• 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 kunāne (oneshot)

kintsugi

golden scars
Pronouns
she/her/hers
Partner
silvally-grass
content warnings: implicit suicide, depression, language. PG-13.

Originally written for Bulbagarden's Summer 2019 Oneshot Contest, this is my interpretation of the theme "Undelivered Messages". Has since been revised.

two kids, their emotional baggage, and a lapras chase a myth into the bottom of the ocean. it goes about as well as you could expect.

⋆ ⋆ ⋆ ⋆ ⋆​

“Please, just let me rest.”

Rawi throws the blinds open, allowing sunlight to tumble in through the open window. “What are you, a zubat? Let’s get some light in here, yeesh!”

“Five more minutes?”

“Absolutely not. Time’s a wasting.”

I glance at my clock, groan, and bury my head in the pillows. “Some warning would’ve been nice.”

“Life’s all about cruel surprises.” He laughs, maybe at his own joke or the way that I shy away from the light when he pulls the pillows off of me. “Get out of bed, doofus. You’re going hiking today.”

“It’s not safe to hike alone.”

He’s already bustling around the room with an ease only born from familiarity, scooping up dirty shirts and socks before turning towards the laundry hamper. “I’m coming, of course,” he says, and has the gall to sound offended.

I’m still staring at him, blearily blinking the last remnants of sleep from my eyes before I try one more excuse: “It’s too late in the day; you’ll get hungry.”

“There’s bread and shit in the fridge. I’ll make sandwiches or something and then go on our hike.”

“I hate hikes.”

He pauses, and then: “You should get out more. Maybe seeing the sunlight will help you get a better poker face.”

There was a moment, right before I’d actually had to face daylight, that I could pretend that things were still soft and dark and quiet, but it’s gone an instant later as Rawi rips the blankets off of me. “Just leave me alone,” I groan.

“No can do. I promised I’d take care of you.”

His version of taking care of me involves talking my ear off until I reluctantly crawl out of bed. I know this. I understand this. This is what our family does.

“I’m not brushing your teeth for you, but you’d damn well better do that too.” His voice is muffled as he rummages around the closet for a clean pair of socks. “You know what they used to tell us—”

“Don’t break routine for anything,” I finish for him wearily. I know the drill. This was how we’d rammed ourselves through things when we were younger—by pretending to be tauros going seventy miles per hour down the path, blazing through anything. The instant you slowed down, all hell broke loose. When the dark days came, when getting out of bed was hard, this how we persisted—the small tasks had to be done, and then the bigger tasks, and eventually you could just endure through anything. “So why’d you drag me out of bed?”

“I just thought it was a beautiful day outside and you’d like to see it. I was thinking about finding Pounamu and taking another swim out on the cove, to our old spot. You’ve got folks coming in tomorrow and you’ll probably need to spend some time talking to them, so I wanted to knock this out early.”

Early?” My words are garbled by the toothbrush, but we’ve seen each other do worse. I glance out the freshly-opened window for emphasis. It’s almost noon.

“Yeah, I dunno if we’ll have much time to go visit our spot after this, and it’s already getting pretty late in the day.”

Let’s just go tomorrow, then,” I say at the exact same time I hear, “So I figured we could squeeze in a few hours before sunset and see the comfey bloom.”

I sigh.

Rawi looks at me sternly. “We’ve done this before. You and I both know you’ll actually be really excited once you get out there.”

“I know.”

“And you’ll hate yourself if you just sit around and waste today.”

“I know, Rawi.”

There’s an awkward silence that I don’t really know how to break, nor do I have the heart to. Rawi takes the opportunity to continue assembling our packs. I can’t help but watch as bottles of water disappear into the worn canvas alongside a flashlight and a battered compass.

“We don’t need the compass,” I mutter sullenly. This is our spot. We know the way by heart, and so does Pounamu.

“Don’t be so sure. You never know when we’re gonna lose ourselves.”

I roll my eyes; he always has a way of weaving something poetic into the most mundane of statements.

“Fine. Would it make you feel better if I instead told you that ninety percent of outdoor search and rescues are performed because day hikers don’t bring proper equipment?”

He’s smiling, a little, but for some reason I can’t. “Not in particular,” I mutter. Something about his statement is wrong; it doesn’t fit together, like a puzzle with five corner pieces. But—

But as he drags me by the wrist outside, both of our bags slung over one shoulder, I realize he’s right. I’ve forgotten how nice the sun is, how good the Alola breeze feels on your skin. It’s a thing that I hear a lot from tourists, the sort of thing that outsiders will never understand, how we’ve learned to take the land the Tapus gave us for granted. When you wake up each day and there’s a stunning sunrise to greet you, one that’s simultaneously just as beautiful as the one before and yet different in every way, you start to forget that there are other places in the world where you’d have to hike for miles to get even a glimpse of a clear sky, or where the thoughts of seeing the moonset beneath the summer stars would be nothing more than a dream washed out by city lights.

We’re the island’s children, after all, and sometimes children can lose sight of just how much family is supposed to—

The sound of waves brings me back as we thread our way down the trail to the beach. I hadn’t even remembered putting on shoes, but my hiking boots sink in the damp sand. The cove is beautiful at this time of year. The tide is low in the afternoon, so the shore is exposed far deeper than it normally is, like the rind of a cored fruit. And before us stretch the sands, washed clean of yesterday’s tracks.

I glance over my shoulder, seeing my footprints threading delicately across the sand, one carefully in front of the other. There’s something else wrong there, a train of thought that’s on the wrong tracks, twisting abruptly and morphing into a single set of footprints in the sand. But what?

“Come on!” Rawi shouts, and I turn back towards him, towards the sparkling ocean.

I miss the cove. When Rawi and I were kids, we would spend days on end out here. Crystal clear waters slowly faded to sapphire. Sky stretched across as far as you could see. Rocky cliffs were our proving grounds, who could jump further and bolder—but they gave way to soft, white sands worn smooth by the tides. As the sun set, around the golden hour, we could watch the cutiefly trickle across the coast, their legs covered with the pollen harvest from the afternoon. In the spring, the mudsdale would bring their young to the cliffs to teach them how to stomp; in the winter, lanturn and chinchou migrated to the warmer waters of the cove and filled it with twinkling lights. At night, we were far enough away from the world that you could stargaze with a naked eye, trace out the constellations with your fingers and chart your own meaning for guardians that were a billion years old.

But the most glorious game of all was—

“Pounamu!” Ahead of me, Rawi wades up to his knees in what I know must be frigid water, but he doesn’t flinch. His dark curls flutter in the wind. He cups his hands to his mouth and shouts again. “Pounamu!”

There’s nothing but the quiet waves for a second, and then the cove erupts in a spray of salty foam, droplets of water silhouetted against the afternoon sun. A brilliant blue shape carves out of the sea, arched neck rippling upward, like the crest of a wave. The gentle taper of a horn shakes the last flecks of sea from itself; tightly-curled ears nestle on either side of a gentle, intelligent face. With a triumphant bray, the lapras rises from the waters at Rawi’s side.

“Pounamu!” Rawi throws his arms around the beast’s grey-speckled neck, ignoring the way that the water makes the edges of his pajamas cling fiercely to his legs. His voice grows uncharacteristically quiet. “You’re back. I missed you.”

The lapras croons and lowers a head the size of a desk with unprecedented care. Brown eyes four times larger than mine close as he nuzzles gently against the top of Rawi’s head, which is almost engulfed the crook between Pounamu’s massive jaw and his scaled neck.

“Sorry, we’re back. You were here all along, weren’t you?” Rawi corrects himself quickly, in case the lapras would actually be offended. And he wraps his arms around Pounamu, whispering his own secrets into the lapras’s shimmering scales.

Pounamu was our anchor against the storm, the real reason we ventured out to the cove so often. Choppy seas and calm waters; the lapras could handle them both. I don’t remember who found him first; I just remember giddy and unadulterated joy as he breached over the waters, slowly at first, and then faster and faster, until we skimmed across the waves like an arrow aimed at the horizon. He taught me a lesson that nothing else could: there were giants in the world, creatures bigger and deeper than my limited understanding, but they could be gentle, and they could be good.

Later, I would learn that a lapras is so rare that a single sighting is said to be a miracle. Pounamu is undoubtedly the last of his kind in this cove. There are places for him to go, stormier seas for him to search for the rest of his kin, and yet he always manages to be here for a pair of kids who never fully understood what it meant to grow up.

Had he spent the whole time waiting for the day when we’d come back to him, because he could fill a void that nothing else could? Surely not. Something as beautiful as him couldn’t be so lonely that he could pour his heart out to others and expect nothing else in return.

I gently rest my hand on the edge of the lapras’s grey shell, the crevasses of the nobbled surface familiar to my smooth hands. I remember what it felt like to clamber up onto his back, hair blowing the breeze, adventure on the horizon. I can feel that excitement with me even now, diluted like tears in the sea, but still there. “Hi,” I whisper weakly. “I missed you too.”

You’d think that the lapras would pick favorites, and that he would pick Rawi (who wouldn’t?), but his bray is just as overjoyed when he hears me too. Enormous flippers churn the water to foam before he stills himself just long enough for me to climb on. And suddenly I feel ten feet taller and three feet shorter at the same time; we’re both kids again.

“To the horizon, Pounamu!” Rawi whoops, motioning through the air with his hand.

The lapras brays alongside his cry, and we surge forward into the sea. Cerulean flippers skim through the water, sending spirals and eddies all around us, and salty wind fills my nose.

“You okay?” Rawi is staring back at me, one hand on Pounamu’s neck for support, the other floating free in the wind. He’s perched precariously on the lapras’s side, one knee crooked, toes skimming the ocean. The flannel of his pajamas flap in the breeze.

I realize how I must look in comparison: knotted up in the center of Pounamu’s shell, knees tucked to my chest, knuckles white as they grasp one of the larger nobs on the lapras’s back. Wrapped up in thought, I’ve forgotten to see. I sigh and lay down across Pounamu’s back, feeling the way that his knobbly shell digs tiny dents into my spine, watching the clouds go by. “This is nice.”

“I didn’t want you to spend your day alone. Messes with the mind, you know.” He taps one finger to his temple and, eyes twinkling, gives me that knowing smile that I’ve come to hate so much.

I fold my arms across my chest. “I’m not alone.”

“Oh, please. I don’t count.”

“You should.” I glower at him, but he doesn’t back down, so I reach out for Pounamu. The lapras is there like a lifeline, a pillar of support basking on the waves. “And besides, I have Pounamu.”

Rawi’s eyes twinkle a little. “You could talk to people, too.”

“I do.”

“It’s been a while.”

“They’ve been busy.”

“You could bug them more.”

“I’ll do better next time.”

That’s a lesson I learned from him, back when we were kids and scraping our knees on concrete and riding our bikes into the neighbor’s miltank—into being somewhat the operative word there. Bad was bad, but you could always do better, and better was the best you could ask for.

“Well.” Rawi shifts his weight. I don’t look up at him, but I can hear the bags rustling. These are the sounds I know by heart: the faint purr of his backpack’s zipper opening, the whisper of rushing water, the faint roar as the handheld propane heater begins boiling. “I’m making hot chocolate.”

“I don’t want any.” My mouth is suddenly dry, though, and I’m not sure why.

“I brought okolehao.”

The alcohol’s name is like a magic spell. “Give. Now.”

There’s a warm mug in my hands, and Rawi tosses the flask into my lap. “Save some for me.” There’s a way that his voice tilts there that almost catches my attention.

“You put too much hot chocolate in here,” I mutter instead as I try to top myself off.

“You sound like that’s an accident.” Rawi catches the flask lazily when I throw it back at him in frustration. “You know, this stuff will kill you one day. Judging by how much of your stash was in the recycling, I’d say that you’re drinking more than you should.”

“Message in a bottle, if you just know where to look.”

He frowns. “This isn’t what they mean when they say ‘spirits help us’—”

I feel my mood sour despite the day. “You aren’t even old enough to drink, let alone regret drinking it.”

Rawi huffs dramatically, but he’s smiling. “This is what I get for trying to do you a favor.”

That’s what always made us different. Rawiri, whose full name means ‘beloved’, always loved helping people. He loved making them happy. And he made jokes and mocked himself and sometimes didn’t let me see, but he stopped living for himself and started living for everyone else a long time ago. Maybe that was what undid us in the end.

“Sometimes I think I’m doing this wrong,” I say aloud, before I can reel the words in. It’s good to talk, I tell myself. It’s good to get things off of your chest, and if not for Rawi, than for whom?

“What do you mean?”

“We’re in the middle of our cove, waiting for the sunset and daydrinking. I have to go to work soon.”

“You’ve got the week off.” Rawi helpfully supplements information that I’ve already forgotten. “And honestly, most people would kill to spend a day like this.”

“Right.” Pause. “I’ve been laying in bed all week, and the strangest thing is that I feel like that’s what I’ve been doing for months now.” Another pause. That’s the flaw we have, so consistent in our family that it may as well be carved in our genes. We don’t like admitting when we’re wrong, even if being wrong doesn’t mean doing the wrong thing. It hurts to say out loud when I finally admit, “I think I’m depressed.”

“You aren’t.” He’s firm, again, as if what I’ve said is equal parts unlikely and hurtful to him.

“I am.” He doesn’t know. I’m the older one. I did this long before he did. I remember what it feels like to be lonely, to want to quit, to try to quit. I never told him. We were stony about those kinds of things, even when we were playing pirates on the back of a lapras who returned for no reason than because he could.

“Don’t be.” Rawi’s response is so preposterous that I nearly burst out into laughter right then, until Rawi continues, “Depressed people don’t get out of bed or feed themselves or go outside.” He gestures to the scene around us, as if it’ll prove his point and assuage my feelings instantly.

He doesn’t, of course. I don’t respond.

“Please.” Rawi pauses. “Don’t be. I don’t want you to hurt like that.”

We all want things, Rawi, I almost tell him, but I can’t quite make myself break him like that. “Thanks, Rawi,” I say instead. “It’s been so long since I could just do something like this.” I rest my head against Pounamu’s rubbery neck, smiling at the way the breeze tickles my hair.

Rawi stops when I say that. I see the slouch return back into his shoulders, the same one I carry, so forgettable that it’s practically written into our family’s genes. He sighs. “How long was it this time?”

“This time?”

He stares at me, his eyes level. “You and I both know that this isn’t the first time.”

There’s an edge in his voice that makes me stop for a moment, and I start backpedaling. “I don’t know exactly—”

He sees straight through my bullshit. He always has. “I bet you do.”

I don’t meet his eyes.

“How many days have you lost?” His voice is suddenly colored with anger, uncharacteristic of him. There’s a hint of a fire burning in his core just visible in his pupils.

“I don’t know…”

“How many people have you not talked to, how many sunrises have you not seen, how many ideas have you not had, how many paths of your life have you wasted because you’ve been curled up in your bed all day? How—”

Five!” I shout back, and then cover my mouth. The sound is far too loud for the quiet day. I can hear the waves lapping against Pounamu’s fins. “Five days,” I whisper again. It hurts to say out loud at last. “And you’re absolutely right. I should’ve done something with them.”

His anger fades almost as quickly as it came on. “Don’t feel so bad about yourself. Five days isn’t the end of the world.” Warning slips back in; his face contorts with the memory of buried pain. “As long as you don’t let it go on for too long, okay?”

“You can’t stop me,” I mutter darkly.

“I never could.”

He sounded sad, and he was sad, but he was also right. Not just because ignoring each other was what family does best. Not just because Rawi’s heart of gold was too soft, too malleable, to pierce through my steel curtain. No. It was worse than that, something I’d spent a lot of wasted sunrises and sunsets avoiding, but you couldn’t keep things buried forever.

“You’re dead,” I say, sounding out the words on my lips and hating myself for it.

“Yup.”

“There was an avalanche on Mount Lanakila.”

“It is the season for it, yeah.”

“You were there.”

“Mmhmm.”

“You didn’t survive.”

“Stupid of me, right?” He shrugs carelessly.

“You’ve been dead for nearly a week.”

I don’t like that phrase either.

“Five days, actually.” His voice is surprisingly matter-of-fact. “But you knew that.”

“The funeral is tomorrow. That’s why you wanted me to see the comfey. That’s why everyone’s coming in town.” Logistics are starting to crash in like waves, all the things I should’ve spent the past five days gathering. I will need to speak to the caretakers at Hau’oli. I will need a lei. I will need to organize music—

“Yeah. You should probably clean up. Or don’t, really. I doubt they’ll expect picturesque perfection from you this time.”

But most of all, I will need Rawi. I close lean into Pounamu’s neck and close my eyes, but I can’t drown out his voice. “You’re dead.”

“Mmhmm, that hasn’t changed last I checked.”

“But you made me sandwiches. You brought Pounamu here. You’re talking to me.”

“That was all you, actually. I’ve always told you that you’re stronger than you give yourself credit for.” He almost sounds regretful this time, but I don’t think he’s as hung up on the discontinuity as I am. He’s focused on other things, as always, eyes set on new horizons, for messages written in the skies by myths we’ll never see. “But I figured I’d come along. I thought it would help, honestly.”

“It doesn’t.” Honestly.

We drift on the water for a while. I lean back and dip one hand in the water, letting it trail off Pounamu’s side, and listen to the sound of the wave’s lapping against the lapras. It hurts to swallow around the lump in the back of my throat. I should’ve realized that there was only one set of footprints threading through the sandy beach, that Pounamu only has space for one.

I remember completing the island challenge and confiding in Rawi that the thing that scared me the most was the lack of goals. There were no more trial captains to pit myself at, no more totem pokémon to study and overcome, that there was no more sense of a timeline, of the world’s expectations weighing on me, of being someone else’s pride. There was a blank road ahead, full of empty days with no target, and the only person who could fill it was you.

It’s here, though, hugging the briny shell on Pounamu’s back, that I realize how wrong I’d been. Deadlines were everywhere now. You had to go climb out to that island sometime soon because one day your body would start to fail you and you wouldn’t be able to make the hike. You had to write down that great idea because one day your mind and creativity would get snuffed out. You had to revel in every day with Rawi, the real Rawi, because one day—

“You were depressed,” I say aloud, mind switching gears so fast I can feel my thoughts getting roadburn.

“I mean, that’s not a surprise to either of us.” Rawi smiles weakly.

It was a surprise to me, a little. But I’m not laughing. I sit bolt upright, feeling the cold realization leaking across Pounamu’s reassuring presence. “You said that depressed people don’t get out of bed, don’t feed themselves, don’t go outside. But you did all of that.”

“Oh.” I imagine the way his face contorts as the logical fallacy unfold between us. “Hmmmm. Interesting.”

There’s a long pause.

“Rawi?”

He doesn’t answer me.

“Rawi.”

He’s deep in thought, face knurled in a fierce frown, and even as he sits across from me on the lapras’s back, he’s both too real and not real enough. “Huh. You’re right; I did say and do all of that. What does that mean for us, then? For you?”

It hurts. It hurts to think about. “Rawi,” I beg.

He chews on his lip like he’s trying to digest it, and then he looks at me with a newfound expression of pain on his face. He knows just as well as I do what it means. “Well. Fuck.”

⋆ ⋆ ⋆ ⋆ ⋆​

Two days after his funeral, Rawi drags me out of bed again.

“Come on,” he says, tugging at my hand. “You’re not gonna want to miss this.”

“You’re dead, Rawi.”

But Rawi never let things as trivial as that slow him down. “There’s supposed to be this crazy legendary pokémon on the sea tonight,” he’s chattering. He feels so real when he pulls at my hand, spouting facts and lore that he’d spent his whole life poring over, that I’ll spent my whole life shying away from. “It’s this crazy little djinn from a far away world. Can you imagine a sea made of sand? They say that Hoopa can travel through all kinds of dimensions in the blink of an eye, and it’s going to appear—”

“Rawi.” I don’t know how to tell him. I don’t know how to tell me. “You died.”

“That was last week,” he says patiently, as if explaining things to a small child. “And I got bored, see? And you looked like you were pretty bored yourself, lying in bed all day, and the Hoopa sighting was on the news.” He’s poking my shoulder; the covers don’t move. “C’mon.”

“Rawi, we buried you.”

“It was a very nice funeral. I liked your speech.”

I want to throw something at him, but I know he’s not even there. He’s not even there. He’s not there. Right?

“I’m sorry,” his voice says softly. “I didn’t mean to make you upset.”

“We buried you.” Pause. “I cried.”

But I know his response even before he says it, because he’s as much a part of me as he’s always been.

“And?” he asks, the same old smile painted across his face. “Please. You know me. I’m full of life. Like a little dirt would stop me.”

But it does. It does. It does, and we both know it, but neither of us want it to—

In Alola the word for ‘hello’ and ‘goodbye’ and ‘love’ is the same. As a child that had made perfect sense to me, until I learned about the trichotomy that had evolved in languages across the sea, but now, with Rawi in front of me, I understand why our people smudged all three words, and specifically those three words, together like the oranges and blues of a sunset.

There are a thousand dimensions where Rawi is alive and well, but I’m living in the only one where he isn’t. “Okay.” I sit up. “You’re right. Let’s go see this Hoopa.”

On the day of the funeral, I realized something: Rawi had always been the youngest kid in our generation. The darling; the last one to do things.

It’s stupid. As stupid as trying to reverse the clock, maybe even stupider than that. But I want him here. I am too old to be the youngest.

This is how I end up on Pounamu’s back again, clutching tightly to the lapras’s neck like a lifeline. I can hear Rawi behind me when I close my eyes, and I can see him when I open them. The silhouettes of his toothy smile are sharp against the setting sun.

This is good. This has to be good, right? I smile back at him. “Where would you ask Hoopa to take you?”

His head quirks to one side; it’s too real; I turn away. “That’s an interesting question. Where would I want to be except here, with you?”

There’s something wrong here, something I can’t put my finger on. It’s like trying to squeeze a handful of sand in your fist; it all trickles away back into the beach. Normally I’m the one with my head wrapped up in metaphors like this, trying to attribute meaning to a cycle of random patterns; Rawi’s the kind of person who chases them just because they’re there.

Rawi started his island trial early and ended it late. He could’ve been done in a fraction of the time, a trainer of prodigious skill—he’d met and befriended Pounamu, one of the rarest species in Alola, by the time he was six—but he’d taken his time, sussing out Alola’s secrets. Even now, as I’m trying to untangle the image of his peaceful face enshrined in funerary lei with his wind-tossed, lopsided grin here, as he’s dragging me on a sidequest, I know he’s dead, but it feels so in-character for him to wrench me out of bed to chase a rumor.

There was a fire inside of him that sent him rocketing into the unknown at the earliest opportunity, the kind of fire that made it impossible to be happy standing still. When asked where in the world he wanted to be, Rawi would say anywhere except

Rawi chatters past my confusion. “I met this old hiker on Melemele who said he’d heard of Hoopa, once. He said that Hoopa once snuck into a castle and vanished away everything inside. There was another bit about djinn that granted wishes, and a peasant and a princess and an arcanine, and one about a king and his talonflame, and a captured queen who knew one thousand stories…”

“A thousand?”

“Right?” Rawi mistakes my disbelief for awe. “I like to think that maybe she was Hoopa all along, if she knew so many stories. Because what is a fantasy except briefly being allowed to go to another dimension, to tell a tale of what you saw there?”

As I try to digest, there’s no sound for a moment except Pounamu’s fins cutting through the water. There are two realities stretching out before us. One in which Rawi gets to chatter in my ear night after night, telling me a new story until the end of time; and one in which his voice goes unheard because—

“Tell me about the avalanche.” My knuckles are white on Pounamu’s shell.

For the first time today, Rawi flinches back. The smile fades. “Can we not?” he asks. “It’s embarrassing, you know? Star of our generation makes a careless mistake that every ten year-old gets warned against and dies of exposure. Stupid me. I should’ve known better.”

“Stupid you.” I repeat his words quietly, but I can’t make myself believe the lie we’re telling me.

He’s smiling, shaking his head, silent.

The wind picks up a little, and what were once clear skies are suddenly blotched all over with gray.

Pounamu brays in alarm at the onset of the sudden storm, but I can’t do anything but wrap my arms tighter around his neck. “But you did know better, didn’t you?”

The past week has been an exercise in all the signs I’ve been ignoring, all the messages that the world has sent me in warning that I’ve been trying to ignore. Like the hula lessons when we were kids: we danced around it at the funeral; we danced around it at the cove; we’re dancing around it here.

Rawi, my sweet, smiling, sad Rawi, left all of his pokémon in town and climbed Mount Lanakila. Alone, without supplies, in the middle of avalanche season.

“You were never planning on coming down, were you?”

The crystalline seas have turned dark. Pounamu brays in alarm. The storm either came out of nowhere or has been growing all this time, while I was oblivious; I don’t remember which. But now there’s no more ignoring the buffeting wind, the sudden sheets of sea foam. Pounamu banks hard to the right as a wave threatens to overturn us, and icy water drenches through my clothes and fills my nostrils.

“This must be it!” Rawi shouts above the growing storm, his voice as cheerful as ever. “This must be Hoopa!”

I squint against the spray of the storm. Dark clouds blot out the sky, and the waves around us are already ten feet high. We need to turn back. Pounamu screams again; there are some waves that are too high even for him.

Something is bubbling out of the depths. Tendrils of water swirl around it, lifting it ever-higher in the vortex streaked with soaked seaweed. Tiny bubbles of kelp pepper its surface, and the shelled wreck crests above, barnacles crusted across its glassy shell that it keeps firmly, firmly clamped down, refusing to let anyone see.

Another wave washes over the three of us, and I hold as tightly to Pounamu as I can as gallons and gallons of seawater drench me to the bone.

“I just wanted you to be happy,” Rawi’s saying in my ear, voice impossibly clear despite the storm. “Like me.”

Another wave crests, and I have one moment to stare at it, just one, before it crashes down like tauros going seventy miles per hour down a path, blazing through—

I’m thrown from Pounamu’s back and into the choppy waters.

The first wave holds me under so long that I almost accept drowning. When I surface, hair plastered to my face and gasping for breath, I have just enough focus to concentrate on one thing—breathe, now!—before the water hurls me back under again.

“Rawi!” I scream, but the storm rips the sound from my words. “Pounamu!”

A wave flings me up. The songlike cry of the lapras is tangled in the wind, but I can’t make myself land. The sky is no more than a thick wall of clouds, but even though the darkened sea I can see it before me—knurls of crystal curled up like a clenched fist protect its interior; a pockmarked and mottled cork is shoved deep into the vessel’s throat. And inside, the script too blurred through thick glass, a scrap of paper with shards of black text.

Hoopa’s behind this storm, and the bottle has to do with Hoopa. I know it. If I just manage to crawl my way forward and reach it, fulfill Rawi’s quest, we’ll be able to make everything right again. Things will go back to the way they were. I’ll get my closure and all of this will make sense.

Except it won’t. I know it won’t. And that knowledge makes me so heavy that I almost sink to the bottom of the sea.

Pounamu is braying frantically in alarm, bodily slamming himself through wave after wave while I float there, paralyzed. The current drags me inexorably toward Hoopa’s bottle.

Things won’t go back to the way they were because they can’t. Rawi won’t take me to the cove ever again because he can’t. The world won’t be a beautiful place in the exact same way it used to be because it can’t, not now that we’ve lost what we’ve lost.

Rawi is a scared little boy as he puts on his pajamas and hikes to the top of Alola’s tallest mountain, and he quietly waits for the inevitable while I’m not there to protect him. I had my chance to fix that. I didn’t. And that is life. I am an arrow with no target, anger with no outlet. I can tell as many stories as I want and I will never be able to escape that facet of reality.

The waves have thrown me over to Hoopa’s bottle, and even though it feels sacrosanct I grab it like a lifeline. Something beats against the glass walls, muffled screams whose vibrations I can feel beating into my fingertips even when the sound is silenced within the storm. There’s a message within whose contents I have known the whole time, whose words I have spent all these days running from.

“I never knew what to tell you.” Rawi’s voice, impossibly calm, is louder and clearer than my own breathing; I open my mouth for a retort and find my voice barely audible over the whirling tempest; the storm threatens to swallow my words whole and dash them up against the waves. “I had a note that I wanted to give you, one last story, but I never knew how to end it happily, so I threw it into the sea instead.”

I sense rather than see his attention catch on the bottle in my hands, thrumming like a heartbeat against my soaked fingertips, and I hear panic finally slip into his voice. He knows what I’m about to do, after all, because I know, too. “Wait. Don’t—”

I wrench the cork off of the prison bottle and set Hoopa free.

Pulsing energy explodes out of the neck of the bottle, so much that I think it’ll shatter in my grasp, and then I watch it surround the ghost wearing the face of a boy I once knew, morphing him darker, larger, unbound. Hoopa towers over me and Pounamu and the seas alike, but I have no eyes for this miracle; all I care about is written on a scrap of paper in the heart of the bottle has ripped itself out of my hands and flown headlong into the sea.

I ignore Pounamu’s muffled cries and instead paddle towards it, even as the monstrous form of the freed djinn swivels its attention to me. Disjointed arms bigger than my entire body smash into the sea around me, sending a spire of frothing waves that forces me back.

“I just wanted you to be happy!” Rawi repeats in the ghost’s voice, but now his voice echoes through the storm, so a thousand Rawi’s are speaking at once. “Like me!”

There are a thousand dimensions where Rawi is alive and well, and I’m drowning in the only one where he isn’t.

Maybe this is why our people fear and revere Hoopa so much. There’s a strange sort of magic in this power, the power of a wish, the power of belief. If I believe that story that Hoopa tells me, that Rawi is alive, that none of this ever happened, then for me it’s no different than if I whispered my wish into this magic bottle and a genie made it into my reality.

And the price for that wish would be simple—I would just have to close my eyes and ears to reality for the rest of my life, to allow the weight of that lie to drag me down with him.

I almost choke on the sea the first time, almost let it fill my lungs and drag me down, and then Pounamu is surging up beneath me, serpentine neck lifting me into the air and out of the waters. I clutch the lapras, dripping, and the two of us stare at the unbound monstrosity ahead.

“Stay with me. Where would I want to be except here, with you?”

It’s not him. That was never him.

My retort bursts back at him. “I made you say that. You aren’t real.” It starts out calm, and then saying the words aloud makes the truth sink in, the same way my heart sinks in my chest. “This isn’t what you would be saying. The real you wouldn’t give a damn about making sure I knew what you were thinking because the one time it mattered, the real you didn’t.”

I look at the bottle one last time, its cork bobbing harmlessly in the sea. I want to close my eyes, but I force myself to look at it, even as Pounamu pulls us away. “You aren’t Rawi. You’re just all the things I wish I could’ve told him. All the things I wish he would’ve told me.”

There’s no way I could’ve heard him across the wind, but there’s still tangible pain in his voice, that cuts like a knife, when he whispers: “Oh. Okay then.”

Three things happen in rapid succession.

The storm crumples into itself, leaving only silence.

The twisted wreck of the bottle sinks into the sea.

Rawi vanishes from my sight.

⋆ ⋆ ⋆ ⋆ ⋆​

I return home. I shower the sea away. I dry myself off. I go to sleep, I wake up, I work. Rawi does not speak to me anymore, but I see glimpses of him out of the corner of my eye, when I don’t expect it.

For six months I can’t bring myself back to the cove. There’s nothing there for me.

It’s almost winter when I wake up in the middle of the night, struck by certainty. I put on my hiking boots and shrug my jacket over my shoulders, open the door to the cold.

The path before me is familiar. The dirt crunches a little beneath my feet from the frost. I tuck my hands into my pockets and lower my head against the wind until I reach the cove.

It’s cloudy; the night is dark because of it. My flashlight casts strange shadows against the sand, makes gaping caverns and yawning pits out of dunes that are six inches tall. There’s a familiar game of shadow puppets here, and just remembering it fills me with warmth.

Rawi was right, as usual. As soon as I’m back, I wish I’d gone a long time ago. The beach is washed smooth, all signs of the storm erased by time.

The waves lap around my ankles as I wade into the sea.

“Pounamu?”

My call is swallowed by the gentle swell of the waves. I hear it echo and taper away, and then fade off into silence.

I wade further and further into the water, until it’s nearly up to my waist. “Pounamu!”

The lapras does not come. Of course he doesn’t. The ocean is a large place, and I left him alone. There’s a bitter moment where I realize that he’s just as likely to find his missing family as I am.

I almost want to just do it, and swim further and further out into the sea until I find the lapras, and the magic bottle, and the balm to all my wounds, but I know. This is our cove. It looks the same all over but it isn’t; it’s my childhood home and now my greatest sorrow. No other place in the world will hurt to look at in the same way that this one does. I will be the youngest for the rest of my life.

I sit with one leg draped off of the rock, toes dipping into the salty water, and time flows. When I’m finally aware of it again, the tide has risen up to my knees. I pull out our flask, half-expecting Rawi to tell me off for that too, but there’s only the sea in the sound around me.

Rawi and I turned two happy children into one morose adult sitting on the edge of the ocean, drinking to keep warm. I didn’t bring any equipment to spend the night out here. I didn’t prepare for this. I didn’t prepare for any of this. But I can sit here and look at the night sky and hear the waves beating against the rocks, and I can finally do the things I should’ve done long ago.

“Sorry. I know you cared.”

Five words. I decide on that. Five words, five times. Boil down everything I wish I’d said to a handful of secrets, because time is passing and it is infinite, but ultimately for us it is short.

The words I shouted to Hoopa still haunt me, even if they were never heard by anyone except me and Pounamu and the waves. Because they were wrong, because I was wrong. Of course Rawi cared. That was who he was. Caring was what he did best.

He kept chattering to me for those five days that I spent curled up in bed; I heard him talking to me every day thereafter; sometimes, I can almost hear his whispers now. He’s watching me expectantly when I pack his hiking equipment into the attic, he’s humming along when his favorite song plays on the radio, he’s on the beach as a stranger walks by with his lopsided gait. I see him everywhere except where I want him to be.

On the zero day, it was easy enough to tell the world one thing and mean another, to commit the same travesty that Rawi had to all of us, to say I was okay and all along know I never meant it. I could wear my funeral lei and say hello-goodbye-iloveyou. I could keep my back ramrod straight and my feelings bottled up inside. I could make a speech about trite things that we had all heard before, gloss over his dark undertow and describe him as warm waves in the cove instead. And I did.

“It was never your fault.”

We kept secrets from each other. I never told him how lonely I was, how those five days I spent curled up in bed weren’t the only five days in my life that I felt the same way he did, how I’d been pushed to the brink and stared into the abyss in the exact same way he did. I never told him because I didn’t want him to think I was less.

I could’ve told him, but instead, I didn’t. And by the time I realized it all, I was far too late, and there was no bringing him back. There was no making him any more solid than the ghost across my shoulder.

Maybe he hadn’t written a note because he’d seen how much I hated stories that ended sadly. Maybe there’d been one and it had been lost to the elements.

But it wasn’t just the one message. It had been every message, every conversation I wished we’d had, every sunrise we hadn’t seen, every time there was advice I was supposed to tell him and I’d put it off for later, because I’d always assumed there’d be a later. And there was, until there wasn’t.

It was easy to survey the storm-torn sands and tell myself I’d be exactly who I was going to be, that I’d been okay and okay was a state I’d always known. But instead of patching up, I bottled up. I didn’t rebuild anything. I just swept all the broken bits away and hoped I would forget to replace them. And when I kept sifting through the wreckage and found more and more broken bits, and I put them all away, far away, where I’d never accidentally look at them and cut myself on reality.

But when I looked at the pile again and the broken bits still hurt to touch, I corked them in a bottle, and when that wasn’t enough, I built the bottle bigger and bigger until it could imprison the whole world that I needed it to; and when that wasn’t enough I threw it into the ocean, made a wish on a legend and hoped that it would all work out.

“I can’t wish you back.”

It wasn’t until the sea washed all those bits back to me, and the bottle was an unrecognizable mess of cracks and seaweed and decay, that I realized our problem. It wasn’t because I hadn’t bottled up enough. It was because I’d bottled up too much, and the person left on the beach wasn’t me because my heart was scrawled in that bottle.

I know now why he felt so hollow when he was dragging me on hikes and to Pounamu and into the sea: it wasn’t Rawi, not really. I remembered what I wanted to see of him—a young kid with a heart of gold and eyes full of fire, but there was more to them than that. He was deep like a cove and stormed like rough waters; he had ups and downs and everything in between; when people asked me if we were close I couldn’t help but think not close enough because we really weren’t, not if I couldn’t see the path he was following me down from the start.

And it wasn’t really that different from reality: I made a fake version of Rawi to keep me company while he was dead, but it wasn’t much different from not truly knowing the real Rawi when he was alive.

“It hurts you, doesn’t it?” I imagine him asking. There was always care in his voice, but I can hear the way that it cracks a little more in the middle, edges flaking off the ends of his words. “Why keep revisiting this place? Why open it up ever again?”

I know the answer to the same question I asked myself every day for months, what I wished we’d been able to tell each other when we needed it most.

“It hurts. But that’s okay.”

It won’t go away because it can’t; it’s a part of you now. So you hold the pain tight so that you don’t forget: it hurts, and it hurt you, but it won’t hurt forever. It broke you, but those broken bits are you, yours.

Letting the broken bits tumble back out of the bottle is the hardest part, but it’s how I learned to fuel myself. When the sky falls and the storm grows and I want to go back to a greyscale life, I open up my chest to that burning hole where my heart beats and I remember. There is a relic there, ancient and rotting, a twisted mass held together by tendrils of glass. It smells of salt and loves the sea, and it will always be mine to bear. Some days, it is my anchor against the storm; some days, it drags me down with it.

He doesn’t say anything else. My old brain wouldn’t have let him be okay with this, because for my fictional Rawi to acknowledge my pain, I would have to acknowledge his.

And the real Rawi, who would never dream of questioning someone for baring their heart to him like that, would’ve told me about this bottled fire long ago, because his short and vibrant and painful life was almost certainly fueled wholly by the burden that no one else should hurt the same way he did. That was the danger when he stopped living for himself, until eventually the sea consumed him and his bottle and his heart.

“Hello. Goodbye. I love you.”

Alola. I missed him. I miss him. And, when I least expect it, I think I always will.

He is gone and I am here, but I will always be a person shaped by the mold that Rawi used to be.

The waves shift. The water churns. There is a triumphant cry, and Pounamu emerges from the sea.

⋆ ⋆ ⋆ ⋆ ⋆​
 
Last edited:

Umbramatic

The Ghost Lord
Location
The Yangverse
Pronouns
Any
Well. This is another case of:


Not gonna lie I was expecting something bad to happen but I wasn't expecting "you're dead" but from there the feeeeeeeeeels (and some morbidly funny moments).

There were some really neat nods to Hawaiian culture in here - somewhat surface level but they work and make sense for Alola. The whole thing about the protag trying to cope with Rawri's loss and chatting up his ghost in the process is trippy and also hnggggggggg again feels

Also: Hoopa! Underappreciated even among Legendaries and Mythicals. Good to see them here... if it's really them, or is it another construct of the protagonist's mind who knowwwwwwwwwwwwwwwws?

Also! Pounamu is a good boy. Good Lapras. Plz give him treats.

But now I'm sad. Damn you. Damn you for making me feel emotions. I was avoiding those.
 

kintsugi

golden scars
Pronouns
she/her/hers
Partner
silvally-grass
Not gonna lie I was expecting something bad to happen but I wasn't expecting "[whoops plot twist; REDACTED]" but from there the feeeeeeeeeels (and some morbidly funny moments).
yeah it's never sunny in philadelphia with me here
I'm glad that there were some funny bits though! Rawi's humor was a bit of a balancing act for me.

Also: Hoopa! Underappreciated even among Legendaries and Mythicals. Good to see them here... if it's really them, or is it another construct of the protagonist's mind who knowwwwwwwwwwwwwwwws?
who IS to say
jk i think i'm to say

Also! Pounamu is a good boy. Good Lapras. Plz give him treats.
it is known that Lapras is best boi

But now I'm sad. Damn you. Damn you for making me feel emotions. I was avoiding those.
Haha, glad you... enjoyed? Felt? Unsure. But thank you for reading!
 

qva

Pokémon Trainer
Location
florida
Pronouns
her/hers
sweet, more kintsugi fic! always here for that tbh. guess i’ll jump right in!
“No can do. I promised I’d take care of you.”

His version of taking care of me involves talking my ear off until I reluctantly crawl out of bed. I know this. I understand this. This is what our family does.

“I’m not brushing your teeth for you, but you’d damn well better do that too.” His voice is muffled as he rummages around the closet for a clean pair of socks. “You know what they used to tell us—”

“Don’t break routine for anything,” I finish for him wearily. I know the drill. This was how we’d rammed ourselves through things when we were younger—by pretending to be tauros going seventy miles per hour down the path, blazing through anything. The instant you slowed down, all hell broke loose. When the dark days came, when getting out of bed was hard, this how we persisted—the small tasks had to be done, and then the bigger tasks, and eventually you could just endure through anything. “So why’d you drag me out of bed?”
it seems like we’ve got a pair of siblings here... i assume rawi is the elder one? i’m not sure what to make of his promise to take care of the viewpoint character—perhaps their parents died, and rawi was left behind to raise his younger sibling? that would explain the callback to the family’s philosophy, which i suspect we’ll see put to the test later on. the fic description did mention emotional baggage, so i guess we’ll have to see where it goes...
I miss the cove. When Rawi and I were kids, we would spend days on end out here. Crystal clear waters slowly faded to sapphire. Sky stretched across as far as you could see. Rocky cliffs were our proving grounds, who could jump further and bolder—but they gave way to soft, white sands worn smooth by the tides. As the sun set, around the golden hour, we could watch the cutiefly trickle across the coast, their legs covered with the pollen harvest from the afternoon. In the spring, the mudsdale would bring their young to the cliffs to teach them how to stomp; in the winter, lanturn and chicnhou migrated to the warmer waters of the cove and filled it with twinkling lights. At night, we were far enough away from the world that you could stargaze with a naked eye, trace out the constellations with your fingers and chart your own meaning for guardians that were a billion years old.
man, this might be one of the best descriptions i’ve seen in a long, long time. i’m a huge sucker for descriptions of the natural world, and you do an excellent job at making the world feel real and lived in. the references to the region’s ecology are super awesome. thinking on it now, handfuls of dust sort of does this similar thing where really make the world feel far, far bigger than the people living in it... sort of conveying this feeling of vastness and timelessness, the power of nature. i fall hard for depictions of the world like that, so i fell hard for this bit. super good stuff.
Pounamu was our anchor against the storm, the real reason we ventured out to the cove so often. Choppy seas and calm waters; the lapras could handle them both. I don’t remember who found him first; I just remember giddy and unadulterated joy as he breached over the waters, slowly at first, and then faster and faster, until we skimmed across the waves like an arrow aimed at the horizon. He taught me a lesson that nothing else could: there were giants in the world, creatures bigger and deeper than my limited understanding, but they could be gentle, and they could be good.
given that pokémon are usually depicted as very intelligent, and having the ability to sort of intuitively engage with humans, i think it’s pretty rare that a fic manages to capture the feeling of interacting with a large animal. you do a great job of that here, and it feels cohesive with the description of the natural world before. for me, this bit evokes the feeling of interacting with a horse or a deer—kind of a mutual understanding that transcends social intuition. it’s a very particular feeling and something i feel like i don‘t see enough in pokéfic, so hats off for that.
That’s what always made us different. Rawiri, whose full name means ‘beloved’, always loved helping people. He loved making them happy. And he made jokes and mocked himself and sometimes didn’t let me see, but he stopped living for himself and started living for everyone else a long time ago. Maybe that was what undid us in the end.
hm, so far i’m getting the impression that the two do indeed live alone together, but that rawi is actually younger than the viewpoint character... i wonder what their situation is, and what happened to their family? you’re doing a good job at spacing out these details enough to keep me interested and wondering without saying too much at once.
We were stony about those kinds of things, even when we were playing pirates on the back of a lapras who returned for no reason than because he could.
* other than because he could, i assume?
“You’re dead,” I say, sounding out the words on my lips and hating myself for it.
... oh! wow. i absolutely did not see that coming. it’s been a long time since i’ve seen a twist like that... i wonder what kind of ghost this is? is rawi actually there, or is this all merely a figment of the imagination? will he disappear now?
I lean back and dip one hand in the water, letting it trail off Pounamu’s side, and listen to the sound of the wave’s lapping against the lapras.
* waves
“We buried you.” Pause. “I cried.”

But I know his response even before he says it, because he’s as much a part of me as he’s always been.

“And?” he asks, the same old smile painted across his face. “Please. You know me. I’m full of life. Like a little dirt would stop me.”
hmmmm. so he doesn't go away even if she's aware that he's not real, i guess! the repeated references to how real it feels make me wonder whether it's something beyond a hallucination. i'm kind of curious about what flavor of Apparition we're experiencing here... i assume it'll become more apparent as we go.
Rawi, my sweet, smiling, sad Rawi, left all of his pokémon in town and climbed Mount Lanakila. Alone, without supplies, in the middle of avalanche season.

“You were never planning on coming down, were you?”
mmm. :< i guess if rawi isn't real then he can't tell her anything she doesn't know already. this is still pretty heart-breaking though, especially given how intent rawi (real or not) seems on protecting her and pulling her out of her own depression. (the narrator is a she, right... i'm doing this review across two pretty spaced out reading sessions, so i can't really remember, lol.)

My retort bursts back at him. “I made you say that. You aren’t real.” It starts out calm, and then saying the words aloud makes the truth sink in, the same way my heart sinks in my chest. “This isn’t what you would be saying. The real you wouldn’t give a damn about making sure I knew what you were thinking because the one time it mattered, the real you didn’t.”

I look at the bottle one last time, its cork bobbing harmlessly in the sea. I want to close my eyes, but I force myself to look at it, even as Pounamu pulls us away. “You aren’t Rawi. You’re just all the things I wish I could’ve told him. All the things I wish he would’ve told me.”
wow. i haven't had much to say up to this point because i've just been so sucked into your writing, but this story is seriously powerful so far. i guess this is the line where it comes together just how the story ties into your prompt? my instinct was that it would be an undelivered message from rawi, but it makes much more sense this way.

sorry this review is a bit front-loaded. honestly the latter half of it is just so good and intense that i don't really have much to say about it that isn't self-evident, i think. this is a really beautiful story that feels raw and real and true. the fact that it's technically pokémon fanfic feels mostly incidental but also nontrivial, which is exactly the balance i try to strike with my own writing, and that brought a lot to it for me. at any rate there's so much emotion going on here, and it feels very much like a real response to a tragic loss, a real progression of understanding about the death of a loved one. and it still feels loved even with the fantastical elements included.

one thing i'm not clear on is the role of hoopa in this fic. i'm not really sure why hoopa was in the ocean, how the narrator knew that would be the case, or what exactly was going on throughout that confrontation except for what was literally going on at face value. i guess you could say i understand the what but not the why of that whole scene. also, was hoopa conscientiously playing on the narrator's delusions? how much of that was imagined, and how much of it was consciously carried out by hoopa? was hoopa even actually there? maybe the point is for this stuff to be unclear since it was unclear to the narrator, but i'm just not sure either way.

that aside, this was a beautiful fic, and i'm really glad i read it. very impressed you managed to spin a story this deep and meaningful from that prompt, hahaha. thank you for sharing it with us.
 

StellarWind

Biomechanical Abomination
I'm kind of terrible at this whole reviewing lark, so I'm sorry if this is a bit jumbled.

The first thing that hit me as I started reading this was the present tense because why is everything happening in one singular moment when there is clearly a sequence of events here ow my neurons. Then the utterly beautiful descriptions started coming up - scenes and little things from the character's past. The Lapras. Emotions. The more the story unfurled the more the present-tense started making sense. A scary amount of sense really - grief and depression, and a feeling of timelessness - everything condensed into one moment - go hand in hand very well. As does the sort of general feeling of how much of what this character experienced in this fic is real and how much is in his mind, particularly with Hoopa. Kind of a perfect choice with all the different pathways the multiverse could take (all the things that could have happened), wishes (both wishing things went differently, and things people wish to have heard/have said to those they lost) and... yeah. Bottles, both real and metaphorical. I've never seen someone put this particular combination together before and it was brilliant. I love how you expanded Hoopa's mythology too, that nod to Scheherazade and One Thousand and One Nights was absolutely on point.

There was just so much emotion in this, that it kept me hanging on to every word. And with my attention span being what it is, that's a very good thing.

Also, that "This isn’t what they mean when they say ‘spirits help us’" line cracked me up.

Absolutely lovely work. ^^
 

Adamhuarts

Junior Trainer
Pronouns
He/Him
Partner
mew
I went into this oneshot expecting a mundane hiking adventure with two bois, but then it quickly became the most depressing thing I've read all week lmao. It was a really well written one shot, all things considered. You did very well in portraying how Rawi being there was symbolic of how the other guy couldn't accept he was gone.

Something felt off from the very start of the oneshot, and the eventual revelation that Rawi was dead explained everything. It's hard to make people care about characters in a single oneshot, but you managed to do so with great characterization and proper build up. I enjoyed reading this sad af boi fic, and the bittersweet ending was noice. :D
 

Pen

the cat is mightier than the pen
Why isn't this on fanfiction.net where I can favorite it?!

Really loved this. The nature descriptions blend seamlessly into the inner monologue and the similes were just excellent throughout. Every word felt incredibly deliberate.

The tide is low in the afternoon, so the shore is exposed far deeper than it normally is, like the rind of a cored fruit.
Tide to fruit, the suggestion of hollowness . . .

I glance over my shoulder, seeing my footprints threading delicately across the sand, one carefully in front of the other. There’s something else wrong there, a train of thought that’s on the wrong tracks, twisting abruptly and morphing into a single set of footprints in the sand. But what?
This was the moment I said to myself, oh Rawi's totally dead. I think you dropped the hints really subtly. The wrongness is clear from the beginning, but it's hard to pinpoint what exactly until here.

“Fine. Would it make you feel better if I instead told you that ninety percent of outdoor search and rescues are performed because day hikers don’t bring proper equipment?”

He’s smiling, a little, but for some reason I can’t. “Not in particular,” I mutter. Something about his statement is wrong; it doesn’t fit together, like a puzzle with five corner pieces. But—
This, though, I only understood on second look, once I learned that Rawi hadn't brought equipment. It's wonderfully done how the facts are weighing on the narrator's mind, not quite able to be coalesced into the horrible truth.

As the sun set, around the golden hour, we could watch the cutiefly trickle across the coast, their legs covered with the pollen harvest from the afternoon. In the spring, the mudsdale would bring their young to the cliffs to teach them how to stomp; in the winter, lanturn and chicnhou migrated to the warmer waters of the cove and filled it with twinkling lights.
These details really bring the world to life.

Brown eyes four times larger than mine close as he nuzzles gently against the top of Rawi’s head, which is almost engulfed the crook between Pounamu’s massive jaw and his scaled neck..
Love everything about the lapras, but especially its sheer physicality, how the wonder of it comes through in the description.

I’m the older one. I did this long before he did. I remember what it feels like to be lonely, to want to quit, to try to quit. I never told him. We were stony about those kinds of things, even when we were playing pirates on the back of a lapras who returned for no reason than because he could.
This was a really poignant moment of characterization.

Deadlines were everywhere now. You had to go climb out to that island sometime soon because one day your body would start to fail you and you wouldn’t be able to make the hike. You had to write down that great idea because one day your mind and creativity would get snuffed out. You had to revel in every day with Rawi, the real Rawi, because one day—
In a story with a ghost, this to me was the most morbid moment. You can feel entropy and decay in the lines.

Two days after his funeral, Rawi drags me out of bed again.

“Come on,” he says, tugging at my hand. “You’re not gonna want to miss this.”

“You’re dead, Rawi.”
I was half-expecting the story to wrap up after the narrator realized Rawi was dead, so this was exciting. Did laugh a little at this part, even though the mood of the story overall is pretty somber.

In Alola the word for ‘hello’ and ‘goodbye’ and ‘love’ is the same. As a child that had made perfect sense to me, until I learned about the trichotomy that had evolved in languages across the sea, but now, with Rawi in front of me, I understand why our people smudged all three words, and specifically those three words, together like the oranges and blues of a sunset.
This simile is just so good. It makes pictorial sense of the linguistic conflation, turns a quirk of language into a seamless fact of nature. The power lies in how restrained the comparison is.

“You were never planning on coming down, were you?”

The crystalline seas have turned dark. Pounamu brays in alarm. The storm either came out of nowhere or has been growing all this time, while I was oblivious; I don’t remember which. But now there’s no more ignoring the buffeting wind, the sudden sheets of sea foam. Pounamu banks hard to the right as a wave threatens to overturn us, and icy water drenches through my clothes and fills my nostrils.

“This must be it!” Rawi shouts above the growing storm, his voice as cheerful as ever. “This must be Hoopa!”
I think this passage combines and highlights all my favorite aspects of this oneshot--the internal struggle to accept the suicide of a loved one, the stunning nature description, the mythology, and how they all come together to make a whole more than the sum of its parts.


The sky is no more than a thick wall of clouds, but even though the darkened sea I can see it before me—knurls of crystal curled up like a clenched fist protect its interior; a pockmarked and mottled cork is shoved deep into the vessel’s throat. And inside, the script too blurred through thick glass, a scrap of paper with shards of black text.
Ugh so good. Love the hint of violence in how you describe the cork into the 'throat" and the "shards" of text, as if the bottle is already shattered.

Things won’t go back to the way they were because they can’t. Rawi won’t take me to the cove ever again because he can’t. The world won’t be a beautiful place in the exact same way it used to be because it can’t, not now that we’ve lost what we’ve lost.

Rawi is a scared little boy as he puts on his pajamas and hikes to the top of Alola’s tallest mountain, and he quietly waits for the inevitable while I’m not there to protect him. I had my chance to fix that. I didn’t. And that is life. I am an arrow with no target, anger with no outlet. I can tell as many stories as I want and I will never be able to escape that facet of reality.
This was really, really beautiful and gut-wrenching. The mistake a wish can't fix, the way life rushes on, heedless to it.

“I can’t wish you back.”
For me, the passages after this verged too far into over-explaining, into re-explaining what I felt the story had already expressed more powerfully, that you can't paper over this grief with a wish, that understanding what happened means accepting guilt. No specific edits on anything to cut, just that I think it took away from the impact a bit for me, to see written out explicitly what the story had already strongly and compellingly implied.

It won’t go away because it can’t; it’s a part of you now. So you hold the pain tight so that you don’t forget: it hurts, and it hurt you, but it won’t hurt forever. It broke you, but those broken bits are you, yours.
This felt like a turn-to-the-camera moment, more general and banal then the rest of the story's portrayal of grief.

The waves shift. The water churns. There is a triumphant cry, and Pounamu emerges from the sea.
And gorgeously ended, the short sentences are very effective and the image of the lapras emerging is one that will stick with me.

This was a really beautiful meditation on loss and grief and guilt, and moving forwards.
 

OldschoolJohto

Never not editing
Pronouns
She/Her
Partner
solrock
Why isn't this on fanfiction.net where I can favorite it?!
I second this! I also would love to throw in in my collection of fics about trainers who aren't rookies. Just saying.

This is the version of the pokemon world I like best: nature is dangerous and you have to be prepared. Beating all the competitions doesn't make you happy and whole all by itself.

Rawi's dialogue was especially enjoyable, from the humor to the hypocrisy to the lows. The revelation that he was dead all along made me gasp out loud. The momentary...amnesia(?) didn't feel as believable to me --felt more like a reveal to the audience than to the character -- but it didn't hamper my enjoyment of the story. I loved the foreshadowing about bringing proper equipment...when Rawi chose not to... and the detail of the pajama bottoms, another hint that he didn't need to be prepared for the hike because he's a ghost.

For the most part, the text is clear, easy to follow, and pleasant. Loved the lapras's desk-sized head and the descriptions of the cove. Some of the similes and metaphors broke tone for me and pulled me out of the story a little -- the lapras's neck being like a bird, the tears in the ocean line, the line about flaking like rust. I also drifted from the narrative a little in the segment between the hoopa scene and Pounamu's reappearance -- I got lost in the soup of our protagonist's thoughts, but I think anchoring us with reminders of where we are in the real, physical world would help.

Overall, a very satisfying read. Definitely, definitely happy I took the time.
 

kintsugi

golden scars
Pronouns
she/her/hers
Partner
silvally-grass
late responses are LATE. i am so sorry. thank you all!

man, this might be one of the best descriptions i’ve seen in a long, long time. i’m a huge sucker for descriptions of the natural world, and you do an excellent job at making the world feel real and lived in. the references to the region’s ecology are super awesome. thinking on it now, handfuls of dust sort of does this similar thing where really make the world feel far, far bigger than the people living in it... sort of conveying this feeling of vastness and timelessness, the power of nature. i fall hard for depictions of the world like that, so i fell hard for this bit. super good stuff.
given that pokémon are usually depicted as very intelligent, and having the ability to sort of intuitively engage with humans, i think it’s pretty rare that a fic manages to capture the feeling of interacting with a large animal. you do a great job of that here, and it feels cohesive with the description of the natural world before. for me, this bit evokes the feeling of interacting with a horse or a deer—kind of a mutual understanding that transcends social intuition
ahhh, I'm glad you like these! I struggle with writing realistic settings most of the time tbh. And when I'm not shilling N I like to think that humans can live very peacefully alongside pokemon... :thonk:

(the narrator is a she, right... i'm doing this review across two pretty spaced out reading sessions, so i can't really remember, lol.)
technically yes, but I sort of never mention it anywhere in the story except that the title, heh

one thing i'm not clear on is the role of hoopa in this fic. i'm not really sure why hoopa was in the ocean, how the narrator knew that would be the case, or what exactly was going on throughout that confrontation except for what was literally going on at face value. i guess you could say i understand the what but not the why of that whole scene. also, was hoopa conscientiously playing on the narrator's delusions? how much of that was imagined, and how much of it was consciously carried out by hoopa? was hoopa even actually there? maybe the point is for this stuff to be unclear since it was unclear to the narrator, but i'm just not sure either way.
I wanted this story to be about impossible and selfish wishes: one of the irrational things about grief is the feeling of wanting something back while also knowing you'll never get it. And hoopa to me has always been this strange, unexplored pokemon. It's a genie in a bottle, but instead of granting wishes it has the power to transport people to faraway worlds, so I wanted to use that as an exploration of using wishes to escape reality. Hoopa is sort of the manifestation of all of those impossibilities and things that the narrator never got -- Rawi's being there after his death, his forgiveness, his note -- is it all real?? WHO KNOWS I like to think of it as Molly/Entei in the Spell of the Unown, where it's an illusion fueled by how powerfully someone believes in it, but tbh the narrator never figures that out and I don't think she ever gets to.

that aside, this was a beautiful fic, and i'm really glad i read it. very impressed you managed to spin a story this deep and meaningful from that prompt, hahaha. thank you for sharing it with us.
Thank you for the thoughtful review! This story is definitely a bit off the beaten path so I'm glad you enjoyed it

why is everything happening in one singular moment when there is clearly a sequence of events here ow my neurons.
tbh it's a bad habit that I picked up towards the end of 2018, but in this case I did want the past/present/timelessness divide that you mentioned later on!

Kind of a perfect choice with all the different pathways the multiverse could take (all the things that could have happened), wishes (both wishing things went differently, and things people wish to have heard/have said to those they lost) and... yeah. Bottles, both real and metaphorical. I've never seen someone put this particular combination together before and it was brilliant. I love how you expanded Hoopa's mythology too, that nod to Scheherazade and One Thousand and One Nights was absolutely on point.
!! ahh!! thank

Also, that "This isn’t what they mean when they say ‘spirits help us’" line cracked me up.
gotta get that dark humor SOMEHOW

thank you for taking the time to read!

I went into this oneshot expecting a mundane hiking adventure with two bois, but then it quickly became the most depressing thing I've read all week lmao.
oh yikes are the tags too loose? I wasn't sure

I enjoyed reading this sad af boi fic, and the bittersweet ending was noice. :D
hahaha now you see why I like happy Kuki so much! it balances!

thank you for reading and sharing your thoughts!

Why isn't this on fanfiction.net where I can favorite it?!
actually it's not there yet because I still don't like how the ending drags out lol

This was the moment I said to myself, oh Rawi's totally dead. I think you dropped the hints really subtly. The wrongness is clear from the beginning, but it's hard to pinpoint what exactly until here.
I actually really love trying to figure out when people catch on -- I've had some people call me out right away, and some people didn't get it until "you're dead lmao" -- really weird balance to strike there.

This, though, I only understood on second look, once I learned that Rawi hadn't brought equipment. It's wonderfully done how the facts are weighing on the narrator's mind, not quite able to be coalesced into the horrible truth.
ahhhh thank. I am very flattered that you read it twice and with such attention to detail

For me, the passages after this verged too far into over-explaining, into re-explaining what I felt the story had already expressed more powerfully, that you can't paper over this grief with a wish, that understanding what happened means accepting guilt. No specific edits on anything to cut, just that I think it took away from the impact a bit for me, to see written out explicitly what the story had already strongly and compellingly implied.
This felt like a turn-to-the-camera moment, more general and banal then the rest of the story's portrayal of grief.
I! have wrestled! with this quite a lot haha. The initial draft was a lot looser on the explanation, and a lot of the feedback suggested that things were a bit too vague, but I think on future edits I'll stray back towards that side of the balance -- bigger focus on explaining the physical events of the story and letting the emotional ones speak for themselves.

This was a really beautiful meditation on loss and grief and guilt, and moving forwards.
!! this means a lot to me. it truly does <3

I second this! I also would love to throw in in my collection of fics about trainers who aren't rookies. Just saying.
👀

This is the version of the pokemon world I like best: nature is dangerous and you have to be prepared. Beating all the competitions doesn't make you happy and whole all by itself.
yesssss! tbh I'm kinda bummed I wrote this before I read Postcards; missed out on the chance to start talking about the best kind of soap to bring when you sea-camp

The revelation that he was dead all along made me gasp out loud. The momentary...amnesia(?) didn't feel as believable to me --felt more like a reveal to the audience than to the character -- but it didn't hamper my enjoyment of the story. I loved the foreshadowing about bringing proper equipment...when Rawi chose not to... and the detail of the pajama bottoms, another hint that he didn't need to be prepared for the hike because he's a ghost.
I struggle with this! For me the amnesia was meant to be, like, not actual amnesia, just a long collection of ignoring uncomfortable truths such as not responding to reviews in an orderly fashion. For me grief has always felt illogical -- you know it won't really help, but there's that little voice that's like, what if we just pretended nothing was wrong, and this is the result of leaning into that. But! At the end of the day I don't think it'll ever quite feel right because it's not meant to feel right, if that makes sense?

For the most part, the text is clear, easy to follow, and pleasant. Loved the lapras's desk-sized head and the descriptions of the cove. Some of the similes and metaphors broke tone for me and pulled me out of the story a little -- the lapras's neck being like a bird, the tears in the ocean line, the line about flaking like rust.
oh yes I got very purple on this prose. I kinda like the ocean one because salt, but the rust and bird ones I think I'll tone back.

I also drifted from the narrative a little in the segment between the hoopa scene and Pounamu's reappearance -- I got lost in the soup of our protagonist's thoughts, but I think anchoring us with reminders of where we are in the real, physical world would help.
Definitely a balance I struggled with here, and partially why I haven't put this on FFN yet lol -- I'm not entirely happy with how much exposition is at the end still? But one day! Soon!

Overall, a very satisfying read. Definitely, definitely happy I took the time.
!! thank you for reading though!
 

OldschoolJohto

Never not editing
Pronouns
She/Her
Partner
solrock
missed out on the chance to start talking about the best kind of soap to bring when you sea-camp
NEVER TOO LATE FOR SOAP.

I struggle with this! For me the amnesia was meant to be, like, not actual amnesia, just a long collection of ignoring uncomfortable truths such as not responding to reviews in an orderly fashion. For me grief has always felt illogical -- you know it won't really help, but there's that little voice that's like, what if we just pretended nothing was wrong, and this is the result of leaning into that. But! At the end of the day I don't think it'll ever quite feel right because it's not meant to feel right, if that makes sense?
I feel this, in theory? It's so different from my experience with grief. I'm very matter of fact about it. "Brace yourself for sad news--!" Because I'm used to the facts but don't want to shock people when I tell them lol. But I've also never lost a peer -- my experience is with a parent with a longterm illness -- and that's a really different vibe from what I've lived through. So I'm still not totally sure... but I also acknowledge my own bias here.
 
Top