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Pokémon The Curious and the Shiny [The Manifold Curiosity]

NebulaDreams

Well-known member
Accolades:
2018 Serebii Fanfiction Forum Awards

Won:

(Tied 1st) Best Pokémon Chaptered Fic (Established Author)
Best Character Dynamic - Curio and Shine
Best Pokémon-Centric

Nominated:
Best Plot
Best Setting
Funniest Character - Curio


Author’s Notes: Hey, Neb here! This has been a long time coming, but here's my longfic, The Curious and the Shiny, available for the first time on these forums. This takes place in a universe of fics called The Manifold Curiosity, where there are different fics that standalone from each other in story, but overlap in some way in terms of characters and events. This longfic can work as a standalone story, but it also features a grand overarching narrative that has consequences for other fics like Black Paint and Outside the Frame.

At the moment, I'm in the middle of revising the first arc, and while I've done the first chapter, which I'll present today, the real challenge is doing chapters 2-5 after that, as they might contain some big changes in terms of the structure/sequencing of events. While there are 27+ chapters available elsewhere, this is what I'll consider to be the most polished version for the first arc, so I encourage you to stick around for this site's version.

This will be updated twice a month in order to prevent reader fatigue.

Summary: Broken friendships aren't easily mended, but a Luxray and Lucario have no choice. The ghosts of their past haunt them in the form of a mysterious organization, GeL. In the journey to repair their relationship, they open up old wounds and meet new allies, striving to bridge the gap between Pokémon and mankind.

Content Warning: This story mostly sits at a T, but there are dark themes throughout such as depictions of carnivore confusion, mental health issues, and quite a few others later on. A lot of these won't be prominent right away, but will slowly unfold as the narrative goes on, and there is one point where the story goes even further than that, but will be kept hidden for now as to avoid spoilers.




The sunlit gravel scorched all that touched it, yet the Luxray dashed through. Even as his paws blistered from the rough terrain and his wounds burned with the intense heat in the air, he had to keep running. Each footstep that stomped from behind served as a reminder of what was chasing after him.

He ran towards the cityscapes ahead, where humans awaited, along with the promise of relief from his injuries, and afterwards, a normal life. Behind, though, was them. He didn’t want to imagine what they had in store for him if they caught him.

The more he ran, the more he wheezed with exhaustion, and by the time he reached the junction where the roads from the other cities converged, he stopped to catch his breath. Cars, vans and trucks all honked in cacophony. And in them, humans. He ran alongside the asphalt, shouting to anyone that might’ve listened. Surely, one person must’ve seen his condition and stopped to help, but nobody did. They blitzed through the road, which even he couldn’t catch up with in his faltering condition. Why didn’t they stop? His heart pumped. How far behind were those grunts?

In desperation, he flung himself into the highway, into the path of oncoming cars which swerved in different directions and blared furiously. Sense came back long enough for the Luxray to dodge out of the way out of the road, but it was too late. Another car crashed into his side, sending him spinning across the baking road before rolling on his back. Dull pain spread through his stomach, and he wheezed, trying to get a sense of how bad his injuries were. He looked down at his belly and there was--

There were his…

Oh god.

He couldn’t process what he saw, but one definite thought burned in his head: he was about to die. There would be no justice for what happened. None of his questions would be answered. His dreams would never be realised. But silhouettes entered his blurred vision. They would at least be there to hear his last words.

“P-please,” he croaked in human tongue, “I, I wanna l-live. P-please, h-help.”

With the sun shining above him, his vision faded to black.

The Chase Arc

Chapter 1. Dendemille's Dilemma

Shine woke up with the memory of his escape five years ago echoing in his head. He squinted as light from the windows danced on his face and the wind chimes echoed, stirring him from his slumber. It was morning. Another morning like all the others. For a while, he stayed there, curling himself in a ball at the end of the bed, just for a moment longer. Only for a moment though, as a familiar hand patted Shine’s belly, firmly, but softly, across his scar where the car had hit him.

“C’mon, Shine,” his trainer Tony said. “We should get ready soon.”

The Luxray understood everything the human said, but he only groaned, retreating further into his half-sleep. Each day usually started like this, which was always for hardest for him as he preferred to sleep in. Why wake up? The days were the same and the world moved around Shine while he lay dormant. Why bother? No matter how much he tried to delay those thoughts with distractions, those fractured memories wouldn’t leave him alone. What was the point? The only thing that brought him back into the world was the feel of his trainer’s hand stroking at his side.

“I woke up a little earlier than usual so I’m willing to give you a wash, since it’s been a while. Would you like that?”

Though it was just another part of his routine at that point, it was hard to say no to Tony’s soothing voice. So he opened his remaining eye, stretched on the bedspread and followed Tony, who was already dressed in his anti-static gear, into the bathroom where he sat down on the smooth floor and allowed his trainer to rinse him off with the shower. He took extra care to suppress his electric field, even though his trainer was protected. As he waited, the question lingered on Shine’s lips, and although he didn’t wish to complain to his trainer, who had worked so hard on their project in between shifts, he had to ask.

“Sorry to bring this up again,” Shine said in his immaculate human tongue, “But are you planning on going back to the documentary at some point?”

Tony grunted as he squirted pet shampoo onto Shine’s body with gloved hands. When Shine first met him, he remembered his speech skills took Tony by surprise, but after living together for so long, his trainer got used to his special talent.

“To be honest, I really don’t know. I want to work on it, sure, but there’s not much else we can do. We only know partly about what happened to you, we don’t know where your friends have gone, or who was even responsible for the takeover in the first place. I’ve looked in the papers, in the libraries, everywhere, but can’t find any more info on the facility than what you’ve given me. I’m really sorry, but that’s all I can say for now.”

He sighed. As much as it frustrated him, they had found no leads at all, even after months of sifting through all the contacts, as there was no other trace of the GeL project’s existence anywhere. It was like finding a needle in a haystack, or perhaps a less-cliched human idiom to the same effect.

“I see. Sorry.”

“Besides,” Tony said, rubbing the soap suds all over the Luxray’s body, “With your memories the way they are, honestly, it’s difficult to put two and two together. Until the Hypno-Therapist can sort through their waiting list, which won’t be a few months, I’m kind of stumped here.”

“Alright. Again, I’m sorry if I’m being a pain.”

“Don’t be silly, Shine. If I wasn’t interested, I never would’ve started this documentary business in the first place. You’re doing fine. Personally, I’d just sit on it for a few days and come back later. We both deserve a bit of a break from it.”

Shine hummed as Tony rinsed the shampoo off, then winced when he combed the wooden brush through his thick fur.

“In the meantime, while I’m at work, the best thing I can suggest is to go outside. Some exercise might help. Or maybe you could pass on your special skills to another Pokemon looking to connect with their trainers, if it’d help take your mind off things.”

“Perhaps.” He had quite a bit of fun teaching that Bunnelby arithmetic and parts of the human tongue, as he learned during his first year at GeL, but aside from that, he found little motivation to teach every Pokemon in Ambrette that language. There were only a few in this town that had similar skills to him, and they usually had business somewhere else in the bigger cities.

“Or maybe you could get yourself a treat, like a turnover or another good book to read. I don’t mind spoiling you if that’s what you want.”

“Thanks, but the library’s enough for me, and there’s still the computer. Besides, I don’t want to keep sponging off of you. You do enough for me without wasting your savings.”

Tony chuckled as he turned the water off and patted Shine dry with the towel. “I really don’t mind. Look at me though, Shine.”

He obliged and looked into his trainer’s eyes, which visibly smiled even though he couldn’t see the mouth through that mask.

“You’ve got to enjoy yourself more. You’re here where it’s peaceful, and you have freedoms that a lot of Pokemon wouldn’t dream of having without your skills. Why not make the most of it?”

A pang of guilt nestled in Shine’s gut. As much as he wanted to keep up with Tony’s boundless energy, he always found himself lagging behind. There were still the memories that revisited him, some good, but buried by the rest. The yelling. The fights. The eye. The arm. The mask. The taste of oxidation. The screams. The broken dreams. But he was free from that now. At least, he hoped so. His eye moistened as those fragments of time resurfaced, and Tony embraced him, hugging him tight through that suit. It felt strangely comforting even as the rubber stuck to Shine’s coat.

“It’s alright, it’s alright. You don’t need to worry anymore.”

“I-I know,” Shine said through his sniffles. “I-I’ll try to en-enjoy today. T-thanks.”

After Tony dried him off, the two made small talk over a breakfast of Tepig rashers about the things Tony experienced on his marine trip. Seeing Tony in a scuba suit, taking an underwater selfie with a Mantine made Shine laugh, allowing him to forget about his worries for a bit. If only his typing allowed him to swim, then he’d have all sorts of adventures under the sea, like the ones in his stories. After his trainer waved goodbye to head for work, though, the house was silent once more. Shine laid down on the couch for a minute, staring at the clock that ticked constantly, and sighed. With each movement of the dial, that quiet started to eat away at him. A second would pass, and then a minute, and then an hour, and then a whole day would’ve been wasted. Days he could’ve spent outside, or with friends. But they were—

Shine shook his head. He had to get out of there, even if it was temporary, and so, he opened the door out of the apartment and it locked behind him. He stared out beyond the railing where the beach was in full view, as Wingull glided in the distance and dinghies bobbed up and down on the glistening sea. Although this apartment complex was dense, it allowed him a full view of Ambrette’s coast in all its glory, which always soothed his heart. From then on, Shine was ready to take on the day.

Shine strolled through the sunlit streets, which was stacked upon a series of wide cliffs. Like these cliffs, the buildings were often packed together on the street, forming a modest, but sizeable community within the neighbourhood. As Shine padded along the pavement, his collar jingled proudly, given to him by his owner. The townsfolk passed, and while some were nonplussed by the Luxray's presence, there were other familiar, yet nameless faces that sometimes smiled at him, alongside their Pokemon that stared on with passing interest. He didn’t mean to detour to say hello, as his destination in the middle of town was the library.

His presence there was welcomed by the members of staff, who had gotten used to the prospect of a lone Luxray at that point. They attended to his needs, retrieving a fantasy book for him to sink his teeth into and newspapers for him to leaf through. He took those in his maw, walked to the back of the library building and laid them out in the garden in his favourite spot underneath the big tree.

There, he read under the cool shade, and moments later, a Murkrow appeared, fluttering towards him before perching on a bit of tree bark. Her name was Bauble, and she wore a red string anklet above her foot, which she proudly shook at Shine.

“Hey Shine!” she cawed, wiggling her talons, “Someone tied this for me! Do you like it?”

“Yes,” he said with a smile. “It suits you.”

“And so does your collar!” It didn’t take long for her to stick her beak into Shine’s neck, fiddling about with the red accessory. “I bet it’ll look great in my collection!”

He shook his head, almost whipping Bauble in the face with his mane in an effort to get her off.

“You’re not stealing this again. You don’t just take from other people.”

“Sure I do!” she said with a grin. “Anywho, you know what I came for, so let’s get to it!”

He hummed a reply and the two huddled close to each other. Shine got his paws on the Lumiose Times’ Regional Roundup first, as Bauble liked to hear about events happening within Kalos, particularly those that centred around Pokemon related affairs. When Shine read on his own, he would read about a variety of topics, from book reviews to political features. Not only did he find this entertaining, there was another reason he looked through them so religiously. For there was some hope left he would find out more about the GeL project from there, or the whereabouts of the remaining subjects. However, once when he attempted to read a piece about Kalos’ national debt, Bauble flew off in a huff, so whenever they were together, Shine made sure to read on her interest level.

“Whozzat?"

There was a picture of a masked Machoke holding up a championship belt triumphantly. Although he had no interest in sports, Shine knew him as Rex Revolver. On the top however, was the headline 'REX RETIRES!' with the caption 'Consecutive four year Machampion calls it quits!'

"He seems pretty satisfied!" Bauble said.

"He's quitting."

"Aw. Well that sucks."

"Do you want me to read on?"

"Eh, don't care for sports."

Having said that, Bauble still had her biases. They continued on, flicking from page to page. The next article of interest had a picture of camera footage, with a group of Scraggy and Scrafty crowding around something in the middle. Shine read out the headings.

"Scraggy Syndrome - Should we arrest criminal Pokemon?"

Bauble crowed in anger.

"That's the stupidest thing I've heard in a while! Why don’t they just let us be! Do humans really get paid to write this stuff?”

"Yes, depending on whether or not they're freelance, they can either get paid for each article they write or..." Shine trailed off, realising that he was going off on a tangent. It was pointless to explain to someone of Bauble’s fleeting interest all the intricacies of the judicial system, and how there was essentially none for Pokemon, allowing the police or trainers to take matters into their own hands, for better or for worse.

"I don’t really have a good answer for that."

"They shouldn't be paid at all if you ask me!"

Shine brushed aside her comment and continued looking.

"Oh, Shine!" Bauble said. "When can I see your film?"

“Probably never at this rate,” he said, not taking his eye off the paper.

"What?" Bauble screeched. "Why not? Do you hate me?"

"Trust me, it has nothing to do with that. We've worked on it a lot, but doesn't look like we have the right angle for it yet."

"Can't I take one little peek at it?"

"It's not up to me, I'm afraid. It's mostly Tony's project, since he's the one putting it all together."

"Forget Tony! Why not do it when he's out?"

Shine sighed. Perhaps he shouldn’t have let it slip to a random Pokemon that frequently tried to steal from him. But she already expressed an interest in their project, so it was too late to say no at that point.

“I’ll consider it.”

Bauble pouted and turned her head dismissively.

“Whatever. Continue.”

Before Shine turned the page, he caught sight of a picture featuring a Scrafty posing in front of a graffitied brick wall, accompanied by other odd types of Pokemon. This wouldn’t have been odd except for the fact they were wearing clothes and jewelry. Oh well. He’d look up the article later when he wasn’t under the threat of being pecked.

“A Car-Free Lumiose - Gogoat leads to less congestion, study finds.”

“Boring,” Bauble said. “Slow news day, isn’t it?”

“A little,” Shine muttered.

When Shine turned the next page, the photo sent a chill through Shine’s spine. The image, taking up half the page, featured a night-time scene of a Lucario throwing a punch at a gathering of shadows, where the most important detail was their left arm. The arm they used to punch with wasn’t the same length as the other, had five fingers instead of three claws, and shone like a jewel underneath the street-lamps. Shine's heart leapt in his chest. He brought himself as close to the photo as possible, checking the details of the arm multiple times to see if it really was like that Lucario’s, and more after that, trying to prove himself wrong. But after the seventh time, there was no doubt about it. The Lucario in that picture had an artificial arm.

The Lucario in that picture was none other than one of the old subjects of GeL: Curio.

“T-that’s her!" he exclaimed.

“Whozzer?” Bauble shrieked. “Read the paper, why don’t ya? It’s the only interestin’ thing here so far!”

Shine almost leapt from his spot. All he wanted was to run to Tony’s workplace and tell him they had a lead, but when he thought about the context behind the photo, he anchored himself down and read through the article.

“A Lucario was spotted at night battling against the gang of stray Pokemon, believed to be known as the ‘Thousand Claws’, who have terrorised Dendemille Town ever since their arrival, with muggings and reported kidnappings of other Pokemon. The altercation lasted only a minute as they dispersed when the police came. So far, the details of the Lucario are elusive, but as they have speech skills similar to that of humans, they are wanted for questioning by the force, as they’re believed to be a part of the blighted gang.”

Shine’s eye widened upon reading that last sentence.

“Bless the white god’s tail!”

Shine ignored Bauble’s cries of protest as he stuffed the newspaper in his mouth and made a beeline for the library’s exit, dashing off further into town where the coast was to Tony's workplace. He didn't care how fast he went or whether or not he accidentally bumped into things on his way. He didn't even slow down when he reached the cliff-side and almost fell off the edge, kicking a few pebbles off the cliff face in the process. Despite nearly tumbling over, he staggered back to his feet and carried on his route.

Eventually, Shine reached the coast where the main attraction of Ambrette sat, rushed past the aquarium over to the neighbouring Marine Conservation Centre, and charged through the entrance into the reception. He remembered where Tony's office was, which was by his right, and without thinking, ran towards the direction of the door.

“Hey hey hey!” an old man called. “What do you think you’re doing here?!”

Shine spat the newspaper out. “Sorry, my trainer’s in there, I have to speak to him!”

Shine balanced himself on his hindpaws to pull the handle down, but when he did, the door wouldn’t open. It was locked. Shine glanced at the old man who was practically white with confusion, mumbling to the other person at the desk who Shine knew as Ines, the head of communications. No interaction with her ended in a friendly conversation, but regardless, Shine thought it best to explain his situation to someone familiar with Tony. He padded over to the desk, balancing on his tip-toes and making eye-contact with Ines, who shot him a glare that could’ve frozen the air around them.

“Shine, I’m going to have to ask you to leave.”

“Please, miss Ines, let me explain myself, I need to--”

“Everyone in there, including Tony, is busy taking care of something important, and we’re trying to bluff our way out of a PR disaster. They can’t have anybody else coming in no matter what for the whole day.”

“But--”

She retrieved a Pokeball from her belt and held it towards Shine.

“I said you can’t come in no matter what. If you don’t leave, you’ll have to answer to Tundremie.”

Even for Ines, this was rather cold for her. Each time Shine wanted to visit Tony on-break, she often refused to let him in unless either of them gave notice, but there, she turned him down instantly. Her treatment always seemed unfair to him, and she seemed to have a bias against Pokemon in general. Still, he understood that Tony had to deal with delicate situations if a rescued Pokemon ever went into surgery, and besides, dealing with her Aurorus was another issue entirely. Despite the burning sensation in his paws, he took a deep breath and relaxed his stance.

“Can you at least pass a message to him, please?”

She lowered her Pokeball but didn’t change her glacial expression otherwise.

“Make it quick.”

Shine rushed over to where he dropped the newspaper and picked it back up, propping it onto Ines’ desk.

“Tell him to read page twelve.”

“I’ll see if I have time to, now please, we’ve got calls to make here.” Her expression softened, letting her guard down for just a moment. “Sorry, it’s just the way things are at the moment.” Then her stiff expression returned as the phone rang.

He nodded and walked out of the centre with pent-up energy surging through him. The shore was only down a set of stone stairs, where the sand dunes stretched for miles, which he crept down to avoid slipping. When the beach came in sight, Shine stopped, digging his paws firmly in the sand.

Curio. That named echoed in his head, as well as the fragments of memories scattered across all his synapses. His heart pumped blood at the thought of her, and his whole body felt warm. He hadn’t felt like that in ages, not even with Tony.

But why? When Shine tried to put all the information together from his past, nothing came up. He didn’t know how he formed a bond with her, or why, and how they developed throughout the years, but he just knew, like there was some sort of invisible bridge. Yet that wasn’t enough. The warmth wouldn’t have been any sort of comfort to him if he didn’t know where it came from. In fact, it started burning. No, not there, not while his emotions were still this fresh. His whole body felt dizzy, and his paws gave way as he wobbled to the hot floor. He couldn’t focus on his surroundings or his physical self at all: just his vague memories and his gut feeling.

There had to be something to latch onto for now. But where? Was it a moment they shared? Were they words of comfort they spoke to one another? Why couldn’t he remember? Why couldn’t he do anything? Right, he couldn’t do anything. He was just a broken Pokemon curled around his trainer’s leg. He might as well have been a weak Shinx again.

“Don’t say that, you doof! You’re not weak, you’re doin’ fine, ya know?”

There it was: something she said. Same sort of connection, same tone of voice, same manner of speaking. That was one memory about her he regained, at least. And like the tide washing in and out, that moment came and went. The salty seawater lapped gently at the shoreline. A squadron of Mantine cried in the distance. With all the activity happening around him, Shine was back there on Ambrette’s shore, in control of his senses again. His current frustrations all rushed back to him, and he needed to take it out on something. So, he ran across the shore, kicking sand everywhere he went.

After five years of waiting and not knowing anyone’s whereabouts, there was something to chase after at last. Yet what was that Sinnohan Pokemon doing in Dendemille, or getting involved with dangerous Pokemon for that matter? Was she docile or was she a threat? And even more importantly, why had the two split apart if they were so close? Trying to get any of those answers meant Shine would have to cross half the region to get to that town, which was easier said than done.

He could’ve ran all the way through the wild, leaving him to face the ferals all on his own, and Curio might not’ve been there by the time he arrived, if he lived through that. Going by train would save a lot of time, but it would’ve been much faster to rent a flying Pokemon. Not even the fastest trains in the world held a candle to a Dragonite; if he could find a ranch that owned one, it would’ve taken an hour to get to Dendemille. The only issue was cost.

Pokemon could hop on buses and trains for free as long as it wasn’t during peak hours and fitted the size and weight limit, but transport by flying Pokemon was a different matter entirely. The handlers were the ones in charge, and their services to pilot the Pokemon required payment just like any other human selling goods. The faster the Pokemon, the more their fliers were likely to charge. He wasn’t sure how much it was for a Dragonite exactly, but probably a lot. He thought about putting his plan into fruition, but when he took the time to consider it, he stopped in his tracks.

Doing all of that meant he would have to venture on his own accord, without Tony’s help or anyone else in Ambrette that knew him. Having stayed with his trainer for so long in the comfort of his abode, he was at a loss for himself, and since he was so busy at that moment, he couldn’t run his plans through him first. And so, Shine slowly padded back to the apartment, tail dragging on the ground beneath him, and even as he input the passcode with his nose to unlock the door, his mind was still in a muddle.

His stomach rumbled as it approached noon. It would probably be good to grab some lunch, and as he headed towards the kitchen, the window above the sink tapped. Bauble came flying in through the open slit, which she often did whenever they didn’t meet straight at the library.

“Wanna tell me why you dashed off like that?” she cawed, her beak pointed downwards.

“Oh, sorry,” Shine said. “Something came up, so I want to head to Dendemille later.”

"What?” she said blankly. “How in the world are you gonna get there?"

"I don’t know yet. At the moment, I’m not even sure if it’s worth it yet, unless the trip is quick."

"And what’re you thinkin’?"

"Well, this might be a long shot, but do you know if there’s a ranch nearby that takes care of Dragonite?"

"Hmm," Bauble said, turning her head away. "There might be. But. But-but-but." She looked at Shine with a cunning smile. "What would you give me in return if I did know there was one? Perhaps, your collar?"

"Excuse me?" Shine sputtered. "What is your obsession with my collar?"

"Oh nothing, it just looks so nice! Besides, I think I deserve something for being left behind."

“My collar is--” He paused. Bauble had asked for his collar since she met him, which got tiring. Tony had given it to him as a present when he got his trainer license, which was why he’d been reluctant for her to snatch it off him. If he gave it up, that would mean betraying him. Then it dawned on him that was the reason he had been so reluctant to travel in the first place: his trainer. He needed to make decisions of his own, and Tony encouraged that, so how did a collar impact their relationship at all? Since time was of the essence at that point, Shine steeled his resolve. It was time to tear off the band-aid. He hesitated before he lifted his neck up for the intruding Murkrow.

“Fine. Come and get it, then.”

Bauble flew to the back of Shine’s neck to unclasp his collar and ran her beak through his fur, which tickled a little, but within seconds, the collar released and Bauble held what was Tony’s memento in her mouth. Seeing how pleased Bauble was with her prize, Shine’s stomach tied itself into a knot in guilt. Nevertheless, his goal was more important than keeping himself leashed to some sort of tradition.

"Are there Dragonite, Bauble?"

"Why yeth, there are," she said, slightly muffled by what she was holding. "You haff money for that, yeth?"

"I'll sort that out in a minute. If you don't mind, can you wait outside for me while I get the cash?"

"Cointh?" Shine anticipated she would ask about that, as if she imagined there was a vault in the flat that had a pool of solid gold she could gawk at.

"Bills.”

"Aw."

As soon as Bauble hopped out of the door with the collar, Shine’s eye flickered gold, which turned on his special vision to find the safe in Tony's bedroom closet.

Tony was the one that taught Shine how to use money in the real world. While his days in the facility gave him the knowledge of basic arithmetic earlier on, currency was alien to him in such a closed-off environment. Not long after the two officially partnered up, Tony shared the code to his safe, as he trusted Shine to only use it for emergencies. He hadn't needed to use it in the two years he stayed in Tony's flat. This, however, was an emergency. A largely personal emergency, but an emergency nonetheless.

After fiddling around with the savings, Shine made his way to the door with a stash of 20000 Pokedollars stuffed inside a drawstring bag hanging by his maw. With everything almost ready, something still nagged at him, as he realised how much it would worry Tony to travel for a few days unannounced, so he backtracked to his bedroom and got out a pen and a pad. Gripping the pen with his mouth, Shine wrote as best as he could on the lined paper.

'LookING For A LUcArIo. WILL bE bAck IN A FEW DAYs - ShINE.'

With that settled, Shine picked the money-bag back up and left the flat.

Bauble had waited on the railing, absent-mindedly staring out into the noon sky. When she saw Shine, she took the drawstring bag in her claws and wrapped it around Shine’s neck, which he supposed was an adequate enough replacement for the collar. His accompanying Murkrow glided over to the road at the other end of the block, leaving Shine to follow her, and when they got close enough, she flew off again, gliding into the distance up the main street. Although it took some time for each other to find their rhythm, once the two knew each other's patterns of movement, Bauble no longer had to wait for Shine to catch up as he ran after her. They went further up the road, reached the outskirts of Ambrette towards the more mountainous areas of land where the ground got more bumpy, and to a path that sat outside of the forest of Route 9.

Travelling through the dappled path, with the open space in front of him and the quiet rustling of the leaves overhead gave Shine time to reflect. He was really doing this. He was getting out there. And unlike before, his thoughts didn’t stop him halfway through as he planned out his journey. If he had gone insane at that point, he didn’t mind, and at least with Bauble, that made two crazy Pokemon.

They continued their trek in silence, and when the two arrived, Shine saw the most dragons he had ever caught in one area. When he first heard of the ranches, he didn't know what to expect with how it was organised; however, what he saw was separated by a fence was an open field, as the dragon types and dragon-looking Pokemon freely flew around the area and ran through the shallow grass. There were Dragonite, Salamence, Goodra amongst many others, and even a few pseudo dragons like Charizard. As well as that, their young accompanied them in their previous evolutions. While most species kept within their own circles, there were a few that freely mingled with others scattered across.

Plenty of humans operated the field as well. Some tended to their own Pokemon by feeding them, playing with them or resting by them, and others worked in the farmland area separate from the Pokemon area. There was so much happening at once there, Shine didn't know where to start. It made him feel dizzy looking at it, trying to keep a track of all the activity there and turning his head back and forth to where his blindside couldn't see.

It was kind of similar to how the facility functioned during its golden age, except outdoors and less densely packed. He supposed some things never changed.

He remembered what he came there for however, and padded over to the closest barn on the path, with Bauble hopping alongside him on the fence. When he reached the entrance, Shine was greeted by a woman dressed head to toe in flight gear, who drew her hand close to her belt, seemingly cautious of the two that approached her.

"If you've come here to steal our crops, beat it," she said.

Shine gulped as he mustered up the confidence to speak.

"Um, I need a ride to Dendemille Town as quickly as possible, please." To complete the request, he bowed politely to her. The woman took off her visor, not taken completely off guard but still revealing her surprise as she arched an eyebrow.

"Well I'll be. Did that Murkrow bring you here?"

Shine nodded, and the woman gave him a pointed look.

"Well I must apologise. I don't know what she told you, but we don't make no exceptions for Pokemon. Even you have to pay."

"No problem. I'm looking to rent a Dragonite."

Upon hearing this, the lady chortled, holding her fist in front of her hand to stifle herself.

"A Dragonite? Good one! Where in Arceus' crack did you find the money for that?"

"It’s hanging by my neck."

The woman laughed again, slapping her knee.

"Naw, naw, I apologise, I believe ya. Forgive me for bein’ so rude." She took a deep breath and presented her gloved hand to him. "Name's Adele. Pleasure to do business with ya. What's yours?"

"Shine.”

"Cool! If you'll follow me to the field, I'll walk you through what we have."

Adele jumped over the fence. Before Shine could follow, Bauble's beak tugged at his fur.

"Yeah, I'm kind of banned here, so I'm leaving this dump. I hope whatever you're doing in Dendemille works out and stuff."

Shine partly wondered what she did to earn such ire from the rancher, but he smiled anyway and bowed to his sticky-beaked helper.

"Thanks. Enjoy your collar."

"Will do!" Bauble gave an appreciative chirp and swooped up in the air, disappearing past the trees.

Shine crawled under the fence and caught up with Adele as they weaved through the field. Already, he sensed the attention he was getting from a group of Charmander nearby, who all stared at him and talked amongst themselves from a distance. As he couldn’t hear them, he brushed it aside.

"If you don't mind me asking," Adele said, "Where'd you learn to speak so well?"

"Through a caring enough trainer and lots of practice," Shine said, which was half true.

"You don't say. All things considered, you speak much better than half of my workers on the farm!"

"I wouldn't say that."

"Don't humble yourself. Actually, we've tried our hand at teaching our Pokemon here to speak, and it ain't easy, let me tell you. We've had problems finding other Pokemon that speak like us in this armpit of Ambrette, so we do it ourselves, and some of them can carry conversations, but they've still got a helluva way to go. Others though, they have no focus for it whatsoever. I can't even get one peep out of them before they fly off!"

Shine couldn't help but laugh, thinking back to how he struggled getting the first word out as a hatchling.

"It’s much harder for us to get right at first. If it's not in their nature, leave them be."

"I don't know, we've been surprised before. Still, a Pokemon such as yourself is somewhat of a rarity around these parts. It's hard to—"

A glob of green slime splashed over her glasses from her left side, which came from a Goodra who waved at Adele with a slimy paw. She chortled as she wiped off the gunk off.

"Hell-o A-dell!" the Goodra yelled, pronouncing carefully in the human tongue.

"Good to see you too, Petri!" She waved at the Goodra with glee, even as her glove was coated with the substance. "How's the lessons coming along?"

"Slow and a-nnoy-ing. But not bad."

"It'll get better,"
Shine chimed in, bringing Petri's attention to him. "I found it hard to string together words as well."

Petri gasped, clutching his chest with his paw. "A new tea-cher?"

"Nope," Adele said, "Just a visitor of ours."

"O-K." Petri gave a disappointed smile.

"Sorry, we gotta go Petri. I'll come back in a bit. See you then!"

Adele gave a thumbs up to Petri, which he returned by waving in their direction. Shine nodded before catching up with Adele, who was still covered in slime.

"Does that come off easily?" Shine said.

"Depends. You hardly notice it after a while."

Perhaps it was easier for humans to get slime off their clothes, but he winced at the thought of getting it stuck in his fur.

The two reached the part of the field where the Dragonite congregated, a group of five who were all huddled around each other.

"Attention!" she shouted, and the Dragonite all turned to face her. She counted them all with her finger, then pointed to a blank space. "Lyra.” The Dragonite on the far left took a step forward. "Would you be so kind as to fetch Accendare, please?"

They nodded. Shine couldn't even see them flap their wings before he had to shield himself from the gust of wind, and when he opened his eye, Lyra was nowhere to be seen in the sky. After a moment, he saw the two approaching from the air and flinched upon their landing as the ground rumbled, getting a crowd of laughter from the Dragonite already on land. Once he recovered, he eyed Accendare, whose ribs stuck out slightly and seemed smaller compared to the rest, with the addition of a Postmon’s pager around their ankle. They looked off into the distance with their arms crossed.

“Good! Now--” Adele turned to Shine, “What’s your poison?”

The Dragonite gossipped on their own.

“What’s a Luxray doing here?”

“That guy must be loaded!”

“He can’t be serious.”

“Who’s the fastest?” Shine asked, mostly for curiosity’s sake.

“Well, that’d be Bally!” She pointed to the Dragonite in the middle, who was the tallest of the bunch. “Easy to handle, and can reach the peak of Snowbelle City in just an hour.”

Bally gave Shine a smug smile. So he could’ve gotten to Dendemille in half an hour.

“How much?”

“Ninety thousand!”

Shine had anticipated the steep price tag just to see how far up he could go.

“And who’s the cheapest?”

“Figure you’d say that next.” She pointed to Accendare. “You know this lil’ stowaway’s name. I don’t know how urgent your situation is, but she’ll do a good enough job for you if your only destination is Dendemille. She can get there in roughly an hour and a quarter if you don’t mind the bumpy ride.”

It wasn’t exactly within the hour, but it was close enough and much better than he expected for the cheapest. Dragonite truly were first rate.

“How much?”

“Thirty thousand!”

“Oh,” he whispered. Somewhere, he had miscalculated how much he needed. Speed, handle-ability and rarity were his first standards of measurement, but there must have been something forgotten in the rush.

“I see. I’m ten thousand short, unfortunately.”

There was a collective sigh from the group of Dragonite.

“I might as well mention this is a very generous price around these parts. You might get cheaper further east, but in the boonies, that’s a bargain.”

That was it. He forgot to take availability into factor as well. Adele grunted as she retrieved Shine’s pouch from her pocket and knelt down to Shine. Only then did he realise how foolish he must have looked.

“Sorry for wasting your time,” Shine said.

“Nonsense!” She smiled. “I completely understand. We haven’t had a customer like you come to our ranch before, so you’ve made it worth my while!”

“I see. Well, thank you.”

He bowed once more before turning back to the path. That was it. He’d have to return home to Tony, to his peaceful neighbourhood, to his mediocre life since leaving the facility with his questions unanswered. The train was still a possibility to travel through, but by taking the longer route, he risked losing his only other lead to fully understanding his past or his connection to that Lucario. As he pondered this, he saw Petri, the Goodra from earlier, playing with a bunch of Goomy in the distance. Thinking back to the conversation he had with Adele about finding teachers for the Pokemon on the ranch, he couldn’t help but smile at what he had in mind. Once more, Shine turned to Adele who was checking on Accendare.

“Adele!” he shouted.

Adele faced him again with a confused look.

“I’ll pay the twenty thousand for Accendare, and work for as long as it takes to teach Petri to speak properly!”

A glint appeared in Adele’s eyes and she clapped her hands together.

“Now we’re talking business! As long as you’re fine with it being unpaid work, we’re square!”

“I don’t mind.”

“Good!” Adele gently undid the pouch from Shine’s neck and opened it, counting its contents, 20000 Poke dollars in ten bills, before pocketing it in her jacket. “We need to make sure you'll come back to us to start your first lesson, so me and Accendare will be there to pick you up in two days at the most.”

“Two days?” he asked. Even he wasn’t sure he would be able to get Curio back in that time.

“Yup. We can’t make the returning time too open, otherwise it’ll be like you’re getting a trip for free. Is that fine with you?”

Shine looked to his side. Again, he wasn’t certain Curio would still be there, but he had nothing to lose except his trainer’s money.

“Yes, but I might need to bring a friend of mine back here.”

"Same size as you?"

"She's a Lucario."

"Fine. The spikes might be a problem, but it's doable. In that case, we'll be there at 2PM on Wednesday, so don't forget that. Oh, one more thing." Adele approached Shine and knelt down to his level, uncomfortably close to his face with a serious expression. "We kinda have a serious policy on customers paying us back. If you try to slip out of it or aren't there in time two days from now, well, your ass is grass."

"I can assure you I'll be there."

Adele backed away from him, smiling again.

"Good! Ahem." She pulled out a walkie talkie and spoke into it. "You two! Accendare's gear please, on the double!"

A moment later, two young assistants, a scruffy boy and a ribboned girl, lugged the gear in front of Adele, and she commanded them to tend to Accendare, who held up her paws in the air for them to equip her. The scruffy looking boy tried to wrap the harness around Accendare's arms, who knelt down with all four paws on the ground, and took one step to the side in an effort to pull the strap back. He missed though and ended up slipping off of her, catching Accendare's arm with the loose strap which made her shriek.

"Damn it, I told you to be careful!" Adele said, stomping over to let the boy down. "The last thing I need you to do is to hurt Accy!

"Sorry, miss," he said, looking up at her with guilty eyes.

"Never mind, I'll handle this from here on out. Clearly, you need more training. Girl, you've done a good job, so that's it for now. Go take him back and make him run a lap across the field."

The ribboned apprentice nodded and left with the glum looking boy. Adele leaned in to stroke Accendare's head.

"It'll get more comfy with time, sweetie. That clod really doesn't make it easy for you, does he?"

Accendare shook her head in reply.

“There there.” She turned to Shine. “Shall we?”

From there, Accendare went on all fours, presenting the saddle on her back. Adele offered a hand to Shine, gesturing to pick him up, and he sat in her arm as she climbed up Accendare to the front. She placed him in one of the empty backseats of the saddle which were mostly fit for humans but not Pokemon that weren’t bipedal. Nevertheless, he gripped the belt in front of him with ease, but a chill washed over him when he realised he was on the back of a dragon that could cycle the globe in less than a day.

“Accendare, any tips for first timers?”

“Um, hold on for dear life?” she said. He couldn’t see her face, but he imagined she looked quite nervous herself. “Oh, and um, thanks for picking me by the way. Not many people do that.”

“You’re welcome.”

With that, the Dragonite leaned forward and started flapping her wings, sending a wave of movement through the seat, where Shine lightly bobbed up and down. Adele gently raised the bridle, and Accendare’s wings beat, progressively getting more rapid. Eventually, the ground below Shine felt weightless. Accendare was in the air.

The rest of the dragons cleared the way, each flying to opposite ends of the field; the young were either picked up on the way or were left to rush to their parents as quickly as possible. Then Adele whipped the bridle.

Accendare burst forward, slapping Shine across the face with a burst of wind. The ranch was behind him in an instant, and next, the trees all became a blur of green, and a blur of brown as they passed the cliffs. All the while, Shine had no time to process the level of speed he was riding at. Already, the spike in speed left him feeling dizzy, and the wind dared to knock him down, but he held on tight. He would brace himself for whatever came. For his sake. For his trainer’s sake. For Curio.
 

Raggy

(。◕‿‿◕。)
Location
East
Hi::

I gotta get review so I can get better at reviewing and one day have real opinions! I gotta figure out how to present like a person, you know?

So super sorry, I can’t relay helpful information like a normal person.

I’ll go as I go.

This fiction is about dichotomy, after all it’s called ‘The Courteous and the Shin kickers’. Or maybe not.

The opening for some reason reminds me of the beginning of Oldboy. I have no clue why because it’s nowhere near related, but I suppose the tone comes off to me as that kind of tense and mysterious kind of feeling. Actiony, though in this case just more so violence against electric felines.

Most of the facts I know about this come from a sort of melting pot cultural osmosis of absorbing offhand facts like some kind of parasite. So the language stuff. For me, the distinction only really matters so long as one sticks to their own rules, and even then I don’t particularly note the difference. I’m good with it.

After getting hit by a car, our hero Shine takes the L by becoming domesticated. He lives a gormless life with his husband Tony, an amateur filmmaker who makes constant excuses to hide the fact that his camera ran out of batteries, but he’s too lazy to replace them. I like how the world breathes on us, full body rubber suit aside. With nothing to occupy his time Shine desperately searches for purpose - and also thinking about GeL which probably stands for ‘god eats losers’ or something. I know it’s the central bad guy (or at least that’s what it’s been made out to be), so we obviously hate them. Look at you GeL. You made Shine get hit by a car. Five Points.

After crying for a bit, sadcat summons the mental energy to leave the house and goes outside. It’s been like 5 years since I played X and Y, I don’t even remember what Ambrette looks like, let alone Kalos as a whole. Goodness I’m bad. Buildings on cliffs have instead reminded me of that one level in killer7. That had buildings on cliffs predictably enough. But comparisons are meaningless, we’re here for our luxury. Who is sad.

I just remembered I have to go back a little now. It’s mentioned that Tony (paisano) and Shine (not a paisano) ate some tepig rashers. I am an insidious American, so I had to look up the archaic term for bacon, which is great, because it means I’m into it. However, acknowledging the fact makes me guilty of playing it up for brownie points, so ignore me on this one. On a more important note, this is another one of the big points of contention in making a happy world. I think the television tropes call this one carnivore conniption. Once again, I’m not a stickler for interpretation as long as it’s cool to read about. While a one off sentence about bacon isn’t really intrusive or anything, that fact in and of itself sells it as a bona fide cool factoid instead. Meat! Albeit, I know you have talked some about that being a big deal, so maybe we’ll come back to it and hate meat. Hate Meat!

Bauble-bird is very mean to Shine. I like reading news so murkrow is now my natural enemy. That being said, at least she’s interested in news; an informed public is conducive to good choices (this is not a statement of fact). I wonder how pokemon would add to the news cycle anyway. I’ve heard that part of your endgame is in essence that pokemon have their own health section, to put it unintelligently. That’s the bread and butter! Pokemon can talking to each other, this isn’t a world where we have a litten superbowl and laugh about it. Because the litten have thoughts and feelings about playing football, and they hate it. Kittens here don’t have that kind of agency, they just meow and say ‘die white girls’ on the internet.

The article titles too, little things but it’s fun to consider. “Should criminal pokemon be arrested?” According to the code of Hammurabi, the answer is yes. If you guys want equality, then you gotta be ready to go to jail, especially if you didn’t do anything. Civil rights 2, starring pokemon.

What kind of investigative journalist paparazzi hybrid managed to get such a cinematic shot of Curio fighting the power? I hope they got it with a dutch angle. Anyway, character, the other half of our power couple, as indicated by the cover art. Lost an arm to save a friend like Brad from Lisa, but not quite as sad. At least, that’s what I’m making first guess on, for all we know, GeL could be basically the club from the Hostel films. It would certainly explain why there’s an arm gone.

So news gets this steampunk cosplayer lucario on camera fighting local terrorists and the first thing the police think is that their obviously in league, just having a late night beef or something. Not blaming the cops here, but really not on board with their methods. Oh well, scapegoat if you got ‘em.

I got nothing on Shine getting the evil eye from Ines. Instead, let’s over analyze this transitional scene as an allegory for pokemon human cultural divide. I bet if Shine was a human he would be let right in, I mean the text even says Ines dislikes pokemon greatly. But then everyone would make fun of his name, so lose-lose. What kind of public relations gaffe would a conservation center have anyway? Probably ecosystem stuff.

Sad cat hours again. Don’t get so down on yourself man, It’s only the first chapter! Maybe he’ll be more confident in the future. Oh, but now he’s kicking sand. More like real loser hours. ˙ ͜ʟ˙

Shine truly begins his character arc by removing his collar in a stark scene reminiscent of that one scene from Amistad II where they uh, stop being slaves. Pay me no mind, it’s not on the nose, I’m just imagining it is. But hey, good on him, he’s taken his first steps to becoming an individual. But then again, he is trading his collar for information he could have gotten from a bum. Impatient one you are.


Alas, the call to action. Shine! Go to the monster world! Don’t know if it’s kind of cruel to leave Tony behind with the cryptic messages, “looking for someone lol” and “look at page 12, crazy right?” as well as taking his rainy day money. But hey, given what we have about Tony so far, he’ll probably be like “That crazy kid” and be happy that he left the house for once.

Real ranchero hours. Replete with a Vietnam GeL flashback. Nothing much to read into, some nice happy details, southern accents, hey wait a minute I’m from the south. Now I can judge the veracity of the accenteur (<--- apparently this is an actual word but it’s a bird??). Your accent is southbound. To be honest I don’t really have a southern accent.

Here we see Shine giving up because he is weak. But inspiration strikes and he becomes an indentured laborer instead. It’s an improvement I guess, but hey the opportunity was there. Imagine if Petri could speak english well. The crux of your adventure rests on the idiocy of manual servants, so make the best of it.

After dismissing a street urchin type whose uselessness is suspiciously emphasized, we’re off. He finally did it, but this really isn’t going to lead to the happiest times so a minor victory if anything.


Here is Shine. His quest is to find friend, and while nothing beyond that is explicitly stated, the rear cover esque blurb sells it to us anyway. How many ghosts is too many? Who knows, at least we have an easy time about it. We like Shine, presumably hate GeL (probably run by John Kramer or something), and are completely and totally ambivalent (forthcoming) about Cure-IO. I can’t come in here saying I’m completely in the dark because I’m not really. Will this bias my perception?? Ah, I’ve already invalidated myself.

If you understood none of this, that’s alright. It’s my fault for thinking about James Joyce while writing this. If it’s not a bother, I want to come back next time to read more! It’s the least I can do, not to say I have much capability beyond that. Feel free to ask me if I have anything actually important to say. I’ll have to think about it. Ooh spell checker doesn’t like that one. It’s calling me ambivalent again.

。゜(`Д´)゜。
 

NebulaDreams

Well-known member
Hello @Raggy, and thanks a lot for the review. Like I said, this is probably one of the funniest reviews I've read, and I like all the effort you put into it. The Courteous and the Shin Kickers would work great as a crackfic AU title to this fic or something.

The opening for some reason reminds me of the beginning of Oldboy.
I guess there is a bit of Oldboy here, though I haven't really seen the film in full. Except without the violence towards dogs and more towards electric cats.

He lives a gormless life with his husband Tony, an amateur filmmaker who makes constant excuses to hide the fact that his camera ran out of batteries, but he’s too lazy to replace them.
Shine totally would fit the bill of a Luxray housewife.

On a more important note, this is another one of the big points of contention in making a happy world. I think the television tropes call this one carnivore conniption.
Yeah, that's the first big thing readers tend to pick up on about this world. And yes, it does play a bigger role later on and will be expanded on.

Pokemon can talking to each other, this isn’t a world where we have a litten superbowl and laugh about it. Because the litten have thoughts and feelings about playing football, and they hate it.
Little do they know that the litten play litten superbowl because they have litten cubs they need to feed.

So news gets this steampunk cosplayer lucario on camera fighting local terrorists
You did it! You broke this fic down to its barest essentials! All I need to do is to change the summary to this (and yes, I stole this idea from @Persephone): 'Steampunk cosplayer lucario teams up with pirate luxray to make a movie. They fight dragons!' That'll bring in the FFN readers, right? Now excuse me while I go and quietly cry in the corner...

We like Shine, presumably hate GeL (probably run by John Kramer or something), and are completely and totally ambivalent (forthcoming) about Cure-IO.
Pokemon and SAW. Someone out there's probably written that before. Though I wonder how murder games tested on Pokemon would actually benefit the game masters... Well, if internet crushing videos are a thing, then anything is possible.

If you understood none of this, that’s alright. It’s my fault for thinking about James Joyce while writing this.
Imagine writing a fic review in the style of Finnegan's Wake though. Imagine the possibilities!

Chapter 2. Dendemille’s Pests

The first thing Shine did when Accendare landed was topple to the ground and throw up. His head swam, his face felt like it was melting, and his body generally felt unpleasant. At that time, he didn’t want to think about Tony back home, about Curio, or anything else. He locked himself up in his little bubble, only burst by the presence of Accendare and Adele beside him.

“Oh dear,” Accendare exclaimed. “Are you alright there? I wasn’t that bad, was I?”

Shine couldn’t muster any sort of reply.

“Man, the trip really took the wind out of your sails, huh?” Adele said. “Hold on, I might be able to help you.”

Shine ingested some sort of tangy liquid. After a moment, coherent thoughts formed again, and in time, the haze over his body cleared up. He looked to Adele with a weary expression.

Thank you,” he said.

“Don’t mention it. First timers usually get sick, although most first timers don’t usually opt for a Dragonite. Can you stand?”

He slowly got to his feet and tried to stretch, but after such a long ride, his legs were too tired for him to keep a proper balance, so he toppled to the floor.

Well, this is embarrassing.”

“Oh tosh, with that sort of speed, it’s no wonder you’re tuckered out! Don’t worry, it’ll pass if you get a lil’ rest.”

I’ll be fine from here on out then.” He forced a smile.

“In that case, take care, and don’t forget our agreement now!”

I promise I won’t.”

“Hold on, um, Mister Shine,” Accendare chimed in. “Can I join in with Petri’s lesson as well?”

“I don’t see why not.”

“Thanks,” she said with a wan smile before flapping her wings again. Adele waved him goodbye and with one flick of her wrist, Accendare took off to the skies.

When Shine eventually came to, he recognised he stood in a park with a big wooden gazebo at the very edge. The few people strolling through were already staring at him, undoubtedly weirded out by the air-delivered Luxray. He tried to ignore them and looked further into the distance. Past a surrounding cluster of trees, there were cottages and wooden houses that snaked up a series of hills, topped with a windmill whose blades whirled in the air.

Once he regained his strength, he paced around idly, trying to reorient himself and to figure out where he could ask around. Suddenly, it hit him that he was on his own in a different town far away from his own. Once a sense of uneasiness settled in his stomach, which might’ve just been the nausea, he realised he would need all the help he could get. His first thought was to find the town square, and so, slowly but surely, Shine padded over to the park’s exit and continued down the main road.

In Shine’s journey through the paths of Dendemille, he walked out the stiffness in his joints. As he strolled through the picturesque landscapes of the area, leaves fell from above, with a mixture of white, pink, and red flower petals flitting down. The flora was much more vivid here than it was in Ambrette, which gave a different flavour to that environment than the coastal town. Experiencing this first hand calmed his nerves from the ride. At least, until he had to interrogate the strangers in town.

Eventually, he found the main square and upon entering the plaza, the presence seemed different from what he was used to back home. The area was less densely populated, for starters. While there was always activity from the coastal Pokemon flying in and the amount of tourists the town gathered during summertime, Dendemille more or less beat to the tune of its own drum. Many older trainers drifted in and out of the town’s hub, dressed in plain-clothes or overalls, with their farming Pokemon almost as tall as them by their side. There were only a handful of younger trainers, presumably in transit to the next city for their gym battles or whatever else they got up to.

A dozen of market stalls stood in the centre. Most of them were run by trainers with different assortments of training paraphernalia and farmers with their crops or fresh meat. Nothing remarkable. The only figure that stood out to Shine was an old trader who sat under a tent surrounded by makeshift bookshelves. He was the first person Shine could think of to ask about Curio’s whereabouts. Perhaps by intuition, as someone he expected was well read probably had the most information about local affairs.

He started to walk towards the tent, then stopped, hit by an invisible wall. He didn’t quite know how to approach the stranger. In his hometown, it seemed much easier, but in an unfamiliar environment, Shine didn’t know how the trader would react to a random Pokemon going up to greet him. Yet he had to get some sort of bearing, at least. He could do this. So, Shine took a deep breath and padded over to the tent, glancing at the shelves as if he was just a regular human customer. Yes, just a regular customer walking on all fours and surging with electrical energy. Totally normal. He poked his nose into the trader’s inventory where old paper wafted in the air, which filled him with a sense of nostalgia. Although he didn’t remember much of GeL in specifics, he did recall all the second-hand books he used to read there, usually tattered and worn, but still having a lot of value. He remembered sitting in that room full of plush cushions, getting lost in that world of--

“’ey!” the trader yelled, making Shine jump. “What’re yer doin’?!”

He stepped back, bewildered by the startled human’s glare. “I-I, um, I’m sorry sir! I wasn’t doing anything!”

To his mercy, the trader leaned back and gave a wan smile.

“Heh, what a pleas’n s’prise. Sorry, d’int mean to scare ya.”

Shine sighed in relief and straightened his back, composing himself.

No, that’s fine. I take it I’m quite an unusual sight here, speaking your language.”

“Nay, we get a few speakers ‘round these parts. Just Luxrays aren’t that ‘eard of in this region, an’ I try to keep out for strays, is all.”

Shine bit back the urge to correct him on his pluralization of Luxray and continued. “I see. Sorry, I’m a bit new to this town.”

“Ach, that’s fine. Trainers come in an’ out all the time, so I get my share of tourists ‘round ‘ere. How can I ‘elp?”

Um, this might sound weird, but have you seen a Lucario with a metal arm around here recently?”

“You mean Curio?” the trader asked, scratching his balding head. “’aven’t seen her myself, but I’ve ‘eard plenty about ‘er. She’s a right old troublemaker, ‘pparently.” He leafed through his own copy of The Regional Roundup. “She went at those Claws, she did.”

Yes, I read that, but the police think she might have something to do with them. You don’t think she’s a part of some criminal gang, do you?”

“Well I don’t know. Just what I’ve ‘eard. She’s stirred up plenty of trouble before, so I wouldn’t put it past ‘er.”

That neither confirmed nor denied Shine’s fears.

Um, what else has she done in this town to cause such a fuss?”

“Broke into that vineyard, for star’ers.” He pointed at the windmill in the distance. “That thing’s protected by a gate, you see, and from what I ‘eard, she climbed o’er it and smashed a lot o’ crops on the way, then bam, wen’ out again.”

Shine strained to get past his accent, but he got the gist of it. It wasn’t what he hoped to hear at all. The trader must’ve seen the worry on his face as he gave him a reassuring smile.

“On the other ‘and, she is quite popular with the locals, from what I ‘ear. Some folks at the pub talk about ‘er all the time, with all the interestin’ stories she tells. Some says she took down a Garchomp single-’andedly, or pawdedly. Others says she jumped off of Jubilife Tower and lived, though I reckon that’s a bunch o’ crap. Either way, not every town gets a talkin’ Lucario with a metal arm like ‘er, for better or for worse I reckon.”

Shine’s mouth went agape as it was a lot to take in at once. It was even harder to fill the gaps in his past with that information. Still, he had to focus on the task at hand, or paw.

Do you know where I can find Curio, then?”

“You can check the windmill, but 'side from that, I can’t be of much more ‘elp, I’m afraid. Sorry.”

No, um, you’ve given me plenty to work with, sir. Thank you.”

“And you. ‘Bout time I got someone who’s polite in my lot, not like these old farts here.” He flashed a self-satisfied grin. With that, Shine bowed to him before retreating to one corner of the plaza, collapsing on the cold cobblestone floor. His heart shouldn’t have been beating that much, but that initial jolt gave him a bit of a jump. No matter. It steadied once Shine contemplated the information the trader gave him, soaking up the atmosphere of the market square as faraway conversation passed.

There was still a lot he didn’t remember about Curio. He hadn’t come across her once in Sinnoh since their escape despite his constant searching. Five years was a long time to change, especially when one had to adapt to an alien environment like Shine did before he met Tony. She could’ve been anywhere.

A sense of dread lingered over him like a thundercloud. When he eventually met her, if he eventually met her, would she even want to see him after all this time? His own memories of her were vague at best, so would she even recognise him?

He shook himself out of his bubble and got to his feet, looking to the mill in the distance. Perhaps that would’ve given him a clue on her whereabouts.

And so, he started the long trek up the series of hills where the cottages sat, thatched roofs and all. On closer inspection, Shine noticed some of those houses had farm lots in their front gardens which were tended to by Pokemon and their trainers. As he passed by, they stopped their work to stare at him, which struck him as odd at first. He didn’t stop, but the further he advanced, the more he noticed what the Pokemon and trainers did when they spotted him.

A few Pokemon in the front gardens of the cottages stood with their backs straightened, their teeth clenched, their eyes tracking, everything to indicate they were cautious of Shine’s presence. Their trainers caught wind of this too, either standing by their guarding Pokemon or summoning others outside their balls, ready to command them to fight. Wary of his own aura, he took a deep breath and advanced further up the path ahead, quickening his pace.

Once he reached the top, Shine stopped to marvel at the sheer size of the mill for the first time with his own eye. What he viewed from far away at first didn’t give much of an indication of the foundation of the windmill itself, but when he faced it from the edge of the hill, he had to tilt his head upward to see the top of it. The blades gently rotated in the wind and the air whooshed with every revolution.

When he let his head down, he narrowed his eye at the series of tall metal fences surrounding the grounds of the mill, kept under lock and key by a gate. The trader mentioned Curio ‘trespassed’, not simply walked in as if it was a park, and for good reason too. There were plants with Razz Berries, Bluk Berries and many other berries he couldn’t recall at the top of his head, while he sniffed the air and tasted the sickly-sweet scent of honey. Any self-respecting owner wouldn’t have let a wild Pokemon take from their wares, after all.

Shine’s eye flashed gold and the surroundings turned transparent, allowing him a full view of everything going on at the mill. Several humans were inside the buildings, nowhere near close to where he could talk to them, but the person working closest to the gate was a boy in his teens. There was also a female Leafeon patrolling the perimeter of the fence from the inside, but Shine preferred to get the boy’s attention first to avoid being chased by the guarding Pokemon.

He softly padded along the edge of the fence with his see-through vision still active, getting closer to his lead until he saw him through the grating. Shine opened his mouth to shout, then--

“Hey boy!” a coarse voice called from far away. “Get over here!”

“Y-yes Sir!” he stammered, and left his berry basket unattended as he rushed to the mill.

Shine cursed himself. His potential source of information had disappeared. If he found somewhere to hide, he would’ve been able to try again, but he considered the chance that the Leafeon would catch him while he looked.

He turned around and carefully retraced his steps to the path leading to the gate, when something tugged at his paw. He winced as he tried to shake it off, but the more he struggled to get it free, the tighter it wrapped around his ankle, like some sort of rope trap. He took a deep breath and calmed himself. It wouldn't have done any good to panic, just like Tony said.

“Who are you?” Leafeon called as she stood in front of him. “Are you an enemy?”

“What, no, I--”

“Don’t talk! You seem weird! Wait there!”

A trail of grass knots snaked under Shine’s body and tied themselves around each of his limbs, anchoring him to the ground. He squirmed in its grasp, but with each movement, the knots surrounding him pulled taut.

“Wait! Need to check!” The Leafeon buried her nose in Shine’s coat, sniffing him down. It felt weird, to say at the least, but Shine knew that sort of gesture from certain kinds of feral Pokemon. If he had to guess, she came from a similar background and got captured to be on the vineyard’s guard. After a moment of sniffling and snuffling, the Leafeon stepped back.

“You smell clean, but weird. Do you have a trainer?”

Shine nodded, not wanting to set her off again. Then, one by one, the grass knots unwound themselves from Shine’s body, allowing him to stand upright again. He breathed a sigh of relief, and was about to say something when--

“Hey, girl!” the coarse voice called out again. The two turned towards the source and saw the face of a weathered-looking man with gardening gloves behind the fence. “Don’t just stand there; when there’s a Claw that invades our turf, attack on sight!”

S-sir, please!” Shine yelped, “I-I don’t mean any trouble, I just wanted to talk to you!”

The man rubbed his forehead, mumbling to himself as he approached the end of his side of the grate. “Well blow me down, another talkin’ Pokemon outside my property.”

Y-yes, sorry.” Shine breathed in and out, trying to calm himself down. “I don’t mean to intrude or anything, but there’s something I need to know. A Lucario trespassed your vineyard, is that right?”

“Oh for the love of--” He cracked his knuckles. “I thought I’d hear the end of that lousy Lucario. I guess you know her, then.”

Well, yes and no.” He would’ve blushed if he could. “It’s complicated. She might be very important to me, so any info you have on her would be very helpful.”

The old man snorted. “Might be important? Might? Then what good will it do me to tell you anything?”

He had a point. At this stage, Shine was just going on a whim, albeit, a very powerful one. “L-look, I just need to know! I can’t explain it, but I just have a gut feeling! I know we were close!”

“Then I don’t want any more of it.” He gripped the fence, glaring at Shine. “I got enough trouble with you outsider Pokemon, ‘specially the human speaking ones. It ain’t in the white god’s design, you know. Next thing I know, you lot’ll be takin’ us over. Now get lost.”

B-but--”

“Enough! I got a farm to run here, so piss off!” He punctuated this by shaking the grate. “And you, girl, get back in here!”

Leafeon slipped under the fence and joined the caretaker before the two returned to their post, leaving Shine on his lonesome. The Luxray stood still for a moment, not knowing what to do, and trying to parse what the old man told him. He briefly entertained the idea of shouting back at him for that ‘takin’ us over’ remark, but decided agianst it. He stared through the gate once more, and saw the Leafeon staring at him with those wide, orange eyes of hers. Shine thought that would’ve been the end of it, and turned around to make his way back down. Then another grass knot curled itself around his leg, which he tried to shake off.

“Wait,” Leafeon said as she entered Shine’s view again. She stared at him curiously, cocking her head. “Lucario seems important to you.”

Shine didn’t want to mince words any longer and just went with his gut. “W-well, yes.”

“Here.” A loose strand of grass sprouted up and formed an arrow, pointing towards the fence. “Lucario climbed up there.” She pointed down, trailing through the mess of uprooted plants. “Ruined those silvervine plants. Owner got mad and tried to stop Lucario. Lucario said--”

She scurried in front of Shine and stood on her hindlegs, trying her best to imitate the bipedal jackal. “Trying to save your town, you grumpy old fart.” She stood back on all fours. “Then left.”

Shine couldn’t help but laugh. He didn’t know whether or not he expected this behaviour from her, but somehow, that struck a nerve.

“Not funny,” Leafeon said, leering at him. “It’s serious.”

“Sorry.” Shine hummed and thought back to what she said. So, Curio seemed to be quite rough around the edges, but also meant well, if the ‘saving the town’ business told him anything. He was still in the dark on her whereabouts, which didn’t help much. Still, he had to count his blessings, so he bowed to Leafeon and thanked her.

“Fine,” she said. “You need a mate anyway.”

Shine sputtered at that. “M-me and h-her? But--”

“Joking. You don’t stand on two paws.” Leafeon grinned before scurrying back behind the fence. Though the encounter with the old man still shook him up, Leafeon lifted his spirits anyway. Even ferals had a sense of humour, he supposed. And with that, he made his way down the hill again.

As he glanced over to the small landowners, who still looked cautious in his presence, he gained a new found understanding for the town's weird air. It wasn't unheard of to have Pokemon form gangs in the cities, and he experienced it a few times in previous encounters before he met Tony, but they were only limited to a few dozen at the most. In that many numbers, no wonder the townsfolk were so apprehensive around him.

Shine remembered the lack of a jingle by his neck and internally cursed Bauble, however helpful she was. She had to take his collar, of all things.

Once he reached the town centre again, he was a little more at ease as the townsfolk there didn't acknowledge his existence, at least at the beginning. He kept asking around, desperate for any trainer or Pokemon to let slip of Curio’s existence. While some trainers didn’t know what he was talking about and respectively went on their way, others were more wary of him. Partly because of the unfamiliarity of a Luxray in the region, and partly because of the presence of the Claws.

The trail got colder and the sky looked gloomier with each passing hour. A clock on a town spire told him it was a quarter past 5, 4 hours after he had left Ambrette. All that asking around and he was still no better than how he started. Defeated, Shine sat down on those cold cobblestones, wondering what to do next, and reflected on what had happened before.

So he left Ambrette, looking for someone he didn’t know that well, while getting in debt to a Dragonite ranch through the money he stole from his trainer. This was more excitement Shine experienced in a day than he had in the past month or so, but since that initial rush, his enthusiasm for the search had dwindled. He wasn’t home. And on queue, his stomach rumbled, and he groaned. Now he was cold and hungry. He missed his apartment. He missed cozying up in that warm blanket. He missed Tony’s cooking. And he missed Tony himself. He would’ve known what to do in this situation, probably, and yet, Shine decided to throw that away along with his collar, all for someone he barely knew anymore. He curled up into a ball and grumbled.

“I’m such an idiot,” he said, louder than he probably should’ve.

“Somethin’ bothering you?” a Pokemon called.

In front of Shine was a Gligar with a rubber bracelet around his claw. It read ‘Proud to be a Pokespeaker!’ Shine’s eye widened at that.

“See something you like?” the Gligar said.

“O-oh, sorry.” Shine stood up and straightened his back. “I just noticed you’re a Pokespeaker.”

“Oh, you read this lil’ thing?” He shook his claw proudly and smiled, showing his large tongue and fangs. “Glad you noticed! You must be one of us, then!”

Shine smiled at that, bringing a little warmth into his heart. Then, something pelted his head from above. Something wet, which made his static field crackle a little. He looked up, and the sky was dark grey. Oh no, this wasn’t good.

“U-um, we should get inside. I-I’m--”

“An electric type, yeah. I know about you Luxray, so don’t worry.” The Gligar pointed his barb at one of the shop awnings. “Let’s head under there.”

Shine nodded and dashed under the canopy. His new companion joined not long after, gliding noiselessly through the air. Then it started to rain for real. Not just in droplets, but in a downpour, as the sky crackled with thunder. The humans running the stalls started clearing the tables as they desperately clutched their inventory. For once, Shine was glad to be stuck in the shadows.

“I’m Barley, by the way.” He offered his claw.

“Shine.” He took Barley’s claw in return and shook it.

“So, back to earlier, what’s got your Gogoat?”

Shine squeaked. Damnit, so people did notice. He didn’t want to admit he was talking to himself, so he had to settle for something a bit less humiliating. “I, um, well, I got a little lost and I was getting stressed out about it, so I don’t know.” He looked down to his feet, not wanting to face the Gligar. “Maybe I just have a habit of talking to myself, hehe.”

“Yeah, I gathered that. So, I take it you’re not a stray then?”

“No.” He sighed. “I came to this town without my trainer.”

“Oh? Well, that’s a first.” Barley pointed to the activity in the square as everyone turned in to avoid the bad weather. “Not really a lot that goes on in this place unless you’re in the league. Not exactly a tourist’s resort to be honest. Aside from the cafes.”

“I see.”

The conversation deteriorated from there as the two stared out from under the roof. Shine was trying to think of something to say next, when his stomach growled again, sounding like a lion’s roar.

“Heh, you must be hungry!” The Gligar stood proudly and pointed to himself. “Well, if you’ll come with me, I’ve got plenty for you to eat your fill at the PokeStop I run!”

That got his attention. They were more common in the big cities rather than small towns, and although they operated independently by whoever wanted to open one, even Ambrette didn’t have a Pokestop of their own. Shine’s curiosity got the better of him that time.

“Thanks, I appreciate it,” he said, glancing over to the garbage nearby. “Otherwise, that trash can would’ve looked rather tempting.”

Barley snickered, then jumped up and glided past the different shops, until he perched up on one of the rafters. Hanging by it was a sign that said ‘The Vine’, accompanied by a red spot indicating that trainers could let their Pokemon rest there. At that point, Shine knew to follow him, and when the Gligar fluttered down, they entered the pub together.

Upon entering, Shine was greeted with the bustle of the rainy evening, as trainers flooded the pub en masse. It was a bit too crowded for comfort. Yet, there was a pleasant aroma that permeated the insides, like Pecha berries and lemongrass. On top of that, the most noticeable characteristic about the pub was its namesake: the vines that covered the ceiling and snaked all over, creating somewhat of an indoor marsh that worked in harmony with the pub’s wooden interiors. Barley led the way, and avoiding the booted feet of the humans, Shine weaved his way through the crowd until his guide suddenly stopped.

“Yo, gramps,” Barley said. “How’d you like a little trim?”

In front of Shine was a large Venusaur, sitting in his own corner of the room. Indeed, he was past his prime, as his eyes were quite sunken and his leaves were withering, but he visibly beamed at the sight of the Gligar.

“Perhaps later,” he said in a very low tone. “I see you have a guest here, so I don’t want to intrude. Have fun, you two.”

Barley waved a claw at him before leading Shine to the back of the pub, which featured a door with a Pokeball crudely etched onto the wooden frame. With one prod of his claw, Barley opened it, revealing just as lively a scene as the one inhabited by the humans.

There were a few cushions scattered around the floor with various Pokemon lying on them, and a low table set with a Quilladin and a Delphox sat around it playing some sort of chess game. Curiously, the only human there was an adult male trainer lounging on a couch at the end, typing away on a PokePad. The shelves on the end were stacked with books as well as various other knick knacks such as plastic toys and metal figurines. The figurines in particular looked familiar from a distance, but Shine couldn’t put his paw on why. In any case, Shine stepped in and followed Barley to the couch, where Barley fistbumped the human. It must’ve been his trainer, then. He whispered in his ear, and then the trainer sat up, putting the laptop aside.

“Ey yo,” the trainer said in a deep voice, offering his hand to Shine. “Good to see another speaker here.”

W-well,” Shine stuttered. Dammit, why was he getting flustered there? He shook it off and took the trainer’s hand in any case. “It’s good to be here, I guess.”

“Yeah, I mean, just make yourself at home, y’know. We got snacks over there--” he pointed to a few bowls of Pokemon kibble for different types, “and we got others playin’ over here if you wanna join in.”

“Just don’t interrupt our little game,” Delphox said. “We’re having quite the match here.”

“And it’s hard!” Quilladin yelled. “Human games are hard!”

“Still waiting on your turn, sapling.”

“I’m thinkin’ about it, mmmkay?”

Shine was taken aback by all of this hospitality. “Um, thanks,” he said, “but I should fill up for now.”

“Suit yourself.” The trainer returned to his laptop with Barley by his side, and Shine went on his own to sample some of the feline-fit food there. It was dry and crunchy, but he was used to that faintly meaty taste by now, so it didn’t bother him. Drinking from a nearby water bowl also helped take the dry aftertaste off. At the end of that, his stomach was satisfied, and Shine rested by the cushions next to one sleeping Litleo. He stared at her for a moment as she purred and snored. Seeing that little lion body reminded him of when he was a Shinx, for what little there was to glean from his past.

There was something nagging him again, like the episode on the beach before, putting him on the verge of another breakthrough. He tried to piece together the memories he had as a Shinx in GeL. There were the books he’d read on the set of plush cushions, much like the ones he rested on at the moment. Then there was the image of him sulking in the corner of the room. There was another Pokemon with a white body and a poofy tail comforting him. He knew he was his friend, but couldn’t piece together who. Then there was something else in an arena of some kind. The floor was covered in a type of artificial turf. There was a group. He was the last one to be picked, yet again. He was alone, yet again. Then there was something else. Something. Someone.

He hit another wall. On the other side, he knew his memories were there, and that the barriers he had were purely mental. He tried to push through it, like pushing through a stone pillar. It still wasn’t budging. He pushed harder. He budged it an inch, and--

Something else knocked him hard on his back, and he was a fraidy little Shinx again. A shadow in the form of a Manectric ran towards him and picked him up with his maw. He ran, dragging Shine away from the wall, and further away from opening the door to the truth. He was no longer there. He was back in that PokeStop with the torrential downpour beating against the roof. In that room where he barely knew anybody there, and he was hundreds of miles away from home.

Tears streamed down Shine’s face. The kibble bites turned to rocks in his stomach, rattling in his inner passages. Time and time again, his body would act up in some way whenever he got close to reliving those memories. He hated it. He wanted to claw at the walls and scream. None of this was normal for a Pokemon. If he was in the wild, he would’ve starved to death long ago, with this much mental paralysis. He didn’t deserve this Luxray body. He didn’t deserve his trainer’s love. He didn’t--

A set of claws wrapped around his body. Shine gasped, surprised by the sudden sensation, but it snapped him out of his head space, even for a little bit.

“Yo,” Barley said, tightening his grip around the Luxray. “You don’t look so hot.”

“I-I’m sorry,” Shine said, sniffling. “I-I didn’t mean to make s-s-such a scene.”

“Nothing to apologise for, mate.” He tapped his back. “Look, if you wanna talk it over, join us on the couch. We ain’t therapists or anythin’, but we give help when others need it. It’s what we do.”

He looked around, expecting everyone else to be staring at him, but to his surprise, they continued as normal. They didn’t seem perturbed by it. Wearily, he joined the two in the middle of the couch as they made space for him. The trainer was typing away on the forums when Barley coughed, and he closed the screen down.

“Yeah, okay,” his trainer said. “So, what’s up?”

Shine had to think on it for a moment. He didn’t really want to talk about his past, but another question lingered on: that of his trainer. The rocky feeling of his stomach still didn’t subside, so he had to get it out there once and for all.

W-Well, first, I just need to ask.” Shine wiped his eye and sighed before he continued. “If, well, your Pokemon, or Barley, were to run tail and cross half the region for an important reason, without letting you know first, what would you think?”

“Hmm.” The trainer drummed his fingers on the screen surface. “I think I’d be fine with that, wouldn’t I?”

Yup!” Barley said with a smile. “I can take care of myself!”

Oh, okay.” He wasn’t expecting that. Then, another question popped up. “Then, what is it you do?”

Well, a lot of things.” Barley fluttered to one of the tables and stood proudly, tapping one half of his claw. “For one thing, I spread the word about this place while my trainer sorts through donations.” He tapped the other claw-half. “For another, I teach the human tongue to those who want it, or hire those that need something from me.” He frowned. “Some humans kinda find that weird, but eh, screw ‘em. And on top of that, I take care of some of the boring stuff. Taxes, you know.” He blew a Razz berry.

“Yeah, but I’m the one that takes care of the accounting.” His trainer grinned.

And I help with that too, y’know!” He cleared his throat. “But yeah. Why’d you ask?”

Shine clenched his teeth. Truth be told, he was jealous of Barley’s situation. Although the two were cut from the same cloth, Barley was the kind of Mon Shine wasn’t. Confident. Outgoing. Proactive. He knew better than to admit this out loud, so he gulped down his emotions and settled for a simpler answer.

Just curious. Your trainer gives you a lot of freedom. He’s good.”

“Well, thanks.” The trainer’s tone had an air of concern, to which, Shine grimaced. “Look, I don’t wanna pry or anything, but, uh--” he clicked his fingers, “how do I put it? Barley, you’re better at this pep talk stuff than I am.”

Okay then.” Barley gestured to Shine, gliding over to a corner of the room, and Shine followed. The Gligar pointed his barb at him. “So, Pokemon to Pokemon, is your trainer bein’ an ass?”

The use of that human swear took Shine off guard. There was no alternative in the Pokemon tongue for that sort of thing, so it always stuck out like a sore thumb whenever another speaker did so. Still, the instant he heard that, he rapidly shook his head.

“N-no,” he said, “he’s great. He takes care of me, he encourages me to go out, and, well, without him, I wouldn’t be alive right now.”

Barley nodded, but kept his barb raised. “Buuuuuuut?”

Shine sighed. “But, I feel like I kind of threw that away. I left without telling him what my plans were, and…” He trailed off, not wanting to admit it, but swallowed his pride. “Stole his money to get here.” Saying that out loud solidified his actions, and he turned away from Barley. Finally, he added: “I just feel like I’ve betrayed his trust, as his Pokemon. We’re not meant to act out like that, are we?”

Shine didn’t know what he expected, but he was surprised when Barley wrapped his claw around him.

“Well, it sounds like he trusts you enough to make those big decisions, so it ain’t really my place to judge.”

Shine’s eye widened. “You think so?”

“Absolutely,” Barley said with a grin. “And put it this way: not every Pokemon is like you, and not every trainer is like yours.” He swooped over to the chess table where the two were still on the same move. “What about you guys?”

“Well,” Delphox said, blowing smoke out of his nostrils, “I wouldn’t know what to do without mine, as embarrassed as I am to admit. She was the one who taught me how to play chess after all, and that’s all I do outside of the contests.”

To make a point of this, he stopped to knock over his opponent’s Pawniard.

“Explains why yer so good at it,” Quilladin grumbled, slumping in his chair. “Yeah, I dunno nothin’ outside of battling. Just waitin’ for my trainer to come in, really. He knows a lotta stuff I don’t.”

“She would barely trust me to operate a gas cooker, and I’m a fire type.”

“Maybe cuz you’re a fire type. The gas would go boom, wouldn’t it?”

“Perhaps.” Delphox smirked. “Still, I am proud of being with her.”

“Me too with mine, I guess. Jus’ gives me somethin’ to do.”

Barley sharply turned. “Besides, it seems like you had to come here for a really good reason.”

“Y-yes!” Shine said, stomping a front paw onto the floor. “I-I’m not sure I can explain it, but I absolutely had to! There’s someone really important here, waiting for me, and I don’t know if I can pass this up!”

“Huh.” Barley curved his barb into the form of a question mark. “Who is this VIP you had to meet?”

“Ooh, ooh!” Quilladin bashed his paw on the table, putting the chess pieces out of order. “Maybe it’s his lover!”

“N-no,” Shine stammered, who would’ve blushed if he could. What was it with other Pokemon thinking he and that Lucario were an item? “That’s not it, I don’t think. Actually, I’m here to meet a certain Lucario named Curio.”

Barley froze, as stiff as a statue. Delphox was busy rearranging the chess pieces with a concerned look on his face while Quilladin stared attentively, not knowing the situation. Finally, Shine’s heart pounded as he wondered if he said something he shouldn’t have.

To his relief, Barley gave a warm smile.

“You’re just in luck, sorta.”

He sighed in relief. “Oh, bless my tail, thank you. Thank you so much.”

“But, uh, maybe I should fill ya in a little.”

The Gligar swooped up to grab one of the pieces off the shelf, and came down holding some sort of metal object in his claws. On closer inspection, it was an odd looking Magikarp made half to scale with empty cans of Cheri Psycho Soda for the body, yellow bits of plastic sticking out for a tail and large wads of gum for the eyes. It was a ‘rare, unusual, or intriguing object’ or in other words, a curio.

He somehow knew it was connected to Curio. It was only a brief glimpse, but another puzzle piece in his fractured mind connected, and he saw another vision of the past.

He didn’t remember the fine details, but he was inside some sort of small room, similar to a workshop. There were metal wires and tools everywhere, like wireframes, pliers, trash and glue. There was a radio playing in the background as well, though what it played was a blur to him. There was a human, and then a Lucario, which he could only guess was Curio, in the middle of all that mess. In her paws was a metal model of a Clefairy, half constructed. Curio smiled at this, and then, when she noticed the Luxray’s presence, she turned and waved at him.

“Yo?” Barley said, snapping him back to reality. “Earth to Shine?”

“O-oh, yes, right!” Shine beamed, looking at the object with a renewed interest. “She made that, didn’t she?”

“Yup! We’ve got quite the collection from her lately! She’s real talented, probably why we hired her in the first place!” Barley frowned. “And yet, we haven’t heard from her in a few days.”

Shine’s heart sank. He didn’t think to check the date on the news report, so it could’ve been at any time from yesterday to a few days before. Then what happened? If those Claws were so dangerous, and she was apparently missing, then…

“W-what did she say she was doing?”

“She didn’t explain herself.” Barley’s barb drooped. “She might’ve said something about those dumb Claws, but she was kinda vague about it.”

Then there was no question. Either they did something to her or she went off on her own to deal with the problem. The downpour finally stopped. In that case, there was no time to waste. Shine darted for the front door when Barley swooped in front of him again.

“Hold on,” Barley said. “Are you going to try and find her?”

“Y-yes! I have to!”

“But it’s night. And we have a bit of a pest problem in town, so it’s dangerous!”

“Yes, I know, but still!” He planted his paws firmly on the floor, scratching against the smooth surface. “I just feel, if I don’t find her right now, I never will!”

“Listen.” He approached Shine and put a claw on his shoulder. “You know what you’re gettin’ into, right?”

Shine nodded, though inside, he wasn’t so sure.

“And you said you’re far away from home without your trainer. He cares about you, doesn’t he?”

Shine nodded, then gulped. Right. He was pretty much throwing himself at the deep end here, and after worrying about his trainer so much, it seemed like a repeat of what he did to get to Dendemille in the first place. He was about to turn away and go back to the pillow pile, when Barley clicked his large tongue.

“Still, you’re an adult Pokemon, just like me. If you really feel like you need to do this, then go with your gut.”

“Yeah!” The Quilladin yelled, pumping his claw in the air. “Kiss some, er, what do they say, Barley?”

“Kick some ass.” He winked. “Just don’t get yourself killed before we can be buddies.”

“R-right!” Shine blurted out. Yes, he was nervous. There was still that rocky sensation in his stomach. And yet, his resolve was clear. He wasn’t alone. Barley had his back in this. To clear his jitters before he went, Shine took another sip from the bowl.

“Barleyyyyy!” Quilladin called, catching Shine’s attention. “I’m stuuuuuck!”

On command, Barley swooped over to where the two Pokemon played. Quilladin nursed his head, still trying to find a way to end his turn while Delphox waited with bated breath. Barley crept over to the Grass Pokemon’s side and whispered in his ear, and momentarily, there was a glint in his eyes. He slammed the Gardevoir, or in this case, Sirknight, over the opponent’s Bisharp. In the same breath, Delphox made his move and overtook the Sirknight with his Nidoqueen.

“What?” Quilladin said, banging his paws on the table. “That’s not fair, I only just made that move!”

Delphox smiled. “So? It’s not my fault you suck.”

“I suck? You ain’t better than me cuz you’re good at a human’s game! You suck!"

“Hey,” Barley said, “that was my fault, but let’s not have that her--”

Quilladin stood from his seat, lifted the table’s leg and flipped it over. Shine slinked quietly from the PokeStop to the sound of chess pieces tumbling everywhere with a crash.
 

Raggy

(。◕‿‿◕。)
Location
East
Is there such thing as obligation by proxy? Or is this philosophical posturing?

I’m gonna try this again, this time with the handy dandy WWE Wrestlers Database, for cross referencing purposes. And now that you were nice to me once, you’ll have to kill me to get rid of me.

Last time on the Cross-stitching and the Spurious, we left our friend Shin-e in debt to the mafia, doomed to unpaid work as an ESL teacher until a Goodra learns the oxford comma. Opening a chapter with your character vomiting is roughly the equivalent of Beethoven’s I-ii-iii sequence from the 10th piano sonata. That was not a reference you’re supposed to get because it is a joke for me. I have to interject my own humor occasionally so I don’t suddenly get existential and regret writing the whole thing, so leave it at that. Maybe next time put Shine in the kennel under the plane instead of hiring a living plane. He won’t have time to complain when he’s drugged up.

And so after taking some Tums, Luxury-chan is in Dendemille town, another place I had to look up. Occupational hazard that is the windmill aside, your description hits the mark, mostly because if the description didn’t hit it off with me, I wouldn’t have looked it up. Of all the meat markets and doodad shops about, Shine of course goes to the guy that probably has kusoge on the shelves and eroge under the table. As it’s his first time talking to anyone other than Tony and his imaginary Murkrow friend (talking as in really talking and not making idle statements or threats directed towards the ankle region), he’s nervous. He’s out of his element, a fact he himself acknowledges.

Then the trader starts speaking old man toothless dialect, and he’s friendly to boot. No crying cat today! That being said, after thinking about the dialogue for more than 5 seconds, all I can see is the Eric Andre police car skit.

We learn in short order that the subject of our protagonists affection whose name I will not mention for fear of summoning the devil messed up a vineyard, most likely because she realized that wine tasting is not a real sport. The only acceptable use for grapes is juice and if anyone says anything about raisins to me, I will die instantly.

Pub rumors are the classic territory of exacerbation. We are lead to believe our Lucario friend jumped from a television tower (unlikely), has a metal arm (even more unlikely, Shine’s memory is not reliable for a reason), and has beaten a Garchomp (near impossibility). Not to mention, we get smashed with two hand-paw dichotomy jokes in the space of a second. I don’t mind, but a weaker individual could lose a leg (there’s no animal equivalent there, ha).

Old man over here is happy that someone aside from his case worker was nice to him, so that’s more points for Shine when he inevitably gets shot by a dentist or whatever. But he has to work on not getting worked up. There’s loads of youtube videos where people that haven’t seen each other for 20+ years meetup, and they just hug and cry. Heart attacks are unacceptable Shine.

Little wonder that our unwashed feline is viewed with derision and suspicion by the locals. Maybe a bit overkill that they’re even gearing up to throw hands as he walks by, like, no chill man. He doesn’t even look like a meowth. I suppose they have their reasons, we don’t have much info after all, Dendemille is basically the St. Louis of Kalos.

After activating his Agent 47 instinct vision again, Shine is caught by a Leafeon. Alright, maybe not ICA material after all. The convenience of having a guard and drug sniffer is on full display, the only downside being that we can’t refer to them as K9 units. It looks like my previous comment was on the money though. If it breathes, it’s a thousand claw, to which Shine replies ‘All Pokemon are people’ before getting arrested. Tortuous joke aside, we get some more evil poke-bigotry from another old man. This one however is cranky because he got his crops ruined. Maybe if you had a scarecrow of the white god whose design you seem to have a highly theological grasp on. Miserable old people, the future belongs to the not-old people. Alas, no time to be theoretically angry, Leafeon to the rescue. But only because she has the hots for him. If Shine didn’t have half the rugged charm he did, the story would have ended when Bauble tore his throat open for not giving her a dime store collar.

Time for more introspection. No crying this time. Just sadness and hunger. But enough of the self flagellation, it’s time for a real new character and not just another old man. Short lived joy of course, Barley talks for all of 5 minutes before taking Shine to get drunk so he can mug him. And there’s an old Venusaur there too. Is Dendemille even a real town, or a retirement community? I’m getting irrational over this.

A bit of fluff and it’s time for another flashback. A shocking revelation, GeL uses astroturf, cheap. Completely serious for a moment, alas poor creature. Not necessarily the kind of situation most can empathize with, but still feel pity for the fool.

Some good talk for the road, and another flashback? How exceptionally lucky, and this one’s happy to boot. Everyone reacts like Curio (5 minutes until I’m dragged to hell) is the phantom of the opera or something. Not only that, but she’s been a craftsman (I’m not changing that to an o). Anyway, rousing speech, fun time, table flip, boost, bonk, bam.

I managed to reach the end of the chapter with 3 minutes left. So it’s time for a retrospective. A bit slower from chapter one, our ‘call to action’ as the literati would say. This chapter to me is a focus on finding a groove, a stylistic establishment of the setting so we can start to move around in it like fisher price dolls. Does it work for me? Hey, my bar of enjoyment is titanically low, I can find something to like in nearly anything with one notable exception (liquid smoke, why does that even exist?). While this might diminish my credentials, that is based on the incorrect assumption that I had any to begin with.

We have more Shine than ever before. More sparking, more crying, more wallhacks. Still on the route to becoming a happy cat, but now it seems longer than ever. But hope is in the cards, he’s within Tindr range of his goal, and he finally has a support network to fall back on if he feels sad again. Other factors going for him include being stone cold broke, which precludes the possibility of mugging. If anyone tries to rob this cat, they’ll make fools of themselves, which will probably result in them killing him to save face. What a lucky break for Shine, you’ll never have to experience the shame of being robbed if you’re dead.

I realize only now I totally forgot to cross reference the database, so we’ll have to make some quick calculations now. If we were to compare Shine to Thaddeus Michael Bullard, otherwise known as ‘THE REAL DEAL’ Titus O’ Neal, how does he stack up? Titus was the owner of the WWE Tag Team Title along with Darren Young during 2015. Shine’s only title is ‘The Shiny’. Doesn’t quite ring the same as the Real Deal. Titus’ finishing move is the Million Dollar Slam. Shine’s only known move is fake tears (though I have a sneaking suspicion they’re real). Will tears save Shine from the Million Dollar Slam? The answer to that question is found through another question, are my jokes funny?

As you may have already guessed, the answer is obvious.

No.

Thanks for indulging me, I’ll be back next time with even worse ones. Or maybe not, I have a minute left.
 
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