• Welcome to Thousand Roads! You're welcome to view discussions or read our stories without registering, but you'll need an account to join in our events, interact with other members, or post one of your own fics. Why not become a member of our community? We'd love to have you!

    Join now!

Pokémon Dragon's Dance

Interlude: The Puppetmaster

Pen

the cat is mightier than the pen
Staff
Partners
  1. dratini
  2. custom/dratini-pen
  3. custom/dratini-pen2
Gonna be some time until Part Two, but for now, here is the Interlude!

Interlude
The Puppetmaster

Archer is worried.

How do you know? He’s certainly not clearing his throat or shuffling his weight from foot to foot. If he were doing either of those things you’d send your persian straight for his throat, convinced it was a ditto imposter here with you in the room.

It’s not any particular sound or a movement that clues you in, just a sense you honed back in that interminable crossing, when your life hung on a sugar-sheet peg. And you know Archer. You know Archer better than he knows himself.

“How’s the boy doing?” you ask, just to push him further off-balance. Archer hates discussing this: he’s paranoid you mean to promote Athena up over him, just because she happened to have a womb and be convenient. A ridiculous fear. If he’d had a womb you’d have been just as happy to use him. Best not to say that, though. You prefer Archer a little stained by self-doubt.

“Silver?”

Of course Silver. Irritated, you finally spin your chair to get a good look at him. Did he suffer some horrible injury and not bother to tell you? Is that why he’s so slow this morning?

No, his uniform is pressed and spotless. Not a hair out of place on his glossy head. And if anything’s paining him, he’s hiding it well with his posture.

Well—not the guilty conscience. He’s not hiding that well. But you’ll let him get to it in his own time. Archer’s earned that much from you, and he’s never tried keeping secrets yet.

You don’t end up having to clarify. He’s already speaking when your eyes meet.

“Silver is doing well. Yesterday he pushed his playmate off the top of the playground tower and lied about it when asked.”

That’s your boy all right. Loosened up by fatherly pride, you drape one well-heeled leg over the other.

“And how is your boy doing?” you say, deciding to throw Archer a bone. It’s endearing how he’s found his own little prodigy to bring up, as if he thinks you’ll forget about your son if he can present a superior child in his place. Even got the hair color right. The whole thing amuses you, so you’ve let it take its course. And it could come in handy, if your flesh offspring grows into any concerning quirks.

Archer’s straightened, though. Amazing he could get much straighter.

“Sir, I’ve made a mistake.”

You lean back in your chair, eyes narrowing. Archer doesn’t make mistakes, so that’s a little distressing. On the other hand, it’s nice to have things to hold over him, provided the mistake isn’t disastrous. You wait for him to continue.

“The boy I’ve been training. He ended up on a mission he shouldn’t have been on. A code red. You know Proton isn't always the most . . . efficient with these things.”

“He’s effective,” you say mildly.

“Yes. But the boy saw and took off. It was too early.”

Not disastrous. To you, at least. Archer’s looking crushed, though.

“Your dragon-wielding prodigy,” you muse, just to twist the knife in further. “I assume you’ve already pulled back operations in the relevant areas.”

“Yes, sir.”

“Then that’s all there is to be done. You win some, you lose some, Archer.”

It was a foolish idea in the first place. You don’t think you actually would have given up on your flesh and blood. That’s not the Fiorelli way.

Though you find yourself liking the unnamed boy a lot more now that he’s run away. Running away shows character and leadership. It made you everything you are.

There’s nothing you could do that would send Archer running away. This is why he will never be a leader.

“Keep an eye out, though,” you continue, “in case he pops up again and does anything interesting. He has a dragon, you’ve said?”

“Two of them, actually.”

Two dragons! Certainly worth some oversight. And since Archer’s bound to do it anyway, better that you’ve made it an order.

Actually. That was a little cheeky, wasn’t it? And Archer still sounds too proud.

“Any other failures to report?” you ask.

“No, sir.”

His left eye twitches slightly. Good. Got to keep the troops in line.

“Then get on with things.”

As Archer closes the door, you look out the window, where the sun glares at you with a furious orange eye. It looks to be a beautiful day, maybe even warm enough to make you think you’re home if you close your eyes.

Things are going well, really. You can’t complain. And you’ve decided Archer’s mistake is more amusing than annoying.

Your dear persian stirs in the corner and you coo to her. Time to get back to work.

~*~​

Gym leaders meetings are certainly the highlight of your month. There are other pleasures, certainly, such as crushing the dreams of single-badge trainers and marking off politicians as fatly and thoroughly bribed, but gym leader meetings hold a special charm for you.

The gym-leaders fall into two groups: those who have power and influence, and those who do not. And you, of course.

Natsume’s early, though her eyes are shut and her legs crossed like she’s meditating. Natsume’s an ally. You try not to dwell on her much, in case she decides to drop in on your thoughts.

Erika nods to you when she walks through the door. A smart woman, with an ambition within her capacity. You appreciate her tasteful kimono, exquisite manners, and complete lack of sentimentality in business matters. She also thinks the apex of success is a multi-million dollar perfume company, so you don’t spend much time worrying about her.

Then there’s the ruffage. Muno from Pewter, his face permanently fixed into a scowl. Hamako of Cerulean, who is courting irrelevance with her staunch and wholly futile opposition to her city’s shipping industry. The Unovan, who preserves a mullish silence every month. Sometimes you doubt he even has the language ability to follow along. Vermillion’s leaders thought it was good imaging for trade relations, and you don’t really mind. He’s a non-factor, like the other two.

Koga ought to be a non-factor, but he nags at you. Fuschia’s a nowhere town with its own code law and a half-hearted economy in silk and tourist chachkas. But the ninjas have respect. In time immemorial, they swooped in to save Kanto from invaders and for that they have the nation’s enduring gratitude. When the nation remembers they exist, that is. You’ve been careful to keep your people out of Fuschia. If you’ve read Koga right, he won’t bother anyone who doesn’t bother him first. Some kind of ninja principle. Some motto of caution or restraint. You wouldn’t know.

Katsura skips these meetings. Nobody misses him.

The meeting begins when Erika clears her throat gently. You lean back in your seat, aquiver with quiet pleasure. Everyone gives badge reports. Muno complains again about faulty mine equipment. Erika reminds him again that it's not gym business. Natsume smiles, but doesn’t say anything, even though everyone knows the problems come from Saffron. Hamako complains about ships clogging her port. Honestly, does this woman understand the first thing about economic power?

Koga watches everybody. The Unovan watches the clock.

It’s a quiet crowd, so it falls to you to maintain a pleasant back and forth with Erika. You can tell she appreciates it; in her opinion, the others are complete bores.

Kanto has a problem. They’ve lost track of where power lies. Between the gyms, the assembly, the league, and the emergent industry sector, it’s a muddle. The game will go to the first person to consolidate. That’s you.

The gyms are nearly neutralized now. Natsume’s appointment was a coup, of course. Killed several pidgey with one stone. Silph’s president stayed late at Friday’s gala just to give you a handshake for it.

You’ll be replacing Hamako soon; after the gyarados fiasco, it’s all but inevitable. Maybe with one of those bright young things from that delightful watershow you watched—what was it now, the Sensational Sisters they’d called themselves? Vendors outside the performance hall had sold conch-shells and garish starmie-patterned shirts. You occupy yourself with picturing Hamako’s expression, should she have happened to have wandered inside. Oh, that settles it. The Sensational Sisters it is.

Muno’s a defeatist, so you don’t worry about him. Maybe you’ll stop by Pewter and tour one of his horrible, dusty camps. Remind him that Viridian is also suffering beneath the cruel yoke of the city industries. That will make him feel very cared for. It's attention Pewter craves, not solutions.

You’d feel better if Koga were gone as well—but no. You’ll let the ninja issue lie. They can’t fight a whole country. If worst comes to worst, they’ll secede and you won’t miss them.

You feel a headache coming on. That’s Natsume. She does it because petty displays of power amuse her, and you take it because you understand how power actually works. It’s not the way she thinks it does—for a psychic trainer, she’s fairly obtuse.

When the meeting ends, you give her a short nod, ignoring the small smirk that crosses her lips. Soon construction will begin in Cinnabar—

Ah, but that’s a thought for another time and place.

~*~​

When you return home, you shrug off your double-breasted blazer and unknot your tie. Your vest hanging loose and your shirt half unbuttoned, you pause to examine your reflection in the broad mirror that overhangs your rose-veined marble sink.

You’re 36. That’s the age your grandmother always answered, if anyone was uncouth enough to ask. “I’m thirty-six,” she said, white hair severely bunned and ribboned, diamond choker clasped tightly around her sagging neck.

Everyone would let out a gentle titter at this charming response, but you were the only one who knew Grandmother believed those words with all her heart. She believed she could make the world anything she wanted it to be by the strength of her belief.

You pull the purple velveteen ribbon from your pocket. Her diamond choker you sold long ago, back in that desperate crossing, but the ribbon you kept. It was of no value to anyone, and perhaps not even to you. Still. Your jaw is square, your eyebrows sharp, your hair silky, and your gaze keen. She would have been proud of this face, had she lived to see it. Though it’s not exactly your face you’re counting on to make your ancestors proud.

Political power’s not enough. You need real power. You need an empire.

And when you’ve got that—

Well.

You study your face again. Do you have your father’s jaw? You think not. Yours is sterner. Your eyes are harder and more relentless.

Once you’ve got that, maybe then it will come time to pay your homeland a little return visit. Remind them that the Fiorelli name is not one to be thrown lightly aside.

Your hand clenches around the worn ribbon. No, not lightly.

~*~​

Your gym, newly built, is the tallest building in Viridian. Of course, taller buildings stand upon every single street in Saffron, but they’re far enough away that the comparison isn’t worth making. Distance alters things. The name you are making here, the name you left behind in Etalia—one day they will be measured against each other. But not yet.

For now, you are circulating, the gracious host at a rather fabulous gala. The attendance is excellent. More than half of the assembly have clocked in, and not just the ones you’ve bribed either. All the major corporations are represented. You catch the rosy pink of Erika’s kimono, hear Jiro’s bright laugh, find Muno off in the corner nursing a glass of sake and his own resentments, and—

Oh my.

“The champion, at my humble gathering?” you call out. “You do me too great an honor, Lady Kikuko.”

She turns to face you slowly, in her own time. She’s wearing purple tonight and a shrewd expression on her haggard face. You think of your grandmother for an instant, then banish the thought before it shows in your eyes.

“Modesty doesn’t suit you, Giovanni Fiorelli.”

The knowing way she pronounces your full name makes you twitch. Witch, they call her in Viridian—in polite company, at least. And you know witches, the shadow-benders back home who plied their trade in forgotten alleyways. Once, when you were plagued with sleepless nights and haunting dreams, your mother brought you to one of their shadow dens. She did so at night, woke you from your bed and bundled you into a dark jacket. Father never heard about it. He would have castigated you both, locked you away for nights and days with only bread to eat.

You never saw the face of the woman who treated you, only her gnarled hands in the flickering candlelight. Something seemed to move in the corner of your vision as you lay there, stiff with fright and dizzy from the sweet incense. A shadow of a shadow, darker than the night.

Had she cured you? Or had the terror of the experience taught you to clear your own mind?

Kikuko stares at you knowingly, and you bow your head to hide your sudden loss of words.

“I hope you have found everything here to your satisfaction,” you say. A plain, fumbling phrase, but you were not expecting her here tonight.

“You’ve built yourself a magnificent gym.”

The words are delivered tonelessly. You can’t tell if the compliment is perfunctory, bitter, or sincere. The Lavender Town gym was a humble building, a single floor, low-roofed and dark. The air tingled with sickly-sweet incense and rattata skittered behind the walls. Perhaps the Lady Kikuko thinks you are too big for your boots.

“Why, thank you. Perhaps you’ll honor me with your presence some other time, when I can attend to you with the attention you deserve? I am sure you have much to teach me.”

Kikuko studies you from beneath thinly drawn brows. “Perhaps so, Mr. Fiorelli. Perhaps so.”

~*~​

Battle hall matches are an exercise in tedium. The infantile groaning of the crowd, the trainers parading in their ostentatious kit, the terrible refreshments—you would have left already, if it weren’t for the dragonite. It’s massive, meter upon meter of bulging gold muscle. Behind the dragonite stands a trainer with blazing red hair, a garish red cape, and a cheap festival mask. You could safely write off the whole ensemble as ridiculous if the dragonite weren’t currently tearing its way through the best the Kanto battle hall scene seems able to offer.

Idly, you wonder how the armor of your rhyperior would stand up against that assault.

That evening, you cut off Archer mid-sentence as he makes the evening report. “Has your young protege been—busy?”

“Three battle hall tournaments this month,” Archer answers promptly, as if he’d been anticipating the question. Then he hesitates. “Also, potentially, the sabotage at the Power Station project.”

Your eyes narrow into slits. The rogue generator your people had assembled was found ruptured in half one cold morning. The last you’d heard, they suspected a rogue wild onyx.

“There were claw marks,” Archer adds.

You lean back in your chair, digesting this. So he’s on a mission now, is he, this little red-head and his dragons? What does he want? What’s he trying to achieve?

It’s all small potatoes so far. Annoying, but nothing that could alter the inextricable trajectory of Team Rocket. If he were standing here, you might pat him on the back and tell him with a fatherly air, “True power doesn’t come from your dragonite’s claws, my boy. And until you understand that, you’ll never meet me eye to eye.”

“Should I—”

But you cut Archer off with a wave of your hand.

~*~
Katsura, it is universally agreed, makes for unpleasant company. Since he is arguably one of the brightest minds of his generation and a ferocious battler to boot, the league’s stuck him in Cinnabar, where he doesn’t bother anyone, except you on the days you’re forced to visit.

Luckily, Katsura doesn’t suffer from an excess of morals. You clink mimosas as you wait on the last of the permitting, the product of several handsome bribes, a few hideously expensive bottles of champagne, and the agony of enduring the rare prolonged conversation with the man.

You sip your mimosa, and wince. Oversweet. Of course. Why had you expected any different?

“What sun rises from blue to orange, and never sinks?” Katsura asks suddenly, with an airy wave of his hand.

The inane riddles are yet another one of Katsura’s less-than-charming tendencies. Most of them are homebrewn, and impossible to answer sensibly, even if you’d been inclined to that sort of childish wordplay to begin with. Although—

“A sun that’s a dragonite,” you answer.

Katsura’s bushy eyebrows lift in surprise.

“You’re a learned man, Mr Fiorelli,” he exclaims as if that’s some sort of revelation. You had the best tutors Etalia had to offer for the first twelve years of your life, and your learning never stopped afterwards, either.

“Why a dragonite riddle?” you ask, setting down your drink.

It’s just the mildest of suspicions, but Katsura chuckles and says, “Fought one of the damned things just last week, if you can believe it. My magmar’s fire-blast couldn’t even touch that thick hide.”

Your face must stay just a little too still, because Katsura chuckles again, wagging his eyebrows knowingly.

“Has he hit your gym yet? No? Ah, but you’re waiting for it.”

The words don’t leave your mind as you lay kiku flowers down on Isami’s gravestone and take the helicopter back to Viridian. Perhaps you are waiting. Enough of rumor, hear-say and ridiculous festival masks. Meet your enemies in the light of day, even if you stab them in the shadows, they said back home. At least, your grandmother did.

“Arrange a meeting,” you tell Archer. You’re a little disconcerted when he doesn’t even ask who with, just nods, worry flattening his lips. But he doesn’t leave. You watch him for a while, the way your darling watches the rattata when she is fed and lazy.

“Do you think that’s wise, sir?” he says at last.

Questioning you? Rare enough that you actually take a moment to consider. With one hand you pat your darling, with the other you finger the ribbon curled in your pocket. The silence stretches. You are sifting through conversations, fitting problems against each other like puzzle pieces, seeing where the edges fit.

And then you have it.

“We wait,” you tell Archer, who nods his head and removes himself with poorly-veiled relief.

Because you have a plan now. It’s a darling, this plan. It’s not just going to kill two pidgeys—it will kill a dragonite, metaphorically at least, and more besides.

If the boy comes, you’ll give him a gym battle and every courtesy he’s owed. But he’s on your board now and, though he doesn’t know it, soon he’ll be playing for you.
 
Last edited:

WildBoots

Don’t underestimate seeds.
Pronouns
She/Her
Partners
  1. custom/moka-mark
  2. solrock
he’s paranoid you mean to promote Athena up over him, just because she happened to have a womb and be convenient.
Brutal.

If he’d had a womb you’d have been just as happy to use him.
Double brutal. Also, I think it’s very statistically likely that this exists somewhere on the wide, weird internet.

Sir, I’ve made a mistake.”
Oof. Takes a lot for him to say that.

Archer’s looking crushed, though.
LANCE WAS TOO.

Then that’s all there is to be done. You win some, you lose some, Archer.”
I think this is a good character play! He’s got other fish to fry.

Though you find yourself liking the unnamed boy a lot more now that he’s run away. Running away shows character and leadership. It made you everything you are.
👀

where the sun glares at you with a furious orange eye.
Love this. He’s watchin’.

There are other pleasures, certainly, such as crushing the dreams of single-badge trainers and marking off politicians as fatly and thoroughly bribed, but gym leader meetings hold a special charm for you.
Wowee this says so much.

Koga ought to be a non-factor, but he nags at you. Fuschia’s a nowhere town with its own code law
👀

It's attention Pewter craves, not solutions.
Oof.

In time immemorial they swooped in to save Kanto from invaders and for that they have the nation’s enduring gratitude.
Missing comma.

You feel a headache coming on. That’s Natsume. She does it because petty displays of power amuse her, and you take it because you understand how power actually works. It’s not the way she thinks it does—for a psychic trainer, she’s fairly obtuse.
Interesting. I hope we get to learn more about her!

Everyone would let out a gentle titter at this charming response, but you were the only one who knew Grandmother believed those words with all her heart. She believed she could make the world anything she wanted it to be by the strength of her belief.
I like seeing the hold Grandma has on him. She sounds cutthroat.

The champion, at my humble gathering?” you call out. “You do me too great an honor, Lady Kikuko.”
Agatha as former champion makes a lot of sense.

Once, when you were plagued with sleepless nights and haunting dreams, your mother brought you to one of their shadow dens.
This is so juicy.

“Also, potentially, the sabotage at the Power Station project
YES, Lance! Make me proud.

The rogue generator your people had assembled was found ruptured in two one cold morning.
The one + two right next to each other reads awkwardly though.

Meet your enemies in the light of day, even if you stab them in the shadows, they said back home. At least, your grandmother did.
This is excellent.

You are sifting through conversations, fitting problems against each other like puzzle pieces, seeing where the edges fit.
Ooh, a lovely visual.

This was a fun peek behind the curtain! I love that Gio has made himself both rival and master in the same stroke, and Lance doesn’t necessarily even know yet that he exists. Gio is obsessed with control. I wonder how Lance is going to confront that.

Poor Hamako. We knew this was coming, but I feel for her. I like her.

This really does paint a picture of how fractured Kanto is, though. And that’s not even dealing with the question of Johto! Such large pants to fill.

Part two when??? We’ll make it part of your homework: I’ll sue you for the rest of it. 🤔
 
Last edited:
  • Quag
Reactions: Pen

Negrek

Play Crack the Sky
Staff
Ugh, didn't think it would take another assignment to get me to show up here again. I've read quite a bit farther in the story at this point, but... here's chapter two.

First some replies to replies.

Hm, was there anything in particular that stood out to you as being too young? He is roughly twelve in this chapter, but not a very wordly or sophisticated twelve.
It's hard for me to pin down, but I guess it's a general sense of obliviousness? I think some of it's really just down to him not seeming to think about/realize some aspects of the world around him that I think I would usually expect people to start thinking about by the time they're going on thirteen. I guess a lot of it comes back to how he doesn't realize how dire it is for him to show Airi around, and to the Dragon's Den, specifically. Totally something I can see a younger child doing, just seeing, ooh, potential new friend/person to impress and have the context fly completely over his head. Like, he's skipped out on history lessons, but his peers presumably haven't, and for a culture where isolation is so important, it seems like that kind of thing would be hard to miss. Like, he hasn't heard people in the village comment disparagingly about the traders or their wares before, gotten the sense that it's fine for them to come and sell things but they aren't really welcome in the village proper? His classmates haven't made shitty jokes about him wanting to "steal" Toku, or other ryu, or similar? These are the sorts of things I expect younger children to just not notice/understand (or uncritically internalize), but by preteen age I feel like they would be starting to work out why it is that the Ryu's Gift is so hidden, even if they persistently didn't show up for the day they went over that episode in class. I keep coming back to the fact that Wataru's only a year or two off from high school in US terms, heh.

Uh, think you may have accidentally copy-pasted this from some other review?
lol, looks like part of a Tumblr post, maybe? I don't thiiiink it got pasted over anything important, but unfortunately I don't have the original review around to compare. Not sure how it got into my review document, one way or another. Sorry about that.

And now... We're on to Johto at large! I liked how you had Toku end up smuggled along with Wataru; clever to add an additional, covert element to Ibuki's "gift," and it made for a really cute scene when Toku was getting restless in there and Wataru was freaking out over her potential discovery. The pokémon continue to be a delight, and Kana seems like an interesting addition to Wataru's team--both she and Toku want to get stronger, I'd say, but Kana seems a bit more businesslike and restless about it. Almost more like Wataru than Toku is, maybe. The attention to detail and body language with Toku, especially, continues to be great. She's so snakey! It'll be fun seeing how her way of interacting with the world changes as she grows and evolves.

I quite like the portrayal of Oak here, too. He has a sort of arrogance about him that definitely speaks to the hotshot trainer canon often alludes to in his past. The way he casually assumes that Wataru's helping him out because he wants an autograph and the way he both tries to use his reputation as a weapon and is pleased when Mr. Inushi recognizes him really speak of someone who both enjoys the spotlight and is accustomed to having it. It's an interesting midpoint between the presumed pro trainer of the past and the affable professor we see in R/B/Y. He's not a malicious character, but there's also an obvious degree of self-interest in taking Wataru (and his dratini!) to Kanto, and I'm curious how their relationship will develop in the future. I also like how you manage to work in Oak's taste for poetry here.

I liked the bits of culture clash we get in this chapter--Wataru being surprised and horrified by the pokéball, for example. (But a clever solution to that from Mr. Inushi!) The foreignness of the "trainer" concept is particularly interesting... I guess the dragon clan isolated themselves pre-pokéball, and "training" as such only became viable after its invention? Or perhaps they've always had a different relationship with pokémon than Johto at large. Cherrygrove is a strange place, and it's only natural that Wataru hates it. Nothing is going to compare favorably with home right now.

If anything, I would have liked to see more of that in this chapter, and overall more of a sense of place for Cherrygrove. The lights are a big strange thing for Wataru to encounter, which makes sense, and there's some mentions of the weird materials that things are made out of and how many buildings there are in the place, but I don't think I got much of a sense of the rhythms of life in Cherrygrove the way I did in Wataru's village, and at times I got a bit turned around as to what I thought the time period we were in was (I think it's supposed to be basically the equivalent of the 1970s?). To some extent that makes sense because Wataru isn't part of life here in Cherrygrove like he was at home, so he certainly doesn't know what's up, and he mostly sticks to the pokécenter and avoids talking to people he doesn't know, but on the other hand this seems like a good opportunity to bring in some interesting observations on "life in 'modern' Johto" from an outsider's perspective. (In which vein, I enjoyed the little scene of Wataru getting signed up for his trainer card for this reason.) There's so much here that's new and strange to him... Certainly he's shell-shocked from his exile, but one way or another I'd expect him to be especially aware of the differences between Cherrygrove and home. Are there strange pokémon he's never seen before coming through the center? Does he actually recognize some things here (what does Mr. Inushi sell to the dragon clan, anyhow?) but find it weird for them to be common instead of exotic items? Clothing styles that are even stranger than the ones he's seen on traders, or strange gestures or figures of speech? I felt like you could have done more with the setting and Wataru's reaction to it.

Love the dramatic irony and bittersweet in Wataru and Toku's decision that they just need to get stronger to be accepted back into their home. If only! It makes perfect sense, of course, especially given the stories Wataru knows, but I imagine we're going to get the scene of his grand return later on, and I imagine it's not going to be pretty. It feels realistic as an idea he (and Toku) would cling to, of course, and it certainly gives him an excellent motivation to go journeying! Taking refuge in being strong has obviously been Wataru's preferred tactic for a while now (and why not, he's good at it!), and I look forward to seeing how he handles things when it simply doesn't work. (One way or another, Blackthorn City is hardly a secret by the time of G/S/C... very curious to see how that comes about, and what part Lance has in it.) Professor Oak's riddle at the end of the chapter was a great way to wrap everything up and send us on our way, thematically--and what a great character moment for Wataru! He's quite the pragmatic type, heh.

All in all, though, I thought this chapter was a lot of fun and a good follow-on to the first. It feels like we're really setting off on a journey with Lance here, and I'm sure it's going to be a lot of fun! And, you know, heartbreak. There's the sense that the story's now begun properly. Onward!

Tears burned behind his eyes.
From personal experience I'd say they usually feel like they're burning on the front, or maybe around the sides a little bit. "Behind" his eyes doesn't seem right to me.

Uncle wasn't waiting for him alone. The stranger was about Uncle's age, but that was where the similarity ended.
The transition between these two sentences strikes me as a little off. The second sentence leads off with "the stranger," like he's already been introduced, but there's no mention of him earlier.

Turning back to Wataru, her voice softened.
Here Ibuki's voice is turning back to Wataru.

Then, on impulse, he threw his arms around Ibuki, pressing them into a tight hug.
The "them" here is ambiguous, and while I get that you mean "Wataru and Ibuki," the structure of the sentence makes my thoughts go first to Wataru's arms.

He'd watch Ibuki work the fabric for months, determined that her debut in the hakuryu odori be nothing less than perfect.
*watched

Mr. Inushi made a show of raising his hand to zip up his mouth. True to his word, he kept silent after that.
Does Lance know what a zipper is, if he's never heard of trains?

Dusky light streamed in from the low-sunken sun, casting long, trailing shadows.
This one bothers me a little; light doesn't cast shadows, objects do.

When his bowl was empty, Wataru followed Airi and Mr. Inushi to a small room, with stacked cots.
No comma after "room."

He crawled into the lower one and remained there huddled, as Mr Inushi bustled back and forth through the room.
No comma after "huddled."

The miniryu was snaking determinedly across the floor, towards the meal room.
lol, good snek

Mr. Inushi had insisted they come here before eating breakfast and Wataru's stomach felt decidedly hollow.
Comma after "breakfast."

Wataru thought the ordeal was finally over, then, but there was one more stop, a small building with a blue overhanging.
*overhang

The miniryu's eyes widened and she let out a low whine.
Comma after "widened."

He patted around his pockets and his face fell.
No comma after "pockets."

This room was bigger than the one Wataru was staying in, and only had a single bed.
No comma in this sentence. (And reading this out of context in my notes... "Oh no, only one bed??" Wrong genre. :P)

Toku raised herself up high on her belly as she faced the charmander. Wataru smiled at the change in her body-language. If Toku was trying to make herself look big, that meant she thought the charmander would make a decent fight.
Very cute image of Toku trying to make herself look intimidating.

Letting out a short hiss, she suddenly sprung forward, stubby claws flashing.
*sprang

"Wrap it now," said Wataru, when the angle of the charmander's strike left her off-balance.
No comma after "Wataru."

Before the charmander could recover her bearings, Toku's sinuous body curved tight around her, pinning her arms to her side.
*sides, assuming it's one to each side

The skin-to-skin contact of the wrap attack became a rippling static.
To me it seems kind of weird to talk about "rippling" static, or anything that implies motion, since "static" is motionless.

And they can cut through solid rock.
Huh, interesting. I don't really associate dragonite with that sort of thing; they can learn a couple claw attacks, but they've always struck me as more energy-based or blunt-force fighters as opposed to the type to carve their way through rock. This detail felt a bit artificial to me, like something inserted just to give an opening for introducing Kana's metal claw attack, but I also just might not be up on dragonite lore.

The brick slammed into her chest and sent her tumbling backwards, letting out a howl of pain.
The brick's the one howling here.

The old man, the professor smiled.
You want another comma after "professor."

Wataru felt a cold feeling sweep through him at the professor's words.
"Felt a cold feeling" strikes me as redundant. "A cold feeling swept through Wataru at the professor's words" or "A wave of cold swept through Wataru at the professor's words," maybe?

Wataru sank into a deep, full bow, the kind he would have made a dragon master.
made *to a dragon master?

His eyes tracked him across the room.
Might want to reword this so "he" and "him" aren't referring to two different people here.

The question was asked with a skeptical air, as his eyes moved from Wataru's sharp features and blazingly red hair to Mr. Inushi's squat and rounded face.
Mmm, not wrong as such, but it reads odd to me to describe a face as "sqaut."

Wataru didn't have to stretch his imagination very far to imagine it.
Going imagination/imagine here seems a little off. Something like "didn't have to stretch his thoughts very far to imagine it," "didn't have to work very hard to imagine it," etc. would clear that up.

He sunk into a deep stupor, giving only single-word answers to the professor's questions, until the man eventually switched his attention over to Airi and Mr. Inushi.
*sank

"You're right," Wataru said. "All we've got to do is get strong."
Oof. :(

At this point I'm wondering how long it usually takes for a dratini to evolve into a dragonite. How long does Wataru think he's looking at away from home, here?

Wataru woke in the mornings and raced to the professor's room, where the charmander was waiting.
Mmm, something about "mornings" here doesn't seem right to me. I like something along the lines of, "Wataru woke every morning and raced to the professor's room, where the charmander would be waiting," better, although I couldn't say why.
 

kintsugi

golden scars | pfp by sun
Location
the warmth of summer in the songs you write
Pronouns
she/her
Partners
  1. silvally-grass
  2. lapras
  3. golurk
  4. custom/booper-kintsugi
  5. custom/meloetta-kint-muse
  6. custom/meloetta-kint-dancer
the agent

And we won't see home until she becomes a kairyu.
ah yes good thing they can see home as soon as that happens, yup, nothing to see here

I'm struck because I tend to find myself telling people no, stop doing summaries instead of fiction, they don't work, you need description and individual scenes to tell a story. But this chapter strikes a very strange and delicate balance of a bunch of summary-like scenes that do tell a story, and the character trajectory is crystal clear throughout. It's masterfully done and looking back I'm still not sure how it's done--I think the bookends about yearning for home, as well as the comparison of the final mission to the sneasel date, establish the through-themes and give a sense of interconnectedness, but I don't really know what makes this read so well. It just does lol.

Other standout moments--Lance seeing that you can train pokemon through means specific to their personalities while not catching on that he's being groomed himself, all of the good raticate this chapter, and you can't be scared of ursaring because they're nice and murder is illegal more breaking news at 7. Archer dialogue on the sneasel date is on-point, as is the building feeling of Lance trying to prove himself. Hamako staring off into the dock is sad and why do we have to hurt our fictional grannies like this.

Lance and Toku had met when he was seven and she was just a year old, still living with her fellow hatchlings. When the elders had led Lance into the nursery, she hadn't looked up. Her focus had been exclusively on digesting a very ripe berry. As another miniryu clambered over her, in hopes of stealing a bite, she'd flicked her tail and sent her sibling flying. Lance's laugh made her raise her dark eyes. He'd offered her another berry and his arm, and that had been that.
There was this moment and the one where Lance calms down Toku that felt very ATLA wholesome to me. If there's an arc about Toku being stolen that finally breaks Lance even more, I will personally be very sad pls don't i tried to think of a good threat here but i'm pretty sure i'd just be sad

The magneton's one open eye swiveled, and it sent back an electric spark. A conversation! Lance thought, wondering if he was dreaming. Kaisho was too in awe of Toku to speak much to her, and he shied away from Ibuki and especially from Kana, who'd made the mistake of greeting the miniryu with a friendly fire blast. He was glad Kaisho had made a friend—he just hadn't expected that friend to be an impassive metal automaton.
yes see so bolts of lightning are jagged and so is kintsugi it's ALL coming together now
memes aside I am 1000% here for steel automaton frens trying to emote in whatever way they think is best while everyone else just applauds and they get to live their best lives and be happy for it.

Her expression reminded Lance so strongly of Hunter's demeanor during training camp dinners that he took to calling the sneasel Hunter.
yeah we gotta stop doing this
I forget! Does he still have the sneasel or does she, like Hunter, end up leaving him to expertly chop scallions

"Must have gotten hungry," someone else cracked, and nervous laughter wafted into the air.

Gyarados don't eat humans. But Lance knew enough now to hold his tongue.
On second or third read it's pretty clear that the point is that the crowd doesn't really know gyarados habits and aren't assessing them genuinely, but the first time through I thought they were just like! there are more fish closer to the shore, possibly because the influx of boats are trawling up coastal areas and somehow that means more fish (which I don't think it would). Maybe "Must have gotten hungry. Whole crowd gathered on a dock for a buffet" or something?

When asked why she didn't step in at once, the gym leader delivered this baffling response, "The gyarados clearly didn't mean any harm."
oh wow ouch stop please this article is written so realistically and i hate it how did you reproduce poorly-researched clickbait posing as news so well

"Yes," Lance lied.
the good decisions club welcomes its king lol

He saw a dark uniform, a pale face, a red R. And a blocked exit.

Lance saw a neat beard, laugh-lined skin, blown pupils in a bloodless face.
I really liked the POV-switch away, which is a sentence I've never found myself saying before--but to me it works because it really says how Lance sees himself.

Then the ursaring's claw cleaved down.
It shattered against the ursaring's claw.
wasn't a huge fan of "claw" as the singular here. I feel like bears lack the dexterity to do just single claw stuff. I'd just do "Then the ursaring cleaved down" and "It shattered against the ursaring's claws"

Ahead of him, Toku dipped down, offering the long, blue curve of her back. As he swung his leg over, her body flared white. Blue burst into golden yellow like a rising sun. His arms wrapped around Toku's neck and she rose, above the tips of the trees behind them, above the white fluff of the low-lying clouds.
ugh babies no

"I am a kairyu. Proud, yet humble. Powerful, yet kind. All of these are mine: the broad sky, the running stream, the green earth. Wherever the strong trouble the weak, I am there. So do I—"

Swear.
we've come so far from "don't let the gaijin steal our cool shit"

the puppetmaster

oh wow pen i can't believe you published porn on the site

Giovanni's voice is a really strong one and it makes sense that we get him as the interlude narrator--in a sense he's been the shadowy force behind everything after chapter 2, but I imagine that in Act II he's going to be much more active. It's also nice to get an insider perspective on politics and Kanto in general; for me, this chapter drives home that Lance doesn't truly doesn't know what he's up against both in terms of fighting Giovanni and changing Kanto in general.

Giovanni also continues to be a compelling foil for Lance--their circumstances are so similar, but the way they reacted is so different. Good antagonist shit. Both of them abandoned their homes; Giovanni partially by choice and Lance by being forced to do so. Both of them earn the respect of their peers; Giovanni by being a conniving bastard and Lance by having cool dragons and being friendly. Both of them prioritize the respect (or general goodwill? I think) of their peers; Giovanni does it because it's optimal to have good puppets and Lance does it because friends are cool guys please stop picking me last for kickball and exiling me. "Running away shows character" put this into a bow for me--at the end of the day, they both stand by this choice.

I'm struck by the image of Lance wearing a literal mask here. Everyone knows it's him, and even if they didn't, it's not like he's really got any other career besides fucking up team rocket and living in difficult-to-track locations. Does he know this, and this is his way of hiding his face from them not because he's afraid they'll recognize him, but because he's afraid to face them as himself?

Sad Isami vibes and good dragonite riddles. I like the grounding of Giovanni in personal strokes, the fierce admiration for his grandmother and the staunch pride in his kid--he's set in his convictions, they are horrible, and he has the skills to do what he wants. Easy wins for Lance; great type-matchup; he's fine.

“Silver?”

Of course Silver.
I like this both because Archer is probably thinking of Lance, and because Giovanni figures this out immediately after

“Silver is doing well. Yesterday he pushed his playmate off the top of the playground tower and lied about it when asked.”
amazing.

Fuschia’s a nowhere town with its own code law and a half-hearted tourist economy
Hamako of Cerulean, who is courting irrelevance with her staunch and wholly futile opposition to her city’s tourism industry.
wasn't entirely sure why Giovanni's focus is on tourism exactly? I see some connections for tourism->globalism/better commerce, but I wasn't sure what Giovanni was trying to say here.

Muno complains again about faulty riggings.
wasn't sure if this was bad structural rigging (like building structure) or rigging gym matches poorly

Natsume’s appointment was a coupe, of course.
I think "coupe" is the zoom-zoom car and "coup" is the overthrowing, but I do like the idea that Natsume appoints a sportscar as interim leader

You feel a headache coming on. That’s Natsume. She does it because petty displays of power amuse her, and you take it because you understand how power actually works. It’s not the way she thinks it does—for a psychic trainer, she’s fairly obtuse.

When the meeting ends, you give her a short nod, ignoring the small smirk that crosses her lips. Soon construction will begin in Cinnabar—
oh yeah this can only end well

She believed she could make the world anything she wanted it to be by the strength of her belief.
Giovanni's grandmother is N; this confirms a lot

The name you are making here, the name you left behind in Etalia
believe it or not it took me 2.5 months to realize that this is Italy

overall

I struggle with actually saying concrete things about this beyond general enjoyment. I don't actively critique or mentally comment published fiction when I'm reading it either, which I understand is not a fair analogy because I also don't light up published fiction author DM's with shitposts and cries for help about ferris wheels.

This is a good story lol. Looking back on things I've said before I don't even think there'd be much I'd change; some of the early pacing I might've done differently but that would've been a different story, and this one works at what it's trying to tell. It's interesting to me for reasons I mentioned in "The Agent"--it's more distilled than standard journeys like this would be, we aren't reading about a million Wataru fetchquests, and it both works and I think tells a more sophisticated story as a result. Sort of like an anthology of interesting images, which I've never seen work before but is executed fantastically here, and lets you tell way more in the wordcount than most people would've lance leaves team rocket chapter 40 let's GO.

hi yes your prose is good but i feel like we both know i feel that way?

I struggle with saying things and instead bog myself down in questions like ! how long are gyarados actually? would gyarados be released indoors when clearly in this fic they are aquatic sneks? why are tiles the most thematically and visually interesting type of flooring while being the least practical in a battle scenario because they would immediately shatter? what the hell is reptile anatomy? can gyarados ever close their mouths or would they look so dumb that the universe would combust? why are beeg whiskers geometrically just a pair of parallel squiggles and why are parallel squiggles impossible to make identical? what is a kairyu and why are they shaped like butternut squash? scales? if i can't use rim lighting, who am i? and of course, who the fuck is kintsugi?

so anyway i've been sitting on this/these questions for a while and I'd say it's 70/30 why this review is stupid late, the other 30 just being my general inability to comment conclusively on things I think are already good, please enjoy the phase of my life where I stop trying to put things in words in these situations and just do fanart instead, cool, have an excellent day and please stop doing real life stuff so act ii can happen
i2ILduD.png
 
Last edited:

Namohysip

Dragon Enthusiast
Staff
Partners
  1. flygon
  2. charizard
  3. milotic
  4. custom/zoroark-soda
  5. sceptile
Hey Pen! This time I'm here for a BLEC prize and read through chapter 2 / The Exile!

This was a very hefty chapter and it covered quite a lot of ground. I feel like it could have been split in two at around the time the professor showed up. But that aside, I think the biggest highlight/takeaway that I got from this is the little mystery of whether Toku was intentionally brought with Wataru or not. And this actually touches upon a bit of a clever meta you have going on with this story. Now, as far as I'm aware, this doesn't seem like a particularly AU-form story. With that assumption, I don't think it's too farfetched to say that Wataru is going to eventually become the Pokemon Champion somewhere down the line, and I'm already seeing his team forming from the canon now that he has a Charmander joining him as his... starter? Funny how that goes.

But where that diverges is the fact that you're using that as a meta guideline for Wataru's progress while still keeping the actual ending of the story unknown--because the main conflict is not what happens with him in terms of his success as a trainer. It's about whether he will be allowed back home or not, because that part of his story is either not something well known (by me, at least), or is not something brushed upon at all in canon. The real story is therefore that, and is also the main hook at the end of this chapter--his goal of how he can go back. By proving himself and essentially overriding the conditions for his exile. It makes me wonder if it's some kind of elaborate test, but it seems too contrived for that to be the case.

I'm biased so I enjoyed the Charmander scenes greatly, particularly the Metal Claw learning and so on. I suppose if I wasn't so biased I might comment on it going on for a little while longer than perhaps necessary, but I dunno man, Charmander.

One of the biggest highlights of the chapter, though, is something that I'm hoping is explored in future parts, or at least acknowledged or explored further--Wataru's budding codependency on Toku. While understandable that he's in an unknown place with unknown things happening, Toku disappearing before Wataru was extremely acute, and I'm wondering if there will be other times where Wataru will have to work without Toku. It also makes me wonder just what Wataru would be able to do without her, had she never come along on this journey to begin with. Would he be totally helpless? This is actually one thing that makes me wonder if Toku coming along was planned.

Anyway, though, I don't have a whole lot to say in terms of critique beyond the length of the chapter and the stretch of some scenes, but they're fairly minor nitpicks all things considered. Good stuff, thanks for the read!
 
Last edited:
  • Quag
Reactions: Pen

love

Memento mori
Pronouns
he/him/it
Partners
  1. leafeon
Chapter 1

The cheri bush wasn't empty when they reached it.

Somehow it seemed odd to me to describe a bush that way.

Wataru felt compelled to shout, catching the miserable look on the gaijin boy's face as he got to his feet.

I wasn't sure if he actually said this or not until after his uncle responded to it.

I think chapter 1 established what it needed to. Wataru is kind of mistreated and also rather brash. Like Naruto, I guess. I like how the chapter establishes his bond with Toku, because I can always appreciate a man or woman who appreciates their pokemon. Kind of balances out the more negative impression that I got from some of his other actions. Anyway, he's definitely taking her with him.

Now, I wonder if, in a sense, exhiling him isn't a bad idea. I mean, doesn't that expose him to more temptation to tell people about the dragonite? If he still lives in the village, they can control him to some extent. Sort of like "keep your friends close and your enemies closer." That's my thinking, anyway.

Chapter 2

When Ibuki handed him the soap, he saw that her nails had gouged deep impressions into it.

A nice detail

The dark blue cloak from her hakuryu odori was clutched in her hands.

Hm, I wonder what could possibly be in that cloak... ;)

They're dumb things, trains, need the tracks to be laid down for them to get anywhere.

PREACH

"I really need to learn to say no to books," he said as he followed Wataru in.

I wonder if this paragraph could be combined with the one above or something? Because for a moment I assumed it would be Wataru speaking, but really it's just the same guy.

Toku managed to move between the blows

I think this could be phrased more effectively---I would probably cut out "managed to" and change "move" to a more interesting verb. Maybe describe her as narrowly avoiding the attacks if it's important to convey that it isn't easy for her.

I like the exchange between Wataru and the charmander. I guess he kind of has an affinity for pokemon, which would make sense for an outcast-y sort. Probably found more companionship in Toku than in most humans. Combine that with the village's reverence for dragons, which he seems to have picked up on, and it makes sense he would be that way.

The miniryu's pahrump informed Wataru that she was well aware of her own brilliance, thank you.

I think by this chapter I'm getting a pretty good sense of her personality.

And then, all at once, Wataru had it. "You mean, like with Master Kaisho! He returned on the back of the kairyu and that's how they knew he belonged to the clan. Toku, that's brilliant!"

Didn't know that that story would set up for this moment, but it's cool that it did. I believe that is what those in the industry would refer to as "good storytelling."

Part 2 of chapter 2 was super wholesome, yay! Initially I thought the setup was kind of contrived, but I suppose it makes sense when Hamako reveals that she is a gym leader and also trains a gyarados. I like the ambiguity of the shed skins, as well---they represent loss as much as they represent hope, at a time when Wataru's future is ultimately still very unclear. Anyway, an awful lot happened here; at this rate, the story will be over in a few chapters ;)

Casino arc notes

The people there were similarly intent

I am not sure what the people are being compared to in this instance

Wataru walked forward, past red-tinted waterfalls that crashed down from nowhere

Was not sure what this was referring to.

I am kind of disappointed he didn't whip out Toku when he was talking to the floor manager. He hasn't exactly kept Toku hidden all this time, and he needs to reveal her in order to use her in battles, so the fact that he is hesitant now just seemed odd to me. Not that I expected him to spill his whole backstory, but like, he could have made something up? I don't know, just seemed weird to me.

When Wataru had lugged over the rocks, the kadabra lifted the miniryu with a lazy wave of its spoon out of the tank

phrasing is odd to me

His expression reminded Wataru of a kairyu he'd once seen, challenged by a miniryu over a juicy berry. The kairyu had stared down, arrogance mingling with disbelief at the miniryu's impudence. His wings had flared out; he'd raised his head and his chest had swelled. I am bigger than you, the posture said, I am stronger than you. I am your elder and your better and I know secrets you do not. So don't try me.

I like

Wataru found himself in one of the resort's deluxe suits

suites?

The man turned. "Then why in the world are you frittering away your life here?"

This is a very fair question. I mean, damn, after 6 months, you'd think he'd consider giving up or trying something else...

"More experienced than someone who's actually raised a miniryu?"

NOW you tell them? I guess it's just because he's mad, but I am still having a hard time buying it

There was no way Wataru was bringing Toku within a mile of this place. But he could bring this man to Toku.

So now we're trusting some casino guy to see Toku? He's banking an awful lot on a first (okay... second) impression

And then he also more or less reveals his backstory to him too.

Anyway, my concern for this arc is that it feels sort of contrived. It just isn't really making sense to me why Wataru chooses not to show Toku to the floor manager earlier, yet after stubbornly wasting 6 months gambling he shows her to Archer pretty much right away. Maybe there even could have been a way to convince them that he's a dratini expert even without revealing that he has one? Or maybe he could have tried to pull off some badass heist that involves distracting the kadabra and then running off with the dratini (I mean, okay, maybe not, I just think that sounds like fun). I don't know, I just kind of find myself feeling dissatisfied with how poorly he handled the situation. I think part of it is that he struck me as a headstrong character, so even though he has a devotion to the dragons, it's sort of hard for me to buy that he would deal with this situation by meticulously gambling all his money away (also, I guess he doesn't really consider that he may be doing more harm by giving all this money to the same folks who put the dratini in such a terrible situation to begin with?). Same goes for Kana—I'm kind of disappointed that Archer ends up being the one to convince Wataru to abandon that futile path, rather than her.

Maybe part of it was that Wataru got addicted to the gambling? I mean, it would explain his behavior a little, but I didn't get the sense that that's what you were going for.

Anyway, I think it's compliment time. I'm very bad at compliments, so I apologize for that. But anyway, you have some solid prose throughout the story—it doesn't reach for the poetic and sometimes dreamlike heights that your oneshots do, but I saw very few openings to attack, so to speak, and the style is perfectly appropriate for a longer story. I was pleased to see care taken to describe the flowers in Celadon and the moths, etc., and I feel like I can actually imagine what it's like to be there. The battles are easy to follow and convey what they need to. I think it's easy to underestimate how hard all of that stuff is.

I think the "fakeness" of Celadon (a pretty important theme for the chapter) is conveyed pretty well, particularly with the gym battle, and Wataru breaking the perfume bottle was a good reaction to show. I can buy it.

I kept myself from looking at other peoples' reviews on purpose, so I do not know if my opinions will line up with theirs or if I'm an outlier on some things.
 

Flyg0n

Flygon connoisseur
Pronouns
She/her
Partners
  1. flygon
  2. swampert
  3. ho-oh
  4. crobat
  5. orbeetle
Time to give my thoughts on chapter 1. Very good! Love the idea of Lance being mixed. Very cool, would actually explain a lot of details. I thought the prose and flow of the story was lovely as well. The dancing bit was very good, probably as good as one can expect trying to describe something so visual with words.

I don't have any real critique to give. The prose was clean, the story easy to follow, and the pacing good. I was impatient to get the part where Lance inevitably leaves, but everything mentioned seemed fairly necessary to the plot/character development, and was interesting to read! I really enjoyed the insights into the culture of the dragon clans and how they operate. The ritual dances were an awesome idea.

But I will give thoughts and reactions!

The evening was warm and muggy. Birds still chattered softly in the trees. He could spend the rest of the night here, watching the moon light the lake. Maybe, if he was lucky, the gyarados would come out to dance.
I love the implications of Gyarados coming out to dance in the lake. As if they aren't super vicious attack everything on sight rampaging beasts. I've always been vaguely annoyed by pokemon getting widespread generalized as 'bad', so I really like this.

She grabbed him by the wrist and tugged him forward. It was either run or be dragged, so Wataru followed her into a run, stumbling slightly as he tried to keep pace. It wasn't fair. Ibuki was only a year older, but she was already so much taller.

And tonight, she would dance the hakuryu odori.
I really enjoy the prose here, the way he sounds both excited and a little envious of when he'll have the chance to do this ritual dance.

Wataru smelled the bonfire smoke before he saw the lights. Ahead of him, Ibuki's pace quickened. As they came down the rocky path, she sprang ahead without looking back to see if he was following.

Wataru approached the pavilion at a slower pace. The scent of roasted meat and berries hit his nose, setting his stomach rumbling. He'd missed dinner, Wataru realized, and now it was too late to eat. Everyone was splitting off into their groups: Ibuki had already taken her place with the other blue-cloaked dancers. Glancing around, Wataru found his fellow miniryu dancers gathering in a disordered circle to the left. They seemed even smaller than usual in their silly-looking blue headbands.
Nice imagery! I liked how the writing slowed down a little to describe the setting.

The drums began to pound loudly and the elders shook their rattles, creating a sound like wind passing through dry leaves. When Elder Kyo stood and lifted her hands, the children began to rise. Wataru jumped to his feet and raced to the front of the waywardly forming line, ignoring the dirty looks he received. He was the oldest in the group; he had a right to go first.
This is really choice sensory writing, evoking both visual and aural aspects of the setting. Also, nice detail with his moving to the front of the line while everyone gives him dirty looks.

One by one, they spun outwards, positioned like the overlapping petals of a poppy.
*thumb up emoji* MMMMMM nice
Love analogies like this (or is that a simile? I can never remember)

This is the last year I'll wear the miniryu's blue
Or is it?

Elder Kyo's eyes snapped onto him like a spearow spotting a juicy caterpie.
There's nothing I love more than pokemon comparisons for things in pokefics, so I love this

"He flew back," Wataru guessed. "On his kairyu. He flew back with two kairyu," he added defiantly. That sounded like a return worthy of a dragon master.

Elder Kyo's mouth hung slightly open. "Correct," she said after a moment.
:ROFLMAO:
Best subversion ever. Somehow this ignorant kid guessed the right answer. HA! I love that. Shows that even if he doesn't pay attention in class a lot he's earnest and good at like, busting through and just doing stuff.

Two and a hafu doesn't make three.
OOOOOO burn
Also that's rude as heck wow. I don't even have to know the language to know this was such a rude insult. Good context.
(Or else its a really bad spelling error, lol.
jk!)

"Nothing happened,"
Right. Nothing. Young Lance's character seems on point though. Earnest and good hearted, but ignorant.

"Ryu-a?" asked Toku. What now?
I personally would have italicized 'What now' but that's just me, perhaps.

Toku's only a miniryu," Uncle said at last. "I'm sorry, little one," he added, looking down at Toku. "You can't go with him. We can't allow it."
That's not fair though! Its not up to them! Let Toku decide!!!

:mad:
How dare they.

This does make me questions things like how much weight they give to the pokemons desires over their own. Is it because Toku is young? Would a grown Dratini have a choice? Do they not fully recognize a pokemons right to choose? Its a curious thought for sure. Perhaps chapter 2 will reveal more (And have her sneak away to stay where she belongs!!)

Home? Wataru blinked open his eyes as they left the cave. Wetness blurred the sky above into a smear of yellow stars. But it's not. It's not my home anymore

What a poignant, sad ending.

AHHH!

I really did like this story! I'm oh definitely going to read chapter 2. Honestly, I didn't even feel like I would enjoy it as much as I did but I really really do, and so far I like your interpretation of lance.

NOICE
 
Last edited:

kyeugh

you gotta feel your lines
Staff
Location
the freaking swamp
Pronouns
she/her
Partners
  1. farfetchd-galar
  2. custom/gfetchd-kyeugh
  3. custom/onion-san
  4. farfetchd
hey pen! i'm glad to finally get the chance to review this. you've written an awesome fic here—i pretty much couldn't put it down until i was caught up! and i'm really looking forward to seeing you post more. i think your worldbuilding is absolutely outstanding, and your characterization of lance is so real. at each point in lance's development, his personality and actions feel extremely genuine and real, and in general i think your characterization is very strong. i'm especially excited to get to reviewing the later chapters, which i enjoyed a ton, but you have a really solid start too—let's dive in!

---

1. the miniryu dancer
so, full disclosure, this might be my favorite first chapter of any fanfic i've read. there's so much going on here, but it doesn't feel overwhelming at all. we get so much information about the world, and virtually none of it feels dumpy (with the possible exception of lance's uncle's explanation of the dances). by the end of the chapter, we have a strong sense of lance's character, and the wheels of the plot are already very much in motion. several conflicts arise and are resolved throughout the course of the chapter—lance's poor relationship with his peers, his expedition with the gaijin, his trial before the elders—and yet i never felt fatigued from the action. just altogether really good stuff; you do everything an introduction chapter should do, and you do it masterfully, with a compelling world, character, and story to boot. can't praise you enough for that. i do have some reservations about the apropriateness of his exile, but aside from that, i can't really find a whole lot negative to say about this chapter, so apologies if this review is a little gushy, haha.

"You're not even dressed!" Ibuki exclaimed when she'd gotten a good look at him. "We're going to be so late. Father's going to kill me. Come on."

She grabbed him by the wrist and tugged him forward. It was either run or be dragged, so Wataru followed her into a run, stumbling slightly as he tried to keep pace. It wasn't fair. Ibuki was only a year older, but she was already so much taller.
nice little insight into their dynamic here. it's fun seeing just how far back their rivalry goes. i notice that ibuki doesn't seem to have a miniryu of her own, which aligns with the fact that she doesn't have one on her gym team as an adult, either—i wonder why that is?

The light blue headband was a struggle to pull over his bushy hair. Wataru wrestled with it for a minute, frustration welling up in his chest, before he gave in and asked Ibuki for help.
haha, this is a really cute piece of characterization. feels about right for lance, always trying to go it alone—maybe it also says something about his relationship with ibuki that he's willing to ask her for help. i really love their dynamic, a bit of rivalry but mostly what feels like a strong sibling bond. it's very sweet and well-done despite the limited time they spend together.

The high, mournful call of the long horn cut through the small talk, signalling the start of the ceremony. Uncle stepped into the firelight. He wouldn't be dancing tonight, but he wore red all the same—his privilege as the clan's leader. The shadows from the firelight made caves and caverns of his long, stern face. Wataru found himself straightening as Uncle waited for the crowd to come to complete silence. Only then did he speak.
i really enjoy the vivid imagery you've got going here. between this description, the description of the smell of the roasted meat and berries, and the description of the sunset, i felt really pulled into the scene.

She's nervous, Wataru realized, amazed. But she was Ibuki! There was no way she wouldn't dance perfectly.

Wataru set his chin forward. "You'll be the best one," he whispered.

...

"That was amazing," he whispered. "Your dancing was the best."

Ibuki didn't say anything, but she lifted her chin just a little, and her eyes sparkled. Wataru flopped back on the grass, satisfied that he'd made amends for earlier.
aw. so sweet. thinking about it now, i guess we actually don't see any more of ibuki after lance is exiled—i'm looking forward to their eventual reunion.

Suddenly, a murmur ran through the crowd. Wataru craned his head upwards to see a kairyu passing overhead. As they watched with bated breath, the kairyu swooped down, hovering just meters from the dancer and the dimming firelight. Did Kana realize she'd just gained the only audience that mattered? Lit mostly by moonlight now, the dragon master didn't falter. She ducked and weaved around her invisible partner, every gesture calling out to be completed.

Wataru kept his eyes fixed on the kairyu, whose tail whipped lazily from side to side. There was something in the way the broad muscles of its back tensed, the stilling of its tail—

"It's going to happen!" Wataru blurted out, just as the kairyu let out a tree-rattling roar and entered the flickering circle of fire-light.

And the dance . . . changed. All the halted movements and strange turns transformed into a dance of perfect harmony. This was a wild kairyu, Wataru knew. It had never danced with Kana before tonight. But the two moved together as if they'd spent the last month in rehearsal. The dancer spun fearlessly, trusting the gigantic ryu to turn in time to avoid a collision.
this is really awesome. i didn't find myself too pulled into the other dances, but they were short and sweet so it wasn't an issue—however, the kairyu dance was very quieting and evocative. it does a great job of cementing the clan's reverence of the kairyu, as well as the personality and majesty of the kairyu themselves.

When he returned to his sleeping mat, he found it almost entirely monopolized by Toku's long, thin body. She'd wriggled into the place his torso had been, no doubt eager to take in the residual body heat.
you do a really great job at giving toku personality in small ways like this; she's definitely one of the more expressive pokémon i've read. she feels very cat-like to me, which is really cute.

Elder Kyo cleared her throat. "I said, which group will take Wataru and make a group of three?"

"Not three . . ." The comment was whispered too softly for Elder Kyo to catch, but Wataru heard it loud and clear. "Two and a hafu doesn't make three."
oof. lance's heritage seems like a huge deal within the clan, but no one really seems to care about it once he's out in the world. i wonder if it'll cause issues for him again later on.

"Ibuki thinks she's so mature now that she's danced the hakuryu odori," he muttered as he walked. "But she's just being stupid. Imagine, Toku! Choosing laundry over battling."
this definitely feels like classic middle school drama, lol. very believable.

"Leer at it, Toku." The miniryu's eyes flashed red.
this is a little thing to fixate on but i wanted to mention that i really like the way you interpret leer. i usually see it as making a threatening face or something, but your interpretation makes just as much sense and is much more evocative imo. might have to steal that.

"But if you think a hakuryu's impressive, you should see a kairyu." Catching the hakuryu's narrowed eyes, Wataru mumbled, "No disrespect meant, of course."
this got a chuckle from me lol

"Wataru," Uncle said after a long moment, "do you have any idea how much trouble you're in?"

He didn't sound mad anymore. That was the scary part.
oof. that's poignant.

"Ignorant boy!" Elder Io said sharply. "Do you have no wits at all—"

But she subsided at Uncle's quick glance. "Wataru," he said, "do you know what happened after that? What resolution the council passed, all those years ago?"

"No," Wataru said dully. "I don't know." He was cold and he was tired and the stares were increasingly hard to take. From inside his tunic, Toku let out a short whine. "Sorry," Wataru added, for good measure.

"I don't see how you can be sorry," Elder Io muttered, "if you don't know what you're sorry for."
bastard. pretty impressive how elder io becomes in just a few lines.

"He's a stubborn boy, Chief," Kana said slowly. She seemed to be choosing each word with care. "A stubborn ryu only learns by ice."
oof. very nice adage though.

Wataru cracked open his eyes, but kept them fixed on the hard black rock of the cavern. "Is it because of my mom you're sending me away?"

This time, Uncle's sigh was pained. "I know sometimes you have been made to feel unwelcome here because of what your mother was. But this is a consequence of your actions, not your blood. Do you understand, Wataru? This is a consequence. It's not—I know it may seem to you like the end of the world. But perhaps you'll take to life outside these valleys. My brother—" Uncle's voice suddenly cracked. "My brother seemed to."
somehow i don't trust that elder io was acting without any mind to lance's heritage, lol. exile honestly seems pretty extreme to me for a kid of his age, but i suppose this is a world where trainers routinely leave home at age ten to take on the world alone. and no one seems to think much of it once he's out there, anyway, so maybe it's not as big a deal in their world as it would be in ours. still, if the reason they're exiling lance is that they view him as a threat to the secrecy of the valley, how can sending him out into the world to run his mouth be the ideal punishment?

i don't think i fully caught the bit about his uncle's brother the first time i read this chapter—i wonder if that'll come up later, and who his brother might be. would that be lance's father then? is that why he has mixed parentage?

You could have stopped it, though, and you didn't. You didn't speak up for me. No one did.

Wataru squeezed his eyes shut to prevent the wetness there escaping. Warm, strong arms hoisted him up. "Let's get you home, nephew," Uncle murmured. "You need to rest. Tomorrow will be a big day."

Home? Wataru blinked open his eyes as they left the cave. Wetness blurred the sky above into a smear of yellow stars. But it's not. It's not my home anymore.
ouch. harsh note to end the first chapter on, huh?

---

2. the exile
bit of a more relaxed chapter here—not as much action but a lot of nice worldbuilding details. it's nice that wataru gets a chapter to kind of figure out how to navigate this new world he's been thrust in. i really enjoyed mr inushi, he was a very fun character and i was sorry to see him go. i do still have some reservations about the appropriateness of exile as a punishment, as well as the selection of mr inushi as wataru's temporary guardian, but i'll get into that in more detail below. overall i realize that this stuff is sort of incidental to the fact that he must be exiled for the plot to progress, but it did strain my suspension of disbelief somewhat. definitely not a deal breaker though—this was still a fun chapter, and it was a lot of fun seeing wataru's personality bounce off oak's and mr inushi's.

Wataru had never once ventured outside the five valleys that comprised the Ryu's Gift. Everything he knew about the outside world came from Elder Kyo's stories. But those stories were of the past, when the land had been locked in a constant state of war. Her stories had never mentioned what it was like now, and it had never once occurred to Wataru to ask.
mm... do the elders themselves know? i was going back and forth before about how extreme a punishment effectively was, and the fact that lance has absolutely no idea what awaits him out there suggests it's more extreme than not. whether the world really is a horrible place or not, embarking into it on your own as a young boy could be extremely perilous nonetheless. do the elders know it isn't a death sentence? does his uncle know that?

Wataru set down the bag of laundry. When Ibuki handed him the soap, he saw that her nails had gouged deep impressions into it.
dang, this is a neat detail.

Unspoken words caught in his throat like bitter berries, Wataru ran.
i found this sentence a little difficult to parse at first pass. might be better if the clauses were swapped.

As Mr. Inushi smiled, Uncle broke in, "Nephew, Mr. Inushi has agreed to do us a big favor. He's going to take you to the next town and get you set up with everything you'll need in the outside world." Uncle unwrapped the bundle in his hands, which was full of crumpled-looking paper and smooth metallic circle-stones. "This is the currency they use there. It will be enough to cover your needs as you settle in." His face grew solemn. "Now Wataru, you have to watch your words, out there. If you let your tongue wag about the kairyu, they'll be put in danger, do you understand?"
hmmm. i have some thoughts about this... it seems a little weird to me that they'd task this guy specifically with setting lance up in the outside world. i guess i can't really think of anyone else they'd have do it—but if the reason lance is being exiled is because he's putting the integrity of the clan at risk, why would they send him off with the very group to whom he exposed the sensitive information? this feels like a huge amount of trust to place in a virtual stranger, more trust even than they were willing to afford lance himself, who would by his own admission die to protect the kairyu. elder io says himself that traders have big mouths and can't be trusted—why are they willing to send lance off with him, especially now that he's privy to the secrets of the valley? also, back to my previous point about the appropriateness of exile as a punishment for this crime—"you better watch your words out there" seems a bit rich to me, seeing as the only reason he's going "out there" in the first place is because they can't trust him to watch his words... right? i may be misunderstanding the situation but this seems odd to me.

Turning back to Wataru, she softened her voice. "You could have done it, you know. You were much better than all the little kids dancing."

Wataru stepped forward to take the bundle. Then, on impulse, he threw his arms around Ibuki, pressing the two of them into a tight hug. He couldn't remember a time Ibuki hadn't been there—bossy, all-knowing, comforting.

"I'll miss you," he whispered, ashamed to feel his eyes going wet again. "I'm sorry."

Ibuki squeezed him back hard. "I'll miss you too," she said in a small voice.
ooooof. my feels.
"I guess," said Airi. "But I asked to see them—" He glanced over to the two adults, who were speaking with their heads held close, and added in a hurried whisper, "and it was brilliant! It was the most brilliant thing ever! Thank you so much!"

What was Wataru supposed to say to that?

"You're welcome," he settled on, though the polite phrase sounded absurd.
lmao. oh kids.
His eyes went wide when Wataru shook his head again. "Well, the sea's like—" Airi floundered like a landlocked koiking "—it's like a big lake!"

Mr. Inushi chortled loudly. "You've sure got a way with words, my boy."
hahaha. i really love mr inushi and was sorry to see him go later on, he's a lot of fun. such a strong personality. side note, he kind of reminds me of lauchs. can't quite place why.

"Damn straight," grunted Mr. Inushi.
this line kind of caught me off guard. i definitely read "damn straight" as very modern language; i think it'd throw me if i even heard my dad say it. it seemed incongruous to me with the setting you've established, but perhaps it's an instance of the tiffany problem?

"Why so many fires?" he asked out loud. "Is tonight a celebration?"

"Not fire, electricity," Mr. Inushi corrected. "Cherrygrove has seen the light of the future."

Wataru managed a perfunctory smile as Mr. Inushi chuckled at his own comment. He still didn't get why the fires had all been lit separately, instead of at the center of town.
omg, haha. it's interesting to thing that in your headcanon, the events of GSC take place only a few decades after the advent of electricity—although i guess johto kind of does have that vibe, huh? i dig it.

They came into an even wider room, still mysteriously well-lit. A loud hubbub hit them as they entered: the long benches were crowded with people. Wataru followed Airi to the far corner of the room, where a large pot of soup was waiting. Bread was set out next to the bowls.
not sure if your interpretation of pokémon centers is based on some real-world japanese analogue, but to me, this evokes memories of the "mountain huts" that were stationed along the trail ascending the zugspitze, only accessible by foot. i've always thought those kinds of structures would be right at home in a pokémon setting, so it feels right to see a similar one here.

Another year? That was too long. "Make me thirteen now," Wataru shot back, since age suddenly seemed up for debate. "I'm as good as thirteen anyway."
omg, hahaha. you really do capture the personality of a twelve (?) year old so well.

Hot, tight panic clamped down on Wataru. He was standing in a strange, over-lit room, stacked high with gleaming canisters bearing incomprehensible writing, and he was alone. He was wearing the clothes they'd just purchased at Mr. Inushi's insistence, and their smell was wrong, sharp and acrid, burning his nose just like the white ceiling light burned his eyes. This place was ugly and wrong and there was not a single thing to anchor him, to hold off the bright pain that started in the back of his head and moved forward into his eyes, because Toku was—
i really like this paragraph—it does seem like when i'm panicking, suddenly every other unrelated thing becomes overwhelming too. never really though too much about it but it works really well.

Her nose wrinkled and tail twitched.
i'm having a hard time imagining a dratini wrinkle its nose.

"What do you mean, rare."
shouldn't this end in a question mark?

No. The truth settled uncomfortably in his stomach. They would never kick Ibuki out.
oof. heart-breaking to read a kid walking through the implications of discrimination like this.

"Look at you, Okido Yukinari," he muttered to himself. "Look at you and your over-swollen head. Lad has no idea who you are. Johto, Johto, Johto. Are you a pokemon trainer?" he asked Wataru, who had been enduring the monologue in polite bafflement.
haha, i don't think i've ever seen professor oak portrayed in quite this way. even in settings where he is a celebrity, it seems like he's usually portrayed as if he isn't. it's funny seeing him caught up in his own fame like this.

"But as I'm always telling her, there's a time and place."
lmfao. i have to assume this was intentional.

As the silver completed its spread over the charmander's fist, Wataru sent the brick sailing through the air. Charmander lunged forward, her fist still gleaming.

With a loud crack, the brick splintered. Charmander stared at the two fallen halves, her breath coming in quick pants.

"You did it!" Wataru shouted. "Just like a kairyu!"
this is a nice bit of foreshadowing for lance's eventual success as a trainer, more explicit than toku's early mastery of thunder wave. looking at it a second time, my mind went to the time he spent as a rocket, training pokémon for a job.

"You just didn't let up, Dad," Airi was saying admiringly as they came in. "Oh, I can order it by pidgey-catalogue, she says, but you let her know just what junk they'll pass off to you if you can't test it out first!"

"That's right, my boy. It's a premium, getting to handle the wares yourself before the buy, and you've always got to keep your customer reminded of the fact."
hmmm. maybe we could benefit from some wandering traders in our own world, huh.

"But—" The professor looked from Wataru's pale face to Airi, sitting frozen with his lower lip sucked in, to Mr. Inushi's flat-footed expression "—it's all nonsense, I'm sure. And absolutely none of my business in any case. Do I have that right?"

"That's right, Sir," said Mr. Inushi quietly. "I see you're a very wise and learned man. So I hope you're wise enough to let a subject rest."

A long, tense silence followed, in which Airi's slurping noises as he drank his soup were obnoxiously loud.
oop. oak's coming in with the bulldozers next month. gg.

The answer was so obvious. Wataru couldn't believe he'd needed Toku to draw it out for him. When Toku became a kairyu, there'd be no question that he belonged in the Dragon's Clan. The elders called the raising of a miniryu into a kairyu the ultimate test of strength and wisdom. Everyone was probably mad that Toku had gone along with him, but none of that would matter if she came back as a kairyu.

"You're right," Wataru said. "All we've got to do is get strong."
mmm. reading this is making me excited for part 2 again...!
 

Umbramatic

The Ghost Lord
Location
The Yangverse
Pronouns
Any
Partners
  1. reshiram
So I've been meaning to read this fic for a while because it's a cool premise that spiritually reminds me of a certain fic of mine, and Review Blitz was a good excuse! These chapters are chonkers though so I just did Chapter 1 for now.



My one complaint is that the use of Japanese names throws me off a little - I'm not a fan of using anything but the localized names in general - but you have a good excuse and some good workarounds. (descriptions, in-universe translators, etc.)



Also the worldbuilding of the Draqons' Den residents is exquisite. I can only describe it with this Discord emoji:


ArvisOK.png

I love the dance ceremony and the bit with the warlords in particular, that felt like it fit in well with the Pokemon world. It feels like some lore you'd read in the games or something ya know? Kudos for that.

...That said the Dragon's Den residents are JERKS. I feel sorry for poor Lance, he can't catch a break. He definitely doesn't deserve exile, How old is he here anyway? Clearly just a kid. Geez.



Also Toku is adorable and I really hope they don't get separated. D: She's a good snake derg and like Lance said she doesn't deserve being punished this intensely too. LANCE didn't deserve being punished this intensely. Like, who wouldn't want to see some cute sleepy Dragonite? No one that's who. Checkmate, Dragons' Den chumps.



As usual I can't guarantee when I'll loop back to this fic but I really love your premise so it'll happen! Eventually.
 
Last edited:
  • Quag
Reactions: Pen

kyeugh

you gotta feel your lines
Staff
Location
the freaking swamp
Pronouns
she/her
Partners
  1. farfetchd-galar
  2. custom/gfetchd-kyeugh
  3. custom/onion-san
  4. farfetchd
the traveler: part one

this chapter is a nice look at the impact of industrialization on johto. it seems like the region is in a period of transition at the time this fic is set—electricty is a new fixture in cherrygrove and lots of people are still distrustful of the corporatism that's taking over saffron. i don't really recall this coming up again (at least not so far), but it's a pretty prominent theme in this chapter, so i wonder if it'll recur as a major theme in part two...? i'm not sure if this story takes place in the same continuity as the suicune's choice, but haru's descriptions of johto make it sound like a place that's still very traditional. maybe that's a holdover from older times, but i wonder if lance—who's deeply in touch with the most rustic parts of the region—preserves johto's traditions once he ascends to the position of champion?

overall i like the feel of this chapter; it kind of provides a snapshot into some of johto's less populated settlements. i'd be very surprised if lance becomes champion without a badge from viridian or pewter, so i imagine we'll be seeing these locations again at some point. i'll be curious to see how much they've changed by the time lance returns to them.

Remembering, Wataru cast an uneasy glance towards his pack, laden down with a big book—dex, the professor had called it—and some sheets of paper.
hah, i love that the poké dex is a literal book at this point. i wonder how many people have one.

"Mr. Fiorelli. Learn the name, boy, learn the name, because I'll bet my boots the whole damn country's going to be learning it soon. Local boy, though not born here. He came as a lad not much older than you are now, fleeing some godsforsaken foreign place. Put his nose to the grindstone from the very first day, that boy did. One moment he's doing sums at the local shop, you blink and he's running the place. We knew he had big things in store for him, yes we did, but what I could notta told you, what I could notta guessed—" The man's finger jabbed out, emphasizing each word "—He. Came. Back. Oh yes. Not many would've. He came back to Viridian a rich man and said to me, Mr. Kimura, build me the finest gym in Kanto! A superb man, a very fine man."
oof. don't think i realized who this was a reference to the first time i read it, but it's very clear on a re-read. i'm willing to bet lance will return to viridian at some point...

The rant seemed to have tired the worker. He heaved in a few gulping breaths of air and retreated back into the shade.
lmfao, this cracked me up. he just spouted off and then waddled off panting.

In the second week, the trees grew sparser and the ground harder.
i really like the way you summarize these long stretches of his journey and describe the flow of time. it took me a little bit of time to get used to at first, but of course it would be a lot to describe all however many years of lance's life in solitude, and your summaries are really evocative and sort of solemn/reflective.

onix, the man had said.
onix needs capitalization!

"As the ref would say if she were here, the first battle goes to the challenger. Had a water-type move up your sleeve after all, did you?" Muno didn't wait for an answer. "Let's see how you do with my good friend onix!"
damn, bringing out the big guns. is it because he lipped off...

Where Toku was slight and scaled, this pokemon's limbs consisted of enormous boulders.
"limbs" seemed like an odd word choice here, since onix is notably limbless.

"Again!" Wataru shouted to her, though the charmander hardly needed his encouragement. She landed blow after blow with evident satisfaction. At the fifth, the onix slackened. Its head slammed down hard onto the ground, the rest of its body clattering behind.
haha, aw. the visual of a charmander hacking an onix into unconsciousness is very powerful.

Moon stone fragment. Not big enough to sell on the market and you won't get an evolution out of it, but pretty. It's good to have pretty things."
nooo don't give me a moon stone, i'll just use it to evolve my enemy's pokémon ahah 1608689403641.png

---

the traveler: part two

this is one of the chapters that stands out most strongly in my memory of the fic. hamako sort of reminds me of, well, hama, from ATLA (if that comparison means anything to you). this chapter continues the theme of industrialization/corporatism initiated by the previous chapter—while the last chapter showed us the impacts on humans, this chapter seems to focus on the impacts on pokémon, specifically the dragons that matter so much to lance. i didn't really pick up on this theme my first read through, but now it has my wondering how it might crop up in part two. some more speculation about that in the line comments!

once again, the way you portray the passage of time stands out to me. toku shedding her skin plus the change in season really emphasize that time has passed by relating it to cycles of nature without having to rely on abstract units of time, which lance might not be in tune to in the first place. really contributes to the rustic feeling of the setting.

i will say that lance felt a little aimless in these chapters—he's not even really going for badges, as evidenced by his interaction with muni. but the chapters are short and have other things going for them... just not a whole lot as (immediately) pertains to lance's personal arc imo, with the exception of the Feelings he gets about the departed dragons. not a problem, necessarily, as they're immediately followed by some pretty juicy chapters, but it is something that occurred to me while reading.

"There's at least another month left in the season," the on-duty nurse told Wataru when he checked in. "People won't abandon the beaches until the water freezes their toes."
lol, this one hit close to home.

Wataru felt bad for the small water-ryu. Especially after being watched by all those people, how could it just give up and let the current carry it away?
i like how clear the disparity between the way lance and the others perceive magikarp is just by the way they refer to it. lance sees a little dragon where everyone else sees a dopey fish.

"Hey," he called out to it, "Let's battle."
looks like lance discovered the metagame and is getting ready to grind out that sweet, sweet exp.

One of the koiking's large eyes flecked over to them.
hmm, did you mean "flicked" here? i don't know if you can use "flecked" this way.

A storm might creep up, quite suddenly, creating trouble for even the most experienced sailors. The waves turn choppy, the moon covers over, and a woman is forced to realize how lonely we are, poor finless, wingless creatures, caught far from our home shores.
really love this.

"Perhaps it's a foolish fantasy, but I've always liked to think the dragonite never completely left us. Perhaps they just hid themselves away, far from the lights and noise, in the immeasurable nooks and crannies of Cerulean Cave. The cave's never been fully explored, you know. Not profitable. Too many cliffs and watery rises, and no trace of ore to mine."
i wonder if she's being honest about this being a guess, or if she actually knew, given that she has a gyarados of her own.

"Excellent," said the old woman, before Wataru could answer her. "I'll see you at dawn."

~*~​
Wataru woke to a cold, rasping tongue dragging against his cheek.

"Toku," he groaned in protest, pulling his blanket up over his head. When Toku whined again, he sat up blearily. The sleeping room was silent except for the occasional snore, and the sky outside was dark, though a red glint suggested that soon it would be dawn—

Dawn!
haha, this was lucky. imagine, a world before alarm clocks...

The koiking started forward again, her golden crest angled straight. Her tail worked furiously, churning up the water. When the small ryu hit the crashing spray, something changed. At first, Wataru thought he was just dazzled by the way the cavern light caught off the white water. But the white gleam was expanding—here extending into a long tail, here an enormous head that spiked into a tall crest—until at last a gyarados towered over them. The water glinted off her dark blue scales and the creamy white of her underbelly. Her large, fanged mouth was curved into a self-satisfied grin.
this reference to magikarp's lore was fun. it's something that i think most people are aware of but i'm not sure i've ever seen it integrated into a story like this.

Hamako's voice seemed to reach him from very far away. Wataru needed a moment before he could speak. His throat was tight when he answered.

"It means that miniryu and hakuryu lived here once, but now they don't."
oof. you know, i don't think i really recognized the themes of industrialization and human encroachment on the environment before, but here it is again. i wonder how this will manifest in part two.

The old woman nodded. The gyarados' fury didn't seem to have rattled her.
lots of little hints about her identity here. this fic is a joy to reread, haha.

But when the miniryu began to twist through the air, it was not to the slow rhythm of the miniryu odori. Her movements were too elongated, too soaring. As she moved, the gleam returned to her scales, but stronger now, a powerful white light that spread up from her tail to her snout. When Toku threw herself into the air for a final leap, she hung there suspended, the white line of her body lengthening.

Wataru blinked heavily against the unbearably bright light. A musical trill echoed through the cavern, the sound high and pure, like the sky after the storm has broken.

When the light cleared, Wataru looked up into the solemn eyes of a gorgeous hakuryu. She flew through the air, over three meters long fully uncurled. The sun caught off her silver horn and the dark blue orb that adorned her neck and the tip of her tail. Her scales had darkened to a lustrous blue and her ear fins extended into gleaming wings.
this is really majestic. it's pretty uncommon that a pokémon evolution scene instills that feeling in awe in me, but you do a good job of it here.

Hamako smiled. "Now don't flatter me. I did what any right-thinking gyarados specialist would have done in my place." She glanced around the cavern and let out a sigh.
hah, hamako really does make misty feel like a pale imitation. starmie ain't got shit on gyarados 😤
 

zion of arcadia

too much of my own quietness is with me
Pronouns
she/her
Partners
  1. marowak-alola
Wow, haha. Imagine reading this months ago and never bothering to leave another comment. Couldn’t be me.

Honestly, it was in part because I’ve had a hard time drawing up the energy to write reviews, but also partly because it was hard for me to think of anything to say beyond ‘good story pls update’. I come now, however, bearing semi-respectable analysis and minor prose nitpicks. As one should.

The opening has this really nice juxtaposition to it. It’s the next morning and everything is peaceful. Wataru, meanwhile, is anxious and slightly in shock, while Toku comes across as melancholy. Wataru’s world has changed irrevocably but the world at large is ultimately indifferent. It creates almost a sense of dream-like underlying dread (calm before the storm?) that’s punctuated by Ibuki’s arrival.

When Wataru opened his eyes, the sleeping room was still and empty.

A little redundant, no? It would make sense for the room to be still if it’s empty.

Everything he knew about the outside world came from Elder Kyo's stories. But those stories were of the past, when the land had been locked in a constant state of war.

I didn’t give this much thought on my first read through. But now I wonder if it’s an allusion to the Boshin War. Having read quite a few chapters ahead, both the modernization of Japan and the influence of foreigners feel like they play important thematic roles in the story.

When Ibuki handed him the soap, he saw that her nails had gouged deep impressions into it.

Great little detail that shows just how upset Ibuki is.

But everything Wataru had done, he'd chosen. He'd be the one living with it, not her.

These are probably the only two lines in the five chapters I’ve read I’m not particularly keen on. Just seems a touch too on the nose.

The nonverbal cues from Toku when Wataru gives her to Ibuki are wonderful. I was a little put out that the focus seems to shift almost entirely off Ibuki and onto Toku, however. I would’ve liked to catch a glimpse or two more of Ibuki’s reaction.

He couldn't remember a time Ibuki hadn't been there—bossy, all-knowing, comforting.

Such a bittersweet moment. I love that Ibuki gifts him her cloak, and how meaningful it is for both of them. This whole goodbye scene was just pitch perfect in tone.

Wataru said to the two adults, even though those words were the farthest thing from the truth.

This line confused me a little. The earlier phrasing, in which Ibuki disappears from view, made me think Wataru left. But then this line implied his uncle was still with him? Did he ride with them to the village border?

"I'm sorry," Airi blurted when Wataru joined him at the front of the wagon.

There’s a subtle parallel here to Ibuki blaming herself for Wataru’s exile. But Ibuki’s reaction feels more sincere while Airi is technically more at fault (despite no one really being at fault, including Wataru, imo)--but for Airi, this is all an adventure with a rather unfortunate ending. Wataru and Ibuki are the ones whose lives got upturned by everything that happened.

Ibuki sneaking Wataru Toku was such a delightful moment. I’m not sure if Ibuki came up with it on her own, was prodded by Toku, or whatever, but it’s such a great character moment for Ibuki, showcasing both her cleverness and determination (and her bond with Wataru, to risk getting in huge trouble for him). I always anticipated Toku would rejoin him, but I figured she’d sneak off on her own or something. I like this way better.

"Well, the sea's like—" Airi floundered like a landlocked koiking "—it's like a big lake!"

Technically the em dashes should be outside the quotations when dialogue is interrupted by an action. Like so:

“Well, the sea’s like”—Airi floundered like a landlocked koiking—“it’s like a big lake!”

Honestly, I didn’t know this until very recently myself. And it’s not a big deal, either. One of those nitpicky grammar rules that only comes up once in a blue moon. Source can be found Here.

The interaction between Airi and Wataru is so cute in this scene. Airi’s all boyishly excited while Wataru’s a) bemused by the onslaught of info and b) trying to keep Toku hidden.

I love all the straightforward comments characters make. Such as Airi describing the sea as a big lake, or Wataru not caring about dances in Ecruteak because there are no miniryu, or Mr. Inushi minimizing the importance of trains because they need tracks to go anywhere. All these statements are made as though they’re the most obvious things in the world, and then we, the audience, are like, well, yes, but actually, no. Can we consider that dramatic irony? I’d consider it dramatic irony. Well played, either way.

A bit godless, but that's what technology does to you.

Something I’ve come to notice in a lot of Pokemon fanfiction is the interplay between technology and nature. It’s probably one of my favorite themes, especially given Pokemon as a franchise was largely inspired by Tajiri’s love of bug collecting. On a meta-level, it’s kind of funny, given technology is what brought Pokemon to life and created such an impact on pop culture around the world.

I’ll be curious to watch it develop further. From what I can tell, it feels like a nature vs technology set up; Wataru is navigating a sort of middle ground, utilizing technology when it’s beneficial while still retaining his nature loving roots (the use of the apricot pokeball is a great example of this). But it’s a delicate high wire to balance, and one mistake could cost him (?) dearly. It fits well into his backstory as a hafu, too: Wataru doesn’t quite fit into either world so tries to make the best of both.

"Go back?" he said at last. "My word, we're behind schedule enough as is. I want to reach Cherrygrove while there's still light to steer by."

I’ve mentioned this before, but kindness from strangers/near-strangers is one of my favorite things. This gave me so much serotonin like you don’t even understand. Also Wataru being all polite and respectful is adorable.

Some people say we should have eight, though, 'cause Kanto has eight and we wouldn't want to have less gyms than Kanto.

I’m sure that’s not setting up any sort of pay off at all. :P

The fact that the first thing Wataru sees in Cherrygrove is a Pokemon Center gave me a lot of nostalgia. I don’t know the intricacies of kanji, but I liked the small detail where the kanji used for the Center is slightly different from what Wataru was used to (and that those differences were actually comforting because they reminded him of his own messy handwriting--it plays around with the idea that the foreign is, in its own strange way, familiar to him). Reminds me of the differences between American and British English.

"Not fire, electricity," Mr. Inushi corrected. "Cherrygrove has seen the light of the future."

I like how this establishes both Wataru’s lack of familiarity with electricity, and that electricity itself is still something of a novelty in Johto. Clever use of subtext.

Also, woo, culture shock! Wataru’s observations are all very fun, and were no doubt fun to come up with as well.

A tamer and his ryu should share a single stomach, the saying went.

Lovely.

The whole scene where they register Wataru was hilarious. Wataru deciding he’s older than he is, is such a childish detail. It’s easy to forget how young he really is sometimes. When they stated an actual date, it gave me this weird feeling, similar to how the old dex entries would reference real world things like China and elephants. I can’t think of the word for it at the moment, haha.

Hot, tight panic clamped down on Wataru. He was standing in a strange, over-lit room, stacked high with gleaming canisters bearing incomprehensible writing, and he was alone. He was wearing the clothes they'd just purchased at Mr. Inushi's insistence, and their smell was wrong, sharp and acrid, burning his nose just like the white ceiling light burned his eyes. This place was ugly and wrong and there was not a single thing to anchor him, to hold off the bright pain that started in the back of his head and moved forward into his eyes, because Toku was—

Excellent paragraph. Very emotional and visceral. I might’ve played more into the nature of the run-on sentence, personally, having it all blur and moosh together into one, maybe two panicked sentences. But that’s more a stylistic preference than anything.

We establish how important Toku is, too. She’s his best friend, his one remaining tether to home. We also establish the idea of people viewing pokemon as a commodity, something that will come into play again further down the line.

No. The truth settled uncomfortably in his stomach. They would never kick Ibuki out.

Such a sad train of thought. Poor Wataru.

Professor Oak showing up was a delightfully unexpected twist. It makes complete sense, though. I also love that this is how Wataru gets his charizard (which, I must confess, I completely forgot he had). Oh, gen I and II and your lack of true dragon types, you’re so silly.

I like how you write fight scenes. They’re grounded but still somewhat choreographed, and Wataru mostly just gives minor suggestions and tips. I wonder if they’ll become more elaborate as his pokemon grow stronger. It does a good job demonstrating the bonds humans are capable of forming with pokemon. And we get to see how Wataru handles an unfamiliar pokemon, too.

Wataru shot back, aware that he was being rude and not caring.

You can tell Wataru means business when he starts sassing his elders.

It hit him suddenly how much time the trader had taken today, guiding Wataru through one thing after another, instead of doing that job that so clearly brought him joy.

Seriously. Mr. Inushi and Airi don’t show up again as far as I’ve read, but they’re both really likable, memorable characters. You could probably write about them going on adventures with Fancy Toes and I’d eat it up. They make the setting feel alive and lived in.

A long, tense silence followed, in which Airi's slurping noises as he drank his soup were obnoxiously loud.

lol.

When I first read this scene, I thought Airi was oblivious to the tension. But on re-read it seems more likely he was just trying to distract himself from the awkwardness. Regardless, it’s very well-written, and Oak’s naturally inquisitive nature coupled with his desire to learn/teach causing friction creates a fascinating dynamic. We know he doesn't mean any harm, but they don't.

"I dispense advice with every breath, but if you're asking me to limit it down to one important thing—I'd say, know your goal. A lot of trainers are a bit aimless. Win this badge, win the next badge. The structure gives a certain momentum, but they get lost outside of it. So try to figure out what you're working towards, what you're trying to achieve.

This is also good writing advice, haha.

I like how you take Wataru’s original goal of becoming a master dragon tamer and expand it. By tying the goal to his returning home, it makes the goal feel much more urgent, much more important. And it gives him a reason to participate in the league. Great job synthesizing his external and internal struggles so beautifully. Although I doubt his return will be as smooth sailing as he imagines. Also, the scene where Toku draws them is amazing, cute and a great demonstration of their friendship, although I'm trying not to point out every minor detail I like because then I'd probably just quote the whole chapter, lol.

Oak’s riddle sums up the concept of the bildungsroman quite nicely. Heh. And Wataru taking it literally, but still, in a way, finding the correct answer, shows how much growth he still needs to go through, but also how he’s headed in the right direction.

Thanks for sharing! I definitely wanted to find a nice poem for you, since you enjoy them so much. I thought this one fit really well:

Hark! through the quiet evening air, their song
Floats forth with wild sweet rhythm and glad refrain.
They sing the conquest of the spirit strong,
The soul that wrests the victory from pain;
The noble joys of manhood that belong
To comrades and to brothers. In their strain
Rustle of palms and Eastern streams one hears,
And the broad prairie melts in mist of tears.

--Last stanza of “In Exile” by Emma Lazarus
 
Last edited:

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
It's been 3000 years but here I am for chapter 2!

"There is."

Ibuki's voice caught everyone by surprise. She'd approached them quietly, though the flush on her cheeks indicated she'd just been running. The dark blue cloak from her hakuryu odori was clutched in her hands.

"Here," she said, thrusting the bundle of cloth towards him. "Take it." She turned a glare on Uncle, as if daring him to object. "I prepared and dyed that cloth all by myself. It's mine to do what I want with." Turning back to Wataru, she softened her voice. "You could have done it, you know. You were much better than all the little kids dancing."

Wataru stepped forward to take the bundle. Then, on impulse, he threw his arms around Ibuki, pressing the two of them into a tight hug. He couldn't remember a time Ibuki hadn't been there—bossy, all-knowing, comforting.

"I'll miss you," he whispered, ashamed to feel his eyes going wet again. "I'm sorry."

Ibuki squeezed him back hard. "I'll miss you too," she said in a small voice.

Aw. This is really touching.

As they sat waiting for Mr. Inushi, the bundle of cloth on Wataru's lap suddenly wriggled. His breath caught. Beneath the folds of dark blue was the sky blue of a miniryu's scales.

Ibuki hadn't just given him her cloak. She'd snuck him Toku!

and i freakin CALLED this

"I guess," said Airi. "But I asked to see them—" He glanced over to the two adults, who were speaking with their heads held close, and added in a hurried whisper, "and it was brilliant! It was the most brilliant thing ever! Thank you so much!"

lmao no regrets

He jabbed his hand down and a high-pitched ring shrieked through the room

The word choice of "shriek" was a bit too visceral for me and I thought someone actually shrieked until I read more carefully.

"Eat quickly, boys," said Mr. Inushi. "We've got a lot of shopping to do today." He smiled at Wataru, his eyes sparking with sudden humor. "After all, today's your birthday!"

Ah, nice.

Hot, tight panic clamped down on Wataru. He was standing in a strange, over-lit room, stacked high with gleaming canisters bearing incomprehensible writing, and he was alone. He was wearing the clothes they'd just purchased at Mr. Inushi's insistence, and their smell was wrong, sharp and acrid, burning his nose just like the white ceiling light burned his eyes. This place was ugly and wrong and there was not a single thing to anchor him, to hold off the bright pain that started in the back of his head and moved forward into his eyes, because Toku was—

I really like this part - all the minor things he felt that may have slipped the narration before for not being important enough to acknowledge come back all at once to be voiced in this rightful freakout.

"What do you mean, rare."

As someone who has been bullied too many times into ending questions with question marks regardless of tone of voice I will perpetuate the terror and also complain about it.

"Look at you, Okido Yukinari," he muttered to himself.

studio audience goes wild, standing ovation, it's him!!!

"Charmander!" The small pokemon raised its head defiantly at the annoyance in the old man's voice.

It's only at the end of the sentence that we see it was the old man calling the charmander out rather than the charmander crying its own name, so it's very easy to mistake this for the latter until getting to that part. For some other line it'd be alright since charmander can't use actual words, but for this one I'd forgo this type of indirect dialogue tag.

But as I'm always telling her, there's a time and place.

And as will forever echo in Wataru's mind now. What a horrid curse this man inflicts upon children.

Toku wheeled around and sent the brick flying back towards the charmander, who struck out determinedly with her claws. But the silvery light wasn't there this time. The brick slammed into her chest and sent her tumbling backwards with a pained yelp.

lmao owned

And then, all at once, Wataru had it. "You mean, like with Master Kaisho! He returned on the back of the kairyu and that's how they knew he belonged to the clan. Toku, that's brilliant!"

:oooo history lesson turned out to be important? why i never

who Wataru had started to call Kana,

hahahaha she is named chicken in my language

The traditional answer is that the traveler who returns is not the same as the one who set out.

i guessed it i guessed it what do i win

---

General Thoughts

So now we have Wataru's goal! It's good to establish the motivation and goal of one's protagonist early on like this, and in such a concrete form, too. While the chapter was longer than what I usually like to read, it formed a good whole by itself, and clearly brought us somewhere different by the end. Man, Wataru's just being thrown around like a hot potato. Old times really didn't care that much about kids.

I was kind of surprised at the intelligence of these pokémon once Toku began to draw, but I suppose this is closer to canon than further from it. Every time when this happens I just kind of wince at the weird implications and wonder why these smart animals don't take over or demand better rights, but I suppose that's the cross most trainerfic writers have to bear. Another thing that surprised me was pokécenters as inns, but it does kind of fit. Your pokémon rest there, you rest there. Makes sense.

I can't think much of anything else to say, so I'll wrap up here. Will likely return for more in the future.
 

Pen

the cat is mightier than the pen
Staff
Partners
  1. dratini
  2. custom/dratini-pen
  3. custom/dratini-pen2
Whew, I really let these pile up. A huge thank you and shout-out to all of you! And if I didn't get in-depth enough in response to something you wanted to discuss, feel free to shoot me a DM about it.

Glad you had fun with Gio; I did too.

Also, I think it’s very statistically likely that this exists somewhere on the wide, weird internet.
Oh god, stop it.

LANCE WAS TOO.
ngl the Archer and Lance relationship is one of my favorite parts of DD, and there will be more of it.

I think this is a good character play! He’s got other fish to fry.
That's definitely a fun part of writing Gio--he gives very few fucks.

Wowee this says so much.
I'm sorry, your main hobby isn't crushing other people's dreams? Come on. Live a little.

I like seeing the hold Grandma has on him. She sounds cutthroat.
I love my badass grannies. The nice, and the not so nice.

Agatha as former champion makes a lot of sense.
Excuse you, who said anything about former??

Gio is obsessed with control.
Absolutely.

Poor Hamako. We knew this was coming, but I feel for her. I like her.
There may or may not be more Hamako in your future.

This really does paint a picture of how fractured Kanto is, though. And that’s not even dealing with the question of Johto! Such large pants to fill.
The biggest, rip.
Thank you for another lovely, in-depth review! All line-edits have been implemented.

She's so snakey! It'll be fun seeing how her way of interacting with the world changes as she grows and evolves.
Not going to lie, I miss writing baby snek Toku.

The way he casually assumes that Wataru's helping him out because he wants an autograph and the way he both tries to use his reputation as a weapon and is pleased when Mr. Inushi recognizes him really speak of someone who both enjoys the spotlight and is accustomed to having it.
Oak was a lot of fun to write. He's not a bad person, but his ego has definitely been fed by his fame, and it's going to be a while before he has grandkids to humble him.

I guess the dragon clan isolated themselves pre-pokéball, and "training" as such only became viable after its invention? Or perhaps they've always had a different relationship with pokémon than Johto at large.
Both, I'd say. They retreated to the world in a pre mass-produced pokeball era, though apricorns were probably a thing. But yeah, the clan and the ryu have a covenant, and their relationship is unique in that respect.

at times I got a bit turned around as to what I thought the time period we were in was (I think it's supposed to be basically the equivalent of the 1970s?)
I headcanon the pokeworld as having a different history of technology than our own just due to the influence of pokemon, and technology is not super evenly distributed, so it's hard to peg directly to our world.

I don't think I got much of a sense of the rhythms of life in Cherrygrove the way I did in Wataru's village
Are there strange pokémon he's never seen before coming through the center? Does he actually recognize some things here (what does Mr. Inushi sell to the dragon clan, anyhow?) but find it weird for them to be common instead of exotic items? Clothing styles that are even stranger than the ones he's seen on traders, or strange gestures or figures of speech?
These are all super juicy, and I definitely get what you mean here. I just worry that this chapter is too long already!

Love the dramatic irony and bittersweet in Wataru and Toku's decision that they just need to get stronger to be accepted back into their home. If only!
I see no problems with their plan. Strength and wisdom. All they have to do is get strong.

(One way or another, Blackthorn City is hardly a secret by the time of G/S/C... very curious to see how that comes about, and what part Lance has in it.)
:smile:

(And reading this out of context in my notes... "Oh no, only one bed??" Wrong genre. :P)
Oh no!!

Very cute image of Toku trying to make herself look intimidating.
Excuse you, she is most intimidating. A very scary snek.

they've always struck me as more energy-based or blunt-force fighters as opposed to the type to carve their way through rock.
Not sure I see the contradiction between blunt-force and being able to punch through rock? Rock is basically the hardest thing that Wataru knows of, so being able to punch through it means you're strong.

Due to the hugely varied canon movepool, I headcanon dragonite as having a lot of variety in how they fight, and their style being connected to their personality.

At this point I'm wondering how long it usually takes for a dratini to evolve into a dragonite. How long does Wataru think he's looking at away from home, here?
It varies notoriously. Many, many people never see their companion hakuryu evolve. Culturally, it's taken as somewhat of a judgment on your character--that's why you only find kairyu masters in positions of leadership. That bit of culture is really important to Lance's mindset, and I've been struggling to find ways to make it even more explicit in the first chapter. It's tough, because Lance isn't personally interested in being a leader, so it's not something he considers directly, just background knowledge that shapes his views on who is worthy of positions of power.
I'm struck because I tend to find myself telling people no, stop doing summaries instead of fiction, they don't work, you need description and individual scenes to tell a story. But this chapter strikes a very strange and delicate balance of a bunch of summary-like scenes that do tell a story, and the character trajectory is crystal clear throughout. It's masterfully done and looking back I'm still not sure how it's done--I think the bookends about yearning for home, as well as the comparison of the final mission to the sneasel date, establish the through-themes and give a sense of interconnectedness, but I don't really know what makes this read so well. It just does lol.
Yeah, DD is this weird slip-slide between summary and scene.

Lance seeing that you can train pokemon through means specific to their personalities while not catching on that he's being groomed himself
🤯

murder is illegal more breaking news at 7
🤣

Hamako staring off into the dock is sad and why do we have to hurt our fictional grannies like this.
Episode Two: The Fictional Grannies Strike Back

yes see so bolts of lightning are jagged and so is kintsugi it's ALL coming together now
🤔

Does he still have the sneasel or does she, like Hunter, end up leaving him to expertly chop scallions
He didn't have a chance to grab Hunter before the mission of doom, so she's back at Rocket HQ.

oh wow ouch stop please this article is written so realistically and i hate it how did you reproduce poorly-researched clickbait posing as news so well
Most fun part of the chapter to write, tbh. You can just write whatever sounds cutting, no research needed.

the good decisions club welcomes its king lol
👑

I really liked the POV-switch away, which is a sentence I've never found myself saying before--but to me it works because it really says how Lance sees himself.
Really glad this worked for you, I was a bit nervous about it! I felt like an out-of-body moment was fitting, because this does completely emss up Lance's perception of who he is.

wasn't a huge fan of "claw" as the singular here. I feel like bears lack the dexterity to do just single claw stuff. I'd just do "Then the ursaring cleaved down" and "It shattered against the ursaring's claws"
Noted. I was going to argue that claw is the normal word to describe the bear's whole appendage but then I realized I was thinking about bear claws the dessert. So. Yes.

we've come so far from "don't let the gaijin steal our cool shit"
the OG will never be overtaken
Giovanni also continues to be a compelling foil for Lance--their circumstances are so similar, but the way they reacted is so different. Good antagonist shit. Both of them abandoned their homes; Giovanni partially by choice and Lance by being forced to do so. Both of them earn the respect of their peers; Giovanni by being a conniving bastard and Lance by having cool dragons and being friendly. Both of them prioritize the respect (or general goodwill? I think) of their peers; Giovanni does it because it's optimal to have good puppets and Lance does it because friends are cool guys please stop picking me last for kickball and exiling me. "Running away shows character" put this into a bow for me--at the end of the day, they both stand by this choice.
Yes. Foils! Are fun.

I'm struck by the image of Lance wearing a literal mask here.
kint, excited about a mask in a story? This wasn't on my bingo card!!

I like the grounding of Giovanni in personal strokes, the fierce admiration for his grandmother and the staunch pride in his kid--he's set in his convictions, they are horrible, and he has the skills to do what he wants.
mm, I really like how you put this.

I like this both because Archer is probably thinking of Lance, and because Giovanni figures this out immediately after
Yup yup! I enjoy that particular moment probably more than I should. It's just super rare for them--usually Archer is always trying to attune himself to what Gio is thinking.

wasn't entirely sure why Giovanni's focus is on tourism exactly? I see some connections for tourism->globalism/better commerce, but I wasn't sure what Giovanni was trying to say here.
Edited to emphasize the particular economy's of the two places more. Basically he thinks Hamako is really stupid to fight tourism when it makes your city more cash (see Viridian).

wasn't sure if this was bad structural rigging (like building structure) or rigging gym matches poorly
Ah, it's the mining equipment. Edited to clarify.

I think "coupe" is the zoom-zoom car and "coup" is the overthrowing, but I do like the idea that Natsume appoints a sportscar as interim leader
omg

Giovanni's grandmother is N; this confirms a lot
Crack theory when

believe it or not it took me 2.5 months to realize that this is Italy
Never change, kint.

because I also don't light up published fiction author DM's with shitposts and cries for help about ferris wheels.
Their loss, tbh.

This is a good story lol. Looking back on things I've said before I don't even think there'd be much I'd change; some of the early pacing I might've done differently but that would've been a different story, and this one works at what it's trying to tell. It's interesting to me for reasons I mentioned in "The Agent"--it's more distilled than standard journeys like this would be, we aren't reading about a million Wataru fetchquests, and it both works and I think tells a more sophisticated story as a result. Sort of like an anthology of interesting images, which I've never seen work before but is executed fantastically here, and lets you tell way more in the wordcount than most people would've lance leaves team rocket chapter 40 let's GO.
Ever since you mentioned you had pacings thoughts re DD I have been nervously awaiting them. I'm glad my weird conceit seems to be working for you. I really wanted to tell the broad arc of Lance's story, but I'm not interested, as you say, in a million fetchquests. I'm lazy and only wants to write about the bits I find interesting/important. And I find compelling the idea of a life told through moments--stuff builds everyday, but there are moments that things crystallize or change directions, and that's what I'm interested in.

hi yes your prose is good but i feel like we both know i feel that way?


would gyarados be released indoors when clearly in this fic they are aquatic sneks?
Ugh, this one plagues me too.

can gyarados ever close their mouths or would they look so dumb that the universe would combust?
The real questions!

if i can't use rim lighting, who am i? and of course, who the fuck is kintsugi?
You tell me :wink:

so anyway i've been sitting on this/these questions for a while and I'd say it's 70/30 why this review is stupid late, the other 30 just being my general inability to comment conclusively on things I think are already good, please enjoy the phase of my life where I stop trying to put things in words in these situations and just do fanart instead, cool, have an excellent day and please stop doing real life stuff so act ii can happen
Aghhh, I appreciated this so much, thank you again. Love determined Toku and beeg snake Ibuki.

Also like, I have difficulty responding to your lovely review with anything other than a series of emojis, so I'd say we're even.
Hey Namo! Thanks for stopping by, and sorry you drew a looong chapter for Blacklight prizes. I enjoyed getting your thoughts!

This was a very hefty chapter and it covered quite a lot of ground. I feel like it could have been split in two at around the time the professor showed up.
I'm locked into my weird anthology format, but I definitely feel you--I like my chapters under 5k usually, and yet, here I am.

But that aside, I think the biggest highlight/takeaway that I got from this is the little mystery of whether Toku was intentionally brought with Wataru or not.
This is actually one thing that makes me wonder if Toku coming along was planned.
I'm not quite sure what you mean here? Toku coming along was intentional on her part, for sure! And on Ibuki's.

And this actually touches upon a bit of a clever meta you have going on with this story. Now, as far as I'm aware, this doesn't seem like a particularly AU-form story. With that assumption, I don't think it's too farfetched to say that Wataru is going to eventually become the Pokemon Champion somewhere down the line, and I'm already seeing his team forming from the canon now that he has a Charmander joining him as his... starter? Funny how that goes.
Persephone had been trying to convince me that what he really needs is an Alolan Exeggutor.

But where that diverges is the fact that you're using that as a meta guideline for Wataru's progress while still keeping the actual ending of the story unknown--because the main conflict is not what happens with him in terms of his success as a trainer. It's about whether he will be allowed back home or not, because that part of his story is either not something well known (by me, at least), or is not something brushed upon at all in canon. The real story is therefore that, and is also the main hook at the end of this chapter--his goal of how he can go back.
:smile: yep, that's the fun of writing within the constraints of canon for me. To some extent, people know what's going to happen, so I get to focus on the hows and whys, and the question of what it really means to be champion.

It makes me wonder if it's some kind of elaborate test, but it seems too contrived for that to be the case.
Test? For whom and by whom?

I'm biased so I enjoyed the Charmander scenes greatly, particularly the Metal Claw learning and so on. I suppose if I wasn't so biased I might comment on it going on for a little while longer than perhaps necessary, but I dunno man, Charmander.
Charmander are very good. I haven't gotten any length complaints yet on this scene, so I don't think your bias has led you too far astray!

(Sidenote, because I was reading it today--Titan the charmander in Negrek's Little God is so good, idk if you've read?)

Would he be totally helpless?
He'd definitely be very sad. Ugh, don't make me imagine the no-Toku AU. He probably becomes a painter and makes sad pictures of the Ryu's Gift.
Hey love, thanks for giving this read, even if it's a little out of your usual wheelhouse! I've fiddled with the places you pointed out in line-edits.

Wataru is kind of mistreated and also rather brash. Like Naruto, I guess.
Hah, I've never watched Naruto, but that checks out. It's a pretty common trope, I think.

I like how the chapter establishes his bond with Toku, because I can always appreciate a man or woman who appreciates their pokemon. Kind of balances out the more negative impression that I got from some of his other actions.
I'm the same way--I can forgive a lot from a character who has a good bond with their pokemon.

This reaction made my day, lol. I'm glad I have at least one reader with very strong views about trains. Mr Inushi would be pleased.

Now, I wonder if, in a sense, exhiling him isn't a bad idea.
It may be! Xenophobia isn't super rational, alas.

I guess he kind of has an affinity for pokemon, which would make sense for an outcast-y sort. Probably found more companionship in Toku than in most humans.
Yup yup!

I believe that is what those in the industry would refer to as "good storytelling."
😊

I like the ambiguity of the shed skins, as well---they represent loss as much as they represent hope, at a time when Wataru's future is ultimately still very unclear.
Yeah, shed skins take on a lot of different meanings for Wataru in this fic. They're an important image/idea for him.

I am kind of disappointed he didn't whip out Toku when he was talking to the floor manager. He hasn't exactly kept Toku hidden all this time, and he needs to reveal her in order to use her in battles, so the fact that he is hesitant now just seemed odd to me.
Since her evolution he pretty much has been. Hakuryu are kind of eye-catching. Maybe there's a way I can integrate that better into the Saffron section.

Yay for Homeric similes.

I mean, damn, after 6 months, you'd think he'd consider giving up or trying something else...
Stubborn ryu only learn . . .

It just isn't really making sense to me why Wataru chooses not to show Toku to the floor manager earlier, yet after stubbornly wasting 6 months gambling he shows her to Archer pretty much right away. Maybe there even could have been a way to convince them that he's a dratini expert even without revealing that he has one? Or maybe he could have tried to pull off some badass heist that involves distracting the kadabra and then running off with the dratini (I mean, okay, maybe not, I just think that sounds like fun). I don't know, I just kind of find myself feeling dissatisfied with how poorly he handled the situation. I think part of it is that he struck me as a headstrong character, so even though he has a devotion to the dragons, it's sort of hard for me to buy that he would deal with this situation by meticulously gambling all his money away (also, I guess he doesn't really consider that he may be doing more harm by giving all this money to the same folks who put the dratini in such a terrible situation to begin with?). Same goes for Kana—I'm kind of disappointed that Archer ends up being the one to convince Wataru to abandon that futile path, rather than her.

Maybe part of it was that Wataru got addicted to the gambling? I mean, it would explain his behavior a little, but I didn't get the sense that that's what you were going for.
I definitely wanted gambling addiction to be in play! Human brains have a bit of a sunk-cost fallacy, and Wataru doesn't really get how casinos work, despite working at one. He doesn't have the cultural knowledge that this is futile.

Badass heist would definitely be something he'd have fun dreaming about, and maybe I should have him fantasizing about it, but he's not going to do anything that he thinks would endanger Toku.

Archer . . . says the right things at the right moment.

it doesn't reach for the poetic and sometimes dreamlike heights that your oneshots do, but I saw very few openings to attack, so to speak, and the style is perfectly appropriate for a longer story.
Yeah, there's definitely a fair amount of A to B that's unavoidable. Oneshots are still life.

I was pleased to see care taken to describe the flowers in Celadon and the moths, etc.
Writing about the venomoth in Celadon was one of my favorite parts, glad you enjoyed.
Hey Tetra, thanks for stopping by! Really glad you enjoyed this opener.

The dancing bit was very good, probably as good as one can expect trying to describe something so visual with words.
Yep, it was definitely a struggle to write, but it was an important scene to me, so I persisted.

I love the implications of Gyarados coming out to dance in the lake. As if they aren't super vicious attack everything on sight rampaging beasts. I've always been vaguely annoyed by pokemon getting widespread generalized as 'bad', so I really like this.
Mm yes, I adore gyarados. What pokemon are considered 'bad' probably depends a lot on culture and context. Like, a town of farmers probably can't stand crop-destroying murkrow. And some pokemon, like grimer, definitely seem hazardous.

Love analogies like this (or is that a simile? I can never remember)
Simile, yep!

Or is it?
Hah, this was one of those lines where I was giving a bit of a cackle when I wrote it.

There's nothing I love more than pokemon comparisons for things in pokefics, so I love this
I'm a big fan of it--we use a ton of animal comparisons, so why wouldn't they do the same in the pokeworld?

Best subversion ever. Somehow this ignorant kid guessed the right answer. HA! I love that. Shows that even if he doesn't pay attention in class a lot he's earnest and good at like, busting through and just doing stuff.
More kairyu is always the right answer.

I don't even have to know the language to know this was such a rude insult. Good context.
I'm glad it came through for you!

I personally would have italicized 'What now' but that's just me, perhaps.
Nah, I agree! Changed that.

This does make me questions things like how much weight they give to the pokemons desires over their own. Is it because Toku is young? Would a grown Dratini have a choice? Do they not fully recognize a pokemons right to choose? Its a curious thought for sure.
Nailed it--dratini are treated as being closer to children, not fully mature. Nobody would stand in the way of a hakuryu or kairyu deciding where they want to go, but miniryu are a different story.

I really did like this story! I'm oh definitely going to read chapter 2. Honestly, I didn't even feel like I would enjoy it as much as I did but I really really do, and so far I like your interpretation of lance.

NOICE
Ah, I hadn't known you were reading DD so these reviews have been such a lovely treat!

i pretty much couldn't put it down until i was caught up!
Always music to an author's ears.

i'm especially excited to get to reviewing the later chapters, which i enjoyed a ton
I'm excited too :grin:

so, full disclosure, this might be my favorite first chapter of any fanfic i've read. there's so much going on here, but it doesn't feel overwhelming at all.


i notice that ibuki doesn't seem to have a miniryu of her own, which aligns with the fact that she doesn't have one on her gym team as an adult, either—i wonder why that is?
That's my bad, I still need to retroactive continuity a miniryu in for Ibuki. She definitely has one.

i really love their dynamic, a bit of rivalry but mostly what feels like a strong sibling bond. it's very sweet and well-done despite the limited time they spend together.
I have strong sibling feels re Lance and Ibuki.

aw. so sweet. thinking about it now, i guess we actually don't see any more of ibuki after lance is exiled—i'm looking forward to their eventual reunion.
Same--and there will be an Ibuki-centric oneshot in the sequel fic.

but i wanted to mention that i really like the way you interpret leer.
I'm not sure I can claim credit, pretty sure I stole this from the anime.

bastard. pretty impressive how elder io becomes in just a few lines.
Do not mess with old ladies.

somehow i don't trust that elder io was acting without any mind to lance's heritage, lol. exile honestly seems pretty extreme to me for a kid of his age, but i suppose this is a world where trainers routinely leave home at age ten to take on the world alone. and no one seems to think much of it once he's out there, anyway, so maybe it's not as big a deal in their world as it would be in ours. still, if the reason they're exiling lance is that they view him as a threat to the secrecy of the valley, how can sending him out into the world to run his mouth be the ideal punishment?
I do think pokeworld sees kids as being able to handle themselves more than we do. Also in the Ryu's Gift, Wataru is only one year off from technical "adulthood."

Xenophobia--unfortunately not super rational.

i don't think i fully caught the bit about his uncle's brother the first time i read this chapter—i wonder if that'll come up later, and who his brother might be. would that be lance's father then? is that why he has mixed parentage?
Yep, Lance's father is Uncle's brother.

mm... do the elders themselves know? i was going back and forth before about how extreme a punishment effectively was, and the fact that lance has absolutely no idea what awaits him out there suggests it's more extreme than not. whether the world really is a horrible place or not, embarking into it on your own as a young boy could be extremely perilous nonetheless. do the elders know it isn't a death sentence? does his uncle know that?
Uncle definitely knows. He deals with traders a lot and keeps up with what's going on in the world, because that's important to know for the clan's safety. The elders get this more second-hand, but they generally know that the outside world isn't actively murderous.

i found this sentence a little difficult to parse at first pass. might be better if the clauses were swapped.
I've switched the order of these clauses back and forth like three times, lol.

this feels like a huge amount of trust to place in a virtual stranger, more trust even than they were willing to afford lance himself, who would by his own admission die to protect the kairyu. elder io says himself that traders have big mouths and can't be trusted—why are they willing to send lance off with him, especially now that he's privy to the secrets of the valley?
Uncle and Mr Inushi have an on-going relationship--he's a regular trader, and Uncle trusts him personally. I can definitely try to add more language to that effect. He's kind of like 'one of the few good ones' in Uncle's mind.

such a strong personality. side note, he kind of reminds me of lauchs. can't quite place why.
Big personality, optimism, openess to the world? yeah, I see it.

this line kind of caught me off guard. i definitely read "damn straight" as very modern language; i think it'd throw me if i even heard my dad say it. it seemed incongruous to me with the setting you've established, but perhaps it's an instance of the tiffany problem?
Mr Inushi is a Cool Dad.

omg, haha. it's interesting to thing that in your headcanon, the events of GSC take place only a few decades after the advent of electricity—although i guess johto kind of does have that vibe, huh? i dig it.
It's not quite as dramatic as that--Cherrygrove is a later adopter of electricity than Goldenrod--but yeah, I enjoy the old-fashioned vibe of Johto in the games.

his evokes memories of the "mountain huts" that were stationed along the trail ascending the zugspitze, only accessible by foot.
Ooh, that's cool.

i'm having a hard time imagining a dratini wrinkle its nose.
Yeah fair, I swapped in a different descriptor.

shouldn't this end in a question mark?
I don't do it often, but I'm of the 'no question mark when the remark is phrased flatly and not really as a question' school.

oof. heart-breaking to read a kid walking through the implications of discrimination like this.
🙃

haha, i don't think i've ever seen professor oak portrayed in quite this way. even in settings where he is a celebrity, it seems like he's usually portrayed as if he isn't. it's funny seeing him caught up in his own fame like this.
He was a riot to write. I love slightly pompous characters.
Hey Umbra, what a pleasant suprise!

These chapters are chonkers though so I just did Chapter 1 for now.
They are, rip. I usually write shorter chapters, but this story wants what it wants.

My one complaint is that the use of Japanese names throws me off a little - I'm not a fan of using anything but the localized names in general - but you have a good excuse and some good workarounds. (descriptions, in-universe translators, etc.)
My Johto is based on Japan, so Americanized names would read oddly to me. Glad it sounds like they didn't trip you up too much!

Like, who wouldn't want to see some cute sleepy Dragonite? No one that's who.
Exactly!!

As usual I can't guarantee when I'll loop back to this fic but I really love your premise so it'll happen! Eventually.
Looking forward to it!
You're spoiling me :grin:

this chapter is a nice look at the impact of industrialization on johto. it seems like the region is in a period of transition at the time this fic is set—electricty is a new fixture in cherrygrove and lots of people are still distrustful of the corporatism that's taking over saffron. i don't really recall this coming up again (at least not so far), but it's a pretty prominent theme in this chapter, so i wonder if it'll recur as a major theme in part two...?
Yup, industrialization is a beeg theme for me in DD and its verse.

i'm not sure if this story takes place in the same continuity as the suicune's choice, but haru's descriptions of johto make it sound like a place that's still very traditional. maybe that's a holdover from older times, but i wonder if lance—who's deeply in touch with the most rustic parts of the region—preserves johto's traditions once he ascends to the position of champion?
They are in the same continuity! SC is set a while after DD.

As to your latter question--welcome to part two and DD's sequel (when I write them, rip)

i wonder how many people have one.
imagine Professor Okido holding book-signings, though. Much more fun than electronics.

i really like the way you summarize these long stretches of his journey and describe the flow of time. it took me a little bit of time to get used to at first, but of course it would be a lot to describe all however many years of lance's life in solitude, and your summaries are really evocative and sort of solemn/reflective.
Yay, DD has kind of non-traditional pacing, since I'm distilling a lot of time, so I'm glad it's holding up for you.

onix needs capitalization!
Bless, thanks.

damn, bringing out the big guns. is it because he lipped off...
You want rocks, kid? Have some rocks!!

"limbs" seemed like an odd word choice here, since onix is notably limbless.
Agreed and changed.

haha, aw. the visual of a charmander hacking an onix into unconsciousness is very powerful.
Kana is very determined.

nooo don't give me a moon stone, i'll just use it to evolve my enemy's pokémon ahah
Checkov's moon stone.

hamako sort of reminds me of, well, hama, from ATLA (if that comparison means anything to you).
It does! And I definitely imagine her in water-bender blue. A tad less bloodthirsty than Hama, though.

i will say that lance felt a little aimless in these chapters—he's not even really going for badges, as evidenced by his interaction with muni. but the chapters are short and have other things going for them... just not a whole lot as (immediately) pertains to lance's personal arc imo, with the exception of the Feelings he gets about the departed dragons. not a problem, necessarily, as they're immediately followed by some pretty juicy chapters, but it is something that occurred to me while reading.
Yeah, "get strong" is a little nebulous of a goal for Lance. Mostly my excuse to write my love letter to Kanto's various towns.

lol, this one hit close to home.
do Florida beaches ever get that cold?

lance sees a little dragon where everyone else sees a dopey fish.
Really well put, yeah.

hmm, did you mean "flicked" here? i don't know if you can use "flecked" this way.
I did! Nice catch, thanks.

i wonder if she's being honest about this being a guess, or if she actually knew, given that she has a gyarados of her own.
She knows there's something there, but her gyarados have always kept mum about it. The onky reason Wataru gets shown the way is because Toku says it's okay, and she's a ryu.

imagine, a world before alarm clocks...
who needs alarm clocks when you have Very Good Snek with a very cold tongue?

lots of little hints about her identity here. this fic is a joy to reread, haha.
They were fun to drop in!

hah, hamako really does make misty feel like a pale imitation. starmie ain't got shit on gyarados
100%

I keep wanting to tease things from part two in response to this, ugh.
Fancy seeing you here!

Wow, haha. Imagine reading this months ago and never bothering to leave another comment. Couldn’t be me.
I treasured your chapter one review, and this one was worth the wait too!

I come now, however, bearing semi-respectable analysis and minor prose nitpicks. As one should.
Preach.

Wataru’s world has changed irrevocably but the world at large is ultimately indifferent.
That was definitely a vibe I was trying to invoke in this chapter, excited it came through.

Having read quite a few chapters ahead, both the modernization of Japan and the influence of foreigners feel like they play important thematic roles in the story.
Definitely. The roots of this story are in some very idiosyncratic questions I have about how exactly Kanto and Johto unified and my headcanons about how they relate to the rest of the world.

These are probably the only two lines in the five chapters I’ve read I’m not particularly keen on. Just seems a touch too on the nose.
Agreed, yeah.

This line confused me a little. The earlier phrasing, in which Ibuki disappears from view, made me think Wataru left. But then this line implied his uncle was still with him? Did he ride with them to the village border?
Oh, Ibuki is the one running off here! Everyone else stays where they were. Edited to clarify.

But Ibuki’s reaction feels more sincere while Airi is technically more at fault (despite no one really being at fault, including Wataru, imo)--but for Airi, this is all an adventure with a rather unfortunate ending. Wataru and Ibuki are the ones whose lives got upturned by everything that happened.
He's a sweet kid but he doesn't really get it, and how could he? His home is on the road, with his dad.

I’m not sure if Ibuki came up with it on her own, was prodded by Toku, or whatever, but it’s such a great character moment for Ibuki, showcasing both her cleverness and determination (and her bond with Wataru, to risk getting in huge trouble for him).
The powers of Ibuki and Toku combined are no small thing!

Technically the em dashes should be outside the quotations when dialogue is interrupted by an action. Like so:

“Well, the sea’s like”—Airi floundered like a landlocked koiking—“it’s like a big lake!”

Honestly, I didn’t know this until very recently myself. And it’s not a big deal, either. One of those nitpicky grammar rules that only comes up once in a blue moon. Source can be found Here.
Hah, bless, I am aware of this nitpicky rule and had actually noticed that it didn't fit a few days back and then forgot all about it. Thanks for the bump and for your devotion to the cause of proper em dash interruption punctuation.

I love all the straightforward comments characters make. Such as Airi describing the sea as a big lake, or Wataru not caring about dances in Ecruteak because there are no miniryu, or Mr. Inushi minimizing the importance of trains because they need tracks to go anywhere. All these statements are made as though they’re the most obvious things in the world, and then we, the audience, are like, well, yes, but actually, no.
The sea isn't a big lake??

Something I’ve come to notice in a lot of Pokemon fanfiction is the interplay between technology and nature. It’s probably one of my favorite themes, especially given Pokemon as a franchise was largely inspired by Tajiri’s love of bug collecting. On a meta-level, it’s kind of funny, given technology is what brought Pokemon to life and created such an impact on pop culture around the world.
Yeah, it's a reoccuring one for me. I think it's particularly implicated in the issue of modern pokeballs. To me, they radically change the relationship between humans and pokemon, and so that conflict between nature and technology is never far from the surface.

But it’s a delicate high wire to balance, and one mistake could cost him (?) dearly. It fits well into his backstory as a hafu, too: Wataru doesn’t quite fit into either world so tries to make the best of both.
Foot in two world is a big theme too.

I’ve mentioned this before, but kindness from strangers/near-strangers is one of my favorite things. This gave me so much serotonin like you don’t even understand. Also Wataru being all polite and respectful is adorable.
YES thank you. I like reading about people being kind and not entirely assholes. And I'm not fond of the bratty kid trope--Wataru is a lot of things, but he does try to remember his manners and treat other people with respect.

Wataru’s observations are all very fun, and were no doubt fun to come up with as well.
Birthdays are stupid.

Wataru deciding he’s older than he is, is such a childish detail. It’s easy to forget how young he really is sometimes. When they stated an actual date, it gave me this weird feeling, similar to how the old dex entries would reference real world things like China and elephants. I can’t think of the word for it at the moment, haha.
Yeah, when I was actually going to have to pin things down for this fic timewise I got very nervous and made a spreadsheet. It's definitely disorienting to see specific dates, because they tie things to our world. Maybe dates that have no relation to our current era would make it less so, idk.

Oh, gen I and II and your lack of true dragon types, you’re so silly.
Excuse you, charizard and gyarados are very good ryu.

They’re grounded but still somewhat choreographed, and Wataru mostly just gives minor suggestions and tips. I wonder if they’ll become more elaborate as his pokemon grow stronger.
I've tried to have the battles evolve as his experience grows, but I definitely am not one for super elaborate strategic stuff in narrative portrayals of pokemon battles. I feel like battles are very fast-paced and at the higher levels come down a lot of muscle-memory, experience, power, and trust.

You can tell Wataru means business when he starts sassing his elders.
100%

Seriously. Mr. Inushi and Airi don’t show up again as far as I’ve read, but they’re both really likable, memorable characters. You could probably write about them going on adventures with Fancy Toes and I’d eat it up. They make the setting feel alive and lived in.
I'm really fond of them, and it was sad for me to bid them fairwell.

Oak’s naturally inquisitive nature coupled with his desire to learn/teach causing friction creates a fascinating dynamic. We know he doesn't mean any harm, but they don't.
That's something I really enjoy with writing canon characters--you have a lot of fun opportunities for dramatic irony.

This is also good writing advice, haha.
Hah yeah, I was definitely feeling meta when I wrote that bit.

I like how you take Wataru’s original goal of becoming a master dragon tamer and expand it. By tying the goal to his returning home, it makes the goal feel much more urgent, much more important. And it gives him a reason to participate in the league. Great job synthesizing his external and internal struggles so beautifully.


Oak’s riddle sums up the concept of the bildungsroman quite nicely. Heh. And Wataru taking it literally, but still, in a way, finding the correct answer, shows how much growth he still needs to go through, but also how he’s headed in the right direction.
He's good on the external side of things, but a little oblivious of the internal. Strength and wisdom? Yes, strength!

I definitely wanted to find a nice poem for you, since you enjoy them so much. I thought this one fit really well:

Hark! through the quiet evening air, their song
Floats forth with wild sweet rhythm and glad refrain.
They sing the conquest of the spirit strong,
The soul that wrests the victory from pain;
The noble joys of manhood that belong
To comrades and to brothers. In their strain
Rustle of palms and Eastern streams one hears,
And the broad prairie melts in mist of tears.

--Last stanza of “In Exile” by Emma Lazarus
It's lovely and very fitting, thank you.
It's been 3000 years but here I am for chapter 2!
Hey Canis! Wasn't expecting to see you back, so this was an exciting one to see pop up in my inbox. Glad it's working for you so far, despite being outside of your preferred genre.

As someone who has been bullied too many times into ending questions with question marks regardless of tone of voice I will perpetuate the terror and also complain about it.
Hah! I will stand by this choice for now, though I think the 'always have a question mark' argument does have some merit.

It's only at the end of the sentence that we see it was the old man calling the charmander out rather than the charmander crying its own name, so it's very easy to mistake this for the latter until getting to that part. For some other line it'd be alright since charmander can't use actual words, but for this one I'd forgo this type of indirect dialogue tag.
That's easily fixed! And . . . done!

And as will forever echo in Wataru's mind now. What a horrid curse this man inflicts upon children.
lmao

hahahaha she is named chicken in my language
Omg. I mean, bird and reptiles aren't that distant. And Kana definitely has a bit of an indignant chicken vibe sometimes.

i guessed it i guessed it what do i win
congratulations you are more genre-savy than a twelve year-old

It's good to establish the motivation and goal of one's protagonist early on like this, and in such a concrete form, too.
I'm definitely a fan of making character motivations clear early--and then seeing how that motivations warps over time.

While the chapter was longer than what I usually like to read, it formed a good whole by itself, and clearly brought us somewhere different by the end.
Yeah, DD chapters are the odd one out in my fics--I'm ususally very happy in the 2-5K range. Glad it didn't drag for you. DD's conceit depends on character change from chapter to chapter.

Every time when this happens I just kind of wince at the weird implications and wonder why these smart animals don't take over or demand better rights, but I suppose that's the cross most trainerfic writers have to bear.
* sad the envy of eden sounds *

Will likely return for more in the future.
 

Flyg0n

Flygon connoisseur
Pronouns
She/her
Partners
  1. flygon
  2. swampert
  3. ho-oh
  4. crobat
  5. orbeetle
Very much good, definitely enjoyed. Happy to be reading this again. You're probably one of my fav authors, just because our styles tend to line up good I think. Your story and world choices are very appealing.

This chapter was good. It felt a bit summary-ish, but its not so bad, considering nothing really happened. I was a bit jarred however by the beginning, with Wataru just 'there' at Oak's lab. I feel like that section was glazed over when it could have been fun to open with a small 'scene' of some kind of interaction to build out the area a little? It felt like something somewhat important but the readers didn't get to see it.

I also found myself a little confused for the first half. I know from what I remember of the previous chapter, Wataru believes if he helps Tokou evolve, he can go home. So we know his goal. But I don't think the 'how of his goal was established? Perhaps it was (and I forgot), but I feel like another line somewhere early in the chapter would have helped. Something to show that Wataru is planning to travel and challenge the gyms specifically to get stronger.

My last criticism is Kana's evolution. It was at the perfect spot, but I feel like it drew zero reaction from Wataru. I didn't really feel quite like I was in Lance's head. This is probably the first time he's seen a pokemon evolve that's not a Kairyu. I would have expected a congratulations, a glimmer of hope, a reaction from Toku. After all, his whole goal is to evolve his Dratini fully.

Otherwise, solid chapter. Not my favorite, probably because it felt more like a lot was summarized, but sometimes these things are necessary. Onto some line by lines, for choice bits I enjoyed.

Wataru knew a miniryu would be
I'm curious why he thinks every Dratini/Miniryu would be unhappy. Is there something specific about the ranch that makes it inhospitable? Are the conditions subpar? Or maybe it feels too claustrophobic? This coupled with the fact that we kinda glazed over Wataru's time at the ranch, make this statement feel vague.

In the face of imminent fiery wrath, the professor had only sighed. "Say please."
Aww this was so cute! Kana has so much attitude and personality.

The next morning, he and Toku joined Kana in her morning salute. They stood together, and a warm breeze stirred Wataru's hair.
This was a sweet moment as well, just them, gazing at the sunset.

From the height of the poles, Wataru could tell this structure was meant to be tall enough for a large tree to grow comfortably inside.
I love this bit of prose. The choice to describe the building's size and height relative to something like a tree really adds to his personality.

Mr. Fiorelli.
*squints*
Veeerryyy suspect...

Kana seemed to find it good sport; the charmander shot off burst after burst of sizzling embers, letting out a triumphant yip every time her opponent retreated back between the oversized trees.
I'm really loving Kana

After all, it was common knowledge around town that the gym leader's pokemon were all native to Mt Moon.
This was around the time my goofy brain clicked and I remembered what Wataru was doing.

f my onix hadn't been there to hold off the collapse until we'd evacuated, I don't know if I'd be sitting here right now."
!! YES!!! +1 bonus points for pokemon helping humans.

Watching them was the way to learn, seeing how they moved, how they fought, what moves they resorted to when frightened.
I loved this detail, how Wataru learns by watching, not just by reading. Nice little detail.

Toku was already gathering water for a second attack. As she bore down, the graveler let out a surprisingly high shout, like the whine of metal on rock.

"Hold it, please," Muno called out. "I think Graveler's had enough, and I don't want it out of commission all day."
I liked this, the pokemon tapping out. the concept works really well for this world.

Toku was pressed close to the ground, her tongue flicking in and out. Fatigue.
For some reason, when I read this, the first thought in my head was 'What does a Miniryu's tongue look like?

As Kana stood triumphant atop her fallen foe, her tail flame doubled in size. It had grown brighter too, so bright it almost hurt to look at. The white light of the flame spread up Kana's tail, then through her whole body. When the light cleared, Kana stood taller, her claws sharper and her skull more pronounced. She scratched one new gleaming claw against her chest and let out a boastful yip.
HORRAY FOR KANA!!!

Periodically, she opened her mouth and watered the rocky ground with flaming embers.

I really like the choice of the word 'watered' here in contrast to spitting embers.

Good chapter, will read more. Enjoying greatly! I think I don't have much else criticisms. Prose was good, nice little character moments for pokemon, good Wataru moments.
 
  • Quag
Reactions: Pen

IFBench

Rescue Team Member
Location
Pokemon Paradise
Partners
  1. custom/chikorita-saltriv
  2. custom/bench-gen
  3. charmander
  4. snivy
  5. treecko
I'm finally here to leave a review, though only on chapter 1 for now.

First off, the chapter title! "The Miniryu Dancer" is an absolutely fantastic title for this chapter, showing what Wataru is for this chapter and this chapter only, since he's not really one anymore after being exiled.

Speaking of Wataru, I quite like his character! He's very ambitious, and also quite a bit of a troublemaker, but also very friendly and accepting. He's not very well liked by the other kids in the village, and he resents that, but he manages to put on a brave face despite that.

Toku is absolutely adorable and I love them. Smol dragon snek.

I quite like the decision to use the Japanese names for everything for Lance's perspective, but outsiders of the village like Airi use the English names. Really helps emphasize how different the culture is in the village compared to the rest of Johto as well as Kanto. It took me a bit to get used to it admittedly, but once I did, it really helped the story shine.

The description for things is absolutely wonderful. It's really vivid and clear, and really helps with visualizing the scenes in this fic. Things like the dances during the Ryu Odori and the sleeping Kairyu in the Dragon's Dance are really brought to life by your descriptive skills!

And the ending. Wataru made a really big mistake in showing Airi the Kairyu, and I can really feel his shame, fear, and shock as he learns that he is going to be exiled.

It's not my home anymore.

This line is absolutely heartbreaking. Excellent decision to end the chapter on this.

Overall, an excellent first chapter that establishes Wataru's backstory, personality, and desires, as well as a very interesting plot hook at the end. Very well done!

I'll try to review the rest later, and I look forward to reading more!
 
Ch 8: The Vigilante

Pen

the cat is mightier than the pen
Staff
Partners
  1. dratini
  2. custom/dratini-pen
  3. custom/dratini-pen2
The Vigilante

"In the leeeeft corner, we have Adamantius," boomed the loudspeaker.

The tyranitar stood twice Toku's height. When he stamped his foot, the stadium shook.

"And in the riiiiiiight corner we have The Dragonmaster, who still holds the title of undefeated in this rink. Will the wrath of a raaaging tyranitar be enough to topple him?"

Lance tugged his cape so that the fabric sat evenly over his shoulders, waiting for the ring that signaled the start of the battle. They usually drew the opening out five or even ten minutes, to get the crowd properly hyped. Overhead, Toku flew in lazy loops. Someone with binoculars might have noticed the reddish tinge clinging to her scales, but only a dragon master would have recognized what Toku was actually doing—opening herself to the speed and power of the ancient ryu.

The bell sang. The tyranitar raised his arms and three boulders jutted up from the stadium floor. They would have been easy enough to dodge, but dodging wasn't a crowd-pleaser here. Toku broke the first with her fist, the second with her tail; the third she caught in a massive twister and hurled back at the tyranitar. The stone broke against his jaw with a painful crack.

The hit was enough to send the tyranitar into a fury. A hyper-beam split from his mouth as he charged forward, half-cocked and badly aimed. The beam missed Toku by a foot, passed over Lance's head, and fizzled against the psychic barrier that shielded the crowd. One glance at the tyranitar's "trainer" confirmed Lance's suspicion. He was facing a wild tyranitar and someone stupid enough to stand in the stadium near him. Toku moved easily between the purple-black pulses the tyranitar was now spitting from his mouth. But the massive pokemon was drawing uncomfortably close to Lance's side of the stadium.

Time to end this.

"Trip it," he called to Toku. As the tyranitar surged forward, Toku's twister knocked him off his feet. The pokemon slammed down back-first, his tail cutting a crevice into the ground. The reverberations ran up Lance's legs, but he kept his footing—more than could be said for his opponent. "Dragon claw."

A claw of green dragon-fire sprang from Toku's fist. She caught the prone tyranitar under the chin with a blow that shuddered down his body.

"Finish with aqua tail."

The upward sweep of Toku's tail stole the moisture from the air. Lance took a breath, his mouth suddenly bone-dry, as a ten-foot whip of water extended from Toku's tail. The water hit the tyranitar's belly with a slap that rang through the stadium. The pokemon grunted once and then went limp.

The barriers muffled the cheers, but Lance could see the crowd rising. He signaled to Toku, who flew down so that he could climb on her back. Together they made a quick lap of the stadium. It was pleasant to feel wind in his hair; it was also a convenient way to avoid shaking his opponent's hand. By the time he landed, the stadium had been cleared of both tyranitar and "trainer."

Hideyoshi was waiting for him inside. The stadium-master was a slim man with a drooping mustache and a gold blazer that suited him about as much as gold glitter would suit a eucalyptus tree.

"Not bad," he said, staring at his watch. Hideyoshi made a habit of not looking people in the eye when he addressed them. "Could have drawn it out longer. Maybe feigned an injury. I'm beginning to have trouble getting decent odds against you."

Lance shrugged. He was thirsty from Toku's aqua tail attack and dealing with Hideyoshi was a pain even when he was hydrated. "That was a wild tyranitar."

"Of course it was. Why do you think I matched it against you?"

"You know I prefer to fight actual trainers."

"You know you're one of the only ones I have who doesn't lose their cool when some monster-beast goes rampaging. Listen, I'm doing a VIP event tonight. I want you there."

"No thanks," Lance said.

Hideyoshi directed a glare at the light fixture above Lance's head. "I've got some information you might want to hear. Concerning—" He drew an exaggerated R in the air.

Lance stiffened. "Fine."

"Excellent." The stadium-master brought his hands together. "5:00pm, on the penthouse floor. Oh, and wear the dratini."

Wear the dratini, like Kaisho was some kind of scarf?

Before an indignant rebuke could pass Lance's lips, Hideyoshi took off down the corridor, his suit glittering copper-green in the fluorescent light. Lance sighed, his fist unclenching at his side.

He didn't make the rules here and he knew it, but living with that wasn't easy. Hideyoshi's fight-hall existed in a world outside the Pokemon League's carefully structured tournaments. Some fights were normal, but others were staged, and others were like the one Lance had just participated in—trained pokemon set against the most vicious-looking wild pokemon Hideyoshi could get his hands on. Lance's lack of ID and badges—both sitting somewhere back in Rocket HQ—had barred him from League-certified tournaments. Hideyoshi's fight hall left a nasty itch in his throat, but the money was quick and Hideyoshi had connections, most of them with the criminal underworld.

"The Rockets are legal," Hideyoshi had told Lance when he first raised the topic. "They're legal 'cause they've got the pocket of everyone who matters, same as me."

The locker room was empty. Lance changed quickly, swapping his bright red outfit and cape for a jacket and loose pants. The cape, made of faux spinsilk, was a mockery of a kairyu cape. It was slippery, insubstantial, and already fraying at the hem. Every time he held it, Lance couldn't help but think of Ibuki's cloak, abandoned at the Team Rocket headquarters. His gut twisted sharply.

5:00pm. Enough time for a quick flight with Toku, if he hurried. Saffron City, in Lance's opinion, was best endured from the height of a ryu's back.

~*~​

Lance hated the VIP parties. They took place on the penthouse floor, where the carpet was lush and candles lent the room a shadowy light. Lance's apparent function at these gatherings was to stand like a miniryu in a tank, to be poked and prodded at. He made his way straight for the buffet and loaded his plate. Food generally made for the best defense against unwanted conversation.

"Here he is!" Hideyoshi's hand clapped Lance's back. Another man was with him—something about him struck Lance as vaguely familiar. He had an agile, handsome face, and wore his hair tied back in a high ponytail. His eyes were bright when they landed on Lance.

"I'm Jiro," he said. "A pleasure to meet you. I caught your battle today."

"Wasn't much of a battle." The words passed Lance's lips before he could stop them, but the man only chuckled.

"No it wasn't," he agreed. "But your dragonite was impressive, nonetheless. I'd like to see her tested against a real opponent."

Kaisho wriggled forward on Lance's neck to get a look at the stranger. As he did so, Jiro's tunic rippled, and a blue face peeked out. A miniryu's face.

Lance's eyes went wide. "How—"

The man frowned. He reached up and lifted the miniryu off his shoulder with one hand, expression shifting from confusion to understanding. "Oh, excuse Gigaku. She gets carried away when she meets a new face. Change back, will you, darling?" The miniryu let out a reluctant trill, her tail drooping. But when Jiro fixed her with a stern expression a pink blush spread across her scales. Her body seemed to soften like melting butter. When Lance blinked, in the place of a miniryu Jiro held a pink blob with a furtive expression. "Makes for quite the party trick," Jiro said. "Gigaku's a ditto. She can change her shape into anything she sees."

Even a kairyu? Lance wondered. But the ditto was small, and kairyu were quite big.

"I'd quite like to battle you and your dragonite," Jiro said suddenly. "The day after tomorrow I have time free in the evening, if that suits you." Behind the man, Hideyoshi shot Lance a meaningful look. So the information was contingent on this too? Not that Lance ever minded a fight. He nodded his head.

"Excellent." Jiro's smile was warm. He seemed on the verge of saying more, but a passing woman recognized him, and they swept off together, wrapped in low conversation.

Lance turned to Hideyoshi with crossed arms. He had an inkling that this was the reason he'd been made to attend the party. "Now the information," Lance hissed.

For once, Hideyoshi didn't mince words. "I heard on the grapevine that the Rockets have arranged a buy with J's people. Tomorrow night, 11pm, at warehouse thirty-seven. Sounds like a big one."

That was way more specific than any of the information Hideyoshi had slipped him in the past. Lance narrowed his eyes. "You want me to interfere."

Hideyoshi sniffed. "Those Rockets have been pricing me out. J's the best, but she's got standards. Cross her once, she won't deal, no matter how much money you offer."

"If I crash the sale, she won't sell to them again?"

"That's the idea. Not that I'd dream of suggesting you do that," Hideyoshi added, his gaze drifting up to the chandelier.

"Right." Lance rolled his eyes. He quickly downed the contents of his plate—mushrooms stuffed with some sort of buttery, tangy goo—and made for the exit. Tomorrow evening didn't leave him much time to prepare.

~*~
The red Rs caught in the half-moon light, moving through the darkness like the crests of hunting gyarados. The fall air was smoggy and humid tonight, and condensation lay thickly on Lance's neck. He straightened his back and raised his arm in a stiff salute.

"All clear inside," he said tonelessly.

A pause stretched out. Lance kept his eyes fixed on the pavement, waiting for his presence to be challenged and rolling his answer around in his mind. Proton got wind there might be trouble. He sent me ahead to make sure no ambush was being laid. But tonight, the posture and uniform were enough.

"Excellent," came a woman's voice. "Fall in, agent."

There were three of them, two women and a man. Ten pokeballs total between them. Lance swallowed as he took his place in the back. Hideyoshi had been right, this was a big sale. He'd only expected a single agent, two at most.

The woman at the rear of the group shot Lance a quick glance as he approached her. She was middle-aged, with nondescript features, but her sharp gaze prickled uncomfortably over his skin and then fell to his belt. Toku's apricorn ball. That wasn't standard issue. Had she noticed it?

Whatever the woman saw, she said nothing. They entered the warehouse in silence, their boots squeaking against the vinyl floor. The woman leading the group flicked her hand and a venomoth appeared.

"Give us some light."

Energy collected in the venomoth's wings, until the warehouse was bathed in a wavering silver glow. Lance glanced nervously up to the shelftops where Toku and Kana lay waiting, but the light didn't illuminate that far up. The group leader checked her watch.

"Eight minutes to eleven," she said. "Shouldn't be long now."

The waiting was almost unbearable. Lance thought he could catch the rumble of Toku's breathing, deeper and slower than human breaths. Could none of them hear it? The group leader was staring at her watch, the man was adjusting a clunky-looking instrument, and the woman at the rear was looking at Lance. He snuck a quick glance her way. No, he didn't know her, and there was no way she could know him. He'd taken pains to tuck every strand of red hair into his cap tonight. He fiddled with the glass ball in his pocket, and tried to ignore her scrutiny.

The rev of an engine outside made Lance start. The group-leader lifted her head as the door groaned open and two men stepped inside. They wore caps and nondescript gray clothing that blended with the shadows. Each of them held a large suitcase.

"Evening," said the first man, a head shorter than his companion. "You're busy people, I'm sure, so let's get to business. Show us the money."

"Show us the goods," the group-leader countered calmly.

The shorter man nodded. His companion set his suitcase down, unlatched it, and took a small step back. Inside, Lance counted eighteen pokeballs, slotted in a neat array. The man from the Rocket group came forward with his instrument—a scanner of some kind—and moved it over the pokeballs. Lance began to edge backwards, out of the circle of light.

"All correct," the man said at last, latching the suitcase and hefting it up in his hand.

Now, Lance thought. He drew the small glass ball from his pocket and lobbed it across the room. Every head turned at the sound of breaking glass. That was Toku's cue. A sudden wind gusted from the depths of the warehouse, knocking everyone to their feet except for Lance, who had already thrown himself to the ground. Kana dived out of the darkness. Before anyone could react, she'd swept up the two suitcases and returned to Lance's side.

The sellers were the first to react. The shorter man looked from Kana to Lance to the three other Rockets, and plainly decided he didn't like his odds.

"Fuckers," he hissed concisely, and bolted for the door, the other man at his heel. An engine revved and then silence fell for an instant, broken by the cacophony of ten pokeballs released in near simultaneity. Lance's quick glance caught a machoke, a weezing, and several golbat, before Kana expelled a curtain of fire. It surged over the venomoth and the silvery light sputtered out.

Kana's tail-flame was the only light left, making her and Lance clear targets. He grabbed a suitcase in either hand and lunged for the darkness of the shelves. Kana spun, flame flaring out as the golbat clustered around her. The eerie pitch of a supersonic attack split the air. As Kana clasped her hands over her ears, a second golbat bit down on her neck. Lance winced from where he stood nestled into the shelves. There was a roar and another gust whirled from the back of the warehouse. Toku swooped down, catching the machoke with a dragon claw and grounding the two golbat with a swipe of her tail.

Lance exhaled. Nine was a lot, but none of these agents knew anything about battling. Kana and Toku could take them—

Something cold and sharp came to rest against the back of Lance's neck. He went still.

"Sneee," a soft voice whispered, the menace unmistakable. A claw tapped against his right wrist. Lance opened his hand, and the suitcase hit the ground with a crash. A second tap. A second crash. "Sneasel!" the pokemon called out.

Lance stood absolutely still, his heart pounding in his head. Something about that voice . . .

"You've got him? Hey—listen-up, we've got your trainer!"

Kana let out a frustrated whine, and her dancing flames flickered out. Footsteps were coming closer. In a moment they'd find him, take the pokeballs back and take him too—

"Hunter?" he whispered. The blade lifted from his neck and he was flipped around. A wet nose snuffled over his face. "Hunter, it's you, isn't it?" Through the darkness he could make out the sneasel's unblinking gaze. "I'm so sorry, I didn't mean to leave you, I had no choice."

"Sneee—"

"I found the lights," someone shouted, and the world erupted in white. Hunter recoiled, and Lance was able to twist away.

"Toku, I'm fine!" he shouted. At once, another twister whipped through the warehouse, setting the shelves rattling. Lance hoisted up the two suitcases. Hunter hadn't moved. When Lance met her eyes, the sneasel jerked her claw.

Go.

Lance took off down the row of shelves. The bitter smell of smoke filled the air. He turned the corner, coughing. Were those footsteps? A red R loomed out of the smoke. As Lance spun around, a foot tripped him and he hit the ground. The Rocket bent over him, one hand pressing down on his back. Hot breath touched his ears.

"Listen to me. Tomorrow. 5:00am. Mr. Mime Ramen. Understand?" The pressure on his back built into something painful.

"Yes," Lance gasped out, entirely baffled. The pressure vanished. The smoke lay thick around. He stumbled to his feet as Toku emerged from between the shelves. "Let's go," Lance whispered. She blasted a hole in the nearest wall and rumbled. They broke into the damp air, Kana close behind.

Ten minutes' flight brought Lance to the door of his hostel. He could see Kana gritting her teeth as they tramped inside—the golbat's poison fang, probably. He treated her in his room with a store-bought antidote, glancing occasionally at the suitcases of pokeballs sitting on his bed as the adrenaline slowly fizzled away. He'd got them, but what was he supposed to do with them? Hideyoshi was probably hoping Lance would bring the pokemon to him. That wouldn't be any better than Team Rocket having them, though.

"Sorry," Lance murmured, as Kana flinched at the medicine-spray. "I didn't expect three people. I should have made a better plan."

As Kana snorted, Lance's hand moved up to rub the back of his own neck. And if that sneasel hadn't been Hunter, would he have gotten out at all?

Tomorrow. 5:00am. Mr. Mime Ramen. Do you understand?

Someone had helped him. They'd flipped the lights on and filled the room with smoke. Lance settled to sleep with his head resting against Kana's warm belly, the thought zizzing in his mind like hot oil hitting water. Someone had helped him.

Who?

~*~
Mr Mime's twenty-four hour ramen shack was all but deserted when Lance shuffled in at 5:05am, rubbing at his eyes. The restaurant was small—three booths on either side, and a counter squeezed in the back. A couple kissed in one, a construction worker bent over an enormous bowl in another, and a thin-faced girl sat in the last, sharing her soup with an equally bony meowth. None of them in any way resembled the Rockets from last night.

As Lance lingered in the threshold, a hand fell firmly on his shoulder. A middle-aged woman had entered the restaurant behind him. She gave Lance a tight smile as he turned to face her. He had a few inches on her, but the fact didn't reassure him.

"We'll take the back booth," she said.

A yawning teenager delivered their menus. Lance sat stiffly, his eyes fixed on the Rocket woman. She'd replaced her uniform with a shapeless gray shirt. Her hair was cut close to the scalp and her eyes were as watchful as they'd been the night before. When Lance didn't make a move to pick up his menu, she said, "You'll probably want the jumbo size after such an eventful evening."

The waitress circled back with a pot of tea. "You ready?"

"I'll have a Mr Mime special, regular size, magmar hot, with extra wood-ears," the woman said without looking at the menu. She waited a moment to see if Lance would chime in, then added, "He'll have a jumbo size Mr Mime special and a pecha ramune."

Lance sucked in a breath. He waited until the waiter had disappeared into the back to say in a low voice, "Who are you and why did you help me?"

The woman raised an eyebrow, the corner of her lip tugging downward. "I think the better question is who are you, and what is your business with Team Rocket?"

Lance kept his mouth clamped shut. He wasn't going to volunteer anything until he knew what was going on. After a moment, the woman let out a small sigh. "I go by Noriko. I'm working to bring Team Rocket to an end. There. Does that help?"

Lance's lips parted. "You—"

An enormous, steaming bowl of ramen thunked onto the table in front of him. Corn floated on the top, sprinkled with green scallions. A rich scent rose from the dark broth.

"Me too," Lance said, when the waiter had left. The words sounded nonsensical. "I mean, I'm also trying—"

"How old are you?" The woman's gaze had dropped to her ramen.

He lifted his chin. "Eighteen."

She lifted a wood-ear mushroom with her chopsticks, brought it to her mouth, and chewed. "Nice try, but I wasn't born yesterday. How old are you."

" . . . Sixteen."

"Sixteen," the woman repeated. "So I'll ask you again, what business do you have with Team Rocket?"

Lance took a sip of ramen to avoid answering. The hot broth scalded his tongue, and he reached hastily for the pecha soda. The sweet fizz of the liquid didn't help much, though. He set down the drink to find Noriko studying him, her expression unreadable.

"I joined," Lance said. The words were hard to get out. He lowered his eyes to the table, where someone had taken the trouble to carve natsume's a bitch into the plastic veneer. "Two years ago. I thought—that part doesn't matter. They need to be stopped."

"And you fancy you're the one to stop them?"

Her tone was mild, not mocking, but Lance still flinched. "I did last night," he bit out.

"Last night you nearly got yourself killed and nearly blew my cover bailing you out." Her eyes narrowed. "You still have those pokeballs?"

"Yes."

"You have plans for them?"

"No."

"Of course you don't. That's the problem with vigilantes. You make messes you don't know how to clean up."

A tense silence fell. Lance sipped at his ramen, but he felt more nauseous than hungry. Noriko slurped vigorously at her noodles.

"What else am I supposed to do?" he said finally. Kairyu masters had a duty, wherever the strong troubled the weak. He hasn't sworn it, not properly, but the duty had been his from the moment Toku evolved.

"Let the law handle this."

Lance looked up at her in disbelief. "The law doesn't handle it. Team Rocket bribes them!" He set down his spoon with a clatter. "No one is doing anything—"

Noriko held up one hand. "Don't get yourself overexcited, please. It's not correct to say that nobody is doing anything, since I'm a person and I'm doing something. Particularly since I am not just a person but a representative of a larger organization. Are you familiar with the G-Force?"

Lance shook his head and Noriko's expression soured.

"I'm not surprised. We've somewhat fallen from the peak of our glory. Centuries back, after the ninjas of Fuschia repelled the Hoennese invasion, an elite band was formed, comprising both ninjas and warriors from the main fiefs of Kanto. They were set under the direct command of the champion and their purpose was to root out threats to the entire nation. Times have changed since then. Grown more peaceful, though not more innocent. Now it's all we can do to prevent our office from getting cut out of the budget." Noriko shook her head and with that gesture seemed to reel herself back in. "The G-Force is aware of Team Rocket and we're handling it. What we don't need is sixteen-year-olds getting involved."

Something sour rose in Lance's mouth. An ursaring's paw cut down. He stood there, still. Useless.

"I'm involved already." Lance didn't think his voice had changed, but Noriko's head jerked up from her soup. "I'm involved, and I can help. You saw my pokemon. We can handle anything they throw at us."

"Kid, very few things that matter are won or lost in pokemon battles." Noriko raised her bowl to her mouth and sucked in the last of the broth. "I've got to get back. My shift starts soon. Listen, tomorrow's my off-day. Meet me here at 8:00am and I'll get you debriefed at the G-Force office. And bring those pokeballs."

She stuck down several bills on the table—enough to cover both their meals. When she'd left, Lance picked at his ramen, but he had no appetite. He pushed the bowl over to Kaisho and let the miniryu feast.

If there was an organization fighting Team Rocket, Lance had to join them. So what if he was sixteen? He'd joined Team Rocket when he was only fourteen.

He returned to the hostel and crawled into bed. When he woke it was early afternoon, and his mind felt heavy with mud. He found his feet turning towards the battle hall. Maybe training would clear his head.

~*~
When Lance entered the massive pool in the basement of Hideyoshi's battle-hall, he saw a woman drilling hydro-pumps with her vaporeon and a man timing his poliwhirl as it ran laps. Both of them cleared out quickly when Lance released Ibuki into the water. He felt bad about that, but not as bad as he should have.

Kaisho dived off his shoulder into the water. She trilled to Ibuki, who took up a watchful stance. Static crackled between Kaisho's fins. The bolt of electricity broke against the water churned up by Ibuki's tail. All Lance's pokemon had begun to take the miniryu a lot more seriously once he began to spit lightning with all the ease of Toku summoning a twister.

When Kaisho showed signs of tiring, Lance sent out Toku and Kana. The two ryu banded together; Ibuki and Kana exchanged begrudging looks and then flamed out in unison. Steam filled the air as the flamethrower met Toku's aqua tail. Lance started to call out commands, the hiss and flare of clashing attacks washing over him.

Ibuki had just let off a particularly fine hyper beam, when the sound of clapping made them all start. A man was watching from the doorway. The hot, steamy air stuck his turtleneck to his chest. A miniryu was draped around his shoulders.

The man from the party! Lance had completely forgotten about him. He dropped into a short bow and mumbled an apology.

"No need for that—you put on quite the show. Though if your dragonite still has energy, I'd like to hold you to the battle you promised me."

Lance caught Toku's harumph. This had only been a play fight. Of course she still had energy.

"Excellent. You might want to throw on a coat. The day's turned cold out there."

"We're going out?" Lance said in surprise. "But there's plenty of battling rooms free down here and there's nowhere to fight in the city—"

The man waved his hand. "I know a place. It's a bit of a walk, but you don't mind, do you? I think a battle in the open air is always preferable to an indoor fight."

Lance couldn't argue with that. He recalled his pokemon and threw on his jacket, following the man—Jiro, he recalled—outside. It was a typical Saffron day, sullen and overcast. Tendrils of wet fog hung thickly in the air and the scent of tar and smoke clung to every breath. Jiro wore a russet coat over his gold-yellow turtleneck. He walked at an easy amble, his scarf and pony-tail streaming back with the wind. Lance noticed gold studs glinting in his ears.

"Have you spent much time in Saffron?" he asked as they walked.

"Not too much."

"Well, what's your impression been of Kanto's capital?" Jiro turned as he spoke the question and laughed at whatever he saw on Lance's face. "Too gray and too dark?"

"And smelly and dirty."

"Fair enough, I suppose. Though I like the grays we get here. They come in different textures like different makes of cloth, and the sun's all the more brilliant when she chooses to show her face. Even the smell I don't mind. Sometimes I even miss it, when I'm out somewhere pastoral and perfect. The bitter tinge to the air . . ." He looked again at Lance. "No? Well, I suppose home is the one place you're allowed to be sentimental about. But I think you'll appreciate this spot I'm bringing you."

They were climbing upwards, Lance could tell, though their route wasn't straight. At first they'd followed a busy boulevard, but soon Jiro turned off, and from there they took smaller streets, until the pavement ended and the road beneath them turned pot-holed and white-gray. It curved up and around and, as they turned the bend, rose suddenly above the gray buildings into a broad hill, thick with vegetation and crowned with cotton-wood trees, their spade-shaped leaves flashing yellow as some late-afternoon sunlight penetrated the fog.

"Welcome to Fearow Hill," said Jiro, as Lance slowed to take in the sight. "Never let anyone tell you we don't have any wild places left in Saffron." He strode forward, his coat flaring out as a sharp gust of wind twisted by. A shriek rose from the hilltop and the air filled with red and russet. Fearows, Lance realized, more of them than he'd ever seen in one place. They made a circle above Jiro's head, then one dove downwards, beak-first. Lance cried out a warning, his hand falling to Toku's pokeball, but even as the kairyu took to the air, Lance saw Jiro was in no danger. The fearow's dive levelled out. The massive bird, whose crest reached Jiro's shoulder, folded its wings and allowed the man to work his fingers gently down its ruff.

As Lance and Toku neared, the fearow turned a suspicious gaze on them, but when Jiro murmured something to it, the bird looked away.

"I'm something of a regular, you see," Jiro told Lance. "Fearow are loyal pokemon. This is Asahi. I fed him bread-crumbs when we were both small, and now he's got a beak that could snap me in two." He tossed a pokeball into the air. "We're here, Kint."

A glossy persian materialized on the hill-side. She let out a short mewl as the wet fog hit her and at once began to groom her butter-cream coat.

"Darling, are you in the mood for a quick battle?" The persian raised her head to study Lance and Toku with blood-red eyes. The jewel on her forehead sparkled and flared, even though the sky was once again clouded. Her mew sounded dismissive to Lance, but Jiro plainly took it for agreement. They climbed about fifty more feet to where the hill levelled. From here, the whole city was visible, crests and ridges of building tops, upon which the smog lay like muddied snow. It was so different from the pure greens and blazing oranges of the Ryu's Gift. Lance wondered if he would have found it beautiful if some twist of fate had made this place his home.

He and Jiro stood about thirty-feet distant. The fearow had returned to their perches, but Lance could make out their red crests, scattered among the branches. Toku took to the air, looping into the broad somersaults of a kairyu dance.

Jiro's eyes narrowed as he traced Toku's movements.

"Power gem," he said softly. Gold light split from the gem on the persian's forehead. The ray was slim, but concentrated, and it clipped Toku across the foot before she could react. Where it had struck, the beam solidified into something hard and amber-colored. Toku sagged in the air as if a chain had been clapped around her ankle.

Jiro met Lance's eyes. "I hope that wasn't out of line. My impression was that the battle had already begun."

Lance shook his head, staring up at Toku. "You're right. We'd begun."

No one had worked out that Toku's opening dance was anything more than aerial show-boating before.

"Break that thing off with a dragon claw," Lance called up to Toku. He turned to watch the persian, who was sitting with her paws demurely crossed. Something about the way the red jewel on her forehead flickered, its red deepening, made him uneasy. But no attack came. Toku soared back into the air, unencumbered. "Use twister!"

The hilltop was already windy, but the gale that pushed from Toku's wings made the cotton-woods groan and the fearow shriek in protest. The wind carried away Jiro's command, but his persian extended her claws into the craggy ground and pressed herself flat. Jiro hadn't been pushed back either. Squinting, Lance made out a shimmering blue barrier in front of him, eggshell-thin, but powerful enough that not a hair moved on Jiro's head. The ditto must have created it.

Lance had been expecting the twister attack to throw the persian up into the air, where she would be vulnerable. Still—his gaze dipped to her dug-in claws. It would take her more than a few seconds to pull herself free.

"Get closer, and then use dragon claw," Lance called up to Toku. He doubted Jiro would be able to make out his words over the wind. Toku dove down, the twister attack unrelenting. At five feet, her fist sharpened into a green claw. The persian was still stuck fast in place. Perfect.

But when the blow connected, the persian's form dissolved. Lance blinked, but there was only white cotton fuzz on the breeze. Toku's antenna curled in confusion. She swung her head from side to side—

The lull in the wind carried Jiro's words to Lance with crisp precision. "Throat chop."

"Up!" Lance yelled, but it was too late. The air rippled by Toku's feet and a white shape sprung upwards, knocking Toku back against the dirt. The persian leaped onto Toph's belly and slashed across the tender scales beneath her chin. Toku howled. She thrashed against the ground, her wings fluttering.

"Twister!" Lance cried in panic.

Wind swirled weakly and then burst out, flinging the persian high into the air. Toku followed. She lunged forward with a dragon-claw, but the persian had pulled itself into a tight ball. Somersaulting, the persian countered Toku's attack with a gleaming iron tail.

A persian only had one tail, though. Toku had—

"Your other claw!'

The second hit struck the persian squarely against her side. She dropped through the air like a stone, out of sight where the hill sloped down. Toku descended slowly through the air. Closer, Lance could see that the persian's attack had scored pink lines across her throat.

"Do you want to stop?" Lance asked, but Toku shook her head, her gaze drifting to where the persian had fallen. "Careful," Lance called as she took off down the hill-side. "That persian is—"

Brilliant gold light flooded the hill-top. Lance shielded his face as it surged over him, seeming to come from everywhere at once. When he lowered his hand, the clearing seemed dark in contrast, like night had fallen in a moment.

Toku lay grounded. A hard, amber substance covered her wings and body, leaving only her neck clear. As she struggled, the persian slunk forward. She raised her right paw over Toku's neck, the claw extended.

"We concede." Lance managed to shape his suddenly dry mouth over the words.

Letting out a satisfied parrumph, the persian began to groom atop Toku's amber-encrusted body. Jiro crossed the hill-top and knelt next to his persian, scritching her near her whiskers.

"Flawless as always, Kint. But would you mind breaking this poor dragon out?"

With a huff, the persian brought down her tail against the stone. The crack was enough for Toku to free herself. The kairyu scratched a few shards of amber off her body and retreated to Lance's side, rumbling unhappily. The slash-marks had already scabbed over, but the dark pink lines left made Lance's stomach twist.

"Not many people can lay a hit on Kintsugi," Jiro said, examining the mottled bruise on the persian's side. The persian let out a hiss and nudged him away with her tail.

Jiro's impressed tone seemed entirely unwarranted to Lance. "We lost."

Jiro chuckled. "Of course you lost! If you'd won, they'd be calling you a member of the Elite Four." His grin widened at Lance's bemused expression. "What, you really didn't know who you were fighting?"

Mutely, Lance shook his head.

Jiro stood and made an elaborate bow. "Jiro of the Elite Four, at your service. I don't usually say that—everyone already knows and it sounds a bit gauche, I think." His persian snorted. "And Kint agrees."

Some levity left him as his eyes fell on Lance. "Seriously, you did well. Kint doesn't usually feel the need to end a battle with a claw to the throat—she only does that when her fur's been ruffled a little. You and your team have a lot of potential. The raw power's there, and your control's not bad at all. Tactics could use some refinement, of course. I'd be open to taking you on."

Lance was thinking about the persian's final attack. The light had only solidified once it touched Toku. If they countered with aqua tail before it reached her . . .

"Taking me on?" Lance repeated, his eyes drifting up in confusion.

"As an apprentice. Used to be fairly common practice, though it's fallen out of fashion a bit."

The Elite Four were the four strongest trainers in all Kanto, weren't they? Lance thought he should feel elated, but he just felt tired. Two suitcases of stolen pokeballs lay back on his hostel bed. Noriko's dismissive words rang through his mind. Very few things that matter are won or lost in pokemon battles.

"Can I think about it?"

Jiro's mouth crinkled into a smile. The wind stirred the tail of his coat. "Sure," he said. "Just don't think too long."

~*~
Lance's shoulder ached from holding the suitcase, but he didn't want to set it down. Mr Mime's ramen shack grew busier as the hour neared 8:00am. Lance thought he looked strange, standing off to the side, but nobody in line paid him any attention. He stared hard into the crowded avenue, craning his head left and right. For all that, though, he somehow missed Noriko's approach.

"Where's the other suitcase?" she said, after looking him up and down closely.

"I'll bring it next time."

Noriko's unamused grin told Lance she'd seen straight through that ploy. "There's not going to be a next time. Where's the other suitcase at?"

"My hostel. Room 308."

"I'll have someone retrieve it. Come on." Noriko took off at a brisk walk. Only fifteen minutes had passed before she stopped in front of a huge building. Nothing, to Lance's eyes, set it apart from the other gray buildings that lined the block. Inside, the foyer was small and funneled through a tall metal machine, watched over by a security guard.

Noriko nodded to the security guard and handed Lance a small plastic bin. "Put your pokeballs in here. Any other weapons too, if you have them." She and the security guard spoke in low voices for a moment. Lance saw her flash some kind of card. "All right, step through."

Noriko followed him a moment later.

"Pokeballs are restricted in this building to authorized personnel," she said. "They'll be kept here while we talk."

Lance twisted around. "What? No." His gaze leaped to the conveyor belt where his pokeballs sat.

"Those are the rules." Noriko spoke flatly. "This building is government property and we can't allow reckless teenagers with dragonites to do whatever they want in here. Look, your pokeballs will go in the central safe and you'll get a claim number." A small smile cracked her stern expression. "Nobody's going to steal your pokemon, if that's what you're worried about."

No. He didn't want Toku and Kana and Ibuki and Kaisho locked away anywhere. Especially Kaisho. "Can't my miniryu come with? You've seen him, he's small. He won't cause any trouble."

Noriko shook her head. "If you're really interested in joining the G-Force the first thing you need to understand is that rules are rules."

"Fine," Lance said at length. "But I want to see where you put them."

When they finally took the elevator up, Lance felt twitchy and horribly alone. Noriko led him into a cramped office. A jumbo-sized bag of leppa-pocky peaked out from under the caverns of paperwork on the desk. Noriko wheeled two chars into facing positions, stuck a device on the desk, and sat herself down, leg over knee.

"Let's start with the basics," she said. "What's your name? And give me your ID as well, I'll do a scan."

"I don't have any ID. It's with Team Rocket."

Noriko frowned. "I see. Well, thumb here, then." She pulled another machine out of a drawer and held it out to Lance. "Once your print is verified, we can get you set up with a new ID. Full name?"

Lance hesitated. He barely recalled the family name Mr Inushi had made up for him. "Fu-Fusube Wataru." If the family name sounded ridiculous, his own name didn't feel much better. It felt like a miniryu's old skin—something that didn't fit right. "I go by Lance now."

"Name changes are Department of Registry business, not mine. How did you get involved with Team Rocket?"

"I was working at the casino. In Celadon."

"The Grand Royale?" Noriko interjected sharply. When Lance nodded she said, "Yes, we're aware of them. Nothing to be done there. The casino industry's more thickly shielded than a cloyster in its shell."

She listened in silence as Lance went through the rest. He left out everything to do with Kaisho, though. He had a sneaking suspicion that if Noriko knew Archer had given him the miniryu, she'd try to confiscate him. He didn't say anything about Archer either. The omission hadn't been conscious at first, but as Lance spoke, he realized that he was avoiding the man's name.

Just then the whirring device on Noriko's desk cut out. The woman muttered a curse. "Damn penny-pinching—" She placed a finger to her temple and sighed. "All right, let's wrap this quickly. Did you happen to learn the real names of any Team Rocket members? Not code names."

Lance was about to shake his head when he hesitated. Hunter—the human Hunter, not the sneasel . . . he knew her real name, at least one of them. Hachi from Viridian. That would have been enough in the Ryu's Gift, but in Kanto's cities?

"No, just code-names," Lance said.

"Anything else I should know?" The note of finality in her tone made Lance stiffen.

"You should know that I can help! I've been doing a lot." Lance was going to list examples, but Noriko shook her head.

"Clearly, but what you've been doing isn't helpful. Take two nights ago. What did your actions achieve? We got back two suitcases of pokeballs before an illegal sale took place."

"And now that poacher J won't sell to them," Lance interrupted.

"Yes, but that's not the good thing you seem to think it is. A few more sales in, we could have brought in everyone at the meeting. Gotten a lead on J and Team Rocket at the same time. The poacher might not sell to Team Rocket anymore, but she's going to keep selling to other people, until she's brought to justice. Did you consider that?"

Numbly, Lance shook his head. He hadn't thought about that at all.

Noriko's tone softened a smidge. "I recognize you're trying to do the right thing here. But this work isn't easy. Eighteen's the youngest we let people join—I joined then, and I was a disaster for years, until I finally had my head set straight. Wait two years, make sure you really want to devote your life to this—you're a pretty serious trainer, aren't you? Pokemon can be powerful weapons, but on the G-Force it's more useful to be able to spot a ditto mask than to win an open fight. You probably don't even know what a ditto mask is—"

"I do." Something like relief washed over Lance; for the first time in this conversation, he felt like he was on solid ground. "Ditto are pokemon that change their shapes. Jiro has one who keeps imitating my miniryu. I bet I could work out the difference if I tried."

"What's a miniryu?" Noriko muttered. Then her eyes narrowed. "Jiro? You don't mean Jiro of the Elite Four?"

"Yes, but he doesn't say it like that because it sounds gauche."

"I'm sorry," Noriko said after a brief pause. "Are you saying you know him? Personally?"

"Sure," said Lance, raising his chin. She actually sounded impressed. "He wants me to be his apprentice."

Noriko opened her mouth and then closed it. She uncrossed her legs. Her words, when she spoke, were enunciated very precisely. "Jiro of the Elite Four wants you to be his apprentice."

Lance nodded. "I said I'd think about it," he added. "Because I'd rather join the G-Force."

Maybe that would show her he was serious about this.

Noriko said nothing for several seconds. "Kid, the ear of an Elite Four member is worth fifty successful stings. Look, you can't join officially at sixteen, but I should be able to get you in the system as an informant. Jiro floats through all the political circles. Stick with him, make some connections—when the budget comes around again, we can cash them in." She spoke with rising enthusiasm. "Get new agents and equipment that doesn't break. Move to a building where the goddamn ceiling doesn't leak." Her gaze fell back to Lance. "Come on, let's get you kitted up."

He blinked as she rose suddenly to her feet. When Lance remained sitting, she crossed her arms and spoke in an impatient voice. "Well, do you want to be a member of the G-Force or don't you?"

Lance shot up. "I do!"

"Then listen carefully . . ."

~*~
Noon had come and gone by the time Lance returned to the fight-hall. He found Hideyoshi in the private dining room, finishing off a pink and white confection. "Have you seen Jiro?"

"Not since the party," the stadium-master answered, looking up from his dessert. "Nice work, by the way. J's mad as a salamence. I can give you a fair price for those pokemon, you know. You'll have trouble re-selling them anywhere else—" Lance turned and headed out of the room. Hideyoshi called after him, "He's doing an exhibition battle this afternoon, over in the league stadium. My humble establishment's not good enough for an Elite Four member, apparently . . ."

The line was already around the block when Lance reached Saffron's main stadium. Excited chatter buzzed all around him.

"I hope Jiro uses his clefable. There's this one attack clefable do, where it's like they bring the moon down into the stadium. Everytime the cameras try to catch it they just white out."

"Nah, I want to see his ditto."

"What do you mean, see it? It would just look like Akane's pokemon. Boring."

"At least it's not Kikuko fighting. You can barely tell where her pokemon are half the time."

One of the girls in the group noticed Lance listening and said in a friendly voice, "What pokemon do you want to see today?"

"Uh," Lance said. The whole conversation felt surreal to him. "His persian is pretty strong?"

The line shuffled forward. By the time they'd reached the front, Lance had received the full run-down of Jiro's team and an in-depth evaluation of his fashion sense. The ticket was pricier than Lance would have liked, but he handed over the money, and found himself squeezed onto the bleachers at the top of an enormous stadium. Only the sudden din let him know that figures had walked out onto the battlefield—he could hardly make them out from where he was sitting. The enormous screens on either side of the stadium showed Jiro, wearing a slim-cut coat made out in russet and gold, and a young woman with hair that blazed brighter than Lance's.

"What a match-up we have today! Saffron's own Jiro of the Kanto Elite Four faces off against Johto's Champion Akane. They bring very different styles to the battlefield. Jiro is known for his flexibility, surprising move-pool, and imitative tricks. Akane is famous world-wide for her utterly bold fighting style."

"Indeed. I was there at the 1990 Silver Conference when her flareon tore through the largest steelix I'd ever laid eyes on with Flare Blitz, her signature move. A stunning sight."

"And the referee is checking in with each trainer. Both flash the ready sign. Looks like we're getting underway! Akane sends out Flareon, her ace, and Jiro his snorlax. That snorlax may not be winning awards for speed, but he's a tough customer to be sure, especially for a fire-type."

"Jiro opens with Belly Drumnot usual for him. That's more Akane's style, I'd say, though Saffron's Star excels at taking on and shedding different strategies. Oh mytalk about imitation! That was Flareon's CopycatAkane's setting up with Belly Drum as well. We're going to be looking at a swift and brutal battle with opening moves like that. An adrenaline-inducing ride from start to finish, I reckon."

"Akane seems set on transforming this stadium into a volcano, with that Lava Plume. People in the ring-side seats are certainly getting immersed in the heat of the battle, even with the screens up. . . Ah, looks like Jiro's managed to trap Flareon with a Rock Tomb. That won't last long at these temperaturesand indeed, Flareon breaks free with Flare Blitz, running head-long intosome kind of fighting-move, looks like."

"I think that was a Focus Punch, Maiko. Impressive, if so, to pull off that technique under those conditions. Still, that's the kind of skill we'd expect to see in a match like this."

"The aftermath of the collision looks inconclusive. Both pokemon are still standing. In the battle of pure endurance this has quickly become, in any other match-up I'd put my money on the snorlax, but I think everyone's learned that underestimating Champion Akane is a mistake."

"Now what was that? Jiro seems to have lured Akane into a repeat of their earlier collision, with his Snorlax pulling a Counter at the last minute!"

"Anyone else would be down for the count after a feint that brutal, but Flareon holds on with Endure and strikes back with a mind-boggling Superpower attack, lifting the snorlax and slamming it down, vulnerable to a Fire Spin."

"Flareon's on her last-legs, but can Snorlax break-out of that fiery vortex? Most fire-spins flicker out after a few seconds without fuel, but Champion Akane's have been known to last whole minutes."

"Oh my! Let's see if we can sort that out for the people watching at home. Jiro utilized Rock Tomb to quench the fire spin attack. Akane hit out with another Superpower and the two pokemon went down together. Neither's rising. I think we're looking at a draw."

"Yes, the ref's called it now! What a refreshingly heated battle. I get the sense that both trainers were trying out new techniques today. It's a true pleasure to witness the craft advanced on the battlefield itself."

Lance's mind was bursting with the after-images of the battle as he filed out. He'd never seen anything like it before. The cameras and commentary had only managed to convey so much—he wished he'd been down there, feeling the heat in the air, attuned to every strike and counter-strike.

A huge crowd was gathered outside. He caught Jiro's name and pressed on, though the people were packed so closely that moving forward was like trudging through shoulder-high snow. Finally, Lance caught sight of Jiro, flanked by a clefable as he signed pokeballs and exchanged words with the crowd. Getting closer was impossible, but Jiro's eyes landed on Lance as he looked out. Recognition flashed through them. Five minutes later, a man in a Pokemon League vest shouldered through the crowd, and told Lance to follow him.

He led Lance to a roomy, dark-windowed car. Between the driver's seat and the seats along the back, there was a raised cushion, white with shed hair. If Lance had wondered whose car this was, that left him with no doubt.

Ten minutes later, Jiro slid into the backseat. He smelled of smoke and sweat and when he threw off his coat, the shirt underneath was plastered to his chest. He was grinning as he turned to face Lance. "Did you like the battle?"

"It was brilliant," Lance answered honestly.

"Who do you think won?"

An odd question. Hadn't it been a draw?

Jiro read the confusion on Lance's face. "Technically a draw, but Akane could have swung it if she'd wanted to. You could drop a mountain on that flareon and it would still get up. Rule number one of exhibition matches—battles between Kanto and Johto always end in draws. It's just one of those things." His eyes narrowed. "I'm not getting ahead of myself, am I? You are here to become my apprentice, right?"

"Yes," Lance said hastily. He ducked his head in an awkward bow. "I'd be honored if you'd take me on, Master Jiro—"

Jiro grimaced. "Well, your first task as my apprentice is to never call me Master Jiro again. I'm not even thirty yet, but with a title like that I might as well be as old as Kikuko." He stared out the window for a moment. "Your second task is to cut all contact with Yoshioka Hideyoshi. That man's a piece of shit."

Lance blinked. "Yes, Mast—Jiro," he said with feeling.

"As for your third task—"Jiro's sudden scrutiny was intense enough that Lance almost lowered his eyes. "A haircut."

"A . . . haircut?"

"Yes, a haircut. What do you think?"

The smile crept up on Lance. "Fine by me."

When Jiro laughed, Lance found himself laughing too. The sound startled him, bright and sharp. As the car slid along the murky streets of Saffron, he found his breathing settling into a slow rhythm.

For the first time since his flight from Team Rocket, Lance didn't feel like running away.

~*~


Jiro.png
 
Last edited:

kyeugh

you gotta feel your lines
Staff
Location
the freaking swamp
Pronouns
she/her
Partners
  1. farfetchd-galar
  2. custom/gfetchd-kyeugh
  3. custom/onion-san
  4. farfetchd
2.1: the vigilante

wowowow, part 2!! i've been very much anticipating this chapter since i caught up with the fic not long before blitz, and it really delivered! i'm really impressed by how you drop us in a totally new situation so quickly and naturally. lance's situation has totally changed—he's doing battles for audiences now, working for hints he can leverage to get back at rocket however he can. even though lance is growing out of his new circumstances by the end of the chapter, i feel like i have a good idea of what he's been up to since part one left off. it's just really well-presented altogether, i thought. definitely taking notes there!

the worldbuilding really jumped out at me in this one, more than in any other chapter so far. it's really neat how the setting is somewhat familiar but (due to where it sits on the timeline) has its own cast of unique characters. the traditional vibe that permeated part one doesn't feel quite as strong here, though, i assume because lance is making his rounds in higher society now. it's interesting seeing the way things move in the shadows—rocket with its hands in everyone's pocket, and the g-force that moves subtly against them, receded even further into the background.

lot of battling in this chapter, too! i really enjoyed the first battle with the tyranitar, and i thought you did a good job depicting it as wild and out of control. the battle with jiro was cool too, and i super love the awesome setting, although i was sort of confused by the end. what was that move? are we supposed to know? i found the commentary format of the final battle interesting, although i found it a little difficult to really get into it—maybe that was the point? i think i would have liked to hear lance's sensory perception of the battle though, rather than just hearing a few details about it in recollection at the end.

the direction the plot is taking is intriguing. sort of reminds me of LC? i wouldn't have predicted it, but i'm curious to see what's up with the g-force. noriko seems like a strong character, and she's very grounded... hopefully we see more of her soon. lots of threads sort of beginning to coalesce here. lance's pokémon sort of took a backseat in this chapter—toku and hana are around, but only to a battling capacity, really. i expect we'll get up close and personal with them again as lance begins to train under jiro, who i should mention is a really fun character so far! he seems very earnest.

this is a really solid introduction to the story's new arc all things considered. fun new characters, some very good background/engaging exposition, and we're kicking off into the new story pretty much right away. really glad to see this fic back in action—looking forward to the next chapter!!

Overheard, Toku flew in lazy loops.
* overhead

The tyranitar raised his arms and three boulders jutted up from the stadium floor. They would have been easy enough to dodge, but dodging wasn't a crowd-pleaser here. Toku broke the first with her fist, the second with her tail; the third she caught in a massive twister and hurled back at the tyranitar. The stone broke against his jaw with a painful crack.
it says so much that toku's able to change her approach for the whims of the crowd. super cool.

A hyper-beam split from his mouth as he charged forward, half-cocked and badly aimed.
hmmm, any particular reason hyper beam is hyphenated here? is it a style thing?

A claw of green dragon-fire sprang from Toku's fist.
ah, the list of people who hc dragonfire as green grows... all according to keikaku.

The upward sweep of Toku's tail stole the moisture from the air. Lance took a breath, his mouth suddenly bone-dry, as a ten-foot whip of water extended from Toku's tail.
whoa. i love this interpretation of aqua tail, it feels so powerful. also love the detail of toku stealing lance's spit for her tail.

The stadium-master was a slim man with a drooping mustache and a gold blazer that suited him about as much as gold glitter would suit a eucalyptus tree.
um, so it suited him extremely? 😁

"You know you're one of the only ones I have who doesn't lose their cool when some monster-beast goes rampaging. Listen, I'm doing a VIP event tonight. I want you there."

"No thanks," Lance said.

Hideyoshi directed a glare at the light fixture above Lance's head. "I've got some information you might want to hear. Concerning—" He drew an exaggerated R in the air.

Lance stiffened. "Fine."

"Excellent." The stadium-master brought his hands together. "5:00pm, on the penthouse floor. Oh, and wear the dratini."
ooh, so much going on here. you pack a lot of information in here very efficiently. lance i guess works for a stadium now, he's doing very well, he's sort of achieved celebrity status, he's viewed by hideyoshi as an asset...?

Saffron City, in Lance's opinion, was best endured from the height of a ryu's back.
very nice use of "endured."

A pause stretched out. Lance kept his eyes fixed on the pavement, waiting for his presence to be challenged and rolling his answer around in his mind. Proton got wind there might be trouble. He sent me ahead to make sure no ambush was being laid. But tonight, the posture and uniform were enough.
damn, i'm kinda surprised they're not more alert to him—he was well-known by some of rocket's higher ups, wouldn't they have noticed his activites at the fight hall? and his hair is kind of a dead giveaway. maybe the grunts don't care enough to pay attention to stuff like that.

He'd taken pains to tuck every strand of red hair into his cap tonight.
ah, there you go.

"Hunter?" he whispered. The blade lifted from his neck and he was flipped around. A wet nose snuffled over his face. "Hunter, it's you, isn't it?" Through the darkness he could make out the sneasel's unblinking gaze. "I'm so sorry, I didn't mean to leave you, I had no choice."

"Sneee—"

"I found the lights," someone shouted, and the world erupted in white. Hunter recoiled, and Lance was able to twist away.

"Toku, I'm fine!" he shouted. At once, another twister whipped through the warehouse, setting the shelves rattling. Lance hoisted up the two suitcases. Hunter hadn't moved. When Lance met her eyes, the sneasel jerked her claw.

Go.
awwww. i wish she could come along. poor thing.

Her hair was cut close to the scalp and her eyes were as watchful as they'd been the night before.
huh, did he get a look at her face the night before?

Are you familiar with the G-Force?
don't tell me...
open-uri20150422-12561-axmtv6_aa430cc3.jpeg


He pushed the bowel over to Kaisho and let the miniryu feast.
* bowl 😳

Ibuki had just let off a particularly fine hyper beam,
hmm, i notice this isn't hypenated like it was before

Lance cried out a warning, his hand falling to Toku's pokeball, but even as the kairyu took to the air, Lance saw Jiro was in no danger. The fearow's dive levelled out. The massive bird, whose crest reached Jiro's shoulder, folded its wings and allowed the man to work his fingers gently down its ruff.
oh man. i'm a huge fearow stan, this is the shit i love

He tossed a pokeball into the air. "We're here, Kint."
!!!

She let out a short mewl as the wet fog hit her and at once began to groom her butter-cream coat.
i think buttercream is a single word

Toku's antenna curled in confusion.
omg omg omg

"Not many people can lay a hit on Kintsugi," Jiro said, examining the mottled bruise on the persian's side.
omg wait her name really is just "kintsugi" straight up. i love this

Mr Mime's ramen shack
should Ramen Shack be capitalized here? it sort of threw me for a loop that it wasn't, but maybe that's not actually the restaurant name...?

The enormous screens on either side of the stadium showed Jiro, wearing a slim-cut coat made out in russet and gold, and a young woman with hair that blazed brighter than Lance's.
this guy wears a lot of gold. i wonder if hideyoshi is trying to copy his fashion.

"... and indeed, Flareon breaks free with Flare Blitz, running head-long intosome kind of fighting-move, looks like."

"I think that was a Focus Punch, Maiko."
ooh, i really like the way that the attacks being used might not be obvious to spectators. i'd never thought of that before.

Jiro grimaced. "Well, your first task as my apprentice is to never call me Master Jiro again. I'm not even thirty yet, but with a title like that I might as well be as old as Kikuko." He stared out the window for a moment. "Your second task is to cut all contact with Yoshioka Hideyoshi. That man's a piece of shit."
omg holy shit i love jiro now

The sound startled him, bright and sharp.s the car slid along the murky streets of Saffron, he found his breathing settling into a slow rhythm.
i think you dropped a letter here.
 

WildBoots

Don’t underestimate seeds.
Pronouns
She/Her
Partners
  1. custom/moka-mark
  2. solrock
"In the leeeeft corner, we have Adamantius," boomed the loudspeaker.
Fuck yeah.

Lance tugged his cape so that the fabric sat evenly over his shoulders,
!! Fuck yeah!

but dodging wasn't a crowd-pleaser here.
👀 What a great way to justify how little dodging comes into play in-game.

passed over Lance's head, and fizzled against the psychic barrier that shielded the crowd.
Oh boy, so Lance is down in the stadium here, on the inside of the shields.

He was facing a wild tyranitar and someone stupid enough to stand in the stadium near him.
👀 Hiro would like to know your location except that he's super dead.

The upward sweep of Toku's tail stole the moisture from the air.
I love this explanation and how it has a lasting effect on Lance. Clearly, there are lots of reasons to draw the battle out here, but this is another good reason not to just aqua tail every rock.

It was pleasant to feel wind in his hair; it was also a convenient way to avoid shaking his opponent's hand.
Ha!! What a mood.

"Could have drawn it out longer. Maybe feigned an injury. I'm beginning to have trouble getting decent odds against you."
Really effective, punchy way to paint this relationship.

Concerning—" He drew an exaggerated R in the air.
Omg, I love this. He's not avoiding naming them because he's subtle--he's just a baby or a ham or both.

Oh, and wear the dratini."

Wear the dratini, like Kaisho was some kind of scarf?
(n)

Hideyoshi's fight-hall existed in a world outside the Pokemon League's carefully structured tournaments.
Oof. Lance, you sure do know how to pick the seediest places, don't you.

Lance's lack of ID and badges—both sitting somewhere back in Rocket HQ
RIP. Joke's on me for worrying him about not getting an official badge from Brock's dad. How about zero badges?

"The Rockets are legal," Hideyoshi had told Lance when he first raised the topic. "They're legal 'cause they've got the pocket of everyone who matters, same as me."
Comforting.

The cape, made of faux spinsilk, was a mockery of a kairyu cape. It was slippery, insubstantial, and already fraying at the hem.
:c Yeeeeah. You'll get the real deal when you hit level _, Lance. You haven't unlocked it yet.

Also, I can picture this so clearly. He's in circus dress-up.

Lance couldn't help but think of Ibuki's cloak, abandoned at the Team Rocket headquarters.
Oh NO. My feelings.

He made his way straight for the buffet and loaded his plate. Food generally made for the best defense against unwanted conversation.
Hahaha, MOOD, a sequel.

He had an agile, handsome face, and wore his hair tied back in a high ponytail.
HIM

Jiro's tunic rippled, and a blue face peeked out. A miniryu's face.
!

Change back, will you, darling?
AHA, that makes a lot of sense.

"I heard on the grapevine that the Rockets have arranged a buy with J's people. Tomorrow night, 11pm, at warehouse thirty-seven. Sounds like a big one."
I did think this was referring to Jiro and I was like holy shit, maximum suss for all.

condensation lay thickly on Lance's neck.
I wouldn't have thought of this detail, but it rings true for me. City air can lay so thickly.

But tonight, the posture and uniform were enough.
He's practicing for the big moment when he infiltrates Team Magma.

Toku's apricorn ball. That wasn't standard issue. Had she noticed it?
Oops.

These asides from him worked very well throughout the scene. They felt believable--he's not stupid, but neither is he fully prepared. And they illuminate the scene for us in a way that helped me follow the action very easily. I gobbled this up.

Lance thought he could catch the rumble of Toku's breathing, deeper and slower than human breaths. Could none of them hear it?
The tradition/tech divide is kinda working in his favor in moments like these. He knows Toku so well.

His companion set his suitcase down, unlatched it, and took a small step back. Inside, Lance counted eighteen pokeballs, slotted in a neat array.
This is such a 90's vibe, but in a way that really fits this pre-canon setting.

before Kana expelled a curtain of fire. It surged over the venomoth and the silvery light sputtered out.
Oh shit. A fight against Rockets in the dark sounds like a bad time.

Something cold and sharp came to rest against the back of Lance's neck. He went still.

"Sneee," a soft voice whispered, the menace unmistakable.
OMG, Chekov's sneasel is here.

"Sorry," Lance murmured, as Kana flinched at the medicine-spray. "I didn't expect three people. I should have made a better plan."
This reminds me so much of Little Gods Sara. I am smol, I did my best, but I just don't know enough. :c
Very pure and sweet, but also doesn't make it any less true that they're all in over their heads.

the thought zizzing in his mind like hot oil hitting water. Someone had helped him.
Mm nice.

magmar hot, with extra wood-ears,"
I like her style. Same.

Corn floated on the top, sprinkled with green scallions.
You love corn.
This sounds so good right now.

He lifted his chin. "Eighteen."

She lifted a wood-ear mushroom with her chopsticks, brought it to her mouth, and chewed. "Nice try, but I wasn't born yesterday. How old are you."

" . . . Sixteen."
Lance has one trick up his sleeve and it's lying about his age.

Lance took a sip of ramen to avoid answering. The hot broth scalded his tongue, and he reached hastily for the pecha soda. The sweet fizz of the liquid didn't help much, though.
So mature.

"Of course you don't. That's the problem with vigilantes. You make messes you don't know how to clean up."
OOF, wow, hi. Bookmarking this, thank you very much.

Kairyu masters had a duty, wherever the strong troubled the weak. He hasn't sworn it, not properly, but the duty had been his from the moment Toku evolved.
Oh man. He's exiled again in this moment, not just by the clan but by circumstance: his childhood is moving fast and blowing him around like a leaf in the wind.

Centuries back, after the ninjas of Fuschia repelled the Hoennese invasion,
Oh, hello, casual world-building. Nice, nice, nice.

Are you familiar with the G-Force?"
I'm actually not either, so you've got the benefit of not competing with any other mental images in my brain.

"Kid, very few things that matter are won or lost in pokemon battles."
I love how very accurate this is and how also this likely won't quite be true for Lance.

He pushed the bowl over to Kaisho and let the miniryu feast.
He's a growing boy!!

If there was an organization fighting Team Rocket, Lance had to join them.
Learning lessons about looking before we leap really well, I see.

Jiro wore a russet coat over his gold-yellow turtleneck.
Excellent colors. Same, Jiro, same.

"No? Well, I suppose home is the one place you're allowed to be sentimental about.
👀 Hello, themes. It'll be really interesting to see how Lance's attitude towards the city changes under Jiro's wing.

They were climbing upwards, Lance could tell, though their route wasn't straight.
Something tells me a lot of what's in this scene isn't straight.

"Never let anyone tell you we don't have any wild places left in Saffron."
Don't! Underestimate! Seeds!
I want to show Jiro around Philly, haha. This is such a MOOD!

He tossed a pokeball into the air. "We're here, Kint."
!!!!? Oh, not Lance's!

Lance wondered if he would have found it beautiful, if some twist of fate had made this place his home.
Putting a pin in this. I wonder how Lance's thoughts on this will evolve as he grows up.

Jiro met Lance's eyes. "I hope that wasn't out of line. My impression was that the battle had already begun."
Ooh, this is a lovely moment. Both genteel and also a verbal shove to the chest.

No one had worked out that Toku's opening dance was anything more than aerial show-boating before.
Lance is on a forever loop of dazzling everyone by knowing cool new thing and then being shocked when someone figures out how to trip him.

Squinting, Lance made out a shimmering blue barrier in front of him, eggshell-thin, but powerful enough that not a hair moved on Jiro's head. The ditto must have created it.
👀 Jiro knows what's up. What have you been up to, ol buddy ol pal?

Letting out a satisfied parrumph, the persian began to groom atop Toku's amber-encrusted body. Jiro crossed the hill-top and knelt next to his persian, scritching her near her whiskers.
"Mine."

What attack was this? Just curious.

"Of course you lost! If you'd won, they'd be calling you a member of the Elite Four."
Cackle.

Jiro stood and made an elaborate bow. "Jiro of the Elite Four, at your service.
Oh shit! Fun!! that does explain why he seems to have a lot of normal-types. Duh.

Tactics could use some refinement, of course. I'd be open to taking you on."
Jiro is a man who knows what he wants. Though ... HMMMM what's he trying to leverage from Lance? He seems like he's genuinely going to be a real help to Lance, but also he must want something from it, right?

Noriko's unamused grin told Lance she'd seen straight through that ploy. "There's not going to be a next time. Where's the other suitcase at?"

"My hostel. Room 308."

"I'll have someone retrieve it. Come on."
LOL Lance tried to play hardball, but he doesn't know the rules here.

"This building is government property and we can't allow reckless teenagers with dragonites to do whatever they want in here.
Pew pew.

"If you're really interested in joining the G-Force the first thing you need to understand is that rules are rules."
Yeah, historically, he's done so well following authority no matter what.

He didn't say anything about Archer either. The omission hadn't been conscious at first, but as Lance spoke, he realized that he was avoiding the man's name.
👀 He. Hurt. His. Feelings. But real-talk: seems like a guilt/self-blame thing? Doesn't want to admit how badly he was fooled, how hard he'd bought in?

Lance nodded. "I said I'd think about it," he added. "Because I'd rather join the G-Force."

Maybe that would show her he was serious about this.
Omg, such a kiddo.

You'll have trouble re-selling them anywhere else—" Lance turned and headed out of the room.
LOLLLLL

"I hope Jiro uses his clefable. There's this one attack clefable do, where it's like they bring the moon down into the stadium. Everytime the cameras try to catch it they just white out."
Talked up clefable real good here! Sounds cool and tough.

and an in-depth evaluation of his fashion sense.
Priorities.

I was there at the 1990 Silver Conference when her flareon tore through the largest steelix I'd ever laid eyes on with Flare Blitz, her signature move. A stunning sight."
Oh NO!!! Wow, two terrible realizations here: 1) she's headed for volcano death and 2) if this is mutually canon with MiB, that means there's no N here, which fucks my hopeful ship right the fuck up.

The commentary was really effective though. Inject it into my veins!

Lance's mind was bursting with the after-images of the battle as he filed out.
Ooh, nice turn of phrase here.

white with shed hair.
Hi, Jiro, I love you. Same.

Rule number one of exhibition matches—battles between Kanto and Johto always end in draws.
👀 Ooooooh.

I'm not even thirty yet, but with a title like that I might as well be as old as Kikuko."
Hahahaha, MOOD.

For the first time since his flight from Team Rocket, Lance didn't feel like running away.
Aww, Lance. A little moment of psychic reprieve ... which makes me think he's about to get FUCKED.

This did not feel like 10k. I could've plowed right ahead if there were more to be had, easily. The moments of tension here were effective, and especially the battles! I definitely felt like I could see where each trainer's head was at, and the pokemon felt like they were thinking and reacting organically, too.

Your love of detective stories is showing in some places! Not quite the same genre, but a lot of the trappings and character tropes are cropping up here. It's a nice vibe.

It's so clear that Lance is way out of his depth. He is managing to keep his head above water! He's not crashing and burning yet. But he also hasn't yet figured out how to translate dragons into social/political power--he's still someone else's pawn every step of the way. And most of it is just ... yeah, he's plucky AF and he's had some unusual life experiences, but he's still just a kid. He doesn't know enough about how things work to follow all the conclusions to their end points, to pull one over on someone, or to bend a situation to his will. Don't worry, Lance: I'm sure life will teach you all you need to know ... you'll just have to learn the hard way. He's already lost some things that hurt pretty badly. But it's really only the least of what he could lose.

And it's really creepy to think about what Gio might know and see at this stage. It seems like he's got pretty close tabs on Lance. 👀

I know you have law school or whatever, but I hope you'll continue to prioritize finishing this above all else and providing me with entertainment. What else would be more important??????

One final, very nitpicky note: I associate cottonwoods with riparian zones. Do they do hills? I'd have to check, but I did mentally flag it as I was reading. Most people probably wouldn't even think twice about it except me and maybe love, so I wouldn't exactly panic over it, especially since I could very well be incorrect.
 
  • Heart
Reactions: Pen

Pen

the cat is mightier than the pen
Staff
Partners
  1. dratini
  2. custom/dratini-pen
  3. custom/dratini-pen2
Review responses, some more belated than others!

Hey Tetra! Your ffn review was a surprise treat. That's one of my favorite chapters too.

I'm curious why he thinks every Dratini/Miniryu would be unhappy. Is there something specific about the ranch that makes it inhospitable? Are the conditions subpar? Or maybe it feels too claustrophobic? This coupled with the fact that we kinda glazed over Wataru's time at the ranch, make this statement feel vague.
For Wataru, ryu are just Different. Ryu live in the Ryu's Gift. That's a fact for him as incontestable as gravity.

On a non-POV note, miniryu are extremely finnicky about their conditions, and prefer to live in groups that contain hakuryu and kairyu. They also don't breed unless there are kairyu present.

Veeerryyy suspect...
Mr. Fiorelli is an upstanding gentleman and not in the least suspicious.

I liked this, the pokemon tapping out. the concept works really well for this world.
Yeah, most casual battles aren't going to unconsciousness, and a first-badge battle is a pretty low stakes event.

For some reason, when I read this, the first thought in my head was 'What does a Miniryu's tongue look like?
SNEK

Hey, @IFBench, thanks so much for stopping by! I really enjoyed your thoughts on Wataru's character--you picked up just the things I was going for with him. Ending on Wataru's realization that he doesn't have a home anymore was important to me, because it's in many ways the heart of this story. There's no literal isekai here, but from Wataru's perspective, that's almost what happens. He's thrown into a world he doesn't know, and there's no returning, at least, not without a price.

I'm glad to hear that having the Japanese names for pokemon in the Ryu's Gift and English names for the ones outside worked for you!

And of course, Toku is best snek.

Thanks again!

Ahhh, hello! I am responding a month later, but you were so quick on the draw with reviewing, the instant gratification was lovely.

i'm really impressed by how you drop us in a totally new situation so quickly and naturally.
Glad it flowed! It's always a bit nerve-wracking coming back in after a time skip, but I actually think it may be one of my favorite things to write. It's a self-contained challenge of what's changed and how can I show how it's changed.

it's really neat how the setting is somewhat familiar but (due to where it sits on the timeline) has its own cast of unique characters. the traditional vibe that permeated part one doesn't feel quite as strong here, though, i assume because lance is making his rounds in higher society now.
More of this to come, but a large part of this is geography. Saffron is the pumping heart of Kanto's modernization.

lot of battling in this chapter, too! i really enjoyed the first battle with the tyranitar, and i thought you did a good job depicting it as wild and out of control. the battle with jiro was cool too, and i super love the awesome setting, although i was sort of confused by the end. what was that move? are we supposed to know? i found the commentary format of the final battle interesting, although i found it a little difficult to really get into it—maybe that was the point? i think i would have liked to hear lance's sensory perception of the battle though, rather than just hearing a few details about it in recollection at the end.
I do not enjoy writing battles, and yet somehow this fic seems to have tons of them. Really glad the opening battle came off okay. I think I've read it so many times my eyes glaze over. The final move was power gem! My attempt to figure out what a special rock-type move even looks like.

The writerly answer re the last battle is that Lance is experiencing it from the bleachers, and so is cut off from sensory details. Honest answer is that I was pretty battle fatigued at this point. I do stand by the choice, though, since I wanted to underscore how different formal battles are. Lance has had basically only one formal battle (against Erika) in this whole fic.

the direction the plot is taking is intriguing. sort of reminds me of LC?
Huh. Because fighting Team Rocket, or other reasons? I've only read like seven chapters of LC, so I don't know much more than that.

hmmm, any particular reason hyper beam is hyphenated here? is it a style thing?
Ugh, something about hyper beam bothers me. hyperbeam, hyper-beam, hyper beam, they all look weird.

ah, the list of people who hc dragonfire as green grows... all according to keikaku.
I think Song of Ice and Fire gave me this one.

whoa. i love this interpretation of aqua tail, it feels so powerful. also love the detail of toku stealing lance's spit for her tail.
Aand pretty sure Avatar gave me this.

huh, did he get a look at her face the night before?
Yup, he noticed her noticing him.

i'm a huge fearow stan, this is the shit i love
A very good birb.

omg wait her name really is just "kintsugi" straight up. i love this
So. I thought of 'kintsugi' as a name for this character a while back, because it fit well. And then I asked Kint if it would be weird if a character had her name. That led to 'who is kintsugi' becoming an ongoing meme. It's been an interesting year.

ooh, i really like the way that the attacks being used might not be obvious to spectators. i'd never thought of that before.
Yeah! I think of the move names as formal descriptors that the organized battling community gives, especially as you get into more complex stuff. It's not going to be obvious to a normal watcher just what "move" is being used in an upper level fight, that's what commentators are for, in the same way they are for many advanced sports. I think about iceskating--I can watch a performance and be impressed, but the commentator is the one who can count the spins and explain just why what's happening is so impressive. That's how I see upper level competitive battling.

omg holy shit i love jiro now
Yay, I've been so excited to introduce him.

This was such a treat ❤️ Sounds like the themes I'm aiming for in part two are coming through loud and clear.

This did not feel like 10k. I could've plowed right ahead if there were more to be had, easily. The moments of tension here were effective, and especially the battles! I definitely felt like I could see where each trainer's head was at, and the pokemon felt like they were thinking and reacting organically, too.
Yay! I've reread this chapter so many times I'm sick of the battles, so it's nice to hear they worked.

Your love of detective stories is showing in some places! Not quite the same genre, but a lot of the trappings and character tropes are cropping up here. It's a nice vibe.
I see what you mean. I think it's more a noir/spy genre I was tapping on, but yeah, that's always been part of my love for Lance--he's a secret agent!!

But he also hasn't yet figured out how to translate dragons into social/political power--he's still someone else's pawn every step of the way.
Welcome to part two :wink:

One final, very nitpicky note: I associate cottonwoods with riparian zones. Do they do hills? I'd have to check, but I did mentally flag it as I was reading. Most people probably wouldn't even think twice about it except me and maybe love, so I wouldn't exactly panic over it, especially since I could very well be incorrect.
Ugh, you are so right. Alternate tree suggestions would be appreciated. Preferably something with some fluff.

Lance, you sure do know how to pick the seediest places, don't you.
It's a gift.

He's in circus dress-up.
yup 🙃

They felt believable--he's not stupid, but neither is he fully prepared.
Nice, that's the line I was hoping to strike.

OOF, wow, hi. Bookmarking this, thank you very much.
Hah, those parallel themes strike again.

Oh, hello, casual world-building. Nice, nice, nice.
More where this came from.

I'm actually not either, so you've got the benefit of not competing with any other mental images in my brain.
I've got a pretty blank slate. They're not depicted in canon, we just are told that Lance is a member. Also, I gender-neutered it--G-Force instead of G-Men.

I love how very accurate this is and how also this likely won't quite be true for Lance.
😁

Learning lessons about looking before we leap really well, I see.
Lance learns lessons so good.

Something tells me a lot of what's in this scene isn't straight.
God you killed me with this.

I want to show Jiro around Philly, haha. This is such a MOOD!
I feel like Jiro would really like Philly. He'd make a fun guest.

!!!!? Oh, not Lance's!
and lo, the question is answered.

Lance is on a forever loop of dazzling everyone by knowing cool new thing and then being shocked when someone figures out how to trip him.
Yeah, Lance does have this sort of inherent arrogance. He can set it aside pretty quickly when he's given a reason to, but he needs a reason.

What attack was this? Just curious.
Power gem! My answer to what a special rock-type move looks like. Definitely non-obvious, though.

Oh shit! Fun!! that does explain why he seems to have a lot of normal-types. Duh.
Jiro repping normal type trainers.

Though ... HMMMM what's he trying to leverage from Lance? He seems like he's genuinely going to be a real help to Lance, but also he must want something from it, right?
So suspicious, OSJ.

LOL Lance tried to play hardball, but he doesn't know the rules here.
This chapter in a nutshell.

He. Hurt. His. Feelings. But real-talk: seems like a guilt/self-blame thing? Doesn't want to admit how badly he was fooled, how hard he'd bought in?
Archer is a difficult subject for Lance. Made worse by the lack of closure or explanation. Archer went from being at the center of his world to being an enemy, and while Lance doesn't have much trouble denouncing Team Rocket in the abstract, Archer is more personal. And Lance is not super great with personal.

Oh NO!!! Wow, two terrible realizations here: 1) she's headed for volcano death and 2) if this is mutually canon with MiB, that means there's no N here, which fucks my hopeful ship right the fuck up.
So tickled you caught that. 1) Yes, it's the same Akane. 2) I neither confirm nor deny.
 
Ch 9: The Protege, Part One

Pen

the cat is mightier than the pen
Staff
Partners
  1. dratini
  2. custom/dratini-pen
  3. custom/dratini-pen2
The Protege, Part One
"Have you finished changing?"

Wet ocean air gusted in through the open window. Lance pushed back the clump of hair clinging to his forehead. The band of his hakama cut tightly into his stomach.

"Yes," he called back. There was a soft clatter of pokeballs, and then Jiro appeared behind him in the mirror, Kintsugi at his feet. A thick cord hung around his neck: six pokeballs dangled on one side, balanced by a netsuke carved into the shape of a persian, raising one ivory claw. He'd twisted his hair up into an elegant bun, and his gold haori flashed in the lamp light.

"Hm," he said, studying Lance. "I'm glad I thought to buy a little something for your hair." He opened a small container, and a bright, fruity scent filled the room. "Pomade from Kalos," Jiro said with satisfaction. His fingers moving in quick, sure strokes, he worked the sweet-smelling lotion into Lance's hair. "Better, isn't that?"

"Better," Lance whispered, when Jiro had finished. His hair lay smooth and stiff now. When he touched it, the texture of the hair felt strange. Below, his eyes watched him distrustfully in the mirror. Who are you? they seemed to ask. When a miniryu or hakuryu shed, they could see the evidence of the change left behind. People aren't like that, Lance thought suddenly. The silk fabric clung uncomfortably to his arms and chest.

"You're tense." Jiro sounded concerned. "What's the matter?"

"All this—"

When words failed him, Lance swung out his arm in a broad gesture that set the pokeballs corded around his neck clattering.

"Ah. Yes." Jiro's smile fell away. "I know."

Without meaning to, Lance turned and shot his mentor a doubtful look. In the months they'd spent together, he had never seen Jiro uncomfortable or at a loss for words. The man always had a smile on his face, a ready phrase on his lips. And he always moved like he knew exactly where he was going. Even now, as he crossed his arms, the gesture oozed grace.

"You don't believe me? But it's true. I wasn't born to all this." Jiro looked down. "And neither was Kintsugi." The persian's ears pricked up at the sound of her name. "In other parts of the world, meowth are treated like royalty, or so I've heard. Well, the only special treatment Kintsugi ever got was that they didn't bother knotting the bag too tightly when they dropped her in the trash. I found her curled up inside a broken flowerpot to keep off the rain. But she was a fighter. We won her pokeball in a bet against a kid who couldn't believe the nerve of us and couldn't believe it when he lost, either. Pure-bred growlithe to back-alley meowth."

Jiro smiled as he looked at Kintsugi, though the expression was slightly strained. He dropped into a crouch and began to scritch her chin. Lance dropped to his knees as well. It seemed more respectful.

"My first party," Jiro continued after a moment, in the same soft, strained voice, like he was making a confession. "Well, that was a disaster. I had no idea, no idea at all how to act. Imagine a ditto that had tried to transform based on a picture. I wore the brightest clothing I could find, draped Kintsugi in rhinestones. We must have looked a sight—really, it's a wonder no one laughed to my face, though I'm sure they all laughed behind my back." A grimace twisted Jiro's mouth, but only for a blink. "And now—" He spread out his arms as if to say, look at me. When he spoke again, his voice was edged with pride. "Don't worry. You're my protege, and nobody's going to laugh at you."

A thick silence fell. Before Lance could consider breaking it, the pidgey clock chimed, making both of them flinch. Kintsugi let out an irritated mewl. Jiro smiled, the humor back in his eyes.

"Well," he said, standing up and smoothing out a crease in his haori. "They'll laugh a little if we show up late. It's time we were on our way."

Outside, the clouds hung low and heavy. It wasn't yet 4:00, but the darkened sky made it seem as if evening had come early. Jiro hailed them a ponyta taxi. Staring out at the street, though, Lance wondered if walking would be faster. People streamed up and down Cerulean's crowded main boulevard, moving from shop to shop, and the taxi had to swerve every few feet to avoid a collision. Jiro made himself comfortable on the padded bench, unconcerned with their slow progress.

"These are a funny relic," he said conversationally, holding up his corded pokeballs. "From feudal times, when these kinds of formal occasions were fraught with danger, and no one wanted to turn up without protection. Parties aren't violent occasions anymore, of course—well, leaving aside that time Muno got in a fist-fight—but the custom has endured."

Lance tried to listen but found his attention drifting in and out.

"Jiro," he said hesitantly. "Do you know why she's stepping down?"

The question had loomed in Lance's mind like a storm cloud ever since Jiro had informed him exactly what ceremony they'd be attending tonight.

Jiro shrugged. "Hamako's got a stubborn streak an ocean wide, but she's got enough grace to bow to the inevitable."

"Was she injured, then? Or her pokemon?"

"Oh no, nothing like that." Outside, a large crowd forced the taxi to a standstill, and the driver swore loudly. "She's a perfectly capable trainer. Those gyarados could still win her a tourney or two if she had the inclination, but a gym leader has to do more than just win battles, you know, and Hamako—let's just say she hasn't been doing that. There was an incident a year or so back with a wild gyarados crashing the league president's speech—"

"That made a difference?" Lance interrupted, his heart suddenly thudding. The clip-clop of ponyta hooves on the cobblestone resumed.

"Weeeell," Jiro dragged out the word between his teeth. "It didn't exactly look great. Ah, here we are!"

The city square was coming into view. A stage had been set up before long rows of collapsible chairs. It all seemed slightly distorted, as if viewed through thick glass. As they climbed out of the taxi and drew closer, Lance realized the pavilion was covered in a protective barrier just like the one used in the battle halls.

"Can't have the occasion rained on," Jiro said, following Lance's gaze. "Not at a torch-passing ceremony."

An usher directed them to seats in the second row from the front. The woman to Jiro's right immediately turned to speak to him, but she had hardly opened her mouth when the ceremony began. Hamako stood at one side of the stage in a simple blue kimono and dark shawl. Three young women entered at the other end of the stage, striking in pinks and reds. A long series of introductions followed, until at last Hamako stepped up to the podium. Lance straightened in anticipation as she began to speak.

"People of Cerulean," she said hoarsely. "I am grateful to have been given the honor of serving as your Gym Leader for more than thirty years. In this role, I have tried my best to execute my duties faithfully; to remember my obligations to this community; to the people and pokemon that dwell here; and to the land and sea that we have been blessed with. I hope future generations will bear this blessing in mind, and shape their actions accordingly."

Lance's vigorous clapping rose above the polite applause around him. He lowered his hands to his lap, feeling like he'd made a misstep. Jiro shot him a quick, reassuring smile.

A torch was handed to Hamako. The younger women stepped forward.

"That's some of the actual sacred flame up there." Jiro leaned over to whisper in Lance's ear. "From Indigo Plateau. Ho-Oh's own flame, they say. Johto gifted it to Kanto centuries back, as part of the peace accord—the Compact of Flame."

The words Hamako spoke next were simple, but Lance felt the weight of them—old words, words that had been spoken over many years, by many mouths. "I am Hamako, Leader of Cerulean. This place has been entrusted to me, and I keep it. Now this place passes to you. Do you swear to keep it?

A pause stretched out as the three women attempted to work out how to all hold the torch at the same time. Jiro chuckled under his breath, and Hamako's lips tugged back sardonically. At last, all four of them gripped the torch. The crowd fell silent.

"I swear to keep it, safe from storms and foes," the women chanted together. "And may the flames consume me, if I have sworn false."

For a moment, the flame seemed to flare up, burning white-hot. But when Lance blinked, he saw only normal fire crackling atop the torch.

"And now, a few words from our newly-annointed Leader Sakura!"

The tallest of the women, wearing a kimono adorned with pink luvdisc, stepped forward. She had a pleasant, emphatic manner of speaking and at the end of each sentence tugged gently at her strangely golden hair.

"Thank you so much. And thank you to everyone who has come here today to join us in this torch-passing ceremony. I first want to say just how much respect I hold for Leader Hamako, who has been a well of strength for Cerulean City and an inspiration to so many water-type specialists over the years, and to me personally, as well as to my sisters." Hamako dipped her head in acknowledgement, as polite applause broke out. Her hair fell over her eyes, but she didn't bother to push it back. Lance was struck by the thought that she wanted to hide her expression. "I only hope my sisters and I can live up to her reputation as we transform the Cerulean Gym into a hub for art and performance. Let's work together to share the beauty of Cerulean City with the entire world!"

Applause roared out as she stepped back from the podium. Louder than they'd clapped for Hamako, Lance noticed, unsure what to make of it. There were a few more speeches, each longer and more boring than the next. He found his attention drifting, returning to Hamako, who stood with her hands clasped. Her hair covered most of her face, but Lance could see that her lips were tight and unsmiling.

"Now for the important part," Jiro murmured, as the ceremony concluded and the crowd began to stir. The rain was still holding off, but condensation hung thick in the air as they ducked into another taxi.

The party. Agent Noriko had been ecstatic when Lance told her about it at their last check-in. She'd pelted him with an impossibly long list of names and epithets, which he'd tried his best to memorize. He had an uneasy feeling not all of it had stuck.

"Is it all right if I let out Kaisho?" Lance asked aloud. He thought he'd feel a little less lost with the miniryu there on his shoulder.

Jiro nodded languidly. "Now remember, be polite, don't speak unless spoken to, and always smile. Everything you do in there is going to reflect on me." Jiro held Lance's gaze for a moment, his expression serious, before it dissolved into a wink as he added, "So don't do anything I wouldn't do, okay?"

Lance laughed and ducked his head, feeling more at ease. The taxi had pulled up in front of a tall, grand building. Wide doors opened into a wide lobby, and they took the broad, red-carpeted stairway upwards into a brightly-lit room, big enough to double as a battle stadium. An enormous fountain flowed in the center of the room, the stones styled into a leaping gyarados flanked by koiking and seaking. Waiters circulated with plates of single-bite foods.

They'd only gone a few steps inside when Jiro stiffened and whispered in Lance's ear, "You see the woman in purple?"

He was looking towards an elderly woman, with a beaky nose and hair like dull straw. She grasped a dark cane, the knob shaped like a gengar, but she didn't seem to need it for support. As Lance watched, she jabbed it forcefully into the air, emphasizing a point in her conversation.

"That's Champion Kikuko. Watch yourself around her. She—"

A voice rumbled, "Well now, I'd know that hair anywhere!"

Lance jerked around. He didn't recognize the burly man looming over him until he noticed the onix-shaped netsuke.

"Muno!" Jiro exclaimed. "Have you run across my protege before?"

"His little charmander knocked out one of my onix, if you can believe it!" Muno said. "Hey, how's that little char doing now?"

Lance smiled. "She's got wings now," he said proudly.

"Of course, of course. I'm sure she's a real terror if she's anything like what I've been dealing with. Jiro, you won't believe what these damn white-coats have done now—" Muno's head swiveled suddenly to the side and he cursed emphatically. "There's Saffron's mayor! I really need to have a word with that bast—ah, if you could excuse me, Jiro."

He marched into the crowd, a determined set to his chin.

"Poor man," Jiro said, watching him go. "He tends to approach delicate conversations like an onix trying to tunnel through hard rock. But he means well. Ah! Giovanni!"

The man coming towards them stuck out from the sea of haoris in his bright, double-breasted suit. He was tall and broad-shouldered, but navigated easily through the thick crowd. It wasn't so much that he was graceful, Lance noticed, as that people seemed to move out of his way.

"Your dragon-wielding protege, Jiro?" The man's voice was low and polished, burnished with a trace of something foreign. Before Jiro could answer, he spoke directly to Lance, eyes sharpening with scrutiny. "A pleasure. I've heard so much. Giovanni Fiorelli, Leader of the Viridian Gym."

Giovanni Fiorelli. Noriko had mentioned him. Gym leader and businessman, she had said. Highly influential. Not a man to cross.

"Viridian Gym?" Lance repeated. He had a distant memory of scaffolding towering over run-down huts. "Has the construction finished, then? The building must be huge."

"Perhaps you'll come and see for yourself," said Giovanni. "I hear you've been giving my other colleagues a hard time, though I seem to have been left out."

Lance faltered, unsure if that was a joke, or if the man had actually taken some kind of offense. He wasn't smiling, but his eyes glinted with dark amusement.

"He's saved the best for last, of course," Jiro interjected. "Now don't you dare go easy on him, Giovanni. I promise you, he's got what it takes to go up against your personal team."

"Go easy?" Giovanni said. He stared at Lance for a moment and then said sharply, "Would you go easy on me, young man?"

What kind of question was that? Lance met Giovanni's gaze squarely. "No."

"No. There you have it, Jiro. I try to practice reciprocality in my life." He gave them both a short, almost casual nod. "Would you excuse me for a moment? But I do expect to see you at my gym without further delay, young man."

Lance let out a breath as the man strode away. Jiro noticed and gave a chuckle. "He can be a bit imposing at first. A good man to befriend, though. And a very fine trainer. You won't find it an easy battle to win, though I think you can win it."

A politician introduced herself, and then another. There were far too many of them, in Lance's opinion. He did his best to keep track of the names, but after a while they began to blur together. He focused on smiling, even though his face felt stiff. Luckily, like with Hideyoshi's VIP parties, no one seemed to require him to actually say much. Jiro handled most of the conversation. He seemed to have a limitless store of minutiae about hobbies, children, and vacations to Kalos at his disposal.

When a break came in the string of people, Lance asked him how he kept track of it all. Jiro laughed. "Can a krabby learn metal claw?"

"Yes," Lance said, his eyes narrowing.

"What about a sandshrew?"

"No."

"Well, however do you keep track of all that? It's the same skill, you just have to make the effort."

Lance pondered that as Jiro fell into a longer conversation. Five minutes in, he waved Lance away with the command, "Go and mingle."

The party was in full swing now, and people had sorted into small clusters. Lance made for the balcony. The wetness in the air was tangible as he stepped outside, the moisture settling on his skin. Kaisho let out a pleased trill from his shoulder. The noise caught the attention of one of the men on the balcony. He broke away from his conversation and made his way over to Lance.

"Mizuno Sukejuro," he introduced himself. The name struck a faint chord. Mizuno sits at the head of the Appropriations Committee. They hold the purse strings. Impossible to get anything into the budget without his support. "Jiro's new protege, are you? What a peculiar little pokemon you have there. Can I hold it?"

"Him," Lance corrected reflexively. His lips were already shaping a refusal, when he hesitated. He had a feeling Agent Noriko would have told him to agree. "Are you okay with that, Kaisho?" he asked, a note of pleading slipping into his voice.

"Rii," Kaisho agreed, but without enthusiasm. Lance placed the miniryu gently into the politician's arms. The man ran a curious finger up his scales. Kaisho endured this until the finger moved on to the sensitive white of his fins. Then the miniryu whined and snaked up the man's arms to the back of his neck, out of the reach of any prodding fingers.

Mizuno let out a surprised huff of laughter. "A very peculiar little pokemon," he said again. "Ah, you better take it back. I'm no trainer, I'm afraid. Tried it briefly in my youth. That sandshrew wouldn't listen to a thing I said, just curled up in the sunlight and dozed. Ah, well. It takes all sorts to keep a country running."

Lance nodded, placing Kaisho back on his shoulder. "You decide who should get money, right sir?"

The man laughed again, though Lance hadn't been trying to be funny. "Charmingly put. I do indeed. Does that sort of thing interest you?"

Lance answered honestly before he could pause to consider if he should. "Not really. But—" His brow furrowed slightly as he tried to shape what he meant into words. "I know that it's important. Getting money and not getting money is like priorities, right? It's about what's worth doing and what's not."

That was why Noriko cared so much.

"Indeed. A solemn responsibility, for all of us who undertake it. I should get back to my colleagues, but it was a pleasure to make your acquaintance, young man."

When the politician had gone, Lance leaned over the railing, shutting his eyes. He felt wrung out and exhausted. All these new faces and names. The balcony was growing more crowded and feeling less like a refuge. Lance sucked in a breath and ducked back inside. Dry air and overlapping conversation surged over him. He found Jiro, impossible to miss in his bright gold haori, laughing and gesticulating with a solemn-looking woman whose dark hair fell past her waist. Suddenly she laughed and extended her hand. The two began to dance, even though there was no music.

Jiro seemed to be having a good time, and Lance didn't want to disturb him. Somewhat at a loss, his gaze trailed across the room. He noticed Giovanni, locked in close conversation with an older woman—Champion Kikuko, he realized after another moment. As if feeling his eyes on her back, she turned and directed an unblinking stare in his direction. It had the predatory, watchful quality of an arbok, and Lance shivered, remembering Jiro's warning. Giovanni turned as well, following her gaze. A smile tugged at his lips and he raised his glass as if making a toast.

Almost hidden against the back wall, Lance spotted Hamako. She was watching the crowd with her arms crossed. Her gyarados netsuke bobbed from side to side, its red eyes blazing furiously. A few people stopped by to speak with her, but each of them moved on after only a few words. Lance began to make his way over. Half-way, Hamako looked in his direction, and her eyes widened in recognition.

She looked older than he remembered, the lines sunk deeper into her face, but her voice hadn't lost any of its sharpness when she said, "Well, so we meet again. Are you going to congratulate me on my retirement? Going to tell me what an honor it is, to have the whole contingent turn up to usher me out?"

Lance stared at her. Slowly, he shook his head.

"No? Well, I appreciate that, I do." Hamako's gaze rose to the glittering, swirling crowd. "Damned bejeweled murkrows. I've endured this long enough. Time to make good my escape." She cocked an eyebrow at Lance. "Are you planning to stick around?"

Lance didn't need time to consider his answer. "No," he said emphatically. He'd done everything Jiro had asked him to do, and he'd even spoken to one of Noriko's prized politicians. That was plenty for one night.

Hamako led him to a side-door, through a corridor, and down a cramped stairway. A few waiters passed them, going up. When they emerged into the night air, Hamako set off at a brisk pace in the direction of the beach. Lance followed her, feeling uneasy. He didn't know how to break the silence that had fallen.

The beach was almost entirely deserted, and the few people that remained were hurriedly packing up their blankets. It wasn't hard to guess why. Thick, threatening clouds hung close to the ground, and the sea water moved restlessly. Lance looked back towards Cerulean City. The sky above the buildings was yellow, resembling an island of butter melting into the coming night. Kaisho snaked down Lance's back onto the sand. His tongue flicked out, tasting the air.

Hamako stood with her eyes closed and her head slightly upraised. "Storm's brewing. The fishing boats have all come in, and the tourists are scuttling back into their dens. Only fools and gyarados stay out on a night like this one." She opened her eyes, pinning Lance with her gaze. "Your gyarados has grown quite a bit, hasn't she?"

She knew. The certainty lodged like a biting pit in Lance's throat. Hamako must have recognized Ibuki that day on the beach.

"Master Hamako, I—"

A shrill cry cut him off. Kaisho!

The miniryu stood at the lip of the sea, fully uncoiled. His gaze was fixed on the darkened sky. As if answering his call, thunder cracked above. A lightning bolt split from the dark clouds. Lance started forward with a shout.

As the after-image of the lightning cleared, he saw Kaisho's head glowing white where the bolt had struck. The light spread down his body in a silver wave. Lance's steps slowed, and then stopped.

"Blessed." Hamako spoke in a hushed voice as she came up behind him. "Truly I am blessed, to twice bear witness to a dratini's evolution."

Oblivious to everything but the rising storm, Kaisho dipped and arced through the air. The deep blue of his back shone against the storm clouds. Thunder rumbled once more, and the hakuryu let out a pure, joyful trill.

A rain-caller, Lance realized in awe. Kaisho was a rain-caller.

A few droplets burst on Lance's upturned face. The downpour quickened. In a few seconds, he was soaked through.

"I'm a fool," Hamako said in a low voice. "If you are too, what do you say we have ourselves a proper battle?"

She jerked her head toward the open sea, where the waves were beginning to dance.

~*~​

Hamako rode out on the back of her seaking, flanked by two massive gyarados. Her hair, soaked a deep blue, clung to the back of her kimono. Lance took off on Toku's back, Kaisho soaring alongside them. The two ryu exchanged excited trills. Kaisho cartwheeled backwards into the air, each spin executed with new and sudden grace. Below, Ibuki cut through the waves, her crest like a determined helm.

The battle began by wordless agreement. "Dance!" Lance called out to Kaisho and Ibuki. On the sea, Hamako's mouth shaped the same word, though the wind dragged it from her lips. Her two gyarados began to circle.

A proper battle, Hamako had said. What followed was nothing like the practice battles Lance fought with Jiro. The wind stole the commands from his mouth and the water clogged his ears. Kaisho struck out with a wave of electricity, which Hamako's gyarados blocked with a shield of wind. The two spun together and sent up a whirling vortex, pulsing with green light.

As the battle progressed, the winds grew more intense. They didn't just come from the sky now. Wind wrapped around the gyarados and lifted them aloft. Lance remembered the old saying, the storm gives gyarados wings.

Hamako's gyarados were masters of sea and wind. But not lightning, Lance thought, raising his eyes to the swirling mouth of the sky. Kaisho only needed the opportunity. Maybe Lance could give it to him.

He shouted hoarsely over the wind and rain. "Kaisho. Fly with us and use protect. Ibuki, hyper-beam!"

White-yellow light bolted from Ibuki's mouth, ripping through the shield of wind and scattering the two gyarados left and right. Lance tightened his grip as Toku shot forward into the gap, Kaisho close behind. The roar of the rain cut out as a blue bubble shimmered up around them. The silence was more startling than the noise had been. Lance's ears felt scoured and raw. No water pounded his back. The gyarados hovered only feet away, one on either side. Their mouths roared furiously but soundlessly beyond the egg-shell barrier.

Lance's voice rang out absurdly clear in the silence. "When I say now, Kaisho, drop the protect and use thunder. Toku, when he does that, you have to drop like an anchor. We'll only have a few seconds to get clear."

Toku rumbled uneasily, but there was no way out now other than down. The sides of the barrier were bowing inwards, lashed by the wind.

"Now."

A roar, wetness, and then terrible, slicing wind. Lance clung to Toku's back as they plummeted down. Lightning flashed, painting white blossoms across the backs of his eyelids, and the smell of burnt flesh clogged his nose. Toku banked hard over the water. Waves leaped up, clapping Lance's feet. He lifted his head.

Above, Kaisho hung in the sky like a golden rod. Lightning coursed down his body; the gyarados were suspended in the air, their massive bodies twisting. The tableau stretched out longer than seemed possible. Lance found himself counting, to three and then to five. On six, all light seemed to vanish. The sun was gone and the storm-clouds hid all traces of the moon. There was a wet smack as the gyarados hit the sea.

It was over.

Two bright flashes arced through the night. Hamako's seaking was cutting back towards the beach. Toku followed, Lance slumping against her neck. The rain hadn't let up. It streamed down his neck, under his clothing, accumulated in his shoes. He was noticing the cold now. A gust of wind pirouetted by, and he shivered.

Kaisho and Ibuki beat them to the beach. Ibuki dragged herself onto the sand, her creamy underside facing the sky. Kaisho curled up on her belly. The rainwater glinted blue off his new scales.

The adrenaline that had zizzed through Lance's arms and legs during the battle was leaving him. His muscles felt leaden and at the same time terribly light, as if ready to evaporate up into the sky and join the chorus of falling water. When he swung off Toku's back, his knees buckled, and he nearly collapsed onto the sand. Hamako lay stretched out on the beach. She cracked an eye open.

"Fools and gyarados indeed. I haven't seen a ploy that foolish in thirty years."

But she was smiling.

The last exhilaration of battle fell away as Lance looked at her. He dropped to his knees on the wet sand, his head finally clear. He knew what he needed to say now.

"Master Hamako, I owe you an apology."

Her eyes had closed again. Several seconds passed before she spoke. "An apology? For what?"

"It's my fault that you—"

"You were behind that mischief with the gyarados, then." Hamako's expression was impossible to read. "Well, don't give yourself too much credit. It would have happened with or without that nonsense, though I daresay you sped things along." Lance dropped his head to the sand, dark gray and cratered with rain drops. "There's just one thing I want to know. Was that your idea, or somebody else's?"

Lance remembered sitting in a conference room, spinning idly in his chair as conversation streamed over him. Oblivious. He hadn't understood what was being planned and he hadn't tried to understand it. He should have tried. Why hadn't he tried?

"Not my idea," Lance said. He straightened his back and added, "but that doesn't excuse—"

One veined hand settled on his shoulder, the grip tight.

"I'm a gyarados trainer," Hamako said. The wind had hit a lull and Lance caught every hoarse word. "There aren't many of us. Why should that be so? Koiking swim everywhere, flourish in every clime and sea. But gyarados are considered wild, frightening, impossible to tame. People covet their power yet fear that power, so they turn instead to the few who train them, thinking that even if they cannot tame a gyarados, they can tame the tamer of a gyarados." Her mouth twisted. "It won't be any different for you and your dragons. They'll flock to you, as they once flocked to me, seeking to make use of that power for themselves, to manipulate and use you. I want you to promise me one thing, lad, one thing only. Do not allow yourself to be used."

Hamako's blue eyes blazed; her nails dug into his shoulder like talons.

"I promise," Lance whispered. He raised his voice. "I swear, Master Hamako."

She studied him for a moment. "Good," she said, releasing his shoulder and falling back once more on to the sand. The rain streamed over and around her like she was a piece of driftwood.

"Too damn old for this," she mumbled to herself. "Perhaps they were right to retire me. A battle like that used to leave my blood singing, but now all I want is a dry towel and a hot flask of sake. And the walk home is so dreadfully long."

Lance looked over to Toku. "We could fly you home," he offered. "If you want."

"Fly me? On the back of your lovely dragonite?" Hamako sat up, a beatific smile lighting her face. "You'd make an old woman who was once a young girl listening to tales of the dragonite very happy, lad."

She looked out at the purple-black sky.

"Yes," she added quietly. "Very happy indeed."

~*~​

Soaked silk clung to Lance's legs as he climbed the hotel steps. When he opened the door, the lights inside the room were blazing. Jiro waited on the couch, his persian's head nuzzled into his lap. As soon as he caught sight of Lance, he burst out laughing.

"Goodness," he said, taking in the bedraggled clothing, ripped in places and encrusted with sand in others, "Decided to take a swim, did you? And fight a gyarados while you were at it?"

"Two gyarados," Lance said under his breath, his eyes falling to the hem of his pants, where water was running down onto the carpet. He managed a lopsided bow. "I'm sorry about the clothes, Jiro. I promise I'll pay you back for them."

"Nonsense. Those clothes were a gift, yours to do what you wanted with them. If that means destroying them on your first night out, so be it." Jiro dislodged Kintsugi from his lap and crossed to the phone. The persian let out a short mewl of protest. "Yes, hello, I'd like a pot of genmaicha for room 234 and some hot towels." He laid the phone back down and frowned up at Lance. "What are you waiting for? Change out of those wet rags before you catch something."

When Lance emerged from the bathroom, Jiro had set two tea cups down on the table in front of the couch. He tossed a towel over to Lance, who wrapped it around his wet hair and curled up on the edge of the couch, lifting his knees to his chest. Kintsugi sniffed at him curiously and Lance gave the persian a small pat. He still stank of sea-water.

Jiro watched them with a smile. "So," he said, when Lance had taken a cautious sip of the hot tea. "Two gyarados, eh? Now I know where Hamako snuck off to."

The couch was wonderfully warm and solid. Kintsugi rested her head against Lance's feet. Her fur felt softer than silk against his bare skin.

"Just what possessed the two of you to have a water battle in a thunderstorm?" Lance opened his mouth, but Jiro was already waving a dismissive hand. "More importantly, did you win?"

"Yes," Lance said. A smile broke out on his face. "And Kaisho evolved!"

It already felt strange for Lance to picture Kaisho as anything but the beautiful creature who had lent his body to the lightning and sung with the storm.

"Wonderful," Jiro said, setting down his cup of tea. "And that wasn't your only victory tonight either. I got a lot of compliments over your behavior. Very dignified—now who said that? Erika, must have been." Jiro chuckled. "Perhaps she'd take that back if she could see you in those wet clothes."

A yawn split Lance's face before he could answer. The air in the room seemed very warm and the tea pooled in his stomach like sleepy lava. Jiro's words drifted into his ears as if from a long way off. The light of the room hurt his eyes. It was so bright. Not even the lightning flash had been that bright.

"Come on, protege," Jiro murmured. "You need to get some sleep."

Lance shuffled towards his bedroom. Heavy covers fell over him. The towel unwound gently, and his head flopped back against a mountain-ridge of pillows. The light receded and a soothing darkness surged up like surf. Lance slept.
 
Last edited:
Top Bottom