"

"Scratching," she said, instantly. But that didn't sound right in her ears even as she spoke it.

"Try again." He tilted his head at her expectantly.

"Signing," she said, correcting herself. "I sign more than I scratch. I… I communicate. That's right, isn't it? Communication is the weapon. Teamwork."

"It's a much better answer," he said, and dropped her paw to step back again. "We'll cover teamwork later, it's a bit advanced for now. Well done."

Whiskey faced his students, sighed deeply and asked, "Can anyone here explain what your 'paws' are for?"

There was a metallic shearing sound as Veracity raised her wing. Whiskey glanced at her, and she spoke up immediately.

"Whatever you need them for," she croaked. "A hand is capable of countless tasks, most of them more useful than inflicting small injuries on another creature."

Whiskey nodded, the corners of his mouth turning down pensively. "That is, in fact, word-for-word what I said the last time it came up in class. You have a keen memory."

The corviknight didn't even look pleased. Just somehow… confident. Salem didn't feel so hungry any more.

"Hands are capable of countless uses on their own," continued Whiskey, "including bothphysical attacks and signing, along with channelling elemental energy. They are also capable of using the many tools of humanity, designed to be held in human hands."

Whiskey's expression barely changed, but for a hint of smug satisfaction below his usual dourness.

"You'll learn about those in due time. For now, I'd like to demonstrate the value of hands in combat by subduing an opponent without using any typed attacks at all. Veracity?"

The corviknight-morph stood, and stepped forward wordlessly to stand near Whiskey. She stared down at him with avian coldness. The absol didn't miss a beat.

"Go ahead and attack me," he growled.

Veracity went for him in a flash of polished feathers, her arms gleaming with steel-type energy. Whiskey was ready for her.

Salem hardly followed the movements of the absol's body. He stepped to one side, took hold of Veracity's arm, and pulled her forward. In an instant, the corviknight was hurtling over Whiskey's back, arms akimbo, and then with a decisive lunge he had her pressed to the ground in a sprawl. He paused long enough to make his control of the situation clear, then stepped smartly back to allow Veracity to rise to her feet.

Their faces barely changed throughout. Salem's had turned into a gawp with ears pinned back in shock, just from watching. She could get her head around learning new and challenging combat techniques; she couldn't see herself ever being so calm and matter-of-fact as the instructor and his volunteer.

"Some more good answers I've had from other students include 'creativity' and 'misdirection'," remarked Whiskey, as he returned to his spot in front of the benches. "The bottom line is that hybrids have more options – you have more options – than natural weapons and typed attacks in a fight. For today's sparring sessions, I want to see creativity, misdirection, brains. Not just ordinary strikes. Impress me! Veracity will take the first challenge. Don't expect her to go easy on you."

The corviknight stood at ease in front of the class and waited quietly for someone to approach. That someone, very quickly, was Sriracha. He stood tall, stepped forward, and cracked his knuckles. When he did, flames sputtered into life around his wrists.

"I am an ace striker," he announced, with pride. "Very good at fighting."

Veracity bowed, just a little, and calmly strode to her side of the small battle court. Sriracha took his place with a cocky twirl and a trail of flame.

"We're gonna see who is the boss bird," whispered Dusk. Salem stifled a giggle.

Whiskey held up an arm.

"One round, win by technical knockout or yield. Standard rules apply. I want to see creative fighting, you two. You're hybrids, now."

Veracity nodded expressionlessly. Sriracha was focused on dancing from foot to foot, balling his fists, staring down his opponent. Whiskey growled under his breath.

"Match, begin!"

Sriracha cried out and resumed the odd twirling he'd done before, only faster, more purposeful. With each motion he thrust a claw out as if striking the air, and crowed sharply.

"Swords dance," commentated Whiskey, quietly.

Veracity watched without making a move of her own. She hardly blinked.

Sriracha brandished his blazing claws at her, cocking his head in confusion.

"The fight started!" he shouted. "Fight me!"

Veracity crossed her arms. "I am fighting you," she replied.

Sriracha scoffed with a harsh chirp and resumed his dancing motions. Veracity made no attempt to interrupt, until the blaziken's claws and beak were practically aglow with energy even after he came to a stop.

"Big mistake," he crowed. Then he struck.

Sriracha's body erupted in flames so bright that Salem shrank back from the heat, and he dashed headlong towards Veracity.

"Flare blitz," muttered Whiskey.

In the instant before he made contact, the corviknight braced herself, clutching her shoulders and drawing in a kind of orange light around herself.

"Endure," said Whiskey, with apparent relish.

Sriracha's body collided with Veracity's, and her metallic plumage glowed with the heat of the fire. Her feathers gave off grey smoke and a low roaring sound as they cooled. But she did not collapse. The orange light from before circled her body in a tight loop.

Without a word, she struck back. A feathered arm lashed out with enough power to send a shockwave through the air, and send Sriracha tumbling backwards like a plastic bag caught in the wind. His limbs thudded against the court ground as he rolled to a stop. He did not move except to utter a thoroughly winded moan.

"Reversal," announced Whiskey. "A move that grows in strength the closer the user is to fainting. Excellent technique." Then, after a few seconds, "Sriracha can no longer battle. Veracity wins."

Veracity nodded curtly to Whiskey, and walked off the court. She looked hardly able to stand. Eliza tossed a potion to her, and she caught it deftly. She didn't wince as she sprayed it on her injuries. Meanwhile, Eliza went to help Sriracha back to the benches.

"Striking power alone will not win battles, if your opponent can turn your strength against you," said Whiskey, firmly. "Use your intelligence to surprise and control your opponent, and to protect yourself."

Sriracha wheezed as he got to his feet. "That was a good trick," he gasped. "I won't fall for it again."

Whiskey chuckled. "I hope you're right. Stay alert, everyone, and remember: sometimes the best fighting move is no move at all."

Salem swallowed hard. She'd been digging her claws into her palms as she watched. She didn't even know how to use basic moves, yet, let alone how she could compete with fighters like these.

"I've had enough training today," she told Dusk.

"Okay," replied the sneasel. "I'll catch up later with Eliza. Let's go eat."

Dusk excused them both from the lesson, and Whiskey waved them away. Only when there was a closed door between Salem and Veracity did her appetite return.

XxX​

"Picking at it won't help it heal."

Salem sighed and shoved her left paw in her pocket. Dusk was grinning again, at least, although not in the same mad, toothy way as usual.

"It will get better," said Salem, flatly.

"If I catch you picking again, I'm putting your bandages back on."

"You can try."

Salem returned to picking at her food instead. While she had savoured the warm, buttery breakfast pastries she craved, and devoured a small collection of meats, Taylor had insisted she also eat fruit and vegetables to supply her modified nutritional needs. She didn't like the sound of suffering poor health from not meeting those needs. She didn't much like fruit and vegetables either. She ran her tongue over her back teeth, feeling their edges, their sharp points. They were meat-tearing teeth. Not meant for 'greens.'

"It's this or the supplements," said Dusk, for what seemed like the hundredth time.

"I know."

"The pills aren't so bad, you know."

"You said this already."

She continued to sulk towards her plate, until the silence was broken not by Dusk, but by Sriracha.

"Hello, ladies!" he said, sitting down opposite them with much clicking of claws on the tiled floor.

"Hello, Sauce," said Dusk, showing far too much of her upper teeth.

Sriracha's face instantly collapsed into a displeased frown.

"I don't call you dumb things," he said, wattles quivering.

"Only because you can't think of anything to call me," retorted Dusk, jeering at him.

The blaziken stared at each of them in turn, using only one eye to do so, turning his head to the side like a bird.

"Why don't you like me?" he asked, earnestly. "I'm very cool. Everyone likes me."

Dusk laughed so hard her eyes scrunched up and she slapped the table. "You're so full of yourself!"

"What else would I be full of?" he asked, sincerely.

While Dusk continued laughing, Salem looked Sriracha over.

The blaziken, like Veracity, was another morph markedly dissimilar to herself. Mammals made up most of the population of morphs that she'd had any interaction with, and they at least had ears and fur and plenty of more-or-less the same body language as her, but he was avian, and it showed. His feathers puffed up and shivered at almost any stimulation. A proud beak dominated his face, which did not seem to trouble him when he spoke or ate, but Salem imagined could deal a seriously painful bite. His wattles jiggled when he jolted his head this way and that, which he did constantly. He could look to the side while keeping his head still if he wanted – every morph had that human talent now – but he made very little effort to adapt to his new form.

Salem had seen an un-morphed blaziken in some of the League matches she'd watched with Laura. They were already so much like humans. Perhaps the physical change wasn't meaningful to him. The change to his mind didn't seem to matter much either. Why had he agreed to the Change?

"Being full of yourself means you like yourself too much," she told him, inducing further laughter from the sneasel. "It's . . . dangerous."

Sriracha made an odd noise in his beak that she didn't understand.

"Not liking myself would be bad," he said, as if discussing today's lunch options. "I'm very good at fighting, and that's good. I'm good."

Conversation with less articulate morphs wasn't quite the stimulating experience Salem hoped for in a social encounter. Sriracha was perhaps the best example of such a morph.

While she was thinking of something else to say, Dusk recovered from her giggling fit and spoke up for her.

"You haven't fought me yet," said the sneasel. Despite her persistent grin, there was an edge to it. When Dusk was serious, her eyes didn't crease as much. The inflection at the end of her words went down, instead of up. Salem could tell.

"I'd beat you," replied Sriracha, his head tilting further to the side. "Fire beats ice. Fighting beats both ice and dark. I'd beat you easily."

Dusk shook her head, slowly. "Nah. You don't know what real fighting is, Sauce. When we get paired up in practice, you'll learn."

Sriracha apparently didn't have any way to respond to that, or didn't think it was worth replying to, so after a few seconds of intense avian concentration he gave up and spoke to Salem instead.

"Don't worry, Purrloin! You will get good at fighting very fast, faster than you think. And then you won't be hurt as easy or as bad! Good luck!"

He stood from the canteen bench and wandered off, neatly avoiding any further barbed remarks from Dusk.

"Why are you so mean to him?" asked Salem, out of pure curiosity.

"He's an idiot," replied Dusk, not looking up from her food. "I don't like that. Being an idiot gets people killed."

Dusk didn't go on to elaborate on this point, and Salem had no knowledge as of yet on how idiocy got you killed, but her human imagination provided her with several violent ideas about how you could get killed for being an idiot.

She was profoundly committed to not being an idiot.

She was not especially confident about whether she was one or not.

As the pair finished their food, the skitty-morph, Heather, pushed the canteen doors open and dashed several feet forward, clutching her tail. The doors had swung shut on it the day before when she'd become distracted on her way in, Salem recalled. This time, however, the doors swung shut only slowly, their momentum controlled by some kind of mechanism atop the hinges.

"Good," said Salem, firmly. "My tail is safe."

Dusk chuckled. "Told you it was worth it to complain about the doors."

The suggestion box was a new fixture in the morph lounge, installed shortly after Salem had moved into her dorm. It was a grey cylinder about the size of someone's head, with a thin slot on the upper face, and a small writing table beside it. A pad of paper and a pen were provided for the morphs, who were welcome to make complaints and requests and place them inside. Salem wasn't literate yet, but Dusk could scribe for her, as could the human staff when they weren't busy.

"Why not just talk to someone?" Salem had asked, when she'd first seen it. "Ask them with words? Talk about it?"

Dusk had shrugged. "Well, what if you can't find them? Or you're shy?"

[What is the meaning of] "shy" [please?]

"Oh it's like…" [Being scared, but in deference, not of a threat]

"I'm not shy!"

"Yes but someone might be shy, and they can use the box! Anyway, it helps to have your ask written down so nobody will forget it. Right?"

Bickering had broken out any time someone wanted to use the box, at first. The mightyena, Bramble, deemed it "official" and "human" and therefore inexplicable and best avoided, and several morphs followed his lead. It lasted a tense afternoon, until Dusk started submitting joke requests. She'd made dozens of them, asking for everything from a new battle court inside the canteen, to a delivery service to bring breakfast to her dorm. After that, other morphs felt more comfortable making actual requests.

It seemed that the first one to get a response was canteen doors that don't slam shut. Several morphs had submitted that one, including Salem.

Dusk flashed a confident smile. "Do you feel better about asking for help to see Laura, now?"

Salem pursed her lips, hesitantly thrashed her tail, and then nodded to Dusk.

Yes. The suggestion box was good.

XxX​

When they reached the morph lounge, something was wrong.

Salem could hear chatter. More than just loud chatter, in fact. There was always some casual conversation to be heard, and morphs often spoke loudly when excited. This time it had a sharpness to it. There were people being loud not for fun, but to shout each other down.

"—had it up to here with your naivety," one voice was saying. "You should expect more of yourself than preening, flexing and strutting about as if your past life still matters!"

It sounded familiar, but Salem didn't quite recognise the speaker.

"I don't like you! And I don't like the things you say! I'm right and you're bad!"

Salem easily distinguished the second voice as Sriracha's.

Dusk looked at Salem with a frown and put a clawed finger to her lips. [Shush!]

"We should make no noise ourselves," she said, "or we will be part of the fight."

Salem signed an anxious [huh?] in return.

[Shush!] again, this time with a roll of the eyes.

Salem took the point, and was careful to open the doors without drawing attention to herself. They slipped through and saw Sriracha and Eliza in the middle of the lounge, standing with their faces barely a foot apart and yelling at each other, his wattle quivering and her eyes narrowed. The roundness of the room lent itself to a kind of circle of morphs, all looking in. They stood just off from the blaziken and the gallade, variously trying to talk over the argument, fidgeting nervously, or enjoying the spectacle.

"You're still thinking like a brainless young League sweeper," Eliza shouted, hands balled into fists at her side. "You're not a blaziken any more, you're a hybrid! You're human as well as pokémon! More human!"

Sriracha was alternately yelling back, making explosive avian vocalisations, and signing furiously with sparks bursting from his wrists as he did.

"I was a League sweeper! The best!" [I could knock you out, easily! I'm warning you!] "I'm not stupid! You're stupid!"

Salem's ears flattened back against her head. "He says things without thinking," she observed.

[Shush!] from Dusk again, but the grin was back.

Dusk led Salem around the gaggle of hybrids and hopped up on one of the couches. Salem joined her. The view was better from the back of a couch.

The shouting continued, only now the two of them weren't even stopping when the other spoke, and Sriracha's wrists had lit up with flickering flames. Eliza hadn't brandished the spurs that protruded from her elbows yet. She never had before now, not outside of training.

"What's going to happen?" asked Salem.

Eliza and Sriracha could hurt each other. That could happen. It could be bad, bad enough to send one of both of them to the infirmary.

She dug a claw into her palm.

Dusk shrugged. "Eliza isn't an idiot, she's just angry. She can kick his ass without anything going wrong. It's fine. I think that will happen, actually. I want to see them have an actual battle."

Salem's heart jumped. She used to watch League fights with Laura, back home. Her heart had jumped then, like she'd been part of the battles just by seeing them.

"I think I do too," she said, so quietly she didn't think Dusk would hear.

In the centre of the circle, Eliza's spurs extended away from her arms, and she raised her fists. Sriracha's wrists flared hot.

A sharp bang jolted a dozen morph heads away from the fight as the double doors of the main corridor slammed open.

"I know I've been away for a couple days," called out the human now entering the lounge, "but I don't remember this being the training grounds."

Alisha.

Salem's ears perked and her tail quivered as her current favourite human returned. And a day early! This was wonderful!

Eliza retracted her spurs and stepped smartly back, eyes raised to stare at the wall somewhere above Sriracha's head. Sriracha crossed his arms and let his wrists smoulder against his shirt. Alisha strode forwards, waving her hands at the morphs in loose pokésign to break up the circle. She sighed as she addressed the would-be combatants.

"Honestly, you two. Whatever it is you're bickering about can go to your counsellors, and if you must beat each other up, you ought to be doing it with supervision. Mike's on duty in the gym. Now, do you really want to fight?"

Sriracha nodded like his head was about to come off. Eliza didn't reply, still staring.

"Right, well, go to your dorms and cool your heads, and if you still want to punch each other, you go find Mike and get him to referee it. Understand?"

Sriracha bobbed his head. Eliza hesitated, then gave a terse, "Yes, Alisha."

"Right. Clear off then. You'd have upset yourselves if you'd trashed your own lounge, huh? Yeah, I thought so. I'll see you two later."

Eliza turned sharply on her heels and walked directly away. Sriracha took a moment longer, but then left in the opposite direction. Alisha brushed a lock of hair to the side and shook her head.

"Ex-League 'mon, huh," she muttered. "Mew's marbles, what a pain."

Salem poured herself off the couch and padded around to Alisha's side.

"Heya," she said, waving and smiling. "Was your thing good?"

"Mm?" Alisha turned to her, and chuckled. "Oh, hey there," [Hello, Pickpocket!] "Yeah, it was a good trip. You'll have a few morphs junior to you a month from now. What's up?"

Salem glanced to Dusk, who nodded encouragingly and came to join her.

"My old human," Salem began, not having rehearsed for this. "Laura. I'm thinking about her. I want to see her; I want to talk to her."

She groaned at frustration at her ever-clumsy words, and tried to get to the heart of it.

"Alisha… Please, help me?"

Alisha raised a hand and pressed its knuckles to her lips. She looked thoughtful. That could mean help was coming. Or disappointment.

"Most morphs have no interest in contacting anyone from their old life," mused Alisha. "It's… Well, it's not something I've been asked to handle, before."

Dusk cleared her throat.

"You promised me something about my old life before I was Changed," she said, quietly, in a tone of voice Salem hadn't heard from her before. "This is what Salem would ask, if she could ask first. I don't think it will be very hard to find this human. It is not a big thing to ask for. You should agree to do this."

Alisha considered this further, with her head tipped and her gaze askew.

Salem dug her claws into her palm. Maybe, if Alisha said no, Salem could just insist, the way she had with the nurses.

At last, Alisha threw up her hand and nodded. "I'll look into it," she said. "But I can't promise I'll find her, or that I can do much besides that. These things are tricky. We try very hard to keep you safe, you know. Not to attract attention from dangerous sorts. But look… At the very least, I can say I'll try my best."

For a moment, Salem was weightless. Aloft, and full of brightness. She forgot how to speak and sign. She panicked for a second, then she put her head forward and pressed it against Alisha's hand.

The human laughed, and patted her on the shoulder. "Okay, yeah, you're welcome. Sure thing. Laura, right?"

Salem nodded in confirmation.

"Okay, that's a start. What else can you tell me about her?"

Salem did her best to supply information, with the occasional clarifying comment from Dusk, who'd figured out what parts of Galarish were hard for her. Laura, an only child of a snow-blanketed city home to many snom and frosmoth. Gone to university somewhere Salem couldn't follow. Dark hair, pale skin, green eyes to match Salem's.

"I'll try and look her up when I have a free minute," agreed Alisha, fiddling with the cuff of her dress shirt, "and see about getting you in touch. Take care, you two." Then, in sign, [Goodbye, little Pickpocket. Bye, Setting Sun.]

Salem stood and watched Alisha leave. Her fingers on one hand twitched to the beat of the seconds going by, as if by counting them, she'd somehow hasten Alisha's return. Would she actually find Laura? Would Laura want to see Salem again? Her breath caught. Was Laura even okay?

"Hey."

She looked around at Dusk, and signed a small thanks to her, with a sheepish smile. The sneasel laughed.

"Nice one. Now stop worrying about it. If we are fast, maybe we can go to the coliseum in time to see Eliza beat up Sauce. Would you like that?"

Salem had run out of words for the morning, so she just raised both hands, thumbs sticking up. [Strong approval,] that meant. A good sign.

Dusk grinned.

"Race you there?"

A race? Sure! Salem accepted by stealing a head start, running right past Dusk in the direction of the coliseum, her laughing friend close behind.
 

Chibi Pika

Stay positive
Staff
Location
somewhere in spacetime
Pronouns
they/them
Partners
  1. custom/pikachu-chibi
  2. lugia
  3. palkia
  4. custom/lucario-shiny
  5. custom/incineroar-starr
chapter 5 is finallyyyy heeerrrrreee

I appreciate how many characterful moments were jam-packed into this! I know that stitching all this material together was a real pain in the ass, but it all flows smoothly from one scene to the next, with threads linking one to the other, so none of the scenes feel out of place.

Dusk vs Salem was fun and it was great to see Salem getting more comfortable with moving around in a humanoid body.

I enjoyed how quick and snappy the Veracity vs Srirasha fight was. And it wasn't as if Sriracha was being totally dense and just pressing A to do Super Effective moves. He has the good sense to set up first! Endure+Reversal is a fun counterplay, and I liked how you had Whiskey calling the moves for the audience's (and the reader's) benefit.

Sriracha is a himbo and I want to protect him.

Good to see the reminders of Laura throughout! Keeps her fresh in the reader's mind and makes it easy to remember that she's going to be an important recurring part of this story.

Some line comments:

Salem wailed softly into her pillow. Human sleep schedules were an insult to good sense, and her hybrid brain did not seem to have picked up their predilection for diurnal living. Crepuscular, crepuscular, that's what she was. She rolled the word around in her mouth. Yes, she was a creature of long sleeps and twilight hours.
I'm with Salem on this one.

Dusk laughed. "Pokémon love to fight! Didn't you want to be a League fighter with your Laura? Don't you want to see what morphs are capable of in a battle?"

"No," lied Salem. "I want to only sleep."

"I'll give you my croissants if you come to training with me."

That, tragically, was too powerful an incentive.
I love how even while every fiber of Salem's being wants to stay in bed, she's still lying when she says she doesn't want to go to training. So at least some part of her wanted to go. ;P (And aaaa she did want to be a League fighter with Laura!)

'Southpaw,' Dusk had called her at the start. Her opponent was always moving to her left, Salem realised. That way, Dusk kept making it harder for Salem to swing with any force with her stronger left paw. It was obvious. Anger flooded into her head. Stupid! She'd missed it! But she could use this.
Maybe I'm not visualizing this right, but does being on someone's dominant side really make you harder to hit? Maybe it depends on fighting style...

"It's a good thing hybrids are almost as tough as pokémon," someone was saying, in a voice that sounded almost human but for a soft, insistent reverberation, like an echo in the skull.
Indeed! I'm sure morphs keeping their Pokemon healing factor will be crucial later on.

Dusk excused them both from the lesson, and Whiskey waved them away. Only when there was a closed door between Salem and Veracity did her appetite return.
Nice callback to Unnerve every to Veracity is onscreen, it feels very natural.

"Why don't you like me?" he asked, earnestly. "I'm very cool. Everyone likes me."
I like you, Sriracha. ;-;

"I was a League sweeper! The best!" [I could knock you out, easily! I'm warning you!] "I'm not stupid! You're stupid!"
I like the way his signing is interspersed with the spoken words.

"Right, well, go to your dorms and cool your heads, and if you still want to punch each other, you go find Mike and get him to referee it. Understand?"
This is such an appropriate response for someone used to dealing with near-Pokemon, lol. Not discouraging violence, just making sure the violence happens properly, lmao.
 

Ambyssin

Gotta go back. Back to the past.
Location
Etherium
Pronouns
he/him
Partners
  1. silvally-dragon
  2. necrozma-ultra
  3. milotic
  4. dreepy
Blitzy New Year!
Disclaimer: This is mostly stream-of-consciousness thoughts. Take it as you will.

I don’t think I ever looked at the reimagined/current version of this. The prologue art alone makes me think this’ll be a different experience.

Prologue
-Right off the bat, this is an interesting mixing of Pokespec and anime origins for Mewtwo. The manga actually had Mewtwo being a mix of mew and human DNA, though I believe the human DNA came from Blaine. The mention of a scientific threshold also brings to mind Ray Kurzeil’s The Singularity is Near.
-Giovanni presented here with his typical cold and calculating, business-first persona. Still has his love for his Persian, though I bet the cat enthusiast in you would never exclude it. :P
-Nifty that the failed original clones turn out to be ditto. Probably the first cases of them in this fic’s universe, too.
-Interesting choice to have Giovanni be the human genetic material donor for Mewtwo. If one leads into the nature side of the “nature vs. nurture” debate, then it could explain Mewtwo’s personality to some extent. It’d be encoded in their genes.
-Oh, huh, I was thinking Katsura was some sort of OC, but it was actually Blaine! I agree with canis’ (old) take that mixing his French and Japanese names is a bit… unusual. Unless you’re trying to give us the implication he, like, legally changed his first name after living in Kalos for a time. I do like how he proposes a bait-and-switch. I find it a clever way to tie it into the manga. And it presents the whole giant ethical wrinkle that isn’t in any of the canons surrounding Mewtwo’s creation.

1
-I can’t help but wonder why/how Salem woke up in the tank. I’m not referring to the events leading up to it, but rather the tank’s equipment. I would assume that this incubation process would anesthetize and/or sedate the patient to prevent them from waking up and freaking out over their predicament. It almost feels like Salem waking up is something that happened by accident. Like someone coming out of anesthesia on the operating table.
-Dusk’s introduction scene does a good job establishing her uncertainty surrounding her no body and going through this process in the first place. And I think it was a good idea to introduce the transformed Salem through Dusk’s eyes. It flowed well; didn’t feel like the piece had grinded to a halt to describe everything, since Dusk was already exploring the room. (Though I can’t help but wonder if this is something the facility was even allowing or if Alisha was in full “Screw the rules!” mode. I imagine the tank area has cameras.)
-The remainder of the chapter from Salem’s perspective did strike me as a tad bit redundant when she was focusing on her new body, since we’d pretty much seen something similar from Dusk’s perspective. Though her take on it is different, which I suppose was the point. I do still find it a bit hard to believe she’s doing this stuff in the tank because of what I said earlier. Her thoughts are remarkably cohesive for someone who’s likely been given medications to remain sedated. And I think some of her actions, if they are as painful as the prose describes, would alter her vital signs in a way that’d concern the scientists. But at the end of the day, it’s your fic, so I’ll just say it’s magitek and move along. XD

2
-I personally don’t feel you need to label the POV characters at the start of scenes and should instead try to establish that in the prose itself, but that’s just me.
-Like how the first scene shows Dusk having good intentions, like a family member waiting for you in the PACU when you’re brought into recovery from surgery, but then the next scene shows Salem being completely out of whack, affirming that Alisha was doing the right thing keeping Dusk away. She might’ve put Salem into information overload. That said, Salem’s grogginess and confusion at everything is much more in line with what I’d have expected from her with waking up in the tank. Including the panic translating into difficulty breathing. alternatively: manual breathing mode activated.
-The weakness Salem experiences is also fairly realistic. I’m sure the “getting her strength back” owes more to the pokémon side, because we humans don’t bounce back like that. Alisha’s mention of people helping teach her brings physical and occupational therapy to mind. Especially the initial struggle for her to even stand. As heart-wrenching as it is, it’s realistic.
-So, is Salem putting random things the staff left out in her pockets a bit of purrloin instinct kicking in for her? I like to think that’s the case.
-I appreciate the explanation for how Salem picks up her therapy exercises so quickly, even if it is as simple as “side effect of morphing.”
-I think the original draft of this took place in Unova. Is that still the case or have we moved to Galar? There are plenty of mentions of Galarish as the English substitute and Salem gets a map of Galar.
-Aww, I’m pretty sure there are real life versions of “learning the alphabet with pokémon.” It’s cute to see that here, too.

3
-Cute to see the ending of the last part from Salem’s perspective. And it’s short enough not to feel redundant. And lol, Salem’s still a bit protective of Laura. More old instincts, perhaps?
-If I’m reading this right, it sounds like Dusk came from the Crown Tundra? So, this would be in Galar, then.
-Eliza is a… trans Gallade, I think? In which case, perhaps her transition was part of her morphing process? I guess the alternative is she started a gardevoir but wanted to be a gallade and the morphing made that possible. Either option is interesting.
-Admittedly the introduction of other morphs is incredibly rapid-fire and I kind of don’t expect to remember any of them until they have proper interactions with Salem. I guess this means she’s smarter than me, ha ha.
-Dusk trying her darndest to show 20 charisma on this tour and I think Salem’s eating it up like she’s eating those meatballs. XD
-Veracity’s proper introduction is suitably menacing (insert Jojoke here). I do think she’s onto something about Salem lying, because I think the piece has hinted at some repeated doubts Salem’s had with regards to seeing Laura again. She just does so in such a blunt and brash manner, it’s hurtful and not helpful. At least it seems to get Salem to admit to Dusk her desire to see Lauren again. Dusk’s comment about a lack of contact with the outside gives me some ominous vibes. Perihelion must have a lot of funding to be able to afford to do something like this, but how are they turning any sort of profit? Surely, there’s a purpose behind this project that the morphs (and readers) are unaware of. Wonder if it ties back to the prologue at all?

4
-So, if this is Galar, is the schooling system based on the UK’s? I believe “college” for the UK is more like what Americans consider “high school,” since we use “college” and “university” interchangeably to mean higher education.
-Otherwise, I believe some of this early stuff about Salem and Laura’s routine was present in the version I had read? At least, I seem to remember references to the anime and Team Rocket’s meowth.
-Quick Wiki search tells me A-levels are basically subject-specific secondary school examinations. Not sure there’s an apt comparison in American education, but this does confirm for me Laura is pre-university. Gordon saying Macro Cosmos “used to” and mentioning Rose sponsorships don’t exist anymore makes me wonder if this is a post-SwSh Galar. Which makes me wonder what these morphs would think of a ‘mon like Silvally, since canonically some Galarian outfit stole Aether’s research data and produced multiple units which you can find running around the Battle Tower.
-There’s definitely more tension behind Laura going to university than I remember. And, of course, the mentions of Mewtwo are quite different. The fictional tale has some similarities to Salem’s current situation, which makes me feel like they’re being set up to meet at some point.

5
-I love the ironic twist of Salem going from being the one to nudge Laura awake and into groggily getting dressed to getting nudged awake. I guess morph Salem isn’t a morning person? XD
-It seems like Salem gets a bit of a thrill the more she’s able to spar with Dusk. Perhaps that’s a feeling she’d have gotten if she had gone on the league circuit with Laura?
-Fs out for Sriracha. He does strike me as the type who just charges in without a plan and gets his ass kicked for it. I do find the fact that he was on the league circuit to be interesting. Seems to have instilled him with a bit of that “dumb jock” mentality, if anything. It also reminds me of the kids who, like, peaked in high school and keep trying to hang onto/relive those glory years. A bit depressing, yeah, and it makes me feel for the guy.
-Alisha sounds genuine enough in replying to Salem’s request, but “Laura” is such a common name I can imagine her having trouble digging that information up. a super psychic like Mewtwo could probably do it, though. This is, of course, assuming Alisha wasn’t simply saying what Salem wanted to hear and has no intentions of carrying this out due to, like, company policy or something.

Overall, I’d say your hard work on this new version is paying off. I’m personally a bit iffy on some of the medical stuff from the transformation, but that’s the M.D. in me. It should work well for other readers.

Tl;dr: Cat/10. 😸
 

Shiny Phantump

Through Dream, I Travel
Location
Hallownest
Pronouns
She/Her
Partners
  1. sylveon
  2. absol-mega
  3. silvally-psychic
  4. custom/ninetales-phantump
  5. cosmog
I know I helped beta chapter 5, but it wasn't quite finished yet and I have more thoughts. And some of the other thoughts from before for posterity

I like the fight between Salem and Dusk, which is pretty notable because I almost never like fights. It's almost a rule that I get bored and skim over them. There are no wasted words in their match, though. That really helps it, in my book, to flow smoothly without overstaying its welcome.

Sriracha is lovely I adore him. He's a fucking dumbass. Kick his ass. I still adore him.

Eliza is also lovely, I hope to see more of her. I'm curious to see what would happen if she fought Veracity. My gut tells me she's clever, I wonder if she could take out the jerkass bird. I hope she can.

It seems morph education camp is no different from a school in that there's always That Person. Here, our version of That Person is Veracity. I get why Whiskey likes her, she's a good student, just... I think there's a really interesting comparison to be drawn between her and Sriracha. I would say the difference between them is that Sriracha has fallen from his grace, but Veracity is actually capable of beating the shit out of people for the benefit of her ego. It leaves Sriracha feeling kinda goofy, and as a sympathetic character in some sense because of course he wants to still be good at things like he was before. Then Veracity feels more insufferable because I wanna see someone knock her around like Sriracha. I wonder if I'd find myself endeared to her when/if that happens...
 

canisaries

you should've known the price of evil
Location
Stovokor
Pronouns
she/her
Partners
  1. custom/inkay-shirlee
  2. custom/houndoom-elliot
  3. custom/yamask-joanna
"What are we trying today?" she asked, sing-song.

Salem had an answer prepared this time.

"Teach me how to fight," she said, eyes dilating. Her first few days of training had been heavy on stretches, exercises, and obstacle courses. Her only literal 'fight' since stepping in her tank had been the snowball fight a few days back. But dummies that never fought back were boring; she felt ready for more.
So to me kind of everything before this had Salem acting very tired and reluctant, so her excitement here felt kind of sudden. I think there could be a bit of honest self-hyping on her part before this to show she's actually interested and motivated.

Dusk's eyes flashed, then her claws. Her next attack was instantaneous, powerful, and impossible to block.

Someone – herself? Salem wasn't sure – cried out. She staggered back, clutching at her own neck.

"Salem! I didn't mean—"

A tumble backward; a flinch as her head hit floor. The ceiling and its many bright lights. There were so few shadows in the gym. There was metal-scent in the air, and wetness on her fur. Her head rang.

She mumbled something unclear. She didn't feel much of anything, not yet, but she had the vague notion that very soon she would be in a great deal of pain.
Chapter 5: Salem Fucking Dies

There was a metallic shearing sound as Veracity raised her wing.
How much of a wing is it at this point if it has a hand? Is it like a velociraptor arm?

including bothphysical attacks
missing space

Salem hardly followed the movements of the absol's body. He stepped to one side, took hold of Veracity's arm, and pulled her forward. In an instant, the corviknight was hurtling over Whiskey's back, arms akimbo, and then with a decisive lunge he had her pressed to the ground in a sprawl. He paused long enough to make his control of the situation clear, then stepped smartly back to allow Veracity to rise to her feet.
I have to be honest, I couldn't understand what happened here at all. Couldn't visualize it.

"Reversal," announced Whiskey. "A move that grows in strength the closer the user is to fainting. Excellent technique." Then, after a few seconds, "Sriracha can no longer battle. Veracity wins."
fucking lucario mains

His wattles jiggled when he jolted his head this way and that, which he did constantly.
oh fuck this game got wattle physics

"Not liking myself would be bad," he said, as if discussing today's lunch options. "I'm very good at fighting, and that's good. I'm good."
actually fucking based what a king

"Don't worry, Purrloin! You will get good at fighting very fast, faster than you think. And then you won't be hurt as easy or as bad! Good luck!"
sriracha my beloved

"He's an idiot," replied Dusk, not looking up from her food. "I don't like that. Being an idiot gets people killed."
i dont like you anymore dusk

As the pair finished their food, the skitty-morph, Heather, pushed the canteen doors open and dashed several feet forward, clutching her tail. The doors had swung shut on it the day before when she'd become distracted on her way in, Salem recalled.
tom and jerry scream

"Yes but someone might be shy, and they can use the box! Anyway, it helps to have your ask written down so nobody will forget it. Right?"
so its okay to be shy but not an idiot uh huh uh huh

The mightyena, Bramble, deemed it "official" and "human" and therefore inexplicable and best avoided, and several morphs followed his lead.
openly humanphobic, gets morphed anyway

"I don't like you! And I don't like the things you say! I'm right and you're bad!"
I AM BASED AND YOU ARE CRINGE

A sharp bang jolted a dozen morph heads away from the fight as the double doors of the main corridor slammed open.
GUNSHOT

For a moment, Salem was weightless. Aloft, and full of brightness. She forgot how to speak and sign. She panicked for a second, then she put her head forward and pressed it against Alisha's hand.
fucking furry

I don't really have any general thoughts to give for this chapter - it's probably because I'm personally very uninterested in combat and battles, but I can see someone more interested in those getting more out of the fighting here. I did also have to detach myself a bit since the gym class vibes were bringing back some bad memories.

Anyway I love Sriracha, a very nice cock
 

slamdunkrai

^ wants to be the leader of the Starry Skies
Pronouns
they/them
Partners
  1. darkrai
Hello! I'm here to tell you how much I enjoyed chapters four and five of this one, which I had wanted to get read later in Blitz and then sadly became busy -- but, happily, I still get to talk about them anyway. They're really good! I appreciate the balance you strike here: we're still in the stage of the story where Salem is getting into the swing of her new life and getting to know her fellow morphs alongside us, and I think you manage to show this really organically in chapter five, but you do a good job of making it not feel monotonous by a) showing clear examples of Salem adjusting to things in real time (chapter five functioning as our introduction to the world of morph battling, which ties in nicely to Salem's own efforts in getting used to her new body) and crucially, b) putting chapter four in there both to break things up by giving us context for who she was before she became a morph.

I think chapter four works as well as it does precisely because it unravels that sense that makes the present-day chapters work so well: that complicated sense of joy in learning to live purposefully within your skin. Specifically, we get to see the complications there: while purrloin!Salem doesn't quite view the world in the same way as humans, meaning that she's adorably a little misguided in her understanding of human life (e.g. "if she were a human, she would never have had to endure winter rain and winter cold and winter darkness" -- I love that her justification for this is "because I'd have a home or money", because ideally that'd be the case but, y'know, capitalism and the like), she's still not wrong in feeling that things could be much better for her and Laura. Sure, she's a cat, she doesn't quite get the financial and familial woes that hamstring Laura (though in the case of the latter, she's all too aware of them, because cats are clever!), but she knows that her human friend is the subject of some dreadfully unfair circumstances, and she knows this because this'll separate them... heck, it's already separating them by the time she figures this out. And more importantly once Laura leaves, she knows that she isn't being treated right by Laura's parents, and she's aware that this is in large part because she's a pokémon who does not really hold much agency here. She can't make them look after her as they should, as hard as she may try; she can't make them listen, nor can she express her feelings in ways they'd understand. Without her friend to look after her, it's a rough world for a cat like her. :(

Anyway, that about sums up my feelings on these chapters in the macro sense. I'm curious to see where things are headed, and as you say in the chapter notes, I am ready and very eager for some more plot. Great setup has been done here; I wanna see where it goes, especially with the tantalising little hints of Mewtwo and Laura and whatever the deal is with the facilities that host the morphs! Onto the line-by-lines:

She waited, and wished that she was a student there too, so she could stay with her human friend. She wished every day after, for so long that she began to think of herself as pre-human: only a pokémon while she waited for the day she evolved.

She would become human when she evolved, she knew. It was destined.
Love this!
Salem jumped up on the stand by the door, like always, to receive scratches behind her ears, like always.
Adorable image, though I think the double "like always" disrupted the flow here a little.
Now you're saying that was bullshit—"

"Language, Laura!"

Gordon thumped the sofa.
Ah, yes; you can't say bad words but you can attack with the furniture. I love the weird customs of British politeness. :)
most prominently an alakazam wearing fur dye and other cosmetics in the role of 'Mewtwo', a powerful and intelligent pokémon with a tragic past.
I appreciate the hints at Mewtwo we're getting after the prologue! I also gotta say I'd unashamedly watch the hell out of this movie.
[TRAINER!] Salem signed again, harder this time. Her tail thrashed anxiously.
:(
[I COME WITH YOU?] – not difficult to sign, but difficult for her to ask with her hopes so recently discarded.
:(((
She was weightless, tireless, limitless!

She knocked a jabbing arm to the side and caught Dusk on the throat.

Dusk's eyes flashed, then her claws. Her next attack was instantaneous, powerful, and impossible to block.

Someone – herself? Salem wasn't sure – cried out. She staggered back, clutching at her own neck.
Oh noooo haha, it's very feline to get a little too excited and lose control of her limbs but very unfortunate that this is what happens as a result
"Hands are capable of countless uses on their own," continued Whiskey, "including bothphysical attacks and signing, along with channelling elemental energy. They are also capable of using the many tools of humanity, designed to be held in human hands."

"Why don't you like me?" he asked, earnestly. "I'm very cool. Everyone likes me."
I like you, Sauce. Absolute goober; he's not the sharpest tool in the box, but he seems to mean well and he's certainly got a personality.
"Not liking myself would be bad," he said, as if discussing today's lunch options. "I'm very good at fighting, and that's good. I'm good."
Self-esteem goals, frankly.
Salem's heart jumped. She used to watch League fights with Laura, back home. Her heart had jumped then, like she'd been part of the battles just by seeing them.
A nice callback, enhanced by chapter four!
A race? Sure! Salem accepted by stealing a head start, running right past Dusk in the direction of the coliseum, her laughing friend close behind.
As was said earlier, one of those instances where she's really noticeably getting more comfortable and coordinated with her body. Good stuff! A good contrast with the elbowing incident from earlier.

Thanks for doing this review exchange with me; I'm really enjoying my time with this fic so far, and I'm happy I got the excuse to go and read more of it. Cheers for writing it, and I'm looking forward to whatever's in store for these very colourful characters!

(EDIT: wow, I somehow called Laura "Sarah" five different times in this review! I'm not sure how this happened; my bad! ^^")
 
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SparklingEspeon

Resident Nosy Person
Location
*teleports behind you*
Pronouns
She/Her
Partners
  1. espurr
  2. fennekin
  3. zoroark
Alrighty! This is for the BLEC review awards, covering Chapter Five while it’s still fresh in my head. Only had one chapter rather than the 3 – 4 I usually like to do, so this’ll be a bit shorter than my usual faire. Sorry for that :/

The chapters before this seemed mainly to be setup and exposition; now that we’re out of the background phase, we seem to have advanced to the beginnings of inter-character drama. And it looks like front and center of this chapter’s conflict is Sriracha.

He’s… interesting. I guess I expected more of an obnoxious type jock character from what’s been said about him, but he seems a lot more akin to, as I said in the discord, a floppy rubber chicken :v He seems to be one of the ones who hasn’t exactly taken to the new mental faculties he’s been given. Not sure what’s up with that, though I suspect it might be because he just doesn’t care to learn. I feel kind of bad for him—he’s like a big bird puppy, and then people like Dusk are mean to him and he just doesn’t understand why.

I liked Whiskey’s teaching session! For the Drill Instructor he was played up to be by Dusk, he seems like a surprisingly chill and competent teacher. Reminds me of some of my better college professors, which means A+ for execution in my book. He does seem very… gung ho about human weapons though…

I’ll admit I’m not entirely sure what to make about the aborted fight scene near the end of the chapter. I mean yes, we can’t have them tearing up the common room, but it also felt like Setup For Later, basically. It might just be me having not picked this up in like, a year, but I also had a bit of trouble telling that Eliza was a gallade morph. There’s only one mention of it in the prose that I caught, and she hasn’t exactly been a central character thus far. I think it might be worth more blatantly signalling what she is, if she was one of those morphs introduced in the background like the skitty one was.

Salem and Dusk fighting was an interesting segment—helped highlighted that even though they aren’t as prone to being hurt as humans are, they’re not full-blown pokemon anymore. They have to follow different rules. I can also commend you for having a fight scene that’s pleasing to read. The average action scene just makes me want to skim, even more so if it’s a sparring match, but this avoided that problem completely. I think it’s the prose. One of the things that you highlighted a lot about this fic was the eventual drama between Dusk and Salem, but for now they seem to be pretty tight with each other. It'll be interesting to see what can make them eventually fall out, since they seem to be in a similar position to say, Harry and Ron in their first days at Hogwarts.

Overall, good read! Some plot happened here, mainly involving Sriracha, but it still feels like we’re just starting. I imagine I’ll need a couple chapters to get a proper sense of where this is really going, along with seeing how Salem’s attempt to contact her Human plays out. Seems like a veerrry interesting thread to pull on…

~SparklingEspeon
 

NebulaDreams

Ace Trainer
Partners
  1. luxray
  2. hypno
Hey, Cat! The time for me to check out Different Eyes has been long long long long long long long overdue, especially since a few people have recommended it to me in the past before. I started reading the prologue a while back then dropped off for whatever reason. Reading Rookidee gave me the kick in the pants I needed to read what you have so far, and I'm really glad I did.

It's honestly hard for me to give a proper critique because this hits all my buttons and everything just works. The characters, the worldbuilding, the scale of the story, the atmosphere it has, all of it has the makings of a fantastic Pokemon fanfic. I'll get into chapter by chapter thoughts (mixed in with some of my liveblogging you've seen in the DMs before) then my overall thoughts below that.

Prologue

The prologue is a good start, but in retrospect, it felt a little weaker than the rest of the chapters, though that's not necessarily a criticism. It appropriately sets the tone for the rest of the story, plants the seeds for what Pokemorphing involves and what's at risk if the technology gets into the wrong hands. It doesn't feel too jarring when it cuts back to present day as a result (even with the shift of POV characters since we might not see Fuji again for a while), which is usually my gripe with prologues but isn't the case here. Even though quite a bit of it was exposition, there was a lot of tension between Fuji and Giovanni that made everything in it feel impactful, especially from Fuji's POV because of his personal stake in the matter and how much he regrets his decisions.

However, this opening also felt a bit like standard Pokemon fic fare with Giovanni and Mewtwo and all that, which gave me the impression that the story would be heavily involved with the canon characters. It's just something that might've put me off at first for preferential reasons.

Chapter 1

So, the prologue is good, but when the Pokemorph stuff starts, that's when it goes from good to outstanding. I love Dusk and Salem even though Dusk's introduction was brief and Salem hasn't even been born yet. There’s something really wholesome about Dusk's interactions with the human staff as well, especially with how well the language barrier between them is written. I’m impressed by the Salem segment in particular. Not a lot happened in it from a plot standpoint, but it’s just so intriguing reading about Salem’s thoughts as she’s developing in the tank, and the minutiae of it all really adds to that feeling of ‘oh shit, I’m becoming a person now, how exciting and terrifying is that?’ Also impressed by how you managed to convey her past with Laura without using flashbacks, just implications.

Chapter 2

“She made a sign with one finger that he’d definitely understand”

LMAO

Sneasel typically gave gifts of choice meat cuts, carved tools, or beautiful stones.

Why do I imagine a Sneasel running some artisanal kitchenware stall with these items on display? But this is a really cute worldbuilding detail, jokes aside.

“The thought was strange, that her eyes were different now.”

image0.jpg


Making the little dot of light swim around the room provided considerable entertainment.

Just waiting for the moment when some poor lecturer shines a laser pointer and Salem wrecks shit up during class

Everything about this chapter was freaking adorable without being too fluffy since this all has a purpose. Again, I'm impressed by your ability to take something that would be considered mundane and boring to most people and turn it into something that really means a lot to the protagonist and endears her. Just the sheer joy she takes from finding magazine pages and pinning them to the walls was contagious. Ironically, by focusing on such a small scale story at the beginning where Salem gradually develops a sense of personhood, it makes the rest of the story to come and the progression from there feel much bigger and more significant as a result.

Chapter 3

I don't have too many thoughts about chapter 3 except that it sets up Perihelion's facility quite nicely and introduces us to a lot of the other Pokemorphs.

Chapter 4

Salem wolfed down her salmon while Laura toasted and buttered herself some crumpets.

Laura's definitely Gala'ish.

"Swearing doesn't mean I'm wrong! We had a whole sit-down conversation about how long to wait to do a circuit, and I did what you said I should do 'cause you promised it would work out. Now you're saying that was bullshit—"

"Language, Laura!"

Wow, I love her parents already.

"This isn't a discussion, there isn't going to be a discussion."

"—always agreed I'd be able to, that's why I've worked so hard, and now you're telling me that— "

"Just calm down, you're hysterical. There's no need for that behaviour!"

No different overall, but perhaps a little more intense than usual.

"—will you just listen to me, let me finish just one—"

"We've listened. We have listened. You're not listening."

"—see, you're interrupting, like you always—"

"You're the one who isn't listening. You won't stop and listen."

Yuuuuuup. Definitely feeling the love here.

Replica Heart was a live-action film with real pokémon actors, most prominently an alakazam wearing fur dye and other cosmetics in the role of 'Mewtwo', a powerful and intelligent pokémon with a tragic past. It didn't feature any purrloin, but there was a torracat with gorgeous fur sheen and really excellent pokésign at one point, which was something. Salem liked her.

Can we get a one-shot from you that solely focuses on Pokemon actors in this world? I need to see more of them, and it'd also be interesting to know if they're common in the acting world.

Normally, Salem would have lain down by the laptop's fan for warmth, or batted playfully at Laura's fingers, or walked in front of the screen for attention.

But…

'Leave me alone,' Laura had said.

She had never said that before.

So Salem left her alone.

Ouch.

One thing I have to remark about your chapters is that even though they're quite long, they never feel long at all since it all flows so well. I am so invested in this world and these characters, and even though it takes a step back to focus on this flashback chapter, it doesn't interrupt the pacing at all. It provides a lot of good answers to questions raised in previous chapters, such as what happened with Laura, what Salem was like before the transformation, and the start of what led her past this point of no return.

Poor Salem. You've really nailed that xenofiction angle here, where the protagonist is intelligent and wants to be human, but her priorities, values and mannerisms are also very distinct from humans. Of course, this made for some compelling drama when Laura talks about needing to go to uni and Salem just isn't having it. Both sides are sympathetic, particularly Laura since that feeling of leaving old dreams behind by the wishes of your parents is something a lot of people here can probably relate to. I also like that her parents weren't evil or cartoonishly abusive, but still doesn't connect with Laura or understand her worries. And of course, while Salem is in a comfortable spot and Laura's parents provide for her, they do the bare minimum and neglect her mental worries, so it's completely justifiable when Salem leaves to venture on her own.

Chapter 5

"Get the fuck up, everyone! It's another wonderful training day!"

What a banger of an opening line.

"I'll give you my croissants if you come to training with me."

That, tragically, was too powerful an incentive.

Goddamn Kalosans and their sumptuous pastries...

"Claws?" called out Sriracha.

Whiskey squinted wearily at the blaziken. "Claws? What? No. Bad answer.

I can already tell that I'm gonna like Sriracha.

She continued to sulk towards her plate, until the silence was broken not by Dusk, but by Sriracha.

"Hello, ladies!" he said, sitting down opposite them with much clicking of claws on the tiled floor.

Smoooooooth, my saucy Sriracha.

"Why are you so mean to him?" asked Salem, out of pure curiosity.

"He's an idiot," replied Dusk, not looking up from her food. "I don't like that. Being an idiot gets people killed."

:copyka:

"I was a League sweeper! The best!" [I could knock you out, easily! I'm warning you!] "I'm not stupid! You're stupid!"

Sriracha really just went 'NO U'.

Glad to see more of the personalities of the side characters shine here, particularly Sriracha, who is a complete doofus but a loveable, spicy himbo chicken all the same. And of course, that fight between Salem and Dusk at the beginning was just *chefs kiss*. You can really feel the excitement of these two half-Pokemon and why battling is a part of their needs, and it was also exciting to see how it progressed from roughhousing to getting carried away, resulting in both of them losing control. It's a good moment since it hints at the potential risks behind battling without going too far, and I expect that this will play a much bigger part between these two later on.

--

Okay, so back to my general thoughts.

Hard to believe this is also my first Pokemorph fic! The concept of Pokemorphs doesn't appeal to me as much as focusing on regular Pokemon (a part of that is also down to my perception since the Pokemorph genre tends to connote an edgier take on the series), but you did a terrific job at getting me hooked on them, and also giving narrative importance to how much of a scientific leap it is for people to create Pokemon-human hybrids. While it shows the consequences of being stuck in a half-human body and all the physical therapy it takes to get to grips with that, something I REALLY appreciated is how much the fic focuses on the joy of being given the body you want and putting in the work so it feels like the best fit for that person. It doesn't dwell too much on the negatives while not glossing over the implications, and that element of cautious optimism is something that sticks out to me about this fic.

The worldbuilding as a whole also feels so rich. Despite how confined the settings feel and how steady the pacing is, you've given me a great sense that a world exists out of the confines of Salem's story, with the financial politics of the League system, the snippets provided about this world's entertainment, the mix of different personalities and backstories from the Pokemorphs we see, the rituals that Sneasels like Dusk have, how Pokemon are written in general, etc. It all feels so alive, and scratches that itch in a way that I can't easily get out of Pokemon fics, where both humans and Pokemon feel like they have deep cultures with different needs.

I also like the subtle nods and meta references to Pokemon canon, despite my expressed disinterest in canon characters. To this fic's credit, it made me forget that this takes place in the canon of the mainline games with how most of the narrative is built from the ground up. And to an even bigger extent, it made me forget I was reading fanfiction at points since everything was so well constructed, and its originality and execution of the premise is where it truly shines while still harnessing the essence of Pokemon.

Anyway, so stoked to see the rest of the fic when it's ready. This is a really impressive start and it was criminal of me to take so long to get to it.
 
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