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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

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
 
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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.
 
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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)
 
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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.
 

Namohysip

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charizard
Hey kint! This time I'm here to tackle chapter ii, notorious!

My first impressions on my initial read-through were one that was definitely fascinated more than anything, and I think one of your biggest "good calls" was using a Rotom cameramon for the perspective of this fight to capture a lot of very deliberate parallelism. Additionally, it let you cheat a little and grab some 'away' perspectives via the radio waves. Clever, clever~

It didn't take me too long to realize whose perspective I was in, though I still am going to place an aside statement that it's a little disorienting every time trying to puzzle out who I am. Takes me out a bit.

The prose was written very well and I don't think it ever became overbearing despite how descriptive and vivid it can get. Oftentimes I worry that very introspective dialogue can result in hyper-saturation of the prose, but here I didn't get that impression at all. I had some other peculiar thoughts about some of the things that happened over the course of this chapter, but I'll save those for the quotes.

And just like that, Harmonia scores the lead!
I'm a little confused about how Harmonia scored the lead when he was a Pokemon ahead already (Alter down to his last, Harmonia with three. So, that means prior to this exchange, he was already 2 to 1.) It coming only a few lines later was particularly disorienting when that's the only context I have for this fight.

But when it is turned on a human, you suddenly realize how cruel it is. Unova!
I understand the sentiments behind this line, but I think the concept being pushed here took me out of the story. Maybe this is the setting analyst in me talking and I should stop picking things apart, but it made me think about if humans are just as strong as Pokemon here or something, or if they can't bounce back, or--on the flip side--if Pokemon are significantly weaker on the heal factor instead!

Though, there are so many ways where when this double standard of 'humans can't fight, but Pokemon can and it's normal' is considered bad, there are suddenly a lot of holes in the logic--which was the intent! Except, then it led me to thinking why, if Pokemon aren't able to fight so well or recover so well, it'd've been so regular in the first place, and... In the end, I suppose the fact that it doesn't make sense is why "N was right" rings so strongly in this work.

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

“You’re a madman, Ghetsis. I will waste no more time with you.”
Mentioning the empath part continued to strain my suspension of disbelief for similar reasons as above, mostly because the narrative here is really pushing for Ghetsis to actually be a good guy. At least, that's the impression I got--or is that clouded by Rotom's impressionable, disgruntled-employee/slave perspective? Now that I think about it, had this work been more on the lighthearted side, I could see epilogue-like scenes of this leading to Rotom zapping his trainer and floating away with a briefcase in ectoplasm-hand.

Related...

Black/White has a lot of weird holes like this it really seems not to want us to look at too hard.
Johto had said this, but I think I ended up having the exact opposite reaction! Black and White certainly simplifies things in the narrative, but this hole in particular, I feel, was more an introduced hole thanks to how the premise had been switched around. It reminds me of trying to port over the information of one location from one physics engine to another; things fall apart, suddenly entire swaths of the landscape are uninhabitable, and for some reason the sky is made of grass.

That would make for a fascinating meta-narrative had that been the initial approach of the story, somehow--a, "what if this one thing was different" approach. I think that's what this story is already getting, but for some reason I get this impression that the intent is not quite the same, or the signals aren't coming my way if it is.

You watch it all.

Ghetsis is escorted out of the building in handcuffs. A medical team arrives for Alder. Hilda limps away with the god of Unova clipped to her belt.
Okay, but that being said, I really wanted to pull out this quote because I really, really liked it. I liked it for how jarring it was after this long pause of introspection where things seemed to happen in slow motion, the embers flickering against heat lines at half speed, and suddenly it's a camera cut of the epilogue when the fires are out. Despite how minimalist the prose is here, you'd conditioned me enough with the prior descriptiveness that I think I had a vivid and well-formed image of just what these terse sentences were describing. Big kudos for that--I don't know if I'd be able to pull the same thing off as I write now. (Though I'm certainly going to look for a place--I've got a few ideas already!)

--

Another thing I forgot to mention, Ghetsis’ brutality overall has an interesting echo from the prologue, where it doesn't feel as if N is the hero. Also, I think it was intentional, but the vagueness of who the challenger Pokémon was and referring to the challenger as Harmonia definitely made me think it was N. Big bait and switch, but... I’m not sure why? Was it to imply that the reader could easily mistake Ghetsis and N’s actions in a fight? Or how the ideals of N and the insidious plot of Ghetsis would be hard to distinguish?

That’s my guess, and it further muddles whether Ghetsis is right or wrong, and that's kind of confusing for how the setting is set up where it seems like N actually had a point. Or is this a black-gray morality thing? ...Wait, does that make Ghetsis gray or black? No, black (assuming his motivations of splitting people from Pokemon EXCEPT for himself is still true)--because gray would be the canon protags in this setting, and N would probably then be white/the idealist? Wait but he got Reshiram. Bah!

Anyway, very thought-provoking chapter. Thanks for the read!
 

kintsugi

golden scars
Pronouns
she/her/hers
Partner
silvally-grass
My first impressions on my initial read-through were one that was definitely fascinated more than anything, and I think one of your biggest "good calls" was using a Rotom cameramon for the perspective of this fight to capture a lot of very deliberate parallelism. Additionally, it let you cheat a little and grab some 'away' perspectives via the radio waves. Clever, clever~
Thanks! This was definitely one of my more galaxy-brain narrator selections (what if? cameras?? could feel???), and I'm glad the gamble worked out lol.

I'm a little confused about how Harmonia scored the lead when he was a Pokemon ahead already (Alter down to his last, Harmonia with three. So, that means prior to this exchange, he was already 2 to 1.) It coming only a few lines later was particularly disorienting when that's the only context I have for this fight.
Oh yup, that's very true. Fixed; thanks for the catch!

Though, there are so many ways where when this double standard of 'humans can't fight, but Pokemon can and it's normal' is considered bad, there are suddenly a lot of holes in the logic--which was the intent! Except, then it led me to thinking why, if Pokemon aren't able to fight so well or recover so well, it'd've been so regular in the first place, and... In the end, I suppose the fact that it doesn't make sense is why "N was right" rings so strongly in this work.
I always thought the double standard that you reference here is weirdly pervasive in the fandom, and this is really the fic where I start questioning why, I guess. So many ethics issues become a lot easier if we handwave and say pokemon don't feel pain, but in our world a lot of ethics issues spawn when some people handwave other people feeling pain [historically] [modern]. Does healing undo hurt? Someone who hurts on behalf of others is a hero, but what do you call someone who asks that others hurt on their behalf?

Ultimately this is a story about communication, about the things you can and can't tell others. Imo the pain we each feel falls solidly in the latter--you can make approximations to describe it, you can inflict it, but you can never in words explain to someone else how much something hurts you.

And that's when both parties are capable of talking to one another--what happens when pokemon can't even use words? How does that communication fall even further apart, and who gets to assume what? As writers we can of course make our own fictional canons reality: you can objectively say in your setting that pokemon don't feel any pain; you can write a grimdark bloodbath setting where healing doesn't exist. But the human characters within either of those settings don't and can't know the pain that pokemon feel. So for them to make the assumption that the heal factor makes someone else's pain permissible, or for them to assume that pokemon are incapable of feeling as deep of a pain as a human in the first place--these things don't sit right with me, and I wanted to use this work to explore that. I'm glad it makes you poke at the double standard a bit, and I hope this provides some better context.

Mentioning the empath part continued to strain my suspension of disbelief for similar reasons as above, mostly because the narrative here is really pushing for Ghetsis to actually be a good guy. At least, that's the impression I got--or is that clouded by Rotom's impressionable, disgruntled-employee/slave perspective? Now that I think about it, had this work been more on the lighthearted side, I could see epilogue-like scenes of this leading to Rotom zapping his trainer and floating away with a briefcase in ectoplasm-hand.
Haha I just want to clarify that I really don't think Ghetsis is the good guy, and that's not really the intent of this narrative. In your words, Ghetsis's signature move is "Hydreigon (Kyurem), use Kill Child"--which is, like, objectively horrible. I don't really consider someone who tries to burn a child alive to be a good guy, and I hope that no readers come away thinking that's an acceptable course of action. And even for the Pokemon Liberation side, he's still not really helping either--he's standing safely on the sidelines, purposefully endangering pokemon to prove a point, and calling that his way of standing up for them. It's a really shitty way to support a cause. (also he knowingly tries to burn a child alive. i really cannot stress how i don't think that's remotely a good guy trait)

But just like protagonists can be good people who sometimes have bad ideas, antagonists can be bad people who have good ideas. Ghetsis is squarely in the latter here. His actions are indisputably bad but the idea that he plants in Wave's head (that humans don't view pokemon suffering on the same scale as their own) is a lot more grey and doesn't just get wiped away when Ghetsis is taken away--in fact, Ghetsis being taken away is probably what cements that idea, since it reinforces that human lives were protected here at the cost of pokemon lives. Ghetsis shouldn't murder people. But it's also not right to Wave that four people (Alder's bouffalant, Alder's escavalier, Hilda's zebstrika, and Ghetsis's hydreigon) are killed in this chapter and no one bats an eye. These aren't mutually exclusive.

The BW discourse has fascinated me since it often becomes "Plasma were hypocrites who went about things the wrong way" or similar--but it's often treated like defeating Plasma defeats the idea that training isn't ethical. I think this becomes an interesting concept to study in a world where people can literally become the embodiment of truth/ideals, which are concepts that don't die when you kill the people responsible for spreading them. Fascism didn't end with Hitler; civil rights didn't die with MLK. Perhaps it's stretching belief for Wave to get on board with that, since a lot of modern discourse does hold movements accountable for the worst actions of their leaders, but I'll plead suspension of disbelief here that a robot might be less prone to logical fallacies than a human.

(Unrelated, but I'm curious about where you'd take the lighthearted suit/briefcase rotom look--"pokemon watches a pokemon almost murder a human and then decides to attack humans and also it's a metaphor for killing your boss to protest capitalism" seems even darker than what I was going for here lol!)

That would make for a fascinating meta-narrative had that been the initial approach of the story, somehow--a, "what if this one thing was different" approach. I think that's what this story is already getting, but for some reason I get this impression that the intent is not quite the same, or the signals aren't coming my way if it is.
I wasn't sure which hole you were talking about here? Empaths are canonically able to sense pokemon's emotions--Anabel for example does this on several occasions, there's some dialogue from the Psychic trainer class referencing they can feel their pokemon's excitement, etc. At best it's a stretch that Caitlin's psychic powers are specifically empathy, since her dialogue mostly references psychokinesis-powered-by-emotions, which is fair! But Ghetsis is reaching at this point.

Another thing I forgot to mention, Ghetsis’ brutality overall has an interesting echo from the prologue, where it doesn't feel as if N is the hero. Also, I think it was intentional, but the vagueness of who the challenger Pokémon was and referring to the challenger as Harmonia definitely made me think it was N. Big bait and switch, but... I’m not sure why? Was it to imply that the reader could easily mistake Ghetsis and N’s actions in a fight? Or how the ideals of N and the insidious plot of Ghetsis would be hard to distinguish?
In-universe: Wave is a rotom possessing a camera drone and has limited knowledge of politics--likely does not know or care about the differences between the two Harmonias, and as such feels no need to call them out until everyone else does.
Meta: Kind of ties in above--how we're so used to judging ideas based on the people who present them, even when we shouldn't. When N talks about liberation we're used to thinking he's sheltered and misguided; when Ghetsis talks about liberation we're used to thinking he's lying and manipulative. But what do those ideas become when we conflate the speakers?

That’s my guess, and it further muddles whether Ghetsis is right or wrong, and that's kind of confusing for how the setting is set up where it seems like N actually had a point. Or is this a black-gray morality thing? ...Wait, does that make Ghetsis gray or black? No, black (assuming his motivations of splitting people from Pokemon EXCEPT for himself is still true)--because gray would be the canon protags in this setting, and N would probably then be white/the idealist? Wait but he got Reshiram. Bah!
Haha I think everyone here is solidly grey! Ghetsis is wrong but some of his ideas are right. N is right but some of his ideas are wrong. Hilda is wroght but some of her ideas are riong lol. I think canon BW tripped when it tried to make everyone explicitly black or white at the last minute--because so few stories truly are.

I'm glad you enjoyed, though! I know this genre is pretty much as far from your standard as you can get; glad the internal-heavy narration isn't too jarring; and I'm especially glad that I made you think! Thanks for taking the time to write up all your thoughts in such an insightful manner.
 
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Namohysip

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So many ethics issues become a lot easier if we handwave and say pokemon don't feel pain, but in our world a lot of ethics issues spawn when some people handwave other people feeling pain
Yeah, I see where you're getting at. I think one issue I usually take with stories of this 'real life parallel in a fantasy world' nature is just that--these beasts are fantastical, to the point where their base psychology is usually different. Though that might be my PMD side leaking, sine there we have a very clear look at Pokemon psychology being a little more "fight leads to friendship." Clearly not the case in this setting, of course, where it was made that their psychology is the same to better support the overall narrative of the double standard's problem.

In your words, Ghetsis's signature move is "Hydreigon (Kyurem), use Kill Child"
So, I actually wasn't totally sure that this was the case here, going in! My bad. I kinda threw anything I knew of the canon out the window when reading this since it feels so different, in a way.

But it's also not right to Wave that four people (Alder's bouffalant, Alder's escavalier, Hilda's zebstrika, and Ghetsis's hydreigon) are killed in this chapter and no one bats an eye.
Now this one I definitely agree with. Tone wise it's very clear that something is deeply wrong with the way society built itself up if that's how far the double standard is being pulled.

Unrelated, but I'm curious about where you'd take the lighthearted suit/briefcase rotom look--"pokemon watches a pokemon almost murder a human and then decides to attack humans and also it's a metaphor for killing your boss to protest capitalism" seems even darker than what I was going for here lol!
Okay so to clarify that change also implies that it's less killing and more KO'ing, ha.

I wasn't sure which hole you were talking about here?
The hole was about the Pokemon psychology and how a unifying sport that Pokemon enjoy in the canon has instead become a bloodsport that Pokemon don't know how to get out of. My fault for mentioning empaths at the same time, though it does tie in with the whole "If empaths CAN feel Pokemon pain, and Pokemon DO suffer in this setting, why is society so firmly falling in line?" Is sort of the line of questioning I had. I think I also underestimated how incapable Pokemon are at communicating with humans in this setting, but empaths, I feel, would be able to bridge the gap depending on how common they are.
 

kintsugi

golden scars
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silvally-grass
Yeah, I see where you're getting at. I think one issue I usually take with stories of this 'real life parallel in a fantasy world' nature is just that--these beasts are fantastical, to the point where their base psychology is usually different. Though that might be my PMD side leaking, sine there we have a very clear look at Pokemon psychology being a little more "fight leads to friendship." Clearly not the case in this setting, of course, where it was made that their psychology is the same to better support the overall narrative of the double standard's problem.
Yeah, to me that's why there's no right way to land on the "do pokemon feel pain?" argument--PMD in particular skirts this since everyone is a pokemon and as such can speak for themselves--but there's definitely a more defined dichotomy for me for "can human characters in narrative assume pokemon don't feel pain?"

So, I actually wasn't totally sure that this was the case here, going in! My bad. I kinda threw anything I knew of the canon out the window when reading this since it feels so different, in a way.
Oh I mean, he doesn't actually get to BW2 since he gets arrested here and then whoops the world ends, but yes, he's the same character. He just uses the Kill Child TM on his hydreigon instead of Kyurem.

Okay so to clarify that change also implies that it's less killing and more KO'ing, ha.
lol I figured! You've made dark humor work before, so I wasn't sure!

The hole was about the Pokemon psychology and how a unifying sport that Pokemon enjoy in the canon has instead become a bloodsport that Pokemon don't know how to get out of. My fault for mentioning empaths at the same time, though it does tie in with the whole "If empaths CAN feel Pokemon pain, and Pokemon DO suffer in this setting, why is society so firmly falling in line?" Is sort of the line of questioning I had. I think I also underestimated how incapable Pokemon are at communicating with humans in this setting, but empaths, I feel, would be able to bridge the gap depending on how common they are.
Ohhh, gotcha, makes more sense!

I guess the answer is ... I still don't think society would fall in line? Canonically N talks to pokemon, says training is bad, and gets ignored. There are a few more empaths than pokemon-Doolittles in canon, but not really enough that I'd see them having enough say to get different reception. Did the empath only talk to abused pokemon? Is the empath biased? Why doesn't the empath try talking to happier pokemon instead? The empath didn't talk to my pokemon ...

I do think in general it's a hairy question with no satisfying answer, just a thing that frequently happens--how did society get this bad/how can we as a society keep doing [simple thing that hurts a lot of people] is a question I find myself grappling with a lot more than I expected in recent, non-fictional times lmao. And the inability for pokemon to be heard in a meaningful way is definitely a central theme here.
 

Dragonfree

Pokémon Trainer
Staff
Location
Iceland
Pronouns
she/her/hers
Here for Catnip Circle, reviewing the prologue!

I think the imagery here is really lovely, this frozen tableau of a grand battle, and the specific details you name convey something stark and beautiful - Hilda's expression and dust-smeared face, Reshiram's eyes having the intensity of a dying star.

N thinking that there might be a better way, but he's not going to wait to find it is interesting, as is how he doesn't feel like a hero - a suggestion of doubt and hesitation that I'm interested to see explored. I'm also intrigued by the final line - it's a fun little hook turning our expectations around.

I don't know if this prologue says all that much narratively, all that said - apart from those nuggets in N's thoughts at the end, most of it's description that, while effectively written and evocative as imagery, doesn't really seem to be conveying much, whether plot- or character-wise, just sort of painting a picture of a scene. I think what you're going for here is that this is chronologically the final scene, and the rest of the story will be exploring and building up to why N makes this choice, in which case presumably the idea is later scenes will lend it further context and this is simply how we learn how this all culminates before we go back to what happened earlier. That's very cool, and the atmospheric buildup is effective, but even so I found myself a little restless as you enumerated all the Pokémon and what they were doing. I think it might have been more effective for me if there were more of a sense of character and/or emotional punch to what you say about each of them - especially since your N, like in canon, presumably cares a lot about Pokémon as individual people, which makes it somewhat incongruous that the human is the only one whose description focuses on her character, the expression on her face, the fire in her eyes, while the Pokémon's descriptions are only about their physical attributes. (Maybe there's a reason for this, but we certainly don't know it yet.) So that might be something that could be improved on here.

I wanted to review both the prologue and chapter one, since the prologue is quite short, but then I didn't have time tonight, alas; I'd definitely like to check out at least chapter 1 still, though, potentially for Blacklight points, so hopefully I'll manage to get around to that and see more of exactly what you're doing with this!

A couple of quotes:

Bits and pieces of them have crumbled inward, shattering on the marble of the floor, but the tiny cracks there are immediately swallowed up into the web of fractures that’s starting to swallow up the entire room.
The repetition of "swallow" bugged me a bit.

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

Probably. Was it worth letting thousands of people suffer while you tried to find the route that left their oppressors undisturbed? No.
Everything else in the prologue is in the present tense, so I'm a bit puzzled by the use of the past tense here, when N hasn't yet made his choice.

Your name is Natural Harmonious Gropius
I thought it was Harmonia?
 

kintsugi

golden scars
Pronouns
she/her/hers
Partner
silvally-grass
hi hi! Thanks for stopping by, and thank you for leaving such insightful commentary!

Prologues are ... hard. And usually they don't need to exist. From a meta perspective I almost feel like I needed to have it, for the last line that you point out--the story is told backwards, and the logical leap between ch1 and ch2 would be batshit for readers who don't know that. It's kind of a sloppy solution that I wanted to make functional still. So, like you say, the rest of the story is the buildup to this moment, and from a meta perspective I sort of needed to have this moment, but I also knew that 1) it'd be hard to convey the emotions of an entire story's worth of buildup in the very first chapter, so 2) it would be better if it were short and didn't actually say that much. The original drafts tried to be a lot more emotionally dramatic shocking i know, but ultimately I found them to be too melodramatic, since I'm trying to get the reader to care about an entire room full of people and a world that's about to be destroyed--which is what the rest of the story was really for. A weird relic of my achron format that I'm not sure if I can remove, but one I can at least keep short.

I think it might have been more effective for me if there were more of a sense of character and/or emotional punch to what you say about each of them - especially since your N, like in canon, presumably cares a lot about Pokémon as individual people, which makes it somewhat incongruous that the human is the only one whose description focuses on her character, the expression on her face, the fire in her eyes, while the Pokémon's descriptions are only about their physical attributes. (Maybe there's a reason for this, but we certainly don't know it yet.) So that might be something that could be improved on here.
I thought this was an interesting take! I'd intended for Hilda to be the only one giving commands, orders, so the pokemon are the victims of her (and N's) decision to fight. The unconscious pokemon don't feel like they had agency because in N's eyes they didn't. In a sense most of them chose to be here, but N sees them as casualties regardless--is it really a choice that speaks to your character if you had no other option?

And I struggled with this! Something I might revisit. The prologue has been constantly revised lol.

The repetition of "swallow" bugged me a bit.
Same! For some reason this got fixed on a different forum but I never pushed the change here.

Everything else in the prologue is in the present tense, so I'm a bit puzzled by the use of the past tense here, when N hasn't yet made his choice.
He hasn't made his choice, but he does feel like the other options have been closed to him. The better ways/diverging paths, and the decision to let pokemon suffer while he tried to choose--those are things that have already happened and are no longer options now.

I thought it was Harmonia?
oh shit you right
 

Chibi Pika

Stay positive
Staff
Location
somewhere in spacetime
Pronouns
they/them
Partner
pikachu-chibi
I'm glad catnip keeps assigning me to you because no matter how many times I tell myself that I can just read a thing and it's fine to not have interesting analysis, I don't think that's possible with this fic. xD Even going into this chapter, I was like "ok, my review will just be 'wow cool pokemon moral dilemma'" and then next thing I know I have to stop myself from commenting on every single one of Ghestis's logical fallacies.

Anyway, I guess I'll just start with how much I loved the reversal here, the way everything's set up ambiguously such that this could be the N vs Alder showdown from canon, if not for the glaring inconsistency every time "Harmonia" opens his mouth. The mention of red claws even made me think it was a Zoroark at first, even despite my knowing that Hydreigon would feature here.

“Bloodsport? Stop being so dramatic. Pokémon like battling. It helps them become strong. You’ll never change that.”

“I’ll change it. When I’m Champion that’ll be my first command.”
Oh man the wording here is so telling. "Pokemon like battling, you'll never change that." followed by "I'll change it." I'll change what they like. Even though Alder's putting up a garbage defense here, Ghetsis either just doesn't care what Pokemon want, or he cares in that "I know what's best for you better than you do" kind of way. Chilling.)
He hones in on a single word in Alder’s sentence, closes around it like a beartic’s jaws around a basculin. “Safe?”
can i ask ghestsis his opinions on extreme sports. :V
“Win or lose, the League will not fall today,” Alder says. “Our traditions have withstood centuries and a thousand madmen; one more will change nothing.”
This felt a bit jarringly blunt and unsympathetic to me. I can't fully remember what Alder's canon personality was like, but I always read him as more passive, the kind of guy who would go along with whatever his team wanted, but maybe I'm way off lol. And then again, I can say it's cartoonish but then real life just loooooooves to make the "is this an onion article" game harder every day. 🙃
The shadows beneath the volcarona erupt into a seething mass of heads and teeth, and the black dragon remerges, sinking its fangs deep into fiery wings and pinning the moth to the ground.
Really loved the image here, and the subsequent wing-ripping moment was a visceral gut-punch, nice job.
“You would heal your friends after you let them get hurt to defend your belief that they should have the freedom to suffer? How kind. Don’t sacrifice too much for our lifelong partners, Alder.” Venom drips from his words. “Truly, your generosity knows no bounds.”
Just as Alder prizes tradition over his Pokemon's agency, so too does Ghetsis prize change over the very same Pokemon's agency, even thought the obvious solution is just to ask them what they want, and listen. It's so perfect that literally no one is caring about their point of view, including the one claiming to speak for them. It's so strikingly different compared to what we saw of N last chapter, who questions, who cares, who wants to know what his friends want, what they're able to want, what opportunities are denied to them.
“—a tag team attack from the seismitoad is all it takes,” Markus finishes. You can almost picture him leaning forward. “Impressive teamwork from the two of those; Harmonia didn’t even give a proper command.”
See, here's one of those great lines that calls back to the Vaselva chapter. Ghestis gave no commands. His Pokemon acted on their own, they want the same ideals as him, but yet we also know that they have no opportunity to want anything else. This implicitly raises the question of consent better than anything Ghetsis has said in the entire match.
“Nothing that I have done today is illegal under the League rules. Nothing that I have done today is even uncommon under League practices—a gym leader battles up to eight times per day; excessive force is bound to happen. Everything I have done is absolutely cruel. But under a system that offers amnesty to trainers who make mistakes in battles, under a system that assumes that the burden falls on pokémon both to inform us of their pain and moderate how they inflict it, I can cause pokémon to suffer.” He strolls over to Alder, who is kneeling on the ground, murmuring something inaudible.
Oh, this is just devious. I can do this, therefore I will, to show that it's your fault I was allowed to, because you did not stop me. Even though you tried to stop me, but that was merely because you did not like what I said, even though it was in direct response to my actions. It's so perfectly circular, it almost manages to feel convincing until you step back from it. And the way he frames Pokemon even needing to be the ones to moderate their damage, as if that's a bad thing in itself. He frames it as a self-evident conclusion, a binary, even though the obvious answer is, "Pokemon must moderate their damage (because no one else can), and humans must listen."
The intent mattered to them, somehow. As if the pain was somehow less if it was inflicted on accident.
This line felt the most heavy-handed imo. It got the closest to the edgefest fics that love to parade pain around as an objective evil, completely ignoring consent as the central question. Which was jarring because the Vaselva chapter was delightful specifically for challenging if said consent was able to be freely given. I'd expect heavy-handed edge from Ghetsis, but not from the Rotom.

But yeah, sorry Rotom, when I get socked in the face on accident during training, I am 0% mad compared to if someone did it on purpose. (But! That is because I chose to be in that situation. It all comes back to that.)
“Hang on folks, I’m getting information from downstairs right now, it looks like someone has broken through the cofagrigus’s trick room and is fighting Ghetsis! Wow, and she’s certainly putting her serperior through its paces tonight; it just narrowly dodged another Fire Blast from Ghetsis’s hydreigon here.”

He’s so casual how can he be so casual there are pokémon here that are going to die
This felt a bit forced. I was under the impression the commentator didn't want to, and was being made to. Defaulting to inappropriate enthusiasm here tracks to me, no more genuine than smiling in a hostage situation. (Then again, later he's shown to be a dick who didn't care about Wave's safety, so maybe I just read the situation wrong when Plasma took control?)
When a pokémon is forced to withstand an attack of this caliber, that is cause for sport. Celebration, even! But when it is turned on a human, you suddenly realize how cruel it is.
Mannnn, he's not even trying to hide his false double standard anymore.
Zekrom snarls in response, and then casts a bloody gaze around the room. Takes it all in. You see the skin above the fangs curl back instinctively at the sight of the downed pokémon on both sides, and then finally, the gaze settles back upon Hilda. {You called to me, Hero of Ideals. I heard in your call the purest future I have ever felt dreamed in thousands of years. You have been tested. I find you worthy. But explain to me. Why does the future you envision require this?}
Honestly Hilda doesn't even feel like the hero here, and I'll be curious to learn more of what she believes in. It is a bit of a shame that as terrible as Ghetsis is at making his point, Hilda and Alder don't even have any proper counterarguments, even though there are plenty of things to latch onto. Does she believe that Pokemon have consented to this, and that their consent was freely given? Did Zekrom sense that earnest belief in her heart?
Ghetsis tilts his chin up. “Caitlin. You’re an empath. You could read your parents’ minds when you were six, they say. Haven’t you ever felt your pokémon’s pain?”
If she could feel their pain, surely she could feel their desires, as well, but that doesn't serve his narrative now does it.
It isn’t right. It isn’t right that Ghetsis, who called the shots, gets to walk off to trial, while the blood of his hydreigon slowly goes cold and seeps into the dirt.
It isn't right indeed, and yet, I actually have peeked ahead and read a bit of the Zahhak chapter, enough to know his angle here. So even in the end, even with a Pokemon narrator, his agency is being denied.

Anyway I hope it's okay that I'm reading the fic through this angle--other people smarter than me seem to have opposite takes, which makes me worry, aha. Hope the review's entertaining regardless~
 
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kintsugi

golden scars
Pronouns
she/her/hers
Partner
silvally-grass
I'm glad catnip keeps assigning me to you because no matter how many times I tell myself that I can just read a thing and it's fine to not have interesting analysis, I don't think that's possible with this fic. xD Even going into this chapter, I was like "ok, my review will just be 'wow cool pokemon moral dilemma'" and then next thing I know I have to stop myself from commenting on every single one of Ghestis's logical fallacies.

Anyway, I guess I'll just start with how much I loved the reversal here, the way everything's set up ambiguously such that this could be the N vs Alder showdown from canon, if not for the glaring inconsistency every time "Harmonia" opens his mouth. The mention of red claws even made me think it was a Zoroark at first, even despite my knowing that Hydreigon would feature here.
ahhh! hi chibi, thank you for the thorough review! I really do value seeing people's thoughts on this mild clusterfuck of a project; there's a lot going on and half of the fun is just seeing what it makes people think about. Also I'm glad you got the zoroark! It's kind of funny because I set it up knowing that N's zoroark isn't that kind of fighter, but I also knew that the readers wouldn't know, so like ... heh. Glad it kind of got through!

Oh man the wording here is so telling. "Pokemon like battling, you'll never change that." followed by "I'll change it." I'll change what they like. Even though Alder's putting up a garbage defense here, Ghetsis either just doesn't care what Pokemon want, or he cares in that "I know what's best for you better than you do" kind of way. Chilling.)
Oh, hmm, not what I intended to imply there! I wanted Ghetsis to be picking more at the line that follows, "[battling] makes pokemon become strong"--it's such a limiting idea that strength has to come purely from force and displays of power. Ghetsis wants to change the idea that pokemon need to be strong in battle to be worth anything, and the fastest way he sees to achieve that is to change battling.

Regarding "pokemon like it", I feel like Ghetsis is just tossing everything Alder says in the garbage anyway lol, especially since Ghetsis has been around pokemon who don't want to battle and that's such a huge blanket statement that it can't possibly be correct. A better statement for Alder would've been "we make sure that pokemon who don't like battling don't have to fight" or "there are rules that prevent this from being a bloodsport", but "all pokemon love battling and it makes them strong" simply doesn't align with the reality that Ghetsis has seen.

can i ask ghestsis his opinions on extreme sports. :V
haha sure! I think he'd be glad that in extreme sports, the competitors assume both the risk and the glory--the ones who are putting their bodies on the line are the ones who get the recognition that comes with success, they get paid, they can talk to their coaches, etc. He'd probably also note that even in situations where the competitors are recognized citizens of society/can communicate, coaches in sports tend to have a lot of power over the players, and that can manifest in really gross control/abuse dynamics even with both parties in constant communication. [Here's a great breakdown of the employment/financial abuse in the WWE, and here's a piece of shit who exploited age/power dynamics in gymnastics]

This felt a bit jarringly blunt and unsympathetic to me. I can't fully remember what Alder's canon personality was like, but I always read him as more passive, the kind of guy who would go along with whatever his team wanted, but maybe I'm way off lol. And then again, I can say it's cartoonish but then real life just loooooooves to make the "is this an onion article" game harder every day. 🙃
ahhh yes oof my "I hate Alder" cards were out in full force on that one. I'm redoing some small details of the early chapters during this hiatus and this bit will probably go up on the block.

See, here's one of those great lines that calls back to the Vaselva chapter. Ghestis gave no commands. His Pokemon acted on their own, they want the same ideals as him, but yet we also know that they have no opportunity to want anything else. This implicitly raises the question of consent better than anything Ghetsis has said in the entire match.
It isn't right indeed, and yet, I actually have peeked ahead and read a bit of the Zahhak chapter, enough to know his angle here. So even in the end, even with a Pokemon narrator, his agency is being denied.
Yeah! For me it's this dichotomy that you call out between wanting and choosing something that I think still lets Ghetsis be right. In the Zahhak chapter that you mention, Zahhak certainly chooses to go down this path, but it's not something he actually wants, but instead something he feels he has to do because no one else can. It's probably cheating to bring about meta stuff, but like, the cooking show AU where he and N and the gardening bisharp demonstrate how to properly julienne a carrot, or Zahhak's career in beatboxing where the left and right heads lay down a sick beat while the middle head starts rapping, or even the joke BLC signup where babified!PMD!Zahhak would just be a perfectly happy little guy bumping into tables--these are the things he'd want to be doing in a more fair world, instead of choosing to be crushed by rocks and dying alone, in pain, and believing he's failed.

And I guess since you mention the Zahhak chapter, there's actually a more telling way to demonstrate the choice vs wanting dichotomy and why Ghetsis thinks it's fair to just throw out the pokemon's choices here--Sagaris, the haxorus in Zahhak's story, dies holding back a mob of humans so that the rest of her clan can try to escape. Her choices here are 1) die alone at the mountain pass and hope that everyone else has time to run or 2) run with the others and die with them. And like technically she's chosen to die alone, but in an ideal world she probably would've chosen 3) live happily with the rest of her clan. In this case Sagaris' choice between 1 and 2 is irrelevant since both options suck; the choice that needs to be examined is the choice of the humans to kill her.

Ghetsis applies this logic to battling as well--Zahhak choosing to get hurt so no one else has to isn't a free choice and as such can't be used to justify what other people have made him do. Ghetsis instead wants to force the humans to confront their own decisions and actions that have led pokemon to be making these choices in the first place. And like sure, he's grandstanding about pain and stuff, but it's the choice to be in pain for sport that's at the heart of the debate in this chapter, so realistically he thinks they're one and the same.

Oh, this is just devious. I can do this, therefore I will, to show that it's your fault I was allowed to, because you did not stop me. Even though you tried to stop me, but that was merely because you did not like what I said, even though it was in direct response to my actions. It's so perfectly circular, it almost manages to feel convincing until you step back from it. And the way he frames Pokemon even needing to be the ones to moderate their damage, as if that's a bad thing in itself. He frames it as a self-evident conclusion, a binary, even though the obvious answer is, "Pokemon must moderate their damage (because no one else can), and humans must listen."
He's definitely picking away the edges of what those rules allow, but the rules do allow him to do it, and in this canon he's not the first person to rub up against those limits--Ghetsis mentions how Alder's gotten like 46 yellow cards for excessive force in his career, and the most recent one was a contested injury where his volcarona gave an opponent third degree burns, so it's not like the cards are being given out for nothing. The rules sort of suck and don't protect pokemon like the humans claim they do, is Ghetsis's entire point here. Alder trying to stop him and being unable/too late to do so is also part of the point--these rules and the people enforcing them aren't actually able to prevent injury.

I think your point on the binary is right-on, though! "Humans must listen" is how things should be, but the current system is that pokemon have to moderate, and humans don't listen. So at some point after asking nicely many times for the humans to listen, Ghetsis and Zahhak say fuck this, if you keep using your toys to hurt other kids you get your toys taken away--ironically something they've chosen but don't necessarily want.

And false binaries are sort of the epitome of Pokemon Black and White lol! "N will take away all of our pokemon forever" or "leave things exactly as they are", when the ideal middle ground could be "let's listen to them if they say they don't want to dogfight, and understand that they can still have value as people outside of being dogfighters".

And like sure! If this were a test, N's frantically scribbling down answers he knows aren't great for partial credit, Zahhak's going off the fucking rails, and Ghetsis is panicking because the guy he was supposed to copy off of didn't end up knowing the answers and the other guy he wanted to copy off of has decided to burn the testing facility down instead--but Alder's the guy in the corner trying the same answer that everyone else tried last year and got 0 points for.

This line felt the most heavy-handed imo. It got the closest to the edgefest fics that love to parade pain around as an objective evil, completely ignoring consent as the central question. Which was jarring because the Vaselva chapter was delightful specifically for challenging if said consent was able to be freely given. I'd expect heavy-handed edge from Ghetsis, but not from the Rotom.

But yeah, sorry Rotom, when I get socked in the face on accident during training, I am 0% mad compared to if someone did it on purpose. (But! That is because I chose to be in that situation. It all comes back to that.)
(sidenote: I'd love to see these edgefest fics--I see tons of mentions of them in the servers but I don't think I read widely enough to encounter that many! If nothing else it'd be great for my own personal research haha)
But yeah, I think the big caveat that you chose to be in the situation is what rubs Wave the wrong way lol. I've been punched in the face on accident in training as well, and I understand that--but if someone explicitly tried to break my nose in a practice spar I'd be mad as fuck lol. But the luxury of giving a pass for people who might have good intentions is reserved for when we choose to be in a situation where it's possible that people have those good intentions; if I didn't want to get punched in the face and it still happened to me because I was forced to spar, I don't think I'd give a fuck if it was accidental or on purpose, because I wouldn't assume that anyone involved in forcing me to fight has good intentions.

This felt a bit forced. I was under the impression the commentator didn't want to, and was being made to. Defaulting to inappropriate enthusiasm here tracks to me, no more genuine than smiling in a hostage situation. (Then again, later he's shown to be a dick who didn't care about Wave's safety, so maybe I just read the situation wrong when Plasma took control?)
It's both, I think? I wanted to play with the idea that people's actions can be misinterpreted as enjoying it even if they aren't--"pokemon love fighting" and "Markus loves giving color commentary at gunpoint" just because they're both smiling. Wave is making a guess here, and sometimes people can say one thing and mean another.

If she could feel their pain, surely she could feel their desires, as well, but that doesn't serve his narrative now does it.
Sure! but that assumes that she only felt fighting-positive desires from them, haha. Ghetsis probably doesn't have much communication with empaths but he does have a son who can directly talk to pokemon and has met many who don't desire to fight--so yeah, he finds it hard to believe that the empath has listened to every pokemon's feelings and they all wanted to be here.

Honestly Hilda doesn't even feel like the hero here, and I'll be curious to learn more of what she believes in. It is a bit of a shame that as terrible as Ghetsis is at making his point, Hilda and Alder don't even have any proper counterarguments, even though there are plenty of things to latch onto. Does she believe that Pokemon have consented to this, and that their consent was freely given? Did Zekrom sense that earnest belief in her heart?
Nah that's totally fair! I went back through and cleaned up the first chapter (and some later ones) sometime after you reviewed because I needed to move a lot of Hilda's arc further up in the narrative, especially since we don't get the Zekrom scene from anyone sympathetic to her. Hilda's ideal is basically that having power means you can protect others, and if she can just get strong enough within the system she's been raised in, she can build a fair world without tearing down what's already there. And at this moment, this is probably as vested in that ideal as she's ever going to be--she's strong enough to fight Ghetsis, defend Alder + all the injured pokemon, and save the day--so Zekrom comes.

I initially had them talking but Hilda's definitely in the "don't negotiate with terrorists" boat and Ghetsis/Zahhak have actively pivoted from making speeches to fighting for survival, so Hilda's thoughts on the matter have to come out in other chapters instead.

She has very complicated thoughts on pokemon training, a lot of which come out in later chapters, but she definitely believes she's done her due diligence and only picked pokemon who want to be here.

Anyway I hope it's okay that I'm reading the fic through this angle--other people smarter than me seem to have opposite takes, which makes me worry, aha. Hope the review's entertaining regardless~
I really appreciate it! I do enjoy seeing the different interpretations that come out of this, and it's always fun to talk shop with other authors about some of the more hairy questions in the fandom.
 
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Cresselia92

Junior Trainer
Pronouns
She/Her/Hers
Hey there! Here I am for the Catnip round!

Hmm... I wonder if ancient dragons are allergic to grass. Oh, well, whatever. Dropping it here, in any case. ;p

So! Let's get started, shall we?

The moment before it all ends is serene.
Ah, calm before the storm here, huh? Makes sense, especially considering that both Tao Dragons can control the weather.

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

On the edges of the throne room are the first casualties of this fight: a pair of Corinthian stone columns—fractured from the sheer heat of a stray fire attack, based on the scorch marks and soot. Bits and pieces of them have crumbled inward, shattering on the marble of the floor, but the tiny cracks there immediately dissolve into the web of fractures that’s starting to swallow up the entire room.
...That doesn't seem calm to me! I guess the storm arrived earlier... Reminds me of the aftermath of a hurricane. Just with more burns.

Down further, at the foot of the dais, a klinklang is scattered on the ground, their body gears in four separate pieces. It’s more reassuring to look at them in slow motion—were time going at its normal speed, the lack of spinning would be painfully obvious.
Slow-mo? Oh my gosh, are we in The Matrix? :o

Otherwise... there is another circumstance in which time may appear to be slower, and that's during the brief instant before an accident. Is there some sense of urgency or alarm here, I wonder? 🤔

Closer still. A serperior is frozen in mid-leap, every leaf on her body glowing with green light, so bright that it blots out her face. Beside her, a trainer stands, one hand frozen and outstretched, eyebrows furrowed, mouth halfway through a command. The human’s face is smeared with dust, but her eyes brim with dark flame.
That sounds evil, almost as if she is possessed or something. You know, dark aura and everything? It's the first impression this sentence has given, as if she is possessed by something, which doesn't need to be an entity. Probably it's just...

1600025628234.png

And here, at the very epicenter of the fracture, the yang dragon erupts. White-feathered wings unfurl across the entire room, bringing all under their shadow. Blue eyes blaze with all the intensity of a dying star. Their mouth is open in a roar so loud that it blots out all other sound, all other commotion, except—
The entire room? So, either they are fighting in an incredibly small room or Reshiram is incredibly large. I don't think Reshiram has such a big wingspan, but I may be wrong.

{Is this what you want, Hero of Truth? If you and I act together as one, what we do here will never be able to be undone, by my power or any other’s.}
Whoa! This sounds so... final. And where is Arceus when you need him?

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

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

Don't you see how assembly lines work? They have different elements that are incapable of "blending", and yet their cooperation allows them to create final products that work. So, why can't Pokémon and Humans be different elements that can produce a good product despite being "incompatible"? ;)

Besides, blending in is overrated.

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

Probably. Was it worth letting thousands of people suffer while you tried to find the route that left their oppressors undisturbed? No.
I find this space between "was happy" and "probably" a bit awkward. Either the whole question and the answer are by themselves in their own paragraph, or those two paragraphs should be merged, imo.

Your name is Natural Hamonia Gropius, and you’ve finally, after all your struggles, saved the world.
It seems that an "r" ran away from Harmonia.

The rest of the story plays out backwards.
So, tomorrow you'll be talking about yesterday, and the day after tomorrow you'll talk about the day before yesterday? Sounds confusing.

It's almost Pulp Fiction level stuff here! Just less criminal.

“Vaselva.”

Her breath hitches on the second syllable of your name. Across eight badges and an entire continent, Hilda was calm. You only saw her falter once: six days ago, when you lost Amara. In the heat of the moment she was ashen; afterward, in private, she cried herself ragged. The next morning the panic was gone from her voice and you were convinced nothing would make it come back again.
Ah, we're going with 2nd person here, huh? That's quite the shift!

Though, hmmm... I wonder just who is "you". Is this narrated by some invisible spectator who is observing the scene very closely, or we're turned into a Serperior for this scene a la PMD?

Hmmm... I guess... I'm gonna interpret in both cases. Just for fun.

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

You-Spectator, don't mock the snake, it bites. You-Me-Snake, don't mock the trainer, she doesn't! :p

“Relic Castle. This isn’t the first time I’ve been up here, but I’ve never come this far underground. Do you know the legends of this amphitheater, Hilda?” he asks. He’s almost conversational about it, almost pleasant, but you sense thorns beneath the roses.
I hope you're wearing thick gloves, You-Me-Snake! And You-Spectator, do something! You don't want the snake to get hurt, do you?

“You have to stop this, N. Or I will.”
Ah, standard hero bravado. But I wonder... do you, Hilda, have what it takes to live for your words?

{N,} you say. It’s hard not to plead with this human—something tells you that he would listen if you did. If you could only bring yourself to do so. {If you succeed in your mission here. What do you intend to do after?}
Hm? Wouldn't a comma work better here? I think the "mission" and "intend to do" are connected.

When he hears your words, he flinches, almost as if you’d attacked him instead.
Ah, we all know that words cut deeper than Leaf Blades.

But N never considered failure. No. The thing that held him back, that freezes him even now, is the very opposite. He’s travelled his whole life to find enough power to right the wrongs he sees in the world, but he’s still afraid of what he’ll find when he succeeds.
Getting cold feet, N? I suppose you are aware of the phrase "Beware what you wish for", right?

“Reshiram will put things back to how they were,” he says at last. “Before humans made pokémon suffer, they used to live happily, separately. We’ll bring that back. Split them apart. Make sure pokémon never get hurt by humans again.”
...Did they, though? I mean, humans and Pokémon were together already 3.000 years ago or so, and there are continents like Ransei where humans and Pokémon live together without Poké Balls. Don't those events count to you, N? No?

He’s not a very good human, you decide, to have waited all this time just to have a god call the shots. He would much rather take commands than give them. He’d make a much better pokémon.
He was raised alongside Pokémon, what did you expect? :p

“Believe me, Hilda, when I say this: I would much rather that we live in one world where pokémon and humans can be friends. But after everything I’ve seen, after everything humans have done, I no longer think that humans would allow for that on their own, nor do pokémon have the power to carve it out for themselves. And so the burden falls on me to make humans listen.”

In your clutch there were seventeen. A small brood for a serperior. Perhaps the spring air wasn’t good enough. Perhaps your mother was exhausted from the end of many breeding seasons. You don’t know; you never got to ask. Your moments with your mother are limited and fuzzy and precious, and you did not waste them on asking questions you did not yet understand.
Whoa, whoa, whoa! Wait! Hold the Ponyta!

How... did we go from having N talking about how humans don't listen to a snake flash-back? Without even a warning, a break, or whatever?

I find that very jarring, tbh. I mean, usually a memory is triggered after you hear some sentence that makes you do the connection. Moreso if that is the memory from infant times, which are buried waaay too deep to surface at random times. Heck, they are even described as fuzzy here, which proves to be the case.

And... I don't see the trigger here? Like, I would have understood if N said something along the lines of "Humans hurt Pokémon, even from just after they are born, Taken away from their parents and given away as property."

Now that sounds like a trigger to me, as well as a way to further reinforce N's points and motivations. As is, it's... just too random, imo.

Of that clutch, perhaps only three or four of you truly knew they wanted to fight. You were not one of them.
Gripes aside, this is an interesting detail!

But what you remember most of all is curling up alongside her neck, her scales warm in the sun, her ruby eyes soft as she whispered the name she had given you.
Cute! :3

You see it in N as well, the way he puffs up his leaf-hair, in the quavering of his stance: here is someone who would much rather stretch out in the sun than command a battlefield. And yet here you both are, hoping that your words will do the fighting for you.
Hmmm... Still finding the connection very farfetched. I feel this sentence would have worked better if it appeared before the flashback and with some light arrangements (You-Me-Snake commenting on the fact that N reminded them of a Serperior wishing to bask under the sunlight and recalling how the mother used to look like, which would trigger the flashback).

He really wouldn’t make a bad pokémon after all. Poor N, you decide. Hilda has been marked as the Hero of Ideals, but N is the one staking all of his hopes on something that will never change.

Poor Hilda, who was so good at leading that she never learned to listen. She latches on to the last word of the sentence and nothing else. “Make them? That’s draconic.”
You-Both, staaaph with the "poor guy" sentences! XP

But you already know how Sagaris’s story ends. Every pokémon does.
Huh? How does every Pokémon know? Do they have some secret network among them? Calling it now: they ripped off the 101 Dalmatians and have their own "Twilight bark".

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

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

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

You realize what he was waiting for in that silence. He paused, and he watched, and he listened—for one of you to tell him why. To stop merely denying his stories, and to instead explain why humans and pokémon could live in harmony. To tell him what had changed three hundred years ago that wasn’t true now.
Two words: social media. Double-edged sword, yeah, but that's very useful to spread a message. And if you can spread messages about how to better connect with your Pokémon, by all means!

...Speaking of that, I'm kinda surprised that Team Plasma didn't resort to that. Sounds like a powerful tool for propaganda. 🤔

She doesn’t get that. For all of her talking she never learned to listen. And for all of his listening, N never learned to talk in a way that humans would understand.
To be fair, she doesn't even talk much, so ha!

...Great, now Me-Me is the condescending one here. :p

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



...Huh, I-I mean... I'm sorry about your loss. *bows in respect*

“I’m sorry, Vaselva. Amara didn’t deserve that. No one did,” N says in your silence, and there’s something shining in his eyes, a reflection, regretful? No, it’s sorrow
I really wonder who this Amara is... hopefully she wasn't a bitter person.

(Saying this because "amaro/a" means bitter in Italian. And here's today's Italian lesson.)

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

Your chest swelled a little with pride when she’d told you that. You, so young, and yet you were to be given your own thing to defend! You never wanted to fight, but you would do it for her, you decided. If your mother trusted you to this woman, and this woman trusted her children to you—then there couldn’t be anything wrong with that, right?
Oh, you poor You-Me-Snake. How cute of you to think that all children are Juniper's children.

Were it any other night, any of the times you’d faced N before, there would be no question that Hilda would find a way to protect everyone. That’s who she is, after all. But here, tonight, with your trainer, who tried to trade her thorns for roses on the same night that N finally found his flame. You’ve been fighting long enough to recognize a losing battle.
Hm! So, the thorns are the doubts? Huh... strange comparison. Thorns are a protection, after all, not a hindrance. Unless the thorns here prickle the owner...? 🤔

“So I realized my victory would not be won through strength of might. I thought perhaps I had the equation backward, and I was the embodiment of ideals while you were truth. I, the ideal that humans should liberate pokémon to create a fairer world; and you, the bitter truth that they never will give up their comforts and entertainment.”
Hmm... What about "The truth that Pokémon and Humans can live together"? Did that never cross your mind? ;)

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

He’s calling to you, to anyone who will listen. With more than just words. From the bottom of his heart you feel his desperation, his earnestness, his conviction, twining together into one singular thing: his truth.
Me-Me is listening, and You-Spectator may be listening, too. Not sure about You-Me-Snake.

You hear first the echo, and then the roar, and you know without knowing what’s about to happen next. You can’t stop it. Trying would be like holding a leaf up to shield yourself from a hurricane.
...Did you try that? I bet a Shiftry would be able to shield from a hurricane with its leaves. :p

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

N waits, and then shakes his head sadly. “But I am the truth that you and I have both spent our journeys learning.” His voice drops, cold. But the room is hot now. He smiles, despite it all. “There is no change without sacrifice. Nothing good comes easily.”
... *stares at own version of N, raises an eyebrow* Okay, this is awkward. Talk about day and night.

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

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

“Vaselva, Leaf Blade!”
Hilda! It's a Grass-move against a Dragon God, you dummy! Even something like Return would be better. XP

Hypothetically. What would happen if you disobeyed?
...You'd be roasted alive. Not recommended.

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

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

You lost everything else. You lost them all. You can’t lose her too.
And this is what I call loyalty.

---

Well, then, here we are at the end of the review.

I admit, I don't really have much to say about this. It's setting up to be a classic "For Want of a Nail" story with N as the winner. That seems to be a common fanfic fuel, from what I've seen. Gotta wonder why...

Anyway, for the most part, the prose is really solid and the characters have interesting interactions. I couldn't even think of clever jokes to say here, haha!

However, I kinda wished we got to see more of Hilda. She was easily the weakest part so far, and I seriously wanted to reach out for her and say "Hey, gal! Get a grip!", because seriously! The world as you know is about to end, there is no time to falter. But again, she is just a teen, so I can see how she would be overwhelmed by this pretty huge weight. So, I'll let that pass, but I still wish we got to see a bit more about her. Maybe during the story?

This was certainly an interesting read. I may have had to slow down at times to take in what some parts were trying to paint in my brain, but it was still enjoyable.

Nice work, and best of luck with the rest of your story! :)
 
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kintsugi

golden scars
Pronouns
she/her/hers
Partner
silvally-grass
Hey there! Here I am for the Catnip round!
Hey Cress! Thanks for stopping by! I know we have wildly different headcanons for N so it was really interesting to see your thoughts here! Always fun to see how other people interpret the same canon and walk it into wildly different directions!

Went ahead and cleaned up those typos/phrasing notes that you pointed out; thanks for catching those!

That sounds evil, almost as if she is possessed or something. You know, dark aura and everything? It's the first impression this sentence has given, as if she is possessed by something, which doesn't need to be an entity. Probably it's just...
It's actually the description that Shauntal has for N when you first challenge the E4--I agree that it sounds super ominous, but to me it's a really apt description for the expression someone might wear if they were fighting with everything on the line.

The entire room? So, either they are fighting in an incredibly small room or Reshiram is incredibly large. I don't think Reshiram has such a big wingspan, but I may be wrong.
We might be using different canon sizes? The dex has Reshiram at like 11 feet, but I'm so used to seeing beeg Reshiram like this one:

So there are a bunch of sources for how tall Ash is and they all seem fake, but even just assuming he's 10 and taking the average height of a 10 year-old to be 140 cm, and one Reshiram wing being ~4.75 Ashes, this puts us at roughly 10 Ashes for a full wingspan, so 14 m at a minimum, which I don't think is an unreasonably tiny room--but the main point here was, dragon beeg, wings beeg, cast beeg shadow. I got rid of the word "entire" so it is less definite.

N. N. My dear N. I would have expected better from such clockwork mentality. :p

Don't you see how assembly lines work? They have different elements that are incapable of "blending", and yet their cooperation allows them to create final products that work. So, why can't Pokémon and Humans be different elements that can produce a good product despite being "incompatible"? ;)

Besides, blending in is overrated.
I'm not sure if assembly lines are the metaphor you want here! They inherently have to consist of elements that are capable of blending; that's why they work. But in order for them to blend, they all have to get filed down and stamped into the same shape--individuality is destroyed for the sake of maintaining someone else's idea of the ideal. Assembly lines also aren't really known for their compassionate treatment of the humans involved either, and have caused tons of death and suffering worldwide. I dunno if this is what you wanted to imply?

Regardless, N's logic isn't that pokemon and humans have to be separate--why can't we just live alongside one another without violence; why are pokemon's lives only considered valuable for the fighting they can do for humans? His original thesis is that humans should stop forcing pokemon to fight. But if humans refuse to stop forcing pokemon to fight, what choice does he have?

So, tomorrow you'll be talking about yesterday, and the day after tomorrow you'll talk about the day before yesterday? Sounds confusing.

It's almost Pulp Fiction level stuff here! Just less criminal.
imo achron is an interesting format for studying historical events and at this point I really dunno what else to say about it. my brain doesn't think in chronological order either!

Ah, we're going with 2nd person here, huh? That's quite the shift!

Though, hmmm... I wonder just who is "you". Is this narrated by some invisible spectator who is observing the scene very closely, or we're turned into a Serperior for this scene a la PMD?

Hmmm... I guess... I'm gonna interpret in both cases. Just for fun.
First chapter was actually in second person as well! "Your name is Natural Harmonia Gropius"

I'm not a wizard! I can't turn you into a snake, just like you can't turn me into #831\1. I'm actually a little confused about where this confusion came from for you or why you felt the need to split into two narrators for the rest of the review--I think you and I ended up using second-person to similar effects in these stories, where it conveys this feeling of being forced to do/be things that maybe you don't actually want to do/be.

That "poor, sweet" sounds almost condescending.
yes, she is very condescending.

...Did they, though? I mean, humans and Pokémon were together already 3.000 years ago or so, and there are continents like Ransei where humans and Pokémon live together without Poké Balls. Don't those events count to you, N? No?
I'm not actually sure how Ransei plays into the game canon--like, I'm willing to accept that PMD and Ransei don't happen in the same universe, since elements of their worlds actively conflict with one another, so I think it'd be fair of me to assume that not all pokemon games happen in the same canon -> Ransei and Unova don't happen in the same universe either, since there's no Arceus-shaped island anywhere in BW. And like, they could, and you could absolutely write a story in which they do, but I don't think it's fair to assume that they have to take place in the same world if there's no evidence that they do.

That being said, I think the existence of Ransei would further prove this version of N right. Ransei presents a very compelling counter-argument to Unova's thesis that we *need* pokeballs and pokemon battling for sport. "Somewhere else has already solved this problem" isn't really a good argument for not solving the problem where you are, especially when it comes to social inequality. If I lived in a country where X wasn't legal, the fact that X is legal elsewhere wouldn't really detract from a fight to make X legal in my home country.

Huh? How does every Pokémon know? Do they have some secret network among them? Calling it now: they ripped off the 101 Dalmatians and have their own "Twilight bark".
dunno, how does everyone know about the moon landing, or the Holocaust, or the bombing of Hiroshima? Stories of genocide on a large scale tend to get passed around; Vaselva's mother told her stories about how they shouldn't be like the dragons. One thing I wanted to look at in this fic is how we tell stories about heroes, and why some of them reach iconic status in our culture and some don't.

Yikes! That's brutal, but that's history for you. It's always painted in... red.
haha sure, but you only really get to separate yourself from history once you stop perpetuating the same evils--and when is that? For Hilda it's certainly unclear, since N's story is about how humans exploited and harmed pokemon for the benefit of humans, and that's currently what he's accusing her of doing now. So does she get to sit back and say that's history for you, or is she still a part of it?

Two words: social media. Double-edged sword, yeah, but that's very useful to spread a message. And if you can spread messages about how to better connect with your Pokémon, by all means!
I think the intersection of social media with modern activist movements is deeply fascinating! But I don't think it's a cureall, otherwise all of these movements would've saved the world already.

There are of course deeper questions about what social media would look like in the pokemon world, where they are technologically given that they have mass-energy conversion in a really good spot, if a society that has "wandering in the woods without cell service" as a major economic sector would develop social media at all--but imo that doesn't even begin to come close to the fact that change isn't won through hashtags. Social media lets you reach people who agree with you, and it lets the people who don't want to listen shut you out. At its core injustice happens when some people don't care about others, so a medium that allows those same people to ignore you will never be the solution.

I really dunno how else to phrase this one, since it intersects with my life in a lot of ways that it might not overlap with yours! But if people you loved were suffering, would you be content to tweet out happy videos, or would you feel compelled to put yourself on the line to help them? Social change has always been earned with pretty much one currency, and it isn't viral trends. Systems don't change unless they're forced to, and social media isn't powerful enough to do that from the grassroots level (yet).

I really wonder who this Amara is... hopefully she wasn't a bitter person.
she was super bitter.

Hilda probably picked the name because it means "eternal beauty", which I found deeply ironic.

Hm! So, the thorns are the doubts? Huh... strange comparison. Thorns are a protection, after all, not a hindrance. Unless the thorns here prickle the owner...? 🤔
Thorns are conviction, sharp, willingness to lash out at those who would threaten you.

Hmm... What about "The truth that Pokémon and Humans can live together"? Did that never cross your mind? ;)
It certainly did! But at some point humans seemed desperate to prove him wrong since they kept mucking it up so many times, case in point, the haxorus genocide. I think it's important to recognize that when he sees himself as the Hero of Ideals, his ideal is "humans should liberate pokemon to create a fairer world". He wasn't advocating for separation, just liberation. You can live with someone and not belong to them.

But humans are pretty against that sentiment, or maybe it never crossed their minds. So N's dilemma becomes: how many times do you give people the benefit of the doubt before you stop opening yourself up for them to hurt you--not even that you hurt them back, just that you stop letting them do what they want to you? If humans refuse to separate "live with pokemon" and "make pokemon fight", then why let them make that choice for you?

And this is what I call loyalty.
sure, but is loyalty always a good thing?

I admit, I don't really have much to say about this. It's setting up to be a classic "For Want of a Nail" story with N as the winner. That seems to be a common fanfic fuel, from what I've seen. Gotta wonder why...
I'm actually wildly fascinated by the idea that this is common fanfic fuel--do you have links? The only fics I've read in this vein are all written by TR folks (and by folks I mean like 2 authors who aren't me); I'd love to expand my reading circles.

However, I kinda wished we got to see more of Hilda. She was easily the weakest part so far, and I seriously wanted to reach out for her and say "Hey, gal! Get a grip!", because seriously! The world as you know is about to end, there is no time to falter. But again, she is just a teen, so I can see how she would be overwhelmed by this pretty huge weight. So, I'll let that pass, but I still wish we got to see a bit more about her. Maybe during the story?
Mostly that. Teenager, she just lost someone really close to her (Amara), the entire world wants her to save it after she got picked as the chosen one, N's arguments have always been an Achilles Heel for her. It's a lot for a kid to deal with, even by Pokemon franchise standards. The rest of the story goes into why she falters here, yes--part of why I thought it was interesting to tell it backwards.

Thank you for taking the time to review! I know we have pretty different interpretations of caNon, so it's always interesting to see how our headcanons diverge! Thanks for your thoughts.
 
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