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

    Join now!

kintsugi

golden scars
Pronouns
she/her/hers
Partner
silvally-grass


“Pokémon never tell lies,” N said outside of Mistralton, days before he summoned the ancient dragon and changed the world. Unovan historians have come to agree that this statement marked the turning point of the Pokémon Liberation Movement. And in this regard, it is also agreed that N was correct: pokémon do not tell lies. What they do tell is a different story altogether.

this is a story about things that start with n.

table of contents
o. end
i. nominal
ii. notorious
iii. nuestro
iv. nostrum
v. narsil
vi. noted
vii. nonconformist
viii. nondeterministic
ix. nidifugous
x. nightmare
xi. necktie
xii. noogenesis
xiii. ninkyo
xiv. nocturne
xv. na-šāyad
xvi. nepeta
xvii. narcissus
xviii. enharmonic​

an author’s note:
I’ve stewed on this fic for years, but I started putting it on paper in the beginning of April 2020, when words like hero started floating around headlines again. Then real life started plagiarizing my best ideas, so. In this quarantine fic is a lot of me wrestling with the paradox of calling someone a hero but not treating them like one. It also contains a healthy dose of my anger at the price of being silent, as well as my frustration with the price of being heard. There just happen to be pokémon names instead.

a more useful author's note:
This is similar in tone to a one-shot I wrote earlier this year, which was in turn inspired by stories such as Negrek's Decoherence, and Pen's Let It Ring. There ended up being a lot in my one-shot that didn't come through the way I wanted. This story has a similar skeleton and a few similar characters to both that story and also Pokemon Black/White in general -- there is one major plot change to the game canon that will become apparent very early.

cw: abuse, minor mentions of blood, minor language
 
Last edited:
o. end

kintsugi

golden scars
Pronouns
she/her/hers
Partner
silvally-grass
what fine design!
what hands
what minds!
the envy of eden
our tools and our reason
it's clear in the animals eyes

—dessa, "the beekeeper"

o. end

※​

The moment before it all ends is serene.

A crack slowly spreads down the stone, reaching out across the room to trace through all the chaos. Time seems to slow down with it as the crack crawls across the battle.

On the edges of the throne room are the first casualties of this fight: a pair of Corinthian stone columns—fractured from the sheer heat of a stray fire attack, based on the scorch marks and soot. Bits and pieces of them have crumbled inward, shattering on the marble of the floor, but the tiny cracks there immediately dissolve into the web of fractures that’s starting to swallow up the entire room.

Down further, at the foot of the dais, a klinklang is scattered on the ground, their body gears in four separate pieces. It’s more reassuring to look at them in slow motion—were time going at its normal speed, the lack of spinning would be painfully obvious.

Closer, directly above the sundered gears, a reuniclus is splayed on the stairs, his arms limply tracing down the steps. Collapsed beside him is a carracosta in heavy-plated armor, his fins and head partially withdrawn into his shell.

Closer still. A serperior is frozen in mid-leap, every leaf on her body glowing with green light, so bright that it blots out her face. Beside her, a trainer stands, one hand frozen and outstretched, eyebrows furrowed, mouth halfway through a command. The human’s face is smeared with dust, but her eyes brim with dark flame.

The crack twists around the battlefield. An archeops rises up to meet the serperior and her human, his wings halfway down, talons outstretched. Even when still, his feathers blur through brick red, leafy green, pale blue.

And here, at the very epicenter of the fracture, the yang dragon erupts. White-feathered wings unfurl across the room, bringing all under their shadow. Blue eyes blaze with all the intensity of a dying star. Their mouth is open in a roar so loud that it blots out all other sound, all other commotion, except—

{Is this what you want, Hero of Truth? If you and I act together as one, what we do here will never be able to be undone, by my power or any other’s.}

Pokémon never tell lies. There won’t be any coming back from this.

In the corner of the room, at the foot of the dais, is the collapsed form of Zekrom. The ancient scales are charred; raw wounds leak blue blood onto the granite. The stone tiles are cratered in their own web of cracks; the dragon of legends lies unconscious. Sand slowly leaks down around their form, hazing the edges.

In front of you, Reshiram.

Pokémon. Humans. Black. White. Two worlds that have spent so long trying to merge into one balance, and yet—the interplay was always distinct. Every yin had a yang; at the center of each darkness was a drop of light, but between them there was and would always be a line. Pretending it’s not there doesn’t make the line stop existing.

Is it wrong to believe that this was the only ending? Perhaps. But was there a better way? Was there a diverging branch that got overlooked, a path that led to an ideal world where everyone was happy? Probably. Was it worth letting thousands of people suffer while you tried to find the route that left their oppressors undisturbed? No.

Behind the ancient dragon, time speeds up again. The archeops twists out of the way as the serperior crashes down. The trainer screams another command, but she’s too slow, too late. You have your answer.

“Yes. This is what I want.”

Your name is Natural Harmonia Gropius, and you’ve finally, after all your struggles, saved the world.

For some reason, you don’t feel like the hero.

The rest of the story plays out backwards.

※​
 
Last edited:
i. nominal

kintsugi

golden scars
Pronouns
she/her/hers
Partner
silvally-grass
i. nominal

※​

“Vaselva.”

Her breath hitches on the second syllable of your name. Across eight badges and an entire continent, Hilda was calm. You only saw her falter once: six days ago, when you lost Amara. In the heat of the moment she was ashen; afterward, in private, she cried herself ragged. The next morning the panic was gone from her voice and you were convinced nothing would make it come back again.

When Hilda sends you out this time, the leaf-haired one is there. That’s why she’s panicking. You coil protectively in a three foot radius around her feet as soon as you see him, but it’s more for show than anything else. Leaf-haired N is not afraid of you. This is for Hilda. So you form an enormous barrier with your body, but you don’t peak the leaves around your neck, or pump your tail with light.

“It doesn’t have to come to this.” N lifts his free hand out invitingly, keeps it low, but there. It’s almost like he’s reaching for you both. “We don’t have to fight.” You notice he hasn’t sent out a pokémon yet. There’s no stray of his hands toward his belt, no glint of anger in his eyes. Your eyes dart around, searching the darkness behind the enormous stone columns. The cavernous room around you is lit by two dozen torches ensconced on the pillars, casting flickering shadows along the sand, but there’s nothing lurking in the shadows to ambush.

He truly means it.

“I can’t let you do this,” Hilda says at last. Her words are strangled.

He means it. She does not. Your poor, sweet trainer. Always fighting above her weight. Now that gods are on the table, it’s too late to let him do anything.

N isn’t looking at either of you. His eyes, like his hands, are fixated on the white stone that he holds gently in front of him, gently, as if looking too hard or squeezing too tight will crack it open like an egg. No, that’s not it. He’s not afraid to break it. You both know that no mortal force could do that. His posture is one of reverence, respect.

“Relic Castle. This isn’t the first time I’ve been up here, but I’ve never come this far underground. Do you know the legends of this amphitheater, Hilda?” he asks. He’s almost conversational about it, almost pleasant, but you sense thorns beneath the roses.

Something’s changed since you last saw him. He never had thorns before.

“You have to stop this, N. Or I will.”

“A shame. It’s a good story.” His voice is soft, but it echoes. The crumbled walls of Relic Castle form a cup of sorts, and this far underground, everything is unnaturally silent.

{N,} you say. It’s hard not to plead with this human—something tells you that he would listen if you did. If you could only bring yourself to do so. {If you succeed in your mission here. What do you intend to do after?}

When he hears your words, he flinches, almost as if you’d attacked him instead.

You think you know why. Every time you’ve seen him, every time you’ve fought, he’s been surprised when he loses. He never considered what would happen if he failed, never once doubted that on his quest he could fall short—so each time you’ve triumphed over him, he’s been unable to understand it. Most humans make backup plans, contingencies. Hilda does. That’s why she’s been such a successful trainer; she has so many plans in motion at any given moment that even if she fails, she’s victorious.

But N never considered failure. No. The thing that held him back, that freezes him even now, is the very opposite. He’s travelled his whole life to find enough power to right the wrongs he sees in the world, but he’s still afraid of what he’ll find when he succeeds.

“Reshiram will put things back to how they were,” he says at last. “Before humans made pokémon suffer, they used to live happily, separately. We’ll bring that back. Split them apart. Make sure pokémon never get hurt by humans again.”

Split them apart. You wonder if he even knows what it means to be taken from someone you love.

In your clutch there were seventeen. A small brood for a serperior. Perhaps the spring air wasn’t good enough. Perhaps your mother was exhausted from the end of many breeding seasons. You don’t know; you never got to ask. Your moments with your mother are limited and fuzzy and precious, and you did not waste them on asking questions you did not yet understand. Of that clutch, perhaps only three or four of you truly knew they wanted to fight. You were not one of them. You had fourteen suns with your mother before you were taken from her, and in those fourteen suns you remember her teaching you the things all good snivy should know—how to charge your tail, how to call power from the sun, how to sharpen your fronds razor-sharp. But what you remember most of all is curling up alongside her neck, her scales warm in the sun, her ruby eyes soft as she whispered the name she had given you.

You see it in N as well, the way he puffs up his leaf-hair, in the quavering of his stance: here is someone who would much rather stretch out in the sun than command a battlefield. And yet here you both are, hoping that your words will do the fighting for you.

He’s not a very good human, you decide, to have waited all this time just to have a god call the shots. He would much rather take commands than give them. He’d make a much better pokémon.

“N,” Hilda says, and her tone is the same cautioning one that she used when it was just you standing between her and a mother beartic. Hilda, never seeing then and now that she feared those who had no capacity to harm her. “Please. Don’t. What you seek will harm everyone. Two worlds? Separating people and pokémon? What good will come of it?”

“When I am done, pokémon will no longer have to suffer for the whims of humans.” There’s an angry cadence on the last word of that sentence, but the rest of his voice is calm. “Believe me, Hilda, when I say this: I would much rather that we live in one world where pokémon and humans can be friends. But after everything I’ve seen, after everything humans have done, I no longer think that humans would allow for that on their own, nor do pokémon have the power to carve it out for themselves. And so the burden falls on me to make humans listen.”

Poor N, you decide. Hilda has been marked as the Hero of Ideals, but N is the one staking all of his hopes on something that will never change.

But you can’t help but pity Hilda, who was so good at leading that she never learned to listen. She latches on to the last word of the sentence and nothing else. “Make them? That’s draconic.”

N is calm when he responds, so calm it’s almost surreal, but beneath the stillness of his voice is a fire brighter than the sun. “Draconic?” Perhaps unintentionally, he imitates her inflection. “Do you know where that word comes from?” He waits. Hilda scowls. “Three hundred years ago humans discovered the land beyond Twist Mountain. At the time it was the nesting ground for wild haxorus, and was known to the native peoples as the Valley of the Dragons.”

You stiffen, but Hilda doesn’t notice. She can’t notice, not when she’s so entranced by the hypnotic spell of N’s words.

But you already know how Sagaris’s story ends. Every pokémon does.

“Unovan settlers led by a human named Draccus Kensington led the routing and subsequent slaughter of the entire colony there. But humans were not strong enough to confront fully-grown haxorus directly, so instead they snuck in at night and smashed their eggs, slaughtered the hatchling axew as they fled. The survivors were hunted down while they mourned. Today the Valley of Dragons is known as Opelucid City, and their people live in blissful ignorance of the blood upon which their city is founded. That is draconic. Draccus’s son, heartbroken by the actions of his father, tried to make peace by enshrining dragons in their town, revering them as sacred, denouncing his father’s name as a synonym of the violence he inflicted, but—haxorus never again nested in the Valley.”

Dragons are your cousins, your mother told you in those fourteen blissful suns, but they are not you. And you are not them. You will not die a dragon’s death, you will not be the last of a dying breed, she warned you sternly. You must not. Seeds will grow in whatever soil they find. Dragons will die on their hoards. There is no in-between.

Poor Hilda, who didn’t ask to be born in this system, the same as you. “Don’t twist my words. Pokémon and humans can live together in peace. Just because they didn’t three centuries ago doesn’t mean they can’t now. It doesn’t have to come to this.”

N waits for a long moment—it doesn’t look like he’s thinking of what to say. You’re curious. Is he waiting for Hilda to say something else? But she doesn’t. Her fists are clenched and her eyes are still on the white stone.

What is he waiting for?

So finally, he shakes his head slowly. “It’s not your fault, Hilda. This world was made for you, but you didn’t make it. And it’s not your fault either, Vaselva.” You think at first he misspoke, but he looks directly at you. “This world forced you to be strong enough to fight others, but it didn’t teach you how to be strong enough to fight back. There is strength beyond pure power. That is the truth Reshiram and I will show the world, and we will change it.”

“Vaselva,” Hilda calls warningly, and you lean forward, but N hasn’t moved to attack, and he doesn’t have any pokémon out. What does she want you to do?

You realize what he was waiting for in that silence. He paused, and he watched, and he listened—for one of you to tell him why. To stop merely denying his stories, and to instead explain why humans and pokémon could live in harmony. To tell him what had changed three hundred years ago that wasn’t true now.

She doesn’t get that. For all of her talking she never learned to listen. And for all of his listening, N never learned to talk in a way that humans would understand.

You … you have to try, right?

{N, this isn’t what you want. Humans have been cruel to us before, but pokémon and humans are meant to live alongside one another, and you can’t change that! Look at Hilda and me now. If you seek to separate us you are no better than Ghetsis. And.} You freeze. Grateful, at the very least, that only N can hear your words. Hilda would surely withdraw you if she heard what’s about to slip from your mouth. {I’m sorry for what happened to him. I know you’re upset by that.}

If he is, he certainly doesn’t show it. The second you mention his father, his face is a mask, carved like a cofagrigus, not a single expression showing through the gilding.

{But don’t you see? His methods were wrong. He tried to force people to change, and that made people reject him.}

“They rejected me as well, Vaselva. Ghetsis may have tried war, but I certainly tried peace. I’m beginning to think that it’s not our methods they disagree with, but our ideas—and they simply use one of us to excuse the fact that they cannot refute the other.”

{I …} You can’t bring yourself to say any more. Ghetsis was wrong. You couldn’t force the world to change. Everyone saw what happened when he tried that. And worse, Ghetsis hurt people. He hurt—

“I’m sorry, Vaselva. Amara didn’t deserve that. No one did,” N says in your silence, and there’s something shining in his eyes, a reflection, regretful? No, it’s sorrow

Hilda cuts in, her voice hard. “What is she telling you?”

You coil a little closer to her, hoping to show that you’re still on her side. She needn’t fear. After you were taken from your mother, you and your siblings were moved to Professor Juniper’s lab. There, she gave you all your lifelong mission in a slow, firm voice as you all watched with wide eyes—you were entrusted with these human children, to guide them and defend them through Unova. You were guardians, to be their anchors and their starting point for as long as they would have you.

Your chest swelled a little with pride when she’d told you that. You, so young, and yet you were to be given your own thing to defend! You never wanted to fight, but you would do it for her, you decided. If your mother trusted you to this woman, and this woman trusted her children to you—then there couldn’t be anything wrong with that, right?

N’s looking at you again, and the mask of his face is melting. You expect the gaze behind it to burn, but it doesn’t—his silvery eyes are like mirrors, shimmering so you can almost see yourself staring back, earnest and afraid, aching to protect. “When I first saw you in Accumula, and you told me that you would do anything to get her here, I was so surprised. You were so young. Too young to have that choice foisted upon you. But you were—”

“I’m hardly younger than you,” Hilda shoots back. “You don’t need to condescend me.”

“I wasn’t,” N says softly, “talking to you.”

There’s a long silence.

N doesn’t look away from you. “You were barely a child, and yet you were so thrilled to go on this journey with her. To fight and fall for her until the very end. I couldn’t believe it then and I cannot believe it now, Vaselva.” He emphasizes the last word, as if daring Hilda to challenge him. “We’re older now, and this will probably be the last time I get to ask you. What is it that you want? If you had the choice, would you fight? Does it bring you joy? You fight for her glory and her gain, but are you happy with what you get out of it? Do you feel like you’ve gotten stronger in the ways that matter to you?”

You twist uncomfortably in place. {I’m happy with her, N. Hilda is a good trainer. She made me who I am.}

“She made you who you are.” He repeats your words back slowly, chews on them like he’s trying to eat them. Almost sounds sad, if you could believe that a human like him would pity a creature like you. “But are you happier than you would’ve been if you’d just been free?”

Seeds will grow in whatever soil they find. In this land, your human is your earth, your rock. {Forgive me, N. My species does not deal well in hypotheticals. Either the seed sprouts, or it does not. There is no in-between.}

It’s a half-hearted answer, and you both know it, but, at the same time—what does he want you to say? You’ll never know what could have been, what might have been. All you know is the world that you were given, the life you chose to carve from it. It’s Hilda’s job to deal with ideals.

“Yes. You’re right.” He looks back at Hilda, and then at the stone in his hands. “There is no in-between.”

Cold settles on the edges of your fronds now, curls around you like the beginning of a blizzard. It’s not physical; if anything, the air around you is getting warmer—but his words spark a chill in you that you can’t shake. It’s been gnawing at you this entire time, but now you finally understand: if he summons Reshiram, if they fight, if Hilda doubts here—it will all end.

Were it any other night, any of the times you’d faced N before, there would be no question that Hilda would find a way to protect everyone. That’s who she is, after all. But here, tonight, with your trainer, who tried to trade her thorns for roses on the same night that N finally found his flame. You’ve been fighting long enough to recognize a losing battle.

“When I first went to Dragonspiral Tower,” he says, tearing his eyes from the stone and fixing you and Hilda with that withering, mirroring gaze, “and the Light Stone failed to awaken for me, I knew it was because I lacked conviction, but I couldn’t understand why. It was so simple going in. You were the ideal that pokémon and humans could one day change, to live together in harmony without anyone having to be inconvenienced in the meantime, and I was the truth that humans would always make pokémon suffer, that battling is barbaric and wrong. I would make the world listen. And yet the Light Stone refused to respond to me. I wondered, and I doubted—perhaps this is a problem too big for heroes. I am the villain you need to defeat, but you are not mine. Fighting you here and now will not fix the wrongs I see in the world. I could beat every trainer in Unova and still lose.

“So I realized my victory would not be won through strength of might. I thought perhaps I had the equation backward, and I was the embodiment of ideals while you were truth. I, the ideal that humans should liberate pokémon to create a fairer world; and you, the bitter truth that they never will give up their comforts and entertainment.”

N hasn’t moved, but in the corner of your eye you can feel Hilda’s hand snaking slowly toward her waist, toward Zekrom, and you know: there will be no coming back from this. Once the dragon is out, once the battle is joined, your world will change forever.

But N is mercilessly calm, unrelenting and yet serene. “Alder had it right after all, you know? He said something once in a speech that stuck with me for a long time: the ones who change the world are the ones who pursue their dreams. That’s why I knew it had to be you and me, Hilda. Everyone else has settled, one way or another. I watched countless humans tell themselves there is nothing more they can do to improve the status of pokémon. Even—even my father decided he had no other choice than the path fate had given him. And you—I do not know your journey fully, but I know you had many friends along the way who gave up instead of making it here. But you and I are different. I understand that now. There is a fire in me, a spark in you, that drives us to pursue our dreams no matter the cost. The only thing we disagree on is who must pay that price.”

He’s calling to you, to anyone who will listen. With more than just words. From the bottom of his heart you feel his desperation, his earnestness, his conviction, twining together into one singular thing: his truth.

He doesn’t have to say the rest of his speech; you already see it written in his heart in letters of flame, but maybe it’s for his benefit, or for hers, or for the stone that’s shuddering in his hands.

“When I failed here before, I thought it was because I wasn’t worthy, but watching Zekrom awaken for you, I finally understood: I was too idealistic to be the Hero of Truth. I thought that the truth would speak for itself, that humans would understand their cruelty of their actions and pokemon would see the tragedy of their bondage. But you showed me, Hilda. The truth doesn't speak first. Pure truth is an answer. An answer to ignorance. In an ideal world you don’t need a hero of truth, because everyone holds it within themselves, and can speak it for themselves. But when their voices go unheard, when you hide their truth from them—the lone shout into the void becomes a roaring echo, and the truth rages back in response.”

You hear first the echo, and then the roar, and you know without knowing what’s about to happen next. You can’t stop it. Trying would be like holding a leaf up to shield yourself from a hurricane.

“I understand now. My heart is convinced and I have no doubts. You are your ideals, and I can only exist in response to them. In your ideal world, power means that you can and will be strong enough to protect those who can’t fight for themselves.” He smiles bitterly. “And I heard your cry, Hilda. From halfway across Unova, I felt the strength of your conviction, the conviction that woke a god and drove them to defend the defenseless alongside you.”

“N …” Hilda says, and for a single, perfect moment, you think it’ll all work out. She’s finally listening. She’ll understand. But in this moment, the last moment humans have to say something in response, Hilda opens her mouth and finds that the words do not come.

N waits, and then shakes his head sadly. “But I am the truth that you and I have both spent our journeys learning.” His voice drops, cold. But the room is hot now. He smiles, despite it all. “There is no change without sacrifice. Nothing good comes easily.”

The stone in his hand splits into two identical pieces, each still slightly curled around the other. N shouts a name.

“Reshiram! Lend me your strength!”

The room rockets from the cold of the subterranean chamber to lukewarm, and then as hot as the sands above, and then warmer still, to a blazing inferno. You hold close to Hilda and, for the second time in your life, you watch the birth of a god.

It’s shameful, perhaps, but in the last moments before Reshiram emerges and the underground chamber fills with blazing light, you aren’t thinking of the truth, or the dragon, or N, or even of Hilda.

You think of your mother, of what she whispered to you on that sunny day, the warmth reflecting off of your scales as it does even now. What was the name your mother had given you? She’d whispered it to you as you dozed off in the sunlight, but you were so small, so tired. You don’t remember.

“Vaselva, Leaf Blade!”

Your mother, your siblings, your sunny days. You lost them all. All you have is Hilda now.

Hypothetically. What would happen if you disobeyed?

No. You already know your answer to that. This is why you cannot deal in hypotheticals.

It’s foolish, defying a god. But you call, and the earth answers. Your leaves glow bright green, so bright you can hardly see.

You lost everything else. You lost them all. You can’t lose her too.



p | n
 
Last edited:

OldschoolJohto

Never not editing
Pronouns
She/Her
Partner
solrock
stray air slash, or perhaps a flamethrower, based on the scorch marks.
Perhaps feels off if there’s scorch mark evidence. Maybe instead: a stray air slash—or, no—a flamethrower, based on the scorch marks.

a klinklang is scattered on the ground, their body gears in four separate pieces.
Ouch oh no. I think my heart is tender to everything right now, but this hit me hard. Maybe harder than it would’ve if you’d used a simple word like “dismembered.”

The human’s face is smeared with dust, but her eyes brim with dark flame.
This description reminds me of Holly Black when she’s at her peak. Wondering if flame is right though if N is Reshiram. Maybe “eyes dark and electric”?

The crack twists around the battlefield.
I liked the way you use the cracking floor to pull our eyes around the scene and build this feeling of the inevitable.

raw wounds leak blue blood onto the granite.
I like the reversal of red eyes/blue blood, blue eyes/presumably red blood between the two dragons.

Not seeing color didn’t mean it didn’t exist.
gfsghjjjhhgvcdkkhg
THOUGH I am having trouble pinning down what this means exactly because the rest of the paragraph is black and white—values/shades, not actual colors. Is the idea thinking outside the box, behind black and white? Or is it that black and white can’t understand each other?

Was it worth letting thousands of people suffer while you tried to find the route that left their oppressors undisturbed? No.
Great line, hell yes. And! This was the first moment I realized that N was the “you” of this scene. I think I wanted that information just a little sooner, because I was looking for him.

Leaf-haired N is not afraid of you. This is for Hilda.
So sweet and also ... feels very much like V feels like she has to protect H not just from physical threats but intellectual ones. There’s a lot her human can’t understand.

but she cried herself ragged that one night and never let panic return to her voice ever since. Until now.
This paints a great picture of Hilda: hardened and closed-off. No more concessions.

There’s no stray of his hands toward his belt,
Straying, perhaps.

She does not. Your poor, sweet trainer. Always fighting above her weight.
💔
A little messy because of the repeated refrain that N is not a real threat, that he’s not fighting her. Though, certainly, the situation itself is above her weight.

Most humans make backup plans, contingencies. Hilda does. ... she has so many plans in motion at any given moment that even if she fails, she’ll succeed.
I like how, in a way, this almost shows a lack of faith and conviction. Anxiety. Need to control—another form of being closed off to input from the world beyond herself.

But N never considered failure. No. The thing that held him back, that freezes him even now, is the very opposite. He’s travelled his whole life to find enough power to write the wrongs he sees in the world, but he’s still afraid of what he’ll find when he succeeds.
Interesting that he never considered failure as an option, yet fears success. That check out, but I’d also like to see a little more of that play out.

And so the burden falls on me to make them.”
Knee-jerk this got me too. Ugh, it’s so easy to want to fight change, isn’t it? But on the second read I saw: make who?

In your clutch there were seventeen. A small brood for a serperior. Perhaps the spring air wasn’t good enough.
I loved the details about her family, how important they actually are to her (and how her trainer has no idea). this almost-apology is so sad.

perhaps only three or four of you truly knew they wanted to fight. You were not one of them.
Oof

here is someone who would much rather stretch out in the sun than command a battlefield.
Right. The people who actually should have power are not the ones who want it.

Hilda has been marked as the Hero of Ideals, but N is the one staking all of his hopes on something that will never change.
Huh, does this imply ideals are more mutable than truth?

Poor Hilda, who was so good at leading that she never learned to listen. She latches on to the last word of the sentence and nothing else. “Make them? That’s draconic.”
YUP. 👏 Very nicely done there.

Seeds will grow in whatever soil they find. Dragons will die on their hoards. There is no in-between.
Oooof. Reminds me pretty terribly of my roommate last night announcing, “That’s why I’m white-washed—I have to be.” Use what you’re given or die fighting for what you haven’t been given.

Poor Hilda, who didn’t ask to be born in this system, the same as you.
...
world was made for you, but you didn’t make it.
OOF. Yeah, she didn’t invent Pokémon training. But she benefits, profits, relies on, and perpetuates it, doesn’t she.

This world forced you to be strong enough to fight others, but it didn’t teach you how to be strong enough to fight back.
Nothing to add, just liked this.

She doesn’t get that. For all of her talking she never learned to listen. And for all of his listening, N never learned to talk in a way that humans would understand.
Yup, the ultimate tragedy in this situation. It’s not about incompatible ideas, it’s about incompatible communication. Someone who can’t or won’t listen can’t communicate. Someone who can’t speak in a way that the other person will understand ... can’t communicate.

You freeze. Grateful, at the very least, that only N can hear your words. Hilda would surely withdraw you if she heard what’s about to slip from your mouth. {I’m sorry for what happened to him. I know you’re upset by that.}
So kind! And I hope we do get to learn what happened to him.

mask, gold-plated like a cofagrigus, not a single expression showing through the gilding.
The gold-plating made me take this too literally, I think (though I like the emotion being locked behind the gilding). I’m wondering if it can just be “like a cofagrigus” and keep the metaphor. N is both silver and gold here. Gold—cold, holding things in. Silver—empathetic, reflecting you back at you. I don’t think I mind that, but I am hoping that motifs of silver and gold keep coming up, to tease those things out more.

He tried to force people to change, and that made people reject him.}
YUP.

and they simply use one of us to excuse the fact that they cannot refute the other.”
YUP again.

You coil a little closer to her, hoping to show that you’re still on her side. She needn’t fear.
Yessss. V knows.

You, so young, and yet you were to be given your own thing to defend!
💔
Also interesting that they’re both projecting a kind of “thingness” onto each other.

“I wasn’t,” N says softly, “talking to you.”
Best. Line.

Do you feel like you’ve gotten stronger in the ways that matter to you?”
Great question.

Seeds will grow in whatever soil they find. In this land, your human is your earth, your rock.
This is both so lovely and sad.

You’ll never know what could have been, what might have been.
Yeah, this feels like a Truth too.

am the villain you need to defeat, but you are not mine.
Another very good line, and I love the explanation following. When your job is to shut up one dissenter, you’ve got an easier time than the person whose job is to change everyone. Always more work to be done.

There is a fire in me, a spark in you,
I think this is cheesy, but I also like it.

The only thing we disagree on is who must pay that price.”
Ouch.

But when their voices fall silent, when you try to take their truth from them—the shout into the void becomes a roaring echo, and the truth rages back in response.”
I had trouble parsing this. Not the image—I think it’s true, and is said prettily. But I could sort what this meant about why he couldn’t raise Reshiram at the start. The timing was wrong?

But the room is hot now. He smiles, despite it all. “There is no change without sacrifice. Nothing good comes easily.”
Oof oof oof

What was the name your mother had given you? She’d whispered it to you as you dozed off in the sunlight, but you were so small, so tired. You don’t remember.
Oh no.

Your mother, your siblings, your sunny days. You lost them all. All you have is Hilda now.
Woof. Stockholm syndrome-y.

I don’t think I have a smarter big picture thing to say yet except this hurts real good and I’m excited for more. I enjoyed Vaselva more than I think I would’ve enjoyed Hilda here, or even N. Well chosen. And it’s complicated for her, isn’t it? Not as easy as better together or better without. N’s dialogue was chef’s kiss.
 

Pen

the cat is mightier than the pen
Staff
o. end

this is a story about things that start with n.
❤ Let's do this.

On the edges of the throne room are the first casualties of this fight: the Corinthian stone columns fell first,
Minor but I would kill the double first. "the earliest casualties" of the fight, perhaps?

It’s more reassuring to look at them in slow motion—were time going at its normal speed, the lack of spinning would be painfully obvious.
Oof, this is understated but hits all the harder for it.

Closer, directly above the undignified smattering of gears,
Not sure about "undignified"--it feels like the broken gears are a lot worse than that, especially from N POV.

And here, at the very epicenter of the fracture, the yin dragon rises like a tree at the center of the heartwood.
Gorgeous.

Pokémon. Humans. Black. White. Two worlds that have spent so long trying to merge into one balance, and yet—the interplay was always distinct. Every yin had a yang; at the center of each darkness was a drop of light, but between them there was and would always be a line. A world of greyscale cannot blind its people to justice, to reality. Not seeing color didn’t mean it didn’t exist.
I was with you up through the bit about lines between black and white, which I get--the idea that pokemon and humans have always had this barrier between them. I am less clear about how the final two lines play into that idea.

Is it so wrong to believe that this was the only ending? Perhaps. But was there a better way? Was there a diverging branch that got overlooked, a path that led to an ideal world where everyone was happy?

Probably. Was it worth letting thousands of people suffer while you tried to find the route that left their oppressors undisturbed? No.
I like the clarity of this. He's come to his decision.

I would drop the "so" from "so wrong" because that's usually the way a rhetorical question is framed that doesn't have an answer.

Your name is Natural Harmonious Gropius, and you’ve finally, after all your struggles, saved the world.

For some reason, you don’t feel like the hero.

The rest of the story plays out backwards.
Yes, yes, yes!

I can definitely see the influence of Decoherence on the staging of this end-scene. You do an excellent job capturing the epic quality and feeling of stillness, of the last breath before. I like that this story is going to be in reverse chronology. Like N, we don't know what comes next. What we need to learn is what came before, everything that made this moment inevitable.

i. nominal

In your previous challenges against the Elites, Hilda was as calm as she’s ever been. Quieter, sure—and she has been ever since you lost Amara—but she cried herself ragged that one night and never let panic return to her voice ever since. Until now.
Found this bit confusing. I think there's too much contrasting between norms we aren't aware of. We're bouncing around in this sentence between a lot of times we don't know about yet. This would read clearer to me, "In your previous challenges against the Elites, Hilda was calm. The night after you lost Amara she had cried herself ragged, and after that, you never heard panic in her voice. Until now."

You coil protectively in a three foot radius around her feet as soon as you see him, but it’s more for show than anything else. Leaf-haired N is not afraid of you. This is for Hilda.
Oh, I like this a lot, the difference in how Veselva and Hilda perceive N and the idea that she's doing this to reassure Hilda.

You notice he hasn’t sent out a pokémon yet. There’s no stray of his hands toward his belt, no glint of anger in his eyes. Your eyes dart around, searching the darkness behind the enormous stone columns. The cavernous room around you is lit by two dozen torches ensconced on the pillars, casting flickering shadows along the sand, but there’s nothing lurking in the shadows to ambush.

He truly means it.
Love this too, with Veselva understanding N's sincerity here, not just as something instinctive, but because she's actually looking at what he's doing.

He’s almost conversational about it, but you sense thorns beneath the roses.
Hm, I like the idea, but rose implies something more than just "conversational" to me, something a bit more pleasant or sweet-smelling. Like "His tone is conversational, almost pleasant, but you sense thorns beneath the roses.

“A shame. It’s a good story.” His voice is soft, but it echoes. The crumbled walls of Relic Castle form a cup of sorts, and this far underground, everything is unnaturally silent.
You're using the setting very effectively here. Really heightens the gravitas of each thing they say and do.

It’s hard not to plead with this human, and yet—something tells you that he would listen if you did. If you could only bring yourself to do so.
Found this muddled. It's hard to resist the urge to plead with N but something tells Veselva pleading with N would be effective? That doesn't make sense with a 'but,' where's the contradiction? I think this would work with just, "It’s hard not to plead with this human—something tells you that he would listen if you did. If you could only bring yourself to do so."

{If you succeed in your mission here. What do you intend to do after?}

When he hears your words, he flinches, almost as if you’d attacked him instead.

You think you know why. Every time you’ve seen him, every time you’ve fought, he’s been surprised when he loses. He never considered what would happen if he failed, never once doubted that on his quest he could fall short—so each time you’ve triumphed over him, he’s been unable to understand it. Most humans make backup plans, contingencies. Hilda does. That’s why she’s been such a successful trainer; she has so many plans in motion at any given moment that even if she fails, she’s victorious.

But N never considered failure. No. The thing that held him back, that freezes him even now, is the very opposite. He’s travelled his whole life to find enough power to right the wrongs he sees in the world, but he’s still afraid of what he’ll find when he succeeds.
Love this analysis of N and I think you've ht the nail on the head in regards to his central character flaw--not knowing what comes next and not planning for it. And of course, that's reflected beautifully in the structure of the story. We start with the moment before the end, and we don't know what's coming after either.

He’s not a very good human, you decide, to have waited all this time just to have a god call the shots. He would much rather take commands than give them. He’d make a much better pokémon.
Ooof. Brutal line.

In your clutch there were seventeen. A small brood for a serperior. Perhaps the spring air wasn’t good enough. Perhaps your mother was exhausted from the end of many breeding seasons. You don’t know; you never got to ask. Your moments with your mother are limited and fuzzy and precious, and you did not waste them on asking questions you did not yet understand. Of that clutch, perhaps only three or four of you truly knew they wanted to fight. You were not one of them. You had fourteen suns with your mother before you were taken from her, and in those fourteen suns you remember her teaching you the things all good snivy should know—how to charge your tail, how to call power from the sun, how to sharpen your fronds razor-sharp. But what you remember most of all is curling up alongside her neck, her scales warm in the sun, her ruby eyes soft as she whispered the name she had given you.
Very effective paragraph here. The nostalgia is so strong.

You see it in N as well, the way he puffs up his leaf-hair, in the quavering of his stance: here is someone who would much rather stretch out in the sun than command a battlefield. And yet here you both are, hoping that your words will do the fighting for you, as he promises grandiose, empty threats.
Love Veselva's reading of N's body-language here and the way she relates the two of them. She does seem to think of N almost as a fellow pokemon.

I would cut "as he promises grandiose, empty threats." Think the sentence doesn't need that addition and would be stronger without it.

Perhaps he wouldn’t make a bad pokémon after all. Poor N. Hilda has been marked as the Hero of Ideals, but N is the one staking all of his hopes on something that will never change.
Confused by the "after all." The last we've heard in her inner monologue, she was saying he would make a better pokemon. So why "after all" which implies some reversal? This is a continuation of earlier.

For some reason I want "Poor N, you decide."

Draconic?” Perhaps unintentionally, he imitates her inflection. “Do you know where that word comes from?” He waits. Hilda scowls. “Three hundred years ago humans discovered the land beyond Twist Mountain. At the time it was the nesting ground for wild haxorus, and was known to the native peoples as the Valley of the Dragons.”

You stiffen, but Hilda doesn’t notice. She can’t notice, not when she’s so entranced by the hypnotic spell of N’s words. But you already know how Sagaris’s story ends. Every pokémon does.

“Unovan settlers led by a human named Draccus Kensington led the routing and subsequent slaughter of the entire colony there. But humans were not strong enough to confront fully-grown haxorus directly, so instead they snuck in at night and smashed their eggs, slaughtered the hatchling axew as they fled. The survivors were hunted down while they mourned. Today the Valley of Dragons is known as Opelucid City, and their people live in blissful ignorance of the blood upon which their city is founded. That is draconic. His son, heartbroken by the actions of his father, tried to make peace by enshrining dragons in their town, revering them as sacred, denouncing his father’s name as a synonym of the violence he inflicted, but—haxorus never again nested in the Valley.”
oof, oof, oof. Absolutely brutal. Such a plausible, bloody backstory for Opelucid. I like that Veselva knows this already, and Hilda doesn't.

N waits for a long moment—it doesn’t look like he’s thinking of what to say. You’re curious. Is he waiting for Hilda to say something else? But she doesn’t. Her fists are clenched and her eyes are still on the white stone.

What is he waiting for?

So finally, he shakes his head slowly. “It’s not your fault, Hilda. This world was made for you, but you didn’t make it. And it’s not your fault either, Vaselva.” You think at first he misspoke, but he looks directly at you. “This world forced you to be strong enough to fight others, but it didn’t teach you how to be strong enough to fight back. There is strength beyond pure power. That is the truth Reshiram and I will show the world, and we will change it.”

“Vaselva,” Hilda calls warningly, and you lean forward, but N hasn’t moved to attack, and he doesn’t have any pokémon out. What does she want you to do?

You realize what he was waiting for in that silence. He paused, and he watched, and he listened—for one of you to tell him why. To stop merely denying his stories, and to instead explain why humans and pokémon could live in harmony. To tell him what had changed three hundred years ago that wasn’t true now.
Excellent. And this really gets to the heart of it all. People say it's fine, but no one can explain why in a satisfactory way.

For all of her talking she never learned to listen. And for all of his listening, N never learned to talk in a way that humans would understand.
Mmm, yeah that about sums up their central tragedy as the opposing heroes.

{I’m sorry for what happened to him. I know you’re upset by that.}
Eyes. Also, kudos for bumping off Ghetsis early.

The second you mention his father, his face is a mask, gold-plated like a cofagrigus, not a single expression showing through the gilding.
Nice simile.

I’m beginning to think that it’s not our methods they disagree with, but our ideas—and they simply use one of us to excuse the fact that they cannot refute the other.”
THIS. And it applies to so many real-world things as well.

N looks at you, and you expect the gaze that’s thawing through his golden mask to burn,
Hmm, there's a bit much going on here and it doesn't quite add up. A "thawing" gaze is expected to burn? Why is the gaze thawing and not the mask? Maybe, "The golden mask is melting and you expect the gaze behind it to burn,"

“I’m hardly younger than you,” Hilda shoots back. “You don’t need to condescend me.”

“I wasn’t,” N says softly, “talking to you.”
FUUUUCK

Mic drop moment. oof.

“We’re older now, and this will probably be the last time I get to ask you. What is it that you want? If you had the choice, would you fight? Does it bring you joy? You fight for her glory and her gain, but are you happy with what you get out of it? Do you feel like you’ve gotten stronger in the ways that matter to you?”
I love how N really still wants to know and understand this, even though his mind is made up.

She made me who I am.}

“She made you who you are.” He repeats your words back slowly, chews on them like he’s trying to eat them.
oof, oof, return of the oof.

Seeds will grow in whatever soil they find. In this land, your human is your earth, your rock. {Forgive me, N. My species does not deal well in hypotheticals. Either the seed sprouts, or it does not. There is no in-between.}
I love how you've grounded Veselva's reasoning in this idea of seeds sprouting. You get a sense of the otherness of her viewpoint.

“I suppose you’re right.” He looks back at Hilda, and then at the stone in his hands. “There is no in-between.”
And this repetition, taking on new meaning in his mouth--excellent.

I thought perhaps I had the equation backward, and I was the embodiment of ideals while you were truth. I, the ideal that humans should understand that they need to change in order to create a better world; and you, the bitter truth that they never will.
Playing around with where N and Hilda fit in this truth/ideals "equation" is a lot of fun. This is for sure the Without A Human Heart set-up.

He doesn’t have to say the rest of his speech; you already see it written in his heart in letters of flame, but maybe it’s for his benefit, or for hers, or for the stone that’s shuddering in his hands.
I really like the mythic quality of this, where N's speech and conviction has already become something bigger than himself, something visible.

Trying would be like holding a leaf up to shield yourself from a hurricane.
Excellent simile, and very in-POV.

In your ideal world, change means everyone gets happier, and that those who have it good now do not need to inconvenience themselves to make the world better for anyone else. Or worse yet—that you cannot and thus should not be responsible for it.”

“N …” Hilda says, and for a single, perfect moment, you think it’ll all work out. She’s finally listening. She’ll understand. But in this moment, the last moment humans have to say something in response, Hilda opens her mouth and finds that the words do not come.

N waits, and then shakes his head sadly. “But I am the truth that you and I have both spent our journeys learning.” His voice drops, cold. But the room is hot now. He smiles, despite it all. “There is no change without sacrifice. Nothing good comes easily.”
N's truth, huh. I really like what you've gone with.

You hold close to Hilda and, for the second time in your life, you watch the birth of a god.
Shivers, mm.

It’s shameful, perhaps, but in the last moments before Reshiram emerges and the underground chamber fills with blazing light, you aren’t thinking of the truth, or the dragon, or N, or even of Hilda.

You think of your mother, of what she whispered to you on that sunny day, the warmth reflecting off of your scales as it does even now. What was the name your mother had given you? She’d whispered it to you as you dozed off in the sunlight, but you were so small, so tired. You don’t remember.
I GUESS I DIDN'T NEED MY HEART??!

Your mother, your siblings, your sunny days. You lost them all. All you have is Hilda now.

Hypothetically. What would happen if you disobeyed?

No. You already know your answer to that. This is why you cannot deal in hypotheticals.

It’s foolish, defying a god. But you call, and the earth answers. Your leaves glow bright green, so bright you can hardly see.

You lost everything else. You lost them all. You can’t lose her too.
It's so excellent the way you show that Veselva's commitment to Hilda is inextricably tied to what's been taken away from her, what she's lost. You both sympathize with her and understand why she's holding on to it, but also see the way things could be different, in a world where that loss hadn't forced this life on her.

This was beautiful from beginning to end. I love that we're getting this final confrontation between the heroes from Veselva's POV, which is so insightful and also would normally be overlooked. Your N characterization is excellent. You bring out his strengths--compassion, sincerity, listening--while highlighting his flaws--passivity, lack of planning, not knowing the next step. I am so, so excited for this journey adveNture.
 

kintsugi

golden scars
Pronouns
she/her/hers
Partner
silvally-grass
responding! to! reviews! day-of!
truly it is the end of times.

Perhaps feels off if there’s scorch mark evidence. Maybe instead: a stray air slash—or, no—a flamethrower, based on the scorch marks.
Ouch oh no. I think my heart is tender to everything right now, but this hit me hard. Maybe harder than it would’ve if you’d used a simple word like “dismembered.”
these are all very good suggestions; will make. thank you based phrasing mom

This description reminds me of Holly Black when she’s at her peak. Wondering if flame is right though if N is Reshiram. Maybe “eyes dark and electric”?
we talked about this over Discord; still torn. It sounds overdramatic because it's that quote from Shauntal's pre-fight dialogue ... but N's the one telling this chapter, so it's a fun easter egg but I don't think it fits

I liked the way you use the cracking floor to pull our eyes around the scene and build this feeling of the inevitable.
I like the reversal of red eyes/blue blood, blue eyes/presumably red blood between the two dragons.
<3

gfsghjjjhhgvcdkkhg
THOUGH I am having trouble pinning down what this means exactly because the rest of the paragraph is black and white—values/shades, not actual colors. Is the idea thinking outside the box, behind black and white? Or is it that black and white can’t understand each other?
mmmm yeah this is a case of me wanting to drop some hot tea but having nowhere to put it so i smashed it in the same paragraph i think. will rephrase.

I think I wanted that information just a little sooner, because I was looking for him.
I'm torn on this one -- a lot of the narrators will introduce themselves immediately, but N almost wants to be a bystander in this story i feel, so I purposefully made the fact that it's *him* as distant as possible

So sweet and also ... feels very much like V feels like she has to protect H not just from physical threats but intellectual ones. There’s a lot her human can’t understand.
</3

A little messy because of the repeated refrain that N is not a real threat, that he’s not fighting her. Though, certainly, the situation itself is above her weight.
oooh, excellent point. I meant it more in the latter sense of "how the fuck did we end up being godfighters", so I'll rephrase

Knee-jerk this got me too. Ugh, it’s so easy to want to fight change, isn’t it? But on the second read I saw: make who?
the phrasing was bad here -- it's meant to refer to the "i no longer think humans would allow for [pokemon/human frenship]"/"so i will make them"

Huh, does this imply ideals are more mutable than truth?
ARE THEY???

Oooof. Reminds me pretty terribly of my roommate last night announcing, “That’s why I’m white-washed—I have to be.” Use what you’re given or die fighting for what you haven’t been given.
ohhhh OOF

OOF. Yeah, she didn’t invent Pokémon training. But she benefits, profits, relies on, and perpetuates it, doesn’t she.
mmmmmhmmm

Yup, the ultimate tragedy in this situation. It’s not about incompatible ideas, it’s about incompatible communication. Someone who can’t or won’t listen can’t communicate. Someone who can’t speak in a way that the other person will understand ... can’t communicate.
👀

So kind! And I hope we do get to learn what happened to him.
yeah ghetsis is way too important of a character for me to shove into a corner like last time unfortunately

The gold-plating made me take this too literally, I think (though I like the emotion being locked behind the gilding). I’m wondering if it can just be “like a cofagrigus” and keep the metaphor. N is both silver and gold here. Gold—cold, holding things in. Silver—empathetic, reflecting you back at you. I don’t think I mind that, but I am hoping that motifs of silver and gold keep coming up, to tease those things out more.
hmmm, the intent was more to evoke at the carved/frozen/dead side of things, not the gold -- I think I'll rephrase to "his face is a mask, carved like a cofagrigus, not a single expression showing through the gilding"

Another very good line, and I love the explanation following. When your job is to shut up one dissenter, you’ve got an easier time than the person whose job is to change everyone. Always more work to be done.
Yeah! I wanted to unpack the sentiment I see so often surrounding B/W -- Plasma this, Plasma that, but Ghetsis's emails. It's easy to defeat figureheads, but it's hard to change everyone.

I think this is cheesy, but I also like it.
heh

I had trouble parsing this. Not the image—I think it’s true, and is said prettily. But I could sort what this meant about why he couldn’t raise Reshiram at the start. The timing was wrong?
it's not so much the timing of the world/people's truths being stolen from them, but that N didn't understand fully what he wanted his Truth to be. A future chapter (rip i hate that phrase) goes into it in detail, but it's touched on here -- he originally thought he represented the truth that pokemon training is bad, but he cannot accept the truth that people will have to lose in order to fix it (and that, logically, he will have to force their hands if they refuse). His first attempt was too idealistic, so it failed.

And as for the echoing/roar -- he really only comes to recognize the full truth in response to seeing humanity's ideal of gradual/comfortable change.

does that context clear things up or is the phrasing still jumbled there? I'm v biased knowing what comes ahead

so smol.

I don’t think I have a smarter big picture thing to say yet except this hurts real good and I’m excited for more. I enjoyed Vaselva more than I think I would’ve enjoyed Hilda here, or even N. Well chosen.
!!

and it’s complicated for her, isn’t it? Not as easy as better together or better without. N’s dialogue was chef’s kiss.
yeah! It's a knife's edge in a lot of ways, and I didn't really want to write 75k words about people punching pokemon look at these poor abused pokemon so sad so horrible they're completely miserable this is the only way you can cause pain on people -- reality is messier than that.

Oof, this is understated but hits all the harder for it.
Not sure about "undignified"--it feels like the broken gears are a lot worse than that, especially from N POV.
oooh yes these are good fixes
spur deserves better <3

I was with you up through the bit about lines between black and white, which I get--the idea that pokemon and humans have always had this barrier between them. I am less clear about how the final two lines play into that idea.
I see that! will rephrase

I would drop the "so" from "so wrong" because that's usually the way a rhetorical question is framed that doesn't have an answer.
💯

I can definitely see the influence of Decoherence on the staging of this end-scene. You do an excellent job capturing the epic quality and feeling of stillness, of the last breath before. I like that this story is going to be in reverse chronology. Like N, we don't know what comes next. What we need to learn is what came before, everything that made this moment inevitable.
if i could quag on the forums i would
thank you for this

This would read clearer to me, "In your previous challenges against the Elites, Hilda was calm. The night after you lost Amara she had cried herself ragged, and after that, you never heard panic in her voice. Until now."
Hm, I like the idea, but rose implies something more than just "conversational" to me, something a bit more pleasant or sweet-smelling. Like "His tone is conversational, almost pleasant, but you sense thorns beneath the roses.
Found this muddled. It's hard to resist the urge to plead with N but something tells Veselva pleading with N would be effective? That doesn't make sense with a 'but,' where's the contradiction? I think this would work with just, "It’s hard not to plead with this human—something tells you that he would listen if you did. If you could only bring yourself to do so."
oh yes, these are excellent. thank you.

You're using the setting very effectively here. Really heightens the gravitas of each thing they say and do.
:eyes intensify:

Love this analysis of N and I think you've ht the nail on the head in regards to his central character flaw--not knowing what comes next and not planning for it. And of course, that's reflected beautifully in the structure of the story. We start with the moment before the end, and we don't know what's coming after either.
<3

Love Veselva's reading of N's body-language here and the way she relates the two of them. She does seem to think of N almost as a fellow pokemon.
my rebrand instead of him actually being a pokemon lol

I would cut "as he promises grandiose, empty threats." Think the sentence doesn't need that addition and would be stronger without it.
Confused by the "after all." The last we've heard in her inner monologue, she was saying he would make a better pokemon. So why "after all" which implies some reversal? This is a continuation of earlier.
mmm good call

oof, oof, oof. Absolutely brutal. Such a plausible, bloody backstory for Opelucid. I like that Veselva knows this already, and Hilda doesn't.
I find it really fascinating that Opelucid has this massive love for dragons and yet there aren't any wild dragons on Opelucid's section of the continent at all. Probably just gamedev/Unova only having three lines of dragons, but ... makes you wonder ...

Eyes. Also, kudos for bumping off Ghetsis early.
i literally do not know what else i could've done with him besides cart him offscreen before the "i really wanted to take over the world" speech

Nice simile.
holy shit it is the end of times

THIS. And it applies to so many real-world things as well.
i'll take lines that aged for 2000

Hmm, there's a bit much going on here and it doesn't quite add up. A "thawing" gaze is expected to burn? Why is the gaze thawing and not the mask? Maybe, "The golden mask is melting and you expect the gaze behind it to burn,"
ooh i like


FUUUUCK

Mic drop moment. oof.
<3

I love how N really still wants to know and understand this, even though his mind is made up.
in his eyes it's a really easy question and everyone keeps answering it wrong and he just?? doesn't?? understand???

Playing around with where N and Hilda fit in this truth/ideals "equation" is a lot of fun. This is for sure the Without A Human Heart set-up.
yes absolutely! you mentioned that it depended on if we were viewing the world from the pokemon POV or the human POV for who was truth/ideals, and i was side-eyeing this chapter and screaming lol

N's truth, huh. I really like what you've gone with.
gotta keep the streak of reshiram with the protag

I GUESS I DIDN'T NEED MY HEART??!
IF YOU ARE WITHOUT A HUMAN ONE THEN I HAVE SUCCEEDED AT MAKING ALL READERS BECOME N

It's so excellent the way you show that Veselva's commitment to Hilda is inextricably tied to what's been taken away from her, what she's lost. You both sympathize with her and understand why she's holding on to it, but also see the way things could be different, in a world where that loss hadn't forced this life on her.

This was beautiful from beginning to end. I love that we're getting this final confrontation between the heroes from Veselva's POV, which is so insightful and also would normally be overlooked. Your N characterization is excellent. You bring out his strengths--compassion, sincerity, listening--while highlighting his flaws--passivity, lack of planning, not knowing the next step. I am so, so excited for this journey adveNture.
agghhhh i've pleased seNpai this is such a good feeling thank you[/quote]
 
Last edited:
  • Heart
Reactions: Pen
ii. notorious

kintsugi

golden scars
Pronouns
she/her/hers
Partner
silvally-grass
cw: references to violence, blood, death
ii. notorious

※​

“And Saffir's Protect shatters under the devastating force! We'll need confirmation but—yes, that was quite a spectacular knockout; Alder's recalling his accelgor now. What a comeback from Harmonia! Alder’s down five pokémon, though we’ve seen him come back from worse before—it’s anyone’s game still, but this is certainly a close one!”

[“Wave! Get closer. I need a better angle when the volcarona comes out.”]

You swivel obediently, carefully coordinating your fans so that you pitch forward smoothly without catching any of the settling cloud of dust in your rotors.

“Ladies and gentlemen, for those of you tuning in just now, you’re certainly in for a treat tonight! Champion Alder is facing off against Challenger Harmonia. Alder’s down to his last, while Harmonia’s team is still three strong!”

Pause, for dramatic effect. Sometimes you think that broadcasting the announcement directly into the closed room of the championship battle is a bit too flashy—the color commentary certainly isn’t for the trainers’ benefit. Alder certainly leans into the manufactured suspense a bit harder than you think is respectful—it’s your job to make it dramatic; it’s his job to fight. He waits three seconds, one eye ticked up to the announcer box, and then tosses an ultra ball high into the air above the scarred battlefield with a grin.

“And, here it is, folks! Alder’s anchor, the volcarona from ancient history. It’s … Ghibli!”

Alder always throws a little high, but you know that, so—you’re spot-on with setting the shot composition. When the familiar flash of red clears and coalesces into the curled wings of a volcarona, you’ve got him centered in your camera, no hasty pans necessary. Good. Orange horns twine upward, glinting in an arena that’s deceptively calm—but your camera can pick up the way that the air roils now, burned by the heat that skitters off of the volcarona’s wings, which extend out of the frame like an enormous star.

You adjust the focus a little, give Markus enough time to cue up the applause track on the broadcast. The air around Ghibli shimmers a bit, which gives you a neat optical trick with soft focus while you let the suspense grow. You’re only a rotom, and a mere camera drone at that, but you understand by now how to draw out the drama.

You tilt your mics forward to pick up the sound. This new challenger has been particularly difficult; he hasn’t shouted once, so it’s hard to pick up his commands.

“Dark Pulse. Close range.”

The challenger’s pokémon twists into action, blurring into a blender that’s barely more than flashes of heads and teeth. If the dark-type understands that he was at a disadvantage against the volcarona, he certainly doesn’t show it. Red claws scrape at the ground, and then he’s racing across the battlefield, halving the fifty-foot gap in a second. The enormous wave of rippling black energy that fires from his arms closes the remaining gap, twisting the shadows of the room into one concentrated wave.

“Quiver Dance!”

Markus sounds ravenous as he says, “Harmonia’s pokémon have pushed a strong offensive all match, but Alder’s no stranger to force! This looks like the maneuver he pulled against Shauntal’s chandelure in the semifinals two years ago; if Harmonia doesn’t think of something soon, he’s about to have a very hot situation on his hands!”

Elegantly, the volcarona twists into the air, six wings tucked close to his body as he spirals up and into position, narrowly dodging a concussive wave of shadow as he does so. The wall behind him craters.

Alder pushes the offensive. “Flamethrower, Ghibli!”

“You as well.”

You get a close-up of the black maw for just a second, focus back on Ghibli’s white-dappled incisors, and then they each erupt into twin bursts of flame, colliding in the middle of the battlefield. You immediately pump power into your fans and lift back. The air suddenly feels dry, and then the wave of heat washes over you. Your onboard temp sensors throw up an incessant alarm. You’re a good rotom but you’ll melt just like the rest if you stay in too long.

“And what a spectacular collision! Things are certainly about to heat up!”

He’s cheerful, but aside to you, he’s terse: [“Wave, I need that shot! At least get a top-down view if you can’t get in close.”]

You shoot to the top of the arena so you can get a wide-angle shot of the two pokémon, who from this height are just a pair of opposing blurs of black and orange in a sea of flame.

Alder’s unfortunate like this. His battling style leaves … much to be desired as far as collateral damage. You remember Markus’s glee when they finally banned live audiences from his matches for safety reasons—“they need us more than ever, Wave!”—and they finally got better protections for Alder and his challengers, but it’s dangerous to have anyone, even the camera rotom, in the same room when Alder starts calling out massive field-clearing attacks like this.

But when the fire clears and the room’s brightness recedes to normal—you quickly have to fiddle with the aperture to compensate for the overhead lights—the challenger’s pokémon is nowhere to be seen. There’s just a cloud of smoke. Tricky things, dark types. Always hiding, always with the illusions. And the dark bits don’t show up well without careful attention to the exposure.

“This is the end, Alder. Acknowledge me as champion,” the challenger says calmly, quietly. It barely picks up on your microphones, so you tilt in closer. His voice reminds you of the way liepard walk through gravel without disturbing a single rock. “Acknowledge that I have won, that pokémon battling is archaic and outdated, and that humans can no longer be permitted to sacrifice their companions to this bloodsport.” You can’t see both eyes from this angle, but there’s a steely glint in one of them, enough to give you pause.

Ever the optimist, even with his back against the wall, Alder speaks loudly and clearly. Which is good; panning back and forth across a scene like this would be unprofessional, and you’d probably get told off for giving viewers vertigo. “Bloodsport? Stop being so dramatic. Pokémon like battling. It helps them become strong. You’ll never change that.”

“I’ll change it. When I’m Champion that’ll be my first command.”

Markus clears his throat, and the sound echoes uncomfortably in the room. “Folks, it looks like we’ve got a battle of both brains and brawn here tonight! Both Champion Alder and Challenger Harmonia seem to be giving us a bit of a breather. Meanwhile, a word from our sponsors!”

Maybe announcers don’t get it, maybe they’ll cut away from this to a jingle for casteliacones, but you understand perfectly why at least either side would be stalling for time. Alder’s looking around the battlefield alongside his volcarona, trying to get a good lead for where their opponent has managed to hide an entire pokémon.

And on the other side of the field—when a challenger’s up three pokémon to one, the clock’s in their favor. Every sentence Alder spends talking inches him closer to a forfeit by timer.

You search the shadows, trying to get a jump on them. Dark-types are tricky. This one likes to hide, and the roiling cloud of soot from the most recent collision of attacks gives him plenty of space to do it in.

Alder’s scarred forearms emerge from beneath his poncho, fold across his chest. He’s mimicking his volcarona now: perfectly still, coiled up like a spring. “Even if I fall, the League will not listen.” For the first time in their entire fight, Alder’s voice drops until it’s low, deadly, quiet. “You think centuries of tradition will be uprooted over the results of one battle? Defeat me here and you prove nothing except that you raised stronger pokémon.”

“So if I lose, it’s because I didn’t train my pokémon well enough, and that your superior ideals allowed you to vanquish me. And if I win, I prove true that training pokémon makes them stronger, and me as well.”

“You really are a dramatic one, aren’t you?” Alder’s smile is wan. You sense the cracks in his persona; you zoom out a little so they don’t show. “I believe you’ll come around eventually, yes. I will never permit Unova to follow someone as extreme as you. Pokémon battling is safe, and it makes people happy, so who are we to take it from them?”

He hones in on a single word in Alder’s sentence, closes around it like a beartic’s jaws around a basculin. You see his brow furrow. “Safe?” His hand twitches. A signal? Alder doesn’t seem to notice it, but you grab a shot just in case it’ll be useful for the post-match. “You think what we’re doing is safe?” He gestures to the field of fire around them, where patches of flames still burn impotently amongst the rubble.

“I knew the risk, and so did you. Our pokémon weren’t going to get hurt.”

“If they did?”

“They didn’t. I’m not here for imagining,” Alder growls. “Now stop stalling and fight me.”

“If they did.” His voice is hard as steel. “If you vanquished my team, injured them to defend your title while Unova cheered. Would you call it a bloodsport then?”

“I would heal them. Or hopefully, you would.”

“You would heal your friends after you let them get hurt to defend your belief that they should have the freedom to suffer? How kind. Don’t sacrifice too much for our lifelong partners, Alder.” Venom drips from his words. “Truly, your generosity knows no bounds.”

“Are you done prattling?”

“Are you done deciding?”

You count three seconds.

“Win or lose, the League will not fall today,” Alder says. “Our traditions have withstood centuries and a thousand madmen; one more will change nothing.”

There’s a long silence. Perhaps everyone here wants to draw things out. You aren’t sure. You wouldn’t know. The champs are the ones calling the shots, after all.

No. You take it back. This is the instant before thunder strikes. Lightning comes from one cloud, not two. Only one of them is going to control what happens next. Ozone gathers in the air and the sky, a final connection is made, and then—

“Very well. When you look back on this day, remember your choice, and remember it well, Unova.”

The shadows beneath the volcarona erupt into a seething mass of heads and teeth, and the black dragon remerges, sinking its fangs deep into fiery wings and pinning the moth to the ground.

He turns so he’s not just a side profile of green hair, but so he’s looking you straight in the lens, and suddenly he’s seeing straight through those layers of mirrors and glass and straight into your core. One side of his mouth twists into a smile, and when Ghetsis speaks, his words are for his hydreigon, for you, for everyone watching.

“Take off its wings.”

The hydreigon obeys immediately. One mouth on each wing, and the dragon pulls, and you can’t watch—

[“Wave! Focus! I need—”]

[“Oh my god! Get someone in there!”]

—but you have to watch—


Markus is cutting in and out of communication with you, because he’s also screaming into the microphone—“Harmonia, what are you doing?!”—while punching into the phone and sending radio waves across the world, spearing those horrible messages straight through you, needling away as if you had wings that were also being ripped apart but—

you have to watch.

You keep the camera on the hydreigon, no fancy tricks, no processing or understanding, just a stationary shot that lets you lose focus while the camera does not.

Half a dozen radio waves are shooting through the air right now, and because of who and what you are, you pick up all of them. That’s what rotom are good for, after all.

[“What’s going on in there?”]

[“I don’t care that it’s against precedent. Let me in there! Open the damn door!”]

[“The doors aren’t opening. What’s happening?”]

[“Sicily and I are almost in position. Cover me while I get to the box.”]


In front of you, not on the radio signals lancing around you, someone is bellowing in rage. They have to be close, since the feedback loop is transforming into a high-pitched squeal on your end, and when you swivel around and focus, there’s Alder staring at the volcarona limp on the ground, his face twisted open into a wordless scream.

[“Get Marshall, or anyone else who still has a conscious team. We need containment. Challenger has a hydreigon and possibly—”]

[“I think it’s his cofagrigus. Looks like a Trick Room around the entryway, and a strong one. I can’t break through. Call Shauntal!”]

[“Wave!”]


You snap back to reality. The hydreigon isn’t perfectly centered in your sights any more; he’s thrown the volcarona to the ground and—

“—I do believe that it’s not going to get up,” Markus is finishing on the broadcast for you. His voice is still in its performative cadence, but sends volumes in the spaces between his sentences.

[“What do you mean you can’t cut the damn feed? Kill it! This is an emergency!”]

“Oops,” Ghetsis says calmly.

Across from him, Alder is anything but. When he finally gathers his senses and rips his gaze from Ghibli, he manages to snarl, “Harmonia, what the hell—”

“Very bad. Bad, Zahhak,” Ghetsis admonishes. He points his cane lazily towards the hydreigon. “Very naughty. Bad pokémon. You know better.” He looks back at Alder and shrugs. “That’s a yellow card, right?” he asks politely.

“A yellow card?”

“For excessive force. How was I to know that that was going to hurt your pokémon?”

“You told your hydreigon to—”

“Forgive an old man in his age, Alder. I didn’t think that my pokémon was capable of understanding such a complex command.” There’s an unmistakable vicious edge dripping down his voice now, poisoning all of his words. “Well. I suppose I should wait until I get my card. Heal your pokémon in the meantime, Alder,” he says calmly. “Or acknowledge me as Champion.”

It’s not stopping. You can feel it. There’s something in the waters now; the beartic’s gone beneath the ice, and it will drag this out until the bitter end. You don’t mean to, but you lock eyes with Ghetsis. Or eye, really. All you’ve got is the one drone camera, and all he’s got is the one human eye and the glint beneath his hair. He’s like you, in a sense. A soul that’s learned to inhabit a machine.

There’s another flash of light, the familiar sound of a pokéball. You swivel away from the hydreigon and his prey—which is a blessed relief in itself—and Alder’s bouffalant emerges.

[“Wave, shut the broadcast.”]

Markus’s voice, blaring directly to your onboard comms, is a relief. It’s something you can latch on to. You scramble for something to get him what he wants, but—

“We will not be silenced. You will keep broadcasting.”

That’s not Markus speaking over the microphone—over, not directly into. You look into the referee’s box, where the mirrored glint and protective barriers mask almost everything about him except his silhouette, but—there are three figures there now. You don’t recognize the other two at all.

“Oh dear,” Ghetsis says calmly, casting his asymmetrical gaze up to the box. “It looks like the referee is having some difficulties reaching the pitch.” He grins wolfishly up at Markus. “Don’t worry, my friend. They won’t hurt you. Keep narrating.”

“What?!”

“This is a match. You are a commentator. You will not be harmed. Plasma fights for justice, and our voices will not be silenced. Do your duty.”

There’s a long pause. You hover up and down nervously, take stock of the surroundings in the meantime. The bouffalant is weakened; his normal tangle of thick fur has already been frizzled and worn away from when he successfully managed to tank a few hits from Ghetsis’s eelektross in the previous rounds. The bouffalant had already been knocked unconscious, and the sudden surge in adrenaline won’t change that he can’t fight.

You access your logs: Alder already used the legal number of healing items this battle. Statistically he carries one extra Full Restore for emergencies, but otherwise—his team isn’t getting up any time soon.

Ghetsis is looking expectantly at the announcer box.

Markus continues in a shaking voice: “I don’t know what’s happening, but Alder’s sent out his bouffalant now, and—”

“I get three yellow cards and a red card before I’m ejected from the match, right?” Ghetsis asks, mockingly. He makes a show of counting on his hands. “And you have how many pokémon who can still stand?”

Alder doesn’t respond. The bouffalant scrapes one hoof across the ground, prepares to charge.

“Him as well.” Ghetsis motions with his hand, almost lazily, and the hydreigon lurches forward on six tattered wings that leave bloody trails in the sky, black streaks across your frames.

You can almost feel Markus’s unease, even though emotion doesn’t get picked up on the radio. Instead what you get is the sharp intake of breath, the unintentional curse that’s ripped out of his mouth. But you don’t get to look away, even though Markus has surely averted his eyes.

So you have to watch as the hydreigon slams into the bouffalant with bone-crushing force, flinging them into the wall. Cracks spiderweb out from the impact point, and it’s unnecessary and even from here you can hear the whoof as the breath leaves the bouffalant’s chest, and there’s a belated cracking sound as the hydreigon withdraws and lets his opponent fall bonelessly to the ground.

“Zahhak, again? We’ll have to talk. Two cards in one match? That’s only happened fifteen times in League history.” Ghetsis doesn’t smile. He makes a show of looking at his empty hands instead. “But no one’s even given me my first card yet! How could I possibly know that this match is too violent if no one tells me?”

Alder’s face is pale. “Ghetsis,” he says, and it sounds like the words are being wrung out of him like water from a wet washcloth. “Please.”

“Send out your next pokémon,” Ghetsis repeats calmly. “Or denounce this sport as cruel and acknowledge me as Champion.”

There are glints of tears in Alder’s eyes, his face as pale as the knuckles that curl around the next ultra ball. He gives a wordless yell, and the bouffalant is recalled in the same breath that an escavalier takes its place.

Ghetsis doesn’t even point this time. All three of the hydreigon’s heads laser on the newcomer at the same time, and you catch a glimpse of the same orange glow for half a second before everything is washed out in fire.

When the fire clears, there’s a steely husk that glows cherry-red.

“I will discipline you the same way we would any unruly pokémon.” Ghetsis sweeps one arm out from beneath the cloak, points it at Alder with accusatory finality. “I will train you and the rest of Unova until you understand. Obey me and acknowledge me as your Champion, or continue with this farce, Alder.”

[“Get the damn door open. Someone has to get in there before someone gets hurt!”]

There’s a sound like a tiny puff of wind at the wall at Ghetsis’s back, who doesn’t even look before sending out a pokéball that explodes into a hulking blue seismitoad. “Phaedrus. Behind.”

You almost don’t catch it. There’s a hiss, and then a steady, concentrated jet of fire arcs towards the hydreigon from one of the walls. The seismitoad pounds his fists together, liquidating the earth beneath his webbed feet, and a wall of mud twenty feet high erupts in front of him and the hydreigon. You watch as the mud darkens in color, hardening from the heat, and just before it begins to crack and crumble away, the fire dies down.

Ghetsis looks up at the announcer box expectantly.

“T-that’s a hell of a Fire Blast; I can’t even recognize where that would be coming from, and—oh! It looks like Shauntal’s chandelure has found a way through the barrier?” Markus, to his credit, almost makes it sound like this is just a regular match. It’s a good act. So good you can’t tell if he’s acting at all.

[“Hilda? Hilda, please. Pick up. Something’s going on at the League, and I know you were planning on being in the area … call me back as soon as you can, okay?“]

The seismitoad pulls down his wall, and half a second later the scales of the hydreigon rush past it in a black waterfall, surging through with the force of an undammed river. You pan across as Shauntal’s chandelure chimes in alarm and begins charging up a ring of fire around herself, tiny wisps of blue flame sparking from the edges of her arms, but the hydreigon is a force of nature, and cannot be stopped by mere heat. One set of jaws grabs the closest arm and twists; you pick up the creak of metal wrenching out of shape, and then the main head goes for the center, snapping through the wispy exterior to reach the purple flame on the inside.

“Tell me, Alder,” Ghetsis says conversationally over Markus’s commentary, over the brutality behind him. “Does this count as the same match? If Zahhak accidentally hurts Shauntal’s pokémon do I get a third yellow card or do I get one that’s separate? I truly do not know; I studied the rules carefully before I came here and there are no stipulations for how many incidents can be accumulated in a lifetime. You’ve got, what, forty-six? Forty-seven? The one where your volcarona gave that poor unfezant third degree burns in the semis last year was ever so hard to call.”

“But despite the element of surprise, it doesn’t look like Chandelure can match up against Harmonia’s type advantage here. Yes, now Harmonia’s hydreigon is throwing Chandelure into the air and—”

A steady barrage of water washes down and slams the chandelure into the ground.

“—a tag team attack from the seismitoad is all it takes,” Markus finishes. You can almost picture him leaning forward. “Impressive teamwork from the two of those; Harmonia didn’t even give a proper command.”

He’s clinical. You can barely keep steady as you try to look anywhere but the collection of pokémon scattered across the field, not even recalled.

“Unova! Hear me and understand!” Ghetsis shouts, as the chandelure collapses. You catch one more shot of Alder slumped to the ground in shock and then whip your lens back over to Ghetsis. His cane is planted into the ground like a tree. Behind him, the seismitoad is systematically pummeling Alder’s escavalier, chipping off chunks of steel and sending them flying. Ghetsis doesn’t even look as a shard of armor whizzes past him. He smiles calmly to your camera. “Nothing that I have done today is illegal under the League rules. Nothing that I have done today is even uncommon under League practices—a gym leader battles up to eight times per day; excessive force is bound to happen. Everything I have done is absolutely cruel. But under a system that offers amnesty to trainers who make mistakes in battles, under a system that assumes that the burden falls on pokémon both to inform us of their pain and moderate how they inflict it, I can cause pokémon to suffer.” He strolls over to Alder, who is kneeling on the ground, murmuring something inaudible.

[“Hilda? It’s me, Cheren. Bianca said you weren’t answering your phone, and I just wanted to check. You aren’t trying anything stupid, are you?”]

“Two thousand years ago Unova was shaped by a battle of legends, and its destiny was dictated by a legendary trainer who tamed that dragon. Fifteen years ago Alder defeated Maevis and received in return the crown of Champion. With the new Champion came a whole new wave of reforms—more lax laws for gym licensing, relaxation of punishments on possession of Class C pokémon without proper permits, blanket defunding of conservation efforts for endangered species. And where was your outrage? Was the Champion’s throne not a position of power not two decades ago, when the man who wielded it only had quiet ideas that didn’t conflict with your own? Why didn’t you fear the regime change then?”

Ghetsis stamps his cane on the ground, narrowly avoiding crushing Alder’s hand. You can’t help but zoom in on that for a moment, hold it in sharp focus. It’s an image of dusty hands on shattered ground. In one frame you can see desperation, poignance, the white knuckles of someone who’s too determined to fall here. And in the next frame you see dirt beneath the fingernails, cracks in the skin.

Something has to give.

“I stand accused of pushing too hard for the change I want, and perhaps Alder is correct. I find it far more accurate to say that I push too loudly, that I remind you what the price of your comforts and your entertainments truly are.” He points with a thin but muscled arm towards the limp form of Alder’s volcarona, who still hasn’t gotten up. “Accidents like this happen all the time. If enough of them accumulate you stop seeing bodies and you start seeing numbers. By the end of the day, a team of specialists will have helped that pokémon regrow his wings; by tomorrow, he will physically be able to fight just as well as he could today. The volcarona is lucky; his trainer is wealthy and high-profile, and as such can bypass the normal waiting times that such an intensive operation would require. Is that what you want to hear? Is that the truth you would rather know? Forgive me if I fail to stay quiet, Unova. For you it is just another match; for pokémon, who must live in the gaps between your bursts of glory, the violence is all they know.”

[“Hey, it’s me, I can’t answer the phone right now, so leave a message after the beep!”]

[“Hilda, honey, are you okay? Please call me. I’m watching the news right now.”]


“Accidents like this happen, but systems were not built on accident. You claim that the actions of a few abusive trainers do not stain the glory of all of the good ones. But all of you have watched something like this happen. All of you know a trainer who went just a little too far, or didn’t exercise enough restraint, or pushed just a bit too much. But did you stop them, or did you remain quiet? And if you closed your eyes to a pokémon’s pain, what does that make you?” His hydreigon rises up behind him, eyes glittering, blood dripping down his chins. “Justice may be blind, but you do not have to be. Legends spoke of the day that a new hero would tame the black dragon and change Unova. Open your eyes, and I will be that hero for you.”

It’s a good camera angle, you can’t help but note distantly. You tilt up a little so that Ghetsis looks a little more intimidating.

“Hear me, Unova! I am Ghetsis, your new champion! What I could not take with words I will take with force. Release your pokémon, and join me in my new era where pokémon are liberated from humans!”

[“Hilda, please—”]

There’s a crumbling from the corner, and one of the walls finally gives way. Roots tear open the ground, knocking out columns and sending sections of the wall tumbling to the floor.

“Hyper Beam, Vaselva,” says a child’s voice, and the emerging serperior opens her mouth wide before unleashing a scorching ray of purplish-black energy that clips the hydreigon in four of its six wings and sends it spiraling chaotically toward the ground.

“Hang on folks, I’m getting information from downstairs right now, it looks like someone has broken through the cofagrigus’s trick room and is fighting Ghetsis! Wow, and she’s certainly putting her serperior through its paces tonight; it just narrowly dodged another Fire Blast from Ghetsis’s hydreigon here.”

He’s so casual how can he be so casual there are pokémon here that are going to die

The girl’s serperior is like a green ribbon, there one instant and then whipping through the air and unfurling to impact the hydreigon with her tail, every inch of her body crackling with green light. She uncoils and springs backward, wrapping protectively around her trainer as the seismitoad smashes the ground and the floor erupts into fractures.

You realize, then, what Ghetsis is trying to say. Markus can treat this like just another match because, to him, it is. It doesn’t matter if Ghetsis is purposefully trying to maim his opponent’s pokémon or not; the outcome is still the same. For you, at least. For the humans? The intent mattered to them, somehow. As if the pain was somehow less if it was inflicted on accident.

“It looks like … it looks like this newcomer might stand a chance? Ghetsis’s team is starting to show some cracks. And I’m getting word that her name is Hilda Verdandi, and she’s a rising star from Nuvema! Well, that’s certainly one way to make a League entrance!”

And yet even as Markus slips, perhaps unthinkingly, back into his element as two evenly-matched challengers clash, the calm demeanor is gone from the battlefield. Hilda’s face is a pale smudge, shielded behind a flurry of Leaf Blades. Ghetsis’s mouth is twisted into a tight snarl as he throws another ultra ball into the air, and a red-armored figure emerges alongside his two companions, brandishing blades. Ghetsis points—no orders, just a target—and the bisharp runs forward, the steel of his boots pounding heavily into the ground.

“Flame Charge, Amara!” Hilda frantically raises a pokéball in front of herself like a shield. There’s a flash of red light, and her zebstrika emerges, hooves already wreathed in smoke. As the zebstrika careens forward, her hooves spark into flame, and that’s all the time she has before the bisharp is upon her. The zebstrika brays in alarm as steel sinks into flesh, and she sparks self-defensively. Hilda calls for a counter, and this time the sparks coalesce and erupt from the zebstrika tail in a controlled beam, forcing the bisharp back—

“A well-positioned Discharge commanded by Verdandi gives Zebstrika some time to breathe,” Markus chimes in. You can’t help but focus on how her flanks are heaving, blood mixing in with the black and white stripes that run down her sides. Whatever time she has to breathe isn’t enough.

“I’ll take my third yellow card now. Zahhak. The girl.”

The hydreigon has arced high above in the chaos, and all three heads now release a coordinated torrent of flame. “Jericho, Protect!” Hilda screams, and a reuniclus emerges just in time, cloaking them both in a scintillating shield of blue and green light. The jet of fire splays harmlessly off of it, but even from here you can see the heat—the walls where it’s been redirected start to glow like the sun.

[“The doors aren’t opening. What’s happening?”]

“I don’t believe it! It would seem that Harmonia is attacking her directly!” Whatever brief burst of energy Markus got back from Hilda’s arrival has dissipated immediately; the tense, terse air is back.

[“Medics! I need medics in that room! Immediately!”]

Ghetsis doesn’t even look up at the announcer’s box, but you can feel that this next statement is meant for the two of you, for the thousands watching. “When a pokémon is forced to withstand an attack of this caliber, that is cause for sport. Celebration, even! But when it is turned on a human, you suddenly realize how cruel it is. Unova! How many more pokémon must suffer before we realize that they, too, feel pain?”

[“Get a strike squad; that man is going to kill her!”]

[“Somebody, cut the damn feed! We can’t have her die on national television!”]


Her reuniclus’s shield is starting to splinter and crack. But Ghetsis isn’t done yet, and evidently neither is the hydreigon—while the dragon spews fire, he spews words with an equal, raging intensity. “If she burns, will you cheer her on to fight through it? If she falls will you beg her to fight through the pain so that you can watch it happen, safe and comfortable from the sidelines? If she faints, will you shout to her, ‘Come on! Get up!’? Which one of you will run into this room and card me for excessive force?” The one eye he has left is furious and wide, and yet—you can see it perfectly—there’s no madness in there. This isn’t a madman. This is someone who knows exactly what he’s doing. “Minutes before, Unova, you cheered when this very same thing happened to Alder’s accelgor. Will you do the same now? Don’t worry, she’ll only pass out. I will be lenient. My hydreigon is well-trained; there is only a minimal risk of death. With a bit of healing she should be as good as new. I’ll even be generous and pay for the cost of her treatment myself.”

The reuniclus’s arms are buckling. You can see him trying, but the simple fact is that his body simply isn’t equipped to have this much strain. The hydreigon is all the raw power of a freight train, times three. He’s not going to hold.

“If you think this is too barbaric for a child, that a non-zero risk of death is too high, that healing pain does not indemnify the inflictor, consider your simple hypocrisy and understand that you do not view pokémon as your equals.”

The zebstrika is struggling to her feet, but the bisharp has perforated her so thoroughly with holes that her legs barely hold up. Quivering, she fires a tiny pulse of electricity towards the hydreigon, just enough to barely color the air, but then the seismitoad crashes back down in the way, his stern face impassive as the charge fizzles harmlessly over his body. He picks up the zebstrika, who brays frantically to Hilda, but there’s no response, and—thud—the electric-type hits the wall and doesn’t get back up.

Over in the corner, the serperior is struggling mightily against Ghetsis’s eelektross—you didn’t even notice when he joined the fray. The two serpentine pokémon have twisted themselves into one enormous knot; the eelektross has his mouth clamped over the grass-type’s head and is periodically pulsing her with static shocks to keep her from moving, but she’s still flailing limply across the ground, desperately reaching towards her trainer.

The fire rages, swirling around the sphere like a river.

“Ghetsis, please!” Alder begs over the sound of the flames. “You’ve made your point!”

But you notice that he hasn’t gotten up, he’s done nothing to put himself between the child and the flames, he hasn’t even given Ghetsis the one thing he wanted and relinquished the throne. No. He’s still prone on the ground, too weak from his own injuries, which seem so paltry compared to the abuse heaped on Hilda’s pokémon, but they still have to keep fighting—

[“Wave! I need that shot! Get close to her!”]

And Markus isn’t doing anything either; you’re the one who has to get close while he stays safe behind the protection of the box and its layers and layers of deflective shields, and that hardly seems fair; you can’t help but notice that he’s only nervous when the humans are in danger, a discrepancy that he’s surely unaware of and surely doesn’t mean

You don’t look at Hilda. Instead you look at the volcarona, six bloody crescents lining the scaly down on his back; you look at the zebstrika slumped in a pile in the wall, her legs so mangled she’ll probably never walk again; you look at how Shauntal’s chandelure is twisted into an almost unrecognizable wreck of wrought iron with purple fire barely flickering at the core—

[“Wave! Stop looking at them! I need you to point at the girl! Now!”]

But if he needed it that badly, surely he’d take the risk and hold the camera himself, right?

[“Wave!”]

And with the name he sends a burst of raw, unfiltered high-pitched noise, large enough in magnitude that it washes out your other thoughts; it’s not really enough to hurt a creature like you, but definitely enough to startle, and instinctively you turn to where he’s directing, which is a blessing and a curse both, because your unfortunate timing is about to broadcast—

The shield drops.

In its place is a glistening dark sphere, curled tight. Flames arc harmlessly off of it, and before your lens it unfurls like black sails on a ship, forming sturdy wings, muscled arms, glinting crimson eyes, a mouth full of teeth. A screeching sound fills the air, almost like a jet turbine, and then the creature opens its mouth and the screech is twined with an enormous roar as a dragon spreads itself wide, as a god is born.

You almost drop out of the sky. The hydreigon halts his assault despite himself. Over in the corner, the eelektross and the serperior stop their fighting immediately, looking like a pair of guilty purrloin caught mid-theft.

“I don’t believe it! Is that … Zekrom?”

The humans don’t understand it. But in that roar, in a language that transcends any sort of words you could pin to it, there is a single command.

CEASE.

“Ladies and gentleman, I do believe that’s none other than the pokémon of legend, Zekrom! That’s incredible—

You tune Markus out. A god is here, and that is all that matters now. He can shock you a million times but it’ll be pitiful compared to the fury of what stands now.

Zekrom turns to the hydreigon, whose three heads are snapping in different directions. {Explain,} says the god simply, in the dialect of dragons.

For the first time in this whole ordeal, the hydreigon speaks. {I fight so my brethren will not be in chains. While you slept, our people suffered. I sought to right this wrong.} There is an appropriate amount of reverence in his voice, but it’s laced with fury. {Forgive me, dear sibling. This is all I know how to give.}

There is a long, heavy silence after he invokes those words. Every pokémon in the room feels it.

Zekrom snarls in response, and then casts a bloody gaze around the room. Takes it all in. You see the skin above the fangs curl back instinctively at the sight of the downed pokémon on both sides, and then finally, the gaze settles back upon Hilda. {You called to me, Hero of Ideals. I heard in your call the purest future I have ever felt dreamed in thousands of years. You have been tested. I find you worthy. But explain to me. Why does the future you envision require this?}

All the pokémon in the room have frozen, waiting with baited breath for her response.

“Fusion Bolt,” she says in a shaking voice, pointing towards hydreigon with a shaking finger. There is ash streaked in her hair and her face is stained with sweat.

{She means no harm!} cries the serperior, straining. {Please, do not take offense! She can’t understand you. But she’s a good human—}

Zekrom fixes the serperior with a long stare, and then looks away. {Where is Reshiram?}

{Slumbering, still,} replies the hydreigon when no one else answers. You can’t place it, but it almost sounds like he’s bitter.

{I will not harm my own mortals without provocation,} Zekrom grates. You can feel a vibration in every piece of sheet metal on this body you’ve chosen to inhabit; it rumbles like a great seismic wave. One claw points forward. {My fight is with the Hero of Truth alone. This is your only warning.}

The hydreigon growls, but makes no movement forward to attack.

For a single, delusional moment, everything is going to be okay, everyone is going to stand down, and words will prevail.

The floor beneath the hydreigon erupts. An enormous, red-scaled creature that you recognize as Grimsley’s krookodile appears, bearing the unconscious body of a cofagrigus in her jaws; behind the krookodile, the slender form of a mienshao sprouts forward and plants her foot in the hydreigon’s head. The hydreigon reels backward, already weakened from the previous fights, and he struggles in midair to regain his bearings.

“Night Slash!” Ghetsis commands, gesturing wildly at his bisharp—but there’s no single target, and even if there were, the steel-type is staring reverently at Zekrom through red-lidded helmet.

Marshall’s conkeldurr crawls from the hole to stand alongside his teammate, and there’s a flash of light signifying a teleport that precedes Caitlin’s arrival, flanked by her gothitelle. “You’re outnumbered,” she intones. You’ve filmed her matches a dozen times and this is the most emotion you’ve ever seen from her. “Surrender.”

Ghetsis tilts his chin up. “Caitlin. You’re an empath. You could read your parents’ minds when you were six, they say. Haven’t you ever felt your pokémon’s pain?”

“You’re a madman, Ghetsis. I will waste no more time with you.”

But he’s got a point, hasn’t he? Has she felt it, and ignored it? Or did she never think to reach out in the first place?

In the corner, the serperior slowly gets up. Maybe she can’t see it, but from your angle across the field, you can—her tail, which still isn’t fully in control and flickers with the last offshoots of the eelektross’s paralysis, strays too close to a support column, and then spasms.

The beams were already weakened from when the krookodile burst in. The champion’s room is reinforced to take all sorts of abuse, but an elite-tier krookodile tunneling in directly through the floor was probably out of scope. You understand that. You’re not an analysis rotom so you couldn’t do a proper report, but half a second later it’s clear that you wouldn’t have been fast enough regardless. The stone crumbles away, and a section of the roof collapses in an instant, directly above the hydreigon.

The humans shy back. That’s when you decide for sure that Ghetsis isn’t a human. Maybe he’s a machine like you, maybe not—but when instinctively all of the other humans crouch away from the incoming disaster, Ghetsis is the only one to reach forwards, along with you, and his bisharp, and even Hilda’s serperior.

But you’re too slow. All of you are. The ceiling plummets. There isn’t time to move, to speak. You watch one set of eyes look upward, widen in alarm, and then the hydreigon vanishes from your view, replaced with a pile of concrete and rebar.

The sound from Ghetsis’s mouth is inhuman, too.

And then, there is silence. Ghetsis hangs his head low. Raises his hands high.

You watch it all.

Ghetsis is escorted out of the building in handcuffs. A medical team arrives for Alder. Hilda limps away with the god of Unova clipped to her belt. The smoke clears. Markus is still babbling on, almost like it’s the post-commentary of any other match, and you file him out as background noise. You linger on the pile of rubble.

The announcement comes on the evening news. Both Hilda and Alder are set to make speedy recoveries. Alder’s volcarona will never battle again; the damage was too severe. Neither will his bouffalant or escavalier, or Hilda’s zebstrika, all three of whom passed away due to the injuries they sustained.

You weren’t allowed to focus on it during the match, so you do it long after the broadcast goes down and Markus quits his commentary to let Unova whisper amongst itself. Alder and Hilda almost died. The League was compromised. Zekrom walks the earth again. That’s what everyone else is talking about, anyway, in the radio waves that pierce through you, that you no longer have the energy to transmit or translate.

Your mind is pulled in to this one treacherous thought like a planet on the event horizon of a black hole, and there’s no escaping it:

It isn’t right. It isn’t right that Ghetsis, who called the shots, gets to walk off to trial, while the blood of his hydreigon slowly goes cold and seeps into the dirt.



p | n
 
Last edited:
  • Heart
Reactions: Pen

OldschoolJohto

Never not editing
Pronouns
She/Her
Partner
solrock
Again, we get this terrible, delicious feeling of knowing the train crash is about to happen and being unable to look away. We already know things won’t end well for Amara or Ghetsis, but you want to root for them anyway somehow. And Wave picking up on the radio waves was such a cool way to build up to Hilda’s arrival! Also, I’m appreciating how getting Vaselva’s POV last time makes me more sympathetic to her now, even though ... (big brain!) she isn’t yet the person who will think those thoughts. Wild. Anyway. The sense of motion and danger was on point, and so was your choice of POV. Excellent world-building through Wave, and the bestbestbest way to poke at questions about who gets to tell the story. Straight fire.

but your cameras can pick up the way that it roils now, burned by the heat that skitters off of the volcarona’s wings,
Cameras plural? I guess because Wave is inside a machine, not a direct copy-paste of the ones in SwSh. It took me a second to parse what was burned by heat here—thought it was the volcarona on first read.

the dark-type understood that it was at a disadvantage against the volcarona, he certainly doesn’t show it.
You’ve got it and he here. Also understood should be understands.

Markus sounds ravenous, excitement and intensity slipping into his voice in two equal parts: “Harmonia’s pokémon have pushed a strong offensive all match, but Alder’s no stranger to force!
I love this sentiment. There is a sort of consumption of bodies happening here, isn’t there. I would move the “Markus sounds ravenous ...” to come in between “stranger to force!” and the next sentence. At first I thought the previous dialogue was M.

and then they erupt into twin bursts of flame,
I wanted this to be “they each” for clarity.

Your onboard temp sensors throw up a brief alarm.
Great detail! I wonder about this kind of thing. The League must expect to lose X amount of money on cameras.

He’s cheerful, but aside to you, he’s terse: [“Wave, I need that shot! At least get a top-down view if you can’t get in close.”]
Great character moment.

Markus’s glee when they finally banned live audiences from his matches for safety reasons—“they need us more than ever, Wave!”
“Us.” Lip service to equality—unequal contribution, unequal risk, unequal reward.

dangerous to have anyone in the same room, even the camera rotom, as him when he starts calling out massive field-clearing attacks like this.
dangerous to have anyone, even the camera rotom, in the same room as him when he starts calling out massive field-clearing attacks like this.

Tricky thing, dark types.
Things*

His voice reminds you of the way liepard walk through gravel without disturbing a single rock.
Yessssss. Juicy description.

lights—,
Don’t think you need the comma.

You can’t see both eyes from this angle, but there’s a steely glint in one of them, enough to give you pause.
Oooh nice way to reveal this. Even with the hydregion, I wasn’t totally sure until this point whether this would be N or Dad.

Markus clears his throat, and the sound echoes uncomfortably in the room. “Folks, it looks like we’ve got a battle of both brains and brawn here tonight!
Ugh this is so painful and rings true for me. Er, not true, exactly, but that’s the point.

So if I lose, it’s because I didn’t train my pokémon well enough, and that your superior ideals allowed you to vanquish me. And if I win, I prove true that training pokémon makes them stronger, and me as well.”
Oof.

You sense the cracks on his persona
*In
But YES, I love the acknowledgement that Alder is playing a role, playing to the crowd. The real him is safe behind a wall.

but you grab a shot just in case it’ll be useful for the post-match.
Oof. This habit has been beaten into them. And like Vaselva they take pride in doing a good job! Oof!!

You would heal your friends after you let them get hurt to defend your belief that they should have the freedom to suffer? How kind.
🙃

Are you done deciding?”
Oof.

You count three seconds.
This made me wonder what the time limit on matches is. The red and yellow card rules are pretty clear. This seems like a place where Alder could try to deflect by pointing to a different rule.

and even though you’re incapable of feeling cold, you’re suddenly afraid.
I understood this, but it doesn’t quiiiiite sync up for me. I think cold and fear are correlated by not equivalent.

Take off its wings.”
Fuq

—but you have to watch—
:c

sending radio waves across the world that pierce through you, needling away
I wasn’t totally sure until later if this was a physical jolt or “just” a psychological one. Might be nice to clarify here.

stationary, still shot that lets you lose focus while the camera does not.
Stationary and still are redundant for me. But this is a good character moment. Psychological survival technique.

Eden and I
👀 WHOMST

Oops,” Ghetsis says calmly.
BRUTAL

Very bad. Bad, Zahhak,” Ghetsis admonishes. He points his cane lazily towards the hydreigon. “Very naughty. Bad pokémon. You know better.” He looks back at Alder and shrugs. “That’s a yellow card, right?” he asks politely.
omg

Well. I suppose I should wait until I get my card. Heal your pokémon in the meantime, Alder,” he says calmly. “Or acknowledge me as Champion.”
Damn

There’s something in the waters now,
I like this image a lot, but with all the elemental attacks flying around it does invite questions about how literal the water is.

A soul that’s learned to inhabit a machine.
! Moment of identifying with Ghetsis ... and revoking his humanity at the same time. Also, have you played Spore? Because this is suddenly reminding me of the Grox!

The bouffalant had already been knocked unconscious, and the sudden surge in adrenaline won’t change that he can’t fight.
Nice way to make the game mechanic feel real. And oof.

get three yellow cards and a red card before I’m ejected from the match, right?” Ghetsis asks, mockingly.
Nice nice nice.

almost feel Markus’s scream, even though emotion doesn’t get picked up on the radio. Instead what you get is the sharp intake of breath,
I can’t tell if he’s screaming literally on a channel only the rotom can hear or if he’s screaming internally and Wave is imagining it.

That’s only happened fifteen times in League history.”
👀 This reminds me of our conversation yesterday, naming these moments of brutality in history.

“I will train you and the rest of Unova until you understand. Obey me and acknowledge me as your Champion, or continue with this farce, Alder.”
Training as equivalent to violence, not sometimes by bad trainers but always. Fuck.

Good name!

One set of jaws grabs the closest arm and twists; you pick up the creak of metal wrenching out of shape, and then the main head goes for the center, snapping through the wispy exterior to reach the purple flame on the inside.
Great passage.

across Markus’s commentary, across the brutality behind him.
I wanted both of these to be over instead, because they both sound like, uh, noisy activities he’d have to shout above.

how many incidents can be accumulated in a lifetime. You’ve got, what, forty-six? Forty-seven?
It’s fine, just assign him to desk duty.

under a system that assumes that the burden falls on pokémon both to inform us of their pain and moderate how they inflict it,
F

blanket defunding of conservation efforts for non-native species
This threw me a little, I guess because I’m conflating non-native with invasive.

hold it in sharp focus. It’s an image of dusty hands on shattered ground. In one frame you can see desperation, poignance, the white knuckles of someone who’s too determined to fall here.
This is really striking. A moment of Wave trying to tell a story, seeing something in Alder he probably can’t see in himself.

t I remind you what the price of your comforts and your entertainments truly are.”
F

for pokémon, who must live in the gaps between your bursts of glory, the violence is all they know.”
Thytjjgfsshjkmhfcza

Justice may be blind, but you do not have to be.
Damn

Legends spoke of the day that a new hero would tame the black dragon and change Unova. Open your eyes, and I will be that hero for you.”
Oh, so he intended to do what he thought his son had failed to do?

You tilt down a little so that Ghetsis looks a little more intimidating.
I think it would be the opposite! Tilting up so the camera is below him, making him look larger.

There’s a crumbling from the corner, and one of the walls finally gives way. Roots tear open the ground, knocking out columns and sending sections of the wall tumbling to the floor.

“Hyper Beam, Vaselva,”
Great entrance. In spite of it all, I kinda want to cheer for her too.

The girl’s serperior is like a green ribbon
Beautiful.

Ah she got a last name after all! Was this one of the Norns? I forget. But I like how it evokes truth ( 🙃 ) and green—both things that evoke N.

Jericho, Protect!” Hilda screams, and a reuniclus emerges
Another Very Good Name.

But when it is turned on a human, you suddenly realize how cruel it is.
What does this remind me of ... HMMMM.

you can see it perfectly—there’s no madness in there. This isn’t a madman.
Eat the canon. I like this. An important distinction.

My hydreigon is well-trained; there is only a minimal risk of death.
🙃

just enough to barely tint the air,
Maybe color instead of tint? I visualize them a little differently.

The two serpentine pokémon have twisted themselves into one enormous knot
Ouroboros! For me this evokes helplessness, no way to end the fighting.

But you notice that he hasn’t gotten up, he’s done nothing to put himself between the child and the flames, he hasn’t even given Ghetsis the one thing he wanted and relinquished the throne.
LOL yup. This matches up with his canon representation too, as far as I can remember—he’s ineffectual.

But if he needed it that badly, surely he’d take the risk and hold the camera himself, right?
Awakening.

and instinctively you turn to where he’s directing,
And this seems in agreement with N’s point: they’ve been made to be unable to truly fight back for themselves.

spreads itself wide, as a god decrees.
Decrees felt not quite right. Demands? It might also be “a god” I’m tripping over because it almost makes it sound like there’s some other god giving permission.

{Explain,} says the god simply, in the dialect of dragons.

For the first time in this whole ordeal, the hydreigon speaks. {I fight so my brethren will not be in chains. While you slept, our people suffered. I sought to right this wrong.}
Nice. I’ve often wondered about the protagonist’s dragon, whether they chose wrong or regret their choice. I like that Zekrom has questions. This answer feels like a good one regardless of whether it’s the right one or not.

casts a bloody gaze
With all the literal blood going around, This was hard not to take too literally.

You see the skin above the fangs curl back instinctively at the sight of the downed pokémon on both sides, and then finally, the gaze settles back upon Hilda.
Great visual.

I heard in your call the purest future I have ever felt dreamed in thousands of years.
I wish I knew more what that was. Her answer left a lot to be desired. I started to say I don’t feel like I know why Zekrom agreed to fight for her last chapter given this attitude ... but then I guess they didn’t have to fight for her, only against Reshiram.

All the pokémon in the room have frozen, waiting with baited breath for her response.

“Fusion Bolt,”
This spectacular failure of understanding was so good though.

But he’s got a point, hasn’t he? Has she felt it, and ignored it? Or did she never think to reach out in the first place?
👀 Black/White has a lot of weird holes like this it really seems not to want us to look at too hard.

her tail, which still isn’t fully in control and flickers with the last offshoots of the eelektross’s paralysis, strays too close to a support column, and then spasms.
Great depiction of the paralysis mechanic!

Ghetsis is the only one to reach forwards,
I couldn’t tell for a while whether the ceiling was poised to fall onto Ghetsis or his hydregion, and it muddied the action for me.

and then he vanishes from your view,
Again—I wasn’t sure at first if G or Z.

Hilda limps away with the god of Unova in her back pocket.
Oof. Though ... no belt?

It isn’t fair. It isn’t fair that Ghetsis, who called the shots, gets to walk off to trial, while the blood of his hydreigon slowly grows cold and seeps into the dirt.
I like that we’re calling out Ghetsis’s hypocrisy too. Simply speaking out wasn’t enough for him, and he’s probably not wrong in that. But also. He’s not the one who has to pay the biggest price. Small nitpick but maybe goes cold? A depletion instead of growth.

Great stuff. Pump this straight into my veins.
 
Last edited:

Pen

the cat is mightier than the pen
Staff
Let it Ring Ch 3 Ghetsis style! Hoo boy.

First thing first--I adore your choice of POV. The idea of battle photography and videography has been one that's long interested me, so to have our POV be a videographer rotom was such a treat. And it really is the most appropriate POV to choose. Ghetsis is putting on a bloody show, and by choosing a pokemon whose job it is to transmit that, you reveal both the artifice and the burden of the lens and bring to the fore the question of what gets seen. Wave's slow realization that Markus does not see the pain of pokemon, but is extremely attuned to even the potential of pain for humans is well-done and Wave's distress as they're forced to watch is wrenching. The climax of the chapter, for me, was when Wave chooses to turn away from what's going on with Hilda and look at the injured and fallen pokemon. In that moment, Wave asserts they're agency and makes a choice about what needs to be seen.

The battle itself was woah. You've used every tool in the tool-box to make it insanely epic. The mixture of color commentary, specifics of the shots, and narration combined to make a very intense effect. The power and brutality of the battle come through extremely strongly.

I like what you've done with Ghetsis here. Reading with Let It Ring in mind, it's clear that Ghetsis, who is making all the right arguments, is never the one prepared to bleed for them. However, I found that last moment very evocative, where Ghetsis, along with the other pokemon, instinctively move forward to try to save the hydreigon.

I'm trying to fill in now the blanks between this and nominal. From nominal, I thought Ghetsis was killed off, but I guess not, unless he's promptly executed or something? Also, that makes nominal post death of Zahhak and a lot of other pokemon N probably knew well (and I suspect we will get to know well too?) That's some heavy context. I'm curious how much time has passed between this chapter and nominal? I get the sense of a fairly large gap. Part of me wants a little bit more between these two chapters, some aftermath, though I suppose that's hard to work in with this achronological format. I'm also curious where N was during all this.

Sometimes you think that broadcasting the announcement directly into the closed room of the championship battle is a bit too flashy.
Didn't really follow this. How is it flashy? The idea is having a live-broadcast in the room the battle is taking place? And the idea is that Alder hams it up in response to the commentary? Maybe focus on drawing that bit out?

You were spot-on with the shot composition, as you always are.
The past tense is a bit weird here. How about "You're spot on with the shot-composition, as always."

When the familiar flash of red clears and coalesces into the curled wings of a volcarona, you’ve got him centered flawlessly in your camera.
Orange horns twine upward, glinting in the air that’s deceptively calm—but your cameras can pick up the way that it roils now, burned by the heat that skitters off of the volcarona’s wings, which frame your shot perfectly.
Beautiful description of the volcarona. I felt like these superlatives "flawlessly, perfectly" over centering shots were a bit excessive. Also, tbh, having something at the center of the camera isn't great composition, it's pretty much as basic as you can get.

You’re only a rotom, and a mere camera drone at that, but you understand by now how to draw out the drama. That’s what you’re good at, after all.
Don't think you need that last sentence there. It's understood.

The challenger’s pokémon twists into action, blurring into a veritable blender that’s barely more than flashes of heads and teeth. If the dark-type understood that it was at a disadvantage against the volcarona, he certainly doesn’t show it.
I would cut "veritable." You've got past tense on "understood." Shouldn't that be "If the dark-type understands that it's at a disadvantage against the volcarona, he certainly doesn’t show it."

The enormous wave of rippling black energy that fires from his arms closes the remaining gap, twisting the shadows of the room into one concentrated wave.
Lovely description.

Markus sounds ravenous, excitement and intensity slipping into his voice in two equal parts:
Don't think the second clause strengthens the sentence. Maybe just "Markus sounds ravenous as he says . . ."

“Harmonia’s pokémon have pushed a strong offensive all match, but Alder’s no stranger to force! This looks like the maneuver he pulled against Chauntal’s chandelure in the semifinals two years ago; if Harmonia doesn’t think of something soon, he’s about to have a very hot situation on his hands!”
v nice color commentary with extra points for bad puns.

You immediately pump power into your fans and lift back. All of the moisture in the air is boiling off at once. Your onboard temp sensors throw up a brief alarm. You’re a good rotom but you’ll melt just like the rest if you stay in too long.

“And what a spectacular collision! Things are certainly about to heat up!”

He’s cheerful, but aside to you, he’s terse: [“Wave, I need that shot! At least get a top-down view if you can’t get in close.”]
This moment does a great job showing the different ways this battle is being experienced. Only Wave is being forced to feel the heat. Everyone else watching just gets the pretty pictures. I love how you've embedded what amounts to a metaphor about pokemon battling into the roles of the rotom videographer and the human commentator.

Alder’s unfortunate like this. His battling style leaves … much to be desired as far as collateral damage. You remember Markus’s glee when they finally banned live audiences from his matches for safety reasons—“they need us more than ever, Wave!”—and they finally got better protections for him and his challengers, but it’s dangerous to have anyone in the same room, even the camera rotom, as him when he starts calling out massive field-clearing attacks like this.
I like how you get into the details of this, because it ups the sense of danger in this battle immediately. You have a lot of the pronoun he here--should probably sprinkle in a few Alders, because I get a bit lost in this long sentence right now.

Always hiding, always with the illusions.
Could also be a place for the rotom to be annoyed that dark-types, most of whom are darkly colored, show up less easily on the camera and involves more fiddling with the exposure.

His voice reminds you of the way liepard walk through gravel without disturbing a single rock.
Nice simile! (Words that, by the way, I say all the time to you.)

You sense the cracks on his persona; you zoom out a little so they don’t show.
Snappy line. And I like how instinctive it is. Doing event photography you definitely default to showing everyone's best side.

Alder, to his credit, ever with his back against the wall and ever the optimist, speaks loudly and clearly. Which is good; panning back and forth across a scene like this would be unprofessional, and you’d probably get told off for giving viewers vertigo.
So, I don't think you need "to his credit" because "which is good" does a better job conveying why Wave wants him speaking in a loud voice. The connection between 'back against wall' and 'optimist' isn't clear to me. Right now it sounds like those states both dscribes him with no connection. Maybe, "Ever the optimist, even with his back against the wall, Alder speaks loudly and clearly. Which is good . . "

Markus clears his throat, and the sound echoes uncomfortably in the room. “Folks, it looks like we’ve got a battle of both brains and brawn here tonight! Both Champion Alder and Challenger Harmonia seem to be giving us a bit of a breather. Meanwhile, a word from our sponsors!”
Hah, this was great. The commercialized aspect of it rests really uncomfortably in the middle of what's going on.

“So if I lose, it’s because I didn’t train my pokémon well enough, and that your superior ideals allowed you to vanquish me. And if I win, I prove true that training pokémon makes them stronger, and me as well.”
Heads I win, tails you lose kind of situation, hm?

“Even if I fall, the League will not listen.” For the first time in their entire fight, Alder’s voice drops until low, deadly, quiet. “You think centuries of tradition will be uprooted over the results of one battle? Defeat me here and you prove nothing except that you raised stronger pokémon.”
Very curious about the formal role of Champion now. What power does that Champion actually have?

“Are you done prattling?”

“Are you done deciding?”
Really strong exchange.

This is the instant before thunder strikes. Lightning comes from one cloud, not two. Only one of them is going to control what happens next. Ozone gathers in the air and the sky, a final connection is made, and then—
I love this. Really excellent simile.

One side of his mouth twists into a smile, and when Ghetsis speaks, his words are for his hydreigon, for you, for everyone watching.
Eeek it's Ghetsis!

even though you’re incapable of feeling cold, you’re suddenly afraid.
This didn't land for me. The idea that we feel cold when scared is a human cliche. Why would a rotom think in those terms if it doesn't feel cold to begin with?

when Ghetsis speaks, his words are for his hydreigon, for you, for everyone watching.

“Take off its wings.”

The hydreigon obeys immediately. One mouth on each wing, and the dragon pulls, and you can’t watch—
Oh god.

“Eden and I are almost in position. Cover me while I get to the box.”
Yeah I think you should change the name from Eden. The title makes this seem like it's going to be super significant.

His voice is still in its performative cadence, but he’s shaking, he’s scared.
This didn't work for me. I want to know how Wave is sensing that, if his voice hasn't changed?

“Very bad. Bad, Zahhak,” Ghetsis admonishes. He points his cane lazily towards the hydreigon. “Very naughty. Bad pokémon. You know better.” He looks back at Alder and shrugs. “That’s a yellow card, right?” he asks politely.

“A yellow card?”

“For excessive force. How was I to know that that was going to hurt your pokémon?”

“You told your hydreigon to—”

“Forgive an old man in his age, Alder. I didn’t think that my pokémon was capable of understanding such a complex command.”
Oh man, Ghetsis. He's so savage here. In all senses of the word? "Bad, Zahhak." Yikes. It's scary how he wields that faux infantalizing tone to such effect.

There’s something in the waters now, like a krookodile beneath the surface, and it will drag this out until the bitter end.
Hm, not quite sure this works. Maybe "There's blood in the water now and a krookodile beneath the surface." Except krookadile as crocodile doesn't quite work because they're ground types. Fiddle with it a bit, maybe?

You access your logs: Alder already used the legal number of healing items this battle. Statistically he carries one extra Full Restore for emergencies, but otherwise—his team isn’t getting up any time soon.
Interesting take on the E4 use healing items thing.

You can almost feel Markus’s scream, even though emotion doesn’t get picked up on the radio.
I was confused here. Do the two of them have a psychic connection?

But you don’t get to look away, even though Markus has surely averted his eyes.

So you have to watch as the hydreigon slams into the bouffalant with bone-crushing force, flinging them into the wall. Cracks spiderweb out from the impact point, and it’s unnecessary and even from here you can hear the whoof as the breath leaves the bouffalant’s chest, and there’s a belated cracking sound as the hydreigon withdraws and lets his opponent fall bonelessly to the ground.
Powerful moment. You describe the force and brutality of the scene very viscerally.

“But no one’s even given me my first card yet! How could I possibly know that this match is too violent if no one tells me?”
🙃

When the fire clears, there’s a steely husk that glows cherry-red.
Something about "cherry-red" as a descriptor really gets to me here. It sounds so pretty but what it's describing ain't so.

“I will discipline you the same way we would any unruly pokémon.” Ghetsis sweeps one arm out from beneath the cloak, points it at Alder with accusatory finality. “I will train you and the rest of Unova until you understand. Obey me and acknowledge me as your Champion, or continue with this farce, Alder.”
Interesting choice of metaphor, Ghetsis. A bit revealing.

The seismitoad pounds his fists together, liquidating the earth beneath his webbed feet, and a wall of mud twenty feet high erupts in front of him and the hydreigon. You watch as the mud darkens in color, hardening from the heat, and just before it begins to crack and crumble away, the fire dies down.
Excellent battle moment.

It’s a good act. So good you can’t tell if he’s acting at all.
Oof.

One set of jaws grabs the closest arm and twists; you pick up the creak of metal wrenching out of shape, and then the main head goes for the center, snapping through the wispy exterior to reach the purple flame on the inside.
Brutal.

“Does this count as the same match? If Zahhak accidentally hurts Shauntal’s pokémon do I get a third yellow card or do I get one that’s separate? I truly do not know; I studied the rules carefully before I came here and there are no stipulations for how many incidents can be accumulated in a lifetime. You’ve got, what, forty-six? Forty-seven? The one where your volcarona gave that poor unfezant third degree burns in the semis last year was ever so hard to call.”
Ah, nice to have some context on this, and on what Alder himself has done.

Everything I have done is absolutely cruel. But under a system that offers amnesty to trainers who make mistakes in battles, under a system that assumes that the burden falls on pokémon both to inform us of their pain and moderate how they inflict it, I can absolutely cause pokémon to suffer.”
The second "absolutely" was a bit jarring. Maybe cut it?

With the new Champion came a whole new wave of reforms—more lax laws for gym licensing, relaxation of punishments on possession of Class C pokémon without proper permits, blanket defunding of conservation efforts for non-native species. And where was your outrage then? Was the Champion’s throne not a position of power not two decades ago, when the man who wielded it only had quiet ideas that didn’t conflict with your own? Was the regime change not something to be afraid of?
Yes hello this is my shit. Okay so Champion def has some political power. This leaves ambiguous though how that works formally. Decree was mentioned earlier. Were these reforms decrees, or does the champion have the ability to propose legislation to some legislative branch? Or does the Champion have power over certain aspects of the law that are pokemon-related and not others? "Defunding of conservation efforts for non-native species" strikes me as a bit strange. Usually a conservation effort is to preserve native species, right? That's what makes it conservation.

The double negatives in the last two sentences do make them a bit hard to follow.

You can’t help but zoom in on that for a moment, hold it in sharp focus. It’s an image of dusty hands on shattered ground. In one frame you can see desperation, poignance, the white knuckles of someone who’s too determined to fall here. And in the next frame you see dirt beneath the fingernails, cracks in the skin.

Something has to give.
I like this focus on shots and frames, small moments by which to understand something larger.

You tilt down a little so that Ghetsis looks a little more intimidating.
Uh, that should be tilt up, I believe! Something shot looking up at someone makes them seem bigger and more intimidating. Looking down makes them look smaller.

“Hyper Beam, Vaselva,” says a hero with a child’s voice, and the emerging serperior opens her mouth wide before unleashing a scorching ray of purplish-black energy that clips the hydreigon in four of its six wings and sends it spiraling chaotically toward the ground.
'hero with a child's voice" strikes me as off. Wave doesn't know who she is, so why label her "a hero"? “Hyper Beam, Vaselva,” says a child’s voice" would still be appropriately incongruous.

He’s so casual how can he be so casual there are pokémon here that are going to die
🙃

You realize, then, what Ghetsis is trying to say. Markus can treat this like just another match because, to him, it is. It doesn’t matter if Ghetsis is purposefully trying to maim his opponent’s pokémon or not; the outcome is still the same. For you, at least. For the humans? The intent mattered to them, somehow. As if the pain was somehow less if it was inflicted on accident.
Yes.

The jet of fire splays harmlessly off of it, but even from here you can see the heat—the walls where it’s been redirected start to glow like the sun.
Mmm, nice job showing the sheer power of these attacks.

“I don’t believe it! It would seem that Harmonia is attacking her directly!” Whatever brief burst of energy Markus got back from Hilda’s arrival has dissipated immediately; the tense, terse air is back.

[“Medics! I need medics in that room! Immediately!”]

Ghetsis doesn’t even look up at the announcer’s box, but you can feel that this next statement is meant for the two of you, for the thousands watching. “When a pokémon is forced to withstand an attack of this caliber, that is cause for sport. Celebration, even! But when it is turned on a human, you suddenly realize how cruel it is. Unova! How many more pokémon must suffer before we realize that they, too, feel pain?”
I mean, I don't really have anything to say here, because, uh, Let It Ring, but yes. Good.

But you notice that he hasn’t gotten up, he’s done nothing to put himself between the child and the flames, he hasn’t even given Ghetsis the one thing he wanted and relinquished the throne.
Cutting observation about Alder here.

And Markus isn’t doing anything either; you’re the one who has to get close while he stays safe behind the protection of the box and its layers and layers of deflective shields, and that hardly seems fair; you can’t help but notice that he’s only nervous when the humans are in danger, a discrepancy that he’s surely unaware of and surely doesn’t mean

You don’t look at Hilda. Instead you look at the volcarona, six bloody crescents lining the scaly down on his back; you look at the zebstrika slumped in a pile in the wall, her legs so mangled she’ll probably never walk again; you look at how Shauntal’s chandelure is twisted into an almost unrecognizable wreck of wrought iron with purple fire barely flickering at the core—

[“Wave! Stop looking at them! I need you to point at the girl! Now!”]

But if he needed it that badly, surely he’d take the risk and hold the camera himself, right?
YES. This was such a powerful moment of agency. Wave isn't going to look at the girl. They're looking at the people who are actually suffering. They're making a choice about what pain is legitimate and needs to be seen.

In its place is a glistening dark sphere, curled tight. Flames arc harmlessly off of it, and before your lens it unfurls like black sails on a ship, forming sturdy wings, muscled arms, glinting crimson eyes, a mouth full of teeth. A screeching sound fills the air, almost like a jet turbine, and then the creature opens its mouth and the screech is twined with an enormous roar as a dragon spreads itself wide, as a god decrees.

You almost drop out of the sky. The hydreigon halts his assault despite himself. Over in the corner, the eelektross and the serperior stop their fighting immediately, looking like a pair of guilty purrloin caught mid-theft.

“I don’t believe it! Is that … Zekrom?”

The humans don’t understand it. But in that roar, in a language that transcends any sort of words you could pin to it, there is a single command.

{CEASE.}
Truly epic moment when Zekrom arrives.

{Explain,} says the god simply, in the dialect of dragons.

For the first time in this whole ordeal, the hydreigon speaks. {I fight so my brethren will not be in chains. While you slept, our people suffered. I sought to right this wrong.} There is an appropriate amount of reverence in his voice, but it’s laced with fury. {Forgive me, dear sibling. This is all I know how to give.}

There is a long, heavy silence after he invokes those words. Every pokémon in the room feels it.
I love Zahhak's speech here. You get the sense of his respect, but also a bit of a challenge there, "Your people are suffering and what have you been doing about it?"

You have been tested. I find you worthy. But explain to me. Why does the future you envision require this?}

All the pokémon in the room have frozen, waiting with baited breath for her response.

“Fusion Bolt,” she says in a shaking voice, pointing towards hydreign with a shaking finger.
Wow. Does this count as foreshadowing if technically we already know what happens next? It really mirrors the moment when N asks Hilda to give him a reason and she doesn't, again, understand that she needs to.

Typo on "hydreign"

For a single, delusional moment, everything is going to be okay, everyone is going to stand down, and words will prevail.
Hmm, coincidentally the moment when it's only pokemon talking.

The humans shy back. That’s when you decide for sure that Ghetsis isn’t a human. Maybe he’s a machine like you, maybe not—but when instinctively all of the other humans crouch away from the incoming disaster, Ghetsis is the only one to reach forwards, along with you, and his bisharp, and even Hilda’s serperior.

But you’re too slow. All of you are.
This was a really striking moment. Ghetsis, like the pokemon, reaches forward out of instinct to try and save Zahhak. And doing that means he isn't human, because no human would have risked their skin in that way.

The sound from Ghetsis’s mouth is inhuman, too.
You've inverted the usually meaning of this phrase nicely. Is it inhuman because it's bestial or because he cares too much about the fallen pokemon?

It isn’t fair. It isn’t fair that Ghetsis, who called the shots, gets to walk off to trial, while the blood of his hydreigon slowly grows cold and seeps into the dirt.
I like this--but I would note that as the final revelatory note to end on, "isn't fair" didn't have quite as much oomph because Wave does think that earlier in the battle. Maybe "It isn't right", which has a bit more of a harder-edged, moralistic sense to it?
 
Last edited:

kintsugi

golden scars
Pronouns
she/her/hers
Partner
silvally-grass
Again, we get this terrible, delicious feeling of knowing the train crash is about to happen and being unable to look away. We already know things won’t end well for Amara or Ghetsis, but you want to root for them anyway somehow. And Wave picking up on the radio waves was such a cool way to build up to Hilda’s arrival! Also, I’m appreciating how getting Vaselva’s POV last time makes me more sympathetic to her now, even though ... (big brain!) she isn’t yet the person who will think those thoughts. Wild. Anyway. The sense of motion and danger was on point, and so was your choice of POV. Excellent world-building through Wave, and the bestbestbest way to poke at questions about who gets to tell the story. Straight fire.
!! <3
yeah, one of the things I was really excited to play with in this chronology is just how ... inevitable everything ends up being. You see the same shit happen over and over again and you know how it's going to end -- except this time you really do.

Cameras plural? I guess because Wave is inside a machine, not a direct copy-paste of the ones in SwSh. It took me a second to parse what was burned by heat here—thought it was the volcarona on first read.
haha nope that's a typo.

fixed the other line edits! thank you so much for catching all of my spelling/phrasing fuckups here

Great detail! I wonder about this kind of thing. The League must expect to lose X amount of money on cameras.
yes except this time the cameras are people oops

This made me wonder what the time limit on matches is. The red and yellow card rules are pretty clear. This seems like a place where Alder could try to deflect by pointing to a different rule.
excellent idea! I ended up adding it earlier in the stalemate -- I feel like it's in Ghetsis's favor to stall out the clock with talking, since he's up in pokemon at this point

I understood this, but it doesn’t quiiiiite sync up for me. I think cold and fear are correlated by not equivalent.
mmm yup fixed that

I wasn’t totally sure until later if this was a physical jolt or “just” a psychological one. Might be nice to clarify here.
nah just bad phrasing

NOPE SHE'S LITERALLY NOT IMPORTANT HER NAME IS SICILILY NOW AND SHE'S COMPLETELY UNIMPORTANT AND UNENVIOUS.
my v. old relic from the pre-beekeeper time

BRUTAL
omg
Damn
these reactions give me life

I like this image a lot, but with all the elemental attacks flying around it does invite questions about how literal the water is.
v true. I went for basculin instead -- still Unova but I feel like it fits better?

! Moment of identifying with Ghetsis ... and revoking his humanity at the same time. Also, have you played Spore? Because this is suddenly reminding me of the Grox!
I have not!

I can’t tell if he’s screaming literally on a channel only the rotom can hear or if he’s screaming internally and Wave is imagining it.
I ended up wanting different feel here -- Wave can kind of sense the unease in the other things he picks up -- the sharp i n h a l a t i o n, the longer and longer pauses. rephrased!

👀 This reminds me of our conversation yesterday, naming these moments of brutality in history.
mmmm yes and the theme of revisiting those stories with new context and knowledge definitely comes back as well

Training as equivalent to violence, not sometimes by bad trainers but always. Fuck.
ghetsis has some hot takes lol

Good name!
Yup! Discussed in Discord but I feel like Ghetsis definitely sees himself in this story.

This threw me a little, I guess because I’m conflating non-native with invasive.
mmm yeah I wanted to point at how the Unova dex has no non-Gen V pokemon, but I think I'll just go for "endangered"

Oh, so he intended to do what he thought his son had failed to do?
yup yup

I think it would be the opposite! Tilting up so the camera is below him, making him look larger.
would you believe I read this sentence like 8 times and played through it in my head and still wrote this

Ah she got a last name after all! Was this one of the Norns? I forget. But I like how it evokes truth ( 🙃 ) and green—both things that evoke N.
Yeah, I went for Norns -- Verdandi is the present, in the making. Skuld and Urd are past and future (and black and white lol), but Verdandi is the red that happens between them.

probably shoulda just RNG'ed a germanic last name instead of believing that the universe would pick such a symbolic one but oops

Another Very Good Name.
haha yeah because the wall comes tumbling down

Nice. I’ve often wondered about the protagonist’s dragon, whether they chose wrong or regret their choice. I like that Zekrom has questions. This answer feels like a good one regardless of whether it’s the right one or not.
yeah, I always wondered myself! they definitely screech *something* at you

I wish I knew more what that was. Her answer left a lot to be desired. I started to say I don’t feel like I know why Zekrom agreed to fight for her last chapter given this attitude ... but then I guess they didn’t have to fight for her, only against Reshiram.
mmm, the key might be in revising the first chapter then, since she can't say it here -- Hilda here is the ideal that the B/W games settle on, that pokemon and humans can create a fair system via incremental change in which everyone ends up in their own happy partnership and there aren't bad trainers and it's the flawless way for humans and pokemon to hang out.

I like that we’re calling out Ghetsis’s hypocrisy too. Simply speaking out wasn’t enough for him, and he’s probably not wrong in that. But also. He’s not the one who has to pay the biggest price. Small nitpick but maybe goes cold? A depletion instead of growth.
oohhh, good line edit.

And said this earlier in Discord but -- Ghetsis is a pretty bad person here. He says good things but I wouldn't really call his brand of action here a good one, since, like you say, he never has to pay the price for it and just gets to ask others. Solid C- support. I don't particularly enjoy the canon "I'm an evil mastermind who orchestrated an entire activist movement to follow me but I'm too stupid to say "team plasma" instead of "I" every time", so this is my middle ground -- he can say his speech after he gets arrested if you want him too, but it's not happening here haha.

thank you!! I'm glad you're enjoying so far; beeg fire and coffee vibes here


Let it Ring Ch 3 Ghetsis style! Hoo boy.
oppa ghetsis style
mmm but -- when I realized which direction this one I tried to forget as much of Let It Ring as possible, but a lot of that fic stuck with me. If you think it's too derivative please let me know.

First thing first--I adore your choice of POV. The idea of battle photography and videography has been one that's long interested me, so to have our POV be a videographer rotom was such a treat. And it really is the most appropriate POV to choose. Ghetsis is putting on a bloody show, and by choosing a pokemon whose job it is to transmit that, you reveal both the artifice and the burden of the lens and bring to the fore the question of what gets seen. Wave's slow realization that Markus does not see the pain of pokemon, but is extremely attuned to even the potential of pain for humans is well-done and Wave's distress as they're forced to watch is wrenching. The climax of the chapter, for me, was when Wave chooses to turn away from what's going on with Hilda and look at the injured and fallen pokemon. In that moment, Wave asserts they're agency and makes a choice about what needs to be seen.
<3

I like what you've done with Ghetsis here. Reading with Let It Ring in mind, it's clear that Ghetsis, who is making all the right arguments, is never the one prepared to bleed for them. However, I found that last moment very evocative, where Ghetsis, along with the other pokemon, instinctively move forward to try to save the hydreigon.
Partially answered this in Discord, but yeah -- at the same time, he also can't bleed for them because then it'd just be Let It Ring. It's hard to liberate people who don't want it.

I'm trying to fill in now the blanks between this and nominal. From nominal, I thought Ghetsis was killed off, but I guess not, unless he's promptly executed or something? Also, that makes nominal post death of Zahhak and a lot of other pokemon N probably knew well (and I suspect we will get to know well too?) That's some heavy context. I'm curious how much time has passed between this chapter and nominal? I get the sense of a fairly large gap. Part of me wants a little bit more between these two chapters, some aftermath, though I suppose that's hard to work in with this achronological format. I'm also curious where N was during all this.
tbh Ghetsis probably just gets a light sentence and community service, but he's definitely going to trial. I don't see Unova having the death penalty except when they do and it's heartbreaking

I also wanted Vaselva to focus on Ghetsis instead of Zahhak, because of course a human getting in trouble is more tragic than a pokemon death. She thinks that N is more upset about Ghetsis's fall from grace than Zahhak's death, but his freeze-up to "I'm sorry about what happened to him. I know you're upset by that." is absolutely for Zahhak.

I actually wanted the progression of time between these two to be pretty short -- basically N sees what happens here, the broadcast has the pokemon dialogue in it/he can understand Zahhak/Zekrom's conversation, and his truth catalyzes. He travels back to Relic Castle for reasons, but in total there's less than a week between these two chapters. I think I'll change the nominal intro accordingly to give a more concrete number.

re: where he is -- this gets explained later ewww gross phrase he doesn't know specifically about this plan, so he's just doing what he would be normally -- sort of licking his wounds from failing to summon Reshiram the first time, trying to figure out where he failed, if he's the Hero of Ideals -- that whole back and forth speech at the end of nominal. I see this all happening pretty quickly, and he barely catches it on the news, let alone travel to the E4 quickly enough to do anything about it.

I sort of wanted an aftermath chapter too but also it felt pretty strange in this format, like you said -- too much mourning something that hasn't happened yet, too much investment on the reader's behalf for characters they haven't even met and definitely do not care about. I tried to work around this in a different way; I'll ping back in a few chapters?

Didn't really follow this. How is it flashy? The idea is having a live-broadcast in the room the battle is taking place? And the idea is that Alder hams it up in response to the commentary? Maybe focus on drawing that bit out?
mmm yup fixed this and the other line edits; thank you so much for these

v nice color commentary with extra points for bad puns.
gotta fill the quota somehow

Could also be a place for the rotom to be annoyed that dark-types, most of whom are darkly colored, show up less easily on the camera and involves more fiddling with the exposure.
ty photo sensei

Nice simile! (Words that, by the way, I say all the time to you.)
hahahaha <3

Hah, this was great. The commercialized aspect of it rests really uncomfortably in the middle of what's going on.
yeah casteliacones is absolutely gonna be pissed about this once the world stops ending


This didn't land for me. The idea that we feel cold when scared is a human cliche. Why would a rotom think in those terms if it doesn't feel cold to begin with?
mmmm yup

Yeah I think you should change the name from Eden. The title makes this seem like it's going to be super significant.
nope she literally never comes back again

Hm, not quite sure this works. Maybe "There's blood in the water now and a krookodile beneath the surface." Except krookadile as crocodile doesn't quite work because they're ground types. Fiddle with it a bit, maybe?
consider it fiddled

Very curious about the formal role of Champion now. What power does that Champion actually have?
Yes hello this is my shit. Okay so Champion def has some political power. This leaves ambiguous though how that works formally. Decree was mentioned earlier. Were these reforms decrees, or does the champion have the ability to propose legislation to some legislative branch? Or does the Champion have power over certain aspects of the law that are pokemon-related and not others? "Defunding of conservation efforts for non-native species" strikes me as a bit strange. Usually a conservation effort is to preserve native species, right? That's what makes it conservation.
Decree was more dramatic than realistic (I changed it to "command" because it seems fitting that Ghetsis would compare pokemon training to politics) -- but in this world Champ has legislative proposal powers for pokemon-related things. I think it sort of adds a tiny modicum of legitimacy to why N's so focused on getting the Champ title, and why everyone else is so horrified that if he gets it, he'll actually succeed at making training pokemon illegal. If there wasn't any legal benefit to Champ, then I feel like people, especially Alder, would've been way more afraid of him immediately after the dragon summoning vs when he beats Alder.

The non-native species thing was meant to refer to the lack of non-Unovan pokemon preNational Dex, but yeah that doesn't make sense -- changed it to general conservation instead.

I love Zahhak's speech here. You get the sense of his respect, but also a bit of a challenge there, "Your people are suffering and what have you been doing about it?"
i legitimately do not know why your dragon sides with you in B/W lol

Wow. Does this count as foreshadowing if technically we already know what happens next? It really mirrors the moment when N asks Hilda to give him a reason and she doesn't, again, understand that she needs to.
<3

Hmm, coincidentally the moment when it's only pokemon talking.
100% coincidence that words will prevail in the instance where everyone in the room can actually understand each other's words

This was a really striking moment. Ghetsis, like the pokemon, reaches forward out of instinct to try and save Zahhak. And doing that means he isn't human, because no human would have risked their skin in that way.
You've inverted the usually meaning of this phrase nicely. Is it inhuman because it's bestial or because he cares too much about the fallen pokemon?
both, but I think Wave sees the second

I like this--but I would note that as the final revelatory note to end on, "isn't fair" didn't have quite as much oomph because Wave does think that earlier in the battle. Maybe "It isn't right", which has a bit more of a harder-edged, moralistic sense to it?
oooh yes this is good

thank you for the detailed feedback! edits have been made <3
 

Namohysip

Dragon Enthusiast
Staff
Partner
charizard
Hiya Kint! Wound up reading the prologue (I think?) and the first chapter.

Overall, I thought this was an interesting AU take, and two differences from the canon that I spotted seemed to cancel themselves out in such a way that it actually makes the narrative more coherent--which is rare for AUs that try to darken the Pokemon setting, so kudos for that. The two key differences being the dragon killings in the history of the Dragon city, and of course the fact that N won. The two things sort of lead into one another--logically, if N was actually correct to some extent in the setting, rather than being "wrong genre savvy" canonically, then of course it would be more likely that he'd, well, win.

The prose for these two chapters is solid and strikes a nice balance between formal and conversational. This isn't my first time working with second person, but I do still find it to be an odd take, especially when the perspective is changing once again from the prologue to the first chapter. This is especially strange because the first chapter ends with introducing who I am... and then that's discarded as I am now a Serperior. It just doesn't jive well.

Going backwards is another interesting take, showing the end and then perhaps leading up toward what caused that to happen, though I do wonder if that all had already been accomplished by just that tidbit of history mentioned above. My question here basically is, what will going backwards further answer that hadn't already been covered by these first two chapters? Unless it won't be going backwards anymore, but the narrative of the prologue (and your author's notes) suggest otherwise.

Still, it's an interesting, somewhat artsy take. I'm curious how it'll pay off.

Final things, some quick bits:

victim to a stray air slash—or, no—a flamethrower, based on the scorch marks.
Seems you've already tweaked this line, but so early on, it still felt kind of weird to have such uncertain narration to begin with when at the moment I was kind of treating it like a camera panning over scenery.

He’s travelled his whole life to find enough power to write the wrongs he sees in the world,
*right?
 

kintsugi

golden scars
Pronouns
she/her/hers
Partner
silvally-grass
Hey Namo! Thanks for stopping in!

Overall, I thought this was an interesting AU take, and two differences from the canon that I spotted seemed to cancel themselves out in such a way that it actually makes the narrative more coherent--which is rare for AUs that try to darken the Pokemon setting, so kudos for that.
Heh, the intent wasn't specifically to darken the setting, just to explore how dark the initial premise actually is once it comes out that N can talk to pokemon -- what if creatures we treated as non-sentient were actually sentient? Would anyone change how we treat them or would we continue down the same path? BW opens up a lot of fascinating questions but doesn't answer them in a way that I find satisfactory, so here we are.

The two key differences being the dragon killings in the history of the Dragon city, and of course the fact that N won. The two things sort of lead into one another--logically, if N was actually correct to some extent in the setting, rather than being "wrong genre savvy" canonically, then of course it would be more likely that he'd, well, win.
Oh, that's an interesting take! For me the key change of the AU is actually that N fails to summon Reshiram at Dragonspiral Tower the first time -- events spiral out of control in such a way that his second time, he's much more coalesced in what he actually wants (which, for him, means only slightly doubting lol).

A bit of a fine line to draw, but I didn't intend for Opelucid to be AU -- in the games all we know is that it's a city that loves dragons, but there are no wild dragon types found anywhere on its entire landmass (Unova is divided into three large landmasses connected by bridges). There's not really any canon for what the exact history of each city is, but I intended for this to fit into what we know about Opelucid rather than result in a different version of Opelucid, whoops. And I think an important distinction is that canonically, some species have been driven to near-extinction by humans for various reasons -- Stantler, Lapras, and Farfetch'd dex entries for example all reference this. The irony of BW, I feel, is that N is the wrong genre savvy *and* correct about a lot of things—and still doesn't really have a chance of winning in the ways that matter to him, because in his world being genre savvy is more important than being right.

The prose for these two chapters is solid and strikes a nice balance between formal and conversational. This isn't my first time working with second person, but I do still find it to be an odd take, especially when the perspective is changing once again from the prologue to the first chapter. This is especially strange because the first chapter ends with introducing who I am... and then that's discarded as I am now a Serperior. It just doesn't jive well.
Yeah, I feel that! It's my first time working with many POV and second-person, so I figured I'd make a few hiccups. Is there anything you think that could've made that transition easier for you? I think the variable narrative format is pretty tied to the story's point (it's asking questions of all the characters in the game that the player never gets answers from), but I don't want that to be a sticking point.

Going backwards is another interesting take, showing the end and then perhaps leading up toward what caused that to happen, though I do wonder if that all had already been accomplished by just that tidbit of history mentioned above. My question here basically is, what will going backwards further answer that hadn't already been covered by these first two chapters? Unless it won't be going backwards anymore, but the narrative of the prologue (and your author's notes) suggest otherwise.
Nope, we're on this train until the beginning, rip! If all it took to convince humans that N was right was a bit of human-driven pokemon genocide, we coulda stopped at Lapras and Farfetch'd haha.

For me I think -- or at least I hope -- this was an intentional change with the primary purpose of being to unpick a specific instant in history: in this case, N summoning Reshiram and preparing to destroy human society as we know it. I wanted the reverse chronological aspect because I feel like that's often how history gets taught to us: you learn about these big climactic standoffs first, with people on both sides really angry (but you don't really understand the motivations), and as you trace back further you start to realize that these issues are grounded in individual people and ideas that ended up changing the world. For me the outcome of this story almost isn't important -- it's why it starts before the eNd of the world -- but it's how and why we got there.

Big questions I want to answer as we go back -- is it possible for humans and pokemon to truly live together happily? Is this partnership equal, like everyone says? Does it have to be / can it not? What are the responsibilities of people in power? Who has to hurt, who has to watch, who gets to watch, who gets to speak? Why don't pokemon change the current state? Why don't humans? How did this state of affairs even happen? Who started it, but really, who is capable of fixing it? And what would a good path going forward even look like (because it's sort of not N's)?

Seems you've already tweaked this line, but so early on, it still felt kind of weird to have such uncertain narration to begin with when at the moment I was kind of treating it like a camera panning over scenery.
mmm, yes, that's a good catch

i right gud; fixed!

Thank you for your thoughts so far! I know this is a bit far from your normal reading preferences, so I appreciate you taking the time to write this out!
 
Last edited:
iii. nuestro

kintsugi

golden scars
Pronouns
she/her/hers
Partner
silvally-grass
author's note 6/16/2020: chapter substantially overhauled for better consistency and internal logic!
iii. nuestro

※​

{I’m sorry,} you say politely when you’re released from the void you’ve come to recognize as a pokéball. {I think there’s been a mistake.} You shift uneasily back and forth between your three legs. When no one responds, you take a good long look at the people around you. {I can’t be here. I need to go north. Migration is happening soon, and if I miss it, I will not be able to catch them before the paths around Twisting Mountain become impassible and icy with the winter. I will be going now.}

Your gaze is drawn first to the human. He’s taller than you—but then again, most humans are. You think. You haven’t really seen that many, just the one that was yours. You can’t really see all the way up to his face, so you look at his shoes instead. They’re a bit frayed on the edges. The rest of him blurs into progressively less focus as you look up—he has blue on his legs, and then the rest of him is a white blob with a smudgy face and a mop of black fur on top. But you can still feel his eyes roving across your form, sizing you up. The feeling of being watched makes you stop fidgeting despite yourself.

At his side is a small, blue humanoid clutching at a pair of scallops. Behind them is a smug-looking, slightly smaller green biped wearing leaves. You’ve heard stories of pokémon like these, but those stories never came with names. They remind you of gemstones, with the way that their colors pop against the white walls. A blue one and a green one.

Mmm. Those will work for names, for now.

Around you, a shiny cave. The walls are smooth. You can’t make out the details on the walls; they’re too far away and you aren’t used to seeing this many lights at once.

You aren’t sure how you ended up here. The last thing you remember was trailing behind Spur a bit and then the sucking sensation of a pokéball, and then—

Panic begins to set in. Where are you? How long have you been in the pokéball? Where is your old human? Did he abandon you? You squint around the room, trying to find a trace of his mossy hair. He’ll come bursting through the door any minute, explain the situation for you, make things right.

Right?

{You speak. Who?} the blue one asks. Gruff-sounding voice, like he’s been gargling rocks for an hour. You pity him.

You shift your weight on your legs. Not just the voice—his words are hard to parse, too. But you do your best. {Hello. My name is Carnel.}

You look at the human, since usually they call the shots. He doesn’t look back. He’s pulled out a strange glowing box and is staring at it.

There’s a long pause. The blue one points to himself and says, {Ico.} His paw gestures to the green one beside him. {Maxis.} Now he points somewhere else in the corner, out of your rather limited field of view. {Ambrella.} Another pause. {You speak, Boldore. Who?}

You didn’t answer his question, apparently, but somehow he managed to answer three of yours. You aren’t quite sure how you managed to get yourself here.

{Who you want speak?} Ico repeats.

Oh. Yes, his grammar is quite bad but you can piece together what he’s trying to say. {The human. I want to speak to the human.}

{Cheren?} the blue one tilts his head. Beside him, the green one murmurs something you don’t understand, and the blue one responds with more incomprehensible words.

There’s a long silence.

And then the green one chatters something else, and this time there’s no mistaking the laughter in his voice, even if the words don’t have meaning. His tail flicks back and forth in a motion that you take as amusement, and the way that his face contorts into a grin is unsettlingly human-like.

{To our trainer? You speak?}

Is that a trick question? Perhaps. Do you answer it anyway? Yes. {Well. I expected him to answer. All good humans should.} Your last one did, after all.

Ico blinks back at you, and you aren’t sure if perhaps he can’t find the words to respond, or if he never had them to begin with.

{What kind of trainers have you had?} a voice says from the corner.

You pivot slowly on your three legs so as to better see the newcomer, who delicately picks her way into your field of view on four spindly legs. She carries herself like no pokémon you’ve seen in the caves before—she’s light on her feet, like she doesn’t trust the earth beneath. Behind her, a triangular-tipped tail hovers like a different entity, flicking back and forth through the air, its tip floating three feet from the back of her head.

Her skin, too, is like nothing you’ve ever seen. It’s fur-clad like the webspinners, but where they were golden, she is like a gemstone. One of your kind was born different; the rocks of his body were not the bold colors of ore and gold, but were a deep, vibrant—you aren’t sure what word to use for the color. It is between clear sky and blood. That is her color.

{H-hello,} you say, when you realize you’ve been staring at her for far too long. {My name is Carnel.}

{Tourmaline,} she responds frostily.

This seems to get Ico’s attention once more. {Ambrella,} he corrects.

{My name is Tourmaline,} says Tourmaline, looking firmly at you. {Cheren calls me what he wants. He will call you what he wants as well. Best decide now which one you want to keep.}

You look at this one. The longer you stare, the more there is to see. The fuzziness of her body is splattered with rings of gold, like the one that you had when you were a younger rock. {Well, I’m sorry to inconvenience you,} you say, and shift your weight a few more times than is strictly polite, {but there’s been a mistake. I need to be going. Could you translate that for me?}

Her tail goes dangerously still. {Translate? Between you and Ico?}

{Between us and the human. My last human understood me, and the rest of our team. If Cheren cannot understand me, surely he will listen to you?}

Ico whispers something to the green one, and they both laugh at you again. He repeats in the same broken syllables, mashing them together with all the wrong rhythm so you can hear: {Fool.} The dewott smooths his palms on the darker blue scales that border his legs. You wonder if it was an evolutionary trait that made his kin resemble humans, or if this was just an accident.

{The human will not understand you.} But Tourmaline is staring at you. Her eyes glitter from the depths of her face. {I learned the dialect of caves from … from a time with a previous human, who worked with many of your kin.} Hmm, yes, now that she mentions it, you can see how she pitches her sentence the wrong way. She forgets to pause midway through her sentences to ponder the end. She flicks her tail toward the other two pokémon. {The dewott and the simisage prefer the dialect of forests. For your language, Ico’s tongue is unpracticed but his ear is sound. Maxis is deaf to you, and likely will be for some time.} One of her ears twitches, and an edge of amusement slips into her voice. {You must forgive him; he’s a slow learner.}

Oh, that’s interesting. All of the pokémon you’ve known in your entire life spoke the one language, but you’ve never really gone too far from your home before this. There were a few who passed through the caves with other words on their lips, but you never quite considered that they would have others of their kind.

You look over. The human—Cheren—still has his face buried in the box. The glow casts a strange light around his eyes, makes them even harder to see. He’s frowning at it with intense concentration, wrinkles in his forehead like dried mud. He looks up at the sound of your rumbling, and then looks back into the device again.

That settles it. {Then I will go,} you say.

{Ambrella,} the dewott grates, but he doesn’t stop you.

Tourmaline hisses something at Ico in a language you don’t understand. You understand a single word: Tourmaline.

You look away from the human and back at her. {What are you telling him?}

Tourmaline looks at you smugly. {That Cheren is not my trainer, and cannot name me—} she pauses. A good pause. It reminds you of how your siblings speak {—and that I suspect he is not your trainer either.}

But her suspicions won’t help you go back home. He needs to hear. {Can you tell Cheren that, then?}

{Cheren caught many boldore before he found you. If he’s kept you around this long it probably means you’re strong in the ways he wants.} There’s something infecting Tourmaline’s voice now. It reminds you of rot. {Ico says he’s … particular like that, with those of us he chooses to keep.}

It’s not an answer though, is it? If he wants you but you don’t want him?

{Seventh,} Ico grates. {You lucky. Can fight hard with us now—}

“All introduced?” Cheren breaks into the conversation. “Great,” he says before you can respond. “Glad you’ve met the team. I’m Cheren.”

Your name is Monolith, he tells you. He’s your trainer. He has four other pokémon: a dewott, a simisage, a tranquil, and a liepard. The liepard is named Ambrella. The tranquil is being treated for some wounds he got in a previous fight.

He wants to get stronger. His goal is to be the strongest trainer in all of Unova. He’s been trying to beat a friend of his who has a powerful flyer, but he keeps losing. But that’s what you’re for.

You’re a boldore right now. He’s trying to figure some things out but he wants to make you evolve.

You aren’t really sure what any of that means—except—you probably will miss the migration.

This won’t do. You look at Cheren after his explanation, and then, while he looks back at his glowing box for a moment, you turn resolutely and begin scuttling towards the exit of this strange, white cave.

{Stop.} You turn around to see Ico glaring at you. {Stay.}

{I am going,} you tell him firmly.

His eyes are black dots that narrow to thin slits. He doesn’t say anything else, just reaches out with one paw and tugs on Cheren’s pants.

Cheren looks down, and then at you. You’re halfway to the exit. He fumbles for something at his belt, and points the pokeball, and that’s the last you see.

※​

“Come on, Monolith. Rock Throw!”

He doesn’t let you walk from place to place. That’s frustrating. Instead, he sends you out in the middle of a large clearing and has you practice different techniques, trying to get you to aim them at trees. He’s named each movement and made it into an attack, and he’s codified them in the little glowing box that he holds in his hands, and he wants you to use them again and again until they’re perfect.

But your last human didn’t make you do that. He let you pick the moves you wanted. And if you told him you didn’t want to fight, he listened, and let you stop.

There is no concept of practice in caves. That must be a Cheren thing, you decide. This little speck of a creature.

You know what he’s asking you to do. You’ve done it before. Once, a strange pokémon appeared in your cave, its body made of four stony arms. It rolled around and ate the young roggenrola that were too slow to flee. You aren’t sure where it came from—strayed from a traveling human, perhaps—but, alarmed at the intrusion, you and your siblings gathered together all of your energy and flung stones at it until it fled. If it wanted the rocks so badly, it could have them.

But that was for a reason, and even then, channeling the earth is dangerous. After many years a roggenrola may shapechange, trade two legs in for three. Once you’ve done that, your body is permanently studded in biotites—your blue becomes a mix of ore and orange. The biotites let you speak to the earth. Inside each crystal is the potential for great strength, but you must be careful with it. Use the power too callously and the earth may punish you for it. She doesn’t do it directly, no: she lets you take as much from her as you want. But if you take too much, she will forsake her structure and collapse on top of you. You ask for the earth’s help as a last resort; otherwise, you solve your problems without her help.

“C’mon, Monolith!”

There’s a boulder in front of you, a little bit bigger than you. It’s different than the kind in your cave. You could find out more by touching it, but even from a distance you notice no familiar frizzle of electric energy wrapped around it. Granite, maybe. It has flecks of black crystal, and it’s half-submerged in the dirt. There’s another, smaller piece of rock next to it, and a few more scattered around the clearing.

You won’t throw it. That would be rude. How could you? The rock came here for a reason. Clearly it does not want to be thrown, not if it dragged itself here and buried itself in six inches of mud.

Behind you, Cheren. The one Tourmaline says might not be your trainer. “Rock Throw!”

You don’t want to. Your last human understood that, so this one will as well. You let a fraction of the power flood through you; your biotites glow a faint orange. One of the baby rocks glows in response, calling to you, listening to you call back.

Yes, it certainly feels like granite. {Pardon me,} you tell the rock.

The rock hums back and moves where you ask it to.

“Great job, Monolith!”

You ask the earth to let the baby rock hover up and stack on top of the big one. The earth agrees, and the small rock floats to sit on top of the big one. You tilt your head. Yes, from this angle—

“No Monolith, you have to throw it.”

Your biotites glow again, and you ask a few more rocks to join in. You let one support a slightly bigger one; this little strange one with a funny lip tucks under the one that’s mostly micah. An arch starts to form, and then a small tunnel, and then a little path leading up to the cleft in the boulder. Yes. That’s the shape, you’re sure of it. This is good. This is a good way to show him. You direct a small pebble to hover by the tunnel you’ve formed, and then you scuttle over to your replica of your cave and turn to Cheren expectantly.

{My cave,} you say. A big pause, so it can sink in for him better, since he seems a little slow. {This is my cave.} You let the small pebble by the entrance of the tunnel wiggle a little, and then you direct it to roll into the entrance, where the rest of its brothers and sisters are waiting. {Please let me go back to my cave.}

All of the little pebbles rattle in excitement when their brother comes back. You could direct them to file out of the cave now, go very very far away from this place so that when the snows start to come they can all stay warm, but—

“Hilda!” Cheren shouts. “How was Icirrus? Finally got your badge?”

—he’s not listening any more.

“Do you even look at the news?” a female voice calls back. You frown and try to place it. Have you heard her before? “Team Plasma was meddling up in Dragonspiral Tower. He—they tried to summon Reshiram.”

“Reshiram?”

“Dunno. Juniper kept saying big dragon, lots of fire.” She pauses. Another good pause. You could fit an entire mountain in the gap there. “It didn’t work.”

“Figures. Bunch of thugs like them can’t do anything right.” A bit of venom enters his voice there, but truthfully it sounds like he doesn’t really care what this other human has to say. He shifts his weight to one leg. You recognize what that movement means: he’s been waiting to ask this next question for a while. “So. Wanna fight?”

You’ve battled before, with your other human, so you aren’t completely surprised when a few minutes later something big is in front of you, scraping a hoof across the ground. It sparks like webspinner, but it has stark colors, like veins in stone. Black and white. A dash of thunder. Her nose-holes flare when she sees you.

You sidestep a little closer to your boulder to protect it.

“Wild Charge, Amara!” the human commands.

{Hi, I’m Carnel,} you say politely, looking at her.

She doesn’t respond. By the time the words have left your mouth, she’s already tackling you full-on, her body wreathed in sparks. Arcs of blue electricity jitter up your carapace. You shy back as they explode upon your skin; there’s pain in your shoulder. One of your biotites is loose.

“Rock Throw!”

A new thought occurs to you. Tourmaline said that you were strong in the ways Cheren wanted. That was why he kept you. But if you weren’t? If you didn’t fight? Tourmaline also said she suspected Cheren wasn’t your trainer. You can show him you believe that too.

Your biotites glow, and you firmly wiggle the pebbles at the base of your miniature cave. The pebbles there are happy because they are all sticking together. {Home,} you say slowly. {I want to go home.}

The Amara crashes down. A cloud of dirt erupts, and her hooves rip furrows in the ground with the force of the impact. She bowls into you, wild sparks in every direction, and you’re sent flying back, straight into the big boulder, which fractures along with a bit of your rear leg and some of the stone near your head. Your fuzzy vision goes fuzzier for a second.

When you blink, your eyes don’t clear—the ground beneath you is fractured. Wait, no. Blink again, and it’s still broken. The pebbles are scattered in every direction. You look behind at the big boulder in dismay; where you hit it, you cleaved it straight in two.

“Discharge, Amara. Close range.”

She brays in frustration, and another bolt of electricity erupts from her mane. This time it spears you straight through the shoulder, hitting the same damaged spot.

“C’mon, Monolith!” Cheren shouts. “You have to hit her. Stop missing!”

You look back nervously. Can’t he see what’s about to happen? If you so much as—

You shift your weight, and the stalk of crystal supporting one your damaged biotites snaps.

You don’t even think. You immediately seize it with a tendril of seismic power and fling it as far away from yourself as possible. It spirals through the air in a flash of orange, and lands in front of Amara’s feet.

Oh. Oh no.

The damaged fragment explodes immediately on impact. You shy back, a wordless chatter of alarm escaping you. The light is bright, angry. It burns at your eyes; you aren’t meant to look at the earth’s power directly. She gives freely, as she always does, even if you don’t want her to, even if you didn’t mean to make anyone get hurt, so—

“Great work, Monolith! I knew you could do it!”

—when you look back again, Amara has vanished, and the human is fiddling with something in her belt.

“Nice boldore, Cheren. Is it new?”

Cheren shouts back, “Yeah, I just picked it up in Chargestone Cave. He’s got some power. Where’s your archeops? I thought we could let our rock types duke it out.”

“Oh?” The trainer across from you—Zelda? Wilhma? Human names are hard; no wonder Cheren had to make up his own—holds up her hand, another pokéball at the ready. This human is full of good pauses. “Long story.”

“Get ready,” Cheren says behind you. “Rock Throw as soon as you see it, just like last time.”

See what? There’s a sudden tenseness that’s slipped into his voice, like he expects—

“Vaselva! Leaf Blade!”

You look back at the scattered pebbles, all so far from their little home. Waiting to be together again.

No. You won’t fight this one. You brace yourself.

There’s a green blur in front of you, so fast it barely catches the light, contorting its body into impossible shapes—how can its body bend like that? There’s another blur of green, and you’re on your back. Dark. Pain. Something dazzles across your vision, like flashes of gold veins in stone.

“Nice try, Monolith,” you hear Cheren saying as the familiar sensation of being pulled into a pokéball overtakes you. “We’ll have to work on your accuracy next time. Good job. Ambrella, you’re up.”

※​

The next thing you know, you’re all out again, on the floor of the human settlement Ico called a pokécenter. Some of your wounds have been healed, you notice distantly—the stinging shred of the leaves slashing through your shell has faded.

Cheren stands in front of you. Ico, Tourmaline, and Maxis stand at your side.

He doesn’t really need to say it; you can already tell, but he does anyway: “We lost.”

Maxis is squinting heavily out of one eye. Ico looks like he’s about to faint, just standing there. You can’t recognize what caused his wounds, but they are deep, still-oozing gouges all up and down his legs. The scaly armor’s been chipped away in some places, and he can barely stand. You sidle over to him, prop yourself so that he can rest the weight of his body against your right leg.

He takes your offer without a word.

“Hilda’s off to challenge the Elite Four. We’re a long way from being ready for the League,” he says at last. “But we’re going to get stronger, okay? We’ll train harder than ever.”

Ico nods, his eyes shining like black pearls. {We will all,} he promises. He looks at you pointedly, and that’s when you realize—he picked the harder tongue for a reason. Cheren can’t understand the dialect of stone. But you can.

Maxis grunts something that you take as affirmation.

You look nervously at Tourmaline. Neither of you say anything.

He recalls Maxis and Ico back into their pokéball and hands them off somewhere, says they’re getting more treatment. You rumble something in alarm, but Tourmaline stops you—they’ll be healed by morning, she says. Such is the way with humans. But she doesn’t sound happy about it.

He leaves you out, though, which lets you watch as he slumps around the settlement. The spring in his step is gone; the eagerness he had before this battle fizzled out.

Could you walk away? You were too slow last time, and that was before you hurt your legs. He’ll see you, and recall you, and then who knows when you’ll come back out. So you watch him instead.

Cheren mutters to himself, and you only catch a few snippets—stronger comes up a lot. He’s annoyed that he’s too weak to beat her. You know the feeling of always being two steps behind. But what did he really do here that exhibited weakness? What did she do that was strength? They never fought. Cheren could’ve been the Earthmother herself and it wouldn’t have changed the outcome of the fight, not when he kept all of his strength on the sidelines.

He doesn’t fight, he doesn’t listen. Were he in your cave, hungrily devouring boulder after boulder, you and your siblings would hurl rocks at him until he left.

But you aren’t in your cave any more, are you? You sidle away from Cheren, letting him pace a tight track around the pokécenter in peace, and approach Tourmaline instead. This one is so angry. You don’t know why, but you wish you could understand. Stone has too much time to be angry. You edge a little closer to her, until—five feet away—she shifts her weight and backs up as well.

You’ve seen this before, back in the cave. Two rocks that repelled each other. No amount of pushing would get one to let the other approach. You would know.

So you settle down at the edge of her orbit instead. {You said Cheren is not your trainer.} You look at her. She’s got something wrapped around her rear leg, and you can tell by the way she’s sitting that she’s reluctant to put weight on it. There’s still a leaf tangled in the crook of her tail. She’s started grooming herself, but the fur is matted and eroded in some places. You don’t know how her tongue can fix that. {But … you fought for him.}

Tourmaline licks the back of one paw, but she’s watching you carefully. {I did not hold back,} she agrees, using her teeth to extract a thorn from between the pads. {Did you?}

You get the sense that she already knows the answer to your question. But she never answered yours, so you ask again. {Why did you fight for him?}

{I have no love for Cheren. But Vaselva and her trainer irritate me even more. So in this case, he and I share an enemy. It has nothing to do with him.} She freezes in midair, her paw still held up to her face. She has pretty fur, you notice distantly. {Anything else, Carnel?}

That’s not a good reason, but you don’t want to tell her that. {If you liked your last human, why did you leave them behind?}

This time, she stands up. You can see the muscles rippling out from beneath her fur. If she leapt, your skin would take a few hits, maybe three. Then she would shred you.

You quiver and tuck yourself a little closer together, to appear less big.

Apparently satisfied, the liepard paces in a tight circle and then sits back down, resumes grooming her front paw. {I didn’t leave. I was stolen. That’s all I know. One second I was with my human, and the next, Cheren says he’s my trainer now. I asked him to explain and he didn’t. Same as you.}

{So were you …} You struggle to remember the name. {Gilda’s partner?}

She’s still as a statue, but all of the fur running down her spine stands to attention. {Absolutely not,} she says frostily. It’s like she has a second mane now. Fascinating. You wish you could do that. {Hilda will never be my trainer.} The liepard’s tail flicks errantly back and forth through the air.

A cold silence follows, the bad kind of pause where all your thoughts dig too deep. {Will Cheren?}

You ask her for a simple reason: if Cheren becomes her trainer one day, he will become yours. And you don’t want that.

But she doesn’t see the sentence written in your pause. Her tail goes still. Her eyes narrow. She stands back up to her feet again and takes two steps forward. You flinch back. You’re taller than her, a little, but she still makes you feel small.

{When we fought Hilda. That trainer. You fainted to the serperior. What did Cheren tell you?}

{That I needed to practice my accuracy.}

{And at the end. What did he tell all of us?}

{We lost.}

{And what does he claim his goal in all of this is?} she asks.

{He wants to get stronger.}

The liepard stares. You’re close enough that you can see the individual furs that run down her neck. {Listen to his words, Carnel, because he speaks against himself better than I ever could. Your weakness. Our loss. His strength. Cheren gives us many things, but never the good. When he fights, he is a trainer. There is no denying that. He isn’t one of us. And because he isn’t, he gets to pick and choose what he shares, what is taken and what is given.}

When the earth is about to fracture, she sends messages sometimes. Tremors before the quake. You sense them radiating around Tourmaline now, frustration building beneath the skin. Her next question is calm, but the earth usually is.

{How did you try to tell him?}

{What do you mean?} you ask.

{When he asked you to fight. You refused, did you not?} Tourmaline asks. {What did you do instead?}

You shift your weight uncomfortably, feel a pang of pity for making the boulder get hurt. {I tried to show him my cave. So he could see where I wanted to go.}

{Carnel.} You can’t tell what, but something in her face softens. {I will teach you something I have learned of the dialect of forests.}

{Really?} That would be … an interesting adjustment, at least. You don’t intend to stay here for much longer, but if you can speak to Ico and Maxis more, perhaps you could get through to them. Ico at least has Cheren’s ear; he got Cheren’s attention when you were trying to scuttle off. Maybe he can explain with his shell and his humanshape what your stones could not. {But you said earlier—}

{It will take you much longer than this lesson to learn how to speak it,} she says archly. {Even to merely to understand their words would take you many moons. You must listen, Carnel. Listen for what is not said.}

{I—}

Her bushy tail flicks errantly in front of your mouth. {Hush. Listen. Observe.} She gestures with her nose towards the corner of the pokécenter, where a large, tree-like pokémon sits, leaf-like arms folded across her lap. An enormous red collection of leaves is skewed across the slant of her head. {The lilligant over there,} the liepard says quietly to you, her voice taking on a low, careful cadence. You imagine Tourmaline’s voice stalking through tall grass that rises up to her shoulders, sneaking up on her prey. {What is she saying?}

You strain to listen, but no words come from her in any language you recognize—dialect of the forest or otherwise.

{She is silent.}

{Obviously,} the liepard drawls. {But look again. What is she saying?}

You look over at the pokémon, who finally seems to have noticed the two of you staring intently at her. She shifts her weight uncomfortably and turns away.

{I do not know,} you say at last.

{Look at the flower. Do you find it beautiful?}

The—oh, the colored leaves atop her head, you surmise. The flower. The color is a good one, a deep red, like a ruby. The shape is wrong; it wouldn’t make a very good crystal and it flops around in a way that makes you a little uncomfortable to look at. Were it made out stone it would melt away into mud immediately, a warning before a landslide. {I like the color,} you respond, so as to be polite.

{What is the flower trying to tell you?}

{What?} The flower certainly cannot speak in a tongue you understand, if its owner could not.

Not to be discouraged, Tourmaline breezily walks in a tight circle around you, passing in and out of your view. {In the language of the forests, beautiful flowers mean many things—an advertisement for pollinators, a cry for a mate, an ode to the sun. But look carefully, Carnel. It is not an invitation to fight. The lilligant, who has poured so much time into her flower, so much of herself—she would rather not see it destroyed. In the language of the forests, what she means to tell you is that she would rather grow and nurture something than tear it down.}

You tilt your head to one side. Grow something. That’s a tricky thing to process. Caves do not grow, not on the same timeline as any of you. You once watched a stone for six years, neither of you moving, neither of you changing. You’ve moved on. You’re sure the stone is still there.

{Look now, over there,} Tourmaline says, and gestures with her tail to a strange insect buried in a spiraling rock. {Let me teach you the tongue of sands. This dwebble. What do you see?}

You’re starting to understand Tourmaline’s lesson now. You strain forward and narrow your eyes a little, so that the light comes through better. This pokémon is much different, much more like you. There’s a gentle reassurance in the sturdiness of their shell, a sort of abnormality within the straight edges that reminds you of your cave, of the migration north.

{This one takes their home with them,} you say at last.

Tourmaline’s tail flicks through the air. You can’t quite tell, but it would seem that the liepard is pleased. {Yes. You would know this better than I, Carnel. Does the stone look like any you’ve seen in this area?}

You tilt your head. On closer inspection, it’s different from the smooth, dark boulders of your home. This rock looks soft, almost, like if you continued to rub it, it would slowly whittle away like dust in the wind. {No.}

{No. This dwebble has carried his home from a far away desert, miles and miles from here, and now it protects him in the battles that he must face. But do you think he wants it damaged?}

It isn’t a question she actually wants the answer to, but you give it to her anyway. {No.}

{Then why do you think he would bring his home with him this far?}

The answer comes easily. {Because he didn’t want to leave it.}

Tourmaline nods to herself and then sits back down by your side. She looks over one shoulder to stare at you, unblinking. {Like you, the humans do not understand the language of the forests, or the language of the sands. So these pokémon have taken to expressing their desires in a different way. They tell us much without their words, Carnel. In the wild, the leaves that shed from a simisage’s tail can be used to treat most wounds. The ones Maxis sheds here are bitter and atrophied. What do you think he is trying to tell you? What do you think he is trying to tell himself?}

There is a deeper question, of course, if you can burrow far enough to find it. Tourmaline wants to tell you something as well.

You look around the room again. {None of them want to be here,} you say at last, because it’s the only answer that feels true.

{None of us want to be here,} she repeats, and it’s when she changes it to us that you realize what she wants you to understand: the two of you weren’t the first ones to ask a human for your freedom. {Perhaps there are a few, damaged in the head—Maxis is a simpleton even in his own tongue. But look at the pokémon around you. They have put their pain and their desires in an outward place, hoping that trainers will see them and understand. You had a human before, Carnel. You did not have a trainer. A trainer is one who seeks strength. A trainer will marvel at the beauty of a flower, or knock their hands against the strength of a shell, or wonder what happened to make a lone minccino’s song so tragic. A trainer will clap for us, cheer us on, laugh with us. They will tell us that we are amazing and powerful as we fight to keep ourselves and those we cherish safe. They will take our victories and give you their weakness. But they will do everything except listen, Carnel.}

You look at the dwebble, feel a pang of envy as he tucks himself beneath a table and retreats into his shell. Your cave would not fit in this falsecave; your brothers and sisters would need to stack three layers thick if you were all to line the walls. {But I want to go home.}

{Ignore it,} she says tightly.

There is a phrase for her kind of request. She would not know the story, but—there was a tale once of a roggenrola that tried to climb a steep mountain. As he neared the top, he lost his footing, and rolled back to where he started—in the process chipping off some of his protruding crags. The more times he tried, the rounder he got, and the more impossible his task became.

To ignore this thought is to push yourself up the mountain. Each time you do it, the more impossible it becomes.

{How can we fix this?} you ask instead, gesturing wide with your shoulders, which are still healing from where the zebstrika lanced a hole six inches deep with a bolt of lightning. You saw Cheren’s tears and his frustration after your loss, even when he tried to make sure no one was watching. He hurt too, in a language that had no words. And you could see it, as clear as the dwebble’s shell. It makes you sad to look at, but it doesn’t make him right.

{You don’t.}

That’s not a good answer. Rocks are patient. Sometimes they take a hundred years to move. But even if it takes them a century, they still move. {We have to.}

You expect laughter, like Maxis. But Tourmaline stays quiet. In a soft voice, she says, {My last human felt like you do. She couldn’t hear my spoken words, but she could hear the unspoken ones. She and I worked together to free pokémon like you. Like me.} Her tail coils tightly around her feet, hugging herself close. {I will go back to her one day. She was a good human. But until then—Cheren is a necessary evil. I dream of clawing his face off at night, but I also know he is not the worst trainer in Unova. Some of the trainers we rescued pokémon from were truly vile. Cheren is merely a fool. If I stay with him I cannot be caught by someone else.}

That’s a bad answer. That’s a bad answer and you know it. But you can’t say that, not to Tourmaline, not when you can see how her back sags a little talking about her old human. She has no rocks with which to build a miniature cave, but she builds a valley with her shoulderblades and guards her head with it.

Tourmaline is fast. If she sees her human again, if she has a chance to claw out Cheren’s eyes and turn tail, will she wait for you? You’re not agile, not lithe. You’re the round roggenrola, still running up that hill.

But for Tourmaline it’s deeper than just one cut, or two, or the network of rehealed wounds that you know must lie beneath her coat, dappling it, threatening to reveal that the stone beneath isn’t a geode at all. She can’t wait years for things to get better. If she runs to her human and doesn’t wait for you … you wouldn’t blame her.

{You do not have to listen to me, Carnel. I wouldn’t fault you. This lesson is hard to learn. But I will explain this to you once, and once only,} she says stiffly, and it’s in looking at her head-on that you finally see: she is chiseled from muscle; her fangs and claws are razor sharp. Her fur catches the light and devours it greedily, morphs her silhouette into a shadow. She wastes no time with flowers or beauty, not the kind that the humans can see.

When you look at her, her message is clear: do not look, do not touch. Humans will not pity, but maybe they will fear instead.

{You are from a different part of our lands, so do not waste your time with the dialect of the forest or the sand. Humans will not understand you regardless of how you choose to speak.}

She gestures with her chin towards your biotites. {Your cave. Your siblings. All those bits of you that can still feel. Hide them deep, deep away. Where no one else can see them. Not me, not Cheren. Not even you, unless you know exactly where to look. Hide them somewhere no one else can take it from you. Do not bring them into battle with you; they will only get hurt.}

Tourmaline leans forward. Taps you gently with the tip of her nose. {You will return to them one day, but until then, hide them away. Cheren takes our victories and our strength. But your dreams are yours, and yours alone.}



p | n
 
Last edited:
  • Heart
Reactions: qva

Pen

the cat is mightier than the pen
Staff
Ooh, this is rock POV week! I like how you explored Carnel's viewpoint and the different dialects of pokemon, as well as Carnel's interactions with Tourmaline.

I was a bit confused in places, though. So Carnel has had a trainer before, and from that experience expects that humans talk to their pokemon? So was his previous trainer, by process of elimination, N? If that's the case, I think we need a little more background there, particularly on why Carnel and N parted ways and what Carnel's previous trainer experience was like. The opening and Carnel's confusion about aspects of training/battling felt to me as if they'd been captured from the wild. Also, I kind of thought that Tourmaline had been with N previously (thus the anti-Hilda sentiment and preaching the revolution) and it would feel a bit weird to me if they both had been.

There's a lot of emphasis in this on how Cheren can't read the pokemon's body language and Carnel being frustrated by that, but I'm not sure why Carnel doesn't do something more explicit to communicate that they don't want to be there/don't want to fight. They could not respond to the commands in practice. They could try to wander off. Also the logic of 'this human clearly doesn't understand my wants, but if I do what he says he will let me go because I want it' is pretty thin. It just feels pretty easy to say here, especially in light of Tourmaline's last speech, what, so they're all just hoping the human notices, instead of making some active gesture of disobedience? I feel like I need more here on why they're being so passive. Or to be shown a more explicit attempt to convey wants that doesn't work.

Also, both Tourmaline and Carnel seem to have had trainers that they liked previously. So that does give this whole chapter a feel that Cheren is just a sucky trainer, which doesn't work with the universalized message at the end.

You haven’t seen many humans, but he seems to be more calculating than your last one. You can see his eyes roving across your form, sizing you up.
Putting the deduction before the action reads a bit weird. Maybe, "You haven’t seen many humans, but this one looks at you differently than your last one did. His eyes rove across your form, sizing you up."

The last thing you remember was trailing behind the others a bit and—
So this sounds like Carnel was in the wild, with other boldore heading towards the migration? How did they get from having a trainer to back in the wild, and why don't they remember the capture?

{Cheren?} the blue one tilts his head. Beside him, the monkey murmurs something you don’t understand, and the blue one responds with more incomprehensible words.

There’s a long silence.

And then the green one chatters something else, and this time there’s no mistaking the laughter in his voice, even if the words don’t have meaning. His tail flicks back and forth in a motion that you take as amusement, and the way that his face contorts into a grin is unsettlingly human-like.

{To our human? You speak?}

Is that a trick question? Perhaps. Do you answer it anyway? Yes. {Well. I expected him to. All good trainers should.}
So yeah, where does Carnel have this idea from? N?

The depiction of Ico and Maxis, with their humor and human-like qualities, is unsettling.

Her skin, too, is like nothing you’ve ever seen. It has the same fuzzy qualities of the webspinners, but where they were golden, her color is a different one altogether, a deeper color than the normal blue of your kin, but somehow earthier. One of your kind was born different; the rocks of his body were not the bold colors of ore and gold, but were a deep, vibrant—you aren’t sure what word to use for the color. It is between clear sky and blood. That is her color.
Purple is hard! I appreciate the commitment to the POV but this paragraph did drag a bit for me.

Hmm, yes, now that she mentions it, you can see that she lacks the cadence that you’re used to. She doesn’t cradle the vowels in her throat, and she doesn’t pause midway through her sentences to ponder the end.
I wasn't sure how to understand this. Is the idea that she doesn't speak the dialect properly? I feel like that's something Carnel would notice as she speaks, not once she mentions it. Also the idea of pausing to ponder the end of a sentence doesn't sound like a cadence thing, but uncertainty.

All of the pokémon you’ve known in your entire life spoke the one language, but you’ve never really gone too far from your home before this. There were a few who passed through the caves with other words on their lips, but you never quite considered that they would have others of their kind.
This seems to contradict the info that Carnel's previous trainer traveled far and wide? I feel like in parts of the chapter Carnel feels like a pokemon who never had a trainer.

{Comedian,} Ico repeats in the same broken syllables, mashing them together with all the wrong rhythm. The dewott smooths his palms on the darker blue scales that border his legs. You wonder if it was an evolutionary trait that made his kin resemble humans, or if this was just an accident.
Oof, I like this idea of evolution working to assimilate dewott to human tastes, matching how Ico clearly identifies more with Cheren than the other pokemon,

“All introduced?” Cheren breaks into the conversation. “Great,” he says before you can respond. “Glad you’ve met the team. I’m Cheren.”

Your name is Monolith, he tells you. He’s your trainer. He has four other pokémon: a dewott, a simisage, a tranquil, and a liepard. The liepard is named Ambrella. The tranquil is being treated for some wounds he got in a previous fight. Cheren has a friend who has a really strong flyer, which is why he picked you up.

He wants to get stronger. His goal is to be the strongest trainer in all of Unova. He’s been trying to beat a friend of his who has a powerful flyer, but he keeps losing. But that’s what you’re for.

You’re a boldore right now. He’s trying to figure some things out but he wants to make you evolve.

You aren’t really sure what any of that means, except—you probably will miss the migration.
This was an effective section. Cheren feels like he's living in a completely different would from Carnel.

That must be a human thing, you decide. This little twig of a creature. There is no concept of practice in caves.

In your home, biotites are not to be trifled with. After many years you may shapechange, trade your two legs in for three. Once you’ve done that, your body is permanently studded—your blue becomes a mix of ore and orange. Inside each crystal is the potential for great strength, but you must be careful with it.
Found this whole section a bit confusing.

The energy rushes out of you with a whoomph. The stones roar in response, crumbling to the ground. Crushing the tree in front of you. It’s. Not your favorite sight. That was a nice tree. Now you’ve destroyed it.

The power rushes out of you all at once, like sand through a crevasse. The glow fades from your biotites. You deflate in relief.
You've got energy/power rushes out twice? If there's a distinction here I don't get it. The thing about the tree is interesting, though later on Carnel appears a bit confused by growing things. Deflate strikes me as an odd verb to describe a rock.

You try not to flinch away. Your head is delicate and your crystals still ache; can’t he see that?
So. Why is Carnel trying not to flinch away? If Carnel flinched away and Cheren didn't notice that would be a lot more on Cheren.

{Please don’t make me do that again,} you say, but when you look up he’s already fastened his gaze on something else on the horizon.
"Don't make me"--what happens if Carnel decides not to do it again? What will Cheren do?

“Do you even look at the news any more?” a female voice calls back. You frown and try to place it. Have you heard her before? “Team Plasma was meddling up in Dragonspiral Tower. He—they tried to summon Reshiram.”

“Reshiram?”

“Dunno. Juniper kept saying big dragon, lots of fire.” She pauses. Another good pause. You could fit an entire mountain in the gap there. “It didn’t work.”

“Oh, cool.” Cheren sounds more bored than ever. “Well, glad that’s over.” He shifts his weight to one leg. You sense that he’s been waiting to ask this next question for a while. “So. Wanna fight?”
Wow, nice to see that Cheren sucks as a human and friend as well.

"He--they" Nice subtle moment with that.

“Rock Slide!”

Right. Comply.
But why? I think this POV really brings that question to the fore, and it's not really answered here.

“Again, Monolith,” Cheren commands.

You look back nervously. Can’t he see what’s about to happen? If you so much as—

You shift your weight, and the stalk of crystal supporting your damaged biotite snaps.

You don’t even think. You immediately seize it with a tendril of seismic power and fling it as far away from yourself as possible. It spirals through the air in a flash of orange, and lands in front of Amara’s feet.

Oh. Oh no.

The damaged fragment explodes immediately on impact. You shy back; the light is bright. You’re grateful for the open sky, were this indoors, your foolishness would’ve brought the entire mountain down. When you look back again, Amara has vanished, and the human is fiddling with something in her belt.
First, I'm not sure about this "bring the entire mountain down" thing. That sounds like a lot of force, and the reactions of the humans don't really seem to bear that out, nor does there seem to have been much destruction on the battlefield.

I like this idea that some moves used in battles are considered accidents/sickness/disaster in a wild pokemon context, but I do think I need more elaboration on this concept for it to work.

Some of your wounds have been healed, you notice distantly—the shredding sensation of the leaves slashing through your shell has faded.
A sensation sounds like something that would fade anyway, without healing. Having these two thoughts tied together feels odd.

{You waste your time,} Tourmaline mewls from the corner. {He does not want your comfort, Carnel. He wants your power.}
Previous paragraph didn't show Carnel trying to be comforting though? Mostly shows Carnel being annoyed that Cheren didn't fight.

{I will,} you say amicably, {lend him my strength.} If this is what it takes for him to like you enough to let you leave, then you will do it.
Yeah, as I mentioned above, this reasoning doesn't make sense, and it doesn't make sense to me as a reasoning that would make sense to Carnel, if that makes sense. Ugh, what a ridiculous sentence.

You edge a little closer to her, until—five feet away—she shifts her weight and backs up as well.

You’ve seen this before, back in the cave. Two rocks that repelled each other. No amount of pushing would get one to let the other approach. You would know.
I find the dynamic between Carnel and Tourmaline interesting. I'm not sure if you intended it, but with Carnel's sheer fascination with Tourmaline's appearance and getting close to her, I read an almost romantic interest.

{I was stolen. That’s all I know. One second I was with my human, and the next, Cheren says he’s my trainer now. I asked him to explain and he didn’t. Same as you. I let you try talking to him earlier because I knew that if I didn’t, you would never have stopped.}
A trade?

To the last sentence, I don't really get that--how did Tourmaline "allow" Carnel? How could she have stopped Carnel from trying and failing to communicate with the human?

, you realize another frustration. With your last human, you covered miles in a day. He took you places that were far and strange from your cave, sure, but the earth is kind whether it is hemmed in by rock or by sky. You shuffle your legs and try again.
Found this hard to follow. The frustration is that Carnel wants to travel more than they're doing? Also this contradicts the earlier bit about not having ever gone far from the cave.

She’s still so close, close enough that you can see the fractures that run up and down her surface, a landslide years in the making. She’s barely able to keep it all together, not with the fire and rage inside. She’s no rock. Her skin simply cannot contain it all.
This felt like a little much.

You don’t intend to stay here for much longer, but if you can speak to Ico and Maxis more, perhaps you could get through to them.
I want this unpacked more. What does intend to stay mean? Does Carnel think they can leave without Cheren's permission or not? Does Carnel think Ico and Maxis can be understood by Cheren?

{Look at the flower. Do you find it beautiful?}

The—oh, the colored leaves atop her head, you surmise. The flower. The color is a good one, a deep red, like a ruby. The shape is wrong; it wouldn’t make a very good crystal and it flops around in a way that makes you a little uncomfortable to look at. Were it made out stone it would melt away into mud immediately, a warning before a landslide. {I like the color,} you respond, so as to be polite.

{What is the flower trying to tell you?}

{What?} The flower certainly cannot speak in a tongue you understand, if its owner could not.

Not to be discouraged, Tourmaline breezily walks in a tight circle around you, passing in and out of your view. {In the language of the forests, beautiful flowers mean many things—an invitation for pollinators, a cry for a mate, an ode to the sun. But look carefully, Carnel. It is not an invitation to fight. The lilligant, who has poured so much time into her flower, so much of herself—she would rather not see it destroyed. In the language of the forests, what she means to tell you is that she would rather grow and nurture something than tear it down.}
This is really beautiful!

Though I wonder--if a lilligant wants to fight, what does their flower look like then?

In the wild, the leaves that shed from a simisage’s tail can be used to treat most wounds. The ones Maxis sheds here are bitter and atrophied. What do you think he is trying to tell you? What do you think he is trying to tell himself?}

There is a deeper question, of course, if you can burrow far enough to find it. Tourmaline wants to tell you something as well.

You look around the room again. {They don’t want to be here,} you say at last, because it’s the only answer that feels true.
This feels odd to me as the revelation the chapter leads up to. It's clear Carnel doesn't want to be there from the start, so the concept isn't so baffling, is it?

Ico does seem like he wants to be there, though. I'm a bit curious for more of his voice.

{Ignore it,} she says tightly.

There is a phrase for her kind of request. She would not know the story, but—there was a tale once of a roggenrola that tried to climb a steep mountain. As he neared the top, he lost his footing, and rolled back to where he started—in the process chipping off some of his protruding crags. The more times he tried, the rounder he got, and the more impossible his task became.

To ignore this thought is to push yourself up the mountain. Each time you do it, the worse it becomes.
I love the story! Not sure it fits the context you've given it, though. Maybe because the story involves the roggenrola trying at least, but we haven't seen Carnel try at all to leave yet?

you will be Monolith for the rest of your life. Maybe not to you, maybe not to Tourmaline. But to everyone else, this is who you are now. There’s no escaping it, no running up that hill.
. . . okay? But Carnel hasn't tried. This would have a lot more impact if they'd tried to escape or indicate displeasure in a more active way. (Also, running up that hill?)

you finally see: she is chiseled from muscle; her fangs and claws are razor sharp. Her fur catches the light and clutches it greedily, morphs her silhouette into a shadow. She wastes no time with flowers or beauty, not the kind that the humans can see.

When you look at her, her message is clear: do not look, do not touch.
What exactly is Carnel understanding here? That Tourmaline has made herself hard and unapproachable because of the pain she feels? This paragraph didn't land for me, I wasn't sure what you were going for.

{All those bits of you that can still feel. Hide them deep, deep away. Where no one else can see them. Not me, not Cheren. Not even you, unless you know exactly where to look.} Tourmaline leans forward. Taps you gently with the tip of her nose. {Hide it somewhere no one else can take it from you. Because that pain is something that all pokémon feel, that no amount of our suffering or beauty will ever impart to our humans, that no amount of healing will undo. That pain is ours.}
Okay if no amount of healing will undo the pain then it's not in danger of being taken away, is it? This paragraph didn't really land for me.

The conflict of the chapter is that Carnel wants to join the migration/be home, but Cheren doesn't get that and is keeping them and making them fight. But we also hear that Carnel seemed to like traveling with their previous trainer and we don't see Carnel really doing anything to show displeasure/disobedience. There's the pain of battle and the injustice of humans not fighting, which is weakened a bit by the fact that Tourmaline seems to want to go back to her old trainer, who presumably also didn't battle themselves? There's a bit of inconsistency with all this that's keeping the main morals/message from hitting home for me.
 

OldschoolJohto

Never not editing
Pronouns
She/Her
Partner
solrock
Man, I forgot how Cheren’s team overlaps with Mark’s. Ouch.

Something I found interesting in this chapter is how miscommunications continue in s new way: not only do the humans fail to understand the pokémon, but the pokémon can’t understand each other. No wonder they don’t have the tools to overthrow this system alone.

I wanted a little more of Cheren’s presence in this one—he got lost in the sauce in a couple places I’ll flag. I also think that ending line was a little abrupt, but a little tweak would fix it. I feel like the implications is that personal pain is the only thing that truly belongs to each of them, and baking that explicit would help. It might also be nice to hammer in how it’s an isolating pain or why Tourmaline doesn’t see that pain as something that unites pokémon.

You can see his eyes roving across your form, sizing you up. You stop fidgeting despite yourself.
I really liked this moment of physicality for Cheren—sets the tone for him—and I wanted a couple more reminders throughout this pokémon conversation that he’s there and watching. Everyone in this scene except for baby boldore understands Cheren to be in charge. I want to feel that like a shadow over the chapter.

Oh. Yes, his grammar is quite bad but that makes sense. {The human. I want to speak to the human.}
This took me a second. I thought that the text was saying the content of what he said makes sense (even though it doesn’t to Carnel) when it’s just the pronunciation.

Behind her, a triangular-tipped tail hovers like a different entity, flicking back and forth through the air, obediently orbiting three feet from the back of her head.
I see orbiting is a repeat theme for him, part of how he sees the word, but it didn’t quite work for me in this instance. I think because, fundamentally, I know it’s attached.

{Tourmaline,} she responds.

This seems to get Ico’s attention once more. {Ambrella,} he corrects.
F

Best decide now which one you want to keep.}
A small but important rebellion. 💔

shift your weight a few more times than is strictly polite
This made me wonder if boldore culture has something to say about this.

I learned the dialect of caves
This is a cool idea. I like that there’s this fundamental misunderstanding between the pokémon, not because of their species but where they grew up.

from a time with a previous human, who had many companions who also worked alongside boldore like yourself.}
N? 👀

The dewott and the simisage
Shouldn’t it be a simisear? Or are you eating the canon because you wanted him to get WRECKT?

Why?} You look at the dewott imploringly. {There’s been a mistake. I don’t want to be here. I need to go north. Migration is happening soon, and if I miss it, I will not be able to catch them before the paths around Twisting Mountain become impassible and icy with the winter. Please explain to your friend that I must leave.}
:(

You wonder if it was an evolutionary trait that made his kin resemble humans, or if this was just an accident.
I like this line of questioning. I can see why he’d wonder that.

These strange creatures don’t understand you; it’s not their fault
Sort of implies it IS the human’s fault that they don’t, even though he doesn’t really understand how humans don’t listen until later with Tourmaline. Nice.

The human—Cheren—has his nose buried in a strange box that glows white. He’s frowning at it with intense concentration, face scrunched up like a smear of mud.
Not sure about a smear of mud being scrunched up. But I like the detail that Cheren has his nose in his phone—checks out. I wanted that detail a little earlier on. Like, maybe C is speaking and expecting Cheren to respond, but Cheren isn’t even looking at him.

and that I suspect he is not your trainer either.}
No pokeballs no masters.

Your name is Monolith, he tells you.
He said it in 2nd person, so it must be true.

They’ve named each movement and made it into an attack, and he’s codified them in the little glowing box that he holds in his hands, and he wants you to use them again and again until they’re perfect.
Nice, I like the world-building here. Makes sense.

Crushing the tree in front of you. It’s. Not your favorite sight. That was a nice tree. Now you’ve destroyed it.
I think you could cut It’s. Not your favorite sight. Feels more Kintsugi than Carnel, and I don’t think the understatement is as powerful as the sense of regret.

She pauses. Another good pause. You could fit an entire mountain in the gap there.
Haha this is sweet. Approval of slowness. Might be nice to contrast by emphasizing Cheren rushing around.

“Oh, cool.” Cheren sounds more bored than ever.
I felt like he should have a little more to say on the subject. I think he can be dismissive but still have an opinion. (Figures. Plasma is a bunch of crackpots, etc.)

The rocks rise up again, just as the Amara crashes down.
A funny similarity between Carnel and Cheren: they have limited language, and they don’t know much beyond their narrow experience. And what does it matter what’s a species name and what’s a nickname when they’re all just words humans made up anyway?

but the rocks you called loyally take most of the hit for you
I don’t think he called the rocks loyally—I think they came loyally.

You immediately seize it with a tendril of seismic power
Tendril feels a little too physical for me here.

You’re grateful for the open sky, were this indoors, your foolishness would’ve brought the entire mountain down.
That first comma wants to be an em dash. I’m also snagging on foolishness. There’s not a lot of room here for him to contemplate, but I want him to wrestle a little more over whose failing this was—he was ordered.

The trainer across from you—Zelda? Wilhma? Human names are hard; no wonder Cheren had to make up his own—holds up her hand. “Well, you know what comes next.”
Names are hard. Haha oops—big divides between them all.

The joking tone has slipped out of his voice,
I can’t tell if he’s started being more jokey or stopped. He seemed very un-jokey with her before.

but there’s deep, still-oozing gouges all up and down his legs.
There are*

You sidle over to him, prop yourself so that he can rest the weight of his body against your right leg.

He takes your offer without a word.
Aww, Carnel.

Ico nods, his eyes shining like black pearls. {We’ll get stronger,} he promises.
Is he saying this in cave dialect as a passive-aggressive dig at Carnel?

But what did he really do here that exhibited weakness? He could lift a thousand boulders, or summon fires in his hands; it really wouldn’t matter. He never fought anyway. He could’ve been the Earthmother herself and it wouldn’t have changed the outcome of the fight, not when he kept all of his strength on the sidelines.
I think the talk of hypothetical powers Cheren could have muddied the message for me. He could be powerful, but it doesn’t matter whether or not he is because he didn’t act. I wonder what it would look like to shift the focus to things he didn’t do.

You edge a little closer to her, until—five feet away—she shifts her weight and backs up as well.
Responsible social distancing. 🙃

You’ve seen this before, back in the cave. Two rocks that repelled each other. No amount of pushing would get one to let the other approach. You would know.
Aww. I love that he’s trying to understand her and that he’s respecting her space in his way. Seems like he’s understanding it to be a physics problem and not a mental problem though.

I was stolen. That’s all I know. One second I was with my human, and the next, Cheren says he’s my trainer now
“Rescued” from Team Plasma?

The liepard stares. You’re close enough that you can see the individual furs that run down her neck. {Listen to his words, Carnel, because he speaks against himself better than I ever could. Your weakness. Our loss. His strength. Cheren gives us many things, but never the good. When he fights, he is a trainer. There is no denying that. He isn’t one of us. And because he isn’t, he gets to pick and choose what he shares, what is taken and what is given.}
Good speech!

You blink. She’s still so close, close enough that you can see the fractures that run up and down her surface, a landslide years in the making. She’s barely able to keep it all together, not with the fire and rage inside. She’s no rock. Her skin simply cannot contain it all.
I wanted clarity that the cracks aren’t literal—something he senses rather than that he sees.

You once watched a stone for six years, neither of you moving, neither of you changing. You’ve moved on. You’re sure the stone is still there.
Aww, rock fren.

Humans will clap for us, cheer us on, laugh with us. They will tell us that we are amazing and powerful as we fight to keep ourselves and those we cherish safe. They will take our victories and give you their weakness. But they will do everything except listen, Carnel.}
Oof.

There is a phrase for her kind of request. She would not know the story, but—there was a tale once of a roggenrola that tried to climb a steep mountain. As he neared the top, he lost his footing, and rolled back to where he started—in the process chipping off some of his protruding crags. The more times he tried, the rounder he got, and the more impossible his task became.
I! Love this!

He hurt too, in a language that had no words.
Oof. This is so real too. Very big of Carnel to notice—maybe because he hasn’t yet become as closed off as Tourmaline is. This reminds me of the Troll Hunting audiobook I’ve been listening to, how a lot of people who say terrible things to others online insist they’re the victim. Doesn’t make it okay or undo the damage, but it does explain it. Oppressive systems hurt everybody involved.

and once alone,
Maybe once only?

Her fur catches the light and clutches it greedily, morphs her silhouette into a shadow. She wastes no time with flowers or beauty, not the kind that the humans can see.
Ooh, I love this mechanic. I stumble over “clutches” though—soaks it up?

When you look at her, her message is clear: do not look, do not touch.
Oh, ouch. Poor Tourmaline.
 

aer

Youngster
Pronouns
they/them
Hiya, I'm nihile, hopping over from fanfiction.net! I got a bit into editing mode while writing this review so let me know if it doesn't make sense anywhere.

God I love capture scenes. Especially horrible capture scenes.

[You pivot slowly on your three legs so as to better see the newcomer, who delicately picks her way into your field of view on four spindly legs. She carries herself like no pokémon you’ve seen in the caves before, like she’s trying to constantly sneak up on someone. Behind her, a triangular-tipped tail hovers like a different entity, flicking back and forth through the air, obediently orbiting three feet from the back of her head.

Her skin, too, is like nothing you’ve ever seen. It has the same fuzzy qualities of the webspinners, but where they were golden, her color is a different one altogether, a deeper color than the normal blue of your kin, but somehow earthier. One of your kind was born different; the rocks of his body were not the bold colors of ore and gold, but were a deep, vibrant—you aren’t sure what word to use for the color. It is between clear sky and blood. That is her color.]

Alas, I still have no idea what she is.

I googled 'shiny roggenrola' and I guess they're purple, so she's liepard?

[Ico whispers something to the monkey, and they both laugh at you again.]

Oooooooooh. So Carnel thinks that humans don't understand them because of dialect, because that's how pokemon don't understand each other.

[{Why?} You look at the dewott imploringly. {There’s been a mistake. I don’t want to be here. I need to go north. Migration is happening soon, and if I miss it, I will not be able to catch them before the paths around Twisting Mountain become impassible and icy with the winter. Please explain to your friend that I must leave.}]

I love Carnel so much.

[You wonder if it was an evolutionary trait that made his kin resemble humans, or if this was just an accident.]

Weird sentence since 'evolution' means metamorphosis in Pokemon. I'm not sure if Carnel's referring to Pokemon-evolution or genetic evolution.

[Tourmaline hisses something at Ico in a language you don’t understand. You understand a single word: Tourmaline.]

She's correcting her name. I also love Tourmaline a lot.

[At his side is a small, blue humanoid clutching at a shell and a smug-looking green monkey.]

'Monkey' is also an odd descriptor, because why would a boldore not know what a pansage is but know what a monkey is? Are there monkeys that are not pokemon in this world?

[You aren’t really sure what any of that means, except—you probably will miss the migration.]

Oh no, don't go along with it :((

[You’ve done this before, with your last human.]

Eh? So Carnel managed to talk to the last human and get out of it?

[You call to the earth, and she responds. There’s an orange glow around you, one that makes you sick to imagine. This isn’t good. In the wild, boldore who glowed like this were considered sick, not well. Their power arcing through them in an uncontrolled circuit, unable to rein in their strength. The glow meant disaster; it meant an untrained call to the stones.]

Love the idea here. Not all pokemon want to become "stronger", and their culture is in fact antithetical to becoming giant killing machines because no one wants to accidentally destroy their home.

[“Dunno. Juniper kept saying big dragon, lots of fire.” She pauses. Another good pause. You could fit an entire mountain in the gap there. “It didn’t work.”]

Huh, so this is presumably when Ghetsis tried and failed to summon Reshiram? Something wrong with his truth, then.

[{Hi, I’m Carnel,} you say politely, looking at her. You realize what you’d said. {Sorry, I mean—Monolith.}]

Hmmmmm. It's 'not a very good reason' that they're playing along but this is like the most unnecessary time to play along. No one but other pokemon can tell what name they're using. I suppose they might not want any trouble like with Ico and Tourmaline.

[Maxis is squinting heavily out of one eye. Ico looks like he’s about to faint again, just standing there. You can’t recognize what caused his wounds, but there’s deep, still-oozing gouges all up and down his legs. The scaly armor’s been chipped away in some places, and he can barely stand. You sidle over to him, prop yourself so that he can rest the weight of his body against your right leg.]

Love how appropriately brutal post-battle is.

[You know the feeling, of always being two steps behind. But what did he really do here that exhibited weakness? He could lift a thousand boulders, or summon fires in his hands; it really wouldn’t matter. He never fought anyway. He could’ve been the Earthmother herself and it wouldn’t have changed the outcome of the fight, not when he kept all of his strength on the sidelines.]

This is a little immersion breaking because I'd think that Carnel has much better things to worry about than the finer points of a human's life goals. Why are they thinking to emphasize how similar they are, rather than how Cheren won't let them free? Why did they cross over to helping Cheren so quickly?

[You sidle away from Cheren, letting him pace a tight track around the pokécenter in peace, and approach the liepard. {I will,} you say amicably, {lend him my strength.} If this is what it takes for him to like you enough to let you leave, then you will do it.]

Ah, but why does Carnel think this would work haha. Why is it that Carnel gets immediately sucked into subservience as the best way out of this? I don't know why they're not wondering about the 'they can't tell what I'm saying' part of it still, like, if Cheren can't understand rock dialect Cheren can't understand that they want to leave. There's no sign that if Cheren liked them they'd get to leave because Cheren doesn't know they want to leave.

[The liepard stares. You’re close enough that you can see the individual furs that run down her neck. {Listen to his words, Carnel, because he speaks against himself better than I ever could. Your weakness. Our loss. His strength. Cheren gives us many things, but never the good. When he fights, he is a trainer. There is no denying that. He isn’t one of us. And because he isn’t, he gets to pick and choose what he shares, what is taken and what is given.}]

So, I get this conclusion, but I think it's the wrong one to 'I got kidnapped and the only way I can go home is by doing everything my captor wants'. A bit too human-focused. I'm not sure why everyone here's so human-focused. Carnel doesn't want to battle, it's clear, so it should be obvious that all of this is for Cheren's benefit. Carnel wants to go home but Cheren requires that they get stronger, and Carnel knows that. It's not clear why they think that it has to do with whose strength it actually is.

[The shape is wrong; it wouldn’t make a very good crystal and it flops around in a way that makes you a little uncomfortable to look at.]

Ehehe, those people with dangly breakable flaps everywhere instead of nice solid rock. I like this detail.

[{This one takes their home with them,} you say at last.

Tourmaline’s tail flicks through the air. You can’t quite tell, but it would seem that the liepard is pleased. {Yes. You would know this better than I, Carnel. Does the stone look like any you’ve seen in this area?}

You tilt your head. On closer inspection, it’s different from the smooth, dark boulders of your home. This rock looks soft, almost, like if you continued to rub it, it would slowly whittle away like dust in the wind. {No.}]

Wait. I read this somewhere. Where have I read this? Something about dwebbles.

[So these pokémon have taken to expressing their desires in a different way. They tell us much without their words, Carnel. In the wild, the leaves that shed from a simisage’s tail can be used to treat most wounds. The ones Maxis sheds here are bitter and atrophied. What do you think he is trying to tell you? What do you think he is trying to tell himself?]

Anyway, I think the structure is kind of weird. They're pokemon, they can talk to each other, they can understand each other when they talk about what they care about. (It's unusual for Carnel to not be able to understand the forest/sand dialect, but there are many people who can.) There's no need to guess about what pokemon want when the lilligants can tell you that they love their flowers or the dwebbles that they don't want their shells destroyed. I suppose it's something when pokemon are Stockholmed into saying they want something else? The closest thing I can think of for the characters here is Maxis's bitter leaf, but Maxis barely gets any screentime, so it feels pretty tenuous. I guess the argument can be made for Carnel as well-- what Carnel wants is to go home, and they shouldn't start not wanting that for other things, but they're not really confused about that in the moment. Carnel wants to go home but the way they think that should be done is by doing everything Cheren wants, so reminding them that no one else wants to be here doesn't change that. Maybe everyone else is just doing what humans want to go home as well.

[This dwebble has carried his home from a far away desert]
far away --> faraway

[{I have no love for Cheren. But Vaselva and her trainer irritate me even more. So in this case, he and I share an enemy. It has nothing to do with him.}]

Tourmaline feels incomplete. Assuming we're not seeing her again... why this? Why does she hate Vaselva and Hilda? How does that inform her actions? Even if they're common enemies, why does she hate them so much that she doesn't mind being a tool for Cheren for this? Why does she act like there's no escape from any of this other than to bury her own vulnerabilities?

Honestly, I love all the pokemon's perspectives and their dynamic. I'd loved to have seen more of Ico or Maxis.
 

kintsugi

golden scars
Pronouns
she/her/hers
Partner
silvally-grass
aww sheet

Man, I forgot how Cheren’s team overlaps with Mark’s. Ouch.
cheren-san is mark 2020 confirmed

everything else addressed when you both basically rewrote the chapter into something way better; thank you muchly. <3

---

Hiya, I'm nihile, hopping over from fanfiction.net! I got a bit into editing mode while writing this review so let me know if it doesn't make sense anywhere.
Hey, welcome! No worries about being in editing mode; there were definitely some things about this chapter that weren't landing as well as I had wanted them to. Between the feedback I received I ended up rewriting pretty much all of the chapter, so thank you for pointing out the parts that weren't clear -- definitely let me put my finger on which specifics of the story were bothering me.

Love the idea here. Not all pokemon want to become "stronger", and their culture is in fact antithetical to becoming giant killing machines because no one wants to accidentally destroy their home.
Boldore line has a pretty interesting dex series! The crystals on their legs are apparently super powerful, which I would imagine are scary to have -- but they end up getting covered in them when they become gigalith (which is a man-made evolution/trade-only). I thought it'd be fun to examine a bit more here.

Huh, so this is presumably when Ghetsis tried and failed to summon Reshiram? Something wrong with his truth, then.
It's actually N, haha. There was quite a bit wrong with his truth the first time (which he touches on in chapter 1, but we'll revisit it soon).

Hmmmmm. It's 'not a very good reason' that they're playing along but this is like the most unnecessary time to play along. No one but other pokemon can tell what name they're using. I suppose they might not want any trouble like with Ico and Tourmaline.
Yeah! I ended up scrapping this aspect; it didn't really make sense.

So, I get this conclusion, but I think it's the wrong one to 'I got kidnapped and the only way I can go home is by doing everything my captor wants'. A bit too human-focused. I'm not sure why everyone here's so human-focused. Carnel doesn't want to battle, it's clear, so it should be obvious that all of this is for Cheren's benefit. Carnel wants to go home but Cheren requires that they get stronger, and Carnel knows that. It's not clear why they think that it has to do with whose strength it actually is.
I guess for me -- the unsatisfying conclusion is sort of the point. "If pokemon didn't like their trainers, they would leave" is a really paper-thin method of consent in my opinion, and this and several other chapters poke at how ridiculous that is as a concept, from the pokemon's point of view.

Your point about Carnel's thoughts being too human-focused are super valid though, and probably the crux of what was bugging me with this chapter -- I scrapped most of those lines and revealed a bit more information to clear those things up.

Wait. I read this somewhere. Where have I read this? Something about dwebbles.
Not sure? If it's somewhere existing, please let me know so I can change it.

They're pokemon, they can talk to each other, they can understand each other when they talk about what they care about. (It's unusual for Carnel to not be able to understand the forest/sand dialect, but there are many people who can.) There's no need to guess about what pokemon want when the lilligants can tell you that they love their flowers or the dwebbles that they don't want their shells destroyed.
Tourmaline wasn't trying to demonstrate how Carnel should understand lilligant/dwebble -- she was trying to demonstrate that humans don't understand pokemon. I think (?) the edited arc makes that a bit more clear, but please let me know if it doesn't.

Tourmaline feels incomplete. Assuming we're not seeing her again... why this? Why does she hate Vaselva and Hilda? How does that inform her actions? Even if they're common enemies, why does she hate them so much that she doesn't mind being a tool for Cheren for this? Why does she act like there's no escape from any of this other than to bury her own vulnerabilities?
We actually do see her again, quite a bit! But I cleared up a few of the more near-term questions; I think the initial draft was pretty confusing.

Thank you for stopping by and leaving your thoughts -- definitely helped me re-center the focus of this chapter.
 
  • Heart
Reactions: Pen
iv. nostrum

kintsugi

golden scars
Pronouns
she/her/hers
Partner
silvally-grass
author's note 6/28/2020: heavily retooled this chapter for a stronger internal character arc
iv. nostrum

※​

Listen and hear the chorus of the song that dances through the heart of the storm:

There, in pearlescent clouds heralding the sunrise—Reshiram calls the dawn on soft wings, guiding searing swaths of fire through the night.

Here, in dark storms above the western grasslands—Zekrom rumbles within the bolts of lightning, preparing soothing rain in one claw and lancing fury in the other.


They are not opposites. You learned that as a young blitzle. They are two halves of the same whole. There is no single moment when the thunderstorm ceases to exist and the white clouds return. They are one cycle, joined to one another as as firmly as your hooves meet your legs.

Your father sang you a new verse once, one that he had learned in his time fighting for the humans:

Long ago, before the age of humans, a great dragon descended to walk amongst the plains. To your ancestors, the great dragon gave spark and color. To the rest of the earth’s children, the dragon asked your ancestors to give their bodies and their protection. They were to protect those who could not protect themselves. In some places, this meant protecting the young blitzle from predators. Sometimes, your father said, explaining the story his human had once read to him, it meant fighting so that humans would not have to.

Many pokemon turned away from the great dragon, and chose to find strength on their own, strength that did not demand that they help others. In their cowardice they prospered. But the zebstrika accepted, and foreswore himself to a duty ten thousand suns in the making.

Thus the first kafara was born.

※​

You snort anxiously. The campsite’s a sorry affair; Hilda’s wrestling with the rainfly of her tent. She’s currently shivering against the wind that’s starting to blow in—a cold front from the moors, perhaps. You wouldn’t know. You were never supposed to go this far north. This is a strange land; when the clouds gather, they do shed not rain, but ice. There is no thunder to be found here, only cold.

It’s unnatural, and you don’t like it.

“Give me a light, Amara,” she says without looking up. It’s getting dark already; she must have been trying to push for a better spot. Looks like this was the best she could do. You spark your tail and mane and fritz yellow light through your stripes.

It’s cold. The wind picks up, yanks the rainfly out of her hands. You flick your tail and walk closer to her so that your body can shield her from the wind. Your hooves sink three inches into the snow.

This isn’t like her. She used to get caught out after dark like this, but that was long ago, when you were just a blitzle. She learned after the first few times. That’s what she does best, after all. She’s always calculating, always planning. It’s the only way she can be one step ahead of everyone else. Hilda’s always believed that if she just thinks hard enough, she’ll be able to plan a way to keep everyone safe. And she’s usually quite good at it. You respect that much about her.

While you wait there patiently, casting light around the grove of trees she’s trying to use as a windshield for tonight’s camp, you count up the times she’s let you out while she sets up camp. It’s a small number, one that’s quite close to the number of times the batteries in her headlamp have run out.

※​

{Vaselva,} you say, picking your way over to the serperior. You snort again. If she were truly part of your herd, she’d see the flashing of your stripes and understand your anxiety without you needing to shape it into words. But she's not. To Hilda, you’ve always been steadfast, adamant, ever-careening towards whatever she pointed you at. So to everyone else, you’re the same. A wall of lightning. Spiky and impenetrable. {This tower. What we intend to do atop it.} You let the rest of the sentence hang as if it’s a question.

Hilda tilts her head up at your words, but she doesn’t hear them, not really. She glances at you and then looks back at her x-transceiver, typing furiously into the screen.

Vaselva pretends to be asleep for a moment longer, curled protectively around Hilda and the fire.

{Vaselva.} She knows and is the only one who could tell you. Vaselva has twined around Hilda’s heart and Hilda’s mouth; while you languish in your ball, she is privy to your trainer’s deepest secrets.

You. You were her second. Vaselva explained things to you, back when you first joined the team. Hilda was your trainer. She’d received Vaselva on the first day of her journey. Vaselva would be the protector, but you were to help.

You were Hilda’s second. But you were the first one she chose. Of all the blitzle in the plains, she’d picked you.

The serperior cracks one eye open, but it’s a narrow, ruby slit. She glares at you without moving. {They say that N has located the Light Stone and seeks to awaken Reshiram. And Hilda seeks to climb the tower and halt him, before he undoes the world.}

You were afraid that that was the answer.

{Do you … do you want to stop N?}

This prompts a proper response. {N seeks to replace our real world with a fairytale one. He is a fool who dreams of ideals. Of course I want to stop him.} Vaselva tilts her whole head up this time—a mammoth movement by her standards, and the annoyance floods into her voice. {Amara, Thundersinger of the Plains. Listen to me instead of letting your doubts fester in your head. Our trainer is many things, but she isn’t the kind of person who is ready to do this alone. That’s why she has us.}

You were a child when your father told you the legends of the first kafara, of the great mandate that the dragons gave you. You were to help those who could not help themselves. Herds die when individuals decide that their blood is worth more than anyone else’s. To assume that importance is something you give yourself is the truest sin among the herd.

So you should be grateful for what Hilda gives you. She makes you important. She gives you something to protect. She lets you fight for her but doesn’t require your life. Her battles give your pain meaning. The dark stone in her bag sings to you, in the tongue of the ancient song. It marks her as worthy. Hilda’s role is to stand on the sidelines, protected and safe. Your role is to enter the fray. This is what it means to be kafara.

It all made sense before you heard N’s version of how the world should be.

The wind’s died down since you helped set camp, and now the silences hang in the snow. The wind was almost better. It let you know you weren’t alone.

You tell Vaselva, {She has us to fight her battles for her.}

{We are her partners. That is what partners do,} Vaselva replies serenely. She flicks her tail, but doesn’t even blink. {Would you rather she fight alongside us? N seeks to summon Reshiram. Her human body would turn to mulch in an instant.}

On the plains, white clouds cycle to black and back to grey. They concern themselves with the storm above, and they keep their squabbles to themselves. Sometimes, when the song is loud enough, the clouds will send down rain, to heal a fractured earth. But clouds never descend to engulf the mortals. Reshiram would not turn a human to mulch. Reshiram would never harm a human. Maybe serperior refused the mandate, maybe her kind never took up the mantle of being a guardian, but you know: the dragon who gave you your task would never fight those who could not fight back.

But even if the serperior does not know about the mandate, her question is not an easy one to answer. You don’t know what you want. You just have this strange, aching feeling.

This isn’t fair. None of this is fair.

The whispers started when you saw the soft one, N, with his words that sounded like the thunder. And in your heart he sparked a crackle of static that rebounded again and again until it roared like the storm. Something snags at your thoughts now, in a voice that sounds a bit softer than your own: this isn’t how things have to be.

He told you this back in Nimbasa, after you speared his sigilyph with a bolt of lightning and sent her tumbling to the earth. Things could be different. He understood what Hilda strove to protect, but he sought a different world. Pokémon no longer had to be strong in order to protect humans. You no longer had to put your body on the line to keep Hilda safe from the storm. Humans had grown past the time where they needed their siblings to risk themselves; what humans asked for now was mere entertainment and pleasure.

You stared at him in bewilderment. Your heart was a tangle of disparate, seething unease. N was weak, but he wanted to be a kafara, and speak for those who could not speak for themselves.

But Hilda and N can’t both be right. If he would take you from her, if he would make sure that pokémon no longer need to protect humans—then you would be a poor kafara if you let him. You can only be as strong as the ones you protect. A human wouldn’t understand that, not when they never have to protect anyone.

{Then she shouldn’t pick fights she can’t win on her own.}

{Is that truly what you think? There are weak ones in your herd, Amara, Thundersinger of the Plains.} This time, when she uses your full name, it almost feels like mockery. {Is that the way of your herd? Were the young blitzle thrown to the side if they were too slow to run?}

First Reshiram, now this. You stamp your foot. Sparks fly from it, and you have to quell your anger before you draw attention. But you needn’t have worried. Hilda doesn’t pay attention to the doings of her pokémon on a quiet evening, after all. She’s five feet away from you and she doesn’t even blink.

It’s easier to pretend that N is speaking for you. You borrow the words he whispered to you in the shadow of the Ferris wheel, while Hilda was fiddling with a potion for Jericho. {You were there, Vaselva. I was taken as a child. In the herd, the foals do not start battling until they are old enough to produce a charge, and even then—never like this. Never to the point of unconsciousness.}

{True, but there are hunters, are there not? A liepard would not merely knock you about until you fainted. You would never wake up, Amara.}

When you were two moons old, a shadow haunted the clan. You saw it, and, in your fear, shambled over to your mother. Your mother saw it, and then you, and then she threw her head into the air and brayed as loudly as she could. The herd bolted, and carried you away with them.

But you saw it happen. You were there. A flash of silver claws brought red to the surface. The golden grass thirstily received the new moisture.

That night, for the first time, your father explained what it meant to love someone more than you loved yourself.

When a liepard targets their prey, they do so quickly. The death is brutal, but it only lasts a few moments. Hilda, in seeking kindness, made that suffering last for months.

But Vaselva wouldn’t get that. She has bold words for one who was raised in a cage, where the cycle never applied. {Liepard must eat to survive,} you explain. {When the forests have thinned and the trees no longer bear fruit, they turn to us out of desperation. That is the cycle. We do not condone it, but we understand it.} Vaselva’s still staring at you smugly, which only sparks your anger further. {Liepard must eat to live. If they had been given a body like mine, to thrive off of windswept grass after a thunderstorm, then I would expect them to do so; if, even after speaking to me, they still chose the route that ended in my death, then you could judge. But they partake in flesh because their body gives them no other choice. That is the unfortunate agreement that this earth has decided we must reach with them.}

You pause. You would much rather ask Hilda this, but Vaselva is as close as you will get. Where your reasons fail, perhaps the serperior’s will not. {Why do you fight for her?}

{We journey alongside one another so we can all grow. It is difficult, but so is life. A seedling that knows only fertile soil and ample rain will wither away under the summer sun. At some point you must not trouble yourself with the why. A plant does not need a reason to flower. Growing strong means you do not doubt.}

Perhaps for a tree. But in the herds, you must always question. Even your father, and his story of a zebstrika’s purpose—you must question this as well. A foal that runs in a straight line is a foal that runs to certain death. {I am no plant.}

{Then leave,} she says tonelessly, but her eyes are still flicked up to look at you as you’re standing above her.

Her words form a pit of ice in your stomach. {Sorry?}

{Then leave, Amara, Thundersinger of the Plains. Go home, to your herd. Raise your tails to the sky and sing for the storm with your kin. Go back to your life in the cycle, and pray that a liepard does not find you in the night.}

The pit of ice sinks low, low into your hooves. {Don’t you think I tried?} You rack your brains. Was she there? You’d only just evolved; she would’ve been a servine then. Did you see her there, this little blur of emerald? You don’t remember. That is the only reason you don’t lance her down with lightning right now, that and the fact that at this range you would turn Hilda’s arms to ash. {I did. Right after the fight for the Quake Badge. I ran. I got fifteen minutes outside of town before Hilda found me. Got stopped by a trainer who’d seen the alert for a runaway zebstrika; he knocked me out and took me to a pokécenter. Reylin had evolved by then, so it took him four minutes to fly out to me with Hilda. ‘You poor thing,’ she told me. ‘I was so worried you’d gotten lost.’ I never stood a chance.}

But it’s more than that. There’s a nagging feeling you couldn’t shake from that fight, a confusion you can’t put into words. The sad laugh when she withdrew you after Clay’s palpitoad shattered your leg. The way her voice had remained steady when she’d added, “Never mind that plan.” Your father had never taught you a song for when a kafara’s sacrifice goes ignored by the rest.

Liepard pick the weakest. So among your herd you learned very young: do not show that you are hurt, lest you are prepared to be kafara. You can only let your vulnerabilities show to the ones you trust most of all; otherwise, the liepard will recognize your weakness as an invitation.

But humans pick the strongest. If you grit your teeth through a broken leg, if you remain impassive through a barrage of flames, you are more desirable. You become their rock. Strength will protect you from liepard and make you vulnerable to human hunters instead.

Your mane prickles, and you look up to see Reylin’s eyes glittering down from a branch overhead. The archeops’ colorful wings are folded at his sides, a pair of rainbow banners amongst the dark treetops and the white snow. The contrast of his colors reminds you: like you, he doesn’t belong here.

You fix him with a glare, but he only blinks back. You aren’t sure how much he understands; the tongue he knows died centuries ago with the rest of his kin. You’ve never heard him speak.

Vaselva waits a long time. She never likes interrupting people. She plants her words like seeds in your head, and then lets them twine around you like ivy through stone, patiently threading their way into your core before cracking it open from the inside. {But you fight for her still. You could run from her now, Amara, Thundersinger of the Plains. I am too slow to stop you. There is no pokécenter for miles. Why stay? If you hate what she makes you do so much, why do you love her?}

You don’t have the words to answer her because you don’t have a good answer for yourself. But Hilda offers you one thing no one else in your herd could: you can protect her without facing death. You can be her strength without risking your own life. You can, like your father before you, fulfill the mandate of the dragons, over and over.

She has a good mind for a human. She might understand kafara if you could ever explain it to her. Hilda’s always been talking about how the strong should defend the weak, about what she’ll do when she’s finally strong enough to make sure that you and Vaselva and everyone else will never have to hurt again.

But you doubt her, this human child, time and time again. How could you not? She who strives to be a hero, even though it would destroy her and you alike. She hurts you, she makes you get hurt. But that’s what heroes are for, surely. Being brave means you have to suffer first. When the first zebstrika received his spark and his color, the power was too much. It coursed through his veins and nearly tore him apart. The fracture lines are woven into all of your skins now. Pain is inextricable from sacrifice.

There were those in the herd you admired as strong, once. But they were not the biggest, or the fastest, or the ones with the loudest song of thunder, or the ones who evaded the liepard time and time again.

Kafara. The strongest were kafara.

Hilda looks up from her x-transceiver for the first time, and seems to notice the two of you standing head to head, exchanging glares. A frown flashes across her face for a brief moment, and then she fishers around for your pokéballs and says, “Alright, guys. Time for bed.”

Vaselva dissolves. Her smirk stays burned into the back of your mind.

※​

The next time you emerge, you’re at the entrance of Dragonspiral Tower. It’s night again. The moon is overhead, half-empty, casting pale light. A smattering of stars are on the horizon, but they’re faint—it’s newly night.

“Flash, Amara,” Hilda whispers quietly to you. “But we’re going to be quiet, okay?”

Hilda is a poor tactician if she thought you could be stealthy. The tower is made of stone and has plenty of space to echo. You have hooves. But you try your best. The clopping resonates up the whole of the spire.

You want to stop and marvel. What you see here is a structure older than anything you’ve ever seen in your entire life. The human buildings that interest Hilda are short-lived, new, shiny—the gyms and their strange machinations, mostly. And what you saw back on the plains were equally brief snapshots in their own right. The grass that sprouted in the spring died come winter. The clouds rolled out with the storm.

But the humans here sought to preserve the transient. Strange carvings twine up the walls. One dragon, and then two. A pair of humans wearing jewel-studded crowns. A war between them—and a proper one, with no pokémon as proxies. Kings and dragons fall. Engraved along the spiral, walking slowly and ceremoniously—you do your best at stealth, but there’s only so much you can do—it’s easy to appreciate the tower for what it holds. The staircase ends after precisely one revolution; you’re back where you started, just a hundred feet up. And the carvings are back where they started too, with a pair of slumbering dragons dotted in black and white stones.

The human legends are different from your songs, but this much is the same: the storm begins the same way it ends, with clouds rolling away to blue sky. Nothing changes.

By the time you and Hilda thread your way up the winding staircase, there’s someone waiting for you. The klink’s grown big. A full-fledged klingklang now, whirring protectively at the entrance into the top floor. They look at you solemnly. {Please don’t try to stop us.}

{I don’t have a choice.}

You, who thwarted N at so many turns. You helped Hilda beat him back time and time again, since the very beginning. He wouldn’t, couldn’t take you, not when you’ve made yourself into his enemy so many times. No human would.

{Amara,} says the klinklang in the language of thunder (when did he learn your name?), {you always have a choice.}

You wish they’d attack instead. That would make your job easier. But they just stand there, gears clicking six times per second, and they let you decide.

Hilda chooses for you, and pushes the klinklang aside. They don’t stop you with force, but instead trail behind the two of you as you reach the top.

The stone walls give way to open sky; up here, at the top of the tower, the winds of time have turned the roof to dust. The stars glimmer overhead. You dim your light; you don’t need it now.

N turns around. There’s a faint smile on his face when he sees the two of you. His hair blows in the wind. In his hands is a strange, white stone. From fifty feet away, you can feel it drawing to you like a magnet.

“Hilda!” he says. “And Amara! I’m glad you could come.” He sounds like he means it, too.

N holds the stone out in front of him, and suddenly you’re panicking, nostrils flared, heart racing. There was supposed to be more time. You were supposed to have a moment to think about this, before it all came crashing down. The winds blow around you in the open air. You notice distantly how high up you are, how unprotected everything suddenly feels. Unlike the openness of the plains, there’s nowhere to run, no path except over the edge.

The klinklang floats back to N’s side. “I almost thought you weren’t going to make it. I think it’s time,” N says. He looks at the stone, raises it in front of him. His arm trembles inside of the confines of his sleeves. The stone can’t be all that heavy, but gravity seems to intensify; you start to tremble as well.

You look nervously to Hilda, and she answers. “Wild Charge, Amara.”

Wild Charge? On him?

Your moment of hesitation is enough. N only needs two words to make you freeze.

“Reshiram,” N says. His voice is thin against the winds of the tower. You can hear it quaver. “Please!”

Immediately, the tempest halts, as if it was never there to begin with.

You watch, your heart aching in your chest, every inch of you screaming. You need to stop him, somehow. He who would destroy the world in an effort to save it.

You know this. But part of you … wants to watch it finally happen. What he offers sounds truly incredible. A world in which a human could be kafara as well. Can such a world exist? What would you be if humans saw they could fight for themselves? What purpose would you have?

Everyone on the tower has fallen silent. You’re all staring at this thin, impossible human and his stone.

The words ring out, not in any sort of sound, but in a message that you can hear transmitted to the very depths of your bones, rattling and shaking atop the tower.

A PARTIAL TRUTH IS NO BETTER THAN A LIE.

You shudder, and the klinklang and N do as well.

The stone falls, inert and silent, into N’s outstretched hand.

You exhale. He was judged and he fell short. Of course he was. What else could he be?

He doesn’t actually want this. He doesn’t actually mean it. He couldn’t, of course. No human would unilaterally want to do something so unselfish.

Not even unselfish—it has to be pure. There is no human equivalent for the word kafara. The one who warned the others when a predator arrived, even though crying out for help marked them as weak, as prey. There is no equivalent human term because there is no such thing as a human kafara. Humans always have ulterior motives. You aren’t surprised that he ends up no different in the end, when placed under the dragon’s discerning lens.

Yes. That’s why you’re happy to take him down, right? This man who would demand your freedom and have your love. He’s no better. He’s a liar, just like everyone else.

“Amara! Wild Charge!”

Yes. He’s a liar. You were a fool for believing otherwise. You let your frustration and your anger with her, him, with everyone, surge through your veins and outward to the edges of your body, lighting up your mane in fritzing light. That’s what you’d normally do. But you’re angry, and you have the power to release, so you pour more of it in, until you’re lit up like a beacon, no blinking at all, no stripes, no black, no white, only thunder. You canter forward.

His klinklang gets in the way, whirring urgently.

You don’t care. You bowl through them, scattering them to the ground. N’s staring at the stone in his hand, too stunned to give orders. Not that he’d give them anyway. He’s a liar, and an indecisive human, and you were a fool for ever believing he’d be any different.

You bray in frustration, letting out all of the electric charge out at once, and the resulting thunderstrike is so bright that it washes out the tower. When it clears, the klinklang is smoking. One set of gears is jammed together where the heat melted the teeth away.

Down below, you see specks swarming the Tower. Police? They’re coming here too? For N?

You shove down the part that doesn’t think he deserves it. Because he does. He’s a criminal. He’s bad. He’s a liar.

There are shouts echoing up the staircase now. Distantly, you hear one arcanine bark to the others, in words you don’t understand.

There’s another flash of red light. A pokéball flies into the air. “Reylin! Use Pluck to grab the stone!” Hilda shouts—

The archeops emerges, his wings flapping wildly. He soars over the chaos and blinks twice. You watch his eyes fasten onto N. The archeops swoops towards the ground, too low for a proper dive, and when he emerges there’s something red clutched in his talons.

The flash of metal catches your attention. His pokéball. He’s grabbed his pokéball.

“Reylin?” Hilda asks, but too slow. The archeops rockets towards N. He grabs N’s shirt in his beak, uses his talons to shove the pokéball into the N’s hands. Reylin shouts something urgently in a language you can’t understand, but you see a faint flicker of understanding in the human’s eyes.

The klinklang’s voice is urgent. {He’s right; we have to fly.} You count six whirs. {Inari, you need to distract them.}

You look at Reylin with betrayal twisting your stomach. He wasn’t even part of the team. He barely spoke. When he fought, he gave up when the pain was too much. But when the chance to flee appears, he doesn’t even hesitate to leave you behind.

Anger floods through you now. You can’t show the hurt, not without appearing weak to Hilda, so you let it out the only way you know how, the only way that’ll still show you’re still strong. Another bolt of electricity lances from your mane. You aim for the archeops without Hilda even having to tell you; N can’t get off the tower without wings.

The klinklang shoots up into the air, catching your attack head on. Your snort in annoyance as the charge fizzles across their body, sparks dissipating into the teeth of the gears. You hear the pain in their voice when they add, {Amara, he has made his choice. But you can still make yours.}

They don’t know anything about what you do and don’t have to do. They have a good human, who doesn’t make them fight, who doesn’t lament about how useless they’re starting to become, who doesn’t pit them up against a ladder of ever-stronger opponents. They have a good human.

But they have a bad trainer. He’s currently still standing in the middle of the tower, his hands cupped around the Light Stone, staring as if imbuing it with the intensity of his gaze will make his dream come true. He’s not giving any commands, too wrapped up in his own head to help anyone else.

Hilda chose you first, before you chose her. But the klinklang is so wrong. Your choice was made long, long ago, back when the first zebstrika made a promise to the ancient dragon. There’s no turning back.

So you rear back and lash out with your front hooves, laced with flames, the way Hilda taught you. The gears go flying, clattering into a stone pillar and causing it to crack under the impact. Your hooves hit the ground hard enough that you fear it’ll shatter, but the marble is strong.

And then, there’s a blast of light. That’s when you realize you’d stopped watching the stone.

A tongue of fire spirals in the center of the room, first a stream and then a pillar. Ash and soot storm around the vortex, and within it you strain your eyes to see the first hints of white feathers, an enormous figure spreading wings wide, neck arching twenty, thirty, fifty feet above.

{Reshiram,} you hear the klinklang say in a reverent voice before vanishing in a flash of red light.

The creature is enormous, straight out of a storybook, scraping at the ground with four legs, enormous tail lashing wildly. The scales on their back give way to enormous feathers, each one looking to be the size of your body. Light scintillates around the room in a dazzling, almost blinding pattern. Behind you, Hilda has fallen still and silent, in awe of this celestial god. There’s a clattering up the stairs, shouting, and the incoming police stop short as well.

Your heart sinks when you see the dragon unfold fully. You know what Reshiram is supposed to look like, and it isn’t this.

You prepare a bolt of electricity and fire it high. Still high enough that you’re hedging your bets, that it’ll hit the dissipating fire pillar instead of the image of god. Just in case you’re wrong.

You weren’t raised there, but you were born on the plains, a true child of the wild. It runs in your blood. You know what Unova’s dragons are supposed to look like, even if the humans behind you have forgotten. And you know, more importantly, that N has befriended a zoroark.

The image flickers once where your bolt hits it, and then the whole thing crumples in on itself like a wad of wet paper. The dragon’s wings distort in weird shapes, petals on the wind, and then it dissolves.

In its place is the same stone platform, the same crumbling pillars. The soot vanishes too, and the burn marks. And on the horizon, a splash of colorful feathers, the archeops flaps furiously with N slumped in his talons.

There’s shouting. Some discussion behind you about whether they should pursue. You don’t get to stick around for the conclusion—Hilda withdraws you before that. So you spend your time in your pokéball wondering, trying to piece together how far away they looked, how fast you’ve seen Reylin fly, if you’d seen any of the police come in with aerial units.

※​

Hilda sends you out in the middle of snowy plain. You don’t know what to expect; when you look around, you don’t see the telltale signs of her setting up camp. The sun is still high overhead. You glance around. Does she seek to train you? The snow would make it hard to find your footing.

“Reylin’s gone,” she says. Nothing more.

Is she … does she think you don’t know that? You watched it happen. You didn’t stop him.

Reylin was always a tricky one. He gave up fighting when it looked like he was going to lose. He wasn’t like the rest that Hilda chose. You and Vas and Jericho understood what it meant to fight until the end. And Hilda knew it too.

“He isn’t coming back.”

It’s when you hear the stony resignation in her voice that you finally piece together what’s happening. It’s been a while since she’s last sent you out for this, but you know.

She was given Vaselva. But you were the first one she chose. So while the serperior gets Hilda’s hopes, you get her fears. When she lost her first gym battle in Nimbasa; when she received that letter from her father; when the strange boy she thought was a friend was shaping up to be her greatest roadblock. She confided in you. You were her lighthouse, the one on her team that showed no pain or hesitation, guiding her through her storms.

You snort and lean in close, exhale a hot puff of air on her snow that lines her jacket. She reaches out and wraps her hands around the back of your neck, presses her forehead against your own, and sobs.

You think all pokémon who partner with humans can become kafara in the end. You hurt for her, you fight for her, and even here—you will share her pain for her as well. You were the first one she chose. That is your duty now. Kafara are only strong because they have someone to protect. What other job could you have now anyway, after all you’ve done?

You don’t ask what happened to N. You don’t know if you want him and Reylin to get away or not. Part of you still wants him to live to fight another day, while the other part of you hopes he rots. For taking the scales of your dragons to hide himself, for taking Reylin with him while leaving you behind, for pretending he wanted to make things better for anyone else. There is no such thing as a human kafara.

To the rest of the world, Hilda is brave, untouchable. Humans are not so different from the herd in that regard: they do not trust the weak ones. But to you, she is soft. She does not lie.

At least Hilda doesn’t pretend to be a hero.



p | n
 
Last edited:

OldschoolJohto

Never not editing
Pronouns
She/Her
Partner
solrock
I think all the pieces you need are in here, but I found myself wanting some information sooner than I got it, and some of the dialogue felt like it needed to be spaced out differently. This does feel like a nice follow-up to Carnel, though. Amara hides weakness too, but not quite for the same reasons. I think what I needed teased out a little more is how Amara's self-identification as Hilda's protector contrasts with Vaselva's self-identification as her protector. I have a feeling you know the answers--they're just not fully coming through for me yet. I think it just needs a few more clarifying sentences here and there.

Very into the hints at zebstrika spirituality though! And it's interesting to see how the conflicts between Hilda's pokemon differs from the conflicts between Cheren's.

but most prevalent is probably how she’s currently shivering against the wind that’s starting to blow in
but most prevalent is probably how she’s currently shivering against the wind that’s starting to blow in

they do not shed rain, but ice.
they shed not rain but ice.

You spark your tail and mane, and fritzing yellow light through your stripes.
Missing a verb in that second clause. Or it needs to become fritz--though you do also use that verb towards the end of the chapter. (It's a good one, admittedly.) Suggested replacements: fizzle, flicker, crackle.

you mentally count up the times she’s let you out while she sets up camp. It’s a small number. It’s also shockingly close to the number of times the batteries in her headlamp have run out.
Cut "mentally." But OOF.

If she were truly part of your herd,
Aha, once again we've got that theme of pokemon on a "team" ... not really feeling like a team, not really understanding each other.

And to Hilda, you’ve always been steadfast, adamant,
Nice subtle nod to game mechanics! You've got a couple moments throughout previous chapters that feel like an explanation of game mechanics without being in-your-face meta.

curled protectively around Hilda and the fire.
I wonder if this is uncomfortable for V. Ties into the theme of self-sacrifice being honorable in Amara's mind.

You were afraid that that was the answer. Vaselva has twined around Hilda’s heart and Hilda’s mouth; while you languish in your ball, she is privy to your trainer’s deepest secrets.

You. You were her second. Vaselva explained things to you, back when you first joined the team. Hilda was your trainer. She’d received Vaselva on the first day of her journey. Vaselva would be the protector, but you were to help. Of all the blitzle in the plains, she’d picked you. It was a great honor.

You were Hilda’s second. But you were the first one she chose.
I love the sentiments here, but it feels out of order.

Suggestion:
You were afraid that that was the answer. [Reaction: thought about N's plans. Reaction part 2: jealousy transition.] Vaselva has twined around Hilda’s heart and Hilda’s mouth; while you languish in your ball, she is privy to your trainer’s deepest secrets. [Maybe another beat here: is A resentful or resigned?]

Vaselva explained things to you, back when you first joined the team. Hilda was your trainer. She’d received Vaselva on the first day of her journey. Vaselva would be the protector, and you were to help. You were second.

But you were the first one she chose. Of all the blitzle in the plains, she’d picked you. It was a great honor. [< And I can't tell if that's facetious or not. She's emphasizing being chosen, so it seems like ... not? But later it feels like it is--she was "taken."]


Listen to me instead of letting your doubts fester in your head. Our trainer is many things, but she isn’t the kind of person who is ready to do this alone. That’s why she has us.}
This didn't feel like a direct response to Amara's question but maybe a follow-up to whatever the response to that would've been. Amara's asked about which side V thinks should win, and I think she needs to answer that directly--and probably that answer contains a jab at Amara's loyalty. Of course N is wrong.

N seeks to summon Reshiram.
This made me wonder what pokemon think of these gods. I have a pretty clear idea how humans feel about them from canon but not how pokemon feel about it. It seems like they must have a weird relationship--they're the OG of partnering with humans rather than doing their own godly things. At least, in the human telling of the story that's what they did.

the soft one, N, with his words that sounded like the thunder.
Aww I love this image. Feels very true.

And in your heart he placed a crackle of static
Nice image. Not sure about "placed" though. Maybe he filled her heart with static? Or lit?

This time, when she uses your full name, it almost feels like mockery. {Is that how your herd was raised? Were the young blitzle thrown to the side if they were too slow to run?}
Is that full name [Hilda's name] + [her original name]? I'm noticing that V's retort here feels veery filtered through a human lens, which checks out for me.

Hilda doesn’t pay attention to the goings of her pokémon on a quiet evening, after all.
Doings*

{You were there, Vaselva. You know. The herd protects. But you took me from them.}

{Hilda knew the risk. She was prepared to be the herd you had lost. Are you still bitter about that, Amara? Surely you’ve become stronger now than you ever did.}

{I was taken as a child. In the herd, the foals do not start battling until they are old enough to produce a charge, and even then—never like this. Never to the point of unconsciousness.}
Again, this felt a little out of order.

Suggestion:
{You know. The herd protects. But you took me from them.}

{Hilda knew the risk. She was prepared to be the herd you had lost. Are you still bitter about that, Amara? Surely you’ve become stronger now than you ever would have.}

{You were there, Vaselva. I was a child. In the herd, the foals do not start battling until they are old enough to produce a charge, and even then—never like this. Never to the point of unconsciousness.}


Hilda, in seeking kindness, made that suffering last for months.
Is she seeking kindness? I feel like kindess is just an interpretation of a side-effect of pursuing the goal of strength.

So among your herd you learned very young: do not show that you are hurt. You can only let your vulnerabilities show to the ones you trust most of all; otherwise, the liepard will recognize your weakness as an invitation.
This is an interesting twist on Tourmaline's mandate to hide your weaknesses last chapter and reinforces that it's natural behavior. But it's the wrong behavior to protect them from humans.

to thrive off of windswept grass after a thunderstorm, they would
"They would" feels incomplete and fuzzy.

A seedling that knows only fertile soil and ample rain will wither away under the summer sun. Growing strong means you do not doubt.}
Mmmmmvery nice. It also makes me think that Hilda is able to summon Zek not just because of her own conviction but because of V's.

If you hate what she makes you do so much, why do you love her?}
This got lost in the sauce where it's placed. This seems like a question that should throw Amara--and us--for a loop. Like, how the fuck does Vaselva know that? But also Amara can't deny it. Instead, we pivot away to adressing other questions and have no time to sit with that one.

The contrast of his colors reminds you: like you, he doesn’t belong here.
Mmm yes.

You aren’t sure how much he understands; the tongue he learned died centuries ago with the rest of his kin. You’ve never heard him speak.
Oh wow. Very interesting. Beeg F. I love how, later, N can understand him though.

Kafara. The strongest were kafara.
We get an explanation of this later, but I wanted it here.

“Flash, Amara,” Hilda whispers quietly to you. “But we’re going to be stealthy, okay?”
Maybe replace "stealthy" with quiet? A big light is its own kind of not-stealthy, but noise seems to be the main conceern here--which makes sense, given that they're climbing up a tower. Noise will travel up faster than light can get around a corner.

lighting up your main
Mane*

And what you saw back on the plains were equally brief snapshots in their own right. The grass that sprouted in the spring died come winter. The clouds rolled out with the storm.
I think this can be parsed out a little further. On the one hand, yes, those things are more fleeting than the modern buildings referenced, but they're also more ancient than even the tower in that the fleeting moments happen over and over in a way that's predictable. And! The humans have to carve their version of history onto their buildings, but it seems like zebstrika maybe have oral histories instead. And it seems to me that with all their pursuit of permanence, humans still forget the past and fail to learn from it--in general and also definitely with regards to Zekrom and Reshiram. Even assuming the version they've recorded is really what happened--again, I wonder a little about how that story sounds from other perspectives. The idea that Hilda loves things for their impermanence feels true in the context of knowing that Amara will die and Hilda will cry for her, but doesn't yet feel like something attached to Amara's lived experiences to this point.

with a pair of slumbering dragons hacked in black and white.
Maybe "hacked into the black and white stone"? Otherwise it makes me knee-jerk picture the dragons hacked to pieces.

The real answer to Vaselva’s question was one that you will never give her, no matter how much you think she’ll keep your secrets. You, who thwarted N at so many turns. You helped Hilda beat him back time and time again, since the very beginning. He wouldn’t, couldn’t take you, not when you’ve made yourself into his enemy so many times. No human would.
This is a little muddy. I think I get it, but the text could be clearer. Is the idea that Amara doesn't want to run anymore because she has nowhere to run to, since she doesn't believe N would take her in? If that's the crux for her, I see a gap: why does she have to run to a human? Why not run back to her herd?

On a sentence level ...You helped Hilda beat him back time and time again, since the very beginning. I either want to cut that sentence or for it to parallel the rhythm of the one that comes before it. You who time and time again helped Hilda, never him. Etc.

Hilda chooses for you, and pushes through to the top.
I wasn't sure what action is happening here. A short fight? In which case, what about Hilda's order makes her comply? Or is Hilda pushing past the klinglang, forcing Amara to protect her--or even not actually getting resistance from the klingklang?

N turns around. There’s a faint smile on his face when he sees the two of you. His hair blows in the wind.
💔

You notice distantly how high up you are, how unprotected everything suddenly feels.
I'd think that "unprotected"is the default on a plain. The height would be extra unnatural to her though, and I imagine she'd feel constrained too--nowhere to run except off the edge.

You shudder, and the klinklang and N do as well.

A PARTIAL TRUTH IS NO BETTER THAN A LIE.
These two sentences seem to want to swap places. But that Reshiram line is 👌

He was judged and he fell short. Of course he was. What else could he be?
What else could he be isn't parallel to falling short.

The storm picks up again, and the stone falls, inert and silent, into N’s outstretched hand.
I'd cut the storm part 2 and just have the stone fall back down, emphasizing that it's inert.

The one who warned the others when a predator arrived, even though their cries would surely broadcast their position to any who had ears. There is no equivalent human term because there is no such thing as a human kafara.
Again, this doesn't quite click for me because things are pretty much always visible on the plains. Except maybe at night, but a liepard would have no problem seeing in the dark anyway. I do like the idea of strength being self-sacrifice though! I think we just need a different example.

This man who would demand your freedom and your love.
Interesting! I think N demanding her freedom feels fair, but I'm not sure about demanding her love. Maybe "who would have your freedom and your love"?

no blinking at all, no stripes, no black, no white, only thunder.
"No blinking" threw me off, but "only thunder" is 👌 Maybe "no flickering"?

He’s a liar, and an indecisive human,
I definitely feel his indecision as a reader, but I'm not convinced what makes Amara say this.

the resulting thunderstrike is so bright that it washes out the tower.
Unclear what effect this had--was she attacking N directly? Did the klingklang absorb this hit too?

swoops down towards the ground to grab his pokéball in his talons.
I wanted a little clarity about where the pokeball was--and maybe for this moment to be dragged out longer. He swoops but, huh? Too low--is he hurt from XYZ, did he misunderstand? Nope, he comes up holding his own pokeball, recognizable by the __. I also wanted a moment of seeing him hesitate, seeing him choose.

You can’t show the hurt,
Might be worth reminding us why, since (again) this kinda echoes Tourmaline. + "without inviting attack"?

They have a good human.

But they have a bad trainer.
I like this distinction. But I need a little more about what it means to Amara. She seems resigned to needing a trainer even though she doesn't seem to trust in Hilda's team as a herd. Is this saying she thinks that, even if Hilda gets her hurt, she's safer with Hilda than with N?

Hilda chose you first, before you chose her. But the klinklang is so wrong. You made your choice long, long ago. There’s no turning back.
I don't think we've really seen her choose Hilda yet. In fact, she un-chose Hilda after the ground-type gym--she seems to have changed her mind at least once already.

laced with flames, the way Hilda taught you
Ooh yes.

each one looking to be the size of your body.
Each one the size of your body

and then the incoming police also stop short as well.
You've got as well and also--pick one.

until the gods blessed you with the ability to bear both their colors distinctly, as a reminder of the interplay between them. You know what Reshiram is supposed to look like, and it isn’t this.
I want to know more about this zebstrika lore! Expand? I also want some kind of hint at how it looks wrong to her.

and then the whole thing crumples in on itself like a wad of wet paper.
This is a very human simile, which maybe isn't a problem--she's been with Hilda for a long time. Great visual as well.

You didn’t stop him.
*Couldn't?

She received Vaselva.
Maybe even "was given"?

You were her lighthouse, the one on her team that showed no pain or hesitation, guiding her through her storms.
What a nice image. <3

It’s arrogant to assume it, but you think all pokémon who partner with humans become kafara in the end. You hurt for her, you fight for her, and even here—you will share her pain for her as well.
*Should become?
Clearly, Reylin didn't. He ditched Hilda--the anti self-sacrifice.

To the rest of the world, Hilda is brave, untouchable. Humans are not so different from the herd in that regard: they do not trust the weak ones. But to you, she is soft. She does not lie.

At least Hilda doesn’t pretend to be a hero.
So, here are the impressions I'm getting right now re: Amara and love: 1) she maybe doesn't love Hilda, but doesn't seem to totally hate her the way Tourmaline hates Hilda and Cheren? 2) she maybe loves Hilda because Hilda needs her to be kafara for her? I do X for you, therefore I must love you. This feels like a big overlap with Vaselva's chapter though. 3) She loves Hilda because, unlike N, she doesn't lie (and it seems like N is lying to others because he's lying to himself first, from Amara's perspective). But compared to herd ...? Her herd wouldn't have lied either.

I'm wondering if Vaselva and Amara both need to have a "grow where you're planted" vibe. For Vaselva it's about needing someplace to anchor to grow--she needs Hilda to be her rock. For Amara maybe it's about duty--she's here, whether it's what she ultimately wants or not, and therefore her duty is to be kafara. There are no kafara humans, but all pokemon should be kafara or they're weak. I also wonder: does she think Vaselva is doing this right? They have some obvious disagreements, but this seems like potential overlap. A possible difference would be Amara thinking that N's goal is a kind of kafara and therefore possibly trumping the sacrifices she might make for her trainer, and Vaselva wouldn't agree. I also think we need to see more about what she thinks of N's vision, to see her feel hope for it, to really feel her sense of betrayal when he fails. Then the arc of "N = kafara" --> "nope, he lied--there are no kafara humans, but at least my human doesnt lie" works really well. Though it becomes less an arc about why Amara loves Hilda and more an arc about why Amara doesn't defect to N.

Again, I like the ideas, love the iamges, but I think they need a little refinement. You got this though! 💪

I will say I've been loving continuously getting Vaselva in a new light. Each take on her feels distinct but part of a mossaic--the pieces make a whole rather than being in conflict.
 
Last edited:

Pen

the cat is mightier than the pen
Staff
I'm really enjoying how Hilda's team all have relationships with N and his pokemon--makes sense, since he can talk to them. I found Amara's sense of betrayal with N with the failed Reshiram summoning very visceral and I like how angry and self-justifying she came off as.

The part that worked less well for me was Amara's relationship with Hilda. It just seems like she doesn't think much of Hilda at all. It feels like you're trying to show her as conflicted in her loyalties, but she doesn't really seem conflicted about Hilda, just disdainful. Yet at other times she's clearly jealous that Veselva is the first. Overall, the arc more seems to be "I sort of hope he can do it" to "he's a liar like all humans." But that doesn't really resolve "why Hilda"?

I really like the idea of the kafara, and how that relates to N, but I had trouble parsing out in what sense Amara feels she's being like a kafara and to what extent that's why she's remaining with Hilda. We're given two answers with that--she's staying because it's like being a kafara and she's staying because she doesn't think N would take her. Pretty obvious third option of "return to the herd and be a kafara" that isn't at all touched upon. It would be one thing if she seemed to like her fellow pokemon battle and want to stick with them but . . . Amara just seems really unhappy.

It was interesting to see Veselva as more of an antagonist/Ico-like figure. I like how the nuance and context builds with each chapter--I now have a sense of Amara's headspace when she rammed Carnel when they oh so politely said hi to her on the battlefield. Really looking forward to Reylin and the klinklang POVs (I hope they exist, anyway!)

It’s starting to look like Hilda didn’t plan this through as well as you’d hoped.

You mean this in a lot of ways, but most prevalent is probably how she’s currently shivering against the wind that’s starting to blow in—a cold front from the moors, perhaps.
Hm. It's a compelling first sentence, but doesn't quite hold up, since we don't really hear what the other ways are. The second sentence is a bit on the long and clunky side. Maybe,"You mean this in a lot of ways, but the most immediate manifestation is the cold wind that's set you both shivering."

This is a strange land; when the clouds gather, they do not shed rain, but ice. There is no thunder to be found here, only cold.
Love the simplicity and clarity in this description, and how it sets the norm of what Amara is used to.

rainfly of her tent.
This felt like an oddly specific term to have in a pokemon POV. Maybe just "her tent"?

It’s getting dark already; she must have been trying to push for a better spot. Looks like this was the best she could do.
These three sentences are oddly confusing for what should be a simple point. It's dark. This must have been the best spot she could find.

You spark your tail and mane, and fritzing yellow light through your stripes.
I think you're missing a verb in that last clause? Or could just say "yellow light fritzes through your stripes."

You flick your tail and walk closer to her so that your body can shield her from the wind.
Interesting. No one asks her to do that, so it implies affection or at least long habit. But it sort of contradicts her later attitude.

It’s also shockingly close to the number of times the batteries in her headlamp have run out.
This is brutal af (I wonder about "shockingly" as an adverb for an electric type pokemon. Similar to Carnel and "stony silence.")

{Vaselva,} you say. Pick your way over to the serperior.
Don't love the abruptness of that. Why not just [{Vaselva,} you say, picking your way over to the serperior.]

If she were truly part of your herd, she’d understand the anxiety flashing through the stripes running down your back. But she’s not.
Think this could be drawn out more clearly. "If she were truly part of your herd, she’d see the flashing of your stripes and understand your anxiety without you needing to shape it into words. But she's not."

And to Hilda, you’ve always been steadfast, adamant, ever-careening towards whatever she pointed you at. So to everyone else, you’re the same.
Dropping the "and" would make this clearer, I think.

Vaselva has twined around Hilda’s heart and Hilda’s mouth; while you languish in your ball, she is privy to your trainer’s deepest secrets.
Feeling a lot of jealousy here.

You were Hilda’s second. But you were the first one she chose.
This seems like a mantra for Amara. I sort of want to understand what significance being chosen has for her, though. I feel like that never really is expressed. She tries to run away early on, and really seems to dislike Hilda.

{Do you … do you want to defeat N? Would the world be better undone?}
These two questions feel on way different scales. If you're asking "Would the world be better undone" I feel like you're in a much firmer place about how bad things are than Amara seems to be. I think I'd prefer it just being, "Do you … do you want to defeat N?" since all her ambivalence seems to center around him.

{Fine, Amara, Thundersinger of the Plains. Listen to me instead of letting your doubts fester in your head. Our trainer is many things, but she isn’t the kind of person who is ready to do this alone. That’s why she has us.}

{To make us fight?}
Like . . . Amara doesn't feel conflicted here. Feels like she'd read the Team Plasma pamphlet and is ready for onboarding.

It’s not an easy question to answer. You don’t know what you want. You just have this strange, aching feeling. This isn’t fair. None of this is fair.
I want a bit less vagueness about what isn't fair, I think.

It started when you saw the soft one, N, with his words that sounded like the thunder. And in your heart he placed a crackle of static that rebounded again and again until it roars like the storm.
ooh, I got shivers.

Bit curious about the epithet of "soft one" and what prompts that. Is it his voice? or his heart?

There are weak ones in your heard,
Herd!

Amara, Thundersinger of the Plains.} This time, when she uses your full name, it almost feels like mockery.
Getting Ico vibes from Vaselva in this chapter!

{Is that how your herd was raised? Were the young blitzle thrown to the side if they were too slow to run?}
"was raised" reads weird to me. Is this how your herd did things? Was this the way of your herd?

Hilda doesn’t pay attention to the goings of her pokémon on a quiet evening, after all.
Doings of her pokemon? Or goings on?

{You were there, Vaselva. You know. The herd protects. But you took me from them.}

{Hilda knew the risk. She was prepared to be the herd you had lost. Are you still bitter about that, Amara? Surely you’ve become stronger now than you ever did.}

{I was taken as a child. In the herd, the foals do not start battling until they are old enough to produce a charge, and even then—never like this. Never to the point of unconsciousness.}

{True, but there are hunters, are there not? A liepard would not merely knock you about until you fainted. You would never wake up, Amara.}
Having trouble expressing why, but this back and forth felt a bit odd to me. "Hilda knew the risk" especially feels like a non sequitur. I also don't have a sense of how new Amara expressing these doubts is. Veselva sounds a bit like this is a back and forth they've had before.

When a liepard targets their prey, they do so quickly. The death is brutal, but it only lasts a few minutes. Hilda, in seeking kindness, made that suffering last for months.
Hm, I don't know if you want to go down the route of "death is better than this" so blatantly. I think you could convey this maybe more through impressions? Amara remembering a death she witnessed in the wild versus a pokemon in prolonged suffering during a battle?

"Vaselva weaves her words so confidentially, as if she understands this better than you. But you have seen a liepard stalking. You saw the pounce, heard your herd-mate's cry. It had been bloody, but fast. When the palpitoad broke your leg, the pain . . ."

And it’s more than that. Liepard pick the weakest. So among your herd you learned very young: do not show that you are hurt. You can only let your vulnerabilities show to the ones you trust most of all; otherwise, the liepard will recognize your weakness as an invitation.

But humans pick the strongest. If you grit your teeth through a broken leg, if you remain impassive through a barrage of flames, you are more desirable. You become their rock.
It's weird that this is set-up as a contradiction because basically it seems like she's saying the herd and humans prize the same thing: not showing weakness. I'm not really sure what point this is trying to make.

But Vaselva wouldn’t get that. She has bold words for one who was raised in a cage, where the cycle never applied.
I like this gulf between wild and bred pokemon.

. {Liepard must eat to live. If they had been given a body like mine, to thrive off of windswept grass after a thunderstorm, they would; if even after that they still chose to speak to me and take the route that ended in my death, then you could judge. But they partake in flesh because their body gives them no other choice. That is the unfortunate agreement that this earth has decided we must reach with them.
I really like how she expresses it here.

A seedling that knows only fertile soil and ample rain will wither away under the summer sun. Growing strong means you do not doubt.}

Perhaps for a tree. But in the herds, you must always question. A foal that runs in a straight line is a foal that runs to certain death. {I am no plant.}
Love how they're both drawing wisdom from their species/cultures and the inevitable clash of that.

"Growing strong means you do not doubt." feels a bit non sequitur to me though.

If you hate what she makes you do so much, why do you love her?}
So I guess this line sums up the confusion in the chapter--whether this is about Amara grappling with loving Hilda but feeling disenchanted by her, or if it's more about her hopes about N but being disenchanted by him.

{Don’t you think I tried?} You rack your brains. Was she there? You’d only just evolved; she would’ve been a servine then. Did you see her there, this little blur of emerald? You don’t remember. That is the only reason you don’t lance her down with lightning right now, that and the fact that at this range you would turn Hilda’s arms to ash. {I did. Right after the fight for the Quake Badge. When she sent me out against Clay’s palpitoad because she didn’t realize tympole channel the earth when they evolve, and can quell my lightning. In a grounded gym. ‘Never mind that plan,’ she’d said to Clay when she withdrew me. That palpitoad broke my leg with one of his seismic attacks. In the herd that would’ve meant death. Never mind.}

You look at Vaselva. Dare her to challenge you, tell you that Hilda was a good person for saving you from the death she’d asked you to face. She says nothing, so you continue. {Her callousness sparked a fire in me that I thought had gone out a long time ago. What kind of person could do this? My pain meant so little to her. She used gentle words after, but they couldn’t make me forget that little laugh. Never mind. So I ran. I got fifteen minutes outside of town before Hilda found me. Got stopped by a trainer who’d seen the alert for a runaway zebstrika; he knocked me out and took me to a pokécenter. Reylin had evolved by then, so it took him four minutes to fly out to me with Hilda. ‘You poor thing,’ she told me. ‘I was so worried you’d gotten lost.’ I never stood a chance.}
This monologue kind of blows the 'Amara is conflicted about Hilda' thing out of the water. If Amara can shape all of this into words, that's a hell of a lot more than the vague sense that something not fair mentioned earlier. If this is here, it's not a vague sense she can't put into words. If you want to keep the more conflicted Amara idea, I think it would be better for this to be flashback and something that gets digested more over the course of the chapter. I mean this "Her callousness sparked a fire in me that I thought had gone out a long time ago. What kind of person could do this? My pain meant so little to her" is pretty on the nose. It's Tourmaline territory.

The contrast of his colors reminds you: like you, he doesn’t belong here.
Nice moment

he only blinks owlishly back
This threw me a tiny bit because of "owlishly."

You aren’t sure how much he understands; the tongue he learned died centuries ago with the rest of his kin. You’ve never heard him speak.
I really like this set-up for when N understands him later on.

Vaselva waits a long time, perhaps trying to draw out your next outburst. She never likes interrupting people. That’s the grass part in her, probably. Hates having to pick through the weeds to get to a simple conversation, always patient to let yourself grow into a trap. She lets her words twine around you like ivy through stone, patiently threading their way into your core before cracking it open from the inside.
Hm, this paragraph is a bit self-contradictory. Being silent doesn't seem like the way to "draw out" an outburst. Not sure where interrupting plays in when they're in the middle of a long silence. I didn't follow the weed metaphor and I'm not sure about "grow into a trap." With all this emphasis on Vaselva's silence, it seems odd to have these final sentences about her words twining. Feels like that would go better next to a portion where she speaks.

Misc ideas:
Vaselva waits a long time, perhaps hoping you'll talk yourself out without further prompting from her.

She doesn't like to bother with seeds of thoughts; she waits for your words to grow into something recognizable before she mows them down.

{But you fight for her still. You could run from her now, Amara, Thundersinger of the Plains. I am too slow to stop you. There is no pokécenter for miles. Why stay? If you could find the strength you seek on your own, then do it.}

There were those in the herd you admired as strong, once. But they were not the biggest, or the fastest, or the ones with the loudest song of thunder.

Kafara. The strongest were kafara.
So, from reading to the end, her answer is "I'm staying because by sacrificing myself in battle for this human I am like the kafara, and the kafara are the strongest, and that's who I want to be." I have a few questions about this. The kafara are strong because their sacrifice is for the sake of the herd, right? But Amara doesn't know what Hilda is fighting for. So it doesn't seem equivalent. It could be interesting if she takes N's "betrayal" and converts that into a positive purpose, like "Reshiram my god said that he's a liar and I should destroy lies" or something. I also want to dig a bit more into the fact that Amara does seem invested in being "strong" even though her conception of it is different than Vaselva's.

All that said, none of this was clear to me on initial read, and in this case, I'm not sure the ambiguity served the chapter well. I think there needs to be a bit more here for the reader to latch onto.

Vaselva dissolves. Her smirk stays burned into the back of your mind.
Ico vibes again! It's interesting to me how intimidating and nasty the starter pokemon come off as towards the wild pokemon. Especially striking with Vaselva, who seemed a lot less asshole-ish in her POV. Her chapter showed some ambivalence about Hilda and N--I wonder if that was always there but she's hiding it from Amara, or whether it only comes in after Reylin's defection and other events.

A smattering of stars are on the horizon, but they’re faint—it’s newly night.
I liked this. "Newly night" felt very vivid, like Amara's tasting the air.

Hilda is as dumb as a rock if she expected any quiet. The tower is made of stone and has plenty of space to echo. You have hooves. There is absolutely no situation in which you would be stealthy here.
Wow Amara taking no prisoners. She seems downright disdainful of Hilda here.

You want to stop, and marvel. What you see here is a structure older than anything you’ve ever seen in your entire life. The human buildings that interest Hilda are short-lived, new, shiny—the gyms and their strange machinations, mostly. And what you saw back on the plains were equally brief snapshots in their own right. The grass that sprouted in the spring died come winter. The clouds rolled out with the storm.

But humans do have a strange habit of wanting to protect the intransient. Strange carvings twine up the walls. One dragon, and then two. A pair of humans wearing jewel-studded crowns. A war between them—and a proper one, with no pokémon as proxies. Kings and dragons fall. Engraved along the spiral, walking slowly and ceremoniously—you do your best at stealth, but there’s only so much you can do—it’s easy to appreciate the tower for what it holds. The staircase ends after precisely one revolution; you’re back where you started, just a hundred feet up. And the carvings are back where they started too, with a pair of slumbering dragons hacked in black and white.
I loved Amara's perspective on the tower. In general you have a vivid and almost loving way of describing architecture--I noticed it in srbs too.

One sentence I'm not sure about "But humans do have a strange habit of wanting to protect the intransient." I feel like you mean something like "preserve the transient"? But maybe I'm misreading the intent.

The klink’s grown big. A full-fledged klingklang now, whirring protectively at the entrance into the top floor. They look at you solemnly. {Please don’t try to stop us.}

{I don’t have a choice.}

The real answer to Vaselva’s question was one that you will never give her, no matter how much you think she’ll keep your secrets. You, who thwarted N at so many turns. You helped Hilda beat him back time and time again, since the very beginning. He wouldn’t, couldn’t take you, not when you’ve made yourself into his enemy so many times. No human would.

{Amara,} says the klinklang in the language of thunder (when did he learn your name?), {you always have a choice.}

You wish they’d attack instead. That would make your job easier. But they just stand there, gears clicking six times per second, and they let you decide.

Hilda chooses for you, and pushes through to the top.
Oof, brutal exchange here. I love that the klinklang speaks in the language of thunder. In light of what we learned about the different languages last chapter, that tells me that N's pokemon all teach each other and have learned many tongues, and I love that.

So, here we get the "real answer" and it seems to be that Amara can't leave Hilda because N wouldn't take her? Okay . . . but why not just leave and go back to the herd? I feel like that really needs to be answered.

"Hilda chooses for you" rip

Amara has got a lot of self-justification going on here.

He sounds like he means it, too. It’s like he’s planning a birthday party—the thought is halfway through your head before you consider that, from his point of view, this is a birth of sorts, not an end.
I love inappropriately cheerful N, but idk about Amara using birthday party metaphor. Feels like a very human metaphor.

N holds the stone out in front of him, and suddenly you’re panicking, nostrils flared, heart racing. There was supposed to be more time. You were supposed to have a moment to think about this, before it all came crashing down. The winds blow around you in the open air. You notice distantly how high up you are, how unprotected everything suddenly feels. The klinklang floats back to N’s side.
Great moment. Amara's panic feels very visceral and I relate to her sense of "oh crap I though I had more time to choose."

You look nervously to Hilda, and she answers. “Wild Charge, Amara.”

Wild Charge? On him?
I'm honestly unsure if Hilda is meant to mean N or the kinklang here! It feels like the implication is it would be worse if it were N, which ties into Ghetsis' point in the Alder battle.

Your moment of hesitation is enough. N only needs two words to make you freeze.

“Reshiram,” N says. His voice is thin against the winds of the tower. You can hear it quaver. “Please!”

Immediately, the tempest halts, as if it was never there to begin with.
Such a contrast between his summoning attempt here and in "end."

You watch, your heart aching in your chest, every inch of you screaming. You need to stop him, somehow. He who would destroy the world in an effort to save it.

You know this. But part of you … finally wants to watch it happen.
So, this the second reference we have to N destroying the world. I kind of want a better sense of what Amara thinks that means, or what will happen. Is this based on something Hilda told her? Is this based on legends her own people have about the gods?

Everyone on the tower has fallen silent. You’re all staring at this thin, impossible human and his stone.

The words ring out, not in any sort of sound, but in a message that you can hear transmitted to the very depths of your bones, rattling and shaking atop the tower. You shudder, and the klinklang and N do as well.

A PARTIAL TRUTH IS NO BETTER THAN A LIE.

The storm picks up again, and the stone falls, inert and silent, into N’s outstretched hand.
DAMN. Rejected. I like that Reshiram gives N something to go off of here, rather than just not answering. And as we know, N takes that message to heart!

You exhale. He was judged and he fell short. Of course he was. What else could he be?

He doesn’t actually want this. He doesn’t actually mean it. He couldn’t, of course. No human would unilaterally want to do something so unselfish. Not even unselfish—you don’t know the human word for it, but in the herd the word was kafara. The one who warned the others when a predator arrived, even though their cries would surely broadcast their position to any who had ears. There is no equivalent human term because there is no such thing as a human kafara. Humans always have ulterior motives. You aren’t surprised that he ends up no different in the end, when placed under the dragon’s discerning lens.

Yes. That’s why you’re happy to take him down, right? This man who would demand your freedom and your love. He’s no better. He’s a liar, just like everyone else.
I really liked this moment of Amara's disenchantment. She just seems so unhappy and angry that she even let herself hope.

Yes. He’s a liar. You were a fool for believing otherwise. You let your frustration and your anger with her, him, with everyone, surge through your veins and outward to the edges of your body, lighting up your mane in fritzing light. That’s what you’d normally do. But you’re angry, and you have the power to release, so you pour more of it in, until you’re lit up like a beacon, no blinking at all, no stripes, no black, no white, only thunder. You canter forward.

His klinklang gets in the way, whirring urgently.

You don’t care. You bowl through them, scattering them to the ground. N’s staring at the stone in his hand, too stunned to give orders. Not that he’d give them anyway. He’s a liar, and an indecisive human, and you were a fool for ever believing he’d be any different.

You bray in frustration, letting out all of the electric charge at once, and the resulting thunderstrike is so bright that it washes out the tower.
Amara's anger comes through really viscerally.

Down below, you see specks swarming the Tower. Police? It isn’t illegal to climb up here, not enough to warrant lethal force, but—you suspect they’ll bend the rules a little for him, just this once.

Because he’s a criminal. Because he’s bad. Because he’s a liar.
Hm, I feel like this is more kintsugi narrator telling us this than Amara. Feels weird to me that Amara has knowledge on what warrants lethal force from the police.

There’s another flash of red light. A pokéball flies into the air. “Reylin! Use Pluck to grab the stone!” Hilda shouts—

The archeops emerges, his wings flapping wildly. He soars over the chaos, blinks twice, and then swoops down towards the ground to grab his pokéball in his talons.

“Reylin?” Hilda asks, but too slow. The archeops rockets towards N. Grabs his shirt in his talons, shoves the pokéball into the N’s hands. Reylin shouts something urgently in a language you can’t understand, but you see a faint flicker of understanding in the human’s eyes.
Love this! Reylin! I am excited to learn how he gets there.

You look at Reylin with a sense of betrayal twisting your stomach. He would defect? He thwarted your escape before, knowingly or not. But when the chance to flee appears before you, he doesn’t even hesitate to leave you behind.
Hm, I don't understand "He thwarted your escape before, knowingly or not" I don't think we had any reference to that? The feeling of betrayal I sort of get, but considering we're told she can't even understand Reylin, that falls a bit flat. They clearly weren't close at all.

You can’t show the hurt, so you let it out the only way you know how, the only way that’ll still show you’re still strong. Another bolt of electricity lances from your mane. You aim for the archeops without Hilda even having to tell you; N can’t get off the tower without wings.
Because if you show hurt the liepard get you/ the human abandon you? But she doesn't care about the latter. I didn't feel fully convinced by the reasoning around strength here, though I'm open to the idea that hurt/betrayal is animating this anger.

You hear the pain in their voice when they add, {Amara, he has made his choice. But you can still make yours.}

They don’t know anything about what you do and don’t have to do. They have a good human, who doesn’t make them fight, who doesn’t lament about how useless they’re starting to become, who doesn’t pit them up against a ladder of ever-stronger opponents. They have a good human.

But they have a bad trainer. He’s currently still standing in the middle of the tower, his hands cupped around the Light Stone, staring as if imbuing it with the intensity of his gaze will make his dream come true. He’s not giving any commands, too wrapped up in his own head to help anyone else.
Love this analysis of N as good human but bad trainer.

Hilda chose you first, before you chose her. But the klinklang is so wrong. You made your choice long, long ago. There’s no turning back.
So what choice exactly did Amara make and when did she make it? The only choice we learn is that she tried to run away and was thwarted. When did she decide to choose Hilda and why?

When you were a foal, barely able to run, your father told you how the first zebstrika used to be grey, until the gods blessed you with the ability to bear both their colors distinctly, as a reminder of the interplay between them.
This is my jam and I love how the black/white is tied both to their worship of Resh/Zek and the way on a more figurative level, Amara rejects N entirely for his partial truth.

You know what Reshiram is supposed to look like, and it isn’t this.

You prepare a bolt of electricity and fire it high. Still high enough that you’re hedging your bets, that it’ll hit the dissipating fire pillar instead of the image of god. Just in case you’re wrong.

You weren’t raised there, but you were born on the plains, a true child of the wild. It runs in your blood. You know what Unova’s dragons are supposed to look like, even if the humans behind you have forgotten. More importantly: you know that you haven’t seen the zoroark.

The image flickers once where your bolt hits it, and then the whole thing crumples in on itself like a wad of wet paper. The dragon’s wings distort in weird shapes, petals on the wind, and then it dissolves.
Ooh, smart. Something about "More importantly: you know that you haven’t seen the zoroark." was confusing though on first read.

You don’t know what to expect; when you look around, it’s not like she’s trying to set up camp or anything. The sun is still high overhead.
Maybe, "You don’t know what to expect; when you look around, you don't see any signs that she's setting up camp."

Doesn't Hilda let out Amara sometimes for training/practice?

She received Vaselva. But you were the first one she chose. So while the serperior gets Hilda’s hopes, you get her fears. When she lost her first gym battle in Nimbasa; when she received that letter from her father; when the strange boy she thought was a friend was shaping up to be her greatest roadblock. She confided to you. You were her lighthouse, the one on her team that showed no pain or hesitation, guiding her through her storms.
That's interesting, especially when I think of the opening to the Vaselva chapter where she says Hilda was never ruffled once until Amara's death. Another side effect of pokeballs--you can micromanage your image to your pokemon as well.

It’s arrogant to assume it, but you think all pokémon who partner with humans become kafara in the end. You hurt for her, you fight for her, and even here—you will share her pain for her as well. You were the first one she chose. Kafara are only strong because they have someone to protect. That is your duty now. What other job could you have now anyway, after all you’ve done?
I'm really curious about the "all you've done." For opposing N? Striking the kinklang?

You don’t ask what happened to N.
I mean . . . asking would be useless anyway, since Hilda doesn't understand pokemon.

You don’t know if you want him and Reylin to get away or not. Part of you still wants him to live to fight another day, while the other part of you hopes he rots. For taking the scales of your dragons to hide himself, for taking Reylin with him while leaving you behind, for pretending he wanted to make things better for anyone else. There is no such thing as a human kafara.

To the rest of the world, Hilda is brave, untouchable. Humans are not so different from the herd in that regard: they do not trust the weak ones. But to you, she is soft. She does not lie.

At least Hilda doesn’t pretend to be a hero.
Oof. That last line sounds like N's anxiety personified.
 
Top