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Pokémon Places We Call Home

Namohysip

Dragon Enthusiast
Staff
Partner
charizard
And so, here we are. This is sort of going to be a broad review of everything that I've read up to this point, so, in other words, everything currently published. And I'll say, I'm definitely interested in whatever broader scope you plan on going with this story, but I'm kind of conflicted on exactly what you want to do. More on that later. First, I want to go over some of the story beats on a grand scale.

You were definitely dripping with world building at the beginning in an attempt to establish the society and the world you're setting up, in addition to using that to double as foreshadowing for the central conflict for the earlygame. At least, that's what I think you're going for, since a few side-scenes in recent chapters suggest we're still in the very, very slow start of this thing.

After building the world up and setting up a few of its flaws--with subtlety that was really impressive, actually, but my conversations with you outside of the story might have colored that to make it even more impressive--and then quickly poked holes in the main location's setup. It was quite clever overall, but the fact that the holes existed to begin with was very puzzling. Namely, the fact that the nursery wasn't so guarded at all since the incident twenty years ago, to the point where a literal child was the one to spot Nip and not any form of security, still sticks out to me as a serious oversight that no rational setting would have, in my opinion.

The fact that nobody in town thought about extra security or keeping an eye on Nip, who had already demonstrated that he didn't understand the culture among other things, was a very big oversight that, as I read, really strained my suspension of disbelief, especially since it twas a malnourished Sneasel that ended up getting away with so much. It definitely felt artificial for the sake of getting the plot rolling.

This is one thing that continues to stick out to me, even if my other gripe with the setting, the scavenger system, had recently been addressed--that's the part I thought was clever, by the way. I remember ranting to you about how such a system wasn't sustainable, and now this chapter comes along and points out the very things I had ranted about. You played me--very clever!

I'm not sure where else to put this thought, so I'll throw it here: I hope the only thing limiting Shimmer's mind reading isn't just the moral high ground, because "They didn't read the suspicious Mawile's mind because it's mean" is going to fall right up there with "why didn't they have higher security" questions above.

I commented to this to you on discord as well, but I'd like to also point out, both in terms of before and after, how oddly out of place that Celebi interlude, for example, and... This is what I wanted to get at about me not knowing quite what you're going for. There's this grand scope being hinted at for roughly a half-chapter's worth of words, and the other 11 and a half chapters are dedicated to a slow jaunt in town life and baby murder. I don't know what direction you're going in, and it's feeling very late in the game at this point. We are... according to AO3, nearly 80k words into the story, and I've yet to truly understand the scope you're trying to achieve. I'm hoping some direction will come soon there, at least more explicitly, because I think I'm missing the signals of what you as an author want to show.

I think another issue that I have with having trouble getting into this story is that two of the key characters on opposing sides are both characters I just... don't care for. Haru's harsh words toward Nip pretty much sum up my own thoughts, and I imagine Haru is, to an extent, a reader surrogate in those scenes. But my gripe with that narrative style is that we're spending so much time with Nip regardless that it's kind of... not enjoyable to be over his shoulder. And the fact that one of the main conflicts is whether or not Umbra kills Nip--why should I feel invested in this if I don't like either of them? I don't even know what their importance is to the greater scope yet, and I've yet to see true redeeming qualities in Nip for the... just awful actions he'd done because "he wasn't thinking straight." I don't see how he can reasonably climb out of it with the current cards he has in his claws. Hopefully he gets a good redraw.

That's not to say I'm not enjoying myself. Despite the leaps in logic that still bothered me a little for a while, I am still interested in seeing where this story goes. I'm just hoping that at least one of the things mentioned above will get addressed soon--namely scope. I don't think there's a way to "fix" the Nip-Umbra issue since that's sort of by design and my problem and my taste, but I do at least hope some solid direction / "big picture" plot comes soon so I have a better sense of direction for the story.

Until then, though, I await the next chapter! This whole subplot with Tempest has been satiating me for now. My personal theory? Maybe it was Umbra who did it. Unless it's a totally new character, it seems like Umbra might have tried to do some kill-kill on the side...
 

Adamhuarts

Mew specialist
Pronouns
He/Him
Partner
mew
Okay, so I finished the fourth chapter just now. I liked some of the character interactions and the mayor's species was not what I was expecting haha. Aside from a few typos here and there, I liked your prose for the most part.

After reaching this point in the story I'm starting to feel worried about something however. Perhaps it's just me, but so far I've struggled to find much of the main cast likable to me personally. Shimmer is the worst by far, though that's probably intentional. Haru is too irrational with her whole thing against carnivores. My problem with stories that go out of their way to paint carnivorism in a negative light is that creatures obviously wouldn't develop sharp claws and fangs if they didn't need them to survive, so her views just paint me the wrong way. Nip on the other hand I just find too unrelatable, a bit cold hearted and my opinion on him certainly didn't get any better in this chapter at all with the whole egg stealing.

This story has a lot of promise and you play around with a few interesting ideas and concepts, however I feel the portrayal of the characters is detrimental to the enjoyment of the story as a whole. I do hope they get improved in the coming chapters. I apologize if this review came off as discouraging. Good luck with your writing.
 
Chapter 13

windskull

Bidoof Fan
Staff
Partner
sneasel-nip
Here we are, coming up on another chapter. And one of the meatier ones at that, word-count wise. Before we get into review replies and the chapter itself, I want to briefly mention that I'll be taking a mini-hiatus of about a month or so to work on a different fic and on a personal project. Hopefully PWCH will return in June, but based on where events go after this, this seems like the best place to take a brief break.

Onto replies, first to @Namohysip
It was quite clever overall, but the fact that the holes existed to begin with was very puzzling. Namely, the fact that the nursery wasn't so guarded at all since the incident twenty years ago, to the point where a literal child was the one to spot Nip and not any form of security, still sticks out to me as a serious oversight that no rational setting would have, in my opinion.
I'll admit that this is something I probably could have addressed sooner, but there is an in-universe reason for some of these oversights that will come up a bit later. Whether or not those will be believable, however, I guess we'll find out when they come up.

I hope the only thing limiting Shimmer's mind reading isn't just the moral high ground, because "They didn't read the suspicious Mawile's mind because it's mean" is going to fall right up there with "why didn't they have higher security" questions above.
So, there is definitely more going on with why Shimmer is hesitant to read minds, but that particular part won't be addressed for a while. There are also some risks involved with delving deeper into the mind, which is addressed to an extent in this chapter and I'll probably make a bit more clear if I ever do any major editing to 12.

I'm hoping some direction will come soon there, at least more explicitly, because I think I'm missing the signals of what you as an author want to show.
I'll openly admit that I worry I spent a little too much time on this portion of the story. But due to how entwined it becomes with later plot elements, I don't think there's a way I could have changed that without majorly restructuring the entire story. Lessons learned I suppose. Anyways, I believe I did mention on discord that things are supposed to start converging into the bigger plot soon.

@Adamhuarts
Haru is intentionally a little bit of an ass, though I do wonder if I take her - and other characters as well - a bit further than I should have at times. As for the whole carnivore thing, you have to remember that, for the most part, we're seeing things through Haru's eyes, and Haru isn't exactly too keen on the idea of being hunted down for food.

The characters will grow, but due to the way laid out the plot, it just takes time. And if slow changes aren't your thing, I totally understand. Thanks for reading as far as you have, regardless!

Before I forget, the fic has threadmarks now! I'll get to updating the main post later to reflect that. And now, on with the story.

Chapter 13: Consequences

*​

Haru stumbled over her words as she tried to digest Shimmer’s statement. “What do you mean, it was intentional? Why would someone try to kill him?”

“There could be any number of reasons,” Whisper said, looking Tempest over with a grave expression. “Shimmer, did you get any other information? Do you know who did it, or why they wanted to… silence him?”

“I’m… not sure,” Shimmer began. “Everything was flashing so fast and-” She cut herself off, grunting as she brought a hand up to her head.

“Are you alright?” Muse asked, turning her head back to look at Shimmer.

“I-I’m fine. Really. Just the aftersh-shocks from withdrawing from his memory so fast. Just… give me a… mo…men…” Before she could finish, she suddenly pitched forward, going limp against Muse’s side.

“Shimmer!” Muse’s voice was tinged with panic. When she twisted around to check on Shimmer, the unconscious kirlia fell the rest of the way to the ground with a dull thud, motionless other than her breathing.

“Muse, please stay calm,” Anu said, standing up to approach her. “S-she probably just strained herself.” He shifted to help lift Shimmer up, raising one paw over her with his aura feelers waving before looking over to Whisper. Despite his reassuring words, Haru could tell that he was trembling, something she was sure Muse noticed, too. “Still, I think… Let’s take her upstairs to recover. Haru… ah… will you please fetch Lecha, just to be safe? You, um, you may be able to catch her. Before she gets back to her clinic.”

Haru replied with a grunt, turning to push her way out the door as her heart pounded against her chest. She’d heard stories of psychics overexerting themselves or being seriously harmed when a deep reading went wrong. Sometimes they didn’t wake up. And as much as she hated Shimmer, she would never wish that on her.

She reached the center of the square, looking around nervously. “Come on, Lecha, where are you?”

*****​

“How’s she doing, Lecha?”

“She’ll be fine. She strained herself when the connection was cut, but she’ll recover within the next day or two. You’re lucky it wasn’t worse than it is.”

“I’m fine, really. Stop worrying about me, everyone. Oh, this is so embarrassing. It’s just a headache.”

Once she had fetched Lecha, the flurry of activity that followed seemed to pass in a blur. First, she had been out in the village square trying to spot the aromatisse, but now she was seated on a cushion on the second floor of the guards’ hut, waiting for Lecha to finish tending to Shimmer.

Whisper had taken a seat in the corner of the room, drinking from a small bowl of water as she waited. Muse was much less relaxed, pacing back and forth, looking over Lecha’s shoulder any chance she got. Or she was, until the doctor had become frustrated with her and told her to back off. Now she was standing near the stairs, occasionally lifting one foot, then the other, as she anxiously waited for Lecha to finish. Amongst all the excitement, Haru felt that she probably shouldn’t be here; there really wasn’t any reason to be here now that Shimmer had been attended to.

Oh, who was she kidding? She knew she shouldn’t be here. She shouldn’t have been here at all. But she couldn’t help it! Curiosity about Tempest had gotten the better of her. After all, she rationalized, whatever happened with him would have an effect on the village. And what happened in the village would have an effect on business, especially if word got out. Jhorlo would probably want to keep all this under wrap - who would want to visit or hire services from a village that was harboring an egg thief, after all?

Ok, they weren’t technically harboring him, they were rehabilitating him. But other villages would see it the same way, right?

“-be off now.”

Catching Lecha’s voice, Haru realized she had stopped paying attention at some point, getting lost in her own thoughts. Muse nearly knocked over both her and Lecha as she shoved past to get to Shimmer, nudging her back down as she tried to sit up, fretting over her in a way that reminded Haru of a concerned mother.

Lecha sounded like she was about to say something, giving Muse a hard look, but apparently thought better of it, chuckling and shaking her head before turning to leave, quietly heading down the stairs.

“Don’t worry us like that,” Muse said, carefully maneuvering herself so that she could rest her head beside Shimmer without poking her.

“I’m fine, Muse. Really. Look at me.” Then Shimmer paused to look around the room, confusion clouding her look. “Actually… how did I get up here, again?”

“I knew it. I’m going to get Lecha again. You’re still hurt.”

“Muse,” Whisper snapped from her corner, giving the absol a hard look. “She’s going to be fine. She just needs a little time to recover, understand? Just let her rest. It’s psychic strain.”

“But she’s never been strained like this before!” Muse insisted, her brow knit with worry.

Haru hummed in agreement. Even though she very much preferred the subdued way Shimmer was acting, she would be upset if something actually happened to her. Voicing her thoughts would be rude, though, so she held her tongue, instead addressing Muse’s worries. “She’s also never been in a situation where she would be strained like this, has she? You heard Lecha. Give her to tomorrow. If she’s not back to her… perky self by then, then you can worry about it.”

“I’m fine, really,” Shimmer said, reaching a hand up to pat Muse’s head. “Thank you for worrying about me. Now, um… please answer my question?”

“I helped Muse bring you up here,” Whisper explained, standing up. “You were falling in and out of alertness after you told us something about what you saw. We sent Haru after Lecha to make sure you were okay. Anu is still watching the prisoners.”

Shimmer took a long breath. “Ah, okay. So maybe we should talk about the big fluffy guy downstairs. What do we want to do about him?”

Whisper blinked. “Ah, shouldn’t you rest for a bit? I mean, we can wait for your father to get back-”

“I’ll be fine. Besides, what if business keeps him busy for a day or two? Do we want him to have to come back and deal with this mess?”

Whisper averted her gaze. “I… guess not. If you’re really certain you’re okay, you could start by telling us what you saw.”

As Shimmer sat up, Haru shifted so that she was more comfortable and could better pay attention. Prior to today, she’d never seen the resting area. It wasn’t very fancy; a couple of straw nests for beds and one big cushion bed – which is where Shimmer was laying – a low-laying table with cushion seats in the center, and a couple of chests full of equipment were the only furnishings.

She was brought back to reality by Muse’s voice. “Are you sure you’re up to this?” She asked quietly, nosing Shimmer’s shoulder. “We can wait, if you want.”

“No, it’s fine. Really. I’ll be fine. Just… give me a moment to recall things.” She took a deep breath, closing her eyes to concentrate. “Everything I saw was… really fragmented, and I’m not sure I remember everything. I don’t even know if everything was important. But I remember seeing… snow. A lot of snow. What else… Oh! I saw Nip when he was young. Tempest seemed very proud in that memory. And there was a memory with an old persian. You know, one of the grey ones with the chubby cheeks? He was asking Tempest why he was leaving, and he was all like ‘I lost everything’ or something. Seemed important but the details are fuzzy. And… there was another memory about Nip where he said something was fine but… I didn’t really understand that one. And of course, the one where he was attacked. That was the last one I saw.”

“So, he left somewhere - I’m assuming the group that he and Nip are from - on neutral terms at best? That’s definitely something to follow up on when I get Essra or her mother in here. Thank you, Shimmer.”

Haru listened quietly to the exchange up until that point. But when Whisper mentioned Essra, she couldn’t help but interrupt. “Wait, Essra? You don’t mean you’re going to send someone into his mind again, do you? Especially after what happened to Shimmer?”

“What choice do I have? He can’t speak to us. And asking yes and no questions will only give us part of the story. I either have to have someone dictate his directed thoughts – which is less dangerous but allows him to lie – or we have to dive into his mind again.”

“What about just having him write his answers down?” Haru suggested. “That way, you don’t have to invade his mind, but it would be just as reliable as reading his thoughts.”

Whisper hesitated. “That’s… I don’t think that would work, Haru. Most wildeners don’t have a writing system. We can’t rely on the idea that Nip and Tempest can write. Besides, that poses the same reliability issue as thought reading.”

“But it’s worth a shot, isn’t it?” Haru continued stubbornly.

“She… may have a point,” Muse pointed out quietly. “Even if it doesn’t work, isn’t it worth a shot, so no one else gets hurt?”

Whisper looked the three of them over, and Haru could tell she was thinking about it. A frustrated look crossed her face, then she let out a huff. “Fine. We’ll try it. But if it doesn’t work, we’re going back to my plan.”

She retreated to one of the chests in the corner of the room, shuffling through it until she found parchment, a small bowl, and a small jar of ink. Holding all of them in her hands, she headed towards the ramp down, but paused there.

“What are you waiting for?” Haru asked.

“Oh, that’s easy,” Shimmer replied. Haru glanced back, noting that the kirlia was on her feet, trying to climb onto Muse’s back. “She’s thinking about what she’s going to have to do about Tempest,”

Whisper narrowed her eyes. “Are you reading my mind now?”

“What? No, of course not! You’d feel it if I was. It’s just super obvious. We don’t have the means to keep someone captive long period, so you’ll have to make some decisions over how to handle Tempest after my dad gets back.”

The hawlucha blinked a couple times, looking Shimmer over. “I… didn’t expect that out of you. Is it really that obvious?”

Muse glanced to Shimmer before saying, “it kind of is, yeah.”

“Couldn’t we just handle things the way we’re handling Nip?” Haru asked.

“It’s… more complex than that. If he’s friendly towards Nip, then letting him stay, even under supervision, could run the risk of him helping Nip escape. He could pull a stunt like Nip did as well. And I still don’t trust Umbra, for that matter.”

“Oh, you don’t need to worry about Umbra,” Shimmer said. “Muse and I are keeping a verrry close eye on her.”

Haru was blunt. “That’s… not reassuring. Where is she right now?”

Before Shimmer could say anything that certainly would have given Haru a headache, Whisper stepped in. “Can we please move on? Look. I don’t know what I’m going to do yet. I’ll have to discuss it with Jhorlo and the other guards, and then bring it up to the village. But I swear, I will not let any of them hurt anyone else, understand?”

Silence fell across the room as Whisper’s heavy words hung in the air. After a moment, Shimmer broke the silence.

“Come on, we’re wasting daylight, aren’t we?”

Whisper let out a grunt before turning to head down the ramp, her talons clicking on the wooden surface. Haru headed down afterward, hearing Muse question Shimmers health before following.

Shimmer, perky as always, cheerfully let her know that she was absolutely fine, draping dramatically across her back.

Anu was in the exact same position he had been when she had first gone up to the second floor, sitting cross-legged in front of Tempest’s cell, his head bowed, and eyes closed. His aura feelers hovered and trembled just a bit, making her assume that he was reading the room. He let out a grunt, acknowledging their arrival.

Nip and Tempest, however, had moved. The ninetales was laying on his stomach against the cell bars, his nose poking out into the gap between his and Nip’s cell - a space about as wide as Haru was long - as he stared down the sneasel. Nip was also near the gap, laying on his stomach with his head resting on his arms, staring back at Tempest. His tail and ear feathers drooped, suggesting wariness.

As they approached, Haru noted the odd expression - confliction, she assumed - on Tempest’s face. What it meant, she wasn’t sure. But if anyone else noticed it, they said nothing.

Whisper came to a stop just in front of Tempest’s cell and cleared her throat, drawing the two prisoner’s attention and jolting Anu out of his meditation.

The lucario looked around the room, settling his gaze on Shimmer. “Ah, Shimmer. You seem weak, but I’m glad to see that you’re okay. You had us all worried.”

Shimmer waved a hand dismissively. “Don’t worry about me! I just needed a moment.” Yet, Haru could see how tightly she was gripping Muse’s coat, and how she slightly leaned forward to stay balanced.

“Ah, right, of course.” He turned his gaze to Whisper. “Nothing has happened since you left. They moved, but otherwise things have been totally calm.”

Whisper gave a grunt of acknowledgement as she passed him to stand in front of Tempest’s cell. “Good. We can work out the details of how to handle judgement for his attack when Jhorlo returns, but for now…”

She turned her attention to Tempest, looking him over with narrowed eyes. “Alright, ninetales. First, I will… apologize for the invasive method of obtaining information. But the fact of the matter is we don’t know if we can trust a word you say. We’re going to give you a chance to give us an honest answer now. But choose your words carefully, because if you lie, we won’t hesitate to turn you over to the enforcers for proper punishment.”

Through the bars, she pushed the parchment, laying it out on the floor. After pausing to unstop the jar and pour a small amount of ink into the bowl, she passed that through, too. “Why are you here? What are your intentions? And we need to know how you were injured, as that seems to be… relevant, from what we gathered.”

Tempest stared for a few heartbeats, looking first to Nip, then back to Whisper. Then he dragged himself to his feet, standing tall with his tails fanned out. The air grew chilly, and Haru instinctually shrank back at the threat display, poised to flee. She forced herself to appear relaxed a second later, realizing that no one else seemed fazed.

Whisper, in particular, was completely unperturbed. “We can do this the easy way, or the hard way. You can write your answers down there, we can have a psychic read your mind and translate, or, if you refuse to cooperate, we’ll have them dive into your mind again. And I guarantee the next one won’t be so easy to expel.”

For what felt like an agonizingly long time, Tempest stood dangerously still, the tips of his tails twitching as frost formed on the ground around his feet. But finally, he bowed his head, closed his eyes, and took a couple steps back before sitting down. Pawing at the parchment, he pulled it closer before placing a paw in the ink.

Haru swelled with pride, giving herself a mental pat on the back. Her idea was really working! She watched intently as he drew his paw across the parchment to make a thick black streak.

That’s odd, she thought, faltering. the orientation is all wrong. Is he going to write sideways?

It quickly became obvious that was not the case. Instead of the standard series of dots and lines that made up the written language Haru knew, he drew three sides of a square, leaving the bottom open and placing a dot in the middle. He followed that up by triangular shape, and then two quick parallel diagonal lines.

Haru stared down at the glyphs, her expression blank. “What’s… what’s that supposed to mean? That’s not… that’s not words.”

Someone scoffed. Haru looked up and caught sight of Nip staring at her. He quickly averted his gaze, turning his head to look at the back wall. Then he sat up, scratching behind his ear before turning his attention to the parchment.

“That first set of lines clearly represents the concept of safety. Protection from attack on most sides, like a sensible den. A triangle with equal sides like that can stand for help or caution. And the two lines can mean hunting or seeking. It’s a universal territorial marker. Simple, really. What were you expecting?”

Whether he meant it or not, Nip’s tone was harsh and sounded almost accusatory, reminding her of the way he’d sounded during their argument the night before. Admittedly, she sounded that way too, but she at least had good reason, right? Was he still mad? Well that was just fine. She had been harsh, but she had the right to be, didn’t she?

“Well it was the best solution,” she defended. “I just thought–”

“Thought what? That we’d use the same symbols?” Nip let out a frustrated growl, cutting her off. “You’re making assumptions again. Assuming a pokemon you’ve never met is good. Assuming that they think the same way you do, and that the way you look at things is the right way. No wonder you’re so naive.”

Haru felt an uncomfortable pit forming in her stomach, which quickly flared into fiery anger. “Excuse me?” She squeaked, marching towards Nip’s cell. “How dare you. We saved your life and you repaid us by taking one! Maybe I did make some assumptions. At least I’m not a terrible pokemon that takes advantage of others kindness. No wonder you–”

Before she could finish her sentence, she felt paws grip her sides and drag her back. She let out a surprised squeal and instinctively struggled as Anu pulled her further away. Whisper stepped between her and the cell, banging a wing against the bars. “Will both of you shut up!”

It took Haru a second to recover after the loud bang. She looked back to the cell and saw that Nip had scrambled backwards away from Whisper, his fur fluffed up and his pupils mere slivers. His breathing had turned rapid and shallow.

“Both of you, stop,” the hawlucha growled, crossing her wings as she backed off. “I do not have time for petty squabbling like this. And–” she cut off, her eyes flickering to something behind Haru. Turning to look back, Shimmer was visibly swaying, steadying herself on Muse with one arm and holding her head with the other. “Too much. Too strong emotions,” Shimmer mumbled.

Whisper took a deep breath and turned to Nip. “You need to watch your tongue, sneasel. Remember, you’re only here because the village is giving you a chance to prove that you’re going to change. But this? Heckling other pokemon does not sound very remorseful, now does it?”

Nip, having calmed down a bit, averted his gaze, mumbling what might have been a half-hearted apology. Haru let out a satisfied huff. But before she could get too proud of herself, Whisper turned on her next. “And you, Haru. You’re not helping the situation.”

“What did I do wrong?” Haru asked incredulously.

“You’re antagonizing him.”

“He antagonized me!”

“I know. But you need to be the bigger mon and ignore him. If you can’t do that, I’m going to have to ask you to leave. I don’t need a petty argument getting in the way of the investigation. Nor do I need our emotions to overwhelm Shimmer and make her pass out again. You can get the details later when we bring things up with the rest of the village.”

“But–”

“No buts!” Whisper stared Haru down with a narrowed gaze. “If you really want to help, then you can go fetch Essra. Or better yet, Phoel. Tell her to come over here. Looks like we’re going to need a psychic after all. And when you’re done, don’t come back.”

Haru sputtered. Maybe she shouldn’t be here but… how did this not concern her? She helped bring Nip here in the first place. “But I–”

“This isn’t negotiable. As head guard, this is an order, Haru. Leave.”

Haru turned to look at Shimmer and Muse, hoping they would come to her defense. But Shimmer was looking pallid, and Muse was too preoccupied with fretting over her to even notice Haru’s gaze. Sensing this was a fight she couldn’t win, Haru finally turned towards the door, a dark expression on her face.

“Fine,” she grumbled, making her way towards the exit. She could see when she wasn’t wanted.

*****​

The sun beat down on Haru, heating her fur as she trudged across the square. Knowing where Phoel would be, she made her way towards a stand near the center with a cloth canopy draped over it. Underneath, a bored looking meowstic sat, her head propped up by one paw while the other tapped away on the wooden surface. Next to her, on a perch, sat a pidove, but he took off before Haru got too close. Off to deliver a message, she suspected. Surprisingly, there was one other pokemon there: Toshi.

Haru called out a greeting as she got closer, causing Toshi to nearly jump in surprise. “Haru? What are you doing here?”

“Whisper sent me to fetch Phoel. Said she needs the help of a psychic to deal with the ninetales. You heard about what happened, right?”

Toshi shuddered. “Yeah, heard he managed to rough Romi up pretty good. It feels like we can’t go even a few days without something wild happening lately, huh?”

Haru hummed in response before turning her attention to the meowstic. “Good afternoon, Miss Phoel. You heard me, right?”

“Loud an’ clear, boss,” Phoel said, waving a paw. “Gonna have to wait a minute though, dear. I’m waiting to hear back news from Brinash town. Heard the Expedition Society is gearing up for something, but I’m trying to find out what.”

“Brinash Town?” Haru asked, tilting her head to the side. “Why are you asking about them? That’s several days journey from here.”

“Well, it is one of the biggest and oldest towns around,” Toshi pointed out. He lifted a foot to paw sheepishly at his muzzle. “But to be more specific, I, ah, asked her to. I’ve been… well, I’ve been trying to listen for news about apprenticeship openings at the society.”

Haru blinked a couple times. “Openings? Don’t tell me you’re planning on leaving?”

“Not anytime soon!” Toshi said quickly. “I mean, well, if openings came up soon, then maybe. But they’re not really accepting newbies right now. Society head Blue is currently out on business. Apparently, he’s working on passing through the Great Misty Ravine dungeon and establishing a base on the other side! Isn’t that cool? We’ll finally be able to explore the rest of the continent and find out just what lies beyond.”

“I mean… I guess it’s neat… but we have three whole pokemon right here that passed through there, you know. Nip, Umbra, and now that ninetales. Tempest, I think Nip called him?”

Toshi’s face scrunched up as he considered her words. “I mean, I guess. But… that still doesn’t change the fact that there’s still so much we don’t know. Doesn’t that excite you?”

“I prefer to stay grounded,” Haru replied. Why should I waste my time on something that’s several cycles away from being relevant to me?”

“Are… you alright? You seem like you’re in a bit of a bad mood.”

“Whisper made me leave because I was ‘antagonizing Nip,’ or something. Like, yeah, I got mad and started to gripe at him, but he started it! He was the one that insulted me! I think he’s just still mad about what happened last night.”

“What… what happened last night? You were out kind of late.”

“Oh, it was awful. I was feeling kind of torn up about the situation with Nip. You know, because I’m kinda a little bit responsible for helping bring him here. So, I decided to confront him directly and see if I could get a better answer than what he gave publicly. I mean, I actually spent some time with him, after all, so I was hoping that he would consider me trustworthy or something, I don’t know. But he just spewed the same sob-story he told the rest of the village, like we’re supposed to pity him for what might have Umbra done to him, despite what he did to us. If that even happened!”

“I mean… Umbra didn’t deny it, did she?” Toshi pointed out quietly. But Haru didn’t acknowledge him, too deep into her rant.

“He convinced himself that he’s safe from her hiding in that jail cell. I don’t think he’s considering changing his ways at all. I think he’s just using it for protection. If Umbra wasn’t here, he’d probably attack whoever was guarding him and try to run away.”

“Uh… sis?”

“Well, he started getting really angry when I pointed that out, so I reminded him that he needed to watch himself, or else they might change their mind and redo his judgement. I also pointed out that I didn’t really have a reason to trust his story.”

“You said what?

“And I think he’s still kind of mad about that, so he tried to goad me. Sorry, what were you saying?”

Toshi blinked, looking his sister over. “Um… Haru? You kind of were antagonizing him.”

“He antagonized me first, I went over this already.”

“No, I mean last night. Were you trying to upset him? I mean, you literally told him that you thought he was lying.”

Haru blinked. What was he getting at? “What? No, I wasn’t trying to upset him. I was just being truthful.”

Toshi sucked in a breath, anxiously dragging a paw across the ground. “Well… you were kind of insensitive. I guess. So, can you really blame him for getting upset?”

“Insensitive?” Haru tilted her head. “Even if I was trying to be insensitive, why should I spare his feelings?”

“I get that but. Didn’t you notice how scared he was of Umbra. Don’t you think his story might have had just a bit of truth to it?”

Haru averted her gaze for a second, uncertainty clouding her mind. Then she reminded herself of how cowardly he’d been, and how low he was willing to stoop. “I mean… he was probably just putting on a show. And even if he wasn’t, why should I be nice to him? He hurt our village, Toshi. And he hurt his tribe too. He had a second chance in us, and he blew it. We should have turned him over to the enforcers and been done with the situation. Or maybe we should have turned him over to Umbra, I don’t know.”

Toshi’s mouth dropped open. “You… you don’t mean that, do you?”

“I mean, it’s not ideal, but we’re just wasting our time with him, don’t you think? I mean, has he shown any interest in changing? Or is he just going to turn around and go hurt more pokemon the moment we say he’s free to go?”

Shifting his weight anxiously, Toshi turned to look elsewhere. “It’s only been a few days, Haru. Give him time. Wouldn’t you want others to give you the same courtesy if you wronged them?”

A beat of hesitation. “Sure, but why would I ever need that? It’s not like I’m going to go out and kill someone for food, or steal someone’s egg.”

His gaze dropped to the ground. “It… doesn’t have to necessarily be that… You kinda wronged Nip, didn’t you? Maybe I’m just being a bleeding heart but… You told him that you don’t believe Umbra hurt him. Don’t you think that’s something pretty personal to open up about?”

“Is that what this is about? Toshi, he’s given me no good reason to believe him!”

“But Umbra didn’t deny it either, remember? What if he wasn’t lying? Think about how rude it would be to say that to his face. What if I were to tell you that I didn’t believe you were swept downstream as a kid when you told me why it took so long for you to start swimming in the river? How would that make you feel?”

Haru opened her mouth and raised a paw as she started to respond, but hesitated, putting her paw back down and closing her mouth as she thought it over. “I would feel crummy, sure. But… no one’s forced to believe me if they don’t want to.”

Toshi dropped his gaze. “What about when you get into arguments with Dad?”

Arguments with Dad? Oh, right. Arguments about Regigigas, she guessed. “What about those?”

“Well… you’re kind of wronging him, in a way, aren’t you? Every time he brings Regigigas up lately, you get in an argument with him. Don’t you think it’s a little abrasive to just brush his feelings off like that?”

Haru didn’t like where this was going. “What’s so wrong with feeling like pokemon rely too much on gods that either don’t care about them or never existed at all?”

“Nothing!” Toshi said quickly. “But… you’re always picking a fight over it. Don’t you think it would be better to just, I don’t know, let things be? You’re not going to change his mind by insulting him - or anyone else for that matter. You know how Dad feels about the stories about Regigigas, so why do you keep antagonizing him over it?”

“Letting things be is kinda why Shimmer is still chasing after you, isn’t it? Besides, I just think he’s not thinking clearly! Maybe if he started putting his faith in other pokemon that are around him instead of a ‘god’ that has done nothing for him, he’d stop running himself ragged!”

Toshi shifted uncomfortably. “Is that what all this is about? This isn’t even about Dad. Or not just about dad, is it? This is about Grandpa Catkin, isn’t it?”

“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” Haru said quickly, but Toshi wasn’t paying attention anymore.

“All this time, I thought you were just doing all this for the sake of being contrary. But… no, you’re holding a grudge. You’re still upset that Grandpa died trying to find ‘Gigas, aren’t you?

A pit started to form in Haru’s stomach. She turned her head away. “That’s… That’s not true! I just think it’s foolish to put faith in a pokemon that does nothing to help anyone.”

“But Regigias has helped in a way, hasn’t he? He’s helped dad stay strong all these years. At least, that’s how I understand it?”

“Even if you were right, grandpa wouldn’t be dead if it weren’t for ‘Gigas,” Haru argued. “Why are you so quick to defend a pokemon you’ve never met? Why are you so quick to defend Nip, for that matter, when all he’s done is hurt us?”

“But he did help us. Back in the woods, remember?”

“Um… could you two have this discussion somewhere else, please?”

Haru and Toshi turned their attention to Phoel, who was staring at them with her claws digging into the wood.

“Psychic couriership takes a lot of focus and energy. I don’t need these kind of distractions when I’m trying to work.”

Both bidoof shifted uncomfortably, averting their gazes as they muttered some sort of apology.

Satisfied, Phoel let out a huff. “Now, I need to go help Whisper. But before I go, I heard back from the network, Toshi. Whatever is going on at the society is under tight wraps. From the sound of things, even the exploration teams only have details on a need to know basis. Sorry I couldn’t help you more.”

Toshi shifted his gaze to avoid looking at Haru. “Ah… thanks, Phoel. I appreciate it, really. Though… that’s really weird. Blue is well known for being very candid about what’s going on at the society…”

Phoel raised her arms, so that her paws were up in front of her. “I don’t know what the deal is, boss, I just deliver the news.”

“I know. Thanks anyways.” He turned back to look at Haru. “I should probably get back to work. Shouldn’t you, too?”

Toshi was right. The sun was just starting to descend in the sky; Haru’s lunch break had gone way longer than planned, with all the excitement. What did she have to show for it? Whisper was angry with her, and Toshi was obviously uncomfortable with how their conversation had gone.

“Yeah, you’re right,” she said quietly. “See you at dinner?”

“Mhm.”

Unnerved by his noncommittal response, but unwilling to push the matter further, Haru turned and began to trudge towards the edge of the square, making her way back towards home, before veering instead to the upstream path, towards where they felled trees. Toshi would be heading home to work on debarking, and she wasn’t totally sure she wanted to see him, still upset by his accusations. Maybe felling a tree would help her calm down.

Still, as she passed a field of berries on her left, the sparse village homes behind her now, she couldn’t help but dwell on his comments.

Was she really in the wrong here? Was she really being that much of an asshole? She really, honestly felt like she wasn’t.

But some lingering uncomfortable feeling in her gut told her she couldn’t be sure.

*****​

Things were quiet after Whisper had sent Haru away. Anu, after briefly exchanging words with Shimmer and Muse, excused himself, returning to his duties attending to Regigigas’ shrine. He gave his mate a reassuring pat on the shoulder as he passed.

Muse had managed to convince Shimmer to lay back down for a while and headed upstairs, where they would wait until Phoel or Essra arrived.

Leaving Whisper alone in the room with Nip and his possible ally.

She silently stared at Tempest for some time, scrutinizing his every detail. But eventually, she averted her gaze, nervously running her claws through the feathers on the side of her head.

Quietly, so silent that even pokemon like Nip and Tempest had to strain to hear, she mumbled, “titans, what have we gotten into…”

She turned away for a moment. But a scuffling sound made her whip her head back around. Nip had begun to scoot closer to the bars separating him from Tempest. But as soon as Whisper was looking at him again, he froze, his pupils wide as he stared back. She continued to stare for several seconds, then turned away again. Running her claws through her feathers again, she plucked one, winced, then slowly lowered her wing.

“Why did I ever agree to take on this position… I thought I left all this kind of trouble behind when I settled here… Darn it, I’m not prepared for this! Gods, Volt, why’d you have to go and die on us? And Leas, why’d she have to up and disappear? She was a great leader. Better than me…”

Her gaze drifted to the parchment, and the useless marks on it. Stupid! She knew that it was a pointless endeavor, trying to communicate with writing. And yet, she’d wasted her time with it anyways. How could she be so stupid?

She plucked another feather. Where was Phoel? Surely, Haru should have been able to get her by now?

A low, growl-like noise rumbled in her throat as she looked up to make eye contact with Tempest. But he was too busy staring at Nip to notice, an unreadable expression on his face.

“Hey!” she snapped, drawing his attention. “While we wait for the psychic to arrive, I suppose I’ll gather some cursory information with yes or no answers.” She began to walk, light on her feet, towards Tempest’s cell, stopping just in front of him at attention. “Now, I want you to bow your head if the answer is yes. Understand?”

She waited for him to perform the action before continuing. “Glad we got that settled. So, to start off… How much do you know about Nip? Do you know why he left the tribe?”

Tempest lowered his head.

“Then you likely know about the accusations that the mawile, Umbra, made?” Tempest’s lip curled into a soundless snarl at the mention of the name, and Whisper could feel the air growing cold again, but ignored it for the moment. “You know about what happened to the eggs in your nursery? Before you answer, I should mention that Nip here did not deny those accusations. In fact, he even explained his reasons for doing so. Horrible reasons, I might add.”

Out of the corner of her eye, she caught sight of Nip springing to his feet, fur bristling. He opened his mouth to say something, but only the slightest of sounds escaped before he caught himself.

The air grew more frigid. But then Tempest glanced over to Nip and hesitated. In the end, he bowed his head again.

“So, did you follow him here to help him?”

He bowed his head. Whisper sucked in a sharp breath.

“Why? Why would you help him after everything he did to your tribe? Do you have any idea what he did to ours? To our village? Do you have any idea how cruel he is? Why don’t you tell him, Nip? Tell him what you did to us.”

She turned her attention to watch as the sneasel stood frozen, his eyes narrowing to slits. His ear and tail feathers drooped, and he said nothing. Huh, so he could feel shame for his actions. It almost made her feel pity for him. Almost.

But he didn’t speak, so she scoffed and turned her head. “Well, since he is unwilling to answer, I will. Nip was found left for dead in the woods. A few of us villagers rescued him, bringing him back here to recover. But do you know how he repaid our kindness? By stealing and eating one of our eggs.”

Tempest stared at her for a moment, his gaze scrutinizing, as if trying to figure out if she was being truthful. Then he turned his attention to Nip. When Nip refused to meet his gaze, his tails drooped, and he laid down in the cell. What he was feeling, she was uncertain. Nip turned and sat with his back to Tempest. Something about that really ticked her off.

“So, now do you feel guilt?” Whisper asked Nip, looking him over. “Do you wish you could go back and change things? It’s a little late for that! Even if you really make a change to be a better mon, you can’t change what you did here, and there are going to be mon that will never accept you for that. Do you get that? Do you really feel remorse? Or do you just regret getting caught?”

“Whisper? Is everything okay?”

Whisper let out a gasp, whirling around to the ramp upstairs. Muse was standing at the top, looking her over with a worried expression. Whisper averted her gaze. “Sorry… Was I that loud?”

“Loud and clear,” Muse confirmed.

“I’m sorry. I just… this is all very personal. I… really shouldn’t be in charge of this whole operation, but… I don’t trust many others to handle things fairly. Anu is in the same situation as I am. Romi and Siles don’t have time to be involved in overseeing this. I don’t trust Vale and Stati to take care of things fairly.”

Muse dipped her head. “I understand. Really, I do. But maybe you need to step away for a moment? Go rest. I’ll watch them.”

“No. Phoel should be here any time now. I need to get this over with as soon as possible.”

“It’s a good thing I’m here, then.”

Whisper groaned, turning to spot the meowstic in the doorway. Oh, gods, had she heard that entire outburst, too? “Sorry you had to hear that.”

“Don’t worry about it, boss. We all know you’re going through a tough time.” The meowstic lightly padded forward, reaching up to place a paw on Whisper’s side. “Sorry for the delay. I was waiting on a message. So, what did you need me for?”

Whisper turned her head and tilted it upwards, gesturing in the direction of Tempest. “Simple mindreading, hopefully. He can’t talk, so I want you to translate his thoughts. If he’s uncooperative though… I might need you to go a bit deeper. Is that alright?”

Phoel shifted uncomfortably. “I haven’t done anything like that in years, so I may be a little rusty but… If you need me to…”

“I really do,” Whisper confirmed.

“Got it. Leave this to me.” Silently, Phoel padded over to sit in front of Tempest, taking a seat on the floor. She took several deep breaths, bringing her forepaws in front of her as a gentle glow escaped from her eyes.

“I’ve made contact,” she reported. “He’s quite insistent that I leave him alone, though.”

Whisper turned back to Tempest. “Well, if he doesn’t want to risk the damage of a deeper dive, he better be honest, then.” She directed her attention to the ninetales. “We’ll make this quick. Are you planning to help Nip? Especially now that you know what he’s done here.”

A moment of silence passed. Phoel frowned. “He says ‘I sincerely apologize on behalf of my… my student. He suffered much in the past and made poor decisions as a result.’”

Was he serious? Whisper clenched and unclenched her claws. “Sorry doesn’t cut it here. This isn’t just petty theft. This is murder. He came here and he needed to follow our laws, and he should consider himself lucky to be alive.”

There was a long pause. Phoel hesitated when she next spoke. “’Can he really be held to those laws if he did not know them?’”

“It’s common sense!” Whisper snapped. “You don’t kill the ‘mon that saved you!”

An uncomfortable silence followed. Tempest said nothing more. Or at least, Phoel did not pass on any more information.

Whisper let out a long breath. “Next question. Why did you attack Romi – the rapidash – why did you attack her when you came into town?”

“’She wouldn’t let me by.’”

“She wouldn’t let you- that’s it? That’s your reasoning?”

“’Yes. She wouldn’t let me by, so I used a show of strength to make her let me by.’”

Closing her eyes, Whisper brought a claw up to scratch at her beak. She could feel a migraine coming on. “Okay. Fine. Whatever. So if that’s the case, why did you try to come into town in the first place?”

“I’m paraphrasing his… colorful language here, but he says he was tracking Umbra. He followed an old scent into town. Smelled Nip when he got close.”

Well, that explained something, though Whisper was shocked by how well he’d managed to track a scent. She was quite certain Umbra hadn’t left Jhorlo’s in several days. Let alone town. “You attacked someone to get into a village, on the off chance that Umbra might be here? That’s rather… impulsive. You could have told her why you were trying to get into the village and she might have let you pass.”

“Um, Whisper,” Muse said quietly as she crept down the ramp. “I hate to be that mon, but… he kind of couldn’t. Couldn’t speak.”

Oh, right. She really wasn’t thinking straight right now. She let out a long breath. “Fine. Just… one more question then. How were you injured.”

“It was Umbra, obviously,” Nip grumbled under his breath.

Whsiper whirled around to glare at him. “I don’t remember asking you.”

“Well, for what it’s worth,” Phoel began, “the big guy says it wouldn’t surprise him if it was Umbra. But… He doesn’t know for sure. Everything happened so fast, he didn’t get a good look at his attacker. He is certain that it was a member of the tribe, though. He remembers the smell.”

How could he not- Whisper cut off herself off. “I see… Thank you. We will… keep all of these claims in mind as we look into how to handle this precarious situation. I believe that will be all.”

Tempest stared at Nip for a long moment before his next thought was translated. “He says…’Due to the… to the nature of what has happened here, I will defer to your judgement, so long as no more harm comes to either of us. I should have done more to help Nip before things reached this point. I’m sorry. But I will not leave, even if you ask me to. I have no reason to return to the Half-Moon Tribe. I was always an outsider, even before all this, there is nothing for me there anymore.’”

Whisper had begun to walk away, but once Phoel spoke again, she paused. “You… would not leave? Even under threat of death?”

“’Nip is the only of my kin I have left. Or rather, the only one I still hold any affection for. I will not leave him again.’”

Whisper looked Tempest over, judging his conviction. “Very well. I will trust your claim. I have to wait until our Mayor, Jhorlo returns before judgement can be passed, and will keep you here until then. But I promise no harm shall come to you until then.”

“You have my thanks, Whisper.”

Whisper plucked a feather. “I’ve already regretted trusting Nip. Don’t make me regret trusting you, too.”

*​

Note: a scene was edited in this chapter on July 3rd, 2020
 
Last edited:

canisaries

voted most likely to be edgy
Location
the middle of nowhere
Pronouns
she/her
Hi, I'm here for the Catnip Circle, and picking up from the last chapter I looked at. It's been a pretty long time since I read the previous chapters, so forgive me if I unintentionally repeat something I've said before. Alright, here we go.

The other, he assumed, must be her brother.
*must have been, as it's not a direct quote.

She said there's reason to believe that a nasty predator wildener has been hanging around the village, you see.
bro your dad is a predator watch yo mouth

Normally, this level of cation wouldn't be needed this close to town,
*caution. Didn't stop me from initially googling cation though, lmao

Nip gave an appreciative blink before moving to stand beside the duo.
I'm not sure how a blink can be appreciative? A wink I'd get, but I didn't take Nip to be the winking type.

On one hand, he could not help but feel flattered
This is a while after Nip had been mentioned, so this pronoun requires some deciphering. I suggest just replacing it with Nip for a smoother read.

In most towns near a major dungeon, Red - that's the flareon that runs the place
Oh heck, I know someone who goes by Red online and uses a flareon avatar :o

"If you must know, my name specifically relates to frostbite."
Oh, that's clever. Nice.

Especially if that mawlie is still hanging around.
*mawile

An idea popped into his head. A terrible idea, he was certain, but an idea none-the-less. A cruel idea that there would be no going back on. But also, an idea that would be much faster than running all the way to the mandibuzz's shack. But then again, he had done worse, hadn't he?
oh boy what are you gonna do this time nip

But a growling stomach and fear of losing time to get away from his pursuer egged him on.
CHOICE
OF
WORD

grabbing one of the mid-sized egss
*eggs

An idea sprang into his head. The mystery dungeon!
Ah, it's good to see that pay off. The earlier scene made me wonder what the point of it was, but now I see it was to set this up.

And on the subject of the foraging scene - Nip not knowing things is a good justification for more exposition. I was going to say that it's important not to lean on it too much or people will notice, but it seems Nip's in a position now where no one's really gonna want to talk to him anymore, so I don't think that's likely to be a problem.

Finally, saw some missing punctuation in these places:

"Take care sweetheart!"
"Hey, um, Nip, are you alright? You look like you saw a ghost or something" The
Although… I am curious Nip,
"Muse let's go.
Come on Toshi,
General Thoughts

God I sure wonder Nip could have done that was more awful than intending to eat someone's unborn child. Twice.

Anyway, it seems the plot's moving along at a good pace. Nip is on the run and the mawile is coming to town, and the mystery dungeon provides a hook for the next chapter. I think I had a better experience with this chapter as Nip was the POV character and I felt he was more likable and relatable... though then he goes ahead and does the fetus yeetus. So I unfortunately have to stand with what I said before of there being no likable characters in my eyes.

I will say that the strengths I've mentioned before are also present here, though. There's a good sense of what the technology and systems are like for this village and how they differ from the tribal lifestyle Nip is accustomed to. Character interactions are also believable. Outside the ones I pointed out, I didn't notice anything off or clunky about the prose, so it's fair to say it's quite good.

I know I don't have a great relationship with this story, so I hope this reply isn't all bad. It doesn't feel nice to be so negative, so I think I'll request a reroll if I get this assigned to me in the future - I don't think I'm able to be very constructive in my feedback, and you should rather get someone who is. Good luck in writing onward.
 

Negrek

Rise Toward Descent
Staff
At long last, I'm back! Since the last chapter I reviewed was five, I figured I'd do the next three here, which is 6-8. That ends up working out pretty well, since it brings the "Nip in the dungeon" arc to a close. At least, it does unless at the beginning of chapter nine he struggles free of his bonds and dashes back in there or something. :P

I have a fair number of little typo-y kind of things dug up over the course of the three chapters, and then we'll come to the meat of the review at the bottom. A couple of things before that, though. First, remember that when one character directly addresses another in dialogue, using their name or title, that name or title should be set off by a comma on each side.

For example:

"I understand Lecha, thank you."
This should be "I understand, Lecha, thank you."

“I know, I know ma’am. Sorry.”
This should be, "I know, I know, ma'am."

And so on:

“Shims, wait!”
Yes, dear, that is my title.
Oh, Niiiip! Won’t you please come down here?
"I'm sure you can, miss, but if you have an issue, you have to take it up with the boss."
You also mix up "led" and "lead" a fair amount. "Lead" is the metal, "led" is the past-tense of "to lead." In all the examples below, you want to use "led."

Anu lead the way, with the mawile just a bit behind him.
Jhorlo lead the group, followed close behind by his purrloin guards, Jauques and Lotte.
The path Muse lead them on was a winding one, twisting and turning deeper into the stable zone, avoiding each crater or hole they passed.
But other than that we're mostly looking at typos and stuff:

Chapter 6

Missing her attack hardly phased the mawile.
*fazed. Sounds a bit more natural to say "missing hardly fazed" or "having missed hardly fazed" rather than "missing her attack."

The mawile called out in frustration, whirling around, only to be greeted by not one, but two bidoofs rolling - no barreling - towards her, quickly picking up speed.
Few things here. You want em dashes here, not hyphens, and usually there's no space around them: "bidoofs rolling--no, barreling--towards her." Note the comma after "no" there, too! Also, are you usually putting "s" on the end of plural pokémon names? Usually the collective noun is the same as the singular.

The bidoof let out a panicked, pained squeal, panicking and struggling in her grip.
No need to use "panicked" twice in quick succession; I think deleting either (so either, "let out a pained squeal, panicking" or "let out a panicked, pained squeal and struggled..") works just fine. tbh I'd probably go one farther and leave just the pained squeal and the struggles; I think those get across panic well enough.

With practiced motion, she swung her jaw in an arc, tossing Haru in the direction of her brother, using her as a living projectile to throw off Toshi's pursuit.
with *a practiced motion

He skid to a stop and barely managed to avoid being flattened when the two rolled, exposing the mawile to his side.
*skidded

I still think it would be best if we stagger each teams entrance by a short period of time, and have each team do a quick sweep of every zone before moving on.
each *team's entrance, and it looks like you're missing the closing quote as well

The crowd began to disburse in small groups, most of them making their way over to Whisper.
*disperse

Shimmer pat her hand against Muse's cheek, making a shushing noise.
*patted, although "Shimmer patted Muse's cheek" is a bit cleaner; the fact that she's using her hand is implied.

Chapter 7

“Sometimes I gotta wonder what’s going on in Dad’s head. Imagine if one day we found out he was involved in some cover up? How crazy would that be? My dad, in the middle of some huge conspiracy! Why-”
That... sure is a random outburst. I assume this is indicating that Shimmer has some suspicions of her father already? It just seems like a rather odd place for it to come out.

Oh and maybe send along the nearest fire or fighting time too, that seems like a good idea.
fire or fighting *type

His mouth watered imagining his claws cracking the egg open, lapping up the golden ambrosia that leaked out.
Hate to break it to you, Nip, but assuming that egg is viable there's probably not going to be too much golden ambrosia in there for you. :P

And yet, there was something that sat him on edge.
*set him on edge

Bruxi laughed, sinking lower into the water, bubbles escaping as she continued to laugh even as submerged, throwing off Nip’s defensive posture.
even *while submerged

And he was absolutely filthy, dirt and dust and even a twig sticking to their feathers.
*his feathers

The psychic type - kirlia, she thinks she called herself - the kirlia’s place in the food chain was harder to place, but she suspected the companionship between a kirlia and an absol would be strange too.
Pronouns are always rough when you have two characters who share the same one that you need to talk about in the same sentence. I think it would be easier to follow if you had it as "psychic type--kirlia, Umbra thought she called herself" instead of what you have now. Note that "thinks" should be "thought" there. Also, the hyphens should be em dashes/no spaces around them.

She would love to be back there, instead of halfway across the land chasing after a pokemon as ungrateful as nip.
Missed the caps on "Nip," and there shouldn't be a comma after "there."

On the floor on her side of the platform was a plush object made of fabric that reminded her of spinnerak silk.
*spinarak

Wanting to appear nonchalant, Umbra reached up to scratch behind her undamaged.
Missing the word "ear" at the end.

Looks like I was correct then, I suspected as much.”
Missing the opening quote.

Chapter 8

In some ways, it felt like it took forever for the first light of dawn to arrive, and in others it felt like it rushed by in no time at all.
This sentence reads a bit off because the "it" in "it rushed by" refers to the first light of dawn, which is not what rushed by in no time at all. Something like "and in others it felt like the wait rushed by..." would work fine.

“Oh, fine,” she agreed, sifting her attention
*shifting

Muse grit her teeth.
*gritted

The crew sat off in an apprehensive silence, making their way through the forest of perpetual autumn with their goal in mind.
*set off

Unfortunately, even then she could see little, for fog kept her from seeing much further.
Seems redundant to say she couldn't see much because the fog kept her from seeing. I think condensing to something like, "Unfortunately, even then the fog kept her from seeing much further" would work well.

She turned back and peered down into the crater for a moment longer, then let out a hum of ascent and turned, sniffing at the air again.
*assent

“Seems like it,” Muse reported. “Though… its possible he masked his scent.”
*it's

No sooner had she taken a step, however, a blast of water from behind knocked her off her feet.
Should be "however, than a blast..."

A moment later, the two burst out into a small clearing barren of grass, perhaps twice as wide as Muse was across and three times long.
*as long

A serviper stood blocking the way, hissing angrily.
Stood? Without legs? :P

A tense stand down followed as the trio sized the enemy up.
*stare-down

The mawile appeared a moment later, took one quick cursory glance at the two frozen sides, then set her eyes on nip and launched herself at him.
"Nip" should be capitalized, and "cursory" means quick, so "quick cursory" is redundant

The sneasel yelped as his balance was lost and stumbled, momentum lost.
Kind of awkward to repeat "lost" here. I think it would be fine to cut this off after "stumbled," since it's clear his momentum's lost from the fact that he. A bit odd that this sentence is in passive voice as well; why not say "The sneasel lost as he lost his balance" instead?

If he got away now, then they may never find him.
*might

Haru let out a breath as the green mist dissipated and relaxed slightly, feeling a bit safer now that the three others aggressing pokemon were asleep.
Hmm, the "others" shouldn't be there.

a few seconds passed before a soft blue hue overtook the mawile.
Missing the caps at the beginning of the sentence.

And so Nip is apprehended at last! Assuming he doesn't manage to wriggle his way out of this and bolt, that is. I'm really interested how his trial's going to go and what kind of punishment Nip'll get assigned. I assume the town really doesn't do executions if Jhorlo had to try and convince Umbra to take the guy out (of which, more later), but I have to guess that he's going to get whatever maximum punishment exists. I'm also curious exactly how you're going to get Haru and the rest of the group to accept Nip at all, which I assume they do based on the cover art, when he is unambiguously and literally, well, a baby-eating monster. There's only so much you can do to make Nip at all sympathetic--it's not even like he panicked and made a bad decision, given the fact that he was angsting about what to do while in the dungeon. The baby-murder was entirely premeditated! And the townsfolk are going to be far harder to placate than a reader.

Some of the most fun stuff in this section, to me, was the little bit of dungeon worldbuilding when Nip was talking with Bruxi. There's the hints of how dungeons came about in ancient times and what they mean, which perhaps is going to be relevant later in the story? But perhaps what I found most interesting was the little glimpse we get into life for the dungeon-pokémon and some sense of why they live out in the dungeon where they're constantly fighting for survival when they could head over to the town and take up the "civilized" life at any opportunity (or could they?). Mind, while on some level I can appreciate the desire to not have to conform the stifling laws of society and being willing to give up a lot for that, the town honestly seems pretty chill, so I might have appreciated a more specific example of what exactly they find so oppressive about life in civilization. I also like the hints of prejudice in the final chapter where the guard just barge in and drag some of the dungeon pokémon off, like they automatically have jurisdiction over these randos' lives. One thing that I really like about this story is how you create all these different cultures and ways of living for different groups of pokémon, where most PMD fics just have the town pokémon and then some often-animalistic ferals, and that continued through this set of chapters.

I'm curious what Jhorlo's up to and how it relates to everything else that's going on. His desire to eat people is definitely, uh, a little creepy, although in this setting of course it makes sense. :P I forget whether he's openly carnivorous or whether he's pretending to be content with berries. If the latter, him going for meat on the down-low makes perfect sense, but if not, his desire to eat Nip specifically is entirely creepy and intriguing. Looking forward to learning what's up with this guy.

At this point I am wondering a bit how Jhorlo plays into the larger picture--this feels like an epic-scope sort of fic, which means that shady town mayor can't be the final boss, as it were. I'm kind of guessing that Nip's going to either get exiled from the village to face his tribe's justice, or Haru and company are going to have to sneak him out, and this is the inciting incident that gets the lot of them off on some kind of epic-quest road trip. In that case, though, it's hard to imagine whatever's up with Jhorlo being super relevant to the main plot.

This arc did feel rather drawn out to me. It's, what, four chapters from where Nip first hides out in the dungeon to where he's getting dragged out again? Those four chapters weren't all dungeon-crawling by any means, and there was a fair amount going on with the different groups of characters, but all in all I don't feel like the story's advanced as much as I would expect out of four pretty meaty chapters. It may be that some of this is just me not understanding the future significance of some of what happened, though. For example, it strikes me as perfectly natural to cut the scene where Haru's group is fleeing the ursaring, since I don't feel like it adds anything. At first I was thinking that it was a way to show off the petrify wand before it ended up getting used as part of Nip's capture, but then the wand never came up again. It didn't matter that the group was tired out from fleeing by the time they got to Nip. And you didn't need to show the ursaring fight in order to give a sense of what the dungeon/battling in the dungeon was like, since there had been plenty of fighting in the dungeon in previous chapters, enough to both establish the group's level of skill and the general way that fighting in the dungeon works. It's possible there's something going on with the teddiursa in the mix in the stable zone and the comment about "not wanting to piss off a mama ursaring," but if there doesn't end up being anything else to it, that's a good example of a scene that I think you could cut without harming anything.

At other times, I felt like conversations could perhaps have been condensed a bit--one disadvantage to having so many different characters off in different places/groups is that you can sometimes end up with redundant information as they have to keep filling each other in on things; an example would be towards the end of Chapter 6, where Muse discloses her premonition and that they need to go back into the dungeon and find Nip before anyone else. You then have Haru go tell Toshi about it... and then promptly Muse and Shimmer show up. To me it seems like you could have combined these scenes so that Toshi and Haru are hearing about Shimmer's plan at the same time and saved yourself a bit of logistics in splitting these characters up and then bringing them back together again almost immediately. It wouldn't have cut out a ton of words, but it would have streamlined a bit. Even on a sentence level, you have some tendency towards repetition and redundancy; I called out some examples in the nitpicks above. In general, there's a lot of good stuff going on here, and I think that trimming a bit of the excess would let the core of things really crackle. Right now I think things are moving a bit slow.

At this point, I think Haru's my favorite character. (Which appears to be an unpopular opinion, lol.) I like characters who have convictions, who care about things and argue for them even when it's pretty clear that they're deadass wrong. Haru's determined pragmatism grounds the flighty and overenthusiastic Shimmer and plays well off Nip's tendency towards melodrama. After that, Nip's the most interesting to me; like I said, it's going to be hard to come back from the baby murder, but there's clearly a lot going on with him, and I'm very excited to see that we'll probably start to get some answers about his past in the next couple chapters. Right now, though, those are the only two characters who I really feel I have a good grasp on. Shimmer's spoiled and airheaded, and while I get the sense that there's a lot more to her than we've seen, thus far she doesn't feel like she has a ton of substance and is verging on being a joke character, with her comical level of obsession with Toshi. My sense is that this is more a persona that she puts on than anything, but we'll see! Meanwhile, Muse pretty much fades into the background; what kind of thoughts or desires she might have outside of looking after Shimmer, we don't know. And while Umbra is certainly fearsome, we don't know much about her at all--in these three, I feel like we get three characters with personality, but without much substance to them as of yet.

With Nip's capture, though, things defintely feel like they're picking up, and I'm really curious to see where things go from here. Nip's trial in and of itself should be fun to watch, simply to see how the town hands out its justice, and I'm also curious whether we'll be seeing the scope open up into more of a quest plot from such small-town beginnings. Your worldbuilding continues to be a highlight of the story, so if we learn more about Nip's Yveltal worship, so much the better. One way or another, you've definitely built up Nip's trial to be a big event, and I'm looking forward to it!
 

NebulaDreams

Pokémon Trainer
Partner
luxray
Chapter 12

Despite my reservations about a Shimmer chapter, this one fleshed her out a lot more than just being a swooning daddy's girl, and I ended up liking her, well, slightly more by the end of it, while still being put off by her stalkerish obsessions towards Toshi. I like that she's struggling to keep up impressions and how it's implied that her whole cheery act is a mask (even though the point about it being a facade for her was a bit on the nose), and I'm both looking forward to/dreading the moment when her pedestal of Jhorlo gets broken.

I don't have much to say about Tempest except that I hope that it brings more balance to Nip's perspective and will lead to more of an understanding between the two sides after all the negativity surrounding Nip.

his head was lifted up
*he lifted his head up(?)

He stood up straight turned
I think there's a missing 'and' in between straight and turned.

Tempest would know what he did, and the entire village knew now, too. But trying to say it himself left a vile taste in his mouth.

“...Since I left our resting grounds,” he finished.
Oop, nice save there, Nippy. This makes me think he's starting to feel a bit more remorse, or at least, a better idea about how to integrate himself into this culture.

Both to practice and as a show of how much better she was feeling, she spent a few minutes levitating various items around her room: a few trinkets her dad had found or bought for her over the years, a couple pillows, a sundial that had gone unused for some time now, and a carefully constructed bidoof plush that she’d had to go to the next town over for. Creepy? Maybe a little. But it was as close as she had to the real thing, so she wouldn’t let anyone shame her for it.
Hmm, Pokemon owning Pokemon plushies. There's a bit of a paradox here. But aside from that, jeez, Shimmer, lay off it a little.

Dad always told her that it was rude to read people’s minds and memories, after all.
Not that he didn’t have his own secrets, as she was sure he did, but she liked to think it was more about her.
Yuuuup, definitely not suspicious of Jhorlo.

A young sneasel sits in front of him, beaming proudly as he presents the body of a rattata. He swells with pride and tells Nip what a good job he’s done.
Aww, his first fresh kill. Stick that moment on your fridge, Tempest, you should be proud.

I'm not sure who or what's saying this, is this Tempest's own thoughts recognising that Shimmer's invading his headspace, or is it something else? Since there isn't much of a reaction from Tempest afterwards, it's hard to say.

Chapter 13

He shifted to help lift Shimmer up, raising one paw over her with his aura feelers waving before looking over to Whisper.
I'm not sure if the aura feelers part is necessary.

She knew she shouldn’t be here. She shouldn’t have been here at all.
Nor the second 'she shouldn't have been here' sentence.

And as much as she hated Shimmer, she would never wish that on her.
Did she? Honestly, since it's been a while since I've caught up, it's hard to say, but I don't recall Haru being that resenting towards Shimmer. Though with her swooning over Toshi all the time, I can hardly blame her.

Haru headed down afterward, hearing Muse question Shimmers health before following.
1. Shouldn't it be 'afterwards'? 2. Also should be 'Shimmer's'.

Haru swelled with pride, giving herself a mental pat on the back. Her idea was really working! She watched intently as he drew his paw across the parchment to make a thick black streak.

That’s odd, she thought, faltering. the orientation is all wrong. Is he going to write sideways?

It quickly became obvious that was not the case. Instead of the standard series of dots and lines that made up the written language Haru knew, he drew three sides of a square, leaving the bottom open and placing a dot in the middle. He followed that up by triangular shape, and then two quick parallel diagonal lines.

Haru stared down at the glyphs, her expression blank. “What’s… what’s that supposed to mean? That’s not… that’s not words.”
"Something's in a language I don't understand, therefore it must be gibberish!" Good one, Haru.

Thought what? That we’d use the same symbols?” Nip let out a frustrated growl, cutting her off. “You’re making assumptions again. Assuming a pokemon you’ve never met is good. Assuming that they think the same way you do, and that the way you look at things is the right way. No wonder you’re so naive.”
Placificus Thee Nameth Hometh XIII: The Dunkening of Haru. But yeah, after Haru dismisses Nip so brazenly, it was satisfying to see him get his own back and prove to her once again that she needs to get her head out of her own ass.

Haru sputtered. Maybe she shouldn’t be here but… how did this not concern her? She helped bring Nip here in the first place. “But I–”

“This isn’t negotiable. As head guard, this is an order, Haru. Leave.”
Ooooooooh.

“Letting things be is kinda why Shimmer is still chasing after you, isn’t it? Besides, I just think he’s not thinking clearly! Maybe if he started putting his faith in other pokemon that are around him instead of a ‘god’ that has done nothing for him, he’d stop running himself ragged!”

Toshi shifted uncomfortably. “Is that what all this is about? This isn’t even about Dad. Or not just about dad, is it? This is about Grandpa Catkin, isn’t it?”
OOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOH!

On another note, it might also be that it's been a while since I last read the previous chapters, but I think part of this scene talking about Haru's Dad and her arguments with him about Regigigas tells rather than shows. I don't recall seeing a scene where we get to see this play out in action, so having it told instead of experiencing it first-hand robs the weight it might've had for Toshi to call her out for being such an edgy reddit atheist. Still, the fact that Toshi grew a spine and is calling her out at all really surprised and delighted me. His speech about how it would've felt for Haru if no one believed her for something that happened out of her control mirrored my thoughts when reading chapter 11 way back.

Whisper let out a long breath. “Next question. Why did you attack Romi – the rapidash – why did you attack her when you came into town?”

“’She wouldn’t let me by.’”

“She wouldn’t let you- that’s it? That’s your reasoning?”

“’Yes. She wouldn’t let me by, so I used a show of strength to make her let me by.’”
This is interesting. I wonder if that's just a part of Tempest's culture which is more centred around shows of strength as Pokemon. If that's what you were going for, then that puts his character into more perspective, and cements just out of touch the civilised society is with wildeners and outside tribes.

--

Okay, so Catnip Circle gave me a good push to check this out again, and I'm glad I did since these next two chapters have some nice payoffs. Seeing how I've caught up with all of PWCH so far, I thought I'd give my overall thoughts.

The most consistent complaint I've heard from other readers is that the characters aren't very likeable. I think it's still a tough sell from the beginning, but despite that, what's both pulling me in at the moment and pulling me away from it is the fact that the characters are so morally grey.

On the one hand, it gives the cast a lot of nuance, maintains suspense on what's going to happen next with all these egos clashing, and explores themes about cultural divides and expanding one's worldview I don't think I've seen before in a PMD fic. While I might not like the two leads, Nip and Haru (though I feel more sympathy for Nip), I'm still interested to read about them because of how they bounce off of each other and how they respond to the world around them. Especially since chapter 13 gave Haru some much needed conflict about her own morals, so it doesn't just show her being a self-righteous ass: she does slip up and like the chapter title implies, she faces consequences for what she says and how close-minded she comes across. So it balances out her character by not revolving all around her and makes her flaws seem more like they're going to be a part of her arc.

It's a satisfying payoff, which is a double edged sword since I also get the feeling we're not supposed to find the protagonist's suffering enjoyable. Which leads into...

On the other hand, it's hard to know who exactly to root for when there is no character in the right. It's not only a matter of getting on board/choosing between a baby murderer and a sheltered bigot, it's also getting on board with the whole village where almost everyone else is also close-minded and hostile towards wildeners in their own ways. As a result, it not only makes it hard to invest people in the characters, personally, I'm getting less invested in the world as a whole.

Theran Village is kind of an unpleasant place to be in. We don't really get to see much of what makes PMD so entertaining as a fic genre in this world (the wonders of a Pokemon-run society), and the characters don't seem to have a lot of fun being there. When you strip out the magical/Pokemon elements, what you have is a slow burning medieval drama that's heavily invested in village politics and the mix of other cultures coming in, with a constant atmosphere of tension between everyone waiting for the other shoe to drop. And when the majority of the story thus far takes place in the village where not much exciting stuff is happening and all of the conflicts are character-driven (and with such a grey cast), it's easy to get burnt out by the dreary tone and the slow pacing of it all.

But after all of this, I'm still interested in reading onward since what's good is very good. It's hard to know how to fix some of what I mentioned since it seems to come down to personal preference, but perhaps for future works or chapters, I'd think about balancing the tone more so it's a bit easier to swallow without dumbing down the message. I'll be looking forward to future chapters.
 
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Umbramatic

The Ghost Lord
Location
The Yangverse
Pronouns
Any
Chapter 4 Review! I am. Very slow. And I didn't read much else due to lack of energy. But at least I got to read the ~revised version!~

I wanna star out by saying your writing has a lot of charm. A lot of moments here just made me smile.

But a bullet pointing of my Opinions on Events:

-Nip's Anxiety about staying in this place any longer was fun and relatable.

-I'm used to my PMD fic and some other people's PMD fics where "ferals" won't usually attack town mons outside of Mystery Dungeons so seeing ones that WILL is interesting.

-oh no the Kirila's a flirt and straight

-QUILIAVA ATTACK! I like how the action in this scene is described.

-NIP YOU IDIOT

That was quite the cliffhanger! Knowing me it will probably be a few more months before I see it resolved but hopefully not.
 

kintsugi

golden scars
Pronouns
she/her/hers
Partner
silvally-grass
Hi there! Here for Catnip, and also to catch up. Chapter 9!

(I think The Desert Cat and I had a similar set of grammar edits, haha. Do you particularly care for line-by-line feedback like this? I don't want to waste your time on aspects you aren't focused on.)

healing energy passing from her hands-on occasion
You have an extra hyphen in here.

“I’m not alone,” the bidoof mumbled while Shimmer shook Muse awake.
Awww! Baby. Has friends. What a contrast to Nip, who certainly is very alone.

Slowly, almost hesitantly, the crowd parted, letting the three wildeners through with distrusting looks. The steenee and serviper, in turn, did little to counteract the anger and distrust, glowering right back. The fletchinder, however, took one cautious hop before taking to the sky. “Forget this. I have family to get back to.”
The ordering of how he takes to the sky and then "forget this" made it a little hard to keep track of what's happening -- is fletchinder shouting this as a parting shot? Are they really far away now?

The villagers certainly aren't portrayed as very welcoming here, are they? The mystery dungeon arc gave us a good feeling of the tentative peace that's held between wildeners and villagers, but this unease between them is a great callback to that.

dragging him backwards out of the hut as he tried to keep on feet.
dropped a word here

It would take far long for any to arrive. too We’ll have to
added a word here

“I…” Nip hesitated, eyes darting to look towards the lucario, then back to the crowd. He lowered his head slightly. “I would argue it wasn’t ‘assault,’ but rather ‘defending myself’... I… think they attacked first.”
I know Nip's not really a lawyer but I found this defense pretty funny.

I liked how he zeroes in on "they attacked first" -- it shows the different mentality that he has about violence and when it's permissible to inflict it. I wish there was more of that conviction in this line, though? "I would argue it wasn't 'assault'" sounds, pun not intended, very weasel-wordy -- I feel like in Nip's society it makes a lot of sense that if you attack someone you better expect the consequences. As it is now it feels like he's quibbling with definitions of words he doesn't actually understand. If it was something like "I... think they attacked first. I was defending myself," then he's not so much arguing the definition of the word as the justification of it -- which I think would fit the trial a lot better.

Haru caught herself leaning forward, breath bated as she waited for how he would answer. Would he tell the truth? Or dig himself into a deeper hole.
I didn't understand why she was anxious about him lying here specifically. After his initial response it seemed clear that he wasn't planning on lying his way out of this (not that he really could, since there were so many witnesses). I think this would make sense earlier in the chapter.

“See he admits it!”
Dropped a comma; should be "See, he admits it"

Shrinking back from the fighting types thinly veiled threat, Nip gulped before replying. “Well... it just… seemed like a good idea- no, it seemed like my best option at the time.”

“You better explain before I-” she cut herself off, steadied her tone, and started over again. “Just… Explain.”
Whisper's "you better explain" interruption here didn't make sense to me here since it seems clear that Nip's trying to explain what he did, he's just doing a really bad job of explaining why he did it (which is what she asked him in the first place). I think something like:
"Your best — " she cut herself off, steadied her tone, and started over again. "Just... Explain. Explain why."
A reasonable punishment? Yeah right.
should be a comma here; "yeah, right"

“Enough!”

Whisper moved forward to stand between the two bickering pokemon, shooting each of them a dangerous glare. “Both of you calm down.
The paragraph spacing here made it unclear if this is also Whisper talking, or someone else at the trial.

“One that’s sick in the head,” flaffy replied.
Canon is stupid and it's spelled "flaaffy", two a's. Canon is stupid and you can throw it out; just wanted to let you know in case this wasn't your intent.

She… kind of had to agree with that. Why would anyone ever think killing a pokemon was saving them? She pawed at the ground anxiously. Yet… Something didn’t seem right. There were still questions unanswered. Questions that might just make his crazy story make a bit more sense.
“What I’m trying to ask is… Why’d you do it? What made you feel like killing unhatched eggs was doing them mercy? And why are you so certain that Umbra chasing you was personal?”
I ... get the feeling that Haru is supposed to be a reader surrogate in this, asking the questions I have of Nip, but I get the feeling that you want to frame Haru as wrong again? In "should obligate carnivores be forced to eat stop eating meat" she's definitely wrong and my takeaway was that she's a naive but imposing character for it, but here it feels like she's taking the standard approach and Nip is advocating for the very unorthodox stance that it's okay to murder people if you think their lives will suck.

As a concept I like this -- you're exploring different views, after all, and having one character in charge of all the opinions that need debunking is a bad idea. For me the logical counterpoint to Haru's argument is already apparent by Nip's existence, though: some places don't have enough magic berries, not enough meat dies of natural causes, and if he doesn't eat it he'll literally die. We spend a lot of time with Nip and Nip's hunger, we get to focus on how both parties feel about the debate, and ultimately the takeaway ends with a middle ground being reached -- I noticed how in the trial here it takes a long time for Haru to confront the fact that Nip did eat a kid, which was surprising to me since she was so anti-carnivorism earlier.

I wish we had a similar setup for Nip's actions here, which are based on a personal opinion rather than a biological fact. This trial is as much about convincing the readers as it is about convincing the town, I think -- and I really wish I had a better understanding of Nip's worldview, more glimpses into how damaging their practices are, how it's scarred him and how his life in a violent society has taught him that it would be better not to be born. His opinion here is such a serious, weighty thing, but so much of it is told here and I don't find myself believing him. His actions before have always felt stand-offish/paranoid rather than anti-social, him running away from Umbra feels like rebelling against a tradition that he hates and that has hurt him -- but for me the leap into justifying murder will need a lot more time in Nip's head about it.

This line really drove that home for me:
Can you imagine what it’s like, spending so long being treated as inferior, only to be told that you’re expected to get along and produce offspring or else lose the spot in society you spent your adolescent years fighting to reach?
Because my answer was sort of -- no! I really cannot! But I would be interested in reading about it.

“So, what made you feel that way?” She blurted out
Should be lowercased:
> "So what made you feel that way?" she blurted out.

“They wanted to know why we hadn’t produced an egg. They wanted proof we weren’t infertile. And if one of us was- if I was, I refused to lose everything I worked towards in such a humiliating way. So, I decided to lose everything on my own terms: by leaving. But not before preventing the next generation from suffering the way I did.”
Again, the structure is interesting here -- I get why Nip doesn't tell Haru or anyone else this, but as a reader I think I needed this information earlier. If Nip's hatred for his home and their rules is the justification for childmurder, I think that's something that can be written -- but we absolutely need focus on that home and those rules earlier than here, at the very last minute.

But was it enough reason to change how he would be judged? Even if it was an explanation for what he did to the tribe, it wasn’t an excuse. And it certainly did not excuse what he did to them.
I'm not really sure why they ended up convinced either, honestly. I'm a bit torn! On one hand I can see why you wanted to move past the egg arc and wrap this up quickly, but on the other hand I think everyone's opinions fell into place without much deliberation, internal/external/otherwise.

the flaffy bleated into their neighbors’ ear.
The apostrophe at the end of neighbors implies that they bleated into the ears of many neighbors, so unless you meant that I think you wanted "neighbor's"

Haru stepped forward, having already made up her mind. But as she glanced back, she realized that Shimmer, Muse, and Toshi – none of the people she knew best had stepped forward. Even her parents were hanging at the back of the crowd. She tilted her head, honestly surprised.
I quite liked this bit. Haru, learning that her friends don't hold the same opinion. Raising her head proudly and then finding herself alone. A good image!

I was a bit unclear on how many people were present here. Her parents are specifically noted as not voting for the Enforcers, but also don't vote for the rehab group. Do they abstain altogether? How large is the crowd and how many of them actually voted?

“In the event of a tie,” Whisper began, raising a wing to place it on her mate’s shoulder. “We typically have the mayor break the tie. Jhorlo, do you have an opinion on the situation.”
Dropped a question mark here.

I like how they split the "release Nip to people who won't kill him/haven't contracted with Jhorlo" into two separate groups, so that they can split the votes. Sneaky!

Are you willing tolearn our ways
dropped a space

“I suppose that’s true,” Muse mumbled. “But… I would have thought that you, out of everyone, would have wanted to rehabilitate him? Considering you spent the most time with him out of everyone here.”

“Spent the most time- I spent… like… two days with him Muse. Total. Maybe a little more, but not much! And I don’t have time to run around worrying about him. I have more important things to do! I-”
The other shoe drops! I liked how the squad doesn't all agree here, how Toshi gets to be important.

“Do you have business with Society Head Blue?”
Oh shit!

Though it took great effort to write with the small piece of charcoal due to how big her hands were in comparison, she began to jot down notes.
This is a really cute detail but I also feel like if this happened a lot, she would invest in a larger piece of charcoal or something?

may the original one’s favor shine on you all
Not sure how you want to treat deities but I feel like this should be capitalized. More myths though! Always a treat.

In general this was a fun chapter. I think it's a tricky knot to tie off in general -- looking back, is there really a resolution that I would've found satisfying? I'm not sure. I do think having more time with Nip's backstory earlier would've helped. I figured you weren't going to have him exiled/executed, but I didn't expect they'd want him to stay! I think this arc is wrapping up, and I'm interested to see what it'll transition to next. Is Jhorlo gonna be pissed? How will all of the other villagers feel about this? Does Nip want rehab or just to not be dead? A lot of good questions come from this outcome.
 
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TheGOAT

Banana Bomb
Location
Houston, Texas
Pronouns
Him/his
Alright. Egg time.

I’ve read seven of PWCH’s published chapters so far, so I’ll briefly stop here to leave my thoughts.

Haru: She strikes a pleasant balance between being the most relatable character and also having a unique flavor of her own. Witnessing the story unfold through her eyes makes everything seem so down to earth. She’s a compliment to the story’s (currently) “low” stakes in the grand scheme of most PMD fics — i.e. the world isn’t ending or anything like that, at least within the scope of the story up to this point. Haru strikes me as just a regular Pokémon with respectable-but-regular goals, and I think that’s the backbone of why I’ve enjoyed her segments so far. It feels appropriate that she isn’t a human sent from another dimension or some sort of ‘chosen one’. My only worry is that if/when the stakes do get raised later on, whether this appropriate status will be sustainable or not. I have a much harder time imagining Haru, the Bidoof who just wants to chillax and work hard and support her family, going on a quest to battle deities and save boundless Pokémon. I can’t see the future, of course… but, after all, the beginning of the book did start out with a boatload of foreshadowing about “the gods”. I get the feeling Haru is on a one-way trip to biting off more than she can chew, and I’m curious to see whether she adapts to it or she remains in her bubble. Overall, for now, though, I love her. She’s probably the first character in this story I’d want to hang out with personally.

Toshi: Hard to say right now. I’m awaiting the eventual scene where he actually stands up and snaps at Shimmer. I want to see what he’s made of when put on the spot for real.

Shimmer: I have mixed feelings about this one. On one hand, she’s insufferable; on the other, she’s inspiring. How can she be both? I think, for me, it comes down to how she acts in different situations. In any casual setting, her focus is almost exclusively directed at Toshi, even if Toshi himself isn’t present. From the very start, you made it abundantly clear that she would be a foil for Toshi and generally annoying to be around. And while those things have stayed true, there is something about her that makes her one of my favorite characters anyway: when it counts, she’s dependable, resourceful, and dare I say brave. She defied my expectations in the Umbra fight by jumping into the fray in spite of Muse and her status, both of which she could easily use as an excuse to avoid getting hurt. I half-expected her to cower behind Toshi with the expectation he’d fight for her. It’s a shame for her, really; if she wasn’t so forward and clueless socially, I can see the pairing of those two working really well… which is what she wants, after all. I’m actively rooting for her, so I’m looking forward to the inevitable reality check that (hopefully!) inspires her to adjust her attitude and become the universally likable character I believe she can be

Muse: I need to see more before really reaching a solid verdict. For now, I can say that she’s diligent and self-aware enough to be genuinely likable and a fun character to read about. She seems keenly aware that Shimmer can be a bit much sometimes, and still does her duty without question. On top of that, she’s very friendly with everyone, Shimmer included (perhaps especially). She doesn’t strike me as a super dynamic character thus far, but she’s still respectable and maybe that’s enough for her current role. Admittedly, I do find myself wishing I could get her perspective on everything more often.

Nip: I’ll dive more into Nip later, presumably when I know more about his home life and his true motivations. For now, I can say that he confounds me in a way that is neither good nor bad. I can’t bring myself to root for him, but I also don’t want him to fail outright. It’s weird. If this is what you were going for, kudos. I’m looking forward to interacting with him in BLC.

Here are some more notes I jotted down while reading, in no particular order:

— The vague sequence at the start of the fic strikes a good balance between not giving too much away, remaining just barely relevant enough throughout the story to stick around in my mind, and setting up intrigue for later.

— Haru and Toshi using joint Rollout attacks is the kind of battling action I came to see.

— I wish the disjointed relationship between Haru and her father had been explored a little more. It doesn’t seem like her parents are ultra-relevant to the story thus far, which is fine… but still. That one dinner table argument scene early on left me with questions that never really got addressed as the story picked up. I suppose I’ll have to keep reading.

— I can’t help but appreciate the undertone of understanding/misunderstanding other cultures. I feel like the vastly different cultures, speech patterns, etc. that would naturally occur within a Pokémon world are infinitely customizable and inherently fascinating to read about when handled and diversified well. You’ve done very well in this category.

— I have some toning issues that I’ll discuss more in-depth during my next review. Regardless… overall, this has been a joy to read.

Am I hooked? Yeah, I definitely am. I got this far, and I don’t intend to stop. For now, though, I’ll wait until I’m caught up to give an overall critical analysis of the story, as well as an updated analysis for the characters. Keep up the good work in the meantime.
 
Chapter 14

windskull

Bidoof Fan
Staff
Partner
sneasel-nip
Hey all! Review replies will come later today, after this chapter, but I'll give a quick thanks to everyone that's dropped a review in the last... four months since I posted a chapter. Whoops! Enjoy!

Chapter 14: Momentary Respite

*​

For Theran Village, the next two sunrises passed without incident. Word spread around about the strange Ninetales and whispered rumors passed between the villagers, but mostly life continued just as it had before. Even for Nip.

Whisper, or one of the other guards, would rouse him shortly after dawn, tossing a few berries his way. Then they'd guide him over to the daycare to work on renovations, where he'd spend most of the day dragging around and cutting lumber. When the sun started to dip low in the sky, he'd be sent back to his cell with a few more berries. Both evenings, he sat against the bars as close to Tempest he could get, talking to him quietly. A couple of the guards would return to the hut when darkness settled in outside, putting away jars of moss that lit the room before retreating upstairs.

Speaking of Tempest, the Ninetales had yet to be let out of his cell; Whisper had explained that until Jhorlo returned and they could discuss what to do, he would have to remain locked away. As far as Nip could tell, Tempest seemed mostly fine with this. Still recovering from his infected injury, he was in no condition to be out working or doing anything of the sort. That didn't stop him from becoming agitated both times Nip had been removed from his sight. Not that Nip was in any position to argue about it.

Despite how regular the last two days had been, this morning started a bit different. He was roused, fed, and escorted to the daycare as usual. But instead of getting straight to work, he and Chipper now sat to the side next to a pile of unworked lumber, waiting, while Tor and Grombert conversed in front of the daycare. Nearby, Anu and Whisper were engaged in their own conversation, both of them occasionally stealing a glance at Nip to see if he was behaving.

Nip shifted uncomfortably on his feet before sitting down, keeping an eye on Tor and Grombert as he tried to listen in on their conversation. In hopes of appearing nonchalant, he started to busy himself with grooming, running his tongue over the side of his forepaw before brushing it over his face. An unpleasant memory of how Haru reacted about his grooming bubbled to the surface, though, making him slowly lower his paw.

"You say you're almost done, then?" he overheard Tor ask.

"With everything but th' fence," Grombert confirmed. "But to finish that to your, er, specifications, I'd have to get Romi to bring in another load of bricks. Whisper says she can't afford to send a guard off till Jhorlo gets back though. Not even a part-time one. Besides that… I hate to say it, but we're running a bit low on funds. A brick wasn't exactly part of the budget, after all."

"True," Tor replied in his usual monotone voice. "I take it you're asking for the rest of the payment now?"

"Not the rest of it," Grombert said quickly. "Just the second third of the agreed-upon amount. The rest can come later. Though we may have to renegotiate the price, what with both the increased cost of supplies and the additional set of working paws."

"Are you really going to pay him?" Nip caught Tor shooting him a nasty look. He quickly averted his gaze.

"What? Of course not! But we do have to pay Whisper for lending out his labor. She's gotta pay for the expenses of feeding him somehow."

The blissey closed his eyes. "I don't like it, but that's a fair point I suppose. Give me a moment." With that, Tor disappeared inside the vibrant building. He reappeared shortly after, carrying a small sack in one of his stubby hands. "I trust this will be enough for now?"

Grombert grabbed the bag in one paw and jingled the coins inside. Then he held out an ear and dumped the contents out onto it, inspecting them with a scrutinizing gaze. Finally, he flashed a grin. "That will, indeed, do! I'll get this divided up and prepare an order. Thanks."

"My pleasure." Tor turned and returned inside, while Grombert quickly returned the coins to the bag before approaching Chipper and Nip. Whisper and Anu glanced up from their conversation, and Nip quickly did his best to make it look like he hadn't been listening in.

"Looks like we're going to have a couple days off," Grombert announced. "Let me just take care of my business with Whisper and then we can all be on our way."

"Fine by me," Chipper said. He fell down to all fours and stretched. Nip could hear his joints crackle with each movement. "Gives me a chance to rest these old bones. What are gonna do about the sneasel, though?" He gestured his head towards Nip.

"I'm sure I'll be fine without the work," Nip grumbled under his breath, rubbing one sore forepaw with the other. He hoped no one heard that.

If anyone did, they didn't say anything about it. Whisper turned to address Grombert, Anu hanging a few steps behind. "He's not your responsibility to deal with. I'll take care of finding something to keep him busy. Roselei should have a field of oran bushes ready to harvest. I'm sure she could use the help. I'll talk to her about it before evening."

Nip looked down at his claws, fighting the urge to scowl. They all talked about him like he wasn't even there, not even giving him a chance to give any input. Then again, that was kind of the point, as much as he hated to admit it. It didn't mean he had to like it. Hoping to get his mind off of that, he turned his attention back to Grombert, watching him count several little lumpy disks out of the pile. Most of them seemed to be roughly the same size, but there were a few smaller ones. He gathered up the smaller pile before pushing it towards Whisper.

"I think this should meet our agreed-upon amount?"

The hawlucha counted the coins one by one, then scooped up a few before passing them on to Anu. "Here, take him around the village today. Let him buy meat or whatever else he wants within reason. I'll put the rest with our current funds and figure out how to approach next week later. Bring him back around lunch time. I'll have Stati relieve you at that point so you can get back to your duties.

Anu stared down at the coins in his paw, his brow furrowed. "Are you sure, Love?"

At the same time, Grombert gave Whisper a quizzical look. "Why would you give him any money? This is a community service sentence, not a job."

Whisper's feathers puffed up as she whirled around to glare at the diggersby. "I pride myself in not running our guard like the enforcers do, thank you very much," she snapped.

Grombert stumbled a few steps back, holding up his prehensile ears defensively. "Okay, okay, sorry I asked."

Slowly, Whisper sucked in and then let out a breath. "No, I'm sorry. I snapped at you under stress and I should do better. I need to prepare a statement before Jhorlo gets back about the Ninetales and any other things that happened since he left. Plus the aforementioned issue of trying to figure out the logistical mess of feeding him and Nip. Besides, letting Nip buy his own goods might give him a better idea of how the village functions, and may help him integrate into society if everything works out. It's not like I'm letting him buy just anything, anyways."

She turned her attention to Nip. "I'm giving you a little time to walk around the village and do what you want with this time, so I expect you to be on your best behavior, understand? Anu will be letting me know if you don't."

Nip held her gaze evenly and said nothing. But the way his ear swiveled back and his feathers drooped gave away his anxiety. Whisper continued to give him a meaningful stare. But when he kept quiet, she sighed and turned away, scooping up the remaining coins.

"I'll see you later, Anu."

As she began to walk away, Anu approached Nip. He placed the coins into a small, cloth pouch that rested against his hip before addressing the sneasel with his paws clasped together.

"Ah, we should, um, probably discuss what you wish to do with this free time. Are you hungry? P-perhaps we should go get something to eat. I suspect you'd like to have something more to your taste than what the guard has fed you thus far, wouldn't you?"

Without thinking about it, Nip licked his lips, his mind drifting to the past. His body itched for the exhilarating excitement of the hunt. For the rush as he stalked through the forest, pine needles squishing under his feet as he carefully sniffed the air for signs of prey, or else for the scents of those that might hunt him.

His claws twitched slightly at the thought, but he knew that wasn't what Anu was offering him. Not with how soft these village mon were, or at least claimed to be. "I am hungry, yes," he finally said quietly.

Anu hummed in acknowledgement, then moved so that he was standing behind Nip. "Off we go, then."

Wordlessly, Nip turned and began to walk away from the daycare. Anu followed close behind. Nip was quite certain that he was keeping an eye on him the entire time.

They walked in silence for a moment. But as they left the others behind, a burning question escaped Nip's mouth. "Are you planning to feed me something I can actually eat, now that you have some of this… 'poke' stuff?"

"Hm?" Anu tilted his head but didn't stop walking. "Oh, right. I don't know how Whisper is going to handle things. It's… complicated, I'm afraid. I understand that you are an obligate carnivore. Whisper does, too. But… the meat from our village is sourced from scavenging. It doesn't leave much to spare, and as a result, we can only feed so many mouths. In times of shortages, sometimes we must do without. And I'm afraid if Whisper has to choose between feeding you, and one of the other villagers going hungry… Well, she'll at least give you berries until there's more."

Nip stopped walking and turned to look at Anu, his gaze incredulous. "You can't really believe that, right? That all of your meat comes from scavenging."

Anu stopped as well and stared down at him. Nip noticed the tiniest flicker of uncertainty in his gaze. Then his muzzle stiffened, and he closed his eyes. "You must remember, you are not from around here. I can't expect you to understand how we do things, but I ask that you try to understand how we handle things here. We scavenge so that we might take only what we must. Our community is small as a result, but it is peaceful."

"I don't need to be from around here to know that's not sustainable!" Nip growled, frustration seeping into his tone. Then he flinched, realizing how heated he was sounding, and shrank back. Slowly, he sucked in and let out a breath before standing tall again. "I-I meant to say… I can't believe something like that really works. My kin only killed what we needed to survive. Yveltal's teachings told us to not let the lives we take go to waste. And yet, there is no way we could have survived on this scavenging. There wouldn't be enough to go around."

The lucario gave Nip a scrutinizing glare. He shrank back once again, avoiding looking Anu in the eye. But before he could try and talk his way out of things, Anu sighed, placing a paw against his chest spike. "Again… Please remember this is not your homeland, things are different here. Besides, that's part of why Whisper gave you a share of the earnings: so that you might purchase your own food, so you wouldn't have to worry about whether or not we could get you some."

Nip wanted to say, is that reason enough to leave me malnourished? But there was no point in arguing if it would only make Anu upset again. Getting into arguments led to fights. And fights against a pokemon like Anu would leave him beaten down. It wasn't worth the risk.

They began to walk again, but before Nip could start up the path towards the meat shop, he felt a paw on his shoulder.

"Ah… apologies, Nip, but, um. I'd like for us to stop inside this shop first." Anu lifted a paw to gesture to a tent that had been set up to the side. The tarp was colored a swirl of pale pink and white. A sign had been placed in front of it in the same unfamiliar writing that the pokemon around here seemed to use.

"What is this place?" Nip asked.

"Sweet's Shop," Anu explained. "She comes into town every so often and carries a lot of random stuff she finds around the area. Most of what she brings around is useless, but every once in a while she'll bring in orbs, wands, or other useful items. I hope you don't mind if we stop for a minute. Who knows, maybe you'll find a trinket you'll like?"

Nip highly doubted that. But he was in no mood to argue, so he just let out a grunt and moved to step through the entry flap.

A large piece of woven cloth, covered by intricate swirling designs, blanketed the ground inside. Several other smaller, similarly ornate carpets sat on top, with items on top of those. Some items were little more than a fanciful rock, though Nip did spot a couple of glassy orbs in one corner. One he recognized as an escape orb by the dim grey color with a bright light that sparked and danced deep inside. The other he didn't recognize as any particular orb, and he wasn't convinced it was an orb at all.

"Ah-ah, customers!"

Nip glanced up and looked to the back of the tent, movement catching his eye. From underneath a piece of cloth, a slurpuff had appeared, her fur disheveled.

"Oh, it's Mr. Anu," the slurpuff continued as she tried to flatten down her fur. "Oh, and you must be the sneasel I've been hearing so much about. Hello!"

She held out a paw, and Nip recoiled, noting the stickiness of some sort of berry that had matted the fur of her paw together. She stared at him for a moment, then closed her eyes and spun away, seemingly unconcerned by his reaction.

"Well, aren't you two looking rather well today. What can I get for you? I have all sorts of wares for sale… if you have the coin." She spun back around, bringing a paw up to her mouth, and shot the two a leer for just a second before returning to her usual cheerful demeanor.

Nip shot Anu an incredulous look. This was what he wanted to stop for? He hadn't been wrong, most of this really was junk. Not noticing or ignoring Nip's look, Anu moved to the corner of the room to inspect pile of orbs and probably-not-orbs. He had his back to Nip, but Nip could tell from the way his feelers wavered that he was still watching him. Or watching his aura, at least.

"Ah, my good sneasel friend!"

Nip felt a sticky paw grab hold of his hand. He yelped and jerked it away. Sweet gave him a weird look before continuing, grabbing his paw again to drag him to the other side of the tent. "You look like you've been traveling rather light. Wouldn't you like something nice and shiny to accompany you?" Carefully, she picked up what looked like a shard of crystal. On two sides, it was nearly flat, the sides ended in sharp, jagged edges.

"I…" Nip stared at the object. It was rather shiny… but what was the point? Some part of him wanted to store it away, and some other, rational part of his mind told him that he was wasting his time.

Anu glanced over and let out a sigh. "Um… Sweet, c-could you please not attempt to sell him broken glass? Or any sort of weapon, for that matter."

The slurpuff glanced at Anu with a sour expression. "Aww, you're no fun." She perked back up and turned her attention to Nip, who had taken a couple steps back when she'd turned her head. She still had a hold of his paw though, keeping him trapped in the interaction.

Dragging him to another pile, Sweet finally let go of his paw so that she could dig through a handful of scarves. When she stood back up, she held a small, drawstring bag made of a pale brown cloth. "See, isn't this perfect for you? Don't you wish you could carry things around? I have a big bag of my own!" She gestured to the corner of the room where, just as she said, there was a large bag, nearly as big as she was.

"Um…" Nip began. She did have a point. It would be nice to have something to carry things with when he got out of here. He had initially stolen a bag for that reason. On the other hand… who knew when he'd be allowed to leave? And until Umbra gave up (something he doubted would actually happen) he was perfectly content with hiding behind the guards.

"What do you want for it?" he finally said. Because it couldn't hurt to ask.

Sweet shot him a goofy grin, her tongue lolling out. "Oh, I knew you'd like it. And you're such a cutie, I'll make you a great deal. I'll sell it to ya for just 80 poke. Or a jar of combee honey — I'm kind of hungry. That's a bargain you can't refuse!"

Eighty poke? That seemed like a lot. But he had no clue what a big number was, by village standards. He glanced back to Anu uncertain of how much that would leave him with.

Anu picked up on the unspoken question. "If you buy it, it'd leave you with twenty."

Twenty. Nip could quantify twenty. Twenty was more than he remembered the meat costing before. But not by much. It would leave him with little more than enough for a single meal.

"No deal. I need that money to eat."

"Aww, that's too bad." Sweet frowned, dropping the bag back onto the cloth. "Let me know if you change your mind though. Or if you find anything neat. Like combee honey. I miiight be willing to do a trade sometime."

After that, she turned her attention to Anu, who had picked out the escape orb and a rock with little golden flecks in it. The two exchanged money, and then Anu stepped outside, waiting for Nip to follow.

He took one last look at the bag before trotting behind Anu, the flap closing behind him.

***​

After the short detour, Anu and Nip made the trip to the meat shop in silence. And Nip was fine with that. Compared to the typical ridicule, jabs, and snide remarks from his guards, the silence was a welcome break. Or it should have been. But with Anu, in particular, the silence was somehow worse.

The meat shop looked just as innocuous as Nip remembered it. If he hadn't already known about the food stored inside, he would not have given the old, run-down looking building a second thought.

The sound of movement from inside made him pause just outside the door. He took a couple steps back, then, of all pokemon, Vale emerged, carrying a bundle between his teeth. He took one look at Nip and his maw twisted into a snarl. He sat the bundle down and stared at him, his eyes narrow. "Shouldn't you be doing your manual labor? "

Anu took a deep breath, steeling his nerves. "Relax, Vale. He's been given a day off, just like you. And he's chosen to spend it in the same way you are, from the looks of things. What are you up to?"

Vale scoffed. "Spending it like him? Feh, yeah right. I'm about to spend the afternoon with my friends. Something I doubt a mongrel like him would understand. I was just picking up something for us to eat." He tilted his head towards the package.

Nip's nose scrunched up as his lip started to turn into a snarl, but he forced himself to be silent.

Anu said nothing about Nip's state, instead addressing Vale with a tilt of his head. "There's no need to say something like that. Anyway, you're speaking of Jaques and Lotte, I assume."

"Lotte at least. Hopefully Jaques will make it home in time for dinner."

The lucario let out a hum. "Fair enough. Have a good day then, Vale."

Vale let out a huff. "Any day I don't have to babysit a murderer is a good day in my book, Anu. I should be wishing you luck."

"I assure you, I will survive."

The manectric had nothing to say to that. So he picked up his bundle again and pushed past them. He brushed up against Nip as he passed, and Nip let out a quiet sharp yip when he felt a small static shock.

"Oopfs. Sohry, my bahh." Vale mumbled around the bundle, though from the sneer on his face, Nip suspected he wasn't sorry at all. Anu said nothing as Vale passed him, but Nip was shocked to see a disapproving frown on his face.

"Sorry about that," Anu mumbled, moving towards the doorway. "Shall we enter?"

Anu pushed the wooden flap open, allowing Nip to enter before him. As the flap opened, Nip sucked in a breath, taking in the mouthwatering smell of food. He stepped inside. Mandi was still at the counter with a rag in her beak, using it to carefully rub off what looked like a stain of blood. When she noticed her customers, she stopped, dropping the rag.

"Ah, well look who it is. Good to see you again, Anu. How's Whisper holding up?"

"She's doing better," Anu replied calmly, bowing his head in greeting. "I trust business has been going well?"

"Well as it usually does. Vale just brought something fresh in. Said he found it on his patrol route. Chased off a raticate and brought it back. Can I maybe interest you in that- oh!" She cut off suddenly, glancing down at Nip. "Oh. You're here, too. Stuck on guard duty, Anu?"

Nip kept his gaze on the ground, avoiding Mandi's pitying glance towards Anu. "Whisper asked me to take him for a walk," Anu explained. "Gave him a bit of change from what Grombert was paying her for the help."

"Got it got it. So… I guess you two are both looking for something to eat."

"Indeed," Anu replied. "What were you saying you just got in?"

"Ah, right. I have a rattata that's already been checked over and approved for sale. Vale brought in a fletchling, but it'll probably be midafternoon till I hear back on that one."

Nip's ear twitched, and he glanced up. "I'm sorry, did you say a fletchling?"

Mandi tilted her head. "I did. Why, does that interest you?"

He flicked his ear and turned his head away. "No, it does not. What else do you have."

Mandi stared at him a moment longer. "Well… I'm afraid Vale wiped out a lot of my stock, but I have some krabby meat and a bit of a serviper left? Someone brought back… most of a sawsbuck the other day, but I'm afraid I don't have much of it left. Enough for two meals, for someone of your size, probably."

Nip considered his options for a moment. "I'll take both the sawsbuck and the serviper. As much as you could spare. Don't bother processing it this time."

Anu raised a brow. "Isn't that a bit much for you."

"Of course it is," Nip snapped. Then he realized how combative his tone was and took a breath to calm himself. "Half of it is for tempest. If you village mon aren't going to feed us, then I will."

Anu flinched at his tone, but did not argue further. "Very well. I understand." He turned his attention back to Mandi. "I'll take the rattata for myself and Whisper, but we would like it prepared. It'll… be enough until you get more in."

Mandi tilted her head before opening her beak cheerfully. "My pleasure. That's going to be twenty poke for you, anu. As for the sneasel… Fourty should be good."

Nip tilted his head. "Why so much?"

"Well, you are buying enough for four meals," she pointed out, "And serviper meat is more popular than you'd think. Rare enough that it costs more."

Nip had nothing he could say to that. Anu exchanged coins with the mandibuzz, and then she disappeared into the back, calling out for her cubone assistant. Nip took a seat on one of the cushions to wait. Anu paused for a moment before sitting down beside him.

"If… if you don't mind me asking," the lucario began quietly, "is there something about the fletchling that upset you?"

Something about Anu's tone made Nip flinch. "It's nothing important," he muttered. "I just remember seeing a couple of fletchling when I was in the dungeon and wonder if it's one of the ones I saw, that's all. Doesn't really matter, that kind of danger is the price of living wild."

"Anu let out a sigh. "I see. Are you troubled by it?"

"No more than I would have been if one of my former tribe-kin had been killed when away from camp. The creators gave us teeth and claws and the need to hunt others for our food. But they also gave those pokemon that we hunt their own ways to defend themselves. It's just the way the world was created."

"Do you ever think that it's cruel?" Anu asked.

Nip let out a grunt. "Perhaps. But the creators must have made us like this for a reason. Besides. Though life is cruel, death frees us of these dangers and these burdens." He paused, closing his eyes as he recalled a familiar mantra from his youth. "Yveltal will take the dead under her wing and grant them eternal peace."

"And what of those that are killed before they get to live," Anu pressed his voice raising. "What happens to those that never get to hatch? Those that die before they ever get to leave the nursery."

Nip flinched, his ear and feather lying flat against his skull as he shrank away from Anu. The lucario noticed the movement and looked away, taking several deep, steadying breaths.

"I… apologize. It is unbecoming to let my emotions get the better of me."

Nip was silent for a moment, his gaze on the ground. "You of all pokemon have every right to be angry. It's only natural for a parent to mourn and want to avenge their child. So why aren't you? Why bother keeping it in?"

Anu was quiet for a moment, taking in several deep, steadying breaths. "Believe me, N… s-sneasel,I am livid with you. I hate you. I hate you more than my own mate, even. She, at least, understands your reasoning, even if she feels it's flawed. Even if she feels so torn up inside by what you've done. But… she has an obligation to treat you fairly, to carry out the village's justice. And, as a religious leader, I have an obligation to lead by example. Following Regigigas means walking a path of peace, and that means I must put aside my anger."

Nip was quiet for a moment. "Whisper… doesn't hate me?"

"She wants to. But she understands what it's like being in a position like yours. Maybe not quite the same… But being alone, not knowing where to turn to? Having to make a tough choice about where you'll get your next meal? But… Ah, maybe I shouldn't be bringing this up. It is rather personal, after all."

Nip leaned back against the wall. "She's not from around here, is she." It wasn't a question.

Anu tensed. Then sighed. "S-sort of. She's… She used to live wild. Gave up the life of a wildener to settle down here many season-cycles ago, when she was still quite young." He smiled wistfully. "I was still a riolu pup. Lady Gratitude was still the mayor back then, and times were prosperous." His smile faded, twisting into a frown. "And then the drought happened, and all the misfortune that followed… Ah but. O-oh, I've said too much already. This isn't my story to tell. Look, here comes Mandi."

Nip sat up straight turning his attention back to the counter. Sure enough, there was the mandibuzz, carrying two parcels in her beak. She sat them both on the counter, nudging one a little closer to the edge. "There you two go. Sorry about the wait. Xylar had to finish preparing our message about the fletchling."

"It…" Anu took a deep breath. "It is absolutely fine, Mandi. No worries at all." He picked up the first parcel, taking a peek inside, before handing it to Nip. As Nip glanced down, he could see the meat inside had been cut, so that one couldn't tell what pokemon it had been at one point. As much of a waste of time as Nip saw it, he could understand why some pokemon would want their food prepped that way. It was a lot easier to eat when your food didn't look like your neighbor.

"That one is mine," Anu explained. "I will exchange it with you when we return to the guards' hut. Come along now." He picked the other, slightly larger bundle up and began to walk pushing the wooden door open so that Nip could pass through.

Just outside, Nip paused and took a deep breath. "Well… for what it's worth, Anu…" Nip hesitated. Anu gave him an expectant look.

Just spit it out, said a voice in the back of Nip's head. Just say you regret your decision. It's not that hard. Tell him you made a poor choice. Tell him you shouldn't have betrayed their kindness!

But Nip said none of that. Instead, he sighed, closing his eyes. "Nevermind. I'll talk to you about it another time."

Nip pushed past Anu and silently began to walk back in the direction of the village square. But even after he had been returned to his cell, and after he had shared his food with Tempest, the words still echoed in his head. And even after the lights went out, and he had groomed himself and settled down for the night, his mind still drifted back to his conversation with Anu.

***​

Umbra stewed quietly in her room, pacing back and forth in hopes of getting some of her restless aggression. After a long morning of hunting with vale, the manectric had shooed her off back to Jhorlo's villa, taking two of their three kills with him. She considered telling him to buzz off and going to attack Nip on her own. After all, how was Jhorlo supposed to stop her when he wasn't around?

But logic had stopped her. How was she supposed to get to him in broad daylight, when he had guards watching his every move? No. She had to wait until the time was right. And as much as she longed to sink her teeth into his mangy flesh and rid herself of his nuisance once and for all, she hadn't gotten this close without a hint of patience.

Unfortunately, patience didn't rid her of anger.

She let out a low growl, her claws scraping against the wooden boards as she paced. How could the pokemon here defend him? They had seen for themselves how low he was willing to stoop. And now Tempest was here, too. That ratty ninetales… how was he even still alive? She swore she had done him in before she left, knowing that he would chase after Nip. Tempest had always been so quick to defend him and anything he did. If he wasn't male, she'd think he was pining after him!

Gnashing her teeth together, she reached down to pick one of the cushions that made up her "nest", tiny claws digging into the fabric as he squeezed it. "Ngh… I don't get it… How do you keep evading me? You very existence is a blight. How could the elders slight me like this? First pairing me with… with that low rank runt. Then, with I make it clear to him and the elders that I want nothing to do with him, nothing happens! And then when I try to make the best of a bad situation, he goes and betrays all of us like that! And now I'm out here, chasing him down because he had the nerve to attack the nursery instead of just running off and dying in the woods or something!"

Pink energy shimmered around her claws. She channeled the energy into the cushion as she squeezed, imagining it to be Nip, then threw it into the air, snapping it up with her second set of jaws before shaking it violently. Oh, how she wanted to sink her teeth into his flesh and rip him to shreds like a juicy bit of prey. It would be a suitable end for him. And yet, at the same time, she wanted to take her sweet time and make sure he suffered, after what he'd done to the tribe. And after he'd slighted her, personally. After she'd gone through all that trouble to break his spirit and turn him into a… tolerable mate.

She slammed the cushion against the ground her jaws hitting the floor with a thud. Bits of the fluffy innards went everywhere, thrown into the air and spilling onto the floor from the sheer force of her attack. And then she stood there, huffing for breath as she glowered at the pillow's remains.

And then a quiet scratching caught her attention. She whipped around just as the door creaked open, Lotte standing in the frame.

The purrloin looked over the scene with a concerned expression. "Ah. Is… Is everything alright, Miss Umbra."

Umbra felt her face heating up in embarrassment. Just how much of her tantrum had Lotte seen? She had a reputation as a poised and dignified pokemon to uphold, and she hoped that it was not tarnished by the outburst. "I am… Fine," she replied stiffly.

Lotte stared, her expression becoming unreadable, only the twitching tip of her tail betraying any emotion. "I will take you at your word, then. How has your morning been? I take it your hunt went well?"

"Well enough," Umbra replied with a huff, bending down to pick up the ruined cushion. "Caught a fletchling that strayed a bit too far from its home. Didn't even see me coming till it was too late. Its leg was all bent out of shape, so it wouldn't have survived long anyways. Course, cause of all your rules and regulations, Vale had to run off and get them 'processed' or whatever. Do you seriously not keep any food around here?"

Lotte hummed, stepping inside. She began to bat at the stuffing, working it into a pile. "We keep some berries and bread, for Miss Shimmer, and sometimes Jhorlo will have Vale just bring his hunts here directly. Says it helps lower suspicion and makes sure those of us that are… looking out for the obligates of the village stay well-fed enough to do so. Like that wooper you brought home, for example."

Umbra raised a brow. "You hunt?"

"Not often. Usually only when I accompany Jhorlo on business. Vale does most of the work around here. At least, work of that sort. Hunting. General muscle work."

Thinking about the manectric, Umbra scoffed. "Why does Vale even put up with Jhorlo anyways? You say you're repaying a debt, and I'm only doing this because I have to wait for the right time to… take care of Nip."

Lotte flicked an ear. "I don't know the details. Jhorlo saw no reason to share that with me, and I don't intend to question him and bring his kindness into question. But I'm sure Vale has a good reason."

A growl sounded from the doorway. "You know, it's kind of rude to talk about people behind their backs."

Umbra turned her attention back to the door. Vale stood in the frame now, a bundle of some sort of paper tied together laying at his feet.

Lotte followed Umbra's gaze. "Well, good day to you too, Vale. What brings you here?"

He nosed the parchment a bit further into the room. "I brought lunch. Figured Jaques would be hungry when he got back. And you, Lotte. And Umbra and Jhorlo too, I guess."

"Well, how thoughtful of you!" Lotte let out an amused purr. "Bring it on in, I'm sure Umbra is hungry, too."

She was. A growl escaped her stomach. She'd had nothing to eat since yesterday, and the morning she and Vale had spent hunting had taken a lot out of her. Vale carried the bundle over to the center of the room, holding it in his mouth by the strings. He sat it on the floor, then Lotte made quick work of slicing it open, passing out a sliced piece of some unknown pokemon to each of them. Umbra still found it odd, that they prepared their meals in such a way, but she was in no position to complain.

Lotte and Vale exchanged small talk while Umbra worked away at her share, tearing pieces off before swallowing them whole. This… sitting here while the other two passed the time when she could be out there finishing her duty so she could hurry up and return home, it drove her mad.

"I cannot wait to get out of here," she growled under her breath, drawing the other two's attention.

"What was that?" Lotte asked.

"The sooner I take care of Nip, the sooner I can leave. All I need is a feather or something like that. I would take an eye, or something else much more concrete, but it would rot before I made it back. If only I was not run so busy doing all this hunting for Jhorlo."

"You have plenty of time," Vale pointed out. "But… well, I think Lotte wanted to finish cleaning up in here. Why don't you walk with me, for a moment?"

Umbra scarfed down the last of her meal. "Why should I? You have given me no reason to get along with you, outside of hunting."

"Just do it," Vale growled, frustration seeping into his tone.

She considered arguing further, but decided it was not worth it, and finally stood, stretching before walking ahead. Vale followed, taking the lead once they were in the hall. When they got to the end and began to take the ramp to the bottom floor, he finally spoke. "You know you're not getting out of here anytime soon, right?"

A growl escaped Umbra's throat. "What are you getting at?"

"That sneasel? He's gonna be locked up for moons. He's constantly under watch, too. And Jhorlo finds you too useful to let you just leave. So, to him, that sneasel's more useful alive than dead. Hate to say it, but you played right into his paws."

"You're joking right?" Umbra deadpanned.

"Listen, Umbra. I don't like you. At all. You're only slightly better than that sneasel in my eyes. But I can sympathize with your situation. You and I, we're in similar boats here. I've been working under Jhorlo for seasons. Hunting for him, but also doing his dirty work. And I can tell you right now, he's not planning to let you go anywhere. He's got part of the town caught up in his claws, and wool over everyone else's eyes. You make one wrong move, and it's you that'll be disappearing, not Nip. No, if you want to get rid of him, you're going to have to take matters into your own paws."

Umbra's gut twisted. As much as she would like to argue otherwise, Vale's warning made perfect sense. "So. If you hate me so much, why bothering telling me this?"

"I want that sneasel gone as much as you. He hurt the village. And while I don't care too much about that, I care about the fact that he's got everyone so convinced with his sob story that he's wasting the time, energy, and resources of the village. He's wasting my time."

Vale spun around to look Umbra in the eye. "Let me cut to the chase. You and I. We're going find a way to get rid of that sneasel. That'll get you, him, and hopefully that ninetales out of my fur so the village can go back to normal, understand."

Umbra stared at Vale for a moment, her eyes narrowed. What the manectric said made sense. But at the same time, she found it hard to trust. "And if I refuse to work with you?"

"I hope you like working for Jhorlo until you either die of old age or a hunting injury, or else he makes you… disappear." He paused, glancing back up the hallway. "Ever notice that there's no liepard around here for Jaques and Lotte to have come from? There's a reason for that. I've been around long enough to remember their ma. I know what happened to her."

Umbra grit her teeth. "Fine. I suppose it doesn't hurt to discuss an idea, at least. What do you have in mind?"

"Next time we go out hunting, we'll talk. Deal?"

"Why not talk now?"

"I need time to figure out what Whipser's going to do with the ninetales. Once we know that, we can hash out a plan. Sound fair?"

Umbra thought back to the last time she'd struck a deal in the village. Unlike Jhorlo, though. Vale seemed to be more brawn than brain. And on top of that, he was in a… very useful position, if she wanted to get at Nip. "Very well. Do not make me regret trusting you."

***​

Are they seriously still chasing me? How rude!

Celebi forced his wings to flutter faster. Trees whizzed past him. Occasionally, he'd graze up against the bark or smack against some leafy twigs, sending decaying leaves to the ground as he dodged and weaved through the forest in desperate hopes of escaping his pursuer. He didn't dare look back, hearing the cracks and groans as trees fell left and right, his pursuer effortlessly slicing right through them. An explosion rang in the distance, and he flinched, grasping at an arm that had become shriveled by burns, scorched almost black.

So I overshot my time jump a little. Why does this have to happen to me? It's not faiiir!

He yelped as wind whipped around him, a glowing crescent shape of energy flying by. Another one struck him in the back, sending him tumbling through the air. He hit the ground hard, groaning, and felt something gooey oozing down his back. He tried to flutter back to the air, but his wings wouldn't cooperate. No, if he stopped now, they would catch up. And he didn't want to find out what happened if they caught him. The carnage behind him was bad enough.

Another distant explosion. This time he heard the pained, anguished cry of some pokemon unfortunate enough to be caught in the blast. His eyes widened in alarm, and he struggled to his feet, wincing as he put pressure on his damaged arm.

Slowly, he brought his shaking hands up, creating an L shape in each one, holding them together to form a rectangle. He squeezed his eyes shut, concentrating, trying to pull psionic energy together. A pulse blasted forward, channeled through his hands, and a window to another time opened in front of him.

With all the speed he could muster, Celebi stumbled forward towards the temporary portal through time.

But just as he was about to cross the threshold, he heard a loud yell from behind. Another air cutter slammed into him, slicing into his back, and he let out a scream. His strength failed him, and he tumbled forward as the world went dark.
 

Equitia

Pokémon Trainer
Pronouns
he/him
Partner
espurr
Hello, these are my thoughts on Places We Call Home up to Chapter 9. I was going to read and review the whole thing, but obviously this got pretty lengthy, and I decided I was better off making two reviews instead. This review is for the first part of the fic, but I read and wrote down my thoughts one chapter at a time. I'll try to give my overall impression on the story once I'm totally caught up.

Prologue

This was short, but very gripping! I liked how it was both vast and down-to-earth with its framing of stories being told, interspersed with those foreboding italicized lines. The five Pokémon mentioned here seem like they’re all going to be important (though the Sneasel and Bidoof are a bit obvious, being in the cover and synopsis). I especially like this paragraph --

A tired torracat waits for his gods. A scarred bisharp commands her followers. A world-weary ninetales listens in horror. A stubborn bidoof gets in an argument. A terrified sneasel flees his kin, and the place he once called home.
-- for giving hints as to what we can expect from them. Particularly like the final sentence harkening to a title; I wonder what is going to come from that theme.

It seems gods and religion are going to be important themes in this fic. Gods and religion just so happen to be my jam, so consider me extremely intrigued after this xD

All in all this prologue was nicely crafted.

Chapter 1

Hmm, I liked the writing and the worldbuilding in this chapter, but the characters and plot seemed a little lackluster. I didn’t get a sense of conflict here, and honestly didn’t care much about the opening bits where Haru doesn’t want to go with Shimmer/Muse but is pressured into it. I liked the mood that came from the attack and discovery of Nip, but as this event was mentioned in the synopsis, I didn’t feel much about it. The characters have distinct personalities, but without something to push them, I can’t get a good reading.

That being said, I liked the details and worldbuilding sprinkled throughout this chapter. Haru’s village felt vivid and realistic. I liked the first paragraphs with their detailing of Haru’s routine. I found Haru’s tangent about her family’s lumberjack business grounding to both Haru’s character and just the general atmosphere of her village. I’m also interested to see what “wildener” Pokémon will be like here.

Chapter 2

Dream seems rather foreshadow-y, but as of now I can’t make out anything from it.

Guess my desire to see what wildener Pokémon are like gets granted immediately, hah. Nip clarifies that he isn’t exactly a wildener, but I still like how he is incredibly unfamiliar with even the most basic aspects of village life. The description filtered through his POV felt very natural which I found very impressive – portraying familiar things as unfamiliar is a difficult exercise, for me at least.

I liked Lecha and Twi in this chapter, how their views contrasted with each other. Along with Nip, their speaking about Wildener Pokémon gave a good overview of how Pokémon living in the wild or in different kinds of settlements can be viewed by others.

I’m assuming Nip’s “spiritual quest” is of importance to the plot, so I’m intrigued to see where you go with that and his overall backstory. I thought this was a good introduction to Nip! His “fish out of water” status in the village is very compelling; I wonder how he’ll contrast to other village Pokémon and Haru, since she’s going to be a main character along with him. Excited to learn more about him!

Some grammar notes. I noticed as I read that you consistently did not set up terms of direct address properly in dialogue. For example here:

We do not wish to hurt you dear.
That 'dear' should be set off with a comma.

I also caught that you didn’t capitalize “dad” in this sentence:

I’m fine, nothing bad happened, dad is just feeling a little weak this afternoon.
Also Haru’s dad is sick.

Chapter 3

Dang, a lot happened here! I’m going to rapid-fire some random things I jotted down and go into my other thoughts:

The first scene with Ruffle seems unnecessary. The scene with Shimmer made me officially dislike her. I gave Shimmer some benefit of the doubt, but seeing that she makes Haru’s brother uncomfortable too – no. Approve of male Blissey. Wait, Twi is a nonbinary Illumise too. Anyway, nice. As soon as I read this:

“So,” she started, “how are things with you and Whisper? I believe your egg should be close to hatching, right?”
Me: Oh no, is this Egg?

Also some typos:

Weird dens that seem too to be safe
Missing a word.

Hoping to brighten things up, she asked, “so, what is the climate like where you come from?”
And that ‘so’ should be capitalized.

Haru and Nip’s lifestyles are being played against each other and it's really interesting. So far, the fic is pretty slow, but the worldbuilding is very nice. I like the issue of meat in your world: Haru confronting Nip about it and Nip just not understanding was one of the highlights of the chapte rforme. Still liking the religious aspect to this fic as well. I liked the description of the Regigigas shrine, and all the other details and discussions in this chapter.

Okay, so Nip was lying when he said he was on a spiritual journey, and whatever caused him to leave has also sent some very scary people after him. I have no theories as to who Mawile is and what she wants, but she’s quite intimidating. She didn’t kill the Kangaskhan mom, but injuring her like that was brutal and even more foreboding.

Also, Nip got the shit kicked out of him because he tried to steal the Kangaskhan’s egg which… yeah, I’m okay with that. I have strong reactions to bad things happening to babies/little kids in media. Apparently eggs don’t quite count but, like, I’m terrified of what’s going to happen to Anu and Whisper’s egg. Nip please don’t

Chapter 4

Oh no. Egg.

I liked the beginning part and all, but I really want to get into Egg.

So, Nip betrayed the people who helped him, knocked out a child, and stole Anu’s and Whisper’s unborn child with the intent to eat it. Yikes. I knew this was coming since last chapter, but I’m surprised I’m as sympathetic as I am for Nip right now. The build-up leading up to his decision made a lot of sense; this seems like the logical conclusion of him being in an environment so unfamiliar to him. Side-note, I hadn’t realized that Nip needed to eat meat before now. Because of Haru’s reaction toward the meat-eating, it makes me wonder how villagers in general view carnivores. But, you know, the ones who won’t kidnap your eggs.

Nip learns that the Mawile, Umbra, is after him. I still don’t have any theories about that, but god Nip, what have you done? What could have been so bad to make him think stealing an egg would be preferable? Um, anyway, good chapter. Good cliffhanger, and now I need to know what exactly happened in Nip’s backstory.

I’m hoping the egg makes it out okay. I’m sympathetic toward Nip, but it’s fine if the villagers catch him. Mawile, on the other hand, she still scary.

Chapter 5

“Ah, finally a nice, normal morning.”
Oh, Haru.

And after any hopes of spreading her name by learning from Nip was from had been dashed by his caginess and hurry to move on, she was ready to return to her usual schedule.
This confuses me a bit. I didn’t gather that Haru wanted to learn about Nip for any ulterior purpose; I thought she just was curious.

I actually really like Shimmer in this chapter. I’ve seen hints of this before, but it’s nice to see more aspects of her personality shine through here. Her bravery , and I liked this line characterizing her a bit more:

At first, Shimmer prattled on about various things, intent on offering a distraction, but eventually her small talk gave way to uneasy silence,
(And she wasn’t as uncomfortable toward Toshi, which helped.)

It’s nice seeing how Mystery Dungeons are portrayed in this. I like how caught in time the dungeon felt when the group entered it. It feels more like a traditional dungeon similar to the ones in the games, and overall the mood is nice. The brutality of the battle struck me. It isn’t necessarily a bad thing, just surprising. Though I suppose it makes sense considering how more realistic and thought-out this fic has been so far.

This chapter was good, but, unfortunately, I’m this far in and really not buying Haru as a protagonist. She’s fine as a character, but so far she has lacked agency. She had to be dragged into the dungeon by the others, and I haven’t been convinced that she cares much about what is happening. I like her as a foil to Nip, but she needs more drive for me to be invested.

Fir the first time in days,
Typo.

Chapter 6

Huh, I’m really liking Shimmer after that battle against Umbra. I think the battle against Umbra was good in itself; loved seeing Umbra fight against the whole group. It neither felt too hard nor too easy for either side, and it had that above canon brutality that made it stick out and feel more grounded. But Shimmer. Her positive character traits are really coming in now. I liked her bravery and ingenuity here; I even like how she responded when Toshi was threatened. She’s becoming one of my favorite characters.

I think Umbra went with the villagers too easily in the aftermath. I get that she probably realized she could get things to work out better if she joined them, but since she did attack Haru and the others, I think she could have used more convincing or more evidence of her calculating the risks.

Minor note, I liked Anu’s dialogue here. I just think thing like, “Quick as Dialga’s messenger,” or, “Blessings from the ‘Gigas that you are safe,” are pretty cool.

I agree with Muse: as soon as Umbra gave her story about Nip, I called bullshit. With the knowledge I could glean from Nip’s POV and what Umbra did to the Kangaskhan, I know Umbra is way evil. Nip definitely did something to his old tribe, and maybe it even has something to do with eggs, but Umbra is at least leaving things out.

Also, I think Muse is stepping up like Shimmer did in this chapter. We’re seeing and learning more about her; interesting how she has a disaster sense.

The bidoof landed with a heavy thud, dazed for a moment as the world swirled around her
No period.

he stole an egg from us Shimmer.
Missing comma.

Chapter 7

Going scene by scene. Still like Shimmer, amazingly enough. I’m also still ambivalent about Haru. I wish she would have more opinions on things; it still feels like the plot is just dragging her along. Anyway, they're going back in soon. I’m eager to get back to Nip.

Aaaaand my wish is immediately granted. Nice. There’s some oddness presumably caused by the changes you did to the fourth chapter, but I still really like the guilt that carried through. Nip still remains understandable. And I loved this last line

By the time he reached the fourth division, all that remained was a lingering sense of guilt, and littered pieces of shell that would be swept away by the dungeon winds.
Oh, Nip.

I really liked this next scene. The description of final area was very well done, and I loved Nip’s conversation with Bruxi and the other wildeners. I wasn’t expecting to see the Fletchinder and Fletchling again, but I’m glad they did. Seeing their side of the story was adds a nice bit of nuance, and the theme of different ways of life is coming back into play again. I’m anticipating Nip and Haru/the others meeting up again, to see where this goes when they and their viewpoints collide again.

When he had left hom- when he had left his tribe in a fit of anger, he knew what he was getting into.
So, Nip did leave his tribe angry. I still doubt Umbra’s egg story – I noticed how she only told it after the villagers informed her Nip stole an egg – but yeah, I’d expect that. What happened to him to make him so angry, though, is yet to be seen.

Wasn’t expecting an Umbra POV either. I like how unfamiliar and even suspicious she is of the village, though we have another aspect in that she does like her old, more individualistic, less merciful home. So now we have a trio of viewpoints: her, Nip, and Haru and the other Pokémon.

I didn’t get slimy vibes from Jhorlo before, but yuck. I suppose that I could potentially get behind his decisions here – you could make a pragmatic argument for letting Nip be killed and scavenging him – but expressly wanting to eat Nip. God. I feel like if Umbra is disgusted by you, that’s really saying something.

Or is there something more you’re hiding?”

“Of course there’s not!” she snapped
Liar liar, pants on fire. I’m calling it. Though not as certain as in the last chapter. More like 65% sure the egg thing did not happen, 95% Umbra’s leaving some very relevant stuff out.

so instead she responded, “that will be fine.”
Missing capitalization.

Wanting to appear nonchalant, Umbra reached up to scratch behind her undamaged.
And left out “ear” here, I assume.

Looks like I was correct then, I suspected as much.”
Missing beginning quotation marks.

Chapter 8

Overall, this was a very solid chapter. I think I brushed on this before, but I really liked the fight scenes in this fic. The first battle against the urasaring felt unneeded, but I like the style of the rest of the fight sequences: the actions interspersed with the confrontation with Nip, the short paragraphs of the villagers against the wildeners, and then the final scene where Haru, Nip, and Umbra finally confront each other.

I’m also finally to start to vibe with Haru here. I think it was her expressing her anger against Nip and then taking a firm stand against Umbra when she tried to kill him. I feel like Haru’s firmness is finally coming to fruition here where she is forced to act.

“Yes, I do,” Haru growled. “I’ve had enough nonsense! I’ve been dragged out here twice in two days, to hunt down you.” She paused to angrily gesture her head towards Nip. “And then I’ve been bitten, burned, clawed at, and chased in the process. And you, Umbra! You attacked us for no good reason yesterday! Why should I trust anything you say? No. We are all going back to the village and getting an explanation. Do I make myself clear?”
And Nip. Oh Nip. Of course he immediately ran away from the others. And it was good to finally see him and Umbra confront each other for the first time. So, apparently, Nip and Umbra know each other; I have a theory about that. It’s honestly based on thing you’ve said on Discord about Nip, not anything in-story, but right now my theory is that they used to be mates. It was arranged, of course, but Umbra did actually like Nip, and so when he left she viewed it as an incredibly personal betrayal. I believe Nip of course when he says Umbra did something to him; probably it was something that caused him to realize he hated the lifestyle of his tribe and was the impetus for him leaving.

Hmm, did he destroy the eggs before he left? I think he might have, but there would have had to be some reasoning for it. I don’t know, maybe he was expected to raise one with Umbra? Okay, writing that out makes it seem more unlikely to me. Honestly nothing here. Fifty-fifty the egg thing actually happened.

I’m kind of iffy on the villager Pokémon arresting the wildeners who attacked them. I feel like it comes from a place of superiority on the villagers' part. The wildeners had their rules – they explained before they attacked – but Haru and the group refused to listen. Then the other villagers arrived and took in the wildeners because they broke the wildeners’ laws because against evidence they view the wildeners as inherently lawless and uncivilized.

I’ll just tell them it’s business for dad.
Dad should be capitalized here.

“Do we have any blast seeds?” She yelled back to Shimmer.
“Which way?” She called over her shoulder.
Those she’s should not be capitalized

She felt shimmer twist a little bit
Missed capitalizing Shimmer

“Or he’s still up there,” Haru finished. “How are we gonna find out? You and I can’t climb, Muse, and I don’t know about Shims going up by herself.”

“Aw you really do care about me, future sister in law!” Shimmer remarked with a squeal.
Aw, Haru called her Shims! “Sister in law” should be “sister-in-law”, though.

Shimmer waved a hand dismissively. “Whatever you say, Harhar. I have an even better idea. I’m going to yell at the tree.”
I just love this line.

Shimmer announced, garnering a flinch from Muse. and a warning noise from Haru.
Random period there.

“The stable zone is neutral territory,” the serviper shot back. Either respect that or - if you choose to attack - we will be forced to intervene.
No quotation marks around that last sentence.

then set her eyes on nip and launched herself at him.
Nip’s not capitalized.



Chapter 9

Hey, Umbra was his mate! And she was abusive to him for over two years. Welp, that part was wrong, though I guess it makes more sense when I think about it. The egg incident did happen, and for the motivation, arghhh, I definitely feel like I should have been able to guess why Nip had done it. Back a few chapters ago, I even noticed these lines:

And would it not be cruel to kill a child that had a much better chance at a good life than any of those from his homelands? Even if some of the rules of the village seemed senseless, it still seemed like a better life than what he had been offered, for the most part.
That’s explaining his reasoning right there. Well, I got close at least?

I like the conclusion the villagers came to with their decision on what to do to Nip. For all that they aren’t perfect (and I feel like I’m going to see more of that in the next chapters), them deciding to spare does make a lot of sense. I also like Haru was the only one of the main group who voted not to rehabilitate to him. It makes sense for her character.

I feel like Nip’s testimony of his life in his tribe was lackluster though. I think the villagers were persuaded a bit too easily, and that it would have felt better if his recounting of his motivations had been strengthened somewhat. For example, he explained that he had been forced into an abusive relationship with Umbra, but, I think Nip’s story was missing a step: Nip was abused and mistreated in his village, and he had reason to believe this kind of mistreatment was a common, unavoidable feature of living in his tribe. I don't think that part was elaborated enough

I also think the villagers forgave him too quickly for eating Whisper’s and Anu’s egg. That, after all, wasn’t explained by Nip being abused. I think that could have been solved by forcing Nip to do deeper into his motivations for that. This wasn’t mentioned in the chapter, but by my understanding one of the reasons Nip did what he did was because he was beginning to like the village. However, he was afraid of being hurt again if he stayed, therefore he decided to do something that would ensure he could never do that. I don’t know how conscious Nip is of this, but I feel like he could have given a bit more, at least to give some hint to the villagers.

So, this chapter felt very conclusive. I’d have no idea where we’d be going after this except for that final scene. I don’t know what to make of anything that transpired right now, but I have a strong feeling that this fic is going to experience some scope creep in the next chapters.

“So, what made you feel that way?” She blurted out,
That ‘She’ should not be capitalized.

“Are you willing tolearn our ways
Missing space.

His face fell slightly. "Ha ha… yeah, sure… Could we maybe not talk about that right now though? This whole discussion we just had makes it feel really awkward at the moment."
Yes, finally.

Surely, he needed dungeneering equipment,
That’d probably be ‘dungeoneering”.
 
Last edited:

windskull

Bidoof Fan
Staff
Partner
sneasel-nip
Belated review replies! some of these are months late. Sorry!

@canisaries
I'm not sure how a blink can be appreciative? A wink I'd get, but I didn't take Nip to be the winking type.
I was pulling inspiration from cat body language here, but that might have been clear. Might change it in the furute if I make any more major revisions.

I did do some major edits to this chapter after you wrote this review, so I believe I implemented the fixes and most of your suggestions.

@Negrek
I believe I fixed most of the typos you pointed out for chapter six, though I'll double-check next time I do an edit wave for it. Seven and eight will come later.

I don't have a whole lot to say in particular in response to your review, but I did want to say it was part of what influenced me to make major edits to chapter 4, and there's a good chance 9 and 10 will get some major edits as well. Said edit was in hopes of making him feel less callous and flippant about the situation, without completely changing things.

Mind, while on some level I can appreciate the desire to not have to conform the stifling laws of society and being willing to give up a lot for that, the town honestly seems pretty chill, so I might have appreciated a more specific example of what exactly they find so oppressive about life in civilization.
This is something that is touched partially upon in a later chapter and I want to touch on more in the future so I'll refrain from saying too much. But part of it comes from being born and raised outside of strict society, and part of it comes from other factors.

At this point I am wondering a bit how Jhorlo plays into the larger picture--this feels like an epic-scope sort of fic, which means that shady town mayor can't be the final boss, as it were.
You would be correct lol. The bigger scope isn't something that's entirely clear yet, but it's starting to show up in more recent chapters. I partially regret taking so long to get to it, but, oh well, you learn by doing sometimes.


@NebulaDreams
One day I'll get into what exactly made Shimmer obsess over Toshi so much, but today is not that day.

I'm not sure who or what's saying this, is this Tempest's own thoughts recognising that Shimmer's invading his headspace, or is it something else? Since there isn't much of a reaction from Tempest afterwards, it's hard to say.
Yeah, it was Tempest. I will try to make that more clear in a future revision.

Did she? Honestly, since it's been a while since I've caught up, it's hard to say, but I don't recall Haru being that resenting towards Shimmer.
Hatred was probably too strong of a word. Annoyance would have been better. Will modify that in revisions.

I don't recall seeing a scene where we get to see this play out in action, so having it told instead of experiencing it first-hand robs the weight it might've had for Toshi to call her out for being such an edgy reddit atheist.
There was one scene way back in chapter three, but yeah, that's probably something that I could have handled better. Probably something I'll leave as a lesson for the future though.

@Umbramatic

Glad to hear you enjoyed it. Especially the action, as that's one of my favorite parts to write.

@kintsugi
I'll be sure to work the grammar fixes in later when I get around to cleaning chapter 9 up.

I wish we had a similar setup for Nip's actions here, which are based on a personal opinion rather than a biological fact.
That's something I want to better play up when I revise this chapter. Thanks for pointing it out.

This is a really cute detail but I also feel like if this happened a lot, she would invest in a larger piece of charcoal or something?
Fair point. I'll see about modifying it a bit when I do revisions.

@TheGOAT
It's really nice to see someone who enjoys Shimmer as she is. I'm looking forward to seeing how you feel about her when you get caught up to the more recent chapters, since we get a couple of scenes from her perspective later.

As for your comments on Muse, she's a character whose arc really hasn't kicked off yet. She'll need a bit more prodding to get outside of her comfort zone.

And on Nip, having people be split on him was 100% intended same on your point on cultural differences. I hope you continue to enjoy the fic as you get further caught up.

@Equitia
Thanks for the big review. To start off, I'll say that any typoes will be noted and fixed at a later date.

Approve of male Blissey. Wait, Twi is a nonbinary Illumise too.
Yes and Yes ~~I'll admit though that the blissey was initally unintentional. I forgot that blissy is an "all female" species and by the time I realized that, I decided to just run with it.~~

There’s some oddness presumably caused by the changes you did to the fourth chapter, but I still really like the guilt that carried through. Nip still remains understandable.
As of right now, I haven't gotten around to editing chapter seven, but I'm hoping to push that angle just a bit more. Glad to hear it still works as of right now, though.

Overall, this was a very solid chapter. I think I brushed on this before, but I really liked the fight scenes in this fic. The first battle against the urasaring felt unneeded, but I like the style of the rest of the fight sequences
Yeah, at this point I'm probably going to end up cutting the ursaring fight, or at least toning it down significantly, whenever I get around to chapter 8 edits. Glad to hear that you like the fights in general, though!

That’s explaining his reasoning right there. Well, I got close at least?
Indeed you did! Closer than most people, in fact.

I feel like Nip’s testimony of his life in his tribe was lackluster though. I think the villagers were persuaded a bit too easily, and that it would have felt better if his recounting of his motivations had been strengthened somewhat. For example, he explained that he had been forced into an abusive relationship with Umbra, but, I think Nip’s story was missing a step: Nip was abused and mistreated in his village, and he had reason to believe this kind of mistreatment was a common, unavoidable feature of living in his tribe. I don't think that part was elaborated enough
I think you're right, and that's something I hope to fix in a future revision of the chapter.
 

TheGOAT

Banana Bomb
Location
Houston, Texas
Pronouns
Him/his
Review Replies! First off in general, thanks for pointing out any typos you come across. I'll fix them up next time I do a round of revisions.

@NebulaDreams
You're right that I wasn't planning for it to be an an allegory, though I'm kind of surprised no one else has brought this up.


For what it's worth, current estimates put this at about 45 chapters. Could be a bit more or less though depending on how things go


We'll be getting a bit more about them, but you're right that things are going to grow grander in scale as things move forward.

I'll also mention briefly that I want to explore more with Shimmer. Hopefully she'll get some development soon enough. Also, I love the analysis you did on Nip; it was really fun to read.

@canisaries
Thanks for the review. You bring up a lot of valid points, although some of them I'd chalk up to creative liberties, and others to early-installment weirdness that I should probably clean up later, now that things are more cement than they initially were. I do want to briefly mention that, regarding the scavenging shop, there are some grey areas that I haven't gotten into at the point you're at and that have just begun to be touched on in more recent chapters. (particularly on supply chains and such).

I totally understand if you don't want to continue reading, and will openly admit that my fic isn't for everyone. If you don't continue, thanks for giving it a shot anyways!

@kintsugi
I've had several people point this out, so that's probably something I should resolve next time I do some editing.


Yeah, a lot of people have mentioned the fletchinder fight feeling a bit off. I will say that to be fair, it originally wasn't supposed to be all that important, but it's grown a bit more important as I wrote further out. I'll still give it a glance over again in a future revision and see if I can't make it a little better though.

And to wrap this up, I'll say I'm glad that you like the fight scenes, as I have a lot of fun with them and would like to think I'm at least half-way decent at writing fights, lol.

@Umbramatic
Heh, yeah, I wanted them to have verrry different worldviews and experiences.


83c That's all. That's all I'll say on both of those points.


Chapter 11: It's Just a Question

Every part of Nip’s body ached.

He was no stranger to hard work; keeping the tribe’s resting grounds clean and tidy was by no means easy. And on rare occasions, more involved hunts and tasks kept him away from the resting grounds for days. But dragging around materials more than twice his size for hours on end with only a short break in the middle? Slicing and chopping wood for so long it made his paws bleed? No, that was not normal. But it was his new routine. And now, he found himself exhausted at the end of every day.

Somehow, he figured that was the point. Afterall, he knew far too well that an exhausted pokemon caused no trouble.

As usual, the day’s work continued as the sun crawled its way across the sky, until it was nearly dark out.

“Aight, I think that’s about enough for the day.”

The diggersby’s call announced the end to the grueling work. At once, Nip breathed out a relieved sigh, sinking to the ground before flopping his back. The dirt be damned, he was already dirty; what was a bit more? By now, the shadows were long, and the sky had grown a deep orange. Scattered, puffy clouds were tinged crimson as they drifted across the sky. Some pokemon back in his tribe would consider the color an ill omen. He didn’t know whether he should, as well.

He heard footsteps approaching and instinctually tensed, trying to sit back up. But his aching muscles protested, leaving him prone as the form of a quagsire loomed over him.

“Are you about done moping around? I’d like to head back and lock up for the night.”

Nip bit back a stinging retort, trying to hide his annoyance behind only the twitch of his ear. Best to not make things worse than he already had today. Rolling first onto his side, then onto his stomach, Nip peeled himself from the ground, climbing slowly to his feet.

As they began to walk away from the daycare and back towards the guard hut, he kept his head down, not interested in seeing the stares and leers of any village pokemon that might be going about their business at this hour.

The walk back towards the guard hut was fairly short; most places that weren’t dens – or houses, or whatever weird made-up word the villagers used for their weird shelters – were all together in a ring, taking a few minutes at most to reach, and the hut was no exception.

He came to a stop just outside the fabric barrier, listening to the quagsire follow behind. His ear feather twitched irritably as he waited. On one hand, the whole arrangement annoyed him, spending night after night in a dank cell, curling up in a corner in hopes of keeping warm in the drafty building. How did these pokemon stand it, being in such a wide-open chamber with only one narrow exit?

On the other hand, he couldn’t blame them for keeping him somewhere where he couldn’t run. He’d already tried finding a way out of the barred cell, striking at the metal with his claws and ice, to no avail. And it wasn’t the worst place he could be. Even if he couldn’t run, at least Umbra couldn’t get to him here.

At least, he hoped not. If she could, well, he was like a cornered rattata.

And that didn’t even touch on the diet he’d been given thus far. Whisper claimed that he’d eventually have money to purchase meat, but he wasn’t sure he believed that. He wasn’t sure that she wasn’t slowly starving him to death, enacting the only form of revenge the village had allowed.

The quagsire - Slies, if he remembered the name correctly - paused just behind him, waiting for him to keep going. When he did not, Slies scoffed and reached up to pull the curtain aside. Nip let out a resigned sigh and stepped inside.

The guard hut was one of the larger buildings, built with a second level. He had no idea what was on top, but the bottom was furnished with only a low, wooden platform, a couple of nests for the guards or any visitors to rest in, and three cells of varying sizes.

Typically, the bottom floor was empty at this time of day, or at most might have a single guard waiting for him and his watcher to return. But tonight, someone else, someone familiar was waiting in one of the nests.

A lump of brown fur raised up as they entered, alerted by the rustling of the fabric.

“Eh? Haru? What are you doing here?” Slies asked. “Everything alright? I hope you haven’t been waiting here long.”

“Long? Oh, no, no, not at-” Haru cut herself off with a yawn, blinking a few times. “Not at all. I just, er… and this might sound a bit weird I guess, but I kind of wanted to ask the, um… I wanted to ask Nip a couple questions. Is that okay?”

“Him?” Slies tilted his head, thumping his tail against the wooden floor a couple times. “Well, I mean, I guess it’s alright, go ahead.”

“Thanks. Of course.” But then she said nothing, just staring at Nip, then back to Slies. “Um… I know you have to keep an eye on him and all, but… do you mind giving me a minute of privacy? Maybe you could… just guard the entrance? There’s no windows or anything for him to escape through.”

“I dunno about that Haru… What if he takes you hostage or something? That could be just as bad.”

Nip felt almost insulted by the suggestion. “Do you really think I would do something as cowardly as that?”

“You stole an egg,” the quagsire pointed out. “I wouldn’t put anything past you.”

At that, Nip could only clench his teeth, his ear lying flat against his skull. He understood why they were upset, but death and cruelty were just facts of life, and he was only doing what he thought he had to for survival. How would taking Haru hostage help with that? In fact, it was more likely to get him killed.

He didn’t air his thoughts though, not wanting to risk a blast of frigid water to the face. Or worse.

Slies continued to give them a hard stare, but when Haru did not budge, he sighed and gave in. “Fine, Fine. Just for a few minutes though! I’ll be right outside. Give me a shout if you need me. "And you”—he turned to face Nip, thumping his heavy tail on the ground a couple times in a threatening manner—"you better be on your best behavior."

Nip said nothing, but forced himself to relax slightly, his tail feathers twitching.

With that, Slies brushed back past the curtain, leaving Nip and Haru alone in the room.

At first, Haru still said nothing, her gaze shifting to the ground. Nip shifted his weight uncomfortably in the silence, watching her without a word. “Well, what is it that you needed to ask so bad?”

“Just a second,” she said quickly. “I’m trying to figure out how to word it.” The silence stretched on for just a bit longer, before she finally sucked in a breath and answered. “I just… I don’t get it. What’s your problem?”

He blinked. “What’s… What’s my problem?”

“Yeah.” She looked back up. “How can you live with yourself, turning on and hurting the pokemon that took you in and saved your life? You killed someone’s child. Do you realize that? Or are you just morally bankrupt?”

Nip scrunched his nose at the start of a snarl, her sharp words stinging. This is what she came here for? To insult him and ask questions that he had already answered? He forced his fur to lie flat before replying. “That’s… Death is inevitable. Whether it be at the hands of a hungry predator, or because your prey struck back. Or any sort of horrible accident. And at some point, you just have to accept it. You have to accept that you must kill to live, or you have to accept that the world isn’t safe, and that others might hunt you for food. Sometimes it’s both. It’s terrifying, I will admit. But it’s just the way life works.”

Haru blinked a couple times, seemingly stunned by his response. Whether that was a good thing or a bad thing, he couldn’t tell. But finally, her gaze hardened. “So that’s it, you justify your actions because that’s just the way the world works? What a terrible excuse.”

“Well, I’d like to hear what you think then. Do you really think searching for unfortunates and letting your carnivore friends eat what amounts to carrion is healthy? That it’s right? Do you really believe that it actually works that way?”

“Yes? That’s the agreement every pokemon has to live by, to be able to live in a civilized society. They don’t hunt and kill other pokemon, and in turn, they have access to all the resources and materials living in a town provides. Simple enough.”

“You can’t really believe that’s sustainable, do you?”

“Why wouldn’t it be, it’s worked for all these years.”

“How do you know though?” Nip asked, tapping his claws together. “You don’t seem like you’ve bothered keeping up with any of that. Have you ever even bothered asking and finding out?”

“I don’t need to,” Haru insisted. “It’s written into our laws and rules. If there was something shady going on, surely someone would have done something about it by now.”

Nip opened his mouth to say something more, but shut it, sensing that this wasn’t an argument he was going to win. Instead, he just let out a huff of air and returned back to the first subject.

“Fine. Let me try explaining another way. I…” He trailed off, hesitating. How much was he willing to share? On one hand, he’d already spilled most of his story, and he doubted hiding anything now would matter. On the other, he was still hesitant to tell the whole story, seeing how she’d reacted thus far. There were still things about his life that he doubted she would take well. And he feared the idea of losing this last chance at life if he said the wrong thing.

“Well? I’m waiting. And you know what, let me ask you another question while I’m at it. Why did you steal an egg, when you could have just gone a little bit further out of town and stolen from the meat shop?” Then she quickly added, “Not that I’m encouraging theft, but theft is less heinous than murder.”

“I already answered this,” he growled, quickly growing frustrated. “I honestly thought that it was my best option. In the moment, I was concerned with getting away as quickly as possible. For all I knew, Umbra could have already reached the village and was just waiting for me to show myself.”

“And you really think she would kill you in the middle of the village? Or at all?”

“Yes!” Why couldn’t anyone else see Umbra for how dangerous and aggressive she was? “If it wasn’t for the guards here, she would sneak in and kill me right now, I’m sure of it. And if she had caught me alone in the village then, well, if she didn’t kill me where I stood, she’d at least drag me off into the woods and kill me there.”

“Because of what you did in your tribe?” Haru hesitated for a moment, pawing nervously at the straw. “…I’m going to be honest Nip, based on everything you two have said, I can’t totally blame her for wanting you dead, even if I don’t agree with handling things like that.”

Nip recoiled. Was she serious? Did she wish him dead too? He drew his paws down his face, trying to keep his emotions in check. “No. Well, yes, but also no. She wanted me dead from the moment we were paired together, because she saw herself as too valuable to be paired with a scrawny, runty sneasel for a mate.”

He sucked in a deep breath and let it out slowly, then began to pace, his ear lying flat against his skull as he grew more and more irritated. “But she couldn’t just kill me, could she? That would just get her thrown out of the tribe instead. So, she went out of her way to make my life a walking nightmare. Do you have any idea what it’s like to be kicked out of your home on a cold winter’s night? To be forced to find shelter elsewhere as a blizzard bears down on you? To day in and day out be scared to leave home, for fear of someone taking their anger out on you? To have everyone look down on you and view you as a disappointment? Because if not, then you have no right to judge me. And if that’s all you came here to do, you might as well just leave.”

Satisfied with his response, Nip turned and took a few steps away, turning his back towards the door. It would be so easy to knock her over and make a mad dash to freedom right now, but what good would it do him, breaking out in the middle of the square with too many pokemon still around? Umbra would just chase him down again, and he’d be back to life on the run.

He expected Haru to turn and leave, but he never heard the sound of retreating pawsteps or of rustling fabric. When the silence stretched on for far too long for comfort, he turned to glance back, and caught sight of Haru still standing in the same spot, staring at the ground with an unreadable expression.

“Did you have something else to gripe at me about?”

Haru was startled out of her thoughts, jumping at the sound of his voice. She blinked once, then spoke hesitantly. “I just… I don’t get it. I can’t figure you out. You’re ungrateful and cold-hearted and act like you did nothing wrong. And yet you’re just serving your sentence like you want to change. Why haven’t you run off by now?”

The truth? A believable lie? What difference would it make, now? “I… suppose it sort of benefits me, at the moment,” he replied before taking a seat in one of the nests, pausing to run his tongue along his shoulder, beginning his nightly grooming ritual.

“What do you m- do you just do that in front of everyone?”

“What, groom? Most pokemon know better than to stare. There’s no privacy here anyways.”

“No. I mean, yes, but most pokemon just don’t groom in front of others period. Unless they’re trying to show off that they don’t see someone as a threat, or they’re really close I guess.”

He let out a quiet huff. “Well you can view it that way if you want. Because I don’t see you as threatening at all.”

“Hey!” Haru snapped. “Don’t forget who beat you last time!”

“You used dungeon magics on me. I’d hardly call that a fair fight.”

“What, the orb? If you’re upset about being beaten that way, that’s your problem, not mine.”

Nip held back a growl. Great, now they were back to arguing again. This would get them nowhere. So, he elected to ignore her again, returning to his grooming. The silence stretched on for another few minutes before Haru spoke again.

“Ugh, let me just… I can’t make sense of you. How is this beneficial to you?”

“It’s simple,” Nip replied in a matter-of-fact tone. “If I’m in here under the watch of all these guards, and Umbra’s out there, then she can’t get at me without a fight. It’s not ideal, but it’s safer than trying to run off now. She can’t even attempt to kill me without everyone noticing.”

Haru stared at him for a long time. “Okay, Nip. I could believe that, but I’m still not convinced she’s going to kill you.”

“You don’t know her like I do. It took me more than a moon to travel from my tribe to here. Do you really think she’d go all that way back with me as a prisoner? Even if it wasn’t so far, she would have killed me anyways. She’s always been looking for an excuse to get rid of me, I know it. She was expecting someone far stronger and more prestigious than a runt that had to fight to be acknowledged as a skilled hunter.”

As he spoke, he could see the Haru’s expression begin to shift towards one of deep concentration. “Are you… sure you’re not overreacting a little?”

Nip let out a low hiss. “You don’t know what I went through. How many nights I spent either out in the cold, or huddled in the back, expecting Umbra to come back and lash out for existing around her. Don’t you dare tell me I’m overreacting.”

“Surely someone would have noticed if any of this was actually happening and done something about it, right? Why didn’t you just tell someone?”

He couldn’t help but scoff. “I did. But no, Umbra was too well-respected, no one would have believed me. The few pokemon I did tell did nothing to stop it. Tempest at least tried to provide some comfort… but he’s even more an outsider than I was. What was he supposed to do?”

Haru open her mouth to say something, but paused, thinking. “Who was Tempest, again? I think you said his name before.”

“My mentor. He taught me much. But he was adopted into the tribe as little more than a pup. He never would have gained much power in the tribe, and he didn’t have any when I… left.”

He waited for a moment for Haru to reply. When she didn't, he turned his attention to smoothing out his ruffled fur. Another moment or so passed before she finally stood, shaking a couple times, tossing bits of straw that had gotten stuck to her fur in all directions before beginning to head to the exit.

She paused halfway there. "You know I have no reason to believe you, right?"

The statement stung more than it should have. "I don't care whether you believe me or not. I know the truth. But if you’re not going to listen… why did you bother coming in the first place?"

Haru took another few steps, then faltered. She hesitated for a few seconds longer, not daring to look up at Nip. “You better watch yourself,” she finally warned. “They might change their sentencing if they don’t think you care about changing.” Then she disappeared through the fabric.

Nip stared for just a bit longer, a cold pit forming in his stomach. But he forced himself to relax. He didn’t need to worry about what she thought. Whether she got the answers she was seeking, he did not know. Nor did he care. He couldn’t be bothered to care, when she obviously didn’t do the same.

Slies entered a few heartbeats later, his mouth turned in a tired frown. "By ‘Gigas, could you two be any louder? You're luck-" He cut himself off. "Nope, not going to say it. That would probably be in poor taste."

The quagsire's tail thumped against the ground a couple times as he headed over to an alcove on the far side of the room and reached an arm in, pulling out a ring with three bumpy bits of metal. Keys was the word Nip had learned over his last few days here.

He begrudgingly stood up as Slies approached him, not wanting to draw his ire and take a thump from that slimy tail. Silently, he allowed the quagsire to lead him over to the mid-sized cell, a small chamber perhaps three times as wide, long, and high as he was tall. Calling the inside sparsely furnished would be an understatement; the only things in the cell were a small water trough by the bars and a messy straw bed. Bits of hay were still strewn about the floor from when he'd gone a bit stir-crazy the first night he'd been held here, but that he hadn’t bothered to gather up.

Now behind the relative safety of the bars, he waited until he heard the sound of a click behind him before moving to settle into the nest with his back to the rest of the room. There, he finished grooming himself before settling down uneasily.

Not that he was asleep though. No, that would take some time. For a while, he just laid there with his back to all the guards that came and went, getting ready to change shifts. Whisper approached his prison at some point, trying to get him to speak to her. Demanding it even. He didn't answer though. He never did. Because he doubted anything he could say would make her forgive him, and he didn’t see the point in trying.

He didn't even want her forgiveness, though. Stealing eggs was just a part of a sneasel's nature. Or so he'd been told. And he felt no shame using that to his advantage, even if he would have done things differently now, now that he'd had time to think about the repercussions of his action.

Eventually though, the sun set completely, leaving the room dimly lit by jars of luminous plants. And after a short time, one of the guards came and put most of those away, leaving only a single source of light in the room.

Even then, Nip stayed awake for a while longer. Listening quietly for the sound of movement, particularly from outside. But all he heard was the occasional passing of footsteps, accompanied by torchlight from under the curtain doorway as a guard made the rounds.

At some point, he sent a silent prayer to Yveltal, wondering if he’d said and done the right things.

Only once he was totally exhausted did Nip finally drift into fitful, troubled sleep, his dreams disturbed by rough waves, flashing lightning, and frost-covered trees.

*​

Morning came and went in much the same way it had been for the last several days. A guard would come and rouse him by stuffing a handful of berries into a thin slat under the bars, and he'd chew with disinterest so that his stomach at least would not be growling when he left to do labor.

Eventually, the sound of scraping claws or heavy footsteps on the wooden boards would alert him to an approaching guard, and he would get up and follow them out to help with construction, the only job that he could help with at the moment. Or at least, the only job willing to take him.

This morning, however, there was a slight bump in the routine. Breakfast came and went as usual, and the flaffy guard came at the usual time, but as they made their way across the square to the construction zone, Nip noted several dozen wooden boxes laying along the road, filled to the brim with berries. There, Essra was busy using her psychic powers to load them up on a wooden board with wheels, the rapidash guard waiting at the end of it.

Nip slowed down as they passed by, curiosity getting the better of him. For a second, he locked eyes with the bellossom that ran the stand. But she quickly averted her gaze to her partner, the roserade standing beside her. That pairing was something he had been curious about for a long time, but an explanation would have to wait for another day.

“Move along, sneasel,” the flaffy bleated, poking him between the shoulder blades to get him moving. “Nothing to see here.”

“What are they doing?” he asked.

The flaffy snorted. “What, never seen a convoy before? They’re getting ready to trade goods with one of our southern neighbors. Don’t you have anything like that where you’re from?”

“Not at all,” Nip replied. “Territories are heavily disputed, and it’s always each tribe looking out for themselves.”

“Don’t know how you guys survive like that. But whatever. Now come along. We haven’t got all day.”

And then they were off again, closing the last of the gap to the nursery construction site.

Both Grombert and Chipper were already there, the bibarel of the pair busily gnawing away at a long, relatively thin log, working to cut it apart into manageable pieces. When he saw the pair making their way towards him, he raised a paw in greeting and paused to stretch out his back.

"Oh, good morning you two. It's a bit colder today, don’t you think, really doing a number on these joints of mine."

Now that he mentioned it, Nip did realize things were a bit colder. Nothing like the harsh weather of the north, but at least cool enough that he felt comfortable in his fur. His ear feather twitched in acknowledgement of the comment.

"Y'best go talk to old Grombert and see what he wants done today. I think we're putting up the awning today. Another day or two and I'd say we'll have this job finally done.

"Really, like this?" the flaffy asked. "You're not going to put in any security measures?"

Chipper blinked a couple times, and then groaned, sitting back on his haunches. "That's right, I totally forgot about the gate. Grombert was working on the fence today. Guess I'll have to bring over more logs tomorrow."

"How is this... gate supposed to protect this place?" Nip questioned.

All eyes turned to Nip, their gazes ranging from cautious glances to dangerous glares. It took him a second to realize what their problem was.

"No, no," he said quickly, raising up his paws in front of him defensively. "Not like that. I mean. Where I'm from, they use thorns and brambles, as well as mon-fashioned spike traps, to protect the nursery den from intruders, so that the only way you'd be able to get in is either an attack or by going through the front entrance. otherwise you just get a paw or face full of painful spikes.”

Chipper's eyes lit up. "Oh, this works... similarly, I guess. Perhaps not as dangerous to the children. It's just a fence around the perimeter to keep people from just walking right in."

That made... some sense, Nip supposed. Though he didn't see how that would protect from an attack from above. Something like a staraptor swooping from above would be a real threat.

Before he had a chance to voice this concern, however, he heard a voice squeak from behind.

"Eep! The sneasel's back!"

He turned his head just in time to catch the retreating, spectral form of a pumpkaboo, rushing back to the safety of the daycare. Once he was safely back on the other side of the wall, he turned back to steal a glance towards Nip from the entryway. But when he saw the sneasel looking right at him, he squeaked in alarm again and disappeared inside. Every day, it was the same thing. The skittish pokemon would cry out an alarm when he saw him, and then run off.

"Tor, the sneasel’s back! Why won't you make him go away?" he heard the child cry out.

Then he heard the blissey's deep, monotonous voice reply quietly. "It's not my decision Myo. I just need you to be brave for a few more days. Can you do that for me?" The pumpkaboo, Myo, said nothing, so Tor continued. "Why don't you get Aves and go watch the berry cart head out of town. Wouldn't that be fun?"

"I... guess so..."

"Hey, earth to sneasel. Anyone in there?"

Nip snapped back to attention as a pink paw waved in front of his face. He turned his head slightly towards the flaffy, who grunted before pointing out Grombert again.

"I said, why don't you hurry up and get started already."

Biting back a stinging retort, Nip lowered his head and began to walk towards the diggersby. Out of the corner of his eye, he noticed the pumpkaboo from before and the shuppet he'd fought during his escape leave the daycare, giving him a wide berth as they floated off towards where the boxes of berries had nearly been loaded up.

Now standing before Grombert, he cleared his throat to catch the diggersby's attention. Grombert turned towards him, one ear holding a handful of small, uniformly shaped red rocks.

"'Bout time you showed up," Grombert said, grumbling as he dropped the stones onto a pile of more stones. "I'll be having you work on laying bricks for the fencing today, at least till it's too high for you. Got everything you need right here." He gestured with both his left paw and left ear towards the pile of rocks, and then to a wooden trough filled with some sort of grainy, grey slop.

Nip shivered involuntarily at the thought of dipping his paws into that mess. "What, do expect me to use my bare claws or something?"

"Only if you break the trowel." The diggersby stooped down and picked up a flat piece of wood sticking out of the grainy mess. "It's easy enough. Lemme show you how it's done."

Nip watched as he began to work, scrapping a thin layer of the substance, which Grombert soon explained was called "mortar" on the side of one of the stones before placing it next to another one on the ground. He did this a couple more times before starting a second row, setting up the next set of bricks so that they overlapped with the previous row. Then he finally passed the trowel off to Nip and pointed out where he wanted the bricks before finally leaving him alone with his guard, heading over to where Chipper was busy at work prepping wood.

Despite his best efforts, Nip managed to get some of the mortar stuck to his paws as he began working, the cold, wet, grainy substance sticking to his fur in uncomfortable ways. He grumbled as he laid the bricks, fighting the urge to work carelessly.

He had only just finished his first row of work when he was interrupted yet again, this time by Haru approaching the work area, pausing to let the berry cart pass by before crossing over to the work area.

She didn't even acknowledge Nip as she passed, heading straight to her father, grumbling under her breath.

"Mom said you forgot to take your herbs," Haru announced before Chipper could say anything, ducking out of her bag’s strap. "She still doesn't want Toshi up and about, walking all the way to the square yet after his injury, so she sent me instead."

"Is that why I'm aching so bad?" the bibarel asked. "I thought it was the weather."

"Well, it is cold," Haru agreed, "so I don't know. But please don't do this again. I had to stop what I was doing to run these all the way down here. I was nearly done cleaning the tree I was working on, too!"

"Gods, thanks Haru, didn't mean to make you worry about me or anything," Chipper said as she pulled out a couple of white herbs, placing them on the ground in front of him. "Thanks though."

"Don't mention it. Now if you'll excuse me, I-"

Haru didn't finish her sentence. In the distance, there was a loud crash and a bright flash of light, followed by shouting and a blast of frigid air.

All five pokemon turned in near unison towards the source. A gout of flame burst into the air in the distance, but the source was out of sight. Seconds later, Whisper came dashing by, heading in the direction of the fire.

"That looks like it came from the direction of the berry cart," the flaffy announced, alarm creeping into his voice. He looked out towards the direction, then nervously back at Nip, then back towards the sound of shouts. "Stay here," he said in a warning tone, before racing off towards the source.

That left Grombert, Chipper, Nip, and Haru, to stare at each other uneasily as shouts and the sounds of battle kicked off in the distance. Every few seconds, there would be a flash of light or a plume of fire, followed by a crash or a snap, or many other manners of attacks.

It seemed like the sounds were slowly growing closer, however. Many of the village civilians had come out from the surrounding businesses to look at the commotion.

A pair of ghastly figures came zipping through, making a beeline for the daycare. They dashed behind the gathered pokemon, then huddled behind Tor just beyond the doorway.

"A scary pokemon's trying to break into town," Aves announced, huddling a bit closer to Myo.

"Yeah! real scary! He attacked Romi when she wouldn't let him by. Wouldn't even talk to her!"

Another blast of frigid air flowed in their direction, strong enough for ice crystals to begin forming on the tips of Nip’s fur even this far away. He paused, sniffing as the wind passed by. Another plume of smoke filled the air. Something about the smell on the wind struck Nip as off. Familiar, even. For just a few seconds, he was transported in his mind back to kithood, to a cold winters day as he followed a pokemon off into the woods surrounding their home.

Without thinking, Nip darted off, dashing in the direction of the smoke. Behind him, he heard shouts of protest and anger, and at least one pokemon chasing him, but he ignored them.

He wasn't trying to run away. Not right now. He just needed to know.

It wasn't long before the scene of the battle came into view, though it seemed like the fight was nearly over by now. Four of the guards were fighting, some in better conditions than others. A thin layer of ice caked one of Whisper's wings, while the rapidash was struggling to stand, with cuts and bruises lining her body. Sparks of electricity danced off of both Vale and the flaffy's flank, neither of them looking too bad, with only a couple of scrapes and some ice crystals stuck to their fur.

Collapsed in the center of the four was a ninetales, his blue-white fur ratty, caked in mud, and singed. He, like Romi, was struggling to climb to his feet, his breathing ragged. As he stood, Nip could see a nasty, infected wound stretching from his neck all the way down to his shoulder.

And despite all that, despite the wound and the mud and the vague look in his eye as he stared down the village guard with a soundless snarl, Nip still recognized him. Without thought for his safety, he called out the familiar name.

"Tempest!"
Review of Chapters 8-12

Howdy hey! I was planning to read all the way to the end and review there, but I have a lot to say as it is. I’ll stop here instead and unload my thoughts.

I don’t have a ton to say about the plot, since the plot is so character-oriented that I can probably cover most of it by just commenting on the characters specifically like I did last time. Before I do that, I wanna give props for the fight scene. That setting was awesome. Simple, but dynamic. I don’t often see battlefields in fanfiction take gravity and verticality into play nearly that much, but you did so effectively.

Updated take on Nip: This guy. Man. I want him to fail, because honestly, I’m not sure there’s much retribution to be found here. He’s not an asshole in the sense that you wouldn’t want to have a conversation with him, since it sometimes seems like he’s a relatively decent guy to have around. No, he’s just an asshole in the sense that he’ll betray those who help him, commit an act too not far off from the equivalent of eating an actual irl child, and then shrug it off as his species’ nature afterward. “Or so he’d been told”, his inner thoughts confirmed—yet, if he wasn’t truly morally bankrupt like Haru suggested, then something within him would’ve triggered long before he went through with the plan. I digress.

For the sake of the narrative, I was willing to forgive him for that… until it was revealed that he slaughtered an entire infirmary of children, his justification being that death would be better for them than having to grow up in his tribe and suffer what he did. Bruh. This actually brings up my favorite part of his character, and the source of my disdain for him specifically: the monumental hypocrisy found in his actions. I have to commend you here, because you’ve gone out of your way several times to emphasize it without ever being direct enough to force the idea on the reader. I came to the conclusion that he’s a massive hypocrite myself, yet I was only able to because you laid it all out in front of me. Well done.

What I’m talking about here is his outspoken opinion on death for others versus his unspoken opinion on death for himself. When it comes to others, death is inevitable, part of nature, and a necessary reality of life (in a paradoxical but meaningful sort of way). While taking this to the extreme of murdering innocent children is a warped way to act upon this sort of thinking, I do at least see where he’s coming from. Problem is… his own death seems to be his greatest fear. When staring it in the face, be it inside of Umbra’s jaws or being threatened with it at the village hearing, his entire demeanor changed. He’s the type of person who thinks they know what death is until they stare it in the face. I love it. I hate him, though. I hope he gets humbled one way or another. I think someone close to him is gonna have to die for the magnitude of death to really click.

My take on Umbra: I’m… not so sure she’s the bad guy here. Or at least, the only/worst bad guy. For a while I thought she might be outright lying about what happened, especially when Nip vaguely brought up that she had personal goals for hunting him down. But when I learned that it was because Nip had slaughtered a bunch of children from her tribe, and when Nip himself more or less confirmed it…? I mean, I get why she wanted to kill him. Granted, there’s a strong argument that Umbra was somewhat at fault for that too, since she was the one abusing Nip in the first place… but eh. That’s a flimsy argument, if you ask me. Domestic and emotional abuse is horrific and Umbra deserves to pay for it, but tracing back the killing of innocent children to past abuse via placing blame on the abuser doesn’t really jive with me. They’re two acts that, while both terrible, are on totally different levels of cruelty and were preceded by completely different thought processes.

Updated take on Toshi: Hmm. So, he did assert himself (not really in the context of Shimmer, but whatev), but the way he did it has given me mixed feelings. It’s good that he took a stand and willfully made a difference, but Whisper put it best: they didn’t need that long-winded, cringey explanation for it. To be clear, the writing wasn’t cringey, just Toshi himself. It made it feel less like he was making a decision because of how he felt and more like he was making a decision because of what his idol might’ve done. There’s not always anything wrong with that, but in the case of deciding if someone lives or dies, it had me raising my eyebrows at him for sure.

Updated take on Haru: LOL she didn’t vote to save Nip. I love it. Again, she’s so relatable, at least for me, because she did exactly what I would’ve done and was thinking exactly what I was thinking. Even if she isn’t one of this story’s more dynamic characters, I find myself looking forward to her sections the most simply because they’re so immersive. She’s just so done with everyone’s BS.

I’ll hold off on characters like the mayor and any further takes on Muse, since they’ve both captured my interest but have yet to break out into their roles, whatever those roles may be. I’ll just have to wait and see.

I was planning to touch on a couple things—toning, pacing, and that section with the Zoruark and Pangoro—in this review, but it’s getting pretty long, so I’ll get to that in a couple more chapters. In the meantime, what can I say? I’m loving this fic. I can’t think of a single character that isn’t well written. The setting is vivid, the writing accommodates everything well, etcetera. I’ll stay tuned in.
 

Starlight Aurate

Just a fallen star
Location
Route 123
Partner
mightyena
Hello hello! I'm here for your review prize for Blacklight! I'll be reviewing chapters 1-5, picking out some lines that stuck out to me, with the meat of my review coming at the end.

I don't have much to say about the prologue, but I really like it. I really enjoy the imagery of all the different Pokemon communicating different stories or else praying to their gods. I think adding the italicized test/commentary by an unknown narrator in-between adds to the atmosphere; I don't know if you've seen The Book of Kells, but it reminds me of Aisling's comments at the beginning of the movie.

The life of a bidoof was hard work, certainly, but it went by at a slow and steady pace that would make many a pokemon jealous.
It makes me jealous, and I'm not even a Pokemon!

“No buts!” the bibarel chided. “You’ve been so busy with work lately, I say you could use a day off. Besides, I could use some more dandelion crowns, if you can still find any this late in the summer. And it’s not safe to go into the forest alone, so why not go now, while the opportunity's there?”

“It’s not that dangerous in this part of the woods,” Haru argued. “I could take care of it myself if you really need them.”

“But why risk it? Besides, Anu stopped by this morning - on his way back from patrol - to say he spotted signs of a wildener kangaskhan nesting not far from here. You know how territorial they can be. None of you should be facing something like that alone, should things go wrong.
Wow, this is a lenient mom. The moms I know would say, "No buts! I'm your mom, and I say go," and then smack their kids if they talked back.

I like the detail of how Nip has a different accent than the others do; it's something I feel is often forgotten or overlooked in writing.

The other bibarel cracked open a single eye, a grin forming on his face. “Oh, thank the gods, he groaned. “I swore I could carry that log, ya know, but I guess I’m not as young as I used to be.”
Missing some closed quotations after 'gods'.

Also, ever since they mentioned Nip's accent, I'm imagining Haru's entire family speaking like Peppa Pig's. It definitely makes for quite an amusing mental image.

She had quit listening to the religious tales of other pokemon seasons ago, even though she knew it was probably a poor idea with how ingrained it was in many pokemon’s lives. Sure, it might hurt future working relationships, but it drove her nuts, how much some pokemon depended on the gods. Chasing down legends, putting their lives in danger for something that might not even exist! Even some expedition groups focused less on research and exploration, and more on trying to find some of these mythical pokemon.
This makes me wonder what exactly it was that drove Haru to reject the existence of gods, especially if it's so ingrained in her home's culture. Is it rebelling against her parents in a sort of teenage way? Did something happen to her to make her reject them? Or has she taken periods of self-reflection and come to the conclusion that no gods can exist? I can find any of these plausible, but if one grows up so close to their family in a place where religion is the norm, there's usually something that drives them to reject it.

As an herbivore, he always made an effort to avoid Mandi’s shop, and all the unfortunate implications that came with it.
Looks like you accidentally referred to Haru as a male here.

The sneasel scoffed. “You are a plant eater, right? I wouldn’t expect you to understand. The gods blessed us with sharp claws and teeth for killing and tearing. We do what we must to survive, just as our prey does. But death is an inevitability for all living beings. The sooner you accept that, the sooner you can get in Yveltal’s good graces.”

“Who?”

Nip looked taken aback. “Yveltal, the overseer of death and most important pokemon in the land, if you ask me and my kin. Without death, there is no rest, and pokemon would continue to multiply until there was no space left.”
I like this little bit; it gives insight to Nip's religion and practices and why the Sneasel do things the way they do without coming off as too expository, in my opinion.

Haru blinked. “Nope, never heard of them. But… maybe I’m not the best mon to ask. If you ask me, I think too many pokemon follow the myths and legends too closely, and don’t think for themselves. Sometimes I wonder if we’d be better off forgetting them.”
DANG, Haru, way to totally insult your new guest! I... guess her viciousness is reasonable, given how taken aback she is from Nip killing other Pokemon? Especially if she's only heard of hunting in a bad light.

With a quiet thanks to the shop keep she moved to exit back the way they had come.

Stars, please let the rest of the day go better.
I find this last line interesting. Is she using "stars" as a sort of exclamation, like "goodness," or "jeez," or is she referring to the Stars as something they ask for help from, like how modern Christians might say, "God"? If it's the latter, even thought I know it's unintentional, I still find it amusing how ingrained into her it is.

The purugly chuckled. “Indeed. I really am sorry to bother you fine folks. I just needed to speak with you before heading into the forest you see.” Nip took note of his silky-smooth voice. Something about it put his fur on end, like perhaps it was a well-practiced front.
What with being a purugly and having a smooth voice, it makes me think of Aslan and I now imagine him having the voice of Liam Neeson even though that makes no sense since he's Irish and I've been envisioning the other characters being English like Peppa Pig for whatever reason

On one hand, Nip could not help but feel flattered that these pokemon trusted him enough to do such an important job, and considered him skillful enough to follow through
Awwww!

Big questions at the end of chapter 4 what with Nip stealing the egg from the daycare. I thought they made sure that no Pokemon were sentient before they hunted them? Or does Nip not count eggs, even if they're guarded by other Pokemon or are going to hatch into sentient Pokemon? I'm also a bit surprised that the daycare wasn't more well-guarded than the meat place. These Pokemon really leave their young unguarded but when it comes to what's dead, they lock it up?

Yes, a quick, polite goodbye to Nip, and then she could get back to work. It was better to not burn bridges, wasn’t it?
Interesting thought from someone who openly disagrees with those around her practicing religion.

She took the lead, making a beeline for two twisted aspen trees that marked where the distortion began. The grass here came nearly up to her nose, but in little fluctuating patches on the other side, she could see shorter grass covered in fallen red and yellow leaves. She had never been to Sunglow Thicket, but she’d been told the dungeon was trapped in a perpetual autumn, almost like it was frozen in time.

As she stepped through the point where normal and distorted world met, she immediately noticed the drop in temperature from summer to fall air. She paused and shook, as if casting off the cold. While she had only been able to see patches from the outside, in here the trees were completely red and gold. The sound was different too. After passing through, it was as if the normal quiet chatter of forest life just dropped away, leaving only the rustle of trees in a light breeze.
Very pretty description here. I love fall.

The dungeon had deposited them in a clearing, thick brush impeding their ability to proceed in most directions.
The presence of thick brush defies it also being a clearing. "A clearing" implies that it can be walked through, but if the brush is so thick that they can hardly do that, then it contradicts itself.

And you really hooked us with that ending! So now the crew meets up with that Mawile who's been chasing Nip for unknown reasons. I like that you include the bit about her accent.

I know I haven't read everything you've put out so far, but in the interest of getting this review to you in a more timely manner, I'll base it off what I have read so far.

Like others before have pointed out, you really have a strength for diversifying and building your world. The village feels like a tangible place with a strong sense of culture from the Pokemon that live in and around it. Haru and her lifestyle feel totally believable; she's happy with being a hard-working bidoof, and even though her life has some issues (disagreeing with the views of those around her, splitting with her parents' views on religion, finding herself hanging out with Pokemon she doesn't like, her mom pressuring her to marry), overall she's living a good, fulfilling life. That Blissey, Tor intrigues me--he seems to got a lot of personality, and it's interesting you made him a while the games only have female Blissey. I like the choice of bidoof as the main Pokemon; they're really cute and I feel like they don't get a ton of use in fanfics compared to other Pokemon. The plot is compelling: why is Nip so far away from home? What exactly did he do to make him feel like he needs to run away? And I like how you introduce morality, with bringing up Nip's views on worship and eating meat and contrasting it with a mostly-vegetarian village.

I like the scope of this, as well. It focuses on one Pokemon instigating a problem in a village and revolves around the problems in his own life as he runs away from someone from (I assume) the same area as him. I enjoy those that focus on the everyday and the ordinary as opposed to the grandiose and world-shattering, and and you make good use of this scope and having typical Pokemon.

As others said, I felt like you took your time characterizing some of the things, particularly the town. While it makes it feel more real, if we're not coming back to the town or if it doesn't play a big role in the story, I feel like you could do with cutting down on it. Same with some of the conversations; I feel like they could have been cut down a little and the length of some of these chapters felt a bit long.

I also kept getting distracted by the typos in your writing. Others have been pointing them out and I don't want to go overboard with them, especially since these are all older chapters. But it did distract me or take me out of the moment. I'm notorious when it comes to posting/turning things in when they're still littered with typos, so I won't give you too hard a time of it. Just thought I'd point it out.

My biggest issue, as I stated, was Nip deciding to steal the egg. I just don't really buy it that a daycare would be less well-guarded than a mandibuzz's shop. And Nip must have been able to at least guess at the consequences--he would know that even if getting caught trying to steal meat would be considered unforgivable or get his hand chopped off or something, he must have figured out that he would be in WAY deeper trouble for trying to steal what amounts to a baby. I get that it's a mostly-peaceful village where not much happens and that you needed to have other characters chase after Nip for plot advancement, but that just seems too contrived to really be believable for me.

But all-in-all, you've got a very good, very compelling fic here. The plot has a lot of power behind it and I keep finding myself asking, "What has Nip done? Why is this Mawile after him?" But I also really like how you tie senses of morality into all of this. I'm curious to see how Haru's positions and views on religion either play a role or if they evolve over the course of the story--or if someone else's views on that change!

Thanks for posting this! It's a good fic and I'm excited to see where you go with it :)
 
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