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OldschoolJohto

Never not editing
Pronouns
She/Her
Partner
solrock

Summary
:
"It feels like I'm not a real trainer until I do this."

Chris Nakano has worked hard to become a trainer his dad would have been proud of. But his plans for the Indigo League slip sideways when he discovers a strange girl lying in the snow. A bittersweet, meandering coming of age story.

Rating: PG
Somewhat violent battles, off-screen death, and brief alcohol use
Like my other stories, this one is set in a somewhat grittier version of the pokemon world where all trainers start traveling at age eighteen instead of ten.

Genres:
Coming of age, adventure,

Status: ONGOING, estimated word count: 120k
On hiatus while I work on Divides and maybe a one-shot.

Other notes:
I started this story as a writing challenge. I wanted to know if I could make a good narrative from the story my friends and I made up as little kids. I think of it as a sort of fairy tale. I've left in as much as I can of the original, which means probably not all of it will work all of the time. I'm very open to constructive criticism though and I do go back and edit previous chapters as needed. I always appreciate comments of any kind!

I'll post chapters once a week until I'm up-to-date here...and then I'll post at the same slow, unpredictable rate I write! 😃

Hope you enjoy!

--

Table of Contents:

Prologue - The Successor

PART ONE: KORE THE MAIDEN
1. Green
2. The Volunteer
3. Bygone
4. Visitations
5. The Dead
6. Backbone
7. Shouganai
8. The Threshold
9. Pantheon
10. The Fluke

Interlude: Compass

PART TWO: THE GIFT OF POMEG BERRIES

11. The Mirror

On AO3 | On FFN
 
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Prologue: The Successor

OldschoolJohto

Never not editing
Pronouns
She/Her
Partner
solrock
Prologue: The Successor



Prologue: The Successor

Jasmine didn't immediately recognize the young trainer. He'd arrived early for his scheduled challenge, the first morning slot. Not typical for the fall, but not unheard of either. The Olivine gym slowed down this time of year—most new trainers came at the end of spring, after graduation, and the middling trainers always tried to cram their challenges in before the winter conference.

This kid was definitely fresh out of Trainer Ed—his clothes were still too new, the single pokeball on his belt too shiny. She knew without having to ask that he only had one badge, if he had any yet. If it had been the busy season, she might've encouraged him to start in Violet or Azalea instead—straightforward gyms and wilderness between here and there, which offered the opportunity to train and build his team. But it was fall. No one was in a rush.

She preferred a battle that made her think, but she could still give him a fair challenge.

It'll have to be Gimbal, she decided. From the tray set into the wall, she selected the ball that held the small, peevish magnemite she'd caught the other week.

The young trainer stood stiffly, like he was afraid to scuff the floors. He tipped back his head to gaze up at the domed ceiling until she called to him, "Welcome to Olivine Gym. Um. Thanks for being so punctual."

An odd look flickered across his face, so quickly she almost missed it.

She smiled through it. "I'm Jasmine, the gym leader. What's your name, challenger?"

He swallowed and stood a little straighter. "I'm Chris. Nakano."

Jasmine tried to keep the surprise from her face. After all, she'd known to expect this when she took the job. Hiro Nakano had three kids, she remembered. Odds were high at least one of them would try pokemon training. This must be his eldest, finally eighteen. She should've noticed the resemblance sooner—if he grew a beard, and if not for the blue eyes, he'd look exactly like the former gym leader.

She remembered being startled to see Hiro's face looking back at her from a Pewter City newsstand. The peculiarity made her pause, and homesickness made her buy a copy. On her lunch break, Jasmine settled under the beech tree behind the gym and finally saw the photos of the Olivine gym. Roof half-collapsed. Chunks of rubble the size of a human head and larger. She and Muno stayed after the gym closed to spar—rock smashing against rock until she couldn't tell if she felt sturdier with such creatures at her side … or only terribly human and soft. Walking home, she still felt echoes of the vibrations coursing through her legs.

What was she supposed to say now? Three years was too late to say sorry for your loss, even though she was. Hiro had been the Olivine gym leader when she was growing up too.

When she had come home to fill the gym vacancy, she'd brought the Nakano family a fruit basket. Didn't want to come empty-handed, didn't know what else to bring. And now she had welcomed him to the gym where he had probably grown up playing. Maybe better not to say anything else.

Chris wore the same expression as any other gym challenger: a little fierce, a little nervous. If he bore her any special resentment, it didn't show. She wouldn't blame him if he did—grief wasn't linear or rational.

"Well," said Jasmine. "I see you have one pokeball, so we'll make this one-on-one."

He nodded, then squinted. "I don't expect any special treatment."

She managed a smile. "Of course not."

They shook and moved to opposite sides of the room, footsteps echoing. Jasmine raised her arm to throw her pokeball and then stopped short. "I'm sorry—one second," she said and then turned back for Radican's ball. A gym leader's kid would've trained some already, officially or not. He could handle a magneton.

If there had been any doubt who he was, it vanished when he called out his pokemon. "Hero, let's go!"

A cyndaquil. Family tradition, clearly. And, oh no, the name—

Jasmine sent out Radican and let the young trainer have a moment to size them up. Then the League referee blew her whistle and Jasmine ordered, "Thunder wave."

The first few blasts missed—the cyndaquil was quick on its feet. And then it wasn't. In minutes, the cyndaquil was down.

Jasmine watched Chris crouch to check on his pokemon. He spoke to it in low tones, but she didn't catch the words from where she stood.

"Most trainers, um, don't manage it on the first try," she offered. And she'd overshot it.

The magneton circled her head, gleeful at their victory.

Chris nodded. "I know." Gathering the cyndaquil into his arms, the young trainer started to turn away. He paused and looked back at her. "Thank you," he said, and then he left.

Jasmine watched him go, picking at her hangnails. Nothing she could do for him, not without giving special treatment. She decided to go for a walk before the next challenger arrived.



Jasmine had expected Chris to return to the gym, but she hadn't expected to see him again after only two days.

He had a sandshrew with him this time—a good idea. The second battle lasted longer than the first. But Radican left the sandshrew dizzy and clutching its head, and the result was much the same as their first battle.

Chris sucked in his cheek, then recalled his pokemon. "Thank you for your time," he said again.

"I guess I'll see you around," she said, flashing an uncertain smile.

"I guess so."



The third time Chris Nakano challenged the Olivine gym his mother came too, a little after the battle started. Jasmine saw her creep in and take a seat in the empty bleachers, still wearing her hospital scrubs.

Over the years, Jasmine had hosted Indigo League Elites in her gym. Celebrity researchers. Foreign dignitaries. Even once, unknowingly, a mob boss. Being watched by Hiro's widow made her more nervous than any of them.

Jasmine stammered her commands to Radican. She won anyway.



Before Chris Nakano's fourth challenge, Jasmine hesitated, passing Radican's pokeball back and forth between her hands. "Chris," she finally said, "you know the gym will be here, right? There's nothing wrong with, um, coming back later." After a moment, she added, "Um. There will always be a spot in the schedule for you."

His face was grim. "I need this badge. I have—I want to start things right."

She nodded. "Well. Then. Go ahead and choose your pokemon."



At the end of Chris Nakano's fifth challenge, Radican hit the tiles with a resounding clang, and their buzzing finally fell quiet. Chris let out a sigh of relief before he grinned and ran to hug his sandshrew.

Jasmine sighed and smiled too.

In the bleachers, his mother jumped up with her hands clasped over her heart. But she stood back to let her son have his moment.

When Chris recalled his pokemon and stood up, Jasmine walked to meet him, holding out a badge. "Fair and square."

"Only took me five tries." He flashed a smile, a dimple in his left cheek but not the right.

"It pays for trainers to be a little stubborn."

But then his smile faded. He took the badge and turned away to pin it carefully to the first slot in his worn leather case.

That was all right. Her job was to test trainers and give out badges, not to be their friend. She had almost ten years on him—she didn't need him to accept her.

All the same, she said, "You'll have to give me a rematch when you come back, um, after you've gotten all your badges." Jasmine chewed over the next part for a long moment, but Chris waited patiently. "You've done a lot in a few weeks. You could go far if you keep working this hard."

He narrowed his eyes—ah there it was, that anger or hurt she'd expected—but then he relaxed. "Yeah. I think I'd like that. I … I'm sorry. Thanks for taking good care of …." Chris waved a hand to indicate the gym, or maybe even Olivine more broadly. Then he shrugged, smiled, and pocketed the badge case.

She took a deep breath and made her final peace offering. "I've got big shoes to fill."

For a long, quiet moment they simply stood and shared the space.

"Yeah. Me too."


Next
 
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1: Green

OldschoolJohto

Never not editing
Pronouns
She/Her
Partner
solrock
PART ONE: KORE THE MAIDEN

Part One: Kore the Maiden




1: Green

a snowy forest (watercolor)


Two years later.

On the first day in the ravine, a carol of delibirds bombarded Chris.

At first, there was only one, gliding from tree to tree a few feet behind him. Then a second one landed on a tree up the path with a coo and a thump of snow dropping to the ground. Then a third appeared. As he walked on, they took flight and followed. He continued down the path for perhaps a quarter mile or so, watching the number of delibirds in the trees nearby growing steadily. Their coos grew louder and louder and more insistent—

Until they dove on him in a rush of wings.

The first one's talons grazed his shoulder as it passed, tearing the fabric. He batted it away, only to be struck sidelong by a second. Two more slammed onto his backpack, jostling for purchase. Before he could shake them off or grab a pokeball, several more landed on his shoulder and pack. The combined weight pulled him backward. With a crash and a yelp, he hit the ground and slid partway down the hill through crusted-over mud.

He skidded to a stop against a tree, and even more delibirds came to land on his chest and raised knees. Some of the delibirds scattered at impact but immediately returned with thrusting beaks, squawking. More were landing in the tree above or flapping towards them down the hill. Chris covered his face in his arms.

However, after a moment he realized that their focus was an outside pocket of his backpack. He released the sternum and waist buckles of his pack and slid free of the straps. The backpack rolled down the hill without him, and the heaving, squawking mass of birds chased after it.

Moments later Chris sent out his jolteon, Sonic, who whisked down the hill in a spray of snow and sparks.

The delibirds split like bowling pins as Sonic leapt into their midst. He lunged after their trailing tails with obvious glee, yipping and firing arcs of light into the air for good measure. When all the delibirds had retreated to a safe distance, the jolteon stood panting among fallen feathers.

Chris trotted down the slope, chuckling. "Good work, Sonic."

Crouching, Chris withdrew the Ziplock bag from the outside pocket of his backpack—and immediately heard a collective rustle of feathers. The surrounding trees shivered.

He stood with care, looking from side to side. Then he held the bag above his head and gave it a shake. The dry food blocks inside rattled together, but the sound was lost to the upsurge of squawking and flapping. Only Sonic at his feet, sending off ribbons of electricity, kept the whole lot from dive-bombing him.

Chris grinned. He shook the bag again and then launched it as far as he could into the bushes.

As one, the delibirds plunged from their branches and disappeared, crashing through the underbrush.

Dusting himself off, Chris said to Sonic, "That's the last time I accept free pokemon food from a stranger."

But, later, the delibirds came back.

Chris hiked for several hours with Sonic at his side, but delibird coos and rustling wings were never quite out of earshot. He stopped, turned, and shouted, "I don't have anything!"

A hundred owlish eyes blinked.

"Go away!" He tossed a snowball, and the delibirds flapped away.

He continued on his way … and a few moments later he heard them follow.

That night, as he set up camp, the delibirds settled around him in a circle just out of reach of Sonic's attacks. They came no closer, but he felt their eyes on him.

While he sat eating his simple meal of reconstituted chili, idly petting Sonic, something bounced off his shoe. A black coat button. To the left, he heard that distinctive coo and turned in time to watch a delibird reach into a hidden flap of skin among its feathers, use its beak to nudge free a piece of trash, and drop it into the clearing. Another coo, and the crowd drew ever so slightly closer.

Sonic growled.

Bird treasures rained at his feet, one or two landing in his bowl: coins, water bottle lids, gum wrappers, a pen cap. The bright plastics were a shock in the monochromatic landscape.

The delibirds stared with wide eyes. One shuffled nearer, nudging its plastic treasure towards him.

"Thanks, guys, but I still don't have anything to give you!" Chris laughed.

A prescription pill jar rolled and hit his foot, the one remaining pill rattling inside.

He picked up the bottle and read: Penelope L. Tait. Had the jar rolled away from her one morning as she was packing up? Or was she one more careless trainer who never made it home alive? Chris was no longer afraid of wild pokemon or the wilderness itself … but he also knew it was the cocky trainers who misstepped. For the first time in months, he had to wonder … what evidence of his journey would be left on this mountain for someone else to find if he took a bad fall? He felt a chill that had nothing to do with the snow.

"Okay, that's it."

Recalling Sonic, he pulled a can of pokemon repellent from an outer backpack pocket and sprayed liberally. The delibirds shuffled back, fanning their wings. One took to the air, then five more, and then the entire carol took flight with a flurry of snow and feathers. Then Chris was finally alone.

He pulled his shirt over his mouth and nose against the cloying acid-sweet smell and retreated into his tent. The tent was cold and barren without a pokemon sleeping beside him for the first time in over a year, but at least he slept undisturbed.

In the morning, fallen feathers and a pile of other trainers' junk marked where he had camped.



Late on the second day in the ravine, Chris passed a tree scarred by claw marks—impossible to miss because Sonic bounded over to sniff. Chris paused to finger the grooves, stretching above his head to reach. His fingers came away sap sticky, and he bent to clean them with snow before slipping his glove on again. Tipping his head back, he stood beneath the tree for a moment and chewed his lip. At last, he shifted his backpack forward by tugging on the shoulders straps, and then he continued up the slope.

Not much further up the trail was a second scarred tree. The patches where bark had been rubbed off were visible even from a distance, a surprising orange against gray-brown bark. As Chris drew closer, he saw also the clumps of dark fur caught in the bark that remained.

Beside the tree, he slid out of his pack and pulled his pokedex from the outside pocket. It was an older model, one of the big, heavy-duty ones that looked like a graphing calculator. The old pokedex ran on newer software, which made it slow. Before he was able to successfully scan the clump of hair, Chris had to turn it off and on and wipe the camera lens with the bottom edge of his shirt. Eventually, the pokedex vibrated once, and then the data for ursaring appeared on-screen.

His stomach sank. "Yeah, that's what I thought …."

The ursaring's unmistakable, pungent musk clung to the tree.

He removed a glove to touchscreen-swipe past the sections that listed height and weight relative to humans. Then came common battle strategies and pop culture notes. Then finally, the screen lagging with each swipe, Chris found the habitat description and map. They most commonly inhabit mountainous forests, the screen read, rarely living at elevations higher than 1,200 feet. In winter months, they dig dens for hibernation, often favoring hillsides.

And winter was over. Snow still crusted the mountain slopes, but mud flowed underneath. The branches were bare but tipped in buds almost ready to burst. In July, spring had finally come to the Ice Pass. The burst of warmth would only last until October or so, and the wildlife had to make the most of it.

Shutting his pokedex, Chris turned to glance back at his footprints winding away through the ravine. High limestone cliffs framed the ice-capped peaks known to locals as the Dragon's Spine. Breaks in the cliffs were cluttered with scrub brush and anemic-looking trees, mostly evergreens but some still-skeletal deciduous ones as well. Small alcoves and cave entrances were visible along the wall, and supposedly there were more all throughout the half-frozen earth below. The view ahead was more of the same. A sliver of sun peeked over the cliff wall, but within the hour it would sink and cast the canyon into shadows. It would take a day of hiking in either direction to pass through the ravine to open ground … assuming the best conditions.

The only way out is through, he imagined his dad saying.

Looking back just once more, he shouldered his pack and continued deeper into the canyon.

Biting the inside of his cheek, he recalled Sonic. He didn't want to provoke a territorial ursaring. Without Sonic's panting, paw scrabbling, and occasional yips that meant all clear … the canyon was quiet. Chris strained his ears for sounds of wild pokemon, and his own thoughts grew loud.

Shadows deepened and swam across the canyon floor as if being poured. Ice crunched with Chris's every step. Mud did too, though as recently as that morning he'd been sliding and sticking in it. The temperature was dropping. Not long after the sun sank behind the ridge, a light snow began to fall and the canyon became quieter still.

Chris alternated between watching his feet and gazing up the slope through frosted lashes into the copse of twisted pines ahead. Old snow was scribbled over by fallen pine needles here, disappearing once more under the fresh snow. With any luck, the storm would fizzle to nothing—he had already seen how the pokemon of the area stirred up flurries throughout the day, often ending as suddenly as they began. But he knew better than to count on it. He tugged his hood further forward and kept moving.

He raised his eyes again in time to see a green light pulse between the branches and fade. With a thud, snow dropped from all of the trees at once. Then Chris heard a hum and registered a flicker of movement to the left before all fell silent.

Chris stopped at the bottom of the slope, staring up into the trees, and listened. Wind whistled over the canyon walls. He heard his own breath and heartbeat. In the distance, one delibird called to another. Nothing moved but the tips of the tree branches bobbing on an occasional gust of air. Snowflakes tumbled down. He touched a pokeball on his belt before continuing into the trees, much more slowly than before.

Though he kept a watchful eye on his surroundings, he relaxed with each step up the hill. Even the snowfall seemed to be letting up. He was making good time.

As Chris neared the top of the slope, he spotted a blue lump on the ground ahead. One moment it was nothing, a shadow on the snow or a fallen branch. The next, peering around tree trunks, he realized— Fabric. Sleeve. Arm.

His heartbeat stuttered. He tried to speak, found his tongue stuck dry to the roof of his mouth, swallowed, and tried again. "Are you okay?" Boots sliding, he scrambled up the slope.

The rest of the body came into view. What Chris had taken for a shadow was a woolen cloak with a hood. The cloak fell partly open to reveal something part-gown and part-robe, with flowing sleeves patterned in blue and white diamonds. The robe's edges were silk brocaded in smaller diamonds. A blue sash cinched her waist, doubly secured with a tasseled red cord. The robe spread wide across the snow, but her bare wrist and leg protruding from the layers of fabric were thin, so pale the veins were visible. She wore sandals, each made from a single piece of leather wrapped around the sides of the foot and laced shut across the top, leaving toes and ankles bare. Her exposed toes, fingers, and cheeks were red with cold. Her golden curls lay loose on the ground, glittering with freshly fallen snow.

Chris had seen more than one woefully under-prepared trainer on his travels, but this went well beyond that. He took a few long moments to at last shut his mouth and shake his head clear.

"Hey! Can you hear me?" He dropped his backpack, leaving it where it landed, and squatted at the girl's side. He rocked her shoulder. "Hey. Come on. Wake up."

Her head lolled to one side from his shaking and then fell still.

Stomach lurching, he sucked in a breath. He fumbled with a glove, dropped it in the snow, and felt for her neck. Her skin was still warm. He pressed his first two fingers against the place he was almost sure was an artery, holding his breath … and finally detected a slow pulse.

Pulling away, he sat back on his heels and chewed the inside of his cheek. He pinched her sleeve and found it damp, as he knew it would be. "Oh man," he said, breath ghosting in front of him. He stared up through the skeletal branches and snowflakes. The daylight was dimming. He removed his other glove, rubbed his face, and returned his gaze to the girl. "Oh man."

He unclasped the gold brooch pinning the cloak at the neck, allowing the outer layer to fall completely open over the robe. Then, swallowing, he reached towards the sash holding the robe together—but stopped mid-air and clamped his hands around his ankles instead, drumming his fingers on the tops of his boots.

After a moment, he stood, pocketed his gloves, and at last released his typhlosion, Hero, from his pokeball.

Hero raised his bearlike face and sniffed the air. He stretched as he materialized, raking his claws across the frozen ground. Fully solidified, on all fours, his head was at the right height to nudge Chris's hand for a scratch.

"Hey, buddy." Chris pulled away. "I need you over here."

Sensing the tone in Chris's voice, Hero perked his ears and became serious, ready for orders. Ready to become dangerous.

Chris patted the ground next to the girl. "Come here. Lie down."

Hero lumbered between Chris and the girl, pausing to sniff the girl's hair. Then he shuffled at the snow and groaned.

"I know you don't like snow. I can't help it. Could you lie down, please?"

With a hand motion from Chris, Hero gave a moaning growl, tongue flopping, stretched once more, and then settled onto the muddy snow.

Chris nudged him with a knee. "Over." Even with his flames retracted, the heat of Hero's fur was enough to instantly melt the snowflakes off Chris's pants.

Snorting a puff of steam, Hero shifted and rolled until he lay beside the girl—not as if she were something precious to be shielded but as if she were a pile of rocks.

Nonetheless, Chris bent to rub the tips of Hero's ears. "Thank you."

Turning his back to them both, Chris grabbed his backpack and knelt to paw through it. At the very top was the first aid kit. He began to set it aside but stopped to take out his last two chemical hand warmers from the zippered pouch. These he tucked into his pockets before placing the rest on the ground beside him. Next were the various piece of his mess kit, which he stacked atop his first aid kit. Beneath the extra set of clothes and the repair kit, he finally uncovered his tent.

The stakes, poles, and the body of the tent itself he leaned against a nearby tree. After stamping down a reasonably flat space next to the girl, he laid the rain fly down on the snow. On top of it he placed the thin foam sleeping pad, then the sleeping bag, which he laid open.

Hero watched with mild curiosity.

Chris looked at the girl and paused. He was familiar with emergency first aid, both from the classes required to get his license and from growing up with a nurse for a mom. But this was a real person, not a practice dummy. He wiped his brow and tugged the rain fly a fraction of an inch closer. Then, finally, he reached his hands beneath the girl and rolled her onto the sleeping bag. A smooth transition.

He let out a long breath. Noting the darkening sky, he swept his gaze over the clearing, his stacked supplies, and then finally allowed his eyes to fall upon the girl. "Okay," he said to the air, as if the word could calm his fluttering stomach. She was shivering, and he was wasting time. Even as he reached towards her, he felt his face redden. But he pushed through it and began to pull at the knotted cord that held her robe together. "I'm sorry. I promise I'm not trying to be gross. I just don't want you to freeze to death in this."

Finally, he worked the knot loose. He fought the urge to avert his eye, but—he heaved a sigh of relief—she wore silk slip under the robe, dry enough to leave alone. After that, pulling his dry shirt over her head was easier. As he fumbled to get her limp arm through the sleeve, he noticed the one other thing she wore: an iridescent gold feather the size of his hand hung on a string around her neck. He didn't pause to wonder about it. When he bent to remove her sandals, her feet felt like ice. He started to rub one of her feet between his palms, then gave up and worked faster to get her into his sweatpants and then tucked into the sleeping bag.

The moment before he pulled away, her eyes fluttered open. Her gaze was unfocused for a moment before locking onto Chris, freezing him to the spot.

The hair rose on his arms.

"Cold," she said, so quiet he almost didn't hear.

"It's going to be alright. I'm going to get you help." He eased one arm free and reached over her body for the sleeping bag zipper pull.

Her hand brushed his shoulder.

As he pulled away, he saw that she held a downy red delibird feather between two fingers. It must have been stuck to his coat. "Rainbow wings," she mumbled.

"You're going to be alright," he repeated, turning her onto her side.

Her eyes closed.

Chris withdrew the hand warmers from his pocket. Crushing them to activate the heat, he shoved them down towards her feet. He pulled the sleeping bag around her face, wet hair and all. Then he tucked in her exposed arm.

Her hand closed around his fingers, and he felt the feather she still held in her grip.

She was very pretty, he realized. What was she doing here?

After a long moment, he spoke in a voice hardly above a whisper, surprising himself, "What's your name?"

She didn't respond with so much as a sigh.

He watched her without speaking, snow soaking through the knees of his pants, until his free arm began to ache from supporting all his weight. He gently disengaged his hand. Knees creaking, he climbed to his feet and dusted the remaining delibird feathers off his coat. His heart was still pounding, but the air was still. He asked Hero to lie beside the girl again.

He set up the tent and, with some effort, moved the girl inside using the rain fly as a sling. Then he reinstalled Hero at her side and zipped them in together.

There was one thing left to do.

He glanced at his Bitflex, but of course, it still displayed only no signal. Not even as much as a roaming signal. No radio, no GPS, no email, and definitely no phone service. The mountains had reduced it to nothing but a blocky, waterproof wristwatch. With a sigh, he went to his backpack.

The PLB—personal locator beacon—hung from an outside strap on his pack. It resembled a small, squat flashlight without a bulb, heavy for its size. The switch at the bottom was difficult to move on purpose. He had never had to flip that switch before. Not in Union Cave, seized by panic that he'd never find his way back up to daylight. Not after wandering Ilex Forest for days, unsure whether he was walking in circles. He had never planned to use it, but this time there was no other option.

He briefly indulged in the idea of loading the girl onto Sammus, his skarmory. But he knew that Sammus wasn't quite big enough to carry the two of them and that, clever as she was, she couldn't get back to Mahogany without guidance. He also didn't think it would be good to have takeoff and turbulence jostling the girl's head.

"Suck it up," he scolded himself. Chris flicked the switch with an audible snap.

Nothing happened. Or, at least, nothing immediately obvious. The signal beaming SOS out to orbital satellites, the screaming alarms at the local receptor station on the ground, orders being barked, the emergency team donning their suits, the computer technician reading the output and tracking the location of the metal cylinder clutched in Chris's hand—this all had to be imagined.

In the meantime, there was nothing for Chris to do but wait.

He turned a circle, snow crunching beneath his feet. Gray skies over gray cliffs peeked between the dark trees. The sun sank lower, minute by minute. Shadows washed over him. And the snow kept coming down with no sign of stopping. Even with Hero sitting feet away, Chris had never felt so alone in the canyon. Perhaps never in all the months he'd been training.

He paced around the clearing but dared not go far. He craned his head back to search for a helicopter he knew could not have arrived yet. Not so much as a delibird crossed the sky. After his second lap, he began to pick through the snow for fallen branches, but unsurprisingly the wood he found was too green and too wet to burn.

Fingers aching and red, Chris rubbed his hands together and returned to sit on the tent floor beside his pokemon. He pressed his hands to the warmth of Hero's back until they no longer stung from the cold. Hero sighed contentedly and lay his head on Chris's knee. The heat radiating from his fur, even when at rest, was so intense that Chris unzipped his coat partway. However, the ground beneath them was still cold through the tent floor.

After checking the girl's pulse again (unchanged, as far as he could tell), he hopped to his feet and strode to his pack. He re-sorted his piles, stuffing a few things inside his backpack again, until he could access his mess kit. He took out what he needed to heat water for tea.

Chris brought the ziplock bag of loose leaf tea to his nose and breathed deep. It was a blend of green teas and herbs from the Olivine area, toasted on the camp stove. The standard in Olivine was to add sugar and milk, but Chris took his tea New Bark-style, like his dad. When Mom worked the night shift, Dad was the one who roused the three of them for school and got breakfast into them. If Chris woke up a little early, his reward was a cup of tea and a few quiet moments in the kitchen with Dad—without Keiko's surliness and Kaden finger-drumming on the table. Mom taught him how to ride a bike, but Dad taught him how to make breakfast: omelet, natto, miso soup. And a proper cup of tea. After a moment, Chris resealed the bag and pocketed it. He listened to the hiss of his camp stove, staring at nothing…

He shook his head and turned to look at the girl's cloak and outer robe where they still lay on the ground, and then got up for a better look. Up close, holding one of the sleeves, he saw that the diamond pattern wasn't made of solid color blocks at all, but many fine blue and white stitches that revealed intricate scenes: cherry blossoms, stantler, a river lined with trees, lotus flowers, feathers, fruit, temples. He had never seen a piece of clothing designed with such care and detail.

Chris stood and peeled the blue and white robe up from the wet cloak beneath, shaking it out. He draped it between two sturdy tree branches. The lack of direct sun would prevent it from drying much, but at least it was off the ground.

After rubbing the sleek fabric between his fingers one more time, he turned his attention to the cloak. For the first time, he noticed the shape of the brooch pinned to the hood: a bird pokemon, its wings spread, feathers suggested by a chevron pattern. He thought he recognized it, but he wasn't sure from where. It was blockier than the Johto 'Geottos logo. In fact, it was designed to look handmade and old, with hammer marks visible all over the surface and edges ragged in some places.

He picked up the cloak as well, brushing snow from the folds. As he scouted around for a suitable place to hang it, the cloak being much heavier than the robe, something green in the corner of his eye caused him to glance down. He nearly dropped the cloak in shock.

Where the girl had lain was a patch of perfect storybook green, lush grass and clover dotted with tiny flowers. He hadn't seen anything that green anywhere in the canyon. He prodded at the surrounding snow with the toe of his boot and revealed nothing beneath but black earth and pine needles. No grass there. On a whim, he ruffled the grass with his hand and found it wet but warm.

Chewing the inside of his cheek, he hung the cloak in the trees, its weight bowing branches, and returned to sit on a rock beside his camp stove and windshield. Over and over, his eyes returned to that patch of grass shaped like a human body.

Inside the tent, Hero grumbled and sighed in his sleep every so often.

Chris sipped his tea in silence, watching the grass (still there) and the sky (still empty). He checked his Bitflex again, though he didn't need a time readout to know it was getting darker out. And colder. The next time he checked her pulse, the girl was shivering. Zipping his own coat higher, he rose to gather up snow to melt for another cup of tea. He rubbed his hands together and then warmed them on Hero's flank.

And waited.

He was drinking his third cup of tea when he heard the helicopter in the distance. Heart hammering, Chris leapt to his feet. He paused only to snatch the purple cloak from the branch where it hung and ran toward the sound of the approaching helicopter. He half-sprinted and half-slid downhill, jumping over exposed roots and fallen logs. The noise grew louder and louder until it throbbed in his ears. Just as he broke through the trees, he watched the red and white helicopter glide into view over the canyon wall.

"Over here!" Chris shouted, but he could hardly hear himself. With two hands he waved the cloak overhead, droplets spattering his arm with each snap. The wet cloth was heavy, and his arms quickly began to tire.

The helicopter banked left and began to descend. Surrounding trees shivered, shedding pine needles and snow.

He let his arms fall to his sides, out of breath.

The racket became louder yet, forcing Chris to cover his ears. His hood ripped back from his face. The wind battered him, tossing ice flecks in his face and slapping the cloak against him. He hid his face in his shoulder.

A few feet above the ground, the chopper halted and hovered in place. A side door marked with a red plus sign slid open, and a woman wearing a helmet, a blue jumpsuit, and a reflective neon vest jumped down. She flashed the pilot a thumbs up, and the helicopter wheeled up and away to circle overhead.

The paramedic jogged to meet Chris. "Are you injured?" she shouted over the noise. When she stood close enough to be heard, Chris noticed that among other tools clipped to her belt was a full set of six masterballs. He had never seen them carried by anyone other than a police officer. That was one way to subdue an attacking pokemon, he supposed.

"I'm fine," Chris yelled back, "but there's a girl over there in the trees. I left her with my pokemon but she needs help. She's unconscious."

She scrunched her shoulder to speak into the short-range radio clipped onto her jumpsuit. It crackled in response, but Chris couldn't hear over the helicopter rotors. Then she shouted to Chris, "How far is it?"

"Not far. Maybe a hundred feet up the hill."

The paramedic relayed this information via radio. The helicopter lowered once more, and she jogged back to meet it. Someone fed a stretcher with raised sides and straps through the door, and she caught the end. A second paramedic hopped down from the helicopter, supporting the other end of the stretcher. An espeon in a matching Tyvek vest hopped out behind him, landing daintily. As they approached Chris, the helicopter roared into the air.

"Show us the way!"

With the paramedics and their espeon following closely behind, Chris picked his way through the trees once again. He unzipped the tent door and recalled Hero to make room for the two paramedics. Before he finished clipping Hero's pokeball back onto his belt, the paramedics were already kneeling on either side of the girl. One was unrolling space blankets from inside the stretcher, the synthetic fabric crinkling, while she updated the helicopter crew via radio. The other asked questions about the girl and what had happened, many of which Chris couldn't answer. The espeon crouched beside the girl's head, its eyes wide and somber.

Finally, one paramedic announced, "Let's get her into the helicopter."

They bundled the girl up in space blankets, the shiny material reflecting streaks of light around the clearing. The helicopter rotors clattered louder, softer, and louder again as it wheeled overhead. Red and white flashed occasionally through the trees. Then, "On three. One, two, three—" they moved her into the stretcher and strapped her in.

Chris watched.

One of the paramedics radioed the helicopter. The other motioned the espeon forward. Within minutes, the rotors grew louder and the helicopter came into view overhead. The espeon's handler said something to it, inaudible over the helicopter, and its eyes began to glow. Red light haloed the stretcher. Another round of back and forth radio static, and then the stretcher began its slow rise to the helicopter's waiting doors.

Chris craned his neck back to follow her gleaming, silver-wrapped body rising through the treetops. His stomach felt leaden, but not until the paramedic spoke did he finally look away.

"We'll fly her to the nearest hospital in Mahogany Town. You saved her life."

"Yeah…" Chris skimmed his eyes over his scattered camp gear, the robe still hanging in the tree. Lastly, he turned to look up at the Dragon's Spine peaks overhead, visible only as silhouettes now.

Perhaps his final gym badge could wait a few more days.

He spun to face the two paramedics. "Can I come with you?"

 
Last edited:
2: The Volunteer

OldschoolJohto

Never not editing
Pronouns
She/Her
Partner
solrock
2: The Volunteer



Chris remembered little of the journey back to Mahogany. He must have slept. He stretched his arms—because that was all the room he had to move, hunched in the corner with his backpack—and watched the dull orange streetlights below draw nearer. The helicopter made a low arc, and the medical center came into view below.

He hardly had time to digest the fact of landing before the door slid open and the paramedics were gone, moving the stretcher towards the hospital doors. He tottered to his feet, nearly hitting his head, shouldered his pack, and followed them out. Moments later, he was squinting against the fluorescent lobby lights. A cluster of hospital staff in pale green scrubs converged on the stretcher. Together with one of the paramedics, they wheeled the girl away down the hall in a flash of silver space blanket.

The other paramedic stayed behind, leaning one arm against the front counter while he gave a radio update.

When he was through, the gray-haired woman at the desk asked, "Another trainer?"

"No, I don't think so," the paramedic replied.

Chris approached, moving as if waterlogged. "When will we know if she's alright?"

The paramedic turned and said, "Only time will tell for sure, but she's getting the best possible care now. I don't think there's cause for real worry at this point." He clapped Chris on the shoulder with startling strength. "You did the right thing, you know. It's nice to see a trainer with some practical sense."

Chris forced a smile. "Uh, thanks. I was worried she might not …." He trailed off. "I just wanted to make sure she was going to be okay."

The woman at the front desk piped up, "You're welcome to take a seat and wait a little while in case there are any updates. Your pokemon doing okay? You can heal them down the hall while you wait." At the surprised look on his face, she added, "It's the same building. We've just got the one here."

"Yeah, that's a good idea."

Chris dropped off his belt in the other wing of the building and came back. As he walked, he realized he did in fact recognize the beige tile and the waiting room chairs that looked like they had last been upholstered in the '70s. He chose the seat that looked the least worn, propped his feet up on his backpack, and tried to make some progress on his paperback. The book was an easy read, nothing of real substance, but he struggled to concentrate on it. Each time someone went in or out of the door he snapped to attention, but it was always a nurse bringing out paperwork or fresh coffee for his coworker. Chris kept catching himself staring into space. Finally, he stood to buy peanut M&M's from the nearby vending machine—something to occupy his hands.

He'd been sitting for over an hour already—did that mean something had gone wrong? There was no way for him to know how long she'd been lying there before he stumbled upon her. He thought again of her fingers and toes red with cold, how easily he could have taken another path up the hill and missed her entirely. What then?

Stop it, Chris scolded himself, and then he forced himself to return to his book.

The next thing he knew, someone was shaking him awake. "You don't have to stay here all night." The woman from the front desk

"Have you heard anything?" he said, voice thick with sleep.

"Sometimes no news is good news. Why don't you come back in the morning, after you've both had a chance to rest. You can get your sleeping bag back then, too. You need help finding a place to stay?"

"No, that's okay. I'll get out of your hair."

"It's no trouble."

"I can manage." He collected his pokemon and then set out into the night.

The phone line rang and rang at Chris's wrist as he walked. It was much warmer on this side of the mountain, and Chris had to stop and stuff his coat into his pack. Humidity nullified all other sounds but the crickets. Fireflies hovered over puddles, and the sky was thick with crisp stars so unlike the flat purplish wash of light pollution above home. Here, the line between town and wilderness was tricky to distinguish.

Though the street lights were dim, the trainer hostel was not difficult to find. It was as he remembered: one block north of the gym, a narrow, a two-story cabin with a wooden sign hanging crookedly above the front door, across from a small grocery market (closed at this hour). Like most other buildings in town, The Indigo Chateau was built from blocks of blue-gray stone, but it was the only one besides the gym taller than a single story. Only one of the downstairs lights was lit.

As he rounded the corner and The Chateau came into view, a tinny voice at his wrist called out, "Hullo, Indigo Chateau. Hello?"

Chris brought the Bitflex watch closer to his mouth. "Hi. Sorry to be calling so late—"

"Believe me, that's not exactly out of the norm." The hostel manager didn't have his video feed turned on—or, more likely, didn't have one—but the scowl was clear from his voice.

"This is sort of an emergency. Do you have any beds available for tonight?"

A creak, a shuffling of paper. "There is one." The light in the front room downstairs came on. "That you walking up? I'll meetcha at the front in a second."

A click, then silence.

Chris tried the front door and found it locked, but within he heard footfalls approaching. The manager lived on the bottom level in a back room, he remembered. He had seen the little cot and the potbelly stove through the open doorway behind the front desk, a sight that had made him feel inexplicably sad. Chris must have woken the old man up.

The door opened.

The old man wore a cable-knit sweater, even in this heat. He squinted at Chris. "I remember you," he said. "You left just a coupla days ago."

Chris shrugged and smiled. "I beat Pryce."

"Had a little trouble in the mountains though, eh?" He barked a laugh that made Chris jump in surprise. "Emergency services brought you right back, I see."

"Not exactly," Chris said, reddening.

The old man wheezed another laugh. "You're hardly the first this year, don't you worry." He turned and padded into the cool dark, waving for Chris to follow.

By the light spilling in from the back room, the old manager found the light switch. The lobby remained dim, however, partly on account of the single bulb in the old fashioned light fixture and partly because of the dark-colored furniture. Against one wall stood a longcase clock, atop which perched a horrifying taxidermy hoothoot that looked centuries old.

"Now …." The manager lowered himself painstakingly into the chair. He unlocked a desk drawer, pulled out the ledger book, and cracked it open. Licking the pad of his thumb and flipping to a blank page, he said, "You know the drill. First you pay, then you get your bed."

"Right." Chris clicked a button to open the hollow compartment in his belt buckle and slid out his Trainer OneCard.

"I hope you didn't wake me up for nothing. You know how this works." He hooked his thumb at the sign on the wall behind him: Cash only!

"Sorry, I forgot." Chris pinched the roll of bills from his belt buckle compartment. "How much is it again?"

"How many nights you need?"

"Just one, I'm pretty sure."

"Sure or just pretty sure? We've had more trainers through here lately than you can shake a stick at. Come morning, you might find you can't get a bed if you want one. I can't guarantee you anything you don't pay for here and now."

"I'll be okay with just one night."

The old man grunted and shrugged. "That's thirty dollars then. Towel rental is two."

"It was less last time."

"It's almost the end of League eligibility. Demand goes up, the price goes up."

Chris peeled three tens off the roll of bills, biting his cheek. "I don't need a towel." Thirty dollars for a few hours on a musty mattress. With that money, he could buy two decent bowls of hot stew and rice, a weeks' worth of meals in dry goods and fresh produce, repairs for his boots and tent … His stack was thinning. But because the only other option was hiking to the marshland outside the city and pitching his tent on a mud puddle in the dark, he handed his money to the hostel manager.

The old man licked his fingers again to count the bills. Then he began to fill out the ledger in spidery scrawl. "I'll take that card now."

Chris set it on the desk. He watched the old manager copy down his information for a moment and then asked, "Hey, how did you know about the emergency services anyway?"

The old man wheezed a laugh. "Son, when one of those helicopters goes out, the whole town hears it."

"Oh."

The manager finished writing, tore off the carbon copy for Chris, and snapped the ledger shut. "Bunk 4A, up the stairs on the right. You remember where the bathrooms are? Kitchen, lockers?"

"I think I got it." Chris hoisted his backpack off the floor. "Thank you. Have a good night."

Up the creaky claustrophobic stairs, down a hallway lit by night lights, Chris found the room. Someone was asleep in 4A—an unidentifiable heap of body amid blankets. Below that was 4B, occupied by a white guy with dreadlocks whose limbs dangled over the sides of the cot. Atop 4C, a girl read a tattered paperback by headlamp. A vulpix was curled in her arms, in spite of signs posted all throughout the hostel that warned, All pokemon must remain inside pokeballs AT ALL TIMES! She didn't so much as look up to acknowledge Chris when he dropped his pack on the empty 4D bunk below her.

The moment he laid down, Chris fell asleep, still on top of the blankets.

He dreamed of snow … and woke sweating.

Chris set no alarm but rose with the sun, as he did every morning. The girl with the vulpix was already gone. The other two were still asleep, though Dreadlocks' head now lay where his feet had been during the night. One of them was snoring quietly.

Keeping quiet to avoid disturbing the sleepers, Chris pulled everything damp from his pack and laid it across the now-empty bunk above his to air out. He locked his pack in the footlocker under the bunk and then headed out into the crisp morning.

It was six a.m.—too early to call home and too early for a hospital visit. He turned north towards the lake instead. He walked slowly, having no particular plan or needs. However, as there was little of the sleepy town to see, he still passed through quickly.

Between the irregularly spaced houses, The Lake of Rage shone through, dark and glittering. A grassy slope gave Chris a lookout point into the bowl carved by the lake's high and low years. Around the docks, the men of the town clustered, baiting and casting fishing lines. On the western lip of the lake, a pair of trainers battled. Fortunately for the fishermen, the battle was driving the magikarp towards them. To the east, the gradual curve of highlands cut up sharply into the Dragon's Spine Mountains.

He'd be halfway to Blackthorn by now if he'd stayed.

Chris gazed at the mountains with his hands in the pockets. The distance tore at him. There were only a few weeks left for him to reach Blackthorn City on the other side of those mountains, challenge Clair, claim a badge, and travel all the way to the Indigo Plateau in time to register for the annual conference. Coming back here was flirting with failure. He didn't want to wait another year.

But he wanted to know the girl was alright. His thoughts snagged on unanswerable questions: how did she end up in the middle of nowhere? Who was she?

The aroma of fried food finally pulled his attention downhill towards the lake. Across the road from the docks was a tiny food cart pulled by a bike. As Chris made his way down the slope, he watched the vendor unhook his bike, collapse it, and hang it on the back of the cart. Chris arrived just as the vendor unshuttered the front window.

Chris ordered a magikarp-shaped pancake filled with red bean. It heated his hands through the tinfoil wrapping. He paid the small sum and then, balancing the pancake in the crook of an elbow, he retreated to a distance to count the remainder of his cash more carefully. He had a little over two hundred dollars in hand and not much more than that on his OneCard. With a sigh, he returned the money to his belt buckle compartment.

He had also burned his tongue.

Chewing as he walked, he meandered towards the piers. The water grew clearer and brighter with each moment, revealing green muck at the bottom and flashes of red and gold fins. His lapras would enjoy the lake. But he also knew the fishermen would be upset if he let her out here, and so he left her on his belt. They spoke little and in low voices, but not so low that Chris couldn't hear the punchline to a dirty joke.

From the across the water came the occasional shout or splash. One trainer's houndoom shuffled out of the lake shallows and shook itself off, head hanging. Chris saw the opponent's reflection on the water first, then tracked it upward. The pidgeot made to dive-bomb again, and the houndoom lunged to meet it—and then splashed down with a howl that echoed across the water. But the pidgeot pulled out of its dive with blood spreading across its breast feathers.

Chris could tell the pidgeot was going to win, but he found himself rooting for the houndoom anyway. His dad had trained one named Oji.

When Chris was fourteen, Dad had once invited him to command Oji in a sparring match against one of the gym trainers. "Go on." Then he folded his arms and stepped back.

Of course, Chris knew all of his dad's command words. Still, it came as a delicious surprise when Oji complied and sprang forward with shadow licking out from between his teeth. Probably the houndoom had only obeyed because his trainer was standing there watching, but it still felt good.

"I heard your father is having you do his job," Mom said when they came home that evening, her tone teasing but her fingers drumming on the table.

"It's perfectly safe as long as I'm there," Hiro answered with a shrug and a smile.

"I know." She said it like it pained her.

Chris had ducked his head and tried to squeeze past, but she'd caught him and pulled him into a hug.

"I just don't want you to grow up too fast."

For a moment Chris closed his eyes and let himself miss them.

The houndoom dragged itself ashore, ducking the pidgeot's talon swipes. It snapped after the pidgeot's tail, huffing out flame with the effort—but it missed. Oji would've put this houndoom to shame.

The fishermen clicked their tongues and shook their heads. Among them, Chris spotted one familiar face: he wore an oversized shirt printed with tropical flowers and smoked an old-fashioned pipe. He was the only one without a fishing pole.

"Hey!" Chris stood and walked over. "Aren't you the guy who gave me that bag of pokemon food?"

The man turned and paled. "Who me? You got me confused with someone else."

"But I recognize your shirt."

Chris took a step closer, and the man leapt to his feet. All the fishermen were staring at them now. "I don't want it back!" the man announced.

"I don't even have it anymore, I just—"

But it was too late. The strange man swept down the pier and disappeared over the hill, shirttails fluttering behind him. The smell of his strange bitter smoke lingered. Tobacco and rawst leaf.

Chris shrugged at the surrounding fishermen. "What's his problem?"

"Oh, that's just Saji. He's an odd one. Don't pay him no mind."

"You're scaring away all the magikarp! Shaddup, would ya?"

Chris shook his head and walked away.

Across the water, the two battling pokemon tangled so tightly they looked like one creature. Now and again a wing might emerge. A tail. A horn. Their trainers' shouts grew louder and more plaintive, but it seemed to matter little at this point. Soon there would be an obvious loser, and then the other would collapse too.

He made his way towards them.

The houndoom's trainer was handing the other trainer a few bills. Chris was close enough to see his scowl. The pidgeot perched atop the fallen houndoom, holding one bloodied wing away from its body but keeping its head high. Its trainer recalled it and she looked up to see Chris approaching.

"That's an impressive pidgeot."

"Thanks."

"I'd really like to battle you, if that's alright. Do you have any pokemon left?"

"So polite." She looked Chris up and down. "I have three."

The other trainer folded his arms.

"What would you say to one hundred for best two out of three and an extra fifty for a complete knockout?"

She squinted. "How many badges do you have?"

"Seven. For now."

She grinned and reached to shake his hand. "I'd love to double my earnings."

"Release on three?"

"Let's go."

To her credit, she didn't underestimate him. In the first round, her steelix literally drove Pocky, his girafarig, into the ground. Chris felt it too, an echo of pain shooting through his head when his mental connection with Pocky broke.

Round two was a surprise for them both when Chris released his jolteon and she a raichu. Their preliminary stabs of electricity fazed neither pokemon—shows of dominance if not force—but left Chris's hair standing on end. His opponent tried to leverage the raichu's weight to push Sonic into the lake and pin him underwater. She came close, but Chris hadn't named him Sonic for nothing. The jolteon ran circles around the raichu, getting in a quick bite or pin missile before darting out of reach. Finally, the raichu was too worn down to fight the jolteon off its chest when he pounced.

For the final round, Chris sent out Sammus, his skarmory, and she a gengar. At the look on her face, Chris knew he had secured his payout. Sammus tore through the gengar's smoggy veil—Chris and his opponent pulled their t-shirts over their mouths—and made quick work of it with a few swipes of her wing blades.

The houndoom trainer smoked a cigarette beneath a tree and watched the gengar sink in on itself and fall.

"Wow," said the girl, recalling her fallen pokemon. "I hope that's not a preview of how the Indigo Conference will go for me." But she smiled as she shook his hand.

"Good match," Chris said.

The other trainer fiddled with her necklace. "What's your TN handle? I'll tag you."

"My what?"

"Your Trainer Network profile?"

"Oh, I don't really use it." He hadn't realized she'd been filming the fight, but now he saw the glint of a camera lens in the necklace charm she wore. He wished she would've warned him or asked. "It's … not really my thing."

"To each his own, I guess. You can make decent money as a brand-promoter though, you know. Takes some of the pressure off."

"I'll keep that in mind," he said, already starting to edge away. He snuck a glance at his Bitflex—surely the hospital's visiting hours were open by now. "I gotta go take care of a few things. Thanks again for the battle."



Even in daylight, the fluorescent light hurt his eyes. He went to the desk where the gray-haired woman from the night before either still sat or sat again. "Hi, I'm here to visit the girl who came in last night."

"Of course. You think I'd forget your face that fast?" She typed something and squinted at her screen. "It looks like visitors are allowed, but you'll have to check your belt and pokeballs here. We'll send them across the hall to the pokemon center for you if you like. Don't worry, you'll get them back when you leave."

"What? Why?"

"That's the policy for all mental ward patients."

Chris chewed the inside of his cheek, but he unbuckled his belt and signed the visitor registry. She directed him towards the girl's room. A few moments later, he found the door and tapped on it before he could supply himself with reasons not to.

"Come in."

He found the girl sitting up in the hospital cot, frowning at a Reader's Digest. Her hair was a wild cloud of yellow curls, but her face had color again. The golden feather still hung around her neck—Chris wondered if there was a story behind it.

She looked up at him with bright eyes. "Hello."

"Hi." He took a few steps. "I uh … I wanted to see how you were doing, make sure you're okay."

She frowned and tucked a loose curl behind her ear. "I feel healthy. They say I will be allowed to leave soon. But things have been … confusing." Then she smiled up at Chris. "But I would not be here at all if not for you. Will you tell me your name?"

"I'm Chris."

"Chris. You saved my life."

"Oh no, I'm just the guy who called the paramedics. They did the real work."

She locked eyes with him. "I am in your debt," she said and folded her hands over her heart. "Thank you, truly."

Chris looked away first. "Anyone would've done the same," he said, ears reddening. He cleared his throat. "Um. What's your name?"

She paled. "I … do not know."

He stopped short. "What do you mean you don't know?"

The girl smiled again, but it was a sad smile. "I fear I cannot remember much from before you found me. They say it is shock. Most likely my memory will return before long. For now, they call me Jane."

Jane Doe.

Shock probably explained some of the way she spoke. She didn't have an accent exactly, but there was something strange about it.

"It must be scary not being able to remember things."

Jane let out a sigh. "Yes."

"So you don't know how you got there?"

She shook her head.

"Not at all?"

"The doctor believes I have what he calls teleportation sickness. It would appear I was spirited there, so to speak."

Chris had never been teleported by a pokemon, but he'd heard that it could be disorienting and even sickening, especially the first few times. "So, it was an accident." He paused. "Or … maybe not an accident."

Jane shrugged but smiled. "Who can say."

Someone rapped on the open door frame, and they turned to see a doctor poke his head in. Beneath his lab coat, he wore a shabby sweater—patches on patches. "Hi, Jane. Mind if I come in?"

"Please."

"I'm Dr. Stratus, and you must be the kind traveler everyone has been talking about."

Chris introduced himself and shook the doctor's hand.

"I was just coming to let Jane know that the emergency services team was able to lend us one of their interns to escort you. So as long as everything is still looking good in the next few hours … we'll have you on your way back to Ecruteak first thing in the morning."

"Ecruteak?" Chris said.

"Yes," said Jane. "That much I remember well. I am not sure how I ended away home, I have been told we are not far from there."

"Not far at all," agreed the doctor.

"Oh!" Chris set down his backpack and unhooked Jane's rolled up robe and cloak from the top. "I almost forgot. These are yours."

"Oh, thank you!" Jane accepted the roll and set it on her lap, fiddling with the edge of a sleeve. She looked equally happy and puzzled to have it.

Dr. Stratus leaned forward. "May I?" He took the robe from Jane and unrolled it partway. "Well if this isn't an emblem of Ecruteak, I don't know what else would be. It's beautiful craftsmanship. Maybe you're involved in historical reenactments, Jane."

She frowned. "Perhaps."

"Well." Dr. Stratus refolded the robe and stood straighter. "Having you back where you're meant to be is going to be the best thing for your health, I'd say. You'll be feeling more like yourself very soon, don't worry."

"Thank you," said Jane.

Chris said, "I'm glad it sounds like … everything is working out." He smiled, but something still tickled the back of his mind.

"How would you like to meet him?" said Dr. Stratus.

Jane started. "What?"

"Your escort! I thought you might like to touch base before we send you off into the wilderness with him. And I think a bit of fresh air will do you some good. Why don't you get dressed and then we can go outside and say hello. Though, of course, let us know if you feel dizzy or lightheaded at all." He placed a bag on the end of the bed. "One of our nurses gathered these for you. Hopefully the fit is close enough. Meet me in the hallway when you're ready."

With that, Dr. Stratus ushered Chris into the hall with him and closed the door behind them.

"So the memory loss," Chris began. "That's not permanent, is it?"

"The human body is full of surprises … but no, I don't think so. Typically, amnesia and other symptoms of teleportation sickness go away after a few days, especially if the patient is able to return to somewhere familiar. You ever wake up in an unfamiliar place and forget where you are for a second? It's a little like that."

Chris nodded and tightened his backpack straps. "Well … I guess this will be a good moment to say goodbye. It's a long way to Blackthorn." He would set out from here.

Dr. Stratus smiled. "I think you've already done more than the average trainer would've. We don't see too many trainers here who don't have a broken arm or yellow fever or what have you, and even then we have to fight to get some of them to slow down long enough to submit to some doctoring."

"Ha, I can imagine."

"It's kind of you to stop by. She seems to appreciate it."

Moments later, Jane stepped into the hall wearing clothes left behind by trainers over the years, a pair of leggings and a long sweater. She could be almost anyone now, except …. There was still something strange about her, maybe the look in her eyes, maybe the way she carried herself. Chris wondered again who she really was.

"How do you feel? Lightheaded? Any tingling or numbness?"

"No. None at all."

"Wonderful! Then follow me."

Dr. Stratus led them out a side door that led into an outdoor seating area partially enclosed by trees. Chris was surprised to see the trainer from earlier sitting on one of the stone benches practicing sleight of hand tricks with a pokeball, a cigarette tucked behind one ear. His houndoom sat at his side, looking sullen but healthy. The trainer looked up and waved as the group came through the door.

"Jane, this is Benny, and he—What's the matter?"

She had gasped loudly, and when Chris turned to look he saw her face had gone white. She pointed a shaking finger. "Why is that beast here?"

Benny laughed. "Hotshot? He's not gonna hurt you." Seeing the look on the doctor's face, he recalled his pokemon.

But Jane kept backing away until she was against the wall.

"What is it, Jane? I know you don't know him yet, but Benny is very responsible. He's escorted people between here and Ecruteak lots of times."

She shook her head. "I cannot go with him. Forgive me, but I cannot."

"I have other pokemon," Benny chimed in. "You could meet my furret if you want."

"No, no, no." Jane spoke to the doctor, not the trainer. "Please, I cannot. Not with him."

A nurse arrived to check out the commotion, and Dr. Stratus asked her to escort Jane back to the room. "I'm sorry, Benny," he said with a sigh. "Thank you for your time."

"I don't even get what I did." He rolled a pokeball between his palms.

"You probably didn't do anything. We don't know what kind of trauma she might have experienced before she came to us—she doesn't remember, so she can't tell us. Anything could be a trigger for her."

Benny shrugged. "Alright, well let me know if she changes her mind, I guess."

"We will, thank you."

With that, he slipped out between the trees.

Dr. Stratus pinched the bridge of his nose. "That complicates things."

"Wait," said Chris. "Does that mean she's stuck here?"

With a wry smile, Dr. Stratus said, "This time of year … it's possible." He motioned for Chris to follow him down the hall. "It's great that the rangers let us borrow their interns for things like this. They have enough of the training, they're available, and they're looking for odd jobs like this. But it's obviously not a perfect system. It's too bad, but it looks like our Jane Doe will have to wait things out here for a while. Maybe she'll remember a relative who might be able to hire a local trainer to come from Ecruteak.

"Anyway. I imagine you wanted to say your goodbyes and head out, right? I'll pop in and see if she feels up for it."

Chris chewed his cheek for a minute. "You know … it wouldn't be hard for me to get to Ecruteak from here. I train a lapras, so it would just be a matter of cutting across the lakes."

Dr. Stratus gave him a long look. "It's not something we would normally allow, but considering the circumstances …. We can't pay you, you know. We're not going through official channels here."

"Oh, I don't need money. I just hate to see her stuck in a place she wasn't supposed to be …."

The doctor raised an eyebrow. "Are you sure? Aren't you trying to get to Blackthorn on a deadline?"

Chris forced the thought away and put on a smile. "It is a little out of my way, but I don't think it would take long. It's the right thing to do." His ears turned red again. "I mean, if she even wants me to take her."

The doctor smiled knowingly. "Why don't I ask."

As Dr. Stratus had promised, they left first thing in the morning.

 
Last edited:

Chibi Pika

Stay positive
Staff
Location
somewhere in spacetime
Pronouns
they/them
Partner
pikachu-chibi
Hello there! I've been wanting to check out some of your writing ever since you posted that Pokefic guide, so I'm glad that I got matched with you in the Catnip Circle! 😺

So, to start things off, can I just say, those lovely banners you make aren't the only thing that's atmospheric here. Wow. It's not just the scenery descriptions (although that's a big part of it)--I love the way you weave in all sorts of small details about both the setting and the characters. Details that might normally seem too mundane to bring up, but the way you use them just adds so much charm. It makes everything feel kind of... cozy. Is that weird to say for a chapter spent in a snowy wilderness? Maybe, haha. xD;

And speaking of the setting, while I'm normally a big proponent of Accessible Journeying, you make the hostile journey trope work. There's a lot of detail that's been put into how a trainer would have to approach their journey; it's not something they can just charge into without a plan.

Even though I prefer less animalish Pokemon, I really enjoyed the charming details you added for their behavior. They may not have had much screentime yet, but Hero and Sonic have already had some cute moments to show some personality, which leaves me wanting to see more of them. Not to mention the wild Delibird, lol. So that's two areas where, despite not being my preferred headcanon, you're grabbed my interest. ;D

Quotes and such~

The first few blasts missed — the cyndaquil was quick on its feet. And then it wasn’t. In minutes, the cyndaquil was on the floor.
ahaha this actually caught me off-guard for how matter of fact it was! I had to reread it like "she seriously just skipped the battle? you can't do that!" xD Of course, this kind of fic really has nothing to gain from showing it, it just was amusing. :P
He narrowed his eyes— ah there it was, that anger or hurt she'd expected — but then he relaxed. "Yeah. I think I'd like that. I… I'm sorry. Thanks for taking good care of…” Chris waved a hand to indicate the gym, or maybe even Olivine more broadly. Then he shrugged, smiled, and pocketed the badge case.
I happen to enjoy sentences ending with vague gestures to people or surroundings. :P
He picked up the bottle and read: Penelope L. Tait. Had the jar rolled away from her one morning as she was packing up? Or was she one more careless trainer who never made it home alive? What evidence of his journey would be left on this mountain for someone else to find if he took a bad fall?
O-oh. There's a lot of sobering moments like this. The fic doesn't beat you over the head with the idea that training is dangerous, it moreso slides reminders across the table when you're not looking.
Chris alternated between watching his feet and gazing up the slope through frosted lashes into the copse of twisted pines ahead. Old snow was scribbled over by fallen pine needles here, disappearing once more under the fresh snow. Directly overhead, the sky was a featureless gray slab. With any luck, the storm would fizzle to nothing—he had already seen how the pokémon of the area stirred up flurries throughout the day, often ending as suddenly as they began. But he knew better than to count on it. He tugged his hood further forward and kept moving.
Argh, have I mentioned how much I love your scene-setting.
Then Chris bent to collect his sleeping clothes. He swept his gaze over the clearing, surveying his stacked supplies, noting the blank but darkening sky and the deepening shadows, and then finally allowing his eyes to fall upon the girl. “Okay,” he said to the air, as if the word could calm his fluttering stomach. His face was red and his hands shook, but he lay them on the girl’s stomach with a touch so light it wouldn’t have made a ripple in water. He fingered the red cord, bit his cheek, and pulled the knot loose. Before continuing, he told her, “I’m so sorry about this. I promise I’m not trying to be gross…I just want to help you. So I have to.” He took a breath. “Whether we like it or not.”
ahaha, aww, Chris is a good. And this is adorably awkward.
After checking the girl’s pulse again (unchanged, as far as he could tell), he hopped to his feet and strode to his pack. He re-sorted his piles, stuffing a few things inside the backpack again, until he could access his mess kit. He took out what he needed to heat water for tea. Chris brought the ziplock bag of loose leaf tea to his nose and inhaled deep. It was a blend of green teas and herbs from the Olivine area, which he toasted himself. The smell always reminded him of days spent watching his father battle at the gym. If he closed his eyes, he could imagine he heard the hiss of water on hot rocks and smell the sweat. After a moment he resealed the bag and pocketed it. He listened to the hiss of his camp stove, staring at nothing…
Even such a mundane thing as making tea has all these memories and details that sort of... give the feeling of a full life to a character that we've barely met.
Where the girl had lain was a patch of perfect storybook green, lush grass and clover dotted with tiny flowers. He hadn’t seen anything that green anywhere in the canyon. He prodded at the surrounding snow with the toe of his boot and revealed nothing beneath but black earth and pine needles. No grass there. On a whim, he ruffled the grass with his hand and found it wet but warm.
Given the lengths you went to make this setting feel grounded in such a short amount of time, this appropriately manages to stand out as really weird.
He thought he recognized it, but he wasn’t sure from where. It was blockier than the Johto ‘Geottos logo.
oh my god
One of the paramedics radioed the helicopter. The other released an espeon from a pokéball. Like them, it wore a Tyvek vest with the emergency services logo. Within minutes, the rotors grew louder and the helicopter came into view overhead. The espeon’s handler said something to it, inaudible over the helicopter, and its eyes began to glow red. Then the air surrounding the stretcher glowed red. Another round of back and forth radio static, and then the stretcher began its slow rise to the helicopter’s waiting doors.
Always a fan of seeing Pokemon assistance used to change how real-world operations would play out.
 

OldschoolJohto

Never not editing
Pronouns
She/Her
Partner
solrock
ahaha, aww, Chris is a good. And this is adorably awkward.
Yyyyup. Good. Awkward. Congratulations -- you've met Chris, hahaha.

ahaha this actually caught me off-guard for how matter of fact it was! I had to reread it like "she seriously just skipped the battle? you can't do that!" xD Of course, this kind of fic really has nothing to gain from showing it, it just was amusing. :P
Yeah this story has shockingly few battles for a journey fic. It does have one proper battle (and a half?) later on, but it's definitely a story that's primarily preoccupied with quieter, lower stakes encounters. I am entering my tournament arc now though, so there will eventually be more pokemon knocking each other around.

The fic doesn't beat you over the head with the idea that training is dangerous, it moreso slides reminders across the table when you're not looking.
The old prologue really did hit you over the read with it, lol -- glad it sounds like the new framing is hitting this tone though! Much closer to what it ought to be doing.

And speaking of the setting, while I'm normally a big proponent of Accessible Journeying, you make the hostile journey trope work.
...
So that's two areas where, despite not being my preferred headcanon, you're grabbed my interest.
It always pleasantly surprises me whenever I find myself enjoying a headcanon that differs wildly from my own. The canon is so dang pliable. So this is very good to hear!

Thanks for all the kind words! I'm so glad to hear it sounds like you enjoyed what you read.
 
3: Bygone

OldschoolJohto

Never not editing
Pronouns
She/Her
Partner
solrock
3: Bygone

"We might be able to see Ecruteak from the top of this hill," Chris called over his shoulder. He paused to flash a smile at Jane Doe.

Wiping sweat from her brow, she returned the smile, though it was strained. She wore her curls tied back with a scarf and, in spite of Chris's cautioning, she'd also selected a long skirt from the hospital lost and found. To Chris's great surprise, she didn't seem to have trouble with it catching underfoot or snagging on things—the skirt was a natural extension of her body. She also hadn't complained or asked for a break once all morning. All the same, Chris repeatedly checked himself and slowed his pace, and he was going to insist on a break at the top of the hill.

Bringing up the rear was his sandslash, Tikal. Normally she hiked at Chris's side—she was the first pokemon he had caught in the wild—but she had taken up the defensive position without being asked. Occasionally she paused to investigate an ekans burrow or sharpen her claws on a boulder, but Chris watched her immediately return to Jane's heels again and again with maternal vigilance.

"Good girl, Tiki," he said under his breath.

At the top of the rise, Chris unloaded his backpack and stretched while he waited for Jane and Tikal to catch up. He'd guessed right: the Ecruteak City skyline glittered beyond the trees. Bell Tower's tiers were visible even from here. There were few other tall buildings to confuse with it, and even the tallest could hardly be called skyscrapers—Ecruteak was defensive of its traditions. Below them were Lake Mortar and scattered ponds. The water was low from the lack of rain, but they'd still be spending the afternoon with Chris's lapras.

Behind him, Jane crested the hill with a sigh of either relief or appreciation for the natural beauty. Maybe a bit of both. She drank deeply from her water bottle, the only thing she carried.

When she finished, Chris pointed and said, "There it is. See it? We'll be in Ecruteak by dinner time."

Jane frowned. "It looks … strange from here."

"Yeah, I mean … I guess there's a little bit of a heat mirage. But you'll see it up close soon enough."

"Yes, I am eager to be home." She tightened the knot in her scarf. "Shall we?"

"Why don't you sit down for a minute. We should eat something." Chris bent to look through his backpack. "Here—want some jerky?"

Jane took what Chris handed her and smelled it. She watched, frowning, as Chris tore off a piece for himself and stuffed it into his mouth. "What is it?"

"Um …." He chewed. "Stantler, I think. You don't usually see tauros in this part of the country."

She looked aghast. "I cannot eat the flesh of another creature. I know it is disrespectful to reject a gift, but …. What if it were my sister?"

Chris paused mid-chew. "What do you mean?"

"Have you not heard it said that the dead return to us in new forms? To guide us, to protect us?"

"Like reincarnation?"

"Yes!"

"I'm so sorry. I didn't know you … I hope you're not… I have some dried fruit instead?" He took the jerky back from Jane and searched his bag again, red-faced.

Jane lowered her head as she accepted the bag of trail mix from him. "No, no. Thank you for the offer. I do not wish to be a burden."

"You're not! I'm sorry I didn't ask."

"It is no offense. I appreciate you sharing your food."

They lapsed into silence.

Nearby, Tikal cleaned between her scales with her long tongue, paying the two of them no mind.

Chris rubbed a thumb over Hero's pokeball. "It's nice to imagine pokemon as spirits of the dead watching over us. I like that."

"I am surprised you did not know. I thought it was common knowledge."

"Maybe it's a thing in Ecruteak—I wouldn't really know," Chris said with a smile. He met her eyes. "You're an interesting person."

She smiled and looked away. Then she sighed. "I hardly know what sort of person I am at the moment …."

"Hey, we just learned you're a vegetarian. That's something!"

"I suppose that is true."

"So you're remembering some things. Probably, seeing familiar places will jog more memories, like the doctor said."

"I hope so."

He gazed down at the distant Bell Tower. "There are a few familiar places I wouldn't mind visiting again, actually. Ecruteak is a nice city. I can see why you're in a hurry to be back."

"You have been before?"

"Oh yeah, a few times. It's not far from home. Stayed there for about a month at the beginning of my journey." He turned to flash her a smile. "There was this cafe I used to go to for breakfast. Medialuna Cafe, I think. You know that one?"

She sat up straight, wide-eyed. "That is my name!"

He scrambled to find a name in what he'd said. Finally he tried, "Medialuna?" He thought of it as the name of a pastry, but—was she somehow associated with the cafe? Wait, no—"Or, Luna?"

"No, Una." A slow smile spread across her face, and he could see her posture relax. "My name is Una."

Oh. That's pretty too, he thought.

Chris smiled. "Nice to officially meet you, Una."



Chris held up a hand for Una to stop and he pointed. A wild spearow perched in a nearby tree, close enough that they could see the gold of its eyes. It watched them. After a beat, it took off—Una gasped in delight—and disappeared in pursuit of some prey invisible to them.

"They're scruffy and mean," Chris said with a grin, "but they're beautiful sometimes too."

"It is a good omen," she said.

As they continued down the path, the breeze brought them the smells of the lake: wet earth, algae, and leaf mold. The trees thinned until the travelers came to the rocky lakeshore. To the left, the rocky heights of Mount Mortar cut through the lake at an angle. Water ebbed in and out of cavernous rifts in the rock face, and the echoes of water rushing deep within were audible even from the shore. Straight ahead, Ecruteak City stood out in ever brighter detail. Behind, Chris could barely see the snow-capped peaks of the Dragon's Spine in the hazy distance. He squared himself against the Ecruteak skyline.

Chris returned Tikal to her pokeball—"See you in a while, Tiki,"—and with no hesitation over which pokeball was which, he released his lapras into the lake. She hadn't fully materialized before she trumpeted joyfully and dove beneath the water. Moments later, the lapras resurfaced, spraying Chris and Una.

They cried out, and Chris laughed.

"Alright, alright! Hi to you too," he said."Una, meet Kelsey."

With some coaxing, Kelsey flipper-crawled partway onto the shore and lowered her head for a pat between the horns.

Chris removed his hiking boots, strung them from his pack, rolled up his pants, and waded into the shallows. "Come on up," he said extending a hand to Una.

She stared across the water towards Ecruteak, brow furrowed.

"You okay?"

Una flashed a smile. "Yes, fine." Then she eyeballed the lapras towering over them, water lapping at its sides. "We are going to ride her? Is that …?"

Chris chuckled. "Kelsey doesn't care. She does it all the time, huh, you big ol' dinosaur."

Kelsey keened and snorted more water at them. Her eyes were beady but sparkled with intelligence.

"Well … how should I …?"

"I'll give you a leg up. Here. Put your foot in my hands. You're not gonna hurt me—go ahead. Okay. On the count of three, push up with this foot and grab onto her shell. One … two … three!"

Una squeaked as Chris boosted her up, but managed to scramble onto Kelsey's back. Once she was settled with a leg on either side of the lapras's muscular neck, Chris found himself some handholds and swung himself up and over to sit sidesaddle between two horns.

"Alright, Kels, let's go!"

Kelsey made a cheerful noise that wasn't heard so much as felt all through their bodies. They lurched and wobbled as the lapras clambered out of the sand and rock. Then they were gliding through open water.

"That wasn't so bad, right? Mostly dry?" Chris leaned back on his pack, letting the sun warm his face. "The very first time I tried to catch a ride on Kelsey, she rolled me. We're on the same page now though."

Breaking in was how the online articles had recommended Chris handle his newly-caught lapras. But the phrase caught inside him. From their first meeting, he'd noticed the cleverness in her gaze. Shamed though he'd been when she dunked him, he still recognized it as both a challenge and an invitation to play. Those weren't things he had any desire to break. What he offered her instead was quiet, patient companionship, sitting on the bank for hours without saying a word, hair dripping. A love of silence turned out to be the first of many things they shared in common.

Una turned to face him, a little awkwardly, grabbing a horn for stability. "Thank you again for helping me get home. I am so grateful for all of this."

"I'm happy to help. It's been nice to have company. Besides, I couldn't just leave you there."

"I would not have liked to have been there much longer," she agreed. "Everyone was very kind, but … it did not feel right for me. Mahogany Town was much more advanced than I had expected."

The glib comment took him by surprise. What had she expected, he wondered, mud huts and witch doctors? But, seeing the sincerity in Una's face he said instead, "Well, you mostly saw the hospital."

"I suppose so. All the same, I feel much more myself since departing. I am sure everything will make sense again once I am home."

As they floated along they fell into a sleepy daze, lulled by the heat and the lapras's gentle rocking motion. The only sounds were birdsong and the slosh of Kelsey's fins churning the water. Una leaned forward and wrapped her arms around Kelsey's neck, resting her cheek against the scales. Chris sat with one knee tucked to his chest and the other foot trailing in the cool water. He alternated between watching the reflected light rippling on the cliff face and staring up at the clouds. He saw a few that looked like pokemon: a suggestion of a paw, a horn, and—oh, maybe a houndoom.

His dad's houndoom, Oji, had horns that curled back so far they made almost a perfect circle. Chris and his sister used to hook household objects onto Oji's horns—clothes hangers, coffee mugs, colanders—competing to pile on the weirdest and largest items before Dad noticed and made them stop. Oji bore it with astonishing calm, showing his annoyance only with an occasional eye roll.

Chris stole a glance at Una and remembered her horrified expression the day before when faced with a houndoom. He'd seen that sort of reaction before—people who had never met a dark-type in person sometimes had misgivings—but never quite like that.

"Can I ask," Chris finally said to Una, "what was going on with you and that houndoom? Do you remember?"

Una sat up slowly. "A little. I remember a man telling it to attack. It opened its mouth, and I saw all the teeth and the fire in the back of its throat, and …. Then nothing." She shivered.

"Not in Mahogany Town?" Chris's first impression of another trainer had been wrong before, but he struggled to imagine the guy with the houndoom going as far as actually attacking someone. You could lose your license for less.

"I am not certain." Una thought for a moment. "Perhaps not. I remember trees. I must have been in the woods."

Odd, how easily she said it. Even though he'd first encountered among the trees, Chris had a hard time imagining her in the woods. Not on purpose, anyway. He shook his head.

He said, "A different houndoom then."

"Yes, I suppose so."

"Huh. So you don't remember how you got away?"

She shook her head.

"You think that had something to do with how you ended up in the Ice Pass?"

"It is possible."

He felt a chill. "Una … do you think you'll be in danger when you get home?"

"I … I do not know." Without her seeming to notice, her hand flew to the feather that still hung around her neck. "But I hope I will understand more."

Chris wanted to pledge himself to remain in Ecruteak for a few extra days to keep an eye on things, but he held his tongue. That was a promise he couldn't keep if he still wanted to keep the promises he'd already made to himself. Already he'd lost almost three full days of travel. "I hope so too," he said.

"Whatever I find in Ecruteak, it is my home. It is where I need to be." She turned to gaze at the skyline, growing closer by the moment. "I have the feeling that there is something important I was meant to be doing there, but I cannot remember what it was …."

"Don't push yourself. I bet you'll remember with time."

She smiled, but it was a distant smile. "You are most likely correct." And she turned away to lean against Kelsey's neck again.

Chris's heart sank. He had been talking to her all day, but he knew scarcely more about her now than when he first saw her in the snow. After today he would likely never see her again, and her mysteries would only be her own-if she even got answers herself. Knowing he had done the right thing would have to be enough.

They passed the remainder of the journey saying little. Chris didn't want to bother her with more questions, and he was accustomed to solitude and silence anyway. For her part, Una seemed content to be left to her thoughts. Several times they dismounted from Kelsey, recalled her, hiked a little way, and then clambered onto her shell again to cross another pond. The path was rocky but not steep, and they reached Ecruteak's eastern gate without incident.

Una beamed and made an oh of longing at the sight of it.

The gate was a simple wooden archway painted a faded orange with two crosspieces. Beyond the archway, a few houses in the traditional style were visible along the tree-lined path. The gate was flanked on either side by fruiting shrubs and a stone statue of a bird, the details blurred and made unrecognizable by centuries of weather and wars. "These are in poor condition …. Strange," Una said. Then, "Oh no. Where is the sage?"

"Sage?"

"Of course," she said, impatience creeping into her voice. "There should be a basket of sage smudges and striking flints hanging from the crossbar so we may purify ourselves before we enter the city."

"I don't remember seeing anything like that any of the times I came through here." Chris bit his lip.

"Well, we cannot simply …." Una looked from side to side, fidgeting with her hands.

"I don't have sage, but …." Chris set down his backpack to procure a pack of matches. "Better than nothing, right?"

She looked at the matches, frowning. "I …."

"Right, I guess a lot of folks don't use matches anymore. Here." He took back the pack, struck a match, and carefully passed it back to her.

Una frowned. "I suppose this will do." She blew out the match and made an X over each of their heads in smoke—"North, south, east, west. Cleanse me with fire. North, south, east, west. Cleanse him with fire."

The hair on the back of Chris's neck stood on end.

She folded her hands together over the extinguished match and closed her eyes.

He waited a long moment and then said, "You ready to head in?"

She looked up and forced a smile. "Yes. Yes, I suppose we should."

They crossed the threshold and followed the path among the houses. Una squinted at the mailboxes and gardens they passed.

"Anything looking familiar?"

She bit her lip and shook her head. "Not yet …."

"Why don't we cut through the park? That should bring us closer to the dance hall and the main downtown areas. That should help, right?"

"Yes, that is a good idea," she said, not looking sure.

He led the way as they cut towards a park on the left. They crossed a stone footbridge over a creek. Small lanterns hung from the trees, but they hadn't been lit yet. They passed an old woman seated on a bench with an eevee beside her. She laughed at something on her tablet screen, and the gibbering of young children chimed from the speakers. Chris dipped his head to her in greeting, and she returned the gesture.

Una lagged behind, staring and frowning deeply.

Chris paused for Una to catch up. "Is something wrong?"

"I am … uncertain."

"What do you want to do? Do you want to keep going?"

After a moment, Una stood straighter and said, "I wish to see the center square."

"Okay." Chris looked into Una's face for a long moment before turning and continuing on.

She trailed after.

They passed a picnicking family, people taking pet pokemon for walks, and a band of teenagers on bicycles—Una squeaked as they flew past. "Do you hear that?" she said.

He stopped and cocked his head. "I think it's just traffic."

Glimpses of concrete and buildings began to show between the trees. The dirt path disappeared, replaced by sidewalk. Chris led them to the edge of the park where it met a narrow street buzzing with cars and bikes. Across the way, lights glittered from the shingled awnings above shops and vending machines. From here the elaborately carved roof of the dance theater was visible, but it was many blocks ahead. Turning one way, Chris caught the scent of meat on a charcoal grill. Turning the other, he smelled gardenias and the chlorine in the sprinkler system. He turned to ask Una which way she wanted to go, but he stopped when he saw the look on her face.

"This is all wrong," she said, hugging herself. She flinched as a car passed. "This is not Ecruteak."

Chris laughed nervously. "Yes, it is. Look, you can see Bell Tower from here." He pointed northwest to the distant pagoda tiers.

Una furrowed her brow and shook her head. Then her eyes suddenly went wide. "What happened to the other one?"

"What?"

She shot him an earnest, pained look. "Chris, something terrible must have happened. Where is Brass Tower?"

Goosebumps broke out along Chris's arms. "There is no other tower. Or I guess there was, but it burned down hundreds of years ago. More than once, I think."

"Burned down?" She started to pace and wring her hands. "How could it have burned down? That makes no sense!"

Passersby shot them odd looks as her voice grew louder. "Maybe we should sit down?" He steered her to a stone bench under the shade of a tree. He said softly, "I think maybe your memory is still mixed up."

Her eyes blazed. "No. I know I remember two towers." She closed her eyes and breathed deeply. "I helped polish the floors. It was always warm inside, even in winter … I know I remember it. We have to go there and find out what happened."

Chris bit his cheek. "There's a historical marker and a museum where the tower used to be …. Do you want to see that?"

She snapped to attention. "Yes. Please, let us go there."

"It's kind of far from here. We'd have to take a bus."

"Show me."

Stomach knotted with dread, Chris used his Bitflex to navigate to the nearest bus stop, coaxing Una along. She clamped onto his backpack with a white-knuckled grip, gawking at the cars and lights. A fire engine screamed past and Una froze in the middle of the crosswalk to cover her ears until Chris pulled her forward.

At last, he herded her onto the bus—she covered her nose and mouth at the diesel smell—and swiped his OneCard for the both of them.

Once seated, she squeezed her eyes shut, one hand to the feather around her neck and chanted under her breath, "As the sun rises in the east, as the sun sets in the sea. As the sun rises in the east, as the sun sets in the sea …." Both hands flew out to brace her each time the bus braked or made a sudden turn.

Chris watched the streets whiz past as they made their way to the northeast corner of the city. His shirt was damp with sweat. He didn't know what the next step should be—he wasn't good at this kind of thing. Bringing her here by himself was a mistake.

When they finally disembarked, she staggered to a nearby wall and sighed as she leaned into it.

"Was that your first time riding a bus?"

She nodded miserably.

"Well … we're almost there."

This part of town was quieter: less foot traffic, fewer shops, no cars. Flowering trees lined the cobblestone streets. Chris chewed at the inside of his cheek and glanced nervously at Una as they crossed the few blocks in between and approached the ruins site.

Ahead was the Ecruteak History Museum, minimalist and gray. Beyond that were the ruins. Four pillars stood alone beside a man-made pond studded with lotuses. The water's surface reflected the roofs and windows of the houses that looked down from the surrounding hills. Between the pillars, a block of tempered glass was set into the earth, displaying an arrangement of blackened tiles.

Una froze and stared for a moment before rushing ahead. She knelt and put her hands to the glass. "No, no, no, no …."

Chris hung back. He shrugged off his backpack beside a plaque and bent to look closer. There was a labeled illustration of the original tower design paired against a black and white photo of the half-crumbling, fire damaged tower.

The Brass Tower was built during the Itun period (1300 A.D.) to honor a mythical bird pokemon. It burned down mysteriously in 1519, possibly due to a lightning strike. The tower was later reconstructed but burned down a second time during the Third Wave Tohjo wars (1589-1599). In 1950, the tower was set on fire for a third time by an unknown arsonist, and it was never rebuilt. The ruins were demolished in 1983 during the development of the Grand Hyatt Ecruteak Hotel. Remaining tiles and replicas of the original pillars were relocated to this historic monument site in 1985.

He glanced up to see Una circling one of the pillars, tracing the carvings. When she caught his gaze, he shuddered involuntarily. He moved to join her, hands in his pockets.

"I do not understand," she said with mournful eyes. "This is Brass Tower, but … I was here mere days ago. I was given robes in this room."

"What if …." Chris tried to swallow but his mouth was dry. He spoke in a voice barely above a whisper. "Una, do you think it's possible that you lived here … five hundred years ago?"

It sounded impossible. But it felt true.

She clutched the feather around her neck. "How could that be?"

"I don't know. It sounds crazy, but maybe it's not. I mean, that would be more than just teleportation. Then again, pokemon can do lots of things we barely understand …."

"Five hundred years …." She put a hand on the pillar to steady herself. Her voice trembled. "But that would mean … my parents. The priests. My friends… Everyone is gone."

Chris bit his lip.

Una closed her eyes and was silent for a long moment. "This is entirely wrong."

"I'm sorry."

She covered her face with one hand. "Give me a moment. Please."

Chris cleared his throat. "Sure." He turned to gather up his backpack and glanced over his shoulder. Una leaned against the pillar, face buried in the crook of her arm, shoulders shaking soundlessly. He walked quickly around the corner.

A few blocks away, he found a QuickMart. He passed the displays of key chains and postcards and found the self-serve coffee station. He started for a small cup but changed his mind and opted for a large one. He gathered up a few more snacks—no jerky—before slowly making his way back to the burned tower memorial site.

He found Una sitting on a bench facing away from the site, knees drawn to her chest. Her face was splotchy red. "The gods have gone," she said. "They could not possibly linger in this place. This is not my home."

Chris hesitated a moment and then sat beside her, offering her the styrofoam cup.

She shook her head.

They sat without speaking. Chris alternated between sipping coffee and breaking off pieces of the wooden stirring stick until he was left with a handful of splinters.

Finally Una said, "Where will you go now?"

Chris let the splinters fall to the grass. "I was on my way to Blackthorn City," he said, staring into the distance. He couldn't see the mountains from here. "Then, if I can get there in time, I'll go to the Indigo Plateau in Kanto. I'm not sure if I'll be able to make it, but I gotta try."

"Can I come with you?"

He snapped his head around to look at her and made several sounds that were not words. After a moment he managed to choke out, "It's dangerous where I'm going!"

She said nothing.

"For one thing, you'd have to buy all new gear. A good coat alone is gonna be—gods—at least one fifty, probably more. A backpack is probably—what am I saying. There's no point. It's not possible." He sighed and raked a hand through his hair. "Maybe … you could stay and work with the museum? Or maybe the dance hall? I bet I could get you a place to stay with one of them …."

"Please."

He looked down to avoid her gaze.

"Please, I cannot bear to stay here. Everything here is so loud and strange. I do not know where to go or how to navigate these streets. And I cannot suffer another …bus. Let me come with you, at least until I can sort out—" Her breath caught. "Until I can sort out …."

Chris grimaced but still said nothing.

"I will find a way to be helpful to you."

"Listen, I'm sorry, but the bottom line is I can't afford to take you with me. I'm out of time, and neither of us has the money it would take to prepare you for this kind of journey. I wish I could—really—but I don't have more help to offer you. I'm sorry."

She was quiet for a moment. "What if we had more money?"

"I dunno, Una. It would take a lot more than I have. I don't even know where we could find that type of money in a short amount of time. And I'm already behind schedule."

"Where are my robes?"

Chris had bundled them up in his pack for her. He handed her the roll of fabric.

"How could I have forgotten?" She unrolled the cloth and spread it across her lap, running a finger along the embroidered patterns. She spoke slowly, as if remembering as she went. "This was to be my bridal gown, so to speak. My family could not afford a traditional dowry, especially after Suki fell ill with fever. So my father planned to apprentice a village boy, and I was to serve under the priests and be a bride to the gods instead."

Chris could only listen, dumbfounded.

"You see—here is the tower surrounded by trees in bloom. And here, on the other side, is Tin Tower. Two towers, two gods. One for sunrise, one for sunset. One for sun, one for rain. One to nurture all that gives us life and one to destroy our enemies. All the rest represents their gifts to us.

"I was meant to offer my own gifts to them …. Of all the colors in the rainbow, the priests said they saw blue in me. Blue for water, blue for peaceful skies." She smiled wryly. "Perhaps blue because I cry so easily.

"I went to the woods—my bridal chamber—to fast, pray, and wait for a sign that I was ready for the vocation. But then I was attacked, and …." She sighed. "I cannot remember what happened next. But I know all this to be true." She looked up and searched his face like a drowning girl looking for a hand to grab onto.

There was no mistaking the conviction in her voice, growing stronger with each word—she wasn't inventing things, and she didn't sound crazy. Even though it absolutely was crazy.

"I believe you," said Chris.

"This is some of the finest embroidery Sister Talia has done." She closed her eyes. "If what you say is true and these robes are from another time … from five hundred years ago … then perhaps they will be valuable to someone else now."

Chris stammered, "Are you sure? Don't you want to keep it?"

She frowned and squeezed the fabric in her hands. "The gods have gone from here," she said again. Una folded the robe and cloak into a neat stack. "If this is what must be done, then so be it. But I cannot stay here."

"I wouldn't even know where to begin to try to sell something like this." His gaze slid to the long, concrete building ahead of them. "I guess we could see if someone at the museum has ideas …. There's no guarantee we'll find anything helpful, though. It might not be worth anything."

"We have to try."

Chris didn't have any other ideas, so he shouldered his bag, poured out the rest of the coffee, and then they headed into the museum. Inside was all sharp lines and soft light. Chris was immediately aware of the dirt on his boots. Even as he approached the admissions kiosk, he felt his face redden.

For her part, the greeter either genuinely was not bothered by his appearance or did a good job hiding it. "Good afternoon and welcome to the Ecruteak History Museum. Is this your first visit with us?"

"It is …."

"Wonderful. So will that be two tickets?"

"Uh actually …. I'm sorry, I know this is a weird request, but I was actually hoping I might be able to show these items to someone. If it's convenient. They're, um, antique."

The receptionist squinted. "I can see if Dr. Lamia is available. What kind of items did you want her to look at?"

"It's an embroidered robe. A bridal gown. Possibly."

He saw the doubt in her face. "Let me go find out." She rose and went to a wall phone. Chris watched her but couldn't hear what was said from where he stood. Moments later she returned and said, "You're in luck. Normally our curators don't take drop-ins, but she has a free moment. She'll be right out if you wanted to take a seat while you wait."

They settled into a corner near the entrance.

Shortly after, they were approached by a woman wearing a cardigan and latex gloves. She pulled one off to shake their hands. "I'm Dr. Ann Lamia. You have a costume—a garment— you wanted to show me? Let's see it."

Una's head hung down as she passed the folded stack of cloth to Chris, quiet as a ghost.

He unrolled the robe, careful not to let it touch the floor.

Dr. Lamia sucked in a breath. She pulled a small black light from a pocket and swept it over the robe as she fingered the decorations, turning a sleeve over in her gloved hand. "The details in this piece are definitely intriguing."

Chris felt a swelling in his heart in spite of himself. That was a better reaction than he'd dare to hope for.

"This is a good replica. Looks like there are some grass stains …. Is there a story behind how this robe came to you?"

Una spoke up then. "Replica?"

"Uh …." Chris shot a warning look at Una, who gave him a stern look in return. "Una found it … in her family's attic. Family heirloom."

Una's mouth was a hard, flat line.

"Was there another piece?"

Chris opened the cloak, and they repeated the process.

After a few moments of fussing and humming in fascination, Dr. Lamia stood straighter. She looked like she was resisting a smile. "The robe is definitely an interesting piece. I'd love to take some photos and have you leave your contact information with Marybeth in case we decide your garments fit into our board's acquisition plan."

His heart sank. "Oh. Well, you see …. I'm a trainer, and I …." He stole another glance at Una, heart deflating further. "We were hoping to leave for Blackthorn City tonight. Or, I guess, maybe tomorrow."

Dr. Lamia frowned. "That's too bad …. This isn't official yet, but—" a conspiratorial smile crept across her face and she leaned forward to speak in low tones, "—we're planning for an exhibit on folk religion, and these pieces could pair well with a few costumes from our permanent collection that we're considering …. Darn it." She laced her fingers together and brought them up to her mouth.

Chris waited.

"You know what." Dr. Lamia brightened, reaching into her pocket. "I probably shouldn't, but I really like these pieces for the spring exhibit. If you're in a time crunch I've got … two hundred in cash."

Chris couldn't help wincing as he and Una exchanged glances. He opened his mouth to speak, but Una beat him to it.

"That is not much, is it," Una said quietly. She saw the answer in his face and turned to address Dr. Lamia ina low, dangerous voice. "The woman who made this is dead. I wonder if there is anyone left alive who remembers her. Perhaps these few stitches are all that remains of her legacy."

"Una." Chris had the sensation of standing on a narrow ledge over an abyss. He felt powerless to stop her from stepping over the edge of it.

She ignored him. "I should be excommunicated for even considering selling this robe to you—and indeed, I may as well have been! Yet you want to take it for almost nothing."

Dr. Lamia looked alarmed. She looked back and forth between Chris and Una as if seeing them for the first time.

Chris blurted, "I'm sorry, she's—" But there was no way to finish that sentence. He knew she wasn't crazy.

He saw Dr. Lamia's expression shift into something softer, pained, perhaps guessing at what he was going to say.

Beside him, Una's head drooped, all the fire gone out of her at once.

Chris bit his cheek, then started again. "You said you had other pieces. Would it be possible just to check? To, uh, compare it to what you already have?" He felt himself scrabbling. "I'm so sorry to impose. It's just … We thought—we were told it was a valuable item and …." He glanced at Una, the heartbreak so clear in her face. "It has a lot of sentimental value. It would mean a lot to us."

"Ma'am?" The three of them turned to look at the desk attendant. "Do you want me to call …?"

Dr. Lamia took a deep breath. "No, no, it's alright, Marybeth." She put on a smile, and it was full of pity. "I can see that it's important to you. I suppose I …. Well, it's not often I get the chance to show off some of these pieces, right? Do you have a little time to visit the archives with me?"

"Um. Sure."

"Well then. Let's take a look."

She led them past glass cases of arrowheads, painted vases, brush and ink drawings, and a wall of masks. Along one wall was a door marked "Employees Only." Glancing around guiltily, she unlocked it and ushered them through. They found themselves in a dimly lit corridor. As Chris's eyes adjusted he saw shelves stacked with boxes all along the walls on each side. He caught snatches of a few of the labels as they passed: coat (winter, embroidered), coat (farmer), dusting cloths, futon cover (hemp), mosquito netting.

"Here," said Dr. Lamia, pulling a coffin-sized box from the shelf and setting it on a nearby table. She lifted the lid and parted a layer of tissue paper to reveal the faded red bell sleeve of a robe, and in the layer below another in gold.

Una gasped. She reached to touch but caught herself and held back.

Chris was tempted to feel that ancient fabric too. There was no doubt in his mind now, looking at those red and gold robes, each matching the one Una had worn.

Like Una's, both robes in the storage box were decorated in a brocade of diamonds filled with intricate scenes, though the threads on these were frayed and some places had been worn bare. "These remind me of your costume, though yours is in astonishingly good shape, especially the color. Indigo infamously fades over the years. Though the stitch work is impressive. It's actually very similar to what we see in pieces from earlier centuries …. Very unusual."

"Inside the left-hand sleeve," said Una.

"Excuse me?"

"Sister Talia's signature. She always stitched a maple leaf inside the left sleeve."

For a moment Dr. Lamia only stared. Then, begrudgingly, she turned out the sleeve of Una's robe. Just as Una said, there was a maple leaf done in perfect blue stitches, invisible from the outside. Chris held his breath as she reached to check the red robe.

The lines were faded and missing stitches … but it was there. Same leaf, same place.

Dr. Lamia was visibly shaken. She looked at Una as if seeing a ghost. With quivering hands, she searched the yellow robes and found the same maple leaf in the left sleeve. "Where did you really get this?" she finally said.

"Does it matter?" Chris cut in, not trusting what Una might say. "That means something, doesn't it?"

"Oh, I wish I hadn't lent Gregory my xatu …." Dr. Lamia patted her waist for a pokeball that wasn't there and let out a moan. "Crates would know for sure …."

Chris looked to Una as Dr. Lamia whispered curses to herself under her breath.

Finally, Dr. Lamia burst out, "Fine, fine. I'll handle the fallout later. Or I'll call it a donation from my personal collection and write it off for tax purposes. Whatever. What do you want for it?

"Oh!" Chris hurriedly calculated: coat, sleeping bag, boots, backpack—"We were hoping for about a thousand. If that seems possible."

He sensed her making calculations of her own. "I can commit to eight hundred if you'll take credit on your OneCard." She cleared her throat and collected herself. "That's the best I can do."

Chris let out a breath. "Okay." Then he turned to Una. Her face was still, but she held the edge of the blue robe, running a thumb over the stitches. He addressed her softly. "Are you sure this is what you want? It's your choice."

She squeezed the fabric … then let go. "Yes."

Later, outside the museum, they returned to the bench.

"So. Is it enough?"

Chris took a deep breath. "Yeah, this could maybe do it, but …. I don't know that you'd like the kind of traveling I'm doing. You could still use this money to get yourself set up in an apartment until you can find a job … something for now, at least? This could be an opportunity to start over."

"I cannot stay here."

Chris nodded. That was the answer he had expected. "It's gonna be hard. It won't be like this morning's hike."

"I am not as unfamiliar with wilderness as you may think." She flashed a small smile, but a smile nevertheless. "I think you will find me capable enough. I will not be a burden."

Chris bit his lip. "This is a huge risk …." Internally, he counted off ways one or both of them could be hurt, ways he could be set back even further. In normal circumstances, she would've started training for the Ice Pass weeks ago.

But he looked into her face, and something in him crumbled. "Alright. Let's go spend some money before I start thinking about what a bad idea this is."

 
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kintsugi

golden scars
Pronouns
she/her/hers
Partner
silvally-grass
it! is! after camp! i am free

most new trainers came at the end of spring
I do believe this is the earliest title drop I have ever seen

And, oh no, the name—
oh no oh NO

Radican’s
what's the name meaning here tbh?

In minutes, the cyndaquil was on the floor.
very stupid nitpick, but I think "on the floor" only registers as being the same as "fainted" to me when the pokemon doesn't normally walk -- otherwise, where else would he be except on the floor, haha? Sprawled out on the floor, unconscious on the floor, etc might convey that a little more clearly.

He took the badge and turned away to pin it carefully to the first slot in his worn leather case.
it's his dad's isn't it oh no

she called to him,"Welcome
missing a space here btw

once, unknowingly, a mob boss.
g i o v a n n i ? ?

The third time Chris Nakano challenged the Olivine gym his mother came too, a little after the battle started.
haha I love this detail
one thing I struggled with in this prologue was the progression of time. The fights are glossed over (which is a good call), but the first one ends "in minutes", but Chris's mother comes in "a little after", so if she's two minutes late does she miss half the fight? Was the first one just abnormally short?

This is certainly different from the prologue I remembered. I like this one more. Little details like gym leader succession or having multiple rosters for challengers still give the world a grounded feel without making it quite so blatant -- you have the rest of the fic to tip that hand, haha.

The broad strokes of the characters in this chapter are really well-done as well. Jasmine comes across as quiet, observant, a little awkward. Chris is new, eager to prove, very awkward. The ending bit about big shoes to fill is really well done; I think it's clear in all of their interactions that they're both struggling to fill papa Nakano's legacy in different ways. Which! Is a really strong character beginning for everyone, and I think it sets up well for the rest of the fic all two chapters that i've read, where Chris has fulfilled the battling part of that legacy and has to do the real journey instead.

! really dumb nitpicks in this review, sorry. It's because I have nothing more critical to say! Big picture this is really well-executed, and a good start. circling back for the other chapters soon (TM)
 

OldschoolJohto

Never not editing
Pronouns
She/Her
Partner
solrock
it! is! after camp! i am free
Oh sh-- Buckle up, everyone.

! really dumb nitpicks in this review, sorry.
You say this like I don't live for a nitpick. Never. Not. Editing.

I do believe this is the earliest title drop I have ever seen
Hahahaha it really is. It's easier when it's a common word and your world is really obsessed with nature and cycles. :D

Radican! Glad you asked. You, maybe more than most people, will like this. Radicans means "stems that take root." It's part of the Latin name of the trumpet creeper specifically, but as I'm sure you know better than I do, there are lots of plants you can regrow from stem cuttings. I liked the idea that if, god forbid, your magneton gets split up, it could just form into three new magnetons. Growth of many from one. It also sounds a little like "free radical" to my ear, which I also don't hate in a discussion about magnemites.

it's his dad's isn't it oh no
Yup, new clothes old badge case. RIP.

g i o v a n n i ? ?
Y E S. This comes up again briefly in Chapter 9. The timeline of this story doesn't reeeeeeally matter, since I've clearly already changed around plenty. But it's somewhere between Gen I and Gen II -- Giovanni has been outed and ousted from the gym, but Gary/Blue isn't the gym leader there either.

but the first one ends "in minutes", but Chris's mother comes in "a little after", so if she's two minutes late does she miss half the fight?
Yeah, I'm imagining the fights are slowly getting a little longer as he's starting to figure her out a little better. I'll poke around and see if I can find ways to make that a little clearer.

This is certainly different from the prologue I remembered. I like this one more.
SAME. It's really a much better fit. And I got to address that, no, Jasmine doesn't suck in this world, even if my protagonist might have a bone to pick with her. She did exactly nothing wrong and is a perfect angel.

Thanks for the comments (and nitpicks)!
 

kintsugi

golden scars
Pronouns
she/her/hers
Partner
silvally-grass
a second one landed on a tree up the path with a coo and a thump
I think "an thump" would fit better here.

Until all at once, in a rush of wings, they dove on him.
The sentence structure with the slow build and the em dash into action is *chef's kiss*, but I think "all at once" isn't necessary and separates the interruption from the actual action -- there's a lot of words here before "dove", when that's really the important one. I think it'd be a lot more effective as "Until they dove on him in a rush of wings" or even just "they dove on him in a rush of wings."

his jolteon, Sonic
luh mao

Bird treasures rained at his feet (one or two landing in his bowl): coins, water bottle lids, gum wrappers, a pen cap. The bright plastics were a shock in the monochromatic landscape.
hahahaha I love this

What evidence of his journey would be left on this mountain for someone else to find if he took a bad fall?
maybe don't hike alone huh CHRIS
...although, that does raise an interesting question -- I'm still afraid to camp alone, but I feel like if I survived two-ish years of camping more than not-camping, I think those questions wouldn't be as present any more, or at least not prompted by fairly tame camp debris.

]quote]He removed a glove to touchscreen-swipe past the sections describing height and weight relative to humans.[/quote]
I don't think the word "describe" works here -- that evokes "ursaring is about five inches taller than a thirteen year-old Chris", when I think you mean something more like a picture of the ursaring/human heights + the ursaring weight.

Also, it's a fun detail, but if he started at 18, why is the dex set for 13? I thought it might also be his dad's, but from the prologue that would've happened when Chris was 15+.

Random grammar note but you have the spacing for ellipses different every time they're used. I actually don't know the right way to space it so I say it's fine as long as you're consistent, but. ..

Ice crunched with Chris's every step. Mud did too, though as recently as that morning he'd been sliding and sticking in it.
I dunno if "crunch" is the right word for mud here. Maybe squelch?

Old snow was scribbled over by fallen pine needles here
overall your prose is really strong but this one was A+

Directly overhead, the sky was a featureless gray slab.
Getting a weird idea of time passing here -- if he watched the sun disappear behind a ridge, I'd think mostly clear skies? But then a snow flurry, so it would've been cloudy before, but then it would probably take a while for the clouds to get so uniform that they look continuous like this.

The cloak fell partly open to reveal something part-gown and part-robe, with flowing sleeves patterned in blue and white diamonds.
is this... avatar the last airbender but with suicune??

Fully solidified, on all fours, his head was at the right height to nudge Chris's hand for a scratch.
what a good boi

Beneath the extra set of clothes and the repair kit, he finally uncovered his tent.
and this is why you get backpacks with POCKETS, chris

He hadn't had to practice it since, and he was pleasantly surprised he pulled it off with no trouble. Hero watched with mild curiosity.
I'm a little unsure what tone you were aiming for in this section -- the language here is very methodical, almost clinical. "pleasantly surprised" makes things seem pretty casual when he's rolling this hypothermic girl over, which imo doesn't track with the sense of dread you had when he found the pill bottle a little earlier. And! Maybe this is because I didn't get a cool emergency care class for camping -- can you tell how long someone's been hypothermic, and if there's "eh this is not great but not life-threatening" and "this is real bad news bears" appearances of unconsciousness? Would be useful to get a better insight into how Chris is feeling about all of this.

Ilex forest
I! actually do not know if you should capitalize the 'f' in 'forest' here, but you did it with Union Cave so I figure it should match here

aching and red, Chris rubbed
ok bye

He hadn't seen anything that green anywhere in the canyon.
perhaps because it isn't SPRING yet

Like them, it wore a Tyvek vest with the emergency services logo.
does pokeball tech work on non-pokemon objects? why does anyone have beeg backpacks if things can be shrunk
hi i'll stop asking dumb questions about your fairytale fic but

silver-wrapped body rising through the treetops
space blankets are gold and silver... lugia and ho-oh are gold and silver... think about it...

and its eyes began to glow red. Then the air surrounding the stretcher glowed red
back-to-back "glowed red" here was a bit much I think

Ah! The story begins. I liked this as an intro to higher-stakes journeying/realism -- it was a lot of fun in Postcards but I think it really comes to life here. You do a great job of sketching out a scene in very few words. The delibird bits with their owlish eyes and little characteristics like leaving him gifts from their weird featherpouches, the mysterious patch of Spring in the middle of snow... there's a lot of stuff going on here but you do a great job of making it feel real. Lovely stuff so far. Here's to daddy issues!
 
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OldschoolJohto

Never not editing
Pronouns
She/Her
Partner
solrock
It's really nice to have a line-by-line read on this chapter. It's the oldest by far, so it's also got the messiest prose, I think. Thanks for all those catches.

...although, that does raise an interesting question -- I'm still afraid to camp alone, but I feel like if I survived two-ish years of camping more than not-camping, I think those questions wouldn't be as present any more, or at least not prompted by fairly tame camp debris.
Ooh that's a good point. HMM. I think I can fix it with a little rewording. Remembering mortality rather than thinking of it for the first time. I think if you're hiking alone and you don't occasionally remind yourself that you're squishy and extremely mortal, that's when you get cocky and bite the dust.

Also, it's a fun detail, but if he started at 18, why is the dex set for 13? I thought it might also be his dad's, but from the prologue that would've happened when Chris was 15+.
I'm not thinking of it as "equipment you need to start your journey" but a fun tech toy. A kid who loves pokemon would totally want one, get a head start on all that learning.

but then it would probably take a while for the clouds to get so uniform that they look continuous like this.
Oooooh that's actually a very good point. I'll fuss around with that at some point.

is this... avatar the last airbender but with suicune??
...Maybe...

and this is why you get backpacks with POCKETS, chris
LOL but how much can you realistically put in the outside pockets? Snacks, pokedex, water, maybe a few other things. Clothes? No way.

I'm a little unsure what tone you were aiming for in this section -- the language here is very methodical, almost clinical. "pleasantly surprised" makes things seem pretty casual when he's rolling this hypothermic girl over, which imo doesn't track with the sense of dread you had when he found the pill bottle a little earlier. And! Maybe this is because I didn't get a cool emergency care class for camping -- can you tell how long someone's been hypothermic, and if there's "eh this is not great but not life-threatening" and "this is real bad news bears" appearances of unconsciousness? Would be useful to get a better insight into how Chris is feeling about all of this.
VERY GOOD POINTS. I'll rework these passages.

I! actually do not know if you should capitalize the 'f' in 'forest' here, but you did it with Union Cave so I figure it should match here
Nope, you're right. Ilex Forest is for sure the full name and it should be capitalized.

does pokeball tech work on non-pokemon objects?
Nah, that always struck me as a game-y mechanic. We're doing this Gen I and II style where you could run out of space in your bag. I really don't know WTF pokeball technology is and I don't want to think about it too hard, but my thinking is that pokemon are, like... IDK molecularly unstable? So, zap zap, beam-me-up-Scotty-works-for-them but wouldn't on most other objects. ...Except, you're right, the Tyvek does seem to be a problem there. I'd better just get rid of that. :D

back-to-back "glowed red" here was a bit much I think
That's a real whoopsie-daisy.

there's a lot of stuff going on here but you do a great job of making it feel real. Lovely stuff so far. Here's to daddy issues!
EEEEE ❤ This thing is...not perfect and has some unfixable issues in it down the road, but it is still one of my babies and it's nice to see it getting love. Glad you're enjoying it.
 
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4: Visitations

OldschoolJohto

Never not editing
Pronouns
She/Her
Partner
solrock
4: Visitations


That evening, Chris found a budget spaghetti joint where they could eat in relative quiet while he figured out their next step. Despite the new credits loaded on his OneCard, he was reluctant to pay for a hostel. As summer festivals and the Indigo Conference drew closer, any bunk would be pricey, and they'd need every cent to provision Una for the road. Making camp in the dark was also not appealing, especially when she didn't have any gear yet. Finally, Chris accepted there was no other choice but to call the one friend he made during his three weeks stay in Ecruteak all those months ago, and to hope they were still friends.

Miki's apartment was small and simple but it was also in the middle of Old City with a view of the dance hall, as well as a sofa for Una to sleep on and room on the floor for Chris to lay out his sleeping bag. "I wish I knew how to repay you for your generosity, Miki," he said.

"Don't be ridiculous. It's the least I can do." Somehow elegant even in her jeans and house slippers, she set a tea tray on the coffee table.

Una smiled at the sight of the clay tea bowls. "I have been longing for a proper cup of tea. I had begun to fear the traditional ways were gone completely."

"Goodness no. This tea set belonged to my grandmother and her grandmother before that." She knelt on a floor cushion beside Chris. "Is this your first time in Ecruteak, Una?"

She looked down, tucking her curls behind her ears. "Yes."

Miki said, "Oh you'll love it here if you're interested in history and tradition. Chris, you'll have to bring her by the dance hall tomorrow. I'll be working, but I can make sure someone will be around to let you in and show you the original tea room and some of the ink paintings, at least."

"Thank you, Miki," he said, "but we're only in town for tonight. I'm racing the clock to get to the Indigo Plateau, unfortunately."

"Hm." Miki smiled wryly, leaning her chin in her hand. Her girlish bob and speaking style made it difficult to judge her age. Some moments she seemed just this side of adulthood and others, like now, she seemed much older. "You never stand still."

Chris smiled nervously. "I guess not."

"So tell me," Miki said, saving him from having to figure out how to change the subject, "do you still have that eevee I gave you?"

Miki's small talk was an art form. She flitted from one topic to another, guiding them past awkward silences and heaviness as if it were easy to do. Why had Chris expected anything less from her? After all, she was trained not just for grace on stage but also in conversation. All the same, he knew her well enough to be aware of the way she evaded his gaze, her careful posture, her questioning glances at Una.

When she retired to her bedroom at last, Chris was relieved.

Even as he nestled into his sleeping bag and arranged a few floor cushions under his head, Chris knew he was going to have a hard time falling asleep, and not only because of the sounds of traffic outside. Incense, floor polish, and something delicate and floral permeated the apartment, smells Chris had associated with the dance hall but now realized were the smells of Miki's life more generally. Those smells brought him back to the hours he'd spent standing outside her dressing room with his pokemon at his feet, trying to look tough as he glanced anxiously up and down the hallway, one arm in a sling. Dancers he didn't know giggling at him from behind their fans. Knowing he looked young and foolish to them and still so eager to prove himself.

In the dark, he heard Una rustling and knew she was having trouble sleeping too. The knowledge made him feel both less and more alone.

A bus passed on the street below, and Una said softly, "So much has changed. So many strange sounds. At least a few familiar things remain. It was kind of Miki to give us a place to stay."

Chris made a noise of agreement.

"I like her."

"Yeah, she's nice."

He heard her roll over. "How do you know each other?"

Chris folded his hands under his head and stared up at the ceiling. "I helped her out once. There was this guy …." A self-described fan, Miki had explained after. The man had been writing her letters for months, but his increasingly desperate ramblings had gotten lost in the tides of dance hall fan mail. Finally, he had decided to take action one night when she was walking home from a show. "I didn't know what I was doing—I'd only been away from home for a couple weeks—but I stepped in."

"What did you do?"

Chris blushed, glad for the cover of darkness. "I dunno. I tackled him. Stupid."

Una propped herself up on one elbow and gazed down at him. "How so?"

"Well, not stupid, I guess." After all, what else was he supposed to do, let it happen? "Reckless. The gym here has trap doors—ghost-types—and I had a rough time of it the first run through. Sprained my wrist and dislocated my shoulder. Tackling that guy made it worse. I couldn't train or even travel for three weeks after. So Miki paid me for a while to walk her home from the dance hall, keep an eye on the door, that kind of thing. Honestly, she was a better trainer than I was at the time, but I think she felt bad."

Miki's eyes on him under the streetlight. Maybe I like your company.

"You were brave."

"I guess so."

But he wasn't. He knew why she invited him out for ramen with her after practices and performances, though he pretended not to know. Technically, there was nothing wrong with sharing a meal with a friend. But each time she asked, each time he said yes, it was harder to imagine telling her no. He hadn't known what to say—still didn't.

Una's voice cut into his thoughts, "She seemed a little sad."

"Yeah." He sighed. "Hey … I'm starting to drift off."

"Of course." The sofa creaked as she settled back onto the cushions. "Goodnight, Chris."

"Night."

After a while, he heard Una's breath deepen and slow, and still he lay looking up at the ceiling.



Early the next morning, they left a thank you note on the coffee table and made their way to a secondhand trainer supply shop in a part of town with palm readers and tattoo parlors on nearly every block.

Chris led Una to the women's clothing racks. "I'm gonna look for a sleeping bag. Why don't you find a couple shirts and a good pair of pants. You want merino wool, not cotton or synthetic, if you can help it." She threw him a panicked look, and he took a step back. "I'll be right back. Just see what you can find."

Passing between cities had given Chris plenty of experience trading in his out-of-season equipment and digging through bargain bins for other trainers' discards. As often as not, he'd found almost new equipment sold off by former trainers who'd realized early in their journeys they didn't have what it takes to make it on the road. Most trainers ended their careers that way.

With little searching, Chris found a zero degree sleeping bag. The shop didn't carry any liners, but he hoped that the down bag would make up the difference—it was nicer than his own sleeping bag. The coat and the backpack were more troublesome. Even secondhand, there was nothing inexpensive of acceptable quality. Combined, the coat and the backpack took up half the money from the museum. The boots were nearly another quarter of it. But there was nothing to do about it. They were important.

He tracked down Una again and had her try the coat, boots, and pack on for size.

"It feels correct," she said, looking less than certain.

Chris remembered her stubborn stoicism on the hike into Ecruteak and realized she wouldn't admit it if the fit was wrong. "Where does it feel like the weight is hitting?"

He had her try another. After some tugging and adjusting of straps, Chris decided he was as satisfied with it as he'd ever be.

Then he glanced down and saw Una had several skirts draped over her arm. "Um. I don't think you'll need those. For the kind of hike we have coming up, you really need something more like these." He pulled a pair of ski pants off the rack.

She flinched. "But that is men's clothing."

He took a breath and said as kindly as he could, "Not anymore. Look at her." He pointed her towards a girl in rolled-up pants who was reordering a clothing rack nearby. When Una still looked unconvinced, he added, "I'm sorry, but it's about health and safety. If you want to go where I'm going, this is how it needs to be."

Una furrowed her brow but accepted the hanger from him. "I will trust you."

He steered her towards a dressing room. As she walked away, Chris rubbed his face and let out a long breath. "You agreed to this," he said under his breath. "You're responsible now."

It took longer than he would've liked, but they finally gathered up their haul and paid. They came away with the sleeping bag, a sleeping pad, the boots, the backpack, the coat, two FlashDry shirts, and the pants. To his surprise, the idea of wearing the same clothes over and over didn't seem to faze Una in the least—then again, maybe that was what she was used to. He couldn't imagine what life must've been like five hundred years ago.

After stocking up on a few other small supplies, the museum money was done.

For their RediMeal rations (veggie and soy protein for Una), they had to dip into Chris's existing funds. He chewed on the inside of his cheek as he handed over his OneCard, but tried to reassure himself that he would've spent the money on food eventually anyway.

But there was still the problem of the tent.

The secondhand store had several in stock, but each was more than what they could afford. He had hoped to at least trade in his two-person tent for a three-person—normally Hero slept next to him, six feet and several inches of energy-efficient heating—but he simply didn't have enough for the upgrade, let alone to buy Una her own tent. He hoped Hero wouldn't be too put out.

When he broke the news to Una, he felt a grim satisfaction at the way she blanched and glanced around to see if anyone else in the shop had overheard. "But that would be… Would it not be considered improper?"

Chris thought of the brief period he'd traveled with a group of high school friends, including one girl named Tara who'd thought nothing of air-drying her bras and underwear in camp or skinny dipping in the river. The others had made fun of him for blushing over it. To Una he said, "Most people wouldn't make a big deal about it."

After a long moment, she said, "I suppose the ideas of a woman's virtue and modesty have gone the way of women's dress." She seemed to collect herself and then said, "I will do whatever you say is best, Chris. There may yet be answers somewhere out there for what has happened to me and to my home, and if there are I would like to find them. Whatever else happens, I cannot stay here."

And that was that.



The hike out of Ecruteak was harder than the hike in, both because Una was carrying weight now and because they were slowly but surely climbing uphill. Not long after they crossed the first lake, she started to lag behind, and Chris stopped to wait for her and Tikal the sandslash to catch up. He didn't have to badger her into resting this time. She still didn't utter a single complaint, but she leaned against a tree trunk, breathing hard. Tikal butted her head against her leg—encouragement, Chris decided.

"I apologize for my slowness," she said after a moment, fidgeting with her shoulder straps.

"No, Una, it's okay." He sighed. "Here, let me take a look at your pack and see if I can take on a bit more weight for you."

She stood and tugged the backpack higher onto her shoulders. "No, I will carry it. You are already carrying so much more than I am." It was true—Chris had not only the tent but also an assortment of pokemon food, medicines, and other training gear. "I will strive to keep up."

"I don't want you to strain yourself either. I'm used to carrying all of this."

There came a piercing trill from behind them.

Tikal rose up on her hind legs and froze.

Chris swiveled until he found the yellow eyes of a massive noctowl staring down at them from a nearby tree. The branch bent under her weight. She preened, but her eyes never left them.

"What a big noctowl. I have never seen one during the day." She shot Chris a worried look. "Do you think it is an omen?"

He smiled and said, "It's just another trainer." He pointed out the tie-dyed band around one of her legs.

Moments later they heard the trainer's footsteps approaching downhill, and then he appeared from around the bend, lanky with long hair and a bandana. "What did you find, M.J.?" he called to his pokemon. Then he caught sight of Chris and Una and sauntered over. "Hey, strangers! How are you enjoying this beautiful afternoon?"

"Hey. Coming from Mahogany?" This time of year, few trainers traveled west from Mahogany Town unless they were circumnavigating the Ice Pass, taking the longer but safer route up the foothills outside Violet City. (Chris himself was an exception, he supposed.)

"Yup. Making a quick trip home before I head to Olivine. I'm working on my cousin's farm to earn a little extra cash through League season."

"I grew up in Olivine. Who's your cousin?" Chris asked, and immediately regretted it.

"Right on. You know Josh Bloom?"

"Oh. No, I don't." Chris shooed away his sandslash, who had crouched between him and the trainer, spines angled in the noctowl's direction. Tikal slunk away, still glaring at the noctowl, and moved to guard Una instead. "So, no Indigo Conference for you, huh?"

"Nah, I'm not gonna try to force it this late in the season. Maybe next year. For now, I might as well enjoy myself, right, M.J.?" His noctowl had closed its eyes and seemed to be napping. "You're not still going for it, are you?"

"Yeah. I am." Chris squared his shoulders.

"Good for you. Best of luck, man." The noctowl trainer's smile had a touch of pity in it. "Guess you don't have time for a quick battle then, huh?"

Chris stole a quick glance at Una, who paused rubbing Tikal's ears and blinked at him in good-humored puzzlement. He slid out of his backpack. "Actually, I think a quick battle is exactly what I need right now. Let's take a break, Una."

"Cool," said the trainer, recalling his noctowl. "One on one, or …?"

"Sounds great."

"How much do you want to put on it?"

His mind still on this morning's shopping excursion, Chris didn't have to think long. "Is fifty okay?"

"Sure."

Chris recalled Tikal. Then he and the other trainer shook hands, eyes locked, searching each other for clues to weaknesses. The hair on the back of Chris's neck prickled, and he smiled.

Una trailed behind as Chris retreated a few yards. "What are we doing?"

"With a little luck, winning back some of that backpack money." He chose a pokeball from his belt and watched the other trainer do the same. "On three?" he called.

The trainer nodded.

"One … two … three—"

"Let's go, Magic!"

"Come on, Hero!"

The typhlosion burst out with a fiery display and a roar. Across the way, the other trainer's parasect clacked its claws. Hero glanced over his shoulder and flashed Chris a lazy smile.

Chris grinned back."Give it some heat, Hero!"

The other trainer smirked. "Dust it."

The parasect shook itself from side to side, layers of its mushroom shell jiggling. Black dust showered from its sides, and there was a chemical odor. A spurt of flames hit the parasect head-on, and it squealed, momentarily stunned. But black particles already filled the air.

Hero inhaled to prepare another fireball—but choked. He coughed sparks and dropped to all fours.

"Chris," Una said behind him.

"I know," he said. "Push through, Hero. Flame charge it!"

The typhlosion growled and coughed but flared the flames around its neck. The parasect tried to scuttle out of the way, but it was much too slow. When they collided, the smell of burnt plastic filled the air.

"Chris!"

"Again, Hero! You got this!"

"Hang on, Magic! Leech seed."

As Hero swung its head, trying to roll the parasect onto its back, white tendrils shot out from the shadowy underside of the mushroom cap and lassoed Hero's legs. The two tangled together and fell, stirring up more black dust. Hero growled, and smoke filled the air.

Suddenly, Una was pulling Chris's arm, the shock of it unbalancing him. "Chris, stop! Why are you doing this?"

"What are you talking about?" He yanked free and turned back to the battle to see Hero also trying to free himself.

The other trainer, taking no heed of the spat on the opposite side of the field, called, "Slash! Go for the throat!"

"They are hurting each other!"

"I know, Una!"

Hero bellowed. The parasect's claws scrabbled in the dirt.

"And Hero's going to get hurt more if you don't let me concentrate—"

"Then call Hero back!" Una grabbed his arm again and spun him to look at her. "End this. Please."

"Let go!"

"Please!"

"FINE!"

Chris recalled Hero into his pokeball, leaving the parasect to thud to the ground, and turned his back towards Una.

The other trainer blurted, "That's it? You quit?"

"Yeah. I quit," Chris said. "Sorry."

"Too bad." The trainer recalled his parasect with a nervous laugh. "I thought I was about to see Magic beat a fire-type."

Chris closed the distance between them. "Here's your winnings," he said, holding out a few bills. When the other trainer didn't take it, he insisted, "I yielded, so you won. Take it."

"Cool. Thanks for being cool, man. I hope you make it to the Indigo Plateau and all."

"Thanks."

"Well … good luck!" The trainer put his backpack on again and cast Chris and Una one last nervous smile before waving and continuing down the path out of sight.

Chris took a deep breath. "So what was that?"

"I thought you were a good person," said Una. She looked away, hand over her mouth.

"I don't understand what you're upset about."

She spun on him, eyes ablaze. "They are sacred!" She was shaking, fists at her sides. "They are the voices of the wind and the water and the trees and the earth itself, our guardians and protectors, the souls of our ancestors—and you use them for sport!"

He held up his hands. "I promise, Hero's fine. Pokemon heal faster than we do. It's not as serious as you're making it out to be."

"You cannot treat the spirits like playthings!"

Chris clenched his jaw. "I don't think of them as playthings. They're … partners. They like the competition as much as I do. They listen to me because they trust me."

"And if Hero wished to stop fighting, would he be free to do so?"

A snappy answer didn't come to Chris fast enough.

"I need to be alone," Una said. She turned and slipped between the trees, leaving Chris standing alone on the trail with his mouth open.

After a moment, Chris dragged his backpack to a nearby boulder, took a seat, and began unpacking his pokemon medicine kit. Once he had laid everything he needed out on a flat surface, he let Hero back out of his pokeball.

Hero came out swinging and snarling and coughing smoke.

"Hey, hey, easy. The fight's over, buddy."

The typhlosion focused his gaze on Chris and slowly lowered his flames. Then he let out a long groan and flopped over on his side.

"Oh, don't be dramatic. Come on."

The hard part was dosing Hero with the antitoxin, which had to be sprayed under the tongue or into the cheek pouch. Hero wasn't hurt badly, which meant that medicating him became a wrestling match. Chris came away with one sleeve singed and the other wet with slobber, but moments later the anti-fungal began to take effect and Hero's breathing eased. Then Chris checked Hero over with gentle hands, bandaging lacerations and applying an ointment to bruises. He spoke in low tones to his pokemon while he worked.

"You did good earlier. I'm sorry I had to pull you out. It wasn't your fault." He paused and met Hero's eyes—red with a suggestion of flame deep within. In a quiet voice, he asked, "You don't mind battles, do you?"

Hero yawned.

Chris sighed and continued patching up the typhlosion. "We're in a tough spot, Hero. I want to do the right thing, but I'm not sure what that is. I feel like the more I try to help, the weirder things get. I probably should've let her stay in Mahogany, huh? Well, thanks a lot for not saying something sooner."

When Chris's hands finally fell still, Hero dropped his head into his trainer's lap and rumbled contentedly. It should've made Chris feel better, but it didn't.

"We're not gonna make it to The Indigo Plateau in time, are we?"

He was cut short by a scream.

"Una!" Chris jumped to his feet, and ahead Hero plunged off the path. Chris ducked between the trees, not caring that he slid on loose rocks and gravel as he bounded downhill. "Una!" he called again. "Where are you?"

"Here!"

Moments later he spotted her yellow hair shining through the foliage. He found her with her back against a large tree trunk, clutching in both hands the feather that hung around her neck.

Hero sniffed her, rose onto his hind legs to sniff the air. After a moment he dropped back to all fours and shot Chris a look as if to say, Was that all? Then, with a grumble, he sat.

Chris panted, "Are you okay?"

Una stood straight, tucking her hair behind her ears. "Yes. I apologize if I gave you a fright. Something startled me, that is all. I am unharmed."

"What was it?"

"I have no idea, in all honesty. Something … green? It fled when you approached, and it disappeared before I could identify it."

"Glad it was just a false alarm." Chris checked the time on his Bitflex. "Look … it's getting late. Let's find a place to set up camp and call it a day."



They made camp near one of the lakes. Chris pitched the tent and tasked Una with collecting firewood. They ate in uneasy silence, Una looking at the ground and Chris craning his neck to watch the sinking sun turn the Dragon's Spine mountains red and then blue.

At last, Chris stood and cleared his throat. "I'm going to run drills with my pokemon for a while. I've got a book and a headlamp if you want."

Una paused massaging her calves to shake her head. "I am content to sit with my thoughts."

Chris went almost to the water's edge, keeping his back to the campsite and gathering small pieces of wood as he walked. He took up a pokeball, breathed deep, and listened to the water lapping at the shore.

Then he sent out Sonic, letting the jolteon run in circles until he tired himself out somewhat. Chris couldn't even touch him when he was like this—too much static. You're ridiculous, Chris thought, all that full-body wiggling energy. But despite everything, he couldn't help but smile watching Sonic chase the sparks that shot out from his own fur.

When Sonic had calmed enough, they began their routine. One by one, Chris tossed the pieces of wood into the air, sometimes calling for Sonic to catch them and other times to blast them down. Sonic didn't miss one. Sparks danced over the darkening water.

He didn't hear Una approach until she was almost right next to him. He froze mid-throw. "Oh, hi."

"Hello."

Chris let the stick drop and kicked it away. "Alright, Sonic. Come on back." Not until the jolteon vanished in a flash of red light did Chris realize how dark it had become.

"You are free to continue if you wish."

"It's okay. I was about done anyway." He put his hands in his pockets, biting his cheek. "So, what do you want to do? Do you want to stay in Mahogany Town, or …?"

"I do not know."

"I don't know either."

Una unlaced her boots and waded into the shallows, carrying her new boots by the laces.

Chris followed suit. "I have a hard time believing there were no pokemon trainers five hundred years ago. Didn't you call on them to defend from invaders and things like that?"

"It was not like what you do here. Now." She steadied herself with a breath. "Even that word is new, pokemon. We do not trap spirits in our pockets. They come and go freely, and we thank them for their help with food and offerings. It requires an uncommon person to tame a forest spirit."

"It's pretty common now. Growing up, most everybody I knew wanted to be a trainer someday." He bent to pick out a smooth, flat stone and flicked it out over the water. "I can only imagine what it looks like through your eyes, and I don't know what to tell you to make you feel differently about it. But this is who I am. This is the only way I get to be out in the wilderness like this, getting to be close to pokemon every day. All I can tell you is this is where I feel right."

Una made no response but to skip a stone too. It went out further than Chris's had. Then the stone sank and the water was still.

Until it wasn't. Ripples spread toward them from somewhere else.

Chris swept his gaze across the water and in the middle-distance he saw a hazy figure, shimmering faintly in the sunset's last rays. Beside him, Una gasped, and he knew she saw it too. It was moving towards them, quickly. As it sped over the water, the haze resolved into a four-legged shape with horns and a long mane fluttering behind.

The creature stopped at the center of the lake, suspended on top of the water. For what felt like a long, long time, it stood unmoving save for the breeze in its mane. No one and nothing made a sound. It was still too far away to make out details in the dim light, but somehow Chris could feel it staring at him.

Chris didn't dare break the silence to invoke the creature's name aloud, but he did know its name. Of course he knew its name.

Slowly, with intent, it walked across the water to them. It was an exquisite impossibility.

Una dropped to her knees in the water.

One step at a time, it drew closer, becoming both more unreal and also truer with each step, until finally, Suicune stood only a few feet away, towering over them. Its diamond horns forked into the sky, and it regarded him with unblinking red eyes.

You. Without words and without speaking, she spoke—Chris couldn't help but think of that voice as female. It was a voice made of brambles, quicksilver, and water over stone, neither kind nor unkind. I never searched for you, she said. I knew one day we would meet. And so we have, after all this time.

Chris held his breath. His heart thundered.

I owe you a debt, Chris Nakano. Suicune dipped her head, so low her muzzle nearly touched the water, and then raised it again. It will be repaid.

He felt lightheaded. "I don't understand."

Suicune tossed her mane, and Chris thought he heard the echo of an echo of a laugh. We are all scrabbling at the shadow of understanding. I have lived long enough to watch forests die and rise again and for rivers to carve new paths, and still there is little I understand in this world. It matters not. You will believe what you will, and I will do as I will. One has no bearing on the other.

"But … a debt? Why?"

She cocked her head to one side. After a long moment she said, Once, you gave help when no other would have. And, once, you let me go free. Small acts, perhaps, but what is life but an unending chain of small moments between small creatures.

Chris shook his head. He finally choked out, "I-I'm sorry. I think you must have me confused with someone else."

I remember you. Her gaze was unyielding. Chris couldn't meet those red eyes. Then, You are foolish but kind. Many have tried to snare me and bend me to their will. All have failed. You have not even thought to try, and would not even if you had.

"No. I wouldn't." The very idea was unfathomable, sickening. Besides, he had seen how fast she was. It would be a waste of a pokeball, on top of everything else.

You are good, she said. This is what I know. And should you ever find yourself in dire need, call and I will come.

She swiveled to look down on Una. And you. It gains you nothing to kneel.

Chris watched the color drain from Una's face.

Do whatever you like. There is nothing I can offer you. You are already ash on the wind.

With that, she darted away, spattering them with water. She didn't look back.

Chris stared until long after her ribbon tails had faded from sight. Finally, he turned and helped Una to her feet. "What do you think that means?"

She shook her head. "Who was that?"

Chris's mouth flew open, but he checked himself. "I guess that story isn't as old as I thought. They perform a dance about it in Ecruteak every fall—Miki has been in it a few times." While they fumbled to pull their boots onto wet feet and made their way back to their campsite, Chris explained the legend of the three unnamed pokemon who died as Brass Tower burned and what they became.

Una clutched her golden feather. "Not all the gods are dead after all," she said.

 
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kintsugi

golden scars
Pronouns
she/her/hers
Partner
silvally-grass
wowowow using my brand new quoting abilities!
He stretched his arms—because that was all the room he had to move
horrifically on-brand for what we discussed today, but you actually *do* toss up your space/no spacing em dash conventions. I think you more commonly do spacing around them, so I wanted to flag this one since it stood out w/ no spaces.

chairs that looked like they had last been upholstered in the 70's
dumb question... is there a 70's? Does that imply that the pokemon world had a similar set of social events that led to 70's fashion? Pokewoodstock? Pokedisco?

the little cot and the potbelly stove through the open doorway behind the front desk, a vision that had made him feel inexplicably sad
I think "sight" rather than "vision" would work here -- the latter implies something mysterious/not real

"It's almost the end of League eligibility. Demand goes up, the price goes up."
Didn't really know where to flag this, but there were some really lovely worldbuilding details in this chapter! Having Chris tour the town was a bit of an aggressive way to show them, but I still enjoyed it.

He had also burned his tongue.
Another! Dumb! Question! Jelly pastries are usually filled after cooking (because heating them will break down the gelatin and make it really watery), so it's unlikely that the filling is hot enough to burn. I think maybe something like red bean paste/something that could be boiled would work better in this case.

But dumb questions aside, the comedic timing of that paragraph was really fun.

"But I recognize your shirt."
"you can't lie to me after selling me bad product that's illegal" never change, Chris

Maybe you're involved in historical reenactments, Jane."
yeah or maybe she's the avatar

"Excuse me," said Chris. "Why not just fly her out in the helicopter?"
this did feel alarmingly meta, but in hindsight I also don't know how else to answer the "why didn't they take the eagles to mordor" questions.

The plot! Thickens!

I'm actually a little further ahead readingwise, so it'd be unfair of me to speculate on what's to come. I do like how you drop some foreshadowing for some of the future conflicts/events -- stuff like Una's robe and strange accent, Chris running low on money -- they're nice hooks that are subtle on the way in but are really fun on the way out.

Otherwise, this is a quieter chapter, but I think it works. The main story beats are mostly to introduce battling and to give a good metric for Jane's situation, and these are pretty critical to the story so I think it works that it's a bit slower here. It's a bit of an ask, but I wish we had a sense of Chris's journey before finding Una -- the doctor acts like it's a big deal for him to be delaying his trip to Blackthorn this late in the season, and maybe it is, and maybe it isn't -- we don't really have a good grounding to understand the weight of that choice, how much time is left to course-correct, etc.

Still! Tons of fun; definitely looking forward to the escalations ahead.
 

OldschoolJohto

Never not editing
Pronouns
She/Her
Partner
solrock
TLDR: The last person who gave me a detailed response on this chapter was Pen almost two years ago before it was clear what direction the story would be taking. I actually think it might be the chapter I’ve gotten the least feedback on, period. So, yeah, it doesn’t astonish me to hear that the pacing and world-building balance doesn’t quite feel right. Cheers for calling it out! I remember worrying about the pacing when I wrote it and then went, “Welp, enough of this thing—bye, chapter two.” Haha. I think it’s likely that my next round of Big Edits will involve recombining this chapter with parts of number three and/or rewriting parts from scratch. Probably not as radical as completely replacing the prologue, but probably the same number of words to be reworked.

horrifically on-brand for what we discussed today, but you actually *do* toss up your space/no spacing em dash conventions.
Haha yeah, our conversation yesterday made me want to do a round of editing just for em dashes. It’s gonna be a detail that maybe 4 people will ever notice, but I’ll know and I’ll feel better. I wonder if that slip-up is happening because it’s an older chapter or because of being edited across so many programs over the years. :unsure:

is there a 70's? Does that imply that the pokemon world had a similar set of social events that led to 70's fashion? Pokewoodstock? Pokedisco?
I don’t think they had Pokewoodstock or Pokedisco in Johto, but I think they still had distinct styles and interior decorating trends that would look dated in the present. I went with 70s for the same reason I gave Mark a Nokia: I didn’t see a reason it absolutely could not exist, and it evokes a clear mental image immediately.

"sight" rather than "vision"
Good call!

Having Chris tour the town was a bit of an aggressive way to show them, but I still enjoyed it.
I agree! It’s also an awful lot of focus on Mahogany Town considering how the rest of the first arc stays on the move.

Another! Dumb! Question! Jelly pastries are usually filled after cooking (because heating them will break down the gelatin and make it really watery), so it's unlikely that the filling is hot enough to burn. I think maybe something like red bean paste/something that could be boiled would work better in this case.

But dumb questions aside, the comedic timing of that paragraph was really fun.
That’s not a question. :wink: But it’s a good point! And an even better point when red bean paste is exactly what should be in there by right—it’s just taiyaki lol. Chefsugi. I bet I could replace burning his tongue with some other minor grievance.

this did feel alarmingly meta, but in hindsight I also don't know how else to answer the "why didn't they take the eagles to mordor" questions.
Ha, unfortunately there are a few of those scattered throughout. :huh::cautious: This story is held together with staples and a prayer if you look at it too hard, and in places the plot needs a push. It’s possible that with editing I can figure out a workaround but... There’s honestly no great reason Chris should be allowed to be involved in Una’s situation in this way in the first place—no way in hell would it happen in our world. But shh, shh, shh something something magical monsters, something something cultural differences...yeah, goodgoodgreat. The worst offender, IMHO, is the clunky-ass Una name reveal next chapter, which I still have no idea how best to un-fuck. If you’ve got literally any ideas on that front, please advise lol.

the story so I think it works that it's a bit slower here. It's a bit of an ask, but I wish we had a sense of Chris's journey before finding Una -- the doctor acts like it's a big deal for him to be delaying his trip to Blackthorn this late in the season, and maybe it is, and maybe it isn't -- we don't really have a good grounding to understand
I’m not sure it is “a bit of an ask.” Lately my editing strategy has been mostly “hmmmm needs more Dad—let’s add flashbacks!” I think one or two quick reflections on his past journey could fit here much better here than just meandering around Mahogany Town.
 

kintsugi

golden scars
Pronouns
she/her/hers
Partner
silvally-grass
Chefsugi. I bet I could replace burning his tongue with some other minor grievance.
oh, you absolutely can burn your tongue on them if they're red bean paste -- just much less likely if they're jelly for anything to be piping hot

Lately my editing strategy has been mostly “hmmmm needs more Dad—let’s add flashbacks!” I think one or two quick reflections on his past journey could fit here much better here than just meandering around Mahogany Town.
"ah yes, I remember when I had parents plural"

“Welp, enough of this thing—bye, chapter two.”
NEVER NOT EDITING. KNOCK 'EM DEAD!!

but she had taken up the defensive position without being asked
Ahhh! The sandshrew from the prologue is back and she's a sweetie. I love her.

"I am surprised you had not heard that before. I thought it was common knowledge."
There's some really good foreshadowing dropped here -- I'm torn because I like mysteries that span more than oneish (back half of two and front half of three) chapter, but I also think that the reveal definitely had to happen as early as possible to get the plot rolling. I think you ended up striking a really good balance here!

Donde esta el bano?"
Shoulda coulda woulda donde esta la biblioteca
forum formatting ate your ñ

"No, Una. I am Una."
One thing about the pacing here -- not really knowing Una as a character, I feel that this moment could've used a bit more focus -- this is the most concrete thing she remembers about herself, and so far the only thing she can take from the past that's still accepted now. It feels like it should be an important moment, and yet it easily gets overshadowed by everything else in this chapter. But on the other hand I feel like that's almost the point? Set everyone up for a good success and then swipe the rug out from under them with timetravel?

Kelsey made a cheerful noise that wasn't heard so much as felt all through their bodies. They lurched and wobbled as the lapras clambered out of the sand and rock. Then they were gliding through open water.
this is a very good lapras

Breaking in was how the online articles had recommended Chris handle his newly-caught lapras. But the phrase snagged inside him. From their first meeting he'd recognized the cleverness in her gaze, and shamed though he'd been, he still recognized it as both a challenge and an invitation to play when she dunked him. Those weren't things he had any desire to break
i. smell. plothooks about interesting topics. 👀

For a moment Chris closed his eyes and let himself miss them.
haha remember when i had plural

I dunno if this flashback was added in post, but it does feel a bit incongruous with the rest of this chapter. The flow is a little rocky -- the first half is a travel montage and the back half is a very detailed rendition of one or two key conversations (ruins of the Tower, selling the robe), so the flow of time already feels uneven, but not in a natural way (again, haha, maybe intentional?) -- adding the flashback muddles that timeline even further and it does feel a little out of place.

I think the main kicker for me is that he's remembering a tender moment with his parents (hugs! responsibility! don't grow up yet!), but a slightly more aggressive moment with the houndoom (shadows licking out of his teeth). The fond memories pairs nicely with the quietness of the walk, but the battling moment feels a bit too juxtaposed with #notallhoundoom -- the flashback for me went from warm fuzzy parents to warm fuzzy houndoom to angry houndoom to present day to present day houndoom can be scary to but not *that* scary to well how scary are they to very scary to oh that's illegally scary. -- bit of a sine graph when you almost just want a downhill slide. I think maybe if you reduced it to just the fun memories of houndoom, it might be a little less of en emotional roller coaster? unsure

flashbacks are good in small doses -- they blend into the story better and end up carrying more weight when you aren't trying to convey a ton of complex emotion at once

oh and the image of kids hooking coffee cups into houndoom horns is A+

North, south, east, west. Cleanse him with fire."
EVERYTHING CHANGED WHEN THE FIRE CLEANSING ATTACKED

Una furrowed her brow and shook her head. Then her eyes suddenly went wide. "No, there should be two!" she said.
The memory loss is a little unclear -- is she pausing because she forgot there were two towers and it's just coming back?

The priests. Enju, Ranya, Aren...
hmmm... three priests covers one each for entei/raikou/suicune, so that would disprove my working shitpost theory that Una is suicunebender... but... their names only cover flame/golden/eagle so maybe they're all for ho-oh... *gestures wildly at notecards on wall*

He gathered up a few more snacks — no jerky —
ahhhh so tender

"Can I come with you?"
hey i recognize this quote

"I can see if Doctor Lamia is available.
is! she! a snake?????

Beside him, Una's head drooped, all the fire gone out of her at once.
This scene was done really well, and to me this line feels like the climax of this chapter -- all of Una's conflict with her past vs modern society are coming out to play here, and this is where she loses. The gods are dead indeed.

to reveal the faded red bell sleeve of a robe, and in the layer below another in gold
awwwww yeah. suicune theory back online

"I can commit to eight hundred, if you'll take credit on your OneCard." She cleared her throat and collected herself. "That's the best I can do."
I! am purely speculating and have never purchased historic artifacts for a museum, but it feels like they got scammed here. A low-end bridal dress from a boutique would easily go for this much, and that's not handmade or historic, and the more expensive ones would go for several thousands, and this one is part of a matched set and is in pristine condition besides the grass stains. Unless that's the point, and they suck at barganing?

also, dumb thing I realized when I was writing out the original comment of "lol she put her foot down at the first price as an insulting number but $600 more was dandy" -- even assuming that the currency has remained the same for five hundred years, a (presumably extant) inflation rate would actually mean that the $200 she's thinking of is a small fortune. For reference, $200 USD in 1920 has the same purchasing power as $2500 now, toss in another 400 years for inflation to grow... it'd be a lot. Una would probably be blown away at that price lol. Money scales in time travel in very weird ways.

Chris's throwaway line of "a good jacket would cost you $200" is probably a good place to deal with this since the numbers are the same, but at the same time I don't know if that would have had much meaning to Una either, since good jackets were probably expensive as well and also if someone casually mentioned that a good jacket was worth $10,000 I'd probably file them in the same box as "how much could a banana cost, $10?".

I'd almost say fuck it and deal with it offscreen somehow, but it *does* end up being a major scene in this chapter and money is the root of all evil issues in the next chapter. Dunno how it'd incorporate in the already-tight pacing of this chapter, though. Maybe it would fit when Chris buys her snacks and she asks how much she should repay him and he's like "it's nothing it's $1.50" and she assumes he's a prince since he just dropped her equivalent of $1000 on doritos and then they sit on the ground and Chris pulls out Mark's copy of Atlas Shrugged and they discuss economics????

Ahhhhh but the plot thickens and the good stuff happens here. Overall very lovely developments. This is definitely the chapter where I think we really start to unpack the plot of the fic -- it's been lots of themes and hints so far, but now we get some concrete goals for both characters and get to see that they probably will never be able to achieve them in their idealized form!!! hahaha fuck. I also like how natural you make everything feel; little bits like Chris remembering to get vegetarian snacks in the heat of the moment make things feel a lot less dramatic but a lot more impactful, like this is a real person really feeding chips to a suicunebender.

going off of Divides, next chapter is the shit hits the fan chapter, so i'm excited
 

OldschoolJohto

Never not editing
Pronouns
She/Her
Partner
solrock
oh, you absolutely can burn your tongue on them if they're red bean paste
Oh, for sure, but then it's just a real-world food item. Not that it's stopped me before, of course...

Shoulda coulda woulda donde esta la biblioteca
forum formatting ate your ñ
Yeah, I also hate this device, honestly. The second I figure out a better way to do this, I'm yeeting these paragraphs into the sea. I feel like I could get the name drop by talking about Unova, maybe, but IDK why Chris would bring that up, so... el oh el.

I dunno if this flashback was added in post, but it does feel a bit incongruous with the rest of this chapter.
Hahaha, OOPS. The struggle. It continues.

The memory loss is a little unclear -- is she pausing because she forgot there were two towers and it's just coming back?
I don't think she forgot per se. I think it was more that she knew something felt weird but it was hard to put her finger on what exactly given all the other weirdness and noise. She could react sooner though.

I! am purely speculating and have never purchased historic artifacts for a museum, but it feels like they got scammed here.
They totally did! The reason being that's it's coming out of pocket instead of through typical channels because Chris isn't going to stay in town for a month while the museum board decides on an acquisition plan, etc. They're basically pawning it for quick money now.

Like I said in PMs, I agree about the pacing. I think there's a way to recombine chapters 2 and 3, since I think 2 is too slow and focuses too much on Mahogany Town and 3 has a little too much in it now. Shifting pieces over would give me more space to let Una ogle at money, etc. Like you said, never not editing. It sure wouldn't be the first time I've gutted a Spring chapter. :D I'm glad to hear these pacing issues aren't stopping you from enjoying the fic. But I am also excited to fix them. ❤

And LOL you're not wrong. Huh. Why does Ch 4 always seem to be my "shit pops off" chapter...
 

kintsugi

golden scars
Pronouns
she/her/hers
Partner
silvally-grass
budget spaghetti joint
i don't really have anything to add except that i never thought i'd see these words in succession before

Somehow elegant even in her jeans and house slippers, she set a tea tray on the coffee table.
really fun bit of description!

All the same, he knew her well enough to be aware of the way she evaded his gaze, her careful posture, her questioning glances at Una.
this one too -- the scene with Miki is a nice break. It gives us a lot of insight into Chris as a character through the guise of describing another; it's really well done.

Incense, floor polish, and something delicate and floral permeated the apartment, smells Chris had associated with the dance hall but now realized were the smells of Miki's life broadly
"broadly" here made this sentence hard to parse for me

Knowing he looked young and foolish to them, to himself even, and still so eager to prove himself, somehow.
This sentence was also a little weird. Something about the double "himself" and all of the comma breaks and the "even/somehow" add-ons.

Sprained my wrist and dislocated my shoulder.
I! was sort of wondering how you'd go about putting in gym traps. Glad to see that they're as batshit in this canon as they are in the games; sad that Blackthorn doesn't have any good gimmicks and that we didn't get to see the Pryce slip-n-slide.

But he wasn't. He knew why she invited him out for ramen with her after practices and performances, though he pretended not to know.
I really liked this direction you take with romance. It felt very real, very awkward. Very Chris? idk. Nice dose of realism in a story that labelled as a fairytale -- no star-crossed lovers here!

You want merino wool, not cotton or synthetic, if you can help it." She threw him a panicked look, and he took a step back.
lmao like she knows what synthetic is. oh chris.

As often as not, he'd found almost new equipment sold off by former trainers who'd realized early in their journeys they didn't have what it takes to make it on the road. Most trainers ended their careers that way.
fun detail here! felt very Seattle/Portland lol

Chris remembered her stubborn stoicism on the hike into Ecruteak and realized she wouldn't say so if it weren't fine.
I got tripped up on the double negatives and "say so" -- it was hard to parse what she'd be saying when she said so? I think rephrasing to "realized she wouldn't tell him if it weren't fine" would make it a bit more immediately clear.

She flinched. "But that is men's clothing."
Una is a proud graduate of the Sugimori School of Girls Hiking in the Woods in Skirts

The branch bent under her weight.
Fun detail, and it doesn't really matter either way but -- I had trouble picturing what kind of trees this would be? Noctowl are big, but they aren't *massive* -- they're sort of in a weird weight class where would probably be a tree a forest with strong enough branches to fully support their weight, or the forest is something like fir trees where no tree would support their weight. Maybe?

For now, I might as well enjoy myself, right M.J.?
Dropped a comma here, unless she's Right MJ and there's a Left MJ and a Right Shark etc etc dead horse joke

"With a little luck, winning back some of that backpack money."
I liked this! Actions and shitty bargaining have consequences!

"They are hurting each other!"
"I know, Una!"
Oof!

"And if Hero wished to leave, would he be free to do so?"
This sets up well for the "do you want to leave"/*yawn* bit later in the chapter, but where it's placed in the argument doesn't make sense -- she seems more focused on the fact that they're in pain and have to trust humans not to get hurt, not that they can't leave the company of humans. Something like "wished to stop fighting" would follow the flow of the argument a bit better, I think?

And! Oh! It's gonna be interesting to see where this plot thread goes.

"I have no idea, in all honesty. Something…green? It fled when you approached, and it disappeared before I could identify it."
o n i o n g o d ? ?

It was a voice made of brambles, quicksilver, and water over stone, neither kind nor unkind.
very good description here

Do whatever you like. There is nothing I can offer you. You are already ash on the wind.
also this bit
I seem to recall an earlier version where there was a lot more Suicune praising Chris for being bestest boy, but I think this version works a lot better. Sort of like how we discussed in DM's -- yeah, it's strange that he has gods owing him favors and I'm really curious to see what kind of debt is being repaid, but the entire conceit of this universe is that people befriend forest spirits, so. I think this scene works well. Also, Team No Fucks Suicune is great.

She shook her head. "Who was that?"
it's your waifu c'mon suicunebender
also! Love "Who" instead of "what" here

Chris explained the legend of the three unnamed pokémon who died as Brass Tower burned and what they became.
This is an interesting bit though, and sort of throwing some water on my suicunebender theory but i refuse to stop stanning

I admit I'm a bit of a sucker for myths in stories so it does feel like this is a bit glossed over.

fml time to see if i can navigate ffn review sections now
 
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OldschoolJohto

Never not editing
Pronouns
She/Her
Partner
solrock
I'm pleasantly surprised that all of the corrections on this one seem to be grammar/flow rather than oops pacing and structural issues. Those are easy to fix. Thanks for pointing those out!

I really liked this direction you take with romance. It felt very real, very awkward. Very Chris? idk. Nice dose of realism in a story that labelled as a fairytale -- no star-crossed lovers here!
Nice! I'm so glad. Another one that didn't land on the first pass and has been greatly improved with editing. And, yeah, I think soooome of the gyms have tricky stuff in them, but probably not all and probably not to the degree they do in the anime/games. Some of them are so silly and horribly resource-intensive. But I feel like it's reasonable for a ghost-type gym leader to want to test his challengers' daring and/or bond with their teams.

lmao like she knows what synthetic is. oh chris.
LOL, yup, for real. Behold, camping knowledge! And, behold, world's most adequate babysitter. Also, I very purposefully glossed over this because there's only so much nervous, blushing Chris *I* can handle, but let's imagine for a moment...

Una: And what, pray tell, is this? *Holds up a bra*
Chris: *good golly gee is he ever red* Uhhh maybe someone else can -- hi, yes, can you uh...? My friend here needs ummmm... Yup, great, I'll just be over here looking at tents bye.

Noctowl are big, but they aren't *massive* -- they're sort of in a weird weight class where would probably be a tree a forest with strong enough branches to fully support their weight, or the forest is something like fir trees where no tree would support their weight. Maybe?
Part of my thinking is that this one is *extra* big for being trained. Maybe even overfed.

Something like "wished to stop fighting" would follow the flow of the argument a bit better, I think?

And! Oh! It's gonna be interesting to see where this plot thread goes.
Good call!

And YES it's going to be really interesting to pick your brain about it as we go forward. It's a tricky, fun challenge because obviously uNa kinda makes a fair point. It's dogfighting, it's whack, and it's worth criticizing. But WTF does she want Chris to do about it? And dead dad says...!

o n i o n g o d ? ?
I have no idea what you could possibly be talking about. 😇

This is an interesting bit though, and sort of throwing some water on my suicunebender theory but i refuse to stop stanning

I admit I'm a bit of a sucker for myths in stories so it does feel like this is a bit glossed over.
Isn't throwing water on Suicune good for her? Anyway, yes, some big improvements in the dialogue, IMHO. Glad it sounds like you agree! The point was always meant to be that Suciune is attributing her blessing(?) to a specific action she thinks he's done, but Chris doesn't know WTF she talking about. Huh. Weird. Wonder why.
 

Adamhuarts

Mew specialist
Pronouns
He/Him
Partner
mew
I read the first two chapters with the prologue and somehow forgot to review D: I might as well get it done now.

First off, I really enjoy your writing style in general. It has this really captivating feeling to it from the way you describe the surroundings, Chris' mental state as well as the smaller bits like character motions and background information. It was all wrapped in one neat package I enjoyed.

I really like Chris as a character honestly. He's not an over the top super hyped character on a pokemon journey nor is he an edgy washed up potato. He feels very real as an individual, which makes relating to him much easier. Jane is still an open book however because we don't really know anything about her aside from the fact that she can make green grass when she lays on snow long enough 😋.

This story is full of intrigue and potential and I'm eager to see where it all leads to. Will Chris' little detour not keep him from going to the indigo league or will he find a different calling in life somewhere along the way? Only time will tell.
 

OldschoolJohto

Never not editing
Pronouns
She/Her
Partner
solrock
Adam! Thanks so much for reading and for sharing your thoughts. I’m so glad you’re enjoying it, and that you like Chris as a character.

It has this really captivating feeling to it from the way you describe the surroundings, Chris' mental state as well as the smaller bits like character motions and background information.
Since you mentioned in DMs that you’d like to try to emulate this style, I’ll just point out something I try to keep in mind while I’m writing that I think is responsible for the vibe you just described. When I get stuck, I try to give my characters something to do with their hands—it’s rare that I allow them to just sit and think. Chris might make tea or set up targets for his pokémon or climb over a log. All of those things give me something grounding that I can visualize, even if he’s actually thinking ahead to something that’s stressing him out or reflecting on the past. Also, everything you describe (even in third person) should reflect things your character picks up with their senses. What would they fail to notice? What would they fixate on? Everything is character.

It’ll be really interesting to see how you react to later chapters! And this keeps me motivated to work on the current chapter! 💪 Cheers!
 
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