• 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!

OldschoolJohto

Never not editing
Pronouns
She/Her
Partner
solrock
So much sweetness in this chapter! You're not wrong--the fluff is extremely bittersweet because we know what's going to happen to N's friend's Zahhak and Carnel--but it's still sweet. N's patience (and anxiety!) really stand out because no other character has taken the time for such kindness yet.

This is the most optimal design.
I really enjoyed this refrain!

and he’s asked this very heavy question.
He didn't actually ask a question though--it was a doubt-laden statement.

From his bucket of water, the fossil begins a rough torrent of words.
OMG baby's in a bucket.

the strange division of white-blue chasing itself around the horizon as you spin.
I wasn't sure what was typically white in this scenario if not a cloud-capped sky?

The human has tried to get all of you to practice,
OMG, this is so wholesome. "Come on, guys! It'll be a great surprise for him! It'll make him so happy!" It does highlight that N teeter-totter of kindness/ineffectualness though, RIP. "Tried to get."

If he stayed with you and the flesh,
That is what you remember of him most of all when he looks up at the soft human, who has crouched down and compressed his gangly frame—you have to look away for a moment; it’s unsettling to watch his flesh do that
The flesh! OMG. This hit D I F F E R E N T for me because I've been neck-deep in a horror podcast lately. 🙃 But I love how Spur is clearly extending some generosity and kindness to N--they see human bodies the way some humans see spiders. Both comical and a great window into their mindspace.

I will travel with you to the cave,} says the stonesinger, in a rumble of ore. {In three moons I will need to rejoin my crag for the journey north. I find at this moment I do not want to leave. If that changes, I will make that known.}
Oh no oh no

You and her got along in that regard.
*she, I'm pretty sure.

Of course. I know a few trainers, or would you prefer to find your own?”

The steelseed thinks for a second. {I would be interested in meeting your human friends.}

The human smiles, brushes a bit of dirt off of his pants. “I’d be happy to introduce you.”

And just like that, half your team is gone.
This is so bittersweet. He's the guy who goes on a date that doesn't work out but sets them up with his friend instead. He just wants to help.

Gearlings have no concept of deceit; that’s something you’ve had to pick up from your brief stint with the flesh. You aren’t very good at seeing it yet.
This makes sense to me.

So you made something up. It was inoptimal design.
Hahaha, FINE, CALL ME SPUR IF YOU MUST.

Gears were meant to transmit motion, not to have motion transmit them
I liked this.

The world is biggear problem to change.
Since this was outside of dialogue, I wanted the dropped article to come back in: a biggear problem.

and when they don’t listen, they don’t see. They didn’t make the world bad, so they don’t think they can make it better.
Super real.

He nods. Perhaps he had guessed this already, but wanted to be sure. You like this about him. A good design must be checked. “I don’t think I agree.”
Hahaha, thinking like a designer, perhaps? You can drop the comma after already. I love that N is the kind of person who nods his head when he means no. So gentle.

A friend of mine taught me that.
</3

You spin a little faster. Leader is agitated. Follower does not keep up. Careful! Sorry. Oh no. You don’t want to throw teeth again. That happened once, and it took weeks to regrow. You made a klink-klink-klink sound that echoed horribly.
This is great! I love the emphasis on their physicality.

Ah, yes. The rotations make it very clear to those in the geartrain. All feel it immediately, if they mesh. But in this translation to someone outside of the geartrain, you can see now why reusing nouns would be a bad idea.
Hahahaha. Miscommunication is such a theme here. Even when you're speaking the same language and aware there's a misunderstanding, it can be so hard to get it right!

That makes sense. I didn’t mean to interrupt.”
<3

For emphasis, you briefly let follower and leader spin in different directions. Klang-klang-klang. The act almost makes you shudder, and you immediately return to harmony.
I love.

Oh. Good! He is starting to understand you better—he has picked up on your velocity-empahsis.
It's so sweet how he notices and appreciates the effort! they're both so patient with each other.

When the mesh is good it is sometimes difficult to tell which is which.
Yesssss.

Unfortunate. He should stay in your cave forever. The gearling would like him, you think.
OMG, cave tea party AU when?

You can almost see the thoughts spinning above his head, perfectly round, perfectly in orbit.
Aww, projecting onto him real hard because he likes him and wants to understand.

He will search across every corner of Unova for his follower and will not find it.

Hmmm. This strikes you as unfair.
RRRRIP. Yeah, he's on a lonely path. Though eventually! It seems like he and Reshiram mesh just fine. :)

If you ever melt, you would hope he has the forethought to look away and not see you in your disgrace.
OMG. RIP, both the sweetness of them trying to spare N's feelings and the callback to the state Spur is in at the very beginning of the story.

That solution seems inoptimal, but it also seems correct.
<3

“You don’t have to. Please, Spur. Don’t feel like you have to.”
He's almost begging them, wowee. He doesn't know how to take yes for an answer.

if you follow him to the end of this path—there’s only fire ahead. A world that ends with Reshiram awakening will not end quietly.
Yyyyup.

You're not wrong that the chapters with N really shiNe! But it's not just that. This one really benefits from our prior knowledge from previous chapters. This was both a very enjoyable way to start my day ... and the saddest how could you.
 
  • Quag
Reactions: Pen

kintsugi

golden scars
Pronouns
she/her/hers
Partner
silvally-grass
wow doing these before sunday like a respoNsible adult

Damn kintsugi, you really knocked it out of the park with this one. It's just a feels-train all the way through. I love the klinklang POV and the central metaphor and problem of the chapter is fascinating.
i'm honestly stunned that this chapter, originally a shitpost, worked i mean um yes very on purpose the whole way through never doubted about this i was so convinced i coulda summoned a dragon

I also love the constant issues of translation and mindset between the two and how Spur ultimately comes to their understanding.
Yeah! I think -- and this is especially clear now -- even when two people speak the same language, it's easy for things to get lost. For me N's magic bullet isn't the fact that he can listen to pokemon; it's that he tries to understand them.

The background fridge horror of Carnel's fate does an excellent job darkening the fluff and reminding us of the stakes.
carnel is fine everyone is fiiiine

Couldn't really follow this. N says "You tried your best' implying Zara the tirtouga fought? But then N says "you aren't ready [to fight]" so I'm ??
Ah whoops, got blinded by the chronology. Zara has some ... Good Decisions soon that result in the fight, even if he's too young to fight.

Wasn't sure about the use of the "most optimal design" phrase here. Does Spur really think the trainer-pokemon relationship is the most optimal design? That's not the sense I get.
Oooh good catch. I meant optimized in terms of, like, time? But not in general? I think it's fair to say that battling levels up/results in evolution faster, even if some other things might get lost on the way. Changed the wording on that.

Like this xeno POV detail.
f l e s h

Could play with the POV more here? "Like he's trying to blow dust off of the thunderlegs"
omg my heart

💔 and N thinks Carnel changed his mind and went off. Poor babies.
N is low-key very sad about this .-. but also happy because! Carnel is making good decisions and sometimes friends have to go on different paths! Hopefully they will meet again soon!

Oh wow, so much here. Love the image of N walking the length and breadth of Unova carrying a stone turtle in a bucket so baby fossil can see the sights. Double love N pretending he's tired so Spur can rest and Spur being so onto him.
have turtle will travel <3

This line didn't feel very in-POV to me. How do the gears conceptualize being noble or making a name for yourself? Those concepts feel a bit foreign to them. Honestly think you could cut this line without impacting the flow.
mmm, agree

thanks for reminding me of Zahhak's whole tragic plotline.
* sad zahhak beatboxing sounds *

Love that. Steel types and more mechanical pokemon can be depicted as rigid and unquestioning (borg style) so I really liked this approach.
hahaha I never get why they're portrayed like that! Science societies should be all about constant self-questioning haha hi N

(Maybe find a synonym for ideal, just to avoid Truth/Ideal stuff popping up where it's not relevant?)
mmm done

h a r m o n i a
fun! fact! this was a music metaphor the whole time

I've reread and I'm still not sure how what N's saying here is so incorrect? He's captured the gist of it, right? Finding the right fit is the hard part, even if checking it is easy.
Sort of explained over Discord, but -- the gist is that NP problems are just so, so much more complex than P. All problems are easier to check than they are to solve, but the complexity of NP vs P is like, ferrari to hotwheels or whatever metaphor I used. I added a bit of gear POV to clear that up in-narrative tho

or is it ... n^n???
tbh I wanted it to be n^n and I forgot why I thought that wouldn't work but I'm going to change it now lol

Aww, this is so moving. Feels for days. Love these two.
QUAG

Oof. Fossil POV soon??
ummmmmm

I'm glad you enjoyed! This was definitely a chapter that I stubbornly liked that I didn't think would go down well, so, hey. Math metaphors for days.

He didn't actually ask a question though--it was a doubt-laden statement.
oh true lol. Changed that!!
OMG, this is so wholesome. "Come on, guys! It'll be a great surprise for him! It'll make him so happy!" It does highlight that N teeter-totter of kindness/ineffectualness though, RIP. "Tried to get."
love ur turtle and he will love you in return
fun fact actually! In Amara's chapter, Spur can actually understand Reylin, so it did work! just took a while

I wasn't sure what was typically white in this scenario if not a cloud-capped sky?
oh rip it's supposed to be snow.

*she, I'm pretty sure.
spur! knows! pronoun! rules! even if i don't

Hahaha, FINE, CALL ME SPUR IF YOU MUST.
Spur is me trying to pick usernames on AO3 tbh
klinklang
klingklangg
kl1ngkl4ng
xX_klinkklang_Xx
WhyAreAllTheUsernamesTaken
Spur69420
welcome, Spur69420! your account has been created
wait fuck

Since this was outside of dialogue, I wanted the dropped article to come back in: a biggear problem.
mmm yes

Super real.
lines that aged like fine wine for 2000, Alex

Hahaha, thinking like a designer, perhaps? You can drop the comma after already. I love that N is the kind of person who nods his head when he means no. So gentle.
Yes! No such thing as bad ideas in a brainstorm

Miscommunication is such a theme here. Even when you're speaking the same language and aware there's a misunderstanding, it can be so hard to get it right!
Yessssss. c/p'ing my comment to Pen since I'm lazy: even when two people speak the same language, it's easy for things to get lost. For me N's magic bullet isn't the fact that he can listen to pokemon; it's that he tries to understand them.

OMG, cave tea party AU when?
ded

OMG. RIP, both the sweetness of them trying to spare N's feelings and the callback to the state Spur is in at the very beginning of the story.
i'm so glad you caught this but also </3

You're not wrong that the chapters with N really shiNe! But it's not just that. This one really benefits from our prior knowledge from previous chapters. This was both a very enjoyable way to start my day ... and the saddest how could you.
turns out! that if you have characters who want to/can enact change who listen to those who cannot ... things can get done? my struggle lol

thank you bothhhh <3
 
ix. nidifugous New

kintsugi

golden scars
Pronouns
she/her/hers
Partner
silvally-grass
ix. nidifugous

※​

“—and just let that wing rest up for a few days and your archen should be good as new, sweetie!”

Hilda’s looking you up and down, but you don’t watch her back. You’ve been in at least two pokécenters before, but you’ve never gotten over all the things that happen in the background. So many colors. So many sounds. There are humans everywhere, framed by flat walls, and they all talk to one another, wrapped up in their own little lives. There’s a distant hum of machinery behind the doors to the treatment rooms, accompanied by the vague chatter of pokémon behind them.

That’s the tricky part, you decide. The gyms are easier buildings to be in. You don’t like how you can’t see the sky there either, but at least the only hisses of pain are your own.

“Hilda! Thank goodness I found you!”

The two of you spin around. The crest on her head is a brown blur. “N?” she says, and then catches herself.

Oh. There’s a tall human. He’s looking a little more dishelved than a normal human. His coverings are all crinkled and it looks like he’s gotten water on them—probably from the bucket he’s got clutched in his hands? A bit tricky to tell.

He runs over to you both, and answers your question immediately: a bit more water sloshes out of the bucket and onto the carpet of the pokécenter. You can hear the nurse’s annoyed intake of breath from behind the counter.

“Oh, hi, Reylin!” he exclaims, peering over the rim of the bucket to look at you. “This is perfect, actually. You’re just who I was looking for. Do you have a second?”

You blink back up at him. You? He’s looking for you?

“N, what are you doing here?” Hilda’s pitched her voice low, like she’s trying to keep it a secret. “I thought after what happened here you weren’t supposed to—”

But N isn’t really listening to her. He’s still staring intently at you, his brow furrowed, like he’s waiting for something very important. “Could I ask you a favor, Reylin?”

“N!” Hilda hisses sharply. She grabs his arm and tugs, albeit gently. He startles and spins his head to look at her. “We should go outside.” She casts a meaningful glance around the crowd of humans scattered around you. There’s a couple in the back that’s frowning at him now; one of them is looking at the phone in her hands and whispering intently. A trainer next to them looks up from the silence, and follows their gazes to look at N.

“Oh, sure, if you’d like,” N says, and ambles easily to the door. His head tilts up when he sees Hilda reach for a pokéball, and he adds quickly, “Actually, could Reylin stay? I was looking for him.”

In your most recent battle, the one that hurt your wing, the flying-leader had sent out a sweeping unfezant with gorgeous plumage and a wingspan that made you quail with envy for just a moment. “Against a rock-type? Why wouldn’t you send out your swanna first?” Hilda had whispered under her breath, her head tilted to one side, her brow wrinkled, before shrugging and directing you to continue. She wears the same expression now, but she tilts her chin forward. “C’mon, Reylin.”

You hop after them.

Outside of the pokécenter is much nicer. The sky is cloudless above, so endless and blue that you’re sure that if you took off you’d tire long before you found the edge. The trees rustle gently in the breeze. A mechanical bird traces its way across the sky, leaving a puff of white trailing after it.

Closer to the ground, a few of N’s pokémon gather around him. A large pair of gears hovers over from the front of the building and clicks rhythmically behind his head. There’s a tiny yellow ball of fuzz that you recognize as a joltik—maybe a bit small, even for their species—that crawls up N’s shoulder and nestles in the fold of his collar. Across the street, a lumpy boldore is examining the cobblestone road intently, but looks up and scuttles carefully over when he notices N.

“What’s all this about?” Hilda’s got her arms folded across her chest, which you think is sad. It blocks the breeze. Today is the perfect day to ruffle out your feathers and warm them in the sun.

“I wanted to know if I could borrow Reylin for a while? I have a favor I need to ask of him.”

“Borrow? Like, trade?”

“Oh, no, absolutely not. I—hmm. I think it’d be easier if—Zara, maybe you could try explaining?”

The bucket of water splashes a bit more, and N tilts it slightly forward just enough for you to see a familiar, craggy head peeking out just above the surface.

{TR-62?}

{AX-67?} the tirtouga squeaks on response, and beneath the surface you can see his flipper churning the water into a frenzy. {Oh, sorry. N says you go by Reylin now! How are you?}

His words. His words. Nostalgia washes over you, drenches through your feathers and all the way down to your skin, and you’re just staring at him, eyes wide, those familiar syllables echoing in your ears. None of Hilda’s pokémon sounded like that. None of them knew what to say so you could understand them.

{I’m … good,} you manage to reply, but your mind isn’t here. You’re back in the lab. A wire around your ankle keeps you on your perch, but it’s really for show—your wings are too small for you to fly, of course. You get poked and prodded and hurt and healed, and—

“See, they know each other!” N exclaims, cutting into your thoughts.

“Who?” Hilda’s probably a little less confused than you, which at the moment makes her very bewildered. “N, what’s going on?”

“Is Reylin doing okay? With your other pokémon, I mean. Does he talk to them? Do they talk back? I was wondering. See, Zara—this tirtouga—happened into my care, and it turns out that he spoke an entirely different language than the other pokémon I’ve met. It’s a really, really weird dialect; some of the words don’t translate and they have this odd way of conjugating without tenses that I don’t fully—anyway, I managed to pick up a little bit, so we can talk, but I was telling him about you and your archen and he got really excited. I thought maybe they knew each other. And then I was trying to think of all the times I’ve seen Reylin, and he’s never really talked to any of the other pokémon you have, or the ones I’ve seen him meet. Maybe he’s shy, but—I know we don’t always get off on the right foot but I thought if it was for Reylin maybe we could make it work.”

He finally pauses for breath. You and Hilda blink back, perfectly synchronized.

That’s a lot to think about. He’s talked to TR-62? A human? And TR-62 talked back?

“Pokémon speak different languages?” Hilda asks, which you suppose is a good place to start if she didn’t know that already.

“Of course they do. Same as humans,” N says with a laugh. “Well, sort of. That actually reminds me of an interesting story about—”

“And you speak all the languages?” Hilda’s a bit more dubious this time.

“Oh no, not all of them. I haven’t really picked up the sea dialect as much; it’s a bit harder to meet a native speaker, of course. At first I thought Zara was just using a more obscure dialect from there, maybe a deep-sea one, but then we tried talking to a basculin for a while, and she definitely didn’t know what was happening.”

“N.” Hilda sighs heavily. One of her hands snakes out from her crossed arms so she can rub her forehead. “You came back to Mistralton just for—never mind. What do you want me to do?”

“I just thought we could let them talk for a bit. Zara needs the socialization from someone who isn’t me, and, well, Reylin …” He trails off and looks at you. His eyes are a strange color for a human, a weird sort of slate grey. You’re reminded of the color of clouds before the storm. “Reylin might be lonely. Is all.”

“I look after my pokémon, N,” Hilda says. Her voice is carefully controlled now. You remember the time she had you do agility training, hopping from one branch to another, careful not to lose your balance and plunge into the undergrowth below.

N swallows, and you imagine him eating his first response as well. He, like you, seems aware that it’s important not to lose his balance, but he doesn’t really know how to avoid the fall. “I didn’t come here for that. Um.” He hesitates. Another mistake. It’s a lot easier to keep your balance if you never stop moving. “If nothing else, do it for Zara?”

The tirtouga pokes his head out from the bucket and adds earnestly, {Please! It won’t take too long. I just wanted to catch up for a little while. AX-67 is a friend of mine!}

Where you always thought your form was a little mottled, a little monstrous, there was an undeniable vein of cuteness in TR-62 that the humans always seemed to appreciate. Something about the eyes, you think. The flippers, too, and how when he gets excited—which is often—he’ll curl and uncurl them like he’s clapping one-handed. Humans tend to like when alien behaviors mimic their own.

Hilda sighs. “I wanted to hit the road by this evening. You get one hour.” She squints. “N? Where are you going?”

The tall human is already walking down the road excitedly, his cohort of pokémon clouding around him. “There’s a park with a pond across from the airstrip. Zara can’t really go in freshwater ponds, but it’s quiet in midday and they won’t get interrupted.”

“You’re just going to leave them there? What if they wander off, or get stolen?” She half-jogs to keep up; his strides are incredibly long. If you thought Hilda sounded perplexed at his judgment before, this time she sounds downright lost.

“I thought Zara wouldn’t want me eavesdropping.” N starts to shrug, but then seems to think better of it. “There’s a bench across from the pond, if you wanted to keep an eye on them from a distance.”

This is how you end up perched on a rock next to the bucket, watching two humans watch you very intently. Hilda’s got a veiled look of curiosity in her eyes, like she’s still trying to unravel the knot of N’s strategy. N seems ecstatic. Both of them sit on opposite ends of the bench, as far apart from one another as possible.

Strange. Usually Hilda doesn’t sit like that.

{Reylin, how have you been?}

It’s hard to keep track of things that aren’t directly in front of you. That’s part of your nature, you think. Plus, you’re only used to seeing TR-62 in a clear tank; the steel walls of the bucket means that even if you perch on the rock and sit all the way up, you can barely see his head and neck before they fade away into the depths.

And besides—this is a happy reunion, but one that you’ve been trying to avoid.

{Did he really tell you I go by Reylin now?} It’s hard to think of TR-62 as anything else, even though you’ve heard N drop the name so many times in conversation already. It takes practice to unlearn that.

{Yeah! He mentioned that his friend Hilda had a new friend, and when he described them it sounded just like you. Did you decide to run away as well?}

There it is. Two minutes into your conversation and the hard questions already come out.

The P2 Labs weren’t all that bad, especially now that you’ve seen what’s outside of it. From across the glass, TR-62 had always told you that there was a nicer place, somewhere with a wide open tank and an endless ceiling. You hadn’t believed him. Skies ended in right angles. Seas had clear walls. That was simply the way things were.

You were wrong about that, the same way that you were wrong about telling TR-62 that it wasn’t possible to escape. The tirtouga had decided one day to headbutt his tank until it shattered, and then he’d smashed a hole in the wall and clumsily scuttled down the hallway and out the door.

Watching it happen, it hadn’t actually been all that hard. You could’ve followed him, probably. You didn’t even have a real tank. Yours was in your mind. Because what would you have done next? Flown across the entire endless sea? What if you’d gotten tired, or there was a storm? You still weren’t the best at flying. And then once you crossed that chasm, what would come next? Would anything get better? P2 wasn’t that bad. The scientists were just curious. They taught you things, and you taught them things.

{No. P2 lost most of their funding after—} after you ran away, you almost say, but you can’t bring yourself to hurt TR-62 like that so instead you say {—a few years. They sold off most of their assets. I ended up in a museum in Nacrene for a while, and then I was adopted out to a trainer. Hilda.} You gesture with your head to where the pair is still watching you from across the pond. {What happened to you?} I was afraid—

{Oh, I see. That’s neat. Are you liking it so far? I just swam and swam for a very long time, and then I washed up near this ship harbor right when N was walking by. He seemed friendly, but he was talking to this strange pink pokémon and he seemed kind of busy, you know? But he understood her, which was really cool! I’ve never met a human who could do that. I think P2 tried really hard but they were going in the wrong direction,} TR-62 adds as an afterthought, and looks at his flippers self-consciously. {But that seemed special, so I trailed him around the shore for a while, and then he noticed me and we tried to talk for a bit. Did you know that most pokémon don’t speak our language? I wonder. N says that archen and tirtouga used to live in very faraway places and times, back when we used to, you know, have more of us. Did you know there used to be more of us? I saw a pidove that reminded me of you. I’m glad you’re okay.}

When the scientists had seen that you still weren’t adept at flying, even though all other signs showed that a bird of your age should be branching by then, they’d tried aiming strange, spinning metal crosses at you that generated huge streams of air. The wind had smashed into your face and ruffled your carefully-preened feathers and generally felt a lot like how talking to TR-62 does—quiet at first, and then all at once.

But it’s reassuring. TR-62 always talked enough for the two of you, in this strange language that only the inhabitants of P2 understood. You didn’t mind that. It reminds you of old times.

{I’m glad you’re okay too,} you say. You hesitate. You haven’t shaped words for so long that you’ve almost forgotten how. Back when you’d met Hilda and Vaselva, you’d tried to greet them—the servine’s demeanor reminded you of the purple, steely one in the P2 basement—but they had only stared quizzically back. The words had died in your throat.

{But can you believe it?} TR-62 asks, and his flippers make soft splashing sounds on the water’s surface. {We both did it! We crossed the ocean. I told you, right? No more ceilings and tanks for us. We get to see everything now! Have you seen the Driftveil Drawbridge? It’s so cool! It goes up and down and it lets people who can’t swim cross this really pretty river. N and I walked across it. He told me that in other languages it’s named after this big, fiery dragon called charizard because they have the same color. Have you heard of dragons? N says Hilda is destined to meet a great dragon one day. And N says he has this dragon friend he thinks I would like.}

{How does he have so much time to tell you this?} you ask. A coo of amusement curls up the back of your throat, a feeling you haven’t felt in months. {After all, you talk so much. Between that and battling I’m surprised he gets a word in edgewise.}

{Battling? Hilda lets you battle?}

{Lets?}

You both blink back at each other in surprise.

{You first,} you say. Not like you would’ve stopped him if he’d tried.

{N says I can’t battle until my shell is hard and I can walk on my own.} If you listen very, very carefully, there’s a hint of dismay in TR-62’s voice. It’s buried very deep. {Until then, I can watch.} He knocks his head against the rim of his bucket, and there’s a dull pinging sound. {He thinks it’ll be too dangerous for me to fight right now. Because of the whole swimming thing. But I’m ready! Maybe you could tell him. He let me try it once! But then my bucket tipped over and there was water everywhere and I sort of got stuck, and he looked really upset and forfeited the fight immediately, and then we had to run away really really fast—anyway, I don’t think he wants to try again. Until my shell is hard and I can walk on my own.} TR-62 nods to himself.

That’s a lot to take in. Hilda acted like N was some kind of criminal—that’s always the gist you get when you hear her talking about him. He was running away? From who?

{I’m surprised you like fighting now,} TR-62 adds, blunt as ever. {Since you seemed to hate it so much back at P2. That’s a good change! I’m happy for you.}

You’re suddenly very interested in a crack of dirt that’s wedged itself between your toes, and you pick at it with your beak. But TR-62 is still watching you expectantly; the one time he hasn’t ended up spouting off a whole new stream of information. {I still don’t like fighting.}

{Oh. So then you don’t battle very much, right?}

You aren’t like TR-62. You’d tried to be, once. You’d watched him swim stubbornly to the bottom of his tank and stay there for hours while scientists had to reach in up to their elbows, soaking their labcoats until they were plastered tightly to the skin. Once, he’d tugged on a scientist’s sleeve so hard that she’d fallen in the tank altogether and had spluttered, dripping wet, up to the surface.

You thought that was a great idea, so you’d copied it and tried to snap when they came to take readings from you as well. Your scientist smacked you on the beak. Not hard enough to break anything, but hard enough to smart, and that had been the end of that.

{I battle some,} you say, and nod your head to yourself. {Not as much as the others, I guess.}

One of the P2 scientists had told you a story about a genetic descendant of tirtouga—squirtle, or something. When infant tirtouga hatched on the shores at night, they’d crawled towards the nearest light source they could see: the reflection of the moon on the sea. Far more adept in the waves than on the sand, those who could slip into the waters before dawn were the ones who would survive.

It wasn’t the same with squirtle. Millions of years had passed, and tirtouga’s children hadn’t learned to adapt with the times. Clutches of squirtle eggs used to hatch around the beaches in Castelia, but, drawn to the shimmering lights of the city, many of the hatchlings stranded themselves in the roads, and were crushed or devoured before their shells had time to harden. Now, squirtle are a rare sight in all of Unova. Perhaps, somewhere else, they’re common, and TR-62 can find more of his kind.

To you the lesson was clear enough: do not leave the nest without knowing which way is better than home.

Hilda had never hit you or anything, not even a smack, and you’re pretty sure she’s a good trainer who would never dream of doing that but—what if she did? Or what if she decided she was bored of you and mailed you back to P2? Best not to find out. Best to keep her happy so you can keep what you have.

{If she uses you to fight all of her battles and you don’t like it.} TR-62 doesn’t seem satisfied with your answer. {Why not tell her—}

{So N can talk to pokémon?} you say, a bit too quickly, a bit too loudly. Anything to change the subject.

{Oh yes,} TR-62 is never one to resist answering a question. The previous topic is immediately washed from his mind; you can almost see it happen on his face. {He tries very hard. He’s also trying to translate for me. A lot of his friends are from the sparkly cave to the north of here, so they all speak like each other, but they’re learning! It might take them a while. I think you didn’t talk to me for a few months, right?}

TR-62 had burbled to you from his tank for weeks, and splashed water over the glass wall, and squirted water at your perch—all until you’d finally found the words to shape into what? what do you want?

You aren’t sure why you’d asked. TR-62 had wanted to talk to you for the same reason anyone talked to anyone else: to stop being alone.

{Can I tell you a story N told me?} TR-62 asks. {It’s about turtles. I think you’d like it.}

{Sure.}

The story talks the better part of thirty minutes to tell, since TR-62 gets distracted by a leaf that drifts into his bucket, and by trying to remember if the turtle in the story was green or blue, and because it reminds him of a different story he’d heard before, but the story went a little something like this:

Once upon a time, a human boy was walking on a beach when he stumbled upon a tirtouga that had washed ashore. She had gotten stuck in the sand and the sun had sapped her energy so that she was too exhausted to dig herself free. Struck by pity, the boy carefully scooped her out of the beach and dragged her to the spot where the tide met the sands. As she felt the water lapping over her fins, the tirtouga opened her eyes and looked up gratefully at the boy.

{You have shown me a great kindness today, dear boy,} said the tirtouga. {When the time comes and you need my aid, shout my name into the sea and I shall find you. Then I may pay back the gift you have given me.}

The boy waved farewell as the tide came in and carried the tirtouga out to sea.

Many years passed. The boy became a man. He spent most of his time on the water, helping ships navigate choppy seas and safeguarding the people inside. One day, an enormous storm brewed around his ship. He wrestled with the wheel and strained at the sails, but he could barely keep his vessel upright. Icy fear ate through his drenched clothes and settled into his bones.

When all hope seemed lost, the man remembered the tirtouga’s promise and clasped his hands together.

“Zaratan! Lend me your strength!”

It was like the eye of the hurricane had just passed overhead. The storm swirled around his boat, still dark and portending, but the seas directly above him were suddenly as calm as a summer’s day. A dark shadow loomed beneath the ship, slowly sharpening into the four-limbed silhouette of a carracosta that was easily as long as the boat was tall.

{Hello, dear boy,} said the carracosta warmly, slowly, snaking her head out of the surface. The words she spoke showered the entire deck in foam. {You’ve certainly grown. What is it that you desire?}

“Please,” said the man, gesturing to the storm raging around him. “Help us escape this storm.”

Zaratan’s craggy head was the size of a boulder, and when she nodded it sent a ripple of waves knocking against the boat. {This,} she said slowly, {is no normal storm. It comes from the heart of the Great Dragon, who birthed our world. I fear this storm may end it as well.}

The man’s heart sank deep into the bottom of the sea. “What should we do?”

Zaratan pondered this for a long while, as the storm began to pick up in intensity around her, even despite her presence. {Gather your people and hold fast to my shell,} she said at last, heavily. {You saved me from the sun, and now I will save you and yours from the rain.}

So the man and all of the passengers of his boat gathered themselves and clambered onto the carracosta’s craggy shell. And not a moment too soon, for as soon as the last human had climbed aboard, a wave lashed through the mast of the ship and splintered the deck. The depths devoured the wreckage, and the man watched with a sinking heart as the ship that had once been his home plunged into the depths.

Zaratan then tucked her head down and began to swim, plowing a powerful course through the roiling seas.

As they swam, and the storm worsened, the man noticed a collection of pokémon gathered on a nearby island. The waters here were rising too; the island was dwindling under the ever-rising tide. “Zaratan,” the man shouted, crawling across the carracosta’s shell and holding tightly to the plated armor around her neck. “Look at those people over there. They’ll drown if we don’t help them.”

{I see them,} Zaratan answered, and changed course to swim towards the island. When they were close enough, Zaratan called out to the land-dwellers: {Gather your people and hold fast to my shell. Otherwise, the storm will take you.}

Gratefully, the pokémon climbed onto Zaratan’s extended flipper and pulled themselves onto her shell. She rocked back and forth from the new weight, but she pressed onward.

The storm only worsened. As they pressed on, they passed a flock of bird pokémon clutching fast to the tallest trees in the forest; the rest had already been swallowed by the waves. Their wings were too wet to fly.

The main pointed, and Zaratan laboriously turned towards the underwater treetops. When she was close enough, she made the same offer, and the birds quickly took it.

But even though the birds were light, the man watched with widened eyes as the carracosta’s shell sank even further beneath the surface. “Zaratan!” he shouted in alarm. Her strokes, once powerful, were now weary.

{There are … too many … } she said in her slow, rumbling voice. {Forgive me, dear boy.} The rest of her words were swallowed up by the waters as her head sank beneath the surface, but the man knew in his heart what she meant to say next.

The man turned around. The pokémon and humans behind him were clutching tightly to one another, holding as closely to the center of her shell as possible—the edges were already succumbing to the waves. Above them, the storm showed no signs of stopping. His weight alone might’ve been the tipping point between if they floated or if they sank.

Without hesitation, the man leapt into the sea. He struggled against the current, which threw him again and again into Zaratan’s armor, until he made it up to the tip of her beak, and he held her fast until the water took them both.

The Great Dragon, heartbroken by the storm they had allowed to hurt so many, flew across the seas and found the last peoples of the world floating on Zaratan’s back. Touched by Zaratan and the man’s sacrifice, they exhaled a torrent of fire, thunder, and ice onto the pair; bathed in such power, the two turned to stone.

TR-62 finishes the rest of the story in a voice that is uncharacteristically solemn: {Do you know why the shining cities of Unova form such a round shape? Look carefully, and you will see Zaratan’s shell, and her human friend right beside her.}

For a moment you aren’t sure why TR-62 told you this story, or why he would like it. It is such a sad ending for such a happy person. He is no carracosta. N is the one protecting him, after all.

But perhaps this carracosta, this Zaratan, is how he wants to see himself one day.

Zaratan and her friend’s sacrifice is sad, somehow more sad to you than the wounds you’ve endured and inflicted every day. Did most pokémon fight for their humans expecting to receive something back? Perhaps when something good is given with the expectation of nothing in return … perhaps that is when it truly becomes valuable. For what could be worth so much that it could be exchanged for nothing?

{My human,} Zara says, unusually careful, unusually slow, {is similar to you, in a sense. He hides away from conflict and assumes his battles are already lost, even when he could go on a while longer.} A shiver goes down your spine. Defeatist, the scientists called it, when they saw it in you. {But make no mistake. Even he knows that some fights are inevitable. Avoiding the inconsequential ones is not weakness, but strength. When the storm comes, I know he will rise to meet it. And I think you will as well.}

The hour passes. Hilda checks her wrist and then walks over to you. “Alright, Reylin! Did you have a good time?”

You wonder: in a different reality, Hilda might’ve been a better trainer for Zara, and N a better trainer for you. Then Zara could fight and you could fly and no one would have to feel uncomfortable with what they wanted to be.

N trails behind her, and you fasten eyes with him. {Can you really talk to pokémon?} you ask.

“I can,” he answers.

{Can you ask her a question for me?}

“Of course.”

Hilda had mentioned something once that you’d thought was very strange. She was brave and hardy, you see, like Zara, like Zaratan, like the rest of the pokémon she raised. She never balked at a fight. But she’d told you she’d done something once that hadn’t made any sense—hiding away from a conflict was something you thought only you would do, not someone as courageous as her.

You tug gently on the leg of N’s pants with your beak, and you ask the question you’ve been meaning to ask Hilda this whole time.

His eyes widen. “You want me to say that?”

You tilt your entire head sideways so you can get a better look at him. You repeat your question.

This time the flinch is unmistakable. “Reylin, I’m not sure if that’s a good idea.”

{Please ask her.}

“What’s a good idea?” Hilda chimes in.

“I don’t think I’m understanding him correctly.” N nervously runs one hand through his crest of hair. “The conjugation thing I mentioned earlier, and—”

“I’m sure it’s fine,” Hilda says placidly.

You repeat your question and bob your head up and down. {It’ll work. I promise.}

“Reylin, I’m not sure if that’s what she wants to hear—”

“What who wants to hear?” There’s a bit of cold in Hilda’s voice now. “N, my pokémon can tell me anything. Reylin knows that.”

You nod earnestly.

N swallows. He stares at his shoes while you count three of his breaths. His tongue snakes out and runs across his lips, and then he bites the bottom lip, and then, finally—“He says … if you didn’t like your family so much, why didn’t you just leave?”

Hilda turns to stone. You watch her shoulders freeze in place, raised up defensively around her ears like twin spikes of armor.

Mistake. {I didn’t mean it like that!} you chirp, but she’s not looking at you. Her smile is frozen, curdled on her face.

“Hilda—”

“Reylin didn’t tell you that,” Hilda says lowly. “What, did Ghetsis hire a PI to do some research on me and my homelife? You finally figured out that you can’t beat me on the battlefield so you have to resort to digging up dirt on me instead? Or, what, you finally put together what I told you in Castelia and you want to use it against me? It won’t work. You don’t know me. You might think you do, you might think that one kid with a shit dad can recognize another, that you understand, but you grew up with so much that I didn’t. You don’t know the first thing about peasants like me, Lord N.

“Hilda, please—”

“Fight me.”

“What?” N inhales so sharply that you’ll afraid he’ll swallow his words instead. “Hilda, no, I’m not going to—”

“Take it back, or fight me.” There’s a flash of red. Vaselva emerges at Hilda’s feet. The servine sizes up the situation in a moment, and puffs up the leaves that run down her back so she appears twice as big.

“I didn’t come here to fight.” His hands curl protectively around Zara’s bucket and he takes half a step back.

It feels like a cold breeze has settled in around your wingtips, and you’re filled with the compulsion to fly far, far away from it. Zara was right. She’s used you to fight all of her battles. Of course this one would be no different.

“I don’t care what you wanted to do. Reylin is my family. You don’t just get to—” She cuts herself off, breathing heavily. You think you can hear the dampness in her voice, but when she speaks again she’s as steady as the earth beneath your feet. “I’ll call the cops. They won’t be happy to see you in Mistralton, not after what happened last time.”

“Hilda,” N pleads one last time, but his voice splinters under its own weight, and you know that he can’t do all the talking for you. He can’t, and you can’t, but you have to try.

How did it even go wrong so quickly? You’d thought that you could tell Hilda anything, that she’d listen. Quickly, you hop between them and face Hilda and Vaselva, your wings outstretched. If they want to make themselves look big, you can as well. {Don’t be mad at him. He’s just repeating what I told him.}

Hilda looks at you with eyes so cold you think she’s about to go on a hunt. You’re so transfixed with the hatred on her face that you don’t even notice the hand reaching for the pokéball until the red light engulfs you.

“Leaf Blade, Vas,” she whispers as you dissolve, and that’s the last thing you hear.



p | n
 
Last edited:

Pen

the cat is mightier than the pen
Staff
First I was like turtle-in-a-bucket-POV and then I was like Reylin-POV, even better! The POV choice works really well here. I've been wanting Reylin since the scene where he defects and this filled in the gaps wonderfully. Love his and Zara's backstory and their differing personalities. And by the end of this I can see why Reylin yeets. Proud of him for taking the flight into the unknown. Do we ever see evolved Zara?

Also, your N characterization continues to shine. He's just bouncing obliviously around being wholesome and then ending up in a situation he really does not want to be in. You also do a great job having him and Hilda bounce off each other. They are on such different wave-lengths that it's almost painful to read at times.

I think the only bit that could use a bit of work is Reylin's motivation for asking N to ask Hilda that question. It felt a liiitle like that just had to happen for ending to happen but I see the logic--Reylin thinks of Hilda as being like Zara so he doesn't know why she wouldn't have left the lab ie bad home situation. Just need a bit more progression there, I think.

But yeah, such an enjoyable/painful read. Feels like you've really hit a stride with this and the last chapter.

Editing this into review for future reference: I like what you've been doing with Hilda, but I'm finding it harder and harder to accept her as Ideals hero and N as truth hero. She really seems more like the person focused on reality and not believing ideal-ish things, and N is in floaty ideal space in this one. And I haven't really seen anything resembling ideals from Hilda yet.

but at least the only hisses of pain are your own.
Ooof.

“Oh, hi, Reylin!” he exclaims, peering over the rim of the bucket to look at you.
Aw, N is so puppy-dog. I'm having trouble picturing this, though. He'd have to be holding the bucket really high to be peering over it?

“Oh, sure, if you’d like,” N says, and ambles easily to the door.
Hah, so oblivious.

The sky is cloudless above, so endless and blue that you’re sure that if you took off you’d tire long before you found the edge. The trees rustle gently in the breeze. A mechanical bird traces its way across the sky, leaving a puff of white trailing after it.
Mm, once again, lovely in-POV scene setting. Reylin's appreciation of the open sky takes on new poignancy with the backstory and also that edge of hesitation about its vastness-very nice.

{TR-62?}

{AX-67?} the tirtouga squeaks on response, and beneath the surface you can see his flipper churning the water into a frenzy. {Oh, sorry. N says you go by Reylin now! How are you?}

His words. His words. Nostalgia washes over you, drenches through your feathers and all the way down to your skin, and you’re just staring at him, eyes wide, those familiar syllables echoing in your ears. None of Hilda’s pokémon sounded like that. None of them knew what to say so you could understand them.
Babies! Love this moment.

This is kind of lampshading the 'how do pokemon understand humans' thing, though. I guess Reylin could have been socialized into it from the lab . . ?

“Is Reylin doing okay? With your other pokémon, I mean. Does he talk to them? Do they talk back? I was wondering. See, Zara—this tirtouga—happened into my care, and it turns out that he spoke an entirely different language than the other pokémon I’ve met. It’s a really, really weird dialect; some of the words don’t translate and they have this odd way of conjugating without tenses that I don’t fully—anyway, I managed to pick up a little bit, so we can talk, but I was telling him about you and your archen and he got really excited. I thought maybe they knew each other. And then I was trying to think of all the times I’ve seen Reylin, and he’s never really talked to any of the other pokémon you have, or the ones I’ve seen him meet. Maybe he’s shy, but—I know we don’t always get off on the right foot but I thought if it was for Reylin maybe we could make it work.”
Love me a good N ramble! So much linguistic nerding and helpful energy here.

N swallows, and you imagine him eating his first response as well. He, like you, seems aware that it’s important not to lose his balance, but he doesn’t really know how to avoid the fall.
Rip, nicely described.

“I thought Zara wouldn’t want me eavesdropping.”
So considerate!!

Hilda’s got a veiled look of curiosity in her eyes, like she’s still trying to unravel the knot of N’s strategy. N seems ecstatic. Both of them sit on opposite ends of the bench, as far apart from one another as possible.
Not at all a metaphor for anything to do with their relationship, nope.

Skies ended in right angles. Seas had clear walls. That was simply the way things were.
Aw, heart-breaking.

Did you know there used to be more of us? I saw a pidove that reminded me of you. I’m glad you’re okay.
Zara is such a sweetie. And a baby.

{How does he have so much time to tell you this?} you ask. A coo of amusement curls up the back of your throat, a feeling you haven’t felt in months. {After all, you talk so much. Between that and battling I’m surprised he gets a word in edgewise.}

{Battling? Hilda lets you battle?}

{Lets?}

You both blink back at each other in surprise.
Love this! And you can really feel that they've known each other a long time.

{I’m surprised you like fighting now,} TR-62 adds, blunt as ever. {Since you seemed to hate it so much back at P2. That’s a good change! I’m happy for you.}

You’re suddenly very interested in a crack of dirt that’s wedged itself between your toes, and you pick at it with your beak. But TR-62 is still watching you expectantly; the one time he hasn’t ended up spouting off a whole new stream of information. {I still don’t like fighting.}

{Oh. So then you don’t battle very much, right?}

You aren’t like TR-62. You’d tried to be, once. You’d watched him swim stubbornly to the bottom of his tank and stay there for hours while scientists had to reach in up to their elbows, soaking their labcoats until they were plastered tightly to the skin. Once, he’d tugged on a scientist’s sleeve so hard that she’d fallen in the tank altogether and had spluttered, dripping wet, up to the surface.

You thought that was a great idea, so you’d copied it and tried to snap when they came to take readings from you as well. Your scientist smacked you on the beak. Not hard enough to break anything, but hard enough to smart, and that had been the end of that.
I like this backstory and exploration of their differing personalities. Reminds me a bit of Ace and Lucky.

The previous topic is immediately washed from his mind; you can almost see it happen on his face.
Nice!

TR-62 had wanted to talk to you for the same reason anyone talked to anyone else: to stop being alone.
BABIES

Without hesitation, the man leapt into the sea. He struggled against the current, which threw him again and again into Zaratan’s armor, until he made it up to the tip of her beak, and he held her fast until the water took them both.
I can see why N likes this story. Human sacrifices himself for pokemon is. um. very much his vision.

Defeatist, the scientists called it, when they saw it in you.
Fun nod to game mechanics without getting in the way of the narrative!

When the storm comes, I know he will rise to meet it. And I think you will as well.
And Reylin does! This is the only chapter so far where my knowledge of the future is giving me happy feels. Reylin and Zara reunite!

You repeat your question and bob your head up and down. {It’ll work. I promise.}
Was very confused by the "It'll work." line. The lead-up makes it sound like a question Reylin is asking out of curiosity, but it'll work seems to have different implications?

N swallows. He stares at his shoes while you count three of his breaths. His tongue snakes out and runs across his lips, and then he bites the bottom lip, and then, finally—“He says … if you didn’t like your family so much, why didn’t you just leave?”
oh fuck. I like the subtle Hilda backstory we're getting with this. And this question has a loooot of undertones. With Reylin not leaving the lab like Zara. With Carnel. With pokerights in general. oof.

“Reylin didn’t tell you that,” Hilda says lowly. “What, did Ghetsis hire a PI to do some research on me and my homelife? You finally figured out that you can’t beat me on the battlefield so you have to resort to digging up dirt on me instead? Or, what, you finally put together what I told you in Castelia and you want to use it against me? It won’t work. You don’t know me. You might think you do, you might think that one kid with a shit dad can recognize another, that you understand, but you grew up with so much that I didn’t. You don’t know the first thing about peasants like me, Lord N.
And I really like Hilda going batshit here and her paranoia that he can't really talk to pokemon, this is all a con to get in her head. Her skepticism is highlighted earlier in the chapter and it makes sense her thoughts would go here, especially since she's already clearly freaked about the whole 'N is a criminal' thing.

Zara was right. She’s used you to fight all of her battles. Of course this one would be no different.
This confused me??

Quickly, you hop between them and face Hilda and Vaselva, your wings outstretched. If they want to make themselves look big, you can as well. {Don’t be mad at him. He’s just repeating what I told him.}

Hilda looks at you with eyes so cold you think she’s about to go on a hunt. You’re so transfixed with the hatred on her face that you don’t even notice the hand reaching for the pokéball until the red light engulfs you.

“Leaf Blade, Vas,” she whispers as you dissolve, and that’s the last thing you hear.
Oh no . . . and we pick up in the previous chapter with the aftermath, huh? I still don't get the N and Zara conversation from that one, though. Seems like this is pretty squarely Reylin and N's bad decisions. And Hilda's violent conflict resolution, of course.
 
Last edited:

OldschoolJohto

Never not editing
Pronouns
She/Her
Partner
solrock
Nobody puts Baby in a corner bucket--except for N, and it's great.

Many layers of miscommunication happening here, not just between trainer and pokemon but between N and Hilda and between Zara and Reylin. Played backward, N really does become more and more uncertain, poor baby.

but you don’t watch her back. You’ve been in at least two pokécenters before, but you’ve never gotten over all the things that happen in the background. So many colors.
I love the idea that Reylin is distracted by the muchness of this scene and has other priorities than just what Hilda wants. (Maybe the lab didn't nullify all those animal instincts--this feels very much like the thought process and priorities of a wild creature.) I tripped over "you don't watch her back" though because it sounded too much like "you don't have her back." Maybe instead: you don't return her stare. Or, you don't watch her in return.

wrapped up in their own little lives.
I liked the sentiment, but it seems to me that it's less that they're wrapped up in themselves than it is that they're tuning out a lot of stimuli.

You don’t like how you can’t see the sky there either, but at least the only hisses of pain are your own.
Oof, oof, oof.

N?” she says, and then catches herself
I wasn't sure what she was holding herself back from adding here. But I love this moment of being almost glad to see him before her better
sense kicks in.

He runs over to you both, and answers your question immediately:
Again, this left me searching for a question. Suggestion: He runs over to you both, and immediately you see the cause of his wet clothes...

Hilda’s pitched her voice low,
Suggestion: Hilda pitches

peering over the rim of the bucket to look at you.
I thought the same thing Pen did--this made me picture him holding it weirdly high up, which would be hard to sustain. What I could imagine is that, well, it might be a big bucket, so N might have to shift it to better see around it like you might with a large box. Out boy must have ROBUST ARM MUSCLES after carrying all that water.

the flying-leader had sent out a sweeping unfezant with gorgeous plumage and a wingspan that made you quail with envy for just a moment.
Reylin truly does not think of himself as a beautiful being. Carnel looking at Tourmaline felt semi-romantic, but here it just feels like jealousy. In other places, he also thinks of himself as monstrous in appearance. I'm wondering where that thought comes from--was he exposed to other pokemon besides Zara?

A mechanical bird traces its way across the sky, leaving a puff of white trailing after it.
I like this rationalization.

clicks rhythmically behind his head.
Like a protective halo of FoRmULaS.

that crawls up N’s shoulder and nestles in the fold of his collar.
Help so cute oh no

Across the street, a lumpy boldore is examining the cobblestone road intently, but looks up and scuttles carefully over when he notices N.
Aww, Carnel. I have to imagine he's confused by this rigid rearrangement of stones, maybe wondering if they want to be there.

eyes wide, those familiar syllables echoing in your ears. None of Hilda’s pokémon sounded like that. None of them knew what to say so you could understand them.
Aww, baby is so surprised at this blessing it's paralyzed him. Beeg heart, beeg cracked heart.

and they have this odd way of conjugating without tenses that I don’t fully
fOrMulAs
This is such a cute and funny detail. I also like how N feels a little manic here, maybe even "talking fast" in the way he does in the game. I like the implication that he's doing it because he's a) excited and b) copying Zara, who speaks quickly not necessarily because of what he is but because of who.

Pokémon speak different languages?” Hilda asks, which you suppose is a good place to start if she didn’t know that already.
Lol at the undertone of judgment in the narration.

He trails off and looks at you. His eyes are a strange color for a human, a weird sort of slate grey. You’re reminded of the color of clouds before the storm. “Reylin might be lonely. Is all.”
Storm. 👀 Nice. And wow, biggest oof at that bomb. He's so thoughtful and it's so heart-wrenching. I think Hilda's defensiveness in response makes a lot of sense.

you imagine him eating his first response as well.
This one took me a second to parse (though it looks like Pen really liked this passage! Fisticuffs forthcoming the DMs!?). I think it was that I was trying to figure out if I'd somehow missed "his first response," and then I realized he started to say something different and stopped himself.

Humans tend to like when alien behaviors mimic their own.
Good sentiment. Does he think of himself as alien though? He might, given his inability to communicate with other pokemon or Hilda or the scientists.

And besides—this is a happy reunion, but one that you’ve been trying to avoid.
The complexity of the moment rings true, but maybe not "trying to avoid" specifically. He didn't know if their paths would actually ever cross again, right?

You hadn’t believed him. Skies ended in right angles. Seas had clear walls.
Oh noooo, baby.

It’s hard to think of TR-62 as anything else, even though you’ve heard N drop the name so many times in conversation already. It takes practice to unlearn that.
Good friend, willing to do his best to adapt to his friend as he grows.

The tirtouga had decided one day to headbutt his tank until it shattered,
Hell of a visual--that had to have hurt. But he was filled with D E T E R M I N A T I O N.

Yours was in your mind. Because what would you have done next?
"Yours was in your mind" almost feels too on-the-nose, except ... yeah, good question! And, as Pen already said, this makes his defecting from Hilda in the earlier chapter more powerful.

I saw a pidove that reminded me of you. I’m glad you’re okay.}
OMG, sweetest little scatterbrain.

the servine’s demeanor reminded you of the purple, steely one in the P2 basement
Genesect? Oh boy.

A coo of amusement curls up the back of your throat, a feeling you haven’t felt in months. {After all, you talk so much. Between that and battling I’m surprised he gets a word in edgewise.}
Friends teasing each other. This is nice banter, and so very sad that getting to have this is a change of pace for Reylin.

Battling? Hilda lets you battle?}

{Lets?}
🙃

Once, he’d tugged on a scientist’s sleeve so hard that she’d fallen in the tank altogether and had spluttered, dripping wet, up to the surface.
Oh, excellent. This is so clever, and I loved how you demonstrated that the same retaliation wasn't possible for Reylin.

do not leave the nest without knowing which way is better than home.
Makes sense.

what if she decided she was bored of you and mailed you back to P2?
I'm torn here. The idea pf being mailed somewhere against your will is so specific and brtual--you could get lost in some dusty room! And it really enforces how they're being treated as objects. On the other hand ... does he know about mail?

Do you know why the shining cities of Unova form such a round shape? Look carefully, and you will see Zaratan’s shell, and her human friend right beside her.}
Wow, I love this as the "solution" to that folktale. Says so much about N and about how this world works. The babies might live on in story or make a difference to someone else--maybe even a lot of someone elses--but that does not mean they're okay.

Did most pokémon fight for their humans expecting to receive something back? Perhaps when something good is given with the expectation of nothing in return … perhaps that is when it truly becomes valuable. For what could be worth so much that it could be exchanged for nothing?
👀

N trails behind her, and you fasten eyes with him.
Suggestion: your eyes fasten on his?

“He says … if you didn’t like your family so much, why didn’t you just leave?”
Reylin didn’t tell you that,” Hilda says lowly. “What, did Ghetsis hire a PI to do some research on me and my homelife?
This made a lot of sense to me. We can feel her distrust of N's claims building throughout the chapter, and here she's been pushed too hard.

you might think that one kid with a shit dad can recognize another,
~~Daddy issues!~~
F for Hilda. Excited to learn more about her backstory as we continue on.

and you know that he can’t do all the talking for you. He can’t, and you can’t, but you have to try.
This resonates with so many of the scenes we've had throughout. ❤

Enjoyed this a lot. Switching to Reylin was definitely a good call--it's his loneliness at stake, after all, and his jealousy for Zara/other birds. I really enjoyed how his perspective on freedom nicely reflects the overall themes of the story--how it's dangled out of reach, how it can be daunting, how he didn't even think it was a thing at first. So glad to know he manages to get away on his own terms!

I agree with Pen's desire to see Hilda's ideals more. I'm interested to see what we learn about her as we go back in time, but it may need to be supported with back-editing. I also needed more to see the connection between Zara's claim last chapter that the battle was his fault.

Though! I enjoyed how it's Hilda who insists on the fight, considering how in the games it's story and you can't opt out--N happens at you instead.
 

kintsugi

golden scars
Pronouns
she/her/hers
Partner
silvally-grass
First I was like turtle-in-a-bucket-POV and then I was like Reylin-POV, even better! The POV choice works really well here. I've been wanting Reylin since the scene where he defects and this filled in the gaps wonderfully. Love his and Zara's backstory and their differing personalities. And by the end of this I can see why Reylin yeets. Proud of him for taking the flight into the unknown. Do we ever see evolved Zara?
We didn't, but then I time traveled and now we do, in the prologue.

Also, your N characterization continues to shine. He's just bouncing obliviously around being wholesome and then ending up in a situation he really does not want to be in. You also do a great job having him and Hilda bounce off each other. They are on such different wave-lengths that it's almost painful to read at times.
no they're FINE this is FINE everyone is FIIIIIINE

I think the only bit that could use a bit of work is Reylin's motivation for asking N to ask Hilda that question. It felt a liiitle like that just had to happen for ending to happen but I see the logic--Reylin thinks of Hilda as being like Zara so he doesn't know why she wouldn't have left the lab ie bad home situation. Just need a bit more progression there, I think.
Ooh, good catch. I sort of wanted it to be in response to the Zaratan story -- which Zara tells as a way to nudge Reylin into thinking about how some things can't be avoided, how sometimes hard things have to be done (and also because turtles are cool). And Reylin wonders why Hilda stayed in that bad home, if maybe it'll give him a reason for justifying why he keeps staying in homes that don't make him happy.

Editing this into review for future reference: I like what you've been doing with Hilda, but I'm finding it harder and harder to accept her as Ideals hero and N as truth hero. She really seems more like the person focused on reality and not believing ideal-ish things, and N is in floaty ideal space in this one. And I haven't really seen anything resembling ideals from Hilda yet.
MMMMMMMM. Yes. This was very true.

I revised a bit of their previous interactions, primarily across prologue, Vaselva, Amara, and Spur's chapters to tip my hand on Hilda a bit more. The short version that I thought I could coyly hide: Hilda is the ideal of heroism in the sense that the strong protect the weak. This manifests in two ways: that they should protect the weak (which in some ways self-justifies her stance on pokemon battles -- pokemon are strong enough to take it; humans are too weak), and that they will (which is the focus of later chapters -- this idea that being strong doesn't just mean you get to say fuck you, got mine; except, often, it does). Her motivations for journeying come out as we get further back, but N speculates to Spur that it's because she kept waiting for someone to help her and then realized that it had to be her, and that she could prevent others from being caught in the same situations she was.

Zekrom comes to her in the Ghetsis fight because this is the most pure expression of that ideal -- blasting through a wall to save Alder from some scary villain, stepping up when no one else will, being strong enough to take it. Hilda is rock solid and grounded for all of this story, but even so this is the most convinced Hilda is (in forward chronology). The aftermath of the Ghetsis fight is the turning point for both her and N, although in opposite directions because i can only write things that rhyme. Losing Amara shatters Hilda's ideal that you can be strong enough to protect the ones you love, and forces her to question if it's even right to ask that of someone. And losing Zahhak forces N to realize that there is no change without sacrifice, and that if he doesn't act, more people than him will lose. Going into the Vaselva chapter, N is finally set in knowing what he wants, and for the first time Hilda is questioning herself.

Aw, N is so puppy-dog. I'm having trouble picturing this, though. He'd have to be holding the bucket really high to be peering over it?
here, i had an artist friend of mine draw me some art to illustrate:
jk fixed that.

Mm, once again, lovely in-POV scene setting. Reylin's appreciation of the open sky takes on new poignancy with the backstory and also that edge of hesitation about its vastness-very nice.
Reylin's such a tragically fun character for me. Defeatist bird who fears the unknown. Poor baby.

This is kind of lampshading the 'how do pokemon understand humans' thing, though. I guess Reylin could have been socialized into it from the lab . . ?
* sad underwater bucket gargling in sea-dialect *

So considerate!!
I live for coNsiderate N tbh.

Not at all a metaphor for anything to do with their relationship, nope.
naahhhh they're fine!!

I like this backstory and exploration of their differing personalities. Reminds me a bit of Ace and Lucky.
Ace AU where he meets Lucky and gets to question if he should resign himself to his fate or not tbh

I can see why N likes this story. Human sacrifices himself for pokemon is. um. very much his vision.
Fun fact when he first tries to summon Reshiram at the Tower, he uses the same words that the man in this story uses to call Zaratan. That was not editing in the time travel version.

And Reylin does! This is the only chapter so far where my knowledge of the future is giving me happy feels. Reylin and Zara reunite!
<3

Was very confused by the "It'll work." line. The lead-up makes it sound like a question Reylin is asking out of curiosity, but it'll work seems to have different implications?
Mmm yup axed this.

oh fuck. I like the subtle Hilda backstory we're getting with this. And this question has a loooot of undertones. With Reylin not leaving the lab like Zara. With Carnel. With pokerights in general. oof.
haha I took this gem out of naturally actually! It's ... a dark parallel but it always baffles me to see this question asked of pokemon when we'd never ever dream of asking it of any human abuse victims.

And I really like Hilda going batshit here and her paranoia that he can't really talk to pokemon, this is all a con to get in her head. Her skepticism is highlighted earlier in the chapter and it makes sense her thoughts would go here, especially since she's already clearly freaked about the whole 'N is a criminal' thing.
Endgame Hilda is ... a sad person. Her found family is mostly dead/deserting her and she has the weight of a nation on her shoulders. It's not a good mental state to assume, but even before that it's a lot of stress for a teenager.

This confused me??
yeah looking back on it, it confused me too and i'm not sure what i was going for there. good job past me.

Oh no . . . and we pick up in the previous chapter with the aftermath, huh? I still don't get the N and Zara conversation from that one, though. Seems like this is pretty squarely Reylin and N's bad decisions. And Hilda's violent conflict resolution, of course.
Mmm, nicked that again in post to "That was my fault. I started the fight. I should've known better."

alsdkjfslk thank you for the advice and also the very warm praise

Nobody puts Baby in a corner bucket--except for N, and it's great.
swole N for days

I love the idea that Reylin is distracted by the muchness of this scene and has other priorities than just what Hilda wants. (Maybe the lab didn't nullify all those animal instincts--this feels very much like the thought process and priorities of a wild creature.) I tripped over "you don't watch her back" though because it sounded too much like "you don't have her back." Maybe instead: you don't return her stare. Or, you don't watch her in return.
I actually wanted it to be more like -- he grew up in a very sheltered, very pristine environment. Just him, the walls, turtle in a tank. Scientists come in on scheduled times for food/testing/checkups, but it's all very regimented and ordered. And then, poof, the real world has no walls and the ceiling goes on forever and no one has a schedule any more and they all are different colors and what the fuck even are half of these creatures and why can't I understand them

I wasn't sure what she was holding herself back from adding here. But I love this moment of being almost glad to see him before her better
sense kicks in.
Whoops! N is uh, not very popular in Mistralton. Shouting his name here might not be a good call. Reylin doesn't know this so I don't know how to explain that in-narrative.

I thought the same thing Pen did--this made me picture him holding it weirdly high up, which would be hard to sustain. What I could imagine is that, well, it might be a big bucket, so N might have to shift it to better see around it like you might with a large box. Out boy must have ROBUST ARM MUSCLES after carrying all that water.
The robustest.

Ummmmm... hmmm. Yeah. I don't have a way around this. Water is heavy and so are rock turtles. N is swole. He's like Iroh.

Reylin truly does not think of himself as a beautiful being. Carnel looking at Tourmaline felt semi-romantic, but here it just feels like jealousy. In other places, he also thinks of himself as monstrous in appearance. I'm wondering where that thought comes from--was he exposed to other pokemon besides Zara?
Reylin to me just has low self-esteem in general -- if he were smart like a human he wouldn't have to be in the cage, if he were strong like Reylin he could've broken free, if he were beautiful like unfezant maybe he wouldn't be forced to fight. He's born into a world that has a shitty role for him and he justifies different reasons that it's his fault -- that he's ugly, that he's weak.

Like a protective halo of FoRmULaS.
will threateningly shout math at you pls do not approach

Help so cute oh no
FOUR INCHES. LIKES AIR KISSES.

Aww, Carnel. I have to imagine he's confused by this rigid rearrangement of stones, maybe wondering if they want to be there.
SO MANY OF THEM! SO MANY COLORS! HOW DID THEY ALL FIND THEIR WAY HERE?? DO THEY LIKE BEING NEIGHBORS? MUST ASK. THERE ARE A LOT TO ASK.

This is such a cute and funny detail. I also like how N feels a little manic here, maybe even "talking fast" in the way he does in the game. I like the implication that he's doing it because he's a) excited and b) copying Zara, who speaks quickly not necessarily because of what he is but because of who.
Storm. 👀 Nice. And wow, biggest oof at that bomb. He's so thoughtful and it's so heart-wrenching. I think Hilda's defensiveness in response makes a lot of sense.
storm eyes?

This one took me a second to parse (though it looks like Pen really liked this passage! Fisticuffs forthcoming the DMs!?). I think it was that I was trying to figure out if I'd somehow missed "his first response," and then I realized he started to say something different and stopped himself.
Ooh, I see it. Changed it a bit.

Good sentiment. Does he think of himself as alien though? He might, given his inability to communicate with other pokemon or Hilda or the scientists.
I sort of think yes, in the sense that he's alien to them and he's grown up defining humans as the default.

Hell of a visual--that had to have hurt. But he was filled with D E T E R M I N A T I O N.
um actually tirtouga can't learn headbutt

Genesect? Oh boy.
tbh they don't come up in this story

I'm torn here. The idea pf being mailed somewhere against your will is so specific and brtual--you could get lost in some dusty room! And it really enforces how they're being treated as objects. On the other hand ... does he know about mail?
He does! He got mailed to the museum.

Wow, I love this as the "solution" to that folktale. Says so much about N and about how this world works. The babies might live on in story or make a difference to someone else--maybe even a lot of someone elses--but that does not mean they're okay.
"there is no change without sacrifice: a thesis"

and part two, thanks for coming to my TED Talk

~~Daddy issues!~~
F for Hilda. Excited to learn more about her backstory as we continue on.
shit i forgot

Enjoyed this a lot. Switching to Reylin was definitely a good call--it's his loneliness at stake, after all, and his jealousy for Zara/other birds. I really enjoyed how his perspective on freedom nicely reflects the overall themes of the story--how it's dangled out of reach, how it can be daunting, how he didn't even think it was a thing at first. So glad to know he manages to get away on his own terms!
nidifugous: derived from Latin nidus for "nest" and fugere meaning "to flee".
he figures it out eventually, sweet baby

I agree with Pen's desire to see Hilda's ideals more. I'm interested to see what we learn about her as we go back in time, but it may need to be supported with back-editing. I also needed more to see the connection between Zara's claim last chapter that the battle was his fault.
heavily back-edited; tldr is at the top of this post! Good call tbh. I think I get wrapped up in "shit what if people find out my 0.25 plot twists in this" that I forget that they also need to see the plot.

Though! I enjoyed how it's Hilda who insists on the fight, considering how in the games it's story and you can't opt out--N happens at you instead.
That was actually a relic of naturally crit -- in that one I had N challenging Hilda since, whoops, low-thought game adaptation, but of course he wouldn't do that in this fic.

Mmm! thank you so much!
 

kintsugi

golden scars
Pronouns
she/her/hers
Partner
silvally-grass
(hi! this was originally a different chapter. pulling for quality and timelines and a lot of other reasons!

EoE is on one month hiatus. See you all soon! <3)
 
Last edited:

Umbramatic

The Ghost Lord
Location
The Yangverse
Pronouns
Any
Here for Catnip!

N FIC N FIC N FIC! My specialty. Honestly I was slightly worried about reading this fic as I am slightly picky about how N is portrayed and the worst case scenario is I would be like this:

6 - n_angry.jpg

But from the prologue and first chapter at least it's more like this:

5 - n_hilbert_faces.gif

Veeeeeeeeery intresting decision to tell this backwards chronologically, this will be fun. The prose is delicious and I want to snort it through my nostrils out of eNvy so I can learn its secrets. Seeing things from Vaselva's perspective was nice. The lore of the Haxorus clan is Y I K E S. And yes, so far you do a good job of writing my boy N.

I do have one question:

You only saw her falter once: six days ago, when you lost Amara.
Is this... Is this a nuzlocke? Was this based on a run?

But yeah nice to stop by here and read this! Knowing me I dunno when I'll be back but in the meantime while I doubt there will be many happy Ns in this have this one as an expression of approval:

7 - n_happy.jpg

(how many n-related reaction images do i have? NOT ENOUGH)
 

Pen

the cat is mightier than the pen
Staff
I've had some trouble working out what it is I want to say about this one! I guess my biggest reaction was feeling somewhat like we've had this story before and that this version doesn't have much that's new to say. Munny feels like a mashup of Carnel (best polite baby) and Ace (unquestioningly loyal) with bonus self-esteem issues. I don't feel like we ever get a real sense of why her self-esteem/aspiration/self-identity is wrapped up in Bianca. Vaselva was bred for it; Amara has a cultural myth driving her; Ace chose it . . . the explanation we get for why Munny stays with Bianca didn't feel very convincing to me. The stuff about the dreams, which struck me as the most interesting part, didn't seem completely integrated into the chapter, themes wise. There was a lot about dreaming vs waking, dark and light, but I wasn't sure what it ultimately added up to. I guess thus far it's felt like each chapter has complicated and deepened the story, and this one to me felt like it was a bit more simplistic and retreading stuff we've already covered. It's nice to see Rhea again, of course, and this happening is important from a 'video game events' perspective, but it's not striking me at the moment as necessary to the story you've been telling.

I'm intrigued by the dream aspect, though. Having your munna deal with all your bad dreams is a much subtler form of mistreatment and much less easy to see . . . and part of me wanted the chapter to lean more into that? Like, especially because this is Bianca, who's not super keen on battling. It would be interesting to see a trainer-pokemon scenario where the trainer doesn't make the pokemon battle, but is still being oblivious to their pain and feelings. Makes it harder for a Rhea-style intervention, of course.

But yeah, I think what I'm wanting most here is a sense of Munny as a character distinct from some pokemon characters we've had before and a sense of how this particular instance of 'pokemon decides to stay with trainer' adds to the layers of the story.

That night her dreams are muddled.
"That night" threw me a bit--doesn't feel like it fits the present tense, somehow. Maybe, "Her dreams are muddled tonight."

His fists were loud the last time you saw him.
I like this phrasing.

Pink smoke swirls around him, twines up his angry fists, down the veins bulging out of his neck, pulls him into misty depths. He roars something inhuman, and then he vanishes into the black fog. It’s the scent of roses that remains.
Ooh, twines is nice verb choice. Maybe, "The scent of roses remains."

You’re scared. But you can take it. You have to. For her.
Same thought-train we see in battles, but in a different context here!

Your name is Munny. You had a name at some point, but it isn’t one that your Bianca can pronounce, and besides, she was too busy to ask, and besides, at this point correcting her would be terribly rude and you don’t want to bother her.
As with Carnel chapter, I'm forced to ask, how exactly does she plan to correct her? Munna are psychic, but I don't see any indication in this chapter Munny could communicate an idea like "my actual name is x" to Bianca even if she tried.

Your name is Munny. Four moons ago you met your trainer. You are her munna and she is your Bianca. You are partners, equals. This is the way of things.
This feels a little half-hearted? Like, where do Munny's ideas of trainers and training come from? What part does she consider Bianca playing in the partnership? This grammer tic with all creatures needing a the or a possessive pronoun in front is interesting, though, and feels like more could be done with that? Like are people incomplete if they don't belong to anyone?

Your mother told you a story, once. Once upon a time, long ago, musharna were pure purple, the color of a cloudless sky just after sunset. They were gifted by the spirit of the moon with the ability to slip into dreams, and many followed Her back and forth, between the lands of waking and dreaming. Over time, many musharna decided that the peaceful tranquility of the dreamlands was a welcome respite to the chaos of the waking world. They chose not to leave, and stayed slumbering, forgetting themselves and where they were, where they came from, where they were going.

The waking musharna cried out to the Moon, asking for Her guidance, and She descended.

{Be careful, my children,} warned the Moon. {Though, like me, you wax and wane through waking and dreaming, you must always remember who you were meant to be.}
Myth! I'm not sure how well it ends up tying into the chapter, though. We get a lot of references to Munny wanting to find herself, but it's not clear to me what that really means to her and what prompted the self-searching. I'd also be interested in the myth taking a stronger stance on why it's wrong for the musharna to stay in the dream world.

And She exhaled, coating all the musharna in pink. For half-day, and half-night. To mark all musharna as passengers to the dreamworld, but to remind them to return to Her on the other side.
So day is purple? Cute mythic touch, though.

Your father’s mother, he told you, had evolved almost two-thirds pink! It was truly an auspicious sign, to have one so touched by the Moon.
Ooh, I like the sense of the musharna culture this gives. I bet they're into horoscopes too.

You’re hopeful. Flowers are nice, but perhaps a new pattern will help you make sense of where you’re supposed to be.
I want a bit more here. When N and Rhea do their failed intervention, she doesn't seem to do any second guessing about where she wants to be. But lines like this set that up as her major internal struggle.

“Oh, and it says right here that dream mist is pink when you eat good dreams, and different colors when you eat bad dreams. That’s so neat!” Your Bianca has already scrolled past the page about musharna habitat and behavior. The light of the screen is reflected in the crescent of her eyes.

Huh? That’s not true. Dream mist is pink no matter what. You would know. Who wrote this?

“Oh, and black dream mist means a nightmare, or a sad dream. Okay. That’s good to know. I’ve never seen black dream mist from you before, Munny.”

She hasn’t, and that’s true, but some of her dreams were truly terrifying.

Maybe they don’t count as nightmares. But you were always told that the reason is that your mist is always pink, because it comes from the Moon, and is a reflection of Her.

But … maybe your Bianca is right? And maybe the dreams she’s been having, the ones she’s asked you to help forget … maybe those don’t count as nightmares. There’s another pokémon, the one who tries to eat the Moon, and he’s pitch-black, right? So it would make sense if he sent bad dreams and made them out of black mist, yes. That’s very true. Your Bianca is very smart, and you’re not. She knows these things. You’re just not strong enough to know what a real nightmare is.
I wasn't sure what to make of this. Like, it would be super nefarious and f-ed up if trainers are told musharna mist pink when they eat good dreams when in fact it's pink mist for all dreams. Very gaslighting--y. But I'm not sure I really believe that would be the case or even if that's what you're going for? Do their researchers just suck?

“Hey, Bi, wanna do a quick spar? Maxis just evolved and I wanted to try out some new stuff.”

You look up in alarm. Oh, good. Her Cheren wasn’t talking to you.
I'm not sure why Munny would think the Cheren is addressing her here.

Oh. Now she’s talking to you. Oh no. You obediently chirp in affirmation, but you weren’t quite listening to the question. Is she looking at you? It’s hard to tell; the lights here are quite bright and, really, your entire species was designed for being awake at night, so your vision isn’t—
This vision thing is interesting. Fits the idea of the waking world being more like a dream.

Her voice shakes. Often, your Bianca strokes your back and tells you how she feels. Her Hilda is a good friend, she says. But sometimes she’s worried about her Cheren. He’s so angry sometimes. He has so much that he wants to prove. Your Bianca’s face clouds when she talks about him, in ways that it never should. Her Cheren doesn’t like losing, she’d explained once in a solemn voice. So sometimes he’ll pick fights he knows he can win.
That very much checks out. And so Bianca's throwing her pokemon under the bus to appease Cheren?

This strikes you as a particularly bad idea, because his simisage is quite agile, and it does seem like he’ll be able to dodge out of the way again. Hypnosis travels faster than Psybeam, and you haven’t quite done the math
Munny pushes up glasses: um aktually

Once, the Elesa invited you to practice spar with her emolga, and he knew a move called Discharge, and for a split second before the pain sunk in you remember how it almost felt energizing, like waking up after a good night’s dream.
Huh. It's a cool moment. I'm not sure what to make of it in the larger context of the chapter.

There’s a flash of red light, and you drop out of your pokéball. The act is so surprising that you almost plummet to the ground before you remember to reassert your telekinesis; something is wrong here; this doesn’t feel right; what’s—
Couldn't figure out what was so surprising here?

The hair draws you in the most; it’s bright, fiery, poofs around her like a protective wreath of dream smoke.
Rhea and her pink hair make their return!

Of course your Bianca is okay. She’s not weak and dumb like you are; she would never end up in this situation. {Where is she?}
Munny's an empath, right? Seems a bit weird to me she wouldn't have picked up on Bianca's self-esteem issues, which I think are fairly canon. Munny's mental image of Bianca seems a bit hard to swallow when Munny can both read her emotions and her nightmares.

One chirp for yes, two chirps for no.”

Oh, that’s actually really clever of her! You like this human. That’s a very smart idea. From what you’ve heard of downtown, it’s noisy and smells bad. Two chirps.
Aw, Rhea being considerate. I find it a liiiitttle hard to swallow that Munny is so surprised by this. Sam does it in the Ace chapter.

You can’t pick out the details of the waves, but you almost don’t need to—when it all blurs together, the sun reflects off of the water and makes a thousand vanishing stars for you.
Ooh, very pretty. The way you describe the blurring feels a lot like how the world looks without glasses.

“My Lord N!” Her voice is higher-pitched than before. Almost a squeak. You like her.
"You like her" feels a little abrupt.

“Yeah. She’s a liepard now—that doesn’t help the fur problem much—but I think she likes the new form a lot.”
Hah Rhea and Mark gripe about cat fur AU when??

He comes closer to you, but not too close, and then sits cross-legged on the wood of the dock with his chin in his hands, a full two feet away. These are a respectful bunch.
Damn right they are!

The features of his face flash and knit together for a moment, and then he says, “Ah, that’s a very nice name. Haven’t heard that for a munna before.” His teeth glimmer from beneath his smile, but it doesn’t seem like he fully means it.
N when a Charmander says his name is Ember. "O-oh what a nice and unusual name."

The N quickly shutters his eyes, and you aren’t quite sure what he means by that. He steeples his fingers across his nose and exhales sharply; you recoil in alarm as tendrils of his emotions suddenly flare out, big enough for you to see. You aren’t a good empath yet and you really can only sense things when humans are asleep, but he’s angry and he’s frustrated and it’s something you said and you want to shout sorry sorry sorry but won’t that just make it worse and—

“Oh, hey.” His voice is quiet all of a sudden. “Hey, hey. I’m not angry at you. This isn’t your fault.” Is he talking to you? You nervously peak one eye open and uncurl a little, just a hair. He’s blurry, but he’s certainly looking at you. But if he’s not mad at you and it’s not your fault, whose fault is it? “Munny? Can you hear me?”

Big silence. You’re a roiling sea of emotions and he’s the nightmare on the other side, lightning waiting to strike—

“Do you mind if I sit a little closer? I think it’ll be easier for us to talk that way.”

Oh. {Okay. If you’d like.}

“Only if you’d like, Munny. I didn’t mean to scare you earlier, but that was my fault. I’m sorry. I’ll try not to let it happen again.”

That’s very nice of him. You … didn’t really expect that. {Okay.}

He inches a little closer. Still a solid foot away, very respectable distance. He doesn’t look like a munna, but he seems to understand proper spatial etiquette much better than most humans. They’re incredibly touchy creatures. Maybe he told the Rhea how to be polite as well. The ocean sparkles to your left.
Aw, little anxiety baby.

“I, uh, where were we?” He smiles nervously, a bit flustered. “Your question. Rhea is a normal human.”

{She’s a very nice human!} you say defensively.

“Oh, yes, she’s a very good human. Sorry.”

He apologizes quite a bit to you. That’s normally your job. {It’s okay.}
Hah so adorable.

“Rhea is a very good, nice, human, but she doesn’t have magical healing powers,” the N corrects. “But humans have made inventions that can make pokémon feel better. They can use these inventions to heal pokémon, even if humans can’t heal pokémon themselves.” Big pause.

Oh, that’s very nice of them. Why would they waste them on you, thought? Bianca had explained this once—they did sell Potions and Revives but they were very expensive, and to buy them you had to be good at battling, but to be good at battling your pokémon had to be healthy, but for your pokémon to be healthy you had to buy the items, so. It was a circle and the two of you were on the outside.
Are you going with a canon that healing items actually heal, then, rather than being adrenaline boosters?

“Rhea’s been watching your trainer for a while. She says that your trainer battles with you until you faint a lot.”
Ah, that makes sense.

It’s weird talking to someone who expects you to talk back.
Does Munny not talk to the other members of Bianca's team?

No, he’s smiling now, a small one that doesn’t reach his eyes.
A bit dubious Munny could see this, considering the distance and how she couldn't spot Rhea's eye color.

This isn’t a very fun thought. You want to change the subject. Right now. {You look like someone who has interesting dreams.}

There’s a big black-and-white hat on his head, so the shadow almost obscures his eyes, but you see him flinch back in surprise. Then, his lips crack into a smile. “You’re very observant, Munny.”

{What kind of dreams do you have?}

“I dream of the future.”

{The future?}

“Yes. It’s a place where pokémon are free to do what they want, and they live happily amongst one another.” His voice is quiet now, but it’s still low and fast, so it’s almost in perfect rhythm with the waves dashing against the pier. “A lot of the details are blurry, though. Sometimes it doesn’t even feel like it was even a dream I had to begin with.”

{Oh. Home.} You actually know a lot about these. You’ve dreamed about your home as well. And those bits about forgetting a lot of the details … you know that as well. {The kind that goes away when you wake up?}

Yes, he’s smiling, but it doesn’t look happy in the slightest. “Sort of. But I’ll get there again one day. It won’t be a dream forever.”

{I hope so. Sad dreams are the worst.}

You want to correct yourself, but you don’t want to waste his time. But as soon as you say it, you realize your mistake: sad dreams aren’t the worst. When you wake up from a nightmare, you open your eyes in a better world. When you wake up from a happy dream
It's that time when we make sad allusions to N's destiny.

I didn't quite follow Munny's leap from N's description of his dream to her assumption that it's a dream of home? Is it because that was what her home was like?

The waves wash in, and then they wash out.
I like the simplicity of this. Very effective.

“Or Rhea can escort you back to your trainer.”

Oh thank goodness. Hopefully your Bianca won’t be mad at you. {Thank you. I’d like that.}
It was a bit weird that she doesn't think about it, considering how much she dislikes battling?

{Your trainer,} he says, and a little chill goes down your back as you realize he’s not speaking with a human tongue any more. There’s suddenly layers that the human tongue never has, the way trainer has the same cadence as friend.
Oooh. Friend--Munny said earlier that trainer is partner/equal. Does she consider Bianca a friend?

He doesn’t sound convinced. Not like your Bianca, who always knew what was best.
Maybe headcanon is getting in the way here, but game canon Bianca isn't exactly decisive or self-assured.

N here also seems a little more doubtful than I expected? In the previous chapter (ie the next chapter) he's pretty bouncy and idealistic.

{I love my Bianca! I do. She gave me everything I have. It’s not her fault that I’m not strong enough yet, and better yet, she’s going to help me become stronger! She’s a very busy human, and out of all of the munna in my dreamyard to join her team, she picked me, so of course I need to work hard and repay her! If I left now, she’d be really sad, and besides—}

It takes all of your energy, the bits that the Rhea gave you and a little extra besides. You aren’t like a big musharna; you can’t control your smoke very carefully, but you have to try. So you gather it all up and scoop it into a rough approximation of your feelings, and that all takes the form of the day you first met your Bianca. She scooped you up into the air, her hands far, far too tight around you, and then she held you close, smiling, the way only your parents would, and she whispered a name for you. She became your whole world, your Moon, plucked you from a dark night and made herself into your light.

{—if this is what it takes for her to love me like I am, then … that’s what I’ll do, don’t you think? I’ll get stronger, and then I can take it!}
This didn't read as very convincing to me. It felt a bit like a mashup of all the generic motivations for a pokemon to choose a trainer "get strong/they chose me/ make them love me." I don't get a sense of a reason that's rooted in her particular character though.

The moon metaphor also really doesn't work, especially since Munny sees better at night? There's all these dream/awake, dark/light themes in the chapter, but I'm not sure they're adding up to anything at the moment.

You wish they were asleep so you could take their bad dreams away, so they wouldn’t cry like this. But they aren’t. They’re awake, and you’re awake, and you can’t wake up.
I do like this--her sense of helplessness in the waking world. It would be interesting if this was in contrast to a sense of strength she feels in the dream world, maybe. I suppose that would make Munny feel like an Amara spin-off though, if her motivation was rooted in being this protector figure in the dream world in a way she can't be in the waking world.

She said if I really cared so much about learning about all of you, I should just do that instead. Imagine! Me, the researcher?
I couldn't parse this. Should it be, "Me, a researcher?" ie lol that she thinks I could be a researcher?

Her pain is important! So important. She doesn’t deserve to hurt like this, to have her flaws brought out under a magnifying glass, burned like leaves under the lens.
This feels way too on-the-nose, especially since Munny internal narration has emphasized so far the idea that Bianca doesn't have flaws.

She gave you her nightmares, but she never asked you to give her your love.
Find this hard to parse too and I don't think it sums up the chapter in the way it feels like it's meant to.
 

kintsugi

golden scars
Pronouns
she/her/hers
Partner
silvally-grass
Here for Catnip!

N FIC N FIC N FIC! My specialty. Honestly I was slightly worried about reading this fic as I am slightly picky about how N is portrayed and the worst case scenario is I would be like this:

View attachment 201
ngl I was sort of worried too! I know that I have some Hot Takes on N so I'm very glad you enjoyed.

haha these gifs are AMAZING where do they come from???

Is this... Is this a nuzlocke? Was this based on a run?
not really! I did play through Pokemon Black to like, actually do research for this, but I would probably need an entirely separate fic to tackle N in a Nuzlocke. In this canon, pokemon death is very uncommon.

View attachment 203

(how many n-related reaction images do i have? NOT ENOUGH)
NEVER ENOUGH

I've had some trouble working out what it is I want to say about this one! I guess my biggest reaction was feeling somewhat like we've had this story before and that this version doesn't have much that's new to say. Munny feels like a mashup of Carnel (best polite baby) and Ace (unquestioningly loyal) with bonus self-esteem issues.
I think this is actually a result of reverse-chronology, rip. Munny is one of the first characters I wrote into this fic, and as such I think when I got stuck on chapters, I ended up just pulling bits of her character forward in slightly different ways.

I guess thus far it's felt like each chapter has complicated and deepened the story, and this one to me felt like it was a bit more simplistic and retreading stuff we've already covered. It's nice to see Rhea again, of course, and this happening is important from a 'video game events' perspective, but it's not striking me at the moment as necessary to the story you've been telling.
haha um and we talked about this on Discord but part of the reason this probably feels unnecessary is because this chapter isn't actually supposed to take place here and all the characters are in the wrong spot.

I'm intrigued by the dream aspect, though. Having your munna deal with all your bad dreams is a much subtler form of mistreatment and much less easy to see . . . and part of me wanted the chapter to lean more into that? Like, especially because this is Bianca, who's not super keen on battling. It would be interesting to see a trainer-pokemon scenario where the trainer doesn't make the pokemon battle, but is still being oblivious to their pain and feelings. Makes it harder for a Rhea-style intervention, of course.
Based on PokeSpe, pokespe senpai! Except I haven't read it! And just thought it was a super weird concept for a protagonist!!!

This feels a little half-hearted? Like, where do Munny's ideas of trainers and training come from? What part does she consider Bianca playing in the partnership? This grammer tic with all creatures needing a the or a possessive pronoun in front is interesting, though, and feels like more could be done with that? Like are people incomplete if they don't belong to anyone?
It was meant to be the latter, but I agree this wasn't fleshed out haha -- to be discussed at the end of the chapter.

Myth! I'm not sure how well it ends up tying into the chapter, though. We get a lot of references to Munny wanting to find herself, but it's not clear to me what that really means to her and what prompted the self-searching. I'd also be interested in the myth taking a stronger stance on why it's wrong for the musharna to stay in the dream world.
oooooh yes. i will. borrow.

Ooh, I like the sense of the musharna culture this gives. I bet they're into horoscopes too.
Your Bianca is such a gemini!!!

I wasn't sure what to make of this. Like, it would be super nefarious and f-ed up if trainers are told musharna mist pink when they eat good dreams when in fact it's pink mist for all dreams. Very gaslighting--y. But I'm not sure I really believe that would be the case or even if that's what you're going for? Do their researchers just suck?
This was actually based on the pokedex/games: "It eats the dreams of people and Pokémon. When it eats a pleasant dream, it expels pink-colored mist." (And later, musharna: "The dream mist coming from its forehead changes into many different colors depending on the dream that was eaten.")

And like! A lot to unpack there, starting with people and pokemon, but I always thought it was interesting that they specifically say pink is the fun color and it's also hard-coded into the game that musharna will always have pink mist, all the dream world artwork is pink, and even when humans kick the shit out of munna in the Dreamyward it emits pink mist. Felt like a convenient lie we told ourselves rather than a real scientific thing, but I should go into that more.

That very much checks out. And so Bianca's throwing her pokemon under the bus to appease Cheren?
aren't cycle of abuse fun

Aw, Rhea being considerate. I find it a liiiitttle hard to swallow that Munny is so surprised by this. Sam does it in the Ace chapter.
Bianca never thinks of it and Bianca's world is sort of Munny's entire world at this point.

(Also, rip Rhea, who defaults to "one X yes" when policing defaults to "one X no").

Hah Rhea and Mark gripe about cat fur AU when??
hiatus time

N when a Charmander says his name is Ember. "O-oh what a nice and unusual name."
it's not their fault!!!

Are you going with a canon that healing items actually heal, then, rather than being adrenaline boosters?
Probably the former -- if only because I would get called out for not addressing canon if healing items didn't heal.

Does Munny not talk to the other members of Bianca's team?
mmmm in the post-edit future i will update this to "human" haha

A bit dubious Munny could see this, considering the distance and how she couldn't spot Rhea's eye color.
hmmmm rip.

It's that time when we make sad allusions to N's destiny.
rip

Oooh. Friend--Munny said earlier that trainer is partner/equal. Does she consider Bianca a friend?
Yes! In their language the words are the same. Which is unfortunate.

N here also seems a little more doubtful than I expected? In the previous chapter (ie the next chapter) he's pretty bouncy and idealistic.
yes well you see that's actually because he's from the future here.

Anyway! I do think this is a good come-to-jesus moment for me -- between the questionable quality here and the fact that it's literally the wrong chapter and I have no solid plans to avert this, I'm gonna pull this chapter for now and call a one month hiatus to get my shit together, lol.
 
Top