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Pokémon Seiren

canisaries

voted most likely to be edgy
Location
the middle of nowhere
Pronouns
she/her
Hello Thousand Roads! After some lurking and watching from afar, I've decided to join this forum and post something of my own. Some of you already know me from Serebii or Bulbagarden - for the rest, pleased to meet you! But that's enough about me, I've got a story I'd like to share.

Seiren is a dark comedy drama starring Red, a young man who not quite right and a liiittle too attached to a certain special omanyte named Helix, one he considers to be a form of his god. If these names sound suspiciously familiar, that would be because this story does indeed take inspiration from the Twitch Plays Pokémon online phenomenon which peaked in 2014. If you're not familiar with that, though, no need to freak, as not only are the ties to the generally agreed upon "lore" quite loose, but I've done my best to write them in such a way that requires little to no knowledge of this subfandom. And finally, if something's unclear, I'll gladly answer questions and work to make the setup clearer if need be.

Now a word about the content: this story is rated PG-15 due to strong language, violence / physical abuse, alcohol usage and dark themes that come with immoral actions onscreen and offscreen. For reference, our protagonist is a rather terrible person. This ain't your mom's Red. No, really, this really shouldn't be considered as an incarnation of the Red from the games or manga or anything. Being from a TPP run, he was essentially built on a blank slate that happened to be named Red as that was the default in-game name. Okay cool now back to you big font Canis.

Thank you for your attention. Comments and other feedback on the story are very much appreciated. Catch the full synopsis and stats below the cover image, and I hope you enjoy Seiren!


---

seirencover_fromDA.png

S E I R E N

Synopsis:
Red isn't too happy about Helix's new celebrity crush. Therefore, action must be taken.

Genre:
Drama, Dark Comedy

Started:
9 June 2018

Status:
Finished
(8 April 2020)

Length:
64 000 words
(Measured 8 April 2020)

---

PROLOGUE

---​

Ding!

The bell’s ring pierces my skull.

He needs something.

I drop the book and roll over to see the water tank. He stares back with His gray-yellow eyes, His tentacle still lying on the button, too tired to pull back again. My heartbeat surges. Is this it? Is it happening now?

I bounce out of bed as quickly as any persian on its prey and hurry to the tank. Even the focus and motions of His eyes are delayed...

“My lord, what do You need?” I ask. It could be just another false alarm, but an ominous cold resides in my core. It only grows stronger with each passing second and each new observation on how terrible He looks right now.

A tip of one tentacle sluggishly rises, prompting me to dive my arms into the lukewarm water and lift up the sickly omastar. The splashes of water paint dark spots onto my shirt and the towels covering the floor. He breaks the surface, flattening as the upthrust of the fluid disappears. It happens every time, but… He just looks so miserable nowadays.

“Red...” He rasps. I lean in, determined not to miss a single one of His words.

“Yes?”

“You know I’m coming back, right?”

I unwind for just a second, chuckling. “Y-yes, I know. I just...”

No, He’s right. I shouldn’t be this worried. He’s come back once, He’ll come back again. I know exactly how to get Him back and I’m absolutely positive it’ll work. And this time they’ll have a vaccine ready for Him. They learned enough about this disease during His suffering through it, and now they know how to prevent it. He won’t get this way again. His lifespan won’t be cut short. Still...

“And I’ll be healthy,” he continues, slit-pupiled eyes slowly blinking. “And an omanyte, too. A lot easier to carry around… I think I’ll want to stay that way longer this time around...”

I sit back on the bed and lower Him onto my lap to give my arms a break. My jeans quickly soak up the water on His skin.

What He’s saying is all true, but I… I don't know. He's going to have to mature all over again, learn to speak, go to school… and I don't know which ones of His memories won't stick around this time. What if He forgets me entirely? What if He won't like me? What if --

His tentacle rubs on my wet forearm, interrupting my worries. “I know I won't remember everything from this life, but I’m still going to be the same mon. And you’ll be the same person. I know I’ll like you again.”

I sigh. “Thank You, my lord.” I’m not content, but to ease His mind, I’ll pretend.

“Now…” He says, shifting on my lap, “now I would finally like to sleep.”

I nod and lean forwards to get up, but He stops me with a groan.

“Here,” He specifies.

“Wouldn’t it be more comfortable in the water?”

“I’ve had My whole life to be comfortable. I can tell you need Me now.”

That’s the last push the tears in my ducts needed. They’re freed, as is my smile.

“Goodnight, Red,” He wheezes and lets His rubbery body relax. His warty lids close, hiding the pale yellow.

“Goodnight,” I whisper back.

A silence arises, but only for a second before the winds outside snuff it out. I look through the window at the golden autumn view and watch the swaying trees and grass, brown and yellow. The neighboring houses remain still, their hue only slightly altered by the evening sun.

The mass on my lap slows in its breathing. My pulse speeds up again.

A part of me, the naive part, urges me to initiate some kind of mollusk-adjusted CPR, but I suppress the need. It's time for Him to go and there'd be no benefit to prolonging His pain. Instead, as painful as it is, it's my job to be here and make sure He leaves in peace.

The breaths grow weaker. The time between them stretches out - longer, longer, longer… until the next one finally fails to arrive.

A jagged grip seizes my heart. I shakingly gasp for air. Another wave of hot tears emerges.

It shouldn’t hurt like this. It shouldn’t hurt because He’s coming back, and it shouldn’t hurt for someone like me.

It’s just one of those things I’ll never understand.

---​

The trees of Viridian Forest dash by as the train hums on. It's a shame this window is so smudgy - the autumn colors seem brilliant. Even the evergreens look majestic among their more vibrant deciduous peers.

But I don't need to look out the window for a sight that warms my heart, do I? That's right. I have You.

Two sparkling eyes stare back from the dark of my bag, their image wavering as the rumbling of the train and the bubbling powerhead quake the water’s surface.

My beautiful lord, so healthy, and this time He’ll stay that way. He’s already got the life-saving shot.

“You hungry?” I whisper. He continues staring, not yet understanding my language.

I zip open another pouch of the bag and pull out a green plastic container. I pop it open to reveal the numerous leppa berries inside. He shuffles in place as I open His aquarium, unsure of what’s happening.

“It's alright,” I say calmly. It seems to make His worries subside somewhat. The rest of His shyness melts away as I drop one of the red-yellow berries into the water and He realizes it's edible. His translucent tentacles cover the fruit, and He begins nibbling away.

The train slows down to a halt. The final jolt wakes up the black-jacketed nidoking snoozing on the seat across from mine.

“Home yet?” Fonz mumbles, blinking his squinted eyes.

“Just a stop.”

“Mhhh…” he sighs and lets his lids close again.

I look back down at the aquarium. The omanyte has lain down on the side of His shell and is retreating inside. Looks like Fonz isn't the only sleepy one here.

Quietly, I snap shut the lid of the aquarium and return the leppas to their pouch in the bag. May He have the privacy He deserves.

It's funny. Currently, He must see me as the god in this relationship. Well, technically, the real god is in that other bag, but… I don’t want to think about that right now.

The only thing that matters now is that He and I are finally together again. Things are exactly as they should be, and I won’t let anything, anything change that.

---​
 
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canisaries

voted most likely to be edgy
Location
the middle of nowhere
Pronouns
she/her
Let's get right to the first chapter proper! Would've posted it yesterday, but it got pretty late.

---

CHAPTER ONE
The New Him


---​

I’ve walked to the school and timed it. I’ve walked back and timed it. I’ve repeated both three times to calculate the average and know just when to expect Them back. So where the hell are They?

I crane my neck at the kitchen window, trying to find an angle where I could see even further down the snow-lined road. But it’s not like it even matters - this street is emptier than a slowpoke’s skull.

I understand that people walk at different paces. I understand that lessons don’t always end exactly when scheduled. I understand people might get caught up talking to one another, but I can’t understand being an entire half an hour late.

I glance at the table. The berry basket’s contents are still as vibrant as ever, but the fruits just look miserable, having to wait like that.

Wait, I hear something! Steps! Could that be Them? The steps are heavy and seem like they come from a lone biped… that matches Fonz. It must be Them. I need to go! I need to see Him!

I dash to the door, not daring to waste any time putting on a coat. I twist the lock and throw open the door, grinning at the thought of finally seeing my lord again.

The grin decays away as my stare only meets a bewildered golem.

“You want somethin’?” asks the mon in a gruff voice.

Yes, for you not to give me false hope… I groan quietly and close the door.

“Humans,” I hear the golem mutter.

Sighing, I make my way back to the kitchen. The golem notices me through the window and gives one last annoyed look before walking out of frame.

Alright. It’s possible I’m overreacting. People are late sometimes. It happens. It’s fine. It doesn’t mean anything happened to Him. Oh shit, what if something happened to Him? Did the weather get to Him despite all the scarves? Did Fonz get run over while holding Him? Did He get beat up by some bully so badly He had to be taken to the hospital? If so, I’m going to flay whoever --

My train of thought stops as my fingers touch the hilt of my knife. Shit. This is exactly why it’s Fonz taking Him to school and back and not me.

Wait. Steps, I hear steps again. I peek out of the window. A purple mon is approaching. It has a warm wool-lined coat on and a ball of scarves held up by its claws. That's Fonz!

I scramble to the door again and nearly fling it open, but stop. I’ll only let the cold air in, making it less comfortable for Him to be here. I still have to wait. But it's just a few seconds. A few seconds and I’ll see Him again.

My arms cross themselves and my foot starts to tap the carpet. Just a little more, relax, but don't get too comfortable, you don't want Him to think you like it when He’s away, as if you found Him a burden or… the door, the door is opening! Smile! Smile, for fuck’s sake!

Fonz looks up from the door handle and flinches. “O-oh, hi,” he stutters. I guess he was caught by surprise.

I nod and step back, allowing him to enter the hall and bring the scarf pile to view. There's no hole in it to see inside. Can He breathe? Of course He can, idiot, it's just loosely wrapped wool. But is He actually in there? Maybe Fonz actually lost Him and is trying to trick me? No, he wouldn’t do that. Or would he? Everyone has their price.

“Why are you, uhh… looking at me like that?” asks Fonz. I realize the frown on my face and quickly revert it back to a smile.

“Sorry, had something on my mind,” I brush it off and take half a second to think of a way to patch that mistake. “How's my lord?” Assuming He is with you… no, stop that.

The nidoking grins in a strange way. Can't name what it is, but it’s certainly not sincere. That's worrying…

“Oh, He's great,” he says. “Had a good first day. Isn't that, uhh, right?” He nudges the bottom of the pile with a claw.

“Hm?” comes from the pile. A sliver opens between two scarves, revealing an eye glistening in the light of a smartphone. “Oh, here already. Hi, Red,” the omanyte within mumbles, and lets the sliver fall to a close again.

Well, He’s there, but... that’s odd of Him. This morning, He seemed anxious when leaving for His first day of school, even hugging me… now I’m like nothing to Him. Did something happen? I give Fonz a questioning look.

“Yeah, He discovered, uhh, something interesting,” he says and shuffles out of the hall. “You got food ready?”

“Yes, here.” I gesture to the kitchen and give more space. Fonz carries Him to the table, next to the berries, and removes the scarves.

The omanyte cringes at the flood of sudden light, but still keeps His focus on the phone’s screen. A thin, forked cord runs from the device to the inside of His shell. Earphones. A quick glance around His body shows all tentacles intact and no cracks in the shell. Nothing physical is off.

Fonz taps His shell with his claw. When He looks up, somewhat annoyed, the nidoking smiles and pushes the berry basket closer.

“Oh, thanks,” He replies, nabs an oran and begins nibbling it, eyes still locked to the screen.

“What’s He watching?” I ask Fonz, slowly circling behind Him. I finally see what’s on the screen, but it only raises more questions.

Bright pink, violet and a bunch of other colors flash in striped patterns as a big-eyed creature resembling a squid moves around in the foreground. Its mantle is pink, lined with a translucent coating with glowing markings that resemble a shining star. Its lower half quite strongly resembles an omanyte’s, only with a pink beak above the tentacles instead of a beige one hidden beneath. In addition to the eight normal tentacles, two longer, glassy ones extend from underneath the mantle. They sway along with the mon’s dancing, their posterior edges somewhat serrated.

“Think it’s a pop star of some kind,” Fonz says as he returns the scarves and his own coat to the hall. “Forgot her name, but apparently she’s all the rage now. With the girls of the class, anyway...”

She…? “What kind of mon is that?” I ask, trying to think through all the nature documentaries I’ve seen. “Is that even real?”

“Pretty sure it is. She’s Unovan, but I’m not sure if the species is. Looks like a psychic type… or maybe that’s just the visuals.”

And water type would make sense for a squid… but not all mon have the powers you'd expect.

The omanyte finishes His oran and swipes another. One of His arms briefly taps the table, I guess along to the beat. I lean in to look at His face. His gaze is unchanging, like a mannequin’s. It’s like He's… hypnotized.

The doorbell rings, snapping me back to reality - but unfortunately, not Him. Fonz goes to answer the door. Is it Abe there? I thought he said he’d be home later today. But who else could it…

Right as Fonz opens the lock, I remember.

“Foooonz! How are you, my mon?” shouts a familiar pidgeot, excited to see his old teammate again.

Right, Jess was supposed to come today. I totally forgot. If only things that disappear in your memory would disappear in real life, too.

“Good to see you, Jess!” responds Fonz, though his tone is a bit forced. “Been well?”

“As well as ever! Makin’ sweet money and… actually, sorry, but could you let me in now? It's cold as jynx tits out here.”

“Right, sure.” Fonz lets Jess in, and the bird hops deeper into the house. He shakes a few excess snowflakes off himself, then pulls out a smartphone from the pouch attached to his leg. Using its dark screen as a mirror, he checks his red-and-gold crest and swipes the remaining white particles off with a feather. He grimaces as his gloved foot returns the phone to the pouch.

I check on my lord. Still entranced.

“Red! Yo! Miss your ace?” Jess shouts, forcing me to meet his golden eyes. They flick up and down. “I see you’re still working out! You look good, dude.”

Heh, of course I do. But I can’t even smirk genuinely when He’s like this.

Jess flits to the table, paying minimal attention to things he might knock over with his well-groomed tail feathers. He offers the wrist of his wing to me for something I don’t figure out before he gives up - a fist bump.

“Nice to see you too, Jess,” I respond, smiling, because I probably should.

The bird nods and turns to the berry basket. “Whoa, you got this for me and everything?” he gushes, spreading his wings. “Aww, you didn’t need to do that… but thanks, bros!” He swipes a pecha, but stops to look at the omanyte next to him. “That’s Helix? What happened to Him?”

“Reincarnation,” I answer flatly. You know He does that.

“Really? When?”

“Three months ago. He… He got sick.” I clench my teeth and hope Jess asks no further questions. I don’t want to be reminded, even if He is back now.

“Huh… so, what’s He watching?” Jess leaps to His side of the table and twists his neck to see. His eyes open wide. “Is that...” He covers his beak with a wing, snorting. “Like, unironically?”

“Uhhh...” I look at Fonz. He only shrugs.

Jess clears his throat. “Eh, forget it. Listen, sorry to cut this short, but I gotta take care of a bunch of things on that crappy old computer of ours.” He hops off and glides to the staircase but freezes at the base, his face losing its usual confidence. “It is still there, right?”

“Yeah, we haven’t touched it,” assures Fonz. Jess, content again, thanks us and takes flight, his small room upstairs as his destination.

The kitchen falls quiet after the bird’s departure. Only some muffled, rhythmic noise leaks from my lord’s earphones. I don’t think He even noticed Jess coming and going.

That’s it. I need to figure out what’s so special about what He’s watching.

“Excuse me,” I say to Fonz and head to the stairs. “Make sure He eats enough.”

He nods, and I climb the stairs. I walk to Jess’ door and enter without caring to knock.

His room is barely a room, it's more like a closet. It really only contains a little desk with a computer and a saddle-like chair meant for avian users of keyboards and mice. There’s a fake plastic tree with a branch Jess could sleep on, but usually he just crashes on the chair whenever he’s around.

Jess, sitting in his chair, swivels to me. “You need somethin’?”

I shut the door and come to him. “You seem to know what my lord was watching.”

“You don't? Right… I guess even normies have their normies.”

“What?”

Jess raises a wing. “Not important. So, that girl - that was Shirlee. She's, like, a rising pop star right now. Big with tweens and feminists, as they usually are. And total shit, as they usually are.”

Uh-huh. “What kind of mon is she?”

Jess smirks. “I’ve always liked how you don't care about political correctness.”

What was politically incorrect about… nevermind. “Just tell me what she is.”

Jess swivels back, clicks his mouse and taps the keyboard with his talons. When done, he turns the monitor to me. The screen shows an array of pictures featuring the kind of mon I saw in the video. Some of the mon look wild, expressionlessly floating in an underwater abyss. Others are levitating among people in the streets, sometimes wearing a piece of clothing.

Each one appears a little different. Their mantles range from orange to lavender. Some lower bodies are cerulean, some turquoise, some a silvery gray. The shape of their fins, tentacles and light spots vary, along with the number of the last one.

“She’s an inkay,” Jess explains. “A dark-psychic type from Kalos. They use those blinky things to communicate and defend themselves in the wild, and I guess in civilization they use them to look cute.”

Dark…? “They don’t look dark.”

Jess shrugs. “Nevertheless, everyone’s heralding Shirlee’s fame as a giant victory for inclusivity, given she’s a non-humanoid coldblood female mixed-type mon celeb. Personally, I don’t see anything special about her, as her music - if you can call it that - is just as poor as any other pop icon’s. Plus, I’m a non-humanoid mixed-type mon celeb too, and you don’t see anyone call me their queen. Not that I’d… want that.”

Jess is not a celebrity - even I can tell that much - but pointing that out isn’t going to help.

“Why do you think my lord is so... entranced by her?”

“Beats me. He's not really in the demographic. Maybe He’s got a crush on her or something. They are both tentacled sea creatures.”

My gut twists at the thought. “Crush? That's… no, that can't be right. He's never…”

“Well, He’s a new incarnation, isn't He?”

“That's not how it works. He can't have a crush. He's not the type.”

“Has He seen an inkay before?”

I give Jess a stern look. He shrinks somewhat.

“He doesn't have a crush,” I assert. “It’s gotta be something else about this… Shirlee, whatever her name was. What more do you know?”

“Uhhh… not much off the top of my head, but we got the computer right here.”

“Good. See if you can find anything.”

“Well, that, or…” Jess shyly slides the keyboard towards me. “You could do it...”

Oh. Well, I guess I should try to…

I take a step forward, but my legs lock in place. The screen is… and the keyboard is… right there, right where they were those times… the colors of the interface, blue and white… typing in the letters, searching, while they s-scream, and t-tell me to stop and go on and it takes so long and they don't shut up and it hurts --

“I-I can't.” I draw back and clutch my forehead, covering the sight of the… no, no more. I’m not doing it.

I sigh and finally dare to look back at Jess. He looks half ashamed, half disappointed.

“It's… fine, I’ll just do it,” he says quietly, pulls back the monitor and keyboard and types away.

Knowing now that I don’t have to interact with the thing, my courage to approach the computer comes back.

“Hmm, well…” says Jess, scrolling with the mouse wheel. “Looks like she’s touring Kanto this month. Wanna get Helix a ticket? He’d be sure to love it.”

My glower lets him know that’s not a subject to joke about.

“Well, anyway,” Jess continues, “I can’t find anything especially odd about her. Your best bet is probably to just ask Helix. I mean, He should know best.”

“Hrmh.” I cross my arms, peek at the screen and by the results, determine that Jess must be right. I sigh and leave the room, closing the door behind me.

I guess I have to catch Him between two videos, as I’d hate to interrupt Him. If He feels strongly enough about her, shoving myself in between might damage His bond with me, and I still very much need Him right now…

I make my way downstairs, glance around for my lord and spot Him on the couch. Still holding that accursed phone, of course. The girl - Shirlee was her name, what a stupid name - is there again, but on a different background. Beige. She has a costume on. She's blinking her lights… are the lights what are affecting Him? I don't feel any different looking at them, but I’m not an omanyte...

Figures. The moment I start to return to routine with Him and feel secure again, some hussy has to come along and tear Him away from me. If only I could just get my hands on her and --

Dammit. There they are again, my fingers on the knife. My heart pounding. I shouldn't be this way. This is bad. I should go cool off.

Breathing tense, I enter the door to downstairs and descend to the basement. At the end of the hallway, a bookcase awaits.

I have to go there. I need the privacy. I need the silence.

After double-checking no one else is coming, I draw out a worn, blue book from the shelf. I open it, pick up the key from the hollow inside and return the book to its place. I push aside the bookcase to reveal a door behind it, a door I unlock and enter. I drag the case back to its position by a hole in its back. Finally, I close the door, lock it and pocket the key.

Always such a hassle, but always such a payoff.

I take a deep breath in the dark, ignoring the air’s stuffiness, savoring the cool silence. My silence. Here, I can do anything I want.

I flick the light on. The white-tiled floor, gray walls and wooden furniture appear, as still as ever. I like it. I like how nothing ever seems to change around here. Nothing moves unless I move it. Nothing enters unless I bring it. And nothing leaves… alive.

A door-sized wooden board leans against the wall on the back left. Seven times it has seen use, and it’s served me well each time. It’s been durable, just as I built it to be, just how HE wanted it.

Yes… HE. HE who resides in the fossil propped up on the altar in this very room. The fossil I took to Pewter three months ago to create another life for Him. The fossil I found all those years ago in Mt Moon, the one that changed my life forever - for the better.

The fossil is covered with a cloth, as it always is when I don’t want to disturb HIM. If it wasn’t for that, I might accidentally drop a glance at the spiral and summon HIM, and HE would no doubt wish for another ritual… and I wouldn't be able to refuse. But I’m not ready for the next one yet. Especially not now. I have Him to worry about.

The right side of the room holds my various knives hung from the strings of their scabbards. Most of them I’ve bought, but two I’ve crafted myself. They’re not as beautiful, but I’m no expert. Just an enthusiast.

I let myself sink into my memories for a bit. The memories with those knives. The pleasures.

A deep breath enters my lungs, then leaves. I think I feel better now. Calmer. My problem is fixed for the moment, but I know I’m just going to go right back to being pissed off when I see Him with the inkay again. Hmh.

Well… maybe it’s possible that this really isn’t as bad as it seems. Maybe He’ll have completely forgotten about her by tomorrow. Fads go by fast these days.

So here’s my plan, then. Go to Him and ask those questions I need answers for while repressing any rage building up with thoughts of how glad I will be when He comes to His senses the next day. If He doesn’t, at least I’ll have something to build on.

Yeah, I think I’m done with this room for now. If things go well, I won’t need to return in quite a while.

If not… I’ll worry about it then.

---​
 
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NebulaDreams

Pokémon Trainer
Partner
luxray
Shirlee: exists

Red Akai: imma bout to end this mon's whole career


So, glad to see you here, Cani! I'm a huge fan of your works, from both the TPP stuff to the PMD stuff, but I never gave myself the chance to read Seiren until now. I greatly enjoyed Hunter, Haunted, and knew this gave a more lighthearted take on the world you established while also being somewhat canon as well. So, I thought I'd check it out now you've started posting it here.

So far, you've done well to establish a base conflict (my lord likes a pop star and I'm jealous), and there were a lot of details I really liked here that I didn't see much of in HH in the earlier stages. How certain Pokemon would be adapted to urban living (I got a kick out of seeing Jess check himself out in the black mirror), Red's struggle to use technology (which I think was referenced in HH), and seeing the differences between wild and city Mon/Inkay. Imagine a psychic squid just casually levitating past you in a suit as you're on your way to work.

The characters are a delight, as usual, even if they're not exactly likeable (though that works well in service of the comedy). Red is his usual conceited Yandere self, and I never knew I needed a hipster Pidgeot in my life until now. It'll be interesting to see how it progresses from there and what lengths Red will go to in order to take down this celebrity calamari while still getting his snail senpai to notice him. Catch you later.
 

Umbramatic

The Ghost Lord
Location
The Yangverse
Pronouns
Any
mollusk-adjusted CPR
that's it, that's the fic, everyone go home

But seriously good to see you here, and also good to see Red and HELIX here. In this episode, Red is jeeeeeeeeeeeeeeealous~. It's fun seeing him raise baby HELIX from a reincarnated state, and basically acting as a parent to his god, and then subsequently freaking out when said god has a crush on another cephalopod. Also Jess is great.

One thing that did confuse me I'm not sure was explained in your other fics I've read- I'm not sure how Red understands Pokemon, and sometimes it's not entirely clear whether or not Red is speaking to a human or Pokemon. But that's the only niggle I have for now.

Since this fic seems to be Important to your TPP stuff, I will def. check back in later. For now, I didn't know I needed Dad Red in my life.
 

canisaries

voted most likely to be edgy
Location
the middle of nowhere
Pronouns
she/her
Thank you both so much for your replies!

One thing that did confuse me I'm not sure was explained in your other fics I've read- I'm not sure how Red understands Pokemon, and sometimes it's not entirely clear whether or not Red is speaking to a human or Pokemon. But that's the only niggle I have for now.
Ah, you're actually the second person to wonder how Red is speaking to Pokémon now, so I should really establish it faster, it seems - I haven't bumped into many instances of mon speaking with humans without Aura or Psychic powers, now that I think about it.

Anyway, in my TPP stories, (most) Pokémon can learn human language and basically become fully fledged citizens (which is why Helix is going to school in the first place, although it's a Pokémon school and works differently to a human one to accommodate for the different needs and learning rates of diverse species). Can is the operative word, though, as the mon that aren't exposed to the right learning environment end up wild with intelligence deprecated to the level of a rather normal animal, and these kinds of mon are what fill the ecosystems. Both can be used in battling, though the former's trainers are more like coaches. Ethical quandaries over this sapience thing have led to a decrease in battling, collecting and so on, and this is also why Red can be a former Champion without anyone really giving a crap.

But I should stop myself before I ramble any more. Either way, I hope to bring forth a bit more of these mechanics in this revision, so look forward to that if you're interested. And once again, thanks~
 

kintsugi

golden scars
Pronouns
she/her/hers
Partner
silvally-grass
Okay! New look, new location, new way to start catching up on this without being daunted by the chapter backlog! I think I reviewed the prologue specifically on BMG already so I'll spare you from having to hear that again. Also, heads up that I usually feel weird going too much into detail on people's pre-written work since you'll probably not be making any changes, so these will be short unless you'd like more from me.

I really like your characterization of Red here. You set the stage with some mundane details (people who are LATE and SLOW at posting chapters are the WORST amirite) and laconic humor that makes him just relatably enough, and right when you've established that he goes back to his creepy knife shit. He's just reliable enough that I can't really tell if we're supposed to actually believe that Shirlee is just dat hot or if this is just Red being neurotic and/or jealous that his bae loves someone else, or if Helix is just being a Helix fossil. It's a nice sort of slow-burn plot hook and I think no matter which way you take it, it'll turn out interestingly.

Yes… HE. HE who resides in the fossil propped up on the altar in this very room. The fossil I took to Pewter three months ago to create another life for Him. The fossil I found all those years ago in Mt Moon, the one that changed my life forever - for the better.
This is likely something you'll unpack later, but how much does TPP canon/fanon play into this? Is it a big deal that Red became Champion/caught Zapdos/accidentally took out a crime syndicate after spending days stuck in their teleporters in this universe or is it more of an nbd thing? Is Helix actually a god or is he just an average school kid now? Mostly these are things I'm sure you've already addressed later; I'm just saying thoughts out loud.

Overall you've got a clean, laconic style here that lends itself well to dark humor and reads really smoothly. I'll try to keep up this time!
 

Adamhuarts

Mew specialist
Pronouns
He/Him
Partner
mew
Aight, I've read both the prologue and the first chapter so far. I still don't fully understand what's happening, but I get most of the gist so far.

The story itself is well written and there aren't any glaring errors or typos I could spot, not that it's the focus of this review of mine.

Red seems to be an interesting character I'd say, and he appears to be a psychopath of some sort. It's not every day you find a protagonist like that in a pokemon fic, so I appreciate that.

The other characters were alright I guess, but I'd have to see more of them to form an opinion. I do like how the pidgeot the basically the guy no one likes but can't quite admit they hate in front of him lol.

Overall a great read and I look forward to future chapters.
 

canisaries

voted most likely to be edgy
Location
the middle of nowhere
Pronouns
she/her
Thank you for the replies! Much appreciated.

Now here we are with Chapter Two! More was revised from the old version this time, and the wordcount increased with at least a full thousand. Hopefully it's a good thousand. Enjoy!

---

CHAPTER TWO
Sweet Schemes


---​

“Oh my Gods, where do I start with her? Her eyes, her mantle, her lights, her tentacles? Her amazing voice? And her lyrics! They’re so beautiful! When I listen to her, I feel what she’s feeling! She’s just so… perfect, in every way!”

He then went on to describe every one of her visible body parts in painstaking detail. By the time He was done, I was sure I would have been able to draw up an accurate police sketch of the inkay, and I’m no artist. I’m amazed I managed to survive all of that without renovating the furniture with my knife.

When the night came and I crawled in bed, I still had hope. Hope He would move on and begin noticing me again. But in the morning He was still thumping His arms to the beats stuck in His brain and singing, chanting lyrics so asinine they could only be from someone like her. Ooh, he's just a loser, he don't know what he got, a begging chooser won't get no one as hot. How does she sleep at night, knowing she’s willingly created and shown to the public something so terrible?

Nevertheless… I somehow retained a tiny grain of optimism even after that. But when He came from school with His phone still firmly held with His suckers, playing another one of those damn videos, the naivety was thoroughly obliterated. As much as I adore Him, the sad fact seems to be that, as Jess would put it, He just has an incurable case of shit taste.

Ugh. Even now He’s at the couch watching some trashy celebrity news show on TV, just on the off chance they’ll have something on Shirlee. Is that even normal behavior anymore? Fonz seems to be pretty accepting of it, just sitting on the armchair with today’s news in his claws - you know, the actual news. Easy for him to be calm… he doesn’t need His attention the way I do.

I sigh and try to focus again on the crossword page I grabbed from the paper, the only page that matters to me. I’m not coming up with much for a plan to fix this Shirlee situation, so I might as well try to jog my brain with something else.

Hmm. I need an eight-letter word that means 'to waste'...

Ding-dong!

Oh, the doorbell. Is it Abe? No, Abe already came home a while ago, he went upstairs to work on his school project. Doubt it’s Jess, either, as he can just fly out the windows. Not that he goes outside that much, anyway.

Fonz leaves his newspaper on his seat and goes to answer the door. “Oh, hello,” he goes, but not in a tone you’d have for someone you know.

“Hello there!” answers a cheerful female voice. “There’s a package here for someone in this house. Can you sign this?”

“Oh, sure.”

I hear Fonz scribble his name into something - slowly, as his long claws don’t make clean writing too easy. Fonz Akai. The name he chose when he qualified for a free mon.

I get up and make my way to the hall in time to see a blonde woman in an orange uniform thank Fonz and leave.

“When did someone order something?” I ask the nidoking as he fetches the flat cardboard box left on our snow-coated porch. Looks like it’ll need a clearing swipe of the yard brush when the snowfall calms down.

“We ordered something last night,” says Fonz and brings the package to the living room. I close the door and follow.

“Is that the thing?” asks Helix, raising Himself on the tips of His limbs out of excitement.

“Sure is!” Fonz responds, sits down and shows his palm to me. “Spare your knife?”

I grunt to myself and unsheathe the knife on my belt. I give it to the nidoking, but only because I’m curious.

Clumsily yet still cautiously, Fonz uses the blade to cut the sealing tape of the box. He opens the lid and pulls out a large black t-shirt. On its front, there's a yellow-pink logo printed - a star with ribbons - and in white, the words 'BE A STAR'. Below the logo, something’s written in silver marker. A closer look reveals it to be a name. 'Shirlee'. Her signature.

An odd creaking noise arises from somewhere in the room, baffling me until I realise it’s my lord, squealing in delight. “Put it on, put it on!” He urges Fonz, who takes off his usual jacket and replaces it with the shirt.

“Oh my Gods, this is great!” He gushes.

“...Since when have you been a fan too, Fonz?” I ask, crossing my arms.

“I’m not specifically a fan,” he explains, modeling the shirt to my lord in different poses. “But since there was no wearable merch for omanyte, I offered to wear some for Him.”

They actually bought merchandise. So He’s willing to spend money on her. He's really serious about this.

“How much did it cost?” I ask quietly.

Fonz avoids my gaze. “Well, it was a signed copy, so it was a bit more expensive than a normal one…”

“How much?” I can feel my skull heat up. If it's any more that thirty --

“A hundred,” he slips.

A hun-

“Excuse me for a moment,” I say between my teeth and turn around.

“I-It's worth the price! I made Him promise to do all of His homework --" Fonz tries, but I’ve already gone to the basement stairs and started descending. I walk all the way to the hidden door, make sure he hasn't followed me, take care of the whole bookcase business and enter.

As the door touches its frame and the silencer circuit - the brilliant Helixian invention - closes, I’m freed.

“FUCK!” The word erupts from my throat like an entei’s fiery roar. My voice box sure feels like it’s burning after, but I’m not done yet.

“A hundred!” I growl. I want to throw something, but everything here is too valuable. I clench my fists tighter, nails digging into the skin, but the release of my rage is still too slow. How do I get this all out?

“Mewfuckin’… bitch...” No, that’s not gonna do it. Curses have lost their edge, they lose their power for everyone around puberty. So what do adults do? Adults… they… shouldn’t I know this? I’m eighteen. Technically an adult. But I dropped out of high school. Do they teach you about being an adult in the final year?

Adults can’t scream, they can’t throw things, they can’t break things, they definitely can’t kill things… what can they do? What do they do? They… talk to their friends? They rant. I guess they can do that. But I don’t have any friends. Only the vessel of a god, the god of the vessel and people that live in the same house as me. I can’t disturb the previous two. Fonz I should have watching over Him, and Abe and Jess… Abe’s a wimp and Jess is a douchebag. Both would just piss me off more. So I have no one. Or…

This really won’t help my argument against the people insisting I’m crazy, but I kneel before the cupboard under my knives on display and open the doors. Jars of translucent yellowish liquid, each containing a chunk of flesh, stare back with their numbered labels. One to seven.

“He bought a t-shirt,” I lament, “for a hundred...”

I lie down on my side. The white tiles aren’t comfortable, but for a man tiring from his emotions, it’s as good as anything else.

“It had a signature, sure,” I continue, “but in the end, what does that really mean? She just wrote her name on it, probably with a cheap marker, and moved onto the next hundred… there’s nothing personal about it. Why couldn’t He see that? Why couldn’t He tell that, to her, He’s just another spoinky-bank?”

My hand draws to my forehead. “A hundred… you know, while the money itself isn’t the important thing, I have to admit that I’m pretty damn pissed about a hundred going down the drain like that. On a shirt, a lousy t-shirt. It’s a scam. How do they allow that? Do people not notice? Am I the only one? I’m always the only one...”

No response. I know why, but in this brief insanity, I sit up to stare at my listeners, a little offended that no one’s speaking up. I mean, hell, you’re tongues. Your whole job is speaking.

I snort. “You know, I think I know now how Rechsal felt when his son returned. From that story they tell of his early farmer days, you kn- actually, you wouldn’t know, it’s Helixian stuff. But anyway, his son had asked for his inheritance in advance to expand the family business to the nearby town. Having got it, he’d run off to spend it on luxury and prostitutes instead, and eventually lost it all. Nowhere else to go, he’d come crawling back to his father, telling him the tale. I imagine what I’m feeling right now is somewhere along the lines of how Rechsal felt upon hearing all that.”

The story continues in my head. I frown, then flinch as I think of Him in the son’s position. I shake my head, hoping to fling off the gruesome mental images.

"I could never do to Him what Rechsal did to his son," I say quietly. "I could never hurt Him. I could never even yell at Him. He's like my own heart beating outside my body. I need to protect Him. It's the very least I can do after He saved me during my journey. Kept me sane, gave me hope, despite all the pain...

"And this situation isn't really His fault, is it? He's just a kid right now. Impressionable. It's that inkay, Shirlee, who's to blame… she's manipulated Him. Brainwashed, even. Torn Him away from me."

Just the thought of her face enrages me. I find my fingernails sinking in my palms once more. Here I go again, getting so angry…

I wish I could just erase her. Have her disappear. But that's not something I can do. Her security must be crazy - pop stars take great caution so that not just any creep can get within mouthbreathing distance. They have fan interactions at concerts and other events, but those are pretty short-lived, only lasting for a signature or two. I’d need to gain her personal trust before she'd let me see her without surveillance.

But even if I did manage to reach that point and snuff her out, I'd never get away with it. She has too many people around her that would either catch me right after the act or know to suspect me first. That suspicion would lead to furious investigation. Sooner or later, they’d find out something incriminating - or even worse, make up something incriminating to sate the bloodthirst of the masses demanding justice - and then it’s years in jail for me. Life, if they find out about my jarred friends here. Or, if they’re angry enough, death. I shudder.

Not that murder would even solve my problem in the end. The public would be devastated, and so would Him, most likely. Shirlee would be a martyr, her death a tragedy, and that would make her even bigger than she is now. All her faults would be rubbed away in remembrance, leaving behind a perfect impression, an icon, something even easier to worship…

The same would come even with just a crippling injury, so I can’t do that, either. Not that she’d have any bones to break. She’s squishy, like Him. I would’ve loved to learn about her kind under different circumstances, I bet. Mollusks have grace and beauty only I seem to be able to see…

Psh. I can’t do anything to her, can I. But I can’t do anything to Him, either, on the risk of Him only slipping further away, drawing away from my touch, rejecting me… an agonizing thought. I can’t do anything to myself - if I could, this wouldn’t be a problem in the first place. It’s so constricting to feel this helpless...

“What can I do?” I sigh, on the off chance any jar would have something to suggest.

What did Rechsal do to his son?

“No, I don’t want to get into that!” I snap at the stray thought reflecting off the jars. “That wasn’t the point of my story, anyway...”

Who even was Rechsal?

“Still not important,” I grunt. Though it’s not like I’m in a hurry. I may as well let my mouth run.

“He was a farmer. A farmer who was exceptionally clever, though brutal. But if you know Helixians, you know both of those traits are wanted. It was them that eventually had him end up as a… bitel, I don’t know what we’d call that. It’s like a regional ruler of sorts. Big shot with military power and responsibility, anyway. Though it did help that the last guy was let go and the position was conveniently open. Rechsal definitely didn’t seem like he’d fall for the same ruse that brought down that previous guy, Karagi. You see, the neighboring nation that the region was warring against - Turon, I think - managed to find out that Karagi largely relied on his wife, Nael, who was really the actual brains behind him. She should’ve been the bitel, really, but I guess Karagi had more charisma or Nael didn’t want the spotlight.

“Anyway, one unfortunate day, Nael was assassinated by the Turonians. Karagi was not only devastated, but also in a big predicament as now he had no one to lean on. However, having known Nael for so long, he remembered enough of her genius, and remained undefeated in his warring efforts.

“Then the king of Turon had an idea. When word came that Karagi was looking for a new companion, he sent in a female most reminiscent of Nael as a spy, whom the bitel then married. Turon’s king knew Karagi didn't allow anyone close to him any contact to the other nations, so exchanging intel was not an option - instead, he ordered the woman to poison Karagi’s mind with the worst of techniques. Karagi, so used to listening to Nael, really did take the advice, and so came his downfall. The soldiers knew to blame the woman, who was then executed - and, well, eaten, given they were Helixians. They did keep Karagi alive, though, in case he still had more remnants of Nael’s wisdom. But in general, the people refrained from speaking of him, and so he disappeared from the public --”

Hold on, now.

Did I just get an idea?

Could I, perhaps, make Shirlee disappear from the public consciousness?

I grit my teeth from knowing how long a shot this is, but it's still a shot. I could try to get in touch with her on a safe level. Like letters. She must get a lot of those, but if I send enough and I seem unique - which I must be, being an adult human male in a horde of young girls - I have to get to her eventually. And if I'm charming enough, I could get a response. A conversation. A meetup, a relationship. I'll become someone she listens to. Her Nael. Then I'll give her horrible ideas disguised as encouragement and support. She'll take them, and she'll crash and burn! The admiration will turn to ridicule and rage! She'll have to disappear!

Or, well, I suppose it’s enough if she becomes repulsive simply to my lord. I don’t need to collapse her entire career. Though it would be satisfying to see, I admit.

Yes, even if I only have to make her unattractive to Him, this plan is still more far-fetched than a duck with a leek. But it beats sitting around and withering while my lord pines for another. It’s something to do, and even if it fails, I won’t get shot or jailed.

So how do I start? I’ll have to know where to send those letters. That information will likely be somewhere online. Ugh, I’ll have to get someone else’s help, given my techphobic condition. But how can I do that without arousing suspicion in them?

My eyes widen. Of course! I’ll have Him send her a letter of His own! If I make it into a kind of common activity, I’ll be able to gather the information I need. It might even help Him notice me better. It’s the perfect plan.

There’s no reason to wait. I get up and give the jars one last look. “Thanks for listening, girls,” I tell them and shut the cupboard. By now, my spell of delusion has passed, so it’s mostly just awkward hearing my speech in the silence.

Alright. Once I step out of this room, my plan will be in motion. The seed will be planted, the seed that will grow into the victreebel that’ll ensnare that inkay and swallow her whole. Then there’s be no more ignoring or squandering from my lord.

Oh, ‘squander’. That fits in the crossword. Gotta remember that when I get back upstairs.

---​

“...You, uhh, happy about something?” Fonz asks.

I lean onto the back of the couch, hunched over my lord, who appears to be watching yet another video. “What do you mean?”

“You’re grinning so much,” Fonz says. “It’s… pretty creepy. Are you planning something?”

“Why, yes, I am,” I reply, circling around the couch and taking a seat, earning a split-second glance from the omanyte. “I’ve come up with something fun for all of Us to do together.”

Fonz is visibly unnerved. Tch. And here I thought he trusted me.

I place a hand on my lord’s shell and give Him a gentle nudge. He pauses His video and yanks out his earphones.

I smile wider again. “My lord, you really like that Shirlee, don’t you?”

“Uhh, yeah I do!” Already He seems excited at the mere mention of His idol. I’d feel delight at His joy if it wasn’t there for all the wrong reasons.

“Have you considered personally telling her just how much you do?”

“I have daydreams about that!” His tentacles flop around like a growlithe’s tail.

“Well… you could always send a letter,” I coyly suggest.

His arms freeze. “A letter? Like, A-B-C?”

“N-no, my lord. I mean as in… a piece of paper with a message.”

“Ohh, right, right, yeah, those. But why don’t I just send an email?”

The thought of the white screen chills my body, but I quickly bring myself back to reality. “Oh, emails are so impersonal and soulless… you don’t have the choice of color, writing style, glitter --”

Ah, shit. That may have made my condescension too obvious. Luckily, my lord didn’t seem to pick it up, even if Fonz did, based on his disapprovingly narrowing eyes.

“Actually, you do, if you just put in images,” the omanyte instead comments.

Ugh, right, technology’s come a long way and all that shit. “But, my lord, going to the trouble of hand-crafting a message and sending it through the slow path shows how much effort You’re willing to put in for her. Wouldn’t she appreciate that extra effort, my lord?”

“Oh, you’re right. Let’s do it!”

“Wonderful. You’ll get to use what You’ve learned in school so far, too, and learn even more. We just need to find out where exactly the letter should be sent to...” I turn to Fonz. “I take it you’ll help with that, if He can’t fully read yet.”

“Mm-hm,” he nods with a smile. It appears he’s warming up to the idea.

“Perfect. You two figure that out, while I go find Us some materials.” I turn to head off, but Fonz gets up from his chair.

“Could I have a word with you first?”

Ugh. “Yes, of course.”

He leads me to the bedroom of the floor - the room where my lord’s water tank resides, as well as a double bed. The original users of the bed are long gone. One barely sets foot in this house anymore, instead living with a friend and supporting her kids through a bank account alone. The other’s whereabouts and entire identity are a mystery to me.

I would have loved to move in to this room, but my lord tells me it’s 'creepy' how I like to watch Him fall asleep and awaken. Instead, it’s where Fonz sleeps. I guess that makes it king-sized.

Before the door closes, I take one last peek at my lord through the crack. I know He’s no longer a hatchling and will be perfectly fine by Himself, but still…

“What exactly are you planning?” asks Fonz, keeping his voice down as he knows the door doesn’t block out everything.

“A fun activity for a child and His caretakers,” I calmly reply. “What of it?”

“It doesn’t take an alakazam to figure out something’s off here,” he says, pointing an accusing claw at me. “This Shirlee fixation of His is clearly bothering you. Why would you suddenly make a one-eighty and encourage that?”

“Well…” I enter the puppy-eyes mode I’ve become quite good at during my years as a lying bastard. “I’ve realized I’ve been pretty selfish. I shouldn’t be so concerned with how happy He makes me, but instead how happy I make Him.” I change my stare to an offended one. “But I’m not experienced in being generous at my own expense, so excuse me if my smiles seem forced.”

Fonz sighs. “That’s what’s happening here?”

“Yes. Trust me for once, why don’t you?”

“Fine,” he mutters and reaches for the door, but stops. “You know… the other day Helix asked me why you call Him your lord.”

I flinch. “He… didn’t remember?”

“Guess not. But it made me wonder --”

“What did you tell Him?” I demand.

“Well, I told Him that it’s because you think He’s very special,” he replies, “but that I didn’t know the specifics, and that He’d have to ask you. I guess He forgot to. But it got me wondering...” He clacks his claws together. “Is it really good for Him, to have you as His ‘servant’? In the last lifetime, it may have been what made Him a little cocky... maybe even entitled. If this time around, you were more of an equal and more, you know, grounded, He could learn to be more respectful, which could help Him better keep friendships...”

Fonz is talking and there are words and all, but I can’t really focus on what he’s saying when I’ve just learned that my lord no longer remembers why He’s my lord.

How much has He forgotten? Is it just the term that’s a mystery to Him, or… has the entire journey been erased from His mind? How much of the original Him is left? How much does He remember of me? Of Us? Am I just a friendly stranger?

I want to tell myself it’s only absentmindedness or that it’s taking some time for the memories to return post-reincarnation, but the cold grip at my heart warns against self-deception. If He doesn’t remember who I really am, who We are, this Shirlee thing might be even worse than I thought.

Which is why it’s all the more important that I go through with this plan.

I haven’t been listening to Fonz for the past dozen seconds, but with my eye contact and nods, he doesn’t seem to have noticed. I wait for the next pause to occur and jump back into the conversation.

“Well,” I sigh, “you’ve given me something to think about. Is it alright if I get back to you later? I wanna sort out my thoughts.”

He seems mildly surprised. “Oh, um… I guess, sure. Just come back to me later about it, okay?”

I nod. When he asks me about this next time, I’ll claim to have forgotten, which will likely even be true, and ask for a refresher. I can give my honest thoughts then.

“Alright,” he says and opens the door. “Let’s go do our parts, then.”

I smile, and we return to the living room.

---​

After hours of fidgeting with construction paper, practicing handwriting, drawing flowers and cleaning up spilled glitter - yes, We actually ended up using that - the letter was enveloped, transported to a mailbox and therefore sent to Shirlee’s fanmail address. Her site said she would have the mail redirected and personally read even on her tours, which better happen after all this trouble.

Nevertheless, the whole experience taught me everything I needed to make my own letter, right here in my secret room at near midnight.

I rest my jaw on my left hand as I jot down ideas on a sheet of gridded paper. Some phrases I underline, putting extra importance on their content. Some ideas I realize are complete garbage the moment I get them out there on the paper and blacken them away with a scribble of the ballpoint pen.

Let’s see. I need to be polite, but not formal. Admiring, but not clingy. Supportive, but not bootlicking. But most importantly of all, I need to be consistent in the character I’m going to be playing.

I take another sheet of grid paper and begin drafting the first version of the letter. It's crude, but at this stage, it’s supposed to be. The draft is finished and another begins on the paper's flip side. This one is better, but too unnatural. The paragraphs are all the same length and all have their own subject, as if I was writing an essay meant to be read with the mind rather than the heart.

At the start of the third, a crushing wave of impatience and despair comes over me. Why am I even bothering with this? She’ll surely see through these lies. But I know things will keep getting worse if I do nothing. The potential of this plan is what's keeping my anger from growing.

Besides, people are far dumber than what they're given credit for. And I doubt the girl who writes lines like 'shake ass, make cash' is a master of literary analysis.

Actually… maybe it’s a bit unnecessary to put this much trouble in the very first letter - and not just because Shirlee’s likely not the cleverest mon. The letter might get lost in the mail or she might actually only read a fraction of the mail sent to her. Either way, the power of my plan lies strongly on the large number of these letters.

Well, it doesn’t seem to matter much now - three drafts behind me, I think I’m ready to start the real thing.

I drag away the drafts and replace them with a clean white card. I spin the ball of the pen on one draft’s corner, making sure there's ample ink. There is.

Finally, I begin the letter. The pen starts its dance on the white, its partner my hand. Beautiful curves form symbol after symbol as my deceitful story is poured onto the paper. All doubt from before - gone. I haven't been this confident in a while.

Yes… every chocolate-laced sentence is another loop of the arbok wrapping around the gullible girl, and each period tightens up the coil. The unsuspecting prey willingly lets herself be captured, distracted too much by the sweet words to realize her impending doom. And then, when she’s squeezed too strongly to mind anything more, a kiss comes from the serpent - a tiny prick of its fangs, the venom to poison her mind. Her body loses its color and her living force withers away.

Then the arbok would naturally separate its jaws and swallow its prey, but the metaphor really stops matching there.

There. A finished letter. So simple, just black on white, but so elegant. Now all it needs is a signature. I guess I should use my real one - getting caught lying will not help in maintaining her trust.

Red… Akai. Hope she isn't put off by the odd name. Then again, she'd be one to talk.

I slip the letter in an envelope, seal that and write the address. I get up. My legs wiggle a bit beneath me. I guess I have been sitting for a while, and it's also very late.

Tomorrow morning, I’ll return here to get the letter, drop it off in the mail and come back to plan the next. For now, I better get some sleep. It's the least I can give my brain when His grace is unavailable.

---​
 
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kintsugi

golden scars
Pronouns
she/her/hers
Partner
silvally-grass
OKAY OKAY actually keeping up with this plsssss

He then went on to describe every one of her visible body parts in painstaking detail. By the time He was done, I was sure I would have been able to draw up an accurate police sketch of the inkay, and I’m no artist. I’m amazed I managed to survive all of that without renovating the furniture with my knife.
This intro was really unsettling, probably not in the way you intended -- reading it unspoiled I honestly have no idea if this is supposed to be Anarchist!Red/he who hears voices or if this is a more grounded-ish still-not-your-Momma's Red. Can we trust what he says Helix said? This gets disproven by the end of the chapter when Helix actually says dialogue, but at the same time the middle of the chapter (jars o' flesh) very much indicate that he's not *all* there. I also like the bits where he rants about what adults should and shouldn't do; it's simultaneously poetic while helping establish Red as someone who weighs perceptions more heavily than internal logic.

Hmm. I need an eight-letter word that means 'to waste'...
as a chapter motif this was really fun.

“I’m not specifically a fan,” he explains, modeling the shirt to my lord in different poses. “But since there was no wearable merch for omanyte, I offered to wear some for Him.”
Gonna be honest, no idea what kind of genre this fic is trying to be... but I sort of don't care? It's this weird mesh of absurdist humor and dark drama that I'm not really familiar with, but the way you keep the backgorund action mixed with Red's constant narration just *works*.

more far-fetched than a duck with a leek
lol

The plot thickens, but I sort of wish there was a bit more direction here? This chapter feels a little like an extension of the first; all of the issues you presented in this chapter are just scaled-up versions of the problems in the first chapter -- I almost think these could be merged together with minimal loss of impact. At this point we're around 10,000ish words in and the main conflict is looming but it doesn't really feel like it's begun, if that makes sense.

But lots of good stuff here! Things are still fresh and quippy and your humor sticks pretty well for me; it's unusual but it works. Best of luck to Red's anthrax-filled letter plot.
 

canisaries

voted most likely to be edgy
Location
the middle of nowhere
Pronouns
she/her
This intro was really unsettling, probably not in the way you intended -- reading it unspoiled I honestly have no idea if this is supposed to be Anarchist!Red/he who hears voices or if this is a more grounded-ish still-not-your-Momma's Red. Can we trust what he says Helix said? This gets disproven by the end of the chapter when Helix actually says dialogue, but at the same time the middle of the chapter (jars o' flesh) very much indicate that he's not *all* there. I also like the bits where he rants about what adults should and shouldn't do; it's simultaneously poetic while helping establish Red as someone who weighs perceptions more heavily than internal logic.
Oh, I didn't expect that kind of response. The usage of italics is meant to represent him mentally replaying His words, as the narration at that point is in a kind of fast-forward-recap mode, hence the past tense in the otherwise present narration. Looking at it with a link to the rubber duck jar talk, I can see how it could seem that way, though, but I can say that in this part Red actually wasn't supposed to appear unreliable. Helix did have dialogue in the first chapter, but it was very brief, so I can get missing that.

The plot thickens, but I sort of wish there was a bit more direction here? This chapter feels a little like an extension of the first; all of the issues you presented in this chapter are just scaled-up versions of the problems in the first chapter -- I almost think these could be merged together with minimal loss of impact. At this point we're around 10,000ish words in and the main conflict is looming but it doesn't really feel like it's begun, if that makes sense.
You make a good point. I'm actually not sure how it slipped by me that these two chapters have pretty similar structure, or at least the same type of progression of getting mad about Shirlee stuff -> cooling off in the hidden room. I thought about the possibility of merging, but I couldn't think of a smooth way of doing it that kept the in-universe pacing reasonable (I do want Helix to have at least one day of obsessing before Fonz considers the shirt a worthwhile investment). However, I think I can replace the first hidden room scene with Red going outside instead so that the environment doesn't repeat, at least, and I'm also trying to figure out if I can slide the chapter break a bit further to make the chapters differ more in structure.

To ease your worries about the pacing, I can tell you that the next chapter is going to get us a lot further. You'll see once it's up, which I estimate to be within a week, probably. Thanks for read and reply!
 

canisaries

voted most likely to be edgy
Location
the middle of nowhere
Pronouns
she/her
Here I am, one week later, not a moment too late or soon. Chapter Three, here we go - although I suppose I should first mention that there's alcohol use in this fic, since I forgot to add that to the content warnings in the AN. Will do it now, though. Hope nothing got ruined, oops. Anyway, enjoy!

---

CHAPTER THREE
Tipsy-Turvy


---​

Tiny snowflakes land on my glove as I push the envelope into the slit of the mailbox. It thunks on the bottom, a letter and a photo within, and I let the slit’s cover drop shut.

I sigh, a visible puff of vapor leaving my mouth. This is it - she’s finally going to know what I look like. I hope my appearance won’t work against me… I might consider myself good-looking, but approachable? Not so much. Tired eyes, murkrow feathers for hair, a good amount of muscle on me from daily exercise. With a little more bulk and some scars and tattoos, the cops would start wondering what gang I'm part of.

I tried putting on my best face for the photo - taken and printed by a very bored Jess - but there was just… hatred in my eyes, no matter what I did. Jess didn’t mention it, but most likely he just didn’t care and wanted the shoot over with.

No, maybe I'm overthinking this… and it’s no use worrying about it now, anyway. I’ve tried my best. And my best better be good enough. My patience is starting to run out and so are pretty words to put in letters. When I'm impatient, I get angry, and when I’m angry, I get… harder to control.

A freezing gust of wind grabs onto my clothes and shakes them, some of the chill seeping through. I shiver like a snorunt. I better head back home.

I get moving, careful not to step on the blotches of ice on the sidewalk. A gray blanket of cloud covers the sky, little specks of snow dropping down from it and thrown about by the occasional breeze.

I’m not a fan of winter. The sun is often away, and when it isn't, the outside is frigid and blindingly bright. I can't rely as much on calming walks outside to manage my temper. I’m stuck indoors with the very source of my annoyance - people.

“Jeremy!” a woman yells somewhere, breaking the flow of my thoughts. “Slow down!”

I look in the shout's direction. A small boy in a blue tracksuit is running from a yard to the road. With a car approaching. Oh, this could be funny. Hit him, hit him!

At the last second, tires screech and the vehicle swerves to dodge. The little boy recoils in terror, but is left unharmed, much to the relief of the woman. She rushes to him and yanks him to safety. Damn.

Nah… maybe it was better this way. As no one got hurt, no one can call me an eyewitness and drag me into any legal shit. I’m already stressed enough as is.

I shake my head and resume my walking. I still have another letter to write.

---​

“Shoot him, Hope! He’s caused us so much pain!”

The gun shakes in the young woman’s hand as she points it at the dictator. The aimed-at man, his arms in the air, still grins to torment the main character. What a piece of shit. Just shoot him. He’s been a jackass for the entire two hours of my time and twenty years of yours. You have literally no reason not to shoot him.

After seconds of suspenseful music and closeups of faces, the girl lowers the gun. Dammit!

“I can’t, Adrien. If I kill him, I’m no better than him.”

Oh my Gods, they always do this. That’s it. I’m done.

I switch off the TV with its remote and let my head rest on the couch’s end. I glance at the DVR’s clock. 00:12, say the green numbers glowing in the living room’s darkness.

I sigh. I’m tired, but I don’t want to sleep. I don’t want tomorrow to come. I don’t want to brush my teeth, do my workout, take a shower and eat breakfast, all just to feel His cold shoulder again. The metaphorical cold shoulder. I’d love to feel His physical cold shoulder.

Why couldn’t it just be the way it used to be? Why do I have to lie on the couch all alone watching some shitty movies, when I should be lying on the couch with Him, watching shows just as shitty but not minding it? There’s an empty spot right here on my chest where His shell would perfectly fit. He would be leaning on my sternum, hearing my single mammalian red-blooded heart beat in peace. I would hold an arm over Him, protecting Him, embracing Him. Feeling things I couldn't feel with anyone else.

Slap!

What was that? Sounded like it came from the door.

Slap! Slap!

I think that's an attempt at knocking. But who the hell would have any business here at this hour? And why don’t they just ring the bell if it’s so important?

I get up, make my way to the door and unsheathe my knife. If it’s some drunkard or other creep, I may need it for self defense. A part of me hopes that would be the case - I’d get to stab them and see some nice blood in this dry spell.

My pulse quickens as I reach for the handle. After making sure my blade is hidden yet ready, I twist the lock and carefully open the door.

On the other side, there is… a floating winter coat? Am I hallucinating?

No, something’s inside that coat. I can see two large eyes peeking out beneath the flopped-down hood.

“H-hi,” peeps a voice from within. “A-are you Red A-Akai?”

“Who... wants to know?” I ask, eyeing the odd creature, trying to make sense of it.

The sleeves of the jacket rise and bend to open up the zipper. One of them flips away the fuzz-lined hood. A pink mantle marked with a yellow star is revealed. I freeze. That’s…

“Y-yeah, it’s meee-eh,” Shirlee laughs, tired.

I… am I sure I’m not hallucinating? Or did I fall asleep on the couch? This feels too real to be a dream, and yet… I’m staring at the impossible.

“Um, you’re probably wondering why I’m here,” she continues. “I, like… got your letters and… ughh...” Her words sound somewhat slurred, and her train of thought seems to be derailing. Is she…? Does it even work for cephalopods the same way? I’ve never allowed Him to drink, just in case…

“Are you drunk?” I blurt out and immediately regret it. I shouldn't be that forward, dammit! I need to think before I act. I mean, maybe this is just a dream, but on the off chance it isn't, I need to play my cards right to not let this amazing chance slip away. And even if I am dreaming, this is great practice.

“Aaaa little, yeah,” she answers, apparently unbothered by my rudeness. “I-I know this is maybe not h-how you thought I would be like, but… like, you’re so understanding, I figured you’d get it.”

Really? She was… that easily convinced by my lies?

She shivers. “It’s cold… can I come in?”

"Y-yes, absolutely!" I move aside and let the inkay slide in. Shutting the door, I remember the knife in my hand and swiftly return it to its scabbard. I can't afford to have her feel threatened.

Shirlee gasps, and I jump thinking she'd seen the blade, but see she's looking away. She flips her hood back on and withdraws into the coat. "Are there others here? I shouldn't let them see me..."

"N-no one's here but me," I rush to say. "Awake, I mean. You're fine, but let's stay quiet."

She relaxes. "Ah, good… sorry, b-but I just don't think I can trust them not to blab… especially that kid you lived with, the omamanyte…"

"Omanyte."

"Yeah. No offense, but kids are bad at keeping secrets…"

"Yeah, I get it." I can't even imagine what a mess it would be if He saw her now.

Shirlee sets her hood down again and slides off her coat. Her skin glistens in the light of the hall’s lamp, the only major light in this house at the moment. I could turn on some more, but then again, I shouldn’t - it could leak into the downstairs bedroom where my lord and Fonz sleep and wake either up. And the darkness… it’s quite atmospheric, isn’t it?

It frames her cephalopodic form, contrasts with her pastel colors, makes her sparkling wetness shine so much brighter. Prized garden flowers in the morning dew… none of this translated to the digital screen.

But perhaps He knew it was there. Perhaps that’s why He’s so enamoured. Jess may have been right after all. She really is a seductress. Stealing hearts, demanding ransom for them, and the naive fools, they pay it time and time again…

What have you made of my beloved, you witch? You’ve taken away His mind, His freedom. For what, money? You have enough of it. You are greedy. You are despicable. And now you’ve come to my house, my den, expecting me to cater to your will. You’re smiling at the mawile. All alone. No witnesses...

I approach her silently. She has no idea, she’s deep in her drunken thoughts, staring at the coat she’s holding. This is the perfect chance. I raise my hands, preparing to pounce. I don’t know what I’ll do to her - I can’t strangle someone without a neck - but I know I’ll make it painful. Just a little closer --

She turns around.

“Oh, right. Here.” She pushes the coat into my hands and heads for the living room.

I stand still, the coat in my frozen grasp. Five beats of my heart later, I regain my senses.

“Right,” I mumble and hang her coat in the hall. What the hell was I thinking? I can’t kill her! Just because no one’s witnessing the act, it doesn’t mean I won’t be caught. High profile, remember? You need to manipulate, not mutilate.

I sigh to myself and enter the living room. The inkay, having looked around enough, hovers to the couch and splats down on it. Rude...

Wait. Hovers. With telekinetic powers, since she’s psychic. What other psychic powers does she have? Could she be capable of mind tricks? It’s taboo, yes, and illegal as well, but if she’s drunk enough to come to some random fan’s house, she could be drunk enough to try something questionable. And that would ruin me, unless…

I lean to Shirlee and clear my throat, catching her attention. “U-um, I’m very sorry,” I begin, “but I just remembered I was in the middle of something. Is it okay if I leave for just a minute?”

“Oh, s-sure,” she replies. Thank the Gods.

I hurry downstairs and, as quickly as a heavy bookcase can be moved around, enter the secret room. I locate my notebook of seals and the medicinal kit from their respective places in the shelves and bring them to the desk at the back middle of the room. Flipping through the pages, I find the seal I need and unsheathe my knife.

I let my left hand rest palm up on the desk and pull back the hoodie’s sleeve. Faint stripes run along and across the wrist - remnants from previous seals. I disinfect the area of the skin along with the blade of my knife, then prepare for the sting and push the tip in. Suppressing the reflex to pull away from the pain, I carve the pattern shown on the notebook’s page.

The psychic protection seal. One of the ancient gifts HE gave HIS followers. It nullifies one’s mental presence to outsiders, protecting the mind against any tricks tried. I was going to wait until receiving an invitation from Shirlee to carve it, as the seal only works until the wounds heal, but I guess I’ll just have to retrace the scars later if needed.

Finished, I wipe the wound clean and bandage it, then clean the knife as well and sheathe it. I put away the rest of the equipment as well and hurry out of the room. I don’t want Shirlee snooping around my place too much or leaving in boredom.

Bookcase slid back in place and key re-hidden, I dash back upstairs, though slow down for the last steps in order not to appear desperate.

“I’m back,” I say, closing the door to the basement. “Hope I didn’t keep you too long.”

“N-nah, it’s fine,” answers a voice from the couch, followed soon by two tentacles grabbing onto the back and lifting the inebriated invertebrate into view. “I showed up unannounced anyway...”

She sighs and covers her face. “I’m sorry, I shouldn’t have come, I just… I was drinking again and reading your letters and I was so pissed at everyone and you seemed to be the only person who actually got me...”

“No, no, it’s no trouble.” I rush to the couch, sitting next to her with the most sympathetic face I can feign. I have to strike while the iron is hot. “It really must be tough being someone like you… to have people watching your every move, expecting you to be perfect at all times.”

“It is! See, you get me. Unlike everyone else… I wish I could tell them off, but the backlash would be horrible...”

Horrible, huh?

“Shirlee...” I lean closer to her. Her big, naive eyes open up fully, briefly shedding the haze of the alcohol. “Why not just do it?”

“B-because it would ruin me, I told you,” she says, puzzled. “And I-I mean, I’ve tried to add some stuff into my lyrics already, but it never works...”

“I know, but it’s too subtle,” I purr. “Your lyrical genius goes right above their heads. You need to be frank with them. Assert your will. You’re the star, you should have the say in your show.”

“B-but my fans got me where I am --"

“Fans?” I spit, startling her. Okay, maybe I should tone it down a bit. “If they don't let you have your freedom, they're not your fans. What have they done for you? Only thrown pennies at you and demanded your life in return. You’ve given them your heart and soul. You don't owe them - they owe you.”

Gods, I sure hope the alcohol will help me here, as that made no sense.

“But they’ll leave me…” She looks at the floor. She's still hesitant… I’ll just have to pounce on every doubt that pops up and claw it down.

“They wouldn’t dare leave you. They can't live without you. They’ll see the error of their ways and rectify their behavior.”

“I don't know…”

“You do know. You just have to make the right choice. And you being the person you are… I know you will.”

I move closer to force her eyes on me, then drill an unwavering stare right into them. They’re quite big, almost like His, but a cheap imitation. No, a bastardization. She’s sullying His image. She should pay for it. My fingers curl for a fist -- no. Suppress that rage. You’re supposed to play friendly. I hope she didn’t see that flash of anger. Did she…? Did I blow it?

A dull buzzing from the hall interrupts us. Her eyes pull away. But what was the answer?

“I gotta get that,” she groans and yanks herself off the couch. My left wrist immediately tingles. The right hand moves to scratch it, but recoils right off as the wounds sting in agitation. Right, yeah, the seal reacts to psychic energies around it. Gotta get used to that...

Shirlee floats to the hall, snatches the vibrating phone out of her coat and answers it. “Hi...” Her face is guilty, like that of a houndour snarled at by its mother.

“Where the hell are you?” a man’s voice growls on the other end.

“A-at a friend’s...”

“Doing what, drinking? You’ve been drinking again, haven’t you? This better be the last fuckin’ time. No, what am I saying, it’s not gonna be the last time, it’s never the last time, because you always fuckin’ do it again! I’m doing my best keeping this boat afloat and you just keep punchin’ more and more holes in!”

“I’m sorry...” Something glints in her eye. A tear?

“I don’t care! Forget it! Just tell me where you are so someone can come get you!”

Shirlee’s eyes squint as she struggles to recall my address. “Koratta Row 14.”

“Koratta Row...” The man pauses for a few seconds. “What the hell are you doing in Pallet Town?”

“I said I was at a fr-”

“Whatever. Someone’ll be there in twenty minutes or so. You better leave willingly.”

“Oka-” she tries, but the call ends. She whines.

Oh, would you look at that, another fantastic opportunity for me to plunge my fearow beak in. I turn my head to hide a quick smile, then reset my face and get up.

“Who was that?” I ask. “He sounded awful...”

“My manager...” she peeps. “He’s gonna yell at me even more in the morning, I’m sure.”

“He has no right to talk to you that way,” I say and walk to her. “He needs to be called out, too.”

Her eyes widen. “Nooo, no, no, no!” she bumbles, raising her tentacles. “I-I could call out others, but never him. He has too much, too much power.” With those words, she slumps over, defeated. “He’s right. It’s all my fault for drinking.”

“Shirlee, look at me.” She does. “If a king hoards all the bread in the kingdom, is it the citizens’ fault for stealing it?”

“That’s not really what’s happening h-”

“Well, not literally, no - but he keeps you in this situation, and this situation drives you to drink. Therefore, he made you drink. He’s blaming his mistakes on you. You’ve done nothing wrong!”

She looks down again, silent. I should let her cool off.

“Sorry… it’s just that I hate seeing injustice happen,” I sigh, stepping back. “We don’t have to talk about this. I mean, you should have a break while you still can.” I move to the kitchen. “Would you like a drink?”

“I think I’ve had enough to drink for today...”

“I just mean water. I hear it helps with the hangover.” In humans, at least. Again, don't know about squids.

“Ohh, the hangover...” She floats out of the hall, holding her head. “That’ll be a bitch.”

“Water, then?”

“Sure...”

I take two glasses out of the cupboard.

“Wait,” she says. I freeze. “I shouldn’t take drinks from strangers.”

I clench my teeth. I was hoping her common sense wouldn’t return until tomorrow. “Yeah, I get your point. We don’t know each other that well yet.” I put the glasses away.

Both of us return to the couch and sit down. I realize the tingling in my wrist has disappeared.

“I would… like to know you better, however,” I start. “Anything more you’d like to tell me about yourself? Or…” I change course, noticing her eyelids droop. “Would you just like to rest?”

“Yeah, I guess I’d like to just… lie down for a bit...” She slides onto her back. “I-if that’s not a problem,” she hastily adds.

“It’s no problem whatsoever,” I whisper, get up and walk to the kitchen. “I’ll keep watch for your ride.”

“Th-thanks.”

I can let myself grin again. Skepticism returning with her sobering up or not, the seed is planted. It may need more watering to grow, but it’s there, and no one knows of it but me. Good luck digging it out in time, Mr Manager.

I roll up the curtain of the kitchen window, only seeing a reflection stare back. I flick off the light. The darkness outside is revealed, only copper street lights illuminating the snowy road and the clouds above. I pull up a chair, sit down and fix my eyes on the gloomy winter night, knowing it’ll be a while before I get up again.

---​

Eventually the car sent for Shirlee arrived. I woke her up, as she’d fallen asleep during the wait, handed her her coat and wished her well. She stopped me and asked me for my number, which I naturally told her I didn’t have as I had no phone. Upon realizing how outrageous said statement was in today’s society, I explained I had none at the time, which calmed the shocked squid down somewhat. Her ride’s driver begged her to go already, so we simply agreed on continuing to send letters as our form of communication. However, she did give me an address different from the common fanmail one, so exchanging information should be faster this time around.

What amazing luck I’ve had today. It stokes the fire within me, the fire of hope, anticipation of her downfall. It burns bright, giving such a warm feeling inside. It makes this bed of mine feel a thousand times softer as I lay down on it. Were I a persian, I’m certain I’d be purring.

I just need to wait a little more. Just a few more tugs at the inkay’s strings, and soon I’ll have Him in my arms, seeking comfort after His idol’s sudden turn and hurtful words. Maybe it’ll smart a bit seeing Him unhappy, but that pain will be completely overshadowed by the joy I get from comforting Him. Not that He’ll spend too long worrying about it, anyway. He’s only a child with a child’s attention span.

And if any other sirens come and try to take Him away, I’ll destroy them too. Grind them to dust without a second of hesitation. Because that’s who I am. What I am. Merciless.

I close my eyes and welcome tomorrow.

---​

Beep! Beep! Beep! Beep! Beep!

Oh Gods, no, no, no, no, why do you have to wake me up now…

I plunge my hand into the cold outside the shelter of my blanket and slam it down on the alarm clock. The infernal beeping ceases. Ughhh… I didn’t want that dream to end! I was just about to catch the last survivor…

The dream before that one was pretty sweet, too. I was watching some terrible movie when Shirlee showed up at the door out of nowhere and basically flung herself at me, begging to be manipulated to her demise. It felt so real at the time, but we all know that dreams always do, and only once we wake up, we…

...wait.

I lift the blanket to get a look at whatever’s pressing around my left wrist. It’s a bandage. The bandage that I applied in the… dream?

Don’t tell me… it actually happened?

Well, that or I’ve finally cracked. Everyone always knew that was a possibility, myself included.

Some kind of tapping comes from the hallway, drawing my attention to the door. After some thumps and scrapes, the handle turns and the door swings open. Perched on the handle on the other side is Jess. His expression is… ugh, I don't know. It's too early to try and read bird feelings.

He hops off and flits towards me, oh shit, watch the talons --

"Good morning, old trainer, old pal!" he says with cheer, landing on top of my hip. He isn’t heavy or anything, being built for flight and all, but it still isn’t exactly comfortable. I try to nudge him off while still wrapped in my soft, warm blanket, but the damn bird is just too persistent. I sigh and sit up, begrudgingly accepting the cold pouring into my little nest. Losing his platform, the pidgeot finally jumps off.

“What do you want?” I growl.

“Just a favor,” he says, “in return for the favor I did for you. You know, the photo?”

“Oh, and here I thought you just did that out of the goodness of your heart,” I mock, but the joke is really on me, given I pretty much actually thought so. Fonz and Abe don’t ask for anything in return for their favors, but it looks like their naivety isn’t as widespread as I thought.

I sigh again. I should hold up good relations in case I need Jess’s help in the future, and with all this celebrity stuff, that might be soon. Plus, it’s not like my schedule is bursting with things to be done, anyway - I could use something new to do. “What’s the favor?” I ask.

“You’re gonna be my cameramon! Man.” He coughs. “You see, I have this camera that’s pretty busted. Every once in a while, it stops recording for no reason. I’ve learned to live with it, but the fact is that checking after every couple of takes gets pretty annoying. So, all you gotta do is watch the screen and tell me if the recording’s stopped.”

“Sounds riveting.”

“Bah!” He smacks me lightly with a wing. “It won’t be so bad. You’ll get to see the kind of stuff I make, and how I make it! And we get to hang out in general. We haven’t done that in a while, and we should! I mean, we spent so much time together back in the journey days.”

A wave of bad memories splashes in my face - unending whispers, orders, shouts. Standing at the edges of battlefields, watching the fighters clash for the Voices’ entertainment. Obeying the demons’ nonsensical commands. Relaying the messages they wanted me to say. Wishing it could all just be over.

“Can you not bring that up?” I mutter, rubbing my face. “I don’t wanna deal with that shit so early in the morning.”

“Right, right...” he says, understanding, though more understanding would have been not to say anything about the journey at all. Birdbrain, indeed.

Jess clears his throat. “Anyway, I asked your brother, and he’s cool with me filming in his room. I think that one’s the best because my own’s basically a closet, and yours is…” He glances around the room, judging the bare gray walls and lack of furniture. “Well, it’s got kind of a prison cell aesthetic going on, not gonna lie. You might wanna get some posters or something, liven the place up. Might improve your mood, who knows.”

Posters of what, Jess? Mutilated corpses, fellow serial killers, terrors of the deep? Why don’t I just hang up some giant red flags while I’m at it?

Without warning, he pinches the blanket with his beak and yanks off what still covers me. "Come on! Up and at 'em!" he shouts, flapping his wings until his golden eyes stray onto my bare chest. "Whoa, you really have been working out. Where's your chest hair, though? You shave it?"

"...Yes." I don't. It just doesn't grow.

"Well, either way, time to go! Get a move on!" Gods, he's back to the flapping again. He's not giving up, is he?

"Gods, fine!" I snap, getting off the bed. "At least let me take a piss!"

"Atta boy!" Jess shouts as I drag myself to the bathroom across the hall. I make sure to lock the door behind me lest he try to barge in and give a running commentary on my business. Aim for the bowl, champ!

Oh, but wait. The bandage has caught my eye again. What will I do regarding Shirlee? Since it seems what happened last night really did happen… she gave me that special address to send letters to for faster reading… but she said she'd write me back as she left, didn't she? So do I just wait?

Well, I could wait, but I hate sitting on my ass and doing nothing. I should at least draft a letter of my own in the case I don’t hear from her soon enough. Thinking of what I’ll write will counteract the boredom of being Jess’s cameraman, too.

Okay, whatever, let’s call that settled for now, as I really wasn’t lying about needing to take that piss. I open my fly and try not to think too hard about what Jess would say if he was watching.

---​
 
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kintsugi

golden scars
Pronouns
she/her/hers
Partner
silvally-grass
haha, looking at this chapter's title made me go back and laugh at all the other puns. Also, knowing now why you named the pidgeot "Jess" puts a lot more things into context now.

I tried putting on my best face for the photo - taken and printed by a very bored Jess - but there was just… hatred in my eyes, no matter what I did. Jess didn’t mention it, but most likely he just didn’t care and wanted the shoot over with.
I really, really like how you portray Red here. It's fascinating to read psychologically unnerving characters, but it becomes a little tragic when they're capable of self-reflection like this.

“I can’t, Adrien. If I kill him, I’m no better than him.”
With this line and all the previous stuff about how much he hates Shirlee, I'm honestly surprised that he doesn't just kill her this chapter?
Like he seems unhinged and motivated enough that in the heat of the moment he might not have any moral qualms about it, and the only reason he ruled out murder last chapter is because she's hard to get alone and unsurveilled, but in this case she literally admits that no one knows where she is? Red doesn't seem to suspect that anyone might be looking for her in this area until she gives off her address; after she reveals that she's pretty drunk and alone I'm surprised he doesn't start asking questions to see if anyone is looking for/after her.

The sleeves of the jacket rise and bend to open up the zipper. One of them flips away the fuzz-lined hood. A pink mantle marked with a yellow star is revealed. I freeze. That’s…
Does she use psychic powers here? Lil tiny tentacle things? I wasn't sure.

Suppressing the reflex to pull away from the pain, I carve the pattern shown on the notebook’s page - the psychic protection seal. One of the ancient gifts HE gave HIS followers. It nullifies one’s mental presence to outsiders, protecting the mind against any tricks tried. I was going to wait until receiving an invitation from Shirlee to carve it, as the seal only works until the wounds heal, but I guess I’ll just have to retrace the scars later if needed.
oh YES this is wonderfully macabre but also fits in with the worldbuilding, I think? The world here is sort of disjunct anyway; it's got pokemon in high school and Red keeps some heads in jars and there was some part where he accidentally heard voices and hobo'ed his way across the counry, and in the background a squid is a pop singer.

two tentacles grabbing onto the back and lifting up the inebriated invertebrate
I think the phrase "lifting up" threw me off a little here; usually I feel like "lifting up" refers to when you're doing it to something else, so I had to reread a few times to read that Shirlee was lifting herself? I'd recognize it better if it were "lifting the inebriated invertebrate [nice alliteration] into view" or s/t

“If a king hoards all the bread in the kingdom, is it the citizens’ fault for stealing it?”
SEIZE THE MEANS OF PRODUCTION

Both of us return to the couch and sit down. I realize the tingling in my wrist has disappeared.
👀 if she was trying some shit earlier, I like how you seed doubt about it with "oh, it's probably just itchy because I just carved it into my skin with my trust unsterilized knife". I honestly would've believed it lol.

And if any other sirens come and try to take Him away
roll credits! and also hello yes, dumb question that you don't have to answer, is there particular meaning for why there's an extra 'e' in the title?

Things are heating up nicely here! I see what you mean about stuff taking off in this chapter, and I'm curious to see where you'll take some of these newer plot threads -- Red's backstory/how that'll relate here interests me in particular because I've never really seen a TPP fic ground him as well in reality as you currently have while also canonically have him at one point controlled by a million voices and running into ledges and stuff.

Style-wise things are really fun here. There are some particularly dry zingers for the comedic bits scattered throughout, and you do a great job of keeping things light-hearted and then switching to heavy dark and then back to normal. It's done in a way that feels intentional, and you linger on the new tone just long enough to make it not feel that jarring -- it's a really delicate balance and I like it a ton.

Thanks for sharing this chapter; looking forward to more and not gonna spoil myself on bulba lol
 

canisaries

voted most likely to be edgy
Location
the middle of nowhere
Pronouns
she/her
With this line and all the previous stuff about how much he hates Shirlee, I'm honestly surprised that he doesn't just kill her this chapter?
Like he seems unhinged and motivated enough that in the heat of the moment he might not have any moral qualms about it, and the only reason he ruled out murder last chapter is because she's hard to get alone and unsurveilled, but in this case she literally admits that no one knows where she is? Red doesn't seem to suspect that anyone might be looking for her in this area until she gives off her address; after she reveals that she's pretty drunk and alone I'm surprised he doesn't start asking questions to see if anyone is looking for/after her.
Oh, that's a good point. Red's logic does give him reasons not to kill Shirlee there and then, but I kind of glossed over them before or forgot to include them completely. The first point is that Shirlee is very super famous (super famous, super famous, bitch) and that killing her would lead to a very in-depth investigation that could end up retracing Shirlee's route to Red - for example, via witnesses that saw an inkay (not a common species at all in Kanto) travelling to Pallet Town, which is a semi long way from Celadon where she's staying at currently (don't remember if it was mentioned yet, but will in the next chapter at least) - and exposing him for the murder of the squid and possibly even his other victims. Even if it's a hard path to follow, Red can be pretty paranoid (see: this story), so he'd play it safe. The second point is that Shirlee being murdered or seriously hurt is likely to make Helix and the rest of the public grieve, which would still keep Him distracted from Red.

I should add that second point to the second chapter.
I think I'll also add in some more detailed description of Shirlee to this chapter, as Red would certainly see it with his mollusk-obsessed eyes, and he could also get some killing urges only to suppress them for the possibility of being tracked down.

Does she use psychic powers here? Lil tiny tentacle things? I wasn't sure.
My idea was the longer white tentacles, as she'd be wearing the coat with those as the arms. The official art makes the tentacles seem pretty short, but I like to think of them as longer, like they are in the cover art.

I think the phrase "lifting up" threw me off a little here; usually I feel like "lifting up" refers to when you're doing it to something else, so I had to reread a few times to read that Shirlee was lifting herself? I'd recognize it better if it were "lifting the inebriated invertebrate [nice alliteration] into view" or s/t
I'll take a native's word for it and fix, thanks!

roll credits! and also hello yes, dumb question that you don't have to answer, is there particular meaning for why there's an extra 'e' in the title?
Ah yes, there actually is - you see, Seiren is essentially a reboot of a story I wrote a few years ago, Agápe, which had the same premise with crappier execution and a total stub of a plot. The title of that one referred to one of the four Greek word for love, specifically the one meaning "love between man and god". However, this resulted in 1. confusion as the word is used to mean love in the sense of altruism and philanthropy in Christian contexts (as the New Testament was originally written in Greek) and 2. embarrassment as I found out some people had been mistaking the word for the English "agape" (as in, "wide open") on platforms that didn't allow special characters in the titles.

So, when I started rebooting the story, I needed a new title. I came up with the theme of a siren, but I didn't want to just name it "siren" as that might get people thinking of the WEE WOO kind and so kind of repeat the original problem 2. To solve that, and because I'd also grown to like the Greek theme of the original title, I went for "seiren", which is the transliteration of the original Greek word (and apparently also "honesty" in Japanese as I found out googling it just now, which is pretty rich considering the protagonist). If you're wondering how it's meant to be pronounced, the answer is a simple "I don't care, say it as you like".

Thank you for the reply, and I'll get to work on the issues~
 

NebulaDreams

Pokémon Trainer
Partner
luxray
Chapter 2

“Oh my Gods, where do I start with her? Her eyes, her mantle, her lights, her tentacles?
Tentacles... ( ͡° ͜ʖ ͡°)

“Put it on, put it on!” He urges Fonz, who takes off his usual jacket and replaces it with the shirt.

“Oh my Gods, this is great!” He gushes.

“...Since when have you been a fan too, Fonz?” I ask, crossing my arms.

“I’m not specifically a fan,” he explains, modeling the shirt to my lord in different poses. “But since there was no wearable merch for omanyte, I offered to wear some for Him.”
Aw, Fonz, you're such a pushover. Out of the whole chapter, that was probably my favourite moment, and now, I have the mental image of a Nidoking going around wearing a glitzy pop star shirt.

And I doubt the girl who writes lines like 'shake ass, make cash' is a master of literary analysis.
Do Inkay have an ass to shake? Hmm, maybe the literary version of this would be 'reverberate thy posterior and stimulate thee economy'.

Chapter 3

I hope my appearance won’t work against me… I might consider myself good-looking, but approachable? Not so much. Tired eyes, murkrow feathers for hair, a good amount of muscle on me from daily exercise.
Any excuse to talk about your muscles, Red Akai. Just sign yourself up as a model for GQ or something, by the Gods.

“Aaaa little, yeah,” she answers. “I-I know this is maybe not h-how you thought I would be like, but… like, you’re so understanding, I figured you’d get it.”
This honestly had me laughing my ass off. There's nothing particularly funny about this line on paper, but I really didn't expect it to go down this direction when Red ends up convincing a freaking pop star to show up on his doorstep. To be honest, I think you could've banked on Red's surprise a bit more aside from the initial reaction, since even he would think his plan worked a bit too well.

“Oh, right, s-sure,” she responds, hovers over to the couch and splats down. Rude.
Eugh, imagine having to wash squid ass ink off your couch.

"Atta boy!" Jess shouts as I drag myself to the bathroom across the hall. I make sure to lock the door behind me lest he try to barge in and give a running commentary on my business. Aim for the bowl, champ!
As if that would make him any more of a condescending hipster than he already is.

I didn't really comment on chapter 2 much this time around since I didn't really have much to say. Like kintsugi, it might've been a bit of a repeat of the last chapter without much progress, but it didn't bother me that much since it just expanded on what we saw before. With that said, things progressed a hell of a lot as Red gets right what he wants at his doorstep.

I honestly felt sorry for poor Shirlee, as she seems to be another Stepford-Smiling cog in the machine of the music industry, so much so that she needs alcohol to cope with it all. As funny as it was to have her literally appear at Red's house not long after he sent the letter, this event also opens up a lot of possibilities for both characters. This is where Red really shows his sociopathic side, being a master manipulator while coming across as really convincing to Shirlee. It gives the trajectory of the story a huge sense of dread, as we've got a fairly likeable and sympathetic anti-villain (Shirlee) clashing with an entertainingly unlikable jerkass protagonist (Red). Only one of them has to go down, and my money's on Red at the moment.
 

canisaries

voted most likely to be edgy
Location
the middle of nowhere
Pronouns
she/her
aaaaaa chapter fooour it's late because uni is crazy aaaaaaa chapter name is subject to change because i am reaching so hard aaaaa still rated teen enjoy aaaaaa

---

CHAPTER FOUR
Video Kills The Radio Star


---​

I've always known it gets quiet in this house, but only now, after listening to Jess blabbering on continuously for an hour, do I notice how strong the silence can be.

Fonz sits across from me at the round kitchen table, reading the newspaper and every now and then stealing a peek at the living room where the omanyte reads his homework. And listens to music. I don't have to guess what music. Ugh. At least I know I'm now a lot closer to ending this than before.

And I guess that session with Jess also brought me some good - I wouldn't have known what to put in this one spot of the crossword I'm doing had he not taught me the word 'smugleaf'. Apparently it's an obscure synonym for a species of mon in Unova and also some kind of 'meme'.

The newspaper rustles in Fonz's claws. He's staring through the kitchen window now. What's he seeing?

"Huh," he says, "someone's at our mailbox."

“Who is it?” I ask, though I don’t particularly care. It’s not like I ever get any ma-

Wait, no! This could be Shirlee’s letter!

“It’s some bird mon, I think that’s a tranq-” Fonz says, but stops in bewilderment as I jolt up and run out of the house, not bothering to put on any coat. I leap over the doorsteps and dash for the mailbox. A bird mon indeed stands before it, startled by my sudden appearance. A primitive warble escapes its beak, though the mon is likely civil given its harnessed satchel and scarf around its neck.

"Are you delivering or stealing?" I ask as I run, though it comes out sounding more like an incomprehensible war cry, not helped by my crude approach. It seems to go past what the mon considers normal and safe behavior, as it quickly stumbles to a takeoff, gray feathers fiercely flapping the air.

By the time I reach the mailbox, the bird has flown to the top of the nearby tree. Judging by its alarmed stare, it's prepared to flee completely in case my conduct gets weirder.

I'm about to repeat my question more clearly, but the corner of an envelope peeking out from the slit of the mailbox renders it unnecessary. I snatch the letter and check the sender. 'Miss S'. Yes, it's Shirlee! She must have written that instead of her name in case someone else in the house got to the letter first. She's smarter than I thought.

Since the cold is beginning to sting, and I have no reason to stay out here longer anyway, I head back inside. The gray bird, assuming its job is done, sighs and takes flight for its next destination.

Upon returning indoors, I face a very curious Fonz, but I can't let him know about my little pen pal. I wave a hand at the nidoking's questions, mumbling that it doesn't concern him, and skip straight to upstairs. I enter my room, shut the door and lie on the bed with the envelope in my hands.

Alright! Let's see what we've got.

I rip the envelope open with my knife and dig in to the letter inside.

Dear Red

First things first, I want to thank you for your amazing hospitality the other night. I had no right to barge into your house in the dead of the night like that, much less drunk, yet you let me in and even stayed awake to see me leave in safety. You’re a true gentleman.


Oh, stop it, you. You’re making me blush, even if it’s from the rush of my deception working perfectly.

I do wish you’d taken the time to handwrite this, though, instead of just typing the text and printing it out. It’s pretty tacky considering the effort I put in. Or… well, I guess you get a pass if your telekinesis isn’t that dextrous. In the end, it’s called handwriting, and you don’t have hands. That’s one aspect I don’t envy about the bodies of bestial mon. Back to the letter, though...

Then, onto the main subject… my memories of what you said that night may be fuzzy, but the message of your words stuck with me. It’s true that I’ve been mistreated and taken for granted. This is why, after a lot of thinking, I’ve decided to create a special video that I’ll be putting up on my official MewTube account at 5.00 pm (Kanto time, naturally) on Friday. I trust you’ll want to see it. Although, I don’t know how your omanyte friend will take it. I hope he’ll understand.

Wait, really? You’re going through with it already? I… I’ve succeeded?

I’ve succeeded, yes! My venom has reached her brain! This Friday, she’ll collapse! She’ll be gone, and I’ll have Him in my arms again, and I’ll hold Him so tight and show Him how much I --

No, don’t get ahead of yourself. You don’t know what kind of video this will be. This might only be the beginning. Minds aren’t changed overnight. My lord may take time as well. Though this video still has to be something shocking - else she wouldn’t have added that bit about Him.

As the letter isn’t finished yet, I read on.

I’ll be eager to hear back from you once you’ve seen that video. I’d love to see you in person again, too, but that seems difficult to arrange for now. You see, Mr Anders (my manager) has been extra strict on who I’m allowed to see because of that one night and several ones before it. Fortunately, he’s still given me my privacy, allowing me to make that video in the first place.

Love,
Shirlee

P.S. We agreed to exchanging letters that night as you had no phone, but wouldn’t email or some chat be much faster? Let me know your address or accounts. Thanks!


Dammit, right, I’ll have to come up with some excuse for why I can’t use a computer. At least I have something to think while waiting for Friday, I guess. Two days away. Ugh, there’s so much waiting…

Guess I’ll go watch some TV or something.

---​

16:56, Friday. I can’t believe it’s so close now. Two days ago it felt so distant. Now I’d even say it’s too soon. I’m so excited that I’ve gotten anxious.

I decide to give up trying to read my book, as my eyes only seem to skim the same page over and over again, never really absorbing what the text is saying. I do know the gist of it from previous reads, though. I’ve read Clinical Human Anatomy back to back many times. It’s my favorite of the anatomical books I own. Whether it’s actual quality or just nostalgia for the curiosity of my younger self, I can’t say.

I place the attached red sash on the current opening, shut the book and set it down on the bedside nightstand. I should probably bring it to my own room instead of having it here in the room of Fonz and my lord, but I’m too antsy for that right now. I don’t want to miss the upload by a second.

I get up and enter the living room. On the couch sit my lord and Fonz, both looking at His phone. The nidoking has his favorite leather jacket on again instead of the Shirlee shirt.

“Hi,” I greet the two mon, and both passingly greet me back. “What happened to the Shirlee shirt?”

“Oh, well,” starts Fonz, “after a close call a bit ago, We figured it’d be better if I only wore the Shirtlee in public. It’s less likely to get dirty that way.”

I hold a stare. “Did you just say ‘Shirtlee’?”

“Yeah, it’s what We call it.”

I sigh quietly and sit down at His other side. My heart beats faster… this is the closest I’ve been to Him in a while.

“Anything new about Shirlee, my lord?” I ask.

His eyes light up. “Oh! Oh! Yeah!” He taps on the screen, switching between apps and scrolling. He arrives at one with a blue-black environment - must be Chatter - and points to a snippet of text. I lean over to read it.

Shirlee @officialshirlee - 7m
Uploading a vid to my MewTube in 10 min on what I feel is an important topic. Stay tuned.


I check the top right corner of the phone screen. 16:57. Only three minutes until her destruction begins. Only three minutes until He learns His idol has betrayed Him. Only three minutes until this gash between Us finally begins to mend. This is real. This is my efforts paying off.

“He can already read all by Himself, Red,” remarks Fonz, smiling. “Aren’t you proud?”

“Oh?” Right, I should be supportive. “That’s great, my lord!” I say, patting Him on the back of His shell. It’s only a brief touch, but the sensation of shell’s texture relaxes my core. This is almost over. Just a little more.

“I’m gonna go to her MewTube now. Don’t wanna miss it,” He says, tapping more on the screen. The blue and black switch to pale red and white. A shadow of dread swoops over me, but leaves as soon as it came. It’s just a video service. Nothing is in danger.

Having made it to Shirlee’s channel, His tentacle drags down the screen repeatedly, apparently refreshing the page. “I wonder what that vid’s gonna be about...” He mumbles. He freezes. “Oh Gods, I hope nothing bad’s happened to her!”

“I’m sure she’s fine,” says Fonz and lays a comforting hand on His shell. “The wording of her chirp sounded more like she was going to talk about some general issue.”

“I guess...”

His suckers keep swiping the screen for the remaining minutes. Then, as the hour finally switches, a new video appears in the list. Its thumbnail is simply Shirlee against a featureless white background, looking serious. An Important Message, reads the title.

“That’s it!” He exclaims, and Fonz and I lean even closer. He taps the video to play and turns up the volume. While it loads, We all stay breathless.

The video begins with Shirlee’s tentacle reaching beyond the viewer, apparently turning on the camera. She floats further away, stares straight at Us and sighs.

“Even without her costumes, she’s so pretty...” whispers my lord to Himself. Ugh, she’s not that pretty. And she only looks good because she’s a cephalopod and it’s very hard to have a cephalopod that isn’t appealing. To me.

“Hello, everyone,” Shirlee finally starts, and I silence my brain. “I know this is an unusual video for me, but I‘ve been thinking about things and I sincerely feel like someone should speak up.”

So far not that aggressive… but that wouldn't be a great way to start a video, anyway. For her. For me it'd be great.

“I know a lot of you little stars of mine want to have fame and fortune like I do, but…”

Chills of doubt descend upon my back. She's being too calm. Too polite. Too subtle. He’s not going to get it. Fuck!

No, no, just hold on. Maybe it'll get better. She knows nothing will change unless she takes drastic action.

“...the truth is that we are all people. And people have feelings, dreams, doubts, problems. Whether human or mon, whichever gender or age or type.”

Oh my Gods. Cut it with the fortune cookie bullshit, will you, and get to ripping your fans new ones. How much is there left of this video? Seven minutes? Great.

I look at His eyes and find them to be firmly attached to the screen. Fonz is the same, though at least he appears to be emoting. Head tilting occasionally, corners of his lips shifting, he's actually considering her words. But it doesn't seem like the same can be said of Him.

Figures. His lack of critical thinking is what got me into this situation, and it's what keeps me from getting out of it.

My shoulders are already slumped and expectations null, but I keep watching. Shirlee goes on to talk about the harassment she and other idols she knows have gone through, how pressures are too high, how she doesn’t mean to belittle anyone else’s problems… yeah, this is just all the same. Nothing mindblowing is going to be said here.

What exactly did I expect? Her screaming into the camera about how everyone who’s supported her is a sack of shit and Him wiggling underneath my strong, protecting arm, away from the horrifying witch? I wish the part of me responsible for getting my hopes up would be a real human being so I could wrap my hands around his neck and strangle him for being so stupid. My hands seem to agree, given the tendons and veins rising in the skin…

I force them to relax. I don’t want Fonz or Him to notice my rage. They may ask questions and right now, I don’t feel like answering any.

The meter at the bottom of the video is nearly full. By now, I’m just tired. Tired of being continuously reminded of what an idiot I am.

Her coming here out of nowhere, drunk and wanting my comfort… I should've known the opportunity was too good to be true. Of course, in the light of day, she would mold all my ideas to fit in with her career, dulling the corners in the process. I was blinded by my optimism and arrogance. I can't let that happen again. I have to be patient, patient like I originally planned to be.

I mean, I’m talking to the girl privately, and she's listening. I can still affect her. I just have to find the right way to do it. Until then… I still need to bear His eyes being lifeless and away from me.

Finally, the video ends. Fonz straightens his neck. My lord blinks. That's a start.

“Well, that I didn't expect,” Fonz mumbles. “But she had some good points, I guess. Wonder what made her say all this out of the blue.”

“Yeah, it’s weird,” I say and get up. I should go write my letter now that her video is still fresh in my memory.

“So what did you think?” Fonz asks my lord as I walk to the basement door.

“She’s so smart...” He sighs.

I sigh too.

---​

In my letter, I told Shirlee how proud I was of her handling the situation so elegantly and also bringing up a lot of other important points, blah blah blah, all that shit. How I couldn’t have said it better myself and so on. I did still remark on how I expected her to be a bit more aggressive, though - gotta stay consistent, you know.

I also managed to excuse my aversion to computer-based communication by blaming Jess. I explained that he didn’t let me use the computer when he was over. She doesn’t know Jess, so she can’t say that doesn’t sound possible - not that it would be that far from the truth, anyway.

Shirlee soon sent another letter, and this is what it said.

Dear Red

I’m so glad you liked the video. I still feel a rush for making it - all of this feels unreal. Just a few days ago I never could have imagined doing something so drastic and out of line, and now here we are. And I don't regret a thing.

It's been pretty chaotic here after that video dropped. My manager was naturally outraged at first, but as the reactions from the public came in, he saw it was only beneficial - no such thing as bad publicity, as they say. Now everyone is already planning and suggesting “the next move”, but I’ve gained enough confidence to be certain that from now on, I really will be the one calling the shots.

All of this change for the better… you're the one who kickstarted it, and I am so grateful. I want to show it to you in person. My manager has agreed to let me see you on Monday at the Celadon Hotel where I’ll be staying. Someone would be picking you up at 5 pm at your house. If you can't be there then, please leave a note for them telling so. We can figure something out later.

However, I do hope you can come at that appointed time. I have a bit of a surprise for you and I can't wait for you to find out.

Love,
Shirlee


So I’ll be seeing her face to face again. She won’t be wasted this time - I mean, I’m assuming she won’t be - so I need to watch my behavior more lest she realize I’m her enemy. But it’s also a great opportunity. Talking in person is far more powerful than simply via text.

However, I’m not perfectly sure what direction I should steer her in. Her becoming more assertive with her crew is good, but the lies I told her are closer to the truth than I thought - they’d need far more abuse to drop a money miltank like her. If her value plummeted, however, they’d abandon ship and skitter off like rattata. And even if my lord still stuck with her, she couldn’t produce any more content with her resources gone. His attention would be freed, and He’d notice me once more. I’d consider that a success.

I’m not a businessman, however, and I’m rather ignorant of current affairs and trends. I need some help in deciding the proper poison for her. Good thing I know just the person to ask.

Unfortunately it has to be Jess.

I sigh and open the door to his room.

The pidgeot sits on the saddle-chair on his desk as usual, doing whatever people do on their computers. Having noticed my arrival, he swivels around in his saddle-chair, a smirk on his beak. He brings his wings before him, touching the tips of the feathers together. “So you have come to me again.”

I answer his sly stare with an unimpressed one. “Yes. I have.”

“I take it you need help with some internet stuff again?” he asks. “What is it, champ? You wanna be hip with the kids?”

I shut the door behind me, ignoring his snark. Let’s just get to the point.

I clear my throat. "So, I was wondering something... say if someone like Shirlee were to make some poor decision or mistake that would ruin her career and popularity. What kind of action would that be?"

Without even a blink, he responds. “Anything racist, sexist or typist whatsoever.”

Oh. That was quick.

“Don’t forget homophobia,” he adds. “Or transphobia. Anything discriminatory, basically.”

I rub my chin. “It’s that easy?”

“Well… define ‘easy’,” he says, directing his gaze at the ceiling and scraping at the desk with a talon. I notice only now that there’s a bunch of scratch marks in the wood. I guess he does that a lot.

He looks back to me. “I mean, most celebs are really careful about saying anything that might get them in trouble. In case of Shirlee, I can’t imagine her saying anything discriminatory - especially with that vid she posted recently - though I’ve been surprised before.”

Hmm. So if I could get Shirlee to say something socially wrong and have the public see it, her career would be destroyed?

“What group do you think Shirlee might have a poor opinion of?” I ask.

Jess lowers his brow. “Why are you asking this?”

“Just curious,” I reply. “I’ve realized I know way too little about the world around me.”

He lies down on his chair - as much as a bird can. “And finding out how pop stars’ careers get ruined is your best way of doing this?”

“It’s… one among many.”

He huffs. “Come on, dude, drop the act. I can tell you’re upset about Helix caring so much about Shirlee. You’re clearly planning something.”

Dammit. I wanted to be stealthy about this in case I end up doing something legally questionable after all.

He slides off his chair and flits to a branch of the plastic tree next to me. “Red, let’s talk,” he sighs, golden eyes sincere. “This is kinda worrying.”

“What’s worrying?” I ask, though I’m pretty sure I know.

“Just how...” he searches for a word. “Well, clingy you are with Helix.”

Uh huh, this lecture again. I find my arms crossing themselves.

“I know I don’t see you a lot, but from what I do see, it’s not good,” he continues. “And now it feels like it’s even worse than before. You just seem… really on edge. It’s a bad state to be in for long periods of time, don’t you think?”

“I think you should focus on your own life,” I mutter.

He raises his wings. “Dude, just hear me out, okay? I’m trying to tell you that it’s better for both you and Him if you learn to leave some space. Find other things, other people. You’ll have more to your life, you’ll be happier, and you won’t be so dependent on His attention.”

Ugh. The ‘find new hobbies’ argument. There just isn’t anything I want to do right now. Nothing makes me feel fulfilled outside taking care of Him. And serving HIM… but I already limit my contact there, and for good reason. HE wishes not to be disturbed outside the context of rituals or other important things, and I need to have a cooldown between my hunts. Cops exist, you know.

“You needing Helix so much...” Jess says. His voice is quieter now, why? “It’s a bit like… you’re still stuck in the journey days.”

...That does it.

Without a word, I turn around and exit the room.

“Red, please,” he calls after me. “Stay and we’ll talk about th-”

Shutting the door behind me cuts him off. I descend the stairs without looking back.

---​

Alright. It’s finally Monday, finally nearing five in the afternoon. Somehow I’ve managed to survive the previous days, and this is my reward.

I button up my pale blue shirt. Been a while since I’ve worn one of these. I figured I should try to look neat for that hotel, as it must be pretty high-end enough to qualify for a pop star.

After a few more strokes of a comb through my hair, the man in the mirror looks sufficiently groomed. I check the watch looped around my bandaged wrist. Just in time.

I leave the bathroom and descend the stairs. From his armchair, Fonz spots me.

“Is that limo out there for you?” he asks, tilting his head towards the windows.

Limo?

I hurry to the window and look out to the street. A lengthy black car sits by the driveway, shining with faint orange from the twilight. Huh. Guess it does make sense for the ride to be fancy.

“Yeah,” I reply passingly to Fonz as I move to the hall and get my coat. Dammit, I’ll need to come up with an explanation for this, won't I.

“So… what's up with that?”

“Well, I met somebody at the grocery store the other day and we hit it off and...” I throw on my coat and put on some gloves. “We’re hanging out now. It’s nothing special.”

“I can’t remember the last time you’ve ‘hung out’ with anyone… is there something you’re not telling Us?”

Why are you dragging Him into this? “No, it’s like I told you - just a friend.” I open the door, chilly air flooding in. “I’ll be back in a couple of hours. See You then.”

I exit the house, descend the doorsteps and head towards the limousine. The driver’s side door opens, and a bearded Unovan steps out.

“Red Akai?” the man asks, circling the car and opening the door to the backseat.

“That’s me,” I reply and almost make it to the door, but the man raises a startled hand, eyes widening.

“What’s that on your lap, pal?”

I look at the leather scabbard attached to my belt. “My knife,” I respond, keeping my tone casual even if I now realize he won’t let me take it with me. “I always have it with me. It’s for self-defense. Wild ursas and so.”

“You expect to meet a lot of wild ursas at the Celadon Hotel?”

I sigh. “Guess not.”

I briefly return to the house to drop off my knife. To get Fonz off my back, I explain that my friend didn’t like me having it. Before the nidoking can properly respond, I’m already back outside.

“Are we cool now?” I ask the chauffeur.

“Of course we are. It’s winter.” A grin flashes among his brown, curly beard. “Alright, get in.”

I shuffle onto the roomy backseat coated with white leather. Faux, I’m guessing, as everything is nowadays. How we’ve forgotten our roots.

Besides that, it’s rather comfy. It has an armrest and everything. Above me is a window, covered, probably because there’s not much to see up there at the time. All surfaces look clean, it’s not too hot or cold and the air smells fresh enough. I’d say I’m quite fine with spending the next hour in here.

The driver closes my door and enters his. I locate the seatbelt and fasten it.

“I see you’re a good boy,” quips the driver, yet another smile on his bush of a face. “Want something to drink?”

“No, I’m good.” I don’t want to throw up from your awful jokes.

“Gotcha. Let’s move, then.”

The car starts and the tires begin to roll. I lean back in my seat, watching my house and neighborhood swipe past. The sights soon switch to less familiar ones, eventually degrading into a highway surrounded by only woods and plains. All coated in white - or gray, at this hour.

“So,” starts the driver, breaking the monotonous hum. “How do you know Ms Tanner?“

Ms Tanner…? Oh, right, Shirlee’s real name. “I’m a friend of hers.”

“Old one or new one?”

I give him a stern look via the rear-view mirror. “I don’t see how that concerns you.”

“Not much of a sharer, I see...”

He exhales. The hum regains its spot as the main noise. Unfortunately, I can already tell that won’t last.

“You see that video Ms Tanner put up the other day?” he begins again, proving me right. “Stirred things up a lot for us employees. Even me, and I just drive the car.”

I stay silent, hoping he’ll take the hint.

“Seems like the public liked it a lot, though. At the very least it got people talking.”

Yeah, I’m guessing it did. It probably got them talking about how important these issues are and how brave Shirlee was for speaking up. Brave and strong.

But she isn’t strong. Strong is swinging a wrench at a marowak’s skull and piercing the brain. None of these people would know what that would feel like. They cower at the mere sight of a knife, a sheathed one no less.

I suppose it’s only a good thing, though. Less competition. Easier prey. Still, I wish I could meet someone who was strong like me, shared my way of thinking. In a safe environment. Or maybe not even that…

I reach for my knife, but groan as I remember it’s not there. I’ll need to wait a few hours before I can play with it again. Once again, the key word is patience.

Time passes, and buildings begin to appear among the trees outside. I check the time. It's been about fifty minutes. Shouldn’t be too long now.

I sigh. This ride may be almost over, but it’s probably the easiest part of this visit. I’ll need to act friendly to Shirlee and her crew while trying to fish any offensive opinions or other weaknesses out of her for later exploitation. All without my trusted knife by my side to calm me down. And she has some ‘surprise’ in mind, no doubt something I’ll hate. I already feel tired.

Well, maybe it won’t be that bad. She might take me out to eat some good food. This limousine is pretty neat - she must surround herself with the same kind of luxury, and she’s obligated to share, given we’re friends. And she owes me for that one night, anyway.

Eventually the car reaches the center of Celadon City. The city of the rainbow’s colors - in summer. In winter, it's really just another monochrome painting with smears of mud here and there.

“Alright, we're almost here…” mumbles the driver. “Just a couple more turns and you'll be rid of me.” Good. “Until Ms Tanner sends you back, of course.” Oh.

We turn a corner, and a blotch of brilliant light reveals itself. My eyes widen in surprise, then narrow to make sense of the sudden break in dullness. Every new turn reveals more details.

A tall building with strips of windows slithering along its walls shines gold and green in the darkening evening. Behind the glass grow verdant leaves of all shapes and sizes, all the way up to the roof, which appears to be wholly dedicated to the plants.

As we make another turn - one I realize to be the final - the entrance to the building shows itself. Through large glass doors, well-dressed people are arriving and leaving, a fancy-looking mon or two in the mix. In glowing capital letters above the door, the giant structure is named.

“Celadon Hotel,” announces the driver, slowing the vehicle to a halt. “And what a hotel it is. You ever been here before, boy?”

In Celadon, yes, but this side of town… “No.”

“Well, have fun while you can,” he says, unbuckling his seatbelt and exiting the car. I follow suit.

The driver hurries over to me, glances around the entrance for something and finally stops, smiling. A large black-and-white figure has appeared behind the doors. The driver waves his hand, catching the figure’s attention. Its black, beady eyes stick onto us and don’t leave their target once as it exits the doors and plods towards us.

The figure appears to be… a polar ursaring? No, it doesn’t quite match up with the polar ursaring I’ve seen in documentaries… I mean, even outside the black suit it’s wearing. Its muzzle is longer and surrounded by some peculiar type of fur… no, I don’t think that’s fur. It’s frost. This must be some species I don’t know.

“Evening,” greets the driver as the mon gets close enough.

“Evening,” the mon echoes back in a gruff voice, visible puffs of breath leaving its maw. It stops, towering over me with its height of two meters and more. “You’re Red Akai?”

I nod, heart beating harder. My fingers reach again for the knife that isn’t there. I trap them in a fist and try to suppress my primal reaction.

“I am Arktos,” the mon speaks. “Follow me, please.”

Arktos begins to walk back to the entrance and I cautiously follow, leaving the driver to enter the limousine again and drive off. The glass doors slide to allow us in, and the cold outside is left behind.

I feel like backing out has now officially stopped being an option.

---​
 
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qva

Pokémon Trainer
Location
florida
Pronouns
she/her
Hmm. So if I could get Shirlee to say something socially wrong and have the public see it, her career would be destroyed?
this line is way funnier than it has any right to be.

this chapter had me laughing out loud probably half a dozen times. good shit. i don't know why the idea of this big ripped cultist dude meticulously plotting to forcibly cancel poké jojo siwa works so well but it really does. my mental image of red hunched over a desk scratching at pink construction paper with a golden glitter pen in the lamplight is so vivid. it's interesting how he simultaneously gives of creepy acolyte and overwhelming helicopter mom vibes.

i definitely chuckled the most at this chapter out of any of them so far, but it seems like less actually happens in it when compared to the previous couple— i guess it's more of a transition chapter? but there's some interesting stuff in there. in particular, this bit draws my attention:

“You needing Helix so much...” Jess says. His voice is quieter now, why? “It’s a bit like… you’re still stuck in the journey days.”

...That does it.

Without a word, I turn around and exit the room.

“Red, please,” he calls after me. “Stay and we’ll talk about th-”

Shutting the door behind me cuts him off. I descend the stairs without looking back.
red getting pissed at jess' comment definitely has me wondering why it rubbed him the wrong way to the extent it did. my knowledge of tpp lore is pretty tenuous, but i know your version of red was controlled by "The Voices" and was basically not in control of himself for a good bit, if not all, of his journey, right? so i'm kind of wondering what the dynamic between him and jess (who i believe is a pokémon he caught on his journey) is, seeing as red is for the most part in control of his own actions at this point in time even though he wasn't when he and jess spent most of their time together. i wonder how their relationship has developed since that point...?

something i've noticed about your style is that it's very stream-of-consciousness and conversational, which really works since we're trying to get into the head of this pretty unhinged guy. but it leads to a lot of these really funny moments where red's brain just works in such comically absurd ways. even when his mind is running off on tangents, it's pretty amusing amusing to read. i think that mode of writing really works for you here.

i'm not really sure what to actually expect going into the next chapter— the end of this one had kind of a foreboding, sinister feeling somehow? but it's just a hotel and shirlee, who has thus far proven to be pretty innocuous. i'll be interested to see where it goes from here, but for now, good stuff as always.
 

canisaries

voted most likely to be edgy
Location
the middle of nowhere
Pronouns
she/her
uni continues to kick me booty but here we are with chapter 5. wanted to add a scene and trudged through three quarters of it until i realized it just didnt fit into the story properly and had to trash it. sad

rated teen as always enjoy

---

CHAPTER FIVE
Lust for Blood and Prawns


---​

The lobby of Celadon Hotel is a lot more elegant than one would expect from its sleek, modern exterior. The floor below is spotless and outstandingly shiny despite its humble, organic material of beige wood. Must be very durable, too, if mon like the two-meter-tall bear I’m following are allowed in - any normal floor would show more signs of wear from their heavy stomps and strong claws.

Cuboid pillars flank the main pathway of the room, rising all the way up to the high, white ceiling. The pillars are painted white as well, but the front planes mostly glow a brilliant green from the lush vines and leaves covering them. Chairs and tables of wood and leaf-green fabric are scattered near the also-white walls, a few of them occupied by stylishly clothed men and women in conversation or on their phones. The bubbling of a fountain can be heard in the air, but I can’t find any water in the room, meaning it either resides elsewhere or the noise is just on playback.

I don’t get to take the room’s atmosphere for long, though, as the white bear lumbers onward. His stern glances over his suit-covered shoulder make sure I’m not straying. Not that I would dream of it. With those gargantuan paws armed with curved, black claws several centimeters long, the mon would likely shatter my entire shoulder girdle were he to grab me.

“This way,” says the mon in his deep voice and makes a sharp turn for the elevator. We enter through its tan wooden doors as another passenger exits. The inside of the elevator provides yet another style change as the shaft's walls more resemble the exterior of the building. More greenhouse-tunnels climb up along it and weave between the darker wall tiles like angular, leafy millipedes. The mon pokes the button for the ninth floor. As the doors close, they encase us in a brief silence, which then leads to a hum and upward acceleration.

I study my travel companion. Arktos was his name. At least I'm guessing it’s a he - with an unknown mon, I can’t be sure. His paws rest at his sides and his eyes stick to the elevator’s meter, inching up with every new floor. The beard of frost on his muzzle and neck glitters in the changing lighting, the tiny crystals reflecting the rays in pastel colors. It’s clear that he’s an ice type, but does he have a secondary type? I can’t see through that suit, but he seems quite muscular. Fighting? Or dark? He’s rather intimidating.

Intimidating… surely an apex predator in the wild. Did I tempt fate during the ride here when I wished to someday meet someone like that? Naturally not, as there’s no such thing as fate, but I can’t deny what an interesting coincidence this is…

Arktos’s eyes flick to me, halting my respiration mid-breath.

“You appear to be staring at me,” he says, powerful teeth flashing between his black lips.

I jerk my head away. “Sorry,” I mumble. My heart contracts more wildly. My knife hand is twitching. My instincts are whispering at me to bolt. But I know he won’t do anything, he can’t. This response is ancient, from a time before society, law, safety. For him to be able to evoke this reaction… he truly is a predator. My equal.

“You haven’t met a beartic before, have you?”

Beartic? I overpower my fear and glance back. He doesn’t sound threatening. My pulse lets itself slow down somewhat.

“That’s understandable,” Arktos continues. “My wild cousins don’t live in the Tohjo area, even if the winters are nice and cold here. Never happened to wander here, I suppose.”

The elevator slows to a stop and dings. We exit into a hall from which two long corridors originate, wooden doors marked with golden numbers peppered throughout the walls of both. The wall ahead of us is glass, showcasing the dimming city outside. It’s like a starry sky far below instead of above. We’re quite high up.

Arktos leads me to the left corridor and past its numerous doors until he stops before the one numbered 931. He curls a paw into a fist and lightly knocks four times.

“Who is it?” calls out a familiar voice - Shirlee. A cartoonishly unsubtle attempt at allure is embedded in her tone.

“Your guest is here, Ms Tanner,” the beartic responds.

“Coming,” the inkay coos. A buzz appears in my left wrist. The seal is reacting to her telekinesis again. I’ll have to live with it patching in and out for the duration of our meet.

The door opens, showing the big star herself. But she's different from the night at my house, all dressed up in… I have no idea what that headpiece looking thing covering her mantle and draping down behind her is called. I can only say that it's silky and deep red and assumably helps hide her identity by concealing her signature star marking and three-pronged head fin.

Her accessories are easier to process, at least. Bracelets of thin golden chains loop around the ‘wrists’ of her longer tentacles, as someone unfamiliar with mollusks would call them. I guess this is what squid fashion is.

“Red! It's so great to see you!” she cheers, floating back to give us space. Arktos gestures me to enter, and I do.

“It's great to see you too,” I reply, unable to come up with anything creative in time. My lips ache at the smile I force. Yeah, well, get used to it.

The door closes behind me. Arktos has left us alone. Good - he can't stop me from executing any plan I may come up with.

“Please, have a seat,” Shirlee says, hovering over to the off-white couch in the corner.

I thank her and do as asked, watching my shins as I shuffle them between the couch and the fine wooden table. The cushions are quite firm. I guess they prioritized the look when designing it.

I survey the hotel room, though don't get very far before something hogs my gaze completely - a water tank tall enough to fit a human. A powerhead attached hums at its top, and a filter lies at the bottom, but I can't tell what the harness-type object hanging beside it is for. Petals of rose float on the surface of the water, drifting in the gentle currents and fluttering faintly at the air bubbles escaping from beneath. Fancy.

This must be her bed, meaning inkay prefer to sleep in water as well. At least this one does.

“So,” starts Shirlee, tentacles twirling together, “like I said, I have a surprise for you. Wait here!”

I nod and she floats off to another room. The buzzing in my wrist softens, but strengthens again as the inkay returns, holding a plain white box with her tentacles. What could be in it? I don't think it’d make sense for her to get me jewelry this soon. Do women even get men jewelry? I’ve never seen it on TV, at least. Jewelry is nice, though. Kohath had jewelry…

“Go ahead, open it!” she urges as she places the box on the table and slides it to me. I guess I have to accept this surprise.

Slowly, I grab and lift the lid of the box. Inside lies... a charger, a pair of earbuds and a black, shiny rectangle. A smartphone. A phone…?

“For me?” I ask.

“Yeah! Isn't it great?” Shirlee gushes. “Now we can keep in touch so much better! And, well, your life in general will be so much more convenient too, as you'll have the internet wherever you go! We already got all the SIMs and plans and whatnot, so don't worry about those. Details are on here.” She points to a piece of paper in the box, one I didn't notice on my initial look. I guess I’ll ask someone at home about that.

But I… I can’t use this. But she’s going to make me use this, isn't she? Force me to… trigger those memories again?

“...Is something wrong?” she asks, cheer dropping. Oh shit, I can't be looking glum now.

“Oh, no, no,” I laugh, “I was just… surprised, that's all. This is a lot to do for someone…”

“Nah, it was nothing - I have a whole crew, remember? And nothing's too much for you, given how you've helped me.” She winks. People actually do that?

“Anyway,” she continues, grabbing the lid with telekinesis and setting it back on the box, “we can get back to this later. Right now, we ought to get going - we have a reservation at the restaurant around the corner.”

As soon as floats off to get her purse, I can sigh in relief. I won’t have to use the phone. Not yet, anyway… will I have to once we get back?

Well, that means I’ll have to get as much use out of that restaurant visit as I can. Once we come back, I’ll have to use a lot of my energy just not to flip the fuck out.

Oh Gods, I’ve been quiet and still for an awfully long time. I better say something.

“Oh, that sounds lovely.” I ask, getting up and quickly away from that evil box. “What kind of restaurant is it?”

“Just a general one, I guess,” she replies, zooming to the door. “I didn't know if you had any special preferences, so I went with the safe option.” Her tentacles wriggle in excitement. “Another problem that'll be gone when I can just text you! Don't you just love technology?”

Gods no, I think as I force myself to nod. But I am interested in that restaurant. I expect the food to be of high quality, and I’ve been getting somewhat hungry, anyway. Not to mention people put their guard down when dining. I'll be more likely to get new information out of her, hopefully something I can use to bring her down.

“Well, here we go!” Shirlee chimes as she opens the door. I follow her closely as she floats out, though give the white box on the table one last glance before the door is closed. No, it’s alright. I’ll worry about it then. Right now, I should make the most of what I have.

Right outside stands Arktos, apparently having stayed in guard of the door this whole time. There’s something new in his dark eyes. Worry?

“Ms Tanner?” the beartic says, stepping closer.

The inkay’s attention almost goes uncaught, but after a second, the words pierce through her haze of thoughts. She turns to Arktos with an inquisitive hum.

Arktos clasps his paws together. “Are you sure going without an escort is a good idea?”

Shirlee’s smaller tentacles curl. I recognize the gesture as one of irritation, then realize that I must be quite a rarity among humans for knowing this body language so well. Something to be proud of, I suppose, though some would argue I shouldn't get any prouder than I already am.

"I'll be fine," she replies, inner indignance leaking into the voice. "I'm psychic, and no one would dare try anything in the middle of Celadon. And, besides…"

A cold, wet touch at my hand makes me flinch. I glance down and see the club of her tentacle pressing against it.

If only for a split second, it felt like I was with Him again.

"I do have an escort, don't I?" she coos.

Arktos grunts and shoots me freezing glare. "He's among the people I'm worried about…"

Now it's Shirlee's turn to grunt. "We'll be fine," she says, slips her club onto my palm and pulls me away with the added help of her suction cups. I follow without protest, eager to get away from the suspicious bear as well.

Arktos sighs heavily. "Alright then, Ms Tanner. I'll stay in watch of your room while you're away."

"Good," chirps Shirlee and detaches her suckers from me, but keeps her club where it is. I don't know if I'm expected to answer her grab. What message would that send? I want to be close to her, but I don't want to imply romantic interest when she wouldn't share it.

Unless she… oh no.

Once we reach the elevator, she flinches and withdraws her club. "Oh, sorry," she says. "I should've asked first."

"N-no, it's alright," I reply almost automatically. I guess I'm getting used to this whole 'being agreeable' thing.

She presses the button for the elevator and turns to me properly. "Sorry about Arktos, too," she adds, tentacles clasped. "It's his job to be suspicious of people. Please don't take it personally."

"It's fine, I understand."

She's apologetic... I suppose that's good news. It means she doesn't consider me indebted to her. And she shouldn't, even after that gift she got me. I didn't ask for it, I didn't want it. My kind words and hospitality I knew were wanted, while that phone is the exact opposite --

No, no, forget about the phone for now. You need to focus on Shirlee, remember? Get all you can out of this while you still can.

The elevator arrives, and we enter. With the hums of the closing doors and our descent providing cover, I take deep breaths. You can do this. Things are gonna go just fine.

---​

“Ah, warmth!” she sighs as we finally step through the door of the restaurant. Already forgot its name. It was something Kalosian, I think.

But never mind that - what the hell are you doing, sighing about warmth? You’ve been warm for nearly the whole way here, unlike the unfortunate soul who had to give you his coat because you wouldn’t stop dropping hints about how cold you were. If you’d only taken your own coat, my skin wouldn’t be burning with a freezing flame right now, but noooooo, you wanted to take your purse because it went with your jewelry and it didn’t go with any coat you had there. You said it was alright as the restaurant was only a quick walk away and I, the fool, believed you, only to find out you’d vastly underestimated the distance because you usually only went there with a car. And you didn’t want the car this time because you thought the evening and the city were so pretty tonight and the moonroof of the limo didn’t show enough.

And for the final kick in the nuts, you acknowledged all these things with a laugh, like that would make it all okay and just a little funny joke. Good thing the winter was there to literally cool my head.

At least we’re finally here. I’ll get the food I deserve, and she can’t talk with her beak full. Unless she’s one of those people. Dear Gods, don’t let her be one of those people.

“Good evening,” Shirlee says, and I snap out of my thoughts. She’s talking to the woman behind the counter, who I’m guessing is the receptionist. I glance at the coat rack and see mine hanging there.

“I’m Shirley Tanner, though you probably already knew that,” Shirlee continues, smiling. “My date and I have a reservation.”

“Yes, of course. Right this way,” responds the woman, standing up and beginning to walk. I hurry over to Shirlee, who’s already gesturing me to follow.

The woman leads us to a table for two not too far away. She asks us if the table is to our liking. I nod to Shirlee, not that she notices, as she affirms right away. The woman tells us a waitress will arrive shortly and leaves us to seat ourselves.

Now that we’re alone, I could ask a thing I’m at least a little curious about.

“You used your real name?” I ask quietly as I sit down. “I thought celebrities like you liked to use pseudonyms.”

“Elsewhere, yeah, but here it isn’t necessary,” replies Shirlee with a dismissing wave of her tentacle, its bracelet gleaming in the chandeliers’ light. “This place is a hive for celebs.” She swivels around, searching the room with her gaze, then stops at a certain direction, eyes wide. “Woah, like him!”

I squint my eyes, trying to spot anything out of the ordinary, but fail. The walls are velvety red with dark wooden paneling on the lower parts and the floor seems to be made of that same wood. Small chandeliers hang from the ceiling, illuminating the furniture below - the chairs with swirling carvings and the tables with tablecloths white like fresh snow. Most of the tables are full with people as fancy as the ones in Celadon Hotel, enjoying their colorful meals or patiently waiting for them. I scan each of their faces, but find none I would recognize.

I give up. “Who?”

“Can’t you see him? Oswin Lyndon! Right there!” She points as hard as one can while still managing to stay relatively inconspicuous. I think she means the wide-nosed bald Unovan guy in the blue suit.

“Who’s that?”

“You know, Oddish Boy?”

“Uhh...” What the hell kind of name is that?

“You don’t know who Oddish Boy is?” Shirlee hisses in disbelief, though covers her beak right after, having realized her volume. “I’ve never met anyone who didn’t know Oddish Boy,” she adds in a softer tone.

A tick of unease skitters on the back of my brain. It’s true that I don’t keep up with the latest celebrities or even the older ones, and that could be a problem. If I appear too unordinary, she’ll get suspicious of me. Why would someone not in the loop of the current trends become such a big fan of a pop star? She’d look more into my background and find out all kinds of things - my journey with the Twitch, my skipping and later dropping out of high school, my bond with my lord, and possibly even my… oh Gods, I definitely can’t let her think I’m abnormal. Who knows how deep those private investigators can dig.

“S-so who is Oddish Boy?” I blurt. I need to find out how big my mistake is.

“A rapper. Like, a really big one.”

Oh, thank the Gods. No one important.

“That explains it, then,” I laugh. “I don’t listen to rap much.”

“That’s still odd… he has several hits, playing on just about every station.”

“Haven’t listened to the radio in a bit, either. Computer’s been occupied, I’ve had no phone and no car and all that...”

Shirlee beams. “Well, it’s good that now you have a phone, then. You can find out about all the musicians that way. And hear more of my songs, too!” Gods no...

Her face abruptly loses its joy. “Oh, right.” She looks down at the menu before her. “We should probably decide what we’re gonna get before the waitress comes,” she says, levitating the dark crimson paper and returning the buzz to my wrist, not that I’d noticed it had left.

True, I should pick my meal. Finally she’s right about something.

I open my own menu and skim through my options. Onion soup, cheese plate, lentils, tamato stew, snails, mushroom steak… no mon meat to be seen. Damn, I guess I won’t be trying anything actually rare then.

There’s no way this restaurant couldn’t afford mon meat if they wanted to buy it. Its absence must be because of ideological reasons. Ugh. It doesn't matter if it's from a savage wild mon or a mon dead from natural causes. It doesn't even matter if it’s a slowpoke’s tail painlessly cut off - people just keep saying it's immoral and despicable. Yet, for a wild mon, it's perfectly natural to maul and eat a human…

But what else can I expect from the human race? As soon as they received non-stop shelter, safety and food, they begun to worry about all kinds of non-issues - rights of the poor and weak, rights of mon, equality for all… it makes me sick. Only a few beings are like me, unbridled by feelings of pity or guilt. We are the ones truly strong, yet the blind continue to rule. We are the ones who remember our roots and the fact that this civilization was built by humans, not mon. If mon truly were our equals, they'd have been the ones to craft the first kingdom.

No need to waste time dwelling on that, though. In due time, HE will merge with me and return the world to its rightful state. When that day comes, I will feed on anything and anyone I want.

“Picked anything yet?” Shirlee’s voice asks, bursting my thought bubble. I look up and see her staring at me, her menu closed on the table already.

“Uhh…” I speed through my options again. “I think I’ll have the prawns.” Because it’s flesh, it isn't snails and I’m okay with prawns. My lord likes them far more than me, though.

“Me too!” she laughs. “I guess it’s kind of a cephalopod thing...”

Please, you hardly count. I haven’t seen you swim even once and you barely use your tentacles for anything.

Soon after, the waitress arrives, asking if we’re ready to order. Yes, prawns for both, Shirlee tells her. Appetizers? Shirlee declines, says we only have limited time. What would we like to drink?

“Grepa wine for me, and, uhh…” Shirlee stops to stare at me. “How old were you again? Are you allowed to drink alcohol?”

“Eighteen. So I could, but I don't really want to.”

“So, like… soda for you, then, or --"

“Water. Just water. Please.” I may be from Pallet Town, but I’m not going to order a common soda from a high-end restaurant.

“Alright, anything else?” chirps the waitress, and upon receiving a negative answer, heads off.

“So,” begins Shirlee, leaning on her suckers, “you said that one night you'd like to know more about me… does that still stand?”

Well, it must. “Of course,” I reply, smiling. I hope she says something useful soon so that I can tune out and start working on a plan as fast as possible.

“Well… I’ll start from the beginning, then.” She clears her throat. “As you probably know, I grew up on a kelp farm at Undella Bay…”

With those words begun a grand, riveting adventure through the life and times of Shirley Tanner. Or so it would have probably been if I’d actually cared. I tried to, Gods did I try - for my lord’s sake - but all I got out of her stories was a sharp, stinging deja vu. I’d been disappointed in the exact same way as I was when watching that video of hers.

I could try to track down any of the childhood friends she's mentioned and use their influence to have her make a career-ruining style change, but I can't visualize a scenario of that actually working. My lord is likely so attached to her by now that He’d listen to anything she'd put out, rendering that whole feat useless.

However… I guess I do know one aspect of her that may be used against her. Drinking. She hasn't gotten to that part yet, though. She’s still talking about her childhood, more accurately her teenage years - or the years that correspond to those in an inkay’s life cycle.

How long have I been here now? An urge to check my watch comes, but I have to suppress it. I can't do that in front of Shirlee. She's supposed to think I’m interested.

I let my eyes wander around the table instead. Napkins, water pitcher, plates, glasses, forks, knives… knife… touch the knife.

I’m unable to stop my right hand before it complies. The loss of control is troubling, but the metal of the blade… smooth, shiny, strong. Feel the edge. It's serrated, formed to saw through the most stringy of materials. The dips and points are like waves of a steely sea… the demise of any seafarer. Feel the handle. The handle is wood, silky and dark like a swellow’s feather. Grab it. With pleasure… it fits in my palm so perfectly. Now, stab her.

...No. I can’t do that.

Why not? You’d get rid of her so fast, and don’t tell me you don’t want to do it...

Murder is illegal. There are plenty of witnesses here. How many times do I have to tell you this?

Then take her somewhere private and do it there.

If I could do that, don’t you think I would have done it already? Actions have consequences, you brain-damaged primeape. I thought you would’ve learned your lesson back when the inkay was at our house. That was already too close a call...

Actions have consequences, yes… like how shoving that knife into her pink, fleshy mantle and tearing it open would cause all kinds of organs and fluids to leak out. Mollusks have blue blood, you know… it’d be pretty exotic...

Stop. Stop putting those images in my head. They’re bad. You’re going to get me in trouble. Us both. You don’t want to get locked up any more than I do.

So what are you going to do, then? Stay here, nodding like a bobblehead as this waste of living tissue vomits her memoirs directly into your ear canals?

Yes. And I’m going to do a great job at it. Just to piss you off. Now leave, I want to think about how great the prawns are going to be instead.

They’re just going to suck and you know it.

I imagine a black satin sack and shove it on the urging voice’s head. Whatever he tries to say is too muffled for me to hear or consider. I pull my hand away from the knife and place it on my lap. As a reward for overcoming my more primal side, I allow myself a quick peek at the watch on my wrist. I now know the time, but… I didn’t check it before, so it doesn’t tell me much of anything.

Motion appears at the corner of my vision, which turns out to be the waitress carrying two plates and a bottle. Thank Arceus, even if he had nothing to do with this as he is only a fraud.

“Prawns for two,” announces the waitress as she arrives, shutting up Shirlee at least momentarily. She sets the plates on the table - oh, those prawns look and smell so good - and pours Shirlee a glass of the clear, yellowish liquid. The inkay seems delighted by what's been put in front of her as well, nodding and thanking.

“Bon appétit,” the waitress says and leaves.

Oh my Gods, yes, finally. The prize for my patience. See, primal side? It pays off.

Those prawns aren't going to last forever.

Alright, I’m putting the bag back on.

I grab the fork and knife, free of the urge to stab from before. I dig the prongs of the fork into a beautiful, magikarp-orange prawn, some of its juice oozing out from below. Yes, this is good. This is great!

I sigh in contentment. Maybe tonight won’t be so bad after all.

...Right. The phone.

Ugh.

---​
 

canisaries

voted most likely to be edgy
Location
the middle of nowhere
Pronouns
she/her
new chapter, get your new chapter here, only zero dollars. rated teen enjoy pls like comment and subscribe

---

CHAPTER SIX
I Celadon't Want to Be Here


---​

“Man, it feels so good to drink without having to show a license or ask some guy on the street to buy me some…” Shirlee sighs. Arktos opens the door to her room and, like before, stays outside as we enter.

The door closed behind us, Shirlee claps her tentacles together. “Alright! Now you can start up your phone!” She floats over to the couch and plops down, eyes on me and waiting.

I stare at the white box resting on the table, just where we left it. It gets harder to breathe.

Do I have to do this? Couldn’t I just do this at home with the help of Abe or Fonz or even Jess? They know the issues I have and give me my space. But what could I say to her? I’m supposed to be normal. A phobia of screens and interfaces in this era is anything but that.

Okay, okay, okay. Maybe it won’t be that bad. Luck can sometimes favor me, too. Like it did with the prawns at the restaurant. They were fantastic. Yeah, everything is fine. It's going to go just swell.

I skitter to the couch and seat myself, mouth in a tense smile. I grab the lid of the box and lift it… stop shaking, hands, stop shaking.

“Whoa, you seem kinda shaky. Are you alright?” asks Shirlee. Dammit.

“Y-yeah, I’m fine, I’m just… slowly realizing what's happening,” I respond. “I mean, I just had dinner with the Shirlee, and now I’m getting a phone from her. You.”

“Oh, okay,” she laughs. “There’s no need to be stressed, though. Like I said in my vid, I’m just a person. And you're doing great, anyway!”

I force a chuckle. It comes out pretty nervous, but I suppose that only helps my narrative.

After a second or two of gathering my courage, I yank off the lid fully and place it aside. The black rectangle nested between cords of different grays stares back, soulless. Wary of anything suddenly flashing on the screen, I lift it up and bring it to my lap. Nothing yet.

“So… how do you turn it on?” I ask.

“The same as your last phone, probably.” She pauses. “Or… when did you last have a phone?”

“Uhh...” I only remember the phone I had as a kid, from a time before smartphones had spread like a pandemic. Man, I liked those old phones. Small screens, nothing like computers, could use ‘em with your gloves on. They should come back.

Oh, shit, right. The conversation. “I’m not sure… some years ago, I guess.”

“Well, anyway,” Shirlee starts and takes the phone, “you hold this button at the side until it lights up, like...” The device vibrates briefly, and a white icon appears in the middle of the screen - a stylized silhouette of a leppa berry. “This.”

She returns the phone to my hands, which I wish she didn’t, but I guess I can’t do anything but go along with this.

The screen lights up. It’s white. Oh Gods. No, no, you’ve got this. It won’t be like back then. That’s all behind you. You’re safe. A word appears. It’s black. Hello. See? The PCs never did that.

A grid appears, of numbers. Boxes of numbers. Boxes. White. Enter the passcode. Enter the password to access the… t-the…

“Oh, it’s just… four-five, let me… that.” Shirlee’s speaking. I hear her words, but her words are unclear.

Covered! Screen covered. I’m back. I’m back here again. Close your eyes. I’m back here. Come to your senses. Shirlee’s pressing on the screen. Why? What did she say before? I open my eyes, but fling them to the wall as the white is revealed again. I can’t look.

“You should probably change it later,” Shirlee says. Change what? The passcode? The passcode. Four-five. One-two-three-four-five. A placeholder. Okay. Got it.

But the white. I can’t look, it’s too similar to… I can’t look. Can it go away? How can I make it go away?

“Hey, is there, uhh...” I start, lungs still tight. “Way to make the... stuff… darker?” I wave my hand above the screen, trying to make up for the words I lack.

“Oh, like a dark theme?”

“Yeah, exactly.”

“I bet there is. Hold on, I’ll get it.”

The weight leaves my hand and I can exhale deeply. I hear taps, tap tap tap. The white sheen goes away. I dare to glance, hopeful. The screen is not white. It’s dark gray.

“There you go,” says Shirlee, again returning the phone to me. This time it doesn’t hurt.

“Thanks,” I breathe. Actual gratitude was in those words.

“No prob. So, what do you wanna do next? I already added my number before, so don’t worry about that. It was like the first thing I did.” She laughs lightly, then clears her throat. “Anyway, what’cha wanna do? Download some apps?”

The flames of before are now extinguished, but I don’t want to try my luck. The best course of action to take right now is to put the phone away. In the end, I’ll look more normal down that path.

“Well, actually, I can probably figure that out on my own later...” I put the phone back in its box, screen down. I look at Shirlee, at her eyes, finding peace in the organic forms and tissues. “I feel like… we should be together now that we have the time.”

“Oh… yeah, you have a point…” Oh, thank the Gods, she’s not resisting the idea.

I smile encouragingly. “So, anything more you'd like to tell me about yourself?”

“No, no, I’ve talked about myself enough today,” she replies, shaking her head… or entire body. “And you already know so much about me. I want to know more about you!”

“O-oh?” This… will be tricky.

“Yeah! Your childhood, your likes and dislikes, hobbies, school, all that!”

“Ah, I don't know, I’m not all that interesting…” Take the hint. Please.

“No, I wanna know! I insist! It's only fair. So, how was growing up for you?”

She’s not backing down… oh Gods, I’m going to need to lie a lot now. About everything.

“Uhh… well,” I start, fingers rubbing together, “I was born in Pallet Town, I’ve lived in the same house for all my life…”

“What's your family like?”

Family… ugh. The father I don't know, the mother I wish I didn't, the half brother who just kind of exists… “Uh, single mother, younger brother, two mon… housemates… pretty standard.” Don't think I’ll include the rest of my team. They come over either rarely or never, and I doubt Shirlee would like me implying I own them. Even if they weren't free mon.

“Oh, how'd you end up living with those two mon?”

A horde of interdimensional voices in my head told me to get both. “I, well… the nidoking I befriended in the wild when he was young, and the omanyte…” I have to pause to think. “I adopted Him from some scientists after He’d been restored from a fossil.”

“That's awesome! You're so generous. He’s the one who was also a fan of mine, right?”

“Yeah, that’s Him.” Please don’t ask more. I don’t know how to make my relationship to Him sound normal.

“Oh, it's a shame I can't meet Him,” Shirlee sighs. “It'd surely make His day, but I just really need to keep my private life secret.”

I nod. You and me both, honey.

“Okay, next subject. How’s your school? You’re in high school now, correct?”

Incorrect. “Yeah, high school. It’s going pretty well, I guess...”

“Got any friends?”

Someone who I’d like to be around and vice versa? Excluding my lord - that’ll be the day. “A couple, I guess.”

“What do y’all do together?”

Hold hands and skip on hills while singing about how much we respect each other. Do I look like I know what friends do together? Why do you even want to know these things?

“Just… stuff.” Come on, come up with something. “We don’t hang out that much, to be honest, just see each other at school.”

“Oh… so what do you do in your alone time, then?”

I… oh Gods, what do I do? Normally I tend to His wishes, but nowadays He’s distracted and Fonz is taking the most care of Him, anyway. I work out, yeah, but usually only once a day and it’s over with quite fast… where does all the time go, then? Do I just sit around wallowing in my own hatred for the world while accomplishing nothing?

No, of course not. That's a silly thought. I do all kinds of things. I just can't remember them right now.

Four knocks come from the door. “Ms Tanner?” calls a gruff voice - Arktos. Phew, saved by the bear.

“Coming,” responds Shirlee. “Sorry, I probably need to take this,” she adds to me before zooming to the door. With her telekinesis, she cracks it open. “Yes?”

“Anders is here,” says the beartic, voice lowered.

Shirlee’s words get quieter, too. “What, the time’s up already?”

“Well, it's a couple minutes short, but he says it's important.”

“Hrmh…” She turns to me, disheartened.

I notice an opportunity and stand up. “It's alright. We can always talk more at another time.”

“I suppose…” She unhooks the chain on the door, bringing more of Arktos to view. A tuft of ghostly gray hair peeks out behind his shoulder.

I restrain my smile to an appropriate degree as I walk to the door. I grab the handle, but Shirlee interrupts.

“Wait, don't forget your phone!” She swoops up the white box on the table and hands it to me.

“Oh, thanks.” Yeah, thanks.

“I’ll be texting you!” says Shirlee as I exit the door. “Don't forget to text back!”

“I won't. See you later.” As they were the last words, I had the energy to make them more convincing.

“Hey, mister,” says Arktos, freezing me in place. Gods, he sure has a daunting voice. “I’ll call the ride for you, he’ll be here soon.”

I nod. “Got it. Thanks.”

The beartic opens the door, and a man walks into view from behind him. Oldish, Unovan, sharp black eyebrows. Weird. I think I smelled a hint of cigarette smoke around him.

Well, whatever. It's time for me to make my well-deserved exit. I can't wait to get to bed and fall to a deep, sweet sleep, oblivious to the situation I’ve found myself in.

---​

Then there was Juzo. Oh my Gods, I wish I didn't remember Juzo, that fat piece of shit. Always wheezing in laughter with each insult the jackass brigade threw at me. Would’ve kicked his shit in too if the ones calling me a snailfucker or flashing screens in my face didn’t take priority.

And giggling in the sidelines too, there was Annie, who was just… such an annoying bitch, which every other girl agreed on with me. Not that they were any good, either. I swear, no one at that school was deserving of the oxygen they breathed. Everyone was just terrible. Except maybe Tamaki, who I guess was okay because he let me pay him to beat him up, but outside of that he was of no use to anyone.

Dammit. Why did she have to bring up school? All kinds of bad memories are flooding my mind now. As if I needed to feel any worse.

At least I get to go home now, even if that means having to tolerate that bearded grinning fuck for the whole way home…

As soon as that thought crosses my mind, something long and shiny slides into view on the street outside. The sneasel has arrived.

It’s fine, it’s fine, I think to myself as I get up and leave through the entrance. But as I reach the limo’s side and that nutcracker-looking ass steps out… something changes.

I can’t do this. I’ve met my limit. I’ve been tortured with never-ending blabbering. I’ve had my old wounds ripped right open with my face forced onto that screen. I’ve been interrogated and played with like the puppet that she was supposed to be in this scenario. The churning waves of fury are crashing onto my ears, millipedes of fire scratch their way through my veins. And now you - you want to talk to me? Inject yourself into my headspace? Dive into the scalding sea and expect not even a singe?

You’re totally right. He should pay with his blood...

And now look what you’ve done. You’ve brought this guy back. He’s going to slip himself into my skin at any moment and cause irreversible damage, unless I…

“Good evening!” some unknown strength in me comes forth to say. It constructs an impossible smile. “Sorry, but do you mind if I take a quick walk around before we leave? It’s a pretty night and a pretty town.”

The driver’s eyebrows rise. “Oh? Well, are you sure you won’t get lost?”

I hand him the box and he takes it - because he has to. I do like this power. “I’m sure, I won’t go too far. I’ll be back in just five minutes.”

“Alright, then. I’ll wait in the car.” The man shoves himself back in his seat, and I skitter off like a cockroach in a sudden spotlight.

I turn a corner and lean against it. Blood still boils within my brain. Blood, the oil and the fuel of this machine, this body that yearns to kill, to destroy, to hunt. Prey walk these streets, so comfortable and unsuspecting, necks begging for a bite, sacks of flesh waiting to be torn into… I want to kill. I have to kill. I have to go back and break that driver. Hands in his hair, slamming that face to the metal of the car…

I dig my gloved fingers into my scalp and slide down the wall. No, it can't be done. Stay where you are. If you kill, they'll put you down. You rabid animal. This is why you had to leave school. This is why you have no future. This is why you can't be normal.

But it's… alright. You have a way out. You just need to survive until HE is ready and then, then you'll be fine, nothing will stand in your way anymore…

Survive. Survive. Survive…

I can survive. I can manage. It's alright. I just need to survive.

My breathing slows, relaxes. The storm of blood relents. I can sense other things again. Sounds of traffic, footsteps, stray honk. Exhaust fumes and a moderate chill linger in the air. It's not the most calming environment, but I’m alone. Solitude in itself is beautiful.

I take my hands off my head and tuck them into the sleeves of my coat. Well, I remove one momentarily to swipe away my messed up bangs. It clears my vision and I can look around.

Brick and concrete surround me, the little color they had washed away by the dark and substituted with the orange of the street lights. The sky above is dirty black and starless. The clear nights in Pallet aren’t all galaxies and asteroids, either, but I’m used to seeing at least a few twinkles here and there.

I breathe in the cold and curl my toes. I’m alive. Alive with a frail human body. And that's why I can't be losing control. I’ll get myself broken. Got that, primal side?

No response. My cooling nerves seem to have hidden that inner urge for now. I can't decide if that's good.

Sighing, I check my watch, barely able to read the time in the low light of the alley. It's only been about two minutes since my last check back at the hotel. I still have time. I'm freezing up just squatting here, so I get up and start walking to generate some warmth. I don't want to get lost, though, so I keep my pace pretty slow and track all my turns...

A loud clatter rings out, making me jump like I’d just stepped on a pineco. My eyes flick around the darkness in search of the source. They spot a metal garbage can with its lid lying next to it, but no large moving things. It's unlikely to be a threat. My mind regains some clarity. The hand leaves the scabbard - or the spot where it usually would be.

I creep closer to the can, crouching to see better and look less intimidating. From the darkness beyond the metal, something stares back. It could be diseased, aggressive or both, so I keep my fingers to myself and thank my past self for putting on gloves.

“Who might you be?” I softly ask.

The creature moves back. The motion exposes the eyes - two big yellowish ones - along with a third gleam above them. I think I know what it is.

I move back a few steps and dig out my wallet. I sink two fingers into the pouch with the change and jingle the coins together. The eyes in the dark widen and silently approach. I can make out a tiny paw.

Smiling, I draw out a nickel. If the critter wasn't engaged before, it is now. It lets out a mewl and cautiously speeds up. I begin to back away, leading us both towards a streetlight. The glow eats away the shadow covering the being and my guess is confirmed.

It's a little meowth. Not a total kitten, yet not a fully grown adult. Its pale fur is somewhat dirty with awkward tufts sticking out in places, but the coin on its forehead is marvellously shiny. Shows where the priorities of the species lie.

This specimen seems pretty much feral. That's odd... I would've thought no mon could remain as such while surrounded by human activity all day, but maybe this one had no desire to learn. Or maybe its parents didn't want it to… I couldn't blame them. Plenty of times, I’ve had the thought that being born a mon and growing up feral would’ve been preferable. Why would one want the ability to lose one's happiness purely through the power of thought? Why would one want the burden of a civilized creature, for laws to apply to them? Why wouldn't one just rather refuse to take that path and remain a blissfully unaware animal? All you need is to isolate yourself and wait out that crucial learning period, then no one can sway you after that…

...if you're a mon, that is. Unfortunately, humans still manage to retain their potential for sentience. It's a must, as our wit is our only weapon against the entire arsenals that mon may bear. As mentioned before, our bodies are quite fragile and pathetic.

“Mroaw…” The meowth has stopped, its snout almost touching the coin between my fingers. Its whiskers and tiny nostrils waver.

Slowly, I pull my hand towards me. “Want it? You need to do something for me first,” I whisper. I snatch the coin with the other hand, then lower and open the first. As I’d hoped, the meowth realizes the terms of the trade and gently pokes my gloved fingers with its muzzle. I twitch the fingertips. It's unsure of the act at first, but soon it raises its head and allows me to scratch its chin.

“Good kitty,” I purr and offer the mon the coin. It nabs it from my hold with its teeth and recedes, but stops again as I show my wallet once more. There are probably humans out there who'd act exactly the same way. That thought is somewhat sad.

I repeat my process of the nickel-for-touching trade, getting to stroke the meowth’s warm soft fluff again. I may be gloved, but the creature’s heat is still noticeable in the cold environment.

I’ve lost ten cents to this now, though… I pocket my wallet, causing the cat to mrow in protest and push its head onto me.

“You want even more? Greedy kitty you are…”

I pet its neck, which now appears to be enjoyable to the meowth by itself, but it doesn't stop its begging. Its begging doesn't get me to budge, either, but I keep stroking its fur. It feels nice. It calms me down. Maybe I should catch something fluffy back at home and keep it. Gods know I could use something to douse my rage now that He’s not available…

...ugh. And now we're back to this. I almost managed to forget what I’m wrapped up in.

Why couldn't dealing with Shirlee be as easy as this meowth? Why can't her company be as tolerable? I bet I could have this cat doing backflips in just a few days, and it would only end up costing me a dollar or two. No time wasted by being bored out of my mind, no past traumas resurfaced…

My tendons have tightened again. My heart jabs at my chest. It’s all her fault. Her songs, her dances, her fame, her existence. I could end her life in just a blink of an eye, but I can't. She's protected by law and her presence in the public conscious. I have to grasp at all kinds of straws to change her both subtly and drastically at the same time. If I had my way, I’d let that urge of mine go unrestrained - not only on her, but everyone else as well. The brats from my old school, the security making my hunts so difficult, my bitch of a mother, and yes, the driver I’m probably supposed to be back to by now as well. I know that someday I’ll ascend and that will all become reality, but I have to find a way to manage in the meantime, a way to bleed this anger away before it ruins everything...

A silent, still warmth grows at my core as I realize something quite convenient.

I have that way right here.

---​

“Oh, there you are. I was starting to get worried,” says the driver as he exits the car. “Did you get lost after all?”

“Sorry, sorry,” I laugh. “I just found a little boutique and I couldn't help myself.”

“Fair enough,” he responds and opens the door for me. “Buy anything?”

“A good luck charm.” I allow him a glance at an elongated gold coin.

“Oh, that looks real. You sure it isn't?”

“Says ‘Made in Hoenn’ on the back.”

He flashes that signature grin of his. “Alright then. Let's get you home.”

---​
 

NebulaDreams

Pokémon Trainer
Partner
luxray
Chapter 4

And I guess that session with Jess also brought me some good - I wouldn't have known what to put in this one spot of the crossword I'm doing had he not taught me the word 'smugleaf'. Apparently it's an obscure synonym for a species of mon in Unova and also some kind of 'meme'.
The grand irony of not understanding memes when Red Akai himself is already a walking meme in the TPP verse.

“Oh, well,” starts Fonz, “after a close call a bit ago, We figured it’d be better if I only wore the Shirtlee in public. It’s less likely to get dirty that way.”

I hold a stare. “Did you just say ‘Shirtlee’?”

“Yeah, it’s what We call it.”
Nice.

Then, as the hour finally switches, a new video appears in the list. Its thumbnail is simply Shirlee against a featureless white background, looking serious. An Important Message, reads the title.
I can just hear the sigh coming in from the first few seconds of the video. I wonder what Shirlee would wear for the Pokemon equivalent of Halloween though... Probably this:



The pidgeot sits on the saddle-chair on his desk as usual, doing whatever people do on their computers. Having noticed my arrival, he swivels around in his saddle-chair, a smirk on his beak. He brings his wings before him, touching the tips of the feathers together. “So you have come to me again.”
Now get in the fucking robot, Red Akai.

“You needing Helix so much...” Jess says. His voice is quieter now, why? “It’s a bit like… you’re still stuck in the journey days.”

...That does it.

Without a word, I turn around and exit the room.
This passage, I found pretty interesting. Who would've known that the bird hipster would be the voice of reason in this situation? I could picture him being a future antagonist if Red wasn't already the villain.

The figure appears to be… a polar ursaring? No, it doesn’t quite match up with the polar ursaring I’ve seen in documentaries… I mean, even outside the black suit it’s wearing. Its muzzle is longer and surrounded by some peculiar type of fur… no, I don’t think that’s fur. It’s frost. This must be some species I don’t know.
Hmm, how common are black suits for bear types? Is there like a bear section in the mon store, or would it have to be custom-made? Why am I thinking about this?! Ah well, I need something to nitpick.

Chapter 5

"Good," chirps Shirlee and detaches her suckers from me, but keeps her club where it is. I don't know if I'm expected to answer her grab. What message would that send? I want to be close to her, but I don't want to imply romantic interest when she wouldn't share it.

Unless she… oh no.
Next day, Red stinks of fish.

There’s no way this restaurant couldn’t afford mon meat if they wanted to buy it. Its absence must be because of ideological reasons. Ugh. It doesn't matter if it's from a savage wild mon or a mon dead from natural causes. It doesn't even matter if it’s a slowpoke’s tail painlessly cut off - people just keep saying it's immoral and despicable. Yet, for a wild mon, it's perfectly natural to maul and eat a human…
Well, it didn't stop Le Yeah from X/Y serving 'Braciole of fresh, Azure Bay Slowpoke Tail accompanied by Payapa Berry crudités glazed in an extra-virgin Oran oil'. HMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMM.

Yes. And I’m going to do a great job at it. Just to piss you off. Now leave, I want to think about how great the prawns are going to be instead.

They’re just going to suck and you know it.

I imagine a black satin sack and shove it on the urging voice’s head.
Hashtag relatable. Though this also adds some more insight into Red's psyche. I could imagine that inner voice getting worse over time until he hits the downward spiral somewhere before HH.

Chapter 6

Then there was Juzo. Oh my Gods, I wish I didn't remember Juzo, that fat piece of shit. Always wheezing in laughter with each insult the jackass brigade threw at me. Would’ve kicked his shit in too if the ones calling me a snailfucker or flashing screens in my face didn’t take priority.
Is Red's favourite band Linkin Park, by any chance?

“Mroaw…” The meowth has stopped, its snout almost touching the coin between my fingers. Its whiskers and tiny nostrils waver.
Translation: "Change..."

“Fair enough,” he responds and opens the door for me. “Buy anything?”

“A good luck charm.” I allow him a glance at an elongated gold coin.


---

So, it's been a while since I've reviewed this, but so far, it's still been a rather fun romp through the mind of an irredeemable jackass of a main character. There are plenty of great asides and interactions here (most of chapter 4 and Red's inner voice battling with him were some of my highlights), and also little tidbits about the world which made the setting that much more fun to explore. Like the celebrities Shirlee points out, and more of the feral vs. domestic divide with Arktos, the delivery bird mon and the beggar Meowth (though it also, ahem, begs the question of how much the Pokedex entry applies to its true needs here where mon intelligence is a bit more fleshed out).

I was also surprised to see a bit more drama at this point, or slightly more drama as things gradually ramp up. Jess' conversation with Red was a good reminder that he should get his shit together, but refuses to either because of the trauma or because he's fallen that far off the deep end. This was also a good test of sanity for Red as he tries to hold himself together with the phones and his violent urges and all that. That made the conversations with Shirlee a lot more tense, even though there wasn't really much happening in the grand scheme of things.

That leads to one complaint I have, in that it feels like not much progress has been made. Red is one step closer to Shirlee, sure, since she'll possibly remain a future contact for him to manipulate, but I was expecting there to be a bit more effort on his part to pull her strings. It's kind of an odd complaint, since Red did get that far himself by sending those letters, but from 5-6, it felt like more stuff was happening to him rather than him driving the story forward in a significant way, though his reactions were a big part of maintaining that status quo. I dunno. I guess they're supposed to set up more of Shirlee's eventual downfall, so I'm still interested to see how he'll pull that off eventually. With the foreknowledge that this will only be around 10-15 chapters long, though, I wonder what the pacing will be like from here on out.

Anyways, thanks for posting, and I'm looking forward to reading more.
 

canisaries

voted most likely to be edgy
Location
the middle of nowhere
Pronouns
she/her
hooray! i am very late with this! reason is uni as always. anyway, rating is still teen this time, but unlike before, there are also some... seckshual jokes... 😳 well, enjoy

---

CHAPTER SEVEN
Digital Dummy


---​

“Honey, wake up!”

I jolt awake from the shout, heartbeat kicked to superspeed in an instant. I sit up on my bed, but see only darkness. Wh-who was that?

A blinding light rips into the blackness - a door opening. Something hovers in the frame. “Come on, sleepyhead! You’ll be late!”

The contrast relents and my surroundings sharpen. This isn’t my room. This isn’t my bed. My bed only has room for one. And that voice, that figure, it’s --

Shirlee floats deeper in. Something glints at the base of one of her smaller tentacles. Metallic, golden. A ring? No, don’t tell me…

I check my left hand. A similar ring encircles the base of the fourth finger.

A cold, wet tap on my chest yanks my attention back to the inkay. She withdraws her club. “You can admire your ring later, silly! Right now, you gotta take the kids to school!”

Th-

The kids?!

Laughter bursts out from the door. More figures pour in, each more disturbing than the last. Bodies comprised of human and inkay parts meshed together blindly. Toddlers with tentacle limbs scooting across the floor. Floating squids with human arms and baby faces. They all scream and squeal and creak among other inhuman noises. They run at me. No, stay away, don’t touch me --

“Daddy!” they shout as they jump on the bed and crawl onto me. Cold and warm and dry and slimy and hairy, all kinds of touches, that’s too much, g-get off -- ow! Did one of those bastards bite me?

Shirlee claps her tentacles. “Come on, y’all, give your daddy some space!”

The swarm of monstrosities scatters and then recompiles around Shirlee into a squirming mass. I see my window, jump off the bed and dash out of the room. The rest of the house, too, is foreign. It must be a new one we bought as we got… married… and had a family… how did that even happen? How does that work between a human and a squid? D-did I put it in the siphon?

"Okay, sweetie, I really need to head to work now," Shirlee says, emerging from the room. In her tentacles lies a mass of clothing which I've barely seen before she chucks it at me. "Here are your clothes. Love you, bye!"

With a flash and a puff, she’s gone. I didn’t know she could teleport.

A second of silence later, the abominations she called 'kids' rush back out of the bedroom, tentacles and fingers alike reaching for me. Oh Gods! I'm about to run away, but spot a stray plush teddiursa on the cupboard next to me. I grab it and fling it down the stairs. The mass of little monsters squeal and dart for the toy, and I take the chance to slip back into the bedroom and lock myself in.

Oh Gods, okay, what do I do? I need to get the fuck out of here. Not just out of this house, but out of this town. This country! I'll fly to Alola and start my life anew as a coconut farmer! Anything's an improvement over this! But where do I get the money? Ah! Got it!

I open the drawers next to the bed and snatch every piece of jewelry I can carry on my body - chains of gold on my neck, rings on my fingers and earrings through painfully improvised piercings. I remember the clothes Shirlee gave me and hastily dress myself, slip even more valuables into the pockets and finally open the window. I descend the convenient escape ladder to the side of the house and get to my car…

Shit, right. I don't actually know how to drive. I'll have to go by foot. The city seems to be to the left given all those skyscrapers on the horizon, so I run out of the yard and turn -- Arktos! And… my lord? Arktos is holding my lord?

"Oh, hello," the beartic greets, dressed in a casual top and shorts. "Haven't seen you in a while, Mr Tanner. How have you been?"

"Wh-wh-what are you doing with Him?" I wheeze, pointing at the omanyte… who, even now, is on His phone.

Arktos sighs, annoyed. "This again? Look, Red, He's our son now. Has been ever since my husband and I adopted him."

"Son?" I shout. Then, more quietly, I add, "Husband?" I wouldn't have guessed.

A tall bearded man of amber skin and a face all too familiar walks to Arktos' side. "Is there trouble, my beloved?"

"Kohath?" I squeak. It's hard to speak when you've been stabbed straight through the heart.

"Ah. You." The ancient Helixian king's eyes adopt a contemptuous glare. The yellow irides freeze my soul solid. That's HIM taking his form, alright.

"Wh-why are you with him?" I stutter, pointing now to Arktos. "How are you even --"

"Because," Kohath snarls, startling me to silence. He raises a hand to stroke the neck of the beartic. "He is a predator worthy of my blessing," he continues. "Strong, fearsome… and unlike you, the size of his phallus does not arouse pity in the beholder."

My face burns up. "My dick isn't small! It's average! L-look at any medical book and you'll --"

"Silence!" he roars, and I wince. “It is irrelevant now. I have other matters to attend to, such as starting the apocalypse. And speaking of...” He checks his watch. “Yes, it is about time.”

About time for --

Kohath’s body erupts into something several times his size and entirely inhuman. With an ear-splitting screech from the colossal, many-limbed worm, the skies turn an infernal red. All vegetation rots to black in an instant, setting afloat a gut-churning stench of death. Oh Gods, oh Gods, no!

“See you later, honey,” Arktos says, thoroughly unfazed, and paces off with my lord nested in his claws. “Be home by six!”

The worm screeches back, then turns to me with its shredder-like mouth dripping with drool. Oh Gods. Oh fuck. It lunges at me!

“No! Please!” I cover myself with my arms, as if it’s going to help somehow. The earth rumbles, probably from some other distant catastrophe, but it doesn’t really matter as I’m about to become minced meat! The ground softens before me and...

Wait, why?

The monster is gone. The sky is gone. I just see a ceiling. Oh. I’m in my bedroom. It was all a dream. No, the rumble is back! But that's not a rumble, that's more like a buzz. And now it stopped. It came from the nightstand... oh. The smartphone.

I drag the phone over to my bed. 2 New Messages, reads the screen. Must be Shirlee. Or spam. Um, I should probably check them. How do I do that? And will it... hurt?

Slide to unlock screen. Okay, I can do that. Okay, now I need to input the passcode. I can do that too. The home screen opens. In the array of icons, one resembling a letter has a bright red badge on its corner with the number two. Must be the texting app. Bracing myself for any whites that could set off some painful thoughts again, I tap on the icon. Whew, okay, looks like this interface is dark too.

I tap on Shirlee’s section as it retains the badge from before - not that I seem to have any other contacts to choose from - and her messages are finally displayed.

(10:22) good morning!
(10:22) enjoyin your new phone?


Ugh, this isn’t anything important. Why’d you wake me up for this at -- wait, ten in the morning? I guess I forgot to set my alarm. I was pretty tired when I got home last night. But it’s not like that’s a big deal, given I don’t have anything to hurry for as long as I’m still invisible to Him.

I guess I should still respond somehow, though. I tap to write my message, and the keyboard pops up - white. My back hardens to a shell. The little pump inside me returns to the pace it gained during the end of my dream.

This can't go on like this. If I’m going to be the confidant of a modern star, I need to move on to the modern age. And the sad truth is, technology is everywhere at every time. So… I suppose I should just suck it up the best I can and keep going. Eventually, the fear has to go away.

Morning, I type, not exactly at any record speed. It's great since I get to talk to you. Well, that nearly made me throw up. Send.

Shirlee’s typing. Already?

(10:24) aww lol
(10:24) so what else is up

Not much. Just woke up. How about you?

(10:24) gettin ready to leave for viridian
(10:24) anders said we gotta leave early to figure some stuff out at the arena
(10:24) (my manager)
(10:24) anyway p hectic
(10:24) annoyed rn since this one roadies an ass and keeps bein rude to security
(10:25) id kick him right away but like anders owes his dad a favor or some shit and he gave him a job
(10:25) but this guy is such a douche like


She's still typing. I might as well do my morning chores while she rants.

I turn off the phone's screen, which now prompts another buzz with every new reply. Because that's not annoying. Ugh, I’ll just bear it, I guess. I don't feel like trekking through the settings to search for a mute mode right now.

I get up, heading for the door, but a golden glint on the nightstand catches my eye. A smile creeps on my face. That’s right. I hunted yesterday, didn't I? And that coin is my trophy. A lot easier to keep than what I usually take… and prettier, too, I’d argue, but there’s just something a lot more… personal about tongues.

Though a coin like this has the advantage of appearing much less incriminating. They make fake plastic meowth coins by the dozen as good luck charms. I can actually let people see this thing. I could put it on a necklace and wear it. Proudly displaying my catch. Yes, that sounds good…

Another buzz snaps me out of my thoughts. Eh, I'll just go take care of my morning routine and return to this later.

---​

How in the fuck is she still texting? Good Gods, she's writing a novel here. I thought it was supposed to be hectic for her. I need to shut her up somehow, I’d rather do my exercise in peace.

I unlock the phone and look. A waterfall of text cascades from the top of the screen to the bottom. And there's even more above, probably screenfuls. Wonderful!

I skim through the lines. Seems like she’s covered a whole variety of subjects. None of them relevant to me, though, just whining about the people around her.

A pop up shows, saying there are new messages. I sigh and scroll back down.

(10:31) u still there?

Oh crap. Yeah, just thinking. That sounds awful.

She begins to type her response, but I decide enough is enough. Hey, sorry, but I should really go now. Mind if I take off for a while?

(10:32) oh yeah go ahead
(10:32) sorry for ranting so much

It’s fine. See ya.


I place the phone on the floor next to my mattress and pray it’ll stay still, at least for the next half an hour or so.

---​

Stuck to an old necklace of my mother’s with simple tape… it’s an insult to this coin, this jewel of nature, but it’ll have to do for now. I’ll need resources for anything more complex. I’ll get some along with the next groceries.

I slip on the makeshift necklace and peek at a mirror of the downstairs bedroom. Yes, that looks good! With the tape hidden, the cheapness is just as concealed, leaving only the two glimmering components of the necklace to shine. I should wear jewelry more often. Even without the audacity of flaunting the prize of my kill right under everyone’s noses, there’s a charm to wearing this. I can carry it with pride.

Okay, that settles that. What to do next? I fiddle with my fingers as my eyes search the room for something interesting. There’s Clinical Human Anatomy on the nightstand… but I don’t really feel like reading. That book or any other book. I’ve read them all before. I should get new ones some time.

I decide to get off the bed and move to the living room. I lie down on the sofa and switch on the TV in hopes of there being anything good. There isn’t. Not even documentaries. Just soaps and reality shows and kids’ cartoons… I suppose it’s about the time for those. I let a channel with one stay on, since at least kids’ shows have an excuse to be stupid. It’ll be background noise while I continue to think of something better to do.

Hey, what about Shirlee? She hasn’t messaged me since I told her to cut it out. I should get back to her. It’ll give the impression I actually care about her problems, and I shouldn’t let my plans come to a standstill for too long, anyway. My lord is waiting. Well, I’m waiting for my lord.

I pull out my phone and open the texting app. Hey. What’s up? I tap and send.

The screen stays immobile. Not a sniff of Shirlee.

Has something happened to her? Is she dead right now? Wouldn’t that be great? It’d make all my efforts be for nothing, which would piss me off quite a bit, but she’d be gone.

Oh, nevermind, she’s typing.

(12:37) ...hi.

That’s... oddly punctuated. Is something wrong?

(12:37) well
(12:37) i took a walk
(12:37) or float
(12:37) and i saw something pretty fucked.


Oh? What was it?

(12:37) i saw this little kitten


Well that doesn’t sound too -- oh, wait.

(12:38) it was dead

Yeah, figured. Didn’t expect her to go to alleys like that, though.

(12:38) like rly dead
(12:38) dirty and beaten
(12:38) its coin was gone and it had a bloody spot in its place
(12:38) like what the fuck?


The coin resting atop my chest gets a little heavier. Note to self, do not wear this around Shirlee. Though she probably wouldn’t like the practice of using mon parts as decoration regardless of their authenticity.

Maybe a murkrow took it? I suggest.

(12:38) yea but would a murkrow beat it up like that
(12:38) it must have gotten there afterwards

Were its eyes pecked out?

(12:38) ...what the hell? whys that important

Wild murkrow really like eating eyes.

(12:38) stop. thats gross.


Geez. Sorry nature gets a little gruesome sometimes, missy.

Sorry. I’ll stop.

(12:38) yeah so thats whats got me fucked up atm…
(12:38) just what did all that to that poor kitten?
(12:39) oh gods do you think it was a person?
(12:39) OH GODS DO YOU THINK THAT KITTEN MAY HAVE BEEN A PERSON??
(12:39) should i tell the cops??


My heart jumps. Oh Gods, no no no, let’s not do that. But I can’t directly tell her not to, that’d be suspicious.

Did it look civil? I ask.

(12:39) ...i guess not

Would a civil kitten be wandering in the big city all by itsel-


I pause, then backspace with a groan.

-themselves? Without any clothes on a cold winter, and in some alleyway? Send.

(12:39) how did you know it was in an alleyway?

I freeze.

Oh fuck.

Okay. Think. Think. Um. Right!

I figured it was in an alleyway if there was no one else. Please believe that, please.

She's typing...

(12:39) i guess that makes sense…

I can breathe again. That's not perfectly positive, but it's not perfectly negative, and that's what matters most. But now I definitely can't wear this coin around Shirlee. Maybe I should just play it safe and put it in the hidden room. For as long as this Shirlee crap is happening, anyway.

Oh, she's typing again.

(12:39) but anyway… even if it was a feral it still might have been killed by something civil that wanted its coin
(12:39) like how fucked do you have to be in the head to just kill an innocent kitten for a little shiny thing


Hey. I didn't kill it for a little shiny thing. That was just a perk.

(12:39) it seriously makes me mad

Don’t worry. It was probably just some wild mon.


Like a vulp- no, that would've eaten it. But then what… aha!

Like a rival meowth. They're pretty territorial.

(12:39) i guess…
(12:39) i hope thats the case
(12:40) i wouldnt feel safe if kitten killing sickos were roaming the streets
(12:40) ugh


Yeah, you need to be safe and sound in a padded cradle, you little baby...

"Hey R--"

"Gahh!" I jump and twist to the direction of the voice. A pidgeot's face stares back with equally startled eyes. Oh, it's Jess.

I sigh, sitting up on the couch. "Don't sneak up on me like that, for Gods' sake."

"Sorry," he mumbles. "Didn't you hear me come?"

"Obviously not," I mutter, but I am surprised I didn't notice. A little upset, too, considering how I'm supposed to be an apex predator and all that. I guess the TV must have masked the noise or something.

"Well, anyway…" He raises a wing to point. "Where'd you get that phone and necklace from? And… since when can you use phones?" He smiles. "Good on you, dude!"

"Uhm…" I flip the phone screen down. I guess it is pretty drastic a change for me to be even this comfortable with a piece of tech. But where could I have gotten this phone… "A friend got them for me." Jess opens his beak, but I'm faster. "Yes, I made a friend."

"Is your friend loaded to just give out phones and jewelry like that?"

"Uhh, kinda, yeah."

"Whoa, can he --"

"No, he can't get you free shit."

Jess frowns. "Aww, man, don't hog the sugar daddy."

"The… what?"

"Nevermind, doesn't matter." He flaps himself onto the couch and sits… or bird-sits next to me. "This is great, dude! You're getting better at handling tech. I mean, if you can use a phone now, imagine what you'll be able to do in a year!"

Well… I don’t intend for this nonsense to continue for a full year, but…

I stare down at the black rectangle in my hands. Me with a smartphone. Who would’ve thought. I’ve only been using it out of necessity, but maybe this is… good for me? Like I said before, technology is everywhere these days. I’ve managed to avoid it enough so far, and honestly, after this Shirlee thing is over, I’ll continue to manage until the ascension. But that’s just it. I’ll only manage. The wait will still be long and painful, just as it has been for the past three years, even with Him around. I thought that maybe I hadn’t had enough of Him, but maybe… He just isn’t enough.

Maybe Jess is right. I need something other than Him in my life. I hated how he put it - like I wanted to be miserable, still stuck in the times of that awful journey, but… it is true that journey still hurts me to this day. Not just with the phobia of tech. I’ve been clinging to Him.

Now, there’s nothing bad about being with Him. It makes me feel content, and that’s good. Even HE finds my bond with Him beneficial. But when He’s gone, that’s where the problem is. I barely have anything else. I do have HIM, but I should only see him for dire advice and rituals, and I need to keep those rituals infrequent enough to keep the cops off my trail. The fact stands that my life is… pretty empty.

But now I have this. An opportunity to evolve, to expand my world. I could find things to care about. Maybe I could even find some work. The prevalence of technology has been the biggest reason I can’t live a more eventful life… tied with dropping out of high school, that is. But high school isn’t required for everything. That’s why I could drop out in the first place. There should be things out there I could do, things to keep me busy during the day. I also hate people, that’s true, but that’s what tech has been replacing. There just might be a job with minimal human contact and no required education out there for me that I could take.

Hell, doesn’t Jess have that? I eye the pidgeot sitting beside me. He makes some kinds of videos and apparently gets paid for it. I know for a fact he’s not very educated or smart, but he’s making a good living.

Jess, almost as if he’d heard, shifts his gaze from the TV screen to me. “Um, you’ve been quiet for a pretty long time, dude. Is this conversation over, or...”

“Oh. Uhh...” I sit up straight. “Sorry, I got lost in thought. What was the last thing you said, again?”

Before he can answer, the phone on my lap buzzes. It must be Shirlee again.

“That your sugar daddy?” quips Jess. Another buzz.

“No,” I grunt. “Now piss off. I want some privacy.”

“You got it, bud.” Jess hops off the couch and waddles out of view, his talons clacking against the wooden floor.

Alright, let’s see what Shirlee has sent. I flip over the phone. It’s gone dark. Right. I click it back alight and insert the passcode. That’s pretty cumbersome. Maybe they have alternatives in the settings.

The phone buzzes once more before I manage to get to the messages. Ugh, put it all in one text if you have lots to say! Looks like I'll have even more to do in the settings.

(12:42) oh but on another note
(12:42) i know my schedule in viridian better now
(12:42) im pretty sure i can meet you again before the show this saturday


Finally, I can advance with my plan. Sounds great!

(12:42) yeah, ill get back to you later when i have more deets
(12:42) for now i gtg
(12:42) bye!

Bye!


Okay, that's that. Now where are the sett-

"Why are you texting with someone pretending to be Shirlee?"

I flinch and flip the phone again. "Jess!" I hiss, looking over my shoulder - and indeed, the pidgeot's head peeks over the back of the couch. The bastard must've snuck there. "Don't you know what privacy means?"

"I'm just looking out for you, dude!" he says. "Tech beginners like you are easy prey for scammers. And this looks fishy!" He climbs atop the couch and points to the screen. "You don't actually think this is the real Shirlee, do you?"

Weird chance, but I'll take it. "No. I know what I’m doing."

“You haven’t sent her - or ‘her’ - any money, have you?”

“No.”

“Personal information?”

“No! I already told you, this is under control.”

“I sure hope you’re right,” he says and drops down to the floor. “I don’t know why you want to humor some scammer, but you better be careful about it.”

“Yeah, yeah, yeah. Just get off my back already.”

“Have it your way.” He spreads his wings and flies up the stairs. I stare after him for a few seconds to make sure he stays gone.

Okay, back to the point. I was looking for settings…

---​

The front door opens.

"We're home," calls out Fonz. Oh, good, he can help me with that one thing. I won't have to ask Jess.

“Hey,” I call back and return to the home screen from the settings. I can explore the rest of them later - for now, I've got what I want, that being a mute mode. Won't have to get a buzz from every message anymore.

I listen as Fonz makes his way further in - brushes his feet, unwraps Him from all the scarves - and finally, he enters my view. And so does my lord in his hands. Still on His phone, I see, though now He’s got no headphones on.

"Hey, Fonz?" I begin, catching his attention. "Can you help me with something?"

"Uh, in a minute," he says, setting the omanyte down on the other end of the couch. "I gotta eat something first."

I nod, and he leaves for the kitchen. I'm in no rush.

Silence falls, save for the noises of the nidoking rummaging through the fridge and the omanyte tapping on His phone. I steal a glance at Him only to regret it right after.

He's just like He always is these days, of course. He doesn’t even notice I’m here. What did I expect? Even with nothing occupying His sense of hearing, I don’t register.

Doesn’t He miss me at all? I practically raised Him. In multiple lifetimes. Even if He had forgotten everything from His past lives, I still cared for Him in this one. I held Him so much. I taught Him things. Doesn’t that mean anything to Him?

Maybe He’s just lost in His own world and needs a reminder. I haven’t been actively pulling Him out, and if He can’t break out of that bubble by Himself, how can I expect things to change? So why don't I just…

I open my mouth, but no words come out. I'm too afraid. I'm too afraid He'll look up from that phone with annoyance, disdain. Tell me He doesn't care about me, doesn't want me here. That He'll bite my fingers and struggle if I try to hold Him.

Is this even about Shirlee? Have I done something wrong? Has He… learned something in school that makes Him shut me out? He already wondered why I call Him my lord, according to Fonz. Does He feel uncomfortable with this relationship? Does He find me smothering? Has my desire to be close only driven Him away?

I tense my hands. The nails dig into my jeans. If that's the case, why didn't He tell me? Was He too polite? Too disinterested? Too afraid? He really could be too afraid. This calm exterior of His could just be Him hiding His weakness. Inside, He's noticed the clues to my true self - the knife I carry, the time I spend alone, how little I care for others… and He's terrified. He thinks that, were He to tell me He wants distance, I'd do something bad to Him.

But I wouldn't. I would never hurt Him. It's my duty and will to only protect Him. I just want to be with Him…

"Okay, I'm ready now," Fonz calls from the kitchen, snapping me out of my thoughts. "What did you need help with?"

Ah. Yeah. I get up and circle the couch - but I can’t help taking a peek over the back at my lord. The screen shows… her. Of course it’s her. Her stupid, flashy getup and her repetitive songs…

What was I thinking? Of course it’s all because of her. The change was too quick. He’s way too entranced by her. It’s her fault. That witch. She’s put a spell on Him, a curse, and it’s my responsibility to free Him. To eliminate her. And once she’s gone… things will go back to the way they should be.

“Red?” Fonz asks. Oh, I’ve stopped, haven’t I.

“Yeah, coming.” I shuffle over to the kitchen and sit beside the nidoking at the round table. I place the phone down on it. Right, I guess Fonz hasn’t seen that yet either, so I should --

“Oh, whose phone is that?” he asks. Yep, this again.

“Got it from that friend of mine,” I explain quickly. “He’s pretty generous. Now, um, I’ve been trying to sort of get more comfortable with it, and...”

His eyes widen. “Oh, that’s great!”

“Yeah, yeah, I know. But, um, there’s something I can’t figure out. I thought that you might know how to do it since you’ve been more involved with smartphones than me through...” I don’t really want to finish that sentence. Brings out the jealousy in me. “I’ll just get to the point. How do I delete pictures?”

“Delete pictures? Oh, that’s easy, I can show you.”

Yes, please do rub it in how much of an idiot I am. “Thanks. So here’s the gallery --”

He lifts up his claws all of a sudden. “Whoa, whoa, hold on. What kind of pictures do you want to delete?”

It takes a bit of staring from me before I infer his intent. “They’re not of my penis, Fonz.”

“G-good, just making sure.”

I push the phone towards him, impatient. "So can you show me how to do it?"

He hesitates. Why? "Well, um, it's probably not calibrated to my touch…" He places a claw on the screen and moves it. Nothing happens. "See?"

"Oh." Right. "Is there a way to have it calibrated for both you and me?"

"Yeah, Helix's phone has that for Us. Let's see…"

He enters the settings while I recover from the utterance of His name. I don't allow myself to say it as it feels too direct, and while I do let others use it, it still rings a kind of alarm.

As I finish, so does he. "There," he says. "Now we can both use it. Do know this might let some foreign objects interact with it, too, though. Something about them having properties similar to claws and so…"

"Yeah, thanks. It shouldn't be a problem." It needs a button click and a code input to open, anyway.

"So here's what you do," he starts, back at the gallery. "You hold down your finger, and these options appear --"

I blink. "You can hold down?"

"Yeah. You can do a bunch of stuff with it. Actually, you should try it any time you're lost. It might just give you the stuff you need." He slides the phone back to me.

Well, damn. I never thought of that. "Thanks."

With this newfound information, I can select all the pictures I want to get rid of and delete them all at once. Unlike what Fonz suggested, they're not really sensitive content - just a bunch of blurry shots of my forehead from when I was testing out the camera. I didn't initially realize there was a front one, which made me try and get them blindly with the one on the back… and that led us to where we are now.

I consider leaving some of the proper shots behind, but notice the necklace visible in all of them. I really can't afford to let Shirlee see me with that, and I find her way too nosy to let my gallery stay private.

"Nice bling, by the way," comments Fonz with an amused huff. You know what, maybe I should just refrain from wearing this altogether. If Fonz doesn't even take it seriously, I might just end up as a laughing stock.

“Yeah,” I mutter, get up and head upstairs for some privacy. I can’t let Him catch me chatting with Shirlee, even if I can say it’s just a fake. He might want to play pretend, and if He went online searching for some fake Shirlees, He might find the kind of scammers Jess was talking about. I hope Fonz is keeping a close eye on His activities online...

I’ll also need the privacy for further planning of the coming date. Find something to wear, rehearse my lies in case she brings up the kitten again, so on. I’d also love to come up with some great plan to actually progress towards my goal of crashing her career, but it’s hard to balance subtlety and impact. I can’t just tell her to twist her ship’s wheel towards the rocks - she wouldn’t listen. Not in this current state, at least.

Exploiting her drinking problem seems like the best option right now. I don’t think she’d want to go to a bar on our date, though. What if I bought some wine for her as a gift and replaced the contents with something far stronger? Encourage her to drink it, then persuade her to get some more somewhere once her decision making has been impaired enough? Once she’s wasted, I could bring her to a public place, cause her to reveal her identity somehow and watch her embarrass herself in front of a nosy crowd! Maybe even trick her into saying something insensitive! Oh, that would be the scandal of the year! Or more like the week. With how Jess describes the current world, it seems that not a day goes by without some celebrity making an ass of themselves.

Yes, this plan just might work. The gears are turning again. I knew I’d come up with something brilliant sooner or later. I am HIS chosen one, after all.

Having arrived to my room, I lie down on the bed. Okay, I’ll need to find out where they sell the alcohol around this town. I think I’ll also need some ID. I don’t have a card… but they take passports, don’t they? Is my passport still valid? I can’t remember when it was updated last. That sounds like a thing my mom would make me do, and she stopped giving a fuck a few years ago. Damn.

But there are other ways to get alcohol than just legally. They may be far easier with connections, which I don’t have, but I do have a knife. No, threatening people to buy me booze probably won’t work. The carrot will do better than the stick - I’ll pay a stranger. I will have to get my knife to make sure they don’t bail, though. No one wiggles their way out of my deals. Tamaki knows that best.

Hm, I wonder how Tamaki is doing. I did pay him a lot. But I also beat him a lot. If he ended up with internal bleeding or something due to my pummeling, that might have cost him a fair amount. Though not as much as it would in Unova. Thank the Gods I live in a welfare state. It’s not how I’d build my own kingdom to be, hell no, but it sure is convenient to mooch off of.

Back to work, though. I needed to look for places with booze. I think ‘liquor store’ is the proper term. I’ll stalk outside those for some people that look like they wouldn’t mind breaking the law for a quick buck. Anyway, I suppose I should search it online for the best results.

I take out my phone and search the home screen for a gateway to that magical place they call the world wide web. That’s probably it, ‘internet’. Tap it, and --

A white window opens. Icons of different mon appear. Zubat, gastly, drowzee, omastar -- No!

My hand flings away the screen. The phone slides across the bed and quietly thumps against the foot end.

It wasn’t real. It wasn’t now. That was years ago.

I squeeze out a sigh. It comes out shaky. The air of the room has become heavier.

I sit up and stare at the carpet at my feet. Gray. Solid. Interwoven yarn. It’s real. This room is real. What I saw on that screen was not. My hands - look at them. They’re a grown man’s hands. Not a young boy’s.

Gradually, they stop trembling.

I bring them close to myself and grab my arms.

I feel cold.

---​
 
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