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

    Join now!

One-shot

Ambyssin

Gotta go back. Back to the past.
Location
Etherium
Pronouns
he/him
Partners
  1. silvally-dragon
  2. necrozma-ultra
  3. milotic
  4. dreepy
This is an old one-shot that was written in late 2017 for a contest on Serebii focusing on platonic relationships. If you're reading this for the blitz, please know that I don't consider this representative of my current writing abilities. Nevertheless, I hope you enjoy!

XxX​

I stumble through the entryway, nearly knocking a chair into a glass table. Only biting my tongue saves me from letting out a grunt. I’ve only got a short window of time to get out of here before Mother wakes up. So I can’t screw things up now. Not after I’ve managed to get one of these things free. I blink my eyes repeatedly, praying they can adjust to the dark.

Finally, I glimpse the outline of my bedroom door. I wipe sweat from my brow and hurry forward. Luckily, I avoid bumping into anything else. Gripping the doorknob proves a struggle. My hands are clammy and my arms are trembling. But I’m able to twist the knob and push the door inward. I slide into my room and flip the light switch.

This proves to be a big mistake, because it wakes Riolu up. A sinking feeling starts filling up my gut. This is the situation I wanted to avoid. I can’t handle this. I can’t just leave him here. But things are bound to go belly-up if I take him with me. That means he has to stay behind.

I ignore Riolu’s squeaky yawn. Instead, I focus on my closet. To my relief, the door’s already open. I hurry over to it and start hurling the awful dress clothes Mother forces me to wear onto the floor. Eventually, I uncover my lockbox. I reach into my pocket to get the key, only to fumble it and have it fall to the ground.

This time I let out an angry hiss. I hear a startled yip from beside me. My heart skips a beat and I look down. Riolu’s standing next to me now. In one instant, I see the curiosity fade from his eyes. Instead, confusion sets in. A huge wave of guilt crashes over me. I don’t blame him for staring. His trainer wakes him up in the dead of night, sweaty, shaking, and panting like an overheated Rockruff. I’d be confused too.

“Go back to bed,” I tell him. “I’m fine.”

I return my attention to the lockbox, praying Riolu’s choosing to listen to me. The key goes in smoothly and the top pops open. Unspent allowance money spills out onto the floor. I kneel down and start sweeping the bills into the pouch on my belt. There’s a tug on my pant leg as I go to stand up. Riolu’s confused look gives way to one of concern. He lets out a whine and presses his snout against my knee.

My heart sinks. Why does he have to look at me with those innocent eyes? Please stop making this harder than it has to be. I feel awful enough as it is.

“Be quiet,” I say, putting a finger to my mouth. Riolu’s ears droop. Satisfied, I double-check to make sure I’ve got all the money from the lockbox. But Riolu steps in front of me. He stretches his paws up toward my waist, letting out another whine. His head brushes my thigh as he does a short hop up. But I push him down with my free hand. I squeeze my eyes shut, and tell myself that I’m doing the right thing. But that belief immediately crumbles, because Riolu tries to jump into my arms.

A strong part of me wants to catch him and carry him into bed. We could curl up under the covers and read comic books or Pokémon battling magazines by flashlight like we used to do before Mother became so insufferable. But I swallow hard and stuff those thoughts as far back in my mind as I can.

“I don’t have time for this,” I remind myself, adjusting my grip on a Premier Ball. Riolu looks up at it and my breath goes still.

This is bad. He knows that’s not his ball. I can see the panic all over his face. He jumps higher this time, reaching for the ball. This time I back away and jam the Premier Ball into my belt case. Riolu grabs hold of my right leg and starts whimpering. Those thoughts I tried stuffing down come roaring back. It’s not too late, they say. You can take him with you. You can make it work.

But that’s a lie. I don’t even have a plan. Besides, if Riolu sees the Beast Killer for just a fraction of a second, it’ll frighten him so much he’ll never want to leave his ball again. He has to stay back for his own good.

I shake my head. No, that’s not the real reason, is it? The real reason is so disgustingly selfish it makes my gut squirm. I swallow hard and force myself to stop thinking about it.

“Get off,” I order, pushing on Riolu. “I have to leave. You’re holding me up.” He seems to pick up on it. But that just makes him squeeze my leg even tighter and whimper even louder. “No, you can’t come with me,” I say.

Riolu’s eyes widen in horror and I realize I screwed this up badly. Why didn’t I just lie to him? I'd be gone already if I just said he could come. But that opportunity is gone. Instead, Riolu’s paws start scratching against my leg and I can see him reaching for my belt case. My vision’s starting to blur now, and it’s not from the sweat. Riolu’s been by my side since he hatched from his egg. What would even happen to him if I left him here, anyway?

… hmph. Get it together, Gladion. You can’t think like that. You’ve got a boat to catch.

I take a deep breath and shove Riolu off of me. He lets out a squeak as he hits the floor. His eyes start to water, but I turn away and start looking around the room. I can’t fall apart now. Even if my brain’s screaming at me to stop this. To grab Riolu, climb back into bed, and forget this crazy idea.

But then I see his Ultra Ball lying next to my toy chest. My chest tightens up. Oh, the irony. That his ball would end up next to a box filled with toys we’ve spent hundreds of hours playing with together. I imagine that, somewhere, Tapu Lele is laughing gleefully at my misfortune.

I approach the ball, my breath growing steadily more labored. My arms shake as I go to pick it up. I try to take some deep breaths and tell myself that this is okay. That I’ve returned him plenty of times, and this is no different. Once he’s in the ball, everything will be fine. Out of sight, out of mind, right?

Riolu looks up at this point, and sees his ball in my hands. He stumbles to his feet and runs at me. This isn’t like other times when I’ve returned him. There’s worry all over his face. Tears stream down his cheeks. I bite my lip, look away, hold up the ball, and press the button. Red light appears in the corner of my eyes and quickly fades away.

I’m hyperventilating now. My arm’s shaking so much I feel like it’ll pop out of my shoulder. It’s done. All I need to do is drop the ball and I’m gone. I’m gone and I never have to look back. But I’m hesitating. My brain’s saying let go, but my fingers aren’t listening. There’s still a part of me that wants to take him along. I rub my eyes and look down at the ball. I think of Riolu. His big, red eyes, always brimming with excitement or curiosity. The smile he usually wears on his muzzle. If I drop this ball, I’ll never see that smile again.

But that thought is suddenly drowned out by memories of Father. And then I think of Mother and a chill runs down my spine.

I toss the Ultra Ball onto my bed and run out my bedroom without even looking back.

XxX​

Two years later, I make an unplanned return to Aether Paradise. And with it comes the opportunity to restore the friendship I foolishly ended. At least, that’s what I should think. Instead, I manage to firmly convince myself that Riolu hates me for abandoning him. So, rather than going straight to him and apologizing, I do literally anything else I can think of.

The problem there is that, like a stupid rookie who won't stop using Protect in a Battle Royal, I've suddenly become the center of attention. I swear, every employee I walk past decides to drop what they're doing and follow me. I try to sneak out of the main building through the back stairs. But it's no good. There's a wave of people in white jumpsuits waiting for me.

And then the questions come pouring in. Is the president okay? Where did you go? What's going to happen to Miss Lillie? Why do you look so ragged? Where's Branch Chief Faba? Why is the news saying we've been invaded by aliens?

Each one steadily wears out my patience. I try to tell everyone to back off, but it's useless. Eventually, I snap. I release Silvally, and they let out a high-pitched roar. That sends the employees scattering. Most of them run for the main entrance, a few shouting about me having a monster. Silvally lets out an unamused huff and I give them a pat on the back.

Of course, one person wasn't scared off by that little outburst: Wicke. She remains standing there, a smile plastered on her face, but a look in her eyes that says, "You know better than that."

"Young Master," Wicke says, giving one of her obnoxiously-polite bows. "It's nice to see you getting reacquainted with the staff. But I'm not sure that's the right way to go about it."

I scowl and look away. "You saw it for yourself. They wouldn't leave me alone. So, I made them go away. Why should it matter how I did it?"

"They're only showing their concern, you know." She shakes her head. "But, that's not what this is about, is it?"

I turn away from her. "I don't know what you're talking about."

"Oh, Young Master," Wicke says, with a giggle. "You were never good at lying."

I swear I hear a chuckle from Silvally. "Hey, whose side are you on here?" I growl. Silvally opens their beak up in some sort of awkward attempt at a smile. The message is pretty clear. They're just having a good time with this. Lucky them.

"I've tended to Riolu while you've been away," Wicke says. She's facing the mansion now. "His ball is still in your room."

I tense up and grip my belt. I can't like Wicke see that she's getting to me. She'll only ramp up the guilt-tripping. And Lillie's already given me enough of that for one day. "Thanks for the heads up. Maybe I'll check in on him later." I put a hand on Silvally's shoulder. "In the meantime, we're busy. So... later, I guess."

Silvally turns to give me a look screaming, "Really, Gladion?"

"Given that Hau, Moon, and Miss Lillie have departed, I would think your schedule is rather open right now, Young Master," Wicke says. She still has that smile on her face. So warm. So patient. So... infuriatingly good at wearing me down.

"Well... it's not," I counter, mentally kicking myself because I know I can come up with something better.

"Are you sure you're not just nervous about seeing Riolu again?"

And that's enough, I say to myself. I furrow my brow into the best glare that I can manage and look right at Wicke. "We're done talking about this," I say. "C'mon Silvally, we're leaving."

But Silvally doesn't listen. Instead, they step in my path, forcing me to look back at Wicke. She closes the distance between us. "Young Master," she says, and puts a hand on my shoulder. I flinch and push it off. Clearly, this is going great. "I understand this must be difficult for you. If I were in your shoes, I'd probably feel the same way. But the longer you continue to ignore this, the more it's going to eat at you." At last, the smile disappears. "I do think you've grown in your time away. I know you think you're doomed to fail, here, but I believe Riolu will see that growth." She turns back toward the mansion. "And the only way to know that for certain is to go to him."

I stick my hands in my pockets. She's right, of course. I can't run from my problems forever. Otherwise, I wouldn't have even come back here in the first place. Silvally steps beside me, staring intently at the mansion. "Fine," I say, throwing my hands up in surrender. "You win. I'll go." I start walking toward the mansion, muttering about what a disaster this is going to turn into and how any Absols we're keeping here are probably going stir-crazy right now. After what feels like an eternity, I reach the front door. My hand hovers over the doorway. There’s too much uncertainty. My brain’s running through every direction it thinks an apology to Riolu can go. And none of them look promising.

“... hmph.”

I glare at my hand, as if I can somehow scare it into pushing the door open. My hand resists, however. Must be losing my touch. I blame Hau and Moon. They’re turning me into a wimp. I growl and glare even more intently at my hand. There’s a twitch, but I ultimately fail to get the door open.

That’s when Silvally steps forward and headbutts it. The door flies open, nearly coming off its hinges. They point a talon inside.

“Yeah, yeah, I get it. I’m going,” I mutter, walking inside the house. Silvally beams proudly and follows along after me. Our footsteps echo through the entryway. No one’s around to hear them, of course. But that’s for the best.

“This way,” I say, leading Silvally toward a door tucked away by the stairs. The closer I get to it, the more I feel like turning and walking out. I can’t believe this is really happening. Two years ago, I put him into his ball and ran out, expecting never to see him again. And now I have to fess up to my mistake and try to repair the damage I caused.

What could possibly go wrong? Knowing me, it’s everything.

It takes Silvally letting out a growl to get me to turn the handle and walk in. The first thing I notice is that someone cleaned the room. And by someone, I mean Wicke. Riolu’s Ultra Ball sill sits on my old bed. But there’s not a speck of dust on it. Wicke had said she let him out on occasion. I guess this proves it. While I have no problem picking the ball up, I can’t bring myself to open it.

Again, Silvally senses my hesitancy. They lean over and press the release button with the tip of their beak. My heart is up in my throat the instant the ball opens and light spills out. Silvally watches curiously as my starter materializes in front of us. He rubs his eyes with his small, blue paws.

“Skreeee!” Silvally decides to announce our presence with an enthusiastic trill. Riolu immediately stiffens.

I flinch. So much for taking a subtle approach to this. Then again, subtlety was never my strong suit. “Hey… Riolu. It’s, uh, it’s been awhile, huh?”

Riolu shuffles backward. He stares at me, clearly unsure what to make of this. I don’t blame him. I barely look anything like the boy who left him here. We silently stare each other down. Riolu, trying to figure out what’s going on. And me, utterly unsure of what to say to him.

His eyes dart over to Silvally, and then back to me. The little bauble-thingies on his face tremble. Riolu’s eyes widen in fear and he scrambles toward the closet, taking care not to look at me. He clamps his paws on the door handle but can’t quite turn it.

I knew it. He wants nothing to do with me. This is turning out to be a stupid idea after all. And when I think something’s stupid, I slip into my glaring stance.

But the second I do that, Silvally pecks me in the back, right between the shoulder blades. I jump and turn around, fixing my glare on them. They lower their head and point it toward the corner of the room. I glance over my shoulder at Riolu. He’s given up trying to get into the closet. Instead, he’s hiding under the carpet. And doing a very poor job, because I can see his legs and tail sticking out. His limbs are shaking and he’s whimpering loudly. I recall how terrible he always was at hide and seek. There’s a brief longing feeling from that memory, but I shoo it out of my mind. With the way he reacted to me, it's pretty clear we're never going to have that kind of relationship again.

I look back at Silvally. “… hmph. There’s nothing I can say to snap him out of this. I’m a trainer, not some Pokémon therapist.”

Silvally shakes their head in disagreement. They sit down and puff out their chest, locking eyes with me. It takes a few seconds, but I think I understand their gesture. If I could free them from their control mask, who’s to say I can’t restore my friendship with Riolu?

Okay, Gladion. Take a deep breath. Good, now ease up on the glaring and go comfort Riolu. He’s your starter. Your hand’s not going to explode if you pet him.

I walk over toward the corner of the room and kneel down next to the large lump in the carpet.

“It’s okay, Riolu. It’s Gladion. You can come out from there. I just want to talk to you.”

I reach my hand out toward the edge of the carpet and pull up. The second I do, Riolu lets out a startled yip and lunges at me. He headbutts my chest. The wind rushes out of me and another glare appears on my face. I can’t help it. It’s instinctual at this point. But Riolu’s never seen one of my intimidating glares. A horrified look crosses his face. He sprints to the other end of the room, dives underneath my bed, and starts whining loudly.

Silvally gives a disapproving huff. “... hmph. What did you expect?” I snarl, getting back to my feet. “There’s a reason I didn’t want to do this, you know. I rescued you from that lab, but with Riolu it’s the opposite. I left him behind. He doesn’t even recognize me now.”

Silvally doesn’t buy that excuse. They forcefully nudge me in the back, sending me to the floor. I see a blue tail for an instant, before hearing the scratching of paws on carpet. It’s obviously Riolu, scrambling toward the other end of the bed.

I look up to see Silvally towering over me. They jerk their head toward the bed. “What do you want me to do?” I ask. “Battling's easy. Apologizing's hard. I don’t know what to say to him.” Silvally shakes their head and growls. I see a talon point forward.

“… hmph. I’d like to see you try and do this.” I get on my hands and knees and crawl forward. God, I must look so ridiculous. I can already feel my glare sharpening.

C’mon, Gladion, wipe the angry look off your face, for once. You’re just gonna spook Riolu again. Think of something funny. Oh! Remember when Hau outsmarted old Faba over that security key business? I’ll never let him know this, but that was hilarious.

Good, the glare’s gone again. Maybe now I can make a little progress.

“Riolu, it’s really me,” I say. “I know I’ve been away for a while, but I’m back now. Honest.” A muffled sob escapes from underneath the bed. I can just make out a pair of red, watery eyes. “Look, I know you’re surprised. And a bit frightened,” I said. “Will you at least let me prove it to you?”

The crying stops. That’s a good sign. I roll to my feet, getting a confused look from Silvally, and jog to the old toy chest. To think, this thing once helped me cut ties with Riolu. And now it’s going to help me mend those ties. I start digging through some action figures and Poké Dolls – which Lillie must’ve thrown in because I definitely wouldn’t play with something so girly – and eventually pull out a screwdriver.

I return to the bed and lie down next to it. “Remember this?” I place the tool a little bit under the bed. “It’s the screwdriver we stole from Father’s toolbox. We used it to break into Faba’s office and undo the screws on his chair.”

A paw reaches out and grabs the screwdriver, pulling it in.

“Faba fell on his back and walked around all hunched over for a month. Remember how he wouldn’t stop complaining to Mother? We were laughing at him the whole time,” I continue. “So, do you believe me now?”

No response. Great. So much for that idea. And I just reminded myself of Father. I’m on a roll right now, clearly.

Except the silence doesn’t last. I hear shuffling against the carpet and scoot back to give Riolu space. Silvally inches closer to me but I hold up a hand to halt them. Riolu’s head pops out from under the bed. He turns those big, innocent eyes up toward me. And this time, I see a gleam of recognition in them. I watch his little feelers twitch. Riolu looks down at the ground.

Maybe he’s trying to come to terms with all of this? Well, that makes two of us.

I steal a glance back at Silvally. They’re giving me a look that says, “You know what you need to do.”

And I do. But I don’t want to. It should be easy. It’s two simple words. I’ve already said them to Lillie and Moon today. Besides, I’ve made too much progress to get tripped up. So, I take a deep breath.

“I’m sorry.”

There, it’s out in the open. And I didn’t bring down the wrath of the Tapus or spontaneously burst into flames. It’s something, right?

Riolu looks up at me again. And I can feel Silvally eyeballing the back of my head. I’ll bet they think I’m not being sincere enough. Maybe Riolu’s thinking that too, because he’s still frowning.

“I’m sorry,” I repeat, “for leaving you here all this time. I should have taken you with me.” I grab my right wrist to stop it from covering up my face. Now’s not the time for one of my angry poses.

I feel another nudge from behind. As far as Silvally’s concerned, I’m not done explaining myself. But what else is there to say? Think of something, brain. This is my starter I’m talking to.

“I let my anger control me,” I continue, noticing Riolu’s bauble thingies twitching. “After Father disappeared, I felt so conflicted around you. I couldn’t look at you without thinking of him. I’d see that warm, goofy smile he wore as often as his lab coat. And I’d remember the proud look in his eyes when he gave me your egg. Then I’d realize that Father’s gone and never coming back. To make matters worse, I’d think of all the times Mother called us both hideous. I couldn’t deal with those feelings anymore. That’s the real reason I left you here.”

Riolu’s eyes are tearing up again, and I hear a growl from Silvally. “But it’s not your fault!” I quickly say. “It’s my fault, okay? I was an idiot. A big, dumb, stupid, selfish, irresponsible idiot. And you have every right to be mad at me. Because you were my friend, Riolu. And I let you down.” I take another deep breath, trying to settle my stomach. As hard as I found that to say, the next part would be even worse.

“I’ve learned a lot, while I’ve been away,” I say, “About what it means to be a Pokémon trainer. At first I thought that winning was all that mattered. If you couldn't win a battle, you were weak. End of story. I fought battle after battle with this guy over here." I gestured to Silvally. "Because I figured that's how I could make him strong."

"But the truth is, things aren't that black and white," I concede. "There's more to being a trainer than battling. And there's definitely more to battling than winning or losing. For the longest time, I couldn't grasp that. And so, Silvally's power stayed locked beyond my reach."

"Then I met a couple of trainers who showed me what it looks like to battle for something other than getting stronger by winning." I reach my hand up and feel Silvally’s feathery crest. “They taught me to battle for the sake of forging strong bonds with my Pokémon. Thanks to them, Silvally reached their true potential.”

“But, I’m not a fool. I abandoned you. That’s unforgivable. I just want you to know that there wasn’t a day that went by when I didn’t kick myself for leaving you here,” I continue, reaching up and grabbing his ball. “It’d be stupid to think we can just pick up where we left off two years ago. That’s why I want to try and make up for what I did any way I can.

I lower his ball into my lap. “I’d like nothing more than to build a bond with you that’s as strong– no better than what I have with Silvally. But, well, judging by your reaction to seeing me again, that’s not gonna happen.” My expression sharpens. “So, I can give you to another trainer. One who will treat you the way you deserve to be treated. I think… I think you’ll really like Moon. She’s… a better trainer than I’ll ever be.”

“Skree?”

God, I really just said that out loud, didn’t I?

Riolu has this dumbfounded look on his face. Even Silvally seems surprised. Though, to be fair, I spent the better part of the last several weeks calling Moon an annoying little girl with an obnoxiously colorful outfit that makes my blood boil. I’m just glad she’s not around to see this. She’d never let me live it down.

An awkward silence follows. I can feel my brow wanting to furrow. It’s taking every ounce of willpower not to glare at Riolu and tell him to accept the offer. Finally, Riolu reaches out toward his ball. Only, he doesn’t open it up. He pushes it up into my gut.

My heart rate picks up. This has to be a mistake. He can’t seriously still want to be my Pokémon, could he?

“You’re absolutely sure about this? You want to stay with me, even after what I did?”

Much to my surprise, Silvally walks past me. They stretch downward, bringing their head in line with Riolu’s. “Kreeeeee!” they trill, wagging their tail. Riolu initially withdraws. The hesitancy is all over his face. But Silvally’s not deterred. They stick their head out and gently tap Riolu’s snout. Riolu gives a startled squeak and his feelers stick up.

The tension doesn’t last. His fearful look quickly fades, replaced with one of interest. Then, he catches me by surprise. A smile slowly forms on his face. He steps forward and bops Silvally’s mechanical beak.

“Skrrrreeeeeeee!” Silvally’s tail wags even faster. Next thing I know, they hoist Riolu into the air, place him on their back, and start racing around the room. Riolu’s clinging to Silvally’s head crest and I can’t see his expression. I bolt to my feet to put a stop to this, only to freeze at the sounds of… laughter?

The sight's so absurd, it makes me cover up my face with my right hand and let out a quick, “Hmph.”

Am I fantasizing? Is Tapu Lele playing mind games with me? My starter Pokémon is riding around on my current partner like one of those old western movies we used to love watching together. Maybe this whole thing’s just some ridiculous dream and I’m gonna wake up back in that cramped motel on Route 8.

That last thought is quickly proven wrong. Riolu decides to leap off Silvally. My reflexes aren’t quick enough to catch him and he slams into me. We fall back onto the bed. It takes a few seconds for me to get my bearings straight. But when I do, I feel Riolu nestling his head against my belly. I sit up and see Silvally sitting in front of me, beak opened in what I guess constitutes a smile for them. They give a cheerful chirp.

I put a hand on Riolu’s head and start petting him. A nostalgic feeling rushes through me. This sensation of excitement over getting to be a trainer and have real Pokémon battles against others. It was a feeling I’d erased when I left Aether, choosing to battle only for the sake of getting stronger.

But I have a team of Pokémon who want to be by my side. And that includes Riolu, who by all accounts should hate me. It occurs to me that now might be the time to get his training started. Silvally seems to pick up on that, however, and shakes their head.

I give them a silent nod. There will be time to train soon enough, I imagine. For now, Riolu and I have some catching up to do.

END

XxX​

And that's it. Mostly just decided to make a up a little headcanon answering the question, "Where did Gladion get a Lucario from, anyway?" Because I couldn't have been the only one confused when that happened, right?
 

Shiny Phantump

Through Dream, I Travel
Location
Hallownest
Pronouns
She/Her
Partners
  1. sylveon
  2. absol-mega
  3. silvally-psychic
  4. custom/ninetales-phantump
  5. cosmog
(Hello, I heard rumour of Gladion being here)

Aw, this is super sweet. There's some roughness to suggest it's not your latest work, but I think it holds up quite well all things considered.

Poor Riolu, and also poor Gladion. The guy feeling like he has to choose between his established starter and Null is sad in that he needs a hug, but also painful in the sense that I want to bop him over the head with a rolled-up newspaper because it's not true. (In that sense, it reminds me tonally/thematically of Butterfree)

In the end, though, I think Silvally might be my favourite character. Characters who can't talk can be difficult to characterize, and in the case of pokemon, to make seem autonomous from their trainers, but it's well done here. I think I appreciate it all the more in that it comes right after Gladion says they'll both be leaving, with Silvally chooses to go against that. Sometimes a good friend is one who tells you to stop when you're doing something dumb. Wicke also does the same, but given she's a human and older than his, her autonomy is less surprising.

I think, when all is said and done, the relationship between the two main characters isn't the most important factor in what makes the story charming. The two of them together, we hardly see any of. Rather, we're submerged in the inner conflict that running away causes- and how his friends help pull him out of it. It makes a lovely basis for a story.
 

Panoramic_Vacuum

Hoenn around
Partners
  1. aggron
  2. lairon
I am always here for some Gladion bonding with his pokemon. I like that for the obvious choice, Gladion and Silvally, that actually is presented as an established relationship here, and the real spotlight is on another less-likely pokemon: Riolu. I'll be honest, I didn't remember Gladion's team composition in the games, since he's so strongly associated with Type: Null/Silvally, so to hear this is an origin story of another of his team members, I was thrilled.

You do a fantastic job of laying out the stakes right from the start of the fic. Gladion is in such a precarious position both with the Foundation and with his family. It's painful to watch him make a choice to leave family behind in order to save a life, and it's even more painful when Riolu isn't part of the struggle he's facing. It's an innocent in all this, and for young Gladion to make a choice so difficult to leave it behind (in his eyes in order to protect it and himself), it's heartwrenching.

Their reunion years later is no less heartwrenching, but in an entirely different way. I really like how you use Wicke to soften the blow. She's such a gentle soul, and it shows that Gladion's bonds to Aether aren't completely damaged when he returns; that thread is still there, and it's something he can use to reunite with Riolu.

Silvally itself is also wonderful here. Such an outgoing and positive nature compared to Gladion's withdrawn and stormy countenance. I love that it's so determined to make Gladion go through with this, to not let him back out on his word. I also like that you frame it not as trading one loyal pokemon for another, but growing their family together. What Gladion had lost with both his father and his starter, he can regain with trust, friendship, and time, but only if he's willing to try. With Silvally's help, he is. And that's the best part, because he saved Silvally, and now Silvally will save him.

The ending sentiment is particularly great. Gladion wants to be a strong trainer with all his pokemon by his side, but he's grown, he's learned: strength isn't everything. Seeing him be so gentle and patient with himself when it comes to rekindling his bond with Riolu is really touching.

I know this is five years old now (haha don't think too hard about that 😅) but I just wanted to point out a few things I noticed about the fic that maybe could use some polish. You've probably ironed out most of these in your current writing, so it's more of an exercise in observation than straight up critique.

The most noticeable thing for me was actually the sentence structure used in the majority of the fic. The sentences are short and all have the same cadence. Back to back to back, they don't produce a satisfying flow to the writing. The imagery and actions are clear, but the rhythm of the words is static and samey:
Finally, I glimpse the outline of my bedroom door. I wipe sweat from my brow and hurry forward. Luckily, I avoid bumping into anything else. Gripping the doorknob proves a struggle. My hands are clammy and my arms are trembling. But I’m able to twist the knob and push the door inward. I slide into my room and flip the light switch.

This proves to be a big mistake, because it wakes Riolu up. A sinking feeling starts filling up my gut. This is the situation I wanted to avoid. I can’t handle this. I can’t just leave him here. But things are bound to go belly-up if I take him with me. That means he has to stay behind.
Short, staccato sentences aren't inherently a bad thing. In fact I rather like them in the second paragraph here. It's this listing of all the horrible feelings and thoughts Gladion is running through as he's making his snap decision to leave Riolu behind. They hit like a flurry of punches. But in the first paragraph where he's moving and doing things, the flow doesn't feel right in my mind's eye. Ultimately it's a style choice and doesn't impact the story the fic is telling or my overall enjoyment, just a little thing I noticed when reading through (and again it's probably something you've already refined over the course of your fic writing experience).

The other thing that caught my eyes was a little bit of the characterization of Gladion himself. He's very true to his game-canon self, with brooding anger issues, a serious dent in his self confidence, and a tendency to pose dramatically. It's because you've done such a good job with his portrayal that I think I was left wanting with a little more nuance on his part. Lots of "hmphs" and scowls were fantastic, but when it came time to string together a bunch of words (like in his apology to Riolu), I almost wish we had some other, more vulnerable tics or body language.
“I let my anger control me,” I continue, noticing Riolu’s bauble thingies twitching. “After Father disappeared, I felt so conflicted around you. I couldn’t look at you without thinking of him. I’d see that warm, goofy smile he wore as often as his lab coat. And I’d remember the proud look in his eyes when he gave me your egg. Then I’d realize that Father’s gone and never coming back. To make matters worse, I’d think of all the times Mother called us both hideous. I couldn’t deal with those feelings anymore. That’s the real reason I left you here.”

Riolu’s eyes are tearing up again, and I hear a growl from Silvally. “But it’s not your fault!” I quickly say. “It’s my fault, okay? I was an idiot. A big, dumb, stupid, selfish, irresponsible idiot. And you have every right to be mad at me. Because you were my friend, Riolu. And I let you down.” I take another deep breath, trying to settle my stomach. As hard as I found that to say, the next part would be even worse.

“I’ve learned a lot, while I’ve been away,” I say, “About what it means to be a Pokémon trainer. At first I thought that winning was all that mattered. If you couldn't win a battle, you were weak. End of story. I fought battle after battle with this guy over here." I gestured to Silvally. "Because I figured that's how I could make him strong."
This section in particular is just great, when the apology comes tumbling out after being locked up inside Gladion for so long. More facial expressions, maybe eye contact (or lack thereof for parts?). Does he grimace, clutch his chest, ball his hands into fists. We see a lot of Gladion's observations of Riolu, which is lovely, but what's Gladion doing himself? It's a minor note, but I think if we really got to see the toll this took on Gladion to not only form the words but to admit all these things, it would hit even harder.

Despite these few things, (which really are nitpicks more than anything else), I really enjoyed this. Getting a glimpse into the backstory and growth of Gladion and his team is something the games don't deliver on, so this was a real treat to read.
 

Pen

the cat is mightier than the pen
Staff
Partners
  1. dratini
  2. custom/dratini-pen
  3. custom/dratini-pen2
Hey Amby! I was initially hesitant about checking out an older work, but I'm glad I did, because I really enjoyed this one. You nailed Gladion's character voice--he comes off as young, snarly, freaked-out, focused, and beneath all the pretended swagger, pretty humble. The initial sequence had a nice sense of tension and urgency. I liked how bad Gladion is at sneaking around his own room--bumping into things, failing to get his lock open on the first try--it's super real for a tween running away from home. His wildly vacillating emotions during that sequence also felt really realistic. He's all amped up and has a mission, and Riolu doesn't fit into that and it's all too much to deal with. He's acting badly and it makes complete sense.

In the second segment, I appreciated how much Silvally comes to the fore in pushing Gladion to be better here. Gladion has retained a lot of the prickliness, but it's clear in this second part that he's just not alone in the same way anymore. The little references to Moon, Hau and Lillie, and the quick mention of the apologies he's already made, create a feeling of growth and make Gladion capable of finally finding words here. I was impressed by his apology, not so much because it's anything crazy but because fics so often present trainer apologies in a way that comes off a perfunctory or insincere. Here I really got the sense that Gladion's apology to Riolu means as much to him as the ones he previously gave to Moon and Lillie did, and that he's genuinely not expecting to get anything out of it. He's apologizing because it's the right thing to do and Riolu deserves it, even if he thinks it's too late for anything to be fixed. It's that willingness to say something hard without expecting a reward that endeared me to him here. Riolu's characterization is a bit limited by the nature of pokemon not talking and him being a freaked out little dog, but I liked your use of body language, as well as Gladion's attempts to use props like old toys to reconnect. Riolu's progression from hiding under the bed to riding on Silvally was a heart-warming one. Glad you posted this one!
 

Umbramatic

The Ghost Lord
Location
The Yangverse
Pronouns
Any
Partners
  1. reshiram
Here for Review Blitz! Oooh, a Gladion foc? And focusingh on team members OTHER than Silvally? Interesting, very intresting... I did wondewr where that Lucario came from, huh?

And your answer is "he always had it, but..." with the but being he left it behind years asgo at Aether Paradise. The description of how THAT plays out is appropriately heartwrenching - Gladion's urge to bring Riolu along vs. his urge to GET THE FUCK OUT OF DODGE is very, very apparent. Poor Gladion. Poor Riolu too. :(

And then of course YEARS LATER after the events of Moon (I presume this is Moon and not Ultra Moon) Gladion comes back to Aether Paradise and Wicke is like "You should reconnect with Riolu :D" and Gladion's like "No that will never work >:(" and Silvally is like "Dude. :|"

But then of course he goes and Does it, and of coursae it's rough at first - I mean you can't blame Riolu - but iut works ojut, and is very cute. I like that Silvally took an active role in this.- they're helping!

Overall I like that we got a perspective on a member on Gladion's team that WASN'T Silvally. Don't get me wrong stuff about Gladion's relationship with his Silvally is Good and Lit, I'm not demeaning it at all, it's very important to Gladion's story... But also his other team members exist and I'm glad others got highlighted here... especiallly the one that appeals to the blue aura dog bias hehe.

But good fic. I know you say it's Old and Badbut Fuck It I liked ity, it has things that appeal to Me Specifically.
 
Top Bottom